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The Snow's Song

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In the hushed chill of morning, the sun is hidden away by a thick expanse of clouds and snow.  A breeze blows heavy flakes into the air, swirling them violently before they make their descent onto the frozen ground, adding another fine coating of snow onto the treacherous ground. There's a soft almost undiscerning sound of footsteps over the blizzard that make their way along the icy paths and out into the unstable grounds. Steady and soft, they crunch along the snow continuing a purposeful trek through the isolated mountains of ice. They slowly pick up their pace throughout the expansive loneliness of the open area, a billowing of their cloak harshly whipping with the winter wind. Eventually, their steps halt as they meet the edge of the landscape. The snow and ice seems to disappear and in its wake, a gigantic cliff in its place. The stranger tsks, waiting a moment before simply stepping off the cliff.


The snowstorm never seems to stop these days, making it hard to track the nights from the days without an internal time keeper. As the days pass, the weather has only seemed to have worsened over time. Luckily for the sole inhabitants of The Bestiary, they are plenty used to making a living in the harsh climates of any weather. Unexpectedly however, this day, come three knocks upon the building's door, signaling not simply a howling winter wind, but rather a visitor. The area is heavily isolated, which means whomever is waiting for them must have purposefully come to seek out their services.

When the door is eventually opened, it is a marvel who awaits them. A boy, perhaps a teen seems to be on the other side. Locks of curly hair as white as the snow surrounding them, and eyes as light and brilliant as the ice crystals of the wild. His skin is pale as the winter's hold on this place, with an expression to match. They almost look like the very spirit of winter that plagues these wilds, and it's hard to discern if they are a boy or girl. White eyelashes blink once, seemingly unfazed at the feeble black cloak that's billowing around his form and tied with a silver ribbon at his neck. He is wearing an absolutely unacceptable ensemble that wouldn't shelter him from the weather in the slightest. A black and silver checkered sweater vest with a white blouse underneath it. Along with this are formal black shorts with black socks that reach just the bottom of his knees accompanied by black dress shoes and a black tie.

What was a child doing out in such a place?

"Charmed, I'm sure." the stranger murmurs politely but with a blank face and a brilliant posh accent. He looks at her with sharp and intelligent eyes, holding his hands formally behind his back. "Might I speak with your employer madam?"

What a morning indeed.


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The mountains near Itzal were like icy fingers jutting from the earth and bringing nothing but freezing winds and crippling maelstroms of snow. The Bestiary had once brought hopeful monster hunters in search of training and desperate villagers seeking relief trudging through the knee high snow, but now it was all but isolated. Most didn;t come up here anymore and even fewer believed that The Bestiary was still there. The people of Itzal believed that it's owner had either died, moved away, or retired. Fain wasn't so easily swayed in his quest to hunt Archen down; having only met the monster hunter once before on A previous investigation. There paths only crossing once before, but it was all that the young detective needed to remember the faces of all the people he encountered. Archen a scentless hybrid impossible to track due to his training and unnatural gifts, but Fain's deduction skills were A league of their own. His search for Archen taking him across the vast forests of Terrenus, and the harrowing Orisian kingdoms before eventually catching wind of Archen in Arkadia. There was talk of 'The Bestiary' and a hunter who has vanished for A year. It had to be what he was looking for...and so he had made his way up through the shivering mountains and happened upon a snowed in building underneath a vast precipice of ice. A single dimly lit lamp marking the entrance.

His knock was immediately answered; the door swinging open and causing steam to cascade across the threshold. Fain feeling the warmth of the interior cascade across his face. That heat however, paled in comparison to the warmth of the smile that greeted him now. A woman in earthy brown and green robes bowing to him in greeting; Two thick braided chords of black hair brushing the ground before she rose "Nameste. I am always charmed when we get new visitors! It has been a month since Master Belmont has had any clients! He will be so pleased; Come in quick! You must be freezing" Her caramel hands immediately pulling him in and closing the door behind them; her smile bright against her dark skin, brown eyes meeting his warmly as she immediately sat him in front of the fireplace. "Stay here and warm up please. I will fetch you my master and something to warm you up" She said kindly before leaving him to his devices for the time being.


