What happens when The Keeper loses his words and leaves the Clan. Can his muse rescue him?
|The Keeper of the Word
The forest lay supine under the first thin snow blanket of the winter. The sky was clear and offered it’s jewels, the stars, for the admiration of men, beasts and spirits alike. This was not just any forest, it was the Great Wilderness. It reached from the foot of Cloud Mountain, the largest peak in the mountain range known as the Backbone, to the inland sea called Storm Waters by the humans for the many storms that seemed to continually froth it’s waters.
The Great Wilderness was home not only to beasts but to elves, fairies and dwarfs who worked the ground beneath it’s surface searching for gems and ore with which to work their craft. Humans were newcomers to this land and in spite of the occasional clash, the ancient races lived in peace with them.
In a small natural clearing, less than a mile from the foot of the great mountain, a light shone bright against the night sky. It was the campfire of Bleveod, Keeper of the Word of the Clan of the White Bear.
Bleveod sat on a fallen log, his arms folded, his legs stretched out before him and crossed at the ankles. He was staring into the fire, lost to the world around him. Letting his mind fly free, his eyes pierced the very heart of the flame, seeing each individual flicker of the fire.
He was “Mind Casting” as his father had taught him so many winters ago when he was a boy. In this manner Keepers, since the dawn of time, had freed their minds to travel out into the void and capture stories for the tribe.
He had been sitting in this position for over an hour without moving, like a statue of flesh and bone. Suddenly, with a snap of his head, he came back. It was no use, no matter how hard he tried, nothing came to him. Bleveod’s head sank into his hands and he released a great sigh; It is true, he thought, I am empty of the word.
The Keeper had departed from his clan two moons ago promising himself he would not return until the power of the word came back to him. There had always been Keepers of the word in his clan. It was to these men that fell the responsibility of keeping alive the history of the People.
Bleveod had taken the mantel of Keeper from his father on the elder’s deathbed. His father had taken it from his father and so on back to the very beginning of the Clan, when the Great Father had formed them with his own hand and set them in the land of the White Bear.
Bleveod had been seventeen summers old and already a grown man when he had become the Keeper, but it was a role he had prepared his whole life for. Each night the clan would gather around the communal fire in the center of the camp. Bleveod would sit in their midst and relate the stories that told their past. Each of these were told in the order of their happening and never varied. After these stories were delivered then the Keeper was free to tell HIS stories.
Every night there would be a new story. Sometimes it would be a rousing adventure and at other times a tender love story. Some times Bleveod would tell a story that had the whole clan laughing and clapping their hands as they begged him for “Just one more story!”
And thus the seasons had passed, and they were seasons of happiness for Bleveod and the Clan. A time of plenty for the hunters of the Clan as they moved ever Southward in their roaming. Aside from Bleveod’s failure to take a mate and sire a son to take over for him one day, these were wonderful times for him.
Then came the fateful night two moons ago when the Clan had gathered for the hearing of the Words. After the old stories were told it was time for Bleveod to tell a story of his own and he had none to tell!
It had come as a shock to him as he sat there before the roaring Clan fire with all his Clan about him when he realized he had nothing more to tell them. The clan stood in silence, waiting for him to begin but to no avail. There was no story in him and he could but sit in stony silence. The clan had broken up finally and moved off to their huts, each saddened and confused by the failure of their Keeper to weave the words.
That same night the Keeper made his silent exit from the clan. Taking only what he could carry on his back, he trudged out of the sleeping camp and headed North. His mind was in a daze at his failure and he knew that unless he found the power again, he would not be welcome back to the Clan. What good is a Keeper of the Word when he had no words to give his people.
He had walked steadily Northward, head bent against the wind and eyes stinging with tears of frustration. He had vowed to find his power again, or die.
That had been two moons ago and now he sat before the fire and knew in his heart of hearts that his search was futile. His power to make stories out of thin air had fled him and he was no longer a Keeper of the Word.
Bleveod’s craggy face twisted in a scowl as he tossed another small limb on the fire. As the flame leapt up to consume this new fuel, there came suddenly a strong wind from out of the forest.
His long white hair and beard whipping from the hand of the unseen wind, Bleveod stood and moved away from the fire. He was curious about this sudden wind that had blown up from a clear sky.
As Bleveod moved away from the fire, he was swallowed by the encircling darkness of the night. The powerful wind died as suddenly as it had begun and Bleveod noticed at once, the deathly silence which followed. No night creature stirred as if all were held in anticipation of something about to arrive.
“Elves,” Bleveod muttered under his breath, “or mayhaps a dwarf from the under world.”
His heart began to beat with excitement as he considered meeting one of these shy folks here in the great forest. Though he stood in plain sight and very still so as not to give the impression of a threat, nothing happened. No figure stepped forth to be recognized by the old man.
Finally Bleveod relented and moved back to sit at the fire. He no sooner sat down when he saw it. A sphere of light no bigger than a clinched fist came out of the forest and hovered just out of the ring of firelight. He held his breath in surprise as his eyes caught sight of the light. It danced about the night air in a graceful pattern as if keeping time with some unheard music on the wind.
“Fairy.” Bleveod breathed the word reverently. His grandfather had told of them and had told stories his father had told him. But never did Bleveod believe that he would ever see one, for it was well known what shy and elusive creatures they were.
As if in answer to that one spoken word, the ball of light came forward until it was dancing right before the old man’s face. Finally all movement stopped and the light began to grow and grow until it was human size then it died out as if quenched by water. In it’s place, there stood the most beautiful young woman Bleveod had ever seen.
