The Treasure HuntersThere were six roommates who all lived in an immense two-story house that sprawled across a hilltop like a drunken elephant. It was a house whose many windows were mostly obscured by the unpruned tangle of willow trees, rose, and lilac bushes that made up the garden. This jungle kept the house protected from the bitter winds that often blew in from the sea during the winter. However, it did not prevent the house's hand-hewn, cedar shingles from gradually fading from red to a sort of overcast gray. The sort of color that was common in the coastal skies. It was on one of those gray days when the sun had not been seen for a week and everyone stayed inside, getting on each other’s nerves. They were all in the kitchen, helping with making an apple pie and they were not having the least bit of success of getting the ingredients in order. Someone was either late in getting the basic ingredient of apple pie skinned and sliced, or someone was spilling flour on someone's head, or... "Pierard," said the gray mouse named Gregory. "Must you keep those tail feathers in the dough?" "Sorry Greg," replied the parrot. "That's the third time already," grumbled the mouse. "This pie’s going to have more green feathers than green apples!" Pierard's attention was already elsewhere. "Ahoy there, Tris!" the parrot hollered across the room. "How are you and Pascal coming along with those apples?" The Churcka grumbled back, "I'm doing all the work, and what's he doing? He has his beak burrowed in a book!" "I say, Pascal," said Pierard sternly. "Surely you could come up with one dozen green apples without difficulty." However, Pascal, a rather intellectual bird, was so absorbed in an Ogden Nash poetry book, that he didn't give the parrot a single glance. Pierard was very annoyed. It was his idea to teach the others more elaborate recipes than basic bread and biscuits, salads and things like that. He went about his bossing atop the counter, flapping his wings and getting feathers and whatnot in the dough.Cheryl, the brown wood mouse, was tired of being ordered about by the bossy parrot, so she decided to explore Pierard's cookbook. As she was turning the pages something dropped out onto the floor. It was a folded page of parchment, yellowish with age. Cheryl picked it up and opened it, drawn on the parchment was a bunch of random lines and shapes that puzzled her greatly. Glued to the parchment was a small sheet of paper torn along one edge. It read: Captain Eskival's Gold and Silver Captain Eskival's Gold and Silver 1 Pound of the best golden 2 Pounds of Diamond whi 1 3/4 Pounds of finest white 1O best large fre 4 Large Golden It didn't make much sense to Cheryl, so she showed it to Twicky. "Do you know what this is?" asked Cheryl. "I believe it's a map," replied Twicky critically, "and not a very good one." "A map!" exclaimed the mouse. When everyone heard the word "map" they clustered around Cheryl. "Where did you find it?" asked Tris. "In the cookbook," replied Cheryl. "It doesn't look like a map," observed Pascal. "It looks like it was used once to wrap a greasy bit of Salami," remarked Gregory. "It’s hard to tell the writing from the dirt," said the Churcka. "Maybe it was handled a lot," said Twicky. Since the cookbook belonged to Pierard, everyone began to ask the parrot about the map. Pierard then began to tell about how he was once a cook's assistant on the pirate ship, "Bacon and Barley." "What a peculiar name for a pirate ship," Pascal commented. "Compared with 'Sea Wolf' or 'Wolverine,' 'Bacon and Barley' isn't a very fierce name." "It's much better than the name 'Daffodil,'" remarked Tris. "Never you mind about any blooming ships' name," snapped the parrot, "I'm tellin' a story here, do you all want to hear it?" Everyone became quiet and Pierard continued. "Now this cook, Saucy Soup Sam," he explained, "he was a good cook, except he was a bit absent-minded. He would sometimes misread the recipe, put in too much pepper or salt in the soup, or worse he might throw into the brew a sow with the bristles still on. So, I always repeated the words, over and over for so many years, I knew all those recipes by heart. "Well, when Saucy Soup retired from the pirate business to pursue a career as a respectable chef, he gave me this here cookbook. "I thought it was just an ordinary cookbook. I didn't think it had anything of antique value folded away inside." They all stared at the map in wonder. "Well, what do you know!" Pascal exclaimed. "We have a real genuine treasure map!" "Don't get yourself too excited," said Twicky skeptically, "just because it looks old doesn't mean its genuine." "What do you mean? It's old, isn't it?" asked Pascal sharply. "Sure, it's old," answered Twicky, "about twelve years old to be precise." Twicky had an uncanny ability of identifying an object's antiquity on sight. "The recipe glued to the map is older..." explained Twicky. "Recipe?" Cheryl interrupted. "I thought it was a list of treasure!" "It is a list of treasure!" screeched the parrot. "Left by my old friend, Saucy Soup Sam, who had gathered it during our travels together! Now, I shall prove to you all that there is really a treasure!” Twicky shook her head. Once Pierard got hold of an idea, he would hang on to it with barnacle-like tenacity. The first thing the parrot did was make Twicky draw a copy of the map. Then he made the others drag out all the tools from the tool shed. While the others were getting tools, Pierard went rummaging through the closets and found a wooden sword, a pirate hat with dyed ostrich feathers, and a musty-smelling cape. He then put on this costume and began to pose in front of the mirror. He struck some fierce and piratical poses for a while and then insisted that they bring the wheelbarrow. When the others asked why, he announced, "To carry home all those gold guineas." Hellbender River ran behind the back of their house. You would think a river with the name of "Hellbender" would be fierce, but it wasn't. It babbled