Above Mountain Tops


Chefchaouen (s-tamazight: Ashawen ⴰⵛⵛⴰⵡⵏ, lit. “horns”), an Amazigh city called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco”. 

Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif Mountains, just inland from Tangier and Tetouan. The name of the city refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town, that look like the two horns (chaoua) of a goat. Chef Chaouen” derives from the Berber word for horns, Ichawen.


Chefchaouen (s-tamazight: Achawen ⴰⵛⵛⴰⵡⵏ, lit. “les cornes”), une ville Amazigh appelé “La perle bleue du Maroc”. 

Chefchaouen est une ville du Nord-Est du Maroc, bâtie à 600 m d'altitude au pied des monts Kelaa et Meggou, qui forment le Jebel Chaouen, sur la chaîne du Rif.  Le nom de la ville vient du berbère Achawen, « les cornes », en raison des sommets montagneux qui dominent et entourent la ville.

Her Eternal Sin [Ch’s. 7&8]

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m back from Vacation! Thank you everyone for being so patient during my absence. I’m going to avoid a long introduction because I’m sure you’re all excited to dive into the next chapter. Lucky for you, I’ve included two chapters! As promised, I have some lengthy reading in store for you since I’ve been gone so long.

I also have some art included from two very good friends of mine. I couldn’t be more thankful for their help bringing my chapters to life. Give them both a follow, they’re amazing artists!

@albanananana​ (Ch. 7 art)

@pviane​ (Ch. 8 art)

I decided to include all my previous chapters here because I’m sure it’s getting harder to find them all among my crazy blogging.

Ch. 6

Ch. 5 (NSFW)

Ch. 4

Ch. 3 (NSFW)

Ch. 2

Ch. 1

Chapter 7 will be Amèlie’s POV, and Chapter 8 will be Reaper’s POV.

As always, enjoy!!

Ch. 7

Amèlie felt dizzy as the room seemed as though it was spinning. It had felt like the floor gave way below her. A sickness washed over her. She ran in zig-zags towards the bathroom. Falling to her knees at the toilet, she began to vomit. Every part of her body ached.

She felt her hair being pulled back. It was Gabriel. The man who just discovered her true identity that she herself had no idea about. Talon had been using her as an experiment all these years without her knowledge. The blackouts, the strange emotions, all coming together in full explanation.

She reached for the bathroom counter near the toilet, attempting to pull herself up. Gabriel helped her stand to her feet. Leaning over the sink, she scooped water into her mouth with her hands, and splashed water over her face. She didn’t dare look up at the mirror. She was sure she looked ghostly. Falling back to the floor, she lifted her knees to her chest, hugging her arms around them.

Gabriel knelt down in front of her. He stroked her hair with his claws in attempt to comfort her. He wore his mask, hiding his facial expressions from her.

“What am I going to do?” She questioned aloud, mostly to her own self, but Gabriel replied.

“You’re going to move on from this and keep living how you have been…as Widowmaker.” He stated. As if it was so easy to just move on after finding out she had been living a lie. She wondered what her personality was really like, what her emotions had felt like before the changes. The dreams she had during her blackouts were clear now and raced through her mind. She began to remember what she had looked like. She remembered the people she loved and cared for. Love and care were no longer apart of her design. At least not until she met Reaper…

“How?” She questioned him, looking up. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“We cannot change the past. We cannot change who we’ve become. So we must continue to be who we are now…” He spoke with wisdom and understanding, for he too went through changes the day he began living hell on earth as a monster. She knew his story as well as he now knew hers. It was then she realized, they would always need each other, and they were meant to end up this way. He was right, she couldn’t change who she’d become…what they’d turned her into. She was a cold-hearted assassin, and there was no going back from it.

She nodded her head slowly in agreement and stood to her feet. From this day forward, there will be no more tears, and no more sadness. She wasn’t going to try and fight who she’d become. Talon destroyed her mundane ways, but the joke was on them. She would find a way to have her revenge, but in the meantime she would keep her experiment findings secret. She would continue to work with Reaper on the field. When the time is right, she will make Talon wish they’d never touched her.

“So…” Gabriel stood to his feet with her and walked out of the bathroom and began pacing her bedroom, nervously pounding his fist into the palm of his other hand. “We have a new partner…” He stopped pacing and stood to look at her standing in the doorway of the bathroom.

“What?” She questioned with a tone of frustration and annoyance.

