My Karavan Guardian

Told by Nina Tinaro, an old Matis Lady :

Love the Karavan Guardians as you love your brethren, young homin, and you too shall be thankful to their generosity. Indeed, if I live today in this old sack of bones it is thanks to a mighty Karavan Guardian who took myself and my loved ones under his wing, broken though it was. I was but a young girl and my father with the other men was away on campaign to recover our lands to the west when an army of kitins swarmed in from the north bent on the destruction of hominkind.

My grandmother, mother, my elder sisters, our maids and myself evacuated our majestic city merely hours before it fell taking with us but a single mektoub packer and provisions for a week. We trekked to the east for days until we came to the great falls of Ria where my grandmother knew we could find refuge in the caverns there. We were foraging for the season's mushrooms amid the fallen leaves when all of a sudden the birds and the animals made an awful din, then, all went silent as before a storm...

There came to my ears and then to my eyes the appalling thumping of a thousand feet marching down in the valley below. An awful tide of giant insects was rolling up fast scything and flattening the beautiful flora and crushing the slower animals under foot. My grandmother called us together and we waded into the cold river for some distance before crossing further upstream to avoid leaving our scent, then we climbed behind the pummeling waterfall.

From our vantage point we could spy, between the gushing rivulets, the kitins romping through our camp ravaging our make-shift habitat and spoiling our hard earned provisions. But to our relief the terrifying legions continued their march on over the hills towards the south. We remained behind the chilly but protective curtain of water the whole night through clustered together to keep warm. The following morning the kitins were gone and we returned to our make-shift camp to find the surrounding area devastated where the mass of destruction had trooped. There wasn't a sound to be heard, not a single bird, the frightened animals having all moved on.

But of noble heart and strong fiber, we dallied not on our sorrows, we were still alive and we mucked in to recover some order though exhausted we were. But then, horror struck thrice... Three enormous kitin scouts suddenly appeared from three points to surround us as we backed towards a near cavern. I was petrified, one of the evil creatures came and snapped at me, but my grandmother dragged me back behind her telling me to run to my mother... From the cavern my mother told us to kneel and pray for the soul of our grandmother and for our savior when another sound, more familiar, met our ears and we looked up at the godsend.

A Karavan vessel lurched into view and shielded us against the kitins that were crawling upon us as we knelt. The craft sent a massive lightening charge through the kitins as they tried to butt it out of their way. A Karavan Guardian, wounded in the arm, jumped out of the vessel and fired into the eyes of the stunned creatures who were still fumbling to reach us. The Guardian gave us some fresh seed to revive our spirits and signaled to us to follow him into the vessel before the main kitin force was upon our heels. But the vessel was wounded too and would not take to the air... Though I still conserve the memory of the magic inside, the cold flashing lights and the warm vroom of the vessel's waning heart.

We continued on foot in the cold driving rain. For two days he led us on to the east, hunted game for us, protected us from the wild bests, and healed our wounds calmly, silently in his tranquil force. Every morning we prayed to Jena to help us through the day. Then after a week of traveling we came to a vast plain and in the distance our eyes caught a glimmering sheen of a bow of many colors.

My Guardian lowered me from his shoulders to the ground and spoke for the first time in a deep but tender voice : "There, you are safe now," he said. "Go through the rainbow, I will stand and watch you till you are all through." I plucked up my courage and asked if he would come too.

He said there were many more children of Atys to be saved, that his mission had only just begun. I could not resist jumping up to him and throwing my arms around his neck, for he had carried me when my little legs had failed, despite his ailing limb. He put me down and pushed me on and I followed the others, reassured in the aura of his smell. When I looked back from the rainbow he was still watching as he said he would be, and as if to urge us through the rainbow, he gave a flick of the hand which he turned into a wave, I am sure.

I am the last survivor of that expedition of nearly three generations ago and everyday I give thanks to Jena for my children, and my children's children, and for sending us our great Karavan Guardian.

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