When they reached the edge of the field they saw below them a great lake. On the other side of the water land sat waiting. As they descended the hill leading towards the lake the group could not help but feel insignificant to the grandeur of the surrounding nature. The sunlight now a dazzling purple glittered off the lake surface creating what seemed like a path leading to the far side.
‘Hey Leafy,’ said Bradley breaking the silence, ‘how do we get across that?’
‘You swim,’ replied the tree spirit. Its colours illuminating.
‘It’s just one thing after another here,’ said Bradley. He dropped to his knees in fatigue.
‘Do not think I have been idle master Bradley,’ replied the tree spirit, ‘your life has but only reached teenage-hood, but countless souls have dwelled and passed these lands. I have a treat for you all. Look below and wish it with your heart.’
Now, the only problem with ending a sentence as the tree spirit did was that naturally they would all wish for something quite different, and hence, nothing appeared before them. The tree spirit at realising this inconvenient truth, asked them all to wish for a ship. And so they did.
A magical sifting sound slithered in the air followed by gentle tremours below their feet. A ship rose up from the abyss breaking through the peaceful water. It was a ship of Scandinavian origins akin to great research explorer and viking ships of ancient times. It had the most magnificent carvings and decorations.
‘Would you look at that!’ cried Jumo, ‘it’s truly remarkable.’
‘Such relics have long been replaced in your world,’ added the tree spirit, ‘but now you can travel like some of your ancestors once did.’ Letters from the ship levitated into the air and glowed before them. The words read you need only ask.
‘How do we get on it?’ asked Aruna.
‘Unfortunately, I do not know,’ replied the tree spirit, ‘you will have to figure that out for yourself and I warn you to not trouble the water.’
‘Haven’t been idle… yeah right,’ said Bradley.
They had no ropes or tools for climbing at their disposal. In the midst of all the anguish and annoyance, Kurumi stood silently and gazed at the ship with immense concentration, as if willing it to open some sort of secret doorway.
‘I have an idea,’ said Ash, ‘Bradley, get down on your knees.’ The group watched on. Bradley did so without reservation, but held an air of wonder in his facial expression. Ash backed up, closed his eyes and took a slow deep breath in and started striding towards Bradley, leaped off his back and gravitated in the air towards the edge of the ship and latched on to its side. He lost his concentration momentarily, but managed to hold on and pull himself up on board.
‘That’s great Ash,’ remarked Jumo, ‘but how do we get on?’
‘Go look for some rope mate!’ shouted Bradley.
Kurumi remained vacant to the activity around her. ‘Please allow us to board,’ she spoke. At that, a groove on the side of the ship appeared and out came a plank of wood with steps dropping down towards the group.
‘Ah, well done Kurumi,’ said the tree spirit, ‘If you have not already realised it, everything has energy and life within. Everything is resonating, listening, learning and evolving here on Vaalbara. Try not to always use your physical skills to overcome everything.’
The ship was truly grand with wooden beams, golden trimmings and masts that reached high into the sky. Below deck it had separate rooms without luxuries. There was fresh food that had been frozen and began to rapidly thaw out the moment the group had stepped on board. Jumo looked through maps of different regions of Vaalbara and entirely different worlds written in languages unknown to the group. For one night at least they could sleep like shipmates without the worry of an insect or night creature creeping up bedside them.
After all the excitement of being aboard the ship had subsided they eventually relaxed and watched the ship creep forward under the gentle wind. It was a quiet day. Each member of the group enveloped deep within their own thoughts. Nobody spoke unless there was something to be said, just like when an enormous eagle soared overhead. It seemed as if the great lake was endless like a whispering song on a loop. The sky skipped through all gradients of colour before settling down into an explosion of stars, galaxies, comets and planets. Every night sky was so vivid and close that a telescope or binoculars were not necessary. The group stretched, exchanged skills and meditated before resting their exhausted spirits. As they slept the tree spirit kept watch over them.
Ash got up early, went down to the galley and cooked breakfast. Eggs, fried bread, vegetables and fruit with oranges squashed for juice. Jumo walked in sleepily.
‘Wow, you’re handy Ash,’ said Jumo.
‘Well, you learn many things at an early age when you just have one parent,’ he replied. Jumo smiled and became thoughtfully quiet whilst watching Ash. Before long everybody had been drawn to the galley by the growing sound of chatter and the smell of food. They talked sports, school, family, and for a brief moment were able to forget that London had been taken, and that they were on a world saving and life changing adventure. Kurumi cleaned up and Bradley washed the dishes. Afterwards they all rushed up on deck expecting to be close to land. Sadly, they were to be disappointed. The tree spirit hovered overhead.
‘Tree spirit,’ said Jumo, ‘would I right in saying that we had reached the centre of this lake yesterday evening and have in fact not moved since?’
‘That is correct,’ replied the tree spirit glowing.
‘What?’ exclaimed Bradley, ‘why didn’t you tell us yesterday?’
‘Well, firstly, you were all too exhausted and in much deep thought to have noticed yourselves,’ replied tree spirit, ‘and secondly you would not have been able to do anything about our current predicament considering your physical conditions yesterday. You needed rest, you needed time to think, and you needed to relax.’
‘Do you always think for us?’ asked Aruna slightly irritated.
