Back in the cave, Addis stood looking at the spot where Dante had been just a moment before.
“Dante?” he asked, and then took a few steps forward. He walked all around the last spot she had been, but couldn’t detect a portal, or hole, or any other way she could have suddenly vanished. He wondered if somehow Lyria had taken her, or if there was something else going on they still didn’t know about. He went back to sit on one of the couches and put his head in his hands.
“Now what?” he asked, looking down at the pendant hanging from his neck.
In the woods, the others were waiting impatiently for Dante to return.
“We never should have let her go alone,” Greff muttered. “This is madness.”
Before the others could respond, the Wumpus were suddenly upon them without warning. Seeya shrieked and zipped off, and Ori and Greff were quickly captured. The Wumpus carried them, struggling, back to the cave.
Once they dumped their prisoners on the floor of the cave, they whooped, and raced back outside, sealing the entrance with ice.
“Addis,” Ori said, sounding relieved. “I’m so glad to see you’re o.k.” Addis opened his mouth to speak, but Greff interrupted before he could say anything.
“Where is she?” he demanded, agitated.
Addis shook his head. “I don’t know. She just disappeared. She was here, and then she just … wasn’t.”
“What do you mean she just wasn’t?” Greff asked, but Addis just looked at him helplessly. He snorted. “It must have been Lyria.”
Ori shook his head thoughtfully. “I don’t think so. If Lyria had been able to summon us at any time, wouldn’t she have done it already?”
Before they could answer, the Wumpus came bursting back into the room, shouting and laughing.
“Well, we’ve got you now!”
“Hey!” Pirrin said, looking around, “where’s Dante?”
“We don’t know,” Addis mumbled.
Pirrin walked over to him and shook him. “What do you mean you don’t know? Lyria won’t be very happy she’s gone. You’d better tell us where she went.”
“I told you, I don’t know.”
Pirrin regarded him a moment. “Maybe a little swim will refresh his memory,” he said.
“No,” Ori said calmly, walking over and blocking the entrance to the tunnel that led out of the cave. “She just disappeared. Think about it. You’ve had the cave sealed all this time, how could she have left?”
“Yeah,” Greff added, “And how do you know that Lyria didn’t take her somehow? Shouldn’t you talk to her first?”
Pirrin looked between Ori and Greff and said, “Yeah, I can see that you two are the smart ones.”
He turned to the Wumpus behind him. “O.k., let’s go and find Lyria!” He led them whooping out of the cave, and the opening froze solid behind them. Addis still sat on the sofa staring at his hands. Greff began pacing and Ori quietly sat down.
“You may as well sit down,” he said to Greff. “We have no idea how long we’ll be here.”
It was getting late when the Wumpus returned. Greff, Addis and Ori were just sitting quietly.
“You are no fun at all,” Pirrin said, throwing himself down onto a couch between Greff and Addis. “You know what you guys need? A party!”
And the Wumpus all laughed.
Because they had been in the cave all day without food or water, they gratefully accepted what the Wumpus gave them. As they finished their meal the Wumpus began dancing around them. Ori looked over and noticed that Addis was nodding off, which seemed odd because the Wumpus were making a lot of noise. He went over to check on his friend.
“Addis, are you o.k.?”
“Just so sleepy,” he muttered, and his head dropped onto his chest.
Ori noticed Greff’s eyes closing and began to feel alarmed. He went over the Brox. “Greff, how are you feeling?”
“So sleepy,” murmured Greff. And despite all the movement and noise, he lay down and was sound asleep. Ori looked at their empty plates and cups, and came to the terrible realization that they had been drugged. Why did the Wumpus want them asleep, and more importantly, why hadn’t whatever they put into the food and drink affected him? He decided he might find out more if the Wumpus thought he was asleep too, so he curled up next to Greff, closed his eyes and made his breathing even. After a few minutes, he heard the Wumpus start to quiet down, and footsteps walking over to where he lay. A foot nudged him roughly, but he just relaxed and pretended he was sleeping. He heard Pirrin chuckle.