“Yeah…so uh…it wasn’t easy breaking into your medical files. Someone helped me…” He began to explain. “She is a hacker…actually that title doesn’t really do her justice.” He paused. “Anyway…her name is Sombra. She’s from the Talon base in Dorado, Mexico. She was recently transferred here. And the only way she would help me enter the science lab, was if I agreed to allow her to partner up with us…” He spoke quickly. 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She yelled, throwing her hands in the air. A series of French profanities quickly followed behind as she stomped out of the bedroom. 

He followed her out into the living room, only to fetch his cigarettes from the coffee table. 

“I’ll be outside if you need me.” He told her before leaving her apartment.

She saw him to the door and slammed it shut behind him. How could he be so stupid? A new partner? Since when does he need help breaking into places? She was beyond furious. He knows how much she hates working with others. Working with him was enough of a headache already. 

She needed to find a way to calm her nerves and a shower would do just that. She surprisingly began to feel more like herself. All it took was the truth and a small mental breakdown. She hoped the blackouts would be gone for good now since her mindset had changed perspective. Stripping away her previous day clothes, she entered the shower. She turned the knob to scolding hot. It felt good over her sore, tensed muscles. Steam from the hot water filled her lungs as she inhaled. She felt refreshed and renewed. From this day forward, she would no longer look back. 

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Step Into the Void is a glass cage that hangs more than 3,300 feet above the mountains on the top of 3km-high peak in the Aiguille du Midi mountain peak above Chamonix Mont Blanc, France. Designed by French architect Pierre-Yves Chays, the instillation took three years to see through to completion.

Gods in the Mountains

I’ve been chasing ghost stories since I was a kid. I like to examine them from a historical angle rather than simply speculate, researching the history of the haunting and the history of the site (or the person/family) and then trying to unravel the story behind the haunting.

Sometimes this reveals a hoax. In fact, I have more hoax stories than I do genuine ghost stories.

Sometimes it reveals a hidden truth lurking in the bones and roots of a property, or in the heart of the person who seems most affected by the haunting.

I’ll share a bunch of my experiences and my stories here, but not this time. This time I wanted to tell you about the most amazing of my stories and it has nothing to do with ghosts. This is the story of my first encounter with extra-terrestrial life and the event that convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that alien life not only exists but is visiting this planet of ours. I have no idea why. I just know that it is!

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James' Most Moving Travel Memories - Sunset On Mt. Everest

    Towards the end of my travels in 2009, I was passing through Tibet on my way to Nepal. I had 6 months of rough travel behind me, backpacking through the islands of Indo, the jungles of South East Asia and the plains of China before rising up onto the dry Tibetan Plateau.
    My route had taken in 8 countries, numerous cultures and a myriad of different sights and experiences, all of which had left their mark on me. I felt like a thoroughly changed man, at one with new cultures, and home was far from my mind. I was entirely immersed in the traveller’s life. I had latched onto a group of travellers and we were in a beaten up old 4x4, driving across the Tibetan landscape for a week before we neared the trail to Everest Basecamp, the final stop before we crossed the Himalayan border into Nepal.

(Crossing Tibet)

    The drive up to basecamp was a zigzag slog up rocky hills for hours on end. I watched the sun dip low in the sky as we climbed the scree mountainside before finally popping up over the crest of a hill and entering the mouth of a valley with a little stream running down its dusty centre.

(The climb up to basecamp)

    We followed this stream (its source being the glaciers on Everest) towards a small huddle of tents in the distance, Everest’s North Face basecamp. Beyond these tents the valley continued higher and higher, with its far end cloaked in low clouds.

(Clouds concealing the mountain)

    Upon arrival at basecamp, we dropped our backpacks in a spacious cloth tent that we rented for the night. The sun was dropping below the tops of the mountains at this point, bathing them in a deep orange glow while the valley floor grew cold and dark in the shade of the mountains on either side.

(The dying sun on the surrounding mountains)   

    The clouds had still not cleared, so we warmed our feet by the yak dung stove and drank cups of salty yak butter tea with the owner of our tent, a young, rosy cheeked Tibetan lady with a baby strapped on her back.

(The inside of our tent at basecamp)

    After one too many cups of tea, I had to step out of the tent to take a piss, and that’s when I saw Mt. Everest for the first time.

    The clouds at the end of the valley were drawing back, cleared away as if some unseen hand was tearing them away like pieces of cotton wool. The north face of the mountain was sheer and craggy, a patchwork of dark and imposing rock, and brilliant pearl white ice, rising high up into the inky sky. The last rays of the sun were already fading, but held enough power to light the mountain in orange and gold.

