Yep, we have finally come to the end of this madness. I hope you've enjoyed it. I adored writing it. My favorites parts are coming up. (Who am I kidding, all of it was my favorite part!) Oh, and here is Part the First and Part the Sequel if you want to read that.
An Odd Tale
Part the Last
Oddball scrambles up the beanstalk. He looks more human than wolf while climbing, if you want to know. He sighs and glances at me.
I’m sitting on a beanstalk branch high, high above the earth, if you must know. I swing my legs and grin at him. “Yes?”
“This is getting ridiculous.” Oddball continues to climb.
“I think that’s rather the point.”
Oddball scrunches his nose. “I will never understand you.”
“I don’t expect many people will.”
“At least tell me if it’s almost over.”
“Nearly. Just keep climbing.”
Oddball does, his head now in the clouds. He almost climbs right over Rocky. Well, more like he almost gets kicked in the head.
“Are we there yet?” Oddball asks. (Beastie Wolves clearly are not known for their patience.)
“I wish,” Rocky says. “I hope we’re not too late.”
“This friend of yours, why was she taken?”
“Because. . . because she’s small.” Rocky almost chokes on his words. “She’s very, very small.”
“I don’t get it,” Oddball says.
“You don’t have to.” Rocky is thinking about how he met Skyler. A fairy without wings. The most stupid thing he ever heard of. And she told him she flies a dragon? What?! She’s far too small to be flying on dragons. But she was determined to save her said dragon, and so he decided to help, and then she was captured. And all because she was small.
Rocky had let her down. He should’ve been big enough for it. To face off this giant for her. And okay, he did. But nobody told him the giant was working with flying wolves, and so Skyler was captured anyways.
He clambers up on hard ground.
Oddball follows. “Solid ground floating in the clouds?” he says. “This is making less and less sense.”
Skyler stands again, stronger this time. “As nice as it would be to make a dramatic exit, I’m much better now, and rather bored of sitting around.”
Peril twirls her knife. “So I might agree with you on that.”
“The plan,” Skyler says, “is to get the keys. Now I can slip through the bars while. . .”
“And conduct a wind to fly you up to the key ring?” Peril says.
Skyler looks at her tiny hands. “I- I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean?” Peril gives her a startled look. “You’ve got this.”
“Well, there isn’t that much wind in here. And ever since Bolt hasn’t been around—“
“But you still have some of your powers.”
“It’s not that easy. It’s harder to focus them. To disentangle the forces of the wind from the—“
“Okay, okay.” Peril holds a hand up. “I don’t care for all the details. But can’t you at least try?”
“Fine,” she says to appease her friend. “But if it doesn’t work, would you. . .” She gestures to Peril’s knife.
Peril sighs. “Just do what you do, Skyler.”
Skyler sprints between the dungeon bars. She stops underneath the nail in the wall from which the keys dangle. Perhaps it would be easier for her to force the keys off the nail instead of flying herself up to the keys?
She can’t remember.
Her heart races. She cannot remember. How can she just forget the level of difficulty each act would require?
No, she’s got to pull it together. Think rationally.
She has to try. The fairy closes her eyes. She feels the wind. There is no wind. Just stale, stagnant air. Skyler teases it into action. A small gust ruffles her hair. Well, that’s a start. Come now. Wake up. Don’t rot down here in the dungeon.
She coaxes the air up. To the keys. To the keys. She hears the metal jangle together. Another good sign. Push it. She feels the force as if she herself is pushing the keys. As if her hands are on the cold key ring, her feet braced against the wall propelling her forward.
The keys inch toward the edge of the nail. Closer, closer. She can see it. Come now. She feels her arms weakening. The small gust growing faint. No, no. Closer now. If only she were bigger, stronger.
The air sucks away, taking her breath. She falls to her knees and gasps. She hears Peril call her name with concern. She’s too weak. From staying in this dungeon. From being so far from her dragon.
Or she’s too small.
The key ring totters half on and half off the nail head. So very close.
She takes a deep breath and stands again. She closes her eyes and tries to summon the air back. Please return. Their task is not finished yet. But all she can think about is when she tried to show Rocky that she truly was a Fairy that Commandeth All the Winds. All she did was make a few dead leaves droop to the ground.
She needs her dragon. All fairies do.
Skyler turns to Peril and shakes her head.
