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The Wizard of Lap

Dorothy and Her Friends Fly at the Mountain of Diablo

One day Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow went to fly in the sky at the Mountain of Diablo with some of their friends. They wanted to play with the Thermals of Diablo, who lived on the mountain, but the Thermals were tired and weak after a very late night post-frontal party, and didn't want to play, so Dorothy and her friends couldn't stay up in the air for very long. Some of them had to walk back up the mountain and some fell so far down that they had to get a ride back to the top with the kind Tourists who come to isit the Mountain at weekends and holidays. But they were having a lot of fun and eventually their enthusiasm rubbed of on the Thermals who got into the spirit of things and started to lift them all up high over the Mountain. They all flew around and played a game of tag with the Thermals for a long time and eventually the Tin Man and the Scarecrow landed back on the top of the Mountain.

The Wicked Wind from the West

All of a sudden the Wicked Wind from the West came howling through and blew so strongly that the Tin Man and the Scarecrow could not get back up into the air to play with the Thermals. Dorothy and the Lion ( and some of their other friends who had stayed up in the air with them ) sneered at the Wicked Wind and flew higher and farther than they had ever flown before at the Mountain of Diablo. But the Wicked Wind blew even harder and soon they realized that they would have to be very clever just to get back down to the ground before the Wicked Wind pushed them all the back into the Valley of the Evil Rotor. As luck would have it they were very well prepared because just a few days earlier they had all been discussing lots of different ways to outwit the Wicked Wind from the West when she tried to stop them from landing. Eventually Dorothy and the Lion and all their friends got down safely to the ground - even their good friend Bob. The Wicked Wind was particularly angry with Bob, and kept him up the air for much longer than the others because he was the one who had started the discussion on how to outwit her.

An Adventure is Planned

Everyone was very excited after such a wonderful time playing with the Thermals of Diablo but the Tin Man and the Scarecrow were a little sad that the Wicked Wind had stopped them from flying again after they had landed, when everyone else was having such a wonderful time. They would, they decided, go off on an adventure into the mountains of the North West where they would find the Mighty Potato and ask him if he would let some of his Thermals out to play the next day. They had heard that the Mighty Potato had been keeping his stable of Thermals extremely well exercised throughout the long and unusual winter that had fallen over the Land. They imagined how strong those Thermals must be, and how eager they must be to be loosed into the sky to play for the first time this Spring. They invited their good friends Dorothy and the Lion to come with them (because they were their friends, of course - not just because Dorothy had a magic chariot that could carry people to the top of the most unaccommodating mountain) and then they all went down to the Creek of the Walnut, where they started to lay out plans for their journey while they ate a hearty supper.

A Legend is Remembered

As they planned the adventure they debated what supplies they would need to take and consulted their weather oracles. Suddenly the Tin Man remembered a place he had been to long ago, a legendary place far across the Great Valley, in the Mountains of the South East near the Canyon of the Kings, where the Thermals were reputed to be the strongest and most playful of all the Thermals west of the High Mountain Range. This place was home to the Wonderful Wizard of Lap who was very possessive of his Thermals, and who never allowed anyone to invade his domain during the long winter months. He could make it so hard to reach his Tower that not even a magic chariot could get all the way up there 'til the snows melted in the Spring. And even then, only the bravest of magic chariot riders would brave the muddy ruins of the trail up to his Tower. Even when he made the trail up to his Tower accessible, later in the year, he often discouraged people from coming to play with his Thermals by inviting the Surly South Wind to blow so hard on the slopes of his Mountain than no-one would dare to go up into the air even after they safely arrived at his Tower.

The Plans are Changed.

Now according to the Lion's weather oracle the Surly South Wind would be defeated the following day by the Good North Wester. Why not - the Tin Man proposed - make an adventure to the South East instead. By this time of year the Wizard of Lap usually tires of his Winter solitude. Perhaps they would be able to reach his tower and, with the Surly South Wind defeated, may even be allowed up into the air to play with his Thermals! At first the Tin Man's words were taken lightly by the rest of the group. After all, it had been a particularly long and unusual Winter. Maybe the Wonderful Wizard of Lap was still closing out the rest of the world... it could easily rain so close to the High Mountain Range... in fact the only shred of hope was the imminent downfall of the Surly South Wind in the Great Valley. But Dorothy, the Lion and the Scarecrow had never flown in the skies that surround the Tower of the Wonderful Wizard of Lap; had never witnessed the unimaginable playfulness of the Wizard's Thermals. It was hard for them to plunge into an adventure that offered so little hope of reward when they had no idea of how fulfilling that reward could be. The Tin Man tried his hardest to sway their decision with tales of flights that no one could imagine possible so early in the year. The Scarecrow had little use for rational thought and quickly fell in with the Tin Man's plans. Eventually, and probably more out of pity for the Tin Man than out of a conviction that the adventure would be worth the effort, Dorothy and the Lion agreed to follow.

