They sat together on the center seat as they rowed the boat across the water, the young girl on the right and the old man on the left. She had eight summers; he would not say his age, but he was the oldest person in the village. She called him “grandfather” as a term of respect and he usually called her simply “child”. The boat they were rowing had three seats, a slightly bowed rectangular shape, and a nearly flat bottom; it was meant for shallow water along the shoreline, but they were out in the deepest water.
There was a pouch full of dark powder resting between them on the seat. They would row a boat length or so, each cast a pinch of powder into the water, and watch. When nothing happened they would row on a little further and repeat the action.
“Grandfather, why are we doing this?” The child could contain her curiosity no longer.
“We are searching for a particular place, child.” The old man smiled. “Believe me; you will know when we find it.”
They continued to row and cast powder for another hour. It seemed an eternity to the child. She was about to ask just what was supposed to happen, when suddenly it did. The powder cast into the water caused a green glow.
“Is that what we were seeking, grandfather?”
“Yes it is, child.” The old man closed the pouch, and placed it in a knapsack behind the center seat. “You move to the seat in front of you, and I will move to the one behind us. Move carefully now.”
“Yes, grandfather.” The child did as she was told. She smiled to see that it was not she who made the boat rock.
Once they were both seated, the old man reached into the knapsack again and pulled out a rolled parchment. He flattened it and laid it on the seat between them. He reached into the knapsack again, frowned, pulled his hand out, picked up the knapsack, and peered inside.
“Oh my! I forgot the thread! Now what am I going to do?”
“Grandfather, what is wrong?”
“I forgot to bring cotton thread. It is very important! I need that or at least something made of cotton to use in its place.” The old man buried his face in his hands and appeared to be weeping.
The child looked down at the long black cotton over the knee socks she was wearing. She slipped off her shoes, pulled off the socks, and held them out to the old man. “Grandfather, will these work?”
The old man looked up and his sorrowful expression was replaced with joy. “Bless you child! I could hardly ask for a better replacement!” He quickly took them from her. “Thank you, child. I will see to it that they are replaced.”
“It is all right, grandfather; they were my older sister’s before they were mine and they are nearly worn out.”
“Be that as it may, child, they are as valuable as gold to me now. Otherwise, I would have needed to go back to the village for the thread and then found this spot all over again. You will see; I will be as good as my word.”
The old man placed one of the socks on the seat beside him and took the other in the palm of his left hand. He tapped it twice with his index finger and made a hand gesture that was too rapid for the girl to follow. She gasped as the sock transformed into a pile of thread. Another gesture, and one end of the thread rose to meet his right hand. Grasping it, he threw the rest of the thread into the water with a sowing motion. The thread sank out of sight much more quickly than the child expected.
Nothing happened for a few minutes, but then she saw the thread move as a fishing line does when a fish takes the hook. The old man smiled and nodded. Releasing the thread, which the child was astonished to see remain upright, he gestured with both hands and the thread begin to move in an arc. The old man guided the thread over and down to touch the parchment and then across it and off the seat on his side out of her sight.
Looking at the child, the old man touched his index finger to his lips to signal her not to speak; just in time, for she wanted so badly to ask what the thread was doing and how he made it do that.
For several minutes nothing else happened; the thread rose from the water, arced over to touch the parchment, and slid off the seat out of the child’s sight. She knew something else was supposed to happen, but she had no idea what to expect. The old man was watching the water as the thread emerged, so that was where she focused her attention as well. After another few minutes she saw a glow rising from the depths of the water. She glanced at the old man and saw his eyes widen and a smile spread his lips. That must be, she realized, what he was hoping to see.
When the glow reached the surface, it emerged as a sparkle attached to the thread. The child gasped, and saw the thread stop moving for a moment before continuing as before. The old man raised his finger to his lips again and she quickly nodded; she knew now why he needed her not to speak.
When the sparkle touched the parchment, it vanished and a black mark appeared in its place. The child could scarcely contain her excitement. More sparkles were rising from the water and more glows could be seen coming up. For each sparkle that touched the parchment a black mark would appear somewhere on its surface. At first, the sparkles came only a few at a time. Gradually, however, the numbers increased until there were at times unbroken stretches of sparkles and glows rising from the water.