Peril has been chewing on her lower lip. She glances over her shoulder before aiming her knife. Skyler steps back. The knife sails through the air. It nudges the bottom end of the key ring. The ring jumps up and over the edge of the nail. It falls with a clatter that shakes the ground under Skyler’s feet. She freezes.
Peril seems unconcerned with the tremor though. Skyler relaxes some. She was the only one who detected the vibration.
Rocky and Oddball have tiptoed through the garden and all the sleeping dogs. They’ve also found the same hole in the wall that our hero Peril found earlier. Now they step through the hole.
They are a bit luckier than Peril. Nobody’s in the room.
“Where do we start looking?” Oddball sniffs at the cauldron.
“Oh, how about the dungeon maybe?” Rocky says.
“I’m sorry, mansions have dungeons?” He scratches behind his ear.
Rocky sighs with exasperation. “Wherever a giant lives, there’s always a dungeon.”
A humming comes from the door. Oddball stops mid-scratch. Actually it sounds more like a droning, if you want to know.
“Hide!” Oddball says.
But the room is near empty, except for the ladder by the cauldron and a giant bear skin rug on the floor. Rocky scrambles under the rug and Oddball follows. They lie flat and hold their breath.
The witch enters. She sings some sort of spell casting song. It’s the kind of song that witch school teaches their students to remind them of a particular spell with a lengthy list of ingredients. The witch doesn’t actually remember what the spell is for, but the tune is catchy.
They hear the plop, plop of something being dropped into the cauldron and finally the retreating steps of the witch.
“Well, that was unexpectedly effective,” Oddball mutters.
“Yes.” Rocky lifts the bear’s head as he is at the front.
“Wait.” Oddball grabs his arm. “We could use this as cover.”
“Oh.” Rocky slips back under the rug. “Good thinking.”
So with the bear skin over them, the two crawl on hands and knees out the door. From room to room, the bear rug trots along. Occasionally it slams into things and you can hear words like,
“Ouch! Would you stop pushing me from behind?!”
“I’m sorry I thought we were in a hurry, okay?”
“Shut up! Someone’s coming.”
At which point, the bear rug falls flat on the ground. It does appear a little lumpy. But the FTG has difficulty spotting details like that, as they are very small details to him. Besides, his eyes are often spinning round in their sockets. How he manages to read Pektiller or any of the other poets is beyond me. The point is, he passes by the rug.
A couple rooms later, the bear rug is at it again.
“What is that thumping?”
“Stop scratching! We’re in a hurry, right?”
“Ow! Do you mind informing me when you want to back up?”
“I’m sorry. Did I step on your wittle toesy?”
A snarl comes from the bear rug.
Now the rug, er, the boys hear something.
A small voice, “Did that rug just growl?”
A brasher voice, “Let us pass, or I’ll make sure you die this time!”
Rocky lifts the bear head. “Skyler?”
The little fairy stands beside another girl with her knife pointed menacingly at, well, at Rocky.
Skyler grins and Rocky scoops her up. “I can’t believe you’re—“ A cold blade rests against his neck.
“Hey now!” This is Peril. “You can’t just pick my friend up like that.”
Skyler leans over Rocky’s shoulder. “It’s okay. He—“
Oddball tosses the bearskin away and sneezes. He looks more Beastie Wolf than human or wolf when sneezing.
Peril opens her mouth, grins, then frowns again. All in three seconds. (I’m telling you, she knows how to act.)
“I thought you were a Beastie Wolf? Now you’re a bear too?” she says.
“Half a bear.” Oddball shoots a glare at Rocky and stifles another sneeze. (The rug has affected his allergies.)
Skyler has shoved Peril’s blade away.
“And who’s this simpleton?” Peril turns back to Rocky. She figures he’s okay, since Skyler seems relaxed, but she keeps the knife out just in case.
“This is Rocky,” Skyler says. “He was going to help me find Bolt.”
“Yes,” Rocky says, “And I’m sorry they captured—“
“It wasn’t your fault,” Skyler says.
“I know but. . . you’re so small. I just want to put you in a pocket and keep you safe.”
Oddball stares. “What in the world is wrong with you?”
“What?” Rocky frowns at him.