(Sunset on the highest point in the world)

    It was magnificent, words truly don’t do it justice. The air was still and icy cold, and there was no sound. Only the crunch of gravel as I sat down outside the tent served to break that still silence, the kind of silence you only get at altitudes so high that there is nothing living to make a sound. In this moment I suddenly missed my home. I missed my girlfriend, who I had not been entirely faithful to on my travels, I wished she could have been there with me to experience that awe. I was humbled by it all, finding it difficult to bear the weight of all that emotion by myself. I needed someone to share it with me. I just sat there and watched as the colours on the face of that great mountain changed from gold to orange to purple, until the first cold stars started twinkling in the indigo sky above. As the sun’s light finally died, the mountain looked cold and ghostly under the light of the newly risen moon. The sky filled with stars and the Milky Way painted a glittering stripe over the tip of the dark mountain’s silhouette. I sat there well into the night and watched as the stars turned in the sky above that immovable, looming mountain top.

(The view up the valley from basecamp the next morning)

    So began a love affair with Mt. Everest and the Himalayas in general, that has seen me visit Everest’s South face in the years since. However that first unveiling, when the clouds cleared in a valley in Tibet, remains one of the most moving moments of my life. I know I’ll return there one day.

Top Five Tuesday: Mountains

It’s week four of my look at my favorite basic land art for each type. This quest began with Plains, Islands, and Swamps, which means today’s article is going to be about my top five favorite Mountains. I find that Mountains have a similar problem as Swamps: much of the basic land art is so generic and similar that many planes fail to create a Mountain identity. You’ll see today how much I value Mountain art that can set a plane apart from others in Magic.

#5: John Avon’s Post-Post-Post-Apocalyptic Dominaria

We begin with one of the most dramatic interpretations of Mountain-ness in the game. The basic land art of Time Spiral took plenty of liberties to convey the devastated landscape of Dominaria. Grasslands can wither. Islands erode into the sea. Swamps are tainted by Phyrexian oil. Forests die and decay. But how do you go about showing post-apocalyptic Mountains? Aren’t they the steadfast formations that are supposed to survive anything? Apparently not.

In order to show that even the Mountains were dying, we see these eroded spires of rock instead of your basic, everyday mountain. It’s as if the mountains themselves are starving, emaciated from the lack of mana on the plane. It isn’t just the people who are struggling to survive, it’s the very land itself.

What I love about Avon’s piece is that it places us right in this forest of mountains. They don’t even tower miles above the land anymore. We can walk through them like ants in blades of grass. They’re so small and so unstable that we, mere humans, might even be able to push them over. Dominaria is so blasted to hell that it crumbles at the tough of mortals.

The parallel vertical orientation of these spires helps sell death in a few ways. First, it creates a static image void of life. Dominaria is simply done living, done moving, finished with a dynamic history that shaped the Multiverse. Second, these spires break the image up into segments. Dominaria,and time itself, is literally falling apart. The pieces can’t be put back together again, at least not totally. This art mimics this decay. Finally, the foreground spire extends out of our vision almost like a cage or jail cell. If the time rifts aren’t fixed, all life will die in the prison that is Dominaria.

#4: Titus Lunter’s Tundra Volcano

I like volcano art. There, I said it. More basic Mountain art should feature volcanos. The caveat, however, is that they can’t just be boring volcanos like many lands have boring mountains. Volcanos have to mean something, like the one on Lunter’s art for the Atarka Mountain in Dragons of Tarkir.

Qal Sisma is a rugged region of Tarkir that it usually frozen. At least that’s how it was portrayed for the entirety of the block so far. Then we get to Sarkhan’s reforged Tarkir, a world of Dragonlords. Atarka herself has dwelled in the frozen tundra of Qal Sisma for over a millennium now. How has that changed the frigid wasteland we once knew?

A lot, apparently. Volcanos are generally representative of the raw power of nature. They explode with forces great than nuclear bombs and are the dominant geological force in their regions. You know, like the dragons of the Atarka brood. And what happens when you heat up ice? It cracks. Project that on a geographic scale and you get this land. That Mountain is literally fractured by volcanic forces, the fires of the Atarka melting through the glacial landscape. If volcanos are the standard for the mighty power of nature, what does that say about the dragons that can crack them in half?

There’s a lot of cool things happening in this piece as well, especially with color. High contrast pieces will be a recurring theme whenever I talk about Magic art I enjoy, and this one makes it easy. It doesn’t get any more contrasting than black and white, the colors most prominently featured here. The white snow (or is it ash?) plasters the side of the mountain, as the blackened, charred rocks erupt with glowing lava. Bright color is another recurring theme, and vivid lava flows highlight the shape of this scene’s geography. Steam mixes with soot as opposite ends of nature’s spectrum of power clash in a wild and unrelenting ecosystem.

