Party wandered away from Blue & Peeps camp, chatting with their new friend (Billie) and looking for food and a place to sleep. Billie had entered the forest, sent by King Wenceslas, to spy out what the Rotten King is up to. However, he was captured by B&P, who tried to get him to behave like a sheep. Now, he will lead the kids to a village where they should be safe.
Wandering off from the others, Bei encounters her little blue friend again, who leads her to a chicken-pot-pie tree. There, the children eat and bed down for the night.
The next day, they opt to travel off road, figuring that stealth is better than speed. Their advance is halted by a river. As he fills his water skin, Charlie meets a talking fish, who offers to lead them to a ford. Following the fish down stream, they come to a ford… which is just next to a bridge.
Billie freaks out – “Troll!” Charlie, Reyna, and Llewelyn begin crossing at the ford, while Wilbur and Bei opt for the bridge. Chris stands back to wait and see what happens.
The river has a strong current, and the ford mainly consists of submerged rocks. The crossing children had removed their shoes and rolled up their pants… and halfway across, they shout in pain as fish begin nibbling upon them! This throws Llewelyn off balance, and she falls in the river. Charlie throws his backpack (shattering the pot-pie he saved) to the shore, and dives after her.
Wilbur walks across the stonework bridge, and at the halfway point, in mid-blink, walks into the leg of a 12 foot troll. He tries to daze it, but it just thinks he’s babbling. Laughing maniacally, Wilbur ducks between the trolls legs, racing for the far side of the bridge.
Bei races back to the ford, where Chris is struggling to convince Billie to cross. With much coaxing, they cross, where they find Reyna panting on the shore. In the middle of the river, they see Charlie struggling to pull a bloodied Llewelyn to shore. He disappears briefly under a mob of fish, and loses his grip on Llewelyn.
The troll manages to slam Wilbur into the stone wall of the bridge, and then lift him in the air. “Your silver or your flesh, that is the troll toll!” Chris’ imaginary friend Clive races onto the bridge to attempt to distract the troll, slamming full force into the troll’s side. It doesn’t even notice.
Chris finds a long stick, and holds it out to help pull Charlie to shore. Unfortunately, he’s much too heavy, and pulls her in as well, where she is immediately beset by the fish ford mafia. Bei also finds a long stick, which Charlie gets ahold of. He also gets hold of Chris, and then Billie pushes on Bei to pull the chidren out of the water.
Dangling from the troll’s grip, Wilbur tries to stab it in the eye with a pencil. He misses the eye, but shatters the pencil against the troll’s face, making it flinch and drop him. This time, he manages to escape the bridge. The troll rails at him, “If I ever make my way off this bridge, I WILL find you. You will pay the toll!”
The children, in shock at the sudden loss of yet another friend and their own near escapes, lie panting in the edge of the forest.
When they get up to travel again, they see deep grooves in the road, as from a recently passed heavy ox-cart. Remembering that the aleman had mentioned he would pass through a village on his way to the king’s castle, they choose to follow the road, the road to Merville.
After a few hours’ travel, they top a rise and see below them a large break in the dark, black forest. Recently plowed fields, a small collection of houses and a few stone buildings, the smell of fresh baked bread…
“Merrville should be a safe place to rest. King Wenceslas said it’s one of the last places untouched by whatever darkness has tainted the forest.” Entering the town, Billie ducks to the stalls behind the tavern to munch on hay.
The children enter the tavern, and see a dozen or so people sitting against the far wall. In the middle table is a tall, broad shouldered man, dressed in bright green outfit. “Children! Welcome!” he calls out to them. Chris immediately ducks back out the front door.
The man asks the children to sit, and orders food for them. They notice that the other people are pale, and don’t touch their food or drinks. The fire burns warmly in the fireplace, but does not seem to bring any cheer. Wilbur uses a mumbled prestidigitation charm to make it appear as if he’s consumed all his soup, then ducks up the stairs in the back of the main hall.
The man in green tells the kids he serves the king, who is buiding a city for children, a place where they can be safe in this dark, dangerous world. He asks if they would like to go with him, and they mumble excuses, such as, “Um, we, um, need to go meet our friend.”
“I’m sure your friend is already in the city!”
“Um, we, um, need to go, um, someplace to the east.”
The man progresses from asking them to join him, to telling them they should join him, to ordering them to join him. Finally, he pulls out rope. He quickly ties Bei’s hands behind her back, and gets Charlie in a headlock to attempt to tie him up as well.
Outside, Chris hears approaching footsteps and hides. A pair of redcaps approach, pulling a train of children tied together! Chris races back to the stables to get Billie.
Wilbur searches through the rooms upstairs, finding straw mattresses and clay bedpans (though not knowing what they are…). In one room, he finds a bag with jars of spices. Picking out a jar of pepper, he heads downstairs.
Bei manages to slide out of the man in green’s grip, and move towards the fireplace, where she spotted some tools she may be able to rub the ropes against.
Meanwhile, seeing the children face the man in green, the townsfolk have stood up, and begun to advance. “I’m Jack the giant killer, hero of the realm! I serve the king! How dare you defy the king!” he shouts at them. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the distraction, the ale-man has snuck up from behind, and taken Jack’s axe.
“It’s over, Jack. Head back to your king and leave our children be.”
Jack spins in place, still holding Charlie… just in time to receive a face full of pepper, from Wilbur.
“Billie, some bad people are here! I think they’re friends with Blue and Peep!”
With a cry of, “I’ll murderize ’em!” Billie races out of the stable, and around the front corner of the tavern. Chris hears a loud THOOM! followed by a sickening SMACK. She looks around the corner to see the children huddling against the front wall, the frayed end of the rope on the ground in front of them. One redcap stands nearby, and Billie is collapsed against the wall, blood seeping from his side.
Blinded, sneezing, Jack tackles the ale-man, and they wrestle on the ground. Townsfolk gather around, kicking at Jack as well. Charlie lies on the floor incapacitated with sneezing and crying from the pepper. Bei frantically rubs the rope against a hook to free herself, and Wilbur edges over next to the fire. He tries to reach in for a log, but the heat is too intense.
To protect his friend, Chris throws a lawn dart at the redcap. Steadily stomping towards Chris, the redcap jerks it’s head to the side to avoid the missiles. It bends its knees, and leaps at Chris feet first. Chris manages to duck and roll to the side.
With a roar, Jack throws off his assailants, and runs out the front door of the tavern. “Come, we’re leaving!” he shouts to the remaining redcap “What about the children?” “We’ll be back for them…”