Bobioto and his crew continued to make preparations for their trek to the North Pole in search of the Magic Fields.
"How are we going to get to the North Pole?" asked Wing.
Bobioto pointed to the snow-sled: "With that," he said, "Come on yuz guys! Les ged dat zled loaded."
The trolls, Ze, Zi, Zoe and Zum all gave the boy their most annoyed expressions as they continued to load the sled and pack it for the long trip.
"Dond forgit noding," echoed little brother Samot.
"Awww! shadup!" replied Ze, "one bigmouf is nough, don need nother!"
"Ve don god nough zled for all dis stuff," said Zi.
"Ged bigger zled," said Zoe.
"Bedder ged rid a zum junk," said Zum.
"Dat right," said Bobioto, "We don need all dat stuff. Bring jus wa we need, dats all."
"Ok bossman," said Zum, as he started to throw out all the unnecessary things.
It was several days before the rig was loaded and ready to go, everything cinched in and covered as protection against the snow.
"Looks like we're ready," said Wing to the other elf folk.
While the gatekeeper stood guard at the cave entrance to make sure none of the Goblins or bats came through, Tenzin, son of the gatekeeper, led the children back to the safety of the cave world.
Finally Mister Balonie and his crew, Electra, Raven, Jocko and Heather had time to stop and have some food, then to look around and see their surroundings. What began as a cave entrance grew wider here on the inside. The cavern went further and pretty soon you couldn't see the top for the clouds that hung there in a soft blue sky. There was a river and green grass and a forest that stretched to some hills way back in the distance.
"Is this really a cave?" asked Raven.
"Oh, I forgot," laughed Raven.
"Say, what's that, up there?" asked Electra pointing to flying figures in the sky."
"Zoomers! Those are my friends," said Tenzin, "They won't come down to visit until they're sure you're not from the witch. Give them a little time to figure out that you're not goblins."
"So the witch has been here too?" said Heather.
"That's why my father and I became gatekeepers," said Tenzin, "To hold out the witch until he can figure a way to save the Zoomers -- goblins love to eat them."
"Yuk!" said Raven, "That's terrible."
"The Zoomers think so too," said Tenzin.
"So Jocko! How did the witch catch you?" asked Tenzin.
Jocko shook his head from side to side. "I wasn't alert," he said, "I
let my guard down for a just a minute."
"Did you get to go on it?"
"Well, yeah, that's the problem," said Jocko, "My brother and me, we went over to check out the ride. Alex, he knows how crazy I get when I want to make things "go." My grandpa's a wizard, you know. I work for him on projects, small projects, you understand. Anyways, I took a good look at the controls. Machines and me have a thing going -- we like each other. So I looked at the knobs and the levers and figured out how it works."
"Oh," said Tenzin, "Did you turn it on?"
"But, did the robot have a body?"
"No, it was just a floating head. Well, finally I really got the itch to try those controls, so I climbed the fence rail, it wasn't much of a fence, and stood right in front of the controls. It looked too easy, just a crank and some lights. I could shift it into gear, but Alex told me to leave it alone. 'Get out of there before somebody comes," said "Alex."
"What did you do?" asked Tenzin.
"The robot looked at me said, 'Are you going to turn that ride ON or
"And then what?"
"Suddenly the ride was spinning too fast and so was everything around it. I tried to reverse the crank but my hand couldn't reach it. I heard Alex yelling to get away, but by then I was so dizzy I couldn't move. Then I was upside down, looking back on myself and my brother, but it wasn't really me I was looking at. It was just some kid dressed in my clothes. My brother said, "Hey! Where did my brother go? You're not him."
"Were you scared?" asked Raven.
"No. It all happened so fast and things were so strange that I didn't have time. And also, it was like watching a movie about somebody else, not me."
"So, what happened?" asked Electra.
"Like I was saying, I was there, high up in the machine, looking down and seeing everything. Then the kid in my clothes began to change shape, his face did anyway, and suddenly he was me. I mean he looked like me. My brother said to him, 'Hey! What happened, I thought you were somebody else. . ."
