Frightened, the children decide to move along the forest trail, heading away from the direction Charlie thought he saw Red running.
At one point, they hear marching from ahead on the trail, and they (noisily) duck off into the trees. They may not have been quiet, but they were quick, and they managed to stay out of sight of a troop of short, gnarled beings with long pointed ears and crooked noses, armed with spears and armored in rusty breastplates and crooked helmets. In their midst, they escorted an old lady, chained.
The soldiers halted when, from behind, they were hailed with a call of “Sir! Sir!” A pair of the short creatures approached, dragging a tiny man with a droopy hat. As soon as they halted, he drifted off to sleep, standing.
“We got the drop on this one, sir, but the others got away!”
The leader of the gnarly creatures inspected their catch. “I’d prefer to just toss you in the river, but it would be a waste of perfectly good chain. Heh… the King will probably want to speak with you anyway.” He pointed to the old lady. “Chain him to her!”
Soon, they continued marching on their way.
The children debated with each other… “Should we help them?” “But there’s so many of them!” “They have spears!” In the end, they decided there’s nothing they can do… and besides, they still worry about being hunted by Red…
Over the course of the day, as they continue walking along the trail (and hoping it will eventually lead to a village, or some outpost of civilization), they consume the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Charlie had collected from the tree the previous day. As night falls, the gray light of the leaf filtered sunlight being replaced by the gray light of the leaf filtered moonlight, they reach another large clearing.
Silhouetted in the moonlight, they see atop a short rise the outline of a house. Their noses meet the overpowering odor of burnt gingerbread cookies.
They slowly approach the house, Charlie taking the lead. As he approaches the house, he sees that the front wall has been demolished. Leaning against the wall, he find that it’s the source of the gingerbread odor. Tearing off a chunk, he takes a bite.
Wilbur, still keeping his distance from the bully, circles the house. In the back, he finds a set of cages behind the house, with small piles of foul smelling substances which he chooses not to further investigate.
Continuing his circuit of the exterior, Wilbur notices that the windows have all had their glass broken. Turning the corner to examine the third wall, he finds dismembered hands and heads… remains of creatures like the short gnarly beings they saw before. Choking down bile, he looks for usable tools, scavenging a helmet.
Charlie finds that the walls of the house are made of gingerbread! Some of the demolished front wall has been burned, and crumbles like charcoal. He tentatively steps inside.
Bei stays in the middle of the field with the still weak Reyna, but Llewelyn approaches the house. Chris follows, as well, his imaginary friend Clive exhorting him to bravery. True to form, of course, no one notices Chris’ advance.
Charlie finds a large room, with a massive fireplace against the side wall, a counter along the remains of the ruined wall, a bookcase, and two doorways – one through the side, and the other in the back wall. In the middle is a table with a shattered leg. A shattered plate, with scattered cookies lies on the floor, and smeared pies cover the counter.
In the corner, he finds the burnt, skeletal remains of a short creature, with a shattered spear and crooked helmet. Charlie gathers the cookies from the floor, and takes the helmet and broken spear.
He steps through the back door, and finds a smaller room with a bed and a bureau. In the top drawer, he finds granny panties. He continues his inspection, opening the lower drawer…
Llewelyn steps into the house, while Chris pauses outside.
The silence of the night is split by a horrible screaming, and Llewelyn is nearly flattened by Charlie racing out of the back of the house. Llewelyn follows.
But Chris remains standing outside the house, encouraged by Clive. The screaming cycles… “AAAAAAGH!” silence “AAAAAAGH!” silence “AAAAAAGH!”…
Charlie eventually comes to a halt, cowering behind Bei and Reyna. “We need to run! We need to get out of here!” he says, not answering their questions, “What happened?” “What’s that screaming?”
Chris stepped into the back room, and sees an open drawer on the bureau. With the screaming, he sees a flash of white over the top of the drawer. He steps over and looks within… to find a pile of bones, that shake in time with the screaming.
He closes the drawer, and the shaking and screaming end. He opens the drawer, and it begins anew… and he notices something at the back of the draw. Chris removes a small book, and slams the drawer shut.
With the silence, Llewelyn finds her courage restored, and re-enters the house. She enters the side room, which has it’s door knocked off it’s hinges. This room is not lit by the moonlight that streams in the windows in the other rooms… and she kicks something hard.
She picks up a small jar… and steps into the dimly lit kitchen to inspect its contents.
Meanwhile, Wilbur has entered the house, and see Chris inspecting the contents of the small book. “What is it? Can I see it?” he asks in his nasally voice.
“Sure. It’s like rhymes or something.” Chris replies, handing the book to Wilbur.
will finish writing the rest later… summary now
the children decide to retire beneath the boughs of the trees. Charlie successfully imagines a bed of soft leaves for himself and the injured Reyna. He tries to stay up, keeping watch, and in his exhausted state sees Clive out of the corner of his eye. Clive tells him to rest – he’ll keep watch.
Wilbur stays up, puzzling through the rhymes in the pale moonlight.
During the night, Clive detects approaching soft footfalls, and sees a familiar flash of red ducking behind a tree. He wakes Chris, and they concoct a plan to ambush Red. This plan is inadvertently helped by Chris snapping a twig, calling Red’s attention, and allowing Clive to flank her. Wounded by a well thrown lawn dart by Chris and seeing the other children waking, she flees from her suddenly alerted prey. Clive, Chris, and Charlie catch up to her, and in a desperate melee manage to separate her from her basket. She explodes in a shower of blood, and a nauseous Charlie buries the noxious basket, not daring to look within at its contents.
Meanwhile, Wilbur has figured out the rhymes. Saying one aloud, he casts a spell! Unfortunately, it dazes his friend, Llewelyn, who is halted in the middle of a sentence…
After a well deserved, and uninterrupted rest, the children continue wandering along the forest trail. They’re now keeping an eye out for food and water, and at one point step off the trail to find a stream and fill the water bottle they recovered from Red. Seeing fish leaping from the water, Wilbur tries dazing one… which falls numb, and floats downstream. Charlie leaps after it, scooping it from the water and crying, “I caught a fish!” (to which Wilbur murmers, “WE caught a fish…”).
The children hear a horn sounding in the distance. They look around, trying to find the source of the sound… and see Chris and Reyna marching off, back toward the trail! Charlie catches Reyna, lifting her from the ground to stop her – and Wilbur dazes her with his newfound magical ability. But Llewelyn and Bei fail to stop Chris’ march… to join a blond teenage boy dressed in blue leather, blowing on a horn. He has gathered about him a group of ragged children, some wearing nothing but rags, many appearing starving.
Bei continues trying to stop Chris, but Llewelyn hides at the treeline. The boy chastises Bei for her resistance, and grabs her. Charlie races into the clearing, charges, and stabs the boy-in-blue with the broken spear shaft he collected earlier. The boy drops Bei… and blows a loud note on his horn that throws Charlie to the ground and makes him bleed from his ears. Mutually badly wounded, Charlie and the boy disengage, the boy heading into the forest with his enthralled children…