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Raginhldr (Preview)

Raginhldr (Preview)

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Published by Rachael Finley
RAGINHLDR: A tale of friendship, perseverance, a marriage built on harassment and stalking, and Human Glacial Smear
RAGINHLDR: A tale of friendship, perseverance, a marriage built on harassment and stalking, and Human Glacial Smear

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Published by: Rachael Finley on Oct 09, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/09/2012

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BijarniThe wind was biting and relentless, cutting sharply through the fur peltpiled around his body and the layers of leather and fabric that protected him.Up there the wind never stopped, and the elevation made the temperature plummetthe moment the sun fell behind the horizon. Bijarni pulled the pelt closer around his shoulders and closed his eyes. The sun wouldn’t be up for another hour or more, and until then he saw no reason to rise and stir. He was huddled on a narrowoutcropping that shielded him from the worst of the wind, with the downside ofbeing located perilously close to a sheer drop down into the cold darkness below. Subconsciously Bijarni reached out and tested the hold of his axe in the ice wall beside him. It didn’t move against his touch, and even with his eyes closed hecould follow the coil of strong rope down to where it fastened tightly around his waist. With the cold freezing the ice cliffs solid, he was confident that theaxe wouldn’t pull loose without a great deal of effort, and he huddled back underthe fur to catch a few more hours of sleep.Come morning he would need to descend back down the mountain, and beforenight fell again he hoped to be back at the base camp set up at the foot of themountain. There he would be able to have hot food for the first time in days, and a tent that would protect him from the elements. It was a descent he had mademore times than he could count, but Bijarni never took his experience for granted. More accidents happened during the descent than on the climb, and just a moment of lost concentration would be all it took to make a fatal mistake.A particularly sharp gust of wind cut through him, but Bijarni hardly shivered. Compared to other nights he had spent high on the mountain, the night was downright warm. He could be much worse off.The wind carried with it a low rumbling howl that bounced off of the rocks and ice and sank deep into Bijarni’s bones. It could have almost have simply been the wind, making strange noises as it whistled through the glaciers and echoed, but Bijarni knew better. He opened his eyes, heart suddenly pounding a littlefaster as he stared out into the darkness. There was nothing to see, just the glint of stars and the blowing snow, but Bijarni knew his night was over. The crywas no trick of echoes. In all of the years he had spent climbing the mountain,he knew every animal that made its home on its slopes and cliffs. He knew the sound of mountain goats and birds, and knew how snow leopards and bears sounded even at night. This was none of those, and huddled in his small outcropping, he knew he was far too high for any of those animals to be prowling around.He sat up carefully, digging the spikes at the bottom of his boots intothe ground for added traction as he began to dig in his backpack. Bijarni had hoped to wait until daylight to move, but now he had no choice. He dug into his pack and withdrew a long, narrow torch. It would be difficult to climb far with itin one hand, but Bijarni didn’t plan on venturing too far away from the outcropping. All he needed was to get to the top of the ledge above him and light it. From his height anyone and anything for miles would be able to see the flame, and that was what he counted on.Carefully he flicked on his headlamp and found his second axe where it coiled and hung around his waist. With his axe in hand he stood, bracing his feetagainst the ground and hoping the first axe, still sunk deep into the ice, would hold if he lost his balance. His footing held, and after a moment of consideration and adjustment, he sunk the second axe into the ledge above him and bracedit against the mountain. Once he released the first axe and began to climb, thenew axe, set above him, would be the only thing to save him if he fell. When hewas confident that the axe was as secure as it could be, his dislodged the firstand began to climb atop the ledge. After a day of climbing, his legs protestedthe effort, but by the time he clambered atop the ledge his body had begun to warm up and the motion didn’t feel so difficult. He had been born to climb the mountain, and he fell into the rhythm of climbing almost immediately.Confident that the ground beneath him was solid and the wind whipping his fur cloak wouldn’t knock him off of his feet, he removed the axe from the ice and looped it around his waist as he walked away from the ledge. The cry hadn’t come
 
