High in a remote village above The Dragon Guard Palmetto Crag Outpost was born a squalling baby boy. At the moment of his birth, circling high overhead, was a ghostly image of very large Golden Dragon. For many years when the tale of Andreu's birth was told, many of the villagers spoke of hearing an eerie cry of exultation echoing among the peaks. The cry was described differently by folks; some said it sounded like a mother crying with joy; others said it sounded like a royal trumpet fanfare.
The child was born to the family of a Mineral Miner and a Tavern Server and many people wondered how the child would survive as both parents worked long hours almost every day. The father was a drunken brute of a man who never showed a tender side. Although his wife was a goodly woman she worked hard for meager pay at the Local Tavern. Andreu's mother also took in some tailoring and laundry for some of the younger soldiers of The Dragon Guard stationed at the outpost below the village.
The village midwife, who was also a bit of a Hedge Witch as many midwives in remote locations were, had to stifle a gasp of dismay as Andreu's head popped out of his mother's birth canal. The midwife being one of the original inhabitants of Erehwon and related to The Dragon Lords of Olde reached deep within her being and carefully constructed a glamour tied to Andreu's essential life force. This way the glamour would never fade and only one of the Olde Folk such as she or a Dragon Lord would ever notice it. Since she knew none of those folks lived within days of her village there was virtually no chance of that happening. Of course there was always the slim chance of some one of Elven or Faerie Blood seeing through the glamour but she would take that chance. Although her villagers were normally good folk, laid back and fairly friendly for Hill Folk they were a wee bit more superstitious than the Valley Folk.
Andreu was not a deformed or ugly baby quite the contrary he was one of the handsomest babies Margè had ever seen from his flawlessly smooth skin, his soon to be jet black hair to the tips of his pointed ears. His skin was a pale olive suggesting a hint of Elven or even Olde Folk blood. The problem wasn't his bloodline it was the fact his father was of pure Erehwonese Root Stock and his mother was of Mantasian extraction and there wasn't a large amount of Olde Folk Families in Mantasia and for some unknown reason the Elves stayed far away from Mantasia. Margè was a bit of Empathic Healer also and she used that power to implant a subtle suggestion into Andreu's young brain. The suggestion would allow him to look into any reflecting device such as a soldier's shield or pool of water and see almost what everyone else saw. Margè's power was only strong enough to allay any panic on Andreu's part. Her imparted suggestion carried a calming influence along with the suggestion that it was not necessary to ask anyone why he looked different.
As this was a small and friendly village Andreu was taken care of by several of the village mothers and older girls when his mother was working. Andreu was a very lovable child and soon became the toast of the village and soon had everyone caring for him as if he was their own child. As Andreu grew up he had free reign of the village and always had someone looking out for him. He was a very sociable child and the older female children used to use him as their own child instead of their wooden dolls. The girls were much happier playing with a "doll" that cooed and giggled just like a real baby.
Margè checked on Andreu whenever she could. She was pleased with how he was growing up and with how happy a child he was becoming. As to Andreu's father, the less said about him the better. If he had to handle his son he only did the least amount necessary before giving Andreu back. Giving his son emotional support or cuddles was beneath him, taking care of Andreu's bodily functions consisted of dumping him in a bucket of water and then wrapping him in whatever was handy.
Being such a loving child Andreu would be found curled up asleep with the families young children, cats, dogs, or rabbits smiling peacefully warmed by their body heat. Whenever Andreu was toddling through the village he was always accompanied by some of the children who weren't working and usually several of village pets. People in the village soon became accustomed to seeing Andreu walking through the village in his later years with either a young animal or young child in his arms and several cats or dogs at his feet. Several people noticed that whenever Andreu held or talked to a colicky or irritable child, the child settled down quickly. Since that solved a problem for them no one ever said much of anything about it.
When Andreu was around the villagers or visiting his mother he was a very happy child, however, at home or when no one else was around it was a different story. At home things were very cold and lonely; his mother gave him as much love and care as she could. His father only paid attention to him when he was in his way or was fussing for food. Andreu's father basically ignored him whenever he could. Sometimes he acted as if Andreu was a piece of furniture rather than a person.
