Ben, Andy, Angelica and Sinton, while invisible, searched through the corridors, rooms, and larger chambers. Mr Finch was nowhere to be found.
‘Let’s get back to the cells!’ said Andy. ‘Maybe he’s there now.’
They made their way to the prison part, but still no Mr Finch.
‘I know where he could be. In the kitchen for teaching. They sometimes let him out to help with the cooking.’ Food preparations occurred all day, even night, according to Angelica.
When they arrived at the kitchen area, they discovered a few Yowie females standing at a stone bench top, cutting, and preparing. Others added herbs, and other ingredients into a large cooking spot on directions from a large Yowie male, who used implements looking like oversized museum pieces.
‘He’s not here,’ whispered Angelica.
Andy shook his head. ‘I think we have to forget about Mr Finch. What do you say, Ben? We’ve got to get back to the others.’
Ben felt a twinge of something he could not define. ‘Okay then. I suppose we can’t do anything about it.’
‘You know, the others are not safe where they are. We’ve got to get back,’ said Andy.
Ben was disappointed. Before they left, he grabbed some hard berries from a basket, and shoved them into his overfull pockets.
As they hurried along, and went up some stone stairs, it had to happen.
A couple of the big round berries fell out of his pockets to roll down the steps.
Ben was quick to let go of Sinton, and raced down to catch the fruits. At the same time a hostile walked out of a door at the bottom. Two more were on their way down from an upper level.
A shocked Ben, now visible, was stuck between three hostile Yowies. It was the same as being stuck between three crocodiles, and a water way. Not much chance to get away.
They had him cornered, and made an easy grab. He screamed, shoved and pushed, but to no avail. He showed the others with his eyes, and a quick hand sign, what he wanted them to do.
Andy was torn. Unsure of how Angelica was to react, if something worse happened, he had to decide fast. Leave at once was his only option.
The hostiles carried Ben away, as if he was a troublesome toddler. He was taken to a prison cell, which was a courtyard with four walls, and no ceiling. He was too upset to notice how they managed to open the cell, seemingly without a door. Did they carry him through the wall? Or what happened?
Left there on his own, he felt not only scared, but defeated. He had thought it was to be easy. Why had it not worked out better? Would the others plan to rescue him, or would he be left there forever, as the new teacher? With no backpack, and no Silver Stick, he knew there was no way out. The walls were much too high, and no door to be seen. Thoughts rushed continuously through his head. He had claimed he was more than able to use the Silver Stick, but still managed to leave it behind. If only he had taken his backpack before they left. Why didn’t he? He needed the Silver Stick. That was the only means of escape. How could he have forgotten to bring it?
He managed to calm down. The issue with no door wasn’t strange to him. After all his experiences, he wasn’t even surprised. That kind of magic seemed to be the norm in their land. But with every wall too high with nothing to climb on, he sighed, and sat down to think.
After some long minutes, he went up to search for odd stones. Would there be any kind of mechanism to open, and close somewhere? He felt for lose stones, but found nothing. With renewed despair, the only thing to do was to lie down on the bed, which was the usual bunches of dried leaves and sticks. Then he lay there staring up at nothing.
Andy felt guilty when forced to leave Ben behind. Nothing else he could do. He had to get back to the others fast to plan the next step. Every moment spent at the Kernel was too long, and too dangerous.
Andy, Angelica and Sinton hurried along the corridors to get back to where the rest were hiding.
Arriving at the large rock, another shock awaited.
‘Oh, no! That’s all we need!’ Andy felt overwhelmed by hopelessness.
Angelica looked at him. ‘Are you sure it was here? Nah, they’re caught! I knew it! We can’t get out. What did I tell you?’
Andy pondered what to do. ‘I think we have to wait right here. They should be back soon.’
‘No, they must’ve been caught. I knew it. We can’t get out. What did I tell you?’
The wait went on for many minutes. Angelica became restless. ‘We’ve got to do something. No use sitting here.’
Andy made a sign to hold onto Sinton before he whispered. ‘Somebody’s coming.’
Bill was first around the block. ‘They’re not here yet.’
Andy and Angelica let go of Sinton.
‘Okay, so you are back!’ said Jerry. ‘We had to relocate briefly when we heard some stomping close by. B-But where’s Ben?’
Andy rubbed his hands together in a nervous manner. ‘Guys, I’ve got bad news! Ben’s captured! Couldn’t do anything to help him without the risk of not getting back here ourselves, and then you wouldn’t have known what had happened. Sorry for failing so miserably. I just remembered. I don’t think he brought his backpack where he had the Silver Stick. Have you seen the backpack?’
