This was not the time to panic.
I told myself that as I watched the gigantic creature covered in moss, leaves, twigs and roots pulled himself up out of the hole. He'd left it once already to attack the wyverns, but I'd been so worried about (1) him falling on us and (2) the wyverns attacking and killing us that I had not looked at the hole.
I inched forward but kept well back from the opening. It was big. Bog Bob had slipped out and sat behind the hole, Looking like a giant benevolent gnome. He grinned brightly.
"Go on in. Room for everyone!"
"Where does it take us?" I asked, stepping closer, but not actually going in yet.
"Down quite a ways and then across the bridge to the caves. The caverns are miles long," Bog Bob said, peering down into the darkness. "You'll want to go straight through to the other side of the forest. That's about twenty miles, I'd say. You want to be careful, though. There's dangerous stuff down there."
"Of course there is," Edmond muttered.
"What is on the other side of the forest?" Lord Snow asked. He sniffed at the opening. I could tell it was dank and dark but Snow and Edmond should be able to tell if there were other things down there. So far their tails only twitched a little, left and right, left and right - pretty much in sync. They didn't seem to have found anything more unacceptable than usual.
"It used to be a wide, grassy land," Bog Bob said with a slight frown. He gave a shrug and dirt fell around us. "I haven't been there in years and years, but things don't change often. I'm afraid I just got too big to go through, you see."
He patted himself on the stomach. I refrained from askign what he ate.
"Maggie? Lady? Beth?" I said looking around. The three were grouped together a few feet behind me. This was not a decision I was going to make on my own. "Do we go?"
Maggie looked back at the people who were waiting, and then beyond them towards the sky where things were moving. "Yes, I'd say we go," she decided. The other two gave quick nods.
The creatures in the sky looked like they must be more wyverns. A lot of wyverns.
"Edmond? Lord Snow?" I asked, but I was already taking a step closer to look in.
"We go," Lord Snow said. "We go quickly. Shall we scout, Edmond?"
"Yes," the smaller cat agreed. "You should come with us, Mark. You must help find the way that is best for the others to follow."
I thought he might be trying to get me out of the path of danger and I frowned.
"Go!" Maggie all but shouted. "Find the way down there for us!"
I suspected her of doing the same, but it did make some sense. I could have sent Maggie, but she had spent more time with some of the others and they'd listen to her.
I made my way to the edge of the hole. A curving path lead downward, spiraling along the outer edge. It was line with stone and I wondered who had used it in the past. The scent of fresh ir and green grass gave way quickly to damp earth and while that was not a bad smell, it did reinforce the feeling that we were leaving the world behind.
"Rabbit hole," Edmond mumbled. "I don't think this is better than the mouse hole we were in before."
"Better than facing those wyverns," Lord Snow said. "I would like to say I trust Bog Bob, but . . . Overly friendly creatures make me nervous."
I nodded agreement and looked upward. Bog Bob looked down at us with a bright smile.
"What do you think he eats?" I said softly.
"Wyverns, I hope," Edmond replied.
The others were starting down the trail as well. Bog Bob had stopped watching us and I had the feeling he was keeping his eyes on the Wyverns. I ought to be trusting him, I thought. There was no reason to mistrust everyone we met.
"We better move more quickly," Edmond said. "We have a lot of people following behind us and if Bog Bob decides he wants to get back in his hole, I want to be out of the way."
"Good point. I think something is glowing down there. At least we might be able to see."
I didn't really want to rush down the curving path, but I didn't want to leave the others out in the open. I didn't want to run into the unknown, either.
Still, I felt an odd bit of exhilaration as I picked up some speed and ran with the two cats. Down and around, and around -- the path proved wide enough for the three of us to move together. The walls were rough and I could see ahead, though I still couldn't see the bottom of this pit. Just down and down and down.
The trail ended before the pit into the ground did, though I thought I could see solid ground below. Was that huge a huge table and bed? This was likely Bog Bob's home. Our circular trail ended here, but a wide bridge of woven tree branches and roots that stretched across the now wider opening and disappeared into a misty distance.
"I am starting to think you're far too exciting to travel with, Mark," Edmond decided. He put one paw on the bridge and then pulled it back again and looked up. "Meow."
The cat looked startled. "Meow. Meow, meow, meoooow!"
Lord Snow took several quick steps backwards. So did I.
And something chuckled.
To Be Continued. . . .