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Delnos' description of the Non-Lands did not do justice to the landscape before her. "Desolate" is a jungle compared to this, she thought. Nothing but bare, gray rock lay all downslope from the ridge. Not even the tough mountain grass she had ridden through to get here had made it over the ridge and fought out a foothold in the cracks amongst the boulders. The earth, where it dared to expose itself amidst the harsh stone, was more than barren, it was dead. Nothing moved in the constant wind but small rocks dislodged from their temporary home and sent skittering along the ground until they found lodging in another crack or hole. Aetria looked behind her into the world she knew and saw the green of the forest below, the straw-brown of the grasses clinging to the mountain, and the blue of the sky.
Shifting her gaze forward, she looked up--almost fearful that the sky had died as well. "Still blue," she told her horse, who stood with lowered head sniffing at the ground, looking for a morsel of grass to chew. "Now there's a problem, Horse. What are you going to eat on the other side, and what are we both going to drink?"
The horse looked back at the sound of her voice, giving her a look that she could only interpret as "why bother?" "I didn't come here not to explore, Horse. With only three days to do it in, it might be just very little, but explore we will. So where do I start?"
A surge of Power exploded on her sense, and she sharply breathed in, steeling herself for the shock she expected to take her life. Neither whoosh of fireball nor crack of lightning announced her death--just the ever-present whistling wind. Aetria cautiously scanned her surroundings and saw thetrail that had appeared on the Non-Land side of the ridge, leading downward. It was a masterful illusion, one she would have had trouble making so real. If the powerful sorcerer who had created the illusion had wanted her dead, she would certainly be so now. She called out into the wind, "I accept your invitation, Mage," and guided her horse over the ridge and downward.
Posted December 31, 2009
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