Keeper looked just like the character Loukas had imagined many years ago in stories told of Keeper’s daring deeds.
Indeed, Keeper was the same earthy character in tales Loukas and Thera now enjoyed telling Sophie and Petros, their own children.
Keeper was muscular and squat. His skin was the color of spring fern, and he had very large hands and feet from which sprouted weeds and grasses. A patch of moss covered Keeper’s head. Out of the moss grew berries, buds, and blossoms.
Keeper wore clothes styled with wide, horizontal stripes in shades of leaf greens, earth browns, and sunlight yellows. Leafy vines trailed out from underneath a loose-fitting jacket and pants.
“Whar art thou bound dah?” drawled Keeper.
“Venerable Keeper, I have taken to this road in search of Destiny,” Loukas said. “Now that my foolishness has brought me down, it is her wisdom I am seeking to show me how to mend my broken heart and turn my ruined life around.”
“Ah, ah. Destiny, Destiny,” Keeper cried. “Oh, har favor not so easily gained dah. Mortal upon mortal have passed thees way desperate for Destiny’s cure,” continued Keeper. “Just as many have returned more, oooh, more and more wretched than when they set out tah. Crestfallen wahr they for having failed to receive Destiny’s guidance to change the course of thar tormented lives sah.”
Keeper drew closer to Loukas, and with deep-set eyes studied Loukas’s expression. The adventurer knew at once that no warning could ever dampen this mortal’s desire to find Destiny and plead with her to free him from his misery.
“To gain Destiny’s patronage, thy request must first be judged dah worthy by har son Ilion, the Sun, and har daughter Luna, the Moon,” Keeper confided while moving within inches of Loukas’s stunned face.
“Only then will a decision be made if thy fate deserves the attention thou crave. Oh, and oh, and oh,” said Keeper, sighing.
Keeper warned Loukas that he must tread cautiously if he should ever come into the company of Destiny, Luna, and Ilion.
“But why, honored Keeper?” asked Loukas.
“Ah, young mahn, many are the tales Highland folk tell of Ilion’s unpredictable mood when he returns to the palace from his daily rounds at day’s end dah,” Keeper said.
“If Sun returns troubled by what has happened among the mortals that day, you had better bewhar. Oh and ah, Sun might just as easily consume thee with a hellish fire than urge his mother to take notice of thy petition,” Keeper predicted.
“As far Luna,” cautioned Keeper, “if she becomes troubled from witnessing the mortals immersed in strife, har wrath ah could force har to bewitch thee with a horrifying spell. Woe, woe, woe.”
That said, Keeper pointed his umbrella toward the forest and directed Loukas to follow the path northward.
Well into his travels, Keeper told Loukas he would come to a radiant vermilion palace where Destiny and her son and daughter have lived since the beginning of earthly time.
“Along the way, thou will arrive at a steep bluff Highlanders call Ravens Peak,” Keeper said. “A short distance from thar, be prepahred to meet up with anguished souls. Sad, so sad. Like thee, my good mahn, they are in need of Destiny’s help. Yes, so it will be.
“Oh, spahr thyself a pound of grief, oh, so, by consoling these suffering creatures. Leave them each with a promise. Tell them thou will lay thar requests at the feet of Destiny, Luna, and Ilion. Thou will beg the all-knowing, all-wise Mother, Daughter, and Son to help these needy ones endure their struggles.”
Loukas gave Keeper a quizzical look while he gestured his agreement.
“Go, now, go on and on. Follow the pahth ah into the forest’s depths. May courage be thy compass, caution thy guide, and good fortune thy reward,” Keeper sang.
Keeper tossed the umbrella onto the bed of the cart and took hold of the cart’s handle. “Heeee, heeee, heeee. Keeper of the Forest plants. Keeper of the Forest sows. Keeper of the Forest knows all. Heeee, heeee, heeee,” the adventurer cried.
Keeper then steered the cart down the forest path at a quickening pace. Soon the cart rose inches above the ground and drove Keeper into the darkness. Seconds later, the moon rolled out from behind a cluster of clouds, offering Loukas a shaft of eerie light to guide him onto the forest’s pathway.
All through the night, Loukas cowered at the yelps and cries, the baying and shrieking of restless animals that grew startled by his heavy footfalls. Suddenly, a rush of winged creatures circling overhead sent Loukas running down the path far from their harsh squeals.
Hours later, the first streaks of light dappled the path. As Loukas drew nearer to a broad chain of jagged cliffs, flocks of jet-black ravens soared and glided on gentle breezes. Their loud, throaty croaking pierced the dawn’s stillness.
Here is Ravens Peak, the very bluff Keeper had told of, Loukas thought.
Not far beyond the bluff’s steep rock face, a woman’s screams drew Loukas into a misty clearing.
Once he moved past a narrow bend, he spied three young ladies flailing about. Each threw handfuls of dirt onto flames racing through a pile of brush that stood within reach of a wooden cottage.
At once, Loukas sped to the water trough that stood nearby the cottage. With bucketsful of water, he doused the fire within minutes.
When the danger had passed, the ladies thanked Loukas for his kindness.
Loukas gaped at the ladies in wonder. The strange white gloss of their complexions roused his curiosity.
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