The Journey Starts

A route to the Tower of the Wonderful Wizard of Lap was plotted on Dorothy's chart and off went the group. Dorothy and the Lion leading the way out of the Creek of the Walnut in Dorothy's magic chariot, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow following in the Tin Man's trusty, though much less rugged conveyance. As they rode into the night, first southward then swinging east through the hills into the Great Valley, they were a very quiet group of companions. Many hours of arduous travel lay ahead and the prospect of success began to seem very remote. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow covered their growing pessimism by composing the boastful stories they would be able to relate for many months to come if their adventure proved fruitful.

The Lion Consults a Higher Oracle

Dorothy and the Lion, however, felt the full weight of trepidation descend upon them and in a moment of weakness the Lion summoned up a very powerful oracle who practices his prophetic craft from the Tower of Flight in the Land of the Oak. This oracle predicted that a darkness would descend upon the Great Valley in the region of the Canyon of the Kings, the very next day, and that the base of this darkness would slowly rise throughout the day but never manage to reach the lofty elevation of the Wizard's Tower before nightfall.

Dorothy and the Lion turn back.

This revelation was too much for Dorothy and the Lion and, they felt sure, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow must now listen to the voice of reason. They stopped their chariot and summoned the Tin Man to a hasty meeting by the wayside. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow were disappointed by the dismal prediction and agreed to consult an old guru, who had traveled to the Wizard's Tower many times, to ask for his advice. Using the Tin Man's travelling telling-bone they summoned this guru and confronted him with all the predictions and prophecies at their disposal. He declared their journey to be one of great folly - doomed to disappointment. Dorothy and the Lion announced that they would indeed turn around and seek the comforts of home over the rigors of the open road. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow declared that they had many years of foolhardiness left in their bodies before they would start to pay attention to the voice of reason. The friends parted company, Dorothy and the Lion toward their homes in the City of the Gate, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow first east, then south again toward whatever destiny awaited them.

The Tin Man and the Scarecrow Arrive in the Night.

Many hours later the Tin Man and the Scarecrow approached the southmost extent of their travels and once again turned east, toward the High Mountain Range. As they did so the full moon gave way to an ominous darkening of the sky. Drops of rain started to fall, picked up to a faster pace and soon became a torrent, obscuring the road for all but a few paces ahead. Slowly the pair progressed, and by and by they came into the Valley below the Tower of the Wizard. Their plans to sleep under the stars dashed by the foul weather, they decided to ride up the well paved road that slowly ascends the face of the Wizard's mountain, on its way east into the Canyon of the Kings, to the point where a rough track branches off and doubles back west to the Wizard's tower about six miles away, and a few hundred feet higher. After ascending less than half way they were engulfed in a thick fog. Long before they reached the track the torrential rain had given way to a blinding snowstorm. It would seem the Wizard wanted to revel in his winter solitude a little longer this year. When they reached the track they turned onto it but at a large flat turn-off where the giant four-winged helibird's nest, just a few tens of yards up they found that they could go no further. The track was already deep in snow and theirs was no magic chariot. At this juncture the Tin Man and the Scarecrow could only believe that at first light , after hopefully sleeping for a few hours (It was, in fact, already an hour and a half into the new day) they would be setting off back to the West to the possibility of another day flying at the Mountain of Diablo and the certainty of the mockery and derision that they would surely deserve. They rode back down into the valley where the snow could not freeze them in the night and slept soundly in the back of their conveyance, wrapped in down-filled sacks against the bitter cold.

