The next morning Haylie and Ringmore, still puzzled about Grungen's disappearance, strolled down to the stream to refill their water cartons. As they neared the stream Haylie noticed something, something that was not there to be noticed, it dawned on her that no matter how close they got she could not hear the sound of running water. They approached the bank and her eyes were caught by the dazzling water, but she still could not hear it, then the beautiful silence was broken by Ringmore's mild laughter.
"I'll bet your wondering where the euphonious melody to go with this gorgeous picture is. Well that's sort of the beauty of it, there is no sound here on the banks of the Silent Stream, not even the wind makes as it rustles the leaves in the willows."
"I think I understand, it's like the phrase 'silence is golden' and here it is; with the sun dancing on the perfectly clear water, it's stunning" she replied and for a while they sat and listened to the silence. Haylie watched two cobalt blue birds with wispy white tail feathers, building a nest in a young silver birch; butterflies darted across the peaceful scene flitting haphazardly between delicate flowers that Haylie had never seen before, they seemed magical and almost surreal as they floated in the gentile breeze.
"Thanks for that Ringmore, it was really relaxing" Haylie remarked as they walked back to the others on the edge of the forest.
"That's ok, I just thought it might take away some stress." he replied. When they got back to the camp the others were just finishing packing up the tents and blankets, ready to move on into the Silverline forest, to see if they could stop Merdock's soldiers cutting down the remaining ancient trees.
Ebah was still weeping over the loss of his friend Grungen, luckily Killga was on hand and comforting him with kind remarks and food, an Imp's greatest weakness! When everything was packed and ready, they set off again into the mysterious Silverline forest; as she gazed around the tangled mass of overhead branches Haylie found herself dazzled and entranced by the vastness of the forest that lay around her like a great green blanket. Small unseen creatures scattered with every footfall, leaves rustled in the distance and twigs snapped deep within the gloom.
"So," Elera's voice echoed from up ahead "we need to head east to the centre of the forest, that's where, rumour has it, Merdock's camp is based."
"Well then let's get moving" Haylie replied slightly dazed, they travelled to the most eastern part of the forest there they were less than excited about finding the camp full of Morgantian soldiers. After no more than an hour's travelling they arrived in the most central part of the woods but as they came over the brow of a small hill they were met by clouds of smoke and ash. Elera looked around the military camp and an utter sense of bewilderment and shock spread across her face. As the others joined her on the brow of the hill the same look washed over all of them.
"What is going on here?"Haylie asked
"Well Hay lets go find out" replied Ringmore
"How we're not Morgantian soldiers, they'd kill us soon as look at us" Haylie reminded him
"Maybe, but wait one moment you two and well let's say your own mothers wouldn't recognise you" Elera said with a smirk on her face. Suddenly a burst of green sparks erupted from Elera's hands, the sparks scattered around Haylie and Ringmore, soon they were completely engulfed by them and in a flash of vivid green the pair of them had been transformed into two perfect Morgantian soldiers, beards and all.
"Err," Haylie moaned, "I'm a man!"
"Hay Arry," came a stern voice as Haylie and Ringmore walked as casually as two imposters could, into the enemy's camp. A tall shadowed figure approached them; his face was poorly lit by a nearby torch that flickered in the gentle breeze. They distinguished a scar that lined the outside of his eye and eye-brow and gave him an air of importance and experience; as if it were a medal from his very first battle, and a warning to others.
"Arry get a load of these newbie's, right bags of bones they are" Siam remarked to his companion Harry. Haylie realized they must still be their normal height because the soldier stood almost a head taller than she was.
"Who sent you here then" Harry asked them in his gruff throaty voice, as he walked over and stood next to Siam opposite Haylie and Ringmore.
"We've been sent from Morgantia, first day and such" Ringmore stated attempting to hide his fear.
"I wasn't notified, I'll have to clear it with the commander later" he paused as if he were in deep thought, then he glanced at the two nervous newbie's with a large smirk of a grin wrapped around his face, "But until then I have a little job for you to get on with."
