A late spring storm blew through in the middle of the night leaving the morning wet and foggy. Droplets of rain could be heard across the forest as they fell from high branches. There was a chill to the air and was darker outside than should be for the time. This told me that the sun would not shine this day for the clouds and fog were too thick.
Sipping my morning, coffee, I smiled to myself. I had made the most wonderful sweet carrot creamer. With a sigh, I peered out my kitchen window pondering what I might do on such a day. Just then, a figure emerged in the fog coming from down by the creek. They were headed straight for my garden! In the fog, I feared the mysterious visitor would not see and trample it. And why were they not using the path? Scuttling out of my burrow that was beneath a great oak, I hurried out to the garden.
“Hold! Hold a moment! Dear friend, careful for my garden!” Trying to give warning without seeming unfriendly, I raised my soft voice as much as I could muster. The figure stopped suddenly and just in the nick of time for he almost stepped right into the cabbages!
“Oh pardon, Miss Tittles. I could not see.” He spoke very quickly and in a startled tone. I recognized Wilber, the Beaver’s voice, right away. This explained why the visitor came from the creek. Wilber always came to visit from this direction as his Den was upstream a few miles.
“Quite alright, just come around there. I have fresh, hot coffee if you care to join me. What are you doing about so early?” I ushered him around and we made our way inside before he answered. He began to explain that the storm had raised the water levels beyond the norm and he had been up most of the night securing his dam. This was a good thing for me and anyone else living along the creek downstream from him. His dam was also his den and he chose this location precisely to aid his fellow forest dwellers from flooding. Subsequently, this created what is known as “Wilber’s Pond.” If his dam were to break, not only would he have to rebuild his home but my garden would be under water right now. Silently, I listened and gave thanks for his skill and diligence.
Still speaking in a rushed voice as was his way, “…and so this terrible headache just won’t seem to pass. I came to see if you might have something. Oh and this coffee is quite wonderful. Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome.” I smiled wide as he was very pleased with how my sweet carrot creamer had come out. “I do apologize, though. The whole Robins family was visiting yesterday with the same complaint. I brewed my last bit of peppermint and lavender tea and they drank every last drop. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I do hope it helped.”
“Oh bother… well, I have to get back. Water levels may still rise from the springs upstream. I must monitor carefully, ya’ know. Busy, busy, busy!” We said our farewells and I walked Wilber down to the creek and fetched some fresh water while I was at it. I admired how quickly he moved upstream and even picking up debris along the way. He disappeared into the fog and I began to make my way back up to her home. I was sad that I was unable to help Wilber and hoped he would feel better soon.
As I came up the bank again, I saw a mysterious figure in the fog and once again they were almost upon my garden! Speaking as loudly as my voice would allow, “Be careful, mind you!” Whoever this was must have heard me for they stopped and stood silent and still. I moved as quickly towards the figure as I could. After all, I was hauling a bucket of water. As I approached the figure, it grew larger and larger. My steps began to slow and trepidation began to build. Then I heard a familiar groan. Sighing, as I seemed to be doing a lot this morning, I moved around the garden and could now see Grizzle, the clumsy ‘ol bear. There was apology in his eyes and he took a large step backwards away from the garden.
“Seems it is a busy morning and many are out and about despite the dreariness. How are you today Grizzle?” Now, he was a silent creature. No one had ever heard him speak and most believed that he could not. Not that he was spoken ill of, only brief moments of concern. Mostly when he met someone new. Everyone liked Grizzle. He was very kind and gentle albeit a little lumbering. He answered me in his customary fashion with grunts and groans and then he lay down covering his head with his paws. Puzzled, I began to try and decipher his meaning. With a few more moans and a bit more grumbling, I finally asked.
“Do you have a headache?” With a grunt of confirmation, he leaped up to all fours and stared at me pleadingly.
I explained very apologetically that the whole Robins family had come visiting the day before and had drunken the last of my peppermint and lavender tea. I also told the tale of Wilber’s visit and how I was also unable to aid him. I apologized many times and he nodded in thanks and slowly wondered back into the forest. As I watched him go. it occurred to me that many of my friends were in need. I also found it curious that headaches seem to be in abundance. Well that solves it. I now knew what I must do this day.
