David stood beside the glistening white eye stone near the peak of the winter pasture. The rays of the setting sun focused near the hole in the giant wheel. The spring equinox signaling the beginning of a new year would occur soon. On that day the light of the morning sun would pierce the opening and illuminate the polished circle of black stone. At night, the moon’s rays would do the same.
The people of the hidden community of Sanctuary would gather to celebrate the day the goddesses Sola and Luna cast their light for equal times on their sister goddess Erda. This event signaled the arrival of a new year.
As David watched the other shepherds stride up the slopes a mantle of sadness settled on his shoulders. The men were eager to join their families in the village to prepare for the ceremony celebrating the start of a new year.
No one waited for him. His mother had been banished to a small cottage in the forest. His sister belonged to the Healers. His father had to be dead. Before David’s and his sister’s birth, their sire had been led to the Gap and stoned. After being tested for a talent David had been named a commoner.
The day passed in quiet. The herds grazed and none of the animals caused him or the dogs a problem. The sun neared setting.
David. He whirled and studied the slopes. The talent he shouldn’t have warned him someone approached. David. His name flowed down the slope and echoed in his head.
Had he heard the call or had his imagination supplied the voice. For several days he’d been edgy. He opened his senses and sensed approaching emotions. Was it Paul? Once they’d been almost inseparable. Was his old friend on the way? Paul had no reason to seek him. He belonged to the elite of Sanctuary. Paul had been favored by the Three and had been selected to train as an elder.
“Hello.” Paul called.
David ran up the path to meet his friend. Paul’s grin brought memories of their childhood. Though slight in build Paul possessed a wiry strength. His stature often made people think of him as frail. David knew better. Paul had been first in sprint races and best at climbing trees. He’d always made David feel like a giant.
Paul halted and ran his hands through his pale blond hair. “Are you hiding out here?” His blue eyes searched David’s face.
David shook his head. “I’m here to lead the flock to the village. Why did you come? Aren’t you being invested at the spring equinox celebration?”
“Are you running away?” No candidate was allowed to leave the village alone.
“Elder John is on my heels. Why weren’t you with the other shepherds?”
“Someone has to guard the flock.” David clasped his friend’s hand. “I have no problem being the drover. There’s no one waiting for me.”
Sanctuary's Ending - Heroine - Deborah
On the late afternoon of the day of the spring equinox celebration, Deborah sat on the women’s side of the meeting house with the Healers. The hardness of the stone bench made her wish for a cushion. She shifted so she could see the open wooden doors. Would her twin arrive in time? Would he join those who had been his childhood friends?
Ruth sat with the Sensitives. Deborah saw her friend’s ashen skin and the way she bit her lower lip. Deborah wished they sat together for courage and reassurance. The roiling meotions in of the gathered people must responsible for Ruth’s tensions.
She turned from the door and glanced at the platform where the Singers and Elders sat. She spotted Gabriel with the Singers and Paul on a chair beside the eleven older men. In the center of the stage the Seat of Judgment stood beneath the round glass window.
Where was her brother? He had to arrive. There were few reasons any man, woman or child could be absent from one of the four ceremonies. Punishments were always meted out. A night in the stocks could be ordered or banishment with a stoning was also possible.
Paul had vowed they would leave the community without her twin. Could they survive without someone used to living away from the village and their sheltered houses? Her fingers tightened into fists as a frission of fear walked her spine. What if Paul had been mistaken? What if an accident had prevented David’s arrival?
Deborah turned her head toward the door. Her gaze met the icy blue stare of Paul’s older brother. In that instant she saw lust and anger. Her gut lurched. He would be glad if her brother failed to arrive. Elder Jeremiah’s older son had hated David and would have used his position as Teacher to somehow undermine the testing process.
The first peal of the summoning bell rang loud. David, where are you? She tried to reach him on the long unused connection of their childhood. She failed.
"Paul. I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Simon called.
David’s spine stiffened. “Glad to see you. Tomorrow morning we’re meeting to gather supplies.”
Simon glared. “I’ll do my own.”
“Your choice. Anyone who isn’t ready will be left behind.”
“Won’t be me.” Simon faced David. “I go with my father’s blessing. We don’t need you unless you’re going as a servant. You’re nothing.”
Simon’s words were like blows pounding David’s chest. “I will be with you and I will watch you.” He stepped closer until his boots touched Simon’s. “No one will stop me.”
“My father could. The Chief Elder can do anything.”
Paul pulled David away. “Father will stop no one. If you’re afraid, stay here.”
Simon scowled. “I’m going to protect Father’s interests. You tricked him. Why didn’t you give the talk I helped him write? Once again, there was no call. The time to be fruitful and multiply is not now. There will be no weddings for ten years. Father has decreed that a new rule.”
“Lies," David said. "Does he plan to neuter all the herds and flocks?”
“Shut up.” Simon raised his fists. “When we return I will be tested again. I will be an Elder.”
David laughed. “And I will become a Teacher.”
“You failed.” Simon turned toward his brother.
“So you say,” David said.
Paul grasped David’s arm. “Your friends know your worth. Don’t fight him.”
“I won’t.” David walked away. “Tomorrow at the storehouse.”
“I’ll pack for myself,” Simon shouted.