The Adventures of Joanne Springer of Foxbridge!
Special- the visitor Joanne Springer arrives to discover Mosswood Fells! So much exciting stuff happens you've gotta follow her journey.
Day of Arrival
The quickest way to Mosswood Fells was by riverboat, and as it so happened, the water bisected Sylvanian lands. Little Joanne Springer of Foxbridge was on a long tour of sightseeing! The little kangaroo girl loved the excitement, and had just spent a lengthy amount of time in Slydale Hollow, on the southwestern nook of the land. She had traveled on the water for quite some time and looked rather forlornly out the open window of the boat which would take her eastward to see. It had traveled along the eastern coast and now arched westward once more. To their right was a fringe of thick evergreen trees; in the distance a mountain range loomed. "Will we be there soon?" she wondered, boredom letting her mind roam from fond memories of her vacation thus far to the unknown future ahead.
"Aye-aye!" agreed a chipper otter behind her. Miss Springer startled.
"Oh! How soon?" she asked.
"We dock at the intersection just past Whisper Wood. Then, we'll turn around, and from there you'll be on your way! Y'said Mosswood Fells, aye? Such a lovely, lovely place. I have family there. Well, I must get back to steering me beauty! Hahahar!" chortled the otter man.
Soon, Joanne had indeed disembarked the boat, and made her way northward. To her great surprise, the snowy plains were full of vibrant evergreens decorated with ornaments, and plenty of Sylvanians took notice of her as she approached! A group of pandas took notice first, and their charcoal-black eyes lit up as they greeted her, clad in blue, shining robes.
"Greetings!" the strongest, tallest panda said, beckoning her over with a huge paw. "You must be our guest we're expecting from Slydale Hollow?" he asked with a bow. The other pandas hastily bowed as well, and from behind them slunk four white felines with grey muzzles, ears and tails.
"Ssss," they hissed quietly. Joanne's ears shot up in alarm. With fluid grace one stepped to her side. "Ah," whispered the shirtless feline, seemingly undisturbed by the cold as compared to Joanne in her little white sweater, red hat and skirt, "allow uss to take thiss for you." He gestured to her bag. "My name is Altair Solitaire of the Sibilant Solitaire Siblings."
"Y-yes, certainly! Thank you," Joanne replied, flustered. She handed him her traveling backpack, and handed her passport over to the panda in the meantime. He made a note within it, nodding. Joanne looked around. So many other Sylvanians! Many of them waved at her. "What is going on?" she asked him.
"We all decided to turn out to greet you- and have been wrapping up quite a long winter festival. We meant for it to end some time ago, but everyone has worked so hard that we thought an extra month of snowy weather was cause enough to extend the celebration," the panda answered. "My name is Zan Zheng; I am the head of Mosswood Fells; these are my wife and children, Feng, Qiang, and Jing. By all means, allow Altair to see you to your temporary home with us."
The panda wasn't kidding, Joanne thought as she stopped in front of a house at the base of the mountain, gleaming in snow. Altair entered first with her knapsack and showed her into the dining room. "Thiss home is new, freshly finished," he whispered. His voice nonetheless echoed in the room. "We have laid out a feast for you. Please, enjoy. I will bring your backpack upstairs."
Joanne looked at the food with a broad smile and helped herself!
The kangaroo girl bounced up the stairs in excitement behind her feline acquaintance. "Oh! A study? I get a study?" she inquired, excited. "And a balcony- such a view!"
The feline issued a mercurial smile, and nodded, tail swishing to one side as he set her things down. Together, they began unpacking. In no time, Joanne had set up her laptop at the desk, as well as photos of her friends.
"What iss thiss?" asked Altair, gingerly placing a paw at the laptop.
"Oh! It's called a computer. It's a small one, and it sits on your lap really, but you can put it on a desk too," Joanne explained, surprised at the wide-eyed expression the young man had.
"I ssee," murmured Altair thoughtfully, ear wiggling on his head in thought. And thiss?"
"A cell phone- you can talk to other Sylvanians by using a number they give you, when they pick up theirs," Joanne added, tilting her head. "Are there none here?"
Altair shook his head. "We have but one telephone, in the Lords of the Mountain's personal chambers, but nothing like these thingss."
Culture shock registered across Joanne's face. At least there was a regular phone she could use, unless she could get creative! she thought to herself. I hope my friends won't be upset if I don't speak to them right away letting them know I'm safe... "May I write letters?" she asked.
The feline nodded. "Certainly!" he whispered back approvingly. "They fly by owl or travel on land by the Brightfield family. They are far-ranging and swift of hoof. Aaah, I must see to our other guessts. They sought solace here for a time. Farewell for now." With a bow, he disappeared.
Joanne took the time to explore her quarters. She found with great surprise- and warm nostalgia- that the bed was adorned with the same pillows and blanket she had once already rested among! Familiar and immediately more comfortable, she fell asleep.
Day of Arrival, continued
Upon awakening a short while later, she dressed into a beautiful blue dress she had packed with her. Emerging onto the balcony, she greeted the sunset- and found another young kangaroo girl already there!
"My goodness! Who are you?"
"And who might you be? Are you new?" asked the delighted second kangaroo. "My name is Tia Hotfoot, of the Hotfoot clan. My family is resting here a while, while recovering from an awful accident that left a lot of us injured." She smiled and lifted a paw. "See? Our fur is missing. We got burned, so we named ourselves the Hotfoot clan while we traveled."
Joanne grimaced. "That's simply awful!" she exclaimed. "I'm so sorry to hear!"
Tia nodded. "But it's okay; mommy says we're going to be okay and on the road soon. By the way, I love your dress!"
Soon the two girls were chatting away like good friends. Tia even was allowed to try on a similar dress, in lovely chocolate shades! The two whirled and twirled. "Say, have you been to the local fabric shop? There's a really sweet guinea pig lady who runs it, and it just opened recently!"
Joanne shook her head. "Oh! I have not, but thank you! I needed to deliver something from Foxbridge for Mosswood Fells! It's a bunch of fabric tidbits, as curiosity would have it!"
The two exited the guest house and headed along the steep rocky lane into Mosswood Fells' proper. A sleek vixen in a navy blue, satin dress with a silvery necklace stepped out from a doorway, over which stood a sign saying "the Water Lily". She spoke, but the rush of the waterfall nearby muted her. She beckoned to the children, smiling amiably.
"Is this one okay?" inquired Joanne.
"She is! She's Roxy Renard," explained Tia, "and she's a little bossy but a lot of fun in a good mood! Let's say hi!"
Soon, the two had entered the clothing shoppe and were allowed to try out their dresses on the small runway! Giggling like babes, they strutted and twirled, whirled and danced. Roxy meanwhile took copious notes about the dresses they wore, and even measured them!
"Mom! Is it time to go already?" exclaimed a startled Tia not long thereafter.
"Yes dear, it is. We're all ready to go," smiled a jovial kangaroo lady with her young joey in her apron. "A pleasure to meet you, miss. I'm Tia's mother."
Joanne curtseyed in her dress. "Thank you, Tia's mother! She's very sweet. I hope to stay in touch someday!" The three exchanged information and a little backstory about Joanne's travels. Then Joanne waved goodbye to a smiling Roxy as they exited the shoppe.
To her surprise, Roxy stepped out with her! "And where will you be heading on this fine wintry day alone?" inquired the vixen, peering down her long muzzle at the kangaroo.
"I- I- I have to go to the fabric shoppe," Joanne explained.
"Then let us be about it together, shall we?" Roxy inquired. "I've business there myself."
Joanne wasn't sure what to make of the fox, but thought it helpful and friendly enough a request, and agreed.
Inside the fabric shoppe, Plumparella fairly squealed in delight! "Ohh!" she chattered, bruxing her teeth together in excitement. "Look at these beautiful things you've brought me, miss! And you say t'is from Foxbridge? How I adore such sweet souls to think of us. Fabric is a luxury here at Mosswood Fells, yes it is, mhmm, yes indeed." She bustled around hastily, spinning the fabric into bolts. "Such beautiful texture! Such color! Such a weave-"
Airily, Roxy dismissed her chattering with a handpaw. "Ah, yes, quite generous. How soon will I be able to purchase some from you?" she asked.
