The storm raged on, surrounding the three in cacophanous white. Curioso used a length of the line to tie them all together, and they walked. Annette had pulled the hood of her parka closed over her face, and followed blindly. Wherever they went now, they went together. Either to safety, or to death. Each time the rope pulled around her waist, she stepped. Tirseng hung slack between them, and whatever life she had left in her, she put in Curioso's hands. There was no where else to go.
She could no longer feel the legs she commanded, and the total lack of sight or sound that wasn't storm...naturellement....the deprivation was slowly lending itself to the madness. The same childhood song crept back into her head over and over again;
For the thirteenth donut in the bakers dozen
To give it to your pretty little cousin
Pull on the baker's sleeve and say
"Sil vous plait, monsieur, lagniappe"
Down in le petite carre
All you got to say is lagniappe
When you want just a little bit more
Than you have bargained for
She fought it with everything she possessed...je me rappelle...every colour of the rainbow?...every country in the world?..take your mind out of the song ma chere and leave it in the cold and white....
She would not have noticed them reaching the cavern at the base of the Pyanapa, except for that the fierce wind had stopped, and her forward momentum carried her to the ground. Her last thought before losing consciousness was that she was sure that this was death, "Je suis mort et suis allé au ciel..."
The open mouth of the cavern behind them was a sheet of solid white, almost liquid, and most certainly alive in it's anger.
When she awoke, Annette found herself sitting braced against the wall of the cavern. Ah, la douleur!! The bruised bones, aching muscles, and frozen skin all howled in harmony with the storm. There was a fire. "Ce n'est pas ciel, ceci est enfer," she thought...and as she opened her eyes she saw the devil himself was moving towards her!...
"Nets...chéri..." the demon crooned...she screamed and scrambled up against the wall, but the demon claws at her shoulder forced her down again.
She hit the ground hard, and when she opened her eyes, there was no spectre, only Curioso kneeling beside her.
"Oh, mon amour, mon dieu...what happened to you?" she stuttered as she pulled his face to hers.
His face was red, the skin around his eyes turning dark, and he grimaced as he gently removed her hands from his cheeks, "The cold, chere...I kept opening my hood, trying to see, but there was nothing. I walked until I felt the wall in front of me, then I dragged my hand along it until I felt this opening."
"And Tirseng?" she asked
"Over there." In a tidy warm bundle of furs lay the sherpa.