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Escape from Thunder Island by Karen Marie Hood


      Juniper lived on a small island in the middle of the ocean, a small, green speck, in the huge, blue expanse of the sea. She had never seen the island from afar, but this is what she was told.
She lived in Bobbin Village, where about 400 Bobbin families lived in burrows, in hills, constructed in a very large circular pattern, around a common inner area. Adult Bobbin males were usually about 4 feet tall and babies were only 4 pounds. They had small rabbit-like ears, two sparkling dark eyes, a small rabbit nose and smile like Cheshire cat. They each had a tiny white cottontail like a rabbit and four legs, but usually walked upright and could use their front legs are very nimble arms and fingers.
      Juniper lived in a cozy burrow, in the side of a hill, with her parents and six siblings. Juniper was the third little bobbin in her family. This evening, the bobbins gathered around the table to have their dinner together. Jelly Bean, her youngest brother whined, "Oh, no, more seaweed for dinner! Again! I hate it!!!"
      Mama Jay soothed, "Now, JB, you know Papa worked hard to find enough seaweed for us all. Mind your manners!"
      Jelly Bean shrieked, "I hate it! I won't eat it!" And Juniper's other younger siblings, Jackolyn, Jasper and Jewel all began crying in unison, "We hate it! We won't eat it!"
      Mama Jay hissed,,, "Hush! This is our dinner, and there is nothing else. If you don't eat it, you will be hungry."
      Papa Jay began cutting the seaweed with his knife and fork. "it is the way of our forefathers to eat red seaweed in the summer, ever since our ancestor, Sequoia, came to our island."
      Juniper spoke up, "When did Sequoia come to our island?"
      Papa answered, "Six hundred thirty-three years ago." Older brother Jade spoke up, "How many generations ago was it, Papa?"
      JB interrupted, "What's a 'generation'?"
      Papa explained, "A generation is the length of time it takes for Bobbins to grow up—about 30 years-- but in your case, 50!" Three little bobbins began laughing and giggling and JB turned red in the face. Mama said, "JB, you need to pay attention to your lessons and you will know these things." JB stared at the red seaweed and said nothing.
      Oldest sister, Jordan, with earnestness, asked Papa, "Where DID our ancestor, Sequoia, come from and why did he come to THUNDER ISLAND?"
      Jasper muttered, "Yeah, why?"
      JB, with unusual sarcasm even for a Bobbin 3-year old, groaned, "He liked red seaweed!"
      Papa remarked, "You ask many questions and they are answered by our teachers. Soon it will be time for Juniper to join with Jade and Jordan in going to the teachers for instruction." Bobbin children in Bobbin Village were to begin classes with the village elders, when they reach the age of 8. Juniper had just turned 8 years old, and Jade was 10, and Jordan was 11 years old.
      JB exclaimed, "I want to know too!"
      Papa responded quietly, "I will tell you a short history now, but you must pay complete attention." Mama added, "and eat your dinner."
      JB, Jasper, Jackolyn and Jewel looked at each other and their dinner plates. JB smirked and reluctantly slurred, "Oh, OK."
      There was a faint knock on the front door, that was so soft, that only Jordan, the oldest (11 years old) heard. She went to answer the door, as the others continued to banter and chat together, as they ate dinner. She opened the door and drew back a little, at the sight of an unfamiliar blue bird. "I am Daniel, Bluebird. May I speak to your Papa, please?" the bluebird asked.
      Jordan scampered quietly over to her Papa, at the table and tapped his shoulder. Pointing at the front door, she mumbled, "Some bluebird wants to talk to you." The children were noisily talking and did not notice Papa go to the door. Juniper wondered where Papa had gone and saw him talking in whispers, but having an intense conversation with Daniel the Bluebird. Then, Papa shut the door, without inviting the bluebird inside.
      "What was that about?" asked Juniper, absent-mindly.
      Papa diverted her question, "He and I have some business to discuss. Don't worry."
      Papa informed, "After your plates are clean, we will reconvene as a family in front of our fire place on the community rug and I will tell you the story."
      Juniper asked, "Papa, a story? Or the truth?"
      Papa responded with surprise, "My little Juniper, the truth, OF COURSE!"
      Mama added, "And afterwards, I have a special surprise for you!" Jackolyn began clapping and suddenly all 7 children were smiling and merry. Suddenly the food did not look so formidable. As they began to eat, Jewel announced with surprise, "It's not so bad today, Mama, did you add something?" Mama smiled and JB looked very doubtful.
      When all the plates were clean, and even JB had cleaned the last seaweed leaf from his plate, all seven children settled comfortably on the thick, woven orange rug, in front of the blazing fire in the fireplace. Wood chips lay in a high container, which was made from a large sea shell. It was Jade's job to make sure that the box was filled every day.
      Mama and Papa each had a low stool, that they sat on. Papa went to the side of the wall, and inserted wooden key into a hole. Mama took another wooden key and inserted it into a second hole. Then Papa inserted a knob into a small hole and the small, invisible door opened. The children watched with wide eyes. Papa gently and carefully lifted out a worn, but sturdy book. Juniper strained her eyes by the flickering of the fire light and could see other papers, neatly in the cupboard. The book cover was gray and the book was thick, perhaps 2 inches and 8 X 10. He carefully sat on the stool and announced, "This book was left us by our forefathers, handed down generation after generation from Sequoia. It tells of our history, the history of the island and the names of our forefathers." He began to read in a strange tongue, that the children could not understand. But none interrupted, not even JB, all spell-bound by the mysterious book.
      Papa said, "Our fathers spoke a strange language, and you each will learn it from the teachers. Then, when you have mastered the materials, you will receive your own book, even as Mama and I did."
      He continued, "But tonight, I will give you a foretaste of what you must know. Our forefather, Sequoia, arrived on this island over 600 years ago, in a company of 40 Bobbins, including Silver, who became his wife and our ancestor, also. They fell from the sky, though we don't know why. Others were with them and they did not survive. The Sequoia and Silver were injured in the fall, as were others. Survival was hard, but they worked together to build a dwelling and heal the injured, gather food. It was very tough and half of the group perished, due to injury, illness and other perils the first year on Thunder Island."
      Juniper asked, "Where did they come from?"
      Papa replied, "That history has been lost." He continued, "Although Thunder Island is lovely, surrounded by blue, crusty waves and is rather large—we believe it to be 10 miles in diameter—life is not so easy. Food is not plentiful for us—so that is why we eat only red seaweed in the summer, blue seaweed in the fall. In the fall, it will be better, because we can gather almonds, pecans and huckleberries. But it is not so easy to gather these...."
      Jasper piped up, "But we can help!" JB assented, "YEAH!"
      Mama replied, "Thank you, Jasper and JB, and we will be counting on you to help! We all need to work together!"
      "And eat our red seaweed," chimed in Jordan.
      Mama continued, "And now it is bedtime for JB, Jasper, Jackolyn and Jewel! So say good-night to everyone and go get ready for bed!" JB howled, "Oh! I want to hear more!"
      "Hush!" said Mama Jay. Papa added, "You want to know everything in one night, Son?" He patted JB on his head, fondly and said, "All in good time, my little son."
      With Jewel leading the way, Jackolyn, Jasper and JB scampered up the faint, indented ladder in the wall that lead to an upper-hall and divided into two, one for the older bobbin girls, Jewel and Jackolyn, and the other for the two younger bobbin boys, Jasper and JB. (Bobbins are very adept at climbing ladders, and regularly use them in their burrows.) The small bobbins could be heard, taking turns, cleaning up in the family's large clamshell tub, in the bathing room.
      Papa spoke quietly to Mama in whispers in the kitchen. Though their voices were too low for the children to hear, Juniper was troubled that they were upset and troubled.
      Jordan, Jade and Juniper immediately began their nightly chores, Jordan, helping Mama Jay clean the kitchen, Jade bringing in sticks and chips to the fire box for the fireplace and Juniper sweeping. Juniper thought it to be the dullest of chores. They also needed to prepare their backpacks for the start next day of the teacher's classes. Mama called Juniper over and whispered, "Tomorrow, there is a special task I need you to do. Will you take bags of red seaweed to our relatives, the Redtails? Their Mama and Papa are sick and it is very hard for them?"
      Juniper looked concerned and moaned, "Of course, Mama! It is terrible that they are sick."
      Mama added, "Thank you. I knew I could count on you. And I will send Jackolyn with you too. Maybe you can help the children." Juniper's eyes brightened at the idea of her loveable, devoted and curious sister, Jackolyn, accompanying her. They ofter played together and had marvelous adventures together, real or fantasy. Juniper added wistfully, "I will miss the first day of the Master's class!"
      Mama nodded, "Yes, and I will ask Jordan to take notes for you and bring you material. Juniper finished sweeping and climbed a faint ladder on the opposite wall, leading to another passage, where she shared a small room with her older sister, Jordan. They went to bed on their straw mattresses.
      Downstairs, Mama and Papa were whispering, but the words did not carry upstairs. Mama moaned, "I wish there were another way....they are so young."
      Papa gravely replied, "We have no choice. My brother and his wife are deathly ill. They can't get food to their children. We agreed to always be there for our families"
      "But the ARACHNIs...." hissed Mama.
      "Yes, I know. They eat our kind and are everywhere. But they don't care for the taste of little girl bobbins. They are the only ones who have a chance to bring them the food."
      Mama began to cry, "But they take little bobbin girls captive, " and Papa hugged her.
      At dawn the next morning, all the little Bobbin Jay children climbed down their ladders into the common room. Jordan and Jade, the eldest were ready to go to the Masters class, first day. They would not have to go far, as the Bobbin Village was made in a circle, with the instruction burrow in the very center.
      Juniper and Jackolyn were dressed in special hiking clothes for the woods. Jasper, Jewel and JB looked enviously at their siblings, who were embarking on two different adventures. Mama had prepared a bowl of red seaweed porridge for each one and they took their bowls and sat in a half-circle around the fireplace and ate their breakfast in silence. Mama said, "Jewel, Jasper and JB, you each have some lessons to learn today. When you are finished, put your bowls in the kitchen tub. Jewel, you can wash them and Jasper, you can sweep. JB, you can prepare the table for lessons." JB jumped up and down. He was excited to get out the papers and pencils.
      Jordan and Jade had already left with Papa Jay for the Master's school. Papa would escort them to school, just outside their courtyard door. Then Papa would join the small convoy of bobbin
fathers, to go to a secret tunnel, leading to the seashore, where they would quickly gather red seaweed. Early morning was the best time, for the Arachnis sleep in the morning.
      Juniper and Jackolyn received instructions from their Mama. Their guide, Oliver, was a wise old owl, who knew the way to the Redtails and also the best way to avoid the Arachnis. Mama instructed them, "Be very careful to follow Oliver. Don't go off the path for any reason. The forest is full of strange and dangerous creatures. You have an important job to bring food to our kin."
      Solemnly, Juniper and Jackolyn nodded, each with a sachel, containing bags of dried, red seaweed on their backs. Mama touched each on the head and kissed their foreheads. As they followed Oliver Owl out the door, Mama watched them, as tears trickled down her face. When they entered the forest and were out-of-sight, Mama closed the door and sat down and wept. Jewel, Jasper and JB watched her silently, as they worked on their lessons. But JB jumped onto the floor to play with his toy saucers, that he pretended could fly. He was playing that they were escaping from Thunder Island.
      Juniper and Jasper followed closely Oliver Owl, meandering through the thick forest. Oliver was a good guide, but he was not able to help them carry their packs, because it is not easy for owls to carry packs. Oliver chose not to go on an established path, leading them instead on an invisible trail, through thickets, hollow logs, tunnels and up trees and across branches. Sometimes Oliver motioned for them to "Freeze!" and they would be perfectly still, until he said, "All clear!"
      In this fashion, Juniper and Jackolyn traveled quietly for 3 hours, without a sign of danger. They saw some beautiful orange, gold birds. Also, a green snake slithered by, ignoring them. At last, they approached a small clearing. "Here we are at last!" panted Oliver Owl, who being more advanced in age, had found the trek exhausting. "Young Bobbins, you did a fine job!" he rasped
with an owl accent. He wrapped at the round, wooden door, on the side of the hill. There was some scampering from within. The door opened a crack, as curious eyes peered at them. The door slammed shut, at the sight of the Oliver, for the Red Tails did not know him and had a healthy fear of owls. Oliver whispered to Juniper, "You must tell them who you are in a loud voice! They don't know I am a friend." Juniper shouted, "It's your relatives, Juniper and Jackolyn Jay. We have come from Bobbin Village with food for you. Please let us in!" Oliver jumped at Juniper's surprisingly loud voice for an 8-year old girl Bobbin. This time, Oliver withdrew and Juniper and Jackolyn stood at the door. Again, it opened a crack, and then fully opened by two Bobbin children, about the ages of Juniper and Jackolyn, who were 8 and 5 years old. "Come in", invited the taller one. Juniper introduced herself, "I am Juniper and this is Jackolyn-- we are your cousins."
      "Yes", replied the elder, "We begged Daniel the Dove to send to your parents for help. I am Onyx and this is Obsidian. Come in!"
      Juniper pointed to Oliver and said, "This is Oliver the Owl, who is our friend and led us here." Onyx replied to Oliver, "You can come in too."
      Oliver replied, "I am going to fly up on the tree and wait for you there. I will keep watch. You need to stay here for the night, and tomorrow morning I will lead you back home."
      Juniper and Jackolyn went in the door and Onyx shut and bolted it. Obsidian wailed, "Mama and Papa are so sick. They can't get out of bed. We have no food!" Three other little Red Tails appeared, gaunt and frightened. Onyx introduced them from the oldest, who looked to be 4 years old to the youngest, who was crawling—Oliviette, Oscar and Otto.
      Juniper lead Jackolyn to the table, at the side of the room and took off their sachels. Mama had packed 4 large bags of dried, red seaweed in each and a flask of healing potion. Juniper said to Onyx, "Please tell your sisters and brothers to sit at the table!"
      Obsidian and Otto scampered into the kitchen and brought out 7 bowls and spoons, one for each Red Tail and for Juniper and Jackolyn. Onyx opened a bag and poured dried red seaweed into each bowl. Onyx gathered some woodchips, from the pile outside, to restart the living room fire, to heat water for the porridge. After the water was heated very warm, Juniper poured a little hot water into each bowl, so it could be stirred into a porridge. In this way, Juniper and Jackolyn could carry a large load of red seaweed, enough to last several weeks, since it was very light.
      The famished children began gobbling the porridge frantically and Jackolyn warned, "Please eat more slowly .. so you don't get a tummy ache." (She knew that from experience.) All were eating, except Juniper and Onyx. Juniper picked up the flask of healing potion and requested, "Please take me to your parents!" Onyx got an eyedropper from the kitchen and lead Juniper up the wall ladder, to her parents' room.
      In the dimly-lit room, Mama and Papa Red Tail lay quietly in bed, both with eyes closed. Onyx whispered, "Mama, Papa, the Bobbins have brought you medicine. Please take it!"
      Mama and Papa half-opened their eyes, as Onyx filled the eyedropper with the potion and gave each of them several swallows. Both smiled slightly and fell back to sleep.
      Juniper said to Onyx, "How long have they been sick?"
      Onyx moaned, "For almost two weeks!" Juniper shook her head. "How can you manage?
It is so good that none of you children got sick. What were you eating?"
      "Papa had collected alot of red seaweed and nuts, and it lasted until three days ago. What do you think is the matter with them?" moaned Onyx.
