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The Keeper MAG
A quiet hut is settled in the still wood. It sits lopsided, like a giant rested against it and shifted it out of place. The light casts dappled shadows on the leaf-strewn roof.
A gentle quivering fills the air, and a shadow at the base of a willow begins to ripple. All around, the trees of the wood hold their breath. A figure shimmers into existence. He wears a cloak of ever-changing color. His hood obscures his face, but the glimmer of his eyes is friendly. He steps from the shadow and the quivering stops; the wood returns to its quiet contemplation.
The figure makes his way towards the hut, pausing frequently to touch a flower, to watch a spider, to rub a tree’s bark. There is no need for urgency. He is not concerned with Time—he is the Keeper, and Time is his to keep. He lingers, and the forest breathes.
His fingers brush against the hut’s rough door, and a tiny keyhole grows out of the wood. He draws back his cloak to choose a key, but he has so many; his belt is weighed down with rings and rings of keys. He selects a large ring and searches it thoughtfully. A smallish key with a brass handle—yes, that one has not been used for a while. It cannot leave the ring on its own, but with his gentle guidance it slides off easily. He feels the soft click as the latch releases, and lovingly returns the key to its ring.
He breathes out, and the door swings open without a sound. The Room of Crossings is open to him. With a raise of his hand, he bids farewell to the wood, and steps into the void beyond the door. It glides shut behind him, and joins the doors around him in the Room—hundreds and hundreds of doors. There is no logic to the way they are placed, but he is the Keeper, and he knows his way. There is only one door that interests him today. They part as he glides between them, diverting from their usual paths out of respect. He passes a squat oak door to his left, a soaring golden archway on his right, a narrow door with peeling paint above him, until he reaches a tall door that floats in circles. It is crafted of smooth purplish wood, with galaxies traced in the grain. With a touch of his hand, it steadies and waits patiently. He examines the keyhole; it is formed of silver, richly engraved. A smile plays across his lips as he draws out a key ring, a small one this time. An uneven wooden key draws his eye, and he frees it from the ring. It feels good in his hand, rough-hewn but smooth and cool to the touch. It is larger than the keyhole, but fits nonetheless. There is no handle, but he does not need one. The door slides open with his breath. He returns the key to its ring with a satisfied air. The Room of Dreams is opened.
He steadies his mind before entering; the Room of Dreams is unstable, and he must be prepared. With a calm breath, he enters.
Instantly, he is buffeted by thousands of dreams—millions—the dreams of all mankind. He relaxes his body and lets them carry him, like a bird riding the currents of a storm. A large dream brushes against him; he sees a desert, with flowers falling like rain, and a young man dreaming he is on the moon. Another reveals an old woman, who dreams once more of her first love. The Keeper sees a heartbreak in her path, and with his finger averts it so it does not touch her. Her sleep remains untroubled, and he smiles.
His flight becomes more turbulent as he passes into the darkest corner of the Room. Here the dreams that rub past him drag at his cloak and pull on his skin with their jagged edges. He is the Keeper, but they do not respect him, for they are untamed nightmares. A particularly dark one grabs at his boot and tries to draw him in, but he throws it off. He is determined to reach his goal.
He catches onto a wild grey nightmare as it gallops past and rides it to the top of the heaving mass. From above, he sees the dream he has been searching for—a small one with a purplish tint and a distinct breath of fear. He breathes out a gust of wind, scattering the nightmares away from him, and allows the small one to pull him in.
He sees the child whose distress he felt across the worlds. She sleeps restlessly, clutching at her covers for protection. A black dragon threatens her—the shadows around her bed come alive, threatening embers of hate—her mind reels in terror.
The Keeper is prepared. He appears at her bedside, his cloak flashes a brilliant white; the dragon roars in pain, the shadows disperse. The child’s eyes shine with wonder at this remarkable angel who has arrived to save her. He drives away the dragon, his eyes blazing with power, but she is not afraid—his anger is not meant for her. Her fear melts away, and the dragon fades with it.
The Keeper turns to the child. She is watching him intently. He smiles, the gentlest smile she has ever seen, and tucks her back under her blanket. His cloak fades to a soothing golden shade. He kisses her forehead and bids her goodnight, and she slips into dreams of light and magic. Her breath becomes regular and her sleep more restful. The Keeper watches her with a smile. He is in no hurry. Time will wait for him, as it must—he is the Keeper, and Time is his to keep. It is moments like this he is most grateful.
He breathes a soft sigh and touches her face once, gently. A round green door appears beside him and, turning away, he unlocks it with a long, angular key of gold. He bids goodbye to the child and her dream, and steps through the door into the dappled green wood. Humming an unknowable tune, he locks the hut behind him with a smaller, darker key. He crosses to the shadow of the willow tree in the roundabout manner in which he came. The forest breathes with life, and he revels in it. The air begins to quiver, and with a contented smile, he vanishes. The trees are not concerned; the Keeper will return. Until then, they will be patient, and wait to welcome him home.