Some context: I'm working on writing a short adventure for Dungeons and Dragons. I felt like I needed to flesh out a primary NPC; this story is my attempt to do so. It also provides a quick look into the setting and some of the mysteries surrounding it. Feedback is much appreciated! (Also, if you can guess what game served as my main inspiration here, I'll give you one (1) imaginary cookie) Spoiler: The Story Madelli’s eyes flutter open to see curtains of light filling a star-speckled sky. She sits up as the oddity of the sight hits her. Auroras should be impossible in this part of the world, and being on the slopes of a mountain shouldn’t change that. She notices her bedroll is missing, as are her backpack, her bow, and her quiver. All that remains of her campsite is the fire, blazing brighter than ever in colors matching the auroras above. Sapphire blue, then emerald green, then amethyst purple, then blue again. Madelli stands, bathing in the glow of the unnatural lights. They illuminate the monument near the center of the small clearing. She tries to read the message carved into it, but the letters shift each time she blinks, scrambling into another indecipherable mess. The small icon of the mountain near the top of it glows softly as well. She begins to pace around the monument, her brow furrowed as memories struggle to come to her. She remembers Genorra mentioning dreams of the mountain a handful of times, but the old woman never spoke of them in detail. When the mountain speaks to you, she once said, you listen. “Alright then,” Madelli mutters. She looks up at the mountain looming impossibly tall over her. “What are you trying to tell me?” She goes to resume her pensive pacing, but something glints at the edge of her vision. She turns to see a sheer crystal surface on the back side of the monument, flawless and polished to a mirror-like shine. That wasn’t there before. She sees her reflection, but something is… off. She approaches, scanning over herself to spot the differences. Her colors are more muted: her skin is pale, her ginger-red hair is disheveled and deepened to a dark maroon, her bright blue eyes are muddled and murky. She places her hand against the mirror’s surface. She feels the warmth of her own palm press back against itself. “So nice to finally see you in person,” she hears her own voice say. Madelli stumbles over herself while flinching away. Her reflection doesn’t mimic the action; instead, it looks down at her with a wry smile. “W-what are you?” she asks as she picks herself back up. “You don’t recognize me?” Not-Madelli answers in feigned offense. “I’m you, Madelli – or rather, a part of you.” It inspects itself for a moment. “I’ve been stuck inside your head for so long… It’s nice to have a body of my own.” Madelli eyes her reflection warily, her fingers curling around the grip of a bow that doesn’t exist. “What do you want with me?” “No need to be so tense, Maddie,” her reflection sneers, chuckling as she bristles at the nickname. “I just want to talk – and you to listen to me for once – about this little ‘mission’ you’ve given yourself.” It steps out of the mirror, its feet resting just slightly above the ground beneath it. The edges of its form are fuzzy, indistinct, like ink bleeding through paper. “I know you’re impulsive, but this? Spontaneously deciding to climb a mountain, alone, with no experience? You’re putting yourself in a lot of danger for no good reason.” “‘No good reason’?” Madelli retorted. “My father climbed this mountain years ago, and I need to know what happened to him.” “I can tell you what happened to him.” Not-Madelli’s voice sounds almost sincere before turning cold and bitter. “He died, Madelli. There’s no grand mystery to solve, no ancient secret to uncover. He just… died. Like half the people stupid enough to climb further.” Madelli’s nails dig into her palms. “No,” she says. “I can’t accept that. I know he’s here, alive somehow, I just—” “You can deny it all you want,” the reflection taunts, “but deep down, you know I’m right. Do you really insist on joining him up here?” “I will find him,” Madelli says, the fire in her eyes matching the auroras above, “and you can’t stop me. I’m not about to give up when I’m so close.” She expects another argument from her reflection, but it… simply shrugs. “Fine,” it says. “I wanted to talk some sense into you, but it’s clear you’re not ready to listen to me. I suppose I should’ve known better.” It takes a few steps towards the mirror, then stops. “There’s one thing I need you to know, Madelli. The monsters you’ll find up there—” it glances up towards the mountaintop “—are far worse than me, and not nearly as reasonable.” Madelli goes to question her reflection, she notices something new in the mirror that stops her: a figure, immediately behind her, whose form she can’t quite make out. A flicker of hope sparks within her, and she spins on her heel, expecting to see the face she tries so hard to remember. Instead, she shrieks in horror as she comes face-to-face with a monstrous eye nearly as wide as she is tall. A half-dozen smaller eyes encircle it, flicking to a different direction each time they blink. A crown of grasping tentacles flares out behind the creature, some of which rapidly ensnare her waist, arms, and legs. She cranes her neck back to look for her reflection, eyes pleading, but it’s already crossed through the mirror. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” it calls over its shoulder. When Madelli blinks, her reflection is gone. Another tentacle twists her head around to face the creature again. At once, all seven eyes focus on her, their gaze piercing into her, through her. Ice fills her veins when the creature’s eyes flash. She can’t tell if the scream she hears is her own or the creature’s. Her legs are suddenly unable to move. She dares to look down and sees crystals growing out of the ground, encasing her legs and creeping up to her waist. Her rapid breathing becomes strained as crystals engulf her chest, her arms, her neck. Her vision becomes a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors as the crystals complete their tomb and refract the light from the auroras above. She can’t breathe. She can’t move. She can’t breathe. She can’t think. SHE CAN’T— Madelli snaps awake, her chest pounding, the nighttime mountain air cold against her sweat-soaked skin. She looks up to see a dark, star-speckled sky. The orange-red glow of her campfire, small yet resilient, barely illuminates the monument in the center of the small clearing. Her backpack, bow, and quiver rest against its base. She reads the inscription aloud again and again, each time more slowly: “This monument stands in memory of those who perished while climbing Mount Cellé. May their souls rest in peace within the heart of the mountain.” She rubs her eyes and groans. She’s had plenty of nightmares, but nothing that vivid before. What was all that, anyway? Old Genorra’s voice echoes in her mind: When the mountain speaks to you, you listen. Well, the mountain – if that’s who she was really talking to in the dream – just told her to give up. No. She can’t. She won’t. She needs to see this through. For her own sake, and for her father’s.