To the West
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"I guess when they saw the cogs, they all ran away," Pete chuckled. "I can't believe the way you defeated those cogs so fast."
"It takes a lot of training and practice," explained Goopy.
"I bet it does, but now that it's over... HELLO! IS ANYBODY HERE?" Pete shouted.
Two dogs peeked out from behind a shrub. "Is it safe now?" one of them asked timidly.
"It sure is," Pete said. "These guys fought them off and saved my life!"
"Yes, we did," Harry said boldly. "I am Harry Oldman from the Toon Council. We are going on a quest to find out where the cogs came from. We thought Pete might be able to help because we thought he knew a lot about the cogs."
"Thought I knew a lot about cogs?" Pete interrupted. "Where did you get a silly idea like that? I haven't even seen one until today!"
"So... you can't help us at all?" Harry asked. "I knew it. Flippy lied to me! But still, I wouldn't want to think we had come all this way for nothing."
"Well, this morning I heard word that the cogs flew out from the west. Almost all the reports of cog activity are from the west." The toons looked in that direction.
"There is nothing there but forest!" Goopy said.
"I know," Pete said. "It all sounds very strange, but they must be coming from somewhere."
"Maybe it's on the other side of the forest," Evina suggested.
Pete considered this. "Well, to my knowledge, nobody's been through the forest before. We don't know how big it is, what is on the other side, or if there's an end to it at all! But I figure there has to be something. We also thought there was nobody left alive on the other side of the mountain until you guys came."
"You came from the other side of the mountain?" one of the two scared toons asked.
"Yes, we are from Toontown Central," Harry said. The dogs wore the same confused expressions that Pete had shown earlier. "We would love to talk more about it, but we don't have the time," Harry said. "So, let's go!"
The group started marching to the west when they heard a voice of one of the toons again. "Wait up! I want to come with you!" The explorers stopped and turned around. "Can't we come with you?" the blue dog asked.
Harry looked nervous. "Um... sure."
"Great! I'm Ricky," the blue dog said. "I like explosions. And this is my lazy brother Rocky." He pointed to the brown dog who silently shoved a burrito in his mouth.
"I'm not coming unless you can guarantee my safety," Rocky said, despite having his mouth full. "And you need to bring a good supply of burritos."
"Oh no, you're coming with me!" Ricky insisted, grabbing his brother's hand, and dragging him closer to the others.
"Hey Pete, maybe you have some you could spare me, just until we get to wherever we're going."
Pete rolled his eyes at Rocky and groaned.
Suddenly, there was a huge noise from the palace behind them. Everyone looked up to see what was happening. It seemed to be coming from the roof of the tallest tower.
"Not you again!" Pete cried with rage.
"Yes," a confident and heroic voice announced, "it is I, the destroyer of evil, the master of gags. I am Catman!"
A black cat with a mask and cape jumped off the roof and dropped straight down. He continued to fall, flailing his arms in the air until he hit the ground flat on his face.
The toons rushed over to the cat. After only a moment, he stood up, apparently unharmed, and brushed himself off.
"Are you alright?" Pink asked him.
"Of course, I'm alright! I'm Catman!" he said.
"Uh... the Center for Mental Health is right this way," Pete said as he reached to take Catman's arm.
"I'm not crazy! Why are you all looking at me like I'm crazy?"
Everyone continued to stare at him like he was crazy.
"I believe I may be of assistance to your quest," he said bowing to Harry.
"Well, we would love to have you join us," Harry said, "but we already have plenty of toons." Then he started walking away.
"WAIT!" Catman screamed. "I've never told anyone before, but I'm part robot. I know a lot about cogs! And I can fly. It would have worked if the wind didn't suddenly shift!"
"Harry," Pink said, tugging Harry's arm. "I think he should join us. I believe him."
"But you didn't believe me," argued Harry. "I really don't trust this guy."
"But I do!" Pink said. She looked on the other cat with admiration.
"Me too," Evina added. "Just let him come."
The other toons looked up at Harry. "Me too," Goopy said.
"And me," Simeon said.
"And us," the dog brothers added.
Harry had no choice but to agree. "Ok, you can come with us," he sighed.
"WOO HOO!" Catman grinned as he slid easily into the middle of their group. "You will not regret bringing me, I promise!"
The explorers prepared to go. "I hope this is all of us," Harry said. He quickly counted them. "There are nine of us. Nine adventurers with nothing in common are going on an epic quest to who knows where. It's strange but sounds familiar."
"Wait, don't we need supplies?" Pink interrupted.
Harry paused. "Uh... yes, we do!" He was shocked. "How could I forget? Where can we get some supplies, Pete?"
"Well, the answer is obvious," Pete said. "Where do you think you could get just about anything imaginable? You need to visit Ms. Clarabelle Cow, the most famous fashion, furniture, and accessory designer in all of Toontown!"
