The Kingdom of Folklore
The Kingdom of Folklore: The All-New Version Copyright 2001; 2012 by
Terry A. Parker all rights reserved
Author’s Note – February 16, 2012
This novel of ‘The Kingdom of Folklore’ has been re-written to include more and better plots and characters. The final book of the series ends differently. Some of you might like this, others may not. If this is your first time reading this book, you won’t be disappointed. But, within these books (now over 490 pages long) you will discover more cliff hangers, weirder, talking animals, and most of all, more fun.
So, dear reader….read on….and may the Ratz not invade your Kingdom!
BOOK I ---
Banishment into exile
Chapter 1 the fox, the trial and exiled
Chapter 2 beyond the hills, Cherub Black and WMD
Chapter 3 mushroom kingdom
Chapter 4 leaving
The complete saga of Folklore:
‘The Kingdom of Folklore’
‘The Legend of Folklore’, and
‘The Myth of Folklore’.
This part of the saga is entitled: ‘Banishment into Exile’ in serialized form. This is Book I and it was written down from ancient writings pinned by the Peer of the Realm, Professor Graham Berry. He was the Head Teacher of ‘School of Mushroomology, within Building 6, Room 3.’
This story is dedicated to the woman who saved me from myself when no one else would: Diane May Hicks. Thanks honey, I love you.
Terry A. Parker
Book I ---
Banishment into exile
The fox, the trial and exiled
“The Great Wall reveals only partial truths!” proclaimed a red fox that held the book ‘Ka-Knear’s Law of Bad-tuate tucked under one arm. He had just entered through a side entrance that led out of the underground courtroom.
The fox was dressed in a long, red smoking jacket that flowed about while he walked. A pair of wire-framed glasses dangled from his pointed, hairy snout as he glanced around. On his hind legs, he pranced back and forth in front of the four Wisers within the Great Hall of Ka-Knear.
Since he was the only true lawyer the kingdom had, the fox was summoned back to Folklore for yet another trial involving the Smalls. He seemed to have satisfied the Wisers with his antics the first time he appeared in court. That was a trial that concerned a runaway Elder who hasn’t been heard from since.
The fox came to a halt in front of the Wisers. They were seated upon tall chairs positioned behind mushroom-type benches. The fox easily pushed his wire-framed glasses upward for a much better fit.
One of the Wisers behind the bench leaned forward, staring at the attorney that had just entered.
“Late as usual…I see.”
The old Small was somewhat heavy, wearing a dark-blue robe that fell about his feet and chair. A pair of half-moon glasses covered his ancient eyes. The hair on his scalp was spiked upward in such a way that it resembled dozens of tiny fingers pointing skyward.
The old fox grinned. “Sorry, Professor Einstein, I assure you…it won’t happen again. I was late ‘cause I had a last minute appointment with someone concerning me case.” An Irish accent could be heard as the up-right animal talked to his peers.
The Wiser looked to his comrades, than to the almost overcrowded courtroom. It appeared that all of Folklore had shown up for the case. It was, after all, the largest case the kingdom had witnessed in years.
Throwing a small laugh toward the three-foot, tall fox, Einstein replied:
“We shall see, Mr. Red D. Foxx…we shall see. I do hope you have better success with this case than with the others.” Even though the old Small’s voice was cracking with age, it had plenty of authority in it.
The fox knew that this case was still up in the air, and he was determined more than ever not to loose it. Actually, the first case he lost wasn’t really his doing with the Elder disappearing and all.
One of his second cases involved a drunken squirrel. It apparently had falling asleep on top of the opening leading down inside the Great Hall, trapping most of the Smalls within.
The red fox won that case with the approval from two of the Wisers (the ones not trapped within). They found it amusing that their peers had easily been caught in such a fashion, and by a squirrel by all means.
With this new case though, four, young Smalls had broken one of the greatest laws Folklore had ever known. But Red D. Foxx believed he could win the case easily enough with his surprise witnesses.
Even though the fox had lost almost all of the cases brought before him, the young Smalls’ parents needed him more than ever. They had sent word of their offspring being charged with ‘Betrayal to the Kingdom’. This was the worst judgment of the court…and most of all…the one with the most punishment.
A lawyer had to be summoned, and Red D. Foxx was the best in his field. Besides, the parents’ hadn’t much choice in the matter; the fox was the only attorney around.
For the Smalls’ parents, locating the fox wasn’t really that hard a thing to do. That was once he had returned from his venture. His venture had been some miles from Folklore near the Valley of Simms, where most of the giants thrived.
In the Valley, old man Walker (an Anti-Small the fox had encountered numerous times before) kept a barnyard filled to the brim with fat, plumped chickens. And it so happened that very night the fox was hungry.
Around midnight, Red D. Foxx crept inside the chicken house. Sure enough, three fat chickens were roosting on an overhang. They were fast asleep; their heads tucked neatly under their white, feathery wings.
Grinning from ear-to-ear, the sly, old fox saw nothing more than fried chicken cooking in his stove. He slowly lurked upon them while the others slept nearby, noticing nothing.
Almost upon the fat barnyard fowl, he heard a familiar sound. It was a noise any animal in his position would recognize right away. It was the broadcast of a human loading a shotgun, snapping the chamber shut.
At his old age, the fox knew instantly that wasn’t a healthy sound to hear. Besides, he had heard the same sound many times before, and each time it wasn’t a good thing.
Red D. Foxx figured he must have been getting older, because before this he would have been long gone. He would have been dashing through the night with a chicken stashed neatly between his teeth, not letting the old man ease up right behind him.
Yes, the fox thought, he must have been getting old.
“Yeh agin…dern verment! Caught yer red ‘anded dis time!” screamed the angry, cracked voice belonging to Walker.
Pivoting around, the fox saw a double barrel shotgun aimed straight for him. It resembled two, shining black hollows with endless depths to them.
Welding the gun was Old Man Walker. He was dressed in his bedtime pajamas. They were torn in one corner with the back flap dangling open, blowing in the midnight wind from the open barn door.
Dodging back and forth, the fox barely made it as both barrels went off. The impact blasted wood and plaster through one of the barn’s far walls.
Using the new exit the farmer just created, Red D. Foxx bounced outside. He dashed right through screaming, horrified chickens, and into the dark forest.
Foxx prayed the old man hadn’t already reloaded the gun, following behind. Making it to his home that was a hollow in a giant, fallen log, the fox rushed inside the darkness. Making sure he hadn’t been followed, he gazed out into the moonlit woods one final time. Seeing that it was all right for the time being, he heard another familiar sound.
This time it wasn’t the snapping of a gun’s chamber. It was a spider web that dangled from a far off corner. It was going insane with vibrations like it hadn’t in years.
From a small hollow, he pulled out a long leaf covered with fireflies. Placing it near the web, it lit up the far wall. Sure enough, the fox had a snail mail (how the Smalls and other animals communicated back and forth) announcing the upcoming trial of the four, young Smalls.
Still with a rumbling belly for lack of food, Red D. Foxx replied back. Using a tiny twig, he carefully plucked the silvery webs like a fine-tuned instrument.
What he wrote read:
‘I have received your request to have your young ones as my clients. As you know…my services are not cheap. But do not worry, I am on the case as of this moment.
Yours truly, Red D. Foxx, Attorney-at-Law with Folklore’.
A short time afterwards, the fox dashed out of his hollow and toward the distant kingdom. Stopping, and with a quick glance of this and that, he wanted to be double sure Old Man Walker wasn’t lurking about. Feeling safe at last, Red D. Foxx headed onward toward Folklore.
The place existed beyond the forest, streams and other stretches of mankind, or the Anti-Smalls as the animals of the forest called them.
Folklore was like the mother of all briar patches: it was surrounded by thick, entangled brush; the sharpest of thorns; twisted, snake-like vines; circling bamboo poles, and multitudes of almost every mushroom known.
The kingdom covered three miles (in Anti-Small figures) in every direction. It was well hidden from the noisy pollution, destruction and construction of forestland, and all of the other weapons of mass destruction of the humans.
Smalls governed the Kingdom of Folklore, inhabiting tiny houses and huts fashioned from crushed leaves and mud. Others lived in simple dug runs, traveling under the place to hollows and carved out places within the earth.
The Smalls that lived there were the height of simple oak leaves with tiny limbs and lightning bug-size heads. If a person happened across one, he would be amazed. He might think he had stumbled across a tiny person, an elf, or a leprechaun. The creature would be somewhat larger than his index finger, clothed in miniature garments weaved by the spiders of the Northern Hills.
Tonight, the court proceedings were being held in the Great Hall of Ka-Knear. It was located in the exact center of Folklore, several feet below the surface.
The place was being illuminated by hundreds of fireflies that remained motionless for the duration. They rested some inches from the dirt ceiling so all could witness the goings-on.
The four Wisers (very old Smalls) had to decide what to do with the young ones that had nearly brought destruction to the kingdom.
The Smalls’ families met the fox earlier, explaining what happened. After finding his web address, the Smalls’ parents snail-mailed him right away.
Foxx questioned the little ones until he had what he thought a strong enough case.
Standing before the four Wisers now, he was doing just that. But for some reason, the fox’s case didn’t seem that strong at the moment. At least not since U.B. Einstein started the proceedings.
The Wiser stepped down from his mushroom bench, making his way toward a wall covered with sparkling quartz. It resembled multitudes of rainbows changing colors every so many seconds.
Around Einstein’s neck dangled an amulet containing triangle-shaped quartz similar to the ones found in the Great Wall. Using an ancient, straw-like hand, the Wiser adjusted his long, flowing, dark blue robe. Then he tapped the quartz wall with the amulet six times.
Each time he touched it, sounds of thunder emitted throughout the courtroom. At the final tap, it started flickering on and off like a massive theater-like screen.
Grinning at the fox, and to the other Smalls within the room, Einstein replied, “We will start this trial by watching what transpired between the accused…and the terror of what almost happened to our home.”
The Wiser’s eyes were transfixed upon the four, young Smalls. They were seated nervously behind tables fashioned from wide, oval toadstools.
“Let us see,” he now eyed the fox, “if what the lawyer says ‘bout the wall is true. Is it only partial truths…or the whole truth?”
Red D. Foxx backed up to the young ones with a grin. Behind them, their parents were patting their children, reassuring them.
“It’ll be alright,” whispered the fox out of one corner of his mouth. “Like I said before…it only speaks partial truths.”
U.B. Einstein smiled as if he had heard the fox from across the room. His old eyes sparkled behind half-moon glasses. “As I said…we shall soon see.”
The Great Wall flickered with shadows and lights. It quickly blared on revealing scenes of the four, young Smalls walking down a leafy, forest path.
The other Smalls in the courtroom watched, wondering what would happen next.
“As we all know,” continued the spiked-hair Wiser, darting a fleeting glance in the fox’s direction, “the quartz never lies…nor tells partial truths.” He returned his attention back to the wall.
“The Na-tuate within records and recalls everything that has transpired in nature. Behold…my fellow Smalls!”
The Great Wall flickered one final time. This time it revealed the four Smalls walking down the trail, soon entering the Forbidden Zone. The place was clearly marked by seven, very large orange mushrooms that created a circle.
Peering beyond the zoned mushrooms, the Bad Na-tuate (non-living things in nature) trees and barbed vines, the four Smalls’ eyes on the screen grew with size. They were witnessing a creation that made them freeze with fright.
Seeing what the wall was revealing, the Smalls in the Great Hall’s courtroom stared in terror. Never had anyone dare pass the orange, zoned mushrooms.
Some of them seemed ready to faint; others grabbed up writing tablets taking notes. Some for the local paper ‘Sprouting Times’, or the forest wide news service called ‘Mushroom National News’ (or MNN, for short).
The Head Wiser grinned as the Great Wall continued glowing with the moving pictures. Before the courtroom’s eyes was a dry river bank that appeared to travel many miles in either direction.
Instead of surging water, metal and iron-like things were going up and down the waterless river. They created noises a hundred times worse than thunder.
‘Weapons of mass destruction’ some of the Smalls thought aloud with horror.
One of the rolling mountains traversing the waterless river came to a halt. It squealed like a thousand fingernails upon a chalkboard.
“It was at this point when the accused were spotted…threatening Folklore’s very existence!” This, the fat Wiser with spiked hair shouted so all the witnesses could hear. He gestured toward the pictured wall once more.
“Observe…my fellow Smalls!”
The wall showed what the Smalls in the room could only describe as a gigantic metal contraption. Behind it was another, much longer machine attached to it.
If the Smalls were to explain what they were seeing, most of them would think it larger than the largest downed tree they had ever witnessed.
Others thought the metal monster an over-sized alligator that somehow got upon the dry river. But still, others knew the truth as to what it really was:
Weapons of Mass Destruction, created by the Anti-Smalls. And as of all AS’s (Anti-Smalls) did throughout history, they would, and did, destroy everything in nature. They did this just to make room for their cities of stone and brick.
Out of this gigantic machine stepped one of the giants. His feet were covered in black, shiny Bad-tuate boots. He quickly stomped his way toward the four Smalls that were still frozen in fear.
How such a creation could have spotted them was a mystery. The Smalls in the courtroom screamed their terror witnessing an Anti-Small this close up. It was if waking from a nightmare and discovering that the monster was still in hot pursuit.
U.B. Einstein witnessed the mummers within the place, and smiled.
The fox even appeared glued to his position, as he witnessed the horror upon the screen. On the Great Wall, the four Smalls started to run.
It was too late though. The giant simply reached down, plucking up the youngest of the Smalls.
“At this point…all the Na-tuate was screaming for them to flee!” exclaimed Einstein, as he adjusted a protruding vine next to several others on the Great Wall. “Listen!”
The sound grew louder, with everything in nature (the trees, mushrooms, plants, animals, etc.) crying for the young Smalls not to pass beyond the Zoned Area; pleading for them to run from the tractor rig. But upon the screen, it was too late.
The giant lifted the tiny person up, up into the air; higher than he had ever been in his entire life.
The other three Smalls stopped; staring in terror as the Anti-Small brought their friend in for a closer view. From afar, the tiny Small resembled a dangling doll being held by the thumb and index finger of the truck driver. The Anti-Small’s cap brim appeared to be grinning as the miniature person kicked and cried.
The Webbers (spiders of Folklore that lived in the nearby Northern Hills) started talking ‘Spiter’. They leaped and jumped on many shaped webs, sending messages across the kingdom.
Not long afterwards, all of the webs were communicating back and forth, as a deep hole in the ground cracked open. Out of this hollow darted out a multitude of winged creatures.
Like a sneak attack of warplanes, they zeroed in on the giant’s face, neck and baseball cap. The winged things numbered in the hundreds, as some tangled in his curly hair and trucker’s cap. The giant slapped at them with hands the size of mudhouses.
Some met their fate on the grassy ground with gigantic, boulder-size boots squashing them into oily spots.
