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St. Francis And Friends
by David Keyser
9/26/2013 / Short Stories
This is an excerpt from the little book St. Francis And Friends which is a chapter in the book Reign: The Millennium By David J. Keyser
"If you are ready, Ken, we will go. There is someone else there I want you to meet. He is a Prince in Marco's court."
We went outside where Elaine's escort appeared and we were there in Constantinople or Istanbul as it is was once called. The Over-Lord's Dais is just a few miles from the Metropolitan's Dais there.
"My Brother, Marco," Elaine exclaimed. "I haven't seen you since the last Great Feast." She hugged him long and hard.
I was a little surprised. I knew that they had not been mortal at the same time, but they seemed to be very close. Marco hugged her in return with some zest. But I soon discovered that Marco did everything with some zest. Something to do with his lineage.
"Marco, this is our new Keeper, who has been in office about a year now, I brought him to meet Francis," Elaine chimed.
I approached the Over-Lord who was still standing from Elaine's arrival. His considerable court was standing as well. The sky was full of angelic presence and escorts.
"And so you come to us as Legate," Marco said to Elaine as he extended his hand to me.
"And as a sister and a friend," Elaine said smiling her biggest smile.
"I am so glad to meet the new Keeper," Marco said as he shook my hand so hard my shoulder actually hurt.
"Marco, your strength ..." Elaine said.
"Oh, so sorry young man," the Over-Lord said. "Didn't mean to injure you. Are you O.K.?"
"Yes, my lord, just fine," I said rubbing my shoulder.
He put one hand on that shoulder and it was immediately fine. "So you came to meet the Prince Francis?" he asked.
"Evidently, my lord."
"Evidently! Ha! So she only tells you so much my young Keeper. No worry, she is the same with us." Then lowering his voice slightly, "always some great secret, you know. But she is delightful."
He nodded expecting agreement so I nodded as well. Elaine just smiled. Do Immortals actually fall in love with each other? No, I know better than that. But this was new to me. I had never seen Elaine so 'delightful.' She must really like Marco. So they do have favorites.
Clasping me on the back Marco led me back to his seat and motioned for me to sit on a nearby stool. This was a high honor for a mortal and I was glad for it.
"Now, let's see," Marco continued as he scanned the area. His court seated themselves. "Where is our brother Francis?"
"I believe he went to his reserve in Australia," a female prince offered.
"Oh yes, Australia, such interesting animals there," Marco nodded.
"Trieste!" Marco called to a particularly impressive angel just above and in front of the Dais.
The angel swooped down and bowed to the Over-Lord.
"Please go and beg my brother Francis to meet with us here," Marco said.
I thought 'please beg'; this Over-Lord was extremely polite. Again probably his bloodline. In a few minutes Trieste and another escort appeared and Francis stepped onto the Dais. He had a beautiful parrot on one shoulder and a small shaggy black and white monkey in his arms.
"What animals do you bring us today?" Marco asked. Francis gave the particular names of the animals both technical and common. I was fascinated.
"No, my brother," Marco continued. "I mean what do you call them, what do they answer to?"
"Oh, of course, this in Arthur," he pointed to the multicolored bird on his shoulder. "And this baby has not been named yet. His mother was injured and I have adopted him." He caressed the infant monkey who was very still.
"Say hello to the Over-Lord Arthur," Francis said.
"Hello, your excellency," the parrot said, "It is a great pleasure to be at your Dais today. I trust that the Over-Lord is quite pleased with all that is around him this beautiful day," the parrot continued.
I was amazed. My jaw dropped open. Elaine clapped and said,
"Marvelous, Francis. Arthur is absolutely marvelous."
Then she said to me. "Francis has expanded the talking abilities of many animals. He is quite fond of them all."
"Mistress," I said softly. She leaned in my direction. "Is this Immortal Francis from the Italian town of Assisi?"
"Smart Ken. You have guessed it. He is the great champion of animals."
Now I knew who she had brought me to meet. Francis sat down on the other side of me and handed me the little monkey without speaking a word to me. I caressed it and loved it. The tiny creature almost appeared to purr like a cat.
"You like the monkey?" the parrot asked me.
I nodded before I could catch my own surprise. What had Elaine said? "Expanded the talking abilities?" I should think so. This parrot seems capable of a conversation. I decided to explore this right there in front of the Over-Lord and his entire court.
"Yes. How about you?" I asked the parrot. "Do you like monkeys?"
"Yes, they are fine," he answered and continued, "we are all God's creatures, children of the Emperor, but I generally prefer birds."
The entire court chuckled. I was dumfounded once again.
Francis leaned forward and said to me, "Yes, he can actually carry on a conversation. And I see that you like animals."
"Yes, my lord, I do. Very much. They are so innocent and pure. Don't you think?"
"Indeed I do."
Then every prince on the Dais had to speak to the parrot who was passed from arm to arm. He readily accepted each new arm and chatted to everyone who talked to him. This went on for quite some time. I just held the little monkey while he took a short nap.
Later Francis held out his hands to retrieve his monkey. Reluctantly I gave it back. He saw my hesitation and said, "After the meal we should talk, Keeper."
I nodded as I remembered how hungry I was. I learned that the Over-Lord Marco of the Mediterranean had many chefs and outstanding meals. I also learned that Francis was a vegetarian.
"These are just domestic cows and birds," Marco said in an attempt to get Frances to try a meat dish. At the word 'birds' Arthur the parrot squawked loudly. I felt strange so I looked around and noticed that the entire court did not know just how to respond. Some smiled but did not laugh. Others acted as if they had not heard Marco's remark or the squawk.
I waited for what seemed to be a very long time after the meal until Francis was ready to talk. By the time I saw him walking across Marco's beautiful garden, I was sleepy so I stood and tried to be very much awake.
"I am so sorry," Francis said as he approached me. Let us get you a cold drink. He motioned to one of the mortal waiters who brought me some wonderful lemonade. It was cold and it revived me.
