Flur-Ella felt very thoughtful at this. “We must be very watchful then,” she whined in a quiet voice. “ We should keep our talking to a minimum.”
Pata-Pikki, looked at her and nodded in agreement.
Hoopy’s ears perked up and Bar-Thur could see he was listening to the movements of the world around them, deep into the forest.
Bar-Thur squinted through the leaves but saw nothing but the forest above them.
They continued into the depths of the forest descending into a low mossy place with stone outcroppings, on a well-worn forest path. Hatch rode on top of Flur-Ella’s head. Suddenly she flew up into a tree and then back again. “We are here, “ she chirped when she returned. “We will go to High Horns and see what is happening.” She pointed with her wing to a branch in the path and they plunged into a deep thicket of very dense branches and low growth. As they passed through it, they heard a noise behind them. Ducking low they peered through the growth and saw Two Narflbots through the bushes. Holding still, they barely breathed so their movements could not be detected.
Ahead of the Narflbots was a strange little beeping machine, low to the ground with many small round wheels. It seemed to be ‘sniffing’ the ground and was coming right in their direction.
“As quietly as you can, go deeper in, “ mouthed Pata-Pikki, pointing to the brushy depths of the forest. Pata-Pikki motioned for them to go without him. The three other Forest Beings looked hesitant to do so, but Pata-Pikki looked at them and again motioned to the thicket. The Forest Beings dispersed into the rich undergrowth. Pata-Pikki sat very still, listening to the Narflbots talking to each other. “The Snuffler is on to something Jacko!” Just look at that.”
“Pata-Pikki heard a sound to the right of him. He didn’t know if a Snuffler could hurt him, but he was sure that it would find them all if he allowed it to continue in the direction it was going. Gathering his pack onto his back he leapt out of the bushes right between the two Narflbots. They were an ugly pair, one with a telescoping eye and the other with a claw for a hand.
“You called it Burt, but the second shot is mine!”
Pata-Pikki ran as fast as he could, zig-zagging through the trees.
“Zzzt”! A shot came from Jacko’s pointing stick and hit the tree right next to Pata-Pikki. He jumped down a slope as it descended into a mossy hollow. Then, “ Zzzpt”, came the second shot from Burt’s pointing stick and down Pata-Pikki fell, tumbling down the hill into the leaves on the forest floor.
“I got him Jacko!” Burt called out. At that moment, a strong wind began to blow. Jacko and Burt had to hang tight to the tree where they stood. The wind began to whirl in circles and because it was spinning so fast it flipped the Snuffler over with it wheels still turning in the air. The wind blew it with great force against the trunk of a nearby tree. Springs began to pop out here and there, and a puff of black smoke spiraled up from the middle.
“Me, Snuffler!’” yelled Burt. “Me Snuffler’s had it!” The wind stopped as suddenly as it began. Leaves that had been thrown up into the air drifted down in silence. The Narflbots ran to the Snuffler shaking their heads in dismay. “What about the Scruffling?” Jacko asked. They turned and looked down into the deep depression. “Ah, it’s gone. Must have gotten away. I don’t see a leaf moving down there.”
Flur-Ella turn to Hoopy, “I don’t like leaving Pata-Pikki. He should have found us by now. What is taking him so long?” She whined.
“He’ll find us Flur-Ella. Don’t worry. Our first job is to call a meeting of the Forest Beings. That is what he sent us to do.”
“You right of course,” Flur-Ella whined sighing.
“If he isn’t here by the time that we are through I’ll go look for him.” Hoopy barked.
“Yes,” growled Bar-Thur, “Pata-Pikki said we should start right away. It is too dangerous here. All of the Forest Beings that want to leave should have a chance to do so.”
Flur-Ella looked very upset, but she nodded her head in agreement. “Who will go with the Forest Beings to show them the way if Pata-Pikki has not returned by then?”
“I will take them,” grumbled Bar-Thur, “But Pata-Pikki will come. You will see.”
Hoopy acted on Bar-Thur’s encouraging thought and howled high into the air. Soon the Forest Beings began to gather around them, first a few and then many. It was with regret that those who had come from Micael realized that several of their former neighbors were not among those that had gathered.
Hoopy began to speak, helped by Bar-Thur and Flur-Ella, about the cliffs to the East, and the warm welcome that they received, and the invitation extended by the Far Mitrophan and the Wildings.
Flur-Ella told them about the Farmer Man and the gardens and the beautiful forest beyond the Temple of the One.
High Horns of the Deer-Folk, the leader of the Forest Beings spoke, “This is no place for us. Our people are missing and injured. If we are to flourish as once we did, we must move to another location. It is our only hope. And Pata-Pikki, where was he last seen?”
Great tears filled Flur-Ella’s eyes and she whined. “He was adamant that we come and offer you this invitation. He was sitting with us when the Narflbots and their horrid machine came. He instructed us to come tell you all we have learned. You must leave immediately, before the sun reaches the middle of the sky.”
“Even sooner,” the chief of the gophers said.
The leader of the Cat-Folk yowled, “Let us go now! We have our possessions with us, there is nothing to keep us here.”
“I will lead you,” gruffed Bar-Thur, “Hoopy and Flur-Ella will go back to the thicket and find Pata-Pikki. If you do not see him hurry to catch up, so that we move together.” Hoopy and Flur-Ella agreed.
“Do not linger, “ cautioned the leader of the Cat-Folk, “you too are in danger!”
“Perhaps we will meet you at the place the edge of the forest, where we stopped above the lake, but do not wait for us. It is best that you go as fast as you can to the East,” barked Flur-Ella. With that she and Hoopy ran into the forest.