George stared out the window as the train pulled to a stop. “Hyrfell,” he said forlornly.
The tall man stood up and reached for his bag. “Your stop too, huh? You don’t talk like a local. Got family here?”
George shook his head. “No. Me and a friend went hiking around here a few years back. I’m just trying to figure out some things.”
“A friend and I.”
“If you’re going to claim it’s your language, you should at least learn to speak it.”
“You aren’t exactly being formal.”
“It’s not my language.”
The doors to the train slid open and the two stepped onto the empty platform. George glanced up at the mountaintop. He had barely noticed the train climbing up as high as it had, but now he could feel the thinner atmosphere tickling his lungs.
‘Well, never noticed that last time.’
The tall man clapped a hand on his shoulder. “It’s a beauty, isn’t it? Say what you want about the big city, you folks’ll never manage to build anything to match that.”
“Where are you heading then, kid? Straight up the mountain? Or do you plan on staying the night first?”
“I’ll grab something to eat, I suppose. No point in heading up there on an empty stomach.”
The man smiled. “Good, I’ll join you then.”
“I thought you said-”
“The dead aren’t going anywhere, boy. You gave an old man some company on a train; the least I can do is buy you some food. It looks like you need it, and I’m not letting you climb a mountain on whatever fast food joint you think counts as a meal.”
The man looked George in the eye, daring him to say no. After a moment George sighed. “Okay.”
“Good. There’s a little place just a few blocks away. I don’t know what they’ll be serving today, but it’ll still be the best food you’ve ever had.”
George smiled slightly as he followed the old man down the street.
“Okay, I’ll admit it. That was the best pie I’ve ever had.”
“I told you. You can’t beat the little places like this.”
George nodded and glanced down at his watch. “Well, thank you for the food, but I really should get moving. I have a decent bit to go before sunset.”
The old man’s smile dimmed a little, but it didn’t grow any less large. “Are you sure you want to go today? It might be best to start fresh in the morning.”
“No. I need to do this today,” George said quietly.
He stood up to walk out of the restaurant.
“Wait just a moment there.” George paused. “Take this with you. It might come in handy.”
George turned and saw the man pulling something out of his bag. After a moment he pulled out a large pearly white fang.
“Here. It belonged to my brother when he was younger. It might not seem like much, but I swear it likes being near that mountain. If you don’t mind, leave it up there, as high as you bother to go. He would like that, I think.”
George looked at the fang. “Are you sure?”
The man nodded. “Yes, yes, I’m a bit too old to go hiking up that mountain myself. You take it.”
George reached for the fang a little reluctantly. The old man gently set it down on his palm and George gently wrapped his fingers around it.
The man nodded. “It gets that way around here. Now get going, you have quite the hike ahead of you.”
George nodded and shook the man’s hand. “Thanks for the food.”
“Keep an eye out up there. I heard that mountain’s been ornery lately.”
George smiled and walked out the door.
The tall man sat there for a little bit longer. After a few minutes, a new waitress walked out of the back and over to his table. “My, my, haven’t seen you around for a while. And here I thought you’d never get here early enough to miss my shift. You here to check up on your brother again?”
The man took a sip of coffee and smiled. “Oh, there’s not much need for that anymore. It looks like the little prick finally decided he doesn’t need an old man like me looking out for him any more.”
George shifted his bag and stared at the entrance to the main hiking path. He’d have to follow it for a few hours before he reached the half covered almost-path that his friend had led him down before.
The cab driver rolled down the window behind him. “You sure you wanna head up there now? Sun’s gonna set before you get anywhere interesting. I know a good place to stay the night. You can get a fresh start in the morning.”
George shook his head. “No, I’m fine. I don’t plan on taking too long anyway.”
The cab driver rubbed his head through his hat. “Well okay then. But hey, take this-” he pulled out a business card. “No one’s gonna drive out here without a call. The ranger station we passed a few minutes back will lend you their phone, so don’t try to stay out here all night, got it?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it. Thanks.”
The driver rolled up his window and pulled away.
George took a deep breath and started up the path.