“This way,” she said, leading them over hills, dead leaves, twigs, branches, and trees. Snakes crawled away, and wild nimli-wips scurried away at the sight of the tax-collectors.
Within a cock-stride was the stone. She pointed directly at it, forgetting the promise she paid to a dying man.
“There is nothing here.”
“We have to wait for the light,” she said. They waited through the night, never batting an eye, or sleeping. They only watched her, as she lay her head down on her mother’s lap.
When the noon came, the light struck the stone. Anticipation welled up in them like a rising tide, but nothing appeared.
“Lying girl!” the tax collectors screamed. “This is nothing!” They descended upon her. She screamed and fought as they lifted their hands against her, striking her mercilessly against the stone which she thought would save her.
“Please, no!” her parents cried.
Suddenly everything was still. The tax collectors and her parents were frozen in their motions, like pictures or sculptures rather than people.
The trees did not rustle.
The wind did not blow.
The earth did not stir.
Only the sound of a horn from across the mountains singing its tonic major carried its way to her ears. She stood up and looked around her. The horn was calling for her.
“The wonder-horn,” she whispered to herself.
She turned to her parents, with tears cascading down her face. They spoke to her with their eyes, glistening with mournful anticipation and a single command:
“Run, Yillah, run”
And so she ran…