Cards featured: The Grandfather
Keeper of Dreams
Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a lonely old man. He was a gentle soul, and always had great wisdom to share, but there always seemed to be a weariness lurking in his eyes, like he's carrying some invisible burden. He had been alone for most of his life, only knowing a brief time of true happiness. He had loved only one woman, long ago, and he yearned to see her again every waking moment. He had known true bliss with her, and back then he felt like it would last forever. But it was not to be. Two years after they were married, she bore him a son. It was the happiest day of his life, but that joy shattered the very next day, when he lost his sweetheart suddenly and without warning. Giving birth had taken its toll and ultimately it claimed her. But even in his darkest despair, he nurtured his newborn son and treasured him beyond all else. Not only because he was his son, but also because he was all he had left of his lost love. As the years went by, the boy grew up well, but he always sensed that dark corner in his father's heart that could never be healed. All too soon, the boy had become a man, and ventured out into the world seeking his fortune, as they must. But he always made sure to come home for his birthday. A time that they would celebrate, and then mourn, equally, and be there for one another.
One day, the son came home with a fair maiden on his arm. She was as beautiful as a spring day, and lit up the room when she entered. The old man could sense that there was something different about her. She was unlike any other woman he had known, and seemed to have woven a spell over his son. He could sense no malice though. She was just… enchanting, in so many ways. Soon, she became part of their little family, bringing joy and hope to them all. They would often spend a day together, letting go of the cares of the day to day living. She would sit and listen to the old man's tales, regarding him thoughtfully as if pondering something beyond his words, basking in the magic of his wisdom as he wove tales beyond imagining.
She was blessed with twins, early in their marriage, and once again he felt blessed joy, the joy of being a Grandfather. Sadly though, more and more often they found that they weren't able to meet as often as they used to, and the old man found himself missing them terribly. With every year, the old man's loneliness grew, and he would reminisce more often about his lost love. He had never forgotten her, but with his family around him, the sharp pain of her loss had been dulled to a bearable ache. Now it was back.
One day, a day like most others. He was in his garden tending to his beloved roses, when he could hear a knock on the door. He rushed into the house, forgetting to brush off his shoes - he cursed himself silently for this - and bolted for the door to greet his unexpected guest. As he opened the door, he was startled to find a woman, so dazzlingly beautiful, he was completely stunned by her presence. He had no idea who she was, but there was something about her that was vaguely familiar. He just could not quite figure out what it was. Like a mirage in the desert, it always seemed just out of reach. After a moment of stunned silence, he greeted her and invited her inside. All the while, trying to figure out why he felt he knew her, and also what could possibly have brought her to his door. Then…
He woke up…
In his bed, with the afternoon rays spilling in through the window. He looked about him in a confused panic! What had happened? Wasn’t he just… His mind tried desperately to connect the fragments of his memory. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't figure out whether he had just dreamt of the mysterious stranger, or if she had actually been there. He decided he would go about his day and see if anything jogged his memory.
The day itself was uneventful, but he did find out that two days had disappeared from his consciousness. It was incomprehensible. What on earth could have made him forget two whole days? He found out later that night. Indirectly… As he put his head down on his pillow, it felt like a great weight was pulling at him, like an anchor keeping him solidly connected to the bed, the floor, the earth beneath him. He felt himself sinking into oblivion, but the destination was different. Instead of dreaming as he normally did, he felt the odd sensation of being separated from his body. Even though his body was heavy and motionless, he was floating. Drifting up higher and higher, leaving the husk behind.
He looked around him, bewildered and tried to focus on his surroundings. He was flying above the landscape, silently and with great speed. He looked down and was surprised to see that he was seated on, what looked like, a magic carpet. He could now see beautiful gold sparkling light shimmering around it, and… come to think of it… around him. He looked at his hand quizzically and found that it too was glowing all over which made it look yellow. It didn't even really look like his hand. It seemed smaller somehow. He looked down at his body, and gasped loudly. He was at least a third of the size he was expecting to be. And he was wearing the strangest green ‘outfit’, including the most hideous long pointy shoes. He felt something heavy on his lap, and discovered a treasure chest. One that was firmly locked. His mind was reeling at the absurdity of it all. This was turning out to be a crazy dream! Unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
Suddenly he became aware of the carpet slowing down, and it was heading up into the clouds now. Soon they had broken through the layer of clouds, and he gasped again. This time in wonder. Before him, on a cloud, was a tall glistening tower. It had a pearlescent glow in the moonlight and the stars seemed to literally flock around the upper spire. As if drawn to an irresistible magnetic force. ‘And I'm being drawn in by that same force’ he thought dismally. The carpet flew through an enormous window and slowly settled down on the lush carpet upon the floor. The old man looked about him in awe… There were thousands of candles floating up in the rafters. He blinked, twice, to make sure his eyes were seeing clearly. The room looked like a throne room of some sorts, and yet, not. He was having a hard time piecing things together in his mind. The furnishings were lush, made of luxurious purple and blue fabric, and there seemed to be stars everywhere. Almost like the stars outside were projecting their light into the room. There were also lots of plants. Greenery of all sorts covered the room, and vines crept up the walls onto the ceiling. His eyes glinted with joy and appreciation at the sight, for he always loved the earth and all things that sprang from it.
Finally, after taking this all in, his eyes settled on the figure that had emerged from the door in the far corner. She had done so without him even noticing. Now that his eyes were upon her though, he could not imagine how. She was a vision of beauty and grace. The tips of her long auburn hair gently brushing the floor, along with her flowing dark blue gown. He instantly recognised her as the lady who had visited him days before. And there was still the trace of that ‘I know her from somewhere’ that he was not able to place.
