Meanwhile, in Elsewhere (that is a real place!), many things were brewing (literally!). Elsewhere is not a place you might have ever been, and had you ever been there—you would not go back.
How to describe it? Sometimes there aren’t enough words. Sometimes there aren’t enough dark, gruesome, dreadful, shocking, deplorable, wicked words in the whole world to describe a place like Elsewhere. (Actually, there isn’t another place like Elsewhere anywhere!) But, one must try.
To begin with, try to picture the place itself. It is very dry and warm (not unlike some descriptions of Hades or some other inferno). It is dark and dreary, and even though it is dry, there is a smoky mist that hangs over everything, so that even at midday, the light is murky and gloomy. This creates a spirit of melancholy—even on good days (of which there are few). There is also a feeling of oppression—like dark shadows pressing in, suffocating.
The inhabitants are also dark and dreary, with no time for one another, unless, of course, it was in order to get up to some mischief. For that purpose they were quite willing to collaborate. In fact, their collective mission was to create as much mayhem and chaos as possible for everyone else in the world. Their combined energy was always and foremost for the discomfort and misfortune of others! With so much evil in their souls, it is easy to imagine their ugliness. (Well, that’s not quite accurate—they are pretty ugly and that much ugliness is hard to comprehend!) So try to envision the most despicable, reprehensible sight you have ever seen. Multiply that obnoxiousness by a factor of 10. You are approaching a pretty good description of the residents of Elsewhere.
If their physical appearance gives one pause (due to their pure malice), then it is a short leap to discover the evil in their souls! Among their loathsome traits are: malevolence, cruelty, hatred, wrath, sloth, pride, and all sorts of immoral thoughts and behaviors (too numerous and too horrible to mention). Some would call these thoughts and behaviors “antisocial qualities”, or “psychopathic tendencies”. Still others might call them “sin”. Of all their many shortcomings, the strongest and most detestable and most atrocious of all is their greed! Their avarice consumed nearly every hour of every day. No matter what it was, they wanted more; more food, more possessions, more power, more evil deeds, more knowledge, and more money. And the most powerful, overwhelming, and dominant greed of all their many culpabilities was the appetite for possession of anything anyone else had! (This just about brings us back to the rest of our tale.)
(Before that, and as an aside: it is to be noted that these creatures—far from human—are able to change appearance in an instant to mimic cordial, amiable, attractive human beings. They can even feign affection and good will, if it suits their purposes and contributes to overall mayhem. So, in any dealings with otherworlders (as they referred to anyone not a citizen of Elsewhere), they can appear normal—almost pleasant, nearly human!
Right about the time Mugs is discovering the missing path at the bottom of Mount Hai and Missy is discovering the missing path at the top of Mount Hai, the inhabitants of Elsewhere are celebrating and laughing and having a ribald time—at the expense of the Hai and the Le-Han. Oh, yes! You guessed it! They are responsible for the misery and upset of these lovely people! In fact, they are overjoyed at the wretchedness they have created!
How do they know what is happening on Hai Mountain? Among their enchantments, brews and magical spells are huge globes “tuned in” to different parts of the world. At this moment, while the Hai and the Le-Han are in the throes of their loss, the denizens of Elsewhere are watching (and enjoying—Nay, reveling in) these events. They are observing every nuance and hearing every word on all of their “Ever-Seeing” globes. What a time they are having, jeering at the discomfort of the pleasant people of Hai Mountain.
Why are they so happy? What does their glee have to do with what is happening there? Well, they caused it! That’s correct! They caused the disappearance of the path. It had taken them years of planning and the development and new and more powerful enchantments. They mused and pondered how to go about it. That is actually the middle of their part of the story. Remember their most avaricious trait is their covetousness. For years they had coveted the Hai berry and the riches that attended them. Oh, how they desired those berries—the only ones in the world! How they sought after them, dreamed of owning them; possessing that unique and perfect control. Each attempt at gaining ownership (and there had been many over the years—MANY!), had ended in failure and frustration.
Not today! Today the first step in acquiring this dreamed-of prize had been completed successfully. The disappearance of the treasured path between the two peoples had been accomplished. Finally! Finally! Oh, they were celebrating in Elsewhere!
Now, they waited. That was actually step two of their plan. Wait for everyone to die. It didn’t matter to them that these precious citizens of Hai Mountain were suffering. In fact, the members of Elsewhere were rather enjoying their torment. After all, they had caused it. So, they waited. (Waiting was not one of their stronger talents!) But this first inkling of success was so sweet—after all the many years of disappointment. They could almost taste the Hai berry!