"I remember when I was mortal how a big luncheon would make me so sleepy afterwards especially on a warm spring afternoon like this one. There now, are you ready for a little talk?"
"Absolutely, my lord."
"You are just going to have to call me Francis. May I call you Ken, Keeper?"
"Yes, of course. And thank you Francis."
We got along great from the start. Later when talking to a friend about my first meeting with Francis, my friend asked how I felt when he handed me the little monkey and did not speak a word. I said that this did not even occur to me at the time. Actually any one that Francis hands a defenseless infant animal to should be honored with the trust extended. I guess that somewhere inside I actually felt like that.
"You see, Ken, I would like to take you to see my animal friends. I feel like you would enjoy it tremendously. I loved animals as a mortal, but here in the reign it is so much better. They no longer have their natural fear and ferocity that they had before. And I am able to do so much with them."
"Yes, the parrot Arthur," I began.
"Yes, he is one. The Emperor has allowed me the power to actually improve some of them. If you come with me, you will see."
I was ready to start right then.
"So, Ken, I will come to your house in about a week and we will plan our travels. Is that good with you?"
"Of course," I said. I wondered how I would wait that long.
[N.D.] Almost exactly a week after I met Francis, I was reading in my parlor. I find the library too dark to stay in. When Lucius suddenly appeared and announced, "A large party is approaching, Keeper, a Prince from Italy."
I bounded out onto the lawn. I knew it was Francis. His escort was not particularly large and it arrived and stood on my lawn. There was a short delay before Francis stepped through the portal. He, of course, had animals with him and they were mortal. There was Arthur the parrot, a baby giraffe named Twigga, who was at least 8 feet tall and a beautiful red Irish setter dog named Ralph.
"Ken, my friend," Francis began. We embraced and Arthur moved to my shoulder.
"Hi !" Arthur said softly as he was standing next to my ear.
"Hi, yourself," I answered. I expected more but all the bird said was, "Um Huum," followed by a slight rattling sound in his throat. Francis smiled.
"He likes you, really," Francis said.
Arthur rode gently on my shoulder. He did not dig his claws in too deeply.
Francis introduced me to the giraffe and the dog. The giraffe nodded repeatedly and the dog extended a paw to shake. When I took his paw and shook it he chuckled out loud, " Heh, heh, heh, heh." It seemed to be a friendly laugh.
"May they run," Francis asked.
"Yes, yes of course. Tell them to feel free," I answered.
"You just have," Francis answered.
The giraffe took off and the dog scampered to catch up with the long legged juvenile. Arthur left my shoulder with a flap of his wings and caught them and landed on the giraffe's back. And they were off running in large circles around my garden while skillfully missing the flower beds and shrubbery. I thought them to be very considerate animals.
"Arthur will ride on Ralph's back when Twigga is not around," Francis said. "But he always chooses the fastest ride."
I learned that Twigga was Swahili for giraffe. But Francis had made it this giraffe's proper name. I wondered who had named Ralph.
Francis asked for a table and I had one brought out. He unfolded maps from a large pouch carried by an angel who was always at his right hand. He called him Genile.
I had no idea of the number and sizes of Francis' animal preserves. I remember one report by one of my ancestors but I had no idea about the size of Francis' 'reserves' as he called them. We planned an initial trip that would take just over six weeks. I hurriedly considered how to rearrange my schedule with as few 'pop backs' as necessary and enlisted the aid of my best administrator sibling. Finally, we rested and I had some drinks brought for us. I was expecting Elaine to drop by at any time. Arthur landed on Francis' shoulder and whispered something in his ear.
"Some drinks for my friends?" Francis asked gesturing towards the animals.
"Oh, yes, I am so sorry," I said. "I thought they would help themselves with the ponds."
"He says they don't taste very good."
"No doubt." I ordered three containers full of fresh water for them. They all drank heartedly. The bird and the giraffe drank very politely. Ralph drank long and loud. When he finished, he approached me.
"Than Kweu," I heard the dog say.
Still taken by surprise I answered, "You are most welcome." I could see that I had a lot to learn.
"Each type of animal has different strengths," Francis said. "The parrot, of course, is a good talker." He thought for a few seconds. "And wait until you see some others," Francis said patting my knee. "Just wait until you see them. Wait until you meet the dolphins, oh yes, the dolphins."
"Very smart, the dolphins," said Arthur. "Very smart."
That night I thought of the words from the sacred scriptures, " The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain," and I promptly looked these words up.
[N.D.] In contrast to the enormous animal parks that Francis oversees in the world are the thousands of smaller ones in the midst of human neighborhoods throughout the world. When I say human neighborhoods, I mean places where people live both Immortals and mortals. In most areas the Immortals have their own enclave which spreads out from the local prince's Dais and blends with the homes of the mortals in the area. However, there is a place in almost every area where this blending meets that is what you could call a mixed neighborhood or blending area. Such neighborhoods can be in the city, the small town or even in the country areas; mortals and Immortals living sometimes next to each other. Although there is never any doubt who is the mortal and who is the Immortal, the fact remains that most of the Immortals are not rulers. They evidently did not do anything during their mortality to warrant being a ruler of any kind during the present great Reign. Some of them even keep up the homes they had as mortals. These Immortals are not required to do this. They can live in the Palace beyond the veil or even off world. But those who want to can live among us. There is even the strange case in some instances where a mortal family continues to occupy the house that their ancestors have always lived in next door to an Immortal that their ancestors knew in mortal life.
In many places, but especially near these blending areas Francis has established animal reserves where people can bring their animal friends to play and frolic. Sometimes these parks are quite large. These animal friends were once called "pets." The only thing about the animal friends is that there are no Immortal animals; they are all mortal and die like the mortal humans in a matter of years.
Regarding this I have found Francis' animal friend Ralph somewhat unusual. One day Francis told me that Ralph was nearly 40 years old.
"Do all the animals live such long lives under the Reign?" I asked.
