...Continued from Pt. II
As the boy continued through the dark woods, he saw through the trees ahead an astonishing sight: his siblings, petrified as he had been by the terrible monster who demanded his name. The boy wandered off the trail towards the ethereal vision, but realized as he approached his kin that he was much smaller than them. He wondered how they had grown so tall, or why he had grown so small, and felt helpless to save them. When he heard his mother's cackle, far off in the distance, it scared it so much that he fled the strange grove, leaving his siblings frozen in time.
The boy was deep in thought, mourning the loss of his family, when he upon a giant bridge. The river below the bridge thrashed and churned angrily. Across the rickety bridge, the boy saw a girl his age. She called out to the boy, "Come, meet me!" He called back, "I can't... The bridge is too unsafe, and the river too strong." The girl answered, "I promise you will cross the river safely," which the boy was hesitant to believe. When he heard the evil cackle of his mother again, though, he lost his fear for the bridge, and managed to leap clear across the river in a single bound. Upon reaching the other shore, though, the boy realized that the girl was gone. He determined to find her, and set out.
In his search for the girl, the boy came across a house of games. He disguised himself as an old man to get through the heavily guarded entrance. Once inside, he shed his garments and walked freely, though with caution, from game to game. There were games of wit, games of chance, and games of strength. A contest to mimic the animals proved to be the night's greatest event. The boy had won enough money from the other games to buy entry into this decadent copy contest, and the final round of competition found him going head-to-head with the beautiful girl he had seen across the bridge earlier that day. He had to leap like a hare, crawl like a snake, and boast like a hen-cock during their competition. The boy and the mysterious girl proved to be such equals during the course of events that a tie was declared between them. The two slept in the same tent that night, to protect their share of the prize treasure before it was divided in the morning. When the boy awoke though, the girl and the whole treasure were gone, and a terrible fire was blazing in the tent. There wasn't so much as a note to explain her theft and departure, though the boy wouldn't have been able to read it anyways.
Blinded by the thick smoke of the fire the girl had set, again poor and alone, the boy left the house of games. Back on the road to Metropolis, in search of a cure for his siblings, the boy came across an old hag. He didn't know she was a hag, though. His vision was still very poor from the smoke he had been nearly suffocated by, that he saw the old woman as a beautiful queen. Her song entranced the boy, and they spent many nights sitting around a fire, the boy still all but blind. The old hag convinced the boy to follow her back to her homeland, from where she had been forced to flee. Once they had completed the journey to her home, the old hag turned to the boy and asked, "Who are you?" The boy answered, "I am your friend, I followed you here because you helped me. Therefore I love you." The had turned angry and scowled, then said, "I don't know you at all, and you do not know me! You must leave at once." And the boy was cast from the house he had gone so far out of his way to find.
Now in a place very far from home, still half-blind, and bitter from the many strangers who had taken advantage of him, the boy considered laying down for the crows to devour him. The crows told him he wasn't ready to eat, though, and wouldn't be for some time, and so passed along their secret sky-knowledge to him. He was able to see with their eyes, over the many oceans and trees that the hag had led him through, back to his proper place on the path to Metropolis. He skipped over worlds easily now, the crows guiding and helping him all the while, back to the house of games, where he regained his vision.
TO BE CONTINUED...