Birthday Story for a Five-Year-Old

Ninja Warrior
by Grandma Baadsgaard
Happy 5th Birthday. I sure love you Liam - my mighty warrior.

            In the towering cliffs next to the sea, lived Liam a mighty ninja warrior. Liam wasn’t always a warrior. Once he was a little boy who lived in a cottage with his family. One night many men dressed in black unexpectedly came to his house and set the roof on fire. His family ran out the front door. Liam ran out the back door and hid behind a rock wall while he watched the men tie his family’s hands behind their backs and take them away.
            Liam was alone. He slept on the beach until the dawn. He caught a fish in the ocean when he grew hungry. He searched over the remains of his home. He pulled out a half burned quilt his mother made him and a small blade his father had given him. He found his flute hidden under a stone in a box beneath the floor boards. That night he played a sad song under the stars. He did not know where his family had gone.
            After many days passed he saw a peasant gathering wood near his home. The man walked toward Liam. He looked at Liam’s home in ashes.
            “You are alone,” the peasant said.
            “The men in black burned my house and took my family away.”
            The peasant quietly turned and picked up a piece of charred wood then another until he formed a pile. Soon the rock foundation was all that remained.
            “We will find new wood,” the peasant said.
            Liam followed the peasant into the woods, chopped down trees and carried many logs to the foundation. Together they built a new cottage. Later, after they finished rebuilding Liam’s home, the peasant built a fire in the fireplace. Liam played a song on his flute with his mother’s quilt around his shoulders and his father’s blade in his pocket.
            “I miss my family,” Liam said.
            “Then we will find your family,” the peasant said.
            “I am afraid of the men in black,” Liam said.
            “Then we will use strategy and skill,” the peasant said.
            That night when the peasant thought Liam was sleeping, he walked from the cottage to the edge of the cliff in the moonlight. Liam secretly followed. Liam watched as the peasant crouched down then curled into a ball on the ground until he resembled a stone. Then Liam saw the peasant transform into an eagle that rose majestically and flew into the night sky. Liam returned to the cottage deep in thought.
          “I have found your family,” the peasant said at breakfast the next morning. They are slaves building a castle for the men in black. There are many, many men in black. We must plan your family’s escape with cunning and skill.”
            Lessons began. Each day the peasant gave Liam new lessons in the use of mental clarity, forecasting and transformation skills.
“When you feel fear, knell on the earth and gather courage deep inside. Then rise, spread your arms like the wings of a bird and let your fear go. You can rise above and fly.”

          Each night Liam rose from his safe place next to the fire and secretly followed the peasant into the cold dark then watched as he transformed into an eagle and flew toward the castle. When he was ready Liam openly followed his teacher to the each of the cliff. Then he too crouched down low until he resembled a stone. He gathered his courage deep inside. As he stood and spread his arms wide, his limbs became wings and together they flew toward the castle.
          When Liam saw his family sleeping in dung and rags, his heart ached. When they returned to the cottage Liam knew what he must do.
          “I am ready,” Liam said to his teacher the next morning.  
          That night they flew together to the castle, transformed then spoke to Liam’s father.
          “Father,” Liam said. “I am here to bring you home.”
            Liam’s father awoke and quietly roused Liam’s mother and brothers and sisters. Silently they followed Liam toward the gate. Liam and his teacher flung grappling hooks over the castle walls and assisted Liam’s family as they cleared the wall. When they were safely outside the castle, both Liam and his teacher curled into a ball on the ground until they looked like a stone.
          “Gather your courage,” Liam said.
          Then Liam’s father, mother, brothers and sisters quietly followed their lead. Just as the moon rose over the horizon, a flock of eagles soared high in the night sky and glided toward the cliffs near the shore and their home. When Liam woke the next morning, a fire crackled in the fireplace as his family slept soundly all around him. He walked from the warm cottage and found his teacher sitting at the crest of the cliff looking out toward the eastern horizon. Liam sat next to him facing the wind.
“We are only grounded by our fears,” his teacher said.
         Then Liam watched as his teacher slowly crouched into the shape of a stone. For a moment Liam longed for him to stay. Then he understood why he must go.
          “I am ready,” Liam said.
           Liam watched as his teacher spread his wings and soared high into the brilliant light of the new day.