High on a hill lived Vrondil the shepherd and his sheepdog Vox. Vox was an ordinary sheepdog and Vrondil was an ordinary shepherd, except that he had no sheep.
Vox secretly believed that Vrondil really ought to have some sheep, being a shepherd and all and this was what Vrondil thought too. Of course he’d had sheep once – a whole lot of them. Big, beautiful sheep, with silky-white wool and bright blue eyes, which they used to scrutinise people, in ways that really a sheep shouldn’t.
And Vrondil tended his flock proudly, as had his father and his father’s father and a long line of fathers before that.
“Now Vrondil,” his father had told him on his death-bed. “Don’t you go losing any of them sheep.”
“They’re the finest sheep in the country. They’re the only sheep in the country! And they’ve been with our family since… whenever it was they came to us, from wherever it was they came.”
“And the villagers have always depended on their wool to keep them warm!”
“And if you lose the bloody things…”
“Everyone’ll die of hypothermia and it’ll be your fault!”
And Vrondil really did tend the flock well – herding them here and there, in the fields around the old stone well, at the bottom of the hill. And Vox helped. The sheep were very compliant and always seemed to end up wherever Vrondil wanted them, before he even knew he wanted them there.
And for many years this was pretty much the state of things.
But then climate-change happened and it all went to hell. The summers got hotter. The fields got dustier. The old stone well dried up and the sheep spent more and more time gathering around it, scrutinising.
And one morning, all of Vrondil’s nightmares came at once.
The sheep were gone.
Every last one.
Vrondil screamed! He ran down the hill and he ran round the hill, frantically calling them, in the special ways that shepherds do. And Vox helped.
But it was no use. Autumn passed into winter without a bleat and the light burned dimly in the little cottage on the hill. Several villagers died of hypothermia.
All-in-all, everything seemed hopeless. And one evening Vrondil drank himself silly, tripped over Vox and fell down the well, hurting is neck quite badly.
This troubled Vox – though not nearly as much as it troubled Vrondil, who wasn’t at all used to seeing the world backwards, from under his own armpit. Vox howled for many hours about how awfully everything had turned out for everyone. He then went back up the hill and had his supper.
The next morning, the sun came up, bringing light and insight to many things. Vrondil stared up at it and smiled – wondering how he was going to tell Vox of all that he had discovered – of the sheep droppings, the enchanted tunnel and of the lush green fields beyond.