“Yep, they’re out! That stuff works great! Thanks Mirch.”
They rest of the Wumpus laughed and Mirch replied, “Well, I had to do something. It’s been so boring not being able to swim, and Lyria won’t let me play anything but the fog game, so I had to do something so we could have some fun. Come on, let’s go!”
And with that, Ori heard them all whooping and running up the tunnel and out of the cave.
Once it was completely silent, he opened his eyes. If they were going swimming, there was a chance to escape. He looked at Greff and Addis, who were both in a deep sleep, and realized he had no hope of getting all three of them out of the cave. And he was starting to feel so tired. He just needed to lie down for a moment, just to get a little rest. He dropped back down next to Greff, and surrendered himself to sleep
In the woods, from his perch high in a tree, Seeya saw the lake go from ice to water, and soon saw the Wumpus swimming.
“Well,” he said, hands on his hips. “What’s all that about? Certainly they can’t have left the others in the cave while they go swimming.”
A horrible thought suddenly seized him. “Oh my! What if they’ve gotten rid of the others!”
He began to feel frantic. He zipped back and forth, wondering what to do. The Wumpus had all gone to the far side of the lake, and were playing some kind of game in the shallow water. They were completely involved in what they were doing, and Seeya was sure they wouldn’t notice if he slipped down and back into the cave. He decided to take the risk to make sure his friends were o.k.
He flew to the edge of the woods and hesitated a moment, realizing if the Wumpus saw him it would be all over. So he did something he hated to do – he walked. He made it to the edge of the lake unseen, and realized the water was much higher than it had been before. The only way to reach the cave would be to swim.
“Oh dear,” he said, looking down at himself. “That water will absolutely ruin my ensemble. Not to mention my hair. I would look a fright.”
He sat down on the sand and thought about what to do. He remembered Dante talking about her freckles, and all the times Addis had listened to him complain. He remembered Greff saying goodbye to Turra, and how Ori had always encouraged him along the way when they were making their journey across the valley.
“Well,” he said resolutely, “there’s just no other way.” And the tiny, perfectly groomed Oralian jumped into the water and swam down to the opening of the cave.
He needn’t have worried, because when he got to the room where the Non-Council members were being held, they were all fast asleep. He went to Ori first, thinking the Bastahl would be the least likely to comment on his bedraggled appearance.
“Ori,” he whispered, pushing against his shoulder. “Wake up!”
But the Bastahl didn’t budge. That worried Seeya a little and he moved closer to his ear.
“Ori!” he said, “wake up!”
When the Bastahl still didn’t wake up he tried Greff and then Addis, but none of them even twitched a muscle. He zipped around the room in confusion. Should he stay? Should he try to hide? Or should he go? And then he realized something else that worried him. Dante wasn’t in the cave. Why? Perhaps she had escaped? But that didn’t make sense, because she would have gone back to the woods and he’d have seen her. Had the Wumpus done something with her? Had Lyria?
He hovered above the sleeping figures and looked around the cave, hands on his hips. How in beauty’s name would he wake them? He saw Greff’s basket lying on the floor. He grabbed it and zipped to the opening of the cave. He dipped it in the lake and had to walk back, lugging the full basket with him. It was quite heavy, and he had to drag it, grunting and pushing over to Greff, who he doused with the water.
“Whaaat…” Greff sputtered awake. He saw Seeya and his eyes opened wide.
“What happened to you?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” Seeya replied.
“Well, it’s just that you look like you’ve gotten wet, your hair is a mess, your clothes are completely sodden, your shoes are muddy, and your face is all red.”
“Well, I just dragged that basket of water over here! It was heavy and I couldn’t fly so I had to walk! Never mind that now – I need help!”
Greff took the basket, went up the tunnel to the lake and filled it with water. He easily brought it back and revived Ori, and then Addis. They all sat for a minute looking at Seeya, who was so tired he was sitting on the floor of the cave. Addis simply stared, speechless.
