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Kelric's Adventures Chapter 6 A Bedtime Story

Started by Shiral, July 08, 2018, 02:19:25 AM

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Chapter 6 A Bedtime Story

              A man's long graceful hand with skin as white as moonlight was extended toward Stripes, delicately offering her his fingertips to sniff.

           The cat took a cautious step forward and investigated the offered hand. Then, to Kelric's amazement, she rubbed her whiskery cheek against it, and began to purr. Normally, Stripes was timid with those she didn't know. Kelric watched the hand as it lifted and lightly stroked the top of Stripes' head between her ears with one fingertip. Stripes arched her back and butted her head against the hand and continued to purr loudly. Then the owner of the caressing hand stepped out of the direct moonlight, revealing himself to Kelric at last.
            Kelric stared up in amazement at this stranger who was evidently no longer trapped inside the shiral crystal up in Papa's study. It had to be the same man -- he was wearing the same cloak. He faded out of focus down below his knees so that Kelric couldn't see his feet, but Kelric tried not to think too hard about that. He was not afraid of this odd visitor. If he were evil, he certainly would have frightened Stripes away. Instead Stripes was doing her 'stroke me' dance, wandering quickly back and forth beneath the visitor's hand while continuing to butt her head against his palm and rub her cheeks against his fingers. Nor did Kelric feel anything but a calm, kind presence from the cloaked man. But he was mightily curious about who this person was who came to visit him in this odd way and in the middle of the night.
As if his thought had gone right to the stranger's mind, the man reached up and folded his hood back on his shoulders, showing the same head of thick fair hair that Kelric had seen in the shiral crystal earlier. He could see the man's face far better now, and even though his skin was lined as older people's faces tended to be, he did look amazingly like Papa. His grey eyes were kind, and he looked terribly wise. Kelric tilted his head wondering if this was Papa's mysterious father whom he had been told was up in Heaven with God. He quite liked his living grandfather who always came to visit with his saddlebags packed with gifts and treats for himself and Brendan and Briony. This person obviously had no gifts to bring as he had no saddlebags, but maybe someone who lived in Heaven didn't needsaddlebags.

"Good evening, young Kelric Alain Morgan."

            Kelric tilted his head. He was sure this person had just spoken to him, but he only seemed to hear the man's pleasant baritone inside his head.

          "Are...are you my grandfather?" Kelric whispered. The whisper sounded harsh and loud, and Kelric wondered if this person could hear him when he spoke aloud.
His visitor tilted his head while considering Kelric's question, and Kelric wondered if it meant he hadn't heard, or if he just didn't understand what Kelric had asked.

          "I'm not your father's father if that's what you mean," his visitor said in return. "But I suppose I could  be called your grandfather, at the remove of several generations of course."

          "What's a gen- a genera.?" Kelric asked.

          The stranger laughed. "A generation? Let me just say that I'm very much older than I look, young Kelric. Even too old to be your grandfather's grandfather."

         "Oh." Kelric was very  impressed. "Wait a minute! How do you know my name?"

         "Ah," the man looked rather embarrassed. "I sometimes I watch you and your sister while you play together in the castle gardens. It reminds me of the days when I had children of my own. I don't feel so lonely, then."

          "What happened to your children?"

         "Oh, they grew up as you and your sister will one day. They're all dead now, and gone to live with God."
Kelric looked up at the man, feeling very confused. If he was as old as he said he was and all his children were already dead, then why was HEstill alive? But it felt like a terribly rude thing to ask even an ordinary old man, let alone this man who plainly wasn't ordinary.

           "That's where it gets a bit complicated," his guest said as if Kelric had actually spoken his question aloud. He looked even more abashed than before. "Even though you can see me and hear my voice, I'm not truly alive in the way that you and your family are alive. But I'm not exactly dead, either. I am a being of spirit, although I can be seen when I choose to be."

           Kelric frowned, trying to make sense of it all. He'd never met anyone like this man. But he supposed that someone who could make himself small enough to fit inside Papa's shiral crystal would be capable of doing whatever he wanted to do. He noticed that his visitor was slightly transparent around his edges although his face was firmly in focus.