"How are we going to get there?" Harry asked. "Is it far away?"
"No, not at all. It's just a few toonmiles past West Street."
Harry bowed to Pete. "Thank you for helping with our quest."
"And thank you for saving my life!" Pete replied. "Good luck! I'll give you all free teleportation access if you want to come back!"
And with that, the toons marched off to West Street. The day had been full of more adventure than they had ever imagined yesterday.
"If we hurry, we can make it there before nightfall," Harry said.
They quickly walked down the street. Toons were looking at them through holes in barrels, crates, and windows.
"Are the cogs gone?" some of them asked. Harry confirmed their safety, and they slowly began to come out of hiding.
"Tell me again, is it true that you come out of some strange land in the north?" Ricky asked.
"Yeah," Simeon said, "we are from Toontown Central and Donald's Dock. We didn't even know that there was a Pete's Palace!"
"How odd," Ricky muttered thoughtfully. "Why would the Toon Council separate us like this?"
"I have no ideas," Goopy said.
"I'm on the Toon Council, and even I don't know! The only ones who could know are Mickey or Flippy, and I know that Flippy lied to us."
"Why would he do that?" Evina asked.
"Maybe it's because I'm different. I want to help the toons instead of helping myself. But how would I know now?"
Evina felt sad for Harry, but his curiosity grew. "Who's on the Toon Council, anyway, and how was it formed?" he asked. The toons turned their attention to Harry, and even Rocky stopped eating his burrito to listen.
"Well, there is Mickey the president, and Flippy the vice president. Then there are twenty-eight others including me. It was formed to protect Toontown from enemies. This was back when dip was around. Back then, a toon named Roger Rabbit was one of those who fought against the enemies. They succeeded for a while and continued their work in the film industry, but eventually, they were forced to return to Toontown and seal the portal to Earth forever. The Toon Council has not done much work since then... until the cogs came around."
Everyone thought about this for a moment. "Now, for the last question," Evina said. "How did you get on the Toon Council?"
Harry paused for a moment, looking nervous, "because... all toon species leaders are part of the Toon Council." Everybody still had their attention turned toward him. He looked nervous.
Pink was amazed. "But that means..."
"Yes, I am the leader of the rabbit toon species," Harry said. "I come from a long line all the way back to the ancient days of Oswald."
Shocked expressions covered their faces as they heard that. It was hard to think about how they treated him earlier when now they knew the truth. He was a toon of great honor.
"The species leadership is passed down through the generations," Harry explained in answering their thoughts. "But one day, Roger Rabbit disappeared. Some say he was dipped. But I believe he is still alive in another toon world. But once he disappeared another had to take his place. He had no children, so another rabbit had to be drawn. That was yours truly."
"If I see my rabbit friend again, I'll say you're her great, great, great grandfather or something," Pink said.
"That's probably right," Harry said, gazing up into the sky. "I remember the good old days when toons were drawn. I remember the giant pencil, glowing with heavenly light. It came down from the sky and drew lines. I remember the first pig, Good ol' Gil Giggles. He was transparent and made of only thin black lines until he was finished. Then a voice came from above that announced his name. It filled with color and came to life."
The toons were approaching the end of the street. On the other side, they stepped out into Verdant Valley, a large, green field leading off to the forest in the distance. A few toonmiles away they saw a series of buildings. It took a couple hours of walking before they approached it, exhausted. It looked much closer than it really was. Night was descending upon them, and the sky was darkening quickly. In front of them was a large barn. They stood under one of the bright streetlights. There was a warehouse and an airport to the left. To the right, there was a factory. The sound of jet engines kept them alert. An airplane landed on a runway not too far away from them with Clarabelle's face painted on its side. A dog stepped out of it in a uniform. He was carrying a huge pile of boxes.
"Hello," he greeted them. "Why are you here?"
"We need to speak to Ms. Clarabelle," Catman said. "We are going on a quest to find out where the cogs came from. By the way, do you need help with those?"
"Uh... yes, that would be nice," the deliveryman groaned as he set down the boxes. Catman picked them all up in one paw.
"Don't do that!" Everyone yelled.
"Not to worry! I have super strength... Wooooooah!!!" he screamed dropping the boxes. They broke open, and estate furniture came rolling out of them.
"LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" the deliveryman shouted, enraged.
"Not to worry," a female voice said from behind them.
They all spun around to see Clarabelle Cow, the famous fashion, furniture, and accessory designer. She snapped her fingers, and several other toons in uniforms came out of nowhere and started cleaning up the mess.
The deliveryman looked embarrassed. "I am truly sorry about this, boss. I—"
"Not now," she said. Then she turned to Harry. "What do you need?"
