The wolf turned, plunging into the thick underbrush. Random raced after her. As he entered the forest, he was engulfed in the deep smells of rotting leaves and spicy resins. Following the narrow track that wove in and out of clumps of bush, Random scrambled over fallen trees, and leapt over small streams. They shot through tunnels made in mountainous hummocks of berry vines, the wolf’s tail waving steadily, always about 5 feet ahead of Random.
After a while, Random began to tire. He knew he could not keep up with her. His legs quivered as he crouched to enter another tunnel, and Halfway They through folded under him. The wolf did not stop and soon was far ahead out of sight. Random put his hands over his face and gasped for breath. He looked up in hope that she would return.
As his eyes slowly got used to the dim light of the tunnel, Random became aware of a fork in the tunnel, the one the wolf had taken and another just tall enough for him to stand up and run. He knew that one track was made for a wolf; the other would take him back to the stone circle. As Random stared at the wolf’s path, he felt an urge to run. As he thought of running, his thoughts came to the wolf’s eyes of golden fire. He closed his eyes, placing a vision of those eyes in front of him. Then he was running through the low tunnel on four strong legs. He was aware of every sound and smell and movement, ready to react. He burst out of the tunnel and was stunned by layer upon layer of scent, subtly shaded and varied. There was a chaos of sounds that formed an invisible web over all that surrounded him. Random struggled to make sense of this onslaught. Then he found the wolf’s scent. It was clear as a well worn path through the forest of smells. He was off again leaping fallen trees, racing full speed weaving with the scent through the sounds and movements of the forest. Time wove itself into this pattern, but Random could not tell how long he ran. Finally, he came to the edge of a lake. The wolf lay panting calmly waiting. When she saw Random, she nodded and turned away disappearing into the forest. Random knew he must rest and wait here. He lay down and gazed across the lake and finally closing his eyes.
When he woke up the world had shrunk down to his normal senses. The many layers of sound and scent had combined into a surface awareness.
Shifting mists shrouded the center of the lake so he could not see the other side. Random wondered what caused the mist to move. The air was still. He stared hard and could just make out the outline of giant amorphous beings cloaked in soft pearly robes pacing in a circle on the water. Bits of a chant drifted to him on the shore like the low mumble of wet stones rubbing together in a slow rhythm. One at a time the giant misty shapes left the circle, gliding in procession across the water toward Random’s small sandy beach. The chant faded out as the figures drifted onto the shore and formed a circle around Random, while he turned slowly, gazing up trying to discern their features. They had no more form close up than in middle of the lake. They were muted and vaporous and he could see the shadows of objects on the other side of them. They did not touch the sand of the beach, but were suspended so that he could not guess how they moved with such order and obvious consciousness.
The whispering rasp of their chant began to form images in his mind of a mountain. The sourceless light was definitely dimming now. A cool breeze came from the opposite side of the lake. The mist giants shape dissolved in shreds, but did not flow with the wind. The mist swirled and formed over the water like a blanket. An enormous moon rose from the other side of the lake, and with it, rose a mountain silhouetted in its center. Random had seen the Alps and the Rocky mountains, but he had never seen a mountain as overwhelmingly grand as this. It filled his mind as an insurmountable obstacle.
He closed his eyes and pictured the other side of the lake. When he opened his eyes the mist had formed into solid white floor and hung suspended over the water. He stepped onto the cloud platform and walked over the water.
The mountain began on the opposite shore. It rose straight from the water and Random could see that the water continued around the mountain like a mote. The base of the mountain was strewn with boulders, rocky shale, and sand. Random had to clamber up a steep slope and make his way around smooth, oblong boulders like flattened grey eggs. The moon continued to rise, but the mountain blocked most of the light. He had to climb and scramble, feeling his way. He tried to close his eyes and visualize the top of the mountain. No clear picture came to him.
Soon the moon rose over the mountain. Random could find clearer paths and was able to move more quickly. Still it could take him days to reach the top. He had finally scrambled into a foothill forest where going was smoother, but still steep. He followed a rushing roaring stream that came down from the heights. The trees and underbrush thinned and the air turned cool and less damp.