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Light climbing fiction for the seriously bored

10:42:44 PM
Over a year ago, after a successful Arapiles weekend, a story idea was hatched. During the car ride back to Melbourne, a vague plot was formed about a fantasy/quest story focussed on climbers and climbing lore. What would a fantasy story about climbers be like?
The following draft chapter is the first in several that attempt to answer this question. Characters were based on the nicknames of climbers I know (not the climbers themselves) and it was all done for a bit of distraction and mild amusement.
Enjoy. Or not. It makes no difference to me, I make no money either way.

Tales from Topout

Chapter 1

Prince Rockhard and the Holy Hex

There is a world called Topout, a world dedicated almost entirely to climbers and their ilk. Well probably not. It’s more accurate to say that climbers and their ilk are dedicated to Topout. Much in the same way that the ocean doesn’t exist purely for the benefit of fish, but local conditions are hard to argue against.

The view from above (the most commonly taken), shows a range of kingdoms, crags, cliffs, canyons, the Bakeries of the Neutral Lands and more, each one with it’s own terrain and people. But first, welcome to Cliffedge - a land far from overdeveloped areas but still close to amenities. A fairer land where climbers are mostly free from poor weather, chossy ascents and the social pressure of having to bathe more than twice a week when on a strict climbing schedule.

But now look closer, zoom in towards one particular cliff. An unusually well presented individual is quietly soloing up a cliff face. He’s no novice, simply being at this cliff is evidence of that, let alone climbing it. This towering wall of granite simultaneously inspires and intimidates. Even people on the ground have been known to tie themselves to a tree before looking all the way up, just to lessen the vertigo. But this climbing individual is in fact climbing royalty and more about him will soon become clear. Enough talk, climb on!

Up on the cliff face, Prince Rockhard of Cliffedge grimaced and considered the next move. He adjusted the chin strap on his crown and put more weight on the low pinkie jam keeping him on the face. Now ready, he launched and with only minor twangs and protests from his groin, snared a big toe on the crimp hold by his head.

Right, he thought. The next bit may get tricky.

‘Sire!’ The Castle Ghost, a former climber who made the transition to spirit without having to change his tan appeared next to him.
‘You must come at once my lead! The Holy Hex has been stolen!’

At this the Prince almost lost his grip and swore as best you can with a quickdraw in your mouth. The idea was almost unthinkable, the Holy Hex had been a permanent fixture for years. Like the sky or porridge you forgot to clean out of the pots that has now set like concrete.
Taking care (in order to avoid joining the realm of the Castle Ghost ), he quickly down-climbed and made for home. After a quick bush bash, trail hike, scrub walk and a discreet stop in the bushes, he came to his home, Castle Rockhard.

As always it stood high and proud, just off the ground and protruding out of the cliffs like some bizarre growth that incorporated bunting. The castle stone took the characteristics of the crags it was attached to. There were deep oranges and reds with slashes and smears of lighter stone, mixed through the rock like the lines of a multi-layer cake. All of which combined to become like an enormous piece of abstract painting in the late afternoon sun. It was home.

But there were signs of distress to the familiar observer. The outer walls already showed signs of mourning, belay calls were curiously absent and the traditional gear slings and improvised clothes lines were all at half mast. The Prince approached the drawbridge (which hadn’t been used in centuries), and climbed through the traditional entrance – the upper windows. There in the Hall of the Grand Tarp, behind the Royal Throne was a horrible gap in the wall. The castle was already filling up with muttering climbers and general hangers-on as news of the theft spread.

‘Who could have done this?’ the Prince demanded. ‘The Holy Hex was forever bomber! Unremovable!’
‘We do not know.’ Said the Ghost sadly. ‘We believe it was just one climber. They got in, somehow stole the Holy Hex and then pinched the chocolate teddys on the way out.
Prince Rockhard considered this. Then before he could ask if anything happened to the hummus, the ghost spoke again.

‘The Holy Hex must not remain booty! It holds Castle Rockhard and the Kingdom of Cliffedge together. I was alive in the terrible days when we were a tent and the Royal Anchor was just RPs. Without the Hex I don’t know how long the castle will last. When it fails we are finished!’
Prince Rockhard nodded, in his mind’s eye he could already sense weakness in the castle. The Holy Hex had been placed centuries earlier and the castle was built up around it. It was more than pro, it was Pro – the capital letter was important. Maybe a piece from the legendary First Rack, although it’s entire existence or origins were still just legend.