He stepped off the carpet and put down the treasure chest in front of him, and approached her. Acutely aware of his lack of stature in this new form. He resisted the urge to launch into a tirade of exasperated questions and demands, and he politely greeted her with a slight bow, and "Hello again… My Lady", realising two things at once. Firstly, he couldn’t help sounding rather bitter, regretting the unintentional tone, and secondly, rather alarmingly, he was surprised and the high pitch of his voice, which probably rendered the first observation mute, since he would’ve sounded quite comical. She peered down at him through long thick lashes with a hint of a kind, gentle smile. He looked up into her eyes and got lost in the depths of their azure blue. She then gestured for him to take a seat on a large cusion nearby, while she settled into her own ornate chair, then she started talking…
"I imagine you have so many questions whirling around in your head right now, so please let me explain. I’ll try to keep it brief, as there is much to be done. We have a connection that you are unaware of… in fact, we are family. His eyes widened, but he kept silent. Respectfully waiting for her to continue. Your son married my daughter! She wanted to explore the realm below, and they found one another quite by chance… or, as I would like to think, fate intervened. I am delighted with the union, he is a kind, and gentle, yet strong soul and I suspect we have you to thank for that. I’ve not seen my daughter for a while, but whenever I do, seh would tell me about you and your stories. Relating to me the depths of your wisdom and ability to weave words, creating worlds for an instant. This is a powerful gift you have, which is why I chose you. There are many wonderous things that eist beyond time and space, and as an Enchantress, I have a solemn duty, and honour to be it’s protector. And now, I need your help. Every 100 years, we appoint a new Keeper of Dreams. The Keeper is one of the most important beings in this realm and yours. You gather and protect peoples hopes and dreams. You add life to them, giving them the breath of life so that the seeds of these dreams can be nurtured until they grow into fruition. These dreams are delicate, so your task is to use your magic to strengthen the weak spots and help them bloom. As the Keeper you will exist outside of time, so I am able to grant you any wish as a reward for your service. The remainder of your life will be your sacrifice, but there is much more to be gained. This may sound absurd, and quite harsh, but you will see. I will give you this night to try on the mantle of Keeper and make your decision."
The old man was speechless. He just semi-silently nodded (he hadn’t realised that he was wearing a hat with a bell!). She smiled at him, and started explaining what the Keeper does, and how.
So, when she had finished, she summoned the carpet, and he hopped on. She wished him good luck as she handed him the Chest of Dreams. That whole night he visited children and adults alike, hovering over their beds, watching through the thin veil of realms as they played out, and started leaving their minds. Before they could dissapate, he used his magic to absorb them into his chest for safekeeping. He was not prepared for the effect they would have on him. He would gaze in wonder at their creation, and their emotions seeped into his core. He was grateful for the veil betweeen them. At times he would be sobbing or laughing, or sighing. The happiness permeated his whole being, and it was magical to behold.
As dawn approached, the carpet started it’s journey back to the tower, and he started contemplating the decision that lay before him. The choices were simple. Either go back to the way he was and live the rest of his life as a lonely old man, having forgotten what happen to him this night. Or he can leave it all behind, and fulfill his role as a magical caretaker of precious dreams. He thought about what his son would say, and a smile started forming on his face. By the time they reached the castle, his decision was cast in stone. And although he was sad to be leaving his family behind, he knew that he would be able to watch over them for as long as they lived AND watch over the twins as long as they lived. This thought transformed his smile into a beaming grin. What a wonderful blessing he had just received.
The Lady was happy to hear of his decision too, though she did not seem surprised. "Ok then" she said. You will have a month to say your goodbyes, and put all your affairs in order, and you may only tell your son about it. My daughter already knows of my plan, so she will be able to reassure him.’ She paused… thinking to herslf ‘Though I imagine that will bring up a new set of things to deal with. But I know the two of them are destined to be together, and I feel that this will strengthen their bond even more.’ The old man nodded in agreement. Now there is one final matter to address. What is your deepest wish? Feeling a blush come to his cheeks he whispered his heart’s desire into her ear, as if saying it out loud would shatter it before she could hear it. She nodded, and said in a musical whisper "And so it shall be…"
That was many, many moons ago, and the old man has seen the cycle of life bloom and die, for many generations of the people he watched over. He still had that perpetual smile on his face. His life had been more magical than he could have ever hoped for, but now the century was coming to an end. He felt a tinge of sadness start to inch towards his heart, but he pushed it aside. He knew what was coming. And he couldn’t wait!
At dawn on the final day, he turned to greet the rising sun, from the balcony of the tower. He could hear the Enchantress approaching with a soft rustle. "It is time" she said. "I will miss your company, and your smile, but I thank you dear Keeper of Dreams, for keeping so many dreams safe, and sharing them again, in perfect timing." She bent down and planted a light kiss on his glowing yellow cheek, and for a brief moment, the glow turned orange. Then she brought out a beautiful ornate mirror and asked him to look at his reflection. He no longer jolted at the sight of his yellow face - which took a while to get used to - and gazed deep into his own eyes.
Suddenly, the world around him began to shift. He sensed it rather than saw it. His eyes were still locked with his own. His face started to change, and within moments he looked like his old self, literally. Then the years began to fall away, and when it stopped, his eyes had cleared and regained their youthfulness. As did the rest of his body. He was 20 again! Slowly, the mirror started to fade as he shifted into the other side of the veil. He was in a beautiful garden, which had a big tree in it’s centre, and beyond that was the most beautiful cottage he had ever seen. It was just perfect. Quaint and full of character. Just how he had imagined it. Then, his heart skipped a beat as the red door of the cottage swung open. There, before his eyes, stood his beloved wife.
With a cry of joy he ran towards her, and she ran towards him, coming together in a loving embrace, underneath the old oak tree. This time, he COULD love her till the end of time, and he would make every second count...