As Andreu got older his mother began to work more and stay home less and his father spent more time at the tavern when he wasn't working. So Andreu was left to fend for himself a lot of times and being naturally curious he soon knew every nook and cranny in his village. Among his favorite places to visit and while away the time were the village stable and a few of the crofter's huts that had fowl and other farm animals around the place; for some reason Andreu always felt comfortable around animals and vice versa.
Andreu was four, almost five, when he finally figured out that the buzzing in his head was the animals trying to communicate with him. Andreu found it strange that none of the children he knew or their siblings ever mention that they talked to their pets; even when Andreu could hear the cat or dog speaking to their owner. It was rather unusual that there were no Kats in the village, since the village was located in the heart of Wild Erehwonese Mountain Kat habitat. Andreu had never seen a Kat although he had heard of them and heard them crying from the upper peaks and ledges overlooking the village. Since Andreu had the run of his village and could talk with all of the animals he had no sense of fear of anything with four legs now two legs that was a different story entirely.
Andreu's father never beat him, or anything like that, but he was always talking down to Andreu and threatening to kick him off the mountain if Andreu didn't get out of his way. Andreu's father was always making kicking motions at Andreu whenever he passed by where Andreu was lying or sitting. His father was always muttering things as he passed by Andreu saying things like "Good for nothing whelp" and "Why I let your mom keep you I don't know!".
Nearing Andreu's seventh birthday, which was shortly after the Winter Solstice, the village began their preparations for the Annual Winter Solstice Celebration. The Winter Solstice Celebration was the time when all of The Planet Draconis gave thanks to Draconis for all they had received the year before. They also exchanged gifts with friends and relatives, built large bonfires and offered prayers to Draconis. Most small villages would band together and prepare large feasts for the whole village sharing the fruits of their labors with rich and poor alike. Those a little better off would make sure that those in the village who had no family to support them had enough supplies and warm clothing to get them through the winter.
While the rest of the villagers were going through their preparations Margè was making sure that she had all of the ingredients necessary to make the poultices and salves she would need throughout the winter. Chilblains and frostbite were normal everyday occurrences for her village no matter how many times she and the other village's elders preached prevention.
For once Andreu was having the time of his life several of the older children whose job it was to gather as much firewood, tinder and whatever coal they could find; had taken Andreu along with them. This was one of the few times Andreu had been included in anything like this; besides helping keep their wiry Mountain Ponies calm and out of trouble Andreu was acting as look out for wild animals, War Eagles, Dragons and even Wild Erehwonese Mountain Kat's. The older children had figured that since Andreu was unafraid of any animal and all of theirs behaved when around Andreu better than themselves; he was a perfect choice for the job. Andreu knew the older children were humouring him but he didn't care he was going out into the woods and mountains with the big boys and girls and that was all he cared about. He was out from underneath his father's thumb and that was a very good thing; for it seems the mine his father worked in was closed for a few weeks so his father had nothing to do but drink and make life miserable for Andreu.
Andreu was really looking forward to getting out of the village and hoped he would be able to do a little exploring alone. Andreu dreamed of finding a young dragonet, War Eagle or even a young Kat to call his own. Many of the children yearned to find a dragonet because that was a sure ticket out of the village and into the Kingdom's service which meant prestige for them and their families. Of course the odds of any child finding a dragonet near their village was extremely remote as the dragons preferred much warmer climes or at least mountains with thermal vents and warm springs heated by the numerous volcanoes of Draconis. Andreu was pleasantly surprised that the children who were taking him along actually were talking to him instead of ignoring him like they usually did. Andreu was by nature a shy and withdrawn child; coupled with the fact that he had no one to talk with about what the animals had told him, he usually kept to himself and only responded when spoken to.
On a ledge above the firewood gathering party a young Kat was prowling the ledges exploring his territory when he sensed an unusual mental signature coming from a young two legs. The Kat stealthily moved closer to the edge until he could espy where the unusual signature was coming from. The Kat was amazed at how young the two legs actually was; the Kat had to keep a tight rein on its thoughts so the two legs would remain unaware he was being observed. Before the Kat could learn much from the young two legs other than he was male and could mind talk with the Mountain Ponies; the other headblind two legs returned. The Kat quickly moved away from the ledge after sampling Andreu's interesting mental signature one more time.
