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Avalanche: Part Three

by extreme_fj0rd


It was as Jamie had suspected. Breck and Sally, the Ghost Aishas she was supposed to be helping, were scaling the cliff as easily as if they'd done it all their life. She decided to simply ignore them and turned her attention to Reggie. He was fumbling to do up the last strap of his rock-climbing harness; Jamie helped him.

      "You ready?" she asked again.

      The cloud Aisha nodded. "I think so," he said.

      Jamie gave a nod in response. "Here, you go first," she said. "That way, if you fall, I can try to catch you."

      His reply was an ironic look. "Shouldn't you be helping them?" He nodded up at the Ghost Aishas.

      The spotted Aisha rolled her eyes. "I should be, but they look fine on their own." She hesitated. "Though probably I should go before you, just to keep up appearances." She swung herself up the first few feet of the cliff.

      "You make it look so easy," Reggie grumbled.

      "It is easy. Look, put your paw here, and your other paw here-" She helped him up the first ten feet. "Now you try."

      Once she was satisfied that he was doing well, she glanced up at Breck and Sally again. They were already halfway up, and going quickly.

      The Ghost Aishas had reached the top of the cliff long before Reggie and Jamie arrived at the middle. Reggie was learning quickly, Jamie thought, but didn't say as much. He'd only look sarcastic again-and in a way, he would have a perfect right to. She glanced around to see how the others were doing.

      Sonja, a Pirate Aisha, and her charges, Angela the Plushie Aisha and two others that Jamie didn't know, were on the same cliff. Sonja was down almost at the bottom, helping one of the ones Jamie didn't know, but Angela was almost at the same height that Jamie and Reggie were. Jamie didn't see the third Aisha at first; then she did. He, or she-Jamie didn't know offhand, and couldn't tell at this distance-was three-quarters of the way up the cliff.

      Jamie waved across the cliff to Angela, forgetting that the Plushie Aisha was just learning. Angela, though, seemed competent; she transferred her weight to one paw and waved back.

      "Isn't this fun?" she shouted across to Jamie.

      At the corner of her vision, Jamie saw the two Ghost Aishas jump to their feet, and the Aisha three-quarters up the other slope start to descend quickly. She'd heard what they did, too; the rattle of rocks coming loose. She had a swift thought that it was good Aishas had such long ears, and then she didn't have time for thinking.

      Reggie looked up, startled. "What was that?" he gasped, and looked around. Mistakenly, he looked down, and drew his breath in. He closed his eyes tightly and reached for the next pawhold, missed it, and fell a few feet.

      "Reggie," Jamie said.

      The cloud Aisha still had his eyes shut tightly. Jamie shook his shoulder.

      "Reggie! I know you're scared, but this is an avalanche, Fyora curse you!"

      With a whimper of pure terror, Reggie opened his eyes. "Yes?" he said weakly.

      "Go that way. As far as you can!" She pointed to the right, away from Angela and the avalanche.

      Reggie nodded and started to his right, slowly. Jamie sighed, but she didn't worry about him any more. He'd probably have been all right where he'd been to start with, but better safe than sorry.

      The rocks that Angela's shout had dislodged would be coming down on the Plushie Aisha's head fairly soon, Jamie realized. She glanced around; Sonja had gotten her charge down the cliff and was looking up in consternation, but there was no way the Pirate Aisha could get up to Angela in time.

      The spotted Aisha did something that every teacher of hers had advised against; she spun so that she was facing away from the cliff, then drove her paws back, swinging her out away from the cliff and along its surface. The speed took Jamie's breath away; rock skimmed along at the edge of her vision. She was sure that Angela was somewhere around here-but where? Then she saw the Plushie Aisha, looking absolutely terrified. The Plushie pet wasn't far from where Jamie was, not far at all. Jamie waited until the right moment, then shot a paw out and grabbed Angela's waist.

      Her momentum had slowed, so Jamie pushed her free paws against the cliff, swinging her back to where she'd come from. Small pebbles started falling down the cliff, hitting anyone in their way; the news had spread, and the Aishas were quickly descending the other cliffs.

      With a swift look around, Jamie saw an outcropping of rock about twenty feet above her. The Ghost Aishas were standing on it, a good idea, Jamie thought.

      "Stay as limp as you can," Jamie instructed Angela. The Plushie Aisha had closed her eyes; she gave a small nod.

      The spotted Aisha made sure her grip on Angela was firm; then she hoisted herself up a few feet, taking the Plushie Aisha with her. If she could reach the outcropping, they'd probably be safe; if not, well, Jamie couldn't think about that now. She had just to climb.

      Jamie pulled herself up the cliff rapidly, only using one paw to hold on to Angela. Her pulse drummed in her ears as she climbed, and her adrenaline grew, letting her climb faster and farther than she usually would've been able to. Though it seemed an age to Jamie, it only took her half a minute to climb to the outcropping-a distance that usually would've taken her five minutes to span.

