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Deep Within the Caves (Fraggle Rock story)


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Jul 29, 2023
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Author's note: Alright, everybody, get ready for my next epic 20+-chapter-long Fraggle Rock fanfiction. If you remember my story Fraggle Rock: The Movie this will be similar, though I might try not to kill off too many beloved characters. Anyway, this story takes place years before the start of the original Fraggle Rock series (it's not in canon with Back to the Rock) and provides an origin for Marjory the Trash Heap, though as you will see when you read this, another major character from the show will have their origin described in here too :wink: (no, it won't be Scooter - that's the winking emoji). This is not a shipping fanfic like the last story I wrote here (Red and Mokey don't even show up). Once again, prepare to wait nearly a month for this beast of a story to be finished.


"There we go. Now this place feels more like home."
Fernway reached over and hung the picture on the wall of his cave, sticking it to the rock with Doozer glue. Then he stepped back to admire the picture.
It was a small portrait of a Fraggle happily eating a mushroom. Fernway didn't know who had painted the picture originally. It had belonged to his parents - one of the only things he had to remember them - and had been given to them by another Fraggle even before then. It was so old that the paint had begun to chip away, but seeing it on the wall of his cave made Fernway feel comforted. That painting was one of his only possessions, and he had been carrying it around with him for years.
Fernway couldn't even remember how long he had spent wandering through the caves of Fraggle Rock. All he knew he'd started wandering after he left the Cave of Young, where Fraggle children are raised. He'd been eager to leave the Cave of Young for years, but Pailey, the Fraggle who'd adopted him after the deaths of his parents, had held him back until he was somewhere over a decade old - the standard age of graduation from the Cave of Young. Then he'd packed up his belongings - the painting, a small book of Fraggle proverbs that had also belonged to his parents, and a small blanket - and prepared to enter Fraggle Rock. But as soon as he did, he realized that he would never feel quite right in Fraggle society. Maybe it was just that he missed his parents, but for some reason, Fraggle Rock just didn't feel like home.
So Fernway had wrapped his few belongings in a little bindle, and immediately set off wandering throughout the caves of the Rock, searching for a place where he might feel that he belonged. He'd been pretty sure that this place would be a small, lonely cave, far from the homes of the other Fraggles. But during the few years that he'd been wandering, he'd passed through what felt like all the small, lonely caves in Fraggle Rock, without finding one that felt right to him.
This cave was no different. He'd only been living here a week, after he'd left the Rockdust Caverns. It was cold, damp, and more than a little depressing - perhaps it was a bit too small, even for a runt like him. It felt a little more homely and comforting with the painting on the wall, but still, he knew in his heart that in a few days at most, he'd pack up that painting again and continue his journey.
Fernway reached out and touched the painting. Immediately, some more dried paint chipped off of the worn canvas. He couldn't help but smile. Through all this time when he'd been wandering, sleeping in a different cave every night, this painting had been the one certainty in his life. He always knew it was with him in his bindle, or lying next to him on the floor of some small cavern. Maybe having it on the wall, staring at him all the time, would make him feel that he belonged in this place.
Fernway laughed. The painting really was old - he could hardly even see the Fraggle in the picture anymore. Apparently Fraggles didn't even eat mushrooms any more - they ate radishes. At least, that's what he'd heard from a Doozer, the one time he tried to have a conversation with one. The only food he ever ate was Doozer sticks; they were ubiquitous, and stayed good for a long time. That's what he'd eaten in the Cave of Young as well; he couldn't quite remember, but he might never have eaten a mushroom or a radish in his life.
Fernway spread out his blanket on the floor. The Rock was beginning to grow dark; evening had come, and it was time for him to go to sleep again. As he lay down on the blanket and closed his eyes, Fernway thought about Pailey. What would he think if he could see me now? He spend a decade of his life preparing me to live in Fraggle Rock, and here I am sleeping in some dark cave.
That was Fernway's last thought before he fell fast asleep. It seemed that having the picture on his wall was helping him sleep after all.


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Jul 29, 2023
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The next morning, Fernway was wandering again.
He'd known all along that he would be. The cave he had spent the last week in wasn't any more special than any of the other small caves he'd lived in in the past. Having the picture on the wall was nice, but still, the cave was just another dark crevice that he'd crawled into to get away from the hustle and bustle of Fraggle Rock. He'd always thought it was pleasant to be alone, but maybe, he was a bit too alone.
Fernway slowly walked down a long, winding tunnel that didn't seem to go anywhere in particular. He wondered how far he'd gone during the years he'd been wandering. Was it possible that he'd been walking in circles, finding the same old caves over and over again? Maybe. What was likely was that he'd walked so far that he'd never be able to find his way back again to the main area of Fraggle Rock. There was one way to go, and that was ahead.
As he walked, Fernway grabbed a nearby Doozer construction that was being built beside him. He took a large bite, relishing the taste of the familiar food. For the longest time now, Doozers had been the only living things he had seen. In the early days of his travels, he'd met other Fraggles frequently, but by now, he'd come so far that he didn't think there were any Fraggles in this part of the Rock.
As he often did when he was wandering, Fernway began to have dark thoughts. Would be doomed to aimlessly walk through the caves for the rest of his life? What if Fraggle Rock went on forever, stretching out in every direction? It certainly seemed that way to him. Fernway laughed at the thought that none of the Fraggles back in the Rock had ever come nearly as far as he did. Plain little Fernway, the runt of the litter, the Fraggle who would never amount to anything, was the greatest explorer in history.
Not that he wanted to be. All Fernway wanted, all that he had ever wanted, was to find a nice, quiet cave where he belonged, that he could live in until the end of his days. It looked like he had only two choices anymore: settle down in any old cave, or continue wandering. He knew which option he would take. He just didn't know where it would take him.
Fernway took another bite of Doozer construction as he walked through the tunnel. It was extremely quiet in these parts; almost too quiet. The only sound he could hear was the faint padding of his feet against the rock floor. There weren't even Doozers in the tunnel anymore. Fernway Fraggle was truly alone.
Then, all of a sudden, Fernway rounded a corner, and found himself facing the most shocking discovery of his life.
He had reached the end of Fraggle Rock.
Finally! His travels had come to an end. He had seen everything that there was to see, and now he had come to the end. Fernway hurried to the end of the tunnel to inspect his discovery.
There was a large hole inside the rock, facing outwards. He had a feeling in his gut telling him to turn back, but all the same, he desperately needed to see what was on the other side of that hole. It had to be something, after all.
Fernway peeked his head outside the hole. Immediately, his heart skipped a beat.
He was looking at the most beautiful place he had ever seen in his life - a wide garden, covered with beautiful, shining grass, and tall trees, like he had read of in books. He had reached the end of Fraggle Rock - and this was the world outside!
His heart pounding in his furry chest, Fernway raced through the hole, fully entering the garden. Immediately, he fell to the ground and began rolling around in the grass. It felt so good to touch grass after spending so long walking on cold, hard stone. Finally, after minutes of frolicking, he stood up and began to inspect the place he had arrived in.
The garden seemed to stretch out as far as the eye could see, encompassing tall trees, flowers, and more grass than he could ever have imagined. But what really caught Fernway's eye was a huge structure built in the center of the garden. It stood taller than anything Fernway had ever seen before, and stretched out very wide. Fernway had no words to describe what the structure was, but he knew that he needed to see it up close. Maybe even, if possible, to go inside it.
Fernway walked through the garden in a happier mood than he had been in for a long time. Finally, he felt as though he had found a place he could truly live forever. This garden, and the structure in it, was the place for him!
Fernway began to run toward the structure, anxious to see what it looked like on the inside. But just then, he heard a loud noise behind him, and quickly turn around. He could not believe what he saw.
Standing right behind Fernway was a monstrous creature, ten times the size of a Fraggle. It had huge arms and legs thicker than the walls of any cave he had ever lived in, and was covered in thick, shaggy brown fur.
Fernway was so terrified he couldn't even move. All he could do was stand in place, his mouth open wide. He finally regained the ability to run when the creature bellowed "A FRAGGLE!" and began to chase him.
Fernway knew he would never be able to outrun the creature. Thus, he was not at all surprised when he found himself caught within the creature's large, ferocious hand. Fernway desperately struggled, trying to free himself of the creature's grip, but the large, mighty hand just clutched him tighter. Fernway felt certain that he was going to die.
And then, the creature carried him over to where another creature was standing - almost as tall, and covered in purple hair.
"Hey, look, Pa!" said the creature who was holding him. "I caught a Fraggle!"
"Give that to me!" said the second creature, and he grabbed Fernway out of the first creature's hand. Fernway prayed that it would all be over in a second, that he would die a quick and painless death. But the next moment, he found himself placed inside what seemed like a cage made specially for Fraggles. Did that mean that the monstrous creatures knew about Fraggles, and had captured others before? Why had he never heard about them? These thoughts ran through his head while the purple creature carried him to a tree, and hung his cage on the tallest branch.
It was the highest off the ground that Fernway had been in his life. Looking at the garden from above, he fainted, hitting his head with a thud on the floor of the trap.
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Night was falling in the garden. The two monstrous creatures had disappeared into the building in which they lived. While Fernway was glad to see them gone, he was still caught, with no method of escape. It had been hours since Fernway had been placed in his cage and hung on the tree, and he'd tried as hard as he could to get out, but it was impossible. He was too fat to squeeze through the bars of the cage, and not strong enough to bend them. Plus, even if he could get out, he would fall a long way - possibly to his death.
A myriad of questions raced through Fernway's mind. It would seem that the two monstrous creatures, at least two of them, lived in this garden, and resided in their large building much like the Fraggles lived in their own caves. But why did they chase him and catch him? Clearly they were familiar with Fraggles, yet Fernway had never heard of them before. Unless...
Suddenly, something occurred to him. What if this garden was where the Fraggles got their radishes? Though he'd never eaten any himself, Fernway knew that radishes had overtaken mushrooms as the Fraggles' main food source, and he vaguely remembered, during his time in the Cave of Young, hearing stories about a brave explorer who had discovered radishes in a mystical land outside Fraggle Rock. He'd dismissed those stories as fiction in the past... but what if they were true? The radishes had to come from somewhere, after all, and he'd never seen them growing anywhere inside the Rock.
But that would mean that other Fraggles had encountered these monstrous creatures before. He wasn't surprised that he hadn't heard about them, given that he hadn't talked to a Fraggle in over a year, but all the same, that meant that other Fraggles must have been the creatures safely. Which meant, maybe, there was a way out of their traps.
Or maybe he was the only Fraggle they'd ever caught before, and he'd be doomed to slowly die from starvation while hanging in this terrible trap.