The scene was way too much for some of the Smalls within the room. Nearly all of them dashed outside, while others had to be carried out as they fainted, dead over.
Even the four, young Smalls on trial watched in terror as to what their actions had caused.
The scenes on the Great Wall revealed the dragonflies’ labors were not in vein. As the Anti-Small whacked at the flying things, he let go of the captured Small. Falling like he had tripped off the edge of a mountain, the Small screamed as the rocky ground came up fast.
At the last moment, three, darting dragonflies swooped underneath the endangered Small, saving him from certain doom.
Running away from what he thought was mad hornets, the truck driver climbed back inside his eighteen-wheeler. Within seconds, he was speeding down the highway. The rest of the Smalls were picked up and flown back toward Folklore.
The quartz wall revealed the entrance to the kingdom. There, at the base, awaited the four Wisers for the runaway Smalls. As they entered the kingdom of thorns, the doorway of stickers closed behind like it never was.
The colorful quartz returned to its original state leaving behind just the bare wall. The chubby Wiser adjusted his wire-framed glasses and slowly returned to his position behind his bench.
“As you just witnessed…” he scanned the courtroom looking at the absence of some of the Smalls, “…for those of you still with us, the four accused almost brought destruction to us all. I clearly say…remember our comrades that gave their life’s for…them!” He shot an accusing finger at the young ones.
They backed up in their seats as if expecting fireballs to be shot toward them.
“I repeat,” declared the fox, trying to get the images of what he saw out of his mind, “that the Wall…reveals only…partial truths! It has never been proven…that the quartz works at all!”
The lawyer fox danced in a small semicircle, scanning the entire courtroom. Then he once again eyed his clients, then the Wisers. “I tell you …the Great Wall is great at showing movies…and that there are great movie directors here! And the special effects…were out of this world!”
He darted a slanted eye toward Einstein.
“Once,” he continued, “I watched an epic on this same wall…it kept me awake for nearly a week! It shows great movies indeed…but nothin’ more than dat…just movies and special effects!”
The fox slapped the law book of Ka-Knear so all in the room could hear.
The four Wisers looked down upon the upright fox with arrogance. In here, all creatures had human-like traits. Especially the very old Wisers known as Elders.
In the span of time, the citizens of Folklore had witnessed walking fish, flying snakes, over-talkative cats, and worse of all this upright, walking fox who wore a smoking jacket with reading glasses to match.
Why he needed such attire confused the Wisers. Maybe it made his job more enjoyable.
The first Wiser seated to the far left was U.B. Einstein, the one that revealed the quartz wall to the court. He eased his wire-framed glasses downward getting a better view of the defendants.
Dingle Berry was to the far right of the other three. He was somewhat on the heavy side, looking like a sock filled with trembling jelly. Next to him was Rust T. Nail, who was dressed in white, silk garments. His parents made him wear this to the court against his protests. Nail was tall, like a towering stalk of stinkweed.
To Nail’s left was the only girl in the group. Her name was Curly S. Sue, and she was also the oldest. She appeared like a smart college student wearing perfect, round, wire-framed glasses. At the moment, they were pushed all the way up on her button-shaped nose.
A full head of blond hair pinned back in a ponytail finished off her looks.
Curly Cue glanced to her left. There, sat the youngest one in their mist. He was sucking his thumb, and dressed in a long, flowing, white nightgown. It fell to the floor close to the base of the mushroom chair he was seated upon.
Above them danced an abundance of lightning flies and dragonflies. They were swooping about the rooftop like tiny airplanes having no place to land.
Peering back to the lawyer, the Head Wiser’s voice cracked, sounding ancient. “Yes, Red D. Foxx, we’ve heard this song and dance routine from you before. The Great Wall does not show…as you’ve so ingeniously pointed out…just movies created by us. It reveals all that transpires in nature.”
Einstein slowly massaged the quartz amulet dangling from his neck. “As we all know…the forest beyond our kingdom is covered with quartz stones; all recording activities that take place. The wall replays them back to us just for such reasons.
“Yes…we all know of the young ones ventures outwards from Folklore…do we not?”
He turned his attention toward the other three Wisers that made up the rest of the court. The one closest to Einstein looked like an older version of Elvis (his initials were Y.O.).
Y.O. had long, hairy sideburns, black hair slicked back across his scalp, and he even had a slight curl to his upper lip when in doubt.
The one next to him looked like a double for Winston Churchill (WC, for short). His arms were folded on the tabletop at the moment; all ten fingers tapping an unknown tune.
Finally, the last Wiser resembled General Patton of the Anti-Smalls’ war years. He was wearing a black military jacket covered with metals and pins. Each and every one of the insignia stated he once fought in the war against the Anti-Smalls. The army Wiser went by the name DM.
The three Wisers nodded in agreement, as U.B. Einstein turned his attention back toward the prancing fox. The lawyer was flipping through the law book as if searching for a last minute ordinance he may had overlooked.
With a raised eyebrow and a stern look, the Head Wiser declared, “State your case…Mr. Foxx…and be quick ‘bout it!”
Appearing to have found what he was looking for within the book’s pages, Red D. Foxx halted his fruitless pacing. With a paw, he quickly marked it for easy access.
Pivoting around, he eyeballed the young ones with their parents seated right behind them. With a crinkle in his eye, he returned his attention back to the court.
“Sirs…if I may? In Ka-Knear’s own written law,” his paw moved left to right as he read, “it states: ‘If any Small…for whatever the reason…stumbles across the Zoned Mushrooms and crosses them…he may do so if the reason for doing so is great.’ That…is what our Forefather put down in his own laws!” He raised the open book high letting all see it.
Hearing the statement, WC put a fist to his mouth, coughing. Then, “Yes, Foxx, we know the law you’ve just read.” The other Wisers nodded their agreement.
Holding a pair of tiny bifocals to his old eyes, WC pulled out some yellow parchment. “The law also exists right here…rewritten so as not to get lost… or forgotten if time erases the book you hold so high.”
As if on cue, the fox lowered the book, closing it slowly.
The Wiser continued: “Let me ask you, Red D. Foxx, just what great reason did the four young ones have?”
The old fox grinned. Using the book, he covered his belly that slowly growled from lack of food. The snack he had earlier was just about gone.
“Reason,” Foxx answered, “you ask, WC? Why…just as all young ones have…curiosity!”
“Curiosity?” laughed WC, with the other Wisers following suit. “My dear Mr. Foxx…your clients’ curiosity just about did us in.” He gestured toward the distant wall. “Did you not see what the wall revealed just moments ago?"
The fox placed a paw to the book, quickly flipping several hundred pages. He came to a page that was clearly marked by a white marker, and slammed a paw down on one unique paragraph.
“Yes,” the lawyer replied, “we all saw what the,” he coughed deeply, mocking WC’s earlier one, “wall revealed, Sir WC. It showed us good special effects…nothin’ more!”
WC didn’t appear amused by the lawyer’s ability to ridicule him. Putting the miniature specs away, he leaned back in his mushroom chair, watching with wide eyes.
Red D. Foxx continued: “But here…again in Ka-Knear’s own written law…it states: ‘the young are not to be accused if such crossing of the Zoned Area happens. They are to be sent home…with no schooling or other playtime until the Wisers see differently.’”
Glancing up at the high council, the sly fox grinned from ear-to-ear, as his glasses slid down his snout to the tip of his black nose.
“And certainly…the law book states nothin’ ‘bout having young ones being sentenced as if grown ups!”
“They almost brought devastation to Folklore!” enraged Einstein, as he pulled out an arched, smoking pipe, shaped like a seahorse.
“Almost doesn’t count, Sir. The book declares if such a trial was ever to happen…it must do so with the knowledge of ‘did happen; was happening; had happened,’ not ‘almost happened!’”
Foxx slammed the text shut, then quickly reopened it trying to get his point across. “Did you hear that, Sir? That happened…the noise the book made as it shut…not almost happened as you suggested ‘bout of my clients!”
“Yes…but they were spotted…and our presence here has been compromised! What…if now…the Anti-Smalls come? What then, Mr. Foxx?” questioned the Head Wiser in a softer tone.
“Did…was…had!” Red D. Foxx repeated, revealing the pages they were written on. Holding the open text high in the air so all within the room could see, he said again, “Did…was…had! So writes our forefather Ka-Knear!”
Slamming his smoking pipe onto the tabletop, U.B. Einstein seemed flustered. “Yes…but what ‘bout the dragons that gave their life’s for the young ones?” Using the pipe, he gestured the four accused. “They caused it …and for that, and that alone, they must be punished!”
The lawyer leaned against the table closest to Curly Cue, slowly glancing in her direction. She stared up at him with fright in her eyes.
Making a clicking sound with his mouth, Red D. Foxx pushed his glasses back up to his eyes.
“Our dragonflies died…yes! And a horrible thing it was indeed! May they be reborn as great warriors of the forest!” He turned away from Curly Cue, once again staring at Einstein.
“But you miss one detail, Sir. The dragons are our army…and with armies…sometimes tragedy happens.”
“Enough!” angered the Head Wiser. “If this be your case…than you have none! The four being accused have been giving three chances already …with this last one almost doing us all in!”
“But, Sir, it didn’t!” objected the fox, slamming the book again. The noise was louder this time, making a few dozen fireflies scatter about the ceiling.
Adjusting his red jacket for a more comfortable fit, he stared down his old, long, red snout. His gaze passed his glasses until he got a fixed stare on Einstein. It was like he wasn’t looking at a Wiser at all, but the plumpest chicken in the coop.
The ancient Wiser wasn’t returning the stare; he just patted out some black tobacco for his blue, elf-wood fashioned pipe.
“Sirs,” questioned the lawyer fox aloud, pointing to where the Wisers were seated. “Why…may I ask…are you, the Supreme Court of Folklore, ignoring the facts ‘ere? Have you become sick and tired of Ka-Knear’s laws?”
The entire hall got silent. No one had ever talked to the Wisers in that tone of voice. But, yet, here was a fox for an attorney doing just that.
The Wisers appeared furious at hearing the words, but remained silent for the moment.
“Sirs…I must point out once more…the young ones were just doin’ what all their age do: they were,” he pivoted around on one, hind paw, eyeing the accused behind him, “misbehaving. Surely, when you were young …you acted in a similar way…or maybe even more so?”
He slowly withdrew a folded paper from a pocket within his jacket. Unfolding it, the fox revealed a long, written list for all to see.
Trying to focus on what the fox had, the Wisers bent down low over their benches. U.B. Einstein adjusted his glasses for a better view of the paper. WC slipped on a pair of dark sunshades that reflected the Great Hall and the Smalls that remained.
“Let me introduce Exhibit A: a record of your behavior as children.” Red D. Foxx was addressing the four Wisers that appeared to be in shock.
The Wisers gazed at one another, than to the young Smalls, and last but not least, to the red fox again.
Clearing his throat while passing the smoking pipe from hand-to-hand, U.B. quickly declared, “This new evidence wasn’t introduced before the trial, Foxx! You know the rules…you know the Laws of Ka-Knear which you so proudly hold in your hands. So…therefore it is admissible in this case…and shall be thrown out!”
Before that could be done, Red D. Foxx started speaking aloud what was written on the list.
“At the young age of three, U.B. Einstein brought a pet dog to the outskirts of Folklore. Its owner wasn’t far behind: a human boy of ten!”
“Stop him!” commanded U.B., as some nearby rats entered the courtroom. They walked upright and were dressed in red and black uniforms. Crossbows, spears and other assorted weapons were attached to their utility belts.
The wily old fox kept on reading the dangling list, as murmurs echoed throughout the courtroom:
“Our own…Head Wiser!” whispered a female Small to her mate. “How…is that possible?”
“Impossible!” queried another, stick-shaped Small nearby. “If dat’s true…then why put these young ones on trial?”
The lawyer fox went on: “Y.O. even went as far as goin’ to an Anti-Smalls house…getting himself caught in an armadillo trap…to be rescued the following morning by three squirrels!”
Y.O. grew furious as more accusations crossed back and forth among the Smalls within the Great Hall. He slammed his fists on top of the table, his upper lip curling almost into a perfect, upside-down letter ‘U’.
“Nothin’…but a pack of lies!” he shouted above the whispering Smalls. “There is…no proof to any of this, Foxx!” He leaned further across his bench, appearing in danger of toppling off at any moment, then said softly:
“My friend…you are threading on very…very thin ice!!”
The fox watched the rats (Folklore spelled it Ratz) from one corner of his eye. He knew (and prayed) they wouldn’t approach him just yet. At least not in the courtroom with the Smalls having doubts about the trial… and their very own Wisers.
The Ratz slowly inched toward the lawyer, but halted their movements some yards from him; crossbows at the ready.
Red D. Foxx never liked the thought of having Ratz for kingdom security. But on the same hand, he supposed every place needed some sort of policing from time-to-time in case of trouble.
Weird things were happening since the Ratz were stationed throughout Folklore. It felt bizarre to the fox as he walked the dirt paths of the kingdom.
He always had the feeling of cold eyes penetrating the back of his head. It was like the Ratz were everywhere, watching every move he made.
On one occasion, Foxx had been stopped out front of Dr. Acorn’s Diet Market. Four, very large Ratz surrounded him like he was a mass murderer of something. They were all dressed in black armor; their crossbows pointed downward, but ready if need be.
Foxx was commanded to show proof of who he was and what he wanted in front of a store at that time of night.
With regret, he revealed his FLID Card to one of the security Ratz. Checking the Folklore ID Card he was giving, the guard let Foxx go on his way.
Revealing his frustration to the Head Wiser the following morning did no good. Einstein just reminded the fox that the police was much in demand at the moment.
The Wiser told Foxx of the new highway the Anti-Smalls were building. It was just passed the Zoned Mushrooms, and the Ratz had to remain…at least for the time being.
Having WMD’s so close to home called for hard times and hard decisions. But Einstein assured Red D. Foxx he would have a word with the security rat that had checked the ID card.
At the trial now, the wily, old fox grinned at Einstein. He knew the Head Wiser never even talked to the Ratz the way he said he would.
His eyes fixed on Y.O. now, as he answered the Wiser with a deep, Irish accent. “Proof? Yea want proof, Sir? How ‘bout de very squirrels themselves fer a start?”
The four Wisers squirmed in their mushroom stools at hearing such news. They all seemed ready to explode at any giving moment.
“Why…me Wisers…they’re rite outside of Folklore. Shall,” he smiled deeply at the Wisers, then back to the young Smalls, “we et dim ‘n. Or…are you afraid of what de may have to say?” Foxx held the law book more tightly now like it had become a part of him.
Angry over the statement, U.B. Einstein finished filling his curved, shaped pipe and slammed it down on the table. A hush grew across the hall as if everyone’s breath had just been sucked away. They have never witnessed the Head Wiser in such a state of anger.
