Once upon a time, in the Land of Milknhunnie, a man strolled alongside a country road, his walking stick keeping time with the heartbeat of the land. A gentle breeze stirred the brim of his aged hat, exchanging waves with the tall grasses as the man walked past.
Ordinary folk, who only look at surfaces of people and things, wouldn’t notice anything unusual. They wouldn’t see the multiple shadows cast by the seemingly solitary walker; small shadows, tall shadows, dancing shadows, flying shadows.
A soft groan sounded in the distance, producing a furrow in the man’s brow, and causing his eyes to darken. His pace picked up as indigo deepened on the horizon, signaling the sun’s descent. He looked forward to the warm fire, and hot meal waiting for him when he reached his destination.
His feet vibrated as a canyon in the east began splitting apart, then multiplying. His shadows became more animated, and the beans in his jacket pocket mumbled.
“Speak up!” he commanded.
Spontaneous sprouts of phosphorescent green, curling tendrils slid upwards out of his pocket, continuing their journey up the back of his canvas jacket until they reached the base of his neck. Entwined, leaves whispered in his ear.
The top of a smokestack appeared above the ridge; a sign he was very close.
The entirety of his life had been spent traversing the land, beginning with a baby’s view from inside his mother’s backpack, where she tucked him in each morning. Over the years, she introduced him to knowledge offered freely from all life forms (including shape shifting creatures, and those not seen with the physical eye).
What he knew of his father came from his mother’s stories; colorful, fanciful tales, which never quite provided specific details, such as his father’s name, or where his father had lived, or how he and the storyteller’s mother had met. But, there was a joyful radiance when she spoke of him, so he knew there had been great love, and that was enough for him.
The seeds of curiosity his mother had planted within him did not stop after leaving his childhood home. He chose the life of a storyteller, so he could not only continue learning, but to also share his knowledge with others; integrating tales of wonder, delight, and, periodically, news of the day.
When word would reach communities of his impending arrival, those wishing his services would leave messages at taverns, churches, or town halls. Sometimes, he would come upon colored strings tied in bows on branches of trees or bushes.
Everyone enjoys stories. He received requests from royal families, teachers, spiritual leaders, farmers, and even traveling salesmen, who you’d think would have enough stories of their own!
This visit was different, though. This one served a specific purpose, and he wasn’t sure he was prepared for it, after all these years. He found himself hesitating before knocking on the cheerful blue door. His ruminations, however, were interrupted by a boy at the window, nose flattened against the glass: “He’s here! He’s here!”
The door opened, and welcoming smiles guided him to a comfortable fireside chair. After he had removed his rucksack, hat and jacket, leaned his walking stick against the stone fireplace, he sat down, and a cup of homemade soup and freshly baked bread was handed to him. As the heat from the hearth warmed his old, cold bones, the liquid relaxed his muscles, and he settled into the home’s peaceful, loving essence.
After finishing his meal, and exchanging pleasantries, the storyteller began his tale.
“The clock maker was commissioned by the town mayor to build a clock with a foundation made of river rocks and copper from the mines. They would represent the interconnection of the townspeople and the earth’s energy. He asked for images of the sun, moon, and stars to be painted on the face of the clock to reflect the energy of the heavens. And, last, he asked that the chimes of the clock be grand enough to be heard for miles; a tone so rich and deep that towns for miles around could hear it.
“The clock maker considered the request, and agreed, but, upon one condition. If the sound of the chimes were to carry for miles, mightn’t there be a secondary purpose for it as well, such as sounding an alarm of warning.
“Grasping the gravity of the clock maker’s condition, the mayor hung his head. Visiting travelers had been carrying news of a great ogre creating a reign of terror in his wake. The ogre’s voice resonated with the darkness, causing distress, pain, and death amongst all creatures, large and small. Ogres are like cats you see, in that they have many lives, so they can continue soiling the land in so many dreadful, tragic ways.”
“What was his name?” the boy asked the storyteller, for he had an inherent curiosity.
The storyteller replied, “Trumporff.”
The ground beneath their feet trembled, and his hosts exchanged worried glances.
“The clock maker not only built the town clock,” he continued, “but he also secretly built magical clocks small enough to fit in a pocket. He gifted them to storytellers whom he trusted to raise awareness of eminent danger; alerting people to rise up, speak up, and take action. As you know, darkness cannot survive in the light.”
A flock of birds screamed as they flew over the home, and the storyteller’s hosts became more concerned, except the boy, who listened intently. The storyteller focused his attention on him.
“The storytellers’ clocks had a unique chime when danger was approaching – a whistle; the type of whistle a boy might use when calling his dog. No matter how far the storytellers would roam, the little clock’s chime would let them know there was danger, and to warn those they passed to rise up, speak up, and take action.
“Naturally, over time, the storytellers grew old, and had to decide who would take their place after they died. You see, their replacements needed to be very special indeed. They needed the ability to listen well, see what others did not, and share wisdom and guidance gathered from their travels.”
Suddenly, the room filled with a muffled whistle, and a hush fell.
The storyteller withdrew a miniature clock from his rucksack. The clock face had yellowed over the years, but the hands continued to move. It whistled again.
“When one knows of danger to himself and others, but does nothing,” said the storyteller, “an ogre’s power grows. However, even the smallest step taken can diminish that power.”
After a few moments of silence, save for fire crackle, the storyteller quietly stood, put on his hat and jacket, and gathered his walking stick and rucksack. He thanked his hosts for their hospitality who, rather stunned, finally stood, shook his hand, and wished him well on his travels.
The storyteller opened the door, and stepped out into the moonlit evening. The boy leaped up, and followed him outside. After a few strides, the storyteller stopped, and turned towards the boy, looking into bright eyes mirroring the ancient soul beneath. Cat tails in a nearby pond purred. Yes, the storyteller thought, he will do.
He glanced around the property of the home until he found the perfect spot. He crooked his finger at the boy, gesturing him to follow, which he did.
The boy watched as the storyteller dug a rough-sized hole with his bare hands, then pulled the green (now coiled) tendrils from his pocket, and planted them. With a satisfied nod, the storyteller brushed off his hands, stood up, and walked away, without another word, or a backwards glance.
Under the spotlight of the full moon, the boy’s eyes grew large as he saw green sprouts forming on the storyteller’s walking stick. How is that possible, he wondered. If that wasn’t amazing enough, he saw that the storyteller cast multiple moon shadows of dancing and flying silhouettes.
The boy quickly peeked over his shoulder to look at his own shadow. Did he just see a small shadow fly in circles? No way. There was one crawling … and one waving … What? He turned back around to catch a last glimpse of the storyteller, but he had already crossed over the next hill, glittering footprints briefly marking his path. The light in the boy’s eyes grew ever brighter, as did his wide, effervescent smile. He ran into the house, excited to talk with his parents about what they could do to dim the ogre’s power.
And, the land lived happily ever after.