Day 7 – 1815 words and a total of 10 941 words! I was a LOT behind, but yesterday, seeing as I wrote 3000+ words, I’m almost back up! I just need to keep going…

“I suppose we couldn’t save everyone…” Stikky replied down-heartedly, sighing. “But we’ll all be dead too if we don’t find somewhere to shelter, plus food and fresh water. Remember; most our supplies will be at the bottom of the Stykk Ocean by now. Although; I can see there are a few things washed up here. We’ll check them first, but then we need to get exploring!”

A ragged cheer broke out rose from the stickmen around him, and they quickly dispersed in various directions, some exploring while others checking the wreckage.

Stacking up the driftwood he had found, Stikky and several others searched the beach, piling all the wooden spars and planks into a large pile.

“Hey Stikky!” Leddy called, and he turned to see his friend along with two other stickmen, carrying a large wooden box between them.

Dumping the crate down in front of Stikky, the younger stickman grinned. “You won’t believe what’s in there!” He exclaimed.

Lifting the lid of the box and sliding it carefully back, Stikky stared at the array of metal swords that lay, half-filling the crate.

“How did these get all the way over here?” He asked to himself, gripping one by the handle and lifting it out to examine it, as if he wasn’t sure if they were real or not.

“I don’t know either!” Leddy replied, without realising his friend had not been really asking anyone. “I thought metal would’ve sunk, but I suppose the wooden frame of the box was enough to keep it afloat. Or something like that. But at any rate, it’s great to have swords again, after losing two!”

Stikky grinned, tested his blade on his finger, then tucked the razor-sharp blade he had been holding into his belt. “C’mon!” He added. “Let’s see what else we can find!”

As he searched through the sand, he heard the occasional grunt of pain from his younger friend, and after watching him for a few minutes, realised his elbow-wound must be still quite painful.

Walking quickly over to Leddy, Stikky tore a strip off his own shirt and began to bandage his friend’s wound, ignoring his protests that it was ‘okay’ and that it was ‘nothing to worry about’.

Nodding as he finished, he grinned as he patted Leddy on the shoulder and continued on with his searching.

Apart from a few pieces of cloth, a barrel of bruised and squishy apples, a leather, waterproof case which Leddy found in great delight, and the nameplate of the Resolution, there was nothing more on the beach. Although, Steik noted that it would be quite likely for more things to wash up on the shore over the next few days, so it would be a good idea to come back and check every now and then.

Turning for the first time to get a good look at what lay before them, the stickmen looked over first at the forest before them, then, over that, at a ring of hills, then finally at a large mountain with an ancient castle atop its peak; barely visible in the distance.

“Wow!” Exclaimed Stif and Stib in unison. “A castle! On a mountain!”

Stikky grinned. “Yes, that looks like we should head in that direction for now. Though, of course, we need to find some food and water first; I don’t think those apples are going to fill anyone up, are they?”

There was a vigorous answer of shaking heads from the group around him, and together they set off into the forest, ready for almost anything.

 

Slashing away at a leafy plant in his way, Stikky made his way through the forest, the twins on either side of him and the rest of the stickmen following close behind.

They made slow but steady progress, the front row of stickmen clearing the plants, branches, twigs, and leaves out of the way, thus creating a path.

Leddy had an idea. “Why don’t we spread out a bit more?” He asked. “Probably only until we’re about ten or so stickmen wide, but that’ll make it much easier to find things, and plus, we’ll create a much bigger path!”

As the stickmen spread out, Stif—who was on the edge of the line—gave a shout.

“I say, guys!” he called. “Look at these berries!”

The others crowded around him. “You’d better not eat them,” warned Leddy. “They are the same one’s we found on Destick’s Island, don’t you remember? And also, although I forgot back then, I recall we found some back on Stickland once. I think we called them ‘Puke Berries’, don’t you remember?”

The group nodded as they memory filled their minds.

“Why did we name them that, again?” someone asked, scratching his head. “It’s not a very nice name…”

“Well,” Steik explained, grinning. “We were going to call them ‘Yellow Berries’, but after the twins tried some… we decided to call them that.”

Nodding as they left the bush and continued their search of the forest, Stikky suddenly found his throat was dry, his lips were parched and his tongue felt like it was beginning to swell.

As he dragged on at the front of the group, his feet began to feel heavy, his sword felt it was made of lead, and he felt like just collapsing to the ground and not moving until water reached his throat.