How do I tell you my plight?
If only I could give you my sight

A year has passed us by with nothing for me to show
I feel as though im just floating idly as the wind blows
I failed my father over arrogance and pride
A phrase he always told me was never good enough...I tried
I want to believe that your the one worth fighting for
but I don't even have the courage to send these letters to your door

Archen looked over his letter and sighed through his nose, taking another swig from the tall dark bottle on his desk. He sealed it up and marked it with his signature before lifting himself up and shoveling it into a chest with several more of these similar envelopes. He still felt that gnawing, every damn day, that gnawing. How could he ever face her if he wasn't even A whole Archen anymore? Sinclair giving a knock at the door and with his behest, entered. Her eyes always possessed a worried melancholy everytime they looked upon him. There was a part of him that was agitated and felt as though it were pity...yet pity was not something she felt towards anything in pain...no this was...sorrow. Archen tipping backwards a bit before catching himself with a solid foot. Sinclair giving a hopeful smile against the crippling darkness Archen kept himself in "Sir, we have a potential client! He is waiting in the den to meet you" she said, watching him sigh with exasperation and nodding...looking at his clawed hands with distance. She hated seeing him like this, but she could only hope that with time...he would see past these dark times.

Archen remained quiet as he moved out into the hall, catching himself a few times as he stumbled into the Den. Fain could easily smell the booze off of him as he collapsed into the chair next to Fain, leaning his head back as he looked up at the ceiling. "Been...some time Fain. What do you want?" He asked, his voice sluggish and terse. Fain seeing that he was adorned in a A simple black tunic with gray breeches. His discerning eye catching a new tattoo on his adam's apple. A jagged key of some sort. It wasn't hard for an inquisitive creature of Fain's capability to know that this was the aftermath of the terrible deal Archen had made.

It looked as though it costed him more than just pieces of his soul.

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He says nothing else as he's led inside of the cramped building. The warmth of the fire is pleasant, Fain idly reaching out a hand to to feel more of its comforts as he waits. It was strange to go so far out of his way to track someone down. Fain isn't certain such a trip will be worth it at all if Archen doesn't actually agree. Though he has plenty of coin to spare, this matter is of a different nature altogether. Heavy thuds alert him of Archen's presence stumbling into the room. His nose wrinkles immediately, agitation flaring as the drunk fool collapses onto the other wooden chair beside him. 

The casual empty greeting he is given after all this time says more than anything else does.

"I didn't come here to be greeted with such casual frivolity Mr. Belmont." he snaps with a grimace of distaste. "Some time indeed, it seems you have made a right mess of yourself." he mutters casually, eying the other man's form up and down with a calculated disinterest. "I do hope isolation has treated you well, for it was quite a trifle to track you down. I would not have come if it did not pertain to your interests."

Clicking his tongue in dismissal, Fain gets up from his chair and regretfully turns away from the warmth. Moving over to the window, he glances outside, pale eyes narrowed in contemplation. 

"Though whether you're interested in anything these days, it would be difficult to tell with how the way you've stumbled in here as it were. Am I to offer you your money first and you shall accept on any condition? Or perhaps you're actually interested in the nature of what I am about to tell you?" he wonders, goading more than just a tired apathy from the other man.

He turns, hands behind his back as he stares at the other man with dull eyes. 

"One would think a hunter such as yourself would have noticed...but allow me to articulate Mr. Belmont. Have you seen a change of weather these days? Perhaps the snowstorm outside that never seems to change nor dissipate, the sun being blocked out by the density of the snow? This of course is not entirely unnatural from the weather conditions of this area certainly, but I must ask: how long has it been like this?" He questions, furrowing his brows as he turns back to the window. "Five days ago started reports of people walking directly into the mountains. It's been reported by friends or family that they were acting normally one moment, and the next they simply stopped any previous action and left. They did not stop walking regardless of their gear, clothing, or time of day, and disappeared into the storm." 

There's a pause as he stares outside into the snowy mountainsides, lips tightening in pensive thought. 

"There is something out there, and it has taken root in these mountains Mr. Belmont." he mutters, his breath showing in the air as he exhales, even in the warmth of the house. "Tell me. What do you know about awakened soul shards?"