Tia wasn't kidding when she said the fox could be bossy, Joanne thought to herself as she watched the two engage in ciphering and measurements. But it's so nice that they at least get along! They both seem happy doing what they love with fabric. "I must continue on," she interjected to the guinea pig woman, "but thank you so much for letting me visit and drop this off!"
"Any time, any time!" came the immediate, jovial reply. "My name is Plumparella. Do feel free to come by any time you like and I'll teach you how to make something!"
Roxy waved as well, a reserved smile on her muzzle.
Joanne traveled up the lane and found a lookout post among the rocks. A pot of sunflowers sat atop it. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "These are in such a great place to grow well!" she marveled to herself.
As she headed back from the lookout post, she saw a great looming entryway, and Altair sat on the smooth stone floor. "Ah, you have arrived again, I see!" he whispered, waving.
"Must you always whisper??" she asked, curious.
"Yess, whisper we must- myself, and my ssiblings. Let us about things, then. You explore now, yes?"
The little kangaroo girl nodded. Altair led her into the kitchen. It was quite an expansive room, with hefty rock walls and plenty of dishes in the sink! "Sorry for the mess," he apologized sheepishly. "It was my turn to clean. Our chef should be here any moment-"
In strolled a brassy-hued mouse with a giant chef's hat and plain white uniform. "Ah, what a lovely day - oh! And a lovely lass. Would you like me to make you something? Heck. Where are my manners. My name is Basil Hazelwood! A pleasure to meet you!"
Altair chuckled as Joanne's ears flushed. "A pleasure to meet you too!" she replied earnestly. "I'm Joanne Springer."
"So you are! If you were not," the mouse winked, "I would be fair worried we'd received the wrong guest posing as you and that someone would need to find the real you! So Altair, slacking on dishes?"
Altair hissed mildly; the mouse chuckled. "Young lad hates getting his paws wet," he explained, "but enjoys practicing martial arts. He'd rather be outside training."
"Ohhh," Joanne said, getting an idea of what Basil meant.
"Let'ss continue," Altair said hastily, fleeing the kitchen before Basil could protest. He led Joanne into the communal bathroom. "Well, nothing to see here really, just a large, full bathroom if you need it while here."
Shortly thereafter, he'd led them into the communal living room. Joanne immediately took to exploring the piano, and that in turn led to a family of grey mice visiting!
(Sorry- no picture available of the visit with the nursery room & the moles!)
At the top of the mountain resided the Zan panda family and the Solitaire siblings. The Zan pandas were there and handed Joanne her passport back with a bow. She decided copying them would be a good idea, and bowed back. Heading back downstairs, she realized that there was a small library over the living room, in a kind of mezzanine! She met the bear woman, Rose Timbertop, who gave her a book of her very own and explained that she and a few other teachers teach the youth at Mosswood Fells.
The two enjoyed talking about fairy tales together and Joanne's journey until she realized they had walked back outside. It was growing darker, too. The little kangaroo's legs were weary. "I'm tired," she murmured, "even though I had a nap upon my arrival."
Rose hefted her up on her shoulders. "I know there are quite a lot of Mosswood Fells residents who have invited you to their homes. I'll let them know you're worn from your travels. Is that alright?"
"Yes, miss Rose," answered Joanne with a yawn.
The brown bear smiled and patted the young kangaroo girl, leading her back to her guest rooms. "Then I will let the Keats and Marlowes know."
"Are they nice?" asked the kangaroo.
"Oh, absolutely. Isabella is the grandmother Keats; her father James is a blacksmith. Their daughter Arabella is getting married tomorrow, so you might well wind up getting to be a guest for their wedding ceremony- but who knows? And she will be marrying the strong lad Dante..." the bear chattered on for quite some time, though Joanne's ears slouched against her head. She thanked Rose when the bear held the guest house door open for her, and entered. Once in her study, she realized that her laptop and cell phone alike had no signal this far within the mountains.
But there was paper, and a mailbox outside, so why not?
Dear friends, Joanne wrote, I have arrived at Mosswood Fells right in time to see the very end of their winter festivities. What fun it was to see everyone turning out for it, and so many residents all at once! There are plenty of cats, and a few dogs. I think I saw plenty of so many other kinds of Sylvanians too! I really like the variety. I arrived by boat and took a nap. I met the 'Sibilant Solitaire Siblings' and one, Altair, gave me a tour! My passport is signed and I have it back now, so I'm very excited about that. I got to meet the Zan pandas! They're very nice. I took a nap with the same kind of pillows and quilted blanket I've already tried in Purrchester- Mosswood Fells must have had some kind of import occur for that to happen. It felt like home.
I've been hosted in a guest house, and I met another kangaroo! Her name was Tia Hotfoot, and she, her mother and their joey were just lovely. We tried on dresses together at the Water Lily clothing shoppe, and I delivered Foxbridge's bundle to a really adorable guinea pig lady later in the afternoon. She was so excited! She must be good friends with Roxy Renard, a vixen. I also got a tour of the Mosswood Fells proper! Well, now I'm home again and with a book that Rose Timbertop, a teacher, gave me freely. It seems Mosswood Fells has almost no electricity. There is in this house, but no signal, so I've written this letter to each of my friends I've visited so far!
Carefully, Joanne headed down the stairs to the mailbox, left her copies of her letters with the addresses clearly printed, and fell fast asleep, curious to meet the Keats and Marlowes the next day...
The next morning saw Joanne Springer excited to be at Mosswood Fells to explore! She immediately dressed into a lovely springtime skirt of white with pink floral motifs and scalloped hem, and a white lacework top. She headed downstairs, found that fresh food had already been laid out for her- a few chocolate chip muffins, fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which she enjoyed thoroughly. A steaming hot cup of tea sat on a saucer; she sampled it and found it delightfully refreshing, though Joanne couldn't place the unique taste. She resolved to discover what it was later, and headed outside.
Her letters had been moved from the mailbox, presumably on their way. This made the little kangaroo happy. She was so surprised to find a small bundle- a bouquet of flowers wrapped into lace and pearls! It made sense to put it on her head, and it fit her perfectly. A small tag wrote- "You might like this little accessory that Roxy made for the wedding. It's yours to wear if you choose while you're here. -A."
Oh! realized Joanne. Alistair, of course. It made sense.
She walked down the lane and found a large, wooden farmhouse standing tall in the morning sunlight. "I wonder what the wedding will be like?" she mused to herself, and stopped in front of the building. She heard merry voices coming from the open doorway. Wagging her large ears further, she decided to investigate!
It was the Babblebrook family, hustling and bustling as they placed fresh milk and ice cream, jams, jellies and produce on the shelves. The floor was soft and carpeted under-paw; Joanne delighted in the grey and white carpet. So fancy and charming! A whiff of lilacs greeted her from the basket hanging in the corner by the entry to the greenhouse. It reminded her of her past travels.
"Why good morning, dear!" smiled the warm Mrs. Babblebrook, wiping her paws on her apron to keep her pink gingham dress clean. Joanne could still smell the fresh linen. "Would you like an ice cream?"
"Just finished churning it this morning!" piped up Mr. Babblebrook behind the kangaroo as he arranged the lettuces along the wall.
Joanne's eyes lit up. Even though she had breakfast, and dessert seemed rather soon, she couldn't turn the offer down! She nodded and sampled it. It was the freshest, iciest strawberry she'd ever had! "My goodness!" she exclaimed. "This is really excellent!"
Mrs. Babblebrook smiled. "I'm so glad to hear! They should sell out by this afternoon; they have since we started offering them," she replied. "Feel free to take your time with whatever brought you here." With that, she moved away to tend to her young babe, who was contentedly warbling from inside a shopping carriage. Further in the greenhouse area, Mr. Corntop was talking with one of the Babblebrook boys. They introduced one another to Joanne, and she found herself heading up a cleverly-hidden set of stairs to the second floor. There, Joanne met Kristy Corntop, who showed her a book on how to garden!
Joanne was fascinated with gardening, though it seemed rather challenging. Not to give up, she sat down and began playing with some crosswords puzzles with Kristy. The young rabbit loved to hear about Joanne's travels!
"You seem just like a rabbit, but with a longer tail!" the rabbit exclaimed.
Joanne giggled. "You have the bravery of a kangaroo, but you're short of tail!" she countered playfully.