“You don’t ever act like that. Aaah—” Oddball half chokes on another sneeze. “You especially don’t treat Skyler like that.” He snuffles. “Just the opposite you’re—“
Something jerks his head. Oddball whirls to Peril.
She turns the bur between her fingers. “You’re always scratching at it, and it’s so annoying.” She makes a face.
Oddball rolls his eyes
and hopes the narrator will
stop making him sneeze.
Rocky and Skyler hug. And then they are. . . kissing. Somehow. It’s weird since Skyler is much smaller.
Oddball and Peril stand very awkwardly to the side.
“We came to save you two.” Oddball almost looks at Peril. “In case you want to know,” he says with underlying meaning that I choose to ignore.
Peril just watches him. She’s already figured where this story is going.
“But it seems,” he rubs the back of his neck, “you kind of saved yourself.” Then he murmurs with a smile, “Not much of a surprise.”
I sigh and try not to remind him of the script.
“We’re not out of the woods yet.” Peril elbows him and grins. He grins back, and the awkwardness falls away. Peril coughs loudly and turns to the
other pair. “Speaking of leaving.”
“Right of course.” Rocky says. “But first we’ve got to break the curse.” He does remember what he promised Corn-what’s-his-name.
“And save Bolt.” Skyler climbs onto Rocky’s shoulder.
“How do we do that?” Oddball asks.
Rocky shrugs. “Don’t know. Maybe if we nose around a little longer we’ll figure it out.” He grins and reaches for the door.
Before his hand lands on the door knob, the door swings wide.
The wicked witch and the FTG seem almost as startled as our heroes. There’s a comic moment with everyone just staring at each other wondering what they ought to do next.
First, the FTG’s tongue grabs a fly.
Then Peril’s knife comes out.
Oddball might involuntarily bare his teeth.
Rocky sets Skyler on the ground.
The wicked witch grins. “More visitors. FTG, please tell me the stars are aligned now.”
“As a matter of fact, madam Jack,” the FTG’s eyes stop rolling in his head, “they are.” He looks straight at Rocky.
Rocky jumps away and the back wall turns to stone.
“No!” the witch shrieks. “Get the Peril! The Peril!”
The FTG now aims his. . . uh, eyes, at Peril’s feet. Well, after his tongue snags fly on the wall.
Peril hurls her knife at him. He dodges and gets Rocky instead.
“Rocky!” This is comes all our heroes.
Well, excluding Skyler. During the rush of feet and trying not to get trampled, she’s fallen through a hole in the floor.
“Her feet, you bumbling fly-eater!” This is the witch.
Peril is running and weaving. The FTG aims again. Oddball tries to jump between them, trips and falls. (Beastie Wolves aren’t known to be graceful, okay?) The FTG misses and gets Oddball’s eyes. Yeah, his eyes turn to stone.
“What happened?” Oddball says. “Why can’t I see? Ashley?!”
(Hang in there, Oddball.)
“Hey!” Peril is getting angrier by the second. (Skyler never got through to her with the whole rational thinking thing.) “What is your problem? Turning people to stone, and their eyes, and locking people in towers? Why—“
Peril’s feet are turned to stone.
“Because it’s what we do,” the wicked witch says.
The villains rejoice at their good fortune. But soon they squabble over who gets the stone victims for whose collection.
Meanwhile, Skyler is still down in that hole.
She’s tried climbing out, but it’s of little use. The only way out is to fly out and that’s not going to happen. There’s got to be another way. As she inspects the hole she’s fallen in, there’s a glint of something off in the corner.
It’s a. . . horn.
A horn? Down here in this hole under the floor? Very strange. With the dim light available, Skyler reads the words engraved on the side of it:
“With one blow, all of the killed shall be whole, all of the killers shall be stone.”
(It’s not exactly Pektiller, but it’ll have to do.)
Yes, that makes more sense. Why would the giant want this lying out in the open? In fact, that hole up in the floorboards does seem to be horn-shaped. As if someone smashed the. . .
(This is irrelevant.)
How is Skyler going to blow a giant-sized horn? She walks around the horn. She stands inside the horn. She clenches her fists and huffs. She is thinking that the narrator is poking fun at her and short people all over the world.
Her? Blow this horn? This is absurd! Sure, she might be the Fairy that Commandeth All the Wind, but. . .
She steps out of the horn. Wind. Blow. All she needs is a good wind to blow through.
