The Weewoo Keeper and the Sea
'Tis the last Weewoo tonight flying high alone.
All his soft-feathered friends are nestled back home.
No other White Weewoos grace Shenkuu’s evening sky.
He glides through darkening clouds, shining like starlight.
I shall not retire with you still on your journey.
I keep the coop hatch ajar and bide my worries.
It is my vow to oversee our homeland’s Weewoos:
Those who fly between our peaks and afar like you.
Soon, the moon rises as pale as your eggshell down.
I wait with patience, knowing you will come around.
Even when the winds are bad and weather stormy,
The day will only end once you fly home to me.
The sunset was exceptional that evening: from the peaks of Shenkuu, the amethyst sky yielded to the calm navy of the horizon, the clouds blushing a fuchsia hue as if they were complimented by the rising moon. The nightly mists rolled in and the stars peeked out like little White Weewoos twirling far, far away.
On the northernmost peak of Shenkuu, an elderly Gnorbu wearing a denim apron and red shawl patiently waited outside a narrow pagoda whose top two tiers were roughly but lovingly renovated with unpolished birch. The Gnorbu shuffled as she scanned the sky, turning her eyes to the pagoda she had long ago renovated into a coop; she was, after all, Patricia the Weewoo Keeper of Shenkuu. The door of the pagoda coop was left slightly open, the dim light inside escaping through the crack to illuminate her working outfit. Patricia peered into the sky, fixated on a western star that appeared to be soaring toward her, closer and closer--
To an untrained eye, the white fleck may have seemed like another indiscernible star in the collection of constellations against the cosmic backdrop. Patricia knew, however, that it was actually the last member of her flock, a White Weewoo returning from his distant route. While most of the Weewoos Patricia oversaw were domestic couriers and conducted deliveries between Shenkuu’s peaks and outlying villages, a select few of the experienced ones ventured well beyond the limits of the misty mountains and across Neopia. The White Weewoo chirped gleefully as he glided down to greet Patricia. He landed on her left shoulder padded with her shawl, careful not to tear it further with his talons.
“There you are. I worry when you’re the last one coming back in,” Patricia cooed reassuringly while giving him a tender pat. The Weewoo glanced at her and she continued, “You’ve been doing this the longest, for the entirety of my life… so I know I mustn’t worry, but still… I get nervous when you come back later than I expect. Now, go get some rest. The flock is already asleep—what is this?”
As Patricia turned toward the door to let him fly inside, the White Weewoo lifted one of his wings and dropped a tiny golden seashell into her oversized shawl. The seashell looked like a trinket, its grooves smoothed away to a polish that glimmered like the setting sun. She lovingly inspected the seashell he had brought her.
“I appreciate your gift. You know-- I’ve never seen the sea… I’ve never been past the outlying villages. These peaks are my home, and my vow is to tend to the Weewoos.” The Weewoo chirped twice in acknowledgment. Patricia continued, “An entirety of my life within the limits of Shenkuu… I’ve always wanted to see the sea, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. My life is planned and predicted. Like the moon, you see.”
Patricia pointed to the waxing moon peaking over the horizon as if it would agree with her. The moonlight reflected the longingness in her face to see beyond the same, identical, nightly vantage point. Just to see what lay past the peaks, where land ends and the ocean’s dominion begins… In her silence, she put the shell in her pocket and her last Weewoo of the night hovered over her, fluttering as he gazed at the moon himself. After a long glance, he flew inside the coop unprompted.
Patricia followed and checked to see that the Weewoos were nestled into their nests and dozing off. She wished them goodnight, extinguished the candles in the middle of the pagoda and closed the hatch door quietly before starting her trek home. The journey between her house and the coop was uphill both ways and her body quietly ached. The trip was enough to necessitate a stop at the Lunar Temple which lay equidistant between her two daily destinations. Patricia approached to lean against the temple’s sandstone bricks as its curator descended from the observation deck. He was a wise old Gnorbu himself, a staple figure of the city like Patricia. He greeted her, “Good evening—Kreludor is looking swell tonight. It’s in its waxing gibbous phase—one day off from a full moon.”
Patricia smiled as he relayed his familiar update. She rested her back against the temple and looked eastward. She softly responded, “I enjoy the moon’s company because we have so much in common. We follow precedent and patterns without interruption. Certainty in life is what I enjoy and what we both share.”
“The moon may follow a pattern, but it does rise each time to a new day, a new night, a new outlook on life, a new glance at how we change,” the wise old Gnorbu of the Lunar Temple said admiringly. “The world the moon watches on its descent is not the same as the one it sees on its next ascent.”
Patricia quietly introspected before she thoughtfully replied, “The moon rises to a new land, a new sea every day… You’re correct, my dear friend. I wish I had that in common with her, too. I long to see the sea as the moon does, but— my body is too old and I’ve got the Weewoos to tend…”
The wise old Gnorbu interrupted her trailed thought and said, “The western sea is only a little over a half day’s walk from here. I can watch the coop if you are gone. The moon’s phases have been charted for years to come. I can close the Lunar Temple for a day if it helps you to fulfil a dream.”
