Whoopee! Vin has selected my submission as the opening story for his dragon anthology; I'm just tickled persimmon (which, you know, is kind of like "pink", but more intense). Here's the first few hundred words of the story.AFTER LIVING A year and a day atop the Glass Mountain, Mariska determined that the time had come to return to the village she had left behind, and even to the people who had consigned her to a fate they unanimously—though erroneously—considered worse than death.
True, she was alone most of the time. And it was hot in the summer, when the noonday sun splintered into a thousand coruscations of light through the faceted prisms that formed the sharply sloping ceilings of the vast single room that embraced the entirety of her existence. Her clothes—gossamer fine, the best the villagers could collectively obtain to appease the Mountain—would stick to her skin, becoming nearly as transparent as the walls that invisibly bound her; rendering her less a sacrificial offering, she thought, than some waterlogged bit of flotsam flung contemptuously ashore by a disdainful sea.
He had laughed delightedly when she shared this observation.
She was too beautiful, that was her trouble. Sun kissed skin, twilit hair—she might have been born to live the rest of her days wrapped in crystal, trapped in light; like a butterfly, a moth, an exquisite thing meant to fly yet engulfed instead in sap and preserved forever—seen but not heard, held but not touched—in amber. Certainly the villagers had thought so, or thought something in that vein—the women hating her for her beauty; the men hating her for wanting more than life as a fisherman’s woman had to offer; the women hating her still more for not wanting what they wanted, not taking what she could so easily have had.
He did not understand this, no matter how many times she tried to explain it to Him.
And so, the Mountain. The towering Mountain that shattered sun and sharpened rain before these could fall upon the village that trembled in its absence of shadow; the treacherous Mountain that claimed the lives of young men who sought to prove themselves—not a few for her sake—by daring its sly, slithery slopes; the terrible Mountain that demanded tribute every score of years or so by the portentous doom of its ominous rumbling.
He had laughed again, when she told Him this last. He was much given to laughter, though He claimed He was not so out of her presence.
Oh, but it was beautiful, the Mountain, made more so by the very impossibility of it; the implacability of it; the impudent defiance with which it glared radiance back at whatever sun god had created this otherwise orderly existence. It would not conform, the Glass Mountain; it would not compromise.
If it wanted a woman, He would have her.