      "Mama said she thought it was something like 'thunder island fever'. This potion was handed down in her family for curing such illnesses for us Bobbins. I think it will help them," said Juniper cheerfully. "I sometimes help Mama give potion to other Bobbins in our village, who are sick."
      Juniper and Jackolyn spent the day with their Red Tail cousins. Juniper and Jackolyn, who were 8 and 5 years old, were slightly older than Onyx, 6, and Obsidian, 5, the oldest Red Tails. After eating some food, the Red Tail children were more energetic. Juniper and Jackolyn instructed Onyx and Obsidian to do the chores, which had not been done for 2 weeks. They washed the shell plates, swept the floor, and Onyx collected more wood chips from the outside to keep the living room fire crackling, and the pot of water boiling.
      Juniper found some fresh red flowers, outside, near the door, and put them in a vase on the table. Soon the home began to have a sweet scent of pine wood and red flower petals.
      At noon, Juniper and Onyx climbed back up to Mama and Papa Red Tail's room. The parents were no longer sleeping, but were sitting up. Now, they took some sips from the healing flask, without using the eyedropper. Mama Red Tail whispered, "What happened?" They did not know that they had been sick. "How long were we sick?" she whispered. After Onyx told her, she gasped, "Oh my goodness!! Are you and your siblings all right?"
      "Yes, Mama, we are OK. We had food until 3 days ago and then Juniper and Jackolyn brought us some from the Jays."
      To Juniper, Onyx beamed, "That healing potion really IS helping!"
      Juniper replied, "I am so glad. And Mama sent the recipe instructions for your Mama, but you should also know."
      Mama and Papa Red Tail were still weak, so they rested in bed.
      In the afternoon, Juniper and Jackolyn played some games with their cousins—card games, in which they practiced learning numbers and letters. Juniper also read the instructions for making the healing potion to everyone, to help them memorize it. When dusk came, Mama and Papa Red Tail climbed down their ladder. Onyx, Obsidian, Oliviette, Oscar and Otto raced to them, throwing their arms around them, nearly knocking them down! "Careful!" shouted Juniper, laughing, "You don't want them injured now! We don't have a healing potion for that!" Everyone laughed.
      Papa Red Tail announced, "We are so grateful to our cousins, Juniper and Jackolyn, for bringing the red seaweed and healing potion. There is no way we can thank you enough." Then he added thoughtfully, "How could they ever risk your coming?"
      Jackolyn did not understand his question, and Juniper was confused. "What do you mean? They had Oliver the Owl lead us. It was OK, Papa Red Tail."
      "OK, " he replied doubtfully, looking concerned. "It was a difference of life and death for our family. We are so thankful."
      Juniper and Jackolyn became a little red with embarrassment. Mama suggested that everyone sit at the table and have another meal of red seaweed porridge. This time, she added a special spice. Papa cheerfully added, "Tomorrow, I will be able to gather more red seaweed."
      That night, Juniper and Jackolyn slept in Onyx and Oliviette's room. In the morning, Juniper and Jackolyn left the burrow with Papa Red Tail. Oliver the Owl swooped down to meet them. Startled, Papa Red Tail said, "Are you Oliver the Owl, who brought these Bobbin girls to help us?" Oliver gave a bow and Papa continued, "We are so deeply grateful to you. If ever we can help you, please let us know." Oliver began to lead Juniper and Jackolyn on the trail toward Bobbin Village and Papa Red Tail started on a short path to the seashore, to gather red seaweed for the day.
Juniper and Jackolyn had empty sachels on their backs this time, and the three-hour journey to Bobbin Village would get them home for lunch.
      Juniper let Jackolyn go ahead of her, because she was a little worried about Jackolyn, who seemed to be tired and sometimes acted a little silly, sometimes stumbing. Oliver led them on an invisible path, known only to him, through hollow logs, under thickets, up trees, along a riverbank. They went as quickly as Juniper and Jackolyn could manage, because the forest was filled with uncommon, but unexpected peril. They trotted quickly and quietly.
      When they had travelled 2 1/2 hours and were only 30 minutes from home, Jackolyn stumbled on a root and fell. Looking up, she spied something very shiny off the trail, a few feet away. It was a cherry melon—what a delicacy. After all that red seaweed, JB would really love a cherry melon, she was sure. Without thinking, she scampered off the trail. Juniper, who was not supposed to speak, tried too late to grab her. Suddenly there was a thundering sound and the sky became black. The rushing of wind filled the air with a fowl odor. There was a loud wail and shriek and huge talons gripped Jackolyn's small body and flew up into the air. Jackolyn screamed in terror and pain, too late. The cherry melon lay, forgotten on the ground. Juniper watched in powerless horror, as the large, black monster, flew off with her screaming sister. Oliver ran to Juniper, covered her with his wings, and dragged her into a nearby burrow. Juniper could not see anything more, as her sister's screams grew fainter and fainter.
      Juniper began to sob uncontrollably, unable to talk. They hid in the burrow for over two hours in silence, as Juniper sobbed her heart out, shaking with grief. Owl put his wing over her to console her, but could not comfort her. Finally, she rasped in a hoarse voice, "What was IT?" Oliver replied, "An Arachni. The cherry melon was probably put out as a bait by them."
      "What has happened to my sister?" she choked.
      Oliver replied soberly, "They won't eat her. They will put her in a dungeon, to eat her after she is grown up."
      Juniper was only slightly comforted to know that Jackolyn was not probably eaten, but horrified to think of her sister wasting away in a prison, until she was old enough to be eaten. "Where is the prison?" she asked.
      "In the high mountains, the Arachni live deep in caves and keep their captives in dungeons there."
      Juniper asked hopefully, "Can we rescue her?"
      "My child," responded Oliver woefully, "no one has been rescued from the Arachni."
He quickly added, "We must continue on to your home... and we don't want an Arachni to get you also! So follow closely—pull yourself together—follow me. You cannot help your sister or anyone else if the Arachnis catch you too!"
      Juniper stuffed her renewed snobbing and followed Oliver out of the burrow. He cautiously looked around and proceeded under a thicket, through a narrow crevace in the rocks, up invisible paths, under brush, and Juniper followed close behind. Soon the smoke of Bobbin Village was perceptible and they could see the hills ahead. They went through a narrow tunnel, down into the earth and climbed up the invisible ladder, out through a small hole, into a clearing in the village center. The village was constructed as a ring of hills, with 100 burrows of 100 familes in the hills, opening into the village courtyard, covered by thick folliage of the trees on the hills. Oliver led Juniper to her family's door, and without knocking, it opened, and there was Mama anxiously waiting. Oliver had a sober look on his face and motioned Juniper to enter. Juniper entered, her eyes swollen and red, looking down. Mama asked, "Where is Jackolyn?" Juniper began sobbing uncontrollably, as Oliver related what had happened. Mama collapsed in a dead faint. Oliver shut the door and commanded Juniper, "Go get a blanket for your mother!" Juniper, tears still streaming, scampered off to get a blanket from the cupboard. Oliver carried Mama to a heavy rug, laid her down gently. To Jasper, he said gently, "Go get your Mama a washcloth, dipped in cold water." Jasper, only 4 years old, knew where to get washcloths in the kitchen. The children watched their mother soberly, and 3-year old JB plopped down next to his mother and cooed, "Mama, don't sleep, wake up! We'll take care of you!"
      Juniper came with the blanket and covered Mama, while Jasper brought the wet cloth, that Oliver daubed on Mama's face. Papa was at work, gathering red seaweed and Jordan and Jade were at the Master's school.
      Soon, Mama woke up and sat up and called Juniper to her. She hugged and hugged her tightly. Oliver explained, "Their mission was very successful. They brought the red seaweed to the Red Tails, and the healing drink to the parents and they are recovered fully and Papa Red Tail was back to work, providing food for his family."
      "I am so proud of Juniper," whispered Mama and hugged her and kept hugging her for a long time, until Papa, Jordan and Jade walked in the door. Before they heard the news about Jackolyn, and not seeing Juniper, Jade had exclaimed, "The Master's teacher gave me a hard time today. I had to stand facing the wall all afternoon!"
      "What did you do?" demanded Papa sternly.
      "I don't know," replied Jade sheepishly. "At the sharing time, I shared that Juniper and Jackolyn brought food to help our relatives. The teacher said it was forbidden for them to do that, and he made me stand up, facing the wall for the rest of the day. He also suspended me from school for a week. ... Papa, is it really forbidden to bring food to our relatives?"
      "I could still hear the lesson," continued Jade. "It was such a strange lesson, that we must never leave our area and can only eat the foods in season, that the Masters direct us to eat."
      "Later, he sent me to the detention room. When the guard left for a few minutes, another student on detention told me that he was sent there for gathering a banana nut for his family and sharing in class how delicious and nutritious it was. He also told me something strange, Papa. Is it true that many Bobbbins disappear after becoming adults?" Without waiting for Papa to answer, he continued, "He said that at least half do. The Masters won't tell us where they go. Is it true, Papa? What happens to them???"
      Suddenly, they spied Juniper on Mama's lap with JB and Jasper close to them. Jewel, Jade, Jordan and Papa shouted and said together, "Welcome home!!" Papa picked up Juniper and hugged her and then asked, "Where is Jackolyn? Is she having a nap?" he asked with a mischievous smile.
Suddenly he noticed the somber faces of Mama and the younger children and Juniper's red, swollen eyes, nearly shut from the swelling and he realized that Oliver the Owl was standing nearby, instead of on his normal flying routine. "What happened?" asked Papa Jay to Oliver. Oliver Owl filled Papa in on the tragic details. Then Oliver said, "I must leave you now and let you have some time as a family."
      Mama objected, "Oliver, you have been so kind and helpful. Do stay for dinner!" Red seaweed was not actually a favorite of Oliver's, but he politely thanked Mama, went out the door and flew into the forest. Oliver was not very happy with the mission, feeling responsible partly for the tragedy.
      The stunned family wordlessly went about their chores and sat down to a quiet dinner. Juniper would not eat. After dinner Papa said that he wanted to have a private talk with Jade about what happened at the Master's class. Later, as Juniper went up the ladder towards her room, Jade cornered her in the hallway, that he shared with Juniper and her sister. "Juniper," he blurted, "you must be really scared. You saw the Arachni take Jackolyn and they could have taken you!"
      Juniper stared at him blankly. Jade continued, "Papa says that Jackolyn is probably alive, being held as a prisoner. They don't eat girls, until they grow up!" Juniper with a look of horror, nodded.
      "I want to rescue her!" whispered Jade. "Can you help me?" Juniper looked shocked. "Jade, if they catch you, they'll eat you—they eat boys!" she gasped.
      "I can't stand it that my sister is held captive!" he moaned. "And do you know what Papa said?"
      Wide-eyed, Juniper responded, "What?"
      "He said that we don't know how many Bobbins and other creatures are held captive by the Arachnis. Do you know what happesn after graduation from Master's school?"
      "No, what?" queried wide-eyed Juniper.
      "They send half of the class to the Hill of Reckoning to give them to the Arachni as an offering, to keep them from attacking our village. The Masters decide who goes and who stays. Papa said that Mama and Papa Red Tail were sent to the Hill of Reckoning, but they took their chances, running into the forest, to flee fromt he Arachnis and they survived. Others have done this too. But others were taken by the Arachni. Sometimes, small children, like Jackolyn disappear."
      "How terrible!" gasped Juniper. "I did not know that our people would do this. How can the Master's betray their students?"
      "Papa said that the Masters were angry that you went to help the Red Tails. They may have even warned the Arachnis and helped cause Jackolyn's capture. The shiny melon that Jackolyn saw might have been bait. Mama and Papa are not on good terms with the Masters, because they help the Red Tails, but the Masters won't dare do anything to Mama and Papa, because they have so many friends and kin in the village. They always share with all and help everyone."
      Jade continued, "I want to rescue Jackolyn. I understand that I might die. But in a few years, the Masters will probably send me to the Hill of Reckoning anyway, and you, too!"
      Juniper was silent and then she said with determination, "I am with you, Jade. But I am scared. How can we do this?"
      Jade added, "I have been expelled from the school for two weeks. Papa will have me help him gather red seaweed for a couple of hours every morning. On my way home, I will gather forbidden foods and store them for our mission. I will inquire of the forest creatures about the location of the Arachni cave, that Jackolyn was carried to and estimate a route. I think we should prepare our mission for a week from now."
      "It is a plan!" whispered Juniper, "what can I do?"
      Jade answered, "Papa said that you won't be able to go to the Master's class, because of your mission and what happened."
      "Oh," replied Juniper with confused dismay and relief, together.
      Jade replied, "When you have free time from home classes with Mama, Jewel, Jasper and JB, please make us three special sachels—one for me and you, with compartments for food, water, supplies and a special pack to carry Jackolyn."
      "I can do that!" whispered Juniper eagerly.
      "And we can only speak together like this," warned Jade. "Don't tell anyone, not Mama, Papa or Oliver! Can you do that?"
      "OK," whispered Juniper, "I so hope that we can rescue Jackolyn! What a plan you have!"
Both went to their rooms and their siblings were already asleep.
      The week went by quickly. Jade brought home wild nuts, berries and melons, that were forbidden to the Bobbins. Carefully he concealed them outside the house, in a rock-lined trench he built and covered by a piece of slate. If they were found, no one would suspect who had gathered them and bring severe punishment to his family or town. He inquired of only the forest animals, that he could trust, other than Oliver the Owl, namely Bethany the Bluebird. Bethany had several years before, come to Jade's aid, when he was corned by a bobcat. The fearless bluebird had divebombed the bobcat, diverting his attention, so Jade had been able to escapte. While Oliver the Owl was helpful, he also had to report to Papa. The bluebirds were independent and known as the "bluebirds of happiness".
      Jade waited at the edge of the forest, several different days, looking for Bethany the Bluebird. Finally, he saw Bethany fly by and waved at him, beckoning him to come. Bethany swooped down and perched on a pricker branch, near Jade. "Good afternoon, my young Bobbin friend, " chirped Bethany in a melodic song. "And how are things? Why are you seeking me, my brave young Bobbin?"
      Jade moaned, "Alas, Bethany, the Arachnis have captured my young sister, Jackolyn!"
      "Deep sorrows, my son," warbled Bethany.
      "I want to rescue her from them," stated Jade with conviction.
      Bethany cocked his head, "Very dangerous, my son. None have ever been able to rescue anyone from the Arachnis, and lose their lives in the attempt."
      "I must rescue her," continued Jade, "but I need advice—the location of the cave, the best route, and any advice."
      "My young Bobbin, there are six entrances to the Arachni mountain. Can you provide me more details?"
      "She was taken just 30 minutes walk from our Bobbin Village, on the south side."
      "Ah, it must be the Arachni Dungeon entrance, called the 'Black Death Hole'," rasped the Bluebird, "A truly horrible place. I can be your guide, to the entrance only. My advice is not to do this at all. But, if you must, wear clothing to blend into the forest. I have had heard some information from cave animals, Marty the bat. That dungeon is horrible and many animals are captive there. It might be difficult to locate Jackolyn, even if you can get in, without being captured yourself. I will inquire of Marty. He owes me and we hate the treachery of the Arachnis and their filth and barbarity. When did you want me to guide you?"
      Jade responded, "In five days, at midnight, my sister, Juniper, and I will meet you here."
      "Juniper too," chirped Bethany. "I think the world of you too and hope you are successful, but it is so risky, my son. But I will meet you then. Agreed!"