“Fine, fine,” the Oralian snapped. “I’m a mess, o.k.? Get over it! I had to swim to get in here, and then I had to lug that heavy basket to get water in here to wake up Greff. I’d like to see any of you do that and look any better. And yes,” he said, folding his arms across his chest, “I’m frowning!”
Addis walked over to where the Oralian was sitting, arms crossed on his chest and the faintest trace of a frown on his face. He put his hand on Seeya’s shoulder and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look better.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Ori said. “Seeya, that was so brave of you, I think this is the most attractive you’ve ever been.”
“You look fine to me,” Greff said, “what’s different?”
Seeya dropped his arms and looked at all of them. Then his face resumed its blank expression.
“Well,” he said, “we don’t have time for this. They might be back at any minute!”
He looked around again and asked, hesitantly, “So, where’s Dante?”
Addis, Greff and Ori looked at each other with grim faces.
“We don’t know,” Addis said, “she just vanished.”
“What?” Seeya said.
“No time now,” Greff said, heading for the opening, “let’s get out of here, and we can catch you up on it when we’re far away from here.”
They made their way out of the cave, swam to the shore, and headed back into the woods.
When the Wumpus returned Pirrin was shocked to find their guests had escaped. He just stood in the middle of the cave, breathing heavily.
“What do we do?” Dula cried.
“We’ve got to find them!” Mirch shouted.
Pirrin didn’t say a word, he just ran out of the cave to find Lyria. When he reached her home he pounded on the door until she answered.
“They’ve escaped” he panted.
“What? How? What have you done?”
Pirrin cowered as she raised her arms. He wasn’t sure what she might do, but he was afraid of her. She dropped her arms and said quietly. “All of them?”
When Pirrin nodded she turned her head and sighed. Then she looked back at the Wumpus. “I don’t care about the others,” she said, “I can take care of them. But you must find Addis – he cannot escape!”
Pirrin just nodded and ran back out the door. Lyria sighed and shook her head.
Once they were safely back in the woods Greff began building another barricade. Ori began working on some traps they could put in the trees to help keep the Wumpus from capturing them. He couldn’t stand the thought of actually hurting anyone, so he made sure when the traps were sprung the vines wouldn’t be too tight or constraining.
Addis was helping look for branches and rocks, and Seeya was keeping lookout. By this point, the Oralian had discarded the beautiful shirt Lyria had given him, both because it was beginning to look like a rag, and because the bright color could be seen easily through the trees.
“It was probably her plan all along,” he told the others when he buried it behind the barricade.
Greff was still fortifying the barricade and Ori was setting traps when Seeya zipped back to where they were working.
“They’re coming!” he said breathlessly. The four looked at each other for a moment and then Addid nodded.
“We’re going to be o.k.,” he said. Ori smiled, Greff nodded and Seeya put his hands on his hips.
At that moment they heard Pirrin shouting. “O.k.,” he yelled, “don’t worry much about the others, we’ve got to capture Addis!”
Three sets of eyes turned in Addis’s direction. He put his hands over his tummy.
“Maybe I should just give myself up,” he suggested taking a step forward.
“No!” Greff shouted and pushed him back.
At that moment the Wumpus tried rushing the barricade, but several got caught up in Ori’s traps. Unfortunately, because the Bastahl couldn’t tolerate violence, it didn’t take the athletic Wumpus long to work their way out of them. When the first Wumpus head showed at the top of the barricade, Greff gave a great cry and grabbed four of the biggest branches he had and just began swinging. The Wumpus flew back with a howl.
“Greff!” Ori shouted. The Brox looked back at the Bastahl’s anguished face.
“Do you want them to get Addis?” he shouted.
Ori hesitantly picked up a branch and stood ready. When the next Wumpus head showed over the barricade, he used the branch like a ramrod, quickly punching it into the Wumpus’ face. The creature howled and dropped immediately. Greff looked at Ori appreciatively.
“Swinging won’t provide the same impact as punching with it,” he explained.
Suddenly the front wall of the barricade began to sway with a terrible creaking noise. Seeya zipped over the top and yelled down.