During the next several days the preparations for the celebrations continued at a slightly faster pace as there was a lot to accomplish. Andreu pitched in where ever he could; mostly sitting babies or storytelling. He stayed as far away from his father as he could, helping out his mother cleaning the cottage and getting his small room ready for company. In his village they invited all of the outlying farms, crofters and hunters to enjoy the Village Winter Solstice Celebration; the entire village banded together to host anyone who needed a room to sleep in. All of the people from the outskirts brought food, drink and examples of their crafts or hunting prowess. This way everyone got to see old friends, eat well, trade and gift friends and relatives and no one had to brave the winter elements trekking back miles home. Since Andreu was giving up his room, that meant he would be sleeping in his bedroll near the hearth. Andreu was hoping that the people staying with them were nice or at least had children he could talk to and maybe even play games with.
While Andreu and the rest of the villagers were going about their preparations; the young Kat prowled closer and closer to the village, trying to pick up that curious mental signature again. The Kat changed his hunting range to include the village and its environs; normally Kats gave 'two legs' a wide berth as they were the only animals that could hurt or kill a Kat. None of the other predators on Draconis, with the exception of dragons, could even come close to a Kat's speed, quickness and wary strength. Of course the fact that, in addition to being able to climb virtually anything and their three to four inch retractable razor sharp claws; might have some bearing on their lack of fear. In fact the only things sharper on Draconis were the War Eagle Talons or Dragon Talons. Kat's didn't have to worry about Dragons or War Eagles because they were too small and wiry to make a good meal for those flying beings.
Other than the slightly harder floor Andreu liked sleeping near the hearth as it was nice and warm. Also the fact that the breakfast porridge ("Porridge on Draconis is similar to Pease Porridge from Merry Olde England. It was made from grains, dried and fresh vegetable and whatever pieces of meat or suet were available. Water or stock was added when necessary and whatever leftovers were just tossed in.") was always hanging from a hook near his sleeping place made it even better. That way he could eat his breakfast and be out of his cottage before his father stumbled out of bed. Andreu would grab his wooden bowl fill it with porridge and fill his water bag from the pitcher in the kitchen as he left to roam the village and checkup on all the animals; especially the littles. Most of the animals did not care for The Winter Solstice Celebration as there was too much noise and too many strangers.
While Andreu was checking on the animals, he was trying to remember the strange dreams he had been having. He had been awakened several times the last few nights by a soft voice; at first he thought his mother was trying wake him up but the voice was different and there was the feeling of a chill wind blowing over him even though he was snug as a bug in a rug. As he couldn't figure out he concentrated on reassuring all of the animals that everything would be fine and he would be around during the celebration to help them if needed. Several of the untied animals would rub up against Andreu's legs as they sent 'thank yous' to him. The only other thoughts going through Andreu's head were what kind of gifts, if any, he would get and if he would ever find a friend who liked him for who he was, not what he could do.
Finally the day of The Winter Solstice had arrived and Andreu was out the door at the crack of dawn. Unfortunately for Andreu the two hunters staying at his house were wizened old men to his way of thinking. They did have some wonderfully rich tales of animals they had hunted and one of them had even seen Matty, The Crown Prince Joth's Kat when they stopped over at Palmetto Crag Outpost. Of course the story revolved around how Matty led Joth around instead of the other way around. Andreu thought it was funny that a Kat could get the best of The Crown Prince. Andreu dreamed of having his own Kat because then, he would have something no one else in his village had ever had. Thanks to the stories, Andreu was in a wonderful mood when he began his tour of the village; going out of his way to smile and say Gööte Morgen to everyone he came across, even some of his father's friends whom he didn't like. Of course this caused those persons to mutter and shake their heads as Andreu merrily made his way through the village. Andreu got a major shock and surprising gift as he walked by the back door of the Bakery; "Andreu come here please; I have something for you."
"For me?" Replied the stunned Andreu.
"Yes for you, you silly 'goos', if it weren't for you helping my son Michoel get over his colic, I would not have been able to bake all of my pastries for the feast this afternoon. Here take this."
