PDA

View Full Version : The Quest for the Magic Fruit (Draft the First)



Blue Blazer
May 3rd, 2012, 10:30 PM
The Quest for the Magic Fruit (Draft the First)
Let me preface this by saying that as of 2 nights ago, a somewhat revelatory idea has struck me that will necessitate a major change to the first chapter, so bear with the very obvious inconsistency that will be apparent in later chapters.

As I mentioned in my introduction post, this story was spawned from a bedtime tale I concocted for my son Owen. The hero is based mostly on him, but a slightly older version of him. The original read very much like a Brothers Grimm tale, with blatant overuse of ridiculous coincidences and somewhat mind-numbing repetition in action and dialogue. This is the fleshed out, more mature, and hopefully someday publishable edition.





And away we go...
Chapter 1: The Great Forest


Once, in a land now lost in a forgotten time, there was a great forest. In this forest there was a small, humble cottage where a small, humble family lived. The father was a tall, broad man with a loud, booming voice full of laughter. The mother was pretty and rosy-cheeked, and often singing songs from days long past. And their son was slender and quick, with hair the color of autumn wheat and a round, smiling face. He was a good boy, prone to mischief but full of love.

The forest gave this family all that they required; they had little, but needed even less. The father would hunt and fish and make repairs to the house, when it was necessary. The mother tended to the garden and washed their clothes in the river. The boy had his own chores, and when they were done we would often explore the wonders of the forest around him.

But there came a day when, for reasons unknown, the forest stopped providing for the family. The father could find neither beast nor bird to hunt, nor fish to catch. The fruits and vegetables in the garden shriveled and died. The family had managed to put away some food for the winter, but it was not yet May and it quickly began to deplete. Out of love for their son, the mother and father began to eat less and less, so that he could have enough to stay healthy and strong. But this began to take its toll on them, so that they became weak and ill from starvation, until they could not even raise themselves from their bed.

The boy was frightened, knowing that his parents would soon die if something was not done. So he went out into the forest to seek the only help he knew.

"Oh, great Spirit of the Forest," the boy cried out, "I beg you to answer my call!"

A sudden warm breeze picked up, lifting the leaves from the forest floor in a small, playful whirlwind and gently ruffling the boy's hair. A voice, deep and ancient, spoke from behind him.

"Why do you call upon the spirit of this forest, the protector of all that dwells here?"

The boy spun around in surprise, to find not a soul with him. But then the voice came again and he discovered its source. A tree, that had moments before been like any other tree (it was his favorite climbing tree, in fact), had twisted and changed until it resembled an old man. Its trunk formed a knotted, gnarled face; its branches became bony arms; its hanging moss made an unkempt beard. It leaned toward him.

"Speak up, boy. My time is short. There are miles of forest to watch over. You are lucky I was nearby when you called to me. Now, out with it."

The boy fought through the shock that had frozen him in place, not wanting to miss the chance to save his mother and father.

"If you please, good spirit," he croaked, "I live in a small house a short distance from here. My family has run out of food and my mother and father are so starved that they cannot even raise themselves from their bed. I fear that they will die very soon unless someone saves us."

The tree straightened and considered the boy's plea. It tapped the knot that served as its nose with the twig that served as one of its fingers while it thought. Finally, the spirit came to a decision.

"Though I am not in the habit of fooling with the likes of Man, I have made a vow to protect all of the denizens of this wood. I suppose you humans are no exception," it told the boy.

The child's heart leaped with joy. Had he known what the Spirit of the Forest would say next, he would not have been so happy.

"In a country many miles due east of here there is a castle," the spirit continued, "and in the center of that castle grows a tree that bears magic fruit. You must journey there, pick some of the fruit, and bring it back for your mother and father to eat, and their strength will be restored. The path to the castle is very long and full of peril. You must be steadfast and brave. Only if you can complete this quest will your wish be granted."

At once the boy was afraid. How could the great spirit ask so much of him?

"It is impossible," he told the tree, "Is there nothing else that can be done? No other way? I am but a small child."