With squinted eyes appearing almost shut, U.B. Einstein leaned forward as far as possible without falling over the mushroom podium he sat behind. If he had smoke pipes for ears they would have been filling the room with fumes.
He stared at his comrades beside him. Y.O. smiled deeply, his hands clasped together under his chin. The other two Wisers smiled, nodding their heads.
Looking back to the fox that stood just below them, U.B. grinned widely. “Well, Mr. Foxx, you aren’t the only one with last minute surprises! The witnesses you spoke of – the squirrels – have already spoken to the other Wisers and me. They have said,” at this he smiled even deeper at the lawyer like he was the prize of a fox hunt, “that is was you whom they rescued from the trap…and you who brought the dog to the outskirts of our kingdom!”
Einstein snapped his fingers together with the noise echoing throughout the kingdom. Directly above them, a trapdoor fell open with fireflies scattering. Their sudden movement created an open space for three squirrels to jump down to the cold earth below.
They landed right in the heart of the trial proceedings with the fireflies returning to their original positions.
Two of the squirrels were female, while the other was male. The girls had brownish hair combed back into ponytails; the male was bald with a white potbelly poking outward.
They all were quite old, showing signs of age. The male pulled out a walking cane, while the females wobbled back and forth.
Red D. Foxx didn’t know how to respond to this last minute outcome. He gently waved a paw at the young ones behind him, reassuring them. Behind the Smalls, the parents didn’t seem reassured at all. They were having second thoughts about the fox they had hired to represent their children.
“Just…a little set back ‘tis all,” Fox whispered in a deep, Irish accent.
Y.O. cleared his throat, smiled and questioned:
“Legal Representative Red. D. Foxx…do you wish to question them now, or shall we?” He grinned at his comrades, as they all leaned forward, laughing.
The courtroom mummer was now aimed at the fox. With dread, he swallowed what he thought was a live, fighting rooster, spurs and all. The ocean tide had indeed changed, but not in Foxx’s favor.
Clearing his throat, the lawyer answered, “Oh…ok…sounds like a sound idea to me.”
He slowly approached the three squirrels, eyeing them with contempt. The day before, and again right before he entered the court, they had told him about the Wisers.
They mentioned the Wisers as children, since the squirrels were the ones appointed to watch over them. Smalls usually had squirrels, or other animals for that matter, to be babysitters for their young.
The fox wondered why the babysitters had changed their stories? The Wisers could have been trying to lead him astray, hoping he would loose the case all together.
Foxx wasn’t about to loose his cool, going half cocked. He put a paw to his mouth, clearing his throat. The squirrels just sat there, waiting intently.
“Now…Henry, Sally, Mary Sue,” he slowly walked passed them, then turned around and came back, “did you or did you not tell me yesterday…and just before tis trial today…about the list I hold en me hand?”
He raised the twelve-inch list up, letting it dangle right in front of their brown eyes. “Now…don’t be afraid…no one can hurt ye here.”
Red D. Foxx darted a glance toward Einstein, then to the Security Ratz that were that waited anxiously, just feet from the rear of the courtroom.
Henry, the first squirrel, appeared shaken as if he had just ran into a wild wolf. He rubbed his oversized belly, then licked his lips. “Lemme see …Mr. Foxx.”
He eyeballed the list like it was a death sentence. “Yes…yes…that’s the list alright, no doubt ‘bout it.”
Turning toward the young Smalls with a wink, the fox smiled. The squirrel went on:
“But…there’s a mistake on dat list.” Henry’s brown eyes scanned the entire room, then settled onto Einstein’s. “It wasn’t…the Wisers that…did these things…it was you, Mr. Foxx. I…don’t know why da list is wrong… but it is!”
The Smalls in the courtroom exploded with commotion over this last minute revelation. U.B. and Y.O. eyed one another with grins no one else saw.
The fox almost fell head over heals when he heard what the squirrel had to say. “Dah…what…dat…just can’t be? Just sometime ago…ye said it was ‘em!” He gestured with the book up to the Wisers seated behind their mushroom benches.
“Sorry, Mr. Foxx,” replied Mary Sue with a cracked tone, “but Henry’s right…it was you we watched…and you who did those things…not ‘em.”
She slowly held onto Sally, as if trying not to fall over. Combing her brown hair back with a hand, she added, “I’m truly sorry…but you must have misunderstood us.” Her voice was apprehensive, as her old eyes darted everywhere, except to the fox’s face.
The Wisers smiled ear-to-ear. They leaned over again, looking at the fox. The lawyer seemed to have lost his last friend.
“Foxx!” shouted U.B. Einstein, “you may had been a fair attorney at one time…and your cunning talking and doings may had helped you in the past…but now you’ve bitten off more than you can chew…and at the moment…you’re history!”
The Head Wiser stared toward the rear entrance. Standing there, the Ratz had their spears pointing outward, waiting. Einstein motioned for them to come forward, that the trial was at an end.
Walking upright, as all creatures did here, they quickly advanced toward the high platform. Once there, the Security Ratz stared at Einstein and bowed.
“Don’t worry yourself, Foxx, this isn’t the first case you’ve lost…but it shall be your last!”
U.B. threw a quick glance toward the weapon-carrying rodents. “Take dis…joker…along with the lawbreakers…to the outskirts of Folklore! There…leave them to the forest to never return here!”
A larger grin crossed the Wiser’s face, as he added, “And…if for some reason they do return…to the prickles they shall go!!”
The Smalls in the court screamed their disbelief, along with the young ones’ parents.
Some shouted allowed that the prickles hadn’t been run in decades. And others thought to themselves: why had the Head Wiser even considered bringing it back now, and for babies for crying out loud? To run the vines were like running razorblades.
More rat guards rushed in, holding them back from certain rioting.
The Security Ratz that Einstein ordered to take the fox gathered him up at spear point. They made him remove his smoking jacket, glasses and even took the law book away from him.
Also, they ordered the four, young Smalls to follow suit. They escorted them to the threshold that led to the surface of the kingdom.
The Smalls’ parents were held by sword point, being pushed toward the rear of the courtroom with everyone else.
“I know me rights!” shouted the fox over one shoulder. Spears and crossbows tapped against his back making him go faster. “And…de rights of me clients!”
As they were forced onward, Red D. Foxx continued: “The…quartz wall…will show…I’m tellin’…da truth!”
No one appeared to hear him, as the Ratz forced all the Smalls into the rear entrance, weapons held high.
The four Wisers looked to one another with a sigh. They watched as the innocent Smalls in the room were filing out the back door with help from the guards.
Glancing toward the side entrance, they witnessed the four, young Smalls and the fox being escorted outside of Folklore.
Three miles from the kingdom, they were released into the wild.
“Now,” mused one of the rat guards with a smirk, “you can venture where you please…as long as it’s not back to Folklore!” He grinned, twitching his long, rough snout. “Then again…go ahead, return to da kingdom! I haven’t seen a prickling in years!”
Flailing his elongated, black tail back and forth, the rat laughed, turned and left.
Alone now, the five looked around the forest as the sun started to set. They were without neither food nor water, as the woods turned dark and other creatures started coming out of hiding.
The four Smalls gathered around the fox’s paws as dark trees started resembling skeletons waiting to swallow them up.
Beyond the hills, Cherub Black and WMD
U.B. Einstein stood outside his hut that was fashioned from mud. He watched as all five of the guilty parties left the kingdom. Behind them, thick thorns and inch-long needles closed up making the doorway invisible to interlopers.
From the Wiser’s point-of-view it was like looking at a wall that had quickly become overgrown with foliage.
Earlier, he had a conference with the other three Wisers, and they all agreed that what had to be done had to be done. Even though sadness engulfed the kingdom like a plague, all would be back to normal soon enough.
It had been many decades since others were exiled from Folklore. Back then, times were not as horrible as they were now. Almost so, but not as bad.
Clasping his hands behind his back, the Head Wiser thought of farther back still. Back when times weren’t as hard as they were now. He knew the thoughts were almost identical, but different still.
Three hundred years ago his thinking brought him. Then, mankind had no weapons of mass destruction as they had today. They had nothing like gigantic earthmovers, eighteen-wheelers, and tractors. With those machines, mankind could level Folklore in a matter of seconds, not hours.
Turning and looking about his home, Einstein noticed the other Wisers turning in for the night. They entered tiny abodes made from mud, dry leaves and rocks.
U.B. nodded toward DM, as the Wiser with the military suit entered his rock house. DM kindly returned the greeting. As he disappeared within, Einstein saw a tiny light in one of the windows going out.
Slowly turning back toward his own front door, the Head Wiser thought more about back when times were much better. Before the WMD were made.
In Folklore’s schools today, the children Smalls were told it would take Anti-Smalls days to level the kingdom, not mere seconds. If such information got out, it would cause more panic than even the Rat guards could handle.
In the past, all the humans could do were march upon them. The massive envelope of thorns, needles and prickly plants that consumed most of the forest would greet them.
It was like a massive plant-life vessel had landed there, enclosing almost every portion of the kingdom. As humans or other creatures attacked, Folklore would swell to meet its demands of power and protection.
At times, the barrier encircling it could be hundreds of feet high, or several feet tall. From beginning tree to ending brush, the oval-shaped kingdom shrouded everything in sight.
Back then, mankind had only swords, daggers and crossbows to deal with. The mighty wall of thorns easily halted them just as the Great Wall of China could stop a slow, moving caterpillar.
Even the vines beyond the kingdom had been used at times, whipping, wrapping around, and even killing the enemy.
Glancing around at the inner wall of his kingdom, U.B. grinned. It was like a solid partition of vines and plant life sewed together, hiding their very existence from the Anti-Smalls.
Yes, the Head Wiser wondered on, no one really knew for sure why the War of the Humans even started. Some philosophers, such as Dr. Acorn, figured that a scout of the giants discovered them.
Afterwards, the Anti-Small sent word back to the human world, telling them about the tiny ‘demons’ he had discovered.
Then, the war was on.
Yes, thought U.B. Einstein, his hands still clasped tightly behind his back, today was a sad day. But Folklore had survived another Dragonfly Over [Small days were not numbered by the rising and setting of the sun. They were counted by the dragonflies of the Northern Hills darting across the heavens every other day or so].
Still looking around the place, he smiled deeply. He had saved it for another day. But U.B. knew deep within his soul, a day would come when even the Elders couldn’t save Folklore.
The Head Wiser knew that the decisions made today were immeasurable, but the kingdom had to be saved…by all costs.
The Kingdom of Folklore was what kept even the Anti-Smalls’ world going. The magic flowing from within the place made what the humans referred to as ‘a normal day’. For if not for the kingdom and its enchanted surroundings, all of the world would die away. Then, only chaos would flow about, making all that was evil…even more evil.
Glancing up, he grinned at the light that emitted every crevice of his homeland. For up above were not thousands, but millions of fireflies flashing on and off.
They did it in such sync, it was hard to tell when one flashed on and another flashed off. It was like a massive light show showering its power all about the kingdom; sort of like an indoor sun.
U.B. always loved the view just above the fireflies. There, small shadows played about the overlapping ceiling. He witnessed the crisscrossing thorns and prickly needles protecting his home.
The Wiser knew that it sheltered them from flying creatures, or even gigantic creatures, from looking downward, spying them. And, if not for the ceiling of foliage, the creatures could do what they wanted with the small, mud huts and dug runs, making up the place. Not to mention, the Smalls themselves.
The ancient Wiser finally turned, walking back inside his hut. Inside, books were scattered throughout. Some on the dirt floor; some on top of carved-out chairs fashioned from pine combs; some even lining every corner of the house.
There were large ones, small ones, round ones, and ones that appeared chopped in half. All in all, there were all types and shapes of texts thrown about.
It appeared like a library where the books had leaped from the shelves, begging to be read.
Easily pushing texts off his recliner, Einstein sat down in it with a sigh. Reaching for a nearby windowsill, he grabbed one particular book. It was larger than the rest, and appeared older with yellowish age. The title was ‘Ka-Knear and the Ratz of Folklore’.
Leaning backward, U.B. reached over to a toadstool table where a small, round see-through bottle sat. He easily tapped it. Within seconds, it lit up with dozens of fireflies swirling about.
The Wiser smiled a little with the light bouncing about his facial features.
Moving the container closer, he could see much better now. Adjusting his seeing glasses, the Head Wiser turned the book to a marked page and started reading:
“ ‘Ka-Knear in turn had used the Ratz (what they wished to be referred to) to protect Folklore when the Anti-Smalls’ War was raging. It took just three years for the Massive Ones to withdraw from the kingdom. With the help of the Ratz (which, by my account, are still Folklore’s mortal enemy) Folklore was saved yet for another day.’ ”
U.B. removed his stair from the ancient page and gazed about his tiny dwelling. Empty mugs had been thrown about the wooden sink and plates were stacked up to the windowsill.
Unfinished writing papers covered the dirt floor resembling some sort of carpet. U.B. smiled, thinking that some day he would gather them all up. Then he would finish the work started so long ago.
But, the Head Wiser knew that would be a ways off. Other things were more important now. Yes, other obligations came first. Like the trial he had attended earlier.
Fixing his stare out a nearby window, U.B. saw a few straw-fashioned roads running in and around tiny houses. One particular mud-domicile caught his eye the most. Smoke snaking upward from its chimney told the old Wiser that WC was up late just as he was.
Shaking his head, the old Small wondered what his friend was up to at this time of night. He also questioned if he and the others had come to the right solution? What if the young Smalls weren’t the ones written about in the pages of Ka-Knear?
Slowly returning his attention back to the yellowish page, he easily turned to the next one.
Einstein continued reading the text.
“ ‘After the war, The Ratz were asked to leave…in which they did with haste, promising they would return one day conquering the kingdom of Smalls.’ ”
U.B. flipped to the next page, reading on. “ ‘The ancient Wiser, Ka-Knear’s brother, Ka-Dash, gazed into the future of many Dragonfly Over’s visualizing what was to come: Four would be led by the fox of new life and return, saving the kingdom. This they would do without knowing’. ”
Finally closing the ancient book, the Head Wiser stared out the window again. It pictured a dozen, metal-clad Ratz marching down one of the straw roadways of the kingdom.
In single file, they tramped down the street. Their crossbows pointing downward, ready for action.
It reminded U.B. of an old Roman movie he saw once from the safety of an Anti-Smalls’ doorway that had been left ajar. The Romans numbered in the hundreds, as they marched on their own homeland. The people in the film thought they were safe, but their own kind were destroying them from within.
This made the Head Wiser wonder why the Ratz were even let back into the kingdom in the first place. He prayed to Ka-Knear that he hadn’t made a fatal miscalculation in listening to WC.
WC had requested the Ratz be let back in for the next human war that was looming in the horizon. The Wiser had notified Einstein and the others that the humans were getting closer to the kingdom. He had said a trek taken just the other day revealed a roadway the Anti-Smalls were building. It was just a few miles away, endangering Folklore and everything within it.
