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. Then he had gone on, and could
almost feel the hot breath of the hunting cat closing in be-
hind him. From the spring, the crevasse wound back into
sheer stone, narrowing as it went. Finally he could go no
farther. He had pushed himself into the final rift as
tightly as he could, holding his breath, and he felt the
cold rock scraping at his flesh.
He tilted his head to peer upward. Far above was sky,
and its path was wider than the cleft that swallowed him
front and back. Using the rock walls as pressing surfaces,
he raised himself a few inches, bracing with his elbows at
the rock before him, with his feet at the rock behind. His
breath was a cloud of steam, hanging in the cold, still air
around him, condensing on chill stone as he worked.
By inches he crept upward, levering himself between
two surfaces. A foot, then three, then seven he climbed,
using his forearms thrust ahead of him - then his hands
as the chimney widened above. When he could no longer
climb, when his outthrust arms would not reach farther
and give purchase, he looked down. He was fifteen feet
above the bottom of the crevasse and could go no higher.
He was still within reach of a hunting cat, he knew.
Any one of the great beasts, as tall at the shoulder as he
was at the ears, could leap this high. His chest heaving,
his breath a cloud in the shadows of dark stone, he clung