      During the week, Juniper sewed the three sachels, as Jade instructed, using material from her bed sheets and several robes. On the fateful night, they climbed the stairs, with the others, to their bedrooms and went to bed. But at 11 pm, both silently slipped down the ladder and outside the backdoor, that every Bobbin house has, that leads outside the village. They cautiously scampered to the hidden cache of food, and filled the sachels, and then proceeded to the rendez-vous spot, that Jade had set with Bethany. Juniper had included 3 flasks of water and a flask of healing potion.
At midnight, Bethany flew down from above, perched on a branch, near them, and whispered, "Follow me!" So began the rescue mission of Jade and Juniper.
      It was only a three-hour hike to the entrance of the Arachni cave, the Black Death Hole. The dark of night, was the safest time to travel, as the Arachnis usually slept. Bethany led them in a hidden way, to avoid other dangerous forest animals, such as bobcats. The moon was full, so they travelled by moonlight.
      At the entrance to the Black Death Hole, Bethany whispered, "This is as far as I can take you. Here is the cave entrance, but beware! I advise you to climb the cave ladder, as Arachnis cannot climb it. Marty informed me that Jackolyn is probably the new captive, that was put into an outer dungeon, so maybe you can get her more easily. Arachnis are everywhere in the tunnel, though. Get her out before dawn and Arachnis will be sleeping."
      "Thank you!" whispered Juniper.
      "If you need help outside the cave," continued Bethany, "just make the Oliver whistle and I'll come to help."
      Jade nodded a thanks and Bethany hugged them both. Then they bravely entered the cave. It was misty and there was a foul stench, like rotten fish. They walked a few feet and almost stumbled over two sleeping hugy, ugly black Arachnis, which were like large 20-foot high black spider-bats, with 6 hairy legs, and two huge black wings, that covered their spindly legs and pinchers. Juniper and Jade saw the cave ladder nearby and began climbing, into a verticle shaft, Jade first, Juniper behind, as nimbly as they climbed the ladder to their bedrooms at home.
      After they had climbed 50 feet, they entered a horizontal cave with no Arachnis visible. There were drawings on the cave walls, appearing to be drawings of Bobbins and forest creatures, which they only noticed, as they quickly scampered by. After 50 feet, there was another vertical cave tunnel. As they proceeded, they passed 6 sleeping Arachnis. Even in sleep, these monsters were terrifying to behold. With great caution, they passed and before them, loomed iron bars, and they saw their sister, Jackolyn, asleep, behind the solid iron bars. They saw a great key hanging on a peg on the cave wall. Jade took down the key, which was half his size. With great difficulty, he and Juniper silently carried it, to the keyhole in the dungeon door, and managed to fit it into the keyhole and turn it. The door slowly swung open with a creaking noise, which frightened Jade and Juniper. Jackolyn was breathing faintly, but they could not wake her up. They put her in the 3rd sachel, which Jade put on his back. Though she was 5 years old, she was a tiny little Bobbin, so manageable for Jade to carry. They tried to arrange the rags and debris to look like Jackolyn was still sleeping beneath them. Then they quietly shut the door, locked it and hung up the key. Then, silently they tip-top scampered by the still-sleeping Arachnis, to the ladder cave-hole. They had no problem on either the 1st or 2nd passages and came to the stretch of cave, before the entrance, only 50 feet to go. There, they passed the two sleeping ugly Arachnis again. As they proceeded with great caution towards the entrance, Jackolyn, who was still asleep in the pack on Jade's back, began to stir, perhaps because some fresh air from outside the cave, and she began to revive. She moaned and muttered something in a groggy voice. Suddenly one of the Arachnis awoke and emitted a blood-curdling screech. Startled, Juniper, looked in the direction of the screech and beheld the huge monster, aroused, 40 feet away, starting in pursuit of her. Terrified beyond all reason, she veered to her right, not knowing that there was a large, open crevass, in front of the cave wall. She stumbled and fell into the crevass, which was a long, narrow,open hole, opening into a steeply-sloped incline. She found herself sliding down the incline, on her rear. She screamed as loudly as she could, "Run, Jade, run—get out!" And she remembered the melody to summon Bethany the Bluebird and she loudly belted it out. The echo of the melody resounded in the unknown depths of the chasm, into which she was falling. Unknown to Juniper, the melody pierced the silence in the early-dawn hours, and was heard outside the cave, in the forest.
      Fortunately for both Juniper and Jade, the Arachni had diverted its chase to Juniper, giving Jade time to flee with Jackolyn, down the long, vertical ladder. But the opening of the crevass, into which Juniper had slipped, was too narrow for the Arachni to give pursuit. And the vertical ladder, on which Jade was descending, was also too narrow for the Arachni.
      Juniper slid for several minutes, painfully on rocks and dust, until she came to a sudden stop at the bottom. Her fall had stirred up dust in the air. It was very dark, except for several shafts of light, that came from high above. Juniper lay very still, frozen in fear, wondering what might happen next. She cautiously moved her limbs, thankfully they still worked. She felt her body and realized that she was mostly together, except for some scratches and bruises and was very sore. Still, she waited, silently, without moving, and imaging what might be in the cave. She did not know if the Arachni had followed her.
      She seemed to be lying on a rock floor, very dusty. After a long while, she attempted to slowly crawl, carefully feeling ahead to make sure it was solid. She counted each length she crawled, staying near the sloping wall, that she had slid down. She knew that she had 5 days' worth of food with her, and she still had her pack. But was there a way out of this chamber? Could she climb up that steep wall, that she had slid down? Even if she could, would she dare, knowing what was in the cave?
      She continued slowly to crawl, exploring for any passage of escape. After several hours, she had counted 300 body-lengths, that she had crawled. What a huge cave it was! And she had no way to determine the time of day, but she was hungry. Carefully, she removed a cherry melon from the pack. Cherry melon, a fruit forbidden in Bobbin Village, but a delicious and nutritious food for Bobbins. She hoped that Jade and Jackolyn had gotten safely back to Bobbin Village. If they did, she thought, it would be the first time someone was rescued from the Arachni! Or was it? She vaguely wondered. And would anyone dare to rescue her? They might just think she had perished. And how could they get her out of here? It was more remote and unknown than a dungeon!
      After finishing the cherry melon, she threw the rind into the darkness, to hear where it fell. It landed with a thud and nothing else happened. "Probably foolish to do that," she thought worriedly. She continued to grope along the wall, peering in the darkness, feeling for any sign of passage to escape. She thought of her home and Mama and Papa and sunlight. What was everyone doing now? How some sunlight would be welcome!
      As she felt the wall, her fingers seemed to detect a crack. As she slid her fingers along the crease, she realized it was in the shape of an oval. The center piece seemed lose, as it was unattached to the sides. But the diameter was much too small for her to fit in, she sighed, even if it was a tunnel to the outside. But it might give a little sunlight, she thought, with hope. As she pressed on the oval center, about 8 inches in diameter, the center gave way, collapsing into the cavern, behind it. Strangely, there was light in the tiny crevass, filtering from high above. There was a small cavern shelf, lit from light from above. Under the rock shelf, much to Juniper's amazement, was a book!
      Very gently, she removed the book, and blew off a thick coating of dust. She found that when it was placed on the shelf in the tiny cavern, there was enough light to read it. The book had no title, and she carefully opened it, revealing yellowed pages, and a very artistic scrawl, in the Bobbin tongue! Juniper had not yet started the Masters' School, but at home lessons, Mama had taught her to read and write, and she was a very avid and advanced student.
      The first chapter purported to explain the authorship of the book. The author claimed that the book was written 600 years ago by a Bobbin, named "Jericho". "If you are reading this book, then you are on your way to freedom from Thunder Island—the island of treachery and Arachnis," wrote Jericho. Juniper was amazed--"Am I on my way to freedom?" she thought and looked doubtfully around her.
      Jericho wrote, "Long ago, my people sailed from a land, in search of freedom. Our ship was destroyed in a storm, though all survived and washed ashore on rafts, landing on Thunder Island. At first, it looked like a paradise—beautiful semi-tropical scenery and delicious fruits. An oasis of paradise in the middle of a huge ocean, with no other islands near. But soon, we learned the dark secret of this island, when the first Arachni appeared and snatched a little girl Bobbin and flew away, as she screamed in terror. She was never seen again. Our little group of 100 Bobbins, 20 families, was traumatized. Right away, leaders arose and began making stringent, and to my way of thinking, absurd, rules. Since the child was taken, while her family was gathering fruit in the forest, all such fruit was forbidden. We could only gather certain foods from the shore, such as red seaweed in the summer, blue seaweed in the fall."
      "We built a community in a circle for protection from Arachni and other predators. Still the Arachni snatched another child a fortnight later-- that one also was gathering fruit with their family."
      "As time went on, our community survived, but there was a constant undercurrent of fear and anxiety among the Bobbins. The leaders devised a system of punishment/discipline—putting those guilty of infractions on a high hill, which they called 'The Hill of Reckoning'. From there, they could leave for unknown parts of the island or await their fate with the Arachni, who often visited the hill. It was also a way to appease the Arachni."
      "The day came when my whole family and my brother's family fell into disfavor with the leadership, because we had too many children to feed and we would not give up a child to the Hill of Reckoning. So they put us all there. We fled into the forest jungle to find a way to survive without the community. My brother and I and our wives had 8 children between us."
      "We were able to flee deep into the forest and establish two burrows close together in a secluded, protected area. For three years, we survived, lived in peace and each had two more children. We gathered whatever food we were able, of the delicious nuts, berries and melons, that grew wild in the forest and we stayed far from the sea. We had no contact with our former village. My brother and I, to protect our families, tried to learn about our enemies in the island, the foremost danger being the Arachnis, though we never saw any sign of them. We became acquainted with friendly forest dwellers, the owls, various birds, (such as bluebirds), who had more knowledge of the Arachni. We gave aid to forest creatures, with our knowledge of healing potions, which we brought from our former land."
      "One day, I went alone to gather food and meet an owl contact, as my brother needed to do repairs on their burrow. When I returned at the end of the day, my brother and both our families were entirely gone. I followed the track, that seemed to be theirs, enlisting the help of my owl contact. It led to the Hill of Reckoning, and owl informed me that the hill was being guarded by three of my kind, from the main Bobbin onclave. Owl told me that all in my family, including my brother, were securely bound. The owl informed me that my brother had been severely wounded, and that my wife and sister-in-law were strangely asleep. I could hear the crying of the children, even as I cautiously approached. I had a weapon with me and analyzed how to overpower the guards."
      "Suddenly the air was full of blackness, rushing wind and a foul stench. A large flock of enormous, black, winged monsters, with heads like spider and talons, numerous as spider legs, descended upon the hill and snatched everyone of my family, children shrieking, as they flew into the air. I watched in speechless horror and helplessness, as they flew off and noted carefully the direction, until they could no longer be seen."
      "In wrath, I attacked one guard and slew him, and another, due to the extreme fury that arose in me. The third guard, I subdued and bound, as they had done to my family. I extracted from him a confession of what had been done. He said that after my family had left the Bobbin Village, bitter dissentions continued over issues of defense from the Arachnis, who continued to pillage the town periodically, snatching usually children. Eventually, there was not one family left, that did not suffer the loss of someone from the Arachni. A small group of men conspired to attack my brother's and my families and leave us as an offering to the Arachni, so they would give the Bobbin Village some peace. They had heard that we had not been bothered by Arachni in the three years, since our fleeing the Village. They dispatched those three Bobbins males to do the job."
      "I had planned to leave this man, bound on the Hill of Reckoning, just as he had done to my family. But the man pleaded with me for his life, so I did spare him. I had him bury his comrades, so their outcome would be unknown, at least for a while. I took this man as a prisoner, as I pondered what to do. My entire family was gone, and this man, a traitor, and completely untrustworthy, my only companion. My only goal now was to rescue any of my family, that might still be alive and held prisoners by the Arachnis. I had learned from my forest contacts that the Arachnis had extensive dungeons, and kept many of their catch as prisoners for many years, inside their Arachni mountain stronghold."
      "I dared not release the prisoner, either, because of his treachery to lead others to avenge his comrades' deaths. So, I was forced to have him, bound, accompany me. We returned to my home, and I had him carry supplies. There was plentiful food in the forest, but we took an extra seven days' supply for each, and healing potion. We began a trek towards the direction that the Arachnis had taken my family. It was a three-hour journey to the mountain. A bluebird gave guidance, when we walked beyond the area, where I had seen the Arachnis take my family. We made a burrow in the base of the mountain, in which the Arachnis had their stronghold. We made the burrow with a separate chamber, in which I locked my companion. I still did not know what to do with him—a dangerous situation. He seemed a bumbling fellow, without much will or mind of his own, someone the Bobbins had forced into their wretched conspiracy."
      "The purpose of the burrow was to learn the ways of the Arachni and eventually, (hopefully sooner than later), invade their cave. It was a daring, impossible task, and it seemed almost hopeless. But I had no choice. The other fellow was very frightened of our plan, but he also did not know his way home."
      "Through our investigations, we confronted Arachni and then we disappeared into holes, in which they could not follow. In this way, we learned that they avoided fire and also certain fruits, with a very sweet odor, which the Bobbin Village had banned. They also fled from the color 'white'. So, during these investigations, we confronted the Arachni and were actually able to cause them to flee. They were not totally a mindless creature, and had a diabolical aspect to their kind. Because of their revulsion at our white garments and sweet-smelling fruit, they retaliated by spraying us with a foul-smelling ink, and then charged to attack. Luckily, we had developed a fire ball, which we threw into one of the eyes of the monster. With a shriek, it collapsed, and began to shrivel up, into a pasty, black slime. We noted which eye had been hit."
      "My prisoner gradually became my assistant and I felt a certain grudging affection for him. He was young, and said he had been coerced into the treacherous role, that had brought us together. He had no family, having lost them to the Arachni, as well, and he seemed to regard me as a father. He also seemed to feel a deep guilt over what had happened to my family, and his role in that, and so, Jason and I worked together out of necessity. Almost daily, we had skirmishes with individual Arachni and we had developed an antidote to the inky, black spray. We developed different weapoons, and we slew dozens of them, by hitting them with sling shots of burning balls, in that particular weak spot, their center eye."
      Juniper paused in the reading, amazed that Bobbins could actually engage an Arachni in battle and win. She continued to read, "Our plan began to unfold, as we collected much of the sweet fruit so offensive to Arachnis. At the entrance of the cave, we boldly made a fire, and put on it a pot, brewing with a mixture of the sweet-smelling fruit. The sweet odor was not offensive to us, but was unbearable to the Arachni, and the fire was a terror. We were aided by the wind, which sucked the smoke into the cave, and we followed, dressed in our white sweet-smelling garments, armed with lanterns, spray, sling shots. Jason's job was to wait by the pot and fire, guard it, keep it buring with smoke, blowing in the cave. I went forth, with shield, sword, lantern, sling with fireballs." Juniper noted that Jericho and Jason had come to trust one another.
      "When I went forth into the cave, it was deserted of Arachni. I passed several large dungeons, in which were live Bobbins, but also dead bodies, a horror chamber. In each, I sawed the bars of the doors, as the Arachni had taken the keys, when they fled. In this way, I sawed open three dungeons, freeing the Bobbins. Some were drugged, others, I gave a sip of healing potion, and instructed them to carry their drugged cellmates. In this way, we rescued 31 Bobbins, including my entire family, brother and his wife and our ten children, and surprisingly, Jason's brother and sister, who had been left on the Hill of Reckoning by Bobbin Village."
Juniper wondered to herself, "How amazing that they were able to rescue so many from the Arachni!"
      She continued to read, "Although we had enlarged our burrow for this, we did not expect to rescue 31, and so our onclave was crowded beyond capacity. We now worked on extending our burrow underground. We did not desire to make multiple burrows, as we were living under the shadow of the Arachni cave and in constant danger." Juniper marveled at how brave these Bobbins were.
