It was the wind that woke him. Well not the wind truly, but what was being carried by the wind, dust and sand. Steven rose from bed and went to the window. The terraced field beyond was almost not visible in the swirling maelstrom of dust and debris.
Their fields, which should be ready for harvest, stood barren and wasted. The rain had not come this year, and every day the wind carried off more and more of the precious soil.
Steven sighed and pulled the shade back over the window, as if that thin layer of fabric could cover the devastation outside. Steven sighed as he opened the heavy door to the larder. The shelves were bare except for a single jar of meal, which would also lay empty by the close of the day. The famine in Highkeep was severe.
For many years they prided themselves on their self sufficiency. The village sat alone on her precipice. It had been nearly seventy-five years since an earthquake destroyed the only bridge in or out. The council at the time decided not to rebuild it. They required, nor desired, anything from the outside. They were safe here.
Their pride became their God. The loss of the bridge prevented the Parson from the city from visiting them. The worship of God ceased within a generation. The village chapel served the council now. Voices once desperate for God were now desperate for food alone. The council decided that the bridge would have to be rebuilt.
The entire village toiled in making the new bridge. After three days they had built one span and consumed half their lumber. Every tree had been felled and now the food was gone.
Steven slept fitfully that night, until the howling wind woke him. He made his way through the swirling dust to discover the wind had taken their meager span and with it any hope of reaching safety.
In desperation the villagers stood around the cliffs edge yelling and sounding horns for a day and a night but a response from the other side never came. As Highkeep had forgotten the outside, the outside had forgotten them as well.
That night one of the Elders died from the hunger. More would surely follow in the coming day.
Reserved to their fate, Steven wrote a note.
To He Who Finds This –
Know the fate of Highkeep.
We shunned the outside world,
and in our pride, we shunned our God.
We worked for many days but our efforts
to rebuild the bridge were fruitless.
God help us.
Steven attached his note to an arrow. With a weak and trembling arm he stood on the edge, and shot his arrow. He hoped his note would be discovered by a Shepherd perhaps on the other side, then the world would know their fate. With that, Steven set down his bow and lay next to it in the dust. Weariness and hunger overtook him and he lost consciousness.
Steven awoke to bird song. Above him a sparrow hopped back and forth on a tree branch. He sat up among green grass still spangled with morning dew. For a moment he thought that he was dead until the rumbling in his belly told him otherwise. How long had he slept?
Spanning the entire chasm was a bridge, solid and graceful. The people of Highkeep made their way across to safety. Those who could not walk were carried by their rescuers.
Steven smiled and lay back down in the grass, his arrow must have been found. How they constructed the bridge in so short a time he could not fathom. Tears of gratitude spilled down Steven’s dusty cheeks. When he had the strength he would find the shepherd or wanderer who discovered the arrow, their redeemer. Before Steven gave himself over to sleep he said aloud, “Thank you God.”
The sparrow took to flight. In fluttering arcs it made its way over the edge of the chasm. Down it went, twittering its song. Finally the little sparrow found its perch- an arrow with a note attached buried in the wreckage of the failed span.
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