Some say it came from gods who took pity of humans falling so often. Although others privately speculated that they just wanted the humans to get higher before they fell. There were also stories about wizards, magical pro-smiths, gifts in the forms of a challenge from the moutains, whatever. The important thing that some pieces existed, no matter that their origins were unknown. Even if they weren’t part of some almighty rack, their impact was undeniable. The Holy Hex had allowed Rockhard’s ancestors to build both a prosperous castle and kingdom that largely defied gravity. But with it gone, theirs was a pinky hold on a windy ledge; the Holy Hex was the foundation of that strength and prosperity.

He imagined the not too distant future, with the forces keeping the castle strong gone. While it’s sudden departure had not resulted in immediate damage, it was coming. It was like taking a vital stone out of a dam wall. Right now there was only a distant hiss of escaping water, but soon everything would give way with a roar. He’d seen people hit the deck before, the idea of a castle and kingdom doing something similar was horrible to comprehend.
With this in mind, Prince Rockhard made a decision. He stuck out a chin so firm you’d be happy to belay from it, plus his chest on which some had already done so.
‘Bastard. He will pay! I will give chase and retrieve the Hex. Regardless of the walk in!’

Prince Rockhard knew what he must first do to save the kingdom. He needed answers, he needed to know who could have done this and why. He would consult Glamrock, the wise, old, tight-fisted hermit that lived amongst the cliffs of WHAT!!?? (so named for their windy ledges). Only coming out at night to search by the light of his magic chalk bag, for a dollar lost many years ago. Even though he was a hermit, like all old men stuck on mountains he seemed very knowledgeable of what was going on.

Plus he was cheap.

Rockhard considered his options. ‘I’ll need supplies and a seconder. I summon my favoured subject who cooks, tastes and occasionally steals my food: ‘Larderman! Laaaardermaaann!’
At the call a figure rapped in from the kitchens in a shower of crumbs.

‘Mmf? (gulp), yes sire!?’
‘Prepare for an epic. We journey to retrieve the Holy Hex!’

Preparation was done carefully as this was no ordinary trip. Rockhard packed his newest and most reliable (but strategically scratched) gear. Some pieces had been donated by the climbing aristocracy and held enormous value. He appreciated this and like anyone else, spent a lot of time telling people of the incredible cost of the things he didn’t actually have to pay for. Some had enchantments that he was only starting to explore, such as the quickdraws that used chirpy tones to judge your placements: Go

[Moderator comment:
Anti-hack spam measures on Chockstone had the unfortunate side effect of shortening long posts, this one included.
Here is a link to another post by the author, containing further link/s to the full (free) e-book version. ]
Mike Bee
8:14:28 AM
What a great read! Keep the new chapters coming, that's awesome stuff.
10:14:02 AM
Once resigned myself to the plunge into the endless depths of no paragraph breaks... it's brilliant.

Very entertaining. Continue! :)

Edit to add: thanks for the edit. ^^ Much better now.

10:52:34 AM
An excellent read, that I can see becoming the basis for much future banter on Chockstone!
Thanks for sharing it with us.

I look forward to the next installment.

For those interested in such items, there are also heaps of other 'stories' over on the Short Stories thread, where I have posted a x-link back to this one.

Phil S
11:17:57 AM
>... crawled over the edge looking like a badly lost mime.

Unreal. Looking forward to the next installment.

9:38:40 PM
Ah yes, my apologies for the formatting. That's what I get for doing a straight cut and paste from word when very tired. I'll take note for next time, glad people have enjoyed!

8:43:34 PM

It continues... Third chapter along soon.

12:43:23 PM
hey, awesome read!

Any chance you can paste it here as work won't allow me to open the link... please? =)

8:33:15 PM
Better still, post it to Short Stories thread, (along with the first chapter)!

10:49:12 PM
Hmm, I tried moving it over to the short stories thread and posting fresh links but the forum just doesn't seem to want me to. Damn technical issues!

In any case, the basic link to where I'm stockpiling the chapters can be found here:

There are more specific links to chapters on the site.

Comments welcome!

There are 10 messages in this topic.


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