There was one road, between the villages and the Town.
There were paths, and cart routes, and packed-dirt trails wending back and forth through the areas that was called, by the townsfolk, “the villages,” and by the villagers a hundred different names, depending in which particular clump of houses you were standing. There were small streets going crosswise through the bigger villages, and the well-beaten paths that went down to the River.
But there was one road, one thing smoothed and graded and wide, and it made its way through the Town and out to the Villages, one long chain holding them all together, and it was called Silver Road.
Newcomers to the town, those from bigger towns and cities further down the mountains, perhaps, or those from other areas, thought, generally, that the road was called that, poetically, because of the greyish silver color of the stone used to pave the more-traveled areas, or because it had cost, as some of the Townsfolk joked, buckets and buckets of silver to build it. But the villagers, the older ones, at least, the ones who told tales by the fireside, they remembered the truth.
“There was no Town,” they would say. “Not in my grandmother’s time. There was a village there, of course; it’s a prime spot, by the place that the River splits, and the road comes up around the pass. But then they built the factory, and the workshops. And when that happened, they needed…”
They never wanted to say it, so they said other things, and their children and grandchildren didn’t like those either, so that what the Town and the workshops had needed originally was lost in generations of guilt and squeamishness.
“…they needed stuff from the Villages. Food. Labor. But the small farmers and the small craftsmen didn’t want to give up their lives to go into the Town. They didn’t want to deal with the smoke and the dirtiness of the factories. So they kept destroying the road, flooding it out, digging ditches through it.
“It got so every month, the Town people would have to rebuild the road, and they were getting really, really irritated. And when you irritate the Town, they make you pay, they do.”
Everyone knew that. Everyone knew the prices paid when the Town was too irritated.
“So they built their road again, with…”
Nobody wanted to say it. But they all said it, because it was the truth.
“…with blood, unicorn and human. The blood ran silver, the way it does, you know.”
They all knew, or they’d all heard. When Unicorn and human touched that way… yes. It ran like moonlight, like mercury. Like silver.
“and it stained the road, and the land under it. It stained all of us, Town and Villages alike, and still does, to this day.
“And it chained us together, villages and towns. It’s silver with blood, the Silver road, and silver like a chain, because that’s what it is – our lifeblood, and our prison.”
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