"Quietly," Haley said, in a whisper. "We don't want them to hear us."
Vik looked up and down the corridor. Haley shone Alice's flashlight upon Alice as she climbed the pile of rocks against one wall. Haley's light was the only light in the corridor. They were underground. The corridor was not a corridor in a building, but a tunnel through earth and rock. The walls of the tunnel were square, made of cut stone. But in one place, the stones had fallen down. At the top of the pile of stones there was a small hole, large enough for a man to crawl through. Alice crawled up to the hole and looked through. "Give me the flashlight," she said, and held her hand out backwards without looking.
Haley climbed up behind her and put the flashlight in her hand. Alice shone it through the hole. "There's a tunnel!"
"Alice, be quiet!" Haley said. Vik looked up and down the corridor again. He was the one who had brought them back here. The man named Jonah had escaped through this hole three days ago, and they were here to find him. Aside from their weapons and tools, they carried food and water. Jonah would need it after spending three days lost in tunnels underground. Unless he was dead, of course, in which case he would not be hungry at all. But Vik's father, Ugluk, chief of the orcs in The Catacombs, said sapiens can go a long time without food and water, so Vik believed Jonah was still alive.
This corridor was the same one in which Haley and Alice had met the man with no tongue who gave them the winged cat (see The Winged Cat). While Vik was a prisoner in Lady Natasha's house (see The Hostage), he learned that this man's name was Jonah. His wife, whose name was Sally, brought Vik his meals and looked after him. Vik liked her. When Alice and Haley rescued Vik, his father went to the corridor to release Jonah, but Jonah had disappeared. Jonah had moved aside the rocks at the top of the pile in the corridor and found a tunnel on the other side. He must have crawled through. Perhaps he thought he could escape that way. Perhaps he just wanted to explore. Ugluk figured that Jonah would crawl back out again in a few days, but so far he had not.
Vik, Haley, and Alice were there to find Jonah.
Alice was now crawling through the hole, into the passage beyond. It was dark in the corridor, because Alice had taken the flashlight with her. Haley's heart was pounding. What was in the other tunnel?
"Why didn't your father follow him in there?" she said to Vik.
"It not our."
"Whose is it?"
"I don't know. You go now."
Haley took a few breaths, closed her eyes for a moment, and then climbed through the hole. Alice was there, smiling, and shining the flashlight up and down the passage.
"Please stop doing that, Alice. It's the only light we have." Alice shone the light in Haley's face. "Alice!"
Vik climbed down beside them and looked around. His eyes were better than theirs in the dark, but even he could not see in absolute darkness. "Which way?"
"This way," Alice said, and began walking down the passage to the right. Haley followed her, with Vik at the back.
The passage ceiling and floor were made of wood boards. Haley guessed the ceiling was just high enough for her father to walk without bending over. Some of the planks were old and black, but here and there were new ones made of fresh wood. The walls were made of cut stone. At one time the stones may have fitted together perfectly, but in the hundreds of years since The Catacombs were made, they had moved outwards in some places, and sunk back in others. She passed one place where the wall must have fallen down, because it had been built again with bricks.
Their passage ended at another, running left and right. They went right. This passage branched into two passages another fifty steps later. Alice took them down the right passage.
Alice was excited. She walked forward quickly, always following the right-hand wall. She knew that if she always followed the right-hand wall, or the left-hand one, she would get through a maze, and it seemed to her that these passages must be part of a maze. But she had to be sure that she did not forget which side was the one she started with, so she was holding the flashlight in her left hand, and holding out her club to touch the wall with her right hand.
Alice was just wondering if maybe something would happen to make her switch her club from one hand to another without noticing, when the passage ended in a circular room, about twenty steps across. She stopped at the entrance to the room and shone her flashlight around the walls. They were covered with what looked like old crumbling flags and tapestries. The ceiling of the room went up and up, and at the top she could see sunlight shining through a hole. There were iron bars across the hole.