The black marks appeared in various places on the parchment; some individually, and some connected to other marks. All at once, the child realized that all the marks were some sort of writing. She was learning to read and write at the mission school, but this was nothing she had seen before. The old man continued to smile, nodding occasionally as he scanned the parchment, so she knew it had meaning for him.
After a considerable length of time, the last of the thread emerged from the water, deposited its sparkles on the parchment, and slid off under the seat.
“Now, child, it is time for the second sock.” The old man picked up the remaining sock from the seat and placed it in his left hand as before. He blinked his eyes slowly, as though struck by a sudden thought, and lowered his hand. “Would you like to ask a question before we continue, child?”
“Yes grandfather, if I may. I think I understand why you needed the thread and I see the writing appearing on the parchment, so I know you are working some kind of enchantment; but why all the way out here? Why did we need to row out here to do this?”
“Because, child, this is where the writing was to be found.” The old man smiled. “We are retrieving something that was lost a long time ago, before even I was born.”
“Really?” The child was amazed at the thought of something that old even being recoverable.
“Yes child, really.” The old man raised his hands again. “Now, let us continue.” He winked at her, and changed the sock to thread as he had done with the first one. He drew one end of the thread up to his right hand and spread the rest on the water as he had done before. When the thread sank out of sight, he once again guided it to arc down onto the parchment and slide off under the seat.
Once again, some minutes passed before the child saw the glow rising from the depths of the water. This time, though, the sparkles rose in a nearly steady stream from the very beginning. Eventually, the number of sparkles decreased to a very few and by the time the last of the thread rose from the water there were none.
The old man reached into the knapsack for the pouch of powder and cast a pinch of it into the water on each side of the boat. This time, there was no glow in the water. He reclosed the pouch and returned it to the knapsack.
“We have retrieved all that there is to be salvaged.” The old man picked up the parchment and examined it briefly before rolling it up and returning it to the knapsack. “There are still gaps in the writing, but I believe that was where the original parchment was damaged before it sank to the bottom of the lake.”
“Yes child, the parchment contains an enchantment which was used by an ancestor of mine in an attempt to awaken an ancient beast that sleeps at the bottom of this lake. There was a flaw in the spell; the beast struck the parchment from his hands and nearly killed him before returning to its slumber at the bottom of the lake. Although my ancestor did survive, he never again made another attempt to control the beast.”
“Are you going to try to awaken the beast, grandfather?” The child was very afraid.
“No child, no chance of that!” The old man’s voice was both shocked and adamant. “I have no desire to repeat my ancestor’s mistake. I will study the writing on the parchment, but once I have learned what I can I intend to destroy it.”
The child shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand, grandfather. Why go to so much trouble just to destroy it?”
“Ah child, let me explain. First, the original parchment on which this spell was written has long ago right away. However, enchanted writing is not so easily destroyed. You could see that in the fact we were able to retrieve so much of it.” The child still seemed confused, so the old man continued. “I have long been concerned about leaving that enchantment at the bottom of the lake, but until recently I had no way to retrieve it.”
“But then you figured out how; right, grandfather?”
“Yes child; it was in one of my ancestor’s last writings. By that time, his hand shook and his writing was very hard to read. When I finally deciphered it, I realized I had what I had been seeking.”
“Why did you choose today to look for it?”
“Word reached me that the men of power in other villages were getting ready to make their own attempts to obtain the enchantment. I could not allow that to happen.”
“Because they would try to awaken the beast, grandfather?” The child was beginning to understand.
“Just so, child.” The old man smiled. “Now I have something for you.” He reached under the center seat and brought out something black. “I am done with these, so you may have back with my gratitude.” He held it out to the girl.
“Grandfather! It is my socks!” She held them up, and her eyes grew even wider. “But wait; these are not mine. These are new.”
“They are yours child. When I changed them to thread, I needed to repair the worn spots so that the thread would not break. Thu&, when they rewove themselves those spots were repaired in the socks.”
“Thank you, grandfather!” Her excited smile suddenly turned to a frown. “Oh, but now my sister will want them back.”
“Do not fret child; those socks are much too small for your sister now. She might wish to have them, but she cannot take them from you.”
Happy again, the girl put on her socks and slipped back into her shoes. “Thank you again, grandfather.”
“You are most welcome, Kila.” The old man smiled again as her face lit up at the mention of her name. “Now, let us move to the center seat. It is time we were getting back.”