There, in the distance, a speck on the horizon. Jake guessed that it must be dhê Vilij and so he sped Orph the Backwards Donkey onwards, rump first, towards their destination.
And after a while he knew he was right. He could make out people, huts and animals of various kinds. There was also a small hill nearby, with horses grazing on it.
Jake halted Orph to a stop, “Orph, I think there’s something we should do before we get to Thê Vilige…”
“Er, yes, well anyway. I think before we get there we have to turn you around. I mean, a donkey walking backwards may seem a bit strange to them, don’t you think?”
“What are you suggesting?” wondered a suspicious Orph.
“Well, maybe you could try walking head first, I mean backwards, you know the normal way round.”
The tail twitched pensively, “Yes, I suppose that would be a good idea. Let’s give it a try.”
And so they did. Orph turned around, head first, that is to say backwards, and very carefully he trotted on as carefully as he could with instructions to “aim a bit more left. No, my left,” and “go right, no I mean left, no, wait, the other left!” and “Watch out for that hole…!”
Well, once they’d extracted Orph from that they carried on, and soon found themselves nearing the village, erm, dhê Vilij.
A couple of unusual things caught Jake’s eye, like the fact that there were some pigs playing Twister and a group of trees looming over them holding various weapons as though they were to attack the pigs, but in extremely slow motion.
“Hello!” responded Jake.
“Wùy doo dhii cum hiêr straynjêr?”
“What?” asked Jake to a very tall, broad shouldered, yet thin limbed woman. Jake thought he noticed something weird, but couldn’t put his finger on it.
She stopped in her tracks and gaped at Orph. “Haw iz dhis posibêl?”
Jake knew he recognized the words but the way they sounded, sounded like Inglish, er, English as if it were written how it was spoken, if that makes sense.
“Yòr donkii! Yò’r rùyding it bakwêrds. Haw doo yoo doo dhat?”
“Orph, do have any idea what she’s saying?”
“Yes,” said the tail, “She’s saying that you are riding me backwards, as though the way we were riding was correct and we needn’t have changed.” He gave Jake a withering look for putting him through what he’d put him through.
“Pliiz doo not bii êlùrmd fer maydên, wii ùr travêlêrz in an unown wêrld. Wii hav cum from fùr êwey.” Having the donkey speak was little more than a miracle to the “fer maydên”. Jake wondered how Orph could speak such good Here-ian (as he came to call the language of Hiêr).
“Bran!” the fer maydên called to a hut, “Ùy think yoo shôold cum and sii dhis! Dher`z ê man hiêr rùyiding ê tòlking donkii bakwêrdz!”
“Down`t bii sillii, Bêrkiitê! Dhat’s imposibêl!” A man came out of a nearby hut, looking similar to the woman, with broad shoulders and skinny limbs, but with a wide handlebar moustache covering his face. And there was something strange about him as well that Jake couldn’t put his finger on. “Gôod griif, yò’r rùyt!”
Jake wondered how they thought he was riding Orph backwards if Orph’s head was facing forwards. Then he looked over to the hill and noticed something strange about the horses up there, they were walking backwards and it looked like their tails were grazing.
“Wel,” spoke the man, “Eniiwun dhat can get ther stiid too rùyd bakwêds iz mòr dhan welkêm. Yò`r in tùym fòr awêr Bùrdic fiist. Cum!”
Jake understood that last word, at least, so he followed, except something made him stop in his tracks. As the man and woman turned around he saw what was so strange about them that he hadn’t noticed, they were flat! Two dimensional! They were walking sheets of paper.
Orph also noticed this, “Ùy think sumthing wiêd iz gowing on hiêr…”
“Oh! Yes… I think something weird is going on here. I feel the Great Evil has come through here and played some games.”
“You mean the sky is blue, the grass is green, the people are flat but still look fairly human…? you know, that sort of weird, for Imagi-Nation.”
“No, I mean there is a rift in the fabric of Imagi-Nation that has twisted it. I know this place; pigs don’t play twister, trees don’t declare war on pigs, horses don’t walk backwards and people aren’t flat.”
“And they speak a weird sort of English…”
“What? Oh… no, no, that’s the way it should be Hiêr.” Orph looked around, trying to look for another detail, “And there should be a Droowid somewhere around here, there always is, but he’s disappeared, which makes this even weirder!”
“We’ve got work to do then?”
“Yes, Jake my lad, we do indeed!”
Bran and Bêrkiitê, who had been quietly waiting, signaled for them to follow them to a roundhouse, from which a lot of frivolity was emanating, into which all four of them disappeared.