The gift that keeps on giving.
It was with an anxious mix of fear and pride that the nervous lion, Digger, approached the old black dragon. Digger had done it - he had saved and scrimped and begged and worked silly hours to raise the money. “I have it all just as you asked.” He handed over the bag to the dragon, who’s eyes lit up at the thought of the money. It had turned out to have been an expensive spring. It would help to have someone pay a bit over the odds.
“So you did it.” Said Grukkal mildly. “One hundred silver coins.”
He jangled the bag at the end of an outstretched scaly arm. Experience told him it was the right weight. He hated people attempting to trick him. It made him so very uncivilized. A distasteful activity, but necessary. He shuddered at the thought of people’s foolish ends. Not today. Today was all was right and calm just as it should be. The meeting proceeded along what he felt was its inevitable course. The lion was determined. 100 unborrowed coins was not an insignificant sum for someone raise without a deal of wealth behind them.
“I’ll ask you one last time. Are you sure you want to do this? Absolutely sure? There may be no going back.”
Despite the ice-hard stare, Digger affirmed “I am certain.”
Grukkal smoothed out his long whiskers. “It’s true, you did raise the money. I have said I will do it, unusual as it is.” He thought for a while. There would be no angry people to complain if he did this work. He had checked. Most carefully.
“Very well. You want to know the zen of charity. You have something in mind, and I will help you with it. First you must learn to be still.”
“I can do that.” Said Digger, eager to get started. He had wanted this for so long. How hard could sitting still be?
“I want you to sit calmly and well.” Said Grukkal. “Nature has given us many forms to work in, and I will show you the best way for yours. It might be a little uncomfortable for a while, but you’ll get used to it.”
And so they sat. Grukkal sat motionless, half watching Digger’s progress. He gave a few simple suggestions. The lion was putting in the effort. The lion had not fidgeted much, and had not said a word, but as Grukkal had expected, the lion was still far to noisy. Grukkal could almost hear the excited thoughts bouncing around Digger’s fuzzy head. He definitely heard a belly gurgle.
He let his thoughts drift back to their accustomed paths and watched the shadows begin to move. Time sped up as thought slowed down. He let the shadow in his doorway creep across a certain crack in the tiles, and began to rise up back into his business mind.
Grukkal licked his lips, working his jaw a little to speak. “I think you have done well. Be here early tomorrow.”
Digger returned to the room with a jolt. His mind had wandered somewhere unusual while he sat there.
“Oh.” Said Grukkal, “Get up slowly. Your body will not be used to this.”
“Okay.” Said Digger. He slowly stood up, feeling the sensations of the aftereffects of an unusual position. He had hoped for something more than just sitting still for three whole hours. He had asked who could do what he wanted, and they all said that the old black dragon could do it, if he wanted to. He accepted some nasty tasting tea to ease any soreness he might feel and was sent on his way.
A little frustrated, Digger returned home. He found an envelope pushed under his door. On it in an unfamiliar handwriting was scrawled the familiar words “For Charity.” He never really understood it, but all through his life people had given him money to help other people. It was a minor gift, but a very rewarding one. He just loved to know he was helping people in some way.
He tucked the envelope into his belt pocket ready to drop off at the local charity and went to prepare an evening meal. He realised he was exhausted. Apparently just sitting was harder than he thought. After eating it was not long before he slept the whole night through. Dawn seemed to arrive very quickly.
After dropping off the money, He hurried to get to the dragon’s place. It was not a lair, but a very neatly maintained, surprisingly small home. He saw the dragon stretching out his small wings in front of the pale brown walls of his house, pleasurably catching the early sunshine.
“Good morning Digger. How do you feel?” Grukkal assumed a more dignified position.
“I feel fine.” Said Digger. He realised that he had slept very well last night, and had no aches or pains at all.
“Very good. Now if you would kindly sit here.” The dragon pointed to a spot a little way out from under a spreading ash tree. Digger moved to sit down. “Remember just as I showed you yesterday. Straight and calm and relaxed. Good, very good. Now I am going to move about a little today. Just pay me no attention.”
Grukkal sat beside digger for a while, watching how the lion was getting on. He let himself catch on the flow of energies in the garden, experiencing the amazing meshes of different life forces. He could hear the wind, the bees, the slow and steady beating of the lion’s big heart. Moving as slowly as an opening flower, he stood up and began to work on the necessary magic.
With a minor jolt, Digger realised that Grukkal was gone. He had gone so far into the world outside of him, and back again that he had paid no attention to the dragon moving. It was very calm and peaceful in the garden. He let his mind spread outwards. Unlike yesterday he felt very comfortable. He could sense the garden around him seeming to move. The leaves of the plants seemed to move with the sun, which seemed to very quickly be moving across the sky. He watched and let it happen, and felt right with the world.
Meanwhile Grukkal was working hard on his magics. He could feel the energies flowing and rippling around the lion, and could sense that Digger was ready.
