The Land of The Three Willows
It is a beautiful place. It is green, so very green, and it seems to go on forever. Even if I walked all day I could never reach the end. Maybe that is because I don’t want it to end. Most of the time I feel very safe when I am there, alone. It is my secret place and I never let anyone else follow me when I enter this magical land. But sometimes there are shadows that don’t belong there and that scares me.
My name is Ostara. That is not my given name. It is the name I wear when I visit my secret place. I am twelve years old and I am able to do many magical things. Not magic tricks like pulling a rabbit out of a hat or making a coin disappear but real magic. When I am the ‘Great Ostara’ I can turn a stone into a turtle or make it snow in July.
There are mountains far to the north. Sometimes they are blue like the back of a dolphin and then they turn Crayola purple. There is always snow on their giant shoulders. However, I have never tried to travel to them as they appear to be many days away. Besides, I have a bad feeling about what might be behind those beautiful rainbow peaks.
Sometimes, my friend Diamond appears along the path. He is a handsome white wolf with silver-like blue eyes that sparkle and give him his name. He is magical too, like me, and his favorite trick is to disappear and then reappear when you least expect it.
The first time I entered this beautiful place I followed a path through trees so tall their top branches vanished into the clouds. With a flash of white, Diamond arrived in front of me and, after greeting me with a welcoming nod, led me deeper into the woods. As dark and mysterious as it was, I still felt safe with Diamond trotting ahead of me like the welcoming beam of a lighthouse.
Eventually, the trees began to grown shorter and farther apart and a large clearing appeared. It was covered with a soft layer of moss and a dark green carpet of plants with tiny blue blossoms. A narrow stream of clear water whispered its way across this magical meadow and, reflected in its rippling surface, stood three weeping willow trees.
Diamond sat, like a white Buddha, in front of the middle tree, which was the largest. Its drooping branches rained down around his head almost as if it were caressing him. The other two trees were smaller and seemed to lean in slightly towards the center tree. “This is Darax,” said Diamond, “She is the mother of Strom and Stablo.” He turned his head first to the left tree and then to the tree on right. “They are brothers,” he explained.
Diamond doesn’t actually speak like you or I do. It’s just that when he looks at me a certain way I understand what he’s saying. “Darax welcomes you to her queendom and invites you to sit beside her and her two princes,” Diamond said, as he stretched himself out in sphinxlike position. I was a little nervous about joining him under the umbrella of branches but once I sat down it was as if I had returned to a place I knew well.
Darax and her sons live at the center of what I’ve come to call the Land of The Three Willows. Their gentle energy radiates out into the fields, the hills and the woods like the ripples on a pond. Whenever I go exploring, no matter how far I wander, I can feel them watching over me.
Someday I will draw a map of this special place with all the wonderful things I have discovered. Like the Upside-Down Falls where the water runs up the cliff. I know you think I’m lying but it’s true. The stream, which I have named the Wanderer, continues into the woods until it meets a hill made of stone the color of the deer that I often see drinking from the stream. Here the water climbs up the steep side of the hill and then continues gurgling along its flat green top. It does, it really does.
Then there is the Cave of Voices. The first time I entered it I was scared because I started to hear someone talking but then it changed into singing and the sound was so beautiful that I was no longer afraid. Diamond had led me to this cave but, for some reason, he wouldn’t follow me inside. In fact, in all the times that I’ve visited the cave he has always waited for me outside.
I have never been in other caves but I have always imagined them to be dark and scary. The Cave of Voices, however, has walls that glow with a soft blue-white radiance so that you feel like you are standing in moonlight. The songs, that emanate from the voices, echo off the walls and wrap around me like a warm shawl. I don’t really know where the singing comes from even though I have searched every inch of the cave. It’s as though the music lives in the air itself.
There are several very old ruins in the Land of Three Willows; a castle, a cottage, a bridge and a tower. The castle is hollow inside; just the outside walls are still standing but it’s a great place for climbing. It is covered with vines and moss and I often imagine what it must have been like to live there.
The cottage is very small as if it belongs to the seven dwarfs or to some magical woodchuck. It has holes in the roof but sometimes I rest in the room with no openings in the ceiling. I cuddle with Diamond and he keeps me warm. There is an old wooden shelf on one wall that has a single book resting there like a lonely visitor. The book is very dusty and the leather cover creaks when you open it. When I first tried to read its yellowing pages I saw that it was a volume of poems but the next time I opened it it had turned into a book of riddles. “What goes up and never down, makes no sound and is not round?” I’m still trying to figure that one out.
When I need to cross the Wanderer at its widest point I can use the Turquoise Bridge. Although it is made of big stone blocks, the color of the rock is this pale blue-green like a mermaid’s tail. The bridge is crumbling in places, mostly the side walls, but it seems safe. One day I was looking at the reflection of the bridge in the water and I noticed that there was writing on its underside. I tried to read what it said but it was just a bunch of words in a language I didn’t understand. I hope someday to be able to translate what it’s saying.
The tower is on the mesa above the Upside-Down Falls. Although it tilts a little bit it’s still solid and the stone stairs inside take you up to a room at the top. Here it is brightly lit with daylight from the four openings that face in four directions. You can see the way the land is laid out, north, south, east and west. There are faded letters painted above each window to tell you in which direction you are facing.
There is so much more to write about but I must stop for now as it is getting dark and my candle is burning low. Until next time, yours truly, Ostara.
The Land of The Three Willows is real! I know how hard it is for outsiders to believe it when I tell them about Darax and her sons and Diamond and the tower and all the other magical things I have seen. But it doesn’t matter. I know they are real. I have seen and heard and touched and tasted everything I am writing about.
For example, there is a garden near the castle that was very overgrown with weeds and brambles, some as tall as me. By using my magic I cleared and restored it to what I imagine was its previous life. Anything and everything can grow there; purple carrots, red potatoes, blueberries, blackberries and green lettuces and herbs. And flowers! yellow Sunflowers (my favorites because they are always smiling) pink Hollyhocks like tiny ballerinas, Bluebells, orange Nasturtiums, red Poppies and chartreuse Hydrangea. Color is everywhere!
But best of all, there is a corner of the garden where a special treat for Diamond pops up every so often---a bone. I cast a spell so that bones push their way up through the rich black soil and Diamond is right there to partake of a gift created just for him. We sit on the mossy banks of the Wanderer and munch on the gifts from my garden.
