Bonus Chapter: The Spire - Original Concept First Draft

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A spire of rock stood tall amidst the choppy waters of an endless, green ocean. Fog enveloped the spire, haunting and unmoving, as if the sky itself held a deep, smoky breath awaiting a moment of exhalation that would never come. The plateau on the spire's peak was host to life, but in sick mockery of the real thing, like painting an image from memory, the small details nonexistent. The man found himself trapped there on the plateau. It was his prison, his purgatory; and it would become his charnel house if he could not find a way to escape.

    Light filtered through the fog in a dreary gray-blue aura. The man felt slowed and sickened by the fog's presence, his life force slowly drained and suppressed. He'd searched for an escape, but sharp rocks decorated the spire's edges plunging to the watery abyss below. Even if he managed to traverse the cliffs, there would be nowhere for him to go.

There was but one hope at salvation; a phantom rope bridge that appeared intermittently along the spire's edge, connecting to a mysterious wall, both of which vanished soon after blinking into existence. He'd tried many times to cross the bridge, only to turn back at the sight of the beast looming on the other side. He knew not why the beast remained ensconced upon the wall, but those red eyes pierced his soul as much as it did the fog between them.

The man felt naked. Not in the literal sense, of course. But ever since awakening on the spire he'd had a strange sense that a part of him was missing. He didn't believe that he could defeat the monster. Yet, he had to confront it eventually, and possibly defend himself if necessary. Using a sharp rock, he fashioned a spear from a fallen tree limb, and to his surprise a sliver of his memory returned. Memories of a life hunting and surviving flooded into him. He felt stronger for it, in body and in mind. The man now knew that he had been at least a hunter of some kind.

Empowered by the prospect of discovering more, the hunter harvested materials from the wilderness around him, developing crude wooden weapons and armor with designs that came to him as he worked. The plateau no longer seemed a prison, but a place of opportunity. It was like he knew what to do and how to do it. And so he did. The hunter stashed his creations at the center of the plateau so he'd be able to access them quickly when the storm came that signaled the arrival of the bridge and wall.

Then the hunter waited.

After some time, thunder once again sounded overhead, deep and reverberating, demanding the attention of all life on the plateau. Warm rain drenched the spire's microcosm. It was time. He dashed through the jungle. Upon reaching his gear, something new filtered down through the trees. It was the sound of... drums. A strong wind rustled the canopy above and he angled his head back to make sure he'd heard correctly. Hot rain covered his face as he listened for the glorious sounds of reverie.

Distant drums indeed rang true to the hunter's ear. His heart raced as he attempted to determine their origin. He grabbed his spear and shield, then sprinted toward the sounds. Branches and thorns scraped the exposed sections of his arms and legs, but it did little to stop him. The hunter arrived at the edge of the spire, his toes digging into the dirt to keep from toppling over. There it was, the rope bridge. It creaked and groaned in the wind, its stability waning. The far end of the bridge disappeared into the thick fog that obfuscated the massive wall it was connected to.

Arriving at the bridge, the hunter took a deep breath. He was to face his fear of the beast. He needed to, otherwise he'd be stuck here forever. After a long exhalation, he took a step onto the first decrepit wooden slat which squeaked under his weight. The wind intensified, the gusts laced with an icy chill that burned his skin. The drum beats grew louder and faster, in tandem with his heart.

Steps on the second and third planks came easier, his momentum forcing him forward. He stopped counting as he neared the halfway point, lifting his head to see his destination. But to his dismay, there it was. The beast. It swayed in anticipation, the fog shrouding its visage, leaving but a grim outline of its hulking form. Those red eyes halted him where he stood. His armor suddenly felt heavier, his legs struggling to keep his balance. Had he really believed he could fight such a thing? He was merely a hunter, and that thing appeared more predator than prey. He glanced back to the spire. It would be so easy to–

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