As they trudged on through the ditches and thistle, the forest became denser and nearly impossible for all of them to squeeze between any of the trees side-by-side. After much debate they finally decided maybe they should walk in more of a mob, or a some-people-in-front-of-the-others kind of line. The fight over who should get to stay in the front and who would have to move to the back was still in progress when a sudden, blazing, bright light practically blinded them all, and indeed literally blinded one of them.
After the initial shock, the light dimmed and a beautiful, celestial godlike being blinked into their vision. She or he, or it, was impossible to describe. But it was basically this:
The head of a dolphin, still dripping shining beads of water, with the mane of a lion, but a female lion so not the big one you'd expect, the ears of an elf, all fixed ornately atop the pearly white body of a unicorn (NOT a horse), with the tail of an aroused peacock splayed out behind. Where the blinding light had come from was not immediately, nor possibly ever would be, apparent.
The creature shuffled forward on its legs of a (did I forget to mention this?) crab, and declared in a booming yet feminine voice, "Greetings, wanderers!"
They all squinted toward it and responded in a slow unison, "Greetings, ...." but it trailed off at the end as each of them began muttering a different name or description for the thing. It seemed to get the point though, because it replied,
"You have now entered the realm of the Hand. You may not go forth further unto the Realm of the Hand unless I give you permission. Cross me and you shall die!"
The black hooded guy, or whichever one was Of the Hand, stepped in front of the rest of the group.
"Have no fear, strange beast!" he shouted. "I myself am a Man of the Hand, and these good people are with me."
"You may not go forth further unto the Realm of the Hand unless I give you permission. Cross me and you shall die!", said the creature.
"Let me handle this," said Errol, as he looked up toward the tall man in black. He felt very proud and powerful to be commanding such a tall man.
"Very well, creature of the Hand. What must we do to obtain your permission? For we are on a very serious journey and we must pass here otherwise we'll have to find somewhere else to go, and we spent a long time walking here."
"To obtain my permission," said the thing, "you must answer a riddle. Now, be forewarned: You only have three guesses, so you must think carefully. If you answer all three incorrectly, I shall never EVER grant you passage. And no backsies, once you guess, that guess counts."
Someone from the back of the mob shouted, "Do we EACH get three guesses, or..."
"THREE guesses, total," said the creature. "Now, here is your riddle..."