"Indeed you are," came the reply, "And yet I sense in you an abundance of courage and cunning. You are not tall and strong, but you possess a power within that has become rare in these days. I believe you will succeed. Now go and prepare for your journey, and before you leave, go down to the river at your father's fishing place and you will find a gift from the forest that will help you along the way."

And with that, the great tree stilled and what had been a face melted back into its trunk. It was once more just the boy's favorite climbing tree.

The boy started walking back to the house, his mind heavy with thought. He was almost sure he could never complete the task set to him by the Spirit of the Forest. But then he came to the front door of the cottage and looked in to see his father and mother lying in their bed, gaunt and pale, and he made up his mind to try.


"Speak up, boy. My time is short. There are miles of forest to watch over. You are lucky I was nearby when you called to me. Now, out with it."

The boy fought through the shock that had frozen him in place, not wanting to miss the chance to save his mother and father.

"If you please, good spirit," he croaked, "I live in a small house a short distance from here. My family has run out of food and my mother and father are so starved that they cannot even raise themselves from their bed. I fear that they will die very soon unless someone saves us."

The tree straightened and considered the boy's plea. It tapped the knot that served as its nose with the twig that served as one of its fingers while it thought. Finally, the spirit came to a decision.

"Though I am not in the habit of fooling with the likes of Man, I have made a vow to protect all of the denizens of this wood. I suppose you humans are no exception," it told the boy.

The child's heart leaped with joy. Had he known what the Spirit of the Forest would say next, he would not have been so happy.

"In a country many miles due east of here there is a castle," the spirit continued, "and in the center of that castle grows a tree that bears magic fruit. You must journey there, pick some of the fruit, and bring it back for your mother and father to eat, and their strength will be restored. The path to the castle is very long and full of peril. You must be steadfast and brave. Only if you can complete this quest will your wish be granted."

At once the boy was afraid. How could the great spirit ask so much of him?

"It is impossible," he told the tree, "Is there nothing else that can be done? No other way? I am but a small child."

"Indeed you are," came the reply, "And yet I sense in you an abundance of courage and cunning. You are not tall and strong, but you possess a power within that has become rare in these days. I believe you will succeed. Now go and prepare for your journey, and before you leave, go down to the river at your father's fishing place and you will find a gift from the forest that will help you along the way."

And with that, the great tree stilled and what had been a face melted back into its trunk. It was once more just the boy's favorite climbing tree.

The boy started walking back to the house, his mind heavy with thought. He was almost sure he could never complete the task set to him by the Spirit of the Forest. But then he came to the front door of the cottage and looked in to see his father and mother lying in their bed, gaunt and pale, and he made up his mind to try.


Chapter 2: Friend and Foe

He went inside and packed a small satchel with a little food, an extra set of clothes, and his mother's sharpest carving knife. Then, with tears coursing down his cheeks, he kissed each of his parents' furrowed brows, whispered heartfelt goodbyes, and left the only home he had ever known. He was unsure that he would ever return.

The river seemed to welcome the boy with its babble as he neared it. He walked a little ways up to the place where his father preferred to fish. The boy had long suspected that the man did twice as much napping here as he did fishing. He looked around for the gift the Spirit of the Forest had promised. At first he saw nothing, but then the sunlight glinted strangely off of something just beneath the surface of the water. The boy plunged his arm into the river and grabbed hold of the object beneath.

It was a stone, as black as the sky at midnight and flawlessly smooth. It was flat and wider at one end than the other, such that it resembled a very blunt, rounded triangle. Etched on one side was the word “EAST”. Curious, the boy turned and pointed the tip of the river stone toward what he thought was east. The stone gave off a very faint hum. The boy turned a little more and the sound strengthened, and the stone began to vibrate in his hand. This was surely the spirit’s gift – a compass that would guide him eastward to his journey’s end.

And then, with a single step, the quest for the magic fruit began. The boy walked for hours through the forest, sometimes checking the stone to be sure he was moving in the right direction. He passed all of the familiar things he had seen countless times when he played in the woods, and his heavy heart lightened a bit as he remembered all of the fun he had had.

