The mapmaker’s treasure (a short story): Part 2

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Read Part 1 here or listen to the whole story told by myself!

YouTube link:https://youtu.be/4uwJNOduGYE or Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/ChristieThomasAuthor/videos/1374639125884905/

Into the silence the girl spoke, “he has to be wrong. I just know it!”

“Well,” said the boy, “it can’t hurt to keep going. I think we’re on the right path, and it looks like we’re at the base of the mountain already!”

They agreed to keep on going despite the man’s disbelief. By now the forest was getting darker and they were getting hungry. The path became steeper and they had to stop more often to rest. After finding some edible berries along the path, they felt stronger and continued on, only to come to another fork in the road. Frustrated, they plopped down on some moss in between the two choices and pulled out the map. Before they had a chance to really study it, a young woman came walking up behind them. Her feet danced lightly on the ground as she passed them without a look.

“Excuse me!” called the girl, “do you know which is the way to the mapmaker’s treasure?”

The woman stopped abruptly, then turned slowly to look at them. In a sing-songy voice she said,

“What is the treasure that you seek?
Can we all just take a peek?
What a waste of time to be sure
to search elsewhere for the treasure.
The treasure is here, inside of me,
The treasure is here, in all that I see.”

She turned around again and pranced away, leaving the children scratching their heads in confusion. What on earth was that supposed to mean? The treasure was certainly not inside them or all around them; the treasure was a grand and glorious surprise waiting at the top of the mapmaker’s mountain. It was most definitely not a waste of time to search for that kind of treasure. The problem they had now was that they still didn’t know which path to take!

“I have an idea,” said the girl. “You hold up the map. I’ll spin around with my eyes closed then point to a spot, and whichever path is closest to that spot is the one we’ll take!”

For lack of a better idea, the boy agreed. She spun around and around, then wobbled with closed eyes towards the boy and the map. She called out “oh mapmaker! Bless this finger and make it point the right way!” as she pushed her finger into a spot. They then tried to interpret the map to make sense of their choice. Satisfied, they tromped off again in search of treasure.

The continued uphill until it was almost dark. Suddenly, the path levelled out and the trees became stunted. They were at the top of the mountain! They had made their way to the treasure! But where was it? The girl climbed up onto the biggest boulder to see if she could see the treasure. But there was nothing but more mountains and forest. The path they were on came to an end. There was no where else to go.

Exhausted, frustrated and hungry, the children sat down with their backs against the boulder. They took out the map and stared at it again, hoping that it would suddenly make sense to them. Straining their eyes in the darkness, numb with cold and disappointment, they eventually fell asleep next to each other.

~~

The boy woke up first. He opened his eyes because he smelled woodsmoke and…could it be bacon? He nudged the girl, who groaned, then sat up quickly. There was a man crouching beside a small fire, and he was cooking bacon in a heavy pan. After meeting so many other strangers, the children didn’t even bat an eye at this next oddity. When he offered them some hot tea and toast, they gratefully wolfed it down.

As they ate, they kept an eye on him. The man seemed kind, but a little sad. After they had finished all the food that he had to offer, they sat down and he began to question them. Why were they on this mountain?

The girl told him the story of the mapmaker and his confusing map. The boy pitched it with stories of the odd people they had met, and she finished the story with how they had been so excited to see the treasure, but there was nothing to be found.

“Have you tried calling on the mapmaker?” he asked, looking at them with a mix of curiosity and sorrow.

Startled, the boy started to say “of course!” but he stopped mid word. He looked at the girl, and she slowly pulled out the whistle from under her clothes.

“Have you tried using the whistle?” he asked again, more gently this time.

“No,” they said in unison, embarrassed that they had completely forgotten about the mapmaker’s promise to help them.

“Will you try it now?” he asked.

Slowly she brought the whistle to her lips and blew. The high-pitched sound filled their ears and their hearts filled with joy at the sound. She stopped blowing and the sound seemed to echo throughout the valley below. A bird took flight from a tree farther down the mountain and the rocks seemed to quiver.

“Hello children,” came the familiar voice. They both cried out with surprise and joy. The whistle had worked! He had come! Both of them ran to him and started dancing around him, telling him their story, each trying to add details the other had missed. The mapmaker chuckled and touched them each on their shoulder. They stilled, and he moved to stand in front of them. With solemn eyes he asked them, “why didn’t you call on me before? You didn’t understand my map, and you were listening to others who didn’t know about the treasure.”

They both stared at their feet in shame, but he touched them under their chins and forced them to look at him.

“You have called now, and I have answered. What’s done is done.”

“But sir, where is the treasure you promised?” the girl asked.

The mapmaker pointed at the next mountain. “That is the mountain of treasure. You are on the wrong mountain.”

“Oh!” said the boy. “So how can we get there?”

The mapmaker gestured for the boy to pull out the map, and together they sat down to study it together. The mapmaker explained in more detail how the legend worked, and together they started to understand how to use the map properly.

“Will you stay with us?” asked boy, hopefully.

“I was just waiting for you to ask!” said the man with a big smile on his face. Together they walked back down the path, towards the true mountain of treasure. All at once, the girl remembered the man who had given them breakfast. She turned to thank him, but he was gone, as was the fire and the cooking pan. She gave her head a shake then turned back to the path, tucking her hand inside the hand of the mapmaker’s. Together, they would find the treasure.