Kristy told her about the Warrior's Club at school that she and her brother had made. Warriors were expected to go on adventures and be fearless! It seemed a little hard to Joanne, but she nodded and enjoyed hearing Kristy's experiences too.
After a few hours had passed, the Corntops were called downstairs to help with the shop and the gardening. Joanne decided it would be a good time to continue on, and waved her new friends goodbye. The rabbits all waved back in the front yard.
Along the way outside, she found another quaint shoppe- only one story tall, but humble and crafted of wood. FellSense Well Scents Boutique, the sign read. Joanne peeked inside.
She was greeted immediately by the welcome mat under her paw and a bell tinkling gently as she closed the door behind her. All sorts of lovely scents greeted her nose. "Oh! Is this a flower shop?" she wondered out loud.
"Nope!" exclaimed a cheery Jasmin Bouquet. "Hi! I'm a skunk. I've never seen one of you before."
"Oh, I'm a kangaroo," Joanne explained. "Nice to meet you!"
"Nice to meet you as well, miss Joanne. We offer massages and sell herbs for culinary and medicinal use," smiled the bushy-tailed older woman by her husband, who sat behind a wooden desk with a carved rose motif along the front. "My name is Rosemary, this is Stilton, my husband, and my son Sage in the corner tidying up."
Sage sneezed. "The bottles get dusty easily so I help out a lot," he explained, waving.
Joanne just loved all the scents. "Massages sound wonderful!" she said. "It must really help others here."
"Indeed it does, mademoiselle," Rosemary agreed, gesturing to the black, padded bench on the floor; "would you like to try one? Free, since you're a visitor. I'm sure you must be worn from your long journey to come all the way up here."
The little kangaroo felt like she was floating when it was done. It was wonderful! "Wow, thank you so much!"
"No worries, dear. Would you like to learn about herbs as well?"
Joanne nodded. She learned more about cinnamon, yerba mate, peppermint- what she'd apparently had in her tea earlier- and several other herbs, plus their different smells. "No wonder this place smells so good!" she exclaimed some time later. "I would like to buy a little of this peppermint, please."
Carefully, Stilton measured it out for her, and she left with three little brightly-wrapped gift boxes of the herb. "I bet whoever I gift this to when I get home will love this," Joanne told the skunk.
"I'm sure! Peppermint is generally very well-loved, and it soothes sore tummies and throats, too, on harder days," he replied. "Well, don't let us keep you from adventuring, Joanne! Take care!"
"Byyye!" called Sage.
"Bye, Joanne! Nice to meet you! Write in sometime, okay?" asked Jasmin.
Rosemary waved and smiled as the little roo headed out of their shoppe.
Skipping along in the warm mid-day sunlight, Joanne headed down a slight hill towards the woods; the Mosswood Fells proper to her back, looming up over the treetops. It was surprisingly warm for a winter day; she enjoyed the feel on her fur.
She passed a modest house with the windows open. Inside, plenty of voices all made a general cacopheny. "I don't know about this," she mumbled to herself, but took note of the mailbox outside. Keats / Marlowes
"Oh! They're who wanted to see me!" she exclaimed, and walked along a small sandy path. Joanne knocked on the door, and an elderly feline woman greeted her.
"Ohhh? OH! You're little miss Joanne! I'm Isabella Keats," grandmother Keats fawned. "Come in, come in, child. T'is still a little nippy at the whiskers out there for these old bones."
The room was large and sparse; Joanne noticed that the Keats also had some furniture imported from Purrchester, which made sense to her. In discussion were two male pointed cats; one older with a blue vest and blue trousers, the other with a satin tuxedo on. Further over, a simple housewife who favored an orange and yellow floral dress was helping her young daughter with a white knitted sweater over a bronze satin dress. In the living room, an entire family of white and black cats sat, passing stories and wiping crumbs off their faces with napkins. Am I seeing things? Joanne wondered.
She counted again. The father and mother Marlowes waved at her; she smiled and waved back. She saw not one pair of twins, but two! They grinned mischievously in unison. "We're Lily and Liliana, Rose, and Rosa! And these are our kitten brothers and sisters Garnet, Topaz, Obsidian, and Jade," they explained. "We're so glad to meet you! Will you tell us stories with us?"
Joanne readily agreed and found herself really enjoying her time with the cats. She loved to hear their stories of life as twins as well, and she was super-surprised to find out that she'd been invited to Dante and Arabella's wedding- and it was later that night!
"Would you do us a favor, dear?" inquired Arabella as she brushed her fur into place after putting a veil on her head. "Would you do us the honor of being our flower girl?"
The little kangaroo was starstruck- and immediately nervous. "I- of course- but I- I've never, I mean-"
The feline purred, "no worries! Isabella will tell you all you need to know. There's not much to it, I promise! And I see that you already look the part with that lovely little hairpiece!"
Joanne warmed up immediately as plans took shape around her. It was all so exciting! She had a nice, warm soup and crackers with them, found that some of her mint freshened her up afterward, and together as the sun set, they trekked up the hill into Mosswood Fells' proper, then into the courtyard from the great hall and main balcony.
It was a beautiful winter wonderland; great pines sparkled with fresh snow.
Then... waiting, final discussions in a hushed tone as the Zan pandas arrived, followed by the Sibilant Solitaire Siblings. Joanne watched, wide-eyed at the four clad in celestial-patterned clothing with grace and feline poise, sprinkling holy water on all around them. They took their place to either side of a table which resembled the one Joanne had seen at the herbal shop.
Dante walked slowly up a few moments after everyone began to take place around the sides of the white-brick courtyard. Arabella nodded to Joanne and gestured, smiling. Joanne took up the lady's dress for her; she paused to hug her mother, then her father. Isabella's eyes were soft; she wore her old, faded, simpler wedding dress; James wore his same outfit- a man of practicality, it seemed. Joanne was glad her outfit for the day happened to match the occasion!
"It is the appointed time. The stars have aligned for these two wonderful felines as they now recognize their love for one another passing not just from their own families into them in their lives, but to begin a family of their very own," Zan Feng spoke from beside her husband. "Love runs through all, big and small. The bride arrives."
All eyes turned to Arabella and Joanne. Slowly, the two walked the short distance to the altar where Dante stood, picturesque and handsome, perfectly groomed in his blue satin tuxedo. Joanne dutifully carried Arabella's dress train, and took a spot behind her among the others assembled.
"Let the two speak their vows," Zan Zheng said, his voice resounding through the courtyard and ears of all present.
"I love you. Very simple. Very truly. You are the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another," Dante began. "Arabella, you are the sunlight in my heart."
"Together, I know we can accomplish the life we both dream of living. I love you truly and our lives have become intertwined," Arabella stated, eyes watering. "Let us be there for one another, day and night."
Joanne's eyes watered up; she felt so happy for the couple as they exchanged rings! In fact, she didn't listen to the solemn pledge that the Zan pandas offered which the felines repeated. She wiped her eyes; as were others present.
"We, the Zan pandas and lords of the mountains, now honor you both as husband Dante Keats and wife Arabella Keats. You may now kiss the bride. Congratulations!"
Dante nearly swept Arabella off her paws; the two embraced in a long, romantic kiss. The purrs they emitted echoed throughout the courtyard; those present also purred loudly. The Zan pandas clapped; Joanne clapped wishing she could purr too.
Arabella and Dante clasped paws and slowly began the walk back down the aisle; Joanne remembered right in time she was to follow behind them, and carried Arabella's train for her again.
Everyone cheered, clapped, and danced the night away within the Keats-Marlowes residence! Joanne ate dinner with them at the reception in the grand balcony, then fell asleep upstairs in a rather simple bed of linen and wool blankets, with the young felines' snores padding the sounds of everyone celebrating below in feast.
Joanne had overslept! One hearty brunch later, she decided to enjoy the nature around Mosswood Fells. The afternoon was lovely and the air fresh as ever. She passed by Basil Hazelwood's gourd house, formerly the Redwoods' residence, and found a lot of pumpkins from the previous season, frosted over with the last snow. She traveled further and found the Mosswood Fells' Waypoint tent. It was a lovely thing with a round, wooden black table and some candles. "What fun!" she thought, excited. "Maybe they had a party here at some point?"
The canopy darkened rapidly as evening came upon her. She gasped in surprise. Everything looked different, and she couldn't see where she was going! She made the mistake of wandering away from the tent, and tripped. Thankfully she was okay!
