Evan shivered with anticipation. They got in trouble pretty often, but this was by far the most daring they had ever been. He waited in the shadows beside the gate with Martin. “Where are they? This was all Jimmy’s idea and he’s not even here.”
“Be patient” answered Martin. “Lily had about a million chores to do, and she probably made him help with each one. Its kinda funny how hard he’s working for this gold piece…you’d almost think he wasn’t such a slacker.”
Evan laughed quietly “I bet he’s kicking himself right now…thought it would be so easy I bet.”
This pair exchanged smiles, as their two friends finally came into sight, darting doorway to doorway as they approached down the narrow town street. As they neared, Martin quietly slipped the bar on the gate, and pulled it open just wide enough to fit them one at a time. After they had all quietly filed through, he pushed it far enough shut to look closed, but still provide access to pull it open when they returned. Martin whispered under his breath “Sir Geoffrey is asleep in the guard room. As long as we’re back before morning light, he’ll never notice we’ve gone.”
The four friends climbed down the steep hill to the forest and road below. They followed Lily’s lead, as she had convinced her sister to give up the location of a make-out spot not far from town. Into the treeline, Lily pulled a small rod from a small satchel at her side, and struck it sharply on its end. The rod slowly began to glow with a sickly blue-green colour. Lily shook it vigorously until the glow was even across the surface of the rod; however it’s light still remained dim. “Well, I guess we don’t want too much light anyway. I just wish I could make them as good as Mom. Its this way, past that funny shaped rock and left of a bent pine tree somewhere up ahead.”
Taking her direction, Jimmy led the way, his excitement speeding his steps until he was just outside the edge of the faintly glowing light. The friends came upon the spot almost by surprise. Sheila had been right, unless you knew how to find it, this place was well hidden. It was a small clearing behind a large rock. A tight ring of knotted trees enclosed the area to just larger than the area for a small camp fire and room to sit. They could see that there was a small opening at the base of the rock, which presumably led to a small cave, just large enough for a couple engaging in romantic interests. Martin crinkled his nose at the foul smell hanging around the obviously used campsite, and poked the ashes of the fire with a stick. “A couple people have definitely been staying here, but from this fire pit, it looks like they’ve been gone for a day or more. Jimmy, check out the cave for clues.”
“Why me?” yelped Jimmy.
“Because this was all your idea.”
Jimmy muttered something too low to understand, and ducked his head to enter the small opening. His voice floated out “Its dark in here, one sec.” A couple of moments with his flint later, and the soft light of a candle flame lit the entry way. “It stinks in here, but not as bad I think, Somebody has definitely been in here. There’s some gross rags, and a couple bags…looks like basic supplies. I bet whoever it is is planning on coming back.” He emerged from the cave, and rejoined his companions. “It was pretty gross in there, but I found this.” He held out his hand to Evan, and dropped a small object into his friend’s hand.
Evan cursed sharply, and dropped it onto the ground. “Gods above, it moved.” He rubbed at his hand as if trying to remove something slimy.
Lily picking it up and examined it. “Its just a button, a nice one.”
“I swear it moved in my hand.” stated Evan looking at his hand. “Almost like it was trying to go somewhere.”
“Well, it didn’t move for me, and I’d bet half my gold piece that it belongs to Mr. Grimm, or Sir Gall.” said Jimmy. “They said nothing was taken, but they might not have noticed if it was a button…but why would someone steal a button?”
“Quick, I hear someone!” hissed Lily. She tucked her pale light into her satchel, and the friends quickly left the clearing, and moved deeper into the woods to hide. They hadn’t gotten far when Jimmy pulled them to the ground behind a nearby stump and put his finger to his lips.
A voice carried in the night air from the campsite. It wasn’t loud, but they were uncomfortably close. “I’m sorry master” it whined, “I thought I must have left it back here, but I cant find it anywhe..” The sound of a blow carried even to this hidden youths, and interrupted the speaker.
The new voice was lower and harder to hear, but the anger in the words carried clearly. “You fool, how could you loose it. I hold you personally responsible for this.” A low moan of fear reached the ears of the hidden listeners.
“Please” it begged.
There was a terrible cry of pain, and a sudden flash of light, bright light the sun. Lily, eye wide with fear would have run in panic, however Martin grabbed her and held her close. “Shhh” he whispered, “be still, and everything will be fine.” He held her close until her trembling stopped.
The voice resumed once more. “The rest of you, we know may not know exactly where they’ve gone, but we can get them on their return. Let us go with haste. We’ll catch them unaware, and hopefully wounded. As long as we succeed, the Birdman will be pleased, regardless if we lost the token or not.” There was a sudden and brief rushing sound, almost like a strong wind blowing through the leaves of the forest; and then Silence.
The four friends, remained silent and still for several minutes, afraid to move or speak. Eventually it was Lily who broke the silence first. “Do you think they were talking about this?” She held up the button to her friends.
Evan carefully reached out his hand and took the button once again. “It feels kinda like it wants to fall out of my hand sideways.”
Martin looked at Jimmy with a serious expression. “I don’t know about this button, but I’m sure those voices were talking about Sir Gale, and the rest of them.”
Evan looked troubled. “There’s no way we could warn them. We don’t know where they went, and even if we did, what could we do? We don’t even have weapons.”
Jimmy looked thoughtful. “They really wanted the button right? and it moves in your hand?” he looked questioningly at Evan, who nodded in reply. “Well maybe, its some way to track them…maybe we can go back to town, get some weapons, and get there in time to warn them.” He looked around at the expressions on his friends faces. He knew that Lily, and likely even Martin would be on-board, but Evan’s voice would still be the deciding vote.
After a long thought, Evan slowly nodded his head. “I’m in, but we gotta go quick, or there’s no point.” Evan then climbed to his feet, looked around them, and befan walking back towards the town.