But suddenly, he stopped and looked around. He realized that he no longer recognized his surroundings. He was farther from home than he had ever been in his life. This discovery both excited and saddened him. The coming adventure thrilled his sense of daring and curiosity, but he also felt as if he were leaving something very important behind him, something he was not quite ready to give up. And he already missed his family and his home. The boy fought away the sudden urge to turn around and go back, and he pushed on.

He covered many miles over the next several hours, but as the sun sank behind him, the boy’s body began to tire. He had walked all day and there was still no sign of the forest’s end. He began to wonder if the whole world was covered in one unending expanse of trees, despite the exotic tales of oceans and mountains his father had told him.

The boy’s left foot, now merely dragging across the ground, caught on the roots of a tree and he stumbled. He would surely have fallen flat on his face had he not quickly grabbed onto a vine hanging from the branches of the tree. But his sigh of relief quickly turned to a gasp of horror as the vine suddenly wrapped itself around his arm. The boy screamed in surprise and fear and wrenched himself free. Whispering voices, harsh and sinister, came from every direction from the mouths of unseen fiends.


“What isss it?” one asked.

“It isss a ssstranger,” came the answer.

“Hasss it fangsss?”

“It hasss none.”

“Hasss it clawsss?”

“It hasss none.”

“Ssshall we eat it?”

“Yesss, let usss eat it.”

From every possible hiding place, a multitude of vicious-looking snakes advanced on the boy. They took their time, hissing and rattling, slinking and slithering. He was surrounded before he knew what was happening.

One of the snakes coiled and lunged, but a well-timed kick of the boy’s right foot sent it flying back into the trunk of a tree. Another dropped onto the boy’s shoulders from a branch above; instinctively he reached back, grabbed it, and hurled it into a wriggling mass of its brothers and sisters.

But the boy knew he could not fight them all off. Before long, the serpents would claim him. The bright candle of hope in his heart flickered under the force of the mighty wind of despair. But before it could go out completely, a piercing screech came from above, and the boy was momentarily bathed in shadow. A figure, enormous and airborne, briefly blocked out the last rays of the setting sun. In that second, the boy thought of the angels of which his mother would sing in lullabies, winged and rimmed with gold. Then, a huge eagle landed heavily on a pile of writhing snakes, picked them up with its talons, and tore their heads off with its beak. The boy looked skyward to see hundreds of eagles, all in a heated battle with the now scattered snakes.

Claws, strong but gentle, wrapped around his arms and carried him upward. He was lifted into the treetops and set down in the center of a large nest where several younger eagles stood in a circle around a mound of eggs. Though smaller than the ones fighting the snakes, these birds were still just as tall as the boy, and their eyes looked hungry for combat.

“Guard this one with your lives!” commanded the larger eagle, and then it flew back into the fray. The young ones screeched in unison and tightened their circle around the boy, their backs to him so they could see any approaching danger. The terror that seized him was both horrible and exhilarating as he stood there wide-eyed, listening to the sounds of the battle below. His heart thudded like a war drum, keeping a manic, violent beat that only added to the excitement of the fight. And though the eagles had kept him out of the snakes’ bellies, what they intended to do with him was still unclear.

A rogue group of snakes had made their way up the tree and were silently approaching the nest. With the precision of soldiers, five of the eagle guards lunged forward in perfect harmony, each biting a snake clean in half. They were so lightning-quick that to the boy they looked like five golden blurs. They tossed the snakes’ remains over the side and immediately resumed their statue-like vigil.

Soon the ruckus beneath them began to fade, until there was silence. The boy waited anxiously for something to happen next. He suddenly found that he was more tired than he had ever been before, and he wobbled unsteadily on shaky legs.

The giant eagle that had carried him up to the nest landed next to him smoothly.

“Steady now, young one,” it said, “We cannot have you tipping over the side, can we? You may rest soon, but first I would like to speak with you alone.” It hunkered down and stretched out its neck to a surprising length.

“Climb on,” it said, and the boy wearily obeyed. It was, in fact, impossible not to obey such a majestic and powerful creature. To the eaglets it said, “Four of you remain here and keep watch. Work in shifts, so that none of you is tired tomorrow. Be steadfast, children. You know how those villains are. You have all made me very proud today.”

