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She stopped in her tracks as the hairs on the back of her browned neck tingled. There was a faint scent of death wafting down from the mountain. It was thick with humidity and it left a sickly sweet feeling at the back of her throat that she dared not clear. Wiping her upper lip on her drenched sleeve gave her little reprieve as she glared forward at the lanterns hung from the red pillars. They were providing little help to her and she was sure they were designed to disorientate. Why hang them up? The people that lived here didn’t need help and she knew it.

Her every move was calculated and deliberate, such as an insect that uses camouflage to help it survive. One mistake could mean detection and the snap of a twig, or the rustling of leaves would surely alert them to her. Her paranoia had grown as she wormed her way up the mountain. This was how they won most of their battles, from within. She couldn’t let them get to her. The first battle was to be fought inside the delicate fortress of her mind and if they invaded and won, it was all over. That couldn’t be allowed to happen.