      "My wife, brother, sister-in-law were the only adult Bobbins to have survived capture by the Arachni, and they believed their survival was due to their great love for the very sweet forest fruit, which they had eaten exclusively, because we were not bound by the rules of the Bobbin Village. The sweet fruit diet had made them offensive to the Arachni. The Arachnis fed their captives a bland gruel, which was poured into dirty containers and thrown in the dungeons. They awaited the children to grow and the adults to be cleansed of sweet melon, before eating them."
Juniper winsed at the cruelty and horror, which was all too real.
      "Jason was elated by the rescue of his siblings. My family recognized Jason as part of the raiding party (though he was most passive, at the time, they reported), and they were naturally very wary of him for a long time, even though they accepted that he helped in their rescue." Juniper marveled at the situation with Jason.
      "We expected that the Arachni would be considerably riled by our successful raid and so remained with our rescued kin and new friends, within the burrow for several weeks. Jason and I made ocassional forays outside to collect nuts, berries and melons. My wife was helping tend the wounded, both in body and spirit, especially the deep wounds of spirit, after such traumatic captivity." Juniper wondered how Jade and Jackolyn were and how Jackolyn might be after her captivity for a week in the Arachni dungeon.
      "Jason and I also worked to enlarge the burrow from the inside. Although Bobbins love sunshine and fresh air, we adapt well to burrow life, but appreciate a little 'wiggle room'." Juniper laughed, "It has not changed in 600 years!"
      "As I worked on a new tunnel, going straight into the mountain, my shovel hit a hollow. Very cautiously, I shoveled a small hole, among the rocky surroundings. Gradually, a new hole developed, connecting into an existing shaft-room, that extended into a vertical shaft, extending upward, at a steep incline of an 85 degree angle. I climbed through the hole, into the room, by the light of my lantern. The dome-ceiling was a over a Bobbin-sized room, about 8 feet in diameter, circular, the whole ceiling was opened, but the shaft narrowed, as it went up. There also was a Bobbin-type ladder going up the shaft." Juniper wondered if another animal had made the ladder.
      "I immediately went back and had a meeting that evening with our leaders, the adult Bobbins—my wife, brother, sister-in-law and Jason. I explained about the discovery of the ladder. It was agreed that I would explore alone, because of the needs of our community. My brother was still recovering from the severe wounds, that he had suffered in the raid. Jason was needed for gathering food and for the defense of the burrow. I dare not take a child with me to explore. They agreed to install a protected door on that tunnel, to keep the children from following me into it."
Juniper thought that it would be so fascinating if it was possible to meet Jericho, Jason and their families.
      "I left for the tunnel the next morning, with a lantern, hanging from my belt, slings with burning rocks, a white melon-soaked tunic and 10 days' supply of melon food and some healing potion. I began to climb the Bobbin ladder in the vertical shaft. With my lantern, I could see above me about 10 feet. The shaft went up for about 200 feet, where the shaft began to level, finally into a shaft at a vertical incline of 20 degrees. It began to wind in several 'S' curves, and suddenly ended in an opening into a large cavern. I halted apprehensivly and listened, but all was silent. I proceeded to walk along the cavern wall, staying close to the edge and could see 10 feet ahead of me. The ceiling was not visible, and all was silent and dark, except for the lantern light." Juniper thought, "That sounds like a description of this cave?"
      "When I had walked in this fashion for 300 paces, there was a wall ahead of me, with a narrow passage down and around it. I walked another 300 paces, and had to walk through a narr archway, into a circular room, with a low-domed ceiling. As I surveyed this chamber, I was attracted to some symbols on the wall. I walked over and brushed away soil and debris, to try and make out the symbols. Suddenly, a door opened before me, revealing another tunnel. As I walked into the tunnel, suddenly the door closed behind me. Frozen with fear, I waited, but nothing happened. ( and I was later able to write this down!). My lantern was still glowing, revealing a long, level tunnel, but decorated with lovely rock formations on the wall. I slowly began to walk."
Juniper thought that this sounded incredible, but she also could not explain how unbelievable it was that she was trapped in a huge, cavern, reading this book!
      She continued, spell-bound, to read, "After five days in this tunnel, I began to wonder if there would ever be an end. What would my family think? Ocassionally, there were tiny holes, that emitted sunlight, sometimes at eye-level, so I could peak at the land outside—but no sight was familiar. Finally, I came to a circular, domed chamber, about 12 feet in diameter. There was no opening to the outside. Tired and discouraged, I took a rest and had some of my melon. Why would this tunnel continue for five days, perhaps 300 miles long and lead to nowhere—it made no sense? And where did it go? We thought Thunder Island was only 10 miles in diameter?"
      "Since it was the end of a long days' walking (as I perceived it—I had to estimate the passage of time in that tunnel, with the help of the eye-holes), I fell into a deep sleep. In the middle of my slumber, I was awakened by what sounded like tiny bells of a peaceful melody. As I awakened in a dazed state, I saw light in streaks, coming from small shafts in the center of the domed ceiling (which I had not previously noticed). The light shined on a side of the wall, creating one horizontal line, criss-crossed by a vertical line, and it exposed a symbol, that was recessed into the wall and covered by dust. The symbol appeared to be two triangles put together as a star."
      "Mystified, I crawled over to investigate this, running my fingers along the light and around the triangles. Suddenly, the wall parted, revealing a door, which opened, and I was momentarily blinded by intense white, bright light. When my eyes adjusted, a beautiful landscape, such as I had never witnessed, was before me. I stepped out of the cavern, into a grove of beautiful trees, flowers of various colors, shapes, foreign to my eyes, more brilliant than I ever saw. The ground was covered with moss of variations of gold, green, blue and the colors blended together in beautiful harmony. The air was fresh with a faint, delightful fragrance. The sky was bright-azure. I walked into the grove and saw different birds and animals, that eyed me with curiosity."
      Juniper, read on, spell-bound. "It was then that a graceful deer approached me and spoke, 'Welcome, my friend to the Eternal Lands. You have had a long journey. Let me take you to our local leader, where you will find rest, lodging and nourishment.' So obediently, I followed this deer, who said her name was Ilana, to a very picturesque forest glade, to a large bungalow, the home of the local magistrate, Victor, a stately, kind raccoon. After a delicious meal with Victor, we were joined by several local leaders. Victor told me that I was in an eternal land, created and governed by a supremely kind, honest leader, who had created the land. 'Here', said Victor, 'we live in peace and harmony. No one suffers, there is no pain, no evil, no death.' I stared in wonder and responded, 'My people and I were searching for such a land.'" Juniper whispered to herself, "How I would like to find such a place!"
      "'And you entered from the Land of Rebellion," continued Victor.
      "'We call it 'Thunder Island', I responded ruefully. 'Would I be permitted to stay here?'"
      "'All who enter may stay,' replied Victor. 'The difficulty lies in getting here.'"
      "'You say there is no evil?' I challenged, 'But what happens if I were to do evil?'"
      "'You would not be here, if that were the case,' replied Victor and he added, 'I know if it is complicated—just accept that that is so.'"
      "'I have 32 others in my community, living in the shadow of a great evil. Can I bring them here?'"
      "'Of course you may, and we will help you!' beamed Victor. 'We were hoping you would ask.' Victor provided me with a very long, light cord and nets, in order to help the children climb the 300 foot ladder, without falling."
      "'We will also send our donkey, Johnathan, with you to pull a cart through the tunnel and deposit food for your group at strategic points in the tunnel. Anything else?' he asked."
      "I shook my head. 'Well done,' he replied. 'But we know there is another Bobbin Village in the Land of Rebellion.'"
      "'Yes', I acknowledged, 'We were betrayed and cast out from there. I cannot go back there.'"
      "'Yes, we understand all that. But we have one more request—write an account of your history and escape to this land. We will arrange to leave it in a place to be found by descendants of the Bobbin Village, should the day come...'" Juniper's eyes were wide—could that be me?
      "'Of course', I readily agreed. So that is why this account has been written, put in a special box, and left at the large cavern wall, at the top of the long ladder. The burrow and tunnels will be sealed." Juniper looked around to see any sign of a tunnel, but all was dark and dismal, no sign of a tunnel.
      The account concluded with a list of rules for living a pure life, in preparation for the Eternal Lands. The book ended, "If you are reading this, then I look forward to meeting you in the Eternal Lands." Juniper muttered, "It would be wonderful to meet Jericho and his family. How am I going to get to the Eternal Lands?" Then, she turned the page and saw there was a map of the large cavern and instructions for finding tunnels. Juniper had just spent several intense hours, reading this book. She now carefully scrutinized the map and decided to follow. "What other choice is there?" Carefully, she counted paces, as she crept closely to the cavern wall in the dark. "No doubt his paces were larger," she thought. She wondered if the map and book were true. But now, everything seemed unreal. "Why would anyone leave a false book here or any book at all? It's the only thing I have to go on. But when did he write it? 600 years ago? Did anything change?"
      But then she reached the first rock block with narrow passage behind it. Then over 300 paces later, she reached the arch, and went under it. Behind it, was the circular chamber, untouched after 600 years, though dusty. And she saw the strange symbols on the wall. Like Jericho, she went over and touched the symbols, running her fingers on the two interlocking triangles, one pointing up and one down, making a star. Suddenly, just as it did 600 years ago, an invisibler door opened, revealing a tunnel. Excited, but reassured by the book, that she clutched, she cautiously entered and the door closed behind her, leaving her in a dark tunnel with ocassional rays of light from tiny shafts to the outside. Knowing that the tunnel took Jericho 5 days to traverse, she began to quicken her pace, carefully watching the way before her for any crevass or unknown menace. She knew she had melon packed enough for 5 days and it was an added relief to know that the Archnis hate melon! Jade had really come up with a remarkable idea, she thought.
      After five weary days, she arrived at the end chamber. She did not see any symbols on the wall, even as she carefully rubbed the entire circular chamber. "Maybe the door is gone, after 600 years," she wailed. "Maybe they took it away, because my people were too evil," she cried and fell asleep, exhausted and very discouraged. She judged it was night, as the few streaks of light from the ceiling had vanished.
      After she had been sleeping in a deep, peaceful sleep for several hours, she was awakened by faint, melodic bells and a slight rush of fresh, perfumed air. She saw some faint moonlight, shining through the crevass in the ceiling onto the chamber wall, creating a horizontal line, criss-crossing with a vertical line. In her half-awake state, she saw that the criss-cross was shining into the middle of the same 2-triangle star symbol, cut into the wall, that Jericho had described. Why had she not noticed it earlier? It was covered by a film, but the angle of the light made it visible. Excited, she ran over and rubbed her hands over the symbol. Suddenly, an invisible door opened, and before Juniper was the Eternal Lands, brilliantly shining, gorgeous, as she had never imagined. Better than Jericho's description, the air was fresh, with a faint scent of some unknown, but delicious fragrance. The sky was bright blue. The trees grew leaves and flowers of brilliant, harmonious hue. There was an overwhelming aura of peace and joy. Juniper wandered down the tree-and-flower-lined path, captivated by this new world, her own Thunder Island forgotten.
      Pleasantly, she crossed a footbridge over a babbling brook, and she was met by a bluebird. Startled, she gasped and covered her mouth, "Oh, you look like my friend, Bethany!"
      The bluebird smiled and chirped, "Welcome to the Eternal Lands, my young Bobbin! You have been long-hoped for and expected!"
      Juniper stared as such a strange greeting. She wondered to herself, "Could all this just be one big dream? If I pinch myself, will I just wake up in my bed in BobbinVillage?" But she shyly asked, "What is your name?"
      The bluebird responded, "Julius."
      And is Jericho here?" Juniper asked very cautiously.
      Julius smiled very broadly with his beak, "Yes, indeed!" he fairly crowed.
      "So, did he bring his community here?" she continued.
      "Yes, indeed, my young Bobbin, and you can meet him and them now. Will you please follow me?" Juniper nodded eagerly and said with a laugh, "If you don't fly too high, I can follow."
      Julius the bluebird led Juniper to a small, thatched cottage, where she was greeted warmly by a Mama Bobbin, and led to a table. There were seated eleven Bobbins, with the Papa at the head. Julius excused himself and left. Juniper was shown to a seat at the table. The Papa addressed her, "Welcome to our home in the Eternal Lands! I am Jericho. I can only guess that you found my book?"
      Juniper stared in amazement. "I can't believe it—that I am meeting you! Oh, yes, such an amazing book and such a life-saver for me! And to think that a week ago, I never knew anything about you or could have imagined such a place!"
      "What is your name, child?" asked Jericho.
      "Juniper, sir."
      "How old are you?"
      "8 years."
      Jericho softly whistled, "I would not have imagined that one so young as you would be the one to actually find my book, read it and make the journey to the Eternal Lands." He introduced her to those at his table—his wife, Melody, and two grandchildren, and various descendents. He added, "You know, we live forever, here!" and smiled.
      "Did you write the book 600 years ago?" asked Juniper, as if in a dream.
      "Yes, I did."
      "Did you bring all 32 of your family here successfully?"
      "Yes," nodded Jericho again. "But not all 32 were my family."
      "Oh, yes," acknowledged Juniper. "Some were Jason's family and some were not related."
      Correct," responded Jericho. "You get an A in your reading of the book!"
      "Are they still alive after 600 years?" she asked in fascination.
      "Yes, indeed, Juniper, because there is no death here. But they had other children and they live in other places. And you, Juniper, do you have a familyand how did you find the book? I had imagined someone much older would be the first to come."
      Juniper began, "I come from Bobbin Village, and I did not know the history of my kind. I am extremely sorry for how my ancestors treated you."
      Jericho smiled, taken aback. "It is forgiven, child, as it says in the book, remember?"
      Juniper looked confused, "No, I did not remember that part."
      Jericho said, "The only way to come to the Eternal Lands, you must have a repentant spirit, for the doors will not open otherwise."
      Juniper nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, and I saw those special symbols and traced them and could feel the love and forgiveness, though I was sorry for the treachery of my people, and how my family and I mindlessly followed along." She told Jericho and his family about her Mama, Papa and siblings, their life in Bobbin Village and the whole saga of what had happened, that caused her to find Jericho's book and travel to the Eternal Lands. She was so absorbed that she did not realize that she had talked for two hours, but no one seemed to mind and they were very intent on her story.
      "Would you like to bring your family here, child?" mused Jericho. Juniper winced for a moment, not having fully apprehended all that was transpiring. "Well, of course I would," she blinked, "how wonderful it would be! Do you think it is possible?"
      Jericho replied, "My child, with the Lord of the Eternal Lands, all is possible! But you will have to go back."
      Juniper gulped and nodded. She had not even realized how attached she had become to the Eternals Lands and this family, even in a few hours.
      "And I will go with you," commanded Jericho. "Tomorrow we will begin to plan and prepare. Tonight you will stay in my home, as the honorary daughter for Melody and me." Juniper was honored at the thought, but thought that they already had some daughters! She was shown to a loft with a ladder, like at her home, but Jericho and Melody's children were grown, so she did not share a room. After nights of sleeping in caves and tunnels, what a luxury!
      The next day, Melody, Jericho and she met to plan and prepare. Jericho said, "I will accompany you back to your family and you can introduce me to your father. I will help to explain and support your testimony. You realize that it might be hard for your parents and family to believe what has happened to you?"
      Juniper jumper at the thought. "Of course Papa will believe!" and then she wondered.
      Jericho continued, "We will bring some things to help him believe. Also, they will understand that you were last seen falling into a chasm in the Arachni cavern, so surely, the fact that you come back is evidence that something out-of-the-ordinary happened."