The young eagles squawked together in compliance and pride. They chirped among themselves briefly and then all but four took to the air. When their superior was satisfied, it too bounded upwards, gracefully shooting around branches until it and the boy on its back broke through the upper surface of the forest. The eagle circled above the trees for a moment, and then lit atop one. It gazed thoughtfully and silently up at the moon, a cool breeze making its feathers dance. With the moonlight shining brightly, the great golden bird looked somewhat like a blazing fire.


“A cloudless night sky is a humbling sight, is it not?” it finally said.

“Indeed it is, sir,” the boy breathed in awe. “Until this moment I have only seen it in pieces between the branches. This is my first time outside of the forest.”

“Yes, I know. My scouts have been watching you and your family for many years. I am the King of the Eagles. Tell me, why are you so far from your home at such a late hour? Surely life in the forest has taught you that it can become a treacherous and cruel place when night falls.”

“I am traveling to a country far to the east, Your Highness,” the boy explained, “Because my mother and father are starving to death. I was sent on a quest by the Spirit of the Forest to retrieve the fruit from a magic tree and bring it back to them.”

“You are certainly a brave boy to undertake such a task. I have been awaiting your arrival, you know.”

“You have been waiting for me?” the boy asked, puzzled. “Why, sire?”

“For centuries, the forest has been the domain of the eagles. Long ago, the snakes began to desire to be its rulers, and battles between the two of us, like the one you witnessed, have been going on ever since. As you saw, the serpents are no match for us in outright combat. But what they lack in might they make up for with great, vile cunning. Several years ago, they began sneaking into our nests and making off with our eggs, hoping to wipe us out by killing our young before they can be born. Sadly, they are succeeding. In half a century, there will be no more eagles in the great forest if the snakes are able to continue their strategy. Even though we set guards to the unhatched eggs, only two or three baby eagles are born a year. Our numbers are dwindling.”

“That is certainly sad to hear,” the boy said, “but what has it to do with me?”

The eagle king stretched out one wing and pointed into the night sky.

“Do you see that group of stars? My ancestors believed that the stars made pictures that were prophecies of the future. Those stars right there, they said, foretell the rise of the serpent menace. They also tell that at the eagles’ darkest hour, a human child would pass through our kingdom on a long and dangerous journey, a child of unrivaled courage, and that his arrival would be a sign of the eagles’ ultimate victory over our cowardly enemies. For a long time, I have believed this prophecy to be no more than a story meant to bring us hope, but now that you are here, my faith in the old grandfathers is renewed. I am very, very happy to be talking to you.”


They sat in silence for a moment, pondering what the King of the Eagles had said.

“I hope that you are right,” said the boy. He did not put much stock in prophecies from the stars, but it was nice to imagine it.

“As do I, child. As do I. Now, you shall sleep tonight in my nest. I will double the guard to ensure your safety.”

The eagle king hopped off of the tree and dove back down. The boy climbed off of its back, unshouldered his satchel, and lay down. The nest was far more comfortable than he had expected, and within minutes he was fast asleep.

He awoke mid-morning in a panic at the unfamiliar surroundings. His little bedroom had somehow become a huge bowl made of tree branches. But then he saw the eagles standing guard around him and the events of the previous day came flooding back into his memory. The young eaglets heard him stirring and they gave a loud, simultaneous screech. Within seconds, the King of the Eagles fluttered up and landed beside the boy.

“I trust you slept in peace,” the great bird said. The boy nodded and stretched on groggy, wobbly legs. His hair stood out in sprouts about his head.

“We are preparing for our assault on the snakes,” the eagle continued, “And I would just as soon have you out of the forest when the time comes. I will take you to its eastern edge.”

The boy shrugged on his satchel and once again climbed onto the eagle king’s back. He tipped a salute to the young eagle guards and they took off, zooming through the trees for miles. The boy was amazed at how much farther he would have had to walk before he would have reached the forest’s end, and he was glad he would not have to spend another night at its mercy. Finally, the eagle descended and landed gracefully on the soft, leaf-covered ground. The boy slid off and hugged the bird around its neck.

“My mother would scold me for not thanking you before now for saving my life. But I do thank you and all of your subjects,” he said.

