Dust and darkness surrounded him as he was dragged backwards and feet first through the earth. Although it had only been a few seconds, Firetop realised that panic was starting to set in. He couldn’t breathe. Faster and faster he noticed himself travel, forcing through rock and roots alike, the strong grip unfailing around his ankles. He couldn’t concentrate long enough to activate his power.
He felt himself begin to black out when he noticed he was out of the ground and in fact above it. The grip on his ankles flung him through the air like a discarded cloth as it released him.
He landed with a jolt in a large nettle bush, stunned and prickled, but pleased to be out of the ground and breathing.
He then noticed the stings.
“Owww!” He complained, quickly standing up.
He then noticed the aches throughout his body.
“Ouch!” He moaned once more. Not knowing which of his maladies bothered him more, he decided just to work through both and gather his bearings, but not before pointing a one of the nettle leaves and firing out a quick burst of flame, incinerating it instantly. He didn’t feel any better for doing it, but at least he knew his powers were still working.
Now then, he thought, if I were a hidden mystical element where would I be, what would I look like, and how would I be sure that I’ve found me – er – it?
You’re looking for a blue diamond, Firetop.
Psychic Sue? Is that you? Where are you?
I’m back at the cottage. I can help with prompts but nothing else. The Witches Three are also able to prompt you.
I’m sure they are, Sue. Sorry, but just you’ll do for me. No offence to the others, but I can’t seem to trust them.
They can hear your thoughts as I, Firetop. They have agreed not to prompt you, so it will be just you and I. Ah, I can see you now – we’ve tapped into the mind of a nearby nocturnal animal – a mouse, I think from the angle we see. I’ll try to stay with you as you proceed with your search, but the mouse may not like it. Tampering with anyone’s free will is always a no-no, but today needs must.
So I will have an angry mouse to contend with as well? I can live with that, I suppose.
Good. Now you need to find a silver birch.
A silver birch, Sue? What’s that – a bird?
It’s a tree, Firetop. You’re looking for a tree!
A tree? Are you serious? I’m in the middle of a forest – there are millions of them!
A white tree. The Witches Three planted it as a pointer – there are no other silver birches anywhere in this forest.
Well doesn’t that make it stand out, considering it’s marking something hidden? Or am I over-thinking it?
It’s Cheryl Olive here, Firetop. Just look for the tree. Sorry, S – Psychic Sue, but he needs to get searching. You need to get searching, Firetop. Time is of the essence.
Alright! Alright!! I am trying to help, you know.
It’s Sue again now, Firetop. Cheryl Olive has agreed not to interject again. Apparently, you would have been taken close to the birch tree, so you should see it somewhere around you.
But Sue, it’s dark. And foggy. All of the trees that I can see are just black.
Firetop, you are over-thinking. Are you not in a clearing?
I seem to be, yes.
Then use your flame to light the area. Look around that way. You must be nearby.
Firetop set himself alight and span around, looking for any sign of a white-looking tree. Behind him, he heard a twig snap, followed quickly by a frenzied scream. He finally noticed the birch, just as a large rock hit him between his shoulders. He fell to the ground, switching off his flame as he did so.
“You demons are not welcome here in Lipas’ Wood” shouted a voice from out of the darkness.
“I’m…” Firetop couldn’t complete his sentence as another rock hit him. And another. And then another.
The voices were everywhere. Through the darkness, Firetop wasn’t sure of how many assailants there were, although there was at least four.
“Enough!” called a fifth voice.
“Ow wow wow!” Firetop found himself moaning again as he got to his feet once more. I have bruises on top of bruises now! He thought.
It’s all worth it! Sue reminded him that she was still there.
You could have warned me, Sue!
I didn’t know! I’m a mouse, don’t forget. And one that doesn’t like fire either, it seems!
I don’t think many do.
“Demon, why do you walk these woods at night? Your kind is not welcome here, and you know it. Mayhap you are lost, and need guidance for a way out?”
Firetop turned to face the person with the voice – an elderly gentleman with long grey hair and a long pointed beard. He was wearing a robe that seemed just a little too big for him, and he had an amulet around his neck. He was also holding a staff, which he pointed in Firetop’s direction.
“I am a man,” Firetop replied, “not a demon. I am looking for something, something so very important I do not have time to explain now. I…”
Firetop noticed the centre of the man’s amulet. Clasped in the centre was a large blue diamond. He pointed towards the amulet.
“That’s it!” he declared, just as a large rock struck the side of his head, knocking him to the ground.