V woke more rested than she could ever remember, even when she had a home. There was smells of bacon and eggs and fresh breads coming past the curtain and her stomach growled. She put on her layers of clothes as she had nowhere to store them safely. She wore all the clothes she owned one on top of the other. She tried to finger comb her hair before she pulled back the curtain and wished the old man a good morning.
She found there was a plate set out for her already brimming with hot food and a cup of steaming tea beside it. The old man was in his rocking chair as if he had waited for her to rise. He nodded towards the food and mouth-watering she didn’t need a second prod she sat down and began to feast.
“Now, where was I?”
“The young man had saved the older man from the fire. He nothing to offer him as reward but a story if the young man would stay and hear it.” said V round a mouthful of crispy bacon.
“Yes, yes that’s where we were up to...” he smiled warmly at her, his eyes dancing amusement at her details.
The young man worried that it was getting late but the old man’s eyes pleaded with him to stay.
“Okay. I will stay and I will hear your story there is no one waiting for me back at the motel. The room is paid up the next three days.”
“That is good,” said the old man “This story is going to take a few days to complete but once you have heard this story your life will never be the same.”
The young man didn’t want to spend his last few days of holiday in the slums. Somewhere in a metal shack with a man he hardly knew. By now he wanted to hear this story that could change him forever. Though he still didn’t believe that part true, his curiosity was well and truly piqued. So he settled in his chair and waited for the old man to begin. The old man took his time waiting for everyone to leave. Each person who had come in and restocked, replaced, and added a few new things to his home a hearty thank you and kisses on the cheek. When the last one left he got them each a fresh cup of honey tea. Then he settled into his chair ready to tell his tale.
“Well” he began slowly as if choosing his words carefully.
“I was a young man just a little younger than you when a day like no other presented itself to me. The day was hot and I found myself in a small town bordered by a river. Harriotsville, if I remember rightly was its name. I had sales business in the area. I was walking out-of-town to the only bed and breakfast the town had and the walk took me by the river. In one of its quieter bends kids were hollering and splashing each other. Which wasn’t unusual for that type of day in that type of town. The water always beckons on hot days even the adults wish they were child enough to go play in its coolness. So I stood for a moment halting my walk and watched them splash and play. There was a little boy off by himself slowly going deeper and deeper into the river’s water. His pants rolled up as high as they would go and his knees were now under water. What must have been his sister called out to him and he tried to quickly turn around slipping on the muddy river bed. He fell into the running water and in seconds was being carried downstream. For a moment I was frozen by my fear for the young boy in the swirling water. Before adrenalin kicked in and I was running for the banks and diving into the water. The current was strong and the boy was splashing like a drowning man as I made my way towards him. The boy was going under, his head disappears beneath the muddy waters churn. I strike out harder trying to reach him or the spot I last saw him. By now I was water logged and had swallowed what felt like half the river myself but still I strove for the boy. He surfaced just in front of me choking on the water. I grabbed out for him as he went to go down again. I got him and pulled him up against me desperately working to keep both our heads above water. The boy now aware of me clung to me like I was his life line and he wouldn’t let go. I had to talk to him get him to let go of his legs that were wrapped round mine. So I could tread water and try to keep us a float. The river meanwhile treated us like unwanted passengers and pushing and shoving us further down the stream. Knowing I had to get us out I kicked out for the bank coming up a head. Relieved when I felt my shoed foot touched the surface and I dragged the kid and myself to safety. The kids meanwhile had sent one home to tell parents but the rest had followed us down the banks. They were cheering as we rose like one from the water. At that point I thought I would always remember that day but that was only the beginning of it all. A mere drop in the ocean of what was to come.
Once I had gotten my breath back, I checked on the boy and placed him in the recovery position. I held his head while he vomited up copious amounts of the river. A big man calling a name I couldn’t quite grasp was the first other adult on the scene. He scooped up the boy in his big strong arms. Two more adults appear and then it seems like the whole town itself had come down to the river banks. Two women took an arm each and led me wet and bedraggled back into the town. Right in front was the big man the child still cradled in his arms. I was led into a home whose owners I didn’t quite know and ushered into a cool cleansing shower. Before a new set of clothes was left outside the door for me to put on. Dressed and refreshed I cautiously left the bathroom and went in search of my hosts. I found them in the lounge room a big fire going in the hearth. The big man from earlier holds my rescued child in his arms, the child is asleep. I am ushered to a table. I seat myself and a bowl of broth is placed before me and a cup of tea waits beside it. Amazed I find myself so hungry I can’t remember the last time I ate. Digging in finding the broth superb, filling and washing it down with a tea I have never tasted before. A woman took the sleeping child off to bed and the man came to sit at the table.
“Thank you for saving my son,” said the man his eyes holding mine, a sincere depth to his gaze.
