Chapter Three Boggers and Witches
“I must say, Lord Bardwin was not kidding about your cooking,” Bane smiled at Brea. “You are truly an amazing cook. This is the best meal I have ever had.”
“It was great, thanks Brea,” Jason added. “Daniel, have you found any weaknesses in the glop machine yet?”
“Fascinating,” Daniel responded. “This thing can pump five gallons of glop per second over two-hundred miles. It has a pipe system which ends in various places in Luralye. It is practically indestructible.”
“So, there are no weaknesses?” Jill asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Daniel corrected. “I said practically. I think there is a flaw that we could use to our advantage. I just have to work out how best to exploit this flaw.”
“Then there is hope,” Kelly said. “I knew there would be. If there were no hope, we would not be here.”
“I think we are the hope,” Jason said. “We are here because we are the only hope of saving Luralye. If we don’t stop that machine, we will not have a home to go back to.”
“Well, that is all heroic and all,” Jill chimed in. “But we had better get to sleep. We should get an early start. We only have two days left to finish our mission.”
All the Necrions huddled in a pile close to the fire, and were asleep quickly. Daniel was reading the glop machine plans and scribbling notes until he dozed off. Everyone settled down for the night, except Jason.
He sat peering into the fire, lost in thought. Bane could see he was troubled.
“Hey kid,” Bane sat down beside Jason. “What’s the matter, can’t sleep?”
Jason shrugged, “I was just thinking. So far, I have not really been a leader. I haven’t made any decisions or anything. You have told us where to go, and where to camp. Kelly tells us when to stop and rest. Jill tells us when to sleep. All I have done is set back and say, ‘okay, we’ll do that.’ I have not lead at all.”
“You will get to make decisions,” Bane reassured Jason. “When it comes to the big stuff, you’ll get to make plenty of decisions.”
“That’s what I am afraid of,” Jason bowed his head. “What if, when the time comes and you guys really need me, I can’t do it? What if I choke under pressure? I don’t know how to be a leader. At school, all I did was make suggestions that everyone liked and took the blame when we got caught.”
“Maybe that’s what being a leader is,” Bane said. “You suggest an action and convince everyone to do it, and then take full responsibility no matter what the outcome. You do whatever is best for your friends, even if it means taking all the blame or risking your life.
Look, I think you’re doing a fine job. And when the time comes, you will do what all good leaders do. You’ll do your best.”
“Thanks,” Jason smiled. “I guess I just got scared. You know, you’d make a pretty good leader too.”
“Me?” Bane looked surprised. “Nah, I couldn’t lead. I panic under pressure. I got into a fight with a school bully once. I got in a lucky hit and broke his nose. When I saw the blood, I fainted dead away. After that, no one listened when I told him or her to stand up to the bully. And he still takes my lunch money every time I see him.”
Jason raised an eyebrow. “But, you’re an adult now.”
Bane chuckled, “yeah, so is he. Makes more money than me too. He’s a tax collector, so now he can bully people and take their money legally.”
The next morning, the party was up with the sun. After a quick breakfast, they made their way through the forest.
The Peppermint trees were tall. The contrast of dazzling white bark and bright red leaves was quite a sight. The bark was circled by a thin red strip from top to bottom, while the veins on the leaves were white.
The undergrowth in the forest was a mixture of pink grass, blue bushes, red puffle flowers, and the occasional green rock. The rainbow of colors made travel enjoyable.
They spotted several bushes of vit berries, small round berries that are black and very sweet. Brea wanted to make a vit berry pie when they stopped for lunch, so everyone picked some.
They chatted while picking the berries. Poe gathered medicinal herbs, explaining what each one was and did (with Kelly translating, of course). He packed a large bag full onto a Hargin, for later use.
They decided to rest at the edge of the forest and eat. They knew they could not stop once they entered Swampy Gorge. The place they stopped seemed strange. On one side was the beautiful forest, and on the other was a cliff overlooking the gorge. Swampy Gorge was a frightening place.
“I’m going to miss being in the forest,” Kelly said wistfully. “It’s such a pretty place.”
