It was just a simple map of the ranch, although the names of every thing on the ranch were a bit odd. There was the Blue Creek Fortress instead of Pop’s house, the cottage was called the guard shack, the road out front didn’t head to Brenham or Navasota, but to Rivendale or the Shire. The barn was Baby Sister’s Keep, the ponds were Lake Pleasant for the front one, and Poison Lake for the back one. Mount Doom rested on the back part of the property just about the same location as my father’s burn pile. And every grouping of trees had some mystical, elven sounding name. There was Myrkwood Forrest, Elven Woods, Samwise Garden and one area of trees with the warning: Trolls Hideout.
Trolls? Were there trolls on my Dad’s ranch? Apparently so. The Elven map could not be wrong. Elves don’t make mistakes like that. They of all people know a troll when they see one, and usually they make sure to kill the trolls too. Why they didn’t kill these particular trolls is beyond me. Maybe they were extremely fierce or big, or both. You know a 12-foot, 800 pound troll is not unheard of in these parts. So we had better be careful a we made our way around the ranch looking for treasure.
You see, this map wasn’t just a map. It was a treasure map. I could tell this because it had the words “Elven Treasure Map” written right on the top of it. Andy and Joey’s eyes lit up with the prospects of finding some elven treasure. I was hopeful too.
The map had it’s first clue on the whereabouts of the first treasure.
In the land of the Blue Creek Fortress
Hidden for only the wise to find,
There are many playful treasures
Of every kind.
But first find the light to guide you.
Trust your map to show you the way,
With adventure for the evening
And plenty of treasures to play.
Look for help from your sister
For she is in the light.
You will find both small and large
To guide you through the night.
It took Andy only a few seconds to figure out where we needed to go first. The only sister we had on the ranch was Baby Sister, Dad’s gallant steed. We grabbed our jackets, and headed out into the dark. I grabbed my staff as well. You never know when you will need a magical staff to beat back evil ogres when searching for treasure. Joey grabbed my hand. He kept asking me if there were really trolls on the ranch.
The Lights of Eldur. That is what we found hidden beneath the hay cart in Baby Sister’s Keep. That is exactly what we needed if we were going to search for treasure in the dark. The Lights of Eldur have been known to scare off evil creatures, for this light is just as intense as the sun on a cloudy day. And you know how trolls, ogres and orcs hate the sun.
But there was more. Another clue telling us where more treasure was. We read the clue and it became obvious: the next treasure was hidden in the trolls hideout. Joey didn’t like that one bit. I told him it would be OK, because I knew a secret chant we could shout before going into the hideout so we could scare off the trolls if they were there. The clue said that they had been away for a long time, so hopefully, that was still true.
On the way out, we encountered a surprise. There was a fire burning next to the Elven Woods. I told the boys that there had been some wood elves in the area and maybe they lit the fire. As we got closer, I could see my Dad next to the fire on his carticus-golficus. He told us that he had seen some elves next to the fire, but by the time he got up to the fire, they had run into the Elven Woods.
Joey asked his Pops: “Are there really elves?”
Dad didn’t miss a beat: “Of course there are elves. I just saw a bunch of them.”
I’m not sure if Joey believed him, but I am sure he didn’t want to go toward the Trolls Hideout.
Andy and I encouraged him on the way and just before we entered the hideout, which was in a thicket of shrubs adjacent to Lake Pleasant, we chanted the secret words three times: Hoowah! Hoowah! Hoowah! We did again and even louder a second and third time.
I told the boys that after that loud chant, there would be nothing within miles of us.
We worked our way into the thicket. There as the base of the entrance was a pile of leaves covering up a treasure box. Andy and Joey quickly scattered the leaves and grabbed the treasure box. They immediately left the hideout because they didn’t want to be caught there if the trolls returned.
Upon opening the treasure box, we found another scroll with another clue about more treasure. This time, the clue lead us back to where Pops was sitting and into the Elven Woods. We were looking for a dead tree in the Elven Woods, which wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Since the Great Drought of 2011-2013, a lot of trees in the woods had died. Would we be able to find the right dead tree?
We crept along what looked like an elven path going into the woods. We had to climb over a fallen tree and go deeper into the woods. I don’t think any human had been this deep into the woods in quite some time. And I was really grateful we had the Lights of Eldur. It was truly dark inside the woods. There was some mysterious element to it. It seemed much darker than dark, for the Lights of Eldur only penetrated a few feet in front of us. And trees, there were so many of them both dead and alive. How would we find the treasure?
Joey spotted it first. I think because he was the shortest of the three, he was able to see the treasure before we actually found the dead tree. It was a huge tree, with leafless branches reaching up into the darkness, bleached almost white by the Texas sun. Texas? Yes, we were still in Texas. Even in these cowboy infested land, elves, trolls, ogres and orcs still roamed the countryside of our imaginations. In fact, there might have been some just a few feet away from us and we had forgotten to say our chant.
Joey reminded me. We quickly chanted: Hoowah! Hoowah! Hoowah!
There, we were safe for the time being. But, could we find our way out? The trees were so thick and the darkness was so close, how would we find our way back out again. The fire. We could hear it crackling just outside the trees and we moved in the direction that we thought we had come. Had it not been for the fire, we still might be lost in the Elven Woods even to this day!
We made our way back to the fire, for the warmth and light, in order to check out our new treasure. Once again, we found another scroll giving us a clue about another hidden treasure. This time, were were to head toward Mount Doom, but not as far. Something about a glade in the Myrkwood Forrest.
Joey was getting wary of going into dark places, so I assured him we would use our secret chant to scare off orcs. This time we made our way over the dam next to Lake Pleasant. We could have ventured across the dam next to Poison Lake, but alas, there are deep dark creatures in the Poison Lake of the likes you want nothing to do with.
We had to walk past the Poison Lake, given that the Myrkwood Forrest was between the lake and Mount Doom.
I was growing wary of plunging forward in the dark and according to the last clue, we had to go to the edge of the forrest where we would find our last treasure. Would this be the place where orcs would attack? Would the great wolves of evil Lord plunge into our ranks? Would we come across the most evil and ferocious animal of the land: the dreaded skunkicus-stinkicus? I hoped not. We would have to hope the chant would provide protection just one more time.
This treasure was much more difficult to find, but find we did. The boys didn’t hesitate to head back to the camp fire. There, we opened our last treasure box and there were no more scrolls. We had found all the treasures on the ranch. I hope the elves didn’t mind. But it made for a fun Christmas for me and the boys.
All told we found cars, airplanes, games, DVDs and Transformers. These were great treasures for boys 9 and 6. But… one has to ask: “exactly why would a troll have a DVD when he has no electricity?”