Realm of the Melklings
Author’s Note: I felt that the original Long Journey lacked a sense of breadth and depth, especially for adventures across multiple words. This is the beginning of my attempt tp reimagine that period of the story.
Note that the scene is actually unfinished. I’m not quite certain how this fits into the story at large, but there are ideas here I’d like to explore further.
After many days of traveling, they came upon a grove when Seppo stopped. Grateful for the break, Annabelle slumped to the ground. Seppo and Percy both liked to keep a brisk pace, and though Charlie voiced her displeasure aloud quite often, Annabelle kept silent.
“Here’s a lucky chance,” said Percy.
“I didn’t know the melklings were here this early in the year!” Charlie looked relieved.
“The what?” Annabelle wondered aloud.
“Normally they are not,” said Seppo. He did not explain further.
“Why are we stopping?” Annabelle said.
“We have come to the realm of the melklings,” said Seppo. Annabelle thought he might explain what he meant, but he did not continue.
“Yes, well, who are they?” said Annabelle. “What are they?” They had traveled through so many different worlds, that of course Annabelle had wondered who might have lived in them, if indeed anyone did. But they never stopped for long, at least until now.
“Shh,” said Percy, raising a finger to his lips. “Here they come.”
From the grove entrance, Annabelle imagined some fairy folk from her books or stories of tricksome elves. She did not quite imagine those who came out to greet her.
Annabelle was herself not very tall, but the two who stepped out now were even shorter than her. One was thin, but quite short. The other was tall, but stocky and broad, though she still came no higher than Annabelle’s waist. They each wore what looked to be colorful homespun dresses, secured by copper brooches, with one donning a yellow-white belt and tooled leather apron and the other a conical shaped hat. There was a crafty, cunning look about their eyes, and Annabelle could not help but gulp in fear and trepidation.
They spoke in low, murmured voices with Seppo, with the rest of the children standing a fair distance away so Annabelle could not make out the words spoken.
“How come they’re only speaking with Seppo?” asked Annabelle.
“He has had some dealings with them,” said Charlie, who also looked quite impatient. “Though I think Percy has met some of them as well.”
Percy leaned over Annabelle’s shoulder and grinned. “Do not worry, for they are a friendly and trusty folk. Though they keep mostly to themselves in their hidden lands.”
“Are they nomadic?” Annabelle whispered, though she didn’t know why. “I thought you said they’re not usually here at this time of year.”
“No, they’re not,” explained Charlie. “The entrances to their land open only a few times a year, and they’re different for each one. Here now, Seppo’s come back!”
“They’ve gone back to fetch their mother. We must wait for them here if we are to travel upon their lands,” said Seppo.
“But why are we staying here?”
“We need supplies,” he replied. “And this is the shortest way to the next Door.”
“And it would be nice not to have to trudge through endless wilderness,” grumbled Charlie.
“They also have healers here,” said Percy. “They may be able to help Cid. And you and Charlie, of course.”
“Honestly, I feel fine,” protested Annabelle once more. She didn’t like taking attention away from those who most needed it, like Cid and Charlie. Even she could see her limp was getting worse and worse, and Cid sometimes didn’t eat for days at a time. “I don’t even feel faint.”
Seppo shook his head, his face set firm. “Nevertheless. It will be well for you to see them. The Road to the Tower is long, and we have many days of travel before us.”