“Hey, Liam!” Feebe’s voice echoed through the streets of Montigo.
Liam made a mad dash toward the voice’s direction.
“Huff, huff do you always have the shout like that?” Liam groaned.
Feebe took off his bowl-shaped hat. His intense yellow eyes focused on Liam.
“Check this out.” Feebe pointed towards a bulletin board “The whole town’s raving about you.”
They headed over towards the bulletin board. Among all of the smaller papers which had requests for small-time errands and bounties on monsters was a giant paper in the center which read: ‘First one to climb and conquer 15,000-foot Lakihi Mountain, Liam Bravado. Time: 1 month.’
“News sure does travel fast,” Liam said disinterestedly.
“Yup! You are making history, after all,” Feebe said proudly.
“Now that that’s out of the way, what do you say we grab a cup of coffee?”
“At the usual place?” Feebe questioned.
“You know it.” Liam unzipped his red winter jacket and off they went.
Just as they stepped outside the circle of onlookers, a child- about 5 or 6 years old- spotted Liam and immediately pointed in his direction and screamed “Liam, Liam!”
Like moths to a flame, the crowd gathered around the two boys. Indecipherable chatter ensued as everyone spoke over each other as if they were reporters, trying to get the latest celebrity scoop. Feebe tried pushing past the human circle to no avail.
Unsure of what to do, Liam started fiddling with his thumbs, hoping it would help.
“So, what are you going to climb next?” Liam wasn’t sure whether that was his inner voice speaking or one in the crowd, however, he saw an opportunity to get out of this mess.
“I will climb Sargoza mountain,” Liam said.
The crowd kept on with its chatter.
“I WILL CLIMB SARGOZA MOUNTAIN!” Liam shouted at the sky.
Like magic, the crowd stopped directing all of its chatter at Liam and instead spoke among themselves.
“Sargoza mountain? I get the kid’s got something for mountain climbing, but even that might be a little high,” Liam heard a woman whisper to another.
Liam added to the stakes. “And I will climb it in 4 months!”
Rumors and doubt started circling
“4 months? Have you lo-” Liam cut Feebe off and gave him a look that said: play along.
“Did his brain freeze while he was up on the peak?”
“No way that’s happening.”
While everyone seemed distracted, Liam took hold of Feebe’s arm and ran, pushing past the now soft blockade.
Sweaty and out of breath, the two boys entered the coffee shop.
“Welco- Liam! It’s been too long!” The half-elf waitress said ecstatically from behind the counter.
She walked over towards Liam and Feebe, shook their hands, and lead them to their seats by the window.
The waitress took out a notepad. “So what can I get you two this time?”
“Plain black cof-” Liam cut Feebe off. “Two cups of Montigo’s signature!”
Feebe sighed and adjusted his cap. “Some things never change, do they?”
“Coming right up.” The waitress rang a bell and from it, two dainty looking cups filled with a light-colored brew popped up.
The waitress collected Liam’s payment and left.
Feebe looked down at his finger rapidly tapping on the desk as if he were washed by a wave of boredom. He then grabbed his cup of coffee and drank from it, hovering his eyes above and focusing on the one sitting across from him.
“Something wrong, Feebs? You’re usually way more talkative,” Liam said. “And don’t think I don’t see you staring at me.”
Feebe lowered his cup. “It’s nothing. Anyways, how was the climb?”
“It was great! Well…most of it,”
“Most of it?”
Liam unzipped his jacket and showed it to Feebe. “Look closely.”
The blood was hard to see- the shirt only a little lighter than the color of blood- but it was there. Feebe darted his eyes everywhere, his colored face turned pale, and his legs started becoming restless.
Liam grabbed a marshmallow from his pocket and force-fed it to Feebe. “Relax, the blood long dried out. Though, now I have a claw mark on my chest, pretty cool, huh?”
Feebe tried to speak but all that came out of his mouth was gibberish.
