Pata-Pikki whined, “Can you run? They will be combing the area in search of you.”
“Yes, I can’t have them find me!” Nonna cried.
They gathered their equipment and Pata-Pikki stowed the ropish into his pack and off they ran into the depth of the forest. Overhead they occasionally heard the whir of Strange Contraptors searching. They ran hill over hill, climbing fallen rocks and logs, splashing across icy cold streams in the hope that as they moved further east, the Strange Contraptors would no longer venture in that direction.
Suddenly Pata-Pikki held out his arms and barked, “Stop!” motioning for silence. A quiet breeze had warned him they were in danger. Above them they heard a faint pinging.
“What” growled Hoopy?
“Look around you!” Snuffed Pata-Pikki quietly, pointing upward.
To their horror above them was the silver bottom of a Strange Contraptor. What they had initially thought were trees were the Strange Contraptor’s bird-like legs. Pointing east were its feet. The metal cube stood at the level of the top leaves and branches of the trees. If they had gone further, they would have been within its sites.
“How can we be that close, and it doesn’t detect us?” Hoopy softly snarled.
“Be still!” whispered Pata-Pikki. Have mercy on us! He said to the One. We are in dire trouble.
Pata-Pikki felt a wash of peace come over his agitation. Somehow the Narflbots were unaware of them. “The One wants us to be at peace.”
“Let’s sit and wait it out.” Nonna whispered back. “I have the same sense, they don’t know we are here.” She sat down and ran her fingers through her red hair, fluffing it on her head.
With that they all sat down on the ground. Hoopy dug a shallow hole and pulled a piece of a root out of his pack and began chewing on it. Flur-Ella looked at Hoopy’s root with interest in her eyes, wondering whether she had something to munch on in her sack. She began to go through her store and found some Scruffling sticks and chewed on one. Pata-Pikki offered Nonna a root to eat and she took it nodding her thanks.
“I wonder how long we will have to wait?” Flur-Ella sighed to herself.
They sat in silence, occasionally they heard quiet whirrings and beeps above them, morning turned into afternoon and a loud noise began above them. Something was happening inside the Strange Contraptor. They heard whirrs, chimes and beepings.
“Do you think they are coming out?” Bar-Thur gruffed as quietly as he could, adjusting his muffler. His ears lay back along his head and his eyes narrowed and he looked out over a furrowed brow.
Nonna listened like she was hearing something they could not hear. “No,” she whispered, “they are moving to a new location.”
With that the bird legs began to telescope up and bend, as if a giant bird was going to spring into the air to fly away. But instead the Strange Contraptor began to walk over the trees, crushing the vegetation on the ground under its feet. It turned and began to walk North. They could hear it moving through the forest. Birds began to fly up sounding alarm.
“Now,” said Pata-Pikki, “let’s go South. Move quietly!” A breeze sighed around his head in affirmation.
The Forest-Beings dropped to their four feet as they descended into a lower forest downhill and southward. Nonna ran with them. Then after they had made some distance, they headed towards the East again.
They covered a distance, climbing now and still passing through deep forest. Stopping to drink water at a stream they realized dusk had gathered around them.
“Let’s stop here. We can have something to eat and rest. Nonna can you see in the dark?” Pata-Pikki asked.
“No, I cannot, unless we have a full bright moon. My eyes do not see like yours.”
“Then we will wait until you can see. We know the Narflbots do not like the darkness so they will not search at night.”
They sat under a tree and shared their food. Flur-Ella woofed at Nonna in a growlish woof, “How was it that the Narflbots trapped you?”
“I live in a settlement, East. We are farmers and live in a hidden valley that is protected by The One, The High King, Ἰησοῦς . The Narflbots have tried to find our settlement for years but they cannot. To enemy eyes it is invisible. They see it as stone canyons as I heard one of them describing the East.”
“I was looking for the Farmer Man, who makes wooden plows and repairs them. Ours, over many years of use, has a broken part. I was sent to find the piece to repair it. This man bends wood and makes wonderful useful tools. He may have been a Narflbot that escaped from them. As he has many metal parts to his body, both inward and outward. He is likes to grow things and has beautiful gardens such as I have hardly ever seen. Before the Smothering Fire, there must have been many gardens like his. Our books show many gardens and unusual plants that must have grown at that time.”
“What is a book?” whined Hoopy.
It is a collection of knowledge, both written and with pictures,” Nonna responded.
“I would like to see a book; do they taste good?” Hoopy persisted.
“They are not for eating,” Flur-Ella gruffled a little aloofly, “They are for understanding. I have heard about books.”
“Go on with your story,” coaxed Bar-Thur.
“I wandered too far to the west looking for The Farmer Man and directly into a patrol of Narflbots. This place that I had gone when I was lost has many old metal beeping boxes in it. They collect things that they use to make their machines. Some had wandered into the wood looking for water and surprised me. They froze me with one of their pointing machines so I could not run from them and hide. They like to steal our women and children and make them into their own, as they do not have either.”
“I was sent to the High Narflbot for questioning because I was near the East. They asked me many questions and became angry and yelled at me and kicked me, but I did not answer. Then they shot my head at the neck, here.” Said Nonna, pointing to the back of her neck. “I did not remember any more after that. The first I remember is seeing you. I am thankful that you freed me.” She said smiling at them. There were deep lights in her eyes, and they felt a love for her.