Erik looked at the oozing, smelly fronds of vegetation blocking their path. Benton snorted and sneezed.
“I’ve heard it said,” Erik told Benton, “that sometimes the only way out is through. So get ready, boy, we’re going through!” Erik urged his pony into a gallop and they were soon slipping through the slimy, syrupy, sloppy mess. The fronds slid across their skin, leaving gooey trails. The pods had suction-cup-like ends that stuck to them, then let go with a squelching sound.
Benton’s skin shuddered as if he were trying to shake off the fronds. Erik had to close his eyes and hope they were going in the right direction.
Finally they burst through to the other side. “UGH!” Erik said. “I hope there’s another way out of here, because I sure don’t want to do that again!” Benton neighed and nodded his head.
There was no way to clean themselves off, so they rode on as they were. “This is the messiest quest I’ve ever been on,” Erik said. “Not that I’ve been on a lot of quests, but in the stories, they’re never this messy.”
They trotted on. The path was a little wider. “Hey, look at that. There’s the hoofprint! We’re still on the right trail. But how does a horse only ever leave one hoofprint? I’ve never heard of horses hopping! Maybe it’s magic!”
Maybe it’s a trick, thought Benton, as he kept trotting.
“This is easy!” said Erik. “We’ll soon be there, now. Easy peesy, lemon squeezy.”
Benton suddenly stopped short and with a shrill whinny, reared up on his hind legs.
“What’s the matter, Benton? Don’t you like lemons?” Erik asked, trying to keep from sliding off Benton’s hind end. Then, as the pony’s front hooves clattered back to the ground, he saw what had upset his horse — and nearly (literally) upset him, in the bargain.
Across the path, and seeping into the forest on either side, was a black, bubbling pool of something that looked like porridge. Well, if porridge had shining black oil or jet-black ink as one of its essential ingredients, that is. Bubbles blorped to the top of the seething black mass, and broke with loud plop plorps. Steam rose from the vast pit.
Erik sighed. “We’ll never get across this! It’s too hot to swim through, there’s no way around it. We’re sunk.”
Benton hoped they wouldn’t really sink. He didn’t think he’d enjoy being in that glop. He nickered and shook his head to the left.
“Another sign!” Erik said, patting his horse’s side. “You’re good. You’re really good.”
Benton nickered. Of course he was.
The sign pointed off through the woods, and said, “Ye Olde Cake & Candle: Refreshments, Lodging, Stabling.”
“Just what we need! A place to clean up and get something to eat. And maybe Lady Josie will be there, too. Or at least someone at the place might have seen her. Do you think we should go there, Benton?”
The wind carried Benton’s whinnied reply away, and Erik was faced with the decision.
To tackle the ooze, click HERE
To go to Ye Olde Cake & Candle, click HERE