Alexa climbed up over the edge of the cliff directly behind two men. They were talking quietly, unaware of her presence until they felt her fingers around their necks. She squeezed and twisted in the space of a breath and the sharp crack of vertebrae broke the silence of the night. Relaxing her fingers, their bodies dropped to the ground where she stood and she saw Michael across the clearing. He looked up at her, still on his knees in the blowing snow. His face was completely blank. Others had turned to face her and they simply stared as she stepped over the crumpled bodies at her feet. As though an invisible switch had flipped, that single step set the entire scene in motion.
A few hurried to back away as they recognized the face peering out from the heavy fur hood, but the rest moved toward her as one. She ran for the trees, grabbed a low hanging limb and swung herself up into the branches. The first to reach her tried to follow, but she pulled down on the branch above her head, snapping it free, and smashed it into his chest. The impact crushed his ribs and sent him flying back into the crowd. Alexa leaped from the tree to a large boulder and turned as a scream echoed from across the clearing. She watched Michael throw someone over the edge of the cliff.
As she fought her way across the clearing Alexa felt hope for the first time in decades. No one had been ready for this fight which could only mean that Elise was here. She just didn’t know where. She wiped at the blood that was splattered across her face and kept dripping into her eyes and suddenly Michael was there. “Alexa?” he whispered.
"Where is Elise?" she screamed at him. The sound of her voice seemed to repair some frayed connection in his brain and understanding flickered through his eyes. He spun and searched the crowd until he found Elise, lurking in the trees beyond the reach of the fight.
"There!" he pointed and Alexa ran. "Wait!" he yelled and raced after her.
Elise stepped back as Alexa advanced with Michael by her side. "No! They told me you were dead! They saw you die!"
"They were wrong," she said and lunged. Elise tried to run but wasn’t fast enough. Alexa closed her fingers around the woman’s neck and lifted until her feet no longer touched the ground. Michael and Alexa each raised one hand to Elise’s face. “No!” she shrieked.
When their fingers touched her skin it began to change and Elise began to scream. The color bled from her cheeks and her dark hair lightened until it blended with the snow. Her skin faded to translucence, like a bubble beneath their fingers until her screams stopped and they touched nothing but air.
Michael turned to Alexa and placed his warm hand against her cheek. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.
“The only thing that could get her to reveal herself was the chance to take my place. If she thought I was still alive, if she felt anything from you other than the pain of my death, then she’d have seen the lie. It was the only way to get her together with both of us." Alexa looked at the bodies scattered around the clearing. "We need a fire, quickly."
Jonathan stood at the edge of Profile Lake and looked up at the granite cliff that was once home to The Old Man of the Mountain. He saw the flicker of a bonfire against the sky and knew that although the Old Man had fallen and crumbled to dust, a far greater guardian of the land remained.