"How come we never found that hole?" Haley said. And it was a mystery. Alice and Haley had spent so much time looking for ways into The Catacombs, and yet they had not found a hole big enough to let a man through, but blocked with iron bars. It seemed impossible. And yet, there it was.
They walked into the room. There were no doors, and no other passages leading out of it. Now that she looked closer, Alice saw that the walls were not covered with tapestries at all, but a tangled mess of stretched strings and threads. It was as if a giant spider had been running around trying to cover all the walls with its webs. In fact, now that she thought about it, what was that black thing hanging in among the strings?
Haley screamed, and slashed with her knife at a cat-sized, eight-legged spider that landed upon her back. Alice swung at it with her club and smashed it. Another spider fell down upon her own head. Haley stabbed it in the eyes and it fell off. Spiders were falling all around them. Those that landed on the floor took a few spidery steps forward, and then jumped at them. The spiders had big shining pincers that snapped together as they tried to bite the children. Their abdomens (that's the big fat part of a spider) had stingers sticking out that dripped with poison.
Alice and Vik fought the spiders with their clubs, and Haley with her knife. The light of Alice's flashlight leaped from one wall to another. It is impossible to hold a flashlight steady in one hand while fighting spiders with your other hand. But the sunlight from above meant that Vik and Haley could see well enough.
Vik looked up. They had killed ten spiders between them, but there were many more in the webs. He turned and ran out of the room.
"Vik!" Haley said. A spider landed upon her head. Alice smashed it so hard with her club that she hit Haley as well. Alice was about to thump another spider that was coming down on a strand of silvery web, but Haley grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the passage. "Come on, there's too many of them."
In the passage, Alice ran ahead, to light the way, and to make sure they followed the right-hand wall. She ran as fast as she could. She thought she could hear the spiders tapping along behind them, and she imagined them crawling along the walls and ceiling, covering it with their hairy black legs. They came back to the branch in the passage, and turned right.
The new passage wound left and right. It did not seem to Haley that they were going up or down, just sideways. She thought she could see a light ahead of them, a yellow light. They came around a bend, and stopped at the entrance to another room.
The floor of the room was circular, and thirty paces across. The ceiling was not flat. It curved upwards towards the middle, in a dome. In the middle of the ceiling, at its highest point, was a large luminous stone that shone with a bright yellow light. The room itself was filled with grape vines. The vine leaves were bright green and wider than Vik's face. The vines were wrapped around iron poles that stretched from the floor to the ceiling. From the stems of the vines hung bunches of green or purple grapes. The entire room was filled with these vines, their giant leaves, and the huge, juicy grapes, except for four paths leading from the center of the room to four passages that lead out of it. The children stood at the end of one of these paths.
Moments before, the children had been running for their lives away from hundreds of hairy spiders, and even now Alice thought she could hear the spiders following them. They looked at the room, its vines, and the glowing stone on the ceiling, and they wanted to run across the room to get away from the spiders, but they didn't. What stopped them from running across the room was the sight of hundreds of giant ants walking slowly across the vine leaves, sucking juice from the largest grapes, and waving their pincers in the air.
Vik looked at the ants, and back down the passage. He could not hear any spiders. What was this place? The room of spiders was dangerous, but this place was strange. Why were there ants crawling on grapes under the ground? Where was the queen ant? Did she make the luminous stone so that her ants could grow grapes?
"I like ants," Alice said, and walked into the room. She watched an ant holding on to a leaf at the level of her head. It's body was as long as her head was wide. But the ant moved slowly. She pushed it with her club.
"Alice!" Haley said. But the ant did nothing. Haley and Vik entered the room. Haley walked to the center. There were three other passages leading out. The passages were dark as soon as they left the light of the luminous stone. Haley looked around at the ants. They moved slowly, but there were so many of them that together they made a quiet scratching noise on the leaves. On the ground there were openings in the floor where the vines went down into brown dirt.
Vik said, "Why she eats fruits?"