Morning Brings Hope and Disappointment

Halfway into the seventh hour of the day they were awakened by the one thing that they had believed impossible just a few short hours before. The sun was shining in their faces over the mountains to the east. The sky was as clear as crystal and as the Tin Man tried to locate the Tower of the Wizard on the crest of the range to the north he realized that the one small cloud still clinging to the mountain was in fact centered around the Tower itself. This cloud, they felt sure, would burn off in the morning sun before they had broken fast at the finest eatery in the village. They would then ride back to the helibird's nesting-place and investigate the possibility of invading the Wizard's domain on foot. About an hour later, after consuming a hearty breakfast, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow stepped out of the eatery, their spirits high and their previously prepared boastful stories now elaborated with new and glorious detail. One look at the sky and their spirits fell. Although the eatery was bathed in sunshine the rest of the valley was thick with cloud, which had come down so low that not even half of the Wizard's mountain could be seen below it. For want of something better to do they rode back up the paved road to the helibird's nesting place to look at the state of the track. It was, as they had feared, deep in snow. Hard walking at best, and sure to get worse higher up where the hard surface gave way to soft earth, probably rutted and broken, under the snow. It hardly seemed to matter now that the cloud was down to where the Oracle at the Tower of Flight had predicted it would be. They lingered a while in the snow, and by and by a magic chariot came trundling up the track. It seemed to have no difficulty getting up the slope just beyond them but the Tin Man knew how bad the surface would be further up. He doubted if even a magic chariot could ride more than a mile or two in that direction. But ever optimistic he pointed out to the Scarecrow that IF the clouds lifted and IF another magic chariot came through they could maybe persuade the rider to carry them and their wings as far as possible up the track to the Tower of The Wizard. They agreed to wait and see if the clouds would lift. After about half an hour they began to realize that from their vantage point they would observe no lifting of the cloud at all until and unless it rose all the way up to their elevation. So once more they set off down into the valley, this time to watch the cloud from below. By the tenth hour of the day the cloud seemed to have moved only very slightly. The Scarecrow declared that if, by halfway into the tenth hour, they had seen no more rapid lifting of the cloud they should call off their vigil and return to the West. The Tin Man reluctantly agreed. By the appointed time the cloud had risen only very slightly but the Tin Man persuaded the Scarecrow to persevere for one more half of an hour.

The Long Walk.

By the eleventh hour the cloud had risen significantly faster than before, and was revealing some of the lower ridges of the mountain. Knowing that the walk to the Tower from the helibird's nesting-place was going to be a long one, and that if they were to wait for the cloud to lift completely it might be too late, the pair decided to ride up and commence walking the track anyway. The cloud at the west end of the ridge seemed much lower than that up near the Wizard's Tower so they were not too daunted when the arrived at the helibird's nesting-place to find themselves just as enshrouded in cloud as they had been before descending the mountain an hour and a half earlier. Their conveyance parked in the snow at the bottom of the track they shouldered their wings and started walking. The tracks made by the magic chariot that had passed earlier gave them a slightly easier route to walk until they reached the softer ground where snow and mud mixed to make walking impossible. Deep ruts lined the track. The only way to pass these obstacles was to strike out into the virgin snow in the forest, skirting round until they reached more solid sections of track. Progress was slow - the obstacles were many -but the pair pressed on and within half an hour they were rewarded by their first glimpse of open sky for a long time. The clouds ahead were indeed above the mountain and, rounding a bend they whooped with delight - forgetting for a moment their heavy loads - as they caught their first glimpse of the Tower of the Wonderful Wizard of Lap - three or four miles away as the crow flies - but still more than five miles of hard foot-slogging away. The closer to the Wizard's tower they walked the more treacherous the track became. The Tin Man was surprised to see how far the magic chariot tracks did in fact go, but in the soft ground they were much more of a hindrance than a help. They had long since forsaken trying to keep their feet dry in favor of more rapid progress. The clouds had continued to lift steadily as they walked - now at least 1000 ft above the Tower - and broken to reveal large areas of blue sky where the sun shone through, bathing the valley below in patches of sunlight. With less than a mile to go they reached a fork in the track where the path to the Tower began to climb a section steeper than any they had thus far encountered. The magic-chariot tracks all disappeared down the other track so their steep climb had to be made up through deep, virgin snow. The only place where the, now much firmer, ground showed through was where rivulets of melt-water were busy washing runnels in the snow. Their feet already wet they once again opted for speed over comfort and began wading through the rivulets. Twenty minutes later - over two hours since they had started out on their long and arduous walk - they crested a shallow rise and came face to face with the Wizard of Lap.

The Flight

A quiet awe descended upon the pair. It was - they realized - probably the first time that any eyes had gazed upon the Tower from within the Wizard's own domain since late the previous year when he had invoked the Power of the Child God to provide him with a long and impenetrable winter solitude. Sun bathed the snow covered slopes on which the Tower stands, and a gentle breeze blew directly up from the valley. Had the Wizard released his legendary Thermals to play in the sky today? - the Tin Man had heard rumors that the Wizard had used his magic powers to make his Thermals unnaturally eager to play, even when hardly a ray of sun was touching the valley floor - and by now three quarters of the valley was in sunlight. Almost as the thought crossed their minds they heard the tell-tale rustle of trees as a Thermal summoned a triplet of eagles to come and play. Just in front of the Tower the eagles soared in graceful level circles for a moment, then suddenly plunging deeper into the Thermal, soared steeply upwards. Within minutes they were out of sight - not even specks between the clouds that were now at least 1300 ft above the top of Tower. Wasting no more time the pair acknowledged the Wizard's welcome, fastened themselves to their wings and leapt into the sky to play with his Thermals.

