She inhaled deeply through her nose, grinning wildly as a sense of euphoria rushed through her. The sky, which was threaded with a brilliant golden light, was mirrored in the crystalline surface of the lake. Her life was a mess; a corked bottle of acid. Every time she subdued to the routine she so thoroughly despised, it burned her. However, this lake had become a haven to her frayed mind. Gazing towards the horizon seemed to clear her head; dark thoughts washed away by this purified lake in all of its unbridled glory.

Blinking slowly, her brow creased in an unattractive scowl. The glorious lake, which she had been so willing to believe in, was a hoax. A mirage. A growl of frustration erupted from her parched throat, driving her leaden legs onwards through the searing dunes. The beginnings of another mirage were forming; clear wavy streams of refracted light were quivering in the distance. She let her eyes glaze over; witnessing and falling into the trap that was a mirage was something she did not wish to experience again. Fixing her unfocused gaze on the endless sand before her, she faltered.

No.

It was impossible; surely it was another mirage. She gasped as the picturesque landscape unfurled on the horizon. Ahead of the rising sand dunes was an untouched mesa of phosphorescence. The valley stood stark against the bare sky, standing true in the arid terrain. She dragged her aching feet through the coarse sand, stumbling, eager to reach the canyon. Her dry and cracked lips spread in a smile as she swung her legs over the sloping edge of a precipice. Drinking in the atmosphere, she realised that there could be beauty in even the most baron of landscapes.

She felt the ebb and flow of the world, feeling nothing and everything all at once. She thought of the rolling hills and mountains clawing at the clouds. She had given up everything to travel here, and she'd be damned if she couldn't find them. The Eastern Alchemists. Her feeling of tranquillity was quelled by a burning determination. She sprang to her feet and swiped a hand across her brow. Gods it was hot. She steadied her feet on the rocky edge of the gap, staring down at the gap. Her stomach lurched into her mouth, and she found she couldn't breathe. The canyon swayed and her foot shifted backwards, sending a cascade of loose rocks down into the abyss. It was a long, long while before she heard the dull clink as they hit the bottom. She forced her mind away from thoughts of what would happen to her body if she fell even half that distance. But what if there was something, or someone, down there? Concealing a temple in a partition of the canyon wall would be an extremely clever concept. She took a deep breath and peered into the valley again. The swaying had ceased, to be replaced with complete and utter terror. She sat back down on the uneven ground and swung her body round, desperately scrabbling in the dirt to grab hold of something. Her fingers curled around a thick weed, and she clung onto it as if it were her lifeline. With a sickening jolt, she realised it was her lifeline. This gnarled root was the only thing saving her from a premature and very ugly death. She slammed her foot into the wall, hunting for a foothold. Her boot sunk in slightly, and she loosened her grip on the root, hooking her fingers into small nooks and crannies. Bit by bit, she slowly and laboriously abseiled down into the depths. Once or twice, she blundered, and found herself in free-fall, kicking up dust clouds as she grappled with the wall. But every time, she somehow found a root, or a small hole to grip. The brown, gravelly, sand coated wall was all she saw, because the mere prospect of glancing down at the partially obscured floor made her pulse sky-rocket, and her hands to become clammy. She repeated the mantra over and over again, until it was hard wired into her brain.

Don't look down. Don't look down. Don't look down.

After almost an hour of climbing, her arms stiff, her fingers numb and her face coated in dust, her foot connected with solid ground. Her heart leapt into her throat, and she turned, still hanging onto the wall, to see the derelict stretch of earth that made up the floor of the canyon. She tilted her head back and stared above her at the opening; a scar upon the land. She bared her teeth in a feral grin. She had beaten this valley; struck it down as she had done with so many of her opponents. She turned on her heels and stalked into its recesses, her mind firmly set on what she had to do.