“I was pretty high up in the mountains already when I ran into a giant white raven. The thing was the size of this entire coffee shop and then some. It dug its claws through my chest and lifted me up to the sky. I guess it thought I was food and tried to bring me to its nest.”
Feebe gave him a look as if he were crazy.
Liam took a metal boomerang out of his pocket in response. A few white, crystal-like feathers covered the device. “After a few tries, I managed to slice its foot with this reinforced boomerang. I don’t know how I survived the fall but I did, though I was incapacitated for a good week or so. I had to slowly crawl my way into a cave.”
“There weren’t any other monsters?” Feebe asked, finally ridding himself of the marshmallow.
Liam sipped his coffee- the swirls forming a blurred image. “There were a few, but they all were pretty far away from me, I managed to crawl to the cave before anyone of ‘em took notice. I had a few other close calls on my way to the top but I easily fended them off, by using some of my food as bait.” Liam grinned, the coffee foam formed a makeshift mustache on his lips.
“And… you’re telling me that after all of that you still want to climb mt. Sargoza? Especially in 4 months? Do you even know what horrors lie there?” Feeble started playing with his fingers.
“No, but I’ve come this far, haven’t I?” Liam replied nonchalantly.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right” Feebe smiled weakly.
A few hours later, Liam and Feebe were out in the city center and decided to pay a visit to an old bookstore, when suddenly…
“Attention, citizens of Montigo!” A man hollered from the roof of a clothing store
The man was tiny in stature, barely reaching 4 feet. He looked like someone who had just arrived from the Victorian age. Sporting a black tuxedo that was obviously too big for him, and a top hat so long it could’ve been used as a bridge. A stack of newspapers could be seen at his side. In his left hand, he carried a bell and rung it viciously. People came out of shops, homes, and behind stalls and gathered at the source, awaiting what would happen next.
“My name is Vinny, and I come with grand news!” He said.
Vinny took the stack of newspapers at his side and threw them in the air to rain down like confetti. Feebe grabbed one of the newspapers and looked in shock.
“L-L-Liam, t-t-this is r-really b-b-b-bad,” Feebe stuttered.
“Give me that.” Liam took the newspaper from Feebe’s cold hands.
‘A challenge to the world! Foolish dreamer Liam Bravado says Mt. Sargoza can be climbed in a measly 4 months.’ Liam’s picture could be seen to the side.
“Oh? So they’re making this public. Suckers don’t know this just motivates me even further!” Liam placed his fist on his chest and grinned. “I don’t see what you’re so worried about,”
Feebe pointed towards the bottom of the newspaper.
‘Representative from Aliye’s Council of 13 to arrive in Montigo.’
“So even the big shots are taking notice eh? This must’ve been what it was like for my dad all those years ago. Oh man, this is too exciting!” Liam’s eyes turned fiery.
“Liam, this isn’t a game anymore!” Feebe had a look of concern. “You’ll be forced to sign a contract in which you’ll be obligated to climb the world’s most dangerous mountain in such a short amount of time.”
“I don’t see the problem,” Liam said
“‘I don’t see a problem’” Feebe mocked. “The problem is the consequence of failing to uphold your end. Exile.”
“So I won’t be permitted in Montigo if I fail. Big deal, I’ll just find another place to live.”
“It’s so much worse than that,” Feebe cried. “You’ll be exiled out of Aliye in its entirely, meaning you’ll be sent to the badlands. That’s worse than death, Liam! You have to find a way to fix this!”
“Hey, I didn’t know this was going to happen, ok? Besides, when was the last time you heard of anyone in the Aliye Council change their minds? Those guys are as stubborn as they come.”
“There must be something we can do.” Feebe shook like a slinky.
“There is. It’s called climbing the mountain.”
Liam was in his small apartment room when he heard a knock at the door.
“Coming!” Liam combed his messy hair into something halfway decent and opened the door.
“Good afternoon. On behalf of Lord Tolsky from Aliye’s council of 13, I have come to discuss the terms of a contract,” the butler said.
