Little Sparrow and her mother fled across the kingdom, and her father the king followed. For two years they ran, and the king and his armies could not catch them, for Little Sparrow and her mother were too quick. But eventually they tired, and so in the third year they hid, and hoped that the king could not find them.
For two months Little Sparrow and her mother hid there in the dark, drinking from the spring that bubbled up through the rocks, eating what little food they had in their packs, holding each other in the dark for warmth, singing to each other for comfort.
But in the third month, the waters in the spring froze, the food in their packs dwindled away to nothing, and the nights became so cold they needed a fire to keep from shivering to death as they slept. So each morning at dawn, and each evening at dusk, Little Sparrow crept from the cave and would flit from tree to tree, crawl through the long grass, and slip silently through the whispering mists of winter.
And like this, for two weeks Little Sparrow filled their bottles in the stream, picked mushrooms in the meadows, and gathered fire wood from the forest, all without making a sound, nor ever being seen by any living soul.
But in the third week, she lost her footing on the river bank one morning and slipped into the stream, and the sound of her splashing echoed through the forest, across the fields, beyond the hills, as loud as cannon fire, as loud as screams. Soon the woods were full of the king’s men, and it was long past sunset before she could find a way back to their cave unseen.
Alas by then it was too late. In the pale phosphorescence of the cave, Little Sparrow saw her mother by the cold ashes of the fire, the king’s huge silver sword plunged through her back and into her heart, her body cold and dead, the only sound the drip drip drip of her blood as it blossomed across the floor and trickled down the rocks to melt the waters of that icy spring.
For two days Little Sparrow mourned and wept. She washed her mother’s clothes with the last of of their water. She kept the fire burning by her mother’s side with the last of the wood. And she sang songs of love and remembrance through the last of her tears.
On the third day, Little Sparrow pulled the sword from her mother’s heart and went out in search of her father the king. The sword was so huge and heavy she could not carry it, and instead had to pull it along behind her, both her hands on the hilt, her back to the path as she walked. The tip of the blade cut a channel in the ground that led all the way back to her mother’s tomb.
For two days Little Sparrow dragged that sword across the kingdom. It was not hard to find her way to her father, for where Little Sparrow and her mother were quick, the king was slow, and where Little Sparrow and her mother were quiet, her father was loud.
On the third day she came to the King’s camp and stood before her father, his huge sword still held tightly in her hands.
“Little Sparrow, come home to roost,” he laughed. “Are you going to peck at me with that blade of mine? It looks a little big for you!”
“This sword is not for me, father,” Little Sparrow said. “I brought it back for you.”
She spun round once, twice, and on the third spin she let the sword go and threw it across the dirt towards her father’s feet. The king picked up his silver sword, and as he held it up with one hand towards the sun, Little Sparrow laughed.
“A coward’s blade for a cowardly king,” she said, and in his rage her father the king swung it down upon Little Sparrow’s neck.
But not even that great blade was enough to save him. For where the king was slow, Little Sparrow was quick.For while the king was furious, Little Sparrow was calm. And though the king was cruel, Little Sparrow was just.
For two hours she followed the trail of her father the king’s blood, as it trickled down the channel left by his sword, all the way back to her mother’s tomb. And in the third hour…
…well, who can say. Who can know.
1. Written between November 18th and November 20th, 2019
2. The first line is taken from The Gunslinger by Stephen King