Macy and Anna Save Candyland Bite 2
The First Night
The threesome moved into the nearby forest of trees which smelled like a bakery in the middle of cake baking time. The scent faded the further they traveled away from Mr. Ginger-Tree. It seemed as though these trees weren't quite the same variety as he was, they boasted less gingerbread fruit, and certainly less detail. Some of the fruit didn't appear to be gingerbread boys at all just round blobs rather like a gingery apple. Macy picked one and tried it but it didn't have the same pungent flavor as Mr. Ginger-Tree's boys. They picked a few and put them in their bags just in case; while not as tasty they certainly would be filling on a hungry morning.
After an afternoon of walking they felt it was time to find a camp for the night. A soft place between two trees looked especially inviting. Their manservant, Peter Awn, laid out their bedding and set up a bed for himself nearby. Then he kindled a fire and took out their food.
"My feet are sore," Anna complained. "I don't think I've ever walked that far before." She took off her shoes and began rubbing the source of her complaints. "I think my shoe size has increased by two." Macy rolled her eyes at that, they hadn't walked that far.
"We haven't walked that far," she scolded. "Put your shoes back on, the compression will help keep the swelling down. Should help a bit with the pain too." She pulled a tea tin out of her bag. Dipping some hot water out of the pot on the fire, she mixed it with some tea leaves in a cup. "Drink this, it will help."
"What is it? It smells awful," Anna grimaced.
"Just drink." Macy was feeling a bit grumpy too. Maybe it was the long day, maybe it was the sweet smell of the forest which was now giving her a headache. Or maybe it was the feeling that someone was watching them. She'd been feeling that for some time now, a prickly feeling at the base of her neck, making all her little hairs stand on end. Several times that afternoon she whipped around and stared hard into the trees, trying to spot whatever, or whoever it was giving her that feeling. She never saw anything however, and now she just felt tired. Tired of being on guard and tired of feeling scared. Her arms and legs didn't want to cooperate as she went through the motions of making them some dinner. The cook at home had sent plenty of dried vegetables and meat to make soup in places where they couldn't buy food. She added a package of these ingredients to the simmering water in the pot. Slowly she stirred the fragrant liquid, her mind jumping from one thing to the next. We've only come a tenth of the way of our journey, what dangers lay ahead, she wondered. They had planned for the trip to take two weeks, already they were three days in. Thankfully the weather so far was fair and cool. If it grew warm or rainy, they would be in trouble. Their food should hold out too, even if they didn't find someplace to buy more. Absent minded, she put the stirring spoon to her lips to test the tenderness of the vegetables.
"Yowzers!" She cried. "I burnt my tongue!" Several things happened at once. She threw the spoon to the ground just as Anna got up to help her and the manservant came running to see what the scream meant. Anna and P. Awn collided. While trying to right herself, Anna tripped on the thrown spoon and ran into Macy. They collapsed on the forest floor, shaking the ground and causing overripe fruit to drop from the branches with a plopping sound. One hit P. Awn square in the center of his head. For some reason, from her position on the ground, entangled in Anna's arms and legs, this gave Macy a fit of the giggles. She started giggling and shaking and pretty soon she laughed so hard tears were running down her cheeks. Anna managed to get free from their pileup and stole a glance at P. Awn. He stood there with a stunned expression on his face, gooey gingerbread oozing around his ears and dripping onto his shoulders. Anna began giggling too, then laughing. Soon both girls were back on the ground rolling with laughter.
"I'm afraid I don't see the humor," P. Awn said with forced dignity. He calmly wiped his head with a handkerchief and walked off. "Excuse me while I go soak my head." This sent the girls into another fit of giggles. It was quite some time before they regained control.
Macy's tongue felt as if stung by a bee. Each bite of the soup stabbed it with pain. She ate one bowl then declared herself finished.
"I hope my mouth feels better by morning." She said as she slowly ate one of the ginger fruit from a nearby tree and drank a little of the water from their canteen. The cool water and fruit went down better than the warm soup. It was dark when they finished the last of the soup. P. Awn rinsed out the little pot and then settled down into the bed he had made for himself. Macy and Anna kept their dresses on as they got into their bedrolls. It was easier and safer not to change into their pjs. Faintly, between the leaves of the trees above they could see a few stars.
"Macy?" Anna whispered in the darkness a note of anxiety in her voice.
"We are safe out here, aren't we?"
"Of course we are," Macy reassured her. "Mother would not have let us come if we were not safe. Besides, we have P. Awn to guard us."
