When we arrived at the campsite that evening, I relit the fire for Akshainie and went to a bit of ice still present on the mountain where I had stored the rest of the deer from the night before. Gathering a sufficient chunk for our dinner, I brought it back and held it over the fire. Akshainie was back in her naga form, had been for a few hours now, and her body was coiled around the fire as close to the stones as she could get without touching them.
“Are you going to be alright down there?” I asked, turning the meat over in my hands.
“It’s a hell of a lot better than that tent.”
“I’m really sorry. We could go see about the cabin if you like.”
“No, you’re right about how uncomfortable I’d be there. But this is hardly the most fire we can have here, isn’t it?”
“Well, there was very little firewood to work with.”
“You don’t need firewood.”
“Well, no,” I said. I sighed and pulled the meat off, testing it. I had learned by now that Akshainie was comfortable with her meat pretty rare, and I was functionally immune to disease, so it didn’t make sense to overcook it. “But you know I’m not super comfortable taking on my alternate form yet.”
“Okay but I am literally a snake and there is a literal glacier close enough for you to store our dinner in.”
“Okay. Okay, fine. Here.” I tore the meat in half and gave her a chunk, which she tore into immediately. I considered the best way to handle the situation, then stepped away from the fire. I pulled my clothes off, folded them nicely at the entrance of my tent, then walked into the center of the campfire. Akshainie loosened her coils to give me more room, and I changed form. The wood on the fire was consumed almost instantly, and the face of the stones pointed in my direction started to hiss as anything organic or liquid sizzled off them. Akshainie recoiled back a bit further, and then we both turned as we heard a cracking noise. There, in the cliff face nearby, a crack was opening.
“Did you do that?” Akshainie asked.
“It seems like it, but I don’t know how I could have.” We watched as the crack grew larger, and then the cliff opened to reveal a cave running into the mountain. There was a glow from deep inside it, and we could hear the distant crackling of fire and cacophony of voices. We looked at each other for a moment, then she threw her armor on and grabbed her swords as I stepped out of the campfire. We cautiously made our way to the entrance, peeked in to find the path ahead twisting away into the rock, then braced ourselves and stepped inside.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.