"Not really," Francis answered. "I have extended Ralph's life, but he will die one day as well. There is only so much that I can do. I keep some of his puppies around so he can live on in them."
"I see." Or at least I think I did.
03.11.756 C.R. The residence has changed. Some say that I have made it a menagerie; there are a lot of animals here. It has gone from many children to many animals. All of the animals are well trained; they train very quickly and easily. They never leave droppings in the wrong places and they are not destructive to people or property. Francis says that this is because their natural instinct of fear of humans has been removed and they no longer have to worry about food or survival. The animals no longer eat each other, they eat fruits and vegetables instead. Animals raised for human consumption are raised on farms for that purpose and do not seem to be aware of their end; this is an obvious mercy. There are not many species of these.
I was surprised at the number of Immortals who have animal friends now during the reign. Most of them are near replicas of the beloved "pets" they had as mortals. They simply pick parents and allow them to breed. Then these Immortals touch the mother and bless the offspring with certain characteristics which cause them to be born an almost exact replica of their beloved departed pet. The mortals are less picky; they usually just chose the young animal they want and take it home to raise it as a companion. I have heard of cases, however, where a mortal will ask an Immortal friend who lives nearby to bless a mother animal for them in order to get a near replica of one of their own departed pets. The Immortal animal lover is more than willing to do this for a mortal neighbor. I asked Francis why there are no immortal animals and he said that this is not granted to them. However, most everyone seems quite happy with their blessed animal offspring.
Francis even has some angels who help care for the animals. They all seem to be from the lowest rank of angels like Lucius. Some of them are smaller than Lucius. I assume that they take this form intentionally in order not to scare the animals or that may be their created form.
I asked Francis why he thinks he is more remembered for his love of animals than for the religious order that bore his name. He says it is because Immortals during this reign are more interested in their animals than in an ancient religious order. There are many Immortal brothers from the order who help Francis with his animal work.
[N.D.] Francis was correct; I was very impressed with the dolphins. They live at the aquatic reserves. They speak human languages fluently. They are obviously the smartest of the animals. But my fascination is not reserved to dolphins.
All serpents now have legs; there are none who crawl on their bellies now. That was the result of an ancient curse that the Emperor has lifted during the reign.
I love lions. They are so gentle now. I have moved several to the residence where I have had to construct appropriate dwellings and exercise lawns for them and the other animals. There is plenty of room at the reserves for all of them, it is just that I want to have many of them around me at the residence. If the next keeper does not want them, they will not be forsaken. Francis and his brothers and angels will take care of everything.
[N.D.] My favorite lion pair, they seem to pair for life with one mate now, is Casper and Grace. They live with me here; I mean they really live with me. They have the run not only of the property but of the house as well. Casper is a medium size male with a great golden mane and Grace is a perfect match. They eat lots of soy beans and other grains. They are gentle and intelligent. They can speak a few words and understand almost anything in the universal language. They aim to please. Nearby children come to see them and they ride them all around on their backs. If they attempt to enter the house when mortals are here who might fear them, Lucius blocks the way and forbids them. They obey angels absolutely as do all the animals. Sometimes I think they see angels that we do not. I have always thought that it was a matter of which angels appeared, not a matter of our ability to see them, but that may not be the case.
[N.D.] Angels and animals would seem to be at the opposite end of the wonderful creation spectrum. In other words, we are most likely to think of angels as very intelligent and eternal super beings and animals as stupid and very short lived. Some of this is, of course, true and actually we mortals are closer to the animals than we are to the angels. But I have found some similarities between the angels and the animals. In the first place, neither of them is as confused as we mortals tend to be. They both know who they are and accept it absolutely. We mortals are frequently trying to be what we are not; we are either trying to be more than we are or we are acting as less than we are. We are either grandiose or we are debasing ourselves. Not true with angels or animals. Because they do not try to be anything that they are not, this gives them both, angels and animals, a sort of built-in dignity that we often miss as mortals. This is strange since we mortals are actually made in the image of the Emperor. But somewhere along the line we have lost something. When our original parents lost their favor with the Emperor and His Father, we all fell out of favor with them. Of course, the Immortals have regained this favor. Until we discover our chances of regaining favor, I often prefer the company of angels and animals. I have never seen Lucius angry, embarrassed, sad or ecstatic. He may miss out on some of the joy, but he is certainly spared the sorrow that we often experience. The animals from time to time get to share our sorrows. Sometimes they are abused in spite of the present laws.
But even then they bear it with dignity. Now they are free to be our friends. Francis and I find them to be fine friends indeed. When I want to move some of my animal friends from a preserve to my residence, I have found that Lucius will do it for me.
The first time I confronted this problem Lucius informed me in his own way that he could help. Actually I wanted to move Casper and Grace from Francis' preserve in Africa to my residence. I had asked Francis about this and he had agreed. I told the Lions about this and they acted very excited. They had never been out of the preserve that they had been born in. I began to make arrangements with a local transporter to send them to Atlanta by ship. The trip was to take over three weeks and I hoped that they would not get seasick. I was traveling openly so it was known who I am and Lucius was visible just above and behind me. The transport man was temporarily called away on another matter so I sat there in his garden drinking some tea.
Lucius moved directly in front of me. I thought that it was a summons to go somewhere. When he did not speak, I asked. "What? Lucius, what is It?"
"Keeper, I can move the animals for you," he responded.
What a marvelous idea. Why had I not thought of it. After all, Francis travels with animals and his angel opens a portal for them.
"Great, Lucius," I said. "I don't know why I did not ask you in the first place."
"That is quite all right, Keeper," he answered. "You and I have not encountered this before."
When the transporter returned, I thanked him and apologized. "You see, sir," I said. "I had failed to ask my angel here if he could do it. But he can. So sorry, I will be glad to recommend you to other mortals."
He was polite, but I could tell that he was a little angry about me getting his hopes up about the opportunity of serving the Keeper. That would probably increase his business. I really should be more careful.
