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Third place goes to Lily Larkin for 'Azalea's Climb'

As Azalea Juniper dozed in a serene, fern filled clearing of a pine tree forest,  haunting memories flashed in her mind: bandits, swarming her home, burning it  to ashes, fleeing to the safety of the woods, her family being separated from her,  giant eagles flying overhead. Azalea leapt up in shock, her dark hair whipping  around in the wind.  

“How could I have missed it!” she cried. The Juniper family was believed to  be the descendants of eagles, due to how high they always climbed. It is even said  a Juniper once married into royalty! Eagles always watch over their kin and may  give them the ability to transform into an eagle.  

Azalea’s excitement decreased. “What can the eagles do?” she thought  sorrowfully. Another memory struck her: once, when she was six, her mother had  told her, “If you’re ever lost, meet us at the top most point.” Meaning, the highest  point of the Mortal Mountains. Azalea turned and gasped. The mountain had  shifted over the past five years and there was no longer a highest point.  

She put her hands on the base of the Mortal Mountains and implored,  “Please, which is the tallest point?” The ground began to rumble, the mountains began shrinking into a jagged stone wall, except for one peak. The mountain  became fixed once more and it was now obvious. Azalea ran. Hours after starting  her ascent, legs aching, hands sore from gripping steep rocks, she passed a  flowering azalea bush. It gave her a feeling of warmth and comfort which she had  not felt in weeks. As she got higher the air began to get chilly and Azalea shivered  out of cold and fright whenever she looked down. Soon however, she overlooked  her fear and found her climb exhilarating. The top was submerged in snow, but  until she could reach there, she would need water.  

“What will I do?” Azalea wailed in despair. When night fell, she found a  rock that would do for a bed. She then drifted into dreams of majestic eagles. In  the morning, she drank the dew, but that could not fulfill her demanding thirst, so  she set off again. Hours later Azalea collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. Her  legs could go no farther. As she began to weep bitterly, the air turned colder and  a white fog surrounded her. A high-pitched voice called out from within the fog.  

“Who is crying? Don’t you know the eagles are flying?” A young girl  emerged from the mist. Azalea stared in bewilderment.  

“I’m the Spirit of the Mortal Mountains. I would like to guide you to your  destination.” The Spirit had long, red hair and a mischievous face. She appeared to be around Azalea’s own age. The Spirit flew upwards, Azalea scrambled up  after her, and they soon reached the snowline.  

“Follow me, the easiest path is this way you’ll see.” The Spirit glided to the  left and Azalea followed. The Spirit pointed to a bit of snow colored differently  from the rest.  

“Go there, don’t miss it by the fraction of a hair,” she said grinning. Azalea  slowly stepped to the indicated spot. Suddenly her foot fell through and then she  screamed as her body plunged downward into the sinking snow! Azalea grabbed a  bush as her chest was submerged. She had a hard struggle, but she managed to  pull herself up to solid snow, her body shaking.  

“Why didn’t you help me?” she gasped. The Spirit giggled and then said  “Farewell, in doom may you dwell!” With that she vanished. Azalea got up angrily  and kept climbing. As she got closer to the peak, excitement pulsed through her  veins.  

“Almost there,” she murmured. Suddenly, the snow slipped out from  beneath her feet. She stumbled but kept going. With a final pull, she was up. She  had conquered the Mortal Mountains! She was there! But her family wasn’t.  Then, to her astonishment, she saw them at the base of the mountain. 

A Great Brown Eagle swooped by and she knew. She spread her arms wide  and leapt. Azalea had turned into an eagle and was flying home to her nest, her  family.  

Congratulations to Lily Larkin for coming third in the 2024 Copywork Cave creative writing competition for 10-11 year olds.


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