The way back down was more troublesome than the way here. If I had been a bit disappointed in my horse being slow, it still was faster than limping old me. I spotted the horse on the plain below. It had stopped running, but still was far away. I carried on downwards. This horse was the ticket back, and if I couldn’t reach it, I might as well throw myself into the fires.
It turned night, but this time, the moon wouldn’t help me. The mountain blocked all light coming from it. I laid down to sleep, finding a dark horse at night wasn’t really feasible anyway. I dreamt of horses, of home, of Lily, only to be woken up by the rumblings of the mountain before the dreams had a chance to turn nice. The morning after wasn’t much neither either: I had been sleeping on top of a sand dune overlooking the plain, but the horse had moved on during the night. The sun hadn’t started scorching yet, but it wouldn’t take much before it would.
I didn’t move on. It was pointless. The foot was blistering all around, I was just able to resist the pain yesterday, but not today, not without hope. I looked to my home. High up, beautiful waterfalls surrounding it, and far, far away. I wondered what happened to the crew. Had the Captain continued the search for stairs? Had he reported back that I found the way, and now was missing? Grandpa maybe was feeling guilty for sending me into this danger, into my death.
After everything had been thought through, after the tears had dried, I still was on top of the sand dune with no hope left and unable to move on. I stared into the sky. Not even vultures were waiting for me. Well, maybe one, but it still was far away and hadn’t spotted me. Or had it? It was coming roughly into my direction at least.
As the mountain shut up with it rumbling for a bit, I heard a familiar noise. The noise of an engine driving a propeller. I jumped up and waved, doing my best to get its attention, but it just passed me, going further to the mountain. I was disappointed, but curious: Who was flying it? And why was it flying again in the first place? The flying machine turned around, it was looking for someone. I raised my knife, trying to get a reflection towards it. The flying person saw me, rolled back and forth as to wave at me, and landed the machine down on the plain. I hopped down, trying to not let the burnt foot touch anything. The person from the flying machine came sprinting towards me.
— There you are!
— Are you alright?
— Apart from the foot and the thirst, yeah, I guess.
— I can help with the thirst, Lily said and gave me a bottle which I finished in record pace.
— Thank you! What would I have done without you?
— I’d rather not imagine. Come, let’s go into the machine.
Lily helped me get into the flying machine and sat down in front of me. The bench was designed for one person only, but she was just small enough to fit in between, and still have a good grasp of the controls. Before Lily took off, I asked her how she got it flying again.
— Oh, we were looking into the wrong direction all this time. You can just take moonshine and mix it with a bit of oil and it works just fine!
— Moonshine? And I go all this way just to see some hot rock…
— Sorry. I only got to talk to a merchant after you were gone.
— I don’t blame you.
— I know, it’s just… I was so worried about you! It feels like I sent you to your death!
— It’s alright, it’s alright… You rescued me. You’re the hero now. Will you bring me back home?
— Home? You mean, to the peak of the holy mountain?
— Exactly there. To Valand.
— Dad is waiting back in Aucrary. I wouldn’t want him to worry I got lost in here.
— We can do a flyover. He’ll understand if he sees us.