What might one expect when receiving a list of six so called “Peace Cries”, or audible keys and/or actions which would lead one to spectacular wealth and esoteric bliss in a hidden kingdom? Flowery verse of course! Why, by all rights, it was (at least presented) as such, almost in language that was a puzzle within itself. And if you expected otherwise (perhaps a saucy limerick about a certain man Oklaho-ma/who had done become wed his Gran’-ma), prepare to be disappointed. Here are listed the obscure, esoteric, and slightly magical words that Chaim, the Spirit of the Lonely Hollows, read from his tattered book of ivory and leaves- a thing so fragile and old it was almost hard to believe its pages didn’t disintegrate from age, despite how gently the spirit turned them.
And so, the Peace Cries:
- To dispel and make seen the forest of thieves
- To ask of the trees to part their great leaves
- To fool the toothed-Lisks to miss their venomous strike
- To jest the granite and see the grotto behind
- To Challenge the Wisps to Light the lost path
- To dream in the wrecks of ruins long pastAnd,
VII) To call forth the Crown with the Simplest sound
And so were the seven steps to claim a regal throne and rule over a hidden kingdom with either an extended hand, an iron fist, or (perhaps more likely) a ham-fisted attempt at balancing vice with virtue, leading inevitably to disaster. Heavy is the head that wears the crown as they say, and true leaders are so hard to find these days- they tend to listen more than speak, and when they do, their words are certain and direct (omitting always, the following fillers and phrases: Like, You Know, Whatever). But perhaps Petka Fawcett, with his meek manner and mighty beard would be different- or perhaps he would be “pulled apart like candy floss”, as Chaim put it with a shrug, “As so many have before.”
This was not exactly comforting to Petka (neither the idea of dismemberment like spun sugar, nor the fact that the Spirit of the Lonely Hollows had so little faith in him), but he did recognize something in the cryptic words.
To begin, he had felt in certain corners of the forest what he thought were invisible hands pulling at him (or perhaps more accurately his belongings) and indeed some paths seemed to be be overly protected by the boughs of the trees above, leaving him wandering for was seemed like eternity among looping, unmarked trails until (mercifully) Raksha would sniff her way out of the labyrinthine wood, and Petka could see the comparatively familiar shapes of the forest, and rest easy.
Of course Petka knew of the many dangers of the forest- some were certainly hard to spot- well concealed snakes and treacherous big-cats could easily catch on unaware, and the occasional bear was a very easy to spot mode of untimely death. The wolves seemed to leave him alone, likely due to the whistle his own grandfather had taught him- it was, as Chaim had indicated, a peace cry unto itself, as he remained (at least presently) un-evicerated, with a wolf who liked him and by extension his food (or, perhaps, on certain cold nights, the other way around).
Even the mention of wisps stirred some far-off memory in his mind. When one is surrounded by nearly unbroken greens, browns and greys (that is to say trees and plants, and stone), especially in the dark, things like lights stick out like an unhinged man in a platinum-blonde wig busking for dates with a washtub bass (when people really only wanted cured meat). And more than once when his footfalls echoed eerily off wholly unknown and unexplored parts of the forest, he would swear he’d see an inn, glowing in the distance; this was, of course, too good to be true and as Fawcett would enter the little clearing, or approach the little knoll that supposedly boasted a warm bead and a cold drink, the lights in all the windows would take to flutter like a hundred little fireflies– having completed their ruse, they scattered like embers from a drowned fire in every direction, until there was nothing left but waist-high grass, and the full, mocking moon, winking as if to say, “They got you again, Fawcett! They Got you again, Fool! Why, If I weren’t tidal locked, I’d show you the dark side of this moon!” And when Petka realized he could hear the moon, and worse off, it was threatening to give him a celestial “pressed ham”, he realized it was well past time to eat something and sleep.
The other words didn’t seem to have the same resonance with him- how was one to “jest” with granite? Where were these so-called ruins he was supposed to dream in? He’d seen some enticing lumps of rocks that may have at one time been standing stones, but nothing so tantalizing to one’s sense of adventure as the stony shell of say, a chapel or broken ritual site.
Of course Petka, being a smart man and doubly patient, expressed his doubts to Chaim, Spirit of the Lonely Hollows (“Just Chaim, or his Chia-ness, if your into the whole respect thing- I kid, I kid,” Chaim would joke), the spectral wolf-man would only smile and say,
“Petka, I have seen things such as are described in the book- frankly there are rules- regulations that all remain constant…at least for the most part. But I digress. I’ll give you perfectly straightforward directions on how to get over the first six humps- you’re own your own for the last one, but hey! You’re a smart guy, you’ll figure it out.”
“Why don’t you come along?” asked Petka, offering half out of genuine affinity for the strange, cloaked, bipedal wolf-ghost who stood before him, and partially because- well, you know, the pulled-apart like candy-floss imagery.
“Well what if another traveler comes by? I have a job to do here, Petka, I’m sorry. Now, true, you’re the first person I’ve seen in…” here Chaim tapped his whiskered chin with his clawed finger thoughtfully, “Well at least for a millennium.”
Petka, seeing that arguing with a being as old as Chaim was inherently futile, he simply said, “’Very well, good sir.”
They talked for the rest of the night, as slowly as it seemed to crawl along, and Petka took copious notes on what words to speak, which actions to take, and what bitey things he should avoid. Petka also made sure to ask Chaim many questions, especially when it seemed like something would be particularly hazardous to his health– he wished for the gentle pitch of this singularly strange man-wolf-ghost to echo as clearly in his head as possible as he braved the coming travails.
At long last the two parted; Chaim disappearing as he made his was into the adjacent wood, and Petka lay upon his back by the dying fire, staring at the now retreating, full moon. His thoughts were all over the place, and he felt as though he would never fall asleep; but of course, he did at some point succumb to the whisper of Morpheus, and dreamed of fantastic things which all promptly vanished when his eyes opened, and he awoke in a part of the woods he recognized- had it not been for the pages of paper written in his own hand, he might of believed the whole thing was a dream.