I took a handful of sweets from Mr Tenk’s jar, an headed out the door with the other urchins. Mr Tenk’s dice games were fun, though i ain’t got any idea why he want’s me to bring along the others every now an then just to write down them munbers, it don’t seem to mean much or do anything.
Mr. String and Miss Maggie were still gone, and had been fer a long time, an no-one was doing much to find em, so I decided it were up to me. I know they were still here in New Babbage an had gone walkabouts inside emselves, but I recon some of the dark paths might reach em, an it don’t do no harm to try.
So I packed up me stuff with plenty of provisions and flasks of water, cus it can be dangerous to eat an drink things some of the places…. Then it was off, taking the route I usually use to go to Steelhead, you know, left at Mr Pierce’s shop, down the alley, turn right, then on for a bit till you reach the path, then on to the alley behind Miss Mara’s place, but this time I took the left fork just after the old oak. At first, the path was clear, the trees standing respectfully back, but as I journeyed on, they crowded close, jostling to overshadow me, branches reaching over my head to block out the light.
As I travelled deeper into the forest, the sky clouded over,and it began to rain, slightly at first, but then it poured down. How can it be fair that in a forest of trees that block out the sun, the rain comes straight through and soaks a poor fox!
After some time, as the day’s light was fading, I reached a rocky coast, leaving the forest behind.
The rain still fell, with a thick fog drifting in from the sea, and I thought there was no way I could put my tent up for a dry night. Then, in the distance, I saw the vague outline of a tower ahead. It was a huge church, with a small town around it, and after knocking on some doors I was offered a space in a comfy barn by a kind couple. They told me the church was a Cathedral, and the town a City, called St. Davids.
I was fortunate in finding a warm billet, as the night was wild and wet, rain falling in buckets (I know, I heard the sounds as they hit the ground!). In the morning, my new friends gave me breakfast, a huge fry up, and insisted I visit their Cathedral before moving on, to give thanks for my safe journey so far and success in the search to come. So I wandered down into the valley where I saw the magnificence of the Cathedral, though the Bishop’s Palace was in ruins. Inside it was wonderful, with sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows, and a lovely organ playing. I paid my respects to the God, as I know you should do in all Houses of Faith (bit scary for the more icky Gods, but still Duty…), and who knows, it might help, specially as it seemed he was more a sad God than a smiting one. Not sure which it was, but from the building I don’t think it was the Builders! The columns to the right leaned out, as did the ones on the left, and the ones at the back were taller than the ones at the front! The floor was on a slope, so you could drop a marble by the alter, and it would roll all
the way down to the doors at the end – I didn’t, honest, though I did want to!
Then it was off along the coast to continue my search. The sea was dark and choppy, though the sun was breaking through in places, and there was heather and gorse along the path,
painting the countryside purple and yellow.
I came across several inlets, with small harbours, boats bobbing at
anchor, but each time as I came into the little villages, doors slammed and I heard bolts being thrown to bar entry,
I guess they did not like strangers much, and I never did find out if they were human or not, you never know when you go off the usual paths.
One place I found an old fort, still with cannon pointing out to sea, but there was no one around, and the buildings were all in ruins. Dunno who the cannon belong to, but I’ll keep the place in mind if I ever needs some.
Further on, I crossed a river on a bridge built by a family of otters, much bigger than the usual ones, an quite friendly. I asked the biggest one if he had seen Mr String or Miss Maggie. He hadn’t, but
promised to keep an eye out, though how he would let me know, I’m not sure. It would have been fun to stay and play with the otter kits, but I had my search to continue, and the biggest otter had told me of paths into the dark hills to the North East.
Off I set, heading into the hills, and around me the ground became stony, with grey slate all around.
It was dry and dusty, and I had to drink from my flasks very often. I did find some small streams cascading from the mountainsides that rose around me, but didn’t want to drink the water, as
the place had a bad feeling about it. I think there were trolls around, from the sign I saw, but they kept well out of my way, they probably knew a troll is no match for a quick witted fox! I did see a hawk, a Red Kite, high in the air above me, so placed one of my supply voles as an offering, and stood back, crouching low to show I meant no harm.
The regal bird descended, perching on the rocks to take my small
gift. Haltingly, cus I don’t speak Hawk too well, I asked after Mr Pocket and Miss Maggie. She looked at my with distain, though tore into the vole, then screamed that she had not seen them, and I should travel to the forests over the mountain, and ask the elves, if they didn’t eat me!
