The scene that I posted a couple of weeks ago was alright, but I had always intended to make Balfrith come up against a significant natural challenge at the early part of his journey, and I so I decided to re-write the scene in order to introduce the challenge right away, instead of waiting. This now better reflects what I had in mind, and forces Balfrith to decide how badly he wants to get away from his father and join the Elves - is it worth risking serious injury, even death, in order to get away?
* * *
A few hours later, or so it seemed to him, Balfrith climbed out of the muddy fields and onto the stony ground at the base of the hill. Up close, it was a much larger rise than it had appeared from a distance. A few patches of grasses and a handful of trees grew up out of the stone, but otherwise it was rocky and barren. And while the climb appeared to pose a challenge, he hoped that at the top, it might give a clear view into the distance, and help him to set a longer goal for the next day’s walk.
And after that, his next priority would be to find a sheltered place to rest, start a small fire, and try to dry off and warm up. Though the rain persisted, he maintained a slim hope of finding fallen wood that was dry enough to burn.
Of course, that assumes I can find a sheltered spot. This tor does not appear to promise such.
Balfrith looked around, frowning as his hope dwindled. Then he shrugged, and started climbing the hill. First things first: he would get his bearings as best he could, then see about finding shelter.
The steady rain made the rock slippery, and he took each step with care, testing his weight before resting fully upon a foot. He made his way eastward around the leeward side of the hill, where the climbing seemed to be a bit easier, making a rough spiral around as he climbed the slope. Circling around to the north face, Balfrith noticed that the wind had picked up, and with it came a driving rain that made the going even more treacherous. The wind also cut through his wet clothes, causing him to shiver uncontrollably, and he had to stop more than once in order to huddle down to the ground and hug his legs, in a feeble attempt to stay warm.
Circling further westward to the windward side of the stony hill, Balfrith could see that he was about half way to the peak, and the wind and driving rain had become almost unbearable. He crouched behind a stony outcrop, as if it were a crenelation along the wall of a castle, taking what shelter he could. He rested there a short while, until it seemed like the wind had slowed somewhat, then stood once again and continued his climb.
He was only able to go a few steps forward, though, before he came to a new challenge: the path that he’d been following, such as it was, came to an end. Balfrith stood before a stone face that rose well above his head, blocking the way. To his left, up-slope, rose equally high stone, while to his right was a shorter rise of stone, which then cut off and dropped as a precipice many feet below. Looking around, Balfrith shivered, and sighed. What shall I do now?
He tested his weight against the low wall on the right, making sure of his footing before climbing up, knowing that he faced a long fall should he lose his footing. Now standing a few feet higher, he could just reach the top of the facing wall of stone that blocked his path. And he could see that from there, he would have a mostly-unobstructed climb further around and upward - at least as far as he could see in the dim light and driving rain.
Looking around, trying to find a good place to grasp and climb, Balfrith began shivering in the cold, and wrapped his arms around himself, hunkering down on the exposed low wall of stone, trying to regain what minimal warmth he could. But the wind rose more, and the rain drove on, and Balfrith realized that he had to choose then whether to press on, or turn back: he could remain in that place no longer, for the weather only grew worse, and his exposure became more dangerous the longer he waited.
Standing once again, Balfrith took a deep breath, and leaped forward to the rock face, grasping its edge with both hands, holding tight lest his fingers lose their grip and he fall. Pulling with his arms and scrabbling with his feet, he got his upper torso up and over the ledge, then one leg, and finally he rolled over onto his back, lifting the remaining leg up onto the platform. He lay there for a brief minute, gasping from the exertion and the cold, knowing he must rise and get moving again. He was still exposed there, even if the immediate risk of falling was now past.
Rolling over and up onto his hands and knees, Balfrith paused a moment to be sure of the wet stone surface, then crouched, and finally he stood, facing east, keeping his back to the wind and rain. He took one slow step, then another, for though the platform of rock was solid enough, it tilted somewhat to the right and downward, so that he was forced to take great care with each step, lest he slip and fall off the escarpment to the rocky level many feet below.
A gust of wind came then, and Balfrith paused again, holding himself still, feet planted on the wet and slippery rock. Ahead, he could see a small patch of grass, and he took a step towards it as the gust blew down. Another step, and he was on the grass, taking comfort in its springy squish under his boots. He crouched down once again as another gust of wind and rain came up, leaning forward onto his hands. After another minute, he stood once again and stepped forward. In a few paces, he stepped off the grass and onto bare rock, where he took care to plant his foot, then took another step.
And it was then that the wind rose again in a powerful gust, and Balfrith staggered from one foot to the next, leaning forward to try and regain his balance. But the wind came even stronger, pushing him ahead, and he lost his footing, falling forward onto his hands. The stone gave away, a single piece of unstable rock that slid to the right and fell clattering down the rock face, and Balfrith went with it, his right arm and leg hanging free, while he grabbed frantically with his left hand at a narrow lip of rock. He hung there while his mind raced, knowing his fingers could not hold him long. He swung his right arm up and around, trying to find a place to grab, but just then, the remaining bit of stone to which he clung cracked and gave way, and he fell, tumbling down along the slanted rock face, bits of rock falling with him.
His head struck the stone, and Balfrith saw stars for a brief moment, while his limbs and body bounced down the rock, before he finally struck bottom. The impact drove the breath from his lungs, and his head struck the ground one last time, before he lost consciousness.
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