30. A Prophecy Unfolds

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The Prophecy ... a reminder

You shall face your greatest enemy in a battle to the death and only survive if you climb the highest mountain in the seven kingdoms, hide behind the hair of a prisoner, help the Guardian, and procure a dragon's egg. Oh, and it has to be a Thursday, or forget any chance of survival.

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For any mountain-climbers out there, forget the nylon rope and pitons. Get yourself a few hundred yards of magical princess braids.

Why, you ask?

Well, for many reasons, including—

1. You'll never run out. Magical princess braids keep adding length even when no longer attached to the princess's head. They magically grow to the top of the section of the mountain you intend to climb and firmly attach themselves to the surface.

2. The magic of the hair assists climbers by creating hand and footholds on an as-needed basis, which is a lot easier than climbing a regular rope and dealing with pitons.

3. Magical braids buzz with empathetic energy; they know when you're tired and form cocoon baskets to rest in during the climb.

4. The hair spiders that often reside in the braids provide added incentive for a quick ascent by crawling up your skirts or pants. Also, the spiders' penchant for excellent conversation helps pass the time.

5. Hair is 100% biodegradable, and therefore better for the environment.


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After a couple of hours, despite the extremely cooperative hair rope and the brilliant, diverting conversation with the spiders (who knew arachnids never slept?!), Ashley's muscles had cramped into wads of pain. Her stomach interrupted the discussion with the spiders repeatedly with embarrassing gurgles and groans. And she couldn't shake off the nagging sensation that something totally evil lurked above them at the top of the rope, pacing and licking its chops, waiting hungrily for their arrival.

There's always a monster.

"I worry there's something at the top with large fangs and the desire to consume human flesh," Ashley casually mentioned to the spiders, mostly to fill a gap in the conversation, but a little bit for assurance that she suffered from an overactive imagination and that the monsters only existed in her mind.

"There definitely is," said a spider.

That familiar knot of anxiety tightened around her heart. It was always there, really. That feeling, she was leading her friends into danger. Ashley glanced up at Gerald, twenty feet away on his own hair rope, steadily climbing—the highest of the group. Showing off, obviously. "But, but, I mean, how do you know?"

"The rumor mill around the webs says you're a prognosticator."

Not that again! "Where did you hear that?"

"Word gets around in the spider community."

"I thought spiders were solitary creatures."

"Some are, but we're of the communal variety. Hold on; just caught my dinner. High Altitude Mountain Fly. Yum. Gotta eat before my brothers and sisters take the wings. The best part! Bye."

Envisioning the spider gobbling down her fly banquet, Ashley's stomach fell silent. She paused to catch her breath. The air was preternaturally still, and despite the diamond brightness of the ice reflecting the sun, it smelled dark and dank as an empty cavern. She looked up, squinting her eyes, trying to see what might be lying in wait, but turns out it's hard to see up and over a vertical slope.

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