Stones & Orchards : Chapter 6
As the sun begins to rise, I follow Bowski across a desolate patch of terrain, the mere absence of their hobbling leg, further peaking my curiosity.
"Is it true?" I inquire, trying to keep up.
"Is what true?" Bowski responds without skipping a beat.
"The stream....last night," I respond, catching my breathe.
"Ahhhah!" Bowski chuckles to themselves. "You need to rest Ø. Put your mind at ease. I know just the place." Bowski looks back at me with a mischievous smile, pointing to the fence ahead.
"Well how bout your leg then eh?" I plead.
"Look!" Bowski points over the fence where an enormous and irregular collection of rocks are starting to unfold before our very eyes. "The Cult of the Sacred Stones, " Bowski whispers.
The closer we get, the more it reminds me of back home, particularly the Sami tribes. I must admit, this feels all too familiar for being so far far away.
As we finally reach the surface, we hear a lovely voice in the distance calling to us. "Welcome friends," the voice proclaims, as I finally catch a glimpse of what appears to be a beautiful shetland pony, deep in meditation, eyes closed, and surrounded by the beauty of the massive stones.
"Lady, it's me, Hamlin," Bowski states, respectfully keeping their distance.
"Bowski?" Lady's eyebrows raise, but eyes remain shut. "Is that really you?"
"Yes it is, I'm afraid," Bowski cackles. Lady smiles and arises gracefully.
"Oh Hamlin, your sense of humor is always welcome here," Lady responds with a chuckle, eyes still closed. "And who might that be standing next to you?"
I start to speak, but Bowski quickly interrupts, "This is Ø, from a far way land."
"Why hello Ø," Lady turns towards me, eyes still shut. "Don't worry, nothing to be afraid of."
"This is Lady Flucom, Ø," Bowski introduces me. "Lady also came from a far away land..."
"Ran away," Lady interrupts Bowski.
"Yes, ran away," Bowski corrects themselves. "And now Lady has given their life to the cult of the sacred stones here at the bluffs."
"Well, let's just say I've sacrificed my fair share for the stones, for the sake of protecting the bluffs from any bad spirits," Lady paces around us, admiring the landscape. "Oh, you must both be starving! Come along now." Lady leads the way, as we follow into a beautiful tidy garden near the stones.
Soon after, we are feasting on delicious farmer's cheese, maitake mushrooms, persimmon jam, and washing it all down with a delicious Sahti brewed with the richest dark rye malt I've ever tasted, apparently grown on Cole Thumper's farm.
For once at the Bluffs, I am finally at ease and gently fall into a slumber - that is, until the following morning a loud clamorous thud of malt comes crashing down right next me. I jump up in fear, eyes wide open, only to see the most beautiful, colorful winged bird I'd ever seen, hovering above Lady Flucom's garden.
I notice Lady is tending the garden, whilst Bowski is still asleep - clearly unperturbed by the fall of grain.
"Good morning," I whisper to Lady whilst entering the garden, full of exotic herbs.
"Sorry about that," Lady mentions. "Oscar's not one for aiming straight. You alright?"
"Well hello everyone!" Oscar makes a big landing in front of us before I can respond. "The garden looks lovely this morning. And this must be Ø," Oscar waves their feathers at me. "I'm Oscar Orchard. Pleased to meet you," Oscar bows forward.
"Oh Oscar, you almost stuffed the poor thing with that sack of grain!" Lady says, turning towards us.
"I know, it's quite ironic," Oscar jokes. "The one of us who can actually see better doesn't have.."
"Well if it isn't the most beautiful bird at the Bluffs!" Bowski embraces Oscar with a big hug.
"Be careful Bowski, I just preened my feathers," Oscar giggles and escapes Bowski's grasp.
After a brief introduction, I learn that Oscar has brought the dark rye malt from Cole Thumper's farm in exchange for some fresh herbs, which they use to make a tropical gruit ale - "a tart little thirst quencher of sorts, if you will" - as Oscar likes to put it.
Before long, we bid farewell to Lady Flucom, and head off to Oscar's Orchard, passing very hilly terrain with no vegetal life to be seen at a distance.
"Are the bluffs all like this?" I ask Oscar in bewilderment.
"Pretty much," Oscar mentions, flying close by. "Although, legend has it, the Bluffs were once a beautiful luscious landscape where agriculture and wildlife thrived, that is, before the fires came and ravished the whole lot of it".
"It's true," Bowski states. "The history here is profound."
As the sun begins to set over the horizon, with red and orange hues, we pass many a cactus and dead tree, withered, almost begging for a drop of water.
As soon as we arrive at Oscar's Orchard, I begin to ask where all the plants and fruits are, but decide to keep my curiosity at bay.
We gather around a fire, drinking the delicious gruit Oscar has made with foraged ingredients from the bluffs.
"So you have seen them?" Bowski inquires to Oscar.
"Who Gizmo?" Oscar replies. "Seen Gizmo I have. Very recently actually. Which you know is always a luck of the draw, but nevertheless, I'm quite sure it was them, hiding as per usual under one of the rock formations just west of here."
"Can you take us to them?" Bowski pleads.
Oscar agrees, and wishes us a good nights rest, as I begin to ponder who this "Gizmo" might be, and why we must meet them on our journey.