Harry paused for a moment. He almost forgot why they were there in the first place. "We're uh... going on an important quest to find out where the cogs came from."
Clarabelle crossed her arms and smiled at the old rabbit, looking skeptical.
"The Toon Council sent us! I'm Harry Oldman!"
"You are? Well then, come right on in!" she beamed. Clarabelle walked with them through the airport runway. She was pointing out the different parts of the facility like a tour guide. "Over there is where I design my products, and over there is where the projects are built. That is the airport over there. This is the warehouse, and this is my house." She pointed to a large barn that she led them into. It was just as elegant as Pete's Palace if not more so. "Would you like something to eat?" she asked.
"Yes, thank you," Harry said. "But the main reason we are here is that we need supplies."
Clarabelle sat down at the table "You name it, I got it. Where are you going?"
"We are planning on going to the other side of the forest."
Clarabelle's eyes widened. "The other end of the forest? That's crazy!"
"I assure you," Harry said calmly, "that we will be quite prepared for anything we may encounter. All we need is your help."
"Ok, if you say so." She clapped her hands once, and a waiter walked out of a set of double doors.
"Tomorrow I'll take you to the warehouse," Clarabelle said, "but for now, it's getting late, and I'm starving!"
"I'm starved too!" Rocky said, but he wasn't hungry for long. Everyone had a very delicious and hearty meal.
"Thank you for the food," Simeon said.
"No problem at all. Let me show you your rooms." She led them down a large hall.
"There is plenty of room here for everyone. Choose where you wish to stay and have a good night."
Evina's room was very comfortable. There was a sofa, a TV, a mini-fridge stuffed with snacks and a nice, soft bed. Things seemed to be going very well for them. They were all so tired and sore from the hiking and mountain climbing. Sleep came to them very quickly.
Ricky the first one to wake up in the morning. He quickly and quietly ran down the hall to the dining room. Clarabelle was not there. He kept looking around until he peered through the glass into a room with tons of phones in it. Clarabelle was there with a notebook taking orders from toons on the phone.
"Will that be all for you today? Ok, thank you. That will be three thousand four hundred and sixty jellybeans. Yes, I do accept credit card. Ok, bye now." She hung up and turned to see Ricky. "Oh, good morning! Breakfast will be served soon." Then she picked up the phone again.
Ricky ran back to the dining room to see a gourmet breakfast prepared for him on the table. He began eating vigorously. A few minutes later Evina, Zany, and Simeon came in. They also started eating.
Harry came in with Goopy and Pink later, and they began eating as well.
"Where is Rocky?" Simeon asked.
"I'm right here," he said sleepily as he strolled into the room and picked up a few breakfast burritos.
Clarabelle came in a little later and announced, "I'm a little busy today. I can get you some supplies though if you follow me quickly."
The group jumped up and followed her. The morning was cool and slightly foggy. There was some frost on the grass. As the sun rose, the majestic mountain cast a long shadow over the seemingly endless grassy meadow. They walked into the warehouse and found themselves in very small room. There were boxes stacked up everywhere. Clarabelle punched in a code and unlocked another door to a much larger room. They were in the warehouse.
The adventurers were amazed. Anything that a toon could ever imagine having was here. It was the largest place they had ever seen.
"Hmm," she said, "these are bedroom furnishings." She pointed to a golf cart, and they sat down on it. They drove through the aisles of the warehouse stacked with heaps of toon supplies. Clarabelle muttered to herself as they passed the different areas of the warehouse. "Kitchen, bathroom, gardening... ah ha! Here are the adventuring supplies," she said as they got off the golf cart and walked over to a stack of adventurous junk.
There were helmets, backpacks, first aid kits, water canteens, flashlights, and things that they had never seen before.
"Take anything you need," she said. "It's all free."
"I can't thank you enough," Harry said. "If only there were a way we could repay you."
"It's nothing," she insisted. "I wish ya'll the best of luck. It is looking scary out there. Ya'll come back and see me soon, won't ya?"
They nodded and waved goodbye. Harry dumped many things into his bottomless pocket before they left. They courageously marched outside to the entrance of the forest. It was hard to believe that there was any danger out here. Everyone they had met so far had seemed friendly. They felt foolish for not knowing where their estate furniture had come from. Clarabelle was on the other side of the mountain, and they hadn't even known it all along. They wished Harry could've been able to tell them what was going on and why they were separated from the other toons for so many years.
The trees were very high, and no end could be seen. Several minutes after walking into the forest it grew very dark, and they could not see anything behind them nor in front of them. They didn't even know what direction they were going. The sounds of the meadow and the wind were gone, and there was nothing but sinister silence. Harry was beginning to doubt his previous affirmation that he was prepared for anything. Their fear began to return as they realized they were lost, and it was too late to turn back now.
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