‘I do not think for none of you. But whilst you are young you do still need some guidance. As time goes by you will learn when to be patient and when to go at things without reservation, but knowledge and wisdom comes from experience and not necessarily age I add.’
‘This is one nightmare of an experience that’s for sure.’
‘So how do we continue to land from here,’ asked Jumo.
‘You sail of course,’ replied the tree spirit.
‘But we’ve been trying to,’ said Kurumi.
‘Then, my dear child you must call upon every memory you have in relation to sailing be it from a book or film.’
‘Or?’ asked Bradley.
‘Or swim,’ said the tree spirit. The tree spirit was not joking either.
It was Kurumi’s idea to take a good look at the ship to see what was connected to what and why. It was decided Jumo would navigate and steer the ship whilst the others would work on the sails and masts under Jumo’s direction in order to catch the wind and propel the ship forward. At first none of them seemed keen on the idea of sailing a ship, but once they all started getting into their roles you could tell they loved it by the great smiles on their faces. Bradley pretended he was a Viking, but kept making pirate sounds to the bewildered of Jumo, who just let Bradley be.
The group waited for the wind to blow and talked, had lunch, and waited some more. In the distance a thick haze appeared on the far side behind them. It sent ripples across the water and howled like a storm.
‘Here comes our wind,’ screamed Bradley. They braced themselves and held their breaths. Swoosh, and off they went. The ship was moving forward with great speed and after a quarter-an-hour or so the land that had evaded them all this time was drawing nearer. There were cheers and excitement all aboard. Kurumi spotted dolphins on one side and a great whale came up beside them. How these mammals came to be in this lake was beyond their knowledge. Slowly the great whale and dolphins began to fade away into the depths of the water to not return. Ash felt there was something amiss with this and his thoughts became reality when suddenly out of nowhere bolts of lightening rattled through the sky. There was a weird sort of spinning sound and then four waterspouts erected from the water on each side of the ship like unearthly skyscrapers. Then came the rain that had promised to fall since yesterday.
‘Those are some nasty looking water tornadoes!’ yelled Bradley.
‘What do we do,’ cried Aruna.
‘We must increase our speed and head towards the middle in between the two water tornadoes ahead. Precisely in the middle, otherwise we would get sucked into one of those,’ said Jumo.
‘Right, Bradley, you’re the strongest,’ shouted Ash, ‘so you steer.’
‘Yes,’ said Jumo, ‘the rest of us must get below deck and try to increase our speed by rowing.’
Bradley tentatively took control of the helm. The tree spirit stayed beside him. It said it was going to use its energy to keep Bradley rooted to the spot whilst he steered. The rest of them rushed down below and began to row.
‘I don’t know which is scarier,’ said Aruna, ‘seeing what’s happening up on deck outside or being down here hearing it and imagining the worst.’ Kurumi froze at these words, but Ash gave a gentle hand on the shoulder and told her it would be fine.
Ash and Kurumi sat on one side of the ship holding their oars and Jumo and Aruna sat on the other side. Jumo coordinated. They started to row as hard as they could and for as long as they could. Bradley could feel the difference and took comfort knowing his friends were working hard. He knew he had to do the same. The ship began propelling forward at such speed that neither one of them could control their oars any longer. It was Jumo’s decision to tell everyone to stop. They made way for the deck and could see right before them the reality of their predicament. The front of their ship was but a hundred metres away from entering in between two waterspouts. Bradley was shaking, his resolve was beginning to break, but all at once without anything being said, as if by telepathy, they each put a hand on Bradley’s shoulder with their eyes wide open facing the terror in front of them.
‘We’re with you Bradley,’ said Ash. At this Bradley lifted his head.
‘This is it!’ replied Bradley,
‘Let’s dissolve our fear and turn it in to courage,’ added Ash.
As the ship drew closer and closer, the determination in Bradley’s face grew stronger and stronger. He appeared as if he did not want to be defeated. He stood tall, strong and proud, with his chin up and his face looking forward. And as the ship entered between the front two waterspouts, he held the helm with all his strength to stop it from spinning in any one direction or the other. It was a magnificent sight to be seen. The force of the wind, the water whizzing from one side to the other and the ferocious sound whipping all around them was pulling each of them in all different directions. And just when it looked like Bradley could hold on no longer the ship had passed through the vortex of waterspouts safely. He dropped to his knees in relief. In fact, they all dropped to their knees panting and heaving strongly.
‘We all have fear inside of us, but how we use that fear is what counts,’ said Bradley smiling.
‘Where did you get such strength Bradley,’ asked Jumo.
‘Knowing that you were there,’ he replied, ‘but more than that. It was knowing that you all needed me. I had to do it because I had something to protect and I wasn’t about to let a bit of wind and water put a stop to our lives here. Plus, I want to see my family again. The thought of seeing their faces if they knew I was never coming home made me stronger. I could feel all of your energy.’
They all hugged tightly and from Bradley’s shoulder Kurumi could see land. Thump, the ship had reached ashore. Before them now sat a valley with a rocky pathway. The sunshine came back out and within minutes they were dry. It was one picture postcard extreme terrain to another.
B. L. Crisp | Copyrighted to © Barry Crisp