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Camon woke up and tried opening his eyes. When he did manage to open them, everything was blurry, and it caused his head to throb all the more on top of his already pounding headache. He lay for several more minutes before trying to move. He realized he was on his stomach, and he tried to roll over, but his right shoulder protested in pain. He collapsed back down face first. He tested lifting with his left arm and shoulder, and it was easier, but still very painful. He then opened his eyes, and his vision was clearer than before. He could not do much to make out his surroundings with his cheek to the ground, but he did the best he could. He looked up and could see the cliff of the Red Wall looming above. Looking out, he could see the salt flat, but he wasn’t on it. He then realized that he was on some sort of ledge that overlooked the flat protruding from the cliff.

Camon then tested his legs, and they both appeared to be without injury. He used his left arm and legs to crawl prone to a nearby boulder. There he used it to pull himself up and then propped himself against it. Camon looked back over to where he was lying and saw a large skull about where his head had been laying. He looked the other way and saw the corpse of the beast that had attacked him lying motionless. Its large, snakelike body had coiled up around its head with one wing blocking the view of its face. Camon breathed easy, knowing that the creature was not moving.

He then examined his own body. He saw bloodstains on his shirt and pants. He used his left hand to poke at his right shoulder. It was tender, and he moaned in pain with each probing. He tried moving his right arm, but again it protested in pain regardless of what muscle he used. He also probed the ribs on his right side, and they too were tender and throbbed when he pressed against them. He surmised that he was ejected from the beast when it crashed into the ledge, and he landed on his right side and slid into the large skull. As he moved about more, he became dreadfully aware of his thirst and hunger pangs in this stomach. He had no idea how long he had been out for, but he judged the light. He could tell that it was midmorning of whatever day it was. He guessed, based on his thirst and hunger, it had to have been more than at least one or two days.

Finally, Camon gathered his strength and attempted to stand. It took him a great deal of effort, but he managed to get himself up using the rock. Once he was up, he felt lightheaded, but he gained his composure and examined the ledge around him. Camon estimated it was about thirty feet wide from the cliff face to the edge, and about sixty feet long from end to end. He was almost in the middle where he was standing. It was strewn with bones from all sorts of animals. Camon was able to identify a few as wolves, bears, and goats, but there was also a number that he could not identify. He also noticed the remains of some human skulls too on the ledge. It gave him pause to think that this was the place that the beast came to consume its meals, and he was fortunate enough not to be one.

He walked to the edge of the ledge and looked over. It was a sheer drop to the bottom. Camon guessed it had to be several thousand feet down. He then looked up towards the top of the cliff. It did not look nearly as far to the top as it did to the bottom. Regardless though, he was stuck there with no apparent way off the ledge, up or down. He went closer to the beast but hesitated. He saw the skull of a wolf near his foot, and he gave it a swift kick, and the skull hit the beast and broke apart. Camon, surer now that it was actually dead, went closer to examine it. The beast was covered in thick, scaly plates, and its wings were broad and bat-like. He estimated that the beast was at least sixty feet long, and its wings were at least twenty feet each, giving it a wingspan of at least forty feet. Camon lifted the beast’s wing, which was surprisingly light, and he saw its head with its body coiled around it lying on its side. He then noticed the hilt of his sword protruding from behind the creature’s head a few feet before where the wing joined the creature’s body. Camon tried to reach for it, but the pain shot through his body as he bent over, and he stood back up. He touched his ribs and shoulder and decided the sword could wait.

He meandered around the ledge looking for anything that might be useful, kicking over bones and rocks. He came across the remains of one unfortunate victim that had clothing about him. Camon knelt and pulled at the clothes. It was a large robe of some kind. It was tattered and dirty, but otherwise still in one piece. Camon shook it off and set it aside. On the remains of another animal, he found an old saddle, and when he kicked the saddle over, he found saddlebags. Camon then knelt next to the bags and, with great effort, managed to loosen the tight ties. He emptied at the contents of the saddlebags and found a journal, something bound in butcher’s paper, and a waterskin. Camon instantly grabbed the waterskin, and much to his delight, it still had quite a bit of water in it. He opened it and drank from it. It tasted a bit stale, but it was refreshing nevertheless. He then unbound the butcher paper and found the remains of maggots, which he assumed had eaten through whatever meat had been in the paper, so he tossed it aside.

Camon picked up the journal and opened it, looking at the pages. It was written in a script that he couldn’t understand, but he deduced it was something of western origin, having seen samples of this kind of writing before. He tucked the journal away and finished inspecting the ledge. After finding nothing else, he went back and knelt next to the cloth that he had torn off the remains of another victim. He measured a length, then tore the fabric into a large square, and fastened a sling out of it for his right arm.