‘I have it here,’ said Jerry. He held onto two; his own brought back by Ben and Ben’s own. He looked inside. The Silver Stick was there.
‘As I feared, he can’t escape on his own,’ said Andy. ‘We have to do a rescue somehow.’
Olivia was stunned. She started snivelling. ‘Why … eh … didn’t he take it … if it’s that good?’ She composed herself, and used her hands to wipe her nose and face. ‘How can we get it to him, if we can’t get in there?’
‘Mum, try not to worry,’ said Charlie with Bragdon next to her.
‘Don’t worry! We’ll find him,’ said Angelica.
‘Another thing is; we couldn’t find Bart,’ said Andy.
‘Maybe we can’t do much about Bart,’ said Jerry. ‘I mean if nobody knows where he is, and if Angie couldn’t find him, I think that’s it. But how can we get to Ben? Time is of the essence. What do we do? Could the Silver Stick really help him?’
‘Yeah, dad, he absolutely needs it. That’s his only chance,’ said Jack. He knows exactly what to do with it.’
Jerry smiled. He wondered what had brought it on. Jack had called him ‘dad’ for the first time. ‘Okay son, so how do we get it to him then?’
They went through different scenarios. In the end it was decided that Sinton was the only one who could safely get back into the hostile nest.
‘If you go back there Sinton, you can find out where they’re holding Ben,’ said Andy. ‘Then we’ll plan from there.’
All agreed it was the most sensible thing.
Then Whistler made a remark. He wanted to go with Sinton. He was the one with a bow and arrows, and knew how to use them.
‘Okay, we’ll try what you’re saying,’ said Jerry. ‘I’m not all that comfortable, but we’ll try your way first.’
‘I must go too,’ said Jack. ‘We’ll bring the Silver Stick. I know how it works.’
Before there were any objections, the three disappeared out of sight.
The first part went smoothly. Sinton took Jack and Whistler to the stairs where Ben had been caught.
Whistler didn’t say much, Sinton couldn’t talk, and Jack had nobody to ask questions.
After searching the area, Jack found what he thought must be a clue. A sign on a wall with an arrow, and the words: ‘Outdoor Cell’.
‘Could be somewhere over that way then,’ whispered Jack, pointing.
They ended up in front of another part of the wall. There were no visible signs of an outdoor cell more than another sign on this wall.
‘What to do now?’ said Jack. ‘Let me think for a moment! Well, if it’s a cell it must be a door somewhere to the outside.’
Jack, with the others in tow, scanned through columns, and stone overhangs. Halfway hidden was an opening with stone steps going upwards.
He dragged them forward. ‘Got to get up there. Come on!’
The stairs were narrow and dark. At the top, they opened a door, and were out in the open. Only meters away, they found a large opening in the ground.
Jack moved forward to take a look down, while holding onto Sinton. There was nothing to see more than a large square hole with another wall built inside this opening, but with space, like a walk way, between the walls. This arrangement made it into an opening inside another opening, but too far away for them to take a look.
Jack thought it was a clever way to make a prison cell. A hole inside another hole. ‘If that’s a cell over in that other hole, he could be down there somewhere. But we can’t call out in case the hostiles hear us.’
Whistler had an idea. He gave out his usual tweet, and a trill.
Ben, in his open cell, looked up, expecting to see a bird at the top of his wall, but saw nothing. He let out a quick whistle.
Without a word Whistler fastened the Silver Stick to an arrow. The shot made it across the gap, and over the next wall.
Ben ducked, as the package fell down on top of him. ‘Brilliant!’ He had already seen the silvery crystal tied to the arrow. After some fiddling around, he managed to unfasten the string. He stood up, and quickly drew a new door. This time it was easy as pie. The wall cracked, and ripped without delay. He had become faster, and more proficient with its workings.
Elated, he carefully took a few steps out. No one was around. He went to the corner, turned, and came to a new corner. When he came to another corner, he patted his forehead to try, and get his brain cells working. Somehow it seemed to do the trick, but unfortunately not the way he wanted. Instead his mind steered into endless labyrinths, bizarre puzzles, and inescapable jail cells. Scared and frustrated, he was unsure of what to do next. With no inkling on where he was, he worried about finding his way out before the ones trying to rescue him had enough of waiting.