It was time to visit The Crow of Crescent Hill.
Actually the trip would take two days. I will need to travel all the way to the lake and then around it to reach Crescent Hill. It was not an ideal day to travel but he would have the answers. I hurried inside and grabbed my travel pack. As I often made ventures into the woods, it was mostly already packed. Grabbing a few snacks and my hood, I was quickly on my way. I had not gotten far, only a half mile or so, when I heard scurrying from the path behind me. Turning, I saw two small figures approaching and quickly! I jumped to the side of the path nearly being run into. The Whisker brothers, I thought to myself and frowned. They skidded to a halt and both began chattering at once. Now I was starting to get a headache. With patience, I calmed them down and asked the little mice boys to please speak one at a time.
“Well…” They both started and I put my hands to my hips giving them an exasperated expression. The older boy nudged the other in annoyance and continued. “It’s our mama. She has a terrible headache that started two days ago. And now this morning, all of our brothers and sisters have one too!”
“ALL…. of them?” I asked skeptically. Mrs. Whiskers did after all have many children.
“Yes, we swear!” They answered in unison with their eyes wide and filled with innocence. This was a practiced response from the brothers as they were often questioned on their activities and tales. But none-the-less, I believed them. This couldn’t be coincidence. Something was definitely amiss. Briefly I explained that I was on my way to the Crow of Crescent Hill for the very same reason and that they should rush home and tell their mother that aid was on the way. With mischievousness in their eyes, they looked to one another and quickly thanked me and then ran off. I doubted they would go straight home.
Again, I was on my way. After several hours, the fog lifted considerably and the day brightened only ever so slightly as the clouds were still heavy. I worried that it may rain again and quickened my step. As I journeyed, I wondered on the state of my garden after such a heavy rain. In an attempt not to worry, I put such thoughts from my mind and tried to keep to the task at hand, which of course brought worry. Why were there so many cases of bad headaches and how? It reminded me of the time, several years back, when children were sent to the task of foraging in the forest. Somehow, some not so good mushrooms got mixed into the food stores. That was an interesting few days, I laughed to myself.
A rustle in the branches above brought me out of my pondering. Looking up, I spotted someone fluttering from branch to branch in an awkward manner. Watching for a moment, I determined that whoever it was must be injured. I also determined that they must not have seen me so I called out yet again. “Hello there. Are you alright?” My voice broke the still silence in a manner that even startled myself. I have been doing a lot of hollering this day, I thought to myself. Something I do not wish to be getting better at. The rustling from above had stopped and I looked up again to see Mrs. Robin circling quickly down to land beside me. When she landed, she stumbled to the side and nearly fell. I rushed to help her balance.
“Thank you so much, my dear.” Mrs. Robin said as she shook her head trying to ward off dizziness.
“What is the matter? Are you hurt?” I was very worried for my dear friend. My already growing concern for the others was turning into desperation. Mrs. Robin told me that after the Robin family had returned home yesterday, the headaches began to return. Then I recounted the tale of the day’s events from Wilber to Grizzle and then my encounter with the Whisker brothers along the road. As it happens, Mrs. Robin had also concluded that something was amiss after speaking to Jay, the Bluebird, who also had a bad headache. She was also attempting to reach the Crow of Crescent Hill but it was obvious that she was in no shape for such a trip.
“You have traveled bravely and far my dear friend,” I spoke softly and reassuringly, “but you must go back. My home is closer. You are welcome to stay there until I return.” With minimal resistance, Mrs. Robin reluctantly started back. I was now very worried and knew I must hurry. Chiding myself on the daydreams, I did not allow myself to become distracted again. I traveled the rest of the day and even a few hours after dark.
I was beginning to grow very weary and was looking about for a safe place to rest for the night when a dim blinking light appeared ahead on the path. Slowly, I moved towards it and when I moved around the next bend, my eyes widened. Sitting there upon a large exposed root of an old Elm was a fairy! I had seen fairies before as they were quite common in the forest but always briefly and at a distance. Fairies were magical and reclusive beings that only appeared in times of joy and celebration. And to those of good heart, they sometimes would come in times of need. This fairy, however, seemed to be the one in need. She did not notice me and sat there with her head cradled in her arms and knees. She appeared to be weeping!
