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Blackberry Bun's Oz Journal: Year 1, Chapter 4
Quote:Year 1

Chapter 4: Dark Forest

"Hey, Blackberry! Wake up!" a voice, which I recognized as Huck, said while shaking my body.

"Eh, what? Have we arrived?" I asked, waking up. I remembered that the four of us: me, Glinda, Huck, and a dwarf named Boli Gearcraft, were on the way to the Dwarven Capital in order to figure out what gift the Dwarf King wanted for his birthday, which would come in two weeks. The distance between Emerald City and Dwarven Capital was quite far that even with Boli's car it would take five hours to get there. Therefore, I had asked Glinda to cast a tranquilizer spell on me so I would sleep through the trip.

"Actually, no," Huck said. "We're kinda stuck."

"Eh, what?" I asked. "How come?"

"I'm not sure!" Boli said from behind the car. "I'm trying to work on it!"

"How far have we gone?" I asked, getting off from the car.

"About halfway," Glinda said. She was standing right behind Boli.

"And out of all places, we're stuck right here!" Boli said while still working.

"Here? Here what?" I asked. I looked around and only noticed that we had stopped not far from a forest. "Does that forest have something bad in it?"

"No, it's just a regular forest!" Boli said. "I meant this open field! We have no cover and I'm worried about the sunlight! Or rain! Or worse, storm!"

"Ah, come on! Be strong!" Huck said.

"I am strong! I'll show you if you want me to!" Boli said.

"No need," Huck said. He then looked at me. "Hey, Blackberry. How about we explore the forest while waiting for Boli to fix the car?"

"Huh? I'm not sure about that," I said. "We don't know what's in there, and we might get lost."

"Don't worry. I'll protect you," Huck said. "Although you're probably right about getting lost."

"I can help you on that," Glinda said. She then waved her wand and conjured a glowing pink orb about the size of a baseball ball. She then gave the orb to Huck. "Try walking around while having that in your hand."

Huck then walked around the car, and I noticed that every few seconds a pink sparkle fell from the orb. The sparkles were glowing bright enough to be noticed even under sunlight.

"Cool! With this we can trace back our trail!" Huck said.

"Just be careful exploring. If you sense any trouble, come back immediately," Glinda said.

"We will! Thank you for the help," Huck said. "Let's go, buddy!"

"Well, alright," I said. The two of us then left Glinda and Boli and walked into the nearby forest. We had quite a bit of fun exploring the forest, which reminded us of the days back in Strawberryland. Huck would often bring me out from my house to walk around the forest between our houses, just so I would not be isolated from outside world. At least that had been what he had said, but I actually believed that it had been true.

We kept walking around until we were under a rather tall tree compared to other trees around.

"Hey, let's climb this tree!" Huck said.

"Huh? Climb this tree? Are you serious? This large tree?" I asked.

"The trunk has a lot of spots we can step on. It's actually easier than it seems," he said. "Don't worry. We're only going for that large branch, not all the way to the top."

"Well, maybe I can if it's only that branch," I said, looking at the branch Huck meant. Its location was about as high as Huck's fort tower.

"I'll put this orb in my pocket for now. I need both hands to climb," he said, putting Glinda's orb into his pocket. We then began climbing the tree with him going first and me going right below him. Like he had said, the tree trunk had many spots I could grab and step on, so even someone like me could climb the tree with enough effort. The main problem was my stamina. By the time I reached the branch, I was already panting heavily with massive exhaustion. Huck, who was already sitting at the branch, had to pull me for the final step. Finally, I was able to sit next to Huck on the branch.

"Finally," I said, still panting heavily.

"Great job, buddy!" Huck said, patting me on the back. "Oh hey! Hahaha!"

"What's funny?" I asked.

"Your hair is full of pink sparkles!" he said, still laughing. "Let me clear those."

"Eh, what? How?" I asked as Huck dusted the sparkles off my hair.

"Maybe they fell off my pocket when we climbed," he said. "Alright, done."

"Thanks," I said.

"So, what do you think so far about this trip?" he asked.

"I don't have much to say yet, especially that this forest exploration is not supposed to be part of the trip," I said. "Though this feels better than sleeping all the way to Dwarven Capital."

"I second that," he said. "Well, I actually wonder what the king actually wants for his coming birthday."

"I kinda wonder about that too," I said. "Though I'm kinda worried."

"Why is that?" he asked.

"Boli said that the king was the richest of all dwarves. I'm afraid what he wants will be something difficult or expensive to get," I said.

"Maybe he doesn't want anything because seeing his people prosper is already a gift for him," he said.

"I frankly doubt that. Boli said that the king is also pretty greedy," I said.

"And also a treasure hunter in his younger days," he said.

"If what he wants is a treasure somewhere, it will be a difficult gift, if not impossible," I said.

"Indeed. I hope it will not be the case," he said.

"Do you think we should go back now?" I asked.

"Yeah, Boli might have fixed the car already," he said. "Let's go back."