I am very happy and contented when I am here with my true family, the Willows, Diamond and Jubbie. I realize I haven’t told you about Jubbie yet. That will have to wait ‘till next time. I have to sleep now so I can explore some more tomorrow.
I’m afraid this paper is unacceptable. The assignment was a book report on The Golden Compass, not an essay about your garden.
Please try and use your overactive imagination to write about your reaction to the book assigned.
I know you can do it.
Jubbie is so much more interesting that that girl Lyra, the one in the Golden Compass. He appeared by the Tower on my third visit to the three willows. At first I didn’t see him because he blended into the Gooseberry bushes that grow around the base of the Tower. He does that a lot. He’s kind of like a Chameleon. I think he’s what you call a sprite, also known as an elf or fairy or pixie or leprechaun. Whatever he is he makes me laugh---a lot. Diamond says his whole name is Jubilee but I prefer to call him Jubbie. Unlike Diamond, he can talk out loud but I can’t understand what he says. To me, when he talks, in his high tinkly voice, it’s gibberish, Jubbie gibberish. He also doesn’t seem to grasp what I’m saying in my human language. So, to communicate, we have devised ways to act out what we have to say. For example, if Jubbie wants us to climb the tower, he will use his fingers to create a little man walking up steps. And if I want him to show me where he sleeps at night I pretend to close my eyes and rest my head on my folded hands. I found out he sleeps up high in a giant pine tree.
Sometimes there are storms that blow in from the mountains. Diamond, Jubbie and I retreat to the room in the cottage and watch the rain and lightning from the small window opening. It is so exciting, like fireworks on Independence Day. One time a big, bright bolt of lightning struck Jubbies tall pine tree and I heard it scream. I got very upset but Diamond let me know that it was just a scream of surprise and that the tree was going to be all right. Jubbie nodded in agreement.
Jubbie can be very mysterious and I know he has many secrets. He is often away for days and when he returns I can’t get him to act out where he has been. Maybe I’ll follow him sometime and see where he goes.
The Well of Mystery
Yesterday I tried to follow Jubbie but it wasn’t easy. He kept fading into the bushes and the trees. He even blended into the Upside-Down Falls. One minute he was in front of the water and then he was the water. They only thing that gave him away were his green eyes. There they were, two bright emeralds, floating across the front of the falls. Now I know to always look for his eyes when he starts blending into the background.
Hoping that he wouldn’t notice me, I kept several yards behind him and we traveled pretty far. We came to a small clearing with what seemed to be a stone well in the center. Jubbie stopped and took a look around, checking that he was alone (he didn’t see me hiding behind a large oak tree) and then, with one quick leap he jumped into the well. I was astounded and alarmed. I ran over to the well and peered carefully over the edge, afraid of what I might see. There seemed to be no water in the well and there was no Jubbie either. I could tell it was quite deep but instead of being dark at the bottom there was a faint glow of orange light. It allowed me to see hand and foot holds running up and down the rocky sides of the well.
I sat on the edge of the well and swung my legs over the lip. I was torn by my desire to see where Jubbie went and by my fear of falling down into what seemed to be an endless vertical tunnel. My decision was made easy by the arrival of Diamond from out of nowhere and by his insistence that I not climb down into the well. “It’s not safe and Jubbie will be very upset if he finds out you followed him.”
Diamond tugged on my sleeve and began pulling me off the top of the well. “We must go now, before Jubbie hears you. I have been sent here to summon you to attend Queen Darax. She has a mission for you,” he said to me with his eyes. I really wanted to find out what was at the bottom of this mysterious well but a royal command was---a command. And so, reluctantly, I joined Diamond for the long walk back to the meadow and the three willows.
Martin, please give this note to one of your parents.
Dear parents or guardians,
I’m writing you concerning your child, Martin. I am quite worried about what I observe to be very irrational behavior. Either from some learning disability, we have not been informed about, or from just plain stubbornness, Martin refuses to complete any of the given assignments. Attention in class is non-existent with a lot of staring out the window and drawing in his notebooks.
I have tried to elicit information about his family and his home life in order to better understand what’s going on but to no avail. I know he is very smart and his writing shows an amazing vocabulary, far above his grade level. From the essays he’s been turning in I believe his imagination is boundless but I think it’s running away with him. He needs to put all that energy into his regular schoolwork.
As Martin is a new student, having transferred here from out-of-state, I don’t have access to his earlier teachers and to anything they could share with me about his behavior in the classroom.
Teacher/Parent Conference Night is next month and I look forward to meeting with you and learning more about Martin. Until then, please emphasize to him the importance of his doing his homework and to his paying attention in class.
If you wish to meet with me before Conference Night, please feel free to make an appointment.
7th Grade English
Today I started to fulfill Queen Darax’s wishes by climbing to the top of the tower. She had requested that I position myself there as a lookout because she felt the presence of an intruder. And so I find myself moving from window to window, gazing out onto the beautiful vistas of forest and meadow and mountain, trying to discover evidence of someone who doesn’t belong here. It is very tiring to stare at miles of landscape and to try and not be fooled into seeing an enemy behind every tree or under every bush.
Diamond tells me that the Queen fears only two things, fire and the axe. This is understandable since she and the two Princes are rooted to the ground. He told me about a close call that happened a long time ago. Lightning, like we saw that other time, struck an oak tree that was very old and very dry and it exploded into flame. The fire jumped from its branches to the limbs of the surrounding trees and then leapt onto the meadow. The Queen watched as the flames raced toward her and her sons, who were much younger and smaller at the time, and she tried to protect them with her weeping branches. Diamond says that’s when the two little Princes bent in towards their mother and they have remained that way ever since.
“But what happened?” I asked, “What stopped the fire from burning them all up?”
“It started to rain”, Diamond eyed to me, “ So heavily that there was a flash flood that pushed water over the banks of the Wanderer and sent it into the meadow. Thankfully they were all saved but the Queen has been very wary ever since.” ‘And with good reason,’ I thought.
I’m embarrassed to confess that I sort of dozed off while I was in the tower. It was warm and quiet and, in truth, kind of boring. When I awoke I was upset to see the sun had moved from the eastern sky to just above the most northwesterly edge of the mountains. Had I failed Queen Darax? Had someone snuck into her domain while I was off in dreamland?
