The second of Shafali’s beautiful writing prompts ‘The Bell’ can be found here.
Over 10,000 years ago, when the bell was forged, it had been imbued with a form of magic – the kind of magic that makes the world a better place over time; the kind of magic that helps to heal the wounds of war, hate, tragedy, grief and strife. The bell was not the only one of its kind, there were others dispersed throughout the different countries, each one protecting the people who resided therein, ensuring the spread of human warmth, compassion and kindness.
The magical power residing in these bells was protected by the faerie folk who laboured hard to ensure that love and compassion would be amongst humankind’s greatest assets, the ones which would ensure the continuation of both the world itself, and everything else that lived its life upon it.
Unfortunately, love and compassion, kindness and thoughtfulness, the main constituents which humans require to ensure the world’s continued existence, did not extend to every human being in the world. The faerie folk had failed to give any thought to this possibility and, thus, had brought about the ruination of their own existence whilst ensuring the eventual destruction of the beautiful gift that had been bestowed upon all living things – the world they live in.
Isabella Argent, a very elderly, very frail lady believed, by most who knew of her, to be about 100 years of age, knew that she was coming to the end of a very long life. This beautiful summer’s evening, the last she was ever to experience, she sat in a comfortable chair on her veranda, staring at the beautiful bell that had been with her all her life. It had always been her duty to ensure the bell was kept in perfect condition. She had polished it every day of her life until, three years ago now, she found she was unable to complete that most important of tasks. That was the day when the last little bit of magic that had been woven into the fabric of the bell, had died. With no magic to keep it looking like new, and no magic toy help Isabella to protect it, the magic had slowly left Isabella herself. For Isabella was the last of the faerie folk who had guarded the gathering bells, and her bell was the last of the bells which had protected the world.
Isabella, staring at the bell and wondering what would happen to the world now that there was no longer any magic to protect it, let her mind drift back to that time, 5000 years ago, when the last full gathering had taken place. All the bells, across all the continents, had been rung at the same time to call the families to their gathering. Each family was in charge of a bell, and one member of each family was given the task of protecting the bell for the whole of their lives. This particular gathering was a very special one for Isabella’s family as their last protector had finally come to the end of her life, and a new protector was to be selected. Isabella, at that time just 3000 years old, knew that the honour was to fall to her.
She was well aware that it was indeed a great honour, and she accepted it with a humility and sense of duty so rarely seen in the world today. Other families were also going through this process of change but, unbeknownst to any of the faerie folk, one of their number – one of the chosen ones – had walked between the veil separating the faerie folk from the humans, and had been infected with the very greed, lust, hatred, envy and violence which the gathering bells had been created to protect the world from. This faerie’s sickness had spread quickly across the world, and therefore throughout the families. Isabella watched her own family fall to the sickness one by one, until there was only herself left to carry the weight of the world’s illness, and the weight of grief that losing her family had brought her.
Throughout the next 5000 years Isabella had moved, regularly, from one continent to the next, wherever there was strife, famine, war and sickness, using the power of the bell to keep this illness from destroying the world. To do this she had had to move amongst the world of the humans, had to learn to talk, act, dress like them, to change her name to one they could pronounce and to move before anyone noticed that she didn’t seem to age at all.
Over this period she had met and loved so many people, had lived many different lives, had experienced the joy and pain of living, and had grown to love the imperfect humans she lived amongst. In return she afforded a measure of protection to them through the power of the gathering bell. Once a year, wherever she was and whichever country she lived in, she would ring the bell and invoke its powerful magic. Anyone with a sickness would be healed, any sickly child would start to thrive, all anger would abate, disputes would be solved and peace would rule again. But, with each passing century, Isabella could feel the magic fading slightly, as indeed she knew it would, until, tonight, this night, she knew that the bell had no use for her anymore, nor she any use for the bell. It was powerless and she was old.
Isabella, with one last look at the unpolished bell, the ivy growing through the links and the spider who had made its home there, took herself to bed for the last time. She was not afraid, she welcomed her long sleep. She had, after all, fulfilled her role for as long as she was able. Now the humans would have to learn to live without the magic that had, perhaps, blinded them for so many, many, years. They would have to take responsibility for their own actions, learn to accept that their fate lay in their own hands. This, she felt, was perfectly fitting, for she had learned over the years that humans had to be left to fend for themselves if they were to learn the importance of responsibility.
She closed her eyes and prepared for her life to end.
Isabella waited and waited …… until, eventually she heard a beautiful tinkling sound – the bell was ringing! Levering her old body out of bed she realised that she no longer ached, her skin was no longer wrinkled and sagging, her feet were long and slender and her long hair was a beautiful bright gold, as it had been during her very long youth.
Stepping outside she looked at the bell. It too looked as it had looked when it was young and full of magic. Then, the air around her seemed to breathe with musical notes as the bell took up a continuous ringing melody and into the magical light, now reaching to the end of her garden, walked her family.