Annette climbed the stairs to her room in the daze of a sleepwalker. She took off her robes, undid the braid in her hair, and climbed back into her traveling clothes with hardly a conscious thought other than "encore...nous allons...."
She met Tirseng and Curioso at the gates of the monastary, the pair had collected packs, ropes, and axes, and they shared her same grim face. The sun was slowly setting as the three left the gates. She turned her head to look back, all of the monks were going about their evening with hardly a care about the path of the three, but Thubten looked at them out of his high window, and raised a hand to the travelers. Annette slowly raised her hand in return, then followed Tirseng down the mountain path.
As they left the peaceful valley and started their climb, so started the cold. Annette shivered at the first blast down her collar, and pulled her parka tighter around her. The moon hung it's pale circle in the sky, too anxious for the sun to set before it made it's appearance. It made her think of this Dominic and her Curioso, the dark and the light, sharing the same sky. They stopped briefly at dusk, checking their packs and lines before crossing the snowfield. Tirseng looked up at Annette, motioning for her to turn so he could attach her lines. She turned and saw Curioso glances, apologetic, and trying vainly to read her thoughts. He managed a half-hearted smile, muttering something about frosted eyelashes, and went back to checking his own lines.
The moon was high in the heavens when the three reached the snowfield. Annette stopped still. The field glinted blue, a solid river of tiny diamonds in the moonlight. Tirseng stood beside her, "It is the Khumba.." he said. To Annette, it was la plus belle. "Wait here...I will go ahead, then call for you." he said, as he crept out onto the river of light.
Curioso came up beside her, his breath a dense fog between them. "Do as he says, and you'll be fine. These ropes will anchor all of us." Annette thought to herself that she needed an anchor, with her head spinning, all she wanted to do fling herself to the ground and hold on. "Now chere, go." She looked up to see Tirseng's silouhette waving in the blue in front of her.
Gingerly, she stepped onto the ice, feeling the diamonds crushed to dust beneath her boots. She stayed a cautious distance behind Tirseng, breathing slowly, and taking in the night. The further they walked into the field, the more enraptured she became. The perfect silence, the perfect night. A single tear burned a path down her cheek. She choked back a breath, and was suprised when Tirseng turned back towards her.
"Are you all right, Annette?" he whispered, "This way is beautiful..." As he stepped again, she heard the first crack. Tirseng's smiling face told her it was only the ice, but for her, the spell was broken. There is danger everywhere, even on the river of diamonds.
If it hadn't been for this, she surely would have followed Tirseng into the crevasse. As it was, the second jolt forced her to her seat, staring blindly into the night for Tirseng. When Curioso called to her, she could barely resist the urge to scramble into the dark after the little man. She placed her axe as she had been shown, forcing her feet against the blade, and began pulling on the rope at her middle. Behind her, Curioso struggled to secure them to the ice. She could hear her own heartbeat in her ears as she attempted to wrap her fingers around the line. She took her clumsy gloves off with her teeth, and winced and the cold bit into her hands. She began to pull, fighting the urge to cry out in pain as the line sliced her palms. Curioso dug in beside her, "Pull!!" he shouted in her ear, and she leaned back against the line. "Oui," she gasped, "mais il est coincé!!!" Curioso lay on his stomach and slid across the field to the ragged hole. From the edge, he carefully manuevered the line as she pulled.
It seemed an eternity to Annette, before the crevasse produced the léopard de neige. As Curioso pulled his lifeless form back from the edge, Annette scrambled to untie herself. Still seated at the axe when Curioso returned, she grabbed the edges of Tirseng's parka and pulled him towards her. They quickly felt his arms and legs for breaks, and breathed relief to find none. The soft blue light of the moon gave Tirseng's bleeding face an otherworldly glow, and once again, Annette fought the urge to break into mad sobs. So cold!, she undid her parka and tried as best she could to tuck the little man inside.
In the dark edges of the field, the dark brother smiled at this sight. The murderer standing watch over the madwoman, clutching the sherpa to her chest, and rocking in the blue light. They fall like dominos, one into the other, so neatly, so completely. He began to hum a song, a song he'd heard before, from that fever-struck woman, in her prison cell.
The girls in Paris are so fine
If you've got the money they've got the time
If you want another little roll in the hay
Smile real sweet, say 'lagniappe'
Down le petite carre
All you got to say is 'lagniappe'
When you want just a little bit more
Than you have bargained for