“You’ll get to see it again,” Jill soothed. “As soon as we’re done kicking Snarflinch booty, you can come back all you want.”
Daniel looked into the gorge, “Why can’t we just ride the Hargins across instead of going down there?”
One of the Hargins whinnied, and then Kelly said, “They can’t fly across. There’s something in the swamp gas rising out of the Swampy Gorge which prevents anything from flying. They wish they could just fly across too.”
Jason stood and walked to the start of the path leading to Swampy Gorge. “We should get moving. Kelly, how happy are the Necrions? Are they ready in case we run into any Boggers?”
Kelly listened intently to Kye, who seemed to be just staring at her. “He says they are a little afraid. They will think happy thoughts and try their best. They think they should be able to do it.”
“Good,” Jason responded. “Hopefully, we will have an uneventful trip through the gorge. If not, I’m counting on you guys.”
They followed the narrow trail, which angled down steeply, deeper and deeper into the gorge. When they finally reached the bottom, they started picking their way over the rocks and grey tree roots poking out of the sludgy yellow water.
In some places, their footing was hard to see because of the orange fog rolling through the swamp. The grey, gnarled trees loomed over the water, as if waiting to grab them. The Necrions were having trouble hopping across the rocks, their tiny legs barely long enough to make it.
Suddenly, there was a large splash. Three of the Necrions had fallen into the swamp.
“Hurry up and grab them,” Jason shouted. The Necrions were slowly slipping out of sight. Bane waded out toward them and managed to grab Brea by the tail. He flipped her to Kelly, and then reached for another. When he pulled Jaffy out of the water, he scrambled onto Bane’s shoulders and refused to let go.
“Will you get off me you goof? I have to save your friend!” Bane cried. By this time, the third Necrion’s head was no longer visible above the water.
Bane felt around under the water. Frantic, he stepped forward, still feeling around. He let out a yelp and lifted his foot. There attached to his ankle, was Kye.
“The little bugger bit me when I stepped on him,” Bane complained while hopping back to the others.
Even with the near tragedy, everyone laughed at the sight. Bane hopping on one foot, his other leg in the air with a Necrion dangling from it, and another Necrion wrapped around his head clutching with all his might.
The humor did not last long, however. They knew they had to keep moving. All the commotion surely got the attention of the Boggers, and they would not be glad to have visitors.
All were quiet while they made their way through the swamp. Each person carried a Necrion to avoid a repeat experience. They heard noises in the distance, though seeing very far through the fog was impossible.
It seemed they had walked forever through this depressing place, when they saw the entrance of the trail leading out. They were almost there!
Jason stopped and looked around. “Something’s not quite right.”
“What do you mean?” Jill asked. “We’re gonna make it.”
“I know, but something is off or…” Jason was interrupted by a spray of water. Four Boggers had leaped out of the swamp.
Kelly rushed to the Necrions. “Okay you guys, do it just like we practiced. Think of playing in Peppermint Forest and glow.”
Try as they might, the Necrions were just too scared to glow. The guards, with Jill in the lead, fought the four back, but four more Boggers came from the trees.
One of the Boggers lunged at Daniel, but Jason jumped between them and struggled with the beast. Bane hit the Bogger over the head with a stick, stunning it long enough for Jason to crawl out from underneath it.
Jill attacked with her slingshot, while Kye and Tye flung magic spells at them. The fireballs and lightning bolts staggered the Boggers, forcing them to step backward. This kept the others safe for now, but the Boggers only seemed annoyed. The guards used all the magic attacks they knew, but nothing caused any damage. The Boggers truly were indestructible.
More Boggers appeared from nowhere. There were twelve now. The water writhed with even more Boggers coming to help their friends. The party was completely surrounded.
Then there came the most horrid sound. A sound so shrill it made your teeth hurt, yet strangely familiar in rhythm. Two of the Boggers covered their ears and ran into the swamp.
When Jason looked around to see where the noise was coming from, He started laughing. “Look, it’s Jaffy!”
Jaffy was standing on a rock, hands clutched to his heart, singing as loudly as he could. He was awful!
“Hey, I know that song,” Daniel cheered. “It is the one we used to sing in pre-school.”
