15. Foreshadows

Atop the hill, the three men stand like monuments. The leftmost, the shaft of his spear extending high into the sky, plants the butt of his weapon into the soft bed of pollen, leaning on it like it were a staff, though the beam was nearly twice his height. Moving right, the largest of the three, bearing upon his broad shoulders an oversized bag, seems to grow taller in the fading light. His hand rests on its sword, the metallic crossguard reflecting the blood red of the moon. And finally, the third member, a bent and wizened figure, following after his lusty companions, holds, floating between his hands, a glowing, luminous orb.

These statuesque men cast their long shadows into the dell below. Stanley’s spreads out like a giant obelisk, a chilling monument to a life devoted to, a mind bent upon, one monolithic ideal. His shadow cuts through the village, dividing it on two sides. To the left of this divide the outline of the long thin spear stretches farther than the other three, just touching the next hill. The priest’s paltry silhouette, dimmed by his light, gently expands as the moon sets, covering the housetops below.

Darkness encompasses the world in night, their three shadows growing and merging into one. Swallowed in blackness, the priest’s orb, the only light, descends from the horizon. Leaving the sky, the old man comes down to earth.

Like a glittering gem, or the polished surface of a coin shining through the mud, the first hints of a rising sun race into the valley. Upon the hill, the two hunters still stand, Stanley shielding his eyes at the invading light. The fresh smells of the morning, the sweetest of perfumes, arise, their aromas coursing between the farmer’s huts. The spearman plucks his weapon from the soft moondust, marching after the chanting priest. The last swordsman lets the bag fall from his shoulders, and sits down in the red powder covering the hill.

Starring into the town, he studies the flickering blue light coming from one of the houses. Watching this dwelling, Stanley spies a shepherd standing in front of the hut’s door. Around the sitting hunter, the moondust sizzles, evaporating into the ether. Finding a stone revealed by the receding pollen, the swordsman absently picks it up, passing it between one hand and another. It’s lighter than Stanley expects. Looking back toward the hut with the blue glow, he sees the shepherd has disappeared. Grumbling, he glances at the stone in his hands.

Jumping to his feet, the swordsman drops the skull onto the hill’s slop. Rolling, it flies past the spearman and then the priest, eventually stopping at the mouth of the village. Stretching his arms into the air, the old man unleashes his orb to heaven. Exploding like a firework, shots of light arch into the deep blue sky, raining upon the farmers’ small abodes.

Glaring at this meaningless display, Stanley follows after the skull. The other hunter, seeing the tumbling object and taking a few steps towards it, stands still. Squatting, he plucks this grim image from the soft mound of ash. He turns, and looks up the hill after his companion.

The villagers, oohing and awing with their heads tilted back, their eyes sparkling with the falling stars, begin wandering toward the three visitors. Children surround the priest, and jumping up and down, their clapping hands and high squeals plead with him to send another shower of light upon their little town. They dance around him as the rays of the rising sun illuminates the valley.

Silently, the two hunters stand beside each other, studying the strange omen.


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