They had mutual dreams of creating Hai berry wine, Hai berry cakes, and Hai berry money. They were wringing their hands in gleeful anticipation of their final success. All those berries! All that money! Peals of laughter erupted at the thought! They watched Mugs, as he struggled through the undergrowth. They observed Missy, Hearan and the residents at the peak of the mountain make their puny attempts to save themselves and one another! Ludicrous! They had only to wait a few more days, and all of their toil and machinations would come to the only desired outcome: possession of the only source in the world of the Hai berry!
They were slightly chagrined at the thought that it had taken them so many years to come up with such a simple solution. Had they paid more attention to the ways of the people of the mountain, they would have realized how important the path was. Had they noticed, they would have acted sooner and decisively to destroy the path. When they observed the people, they were actually confused by their behavior toward one another. How could anyone in their right mind (that is to say, their “right way of thinking”) actually be compassionate? And for children!
Of course, it was difficult for them to understand the concept of servant hood, having never experienced even an inkling of the notion. Serving one another! Ludicrous! Concerned for each other! Laughable! Caring for children? Inconceivable! (To chart their thought patterns—a rabbit trail indeed—you would have to consider the following: “What’s in it for me?” “If it doesn’t help me, could it hurt me?” “Of what possible use are children?” and “If they can’t profit me, away with them!”). So, if you were wondering how these denizens could observe the pain experienced by the Hai and the Le-Han, and rejoice, you have your answer! They didn’t care one whit! In fact, just the opposite was true. Their only concern was for the wealth and control that was just within their grasp.
Their leader (if you could refer to him as “leader”), LA Rant, switched all of the Ever-seeing globes to focus on Mugs as he struggled through the underbrush. New and boisterous clamors of laughter sounded throughout the gathering. La Rant pointed at the nearest globe, and with disdain said, “Look at the little runt, struggling vainly through the thicket. At the rate he is traveling, all will have perished before he gets past one obstacle placed in his way! He must be insane, and The Leader (yes, they were aware of The Leader) was even crazier than that for choosing such an unlikely “champion”.
Fresh and derisive laughter again erupted, as the dwellers of Elsewhere enjoyed the sight of Mugs, trying to make headway up into the brush. It was obvious (or seemed so) to the viewers that the struggles of the little servant would come to naught. They could barely contain themselves as they anticipated his impending doom! “Oh, delicious”, they thought, “Simply, outrageously delicious!”
La Rant switched the view again, this time to top of the mountain, where he focused in on the latest crop of the Hai Berry—just ripening for the harvest; their Harvest! ? What tool exists for measuring the extent of their greed? How does avarice sound? Is there a gauge for it? How does one calibrate the level of yearning these creatures felt as the fields of the ripening berries came into clear focus? It seemed that they could almost taste the Hai Berry wine! For anyone anywhere but Elsewhere, the pure evil of what they were doing, seeing, experiencing right in that moment in that gathering would have been repulsive! But, as mentioned earlier, there was no other place like Elsewhere—anywhere!
Next, he switched the view again, this time to the valley—to focus on The Leader. Midst boos of derision and screams of, “Down with him! Die, Leader, Die!” could also be heard murmurs of fear, whispers of dread. But, of course, the sounds were soft enough that La Rant not could detect who was murmuring or whispering.
“What?” he screamed! Do I hear some doubt? Is there one among you who distrusts our mission or doubts the outcome? If so, let him come forward! I’ll convince him otherwise!”
Then there were cheers and more laughter—at an even higher pitch. Who could doubt when LA Rant was so sure? To increase their fervor La Rant switched the view at ever escalating rates. As the evening of their revelry wore on, the din of their laughter and the clamor that arose calling for the demise of all who lived on Hai Mountain increased massively. Satisfied at last with their complete commitment to the cause, he left them to work their frenzy to exhaustion to unconsciousness.
As the hubbub subsided—well into the night—La Rant went to his private chamber to observe the events on Hai Mountain more carefully. He paid special attention to The Leader. He noticed that instead of being frantic with worry or tense with dread, The Leader seemed calm—even at peace. To himself he thought, “He’s even almost as good an actor as I. We’ll see how long his composure lasts when children begin dying!” He chuckled at the thought of The Leader cracking under pressure. “What a wimp!” he thought.
He stretched and yawned. He was well-pleased with the day’s events. Tomorrow should be even more spectacular! “Oh,” he thought, “the next 2 to 3 days are going to be stupendous! Finally, at long last, I’ll be rid of the Hai and the Le Han.” With that rousing thought, he went to bed. He was pretty excited, so sleep didn’t come easily. Nevertheless, he wanted to be ready for the next step in his grand design. He willed himself to sleep. (It was not a restful night.)