I was not very encouraged by this, as I watched the magnificent bird take to the air and soar upwards. But, a search is not a search without some danger, so it was time
to head on. Think time was passing strangely, as I had been walking for ages and it seemed no later than it was before. I guess that would annoy the Clockwinder, cus I know he likes time to behave itself, but on the dark paths all sorts of things strange can happen.
The pass through the mountains was scary, with a narrow path just wide enough to walk along, and a long drop to one side. Occasionally a figure would come towards me,
going the other way, and I would have to wait at a wider place until they had passed. Some were Elves, striding past without giving me a glance, others humans, dressed in long travel cloaks, hiding their faces as they passed, and others creatures I have never seen before. The way was so narrow, and the drop so great, that I didn’t even dare to ask about my search, for fear that I would annoy one of the travellers, and end up at the bottom of the gorge.
I was thankful when the next valley opened out into a tall forest of old pine trees, the ground dry and springy underfoot and I was only able to see a short distance till the gloom drew in, hiding the distance from me. It was perfect country for Elves,
who can be unpredictable people, particularly in the high mountains. I walked deeper into the forest until I was sure I would be in someone’s home, then settled down with my back to a tree, and
began to play my flute. Mostly Elves like music, and as long as they are pleased, they are usually very nice. I played for an hour or so, then began to notice faint movements in the corners of my eyes, then, before I could react, there was a group of wild looking Elves seated around me….
Without missing a beat, I continued to play, startling as their appearance had been, and waited till they drew nearer. Once they were within hand’s reach, I played a last note, fading gently away, and rested my flute in my lap. The silence grew longer, till one of them whispered in my ear, asking that I play more.
I said that I would play in friendship, waited, and when one of them
gave a slight nod, I played again.
Once I had played for what seemed hours, I put down my flute again. Hands placed leaves piled with nuts and fruit in front of my, and a cup of clear water appeared by my
hand. I nodded in acceptance of their gift, though touched none of it, in case they wanted to keep me there forever, and had enchanted the food. Smiling, I asked about Mr. Pocket and Miss Maggie, and where I could find them. Some of the figures vanished into the gloom, only to return a short while later.
Like a rustling of leaves, they sang to me that they could find no trace of them in the lands they knew of, and they would not let me go deeper along the dark paths, as it would not be safe.
I remembered trying to go places Elves didn’t want me to go before, I don’t work, you just end up going in circles, so I excused myself, and wandered downwards through the forests, till the trees gave way to a long valley filled with a wondrous lake.
This was probably not Elves territory, and though it was beautiful, I needed to find my way back to New Babbage. As I reached the lake shore, the light was failing, so I pitched my tent, cooked up a vole stew, and settled down to a good night’s sleep, lulled by the sound of the water gently caressing the shore.
I was woken in the morning by the sound of many people running past either side of my tent, and on looking out, saw a vast hoard of strangely dressed people all running around the edge of the lake. Quickly, being ignored by the passers by, I packed up my tent, slung my pack on my back, and started out in the direction the runners were taking. Seeing a person dressed in a bright cloak, who seemed to be encouraging the runners but staying in one place, I stopped and asked what was happening. It was some sort of contest, held each year, and the runners had already swum the lake, and raced velocipedes around it, and now had to run all around before winning.
It seemed a strange was to spend a day, but there were a lot of people doing it, so it must be fun, I guess…..
As the chap seemed to be human, I asked if he knew the way to New
Babbage. He did not know, which made me think maybe I was still deep on the paths, but he did direct me down the valley, where he said there was a general crossroads.
I headed down, leaving the runners to their sport, and from the end of the lake, the path widened and became easier to travel along. I even cadged a lift on a cart, saving my
poor feet from a little trudging. The crossroads, when I reached it, looked familiar, and taking the path that looked right, it wasn’t long before I caught a whiff of smoke and soot that could only be my beloved New Babbage, and a few turns on, I came out by the steam turtle
beach, home, without Miss Maggie or Mr Pocket, but at least with some idea of where they ain’t. Wonder if i should tell Mr Tenk where i been..? Maybe not……
((Tepic believes he went on this search, spoke to animals and played his flute for the Elves, but of course, that would be magic, and magic doesn’t exist… so maybe it’s just the world as any eight year old sees it, where you can have an intelegent conversation with a stone, fly to distant places while sitting in a corner, and be both people in a discussion… who can tell? The question still remains, just how does he turn up in Steelhead or the other cities at odd times?))