Argentum and Aurum
Long ago, in a world far different from ours, there was a small, humble village, called Lowlia. It had been so small for so long that the small people who dwelt within this village had been afraid to let their population increase. They were afraid that if their population did increase, that they would anger their god. Their god being a giant, unreal creature named Warthon. Warthon was an evil creature, and the Lowlanese believed that if their population increased by even a small number, Warthon would destroy their whole civilization. So the people lived in fear of this huge god, whose shadow, as it seemed, would appear on a giant rock formation, miles east of their insignificant town every evening. The shadow was of a evil form, of whom all of Lowlia’s inhabitants believed to be their terrible
god. In order to keep their population small (and to please Warthon), the Lowlanese would send either an outcast or a first-born out into the Forest Omnipotenta, the most frightening place in the whole of their known territory.
All the people who didn’t get sent into the forest had their own problems to cope with. The only water source they had was a small lake, but the lake was so tiny in size that it was more of a large pond than a small lake. It was fed by a stream that was so little that naming it would be utterly useless for the fact that it might disappear someday. It was named Lake Cobalt, and every day, the woman of the house would got to the lake to fetch enough water to support their family. Food was the man’s job. Every seven days, the oldest male of the house would travel to the Forest Omnipotenta, and there collect enough leaves and berries to provide himself and his family for at least a week. They didn’t eat meat, on account of the forest wouldn’t allow an animal to live for a day, let alone a week within it. It was too harsh to provide life.
One of the fortunate Lowlaneseians to live without being sent into Omnipotenta was a golden-coated youth named Aurum. His mother loved him very much, “And,” she had said, “If he is to be sent away, I will gladly go with him.”
Aurum’s mother had taken extreme care of him ever since his sister’s death. His sister had supposedly died in this way:
Between Shadow Rock (the rock on which was cast Warthon’s shadow) and Lowlanese territory was an enormous canyon. It was called Mandibles Crevice, because its surrounding ledges resembled sharp jaws.
Aurum’s young sister Trisha was playing near the canyon’s edge. She was etching symbols in the dirt with a sharp stone. Aurum was sitting further from the canyon, playing with a wooden toy, carved from a fallen tree from Omnipotenta. Presently, Trisha’s rock broke, and she went to the canyon’s edge looking for another sharp one. Suddenly, she lost her balance, and fell off the canyon’s edge, screaming with fright. Aurum heard her cries, and ran towards the canyon, hoping to catch her. Their mother, who had been watching them both, ran to Aurum and stopped his rescue. There was nothing he could do, but listen to Trisha’s crying scream until it stopped, abruptly.
Trisha’s death was a terrible experience for a small cat like Aurum. Since that incident, all other Lowlanese parents had kept their children away from the crevice, so no one knew what actually happened to Trisha. Many nights after that, Aurum had terrible nightmares, dreaming that instead of Trisha, it was he who fell down Mandibles Crevice And in the end, just before he hit the bottom of the canyon, he would wake up, shivering with fear. The dream reoccurred for many nights after Trisha’s fall, but then, two and a half months after the incident, the dream changed. In the new dream, Aurum was on the canyon’s edge, and he fell from the canyon’s edge, just like in his last dream. But right after he fell, suddenly, his arms began to resist falling. They almost floated in the air. Aurum gazed at his arms. They didn’t look like they used to. Little white down feathers were growing on his arms. Aurum was puzzled. He remembered seeing these things before, but where? Ah, he thought, these aren’t feathers! These are wings! Oh, Warthon, am I really growing wings? But he couldn’t question himself for long, because the canyon floor was coming up, and fast. Then, by a strange instinct called upon by a strange force, Aurum pushed down with his now fully-grown wings, and to his utter astonishment, he rose into the air. With all his strength, Aurum pumped his wings up and down, until he was about halfway out of the canyon. But he didn’t fly out of the canyon. He decided to fly in Mandibles Crevice some more. He had a marvelous time flying and soaring in the canyon until he was awakened by his mother.
The following day after the dream, Aurum went outside to play with his wooden toy. He sat down on the ground outside his house, being careful to stay away from the canyon. Suddenly, Aurum saw an enormous shadow pass over the ground. He glanced upwards, but the “thing” had disappeared Then, several feathers floated down from the sky. White feathers. Aurum picked one of them up and examined it closely. It looked just like one of the flight feathers in his dream. It was a flight feather. Too large to be from a bird. He picked up the feathers and went into his clay home and then to his corner of the house. The Lowlanese built their huts so small that there could only be two rooms. One was for eating and storing, and the other was where the family members lived. Anyway, Aurum went to his corner and sat down, looking at the feathers and thinking, until suddenly he came to a conclusion. The dream, he thought, was telling me of these! It wants me to attach these in some way, and then I can fly into Mandible Crevice and rescue Trisha...if she is alive.