“Think nothing of it, child. You and your family will always be friends of the eagles. Your father has had many chances to shoot us out of the sky with his bow, but never does. And it is I who humbly thanks you for heralding the end of this bloody war. Songs will be sung of your time with us for generations to come.”

Then the regal bird turned its head and plucked a long, glimmering feather from its wing, and then dropped it into the boy’s hand.

“Take this gift. It will bring you luck on your journey. I do hope we will meet again, brave young boy, even if not until we both reach the Final Aerie in the next world. The forest’s end is but a short walk from here. Farewell.”

Then the grand King of the Eagles bounded into the air and flew deeper into the woods. The boy watched it soar between the trees until it was out of sight. He turned around and noticed that the light ahead was strange. It shone with much greater brilliance than he was accustomed to, making the green of the forest shine like an emerald. The boy took a deep breath and prepared for what lay ahead.



Chapter 3: The Underground Prison


The sunlight continued to strengthen until the boy finally pushed through the last of the trees and out of the forest. He gasped in amazement at the vast, flat prairie that stretched to the horizon every way he looked. After years of living within the boundaries of the forest, the sheer openness of the plain made his head swim with dizziness. It was incredible in an entirely different way than the sky had looked from the treetops the night before. He saw every blade of grass in sharp detail. The wind blew unhindered on his face. The sight of it made the boy feel very small and very alone.

But he mustered up the courage and began walking across the ocean of green. The sun warmed him from high above and the plain was without shadow save for his own. The boy’s spirits were lifted so much that he soon found himself whistling as he walked. If the remainder of his voyage were like this, he thought, it might prove to be a pleasant quest indeed.

The boy soon realized he was famished. It had been since before he had left his house the morning before that he had last eaten. And since the prairie reached well beyond his line of sight, any spot was as good as another to stop for lunch. The boy sat in the cool, soft grass and pulled out two sandwiches his mother had made of salted deer meat wrapped in some kind of sweet leaves. He knew that he must be frugal with his rather limited rations, but also that he must eat in order to keep up his strength. Within minutes he had devoured both sandwiches and cooled his dry throat with water.

With his belly full and the warm sun shining, a great sleepiness overtook the boy, and he stretched out on the ground, his hands folded behind his head, meaning to take no more than a moment’s rest. He was asleep almost instantly.

He dreamed of small voices. It was not that they were quiet voices, but more that they sounded as if they came from the mouths of small people. He also had a bizarre sense of repeating light and darkness and the smell of earth.

The boy felt a very brief moment of weightlessness before he was jarred awake as his body landed painfully on the ground and there came a clang of metal hitting metal.

He was up in a flash and found that he had been thrown into some sort of underground prison. When he tried to stand upright, his head hit the low ceiling and a stream of dirt cascaded down the back of his shirt. Three walls of his cell and the floor were also made of packed dirt. The fourth wall, which faced the center of the small chamber in which he had been brought, was made up of vertical iron bars. The chamber was lit by a series of torches fastened to the walls. The boy squatted and wrapped his hands around two of the bars and peered out at the huddle of tiny men congregating on the other side of the cage door. They stood no taller than the boy’s legs, and all wore thick, long beards. They were whispering excitedly to one another, but did not seem to realize that the boy had awoken.

“LET ME GO!” the boy yelled in the deepest, most intimidating voice he could manage. His diminutive captors shrieked in surprise and clung to each other.

“It spoke!” one stammered.

“What did it say?” stuttered another.

“I said LET ME GO!” the boy bellowed again, “I have much more traveling to do!”

“It wants us to let it go. Should we?”

“I am unsure. Would the General let it go?”

The little men pondered the question in silence for a rather unnerving length of time before one said, “Perhaps we should ask him.”

“The prisoner?”

“No, you fool, the General! We have already heard the prisoner’s opinion!”

“Ask the General! Capital idea!”

“Yes, quite a satisfactory answer!”

“Hear, hear!”

“We shall be promoted for this!”

The boy watched incredulously as all of the men stumbled over each other running from the chamber to somewhere beyond.