"You first," I said. "Don't want the sparkles on my hair again."

"You're right," he said after chuckling.

The two of us then climbed down the tree. I had a harder time than when I had climbed up because I couldn't see where I should step on next. Huck tried to guide me, but my fear slowed me down greatly.

"Hey Huck," I said, still clinging to the tree trunk with my face straight to it.

"What?" he said.

"How far I am to the ground?" I asked.

"Not near enough to jump off from right there," he replied.

"Heh, are you a mind reader?" I said.

"Of course not. It's just that I have known you long enough," he said. "Now lower your right foot slowly. There's a spot you can step on there."

"A-alright," I said, being overcome by fear of falling.

In the end, I finally reached the ground and immediately lied down on it, panting heavily.

"I'm so pathetic," I said.

"Yeah, you're pathetic," Huck said.

"Aw come on! I actually expected some consolation!" I said, fully aware that he was kidding. The two of us just laughed after that. After resting for a few more minutes, the two of us then started walking back to the place where we had come. However...

"Hey, Blackberry..." Huck said. "How can we get back?"

"By following the trail of sparkles, right?" I said.

"Yeah, but..." Huck said. "Which one should we follow?"

"Of course... Oh no..." I said, noticing the fact that the pink sparkles were on the ground in every direction. "How could this happen?"

"The ones I dusted off from your hair were blown around by winds, and they kept falling down from my pocket while we were sitting on the branch," he said.

"What should we do now?" I asked.

"Calm down," Huck said. "Let's just drop this orb here and try walking straight."

We then walked straight after Huck dropped the orb to the ground, hoping that we eventually would be out of the forest. However, some minor obstacles such as small river, land elevation, large rocks, and other things, might had curved our way without us noticing, because we walked for what felt like hours and we were not even close to the exit.

"Are we really lost now?" I asked. I was exhausted by all the walk.

"I want to say no, but that would be lying," Huck said.

"Heh, I thought so," I said. "I guess we only can sit down and wait now."

"You mean waiting until Glinda and Boli come for us? Well, you have a point actually," he said. "But they won't find us easily in the middle of these trees. Let's look for a slighly open field."

"Alright," I said. We then walked some more, looking for a slightly open field. Fortunately, we found one within less than ten minutes later. However, on that open field there was also a strange house. What made it strange was the fact that the whole house seemed to be made from cookies, biscuit, and other kinds dry food.

"What a strange house," Huck said as we stood right in front of the house. "Do you think we can eat some parts of it?"

"Better not," I said. "It doesn't belong to us."

"Well, you have a point," Huck said.

"Strangely, this house seems familiar..." I said.

"In any case, let's try knocking the door. Maybe someone who lives here can tell us the way out of this forest," Huck said.

"Hmm..." I said, trying to remember. Huck then walked to the front door and knocked the door.

"Hello! Anybody home?" Huck shouted. "We're lost here and we need some help!"

"Come on, why can't I remember?" I said. Huck then repeated what he had just done, and then I suddenly remembered.

"Huck! We have to get away from here!" I said, grabbing Huck's left wrist and dragging him to run away with me.

"Huh? What?" Huck asked while running.

"I just remembered! This is the same as the cookie house I saw in one of Blueberry's fairy tale books!" I said. "In the tale, the one who lived in the cookie house was a wicked witch who kidnaps any kids that eat her house!"

"Really? But we are not in a fairy tale now. Maybe this one is different!" he said.

"We can never be sure! We've only lived in Oz for less than two weeks! Better safe than sorry!" I said, then suddenly I tripped on something and fell down.

"Blackberry! Are you alright?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine but..." I said, looking at what had made me fall. It turned out that my right ankle got entangled by a tree root, not because of me tripping but because the tree root was alive and actively trying to pin me down. I tried to get free, but the root wouldn't let go. Instead it kept creeping up my leg, slowly wrapping my right leg up to the knee.

"Huck, help me!" I said.

"I'm trying!" Huck said, trying to pull the root away from my leg but to no avail.

"Come on, Huck! The witch could be here in any moment!" I said in panic. "Ah, no that's not it! Huck, you should run away and tell Glinda!"

"There's no chance I would leave you here!" Huck said, still trying to pull the root away.

"It's the best chance we got, Huck!" I said. "You must go and tell Glinda about this!"

"It will be too late..." Huck said, looking at the direction we had come from. There was someone clad in dark robe walking slowly to us. The face of the person was concealed by the hood he wore and the lush trees blocking most sunlight didn't help at all. I couldn't even determine whether the person was a man or a woman. He then pointed a wand towards Huck and shot a red lightning. Huck tried to evade, but the bolt was too fast and he took a direct hit. He got thrown back by the bolt, but luckily a pile of leaves cushioned his fall.

"Ugh, that kinda hurt," Huck said, getting up.

"Huck! Are you alright?" I asked.

"Pretty much," he said. "But I'm not sure if I'll be as lucky if he attacks again."