Aurum went into the storage room and found a clay bowl filled with tree sap, which was used to patch up holes in the walls. Aurum smeared the sap all over his arms and then stuck on his feathers. I shall now attempt to fly over this table, he thought. He stood before the wooden table, his tail twitching with excitement Then he sprang. Unfortunately, he underestimated his strength, and he landed on the table. It collapsed under him, and in doing so spilled and broke the clay bowl of water which was on the table. Aurum’s mother was horrified to see the table ruined. She picked Aurum up by the scruff of the neck and carried him to Lake Cobalt, attempting to bathe him and wash the sap out of his fur. So the dream was lying after all, thought Aurum as his mother massaged his arm. Those feathers must have been from a bird after all...
That night, while Aurum was lying in his corner, trying to comb out the sap with his claws, he heard voices coming from the other room. It was his mother, talking with one of the other mothers who had heard what had happened that morning. “Listen,” Aurum heard the other mother say. “Your son has caused lots of trouble this day alone. I say we send him to Omnipotenta.”
“No,” Aurum’s mother said, “he is my only kitten.”
“He is eight months old,” replied the cat, “he isn’t much of a baby anymore.”
“It doesn’t make any difference, he is my son, I choose what his future is.”
“You wouldn’t want to anger Warthon...”
“You wouldn’t want to destroy our whole village...”
“Then send him away...tomorrow.”
The other cat walked away. Aurum saw his mother turn around and start to walk towards the room he was in. He quickly tucked his head under his tail, pretending as if he were sleeping all the while. His mother entered the room and slowly lay down. After much tossing and turning, she went to sleep. Aurum slowly raised his head. After he was sure she was asleep, Aurum walked into the storage room. He found the place where the food was stored, and he got out four servings of leaves and berries and put them in a bag made of string-like leaves from Omnipotenta. In the bag he also put the white feathers, to remember his home by. Then he picked up a small, watertight sack and put it in the bag too. He then sat down by the door. Aurum waited until the first rays of the morning sun came from behind Shadow Rock. Then he slung the bag over his shoulder and started for the door. He looked back over his shoulder at his mother. Good-bye mother, he thought. I go now because I know it would break your heart to watch me go.
Aurum walked to Lake Cobalt. The sun was coming up now, and he had to hurry on his long trek. He knelt by the water’s edge, ready to fill his watertight sack. Suddenly, Aurum saw an image in the pond. It appeared as a white speck against the blue sky. It looked like a gigantic white bird. Aurum spun around--but the creature had disappeared
After Aurum had filled his sack, he headed north, towards Omnipotenta. When he reached the boundaries of the forest, he was surprised to discover that there was, in fact, a small dirt path leading into the forest. He decided to take it. If the path ends, he thought, I shall easily follow it back. So he entered the forest. It was very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that Aurum’s footsteps seemed very loud. But for some strange reason, Aurum didn’t feel frightened going into the woods. He felt as if he were about to be presented with wondrous surprise, that, no matter what it would be, was going to be good. Then Aurum began to examine the scenery around him. He noted that the farther he walked, the fewer trees were seen. The tree’s numbers decreased so rapidly that in a few minutes, Aurum was walking along a rocky path with nearly no bushes or trees. The rocky path twisted and turned, and it seemed as if it would never end until Aurum was walking along a hard, dusty piece of land. The atmosphere was very moist compared to the dry air in Aurum’s village. “Where am I?” Aurum asked himself. He looked up at the sky...and beheld what appeared to be a pair of jaws. Just like the ones in...Mandibles Crevice, thought Aurum Wait--Mandibles Crevice! I’m standing on the bottom of Mandibles Crevice!
“Don’t panic,” Aurum told himself, “I can easily climb back up on the path...wait a minute...what’s that?”
He was looking at the side of the canyon. There was a small doorway carved into the canyon wall, and standing in the door way was an old tom cat. He was leaning on a old and twisted cane made of black wood, and he wore a necklace made out of blue stones. “I’ve been expecting you,” he said in a hoarse voice, “please come in.”