“Come in, have a seat,” Liam said.
“As you most likely have heard, news of your “proclamation” spread across Aliye, and eventually, us. Tell me Mr. Bravado, was that an honest mistake, or were you speaking the truth?” The butler had a look of concern.
“I don’t lie,” Liam said, looking him dead in the eye.
The butler cleared his throat. “In that case, we can now discuss the terms of the contract.” The butler handed him a piece of paper and a pen. “If you agree to these terms, sign below.”
Liam signed it without a second thought and handed the paper back to the butler.
“My my, such recklessness, such audacity. You remind me of myself when I was young.”
“No matter the terms, what I have to do doesn’t change in the slightest.”
The air in the room became charged with electric intensity. All objects vanished out of Liam’s sight, except for the butler, who he looked at as just another obstacle.
“The contract becomes effective 1 week from now in order to give you ample time to prepare.” The butler rapidly stood up. “With that out of the way, I shall take my leave.” He stiffly headed towards the door and left.
Liam walked around in the dead of night. Both as a way to think about his next moves, and to calm himself.
Liam heard light, doubtful footsteps from the other side of the street walking his way. A small, skinny figure could be seen
Liam waved his hand. “Hey, Feebe!” His voice echoed through the lonely night.
The figure ran towards Liam until they were face to face, lit by flickering lights.
“So… how did it go?” Feebe asked weakly.
“The contract? Oh, it went off just fine, They said I have a week before the terms go into effect- not that I know what those terms are- but I should be fine.”
“You signed it without reading, didn’t you?” Feebe clenched his hands into fists,
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Liam’s eyes widened as he raised his fist high in the air. “Of course I did!”
“You’re unbelievable.” Feebe shook his head in disapproval and regret. He paused for a minute to take a deep breath. “Then you don’t mind if I do this, as a consequence?” Feebe asked, tightening his fists ever so slightly.
“This.” Feebe’s right fist came flying at Liam, aimed at his stomach. Liam’s feet slightly left the ground before stumbling backward.
Liam looked in shock at the enraged Feebe- a side Liam didn’t think he had, yet here it is, staring at him in the flesh.
“You really are an idiot, you know that!?” Feebe choked a little. “First you say that you’ll climb the most dangerous mountain known to man, a mountain that has utterly shattered the dreams of thousands of adventurers, in only 4 months, then, even after warning you about the consequences, you still sign a life-binding contract without looking! Do you know what you’re doing to yourself!?” Feebe’s eyes turned into a sunset orange as if they could sense his emotions.
Liam stared dumbfounded at Feebe. He saw Feebe’s fists covered with some sort of metallic liquid- enhancing the strength of his punches.
Liam stood up, wobbling a little. He then broke into fierce laughter.
“Man, I never thought you could do something like this, Feebs. The metal suits you now that I look at ‘em closely. Where did you even get something like this?”
“Stop avoiding the question!” Feebe shouted. “I know you’ve always been eager to risk your life for a dream, but this is a new low, even for you.”
Liam gave a small laugh. “So what if I don’t know? It doesn’t change what I set out to do. Besides, this is my goal, not yours. Why are you acting all of a sudden like you’re taking a part in this too?”
“Why? Because I’m worried about you. I’ve always been, the whole city knows I am. You’re the only one who doesn’t get it.”
“Worryworts only get in the way.” Liam gave an icy-cold gaze.
“So everything we did together, everything that happened, it all meant nothing to you?”
“If that’s how you see it, then yes.”
“There really is no reasoning with you, is there? Fine then, suit yourself, enjoy the hellscape awaiting you, because that’s the last thing you’ll ever see.”
Liam walked towards Feebe and bent his arm, his face scrunching in pain.
Feebe grunted and slowly faltered away.
Liam slowly walked back to his apartment. The once-bustling street now dead. One by one, the flickering lights completely shut off, until nothing could be seen except the deep, demented dark.