The Tale of Pan and Dog

It is said The Plains of Myrian were unusually cold in the time of The Rebellion of Sai. His famous conquering is known to have lasted three days, so I believe it is safe to say to that it remained cold in the Naorthlands well beyond his time. In fact, some say that it remained bitter and deathly so until the third rising of the Morning Star that year; the very day that you, Pan, were born, in the city of Myria.
I was given to you as a gift by the Duke of Traan, my father, to watch over you, and protect you from the evils of this world.
Your story is one of legend among my people, Pan. My father knew you were special, but he never would have dreamed that you were the one.
“What happened to your father? Why are you-”
Hush, now, and I will tell you, but I must start from the beginning.
When I was first entrusted into your care, the day of your birth, I was a little over three arms tall, and completely covered in fur. I was quite unrecognizable under the layers of brown and, black and white. You may not know this, but to receive one of my kind as a gift was an unspeakable honor among your people, as it should be. But for the Duke to give his only child away, this was unheard of.
I was three years old when our roles as caregivers were inexorably switched, when assassins from a cult named The Order of Bitter Thorns came to claim your life. I became your eternal guardian, and you were then entrusted into my care.
I need not remind you what they did to your family, and your whole city. So that we never forget, I buried your mother ten paces east of the old Blue Fruit Tree, that grows even now, its roots digging deeper and deeper into the earth, protecting your ancestors until the Great Flight that will take us all.
You stayed with me in my village, as granted by the elders, but we did not stay long. You probably didn’t realize what was happening at the time, so I will explain this to you now.
It seems that you are incredibly special, but your gifts come with a horrible price. The price is the greed and corruption of others. They can’t accept what is before their eyes, so they seek to destroy the goodness in you. They fear what you are capable of, so they will never stop hunting you. The elders of my village knew this, and so they begged us to take flight, for the Order of Bitter Thorns was close on our heels after the slaughter of Myria. My people would have fought to the death, every last one of them, to protect an innocent such as yourself, if they thought for a moment that it would do any good.
But I knew just as well as the rest that running was the best way to save your life, and the lives of my people. So they picked up their homes on their backs and started making their way into the mountains, which still held captive the frozen wastelands.
While crossing the Pass of Shatan, they heard a roar of falling snow, and watched in horror as an avalanche came crashing over their heads. It is said that all perished in that cursed act of nature. It is also said that I am the last of my kind, which is why we do not speak the name of our people anymore, for it is not written that we should be remembered.

A tear came to the Guardian’s eye, and Pan stood up from his spot by the fire, and curled up in the warm coat of his companion.
“I will remember you,” Pan whispered in his Guardian’s ear, “no matter what is written. I will always remember my Dog.”
The Guardian chuckled at this. When Pan was two, he had named him Dog, and the name stuck. Being the same age, he did not see anything degrading about this title. It was better than Cat, or Pet, or any other number of things a two year old could come up with.
Soon, Pan’s breathing grew heavier, and he fell into a deep sleep. The Guardian watched over his unlikely companion curled up next to him.
Pan was bundled up warmly against the cool night, his mittens made from the skins of sea-lizards, and his giant fur coat made from the fur of his own people; sheared, of course, not skinned.
This was an incredibly difficult task, considering there wasn’t a steel blade in this world that could cut through the fibers of his people’s fur. Only the metals of Arghan were strong enough to withstand such a task, and even then, there were only a number of forges that could work with such metal. At least, there used to be, but the secret died with his ancestors, his parents, his brothers, and his sisters.
Though it is rumored that the ancient secrets have been dug up once more, but from a different part of the world. He quickly dismissed such thoughts. He had heard of such from a drunkard at the tavern outside the White Gates of Talmouth. Nonsense.
It was not as though his people were invincible anyways. The Pass of Shatan served as a painful reminder. Though it was nearly impossible to slice through the fibers, a well placed blade or arrow could stab through the coat, in between the protective hairs. That was why he still wore armor.
Speaking of which… he thought, looking over at the breastplate leaning up against the rest of his equipment. He studied the giant crack that spread across the entire width. It was barely held together by two metal patches, but it could not withstand much more. I guess that should teach me not to mess with the barbarians of the East. But then again, he mused with a smug grin, the absence of an arm should teach him not to mess with the Guardian.
He would not sleep this night; he knew this already. But it didn’t matter. If necessary, he would go weeks without sleep. So, he passed the time tossing sticks on the fire, and soon his concentration was lost in the flames.