At the old age of one hundred and sixty, U.B. Einstein knew the signs of impending war. When it did happen, would the Ratz help as they did last time, or turn on Folklore as the Romans did in the movie?
Falling asleep, the Head Wiser prayed they would help.
Red D. Foxx and the four Smalls watched the Kingdom of Folklore growing smaller in the distance. Lights from the dancing fireflies faded from the kingdom that was almost completely gone from sight. The five easily traveled down a straw path that would soon disappear as the kingdom’s magic faded.
The fox collapsed to the ground on all fours, as his legs felt funny. The Smalls stepped backward, terrified, not being used to such magic. All the animals they had seen in Folklore had always walked upright.
“I hate…when that happens,” he snarled, watching the four, small creatures backing off in alarm. “No, ‘tis me legs.”
He clapped his front paws together, showing them he was all right. “I’m back to normal. No more magic to let me walk like ---.” He quickly caught himself from saying the one word that would scare the Smalls into all-out terror. The last thing they needed to hear now was the name ‘Anti-Smalls’ that lurked in all Folklore’s bedtime tales.
“Like what?” questioned one of the Smalls, as they silently eased back into the path’s moonlight. This Small was somewhat heavier than the other three. He had large, baggy eyes with the look about him like a lost boy during the first day of school.
“Say again, Dingle Berry?” asked Red D. Foxx.
They had stopped walking, taking in the surrounding woods. Long bright beams of light bounced from tree-to-tree, giving the appearance of tall, dark arms, with stick-like fingers.
If an onlooker happened by, they would think the scene comical. What would a shaggy, red-haired fox be doing prancing about the forest with something resembling four toy dolls?
The moon hid behind a dead, hanging limb giving an eerie resemblance of a black skeleton’s hand. The young Smalls cuddled together, afraid more than ever. Sounds emitted from the woods as if it had come alive, sensing the strangers that had just entered the forest.
Hearing the sounds he was once used to, Red D. Foxx looked around. Ever since taking the job of legal representative to Folklore, he had become rusty to the night sounds and the creatures that came with it.
His only venture into the forest these days was in search for food. The fox rarely slept in the wild any longer. Even though he visited his home (that was an opening in a giant, fallen log) from time to time, he mainly stayed within the confines of the kingdom.
But if he wanted to eat, then he had to return home, or venture elsewhere. This was because it was strictly forbidden for any creature to take another animals’ life within the boundaries of Folklore no matter what the reason.
Red D. Foxx was about to push his glasses up his snout for a better fit when he discovered them gone. Rubbing his long, empty snout, he remembered the Rat soldiers had removed them as they escorted him from the kingdom.
The lawyer fox was only permitted to wear them when he was within the magic of Folklore. Animals caught wearing human objects outside the kingdom were exiled immediately, without question.
The kingdom had certain animals patrolling the forest just for that reason. If one of them caught any creature wearing such attire, they were arrested and put on trial.
Red D. Foxx had a hidden pride of being just like the Anti-Smalls. He savored their ability to walk upright, the glasses and the smoking jackets that gave them that distinguishing look.
But now he realized he was no longer home. He had been framed for a crime he hadn’t committed and exiled from the kingdom. Glancing downward, he saw the four little people who now depended on him for everything in life.
There was Dingle Berry, still jelly-like in movement. Rust T. Nail, the tall and skinny one. Curly S. Sue, looking intelligent with the round-framed glasses pressed against her eyes, and then the last one, Half-Pint. He was still crawling on all fours like a newborn just out of its crib, sucking his thumb.
Shaking his shaggy head, Red D. Foxx wondered why the Wisers would even consider banishing ones so young? Had Folklore gotten to the point where a Small’s life meant nothing? Why would U.B. Einstein even think of doing such a deed? The fox thought he knew why the others were banished, but Half-Pint. Heck, he wasn’t even through sucking his thumb yet!
The group of four looked up at the fox they had grown accustomed to since the ordeal. Their parents were still in the kingdom that they would most likely never see again. But if they ever did return, they would all have to run the prickles, and from what little knowledge they had of that, no Small had ever survived the ordeal. It was the only true torture, not to mention the banishment, Folklore still held as law.
As far as Dingle was concern, he had rather taken his chances with the prickles run. Then again, as he watched the moon sink deeper behind the monstrous-looking trees, he wished none of this had ever taken place.
Why had they ventured outwards to begin with? Hadn’t their parents’ ordered them to stop such foolishness? After getting away with it three times already by their parents’ pleading for forgiveness, they went out and did it again.
The place beyond the Bad-tuate vines was so intriguing they had to glance at it one last time. They had never seen such a place before, even when they were allowed to travel outside the kingdom with the Wiser, WC some years back. Then, they had ventured to a deep valley where an old elf was supposed to be living. Of course, the elf was not found, nor the place where he was supposed to be living.
How was Dingle Berry to know that some giant human in a mountain would spy them, skidding to a stop and chasing them down? The heavy Small was at least thankful for the quick thinking of the Webbers, and the dragonflies that saved their hides.
Looking around and seeing thick, dark trees that appeared reaching out and trying to grab him, the Small wondered. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea to have been caught by the Anti-Small. Surely it couldn’t have been worse than this?
Returning to the small group, Dingle Berry and the others gathered around the fox for warmth and protection. This took place as the moonlight soon faded leaving complete darkness behind. Even the sky was black, nothing like the fireflies lighted ceilings of Folklore they had come to know and love.
A hoot of a distant owl brought Half-Pint squirming to the front paw of the fox. Not knowing what the sound was at first, Red D. Foxx was ready to kill if the hooting thing stepped out of the distant wood.
He looked down seeing the little one curled up, sucking his thumb. Grinning, Foxx finally realized it was only an owl that had made the noise. The little ones were safe at the moment.
Goodness, Red D. Foxx, what have you gotten yourself into? This, the fox pondered, as he curled up on the grassy ground. He let the little ones hug his furry underside so they could feel safe at least until daybreak. But what would they do then?
The Webbers of the Northern Hills had been watching the strange ordeal unfold. For some reason a shaggy, red fox and four, very young Smalls had left the confines of Folklore. This had happened twice before, as they could recall. And each time, it was banishment.
Of course, once and a while, a venture of Smalls would trek outward in search of other Smalls that existed elsewhere, or perhaps for food, or other items of interest.
But this was no simple trek in the wood. These creatures had been banished from the kingdom for unknown reasons. And not counting the red fox, the other four were only babies. Why would U.B. Einstein and the other Wisers do such a deed? Surely some other form of punishment would have suited them better?
Wondering this, one of the Spiter (Spiders of the N. Hills) watched in awe. Whatever the Smalls, and the fox had done, must have been deadly to the very existence of the entire kingdom, not to mention the rest of the world.
The spider was a beautiful black widow with an hourglass-shaped golden mark on the underside of its abdomen. It rested some yards away on the Northern Hills that covered over two hundred feet in diameter.
The entire hill was no more than four feet tall, with wondrous webs spun in every shape and contour. At first glance it looked like beautiful embroidery of nature-made paintings. There were red webs, blue webs, orange webs, silver webs, yellow webs, and every other color of web known to nature.
This particular spider’s web was bright blue and attached to all the other webs here on the hill, as well for the woods and surrounding forest. Even the Anti-Smalls’ homes (where the webs were swept away by brooms at times) were joined together by these tiny, minute strings. They were unseen by the giants as they went about their daily activities.
The name of this particular spider was Widow. She started picking a specific string of web like one would a guitar or banjo. Soon, she was sending messages throughout the countryside faster than an Anti-Small could send e-mail.
The vibrations zipped throughout the webs around the countryside like electricity through monster cities. When they reached the other webs the owner of such webs understood its meaning precisely.
The creatures of nature had no need for monitors, printers, or any other human necessity, because the vibration was seen as clearly to them as the daytime sky to an Anti-Small. To the spiders, and the Smalls of Folklore who sent the same mails, this sending of messages was simply called ‘snail mail’.
Soon, every spider in the neighboring countryside, not to mention human houses, knew about the five whom had been banished from Folklore.
Not long after, Widow started getting answers back. As her web vibrated with sounds no human could comprehend, she sat back on her web, all eight legs dangling, listening.
It was as if thousands of snail mails at once bounced back. With what could only be described as noises to the untrained ear, she took note of every one especially a few that caught her fancy:
“Poor souls,” replied one from Blue Grass, near the village of Grandeur. “Must have been something just awful they did to get booted out?”
“Serves ‘em right!” announced Ed the Squirrel. He lived in the distant Blue Hills where accessed to the worldwide spider web was far and between. “Folklore ain’t ever kicked someone out who ain’t needed kicking out!”
From the Southern Hills, just beyond the valley adjacent to Folklore, came an old, deep, intelligent voice that none in the chat room recognized.
“No…my friends…they were dismissed for their own safety. Folklore…isn’t the same. No…my web acquaintances…not since the Ratz were allowed…back in.” The old, cracking voice coughed. It was like just saying the words tired him out.
Widow jerked upwards from the comfort of her web as the voice faded. She crossed four of her legs with quick thought. Could it be? Could it actually be the Wiser who had ran away so long ago?
The one…? Then it came to her as fast as a fly or moth would stick to her web. The fox! He was the lawyer who testified for the old one.
Racking her brain, she tried recalling when the trial had taking place. The memory just would not come to the surface. Nor could she recall the Wiser’s name.
Trying to get him back on the web sight was no good. What he had said must have been the truth. Folklore was in trouble, the Widow cried in thought. She looked back to where the four young ones lay next to the red fox. They were fast asleep, not really knowing what the following morning would bring.
But if any enemy threatened them while they slept she would leap from her web, attacking.
The sun shined brightly across Red D. Foxx’s face, as he jumped awake. The morning dew and smells of opening flowers crept over his snout making it twist somewhat. So far, at least as far as his nose was concerned, no danger existed.
He had overslept as usual! Checking his curled-up body, he easily saw the tiny ones sound asleep and at peace near his red, fluffy tail. Thank goodness they were still around his warm body, not wandering off during the night.
The trees and plant life exploded like hot rocks from a volcano. The tall pines, small elephant ear plants and flora screamed at the fox whose head quickly popped up like a rabbit’s from its hole in the ground. Sniffing the area again, he sensed it too. The flora life yelled again:
“Danger!! Run!! Run for your life’s!! Anti-Smalls are coming!!” they all shouted in vibrations only the forest animals could hear.
Leaping straight up on all fours, the red fox shouted for the Smalls to wake up. A pulling of his tail made him glance back just in time to see Half-Pint. He was hanging there, getting thrown this way and that like a mountain climber whose rope was in danger of snapping. The young one had crawled into the fluffy, red tail for warmth not knowing that at any moment his bedtime was going to be rudely interrupted.
Rust T. Nail looked upward seeing the smallest of the outcast swinging back and forth like some massive, hairy ride at an amusement park.
“Not again!” cried Nail, remembering the last time that something similar had happened. It was back at Folklore when Pint’s father had assembled a swing fashioned from an oak leaf that dangled behind their mud knoll.
Crawling into the moist leaf against his father’s wishes (because it wasn’t yet ready, and the little one had no patience when it came to waiting), Half-Pint tripped, letting the leaf swing curl around his small body like a hotdog bun.
Screaming for help, Pint was soon rescued by his father and mother, who grounded the little one for a total of three Dragonfly Over’s. And this was one reason they went to the Bad Na-tuate place where older Smalls had told them not to. They just figured that all sorts of playthings awaited them there.
Still dangling like a drunken Tarzan, Pint finally came fully awake not really knowing where he was or what was happening. His gown was blowing in the wind, while he dangled by one, tiny hand.
The other three Smalls appeared to be dancing, but actually they were making ready to catch Half-Pint if he was to accidentally fall. Of course that short of a distance wouldn’t kill the baby Small. It would just put a halt to their travels for a while, and with Na-tuate warning them of impending doom, they had to leave now or else.
Not really able to speak correctly at his young age, Pint cried, “’Elp me gown! Hel’ me gown,” which stood for “Help me down!”
Red D. Foxx didn’t know for sure why the young one wanted help with his gown, but now wasn’t the time for English lessons. Bringing his snout toward his fluffy tail, he easily used his teeth, picking up the baby by the flowing nightgown.
He put the baby Small gently on the grassy ground next to the other three. The fox then laid down on all fours, hoping the Smalls knew what he wanted them to do.
All of the sudden they heard what could only be described as an Anti-Small coming toward them. The noise of thunder it made struck the outcasts’ ears like a mighty twister. The giant wasn’t walking, but rather riding one of their weapons of mass destruction.
“Jump on me back, quick!” screamed the fox in his deepest, Irish accent. “Now!!” he added, showing teeth and letting the little ones know he meant business.
Knowing the fox meant them no harm the way he was shouting and carrying on, the Smalls leaped onto the safety of his fluffy, red coat, one by one. Rust T. Nail went first. Then he helped the heavier Dingle Berry up, wishing that Berry had gone first.
“Mushers!” cursed Nail, as Dingle Berry claimed onto the red hair. “Why…didn’t you stay…with that…Dr. Acorn’s diet?” He was referring to the diet reserved for some Smalls that thought they needed to loose weight. Most loved the doctor because he was an expert when it came to herbs and the like.
Settling down beside Rusty in the hairs, Dingle Berry made a smile that contorted his cheeks like some sort of rainbow trout. “Mama…and Daddy…said the diet was just to…make capital for up-to-do Smalls!”
“Helped me loose ten pine needles though,” replied Nail patting his tiny belly. He was explaining how he lost weight in Small’s terms, while he helped Curly S. Sue up. In her arms she held the baby, Pint. Her ponytail was flopping in the wind like a tiny windmill. Half-Pint found it pretty interesting to suck on this instead of his usually thumb.
“Watch it!” cried Sue, as Nail hauled her up onto the back of the fox. “I’m a girl…remember?”
“Who could forget!” complained Rust T. Nail. Everyone was soon safely aboard the fox, resting as comfortable as possible within the confines of the coiled and smelly hairs.
“All ready!” yelled Rust T. Nail. Red D. Foxx stood up with the sudden urge to scratch his back. With a large grin, he remembered that they weren’t fleas on his back that were eating him up, but the Smalls he had apparently adopted.
As the sun rose above the highest trees, the fox bounced from where they had slept. And just in time, as four WMD (weapons of mass destruction) rolled up, tearing up the terrain with grass and plants flying just about everywhere. The flora cried in pain as Na-tuate got drained from them.
The Anti-Smalls were riding four wheelers. They circled the ground, tearing up the flora and plants. Dirt and mud were pitched into the air like a massive volcano erupting without warning. The ones on the four wheelers didn’t even notice the fox as he barely escaped in time.