Haley looked at her sister. Alice was eating big purple grapes from one of the vines. "Alice, they could be poisonous!"
Alice smiled, her mouth full of grapes. "Delicious! The ants are eating them, and they don't die."
Vik shook his head. "I not eat."
"Please don't eat any more," Haley said.
"Okay," Alice said.
Haley listened at the passage they came through. Perhaps the spiders were scared of the ants. She went to the other three passages and looked and listened. She hoped to hear some sound of Jonah. She was sure she would recognise his funny voice if he was calling for help. But she heard nothing, except perhaps a faint buzzing noise for a few seconds, but then that stopped.
"Alice sleeping," Vik said.
Haley rushed to the center of the room. Alice was lying down on the floor with her eyes closed. Vik was trying to wake her up, but he could not. Haley looked at the slow-moving ants. "It must be the grapes. They make you sleepy. That's why the ants move so slowly."
"I no like it here," Vik said.
Haley noticed something moving out of the leaves at the base of a grape vine near one of the passages. She blinked. It was an ant, but far larger than the ones on the leaves. It was longer than her arm. Vik saw it too. "Fighting ant," he said.
Two more soldier ants came out of the vines. Haley looked towards the other passages. Soldier ants were coming out of the vines everywhere. "Let's get out of here. You carry Alice." Haley picked up Alice's flashlight.
Vik, being an orc, was strong. He picked up Alice easily and put her over his shoulder. He and Haley ran to the passage on the other side from where they came in. Three soldier ants were waiting for them. Haley jumped over them, and Vik ran right through them. One bit him on the leg, but he smashed it with his club, shook it off, and kept running.
Haley stopped running, and looked back. The soldier ants followed them a little down the passage, but stopped at the edge of the light from their room. "I don't think they will follow us." Vik looked back and then at Haley. She kept walking around the corner until they came to a small chamber. In the chamber was a statue of a boy wearing real clothes. The clothes did not fit the statue particularly well. They were a bit large for him. But the statue was realistic, and the boy's face was frowning. Around his neck was a sign that read, "I looked at the basilisk." Next to the statue was a sign on a wooden stand. The sign pointed back the way they had come, and said, "Basilisk."
Vik put Alice down on the floor, and sat next to her. She was breathing, but her eyes were still closed. Apart from being asleep, Alice seemed to be fine.
"Alice, wake up!" Haley said. But Alice would not wake up.
Haley sat down next to her sister and wondered what to do. She told Vik what the statue said, and they talked about it, and the sign. What was a basalisk? Was the basalisk hiding in the room they had just passed through, or had someone turned the sign around to fool them? Was the statue a boy who had been turned into stone by the basalisk? Haley stood up and scratched the statue with her knife. It was stone all right. But not a particularly hard stone. It was the sort of stone it was easy to make statues out of with metal tools.
Haley sat down and leaned against the wall. She touched the stitches on her arm. When Vik had fallen upon her the week before, she had been pushed to the ground, and cut her arm on a stick or something. She rubbed her head. Why did her head hurt? Oh yes, when Alice had killed that spider.
She heard the buzzing noise again. It grew louder, and suddenly a huge wasp, about as long as her forearm, flew into the room on glassy, fast-moving wings. The wasp appeared so quickly that she could not be sure which way it had come. It stopped and hovered above the children, turned a full circle, and zoomed off in the direction of the Hall of Ants.
Haley and Vik rested next to Alice. Her steady breathing made them feel calm. The light of her flashlight was steady and bright. Haley set it upon the floor so it shone upon the ceiling. It was quiet.
They heard the buzzing again, and the wasp flew back, stopped, turned around a full circle, and kept going along the passage, the way they were going to go if Alice would only wake up. And it was about then that Alice did wake up. She opened her eyes, streatched her arms, and said, "What happened?"
Ten minutes later, after explaining what happened to Alice, they decided to keep going. This time they went with Haley in front, Alice behind her with the flashlight, and Vik in the rear. They soon came to a door.