[N.D.] As it worked out, I ended up by returning to the residence with Casper and Grace, a pair of ostriches named Bwana and Binti which is Swahili for Mister and Miss, a gorgeous Parrot named Bertrum who talks almost as good as Francis' friend, Arthur, a pair of Zebra named Horace and Herminie, a hippopotamus named Pounder, and the tiny black and white monkey that I held when I first met Francis' named, Kidogo, which means 'small.' He is grown now but he will never be very large. Francis had named the monkey and the other animals had been named by the mortal game helpers which Francis keeps at that preserve. When we arrived without warning in the middle of the lawn in my front garden, it was quite a surprise to my staff.
"Everyone just stay calm," I shouted. "There is no reason to get excited. My librarian's little highland terrier named Gordon came running at full speed half barking and half trying to form some words. The animals who had arrived with me were still recovering from their first instantaneous journey and, as it turned out, they had never met a highland terrier. They were all just about to bolt when I commanded, "Hold it! Freeze. Every animal just stay where you are!" They all did as I ordered. "Gordon, that means you as well!" I bellowed. Gordon stopped. "Sit," I said. Gordon sat and the new arrivals looked at me with a look of great thankfulness. We took a few minutes for them all to get acquainted and I talked to my head gardener Jimmy about where to house them all. It was not too long before I redesigned my garden to accommodate animal visitors from all over.
"A highland terrier?" Bertrum said. "Where do they come from, Keeper?" Then he cocked his head expecting an answer from me.
"Uh, Scotland, I believe, Bertrum."
"Yes, yes, of course," Gordon managed to say. It was part growl and part speaking. Terriers don't take well to speech even during the Reign.
All in all I have to give my gardener Jimmy credit for being both creative and patient with my new found love of animals. However, after about a week he came to the library for me quite disturbed.
"Sir, Keeper, really I must . . .," he began.
"What is it, Jimmy?"
"The Hippo, er, Pounder. He has ruined our small pond. He has eaten the water lilies, flowers and all, and he had made a mud bath out of half of the pond. What am I to do, sir?"
"Now Jimmy please calm down. I am afraid that is Pounder's nature. As a matter of fact, we will probably have to enlarge the pond and put up with the muddiness."
"But I thought you enjoyed the lilies," he said.
"I do, and so does my staff. We will put in a smaller pond in the back for the lilies and enlarge the front one for Pounder. That is his native habitat, you know? A pond."
"How will we keep him out of the new pond?" Jimmy asked.
"I will ask him to stay out. He is a nice fellow; he will cooperate," I said.
"Oh, it's that simple then?" Jimmy asked.
"Of course, let's go talk to Pounder now."
We went to the front pond where I must admit that the Hippo had made a glorious mess.
"Pounder," I called.
The big animal surfaced in the water where before only his eyes could be seen breaking the surface.
"Siiiiir?" he said in a deep bass tone.
"Can you come here?" I asked pointing to the shoreline.
He came directly to us and started to emerge from the water. I motioned for him to stay with his massive legs still in the water.
"Pounder, we are going to enlarge this pond for you," I said.
"Goooood," was his answer. Then, "I caaaaan heeelp."
"Yes, fine," I said. I presumed that he would act as a mighty earth mover. But I left poor Jimmy to discover that.
"Now I want you to work with Jimmy here on this," I said.
"Yeeees, Jiiimy. Niiiice maaaan," he said. Jimmy seemed surprised but pleased.
"Now, Pounder," I said. "We are going to build another pond around behind my house," I pointed. "It is for flowers. I am asking you to not go there. Will you help us with that?"
"Yeeeeess, Keeeeeper," he answered.
"Does he really understand?" Jimmy asked.
"What are you going to do for me now?" I asked the Hippo.
"Nooooo swimmmm iiin ooootheeer pooond," he answered.
"There, you see, Jimmy," I said. "Everything will be fine." Jimmy seemed to be convinced.
"If you would like for me to help communicate with these, I would be glad to," Bertrum said to Jimmy. I had not noticed him follow us from the house. He was riding on the back of the terrier. They had become great friends. Bertrum would much rather ride than take the effort to fly.
"Uh, yea, great," Jimmy said a little surprised to be approached by a Parrot.
Bertrum shouted something to Pounder in another language. The Hippo rose up out of the water and shook his head vigorously. We didn't ask about this.
[N.D.] This afternoon during my tea break in the rear garden Bwana and Binti approached me. It seems that they like to race. They shifted from one long leg to the other as they stood in front of me. They started to speak, but it just came out as a series of shrieks. Then Bertrum flew in and landed on Binti's back. This got my attention as Bertrum is usually too lazy to fly and I have never seen him on the back of another bird, even the ostriches. Bwana and Bertrum exchanged a series of peeps and squeaks, then Berturm said something to Binti and she moved closer to me so that the parrot was practically in my face.
"They have a concern, sir," Bertrum said politely.
"And that is . . .?" I said.
"They like to race. Actually they need to race, you know, race and run."
"I have noticed that," I answered.
"They have set up a sort of a course around the residence, but they frequently step on some flowers or ruin one thing or another. So, they have stopped running as much."
"So, what do they want?" I asked.
"Well, if it does not offend you," Bertrum went on cautiously. "They would like to know if they can run outside the residence grounds, and if you could bring some more of their kind here to run with them. They, realize, Keeper, that they are asking for a lot and if it is not possible they . . . "
I interrupted at this point. "No, that is not too much," I said.
The ostriches jumped around and clucked excitedly and Bertrum almost fell off of Binti's back.
"Aawwwk! Steady now, Steady!" Bertrum shouted.
They calmed down a little.
"I'll tell you what," I said. "I will send for two more couples and we will lay out a great circling path for them to run on."
This time Binti was careful not to throw Bertrum in her excitement.
