Jared raced downstairs, searching for a makeshift weapon on his way. When nothing made itself apparent, he grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and ran outside to see everyone gone.
"Mal, Cass, Simon?" He asked, looking around, knife raised.
"Yo" Mallory replied, coming out the door behind him. Jared jumped with a little yell.
"What are you doing?" She asked, looking at the steak knife poised in his shaking hand.
"Where's Simon and Cass?" Jared yelled, surprised at the sudden volume of his voice.
"Take it down creepo, Cass and Simon went exploring"
Oh no. Jared's heart started pumping faster. He knew in his gut that Cass and Simon had been taken by the goblins he had seen, no one was safe if they stepped outside of the ring of mushrooms.
"I have to go find them, Stay inside!" Jared yelled, leaping off the porch and heading for the trail behind the woodshed before Mal could reply. Teh trail had to lead somewhere...
After walking for about 10 minutes, Jared stopped. Up ahead the trail curved, and something was coming towards him, moving fast.
Drawing in a shaky breath, Jared raised his knife. Twigs were snapping briskly as whatever it was moved towards him. Silently, he moved so that he would be able to surprise his attacker. It was almost there...
Cassandra burst around the corner, just narrowly missing crashing into his waiting knife.
"Cass?" Jared dropped his knife and hugged her hard as she flung herself into his arms.
"Oh my god Jared, these...these things were carrying us a-away, and we c-couldn't see them and they scratched us!" She sobbed into his shoulder.
Pulling back, Jared looked Cass over and noticed that she had definitely taken a tumble. Her short hair was tangled and had some leaves stuck in it, her face and clothes were grimy from running through the forest, and red scratches went up the length of her arms, legs and face.
"We need to go back for Simon" Jared said, taking Cassandra's hand. She nodded and wiped her face, smearing the dirt even further.
Except for the occasional stick snapping beneath their feet, the two teens traveled in complete silence thorugh the forest. They had been walking for about forty-five minutes when they reached a large stream.
"This is where I got away. There's something here that made them scared, and they dropped me and ran with Simon" Cass said, her green eyes searching around.
A rumble sounded and the water in the stream began to ripple furiously. Cass moved closer to him, trembling in fear. Jared could feel the blood rushing from his face, and was tempted to just run screaming.
Then, something began to emerge slowly from the murky water. At first, it was like a small hill was pushing itself from the stream's bottom, but as more of it erupted to the surface, a ghastly face began to take shape.
If possible, Jared paled even more. Right in front of him stood a fully fledged river troll measuring over ten feet high.
"What is it?" Cass squeaked as she clung to his arm, eyes wide. Jared had to remind himself that she couldn't see what he could, and silently thanked whomever was in charge of these things.
"It's a troll, RUN!" Jared yelled, grabbing Cass' hand and yanking her away from the Troll's reaching claws.
"Cooome baaack. I haaave something for youuu" Jared paused. The Troll extended a closed hand as if it did indeed have something for them.
"Jared..." Cass pleaded.
"Hang on" Slowly he walked towards the monstrous troll.
"What do you have to give me?" He asked, tentatively creeping closer. The troll grinned, and his foul breath washed over Jared, reeking of pond scum and something...dead.
"Iiiiiiii hasssss a booook" the troll held out it's hand, and opened it slowly. Inside was the exact copy of the field guide. Jared's blood ran cold. This was a trap, and he had walked into it.
"No" He said, and propelled himself backwards. The troll turned angry, reaching out and clawing for him. He slipped, and the troll's hand was inches from grabbing him and taking him down to the depths forever...
Then, a small fleck of sunlight fell on the troll's arm, and it screamed, recoiling like it had been burned. Jared took this opportunity to turn and run, grabbing Cass' hand on the way.
"Coooooomeeeeee Baaaaaaaack!" The troll screamed after them. Jared ran until he felt his lungs were about to burst, and then he stopped, pulling a gasping Cassandra behind a tree with him.
"What was that all about?" Cass yelled as soon as she caught her breath. Jared shook his head and leaned back against the tree's rough bark, shutting his eyes.
"Jared!" Cassandra smacked his chest.
"OW! What?" He yelled back, sitting up and fixing her with an intense stare.
"We have to save Simon before the sun sets or he'll be Goblin chow!" With that, Cass yanked him up and pointed to a spot in the sky.
"Look, that's smoke from a campfire, want to bet that it's the Goblins getting ready to roast your brother?"
"What?" Cass turned to Jared, confused.
"It's our brother, you're our sister now" Jared replied. Cassandra just stared at him with an unreadable expression on her face.
"Come on then, we have to go save OUR brother" Cass grabbed Jared's hand and led him off towards the source of the fire.
Jared steeled himself for what he knew had to be an ugly fight up ahead.
Little did he know that it was only the first wave of the hurricane about to unfold.