The mysterious figure then seemed to look at me. He then pointed his wand towards me and shot the same red lightning. I braced my face with my arms and closed my eyes, prepared to receive anything that would come. I then heard a loud banging noise, but I didn't feel anything. I then slowly opened my eyes, and then I saw that there was someone standing in front of me. It was Boli. He had saved me by standing in front of me and taking the attack. I noticed small smokes coming from his chest.

"Heh, not bad," Boli said. "Come on! Give me more!"

The hooded person then launched another attack which hit Boli directly, but Boli didn't even budge from his standing position. The hooded person attacked again, but once again Boli stood still and firmly. I remember Boli being small, smaller than me. However, somehow the Boli standing right in front of me seemed really big like a giant.

"I believe you know about dwarves being partially immune to magic," Boli said in loud voice. The hooded man launched another attack, but this time Boli blocked it with his right hand instead of letting the attack hit his chest. "But I'm a special dwarf. Not only that I'm almost totally immune to magic, I can launch back the magic at whoever casts it!"

Right after saying his last sentence, with his right hand Boli punched towards the hooded person who was still too far for a punch to hit. A red lightning similar to the ones I had just seen came out from Boli's fist and directly hit the hooded person. The hooded person was thrown away and fell to the ground. Immediately, the roots which bound my right leg came loose. Boli then turned around, quickly picked me up, and carried me on his right shoulder. He also did the same to Huck with his left shoulder. He did all those so quickly that my glasses fell off my face to the ground.

"Ah, my glasses!" I said.

"We gotta scram from here now while he's stunned!" Boli said while running really fast carrying both of us. He carried me with my head facing behind him unlike Huck, so I could still see, although very blurry, the hooded person slowly getting up.

"Who is that guy actually?" Huck asked.

"I have no idea!" Boli replied. "Let's just get back to the car and get away from here fast!"

"Can you find the way?" I asked.

"I see the way, no problem!" Boli said.

"Glinda made a waypoint for us, Blackberry!" Huck said. I couldn't see what he meant, but I was glad to know it. Within a minute, we were out of the forest and Boli's car was parked right there with Glinda already sitting on her seat. He then put us down and quickly jumped to the driver's seat. I and Huck also jumped to our seats, and immediately Boli turned the engine on. The car engine roared to life, and then the car accelerated away from the forest. I felt so relieved for successfully getting away from the forest, and then I fell asleep on my seat.

Meanwhile, inside the forest, the hooded person walked a bit from the position where he had fallen. He looked down to the ground and found something. He then picked up the thing, which turned out to be my glasses which had fallen when Boli had picked me up. He then looked at the glasses for a minute.

"Wizard of Oz..." the person said, and then my glasses vanished from his hand with a blue flame.

I didn't know how long I had fallen asleep. I woke up because Glinda woke me up.

"What? What happened?" I asked.

"We're almost there! That's what happened!" Boli said. "Did you sleep well?"

"Pretty much," I said. "I was so relieved that we got out from that forest."

"Huh? What are you saying? What forest?" Boli asked.

"You saved me and Huck from a wicked witch in that forest, don't you remember?" I asked.

"As far as I know, we never stopped," Huck said.

"Huck, you don't remember too?" I asked. "Glinda?"

"Maybe you were dreaming, Blackberry," Glinda said.

"But it felt so real. Boli saved me and Huck from a wicked witch, and we ran away while that witch was stunned. I lost my glasses and..." I said. "Eh?"

My speech was interrupted because I just realized that my glasses were still there on my face. I then began to doubt whether all those experiences in the forest were real or just a dream.

"I guess I was dreaming," I said. "Though I've never had any dream that felt so real. Hey, Boli."

"Yes?" Boli said.

"Are you, unlike other dwarves, almost totally immune to magic, and can launch back spells thrown at you?" I asked.

"Wha...? How did you know?" Boli asked back.

"That was what you said when you saved us, and you did exactly that," I said. "You blocked the wicked witch's attack and launched it back."

"Well, actually it's true but it's not like what it seems," Boli said. "My clothes are actually made from rare material that wards off magic. I can launch back spells because of this ring I wear on my right hand. It's actually the same machine you saw back then, only modified to be able to be worn as a ring."

"Well, now I really doubt that it was just a dream, but let's put it aside for now," I said.

"Indeed, we will arrive in five minutes. Better be ready to meet the king," Boli said.

"Yeah," I said.

The car kept running through the open field towards the Dwarven Capital, and without anybody noticing, a pink sparkle fell off from my hair to the ground. The sparkle kept sparkling for a few seconds as the car got further away, until it vanished completely.

-End of Chapter 4-
[Image: TheGrapesChildrenSig.png]
First off:
Sorry reading this took so long, I've been in and out of hospitals, which included an emergency stay that began this weekend.

I don't have much a review in store, and I'm not sure if that's because I'm sick or because I just don't know what to say. I do want you to know I love what you're writing. This is good build-up and an interesting array of characters. Big Grin

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