The people of what had been Kirby town had been traveling for months, walking on the hard rocky animal tracks through the foggy and rain soaked mountain range. There seemed to be no end in sight and it was like they had been cursed to walk forever.
Wearily and hungrily, they followed their prince on his bedraggled white stallion and his surviving guards in their tattered livery. No one was sure where they were going but the wizard kept claiming the Gods would tell the prince soon enough.
A fine rain was falling and the wind kept driving into the people and animals. There was little shelter and half delirious some of the people started to believe the mountains were judging them.
But what would mountains know of having to flee your burning town? Of trying to save women from rape and murder at the hands of an army from a distant land? Of there being no help, no hope, nothing left but charred reminds of what had been?
‘Is that a cave or a gap?’ the prince muttered.
He was exhausted and finding it hard to keep the strength his people needed of him. Steering his horse off of the track and up a small ledge. He saw that a gaping hole opened inside the nearest mountain, like mouth that had been punched in.
The prince slide off his horse and lead the stallion over. The cave seemed back enough for everyone and it was also dry inside.
Prays were said to the Gods and a few people suggested that perhaps their fate was turning. Maybe tonight the prince would be told where to lead them too. Everyone settled into the cave, finding a large chamber for twelve horses, seven ponies, five goats, four dogs, two cows, one ox, one kitten and a crate full of chickens. There was also other chambers which the hundred odd humans scattered themselves about in.
No fires could be lit, there was no dry wood. The people ate whatever they had foraged, got as comfortable as they could and tried to sleep.
The prince woke early, feeling uneasy. He looked at the ceiling of the cave and wondered what to do.
‘My prince?’ ask the wizard, ‘any new thoughts?’
‘None,’ the prince uttered.
The wizard nodded and taking up his gnarled staff went out into the misty, rainy morning.
‘Shall we move on?’ the captain of the guards asked.
The prince looked around, taking in the closest children who were so tried and hungry they could no longer cry.
‘No. It seems safe enough here. We shall rest as long as we can.’
A few days passed and the people had made the best of things. Wood had been dried for a fire big enough to cook and dry clothes upon. The animals were providing milk and eggs now they were rested and grazing often. Everyone felt less hungry and tried.
On the four day, the wizard came back.
‘I have been seeing what there is to be seen,’ he announced, ‘and it looks like we must continue. The weather is turning and I fear we shall face greater hardships.’
The prince was fell silent in thought. A few voices give suggestions but at last the prince spoke, ‘tomorrow we leave. Go and find food, wood and prepare. We can’t stay here and must make it to some other town or city for the winter.’
Onward, the people of Kirby town traveled though a gap between two mountains where it stopped raining and began snowing. Some regretted leaving the cave but they knew if they had stayed they would have died, at least this way they had a chance.
On and on they pushed as winter bit in and heaped more harshness on them like never before. Some did not make it, but other weeks later, on the eve of the winter festival stood and looked down upon a valley and a town within.
Spirits soared and the people head forward. The prince feared they would be rejected or find the town in ruined but they were welcome in. A great hall lay at the heart of the town, heated by many fires and decorated with evergreen plants. The Lord welcomed them from his high seat and the prince counseled with him.
Dawn arose on the winter festival morning, crisp snow covered everything and a fine mist hung over the mountains. The people of Kirby all slept peacefully for the first time, warmed by the fires of the great hall, knowing they were safe for the time being.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/12/06/thursday-photo-prompt-onward-writephoto/ with thanks).