Who can withstand the cudgel and sword?
Only the men of the Gingerbread Guard.
And then he woke up.
He huffed out a breath and gasped. He was covered in sweat, even though the room was cool. His eyes were still shut, but he felt the wetness gathered at the rims of his eyelids. He squeezed and a tear rolled down from the corner of his eye and wet the outer rim of his ear.
Right away, he calmed. The intensity of whatever emotion he’d been feeling that brought him to tears just vanished.
“Where did you go?” the giant asked, smiling as she peered down at the ogre and the elf.
“Madhaluna,” the ogre said, “but so many couples go there for their honeymoon that people just call it…” She glanced at the elf.
The elf smiled. “…Honeymoon City.”
When I first entered the jungle, I walked forth into the unknown. I had no map, only a general direction. So I could say I stumbled upon him, but that would be misleading. I have been searching for him for a long while. Since before I knew his nature or his name. Since before I was born.
Once, there were five magic beans.
“There is no cure,” the baker said as she peered into the mage’s eyes.
“Ours is a family of seers,” Gran would say, before she began one of her tales. “But like everyone we can choose whether to look or not to look.”
Then she would tell us, a varied collection of her grandchildren, of what she had seen when she chose to look. We’d listen raptly as she told us stories about all the odd items in her collection of treasures from her life. She had the usual things that people had: birth certificate, diplomas, love letters from Grandpa, pictures of her children and grandchildren, books, trophies, vacation souvenirs, and so on.
But she also had things that people typically did not have: a petrified dragon scale, pearlescent flecks from a unicorn horn, a shard from the sword of a giant, a seed from a long-extinct and legendary talking tree, and so on. Every odd treasure of hers had a story to it. And every story was an adventure from her own life.
He was a peasant, the son of a farmer but not a fair farmer himself. After his father’s death, the farm had produced little worth selling at market. Still, his mother sent him on that day with some vegetables she had grown in her garden. Sickly looking turnips and dried out carrots no bigger than his little finger. He never made it to market. For on the road, he was waylaid by a stranger who offered him a better price for his wares than he thought he could ever get at market. The boy accepted the offer. He thought himself clever, and he dreamed of how delighted his mother would be when he returned home with five magic beans.