Jimmy was not thrilled with his new assignment, but he got the path laid out and I fixed it with the local civil administrator so that the community was ready to see 'the ostrich races' on a daily basis. The only complication we have had is that the local children and pets love to join in the race. So far no mortals have been injured and it is a great thrill to the community. Of course, the ostriches always win so that does not count. The runner up is considered to be the winner of the race. It is usually an especially fast young man and sometimes one of the faster pet dogs. My residence is pretty much of a menagerie, but everyone seems to enjoy it and no one better than I.
10.17.759 C.R. Today I had a most unusual report come to me and I have had to refer it to the Dais. It is a little known fact that Elaine has her own small Dais not far from Henry Sawyer's. She occasionally uses it to deal with matters within Buckhead. There are even a few under rulers for her there. I decided to take this matter directly to Elaine. One of my jackals, yes I brought in two pairs of jackals to my menagerie, sat muttering at my front door for quite a while. Lucius shooed him away several times, but he just kept coming back. Finally my cook brought it to my attention. I went out to see the animal. At first she seemed surprised that I had actually come. Then she said in her usual whiny yammering tone, "It's jus not right, eggs-cellen-see. Jus not right."
"What's not right?" I asked as I squatted down by her.
"They hurt tham, eggs-cellen-see. They hurt tham."
Suddenly she was joined by her mate who had been waiting in the bushes.
"Tha cow-herds, Keeeepr," he said. "They hurt the pettts."
I was beginning to catch on.
"Izz it nut aginst the coode?" the male asked.
"What are your names" I asked. "I'm sorry I have forgotten."
"I em Jeth," the female said. "He em Raa ."
"Alright Ra, Jeth, you are telling me that some mortal is abusing some of the pet animal friends near here?"
"Yaz, yaz,' they both answered.
"Lucius, get Bertrum," I said. In a few seconds Lucius was back with the parrot who was quite shaken by his ride. Lucius had traveled the angel corridor to get the bird and then flashed immediately back to my side.
"Awaaaaakk!" Bertrum said shaking his head as though to clear his thoughts.
"Is he all right, Lucius"
"Why did you bring him back that way?"
"It is my way, Keeper. Did I do wrong?" Lucius asked.
"No, no, of course not," I answered. I was not quite accustomed to dealing with so broad a range of creatures.
With the parrot's help I pieced together the entire story. It seems that there is a group of young men with a few young women in Buckhead that although not in open rebellion do not have enough to do and they started tormenting some of the pet dogs and even some cats. At first it was simple enough, hiding their food or making them beg for it. Then they started hurting the animals and seem to get some sort of perverted satisfaction out of that. Some of the animals have been partially crippled and one has apparently lost the vision in one eye as a result of this treatment. Since the local animal pets are not improved by the Immortal Francis, they can not express themselves like the members of my menagerie can.
The jackals have taken some tours of the community and have somehow been 'told' about this treatment. The male, Raa, was afraid to approach me but Jeth just could not hold back. When Raa saw that I was willing to listen, he came out of hiding.
"So, Elaine, that is the entire story," I said as I stood before her Dais with a jackal on either side of me and Bertrum on my shoulder.
"Ken, you were right to come to me. But I would have met you at your residence," Elaine said.
"Well, since this is an official matter I thought that I should present it officially, mistress," I said.
"I can deal with that," she answered smiling. "It is against the Imperial code to abuse any created being. And we, the princes, think that it is terrible."
"Now, tell them to tell us through the parrot, it will be more efficient that way, where and when this activity can be observed and we will put a stop to it," Elaine instructed.
Bertrum spoke quickly to the jackals and reported to us in clear language. It seems that this activity occurs at irregular times and they could not pin point a time and place to catch these pet abusers. Then Bertrum told us that all four jackals would go into the community and send us word through some of my own sparrows. The sparrows would report to the parrot who would inform me and Lucius and Lucius would get Elaine or one of her under governors and we would flash directly to the scene. That sounded rather round about to me and to Elaine but we agreed to try it. They cautioned us that it would most likely be in the early evening hours.
[N.D.] It was only two days before the whole string of contacts worked perfectly. Elaine and Lucius and I were on the scene in no time. Two dogs, barely more than puppies where being mercilessly gouged with sticks. Our appearance was quite startling there in that dirty alley. Of course, they stopped their activity immediately and the young woman even started stroking one of the pets very lovingly. As soon as we arrived, Raa and Jeth emerged from the shadows. When these young people saw the jackals, they were obviously frightened. The jackals made good use of this by growling deeply and narrowing their eyes to look as threatening as possible.
Elaine saw their fear and said, "Perhaps I should just let these jackals have their way."
"No, mistress, no please, we did not really mean any harm," the young woman said.
"But you have. You have hurt these animal friends and others," I said angrily.
One young man recognized me. "Keeper, excellency, we did not start out to hurt them, please."
"Nevertheless you did," I said. I could barely hold my temper. I approached the two puppies and scratched them behind the ears. They received it with joy and seemed forgiving towards everyone as they are so prone to do.
Elaine spoke directly to the puppies and the jackals. "Go get every animal who has been harmed by these mortals." She snapped her fingers and a dozen of her angels appeared. These mortals cowered in fear. Elaine continued, "If they can not come on their own, bring them," she commanded the angels. Then she snapped her fingers again and we were all at her Dais. Within half an hour every abused animal and every abuser stood before her.
Elaine touched and repaired every animal. They were all very affectionate and seemed most thankful. She sentenced all the youths to community service and threatened them with harsh judgments if they failed in their duties. The terms of their punishments were left open and they were commanded to appear before her every month. Her patrol would see to that. Then she had the guardians, some might call them owners, of these animal friends brought before her and charged them to better care for them. They were duly impressed and I expect that they will not forget this. Then she went to the Metropolitan and asked him to issue a public directive that no animal friends were to be abused.
12.02.765 C.R. I have decided to open shelters for needy animal friends everywhere and to send spies far and near to uncover instances of abuse. I have decided that birds will probably be the best spies. Bertrum now has three assistants to help take the reports from these birds. I have also had Lucius coordinate with the angel patrols in this project. The Immortal Francis is quite pleased and has given his full support.