Aurum, not knowing what to say, followed the old cat into his home. The interior of the house was very different from the outside. The first room had a stone table in the center of the room, which was covered with clay sculptures that seemed to defy gravity and glass beakers filled with liquids that were constantly changing color. On the surrounding stone shelves were more sculptures and precious stones of any color imaginable. On the stone floor were more rocks and paintings made from the rock’s crushed pigments. The place was like a wizard’s workshop.
The old cat led Aurum into a second room. This room was very different from the last one. In one corner was a pile of old sheets and woven blankets, which Aurum thought to be the old cat’s bed and a stone table stained with food. The third object was very strange. On the wall opposite to the table was an iron ring. Hooked up to this ring was a gold chain, and hooked to the gold chain was...well, it was hard to describe. It was glistening white, it had the beak, shoulders, talons and wings of an eagle. But its rear end was that of a lion, with shiny flanks and a wispy tail. It was a griffin. Mythical in most terms. It stood motionless, looking proud and strong.
“Porcelain,” the old cat said. “Ppure porcelain.” The old cat hobbled over to the magnificent animal. He undid the gold chain around its neck. The griffin stood silent for a few seconds...then it blinked. Then it opened and closed its beak. I know what’s going on, thought Aurum. It’s coming alive! The griffin then lashed its tail and slowly moved its head, taking in its surroundings. “Easy, boy,” said the old cat. “This is Aurum. He’s a friend.”
“How do you know my name?” asked the young cat.
“That’s what knowing everything does for you,” the old cat replied. “I am a wizard. Wizards know just about everything. They can also do magic. That is how I created this griffin. He comes to life whenever I undo the chain. His name is Argentum.”
“Was it you who made me dream I could fly?” asked Aurum.
“But what was the reason of those white feathers coming from the sky?”
The old cat leaned over his cane. “Griffin molting season,” he replied.
“But you nearly convinced me that I should use those feathers to fly into Mandibles Crevice!”
“I can’t put all the information into your mind,” said the wizard. “I’d give you a headache.”
“Wait,” said Aurum, “how do you get food from down here?”
“That’s what Argentum is for,” said the old cat, motioning to the griffin, who stood looking neglected and puzzled.
“I let him loose every morning. Only those true in heart can see him. You, my young friend, are one of those people.”
“‘One’?” inquired Aurum.
“Yes, there was another...but I don’t remember the cat. Now quick, it is time to begin your journey.”
“My journey?” asked Aurum.
“Argentum,” commanded the old cat. The griffin raised his head and looked at the old cat. “Carry this kitten to the home of his ancestors. It is time a pure-hearted cat knew the truth.”
Aurum, not knowing what to do, climbed onto the back of Argentum. The animal’s body was slippery and narrow, and Aurum had a hard time staying on its back. “Sit on my shoulders,” Argentum said unexpectedly, “so my wings will have more room to move.”
“Oh,” said Aurum, “he talks!”
“So can you,” said the wizard, “now Argentum, carry him to the door.”
The griffin did what his master told him to, and when they got to the door, Aurum said, “Wait! What is your name?”
“My name is Sagi.” said the old cat. “Oh, by the way, I have something for you.” He took the blue stone necklace from around his neck and put it around Aurum’s neck. “Now hurry, or you’ll be late.”
Aurum said good-bye to Sagi, and then Argentum flapped his wings, and slowly but surely, he began to lift of the ground. Just like my dream, thought Aurum. Maybe the dream was telling the truth. Argentum soared into Mandibles Crevice, kicking his feet as if he were swimming. For a long time, Argentum flew through the canyon, as easily as if Aurum weren’t on his back. Finally, Argentum pushed down with his wings and soared out of Mandibles Crevice. “It’s about time I got some air,” said Argentum.
They were hovering in the air, facing Shadow Rock. Suddenly, Argentum turned around. “You don’t need to worry about Warthon anymore.” he said.
Aurum gasped. There before him, he could see his own village as well as the Forest Omnipotenta. But behind both of these was a giant boulder, which looked just like...”Warthon!” breathed Aurum.
Yes, the rock had the exact same profile of the evil god who all the Lowlanese feared. “But how did his shadow appear on Shadow Rock?” asked Aurum.
“The sun rises in the east,” said Argentum, ‘and it sets in the west. Every time the sun went down, the shadow of Warthon was projected on Shadow Rock. You needn’t worry about Warthon anymore. You can take your people where they should live, which is where we are going.”
