Even with my efforts to write a story for NaNoWriMo, I've managed to take the time to write another Story a Week. This is a continuation on the Candy Land storyline. It's quite a bit longer, coming in at around 1,600 words. I tried to edit it down a bit, but I didn't even get as far into the story as I would have liked with this chapter. Oh well. I hope that you enjoy the story!
I returned to the Candy Land Road and started heading east towards the Royal Peppermint Forest. It wasn't long before I ran into trouble though. After a few minutes on the road, I turned a corner and was ambushed by some Black Licorice Crows. They must have been sent by Lord Licorice to slow me down. They swooped down at me over and over again, but about the only damage they did to me was to take my hat. About the only thing that accomplished was to make me mad.
I pulled out my revolver and took aim at a few of the crows. Before I could get a shot off, a net flew up into the air from behind a bush at the side of the road. The net caught most of the crows, including the one that had my hat, and dragged them to the ground. I cheered when the two or three remaining crows flew off to the north.
I was still on guard, though. Whoever had trapped those crows hadn't yet come into sight around that bush. I kept my revolver out, but pointed it to the ground as I called out, "Thank you! Those crows were a real nuisance."
Two gingerbread men from the Cookie Patrol strolled out from behind the bush and I breathed a sigh of relief. I even recognized one of them as Sergeant Snick Ers. I waved and said, "Sergeant Ers, it's good to see you!"
He waved to me and indicated that I should come over to the net. He was directing the other member of the squad to tie down the net as I approached. He grabbed my hat from under the net and handed it to me. He said, "Well if it isn't Ap LePie. What are you doing wandering the Candy Land Road?"
I was wondering if the patrol had gotten word of the King's disappearance. I wanted to be discreet, so I said, "I'm looking for the King."
Both of them stopped what they were doing and gave each other a concerned look. Snick said, "So, you know about that, huh?"
"Yeah, Snick," I replied. "Plumpy called me after he found out." Something else was puzzling me though. I asked him, "If the Cookie Patrol knows about the King's disappearance, what are you doing here?"
Snick took me by the shoulder and led me away from the crows and his subordinate. Once we were out of earshot he said, "Look, Ap. The kingdom appreciates everything you've done for us in the past, but I think that this one is a little over your head. Princess Lolly has taken command of the Patrol and has lead most of the army to the Lollypop Woods to search for the King."
"The Lollypop Woods!" I yelled. "What is she doing up there? Doesn't she know anything?"
"Hold on, there Ap," he placed his hand on my shoulder to try to calm me down. "What are you talking about?"
I sighed and told him about Plumpy and the Plumpa trolls. Afterwards, I said, "You know that the crows are working for Lord Licorice too, don't you?"
Snick glanced back at the crows, then at me. He said, "Yeah, but we just figured that he was up to his old tricks, not trying to take over the kingdom." He looked thoughtfully at me and said, "Where are you heading, Ap?"
I thought about it for a moment. My run-in with the crows proved that I couldn't take on Lord Licorice by myself. I said, "Well, I had planned on going to Licorice Castle to confront the Lord, but I'm not so sure that it's a good idea to go by myself."
Snick nodded and said, "Yes, it's too dangerous for you to go alone. Tell you what; I'm going to head up to the garrison in Gumdrop Pass. I'll tell the commander there about the news that you've given me. I'll meet you where the pass meets the road on the northern side."
I looked at him a little puzzled and asked, "Why don't I just go with you to the garrison?"
Snick laughed and said, "Well, Ap, that's a good question. You need to stop by the Royal Peppermint Forest and tell Mr. Mint to step up the production of Peppermint spears, just in case we have a long drawn out war on our hands. Who knows what kind of preparations Lord Licorice has already made."
I nodded to him and said, "That sounds like a plan. I'll meet you on the north end of the pass where it meets the road."