      Juniper wondered aloud with worry, "I wonder if Jade and Jackolyn got home OK?"
      Melody offered, "We are going to hope for the best, Juniper. And we will do everything to make sure that they are OK." Jericho continued, "We also have some other goals, Juniper, and we think you might be interested." Juniper nodded.
      "We would like to rescue all those, who are held in prison by the Arachni. Do you think there are other prisoners?"
      A look of fear and sadness came on Juniper's countenance. "Yes," she responded. "When we rescued my sister, she was in the outer prison. We could hear screaming and moaning from within. It was horrible. But we did not have a way to help them."
      "Well, now you do," affirmed Jericho, "It is high time that they be freed."
      "How will you do that?" asked Juniper, of course remembering this account in his book. "Besides the tools, that we used in our escape, we now have additional resources from the Lord of the Eternal Lands."
      He added, "My next objective is to bring knowledge of the escape route to the Eternal Lands to Bobbin Village."
      Juniper exclaimed, "It is our village that betrayed your family!"
      Jericho answer solemnly, "It is the way of the Lord of the Eternal Lands to bring forgiveness , healing and reconciliation. But it is not easy, Juniper. I do not expect everyone to listen and maybe no one will. But I think your family will. But everyone must be given a true chance. And like, you, my precious daughter, some will listen."
      Juniper nodded and spoke up, "Jericho, there are others on Thunder Island, besides those in Bobbin Village, such as my aunt and uncle Red Tail, who live scattered all over—many I don't even know about, but heard spoken of. And there is Oliver Owl and Bethany Bluebird."
      "Right," assented Jericho thoughtfully. "It is a big task, but with the help of the Lord of the Eternal Lands, it is possible. It must be done soon, for Thunder Island is going to erupt soon and disappear forever."
      A look of horror and fear crossed over Juniper and she gasped, "Oh my! When? How much time do we have?" Melody patted Juniper on the head and brushed her hair, "Jericho," she cautioned. "Let's not be so alarming. Juniper has had more than enough of an ordeal."
      Jericho comforted, "Don't worry, Juniper. We have just enough time, if we don't tarry." They began making additional plans and preparations. First, Jericho would accompany Juniper to her family and present their case. Then, with the hope that Papa would believe, he would go with Papa to the assembly of the Bobbin Village, to present the case.
      "Don't expect that to be easy, Juniper. While some will believe, others won't and you may be surprised at who. But no doubt you and your family and I will have to flee, and we will go to the former base of my community at the foot of the Arachni onclave. We will have a base there and train your people to reach the others of the island in remote locations and in the life and ways of the Eternal Lands." Juniper beamed.
      Jericho continued, "We will have Bobbins (and other creatures) organized for different tasks. Melody and our daughter, Harmony, will tend our base and take care of the refugee needs. My son, Joshua, and Jason, will help me to carry out the rescue mission in the Arachni stronghold. Though your brother, Jade, is very young, he is obviously experienced with rescue missions from the Arachni, and he can help, if he wants. We will train others to bring the news of this land to everyone on Thunder Island."
      The rest of the day was spent in busy preparation of supplies. They each would wear a white robe, with hood, soaked in melon juice and dried. They each would have a belt, from which would hang a lantern, a jack-knife, a sling shot and small bag of small acorn-like seeds, which were used as a weapon against the Arachni, easily set on fire and shot with the sling. They each carried a pack with a flask of healing potion, water and five days supply of melon. Fred, the donkey had volunteered to pull a cart, filled with more food, one month's supply, said Jericho. Fred would only pull the cart to the entrance, and leave it and go back to the Eternal Lands. He also would make subsequent trips with more food and carts. Jericho was bringing tools for burrowing, including an axe. They would bring netting and a bucket for raising and lowering supplies up the ladder.
      After dinner that night, Jericho had a meeting with Juniper, Melody, Harmony, Joshua and another daughter, Hannah, who was coordinating help for this mission among those in the Eternal Lands. First, Jericho gave thanks to the Lord of the Eternal Lands for his help.
The next morning, Juniper, Jericho, Melody, Harmony, Joshua and Jason were up with the sunrise, to see the beautiful, red-gold of the sky. Juniper looked at the brilliant sunrise with wonder and Harmony, who was 16 years old, said, "It's always like that here."
      "It must be hard to leave," whispered Juniper. "Yes," agreed Harmony, "but we must do this." Juniper nodded, "It is unbelievably kind of you to help. I just could never forget my family, living in terror on Thunder Island."
      They walked down the beautiful, tree-lined, flowered path, glowing in the warm sunrise, ever fragrant with fresh air and scent of delicate flowers. Soon, they came to a large, green mound. Jericho had a large key, that fit into the hole, "from the King himself", whispered Harmony to Juniper. Suddenly, a door opened into the mound, to that small chamber, that Juniper had slept in, at the end of the 5-day tunnel walk. They all entered, Juniper with a shiver, as they felt the cool, darkness of the tunnel. Fred the donkey pulled the cart inside and the door shut.
      For five long days, they walked in the tunnel, taking time at night to sleep on the tunnel floor and to take their meals. At long last, they came to the end of the tunnel. Again, Joshua used the King's key in a small hole, and another door opened. "Well, we are back at The Land of Rebellion", and turning to Juniper, he added, "or you would say, 'Thunder Island', after 600 years for some of us. We will be, as soon as we cross the thresshold." Fred brayed a good-bye, as they unhitched the cart from him, and left it, at the side of the tunnel. He began the journey back to the Eternal Lands, with the promise to bring another cart.
      Before they crossed the threshhold, they unpacked some of the melon into their packs and removed supplies, that they would need, including tools, netting and braided cord. Carefully, each of them crossed the threshhold into Thunder Island. The door slowly shut and clicked tightly, not revealing any seam or outward sign of a door. Immediately, Juniper sensed a heaviness, gloominess of the cavern.
      It did not take them long to make the 600 pace journey around the perimeter of the large, dark cavern, which was dimly lit by their lanterns. In one spot, there were small rocks and debris, lying on the floor and Juniper remarked, "I think this is where I fell into the cave!" Jericho tilted up his lantern, to expose dimly-lit 200 feet of cave rock at an 85-degree angle, with a slight, elongated, narrow opening at the top. "You fell through a narrow crevass – too narrow for the Arachnis to follow. Amazing that you only sustained scrapes and bruises." And he added, "So, there is an opening to the Arachni fortress, right up there!" and he pointed. The group nodded soberly and Juniper gazed upward in wonder.
      Soon, they came to an open hole in the cave wall—the shelf, where Jericho's testimony had been stored. Jericho looked at the wall. "It lasted well for 600 years." He and Joshua got out tools and carefully hammered in key spots, and soon rocks began crumbling, or what had seemed to be a rock, but was actually filler. With axe and crowbar, they broke down a seal, that revealed another chamber. They cleared the debris and went inside. In the corner, was a gaping vertical tunnel, going straight down at a 75-degree angle, with a Bobbin-style ladder. Bobbins are very surefooted in climbing up and down such ladders, but this one was so long, 200 feet, that they prepared the braid and netting equipment, as a safety precaution for each one to descend. They also had a large bucket, to use for lowering supplies, and set up a pulley. "This can be used for children, like an elevator, and for wounded adults, when they are strapped in, with cover in place, " stated Joshua.
      Jericho was the first to descend and set up cushioning, at the bottom, in case someone were to fall. The others followed, one by one, Joshua being the last. Then, Joshua, Jericha and Jason removed the seal from the cover of the tunnel, that lead to the burrow, that his family had occupied 600 years ago, right beneath the Arachni Mountain. It was a very large underground burrow, with 20 separate rooms. Carefully, they entered and inspected. Right away, Joshua, Jason and Jericho checked the outside entrance and saw that it was still sealed. The tiny shafts in the wall allowed streaks of sunlight here and there, to bounce on the walls, and some minimal air circulation. Harmony and Melody, and Symphony set at once to sweep and clean tunnels, rooms and especially the kitchen. Joshua and Jericho began to unseal the front entrance to the burrow. Jason inspected the flue to the chimney and fireplace. Juniper helped the other Bobbin women with cleaning and marvelled at the enormity of the burrow.
      Finally, the seven sat down at the clean table and had a meal of melon and other food, brought from the Eternal Lands. Jericho announced that the front entrance was unsealed. "However, we are in a dangerous place, right below the Arachni cave entrance. No one is to go outside for any reason, without my clearance. Those who get clearance to go out will need to be escorted and wear the white, protective robe and bring weapons." No one argued.
      Jason reported that the chimney flue was as they left it 600 years ago. They had connected the chimney to an existing small passage, that ran up the mountain 300 feet at an angle, so the smoke from the fire was not detectable near the burrow, and also was dissipated into seven different fissures. Joshua suggested, "Is there a way to divert the smoke into the Arachni cave?" Everyone was silent, and Jericho replied, "Brilliant idea! And I think it can be done easily. That way we can boil the melons in our burrow, where those, keeping the fire going, will be out of harm's way."
      Jason said excitedly, "Let's work on that tomorrow!"
      Jericho said, "You and Joshua work on that tomorrow, OK? I will go with Juniper to meet her family and hopefully bring them here. Melody, can you prepare the burrow?"
      "Sure will!" she sang.
      The next morning, Jason and Joshua began working on the chimney flue project. Jericho and Juniper carefully donned white, hooded robes, generously soaked in melon and dried. They had belts, from which hung lanterns and slings and ammunition. They carefully went out from the burrow entrance. Jericho also had a small pack, with some items to show from Eternal Lands and several copies of his testimony books.
      Juniper inquired, "Should I sing for Bethany Bluebird to come and show us the way?"
      "Excellent idea," replied Jericho, who had some memory of the Bobbin Village, but from 600 years ago. Juniper whistled the short tune that Bethany had taught her. Nothing happened and they began walking in the direction, that Jericho suggested, under heavy cover. After 15 minutes, there was a slight rush of wind and suddenly Bethany Bluebird alit in front of them! Juniper introduced Jericho and mildly said, "He helped me out of the Arachni cave, and we are going to Bobbin Village. Can you guide us?"
      Bethany agreed, sensing that there was much more to this story! Their trip, carefully made under cover, under thickets, was without incident, and they had traveled for 2 1/4 hours, and Juniper realized , with unease, that Bethany was leading them right beside the Hill of Reckoning. As they drew near, they could hear wailing of a baby Bobbin. "Oh no!" muttered Juniper, as she and Jericho ran towards the sound, which came from the Hill of Reckoning. As they carefully climbed the hill and reached the top, they saw a tiny baby Bobbin girl, perhaps one year old, just able to stand, bound to a stake and left, exposed to elements and, of course, the Arachni. She was wailing in exhaustion, but sometimes, gave piercing shrieks of hysteria. Juniper's heart broke at the sight. Jericho, however, saw, on the horizon, the black cloud of approaching Arachnis. They would be upon the hill within minutes. He said urgently to Bethany, "Take her to cover there...", pointing down the bottom of the hill. "Hide!" he commanded. Bethany grabbed Juniper and pulled her, as they fled down the hill.
      Jericho whipped out his jack knife from his belt and raced to the screaming baby. She stopped and stared at him, and shrieked again. He worked expertly to cut the ropes, that bound her, grabbed her, put her in the folds of his white robe and dove down the hill for cover, just as the Arachnis were descending. They gave chase and he did not run in the direction that Bethany and Juniper were sent, but in the opposite direction. Directly before him was a large pond, so, throwing off his pack, he dove into the water, holding the baby's face above the water, just enough so she could breathe. He saw a beaver dam, held the baby's nose and dove under water, to the underwater entrance and came up, inside the dam. The dam was built under the roots of a very large tree and was quite sturdy and safe from Arachnis.
      Inside the beaver home, the baby screamed from the outrage of being forced under water. Seven startled, angry beavers eyed them with suspicion and aggression. "Friends," stammered the wet Jericho, "Will you grant this baby and me shelter for a few minutes? This baby is sought by the Arachnis for their cruel pleasure." He was rocking the baby, who had become peaceful and quiet, and was soothed. The Mother Beaver scurried over to look at the baby and left and brought back a flask with a baby nozzle. "Please accept a little beaver milk for the baby?" she offered. Jericho took the bottle and offered it to the baby and she gulped it greedily. "I wonder how long she has been without food?" he angrily muttered.
      They and the beavers kept quiet company for an hour. He hoped that Bethany and Juniper were safe. Finally, Papa Beaver said, "I have made a door for you and the child to leave, without going underwater."
      "Thanks to you for your kindness!" announced Jericho. "Can I give you a gift?" Cautiously leaving the beaver dam, there was no sign of the Arachni. He found his pack, by the pond. In it were 3 copies of his book, and he gave a book to Papa Beaver. "Friend, this book gives the history of the Bobbins on Thunder Island and tells of a way to escape this island."
      "Oh?" replied Papa Beaver dubiously.
      "Listen," said Jericho, "Read the book. I come from another land, where there are no Arachni, only peace, loving kindness, joy. Come with us!"
      "Where can I find you?" inquired the Papa Beaver thoughtfully.
      "Good question," replied Jericho, who could not divulge the location of their burrow. He said, "For a few days, we will be in Bobbin Village. But read the book! It tells much. I know it is hard to believe, but consider it." And with gratefulness, he continued, "Thank you so much for giving us shelter!" And with that, Jericho, with the baby under his robe, left, to look for Bethany and Juniper. Not too far away, he found them still cowering beneath a thicket, under a rock ledge. Juniper hugged Jericho and the baby. "You saved her!" she quietly whispered with great delight and relief. "Yes," replied Jericho, "and now plans change and we go back to the burrow tonight, to bring in our first, little refugee!" The baby cooed at him. As they started back towards the burrow, Juniper mused, "I wonder what her name is?"
      "What do you think we should call her, Juniper? She doesn't have another family."
      "We'll be her family," announced Juniper. "Let's call her 'Rainbow'!"
      "OK," replied Jericho, looking at the peaceful, happy smile on little Rainbow. Two and a half hours later, they arrived at the burrow, and went into the hidden tunnel entrance. They greeted Melody and Harmony in the kitchen. "So soon?" asked Melody, and suddenly,"Who is this?" looking at little Rainbow.
      Juniper and Jericho introduced Rainbow and explained what had transpired. Melody and Harmony both hugged her, and took her from Jericho. "Let's get her set up in a room, with a crib and let her have a nap."
      Jericho turned to Bethany, the bluebird, who uncharacteristically, had followed them into the burrow. "You have been so helpful to us, beyond what we could have imagined," Jericho said to him. Bethany bowed. Being a bluebird, though, he was ill-at-ease in burrows. Jericho pulled out another book from his bag and handed it to Bethany. "Come with us—escape from Thunder Island! Read the book. You are welcome to lodge here." Bethany took the book with interest. "Thank you, my brave friend. I will welcome your book and hospitality." And Harmony showed Bethany to a room, that was accessible without a ladder.
      Early the next morning, Bethany, Jericho and Juniper cautiously set out again for the second day, hopefully to reach Bobbin Village. As usual, they wore the white garments and protective gear and followed a path under-cover, with Bethany guiding them. They had no incident this time. Juniper noted that Bethany did not take thme by the Hill of Reckoning. She asked him why and he replied soberly, "Too dangerous right now."
