The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Seventeen: The
snaky line of the river Ayndruen was easy to spot in the predawn darkness. Sara swung right
in a long, slowly descending arc until she was only a few hundred feet directly above the
water, heading generally south. She somehow did not feel the need of great haste, taking
her time to observe what effects there might be from the decade of
Soraun's rule of Midgarde.
One of the first obvious signs was at the
unmistakable confluence of the muddy Ayndruen and the clear
Swiftload flowing from the lake at what had been the eastern
entrance to Muriah. The ancient forest of Laurien should have been there. It had been clear-cut,
the timber probably floated downstream. Settlements that must have been built from its
silvery trees lined the great river at intervals, with rows of squalid
tenements radiating from smoky riverfront industries. Ungainly riverboats plied the turgid
water. It seemed that the agents of Progress had been hard at work in this part of the
When the sun
finally broke the hazy horizon, Sara had seen just about enough, rising quickly with a
burst of speed to hurtle down the course of the wide valley, past the
grassy plain on the right and the browned lands on the left. She dropped and slowed again a short time later as the
Roring Falls came into view. Beyond, the Ayndruen curved almost directly east where the
great delta of the Enduish River emptied into it. Recalling that
Gundolf had told her the Nazghoul would gather in Min-Ashtireth to prepare an assault that she
'would not expect', she thought she should maybe reconnoiter a little before barging into town.
There, on a patch of flat land on one of
the innumerable islands made by the diverging streams of the delta, was a tiny factory
town among others lining a broad road that relentlessly forced its way across the
landscape, hopscotching each channel with sturdy stone bridges. There was something a
little odd about this town and its close neighbors on other islands. Instead of row
houses, there were brightly colored individual cottages, tightly packed together, with
round windows and doors — diminutive dwellings fit only for
what must be very little people.
The Little People!
How wonderful, thought Sara, in spite of her misery. As she swooped down, Sara could
see them trudging off to work from each little hut, filing down the lanes toward their
village sweatshop beside the road. They were dressed in a riot of fantastic outfits
— at least from the waist up. But they all seemed to be wearing the same style of cheap,
cotton trousers, males and females alike. On an adjacent island, she could see another
town of the Little People wearing garish skirts and pants in every conceivable style
cheap cotton workshirts. None of them were wearing shoes.
Sara landed behind a patch of trees out of
sight of the marching villagers and watched as they passed a trio of officious-looking
Little People outside the workhouse, busily checking off names as each went by. She walked over
by the bridge so as to appear to be a traveler along the highway, but when she neared the
road she had to wrinkle her nose in disgust.
what a stench, she thought. The
roadbed looked like it was made from rectangular white building stones, grouted together
carefully, that had been grossly discolored. She held her breath as she came close enough
to the trio to thankfully leave the road upwind.
Sighting her, the closest one said,
"Well, lookee wha' we got 'ere."
"It's a great,
'uge Man, by
th' looks o' it," said the second.
"An' a Lady, t' boot,"
said the third.
Determined not to alarm them, and
delighted at meeting real, live Little People, she mustered as much cheer as she could and
"Hello! My name is Sara Corel, and I'm very pleased to meet you.
I'm just passing through on my way to Min-Ashtireth. Mind if I visit with you for a
"Min-Ashtireth?" said the first,
a puzzled look on his face.
The second echoed him,
The third grimaced smugly, "Oh, it
ain't been called tha' since b'fore th' War. You must mean Haughz
"Haughz City?" said Sara.
Goblins took it, they
named it wha' they liked. Their priv'ledge, I'm sure." He eyed her
suspiciously, "An' where was it you said you was from, Miss…?"
"You should call me Sara." She
turned her smile on the youngest one on the left, "And what shall I call you?"
"Uh," he stammered, suddenly a
little shy, "I'm Nob, if it pleases you. Nob Munt."
"Why, it pleases me very much,
Nob." She turned to the Little Person on the right and said, "And
"Hamiel Munt. Call me Ham," he
Not wanting to be left out, the leader
introduced himself as, "Soady Munt, Chief Shop Steward, Local
29. These're my
assistants," indicating the others.
"Are you brothers?" Sara asked.
"'Ardly!" protested Ham.