along over the rocks in a lazy sort of way. On the river bank was a rowboat that had seen better days. The rowboat was old and tired. It looked as if it would have been more comfortable in a garden with tulips planted in it rather than embarking on a cruise. The paint on the boat was a bilious green, lumpy, and streaked, rather as if a large sea creature had been sick over it. At the bottom of the boat were rusty, unidentifiable, bits of things and smelly, little, pieces of grunge. When Pierard pushed the boat into the river, it floated crookedly, leaning to one side, as if it was tired, and wanted to get the whole business over with as quickly as possible. Pierard nimbly hopped in, followed soon by Tris and then, by the more cautious Gregory, who noticed that the boat was beginning to lean even more to one side. Yet, when Pascal tried to get in, the parrot shrilled. "Where do you think you're going with that?" "Well, you told us to bring the wheelbarrow of tools!" said Pascal, who had just about had enough of Pierard's bossiness. "Yes, but did I say you could bring it in the boat?" screeched the parrot. "Well, I thought you were going to bring it?" Pascal screeched back. "You don't expect us to push around a wheelbarrow full of tools all day!" "Scuse me," Tris chimed in, "if we can't take the wheelbarrow; can we at least take the tools?" "Okay," relented the parrot, "we'll take the tools, but not the wheelbarrow!" Just as they were finished packing the tools in, Pascal hopped aboard. "Now, just a minute here!" Pierard exclaimed. "Where do you think you're going?" "With you of course," Pascal answered, "I figure you might need some help in digging up that treasure." "Oh no you don't," said the parrot, "I've already had enough help, you are with the group going by land." "What?" Pascal stood up so fast that the boat began to rock dangerously. "I thought all of us were going together?" "Haven't you been listening, Pascal?" said Cheryl. "Pierard thinks we'll cover more ground if we split into two groups, one traveling by land the other by sea." "Well," huffed Pascal, as he hopped back on land, "at least I'll feel much safer onshore. That... ahh... vessel of yours, Pierard, isn't worth a plugged nickel, let alone a wooden nickel!” He regained his breath. "By the way?" he asked. "What are we supposed to look for on land?" "A branch in the shape of a stork's head," answered the parrot. He then gave the signal for the boat to shove off. "Wait!" Pascal hollered. "After the branch, what next?" "The great, green, speckled rock!" screeched Pierard. "Row faster, maties!" "Wait!" Pascal was running hard to catch up with them onshore. "What next?" he cried. "What next?" "The old...Now, just the minute!" the parrot said. "Why am I telling you all this? I'm with the sea, you're with shore! You have the copy that Twicky did, you go find the clues for yourself!” The three on the shore watched as the boat moved slowly through the current like a large water beetle, watching until it finally disappeared around a bank. "Well," said Cheryl, "we have two choices, we can either stay home and finish the apple pie or we can be idiots and join Pierard on his crazy quest." "Well, maybe the apple pie can wait," remarked Twicky. "The sun is about to come out and we can get some good exercise." "Good idea," agreed the mouse, "that's sounds a whole lot better than staying at home." They began walking off down the shore. "What?" cried Pascal. "Not you too! You know we're being bamboozled here! That daft parrot is making us do all the hard work of finding clues, while he gets all the gold and silver for himself!" He stopped to see if they were listening, but they were far down the shore now. For a minute or two, he stood there, then with a resigned shrug, he went to join them. Meanwhile, Gregory and Tris were forced to take up the oars, while the parrot, dressed like a pirate captain, stood at the bow, giving orders and making a spectacle of himself. "Who are you supposed to be?" mocked a fisherman. "Long John Silver?" After an encounter with some whirlpools and a near collision with a flock of geese, Gregory and Tris had just about had enough. "Pierard!" protested Gregory. "We don't know much about rowing a boat!" "Now's the time to learn," replied the parrot fiddling with his telescope. "Pierard!" growled Tris. "I must confess, you look very ridiculous in that stupid outfit of yours. Any sensible pirate won't be caught dead wearing that!" "Your job is to help Gregory navigate this vessel," reminded the parrot, "not to criticize." "I can darn well criticize when I please!" said Tris, getting to her feet, her face beet-red with anger. "Now, Tris," cautioned Gregory, "I'm sure Captain Pierard knows what he's doing, now, don't do anything rash!" "I'm sick of the word "Captain!" Tris shrieked. "All this way, it's 'Captain' this, 'Captain' that! The boat's starting to leak and instead of helping us empty the water, he's too busy strutting around, waving that stupid sword of his!" "Is this mutiny I hear?" growled the parrot. "You bet your fancy hat it's mutiny!" screamed Tris. Then she gave the parrot a hard shove, and into the river he went. "Oh, now you've done it this time, Tris!" said Gregory as he hurried over to fish Pierard out. "Help, help!" Pierard cried. His once beautiful costume didn't do much to keep him afloat, it only made him more waterlogged. "Here grab my hand!" said Gregory. Unfortunately, all their attention was directed on Pierard and not on what was steadily approaching from behind. "Yeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkk!!! Grrrrrraaaaaaaaakkkkkkkkk!!! Grrrrrraaawwwwkkkkkkk!!! Sqwwwweeech!!!" said the panicking parrot. "Ah, Greg?" said Tris pricking her sensitive ears. "Do you hear something?" "How can I hear anything?" hissed Gregory through clenched teeth. "Pierard's makin' enough noise as it is? "Pierard!" he snapped. "Criminy quit your thrashing and let me haul you aboard!" The parrot wasn't making matters any