A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Grasping-Tree Hill" in Mirror Shards:
“I see you’ve been on Grasping-Tree Hill,” said old Darby. “There’s a tale to that place. They say old Porter – this being Porterston, you follow – he went down there at the last and sealed himself away in his tomb, all surrounded by his gold and jewels. They say all that treasure is still there. Porter sleeps now, unless someone is foolish enough to take something from his hoard.”
Clem swallowed, the gold coin in his pocket suddenly burning cold. Atop the hill, the thin white branches of the tree crackled, then curled gently in on themselves to form a fist…
Clem climbed the slope feeling his breath fight against him as if burning pebbles had lodged in his lungs and every step jarred causing them to burn his esophagus. Clem swore that the hill was steeper this time, harder to find footholds, and his feet slipped out from under him.
Clem crested grasping-tree hill before he had a chance to prepare for Porter's ghost and he collapsed just outside the reach of the tree. From his position on the ground, one arm strong-armed against the dirt so that he had his head raised and could watch the tree, he saw a ghost materialize before him. There was fire in the ghost's eyes.
"You have woken me from my slumber," said Porter.
"Sorry, I did not --"
"You must pay."
"It was a m-m-mistake," stammered Clem. "It was only a s-single coin. A souvenir."
"No matter, your blood will help me ease back to sleep." Porter flickered and a pale vorpal ax glowed in his hands.
Clem flipped the coin at Porter who paused momentarily to reach out a hand and catch the coin. Clem scrambled to his feet and his lungs felt fresh again. He dodged the ax and took a step down the hill. Slowly, one dodge at the time, Clem left the hill. Alive, but when he tried to speak his voice had been destroyed just a shadow like crackling paper left.