In height she measured almost to his chin. Her hair, which cascaded down past her shoulders almost to her waist, was the color of honey with red flecked throughout. Her eyes were not quite green nor blue but some startling mixture of the two and stared at him with a soft and knowing look that seemed to engulf and hold him prisoner. She wore a long gown of some flimsy material which Bleveod, in his muddled state could not identify. It clung to her supple body like a second skin. The dress was shaded dark in just enough places to insure modesty but left little else to the imagination of any who might see.
“Bleveod, Keeper of the Word of the Clan of the White bear,” her voice was as pleasing and soft as honey on the tongue of a starving man. “I am glad I finally found you, I have searched the forest over for you.”
This statement seemed to break the trance in which Bleveod had fallen. He turned his back on the fairy woman and walked back to the fire and took his seat.
“Keeper no longer fair lady.” His voice carried a bitter tone. He turned his head back to where she stood and continued. “Now I am just an old man waiting to die. Why have you come for one such as I?”
She came slowly to where he sat and sank down on her knees at his side. Laying both hands on his leg she looked up into his face and spoke again.
“Oh you silly man.” Her voice was soft and carried no rebuke. “You are now and will always be: The Keeper of the Word”.
Bleveod stiffened at this and snapped at her. “Don’t you understand? There are no stories left in me. I am dried up and useless to my tribe. The Keeper is the Keeper no more and it is time for another.”
Reaching down, the Fairy took hold of his hand and held it in both of her small hands. “My name is Tessa of the Wood Fairies” She spoke softly and earnestly. “I came looking for you because your heart called out to me in need. Come Bleveod, tell me your stories.”
He stared at her in disbelief. Could she be serious, he thought. How could he possibly...
Then, as if controlled by some outside force he begin to speak. He began to tell her the stories of his clan’s past. How they came into being and how, the legends tell, they began their great trek southward to find the special place where they would make a permanent home.
As the old stories began to spill out of him she never took her eyes off his face. A small smile played upon her full soft lips and she seemed to be urging him on with her rapt attention. Tessa would gasp at each adventure he told and cheer for the hero. She wept when he told of the travails and dangers of the great journey as if she too was there along side those long- dead trekkers.
Finally, he was finished with the old stories and he lapsed into silence. “Oh Bleveod those were wonderful.” She sighed. “But what about a new story? Weave me a world with your words please.” Her voice carried such a note of entreaty that he was touched.
“Ah fair maiden.” He shook his head sadly. “Would that I could, but don’t you see, I am lost to that art. There are no more stories to be had from me.”
Slowly Tessa reached up and took his face in both her hands and softly she kissed his lips. The kiss was long and deep and more powerful the longer it lasted and when their lips parted Bleveod could scarcely breathe.
He stared into the deep pools of her eyes and knew with a shock that for the first time in his life, he was in love.
Tessa resumed her seat at his feet and waited, watching him intently, silently. The silence lasted for long minutes, each staring into the eyes of the other.
Then, like a dam bursting and setting free a torrent of pent up river, Bleveod began to speak. He told NEW STORIES. One after another they spilled off his tongue and he talked for hours as Tessa laughed and cried and applauded each one in turn, never tiring of the sound of his voice as he told the stories.
At last, when they were done the two of them, fairy and man, fell into each other’s arms and found joy there beside the fire that never died. Just before the sun arose, Tessa, who lay nestled at Bleveod’s side leaned close to his ear and whispered softly and he dropped into a deep sleep.
When Bleveod awoke the sun was high, and he was alone. Tessa was gone. He stood for a moment and looked around the camp. He stared at the fire that by some magic, still burned as if to insure himself he had not dreamed the whole affair. Then, making up his mind silently, without uttering a word, Bleveod gathered up his few belongings and strode off with a purpose and a strong stride heading SOUTH.
He walked directly through the deep forest of the Great Wilderness and to his surprise, he was greeted all along the way by the Elves of the forest and the Dwarfs who came out of hiding and showed themselves.
“HAIL BLEVEOD!” They shouted as he passed them. “KEEPER OF THE WORD OF THE CLAN OF THE WHITE BEAR!”
He raised his hand in salute to these magical folk but looked neither left nor right as he marched forward, his step lively like that of a much younger man. In fact, had he been able to see his reflection, he would have seen that many years seemed to have melted from him. His hair and beard were no longer white but a soft brown with just a touch here and there of gray.
Bleveod’s path was cleared before him as he walked. No log lay in his path. It was as if a broad road had been lain there in that wild wood just for him. No river slowed him down for when he came to them he simply walked over them as if it was only natural. He gave no thought to it, so intent he was in reaching his destination.
At last he came to the end of his journey. The camp of his Clan lay in the small valley just ahead of him. He walked purposely toward the great fire that burned there. It was night and the clan would be gathered for the new Keeper to tell them stories.
He burst upon them like a winter storm and, laying hands on his onetime apprentice, lifted him off the Keeper’s seat and sat him gently down next to it. Taking his old seat amid the shocked gasps of the clan he said simply. “I am back and I have the Words.”
They all crowded about him crying his name and he calmly began to talk. He told them new stories. All through the night he talked and all through the night they listened raptly. At last, just before the break of a new day, he told them of the Fairy and he told them that he had seen the final home of the Clan. The clearing where he had met the Fairy. He told them that now he would be the Keeper of the Word not only for the clan but also for the Elves and Dwarfs and Fairies as well!
As the rest of the Clan made ready to break camp and head for their new home, Bleveod rested there by the remains of the fire. As he stared off in the distance over the dying embers, he once more saw the small dancing ball of light and he smiled. He remembered what Tessa had whispered to him just before sleep had taken him that night.
He was to be the Keeper of the Word for all creatures of the world and, after his time was truly done here, she would be back. She would take him to a faraway place where fairies and Elves and Dwarfs go when they leave this earth and she would be with him there forever, just the two of them, with their love.
“Until then my Tessa.” He whispered. “The Keeper of my Heart.”