Argentum turned east, and he flew across a beautiful field. The wild winds made the grass ripple like water, which earned it the name of Rippling Fields.
“Here we are,” Argentum said. “The Forest Tenebrou.”
He landed on the ground near the forest, which was deep and dark. But this forest was different from Omnipotenta. It supported life. Sounds of birds sang through the trees and shrubs, and it was a perfect place for any animal.
Aurum dismounted Argentum, and they walked into the forest, side by side. After walking a half a mile or so in silence, Aurum said, “There’s something about this forest that seems different from other forests,” he said, “see? There’s a hieroglyphic symbol on this tree.”
Aurum pointed to a tree, which bore an unknown symbol painted on it with crushed berries. They continued to walk. After a few minutes, Argentum stopped. He pricked up his ears and listened intently. “We’re almost there,” he whispered. Aurum cocked his head, and could very faintly hear the sounds of voices and the sound of a crackling fire. Argentum slowly walked forward until he found something blocking his way. “Come here,” he said to Aurum, who was still cocking his head. Aurum came up to the object on which Argentum was running his eagle’s talons over. “It’s a log hut,” he whispered, “belonging to the Cuprum People of Tenebrou. They have feared your people for many years, for reasons which only they will reveal.”
Argentum and Aurum tiptoed around the log hut to a small opening in the bushes, where they could see a blazing fire, and around the fire were many copper-furred cats, decorated with colorful bead headresses and animal tooth necklaces. Argentum gave Aurum a nudge with his beak. “Go ahead,” he said, “I’ll be right behind you.”
Aurum stepped through the bushes into the village of the
Cuprum People. All the cats seated at the fire turned and gazed at the golden colored cat and the porcelain griffin. Some of the cats looked spiteful at first, but when they saw the blue stone necklace around Aurum’s neck they were quite impressed. “It is a person from the home of the great Sagi,” whispered one of the copper colored cats. Then a young red-skinned cat rose from his seated position and said, “Welcome, friends of Sagi! We are glad you have come! I am Seleniu, leader of the Cuprum People! You are welcome to stay as long as you want! You must be hungry! Please have a seat!”
“I thought you said they were afraid of my people.” Aurum whispered to Argentum, as they sat down by the fire.
“Anyone who wears the necklace of the great Sagi is a friend of the tribe.” replied Argentum.
Just then, the old woman cat sitting by Aurum passed him a bowl of cut meat. Aurum had never tasted meat before, as his people could only eat leaves from Omnipotenta. He tasted the meat, and was surprised to discover that it tasted wonderful. “My people would love this if they could eat it,” Aurum said as he passed the bowl to Argentum.
“They will soon,” said Argentum.
After they ate, Argentum and Aurum listened to the old storyteller tell the tale of Dix. Dix, the storyteller said, was a strange creature who lived on a planet much smaller than ours. One day he received a rubber ball as a present. He began to bounce the ball up and down until he bounced the ball so high that it landed behind him. But Dix was of so little intelligence that, instead of turning around and picking up the ball, he set out on an journey around the whole planet, just to get his ball. So, the storyteller said, anyone as unwise as that can safely be called a decent of Dix.
“Friends,” Argentum said, “the friend of Sagi wishes to know why you fear the Lowlanese.”
“I shall tell you,” Seleniu said. “We are actually all descents of Lowlians, but we decided to live here because we hated the little space we were forced to cope with. Since then, we have feared all Lowlians, beyond Mandibles Crevice and behind Shadow Rock.”
“Behind Shadow Rock?” cried Aurum, “Lowlaneseians? Behind Shadow Rock? Argentum, do you mean you let every person who came into Mandibles Crevice climb onto your back and fly over Shadow Rock?”
“No,” said Argentum, “Sagi has made it so that only those true in heart can see me. He is, as you remember, a wizard. He can create paths that lead up Mandibles Crevice and barriers that make the door way to his home invisible.”
“So all the people who go into Mandibles Crevice go up the path leading up the side, travel across Rippling Field, and then Sagi creates a path which leads the people around the Cuprum People’s camp and around Shadow Rock.”
“But we hear them going through the woods,” said Seleniu, “and we are very frightened.”
“You shall overcome your fear,” said Argentum, “and you, Aurum, shall find out what is behind Shadow Rock. Seleniu?”
“You, Aurum and I are going on an expedition to behind Shadow Rock. The tribe will manage while you are gone.”
