Chapter 13: In Which Invitations Seem Uninviting

We left dear Princess Madison Jayne and her be-cloaked Knight as they walked beside a lovely lake in the soft-light of the forest. They were singing and whistling, and laughing at lazy, lumpy frogs as they moved in the direction the map suggested. If you have read even a few adventure stories, you know that this kind of happiness does not last very long in books. It is the nature of stories for bad things to happen, and this story is no exception. It is what we authors call the “little did they know” technique of writing.

Here is an example of what that technique looks like:

Princess Madison Jayne and Sir Westley Cummerbund were enjoying themselves as they walked beside a lovely lake in the soft-light of the forest. They were singing and whistling, and laughing at fat, lazy frogs as they moved in the direction the map suggested. Little did they know, however, they were in grave danger. They were being watched.

That’s basically how the “little did they know” technique works. Now, let us return to the story.

Madison and Westley were innocently walking through the woods, enjoying the soft light and lumpy frogs, but with every step they take, they are moving toward great danger. Little did they know, they were being watched by a pair of dark eyes, hidden deep within a cluster of trees on the other side of the lake.

As they marched along, the light soon shifted and the trees became thicker. The sounds of frogs singing and butterflies flapping their wings was replaced by the quiet hush of leaves moving in a light breeze. As their legs grew more tired from walking, the singing and whistling was replaced by a quiet determination to move forward into the thicker and darker forest ahead of them. When the sounds of the forest and lake fell away, the duo tuned their ears to new mysterious sounds of the woods.

“Westley,” Madison whispered. “What’s that rustling in the bush?”

Westley stopped to listen, but all they heard was the leaves whispering in the wind far above them. The Knight shrugged and they continued on. But soon Madison began to develop the feeling that she was being watched. Several times as they walked along, she looked over her shoulder, or deep into the dark woods to their right, certain that there was something out there.

You probably have had this feeling of being watched before. You may have been playing with toys or reading a book, and you looked up to see your mom or dad standing in the doorway looking at you and smiling. The great scientists of history have studied why we have this feeling, but no one really knows.

For Princess Madison, though, she had the feeling of being watched, and she knew it was not her mom or dad standing in the doorway. And because she had read about adventures, she knew that quite likely she was being watched by someone quite dangerous, someone nefarious even.

And as she grew more and more certain she was being followed, the Princess grew more and more frightened—so frightened, in fact, that she was not even proud of herself for thinking of the word “nefarious” and using it properly to describe something evil and underhanded.
After looking over her shoulder one more time, and seeing nothing there, she caught up with Sir. Westley and took his hand while they walked through the thickening forest. Westley looked down at her, smiled kindly from behind his black mask, but did not speak.

Silently, hand in hand, they travelled on. By the time they broke through the trees into a small clearing, Madison was about to burst into fearful tears.

“Listen,” Westley said, startling her. They stopped and strained their ears ahead. “Do you hear talking? There, beyond the hedge.”

“I do,” Madison said. “What do we do?”

“Let me check the Knight in Shining Armour School of Rescuing manual,” Westley answered. But when he began to pull it out, Madison put one hand on the manual, then another on her lips. Then she crouched down, and began to move forward through the thicket toward the sound. She could feel her heart beating loudly in her chest, but her curiosity was much stronger than her fear—something that was not true for the Princess only a few days before.

As they came to the hedge, they saw a very large clearing. An elderly couple were working in the garden outside a hut that was not much bigger than the one Madison had slept in the previous night. Even though it was quite late in Springtime—late enough that Westley was able to find a farmer’s market with fruit and vegetables—they were turning over the soil in the garden and organizing it into neat little rows. The old man and woman were chatting as they worked in the bright sunshine that filled their clearing with light—so bright than Madison had to squint to see everything properly.

After having a close look, the two adventurers snuck back away from the hedge.

“What do you think?” Westley asked.

“I don’t know. Can we go around?”