Jubbie came rushing up the stairs as I hurried from window to window trying, in vain, to spot an intruder. He grabbed my hand and started pulling me towards the stairwell.
“What is it, Jubbie?” I asked, dreading the answer, “Is it the Queen?” I mimed putting an invisible crown on my head. He replied by nodding and swinging his arm back and forth like he was a baseball player.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, foolishly forgetting that Jubbie couldn’t understand my language. He squeaked some kind of response and, letting go of my hand, grabbed with both fists what I imagined was an invisible bat and slammed out several invisible home runs.
“I don’t understand, Jubbie. What---” and then I got it. It wasn’t a baseball bat, it was an axe!
Transcript of Taped Conversation
Teacher: Sarah Brownell
Guardian: Mrs. Joseph Davis
Student: Martin Garcia
Brownell: Thank you so much for being here this evening. I’m---
Davis: Will this take very long? My husband is waitin in the car.
Brownell: Well----we’re supposed to limit each meeting to only 15 minutes in order to be able talk to all the parents so it shouldn’t take any longer than that. Let me start by saying that Martin is very special.
Davis: You know Martin is not our son. We’re just fostering him.
Brownell: Yes, I was aware of that. Well---as I was saying, Martin is special. But I am very concerned that he failing my class. As I said in the note I sent you, he seems---
Davis: What note? We didn’t get no note.
Brownell: Oh, dear. I guess Martin forgot to give it to you. Anyway, he seems to be living in this imaginary world and---
Davis: Oh, yeah, he lives in his own world. He never talks, we never know what the hell is going on in that head of his. He doesn’t always do his chores and he never plays with the other kids.
Brownell: You have children of your own?
Davis: Nah. Joe and me couldn’t have kids. That’s probably why we sorta started taking in fosters.
Brownell: How many children are you fostering?
Davis: Wow! Over the years we musta parented at least twenty-five or more. Right now we only got five.
Brownell: I see. Let me ask you, does Martin seem to be doing his homework? Does he---
Davis: Well, he’s always writing. I don’t know if that’s his homework but he has these pages full of writing. When he’s not daydreaming he’s scribbling away. You know, with five kids, it’s kinda hard to stay on top of each one of them about their school work.
Brownell: Yes, it must be quite a challenge. Getting back to Martin, I was hoping you could fill me in on his history, where he---
Davis: Well, to be honest, he’s had a bit of a rough time. I think we’re like the fourth foster home he’s been in. We don’t know nothin about his mama except that she was young and gave him up for adoption when he was a baby. The family that adopted him, the Garcia’s, had to give him up when he was about five cause the husband was killed in some sort of accident, something about a fire, I’m not sure. Anyway, that was when he was put into his first foster home. The social worker told us that Martin had a lotta trouble with the first family that took him in and I guess it didn’t get much better with the next two homes. She thinks we’ll be a better match. I sure hope she’s right.
Brownell: How long has Martin been with you?
Davis: A couple of months. He came to us in late June.
Brownell: Well, I’m sure you’ll do a good job with Martin. Just see that he completes his assignments---that he does his homework. It’s very important.
Davis: You got it. My Joe is very good about settin rules and disciplinin the kids. Spare the rod and spoil the child is his motto. He’ll see that Martin toes the line.
Brownell: Well, Mrs. Davis, I don’t mean that---
Davis: I’m sorry but I really gotta go. Joe will be havin a fit if I don’t hurry up.
End of Transcript
By the time we had made our way to the meadow I could hear Diamond howling. As the willows came into sight I could see him, the white fur on his back standing straight up. He was staring at a figure frozen in place, a few feet from The Queen and he was snarling, his lips pulled back revealing his sharp ivory fangs.
As we got closer, Jubbie began to fade away, I guess because he was scared, and I found myself approaching the intruder by myself alone.
It was a man, a large bearded man, dressed in deer skins and fur pelts. He looked like a mountain made up of bear, fox, coyote, beaver and wolf hides. I was especially unhappy about the beautiful silver-gray wolf’s tail that he had wrapped around his neck. Diamond was not too pleased about it as well. He continued to growl and assumed a crouch that I feared was his preparation for an attack.
I cautiously stepped closer to the hairy mountain man and stopped when I saw the axe he held with both hands. He looked at me and then returned his gaze to Diamond.
“Who---who are you?” I stammered, trying to keep my legs from shaking.
“Who the Hades are thee, my little worm?” he replied.
“I’m Ostara,” I answered, straightening up so as to appear taller. The hairy mountain man took a step closer to the Queen but stopped when Diamond snarled and looked like he was about to leap.
“Does this beast belong to thee? If so, call him off or I shall remove his head from his mangy body,” he threatened, raising his axe in the air.
I hurriedly replied, “Yes sir, I will, but only if you promise to not harm him or the Queen and her sons.”
“What Queen? I see not a royal personage,” he responded, looking all around. I stepped between him and Diamond and the Queen.
“Please sir, lower your axe. These three trees are the royal family of which I speak.”
The hairy mountain man snorted a laugh but lowered his weapon. “The only thing I see before me are three weeping willow trees and I am in need of their branches for weaving and their wood for burning. So stand ye aside, thou worthless turd of a boy or I shall remove your branches, one by one.”
I was at a loss as to what I should do. I needed my arms and legs but I couldn’t let him kill the Queen. I looked at Diamond and he eyed me with a message from her majesty. “Darax says this is a man from beyond the mountains and he is violating a treaty that exists between his people and the creatures of her realm.”
“Good sir,” I spoke quickly, taking a cue from what Diamond had just told me, “I believe you are not observing the rules of the---the treaty.”
“What rules?!” he shouted back at me.
“Er---well---” I hadn’t a clue.
“You mean the rule about not setting foot in this land of worthless misshapen beings? This treaty that says we may not cross the border unless given permission by some holy muckamuck? Well, I am not letting a faded piece of parchment keep me from earning my livelihood!” He raised his axe. “Out of my way, thou insignificant maggot!”
Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly saw two glowing emeralds floating at the left side of the hairy mountain man. Jubbie! The axe was about to divide my head in two when the mountain man suddenly pitched backward and fell on his side. The axe went flying out of his hands and landed near my feet.