            "But you have seen me before today, in a somewhat different form," the man said. "King Kelson built a chapel that was dedicated to me this summer. You were there on that day, I believe."

          Kelric goggled up at him, openmouthed. "You're Saint Camber?"

         "In life, I was Camber MacRorie the Earl of Culdi, yes. And yes, I did help King Cinhil regain the crown of Gwynedd for the Haldane kings."

         "An' got sainted."

         St. Camber gave him a very rueful smile. "And I was sainted, although I hope God knows I never sought that, and certainly never felt I deserved it. It was...something of an accident."

       "An accident?" Kelric was now completely bewildered and wondered if he were just having a very peculiar dream. In his experience 'accidents' involved his breaking something without meaning to, or falling down and hurting himself. Just before his last birthday, he'd tripped on the last few steps leading down to the Great Hall and had skinned both knees and knocked out a baby tooth. Saints either did amazing things that nobody else could do, or they were killed in scary ways when they wouldn't renounce God.

         "Yes, it ah, seemed like the least harmful choice at the time, " said St. Camber uncomfortably. "But enough of that. I hope that you don't mind that I've been watching you and your sister? It's been a rather lonely two hundred years, and I enjoy the two of you very much."

          Kelric shook his head. "No."

           "I particularly enjoyed watching you this morning," Camber said, smiling. Kelric stared up in amazement at his saintly guest. St. Camber looked positively mischievous -- could saints do that?

            " I didn't see you!" Kelric exclaimed.

          "No. As I said, I can avoid being seen when I wish which is most of the time. My presence can lead to some very complicated questions if I'm not careful. The saint chuckled and perched on the edge of Kelric's bed. "Children learn by exploring, and it was great fun watching you learn what you could do with honey. It reminded me of my own boys when they were young."

           "They played with honey, too?"

           "Mmmm, not exactly. The time I'm thinking of involved the honeybees, rather than the honey itself. Camber chuckled again as he thought of it. "It was really bad luck for Cathan, Ballard and Joram that they chose the very day that King Blaine was coming to Caerrorie for a visit." The saint interlaced his long white fingers and set them on his upraised knee. Stripes flopped down beside him and began to wash a white forepaw.

           "King...Blaine?" Papa had told him about the Haldane Kings who had come before King Kelson, but he'd never mentioned a King Blaine that Kelric could remember.

           "King Blaine of Festil," St. Camber answered calmly. "It was all very, very long ago young Kelric, so it's not surprising that you don't know his name." He looked up at the canopy for a moment. 
          "You must understand that King Blaine was not like your father, or like King Kelson, who is fond of children whether or not they are his. King Blaine was a stern old soul, and I don't think he liked even his own children very much," Camber continued. "A great deal might have been different had he taken more of an  interest in them." The saint looked sad for a moment, but quickly smiled at Kelric again.

            "Anyway, the weather was very fine on that particular afternoon, and my sons had been outdoors, practicing their archery. They got bored with shooting at the same old round target though, and without telling anyone, the left the castle yard and went to find something more interesting to use."

           "Where did they go?"

          "They went down near the bottom of the flower garden and began shooting at a fence post. Unfortunately they hadn't been at it very long before Cathan missed the post entirely. And his arrow."

          Kelric leaned forward eagerly. "What happened?

         "Can you guess what he hit instead?" Camber asked with a smile. Kelric could swear that his eyes sparkled with fun just then.

         Kelric shook his head. " What?"

         "He shot the top right off one of his mother's bee hives."

          Kelric crowed, then hastily stuffed his fist in his mouth and glanced in the direction of Nurse's cot. The rhythm of her snores faltered for a heartbeat and then resumed.

           "Of course the bees were very surprised and angry. One minute they'd been peacefully making honey, and the next, some large, sharp thing had hit and rocked their nest and sheared off the top. The positively came boiling out of that hive and after Cathan, Ballard and Joram.
"The boys immediately dropped their bows and arrows and ran to get inside when they saw all those bees coming," Camber laughed. "Too bad that they came running up to the Great Hall steps just minutes after King Blaine arrived."