So that evening, Seleniu, Aurum and Argentum left the home of the Cuprum People and began walking along the base of Shadow Rock. “I’ve never been this close to Shadow Rock before,” breathed Aurum as they walked. “I have,” said Argentum, “I’ve even been on top of it.”
As the morning sun climbed through the sky, the three friends reached the edge of Shadow Rock. “You go first,” Argentum said to Aurum, “they are your people.”
Aurum cautiously peeked around the edge of the rock. What he saw made him stagger in astonishment. It was like a whole new world for him. There was a giant waterfall, which poured out sparkling water into a giant lake, which was four times larger than Lake Cobalt. There were hundreds of large houses made of sturdy logs, most of them with two stories. There were many fruit-bearing trees, perfect for climbing or collecting fruit from.
And all over this whole land were cats, running everywhere, who were, of course, descents of those banished from Lowlia. But one cat caught Aurum’s eye. “I know who she is,” said Aurum, “She’s Rutha!” Rutha was one of his mother’s best friends, who had come to the celebration of Aurum’s birth, and who also had been banished from Lowlia. “Boy, is my mom going to be happy!” said Aurum. He ran up to Rutha and cried, “Rutha! Rutha! It’s me! It’s Aurum!”
“So it is,” said Rutha, who was just as happy as Aurum. She welcomed Aurum into her house, and Aurum told her all of his adventures, and how he was going to guide all his people to this land. “By the way,” said Rutha, “‘this land’ is called the Hidden Plains, because it is always hidden from Warthon’s view”
“That will be a relief for my people when they come to live here,” said Aurum. “but now I have to leave to bring them here.”
“Good-bye Aurum. And good luck.”
Aurum walked back to the edge of Shadow Rock, where Seleniu stood gaping in astonishment. “You’ll get used to it,” Argentum was saying to him, “In the meantime, I have to take Aurum back to his home to bring his people here, where they deserve to be.”
With that, Aurum mounted Argentum. “Good-bye, Seleniu! See you soon!” said Aurum.
Argentum then soared into the clouds, with Aurum clinging tightly to his neck. They flew across the Forest Tenebrou, then the Rippling Field. When they got to Mandibles Crevice, Argentum suddenly started shooting down, into the canyon. “Where are we going?” asked Aurum, trying to speak over the roar of the wind. “To Sagi,” said the griffin, “he promised to disenchant me so that everyone can see me.”
Then Argentum landed outside the wizard’s doorway Aurum dismounted and walked in. “You have succeeded,” Sagi said to Aurum. “You have found out the truth.”
“Now everyone will be happy,” said Aurum, “except...me.”
“Why is that? asked the old cat.
“Three months ago, my little sister Trisha fell down this canyon. She was my best friend.”
“Trisha?” Sagi asked himself. “That sounds familiar...now where have I heard that before...ah, yes!”
Sagi hobbled over to a wooden bookcase against one wall of the room. He took hold of its sides and moved the bookshelf away from its position, revealing a secret door way In the room the door way led into there was only a lighted candle and a white sheet. In the white sheet was a tiny figure. Aurum came closer to see what the figure was. The sheet stirred and from the sheet emerged a little cat. “Aurum...?” she whispered.
“Trisha...” gasped Aurum. Then he ran into her arms. “Oh Trisha, I missed you so much!” cried Aurum. “How did you survive that fall?”
“I too, am true in heart,” she said. “Argentum saw me falling and he caught me. I was kept here until you came.”
“I can see that,” Aurum said, looking at the pink stone necklace around her neck. Aurum then picked up the little kitten. “Sagi, can Argentum take Trisha and I to Lowlia and then can he guide us to the Hidden Plains?”
“Of course,” said Sagi, “but first...” Sagi took a necklace of green, highly polished stones from a shelf and placed it around Argentum’s neck. “You are now visible to all,” Sagi said. “and you and I will always visit Aurum and Trisha when they arrive at their new home.
Aurum and Trisha mounted Argentum outside Sagi’s home. They waved good-bye and then Argentum flapped his wings, and they rose to the surface of Mandibles Crevice.
Argentum landed near the outskirts of Lowlia. Of course, everyone in the village ran out to see who this white creature was. Aurum’s mother was very happy to him and even more happy when she found her daughter alive. Aurum told of all his adventures, and after many days of preparing, the whole of Lowlia was ready to move to the Hidden Plains. Argentum and Aurum guided them there, where they lived happily for the rest of their lives.