Fernway's thoughts were broken when he heard a voice calling out to him. "Hey you!"
Immediately, Fernway's blood ran cold. The creatures were calling him. That couldn't be a good sign. Trembling, Fernway finally gathered up the courage to look around and see where the creatures were. But he saw nothing.
"Down here!" called the voice. Fernway looked down. There, standing on the ground underneath the tree, was another Fraggle.
"What are you doing in there?" called the Fraggle.
"I got caught," snapped Fernway.
"Gathering radishes, huh? Don't worry, I'll get you out."
Before Fernway had time to ask any questions, the other Fraggle began to climb up the tree. It was obvious to Fernway that he had some experience at it, meaning that he must be familiar with the garden. Perhaps he even knew the secret to escaping these traps.
Before long, the Fraggle reached the branch directly beneath the one where Fernway was hanging. Then, with both hands, he grabbed onto a section of the trap and pulled with all his might. Immediately, the door on the trap came swinging open. Fernway, worried that he was going to fall out, began to tremble.
"Here," said the Fraggle, noticing Fernway's fear. "Grab my hand." The Fraggle extended his hand, and Fernway reluctantly turned it. Then the Fraggle pulled Fernway down to the branch where he was sitting.
"What now?" said Fernway, anxiously. "How do I get down? I don't know how to climb a tree. I've barely seen one."
"Oh," said the other Fraggle, raising his eyebrow. He thought for a moment. "Well, I'll climb down again. Then you jump, and I'll catch you."
"Are you crazy?" shouted Fernway, staring at the ground uneasily.
"Maybe, but I'm the only one who can help you out of this situation."
Fernway watched nervously as the Fraggle climbed down to the ground again. Then he stood underneath Fernway's open trap and held out his arms. Fernway took a deep breath and reluctantly jumped. The other Fraggle caught him safely, and then placed him immediately on the ground again.
"Gee, thanks for the help," said Fernway. "You saved me."
"No problem," said the Fraggle. He extended his hand, and Fernway shook it. "My name's Ash. What's yours?"
"I'm Fernway."
"So I guess you went out here gathering radishes, right. Happens all the time. You get too cocky, and bam! You're in a Gorg trap ten feet in the air."
"Er, no... as a matter of fact, I'd never even been here until today."
"You haven't? Then where've you been?"
Fernway sighed. "Everywhere."
Ash shot Fernway a quizzical look. "Pardon me?"
"Oh, you know what I mean. I've been wandering around the caves in Fraggle Rock for years now. Ever since I came of age."
Fernway expected Ash to question his statement, but instead, Ash immediately guessed his motives. "Looking for the right place to live? Fraggle Rock just didn't feel like home to you?"
Fernway paused. "You know, that's incredible. You're absolutely right!"
"I know. It happens to a few Fraggles. I used to feel that way too. That's why I was so glad when I discovered this garden."
"You discovered the garden?" asked Fernway, surprised.
"No, not in that way. That was Matthew Fraggle. I'm sure you've heard of him. The greatest explorer in Fraggle history. He discovered this garden when he wasn't even of age yet."
"How long ago was that?"
"Over thirty years ago. So you said you'd never been here before. I guess you eat radishes other Fraggles have collected, then?"
"No. I haven't even seen another Fraggle in ages. I just eat Doozer constructions, mostly."
Ash opened his mouth to respond, but Fernway cut him off with another question. "So, you used to feel like you weren't at home in Fraggle Rock either... but then you found this place?"
"You got it. Believe it or not, I actually live here now."
Fernway gasped. "But what about... the creatures?"
Ash laughed. "Oh, the Gorgs. They're not that bad. They love to chase and catch Fraggles, but they're not that dangerous if you know how to avoid them."
"Well, I can't believe you live here, though. I'd be nervous with those two around."
"Three, you mean."
Fernway bristled a little at the thought that were more of the creatures than he thought. "Should be really be hanging around here?" he said.
"Don't worry about it. They're asleep now. They're in their castle."
"Oh, is that what that is?" asked Fernway, pretending that he had any idea what the word "castle" meant."
"I live there too, most of the time. When I'm not spending time in Fraggle Rock, that is."
"You live there?" spluttered Fernway. "But I thought you said the crea- the Gorgs hated Fraggles."
"They do. I live in the basement, where they hardly ever go."
"The basement? What's that?"
Ash got a slightly frustrated look on his face. "You know nothing about the world, do you?"
"Well, I wouldn't say that. I've seen things that no other Fraggles have seen. On my travels, you know."
"Based on the sound of it," retorted Ash, "you've seen dark caves that no one lives in. You need to learn about the world, Fernway. And by that, I mean the world beyond. The garden, the castle, the Gorgs..."
"How far does this 'world' go?" asked Fernway, intrigued.
"I don't know. I've never been far past the garden. But I've always wanted to. It's a dream of my mine to explore the outside world a bit more. Carrying on the tradition of Matthew Fraggle. And don't say you don't know who he is. I just told you about him."
"Well, this is all very interesting," said Fernway, "but I feel a little uneasy being here in the garden with those... creatures. Do you mind if I go now?"
"Well, I'm coming with you. Let's go back to Fraggle Rock now. I still live there some of the time, you see."
"Why do you care about me all of a sudden?"
"I'm just surprised to find a Fraggle who knows so little about this garden. But I like you. You seem to have the spirit of an explorer. I mean, you have spend years wandering around different caves, haven't you?"
"Yeah, I suppose,"
"Now, why don't we head back to the Rock? Later, I can introduce you to my friends."
"As long as they're Fraggles, and not... those things," said Fernway, pointing toward the castle.
"I told you. There are only three of them. Now stop being such an idiot. "
Fernway and Ash turned and headed back to Fraggle Rock.