      She climbed up onto the rock and tugged Angela up as well. The two Ghost Aishas crowded together to let her have more room.

      "Angela," Jamie said, but the Plushie Aisha had passed out some time during their climb. She sighed and let her rest, standing up to address the Ghost Aishas.

      "Sorry," said the male one. Breck, his name was, Jamie remembered.

      "We didn't mean to climb so far-" the female one began. Her name was Sally.

      Jamie cut her off with a wave of her paw. "That's not important now," she said, but looked at them appraisingly anyway. "You've climbed before."

      "No, we-"

      Sally glared at her brother. "Yes, we have," she said. She turned to look at Jamie. "We didn't think we were experienced enough to be in charge of other people, so we said we hadn't been before."

      "But you have." Jamie smiled slightly. "You do realize that if we'd had more guides this morning, Angela could've had someone there to tell her not to shout?"

      The rumble of falling rocks drowned Sally's answer. Jamie sank onto the ground beside Angela and watched them fall past their outcropping. Small ones came first; then larger, until boulders were tumbling past. Jamie suppressed a shiver. If she hadn't been quite so quick, those could've been falling onto Angela and Jamie themselves.

      That thought brought her up sharply. Where was Reggie? She looked around quickly, willing him to be somewhere. For a moment she didn't see him; then he moved, to wave cautiously to her. He was standing on another outcropping, this one thin enough that he couldn't sit on it, but large enough to deflect the falling rocks. His Cloud coat had blended in with the sky, she realized, and laughed as she waved back, but the sound was lost in the much-louder noise of the stones falling.

      It was a while after the rocks stopped coming that she realized it. The rumble lessened enough in her ears to let her hear Breck say with a sigh of relief, "We made it."

      "Not quite yet," Jamie said with a slight smile, standing up. "You should tell Thomas that you've climbed before."

      Sally let out a sigh as well, but of resignation. "We have to?"

      "You don't have to," the spotted Aisha said, "but I'd advise it."

      Angela stirred. "Have to do what?" she asked sleepily.

      "Nothing," Jamie said. "Just lie there."

      The Plushie Aisha nodded and closed her eyes again, slipping into sleep, Jamie suspected. She glanced over to see Reggie descending the cliff, with no visible help. She smiled at that. At least one good thing had come out of this morning.

      "Hello," Thomas said, climbing up onto the outcropping. "All right," he said, stooping to pick Angela up.

      "She's just sleeping," Jamie said. "We shouldn't disturb her."

      The starry Aisha nodded. "What about you two?" he asked, looking past her at the Ghost Aishas.

      "We..." Breck trailed off. Sally elbowed him.

      "We have something to tell you," she said, stepping forward, her eyes cast down repentantly. Jamie wondered why the Aisha wasn't in theater; she certainly had the talent for acting. "We've been climbing before. We didn't want to tell because it would mean we'd have to be responsible for people."

      Thomas shook his head. "Not all right," he said. "But I suppose I can let it pass-that is, providing you come down and make a formal apology to the rest of the group, as well as an apology to miss Angela here when she wakes up."

      Breck looked startled, and even Sally looked surprised.

      "Jamie," Thomas said. "Would you mind watching Angela until she wakes?"

      The spotted Aisha nodded, then shook her head. "I mean-I don't mind," she said.

      "Good." He looked at Breck and Sally. "Come on down the cliff," he said.

      Jamie watched them go, and smiled. Come to think of it, she was rather tired as well, she thought. Maybe she'd just lie down here for a bit and rest for a while.

           Jamie woke as the sun was setting over the mountains majestically. Angela was just stirring, too, and the spotted Aisha smiled. "Feel up to climbing down?" she asked.

      The Plushie Aisha looked confused. "What happened?" she asked.

      "Tell you later," Jamie said. "For now, let's work on getting down that cliff."

           Jamie and Angela arrived at the bottom of the cliff to the applause of the others, who'd come out from the camp when Reggie saw them starting down. For the last bit they had to climb over the rocks piled at the bottom, but they reached their well-wishers soon enough. Angela was nearly carried back to the circle of tents by the Aishas; Reggie hung behind.

      "That was..."

      "Impressive," Jamie said. She grinned at his puzzled look. "You going that far."

      He shrugged noncommittally. "I just... had to. You know?"

      The spotted Aisha nodded. "I know." She started back towards camp, and Reggie followed.

      "You were pretty impressive yourself. Going all that way, that fast."

      "It seemed to take ages."

      They both fell silent; then Jamie smiled mischievously.

      "So," she said, "what were you saying?"


      "About how the Lonely Aisha's journey is like the journey toward truth."

      Reggie started to smile. Jamie started to laugh, and Reggie soon joined in.

The End

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» Avalanche: Part One
» Avalanche: Part Two

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