Just then, the man's thoughts were interrupted by a noise from overhead. It was a sound that Gib knew well.
Of course, bats! If Gib could just communicate with one of them then perhaps he could escape his predicament. Crawling further up the rocky beach, Gib discovered that what had looked like lights from the water were actually that grew in scattered patterens across the rocky shore. Slowly a plan formed in the hermit's head. He was going to make it out after all.
It was like a dream. A terrible, terrible dream. Gib's plan was working. One of the bats had agreed to help him and was now flying ahead with a bit of a glowing mushroom, clutched between his claws.
"Follow the light, Gib. Follow the light."
The hermit leaned hard on his staff, using it as a makeshift crutch. Pain shot though his leg with every step. Maybe it was a dream. A terrible nightmare. How long this continued... How long the painful march went on for, Gib could not tell. But the scenery finally changed as Gib emerged out of the blackness and into the Neverwood forest.
The bat was gone and all about him were trees. But did Gib stop and rest on the green earth? No. The hermit kept going. Over mountains and valeys, to places he had never been before. Foamy seas and snow capped mountains passed beneath the weary travelers feet. And he couldn't stop. Gib couldn't stop.
"Aaarghhh!!!!!!" Gib screamed as a sharp pain raced up his leg and jolted him out of his nightmare.
"Hold still. Hold still." Gib heard voices around him. "We need to set the bone."
The voices fadded as Gib slipped back into unconsciousness. What followed was a deep, peacfull sleep, without dream or vision. In that place Gib rested, until the sound of voices woke him.
Formenecil wrote:"To our success!" he toasted, raising the bottle. "And to a peaceful, profitable year in 2005!"
Quorandis took a drink, and then handed the bottle to Elbadar, who took a sip. Then the stranger stirred.
"He's waking!" said Elbadar, his mouth still half full of Guardendia Innis.
Through blurred vision Gib saw two figures peering over him. One was a Dragon Master. "Marus." Gib thought. The other was a classic lego knight. "D-Dad?" Gib sputtered.
"Come on, stay with us." Slowly the blurry figures sharpeneed and everything snapped into place. The Dragon Master was not Marus, the Classic lego knight was not his father and Gib was not outside the neverwood.
"Fly!" Gib cried, bolting upright. "Let us flee from these trees at once. They are not safe!" He tried to stand, but a searing pain in his leg kept him firmly planted. Looking downward, Gib saw that his leg was in a splint.
"Calm yourself." Bernard said, laying a hand on the hermit's shoulder. Gib threw it aside, interrupting him.
"But the creatures! The Spiderlings and and those ape men- "
"Quiet now!" said Elbadar in a commanding voice. "We've had our troubles with those creatures. Indeed, more then you should like to know. But we faught them off before and esaped with only a some minor wounds. And see now we have fire as well, to keep the beasts away."
"Moreover," Bernard added. "Are we not in the season of joy and peace? What creature would be inclined to cause strife on this, the most holy night of the year? On the other hand, I should like to know you are and how you came to be here."
Gib considered telling the strangers everything. It was a long story, but he had told it before. Then again, look what had come from that decision. Perhaps a short version would be better.
"My name is Gib. This is my home, or rather, it was. I'm trying to escape. What about you?"
"We are... well, I guess you could say that we're tracking some friends of ours." It was Bernard speaking. "You might have seen them. A gracious young woman with a crown and a blue rainbow knight. We have reason to believe that Elwen -the lady- was taken against her will. Kidnapped by the knight."
"Yes I saw them. Although I didn't get to meet them really, since we were attacked by the Iondels. The last I saw of them, they were wandering in the dungeons."
"Wait, you mean to say that they could still be back there in the forest?"
Gib nodded. "Of course I don't know. They might have found a way out of the forest, but I can't say."
"Just what we need." said Elbadar. "More uncertainties."
There was silence for a moment while Bernard considered the dilemma. "Alright," he said at last. "We will make for the edge of Neverwood tomorrow and search for their tracks. If we don't find any tracks there, we'll have to come back and search for them."
"That seems like a slim chance." Elbadar commented. "Any number of things could keep us from finding their trail, even if it is there."
"I know," said Bernard. "But what choice do we have?"
"And what about me?" said GIb. "How do I keep from slowing you down?"
"You can ride with me on my horse. They will both be well rested by tomorrow. We didn't ride them hard today, and a good thing too. If we hadn't stopped to walk them we never would have noticed you. How's your leg by the way? We have some wine here if you need to dull the pain."
Elbadar nearly jumped at the idea of Guardendia Innis being used as a pain killer. He was, however immediately calmed by Gib's next remark.
"No thank you sir. I'm afraid that I haven't got the tongue for wine and I've had worse for pain at any rate. Oh, and I'm very much obliged to you two for aiding me. Beyond words in fact. And I hope that I haven't kept you from your quest. You needn't bother with me once we're out of this wood."
"Well if that's the way you want it." said Elbadar. "Do you really live here? I mean... we heard legends of a 'forest guardian' but..."
Gib sighed. Trying to think of the last time he had felt like a guardian of anything. The Neverwood had been his home at one point. And once Gib felt that any strangers were trespassers in his domain. But Gib abandoned the Neverwood and it abandoned him. Now it was he who felt like the trespasser.
"I guess, I used to live here." Gib responded. "Now I don't really know. What about you? You've already told me why you're here, but I still don't know your names."
"Oh, of course." said Bernard. "How thoughtless of us. This is Elbadar and I am Bernard Quorandis."
"A pleasure to meet both of you. I am glad that your pursuit has drawn you across my path. One thing though... You say that this lady..."
"Right, Elwen. You're certain that she was kidnapped?"
"Well, yes." said Bernard. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I may be a poor judge, but in the brief time I observed her, she didn't seem to be held captive in any way. It'd be awfully embarrassing to come all this way only to find that she went willingly."
Let us stop for a moment and ponder the signiture...
Ok, enough of that!