As nightfall was coming upon them, they saw the now familiar opening of the cave in the side of the cliff wall. Slipping through the narrow crack behind the fallen stone slab with the customary, “Ouch” of Bar-Thur, they entered the darkness. The great slab that covered the cave was a little narrow for a Being as large as Bar-Thur.
Jahan lit a lamp that was in a niche close and high up just the inside of the cave. With the light showing them the way, they descended into the sandy bottom and slept again near the underground lake.
In the morning eating a hasty breakfast, they thanked Jahan and bid him goodbye, continuing along the Deep Road which led to the Rolling Hills. Soon they reached the spot where they had descended into that winding way, climbed up again, and saw before them the Rolling Hills that ascended to the forests.
“Now Hatch, you are our guide. Find a path that will take us to the South.” Pata-Pikki barked.
Hatch flew off Pata-Pikki’s shoulder and into the air. The Forest Beings watched as Hatch became a small speck in the air and then suddenly, she was back fluttering about them. “This way,” she cheeped as she pointed the way with her wing. She perched on Pata-Pikki’s shoulder again. “I don’t see any Contraptors about, but we must make haste to the forests where we have more cover.”
The Forest Beings could see the line of trees rising above the Rolling Hills which made it easy to follow by line of sight, only losing it when they descended to the bottom of each hill. After a half day march, they climbed up into the forest and the cover of the trees, breathing a sigh of relief at not having spotted Strange Contraptors.
“Where to now Hatch?” gruffled Bar-Thur.
“Let’s follow the edge of the forest.” Suggested Hatch. “I came directly out of the forest, I can’t tell exactly where, but I know it will be about another half day for you. Then I will fly up high and see what it looks like,” she cheeped nervously.
“We’ll find it, Hatch. Don’t worry,” barked Flur-Ella.
Hoopy looked behind them. He could see where they had moved across the Rolling Hills. It would be good to remember that. He looked at Pata-Pikki, who nodded to him. Pata-Pikki understood his concern. He too looked back and mentally lined up the place where they left the Deep Road with the cliffs behind them, hoping they would recognize it on their return. Hoopy poked Bar-Thur and he too looked and then nodded.
They continued undisturbed along the edge of the forest. Not a sound was heard except bird calls and the rustling of the trees which was encouraging to them. Pausing to get a drink in a small stream that was falling softly into the hills below, they looked down and saw a small lake with four legged creatures drinking from it and a line of trees following the stream into the distance. A black bird sat in one of the upper branches. A soft little breeze came up from the warmth of the desert towards them. Pata-Pikki smiled at its voice.
Evening approached. Hatch flew up into the air again at a great height. Flying back to Pata-Pikki’s shoulder she announced, “I see a path I noticed on the way across the forest, it is a little further to the South. If we follow that it will lead us to High Horns,” she cheeped excitedly.
“Let’s keep moving and see how far we can get before daybreak,” Hoopy barked. Flur-Ella and Bar-Thur agreed.
“Yes, it will be good to get there as soon as we can. We can sleep when we get there if need be,” woofed Pata-Pikki.
They found the path that Hatch described and followed it as it moved into a thick dense forest. Traveling by night different sounds surrounded them. Occasionally they heard crickets and night birds. It was warmer here and the Forest Beings began to take off their mufflers and jackets and stow them in their packs. As the light of dawn filled the sky, Hatch who had been riding on Pata-Pikki’s shoulder, took her head out from under her wing and began to look around. “This is beginning to feel like the right place. We need to be watchful as daylight comes. Strange Contraptors have been in the trees so one would hardly know that they were there. I ran into the side of one and it scared me to death! I haven’t started nest building, as it feels too scary in this place, even though the weather is nice.” She cheeped in a long drawn out worried sentence. The Forest Beings had to pay close attention to understand her, even though they were used to her manner of speech.
They ducked down and walked further to the South until they could not see the metal that had been exposed, moving now more cautiously. “How far now?” Flur-Ella asked Hatch.
Hatch flew up into the air again to get a bird’s perspective and soon came back.