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There wasn't much reaction from the slumped figure; his stark blue gaze once piercing with endless potential had dulled into a blue grey that watched the crackling fire with indignation. There was a part of him that wanted to respond to Fain, to greet him far kinder...but it had been swallowed up. Everything had been swallowed up these days. "There isn't much work for me these days" He said with hollow remorse. The world had become saturated with heroes and glory seekers. The supernatural horrors and forces that had once caused droves of people to claw at his door were now being handled by a vast surge of might and magic. Archen leaning down and pulling a small flask from his tunic as their eyes met. Fain's dull gaze of potency matched with eyes he had once seen as intense and willful...could no longer meet his gaze now."I have had other things on my mind...The weathers as bad as it's always been... The Spook knocking back his flask "Sinclair said it was worsening a few days ago, but...I haven't noticed." He said. Fain catching a quirk in his feathered ears at the mention of disappearances. Sinclair bringing Fain a rustic teacup with a fragrant smell of morning dew wafting off it's dull green surface
"It was made with Jee-Rai. A flower that grows here in the cold. May it bring you stability in these unstable times" She said with another bow

The priestess taking a few logs and adding to the fire, lifting Archen's feet up and making sure he was comfortable; his eyes lost in the embers of the fireplace. "Is there anything I can do for you?" She asked, hoping to see any change in his mood...his eyes turning to hers for a moment before shaking his head and nursing his flask "No" was all he muttered. Sinclair giving a melancholy nod before returning to her chores. Archen actually standing up at the mention of awakened soul shards "What are you talking about? How do these soul shards have anything to do with this storm and the missing citizens? Am...Am I the cause?" He asked; how could he not connect this to the very soul 'pieces' he gave away for power? What else could these soul shards be? 

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He gives Sinclair a nod of thanks as she presents him a warm cup of tea. Fain wastes no time in taking a sip, allowing the warmth to wash down his body and help warm him up from the cold. Pale eyes observe the rather pitiful attempts the woman tries in regards to soothing the emptiness that resides inside of her boss, but unfortunately for her, nothing would be able to fill that void without a price. Simple platitudes and nice gestures are only a reminder of Archen lacks and even worse, Sinclair seems to be enabling this sulking pensive behavior by treating Archen with such sympathetic behavior.

At some point, Archen will need to realize that he must walk on his own two feet and find a purpose even without slivers of his soul. Fain fears that such a time may never come if Sinclair simply goes about her days serving the man at any simple back and call. Hopefully, this little meeting might be able to help the man in more ways than one.

"You are not the cause. I asked you about awakened soul shards, not how you were fairing with the loss of your own." he mutters dully, eyes sharply taking in Archen's disheveled form as he takes another sip with quiet contemplation. "That answer is quite obvious in its own regard." he says with an unimpressed frown.

Still, such an outburst from the man is promising. It shows there's a spark in there somewhere.


"There was an incident at The Black Cathedral." Fain starts pensively, flicking his eyes up to examine Archen's reaction. "Several soul shards escaped confinement after a fire engulfed the building. It's the first time in centuries such a thing has occurred. By the time the fire was put out, several had already escaped and wandered." Fain explains, tapping on the teacup in light agitation.

Fain licks his lips, straightening up and moving towards Archen with a sharp gaze. He places the teacup down silently, his hands moving to claps together behind his back as he stares down at the man with silent evaluation.

"I want you to listen very carefully to me, Archen." he mutters solemnly, the use of the man's first name bizarre in itself. "I've made an arrangement with Velvet. If you are to help hunt down and recapture the lost awakened soul shards, he has agreed to return to you one of your own pieces. Do you understand the magnitude of such a deal?" Fain questions softly, his gaze growing lidded with apathetic judgment. "Is this a task you can manage to handle? I shall not waste my time if you are not up to par for such a quest and should you say no, then I will leave you to your frivolous nothings and cold nights."

