- A tree-elf named Hobbler comes up a with a clever plan to stop the tree-killers from cutting down their forest
- Sometimes, all it takes to solve a problem is a little willingness to negotiate from both sides
Young Post’s Summer Short Story competition 2020 gathers aspiring writers from all over Hong Kong.
This year’s theme was to write a creative story inspired by the word “Elf”.
The top entries will be collected into an anthology with the Winter Short Story competition finalists.
Darkness filled the quiet forest known as Tieruan. Although the woods were silent except for the occasional rustling of leaves, if you listened carefully enough you might hear a quiet scribbling of a pen.
Then: DONK! ARGH! Hobbler spilled his inkpot. It took him a while to clean things up but eventually, he returned to his letter.
Hobbler was sitting in his fully furnished, and lamp-lit, tree trunk. After all, Hobbler was a tree-elf, and they do generally live in trees.
Back to the letter; this was no ordinary letter that you would mail to thank a kind relative for a lovely gift. There was no friendly chit-chat in this missive, just urgent and important business.
It was about the despicable destruction being carried out by the treekillers. It was to be mailed straight to Mayor Krenzler and General Fowetal of the forest.
Despite its urgency, Hobbler chose his words very carefully, for he did not want to be dismissed as a fool. Yet, at the same time, he needed to get the officials to understand how desperately important this was, for everyone’s sake.
It was very late when he finished, and there was a heap of scrunched-up papers in the waste bin, but Hobbler was satisfied.
This is what he had written: To our dear Mayor Krenzler and General Fowetal, I am one of Tieruan’s faithful citizens. I am writing this letter to inform you of the awful disaster that is happening on the outskirts of this lovely forest that we call home.
Strange, hard, alien objects are destroying our trees and ruining our forest. If we do not act fast, this phenomenon may spread into the heart of Tieruan and put us all in danger.
Many inhabitants of this woods are unaware of the peril that lurks just beyond the bounderies of Tieruan. I am writing this letter in hope that you can help me put a stop to this.
I have a few ideas and it would be most appreciated if we could schedule an appointment.
Carefully, Hobbler put away his inkpot, paper and pen. He needed to get some sleep.
The next morning, Hobbler awoke to the knocking of the woodpecker’s beak on the trunk. Groaning slightly, he rose from his bed and prepared for the long day ahead. The Tieruan Post Office, or TPO, was quite a distance from his home, so he had no choice to but take a Squirrel Taxi.
Squirrels had to be properly trained by the taxi company to wear a uniform and pull tiny carriages. They had to not leap too wildly from tree to tree. But still, even though they were pretty fast, this was going to be a long journey.
Hobbler made sure to buckle his seatbelt and hold on to the creamy white envelope as the squirrel flew off towards the post office. Normally, Hobbler quite enjoyed a ride in a squirrel taxi, but today it was merely a necessary discomfort to save the world. After about an hour of bouncing between tree trunks and branches, they came to a clearing and the squirrel could return to the ground to follow the track towards the town. While she did, Hobbler had a little breakfast of bread and dandelion tea.
By the time he was finished, Tieruan Town was in sight. Hobbler stuck his head out of the window and took a deep breath. The town had always seemed exciting, with so many different scents that he couldn’t help but smile.
The streets were bustling with elves who were popping in and out of small shops and buildings carrying bags, and parcels. City folks always dressed much more brightly than their country cousins. And they moved much more quickly, too, skipping around with friends or striding along with acquaintances.
A mouse-bus rushed past with a group of giggling girls aboard. A private racing snail pulled in front of his taxi and earned some sharp tuts from the squirrel.
Once they reached the central crossroads, the squirrel stopped. Hobbler tossed her an acorn and got out. He promised the taxi driver two acorns for a return journey, and knew the carriage would be there when he was done with his business.
The TPO was a humble little building, made of wood painted blue and white, with had a big blue sign reading “POST OFFICE” above the door. Like the rest of the town, it was busy. Hobbler ventured inside and dropped off his letter in the ornate silver box marked for the mayor. He sighed with relief, returned to his waiting taxi and sped home.
