TITLE: HOW TO STEAL A DEMIGOD
GENRE: Literary Fantasy
“Hey, Rat Girl,” Minos sneered, pointing his chin in Crea’s direction. “Think you can scamper up there?”
Crea shook her head in annoyance. No one else spoke. As the foursome stared across the expanse below them to the stony eminence, Crea was sure they looked like dazed fools, gaping with open mouths. But tearing her eyes from the grim structure would have been as easy as keeping moths from being drawn to a lamp. Though she hadn’t intended her gesture to be an answer, there was only one coherent thought in her mind: surely their task was impossible.
The fortress was more mountain or mesa than man-made edifice. Only a few shades grayer and darker than the landscape around it, it could have passed for a rocky plateau. Yet the lofty summit had a nearly flawless rectangular geometry, etched against the cerulean blue of the midsummer sky. Numerous small but clearly visible features confirmed it was built by human hands: windows and ledges, grids of perfectly aligned brick work, and squat square towers jutting cautiously out into space as if clinging to the vertical wall in fear of the great height.
The man-made part was built on top of an escarpment formed by no lesser beings than the gods. Even after taking that into consideration, it was staggering to imagine humans constructing such a towering, unwholesome place; Crea wondered what sort of people would be compelled to do such a thing. From where she and the three men had paused, hunkering down amid a cluster of boulders on the steep hillside, the top appeared well above their current altitude, and they still had some distance to descend before reaching the level ground that stretched between them and the base of the fortress.
“Oh, ye gods!” Crea muttered. “There’s no way we’ll ever get in there. They were crazy to send us.” She glanced at her companions to see them all shaking their heads.
“First off,” Lamad said, “How do we even get near the place? They must have lookouts or guards in all those little windows up there, those turrets. They’ve probably seen us already.” He gestured down at the open expanse sparsely carpeted with scrawny tufts of yellow grass and dotted with occasional gray-green shrubs no more than a foot high. “There’s no way to get within a mile of that hill without being seen . . . No doubt that was the point.”
“Of course,” Jafsa growled.
The four of them fell back into silence. In spite of the bright sky above it, the vision looming in front of them made Crea think of a wall in a nightmare that extends infinitely up into dark space, blocking the only escape. The prospect of approaching it and trying to get inside—if it were even physically possible—filled her with a dreamlike chill of horror.
After a moment Minos said, “Perhaps they just wanted to be rid of us and knew we had no chance of getting in there alive.”