Hahaha, nope! Not even a 3 parter. This story is just too epic. ^_^ You'll just have to wait for the rest of it!
Jack's mother's eyes swam as she pressed her palms together, like her prayers had been answered. "Oh, you two are so brave! Thank you so very much. It would mean the world to me if you could return my boy to me."
Boldaphist gave a nervous chuckle and was about to tell the both of them that this was all a big, crazy misunderstanding. That he had no idea what was going on. That he’d already had a long full day of working in the mines in the dwarf mountains, digging for opals, emeralds and diamonds, and had only been looking forward to a nice, quiet supper and then rest. That he’d gotten here entirely by accident, that they had the wrong dwarf, and that he was not about to go risking his life for a boy that he didn’t know or care about.
But then he looked at Mrs. Green’s face, her old cheeks wrinkled with worry, her pleading eyes red from crying so much, her hopeful, grateful smile. He could tell just by looking at her that she loved her son Jack dearly, and that it would break her heart if she were really to lose him forever.
He didn’t have the nerve to bring the poor woman down. So the dwarf swallowed his words and grinned at her. “Of course, ma’am. You can count on us to bring yer boy Jack home to ya as soon as possible.”
“That’s right, Mrs. Green,” said Ryder. ”Now, I think I might have left a couple of saddlebags back in your house. Would you mind getting them for me please?”
“Oh yes, of course!” She turned and walked quickly back to her old shack. “I actually filled them up with apples and sandwiches, so you could have something to eat on the way. It looks so very high up, you would need your strength!” she explained, shouting behind her because she was so far.
“Thank you kindly, that’s mighty generous of you!” Ryder yelled after her with an easy grin. He looked down at Boldaphist and winked at him. “Thanks a lot, pal. I owe you one. Listen, I promise I'll explain everything to you while we’re going up that thing.”
“Hmph. You’d better,” he muttered back.
Jack’s mother soon came back with brown leather bags that were filled to the brim with food. She threw the saddlebags over Ryder’s palomino back, and then bent down to give Boldaphist an old backpack she was carrying, also bulging with goodies. “I didn’t know you would be going with the sheriff to rescue Jack too, so I just threw another few things in here for you to eat too.”
“Oh lass, ya didn’t ‘ave to go to all that trouble fer little ol’ me.” Boldaphist was only just saying that. He realized that after having so many stressful things in a row happen to him, he’d actually developed quite an appetite. “Still, I highly ‘preciate the gesture. Yer most kind.” He slung the pack over his shoulder gratefully.
Prepared thus, Sheriff Ryder took his first cautious steps up the beanstalk. The massive leaves were so big and thick that they really did act as platforms, supporting not only the centaur’s weight, but also the dwarf sitting on his back, and all the supplies they both carried. He gripped a few vines attached to the main stalk, like it was a handrail, and pulled himself up onto the next leaf, which was slightly higher.
Ryder turned to Jack’s mother, who was still watching them anxiously. “Don’t worry yourselves over us now, Mrs. G. We’ll be back before you know it!”
And so began the great climb.
The giant beanstalk was a lot easier to maneuver than Boldaphist had any right to expect. For a long time, all Ryder had to do pretty much was walk or jump from leaf to leaf, going upwards in a circle like they were climbing a green spiral staircase. He didn’t really see why the centaur needed him to come along at all, until about an hour had passed, and the stalk started to get thinner and thinner. The leaves became steeper and more randomly interspersed, not quite so much like stairs anymore. So the dwarf had to get off the sheriff’s back and help pull him up each new leaf, sometimes having to use Ryder’s rope.
“I knew you looked like a strong feller when we first met,” said Ryder, grabbing the dwarf's hand and hoisting himself up the next platform with some effort. Boldaphist had to move quickly out of the way to make room for the centaur's four hooves.
As he'd promised, the sheriff had told Boldaphist everything he need to know and had answered all his confused questions as they made their slow but steady way up the beanstalk. Ryder explained that, like the dwarf, he didn't belong in this land, nor did he live in the land of Once Upon A Time and Happily Ever After. He hailed from Kloof County, a wild but lawful little town in the Harena desert. Ryder had kept the peace, as the sheriff, by roping up interloping outlaws and throwing them in the county jail for the spell.
He'd been pretty happy with his lot life, until one day, some years ago, he'd stumbled upon one of those mysterious white portals, just as Boldaphist had done. Once he was in Ouathea, he'd met a red-headed knight, who became his guide and took him on his first great adventure, and who told him all about what the portals were and how they worked.
"They're called Plot Holes," Ryder explained. "I'm not sure how they originally came about, or what they could possibly be doing in the Jaceo Canyon, or in that dwarf cave of yours, but all Plot Holes lead to Ouathea. See, there are many, many more lands out there besides the ones we call home, more worlds than you and I can possibly fathom. Ouathea is something of a land that acts as a bridge between all the others, connecting the worlds together.
"You can make your own Plot Hole anytime you please, using this." He pulled the little yellow piece of chalk from his hat again. "This is Chekhovian Chalk. You just draw a big ol' circle on any surface, like a wall, or even the floor if you want, though that can be a little dangerous if you're not careful, I don't recommend it. You say the words 'Once upon a time,' and just like that it takes you to a new place, and you're off on an adventure!"