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Jul 29, 2023
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Ash entered the hole leading back to Fraggle Rock, and Fernway followed him. In the brighter light of the caves, Fernway was able to get his first good look at his new friend. Ash was taller than Fernway, and appeared to be a few years older. He had yellow skin and red hair - a similar color to Fernway's, but much shorter. He wore a black jacket and a pair of boots. Fernway had never seen another Fraggle wearing boots before. On his chin, he had a small beard.
The two Fraggles hurried along the tunnel, and Fernway gradually realized that they were taking a different path than the one he had taken to arrive at the Gorgs' garden. The tunnel appeared to be longer than he thought.
"Where are we going now?" asked Fernway.
"Fraggle Rock, of course," replied Ash, sounding a little frustrated once again.
"You mean...?"
"Yes, the main part of Fraggle Rock, where most Fraggles live. I don't live here, as you know, but I still come here often."
Just then, Fernway realized with a shock that he was staring directly into the Great Hall, a place he hadn't seen in at least two or three years.
"We're here?" he gasped.
"Yeah, this is where the tunnel leads."
"But I've spent years wandering around Fraggle Rock, and I never found my way back here."
"Well, you've never been down this tunnel either, have you?"
"But... but..."
"Look, there are a lot of dark, empty caves down here that nobody lives in, nobody cares about, and just because you've spent years living in those doesn't mean you know everything there is to know about Fraggle Rock." Ash grabbed Fernway's hand and pulled him down a different tunnel that branched off from the larger one. "Now come on. We don't need to hang around the Great Hall. This is where I live when I'm in Fraggle Rock, and my friends live here too."
They walked down the smaller tunnel for a short while before arriving at a small cave, which contained a bed carved out of stone. "This is where I sleep when I'm here," explained Ash.
Fernway looked around the room. For a cave that was only lived in part-time, it seemed very well-furnished. There were sheets and blankets on the bed, a smaller cabinet carved into the rock where Ash stored some of his clothes, and a shelf in the corner containing books and other belongings of his.
"It's a very nice cave," said Fernway, looking around. "It looks so well taken care of. I thought you said you didn't come here often?"
"Nobody even knows I come here at all. This was an abandoned cave before I moved in. Aside from a few of my friends, nobody knows where I live at all. My family thinks I disappeared a couple years ago."
Fernway looked at Ash quizzically. "Your family? Who are they?"
Ash got an unhappy, slightly angry look at his face. Then he pointed to a painting on his shelf. "That's my family," he said.
Fernway walked over to the shelf and picked up the painting. It reminded him somewhat of his own picture, though it seemed much newer, and the paint had not begun to chip yet. The painting showed two smiling Fraggles who appeared to be Ash's parents. The father looked almost exactly like Ash himself, although without the beard, while the mother looked quite different, having long pink hair and green skin. They were posing with their two children, one of whom was clearly a younger Ash; the other was a girl, looking somewhat younger than Ash, who had also inherited her father's bright red hair, which she wore in two large pigtails. All of the Fraggles in the picture were smiling widely except for Ash.
"These are your parents?" Fernway asked.
"Yeah. I'm glad I got away from them. I don't think my parents ever cared much for me. My dad was the first official radish-gatherer for Fraggle Rock after Matthew discovered the garden. He never liked me. He would yell at me and say I was a disgrace to the family. My mom would just stand by smiling, trying to avoid a nasty fight. My sister, Red - she's in the portrait, too - she was the one my parents actually payed attention to. It was always 'Red this', 'Red that'. Meanwhile, I just stood around biding my time until I could graduate from the Cave of Young. Then it was on to bigger and better things," he said, pointing upwards to where the garden was located.
Fernway sighed. No wonder Ash would rather live in the Gorgs' castle than in Fraggle Rock.
"I don't even have a family," he said at last. "They died when I was young."
"I thought so," said Ash. "When a Fraggle decides to abandon everything and go live somewhere far away, it's usually because they think they're all alone. Whether they are not. I guess you really are alone, huh?"
"Absolutely," said Fernway. "The only Fraggle I've ever really known is Pailey. He was the one who raised me when my parents died. But he never saw me again when I left the Cave of Young. He probably thinks I died all alone in some tiny cave years ago."
"What happened to your parents?" asked Ash at last.
"They caught the Sniffling Snout Fever. Medicine wasn't exactly up to scratch in the Cave of Young, at least when I lived there."
"I know. Disease will strike at the worst of times. We need more Fraggles who know how to cure things like that."
There was a long pause. Finally, Ash got up from the bed where he was sitting and led Fernway out of the room.
"There are some more empty caves in here," he said. "You can sleep in one of them tonight."
In his heart, Fernway was thinking, I hope they're not as lonely and depressing as the caves I've been living in all my life.


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Jul 29, 2023
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Author's note: I might was well admit it - one of the main reasons I wrote this story was to explain why Wander McMooch completely changes his size in between "Junior Sells the Farm" and "Home Is Where the Trash Is". Thus, meet Willowtoads - they're a very rare species of creatures who live beyond the Gorgs' garden, who look like toads and can change their size. They're usually the size of a Fraggles but can become as small as a Doozer or as big as a Gorg. The main Willowtoad in this story is named Fratch, but McMooch might make an appearance later.


