It wasn’t long before Whispering Wind was deep in the Wilde Woods behind Sugar Plums’ cottage. Any tree he saw with a yellow POSTED sign on it, he’d stop and look at from many directions to see if the sun shone on it directly or not. He was out all afternoon, but none of the trees were the one. He went back home and, over supper, told his parents all about his day. Next morning, he headed into the woods after breakfast. There was a part of the woods he remembered having seen plenty of yellow signs on, which seemed like a good place to look. He crossed the creek and was hiking up the trail when he heard a voice calling from the ridge line.
“Hey Wind, wait up!”
It was his friend Lightfingers, who lived up the road from him. There was a short way between their houses through the woods, if you knew it.
He smiled and called back, “I’m waiting by the Big Rock.”
Moments later Lightfingers came skipping down the slope toward him. The boys sat on the rock and Whispering Wind told his friend all about his encounter with the swamp hag, his visit with Sugar Plum, and his purpose in the woods this day.
“Excellent!” said Lightfingers, “Let’s go look at those trees.”
The two of them set off into the woods, passing by unusual fungus, flowers, and trees as they went further along into the Wilde Woods. By high noon they had just reached the grove of trees that Whispering Wind was looking for, and now they began examining the yellow signs in earnest. The sun could be seen shining high, straight above.
Lightfingers suddenly gave a shout out, “Hey I think I found it!”
Sure enough, there was a tall stately tulip poplar with a big yellow POSTED sign on the trunk, and the sun completely covered the sign with light.
“I’m going in,” said Whispering Wind, running toward the tree and throwing himself at it. Lightfingers winced, wondering if it would work or not. It did. His friend had disappeared. He shrugged and went flying off toward the tree too. In the blink of an eye he went from the woods to falling on soft blue grass beside Whispering Wind. They looked at one another in wonder, then at the green sky above, and the red road before them.
“Might as well follow the road,” said Whispering Wind.
They set off on the red road, on either side of which was fields of blue grass growing as far as they could see. Not a hill or tree broke the horizon. The sky hung above, a lovely shade of lemon green; clear as a crystal. They moved quickly and before long they saw buildings on either side of the road. Some were round, some triangular, some square, and some had six, seven, and eight sides. It wasn’t long before they noticed the buildings were clustered by color, and there were short, little people with colored hair milling about outside. The Hobjolians soon noticed the two boys on the red road and began calling out to one another, as they quickly surrounded the boys.
A Hobjo with red hair came forward and spoke, “Greetings visitors.”
Whispering Wind bowed and replied, “I am Whispering Wind. This is my companion Lightfingers. I come to ask a favor and I have brought gifts from Sugar Plum, a friend of Gromlet’s.”
The Hobjos’ conferred with one another, then the same one spoke again, “Follow me.”
He led the boys and the crowd of excited Hobjos further down the red road, until they stood before a rainbow colored arched building.
“Here you will find Gromlet,” their guide said, and gestured toward the structure.
The boys approached and knocked on the white door. A wizened Hobjo with seven colored hair, streaked with white, opened the door. He looked them over and waved his hand inside. The boys entered and stood before Gromlet, for they knew that this must be he from his spectacular hair.
“Greetings, noble Gromlet. I am Whispering Wind and this is my companion Lightfingers,” he said, “Sugar Plum has sent this for you.”
He handed the wrapped cookies to Gromlet, who taking them smiled and said, “Welcome Whispering Wind and Lightfingers. Come let us sit and take a drink together while we speak.”
He took them further into the arched room and the boys noticed that it was one long room, with colored glass walls and domed ceiling. The floor was of a shiny stone that reflected the rainbow colors around, a bit of rose here and azure there; it was really lovely. In the middle of the room was a circle of seven polished rocks, carved into stools and Gromlet indicated that they be seated. He then snapped his fingers and a jug of clear liquid and three cups appeared before them. The jug poured liquid into each mug, and the mugs floated over to each of them. The boys’ eyes grew wide when they looked into their mugs and saw that the liquid was no longer clear but was now colored! They sipped and Whispering Wind felt like he had never had anything quite so deliciously lemony before. Lightfingers felt the same way about his strong berry tasting drink. Gromlet smiled. While they enjoyed their tea Whispering Wind told Gromlet about his predicament with Teddy and the swamp hag. Gromlet listened, nodding his head, and when Whispering Wind was done with his tale he said, “I would be happy to give you what you seek.” He plucked an orange hair off his head and handed it to Whispering Wind, who took it most thankfully, wrapping it in paper and tucking it carefully into his pack. Before long other Hobjos began arriving to visit with them, and soon there was a party happening inside the rainbow building. Some of the Hobjos played music and sang, and everybody was dancing and drinking or eating from cups and dishes that would float by just when one was hungry or thirsty. Then it was time for the boys to return to their world. They bowed to Gromlet and thanked him, and wished all their new friends goodbye, and with the music still playing they made their way back to the gateway tree on the red road.
To their great astonishment, when they came out on the other side it was only mid-afternoon! They thought for sure it would be evening but apparently time passed differently in Hobjolia. Whispering Wind was excited, as this meant he could go by the swamp hags’ place too. The boys worked their way through the woods to the swamp hags’ hut. Lightfingers had never seen it before and he looked about carefully as they approached. It was dark here and musty smelling, with occasional glurpy sounds coming from the swamp. Whispering Wind raised his hand to knock at the door, but the legs of the hut suddenly lifted up and he couldn’t reach. From above them the door flew open and the swamp hag looked down.
“Back already boy? I suppose you thought to slip in here and take the bear did you,” she cackled.
“Actually I have the hair you wanted,” said Whispering Wind, taking out the paper from his pack, and opening it to show her.
Her eyes grew as big as oranges, and she looked him over thoughtfully, saying, “Well well, I see you found Hobjolia did you now. Hmmm. Wait here then.”
She went into the hut and returned with Teddy. The chicken legs lowered down, and she said, “Hand over the hair then.”
Whispering Wind gave her the hair, which she took eagerly from him, and thrusting Teddy into his hands she whirled around into the hut, slamming the door shut behind her. The legs lifted up and the boys stood there looking at the hut.
Lightfingers spoke first. “Wow! She’s not one for words is she?! Let’s go then, I’m getting hungry.”
And so it was that the boys made their way back to the big rock where they had begun their journey. Here they parted, each going to his own home, tired, hungry, and happy.