The stream was peaceful, the approaching dawn dimly lighting it. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves, and frogs peeped quietly in the marshes nearby.
Eli Barel was asleep in his house nearby. He slept the deep sleep of a man who had worked hard, and would soon work hard again. He and his eldest son had worked until evening to put a roof on Widow Rachel’s house, and with the light they would start to cut her some wood to last her through the winter.
Had he been awake he might have heard the sound of the frogs, but certainly not the sound of the stream, shielded as it was by the fifty foot drop over the limestone cliff.
The peace of the stream was rudely broken by the rough sounds of hooves. There was a stirring of the underbrush, and a horseman and mount stepped out of the tall grass on the far side of the stream. As he crossed the water, muddying it, he looked up at the face of the cliff. A band of twenty or so men, all roughly clad and unshaven, followed him across. At least three bore the angry marks of a skull branded on their foreheads, the marks of condemned men. Most carried swords at their sides, and some had bows slung over their shoulders. All had a predatory air to them.
As soon as he was in the shadow of the cliff, the leader turned to face the others, his arm raised for silence.
“At the top this cliff is the first of many houses. In those houses are groveling vapor-worshippers! There is no one to protect them, and they will not fight! Take any booty you want, but don’t burn anything. Kill everyone! We will leave no survivors!” He punctuated the last with a dark scowl.
“What of the women? We were promised women!” A deep muttering rose from the assembled men. A lecherous grin broke across the leader’s face.
“I didn’t say how you had to kill them. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an infidel’s wife!”
Mocking laughter was his only reply. Suddenly one of the raiders in the back gave a shout, and pointed up.
The leader swiveled in his seat. He looked to the top of the cliff. There stood a man, holding a staff. He was clothed all in white, and his face was set with an angry look. He glared at the cutthroats below with an air of authority that gave even the leader pause. The murders only paused a moment, though.
Those of the raiders who had bows grabbed them, but before any could raise them the figure leaned forward, and struck the end of the rod on the ground, a foot or so short of the cliff edge.
The moment it struck the ground shook. All but two of the raider’s horses fell to the ground. At the same moment, a huge slab of limestone calved off the face of the cliff. It crumbled as it fell, causing an avalanche. For a few long moments, rock and dust poured from the face of the cliff. Then the stream was at peace once more. Where horses had stood only moments before, there now stood a pile of rubble.
Eli Barel awoke. His bed still shook slightly. A tremor? Eli pondered the thought. They were not common, but he had experienced them before. Nothing more followed, so he relaxed. Slept in today, he thought. The sun is almost up.
He arose, leaving his wife to groan to herself. He dressed, and walked out of the house and down the path as he had for over sixty years. He followed the path as it lead toward the stream. Then, noticing something different, he left it as it turned down into the woods, and rather walked up the slope toward the cliff.
He walked up to the edge, and looked over at the pile of rock.
A rockslide, he thought. Levy might like to see this.
He was about to turn to walk back down when the early morning light caught a reflection. Getting down on his knees, he examined a dark vein of rock as it ran almost from the cliff edge halfway down the cliff. As he knelt there his eyes widened. He reached forth his hand, and with a small effort, wrenched a chunk of rock loose. He held it up to the light. Even in the morning’s dimness, he could see the metal running through the granite.
“Gold. Gold! GOLD! Everybody! We’ve got gold on our land!” Getting to his feet, Eli ran back to the house.
For the last time that day, peace once more fell on the stream.