again, and for a moment Bijarni simply stood still and gazed out into the darkness, waiting for some kind of sign. He worried that he had missed it, and whatever had made the cry has slipped off into the darkness and away from where he would be able to reach it, or worse, that he had misjudged where it had been to begin with. The glaciers did strange things with sounds, and the wind could have carried the cry farther than Bijarni thought.Deciding to take his chances, Bijarni withdrew a pack of matches from his pocket and lit the torch. As it sputtered and flamed to life, he blinked in the sudden light and surveyed his surroundings. The light only extended so far, but in the flickering flames he was able to finally get a handle on his surrounds.Below him the ridge sloped away to a sheer drop that lead down to a thousand foot vertical ice cliff. In the morning, he would need to climb down that cliff toreach the lower glaciers that would lead him to base camp. Above him stretcheda long snowfield, ending sharply in an icefall that extended another mile further up the mountain. He’d come down that icefall earlier that day, and as it alwayswas, the trip had been harrowing. The icefall was full of deep crevasses and towering hunks of ice and snow that were poised to kill a man at any moment, and only the most experienced climbers even dared to tackle it once in their lives.Bijarni had climbed it a dozen times.He looked away from the icefall and swung his torch out to see more of his surroundings. Save for the snow sweeping off the mountain and the hulking, dark shapes of rock and ice, the mountain was still and silent. Nothing could liveup there, he knew, but he also known what he had heard.As he swept the torch to the right, a flicker of motion in his peripheral vision caught his attention and made him whip around. It had been subtle, toofar away to see well, but it had been there. He stared in that direction, motionless, heart pounding, and waited. It looked like a mound of snow had moved and shifted. Like something white, something massive, just too far away….Daylight found him on the ledge with his torch burned down to nothing. He hadn’t seen the movement again, and with only a fleeting image glanced out of the corner of his eye, he couldn’t say for sure what it had been. For all he knew, it had been a trick of the light.Bijarni tossed aside the charred remains of his torch and settled down to eat. He would have to start descending soon if he wanted to get back to basecamp before it got too late, and the sheer cliff that awaited him was going to take all of his strength and concentration.It was past noon when he came down the lower glacier and finally saw thebright points of base camps tents sticking out of the snow. He breathed a sighof relief. It was a simple walk down from there, and his stomach growled at thethought of a warm meal. As he reached the edges of camp he could hear and see his fellow campers moving around, some preparing to venture further up the mountain, some heading down to the valleys and maybe even the flat lands. They greetedhim warmly, their relief at his return showing plainly on their faces. At any time someone could ascend the mountain and never come back, no matter how skilledthey were. Almost everyone that lived on the foot of the mountain had lost someone to it, and in the future they would lose even more. It was a fact they livedwith everyday, but it didn’t keep them from celebrating triumphant returns.Across the camp he heard a bronze bell ring three times, echoing acrossthe glacier until it faded away; the traditional announcement of a climber returning alive. The sound thrilled Bijarni, as it always had from the first moment he returned to camp after a climb. The bell was relief, safety, hope, and victory, and he would gladly wake to it every day.“Bij!” A porter trotted up with a crate of supplies slung across his back, grinning. “Welcome back.”“Thanks.” He patted the man on the shoulder and walked with him a way. The porter would be heading up the mountain to deliver fresh supplies to the higher camps, and Bijarni knew that he would appreciate any information on the status ofice and snow. “Where are you headed?”“Camp on the ridge.” The porter grinned and hiked the crate up higher on hisback. “How are the conditions? Did you get to the summit?”
 
Bijarni nodded. “I did. Left a gift and a prayer at the top.”“Congrats. How are the conditions?”Bijarni gazed up the mountain as they walked. It was so high he had to crane his neck back almost uncomfortably to see the top, obscured by a stream ofblowing snow. “Warm, bright. The glaciers are okay, but I would wait before goingon the icefall. The ice is melting, so it’s pretty likely there will be an avalanche later tonight.”The porter nodded. The icefall on a warm day could the most dangerous part of the mountain. Warm temperatures melted the ice, and at any moment huge chunks could tumble down the side, dragging tons of snow behind it. Even Bijani, who had spent his entire on the mountain, had no way of knowing when the avalanches would strike, and that made them all the more dangerous.“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank Bij. Are you home for a while?”“A few days at least. Figured I’d try and get some rest.”“Good luck with that.” The porter patted him on the shoulder as Bijarni turned back towards the camp. If he was quick enough, he would be able to catch thetail end of lunch. “Oh!” The porter turned back. “Keifr said he wants to talk to you.No major rush though.”Bijarni thanked him and hurried off to the meal tent. The ringing of thebell would have told Keifr he was back, but the other man could wait until he had eaten and had some time to relax. Keifr would find him later.His stomach growled as he slipped into the meal tent. Being high on themountain always killed his appetite, and he tended to subsist on protein and small meals, but as soon as he descended to the lower camps it returned with a vengeance. Typically he returned from a summit five pounds lighter than when he left, and in the coming week he would work to gain it back.“Hello, Bijarni. Welcome back.”Bijarni smiled and lowered his pack to the ground. He had gone to food on autopilot, without even bothering to stop at his own tent to drop his supplies. He had been on the mountain for days, and everything he had need was carried on his back. “Hi Sanaa. Thanks. Am I too late for lunch?”The woman shook her head and ladled broth into a bowl. It began to steamimmediately, curling up into the cold air, and Bijarni huddled close to the bowl as she set it in front of him. The chill went straight through him, even withthe furs he still wore, and he ached for something warm.“For you, Bijarni,” she smiled, “I would cook all day and every day. Did you make the summit?”Bijarni nodded and raised the bowl to his lips to drink. The broth scalded his throat as he drank, but he was willing to suffer the burn for the way aninstant warmth spread through his chest and out towards his extremities. He sighed in pleasure. “Yes I did.”“What number is this, then? Twelve?”“Thirteen.”Sanaa smiled and sliced a loaf of bread in half before passing it to him. “A lucky number. Congratulations.”Bijarni accepted the bread gratefully, and began to tear off small pieces to dip into the broth. It was a simple meal, but more than enough to keep himgoing. “Thank you.”“Keifr wants to talk to you, you know.”“So I heard. Heard it wasn’t terribly important though.”“I’m sure not so important that you couldn’t nap for a while before he trackedyou down to talk.”“That’s what I’m hoping.”He finished his meal quickly and returned his dishes to Sanaa. It was starting to get late, and she would need to start preparing the evening meal before long. Feeding a camp full of hungry climbers and trekkers was a full time job,and Bijarni respected every moment of it. “Thank you for the meal, Sanaa.”She smiled warmly. “You certainly deserve it. Would you like anything to take back with you?”Bijarni considered. The meal had filled him up enough that he wouldn’t be

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