Chapter 43 - Lost Guardian
Six Years Ago
“Hey Tarro! Come here, I want to give you some food!” Aeyn said as she dangled a strawberry out from her hand.
“Why don’t you go to him, Aeyn? Tortoises are too slow, he’ll end up getting tired before he reaches the food,” Rhett said, laughing.
Aeyn walked up to Tarro and squatted down, her maroon hair blowing with the slight breeze as she placed the strawberries in front of his mouth. His neck stretched out from his shell and began taking chunks out of them. Aeyn patted the tortoise’s shell and stood back up, looking around the yard.
“I’m not sure you’re going to find Shelly. She’s been hiding all day. At least I haven’t been able to find her yet.” Rhett looked out at the vast yard. “Maybe she is hiding in the garden.”
Large yards were common in Ryont, the city where Rhett grew up. It had been normal to have large yards for the tortoises ever since this town was founded. Back then, families had many tortoises, believing the more they owned the more protected they would be. Their guardians would defend them against anything.
Rhett and Aeyn had had Tarro and Shelly since the day they were born, Tarro being Rhett’s guardian and Shelly being Aeyn’s. Rhett and Tarro were six years older than the other two.
Long ago it was custom to have two guardians per person. However, technology had come a long way since then, so a lot of mental and physical threats they now believed had a better chance at being treated without the aid of two guardians.
Rhett and Aeyn made sure to treat the tortoises with the utmost care. They grew up believing in the powers of guardians, and did all they could to bring good health upon themselves. They wanted to live a healthy and successful life, and to increase the chances of that, you needed to forge a bond with a guardian.
“Did you find Shelly?” Rhett asked while Aeyn scavenged through the garden.
“Not yet! Where could she be hiding? It’s not like her to do this, she usually comes stomping, even faster than Tarro! Even though that’s not very fast…”
“Yeah, it does seem odd.”
Rhett joined in the search across the vast yard. There could only be a few hiding places for such a big tortoise. He ran past the slide, chairs, and even the outdoor tables used for celebratory dinners, searching under everything. Shelly was nowhere to be seen.
“Rhett! I think she got out of the yard!” Aeyn said as she hopped down from the fence she had halfway climbed.
“How can that be?”
Their yard was fenced far too tall for any animal to escape. It was even hard for Aeyn to climb, although since Rhett had grown taller he had no problem jumping over it. He began to approach the fence and examined it. There were no signs of anything out of the ordinary.
“The ribbon I tied around her shell is right here!” Aeyn grabbed the ribbon off from the top of the fence and Rhett rushed over. “Do you think someone stole her…?” she asked, tears started to form at her eyes.
“Why would anyone steal someone’s guardian…? It’s so easy to adopt one of your own and go through a proper ceremony...” Rhett shook his head.
“Well where else did she go?! She couldn’t have just gone outside the gate on her own!” “Aeyn wrapped the ribbon that was damp with tears around her arm
Rhett jumped the fence and looked up and down the alleyway behind the house for any other clues, but there was nothing to be found. Just the usual narrow graveled roadway. In certain areas of the road, the gravel’s makeup could leave a footprint, but in that spot there were too many footprints to even tell one from another.
He turned his head in every direction, looking defeated. He hopped back over the fence and faced Aeyn. Tears dropped from her eyes one after another. Rhett felt more than sad, his anger took the forefront. Although, he was always able to hide his emotions in every situation. He approached her wearing a fake smile and placed his hand on Aeyn’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find her. I’ll go walk along Main Street and see if anyone else has seen anything. Tell Mom and Dad I’ll be back by supper.”
“Can I come with…?” Aeyn asked, sniffling.
“Mom and Dad will surely help you look, go tell them what happened. I just want a head start in case the thieves aren’t far from here.” Rhett jogged out of the yard and into his car.
Ryont was a small town with a population of two thousand. Even though it was small, it held some of the country’s biggest ceremonies. It was here in Ryont where all the stories of the guardian tortoises originated from, and in turn, many denizens took the culture seriously.
Even Rhett at age sixteen took it seriously. Tarro and Shelly might as well have been siblings to him. Just by looking at family photos anyone could tell how important their guardians were. They were always together. Rhett had heard of people outside of Kandorr would make fun of how they treated their tortoises like family. In some cases, Kandorrians did take it a bit too far, so he could understand it, but at the same time, it was justified. Guardians protected from all misfortunes.
Some of the locals would carry their smaller tortoises around in strollers. If he hadn’t grown up here, he would think it was extremely strange as well, but they believed tortoises wouldn’t grow up to be as great of guardians without such affection.
Even their Nimalstic Churches had statues of tortoises around them. Rhett grew up within the religion of Nimalism, but a more lax, lenient branch of it. The strict rules and procedures of Foundational Nimalism were starting to lose popularity, although there were still devout members that believed it was the only true way to live.
Tears dropped from Rhett’s face as he remembered Aeyn and Shelly being baptized together. Humans were often baptized alongside a tortoise to solidify the bonds between guardians and humans. Each person was blessed with their own guardian from a young age, usually from birth. Of course people could have more than one if they wanted to though. Rhett often wondered if any other countries practiced this part of Nimalism, but he figured they didn’t.