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Betsy led the group toward the river for about twenty minutes and then she turned away, towards the mountains.
“Hey,” said Roger, “The river is over there and the kids are getting tired.”
Betsy looked back at the group and said, “We have a long way to go and this won’t be easy. The tunnel entrance is located where no one would think to look. There’s a safe spot up ahead where we’ll stop and spend the rest of the night.”
Roger nodded and picked Benjamin up. Anne was already carrying Millicent. Sabrina and Juniper were bringing up the rear of the group as Betsy led them onwards.
Good to her word, Betsy brought them to a secluded glen and told them to rest, as she gave them each some sandwiches. Roger and Anne collapsed with their kids.
Sabrina and Juniper made a spot for themselves away from the family and quietly ate their sandwiches. Sabrina said, “What do you think about all this?”
“I don’t know,” answered Juniper. “It was exciting and yet terrifying to be the diversion, and I’m really glad that Roger and his family are safe, but I just want my own family. Adventures are harder than I thought and not always fun.”
“You have that right,” said Sabrina, “And at least you are on your way home. I don’t know if I’ll ever get home. I wasn’t always the happiest there, but I do love my father and my sister and now I don’t know if I will ever see them again.”
Juniper scooted closer to her and put a wing around her. “My parents are really smart. I’m sure they’ll be able to figure things out. And in the meantime, we’re together and I think that’s pretty great.”
Sabrina looked at her new friend and said, “Yes you’re right. And I don’t know what I’d do without you. I just hope I don’t have to chose between you and my family as I don’t know what I’d do without either of you.”
Juniper hugged her and said, “I feel the same way. Now we can’t solve anything now, and we only have a few hours before dawn, so let’s try to get some sleep.”
Betsy roused them all just as it was beginning to get light. “We’ll be hiking for most of the day, and it will be hard, especially on the little ones. Anne, you carried Millicent all the way here, but you won’t be able to keep up if you have to carry her all the time. Two-year-olds get heavy after awhile. We’ll all help with Millicent and Benjamin.”
Anne nodded as she held Millicent’s hand. “Let’s see how she does. She is nearly three and she loves to hike.”
“OK,” said Betsy and the group headed out.
Sabrina hiked next to Juniper and after a bit she said, “Do you think Betsy is taking us in circles? We don’t seem to be hiking in a straight line.”
“I don’t think it is circles as we are moving farther and farther southeast, but I suspect she is deliberately not taking a path that would be easy to duplicate. After all, the safety of a lot of folks depends on keeping this tunnel entrance a secret,” said Juniper.
“You’re right, but I am tired of hiking! That’s all I’ve done since I came to this world!”
Betsy let them stop briefly for lunch after they’d hiked for four hours. Anne and Roger had taken turns carrying Millicent after the first hour, and Benjamin was now riding on Betsy.
“Here’s the last of our rations,” said Betsy as she handed out some bread and cheese. “There are a few supplies at the tunnel entrance, but we’ll all be pretty hungry by the time we get across, or should I say under, the river.”
Just then Henrietta landed in the middle of the group. “You’re going to have to move a lot faster,” she said. “The mayor has sent out a hunting party to find Roger and Anne and bring them back. He is furious! He also wants Juniper shot on sight.”
Sabrina gasped and Juniper whimpered, “I don’t want to be shot.”
Betsy said, “You won’t be! Don’t worry. What do you suggest, Henrietta?”
“Georgette and some of the others are hard at work confusing the trail and they hope to lead the hunters in wrong direction, but at the same time, you all need to get inside the tunnel quickly. I know you’ve been taking a safer route, but speed is of the essence.”
“If you are sure that Georgette can muddy the trail, I will go more directly, but we’ll be worse off if we lead them to the tunnel entrance,” said Betsy.
“I know,” said Henrietta, “but we also have to get everyone to safety. We’ll no doubt have to guard both ends of the tunnel for awhile, but let’s get this group to the dragons first.”
“OK, you’re right,” said Betsy. “Listen up! Benjamin and Millicent will ride on me. Anne, you put Millicent in your pack and strap that onto me, and Benjamin, you will have to hang on tight. We will alternate jogging and fast walking. Henrietta, can you keep a lookout for us?”
“Sure thing,” said Henrietta.
Anne and Roger secured both Millicent and Benjamin onto Betsy and the group started out with a brisk jog.
Sabrina looked over at Juniper and said, “I’ve never been a runner.”
“Neither have I, but I guess we’ll learn.”
Betsy loped faster than any of the rest of them and Henrietta made sure that the others didn’t get lost. Roger and Anne ran much faster than Sabrina could, and soon the group was in three parts. Betsy with the kids were out of sight, Roger and Anne were only visible occasionally between the trees, and finally Sabrina and Juniper were far in the rear.
“You don’t have to stay with me if you can run faster,” said Sabrina.
“Nonsense,” said Juniper. “We stick together!”
Henrietta flew overhead and called to them, “You’re doing fine! Just keep on jogging. Pick a pace that isn’t too hard and then just plug away. I can’t see the hunters so I think Georgette has tricked them, but don’t get cocky.”
Sabrina would have laughed if she’d had any breath. Onwards the two friends ran, and Sabrina found that if she slowed her pace, she could maintain it more steadily. After what seemed like forever, but later she realized was actually less than two hours, they came around a bend and saw everyone else. Benjamin and Millicent were now standing with their parents and Betsy was beside them. They were all standing next to a very large boulder.
Betsy teased a bit as she said, “Glad you two could join us!”
Sabrina was too winded to do anything but drop to the ground. Juniper sat beside her.
“Henrietta, can you see anyone even remotely near us?” asked Betsy.
“No! I think Georgette is leading them on a merry chase.”
“OK,” said Betsy as she moved to one side of the boulder and shoved. The boulder swung out toward the forest revealing a wide opening into a very black tunnel.
“Wow,” said Sabrina as she and Juniper stood up.
“Yes,” said Betsy, smiling. “When dragons build, they really build! Now, hurry everyone. Get inside.”
“But how will be see and how will we close the entrance,” said Roger as he urged his family inside.
The minute they walked into the entrance, a low light began to glow. Sabrina and Juniper followed Roger in and Sabrina said, “You aren’t kidding that dragons know how to build. Where is the light coming from?”
Betsy came in last and said, “You don’t need to know that. Just be glad it is here. Henrietta, we’ll see you on the other side.”
“Sure think, Betsy. I’ll be over there tomorrow after I find out what Georgette has done with the hunters. Have fun, you guys,” and with that she flew off into the trees.
Betsy looked at the group and said, “Are you all ready?”
When everyone had nodded, Betsy touched the boulder and it swung back into place.
Sabrina turned to look into the tunnel which seemed to go on for forever. The only had a faint light to guide them. “How long will it take to get to the other side?” she asked.
“It will take us about a day. But before we go far, I want us to rest and get some sleep. Last night was eventful and we didn’t get to sleep more than a few hours and now you have hiked and run for the better part of today. We are safe here. There is a cozy alcove just ahead with some basic supplies. We’ll rest there for the night and then move through the tunnel tomorrow.”
Sabrina looked at Juniper and said, “You dragons are really fantastic!”