Master and Pupil

“They don’t think you own the tree,” Gladius told the little shadowy thing. “They say someone else planted the garden long ago for them.”

The shadowy thing clung to the tree’s trunk. It had shredded the delicate white bark from a spot about two paces up and had sunk deep claws into the flesh of wood beneath. It regarded Gladius. “Then I suppose I cannot share my fruit with them.”

Gladius nodded sagely. “I suppose that natural consequences must follow. Well, thank you for sharing your fruit with me. I must go now.”

The thing blinked. “Why?”

“Because that is what I do. I awoke long ago far to the east, and I have always gone west. I do not know why.” He shrugged. “Nothing a pudding-head does makes sense, so I am told.”

The tiny beast growled up at the sky, waited a moment, and then growled again. When it spoke, it sounded unhappy. “May I travel with you?”

“Why not? But aren’t you attached to your tree? You’ve just returned; you shouldn’t leave now!”

It growled more as it drew out its claws, sunk deep, deep into the wood. “Yes. Well. I have long wished to travel to the west.” It spoke through clenched teeth. “Perhaps there we will find something new. Hold out your hands to catch me. I’ll ride on your shoulder.”

“Very well.” Galdius lifted his hands to comply, but thought better of it. “Shouldn’t we gather some of your fruit for the journey?”

“Will you pay my price?”

“Why should I?” Gladius scratched his head.

“Everything comes at a price. You get nothing unless you pay something.”

“That’s not the way it once was with your trees. They gave freely to all, merely for asking.” Gladius smiled. “It was quite pleasant in the garden before you returned.”

“Well, I am the owner, and I will say what happens!”

“Very well. I will allow you to ride on my shoulder for the price of all your fruit.” Gladius smiled. “You see, I learn when people teach me, and you have taught me so well.”

“Yes.” The creature’s sharp teeth showed. “Yes. And may I teach you more on our journey together?”

“Oh, I hope so. But what will I pay you with? I cannot accept learning unless I can pay for it. You yourself taught me that!”

The thing darted up the tree. “Oh, I will think of something. But I think you will do nicely. Yes. Let us go to the west, far beyond the mountains. A lady waits there I have long wanted to meet.”

“Oh! You mean you know someone that far away?”

“Yes. I have long wanted to meet the sun and teach her as I have you.”

This is the fifteenth chapter of Summers’ End.

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