Now, Hobbler knew he had not really given all the information about the treekillers to the city’s leaders. The truth was that he had friends all over the forest, and they often wrote to him with tidbits of information. A lot of those tidbits had included information about the treekillers, and some also included ideas on how they could be stopped.
Hobbler believed that if he could get the General’s army to help, they might be able to stop the disaster.
The next few days were filled with all sorts of thoughts and plans of how to stop the treekillers’ destruction of the forest and how grateful the forest would be to him. He might even get some sort of award or medal. He liked that idea.
Around two weeks later, after all the imaginative thoughts had stopped feeling so wonderful, a letter came in the mail addressed to Mr Hobbler Horsley.
Flush with excitement, Hobbler opened the letter to find a neatly typed response from Mayor Krenzler:
Dear Mr Horsley, The General and I thank you for your informative letter. We have carefully thought over the content, and have decided that due to the shocking and disturbing news you have brought to our attention, we would be pleased if you could join us at the arranged appointment at four o’clock this afternoon.
If it is impossible to make this appointment, please discuss with my secretary to find a more agreeable time slot.
Mayor Glorgen Krenzler
Hobbler’s mouth was still gaping at the positive response, when he noticed it almost three-thirty. Quickly straightening up, he dashed inside, yelling for a taxi while he changed into his best elf suit. He rushed out of the door and leaped into the waiting Squirrel Taxi, heading towards the Mayor’s office at full speed.
When he arrived, he sprinted up the office’s front steps, opened the large oaken doors and, gasping for breath, identified himself to the secretary. She directed him into a comfortable waiting room where he was able to get his breath back. After a few minutes, a large door opened from the side of the room.
And there he was: Mayor Krenzler, a plump and jolly middle-aged elf, dressed in fine silks and lace, with his large chain of office around his neck.
“Hello! Hello! You must be the elf named Mr Hobbler Horsley, am I correct?” he said, beaming .
Dumbfounded, Hobbler nodded.
“Welcome! I am Mayor Krenzler but you can call me Glorgen if you want. The general is awaiting your arrival inside my office. Come on in!”
Hobbler was so excited that he turned beet-red. But he managed to follow the mayor.
As Hobbler walked in the room and was directed into an elf-sized velvet armchair, he saw a tall, elderly elf dressed in a fine uniform, already seated in one of the chairs. This was the glorious General Monita Fowetal. She smiled at him.
Once everyone was seated and attendants had closed the door, Mayor Krenzler started the meeting.
“Monita, this is the elf who wrote us the letter that I showed you. Mr Horsely can answer any questions we have, I’m sure.”
Hobbler cleared his throat. “Erm, thank you,” he squeaked.
“Tell us everything you know,” the general said. “Don’t leave anything out.”
As Hobbler spoke, he could see the mayor was shocked at the news, as shocked as he had been. Fowetal’s face was expressionless though.
He told them about the treekillers’ destruction, how they were being used by Humans to eat up the forest trees. He explained about a letter he’d received from the east side of the forest saying how the streams had dried up, and how many of the plants the elves used were missing now, and becoming harder to find further inside the forest.
“They’re also very noisy,” he added. “Not just the treekillers themselves, but the way the trees are taken away. A lot of good soil has been lost. It gets washed away by the rain and leaves big ditches where nothing can grow.”
”Goodness me!” the mayor exclained. “You said you had some ideas on how to stop them?”
“Well, you see, I was thinking that since the Humans are destroying our forest with the treekillers, if we took the treekillers away, they can’t hurt the trees anymore,” Hobbler explained. “We could bury the treekillers deep in the ground so they won’t find them again!”
“Hmmm . . . sounds reasonable. There is no reason we shouldn’t try it at least. This situation is very alarming,” the general said.
“Tomorrow morning at 10, do you think you could join me for another meeting to map out the plan?” Mayor Krenzler asked.
Both Hobbler and the general agreed.
Hobbler decided to walk home, to give himself enough time to think about his plan. Everyone who passed him on the street noticed how happy he was. He smiled at them.
