Macy and Anna Save Candyland Bite 5
The Plot Thickens
Jolly's donkey was every bit as short and round as his owner. Anna wondered how he could even stand up with Jolly on his back. Jolly had also packed several bags which hung from various places on him and his donkey. When the donkey moved the bags clunked and rattled, making a funny kind of music for their journey. The donkey, appropriately named Sugar Pie, took four steps to every one step of Mr. Mint's long legged stride. It gave Anna the giggles every time she watched them, and she took to thinking sober thoughts in order to not offend Jolly with her merriment. I'm not doing very well with spying on this trek, she thought. How can I find out more information about the people living in Candyland? They knew the traitor who leaked the information about the location of King Mattel's battleship was not from Chutes. All of his officers and personnel passed the rigorous investigation easily. This meant that the informant was from one of the surrounding kingdoms. But who? And why? Why would anyone want to align with Lord Licorice? Anna figured it was the old standby, greed. Greed was what caused a lot of bad things to happen in the world. Maybe Lord Licorice had promised a position in his new kingdom or maybe he had promised gold by the cart load. It didn't really matter what he had promised, all she knew was that her father was dead because someone had more greed than integrity. She decided she better get started with her investigation.
"Jolly," she began. "Tell me about some of the travelers you've seen. I imagine they go past your house to get through the pass on Gumdrop Mountain."
"Oh, more than that. More than that," Jolly replied. "They must stop at my house and ask permission to cross. Yes, permission to cross. I've been charged with keeping the pass secure you know. A very important job. Very important."
"So, you do see the travelers? Tell me about some of them."
"Most of them are headed to the Kandy Kastle. King Kandy's Kastle. They want to get an audience with Kandy and air their grievances. There was one group you may be interested in hearing about. Six months ago an entire circus troupe wanted to cross the Gumdrop Pass. Monkeys, clowns, lions, jugglers, snakes, acrobats...." Here he trailed off, imagining the scene. Anna tried to picture it too, briefly closing her eyes to see it all better. "Each one dressed in clothes more colorful than the last. Even the animals had clothes. Even the animals. Blue stripes, purple polka dots, yellow stars, all over everything. Their carts were pulled by giraffes, and their beautiful dancing ladies rode elephants. Elephants."
"Where did they come from?" Mr Mint asked.
"Oh, they were from South of Here. South of Here."
"Monopoly?" Anna asked. Monopoly was situated directly south of Candyland.
"Oh no, not from south of here. From SouthofHere." This time he pronounced it as one long word. "From the Land South of Here." Anna was still a little confused.
"Isn't Monopoly south of here?"
"Yes it is. Yes it is. But they came from South of Here. The country is called SouthofHere. Called SouthofHere."
"Oh, I see!" Anna figured it out. "That's the name of the country."
"Yes. It's to the East. To the East." Jolly nodded vigorously, his jowls shaking up and down. "Anyway, a big sugar storm came up on the mountain, and they couldn't cross for four days. Four days. They set up their camp in my yard, I have a big yard. They practiced their acts and worked out the kinks in their new tricks. It was happy chaos. A happy chaos." Each word he said was punctuated by the jingle and clank of his bags against the donkey's side.
Anna didn't think a troupe of circus performers hid the traitor she was looking for. As far as she knew there weren't any jugglers or acrobats in her father's army or navy. No dancing ladies riding elephants either.
"Tell me more." She prompted. "Do you ever meet people who are traveling alone?"
"Oh, no one worth mentioning. Once a man came over from the other side of the mountains, but you wouldn't be interested in him. Wouldn't be interested. The only thing different about him was his shirt. It was blue."
"Blue?" Anna repeated. The color was setting off a jangling alarm in her mind that had nothing to do with the cacophony coming from the luggage on the donkey. Where had she seen or heard of a blue-shirted man? She shrugged. It would come to her eventually.
"I remember the blue because it was a sort of sky blue. It happened to be the shade I was when I was a boy. Before I became the magnificent color I am today. Magnificent color." He went on for several minutes about how his skin was the shade most enviable among his kind. According to Jolly, his skin was perfectly blue with perfect yellow spots. "Everyone says it. Everyone says it." He concluded.
Mr. Mint had been quiet during this exchange. His normally pleasant face held an unreadable look. He broke into their conversation.
"The Forest begins over the next rise." They crossed the rise in relative silence, Mr. Mint with his long legged stroll, the donkey with a hurry-up step, and Anna bringing up the back of the group and lost in contemplating the things Jolly told her.
A Wonderful Discovery
"I don't think Mr. Mint likes Jolly very much." Anna told Macy as they were preparing for bed that night. "He barely said two words to Jolly, and he kept making faces when Jolly told me stories."
"Maybe he's just worried about the forest," Macy said. "I'm sure he will warm up when he sees how much work we finished."
"Maybe," but Anna sensed it went deeper than that. The expression on his face when Jolly mentioned the blue shirt almost seemed hostile, a strange look on his normally happy face.
Earlier that evening the group prepared and ate a late dinner together when Anna, Jolly and Mr. Mint arrived back at Mr. Mint's house. The sky was too dark for Macy, Peter, and Starlight to show them how much work had been done. While they ate, they discussed the plan for the next day. They would break into two teams. Anna and Peter would work with Jolly and his donkey. Their group would bring the broken peppermint trees to the clearing. Macy, Starlight, and Mr. Mint would use the pony to make stacks of the various sizes of fallen candy sticks. Starlight would gnaw the trunks into a manageable size, and Mr. Mint's axe would serve them too. They estimated three days to complete the work.
The next few days progressed slowly. They managed to fill Mr. Mint's horse cart with nearly undamaged pieces of trunk. They also set aside many piles which they earmarked for shipment to candy shops throughout the land. The pieces too small to sell whole were put into bins to be ground down for use in peppermint icing.
Late in the afternoon on the second day, they group heard Anna's excited cry. They went running to her work space. The others found her stooped low to the ground, holding something in her hand.
"Look what I've found!" She cried with delight. "Just look!" There in her hand was a tiny sapling, just four inches long. Incredibly, it was undamaged with its roots still attached. "That's not all," she went on. "Look here." She lifted the branches of a grounded tree. There underneath still standing was a dozen more tiny saplings.
"All is not lost," Mr. Mint said. "From these tiny saplings, I can regrow the forest. There is hope." He turned and shook everyone's hands. "Thank you each. Thank you so much. I never could have done it without you." His eyes welled with tears. Macy and Anna sniffed too. Peter and Anna each grabbed a side of the downed tree and lifted it off the baby saplings. As they moved the tree to the side, Mr. Mint knelt in the dirt and caressed the little peppermint trees. He straightened a branch here and trimmed off a leaf there. Jolly came closer to the tiny plants. He stumbled a bit, and his left foot crushed a sapling. Mr. Mint glared at him.
"Oops. Oh dear, oh dear. I'm so sorry. Sorry." Jolly backed up a few paces. Mr. Mint shook his head.
"Just be more careful next time." He replied.