The Journey Is Sweeter than the Destination

Keylyn stared in wonder as she slowly placed her feet on the colored stones. Plum trees dangled ripe fruit above her as she nervously peered through the shadows, blinking at the bright light just outside the grove. A creature hummed happily on the other side, singing to flowers and glittering circles on the bushes. He had black-and-yellow stripes on a bulbous back end, wings coming out of his back, and what looked like a few hairs blowing in the breeze.

“Excuse me…” she stammered, unsure of how to address the creature. “I’m sorry to bother you, but could you give me directions to the castle?”

“Well now, ain’t you just as pretty as a sugarlily? Why’re you trying to go all the way up there, ‘specially by yourself? It’s always more fun with people along.”

“I’ve been called to court, but I’ve never been to this kingdom before.”

“You look like a Lady, but you don’t travel like one.”

“Please, sir, I’m in a terrible hurry. I don’t want to be late.”

“Well, sugar, if you’d be polite enough to tell me your name, maybe I would be more inclined to tell you. Folks who don’t want the gardener knowing their name aren’t usually good comp’ny to keep.”

Keylyn inclined her head in apology. “I’m sorry. My name is Keylyn. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Keylyn? You’re name’s as pretty as you are. Mine’s To-Bee.” He grinned and stood up, turning to face Keylyn.

“Might I ask what kind of creature you are, sir? I’ve never seen someone like you before.” I hope he doesn’t think I’m rude.

“I’m a Honeybuzz, darlin’. We are descended from the honeybees you’re prob’ly used to, but the magic of the kingdom made us able to talk and gave us less buggy faces. Most of us take care of a sweetblossom patch like this one here. Now, are you ready for your directions? I would suggest taking a seat.”

Keylyn promptly sat in the crinkly Easter grass and pulled out a pencil and notebook, waiting for To-Bee to begin. To-Bee sat beside her, sucking nectar out of a sourvine flower.

“A Honeybuzz, you say? Fascinating. I’m ready when you are.” This place is strange, but I like to keep an open mind.

“Excellent. You’ll start here in Lollibush Garden, home of my precious sweetblossoms and favorite playground of our Princess in Pink. She’s a real sweetheart, always wants to play a game. You may or may not see her today. Sometimes she doesn’t come.”

“Is she just called Princess in Pink? That seems like a strange name.” All this candy is making me hungry. And why would you name a princess after a color?

“No, her name is Lolly, but she has an older sister, and we tell them apart by dress color sometimes instead of name. Now, you’ll go down the Rainbow Road over there about twenty bricks, and you’ll find yourself in Peppermint Forest, home of the wonderful Mr. Timbermint, although we call him Mr. Mint for short. He’s not as scary as he looks with that axe and big red nose, and he’ll break you off a peppermint stick if you ask. He doesn’t get many visitors since he’s always so busy.”

“Really? It must be lonely.”

“He says he doesn’t mind. Frostine keeps him company when she can, but she can’t leave the sprites alone too long, and I can’t go see him because it’s too cold over there for Honeybuzzes. Once you’ve passed the forest, you’ll come to a bend in the road, and you’ll be able to see the Ice Cream Sea and Licorice Lagoon. You’ll reach the lagoon first, and that’s home to Lord Licorice. He’s not so bad either, but he’s usually playing tricks on people. His favorite is making sure there’s bubblegum on the road so that people who don’t watch their step get stuck. He gets them out eventually but he makes them help him clean up the lagoon or talk to him for a while. He really is lonely. Everyone thinks he’s mean so they stay away.”

“Lord Licorice, trickster, watch your path for bubblegum. Got it. Please continue.” When they told me to go to the World of Sweets, I didn’t think they were being quite this literal.

To-Bee reached back and plucked a few sweetblossoms, gathering some edible buttercups and a single white sugarlily. These he handed over to Keylyn, who wrapped them up carefully and placed them in her bag.

“Take these with you. The lily is yours, but sometimes the Lord will let you go if you give him his favorite blossoms. He doesn’t like to leave the lagoon much, but he loves buttercups.”