“What in the name of Hades is---” he yelled and then he started batting at his arms and up and down his legs. Jubbie seemed to be sticking him with something sharp but then I saw what it really was. A round gray wasps nest was bouncing around in the air above the mountain man. I picked up the axe, which was very heavy, and stepped away from him in order to avoid being stung.
Diamond and I formed a shield in front of Darax and her sons. We would make the mountain man our captive and protect her majesty no matter what.
Wow! Great Job, Martin.
Keep up the good work.
The mountain man was covered in big red welts and seemed to be unconscious. Jubbie had taken the wasps nest back to the tree where he had found it and now he stood, fully visible, by my side. The concern at this time was what to do with the captive. Jubbie mimed dying by falling to the ground but I wasn’t up to killing the mountain man. “I think Jubbie is saying”, Diamond eyed to me, “that the wasp stings might dispatch the intruder if we just let nature take its course.” I had heard of victims dying of a wasp attack but this might not be the case with our captive.
“He’s still breathing,” I pointed out, “and when he awakens he will be in great pain. I’m going to use some magic to help heal the welts.” I squatted down next to the intruder and skimmed my hands over his body, making sure to not actually touch his skin. My magic works because I believe it works. I simply see in my head what I want to happen and it happens. Why it works is a mystery to me but this has been true my whole life so I just go with it. Thinking equals doing.
Our next mission was to figure out where to put the mountain man. He had to be locked up somehow until we could find a way to return him back to the mountains. “Jubbie,” I shouted, getting his attention. “We need vines,” I said, as I mimed pulling down strands of the vines that climb many of the trees here in the Queens domain. “We’ll use them to tie him up and then we’ll take him up to the top of the tower.” Jubbie raced off in search of vines while Diamond and I stood watch over the still unconscious mountain man.
Getting the big hairy body of the mountain man up the 65 steps to the top of the tower proved impossible. Diamond, using his teeth, tried pulling him by tugging on the vines that were wrapped around his feet while Jubbie and I pushed on his shoulders but it was a no go.
“We’ll drag him to the Cave of Voices instead,” I said, panting from the exertion. “Jubbie, you will stand guard in front of the cave while Diamond and I speak with the Queen about this situation.”
Leaving an unhappy Jubbie, we walked back to the Queen and her sons. The two Princes seemed to have moved closer to their mother which was, of course, impossible but that’s what it looked like to me. Diamond and I bowed to her majesty and I inquired if they were alright.
“The Willow Queen thanks you for your concern,” Diamond eyed to me, ”She has not been harmed, nor have her sons, thanks to you.”
“Well, it was Diamond and Jubbie who really prevented the mountain man from hurting you,” I replied to the noble tree.
“Ah, but you bravely stood up to the intruder,” Diamond responded, continuing to interpret, “and did not back down even when he made to chop you in half.”
I reluctantly accepted the compliment. “Your majesty, we need your guidance as to what we should do now with the intruder. How do we get him to go back to the mountains?”
Diamond smiled his wolfish smile and answered for the queen. “Leave him in the cave tonight and in the morning he will return to his homeland on his own.” So that’s what we did.
To: Vice Principle Adams
From: Sarah Brownell
Would it be possible to speak with you at the end of this school day? I am very concerned about one of my seventh graders, Martin Garcia. He is failing my English class and I don’t know what to do to help him. He is obviously very bright but does not do any of the work assigned in class.
I have met with his foster mother who has assured me that they are working on the problem but I haven’t seen any improvement. In fact the situation seems worse. He is silent and withdrawn in the classroom. The only evidence of his intelligence are the essays he turns in in place of the assignments he is given. They are stories about magic trees, wolves and giants and, while the subject matter is typical adolescent fantasy, personally, they read to me like the writings of an adult. I find myself wondering if some grownup is helping him and if so why.
Anyway, I’m attaching a few examples of his compositions for your perusal. Let me know what you think.
Diamond and I returned to the Cave of Voices early the next day. We found Jubbie asleep, at the entrance to the cave, with his scarf tied under his chin and up over his ears like he had a toothache. When we shook him awake he clapped his hands over his cloth covered ears and pointed angerly at the cave opening. It was then that I heard a loud whimpering echoing from out of the glowing mouth of the cave. “Jubbie seems to be indicating that the mountain man made a lot of noise last night,” Diamond said, in his usual eyeing way of communication.
I took a cautious step into the cave’s soft blue entrance and saw the hairy intruder struggling against the vines wrapped tightly around his mountainous body. His face was wet with tears and when he caught sight of me he called out in terror. “Oh, by all the gods, please, please help me! Stop them, please!”
“Stop whom?” I asked, looking about for who or what was frightening him.
“Those banshees, those---those screaming voices from hell!”
I listened for a moment but heard only the usual sweet sounds of heavenly music.
“Please, make them stop or I shall go insane! All night---the shrieks, the curses---the threats! I have not closed my eyes!”
He arched his back and twisted his head from side to side as if to shake the voices out of his head. I can’t imagine what the long night must have been like for him.
“If I release you from your bonds will you promise not to harm me or my friends?”
“Oh yes, my young squire! Bless you, bless you! I will not harm thee or thy companions---just get me out of here! Please!”
“And will you make your way back to wherever you belong and swear never to return?” I asked, as I began untangling the vines that were knotted around his struggling torso.
“Gladly, my kind lad. Just free these legs of mine and I will use them to run away as fast as I can.”
As soon as his arms were no longer pinned to his sides he began tearing at the vines that imprisoned his legs. Together, he and I had him loose of his bonds and up and standing. With his hands over his ears he didn’t waste a moment but bolted out of the cave and headed north towards the mountains. I remained inside, for a few moments, listening to the gentle chorus and their sweet songs.
“It seems that not everyone,” Diamond eyed to me, “is attuned to the more pleasant voices of the cave.”
I smiled as I rejoined him in the fresh morning air. The Willow Queen had taken care of the problem. We were all safe again, for now. I looked around for Jubbie.
“Jubbie? Where are you? You can become visible now---it’s okay.”
“He headed off into the woods,” Diamond informed me, “dragging the intruder’s axe.”
“Where is he going with it?” I asked, with some concern.
“I believe he is taking it to his well.”
Martin. Please see me after class today.
Jubbie’s Secret Lair
I followed the trail Jubbie left as he dragged the axe behind him. It led, as Diamond predicted, to the old stone well. This time I was going to be brave and find out where Jubbie went so I slipped over the edge and began a careful and slow decent down the rough sides of the well. As Jubbie is smaller than me, I found the foot holds spaced closer together and it was rather difficult to estimate the distance between them but, after a few minutes, I touched the stone floor.
