“On a stony bluff looking over the sea.”
I had read great-great-grandfather Irving’s words so many times, I knew them by heart. When I closed my eyes, I could see the ancestral home set up over the crashing waves. I didn’t really expect the house to still be standing after more than a century, but I could dream.
The world had changed with generations of warfare. Great floods had shifted the course of rivers and deep draughts had made once fertile lands barren.
Reading Irving’s diary, trying to retrace his steps in reverse, was not an easy task, particularly at the beginning, but I soon got the knack of it. A silhouette of a hill matched his drawing here, the jagged outcropping of ruins over there matched the location of an old city he had passed through. It got easier and as we approached the sea, the changes grew fewer.
It was about resources, as I’m sure all such things must be. The weather had betrayed us and everything grew scarce. A single person had food for ten thousand while a town of ten thousand starved on the food barely enough for a single person. Ancient animosities rose again. There had been a period of unification, when nations came together as one, but it was followed by a period of division, where splits occurred once again.
And then the wars started.
We had been traveling for a long time. From the very beginning we knew that our prospects were bleak. The landscape was mostly barren. I was told millions had once lived here, while now we wearily avoided the small bands of locals.
That was my hope. Great-great-grandfather Irving grew up in a remote area. With the population so much smaller than it was back then, I had hoped that nobody would be around and that we could reclaim the land. It was ours, and shall be again.
As we traveled, more and more of the landscape met Irving’s descriptions. We were close! I could feel it. I could smell the salt air I knew we had reached the ocean.
We crossed a small rise and there it was, beyond my imagination, the great sea.
It didn’t take long to locate the ruins of the house, but here Irving’s description broke down. He had talked about the cold ocean waves beating a hundred feet below the house. I found the warm waters lapping around the ruins. Was the end of our road a dead end?
I turned around and looked back at the Clan, all people who called Irving “The Patriarch”. I thought of the miles of barren wasteland behind them, the bleak days off too little. They had followed me to this spot believing in my vision. The believed me when I told them that I knew of a place where we could be free.
I could see them eyeing me, nervously shuffling their feet.
I held the diary aloft and smiled.
“We are here,” I said.
For a breathless moment they all just stared at me. But then they relaxed and put gear down. Everyone talked at ones, the air was full of excitement. The pointed and planned.
I knew that with their belief we could make it, that they would scratch out a living in the bleak landscape.
I knew that we had found out new home.
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