Directions from a Druid


By Stefan Keller

 

“Just past The Swamp of Misery,” Alvin huffed. “Just past The Swamp of Misery…”

Though his whisper was barely audible in the frigid air, the man just ahead stopped and looked back. An icicle-crusted cloth obscured most of his face, yet he still managed to scowl. “I swear,” he said, his speech muffled, “If ye dunnae stop, ye’ll shortly be asking yer ANCESTORS about The Swamp of Misery!” He faced forward again and continued walking.

Alvin hadn’t even the breath to sigh. Given that, he doubted the other man’s threat had much clout behind it. They were all worn out, cold, and on edge. They’d been at this quest for the longest fortnight of any man’s life: rising in the dark, stopping after the next night’s dark, and sleeping round a sorry excuse for a campfire. And the weather was always, always cold.

If not for a small supply of bottled ale, Alvin felt sure he’d be as frozen a man as that statue up ahead.

Statue? Statue?! “STATUE!!” he yelled, stopping so suddenly he was hit from behind by the next man. Alvin fell to the ground but scrabbled up again. Snow flew from his waving arms and dusted back. “Giant! Statue! We made it!” Pointing and almost hopping, he shouted through his own mouth scarf.

His neighbors to front and back looked where he motioned in a comically slow fashion and blinked their frosted lashes. They pointed, they shouted, they turned to men near them and relayed the message. Soon a chorus of muffled male voices was crying out in disarrayed joy. Arms waved, mittened hands gestured, and petrified limbs found life.

Hope renewed, the company trudged onward with greater speed. Alvin’s feet crunched in time to the rest: Frosted. Giant. Frosted. Giant. It was just as The Druid had described -albeit much farther a walking distance than they had all anticipated from her, “…just beyond The Swamp of Misery” direction.

Up the whitefold hill they trudged; and up, and up. Alvin’s sweating breath exhaled cloudy puffs with the beat of his boots. Though still excited, the men’s synchronized hike faltered on icy rocks and the powder-coated trail. After a half day’s exertions, however, all managed to clamber to the great, gaping base of The Frosted Giant.

Alvin and his companions stared at the dragonlike mouth carved before them, traced its mouth to a pair of nostrils, followed the nostrils to the upper part of a bearded man, then ended at the sunset-glinted, shaggy head of the giant himself.

“The Frosted Giant,” Alvin whispered, and was promptly punched in the arm. “Ow!”

“Told ye I’d teach ye,” a familiar, cloth-wrapped voice said. The man behind it ambled off behind a few others, whom Alvin could see were setting up camp. He followed, rubbing at his arm. Soon the whole company of men were warming themselves around their usual, ineffective fire.

“Right,” grunted the leader, shifting his scarf to below his bearded chin and smiling. Given the frozen state of his facial hair, the friendly expression was more of a grimace. “We made it.”

Eighteen heads bearing varying levels of frost nodded ascent. A few grunted as well.

Alvin could hardly contain his excitement. Forgetting his sore arm and what caused it, he blurted, “Now, we’ve only another fortnight or so till the next destination: The Scorching Phoenix!”

 

Thanks to D. Wallace Peach, a most excellent writer, for the prompt.

30 thoughts on “Directions from a Druid

  1. mymindlessdrivel January 12, 2019 / 10:58 pm

    May I just join with the rest of the men in Alvin’s group in giving the loud, long, collective SIGH!!!!!!!

    Great picture, though, of the Frosted Giant.

    Pardon me if I go snuggle on my warm couch and read. No druid-guided quests for me, thank you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 12, 2019 / 11:01 pm

      You and me both! I love being warm!

      Like

  2. D. Wallace Peach January 13, 2019 / 9:48 am

    I love Alvin’s mantras, Chelsea, and the names you gave the landmarks. What a riot, and the whole trek, cracked me up. Of course, they’re all men. Ha ha ha ha. Wonderful descriptions of the cold, great characters. What a fun story. Thanks so much for taking up the prompt. I can’t wait to share this. 🙂

    Like

    • Chelsea Owens January 13, 2019 / 10:49 am

      Thanks so much, D.! I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s take on the prompt., and allowing my mind to wander.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Violet Lentz January 13, 2019 / 12:24 pm

    Very nice. I’ll take a look at that prompt site as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 13, 2019 / 12:31 pm

      Thank you. 🙂
      She’s been posting a few writers’ takes and it’s been fun to read them.

      Like

    • Peregrine Arc January 16, 2019 / 7:45 pm

      I think I’m going to have to revamp my contest parameters. You may be the winner this week by default.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 16, 2019 / 8:45 pm

      You and me? I think we already knew that. 😀

      Like

      • Peregrine Arc January 17, 2019 / 5:33 am

        Haha yes. I meant the contest too. Same picture and everything

        Liked by 1 person

  4. D. Wallace Peach January 19, 2019 / 8:10 am

    Reblogged this on Myths of the Mirror and commented:
    I think Chelsea is one of those naturally funny people, who don’t even need to try. I hope you enjoy her story. Happy Saturday.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. H.R.R. Gorman January 19, 2019 / 9:12 am

    Wow, that ending – simultaneously like “Aww, nerts!” and yet so satisfying for me as a reader!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 19, 2019 / 9:25 am

      😀 I know how you feel. I’m so glad it came to me that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. babbitman January 19, 2019 / 10:10 am

    Nice story, Chelsea. I love the idea that it’s some kind of enormous Hogwartsesque treasure hunt – just need Alvin to gather everyone together and ask the grumpy old bloke to smile for the camera 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 19, 2019 / 10:43 am

      🙂 It’s like an adult treasure hunt, with more frostbite.

      Hopefully, they’ll get something as important as a Horcrux out of it all…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. robertawrites235681907 January 19, 2019 / 10:56 am

    A great story, Chelsea. Diana’s photograph is certainly getting the creative juices flowing in the blogosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 19, 2019 / 11:33 am

      Yes it is! I wonder if she’s a bit tired of reading about hikers in snow, though. 😀

      Like

  8. Resa January 19, 2019 / 2:10 pm

    That was funny! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. patriciaruthsusan January 21, 2019 / 12:25 am

    Great, humorous descriptions, Chelsea. It’s not a trek I’d care to go on. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 21, 2019 / 1:52 am

      Thank you! I don’t believe I’d enjoy the trek, either! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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