I make my escape into the depths of the forest. The sunlight glimpses through the dense foliage of the tree canopy but I shiver. There is no warmth in the shadows or Celeste’s anger. If I stay away for a while, maybe she will calm down. Why wasn’t she happy? I thought she’d be pleased that I had used our savings to buy a Winnebago – she is always complaining we never go anywhere and she wants to travel.
At a small clearing, I sit in the welcomed warmth, trying to think of a way to make her see sense. My fingers play at the tree roots beneath me, cold and mossy fibrous fingers spreading outwards. But wait what was that? I trace my fingers path backwards and look down to see a ring around one root. How could it have got there? Prizing the root from its mossy tomb, I break the cord of fleshy fiber and release the ring. As I wipe away the dirt and moss, revealed is a beautiful gold ring with a roaring lion’s head upon it.
Admiring the ring, I wonder how much it might be worth. If I sold it and made a fortune, Celeste would be so pleased with me. Enough time must have passed by now, I’ll go back and show her the ring. I blink several times in puzzlement – where did the trail go? I’m sure it was just to my right. Turning full circle, I find myself surrounded by thick stands of trees, no gaps - no tracks. What happened? Undaunted, I push through bushes and brambles in the direction of where the trail was. Covered in thorn scratches my emergence into a field has me even more puzzled. Where is the road, houses and playground? Beyond the far hedgerow stands a castle – now I’m worried – there is no castle near my home. Where could I be?
I make a path through the wheat field, heading for the castle, as it seems to be the only building for miles around. Is this an incredibly vivid dream? Even with several pinches to my face and arms, I am still here; it’s not a dream then. A wooden gate set in the hedge reveals a gentle slope upward with the castle set on top of the hill before me. Nestled near the castle walls is a group of huts and there…yes people. Increasing my pace, relief in my heart, I approach the small buildings. However, my relief is brief, as I see the clothing worn by these people - tunics and robes not jeans and T-shirts. A small boy who runs from an animal enclosure beside me announces my presence. Eyes turn toward me; I stand still, waiting to see their reaction. An elderly man bows before me.
“I’m lost. Can you tell me how to get home?”
“Not lost, Sire, yonder castle is plain to see.”
Now I’m concerned, this man seems to think the castle is my home. Maybe if I play along I’ll be able to find some sense to all this. So I walk past the small shacks, across the drawbridge and enter a large courtyard. Shouts ring out around me.
“Sir Caspar, you are back.”
“My lady, Caspar is home.”
“Sire, you are back from your quest.”
A woman in a long flowing burgundy robe runs toward me. Her arms stretched out before her, smiling and her eyes glinting as she grasps me tightly.
“My love, I missed you so these many years.”
“Do I know you? I’m sorry I’m lost. Do you know which way Emdale is?”
“Caspar, why do you jest so? You are here in Emdale Castle, your home now.”
Before I can answer, I hear a bellow from above me. A large man in a green tunic calls from a balcony.
Immediately, I'm surrounded by servants and hustled into a huge room furnished with long tables and a roaring fire. The large man approaches and embraces me, relief evident on his face.
“Caspar, you have been gone these two years. We feared for your safe return but now we can rejoice.”
“Sir, I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying I am your son?”
“Of course you are my son, returned from your quest to find the linking ring.”
“What is a linking ring?”
“Why, you are wearing it, Caspar, there on your finger. What ails you?”
“I’m sorry I am confused and tired. This doesn’t seem real.”
“Your travels have taken their toll, you need to rest. Serf, take your master to his bedchamber. I will see you later, son when you are recovered.”
I wake to my own bed, finally. It seems such an age since I was enjoying the feather mattress of my youth. A dull roar catches my attention. What is going on in the great hall?
“Cecil, what is the uproar?”
“Your home coming feast, sire.”
“Home coming? I have not been away, Cecil. What trickery is this?”
“No, trickery sire, you returned from your quest for the linking ring only this afternoon.”
Well, no matter, I am home now and there is feasting to revel in.