Chapter 12: In Which things Look Brighter and Slimier

Madison’s hand trembled with excitement as she held the map. She looked up at Sir Westley, who was still eating bacon and tilting his head slightly to the right to try to understand the map.

“What’s it do?” Westley asked.

“I don’t know,” the Princess responded. “It leads somewhere, I guess. But where?”
“Well, let’s go,” he said.

“But,” Madison said. “Do we trust the map?”

It was a hard question, and Madison Jayne knew that she was supposed to distrust things that were easy. Her mind was filled with questions: Who put the map there? Did she sleep on it all night without knowing? Would the map lead to somewhere good or somewhere bad? And the question that buzzed continually in the back of her brain: Who really was Sir Westley Cummerbund, III anyway?

Finally, Westley spoke:

“Well, I suppose we should first try to figure out what it says, and then decide what to do.”

Madison nodded, and they looked at the strange map.

“I think this is us, beside this little circle, which would be the lake” Madison suggested, pointing at a sad little drawing of a house.

“Yes, I think so too. And that’s the castle, with the pointy triangles.”

“Is this the woods you walked through?” Madison asked.

“I think so. And here is the road, but I don’t see the bean seller.”

Madison looked up at him in disbelief.

“I don’t think he’ll be on the map,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because maps don’t usually show people on the side of the road.”

“But it shows the bean buyer,” Westley protested. And indeed it did. Beside the road on the edge of a map was a picture of a man, and in tiny print it said, “Magic Bean Buyer.”

“Fine then,” Madison said, a little perturbed. “So, curvy lines for roads, but what do the dotted lines do?”

There was a dotted line that ran from their shack, beside the lake, through the edge of the woods and toward the mountains, where it stopped at an “X” drawn lightly on the map.

“I think it’s the ‘way,’” Sir Westley answered, his eyes wide open in awe behind his black mask. It suddenly occurred to Madison Jayne to ask him a question.

“Do you always wear that mask?”

“Well, yes, actually.”

“Are you hiding something?”

“No, of course not. I just think they are quite fashionable. I suspect everyone will be wearing them in the future.”

Madison rolled her eyes once again at the silly Knight.

“So, do we trust the map?” Westley asked, clearly uncomfortable by her questions.

“What other option do we have now?” Madison asked.

Sir Cummerbund looked quite puzzled. Three times he tried to give a suggestion, but all that came out was, “But…” or “If…” or “Whatooza”—though the last one didn’t mean anything at all. He was probably sneezing.

“Well, I guess we should go,” Madison decided. “But we must pack well, and use caution. What does your manual say about missions like this, Westley?”

The Sort-of Knight furiously searched his manual.

“It says that we should pack well and use caution,” he said proudly.

Madison laughed and began to pack up the cheese and fruit and bread in the bits of paper the vendor had provided. She took the wooden jewelry box and her empty book, and used a burlap sack that the farmer’s market had given them to make a crude backpack to carry her things. She was discouraged to discover that within a minute she had packed up everything that she owned that was not in the possession of castle attackers.

Westley, too, was ready to go. They walked out of the shack into the morning sunshine to see what was not a beautiful, clear lake, but a slimey, green swamp. They had been so relieved to be out of the tunnel that they had not even noticed the slime the night before.

“I thought your book said things would seem brighter in the morning,” Madison joked, pointing at the swamp.

“Yeah, I’m afraid not even a wonderful breakfast can make that swamp seem any more beautiful.” At that moment, a fat, lazy toad swallowed a butterfly, and rolled into the water. Instead of making a “splash” sound, it made a “ker-plop” sound, and the water gurgled and burped where the frog entered.

Madison shuddered at the disgusting pond, and then turned and looked at their cottage.

“This shack really helped us, Westley.”

“Yes ma’am. It’s time to move.”

They walked beside the lake, careful not to fall in, or step on one of the fat, lazy toads—toads so lazy they didn’t even bother to get out of the way when the duo came walking through.

Westley began to whistle a tune. Madison whistled along, and they sang their way through all the kid’s songs and traditional tunes they knew. They smiled and laughed at the fat, lazy frogs and curious starlings and playful butterflies. As they came to the edge of the woods, the sun shone through the leaves, filtering the light so that it gave a soft, green glow all around them. A slow, bubbling creek trickled past them, and as they walked along they saw a place where beavers had made a dam, creating a large, clear lake. Trout popped out of the lake to eat flies and mosquitoes that danced on the surface the water.

“You know,” Madison said as they set an easy walking pace beside the lake. “Things do look much brighter today.”

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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