The next morning, Fernway awoke and slowly sat up. He blinked sleepily and looked around the cave where he had slept the night. The first thing he noticed was that the blanket he had slept on seemed a lot less torn and ragged than the one he always carried with him. Only then did he realize that his bindle, tied up with the blanket, was still lying on the floor beside him. The nice, soft sheets he had slept on were not ones he had ever seen before.
Just then, Fernway realized that he was not sleeping on the floor as he usually did. He was lying on a bed that had been carved into the stone wall of the cave. Fernway bent down, ducking to avoid hitting his head on the low-hanging roof of the bed, and jumped onto the floor. By now, he had realized that this was a cave he had never seen before. How had he ended up here?
At that moment, Fernway had a vision of a giant creature, ten times his height, chasing him through a large garden, and of himself caught in a cage and hanging from a tree. Then the events of the previous day immediately came back to him, and he remembered where he was. He had discovered the garden of the Gorgs, and met the strange Fraggle named Ash - the one who claimed to live in the Gorgs' castle.
Fernway picked up his beloved bindle and turned to walk out of the cave. Just then, he ran into Ash, who was just entering the room.
"I see you're finally awake," said Ash. "Outrunning Gorgs is exhausting, isn't it?"
"I suppose," said Fernway, still drowsy. "Are there any Doozer constructions around here. I'm starving?"
Ash stuck his head out of the entrance to the cave. "Hey, Hermer," he said. "The little guy wants food."
"Little guy?" snapped Fernway, growing upset. "I'm almost as old as you are!"
"Yeah? Well, your knowledge of everything except dark, lonely caves is about on par with a baby Fraggle."
Fernway opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment, a gray-skinned, yellow-haired Fraggle walked into the room. "Does he like radishes?" the gray Fraggle asked, tossing a large radish to Ash.
"How would I know?" said Ash, handing the radish to Fernway. "Try one of these. This is what Fraggles live on."
Fernway took a large bite of the radish. "Not bad," he said, chewing slowly, "but it takes a little getting used to."
"So you never saw the Gorgs' garden until now, eh?" said the gray Fraggle, eyeing Fernway up and down.
"Um, no," said Fernway, unsure of how to respond.
"What've you been doing all this time?" he asked, staring somewhat suspiciously at Fernway.
"Just wandering around the caves."
"And why would you be doing that?"
"I'm just searching,"
At that, the gray Fraggle burst into laughter. "Were you searching for your radish toothpaste?" he shouted, slapping his knee. "Get it, because we Fraggles don't have teeth?" He continued laughing hysterically.
"You'll have to excuse Hermer over here," said Ash. "He always makes jokes like that. Sure, he can get a bit annoying, but he's great at cooking with radishes. Otherwise I wouldn't go near him."
Hermer bounced out of the cave, still laughing about toothpaste. Just then, a very strange creature walked into the room.
"What is that?" blurted out Fernway, pointing and staring at the bizarre creature who had just walked into the room. He was about the size of a Fraggle, but had green skin and a hideous, wart-covered face.
"Oh, did I scare you?" said the creature, walking toward Fernway and vigorously shaking his hand. His skin felt leathery and unpleasant to touch. "Most Fraggles have that reaction when they say me." His voice was very gruff and raspy.
"What- I mean, who are you?" gasped Fernway, still shocked.
"My name's Fratch," replied the creature. "I'm a Willowtoad."
"A what?"
"I'm not surprised you haven't heard of Willowtoads. There's very few of us left. We live somewhere up there," Fratch pointed his short, stubby finger upwards.
"In the garden, you mean?"
"Oh, no. Farther than that. Well, I was born close to the garden, but most of us live somewhere far away."
"Aha," said Fernway, trying to be polite.
"Hey, watch this," said Fratch. He uttered a grunt and, to Fernway's amazement, shrunk several inches.
"What just happened?" said Fernway, startled.
"I was sizeshifting," said Fratch, returning himself to his original height. "We Willowtoads can do that. We can go as big as a Gorg, or as small as a Doozer. I'm not quite there yet, though. I'm still young for a Willowtoad."
"Great," said Fernway, still struggling for words.
"I met him when I first began living in the garden," explained Ash, as Fratch walked out of the room. "He'd spent all his life in a little forest not too far from there, and came to the garden by accident. I brought him back to Fraggle Rock. He's the only one who knows a bit about what's out there past the garden, which is something I'm very interested in."
"I'm sure you are," said Fernway.
"Hey, while you're here," said Ash, "you might as well meet all my friends. Come this way."
Ash led Fernway back into his own cave, where Hermer, Fratch, and two other Fraggles were gathered.
"This is Larkman," said Ash, pointing to one of the two Fraggles that Fernway hadn't met yet. A tall, handsome Fraggle with blue skin and hair walked up to Fernway and shook his hand. Like Fernway, he had a small beard, although his was of course blue. He wore a brown vest and shiny black boots.
"My name is Larkman," said the blue Fraggle, "Fraggle Rock's foremost authority on dangers of all sorts. I am skilled in diagnosing diseases, avoiding catastrophes, and preventing a tragically young death."
"I'm sure that will come in handy some day," said Fernway, unsure whether he was being sarcastic or not.
"And this is Tinkey," said Ash, pointing to the last Fraggle. This one was female; she had bright pink hair, green skin, and wore a light blue dress.
"I am very happy to meet you," said Tinkey, shaking Fernway's hand. "It's very nice to have a new friend with us. This is a very happy occasion for us all."
"Well, hi, Tinkey," said Fernway. "My name's Fernway,"
"Oh, that's a lovely name! And you, I'm sure, are a very lovely Fraggle. We are going to have very, very good fun together."
Tinkey hopped and skipped to a different corner of the room.
"What was that all about?" said Fernway under his breath, once Tinkey was out of earshot.
"She's the most obnoxiously positive Fraggle in the Rock," admitted Ash. "She feels it's her duty to find the bright side of everything. But she's descended from the Great Foreseer, and claims to be able to see the future. You can imagine how that would come in handy."
"I can imagine," muttered Fernway, hoping he would never have to hear any more of Tinkey's positivity ever again. "Hey, can I have a word with you in private?"
"I suppose," said Ash. Fernway quickly led him back into the deserted cave where he had slept the night.
"So what do you want to talk to me about?" said Ash.
"What is it with these people?" spluttered Fernway. "They're not friends, they're people who work for you! Why you have to state their job when you introduce them. 'Oh, so-and-so can see the future, and what's-his-face can cook with radishes'. What's the point?"
"I knew you would ask that," said Ash with a chuckle. "The truth is, these really aren't my friends as much as they are people I've hired. You see, each of my friends has a skill that will make them come in very handy when we all go on the journey we've been planning for years."
"And where exactly are you going?"
"Beyond," said Ash. "To see what there is when you go past the Gorgs' garden. I'm an explorer. I want to see what no Fraggle has seen before. And these Fraggles will help me avoid dying or getting lost too soon into the journey."
"Well, I can see why you need to Tinkey to help you see the positive side of things," said Fernway with a laugh.
"Look, exploring is a dangerous thing! And I want to be remembered years from now as the Fraggle who made amazing discoveries in a land where no one had gone before. Wouldn't you like to be remembered that way too?"
"Wait," said Fernway. "You're not saying..."
"Yes, I am," said Ash. "You clearly know a lot about exploring, and how to stay alive while traveling for a long period of time. So you might prove the most important member of the whole group."
Fernway said nothing. He would need a long time to consider Ash's offer.


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It's a nice place, Fraggle Rock, thought Fernway as he walked aimlessly around the Great Hall, watching all of the Fraggles happily living their carefree lives. Especially the parts that actually have Fraggles living in them. It's a shame that I might never see the place again.
It had been a couple of weeks since Fernway had first met Ash and his strange group of friends, and he had finally agreed to come with them on their journey into the Gorgs' garden and beyond. It was almost at the last minute that he'd agreed, as well, since Ash was planning for them all to leave within a few days.
Fernway wondered whether they would ever find their way back to Fraggle Rock, or whether they would get hopelessly lost. Plus, they might encounter great dangers along the way. More Gorgs, perhaps. Ash had assured Fernway that he'd never heard of any other ones existing during over two years that he'd lived in the Gorgs' castle, but that didn't eliminate the possibility of there being other creatures that were out to get them. Willowtoads, for example. Fratch claimed to be among the last of his species, but he did mention another of his race, an evil named Wander McMooch, who was apparently still alive out there somewhere. What if they were to meet him?
Or what if Fratch would turn on them and kill them all with his sizeshifting abilities? Or what if Ash had roped Fernway into this journey so that he could deliver him to the Gorgs to be eaten? There were an infinite amount of ways the journey could possibly go wrong, and Fernway thought it best not to think about them.
Fernway looked around the large cave that was the Great Hall. In every direction, Fraggles were singing and playing and dancing. They were jumping into the Fraggle pond, playing silly games, and devouring Doozer sticks. Fernway found that he was looking at the other Fraggles with something between contempt and envy. That blue Fraggle in the corner who was balancing a pickle on his nose, for example - he didn't know about the deepest, darkest caves in Fraggle Rock, nor of the ways of the Gorgs or even the existence of Willowtoads. But at the same time, that meant he got to live his live without worrying about any danger that could befall him. Even better, he didn't feel like there was nowhere in the world where he belonged. Oh, to be any Fraggle but himself, thought Fernway.
Fernway was so deep in thought while staring at the pickle-balancer that he didn't realize he was bumping into another Fraggle. Fernway collided with someone, fell to the ground, and dropped the stack of books that he was holding - books that he had borrowed from Ash and his friends. They were mostly about Fraggle diseases and injuries, as well as one about the dangerous wildlife in the Gorgs' garden, and a book written by Fraggle Rock's storyteller about the adventures of the explorer Matthew Fraggle. Fernway suddenly realized that he maybe shouldn't have been carrying those books around in a public place like the Great Hall, since Ash had insisted that their journey be kept secret from everyone outside of the group who would be going. Fernway quickly picked up the books and tried to hide them in his arms before the other Fraggle could see what they were.
"I haven't seen you around here before," said the other Fraggle. Fernway stood up to look at him. He was about Fernway's age, though a little taller, and had orange skin and purple hair. He wore a yellow vest and a purple cardigan. He was staring at Fernway a little bit suspiciously, as though he found it strange that a Fraggle he had never seen before had just bumped into him and spilled books all over the ground.
"Yeah, well... I, uh, don't live right around here," said Fernway awkwardly.
"Oh? Where do you live?" said the purple Fraggle.
"Somewhere over there," said Fernway, being sure to point in the direction opposite from where Ash's cave actually was.
"My name's Gobo," said the purple Fraggle. "What's your name?"
Fernway opened his mouth to speak, and suddenly stalled. It occurred to him that even his name might be something Ash wouldn't want him to share, given that he hadn't heard from him in years. "I'm F- uh, Fink... Gorg," he said slowly. "Yeah, Finkgorg!"
"Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Finkgorg," said the Fraggle named Gobo, giving Fernway a slightly quizzical look.
"Anyway, I gotta go and, uh, grab some Doozer sticks," said Fernway. "I'll see you around." He dashed out of sight.
"Wow, that was one nervous Fraggle," said Gobo after Fernway had left.
"I know," said a green Fraggle with yellow hair who was standing next to him. "He was weird."