A warm yellow light radiated out of an arched opening in the rocky wall of the well. It seemed to welcome me in even though I knew Jubbie would be very upset when I showed up uninvited. I stepped through the archway and moved, as quietly as I could, down the narrow passage towards the pulsating glow of golden light. I became aware of a soft repetitive scraping sound coming from the end of the tunnel. As I got closer to the opening, the light got brighter and suddenly I stepped into a very large domed cave. The source of the glimmering radiance was hundreds of bright spheres hanging from the rocky ceiling like miniature suns. Their luminescence revealed a most amazing scene.
Jubbie was standing at a workbench made of stone and chipping away at what appeared to be the handle of the mountain man’s axe. The iron head had been removed and lay at his feet. He stopped when he heard me step into the cave. As he turned around he began to fade away.
“No, don’t, Jubbie! It’s alright,” I pleaded, “It’s only me. I’m sorry I surprised you,” I said, as I watched his glittering green eyes blink rapidly, “I know I shouldn’t have followed you down here without your permission.”
As Jubbie began to shimmer back into existence I took a long look at his surroundings. All around the cave floor were these wooden sculptures placed on stone plinths; animals, flowers, strange creatures I couldn’t identify. There was even a statue a Queen Darax. They seemed to be carved from wood Jubbie must have scavenged from the woods and fields. I spotted a bear made from, what looked like, a fence post. Where in the world had he found a fence post?
“These are so beautiful,” I said, “Did you carve all these?” I asked, pointing first to the carving of a lizard and then to him . He nodded and then picked up the axe handle that he had been working on. I thought for a moment that he meant to give me a good whack but instead he held it up in front of me. Climbing up the side of the shaft was the beginning of a carving of a vine. I recognized it as a representation of the kind of vine we used to tie up the mountain man. Jubbie put down the handle and, using both his arms and hands, mimed twisting and wrapping the vine around the wasp-stung intruder. We both laughed and enjoyed the echoing giggles. It seemed I had been forgiven my intrusion.
Jubbie took my big hand in his small one and lead me around the cave like a tour guide in a museum. l marveled at how realistic his sculptures were. The feathers of the birds, especially a hawk, seemed to flutter as if brushed by the wind. And a Bobcat, carved out of an oak stump, appeared ready to pounce. There was a wolf, looking very much like Diamond, that was all teeth and claws. A porcupine with his quills standing at attention and a skunk with its tail lifted as a warning were facing each other like boxers in a ring.
“This is amazing, Jubbie,” I said, stopping to look at a butterfly resting on a mushroom, both whittled out of one pine bough, “But how did you get these big pieces of wood down here in---in your workshop?” He smiled with a grin that hinted at the pride he was feeling. I guess he understood, from my gestures, what I was asking because he began to mime pushing large objects along what would have been a trail through the woods. He demonstrated tossing them down the well and then rolling them over and over until they reached his cave.
“Queen Darax should see your work,” I suggested excitedly, “She would be very pleased to see that you only used wood discarded by the trees; dead limbs, stumps and the like, and not lumber cut from a living tree.” I touched one of the statues, a sunflower like the ones in my garden back by the castle. “How about we take this flower to show her majesty what a fine artist you are?” Jubbie did not look happy. I realized he didn’t understand what I was suggesting so I mimed introducing the sunflower sculpture to the Queen sculpture. The look on his face went from confused to happy and he nodded in agreement. Together we lifted the tall smiling sunflower and walked it down the long corridor. After struggling to get it up out of the well, we marched off in the direction of the meadow, proudly carrying Jubbie’s wooden blossom like a flag of victory.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Davis
2200 NE 71st Street
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Davis,
It is with regret that I must inform you that Martin Garcia, whom I believe you are foster-parenting, is failing all
his classes. We have given him every opportunity to improve but he stubbornly refuses to do any of his assignments or to participate in any of his classes.
Martin is exceedingly bright and it may be that our curriculum is just not stimulating enough for him. Therefor it is our recommendation that he be placed in a school more attuned to his needs.
Whatever your decision, please understand that by the end of the fall term, we will have to reluctantly expel Martin.
Oakleaf Middle School
The Queen, after praising Jubbie for his creative endeavors, asked that the sunflower be placed somewhere where she and her sons could gaze upon it whenever they liked. After trying a few different spots, we settled on placing it near the foot of the old bridge that arched over the Wanderer. There the wooden sunflower stood, like a smiling palace guard, protecting the royal family. Although it was little bit away from the three willows it was still visible to them.
A few days later, when I made my way back from the outside world to the land of the three willows, I checked to see how the sunflower was holding up. To my surprise I found two more sculptures resting besides the tall flower. It was the porcupine and his friend the skunk. Evidently Jubbie, pleased by the reception his first statue received, had decided to share more of his work with her majesty. The new additions, their lifelike features glistening in the sun, reminded me of a visit I once made to the zoo and I sat down, close to them, on the banks of the Wanderer in order to get a better look. It was while I was admiring the details Zubbie had carved into the little wooden statues that I became aware again of the writing on the underside of the bridge.
Who had placed these faded words across the bottom of the bridge? What did they say? What was their meaning?
“Trolls,” eyed Diamond, who, like he often did, appeared beside me from seemingly out of nowhere. “Many, many years ago a Troll family lived, in the water, underneath the bridge.”
“Trolls? Like in the fairy tales?,” I asked.
“And they were much feared,” Diamond continued, “for grabbing anyone or anything that attempted to cross what they believed was their bridge.”
“What did they do to the---the trespassers?
“You do not want to know, my young friend. It is said that what remained of any traveler, unfortunate enough to be caught by the Trolls, would fit in a bread basket.”
I visualized a small basket containing bits and pieces of some poor creature and quickly changed the subject. “What do those words mean?” I asked, pointing to the faint lettering scattered from one end of the bridge to the other.
“They are said to be, in the language of the Trolls, various curses and also descriptions of their vile acts of beastly atrocities,” Diamond answered, “I do not read Troll so I cannot verify the truth of the legend.” He turned away from the stream and began trotting off towards the cottage, giving me a quick glance over his shoulder. I sensed that he wished me to follow and so, standing up and brushing off twigs and leaves, I headed down the path after him.