For a moment he tried to get the feeling he sometimes gets. As if on cue, he made his way to the door, he had just made, to see if it was still there. He found it, and decided to make another door on the opposite wall. Bang, crack, and rip! And he was out into a corridor.
In the meantime, the others hurried down the stairs to make it before Ben was to appear. If Ben used the Silver Stick, they had no way of knowing where he were to come out. They followed the wall back, and forth, searching for him.
Jack became worried, and whispered. ‘Why does it take so long? Didn’t he get the Silver Stick? What do we do now?’
When Ben stepped out of the wall from the newly made door, Jack let go of Sinton, and Whistler. They were visible for one moment to show Ben.
Jack waved him over.
‘Hey, Ben, you took your time. Seems like DEFCON 1 out here. Better stay safe, and not seen. Grab hold!’
‘Thanks heaps, guys! Knew you could do it. Better leave now before they find out I’m gone.’
Jack felt relieved. Ben was safe, but they had to move without delay. He was sure of the way, and made them sneak invisibly along the walls.
Back at the big rock, all were relieved to find out the rescue had been successful.
‘Now, after all this, I reckon we need proper plans,’ said Jack.
Ben thought differently. ‘Who needs plans? We’ve got to go before they grab us. That’s the plan.’
Ben was right. There was no time for mucking around, and no use for intricate plans, which possibly never worked. Just leave there, and then.
There was no time to get ready. They made up the invisible line in an instant. Now there were three more people to take care of before trying their best to escape from the prison fortress without getting caught.
Scrambling on through the prison part, they heard the shouting hostiles from a distance. Upon entering the castle area, they felt slightly safer.
Jack had to let go for a couple of seconds to show them when he mouthed the words: ‘DEFCON 1, and no one’s around! Why aren’t they in this area?’
They shushed him.
‘Remember! No talking,’ said Ben with his finger across his mouth. He was confident of knowing the way, and took them through more corridors. The further they went, the duskier it became. He felt in a good mood. Everything was going great. ‘Not too far left now, and we’re out of here.’
They reached the red portal without trouble, and continued through the tunnel under the Ciyon Sea. The same way, as they had entered. On Ben’s advice, they had to refrain from using any torches. Everything went fine until they were closer to the last door, which was the exit to the outside, and the mainland.
That’s when sudden alarming noises came from behind.
‘Must be on our trail.’ Bill tried to make them move faster by pushing on from behind.
‘Go! Go!’ called Jack.
‘Come on! Move it!’ said Jerry.
‘Okay, okay,’ said Ben, before he had the strangest feeling. He turned around.
Somebody panted and puffed, while getting closer. ‘Wait … huh … for me!’
‘I think it’s Mr Finch,’ said Ben, spying through the gloom.
‘Take it easy, Bart! We’ll wait,’ called Olivia.
When the old man had caught up, he was completely out of breath.
‘Maybe you shouldn’t be running at your age,’ said Jerry, grabbing hold of his arm.
‘Mr Finch, were you followed?’ said Jack. ‘Did you see any hostiles?’
‘Huh … no … huh … no,’ said Bart, trying to recover.
‘We tried to find you, but couldn’t,’ said Jerry. ‘How did you figure out where we were?’
‘Huh … heard that … huh … the patrol … huh … is looking … for you … huh … and since Bragdon was … huh … thrown out we’ve known … huh … about the back door exit … only one place … huh … I could think of.’
‘Calm down, Bart,’ said Olivia. ‘Have a little rest, while we fill you in on what’s happened.’
For a few minutes, they stood close to the door, but delayed leaving. Mr Finch calmed down, met all, and was pumped with details. He was most surprised about the ape-like zilch.
‘Aye, like beating them … huh … at their own game so to speak,’ said Bart. ‘Braw we can be invisible too.’
As soon as he started to breathe normally, they decided it was time to proceed.
First they went through how they were to leave without being seen.
‘Mr Finch, we just have to be invisible when we get out,’ said Ben. ‘Just hold onto the next person. All us us need to do this, just in case.’ He also went through the emergency amount of tugging to communicate without talking.
The door Ben had made previously with the Silver Stick was gone. Now it was back to the original door with a heavy bar on the inside.
Jack and Andy lifted it off without a sound.
Ben, holding onto Sinton, pushed the door open, only a sliver, and without a sound. Only enough to have a peek.
He was faced with a platoon of hostile hunters who saw the door open, but nothing else.
‘ATTACK!’ screamed the leader. ‘GET THE ZILCH!’