The Baker then gave Andreu two of her special hot and bubbly pies straight off the cooling rack. These bubbling confections were filled with her blend of Native Wild Berries, honey and the villages own special sweet creamed cheese. Andreu was in heaven and for the rest of the day his feet never touched the ground. Andreu finished his tour and all of the animals were happy to see him and of course he promised to take of any of them who got scared or trampled by outsiders. Andreu was completely unaware that his every move was being followed the last part of his journey. Margè had been keeping an eye, on and off, on Andreu without his ever being aware of it. What she just saw made her sure of her earlier thoughts on the matter; Andreu was in the Olde Tongue a "Mestre da besta". She wished him the best in life and then went back to work.
Andreu headed towards the "Village Hall" actually the Head Man's main room to get his assignment for the afternoon. Andreu was still walking on air and his assignment made him walk even taller and higher off the ground. Andreu finally got the assignment that would prove to the villagers and especially his father, that he was an asset to the village. Andreu's assignment was the one he had been waiting for all of his short life; he was going to be in charge of his villages "Petting Zoo" and "Storytelling Tent". The "Zoo" was just a small paddock with some baby sheep, calves, piglets and a few of the smaller ponies. The purpose of the "Zoo" was to allow children who didn't have pets or animals of their own to experience the joy of playing with animals who gave nothing but love back. Since all of the younger animals loved Andreu, the kids visiting the "Petting Zoo" were in for a treat. The "Storytelling Tent" wouldn't open until the sun started going down after the main feast; Andreu's job would be to entertain the younger children who didn't have older siblings to care for them while the adults sampled the fermented offerings of the villagers or the special spirits picked up in larger towns just for this occasion. Andreu loved the special Spiced Cider which Margè made from special apples, and she refused to tell anyone where they grew. Well; anyone except Andreu who had helped her pick them earlier in the month. She mixed Andreu's cider with half non fermented juice so he wouldn't get drunk but could enjoy the complexities that fermentation gave to unfiltered Apple Juice. [Cider is fermented juice; non fermented juice filtered or unfiltered is just plain juice! Only uncivilized nations try to pass off unfiltered juice as cider. Of course no one in Andreu's Village or most of Draconis would waste their time filtering any juice even if they had filters.]
The younglings who came to the "Petting Zoo" had a wonderful time and all of them behaved themselves very well because all of the animals fawned over everyone. The animals seem to have a competition to see who could get the most kisses and petting. The youngest animals even got some of the shyest younglings to feed them even though they had already been fed by Andreu earlier. When it came time for the feast Andreu was in "Seventh Heaven" as most of the younglings or their parents were constantly bringing Andreu tidbits to eat; which was a very good thing as Andreu's father was snoring off his drunk in a haymow somewhere and his mother was busy serving food at the main food table. Just before the feast ended and before the bonfires were scheduled to be lit there was a loud clatter of rocks and several puffs of dust from a ledge overlooking the rear of the village. Andreu thought he heard a cry of pain and fear from the animals their and took off running towards the "Petting Zoo" no one followed him as they all figured that if Andreu needed help he would come and get it.
When Andreu reached the paddock where the "Zoo" was, all the animals were sound asleep or eating peacefully. Andreu looked around perplexed as he had definitely heard an animal in pain. As Andreu turned around he heard the sound again or rather he felt it. Andreu turned and faced out of the village again and looked carefully but see could nothing but he felt this itching sensation inside his head and the urge to look up. Andreu still couldn't see anything when he looked up but the itching sensation and the urge to lookup kept increasing. Suddenly Andreu saw a puff of dust and some small stones came rattling down from a small ledge above and to the left of him. As he watched while deciding what to do, Andreu saw what he thought was a mottled gray paw stick over the ledge for just a second. Suddenly Andreu knew what he had to do, quickly he kicked off his worn old boots and removed his only dress tunic laying it over a nearby bush. Andreu then quickly found the small trail that he usually used to climb the ledges to overlook the village and also climb the small peak to look out over the valley and to watch the Dragons fly back and forth. Andreu was usually daydreaming about dragons rescuing him and becoming a Dragonrider.
