Huge machines rumbled past the tent and shuddered to a stop. People climbed out to look around, wandering off in all directions.
Mee and Bur-up could tell that something bad would happen if one of these people found them. The Alex and the Logan told them to go back to the cave and do what they could to hide the entrance. They also took most of the stones and metal with them. The boys hid the rest in their jacket pockets.
The people from the trucks were everywhere. The sun had only just come up and these people were busy rummaging through the forest. The family tidied away their tent and did their best to hide too.
The boys’ parents called people on mobile phones and discussed the value of the hill and how much gold they might need to buy it. The Logan and the Alex worried when their dad said “That much?!”
The family had no car to go to and they didn’t want to risk hiding in the cave. If any of these people saw them going into it then all of this would be for nothing.
More phone calls and the boys grew more and more bored. The Alex wandered off with his big brother and played in the forest. Only a few rounds of tig later a man turned up. He was very smart and was carrying a shiny leather case:
“Sorry boys but I’m in the process of buying this place. We’re doing some very dangerous work today. Lots of drilling and digging. I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave.”
Neither of the boys knew what to say. The smart man couldn’t buy a hill could he? They wandered back to their parents just as their mum was getting off the phone:
“What’s wrong boys? You look upset.”
The Logan looked back at the smart man:
“He says he’s buying the hill. You can’t buy an entire hill can you?”
Their mum laughed:
“Actually, I think we just did.”
The angry smart man
They looked back to the smart man with his briefcase. His phone went off. Moments after he answered it, his face turned purple:
“That’s not possible! Who else could have known?…Wait how much did they offer? That’s ridiculous. Keep the deal on hold. There’s no way someone has access to that much money that quickly.”
The man hung up his phone and stuffed it into his pocket. He turned to the quiet trucks behind him:
“OK guys we have to pack up for the day. Deal hit a snag, we’ll be back though. Just have to sort out a few things.”
The angry smart man walked past the family on his way back to his fancy car:
“Looks like you’ve got another day to play boys. We’ll be back tomorrow I think. Enjoy your day.”
He opened his car, got inside, and drove away at top speed. The boys looked at their parents:
“How did you do that?”
Their dad’s eyes widened:
“We promised a lot. Lets hope our new friends can help.”
It took longer than they expected for them to find the cave. When they did it was clear that Mee and Bur-Up were experts at hide and seek. A heap of bracken had been torn up in small patches all around the cave and then piled up in front of the opening. It was so expertly laced that it just looked like a mound of earth.
You would only know the cave was there if you saw people going into it. As the family slipped into the cave someone did see. Far away the smart man was sitting in his car with a pair of binoculars. (“So that’s where they found the sapphire.”)
He climbed out of his car and followed the family’s trail as quietly as he could.
Great big steps
The stairs were very steep. Too steep even for the adults. The boys had to jump from one step to the next and after about fifty their legs started to ache. Surely they would find Mee and Bur-Up soon?
Every now and then they called down the tunnel in front of them, their voices echoing away to nothing. Finally they all needed a rest. The tunnel was getting warmer and it was getting harder and harder to breathe.
Above them a man took off his long overcoat and scarf and sat on a step as well. He could have kept going but the sounds of the family climbing down had stopped. He didn’t want to bump into them, he just wanted to find out where the sapphires were.
Deep below them the echoing voices reached Mee and Bur-Up at the bottom of the stair. The sound couldn’t have come at a worse time. Their leader Biggin was furious to see two bigger-folk strolling down the stairs of Ey-Kan as though it was an ordinary walk in the caverns.
He was figuring out the right punishment when the sound of little-people echoed down to them. Not just little people but little-people who knew both Mee and Bur-Up by name.
Biggin lifted his hands in anger:
“What did you do?”
Mee and Bur-Up hadn’t even told him about the trucks and about being ‘interesting’ yet. When they did he looked like he might just bounce them all the way back up the stairs himself:
“So how do we stop being interesting?”
“Don’t worry the boys’ parents had a plan. Though we left before we found out what it was.”
Biggin looked at them as though they had lost their minds:
“What were you thinking?”
Mee was almost in tears:
“It’s hard to explain. When we’re up there it’s like our brains stop working properly. I think it’s the cold.”
Biggin shook his head:
“So all of this bother and the big ice is still there?”
Mee got excited at this bit:
“No, actually no, the ice is gone. The boys explained. It’s just something called ‘winter’. After a little time goes by they get something called ‘spring’ when the plants grow and the animals wake back up again.”
There was a small crowd of bigger-folk gathered to listen to the surface adventurers. A few of them liked the sound of this ‘spring’ thing. In fact even Biggin liked the idea of seeing somewhere new (though for now he couldn’t admit it).
Biggin pulled himself up straight, looking as big and leader-like as he could:
“Right, before we think about anything else we need to see what the little-people’s plan is to make us less interesting.”
Presents for little-people
A lot of the bigger-folk wanted to follow Mee and Bur-Up as they made their way back up the stairs. Some even grabbed gifts for the little people they might meet up there.
As they walked up, each step made them feel odd. Mee and Bur-Up were more used to it now but more than a few of the others had to stop for a rest every few steps.
Their heads got a little fuzzy too, and their arms and legs changed colour and got more wobbly and thumpy (like it was harder to control them).
The yells from the family above got louder and louder (more loud hu-mans) until they could see four little people perched on the edge of a step looking down at them. The Alex jumped up and waved his hands in the air:
“They’re back, they’re back, and they brought friends.”
Further up the steps the smart man listened with great interest.
Who were ‘they’? Where were they back from? and Who were their friends?
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