      When they reached Bobbin Village, three hours later, they did not enter the square, but went straight to the back door of Juniper's family, which was more carefully sealed. It was 9 am, but the door was opened by Papa, who was slightly delayed in going to search for red seaweed, with the usual gang. Papa stared at the three in utter amazement. "Come in!" he gasped. Bethany had not usually come in, but did so now. "Juniper!" he shouted and hugged her warmly and a long time. "We thought we would never see you again!" He dragged her in, as Bethany and Jericho followed. Into the living room, they went, as the family gathered around. Juniper did not see Jade and Jackolyn. "Where are they?" Juniper asked anxiously. Mama replied, "Do you mean Jade and Jackolyn?"
      Juniper nodded. Papa whispered, "They got back safely, Juniper. You and Jade successfully rescued Jackolyn." Papa beamed and added, "We are proud of you!" He spoke slowly with repressed rage, "Jade had to flee with Jackolyn to our relatives, the Red Tails. The village elders decreed that they had to go to the Hill of Reckoning." Everyone was quiet.
      "I know Bethany," Papa went on, "but who is your friend? Please introduce him," he said, eying Jericho.
      "Oh, Papa!" blurted out Juniper. "he has an amazing story to tell. He is Jericho. He saved my life." Jericho reddened and bowed. Papa said, "I call an emergency family meeting. Everyone please take your places." All the Bobbin children sat in their places on the floor rug, incuding Juniper. Jade and Jackolyn's places were empty. Chairs were brought from the table for Bethany and Jericho. Jericho was seated in front of the fireplace. "Please tell us your story," asked Papa, with intensity, to Jericho. Jericho began to tell the story—his testimony, as written in his book, finishing with an account of the Eternal Lands and his family's life there. Then he said, "And Juniper—now you tell your story..." So Juniper told of her ordeal and finding the book, and her travels to the Eternal Lands.
      Jericho ended with, "We have come to bring you all to the Eternal Lands."
      Everyone was silent and looked at Papa. "We are ready to go," he said without hesitation. "What shall we do?"
      Jericho replied, "Just come with us—we will leave today."
      Little JB piped up, "But what about Jade and Jackolyn?"
      Jericho smiled, "Papa, you didn't introduce your family!" Papa introduced them, starting with JB. Jericho added, "Today we are going to get you to the burrow—tomorrow, we will go for Jackolyn and Jade and the Red Tails. We have a lot of work to do! Let's get going!"
      Mama gave some orders to the children to pack their backpacks with necessities. In 30 minutes, they were ready to go. But 1 pm, they were on the road again, Bethany and Jericho in the lead, Papa at the rear, all wearing white outer garments (prepared beforehand) thoroughly soaked with melon juice and dried. They walked undercover, with Jericho and Papa keeping a watchful eye. They did not go by the Hill of Reckoning. At 5 pm they reached the burrow at the base of the Arachni mountain and the Eternal Land camp. Papa looked around with awe and said to Jericho, "You picked an amazing place for the camp." As they entered the tunnel, Harmony and Melody hugged each one, before even being introduced. Melody said, "I feel that I have known you already for a 100 years, because of your beautiful daughter, Juniper." She invited them to sit down at the table for dinner. There, Papa and Mama Jay met Rainbow, who was able to sit in a high chair at the table. Juniper told them the story of the previous day's rescue of Rainbow. Mama gasped, "I did not know that they did that!" Papa clenched his fist in anger. Mama said, "Does Rainbow look like our Cousin Nectar's child? I haven't seen them lately."
      Joshua and Jason sat at the table and introduced themselves. They reported that they had made good progress on the chimney vent into the Arachni cave. "I think we will be done in two more days, " stated Jason firmly.
      Jericho said, "Another project we need to work on is a Bobbin ladder up the cave wall, where Juniper slid down. We will use that in our rescue mission." Papa asked, "What rescue mission?" Jericho answered, "We are going to storm the Arachni cave and rescue all the captives."
      Papa did not argue, as he already had heard of miraculous events, in their testimonies that day. He announced, "I am very good at making Bobbin ladders!" His children smiled, knowingly, as he continued, "I can volunteer for that!"
      "Great!" said Jericho. "Tomorrow, you can start, if you don't mind. Jason and Joshua will show you the location and give you a tour."
      "Tomorrow," Jericho continued, "I will go with Bethany and Juniper to the Red Eagle's burrow, to get Jade and Jackolyn. We will invite the Red Eagles to come with us to the Eternal Lands." Everyone clapped and there was a lighter mood. Jericho continued, "Papa Jay, I would ask you to consider another mission with me,after the ladder is built?"
      "Of course," beamed Papa.
      "I need someone to go with me to invite the leaders of Bobbin Village to flee to the Eternal Lands. We will pass out many testimony books."
      "I will go with you," said Papa soberly, "and I can call a meeting though the leadership has problems with me. But I don't know that they will listen. They may attack us."
      "I hear you," said Jericho, "so we will consider this and carefully prepare. After that, I want Juniper to escort your family and the Red Eagles to the Eternal Lands. You will be our first group. We will then prepare for island refugees and stage an assault on the Arachni stronghold and free all the captives."
      "Amazing, " said Papa breathlessly. There was silence. Papa Jay spoke, "I would like to help you more with the subsequent plans—you can send the rest of the family." Mama Jay protested, "We will not go without you, and surely you must have a need for care of the travelers or wounded?"
      "Surely, we will need that and appreciate your offer. But perhaps Juniper can take a group of the small children back, to be cared for, until you arrive." This was agreed. Jericho continued, "We will need to create an emergency area in the cavern, outside the tunnel to Eternal Lands, for those, who will be rescued. It will be too difficult to take them down the ladder into this burrow. Jericho continued, "We will need to have as many white melon garments as we can manage, to bring to Bobbin Village, for any who decide to go with us to the Eternal Land camp." Harmony, Melody and Symphony all agreed to work on that. "We have lots of the material, and it doesn't take long to sew it. Then, it has to be soaked and dried," commented Melody.
      Before retiring, Bethany the bluebird spoke quietly to Jericho and took a small bundle and went out the front tunnel entrance.
      Then next morning, Jericho and Juniper were ready early to travel to the Red Eagle burrow, and Bethany met them outside. "Where were you last night?" whispered Juniper. "On a secret mission," smiled Jericho, answering for Bethany. "He is delivering the testimony book to creatures all over Thunder Island and inviting them to come to the Eternal Lands."
      "Maybe some will come to the burrow today?" wondered Juniper aloud.
      "Yes," replied Jericho, "I told Melody to be watchful."
      They started early, as it was a 6-hour hike to the Red Eagle burrow, located 3 hours from Bobbin Village, in the opposite direction. Bethany brought them on a path, away from the Hill of Reckoning, keeping well under cover. They passed near the Bobbin Village and kept going. At noon, they arrived at the Red Eagle burrow. All was quiet, so they knocked on the door. Mama Red Eagle peered at them, through a keyhole and shouted, "Who is it?"
      Juniper answered, "It is Juniper and Bethany the Bluebird, with a friend, Jericho." It was Jade and Obsidian, who opened the door, looking severe and holding knives in their hands. Juniper gasped, "Jade, it's me!. It's OK. Jericho is our friend!"
      Jericho help up his hands and then, offered his hand.
      "Why the white robes?" growled Jade.
      "It protects us from the Arachni, " stated Juniper.
      Jade gingerly beckoned them to come in. As they entered, Mama Red Eagle hugged Juniper and Jackolyn jumped on her, sobbing and kissing her. "You're safe, Juniper! You came back!" she cried. Jade trudged over, and murmured, "Sorry, sister for being so unwelcoming. I am so happy that you are back and OK. What happened? You fell into a crevass! I thought you were dead for sure. And yet you yelled at me to flee and sang a song that summoned Bethany and probably saved our lives." With tears streaming down his Bobbin face, he hugged her, sobbing.
      Mama Red Tail stammered, "It has been a very hard time for Jade," she apologized, and he is such a good Bobbin boy and a big help." She invited them to sit at the table, pulling up three more stools. "Papa Red Tail will be home from his work soon," she added. Juniper looked around the table and introduced her cousins to Bethany and Jericho—Onyx, Obsidian, Otto and ...where are Oliviette and Oscar?" Juniper queried. Mama Red Tail grew silent and her eyes filled with tears. Obsidian growled, "They took them to Bobbin Village." Obsidian then explained how this had happened: The children were in the courtyard, and four Bobbins from Bobbin Village appeared out of nowhere. Obsidian had tried to defend his siblings, and Onyx helped, but they had no weapons. They had been able to grab Otto and pull him into the burrow, but the Bobbins kidnapped Oscar and Oliviette and fled. Obsidian was still recovering from wounds, suffered in the attack. Mama added, "So that is why you were greeted at the door in such a severe way."
      Juniper began to weep silently, and murmured, "I wonder where Oscar and Oliviette are?" Jericho, who was sitting next to her, patted her on the back. He then queried, "May I explain our mission in coming?" Everyone was silent and Mama Red Tail replied, "Yes, I am sorry we have been rude. Please tell us your mission." Just then, Papa Red Tail arrived, and Mama motioned him to sit down. "Papa," Juniper is here and she has brought two friends, who are telling us about their mission." Papa sat down and nodded quietly a greeting.
      Jericho gave an brief explanation of who he was and of his history. He explained about the Eternal Lands and how Juniper had traveled there. After he had finished one hour later, everyone was silent. Obsidian responded doubtfully, "There really is a better place?"
      "Yes," replied Jericho firmly. "We want to take your whole family there. We also will try to rescue Oscar and Oliviette."
      "How?" moaned Onyx.
      "Tomorrow we are going to Bobbin Village and we can make discreet inquiries about where Oscar and Oliviette are. We also are going to rescue the captives of the Arachni."
      Papa Red Tail asked Juniper, "Where is your Papa, Juniper?"
      "He already joined us, Papa Red Eagle. The rest of the family is at Jericho's burrow."
      "OK," announced Papa Red Eagle. "That's all I need to know. Family, we're going. I say we're in!" Everyone cheered, including Onyx and Obsidian. "What should we do?" Papa Red Tail asked. Jericho replied, "Can you be ready to leave in 30 minutes? It takes 6 hours to hike to the burrow."
      "Very well," said Papa Red Tail, and to his family, he commanded, "Pack! Only your essentials and let's go!" In 30 minutes, Papa, Mama Red Tail, Onyx, Obsidian, Otto, Juniper, Jade and Jackolyn, all donned the white, hooded garments and followed Bethany, and Jericho guarded the rear. They began the 6-hour journey to the Eternal Land burrow. Obsidian sometimes grimaced over the still-healing wounds, but was silent in his sufferings and did not complain. Bethany led them in an undercover path, beneath thickets. They arrived at the burrow at 7:30 pm, just as the sun was setting. They entered the burrow tunnel and inside, they were warmly greeted by Papa and Mama Jay, Jordan, Jewel, Jasper and JB, and the others. Mama and Papa Jay fiercely hugged Jade and Jackolyn and all cried tear of joy. JB exclaimed, "And we are going to the Eternal Lands together!"
      The group had grown from 7 to 20 (including little Rainbow). Since there wasn't enough room at the table anymore, Harmony and Bethany had set up the plates and food buffet-style. Some sat on the rug on the floor and others sat around the table. Before they began to eat, Jericho asked for quiet and announced, "Thank you everyone for working together and helping one another. Thank you to the Lord of the Eternal Lands for his help!"
      After the main course, there was a special dessert of huckleberries and nuts. Jericho spoke again, "We are thankful to have Papa and Mama Jay and Red Eagles safely here now. We will proceed with our plans. Tomorrow, I wil go with Papa Jay, Joshua and Jason to Bobbin Village. We have two objectives—to find out where Oscar and Oliviette are being held and to discreetly pass the word about the Eternal Lands, to those who will listen." Jade, who is 10 years old, interrupted, "Sir, can I go too?" Jericho smiled, "Sure, Jade, we can use your expertise!." Jade smirked and Jericho reached over and patted his back.
      Jericho continued, "I had intended to have Japa Jay call a meeting of the Bobbin Village leaders and then present our case..."
      Papa Jay interrupted, "but we thought it was too risky, as the leaders are not very reasonable and are very narrow-minded." Papa Red Eagle added, "and prone to unjust and violent responses."
      "Exactly," continued Jericho, "so we are in agreement. So we will scout to find out where Oliviette and Oscar are and then discreetly approach each family. We will bring copies of Jericho's testimony, for those, who will receive it. We also need many white-hooded garments."
      Mama Jay replied, "We completed 50 more today."
      "Splendid!" responded Jericho.
      Joshua spoke, "The vent to the Arachni cave has been finished. We started working on the ladder, but are hoping for Papa Jay's help."
      "Pretty soon, we will have Juniper bring our first group of children to the Eternal Lands," announced Jericho. Everyone cheered. Jade exclaimed, "I can't wait to see the cavern, tunnel and the Eternal Lands!"
      The next morning, Jericho, Jason, Joshua, Jade and Papa Jay met outside, and Bethany joined them. Oliver Owl flew down from a tree and hooted to Jericho, "Bethany told me about the Eternal Lands and I would like to come?" "Of course!" responded Jericho. "Welcome!"
      Oliver hooted, "I will keep watch over your tunnel entrance!"
      "Thank you!" Jericho responded. To Bethany, he said, "you have been busy! Where have you been?"
      "I have been flying at night to bring your books to folks, scattered all over the island!"
      Bethany carefully led the five white-robed group to Bobbin Village, carefully following an undercover trail. At last, the familiar trees and mounds of the ring of hills of the burrows loomed before them. They entered the backdoor tunnel of Papa Jay's house. Just before the last one, Jericho, entered, there was a stirring and rushing in the bushes. Alarmed, Jericho drew his knife, (for the approach was not of an Arachni, but a forest animal). A frightened beaver appeared and cowered before him. Jericho recognized the Papa beaver from the dam, that he had sought refuge in, with Rainbow, several days ago. Jericho relaxed slightly and the beaver stammered, "Do you remember me? You and the baby Bobbin took refuge in my dam, several days ago?" Jericho answered gently, "Yes, sir, you saved our lives."
      The beaver responded, "Let me introduce myself as Ben Beaver. I read your book and brought my family here to wait by Bobbin Village, on the chance that you might come this way. We want to go to the Eternal Lands with you, but don't know the way to your tunnel."
      Jericho put away his knife, back in his belt and grabbed Ben the Beaver with his two hands
and hugged him. "Welcome," he said. "You certainly will come. Where is your family?" Ben made a high-pitched noise and suddenly, six more beavers scurried out of the brush.
      "OK," said Jericho, "Will you come into this burrow? We will leave from here, today, to go to the Eternal Lands burrow." As Ben's family filed in, ahead of them, Ben said to Jericho, "I have one more request?"
      "Of course," responded Jericho.
      "We want to tell our kin, but where can we tell them to go?"
      Jericho knitted his brow. "Let's go inside and talk to Bethany the Bluebird." Inside, Ben explained to Bethany where his kin live. Ben wrote down on a piece of paper, a note, that Bethany was to deliver to his kin, "To my kin, you must evacuate Thunder Island and go to the Eternal Lands. This Bluebird, Bethany, will instruct you how to find the Eternal Land tunnel. Signed Ben the Beaver". He instructed Bethany to bring the note to 10 beaver families. Bethany said he also was training more birds to help with his work and help lead these creatures to the tunnel.
      After this, the group sent Papa Jay to his sister, to inquire of any information about Oscar and Oliviette. With tears in her eyes, she responded by leading Papa Jay to a trap door, hidden in the floor of her burrow. They climbed down a ladder into a little room. In the corner was Oscar, eating a breakfast. "We have been trying to figure out what to do," she said. "We rescued him from the Hill of Reckoning. We weren't on time to save Oliviette..." and she began sobbing. Between sobs, she warned, "You know what will happen if anyone knows he is here?" Papa Jay hugged his sister, Mama Gretyl and he explained to her their mission. "Come with us and bring your family and Oscar!"
