The cold mountain air whipped through the shepherd’s thin robe, chilling him to the bone. He removed his canteen from his bag and gulped down the water he’d gotten from the spring on his way up. The lamb he’d been guiding up the mountaintop let out a mournful bleat. The sound echoed, bouncing back at the motley pair, so that the shepherd was reminded of his flock; he missed them all, suddenly. But he could only manage to guide one up the mountain.
Against his will, his eyes were drawn to the massive skeleton that lay on the other side, the mountains cradling the body almost tenderly, its mouth yawning open in one final grimace, the sword protuding from its ribs. It was impossible to know whether the corpse was male or female; it had long since been ravaged by the harsh elements. Nonetheless, he could not help but wonder who this mammoth being had been, and just why its life had ended with a sword through its ribs. Its empty eyes seemed to bore into him, staring into the cloudy twilight. The moon was his only other companion, a pale white face that peeked out behind the clouds intermittenly.
If nothing else, the mountain was beautiful. The air was cold and clear and thin, completely different from the valley village from which he’d come. There was a stark sort of beauty, the sky and the snow-capped mountains bleeding into one another, a riot of cool colors that the shepherd had never seen. It was as if an artist’s palette and a cup of water had collided, forcing the colors to drip through the sky in gorgeous patterns. He was so dazzled that for a moment, he’d forgotten why he came. Against his will, the shepherd’s eyes were drawn to the corpse. He didn’t want to go near, but he didn’t have a choice. He’d been sent on this journey for his people, his village. His family, most of all. He had to overcome his revulsion and examine the corpse up close, see if there was any knowledge to be gleaned from it. It didn’t help that he didn’t have even the slightest inkling of what to look for. The Elders had been frustratingly vague about the whole thing, and how was he supposed to cross the sheer cliff face, especially with an aging mother sheep? The enormity of his impending task was overwhelming, as large and forbidding as the mountains themselves. But he’d made a promise, and in his culture, you were as only as good as your word.
The sheep bleated once again, straining against its lead, staring at the skeleton with huge amber eyes. The sound shattered the silence like breaking glass, and the shepherd clenched his fist around the rope, gently tugging the animal back into the shadows of the cliff. “Patience, old girl,” He murmured, running a hand through her dirty, coarse wool. His mind felt like it was running a hundred miles an hour, desperate for a solution, but the nature around him offered no answers.
He was on his own in this, and he knew that. So why, then, did he feel so afraid?
Hey guys! I posted a response to an image prompt, please check it out!