Richard Hood sat in the Cleft Valley middle school bus.
His legs bounced with the road, he held his nose against the window; smearing it till he could barely see his tan reflection.
This was his first time going on a field trip to the forest, and he took twenty minutes that morning trying to figure out what to wear.
He went with brown tech pants and a camouflaged green long sleeved shirt; his brother had outgrown it years ago, but the stitches held nicely.
He thought they matched his sky blue eyes perfectly. Emily Greene and Carol Hyatt sat on the opposite bench
Across the aisle, they were two of his four person group, the fourth which just so happened to be Jonathan Burns Was still in the back with his pale face hanging out the window as he looked at the past road.
He never did too well on long car trips and this one was going to be around forty five minutes, even though they had only been on the road for fifteen minutes Jonathan didn’t hold out long.
Richard sat looking around at everything, his mom asked him to go on an adventure for her since she loved trails and woods, but today was just for school kids and three teachers, half of the kids only went to avoid more school work.
Richard pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of an eagle circling a nest at the top of a tall dead tree; his mom would love to see it later.
He tugged at the camera strap in anticipation for the hike. The kids would go off, only thirty feet from the others alone
In their five person groups and collect samples for their nature projects, (Richards fifth person decided not to show up that day but they were still allowed to go on the hunt with only four) in the end whoever won would get an A+ and a gold medal to wear till the bullies scared it off.
That is of course unless a bully won. And speaking of bullies, Richard looked up at a sound and straight into the smiling faces of Rick Busters and his crony whom everyone called Dude.
“Hey shorty, what are you doing?” Richard look away and back out the window. “I’m just thinking, how about you Rick?
What are you doing?” Rick snorted and glared at Richard. “I’m thinking what to say to the teachers when they pin a medal on me and give me my first A+. Because Shorty,
I will win; you don’t stand a chance, you’ll see, I’m going to beat you to a pulp.” Richard looked back to Rick and pretended to be bored even though his mind was racing
He never like controversies and facing Rick in a fight felt like a war, this guy stood a head taller and his shoulders were already squared and his arms bulged with fat and muscle, this thirteen year old was not one to be trifled with.
“Well Rick, if that’s the way you want to do it that’s fine, but please don’t flood the school with tears when I win.” Rick was taken aback.
“You?” he smirked “You’ve never won anything in your life, what makes this any different?”
At that point Jonathan walked slowly back swaying with the road, his face now a dark grey.
“Hey, you can’t begin to understand how much my pal has won. He won this fight by not punching your snotty lights out; a fight
I’d be willing to loose if it weren’t for my head swimming. Now please sit down if you don’t want me to throw up on you.”
Ricks disgusted face turned and slid back into his seat along with Dude and not another word was mumbled from the pair till they reached the park. Jonathan sat down next to Richard as his friend pat him on the back, Jonathan nodded and put his spinning head between his legs and squeezed his eyes shut, he couldn’t wait till they got to the park; he knew they had a good bathroom stall.
The groups of kids lined up between the bus and the trails. Miss. Sarah (who was an ex-nurse) stood facing the students,
She marched between them like a drill sergeant as she told them the rules. “No shoving, Daniel this means you.”
A kid from Ricks group showed a sly smile, his reputation followed him wherever he went since he shoved that kid into the schools pool last summer. Miss. Sarah continued once the kids stopped nudging each other.
“And no one is to scream or frighten anyone else unless there’s trouble; we don’t want any false alarms, and please stay with your
Group and only go calling distance, no one should get lost. Also do not leave the path, Okay? There is plenty to find within the path-
Limits; when the whistle blows three times head back here.
Now go and may the best group win” She waved the kids off as they ran. Richard, Emily, and Carol waited against the bathroom hut wall for Jonathan; he was still feeling weak and sick.
He staggered out and Richard caught him. “Okay, what did I miss?” Miss. Sarah walked up to him.
“Only my safety speech but your group will tell it to you as you go. Go on, the others have already left.” Richards’ group ran off to the trail and went in search of the best thing in nature.
They felt sure they would win, till they ran into Ricks’ group. Laughing and singing a taunting song as they held a full bird skeleton. Rick led the way. Smiling a victory smile
“Hey short stuff, guess what we just found?” Richard studied the dead bird hard, putting his fist under his chin like he was thinking
“I know; you found your long lost twin?” Rick stepped forward and shoved the skeleton down into Richards face.
“This is a full skeleton of a King Eider, and this is going to be first place. Beat that you runt!”
He and his five person gang tramped off back to the bus and the three waiting teachers to show their supposed winning bird.
Richard kicked a stone and watched it roll down the hill after the retreating bullies.
He secretly wished he could kick it harder so it would hit them, but the stone was already too far to do it and still make it look like an accident.
Emily sighed “Well, that’s that. Let’s go find something to bring back.”
Carol and the Weak Jonathan followed, but Richard lagged behind. He dragged his feet and stared at the dirt path.
They were going further into the woods; they started a climbed up a trail that looked like it led straight to heaven, this trail was almost vertical. Richard looked up and gulped.
“Hey EM, is the prize worth this?” Emily looked behind and laughed. “Richard Hood you’re not scared are you?”
Richard shrugged. “It depends on what there is to be scared of, a path leading to heaven, No, a path leading to a fall off a five hundred foot trail, Yes.”
Emily laughed and shook her head. “I know it’s against the rules but how about you and Jonathan go that way” She pointed to a trail leading down to the left side of the hill.
