Hawkil's Lament by Emmitt Hugh

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One warrior should not be burdened so with two objects such as these, he thought. But there was little to be done; he needed both and hoped for the chance to use both. The shield stood three quarters of his height though to carry it felt like toting every stone out of which the iron was mined. He knew if he pounded it hard enough, rusty flakes would litter the ground around it. The sword, he thought wryly, made a fine compliment to the shield. It too was long and heavy, thick and unwieldy. He would use his spear as a walking stick. It would also be used for his first attack. Laden with weapons and shield, heavy woolen clothes beneath the leathers, and food for the two day journey, he climbed.
For most of a day his path wound upward, passing beyond the snow line. When he camped for the night, cold and exhaustion made a fire difficult and he cursed the howling winds and the thinning air. After a thin, half-cooked meal, he banked what wood he could find against the fire and wrapped himself as best he could. The heavy shield proved useful in reflecting the heat back at him and keeping the wind away, but his sleep was still broken as the cold found its way in. Several times he stirred the fire's embers, each time bedding closer to the diminished flames.
Morning dawned and he continued to climb. As the sun reached its zenith, he began to search the summits above for the place he would make his stand and decided on a projected outcropping, a snowy, rocky shelf, hovering just below where the mountain's sides began to steepen. Wide enough, he decided, that the dragon wouldn't simply blow him off the mountain with the beating of its wings. He hid his remaining food and felt foolish: he didn't anticipate returning. If the wolves came this high, they could have what he left.
He pulled himself up to the shelf, his chest clamoring to draw air. An advantage, he was told, as the dragon needed air for his fire. Loose flakes swirled around his boots. The leather felt too thin; the wool already sodden. The ice clung to the hide laces of his boots, the heavy stitches of his coat. A chewing numbness threatened to consume his feet. He stamped until his soles ached. The wind caught his long hair, snatched the leathern cap from his head. He watched it float on the strong currents and disappear into the depths over the side of the mountain. Snow clung to his shoulders. It trickled into his collar despite the tight knot he'd tied to draw it together.
To his left another peak extended vertically, its jagged pinnacle lost in mist. Fine flakes of snow blasted from that high point and flew like a rampant cloud across the sky. The stony wall rose sheer, its face cracked and gray and decorated with the shininess of ice shards. Many of the icicles stretched several times Hawkil's height, their points sharp and threatening. Patches of shattered rock were suspended in the frozen surface of the wall.
Hawkil jammed his spear into the packed snow, the blade throbbing in the gusts and pointing at the unfriendly skies above. The sword slid free of its scabbard, the gold nowhere near as luminous as he'd first believed it when it shone next to the fire.

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