Fernway munched on a Doozer construction as he entered the cave where Ash and his friends would meet to have discussions. They had spent most of the past few days in that cave, planning for the journey ahead.
When Ash stepped into the cave, he was greeted by Ash.
"Hey, if it isn't the newbie again. How goes the preparation?"
"Well, I collected a lot of Doozer sticks, like you told me to," Fernway said as he handed Ash a bucket full of Doozer constructions.
"Good," said Ash. "I'll pack these up and we can bring them on the journey. They stay good a long time."
Fernway briefly walked out of the cave to pick up the stack of books, which he had left outside. "Here are your books back," he said, handing them back to Ash.
"Have you gotten yourself thoroughly educated on Fraggle first aid and diagnosing diseases?" asked Larkman, who was standing in the corner reading another medical book.
"I thought that was your job," said Fernway timidly.
"Officially, it is. But I believe that we are in safer hands if all members of are party are sufficiently knowledgeable at understanding, and treating, the ailments that can befall a Fraggle on a journey such as the one we are about to undertake."
Fernway said nothing.
"Hey, Ferny!" shouted Hermer, who was wearing a banana peel on his nose for some unfathomable reason. "Did you hear the one about the Fraggle who got his left arm and leg thumped by Gorgs?" he said, bursting into laughter.
"Yeah, I'm sure it's extremely funny, but-"
"He's all right now!" Hermer yelled, tears rolling down his cheeks. "Get it? Because he doesn't half his left arm and leg anymore." Hermer continued his fit of hysterics.
"I assure you that Fraggle makes the best food in all of Fraggle Rock," Ash said quietly, pointing over his shoulder to Hermer. "He will help us stay alive on our journey."
If he doesn't kill us with his jokes, thought Fernway. "So how goes the preparation?" he asked.
"Well," said Ash, "I was waiting for you to ask me that. I've got everything we need packed in backpacks - one for each of us. Only yours needs packing. And I've procured the clothes that we'll need to wear when we go."
"Since when do we Fraggles need to wear clothes?" asked Fernway. "We have fur. I've never worn anything in my life, and I'm still doing alright."
"Yes, but they'll keep us warm if winter comes, and offer us extra protection. We'll all have to wear boots like mine, and these jackets." He held up a jacket that was lying on the floor. "Oh, and tail-guards."
"What are tail-guards?" asked Fernway.
Ash waved his tail in Fernway's direction. Fernway saw that it was wrapped in a metal sleeve, similar to armor.
"You want me to wear that on my tail?" spluttered Fernway.
"Well, of course. These things will prevent wild animals from ripping off your tail, and it won't get snagged by tree branches or crushed by rocks or anything."
Before Fernway could open his mouth to say anything, Larkman butted in again.
"I recommended to these to Ash myself," he said, "and owing to a painful tail-breaking incident in his childhood, he immediately agreed. A Fraggle's tail is very easily fractured, can be entirely torn off rather easier than you would believe, and the baloobius is very susceptible to entirely coming off if it is treated roughly."
Fernway walked out of Ash's cave. If he had to worry about wild animals ripping off his tail, or being crushed by falling rocks, then having to wear armor on his tail was the least of his problems. Should he even go on this journey at all?
Yes, said a little voice in his head. Because if you do, you might find the one place in the world where you belong.
So Fernway listened to that little voice, and began packing his backpack for the trip that lay ahead.


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Fernway stood, trembling, in the tunnel leading to the Gorgs' garden. He was wearing his helmet, jacket, and tail guard, but he didn't feel safe at all; on the contrary, he was sweating and his knees were trembling. Behind him were Hermer, Larkman, Tinkey, and Fratch; in front of him was Ash, who was standing directly in front of the hole that led to the garden.
Ash peeked into the hole and looked around for a few seconds. Then he stuck his head back into the tunnel.
"The Gorgs are out there," he said, turning to face the others. "So we'll need to be extra careful."
"Shouldn't we maybe wait until they go to sleep? It's nearly night already."
"No! We don't want to waste time. Come on! I know how to deal with Gorgs."
Fernway hesitated for a few seconds, before Ash grabbed him by the hand and pulled him through the hole. Ash entered next, and the other four followed him.
"Look on the bright side," said Tinkey with a large smile. "Even if there are Gorgs out there, they might be nice and friendly to us, and we can make friends".
Larkman muffled Tinkey with his hand until she decided to stop speaking.
"Now, everyone, remain very quiet," said Ash, as the six of them crept through the garden. Standing right outside the castle, Junior Gorg was wandering up and down the rows of vegetables, watering every plant. He was muttering a song to himself and had his back turned to the Fraggles. All the same, Fernway felt a chill creep up his spine just looking at him.
However, the six explorers managed to make it past the Gorgs, and after walking a bit more, they found themselves leaving the garden. They passed shrubs, bushes, a garden shed, and a small pond, until finally Ash told them to stop.
"Well, this is it," he said, looking at his fellow adventurers. "This is the farthest from Fraggle Rock I've ever been. If we go any farther we're officially out of the garden."
"You know," said Hermer suddenly, "that reminds me of a great joke I once heard about a Fraggle who had a garden where he only grew-"
This time it was Ash who muffled one of his friends.
"Quiet, okay?" he angrily whispered. "The Gorgs could still hear us." Fernway turned around and looked over his shoulder to make sure that they weren't sneaking up on him at the moment. But the coast seemed to be clear.
So, despite the bad feelings in their guts, they walked further. They left the garden and found themselves walking through what seemed to be nothing but wide fields covered in grass. There was no sign of anything alive once they left the garden - no Gorgs, no Willowtoads, no animals of any sort. Only a few crickets chirping in the background and the occasional flying creature landing in the trees. But even those were sparse now, for the fields seemed to go on forever.
The explorers walked for over an hour, by which time it had grown completely dark. Only then did Ash stop and tell his group that it was time for them to make camp for the night.
"It's too dark to go on any further tonight," he explained. "We'll have to stay here for the night,"
"Why did you make us leave so late anyway?" grumbled Fernway. "Shouldn't we have left in the morning?"
"No. If we'd left during the day, all three Gorgs would have been out in the garden, and they might have spotted us. Plus, some of the Fraggles might have seen us leaving. I assure you, it's safer this way."
Ash reached into his backpack and took out a small lantern which glowed in the darkness. He laid it on the grass beside him and took something else out from his backpack: a blanket, which he spread out on the grass.
"You should all have one of these in your backpacks," he said. "Take them out and we can prepare our beds for the night."
Everyone did so. Fernway's blanket was the one that he had with him before he met Ash, the one he used to tie up his bindle. Although no one else knew it, he had also brought with him his beloved painting, tucked safely into a corner of his backpack.
As Fernway spread his blanket out on the ground, Ash addressed the group. "One of you will have to stand guard," he said, "using this." He held out the lantern. "Who will it be?"
Fratch grabbed the lantern out of Ash's hands. "Oh, me! I can go a long time without sleep." Fratch stood in front of the others, holding out his lantern, while everyone else lay down on their blankets and prepared to sleep.
Fernway was the last to fall asleep that night. After all their companions had their eyes closed and were snoring happily, Fernway was still wide awake, staring into the gaping abyss that was the night sky. He had never seen so many stars in his life - he'd hardly ever seen stars at all. They were so tiny, yet so powerful. The sight of so many of them at once was enough to make even the bravest Fraggle feel insignificant - and he'd always felt insignificant.
When Fernway finally fell asleep, his dreams were filled with stars and Gorgs and wide green gardens.