“Perhaps I shall be made Admiral!” he heard one shout as their voices and footfalls echoed through the caverns. The boy scooted to one of the dirt walls of his cell and clawed at it, hoping to dig his way to freedom. But just beneath the outside layer was a surface of rock.
There was no way through it. He tried the other walls, the ceiling, and the floor with the same result.


Soon he heard the small men returning, and did his best to replace the dirt he had scraped off. Leading the procession was a dwarf slightly taller and broader than the others. His beard came to a point just above his waist, and he wore all black. He came to the center of the room and eyed the boy with a narrow, suspicious look.

“My men tell me that you are of the opinion that we should let you go, giant. Is this true?” the man said regally.

“It is,” the boy replied, “I am on a very urgent quest to the east, and time is not a luxury. You are delaying my progress.”

The small man considered what the boy had said for a moment. His underlings stood behind him nervously, awaiting the answer.

“While your offer is intriguing, I fear that I cannot accept. But I will make a counter offer. You may remain our captive for the remainder of your days and perform all of the work that we do not like to do. You may sleep and eat only enough to keep you alive and capable of continuing to work. You may abandon all hope of completing the quest of which you have spoken or of ever returning to your home in the Land of the Giants. Do you accept?”

“I should say not,” the boy responded. Tears stood in his eyes at the thought of being the little men’s slave for the rest of his life.

The little man in black looked troubled and confused. Things clearly were not going as he had hoped. The others whispered anxiously to each other.

“Silence!” their leader roared, “Where is my Advisor?”

The smallest man of the group, who stood no taller than the boy’s knees, shuffled forward timidly, holding his cap in his hands.

“Here, General,” he said humbly.

“Ah. Yes. Well. Not that my brilliant mind could not come up with a solution, but just for laughs, what would you advise me to do regarding our prisoner the giant?”

“Er…well, sir,” the Advisor sputtered, “Perhaps, now this is just a thought, mind you, but perhaps…oh, no, it is a silly idea, really. Not even worth mentioning.”

“Out with it, chap. I have not got all day. I am due to inspect the troops in less than 200 subseconds.”

“Oh dear, yes, I had forgotten. Well, given that we have the giant at bay, and therefore completely at our mercy, perhaps…”

“Well?”

“Perhaps we could maybe, you know, force the giant to comply.”

“Ha!” the General guffawed, “Exactly what I had surmised before I even asked! Once again, I have beaten you in strategy, Advisor.”

“Of course, sir. As always.”

The General linked his hands behind his back, puffed out his chest, and smiled at the boy.

“So it shall be, giant. You shall be kept here and made to work, not because you wish to, but because I wish you to. How do you like that?”

“Not a bit,” the boy said, trying very hard not to break down in sobs, “I think you are nasty, terrible little villains and my mother and father will surely perish thanks to your wickedness. If there is even a scrap of kindness in you, I beg you to let me go to continue my journey.”

“It is of no concern to me. We deserve a life of leisure, and now that you are here, we shall have it. You might as well forget that you even have a mother and father. You will certainly never see them again.”

Then the General spun on his heels and left the room, followed by all but one of his minions. This one had on his belt a metal ring from which dangled a large key. The boy curled up miserably on the floor of his cell and wept for his mother and father, as well as for himself. Then, when his tears had dried, he began his plans to escape.


Chapter 4: Escape to the Surface


A few minutes later, the boy called to the guard, who gingerly approached the cell, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Hello. Yes?” the guard said.

“Come closer,” the boy said loudly, “My giant ears cannot hear your tiny voice.” The guard inched toward him.

“Will this do?”

“What was that? That will not do at all. Closer, please.” Again the guard edged forward.

“Now, yes?”

“I can hear your voice now, guard, but cannot make out the words. Perhaps just a bit closer.” The guard took two final steps towards the boy.

“Surely this is close enough,” the guard muttered.

“Surely,” the boy said, and he shot his arm between the bars, grabbed a handful of the front of the guard’s shirt, and pulled as hard as he could. The guard’s head bounced noisily off of the iron door. His knees buckled and his eyes rolled up in their sockets. The boy laid the unconscious little man gently on the ground, pulled the key off of his belt, and let himself out of the cage. Then he rolled the guard into the call and locked the door behind him. He waited a moment, in case any more of his captors had heard the commotion, and when he heard nothing but the guard’s snores he fled the chamber.