better. He flapped, floundered, and sputtered, which wasn’t surprising, seeing that he wasn't a duck. "Ah, Greg?" said Tris pulling at the mouse's sweater. "I hear it again!" "Tris," cried Gregory in exasperation, "the only confounded noises I hear are from Pierard! Maybe I ought to let you haul him back in since you're the one who put him there in the first place!" "Besides Pierard," persisted the Churcka, "there's something else I hear!" "Oh, really," grumbled the mouse. "What?" "A chuff, chuff, chuffing sound," replied Tris, "but that's not all, there's also a swish splashing sound!" "A chuff, chuff, chuffing," said Gregory impatiently, "a swish, splash, splashing? Well, Tris, there's only one thing in this river that would make such sounds, and that has to be a stern wheeler!” At the same time, the stern wheeler whistled its approach. The shrillness of the whistle sent a quiver down Gregory's spine. "Gosh, that sounded close!" he said. Turning around, his beady eyes soon widened at the sight of the white bow sweeping towards them through the grey-green water, of the towering wheelhouse and its single smokestack belching black smoke. When she wasn't hauling freight and passengers between Crannie and Nook, the stern wheeler Imp packed families and tourists for excursion trips. Polite as they were, the people on board the Imp couldn't help tittering at the ludicrous scene going on in the rowboat. The only person who didn't find this scene too amusing was the captain. He was too busy cursing away. Finally, Gregory, puffing with exhaustion and anger, hoisted Pierard aboard. While at the same time the captain of the Imp swerved around the rowboat. This, in turn, caused a chain reaction. A large wake developed and this jolted the already leaning, overloaded rowboat. "Oh, cabbage!" Gregory screamed, his arms whirling like windmills as he tried to keep his balance. Then Pierard latched onto him for support. "Pierard!" the mouse squeaked. "Let go before you capsize us all!" Then the boat gave one last wobble and the three toppled screeching into the drink. During all this, Twicky was leading her band through thick brush. "Excuse me?" said Pascal. "Are you sure you know where you're going?" "Relax, Pascal," replied Cheryl. "She knows...Ahh, you do know where you're going, Twicky?" "Weeeell," said Twicky, brushing her long side-whiskers. "As I recall from that copy of Pierard's map, that to get to the rendezvous site on Periwinkle Beach we'll have to take the short cut through the Forest of the Lost Ones." "The Forest of the Lost Ones!" chorused Pascal and Cheryl. "But Twicky," said Pascal, "people say that place is ... haunted!" "Maybe," said Twicky quietly, "but if we stay here, we may never get anywhere." "Is there any other way around that forest?" asked Cheryl hopefully. "There is another way around there," replied Twicky, "but it's quite overgrown with brambles, there are also quagmires and wild dogs." "Did I hear you say... wild dogs?" shuddered Pascal. "You know... I'm quite scared of any dog. This happened when I was six years old and..." "All right," said Cheryl, who had heard this story many times before. "We get the picture." As the company tramped on, the underbrush changed to saplings and then to huge, gnarled, arthritic-looking trees. They walked silently, save for a slight chattering of teeth from Pascal. "I heard that this was once a pleasant place, many years ago," quavered Pascal. "Aye," replied Cheryl darkly, "but that was many years ago, before the Umiobake and other ghastly folk came." "How do you pronounce that word again?" asked Twicky. The wood mouse pronounced it slowly, "Oo-me-oh-bah-kay." "Umiobake?" said Pascal. "Ghastly folk?" "Surely you have heard of the Umiobake?" said Cheryl, surprised at Pascal's ignorance of local folklore. "They're spirits that hoard treasure like barrow-wights." "Are they some sort of barrow-wight?" asked Pascal, more frightened than before. "Nah," said the mouse. "Barrow-wights haunt burial mounds of dead warriors, they go clanking and clattering around in rusty jeweled armor at night. They can't go out in daylight, you know why?" "They'll melt," answered Pascal. "Right," said the mouse. "Now, Umiobake are what you call ship-wights because when they were alive, they were once pirates. They're much worse than a barrow-wight because they can go out in daylight, plus their bones don't creak when they're sneaking up on you." "What do they...do...after they grab you?" gulped Pascal. "I don't know," said Cheryl, "as far as I know no one has ever escaped to tell the rest of the story." "So what do these things look like then," whimpered Pascal. "They have to look inconspicuous to go out in public!" "As I said before," Cheryl replied, "I don't know. That's all I know about them and I don't care to know more. Maybe they wear a long cloak to cover up their bones... All I could do is guess." "Oh, come now, Cheryl!" exclaimed Twicky. "Those are just tall-tales like those giant mosquitoes that straddle rivers. Just stories that people invented around the campfire to scare one another. Now, you're not going to let some stories about ghost pirates stand in our way of the treasure?" "You're right," said Cheryl finally. "They're just stories, sorry I scared you, Pascal." "Humph!" Pascal replied, tossing his head. As they walked farther down the path there came an ominous rustling noise, and from every shadowy space appeared a pair of luminous eyes that stared after them. Meanwhile, back on the river. After wringing out their clothes, Pierard's crew resumed their rowing. Neither one was saying much, even the parrot, who was usually very talkative, was silent. Maybe a beak full of river water was a good lesson for Pierard, thought Gregory, and Tris is sulking now after I yelled at her for pushing Pierard in. This wouldn't have happened if we hadn't found that stupid map. Maybe the best thing to do would be to turn this boat around and... No, wait if I do that, then we would have come all this way for