“But my body is old…”
“Once you get past the foothills, it’s only a few hours through the flat, grassy plains. If you can handle the daily toil of Shenkuu, I think you can make it if you take your journey slow and steady.”
“And what if I need help?”
The wise Gnorbu pondered and answered, “Take your most experienced Weewoo, the White one. In case you need anything, your Weewoo can return quickly to fetch help.”
An excitement Patricia had not felt in decades welled up inside her like the waxing moon brimming with light, eager to be full again. The excitement of uncertainty, the thrill of an unknown destiny unconfined to these peaks… In spite of all her doubts and worry, she was ready.
“If I set the Weewoos off on their routes in the morning and you receive them for me in the evening, I can leave in the afternoon and be back by the next day,” she said with confidence.
“Then it is settled,” the wise old Gnorbu said with a kind-hearted smile. “You shall see the sea.”
The next morning, Patricia took a worn knapsack with her to the coop and once there, announced to her Weewoos that the Gnorbu of the Lunar Temple would receive them that night. She set them off on their daily routes except for the White Weewoo. When she explained that he would accompany her to the sea, he squawked with unabridged delight. They set off down the peaks before noon: Patricia steadily moved with the aid of the downhill slope and her White Weewoo soared in place and manoeuvred with the wind to keep his pace slow and aligned with Patricia’s. The afternoon sun cleared the skies of clouds and the pair passed by overshooting paths leading to distant foothill villages that Patricia only knew by name—which she could say no longer. As the day continued on and Patricia kept walking, she could feel her body begin to ache at just the thought of returning through the hills at night. The villages became more infrequent until no more appeared.
The afternoon golden hour rosily painted the sky and terrain like an accidental masterpiece. Patricia paused at the top of one of the countless hills for a lunch break and to catch her breath. The White Weewoo spiralled down as she took out vegetable dumplings for them to eat. He landed on her shoulder and the breeze picked up part of Patricia’s red shawl, waving it behind her. She turned to face the direction they travelled from. The magnitude of the towering mountains behind them made Patricia feel reassuringly small; the world had so much to offer and she only needed to venture beyond Shenkuu to see a glimpse of it. Her White Weewoo pecked at the dumpling she was holding for the both of them, but she hadn’t taken a bite. She reached for her back and felt a dull pain start to flare up.
“I’m afraid this body of mine can manage no further,” she sighed to her Weewoo companion. She readjusted her knapsack over her left shoulder and continued, “I can tell I only have just enough energy for a return trip home at this point.”
The Weewoo, still perched on her shoulder, chirped and pointed his beak forward to a final hill in front of them. He ascended into the air and circled above, encouraging her to do one more feat.
“Just one more hill,” she grunted to herself, gathering her might to move her tired legs forward. “One more lookout point and I shall retire from this journey. It’s been proof enough getting out of Shenkuu for me that my world goes beyond those peaks.” Though her steps were labored, she felt the strongest she’s been in decades—a strength from within, a control of her destiny.
She reached the summit of the final hill as the golden hour’s end was nigh. This vantage point was different: a bountiful plain of grasses and wildflowers sprawled to the horizon ahead, where the sun was making its exit. The full moon revealed itself directly above-- its eggshell colored circle nearly looked like a second Weewoo overhead. Her Weewoo loudly chirped and Patricia was reminded of the golden seashell in her pocket. She took it out and held it closely.
“Perhaps-- I wasn’t destined-- to reach the sea,” she said between breaths with a slight chuckle. “Maybe this is where I’m supposed to be, here with my Weewoo. Actually-- I wouldn’t know for sure, but…” she paused and squinted her eyes ahead. “From right here, this almost looks like…”
The sun was setting as the evening fog rolled in, its golden hues tinged with the navy blue streaks from just beyond the horizon. Slight breezes danced across the hill as they do in the transition between day and night. The fog became a current, ebbing against the hills. Starlight sprinkled through the mist like foam, and the rustling trees behind them sounded like breaking waves. She saw evening mist roll in each night that she tended to the Weewoo coop, but nothing ever quite like this before. It poured onto the plains like a brook babbling its way to reach a calm pond. The fog moved fluidly, coating everything beneath it while the outlying hills poked through like little islands. It didn’t look like the sky and it didn’t look like the land. It almost looked like…
‘Tis the last Weewoo tonight flying high above.
Protecting his keeper and her journey with love.
Without his watch, this journey would not have been made
And I would never have seen beyond where we stayed.
The world is too breath-taking to not watch it turn:
Onward to new places and share when you return!
Sunsets promise tomorrow and new days unseen.
Where ever tomorrow is—you are home to me.
This story is dedicated to Patricia,
My grandmother and favorite storyteller.