I finally dusted off this story which has been lying around my office under various piles of radio gear, other piles of half-finished stories and lord knows what else. I intend to post it here in bite size pieces from time to time.
It was early Autumn and although Igdryll wasn’t entirely finished with what he was doing, he decided to stop anyway. You see, Igdryll is a gnome and a carpenter. The best one in town–carpenter, that is. That he is the only carpenter did little to dampen his impression of his own abilities. He dusted his hands off on his pants and left the cricket barn to make his way back to the village.
In the distance, a white tendril of smoke drifted and the faint fragrance of burning leaves filled the air. This was Igdryll’s favorite time of year. The crops are coming in, the orchards are heavy with apples and figs, the combs are thick and dripping with clover honey. And, most importantly, Mr. Dallver rolls up last year’s cider from the cellar and uncorks it.
Igdryll fully intended to head straight to Mr. Dallver’s at this very moment because it wouldn’t be very crowded since everyone else was working. Lost in this thought, he didn’t notice as Evellya approached from behind.
“Afta noon, Igg!”
He dropped his toolbox scattering an assortment of chisels and hammers into the tall grass by the path.
“Bullfachs, Evey! Ya shorn’t do that.” He stooped down to collect his tools. “Might ya help?”
“Ya shorn’t curse like that now. I help ya. Here.” She picked up a hammer from under a bush and handed it to him. “Ya know I be in the woods a lot.”
“Yah,” he said.
“I see somethin’ peculiar might, I did.”
“Now I serious, Igg. I seen something beyond the Vale there.”
“Now you shain’t go beyond that Vale,” Igdryll said. “Nothin’ there for us. You know me Uncle Olltort, he went beyon’ the Vale and came back actin’ all funnyish.” Igdryll picked up his toolbox and walked towards town. “Still all mumble mumbles.”
“Yer uncle drinks too much,” Evelya said.
“True told. But the drinkin’ came after the Vale, nay before.”
“Come see it with me.”
Igdryll stopped and looked at her. “Nar.”
“Let me drop my tools off firstish.”
After stopping by the cricket shed to drop off the toolbox, they entered the nearby woods. Idgryll never liked the woods much. When he was four summers old, his cousin, Myrdrigg, took him deep into the forest to play hide and seek. Well, actually just hide. After burrowing deep into the hollow of a willow tree by the Old Grey Stream, Igdryll promptly got his foot caught. Myrdrigg was more than halfway home by this time and figured that his little cousin would soon figure things out and come home on his own. When the first stars appeared, Myrdrigg got worried and told his mom who, after whipping his backside with a hazel rod, organized the town to search the woods. They found Igdryll pretty quickly. The town’s tanner, Ogdlot, heard him screaming. Although, Idgryll was only stuck in the willow for a few hours, it felt like an eternity to him. Always after that, he swore to anyone who would listen that the willow whispered to him, “Iya eats you now!” Igdryll figured that if the willow felt that way, all the trees harbored similar dispositions so he avoided the woods when possible.
They ventured deeper into the woods and Idgryll turned around. Noticing that the field was occluded by the cedars, he began to seriously reconsider.
“Three times,” he said.
“Aye now,” Evelya asked. “Three times what?”
“Cider drinks, fowl face.”
“Two were promised and agreed upon now. Two it stands.”
“Fine,” he mumbled.
The cedars gave way to oak and hickory. The ancient canopy of golden and red leaves blocked the afternoon sun, giving the light a cheery but diminished hue. Just ahead was the Old Gray Stream.
“This a way,” Evelya said, motioning downstream. “We can ford there now.”
They walked to the edge of the stream. A slow but steady column of water swirled amongst several boulders. A hickory, its bark flaked and ragged, had fallen across the stream. They crossed with little difficulty and continued along the moldy forest floor. Occasional mushroom balls puffed, scattering dark earthy smelling powder into the still, damp air.
They continued and the hardwood trees slowly gave way to towering sycamores. The Vale was close now.
“We made it,” Evelya said as she stepped through a cluster of elderberry bushes. Before them a wide river churned and chortled.
“The Vale,” Evelya whispered.
“Aye, the Vale,” Igdryll said. “So where be it?”
“Yonder. Look you.”
“I be lookin’ but seein’ nothin’.”
“Through there,” she said pointing between two mammoth sycamores.
“Fark,” he said. Through the trees he could just discern the top of what appeared to be a yellow house.
“What is it?” Igdryll asked.
A puff of black smoke came from the top of the yellow house and it began to move, slowly at first and then more quickly. A giant yellow scooper rose up carrying a pile of dirt and rock.
“Go back now,” Igdryll said as he turned back to the woods.
“Stay and see it.”
“Nay. We tell the Elder. Come now.”
Igdryll retreated into the woods. He didn’t know what he had just seen but he knew that it wasn’t good. He raced to get away as Evelya struggled to keep up.
“Slow now, Igg!” Evelya shouted.
Igdryll stopped running but still continued at a brisk pace not caring if Evelya kept up or not. He crossed the fallen tree and made his way out of the woods. He was in such a hurry that he forgot his toolbox that was still at the barn.