My eyes hurt.
They’ve hurt since I arrived here. Even at night, sometimes. With a clear sky, the moonlight bounces off of the ground and through the crystal trees to weave a glaring, glowing tangle. Daytime, predictably, is impossible to navigate without darkened glasses. Combined with the angry wildlife and the bad luck I’ve been having, it feels like this place is out to get me. Who knows? Maybe it is.
Mallim told me that I ought to keep a journal, that it’d help me keep track of things and stop me from talking to myself. Still, I was counting every ounce, and a journal just didn’t seem important enough. Of course, he was right. As always. Know-it-all. Stupid, wonderful know-it-all.
It’s been around five weeks, I think. Definitely should have brought a journal. Anyway, five weeks on this island. Five weeks of nothing but glass as far as the eye can see in every direction. I’d probably turn back, but at this point it’ll be quicker to just keep heading for the summit. Anginn’s peak has felt so close for days now—I swear that I could reach the Refuge tomorrow morning—but every day the terrain gets a little bit rougher, and even as I watch the last of my rations dwindle, each day my bags feel a little bit heavier.
I almost gave up, you know. On everything. Four days ago there was an avalanche, if you could call it that. Great glass boulders and crystal dust like a cloud of razors rumbled down the mountainside and destroyed my little mobile campsite while I was surveying the path ahead, and while I like to think of myself as the resilient sort—the entire reason I embarked on this pilgrimage in the first place—I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I’ve cried like that. Something about that last insult from nature herself was just too much. Something about having the entire world resolved to slowly drowning my will… our souls aren’t built to survive that.
But while I sat on the ridge, resigned to my starvation in this desolate place, I sensed something. It was like being watched, but somehow more piercing and vulnerable; I wasn’t being looked at, but looked through. I looked about the area and found nothing; the wolves and bears were mercifully absent, yet the feeling persisted. So I looked up.
Her horns are a wild crown.
Her eyes are lightning.
Her scales are an obsidian cape.
She wasn’t at all what I’d expected. She didn’t roar. She didn’t even speak. She just looked at—through—me. At the top of the mountain, the Will’s visage bore down upon me with a peculiar weight: not hunger or violence, nor even curiosity, but a sort of expectation. A silent invitation. She stayed like that, just looking through, for a few moments before she crept back into her Refuge.
My eyes still hurt. I’m still lonely out of my mind, and the summit is still maddeningly, tauntingly just out of reach. I still wonder if I’ll even make it. But no matter how much my eyes hurt and no matter how much my mind frays and no matter how much the wastes of Valstov try to break me down, I will persist. I will not give up because I can not give up. Even if I could let myself surrender, I doubt that she would let me; I find myself these days inhabited by a will my own yet not my own, and its needs are simple:
Reach the summit.
Meet with Thua.
Refuse to bow.
Refuse to break.