The inside of the cottage was a bit chilly, having not been warmed up yet by the morning sun. Diamond had entered the one room covered by the roof and stood looking up at the dusty shelf with the magic book. For some reason I felt nervous as I approached the shelf. Something inside me whispered that I shouldn’t open the tattered cover of the old book. But, as if it had a mind of its own, my hand reached out and slowly lifted the stained leather cover.
At first I thought I was looking at an old comic book, like the ones I had read back in the other world. But then I realized here were illustrations, colored drawings, with descriptions written in the language I had just seen on the underside of the bridge. These were pictures of Troll families, huge wart-covered adults with skin the color of green olives and Troll children with bow legs and ears like pigs snouts. But, as I turned the pages, the scenes became so horrific I could no longer keep looking. Decapitated heads, limbs ripped off a victim’s torso, wide Troll mouths, with needle-sharp teeth, munching on unidentifiable body parts and blood spattered everywhere. I slammed the book shut.
“Why did you do that, Diamond? Why did you lead me here?” I asked, shaking with revulsion and anger.
“It seemed a better way to explain about the Trolls. It was important that you understood that the Troll was not a creature from a fairy tale but a real living being.”
“Well, you could have warned me ahead of time.”
“My apologies, young sir.”
“Okay,” I replied, “But are there any Trolls still around? Like, hiding away in caves or somewhere?” I asked, with more than a little anxiety.
“Not for hundreds of years,” he responded with his eyes, “and they did not live in caves. They were Water Trolls and the Wanderer was their home.”
I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. I looked out the window at the castle and the tower, all resting peacefully near the meadow, and at the stream flowing towards the Upside-Down Falls. And it was the first time I noticed the large round moss-covered rock sitting in the middle of the Wanderer. Was that the bald head of a giant Troll? ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ But-----
Social Services Report
We were asked by the Principal of Oakleaf Middle School to look into a possible case of physical abuse of one of their students. The school reported that the student, Martin Garcia, arrived in class on Tuesday, 10/15, with a bruised eye and scratches on his cheek. When asked how he had gotten these injuries he remained silent. It was determined that an interview with his family was necessary and an appointment was set up.
Present: Officers=Karen Arias and Kenneth Otis
Guardian=Mrs. Joseph Davis
Starting Time: 4:15 pm
We met with Mrs. Davis, Martin Garcia’s foster mother, at the Davis residence, 2200 N.71st Street. She apologized for her husband’s absence as he was still at work. She was pleasant but seemed a little nervous. There were four other children, of various ages, in the house when we arrived with Martin. They appeared to be healthy with no obvious physical injuries. We asked her if she would please excuse them so that we could speak privately and she sent them out into the back yard. We noticed that there was a swing set and various other examples of playground equipment in the yard.
The interior of the living room was neat and clean as was the adjacent kitchen. We asked to see the rest of house and Mrs. Davis took us on a quick tour. There were three bedrooms, Martin shared one with another boy and the three girls were in the second one. We were surprised at how neat and organized the children’s rooms were since kids can be pretty messy and were informed that one of the house rules was to keep their spaces clean and neat. Mr. and Mrs. Davis slept in the third bedroom. The bathroom was a bit small and Mrs. Davis joked about how in the morning the lineup was like Grand Central Station.
We returned to the front room and, after being seated and offered coffee, which we refused, we explained why we were there. Mrs. Davis said that she completely understood as they were used to visits from Social Services and that the case workers had always found everything okay.
We went on to talk about Martin and his injuries and how two days ago he refused to tell us what happened and how, when we picked him up at school today he continued to remain silent. Mrs. Davis then put her arm around Martin, a gesture that seemed to make Martin cringe. She asked him why he didn’t want to explain what had happened and he still remained silent. She then told us he had been roughhousing with the other children on the playset in the back yard and had bumped into one of the metal supports which banged his eye and scratched his face. We then asked Martin if this is what happened and, after a squeeze from Mrs. Davis, he slowly nodded yes.
We then asked if we could speak to the other children and, after some hesitation, Mrs. Davis agreed and walked us out the backdoor into the yard. She introduced us to each child and their response was unanimous: Martin had fallen against a pipe and hurt himself.
After thanking the children and Mrs. Davis we excused ourselves and returned to the office.
Interview terminated: 4:57 pm
Conclusion: Since there was no obvious evidence of abuse we had no other choice than to declare this was an accidental injury.
Signed: Karen Arias
After my introduction to the truth about Trolls I found myself a bit wary around the waters of the Wanderer. But as the days went by and Spring led to Summer and then to Fall my concerns faded and I enjoyed the peace and beauty of this magical land, a place that was so much better than the outside world. Jubbie continued to carve his bestiary and, instead of lugging wood down to his cave, he worked on his sculptures in the bright sunlight. The path leading to the bridge was lined with eagles and wildcats, horses and foxes and even an alligator. It was beginning to look like a revisiting of Noah’s Ark.
Diamond came and went in his usual manner and Queen Darax and her boys let the breeze comb through their branches as their leaves turned from green to gold. I would climb the tower and gaze out upon the woods and meadow and watch the seasons change. The faraway mountains grew whiter with new snow and I’m ashamed to admit that I never once thought about the mountain man. I should have.
It was midnight and I was fast asleep in the cottage, Diamond warming my feet as he rested at the foot of my bed of pine boughs, when Jubbie pulled on my ear to awaken me.
“Wha—what---Jubbie, what is it?” I grumbled, “Why did you---”
Jubbie was jumping up and down and swinging his arms back and forth. I suddenly recognized what he was saying: the mountain man was back!
“Oh no! No way! Well, we’ll send him right home,” I shouted, getting up quickly and heading out the door. “Come on, Diamond. We have to consult with the queen.” But Jubbie was shaking his head violently and pointing to the tower.
“He wants us to go to the top of the tower,” Diamond eyed, “He wants to show us something.”
I was feeling torn because I knew Darax was in danger but Jubbie was half way to the tower and there was something about his agitation that told me I’d better follow him.
The moon was full blown and the sky so cloudless I could see the stars. The stairwell was bright enough with the light from the night sky to allow us to rush up to the top room with the four arched openings. Jubbie stood looking out of the North Arch and pointing. I stepped up next to him and, following the line of his finger, I saw what he was pointing at; hundreds of tiny yellow lights in the far distance.