That night, Hobbler was awoken by a strange noise. “THWAK!” So he went up to the top of his tree to see what the big commotion was about. To his horror, he saw it was the treekillers! They were getting even closer to Tieruan Town.
Hobbler didn’t need to call a taxi – a very distressed squirrel was already waiting when he got outside. “To the Mayor!” he barked, and jumped on its back, kicking it free of the carriage harness.
Mayor Krenzler was shocked at being awoken so early in the morning. He called for the general to hold an emergency meeting.
The general arrived with her best officers. The streets rang with the sound of marching troops. While the soldiers were arriving, Hobbler quickly told the officials what had happened.
General Fowetal took charge and soon the 50 chosen soldiers accompanied her and Hobbler into the darkness. The remaining troops found a suitable spot and began digging a large hole.
When the elves arrived at the human campsite, they were astounded to find all the treekillers stacked in one place. It took five elves to carry each of the heavy tools back to the town.
The plan was carried out perfectly. There were only a few minor injuries involving the sharp blades but soon the treekillers were at the bottom of the pits, and everyone was eagerly shovelling soil on top of them. Everyone was relieved.
The next morning, Hobbler awoke to the noise of a woodpecker and ate his breakfast with the faint singing of the birds outside. When he went up to the tree top, he heard the Humans talking in their language. They sounded very confused.
“Hurrah!” Hobbler thought to himself. Now maybe they would leave.
Each day was more peaceful than the one before, and life was almost normal. There were no more urgent meetings or shocking phone calls. Now, there were only daily reports on how confused the Humans were. That is how things were until the second Thursday after the mission.
Hobbler had gone over to the campsite to check on the Humans. He discovered that they had more treekillers and he could tell they were planning to eat more trees. He dashed over to the mayor’s office and by the time he had arrived, General Fowetal was there too.
“What to do? What to do?” the mayor cried.
Everyone was silent for a long time. Then Hobbler lifted his head, “I know,” he said. “We could write them a letter.”
“Absolutely not!” said General Fowetal. “We make no contact with Humans whatsoever. It would put our people at risk of being discovered!”
“What if we just sign as the Elves of Tieruan. We can ask an elder to help put a more protective enchantment over our dwellings!” Hobbler argued. The officials stared at him, and blinked. There was no better plan, they agreed reluctantly.
Hobbler didn’t waste another second. He dashed from the office jumped into his trusty squirrel and headed to the part of the village where the elders lived on the outskirts of town. Then it was time to call on the troops once more for help in putting the letters on the trees around the Humans’ campsite.
Each letter read:
To: Humans of Tieruan This this letter is to inform you that the objects that you call axes are ruining our forests and destroying our homes. If you destroy this forest, you destroy many things. You destroy the trees, the flowers, the bugs, and the forest creatures.
We understand that you use the materials for your buildings and tools, but so do we! To use this forest well, you can take a few trees, but remember that if you destroy all of them everyone will suffer.
The Elves of Tieruan
The next morning there wasn’t any noise from the despicable treekillers. Instead there were birds singing outside and the woodpecker pecking. When Hobbler checked the campsite from his canopy of his tree, the entire place had been cleared out.
Hobbler decided to take a closer look and found a single note nailed to a tree. He climbed the tree and peeled the note off the bark. He sent it to the elders for translation. The next day, the note was sent back in the mail now translated into Elvish. It read:
Dear Elves of Tieruan, We have realised the many mistakes we have made while trying to gather materials from this forest. One of the biggest errors was taking the trees.
We have left your area to try to become kinder to the Elven community. Before your note, we weren’t very aware of our destruction and we are thankful for you contacting us. Although we had a faint idea in the past of your existence, we are now very excited to learn the truth. You have taught us a great lesson.
The Humans of Tieruan
That day Hobbler also learned a lesson: that sometimes the best way to end a conflict between two sides is to talk to one another; not just to jump to conclusions about one another, but instead to hear the other person’s side.
Young Post’s Summer Short Story competition 2020 gathers aspiring writers from all over Hong Kong. This year’s theme was to write a creative story inspired by the word “Elf”. The top entries will be collected into an anthology with the Winter Short Story competition finalists.