While the residents of Elsewhere were laughing and jeering at Mugs in his struggle to climb Hai Mountain, Mugs was, indeed struggling to climb Hai Mountain. He didn’t know that he was being observed. He certainly didn’t know anything about Ever-Seeing Globes, or a place called Elsewhere or vile beings in Elsewhere. How could he? He knew nothing at all of avarice and malice, let alone dark arts and black magic. How could he know that he was being ridiculed and maligned when he didn’t know there were such creatures having such bad thoughts and desires?
So, unaware of his malignant observers, he struggled on. The undergrowth was so thick that the light of day seemed to disappear. The visibility was so poor that he could barely discern the direction in which he traveled. The only evidence available to him was the pain and cramping in his legs—informing him that he was climbing. As he wriggled onward, he felt uncomfortable—uneasy.
“Oh,” he thought to himself, “wouldn’t The Leader laugh at him! He of little talenttalent, even smaller
stature and the courage of a tadpole, bearing the weight of the Hai and the Le-Han! “He would
have laughed had he not been so close to crying.
“Crying!” he thought. “Me? Mugs! Crying? Never! No, sir! Not this Mugs!”
At the mention of crying, a tiny little sob escaped his throat.
Out loud (so stridently that he jumped at the sound) he said, “Oh for heaven’s sake! Get a grip. There was nothing for it now but to fight onward (or was it upward?). Yes, upward is more like it.”
(As an aside: The citizens of Elsewhere were nearly hysterical with delight at this outburst! Oh, how they enjoyed his distress! Mugs traveled as much, maybe more, side-to-side as he did uphill. Oh, this was delicious. They could almost taste the Hai Berry wine!)
The mountain seemed strange. No one ever tried the ascent without using the path. Well, that is, not until today. Mugs had had no idea of how treacherous and difficult the journey could be. The brush and bramble were so thick, they seemed impenetrable. He couldn’t see a foot in front of himself—well , he could see his own foot, of course. He had to tug and push. He didn’t really want to break off branches and step on roots. He was getting hungry and thirsty, too.
“Mustn’t use up precious supplies. Had to save everything for others,” he thought to himself. “Every drop of water and every scrap of food were important for the survival of the people. Just a few more steps, then I might take a little rest. Surely The Leader wouldn’t find fault with a tiny rest. Well, maybe he could go a slight bit further. Oh, bother! How did I ever get into this? Surely there were others more qualified to do this task. What was I thinking? What was The Leader thinking?’
Mugs addressed the brush and bramble: “You could give way and make this journey more pleasant. After all, I’m only trying to help. I didn’t come here to do any harm.”
(At this new pronouncement, the Elsewhere contingent broke into new and louder knells of laughter. They were finding Mugs struggles to be quite entertaining!)
A short time later, Mugs did take his rest. He took a couple of sips of water from the canteen—mindful that others might need this refreshment more than he. (This provided an opportune time for their leader, LA Rant, to switch to another scene—The Leader and other members of the Le Han—as they wrestled with the looming problem of food and water. Again, the Elsewhere crowd were delighted with the anxiety they could sense, or thought they could.)
In actuality, the people were not anxious; not in the way that wicked crowd imagined! The people were concerned for one another, and especially for the children. Those creatures in Elsewhere misinterpreted what they saw and heard in terms of their own devices and desires. This wrong-thinking would be their undoing!
The Leader calmly and quietly laid out the problem to the elders and other servant leaders. He said, “The problems we face are difficult, but not impossible. There is the difficult situation with food and water, of course. The more challenging state of affairs is the trouble in establishing communication with The Hai. With the path gone, we have lost our main connection between our two people. As I speak, though, Mugs is making his way to the top. He is taking supplies, such as we were able to assemble on short notice—well, no notice. It is our hope and trust that he will successfully complete this treacherous commission.”
(At that, new peals of derisive laughter broke out in Elsewhere. “If only he knew what we know”, they were thinking. “If only he knew!” La Rant again switched the scene on the Ever-Seeing globes. This time they were focused on The Hai and their gathering in the community meeting hall.)
Hearan was explaining the situation to the adults. He was clarifying the current problems they faced. He asked each and every person to consider what they might be able to contribute in terms of solutions.
“I’m quite sure that The Leader must be aware of the disappearance of the path. By now, he must have also discovered its vanishing . While this is a new and disturbing occurrence, I’m confident that with all of us putting our heads together, we will soon have this event terminated.”
(Again, dins of laughter rang out in Elsewhere. What had taken them years to perfect, these wimpy humans thought—THOUGHT—they could solve soon enough to save themselves! Their sides were hurting from laughing so hard. Just then, La Rant, their leader, entered the common room. “All right, you blokes, time to go to bed! You’ve had about enough enjoyment for one day. I’d say we have about two or three days of misery to observe. Or should I say ‘fun’? Of you go then.” With some good-natured grumbling—if such beings could be described as ‘good-natured’, they slowly made their way to their sleeping quarters.)