The riders of the monstrous machines were mere teenagers out for the morning having fun. But never the less the Anti-Smalls could, and most likely would, destroy any Small they came across. And their WMD’s could triple the killing process, as it already had shown with the Na-tuate of the ground and flora.
Kicking the four-wheelers into high gear, they rocketed down a trail created from pine straw and rocks. Before long, they came upon a wild growth of bull needles and thorns with prickly stickers that resembled some unusual piece of art created by a morbid twister.
Slowly circling the massive mound of twisted vines and sharp thorns, the four riders looked in astonishment at the sight. They had never seen anything like this in all of their years living in the Blue Hills of Canterbury. A tornado had to have been the cause for such a structure. It was even encircled by hundreds of mushrooms that stretched out as far as the eye could see.
At least five feet taller than the biggest ATV, Folklore loomed like some gigantic, upside down turtle’s shell made from nature. Already within the confines of the place, Smalls were preparing for all out war with the giants.
Clad in chain mail-like apparel, the Ratz surrounded the entire inside perimeter of the structure as the WMD’s jetted by again and again. They made ready their spears and crossbows that had been dipped in the poisonous of mushroom juices.
Dragonflies gushed throughout the inside of the kingdom like planes circling their targets, just waiting for the command to exit and attack.
Knowing the spears, arrows and dragonflies would feel like mere mosquito bites to the Anti-Smalls, the citizens of Folklore prayed to Ka-Knear that the weapons would at least lure the massive creatures away. And if not, than the arrows dipped in poison would be used, killing the giants. But this was always a last resort, if all else failed.
When all seemed lost, the four riders jumped a nearby streambed and drove off down the trail in which they had traveled in the first place. The alarms inside the kingdom calmed down as the Anti-Smalls rode away over the distant hills.
The hovering dragonflies settled back down like manmade fighter jets. They slowly disappeared out portals that the Wisers had opened on predetermined spots of the kingdom. As the dragonflies became small dots in the horizon, the Wiser, U.B. Einstein called for the Ratz to halt what they were doing.
He silently prayed to Ka-Knear that they would take orders one last time. At first reflection, he believed they wouldn’t obey him, but they did, halting all war preparations at the last minute.
The four Wisers watched the warriors with concern. Somehow it appeared the Ratz had second thoughts about their weapons, but lowered them at the last moment.
“Thank the Na-tuate,” replied the head Wiser, as he and the rest headed back toward the Great Hall.
“What ‘bout next time?” questioned WC, as they slowly advanced closer to the front entrance of the hall. “Remember…last time the Ratz were here?”
U.B. scratched his spiked hair, and looked at his acquaintance of 150 years. “I don’t know, my friend. I only pray,” he glanced around the surrounding vicinity as if expecting to see spies, “our four chosen ones can complete their mission.”
“Mission?” asked WC, as if not knowing what was going on.
Approaching the spiked, oval entrance to the Great Hall, U.B. answered, “Don’t act boorish, WC. You know as well as I why they had to be exiled.”
The oval entrance was tall, as it was long. Sticker vines flowed up and down it creating the threshold. It was semi-dark within, giving the appearance of a massive cave.
At the doorway, WC offered U.B. entry first, then followed with the other two. “Well, yes, I understand that is why we did it, but…do they know just what their mission is?”
The Great Hall of Ka-Knear was just that: Great. Toadstool chairs were prearranged throughout the place. Drawings of pictures lined either side of the hall; some were of distant valleys, while others revealed an ancient Wiser in different positions. This was Ka-Knear himself, the Leader and Founder of the kingdom.
Just to the front of the hall sat the benches the Wisers had used in the trial with the fox. In the center of the Great Hall sat a round, stone table with chairs pulled out for easy seating.
Slowly setting down at the table, U.B. and WC were left alone, as the other two went to their sleep chambers.
“Red Foxx doesn’t even know what’s going on, my friend, then why should the young ones?”
Winston (WC) watched his partner break open an acorn, eating it. Recalling a time some Dragonfly Over’s ago, he questioned, “Remember the Elder when he ran off? The last court we had?”
Thinking backward, U.B. Einstein grabbed up another acorn from a goblet of acorns. It had been nearly thirty years since the elder ran off in fear of having to run the Pricklier.
The last few that had run the monstrosity were never the same again. They were placed within the confines of the Dwelling of Ta-Baa. There, they were giving rehab to try and work their way back toward health and a good mental state.
Ta-Baa was as dark as night, and sat on top of the highest hill in the entire kingdom of Folklore. It was ten stories tall (again, in Smalls’ terms), and surrounded by the thickest of trees. A solitary path of black rock was the pathway to the entrance.
And this entrance was three, tree-length steel doors with a key that only the Head Wiser could use. Within this place were the mentally ill Smalls. Some were born that way, while others just turned that way.
At the facility, only ten Smalls worked the place. They would council the sick ones, hoping to bring them back to the real world. Some made it; some did not. The ones that didn’t make it were locked behind thorn bars forever.
It was indeed a sad place, but a place needed.
U.B. Einstein also remembered that Red D. Foxx was the legal representative in the elder’s case, and as always, he had lost. Seeing no way to get an appeal at the time, the old Wiser unlocked the Book of Ka-Knear that was blocked by moveable stones he had to manipulate. Once the ancient manuscript was unlocked, the elder tore out five pages, easily folding them and placing them into his rucksack.
Thereafter, the elder returned the book, moved the stones back to their original position, and ventured to Folklore’s main entrance. Waving a bent twig, and saying a few incantations, he made the vines and thorns pull apart like curtains at a play.
Walking through the small portal, the ancient one looked back at his home of well over 200 years. It had come to that point where he knew it was time to leave. He knew others would join him one day, as they made ready for another war.
Maybe once again with the Anti-Smalls or perhaps the Ratz that at that time were being allowed back inside because of a treaty the Wisers had signed eons ago. The treaty stated that all Na-tuate elements, including Ratz, had every right to enter the kingdom that served all creatures, great and small.
Shaking his shaggy head, the old one had left, knowing that Folklore was not his home any longer, and surely not the same as it once was.
U.B. Einstein, WC, Y.O. Elvis, and DM (the General Patton look-a-like) were assigned to retrieve the elder at all cost. They assembled a swarm of dragonflies that was to travel the countryside in search of the elusive Wiser. The dragons (as they were referred to) rested in Folklore’s airbase just some yards above the Great Hall. Here they awaited the Smalls anytime they needed aerial or dive-bombing assistance.
On one such dragonfly, U.B. Einstein and Winston C. sat on dry leafed chairs shaped like saddles, as the creatures took to the heavens like a swarm of bees.
In triangle formations, and in-groups of tens, they flew from countryside to countryside. At one time, they thought they had located the escaped elder, but it turned out to be just an elf from the distant Valley of Shims.
Elves were rare even back then, but today they have come all but extinct.
If an onlooker happened to glance heavenward, they would have seen the swarm of dragonflies thinking a mass migration must have been at hand. The Wisers searched for sixty Dragonfly Over’s, but never once spotted the ancient one, Graham Berry, who had been Peer of the Realm for way over 100 years.
Graham’s duties were to make sure all that entered and left the kingdom were true Smalls, and not creatures disguised as such. Also, he sat at the high council’s center (the fifth Wiser of the Great Hall), making sure the law of Ka-Knear was followed exactly as written in the Great Book.
If there were four split votes in court, he was the one that held the final decision of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It seemed that Graham’s power was threatening someone, or something, because not soon after, he was convicted of the greatest crime of all Folklore: he had talked to an Anti-Small.
The Anti-Small was a child, but still the law had been broken. No one saw the act of treason, but just the same, Graham was arrested and sent to court where the fox was assigned to his case. In only a Dragonfly Over, he was found guilty and sentenced to run the Pricklier. Overnight, while in detention, the old Wiser talked a Rat in helping him escape through the sewer system.
Once gone from Folklore, Graham Berry disappeared, never to be heard from again. U.B. Einstein’s company found no trace of the ancient one and he was presumed dead.
After his departure, the five pages of The Book of Ka-Knear were discovered missing. They contained charms and sections describing the Smalls’ abilities and ways with nature. The pages told how to manipulate Na-tuate in to doing their bidding. Also, they spoke of floras verbal communication with the Wisers, and how the Smalls communicated with Mushers, spiders and insects in particular. Basically, the five pages removed contained vital information for the Smalls, and Folklore itself.
Drawing his attention back to his friend, the Head Wiser grinned, answering WC’s question about the runaway elder:
“Yes…I remember the elder…and how he ran away. Would you not do the same, my friend?”
WC didn’t seem to have an answer for that, as he watched U.B. stand up.
Einstein left the table and acorns behind, bidding his old friend goodnight. As he went toward his small mud-house, he didn’t notice a large Rat advancing toward the Great Hall with his friend, WC still inside. The clad-armor rogue sat beside the old Wiser, fixing to engage in conversation.
The Rat was large for its size, with a black eye patch covering its left eye. He had on a chain mail-like suit that had been fabricated by the oldest of the spiders, Hercules Black. The creature didn’t live with the other spiders but by himself close to the Valley of Simms.
WC adjusted his large frame as the Rat took a seat in front of him. The Wiser wore glasses too big for his face, just as he thought Winston Churchill did in the past. WC thought the statesman was a mighty man, so he must have worn mighty glasses. He always seemed to be pushing them up on his face as they fell down his nose.
The Rat grabbed a handful of acorns and quickly stuffed them into his tiny, malevolence mouth, while his beaded eyes watched the Small. WC didn’t know what to make of this, so he was about to leave, when the Rat said:
“Not so fast, Winston. I…must tell you…the item you got for me and my warriors…is ideal.” His voice was just like him, sneaky and detestable. It appeared every word from his mouth made his whiskers on his snout twinge like a drawn-back bow. You could just tell that he was up to no good.
WC did not know why he had gotten involved with the Rat to begin with. How had it all started anyway? One day he was waiting for the trial of the four Smalls and the next he was at home entertaining this Rat.
WC prayed that the Rat would just leave him alone, but seeing him sitting there stuffing his mouth with food showed differently.
“What…what can I do for you?”
The Rat swallowed more of the acorns, soon finishing off every one of them. Licking the goblet clean, the Rat glanced up at the Wiser, smiling. “You act as if…we don’t know one another. Let me assure you…we know each other very well!”
WC looked around the throne room praying that none of the other Wisers were watching. The place was empty, but then again he had the strangest feeling they weren’t alone at all. Knowing the Ratz the way he did, he knew they never traveled alone.
“Please…I did as you said…leave me be,” pleaded WC as he started to shake nervously. “Why…Cherub Black…don’t you go?” He watched the Rat shift its weight in the mushroom-constructed chair, praying to Ka-Knear that it would get up and do just that. The Rat did not.
“As I said,” Cherub the Rat went on with a deep, sounding voice. It was like someone about to commit a crime, not wanting to be seen or heard, “the item is perfect for what we need. But…it is complicated. You know…an Anti-Small’s WMD. We…don’t know how to use it…as you do.”
WC was starting to feel sick. The Rat’s smell alone was making him nauseated. It was like the malevolent creature hadn’t taken a bath in years. The Wiser could actually see tiny, minute bugs flying around the Rat’s black, hairy body. At one time, the Rat caught one of the things with his snout, eating it like one would a piece of candy.
“But…what would I know ‘bout such things?” lied WC as a noise caught his attention. It was coming from the Great Hall not far away. It must have been nothing, because nothing stepped out of the shadows, or at least wanted to.
The Rat, Cherub Black just leaned back. He flapped his unusually long tail, laughed like a hyena, and weasels combined.
“My dear Winston…I am not stupid as the others. You got the,” he put a scrawny hand to his whiskers, plucking them in thought, “ah, yes, auto…mo…bile without any trouble. That along tells me…you know ‘bout the giants. Even your name…Winston Churchill…tells that to me. If you hated Anti-Smalls, then why use their names?”
WC started sweating, knowing where the Rat was headed. He did indeed hate the Anti-Smalls. He was one of the professors who taught the young ones that the giants did not exist. WC thought if you started teaching Smalls at an early age that the giants were only figments of the imagination than they wouldn’t venture beyond the Forbidden Zone. But, alas, that didn’t work since the young Smalls from the trial did just that.
And worse of all, this Rat knew all too well that the Wisers, especially WC, copied the humans by using their names and so forth
“What…do you mean, Black? Surely…you don’t suggest…”
The Rat slammed his fist into the goblet, smashing it into a hundred pieces. Tiny shards flew past WC’s face, falling to the stone floor. “Enough of this! We need you to bring the auto…mo…bile here. I don’t care how you do it…but here it must be…and soon.” He bent his infinitesimal face closer to the Wiser’s, smiling widely. They were almost nose to nose. “We…need something from within it.”
“What?” asked WC in horror. What could the Ratz possibly want from the car?
“What…is our concern, Winston. Bring the car here…and my warriors and I,” he smiled more widely than a Rat possibly could, “will leave.”
That bit of news lit a renewed light within WC. If he could be rid of the Ratz, he would be more famous than U.B. Einstein…or even Graham Berry for that matter. Heck, the Smalls of Folklore might even elect him the new Peer of the Realm!
“My friend…consider it done,” replied WC, as he and the Rat shook hands. Smiling to himself, Winston knew that by tomorrow the Ratz would have left the kingdom and he would be the one who made it all happen, being applauded by all.
Delicately, Red D. Foxx and the four, tiny Smalls crossed the mushroom valley trying not to run over any of the Mushers. It was like walking through an egg garden where every footfall could smash an egg if just one foot was misguided.
Leaping a fallen log, the red fox ran as fast as his legs could take him. The noises behind quickly told him the Anti-Smalls were using their WMD’s in the ways they had always done. A quick glimpse behind revealed massive, four-wheeled machines tearing up the entire flora, mushrooms, and plant life in the surrounding area.
One of the machines busted through a thick wall of flora, throwing leaves and stems everywhere. It was like some horrid monster; its dark red snout tearing its way through the underbrush.
Speeding through the forest, the fox thought of another time. It was when he had encountered another human that almost cost him his life. It was another distant barn filled with chickens and he had been without food for days. It appeared simple enough for him just to ease in, and grab a big, fat, juicy chicken.
He almost had one when an ugly, evening gown-dressed Anti-Small leaped through the threshold welding a long, barreled weapon of mass destruction.
Cocking back the black, slick barrel of the killing weapon, the old, gray man aimed it at the darting, red fox.
“’Et still!!” the Anti-Small shouted. He moved the barrel in circular motions trying to keep the sights on the bouncing red animal. “Teach you ta ‘et ma chi’ens!”
Red D. Foxx saw the tall, lengthy man just as the gun went off. It wasn’t Old Man Walker this time around, but that didn’t matter. Barely missing getting his head blown off for the second time, the fox knew about humans. It appeared all they ever wanted to do was kill all animal life, not to mention the kingdom itself if they were ever to discover it.
