Note: This is a continuation of “The Forest” which I posted Nov. 21, 2016. The story extended a bit after what I posted, including the introduction of the guarding Treekeepers and the Messengers as well as The Place of Owls, the structure in the Great Tree where the Caretaker stays. Ezidiah is told to wait as the strangers enter the Great Tree.
The Keeper of the Owl
By Jeff Baker
I stood there for a few minutes after the strangers followed the Messengers into the Great Tree. I stared up at the top branches, then at the ground. Then I hopped over to one of the connecting trees and debated waiting on the strangers return or on heading over to the shop to see if I could buy a bag of nuts and get back to the Great Tree before the strangers finished their audience with the caretaker. But, I had been instructed to wait. I sat down on the branch where I could watch the sunlight move through the branches of the Great Tree. I wrapped my arm around the trunk of the tree I was sitting in as I was feeling drowsy.
I glanced up with a start; something was moving in the branches near me! I glanced to my side, the side opposite the Great Tree. There, swinging and leaping from branch to branch, tree to tree was a group of lithe young men and women in blue garb—The River! No one was held in higher esteem than these Messengers charged with supplying the community with water.
I stared as they swiftly maneuvered through the trees, each one with a jug of water strapped to their backs, some carrying sealed globes filled with water. I would more likely be made Caretaker than to be trusted with precious water for a swing through the trees. I was still using both hands. And, wonder of wonders, they regularly left the Forest and walked on the ground!
The River bounded out of my sight. I sighed and leaned back against the trunk, closing my eyes.
Not much time had passed, judging from the movement of the shadows on the ground, when I heard a voice call my name. I quickly moved to one of the branches of the Great Tree and found, not a Messenger, but a Treekeeper. I stared at his uniform; at the thick leather belt draped with rope, a slingshot and a large knife which hung low at his side.
I asked him if he’d called me.
“Your presence is requested,” the Treekeeper said. I must have just stared, for he made his request more formal.
“In the name of the Caretaker, I am called to usher you into the Great Tree to be under the gaze of the Owl.”