He nodded to me and I continued on my way down the road. The walk to the Royal Peppermint Forest took a couple of hours and was very uneventful. When I got to the forest, I saw that all of the tree harvesting machinery was sitting unused. I didn't see any lumberjacks around, so I went to Mr. Mint's foreman's cabin. Now, before I go any further in the story, I need to mention that I'd never met Mr. Mint before. Of course, I'd heard of him, who hasn't heard of the great lumberjack, Mr. Mint? Even though I'd heard the stories, they really didn't prepare me for when I walked through that door and saw the contents of his cabin.
You probably know this already, but Peppermint trees can be used for pretty much anything. As Snick had told me, they are used to make spears. They also make good masts for ships sailing the Ice Cream Sea. Mr. Mint likes to make wind instruments from them. It's widely known that he has a large collection of these instruments. When I walked through that door, I saw instruments everywhere! I'm telling you that there were flutes on the floor, piccolos on the patio, clarinets stacked to the ceiling. You get the picture. In the middle of it all, there sat Mr. Mint whittling away at a piece of Peppermint tree with a knife. He didn't even seem to notice that I'd entered.
I walked over to where he was sitting and cleared my throat. He looked up at me and said, "Who are you?"
"My name is Ap LePie; we've never met, but..."
He interrupted me, saying, "Oh! Ap LePie, the famous private investigator! How nice to meet you!" He waved his arm around the room and asked, "Have you come to purchase something?"
I shook my head and said, "Uh, no thank you Mr. Mint. I've been sent here by Sergeant Ers. He'd like you to start producing Peppermint Spears for the Cookie Patrol."
Mr. Mint scratched his head. "I don't think that I can do that for you, Mr. LePie."
I was stunned; all I could say was, "Why not?"
He looked really confused. I could see some sort of internal battle taking place in his head. After a moment, one of the sides seemed to win the battle and he just shrugged and mumbled, "Dunno."
Frustrated, I turned and kicked a pile of piccolos that was nearby. The small instruments went flying everywhere. I was about to turn back to try and talk some sense into Mr. Mint when I saw something shiny buried in the piccolos. Puzzled, I bent down and threw a couple piccolos to the side to uncover the thing. It ended up being some sort of crystal ball. I picked it up and felt an immense sense of apathy course through my body. I dropped the ball and immediately felt more like myself. Suddenly, Mr. Mint's refusal to help made sense. Someone had left this crystal ball in his office that produced a feeling of apathy towards the world. Mr. Mint coped by creating the things that he loved and ignoring the outside world.
I quickly picked up the ball and chucked it against the nearest wall as hard as I could. The thing cracked, but didn't break. Behind me, Mr. Mint let out a yelp. I looked over to him and he was holding his head in both of his hands. Angrily, I walked over to where the ball had landed and picked it up and smashed it against the ground. This time it shattered into a million pieces. Mr. Mint groaned and slumped forward.
I moved over to him and shook him awake. I said, "Are you alright, Mr. Mint?"
He groaned again and looked up at me. "You're Ap LePie, aren't you? What are you doing here?"
He obviously didn't remember anything. I told him my story and then about how I found him. He looked about the room and said, "I guess that I've been busy doing all the wrong things." He looked up at me with a fierce smile on his face. "Mr. LePie, I'll get my workforce back to work and we'll start cranking out Peppermint spears before you know it!"
I smiled and slapped him on the back. I turned to go, but Mr. Mint said, "Wait, Ap. I think that I've got something that might help you on your way."
I turned and saw him go to his desk. He rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a small, dark flute. "Last year some of my workers found a Chocolate Peppermint tree deep in the forest. Chocolate Peppermint trees are extremely rare and they turn into wonderful flutes that produce beautiful music."
He walked over to me and extended the flute out to me. I looked and it was indeed a beautiful instrument. "I don't think that I can take that, Mr. Mint."
He smiled and replied, "Please, take it. Something tells me that you will need it before your journey is done."
I nodded at him and took the flute and carefully put it in the inner breast pocket of my coat. "Thank you, Mr. Mint," I said. I left his cabin and returned to the road. My walk to the Gumdrop Mountain Pass would take most of the night and wouldn't be easy.