Looking for Jack was no easy feat.
After leaving the Snoot Arch, my journey took me over gently rolling foothills with tall wavy grasses made by a warm southern breeze. It was lovely and peaceful.
But foothills do become something much steeper, and that was when I found myself at the bottom of a long climb. And where that path led was where I needed to go. I was looking for Jack. My small, big-hearted frog. He was in imminent danger, and I needed to do something to save him.
The path I was on quickly became a switchback that weaved its way up the lower part of the mountain. Eventually, it ended, and I faced an even steeper climb. Up was the only way, so I dug my fingers into a crevice of the grey slate rock. I slowly pulled myself vertically until I eventually hoisted myself onto a small plateau where I rested.
Though terrified of heights, I forced myself to view a most splendid scene. The valley from which I came was lush with many hues of green, which met the clear blue sky – one with small puffs of clouds to the east. The land stretched to meet the water at a part of the Knockwood Forest called “The Shallows.” The shores were teeming with life. It was where River Joe, Toad, and Horseshoe lived. If I squinted, I could see the Bog Bean patch offshore.
“They’re too far out.” I thought. Oh, another issue I would have to deal with soon. I pulled out paper and pencil and added that to my list.
You see, for the last several years, I had troublesome things happen, preventing me from spending time with my characters as I would have liked. Assisting them with their lives and well-being. Helping them on their journeys. And this lack of attention led to River Joe almost drowning, Duncan stealing someone’s egg, and the Shallows becoming an inner city of uncaring, callous chatter. Dare I mention the Wretcheds? Oh, you don’t even know who they are yet! Which is exactly my point. Such neglect! How can I warn you if I haven’t told you about the buzzards with a toxic brew? Perhaps I just have. Another story coming soon. But first, Jack. I must find him.
One important thing to know about the Knockwood Forest is that the flowers are the eyes, and the trees are the voice. Together they communicate issues and happenings, passing information easily to the Peckuliars, a group of seven blackbirds who care for and oversee the well-being of all who live on and in the waters surrounding the Forest.
You can never have too many trees or flowers. And so, I reached into my sack of wonder and pulled out a handful of seeds.
“Ah, the Propeller Violets!” I said to my delight. These purple seeds would grow into stunning flowers! A rotation of striped, purple and mauve petals would encircle the orange pistil and yellow stamens.
I tossed them aloft, and the wind took them up and up until they settled into the cracks and crevices of the rock. I was certain they would find rich soil.
After resting, I tied my sack to my shoulders and continued to climb. Within a few hours, I reached the summit. Exhausted, I rolled onto my back, resting on the sun-warmed rock. It was so welcoming, even with a cool crisp wind swirling above.
I had been in this part of the island before, but it had been a while. It was rocky and beautiful. Not completely desolate, but still and quiet. That was until I heard a soft “whinny.” I got to my feet and listened. Then, again, I heard the soft, high-pitched neigh. It was coming from the northwest. I walked towards the sound, and there in the clearing stood a very large game of land chess. The Knight who had been sitting on his haunches stood, tossing his head upwards, happy to see me. He moved the appropriate “rank and file” along the squares. Then, nodded to the King and Queen and trotted off the board toward me.
I reached into my sack. The horse nudged my arm playfully, knowing I would have something for him.
“For you, my dear, Sir,” I said, producing the most perfect red apple. He gratefully chomped into it as I pet his soft grey muzzle.
His full name is Sir Templeton. I just call him “Sir.” He’s a Wetlock. An uncommon breed of horse who found their way to the island by way of an odd occurrence, a sandbar.
“How you been, fella? It’s been a while. How did you get way up here?”
He moved his head in the direction of the chess set. Ah, yes. You see, everyone in Knockwood Forest has a job. And being a knight was his job. And a good job for a Wetlock. For they are deadly loyal and chivalrous.
“I’m on another journey. I must find Jack. Have you seen him?”
Sir sniffed the air and shook his head. He nudged my hand again. I reached back into my sack and pulled out a handful of oats. He ate happily. I loved feeling his soft muzzle in the palm of my hand.
“I must keep going.”
He motioned stoically, holding his head high and stomped his front hooves twice. Then, he nudged my sack and made an upward motion.
“Ok,” I said, throwing the sack onto his back. “Let’s get going!” I was more than delighted to have him join me. Sir turned to the Queen and King, nodded, and turned back to me. Together we began our wander heading eastwardly, not knowing where we were going and with no idea what we would find.