The sunlight was inviting, so I set out to gain a little altitude. Have a better view, better knowledge of where I am in this blasted valley and perhaps find out some details about the fish-frog people.
It did not take long for the first sign of their cult to appear beside the road. This time it was made out of iron and was much more intricately decorated than the wooden one I had last seen, so it was probably also more powerful:
I performed a hand gesture of containment as used by the Vegan Black Metal Chef so as to counteract its magick emanations, which were surely strengthened by the unholy rituals carried out at the temple nearby. The cross is also close to the road, so if nothing is done it might affect innocent people who are just walking by and want nothing to do with these cultists.
With a slight feeling of dread lingering in my stomach, I walked eastward and upward. The second strange encounter of the day were these two forest goblins:
Some perverted individual appears to be keeping them as pets or slaves since they were fenced in. But I was honestly glad of the fence. Even though they didn’t seem aggressive, you can never trust a goblin.
The road further up was lined with flowers and those flowers were peopled with animals like these, who could fly and had extra eyes on their backs:
I debated whether I should strangle one and pulverize it to test for its alchemical properties, but decided against it. This isn’t an alchemy component run, I just want to know about the conditions of the road for a future longer expedition that would help me find my location on a map.
Not soon after this I encountered deadmau5, who had played his last set ever. I didn’t find out what got him, but he was lying on the side of the road. No obvious shot wounds, no signs of suicide either. Perhaps an accident or heart failure. Poor guy. Maybe his management will release a statement.
I shook off my sadness at the loss of this famed musician and climbed higher, encountering an outpost:
The toughest part of my journey still lay ahead, however. Reaching Naraus at 1965 meters (665 meters higher than my starting point), I represented all gamers with a raising of the ritual Game Boy towards the skies:
The road meanwhile had turned into this:
And as you can see, I was being watched by brown ogres. Fortunately, they were satiated, they had probably torn apart an earlier visitor and were now regurgitating and rechewing his ill-fated flesh, as is their custom. I quickly ascended above their camp, when finally I entered into the fog:
I had the choice of continuing on my path, clearly knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see far into any of the neighboring valleys even if I were to reach the peak alive, or to turn back. I pressed on, past the last few tiny trees, putting my feet above the treeline for the first time.
A bizarre lake of grass surrounded by what seem to be natural steps in the hillside greeted me after the next curve:
I took advantage of the steps, climbing up slowly — my feet had started to swell and were giving me pain, and I had no walking stick to put my weight on. Above me in the distance, enveloped in this deathly fog, more ogres were watching:
Considerable time later I had reached that spine of this mountain myself. We must be close to 2200 meters now.
Gingerly sneaking past the beasts like a thief, what I thought of as the summit beckoned me on:
Once I had arrived there, this turned out to have been a mirage. I had only reached a plateau with a small pond. It was time to visit the Pumpkin Zone:
The true summit came still half an hour later at perhaps 2300 hard-earned meters above sea level and it looked like something out of the province of Skyrim, which I know now to be real:
The descent was traumatic beyond words. My feet had swollen too much to be contained comfortably by their hiking boots. My legs had become weak from the constantly shifting ground. I shambled like an undead; it was a torturous journey where five kilometers felt like ten, and took as long.