I’m late again, but at least this go around I am participating in our bi-weekly legal theft. The is my original piece, which was supposed to go up Friday October 25. This first line was stolen by Gwen of Apprentice, Never Master for her piece, “An Impossible Climb.”
It was a long climb to the crown, and Ryan was exhausted and irritable before they even reached the base of the staircase up to the altar. Rain made the bare stone and the fallen leaves treacherous. He had slipped more than once. The hem of his cloak was muddied, possibly beyond repair, and he suspected that his knee and shin were bleeding from one particularly painful fall. He bit his lip to keep himself from complaining, knowing that his father the Vladmar would disapprove, afraid that he would be told to turn around, and would have to head down the mountain, alone without resting at the top first, without seeing the altar. And if he went down alone, the people would know that he hadn’t been allowed to complete the ritual. He couldn’t let that happen. Ryan resolved that if the Vladmar changed his mind and sent Ryan back before dawn, Ryan would hide along the trail and follow his father stealthily before reaching the mountain’s base alone.
His feet were aching, the thin air burned his lungs, and he was shivering in his drenched clothes long before he mounted the first, narrow, stone step. The stairs were steep, little more than foot- and handholds in the cliff-face. Ryan used them as such, more pulling himself up as if it were ladder than taking them as stairs. The Vladmar took the stairs while remaining upright.
They crested the last of the steps. The crown stretched bare before them, a flat plateau of rock that commanded a view of all of the surrounding country: the forested mountains stretching north and south, the forests stretching east and west in hills and valleys.
In the crown’s center stood the altar. Ryan passed his father, staring. From this promontory, Vofa had pulled the stone of the first man. The depression created by the god’s magic was still there, burnt black by years of annual ceremonies performed by Vladmars and Vladmarlads.
It was a sight few were ever blessed to see, not because the site was forbidden to the people, but because few made the effort to climb the mountain’s face to see it.
His father put out his arm to catch Ryan as he made to touch the stone. “Do not touch it,” the Vladmar said gently.
Ryan scowled but stepped back.
“I will call the lightning,” the Vladmar said. “You will watch.”
Ryan nodded. He was stronger than his father, but this was the Vladmar’s duty. The Vladmar was allowed to ask help from kin in starting and maintaining the fire in the altar once the lightning had been called, even in corralling the lightning, but the initial strike had to be called from the sky by a Vladmar.
Ryan, the Vladmarlad, readied himself, reaching to stir to flame the embers inside of him, letting the energy race down his arm to pool in his hand. He would mold it and have it ready to restrain the lightning once the strike appeared. With his father on one side, the two of them would pull the strike to earth, they would make it heel where they wished, atop the altar, where its energy they would gather and use to kindle a flame in the depression, symbolizing the rekindling of the Vatrins’ strength, the continued favor of the god, and the strength of the Vladmar’s blood, Ryan’s blood.