nothing. There has to be at least something there on that beach. I wonder what Twicky and the rest of the crew are doing? I hope they're having better luck than we are. After two hours of searching about, Twicky and the others finally found a branch that matched the description mentioned by Pierard. "It really looks like a stork," whispered Cheryl in awe, "almost like a live stork." "I'm exhausted," said Pascal, "I'm going to take a brief snooze over there." "I don't think that's a good idea," cautioned Twicky, "something's liable to grab you into those bushes." "On second thought," said Pascal, getting quickly to his feet, "how far is it to the great, green, speckled rock?" "Let's see," said Cheryl taking out the map copy. "Oh, how easy! We simply follow where the stork's beak is pointing for eighty paces!" As they tramped on they began to be aware of the dead silence growing around them. "It's quiet," said Pascal. "Too quiet," said Cheryl. "This is an evil place," said Twicky. "We cannot stay here." "No," agreed Cheryl, looking up from her map and to the dark, thickening forest in front of them. "We still have a long way to go." They began counting again, but nervously. Pascal, as he counted kept looking over his shoulder. "Stop a minute," he said in a worried tone. When they did, he began peering back down the way they came. "What's wrong?" asked Twicky. "I thought I saw something," he trembled. "A deer?" said Twicky quizzically. "It moved too fast," he whispered. "I only saw it only for an instant." "Hey," Cheryl said impatiently, "what's going on? You've made me lose count, here!" "Pascal said he saw something on the path behind us," Twicky replied. Cheryl then noticed Pascal, trembling like an aspen leaf. "All right," she said grumpily, placing her hands on her hips. "Tell me what you saw." "Well," said Pascal timidly, "I heard a sound behind me. It was a voice, a rather sibilant voice. I heard it calling: Pas-s-s-cal. Ohh, Pas-s-s-s-cal. When I turned around to see who was calling, I saw this big, black thing leap off the path into the brush." "Pascal," scolded Cheryl, "don't be ridiculous. What you saw was probably an opossum." "Its legs were too long for an opossum," insisted Pascal. "I know what I saw and what I saw was bigger than an opossum!" "Look, Pascal," grumbled Cheryl, "I'm not saying that you made this whole thing up. All I'm saying is that you probably saw an innocent woodland creature, but your imagination made you see it as large and scary-looking." "But it wasn't my imagination," cried Pascal. "What about the voice? I distinctly heard a voice calling my name!" "It's only the wind," replied Cheryl, firmly. "The wind can make all sorts of noises, but it's only your imagination that's convincing you that these noises are ghostly voices, and this forest is creepy enough to get on anyone's nerves." "But I tell you I heard it, Cheryl! It wasn't my imagination. I know what I saw and I heard it too." "All right, Pascal," Cheryl said, "have it your way. Just don't bother me while I'm counting." Soon Cheryl was counting the paces again, "36...37...38...39...4O...41...42...43...44...45...46...47...48...49..." Then a new voice took over, but it wasn't Pascal and it wasn't Twicky. It was a horrible, hoarse, croaking voice. "5O...51...52...53...54...55...56...57..." The voice rose a little higher with each number until it was like a wail. "It's a ghost, by--!" cried Pascal. The counting stopped as suddenly as it began as though someone had clapped their hand over the counter's mouth. "Come on," said Cheryl, struggling to get the words out. "I think it's someone who is flesh and blood, there are no such things as ghosts. Those stories about the ship-wights, they're just stories told around a campfire." Her courage began to come back as she spoke. "Now," she said firmly, "are you all with me? Or are you going to let a silly story about slime-covered skeletons clacking about, get in the way of our quest?" There was an embarrassing silence until Pascal spoke. "We're with you all the way," he said with some enthusiasm. Twicky, however, didn't seem to be in a very adventurous mood. After trudging down a steep, slippery, rock-strewn slope, they arrived, weary and blistered, at a great chasm with a log laying across it. "You mean?" gasped Pascal. "We'll have to cross that to get to the great, green speckled rock?" "It would seem so," replied Twicky. "But I have vertigo!" whimpered Pascal. "I get very queasy in high places!" "That's strange," said Cheryl. "You're a bird. I thought your ancestors liked roosting in high places?" "Well," said Pascal, growing red in the face. "My ancestors happened to have the misfortune of losing their ability to fly somewhere along the evolutionary tree!" "I'm sure it's nothing to be ashamed about," Cheryl replied. "You know, Pascal? You tend to worry about everything." "Speaking of worry," Twicky chimed in, "I'm worried about this bridge." "What's wrong with it?" the mouse inquired. "I think it's half-rotted," explained Twicky, "it could hardly hold one of us let alone three." "I think it's sturdy enough," said Cheryl, scrutinizing the bridge. "We're not big, bulky animals, you know." Gingerly they stepped across the structure, Twicky anxiously leading the way, Cheryl bringing up the rear and in the middle, crawling at a very slow pace, Pascal. Just as they reached the middle of the creaky log, Twicky turned around to see if the others were okay. "Look!" she exclaimed, pointing widely the way they came. All eyes followed Twicky's shaking forefinger. Their jaws soon dropped at the sight of a tall, gray figure striding out of the trees. They couldn't see it very well, it was mostly obscured by the thick fog, but it seemed to be clad in a long, tattered sea cloak. A cold wind ruffled its long black pigtails, making them wriggle about like an eel or a snake. The way it walked stiffly, reminded Cheryl of one of those grotesque marionettes one sees at the fair, but the most ghoulish feature about