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When the Young Royals drew very near to the wall of the Sacred Mountain at last, they passed through the ruins of a walled city. Victoria asked Bayard what hy knew about the remnants as they picked their way through them.

Bayard said, Colonel Eshton was appointed by the Chief Magistrate, Neriah the Younger, to be commanding general over all the Roshite armed forces because it was known a large force of Elamites were gathered together outside Menkant, led by a man named Azza and including many Roshite dissenters. General Eshton fought under something he called the "Manifest of Freedom" a standard which he raised to rally the Roshites to defend their liberties from the group of dissenters who wanted to establish a king in Menkant once again. Eshton was so angry with the dissenters, who were led by a man named Paulus, that he tore his cloak and wrote upon it, "In memory of Bat-El, our freedom, our peace, our wives, and our children." With these words, he rallied the Roshites to defend their families and their freedom and chased away the Elamites and the Roshite militias loyal to Paulus in the process. Any dissenters that remained Eshton put to death and he raised up the Manifest of Freedom upon every Roshite tower. Soon there were many more such towers, for Eshton erected a fortified line of cities on the mountain range that forms a wall between the Roshites and the Elamites, which today is the border between Alodra and the Saiph League, and it was said there never was a happier time among any of the people of Rosh. But you can see there is nothing now but the bones of the sentinel cities.

The Young Royals reached the face of the Sacred Mountain and found a footpath running traverse to the path they had taken up the ridge. It looked like a simple trail, but Baron Bayard assured them it would become the Catwalk when they traveled east and the ridge dropped away. They all looked back down the way they had come. They were at an altitude where the trees were stunted and sparse, so the views were unobstructed and spectacular.

A small tributary fork of the River Menkant sprang from the face of the Sacred Mountain and it was curious, because the stream flowed down what appeared to be a staircase carved into hard gray rock. Water cascaded down the stairs, and Ichor mused that if one was strong enough, careful enough, and didn't mind getting wet one could possibly mount the stairs to the top.

Bayard said, Once when I was in this very spot I did precisely that. I ascended to where the water emerges from the face of the Mountain in a cave that narrows until it is impossible to go further unless one could somehow breathe underwater. There the stars tip nearly to the horizontal to provide secure places to set one's feet and one might go a little further up the water chute, but none have penetrated very far, it is said, even with underwater breathing devices imported from Earth or Gorpai.

Mike said, But I do breathe underwater, so I consider this nothing less than an invitation from the ones who made this world to go up there.

And what are you going to do for light, Mike? Victoria asked. We didn't bring flashlights and what good are torches gonna do? We didn't bring Ariel with us and she couldn't go with you even if she was here.

I don't think I'll need light. It looks to me from this stream that this mountain is really just a big stone tank of water. So without further comment Mike bounded up the watery staircase. But when hy did not return by evening or all the next day, Bayard decided they should press onward.

The cliff-face of the Sacred Mountain was concrete smooth, and when the Young Royals arrived at the Catwalk they saw that it was clearly artificial, just a lip three feet wide where the cliff jutted out and fell once more, and this was far too much for King Brogan Stronghammer. I am deeply sorry, I have already delayed the quest, but now I see I cannot go on.

I would say you have made a Kingly decision, your Highness Aliwe said.

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Strangers In Paradise