While all of this was going on, Mugs was savoring his small rest. He took this first opportunity to open his knap sack and see what The Leader had put in it.
“Hmm. Let’s see what we have. Mm, here are some dried Hai berries. No, no! Mustn’t have these—they are for the Le Han. A jug of water—no, I don’t need that yet. Hmm; this is a strange necklace. It seems to be an amulet of some sort. It is very strange for The Leader to put this in the knapsack with no word of instruction. “
As he held the amulet in his hand, it began to feel nice and warm. He began to feel nice and warm, too.
“Oh,” he thought to himself. “Could this be real, or was this warmth and well-being just in his overactive imagination? It had been a long, trying day. Nah! I’m imagining this!”
But, sure enough, the longer he clutched the amulet, the safer and better he felt. Without replacing the necklace back in the rucksack, he continued to see what else The Leader had provided. There was a page addressed to Hearan (“Supposedly some instructions,” he mused.), some bandages (“Don’t think about that eventuality! No, do not consider what those could be for!” “Let’s see, what else have we here?” There was a prayer, written by The Leader. (He would read that shortly.) and a blue shawl with another piece of paper addressed to Hearan.
“Boy! This amulet seems to be radiating heat: not hot, but comfortably warm. No, this was no longer a figment of my imagination. This amulet seems to be almost alive in my hand.” (These thoughts were tumbling through his head). “What next? Oh, yes, the prayer from the leader—I need to read it. That is necessary for our success.”
He read: “May our Lord, our God and Father, protect this servant leader, Mugs, and grant him overwhelming grace to complete this mission with which he has been laden. Amen.”
Mugs was awe-inspired by The Leader’s love and concern. “Oh! It is time to get moving again. Better repack everything. (Well, not the amulet.) Carefully, now, do it carefully.)
He took one last sip of water, and one dried Hai berry. Then he set out again, intending to continue upward. But as he took a step uphill, his foot moved to the right.
“Even though it is in the palm of my hand, and it is just lying there, this amulet seems to be tugging at me to go right. Well, that was something,” Mugs was thinking to himself.
Again, he tried to take an ascending step, and again, his foot landed to the right. Giving in to what now seemed inevitable, Mugs turned right and traveled to the right—and up. The amulet seemed almost purring in his hand. (“Nah! Just his head was playing tricks on him again.”) The journey, surprisingly, took on a sense of completeness, of meant-to-be-ness.” Mugs found that he was humming. He hadn’t felt this good since yesterday—before all of this, this stuff—began. He was really making headway, too. Before long he had come to the brook that flowed from the top of Hai Mountain down to the valley. It provided all of the water needed by all of the people. No one ever stepped into the stream. It was forbidden to walk there, because of the importance of its cleanliness.
But, and this was truly amazing!—that amulet was tugging at him (well, it felt like that) to enter the stream! But he couldn’t. Here he was, having a tug-of-war with a necklace! Up until now, the band had been a real comfort and help to him. Now it was ordering him (it felt like that) to enter the stream. He couldn’t! The amulet insisted! Being tired, and frustrated, and unwilling to let go of this THING—he reluctantly stepped into the rivulet. It was a tiny stream—just sufficient for their needs. And no one-NO ONE—to his knowledge, had ever done what he was doing.
All of a sudden, the amulet allowed him to travel up! And just as suddenly, Mugs started making real headway. (“This just has to be an amulet of protection” he thought.”) Now, he was filled with hope that he could make it to the top in time!
“Yeah!” he yelled. Then looked around sheepishly, and he whooped again, “Yeah!”
He continued heading upstream for what seemed like a long time. Just when he was confident that he was nearing the top, that pesky amulet started tugging at him again. This time, it was directing him to go left.
“Make up your mind,” he yelled. (Oh, dear, was he really yelling at a necklace?) No matter how hard he tried to stay in the stream, going upward, each step took him left! He was nearly in tears. What would happen to the people—the children? No matter how hard he concentrated on going up, his feet kept taking him left!
And, behold! There, in just to the left of his last footfall… No, he couldn’t believe it. But he had traveled it often enough to know it was…the path!
“But how could this be? The path was gone! He and The Leader had seen it (or not seen it) just hours ago!”
Mugs was reeling with uncertainty. The necklace continued to urge him to move left—to step on the path. He did so, and was enthralled with the sensation of a brand new and exciting discovery. The path—or at least, this part of it—still existed! So, he moved upward, on the path. This was exhilarating! He could almost see the village of the Le Han. Suddenly, he could not advance. “Now what?” asked Mugs, to no one in particular (but kind of to the amulet). Just as had happened earlier, at the start of this entire unreal day, the path seemed to push him back.
Gently this time, the talisman directed him to go right again. By now, he was resigned to following these directions. He walked to the right and up, and there, before him was Missy and Hearan. All three of them were amazed to see each other! They were crying (tears of joy this time) and hugging and generally overflowing with emotions.