The old man stomps snow off his boots and turns his key in the lock, letting himself into his home.
The second the door closed and locked, he calls out.
“Okay out you come, it’s all okay,” taking off his coat, scarf and gloves. He turns up the low burning lantern and light fills the small one bedroom home.
“Come out, come out,” he said in a sing-song voice. In response there was a rattle from the old tea-pot that stood on the highest shelf in the kitchen lined wall. Then within a couple of seconds there was a buzzing round his head before they settled on the table before him. There were three what he called Beastlings, each a motley mix of winged animal. They were an ancient treasure to be protected at all costs passed from one holder to the next. It brought them luck, protection & magic.
The old man knows his time is near, he dreamt it last night. He is not afraid of dying but he is afraid that he hasn’t passed on the Beastlings to someone else’s keeping. Where was he going to find someone pure of heart and willing to do anything to protect them from the wrong hands? Even though he could feel the sickness growing stronger in him he walked the snow-covered streets, the busy market, but nowhere did he see anyone that met his needs. Each night he would go home exhausted and getting sicker, but the following morning he would go make the same pilgrimage. Searching each passer-by’s face for the eyes that would let him glimpse their soul. He would know it when he saw them but each passing day he grew steadily weaker. His dream had given him a week to live and that time was almost up. On the eve of his last day he was walking home alone feeling desolate, defeated, and he prayed again for the next keeper to be found. Instead of an answer his body seized up in the cold and he fell head first into the snow that lined the now empty streets. The old man found he couldn’t move, the snow surrounded him, his face was full of it. He knew if he didn’t move soon, he would die where he was & not tomorrow as dreamt. He prayed again that the keeper would show themselves before he died so he could pass on his precious cargo.