Welcome to Epicland. There are three paths in front of you. Each will take you on an epic journey into unknown-sometimes unknowable–lands. You may survive or, then again, you may not.

If you take the middle path, you will embark on a journey to the Phantom Woods. If you make it all the way through the forest of man-eating persimmons–which should be easy as a breeze if you are a non-man–and manage to avoid the deadly embrace of the vampire vines that lurk below ground, you will be welcomed and rewarded by the queen of the Phantom Woods. What your reward is you will learn once you reach the Woods. No one has ever returned from the Woods so it remains a closely kept secret of the Wood folk.

Take the left path and you will face the Kingdom of Mud on your way to the Sacred Pit that holds the secret to eternal life. The road is long and full of dangers as befits a quest of this magnitude. Many life forms thrive along this way and not all of them are friendly to strangers. The vampire vines are everywhere in this part of Epicworld but there are far more dangerous creatures above ground.

It’s in this part of the world, known as the Shadowlands, that the waspigs breed, the fleshchafers hunt, and the mudhawks go on vacation. If you have exceptional luck you might encounter a redtail lizard and take it on as a companion for these dangerous parts. Everyone is afraid of the redtail lizards despite their modest size.

If you survive the journey through the Shadowlands there is one final obstacle to overcome and it is a big one: the Wall of Wrath. Few of those who have dared the Wall of Wrath have reached the other side. Most fall victim to its constantly moving bowels made up of trees and tall grass that are always hungry. Survive the Wall and you will gain eternal life.

If right is where your heart pulls you, you are in for a fiery adventure across the Breathing Desert and the Pyre of Doom*. As you set out on this journey, be sure to pass the first ten miles quickly. This is where the Portal of Hell hides in plain sight. One wrong step and your journey will be cut short as will your life.

Pass these dangerous first ten miles and you will reach The Breathing Desert, a deceptive place overgrown with vegetation thick enough for everyone to lose their way. Once they wander off the path, the desert will reveal itself and its quicksand will swallow the unwary traveller.

Those who resist the temptation of the delicious fruit hanging almost within reach and keep to the path, will cross the desert unharmed, only to face the Pyre of Doom. It never burns when you reach it. The fire only starts if you try to cross it. Though not as vast as the desert, the Pyre is high and wide, and everyone would first attempt to cross it to see what lies beyond instead of going around it. The flames will be out and up into the sky the moment you set foot on the first dry twigs on the Pyre’s outskirts. If you really want to see what’s beyond it, keep going through the fire. Pull back to go around and you will be consumed by the flames.

What lies beyond the Pyre? This would be the Cherry Tree of Knowledge. Eat its fruit and learn all the secrets of the world if you survive the pain that comes with acquiring so much knowledge in the space it takes to eat a cherry.

Now for reality. Yeah, I know, reality sucks but not always if it can make a garden look like a fantasy land. Plus you can stop reading right now.

The Phantom Wood is a copse of trees whose official name I don’t know but they look nice at the far end of our garden. The Cherry Tree of Knowledge is right before it and its fruit is delicious. The Shadowlands span the dry ground patch my daughter plays in–with mud, of course–and the rest of the Shadowlands are actually pretty sunny, devoid of mudhawks, waspigs, and fleshchafers but rich in plain old wasps and rose chafers–the latter I believe are among the more beautiful members of the insect world.

The Wall of Wrath is very real. It’s made up of saplings and branches that fell victim to the Clearing of the Garden and Making It Look Like a Garden quest. There are a lot of them and the thing basically looks like the tree barrier from Pet Sematary. The Sacred Pit of Eternal Life…Well, the thing is… that’s actually our compost pit. Oh, well, flights of fantasy and so on.

There’s no Breathing Desert because it was cleared during the CGMILLG quest but the vampire vines–or wild vines, at any rate–are all over the place and can trip you very skilfully. They can’t be exterminated without heavy equipment that will change the whole face of the place so we’re keeping them.

The Pyre’s also real. It’s all those things you get to burn when the weather’s right. By “things” I mean leaves and grass, and smaller dry branches that just clutter the place, we’re not some sort of pyromaniacs.

There are many more fantasy lands in this garden. There’s the Wooden Kingdom (The patch with walnut trees) and the Hanging Labyrinth (more vines but cultured this time), and also the lair of the Stinking Beast with a Hundred Arms (a rosemary bush gone wild and now almost as tall as me, which is 5′ 2″), and the Realm of Simple Joy (two intertwined fig trees framed by two giant rose bushes), and the Slope of Conscience (that one’s a really annoying landslip candidate. We tried to plant some lawn grass to stabilize it and the ants plundered the seeds within an hour, so we gave up.)

Landscapes just beg to be turned into fantasy worlds, don’t they?

*An epic tale without a Something of Doom isn’t epic at all.

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