They simply called him "Earl the Mountaineer", and he was a humble man but for one goal: to be the first to climb Mount Gravatt. Nobody had yet succeeded because of the mountain's infamous gravity disturbances, but Earl was sure he could do so with nothing more than his wits and his grandfather's dowsing rods.
He was also convinced he could do so before that pompous Captain Muller.
Earl took in the mountain air and watched the sunrise sitting outside his tent. The air was sharp and clean. He flicked cigar ash into the wind and dreamily watched it float away, thinking of his grandfather, the one who had taught him to climb and taken him on his first expedition when he was eleven years old. The old man had taught him how to read a trail, how to pick your footing across uncertain ground, all the practical necessities of climbing, but he also taught Earl how to sense the moods of a mountain itself.
Yesterday, the mountain had been in a bad mood. It didn't want to be climbed. The gravity wells had sprung up all over the place, sometimes directly in Earl's path, but he patiently circled around them or turned back down. No sense agitating a mountain you're trying to climb.
So Earl had settled down, taken his time to get to know Old Lady Gravatt and her funny moods. He had spent the day tracing the outline of the peaks, feeling the texture of the snow, and, at sunset, listening to the birds settle in for the night. He liked to call it bird politics. At dusk all the day birds congregate in the trees and argue loudly for the best spots. The best arguers get the best branches. Just like human politics, or as much as Earl cared to know about such things.
So this morning he was ready to head up again, with a much better understanding of the mountain. Earl fixed the dowsing rods to his helmet, took his climbing poles in each hand and headed up the mountain's East side with his tent packed on his back. And today, it seemed, the mountain was much more in the mood to be climbed. And that, he took it, was a sign that Mount Gravatt liked him just a bit better than it liked Captain Muller.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - This is a sequel to last week's story, Mount Gravatt.
PPS - Next week, the conclusion: Upper Mount Gravatt.