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To Climb a Mountain

#1
Crunch, crunch

The snow screamed under Madeline’s boots. The chill of cold reddened her cheeks the moment she stepped through the portal. She had made her way out of the white void, into another white void. At least this one had recognizable landmarks. Mountains, snow and trees, and she could even see a large settlement in the distance. It would probably be worth checking it out before moving on. One of these mountains could have the other side of the mirror that bridged her to Omni’s realm.

The redhead traveled down the path leading to the settlement. It was made out of steel and ice, frosted over so much it was starting to resemble an igloo. People must be crazy to live this far out in the frozen wasteland, but still, it reminded Madeline of home somewhat.

The gate guards stood watch over the massive gate standing between the outside of the city and the inside. They looked freezing, to say the least, even though they were wearing armor lined with a lot of fur and leather.

“Halt, what business do you have in Atlas, traveler?” The guard asked Madeline in a tone that he likely has used for many other people passing by. It was possible he said that to everyone who walked through the gate. “You don’t look like any other merchant we’ve seen coming through here.”

“Merchants actually travel to this desolate place? It doesn’t seem that good for business if you ask me.” Madeline stated, “But, no, I’m not a merchant. I’m just a… traveler sort of stuck right now. I’m pretty lost and my journey has taken me here so far. I only wanted to check in town for information on the area, is all.”

“Hm, very well, but please do try to mind yourself once inside. We have had to evict some rabble from the city before and we aren’t afraid to do it again.” The man said before pounding the intercom button on the outside of the gate. It buzzed loudly. “Open the gates, we have a traveler coming through.” He said into the speaker. A few seconds passed by quietly before the pressurized door loudly creaked itself open through the power of mechanical genius. “Should anyone cause you trouble, however, please don’t hesitate to come to the guard for help.”

Madeline nodded and made her way through the giant steel gate. Houses made of wood and concrete stood tall within the walls. Fires burned in pits and braziers around the entire city to help keep everyone warm. The wind was also much tamer within the walls since they stood so tall. Madeline pulled her scarf off her neck and walked through the dirt streets.

People did give her some weird looks, probably because she didn’t seem one with this world. Thankfully there were no confrontations between her and any of the locals. After wandering for an hour or so, looking for anywhere that might have information for her, she found herself inside of a burrow in the ground. It looked like the ground had been carved out by the city to house most of its residents. It made sense, it was much warmer underground than it was above ground. She was beginning to see how people lived through this horribly cold winter and survived. 

A short walk down the hall there was a lot of noise coming from one of the sectioned off rooms. A sign hung from outside the door that read, ‘The Burrow’. It was a tavern for warriors and explorers of high caliber. Wouldn’t expect any less, after all, who else would risk their lives out here. Well, besides herself that is, but she was something of an exception. She walked through the crowd of people towards the bar.

“What brings a small little lady like yourself to such a dangerous place like the Frozen Fields?” One of the men asked her. The humongous axe on his back unnerved Madeline to no end. She sunk into her coat and stammered a bit before their conversation was interrupted by the woman, who was even younger than Madeline herself.

“Leave her alone.” The blonde slammed her hand on the counter. The man took his leave and Bianca ushered the mountain climber to take a seat at the bar. She set a glass on the counter for her and poured some water in it. “What brings you way out here?” She asked, leaning against the counter. ”This is a pretty dangerous place to be ‘just a traveler’”

“How did you know I was just a traveler?” Madeline asked looking down at the water, wondering if she could even pay for it.

“I’m one of the four people in charge of keeping this place running smoothly. We all know when someone walks through our gate, and what for. The Fields are harsh and we can’t expect to have our guard down.”

“I see,” the redhead whimpered. “However, that is all I am. A traveler, just looking for...something.”

“Something? Not much of ’something’ in the frozen wastelands.” Bianca continued her prodding.

“I was sucked into some kind of mirror on a mountain in my world and brought her. A giant, faceless figure gave me a speech and I walked into this white abyss of nothing. And now I’m-”

“Prime. Yeah.” The barkeep interrupted once again. “Omni thought you were an interesting person, so you brought you to his world.”

“What does that even mean?” She asked.

“You’re just like Atlas’s founder. Something like a chosen person to that god, or whatever. Amber was morphed into this absolutely powerful being that could summon anything her heart desired from the little colorful orb.”

“Like this?” She said putting her orb on the counter to show Bianca.

“Exactly, these things work a lot like dust, in my own opinion. Amber disagrees, but they all have this amazing function to change the world around us, whether it be for good or worse.” 