Joanne looked around. When she looked up, the last ray of sunlight was illuminating the silhouette of a young- another kangaroo? A rabbit? she couldn't tell! "Wait!" she exclaimed, surprised. She could see the waypoint; returning to it, there was a light at the table that hadn't been there before. She tried to get a better glimpse, but another long-eared being appeared, and the two left silently. As she again misjudged the depth of the forest floor, she tripped, and found herself near one of the beings. "Oh! A black rabbit?" she asked out loud. When she stood back up and brushed herself off, she realized it had left. Looking back to the table, she was shocked to see a - some manner of spotted feline smirking at her!
Shocked, sore, and confused, Joanne headed back up to the table with the strange light. No sooner had she done so than the feline had disappeared! Was she imagining everything? Calm down, Joanne, she told herself, heart beating firmly. I need to calm down- I'm sure I'll be okay-
She saw lights higher up, further in the distance, and some hooting sounds. Using her excellent hearing, she found her way to the base of the tree. Small fireflies greeted her- didn't they usually emerge in the summer?- Joanne wondered- but she shook her head, and climbed a firm ivy vine onto a platform.
The platform led to a ladder. She found two shy owl chicks fluttering at her! "Oh, hello there!" she exclaimed. The chicks hooted. She followed their lead and climbed the ladder behind them, rising onto the top platform. I must be careful, she thought, because there's no rails up here... Nonetheless, she carefully knocked.
"A visitor?" asked a voice inside. "At this hour, so early in the evening?"
"T'is dark and near bedtime for whoever it is, my dear," replied another voice. "Dooo come in."
Joanne carefully held the door handle, and realized it was unlocked. She entered shyly. "Um, hello, I'm lost, sorry to bother you-"
"Doo have a seat, won't you?" asked the fatherly owl. "We are the Treefellows owls. Are you the only traveler in these outskirts tonight?"
"I-" Joanne started, then shook her head. "I don't know. But I was seeing black rabbits and I thought I saw a feline- but they disappeared, and-"
The owls exchanged looks. "Ohhh. So you have?"
Joanne nodded; confused. She had just told them she'd thought so.
"They are very real, as much as you and I," the owls both told her simultaneously. The Treefellows wife fluttered her feathers and shook her head; her husband continued. "Forget that you've seen them. You are our guest, and it's far safer for you not to become more involved in things."
"Are they bad?" Joanne asked.
The owls looked surprised. "No, that is to say, no one is inherently bad; just mistakes have happened and things have been interesting around here," the husband owl answered with a flap of his wings, dismissively. "None have been able to see them for more than a few moments at a time, but some hear them and you my dear happen to be the first to see them so close. We're glad that you're safe. We would escort you to your guest house, but our chicks will be hungry soon and so we must take care of them. But we can give you directions to a safe route back."
Joanne was surprised, but wound up saying goodbye to the owls shortly thereafter, with more questions than she had arrived with! Arriving back at her guest house, she sat down to read the book Rose had given her, but could not sleep. She stared at her laptop longingly a while, but shook her head. No signal. She tried to sleep, and found herself wide awake. She finished reading the book, and walked back up to the Mosswood Fells proper.
To her surprise, Rose Timbertop was in the library-loft, still awake! "And what would you be doing up so late, esteemed guest of ours?" she asked quietly.
"I can't sleep," Joanne admitted.
Rose eyed her for a moment, then nodded knowingly. "You left in the afternoon, so I've heard, for a walk, but you came back late, you couldn't sleep. What is happening?"
"I... thought I saw black rabbits and some manner of spotted feline," Joanne explained, staring down at the soft carpet underpaw. "But when I looked again, they were gone."
"Come with me," Rose said, and put her book down, heading into the hall.
"Where are we going?" Joanne asked.
"To the place where you thought you saw them."
"But?" Joanne protested, alarmed. She didn't see Grover Chestnut and Lester Thistlethorn lurking in the doorway as they stepped out into the wintry night. "What if we get into danger?"
"My dear young kangaroo, only fools after all would take on a bear in the middle of the night," replied Rose with a wink, taking a lantern with her. "Come. You will be safe this time."
"I met some owls and they told me not to concern myself with all this," Joanne confessed as they entered the woods again.
"They are owls, Joanne. They are flighty birds and avoiding trouble is wise. But you seek closure to this, yes? So we go."
Joanne nodded, admiring the bear's resolve. They arrived at the Waypoint. I’m afraid,” whispered Joanne quietly, “but less so with you, Rose.”
“My dear,” replied the bear, “there’s naught to fear but fear itself.”
“Why?” asked Joanne as they approached, smelling burned candles in the cold night air.
“Because it limits us from doing what we need to do,” Rose replied simply, practical as ever, “and I should know, having had memories taken from me by amnesia years ago. Even you, brave little roo, are capable of doing exactly what your heart tells you to do. Be careful when traveling alone, but never allow fear to creep up on you unless there is a real reason for it.”
Joanne nodded. They found the black-furred creatures- they had returned! Joanne and Rose got a good look at the white markings they bore on their arms. Two black rabbits and one black raccoon?! How many are there? she wondered, wide-eyed. "Who are you?" she asked.
Silence. They simply stared at her. Joanne didn't know what to think. "It's nice to meet you," she tried.
Noises from behind distracted them. It was Grover and Lester of the Mosswood Fells’ warrior’s club! Rose grew quite stern. "You two have absolutely no business being up this late," she countered. "You two stick with us and we will talk about this later."
The raccoon and mouse hung their heads. "We wanted to go too," they each mumbled, eyes downcast, looking at each other guiltily.
Rosa shook her head in dismay; Joanne also looked from the two curious lads to the table. The strange Sylvanians had fled, silent.
Rose and Joanne were surprised they had been followed; when Rose led them back to the guest house, they ate dinner, then lectured them about picking their adventures during the day rather than at night, and then Rosa tucked in Joanne. Back at the classroom in the proper, the boys apologized profusely. But... they knew something Rosa might not have remembered so long ago... in the meanwhile, Joanne found herself wondering- and still somehow a little braver and excited. She dreamed of more adventures...
Joanne enjoyed waking up to an invitation from the Buttercup family! She headed over to their lodge in the foothills overlooking the waterfalls, and arrived right in time for breakfast! Afterwards, she and Annabelle Buttercup began storytelling while Mr. Buttercup commented on how tasty his father's breakfast stew was.
"And there's even stories out in the woods about Mosswood citizens disappearing!" Annabelle was saying. "Sometimes, they say they can even be heard outside in the middle of the night, though no one has ever actually seen anyone yet."
Joanne nodded, then pawed her cheek pensively. She decided not to verify anything about what she'd seen the previous night, just so she wouldn't cause any problems while staying. "I see!" she said, thoughtful. Indeed, she actually had.
"Annabelle, be a dear and bring baby Cheddar to daycare, please," Mrs. Buttercup asked. "Would you like to go with her, Joanne? I do apologize, but we all have to get some gardening done today.
"Sure!" said Joanne. "I actually haven't met the little ones yet."
"Oh, you'll love it," fawned Mrs. Buttercup. "We just received two absolutely sweet little bundles of fluff the other day, in fact. I'm sure Molly and Heidi have their paws full with them, not to mention those fox kits are always so rambunctious."
"See you, Mom!" called Annabelle, with Cheddar playfully tagging along.
"Day, day!" echoed baby Cheddar. The tiny cow was simply adorable, thought Joanne.
They arrived back within the Mosswood Fells proper, and headed upstairs to the third floor of the mountain. Joanne found a riot of color and excitement! A baby badger played on a rocking horse; two persian kittens were cautiously hugging a plushie and one had dropped her pacifier, but her expression changed to a happier one upon retrieving it. A young lamb was overseeing two raccoon pups, and a few foxes were marvelling at a spinning orb full of colorful light, along with a badger. They brought Cheddar over to play with them.
"So you see," a short black mole girl said, "I really do need to get back to my work on the water-ways, mom..."
"I know," said the older mole, "I do. All I'm saying is it will be busier without yo- oh! Greetings, you must be Joanne, our guest?" The mole woman was immediately likeable; Joanne smiled and waved back.
"Yes!" she replied. "It's great to meet you and see all these cute faces!"
