“I don’t suppose you remember where to turn after the statue of Derion?” a voice once inquired on an early winter’s day in Sophistica. That voice came from an elf by the name of Mittlebutter, who
stood in the light frost and a thin yet warm coat of forest green, near to a fawn called Tardence (that’s fawn, F-A-W-N, meaning a young deer like Bambi, not F-A-U-N, meaning half goat, half man
like Mr. Tumnus) Between them and behind was a lot of rubble from a marble statue, once a very majestic looking mole. You may wonder how a mole might look majestic, and I will say it took a lot of
work from the sculptors, but ultimately you would have to see the statue in tact to understand.
“Well, would you like to go the easy way or the hard way,” answered another voice, coming from an older marten. He said this sounding as if he were thinking very hard.
“I should think the easy way would be easiest,” answered Tardence very patiently and humbly, seeing that Mittlebutter was getting to be restless. The fawn, it was easy to see, was very calm and level-headed, as most deer are though they usually grow into it whereas he was this way already, though young.
“Well, curiously enough, the easy way is harder for some and yet for others it’s easier,” replied the Marten again in a very thoughtful manner, “Why do you wish to find the Giant’s orchard?”
“Because,” began the elf crossly, “it’s just very important. You oughtn’t be so curious, you know.” As he said this, his friend gave the rodent a look of apology.
“Well, why do you say that?” he said just as inquisitively as before, “Curiosity killed the cat, but the wood marten? No, never,” obviously he hadn’t quite understood the phrase, “Well, do you think you’ll like the easy or the hard way?”
“If the easy way isn’t always easy and the hard way isn’t always hard, what is the difference?” quietly asked Tardence.
“Fancy calling one the easy way and the other the hard while they’re really both hard and easy all at once!” said the flustered Mittlebutter. You mustn’t be too harsh on him, for I’m sure you would be a quite a different person if you’d grown up with the name Mittlebutter. You can imagine he’d often heard jokes about butting Mittles.
“Well, it’s not I that called them easy and hard. Or rather it wasn’t me who first called them that. Curiously, that is truly their names – you can see them on any map,” said the creature shortly to the elf before answering the fawn’s question, “Well, I ought to say I would say the hard way would do best for climbers. I mean steep climbing, and a lot of forests too. But then the easy way would be faster if you’d rather swim or portage – and you wouldn’t have to bring along water, because you’d pass more rivers.”
“I should think the easy way then, since we haven’t got any water,” stated Tardence, “though I’d have preferred the forest path. I don’t much want to swim as it gets cooler either.”
“Well, you’ll turn North-East for the easy way. And I should say that by the time you get to there it’ll be two weeks and the rivers will have begun to freeze. It shouldn’t be a terrible problem; the rivers are smaller at first. You’ll be able to cross them quickly before they freeze and as you get on the bigger ones will be frozen by the time you meet them. By then you should be able to walk across.”
“But sir, if the ice is thick enough to walk on then how shall it help us if we need to drink the water?” Tardence asked. By now Mittlebutter had fairly silenced, as he was trying his best to calm himself.
“Well, I suppose that’s a problem. You could break the ice and drink from it that way, but that’s awful dangerous. Or you could ask the otters and the beavers as you pass. They are usually hospitable animals. But then you might as well take the hard way if you’re to go door to door.”
“Except that most of the river animals aren’t as likely to eat us if we knock at the wrong door. Suppose we disturbed a wolf or a fox? The easy way is sounding better all the time,” the elf now put in anxiously. More than anything, what disturbed him was that he wanted to get on and go. Elves aren’t ever very patient creatures.
“Well, then the easy way it is,” said the marten and he began describing what lay ahead of them.
It was a very complicated amount of rivers to keep straight. As the world was shaped like a peanut, all the waters pooled into the Great River, which was along the bottom of the Giant’s Valley. Since Tardence and Mittlebutter were to the West of Sophistica, just nearing where the ground began to slope into the Giant’s Valley, then they could expect many small streams to begin making their way down to the lowest ground. And later, as more of the small streams gathered together, they would find a lesser number of rivers steadily increasing in size. This is what he said,
“Well, firstly you will reach the statue of Derion as you have said, and secondly you will turn North East, as I have said, and there will be a path there for you to follow but it will be cut across by Tawny Spring. You will recognize it because it will be tawny and it will be a spring, of course. It is only a young spring, and you, fawn, may be able to nearly jump across it. But I warn you, the banks are not strong but the current is. It won’t be bad now, for winter is setting in and the water and ground are both freezing up, but I don’t know when you will return, so be careful if you go by this way in Spring.
“After Tawny Spring, you will continue on the same path until it comes to a fork where you can choose from three directions. There will be other paths off of yours before this and when these come you must continue straight, that is North East. But when you meet two more paths (that is to make three, including the one you are on) you must choose the Eastern-most of these. It will lead you over the creeks Chloe and then Choley. Do not drink Chloe Creek’s water, but follow Choley Creek (it will be going East-North-East) and you will be able to drink from it. You will follow Choley Creek for about sixteen days and all the while it will be widening as other streams and springs and creeks join it, some of these you will have to cross. But around the sixteenth day you will find a bridge across to the far side..."
This isn't finished yet and I need to cut a lot out. Comments and critizism welcome (encourage/wanted/much begrudged actually)
Thanks for reading
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