“I have something to give you but it comes with a story, will you stay and listen?” He asked me. “It is a story like no other and will change you down to your very soul”
Now at the time I didn’t believe him that it would change my life but I was willing to listen and accept it as a gracious gift. Maybe it was a story I could retell my family or my children if I ever had them. So I accepted his offer and settled in for a story.
“Now this is a story about ancient things and those that are their keeper.” He said baffling me.
“I must start at the beginning, though where this all began I don’t exactly know so let me tell you what I do know. Along time ago at the age of dawn where all things began. Man had newly learned about the stars, mathematics and other ways of seeing the future. That one lone man went out in the night and climbed the highest peak he could find. He had gone to communicate with the gods and found the highest place to do so. He was gone three days and three nights, others in his community were worrying for him and his absence. On the third morning the man was out there, there came a storm like no other, but the man refused to be moved by the weather. He kept his crossed legged position though rain, hail and even some snowflakes flowed down on him. The wind pulled at his clothes and snatched his words away before they even left his mouth. But the man prayed on calling out to the gods beseeching them to give him a sign, give him a purpose! Lest he throw himself from the mountain and come to the gods in death.
Now the Gods had listened to him. Impressed by his stubbornness and the sheer will power it took not to buckle under the earthly elements. Finally it was decided that he would be a keeper. A keeper of what you ask? A keeper of the ancient magic, ancient power, precious, precious beings know as the Beastlings.
So, though the rain and wind and sleet and snow buffeted him he kept on in his prayer. His call to the gods for a purpose or a sign. Then there came a beam of light that settled on him like a spotlight. Anyone seeing this, the man in the ray of light. Would have thought him a god, not a mere human being that he was. The man stilled his praying and looked up the spiral of light that shone on him. Suddenly before him was a red velvet pouch on the ground and a voice could be heard in his mind. It said,
“We give you these to keep safe, guard them with your life and use them well. Bring healing peace to those around you and strive to use the Beastling in ways that will enlighten the world. You must protect them at all costs for in the wrong hands they could unbalance the world. You will meet someone before your life is up who will show signs of being pure of heart and courageous. You will pass on the Beastlings to the next keeper along with the story. They shall be the keeper till it is their turn to pass them on. This is a sacred task we give you. The beastling are all powerful and need nothing from you but your love and protection. Use them wisely.”
Then the light upon him stopped and the storm continued around him. He reached out gingerly and picked up the small red pouch carefully. Then storing it in his robes, he began making his way back to the village.When he was alone in his cottage he pulled out the pouch again, and behind a locked door he opened the pouch. For a moment nothing happened but the man was willing to wait. It took about five minutes in the half lit room for three balls of light to appear out of the pouch. They begin to buzz round the room so fast he could hardly see them. One was red, one was blue and the last was purple. He waited for them to calm down and just followed them with his eyes. Catching glimpses of each one. All three were no bigger than his fist. The purple was a cat with a set of what could only be described as dragon wings. The blue was a horse with the wings of a bird. The red was an alligator with three sets of dragon-fly wings on its back.The three Beastlings buzzed his head checking him out and then proceeded to fly round his little one-roomed cottage. Getting into everything, books fell off the bookcase, nic nacs rattled, even the dishes in the sink were interesting to them too. The man just watched them waiting to see what would happen next. The purple one was first to fly down to the table and look him over.
“Hello,” he said quietly trying not to move or breathe too heavy lest he scare it.
“Hello,” it echoed back at him only barely above a whisper. It took a couple of steps closer to him, its tail held high. It seemed to look deep into his eyes as if gauging his soul. Satisfied it smiled a chesire cat smile let out a mewling sound like a strange purr. The man put his hand out and the little cat with dragon wings came to stand on it. The man lifted the little cat up to eye view. He realised though it had shape and substance to it, he could feel the weight of it in his hand, it was also see through. A pure energy being. Very slowly and gently the man lifted his other hand and with one finger caressed the cat’s back. Which brought about a very cat-like response, the purrs got louder and the cat arched its back in pleasure. The man put his hand down on the table and the cat got off. The other two had come down to settle on the table watching purple interact with the man. He left his hand where it was palm up hoping one of the others would take its place. The blue and red came forward and both tried to fit on his palm. He had to swallow a laugh as the blue one swung its horsey butt and knocked the red one off. The man brought his hand up to his eyes and studied the blue winged horse.