"Aye, isn't it?" agreed the mole. "My name is Molly McBurrows, and this is my daughter Heidi." Heidi waved. "Ah, thank you for bringing little Cheddar over! I hear the Thistlethorn mice are playing with the Chestnut kids. I couldn't possibly bother you to stay here with us all day."
Joanne giggled and promptly gasped as one fox kit tumbled onto the ground.
"Goodness, these foxes are such a handful," Heidi exclaimed as Molly immediately rushed to ensure the kit was okay. It seemed to be the case. "Mom, I'm heading out now."
"Do what you have to do, dear! You know where to find me!" called her mother, brushing the kit off. The little fox giggled; Molly sighed in relief.
"I can take you to the Chestnut's place if you like," offered Annabelle, "but I'll head back to my folks to help them, if that's okay."
"Certainly," agreed Joanne, "thank you!"
Joanne had arrived and engaged in several rounds of ring-toss with the Chestnut raccoons. Myrtle, Grover's sister, was friendly enough but wasn't quite up to playing. Lester Thistlethorn was a sweet grey mouse. "Yeah, and we hear there's ghosts out there! Sometimes you can even see a shape running by if you're careful to look!" Grover said, grinning mischievously as he twirled a whisker.
"So that's why you two tailed us," Joanne exclaimed thoughtfully. The two nodded vigorously, but the little kangaroo noticed Lester seemed sad. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Lester said, twirling a hoop, eyes downcast at it. "It's just that we really wanted to see some ghosts, you know? Real adventure. Kristy and Scott Corntop get all the luck on their warrior club adventures. We haven't seen much to report in yet with..."
A lightbulb went off in Joanne Springer's mind. "Hey, I know!"
"Huh?" everyone asked in unison.
"Let's go talk to the Sibilant Solitaire Siblings! If anyone knows about anything, it's them, right? They run the Fells with the Zan pandas," Joanne explained thoughtfully.
Everyone looked at one another, then nodded. The adventure was still fresh in their minds, and Joanne had the added thought that they'd be safer if they brought one of the felines with them.
"Ssso, what pleasure have I to see such eager faces?" whispered young Celestine Solitaire curiously as she paused in her mid-day stroll down the main hall of the Mosswood Fells proper.
"Please, we want to go to the woods tonight by the outskirts!" exclaimed Lester. Joanne nodded, "for adventure!"
"Have you young ones not had enough last night?" asked the rumbly voice behind them.
Everyone jumped; it was Rose Timbertop! They nonetheless looked at her with hopeful eyes. Joanne wondered if what she was doing was right.
The bear teacher cast a glance to the administrator and astrologer. Celestine thought a moment, then nodded. "The woods are ever safe at night, but moreso with adults. If it'sss adventure they'd like, I'm sure we can explore a little," mused she.
Rosa nodded slowly. "I have no objection. Maybe we'll all learn something." She looked to Joanne; Joanne's expression searched the bear's. The bear smiled to her warmly; Joanne felt relieved. "And before we go, we can all bring lunches with us."
Everyone cheered and ran off to the kitchens to ask Basil Hazelwood for help!
Sunset came; young Joanne and company arrived by the Treefellows owls' treehouse. They helped one another ascend by vine, ladder, and- as Joanne was so good at- leaping! Paws thumping firmly on the deck, the owls hooted into wakefulness. Everything was a kerfuffle of feathers! Then the owlets arrived, blinking, into the light, as did their parents. "Ohhh?" asked Mr. Treefellows. "What is this?"
"We're going on an adventure!" exclaimed the eager Grover. "Tell us something we can use for our trip!"
The owls, still blinking, rotated their heads, then pointed. "The direction you need to take is southeast to reach the waypoint tent. When you do, you will need to turn back to scent your trails. Use your senses, and be careful!"
"We will," assured Rose to him. By the last sunlight, they had found the waypoint easily enough.
"Now we're on the adventure!" exclaimed Grover and Lester. Joanne smiled, looking around. The forest was as welcoming as the day she'd arrived through it, though evening was coming quickly.
The little kangaroo explored the area. There were still pumpkins past their time, still candles, and- "Oh! A pearl?" asked Joanne curiously.
"Mrrow?" murmured Celestine, leaning over towards her. Indeed, there seemed to be a pearl on the little round table in the tent.
"Has this been here before?" Rosa asked, moving through the forest underbrush with Grover and Lester.
Nightfall fell. "I don't know," answered Joanne after a moment. "But... oh!"
The pearl began glowing!
"Everyone, to uss," hissed Celestine. "Stay close, and use your nosess!"
The forest was quiet and only the sounds of the Treefellows owls waking up and flying around nearby echoed in their ears. Then- the sounds of paws upon leaves.
"Is that you?" murmured Rosa to the children.
"No," everyone echoed.
"Nor I," responded Celestine. "You know fair well we felines are silent steppers." She stared down at the pearl, which lit up like a small sun.
Joanne, Grover, and Lester looked around at the foliage around them. Silence reigned again. Then- more pawfalls.
"Oh!" exclaimed the little kangaroo. "I see- hello!" she called, waving. Two black rabbits further away from the tent, just out of sight of the light, stopped. Both wore dark, plain robes and bore a strange white marking on their arms- a dot inside a broken circle at the west and east points.
Celestine and Rose gasped. "They returned?"
The black rabbits scampered. For a moment, all was chaotic as they descended the little waypoint to forge ahead into the brush to find them.
"Wait!" exclaimed Joanne. "I just wanted to say hello and-" She stopped in front of a gnarled branch; had she moved any more quickly, she'd have risked hurting herself.
The black rabbits not too far away stopped; turned slowly. The others had found their way to the glowing pearl at the table on the waypoint's tent again; they were surprised that the rabbits had listened to the little kangaroo!
Hesitantly, everyone waved- and were met by silent staring from the black rabbits in turn. "Um... hi?" the kangaroo offered shyly. "My name is Joanne, Joanne Springer. I came all the way from Foxbridge on vacation, and-"
"We don't care," said one black rabbit flatly, his voice slightly growly.
"What?" asked Joanne, startled. Behind him, the other black rabbit clung to his robes as though fearful, but the kangaroo couldn't understand why they'd be afraid of them.
"We don't care about any of you. Go away."
"Are we... really that bad?" Joanne asked, at a loss for words. "Are we too close to your home or something?" She had heard some Sylvanians could be rather territorial, but hadn't expected this to happen!
"I... we have lunches, at least, could we give some to you?"
The girl rabbit's stomach growled; she looked over at the group. Carefully, slowly, Celestine handed the basket to Joanne. Joanne noticed Lester's expression was sad; Grover was protectively posing around the mouse, on guard. The kangaroo took the basket full of vegetables and carefully offered it to the black rabbits.
Immediately the two bit into some of the carrots, and before anyone could blink, jumped into the air, landing on the platform the tent sat over. "Ahh!" exclaimed Lester and Grover as they scrambled to get out of the way. Then the two rabbits disappeared.
"What? Into thin air?" Rose wondered, touching the pearl. "Ahh!" with a sudden poof of displaced air, she too disappeared.
"Something is amiss," hissed Celestine warily. "Magic of some sort? Here? All this time? Right then, the rest of you next. If everyone has gone from here, they must be at somewhere else."
Joanne bit her lip, tapped the pearl, and a moment later, she blinked her eyes. She could see the shadow of the mountain, and Grover and Lester were just a few paces ahead of her, as was the larger figure of Rosa. Next to her, Celestine appeared!
"Indeed," she mused, twitching her tail. "This vexes me that we did not know all thiss time..you are safe?"
"Yes," Joanne replied earnestly. The thought of magic moving her from the waypoint to somewhere else floored her; she could hardly fathom it had just happened to her!
The rabbits bounded up a small foothill, the white basket of food bobbing along showing where they were.
"Hey, wait up!" called Grover, bounding through the underbrush effortlessly. Joanne was impressed with his agility.
"I just want to know if one of you is named Barry, Heather, Malina or Bianca!" Lester blurted out.
"What?" asked Rose and Celestine simultaneously.
The two rabbits stopped atop a plateau. In the dark, there was a cave opening near a silhouette of a house.