First the Scarecrow - but a little too eager he leapt almost straight onto the back of a Sinister Sinker - one of the creatures that pursue the strongest of Thermals around the sky. Within minutes the Scarecrow could scarce believe that he would manage to fly to the Field of Happy Landings, way down in the valley. But the Thermals, eager to play with their new friends sent a lone eagle to show them the way. As the Scarecrow followed the eagle back to the Thermal the Tin Man plunged from the slope straight into the heart of it. The Thermals took them high, too high! The Scarecrow found himself deep in the cloud, loosing all sight of the ground and having to close down his wing in order to plunge down - back into the open sky. But the clouds had been playing games too - they had shaken and jostled the Scarecrow, turning him this way and that, so that when he finally managed to get back down below them he did nor recognize the land below him. Only by following the Tin Man did he get manage to regain his bearings. They flew to the edge of the big cloud that lurked above the Tower and out into sunlight. After less than twenty minutes in the sky the pair were both regretting their wetted footwear. The temperature was well below that of ice and, though they had otherwise dressed warmly - expecting the cold - the wind was chilling the water on and in their sturdy boots. Even the sunlight gave little respite from the biting chill around their feet. But they had come to fly and play and they flew far across the valley. The North Wester was in evidence so high above the mountain and the Wizard's Thermals delighted in coaxing the pair to fly east toward the Canyon of the Kings. Remembering that the road so far east was closed to common transport, they tried to bend their flight more southerly than easterly and found themselves high above the lower hills on the southern side of the valley, just east of a gap through which a little road passes into the next valley. Slowly pushing west to keep accessible roads within their reach they tried to cross the gap only to be abandoned by the Wizard's Thermals. Maybe they had quickly bored of their new playmates, maybe the pair had ventured beyond their territory. But the Tin Man had flown with these Thermals before and knew of a place, a rising ridge, just beyond the Field of Happy Landings, where the Thermals went to rest and build up their strength after a long playful session. Heading straight for the ridge he flew with the wind - as fast as he could but immediately found himself riding the biggest Sinister Sinker he had encountered that day. Unable to dismount the beast the Tin Man rode it all the way down to the Field of Happy Landings where it threw him off, leaving him to the mercy of the mischievous, Hatchling Thermals that inhabit the air scarcely a hundred feet over the Field. Presently they too tired of the novelty of throwing the Tin Man around and let him descend gently to the ground. The Scarecrow had the sense to stay back avoiding the Sinker but nonetheless could not find another adult Thermal. Soon he too was being tossed around by the Hatchling Thermals who seemed to enjoy thwarting the Scarecrow's efforts to reach the Field even more than they had the Tin Man's, keeping him aloft barely 50 ft off the ground for more than ten minutes. Bye and bye they let him down and the Tin Man and the Scarecrow spoke to each other for the first time in over an hour. The first words from their lips - after the hoots of joy at the fulfillment of their adventure: bitter complaints about the icy chill pervading their feet!

The Long Climb

Now late in the afternoon, all that remained was for the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to retrieve their conveyance, fill their bellies and return to the West to tell their story. Leaving their wings hidden away they set off walking up the road back to the helibird's nesting-place, hoping that some kindly traveler might offer them a ride along the way. The going was easy this time - paved road - and the distance was about another six miles but the climb was hard. They had landed almost 2400 ft below their conveyance and neither of the two travelers that passed them along the road were disposed to offer them a ride. Even without their heavy packs the six-mile walk took them another two hours.

The End of an Epic Day

When the Tin Man and the Scarecrow finally reached their conveyance they found that the snow had melted away over much of the immediate area and cold was no longer the chief complaint from their feet! They fell exhausted into their seats, opened a flagon of mead to quench their raging thirsts, and looked out over the valley - still bathed in the late afternoon sunshine. They could see the Wizard's Tower thrusting out of the trees miles away to the West, the thinning clouds still high above it. Half an hour later they had retrieved their wings and as they rode west, out of the Valley they basked in the glow of satisfaction brought on in part by the feeling that a session of hard physical exertion always leaves behind when it finally ceases - with no necessity of resumption until another day; and in part by having achieved a goal that two Oracles and a Guru had declared impossible less than 24 hours earlier!

The "voice of reason" would be a dim and distant voice to the Tim Man and the Scarecrow for many years to come!

The End