Shepherd of Stonehenge

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
November/December 2007

Casey Tolan

 

Harsh, cold wind rippled across the snow that blanketed the farm’s fields. Sighing, Sam led the shivering sheep across the wide plain. Cauliflower, the farm’s sheepdog, ran with Sam, keeping the milk-white sheep in line as best as she could.

“Snow Sheep,” muttered Sam, kicking at a withered plant poking its way through the snow. “How stupid can you get?” He had never asked to be herding sheep. He hadn’t even asked to be on Edenary Farm. Edenary Farm. Those words marked a turning point in Sam’s life. Ever since he was born, Sam lived with his father and mother in Salisbury His father, a rich merchant, had made sure the family led a luxurious life.

That had all changed two months ago.

In the middle of October, 1796, both of Sam’s parents had died from influenza. They had been on a trip in Vienna, which was still getting over an epidemic, and caught the deadly disease. Sam, eleven years old, was put in the care of his uncle, Daniel Edenary, his mother’s brother and the owner of a poor family farm. Sam’s parents had offered Daniel part of their fortune many times in the past, but he had refused out of pride. So Sam’s father’s riches would stay in a local bank until Sam was eighteen and could inherit them.

It was now the end of December of the same year, almost Christmas, a time Sam used to look forward to. This year, though, there would be no Christmas tree, no fancy food, no presents. The Edenary family didn’t have any money to spare on things like that.

Shepherd of Stonehenge injured man in snow

Shocked, Sam called above the blizzard’s roar; ‘Are you all right, sir?”

Sam looked all around him. To his right, the way he had come, the wooden buildings of the farm stood out against the cloudy sky. They marked the road to Salisbury, the nearest town. It was the only road out of the white eternity that was Edenary Farm.

Everywhere else, there was only snow and the occasional tree. Sam hated it. But not too far away there stood a famous stone structure.

Stonehenge. It was one of Sam’s favorite places and one he had visited frequently in the past with his father.

These days, Sam would sneak off to Stonehenge whenever he could, to escape the dreary farm life and see again the magnificent blocks of stone. He couldn’t get away very often because he had his uncle to help. Sighing again, Sam called to Cauliflower to help him lead the sheep back home.

*          *          *

“Potatoes again?” groaned Jasper, Sam’s eight-year-old cousin. He crossed his arms and sulked, glaring fiercely at his plate. “You know I hate potatoes!”

“It’s all we have, dear,” replied Sam’s aunt, Elizabeth. “Last year Daddy’s sheep didn’t make enough wool for us to buy better food.”

“Don’t worry, though,” grinned Uncle Daniel cheerfully. “My new Snow Sheep technique will make us the best wool for miles around.” Supposedly, if his uncle’s sheep spent enough time out in the cold, they would make higher quality wool, which would bring in more money.

Daniel Edenary was tall and stocky. He had a loud laugh, and even in hard times tried to keep a smile on his face. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was small and anxious. She had a nervous smile, and hated loud noises. Jasper was unlike either of them. In Sam’s eyes, he was incredibly selfish, and liked to complain.

“That is,” added Edenary, glancing at Sam, “they’ll make enough wool to last until Sam’s eighteen, and he can inherit his parents’ fortune.”

These days, Edenary often talked about the money He had become desperate and decided it was worth more than his pride. Sam sometimes felt his aunt and uncle blamed him for not being old enough to inherit the money right away. In truth, they were probably worried he wouldn’t share it with them.

Suddenly, Sam became angry with his uncle.

“You and your Snow Sheep,” Sam shouted. “What nonsense! And if it weren’t for the money, you’d probably throw me out. You love my parents’ fortune more than you love me.”

Sam’s anger left him as fast as it had come. His aunt and uncle had been nice to him since he had come to stay at the farm. Looking at Jasper, who had become frightened at Sam’s shouting, Sam felt ashamed. “I-I’m sorry,” he mumbled, standing up. “I-I didn’t mean it.” As the family’s eyes followed him, Sam pulled himself up the stairs to his room (the room his aunt and uncle had given him, he reminded himself).

Shepherd of Stonehenge gathered at the dinner table

“Potatoes again?” groaned Jasper, Sam’s eight-year-old cousin

Sam flopped onto his soft bed, thinking about what he had said. He knew his uncle loved him. Of course he planned to share his money with the family. What had made him say such a cruel thing?

