Up the Mountain

“I,” Gerald began, punctuating each word with a deep breath. “Really. Need. To. Work. Out. More.” He barely stayed on his feet on the last stair. He mounted it with great ceremony and then promptly collapsed to his knees. He was here. Finally.

Juliet looked back at him, her lips upturned as she gently alit to a nearby tree. “It was barely a mile up, old man,” she said. “The air is hardly even thinned.”

Gerald stuck out his tongue and reached for his half-empty canteen. He downed it without a pause, his breath gasping as he lowered the empty container. “There is more water up here somewhere, right?” he asked.

The harpy-girl nodded and dropped down to his level. “Pure mountain spring, not half a mile through the trees that way.” She pointed past a grove of conifers. “That is, if you think you can make it that far. Otherwise, I’m sure I can draft somebody into carrying you.”

Gerald grimaced and hauled himself heavily to his feet. “I’ll manage. Second wind and all that.” He began plodding toward the woods. “You had better be right about the half-mile, though.”