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A war had been raging in Archen ever-since he had nearly been killed by The Waltz'. The incorruptible duty of his station...and the irrefutable blow this mistake had made on his very soul. His guilt and misery eventually crushing him into the mountain hermit Fain was interacting with now...but Fain could see that his words were weaving a spell of some sort of career necromancy as his expression hardened at the mention of The Black Cathedral; listening to the details with a growing fire that licked at his bones. Fain's perceptive capacity catching the slow creak of a distant door in the hallway, A curious Sinclair listening in. Archen maintaining the frigid gaze Fain always adorned; It was an exceptional tool to see through all who dared to hide themselves from his pertinent interests. Archen couldn't help but think he would have made an excellent Spook. The moment Velvet's name came up Fain could see surprise splashing across his face like freezing water. Was he being serious? If he had been anyone else he would thrown them out for heinous lies...but Fain was not one to lie. Archen couldn't believe it.

Fain's ending statements swirling with a icy wind that willed Archen to stand, swiftly and without sway. His eyes locked upon the weapon that acted as the badge of his station. His Axe hanging above the mantle like a grim reminder of A past long lost. His eyes never leaving the axe as he spoke with a lucid terseness "If this is A deal that will claim me what I forfeited, even a fraction of what I foolishly gave away...then I accept...The cold nights compare not to the coldness my mistakes have left within" He said, moving forward and taking the Axe from it's hooks and immediately feeling that gnaw fade to experience he had shared with his weapon

"Zillawog and I have faced much in the past, but I have not heard of a soul 'fragment' animating itself. Do we know the fragment's soul origin? Who did they belong to? Name's hold power over the realms of demons and the dead. If the dissapearances are connected to these fragments that means they have some capacity of corporeal control over the enthronements around it. Do you know what they look like? Were they ethereal when they escaped or are they capable of possession as a wraith does?He asked, immediately beginning to rifle through several chests and drawers, taking tonics, potions, and other strange materials that Fain figured was specific to dealing with the undead. A trigger being released as he felt the ravenous fires of the hunt mingle with the drive to reunite with his soul piece. 

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"Allow me to briefly explain the importance of a soul shard. These are raw pieces of soul, as you know, therefore they cannot be underestimated. Shards are similar to that of a lost soul, but due to their fragmented status, they will latch onto their environment, emotions, and surroundings. They can draw in power from such things, and take the forms of whatever the strongest emotion or part that soul contains. It seems this soul shard has latched onto this dreadful environment in some sort of way, as it is tampering with the weather to an even worse degree." Fain explains diligently, gesturing outside to the howling blizzard.

"You were chosen for a specific reason. It is not simply the fact that your particular set of skills are to be admired, no." Fain tells him with a pale gaze. "It is because if lost shards are free, they seek to become whole. To fill the void with anything they can. People who have given up parts of their soul are able to feel lost shards call to them. Consider it a strange sort of magnetism. Though it is very faint, the call will only grow louder the closer you get. This is why you will be the perfect person for this task. But you must take caution Mr. Belmont, for you cannot give into the temptation of becoming whole with a soul shard that is not your own. The consequences will be disastrous and you will destroy yourself from the inside out, if you accept a lost shard in your desperation to feel whole once more. Do you understand?" He asks softly, his pale eyes staring at the other man with a grave sincerity.

Fain reaches behind him, lifting off a necklace that he'd been wearing underneath his cloak. It's a golden locket with a vivid orange gem centered in the middle of it. It glows with an ethereal energy even at a distance.

"This is what you will use to capture the soul. It will keep it locked away until we can come collect it for you. You may use any tactic you need to get it to surrender. Whether that is fighting, or simply speaking and convincing it, I will leave that up to you. The shards though magical, hold a physical property that you can hold. It will not hurt you to touch it. This is what you will put inside of the locket." he nods, holding out the accessory to the man with an elegant pale hand.

