Chapter Five

"A Long Search And What Was Found"

Red Thorn laughed at me. "I knew you were a coward!" he cried. "Now why don't you run home to your mother, weakling?"

My heart was pounding so fast I thought it would jump out of my chest. I was shaking and found I couldn't make myself stop.

"You…creep!" I yelled. "You little meanie!"

I turned and started to leave the cave. Wait. Hadn't I heard a girl's scream? Could Red Thorn scream like a girl? Then I heard it again, from deep inside the cave.

"What was that?" Red Thorn said, staring in the direction of the scream.

"That wasn't you?" I asked. Then it had to be…

Suddenly we heard footsteps coming towards us. I backed up, afraid of what I'd see. A few seconds later, Bat Ears and Ice Mushroom came running up to us.

"Something almost got me!" Bat Ears cried.

"It smashed my torch!" Ice Mushroom sobbed.

"Where's Glimmer Night?" I asked.

"She must still be back there," Ice Mushroom said, pointing deep into the cave. "But I am not going back in there!"

"Me neither!" Bat Ears said.

"Cowards!" Red Thorn yelled. "You run off and leave a girl with a monster?" He ran into the darkness. He might be a creep but he wasn't a chicken. Like I was.

I admit it. I was even more scared than Bat Ears and Ice Mushroom were. I didn't want to go back into the dark. Besides, Bright Elm was probably with Glimmer Night, and Red Thorn was going to help, so she'd be okay, right?

Then Glimmer Night screamed again. I was sure it was her this time. And I don't know why, but I started running towards her scream. She sounded so scared. Like she was crying.

My torch soon went out completely. I slowed down then, almost stopped. But I couldn't leave without finding out if Glimmer Night was okay. I held my hands out in front of me and kept walking.

The sound of water was getting louder. I decided to follow it. There wasn't really much else I could do. I stepped on a sharp rock or something and cried out. I hopped on one foot as I pulled whatever it was out of the other foot. Ow! It was so sharp, whatever it was, it stuck my fingers when I removed it. I limped a little at first. Then I heard Glimmer Night scream again. I forced myself to ignore the pain and hurried.

Far up ahead I suddenly saw a very dim light. I walked towards it, hoping it would lead me to Glimmer Night. After a few minutes I could see a little from the glow up ahead. It seemed to come from the wall. Looking closely I saw what looked like some kind of fungus. I stepped away from it, making a face. Glow in the dark fungus. Yuck. I looked around. There was no sign of anyone. I'd hoped Bat Ears or Ice Mushroom would have followed me. Well, maybe they'd gone to get help. But where was Red Thorn? Where was Bright Elm? Where was…

Then I heard another scream. It wasn't Glimmer Night. It sounded like a boy. If Red Thorn, as tough as he was, was in so much trouble that he was screaming, then what chance did I have against whatever had them? But I kept going, more slowly, looking around for the slightest sign that I was no longer alone.

The water sound had gotten still louder. I stepped into a big cavern and saw something in the distance. A waterfall. So that was what was making the sound. I looked around. There was no one around. The tunnel ended in the cavern.

Or did it? I'd seen a movie where there was a secret passage in a cave behind a waterfall. Maybe there was one here. But the water ran down a big deep hole in the ground and I sure didn't want to end up going with it.

I looked around and picked up a rock. I threw it at the waterfall. I heard a clunk on the other side. So there was a passage behind it! But the hole was pretty big and I'd have to jump across it. I couldn't see the bottom. And I didn't know how far the hole went past the part I could see of it. What if the water knocked me down the hole?

Then I heard Glimmer Night scream again. This time it was weak and cut off suddenly. Like something really bad had happened to her.

I took a couple steps back then ran at the falls and jumped. The water hit me hard and I was afraid it would knock me back over the edge. Then I fell through it and hit the floor hard. I rolled a few times before I could stop. Ow. That really hurt!

It took me a minute to ignore the pain and look around. It was dark in here. The waterfall was blocking the glow. I couldn't see anything. But I could hear sobbing.

I got up. My knee hurt but I made myself walk. I moved really slowly, dragging my feet along the ground in case there was another hole up ahead. I didn't want to fall in. Because I was dragging my feet, I scraped the bottoms on pebbles. Ow! But I couldn't stop now.

"Glimmer Night?" I said very quiet. I didn't want whatever it was that was making her scream to hear me. That made me feel cowardly again. But I didn't have any weapons and didn't know how to fight anyway.

I stubbed my big toe on a rock. I hopped on that foot a minute, then reached down and picked up the rock. It wasn't much of a weapon but it was something. I'd dropped my torch when it went out and it probably wouldn't have been of much use anyway. Maybe I should have gotten some of that glow in the dark fungus, but I didn't want to touch it because it had looked gross and maybe it was diseased or something.

Suddenly up ahead I saw a dim light. It was just bright enough to keep me from walking into a wall just ahead. There was a gap of a couple of feet in the wall and the light was coming from the other side. I walked through slowly. This area was lit by some more of the glowing fungus. I gasped as I saw Red Thorn lying on the ground. He wasn't moving. Was he faking it again?

I walked up to him and nudged him a little with my foot. He moaned but didn't move. No, he definitely wasn't faking. He had scratches on his arms and legs and his clothes were ripped in several places.

I got down on my knees and whispered, "Who did this? Where's Bright Elm? Where's Glimmer Night?"

He didn't answer. Just pointed. I looked and could just see some stone steps, cut right into the rock, leading down. I couldn't see the bottom. I looked around and sighed. I had no choice but to get some of that glowing fungus and hope it wasn't poisonous. I scraped some into a weird, gross, glowing ball, then started very slowly down the steps. I counted them as I went down. There were thirty of them. At the bottom I saw a door. I walked up to it. It was made of stone and open just enough for me to squeeze through if I sucked in my stomach. I went in and saw Bright Elm. Like Red Thorn, he was lying on the ground, scratched up and clothes torn. Something was laying beyond him, something I couldn't make out at first, but I knew what it was. I moved closer, looking around for whatever it was that had attacked them.

I cried out in terror. It was a skeleton! I backed away and lost my balance, falling over backwards. I dropped the ball of fungus. It plopped messily on the floor beside me. Then I heard footsteps. Not Ice Mushroom or Bat Ears. Whoever it was had shoes. Actually, it sounded like metal boots. A knight in armor? At this point nothing would surprise me.

I struggled to get to my feet and that was when something cold and slimy grabbed my arm…

To be continued