Fernway awoke the next morning earlier than the other members of the group. It was beginning to get light out now, and Fratch had fallen asleep himself, still clutching his lantern in his green, scaly hand. Fernway sat on the grass beside him and took out some Doozer sticks from his backpack, which he readily ate. Radishes were alright, but Doozer sticks - the one thing he had consistently eaten all his life - made him feel comforted. Almost as though his parents were still alive and had their arms wrapped around him.
Larkman was the first to awake after Fernway. As soon as he had got up, he immediately began poking the other members of the group in the stomach, waking them as well. "Are we all still in perfect health today?" he asked.
While Larkman conducted his routine medical examination of all the explorers, Fernway walked away a small distance and looked over the countryside where he was standing. Wide, open fields were all that he could see - grass blanketing the ground like a vast ocean. Here and there were a few trees dotted sparsely across the landscape, but for the most part, flat, grassy ground seemed to make up the entire world beyond the garden. Fernway began to wonder if they would ever come across anything more.
The explorers walked for almost the entire day, stopping only a few times to catch their breath and eat radishes. They didn't come across anything interesting the entire time - only a few trees that bore no fruit they could eat. Occasionally, Ash would take a notebook out of his jacket pocket and make notes about the "discoveries" that the group were making, but it was clear that their expedition was so far uneventful. That night, they went to sleep in a field again. This time, Larkman and Ash took turns standing guard. Once again, Fernway was plagued by nightmares involving the stars - those wondrous things he had never seen before, and wished he would never see again.

The real discovery happened early the next day. In the distance, the explorers spotted a large forest, and by the end of the day they had managed to walk to it. Fernway had never even seen a forest before, though he'd read of them in books - though apparently, they weren't something many Fraggles saw. In fact, every member of the group except for Fratch admitted that this was the first real forest they'd actually seen. Thus, they were all very excited about reaching it, especially since it proved that there was more out here than just fields and grass.
It was late in the day by the time they finally arrived at the forest, and they decided to make camp in the forest and spend the night rather than going any further. Ash began frantically writing in his notebook, clearly excited that he had finally made an important discovery. Only Fernway seemed to be apprehensive about this sudden development.
When they stepped inside the forest, Fernway began to feel a sense of dread stronger than he had ever felt before. Maybe it was because of the way that the trees grew over his head and trapped them in near-darkness, but Fernway felt that there was something wrong with this forest, and that they shouldn't be inside it. Nevertheless, he didn't say anything, not wanting to have to listen to Tinkey's positivity, Hermer's jokes, or Larkman's dire warnings.
While Fernway may have been the only one who was afraid, all of the explorers were clearly nervous and wary, since they were in a place they had never been before. Only Fratch seemed to be right at home, bouncing around the place like he was meeting an old friend again. Eventually, Fernway had no choice but to ask why was he behaving in such a way - since he'd always been a little distrustful of Fratch.
"Why are so you happy?" asked Fernway, a little suspiciously. "What's pleasing you so much?"
"I was born and raised in a forest," said Fratch in his trademark raspy voice. "Maybe even this forest, for all I know. It feels good to be back here again. It's where we Willowtoads belong".
It was not long afterwards that the explorers decided to set up camp and sleep through the night. While Ash spread out their blankets, Fernway began to realize that he would never be able to sleep inside this dark forest. He'd be better off standing guard...
"I'll do watch duty for tonight," Fernway offered, reaching for the lantern that was held tightly in Ash's hand.
"What? You?" asked Ash, evidently surprised. "You don't have to."
Fernway wondered if Ash doubted his ability to serve as an adequate guard due to his naiveté and short stature. "I want to," he retorted.
"Well, suit yourself," said Ash, handing him the lantern.
Shortly afterwards, everyone went to sleep. Fernway sat down on a tree stump nearby, holding the lantern in his hand. All he could think about was how eerie the forest was. Every noise made him jump, and every imaginary shadow he saw was a Gorg about to squash him. Fernway spent much of the night trembling with fear.

Fernway awoke with a start and blinked his small eyes sleepily. He looked around, and realized that it was still nighttime, with the only light coming from his lantern. Immediately, he realized that he had done what he wasn't supposed to, and fallen asleep on watch duty. Ash was right. I'm not meant to stand guard.
Fernway looked behind him. All of the others were still fast asleep. If he resumed standing guard right away, nobody would know that he had ever fallen asleep.
Fernway reached down to pick up his lantern. Just then, he froze in his tracks. He could hear something... a terrible growling noise in the distance. Now he knew what had woken him up!
For a few seconds, all was quiet. Fernway wondered if he had imagined the noise. Then it started up again, louder and closer than before. Something was out there in the forest, and it was coming for him.
Fernway reached behind himself and began desperately prodding the nearest member of the party. Unfortunately, that was Fratch, whose skin was so thick that he didn't even feel Fernway's poking, and went right on sleeping.
When Fernway looked ahead again, he saw a pair of glowing eyes staring at him in the distance.
And then, at that very moment, a series of loud barking noises erupted as something large and hairy ran towards them and leapt into the air, opening and shutting its jaws as if trying to catch the Fraggles in its mouth. Some kind of fierce animal!
By this point, everyone had woken up. Ash opened his eyes to see the giant, green-furred creature grabbing Fernway by his tail and throwing him into the air. Fernway's tail guard slipped off, and he landed several feet away. When he tried to pick himself up, he saw the beast's huge snout staring right at him. The creature's saliva dripped onto his face, and he saw it gnashing its teeth.
The creature abruptly turned away, and Fernway saw that Ash was fending it off with a large stone he had picked up. He threw the stone, and the creature ran for it. But then it turned and began to pursue Ash.
"STOP!" called out a loud, deep voice. Immediately, the creature backed away, whimpering. Fernway saw a very tall, shadowy figure approaching them in the distance. That was the last thing he saw before he suddenly fainted, his small Fraggle body landing on the ground just inches from the fearsome creature.