"So that kid was your changeling," said Tenzin.
"Is that when the witch caught you?" continued Tenzin.
"No, not then. I knew right away what had happened. My Grampa, being a wizard and all, he'd warned me. He even told me about witch traps so I should have known better. I got moving then, just took off and ran down the tunnel. I would have kept running too, but then I met Heather and the other capured kids. Heather and I got to be friends right off. I figured I'd stay a while and try to help them get away too.
"Then you met Mister Balonie and the girls?"
"The witch came fist. She and her goons, the goblins, who were training the kids to be warriors for the witch's army. They wanted me to be an engineer and teach kids how to fly warplanes and drive tanks and stuff like that."
"Heck no! I told them that I wouldn't, but they said they had ways to change my mind."
"Then Mister Balonie found you?"
"That's right, and here we are now."
"What I don't understand," said Heather "Is why he wants real kids. Why doesn't he just use the changelings for her army."
"Changelings have no fighting spirit. They may look like us, but they're hollow inside, fake children."
"I'm not too worried though," said Jocko, "My grandpa, the wizard, will rescue us, when he sees that other kid is a fake."
"What if he doesn't notice?" said Electra.
"I hope he comes soon," said Raven.
"He will, I know he will." replied Jocko.
"Do you think the wizard can help us get to Yggdrasil, and stop The Tree from making changelings?" asked Electra.
Jocko nodded "Yeah, I'm sure he can help us do that," he said.
"Oh look!" said Raven, "The butterflys are coming down."
"Come on," said Tenzin, "I'll introduce you to my friends, the Zoomers."
"What are they saying?" asked Jocko.
"It's their way of greeting," replied Tenzin, "They want you kids to come into the village where they can give you a feast."
"Oh! a party," smiled Raven.
"Sounds like fun to me," grinned Jocko.
"Okay, come on," replied Tenzin as he led the children and Mister Balonie down a long, winding path along the river. "It's not very far," he said, "And the kids will meet us there." He waved to his friends as they flew over the tops of the bushes and trees and disappeared down into a gentle valley..
When they arrived in the valley they found a peaceful forest but no sign of the butterfly children.
"Where are they?" asked Raven.
"Look up, up there," said Jocko, quickly figuring out the scheme of the land. "They live in the trees."
"Oooh!" said Raven, "How do we get up there?"
Even as she said that, a wooden platform came sliding down from the
upper branches on long ropes.
Tenzin climbed the trunk, pulling himself up to a branch on a level with the butterfly kids, while Jocko and the others took the platform lift.
"Wow!" exclaimed Jocko, "What a great view from here. You can see everywhere. Heather! Isn't this great?"
Heather, Raven and Electra came over to join Tenzin and Jocko. "I love being with these butterfly kids," said Raven.
"Don't call them that," laughed Tenzin, "they'd rather be called zoomers."
"Why?" asked Raven.
"I don't know, maybe it makes them feel like sissys. You know they're good fighters, even though they won't kill."
"Won't kill! exclaimed Jocko, "Why not? What if its a goblin attack?"
"Oh, they'll fight, but they won't kill, not even goblins. But they will just stun them with stinger nettles."
"What does that do?" asked Heather.
"Puts them to sleep for a long time and they're groggy for days after that."
Tenzin had hardly finished his sentence when there was a shout from one of the Zoomers. "Tenzin," she squealed, "The gatekeeper needs you. Now! Bring help. It's an attack."
"Now is when I wish I had wings," said Tenzin, as he grabbed for the tree trunk and slid quickly down to the ground. Jocko was not far behind him, risking the stickers as he slid down almost on top of Tenzin. Together the two boys ran up the trail toward the cave entrance, followed by the girls. Overhead a flight of Zoomers got to the entrance before they did.
"Tenzin!" yelled Gatekeeper, "Goblins are trying to break through. Looks like they really want those kids."
"What can I do?" yelled Tenzin.
"Get the backup gate ready. When we fall back, drop the net just as soon as we move inside."
