It had taken a while, but J.D. finally got used to the kangaroos’ speed and the fact he was riding snuggly in their pouch. Each hop covered fifteen feet or more and it was amazing at how stable the ride was. It was also amazing that it took so little time to see the Webbed Bridge off to the right. It was a medium sized suspension bridge made of golden webbing crossing a large deep gorge. However, neither he nor Claudette were ready for when the kangaroos did a dead stop and sent them flying from the pouches only to land on the forgiving grass next to the entrance to the bridge.
As they dusted off their clothes they gave the kangaroos a questioning look. While the creatures rode away, they were brought back to the moment with the minty breeze that floated up from the ravine under the bridge.
The webbing was tightly woven so when they stepped onto the bridge, it barely registered a movement. The next few steps were taken apprehensively until Claudette found that her laced grey suede boots stood firmly on the bridge.
“I think it’s safe to go across,” she called back, her black curls gently dancing in the breeze.
Looking back she saw that J.D. was still holding onto the rail. He let go quickly trying to act all cool. “Yeah, yeah. Seems pretty, umm... yeah, firm.”
Claudette shot him a smile and waited for him to continue walking across. The breeze was pretty constant across the bridge, something the young woman didn’t notice much because of her coat and something the young man was not aware of because his attention was completely on the compass and where it pointed.
“It’s directly across,” he said when they were halfway past.
He then felt Claudette’s hand on his arm. “Do you feel that?”
The young man tried to see if his body registered any movement. “I don’t feel anything... but I do hear something.”
For a second, it was as if a squeaky door sounded in the distance until Claudette’s eyes widened in confusion. “Is.... is that... a... duck?”
What had been a whisper roared into a landslide of quacks that almost deafened the duo. A flock of ducks sprung from beneath the bridge and soared towards what seemed like East within Draem. When the noise finally subsided, a drip-dripping remained behind.
“How can there be a leak on a roofless bridge?” asked J.D.
Claudette stood and stared over the young man’s left shoulder and when J.D, turned around he faced a heavy set duck, about six feet tall, with a grand moustache draped over his bill, a construction hat on its head, a portly belly that heaved with its breath, suspenders pulling tightly and a huge cigar that smelt like burnt cereal. Looking to the floor, J.D. noticed that the drip-dripping noise was actually the impatient tapping of a webbed foot on a bridge.
“’En what do ye think yer doin’ ‘ere?!” the husky duck croaked.
J.D. could only fumble for words. “Umm... err... ah.......”
“Dis ‘ere bridge is off lemets ‘coz o the construction!”
“We know that, it’s just we need to get to Down Pond and well... we’re already halfway across.”
The duck chewed on its cigar and flashed a set of nasty fangs to the duo through its scowl. “Not - my – problem,” spat the huge duck. “Now go on back and don’t make me say it twice.”
J.D. was about to go ballistic when Claudette stepped between him and the duck. She signaled the young man to calm down. Turning around, she faced the husky duck with an odd smile on her face. The duck was a bit taken aback by her demeanor and looked at her a bit cross. Quite elegantly, she opened her coat, flashed the set of pencils and pulled one out. “Are we going to have a problem?”
Color fled from the duck’s face and his bill quivered enough that the cigar wriggled out of the grip of his bill, falling to the floor. Claudette took a step closer to the duck, putting out the cigar with her boot and coming within inches of the duck’s face. “So we can pass then?”
“Err... yeah-yeah. O ‘course ye can, miss. Din’n mean to intrude. It’s jus’ unions, regulations and the sort. Ye don’ wan’ any lawsuits flying yer way.”
“Indeed we do not,” she replied dryly. “So we shall be quiet and expeditious as we cross your lovely bridge. I’m so glad we have an understanding. I wouldn’t want to have to draw this out, now would we?”
The duck trembled viciously and held up his feathered hands, “N-n-no mum. No need at all.” He graciously opened the way for them to pass along.
“Thank you and have a nice day,” she said in a cold voice that could freeze a furnace.
“You too ma’am, and ye as well, sir. Pardon my intrusion.”
“All’s well,” said J.D. as they crossed the bridge. When they got to the other side, Claudette finally put her pencil away.
“That was awesome,” he said. “Although what was that about? It was as if the duck knew who you were.”
“Elementary, my dear J.D., dreams come and go, but an armed dreamer can do whatever they want and I’ve earned a reputation in other countries within the Lucid. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some other day.”
The young man smiled and a little spring came back into his step. As they walked down the path, it widened until opening onto what looked like a field of cotton.
“Feathers?” J.D. asked.
“Duck feathers, to be precise,” Claudette replied. “No doubt another creation of the bridge workers. A Down Pond indeed.”
J.D. could only smile at the beauty of dreams. “So who are we here to meet?”
“Shhhh... not so loud,” Claudette whispered. “She likes things quiet.”
J.D. immediately lowered his voice. “Ok... so who is she? Moreover, where is she?”
“She should have gotten my message. Wait a minute... look there.”
He followed her laced finger to an arc of feathers that started to billow from deep in the feathery pond. It whizzed softly and although the sound seemed fast, it was soothing. It was the sound of frictionless flight.
The cascade of feathers trailed in twists and turns about the entire expanse of the pond until the glimpse of a figure seemed to leap, twirling like some majestic fairy that breached the surface of the pond with sheer grace. J.D. tilted his head sideways as he looked at the trail of feathers and the figure that leapt on occasion. “Is she skating?”
As soon as he spoke in his normal voice, the trail turned directly towards them and an avalanche of feathers seemed to rush towards them until the softest most feathery explosion they’d ever seen engulfed them. J.D. could barely make out the pond’s floor as the feathers fell softly around him and Claudette, though eventually he was able to see a lovely young woman with a single white feather standing atop her head, a cream and brown chemise and a flowing down skirt of feathers of every color. From her direction came the scent of ginger blossoms and J.D. noticed she stood atop two large bars of foamy soap, which were firmly strapped to her feet.
As the feathers continued to fall soothingly, Claudette introduced the young lady. “This is Silent Feather. Within Draem, she resides in Slumberland and I thought she could help.”
J.D. was taken aback by how sincere the young woman’s eyes were.
She spoke with a calm gentle voice:
“I serve slumber’s purpose,
He smiled in reply, knowing fully well Claudette had made a fine choice. “A pleasure, Miss Feather. Now, where to?”
Claudette thought for a moment. “I think we need to go to the Abrazo field.”
J.D. raised an eyebrow, “Oh? And where’s that?
“Please give us the compass for a moment.”
J.D. handed the heart compass to Claudette who in turn passed it onto Silent Feather.
As the sweet young woman held the compass, she whispered over the liquid amethyst.
“Night on my mind,
sleepy stars shine,
the way revealed.”
The liquid in the compass responded immediately with a flutter before a creamy little heart appeared as if dancing towards their immediate south.
Claudette saw the direction of the compass and took a deep breath. “It’s even further inland.”
J.D. asked for the compass back. “If we’re to help my darling Jane, we need to go quite deep into Draem’s land. Are you both up to it?”
Both Claudette and Silent Feather nodded silently but confidently.
J.D. gave a grateful smile. “Wonderful to hear; so how do we get to this field?”
With a smile, Silent Feather took the feather from her head, dipped it in the compass’s liquid and pointed to the starry night sky of Draem. With each flick of the feather, a star lit in the sky, drawing a clear path towards the south.
The weary man nodded in approval. “Ok, that takes care of navigation and guidance. How about transportation? Our kangaroos kind of abandoned us a while back.”
The smile on the sincere youth’s face maintained as she put the feather back onto her head before offering a question. “How’s your balance?”