With nothing else to do, Camon went and found as comfortable as a spot as he could find where the ledge met the rock face, and he sat down. He again pulled out the journal from the saddlebag and looked at it, flipping page after page. He noticed some illustrations of plants and different fauna in the margins, and then he found one of the pages had a map on it. He couldn’t read the labels, but he recognized some of the landmarks on it, namely the West Watch, the Pustos Wasteland, the salt flat, and the Red Wall. He also noticed a path that led to the western end of the Wall, then ran along the base of the Wall to the eastern end, then went back to the south down off the map. The route was traced in a different color ink than the rest of the map. Camon finished thumbing through the book and then tucked it away.

He rested for several hours, drifting in and out of sleep. By this time, it was midafternoon, and he felt a little stronger after having gotten a drink of water. He resisted the urge to drink more, deciding to ration it. He checked his pockets for his stones, and he pulled out seven of them. All there, he thought. He picked up a blue stone and gripped it, and started humming. The stone began to pulse with heat, then Camon placed it over his right shoulder, then let out a bark. He then gritted his teeth as the stone’s magic infused his body. Camon groaned, then let out a yell before the power died down, and the stone stopped pulsing.

He then tested his right shoulder again. The pain was gone for the moment, so he stood up and went back over to the beast, and this time moved the wing back. He climbed over the beast’s body into the coil and knelt next to the creature. He then gripped the sword with his left hand and pulled. With a great deal of effort, the blade came out of the creature’s corpse. Camon then stood and carried it back over to his resting spot and used a scrap of cloth to wipe it off. He then laid the blade back down next to himself with the waterskin and journal. He sat back down and then stared out across the salt flat.

Camon rested again, this time falling asleep for a while. When he awoke, night had fallen over the land, and he looked out over the salt flat again. It glowed in the light of the moon. He picked out what he believed to be the remains of the overturned cart far to the east of his position. He tried to imagine what had become of Achara and Jorn. He wondered if they had made it to the library and if they had met any of the monks living there. He wondered if he would ever get off the ledge, which then led him to despair about it. Surely, they thought him dead, especially Jorn, who wanted him that way to begin with. He reckoned, however, that Achara would not give up hope so easily. Camon focused his thoughts on that thought, and it gave him an idea.

He removed his stones from his pocket again and examined them, thinking about a way to get a message that, against all odds, perhaps she could hear. He knew he wasn’t a seer and didn’t have any knowledge of the way seer magic worked. But based on what Achara had told him, it was a projection of oneself and the reading of other projections that one might make. He looked at his stones. The blue stone was for health, red for passion, green for peace, white for justice, yellow for truth, crimson for strength, and purple for chivalry.

He contemplated a combination and settled on yellow and red. Truth, he thought, would resonate from his mind. It would carry his thought. Passion would, like truth, carry his emotion. He was deeply concerned for Achara and desperate in his own plight. Focusing on truth and passion might be enough.

He had no idea if what he was about to do would work, but he sat up straight as he could and placed his stones in his hand. He started humming and thought of Achara in his mind, then of his place on the ledge in all its details, then of all the events that had brought them to this place. Thoughts flooded his mind as the humming became more guttural and built. He thought about the demon, the journey south, then west. He thought about the revelations they had learned along the way. He thought of Achara’s experience at the monastery and at the Gypsy encampment and everywhere in between. He then tried to imagine where she was in his mind. He then hummed louder, all the while he held both stones in his left hand, letting the power build as long as he could. The combination of passion and truth was an odd sensation, but somehow, they complemented one another, harmonizing like a musical score building towards a crescendo.

He raised his stones and held them out in front of himself and opened his hand. They were pulsing rapidly with light in their respective colors. He then tucked his head down and closed his eyes, focusing again on Achara. He heaved forward and tried even more to focus the magic, which started pulsing throughout his body from his feet to his head and back again. Every muscle in his body was quaking now, and the pain in his shoulder returned. The intensity of the pain caused him to scream out, and the passion stone grew brighter than ever. The ground beneath him began to tremble, and the stones were beyond pulsing now. They were glaringly bright. They lit up the ledge like the daytime sun and were scorching hot to the touch. The pain in his hand added to the pain in his shoulder and ribs, and it crept through his entire body. Camon was screaming at the top of his lungs now with intensity as he had never done before. When Camon could do no more to build the power, he overcame the pain and focused all of his thoughts on himself and Achara, then screamed aloud even louder above it all. The stones then exploded in his hand, letting out a burst of magic like a shockwave in every direction. The magic struck the ground and caused a blast of wind that scattered the bones and hit the wall behind him, causing some dust and debris to fall. Camon then collapsed again on the surface of the ledge. The light was gone along with the screaming, and Camon fell motionless on the ledge.

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