“He did not come alone,” Diamond announced, as he joined us at the arch.
“What are those lights?” I asked, not really wanting to know.
“I believe those are torches,” Diamond replied, “He has brought fire.”
When we got down to the meadow I could see her Majesty shimmering in the moonlight. Her sons had grown taller over the summer and stood next to her like golden gladiators. My heart sank at the thought of what lay ahead for them, for all of us. I realized that each torch, that we saw flickering in the night, was being carried by one of the mountain man’s army of invaders. Diamond estimated that there were two hundred of them and they would arrive by dawn of the next day. What could we do to stop them, a boy, a wolf, a sprite and three trees?
The queen. speaking through Diamond, recommended that we escape while we could, that we should not put ourselves in harm’s way for their sake. I adamantly disagreed.
“We will not desert you, your Highness,” I proclaimed, “ This is your land which you have so generously shared with us. It must not be destroyed by these unwelcome invaders. Besides, the only place we could flee to is the outside world and Diamond and Jubbie would never survive there.” I almost added that I probably wouldn’t survive either.
Darax tried to turn her recommendation into a command but we were having none of it. “We are staying by your side, your Majesty, no matter what. What we have to do now is figure out a way to stop this invasion.”
Diamond continued to interpret for the queen. “She says there is a big storm blowing in from the West that she can use to slow the mountain men down.”
“Great! That’ll give us a little more time to set up some defenses.” Unfortunately, what those would be was yet to be determined.
Around three in the morning the storm moved in and it was a wild one. The woods screamed with a thousand voices as the wind tore through their limbs. The rain, that followed, felt like tiny daggers as it fell on our bare skin. The queen pushed the storm slowly to the North and, from our view point in the tower, we watched the rain pummel the approaching army. We could also see the wind extinguishing some of the torches, like a child blowing out their birthday candles.
Diamond, Jubbie, Queen Darax and I used the delay to work out a battle plan, as it was obvious that there was going to be a battle, a big one---three against two hundred.
Just before dawn we came up with a strategy. Hopefully, it would work. We didn’t even want to contemplate it not working.
The sky did not get much lighter at dawn due to the storm which was following the invaders as they tramped onwards through the woods. They were getting closer. We had taken up our positions, Diamond at the North end of the bridge, Jubbie up in his tree and I next to Darax on the berm at the edge of the Wanderer. The stream was boiling with all the rainwater that was falling on it’s surface. The queen’s branches offered me some protection from the painful drops but it was difficult to see through the curtain of rain. And then I saw them, hundreds of fur covered bodies, their images distorted by the rippling, wind-blown sheets of rain.
A few of the torches were still lit but they were sputtering as they fought with the rain to remain lit. Eventually I could hear, over the howling of the wind, the voices of the invaders. They were chanting some kind of war cry and, with each shout, I saw a flash of steel as they raised their mud-spattered arms. Axes!
As they marched closer to the bridge I saw some of them hesitate. I figured they had seen Diamond doing his ‘I’m going to rip open your throat’ routine. Eventually the whole crowd came to a halt and then he stepped forward.
“We have come to claim this territory as part of the mountain nation,” he bellowed, “Surrender and we will not harm thee. Resist and we will kill thee and feed your pretty parts to the buzzards.”
It was tempting to consider surrendering, but I knew that, even if we did, he would lay waste to the kingdom and probably murder all of us.
“Her Majesty, Queen Darax respectfully declines to surrender,” I shouted, trying to keep my voice free from quavering with fear, “and requests that you and your men return to the mountains.”
This pronouncement brought a roar of laughter from the hairy mountain man and was echoed by his muddy band of followers.
“We take no orders from a tree, my skinny friend. One last chance. Surrender, NOW!” he shouted, raising his shiny new axe, a replacement for the one Jubbie had turned into ivy. There was a moment of silence when all one could hear was the wind and the rain and then he screamed, “ATTACK!”
The crowd of men from the mountains surged forward and started to cross the bridge. I heard Diamond snarl and then he let out a howl that was so ear-splitting that I had to cover my own ears. That was the signal. It was now or never. I lowered my left hand and used it to grab hold of one of Darax’s limbs. “Now, your Majesty!”
I felt her energy begin to flow into me and to radiate out through my arms and legs. It was like nothing I had every experienced before. I felt strong and wise and---invincible! I truly became Ostara the Great, the magician who could accomplish anything!
The mountain men were pushing and shoving their way across the bridge. I couldn’t see or hear Diamond but I saw a pair of emerald eyes moving among the legs of the intruders as, one by one, they seemed to be tripping and falling. A second wave of men were over the bridge and heading straight for Darax, her sons and me. I extended my right hand and closed my eyes. I saw an image of Noah’s Ark and the animals marching two by two. My inner voice began to pray, ‘Protect us, oh kind friends. Flap your wings, let your claws extend, jaws snap, paws scratch, fangs pierce!’ I slowly opened my eyes to a miraculous scene. The mountain men were batting away at hawks and eagles that were swooping around their heads. There were men pinned to the ground by wolves and bears. One man was running around in circles trying to escape his rear end which was bristling with Porcupine quills. A horse was rearing up and stomping on any man who came near it. A snake coiled around the leg of another man and he tried to remove it with his axe only to remove his leg.
The magic worked! What I had visualized came to be! Jubbie’s carvings, so life-like in their execution, were now truly alive and vanquishing our enemies. Those formally so-called brave warriors were now screaming like little children as they fled back into the woods. In a matter of minutes the meadow was empty except for the injured who were unable to get up and run. I figured that after a night in the Cave of Voices they would be able to run just fine.
Jubbie began to fade back into his visible self. He looked around and saw all his statues scattered here and there, some of them damaged but most of them still in one piece. Just minutes ago, they appeared to be alive but now they were, once again, his beautiful wooden carvings. He picked each one up carefully and started placing them back on their stone bases.
“Thank you, Jubbie,” I said, ignoring the fact that he couldn’t understand my language. He knew what I was sending his way. Then I mimed ‘Have you seen Diamond?” to which he only shook his head. “Diamond? Where are you?” I called out towards the bridge. “Diamond?”
“Is this what you’re looking for, young master?” came a deep scratchy voice from behind me. I turned around quickly to see the hairy mountain man, standing near the stream, holding Diamond in his arms. There was blood on my sweet wolf’s white fur and his bright blue eyes were half closed.
