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The mountain range of Pyth was full of people. The people lived there because of the iron ore and the silver. Lena was there because she was married to the smith. Not just any smith. Mephisto the silver smith who lived in the largest village on the tallest mountain. Mephisto was there because his family had lived and worked at the bellows of that particular smiths forge for generations immemorable. The Bridge was there because the 499 steps to reach it started at the smith’s back door. Possibly the stairs were built to reach the bridge. No one was sure, not even Lena and no one knew more about the bridge than Lena. The bridge was why she had married the smith. Perhaps not all the reason. She also loved him. Not in the same way she loved the mystery of the bridge though. Mephisto had never voiced an issue with the arrangement so an issue had never arisen.

The rest of the village considered it a blight on Lena’s part particularly because the bridge went nowhere and was haunted. Some nights the sounds of hoof beats and foot steps echoed up the cliff from it.  The Bridge was built of white marble. Smooth and joint-less at every point where a seam in the stone ought to be. It jutted like a bone from a burn victim against the black granite north face of the mountain cliffs. Their was no foundation pillars nor ropes. There was no way to reach it from below and only the smiths stair above. It was wide enough to hold a four horse wagon in each direction and jutted 57 strides into air before it stopped as surely as if a chisel had cut it. From its perfect edge one could see for miles over the clouds of the valleys. If there had been one less mountain in the way Lena was certain she could have seen the plateaus of the northern tribesmen.

There were no legends to explain the bridge. It simply was. It had been always. No quake, avalanche, lightening strike, nor storm winds had ever moved or damaged it. You could stand on it in the middle of a summer thunderstorm and the bridge would never so much as tremble when it ought to have swayed, bucked, and all manner of other things that bridges do when under duress. Lena would spend days and nights at a time camped on the bridge fascinated by the beauty, perplexed by the gaping air that she felt at any moment could materialize into the solid white marble and suddenly lead to anywhere.

Actually, she was convinced this bridge could lead Everywhere. All the proof you needed was the sorts of things that washed up on the bridge.  Mostly it was bodies. Valley birds that she had never seen migrate over the mountains. Fish still wet with salty water. Once a bear. The bear was common to the Pyth, but the red fletched arrows of the Corianna plain people which pin cushioned it were not.

Lena was 15 by the time she had reached  the conclusion that the bridge to nowhere went everywhere. That was the year Mephisto asked Lena to marry him for the first time. By the time she said yes, 4 years and 6 proposals later, she was certain that the bridge wasn’t actually a bridge. It was the 500th step. The problem remained that whether stair or bridge why did it reach nowhere all the time and everywhere some of the time? And why was it so different from its 499 fellows on the mountain?

These answers escaped her until the birth of their 3rd child. The infant was still wet and screaming at the room for being forced out into a bigger and wilder world. Solidly one place in one breath then some place wholly other in the next. Lena understood that the 500th step was different because it was the threshold. Thresholds were usually filled with doors. Doors had drafts. You couldn’t reach everywhere from this side because you couldn’t reach the door from the bridge. Things made it onto the bridge because that door, where ever it was, was drafty.

She was certain the door was not on the bridge some years later after dropping many things off of its edge and always being able to find them later at the bottom. It was quite the hike, more so with the children in tow, so it wasn’t a quick experiment to determine. Eventually though, many painted boulders, weighted blankets, three stray cats, and one orphaned wild fawn later she was sure that simply stepping off  the bridge’s end would kill her. She did briefly consider pushing something more substantial off it to be sure, but the episode with the fawn horrified the children and so she had called that particular experiment to an end.

It would be a decade later, with her  first daughter married and her oldest two sons apprenticed to their father in the forge, before Lena would meet Vania. Vania appeared at their door step one day, grey streaks in her hair whispering the white lie of the womans youthful face, asking about white marble. Vania was from the Darathie canyons where copper and turquoise were mined and shaped at her brothers forges and hammers. She had lived her whole life under the shadow of a great marble door. The door was carved into the back wall of the cave where her brothers stored un-worked stone. It was missing its first step, its mantel, and its handle, but sometimes in the night you could hear it open and close again.

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