      In awe, she said, "You're my brother—I believe you! Of course, we will go! And there is no other hope for Oscar." They took Oscar out of the hidden room, wrapped him into a red seaweed sack, with seaweed on top, telling him that they were playing a game and he could eat all the seaweed that he wanted and to be as quiet as possible. He giggled. Gretyl sent her own two children with Papa Jay and Oscar, in the sack, to his house, and she went to get her husband, Harry, who was gathering red seaweed. Papa Jay brought the children to his burrow, and Gretyl and Harry soon followed.
      After introductions, Jericho said, "Jade, I want you to have a head start with Gretyl and Harry and Ben and Barb Beaver and their families. Can you escort them to the Eternal Land burrow now, with Bethany leading?"
      "Yes, sir!" exclaimed Jade. The two families donned the white, melon-soaked garments, and followed Bethany out of the backdoor tunnel, with Jade taking the rear. Harry carried Oscar in a pack, mostly wrapped in the white, only his little eyes visible. They set off for the Eternal Land burrow.
      Then, Papa Jay visited his brother and explained their mission. The brother agreed to go to the Eternal Lands with his family, but they each agreed to pay a visit to another family, to pass on the message, after his brought his own family to Papa Jay's burrow. In this way, each Bobbin instructed to pass the word to another, and then to let Jericho know who had been told. There were 400 families in Bobbin Village. Papa Jay and his brother worked on a list of the families and kept track of each family, that had been notified. After 70 families had been notified, only 15 families crowded into Papa Jay's burrow. Jericho had them put on the white robes, and they had just enough for them. Then, he sent them with Joshua, to lead this next group to the Eternal Lands burrow. Bethany had sent another bluebird, Rebecca, to lead this group.
      After 290 families had been notified, 60 familes came to the burrow to join the exodus, but they brought "extras", children from other families, who wanted to come, and even the wives and children, of some Papa Bobbins, who refused to come. Jericho told Papa Jay that he was worried that other families might pursue them, because of this, but he said, "We can't refuse them." This large group did not fit in the Jay's burrow, and Jericho sent them, led by Bluebird Melissa, and Papa Jay at the rear, to start to the Eternal Land burrow. It was going to be crowded there. They had run out of the white robes, and they sent Blue Jay Bernie on ahead, to ask that robes be taken back, by the groups, that already arrived. Papa Jay instructed them to alternate, one robed, one non-robed and to walk in complete silence. Bethany Bluebird's friend, Melissa, would lead this group and stick to a very protected route, even though it would take 30 minutes longer. They left, with the 60 families, about 400 refugees.
      After the last 40 families were notified, there were only 12 more families and unattached children. Jericho sent Jason ahead with 6 families, lead by a Cardinal, named appropriately "Red".
Finally, Jericho locked up Papa Jay's burrow, but left several books inside, with instructions to sing the verse, that Bethany recommended, so that a bird could be summoned, to lead a refugee to Eternal Land burrow. Then, a sparrow, named "Sam", lead Jericho's group, and he took the rear. Like Jason's group, they took the very protected route, having no white robes, except for Jericho, who also was armed for battle.
      Besides Papa Jay's sister, Gretyl's family, about 500 Bobbins made the exodus that day from Bobbin Village to the Eternal Land burrow. Jericho's group, the last group, left by 4:30 pm, 2 hours before the Bobbin workers usually arrive home from their daily gathering of red seaweed by the seashore. Jericho did not know if they should expect an attack from Bobbin Village. Though they left testimony books in the Jay's burrow, and in the Village square, there were no directions to the Eternal Land burrow. In order to learn the way, one would have to sing the tune, to summon a bird, and the birds were aware that they would need to beware of any attempt to learn the location, in order to attack it.
      Bethany did fly back with a package of white robes, for some of the refugees, who lacked them. There was not any incident on any of the missions and Jericho's group, the last one, arrived, 30 minutes after sunset, and were very relieved to arrive. Oliver was guarding the tunnel entrance, with some of his other owl friends. The other birds either slept in secluded branches or resumed the nightly missions of flying the testimony books around the island.
      The Eternal Lands burrow was crowded beyond capacity, and Papa Jay had moved some of the families into the middle cavern, just outside the Eternal Tunnel. That gave much more room. Jericho did not seal the front door tunnel, all night, to allow for more refugees, during the night. However, Joshua, Papa Jay, Harry, Papa Red Eagle and Jason took turns being armed guards at the tunnel door entrance, just in case, there was an attack from Bobbin Village. However, there was no attack. Sometimes, Arachni could be seen as flying shadows, through the night, sometimes with a screaming tiny victim in their talons.
      The families picked up food from the buffet in the dining room and ate, wherever there was a place. Jericho met with the leaders and all agreed that there would be an exodus through the tunnel to the Eternal Lands, the next day.
      On the morning that Jericho and the others had their mission to Bobbin Village, Juniper had led the 1st exodus of children to the tunnel to the Eternal Lands. Therefore, Harmony and Melody and she transported the children by the makeshift elevator up the vertical tunnel to the main cave. They worked carefully and were not in haste, and finally, all the 1st exodus team were in the main cavern by 1 pm. This group included Juniper's siblings, except for Jade: Jordan, Jewel, Jackolyn, Jasper, J.B., Rainbow, Mama Red Eagle, Onyx, Otto, two bluebirds and two other Bobbin families, 10 altogether, from the middle of the island, who had received word of the mission, from Bethany and Oliver.
      Jade's group of Gretyl, Harry and their children, and Oscar had arrived at the burrow at 12:30, and Harmony and Melody made sure that they also got up the ladder and joined this 1st group of 27. It did not take them long to find their way to the hidden entrance of the tunnel to the Eternal Lands. The door opened and all entered. Inside, a wagon of melon was sitting, unspoiled and delicious. They were able to arrange the melons to make room for seats for the three littlest, Rainbow, Oscar and another baby, Sammy. They also left many melons by the door for the next group. The door closed behind them and they began the 5 day journey in the tunnel to the Eternal Lands. Their spirits were high, as Juniper relayed stories of the wonder of that land and they sang songs, as they walked through the dark, dismal tunnel, but free from worries of Arachni or treacherous Bobbins.
      Meanwhile, the exodus from Bobbin Village was already underway, and Melody and Harmony had no more need to sew white robes. Males,in the burrow below, had white robes and donned them to go out and gather melons and other food for those in the burrows. Several others joined Melody, Symphony and Harmony in the main cavern, to prepare living quarters for the influx of refugees and for the expected refugees of the rescue of the captives, including infirmary areas for expected wounded. Fortunately, the very large cavern was solid, throughout, with no crevasses.
      Jason, Joshua and Papa Jay were constructing three Bobbin ladders up the 85-degree 200-foot high cavern wall, into the narrow fissure, into the Arachni stronghold cave. They also kept the noise very low, no talking, and when communication was necessary, only whispers. They did not want to attract any possible attention of Arachnis. Jason was concerned that they were trying to enlarge the fissure, to break into the cavern. The rescue was planned for the morning, after the 2nd exodus. All day, they worked on the ladders, and two pulley elevators, with nets for wounded. By evening, they were done and all returned to the burrow for safety. The smoke vent also went into the cavern. The melon smoke, though unbearable and poisonous to Arachnis, was not unpleasant and harmless to the other creatures, such as Bobbins.
      All day, refugees trickled into the burrow, and it was very crowded, by night, when the Bobbin Village refugees arrived with Jericho and the others. So the next morning, quietly, the 2nd exodus entered the main cavern. It was not until 4 pm that all had entered the main cavern. They went by groups, silently into the Eternal Lands tunnel, Papa Jay leading over 500 Bobbins and other creatures. Mama Jay was at the end and the tunnel closed behind them. Now, there was more room in the burrow, and the main cavern was nearly empty. However, more refugees were coming into the burrow below, all the time.
      Barely had the door to the tunnel to the Eternal Lands shut, when there was a commotion from the top of the cavern and darkening near the crevass to the Arachni caves and flapping of wings. Jason and Joshua had recently completed the two elevators of braids (and Papa Jay had helped them finish the three Bobbin ladders) and were checking out the infirmary area, that Melody and Harmony were making. They were the only ones in the cavern, and Jason gasped, "An Arachni!" He and Joshua grabbed Melody and Harmony and they ran for the tunnel to the vertical shaft. Two Arachnis were bearing down on them. One grabbed Melody in their talons, and Jason whipped out a sling from his belt and shot a burning seed in its eye. It drew back in pain, and Joshua shot the other Arachni, also hitting its eye.
      The first Arachni still clutched Melody in his talons, and Jason drew his sword from his belt and slashed at the talons. It dropped Melody, and Joshua pushed Melody into the tunnel, where Harmony already was. "Go to the burrow!" he shouted at Harmony and Melody. A third Arachni had Jason and, with a stinger, injected him with poison. Jason fell limp on the ground. As the 3rd Arachni grasped him with his talons, Joshua shot the Arachni in the eye with his sling, and he slashed at the talons with his sword with a burst of furious energy. The talons were severed and let go of Jason. In a flash, Joshua grabbed Jason around his torso and dragged him out of reach, into the tunnel. The opening was too small for Arachnis, but Joshua could hear that many more had invaded the cavern and were scratching at the tunnel entrance.
      Joshua loaded his lifeless comrade and friend into the cord elevator and lowered himdown the elevator shaft. Then he descended the Bobbin ladder. At the bottom were Melody, Harmony and Jericho, who they had summoned. Jericho gazed at his friend of many years and his son. He hugged Joshua, "Glad you're OK, son!" He then said, "Let's get Jason onto a bed!" With a makeshift stretcher, they carried him into a room with a bed. Jericho said, "Arachni poison is fatal. They usually don't use it, because they usually take prisoners." Harmony began softly weeping, and wailed, "He saved Melody!" Other newly-arrived were outside the door, whispering and staring.
      "We have an antidote," continued Jericho, given from the Lord of Eternal Lands. "Melody, please annoint Jason with healing ointment!" Melody went to a cupboard and brought back a flask and annointed Jason on his forehead and arms. Jericho said, "I have a gift from the Lord of the Eternal Lands, that he annointed only me to use in emergencies, such as this." He removed a ring from a pouch, that he constantly wore, and slipped the ring off his finger and back into the pouch. He added solemnly, "This ring must be used sparingly, for it unleashes power, that unsettles areas outside of the Eternal Lands.." Just then, the ground rumbled and shaked in a small earthquake. "What was that?" exclaimed Joshua, who never felt an earthquake before. But Jason opened his eyes and blurted, "The Arachnis!" and looked around in wonder. "Where am I?" he gasped.
      "You are safe, my friend!" reassured Jericho and patted his furry head. "You need to rest for the remainder of the day!" To Harmony and Joshua, he advised, "Please make sure Jason and Melody get their wounds dressed and have some rest! I have to see what is going on in the living area!" Shouting could be heard in the living area.
      The living room had 100 creatures, mostly Bobbins, and the 20 bedrooms were occupied by refugees. Someone shouted, "We're too late—the island is collapsing!" Someone else shouted, "The Arachnis are everywhere!" To Jericho, someone shouted, "Who ARE you? Have you brought us here to feed us to the Arachnis?" There was yelling, some crying. Jericho raised his hands, and gave a signal for silence. There fell a hush on the whole room. Jericho began, "Most of you have heard the news of the Eternal Lands and have come in hopes of going there. Some of you came from great distance, danger and cost! I can tell you, it is worth every bit of your trouble! I have been there and lived there for 600 years already, as have my wife and children! We used to live on Thunder Island, but came back to help you reach there too! It is worth every bit of your trouble. But it is not going to come without a fight!! We have lots of trouble right now. Arachnis are in our main cavern. But be firm and don't give up and you will reach the Eternal Lands!"
      Someone cried, "Who is he? What does he know?"
      Someone else shouted, "Why did the earth shake?"
      Jericho continued, "The earth shook, because Thunder Island is not stable and will pass away." There were gasps. He continued, "but there will be time for you to leave before that happens. Be calm!"
      The same Bobbin yelled, "I don't believe him—we are leaving!"
      Another shouted, "No, he tells the truth!" There was scuffling, as 10 Bobbins rushed for the tunnel door.
      "You are, of course, free to go," announced Jericho, "but it is not safe outside. You will be food for the Arachnis. You are safer here!"
      There was more scuffling and noise, as others tried to dissuade the ten Bobbins from leaving. Two changed their minds, but two families left, being dragged by the fathers. Jericho watched them sadly and followed them through the tunnel, as they ran helter-skelter into the forest, with no protective clothing. They got 100 yards away and a flock of Arachni descended upon them and snatched them, screaming away.
      Jericho returned to the living area, to warn the other refugees of what had just happened to those that fled. With great sternness, he commanded, "Don't go out there!" Just then, an owl sentry scrambled to him, and hooted, "Seven Bobbins just entered the tunnel and are demanding to speak with you!"
      Jericho turned back into the tunnel entrance and found the seven adult male Bobbins, their eyes gleaming with fear and anger. Jericho spoke, "My name is Jericho. What are your names and where are you from? Why do you want to speak with me?"
      One immediately responded, "You stole our families!"
      Another interrupted, "Sir, we are from Bobbin Village—I am Jared, and these are my companions, James, Joseph, Max, Milton, Walter and Winchester. We have come for our wives and children, who left with your people to go somewhere. Where are they?" Jared's voice filled with grief.
      "Friends," responded Jericho gently, "Be at peace. I come from an amazing land, called the Eternal Lands, but 600 years ago, I lived in Bobbin Village!"
      "600 years ago! You lie!" yelled Max with vehemence.
      "It is the truth," Jericho pleaded. "My wife and two grown children and friend, returned here after Juniper, a Bobbin girl from your village, found her way to our land."
      "Juniper!" exclaimed Milton.
      "Where are my children?" growled Max.
      Jericho continued, "Your families are no longer here, but are safely on their way to the Eternal Lands with Papa and Mama Jay."
      "Liar!" yelled Max, "You fed them to the Arachni to get even with us!"
      Jared soberly said, "Max, we truly would deserve that ! Get ahold of yourself!"
      "I don't deserve it!" yelled Max. He went to grab Jericho by the throat, but Jared, James and Joseph pulled him back!
      Jericho said calmly, "Your families are on their way to a land of peace and joy, where there is no sorrow, pain or death. Max, I have been alive for 600 years. I can tell you the history of our people!"
      Jared demanded, "Max, listen!"
      Jericho pulled a leaf out of his sachel and handed it to Jared. "Keep it, my friend—an diamond leaf—it is from the Eternal Lands." The leaf looked like no eye that everyone on Thunder Island had seen—diamond shaped, with fuzzy edge, and multi-colored. "It is good to eat.." continued Jericho. Jared examined it carefully, as the other six Bobbins eyed it. Jericho continued, "Come with us, men, and join your families. You are more than welcome!"
      Jared announced, "I'm in. What about you, James and Joseph?" Both nodded and they slapped hands with Jericho. Walt moaned, "But some of my family is still in Bobbin Village. I can't leave them!"
      "Me neither!" wailed Winchester.
      Jericho responded, "We can supply you with white robes, dipped in melon juice, for your families—it keeps the Arachnis at bay. Then bring them here. We will wait for you, but speed important. We can't wait long!"
      Westchester and Walt readily agreed. Jericho sent them to the owl sentry for white robes. To James, Jared and Josepph, he invited, "Please, go inside. It is crowded, but you will be given food and a space to rest." They followed the owl (Holly) into the tunnel.
