Things Left Undone Book 3, Chapter 7
Sydney's Great Loss
They hiked back the way they came, retracing their seven-mile route back to the opening of Tryuiop's cave. All the plants and trees were almost back to normal, and the little trickle of river they saw the day before had expanded to the width of the Epoch, and it was deep enough that they had to swim across. Upon closer inspection, the water appeared to be fresh, so they refilled their waterskins.
Soon, the door of the cave was in sight. They walked down the last hill, and their view of the door was blocked by a forest that had sprung up overnight. They walked cautiously through the forest, expecting more of the trees to come to life. They reached a clearing, and all was still well.
Suddenly, though, all the trees around them locked together in a rustle of leaves and a creaking of branches. Ayla and Krono ran to try to let them out, but their efforts were to no avail. They were trapped in a wooden prison.
After two hours, during which time they attempted to chop, burn, and plead their way out, a rumbling was heard under their feet. They dashed away from the middle of the enclosure, but were still covered with the chunks of dirt that had exploded from the ground. When the dust settled and they could breathe without choking on dirt, they turned and saw another tree, apparently just popped out of the ground. This tree was different, though. While all the other trees were still slightly warped looking, this one was beautiful. A professional gardener couldn't have grown a tree nearly as well as this one had grown.
As they watched, the bark on the trunk swirled like it was being stirred. A nose, mouth, and beady black eyes took shape. The branches on the sides moved, and formed into two arms. The canopy of the tree shrunk, becoming hair. The trunk split down the middle, forming legs. Before them stood a muscular bearded human, completely made of wood and leaves. The black eyes studied them intently.
"Whort thou?" Glenn asked.
The tree man ignored him, looking at the eleven heroes one at a time. Finally, after he had returned his gaze to Sydney, he spoke. His mouth did not move to create the words, which sounded hollow, almost ghostlike.
"You have come."
Ayla narrowed her eyes in confusion. "What you mean 'you have come'? Who you?"
"I mean that you have finally come. You have released my people from their fungus-induced sleep. And now, you will destroy Jas-chu and put an end to his evil reign. As to your inquiries as to who I am, however, you may call me Bob."
"Okay, uh, Bob. But what do you want with us?" Crono asked.
"There are three tests that you must pass in order to be considered worthy of dispatching Jas-chu."
Magus scoffed. "You mean we have to pass tests before we can kill the bad guy? Tests are usually reserved for those who attempt to obtain objects of power or get blessed by some god, or something."
"Exactly." Bob raised his arms, and suddenly, they lost all sense of direction. They were floating in white, empty space.
Flea groaned. "Not again! I spent I don't know how long floating in that mallet, and I did not enjoy it one bit. You are one cruel prankster, mister. Now you let us out of here right now before I lose my temper!"
Bob turned to her, and with merely a glance, she could no longer be heard. Her mouth still worked, but no sound was made. Her eyes widened, and she clamped her hands over her ineffective mouth.
Bob turned back to Sydney, who he had been studying ever since he had appeared to them. She was getting antsy under the scrutiny, and she fidgeted and focused her attention on a string that had come loose from her black tunic.
"Now, it is time for your second test. You, Sydney, are the focus of this test. The rest of you," he looked at the others, who were standing in a protective circle around Sydney. Especially Krono, who stood right in front of her, glaring at Bob. "you get to watch, as your fate rests on the shoulders of this young woman." He approached, reaching out to grab Sydney on her shoulder. She cringed, and shrunk away, like a beaten dog retreating from its master's raised fist.
Krono growled, and attacked Bob. He grabbed Bob around the chest, and beat his fists against Bob's wooden flesh. Bob looked slightly amused, and he reached up, grabbed Krono by his arm, and lifted him away. Krono dangled in the air, kicking and flailing at the arm that held him. The others could only watch, being frozen in place by one of Bob's spells.
Bob chuckled, almost good-naturedly. "Your devotion is admirable, young human. But, I am afraid that your short temper cannot be tolerated." He threw Krono straight up into the air, and Krono was swallowed by a flash that even in the pure white atmosphere threatened to blind them.
Only Krono's black claw necklace fluttered back to them, and Sydney reached out and caught it. She was stunned.
She was also the only one that could move. She looked around frantically, noting that Bob was gone. And before her very eyes, her friends slowly faded away, until there was nothing left. She ran to the place where her friends had been standing only a few seconds before, and dropped to her knees. She dug around in the white ground, but could find no trace. As she sat up, Krono's horn necklace slipped off of her wrist, and fell to the ground. She grabbed for it, but it was swallowed up as well. Finally overcome with despair, Sydney buried her face in her hands and began to cry.
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