Once safely on the other side of the massive field of mushrooms, Red D. Foxx was beaming that the morning had finally arrived. He watched the monolithic sunlight as it swallowed everything in sight.
Praying to the Great Fox in the sky that he was a safe distance from the enemy, he stopped, checking the surrounding area. It appeared secure enough with its pines, willows, chinaberries and hawthorns bordering them. Birds whistled their happiness as a new day was beginning. Earthworms danced out of their holes in search of food, just as the squirrels and other animals started doing.
Keeping a watchful eye out on the terrain, he let the Smalls down to the flora-covered ground. The terror struck him like a slap in the face: they were way beyond the hills. And from the looks of things, they weren’t going back anytime soon.
The mushrooms bloomed proudly as the sunrays thumped onto them like warm water from a stream. The night before had been one of great darkness. Horrible things were happening within the confines of Folklore, and there wasn’t anything the Mushers could do about it. Sometimes things had to work their own solutions out.
The Mushroom Kingdom consisted of a fairy ring of gargantuan proportions. It engulfed the vicinity of Folklore with bright stems glistening in the sunlight. Within the assemblage of mushrooms were the ones known as Agaricus bisporus. It was the species usually grown commercially in shopping centers by the Anti-Smalls.
Some grew up to 4 inches tall with a fleshy cap from about 1 1/4 to 4 inches across. When these mushrooms were ripe, the cap was white or slightly brownish above and pink on the underside. With age, the entire fruiting body changed to a dark brown.
In the younger mushrooms the margin of the cap was jointed to the stem by a membranous collar, which would break at maturity, exposing the gills on the undersurface of the cap.
In Anti-Smalls’ terms it would be almost impossible to count all of the fungi. As far as the eye could see, the mushrooms stretched from one end of the forest to the beginning of the Kingdom of Folklore. It was like a vast ocean of the beautiful (if one considered mushrooms a lovely thing, and the Smalls did) things, just floating there like wondrous oddities. If a twig were to break off a tree, it would strike a mushroom, never finding ground. In fact, the ground was hard to see from up above because of the abundance of fungi living here.
The four wheelers had done damage to almost one-quarter of them. They were thrown about like dead fish out of water. As the humans drove off, the mushrooms grew back. They started sprouting tiny tendrils, and then pushed outwards until the dead one was completely covered up by the new growth.
One particular mushroom stood out among the rest like a sore thumb. It was much taller than the others and stood out like a lonely tree, admiring the surroundings. This particular one had witnessed the exiled ones the night before.
The giant mushroom also watched as they tried to ease through the Mushers, doing their best not to step on any of them. On one occasion, the tall fungus had to lean to the far right, as a massive fox’s paw almost crushed down on it. Then the exiled ones were gone.
The giant mushroom wondered how such a thing could have occurred? The last time Smalls were exiled from Folklore, a serious crime was in progress. It seemed that those particular citizens had tried to overpower the kingdom, making it their own. That was when Graham, Peer of the Realm, was voted in as ‘Watcher of the Smalls’ making sure all Smalls were really what they claimed to be.
Captured in the process of toppling the five Wisers, they were arrested and put on trial. Red D. Foxx wasn’t the attorney on that one, but an older squirrel named Rudolph. He was the one that requested the Ratz be returned to Folklore the first time. There, they would stand as guards in case others tied overrunning the kingdom.
This didn’t go sat well with the Peer of the Realm, who protested the ruling, stating that squirrels had no say so within the kingdom. He was later overruled by the other four Wisers, and soon accused of speaking to a young Anti-Small boy. A short while later, he was arrested. Graham later escaped, leaving the kingdom to the Ratz.
In fear the Ratz may try to take over if not pleased, the four Wisers ruled in favor for the return, being Folklore’s protective army again.
One hundred of them showed up the following morning with their leader Beelzebub. He was twice as large as the rest of them, as they marched through the oval, vine-covered entrance to the kingdom. Dressed in uniforms fashioned from metal-armor, they came in as if they owned the place with their spears and crossbows dangling. All at once, the Wisers knew they had made a serious mistake.
The Ratz had left on their own back then, trekking a forest elf that was said to have killed one of their own. But not long after, they came back, supposedly protecting the kingdom from hostile takeover again. Rumors on the worldwide spider web stated that the Anti-Smalls were preparing to march on the kingdom. It also said the forest was to be leveled, making way for one of the humans’ super houses. Some of the Webbers understood them to be called Malls where the giants went and paid money for things.
When the Ratz came back the second time, Beelzebub was not with them. His soldiers said he was killed in a military action some miles from Folklore, and his body carried off by wild cats.
The mushroom’s thoughts simmered. Again, he wondered why the young Smalls had been exiled from the place. He had checked the snail mail and doubled checked it. The only thing the Musher was sure about was they had been expelled for uncertain reasons. A spider by the name of Widow had been desperately snail-mailing everyone and everything in the surrounding countryside in hopes of seeing why such a thing had taken place.
According to her, no one knew for sure why the little ones had been exiled, but one such snail mail was from the runaway Wiser, Graham Berry, who had been Peer of the Realm at one time.
The giant mushroom bent toward the oncoming wind exploring the thoughts and possibilities. Could it possibly be the old one? Had he finally returned to save Folklore, if indeed it needed saving? After four babies were exiled for no apparently reason, then surely the kingdom was doomed.
Holding its breath, the mushroom felt the pressure of the surrounding area like air from a balloon being released. Seconds later, the outer skin fell free like petals from a flower, leaving not a Musher, but an old Small. He had not been expelled like the rest, but left on his own accord some decades before, around the time Graham had been forced to leave.
Stretching his newfound arms and legs, the ancient Small breathed the air inside his lungs. He was tall and lengthy, wearing white robes that danced in the wind as he stretched. The old elder hadn’t transformed back in well over five years, because there was no real reason to until now.
The downfall of Folklore was in the atmosphere, and it wasn’t a pleasant smell. It was even written in the Book of Ka-Knear, as it stated ‘In the last days, the kingdom would collapse with the Ratz taken control’. And apparently, they had been brought back within the confines of the kingdom to protect it, but this time around, as the book predicted, they would be its downfall.
So, as prophecy went, the Ratz were on the rampage again, and not the Anti-Smalls. And the four Smalls that had been kicked out had to be the saviors Ka-Knear wrote about. But they were just babies? Babies or not, they were the kingdom’s only hope, say for a crazy old fox.
The ancient Small turned around looking at the remains of his mushroom skin lying on the ground. Other, real mushrooms surrounded it. He had been there so long that he had come used to knowing these Mushers.
They were friends of his and would help if asked. But, alas, these Mushers had been concreted from day one. The only chance they had in shifting into Smalls were the seeds of the mushroom prince, Ta-Tszar, that were buried under the Great Hall within Folklore.
And the chance of an unknown Small opening the crevice and removing the seeds were out of the question. As it was, if he stepped foot within the confines of the kingdom, the Ratz would surely arrest him. Then they would put him on trial, making him run the Prickling, or even worse, place him within the Dwelling of Ta-Baa never seeing light again. And at his age, he wouldn’t have a chance.
The old Small collected his twisted wand that was shaped like a twig, and started after the ones who had been exiled the day before. Perhaps when he caught up with them, he could join them and they could all hunt for Graham together. The plan sounded pretty good, but when he did reach the four Smalls and the wild fox, would they actually let him go with them…or would they even trust him at all?
Pilgrim didn’t know for sure if they would or not, because he knew how he felt about strange Smalls back in his day. Running a comb through his long, flowing white beard and fluffy eyebrows, the old Small started the venture in finding the exiled ones.
The river without water stood before them, as Red D. Foxx and the little ones finally reached the edge of the woods. This was what the Wisers had called ‘The Forbidden Zone’ for so many years. It was the place where Na-tuate stopped and Bad-tuate started. It was where the seven, giant orange mushrooms beckoned all Smalls to turn back. But, alas, these five could not turn back.
The place had been here for as long as the fox could remember. As a cub, he and his parents had traveled here many times, crossing the strange landscape. Back then the river without water was much narrower. Crossing it then had also been dangerous if one wasn’t careful. But now, since its growth with more WMD’s consuming it, the trek was just that more treacherous.
Foxx remembered losing his father back then while they crossed the dry river. Small and helpless, the fox had watched in horror as an Anti-Small’s vehicle ran his father down. The humans were not even sympathetic enough to stop and render aid. Red Foxx supposed that animals such as he and his parents were not as important as the Anti-Smalls.
Still recalling that horrible day, the fox stopped behind a cluster of massive elephant ears, gawking at the sight. It was indeed what he had seen as a pup and witnessed upon the quartz wall. Sadly, it was also what the young Smalls had told the court what they saw once arriving there.
Upon the hot pavement somewhere he had lost his father so long ago. He had heard accounts about how the place had grown over the years from other foxes, but dismissed it as just tall tales. How could something once so small become so big in a span of just ten years? The Anti-Small’s construction had to be as wide as three forests tracks, and stretched out as far as the rolling hills within Folklore country.
But here it was in all its beauty…and horror. Massive, iron-like machinations darted up and down the never-ending Bad-tuate like lost fish without a lake. There were huge ones, small ones, double-decker ones, and some that even appeared to be pushing other ones. They were of every color: red, black, orange, gold, and some that appeared transparent. And each time one or two of the AS’s (Anti-Small’s) creations came flying by, Red D. Foxx and the children had to block their ears from the thunderous sounds they made. And if that wasn’t enough, the high wind from the jetting vehicles tried sucking them onto the roadway. It was like Ka-Knear had plucked the thunder and the winds from the heavens and planted them smack down in the middle of the waterless river.
Red D. Foxx couldn’t believe such monstrosities could exist. These were indeed the weapons of mass destruction the Wisers had told them about. Moving mountains were the only word that came to the fox’s mind, as one of the Smalls pulled his stringy hair, getting his attention.
Dingle Berry moved his jelly-like body around to one side of the fox, and looked up at him. “You see? It is…as we’ve said.”
The other three Smalls inched behind Berry, all shaking their heads in disbelief. The fox looked to them, then to the long, winding road, and to them again. In his very best Irish accent, he alleged, “Well…I guess ye’s rite ‘bout that…you were. Well…once we pass that…we’re out of Folklore country… fer good.”
More cars and trucks sped up and down the superhighway as if giving an invitation for the fox and the little ones to cross.
“Common,” one of the semi’s appeared to be saying as it jetted by with the sounds of thunder. “Might as well cross now…and get it over with. Common Foxx…just like your father…it won’t hurt much. Just one quick hit…and it’ll be over with directly.” The fox could have sworn he heard sinister laughter as the massive truck sped by.
The Smalls cowered closer to the fox’s forelegs, as the eighteen-wheeler disappeared down the road.
“Must we?” questioned Curly S. Sue. She watched a Bad Na-tuate zoom down the dry river on just two wheels; one in front of the other. An Anti-Small was just setting there, holding what must had been some sort of steering device. She had studied such myths in History Class while in Grade A. Even though they were told by their parents that the giants were only bedtime stories, she now knew they did indeed exist.
Last time, when the giant left his machine and manhandled Half-Pint, she had her doubts. Maybe she had just dreamed it all up? Besides, in class, she was taught they were just figments of the Smalls’ imagination. But what had happened then and now made Sue a firm believer. That was another reason they had ventured outward: they wanted to know the truth. Well…they found it!
“Yeah…must we?” pleaded the other three at the same time. They all remembered the last time they had dealings with the Bad-tuate place.
Red D. Foxx couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little ones. At the same moment, he started hating the idea of being the ‘adopted’ parent. How he wished he never took the job of being attorney at law for Folklore. But it was too late now, and here he was, exiled from the kingdom with four baby Smalls to protect.
“We ‘ave to. If not…remember da Prickling ruling? I don’t know ‘bout you…but I don’t won’t to run that.”
He looked both left and right down the highway again. It seemed clear at the moment. As far as he could tell, both ways were empty as the road disappeared over two hills on either side.
“Look…it’s empty now! I believe we can make it! Let’s go!”
Without waiting for an answer, Red D. Foxx leaped onto the strange ground. He darted halfway across when he discovered the terrible mistake he had made. None of the Smalls had followed him across. And in no time he heard distant thunder coming his way.
Glancing up the waterless river, he could make out one of the things topping the hill. The evil mechanism appeared like wavy fog at first, and then came to more of a shape. It was one of the larger ones, like the one that had passed by only moments before. It had twin bellows of black smoke blowing from either side of it. From what the old fox could figure, he and the little ones had a few seconds before the thing came barreling down on them.
“Common!” he yelled with somewhat anxiety. “Look,” he replied, turning around in circles feeling the heat of the payment on the bottom of his paws. “It’s simple…and easy. Hurry up though…we haven’t much time. Come now, and we can make it.”
He wished that the little ones had mounted him like before, but it was way too late for that now. And if he went back to get them, they may never cross the place where Folklore ended and the human land started.
The oncoming truck was closer, appearing like a demon whale in the horizon.
“Let’s go!” replied Dingle Berry, moving onto the road next to the fox. The Bad-tuate brought heat upwards toward his tiny hands and face, with a smell like a lagoon engulfed with oil. “Look…it’s like he said…easy.”
He was frightened but didn’t want the others to know it. Standing on the payment, Berry noticed that there were many deep cavities spread out across the face of it. They resembled gaping rabbit holes or perhaps human runs similar to the ones back in Folklore.
Dingle didn’t have time to examine the service or the holes, as he jumped one that resembled a huge footprint. The Small had done the same thing the last time he had ventured on strange soil, but still well within the confines of Folklore territory. It was when he and his father had gone Doff hunting some years back.
Doffs lived some miles north of Folklore, and were about half the size of Smalls. Living under small rocks and overturned leaves, they would attach themselves to everything and everyone that happened by. If they stayed affixed long enough, the Na-tuate of the particular animal infested would be corrupt, making it possible for bad luck and ill health to come about.
So Dingle Berry and his father would use a net to catch the Doffs. Then they would place them on the nearby hills so no one could accidentally bring one back with them to the kingdom.
Curly S. Sue, Rust T. Nail and Half-Pint made it onto the hot payment along with Dingle Berry and Red D. Fox, as the eighteen-wheeler plowed down on them like some monstrosity from hell. The noise it made was worse than any thunderstorm the fox could remember.
Seeing the impending danger that happened faster than he thought possible, Foxx screamed, “Run!! Run for your life’s!!”
Half-Pint fell to his hands and knees in baby fashion. The other three Smalls quickly dashed across the roadway and into the tall grass.
Spying the little one confused and dazed as the monster truck sped toward them, Red D. Foxx ran for the little one’s rescue from his safety in the grass.
