Macy and Anna Save Candyland Bite 3
Meeting a Giant
"Did you hear that?" Macy asked the others.
"Hear what, Your Highness?" P. Awn replied. The sounds came again.
"That!" Macy stood up. They definitely were footsteps. It sounded like they were coming closer. Now Anna and Peter stood too. They looked north toward the apparent origin of the sounds. The trees shook. Anna crossed the path and stepped close to Macy. Macy grabbed Anna's hand and squeezed. Her palms were wet with perspiration. Her heart felt as though it would beat straight through her ribs. She could hear Anna breathing in short gasps.
"W-w-what do you think it is?" She stammered out.
"I don't know," Anna whispered, swallowing hard. "Stand strong. Be brave." To Macy it sounded as if Anna were trying to convince herself to do just that.
“M’lady's get behind me." Peter Awn commanded. He pulled a sword from the sheath at his side and stood in front of them. The tip of the sword he held in the direction of the footsteps. One step. Two. The sword wavered slightly. The steps were coming faster now. Louder too. Giant booms they could feel in the soles of their own feet. Peter squared his shoulders and adjusted the sword, trying in vain to hold it steady.
Then out through the trees came a man unlike anything they were prepared for. Anna's mouth dropped open and her half eaten candy stick fell out and to the ground. Peter let out a small gasp and Macy said "It's true. It's all true!" Out of the forest had come a tall, lanky, giant of a man. Eight feet tall and thin as a birch tree. He was wearing red pants with red suspenders, a red and white striped shirt, and a striped hat to match. The man was also wearing a scowl on his otherwise pleasant looking face.
"Who is tearing down my trees?" He demanded. He pointed his candy cane walking stick at them. "Who are you and what are you doing here? Did Lord Licorice send you to finish the job?!" The man's eyes were fierce and stern, but behind the scowl they could see a hint of kindness. Anna stepped forward.
"S-sir, w-who are you? Why are you angry at us? We are just traveling through. We haven't done anything wrong."
"Nothing wrong?" He repeated. "Then why are your lips stained red and why is there a branch broken off of my tree." He glared so hard at Anna that her eyes dropped to look at the ground.
"Yes, sir. You are right. I did break a branch off your tree."
"Because you are agents of Lord Licorice," the man broke in angrily. "Coming to finish what you started! Trying to destroy the forest!"
"Sir, I'm not sure what you are talking about, but I swear that I only broke a small branch. I wanted to see if it tasted like a candy cane." She held out the rest of the broken branch. "Here, you can have it back. I'm afraid I already ate that bit there."
"You still haven't said who you are and where you are from," the man said, not quite so angry now. This time Macy stepped forward.
"You haven't told us who you are either. You've only accused us of being agents of Licorice." She spat the name out as if it tasted badly. "We are the daughters of King Mattel. We are on our way to King Kandy's birthday celebration. Not that it is any of your business."
"King Mattel's daughters? The princesses from Chutes?" The man was incredulous. "Why aren't you with a royal guard? Why have you come on your own? Don't you know Lord Licorice has spies everywhere?"
"We were assured we would be safe," Anna said. "We were told that Lord Licorice has been in jail. Besides, Peter here will protect us. Now, WHO are you?"
"Your majesties, I am Mr. Pfeffar Mint. Protector of the Peppermint Forest and your humble servant." Mr. Mint bowed low. "Please forgive my accusations, you can never be too careful. Especially after, after..." And here he broke down crying.
A Sad Sight
"Mr. Mint!" Anna was surprised at this rapid change of events. "Whatever is the matter?"
"Oh my forest, my beautiful forest!" He sobbed into his hands. Red sticky tears squeezed between his fingers. "What am I going to do?"
"Mr. Mint," Macy said in a sharp voice. "You've got to pull yourself together and tell us what is wrong. Maybe we can help you." Anna put her hand on his arm.
"Shhhh, it's okay. Whatever it is, I'm sure we can help you. Macy is a whiz at thinking of solutions." Mr. Mint's crying quieted. After a few more shuddering breaths, he swallowed and said,
"Perhaps it's better to just show you." He took a red and white striped handkerchief from his breast pocket and began to dry his red cheeks. The initials P.F. were emblazoned on the corner in black lettering. "Follow me." Then he turned and started up the path.
"Um, Mr. Mint," Anna said, a bit timidly.
"You're not going to eat me are you?"
"Eat you?! Why ever would I eat you?" He questioned.
"You know. Because of the old poem." And she sang him the poem.
"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!
And then the story says if you don't sing the poem you get eaten. I didn't sing the poem, but I am sorry I ate your tree without permission. Please forgive me, and please, please don't eat me!" At these words, Mr. Mint's face changed again, this time to a look of astonishment.
"Who taught you that song?" He asked.
"My mother." Anna replied. "She said it was an old legend she heard from her mother when her mom was trying to tell silly stories. I never really believed there was a peppermint forest, let alone a giant peppermint guardian until today, and please don't eat me!" She looked genuinely worried. Mr. Mint chuckled.
"I haven't heard that song in many, many years. Of course I'm not going to eat you. My father made up that poem you know. I don't know where the tune came from. We went through a spell where the school boys wouldn't let the trees alone. They'd eat the saplings bare. It was starting to affect the forest. My dad figured he needed to put a stop to it, so he made up the poem and started telling the tall tale."
"Did it work?" Macy asked. "Did the boys leave the trees alone?" Mr. Mint chuckled again.
"Anyone who knew my father knew that he'd never hurt a flea, let alone eat some little boy for dinner. He was so jolly and happy all the time most kids would play in our yard for hours even if me and my siblings weren't around. But they figured if he was serious enough about the trees to even threaten to eat someone, they'd better pay attention. The group of unruly boys learned the poem and then would sing it out as they came near the forest. My dad showed them which trees they could snap a little off of without hurting anything. The boys were happy, and dad was happy. I think he purposely would lead them to trees that needed a little pruning. He received a lot of willing free labor that way." He chuckled again. "Eat you. Ha! You'd be a pretty tiny morsel. You're hardly big enough to fill my oven. I could bake you and have enough room for a horse too!" He kept chuckling as his long steps led the group up the path.
They turned a corner and then, as one, stopped dead in their tracks.