“What have you done to him?!” I shouted, ready to pick up one of Jubbie’s statues and smash it over the mountain man’s head.
“I’ve done nothing,” he replied, “He did it himself, attacking my men. But I will do something to him now, my little maggot, because thee has caused me great distress. A wolf is only good for skinning and then for wearing to keep out the cold and your wolf has a particularly handsome pelt that will bring a fine price at the market. Too bad there is some damage to his leg but I can disguise that easily enough. And the blood will wash off.
I could see Diamond’s chest rising and falling with little breaths so I knew he was still alive. The mountain man had a knife strapped to his waist and to get to it he was going to have to put Diamond down on the grass. As he started to lower the wolf to the ground I stepped closer.
“Ah, ah, ah, my little toadstool, no tricks,” he said, putting his hand on the hilt of the knife, “You owe me this for all the trouble thee has caused.”
I looked at this evil man, this hairy creature covered in the wet skins and pelts of so many unfortunate animals and a rage began to climb up my body and take residence in my head. I closed my eyes and an image started to take shape; at first just a hulking shadow but then it grew into a huge olive-green monster covered in warts with a very wide mouth and eyes like tiny black stones. He was wet and slimy and I knew what he was, a Water Troll. For a moment I was afraid to open my eyes because I knew what I would see. But I had to accept the responsibility for what I had called up from the depths of the stream so I slowly lifted my eyelids.
Standing behind the hairy mountain man was a figure twice his height and twice his width. His green hands were as big as snow shovels and as he lifted them up and began to place them on the mountain man’s shoulders I saw his long sharp fingernails. The mountain man started to turn around but the Troll grabbed him by the neck and in one swift move bit off his head. Just like that! It happened so fast I thought I might be seeing things. He then put the body over his shoulder and, walking to the edge of the stream, dove into the swirling waters.
Local Man Killed
Allegedly Shot By 12-Year-Old
In what has been deemed an accidental shooting, Joseph R. Davis, 46, a Portland resident, was pronounced dead yesterday evening by the medical staff at Providence St. Vincent Center hospital.
Police, who were called to Mr. Davis’s home by his wife, found the victim shot in the head. He was still alive but died on the way to the hospital.
Mrs. Davis explained that her husband had opened his gun locker in order to remove a pistol he was planning to sell at next week’s gun show. When the alleged shooter, a 12-year-old boy they were fostering, showed interest in Mr. Davis’s gun collection, the victim handed the weapon to the boy. “He was sure the pistol wasn’t loaded, he kept all his guns unloaded,” Mrs. Davis said, “but then I heard this loud bang and when I ran into our bedroom I saw Joe laying on the floor. It was horrible.”
The boy’s name is being withheld by the police.
For many days, after the last invader had left and the land of the three willows was peaceful once again, I kept having a reoccurring nightmare of the Troll biting off the mountain man’s head and taking his body into the water. I was afraid he would reappear and take me or Jubbie or Diamond to wherever he went under the water. However, Queen Darax assured me that it would not happen again.
“It was only because you were desperate to save me,” eyed Diamond, as he licked at the cut on his leg, “and for that I am very grateful.” He was back to his old self and the leg wound was healing nicely. But I knew, down deep in my heart, that what I conjured up was the result of the anger I was feeling and that, if I wasn’t careful it could happen again. Because of me a man had died and it could be said that what I did was in self defense but, in all honesty, I wanted him dead.
What this last terrible event has taught me is that life is not a fairy tale and that there are no happy endings. I thought this land was safer than the outside world but evil exists everywhere, even here. And so, I have decided to stay in the land of the three willows because my friends here need protection. I will not return to the so-called real world. There is nothing or no one there that I care for as much as I care for the Queen, her sons, Diamond and Jubbie. And while we may not live happily ever after we will live fully and with an honest love for each other.
Yours truly, Ostara The Great
St. Agnes Home For BoysThe patient was admitted on 12/2 after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. As this had been one of several attempts, juvenile detention authorities determined that he needed medical help with constant supervision. Social Services sent him to St. Agnes.
The subject is tall for his age and underweight. Whether this is from malnourishment or from the beginnings of puberty is yet to be determined. There is evidence of several physical injuries but the subject refuses to discuss the causes. In fact Martin seems unwilling to answer most of the questions put to him.
After administering a Stanford-Binet IQ test it was determined that the subject is borderline genius. We will be testing him with a CHC test at a later date.
I have now had the opportunity of interviewing Martin three times and by our last meeting he began to relax and to talk a bit about his situation.
I believe there was some physical abuse involved in the home environment. Maybe even sexual abuse.
Among the subject’s possessions, that were sent along with him to the school, were several pages of stories he had written. After getting permission from Martin to read them I was amazed at their maturity and imagination. They have also become a way to get the patient to open up a bit more. When asked about the genesis of these stories the subject became somewhat uncomfortable. He insisted they were real but admitted that the land he wrote about might have been inspired by the public golf course he crossed everyday on his way to school. It was there that he passed a weeping willow tree that he claimed talked to him. When asked what it talked to him about he admitted he did most of the talking. I then asked him about the bridge and the other buildings that I read about in his stories.
It seems there was a Japanese style bridge that crossed a small pond, which I imagine was a water trap at the golf course. He said the underside was sprayed with graffiti which had a lot of bad words that upset him.
The tower in his stories was a water tower which furnished the golf course watering system. The cottage, as he described it, must have been the club house. The ruined castle was a jungle gym in a children’s playground at the edge of the golf course. A kid’s sand box next to the playground became for him an abandoned well.
It seems that Martin spent a lot of time in this public place. My thought is that this was a refuge from what might have been an untenable home life. Martin will still not talk about his time in his foster home or in any of the other foster facilities.
Most telling was the friendship he developed with the golf course groundskeeper, a man named Julian, and the man’s dog, Ruby.
In my opinion, the patient is somewhere on the autism spectrum, perhaps measurably in the Asperger’s scale.
One on one therapy sessions should be continued.
Due to his talent and passion for writing this should be part of his occupational therapy.
Group therapy, at this point, may not be helpful as the subject is very introverted and frightened. Perhaps later, when he has acclimated to his environment.
Administer low dosage of Sertraline once a day.
Dr. David Levin
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