The boy immediately discovered that the little men’s underground realm was much more complex than he had at first imagined. Tunnels crossed every which way, in a honeycomb of hallways and chambers. If any of them led up toward the surface or down deeper into the Earth, their slopes were so subtle that they gave no sign of change. The boy went as fast as he could, considering these tunnels were made for people half his size. He took turns at random, hoping to chance upon an exit and doing his best to remember which way he’d gone in case he needed to backtrack. Finally, he turned a corner and – stopped.

The tunnel simply ended, not in a chamber or another tunnel, but by a wall of earth. The miniscule men had just not continued digging this particular hallway. The boy could not figure out the purpose of such a dead end. He turned around to try a different path through the maze, but was surprised by a score of the little men, swords drawn, blocking his way. The General stepped forward and demanded to know why the boy was out of his cell.

“I only thought that since I am to stay here forever, I should acquaint myself with my new home,” the boy replied.

“Ah. Yes, that seems reasonable,” the General grunted, “But you should have someone with you so you do not become lost, as you so clearly did. Now, back in your cell, giant.”


Half an hour later, when the boy was secure in his cage and left alone with a new sentry, he tried again.

“Guard, come quickly! You have forgotten to unlock my cell door!”

The guard gasped and ran over, pulling the key from his belt. He was seconds away from opening the door when he stopped. The boy held his breath, sure that the guard had seen through his ruse. The little man looked up at him with worry in his eyes.

“You will not tell the General of my error, will you?” he asked meekly.

“I would not dream of it,” the boy smiled, “But just to be on the safe side, you might want to go and inform him that everything is in order.”

“Brilliant! I smell a promotion in my future! Perhaps Minister of Commerce!” the guard said, turning the key. Then he left the room to find the General. As soon as he had gone, the boy pushed the door open and sneaked out.

Again he traversed the tunnels, using what he remembered from his first attempted escape to explore other passages of the web of tunnels. He again came to one of those bizarre dead ends and was again captured and returned to his cell.

To the next guard the boy called, “My goodness, guard, what has happened?”

“How do you mean?” the guard asked nervously.

“Can you not see that somehow I have gotten outside of my call and you have gotten inside of it?” The guard shrieked and ran to the cage, gripping the bars and pleading to be let free.

“Throw me the key and I will open the door so we can switch places,” the boy whispered dramatically. The guard did as he was told and the boy opened the door. The guard rushed in, let the boy step out, and swung the door closed.

“That was a close one,” he said as the boy ran from the room. It was at this moment that the boy realized that although the tiny underground men fancied themselves of superior intelligence, they were all in reality quite remarkably stupid. Over and over he tricked his way out of his cell and navigated the tunnels, studying the intricacies of the labyrinthine kingdom. He was caught every time and returned to his cell, but he continued to learn. This went on for three straight days, until the General himself decided to stand watch.


“What are you?” the boy asked him.

“I am the General,” said the General.

“I mean what manner of creature are you?”

“Oh. Just the general kind, I suppose.”

At first the boy thought the General was joking, but then realized that he was not. Although he had come to rely heavily on the tunnel dwellers’ unfathomable idiocy, it had also become rather annoying. He knew that if he was to save his family, he had to escape this prison soon. He decided that right away was soon enough. He racked his brain for one last clever trick, but he had used so many that he seemed to have run out of ideas. So he decided not to be ambitious.

“Guard, did you just tell me that you are the General?”

“Of course. Silly question.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Eh? Whatever do you mean?” The General started losing confidence instantly.

“I mean that the General just came in here and told me to tell you that he has changed his mind and has agreed to let me go free.”

“What? The General said that?” asked the General, “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” grinned the boy, “He said I am to be released immediately. Hurry, please.”

“That does not seem right.”

“Well then, you may explain to the General that you disobeyed his order because it did not seem right. Good luck.”

“Dear me, no,” said the General, “I would prefer not to anger the General.” He unlocked the boy’s cage and let him out.

