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Chapter two The Quest Begins

They were all awakened before sunrise to prepare for their journey. They were told to assemble at the stables. As swiftly as they could, each one arrived. When Jason approached, he found everyone waiting for him.

“I’m sorry I’m late. My mom insisted that I eat a big breakfast. She said that there’s no way of telling when the next time I’ll get a decent meal is,” Jason said sheepishly.

“That is quite all right,” smiled Lord Bardwin. “We all have mothers. They can worry so. Now that everyone is here, let us begin.

This is Bane. He will be your guide on this mission,” Lord Bardwin gestured to a lanky Snarflinch leaning against a stable wall.

“Nice to meet you kids,” Bane nodded. “I have been working with all of the informants for Lord Bardwin since before my brethren went bonky and flooded this place. I have a map that will lead us to the Snarflinches Caves in the Black Mountain. I also have the plans for the glop machine. We will study them on the way to find a weakness.”

“Shouldn’t we study them before we leave?” Daniel asked.

“Here kid,” Bane said as he handed the plans to Daniel. “You are the brains of this group. You will have to figure it out on the way. We don’t have time to wait.”

“These are the Necrions who will be joining you,” Lord Bardwin ushered the five brightly colored creatures forward. “This red one is Brea. She will be your cook. She is quite good at making a meal when nothing is available.

These are the twins here, the blue one is Kye and the green one is Tye. They will be your guards. They are much stronger than they look, and have mastered magical attacks.

The orange one is Poe. He is a healer. He can heal all wounds and illnesses.

And lastly, the yellow one here is Jaffy. I am not sure exactly what he does,” Lord Bardwin scratched his head, rather puzzled. “They insisted that he must come along on the mission. So far, he seems to be the comic relief. He is terribly clumsy.

Kelly, your job will be to make sure that all the Necrions are taken care of. I do not want them hurt or overly stressed because their needs were not considered.”

“Oh, I can not wait to snuggle the green one!” Kelly squealed with glee as she scooped Tye up and rubbed her cheek on his head.

“Careful that he doesn’t take your arm off,” Jill cautioned. “He is a warrior, after all.”

Tye, who had been enjoying the snuggle, tried to look serious and scary. He let out a roar, which sounded more like a coo.

“There is nothing wrong with a warrior snuggling a friend,” Kelly huffed as she let Tye down.

“Jill,” Lord Bardwin said. “I am glad you are looking out for the warriors. They will be under your command. You are now Captain of the Guard. You and your guards will keep the rest of the party safe.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jill barked. “It will be my honor to serve with such fine guards.” The two guards puffed their chests, and everyone else giggled.

“Wow, everyone has such important jobs,” Jason said. “I don’t have any great skills. Am I supposed to help cook?”

“You have the greatest skill,” Lord Bardwin answered. “The most important job of all is yours. You will be the leader of the party. I have seen how well you lead your friends. They will follow you into anything, including stealing your teacher’s lesson planner and hiding it on the roof. Hampton searched for days before he found it.”

“How did you know it was us…? I mean… sorry,” Jason stammered. “Thank you for believing in me, sir.”

Lord Bardwin gave a knowing nod, and then continued. “The Hargins, here, will carry the bulk of your supplies. They can also carry you if need be. Just remember, they are not ordinary horses. Like all magical creatures, they are highly intelligent. If you insult them, they will no longer help you. As for communication, they can understand you quite well and the Necrions will translate any Hargin-speak you do not understand.”

“Great,” Daniel interrupted. “But who will translate the Necrions for us?”

“You mean you can not understand them,” Kelly asked. “I thought everyone could talk to them. You didn’t get what the guards said when they were proud of Jill’s comment?”

“No, I thought they were just showing pride,” Jason answered.

“They said they were the best warriors in the land. You really did not hear them?” Kelly looked perplexed.

“Now you know why you were chosen to care for the Necrions,” Lord Bardwin said. “Not many people have the gift to hear the Necrions.”

There was buzzing conversation as everyone prepared for departure. Soon they were on their way to the Dark Land.

“Let us have a look at the map,” Bane said when they stopped to eat lunch in a field of puffle flowers. “It looks like we will be interring the Swampy Gorge tomorrow. Do you know anything about Boggers?”

“I know that they are predators who feast on anything they can catch,” Daniel announced. “They are tall, extremely muscled, and covered in pink scales. They like to ambush their prey from the water, but they are also quite agile on land. They are rumored to be good at tree climbing, and can jump twice their height.”

“How are we supposed to make it through without getting eaten?” Kelly worried.

“I can take on a Bogger, no problem,” Jill bragged.

“Yeah, but can you take on a pack of ten or twenty?” Jason asked sarcastically.

“No,” Jill was a bit embarrassed.

“Well, that is how they attack,” Jason said. “We will have to be very careful. Daniel, what are the Boggers’ weaknesses?”

“Let’s see,” Daniel thought a moment. “They don’t have any physical weaknesses, that is, they can not be hurt. They can be put to sleep by a Necrion, as I told you yesterday. We would have to get the Necrions very happy for that to work.” Daniel stood lost in thought for a moment. “I have heard of another way. I don’t know if it’s true, I kind of doubt it would work. I was told that bad singing will scare them away.”

“Doesn’t bad singing scare everyone?” Bane laughed.

“I know it sounds stupid,” Jason said. “But it wouldn’t hurt to try. You never know what could work if you’re not willing to be adventurous.”

“Well, at least no one will hear us out there,” Jill sighed. “I would die if anyone heard me sing.”

“I would die if I heard you sing,” Daniel teased.

“Be nice,” Kelly warned. “How far do we have to go until we reach Swampy Gorge?”

“Not much farther,” Bane consulted the map. “We will stop in this clearing when we reach Peppermint Forest,” he said, pointing to the map. “That is where we will sleep tonight. In the morning, we will continue through the forest and down the trail into the Swampy Gorge. It should only take a couple of hours to get through to the other side, that is if we don’t run into too many Boggers.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Jason stood and put on his pack. “Let ‘s get moving.”

They marched on, the Necrions dancing and singing as they went. Small whiffs of puffle dust swirled in the air around them.

Beyond the puffle flower field, they could see the edge of the forest. They reached the clearing right before nightfall.

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