      Max and Milton were angry and began to run after them. They ran in, charging and shouting, "We want our families!" Owl Holly came back with two white robes for Walt and Westchester and packs of robes for their families and they left in great haste and also great caution, sticking carefully to a route with lots of shelter. Jericho watched them with concern, as they left and he whispered, "Lord of the Eternal Lands, protect them!" Then he trudged back into the burrow, where Max and Milton had stirred up the refugees again, shouting that their families had been kidnapped. They demanded to know where they were taken. A young volunteer, Kora, who had helped Papa Jay's group to the Eternal Lands tunnel, led Max and Milton to the tunnel, that led to the vertical shaft, to the large cavern. Kora warned, "It is very dangerous there right now—filled with Arachnis. You best wait until we can get rid of them." But Max and Milton did not heed Kora and barged ahead into the vertical tunnel, climbing the 200-foot ladders with ease. Joshua had followed and demanded of Kora, "Why did you lead them here?"
      In distress, Kora replied, "They were in an uproar—causing trouble with the other refugees.." Joshua patted him and said, "Go back and calm them down, OK?" Joshua carefully put on a white robe and armed himself with battle gear—sling, ammunition, lantern and a pack of untested new weapons—melon bombs. He followed after Max and Milton. They were almost to the top of the ladders, and he shouted carefully, "Be careful—there are Arachnis up there!" Max turned to look at him, shook his fist at him and spit. They continued up the ladder. "What are they thinking?" muttered Joshua. He slowly began climbing the ladder. "Why do I care?" he muttered. When Joshua reached the top, Max and Milton had gone through the tunnel and were just entering the dark cavern. Joshua said nothing, not wishing to attract the attention of the Arachnis, or invite attack from Max and Milton. Max and Milton were just a few feet into the cavern, turned and looked at Joshua, and Max drawled, "You lied—no Arachnis!" They began to walk into the cavern and suddenly there was the sound of rushing wings. The occasional shafts of light revealed the large, dark, shadowy figures, swooping down on Max and Milton. First, Max was caught in the talons of an ugly, large Arachni. In terror, he screamed. Milton tried to grab his leg. Joshua lifted his sling and aimed for a gleaming, beady eye. The shot hit the mark—the Arachni released the screaming Max. Joshua ran into the cavern, just enough to pull Max into the tunnel to safety. Then he yelled down the vertical shaft, "Incoming wounded!!!" to summon a volunteer medical team, that had just been set up to handle the rescued Bobbins in a future raid on the Arachni stronghold. He carefully put Max in the makeshift elevator, and Max, who was conscious and in pain, moaned, "Why did you help me? I spit at you. Why did you save my life?" Joshua began to lower the elevator, and said, "Max, you don't know our Lord of Eternal Lands. You're going to love it there and your family is going to be there. Get better, friend." Max closed his eyes and relaxed, as the elevator safely lowered him. At the bottom, two Bobbins had arrived with a stretcher to take Max to a medical room for treatment.
      Then Joshua went back to the entrance of the cavern and he lit one of the melon bombs and threw it into the cavern. There were small flashes of light and bangs and crackles and the sweet smell of melon, as the smoke poured from the bomb. Then he lit and threw in two more melon bombs in rapid succession, in the area, where he thought Milton might be. Two more flashes, some crackles, lots of melon smoke! There was a lot of gurgling noises, that Joshua took to be the Arachni version of coughing and much swishing noises. Joshua backed farther into the tunnel,as a black tenticle swerved like a hook, into the tunnel, but missed him.
      After lots more of the gurgling, swishing of wings, there was a quiet and Joshua waited for 10 minutes, and ventured to peer into the cave. There was no sign of any Arachnis, except for the remnants of the one, that was wounded in the eye. Amid the thick smoke, Joshua spied Milton lying motionless, bleeding, 10 feet away from the entrance. Very cautiously, Joshua looked around—and quickly raced to Milton, grabbed his leg and pulled him into the tunnel. He repeated the same procedure, as for Max, except that he bore off pieces of his robe, to bind up some of Milton's worst bleeding wounds. He set him on the elevator, lowering him to the burrow level, shouting for medics. Milton was also taken on a stretcher to the same room, where Max was getting treated.
      Before climbing down the 200-foot ladder, Joshua took another look in the cavern, which was still filled with melon smoke. No sign of Arachnis. "The smoke just drove them out!" he mused. Going back to the burrow, he reported what had happened to Jericho. Jericho hugged Joshua and blurted out, "Son, above and beyond the call of duty! The Lord of the Eternal Lands bless you!" Then, more soberly, Jericho added, "Well, it looks like Max and Milton will be going to the Eternal Lands on stretchers!" Then he added, "I think it's time to start the melon smoke, vent into the cavern. After it's known to be safe, we'll send a crew to repair the breach the Arachnis made in the top of crevass. Then we will evacuate many of these refugees into the tunnel to the Eternal Lands." Joshua added, "Yes, and it is good to know that the melon bombs work! They were Jason's idea!"
      Joshua agreed with his father and went to have several volunteers start roasting melons, continuously, in the living room fireplace, as he climbed to open the shaft to vent the smoke into the cavern.
      A few minutes later, Walt and Westchester returned with their families, about 20 Bobbins altogether. Jericho greeted them and sent them to Melody, Harmony and Symphony for assignment to rooms and to see what teams, they could be assigned to. There were teams for the future rescue operations-to seal up cave entrances, to cut apart dungeon bars, to bring captive Bobbins to the cavern, to gather melons outside.
      Jericho climbed the vertical ladder to the cavern, which was now thick with melon smoke. He walked around the cavern and saw no sign of the Arachnis, except the remnants of the one that was shot. He called down the vertical tunnel for a team of four Bobbins, skilled in burrowing, to come repair the breach, made by the Arachnis, in the crevass at the top of the cavern. The team worked quickly, using a sealant, that Bobbins use, that hardens like steel. While they worked, Jericho, Joshua and a team stood guard, with melon bombs and weapons. The rest of the team included Jason, who was fully recovered, James, Jared, Joseph, Walt, Westchester, Jade and some others. Jericho had allowed Jade on the assault team, even though he was only 10 years old, because he was very brave and wise for his years, but also he followed team discipline carefully. "Besides," Jericho told him, "you're the only one with any experience in the Arachni stronghold in the last year and in holding a recent rescue mission!" But he kept a close eye on Jade and kept him nearby. He had a special affection and respect for the young Bobbin.
      It was not long before the breach was fully repaired, and the crevass left was only large enough for Bobbins to squeeze through.
      Then, they hung latterns around the cavern, and began the next Exodus to the Eternal Lands. It took time for each Bobbin or other creature to climb up the vertical shaft ladders or ride the elevator. Bobbins were well-equipped to climb, some birds flew, others were hauled up in the elevator. They were equipped with all they could acquire for a 5-day journey in the tunnel. This time, they were to go as a constant stream of refugees, as the burrow was over-crowded with over 400 creatures, and more arriving all the time. So, Jericho opened the door of the Eternal Lands tunnel and the groups started entering. Some volunteers monitored the door of both tunnels. The melon smoke filled the cavern, but this odor was pleasant to all but the Arachnis. The construction team was also working to reinforce the wall around the crevass into the Arachni stronghold.
      Jericho realized that the Exodus was going to be continuous, so they would have to mount the assault on the Arachni stronghold, while the Exodus was in progress. After the construction team had finished their work, he gave the word to also open the vent of melon smoke directly into the Arachni stronghold. As the continuous exodus continued, the teams for the assault assembled and went over the battle plan. They hoped to not have to make direct contact with Arachnis, but let the smoke do the work. However, the assault team had weapons, particularly melon bombs. As areas were cleared of Arachnis, teams would seal up all the 6 cavern entrances, after the Arachnis were driven out. When the entrances were sealed, they would rescue every captive and bring them to the cavern, connected to the Eternal Land tunnel, where they would be given whatever attention they could be given, and then transported into the Eternal Lands tunnel.
      The melon smoke filled the cavern and they let the smoke invade the Arachni stronghold for 8 hours. They could hear distant echos of Arachni gurgling. Jericho climbed the ladder and watched through the narrow crevass—there did not seem to be any Arachnis in that part of their stronghold. He and Joshua entered the Arachni cave entrance, through the crevass, and found it heavy with melon smoke. They summoned the team, and the 5 began sealing up the entire cavern entrance, taking an hour, but when done, was sealed like iron and cement.
      Now, the assault team joined Joshua and Jason, and a rescue team behind them (25). They found the first dungeon and the rescuers began cutting the bars. Ten captives were sitting, lying, dazed and were taken out, either walking on their own or carried. The assault team were forward, onto the next cavern entrance and stood guard, while construction team sealed the entrance. They proceeded and another dungeon was found. After six hours, all six entrances were sealed—no signs of Arachnis, the cavern stronghold full of melon smoke. Jericho knew there could be isolated chambers with no smoke.
      Now, the teams went deeper into the stronghold, releasing captives, rescue teams bringing them to the Eternal Lands cavern. The teams averted their eyes from the horror of cruelty, that went on in the stronghold.
      Finally, they came to the last chamber, with a large door. Jericho knew that the smoke probably did not penetrate there. He had a construction team drill a hole in the door, to throw in melon bombs. Just when the hole was finished, he and Joshua were ready to throw in melon bombs, the door swung open, and the ugliest, largest Arachni, that they ever saw, emerged. Instantly, they tossed in the melon bombs, four, which exploded with loud crackles, flashes of light, lots of smoke.
      The Arachni actually spoke, in a high, rasping, high-pitched squeak. "You have lost—you are doomed-no hope for you!" and sinisterly lept upon them. But Jade saw something else—a tiny, girl Bobbin, in the clutches of an Arachni, who was about to devour her. It was his cousin, Oliviette! Not waiting an instant, he charged in and shashed the Arachni's tenticle, that was holding her, cutting it off, releasing her. A dozen angry Arachnis turned on Jade and Oliviette.
      Jericho wasted no time, withdrew his ring and put it on his finger. Brilliant light flashed everywhere—the air full of the scent of the Eternal Lands. The Arachnis screeched in rage and fear, fled back, emitting high-pitched screaming. They fell away from Jade and Oliviette. Blinding light continued to flash, revealing other Arachnis in the cavern room and the captives, that they had been torturing. Joshua, Jericho and the assault team began throwing in more melon bombs. Jericho grabbed Jade and Oliviette, each under an arm, and took them out of the room, where he gave them to a rescue team, who immediately began to evacuate them to the Eternal Lands cavern.
      The assault team used their slings and shots, aiming for Arachni eyes. Soon dozens of Arachnis lay in remnants on the floor—the last of the Arachnis in the stronghold. The rescue team ran into the room and last dungeon, to rescue the remaining captives. Jericho replaced the ring into the pouch and seconds later, the brilliant light disappeared, and the ground began to shake violently. Jericho whispered to Joshua, "I hope no one fell of a ladder because of the quake." Joshua nodded with apprehension.
      Jade held his small cousin, tears of joy in his eyes. She clung to him in utter disbelief. The rescue team was carrying out them and the other captives—about 20 in that dungeon. Jade solemnly said to Jericho and Joshua, "I'm really sorry I did not help with the battle!"
      Jericho patted his head gently and encouraged, "You surely did, young Bobbin, I'm proud of you!" Then he continued, "Now you need to go with the rescue team to bring her back to get medical attention. Is this your cousin, Oliviette?" They nodded and Jericho gave Oliviette a kiss on her forehead. "Brave young Bobbin, like Juniper!" So Jade, carrying Oliviette, hurred back with the rescue team. Jericho, Joshua and the assault team carefully scoured every passage in the cavern, inspecting carefully for hidden doors, marking every passage, until they were satisfied that every captive was rescued.
      When they came back to the crevass ladders, to the Eternal Lands cavern, there were still lines of freed captives, waiting to go either on the ladder or makeshift elevators. Jade was there, waiting with Oliviette. He remarked to Jericho and Joshua, "Just a couple of weeks ago, Juniper stumbled down this crevass, and now all of us are going!"
      Down below, in the cavern, a steady stream of Bobbins and other creatures entered the tunnel for the Eternal Lands. And even as the displaced Arachnis flew angrily in the air, with renewed fury. Jericho had anticipated that, so he took the assault team down into the burrow, to the outside. There, they fired, from protected posts, sling shots are the enraged Arachni, protecting the Bobbins and other creatures, still streaming into the burrow, from far parts of Thunder Island. Bethany and Oliver and other birds also helped guide the bewildered refugees.
      By evening, all the captives had been transported from the Arachni cavern, to the Eternal Lands cavern, and were receiving what medical attention could be supplied by volunteers. Altogether, 700 were rescued. A steady stream of creatures continued into the Eternal Lands tunnel, to begin the 5-day journey to the Eternal Lands. They were supervised by teams, that worked in shifts, as the procession continued around the clock, 24 hours a day. Creatures continued to pour into the burrow from distant parts of the island and even from Bobbin Village. Jericho and the assault team, worked on shifts to keep watch and attacked Arachnis, that threatened refugees, around the burrow entrance. Jade kept watch over Oliviette and helped the medical teams. Oliviette had some injuries, both physical and psychological, from her trauma, as did many of the others, who were rescued.
      This exodus continued unabated for seven days, as Bethany and his crew, who were flying around the island, checked on refugee progress. After five days, Bethany and Oliver reported that there were no more to be seen in the distant areas of the island. By six days, the numbers dwindled. Arachnis had taken to trying to capture fish in the sea for food.
      By the seventh day, the numbers of refugees were down to a trickle, and the last ones fled into the burrow. Bethany and Oliver, both came inside the burrows, with their teams, and they reported that no more refugees were coming. Jericho gathered together the crews and thanked everyone for their help, and especially the "Lord of the Eternal Lands". "Now," he continued, "we need to pack ourselves and leave." The wounded had already been evacuated during those seven days, but a couple were left, including Oliviette. Everyone began their entrance, into the tunnel to the Eternal Lands, single file. Joshua said to Jade, who was carrying Oliviette, "Well, are you going to miss Thunder Island?"
      "Not a chance!" chimed Jade loudly. "I don't need to look back!"
      Suddenly, someone appeared from the other direction, coming from the Eternal Lands, out of the tunnel, into the cavern. Jade shouted, "My sister! What are you doing here?"
      Juniper beamed and handed him and others some special food from the Eternal Lands—leaves that bring healing and vitality. "I just wanted to make sure you were OK!" she smiled, "and I see you are just leaving!"
      "Yes," replied Jericho, "Are you going to turn around and go with us?" Everyone laughed.
Jericho continued, "And this is where it all began, remember how you fell down here, just a couple of weeks ago? It just shows what incredible things can happen from the small beginnings and terrible tragedies."
      Jericho was the last to enter the tunnel to the Eternal Lands. No creature was left in the cavern. Before he shut the door to the tunnel, he slipped the ring on his finger. The others watched, as the cavern began shaking violently, but their tunnel was quiet and calm. Rock began falling, the cavern collapsed, blocking the tunnel. Then the rocks began collapsing and before them, was only sky. "What is happening?" asked Juniper with hushed alarm.
      "The end of Thunder Island!" laughed Jericho. "Aren't you glad? But we are safe." The tunnel door shut tightly and they began the safe five-day journey to the Eternal Lands. Jericho explained, "This tunnel was not part of the world of Thunder Island, but a door to the Eternal Lands."
      Jade shouted, "To the Eternal Lands!" and everyone cheered—the cheering continued along the continuous line of 5 days of pilgrims!