But where is she supposed to find wind in a HOLE UNDER THE FLOOR?!
Okay, fine. Fine! She gets it now. Moral of the story: little people can do big things too. Whatever. She’ll be obliging.
Skyler closes her eyes. Feels the still air. It’s different than in the dungeon where the air was rotting. Here the air is just waiting, holding its breath.
She pretends that it’s been waiting for her. And in a way, hasn’t it?
She’s done this before. Lots of times. This is what she tells herself as she whispers to the air, Let’s play chase. The air is so willing. It’s been lonesome down here. In her mind, the wind chases her in and out of the horn.
Come on, now. Faster! Stronger! It’s got to be faster if it wants to catch her. In and out of the horn.
But it’s not strong enough. She has done this many times, but never without Bolt. It makes her sadder to realize that Bolt is in fact nearby. He’s out in that stone garden, as a statue.
Poor Bolt. Turned to stone. She’s got to do this. For Bolt. For her friends.
Faster now. Come on!
They stop playing chase. You are a strong wind, Skyler tells the air.
It doesn’t believe her. It’s been left here under the floor. How can it be a strong wind?
But it wants to be.
And that’s all it needs. Just put the effort into.
The air blows and it blows. It’s a breeze. Yes! Keep going. It can do this. Skyler’s hair whips wildly around. She hovers over the ground.
The horn blows a long, loud blast.
Skyler, with the air from under the floor, flies out into the open. Something weird happens.
The whole world is awash in sparkles. Inside the mansion, outside the mansion. (Skyler thinks the sparkles overdo it, but she’s not the one writing this story.)
The garden comes to life. Her friends are no longer stone. The back wall is wood again. The sparkles finally disappear.
The witch and FTG are stone statues in the middle of an argument.
And our heroes ride to the Misfit Lands on Bolt’s back.
Our heroes now stand at the gate of the Misfit Lands. They ring the buzzer to ask if they’re allowed entrance. (Yes, there is a buzzer on the gate; the Master of the Misfits Lands is very classy like that.)
He says no.
They insist that they have pastries to trade for their passage.
The Master of the Misfit Lands says something like, “There’s no vacancy. And there won’t be one for another, oh, maybe two years? So please kindly go away.”
Our heroes (especially those with tempers and less rational thoughts) say something like, “We traveled so far and refrained from eating ALL of the pastries so we could finally find a home! And you still won’t let us it?! We just want a home to belong to.”
There is a static-y pause on the buzzer (honest, I don’t actually know what it’s called, I just see it on TV). This pause gives our heroes hope. Any moment now, the gate shall swing open because of their rousing argument. Everything they’ve done hinges on this moment. Open gate. Would it just open!?
The gate doesn’t open, if you need me to tell you.
The Master says something to the effect of, “Oh dears, you’ve already found a home. You belong with each other.”
He doesn’t say it in those exact words of course, because that is way too blunt and rather sappy romantic (not to mention poor writing).
And there’s no room for anything like that in this story.
All the same, our heroes agree. (
They do not in any
way find this anticlimactic and slapdash.)
So they ride off into the warming sunrise—
“Ashley, just say it, already!” Oddball is having trouble balancing on his horse.
(Yes, I pulled the horses out of my hat. That’s where I keep them in case there’s need for a clichéd exit.)
1) The real Oddball Trilogy does not actually read this way. Thank God!
2) Oddball is right. Rocky does not treat Skyler like that. At all. No. Just ick.
3) Skyler isn't actually a POV character.
4) The wicked witch who locked Peril in a tower and who trapped Oddball in the North Enchanted Wood, is the same witch. Her name is Society.
5) This whole thing is a war between my realistic, harsh, sarcastic editor side and my idealistic, hopeless romantic side. My latter side makes me gag and want to smother it. (Picture me growling, "Not you again!" grabbing a pillow, and lunging at a fluffy double of me.) This piece shows the battle that ensues between these two sides every time I sit to write. An Odd Tale is more about that battle than it is about Oddball.
6) I've never used the strike-through text button before.
So tell me if it irks you, otherwise you might see more of it.
7) You ought to view this picture, which is too enormous to post. But you'll love it.
Do you keep horses under your hat for dramatic exits? Okay, probably not. So do you at least talk to your characters? Are they respectfully little munchkins? Or do they argue and spread chaos?