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"We gotta get out of here!"
Fernway slowly awoke and sleepily blinked open his eyes. The first thing he saw as his eyes adjusted to the sudden daylight was Ash standing over him, a fearful look on his face. But Fernway was more interested in observing his surroundings.
He was no longer in the forest, and he appeared to be in a dwelling of some sort, which didn't appear to be underground. Glancing up, he saw that the roof was extremely tall, and the daylight was coming in through a small window in the wall.
"Where am I?" he mumbled.
"Wake up, idiot!" shouted Ash, grabbing Fernway by the shoulders and shaking him back and forth a couple of times. "We need to leave. Now!"
"Why? Where are we?"
"I'll tell you when we're safe!" said Ash, and jumped into the air. He landed on the windowsill and began pounding on the window with both hands, only to find that his soft hands were not strong enough to break the glass.
Fernway's heart began to pound as he heard loud footsteps coming closer and closer. Then, a door that he hadn't even noticed before opened, and into the room stepped something - someone - very large. It was a Gorg!
But not one of the three who lived in the garden. Though this Gorg shared the brown skin and hair of Junior, he was noticeably older, having white hair and a long beard on his chin. He was also much thinner than the Gorgs Fernway had seen, giving him a more imposing figure. He wore a long black cloak and, underneath that, a white shirt.
As soon as the Gorg stepped into the room, Fernway saw his large eyes flitting over to the corner where himself and Ash were cowering, shaking with every footstep the mighty creature took.
Then he spoke. "Going somewhere?" he asked, speaking in a deep, rumbling voice.
Fernway opened his mouth to respond. Ash quieted him. "Don't speak," he mumbled.
"Don't be afraid to talk. I mean you no harm."
"I understand, sir," said Ash. It's just... my friend and I were frightened to awaken in a place like this."
"Why would you be frightened?" asked the Gorg, stepping closer to the two terrified Fraggles.
"Well, we were alarmed to find that the rest of our companions were not with us."
"Don't worry yourselves," replied the Gorg. "Your companions are safe. Three Fraggles and a Willowtoad, right?"
"Um, yes, that's right. Where are they?"
"I believe they ran away when they saw me," said the Gorg, "but you needn't worry about them. No doubt they will return to Fraggle Rock."
"You know about Fraggle Rock?" asked Ash, surprised.
"Yes, and I also know about the Gorgs who live nearby. No doubt you have had unpleasant encounters with them in the past, and are thus afraid of all Gorgs."
Ash stammered for a while, before replying, simply, "Yes."
"Relax, then. Unlike those Gorgs, I shall not harm you. After all, I did save your lives."
Fernway couldn't keep quiet any longer. "What happened?" he blurted out. "Where are we?"
"You were attacked by a Woodbeast," explained the Gorg. "They live in these parts. However, I happened to be nearby and, hearing your screams, I scared off the beast." The Gorg paused. "As for where we are, you are in my home. This is the cottage where I live, and it is very near the forest where I found you."
"Thank you for rescuing us," said Ash, taking over the conversation once more. "I owe you a great debt. What's your name, if I may ask?"
"My name is of no importance to you. However, you may call me by my title... the Philosopher."
"What's a philosopher?" whispered Fernway to Ash. Ash returned him a blank look.
"You may stay at my home for as long as you like," continued the Philosopher. "I will provide you with food, water, and a place to sleep. Whenever you wish, you may depart this cottage and return to wherever it was you were going - provided that you inform me before you leave. I don't want sneaking out through the windows."
"I understand, sir," responded Ash.
"I will leave you two alone now," said the Philosopher, turning to exit the room. "I shall be elsewhere in the cottage. You may help yourselves to the food in my pantry, and sleep in my cellar." With that, the Philosopher walked away, closing the door behind him.
The two Fraggles heard the Philosopher's footsteps in the distance. As soon as he was far enough away that they could talk in private again, Fernway whispered, "What are we going to do?"
"We'll do exactly what he says," responded Ash.
"But I don't trust this... this... Gorg!" blurted out Fernway.
"Neither do I. But if we do as he says, we have a good chance of getting out safely. We can stay for a couple of days, and afterwards, we can ask him if we can leave."
"What if he says no?"
"Then I'll find something heavy that I can shatter the windows with. But we don't need to worry about that just yet."

And so, the two Fraggles stayed in the Philosopher's cottage for two days. There was only one other room in the cottage, which was furnished rather meagerly; there was also a cellar, in which the Fraggles slept on beds made specially for them by the Philosopher. They ate their fill of his food - which, luckily, included many vegetables, including mushrooms, which Fernway was eager to try for the first time. They drank his water, and bathed in bowls of it each night. They were glad to be safe from the evils that may have lurked outside - but all the same, they grew more uneasy with each minute they spent inside the cottage. There was something about the way the Philosopher stared at the two Fraggles, or the way he spoke, that made them both uncomfortable. So, on the morning of their third day in the cottage, Ash broached the subject of the Fraggles' departure over breakfast.
"There's something I want to ask you," said Ash. Him and Fernway were sitting on top of a large table in the main room of the cottage, which the Philosopher was seated at in an enormous chair. He was eating meat and bread, while the Fraggles ate mushrooms and celery. The entire meal, the Philosopher had been staring at the Fraggles as though he expected them to ask exactly what they were planning to ask. Ash's knees were trembling when he looked the fearsome Gorg in the eye while pleading to be freed.
"I think I know exactly what you're going to ask," responded the Philosopher. "You and your friend would like to leave my castle."
Ash gulped. What should he say? "Well, I suppose so," he muttered meekly.
"You needn't be ashamed," said the Philosopher. "I understand that being under the same roof as a Gorg is making you uncomfortable."
Ash said nothing, but awkwardly stared at his rescuer-cum-captor.
"However," continued the mighty Gorg, "it pains me to tell you that you cannot leave my home."
Fernway and Ash exchanged terrified looks.
"Not yet, at any rate. You can leave very soon. But first, you must do me a favor. You see, I saved your life that night in the forest. You must do something for me in return."
"But... what?" asked Ash, incredulous. "What could a Fraggle possibly do for a Gorg?"
"Silence, my friend. I will tell you just what it is you may do for me. Now, what I am about to say may sound outlandish; you may assume my request is not within the capability of a Fraggle. However, I assure you it is. I want you to help me find the rest of the Gorgs."
Even Ash, trying as hard as he could to be diplomatic, couldn't resist blurting out a loud "What?"
The Philosopher chuckled gently. "I expected you to have such a respond. Perhaps I should elaborate a little. You see, we Gorgs are a dying race. We began dying out hundreds of years ago, and now there are very few left. Myself and the three whom you know are among the very last Gorgs alive. But we are not the only living Gorgs. There are others. And I want you to find them."
"But where can we look?"
"Far from here. On the other side of Fraggle Rock."
"What do you mean?" asked Ash.
"You see, these few Gorgs who are still alive are not in the land of the Gorgs anymore. They were transported elsewhere, to another land accessible only through Fraggle Rock. If I return you to Fraggle Rock, you must promise me that you will search for this other land."
"And what if we don't promise?" asked Ash, growing perhaps a bit bolder than he should have.
"Then, my dear friends, I will have to keep you here for a long, long time. Or worse."