            Kelric muffled his giggles with his fist.

            "Everyone heard the bees first, luckily and I was able to get the King and all his escort inside before they could be stung. But the grooms really had to run to get all the horses into the stable before the bees came, or they'd have had a stampede on their hands." St. Camber shook his head and shrugged while he laughed.
"Instead of spending a fine summer afternoon hawking as we'd planned, we all had to sit inside with all the windows closed while we waited for the bees to calm down and fly away. By the time it was safe to go outside, it was too dark to go hawking and too dark for the King to return home safely, so he and his escort stayed the night. Unfortunately, there wasn't much for our royal guest to eat at Caerrorie that night, as we'd planned to catch our supper that afternoon. And of course, no one could go outside to find so much as a chicken to stew with all those bees flying around the house. My poor wife Jocelyn was mortified at having nothing better to offer His Majesty than pease porridge and ale for his supper when she'd hoped our cook would have some nice gamebirds to roast for him, instead. King Blaine and his companions didn't think much of the change of menu, either."

         Camber laughed. "For all the disgusted faces they made as they ate it, I daresay such a peasant mess did their insides no harm, for once. And it was probably more easily digested than some of the rich dishes the King was served at his own board. But it wasn't at all funny at the time."

      "What about your sons?"

       "They'd have been glad even for pease porridge that night, but they were all three sent up to bed without supper," Camber said. "That was not so funny, for the King insisted I give them a good thrashing, first. I avoided punishing my children physically whenever I could, but after our afternoon of sport had been taken away, I couldn't very well refuse the King's direct command. And the danger had been quite real, for one bee sting might have killed King Blaine, let alone a swarm, and his Healer had not been in his party.

             "So I took the boys into my study and gave each of them one good whack each for the trouble they'd caused, after which I just kept slapping a seat cushion with my belt and told them to yell as loudly as they could every time I did it. It was enough to satisfy the King."

            Kelric laughed but was interrupted with a huge yawn.

           "And now young Kelric Alain, I think I've kept you awake quite long enough for such a young fellow and in the middle of the night too," St Camber said softly. "Why don't you lie down and go back to sleep now?" He reached out his long graceful hand and brushed Kelric's forehead with his fingertips, smoothing his hair back and out of his eyes. His touch was cool and gentle. Kelric lay down again at once, feeling very drowsy, suddenly. He felt St. Camber's hand gently open his right fist and tuck something small, hard and round into his palm before closing his fingers around it once more. Kelric yawned, and when he forced his eyes open again, he and Stripes were once again alone in the bed.

         The next time Kelric opened his eyes, the room was light again, and Nurse was already up and bustling about lighting the fire in the main day nursery. Stripes was still in bed with him though, and she was dabbing at a fine, green silk cord lying on top of the coverlet with her paw, alert and fascinated. Kelric was surprised to see he was holding onto the end of the silk cord and there was something small and hard tucked into his right hand. He looked at it and blinked in puzzlement. He held a small, round bead that seemed to be made of golden yellow glass. It had been threaded onto the green silk cord through a hole drilled through its center. He didn't remember ever seeing it before last night.

      Kelric sat straight up suddenly which made Stripes leap off his bed and hiss at him in her startlement. Last night -- he remembered now. St. Camber came last night, and he'd told him a bedtime story. Kelric yawned mightily and rubbed the sleepiness out of his eyes. He'd never had any other saints come to visit him in the night, let alone tell him a story and tuck him into bed and leave him a bead on silken cord. It seemed like a very strange thing for a saint to do, and perhaps he should ask Bishop Duncan about it later on. Kelric's eyes went wide and he looked more closely at the bead the saint had left - could a shiral crystal possibly be that small? He smiled and pulled the green silk thread loop over his head. His very own shiral crystal now glowed like a tiny gold star against the whiteness of his woolen nightshirt.

You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)