Ringmore and Haylie found themselves, shovels in hand and orders to shift what seemed like a mountain of Suropod dung; no doubt Harry's chore for the night; after what seemed like hours of shovelling a thirteen foot, elephant like, mammals dung, they finished, while Haylie went to search for a warm bed, Ringmore went to find some food. As he passed a brightly lit tent he noticed two figures pacing inside. Their shadows cast on the side of the tent were large and bulky and as Ringmore edged closer he could make out the gruff voices coming from inside.
"You heard the rumours?"
"You know, about these rebels, I heard they got that Rider with em the one who got away and disappeared for six years."
"Yeah he caused quite a stir when he left though didn't he, but I heard he was dead."
"Well you know these Riders you can't pin em down long enough to make sure, I also got ear that his dark lordness has one of the rebels held prisoner in his castle, one of the soldiers grabbed him after a group of them tried to attack the rebels, Groggle or sometin his name were."
"What the soldier?" He laughed
"No the Imp you dung brain" he replied in a mocking voice, but then his tone of voice changed to a low whisper and he murmured, "Master Merdock knows where they're goin and what they're up to, he knows every move they make; ever since that other worlder arrived he's had 'is eye on 'em and..." his next sentence was cut off by a sudden clang from outside the tent: Ringmore had tried to edge closer to hear the conversation better and had lost his footing as he tried to step over a pile of weaponry and knocked it over.
The two in the tent rushed from their seats and set upon Ringmore. He grabbed Haylie, who had also come to see what all of commotion was about, as they ran more soldiers began to give chase until it seemed like the whole camp was on their tail and gaining fast. Suddenly there was nowhere left to run: they were cornered between a small cliff face and a row of fir trees.
"Looks like we're stuck" Squeaked Haylie.
"Oh no there's one way out of this"
"What besides dyeing!" Haylie joked half heartedly. Ringmore grinned and clutched at the leather bound handle of the black hilted sword drawing it from his belt as Elera's charm finally wore off with a shimmer of green. Grunts of laughter and mocking comments drifted from the Morgantian soldiers now surrounding them. The ring of metal against metal silenced the men it was as if some one had pressed the mute button on a TV remote, Haylie pulled the last tip of the Ventura sword from its sheath and held the glittering sword before her and glanced at Ringmore before charging at the mob of grizzly soldiers that stood before them.
Dracon, who had been circling the camp since Elera had turned Haylie and Ringmore into soldiers, had seen the two of them fighting and had gone to fetch Elera and the others. Meanwhile on the ground Haylie and Ringmore were at twenty men each and still going strong; when the others arrived the camp looked more like a ghost town than a military base, as Elera glanced around she spied a dark figure standing with a smug look on his face polishing a blood stained sword with a black hilt. Ringmore Rider had one foot upon one of the soldiers in pride as he whipped the piece of cloth up and down the blade that had done him proud.
"What took you so long? We could have used some help here." he said sarcastically.
"Well it looks like you managed fine without us, and where's Hay?" Elera asked slightly concerned.
2Last I saw she was headed over there" he pointed between two tents to a large clump of trees, "she had three soldiers on the run"
Killga strolled over to where Ringmore had pointed and it hardly took her any time at all to find Haylie. She was standing over one of the three she must have been after; she pulled her sword from his lifeless carcass like a butcher pulling a knife through a piece of meat. Killga saw her begin to fall as if she were falling unconscious, Killga ran to catch her and she laid her gently down on the ground. Haylie opened her eyes wide and stared about her as she suddenly realised what had just happened she sat herself up against a nearby silver birch tree.
"Are you ok Hay, its ok you just overdid it" she reassured her.
"Yeah I guess so, is Ringmore ok?" she asked and Killga nodded and Haylie's breathing became more steady and her shoulders relaxed.
"Let's go I'm sure I'll be better prepared next time, it's just I'm exhausted"
"Well next time there will probably be more because according to what I've heard Merdock's armies are extensive and very powerful." Haylie and Killga rejoined the others who were sitting round a blazing fire.
"According to these files I found there should have been forty-five men in this camp, but if my math is right there are only forty-four men lying around here including the ones who chased Haylie" Ringmore informed them. A worried expression covered Elera's face. "Then we can be sure that Merdock will know what happened here very shortly"