“Hello,” he said. The little horse was looking him over and like the first one caught his gaze. The little horse looked deep into his soul. It stamped a dainty front foot, well hoof I suppose is more accurate, and gave soft whiny shaking its head and throwing its mane. It didn’t speak like the first had but the man felt like he had been given its approval and lowered his hand back onto the table. The blue horse trotted off and the alligator with its three sets of dainty wings crawled on to his palm taking the blue ones place. For the third time the man lifted his palm up to his eyes and studied the tiny creature. All the while he was being changed, for to hold that much power and magic in your bare hands is to have it wash off on you. He would find out in the morning just how much things had changed for him. His dreams would come true now, his hands would heal, time could be slowed and speed up. These were just a few of the effects of holding the Beastlings. Doing it daily left a build up over time. Where one didn’t even have to have the Beastlings on them to perform magic it became part of the keeper’s soul. Each future keeper would have some different abilities but mostly the same. The man put the red Beastling back down on the table and simply sat and watched them and their antics. They buzzed him, they buzzed round the little cottage looking into anything and everything. They broke nothing but after while the red one began inspecting inside each cupboard. It simply flew through the door and then reappeared. It did the same to all the cupboards before Red as the man would call it, sprinkled some dust on the dishes that began to sparkle instantly. Then like a parade they lifted up out of the sink and half danced half flew into the now open door cupboards. Each thing going to its own given place. The man watched amused, amazed and fascinated. The purple cat was now rubbing itself against the kettle on the stove, steam and a delicious smell rose from its spout. The blue one was magically working a broom, in minutes his home was cleaner than ever before. There was a tea that tasted like no other and a pot with broth that filled him like nothing else. The three little beings, happy with themselves settled back on the table before him. He smiled at them saying,
The man tired from his days out in the wild weather and his sleepless nights of constant prayer. The more he ate and drank the more relaxed he became and his eyes began to close slowly at first, heavily at the end. The three Beastling watched him sleep for a while before they began to converse with each other before they flew one by one to snuggle in the man’s hair.
Now when he awoke in the morning he thought it all nought but a dream. Till he spied the red velvet pounce right where he had placed it, on the highest shelf he had. Looking round the room it was still as clean as it had ever been. There were no plates in the small sink & a delightful smell was wafting to his nose. So he rose, dressed and went and ate breakfast his eyes on the three Beastling scattered round his home. The man knew he needed to show his face in the village lest they worry he had died. So he asked the Beastlings if they wanted to go with him on his morning stroll? He got down the little pouch and offered them to ride in it. The man knew he had to protect the Beastlings and was keen to keep them close and not leave them in his cottage. He didn’t want to force them but hoped greatly that they would consent to come with him. The red flew in close and began to chatter at him.
“There are a few things you need to know, not only about how you have changed but about us. Being our keeper brings you changes deep in your soul, none can be round the magic and not be changed. Your hands and words will heal and shine light. Your dreams will come true, and after a while time itself will be yours to command, be it going slowly or ever so fast. Or even have it stand still while you move through it, but never backwards. Every person you touch will be blessed for the better. There is much you can do to keep good in balance while you are the keeper. It is now your duty to protect us at all costs. We cannot be killed but we can be enslaved in a way we cannot work our good magic, which might unbalance the world. So you see we are yours to command but also yours to protect. We can never be seen but for the new keeper whenever in your life should you meet them. Do you understand?” it finished. The man looked it in the face and nodded solemnly.
“I swear to protect you at all cost even into death. I swear to use your powers for good and good only. I swear to never let anyone see you but the next keeper whomever that may be? And willing give you over into the next keepers hands.” The three sat before him now and nodded their little heads accepting his oath. The blue spoke up for the first time and said.
“Be careful who you touch, and never ever be seen or attract attention. Evil has its own powers and would like nothing more than to capture us and never let us free. So again, use us but protect us.”
It gave a little whiny and trotted toward the pouch and out of sight. The red followed and the purple stopped gave him a smile and wink. Before they were all in the pouch and the man was ready to go. His precious cargo carefully tucked it into his robes. His trip into the village was like no other he had ever taken, even though he had walked the path every day. People came from everywhere happy to see him after his pilgrimage to talk with the gods. They wanted to know what the gods had said so the man said the gods had foretold good crops and good health for those that were ill. The people cheered and the man became the treasured elder of the village. They came to him for all sorts of things. He touched them and blessed them in the name of the gods and had them pray for three days for the answer. Not all got what they wanted but they all prospered and the village lived mainly in peace. Till one night the man had a dream and in that dream he saw a face he had never seen before and knew it was the new keeper. So, the man packed up his belongings and promising to return. He set out on a journey that finally brought him face to face with the man from his dreams. He watched the man for a few days from afar before fate brought them together. Some men tried to rob him by spear but the dream dweller stepped in and prevented it from happening. Risking his own life for the mans and in doing so proved he was the one. The dream dweller, as the man called him, invited him home and the story was passed on, as were the Beastlings.
“So, the progression of keepers went right up to this very moment when I tell you, V, that you are to be the new keeper.”