Slowly, I approached and spoke very softly trying not to startle the Fairy. She only raised her head slowly as a sparkling tear streamed down her cheek. The fairy rose to her feet and then fluttered off directly over me. The last thing I saw was the sparkle of that tear as it landed upon my brow before falling fast asleep.
When I awoke tiny rays of light were beginning to peak through the forest canopy. It was very early yet and I sat up feeling very rested. I looked about and noticed I was nestled against the old elm right in the crook of the exposed root and someone had placed a large Mayflower leaf over me as a blanket. I had a strong sense of positive wellbeing and determination filled me. In moments, I was on my way with a silent thanks to the fairy. Without her, I knew that my night would have been restless and this day long and tiresome.
Snacking as I quickly trekked, it was only a few hours before the land around me began to change. Rocky outcrops began to pop up and the land began to slope ever so gently downward. The path wound to and fro, long ago worn to avoid treacherous footing. Through the trees, I saw sparkles. The land evened out and the forest ended in a line of oaks, walnuts and sycamores that surrounded the lake. The sparkles were that of the sun reflecting off the lakes still surface. Beyond the lake was the Crescent Hill and its perfect reflection in the still waters. “Almost there,” I thought to myself. Just a few more hours and I would have answers.
Quickening my step, I started around the lakes edge. Because of the rains, the lake level had risen and the shore was small and in some places, the water came all the way to the trees. This slowed my travel as there was no path. Usually, the shore was passable and quite a pleasant walk. But now, I avoided mud pits and had to deal with thick underbrush. There were briers in my fur and dress. I snagged on a honey locust branch that I did not notice and my skirt was torn. I looked up and down the lakes shore and realized I had not traveled very far at all. Frustration began sneaking in and I thought there must be a better way! Suddenly there were bubbles on the lakes surface. One , two then three and they were moving closer. I tried to scurry backwards and tripped right into a large mud puddle. Many bubbles were now coming to the surface of the water very near to the lakes edge! The mud was thick and she couldn’t get unstuck fast enough. Something very large began to surface.
“Can… I… help… you?” A deep but kind and very slow ladies voice issued out from the cavernous opening in a huge shell. A very large head then abruptly began to emerge from opening. She was bright green with yellow strips and I thought her quite beautiful. Still startled, she forgot to answer. “Are… you… alright?”
“Um… oh, yes thank you. I am having a bit of trouble as you can see and, um, oh my…” I took careful observation and laughed to myself overcome with a predicament. The lady turtle reached a large paddle foot over to me just then, aiding me to my feet then lifting me over, directing me to climb upon her shell. From there, I was able to wash myself up and clean off my dress and gear. Meanwhile, we both introduced one another and I explained the urgency of my journey. I learned that the lady turtles name was Tabitha and that the lake was her home. Tabitha offered to give me a ride across the lake and off we went. As we crossed, and quite quickly to my surprise, I told Tabitha that I had been to the lake several times and asked why I had never seen her? Tabitha replied slowly and with wise words. “It is a very large lake.”
“Yes of course.” I replied sheepishly.
Once we reached the other side, the lakes shore was much more pleasant. It was a grassy bank at the foot of Crescent Hill with scattered Oaks and no underbrush. I thanked her profusely and to my surprise, Tabitha said she would stay close to aid on the return trip. We parted ways with a great sense of respect and both happy for a new friendship.
Now, I had a renewed sense of determination and I started my march up the grassy slope. Only a few moments later, I passed between two ancient oaks and beyond them was a grassy flat. In the center of that flat was a long dead tree. It was very tall and its old leafless branches were high and wide. At its lowest and largest branch, I saw a door carved into the trunk. I walked about the tree and found that there was no way up. I was unsure of what to do. I had met the wise Crow of Crescent Hill several times but had never been to his home. Was this even it? I decided to call out. “Dear sir are you at home?” There was no reply so I called out again. Many times did I call out as I examined the tree further. My calls came unanswered so I began looking about the grassy flat and even up to the hills rocky peak protruding skyward another one hundred feet or so.
“I would not go up there if I were you.” A crackling voice broke the silence greatly frightening me…..