In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit. In a land called Australia, there lived an adventurer.
She was not a permanent resident, but had temporarily made her home in this far off land. She had learnt their language and studied their sometimes strange customs long enough to feel at home among them. She had explored endless expanses where rusted dirt met cerulean sky in a clash of colour, waterfalls charging over rocks with an energy akin to an infinite flood of wild horses, and beautiful waterholes where the sun glittered on the water like a dragon’s hoard. She had also enjoyed the odd cup of tea and the occasional lounge in a comfy chair with book in hand, but these events are not exciting enough to be relayed here. This is a story of how the adventurer had an adventure, and found herself doing things altogether unexpected. Having travelled so far, she was not content to confine her explorations to one country. She came from a long ancestry of adventurers (of various tenuous degrees) and she had found in the last seven months that a wanderlust had awakened in her blood.
Across the seas, in a magical world called New Zealand, the adventurer found a group of fellow rovers who had been travelling this magnificent land in a bright orange steed called the Loveshack, a valiant beast which was guided seemingly by nothing but a floating lantern and its two guardian bears, Loveshack (the steed’s namesake) and Funshine. They traversed many leagues together: over and through hills and mountains, alongside rivers and streams, and even atop a glacier.
Crossing the glacier was the first major undertaking of their quest. The adventurer had heard tell of the undulating fields of crisp whites and stunning blues which were abruptly interrupted by towering, jagged cliffs and beautiful flowing caves, their shapes determined by the endless, determined trickle of meltwater. In actual fact, the scene was perhaps more closely comparable to a sea than fields, because the frozen cliffs and caverns were constantly on the move as they made their way inexorably down the mountain. The travellers were transported to this colossal mass of ice in a thundering metal beast which soared through the air on wings that did not flap like a regular bird’s, but rotated with a steady thud. When they landed on the glacier, they were greeted by an extremely unusual gentleman. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.
Now, that wasn’t quite true, but it would have been fabulous had it been. Instead, they were welcomed by their ordinary-looking but still very friendly guide, who took them safely across the ice, carving paths and staircases with the same finesse as a master mason carving stone. He warned them of the ferocious Kea guardians of the ice lands. These creatures who would pelt you with rocks and destroy your provisions if you ever made the mistake of straying too far for too long. Our adventurer sighted one of these fearsome tricksters from afar, his green feathers and beady eyes stark against the ice, but thankfully he did not deem her or her companions a serious enough threat.
They were emboldened by their successful venture across the ice and made their way to wilder and more remote climbs. Doubtful Sound, so named because sound refused to behave as it should within its undefined boundaries, was a misty mysterious waterway enclosed on either side by rock walls, the heights of which were unknown because they were eternally wreathed in cloud. The peculiarities which made everyone slightly hard of hearing were thanks to the unexplainable magic of dragons (unexplainable because they didn’t even understand it themselves). Dragons who made their homes in the lofty cliffs behind the infinite waterfalls, seemingly infinite in both number and size. Imagine their magic, if you will, as layers and layers of spells laid gently over one another and then tangled and snarled into an impossible mess by the endless twists, turns and flights of dragons soaring through the fragile layers.
The adventurers made their way through the mist in their magnificent ship, spending the night on the water to increase their chances of seeing the interesting local wildlife. They knew they were unlikely to spot a dragon; the swift beasts often hid in the clouds and they could hear any plucky adventurer from a mile off (they were seemingly unaffected by the mangling of sound that their magic had caused). At one point, the travellers did spot a fleeting silhouette in the clouds which may have been a small dragon (although it was more likely a large bird).
They were even decanted into smaller vessels (much like the woven canoes of the elves though these were bright yellow and propelled by paddle rather than magic) to hopefully give them a better chance of seeing the unique creatures of the Sound. It was only when they returned to their main vessel that they were finally joined by some of the hyper intelligent mammals of the water – dolphins. They had sussed out the humans long before and deemed them destructive and beneath their interest. They were very playful creatures, however, and would deign to interact with their visitors for entertainment purposes. This pod of dolphins danced in the wake of the boat, leaping over the water and summersaulting under each other. They were sleek and beautiful, chattering away to one another and taking pure pleasure in the moment in a way very few creatures had mastered. Our particular adventurer, however, was most excited by the sighting of her first wild penguins. They were reportedly some of the rarest in the world. She felt bad disturbing the penguins’ peace with their large ship and prying eyes, but it was a thrilling moment nonetheless.
To top everything off, their journey on the Sound was infinitely improved by a magnificent feast, prepared by Tom, son of Plumm, son of Flan, which bolstered their spirits and prepared them for the adventures that lay in store…
Continue with Part Two here: The Two Towns.