it was the long sharp object protruding from its mouth, a cutlass, no doubt. "Pascal!" gibbered Cheryl. "Can't you crawl any faster?" "Aaaaaaiiiiiiyyyyyeeeeee!" shrieked Pascal, nearly knocking Twicky over in fright. "An Umiobake!!!" The terrified three hot-footed across the bridge, landing in a sprawling heap on the other side. "Cripes!" squeaked the horrified mouse getting to her feet. "He's comin' over to cross! Here, help me push this log over!" So, this is an Umiobake! Thought the fear-stricken Twicky, rushing over to assist Cheryl. "What?" shrieked Pascal. "Are you seriously considering to destroy a public bridge and instigating the wrath of the other Umiobake by toppling one of their brethren into an abyss?" "No," said Cheryl. "He hasn't crossed the bridge, yet! We are simply going to push the log into the chasm, so he won't follow us! Now, would you mind coming over and giving us a hand?" Demolishing the bridge took less work than they expected. With one hard shove, they sent the badly decayed log into the chasm, where it then disintegrated into many small pieces. "That was easy!" exclaimed Twicky. "Well, it was rotten anyway," replied Cheryl, shrugging her shoulders. "Great Rhizopods!" screamed Pascal. "Have you ever seen such a horrid, decrepit-looking beasty? Why he looks like he hasn't got a single strand of muscle on his bones!" "Some supernatural creatures are like that," reminded Twicky, "but let me warn you about something..." "Warn us about what?" inquired Pascal. "We're over here, and he's over there, and there's a great big hole in the middle! Now, how is he supposed to get across without the bridge? We just destroyed the bridge!" "What Twicky was trying to say," replied the mouse sharply. "Is that this creature may look meager as a skeleton, but he may be very skilled at sorcery." "Sorcery," chuckled Pascal. "What's that ghostly buccaneer going to do? Turn into a monstrous seagull and swallow us whole like sardines." At that moment, the Umiobake lifted his skinny head straight up. "Uh oh, Pascal," said Cheryl. "He heard you." They would have fled right then, but instead, they stood as if hypnotized, their eyes riveted on this creature of which coastal tales whispered about. The Umiobake stared back through bright, beady, yellow eyes. Then he spread his gray cloak wide, flapped his newly formed wings and took off across the chasm. At the same time, Cheryl took off running down a trail with the others in tow. "Ahhhh great!" Cheryl growled. "Thanks a lot, Pascal, for giving him ideas." "Yeah," said Twicky, sarcastically. "Way to go, Pascal." "Why is everyone ragging on me?" wheezed Pascal. "He was bound to get across the abyss in one form or another!" "But you had to say a particular word, `seagull!’ retorted Cheryl. "In that form, he can go really fast!" Twicky stopped for a moment, turned and looked, then she began to laugh uproariously. "Hey, everybody!" she called. "It's okay! There's no Umiobake..." She began to giggle. Hearing this, Pascal skidded to a halt. "What do mean no Umiobake?" he inquired. "There is too a ..." He stopped when he saw what made Twicky burst out laughing. Then he too began to laugh. "All right," grumbled the mouse, coming over to see what the hubbub was about. "What's so funny? Don't you know that there's a ghostly pirate after us?" Then when she noticed the monster, she didn't laugh like Twicky or Pascal, she just stood there with her lips pressed together in a tight frown. The "Umiobake" stood a few feet away, on long thin legs, his blue-gray plumage moving delicately in the wind, the "sword" he carried in his mouth was his long beak, the "pigtails" were the black plumes on his head. The heron cocked its narrow head to one side, peering at the three treasure hunters with one small, but piercing yellow eye. While the party was being confronted by the "Umiobake" in the woods. Pierard's team was having problems, as usual, this time involving an irate crab. It happened when the rowboat finally got to Periwinkle Beach. Tris and Gregory had got out to help push the boat along through the shallows. The parrot wasn't helping much, he was too busy offering hearty encouragements and sound advice from atop the bow. "Marvelous, maties!" the parrot cackled with delight. "We're making excellent headway here! Whoops...watch out for that jagged rock! Turn right, turn right, you're getting too close to that hunk of driftwood! No, what am I saying? Turn left, turn left!" Pierard hopped up and down excitedly. Suddenly the mouse let out a bloodcurdling yell and began to leap frightfully about. "Great thieving grackles!" screeched Tris. "A shark! A shark's got Gregory!" "Don't be ridiculous!" scoffed the parrot. "In this shallow water!" "Well," argued Tris, "they can go into very shallow water!" "Well, where's the fin?" Pierard argued back. "Where's the bloody fin?" "Perhaps it's a stingray," suggested the Churcka. "We don't have stingrays around here," replied the parrot. "I don't care what it is!!!" squeaked the terrified mouse. "Just get it off, it's pinching my toe in two!!!" They soon spotted the cause of Gregory's troubles. "Why," said the parrot, greatly relieved. "It's just a common blue crab." "An awfully large, blue crab," said Tris, shaking her head in disbelief. "Hey!" the parrot screeched, finally realizing Gregory’s predicament. "That's my first mate you're pinching there! Unhand my first mate, you overgrown sea louse!" The parrot lifted his sword and the blade fell off the handle! Tris then handed him a marlinespike. "Steady now," advised Pierard. Then the parrot took a swipe at the crab. At the same time, the crab let go, and instead of hitting it, he struck Gregory's already aching toe. "Yow...yeow!!!" howled the mouse, clutching his foot. While Gregory hopped ashore, the crab then turned on Pierard. The parrot began to dance wildly about, screaming at the top of his lungs. These screams were much worse than the ones he made when he was overboard. "Pierard!" shouted Tris covering