Just as he was about to drop his sword and fall onto the floor of the forest, a stickman near the edge of the line called out loudly.

“Hey guys!” the stickmen shouted joyfully. “I think there’s water here!”

Without a moment’s delay, every single stickman in the group turned to the speaker, and hurried towards him.

Near the edge of the path they had been making was a small clearing with several pukeberry bushes surrounding it, a small rock-pool of greeny-blue water near its edge. From a crack between two rocks poured a steady flow of water, splashing down in a miniature waterfall into the pool.

“It’s not salt water, is it?” Leddy asked.

Stif stepped forward and tasted it. “Nope,” he replied, grinning. “It’s fresh.”

Stikky nodded. “Well, this is our water for the moment, I suppose,” he announced cheerfully. “Though it’s best not to drink from the pool, only the waterfall. Come on, everyone who needs a drink, line up here!”

As the stickmen lined up one by one to drink, Stikky spoke privately to Leddy. “Well, that’s one problem solved: water.” he muttered quietly. “We’re on our way to that castle in the mountain, but I think we need to establish a food source before that.”

Leddy nodded in agreement, then, as his turn came to drink, he bent down and allowed his mouth to fill with cool, refreshing water.

Kneeling down on the ground, Stikky cupped his hands, let them fill with water, and took a sip of the reinvigorating drink. Instantly his tongue seemed to return to its normal size, his throat was refreshed, and he began to feel his strength returning.

Standing back up, he stood with the others as they waited until everyone had drunk their fill, then they set off once more in the direction of the mountain and the large, ruinous castle atop it.

 

The mountain rose out of the earth like some greeny-grey monster with a castle sitting perched atop its head.

The stickmen reached the base of the mountain just as the sun began to disappear behind the horizon.

Looking at the trees around them as his stomach gave a gurgle, Stikky realised the tree he was standing next to had heaps of red fruit hanging from it, not unlike apples.

“Guys!” He exclaimed, reaching up and picking a large rosy-red apple. “Look at these!”

Almost at the same moment Stif and Stib spotted a group of raspberry bushes, and began eating them greedily.

Looking around them, the stickmen realised they were right in the middle of some kind of overgrown orchard, or something that must have once been one.

As they scoured the entire area, they discovered several more apple trees, pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, all kinds of berry bushes, and many, many unknown fruits that grew on an assortment of curious bushes, trees, and plants.

Of course, everyone had to try the new fruits and berries, but long before everything had been tasted, all the stickmen had filled their stomachs and were able to eat no more.

As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, Stikky gathered everyone together. “Well,” he began. “I don’t think anyone here wants to climb a mountain today, do we? We’ve had food and water, and this looks like a reasonable place to sleep for tonight. Once we’ve had a good sleep, we’ll have some breakfast, then have a go at climbing this mountain!”

Everyone agreed, and after making themselves comfortable on the soft, springy grass around them, they lay down and one by one, dropped asleep.

Stikky was the last one awake. He thought over the events that had happened over the last few days. He thought of Destick, and all his plans, some that had failed, and others that had succeeded. He thought of the Rogue Crew, and their sudden and violent destruction in the whirlpool. He thought of the mountain above them, and the castle atop it. What awaited them there?

Well, the voyaging part of our adventure might be over for now, he thought, closing his eyes calmly. But the rest of it has hardly begun!

 

After a fruity breakfast and a drink from the spring, the stickmen had begun to explore the area around the base of the mountain for a way, or even a path up to the castle.

About halfway around the bottom Stikky stopped and stared upwards at the almost-vertical mountainside he faced.

Tilting his head on one side to get a better look, he gazed up at the cliff-face, knowing there was something slightly unnatural about it, but having no idea what.

Suddenly his eyes widened, and he gave a yell as he realised what it was.

Stairs. There were stairs carved into the side of the mountain, almost impossible to spot unless you knew what you were looking for, but there they were. They stretched all the way up from its base to the flat, protruding ledge the castle sat on.

Drawn by his yell, everyone came running as fast as the could, wondering what all the noise was about.

“What is it?” Panted Leddy, collapsing down onto a rock beside him as everyone gathered around them. “Have you found something?”

“Look!” Stikky exclaimed, pointing with a finger excitedly. “There! Can’t you see them? Stairs!”

There was a chorus of ‘oohhhhh’s and ‘aahhhhh’s from the stickmen around him, as, one by one, they all saw the carefully-carved steps jutting out from the cliffside.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Leddy exclaimed, after catching his breath.