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The mist hung over the mountain valley like a floating veil. The occasional gust of wind caused it to waver and shimmer like a piece of flapping silk cloth. The trees and rocks near the summit were large patches of grey-green shapes layered and spread apart, foliage and jagged edges smudged out into large coloured shapes.
Finnegan the god did not like it.
The mountain was supposed to be the tallest in his world - the arching range of narrow pointy peaks, a harsh climate where the snow was several meters deep, and the dark shadows created by its crags and points dared only the bravest of explorers to scale it. Finnegan had followed all the technical specifications per the Vaticanny Handbook, but he could not figure out why it felt off-kilter, and five sleepless nights was creeping up on his shoulder.
"I dunno Master Finnegan, I think it looks great," Sedna said, setting a cup of tea next to him.
Finnegan stuck out his thumb and squinted at it. "Maybe the mist is too heavy?"
Sedna frowned. "People say heavy mists make the best mysteries."
"Mysterious is for forests. Mountains are imposing and intimidating." Finnegan turned his thumb sideways, measuring the distance between two smaller peaks.
Sedna blinked. "Can't mountains be mysterious? Back home we've got this mountain that has thick black mist when it bleeds. Scary, but it's got the old wise men all baffled since it's the only one that-"
"We've been through this: that's not a mountain, that's a volcano. It's not bleeding, it's spewing lava during an eruption, and the real mystery is how your planet has no name for it." Finnegan reached for his mouse, and double-clicked. "Something's missing."
Sedna studied the mountain from all sides when he suddenly perked up. "Lasers!" he said.
Finnegan paused to give him a look. "Lasers?"
"Yeah, everything always looks better with lasers! I always hear everyone saying that around here!"
Finnegan pinched the bridge of his nose. "Sedna, everything Godfrey says must be taken with a grain of salt."
Sedna was now on a roll. "And maybe a HUGE-" -he stretched his arms out, barely hitting the edge of Finnegan's monitor - "castle at the top of the mountain! With lightning striking the spires! Oh, could you have giants staying in there? That would be amazing!" By the time Sedna was creating myths about chickens imprisoned in the castle that laid golden diamond-encrusted eggs, Finnegan had stopped listening.
Sedna peeked over his master's shoulder. "Are you putting in a giant castle?"
Finnegan clicked the mouse. "No, I'm just going to remove the mist to see if it works."
"Master Finnegan, you already tried that on Tuesday."
"Did I now?" Finnegan searched for a clock. "What day is it today?"
"Saturday morning." Sedna sipped from his mug of warm tea.
Finnegan shrugged and returned to the keyboard. "Fine, let's put in that laser giant castle with lightning and maybe then you'll realise how ridiculous it looks," he mumbled. The mist lifted, layer by layer until a thin sheet remained. The trees vanished, clearing a piece of land for a castle foundation. Grey stones formed a large rectangular foundation until a castle took shape. When the tower was almost complete, construction abruptly stopped. Finnegan moved his mouse, but the cursor did not move.
Sedna peeked over Finnegan's shoulder. "Did it freeze?"
Finnegan pressed more buttons, moving his mouse at the same time. He muttered under his breath, "Damn PC doesn't work fast enough, I told them I wanted a new PC, noooo if you're talented enough you can make miracles from subpar equipment, they said..."
Suddenly the world flickered and faded, leaving an empty space. The power indicator on Finnegan's computer winked, the room echoed with the soft hum of a computer rebooting, and the world returned with a half-finished mountain ending in a large barren plateau.
No fog, no crags, no trees, no shadows, no mountain.
"That's what it looked like on Monday, Master Finnegan."
Finnegan bit his lower lip.
Hadaly rotated a hologram model of the half-mountain. "You wish to postpone your presentation?"
"I just need an extra two days, Prif Hadaly," Finnegan said.
The model spun on its side, neon green wireframe illuminating her face. "What were you trying to achieve?"
"Something daunting, imposing - something only crazy people would want to explore."
"Someone will plant a flag in a week," Hadaly pointed out.
Finnegan took a second. "Yes."
"A project this simple should have taken three days maximum."
He looked at the droid god's ears. "I hit snags."
Hadaly passed the mountain hologram back. "There are at least a million shadowy mountains in each galaxy quadrant. Consider a different effect."
Finnegan sank his hands into his pockets. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"A nap would be a good start," Hadaly replied.
Finnegan made a mental note to treat his bloodshot eyes when he got back.
Finnegan outlined the mountain peak and studied the shading.
Shadows stretched across the barren ground cast by the tall jagged rocks; He wondered what was it about rocks sticking out like icicles that made them unwelcome. Regardless of the atmosphere, he imagined Sedna charging with his oversized sword to break rocks, trample on foliage, and if there was a castle at the summit Sedna will stand triumphant over its ruins with his sword embedded into the rocky terrain.
He sighed at the pointlessness of the exercise - here he was trying to create a monument of art and it only needed one person with no respect or reverence for his hard work to cock it up. Of course HE had to have Sedna living with him - Legendary Hero Sedna: personal bodyguard, minion, meat shield, and he who cannot keep his sticky fingers off anything unconquered. Finnegan had warned and threatened him multiple times but Sedna influenced civilisations just by standing around and Finnegan could only do damage control because experience had taught him better. He was better off not digging into dark places, and trying instead to make something people would flock to-
Finnegan's eyes widened.
With a few keystrokes, the mountain reverted to a lump of clay. Finnegan pulled out a sheet of paper and began his fifty-first draft.
The mist hung on the mountain like a floating veil. Light and airy, it parted with a wave of one's fingers. The mist shifted to reveal a weather-beaten path, carved out from the rocky surface. Bright green moss spread across the ground with only stray clumps of grass and weeds towering over them and swaying with each gust of wind. Coniferous trees and tiny flowers dotted the landscape, framing the bright blue sky. Amidst the silence, one would hear faint chirping in the trees.
It was the perfect picture of serenity and peace, and Sedna was not enjoying it.
"-And I made the moss extremely soft and spongy, so if you lose your shoes you can walk into the moss and rest your feet before continuing." Finnegan's bare feet sank into the moss, burying his toes. "Come on, try it!"
Sedna took a gulp of unspoiled mountain air. "Where's the shadows and jagged rocks?"
"They weren't working out," Finnegan said.
"Something's wrong. It's too...peaceful. Weren't you gonna put lasers?"
Finnegan waved his hand nonchalantly, sitting on a rock.
"What about the rock puzzle on the rope bridge?!"
"Meh," Finnegan shrugged. "This is better."
Sedna lost it and flailed his arms. "It's not scary! It's not imposing or challenging or threatening or...anything!" His teeth gnawed on his right thumbnail. His eyes darted around, stopping at a tree. "Is that a demonic tree?"
"What happens if I use a sword on it?"
"Then it'll be a tree with sword marks," Finnegan said.
"If I cut down all the trees, will a tree demon pop out and do battle?" Sedna spoke faster.
"No, because there aren't any demons."
"Are there frost giants at the peak?"
"Nope. Just more trees and shrubbery. Might put a little gazebo there-"
Sedna cut him off, "Is it an evil gazebo?!" His hands were trembling.
"No, it's a little cream-and-pink gazebo with benches all around it." Finnegan took off his spectacles and wiped them on his shirt. "Honestly Sedna, get a grip - it's just a mountain, and if you really need a grim dark menacing mountain we could visit Godfrey's-" Sedna ran down the path - away from Finnegan and the overwhelming serenity - gibbering about the lack of suspicious threats and the madness of the scheme.
Finnegan stretched his limbs and admired his handiwork.
Presentation day was going to be great.