her ears. "Would you please stop playing with that crab and help me unload the tools!" Pierard didn't listen, he continued to dance around, trying in vain to dislodge the crab, which was now clinging to his ankle. During all this commotion on Periwinkle Beach, Twicky and her friends have just stopped to rest in the shade of a large oak. Cheryl slid down onto the grass completely exhausted. "Oh!" she moaned. "This quest is nothing but trouble and embarrassment." "Relax, Cheryl," said Twicky. "After all, we're lucky enough to come this far." "And to find the great, green, speckled rock," added Pascal. "Wretched map," grumbled Cheryl. "I wish I hadn't found it. It just causes trouble." "You're really angry because of that heron," Twicky said. "It's really nothing to be embarrassed about. We all didn't know what it was through that thick fog." "Look on the bright side, Cheryl," Pascal said smiling. "At least we didn't encounter any real ghosts." "Yeah," answered the mouse glumly. "It's all in my head, although I sometimes wish they are real to make life more exciting." They were all sitting there, nearly dozing, when they heard the hoarse, croaking voice in the leaves above their head. "Don't be disappointed, little mouse," it said. "There are more things in this world then you could comprehend." Unnerved, the three all jumped to their feet and stared up into the tree branches, only to meet the unblinking gaze of a large sooty raven who perched there. In their frightened haste to get away from there, they tripped over stones and were caught in blackberry vines. While behind them echoed the raven's harsh laughter. Meanwhile, after a while of thrashing about, the parrot with a triumphant squawk, gave the crab a good, hard flip with his foot. It sailed far into the deep where it won't make a further nuisance of itself. "Hoooooooorrrray!" cried the parrot, doing a victory dance. "I've finally overcome that crusty brigand! I... Yeeeeek!!!" Pierard was so enthralled in prancing and singing, that he wasn't watching where he put his feet. There was a blur of sand as Pierard plummeted straight down a hole. From out of the darkness below, Pierard managed to wheeze out, "What did I fall in?" "A fox hole by the look of it," Gregory called down. "A fox hole?" said the parrot. "That's odd, I don't remember seeing a fox hole on that map. In fact, I don't remember seeing a fox hole at all." "Maybe it wasn't there when the map was made," suggested the mouse. "Greg?" quavered Pierard. "What is it?" Gregory asked. "Do foxes eat parrots?" Pierard asked. There was a long pause before Gregory replied. "Well, I don't think you have to worry about that," the mouse said. "I don't see any rabbit bones or skulls or fur around the entrance. So, I guess the fox moved out a long time ago." "That's great," replied the parrot, now impatient to get out. "Now, go fetch a rope; if there's one thing I hate more than pinching, quarrelsome crabs, it's being enclosed in a very dark place." "Pierard," giggled Tris. "I didn't know you were afraid of the dark?" "You'd be scared too!" shrieked the parrot. "It's absolutely frightful down here!" "Now, don't you fret, Cap'n!" the Churcka hollered down. "Greg's goin' to get the rope. You just sit and wait...Oh, I almost forgot! Don't panic!" "What the heck was that?" the parrot shouted. "Oh my Gawd, Tris! I think I heard what sounded like large claws scraping in this direction!" What Pierard was really hearing was the sound of small ground mammals going about their business, but fear made these sounds seem bigger to the parrot. He soon became convinced that a giant mole was after him. "Surely he could fly himself out?" Tris asked over the shrieks. "The hole's too narrow," grumbled Gregory. "He doesn't have enough room to spread out his wings. We better pull him out." Meanwhile, Twicky and her friends were running breathlessly through the woods, when they heard the raucous shrieks. Everyone stopped. "What's that?" cried the terrified Pascal. Cheryl winced at the sound. "I don't know?" she said gritting her teeth, "but it sure doesn't sound happy!" "Well, whatever it is," quavered Pascal. "It sounds like it's coming nearer!" Twicky listened more carefully to the ear-piercing shrieks. "Come on," she said finally, "I have a pretty good idea who's making those noises." When they emerged onto the beach in time to see Gregory helping the dismal and ashamed parrot out of the hole. "I do wish you'll stop being such a silly ass!" lectured the mouse, hauling the parrot out. The three from the forest trotted over. "Hello," said Cheryl. Gregory spun around in astonishment. "Why hello!" he said. "How did you all get here?" "Oh, we just took a short cut through the Forest of the Lost Ones," replied Twicky matter- of-factly, "and we had a brief encounter with the 'supernatural.' "What did you see?" asked the mouse. "It's rather a long story," replied Pascal. "Then skip it," interrupted the parrot. "We got a treasure to find!" Pierard, much to Gregory's annoyance, seemed to have recovered quickly from his severe lecture. "Ah, Pierard?" said Tris, fidgeting nervously. "Yes," shrilled the parrot, "what is it?" "Well, I think you should know something," said the Churcka in a meek voice. "Well, speak up, speak up!" shrieked the parrot. "I don't think there is a treasure," said Tris finally. There was a long pause. "No treasure?" said Pierard softly. "No treasure," replied Tris dismally. "I've been looking at that piece of parchment of yours and I noticed some writing covered with some anonymous substance. After scraping it off it said...well, see for yourself." She handed the parchment to Pierard. The parrot grabbed it. He stared at it for a while. "It says, ‘a great place for trout fishing!’” he growled. "Well, that isn't so! I refuse to believe this! Saucy Soup was a very absent-minded man, he was constantly jotting down things including his favorite fishing spot!" "But that still doesn't mean..." began Tris. "Tris," said Twicky abruptly, "skip