The sun was fully overhead, and Digger had began to drift into that other space of awareness and acceptance. Whatever happened happened. However he felt was the right way to feel, all his thoughts were gone, and yet not gone. The thought of thinking swam off like a fish through cloudy water.
“Charity.” Said Grukkal, seeding the lion’s thoughts. “Spread your thoughts wide, see how it works. See how much there is left to give, to do. Let yourself be taken up and absorbed in the need to help. Let yourself become charity. Feel yourself giving even yourself away.”
When Grukkal blew the stony dust over Digger, the lion didn’t even blink. His mind was flashing over the countryside, seeing the connections between money not given and things not done. Seeing those connections flip and change with each donation. Each flash of light and love as there was an act of charity, and life and hope spread like a burning flame across the countryside.
Grukkal could feel the power that the lion was absorbing from the endless wells of magic deep within the Earth. Like a bow being drawn back, he could feel the energy level rising. Increase added to increase. The air began to tense with power. At the heart of it was the lion like a lightning rod charged and waiting for the power to strike. Something big, much bigger than a mere transformation was going to happen very soon. He braced and shielded himself as best he could. Nothing could stop this now. The world seemed to hold it’s breath.
Digger had retreated inwards, right into the very core of his being. He barely felt his body at all, not the weight of him on the ground or the gentle ebb and flow of his breathing. His thoughts were of nothing but the patterns of charity. He did not feel the tiny blue spark which flickered at the fluffy tip of his lion’s tail. The spark crawled and leapt upwards over the fur of the lion and everywhere it touched the fur became smooth stone. His rough mane showed as a different darker texture of stone. He knew with utter calmness that he was becoming a statue. A feeling of durability and permanence encased him. He was neither warm or cold. The stone he was becoming had no such feelings of temperature, but only shape. He saw the sun moving higher and higher towards mid day. He felt a mild tingle as the stone he was becoming swept over his face. He could still see, and hear but his body had become as hard as granite. As his body began to harden and become more and more stone his mind began to compress inside of himself. Each second that passed the thoughts of charity and giving swirled in his mind, tighter and faster, hotter and brighter. His mind was a shrinking growing point of pure charity. There was nothing left, only the star-bright point of light inside him that was charity.
The world seemed to hang for a second, and then the blue-white speck inside his mind exploded. Out rushed all the gathered energy in a massive silent explosion that cast the dust and leaves outwards. A door slammed and a broom fell over.
On the front edge of the explosion, anyone caught in the blast felt an overwhelming desire to give something away. The shockwave roared through the nearby town, causing even the hardest hearted of the puzzled traders to offer food to the hungry urchins. Peoples eyes were opened to needs they had carefully been ignoring for years. The town felt a tidal wave of conscience. Some people were openly in tears, knowing they could do better for their fellows.
Explosions don’t last forever. The unseen force began to recede and people began to carry on business almost as usual.
Back in the garden, Grukkal looked at the lion statue that digger had become. He rested a claw on the smooth stone. He could feel the life within. The lion was at peace, his thoughts forever of giving and kindness. As a statue, Digger might well outlast even a dragon. The work was done. Grukkal loved when things worked so successfully. He tried to think of the things he would spend the lovely one hundred silver coins on, but it did not seem right. There was so much left to do, charities needing it so much more than he did. There was no way he could keep the money.
“Of course.” Said Grukkal out loud. He would have to move this statue pretty quickly, or he would be doing all his services for free which wouldn’t be too bad... By direct force of will, Grukkal stamped a clawed foot on that thought.
He wondered if even his virtually magic-immune assistant, Haven, would be able to resist the statue’s influence. Haven should be returned from a certain errand by then so the statue would be moved before too long. Grukkal had an uncertain nights sleep that night. Drained a little from the magics he had directed, he should have slept very deeply. Instead the stone lion kept pricking at his natural avarice. He remembered times where he could have done even more to help people. By dawn he was more than ready to get rid of the lion statue. He couldn’t run his usual business under Digger’s far too powerful influence.
It was ten o’clock when Haven returned and not long afterwards he and the dragon hefted the massively heavy statue onto a sturdy cart and headed into town. Grukkal had given him clear instructions.
“Seat the lion outside the charity office. Give them this bag of coins.” There was no way he could keep them now.
At the charity office Haven went inside and told them of the lion statue. It was a fine work of art and they gratefully accepted its position outside their main doors. They were even more pleased with the bag of coins. They helped him and with a good bit of hefting an levering, a tired and dusty Haven finally placed the statue on a plinth that seemed to have been made for the purpose.
He threw a few copper coins into the slot below the statue, and felt a buzz of satisfaction. One that Digger felt strongly too. Haven stopped on a nearby bench to eat his simple lunch, and drink a cool beer. As he ate and drank, he watched people being almost magnetically drawn to the statue. They weren’t just admiring it because he could hear the steady clink and rustle of money being put into the slot. He finished his beer, and headed back to the dragon. He was tired from his adventure, not to mention moving the heavy statue immediately afterwards. It was time to take the cart and go home.
All the way out of the town, his long ears could hear the steady clink of more coins being fed into the slot under the lion.