“Oh, yeah,” Jill said. “I remember it.”
They all began singing along, as badly as they could. All of them sang, that is except Brea. She just stood watching, with her arms crossed.
Soon, the remaining Boggers screeched with anger and then jumped into the water.
“Now is our chance,” Jason ordered, “Run for it, but don’t stop singing until we have made it to the end of the trail.”
They went at an impressive clip up the trail, and didn’t stop running or singing until they reached the end. They collapsed on the ground, exhausted and giggling.
The land about them was far from cheerful. The grass was black and dead. The sky was a drab, grayish purple, with no sun in sight. There was nothing but bleakness as far as the eye could see. In spite of this, they could not stop the giggles.
“Wow, my cousin Norville was right,” Daniel said between gulps of air. “Boggers really are afraid of bad singing.”
Everyone exploded with laughter. “Brea,” Jill said, “Why didn’t you sing? Did you not know the song?”
Brea crossed her arms and turned up her nose. Kelly translated, “She said she has a beautiful voice. There is no way she could sing badly enough for the Boggers not to love her singing.”
“I happen to know that Jaffy is your brother,” Bane said to Brea, “and his talent runs in the family.”
Jaffy laughed so hard he snorted, and then fell over.
When the giggling slowed, Jason sat up and said, “Where do we go from here?”
“To my place,” an old crone was standing over them. “My name is Magorina.”
“I’ve heard of you,” Bane exclaimed. “You’re the witch who tortures Snarflinches.”
“I never tortured anyone,” Magorina stated. “I only scared them. I know of your plan, and I wanted to offer my help.”
“Perfect,” exclaimed Daniel. “Now we can exploit the flaw in the machinery.”
“Say what? Does this kid always talk so fancy?” Magorina asked Jason.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Jason answered. “Is your place very far?”
“Not at all,” Magorina gestured. “Follow me.”
They walked until they came to a huge, black tree. They were surprised when the witch walked right into it!
“Don’t be shy,” Magorina shouted from inside the tree. “Come on in. It may not look like much, but it’s not a bad home.”
Although Jason questioned her sanity, he listened to Magorina and stepped into the tree. Inside was lovely. The walls were carved wood, polished smooth. There was a cozy fireplace on one side with a couch and chairs, and stairs on the other side by a doorway. In the center was a table covered with a blue tablecloth, with a vase of puffle flowers on it. The place was much larger than it seemed on the outside.
“Warm yourselves by the fire,” Magorina offered, “While I get refreshments.” She and Brea rushed off to the kitchen to make the refreshments for her guests.
Once they returned, Daniel started explaining his plan. “We can shut down the machine permanently, if we stop up the main pipe right before the junction.”
“What main junction?” Jason asked. “You’re the only one who knows how the machine works.”
“Oh, I forgot,” Daniel apologized. “I told you about the pipes that lead to all over Luralye. There is a main pipe that comes from the machine, and then branches off into these smaller pipes at the junction. If we stop up the main pipe right before the junction, the pressure will build up and smash the pump. That will, in turn, flood the Snarflinches’ caves with glop, so we have to get out quickly.”
“Great plan,” Jill said, “But why did we need a witch for it to work?”
“Because,” Daniel crossed his arms. “We need her to come up with something small and light enough for us to carry into the Black Mountain, but will expand to block the pipe once it is in place.”
“It may take a few hours,” Magorina said. “You kids can sleep here tonight. I will have something for you by morning.”
Magorina led them up the stairs when they were ready to turn in for the night. There were five rooms upstairs. Jill, Kelly, and Brea slept in the first one. Jason and Daniel got the next room. Bane, Jaffy, and Poe shared the third, and Kye and Tye shared the fourth. The fifth, at the end of the hall, was Magorina’s room.
The entire party slept peacefully under the witch’s care. When they awoke the next morning, she had kept her promise.
“This should be plenty to clog up the pipe good and tight,” Magorina said as she handed a small pouch to Daniel.
“Thank you for your help and your kind hospitality,” Jason said as he bowed to Magorina. “I wish we could stay longer in your beautiful home, but we really must be on our way. We only have one day left before the flood starts.”