Chapter 2: “The Plentiful Orchard”
”To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
And with a larger faith appeal'd
Than Papist unto Saint.
For oft I talk'd with him apart
And told him of my choice,
Until he plagiarized a heart,
And answer'd with a voice.”
~”The Talking Oak" Poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson, 4th and 5th stanza
As the children, one by one, entered through the doorway they would soon take notice of another sort of strangeness that filled the orchard. Despite the great number of trees, there seemed to be a lack of birds. There was no sound of tweeting in the orchard, and it gave a sort of eerie silence. The only sound that could be heard was the rustling of leaves from the wind, and what seemed like the sound of breathing. The latter however was easily masked by the sound of rustling leaves, and the most the children would be able to pinpoint was the fact the the rustling noises had almost some sort of pattern. Rustle...pause...rustle...pause. The grass also, strangely enough, seemed to be moving side to side in this single pattern. Back and forth, back and forth. Any who would take notice that there was something wrong about this place. There was plenty of things wrong with this place, but surely it was impossible for everything to have the same rhythm as this. As Ren neared the sign, the words painted on in black paint became more and more readable. The words were written sloppily, as if they were written in a hurry, excluding the sign at the utmost top. But despite this Ren would be able to read the words just fine. This is what they read in order from top to bottom:
"WELCOME TO THE PLENTIFUL ORCHARD. POPULATION: 2,072 PLUS 1"
"NOTICE TO PASSERBY: REFRAIN FROM TOUCHING THE TREES BEFORE HARVEST TIME. OR SUFFER THE WRATH OF PLUMPY."
"EXTRA NOTE: DO NOT EAT OR STEAL THE FRUIT OF THE TREES. FRUITS THAT HAVE FALLEN UPON THE GROUND INCLUDED. OR SUFFER THE WRATH OF PLUMPY."
"WARNING: BIRDS AND BATS ARE PROHIBITED FROM SETTING FOOT IN THIS ORCHARD. OR SUFFER THE WRATH OF PLUMPY."
"EXTRA WARNING: ALL WOODLAND CREATURES ARE PROHIBITED FROM SETTING FOOT IN THIS ORCHARD. OR SUFFER THE WRATH OF PLUMPY."
"THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.
SINCERELY, PLUMPY THE PLUMPA TROLL"
"P.S. NO, I AM NOT RELATED TO THE TROLL THAT LIVES UNDER THE BRIDGE."
Whoever had written this seemed like an angry person indeed. What he meant by his wrath was perhaps not the best thing to know at the time, but Ren would possibly have already guessed that it had nothing to do with riddles. The words of the sign sure explained the eerie silence of the orchard. Who knew why the orchard was so important to this troll that he would ban all this creatures from the orchard. The only problem was, the population count. The many signs only made the population count seem more strange than it probably already was, for the orchard was pretty much devoid of any signs of life.
Meanwhile, back in the shop's basement, Swetini had been knocked over by one of the children. "Hmmf?" was his cry as the young cowboy rolled into him, causing him to loose balance and fall. The magician stared quizzically at the boy, and then remembered he was one of those who was entering his contest. He had forgotten the boy was even there, he had been so quiet. He AND his friend. Swetini stood and brushed himself off, the dust from his place was all over him. It was a blessed thing he didn't get spiderwebs in his hair...or did he? "No, no need to apologize, my good man. We've all have been lost in our own little world at some point or another." He then smiled pleasantly to the boy. "Speaking of worlds, some of the children have already entered through. And it's not too late for you to follow them." As he said this, the candy maker gestured to the playhouse in the room's center, its door still opened. He acknowledged Lucas's friend with a nod, "You and your friend, both."
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