Look at the mountains from the plain, or, if you dare, from the Waste.
A slice in the suffocating sky makes a break in the eternal grey; a sapphire blade on the horizon, glowing like a candleflame-lit gem. A knife against the throat of time.
Even before the mountains themselves are visible, their effect on the atmosphere can be sensed. The air clears. The terrible weight of paling gloom fades away. The sun, the real sun, glares down. True day, True night. And the Waste rages at a boundary of storm.
Then, beneath the sky; hanging from it like an obsidian necklace upon the breast of day - shards of black. Fierce sharks teeth from an enormous jaw closing on the axis of the world.
You trudge forward, hour upon hour. The sun sets. In the fresh black sky, pale lamps gleam.
You walk on.
The necklace of obsidian blades has grown. It sweeps across the sky from side to side. The tooth-points lost in haze of an azure vault, and the mountains have birthed a high family; serrated triangular children, black glazed with shining white like tarnished diamonds. Tongues of white fire spill from their jagged lips. Glaciers. Cloud-crowned palaces of stone and ice, scarred with cracked valleys like gospel books torn open by a circus strongman.
Wind picks up. You feel cold, not the amorphous, directionless life-sapping refrigeration of the Waste, but actual weather, cold life. Fingers of air press against you, gently teasing, pushing you back.
The mountains grow again, spreading across the sky. The black blades almost lost behind cloud. Passing gaps, like the masks of dancing players, reveal their shapes and near-impossible size.
The glacier-tongued children are kings themselves. Each sits imperious, attended by a court of cyclopean queens, the least of which might overawe nations. And though crowned in ice, the queens are robed in green. Forests tumble from their shoulders like light silk, transforming into seas of life, for these size-sovereigns are themselves attended, thronged by an hundred crags who clamour for attention like hungry gulls.
Still you walk.
And night falls again.
The falling sun sends beams of rose riding the air like Valkyries, skidding up, up over the mountains, over the robes of green, stained gloom-black by their red light, up to their burning crowns of ice set into vermillion fire by the suns last light. Up. Light licking the glacier tongue of the ice-glazed imperial hills, riding higher. Up. Up. Up. to the diamond-bright peaks of those attending kings. Up. Up.
The ground has been dark for hours. The sky-bowl fills with stars once more, but high above the sun is not done setting on the Mountains of Reality.
Blood-red beams crawl the black blade edges of the highest peaks. They glow, almost resentfully, like a freezing, bitter priest before a slumbering fire. The faintest infra-red emits, the merest hint of sunfire on the bitten edge.
Your neck cranes. Far, far above the light of black roses burning with a black fire fades into the boundless night. And then it is dark.
You walk, and the wind follows.
You smell trees and hear the teased strand of a moan, a susurrus; wind in leaves. And a keening - high, high above, a black sword of stone slicing a banner of eternal air. Unlike the soft nothing of the Waste, the mountains have a sound. They glower, but they breathe.
Light, and a bird cries.
You stumble. Up through the cracked pumice, salt, dust and sand of the Waste, rises stone. Huge boulders, shards, solid planes of water-rippled limestone and sandstone banded in ochre and blue like veins standing up on a clenched hand.
The sun arcs in a blue and storm-tossed sky. Slowly and by faint degrees the dawn-pale light infiltrates the air. As a tear building in the eye first blurs the world and then leaves focus in its passing, the mountains stand before you like a wall of time.
The black blades of the high peaks are invisible now, lost in the vault above the clouds - the ice-rimed rulers explode with sunlight like shattered crystal prisming the golden light of dawn. The green-robed Queens pulse with distant life, trees in their billions strung with silver-bright rivers. Waterfalls roar a bass note in the imponderable visual distance. Attending crags bow, crack and scatter down their sides and beneath these smaller crags, hiding near their feet like mice, mere mountains, some not even a thousand feet high, with paths and rockfalls, forests and moorlands, streams and climb-ways spreading like spilled needles, a hundred-thousand gateways to an unbounded land.
And crawling at the skirts of these, the foothills of the Mountains of Reality, are you.