"Come on," said Tenzin and he and Joco went back to find the ropes for lowering the backup net. "Get that side ready," said Tenzin and Jocko knew what to do.
Zoomers took up positions and began firing their nettles from slingshots. Here and there a goblin dropped away and a cheer went up from the other Zoomers. But more goblins took their places. "There's too many," said Tenzin. "Father! Watch out, they're breaking through at the corner."
Zoomers heard Tenzin's cry and aimed at the section that was giving way. They knocked out a few goblins but most of the creatures had armor which protected them from the darts.
"Get ready! We're coming!" yelled Gatekeeper. Then he and the others came running while the flying Zoomers covered their escape. "Drop the net!" shouted Gatekeeper. One side of the net dropped but the other side tanbled halfway down.
Now the goblins were pouring in through the first gatet. Without a word Jocko went into action. He clambered up to the jammed knot, his hands working furiously to undo the tangle. "Hurry!" yelled Tenzin, "they're almost here!"
Jocko ignored everything as he concentrated his struggle with the knot that just wouldn't come undone. Then with a jerk he broke it loose and the net fell with a thud, almost taking Jocko with it, but he jumped and caught the net higher, then climbed down.
"Good work!" said Gatekeeper, motioning for everyone to lock down the edges. Working as a team the net was quickly secured just in time as a swarm of goblins mashed against the metal mesh. "They won't get through this one in a hurry," said Tenzin.
"What happens if they do?" asked Jocko.
"We have more blocks, back there," said the boy, pointing down the tunnel.
Now the angry goblins were hurtling against the net, but the mesh held. Zoomers kept pelting the goblins with their darts and some of their stingers got through the armor, causing the critters to fall into a deep sleep.
"Come on," said Gatekeeper, "We'll put the tunnel blocks in place. They can't get through that."
Down the tunnel they all hiked to a place where the gatekeeper stopped. "Is everybody accounted for?" he asked.
Seeing that everyone was clear he activated a sliding metal gate that cut across the tunnel. Then, further along the tunnel they stopped again and slid another metal gate across. "that will do it for now," said the Gatekeeper. "Those goblins sure want you kids. I wonder why?"
Jocko shrugged, "I don't know," he answered.
"Come on," said the Gatekeeper, "I'm hungry after all that."
Back in the valley everyone was excited by the goblin raid which was the topic of every conversation. "Do you think the hornet goblins will fly in over the mountains?" asked Tenzin.
Gatekeeper nodded. "I think they will," he replied. "They seem to want
those kids -- they want them real bad. I don't know why, but I have a feeling
we'll see the hornets by morning. Better get the crews ready."
"I don't know," said, Heather, "We're none of us anything special that I know of."
Electra added, "We're just little kids, that's all."
"It must be more than that," said the Gatekeeper, shaking his head.
Tenzin and Jocko, in the meantime, were meeting with the Zoomer group leaders and going over defense plans. The girls caught up with them. "What can we do?" asked Electra.
"Here," said Tenzin, "Learn to use these slingshots, use pebbles to practice with so you don't waste darts. The flyers don't have much armor so they'll be easier than the ground troops."
Heather grabbed up a slingshot and quickly got off a pebble.
"Hey! You're pretty good," said Jocko, "I didn't know you could do that."
"Lots of things you don't know about me," said Heather, "Come on kids, here Electra take one, you too Raven, I'll show you how to use them."
As they practiced their aims, the light of the sky began to fade. "Does it get dark here at night?" asked Jocko.
"Sure," replied Tenzin, "You're really not in a cave anymore. It's more like a valley here."
"When will the goblins come?" asked Heather.
"Not at night," said Gatekeeper, "better get some rest, after you eat. We should be ready in case there's an early morning attack."
Raven yawned, "Okay," she said, "I could use some sleep." The group
moved down to a campfire on the ground and ate from the community pot,
then Tenzin put them on an elevator to the top where there were places
to sleep. Afterwards, Tenzin took up his post at the lookout station.
Go to: Time Enough For All: Chapt 6.