"But why under earth would ya even wanna go on some random adventure? Who 'as time fer that? I didn't ask fer any of this to 'appen!" said Boldaphist, taking an annoyed crunch out of his apple. He and Ryder were taking a snack break. They had climbed so high that they were beginning to approach the puffy white clouds drifting just above.
"Hey, I didn't either, partner. But once I had my first adventure, I was hooked! I had to see all the other worlds there were out there. And not just to satisfy my own curiosity, but to help people too, like Mrs. Green down there. Anywhere you go, there are good people who need help, and the Plot Holes always have a way of sending you where you're needed, and where your particular talents can do some good."
"Hmm." He took another thoughtful bite, swallowed, and asked another question. "So how are ya supposed to get back to yer own land?"
"Oh, that's easy," replied Ryder. "All you have to do is say 'and they all lived happily every after," and you're back in the place where you belong."
"Really? Well, why didn't ya say so?" Boldaphist threw his apple core over his shoulder and stood up quickly. "And they all lived happily ever after!" he roared to the clouds, eyes shut tight, wishing he was home in his bed, that he could write this whole adventure off as some dream. But when he opened his eyes, he was still sitting on the leaf of a giant beanstalk with a centaur as his only companion, who was doing his best not to laugh at him.
"Haha, it's not quite as easy as all that, Boldaphist. See, those words only work if they're the truth. As things currently stand, Jack's mother surely isn't happy, since her boy is missing. Jack probably isn't happy, and might be in some trouble. If you were to just desert me and leave me up in this beanstalk, I certainly wouldn't be happy, I can tell you that. Once we've succeeded in our mission, when we've tied up all the loose ends and made most everyone happy, then we can say those words."
The centaur didn't sound angry with him, but Boldaphist was ashamed of himself all the same. He hadn't thought about what Ryder would do if he were to disappear. It would have been quite a cowardly, selfish thing to do, if he were able to choose to leave at any time he wanted. "I see. Er, sorry 'bout that."
Ryder nodded at him. "No need, partner. I know how you must feel. It's a crazy business, to be sure, downright scary sometimes. We're forced to do things we're not always sure we can handle. But that's what makes it fun! Look, you may not have exactly asked to be here, but something led to you finding a Plot Hole, and you were brave enough and curious enough to take the plunge and see what lay on the other side, because you've got the spirit of adventure in you. You were meant to be here.
"And just think! When you get back on home to your dwarf pals, you'll have an epic Story to tell them!" Ryder added.
Boldaphist chuckled. "I don't imagine anydwarf in their right mind would be quite able to believe any of this, laddie."
The hours crawled by, the sun began to sink below the clouds, and the two of them were still climbing that stalk. It was increasingly difficult to help Ryder up to each leaf platform, as they were getting smaller and a little more flimsy the higher they got. In addition, the fact that the day was getting steadily darker didn't help, as it got harder to see.
"It's a wonder we 'aven't found the boy by now," remarked Boldaphist. "He musta gotten all the way to the top. He oughta be thinkin' 'bout his poor mother."
Ryder tested the leaf just above him delicately with a hoof, and he didn't like how much it bent under his weight. "Hey uh, partner? I'm not so sure I can go any further. I reckon you'll have to go up the rest of the way without me."
Boldaphist was aghast. His bushy eyebrows went up so high they nearly disappeared into his hair. "What? Ya can't be serious! If I can't back out of this 'ere adventure, then you can't either, partner!" he grunted, fists clenched fiercely.
"Boldaphist, I have no choice. This stalk is not going to support my weight forever, and I'm not exactly built for climbing up vines. A bipedal creature like you, on the other hand, now that's a different story."
"Well then, why under earth did ya come up with me in the first place? I probably coulda climbed this cursed thing a lot faster without ya."
The centaur shrugged. "I knew you must have had many questions, and I knew it wouldn't have been fair of me to ask you to come up here all by yourself without explaining the whats, hows or whys of it all. It would have taken too long if I'd told you everything down there, before we started at all, and you might have insisted on going home to your precious mountains, so I just had to make a judgement call. Sorry."
The dwarf stared at the centaur for a moment, then looked down and sighed. Deep down, he knew Ryder was right. He relaxed his fists. "It's okay, lad. I'm sure ya only did what ya thought was best." He looked up at the remaining beanstalk still to climb, which was partially obscured by clouds and difficult to see in the dark. "Well, I s'pose this be where we part ways. You'll be fine gettin' down on yer own?"
Ryder nodded. "Sure, partner. The way down is always easier. Here." He took his hat off and tossed the piece of Chekhovian Chalk to the dwarf. "This'll come in handy. As soon as you get ahold of Jack, make yourself a Plot hole wherever you can, think of his momma's house, and jump through that sucker."
"That easy, eh?"
"It's that easy. Sheriff's honor."
Boldaphist grunted "Thanks," and slipped the chalk into a pocket on his tool belt. "Okay, well, best of luck to ya on the way down, sheriff."
"Likewise, partner." Dwarf and centaur shook hands, and they resumed climbing the beanstalk, only in different directions.
To be concluded...Edit: November 18, 2013, Monday
Here are all the links for the other parts of the story.