Yay! Guess what the mountain is? It's a MOUNTAIN! What a surprise.
We arrived 'round 9 o'clock, when the sun was finally deciding to peek out of cloud cover and give us a break from the light snowfall. Dad was more bruised than the rest of us, what from falling down slopes all the time, though he didn't seem to care a bit about his wounds. I'll give the old man one thing, he's tough as shit.
Once we were standing at the bottom of the mountain, Pagan finally asked the question I'd expected him to ask when we started this expedition. "Okay. We're here. What are we looking for?"
I thought about that. I was surprised to discover I hadn't really considered that question myself. I guess I'd expected to arrive and find the answer staring blankly back at me, blatantly obvious to any who might visit.
I shrugged. "I dunno. Weird stuff."
Dad sneered. "Weird stuff."
"Yeah. Weird… stuff."
Silence. Even Julius, who doesn't talk much, being a spider, was unusually quiet. If he'd had a pen and some blank paper, I bet he would have drawn an ellipsis.
"The sloth abductees kept saying to stay away from the mountain," I quickly added. "That makes me think it must be important."
"A sloth tells ya not to do something, so you do it anyway?" My father barked a harsh laugh. "That's some ass-backward thinkin' right there, boy."
"But it wasn't a real sloth! I keep tellin' everyone, I touched it and it wasn't there!"
"I'd sooner believe ya won a medal for bein' the world's best lover 'n think you tried to touch a sloth." Dad shrugged. It was a bizarre motion, given that his arms are strapped 'round his ribcage. "I do think that sloth shit was a load 'o hogspit, though. C'mon, let's look this rock over."
"My life used to be normal," Pagan grumbled.
The mountain is not as imposing or impossible-to-traverse as I thought from looking at it from a distance. I'd feared we might need mountain climbing gear to get around and access the highest points, but walking sticks were all we really needed to reach the summit, even with the ground covered in snow. Took us about two hours of slow trudging to reach the top, which is where I figured we might find something of interest.
I was wrong. There's nothing of interest at the top of the mountain other than the view, which, I must admit, was pretty spectacular. Couldn't see Pubton, but then again, Pubton's not terribly big. Give it another year and I bet our town will stick out.
Our breathing got shallower the higher we went, so we decided to split up and descend, each of us taking a different path back to the bottom. Being the youngest of the lot I agreed to go down the longest path, 'round the opposite side of the mountain and back to a little base camp we'd established at the edge of the foothills. Took me at least four hours to make the return trip, and I didn't find anything interesting along the way other than a thick layer of calluses on the bottoms of my feet. Damned things smart, 'n they smell like sweat and casserole.
Dad 'n Pagan were waiting for me, enjoying a meal of bread stew. (They didn't save me any. Bastards.) Neither of them found anything of note, though they weren't yet ready to give up. Old people are thorough.
The search continues tomorrow. Pagan says he's considering building a little slave outpost 'round here to keep an eye out for intruders; maybe Pubton should contribute to that? Makes me think he sees more of value to this range than snow and rock, though he won't tell me what it is. Guess I'll find out.
Dragomir the Mayor