“Well, that’s good to know at least, but what do I have that someone like yourself doesn’t? Why would Omni choose me to become prime when there are other people who are much more interesting capable of handling such power?” She asked, slipping the orb back into her pocket.

“As far as I know Omni, he just wanted to. He doesn’t really go through any special process to pick primes, he just grabs who he likes and throws them in here.” 

“Well, I intend to find my way back to Celeste. I’m going up the mountains to find a mirror that can take me back to my own, sane world.”

“Good for you, that’s more than Amber has done. She’s really taken to the Omniverse and the Frozen Fields. She said it really reminded her of home, which isn’t far off. Who knows maybe you’ll take to it the same way she did.”

“I don’t know about that. I would rather just find my way back to my own world.” She said standing up, ready to leave.

“Wait, why don’t you stay for a while and get something to eat. Primes might not get hungry or tired, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food or sleep.” 

“I don’t have any money, though. Or at least, I don’t think you guys accept Canadian money here.” The disappointment could be heard in her tone.

“Don’t worry about it. We don’t usually charge primes, that would kind of ruin the economy since primes could essentially create all the money they desired out of Omnilium.”

“How kind of you!” Madeline said, sitting back down at the bar. “Then please, I’ll take something to eat.”
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#2
The meal was delicious, whoever the cook was had spent years practicing their craft without a doubt! Madeline had fancied herself a decent cook, but she could only dream of being this great. After wiping her face clean of the meal that existed on her face, she slid the plate across the counter and sighed in satisfaction.

“That was a great meal, tell the cook they were amazing!” Madeline said to Bianca on the other side of the bar. She stood from her seat and slid her coat back on, zipping it all the way up. “Thank you again for the hospitality. I will definitely remember it!”

“Have a safe trip up the mountain, then.” Bianca returned, taking the plate to be returned to the back.

Madeline made her way out of the Burrow and up to the surface of land. She at least knew what she was doing here now. Omni had forced her through the mirror on the mountain and brought her to this world for his very own amusement. Maybe if she could speak to Omni she could convince him to send her back to her own world. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life here in the Omniverse. The power of Omnilium sounded tempting to any person, the power to have and create anything you want just by willing it, but all Madeline wanted was to return to Canada and see Theo and her mother again.

When the guards finally got the gate open for her to leave the city, she did notice a few people leaving with her as well. A traveling caravan of some kind, probably looking for business between the other worlds that Madeline had yet to even hear anything about and a few individual people who were leaving the same as her.

What did she do now? Tons of mountains stretched across the horizon, making it difficult to pick which direction she should go. She didn’t quite understand it, but one direction seemed to..call her. Something in her instincts or conscience whispered to her when she looked east. Enthralled by the feeling, whatever you could call it, she began her walk east.

Little did she know of the shadow pacing behind her. The dark black contrast of shade against the snow wasn’t hard to spot, but with Madeline’s thoughts currently occupied she didn’t even notice them. The stalker paced far behind her, not needing to worry about losing her. The prints in the snow wouldn’t disappear for at least an hour with how the snow was currently falling.

It took an hour or two to reach the base of the mountain. A long walk indeed, especially through this weather, but Canada’s blizzards were just as bad, if not worse than, this petty snowfall.

The gargantuan mound stood high and proud completely covered in a white blanket of snow. A cold sweat ran down her back. Why did she feel so nervous? She didn’t have this feeling when she started climbing Celeste Mountain. Was it because she could feel the resonating feeling that led her in this direction much more promptly this close to the source? That was the best answer she could come up with for now.

Boot to snow, the beautiful carpet of white desecrated by Madeline’s feet, she began the path up the over-glorified rock. Though snow covered it, there was a trail that began at the foot of the mountain where it seemed she could begin climbing. Soon she could put this terrible nightmare behind her and see her mother again.
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#3
A blizzard began to pick up as Madeline continued up the cliffside. It hadn’t given her much trouble to begin with but she knew soon it would become much more difficult as the edge of the giant rock became steeper. The white flakes raged past the mountain climber’s face at such a blinding speed she couldn’t even begin to make an assumption of how many flakes were in the air. Millions? Billions?

Several meters up the mountain, the redhead finally met her first challenge while climbing. A  vertical stretch straight up that would be impossible to get around without scaling. Madeline dug her hands through the snow and into the dirt behind it. Her hands stayed warm thanks to the gloves she was wearing. Slowly she trekked up the cliff face but soon she realized it would be too difficult to simply just climb up with her bare hands. She ran out of energy just before she could reach the top and slid her way back down to the ground below.

Poof!

