Eldnium, p.17
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       Eldnium, p.17

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  Landon scouted the cliffs along the beach for an outcrop under which he and Li'an might stay the night, but such a thing was difficult to find because the cliffs shot straight into the air and were nearly smooth all the way up.

  "Anything?" Li'an called from down the shoreline, her voice barely audible against the crashing of the waves.

  "Nothing!" he called back. "I'm beginning to think this was a mistake!"

  The sun was reaching the horizon, and although Li'an assured him that the animals here weren't dangerous, he felt slightly uneasy about camping overnight away from the safety of the heroes’ village. If Tommy had been there, with his brute strength and impervious shell, Landon may have felt better. But as it was, he and Li'an were the most unimpressive heroes on the planet, and self defense seemed as if it might be a luxury they didn't have.

  He headed back to her.

  "Well," she said, "this just makes it more of an adventure, right?"

  "Yeah right," he said, hoping she picked up on his sarcasm.

  "Well, the moon isn't up. So we don't have to worry about the tide." She looked up at the cliffs. "We'll have to try and climb to the top."

  "What?" Landon said, shocked and confused. "That's like seventy feet!"

  "You aren't afraid, are you?"

  "Yeah," he said, "I am, actually. I admit that I'm afraid of falling seventy feet to my death. Is that weird to you?"

  She gave him a flirtatious smile and started toward the cliff.

  “Seriously?” he asked indignantly. “You’re seriously going to climb that thing?”

  “When I get to the top,” she responded in a familiar tone that drove Landon crazy, “I’ll be able to look back at my accomplishment. If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

  Two proverbs in one, Landon thought. Must be a record.

  She found a couple of decent handholds before looking back to Landon and saying, “Don’t look up my dress.”

  He blushed and looked back down the beach in the direction they’d come. The cliffs must have stretched for miles. He knew that he’d never make it back to the fields by sundown.

  “Alright,” he resigned. “Alright, I’m coming.”

  Landon found his own holds and followed up the cliff beside her.

  As he climbed, his fingers seemed to stiffen and slip. Climbing became more and more difficult as he went on, because his grip was weakening a little with each touch of the cliff. If not for the flexible leather shoes given to him by Iclovar, he would surely have fallen to his death. Fortunately, he thought, they allowed him to stick close to the wall, even when his hands wouldn’t cooperate.

  Li’an, however, seemed to be climbing with ease. She was nearly to the top, leaving him several meters below.

  “Are you okay?” she called down to him.

  “Something is wrong with my hands,” he called back, bending his fingers and cringing at the crunching sound they made. “They’re…they’re just not working right.”

  By the time he’d said this, she had already gripped the top of the cliff and climbed up. Leaning over the edge, she called out, “You’re almost here. Just keep climbing. Nice and slow.”

  He thought her advice was a little obvious, but the encouragement was appreciated.

  Hand over hand, he continued up the cliff until he lost his footing, and he began to slide against the rocky edge, his fingers dragging against the stone until they grazed a root jutting out from a crack in the jagged wall. He grabbed hold of the woody root, stopping his fall, but not without leaving his hands cut and bloody. Climbing would be twice as difficult now.

  “I don’t think I can do it,” he called up to Li’an.

  “What?” she shouted back. “I can’t hear you!”

  Frustrated with himself, he tightened his grip on the root, feeling the warmth of it flow into his fingers. And then he saw a brown light move from the root and into his hand, where it faded, just as the green light had done in the forest the day before.

  He let go of the root with one hand and touched his fingers to the stone. They seemed to stick there, his skin melting into the cracks in the rock, and they stayed put until he willed them to unstick. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

  “I’m coming down to help!” Li’an called.

  “No!” he answered. “No, I can do it!”

  And he could. He didn’t know how he could, but he trusted this strange relationship his fingers now had with the fissures in the stone, and he proceeded up the side of the cliff as if climbing a ladder. It was easy and effortless. Anywhere his hands touched the stone, his fingers would stick, and he would just continue to pull and step. It was mere moments before he reached the top, and Li’an grabbed his hand, helping him up.

  “Wow,” she said, “what got into you?”

  “I…I’m not sure.”

  He held out his hands, studying his fingertips.

  “Oh, Landon, your hands! They’re bleeding!” She grabbed them and looked them over, concern contorting the otherwise flawless skin of her face with wrinkles.

  “They’re okay…really,” he said, though she gave him a skeptical look in return.

  “Well, we’ll clean them up once we make camp. We don’t want to risk infection.”

  “Infection? I didn’t realize I could be infected by alien bacteria.”

  She smiled. “There’s a lot you don’t know, Landon.” She stared at him curiously.

  “What?” he said, embarrassed.

  “Your eyes…they’re brown…”

  “It must be the light,” he explained. “Earlier today, they were green.”

  She shrugged. “Let’s get moving. There’s a grove of trees over there. I bet we can find some kind of shelter.”

  “Shelter? There’s not a hotel around here?”

  “No, Landon, we heroes are alone on this planet. That’s how we keep it hidden. We’re just going to have to rough it!”

  “I feel like we didn’t think this through very well,” Landon said.

  “We didn’t think it through at all,” she answered. “That’s what makes it an adventure.” She winked and started off toward the grove of trees at a jog, galloping over small bushes and other little lumps in the ground.

  Landon stayed behind for a moment, watching her and admiring the way her arms reached out into the grass as she ran, brushing against the flowers and sending petals fluttering into the wind, and he suddenly realized that he might just have a crush on this girl who altogether amazed him and defied him and drove him out of his mind.


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