"I- I remember now," Rose stuttered, holding her head with her hands. "Those were the names of the Thistlethorns and Corntops' babes who - I cannot say, those poor, sweet dears went missing as infants... we, the Windwards, the Corntops and the Thistlethorns, and even dear Molly McBurrows and Grover, every last one of us by the old schoolhouse making it our home were searching endlessly for years upon years..."
Joanne tilted her head, trying to see the rabbits' reactions. Their noses twitched continually, but it was an agitated whisker twitch that made her frown in thought.
"But you all gave up," the sister rabbit said, voice surprisingly quiet.
"How would you-" Rose asked, her large head jerking up to squint harder at the shadows by the plateau. The black rabbits blended in.
This time, the boy rabbit spoke. "We know you, Lester. We know you, Grover. I'm Malina. This is Bianca. Rose, we survived."
Rose uttered a stunned grunt. "Why did you never return home if you knew we looked day and night for so long-"
"But your parents- I'm sure they'd love to see you," Joanne exclaimed.
The black rabbit shook his head. "And pain the mother who raised us? We cannot do that to her. We cannot, will not return to see our parents; they will not recognize us. Home is here. We were found and raised in safety after that wildfire took the schoolhouse. We are well enough here. Go away."
The black girl rabbit clung closer to her brother. Celestine frowned, watching Rose keenly. "Speak he truth?" she whispered.
"I remember, but they were but babes then," Rose asked, "how would they recall?"
"We were told, of course, by our adoptive mother."
Upset took the bear then; raising her voice, she shook her head. "How could she not come back to us all with the babes if such was the case?"
Joanne listened, wide-eyed. She looked to Lester, then to Grover.
"My mother used to whisper the names when she dreamed sometimes," the grey mouse shrugged apologetically. "I never forgot them. Barry and Heather would have been my older siblings now. If they survived, I-"
"So that's why you wanted to come," the kangaroo realized.
"Yeah," Grover piped up, "Lester's sentimental like that. And.. my family was scattered when I was a kid. I hoped my oldest sister would be somewhere. Myrtle found me. I was a mess, but Molly was with her and they helped me be a better raccoon. We all moved during the Mass Migration from out there since the land couldn't sustain us. This is our second winter living here in Mosswood Fells."
Everyone remained silent for a few moments. So... magic hid them by relocating them through that pearl to this area, thought Joanne, and the Thistlethorns and Corntops both endured such sadness years ago. Now they're here, and their lost children are here, but they can't return home because of loyalty to being adopted... "Would it be okay if we at least tell them that you're alive and well?" she asked them.
"We must remain here, and they must never go looking for us," Malina answered, shaking his head. "We have our reasons."
Silence, then- "Maybe in time?" Joanne asked, hopeful. The girl rabbit lifted her head to look at the little kangaroo.
"Maybe in time," Bianca echoed in a tiny voice.
Rose's large form shook; Celestine placed a paw on the bear woman's arm. "Let'ss away from here. It will be a long walk. There will be time... for everything," she whispered, soothingly.
Joanne wasn't sure how to feel about their discovery. She glanced to Grover, then to Lester. The two seemed to be in a state of disbelief. I wanted an adventure, but found a family reunion, and it's kind of sad, but at least we gave them food, she thought. "Well, even though I'm a guest, I'm having a good time with the Sylvanians of Mosswood Fells, and I bet someday maybe you could too," she offered helpfully, "maybe even your adopted mother could visit. Sorry I won't be there for it, but it was nice to at least meet you both..." Was that too awkward? she wondered.
The two black rabbits nodded curtly. "Rose..." Malina said, "tell them all, 'thanks for trying'." He then disappeared.
Bianca paused at the top of the plateau. "We remembered them too. Especially your face and warmth. Malina tries to be strong for both of us, but he cares too. We... we'll think about it, fellow long-eared guest in these mountains."
Joanne couldn't read the black rabbit's expression, but silently, she, Lester, and Grover fell into step behind Rose and Celestine. She could smell the sadness on Rose and by the time everyone had arrived back at Mosswood Fells' proper, had made her smile a few times.
Joanne finished relaying her experiences of the night to Zan Zheng in the top chamber of the Fells. The panda's wife and children, plus the other Sibilant Solitaire Siblings, had listened to every word intently.
"This matches some of the accounts we have heard from the families in question," Zan Zheng spoke quietly as the fireplace crackled behind him, "and that was quite the adventure you had. Will you be staying within the village limits for the rest of your stay?"
"Yes sir," Joanne affirmed. The panda smiled quietly. "Good." He looked to Rose; Rose nodded back. "Then, the Sibilant Solitaire Siblings will escort you and I to a secret place, if you're still awake enough for it."
"Oh! A secret place?" asked Joanne, her sadness fading into curiosity.
"Yes. We have eight sacred guardians of this place to date, and you behold four of them already." The panda gestured to the cats. "The other four are tucked away behind the waterfalls, in one of the highest peaks near where my grandfather is said to have retired when he handed me the position of Lord of the Mountain and bid me begin my own family."
Joanne nodded. "Okay," she agreed.
The earliest light of dawn saw Joanne waking up upon the panda's back. Flustered, she clung onto him, her powerful tail gripping at one of his arms. The panda laughed. "Ah, finally I see you're awake. You've been snoring in my ear the entire trek, little lass. It's been some time since I traveled this path, so I apologize that you had to sleep upon my back."
Joanne yawned, "Oh, oops... oh!" Before them was a simple rock garden path with small shrubs lining a simple wooden building's walls, inset into the mountainside. Zan Zheng went on ahead, and bowed to the Sylvanians inside. Joanne and the four cats followed.
Inside, everyone exchanged bows; picking up the cue, the little kangaroo did the same. "Joanne, the dalmatian is Nara. The akita in green is Yama. Next to him is Kaze, and young Kaze Cromwell to his right. The fiery lass is Haru, who hasn't changed at all, I see. Everyone, as I've said, this is Joanne, our guest from far-off Foxbridge."
"Not a bit, mate!" the flame-orange dog grinned toothily, clasping her paws in her palms in greeting. "Training from sun-up to sun-down, we do!"
"They are Wandering Elemental Monks," Zan Zheng explained patiently to Joanne. "They are, besides those residents who have chosen to protect the outskirts and travel around freely, in charge of maintaining balance here. They are also the Sibilant Solitaire Siblings' best friends, and the eight are sworn to one another."
Altair shrugged as Joanne waved. "Cats and dogs, who knew?" he smiled, mercurial expression on his muzzle. His eyes sparkled; he was glad to see his friends nonetheless.
"So, miss...?" Haru asked mischievously. "Care to learn a bit of what we do all day?"
"Sure!" Joanne excitedly answered. She liked how friendly the dogs were!
"Alright then!" Haru barked, waving to the young Kaze Cromwell rabbit. "Come forward, kiddo!"
Before Joanne knew it, she was being taught a basic self-defense routine. "This is practical and simple. It will always stay in your mind," Yama advised.
"You gotta keep moving," Haru said, "and be light on your feet. But, you're a rather sproingy sort of creature, so this should be natural to you."
"Keep flowing away from Kaze when he tries to close the distance with you, and you will do well," Nara advised, smiling.
Soon enough, they gave Joanne a break. "Whew! That was fun!" Joanne exclaimed. "I've never moved like that before."
Haru chuckled, "Aye, y'might feel it in the morn'."
"Don't scare her off," chided Altair.
"Hush mate, you'll feel it later too. You train with me all the time!"
Altair hissed quietly, but he was smiling. Joanne couldn't help but see how strong their friendship was. The two understood one another very well!
"Alright, then," Yama spoke, "young Cromwell, your last task here is, since you're about Joanne's size, to spar with her. Show her the same routine, carefully, that she's just learned, and let's see how well she does."
"I don't want to hurt him!" exclaimed Joanne nervously. "I don't want to ever hurt anyone."
"No, little one," Nara corrected her gently, "we only ever use our skills to protect. We stay in shape so that we can keep them fresh. Young Cromwell has been our Wandering Wind Monk for quite some time, but it seems that the winds have chosen our new Kaze, and young Cromwell here has been searching for his family as well- and recently, we found them in our travels. They're looking forward to seeing him come home after completing his services with us, and it's a matter of time before they reunite."
Joanne nodded, and bowed to the grey cotton-tailed rabbit, who bowed back. "Believe me, I won't get hurt, and I'll make sure you don't either," he said.
