That day, a strong wind was blowing and there was a storm brewing overhead.
A small man called Claron, with dishevelled hair, was smoking his pipe in front of his door.
- ‘This weather! I’ll have to go inside soon’, he muttered.
This he did a few moments later.
The gusts of wind became more and more violent and Claron had to seal the door and windows shut for his own safety.
He was just securing a window when he heard a huge crash on the roof.
Claron thought that the sky must have fallen on the house, or least a bolt of lightning. But no, there was nothing there. Then he heard a hollow voice:
- ‘Open up! Let me in! I’m so hungry!’
Claron was terrified and at a loss as to what to do. Should he answer or pretend not to be there?
The voice became louder and more insistent:
- ‘I’m begging you, open the door! Let me in!’
Something quavering in this voice overcame Claron’s fear so, with some trepidation, he went to unlock the door.
He was amazed to find himself opposite a man who was at least four metres tall, with shoulders that were as rectangular as the corners of his house!
After drawing back, Claron regained his calm and asked the giant:
- ‘What is this? What are you doing here in this terrible weather?’
- ‘I have been walking for months on end and for the last few days I have been lost. I’ve had nothing to eat either…’
- ‘Listen. I’ve got some potatoes and rice and some bread that you can have. Do you think you will be able to get in, since you are so big?’
- ‘Maybe, if I get on all fours’.
And what was said was done.
The giant, who was called Magnus, crawled inside the house and Claron, after barricading the door again, brought him the food as promised.
Magnus grabbed it with both hands and gobbled it down in an instant.
Once he was full at long last, he told Claron about his adventures.
- ‘Seven months and seven weeks ago, I left home to search for the Moonstone. This is what will cure my wife and I have only seven days left to find it!’
- ‘But what is this all about?’, Claron could not help asking.
- ‘It is a magic stone that can only be found at the peak of the Dark Mountain. It has the power to cure the Fog Sickness from which my beloved wife is suffering. Without it, my wife will die, as will I, because I could not bear her death! The magician who told me about this remedy has given me seven months, seven weeks and seven days to find it before its power will be lost to me. So I have only seven days left …’
And Magnus shed two or three tears.
Claron felt moved by this large man who was half lying down inside the house, whose obvious physical strength contrasted with the delicacy of his feelings.
- ‘I will help you, if you like. I will come with you!’
- ‘Would you be willing to do that?’
- ‘Yes, of course. It is a long time since I left my village and I would enjoy a little journey!’
- ‘But it could be dangerous!’
- ‘All the more reason! That will give me a change from the daily routine. So that’s decided – we will both leave tomorrow!’
What was said was done.
They set off at dawn. Magnus was carrying a heavy load on his shoulders that consisted mainly of food provisions and some other things such as candles, ropes and matches. Claron, who had no weight but his own to bear, scurried nimbly alongside his new friend. When Magnus took one step, the small Claron had to take four or five more; and when Magnus sneezed, Claron felt as if his ears were going to blow off. And they laughed, and laughed…
For the first three days, they walked in the countryside. The weather had become calmer and the landscape was illuminated by a gentle sun.
Claron and Magnus got to know each other by telling each other about their pasts.
They were as alike in character as they were different in physique.
Both of them saw life from the good side, or the sunny side. And they tended to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
That did not prevent them from knowing the other aspect of life that lurked away in the shadows.
And they walked, and walked.
Three days later, they finally arrived at the foot of the Dark Mountain.
On the fourth day, having climbed and climbed, they were blocked by a torrent that was at least three metres wide; the water was bubbling and carrying along everything that touched its path.
- ‘We can’t swim across this torrent’, said Magnus, ‘we would drown’.
- ‘You are right – we will have to find another solution’.
- ‘Wait, I’ve got an idea’, replied Magnus. ‘Look down there – there is a rock on the edge of the bank. I am going to wedge my feet against it and drop down in one go, hands first, on to the other bank. That way my body will form a bridge and you will be able to cross by walking on my back. Once you are on the other side, you will tie a rope to a tree and then to my wrists so that I am in no danger of slipping. Then I will be able to haul myself up on to the other bank’.
What was said was done.
Magnus threw the bag on to the other bank; then he wedged his feet against the large stone, dropped forward like a log on to the other bank and so, braced lightly over the torrent, he gave Claron a way to cross. A rope was tied tightly to a tree trunk and the two companions were soon reunited on the other side of the torrent, both laughing heartily at this trick by which they had managed to confound fate.
Exhausted by his efforts, Magnus lay down and went to sleep, and Claron soon followed his example. That night both dreamt of a world full of torrents that bubbled with the sound of thunder.
On the fifth day, having climbed and climbed, they found themselves opposite a wall of fire. It was a forest that was ablaze and they could not get round it because of its shape.
Claron and Magnus examined the area around it but this was in vain.
They were about to give up when Claron pointed out to his friend something that looked like a black hole. They realised that this was the entrance to a tunnel that seemed to run underneath the burning forest.
- ‘I will never be able to slide into such a narrow space!’, muttered Magnus.
- ‘But I am small enough to get in’, said Claron. ‘Wait for me here, I am going to see where this underground passage leads’.
What was said was done.
Claron took some matches and some candles and he disappeared into the black hole …
Magnus waited, pacing up and down before the wall of fire.
And seconds and then minutes passed, and it seemed like an eternity.