“I don’t think so,” he answered, looking at the map. “Not unless we want to go backwards quite a while. I think they look safe, though, don’t you?”

Madison wasn’t sure how to explain how she was feeling. They did look safe: a lovely couple farming next to their quaint cottage. But it was almost as if they looked too safe, too quaint. At Sir Westley’s urging, they decided to introduce themselves to the couple.

They walked back to the hedge around the farm, but were puzzled to find that there was no real laneway into their property. It was as if their house and garden appeared in the middle of the forest, and no one ever came or went. Because they could not find a lane, they struggled through the scraggly bushes and stumbled into the clearing.

When they saw the little girl and her protector, they smiled sweetly and greeted them. They were completely unsurprised, almost as if they were expecting them.

“Welcome to Daffodil Farm,” the woman said. But as she spoke, Madison was surprised to find that she had a very strange voice. She had a soft, kindly face and bright eyes, but her voice was low and grumbly, almost like a loud whisper. The Princess was certain she had heard the voice before, but she just could not remember when.

As she looked at the woman in the face, trying to place her, she felt herself drawn in by the sweet smile and inviting eyes. After a few seconds she had forgotten all about her fear and worry, and felt like she was home at Daffodil Farm. At the thought of the name, Daffodil Farm, though, she snapped out of her trance and asked a question.

“Why is it called Daffodil Farm? There aren’t any daffodils.”

For a brief second, the woman’s eyes clouded over, but then her husband spoke.

“Alas, the daffodils died when our children were little ones, but the name stuck.” He also spoke kindly and had eyes that seemed to make Madison feel safe and secure. But his voice was also quite strange, like his throat was pinched closed so that he spoke in a very high, painful voice.

“Have I met you before?” Madison asked, certain that she remember the voices from somewhere.

“No, I don’t think so, dear,” the woman answered in her peculiar voice. “Please now, come, you must be tired. Come have some water, and let’s have a little lunch.” Madison could not help but clear her own throat when the old woman spoke.

As the old couple turned toward the cottage, Madison thought of the advice her uncle had given her just a few days before. He told her to disbelieve everything she heard, and look for evidence before trusting someone. She knew she did not trust this couple, and tugged on Sir Westley Cummerbund’s cloak sleeve.

“I don’t think we should eat with them, Westley.”

“Why not?” he asked. “They seem like wonderful people. So kind.”

“I know, they seem very kind. But there is something wrong. I don’t trust them.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Princess. They cannot be monsters. Here, let me ask.” The Sort-of Knight called out to the elderly couple. “Now, my dear lady and gentleman, how are we to know that we should trust you?”

The couple looked up from setting the table on the patio beside the cottage—a table that Madison had not noticed before. Instead of looking hurt, they smiled in amusement.

“Oh,” the man said, his voice like the sound a child with her finger caught in a squirrel’s ear. “Of course you can trust us. It isn’t like we are two witches disguiser as elderly farmers so that we can turn you into something unnatural.”

The couple laughed uncomfortably in their strange gargly and screechy voices, and Sir. Westley laughed heartily along with them.

“After all,” the woman added in her harsh croaking. “It is you that have come to our home. How could we have known you were coming? We aren’t monsters!”

“No, no, of course not,” the Knight said in a friendly tone. “Look at the sun shining miraculously in the clearing, and the beautiful cottage in our view. How could a lovely couple like this in such a pastoral setting be the enemy? Absolutely trustworthy. Come, now Madison Jayne, let us sup together.”

Now, dear reader, you, me and Princess Madison all know that trusting this couple is a very bad idea. There are at least six clues in the story that the old couple are not who they say they are. I would like you read the chapter again, list as many clues as you can spot that shows that the old couple are imposters, then below, listing all the reasons they should distrust the couple. When you have done this, another chapter will appear soon enough (though not as soon as you’d like, I’m sure).

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Published in: on July 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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