It was on! The rabbit leaped into the air; Joanne also leaped, much higher. The rabbit landed on the ground effortlessly and turned, posturing as if to be intimidating! Joanne saw him closing the distance as he rushed forward; she ducked and was surprised when she grabbed his paw and he flew backwards over her head!
Behind her, even as she spun around, using her tail for support, young Cromwell smiled and bowed. "Well done!" he praised. Everyone cheered; Joanne bowed back, beaming from the excitement. The felines clapped; Zan Zheng smiled broadly. "Well done," the panda agreed firmly, "very well done! You would make an excellent defender of your home someday!"
Joanne lit up.
"Well," the lord answered, "we must be off. Send regards to the Sage, please. Is she well?"
"The old lady is as nimble as a fresh salmon and does as she pleases," reported Yama, bowing. "Thank you for the honor of your visit!"
Many more bows and hugs were exchanged, and by early afternoon, Zan Zheng and Joanne ate together with the Solitaire siblings by the water's edge, roasting fresh fish. She took a brief swim and enjoyed a small pool of water, warmed by the sun. Then she was bundled up.
Once back at the guest house, she brushed her teeth and soaked in warm water in the expansive tub. Someone had left a little pink headband of soft cloth for her! Joanne loved it and it matched her robe.
She sat down in the little guest study, and was surprised to find that her laptop was on and somehow had a signal! "My goodness! It's a letter from Tarik!" she exclaimed.
So much has happened that it's hard to condense it all down! Thank you for your compliments about my dress. I really like it too! The Sylvanians here also really liked it. The wedding was beautiful! I got to be the flower girl, too, and their reception was lovely. I even went on an adventure and inadvertently reunited some new friends with their long-lost older siblings, though it's a little sad because they'd been gone for so long. It's a very long story, but I'll tell you all about it sometime! Maybe the next time I'm in Purrchester, as I imagine all that happened will take a while to relay. And I met new faces too! They're dogs, and monks. There was a dalmatian, an akita, a fiery-red dog, and a pointy-eared white-furred one too, all in differently-colored robes. They taught me a few self-defense skills this morning, and they go around protecting others when need be! It was really exciting. I even paired off with a young rabbit called Cromwell. He's finishing his service, but I wound up somehow flipping him in the air! He's okay, of course. I think I've had enough adventure over the last few days. I'm about to nap, and then I think I'll look for Sylvanian residents I've not yet met individually, say hello, and maybe visit Roxy the vixen of the Water Lily boutique again. I'm surprised my laptop is working now, because this is the first time it's had a signal!
With warmth and joy,
your friend Joanne
Sending the email, Joanne closed the laptop and headed into the guest bedroom for a nap before dinner.
Outside on the balcony, peeking inward at the now-closed laptop, Altair smiled, purring to himself. He'd never played with such a thing as electricity before, but it sure had been exciting seeing Joanne's face light up at the device working properly. He resolved to inquire with the Zan panda family about adding some devices to the region as well...
Joanne woke up in her guest house, enjoying the fresh food that was laid out for her in the dining room again, and wondering what the day would hold in store for her. As she headed outside, she saw an older gentleman in a basket by a tree.
"Aaah, ain'tcha ever seen a meerkat afore?" asked the man, adjusting a rope.
"Oh- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare," she excused herself. "What are you doing in the basket?"
"This here'll be our hefter-upper, our who'sawhatsit-"
"It will lift my father up there, to the platform overhead," smiled a younger meerkat lady, walking up. "He and mother are getting on in years, and stairs aren't so friendly for them."
"Ohh!" exclaimed Joanne, understanding. "Now I get it! That's brilliant!"
"Of course, it means someone has to pull the rope with the bag of sand, but that's okay. Nice to meet you! You're little miss Joanne Springer, aren't you? I'm Gayle Spotter. My folks are busybodies, haha. I'm no exception! I saw you coming and alerted everyone when you got off the boat!"
The little kangaroo took a liking to the friendly meerkat. "Thank you!" she replied.
"AHAH! Ah, there you are!" came a jovial voice. The white rabbit, Mr. Shea Norrister fairly skipped along towards the base of the tree with Arabella Keats in tow. Joanne gasped.
"Such a pretty dress and fancy tailcoat you two wear!" she exclaimed.
The white rabbit grinned cheekily. "Aye, indeed they are, if I'm to agree- and I do. What say you to watch a rehearsal of a new play we're writing together? We don't yet have enough Sylvanians to put on the whole production, but it should be fun anyways."
Arabella smiled warmly at her, curtseying. "Thank you again for being our flowergirl the other day!" she purred.
Joanne smiled happily. "You're welcome- and sure!"
The two pulled a fabric curtain over a branch and began to play-act. Ms. Keats played the role of a young stormcloud; Mr. Norrister played the role of a charming dreamer. "Ah, but something's still missing," he thought out loud, pausing some minutes later, "for the beginning of Act 2- we could use you as a stand-in!"
"A stand-in?" the little kangaroo asked, wide-eyed.
Shea nodded to Arabella; "I think she'll fit it," the cat said, and from under her petticoats withdrew a spring dress!
"You are now Miss Springtime!" directed Shea. "Don't worry, you won't need to perform or memorize lines or anything like that, since you're here as a guest. You'd be perfect for it were you to stay here!"
Joanne blushed and pulled on the dress. Sure enough, she looked picture-perfect as a young spring maiden! Together, the three did a round of improvisational theater- Arabella hissed and whirled menacingly; Joanne stifled the giggles at the fact she was acting like a flower blooming up. Mr. Norrister sure seemed to like it!
Shortly thereafter, Joanne waved hello to Plumparella, then took off the spring maiden dress and returned it to the actors. The guinea pig fabric shop lady was swinging on the wooden swing near Gayle. Gayle smiled and Plumparella headed off of the swing. Joanne had fun as the meerkat gave her a boost! When she'd had her joy from swinging, she climbed up the tree platforms and ladders, where she met - lo and behold- the elderly meerkats and Roger and Misty Waters! Voices from below told her that their parents were hastily discussing their next construction plans. She decided not to bother them, and used a slide nearby. "Don't go too fast, y'hear?" called out Mr. Spotter.
"Dad, she'll be fine, she's a kid!" replied Gayle cheerfully.
"Ah, the joys of youth," Mrs. Spotter chuckled. "I remember when you were her age. We couldn't keep up with you!"
Walking along, Joanne found a little house with a rather modern interior, judging from her glance through the window out of curiosity. She saw a family of reindeer working away at books and newspapers! The wife caught sight of her first and beckoned her in.
"Hello hello! I'm Rowena, and this is my family- husband Cameron, young Buck and my daughter Juniper," said Rowena. "We all do the local newspaper and journaling in the region, so we're very busy, but you're more than welcome to watch a while and see us in action!"
"Sure, thanks!" Joanne said politely, and made her way to the table where the two kids were copying letters by hand. Joanne picked up a newspaper. "This is really good!"
"Thanks!" Buck said. "We work hard on it. It's for our classmates! We make one once a month with the best news from school we can find. Our parents say when we get really good, we can continue their work too!"
Lunch was served before she headed back outside, waving and smiling broadly as they wished one another a farewell.
The Brightfield goats were outside, delivering mail. "What's this one?" Shea Norrister was saying to the tall male goat. "This one is not for me. I don't know a Tarik."
"Tarik!?" exclaimed the little kangaroo. "Oh!"
The goat smiled. "Ah, then," he said in a slightly-raspy voice, "that means this one is for you? You must be our new guest I've seen around every so often these last few days."
"Yes! Joanne Springer. Nice to meet you!" Joanne agreed as she accepted the letter excitedly.
She read it, and her face lit up in a grin. The letter said:
":) Hi Joanne! Wow, you gave it to Cromwell pretty good. Rarely have I seen a rabbit fly like this ;) Self-defence techniques are definitely a good thing when you are on a world trip. No one should mess with you - respect!
"I am really glad that your laptop finally received my message. Already had fears... Sanae asked me to print out your mails. We're doing a project week at school about geography and travelling in Sylvania. Can we share your experiences with our friends in class? Sending hugs and nose kisses: Tarik. PS: your blue cap looks absolutely dapper. <3 <3 <3 "
Joanne paused as she finished reading the letter. "Wait, I had sent him a message that he's replying to through my laptop. Why- oh?"