The snow shot up around her as her bum slammed down into it. A white plume exploded and disappears quickly around her back into the blank of white the covered the path. Was her journey already to be stopped short by nothing more than a wall? No, she wouldn’t accept this as the end. She surveyed the area, anywhere she could get around the wall. No way to go around or a checkpoint up the side where she could take a moment to catch her breath.

Although there seemed to be no direct way to make her way up this obstacle, a glimmer shone through the blizzard. A floating gem, shaped like a diamond, suspended in the air glowed with a resonance that seemed to call directly to Madeline. What sort of weird feelings were happening to her since she entered the Omniverse? Everything continued to make her skin crawl and keep her on edge. Either way, it was interesting. Perhaps she could climb high enough up the cliff face to jump out and grab it.

Her hands clung into the rocky surface once more and she began to scale the cliffside once more. It didn’t take long for her arms to start feeling shaky again. She reached out for the diamond, just barely she could brush it with her fingers if only her arms were longer! Her grip on the wall loosened more and more the longer she held on to it. Desperate to see what this little jewel was made a leap of faith out to it and swung her hand out to catch it.

She passed through it. It literally phased through her hand as she grasped it. Things felt like they were moving in slow motion, everything was a crawl. What happened next she couldn’t begin to understand or reasonably explain. Her body seemed to refuse the fall without any conscious decision she defied gravity dashing up into the crystal. When she collided with the shiny object it exploded. Her body felt rejuvenated! Her breathing became easier and her arms felt strong again. How could any sane person explain what just happened? Again without even thinking about it, her body forced itself forward through the air, allowing her to reach the edge and climb up over the vertical earthen structure. She collapsed in the snow on her hands and knees losing control of her breathing.


In- Out- In- Out-.

It wouldn’t slow, it wouldn’t stop! A panic attack now of all times?! If she couldn’t control her breathing it would be the end of her! What just happened to her and why?! What did Omni do to her when he made her prime?! Nothing is making sense!

Several seconds of suffering to panic later, Madeline was able to calm herself down. She rolled over to her back and relaxed for a moment, letting her anxiety calm itself.

“What happened? I have too many questions that I can’t answer.” Madeline asked herself as if saying out loud would help her make sense of anything that just happened. “Instead of trying to understand anything that happens in this crazy mirror world, maybe I should just try to find the source of power calling to me as quickly as possible.”

Pulling herself out of the snow, she continued down the path. Sooner or later, a gap in the earth revealed itself. The cave’s entrance was narrow, making it surprising to find out how spacious the inside of the cave actually was. Another shocking surprise to find about this cave: Floating platforms and more of the random floating diamonds. She would have to figure out how to activate that odd power again to reach the top of the room. Fortunately, the resonating power she could feel from so far away was much, much stronger. Whatever it was, it was at the top of this room.

The platforms stood suspended in the air, just frozen in place with nothing to hold them up. If she could get her new powers to work easily, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to traverse this dangerous terrain. She jumped from the ground and dashed upward to the first platform. It felt so natural now. It took no effort to activate it in a pressing situation. No need to stop the moment now to think about it though, she pressed on.

Each dash felt amazing. She couldn’t figure out why it was so seamless. The crystals broke with every dash she made, allowing her to use a second time mid-air. It seemed like it wasn’t possible to use her powers endlessly without using these crystals.

Mere minutes later, she found herself in a new room. A rather small one compared to the last. The only thing it contained was a mirror, in fact, it was the exact mirror that sucked her into the Omniverse. She ran up to it and put her hand on the mirror. She didn’t take the time to look at her reflection in the mirror until placing her hand on it didn’t seem to trigger any kind of sucking back into her own world.

The red eyes Madeline stared back. She let go of the mirror but her reflection stayed in place. She could faintly hear a muffled and warped voice coming from it.

“What?” It asked. “Is there a problem Madeline, darling?”

“Who- Who are you?!” She screamed, fear running down her spine. “Are you actually my reflection?”

“You could call me that, but honestly, I’m not sure. What I do know, however, is that I’m Part of You. You should be worried about the shadow who has been ghosting us since you left the city, though. They’re making their way up now. How did you not notice?” She asked, and was right. She could feel them making their way up the platforms now. How were they able to reach it up here? Everyone in the Omniverse must be a lot different. Perhaps he could do things like her. Either way, they would reach the top entrance to this room in a moment's time.

The mirror behind her cracked then followed with shattering into pieces. The reflection of Madeline hovers in the air before her.

“Get ready, I doubt their intentions are good.” She says, taking some kind of fighting pose.
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