The Guardian awoke to a flash in the sky. It felt familiar to him, but he couldn’t recall ever seeing anything like it before. A chill came over his body, which disturbed him. He didn’t get cold chills often, and when he did, it was always a bad sign.
Then something else occurred to him: he had fallen asleep. He didn’t remember falling asleep, but he had indeed woken up. And he had a slight memory of having nightmares, or one long nightmare, but no memories of what those awful dreams held.
He felt a cold wet against his skin. Looking down, he saw Pan, still curled up against him, but his skin was pale, his brow was soaked with sweat, and his face was scrunched up, as if he was hiding from something frightening.
“Pan! Wake up, child!”
He blinked a couple times, then sat up quickly. “Oh, Dog, where am I? Where are the Keepers?”
“You’re safe with me. You’re alright. It was just a bad dream.”
“I felt too real.”
“I know they can feel real-”
“No!” Pan looked at him sharply. “I’ve had dreams before, I know exactly how real they can be. This was different.” Then his features softened.
“I’m sorry, Dog. I don’t know what came over me. That wasn’t very kind.”
“I forgive you, child. I know you’re not a morning person.” He smiled gently, and Pan smiled back.
The Guardian looked around the camp. All of their tents and gear were still packed away; a useful benefit of having a giant fur coat. Since both of them were up anyways, they could get an early start and be at their destination before midday.
“Secure your pack, Pan, we’re going to set off early.”
“I guess it’s too early for breakfast, isn’t it?” He got to his feet, brushed off the snow, and looked around. “Have you seen Mr. Stick?”
“Who is- oh, right. Check by the bundle of weapons; I think I placed it there last night.”
Pan walked over to a large skin tied together with ropes. Sure enough, his walking stick was laying on the ground next to it. Dog walked over, his armor already adorned, and his pack already on his back. He hoisted the large bundle of swords over his shoulders.
After the shattering of his breastplate, the Guardian had started to collect the swords of his fallen enemies. They had no money, but they needed something to trade for a new set of armor. He must have had at least eight or nine swords, with a handful of daggers and boot knives.
The Guardian picked up his true treasure: a beautifully carved wooden bow, with what looked like the shape of a she-demon, naked and stretched out along the handle. He still remembered its former owner, a huntress with beautiful red hair, and a green woven cloak. He hadn’t intended for her to die; she was caught in the crossfire of a skirmish in the Outlands.
The thought of keeping the longbow had crossed his mind, but it would be impractical. It was much too large for Pan, and much too small for his beastly hands to yield. It was likely that he would just snap it in two. No, he would sell it, along with the other orphaned weapons. All weapons without a master.
They finished collecting their belongings, and started heading toward Yale, the city of Minstrels. He had heard many things about this area in the Eastland Province. The cities should be well stocked for the winter. War had not plagued these parts for generations, so they had time to build in sciences, and architecture. These cities were supposed to be quite the spectacle, and a popular sight for travelers. This brought in trade, which is exactly what he was looking for.
“Dog?”
“Yes, Pan?”
“Where are we going after we get your armor?”
He had thought about this, but honestly didn’t know. They had shaken off the Order months ago, so they were no longer fleeing, but they still needed to keep moving. It wouldn’t be too many more weeks before they would end up at the coast, but what then? Visit other countries. He had heard tales of the dangers, but was it really worse then the trouble they find here? Then again, there was always…
“You know, Pan, I’m really getting tired of the snow. How would you like to travel South, and travel in the jungles for a while?”
“Really? There’s no snow in the South?”
“In some of the mountains, yes, but not where we’re heading. We’ll stay along the coast, where we can catch fish along the way.”
“No more Manah?”
“Hopefully not, but we’ll keep it just in case. I’ve never fished before; I may not be any good at it.”
“Of course you are, Dog, you’re good at everything.”
“That’s not true. I’m not good at any instruments.”
“What about the Bobo Drum?”
He smiled. “You got me there, Pan. I guess there is that one. Well, I’m not good at sewing.”
The thought of Pan’s enormous Guardian trying to hold a needle in his gigantic paws sent him doubling over with laughter. “Silly Dog,” he got out in between the gasping breaths filled with giggles. Seeing his friend laugh so enthusiastically made the Guardian feel a little bit giddy. Soon, even he was laughing along. Pan eventually stopped so that he could breathe, and wiped tears from his eyes.
That was well needed, thought the Guardian. A good laugh is like a good cry: everyone needs one every once in while, and it was about time for a good laughter.
“Pan?”
“Yeah?”
“Who are the Keepers?”
Pan stopped and furrowed his brow. He looked as if he was trying to concentrate really hard, or possibly dig something up out of his memory. “I don’t know… why?”
“You said it this morning. When you woke up, you asked me ‘Where are the Keepers?’”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember my dream at all. It was an awful dream, I remember that. I don’t remember the dream, though. I don’t even remember saying that.”
“Hmm, I guess it does not matter. If it was more than a dream, than you will find out soon enough.”
They continued eastward, traveling with good speed. The sun was shining, and the snow was starting to slush on the surface, which made the icy paths slippery. They had made it thus far walking on the frozen winter, but the Guardian no longer trusted the constitution of the continually-thinning layer of ice.

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One comment

  1. OK, this is very important: the Keepers mentioned in this story have absolutely NOTHING to do with “The Keepers” the short story. Pan is a part of “The Desert Syns- A Novel” where the other story is independent. Though they were published within months of each other, they were written years apart, so I happened to use a term that was buried in my subconscious for both stories.

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