As the uniformed Yowies, holding clubs and spears, lunged, Ben shoved the door shut with the immediate help of Jack and Andy, who threw the bar on in seconds.
‘Oh, no,’ cried Bill. ‘This is no good!’
‘Yeah, what do we do now? And, more importantly, how can we stop them coming in?’ said Jerry. ‘Just a matter of time before they break the door.’
Ben took out the Binehogen keystone from his backpack. ‘Let’s see what this little baby can do! Grandpa, you always said it was magic.’
‘NO! Don’t do anything that we might regret. We don’t know the full power of that stone yet,’ yelled Bill. ‘Put it away for goodness sake!’
‘Grandpa’s right. We’ve got to be careful with that thing,’ said Olivia. ‘We’ve heard a lot about it. Seems like it can make you disappear and … and … well, it’s not that safe.’
‘Well, we do want to disappear,’ said Ben.
Howie had not said much during the whole escapade. From beginning to end, he, as the newcomer, had only watched proceedings. Now he tried to be heard.
‘What is it? What are you trying to say, Howie?’ said Jerry.
‘I know about the Binehogen. It listens to wishes. Quandamus said if I think about it really hard, I can be transported, but only in the same world, and if I hold onto it. I think he might have said ‘country’. Can we try it? But I think we have to be careful, so we don’t end up in the wrong place. He told me that I can wish, but I can only wish, if there’s no other way, and he said I should use it sparingly, or it can be as dangerous as thunder and lightning. Its powers are almighty, and almost as controlling, as the sun in the sky.’
‘And who is this … eh … Quan … eh … what?’ said Ben.
‘Quandamus was the Holder before I became the new one,’ said Howie. ‘He told me.’
Outside the door was a constant rattling, and hammering. The door shook violently every time an axe hacked into the wood.
Jerry looked at Ben. ‘I’m totally lost here, but we’ve got to do something fast. Should we try what Howie said?’
‘Couldn’t we just wish we were on top of the Nullarbor?’ said Ben.
‘I don’t think that would work,’ said Howie. ‘Quandamus said it only works if there’s no other way, and not from one world to another. You told me earlier about some portal we have to find to leave this land. Could we not go there?’
‘We’ll have to do the wishing,’ said Olivia. ‘If we can’t get out this way, and can’t go back, there’s no other way to get out of danger. So, we’ve got that part right. We’ve got to try it. There’s nothing else.’
‘Come on, come on!’ said Jack. ‘We’ve got to do it right. All hold onto the next person, and then we’ve got to do some very strong wishful thinking. Ben, you hold the Binehogen, so everything is connected.’
‘You’re forgetting one thing,’ said Bill. ‘We can’t aim for the Phosphene. We’ve got to aim for Ambrosius’ cave. He needs to tell us more about it. None of us knows where the Phosphene is located.’
‘But many of us haven’t been to his cave home either,’ said Jerry. ‘We don’t know what it looks like. Olivia and I were never there. Bragdon hasn’t been there, and I don’t think Howie and Sinton have been there either. Oh, and you, Angie, I suppose you haven’t seen it. Maybe it doesn’t work if all of us can’t see it in our minds.’
‘We’ve just got to try, dad,’ said Ben. ‘Nothing else we can do.’
‘It’s only grandpa, Andy, Charlie, Ben and me who’ve seen the cave,’ said Jack. ‘The others haven’t. So Ben, it means that you’ve got to do your little stunt. Try and transfer some thoughts over to the others!’
‘I don’t do stunts,’ said Ben. ‘And I don’t know how to transfer thoughts. How can I do that? I don’t have a clue how to do it.’
The banging on the door went on more frantically. Every blow made Ben more nervous.
‘Hurry! That’s our only chance of getting out of here,’ said Andy. ‘It’s the first step towards getting out of this hell hole. Can you at least try, Ben?’
Ben nodded. He was hesitant, but saw no other way. The forceful hammering on the door continued. He knew of the possibility that they had strong metal tools, and other weapons to destroy it. Any minute the door would splinter, and break. It was now, or never. Nobody else could do what he could. He was the one who was able to see things in fiery flames. So what did they have to lose? Captured by the hostiles, and imprisoned forever, or try the wishful thinking?
Something was hitting harder, and more violently, on the wooden door. The banging, and scratching was multiplied by the sounds of stomping, and shouting down the other end of the tunnel.
‘Ben! Come on! Do it!’ whispered Jack.
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© Lena Nilsson. All rights reserved.