The eighteen-wheeler had a double trailer attached behind it, as it barreled down on the baby Small and the fox all to fast. Seeing an animal in the center of the lane, the truck driver blew his air horn hoping the creature would run out of the way before his wheels struck it.
Next to the red fox, something caught the driver’s attention like an oversize bug flying into his windshield. It was small, perhaps just an inch or two in size. He could have sworn it was a baby no larger than his small finger.
Red D. Foxx looked up just in time to see the massive machine of steel and iron barreling down on both of them. Terrified, he didn’t know what to do. At that moment, for some unknown reason, an imaged popped in his mind. He remembered watching a game from a playfield one day that the Anti-Smalls were playing. They would throw some sort of ball toward a stick one of the humans was holding. For some reason, they would strike the ball sending it up into the sky. Believing it was a sign, he gathered up the howling baby as fast as he could and put him next to his bushy tail.
At the last second, with the truck’s horn scaring him to death, the fox took his red, curly tail and knocked Half-Pint clear across the road and into the tall, cattail grass just on the other side.
The Small landed close to the others, as Red D. Foxx turned around. He did so just in time to see a massive, silver smile and thick, black rubber tires engulfing him. The shadow covered his entire world up like a black mark of death.
Safely out of harm’s way, the four Smalls froze with fear. They watched in horror as their attorney, and adopted parent, fell beneath the massive, iron truck, with the round, rotating spheres rolling over him. The terror didn’t stop there. Through the truck’s continuing blowing horn, they heard the screams and cries of their friend as he died under the thing’s belly. His body was thrown out the other side looking like it had been turned inside out.
Dingle Berry looked in terror, as Curly Sue grabbed his arm for support. Rust T. Nail turned toward the baby Small with tears streaming down his face. Yesterday they had lost a home. Today, they had lost a friend.
The four Smalls were now alone, as the evil, metal whale went on its way over a distant hill. Another one that was almost the same shape and size came barreling toward them over the opposite hill.
Shaking, and in shock, the foursome dashed for the safety of the strange forest as the sounds engulfed the waterless river again. Red D. Foxx had giving his life for them, and now they would have to prove he was not wrong for doing so.
Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Pilgrim looked across the field to where the highway was laid out for miles in either direction. He knew what such things were because he had studied them within the confines of the kingdom. But after the Ratz were let back in (for the third time), he had left his home becoming one with nature: Na-tuate.
The highway was almost empty now with no vehicles driving upon it. Slowly approaching the six-lane payment, the ancient Wiser thought he spotted something in the middle of the highway. Getting closer, he jumped with fright as a fast moving car zipped by blowing his long beard to one side.
Walking up for closer inspection, he noticed the object in the center of the highway was what he had feared most: it was the legal representative to Folklore itself, Red D. Foxx. He was bloody and mangled beyond recognition. It was too late for him, but maybe not for the others.
Pilgrim wanted so much to drag Foxx to one side of the road and burying him, but knew that was against nature itself. Sadly, nature’s call was where one fell in death. It was now up to Ka-Knear to deal with the fox’s body. The soul was long gone; now chasing rabbits in a better place.
Spying across the road, Pilgrim noticed the tall, thick grass that hadn’t been mowed for some time. Some layers of it were lying flat. It must have been where the four Smalls had crossed.
Smelling and hearing no more AS machines of mass destruction, the Wiser slowly crossed the highway, feeling the heat as it moved up his bare feet and legs. He hadn’t felt such feelings for a long time now, and it felt good.
He had traveled many such roads, mostly at night with help of fireflies attached to his magic twig. They would just mount on top of the stick, lighting the way. With all of his travels, the ancient Wiser hadn’t really met an evil Anti-Small. That was not to say they did not exist. He knew they weren’t all bad, just as all Smalls weren’t all good.
Making it to the other side of the road, the old Small raised his twisted twig, circling the air in front of him three times. A magic cloud of blue dust hovered from the tip of the stick. It formed into a smoking arrow and gestured due South.
The smoke dispersed like a cigarette’s, as Pilgrim slowly walked where the projectile of dust had pointed. With one last glance toward the dead fox he cried a small tear.
He could have sworn the body had been moved a few feet toward the grassy side of the road. But, then again, Pilgrim’s eyes weren’t what they used to be. Turning back to where he was going, he noticed tiny footprints in the mud between the giant blades of grass. To his recognition, the four exiles had gone this way perhaps a mere hour ago.
Disappearing into the tall blades of grass and ferns, the old Wiser smiled as he continued onward toward his destination.
The beautiful black widow spider had watched all of the proceedings with utmost horror. Widow could do nothing from her web, as the fox and four Smalls attempted to cross the road of death. She, too, had lost a loved one on the road some year’s back.
Seeing what happened to the fox, Widow turned her head in sorrow. But as quickly as she turned away, she glanced back around with hopes that the outcast Smalls would make it. She prayed they would not dash out into the traffic thinking they could save the fox.
Widow had seen many get hit on the roadway with none surviving. And if they did survive, their last few seconds of life would be horrible. They would scream and cry for help as they slowly died. It was an awful thing to get struck on the highway, but getting struck and killed right away was always the best. That way you would feel nothing, joining Na-tuate instantly.
With happiness, she grinned as the Smalls made it to the other side. They were alone there, but at least safe from the horrors of the killing road.
Looking upward, she quickly spotted the highline poles. They had been planted in the grassy ground perhaps a hundred yards apart from one another. The poles separated down both sides of the highway, disappearing over the distant hills.
Shooting a long thread of bright blue web midway up one of the poles, she slowly started climbing until she reached the top. From the pole, long manmade vines, or bad-tuate vines as the Smalls called them, connected from one pole to the other traveling as far as the spider could see.
At the top of this particular pole, a man-made vine traveled to the opposite side of the highway until it reached another pole. What the odd, oval hanging vines were made for confused Widow, as she started across the electric line.
Affixed to it by her blowing string of blue web, Widow crawled further still and started across to the other side of the road of death. It was many yards across this safety net she had taking instead of using the highway, but she had to try.
Halfway across, the wind picked up as trucks and cars zipped to and fro below her.
The wind gushed over her black head like a hurricane just as another eighteen-wheeler darted by below her. The Anti-Small’s WMD caused Widow’s string to fly irregular, missing its intended target, floating down to the hot payment below.
The black widow lost her footing, almost falling to her death.
As the iron thing disappeared over a distant hill, Widow aimed and shot more web onto the highline. This time the web-string stuck to its like fly paper.
She easily glided across the high power line and onto the other side. Once there, she detached the string, and quickly climbed down to the grassy mound. There, she noticed footprints to where the old Wiser, Pilgrim, had ventured. Widow prayed she would get to them before he did.
Pilgrim pocketed his magical twig as he stepped through the tall grass, passing bushes and downed limbs. He knew he wasn’t too far behind the little ones so he speeded up his pace. The old Wiser walked over tiny ferns, ant mounds, and minute insects, as he kept up with the footprints that led onward.
If he could just peer above the undergrowth, perhaps he could spot the Smalls, and shout for them to stop and wait for him. Then again, after all that had happened to them would they actually trust someone they didn’t even know?
Hearing a familiar sound, the old Wiser massaged his long, flowing white beard, and stared upwards. Above the treetops he could make out at least fifty dragonflies airborne. They were heading back toward where he had just come from. Another day had come and gone, as the Smalls ventured onward.
Shaking his head, the Wiser knew dark was coming soon, and that he had to catch up with them as quickly as possible. If not, the baby Smalls would face unknown terrors that waited for them in the night.
Quickly stepping up his pace, the ancient one knew what had to be done. Withdrawing his twig, he stopped, looking at a dead plant known as a Gynura Aurantiaca, or Velvet Plant. It was tall, velvet in color, and had been Bad-tuate for some time. But for what Pilgrim had in mind, it would suit him just fine, rather it be dead or alive.
Pointing the twig at the dead plant, he waved it several times. “Gloriaus dius,” he said aloud with a cracked voice. A small, red light left the stick, striking the dead plant. A minute-cloud of blue smoke emptied from the base of the plant and easily wrapped the Wiser up in a blanket of transparent mists.
Pilgrim grinned as he was lifted up into the air by the cloud-like stuff. He started floating over the flora, being blown eastward like a raft upon a rushing river. From his flying position, the Wiser glanced downward noticing right away where he was. He was just west of his home, with the territory being covered with trees and plant life.
The road where the fox got killed was behind, stretching out in both directions as far as he could see. Perhaps his old eyes were playing tricks on him, but he couldn’t see the fox any longer. Just over the eastern hill was the town of Simms. And after that, in the direction the Smalls were heading, was Rat country.
Soon, he thought with the air blowing against his canvas-like face, he would see them…hopefully before they got any deeper into the forest.
Widow swayed, leaping from one large leaf to another, as she darted toward the distant voices of the exiled Smalls. On one damp leaf ahead, a lizard thought supper was coming his direction. The spider just raised her head, revealing poisonous fangs.
“Sorry, lizard, no supper this time.” She shot wads of web onto his face and front legs faster than his tongue could lash out. Surprised, the green lizard tripped, toppling from his grip on the stem, disappearing into the thick ferns below. Glancing downward, Widow smiled as the thing vanished from sight.
Returning to her mission, the spider bounced off again, heading straight ahead. The Smalls sounded like they were coming from behind the tall foliage ahead. Dark would hit soon, and she had to be there with them before he showed up.
The Smalls stood on top of one another shoulders trying to see above the high meadow they had just entered. It appeared if they could crawl to the very top of one of the blades of grass, the Smalls would be able to see for miles around. But alas, the little ones tried that twice, only to have the stalks bend all the way down to the hard, cold ground.
On bottom of the Small-make shift ladder was Dingle Berry, the heaviest of them all. On his shoulders was Rust T. Nail, almost as tall as one of the blades of grass himself. And on very top of them was Curly S. Sue, with her square framed glasses about to fall from her face.
The three Smalls were swaying to and fro like a snake doing a balancing act on the tip of its tail. Rust T. Nail and Dingle Berry was beneath her, holding each other up by their shoes or whatever else they could find, as Sue spied the surrounding terrain. She was trying to determine where they were headed, and if indeed it was a good idea to keep going in that direction.
She had studied maps of the regions beyond the Zoned Mushrooms, and even got an ‘A’ in class. But, alas, she had left the maps behind in her father’s hut.
On the mossy ground, Half-Pint was curling around Dingle Berry’s feet like a cat to its master. Being to little and to young to aid the Anti-Smalls’ ladder, he was told to stay below, out of everyone’s way. But as with all babies, one might as well be talking to a wall.
Staring down at Pint’s attempt at curling around his ankles like a snake, Berry said, “Half-Pint…no…we told you to stay put!”
“Just one more second!” cried Sue on top of the leaning tower. She was using a crude telescope she had made in science class. It was constructed of elongated bamboo sleeves tied together forming a somewhat long, looking cylinder. Within the gizmo were twin contact lenses setting some ways apart. The Collection Society that Curly Sue joined, prior to being expelled from the kingdom, had confiscated all of the material from an Anti-Small’s home some months before.
From her point of view she saw what appeared to be a dozen or so creatures advancing toward them. “One…more second!” she pleaded with a whisper. Curly Sue adjusted the viewing, as she almost toppled from Nail’s shoulders. “What’s…going on down there? Wait…I see somethin’!”
“It’s Pint!” cried Dingle. His feet were joined together at the moment. “He’s tied…my shoelaces together!” He glanced downward seeing the baby crawling away, giggling.
Dingle tried re-adjusting his feet (and wished a second later he hadn’t) when all of the sudden his feet wouldn’t move. “Ahhhh!!”
He tripped, sending the rest of them to the hard ground with him like rocks falling from a mountain.
“Ohh, that smarts!” cried Sue, as she landed butt first on her telescope. “You broke it!!” she yelled, pulling the scope out from underneath her.
After he collapsed to the hard ground with a thud, Berry questioned the scope with a guilty finger, “How did you…get dat out of the kingdom…not to mention pass those Rat soldiers?”
Curly Sue said nothing while she examined the telescope, trying to find some way of fixing it.
“It’s his fault!” blamed Nail, pointing at Berry like an accuser at a trial. “He…wouldn’t stay still! He kept moving like Doffs were in his pants or somethin!”
“No!” exclaimed Dingle Berry. He reached and grabbed the baby Pint by the flowing nightgown, as the baby quickly tried crawling away from the scene. “He…did it!”
Picking him up, Berry showed the guilty one to his friends. Pointing to his shoes, he remarked, “See…Pint tied them together.”
Half-Pint dangled in midair by Berry’s hand, looking as if a baby caught with its hand in the cookie jar. “Me…not know,” he replied in a soft, child’s tone, while laughing with hands waving out front.
Looking around the tall blades of grass that now consumed them, Dingle Berry massaged his back. He stood up, his jelly-like body bouncing as he did so. “Half-Pint…if I didn’t know better…I’d say you were in league with the Ratz!”
Curly Sue jumped like she had been bitten. “Ratz? That’s it!! That’s what I saw in the telescope!”
The entire group jumped upright with all-out fear.
“Ratz?” they shouted in unison like prospectors would gold they had discovered.
“Yes,” said Curly Sue, grabbing up the telescope. It just dangled like a limb eel. “Oh, no, it’s broke beyond fixing! It took me and Professor Biggs three weeks to come across the materials for this!”
Back in Grade A, she and the professor had received written permission to use the items collected from an Anti-Small’s house that had been abandoned for sometime. Even though the young were taught that the giants were bedtime stories, the older students were told differently.
Some of the Smalls believed to survive in a world of Anti-Smalls, one had to know what their kingdoms were like inside and out. Then, she had used paper to make maps. That was yet another reason she and the other three ventured toward the Bad-tuate world; she just had to know for sure.
The Anti-Smalls houses were huge, almost like carved-out hillsides. She never actually saw one of the giants until the day when one had almost caught them.
Voices came from the distant forest, as the foursome dived behind a hedge of tall, dead-like brush. As the voices got closer, the Smalls witnessed whom they belonged to. They were indeed the Ratz from far away Rattus in the distant Valley of Rodentants.
As they passed, Curly Sue, Rust T. Nail, Dingle Berry and the baby, Half-Pint, held their breath. There seemed to be about sixty in all, dressed in heavy metal fashioned with wraparound suits of armor. In their gloved claws, they held an assortment of weapons such as spears, crossbows and another type that resembled miniature pistols the Anti-Small had been known to use.
The Ratz stomped through the underbrush without a second thought as to what, or who, may be watching them. Their armor and weapons clinked as they marched down a dirt trail. The underbrush disappeared across half a dozen rolling hills containing a line of trees so thick it appeared no normal animal could walk through them.
Some feet behind them was another Rat that was a head taller, fatter and rounder than the rest. He was dressed in complete metal armor from head to toe. He looked as if pure metal instead of a rodent.