But Sam also knew that some of his words had been true. Edenary Farm could barely support the family, and might go out of business if his uncle couldn’t make more money from his sheep. Sam also feared that if his uncle kept using his Snow Sheep plan, some of the sheep could even die.

There had to be some way to get money for the farm, Sam mused. He decided to go to sleep and think about it again in the morning.

*          *          *

For the next few days, Sam did his daily chores without really concentrating. He was distracted by the problem of saving Edenary Farm. Meanwhile, Uncle Daniel didn’t have much to say to Sam. He was still angry with Sam because of his outburst.

Christmas and New Year’s Day came and went, like all the holidays at the farm. There was almost nothing to distinguish them from the other days of the year.

But two days after New Year’s Day was different.

January third was very different.

It was early in the morning when Sam went out to move the sheep from the barn to the fields. There was hardly a breeze in the air, just the horrible cold. It clawed through Sam’s heavy coat like a living, wild animal, trying to find an open space. Sam felt sorry for the sheep. It was cold enough in the barn, but Uncle Daniel insisted they spend time outside every day.

As he herded the sheep Sam started to feel drowsy It was still early and he had gone to sleep late the night before. I’ll only have a quick nap, he told himself, crawling into a small cave in the side of a snow-covered hill on the edge of the pasture. Cauliflower will make sure the sheep don’t get away.

In fact, Sam’s “quick nap” wasn’t very quick. When he woke up and crawled out of the cave, the wind was whistling and snow was swirling around him. He knew enough about blizzards to know that these were the signs that signaled one was coming.

Sam called Cauliflower to herd the sheep back to the farm, only to be thrown back to the ground by a violent shaking, like a miniature earthquake. But all thoughts of any quake were forgotten when Sam saw one of the smaller sheep in the herd make its way over a small hilltop and disappear into the blizzard. He suddenly realized that Cauliflower, who should have been guarding the sheep, had been sleeping, too!

Determinedly, Sam and Cauliflower led the sheep back home and into the barn. After closing the door behind the animals, Sam started out again into the blizzard to find the runaway sheep.

The blizzard was like frozen death. It whirled angrily around Sam, trying to smuggle the life out of him. Sam’s scarf flew about in the wind, and was no help to Sam whatsoever. All around was wind and snow; the sheep was gone. Sam thought about turning back. His family would be worried, and there was almost no chance of finding the lost animal.

Suddenly Sam heard a worried bleat. It was the sheep! It was so mournful that Sam knew the animal was in trouble. With defiance as fierce as the blizzard itself, Sam pushed onward. The sheep’s bleat led him deeper into the swirling snow. The search seemed to last for hours, even though it was only a few minutes.

Just when Sam thought he couldn’t take it anymore, a giant dark behemoth appeared in front of him like a lighthouse. It was one of the megalithic structures of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge brought Sam memories of his father, who had gone there often. In broad daylight, the thirty-some huge stones, topped with smaller lintels and arranged in a circle, were awe-inspiring. But in the middle of a raging blizzard, they were even more majestic. The dark stone in his path towered above Sam, taller than any tree he had ever seen.

Trudging through the snow, Sam walked around the circle, amazed. The stones were so tall! He wondered, as always, how it had been built.

And then—there was the sheep! It was huddled up against the stone tower, defying the blizzard’s attempt to sap it of life. Sam quickly scooped the terrified animal up, cooing to it softly. He prepared himself to brave the storm and head back to the farm when he heard a second, pitiful cry. Was there another sheep caught out in the storm?

Still holding the sheep, Sam made his way toward the center of the megaliths. There he found, not another sheep… but a man. His fair hair was covered in snow, and his eyes were glazed over.

Shocked, Sam called above the blizzard’s roar, “Are you all right, sir?” Of course, the man was not all right, and answered with a low moan. Sam thought quickly. The man must have been caught in the blizzard.

Suddenly Sam realized that one of the humongous stones had fallen over. Tons of ancient rock had pinned the man’s foot to the ground. It had to be crushed! That’s when Sam noticed blood turning the snow crimson around the man’s boot.

Twisting the man’s foot, Sam unwedged it from his boot, getting it free but causing the man to shout out in pain and fall into unconsciousness. Sam took off his coat and slid it over the man’s still body to keep it warm. That might keep the man alive for now. Because the blizzard was still raging, Sam decided not to venture back to the farm right away. He’d wait until the blizzard subsided to go for help. Until then, Stonehenge would protect them.

