Elder Magda looked up at the sky. There was seven hours left of daylight. If they pushed on now, it would still be another three days before they reached their destination. Owls, dogs and cats were their greatest dangers before, but now the water would be their biggest threat.
The family of sprites, some hundred strong, were watching her every move. She’d promised them safety, and thus far, she had delivered on that promise. But the real test came from this point forward.
The Bridge of Brodgar spread out before them. The crystalline waters were still and calm, and the grassland upon its surface was dense and unused. Winter was coming, and the winds would start to pick up if they did not make haste. Still she faltered.
“Grandmother,” little Ella said, pulling on her robes, “Is that the promised land over there?”
The tiny sprite pointed to the bridge, and Magda felt the heartache of a lifetime of searching coming to an end.
She looked down at the diminutive toddler and nodded, “Yes. We are nearly there.”
Ella’s face beamed with happiness, “I knew it!” She spun in a circle and danced back to her mother and father.
Magda turned to look at her family, “On the other side of this bridge is the promised land. If we keep straight, we should make it before winter solstice.”
The group cheered.
“The way is dangerous, and I cannot promise that none will come to harm. Where animals are easy to predict, water is not. If you wish to come, then you recognize this fact.”
“We will follow you!” Her eldest son announced.
A wealth of cheers followed, and she smiled. Her heart found no joy, though. She knew what came next. She turned around and started on the path.
For three days, the waters held still. The wind was found to be an even bigger threat, though, but she kept the group together. She had everyone hold hands and kept them within a circle. It worked well when the grass was shorter than normal. They maintained their course, and soon the great monolith was within a half day’s reach.
Magda stood at a rock on the path and turned to the growing brood.
“Hide behind this rock, and whatever you do, do not move.”
Her gaze shifted up to the stone pillar some 6 hours away if she didn’t alter her course.
“I must go this alone,” she said.
“But, Grandmother!” Ella cried.
A great owl sat atop the pillar.
“It’s okay. It’s just the guardian of the promised land,” Magda said. “He will speak only with me.”
A few stifled sobs carried across the group.
“Fear not. I shall keep you all safe,” she said.
She turned from them and started her fated walk. She heard cries of “Don’t go!” and “Don’t leave us!,” but she ignored them all. They would listen. They always did. It was her safety they were concerned about.
The walk was long and hard without assistance. Her aging bones creaked under the struggle, but she persevered.
She arrived at the Great Pillar just before dusk.
The owl had waited there the whole time. It swooped down, and when it reached the ground, it suddenly changed forms to a tall sprite.
“Hello, Guardian,” Elder Magda said.
“Hello, Great Sprite,” he said. “You have journeyed far.”
“I wish passage to the Promised Land for my brood.”
“It will be granted. Have you payment?”
“Aye. I have.”
The guardian changed forms again back to an owl. He swung his wings creating an air current behind Magda, and moments later, her whole family of sprites were with her again.
Their confused faces masked the fear she imagined they felt.
“Welcome, O family of the Great Sprite!” the owl said. “You have been permitted entrance to the Promised Land.”
A cheer erupted from the hundred-strong group. Their exultation rang across the countryside, and whatever fear and confusion they had before was replaced with pure joy.
They ran across the fields, hands outstretched.
Magda smiled as a tear fell down her cheek.
“Where is your payment?” the Great Owl asked.
“It is me,” she said.
The owl craned its head and flapped its wings. Magda felt herself raised off the ground. The wind carried her up until she faced the top of the monolith. She smiled knowing her family would know a good life.
“Payment accepted,” she heard as her consciousness became one with the spirits in the pillar.