…We are being watched, said Tenwar, and, incongruously, he smiled. A trifle grimly though, thought Vivian.
Yes, added Ninraen. And it´s not by animals.
Corwin looked around the campfire. During the days the forest seemed tranquil enough, though busy with all sorts of scurrying animal lives. Vivian was painting to her heart´s content, the flowers, the rocks, the trees, the exotic-looking plants, the insects. But at night strange ululations were heard, as if some giant mockingbird, or perhaps even the forest itself, was laughing at them.
The smells and the colors were foreign too. There were some unearthly colors hesitating between shades, marshy smells of rotting trees, moss, giant ferns overlooking the path like parasols, the path that was, as Corwin had told Master Blaise, all but disappearing into the dense vegetation.
We will have to send back the wagon, said Corwin. It´s useless in here, the path is closing. We will keep the pagmoos, they will get us out in a hurry, should it come to that.
And the horses? asked Vivian.
They will have to go back too, poor beasts, one of us can pagmoo back with them, and then come back here.
I will do it, said Ninraen. She also looked around. Their campfire was lit in a small clearing, but around that, around that tiny bubble of precarious warmth, the dark forest looked quite menacing, as if the colors and the shapes themselves were moving, shifting ceaselessly.
I hate to say that, said Vivian, but what if the pagmoos don´t work here? The communication center went dead when we entered the forest, and there wasn´t anything wrong with it before that…
You´re right, said Corwin. Let´s try it.
He adjusted the dials on his little pagmoo pack, and pressed a button. Nothing happened. They looked at each other in dismay.
Ye gods, whispered Ninraen.
So, said Corwin, firmly. Now we know that there is no way of getting out of here in a hurry, and the wagon and the horses are utterly useless. What do we do?
What are the alternatives? asked Tenwar, throwing sidelong glances at the forest that threatened to engulf them.
Corwin counted on his fingers.
One, to go back the way we have come. It´s rough, but feasible.
Two, try to go on with the wagon and the horses…
They all looked doubtful.
We can leave the wagon right here, though Molly Malone will probably kill me if I do that, said Vivian in a wretched voice. That is, she whispered, if we get back…
…But we cannot leave the horses, said Ninraen, and from looking at the number of fallen trees across the path, they will be quite miserable, not to mention the insects…
So we have no choice, Tenwar said peremptorily. We have to go back.
Two of us could go back with the wagon and the horses, and the other two go on, on foot, suggested Vivian, thinking that she and Corwin could push forward into the forbidding forest.
Corwin looked at her with a flash of humor in his eyes.
That is an excellent idea, my lady. You and Ninraen go back to Norn Gundasä, and Tenwar and I…
He looked over at the Elf, who inclined his head affirmatively.
Tenwar and I, Corwin went on, can push through.
Vivian and Ninraen looked at each other, not believing their ears.
No, no, no, Vivian exclaimed. We all go together, either forward into the forest, or we all go back to civilization.
Look, Corwin said after a moment of deep thinking, let us be reasonable. There is no point in putting our lives in danger. Let us all go back to Norn Gundasä, or at least to Dunbar´s Crossing, and there… maybe the pagmoos will work again, and in the village, safe and sound, all of us, we will rethink this whole expedition.
They threw glances at each other, and Vivian said,
Corwin is right. This idea is the only acceptable in this situation. We did not know that the communication center would break down, and we did not know that the pagmoos wouldn´t work. What else is there that we do not know about that might endanger our lives, I wonder now. Let´s go back and search for more information about the Overlord and his whereabouts. Then start again. It´s not as if this was a race.
Her own attempt at humor fell short into the silence.
It´s a shame, though, now that we have come so far, Ninraen murmurs.
Better go back than lose the wagon, and the horses, and perhaps our lives, Vivian said.
She is right, said Tenwar. Let us go back and find more information. We came quite unprepared it seems. At least, back at the village, we can communicate with the People´s scientists in Elvenland.
Let us do that, then, says Corwin, looking about him with a worried expression on his face.
What is the matter? Vivian asks him.
Well…he went on.
…Is there any guarantee that we can even get out of this forest?…
Tenwar throws some more dead wood into the fire.
None, he says. This time he is looking definitely grim.
So, we will just have to find out, won´t we? says Corwin, drinking up the vegetable broth that was served for their only dinner.