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The topic of souls shards was an already raw subject for the forlorn hunter, but these details were too important to shy away from. These fragments sounding like compartmentalized emotions and memories of their owners; That would make diplomacy difficult if it was incapable of understanding reason. The mention of the weather once more stirring the hazed memories of the past few days. Sinclair complaining of her perilous trips toward the town, and how the snowfall seeming 'angrier'. He silently cursed himself for missing the signs of an abnormal storm; he had trained his senses painstakingly to notice even the smallest changes in his environment, but he had been too drunk to notice. Archen furrowing his brow as Fain warned him of the dangers that came with merging his soul with a foreign shard. Was it truly that dangerous? He had slain succubi, and sirens without falling prey to their seductions...but he didn't know how long he could suffer this emptiness that gnawed eternally. His distant gaze flicking toward Fain's movement and eyeing the parapet that Fain presented. A phylactery designed for soul capture; he hadn't seen one so well made before

Archen taking the enchanted jewelry from fain and tucking it into his cloak safely "Ill follow it's call and ensure it's capture. Stay here as long as you need; Sinclair will care for your needs. The worse this storm gets, the harder it'll be to track so I best be going" He said with an affirmative nod, and retracted his Axe to a handheld size, strapping it to his hip. Fain seeing a fire that had all but been extinguished broil and burn within him once more. He wanted to believe that it was to be whole again, or at least more than he was now...but he realized that he was thrilled to hunt again. It had been quite some time since he had fought anything strong enough that would decorate his cabin. His eyes panning toward the skull of a particularly dangerous werewolf named JagMaw. What...had happened to this once feared and respected Spook? He had lost that fire he held so viciously long ago

It seemed only apathy and guilt remained

Archen calling Sinclair who immediately sprang forth from the hall and attempted a hopeful smile "Yes, Master Archen? Are you going out? Has Mister Fain provided A contract??" She asked hopefully. She knew his work was dangerous, and that worried her...but him being here in his current state was even more dangerous that terrified her. Archen looking at her with an inscrutable expression "You are correct. It seems that the torrential weather isn't just bad luck. I will return as soon as I can, Stay indoors until I return." Their eyes locking for several moments and he could easily see the entirety of her being laid out in apprehension and worry, even after putting her through his melodrama...she still brightened the room more than any candle. it would have been endearing...if it wasn't so sad. Archen unable to keep her gaze and instead shifting toward the door, pulling it open and stepping through the frigid threshold.

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"Take care, then." Fain murmurs to the man. "Do take heed of its call Mr. Belmont. You wouldn't want to become...lost, yourself." he calls as Archen pushes open the door.

Fain turns to give Sinclair a neutral gaze, moving over to the table to set a necklace on top of it. It looks similar to the one he had just given Archen, but the gem inside is a beautiful indigo colour, and the clasp is silver.

"If you need to contact Mr. Belmont for any reason Madam, you may by speaking into the necklace with intent. However, I must advise you to not use this simply due to misguided worry." Fain tells her with a bored tone, his words still strict in their droning quality. "He may also contact us this way. If he so chooses."

Fain scans the house with attentive eyes, moving back to take a sip of his tea as he glances out the window. "I shall stay an evening, if it is not a terrible trouble for you." Fain asks her politely. 

Little did she know it was more for her sake than his own. The woman clearly wasn't used to being alone. The worry would likely eat her alive while Archen was out on his mission, something he hadn't done in such a long time and certainly not to such a difficult extent. This level of mission was certainly much above a fellow haunting or spook hunt, as it had as much to do with Archen and it did with whatever lost soul he is hunting.

The icy air howls and sends a chilling wave of frost inside the hut as Archen trudges out. With a heavy shove, he manages to shut the door, facing the blizzard with a newfound purpose. The jewel inside of the man's cloak hums a small power, slightly warm within the fabric. The logical sense the hunter has is to not avoid the storm, but to go into it. Fain alluded previously that the cause for the ever worsening weather of the mountains might have to do with a lost soul shard residing in the snow, and the people missing must be connecting to that in some way as well. 

As the hunter trudges through the never ending snow and treacherous terrain, he finds it more difficult to see anything but grey and snow lining his vision. It's dangerous, no one in their right mind would travel through his terrible weather. His boot nudges something firm. Crouching near it reveals a body. Their body is covered in snow and ice, having frozen to death in nothing but their pajamas. The dead man isn't even wearing any shoes, the limbs blackened from frostbite. Strangely enough, even through the terrible snow and torrential blizzard, Archen can see the man's face is smiling. It's a calm smile, eyes glazed over with an expression of blank fondness, and their lips softly tilted up in adoration. There's nothing else to indicate what happened, only that the fool trudged out this far into the wilds in nothing but his silky pajamas and bare feet, and froze to death. 