[N.D.] Last night at about three A.M. Lucius woke me. I was very fast asleep and it must have taken him some time as he is always very gentle when awakening anyone in the family. In my dreams I remember feeling like someone was washing my face with a very soft damp washcloth like mother used to do. It was Lucius stroking me face with his 'hands.' When I opened my eyes he was very close.
"Uh. Lucius. What is it?" I asked.
"Keeper, Chloe has been attacked in London, during a speech," he said softly.
I was instantly awake. "Where is the Legate?" I asked.
"She will arrive here momentarily," the angel answered.
I jumped up and got dressed. As I was tying my shoes, Elaine appeared in my room.
"Ken, my dear boy," she said. She came directly towards me. I had been giving myself a hard time for using Chloe so much at speaking engagements. She was so good at it and loved doing it. She was probably the most recognized of any of the fifteen of us for her public appearances. She always represented me exactly and never gave the appearance of having any office herself even though she was my Assistant for public affairs. I was blaming myself for her hurt and wondering how bad it was or whether Elaine or another prince would fix everything. Elaine touched my head and I immediately felt calmer.
"This is not your fault," she said immediately.
"What is there to know, mistress?" I asked.
"She was speaking at an early morning rally in London, talking about the history of the Reign and where we are now in it when someone threw a large knife at her, a knife designed for throwing, it pierced her exactly through the heart." I blanched white.
"Easy, easy now, Ken. The prince of Chelsea, Mary Pearl, has removed the blade and effected some healing. Do not be concerned. Are you ready?"
"Yes, mistress." We were in London. The crowd was being held back by the mortal police. Chloe was sitting on the platform that she had been speaking from. She looked at me and smiled. She still looked shaken and pale. Several Immortals where holding her in an upright position. Elaine had brought her full escort as Legate in order to purposely make a large impression, and together with the various other escorts the sky was thick with angels. The Metropolitan of London was there. They were all fusing over my dear sister. The culprit was being held just in front of the stage, a makeshift Dais, by two angels. He was angry and snarling. I talked to Chloe for a few minutes and she still seemed to have a hard time catching her breath. The Immortal who had helped her, Prince Mary Pearl, seemed a little concerned. After a few minutes Elaine motioned for me to join the Metropolitan's examination of the culprit. I listened.
The Metropolitan of London is one Alfred Hotchkins. He is big and burly and still speaks with his mortal accent. The man who attacked my sister freely acknowledged his guilt and did not ask for mercy.
"Recommendations?" the Metropolitan asked of me. "She is your sister, Keeper."
"Put him out of his misery," I said angrily.
To my surprise he did just that instantly. He barely pointed with his finger and the man dropped dead. Some mortals removed the body. Later I wished that I had taken this more seriously. Could the man have been reformed? What was his motive? I learned not to speak hastily when ask for an opinion on judgment from an Imperial Prince.
Elaine and I took Chloe back to her London residence, but she was not quite right.
"Elaine, what is it?" I asked. "Is there something that you can do?"
"Possibly. But I don't think that I am to do it," she answered.
"Then what?" I asked.
"We don't know everything always," she answered.
"You think and meditate on it for a while. Meanwhile let her rest, that will probably help."
"Ken," Chloe called to me just before she dropped to sleep.
I hurried to her side. She still had that same sweet smile. "Why? Who was he?"
"I didn't ask," I answered. She looked at me quizzically. I encouraged her to rest. She would have forgiven the man and tried to rehabilitate him. I hoped she wouldn't ask anymore.
08.17.777 C.R. Chloe did not improve any over the next week and a half. She did not complain, but I felt responsible. Elaine was gone to the other side. I finally decided that I had to go to the Emperor himself on the matter. I went to the Metropolitan Alfred Hotchkins and he arranged an audience.
I expected enormous crowds and a long wait before I could speak to the Emperor. This was not the case. I arrived in a beautiful room overlooking the capital with only Lucius to keep me company. I sat in a nice chair near a window and Lucius hovered contentedly. After about ten or fifteen minutes Lucius dropped to the floor and bowed deeply. I still did not see or hear anything, but I got down on my knees and faced the doors opposite the windows. I would never ignore a clue from Lucius. In a moment the doors actually opened and the Emperor walked in by himself. The doors shut behind him. I looked down then I stole a glance as he approached. He walked casually but purposefully like he had nothing to do, but whatever he did do would be full of authority. His robe was white and plain. As he approached, I looked down again. Then I saw his feet in his golden sandals. I saw the scars on the top of his feet between the bones. I felt his hand under my chin raising my face to his. He was smiling and I was overwhelmed. Here was the epitome of love. Here was peace. Here was eternity in the flesh. Here was the Emperor. We looked at each other for a minute or so. The room vanished from my consciousness. It felt like I understood everything, everything about Chloe and me and about the whole world itself although I could not explain a thing. Finally, he sat on a chair and motioned for me to sit facing him. Then he spoke.
"Ken, son of Amanda."
"Yes Majesty." That was all I could say.
I felt personally recognized. He said my name. He said mother's name, her real name. I felt that he knew me; he knew us; he knew everything that we ever thought or did. He was in no hurry. I wanted to choose my words carefully. Finally I managed to say,
"My sister, Chloe, Majesty . . . "
"She is not completely well." He said.
"What do you want me to do?"
What an incredible question from the Lord of all.
Then it struck me. I remembered Marco.
"Just say the word, Sire, and she will be well and strong."
"You have learned well, young Ken. She is well and strong. Come, walk with me now," the Emperor said.
I did not doubt for one second that Chloe was wonderfully fine back in London from that second on. I walked for over an hour with the Emperor in his private gardens and I have never been the same since.
Chloe has spoken for me many times now since her restoration and she never experiences any fear.
[N.D.] I was reading over some of Joan's journals this morning when Bertrum flew into the library and landed on his perch that I keep for him there.