#3: Tomasz Jedruszek’s Red Sun of New Phyrexia

I’ve previously talked about the way New Phyrexia’s basic lands show the fully corrupted versions of Mirrodin’s landmarks. One of my favorite versions of this metamorphosis involves Kuldotha, depicted on the art of Great Furnace. Kuldotha is the central forge of Mirrodin’s goblins, a fountain of molten metal and location of the red lacuna that ejected the plane’s red sun into the sky.

Jedruszek’s Mountain is pretty much a total recreation of the Great Furnace art (One of each of the New Phyrexia basic lands recreates the matching artifact land, in fact.) This is great, as it gives us a way to directly compare the before-and-after of Mirrodin-to-New Phyrexia. In fact, let’s put the cards next to each other:

Two objects prominently play into these images: Kuldotha and Sky Tyrant, the plane’s red satellite. The sun/moon is actually a burning globe of raw mana. In the Great Furnace art, we see it up in the sky casting a soft orange light on the rusted landscape. But in the New Phyrexian slice of life, this sun is larger and lower on the horizon. It’s much closer to the ground, scouring the landscape with burning heat. It looks more molten, reminiscent of the Planechase art for The Fourth Sphere. The satellite has even hopped over to the other side of Kuldotha, signifying a changing of the guard, so to speak. Mirrodin is no more. We New Phyrexia now.

Kuldotha itself has also vastly changed. What used to be controlled flows of molten metal are now gaping holes that lead into the plane’s furnace layer. The grime of industry cakes the scorched land, twisted metal spires mimicking the spindles that decorate Phyrexia’s inhabitants. The Great Furnace is almost totally blackened with death, necrotic with the cancer from below.

#2: John Avon’s Oxidda Mountains

Of course, I’ve always been fond of Mirrodin’s lands. John Avon makes a return to this list for a Mountain from the original Mirrodin set. Another common trait I enjoy on my basic lands is a strong sense of depth. This piece achieves that by placing some in-focus spires on the edges of the foreground and hazier mountains in the background. We even have details in the far-away sky to complete the ecosystem. Are they chemtrails? Probably not. Mirrodin’s dragons use jet propulsion to fly, so those are likely just regular, normal vapor trails that won’t alter your DNA or control your brain.

I think what I find most intriguing is the light source in this piece. The farther down we look on these mountains, the brighter they get. We also know the light is coming from beyond our location since it’s not lighting the mountain right next to us. What’s down there? Is there a river of molten metal eroding a canyon in these rusty hills? Maybe there’s a chasm that’s opened up over a volcanic pit. We can’t be certain what it is, which gives this piece a sense of mystery.

Even more subtle, however, is the chance that this land is foreshadowing New Phyrexia. After all, the contagion came from within Mirrodin, eating its way out from the core. Does the light draw our eyes down to warn us to beware what’s beneath? Intentional or not, it taints the sense of mystery with a dangerous vibe now that we know what Mirrodin has become. This is intertextuality at work, altering the perception of older art through the lens of newer art.

#1: Véronique Meignaud’s Stargate

I’m not alone in liking Meignaud’s inclusion in Zendikar’s full-art cycle of Mountains. From what I’ve seen it’s regarded as one of the best pieces in the entire basic land pantheon. I guess people just like Stargate.

What really draws me to this piece, my second favorite of hers after her Island, is the way shapes are used outside of their normal environments. Mountains are generally thought of as rugged, angular landscapes. They’re even shaped like giant triangles! Meignaud decided that this part of Zendikar would buck the trend, so she put a circle on top of a mountain instead. We’re looking at it from the side, which also gives depth to this odd geometry. I think the reason I love the Zendikar lands in general is that they visually play with geometry and geography in such abstract, yet simple, ways.

As always, color is an important factor in my favorite Magic art. Meignaud is one of the best when it comes to incorporating a vivid spectrum into fantasy art. She’s so good at it, in fact, that this Mountain is one of her blander pieces in this regard. Reds and oranges are predominant through the whole piece, with blues and purples only really dwelling in the shadows. Those colors are still there, however, and partner with muted whites to break up the rusty colors of the slopes. I like how Meignaud’s use of color plays into Zendikar as a mana-rich plane. We don’t always know where the color or light is coming from; it just sort of manifests as an ethereal part of the landscape.

Mountains out of Molehills

Many Mountains have pretty standard art, showing one peak against the sky. But when it comes to my favorite Mountains, I prefer the ones that signal unique locations and bizarre twists on what being a Mountain means. As always, I’m also drawn to basic lands that reflect the mood of the plane they represent. With four basic land types down, the final part of this series will look at my favorite Forests.

Until then, planeswalkers, may your aspirations take you to heights above the tallest mountain.