it." "Now, that we are on the beach," announced the parrot, "it says here on the map, we're to look for a rock that's shaped like an Oomu bird." "An Oomu bird? What's zat?" asked Tris. "An Oomu," said Pascal, "is the only existing member of the Dromaiidae. It is the most widespread of Australia's flightless birds..." "That's an emu!" snorted Tris. "Oomu sounds like one of them tropical birds," said Gregory. "Nah," answered Tris, "I think it's one of those local varieties like the Tey or the Booberie bird." "Booberie, smooberie!" scoffed Pascal. "I think it's a sort of flightless bird!" "No," said Gregory, "Oomu sounds like a Polynesian word. It has to be a tropical bird." "I agree," agreed Cheryl, "it's got to be a Polynesian bird." "Question is," said Pierard, "what does it look like?" "You mean Saucy Soup didn't draw a picture of it?" exclaimed Cheryl. "No," replied Pierard, "but Saucy Soup once said that the Oomu bird would look something like a turkey, only with a head crest like a feather duster!" "I disagree," said Pascal, "I think the Oomu is more like an attenuated egret...only with blue feet." "Blue feet, my foot!" shrieked Tris."I think it's like a crow, only with green feathers!" While all of this was going on, Twicky was walking morosely down the seashore. She was disappointed by the way this treasure hunt was going. Her friends would rather argue than cooperate. Twicky soon found a comfortable nook under an oddly shaped rock, where there was plenty of shade to sit in. Even from here she could still hear the others arguing very loudly in their usual idiotic and irritating fashion. They were now arguing about whether the Oomu's beak was long or short, straight or curved, thick or thin. Twicky closed her eyes and tried to block out their shrill voices, but to no avail. Idly, she fiddled with some loose rocks in the cliff face. It was stuck, she fiddled with it some more, turning it vigorously from left to right, then back again. It was still stuck. Finally, she gave it such a wrench that the rock popped out like a cork from a bottle. After picking herself up, Twicky scrutinized the small hole half-expecting something to storm out and start screaming at her at any moment. Nothing did. Cautiously, she peered into the dark hole. There was something in there, something very large and squarish. She reached out a paw and felt the leather handle of a sea chest. "I found it," she shouted, "I found it!" "Where?" inquired Pierard's voice excitedly. "Over here," shouted Twicky, "in this funny shaped rock. Come on, help me clear away the rest of these stones!" The others promptly quit their bickering, hurried over and began to help demolish the rock face. When they had finished, the small hole proved not to be a small hole at all. It turned out to be a small cave that was up out of the reach of the tide. The chest that was lodged inside was battered and stitched up in canvas. Despite the shape, the chest was in, Pierard and his company were ecstatic. Visions of gold and silver coins rattled through their heads. They dragged it out by its leather handles and broke the lock open by hitting it with a pick. Inside there were several leather sacks, but they weren't filled with gold or silver or even precious stones. "Why," said Pascal disappointingly, "this one is just filled with round pieces of wood." Twicky took one of the round, wooden objects and chewed on it with her beak. "Those are whole nutmegs, Pascal." she said, "and rather valuable too." "Here's a whole bunch of bottles of rum and brandy!" announced Gregory. "Funny, the map didn't mention these." "Maybe there was too much stuff to mention," said Tris. "Oh look, these are jars of vanilla beans and there are other spices too!" "It did mentioned gold, silver, and diamond white!" screeched the parrot in disgust. "Where's all the gold, silver, and diamonds?" "Well, here's some bundles of silk," said Tris, "that was mentioned in the map, one and three-fourth pounds of finest white." "That looks more than one and three-fourths," observed Pascal. "And they aren't all white either," continued Cheryl. "Hey," explained Tris, "there are a lota spice and spirits in 'ere, and these bottles of golden stuff are saffron, that's even more valuable than the nutmeg." "Oh, this is worse than bein' trod on by cows," moaned Pierard, "not a single diamond stud." "Come, come," comforted Twicky, "this is no time to give way to despair. Even if the map was just a map to a favorite fishing spot and the list was just a piece of a recipe. We still had fun, we found something and it's a whole lot better than gold 'n silver and stuff like that." "You're right," said Pierard, immediately recovering from his despair. "I acted like such an ass thinkin' of all that gold and silver. This is indeed a very grand find." They started back to the boat, lugging the chest along. As they were walking along, Cheryl turned to Twicky. "You really don't believe that story about Pierard being on a pirate ship?" she said. "I think he was telling the truth," replied Twicky, "even if it was a bit exaggerated." "Exaggerated?" explained the mouse. "Well you see, Cheryl," explained Twicky, "pirates rarely enter these waters, but there are plenty of smugglers. They hide their goods in the sheltered coves around here. Bacon and Barley was most definitely a smuggler, not a pirate ship." Just as they were putting the chest in the boat; Twicky, who was more observant than the others said: "You realize, Pierard, that there's going to be a problem." "And what may I ask is that?" asked the impatient parrot. "That with that new additional weight," she replied, "how are we to get the treasure home without sinking down to Davy Jones's Locker?" "I never thought of that," said the perplexed parrot, "let's see?" He sat down to ponder this new dilemma. Hardly three seconds went by when he sprang from his seat. "I know!" he squawked, "Why don't you, Pascal, Cheryl, Gregory go back through the Forest of Lost Souls on your route home. While