"As long as he's not off soaking his head!" The girls dissolved into giggles again and giggled themselves to sleep.
A Forbidden Taste
Peter Awn did not fall asleep. He waited until the girls were quiet and breathing evenly in a deep sleep, then he crept away from the camp. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he "whoo, whooed" a few times in a pre-arranged signal, four short hoots, one long, then two short again. Out of the darkness came a blue shirted man. The two put their heads together and talked quietly for a few minutes. Nodding that he understood, P. Awn went back to the camp. Silently the blue shirted man glided into the woods to continue to keep watch.
The traveling party had not been on the road long when they noticed a change in the foliage of the trees. Gone were the strange ginger blob fruit and instead the leaves had faint red stripes. There was a new scent to the air too. No longer was the smell so heady and rich, now the breeze brought a minty fragrance. A few hundred feet ahead they could see a complete change from the heavy bark of the ginger trees to the smooth white and red stripe of the Peppermint Tree. They had reached the Peppermint Forest.
"Mmmmm, smell the air!" Anna was delighted with this change. She flung her arms out and spun around and around, shouting "give me a lick of your peppermint stick!" Their mother had taught them an old poem about the ruler of the Peppermint Forest.
Mr. Mint, all red and white,
With your smile oh so bright.
Your legs so long and your face so kind.
There's only one thing on my mind.
Please don't be greedy, please don't kick,
Just give me a lick of your peppermint stick!
Legend said that a long legged giant ruled the Peppermint Forest. In the stories he was a kind and gentle ruler who fiercely guarded his mint stick trees from harm. If you sang him the poem he would give you a peppermint, but woe to you if you tried to steal any of them. If you did, he would eat you for dinner and he wouldn't let you have any candy first! Anna certainly didn't believe the tall tale, but it was fun to shout out the final line of the poem. She did it again for good measure.
"Just give me a lick of your peppermint stick!" She ran over to the peppermint trees and hugged the first one she came to. "I can hardly believe what I see! They do look just like a candy cane." The brilliant red and white stripe of the tree's smooth bark started where the tree met the ground and ran all the way along the branches to where they ended at the leaves. The leaves themselves bore stripes also along with just red leaves and just white ones. Spotting a few leaves on the ground, Anna stooped and picked one up. She placed it on her tongue. Eyes wide she giggled,
"It's a peppermint flake! Taste one, Macy! Try it, Peter!" She scooped up a handful of leaves and ran back to them. Obediently, Macy and P. Awn put one each in their mouth. Macy grinned.
"It IS just like eating a peppermint flake! Give me another." They ate several more leaves until their lips became sticky and red. Anna dashed back to the tree. Impulsively, she licked the bark.
"Anna, what are you doing?" Macy looked horrified. "Did you just lick that tree? I can't believe you just licked a tree."
"It's the same as eating the leaves," Anna protested.
"it certainly is not!" Macy retorted. "Licking a tree, well, it's not a good idea. What if you had gotten a sliver? What if, I don't know, what if there had been bugs on it?"
"Well, I didn't and there weren't. So I don't think there's anything wrong with what I did." Anna stuck her red and white tongue out at her sister in a teasing way. Then she reached up and pulled down on the closest branch.
"What are you doing now?" Macy asked.
"Breaking some off. I bet it's like eating a stick of peppermint candy."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"You never think anything is a good idea."
"What about the legend?" Macy's voice squeaked a little on the word legend.
"Legend smegend. Stop being such a scaredy cat." And with that not so intelligent reply, Anna snapped the branch right off. She broke off a smaller twig and popped one end into her mouth. "Mmmmm so yummy!" She said around the end of the stick. "The peppermint goes through the whole thing. I wondered if there would be a woody center, but it is all candy." She offered some to Peter and he took it and put it in his mouth. Soon they were both sucking noisily. Macy refused to eat any.
"You shouldn't have broken that tree," she scolded.
"Oh, come on, Macy. Lighten up. There are plenty here." Anna rolled her eyes and sat down on the edge of the trail to finish her treat. Macy sat down with a huff on the other side of the path and crossed her arms. How was she going to keep Anna safe if Anna wouldn't even listen to her. And Peter! He should know better than to eat that tree! He knew the legend better than either of them.
A faint rustle and boom echoed through the trees. The leaves on the nearest trees fluttered and waved. Macy looked around. Was she hearing things? There it was again. Almost like a footstep. But if it was a footstep, it was made by some pretty big feet.