A children's book for grown-ups by Jon Evans

September 11, 2007

53. The North

Patch woke to the sight of dawn glistening on the Great Sea. Long-legged birds stood in neat lines in the water, hunting for unwary fish; unthreatened humans ran as if pursued by tigers along their pathway that surrounded the sea. Patch stood on a maple tree midway between the edge of the sea and the edge of the mountains. Neither was more than a tall tree's length away. The Great Sea sprawled across almost the entire breadth of the Center Kingdom; the lands north and south were connected only by a narrow lane on the western edge of the Kingdom, and this even narrower strip on the east.

Patch filled his belly with sweet maple buds and began to race North, keeping to the sky-road where he could. This too was Meadow territory. It occurred to him that this was the first time he had travelled along the Center Kingdom's sky-roads since Karmerruk had plucked him out of a cherry tree so many days ago, and he revelled in the journey. He felt young and strong and full of life. Yesterday's nightmares were forgotten, shrivelled by his full belly, melted like a thin mist by the bright sun.

The Great Sea was just beginning to disappear behind him, replaced by folded hills and massive granite ridges, when Patch was interrupted by a startled voice that shouted: "Halt!"

Patch stopped and looked up. Two small red squirrels stood on the branches at the very top of this ash tree, their tails erect, as if ready for a fight. Patch knew by their fur that they were of the Northern tribe.

"Sorry," Patch said. "Is this your tree? I don't mean to trespass."

"This tree is the territory of King Thorn," the larger squirrel said sternly, "as is every other tree in the Center Kingdom."

Patch wondered how Karmerruk and Toro would feel about that claim, but decided not to argue. "I'm looking for King Thorn. Where is he?"

The red squirrels looked at each other. Their fur was really not so different from that of other squirrels, more a dull reddish-gray than the red of a berry, but it was different enough that all other tribes referred to squirrels of the North as red.

The smaller one asked, "Who are you?"

"I am Patch son of Silver, of the Seeker clan, of the Treetops tribe. Who are you that asks?"

The two squirrels conferred briefly. Then the large one said, "We are of the North. Are you alone, Patch of the Treetops?"


The two squirrels peered suspiciously southwards, as if Patch might be at the head of some vast army. Then the second squirrel sighed and said, "Follow me."

Patch hesitated. "Follow you where?"

"To King Thorn. I am going there now, to report. But whatever your plea, I doubt he will see you. He is busy preparing for battle. The rats and the Meadow are already on the march. War is coming to the North."


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Jon Evans is the award-winning author of the thrillers Invisible Armies, Dark Places (aka Trail of the Dead), and The Blood Price. See his web site rezendi.com.

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