“That sounds really kung fu-y and deep, but I have no idea what it means.”
“Perhaps you will come to understand it with time. Remember this, young Roger. We are each given our own burden to carry, and though we may help another in a time of need, it is not for us to take this burden completely.”
She looked him deep in the eyes. “Things are, whether we understand them or not. When you have found The Book, you must not add any new lines. And you must not erase any old lines completely. You must simply change what is written there. As much as your love for our sister would wish it otherwise, the balance of our worlds will not permit anything more.”
Roger nodded, to show that he understood. But she just kept looking at him, staring at him with those eyes.
“Can’t you--” he stumbled, “can’t you do anything to help Mavis? She’s awful sick.”
“I wish that I could, young Roger. But it is not given to me to be a healer. I can only offer what I am able. And that is a word of encouragement. Your sister is strong, if not in body, then in will. You must trust that she can carry her own burden.”
Roger, for once, was silent.
“You will understand in time.” She put her hand on his arm. “It is time for you to rest.”
Roger and Mavis woke up at the same time, surprisingly rested for having slept curled up on the floor. Esperanza had moved to a table made out of matchsticks and tree bark, set with little cups made out of shells and plates made out of coins.
“Are we in Grandpa and Grandma’s back yard?” asked Roger, sitting up.
Esperanza laughed. “He is never finished with questions, is he?”
Mavis cocked an eyebrow at him, but Roger was undaunted. “So, are we?”
“In a manner, yes. And yet, we are not.”
“I think that may be the most evasive answer I’ve ever gotten.”
“Shhh,” hissed Mavis.
“I have prepared food for you,” said Esperanza.
It was very good food, too. Bread and cheese and strawberry jam, with spring water to wash it down and slices of almond for a nice crunch. When the kids had eaten their fill, they thanked her and said goodbye.
“Do not doubt your road,” said Esperanza, “for I truly believe that you are capable of achieving what you seek.” She laid her hands on each of them. A warmth flowed from her, and they stood a little taller and smiled a little more. With one last smile, she handed Roger the remedy from baldness.
Once they were out of earshot, Mavis jabbed Roger with her elbow. “You could have been more respectful.”
“Come on, she was being vague on purpose! She must be some kind of fairy Yoda.”
“I thought she was more like a fairy Galadriel,” said Mavis. “Well, anyway, now we’re stuck on some quest.”
Roger stopped and raised his hand with a flourish. “We are not stuck. We are heroes on an awesome quest. And I declare this the official best summer ever.”
“Even if we don’t get to Narnia?” teased Mavis.
“That’ll have to be next summer.”
Mavis laughed. “Come on, let’s find Harnswiggle.”
Harnswiggle was standing on the branch, a scowling man imp standing next to her. “Roger, Mavis, meet Bollygoggle.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Bollygoggle,” said Mavis.
“It is not nice to meet you,” snapped Bollygoggle. “In fact, it is the definition of not niceness.” As he spoke, the tip of his much worn and very faded hat quivered in emphasis.
Neither Roger nor Mavis knew what to say to that. They wisely kept their mouths shut.
“He is going to be coming along, see?” said Harnswiggle.
“No, I am not.”
“Yes, of course you are. Don’t be such a marshwallow.”
“Me a marshwallow! Don’t do it, I said. No fuss, no muss, no broken coconuts, I said. But would you listen? You had to go, and try to grant humanspersons wishes--”
“Shut your mouth, Bollygoggle,” snapped Harnswiggle. “You’re going, and that’s that. Coming along!”
The three of them, all somewhat unwillingly, fell in behind her.