The Village of Twardy (short)

At the edge of a sprawling valley lay the large, imposing foot of a mountain. A single, solitary road cut through the lush green below and led steadily upwards, curving around jutting stands of rock, and darting across precarious ledges. Up and up and up the road went, becoming narrower as it climbed, and colder too. At the top of the mountain, between the two highest cliffs, the dirt path again became a road, which widened and grew until it met a small village.

The village at the top of the mountain between two peaks was called Twardy. Being so high, Twardy was constantly full of a bitter, rushing wind. The top of the mountain had the smell of a clear, crisp winter stream and the constant sound of a rushing waterfall. The cold gale, with no trees or earth to halt its course, bit away at the stones and roofs and people most of all.

They were a hardpacked bunch. Their skin was tough and leathery from the constant barrage of icy air, and their temperaments were much the same. Twardy was not a warm place – nobody could remember a time before the wind had blown away the softness and cheer of the first travelers up the narrow path. All that was left now were the squat stone cottages and stony faces of the men and women chiseling stone and ice to send down to the people below. The smoke that seeped from the short little chimneys was stolen away as quickly as it rose and the grass and greenery had long since faded into pale, scraggly shrubs.

Some days, though, when those cheery folk down in the valley would look up towards the twin peaks where Twardy was nestled – on days when the air down below was as still as a sleeping boulder and thick with the scent of summer flowers – they would see a flock of colorful birds flying up at the top of the mountain. All flying in formation with each other, bouncing and bobbing. Birds of every size and color, but all with a similar shape. Hours would pass, the birds flying together, skipping and dancing on the wind. Until at last they were reeled back in by those odd, gruff, stony folk between the two peeks at the top of the road.

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