Tris and I will try to maneuver this additional luggage home." "Oh no!" cried Pascal. "I'm not going back through that cursed place! It's haunted I tell you! There's supposed to be an unmarked cemetery of the region's most evil wizards somewhere in that place. It's supposed to be marked by iron posts sticking up out of the ground. Do you know what happens if you touch one of those posts?" "No, what?" asked the parrot, happy to divert his mind from more important matters. "You'll hear a voice that will whisper, ‘You pull and I will push,’” screeched Pascal, "and do you know what will come out of the hole after you...?" "You see," interrupted Twicky, "Pascal doesn't want to go back there and I don't want to go back there and besides, your plan isn't going to work. Instead of just going straight, that craft of yours is just going to woggle to one side like a drunken water beetle and if I'm not mistaken, it was already doing that when you pushed off from the home base." After this bit of information was considered, it was finally decided that one person was to guide the boat while the others were to pull it along with a stout rope from shore. Pierard suggested that pine needles be drawn to see who gets the position of guiding the decrepit, old rowboat. Pierard got the shortest pine needle and his bitter complaints were heard as they pulled the boat along. So loud was his squawking that the people along the river looked up from what they were doing to see what was making that fearful racket. "I do wish he would clam up!" grumbled Gregory. "He's making us look like a parade of fools!" "Just six bogs, twelve thistle patches, two piles of driftwood, and a hornets' nest to go," muttered Pascal. "You're such a pessimist, Pascal," said Twicky. "If you keep on worrying about life in general, you'll develop worry lines." When they finally got home, they managed to lug the heavy chest out of the boat and into the closest room; the living room. There, they started to unload the chest's contents. They were all tired, prickled, and soggy after blundering into a bog and a thistle patch. So, they started bickering again. "Hey, Pierard!" exclaimed Pascal. "You got more of your share of spice!" "My share?" screeched the parrot. "What about your share? You have more than enough cinnamon to make sixty loaves of cinnamon bread!" "Well, look at yourself, Pierard!" growled Tris. "You have enough silk there to make twelve new cloaks!" "Haven't we done enough bickering for one day?" Cheryl cried. "Now since everyone contributed in the search for this treasure! I suggest we put all this food in the cupboards and all this cloth in the clothes room and go straight to bed!" As they began unpacking the contents and putting them away, a tattered piece of brown parchment fluttered out. Twicky quickly planted her foot on the fragment, then put her forefinger to her beak and with her other hand, pointed to the parrot. The others nodded understandably....
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Welcome to the Wonderful World group! This is a group for all realms of artists and ALL skill levels. We are here to share the beauty of our world which means no horror, dark or political artwork please. Let's see the beauty that can be hard to find!
A few quality control guidelines have been added to ensure member pleasure in watching the group as opposed to just being a member. The following types of submissions will be declined:
Fetish art of any kind.
Photos or images of nude or semi nude models which are sexually explicit
Pieces with blurry subjects, unless the blurring is intentional.
Pieces that look as if they were just thrown together; in other words, lacking general artistic quality.
Pieces whose subject is confusing. If we don't know what it is, we will ask you. If you don't tell us, we will decline it.
Pieces that are greatly obstructed by watermarks (e.g, the deviantART watermark).
Violence/gore, macabre, and other dark-themed pieces (depending on content and admins discretion.)
Photos where the member is the subject. There are other groups for models. We expect your submissions to be your own work.
If you purposefully submit three (3) different pieces that go against our policies, we will kick you out of the group.
As a member, you may submit up to one piece of art a week. You must also place this artwork in the proper folder. We will tell you where to put it if it's misplaced so that you can move it without exceeding your weekly limit.
If you submit a piece to the wrong folder, an admin will notify you. You have one week to resubmit it to the correct folder; we won't do it for you. If you don't, it will expire.
Members are not to use the Featured folder. The Featured folder is set aside for the our Wonderful Wednesdays feature.
We have games now and then. It's your job as a member to see when they start and end. The same goes for contests.
HOW TO SUBMIT A NEW DEVIATION
To submit, you first have to join by hitting the "Join this group" button. Then, click the button "Submit art" after you've been accepted into the group. A page will come up that looks similar to when you upload a picture to your gallery. Just fill that page out and press submit.
HOW TO SUBMIT AN OLD DEVIATION
If you want to submit one of your older deviations, you can go to the Gallery, then click "Submit to this folder" at the top right-hand side. Then two options will show: Submit a new deviation or Contribute an existing deviation. Click on the second one! Then a new window will pop up, and you choose which deviation you would like to submit.
This is not an elitist group! Most works will be accepted. I want it to remain a group for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to join us please bring a little gift: Show some deviation, which is like a wonder or something wonderful to you! We will feature it in the group if it fits our rules. So give us the link or a thumb in your joining request. It does not have to be a deviation from your own gallery, but it can be.