Once upon a time, there was a king. Like many kings, he was very wealthy. He loved counting his gold pieces, polishing his jewels, and basking in his wealth. He did not like sharing. His treasure was the most important thing in his life, and he wanted to keep it all for himself.
As time went past, this king grew old. His beard turned grey. He knew that, soon, his time would be over. He did not worry much about that. But he did worry about his treasure. He didn’t want anybody else to get their hands on it. He needed to find a way of keeping it safe, forever and ever, so that it was always his, for the rest of time.
That was how Mo’s Nan always started the story.
“What happened next?” Mo would ask her.
She’d say, “This is the part of the story that most people have forgotten.”
She would hold her handbag tight as she spoke, because Mo’s Nan always had her handbag with her, and sometimes secrets came out of it.
“Do you want to know what happened next?” she would ask Mo. “Because I know. I know everything.”
Mo wasn’t sure that Nan really did know everything. But she would keep going with her story, and he would let her, because he loved her stories.
“This king wasn’t just a king,” she’d say. “He was also a magician. He worked his magic, and with it he made a cave, under the lake, right here. He wove some sort of spell and his treasure was placed inside the cave, below the dark water.”
“But somebody could swim down there, if they could hold their breath for long enough?” Mo would say. “Somebody like me, who was a good swimmer. Someone could go inside the cave and take the king’s treasure for themselves.”
“The king had thought of that,” Mo’s Nan said. “He put another spell on that underwater cave and the treasure that he loved so much. The spell that was cast meant that there must always be a creature protecting the treasure. There must always be a guardian for the cave below the lake. The guardian must be strong, and must guard the treasure forever.”
“But who is the guardian now?” Mo would ask.
“Who knows?” said Mo’s Nan. She yawned hugely. “That’s as far as I can go. That’s all the story that I know.”
The story would buzz around Mo’s head whenever he came down here. He’d think about the king’s treasure, below the lake water. He’d stand where you’re standing now, looking out across the water, and he’d think about the gold and silver and jewels. But most of all he’d think about the guardian of the underwater cave – the creature that guarded all that gold and silver and jewels for the long-gone king.
It must be a lonely life, Mo thought, down there in the depths of the lake. And it must be a really big and scary creature, to have the job of guarding a king’s treasure.
And then he’d shake the thoughts out of his head, and continue on his way.
Let’s go with him.