Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chapter the Tenth: Trucking through the Ulban Hills

Fulsome shortened his stride to match that of Jonathan, whose legs were considerably shorter than those of the fetchit. Together they walked through the Glen of Gwaer and began climbing up the near side of the Ulban Hills. With miscellaneous snatches of conversation and intermittent thoughty silences they whiled away the minutes of their trek.

The path led to a stream which the fetchit crossed quite easily. Jonathan couldn’t make it without risking a thorough wetting of his person and he had quite enough of wetting for one day. So Fulsome recrossed the stream and carried Jonathan across piggy back. They then continued their ascent toward a pass in the hills.

The Ulban Hills were quite ancient and thus, indeed, rather low: mere hills and nothing like mountains. Our travelers soon reached the gentle descent toward Zymel Meadow. As they reached the edge of the vast clearing which flanked the Zymel Stream, both Jonathan and Fulsome decided it would be a good time to pause and refresh themselves. They sat down on a log which seemed meant for a bench and Jonathan took out the biscuits Auntie Woezzl had provided. The fetchit, who was used to living in the woods, gathered some nuts and edible greens and they both indulged in the wholesome, if meager, repast.


Fulsome had forgotten to lower his voice when he interrupted their meal with this loud shout, nearly causing Jonathan to fall off the log.

“Remember what, Fulsome?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“But you just said you remembered.”

“Oh, I do, Jonathan. I meant that I forgot about being loud. We fetchits are always that way. It many weeks of practice for me to learn to talk the way other creatures do and I keep slipping into the natural pattern.”

“Of course. But what did you suddenly remember?”

“Old Lady Dyrnmantle, your Auntie Woezzl. I have heard her name before. My parents sometimes mentioned her. But she didn’t sound at all like the nice old lady you met.”

“What did they say about her, Fulsome?”
“Well, I’m not certain it’s for me to say, you being so close and all that. But they called her a witch and ascribed all manner of wickedness to her. And whenever I was nice or friendly, they would say, ‘If you keep that up, Cluggin will come and carry you away.’ Cluggin was one of her other names, you know.”

“She did say Cluggin was one of her names. But I don’t think she would carry anyone away. At least, I hope she wouldn’t.”

“Then again, she did take you away from your intended course and involve you in heaven knows what sort of intrigue and peril.”

“Hmm. I suppose it would be best not to dwell on this, Fulsome. Takes the edge off the adventure, don’t you know, and leads to unwholesome and discouraging thoughts. Isn’t it time we resume our journey?”

As Jonathan said this, an endless stream of chatter began not far from them and drew nearer. This flurry of noise was emitted from a rather furious looking chipmunk who approached the adventurers.

“What_do_you_mean_breaking_into_my_nuthoard_and_taking_my_winter_food?!!!” the angry creature demanded. [The reader must imagine no pause between words. Typography fails here.]

“Oh dear,” Fulsome responded, “were those your nuts I picked up?”

“They_most_certainly_were. Now_what_do_you_propose_to_do_about_it?”

“We’re awfully sorry,” Jonathan said. “Would you care for some biscuits? I have a couple left.”

“I really had no idea they were yours,” added Fulsome.

“Had you troubled yourself in the slightest to look about you,” the chipmunk said carefully and slowly this time, “you would have known whose they were.”


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