"Awk! Abuse Keeper. Abuse," he said as he moved from side to side on his perch as he does when he is very upset.
"Where, Bertrum?" I asked.
"Borneo, Keeper. They beat the donkeys without mercy," he answered.
"Are the donkeys there pulling vehicles for them?" I asked.
"Yes, Keeper. But they pull as hard as they can until they are exhausted. Why beat them?" he asked.
"There is no reason for that," I said. "Lucius!"
Lucius was at my side and we were gone. Lucius knew when to bring a small contingent of Francis' patrol, so we arrived at a silver mine in Borneo with four patrol angels, myself and Lucius and Bertrum.
Bertrum had taken to this kind of travel right off, but Alan, my gamekeeper, did not. Perhaps it was because Bertrum was accustomed to flying. I wanted Alan with me on this mission, but I also knew that while he was recovering from the trip the offenders would certainly stop their abuse of my animal friends and possibly even make a run for it. I wanted to catch them in the act, so I told Lucius to take us to a place nearby where we could observe and I took my binoculars with me. At this request Lucius departed for a few seconds and returned. I knew that he was checking out the situation without mortals because he could be in a place without appearing. If we were with him, he would have to place us immediately as we could not become invisible or wait in the 'in between' during the trip.
"Ready, Keeper," Lucius announced. "I have chosen a place just up the hill where you can look down on them." He glanced briefly at my binoculars. I never asked how Lucius knew exactly where Bertrum was talking about as the coordination between the animals and the angels is usually pretty good. We emerged at this place just up the hill and I assured Alan that he was still alive and uninjured. As I watched, I saw the cruelty that Bertrum's 'agents' had reported. There were several parrots screeching at the men from the trees. Probably part of Bertrum's network. I did not have to watch for long before I was anxious to get down there; these small animals were suffering terribly. There were four teams of six donkeys each just outside the mine entrance.
"Are there any more in the mine?" I asked Lucius.
"Yes, Keeper. Two teams," he answered. "But they can come out here."
"Good. Take us down there," I said. Alan begged to run down and meet us there but I refused. If he was going to be any good to me, he had to learn to travel with the angels. We appeared right next to the teams in front of the mine. They were all quite startled.
"Do you know the punishment for mistreating these animals?" I asked.
"They all looked dumbstruck.
"Sir, we, that is, they . . ." one man, apparently a foreman, stuttered.
"No excuses," I said. They were all looking at the angels. Bertrum had taken his perch on my shoulder. From there he squawked to the surrounding parrots who answered in kind.
"He says he has witnesses," I said nodding towards my shoulder. "You have been mistreating these small loyal burden bearers for some time."
"He? You mean that bird?" the foreman asked.
"Yes, that bird," I answered.
Before I could continue Bertrum spoke. "You are a cruel and unfeeling man," he said.
All the men looked surprised. "Did you teach him to say that?" the foreman asked.
"No. He says what he thinks," I answered.
"Oh, get serious," the foreman said. He looked at the other men and they all laughed.
"You won't laugh when the Keeper is through with you," Bertrum said.
"The Keeper?" the foreman said. His face turned very serious.
"Sir, are you the Keeper, er, Keith?" he asked.
"Ken, Ken is my name," I answered. "And I am the Keeper. And this parrot is of the improved variety. And these are real angels from the patrol of the Immortal Francis. And you are all in deep trouble."
They all turned very sober and hung their heads.
"Since I am not an Immortal, I can not judge you," I said. "But I am sending for Francis," I nodded to Lucius and one of the patrol angels left. "We will wait right here until he comes."
After a few minutes the foreman spoke, "Sir, my men are thirsty. Can they get a drink?" he asked.
"No," I said. "But they can release the animals and take them to water."
They released the donkeys leaving their whips on the ground where they had dropped them. By then the other two teams had emerged from the mine and had been quickly informed by the foreman. After all the animals had a drink, the men started to drink from the troughs.
"Stop," I said. "No drinking of any kind."
"But Sir, that is cruel," the foreman said.
"You should certainly know about that," I answered him.
Francis arrived with another larger escort in a few minutes. The foreman got down on his knees and the other men followed. Francis inspected each of the little burros stroking them softly and speaking softly into each of their ears. Then he turned to the men.
"Why?" he asked.
The foreman answered. "Excellency, unless we apply the whip they will not work. Our employer requires so many tons of ore a day. We have no choice."
"I do not believe you," Francis said. "A little gentle urging and they will pull your wagons. They are glad for the work."
"And your employer. Where is he?" Francis asked.
"At the home office," the foreman said.
Francis instructed some of his escort and they vanished to return in a minute with a well dressed man who was obviously quite frightened.
"You are over these men?" Francis asked.
"Yes, excellency," the man answered.
"Did you know that they beat the animals?" Francis asked.
The man looked surprised. "Excellency?"
"Yes, they abuse these animals. Do you know the Imperial code?" Francis asked.
The man seemed befuddled.
"Then listen clearly and I shall tell you all that you need to know before I lay punishment upon you," Francis said.
"Firstly, it is against the code for you to treat these animals with cruelty. Secondly, I am Francis the friend of all animals and I have the authority of an Over-Lord-At- Large in these matters. Thirdly, this will not be allowed to continue."
Still a stunned silence. By this time the local Over-Lord and his escort had arrived. He and Francis embraced and talked briefly. There was no doubt as to their unity. The local Over-Lord nodded to Francis and stepped back.
All of these men were now assembled in front of them.
"This is what will happen," Francis announced.
"First, these animals are taken from you along with the reserves in that pen." At this several angels approached the animals and disappeared with them. They were taken to my reserve for sick or injured animals in Brazil.
"You," Francis pointed to the executive, "will be fined heavily for your lack of action in this matter." An amount was announced which received a severe wince from the man. It obviously hit him where it hurt.
"You men," Francis pointed to the foreman and the drivers, "will pull these carts yourselves for 30 days for 12 hours a day. No animal help will be allowed. The company will just have to bear this loss and replace the animals as well. And you will not slacken in your efforts or worse will happen to you."
