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by Schattendrache

It was a windy day traversing the Waterfall Spires, and Rentarith was starting to regret not planning appropriately. He knew that most hippogriffs chose to use their sea forms to swim up the waterfalls, or fly up and save themselves the most energy, but that didn’t feel right to Rentarith. He knew the importance of the holiday, and he was not going to take the easy way, not when he knew what he did about the history of today.

Looking ahead, Rentarith saw a small indent in the side of the mountain he was climbing and picked up his pace to get out of the freezing wind. When he arrived, he sat back on his haunches and dropped the pack he had been carrying with a loud thud. He then leaned back against the side of the mountain and catch his breath for a few seconds. He had been hiking this trail for the last hour hours, traversing massive streams formed from the waterfalls and going up switchbacks that he could swear were at fourty-five degree angles.

In all, he felt like every muscle in his body was on fire, and his lungs were only inflating partially.
He was miserable, but he knew he had to do this, for his grandfather. He had promised his grandfather he was going to make the trek up the Spires today, following the exact path he detailed.

He owed him that.

Feeling his throat screaming at him for not having had anything to drink in far too long, Rentarith unhooked a canteen from the side of his rucksack and began to greedily drink from it. The water tasted less than ideal, mostly chalky, but that was to be expected given that he had been filling the canteen from the water from the falls here. The water was alkaline due to all the minerals in the rocks that made up the mountains.

While it was almost crystal clear due to the lack of any organic life growing in it, when you tasted how basic the water was, it became quite clear why that was.

When Rentarith finished off the last of his water flask and felt like he had recovered enough to continue on, he grabbed hold of his pack, clipped the canteen back on, threw it back on, and continued up the trail.

As he was walking, Rentarith couldn’t help but internally praise the fact that the trail he was taking was along the western side for most of the length, and that he was doing this in the morning, so he didn’t have to contend with the sun trying to cook him as he ascended.

After a few hundred meters, he came across a small waterfall that was hugging the side of the mountain and forming a small pond in the middle of the trail. He unhooked his canteen from the side of his pack, undid the cap, and held it under the water. As he was doing this, Rentarith looked up and towards the top of the mountain. It looked to him like he only had about fifteen minutes left to his trek, and basted on all the hippogriffs he was seeing landing and taking off, he knew this wasn’t just another false top.

When Rentarith felt his canteen begin to overflow, he removed it from the water, put the cap back on, reaffixed it to his rucksack, and picked up the pace to reach the top.

As he was walking up the trail, he began to notice more and more holes and gashes in the granite of the mountain. Huge circular pits, large enough to almost be mistaken for caves, and gashes deep and wide enough that many served as nests for large birds of prey covered the sides and the trail.
He had reached the top.

After about five minutes of walking past all of this, and on many occasions having to jump over the gashes and pits, Rentarith crested the edge of the top and finally saw the top of the mountain. It was a gorgeous sight. Almost the entire top was covered in a strange, grassy moss, and what wasn’t covered in moss was covered in a massive lake of water, with a geyser of water constantly shooting up at its center.

This was Mount Wexnel, the only one of the Waterfall Spires to have a lake at its top.

However, along the shore of this lake stood the one thing that held more significance than any lake ever could. A single, mangled tree, one that looked like it had suffered through a devastating blight and never recovered hung halfway out into the water in a way that suggested it would fall in at any moment.

It was a Fenarin tree, a species that only grew on top of these mountains and produced a fruit once a year, and for a week.

On the grassy moss, dozens of griffin and hippogriff families sat and chatted amongst themselves, some even were out on the lake swimming around. Everyone was talking in hushed voices, giving the air a tranquil quality to it, with only the whistling of the wind being louder.

But all of this was not why Rentarith had hiked several kilometers with only a rucksack and an old canteen, he had a purpose for being here, and he was going to fulfill it.

Rentarith began waking over to the grizzled tree in solemn silence. He passed family after family of hippogryphs and griffins and quietly apologized for disturbing them. When he arrived at the tree, he slowly removed his rucksack, set it down beside the tree, and opened it up.

He then began to remove small items wrapped in cloth. When all thirty of these cloth-covered items were removed, he began to unwrap them, revealing intricately carved granite sculptures, each one was done using painstaking detail and the utmost care, and all unique.

This had been the reason his grandfather had asked him to do this, to bring them here in his sted and drop them into the lake. After more than forty years, his grandfather had finally collected enough stones from Mount Wexnel and carved them into something that best resembled the hippogryph he had served with in the hippogryph-griffian war.

Grandpa Sand had been a lieutenant in the battle of Mount Wexnel and had lost thirty of his brothers in the most destructive fight of the war. Thousands of bombs, both magical and traditional had been lobbed at this mountain all in an effort to eliminate every hippogryph that was stationed here. It was the very reason why there was a lake, it was the result of thousands of pounds of ordinance exploding and carving out a massive hole on top of the mountain.

Grandpa never talked about what had happed then, only that he saw more than half of his brothers die here, and that he never slept right after that.

The reason everyone was here now was to honor the end of that war, the signing of the Waterwall Acord here on this very mountain.

His grandfather had wanted to come, as he had every year since then, but after a diagnosis of cancer less than a year ago, and his hospitalization and death not even a month later, he had entrusted the task to him. It was why he had hiked the trail rather than fry or swim. Grandpa Sand and his men had been pushed up the mountain on that very trail by the Griffin army, unable to fly for risk if being killed on sight.

Rentarith picked up a carving, one of an oyster with a pearl with the name Private Yentar, #879865, Age 17 carved into it. He then walked over to the lake and dropped the carving into it, right beneath the tree. He repeated this with carving after carving, letting each one sink into the clear, still waters, never to be seen again. When the last of the carvings was deposited, Rentarith pulled out a bottle of Griffin bourbon, a bottle his Grandfather had received from a major of the griffin army on the day of the acord, and had been planning to finally open today, and laid it down on the ground.

Rentarith then flew up to the tree and picked a single fruit from the tree. As a descendant of a hippogryph that defended this mountain, he was one of the few who were permitted to do so. His grandfather had instructed him to do this to taste the fruit of the tree he had fought to defend in that war, to honor what he had done.

Rentarith then flew back down and set the fruit down beside the bourbon. He lifted up the bottle, retrieved a corkscrew from his bag, and opened the bottle.

After doing this, Rentarith took a small sip of the ancient drink. While he wasn’t a fan of hard liquor, seeing as the alcohol burned the mouth and throat, he had to admit it had a pleasant taste, a strange mix of spicy and sweet.

He then put the bottle down and pucked up the fruit and looked at it. It reminded him of a pear, only bigger and purple. Thankful that he was finally going to taste the fruit his grandfather had had every year, he bit into the fruit expecting to taste something more pleasant than the bourbon.

He was met with a sour, bitter flavor that lingered on the tongue and throat and killed off any remaining flavor from the drink he had just had.