While strolling through the park one day…
Some days I just can’t help singing that one. I came across it when I was first learning the language on this world and it was just so fitting. And now that I live in something almost like a park, that song is just there, in my head, refusing to go away.
I was taken by surprise, by a pair of roguish eyes…
Except I was waiting for them, and there were four pairs of eyes, a group of the local militia or some such, there to tell me again that I was trespassing at Pencarrick Manor. I already knew that. I am a trespasser and squatter, but since the rightful owners of Pencarrick Manor have been off sunning themselves for years, no-one much cared.
The militia hammered on the door and I opened it, because no matter what world I am on, and no matter whose empire, I still remember my manners. Now, if the warlord Arakaro had manners I wouldn’t have fled to this forgotten world in the first place.
“I am Mister Green, a High Court enforcement officer.”
He held up identification, as do most who come to see me. It’s a fascinating innovation, one that Arakaro’s men should adopt along with the courtesy, but I couldn’t imagine Arakaro paying artists to produce so many tiny portraits. The picture was not an unreasonable likeness, although as with so many of these identifications, Mister Green was clearly in a state of mortal torment when it was painted.
“Mister Green, sure.” I had to trust his word. I can speak some of their language, but not read it. “While strolling through the park one day…”
That song. It just won’t let me alone.
“Sorry, Mister Green. Just a passing… Never mind. What do you want?”
As always, he wanted me to leave. I complied, of course, and stood to one side for them to work on the door and make the property secure. Then they turned their attention to the gardens.
“Are these your elephants, Mister Berto?”
“While strolling through the park one day…”
“Pardon? It’s not a park… OK, it’s a deer park but…”
“Sorry, Mister Green. It’s just a song. I didn’t know it was a deer park. If I had known that the deer were also granted sanctuary here I would not have eaten any of them.”
“Eaten…” He shook his head wearily. “About the elephants…”
“Yes, they are my elephants.”
“They’ve got to go, mate. All of them.” Mister Green waved at my elephants, and one of his comrades walked over and kicked Kam Dakka, the nearest one. “You made a hell of mess of the lawn bringing them in. No, they have to go. And the rightful owners will want compensation for the damage. If you can’t arrange to move them yourself, we will bring in our own contractors, but we can’t be held liable for any damage…”
“Bill!” The kicker was scratching at Kam Dakka’s leg. “It’s granite. Gonna be a right devil to shift these. Must weigh five… ten tons.”
“This is not a kiddies’ safari park, Mister Berto. You really need to move them,” Mister Green told me. “If we have to do it, the costs will be added to the judgement against you, which currently stands at… wow! That’s a lot of money you owe, Mister Berto.”
I shrugged. “I have no money.” Just elephants. “I will go now. While strolling through the park one day…”
I walked away. Mister Green shouted after me, “The road is that way,” but I ignored him, went round the back of the house and walked down to the stream. I have a door down there, hidden in a clump of trees. It brings me out inside the house. Fortunately, the militia know nothing of my doors or the way between worlds.
“While strolling through the park one day…”
I watched as Mister Green and his militia searched for me. Once they had gone, I checked that they had not damaged my main door, because I thought I felt it shift. In the early days of my tenure, the soldiers would come, ask me to leave, and seal the doors, but once I was back inside, it was easy to open them again. In recent years, they have changed the locks, and now it requires a token they call a key to release them from the inside. I have simply created one of my doors either side of the timber door at the back of the house so that I may step in and out easily. So, I checked, but whatever it was I felt, there was no damage.
Finally, I went out and checked my elephants. It took time to visit each and release them. Kam Dakka assured me that her leg was fine, but I checked, because that granite transformation is complex, imperfect, and only just enough to confuse hunters.
The matriarch, Poh Mara, thanked me and led the herd through the opening I had long-since made to a farm some miles away. They cultivate a grass native to the lands from where I rescued Poh Mara and her kin. The elephants have a phrase for it – the taste of home. They are careful not to eat too much for fear of arousing the anger of the farmers.
In a few more years I will be able to amass the power to open a proper distant doorway and take the elephants somewhere better. I have read of a far-off land called America with great grasslands where they do not hunt elephants.
That song was in my head again. “While strolling through the park one day…”
Poh Mara rested the tip of her trunk on my shoulder for a moment. Warlords and soldiers are a menace, but I will keep my elephants safe, as I promised them, strolling in parks until I can reach a proper home.
# # #
I’ll just take a moment to talk about the elephant in the story…
I wrote a first draft of elephants ages ago, after a very strange dream, but then the January #Blogbattle prompt of Park popped up. I couldn’t get an old, old song out of my head, and it just belonged with my elephants.
One day, maybe, I will write the whole of the elephant novel.
Images from pixabay.com