“And Carol and I will go this way, but if you find something, call us back so we don’t waste our time, we’ll do the same okay?”
Jonathan looked at Richard and nodded, he didn’t like huge cliffs either. Richard looked up at the girls who were already climbing. “Sure, that sounds good.”
The girls marched upwards and onwards, while Richard and Jonathan walked slowly left, looking for something, something better than a dumb dead bird.
While they walked Jonathan watched the ground and Richard watched the tree tops. Maybe he could find a live King Eider that would defiantly trump the dead one. They walked a little more and past a group of school kids.
One girl from his class smiled wide, she held something trapped inside a glass jar. “Don’t waste your time fellow’s we got the winner.”
She wouldn’t let them see what it was, but the four other smiling faces were convincing enough. “Okay thanks.”
Jonathan waved them off and walked on. Richard sighed “Hey Jonathan, what are we looking for?”
Jonathan smiled through his queasiness “I don’t know, but when we see it, we’ll know” Richard looked up, he was tired of optimism, how about a little honesty, he thought, we can’t win; we’re wasting our time.
Suddenly as the boys walked, a blue light shinned into their eyes. Jonathan jumped back and covered his eyes. “Ow! What in the world? Please don’t be a vampire bat”
Richard stepped out of the beam and laughed “A vampire bat?” Jonathan shrugged “what else could it be? Only vampires have blue shinning eyes.”
Richard smiled at his silly friend “I thought they were red?” He was investigating the source of the blue light; it was coming from the top of a tree, the sun shone through it like a flash light and the whole area where the boys were glowed blue.
It was a hard thing to miss. Jonathan pointed with a white finger. “It’s in the tall tree right there do you see it?” Richard nodded and shielded his eyes.
“If we could get that thing, we would probably win.” Jonathan bobbed his head “Yeah, but how are we going to get it?” Richard studied the tree.
“Well Maybe I could climb it?” Jonathan shook his head “To tall, you’d fall” Richard shrugged “At least we’d win right?”
Jonathan looked sideways at his friend who was maybe just a little too stubborn. “If you want to climb that, go ahead, but don’t blame me and say I made you do it if you fall, okay?”
Richard nodded and ran to the trees’ base. It was a tall oak tree, at least he thought so; it looked like one
But maybe it was a pine tree. He was never good at telling what kind of trees’ were what.
He jumped up a few feet to the lowest good branch and climbed it slowly at first till the blue object became clear.
It was like a blue gem or something, it glowed amazingly blue. Richard sped up and finally he reached it.
It was a wonderful blue sapphire. Richard reached out and wrapped his fingers around it, it was stuck to the tree limb by something sticky, maybe sap?
He slowly pulled it and it fell into the palm of his right hand. Immediately the world went silent.
The birds’ stopped their songs, and the wind stopped blowing, the only sound he heard was a rushing sound like water,
Then he looked up and the sky changed. He saw floating objects that weren’t there before; he saw a big clock float by ticking time backwards,
He saw a boy transform into a wolf, a man into a dragon, both started to fight, they were like ghosts, floating in the sky,
He saw another image’ a young boy steal a golden blanket from a tree, it looked like an animal skin.
Then he saw a big giant with one eye running after the boy. The scenes changed a man was riding a chariot on fire
And then a girl was talking to a giant spider, she held a lot of strings brightly colored. Then he saw a gold dome
It had lightning crackling around it, a man wearing a red cape with shoulder length blonde hair flew onto the dome,
He was holding a metal hammer, he was about to fight a pale man with black hair, they looked like
Thor and Loki, but those were myths Right? And how was he seeing all this in the sky? He looked down at the blue gem held tightly
In his palm; his hand had turned white from the pressure of squeezing it too hard.
He loosened his grip and suddenly the sound came back. Birds’ sang, the wind blew, and a voice far away was yelling at him.
He looked down and he could see three faces, Emily, Carol and Jonathan were standing at the base of the tree looking up at him with wide eyes.
Richard gripped the gem again and this time the sound stayed but another sound overlapped it.
It was a low growl, No, it was more like a rumble He slowly looked up and gasped. His heart quickened, his breath halted,
The sight before him this time was worse than any fall out of a tree, this thing that was bouncing off the tops of the trees,
Coming right towards him, was a huge fiery serpent!
It was longer than a school bus, it was thicker than an elephant this huge serpent was a monster,
And this time it was not an image, it was really real, and it almost reached him. As it got nearer,
Richard could feel its heat scorching the treetops, but funny enough, noting else burned, only his skin,
It was getting too hot, he bounced a little lower, and then the thing spoke
“Rise little human” the voice was like a thousand rushing waterfalls, the voice trickled down to his head and he clutched the gem tighter, the thing quickened it’s pace.
“I am the Great Serpent, the Accuser of the Brethren. You are a thief that gem is not yours, return it or perish!
The curse of all secrets befalls you other wise!” Richard was too stunned to speak he opened an closed his mouth,
But no sound came, he was no thief, his mom told him ‘never take what isn’t yours’ but this was only a gem, sitting in a tree right?
The voice shook his tree and he grabbed a branch with his left hand. “STOP, I’m going to fall!”
Jonathan’s voice drifted up. “HOLD ON” The Serpents eye darted down at his friends then back at Richard.
“You have stolen from the keeper of all times’ secrets, you will die now!” It lashed out its fiery tongue and Richard jumped.
Out of the tree and into the air Forty feet above his friends and he closed his eyes as the ground rushed towards him!
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