Chapter the Eighteenth: Timnel Tower
The battle-weary trio paused to rest on a small hillock just beyond the bridge (later immortalized as “Drengford”). Here a small fountain sprung from a heap of natural rocks, then splashed down into a basin carved to resemble a scallop shell. Miniature ivy grew at its base and Fulsome, weary as he was, noticed a few violets in its shade. Each of the warriors took long draughts of the sweet water, then bathed their wounds. Scramble and Fulsome, taking their cue from Jonathan’s wise and loving demeanor, joined in thanking the Earth and her plants who had helped them in their recent trial.
As they concluded, several sprouts appeared before them, grew and withered even as they watched, drying in moments to leave brittle golden leaves. Fulsome, who had learned much woodcraft during his years of exile, recognized the pale yellowish leaves as those of a healing herb. He took the dried leaves, crumbled them to dust in his hands, mixed them with some of the fountain’s fresh spring water, and applied the rude salve to their wounds. Scramble, following Fulsome’s instructions, found and retrieved some spider webs to hold this primitive poultice in place, though it took Jonathan a while to extricate the chipmunk from the sticky strands he had fetched. When all these medical tasks were completed, more plants miraculously flourished before the adventurers’ eyes: this time a bank of snow-white poppies and wild blackberry vines, fruiting and ripening even as they emerged from the soil. Careful doses of the juice from the first allayed the pains of battle while generous helpings of the second eased their hunger, along with some carrots Fulsome had pulled up to be certain they were not poison hemlock. The Gardens seemed most generous toward them and they remembered to express their gratitude. Restored, the triumphant trio resumed their journey toward the Timnel.
Small birds accompanied them, flitting from bush to bush and tree to tree as though to reassure them they were on the right path. At one point Jonathan proposed a right turn and the birds became agitated. The adventurers quickly took the hint and headed left instead. The Timnel and its Tower were now quite near. After one turn in a white pebble path they had been following they confronted a large, scaly green sphere, to which were attached six wiry legs, a long tapering tail, two magnificent iridescent wings, and a quaint face. This latter was composed primarily of two floppy ears, great furrowed brows, eloquent indigo eyes, and an immense and appealing grin. Not far behind the great creature stood the thick walls and shimmering peaks of the Timnel, the whole surmounted by the great Timnel Tower which rose in finely sculpted lines and focused in a graceful spire, poised like a golden dart to pierce the very heavens. The intrepid trio gasped in wonder at the beauty of the Tower in the midst of these enchanted Gardens. It was then that the wind shifted and Jonathan knew precisely what stood between them and the Timnel.
“Welcome, friends. Would you care to join me for tea?” the gnord inquired.
Jonathan looked meaningfully toward Fulsome, who knitted his brows and wrinkled his nose. Scramble was busy losing his lunch at the smell of the gnord. The chipmunk looked meekly back at Fulsome, who turned again to Jonathan. The lad realized the quest was his and he was the one to reply. Jonathan swallowed, a difficult thing to do within sniffing range of a gnord, and made answer.
“I’m afraid we haven’t had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, Sir,” he began, fearing to offend the beast while not wishing to be the first to reveal either his identity or his purpose in coming hither.
“Frightfully sorry,” the gnord replied. “I am Hermann, Castellan of Timnel Tower and Steward of these Gardens.”
“Pleased to meet you,” the boy responded, minding his manners. “I am Jonathan Grubbley, a wandering stranger in these parts.” (Everybody knows one doesn’t tell everything to a newly-met gnord.)
“And I am Fulsome Fetchit, an exile sent forth to survive or perish on his own, who have joined good Pilgrim Grubbley in his journeys.”
“I am Randall S. Chipmunk, Esq., of the Ulban Hills, who have traveled with these that I might behold the beauties of the these fabled Gardens.”
“Indeed, I have been expecting you. Well met, pilgrims. And now for tea.”