Chapter the Thirteenth: Isenflood
As early morning sunlight peeked over the Ulban Hills and illumined Zymel Meadow, our heroes awoke and unwillingly dragged their bodies out of Auntie Woezzl’s blankets. Fulsome gathered some dry sticks and rubbed two of them together until he had a fire going. Scramble fetched nuts for their breakfast and some wild berries. Jonathan divided what they had left of the cake from the night before. All this was washed down with fresh stream water and they all agreed it was the nicest meal they had eaten that day, not to mention one of the best consumed in any meadow. They repacked their meager belongings and Fulsome carried them tied to his back with the original package twine. It felt good to have provisions of some sort for the journey. And so they set out feeling much better about their prospects of reaching the Timnel than they had the evening before when they were fleeing Wishwood.
The trio now traveled south instead of going due west toward the Gardens of Isapher. Carefully keeping to the east of Wishwood they headed toward the Isa River. With Jonathan as navigator and Keeper of the Map leading the way, Scramble in the middle (when not darting off into the bushes to check on any strange sounds), and Fulsome packing supplies in the rearguard, they followed the gentle rise of the land from Zymel Meadow to the thicketed crest overlooking Isenflood, the only river in that area.
It was odd how the faint golden line that sometimes appeared on the map had changed course, adjusting for their adventure in Wishwood. This led to some discussion and the general opinion that though this might be reassuring, they were not altogether sure this golden thread could be altogether trusted. After all, it led to Wishwood in the first place. Still and all, they only had one map to work with and needed to make the best of it.
When at last Jonathan looked down at the Isa, it was slightly swollen and muddy from the rains of the morning before. He recalled that Old Lady Dyrnmantle’s map showed the eastern portion of the river flowing right through the area he would have to cross should he attempt returning from her tree to his home. In other words, his home was cut off from him, or no longer existed, until the spell of the Wood be broken. Amid this wistful reverie he congratulated himself on thinking in the subjunctive, then heaved a deep sigh. There was nowhere to go but forward.
The three made a quick descent to the river and began to follow the river’s flow toward the Mithermere. As they rounded a curve toward the right, all three caught their breath. On a hill, not far before them, stood a high, close hedge, surmounted by the tips of even cypresses. This was no random wild growth. In an instant they knew they were looking at the border of the Gardens of Isapher, where the Isa River and the Stream of Phera both flow into the Mere. They were nearing the end of their quest. And drawing nigh to the fearsome gnord. The hour of truth was at hand.
Gathering their courage, the daring trio resumed their march toward Timnel Tower and the magical treasure within that could break the spell that held Jonathan in this strange world. Jonathan even composed a short song to pluck up their courage, but which he could not later recall.
As they reached the point where the Isa entered the bounds of the Gardens through a vaulted arch of willows and were about to jump into the river’s cold waters and thus enter the enchanted enclosure, Scramble let out a squeak of warning. Then, in a tumble of words as breathless as anything he had ever uttered, he cried, “Lookout! Behindus! HerecomestheRiver!” This time he did not need to repeat his words slowly. The other two turned to see what the chipmunk was talking about and froze for a moment in horror.
From upstream the Isa was coming towards them in a massive wall of churning brown water, rushing up its banks and sweeping dead branches and smooth river stones with it. Indeed, they could spot entire tree trunks in the roiling mass headed their way. Just as it was all about to crash down upon our three stalwarts and drag them into its furious depths, they hustled their bodies up the slope which had bound the river, the ever growing water licking at their heels.