And then he hears it. Faintly. Barely heard over the roaring winter wind. 

It's calling.

Winter's lonely, cold, and bleak...
Misunderstood and alone.
Come to me so we can sleep,
In the cold that we'll call home...

It's like a siren song of lore, and Archen knows this is what he's here to find, and capture.

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The blizzard continued to rattle the window panes of the bestiary; Sinclair looking into the infinite white and praying for Archen's safe return. Her gaze shifting toward the locket and then to Fain as he gave her an air of caution that came with his generous gift. The monk nodding with understanding as she took hold of the enchanted jewelry "I will use it wisely; I know when he is working...he mustn't have any distractions." She said, understanding how dangerous his work was. Her worried expression melting away into a nebulous brightness across her dark skinned face "Of course you can stay here sire! The Bestiary acts as a sanctuary against those who would seek us harm, and unfortunately only those in grave danger come seeking my Master's help...It is why I am here. I make sure all our clients and guests are safe and warm" She said, guiding him to a chair next to the fire and attempting to heat his icy cheeks "I shall make us some more tea, and to pass the time perhaps you can tell me where you are from! I do love hearing stories of cities I have never been to" Sinclair could never cease the worry she had for Archen, but it did no good to dwell on it and instead wanted to get to know this mysterious man who seemed to have known her master before. There were few of his old friends that didn't want him dead.

Extreme climates were some of the hardest training regimes he had ever experienced when the master before him tempered him with bouts of flame, ice, and crushing earth. Those that surpassed the capacity most mortals had found lairs and domiciles in extreme climate; It was an obstacle he had been trained to endure. The Hunter managing through the endless slow with a careful pace that kept from collapsing into any unseen dangers; Archen shutting his nostrils closed as he amplified his vision, piercing through the maelstrom with intensity. He knew he wouldn't be to smell any scent based dangers, but sight was far more important in this torrential weather. His boot colliding with an unknown form; shoveling some snow out of the way revealing it to be...a corpse. Archen kneeling next to it and scanning it over four or five times, drinking in every detail he could. The smile indicating he did not fear an impending doom...focused on something more. 

An ethereal voice seeming to bring the snow alive as it sung to Archen, leaving him motionless through it's duration. It was an enchanting voice...one that would be neigh impossible to deny. This man must have followed this song to his death, entranced by it and unabashed by the frigid horror consuming him. Archen was beginning to feel this was a truly hostile entity despite it's enrapturing song, but...it had to be captured if he were to see one of his pieces again. Archen marching forward once more as he climbed higher. His skin being pelted and stung though his cloak, but he grit his teeth and pushed through. That fire that had been snuffed out for so long beginning to roar through him like a hungry furnace. He forgot how much he actually enjoyed it.

The Hunt

He found another corpse frozen to the mountain; stuck in a climb he would never finish. He remembered the wrath he once felt for the countless lives lost to deceit, villainy, and vile instinct...he remembered how consuming that wrath was. He hated them all...every creature that dared threaten mortal lives. That hatred had brought him to ruin, and he would not drink in it's self destruction again. All he felt now was determination; he would save those he could, and avenge those he could not...whether that was through elimination or capture it only mattered that the danger was secure. Archen digging his claws into the ice caked walls of the mountain and climbed upwards, ascending at a slow and careful pace. The storm was getting worse still; It was close. What was his plan going to be? If this mirrored a siren's method of luring souls into it's trap then that potentially means it is defenseless against a trained melee fighter, but if it has wraith qualities...melee is severely dangerous. Could he even try diplomacy? If that was really it's voice then that must mean it has some form of conscience somewhere...even fragmented. What did those lyrics mean? Does freezing to death here imply it is giving those it lures a 'home'? There must be a chance they could be freed then. Dozens of questions and planning routes manifesting in his mind as he ascended the perilous mountain, wind crashing him into the walls and causing him to nearly lose his grip several times before having to stop in a small alcove carved into the side.

He needed a breather; it had been some time since he had done anything this strenuous. 

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