Ander - Part 5: Subchapter 79

Story by Contrast on SoFurry

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Sorrin was huffing and grunting like a bear, but that wasn't what woke Danado up. He had felt something in the depths of sleep. It wasn't a dream, just a sense of urgency. He felt like he needed to wake up, and do it right away, before it was too late.

Too late for what?

Danado opened his eyes and was very surprised to find that he could actually see anything at all. It was morning, and there were bright rays of sunshine playing across Sorrin's back. He could even see the tiny pieces of grit and dirt lodged in his neckfur.

The night was over. The longest night of his entire life was finally over.

But what had woken him up? And where were they, anyway?

Danado rubbed his eyes and tried to make sense of his surroundings. They seemed to be trapped between two colossal walls of ice and stone that made him feel like a mosquito about to be squashed between two giant clapping hands. Icicles hung from every rocky outcropping like sharp mirrors, bending their reflections in a thousand different directions as they walked by.

Were they... inside the mountain right now?

Nilia was just ahead of them, carrying Hezzi on her back. His normally grey fur had taken on a reddish tint like an old piece of rusty metal. His head was resting on her shoulder, and except for the gentle sway of his limbs, he wasn't moving at all.

Danado looked back and saw Renna and Mellah holding hands, struggling to keep up with the manic pace Nilia was setting. And beyond them...

"Sorrin, stop!" Danado patted him madly on the shoulder.

"You awake, Dan?" the big Wolf huffed.

"Let me off!"

"It's okay, I've got you. You can go back to sleep. Cora knows you need it."

"I need to get off!"

"What? Why?"

"I need to see!"

"What are you talking..." he started to ask, but the words simply tapered away as he turned around.

Looking back the way they came, there were three different worlds vying for the same space. There was the endless blue sky up above, the white mountain closing in on either side, and caught in the centre was the gap they were walking through, like a slit in the Cora's flesh, affording them only the thinnest view of the snow-dappled forest. And rising up above the trees, so very far away, was a thick plume of grey smoke, pushing its way into the blue.

Everyone had stopped to look, and although nobody could put it into words, they could all feel it. There was a sense of finality about that tower of smoke. It was the last glimpse of their old lives, the last goodbye before turning their backs forever.

"Are they coming after us again?" Mellah whispered. She had grabbed hold of Renna and was holding her tightly, as if the smoke itself might come after them.

"No," Nilia said. "If they had sent out another party, they wouldn't stop to make a fire out in the middle of nowhere. It's probably just some hunter making camp."

Danado couldn't stop staring at that column of smoke. From this far away, it almost seemed to stand still.

"Danado?" Sorrin asked. "Are you okay? Is it the pain?"

Danado wasn't all that surprised to feel a tear running down his face, but he couldn't say what this particular one was for. Only that...

"It's too big to be a camp fire..."


Danado shook his head and wiped his face. "It's nothing."

"Come on, guys," Nilia said. "Hezzi is hurt, and he needs help now. We can't dawdle around looking at smoke." She turned around and continued down the path without even waiting to see if the others would follow, nearly jogging along the cragged, snow-strewn pass.

Mellah was the first to go after her, leading Renna by the hand, but Sorrin stayed for a while, perhaps sensing that there was more to this tower of smoke than burnt wood and ash.

It was the last thing.

"Goodbye, Lana," Danado whispered. "I wish you could have come with us. I'll miss you."

A light breeze picked up from out of nowhere, channelled by the narrow gap in the mountain into a brief gust, pushing against their bodies as if urging them to get a move on.

"Hey, Sorrin?"


"I think I'm okay now. We can go."

"Are you sure?"

Danado reached up and plucked a small orb of ice from his cheek. The sudden gust of wind had frozen his tears solid, halting them in their tracks. "Yeah. I'm sure."

They went deeper into the pass, moving quickly to catch up with the others. Danado looked back over his shoulder the entire time, staring at the column of smoke as it rose into the sky. The path slowly started to curve, making the line of blue thinner and thinner, cutting it off with every step. They finally rounded the corner, and then it was gone, replaced by a wall of rock and snow.

"I see the others up ahead," Sorrin panted. "We're nearly there, I can feel it."

Knowing there was no further point in looking back, Danado looked forward instead.

It's what Lana would have wanted.

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 187

187 Kiana didn't think she had ever been in a formation quite as lopsided as this. She had Hezzi's arm slung over her shoulder, and she, in turn, had her arm slung over Valery's shoulder, whose knees were just about shaking under all the weight. Hezzi...

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 186

186 _Vallah! Get down from there before you break your neck!_ _But there's this huge bug up here, Father! You gotta see it! Its fangs are like, this big!_ She held her arms as far apart as they would go to indicate the sheer size of the mystery...

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Ander - Part 6: Subchapter 185

185 A deep, low-pitched creaking noise filled the mill. It was the kind of sound you'd hear right before a tree finally fell to the axe. It was the unnerving groan of wood under strain. Mateo had been pushing his shoulder up against what felt like a...

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