“A most excellent idea!” gruffled Hoopy. They went about filling their containers with cool fresh water that bubbled up from the bottom of the pool. Nonna’s lantern filled the large room with light. As they looked about them in wonder, tall pillars of stone lined the walls of the chamber. They looked slick and damp, soft and melty, as if water dripped on them continually for many years.
“There should a container of Phora down here. I would dearly love a piece!” Nonna said looking around. “I think I see a jar against the wall. This is special bread that has had many prayers said over and around it.” She walked over to a tall glass jar with a glass stopper. Inside was something brown.
“We do not know ‘Phora’ nor ‘bread’” barked Hoopy.
“This will hearten you!” said Nonna. She reached into the jar and pulled out what appeared to be a brown circular object with writings on it. She easily broke it into pieces handing one to each.
“This is delicious,” said Flur-Ella. They all nodded in agreement.
“Might I catch a fish or two now?” asked Bar-Thur. They nodded in agreement. As the bear waded into the water with a happy face, the others reached into their bags and supplemented the bread with roots from the forest, sharing them with Nonna. Hoopy dug a soft round hole for himself and curled up into it. Well-fed, happy, and indeed heartened by the wonderful bread, they blew out the lantern and slept.
Pata-Pikki blinked at the darkness as he awoke. He was not used to such darkness, but still he could see his companions sleeping and hear their even breathing. He decided to see what the world outside the cave looked like. There was no sense of time in such a dark place. Walking toward the opening of the cave, he heard sounds above him. He cautiously continued towards to entrance of the cave. The sound of talking continued. He reached the opening of the cave and carefully stood back from the entrance listening. He could see daylight creeping around the slab that lay across the opening. He couldn’t tell what time of day it was, but the sun was shining outside. The sounds began to get closer. It was indeed creatures communicating with each other in a language he knew nothing about.
Pata-Pikki turned on all four feet and raced to the bottom of the cave. “Quietly now, wake up!” he woofed, reaching out in the darkness and shaking both Hoopy and Flur-Ella. They both jumped to their feet, the others in turn came awake also.
“What is it?” Nonna asked.
“There are creatures approaching the mouth of the cave. I don’t know who they are. I don’t recognize their speech. But we should be ready. It must be the Narflbots, who have come to investigate the bottom of the wash.”
“They may overlook us, but there is always the chance that they may discover the opening of the cave,” worried Nonna.
The Forest Beings gathered their things. “It is daylight outside,” Pata-Pikki gruffed.
“I will deal with them if they try to come down here,” wuffled Bar-Thur. “I make horrible growls and my claws are still sharp. My Great-Grandfather was a fearsome bear!”
“We don’t dare to use a light, Nonna,” Pata-Pikki whined.
“Flur-Ella, can I hold on to you?” Nonna asked.
“Certainly!” Flur-Ella gruffled, “Come with me.”
They began moving upward toward the entrance of the cave with Nonna holding on to Flur-Ella’s marsh flower jacket.
Gradually they too began to hear the sounds that Pata-Pikki had described. “I don’t know what they are saying. They must be right outside!” said Nonna. “Perhaps it is harder to hear in here?” They carefully approached the entrance. There was enough light that Nonna could see now.
“I will look out of the entrance,” whispered Bar-Thur, “and attack them if they are close. When they see me, I’ll growl at them and they will run away. I will chase them down the way we have come. You start towards Rockliffs, I will catch up with you once they outrun me,” he grumbled, with a smile playing about his lips.
“What if they have pointing machines?” Hoopy asked.
“I will scare them, and they will drop their pointing machines,” Bar-Thur said with conviction.
“Maybe?” said Flur-Ella, with a quizzical look on her face.
“I don’t like the idea of being trapped in here,” Nonna whispered. “Nor of you going out there, Bar-Thur.”
“Be careful Bar-Thur! Call us if you need us,” Pata-Pikki growled quietly.
With that Bear squeezed out of the cave, growling loudly and indeed he sounded fearsome. They heard a large commotion and much alarm. Pata-Pikki looked out from the rock to be sure that Bar-Thur wasn’t being attacked. When he did, he realized the intruders were not Narflbots but someone else entirely.
“Stop Bar-Thur!” he cried out in alarm. “These are Wildings look at their clothing, they look like Nonna!”
Bar-Thur immediately stopped growling and studied the intruders.
“Please, said Pata-Pikki, bowing low, “accept our apologies. We thought you were Narflbots when we heard your voices.”
The Wildings looked at Pata-Pikki in surprise. “Who are you?” The tallest among them asked in a language that was now recognizable to Pata-Pikki.
“I come from the West my name is Pata-Pikki. I heard a strange language and was sure that we had been discovered by the enemy. Narflbots have been hunting for us.”
“We were practicing the ancient language. We are looking for one of our people who has been missing for many days.”
“Whom do you seek?” woofed Pata-Pikki.
“A young Wilding named Nonna. She is the daughter of our priest.”
“You seek Nonna?” Bar-Thur gruffed.
“Yes, do you know of her?” responded the tall one.
“Nonna travels with us.” Pata-Pikki, barked. Then searching deep within, he wondered if he should have given that information away. He felt the One, deep in his heart confirm that he was right in doing so.
“Nonna! Where is she? In the cave?” shouted the three Wildings almost simultaneously.
They rushed into the cave and there was a shout of joy from inside. Soon Nonna came out with them accompanied by Flur-Ella and Hoopy.
“We have been found,” Nonna cried with great gladness. “These are my friends,” she said, indicating the Scrufflings and Bar-Thur, “they saved me from the Narflbots, who held me captive! I owe them my life!”
“Then we owe you our hospitality and far more. My name is Basil.” The tall one said. “This is Jahn and Samul. You must come with us to Rockliffs as our honored guests.”