Magnus was beginning to worry when a subdued but then increasingly loud noise started to interrupt the crackling sound of the fire.
A thick black smoke rose in the sky, accompanied by an acrid smell that made him want to cough.
Dumbfounded, Magnus saw that the fire was going out.
Suddenly, he was half-submerged by a wave that chilled him to the bone.
Water hurtled down the slope for nearly an hour; then everything came to a stop.
There was no more water and no more fire. Just a horizon of scorched tree trunks … and a strange silence.
Claron arrived, out of breath.
- ‘On the other side of the tunnel, behind the burning wood, I climbed for a bit and I came across a reservoir of water. There were some floodgates that must have been meant for use in case of fire. I opened them and, there!’
- ‘Bravo, Claron. That means we can continue our journey now’.
But Claron, who was exhausted, lay down on the bare ground and fell asleep. Magnus, after careful consideration, did likewise. They did not dream of anything that night.
On the sixth day, having climbed and climbed, they found themselves on some spongy ground that seemed to be waterlogged.
The further they got, the harder it became to breathe the air, especially close to the ground.
It looked as if a kind of mist had arisen and was getting thicker the higher they went.
Soon Claron was complaining of a sore throat, then of chest pains. Finally, he whispered to Magnus that he was finding it impossible to breathe.
Magnus knelt down and said to Claron:
- ‘All you need to do is climb on to my shoulders’.
What was said was done.
At a height of nearly four metres, the air became breathable again and Claron gradually got his breath back, as well as some colour.
So they crossed that nauseatingly marshy land and found themselves on some firm ground that was free of any fog or stench.
With relief, they came to a stop.
And, suddenly, sleep took them over and sent them deep into the land of dreams. Neither knew what they had dreamt about that night.
On the seventh day, after climbing and climbing, they finally caught sight of the peak of the Dark Mountain.
It stood out against the sky rather like the old keep of an ancient fortified castle, a huge dark shape that loomed imposingly on the horizon.
- ‘Now we have nearly made it’, whispered Claron while pressing on.
- ‘Nearly’, Magnus replied like an echo.
They carved into the slope that was getting steeper and steeper, arrived at the foot of the stone keep and, once they had arrived, looked at each other.
- ‘This rock is smoother than the palm of my hand. How can we get any higher?’
- ‘Listen, Magnus, let’s go round it first and see if there is any way of getting through’.
Claron’s common sense reassured Magnus, who was beginning to sweat not from tiredness but from fear.
Could it be that they had they come all this way for nothing after all? Met with so many trials for no reason? No, that was not possible.
While they were examining the stone tower, they saw something that looked like tracks a bit further away. It was some ivy that had taken root in the tower and that stretched from the foot right to the top – by what miracle was this?
- ‘It doesn’t look very tough’, commented Magnus, pulling at it. ‘Look how easily I can tear it off’.
- ‘Of course - you don’t know your own strength’, replied Claron.
- ‘So, what are we going to do?’
- ‘Magnus, my friend, listen: I am light - this ivy will easily support the weight of a small person like me!’ Then he added, laughing, ‘And if it doesn’t, you will catch me!’
- ‘Don’t joke about it!’ exclaimed Magnus.
- All right. I will be careful, don’t worry. Right, now I’m going to climb’.
What was said was done.
Claron took his courage in both hands, clutched firmly on to the ivy and began the ascent.
He moved slowly upwards, making sure of his hold at every point and making himself as light as possible. He seemed to become part of the ivy and from a distance someone might have believed he was a bird.
Finally, endless minutes later, Claron proclaimed victory:
-‘That’s it! I’m there! I’m there!’
-‘And what can you see?’, asked Magnus.
As he stood there alone, he was answered only by a heavy silence.
‘I’ve found it! I’ve found it!’
Magnus held his breath. He saw Claron climbing back down, still taking the same care.
As soon as his feet touched the ground, Claron jumped for joy.
- ‘See how beautiful it is!’
He stretched his hand towards Magnus’s, who picked up a small and shiny object.
- ‘The Moonstone!’ uttered Magnus, seized by the emotion. ‘The Moonstone!’
- ‘We have done it’, Claron stammered.
- ‘Yes, the two of us together, we have done it!’ exclaimed Magnus.
The journey back took place without further incident.
Claron climbed back up on Magnus’s shoulders where the air was unbreathable, and Magnus once again made the bridge over the torrent.
They left the Dark Mountain, walked through the countryside for three days and found themselves back at Claron’s house.
- ‘Come in, Magnus, but be careful, mind your head!’
As he said this, Claron burst into loud laughter, immediately followed by Magnus.
The two friends celebrated. They told each other stories that each knew about their fathers and their fathers’ fathers and further back still.
They talked about their journey together, reminding each other of their adventures, and they told each other even more.
Then the moment came for them to part.
- ‘I do not know how to thank you’, said Magnus. ‘Because of your help, I have the Moonstone and my wife will be able to recover from the Fog Sickness.
- ‘Do not thank me’, Claron replied. ‘You have given me back my enjoyment in life. Here, I was stagnating, I was living in my own shadow. Now, I feel fully alive and I am going to make the most of every moment to engage with the world’.
- ‘So all is now well’, concluded Magnus.
The two embraced.
Then they parted.
Before they did so, however, the small man and the giant promised to remain friends for the rest of their lives.
Traduction en anglais de Sophie Leighton
(c) Daniel LEDUC