Andreu quickly found the trail that lead near where he saw the paw waving at him; once he got closer, he realized his memory was better then he thought. He was on the right path. As he rounded a small bend on the trail he saw a small rock slide so he figured he was definitely on the right path. Andreu inched carefully forward in case there was another rock slide, once he got within a foot or so of the existing slide, he got down on his hands and knees. Andreu then carefully started removing the rocks one by one until the path was clear enough for him to walk through. As he walked through the path he had cleared, he saw another much larger slide around another bend; and now he could definitely hear the sounds of something in distress. Hurrying his steps slightly, as the ledge was a narrow one, and he didn't want to start another rock slide. Andreu stopped right at the edge of the slide and saw the problem. The paw the he had seen briefly from below was attached to a fairly good sized Wild Kat who had been swept to the edge of the cliff. The problem was the way the Kat had been knocked over by the slide; it was the Kat's front quarter that was nearest the edge and there was a good pile of rocks on the shoulder. To make matters worse, the Kat's rear legs were trapped in such a way that if the Kat tried to push itself free of the rocks, it would push itself over the edge too. All the Kat could do was make very small motions and try to get the rocks to fall off by themselves.
Andreu stood there for a few moments in total shock; for here was the answer to many of his dreams but he didn't know what to do. Suddenly the Kat yelped and then Andreu 'heard' in his head 'Help' very weakly. Quickly getting to work, Andreu set about clearing the rocks from the Kat's front quarter while trying to remain out of those wicked claws' way. Once the front was cleared Andreu took a deep breath, and steeling himself, reached down with both hands and carefully tugged the Kat away from the edge. All the while sending as much love and care to the Kat as he could, Andreu didn't know if the Kat could understand him, but he had to try. Once that was done and he still had all his arms and fingers, Andreu commenced digging out the rest of the Kat. The second part was both easier; and harder; easier since the rocks were larger and there were fewer of them; harder because they were much heavier. Thinking to himself 'now if only the Kat would try and lift itself a little bit it would be much easier' suddenly the rock he was lifting moved much easier and then he saw the Kat relax back down to the ground. The other rocks were much easier to move now with the largest one out of the way. Andreu quickly had the Kat free and was stunned when the Kat just lay there and made no attempt to run and hide.
Andreu could see the Kat was breathing by the rise and fall of its ribcage, however, he could see no bleeding or obvious broken bones. Andreu decided to try something he had seen Margè do and something he could do sometimes. Taking a deep breath and then calming himself as much as possible, Andreu turned his hand palm down and slowly moved it over the Kat's prone body while trying to feel any broken bones or other injuries. Andreu usually did this to the animals and babies he was caring or treating but he usually touched them directly. All Andreu knew was that when his hand was over an injured area he could tell there was something wrong. Once he found the sore spot, Andreu would then take a deep breath let it out, repeating that, then think of nothing but the animal or child and the spot his hand was on. When he did that he sometimes got strange pictures in his head of glowing red spots or twisted ropes or even broken bones. Andreu would then send love and care from his hand to the child or animal and then for the glowing spots or twisted ropes think 'Heal' really hard and then a warm glow would spread out from his hand towards the spot. Usually after this, Andreu would fall asleep immediately along with his "patient". If there were broken bones, Andreu would just think the child to sleep and help ease the pain and then either send someone for Margè or go get her himself.
Far overhead a large ghostly image of a Majestic Golden Dragon circled continuously keeping a close eye on the events below.
When Andreu reached the front shoulder, his hand suddenly became very hot; without thinking, Andreu quickly put his hand on the Kat's shoulder, and thought 'Heal' for some reason the warm glow only lasted a few seconds and Andreu's hand returned to normal. The Kat started to purr or as Andreu would describe later "began to sound like my tummy when it is empty too long," just as Andreu started to move away, he thought he heard 'Thank you.' Andreu quickly sat down on his rear in shock; closing his eyes as he did so; when Andreu opened his eyes again, the Kat was standing on its feet, swaying slightly. The Kat was standing directly in front of Andreu looking into his eyes; Andreu felt that strange itching in his head again, and scratched his head. 'Stop that it won't go away,' rang through his head and then 'I am Sammy, and you are Andreu, my two "legs".' Of in the ways of all younglings galaxy wide Andreu only heard 'I am Sammy' and missed the part about him being Sammy's.