"No more'n third cousins, a' th' least." The others looked at
"Oh. Sorry, it's just that you
all have the same last name…"
"Ev'rybody on this 'ere
piece o' land 'as tha' name, mostly," said Nob, "'Cause this
'ere piece o' land is all settled by th' Munt family, formerly o' th'
Westshire, what came 'ere together, mothers an' fathers, sons an' daughters,
brothers an' sisters, aunts an' uncles, close relations an' in-laws,
an' cousins o' ev'ry degree. All Munts, ev'ry one."
"Really," said Sara, looking
"For th' employment, after the
War," said Soady. "Good jobs 'ere, yessir'ee, or we'd be back on
th' farms diggin' taters an' plantin' smokeweed. The Wizard 'imself set us
up, 'e did — cot, shop an' comp'ny store. An' we're mighty grateful,
ain't we, lads." He glared at the others.
After receiving an elbow from Soady, Ham
spoke up rather too earnestly, "Oh, yes. Mighty grateful."
"Mighty grateful," echoed Nob,
as if maybe his life depended on it.
"So," persisted Soady, "you
must ha' come down th' 'ighway."
"No," said Sara, "Actually,
I came another way. From pretty far, as you might guess. This is the first I've seen
of such a road. It's — pretty unusual…"
"You mean, it stinks," said Nob.
"It looks, uh
— stained…" she went on, making a face.
"Tha's on account o' th'
Goblins," said Ham.
Ever the expert, Soady jumped in,
"After th' War, there warn't much use fer Goblins an' there
much use fer walls, neither. So th' Wizard, 'e puts 'em t' work tearin' down th'
walls o' Haughz City an' turnin' 'em into these fine 'ighways like
wha' you see 'ere.
they digs out th' roadbed all proper like, then lays th' stones in
pretty as you please. Then they pours concrete powder all over it an' sweeps it down into
all th' cracks. Then they…" He broke off, belatedly realizing he was, after
all, talking to a Man Lady.
"They what?" asked Sara.
"Well," began Ham, "they
drinks lots o' beer. A whole lot. Like it's just 'bout all they lives on,
"And then…?" prompted Sara,
Ham and Soady looked at each other.
Finally, Nob spoke up, "They pisses on it."
Sara raised her eyebrows.
"It sets th' mortar like
nobody's business, it does," he went on. "Them roads o' theirs
won't never break."
"And," added Ham,
never grows where a Goblin pisses. Uh, Ma'am."
"Keeps th' traffic light, t' be
sure," said Nob.
Soady told her, "So now we 'as
all these great, lovely 'ighways fer th' benefit o' Commerce, thanks to th'
Wizard. That's Progress! We're mighty grateful, I can tell you."
"Mighty grateful," repeated Ham.
Nob echoed, "Mighty grateful."
"I've heard that word
'Progress' mentioned a lot lately," said Sara. "This Wizard — I
suppose he's behind all this 'Progress' I've been seeing along the
"Aye, ee's th' one,"
answered Soady. "The Goblins, they calls 'im 'The Boss', but 'is real name
"That figures," Sara said, her
eyes narrowing. "Soloman, the White Wizard. I think I need to pay him a visit and talk to him
about this 'Progress' of his."
"You mean," said Nob, his eyes
widening, "see th' Wizard 'isself? You? All th' way t' Haughz City?"
"I don't think he will escape
me," she said, looking dreadfully thoughtful.
The three Little People
looked at each other, not
knowing whether to be frightened. "Well," ventured Soady, "if y' do see
'im, y' can tell 'im that us Munts are mighty grateful."
The others nodded vigorously, chorusing,
Sara snapped out of her black thoughts.
"Tell me," she said with a return to her earlier cheerfulness, "What kind
of work do you do?"
Relieved, Soady answered, "Why,
garment assembly, o' course. We 'ave some o' th' finest seamsters an'
seamstresses in Midgarde right 'ere in our little Land o' th' Munts. Look at
th' quality o' this workmanship," he said, hooking his thumbs under his
lapels and thrusting out his chest.
Sara looked at his garishly colored
jacket. "It looks very nice. What is this material? I swear it looks like
"We calls it 'poly',"
"More 'Progress', I'll
bet," said Sara wryly. "Why is it you're only wearing poly tops? The rest
of your outfits look like cotton."
Specialization," said Soady, "th' key t' Efficiency. Tops are wha' we do.
You'll 'ave t' ask th' Mollows an' their kin over t' th' next Land
th' rest o' it. They makes bottoms." The three Little People
all laughed, like it was a
secret dirty joke.
"Yeah," said Sara, "I
couldn't help noticing. Maybe you should get together with them someday and work out
a trade or something."