"But excellency," the foreman complained. "These carts are very heavy."
"I know," Francis answered. "as you are about to find out. And you mister executive, these particular animals will never be returned to you. They are honorably retired."
Again a wince from the company man. Silence prevailed among the other men for some time. Finally, the biggest of the drivers spoke.
"Sir, Excellency," he said.
"Is there, can there be any other punishment for us? Some of us may not survive this work."
"Death. Now." Francis said flatly.
By now the seriousness of the situation was firmly established. I paid my respects to the local Over-Lord, and I was back at my residence in Atlanta.
[N.D.] Today my gamekeeper Alan came to me with an idea.
"Good morning, Keeper," he began.
"Alan, how are all the animals?" I asked.
"Fine, Keeper, just fine. The hippos keep overrunning their boundaries. It is hard for them. But we speak to them again and they are all right for another month or two."
"I have full confidence in you, Alan."
"Thank you, Keeper. I am honored. Keeper, I came about, . . . well, I have a suggestion concerning your twin sisters."
"Really? What is it?" I asked. He had my attention.
"They seem to really like the animals. They have started helping around the residence animals and I could find full time jobs for them if you so desire."
I could have kissed the man. But he would have gone into shock. I calmed down and managed a better response. "Yes, fine, Alan. Anything that would give them a sense of purpose would be a great help. Thank you, please proceed."
"Yes, good. I will get back to you later, Keeper," Alan said and he departed hurriedly.
[N.D.] Today my sister Pamela came to me with what was to be a surprising complaint.
"Brother, I do dearly love your animal friends, but May's children should receive at least equal consideration from you," she said.
I was shocked. I thought that May's children were receiving all that they needed. I had put Pam in charge of the children's centers that were started by the great Keeper May and she had taken to the task right away. I rarely heard anything from her and all praised her work and dedication to the task. I was pleased that I had known where to put her to work and I felt that she was very satisfied with her work.
"How are the children slighted?" I asked.
"There are still too many in each home," Pam answered. "And I need more mortal help in caring for them. There are more and more of them every month."
"I did not realize this," I said. "Of course, I will help. But why do you think there are more of them every month? Are more children being neglected? If so, this should be taken to the highest level."
"There are more being neglected, Ken. There are more irresponsible people having children and not caring for them than ever before," Pam told me.
During the glorious Reign? I thought. This can not be. What should be done about it? We asked to see Elaine immediately.
"There certainly should be something done about this," Elaine said. "This is unacceptable behavior during the Reign. The Emperor has always been the friend of children. Something will be done and it will be severe and effective. I am going to talk to the Chancellor right away."
[N.D.] An Imperial decree has been issued and summary judgment promised to anyone who conceives children and does not take care of them. I don't know why this was not caught earlier. Surely it was not merely waiting until Pam made a issue of it; at least I don't think so. But I have learned not to question the timing of justice in the Reign. However it comes out, I must presume that the timing and the end result are under the ultimate control of the Emperor and his governors.
The decree unfortunately did not do much for the children already in the homes. Most of their parents had already died due to their unsavory practices or as the result of judgment for other crimes. I have issued a public request for help and the response has been most encouraging. Pam says that she now has all the helpers that she needs and that loving adoptions are now much greater than before.
[N.D.] As I talked to Pam and Jason today, I again assured her that I did not intend for my animal friends to be treated any better than the children. Jason is my assistant for public liaison and he is a great help in this matter.
"Oh, I know, brother," Pam said. "You have so many things to do. Jason has been a dear in this. We also have a suggestion."
"Suggest," I said.
Pam looked to Jason.
"Ah, it is merely this, brother," Jason began. "We think it would be wonderful if we could combine the care of the children with the care of the animals." He paused and I waited.
So he continued. "You see, we think that they could get a lot from each other. Many of the animals have a very good calming effect on the children, especially the furry ones. But some of the other do as well. It mostly depends on the child. And the children need to get their minds off of themselves. They need someone to care for so that they can learn responsibility. They have not had a lot of care or much responsibility. So, if the children could help take care of the animals and the animals could help to comfort and calm the children, we think that it would be a great combination."
"Well, many of our people have pet animals," I said.
"Yes, brother, they do. But they are the healthy families. Pam's children, er, May's that is, don't have that kind of a background. Yet, they also need pets, or animal companions, and they need to learn how to take care of them."
"I see," I said. "That sounds like a wonderful idea. How would we proceed?"
"Well," Jason answered. "That is where we would need your backing. We can work and 'sell' the idea, but the animals caretakers and the child caretakers would have to cooperate in this. We would need the full authority of your office and perhaps some Immortal authority as well. At first this might look complicated and difficult to many, but we believe that the benefits would far out weigh any problems."
"You two have convinced me," I said. "Let's get started."
"Great," they chimed in unison.
"Also, brother," Jason added. "The twins could help a lot here too."
"Do you two think they are ready for that?" I asked.
"Oh yes," Pam said. "They would be a great help and they would get a lot out of it as well."
The twins were thrilled to be asked to help.
07.22.808 C.R. I am in my 79th year. As I look back on my term as Keeper, I often wish that I could have done more. The animals are my great comfort. I have seen many generations of them come and go. I am always amazed at their nobility. I am very thankful for the work of the Immortal Francis. He has done so much for his animal friends. My siblings have all done well as the children and brothers and sisters of the Keeper. Some of them are already gone. My daughter Merle will succeed me. The Emperor be praised!
copyright 2007, 2012 David J. Keyser PhD All Rights Reserved
This story is an excerpt from the book Reign: The Millennium By David J. Keyser
Dr. David J Keyser has served as an international theology teacher and college adjunct faculty. His earned degrees include a B.S. , an M.Div, an M.S., a Th.M., and a Ph.D. in Theology. He is the author of over a dozen fiction and non-fiction books. www.davidjkeyserphd.info
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