The door was made of strong wood with iron leaves to make it even stronger. It had a hole in it just big enough for something like the wasp to get through, if it folded its wings, but not big enough for a person. Haley tried the door handle, and the door opened easily. She walked through, and the others followed. The passage beyond had some light in it, shining from a chamber on the right, and she heard the sound of water falling. She moved forwards until she came to an opening on the right, with a chamber on the other side.
There was a dim luminous stone in the ceiling of the chamber. The walls were white-washed and painted with animals, as if by children. On the opposite wall was a stone bowl full of water that was overflowing into another stone bowl on the floor. The children went into the room and looked at the paintings. After a while, Haley said, "Let's see what's further on. Jonah isn't in here."
Farther down the passage, they came to another door like the first. But this one was locked. Haley lifted up Alice so Alice could shine her light through the opening in the door and see what was on the other side. "Skeletons!" Alice said. "And treasure!"
Haley and Vik both had a look for themselves. Yes, there were piles of old clothes crumbling on the floor, with human and orc bones and skulls, and suits of armor, swords, and helmets. The room itself was ten steps across and circular. In the opposite wall was another door just like the one they were looking through.
There was a loud metal scraping noise behind them, and then a deafening Clang! They looked back up the passage. Someone had put a prison door of iron bars across the passage behind them, on the other side of the Room of Paintings. They rushed back to have a look at it.
"It's a portalcullens," Alice said.
Haley nodded. The door of iron bars had fallen from the ceiling. It was a pity she had not looked more closely at the ceiling when she had walked down the passage. Now they were trapped between the portcullis and the locked door, and there was no way out of the Room of Paintings. They had come to rescue Jonah, and now they would need rescuing themselves.
How embarrassing, Haley thought.
"Maybe we can lift it," Haley said. But the three children lifting together could not make the portcullis shift even the slightest amount.
The giant wasp crawled through the door in front of them, flew to the portcullis (because that's what the iron thing is called: Alice was close) and landed upon one of the iron bars. It looked at them, and flew through and over their heads, down the passage. They all watched it fly around the corner into the Room of Paintings, and they were waiting for it to come out again, and continue down the passage, but it didn't come out. They waited some more, but still there was no sign of the wasp.
Leaving the portcullis behind, they went back to the Room of Paintings, looking for the wasp. But the wasp had disappeared.
"Where did it go?" Alice said.
"I don't know," Haley said. "Anyway, how are we going to get out of here?"
For an hour or more, the children went back and forth between the portcullis, the locked door, and the Room of Paintings. They tapped all around the walls of the room, hoping to hear the walls sounding hollow, which would mean there was a secret door. But the walls were solid.
"Where did the wasp go?" Alice said again.
"I don't know," Haley said, but this time she decided to think more carefully about the question, and the three of them started to look for places the wasp might have gone. The only place they could find was the gap between the water falling out of the upper bowl and the wall beneath the bowl. There was a wet ledge at the bottom of this gap, so that the water fell out of the upper bowl, passed over the ledge, and landed in the lower bowl. The wasp could have crawled along that ledge.
"There must be a passage behind the waterfall," Haley said.
Alice stepped into the lower bowl of water, got wet up to her knees, thrust her head through the waterfall. She shone her flashlight into the space behind. She saw a tunnel just large enough for children to crawl along. "I'm going to crawl in!" Alice said, and she did. She crawled right through the waterfall and disappeared.
Haley looked at Vik. He looked at her. He bared his teeth. "Go, you!" he said. "I am behind."
Haley stepped into the pool.