"Couldn't do tha'," said
Nob hastily, "Tha' wouldn't be regulation, now would it?"
"True, true," said
Ham, nodding his head earnestly.
"No," said Soady, " we
follows th' regulations, 'ereabouts. It's th' only proper way, an' you can
quote me on tha' one."
"Well," said Sara, "I must
say this whole place seems a little cockeyed. For one thing, it looks like the whole
village is pretty much slaving away in there."
"Not true!" protested Soady,
"Tha's good, 'olesome work, no time fer idleness. Why, it's a
is, t' be workin' in this 'ere Land wha' was given t' us by th' Wizard
'imself. Yessiree, we're mighty…"
"…Grateful," Sara waved her
hand and rolled her eyes, "Spare me."
"Look 'ere, Lady,"
countered Soady, "We 'ave Protection. Our Guild looks after us. I'm
Shop Steward, see, and I sees to it tha' ev'rybody gets a fair shake. We got
Benefits," he finished proudly.
"Such as…" prompted Sara.
"The comp'ny store," offered
Sara countered, "With a rather
incomplete wardrobe line, I'd say."
'alf-a-day off every other
weekend," said Soady with pride.
"Whoo-hoo," said Sara.
'ardly nobody never starves,"
Ham added, "Uh, 'cept maybe in winter."
Sara didn't know how to answer that
Nob finally spoke up, very quietly,
"An' if ev'rybody works hard an' minds their own business, th'
"Shut up, Nob," warned Soady.
He went on despite the warning,
"Th' Goblins won't eat us."
Sara looked grim. So that's it, she
Soady looked up at her, almost pleadingly,
"I don't know 'ow it was fer you after th' War, but in th'
Sara nodded, "I can see now why
you're so, uh, grateful."
"Tha's 'ow it is," said
Ham, "You'll not be sayin' nothin' to no Wizards, will you?"
"Oh, I am going to have a great deal
to say to a certain Wizard," said Sara menacingly. Seeing the
Little People flinch, she
went on, gently, "But not about you. Trust me, guys. My job is to free you all."
They looked at each other. "Free us?
Wha' do you mean?" asked Nob.
"I don't know," mused Sara.
"I freed the Dwarves, and look how that turned out." She was silent for a while.
"Forgive me," she said, "I
have a big job to do and I really must be going."
"Wait!" said Soady, "We
'aven't given you th' Official Greeting!"
"Oh, you needn't bother,"
Sara said graciously.
"It's Regulation," said
"It's our job," added
Nob, "If y'know wha' I means…"
imagine. "Very well. This won't take
long, will it?"
"Well," said Soady, "Since
you're just a day visitor, an' not a guest, we'll do th' short version.
The others nodded.
All together, they began, "We
represent th' Poly Top Guild…"
"The Poly Top Guild?" answered
Nob nodded his head, "Th' Poly Top
Soady looked annoyed. He signaled them to
take it again from the top. "And in th' name of th' Poly Top
Guild." They paused for effect on the high note, then continued
in unison, "We wish t'
welcome you to Munt's-kin Land."
Sara told them, "Why, thank you. I am very honored," and reached down to give
each one of them a little hug, making them blush brightly.
Sara laughed, "I'm off to
see the Wizard."
"Th' wonderful Wizard,"
Soady stressed, as if someone might be listening, "o' Haughz."
Ham said, "You'll be
needin' directions, won't you?"
"Oh, I'll probably manage. The
city's basically southeast of here, so I can just head for the
Whyte Mountains and hang a left."
"You'll be wantin' t' stay
away from them mountains, from wha' I 'ears," said Soady. "They're full o'
wild animals since th' War. Like lions."
"An' tigers," said Ham.
"An' bears," finished Nob.
"Oh, my," Sara replied, trying
to appear concerned. "I guess I could follow the river."
"Uh-uh," Ham said, shuddering.
"Full o' crocodilagators, so they sez."
"No doubt about it," said Soady
authoritatively, "there's only one sure way t' go."
"What's that?" Sara asked.
"Follow th' yellowed brick
road," said Soady.
"Follow th' yellowed brick
road," chorused Ham.
"Follow th' yellowed brick
road," agreed Nob.
"Yuk," replied Sara. "I
think I'll pass." Clicking the heels of her ruby-red slippers together three
times, she rose into the blue sky like a soap bubble, then quickly vanished from the
astonished Little Peoples' sight.
© Patrick Hill, 2000