The three-year-old toddled earnestly along the dusty path ahead of his mother. She had learned to keep a careful eye on him, especially when this spirit of mission appeared in the pumping of his chubby little legs and the swinging of his short little arms. She had also learned that, once he became fixed on a goal, there was little harm in letting him see it through. His missions usually ended with not much more damage than muddied feet or another rip in his little tunic.
Today, as they took their regular morning walk to the well, her son had started out as usual, crisscrossing the trail to inspect the grasses along each edge or the insects that crossed it. But, as they approached the greenery marking their destination, he came alert and, forgetting the insects and the grasses, headed straight down the path.
His mother was not the only one watching the little boy that morning. The two Guardians on duty were a couple who had a great deal of experience shepherding and protecting young children, starting with their own when they had been Planet Bound and continuing on for many cycles since.
The Guardians knew that the little boy’s mother could not see them but they suspected that the eyes of the boy were not quite so veiled. They had been pacing the mother and child, one on either side of the path and, from their elevated position in the air, had a good view of the surrounding area. More than once along the journey, the boy had stood up from his many investigations and had looked up over his shoulder, straight toward one or the other of them. He would look at them for only a moment, as if to check that they were still following, and then would move on to the next treasure along the path. Now, however, there was no looking over his shoulder; only focused attention on something ahead.
“Where in the Universes is he off to now?” Arkon asked.
“There is some small thing just off the path under that tree,” Pol said in response, “I’ll go get a better look, but I think it’s in pain.”
“Great,” Arkon mumbled as his companion glided ahead toward a tree that stood across from the well, “Probably a scorpion. He’s going to try to help a scorpion, isn’t he. Just my bound luck.” This little boy was adorable, but he also had a knack for getting his Guardians into trouble.
With his determined stride, the boy was beginning to outpace his mother, but with Pol watching ahead, Arkon decided to stay back with the woman and so he could not see what now held the attention of both Pol and the boy.
“What is it, Pol? Is it a scorpion?”
“No, dear, just a tender little Hyla Savignyi. It looks like it managed to fall from the tree and has broken its leg, poor little thing.”
Ah, of course, a Hilly Savage or some such. Arkon did not have nearly the attention for the fauna of this world that Pol did. Early in its evolution, she had begged him to work with her on a newly developing genus of small reptiles and so he did, but she definitely led out on that mission. It wasn’t that he didn’t like animals, it was just that Arkon preferred larger scale work, like mass migrations and political maneuverings. Not much politicking going on in early biological evolution, though.
“Um, a what, darling?” he asked.
“A Savignyi. A lovely little tree frog quite abundant in this area of the planet. It seems to have broken its left hind leg.”
“Well, it’s going to be someone’s lunch now. Plenty of birds around to clean up something like that.”
“Yes, well, I suspect our little ward might have other plans,” Pol replied looking into the intent face of the little boy who was now stooping over the wounded frog.
“Oh, geez! What are you thinking?” Arkon said in dismay, leaving the mother and rushing ahead the 20 paces that separated her from her son.
“Honey,” Pol said in a stern voice as her companion crouched down next to her, “I’ve told you not to give him nicknames. Those things find a way of sticking.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Pol. No one’s listening,” he distractedly replied to his companion. Then, not really thinking the boy could hear, let alone respond, Arkon said to him, “And seriously, Little Man, what is your three-year-old mind planning?” The two Guardians were now both carefully studying the boy’s face as he, in turn, studied the frog they surrounded. As if in response to Arkon’s question, the boy reached out a chubby little finger and placed it on the frog with a tenderness his body should not have been capable of. And then he lifted his head and looked directly into the eyes of the Guardians, first Arkon’s and then fixing on Pol’s.
“Oh, dear,” she breathed, “He wants to heal its leg.”
“Can he do that?”
“I don’t know, but… Oh my, he’s pulling on the threads. I… I think he can.”
“Well,” Arkon blinked a few times as he quickly consider the implications, “He’s a bit ahead of schedule for this…”
“…But I really don’t think we can stop him…”
“…and it was going to happen eventually.” Arkon turned his attention from the boy to his companion and, seeing the question in her eyes, put his hand on her cheek and said sincerely, “And he couldn’t ask for a more qualified Guide. You do what you do best, my love. Help him do what he was sent here to do.”
Pol looked for just a moment more into the eyes of the man who knew her better than anyone else in the Universes and then turned her full attention on the three-year-old healer before her.
Together, the Guardian and the boy pulled the sharp pieces of bone back into place, teaching the fractured ends how to reconnect. They showed the torn sinew how to knit itself back together and they relaxed the bruised muscles, allowing the blood pooling there to retreat back into its proper course. It was a simple little job for Pol, requiring simple little faith from the young healer and his tiny patient and it was done before the mother had closed the distance between them.
Setting her jug down on the path, the mother bent down to inspect the lively little creature in her son’s hands. “What do you have there, Yeshua? Did you find a new friend today?”
The boy beamed up at his mother as he presented to her his treasure and his mother laughed with joy at the beauty in his face.