Alice crawled along the passage. She crawled through a puddle of cold water. She was wet all over already, so she did not mind the puddle. The end of the tunnel was in front of her, with light shining from a room beyond. She reached the end and looked out upon a room so full of fern trees, bushes, orchids, and vines, that she could not see the other side. There was bright yellow light coming from a luminous stone in the ceiling, much like the one in the Hall of Ants. The air in the room was warm and damp. As the light from the stone in the ceiling shone upon Alice's face, she felt warm, as if the light were hotter than usual light. From the ceiling, water sprayed out of invisible holes, making clouds of mist in the air that drifted down upon the plants. The fern trees and plants grew out of huge stone pots that sat on the floor. The ceiling was solid stone. Indeed, the floor and walls were solid stone also. It looked as if the chamber had been cut out of solid rock, or perhaps it was an underground cave that the people who dug The Catacombs had found when they were digging.Alice looked back down the passage. Haley was behind her, and she could see Vik's tusks shining in the light behind her sister's body. "It's a jungle room," she said.
Alice looked around the room some more. She wanted to go in, but she wanted to be careful also. Now she noticed giant dragonflies sitting upon the upper leaves of the fern trees. They were absolutely still. Their bodies were as long as her arm, with wings to match. They were brightly-colored and shiny. Alice thought they looked beautiful.
She decided to go in. She crawled out of the passage and stood on the floor. She put her flashlight away and took out her club, just in case. She walked between the stone pots, trying not to brush against the leaves crowding all around her.
Haley stuck her head out of the passage. One of the dragonflies took flight. Its wings made a buzzing sound that Alice noticed immediately. She looked up. The dragonfly flew straight down towards her, holding the tip of its tail curled underneath it. There was a sharp stinger sticking out of the end of the tail, and at the other end, under its eyes, were its jaws, which looked large enough to bite off a finger, or perhaps an ear-lobe.
Before the dragonfly could land upon her, she swung her club and wacked it in the wings. It flew sideways for a moment, and dropped towards her again. She hit it on the head and it fell onto a nearby bush. "Good," she was about to say, but now she saw ten more dragonflies in the air, and all of them were trying to drop down upon her. The only reason they could not fly at her all at the same time was because there was not enough space in the air around her for all their wings.
So the dragonflies came down two or three at a time. Alice watched them coming. She knew she had to stop them from stinging her, because their sting was probably poisonous. She swung at them with her club, she ducked, she jumped sideways. She moved in a frenzy, and she was knocking down the dragonflies one after another.
Haley was watching her sister from the tunnel. Why didn't Alice come back to the tunnel, instead of staying out there fighting the insects? And what could they do to her anyway? She didn't seem to be having much trouble fighting them. Haley was wet and cold and her cuts and bruises from last week felt worse than ever. Why should she crawl out and fight with Alice when Alice could come and hide in the tunnel with her and Vik?
"Go!" Vik said, and he pushed Haley out of the passage and into the room. She landed upon the floor and Vik crawled out of the passage right over her, stood up and ran to fight beside Alice with his own club. Haley felt ashamed. She drew her knife and ran to fight the dragonflies.
There were ten dragonflies in all, and it took the children no more than twenty seconds to knock them down so that they could not fly any more. After Vik knocked down the last one, the children looked around for more. But there were none. Here and there, sticking out of the ferns and bushes, they could see the tail of a dragonfly, or a wing, shivering.
"Good fighting," Vik said.
They heard another buzzing noise, and all of them raised their weapons to strike. But it was the giant wasp. They lowered their weapons. So far, the wasp had done nothing but look at them. This time, it hovered in front of them in the bright light of the room, and they saw that it had something hanging by a thin leather strap from its thorax (that's the middle section of an insect's body). It was as if the wasp was wearing a thin black coin, held so that the coin was upright, not pressed against its belly.
The wasp turned around slowly, and flew over to one of the twitching dragonflies, picked it up with its legs, and flew away through the vines and ferns.
"Jonah could be hiding in here," Alice said, "Remember when Dad hid in a bush and it took us a long time to find him?"
"You're right," Haley said, and they began to search the cavern. They found the walls, and then two passages leading out. These were passages like the ones they had been walking along earlier: stone walls and wooden floors and wooden ceilings. They poked around in the bushes. Vik and Alice were beginning to think that there was nowhere left for anyone to hide, when Haley called out, "Over here!"