He appeared not to belong to the other Ratz, but must have been their leader. He held no weapons, but had steel spikes where his hands should have been.
“Funny,” whispered Curly Sue to Berry. “Do you see?”
Dingle Berry adjusted his jelly-size body for a better look, but could only make out the Ratz marching down the road. What was it Curly was trying to point out?
“Dingle Berry? Look,” she gestured to the full-bodied suited Ratz, “they’re walking upright…but they’re miles from Folklore.”
Still, Berry didn’t understand. “So?” He scratched his bubblehead, confused. All the Ratz he had known in the kingdom always walked up right. It was just normal for him to see them doing that now.
Even Rust T. Nail tried figuring out what the girl was talking about. He thought he might know. “I know,” he replied under his breath, “they’re wearing weird, unknown armor, right? You know…not the type they wear in the kingdom?”
Curly Sue shook her head with disbelief. No wonder they weren’t in school. “No! They’re walking upright…see? And…the only place that that’s possible is Folklore!”
The three male Smalls slowly looked from the advancing Ratz to Curly sue, and back toward the Ratz again. She was right! But how in Ka-Knear’s name was that possible?
Curly Sue couldn’t believe her eyes as the tall, last Rat went by. Something was dangling at the end of a thin, vine-like necklace. It was a crimson-colored acorn that slowly glowed on and off like a firefly was trapped within it. How could it be? Only the Wisers knew the movement of the stones…didn’t they?
But the girl Small knew better than that. The Ratz had somehow broken into the underground structure that housed the magical acorns and mushrooms of Ta-Tszar. The acorns gave Folklore the power to allow animals to walk upright and act just like the Anti-Smalls. Therefore, it gave whoever owned it the ability to act and behave like the giant humans the Smalls hid from.
“What do we do now?” questioned Rust T. Nail. He poked his head out of some nearby bushes, praying it was safe to do so. He had seen the last Rat round the bend, disappearing. Nail couldn’t remember seeing a rodent so large in his entire life. It was like watching a squirrel in guise of a rat.
Curly Sue, the now appointed leader of the group since Red D. Foxx was gone, stood up. She pushed her round-framed glasses up for a better fit on her button nose. “Well…I really…don’t know. I think…since we’ve been cast out of Folklore…we can’t simple go back there.”
Dingle Berry eased out of a stinkweed, and slowly walked up next to the other three Smalls. Had he heard right? Did she actual think the Ratz were headed for the kingdom?
“Do you mean…what I think you mean?” he asked, hoping beyond all hope he had misunderstood her.
Nail and Sue held their noses as Berry walked around them. Not wanting to embarrass his friend, Nail tried holding his breath from the stench. Finding it impossible, he finally exhaled, almost passing out.
“Gush…Berry…you smell like squirrel turds!” he finally said, with his hands on his knees, trying not to puke.
“Yeah…Dingle…try…staying away from those stick weeds. Gosh!!” Curly pointed toward the large stalk plants while pinching her nose tight.
Dingle Berry looked to the giant stalk, and then to his friends. Even Half-Pint was holding his nose with a face of revulsion while pointing toward his own butt.
“Alright,” Dingle replied, “I get the point. No more stinkweeds!”
They all three went a few more feet trying to get away from the smell, then stopped, looking around.
Nail straightened up to his skinny frame of three inches, knowing now that it was indeed safe to do so since the Ratz hadn’t attacked yet. He still hadn’t understood what Curly Sue and Dingle Berry was trying to say before the stinkweed incident. He decided to find out one way or the other.
“Oh… excuse me for being stupid…but what in Ka-Knear’s name have you two been talking ‘bout?”
Curly Sue and Berry looked at each other, then at the tall Small. In this light he did indeed resemble some sort of tall weed, wearing silk clothes of course.
“The Ratz…we believe…they’re heading for Folklore,” answered Sue, as she sat down next to a dead snail, waving her bent twig this way and that.
Nail sat next to her. He tried plundering this for a moment, wondering why such a thing was. “Why? Do you think the Wisers snail mailed more of them to the kingdom?”
Dingle Berry joined the crowd, as Half-Pint crawled up beside them, sucking his thumb.
“Rust T. Nail,” answered the girl, “I’m afraid that’s not what’s happening this time ‘round. Einstein and the other three Wisers only passed a law for only twenty Ratz to enter the kingdom. To many…and Folklore’s people would be a minority; easy to over run and take over.”
“What do ya mean?”
Once again, Curly Sue waved the twig at the dead snail like one pointing at a blackboard. “Na-tuate live,” she chanted three times, touching the dead creature as she did so.
A small, blue electrical stream of light shot from the twig, attaching itself to the snail. The animal moved for a few seconds, then fell silent again.
“Darn! I wished I’d listened more to Einstein while in Division Class.” Putting away the twig, she turned toward Nail, adding more to her answer..
“I mean...that group of Ratz...are marching on Folklore without their knowledge. And...did you see the last one?”
Nail Nodded, remembering the size of the last Rat as it passed them up a few moments before. He’d sure hate to meet that one on a dark lawn.
“Well…if I’m not mistaken…that was Beelzebub.”
That didn’t take to well with Nail, as he fell backward into a small rose bush. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing?
Didn’t Beelzebub die in some stupid war the Ratz fought years ago? Just the mentioning of the name brought shivers down his spine.
Rust T. Nail remembered the many days and nights his father talked about the giant Rat. The massive rodent and all of the horrors he had brought upon the kingdom just before the Anti-Smalls war broke out.
“Beelzebub?” Nail half screamed and half said, as his knees started shaking. Making them stop with his hands, he just sat there soaking all of what he had just heard.
Half-Pint made a quick shot toward the threesome as he heard something moving in the thick brush behind him. Grabbing hold of Sue’s pants leg, he pulled himself up. As he did so, he was sucking his thumb, then stopped and sucked it again. This action made him fall from her knees and to the grassy ground.
Curly Sue, Rust T. Nail and Dingle Berry had heard the noise also. They stood up half expecting to see Ratz rushing in, killing them all at once. That didn’t happen. Instead, an older Small walked slowly out from behind the tall blades of grass. He was using a twisted twig as a walking cane.
Half-Pint climbed behind Curly Sue, as Nail and Berry ducked behind her as well. At first glance the four looked like one deformed Small instead of four. Curly looked at the newcomer with contempt in her eye.
He was taller than Nail, and looked a lot older than most Wisers Sue had seen in her young age. He could possibly bypass U.B. Einstein in decades. He could have even been an Elder, which goes beyond a Wiser in age.
A long, graceful white beard flowed down to his feet. Behind the beard was a face that was kind and wise looking. Above the round, ancient eyes rested large, fluffy eyebrows that were dancing in the wind. Dimples on either side of his hairy face twinkled as he adjusted his square, wire-framed glasses. A smile, not unlike her father’s, crossed his lips as he looked them over.
“Hello…there,” the old one said, almost out of breath. “Sorry…it took me…this long to catch up.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his tiny hand, still grinning.
Sue didn’t know what to make out of the ancient Small. Was he here to bring them harm or perhaps help? Maybe he was a spy sent out by the Ratz to kill them?
“Who…who…are you?” she queried with concern, as the others held her so tight from behind she thought she would tumble backward into the tall ferns.
The old Wiser’s cheeks turned blood red. “Oh…I’m soooo sorry! I’m Pilgrim Small, at your service.”
He bowed so low that his long white beard touched the grass, taking the shape of a horseshoe. Standing back up, he smiled at the four Smalls. “I heard you were exiled from Folklore?”
Sue raised her twig, pointing it at the old one. “No…we just went… for a walk, that’s all…isn’t it?”
Becoming somewhat braver, the other three walked out from behind her.
“Yes,” replied Dingle Berry, looking the Wiser over. “It’s like she said…just a walk.”
Getting up the nerve, Nail agreed with the others, as he noticed Pint crawling out in front, sucking on his thumb.
“Just…a walk?” questioned Pilgrim with curiosity. He kept his distance, not wanting to spook the babies. “Why…so far out?” The Wiser noticed the baby crawling around the other Smalls’ feet. “And with a baby Small?”
Curly Sue was still waving the twig out in front of her. “We…got lost, sir. Now…if you please, we’ll be on our way.”
Pilgrim could tell from the looks of things that the Smalls were scared, shaking, and in need of food and drink.
“Mind if I come along with you?” His voice would crack once and a while, revealing his age.
“No,” said the girl, now aiming the twig straight at the old one’s head. “Don’t let my young age fool you…Pilgrim. I can make great magic! One step closer…and I’ll zap you into a frog.”
Pilgrim couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear as he heard what the young girl said. One thing was for sure, she wasn’t afraid of him.
“A frog? My dear, I saw what you tried with the snail.” Sue shuddered, wondering how long the old Small had been watching them. “Here…let me show you how it’s done. May I?”
Sue didn’t protest. The elder’s smile made her feel pleasant. It was like she had just discovered four scoops of ice cream on her cone instead of the usual one, topped off with large, delicious acorns.
Pilgrim aimed his walking twig at the dead snail and said, “Pasear-tuate!!” Blue lightning streaks left the stick, striking the dead creature on the shell. The snail lit up like a magnificent lightning bug.
Slowly at first, it started moving around. Before the Smalls knew it, the creature was crawling out through the underbrush and was gone from sight.
The four Smalls couldn’t believe such a sight. Never have they seen something dead brought back to life, unless you counted the minute flies around the outskirts of Folklore.
Pilgrim slowly turned toward the baby Smalls. “Would someone out to harm you do such a thing?”
Curly Sue lowered her twig, alone with her head, almost loosing her glasses in the progress. “I’m so sorry, Pilgrim, but…I…I mean we have been through a lot lately. We don’t…know who, or what to trust…after the loss of our friend.”
The old Wiser tucked away his twig. He advanced toward the Smalls, as they started crying. Holding them as a father would, he said in sadness, “I know, young ones. I saw what happened to your friend…and I know what happened to you. But…why in Ka-Knear’s name would they exile you from your home?”
Curly Sue looked to where the snail had been. “The Four Wisers…in the Great Hall…said that we…almost brought destruction to Folklore.”
“Destruction? How?” he inquired with disbelief in his old voice.
Curly Sue explained how they strayed from Folklore, and of the Anti-Small that saw them. She explained that the giant almost found his way to the kingdom, and how the dragonflies chased it away.
“My sweet little babies,” he said in sorrow. “That is no reason to exile four kids from the kingdom. If you only knew how many times the Wisers almost done their own kingdom in.”
He hugged them harder, as they followed suit. They could hold out no longer. They started crying again, as babies should in this sort of circumstance. “No…there must be another reason, my friends.”
After the circle of hugging was over with, the four Smalls stepped back with wonder in their eyes.
“But…we were put on trial just for that,” exclaimed Dingle Berry, mustering up enough courage to speak. “Red D. Foxx gave his life for us, after we were exiled.”
“I know very well about the fox, little ones. But if he was your lawyer…then he was mislead…as well as all of you.”
“Who are you…to talk ‘bout Foxx?” questioned Rust T. Nail, stepping up in front of Sue. Even though his legs were shaking, he held his ground. No one, as long as he had breath in his body, would put his friend, the fox, down.
Pilgrim laughed a whiny laugh. “No…no…I’m not saying he wasn’t a good and dear friend. I’m just saying…he was made to leave with you for a reason.”
“Reason?” questioned Sue with curiosity in her voice.
“Yes,” said the old Wiser, taking a seat next to where the dead snail had been. Taking his twig out, he held it behind his back for a backscratcher.
“Ahh…at my age…those back spots are hard to scratch…or even harder to reach. Ahh!!”
He looked at the Smalls, while still scratching, and said, “I believe the reason to be…the Ratz.”
Curly Sue remembered what she had seen and quickly told the Wiser about it.
Finished scratching, he smiled at them. “Yes…I had seen them as well. Don’t be alarm though…but you were right, Sue. The one you thought was Beelzebub…was Beelzebub.”
“And…they’re after the ---?” she questioned, setting next to Pilgrim, as the others did the same.
“Yes…I’m afraid the time has come. Folklore is about to be attacked for the final time. From within…as well as from out.” He looked at the four Smalls with a tear in his eye. “And…you have been chosen to save it.”
Hearing the news, the four Smalls almost fell backward in shock.
“But…we’re just kids?” complained Nail, looking about the tall grass that surrounded them. “Heck…we still play in stinkweeds.”
Dingle Berry gave him the evil eye. They had settled into a small clearing of compressed grass that perhaps a cow had made the night before.
“Kids yes,” said Pilgrim, looking at a particular tall blade of grass. Something was very odd about the way it looked. “But none the less…you have been selected. And I…am the one to show you how.”
Before anything else could be said or done, Widow the spider leaped off the tall blade of grass. She landed right in the mist of the Wiser and the four young Smalls. Slowly rising up on all eight legs, she eyeballed everyone in sight, especially the old Wiser.
The young ones almost darted away with fright, as Pilgrim grabbed them up, easily, so as not to harm them. “No…wait…it’s another friend.”
He wasn’t surprised that the spider had leaped right next to them. He had been watching her for some time swinging on the long blade of grass some yards away.
The Widow looked at the old Wiser with a grin. “So…it is
Pilgrim, right? You still believe you are the one to teach the chosen ones?”
Chosen ones? This thought rammed itself right into Sue’s brain like a knife through a melon.
The spider was well informed of the old Wiser that had left Folklore so many years ago. She knew he took off after a trial of his went sour. And that didn’t stand well with her, not one bit. She wasn’t about to in trust the babies with the likes of an outlaw.
“Yes, Widow, you read the Book of Ka-Knear, haven’t you?” He stood with his magic twig, walking circles around the spider, as if making ready for a fight.
Widow also circled the old one, smiling as she did so. “You know very well, Pilgrim, spiders aren’t allowed in the Great Hall. But I do know one thing…”
The four Smalls watched the two creatures with awe. One, a Wiser and the other one, a spider, walked around one another like two wild cats about to fight.
First, they had lost their friend, Foxx. Then, an old Wiser claiming to be able to help them save Folklore walked out of the thick grass from nowhere. And now, a black widow spider by the name of Widow leaped out from the grass, seeming to think Pilgrim wasn’t the right one to help.
“And…that is?” wondered Pilgrim, as he slowly came to a stop.
Widow also halted. “I know where Graham Berry, Peer of the Realm is?”
At the mentioning of that name, Pilgrim almost fell over. “Graham? Impossible? I heard he died fighting Beelzebub years ago.”
The spider smiled warmly at the four young ones who had backed away not really knowing what to expect. “No, Pilgrim, I heard him on the World Wide Spider Web.”
Pilgrim still couldn’t believe what his old ears were hearing. So setting next to Widow, they called the small ones back to them. With hugs of warmth, the four exiled ones knew that the two newcomers meant no harm.