As he and the man lay against the huge, fallen stone, Sam remembered all that his father had taught him about Stonehenge. Supposedly, the Druids, a priestly class among the Celtic people, had built it. The Druids were also associated with magic, and some people believed that Stonehenge had healing powers.

Sam liked Stonehenge because there was always an air of mystery about the place and yet, at the same time, it was so peaceful. It made him feel like he was in the presence of something timeless, something that made his life insignificant in comparison. And when he stepped into the ring of stones, it was almost like stepping into a different world.

Then Sam looked up at the sky and the swirling snow. Although the temperature wasn’t rising, the blizzard seemed to have died down. It was time to get help.

“Stay with him,” Sam told the sheep. “Keep him warm.” Sam took one last look at Stonehenge and began to run.

This time the wind was on Sam’s side, blowing him along as he rushed toward Edenary Farm. If the sheep stayed near the man, and his foot didn’t bleed too much, he should stay alive long enough for Sam to get help.

*          *          *

Before Sam knew it, he was at the farmhouse. Hammering on the door, Sam panted for breath. The door was thrown open by his uncle, who stared at him coldly “Where have you been, boy, and where’s your coat?” Elizabeth and Jasper stood behind him, looking at Sam worriedly.

Sam gasped out his story, making it especially clear that the man needed help fast. After hearing everything, Uncle Daniel said, “This better not be some joke, Sam.”

Shepherd of Stonehenge riding a horse in the snow

“Did you see anyone round here, lad? He’s tall and has light hair”

“I wouldn’t joke about something like this!” Sam said, indignant. “Really, a man’s dying out there!”

That put Edenary into action. “Fine,” he replied grudgingly. “I’ll ride into town to get the doctor. You three hurry to the ‘henge with blankets and bandages. Let’s go!” He rushed off to the stables.

After a moment’s hesitation, Aunt Elizabeth, Jasper, and Sam began to gather up all the warm blankets and bandages they could find. Sam then led them over the hills toward Stonehenge. Jasper didn’t fully understand the situation, and complained most of the way there. Elizabeth looked nervous. Sam silently urged both of them on.

After about a quarter of an hour, they made it back to the man. He was still unconscious, but alive, with the sheep lying obediently beside him. Jasper gasped and turned away when he saw the blood soaking the cloud-white snow red. Aunt Elizabeth and Sam covered the man with blankets and bandaged his foot.

Before long, they spotted two men walking toward them. It was Uncle Daniel and Salibury’s doctor, Nathan Elms. The injured man had a chance, thought Sam.

Dr. Elms and Uncle Daniel carried the man back to the farm, where the doctor re-bandaged the blood-soaked foot. Other than that, the man only had a few minor scratches. He was still unconscious.

“A few days’ rest will have him good as new,” the doctor told the Edenarys. “Then we’ll find out who he is. Good thing you found him,” he said to Sam, “or he would have surely died from the cold.”

The injured man stayed at the farm, sleeping in the guest bed. He didn’t wake up at all for the first day. Dr. Elms said that it was nothing to worry about and that the man should wake up the next day. But on the next day something else happened.

In the middle of the morning, a tall man came riding to the farm from Salisbury. He said he was looking for a Sir James. “He’s the Duke of Quettenham, and I’m his butler,” the man explained to Sam, his aunt and uncle. “Sir James was out looking at Stonehenge when that bad blizzard hit. Did you see anyone round here, lad? He’s tall and has light hair.”

Sam looked at his uncle, who nodded.

Maybe Stonehenge really is magic, thought Sam.

Then he turned to the man.

“We found someone,” answered Sam. “I think you’d better come in.”

Shepherd of Stonehenge Casey Tolan

Casey Tolan, 13
Shorewood, Wisconsin

Shepherd of Stonehenge Anton Dymtchenko

Anton Dymtchenko, 13
Montreal, Canada

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2 Comments
 
  1. Stephanie Townea September 19, 2017 at 9:02 am Reply

    This is a beautiful story. Just enough details and suspense to hold ones interest.

  2. Lukas Cooke
    Lukas Cooke September 21, 2017 at 6:18 am Reply

    Nice story!

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