Metanoia

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Chapter Twenty-Four

This was, perhaps, one of the darkest moments of my journey, Fitz being the only comfort I had.

The house was a short-lived distraction for the hounds. Fitz and I hid in the caves of the vast and rugged mountains, shrouded in the dark caverns. We travelled solely during the daylight and hid in the coldest of trenches at night.

My back ached, and the soles of my feet were torn and shredded. The shoes had begun to wear thin forming holes and gaps due to the rugged black rock, and steep icy mountains.

Fitz did not have enough physical stamina for the rigors of this journey and would often collapse. I found it necessary to carry him most of the way. (He tried his best to travel through this horrid land, but simply he could not.)

Food was scarce, and Fitz’s body deteriorated through the following months. It was hard for me to watch him whine in hunger, his frail little body convulsing in pain. Sometimes I thought of ending his suffering, but I couldn’t bring myself to carry out this act. He had been a good and faithful friend and my conscience simply would not allow it.

We had finally reached the great mountain range. It stretched as far as our eyes could see on both sides. It would be too risky to go around it. We had no other choice but to advance over the peak.

Fitz and I both collapsed at the foot of this colossal mountain. Our strength was depleted, and death was surely imminent. The strength in me to climb this rugged heap of rock and ice was simply not there. Looking starved and destitute, Fitz’s ribs protruded from his side and his legs were mere twigs. It was not a matter of if we would die but only how; would it be going around the mountain or trying to scale its heights.

Fitz and I looked at each other. We both knew what the choice would have to be. Staring up at the mountain and making up our minds we set forth our destiny.

That night we rested in one of the ditches. We simply covered ourselves with the dark cloak hoping it would be enough to hide us from the hounds.

Sleep eluded me that night. The sound of silence was deafening, preventing my mind rest. I hugged the scrawny body of Fitz, whilst memories of better days filled my mind. I questioned the choice I had made, whether the journey was worth it. I tried to calculate how far the abyss was from our location. What would happen to us? Would this odyssey of mine ever come to an end?

The morning rays blinded me as I awoke from my restless and short slumber. I should have been grateful to have survived the hounds, but I was beginning to wish they would kill us and get it over with.

“Fitz.” I whispered as I slowly shook him.

“Fitz?” I persisted.

“C’mon, Fitz, wake up.”

Fitz twitched as I pinched him on the neck.

“C’mon, you lazy hound, let’s go.”

Hesitantly we stood at the foot of the imposing mountain. I fed Fitz the last bread I had before attempting to ascend the traitorous rock.

The rocks felt like sharp blades, piercing through my flesh. When we had reached the first leg of our journey, I picked Fitz up and put him on my shoulders. My clothing was shredded, and my hands ripped bleeding. Taking my shirt, I decided to create a makeshift glove to cushion my hands and help me with the climb. Halfway up the mountain we stopped to rest. I had been close to fainting many times from sheer exhaustion.

Presently we found a small cave nestled in the side of the mountain. This was the coldest night Fitz and I had endured yet. The winds were harsh and persistent. Although I attempted to keep Fitz warm, his frail body simply would not stop quivering.

Sometime during the night, I could hear rocks falling from above. I held on to Fitz firmly, attempting to muffle his whimpers with the black cloak.

The growls which had become familiar to me, moved closer to our humble cave. I closed my eyes, praying to Life itself.

“Please, spare him. Spare Fitz, I beg you.” I cried out to Life, as I held Fitz’s trembling body closer.

I could smell the hound’s foul breath as he stealthily approached us. As he at last stood above us, the hound lowered his muzzle and began sniffing at both Fitz and me. His snarling produced a foreboding within me. Fitz was not the only one shaking.

The hound’s muzzle remained right above my cheek and persisted in trying to move me in order to reach Fitz. I steadfastly remained where I was, attempting to remain as calm as was possible.

At last the hound lifted his muzzle. When I finally opened my eyes, he was standing directly above us. I was quite baffled by the hound’s appearance.

The Shadow Hound was battered and torn. Scratches and cuts covered its body. Looking up at this beast I could see that both his horns were missing as was also his left eye.

The hound remained above us keeping watch. My sweat had frozen and my grip on Fitz was stiff. I was at a loss as to what to do next.

While the winds whistled through the humble cave, the hound simply turned and, wandering off into the gloomy night. For this was the rare occasion when Life was sympathetic, and to a degree, kind.

Warm streaks caressed my nose and eyes, as I awoke, covered in frost. Hastily I checked on Fitz. His heart was beating although faintly. As I removed the black cloak, it began to disintegrate as our blankets had done earlier in our journey...

This was the last one we had, and the weather had not spared us any less than before.

Cautiously I set little Fitz on my shoulder and edged slowly from the cave. The sight which greeted me was in some measure a relief and pleased my eyes, for it was at least a small break from all our suffering.

The vast and barren land was dotted with valleys and rocky basins. Barrenness ruled this land, for even the sky reciprocated the black valleys with its gray and gloomy skies. It was this vast desolation which gave allure to the land. However much I hated and feared it, I could not shy away from its perpetual beauty.

It was this part of the mountain which I dreaded the most; the misty clouds which shrouded my next step.

As I approached a barren tree, protruding from the edge, Fitz began to shiver uncontrollably. His body twitched and jerked in a seizure causing him to slip from my shoulder.

Crying out in alarm I attempted to grab hold of him. I watched in horror as Fitz slipped from my grasp and fell upon the rugged rocks tumbling down the steep mountainside.

I hastily started after him, sliding on the jagged rock, shredding my entire body in my attempt to reach him.

Fitz was approaching the edge of a precipice. Seeing his inevitable plight, I was unsure if I should risk my life to try to save him but my devotion to this little hound propelled me forward. Jumping over him and clashing on the sharp rocks, I grabbed hold of his body.

As I slid across the rock, I approached the precipice nearly falling to my death.

Barely grabbing the edge with one hand and holding onto Fitz with the other, I hung on with all my remaining strength. My hands were cut and bleeding. My strength was being rapidly depleted, and I did not know how long I would be able to hold on.

Looking down at Fitz, I realized that I had no option. Using all the remaining strength within me I pulled myself up.

My muscles felt like they were tearing and my tendons detaching. Screaming in pain, I gritted my teeth and called upon the reserves of strength deep within me

Harder I pushed myself up, and at last, was able to bring little Fitz to my side.

Calling on all the reserved strength within him, Fitz began to slowly and painfully stand up. Coming to my side he nipped my hand and tried to pull on me with what little strength he had.

When at last, I pulled myself upon the rock; I fell backward, gazing up at the sky. Fitz seemed to have rallied to some extent and in muffled joy nearly wiggled his tail.

“This is it.” I told myself. “This is all I have.”

My body seemed to shut down, and my sight became darkened. Fitz persisted on nipping and clawing at me with his paws, but I was completely unaware of his presence, even the sounds of his barking grew faint until it was completely inaudible.

At last my eyes closed; no longer were the sights able to reach into my senses. I slipped into the blessedness of an unconscious state.

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