While Andreu was recovering from the shock of Sammy's hello, Sammy was discovering what an amazing "two legs" he had bonded to. Sammy put together what he had seen Andreu do in the village and what he had just discovered and came to the realization that The Olde Folk may be returning. Unknowingly, Sammy also arrived at the same determination that Margè had. Andreu was truly a "Mestre da besta" and he would lead a truly interesting life. Andreu's father did bother Sammy, from what he discovered in Andreu's mind; but as Andreu did love him, Sammy would bide his time.
"I heard you" Replied the recovering Andreu out loud.
Sammy just looked at Andreu and meowed, showing off his fine razor sharp fangs; 'Of course I am a Kat' and then rubbed up against Andreu's leg like a regular cat would.
While Andreu was concentrating on the wonderful new feelings that he was receiving from Sammy; he also heard 'of course you can hear me you are my "two legs" you can talk to me this way also. Now pick me up and let's go home.'
Accompanying that command was a picture of Sammy riding across the back of Andreu's shoulders.
High overhead the image of the Golden Dragon uttered a sigh of relief if anyone had been able to hear her.
Andreu unhesitatingly followed his orders and picked up Sammy and carefully began making his way back down the narrow ledges and trails to his village. It wasn't a very easy return, as Sammy weighed quite a bit more than Andreu was used to carrying; combine that with the fact that Sammy was keeping up a running commentary in Andreu's head, it was amazing they made it down off the mountain at all. By the time they did reach the bottom of the trail, the bonding was virtually completed; although Andreu still had some trouble trying to form his thoughts so Sammy could understand him Sammy assured him that would disappear as they grew older together. When they neared the village and could see torches moving towards them, Sammy told Andreu 'Put me down. I will walk in at your side.'
Andreu did as Sammy requested and together they walked into the village and the light cast by the Search Party as the unlikely pair came into the light Andreu boldly announced;
"This is MY KAT SAMMY"
Sammy, being the consummate ham that all Kat's are, pulled back his left paw slightly and then lowered his head across his body as if he was bowing. While the crowd was still recovering and the murmuring had just started, Sammy lifted his head back and opened his mouth as if to roar; displaying his razor sharp fangs for all to see. Sammy then sat down on his haunches and waited for Andreu to speak again.
While Sammy was amazing the crowd Andreu's mind was going around in circles for the first time in his life Andreu was truly happy. He now looked forward to his life and was determined not to let his father bother him because now he had Sammy to love and Sammy to love him back.
If anyone had looked up into the darkening late afternoon sky, they would have seen the ghostly image of the Majestic Golden Dragon brighten in intensity to look almost real. When the villagers compared tales over the years, they would all realize that they heard the same trumpeting cries that were heard at Andreu's birth.
Only Andreu and Sammy heard what she really said, "All is well and peace to all."
Well here is the beginning of Andreu's story. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. However, please don't ask for more of Andreu's story, as he will only be appearing sporadically throughout future chapters. But never fear Andreu will have a pivotal part in the story in a future chapter. Thanks also to Str8mayb for his input and editing help. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël , Frohe Weihnachten, Buon Natale and a very Happy Winter Solstice.
Til we fly again,
TSL and 'Goos'
Very nice story. I only had to get a small box of commas from Radio Rancher. I fell in love with Andreu right off. I think Sammy will enjoy putting Andreu's father in his proper place (just like another Sammy we know).
Now TSL, you can just forget the part about us not asking for more about Andreu and Sammy. Let me be the first to say, "More, more I'm still not satisfied!"
Great job, TSL.
As I write this and for that matter, as I was reading part of it, I am sitting here, talking with Dark Star. I only found out about this story this afternoon. TSL was afraid that I couldn't keep my big mouth shut and that I would spoil the beautiful surprise he had planned for Dark Star. I know my heart has been captured by Andreu and of course Sammy as well, and I know that they will return. Let me put it this way. The same thing holds for Andreu and Sammy as holds for someone else that I can't talk about for fear of giving away a plot point. But let's just say a certain boy that we met recently will return, and we made certain threats to ensure that he would. Believe me when I tell you that the same threats will be carried out if Andreu doesn't return.
Your friend Darryl