Chapter - 1 Getting Started
Zoë Strawberry Wilson and Horus Bluestone Heath lived between the mountains and the sea in a small village called Wyeknot, on the river Wye in South Wales. Zoë lived in a tiny redbrick house with a high peaked roof, surrounded by a grassy field that reached all the way from the stone wall at the front road clear down to the Big Woods and the creek. Horus lived next door, in a big stone farmhouse with a huge oak tree, at the end of a red dirt lane.
Theirs was a quiet place, with lots of creeks and woods, separated by fields and narrow dirt roads, none of which went very far. The two of them were good friends, and they had opportunities to play together 'most every day. Whether it was grand adventures or small tea parties it was always fun, and they treasured each other's company.
Zoë was an inquisitive person; I mean, she was curious. She was curious about the world. She was curious about herself. She was curious about EVERYTHING. She was a strong, sturdy little girl, with curly, light brown hair and broad powerful shoulders. She had large hands, with long fingers that seemed to find their way into everything, sooner or later.
She liked to take things apart, which was fine, except that she very often couldn't put them back together. Not entirely, anyway. Her father loved her very much, and he liked to bring home broken gadgets and small appliances and leave them where Zoë could find them. Her mother was an exceptional mother, a champion hiker and swimmer, and she loved to sit outside with Zoë in her lap and watch the trees swaying in the breeze and tell Zoë about her relatives.
Horus was an odd fellow. I mean, he had unusual interests and hobbies, like building small boats for frogs to ride in, and making whistles from fresh willow branches, and trying to see how long he could stand on his head. Horus' father was an archaeologist, and was frequently away in Egypt or Iraq studying ancient civilizations and digging stuff up. His mother was a gentle, quiet woman with a winning smile, who loved to tell long, complicated jokes, and could make you happy just by singing to you.
Zoë couldn't remember exactly how or when she'd met Horus. It seemed to her that they'd always been friends, and that was good enough for her. She was a year older than Horus, and he was eight, making her nine, although because his birthday came earlier in the year than hers, he caught up with her for a few months every year.
Horus was fairly bright, and although his taste for adventure was never as strong as Zoë's, he was courageous in his own way, and he was a true and reliable friend. Horus was quite fond of animals - all sorts - and he was forever bringing home creatures from the woods and fields. He would keep them for a day or two, feed them whatever he thought they would eat, and then turn them loose again.
Author's Note #1 Introductions
The author wishes to express his regrets at not being able to meet you, personally. Perhaps, once you come to know Zoë and Horus, then at least we'll have two friends in common.
Now, there are some people who might think that living in a little village far from the city lights and busy people was rather dull. But it seemed just right to Horus and Zoë. They enjoyed the wind in the trees and the sun on the fields, and the bright and cheerful birds that sang to them every morning. They had clean, warm houses, and good food, and plenty of time to play and think. And, best of all, they had each other.
One day, Zoë came by Horus' house. She didn't say anything right away, but from the look on her face, Horus could tell that something was up.
"You know the woods?" she asked, rather abruptly.
"What?" said Horus.
"The woods," she said again, "the big old gnarly, thick, dark woods, down beyond the hayfield, where the creek comes out." She paused, waiting for him to say something.
"Yeah," he sighed. "What about them?"
"There's something in them," said Zoë.
"What?" said Horus.
"There's something in them," said Zoë.
"What's in them?" said Horus.
"I don't know," said Zoë.
"Me neither," said Horus. "What makes you think that?"
"Well..." said Zoë. She clearly had something to say, but she just didn't know how to begin. Horus knew her pretty well, though. He sat quietly and smiled at her, waiting for her to sort it out.
"Well..." she said again, "I had a dream last night. In the dream, there was a little man in a green suit, with green shoes, and a green coat, and a round green bowler on his head, and..."
"A leprechaun" said Horus. He'd read a lot of books.
"A LEPER CORN?" asked Zoë.
"No, a leprechaun. Little magical folk, from Irish fairy tales." Horus sounded very sure of himself.
"Well, maybe," she agreed. "Anyway, he had short, pointy beard, and was smoking a long, skinny, cream-colored pipe that he held clenched in his teeth, and he had a black iron pot full of gold in his hands."
"Typical," said Horus. "What was he doing?"
"It looked like he was searching for a place to hide the gold," said Zoë.
"Of course," said Horus.
"Maybe in a hole in a tree," said Zoë.
"Uh huh," said Horus.
"A big, gnarly, dark tree," said Zoë, growing ever more excited.
"Sure," said Horus.
"LIKE THE TREES IN THE DARK WOODS!" screamed Zoë.
"So?" asked Horus.
"So?" screamed Zoë. "HORUS, YOU BLOCKHEAD!" She didn't really mean it. She was just impatient, and beside herself with excitement. "Did it ever occur to you that there might be a treasure hidden deep, just a few steps from your back door, waiting for you to come and find it?"
"I don't think there's any treasure in those woods," said Horus. "Owls and spiders, maybe a wolf or two, but no treasure."
"Let's find out!" said Zoë, unable to contain herself any longer.
"You mean today?" asked Horus.
"I mean RIGHT NOW!" Zoë glared at him, and then flashed him a toothy grin. "Are you ready?"
Horus sat still, looking steadily at her. He wasn't in the mood for an adventure, but the chances of talking her out of it, once she got that look on her face, were pretty close to zero. "Okay," he said. "But, if we're going on a journey we need provisions." Zoë crossed her arms over her chest, and began tapping her toe up and down on the floor.
"We'll only be gone a single day," she said. Horus disappeared into the kitchen, and emerged a few minutes later.
"Food," he said, stuffing a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into his backpack. "Water," he said, adding a couple of sturdy metal water bottles with screw-on tops. "And shelter," he said, stuffing two waterproof ponchos and a sweater into the bag.
"Is that it?" asked Zoë. She was ready to go.
"Almost," he said. "We might not get back until after dark." Horus dropped two compact flashlights into his pack, zipped it up, and threw it on his back. "Okay," he said turning toward the door, "let's go!"