“Thank you, I appreciate the help. I’ll be sure to pass them along. Who’s next?”

“After you’re through the lagoon, you’ll get to Peanut Brittle Hollow. That’s where Gramma Nutt lives. She’s a sweet as her brittle until you refuse to accept an offer. Then she gets real salty. I recommend her almond butter, it’s great on sandwiches; but the peanut brittle is second to none. You don’t have to take everything she offers, but make sure you accept at least one thing. A basket of cashews is great for long trips. She’s on the bend about six bricks away from Lord Licorice.”

Grandma gets angry if you don’t take something she offers? My grandma may be a little sad, but she doesn’t get mad about it. Is Gramma Nutt named for more than one reason?

“Okay. Next?”

“Next up is a nice little fifteen-brick jaunt before you’re at the shore of the Ice Cream Sea, complete with Rock Candy Mountain sticking up out of it. Clear blue rock candy dusted with the powdered sugar from the sprites. Their wings make the sugar, ya know, but they have to make sure they go to the Cornstarch Tree and sap them or they’ll disintegrate.”

“What do they do? And why are they flying if their wings are so delicate?”

“Flying is faster than walking, my dear. They fly around the kingdom and make sure all the sweetblossoms have sweet nectar every morning. If no one drank the nectar the day before, then they take it out and help the flower produce fresh nectar. The old stuff goes to Gloppy, the keeper of the Molasses Swamp near the castle, but I’ll get to him in a moment. When you reach the Sea, you’ll meet Princess Frostine and the Duke of Swirl. The duke loves to surf the ice cream, and Frostine enjoys keeping the sprites happy and teaching the young ones until they can go out and pollinate the flowers. She and the duke keep Lolly busy too, on the days the Honeybuzzes use to prune the sweetblossoms, but their little sister is as flighty as the sprites.”

Gloppy eats old nectar? Does he like it or is he just a garbage disposal? And why are the only kids in this entire kingdom all children of the king? Is Gramma Nutt their grandma? Oh, my head’s starting to hurt.

“So Lolly, Frostine, and the Duke of Swirl are all siblings?”

“Correct. Frostine is the oldest, which suits the duke just fine, and Lolly is too young to care. She’s just happy to play. King Kandy lets them do as they please for the most part. He doesn’t like to keep them cooped up in the Candy Castle.”

Why does the duke not have a name? Or is it just something nobody knows? And where is the queen?

“That’s nice of him. Anyone else?”

To-Bee stops and thinks for a moment. “We’ve done Licorice, Mint, Nut, Lolly, Frostine and Swirl…I think the last person left is Gloppy. He’s a good guy, but if you’re in a hurry try to avoid catching his attention. He’s a really slow talker, and if he gets too close, you’ll get caught in molasses. It’s not easy to get yourself out of, and I’ve been told it’s even harder to get it out of your clothes.”

Keylyn laughed. “I’ll try to remember that. And after him is the Candy Castle, right?”

“That’s it. It’s about six bricks away. You’ll see the graham cracker walls about five bricks away. And, while you’re travelling, if you pick up Easter eggs along the way and find one with a plastic candy in it, push the button on the bottom. It’ll take you right to a brick that has that same candy on it. For example, an ice cream cone will take you to Princess Frostine. You might end up behind where you started, but you might end up way ahead, too. It’s just luck. You don’t have to press it, either. If you decide you don’t want to, just put the candy and the egg back where you found it, and go on your merry way.”

“I’ll remember that, thank you.” I like To-Bee. Never thought I’d say I want to be friends with a bee-man.

“Sure. Other than that, there’s not much to say. The gummy bears and Gingerbread folk are always fun to talk to, but try to mind what you say with the gingerbreads. They have short tempers.”

“I will. Thank you, To-Bee.” Keylyn packed up her things, making sure to replace the sweetblossoms on the very top of the bag. She took a few steps toward the road, then paused and looked back. “You wouldn’t want to come along, by any chance, would you? I’d love for you to tell me more about everyone. Especially what they look like. I’m curious.”

“I’d be honored to come along, sugar. I appreciate the invitation. Now, who would you like to hear about first?”