“They’re pulling down the front wall! Go out the back and run….ahhh!” He suddenly dropped from sight.
“Seeya!” Addis yelled and tried to run forward. Using one of his branches, Greff shoved him back and he fell.
“It’s no use,” Ori shouted, “they’ll get the wall down and then we’re done for. We have to run for it.”
“No!” Greff yelled back. “There’s no where to run! Keep fighting!”
The front wall of the barricade came down and there was an army of Wumpus behind it, led by Pirrin. Ori shoved Addis behind his back and crouched down, his branch ready. With a shout Greff pushed into the crowd, swinging four arms at once. Wumpus flew both left and right with howls, but there were too many. Out of the corner of his eye Ori could see Seeya on the ground, one wing bent at a sickening angle.
“Stay behind me,” he shouted to Addis.
There were six Wumpus on Greff, and they were slowly bringing him down. Two of them wrestled one of the branches out of his hand, and began hitting him with it. The blows just bounced off the Brox’s back.
“His head!” Pirrin shouted, and before Greff could move, Pirrin brought one of the largest branches down with tremendous force on Greff’ head. The Brox crumpled. Ori was now trying to back out of the barricade, his head swinging from back to front to make sure the Wumpus didn’t come from behind, a branch in one hand, his other hand protectively on Addis.
“It’s no use Ori!” Addis shouted. “I’m not going to have you all killed because she wants me!” and he tried to step out from behind the Bastahl.
Distracted, Ori looked down for an instant, and that’s when the Wumpus made their move. Dula made a grab for him, and Ori instinctively jumped. He landed lightly on a tree branch, but the trees in these woods weren’t strong enough. With a crack the branch broke and he fell on top of two Wumpus, knocking them out cold.
Pirrin never took his eyes off Addis.
“Finish him,” he said to Dula, who ran over and used the vines from one of Ori’s traps to tie him tightly.
Pirrin began to advance on Addis, who stood his ground. As Pirrin reached out to grab him, Addis tried to jump backward. The motion swung the pendant forward, and that was all Pirrin got in his hand.
“No!” Addis yelled and tried to move forward, but Pirrin yanked as hard as he could, laughing as the pendant broke off of Addis’ neck.
“It’s about time this was mine,” he sneered. Addis cowered for an instant, and then suddenly stood upright.
“Dante!” he said.
Pirrin replied, “Oh yes, where is she? Well, not to worry, Lyria only wants you,” and he took a step toward Addis.
“Lyria will have to wait,” Addis replied, and fixed Pirrin with a stare so intense that the Wumpus froze in confusion. Then Addis took two steps forward, and the surprised Pirrin leaned back slightly. Addis then took one step backward. And vanished.
Dula howled, “Where did he go? Lyria will be displeased!”
Pirrin just stared in amazement at the spot where Addis had been standing, within reach, and then threw the pendant to the ground and whirled to face Dula.
“I don’t know!” he said. “I don’t know what to do! He just vanished – how could that have happened?”
“Maybe Lyria took him?” Mirch suggested.
“If she could do that, she would have done it before,” Pirrin snapped. He paused a moment. “Maybe there’s someone else here who can make people disappear!”
The Wumpus all began to look uneasy. Seeya groaned slightly, and Ori, still tied up in vines, was relieved that he was still alive. The other Wumpus began to whimper.
“Shut up!” Pirrin yelled. “I’ve got to think!”
He looked wildly at Ori tied up and at Gress and Seeya on the ground, and then said, “Stupid tribes! We should have drowned you and iced you in and steamed you out of existence when we had the chance! But no, Lyria wanted to come in and save you all and rule you all. Now what!”
With a shake of his head he took off running toward the lake. The other Wumpus quickly followed.
Ori began struggling against the vines but they were tied too tightly for him to escape.
“Seeya, can you hear me?” he said loudly. The Oralian simply groaned in reply.
“Greff?” he called. No answer. He sighed. “O.k., Ori, there must be a way out of this. Just think. And do it quickly before anyone else shows up.”
The Bastahl closed his eyes, took a deep breath and began to meditate.