Chapter the Fourteenth: Admission Fees
Our intrepid trio reached the top of the river bank and R. S. Chipmunk, Esq., even fulfilled his name in scrambling up a willow tree which grew aslant the brook, to compensate for the fact that he was by far the shortest of our travelers (albeit the swiftest of paw and mouth). Still the Isa rose, its waters boiling in a mystic rage. Fulsome hung his pack on a nearby branch and took Jonathan in his arms. Jonathan protested vehemently, but Fulsome reproached him: “MIND YOUR ELDER, GRUBBLEY!”
Jonathan was soon glad that the fetchit had insisted. The river overflowed it banks and swirled as far as the fetchit’s waist for a full fifteen minutes. As Jonathan clung to Fulsome’s neck, Fulsome clung to the tree whereon Scramble clung for dear life. And so the three were still together when the river began to subside and slowly settle back into its bed. In another fifteen minutes the Isa River flowed as it had when our heroes first arrived at the edge of the Gardens. Only the muddy banks, the debris it had left strewn her and there, and the travelers’ shaken expressions recorded its sudden madness.
It was then that they knew they were facing great and unknown powers.
Jonathan had little taste left for parasol-hunting. On the other hand, he was more determined than ever to capture it for sheer spit of whoever had sent the Isenflood swirling about them.
It was time for a strategy meeting.
Fulsome fetched, as well as a fetchit might, the only blanket which had not been washed away in the flood and hung it out on branches to dry. The three then stretched themselves out on a small hill somewhat further away from the Gardens and still dry, there to lie in the sun hoping to drip dry before lunchtime (whenever that might come).
“We are obviously not entering where the river enters,” Jonathan began.
“We could climb over,” Scramble suggested. But neither Jonathan nor Fulsome were climbers.
“Perhaps there’s a gate,” said Fulsome. “Then again, it is probably guarded or enchanted or both.”
“Or none of the above,” protested Jonathan. “We could give it a try.”
“I suppose we might,” the chipmunk agreed, “but we ought to have an alternative plan or two, just in case.”
So they plotted and schemed a dozen means of entry, rejected several, refined a few, arranged them in order of preference, and then set out to find the main entrance.
As they walked along the great hedge, they noticed that it was very thick indeed and full of vicious looking thorns, although there were occasionally interspersed with very pleasant-smelling purple and pink flowers. “Be careful how you sniff, they might be poison,” Scramble warned Fulsome.
“I somehow doubt it,” Jonathan responded, but they were all more cautious at the thought of even beautiful things bearing mortal danger.
Just then a dreadful odor floated toward them on a breeze filtering over the cypress tops and through the hedge. It was a strange combination of the stench of rustic privies, rotting corpses, Camembert beyond its proper ripeness, and the perfume of rich old ladies. It could only be…the fearsome gnord! Jonathan remembered Auntie Woezzl’s comment that gnords smelled and tasted awful and this was the foulest stench Jonathan had ever encountered. All three adventurers shuddered and Scramble even lost his breakfast on the grass. “That’s all right,” he muttered bravely, “I can travel lighter without it.” (Even so, his fur did have a slight green tinge to it.)
As they recovered from the shock of the fetid smell the trio refocused their eyes and beheld, just before them, the entrance to the Gardens of Isapher.