She was standing in front of a stone pot with a tree growing in it, and big ferns all around the edge. "There's someone in there!"
They stood staring, and in the silence, they heard someone breathing in the ferns. They saw the ferns move. Vik pushed some of them aside with his club, and there, sitting against the trunk of the tree was Jonah, the man with no tongue. But he had a new beard growing on his face, he was covered with dirt, he was wet (although not as wet as the children), and he smelled terrible. A few seconds after Vik pushes aside the ferns, the smell came out to meet them.
It seemed to them that Jonah had been pooing in his pants.
"Jonah!" Haley said, "We're here to rescue you."
But Jonah just huddled beneath the ferns, shivering. His eyes were open, but he did not seem to see the children. He looked around and up in the air, and waved his hands over his face, as if he was trying to keep something away from him.
Vik pointed to one of the dragonflies. "Dead now, Jonah."
Just then, the wasp flew back into the room, picked up another dragonfly, and carried it away. Jonah cried out. "Ama!"
"Ama!" Alice said.
They tried to get Jonah out of his stone pot. They soon found that in fact Jonah had not been pooing in his pants, he had been pooing on the other side of the pot. So they pulled him out of his stone pot, away from the smell, and sat him on the ground. Haley poured water into his mouth, which he drank as fast as he could, letting half of it spill down his clothes as he grabbed the bottle with his shaking hands.
His hands had cuts on them, and what looked like giant mosquito bites. The bites were all up his arms as well, where his sleeves slipped down, and on his face and neck.
"Poor Jonah," Haley said, "He got stung by the dragonflies."
Jonah drank a second bottle of water, and ate some beef jerky, an apple, a lump of cheese, and half a loaf of bread. He leaned against a stone pot and closed his eyes. All this time, he did not seem to notice the children at all. It was as if he was blind.
"We should let him rest," Haley said, "But we need to find a way out of here. We can't go back the way we came, and I don't think we should wander about the passages looking for a way out when we have Jonah with us."
Vik nodded. "I go look."
"Take this," Alice said, and handed him her flashlight.
Off he went, down the nearest passage. Haley and Alice watched him go, then they looked around the room, and at Jonah. They did not feel quite as safe as they had when Vik was with them, but they also wondered how Vik must feel, going off alone into the dark.
Jonah opened his eyes, and this time he appeared to see Alice and Haley standing over him. Haley gave him another drink. Alice noticed a small cloth bag on the floor next to the place where Jonah had been hiding. She picked it up and looked inside. It was half-full of red mushrooms.
"He has been eating mushrooms," Alice said, "Maybe they made him crazy."
Vik came back with a smile on his face, which is to say: he was showing all his front teeth. Alice and Haley asked him what he had seen. It took another ten minutes for him to explain to them, because he was not very good at explaining things, at least not in Weilandic, the language that Alice and Haley spoke. Perhaps he was better at explaining things in the language of his tribe.
In the end, Haley understood that the passage led back to the place they had come into The Maze. If they had turned left after crawling in, they would have come straight to the Jungle Room and found Jonah (after fighting the dragonflies). But Vik had gone farther, and explored the first turn they had passed by on their way to the Room of Spiders. And he came to a Chamber of Mushrooms. Both Alice and Haley wanted to see this room, so they left Vik with Jonah, and went off to look for it.
The Chamber of Mushrooms was dark, and it was filled with mushrooms growing out of stone pots just like the pots in the Jungle Room. The mushrooms were of many different types. Some of them were growing on rotting logs. Others were growing out of what looked like horse manure. There were some beautiful red ones with white spots, like the ones in Jonah's bag. Alice and Haley could see that the mushrooms had been picked in many places.
"He must have eaten a lot of mushrooms," Haley said.
