They were proud of how much they came back with. Winni had caught three fish for the bird, while Terri had dug up some worms, and Theo had even caught a mouse. As they approached the cave however, something seemed wrong. It was too quiet.
“Very funny guys” called Winni as she poked her head through to discover an empty cave. “We’ve bought some food back for Redtail. Come on guys, he hasn’t been fed all day.” When she heard no response, she panicked. She darted around any possible hiding places, but found nothing. Have they run away? Have they been kidnapped? She couldn’t go back home without finding Bren and her sister, and poor little Rebecca. Could it have been Jon? He couldn’t have done it alone. Could Jon really have kidnapped the other children?
She couldn’t worry the twins with this, so she played it off as a game.
“Hide and seek?” Terri was confused. Winni hated games. “But there is nowhere to hide in The Burrow. It’s empty.”
It was hard work looking after the twins in ordinary circumstances, but this could be a challenge.
“We’re playing it. We’re it, and Bren and Jenna and Rebecca are hiding. Stay away from anyone else though.” Stay away from Jon.
So they searched through woodlands and thickets, hills and planes, nooks and crannies and everything in between, but found nothing. It was midnight when Winni decided to head back to The Burrow after a fruitless expedition. The twins had become tired and irritable – they seemed to share moods, as they shared almost everything else – so the walk home would be difficult, but at least they would be quiet. Winni thought she heard Bren and Jenna’s voices from the cave, so she went to investigate.
As they entered they found Redtail, sprawled across the floor with one wing across his stomach and the other spread across the floor. He lay still with his eyes were closed. The three of them rushed to him, but there was nothing they could do. He was dead.
As the twins were fusing over him, Winni noticed – from the corner of her eye – that one of the bird’s eyes was open. As she turned to look at him, he closed it quickly in an attempt to keep up his façade. He was playing dead. She had to smile at that. Still, she had to find the others. As she hopped to her feet, the bird sprang up and took to the air. He circled the top of the cave and vanished, as he had done before. Winni was stunned, but Theo seemed to have spotted where the bird went. He rushed to the wall, below where the bird had vanished and Terri followed. Theo scaled the wall, waiting for his sister – who was close behind – at any point where he could take a brief rest. Then, as she approached he zipped off again to the next rest point.
Winni followed clumsily. She wasn’t as nimble as Theo or Terri. Her foot slipped off a slim crevice, but she caught herself. Eventually she arrived at the top to find the twins sitting with Redtail in an opening in the wall. Every one of her joints ached. The bird jumped up and flew down the tunnel. It was gone in seconds, but came back when no one followed. When it flew back in to the tunnel, Terri and Theo ran in after it and Winni followed vigilantly.
Winni came out of the tunnel last and found Terri sitting down with Redtail on her lap and Theo crafting a sword out of a stick. The sight was stunning. A forest that stretched as far over the horizon as she could see. To the left and to the right, and straight ahead of them, it seemed to go on forever. If this was where the others went, how would they ever find them? Jon had mentioned that he came from a big city in a vast forest. They had to find the city, but how would they know where to go?
Suddenly Redtail whizzed off into the forrest. Has he abandoned us? Thought Winni. A head popped among the tree tops several hundred yards away. No… I think he wants us to follow him.