At the bottom of the note was someone else's handwriting. It read:
Dear esteemed guest Joanne,
Due apologies, but we will need to work on our electricity and make wind-mills for the next time you visit us (or anyone else, it seems). The guest house still has electricity, but your signal went on and off. So- I have taken the time to gladly copy down the words which had arrived on your screen while I was preparing breakfast for you. I saw a glow upstairs, and it turned out it was your screen while you were asleep. In having done this, it is my hope that you will at least know this Sylvanian has spoken with you- and their words while we try to get more stable electricity for your device. So sorry! Please pardon any intrusion of privacy. Sincerely, Sibilant Solitaire Sibling Altair
Ohhhh, thought Joanne, that explains things. So the feline had done a favor! That was sweet of him. "Thank you for delivering this to me!" she told the expectant goat. He nodded. "In the meantime, please feel free to meet my wife and children while I deliver the rest of this mail." With that brusque, busy fashion, Mr. Brightfield resumed doing so.
Joanne waved hello to the other goats, and they played for a while around the basket. They had fun taking turns on it and enjoying the woodland, mountainous view. Then she walked towards the edge of the village and by the woods again while it was still bright and nice outside.
"Oh! Hello!" she exclaimed. A family of red pandas were poking through the foliage. Together, Joanne learned they were the Redwood family and had lived in the gourd house before, but had recently sold it to Mr. Basil Hazelwood since their family had grown. Further down the lane arrived three badgers- Mr. and Mrs. Underwood with their babe- and she was excited to meet them as well as their friend, Miss Dulcinea Tussah.
Spending time with them out in the woods was very exciting- she hadn't known what was what while arriving into Mosswood Fells, but loved learning the various herbs and plants around her. The red roots were known as Tanglevine, as she found from everyone mutually tripping their paws a bit on the underbrush. Mr. Underwood was looking for 'Sage Maximus' to bring as a gift for the Bouquet skunks, and found one rather large leaf half his height! So did Joanne, much to her excitement!
As evening began to arrive, she walked back with the group, and found out that the Buttercup family had vacated their lodge for a while so as to go foraging. The new temporary family were the Slydales and Renards! Joanne was a little nervous about all the foxes and possible mischief she could wind up in, but Baden told her stories, and Buster told her his misadventures and pranks. Mikaela just liked to listen, and Velvette made cookies with her daughter while Mr. Slydale inspected the ceiling and central supports.
Joanne enjoyed the cookies and was invited to a sleepover! She agreed, and crossed the lane to retrieve her sleeping bag, a pencil, and paper. Mrs. Slydale tucked her in affectionately as she turned off the lights.
Something curious happened- all of the foxes left the lodge. Maybe they were nocturnal, thought Joanne. She settled into her sleeping bag and began to write.
I didn't know rabbits could fly! I knew they could leap very well, though! Hahaha. But Cromwell enjoyed it too. I'm excited about your school project! It would be so much fun to see what you and Sanae come up with!
I think I'm starting to feel sad that my days with Mosswood Fells are winding down. At the same time, I'm excited to see more of Sylvania, too! Everyone here has been so nice to me. So much has happened, too! I can't put my paw on it, but there's something mystical and beautiful about Mosswood Fells that I can't fully describe right now. But everyone really has such wonderful kindness and understanding of one another. And... and call me crazy, and keep it a secret, but I think magic really exists here! I need to tell you that adventure in person. Today I just roamed around and met a lot of residents. I got to do a bit of theatrical practice with the newly-married Arabella Keats and her friend, Mr. Shea Norrister! He is an absolute riot. So theatrical! And I met the Redwood family, the Underwood badgers, and they taught me more of the land, like tanglevine and Sage Maximus- a leaf of which is half of Mr. Underwood's height! I found one too, and he brought the leaves over to Mr. Bouquet today while I visited the Slydales and Roxy Renard's family. They're all temporarily staying in the lodge that the Buttercups were briefly in. But the Buttercups are out for now.
I think tomorrow I want to go say hello to whoever I haven't met yet. I remember seeing black cats, a hamster who wears green, a koala lady, and some chipmunks. But after so much adventure the last few days, it was nice just to unwind and learn more about the area, and listen to stories.
Also, thank you for the compliment on my cap! Also, I received a new dress today. Pictures of me will show it- it's flower-printed and with pink skirting. It's made from the Foxbridge fabrics, so it's like being home away from home, but with Mosswood Fells' fashion twist!
Hugs and more hugs - a few more days and I will be on my way again. PS- I'm writing in because the signal in my laptop went down. Altair Solitaire says it's because they need to improve their electricity services. I wonder if it's hard for them to come up with the windmills he wrote they needed to build?? Maybe someday Mosswood Fells will have more technology, but at the same time, everyone makes do without it and they seem so happy. What do you think?
Hugs and nose rubs, mate- Joanne Springer
After she wrote the letter, she carefully tucked it in a pocket in the sleeping bag. She sent it off when she woke up the next morning...
Joanne moved deliberately as she arose. Though she'd only spent a week, she wanted the sights and memories to stay vivid in her mind. She enjoyed breakfast and packed her luggage, checked it once, twice.. how had one of her dresses escaped? She put it back in. As she carried the packed luggage out with her from the guest house, shutting the door for the last time, Roxy Renard waved, hastily running over towards her. "Hey! You forgot this!" she breathed, out of breath. "My poor fur covered in dust, I almost missed you. You leave today, yes?"
"Yeah," agreed a flustered Joanne. The fox offered her a bright, rose-colored lace shawl. "I've been knitting my everloving paws off so you could have this in time!" she explained, giving her a small bundle, "and your little custom dress you wore the other day. Please keep that with you, okay?"
"Wow, thank you! Okay!" exclaimed the kangaroo. Roxy smiled and in a flash, had darted back down the road to carry on her business.
As Joanne arrived at the beach, she saw the looming shape of the boat she'd arrived on, with the Van Dyke otters aboard, preparing the walkway for her. She waved; the children waved back merrily. She walked further down and shortly after she began walking on the cold sand again, she found that many of the Mosswood Fells residents were gathering! Several waved and smiled, and almost all of them managed some kind of hasty compliment- thank yous, great to have you here, please stay again, etc- and Joanne found herself growing emotional at such loving Sylvanians. "I'm sorry," she apologized, giving hugs when hugs were offered, "but thank you for such a beautiful time, all the wonderful memories, and all you've done for me! I'll keep in touch as I'm able, and will let all of you know when I arrive safely!"
"All aboard? Now heading out again!" called out Mr. Van Dyke. "Yepyepyep, let's clear the way, no paws underdeck, everyone-"
"The winds are well today, dear," smiled Mrs. Van Dyke. "Little Joanne, welcome back. It's a pleasure to have you! Did you like fishing yesterday? The felines tell me you helped us out greatly!"
Joanne smiled. "Yes, Mrs. Van Dyke! And thank you."
The otter children helped her put her luggage away, under her cot. Then she rolled out her sleeping bag. As the ship pulled away, she waved out the window at the Mosswood Fells residents. Enai was wiping his face and getting hugs from Kime, but the little black cat was also smiling. Joanne's eyes watered at all the good times she'd had and all the faces she had met.
She walked back to her luggage, complete with the bundles of peppermint she'd bought, and smiling, crawled up and into her sleeping bag. It was still early yet; she could sleep in if she liked. The porthole had a great view of the water. She'd be seeing a lot of that for some time.
Mosswood Fells, Joanne thought, beginning to relive her memories, a place in the mountains full of mystery, fashion, food, fun, candle-light, joy, love... and a little bit of magic.
-Special Story End-
Thank you ever so much to Foxbridge for sending her little Joanne on a global traveling adventure! I am honored and overjoyed that Mosswood Fells could receive her, and I hope I've written her character relatively accurately. This was just so much fun, it all came together with no real planning to it, and Joanne's presence even brought out the curiosity of the Nocturnal Sun Tribe! I wanted Joanne to be the focus of all the stories, and not "look at how cool Mosswood Fells is". It's hard to part with such a loveably expressive figure as little Miss Springer! But there's so much love and joy in her that it is tangible- and so much more love and joy in my life thanks to her presence and time with us. Thank you. <3 She is always welcome in Mosswood Fells! And maybe next time there will be windmills and more electricity...? :)