Alice was looking closely at a place where some mushrooms had been taken off a rotting log. "This one has been cut off with a knife. The person who picked it did not want to hurt the other mushrooms."
"Does Jonah have a knife?"
"I don't know."
There were two passages leading out of the Chamber of Mushrooms. As you can see from the map, one led to the Hall of Ants, and the other led to the second door in the Room of Bones. Haley tried this door, but it was locked.
"Rats," Haley said, "There is treasure in there."
They went back to the Jungle Room. Jonah was looking around now, and scratching his dragonfly stings. "We'll go and look down this other passage, too," Haley said, "Just to see what is there."
And off they went. They found a passage leading to a big iron wheel set in the wall. It seemed to them that this must be near the other passage, in which the portcullis had come down to trap them.
"This is the wheel that works the portacullens!" Alice said.
Haley was sure she was right. She wondered who had turned the wheel to trap them. "Let's not touch it," she said.
"But I want to turn it!" Alice said, and she grabbed the wheel. But it would not move. Haley was already walking away down the passage, so Alice followed her. They came to the Hall of Ants. They had explored all the passages. As they walked back to the Jungle Room, Alice wondered where the person who turned the wheel went to. Did that person crawl out the same hole that the three of them and Jonah had come in? Or was there a secret door somewhere in one of the passages, leading somewhere else? And if there was someone wandering around lowering and raising the portacullens, why were they doing it?
Jonah seemed ready to walk now, although he was scratching his stings and still mumbling to himself. The children helped him along the passage to the place they had crawled in. They thought he might not want to crawl out, but he did not seem to know what was going on, and when they pulled him up and through the hole, he crawled through without complaining, although he stopped to wave his hands around in front of his face for a while.
And so the children were standing once again in the corridor where they had begun their adventure in the maze. They had found Jonah and rescued him. Now they had to get him out of The Catacombs. The passage they had crawled down to get to the corridor was too narrow for a grown-up.
Haley was just thinking about this problem when the double-doors to the corridor opened, and three big grown-up orcs came in with burning torches. Their loud, gruff voices, and the heavy tread of their boots filled the underground space with echoes. Alice and Haley moved closer to Vik. Jonah stood staring straight ahead, saying nothing.
The orcs took Jonah's arms, and started to lead him away. Vik shouted at them. They laughed and shouted back. Vik charged at one of them and started hitting him with his club. The big orc was wearing chain armor and plate gauntlets. Vik hit him over and over, and all the big orc did was smile and laugh, and then ruffle Vik's hair with his metal-covered hand.
"Oh no!" Haley said, "We can't let them take Jonah!"
Alice and Haley had fought with orcs before, but usually while they were running away from the orcs, and always when they were with Legolas. Seeing how Vik could do nothing to hurt the big orc, there did not seem any point in trying to fight them for Jonah. It seemed as if all their work had been for nothing.
The orcs walked away, taking Jonah with them, and closed the doors behind them. Vik was still shouting and jumping up and down.
Haley and Alice sat on the pile of rocks. They were both soaking wet and cold. They knew they had to wait a few minutes for Vik to calm down. This time it took ten minutes, with Vik walking up and down, cursing in his own language, and occasionally throwing rocks at the door. But he did calm down in the end.
"What are they going to do with Jonah?" Haley said.
"Take him back Lady Natasha."
"Oh," Haley said, "That's not too bad. I was wondering how we were going to get him out of here anyway."
"They going look for him," Vik said.
"No need: we already found him."
Four days later, Haley and Alice came home from school to find a basket of cookies waiting for them on the front step of their Father's house. There was a card in the basket, saying, "To Alice, Haley, and Vik (In Alphabetical Order)" Inside the card, it said, "Thank you for saving my husband. I am very glad to have him back. He is feeling much better. He does not remember being rescued by you. The last thing he remembers is eating a red mushroom. But the orcs told him you had found him and brought him out of the tunnels. I hope you enjoy these cookies. Yours, Sally (Jonah's Wife)."