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"So, this is where you came from?"
The tall and fearsome Philosopher stood just a few yards outside of the Gorgs' garden. As he spoke, he looked down to the ground, where Fernway and Ash were standing, trembling with fear in his mighty shadow.
"Yes," said Ash at last, after a long pause. "This is where all Fraggles live."
The Philosopher breathed deeply and looked in the direction of the garden. Fernway thought he could see a brief flash of fear coming over the Gorg's face. Then he turned his gaze back to the two Fraggles.
"I must depart now," the Philosopher said, still nervously eyeing the spot in the distance where the castle was. "I have brought you back to your homes. But know that, just because I am leaving now does not mean I will not be nearby."
"I understand, sir," said Ash, gulping.
"I will be nearby," continued the Philosopher. "I will be watching you all the time. And, if you want to continue living here at Fraggle Rock, you will do as I told you. You must search the Rock for the entrance to the other world. In thirty days I will return here, and you must meet me to discuss what you have founded. If you do not do so, harm will befall yourselves and perhaps other Fraggles."
"Yes, sir," said Ash, shaking and sweating while tugging at the collar of his jacket.
"Farewell," said the Philosopher, and turned away. "For now," he added, as he began walking away and was soon out of the Fraggles' sight.
Immediately, the two explorers began running through the garden until they reached the hole to Fraggle Rock, which they dove into. They didn't even look behind themselves to see if the three Gorgs from the castle were out in the garden. Now that they had met the Philosopher, those Gorgs didn't seem dangerous at all anymore.
As soon as they were back in Fraggle Rock, Ash and Fernway headed for the caves where they had planned their expedition. Only when they reached the cave where Ash lived in did they finally speak again.
"What are we going to do?" shouted Fernway. "He's going to kill us!"
Ash calmly put his hands on Fernway's shoulders. "This is what I was afraid of all along. I wanted to explore because I wanted to see something different. But the whole time, I knew that I might encounter something very dangerous. And look where we are now. All our friends are missing, maybe dead, and that Gorg is watching us!"
"Ash," asked Fernway slowly, tears welling up in his eyes, "are we going to die?"
"Not if we do what he says," replied Ash. "That's the only way we can survive. We're explorers, aren't we?"
"Yes," said Fernway feebly.
"Then let's explore!" said Ash. "We'll search every nook and cranny of Fraggle Rock for that entrance!"
"What if we can't find it?"
"Then we're on our own. It'll be just you and me against a Gorg half our size."
Fernway collapsed onto the bed in the cave, not caring that it was cold, hard stone.

Fernway and Ash spent the next few weeks scouting every corner of Fraggle Rock for a possible entrance to this "other land" that the Philosopher had cryptically mentioned. They encountered many caves and caverns both large and small, including a few that Fernway had called home in the past, but they never found anything that looked like an entrance to anywhere. And, after weeks of searching, they began to feel it was a lost cause.
Time continued to pass, seemingly quicker than it ever had before. Soon enough, over three weeks had passed, and the two Fraggles had just a few days to find that entrance or - most likely - be killed by the Philosopher. But at this point, they had already given up.
Well, Fernway had given up. At the moment, he lay lethargically on his bed, staring at the roof of his cave and wondering about what it would be like to be squished to death by a Gorg. But Ash, on the other hand, was still trying his best. He had recently discovered a tunnel that diverged from the Great Hall, and was exploring it at that very moment. But Fernway knew it wouldn't lead anywhere.
Fernway took out his book of Fraggle proverbs, one of the only belongings he had ever owned. It was filthy and dusty, and the pages were torn and yellowing. But staring at its small pages brought Fernway back to his days in the Cave of Young. Oh, how lovely those days had been. His parents may have been gone, but he had a good Fraggle looking after him, and lived his days carefree. No Gorgs pursuing him then. Oh, how wonderful that was...
Fernway was so deeply lost in thought that he barely noticed Ash bursting into the room and running right up to him, panting and sweating. Only when Ash shouted "You need to see this!" did Fernway finally look up from his book.
"What is it?" he asked quietly, doubting that the answer could possibly be good news.
Ash practically bounced up and down with excitement. "I think I've found it!" he cried. "The entrance! I've found the other world!"
"That's impossible," said Fernway quietly, letting pessimism get the best of him. There was no way that was true. It couldn't be.
"Come on," said Ash, grabbing Fernway by the hand. "I'll show you."
Before Fernway could even open his mouth to protest, Ash was leading him out of the caves, back to the tunnel, and into the Great Hall. Then they walked through the Great Hall and into another tunnel. Finally, they stopped, and Fernway found himself staring at a large hole in the rock. He was very strongly reminded of the hole leading to the Gorgs' garden that he had discovered not that long ago...


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Jul 29, 2023
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Ash nervously peeked his head through the hole and looked around. Then, slowly, he stepped inside the hole, and entered the strange new area fully.
"What's it like in there?" asked Fernway, who was standing a few feet behind in the tunnel.
"See for yourself," replied Ash. "It looks safe." So Fernway gingerly crept into the hole and stood next to his friend.
"What is this place?" Fernway found himself asking. It wasn't quite like any place he'd ever been in before - it almost seemed like a cross between underground and above ground. Only one thing was certain: they weren't in Fraggle Rock anymore.
"I'm not sure where we are," said Ash, looking around to assess the situation. "But we might be in some kind of above-ground dwelling, like the Gorgs' castle. Which would mean somebody lives here. Or used to live here."
Ash and Fernway walked through the room. For a Fraggle, it was extremely large and spacious, with the roof being many feet higher than in Fraggle Rock, though not as high as a Gorg. The room was devoid of any furnishings that might lend credence to Ash's theory of it being a home. However, Fernway did observe that the walls and floor appeared to be made of something other than rock.
"Let's see if we can find a exit," said Ash. "Then we'll know if we're underground or not." Ash continued walking around the room, until he saw something that evidently excited him greatly.
"A door!" Ash cried, pointing to something in the corner. "I've seen these in the Gorgs' castle." He walked up to the door, located the handle, and tried to turn it.
"Of course, this door clearly wasn't made for Fraggles," said Ash, unable to reach the handle. "Here," he said, beckoning to Fernway, "you stand on my shoulders and turn it."
Fernway climbed onto Ash's shoulders and successfully reached the door handle, though it took all his strength for him to turn it. Then, the door gave way suddenly, and the two Fraggles had to leap away to avoid being hit by it.
Ash was the first one to look outside. He gave a small gasp, and his eyes widened. "We are above ground," he said. "We could be in another part of the outside world."
Fernway stuck his head outside. He was grass, like he had seen in the garden. "Maybe it is Gorgs who live here," he said with a shudder.
"They'd have to be mighty small, Fernway," said Ash. "A Gorg's nearly twice as tall as that ceiling."
That didn't assuage Fernway's fears entirely, for there could still be even worse creatures lurking outside. Still, he gathered up the courage to follow Ash out of the door... and into the outside world.
As soon as they had walked a few steps away from the door, they found grass touching their feet, but it didn't extend very far. The rest of the ground was covered in a harder material that looked more similar to rock. When they got far enough away, the Fraggles discovered that they had been inside some kind of structure - like a cave built above ground.
"It is a dwelling," said Ash, observing the building they had left. "These are what creatures other than Fraggles live in. The Philosopher lived in one of these too." Both Ash and Fernway shuttered at the mere mention of his name.
Looking around, the two Fraggles could see that there were several more of these structures nearby, each one of which was surrounded by a small patch of grass. Fernway began to feel uneasy.
"You think anyone lives in these structures?" he asked at last.
"Someone - something - probably lives in each one," said Ash, looking more than a little frightened himself.
"But what kind of creatures would they be?"
"We can only guess. But we might encounter one soon enough."
They walked past the grassy patch, over the harder ground, and onto the grassy patch surrounding the next structure. Only then did Fernway stop dead in his tracks.
"I hear something," he said, listening intently.
"What? Do you hear one of the creatures?"
"I don't know, Ash, it could be."
Ash never had time to respond, for at that moment there was a horrible noise, and an enormous, four-footed creature came racing along the hard ground toward them, only to abruptly stop outside the structure they were standing by. Then, the Fraggles watched in horror as the monster opened, and out stepped another creature.
This creature couldn't have looked more different from the creature that it had stepped out of. It looked much more similar to a Gorg, though only half the height, and it had no fur except on the very top of its head. The tall creature immediately began walking up to the grassy patch - and toward the two terrified Fraggles.
Ash and Fernway gave each other a quick look. There was a mutual understanding between them. They immediately took off and ran as fast as they could, back to the structure they had first entered. This time, they didn't need to stand on each other's shoulders - Ash, the taller of the two, leaped so high in the air that he was able to grab the handle of the door and turn it. Then, when they were back inside the structure, they pushed on the door with all their might to close it.
"Whatwasthat?" screeched Fernway, seriously out of breath. "Whatwasit?'
"Idon'tknow," replied Ash, equally terrified. They were too scared to say anything more. Instead, they turned and ran back into the hole. Back to Fraggle Rock. Back to safety.