Another steel pick drove into the blindingly white cliff, sending hairline cracks in all directions, each forking and turning sharply like a bolt of lightning sent from the heavens to break the land beneath it. Tiny achromatic shards fell away from where the pick had sunk, but it was solid as weight was put on it. The Witcher clad in arctic blue and whites as pale as the cliff to which he clung took a look below him, gripping ever harder the pick, the leather strap of which was tied tightly around his fists. The cliff face was not smooth, and he searched for a place to support his foot. He dug the thick shod toe in the widest part of a narrow crevice, and tested its hold. Down a few feet below was his companion, working diligently in much the same manner, hoisting herself strongly towards the pair's ultimate goal. Grips of his hands and feet now confirmed, the Witcher pulled himself that few feet higher. In the new position he repeated every step. Looking down once more, he took in the world below them.
The land built gradually up to the cliff face, and the pair had trekked through it for the entire morning. There was a village some distance away, but it had taken all of the first full afternoon of their travel to pass the point of habitation. That instance was now two and a half days behind. Only the Caribou herds could be found this far north, and a trace of these had not been found either in their four days out of the settlement. The morning had begun after days of trudging through the tundra without mounts - as they had left these in the care of the villagers - as the land became an assortment of hills. Each time the fall was not as large as the rise, and the elevation grew infernally. They had been led by a magnet stone in a bowl of melted snow, showing the way straight north, and the ever present shadows of wings over the far mountains in the failing lights of the cloudy mornings and misty dusks. Cursing the gods who held the world's temperature control, they continued to climb as slow rises became hills became bluffs became escarpments became summits and ever upwards they went, climbing on feet, then hands and heels, then fingers and toes as the rises became ever steeper. And now they came to the sheer precipice of glacial ice jutting out straight upwards and hanging to the side of the first true peak of the Dragon Mountains.
The pack upon his back impeded his progress as greatly as it could, its weight and girth pulling him with as much power as it may have mustered down towards the rocky ground below. The steel and silver blades further adorning his back added to the strain. Even through the fur padding his body against the freezing winds was considerable, when the bare metal of the swords touch was felt, its bitter frigidity cut through the layers and seemed to freeze the Rook saturated blood in the capillaries. The potion, though, brought warmth to his extremities as it invigorated the muscles ripping at their fibers. Turning his gaze upwards as he moved to sink the pick once more into the ice, tiny flakes of floating snow descended on the light winds to burn what parts of his face were not covered by a thick cloth mask. He squinted at the sky, lids protecting the vulnerable eyes from piercing daggers of cold. Though his partner did not carry a pack as loaded as his, he knew that any trouble he had was just as bad in her experience.
At long last there was reached a point at which the highest Witcher's pick had no higher ice to dig into. Instead he was forced to throw it's point up over the edge of the overhang above, pulling himself up onto a forearm, then an elbow, then a shoulder, then his chest, and with the writhing of struggle and the struggle hoisting he was up onto the eminence. Still laying on the newly flat ground, he untied the straps from his wrists and relinquished the picks from his hands. They burned from the base of the palm to the tips of the fingers. He could feel his every heartbeat, a rapid pounding thundering within his chest, amplify the pain with each contraction. Having pushed himself up into a kneel, he threw off the pack, excitedly though tiredly. He took the minimum amount of care that he could, and slung it a few feet over to the side. Turning around, his stare fell over the edge once more. Laying himself back to his stomach, his arms both extended towards his companion there below. She offered up a pick, and he grabbed on to its curved head. Their efforts combined, she lifted herself until he could grasp her arm, and they struggled together to bring the female Witcher up onto the outcropping. For a long while they both laid there beside each other, their every muscle fibre feeling broken, their breath so quick and heavy that the steam it forced out could not dissipate before it was sucked back into their bodies.
"Thank you, Yves." The woman beside the Witcher muttered in airless tones. He painfully sat up, the swords on his back giving a degree of trouble.
"Of course." His own voice muttered. He crawled on all fours to the pack which he had tossed aside. It was drug through the gathering snow back to where his woman friend lay. A flap was thrown open, and his hand disappeared within. Out it came once more, holding within two vials of sky blue liquid, sloshing fluidly and showing no signs of freezing. With it came a translucent white stone, and Yves used this to quickly check for the sun behind the miles thick quilt of light grey clouds. "We'll take these Swallows, then we've got a few hours wait still left to rejuvenate. When time comes, we'll down two more Swallows, a Rook each, and you'll take the Cat while I drink a Golden Oriole." The female Witcher did not respond. He knew that she understood, though. He laid one of the azure vials on her upturned chest, and she caught it with her thickly gloved hand. Assuring himself of this, Yves pulled down his own mask. Revealed was his extremely fair skin, broken up by stubble already turning the bright golden hue of that hair to be found atop his cranium and flowing all the way down to the small of his back. The blue lips barely warm enough to make a pucker were put up to the lip of the flask, and his entire head tilted backwards towards the dimly lit sky. Liquid cascaded down Yves' tongue, washing over his tonsils in a single chug. It was no warmer than ice, and only the vodka he had previously mixed it with kept it from freezing, as he had much meant. As the last drops slid over the opening to his throat, he began to speak again: "A trip to Talgar for winter break, you said. It will be fun, you said. Make a little money hunting down whatever they've got giving them trouble, you said. We could be back at the school at this second, bellies bulging with pork and vodka, warm in a hall of ten fires with torches all around us, naked and riding each other like the horses we left back in the damn village!"
Yves' head swiveled to look behind him, and his golden, slit pupiled eyes took in the horror of a sight which met them there. The maw of a cavern opened to them, black within as the ink with which they scribed the papers at the Witcher school in Malleore. Icicles formed the opening of the crevice, long and pointed as brutal daggers warning of the pernicious danger held therein. The light barely reached a meter inside before it was crushed and violently slaughtered by the all devouring darkness. There was no lower for Yves' heart to sink, and thus it rose at the realization that the goal of their journey was at hand, and all that was left for the pair to do was to kill the horrid feathered beasts somewhere hidden there in the catacombs of time, and survive both the fight and the arduous journey back to the village and ultimately back to their cosy dorms in their cosy school in their cosy country.
"Igni us up a fire for a bit, why don't you?" He requested of the woman, "I'll make us some hide, fat and stale ploughing bread to eat. I've still got two and a half bottles of hooch in here, but that's more to be saved for after the fight. Don't want to over intoxicate, death would be a bit of a hinderance."