The tall, palomino stranger laughed, spread his arms out in a welcoming manner and said, “Why, you’re in the land of Ouathea, partner!”
“A what there?”
“Oh-AH-thee-ah,” said the stranger slowly. “You know, the land of Once Upon A Time and Happily Ever After!” The horse man took off his hat and bent one of his front legs down to make a bow. “The name’s Ryder. I take it you’re not from around these parts. What’s your name, little man?” he asked, looking up at Boldaphist and offering his hand to shake.
The dwarf grunted as he accepted the gesture and shook Ryder’s hand. “I’m Boldaphist. And I’m not a little man, I’m a dwarf. There are plenty dwarves who be shorter than me, I’ll ‘ave ya know.”
“Haha, sorry partner. Didn’t mean no offense to your kind.” Ryder straightened up to his full horse height again.
Boldaphist felt quite overwhelmed. He’d never met or had a conversation with anyone who was so much taller than him. Ryder had to be at least 3 dwarves high, easy! “Oh, none taken, laddie, none taken. Say, pardon me for askin’, but… what kinda creature are ya?”
“Shoot, I’m just your friendly neighborhood centaur sheriff,” explained Ryder. “I’m nothing you should be afraid of, Mister Dwarf. Everyone's a pal-o-mine to this palomino, haha! Unless you were an outlaw, that is.” The centaur quickly set his mouth into a serious, threatening grim line at that. But then he laughed good-naturedly again, and Boldaphist laughed nervously with him. "Hahaha, but you look like an alright kinda character to me. In fact, you could be just the kind of critter who can help me with a problem I got. Here, I want you to see something."
Ryder walked past the dwarf and over to the solid stone wall behind him. The strange, swirly circular passage Boldaphist had come through in the first place had disappeared without him realizing it. It was like he'd come to this place through thin air! He was about to ask the centaur how he was supposed to get back home to where he came from, when Ryder took something out of his hat.
It was a little bit of yellow chalk. He drew a circle on the stone wall, stood back and said in a loud, clear voice, "Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack who planted a beanstalk."
No sooner had he said the first four words when the outline of the circle began to hiss and glow brightly. It was another spinning white portal! How under earth did Ryder know how to open one?!
Before the dwarf could get any answers, Ryder grabbed his arm and lifted him up onto his palomino back like he didn't weigh a thing. "Saddle up, partner! Yee-haw!" With an enthusiastic and graceful leap, the pair of them jumped straight through the portal. The grass wasn't quite so green on this other side, Boldaphist noticed as his new centaur friend galloped quickly through the field.
"Great granite!" he shouted to be heard over the thundering hoof beats. When would things stop happening so bloody fast? He held on tight to Ryder's waist, where a regular horse's neck would have been. "Where are we goin' now?"
"There!" The centaur pointed in front of him, and Boldaphist took a look up ahead. Once he saw where they were headed, he decided that nothing could surprise him anymore.
An enormous, monumental, gigantic green beanstalk shot straight up into the sky, seeming to disappear through the white clouds and just keep on going. Thick vines clung and climbed along with the main stalk, branching off into thin spirals. Giant leaves were spread flat, sticking out like strong, solid platforms. It was the most colossal thing Boldaphist had ever seen, and he lived in the mountains, so that was really saying something!
They reached the base of the incredible beanstalk in very quick time, and Ryder slowed down to a cantor, and then to a trot. Behind the stalk was a little wooden shack, and in front of the shack stood a frightened woman looking up at the beanstalk, clutching and weeping into her apron.
When she noticed the centaur approaching, she stopped crying and a look of relief seemed to wash over her. "Oh Sheriff Ryder, thank heavens you've come back! My poor boy, Jack... Oh, Jack still hasn't come down from that stalk yet! I don't know what has happened to him, whether he's still climbing or if he got to the top yet or what! I'm simply worried sick that he's going to fall down at any minute and break his neck! Or maybe some monster attacked him up there, and he's never going to come back to me! Oh, gracious me!" Jack's poor mother started her sobs anew.
Ryder and Boldaphist glanced at each other, exchanging expressions of pity for the distraught woman. The dwarf hopped off the centaur's back and both of them went to comfort her. "There, there, Mrs. Green. Everything's going to be alright," said the sheriff, patting her head.
"That's right, ma'am!" said Boldaphist, who patted her lower back. "You stop yer frettin'. I'm sure yer laddie Jack is right as rubies up there."
"Oh!" Jack's mother jumped, noticing the dwarf for the first time. "Excuse me, I didn't see you over there. Who are you?"
"The name's Boldaphist, lass. Boldaphist the dwarf."
"I see. And er... What's he doing here with you?" Jack's mother turned and directed her question at Ryder.
"Ah, well this here little feller is my new partner. He's gonna help me climb up that old beanstalk of yours and bring back, save or rescue your young Jack."
To be continued...
Edit: November 18, 2013, Monday
Here are all the links for the other parts of the story.