“Thank you, guard. I will tell the General that you have executed your duty with great skill and wisdom. Oh, and he also said that he wants you to gather up all of the others and bring them in here, and then await his arrival for further instructions.”

“Quite right,” said the General, and he rushed from the room to round up the entire population of little men.

The boy followed after, making his way through what he now knew was the only possible route out of the tunnels and back to the surface. He moved quickly, every now and then dodging groups of men scrambling to get to the prison chamber. Finally, he came to a fork, hopefully the last, where two tunnels diverged. He believed that one would bring him to the outside, and the other would lead to a myriad of other tunnels. Knowing that he had plenty of time before the General remembered that he was the General, the boy relaxed. He stuck his head into the left tunnel, where he heard nothing but the drip of water. In the other tunnel he smelled salt and heard a sound completely alien to him. It was a steady, pulsing roar. The boy was frightened by this noise, but decided that it must be the way out. He took a chance and pushed forward. As he progressed, he saw that the tunnel was gaining brightness, not from torchlight, but from sunlight. All at once the path became a sharp incline, and the boy crawled up desperately, starved for the warmth of the sun and the cool of the wind. He squeezed through the hole and popped his head out of the tunnel. Before him stretched the prairie as he remembered it. The boy cried out with joy and squeezed his shoulders through the hole. Then he heard the strange roaring noise again from behind him and he turned around.

Though he had never seen one before, the boy instantly knew that it was an ocean. As hard as it was to believe, he had crossed the entire prairie underground, and was now at its eastern border. The ocean, like the forest and the prairie, stretched on far beyond the boy’s ability to see. The boy was in love with it before he had even gotten himself completely out of the ground.


* * *


So I'm thinking I should stop here for the nonce to (hopefully) give folks time to comment before it gets overwhelming.


At the risk of sounding whiny (which is not my intent), is it customary for a story thread to go a week without any feedback?

Blue Blazer
May 4th, 2012, 02:59 AM
So I'm thinking I should stop here for the nonce to (hopefully) give folks time to comment before it gets overwhelming.

Blue Blazer
May 10th, 2012, 01:44 PM
At the risk of sounding whiny (which is not my intent), is it customary for a story thread to go a week without any feedback?

TBK
May 10th, 2012, 02:16 PM
I find the multiple posts overwhelming, even though you didn't intend them that way. My attention span is very small. I can more easily digest somebody else's work in small parts.

That doesn't mean somebody else wouldn't be glad to read the entire thing and give you feedback. But, because you responded to your own thread in so many different posts, a lot of people probably look at the 'replies' count and think, 'Oh, he's gotten enough of those.' Thirteen replies is a large number compared to others' threads.

You would do better posting one piece at a time and letting people take their time going through each little section.

Also, I think that multiple posts back-to-back, like this, are against the rules. If they aren't against the rules--I'm sure I read they are--then they're definitely bad form.

Blue Blazer
May 10th, 2012, 02:18 PM
Really? Multiple posts in my own thread? That seems silly.

TBK
May 10th, 2012, 02:34 PM
You should have aesthetically formatted it, then put it all in the first post.

If you want people to read what you've written, you have to follow certain socially constructed norms, regardless of how 'silly' they seem.

I learned that the hard way.

Blue Blazer
May 10th, 2012, 03:42 PM
Trying to re-organize the thread at your advice, but I can't seem to find an option for deleting posts. Help?

riverdog
May 10th, 2012, 06:10 PM
My advise, as a non-mod, just start a new thread and just post the first part. As far as a critique...

I didn't read the whole thing. But I didn't stop after the second sentence either, so thats good. One thought though, if the magical fruit at the distant castle turns out to be kidney beans, I'm going to laugh my ass off. Because-

Beans, beans, the magical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you toot,
The more you toot, the better you feel,
So lets eat beans at every meal!

I'll look it over this evening and try to give you a few more serious suggestions later.

TBK
May 10th, 2012, 06:42 PM
I would start with a fresh thread, too.

Blue Blazer
May 10th, 2012, 08:15 PM
***SPOILER ALERT***


It ain't beans. :razz: