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Chapter Four Insight and Danger

They headed toward the Black Mountains. After a while, they came upon a wooded area. This was very different from the forest they had gone through in Luralye. The trees were gnarled, very thick but not tall. They were a dark brownish black, with a few dead leaves scattered in the branches. The only undergrowth were occasional weeds. The rest of the ground between the trees was bare.

They came upon a stream running through the woods. The water had a green tint to it. The stench coming from the stream was overwhelming.

“Man, What is that smell,” Jill said through the hand covering her nose. “Did something die in there?”

“No,” Jason sighed. “That is the smell of glop.”

“My guess would be that this stream originates underground,” Daniel mused. “It must have been contaminated by glop before surfacing.”

“That would explain why everything is dead here,” Jill said.

“Not everything,” Kelly pointed at a cluster of weeds growing nearby. “They look strange, but they are healthy.”

“I just hope no animals depended on this as a water source,” Jason said. “We’d better get out of here. I can’t handle the smell much longer.”

They quickly made their way out of the woods. On the other side was a barren field. In the distance, they could see the beginning of the foothills, and the mountain beyond.

At the foothills of the mountain, they stopped to rest. The place had large, green stones everywhere. As they walked, they saw something scurry around the rocks.

“What was that?” Kelly exclaimed.

“I don’t know,” Jason answered. “The things moved too fast for me to see.”

When another of the creatures scurried past, Jason raced after it. He chased it behind a large stone. The creature had stopped to dig under the stone. It resembled a mole, was yellow and very small. Jason scooped it up to examine more closely.

“Put me down you big ugly monster,” the creature screamed.

Jason was so surprised, he almost dropped the creature. “You can talk?”

“Of course I can,” it said. “Everything can talk, they just don’t all speak the same language. Now put me down!” The creature squirmed in Jason’s hand, then bared its teeth and bit him. That made Jason drop it, but Daniel caught the creature before it hit the ground.

“Ouch, why did you do that,” Jason complained. “I was just trying to talk to you.”

“Well, that didn’t feel like talking,” the creature said. “It felt like you were trying to capture me.”

“What are you?” Daniel asked. “I have never even heard of anything like you.”

“Never heard of me? Have you spent your life with your head in the swamp? Makils such as myself have lived in these foothills since time began.” The creature stood in Daniel’s palm, brushing himself off.

“I’m afraid we don’t know much of the creatures here,” Kelly said. “We are from Luralye. This is our first time in Dark Land.”

“I suppose that does explain it,” the Makil snorted. “You haven’t been exiled too, have you? I am getting tired of you people dumping your rabble here.”

“No, we are here to stop the Snarflinches from destroying our home,” Jason replied.

“Oh, they causing trouble from the other side of the gorge, are they?” the Makil said. “I don’t know why that surprises you. Look what they did to this place.”

“What do you mean?” Bane asked. “It looked like this when we got here, and it has been called the Dark land as long as I can remember.”

“Then maybe you are not old enough to remember your kind living here before.” The Makil looked at each of them, searching for signs of recognition. “None of you have any idea what I am talking about, do you?”

“No,” answered Jill. “I thought the Snarflinches had always lived in Luralye.”

The Makil shook his head slowly. “I would guess your ancestors never told anyone because they were ashamed that they even trusted the Snarflinches. I know what happened because I was there. My kind live forever. Let me tell you the story.

This place used to be very much like Luralye. The Snarflinches tired of hard village life, and soon started inventing things to make life easier. At first, the inventions were small; better farming tools, pulley systems for lifting, better plumbing and irrigation systems. One day, someone came up with a way to create a power source that would run machines.

Of course, this meant they could make bigger inventions. They built large cities that were full of machines. These machines needed power to work, so they also built huge power factories. The by product from these factories, glop, was nasty, but no one thought it harmful. They started dumping it into holes and pits outside the cities. When a hole was full, they would cover it up and build on it.

Soon the ground was poisoned and useless. By then they knew how dangerous glop was, but they would not give up their machines. As a matter of fact, they thought machines would solve all of their problems.

They created machines that could provide food and water, purify the air indoors to cover the stench of the glop, and even machines that would pipe the glop underground.

The cities had rivers of glop running under them. No matter how much of the land they destroyed, they would not stop making glop. They felt their machines were more important than the land.

When it became too polluted, several species moved to Luralye, including my own. We lived in the Peppermint Forest while waiting for our home to heal.

The Snarflinches refused to leave. They started dumping the glop into the gorge as a way of getting rid of it. They did not get to dump much there. The local residents, some kind of small creatures, started to mutate into the Boggers they are now. Once the Boggers were big enough, they plugged the pipes. No one could get close enough to the gorge to unplug the pipes or dump the glop manually.

Soon, the cities were flooded. The Snarflinches finally had to give up and leave. They went to Luralye and told the wizards there that a terrible accident had destroyed their home. The wizards, being kind people, welcomed them. It was not very long until they were at it again. This time they found a better way to make glop. They discovered if they used Necrions to make their power source, it would power the machines a little longer. This also produced glop that was much stronger and more dangerous. That glop lead to the incident which got them exiled.

Now enough time has past that we can live here again, and the land is healing. Not much glop remains underground, but I fear if something isn’t done the land will be permanently destroyed.”

Jason could not believe what he had heard. Why had no one told him? Were the elders too young to know? His mind raced. They could not let the machine flood Luralye with glop, but they couldn’t flood this land while trying to save their own. They needed a new plan, and fast. The deadline was tomorrow.

They sat down to talk things over. “Maybe we could seal the caves so that only they will flood,” Kelly suggested.

“That would be great,” Daniel said. “But we don’t know where all the entrances are. Besides, we only have enough stuff to clog the main pipe.”

“Could we fix it so that the glop backs up to wherever it is coming from?” Jason asked. “The glop machine just pumps the glop, so there has to be a source feeding it.”

“Brilliant,” exclaimed Daniel. “Why didn’t I think of that? There is a pipe coming from the underground glop river. If we clog it instead, the glop will not be under pressure and will just go back underground.”

“That’s what we will do then,” Jason said. “Let’s go stop up some pipes.”

They said goodbye to their new friend, then headed up the mountain. Climbing was treacherous due to the sharp rocks and steep cliffs. They rode on the Hargins up to a flat spot, and then searched the map for an entrance.

“I’m sorry that my map doesn’t show you everything. At least it shows how to get to the machine once we are inside,” Bane apologized. “I’m not sure where the entrances are because I have never been here before. When the others were exiled, I stayed in Luralye. I have friends who send me messages about what’s going on.”

“That’s okay,” Jason said. “The map shows more than we would be able to find on our own. You have done an excellent job of getting us this far. You’re a great guide.”

“Thank you,” Bane blushed. “I usually work behind a desk. I have never even been camping.”

They heard a screeching sound. A very large bird came swooping at them.

“Those are Jacklebirds. They nest up here and eat anything they can catch,” Bane said nervously.

The Jacklebird made another swoop, this time almost grabbing a Necrion. “How do we make them go away?” Kelly asked.

“Like this,” Jill hit the bird in the head with her slingshot. It circled around, lining up to make another swoop. “I guess not. What now?”

“We run for it,” Jason yelled. “Get on the Hargins. We’ll try to make a higher ledge. Maybe we can find some shelter long enough to locate a cave entrance on the map.”

They all climbed on the Hargins, and up they flew. The Hargins dipped and swirled to avoid the attacks of the Jacklebirds. Talons flashing, the Jacklebirds lunged at the riders. The Hargins spun out of the way before any of the riders were impaled on the Jacklebirds’ talons.

“Over there,” Jason shouted, pointing to a ledge with a large overhang above. They made it to the ledge after more dodging. Once on the ground, they ran to the back as quickly as possible.

“We are trapped in here,” Bane exclaimed. “They will get us for sure if we don’t get back in the air.”

“Here,” Jill shouted. “I found a door!”

They rushed over. It was a large metal door with a picture of a spider carved in the middle. They all worked together, and finally managed to pull it open. Running inside and pulling the door shut behind them, they barely escaped another attack.

“Well, we made it inside,” Jason breathed, “Let’s see if we can figure out where we are on the map.

Bane studied the map closely. “Oh, I believe I found it. We just came through this door marked, DONotenter, doNOTenter, donotenTER, doNOTenTER, donotENter…”

“Let me see that,” Daniel took the map. “It says ‘Do not enter.’ The words are just run together.”

“Why should we not enter?” Jill asked.

“It doesn’t say,” Daniel answered. “It just has a picture of a spider, like the one on the door. It is possible that we are going the right way, and this symbol is just to scare us off.”

“Do Snarflinches keep pets?” Kelly asked.

“Not usually,” Bane said. “Why?”

“Then, I don’t think we are going the right way,” Kelly pointed down the tunnel. At the end of the tunnel stood a huge, purple spider.

“We need to find another way quickly,” Jason said. “We can’t go back outside without an idea of where to go, or the Jacklebirds will rip us to shreds.”

“Well, the map does show a door that leads to the passage we need to get to,” Bane said, having taken the map back. “But, it’s at the end of this tunnel. We will have to get past the spider.”

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” Jill shook her head and waved her hands in front of her. “I am not going anywhere near that spider.”

“It may be the only way,” Jason said. “All we need to do is distract it.”

Jaffy nodded, then ran right up to the spider and hopped on its back. The spider reared up, trying to reach him. Jaffy slid off the spider’s end, and then darted under it. He then started rubbing its belly.

To everyone’s amazement, the spider quivered and cooed.

“It’s enjoying the belly rub?” Daniel puzzled.

“I enjoy a good belly rub myself,” Bane said. “Although I don’t make those noises or kick my back leg.”

“Everyone, get to the other door,” Jason ordered. “We don’t know how long Jaffy can keep up the rubbing.”

They all raced around the spider to the other end of the tunnel. By the time they got the door opened Jaffy was trotting up behind them, the spider not far behind wagging its tail.

“You’ll have to tell it to wait here,” Jason told Jaffy. “I don’t think we can sneak with a giant spider following us.”

Jaffy sighed and petted his new friend on the head, then followed the others through the door.

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