Briskil’s escape was an enormous surprise to everyone there, but the biggest shock was reserved for Briskil herself, who suddenly found herself propelled into the air and sailing over some of the smaller trees. She screamed so loudly they must have heard her halfway across the planet, certain she was going to die, but instead she fell harmlessly to the ground, far from the invading humans. Her heart was fluttering with panic, and she knew she still had only a small chance of survival, so she ran as fast as she could possibly, hoping it was faster than the humans could chase her.
She continued running into the village much faster than she would have thought possible, still screaming as she went. Her mother raced out of the house, convinced that her daughter had gone mad.
“Briskil! What’s wrong with you?”
Briskil stopped and thought for a moment. “I’ve just realized what has happened to me. I free-leaped, but much higher than I have ever leaped before. I must be the free-leaping champion of the world.”
She suddenly became enormously tired and fell asleep, just as she would have done as a baby. Her Mother, convinced she was dying, kept trying to wake her up. In a few minutes Briskil had recovered, and this time she would not be quiet. “Mother, I’ve seen the humans. Ten of them at least. They tried to kill me. They tried to kill me by looking at me, but I got away with them. You won’t believe it, but I got away from them by leaping over the humans. I even jumped over some of the trees, and I thought I was going to die! But I didn’t die, and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and certainly the most amazing thing I’ve done.”
“All right, Briskil,” she said. “I believe you. But you must calm down, or you could die. Just calm down.”
“Yes, Mother,” she said, and fell asleep again, but much more gently this time. Her Mother carried her into the house and put her down on the mat, with stern orders that no one would be allowed to wake her until the following day. Then she tried to put herself to sleep, but that was a task that took most of the night.
Next morning the whole family had a quick breakfast and walked down to the sheriffs’ house. They knocked to be admitted, and they all entered the house together. They asked Briskil what had happened, and she was able to tell her whole story. They treated her almost like an adult. Then they got together and talked for several minutes about their strategy; there was some disagreement, but on the whole the conversation was very civil. In the end, they said the whole family needed to march up together to the top of the mountain range and find out what was going on.
“But these are just children,” their Mother objected. “And they’re my children. How can children fight against humans? Don’t I even get a say in what happens to my own children?”
“Normally that would be the case,” said the head sheriff, but this is something that concerns the whole village, and perhaps the whole world. And in any case, they are not here to fight but to advise. Briskil especially, because she is the only one who has seen the humans.”
“This task is too dangerous for a child,” said Mother.
“I’m afraid there is no other choice,” said the head sheriff. “The council has decided. And we must leave now. Please gather all your children together, and Briskil can lead the way.”
Briskil began talking to the sheriffs and continued to talk until they asked her to stop. “This is a very serious mission,” said the head sheriff. “All our lives may depend on it. So you will have to be very quiet or we might miss some vitally important information.”
Elik nodded vigorously to show how well she understood, and the other sheriffs all patted her on the head to show they approved.
And so the whole family, feeling very scared and very ill-equipped for their mission, began the trek from the village to the hills, with Briskil proudly leading the way. The Mother followed behind her children, shaking her head woefully as she walked. This time they travelled all the way to the top of the mountains, which were really just moderate-sized hills. The children had their first chance to take a good look at the hills, which were sparkling brilliantly with gold and orange light in the morning sun.
When they reached the top, they found themselves bathing in a magnificent panorama of crystals reflecting light in every direction. It was all breathtakingly beautiful, and they wanted to stay there, just taking in all the beauty. However, they soon realized there was nowhere else to go and nothing else to see.
“This is not helping us,” said the head sheriff. “We will have to go down a bit. When we were climbing up here I noticed what looked like it might have been a cave just below the rock level. We should find the humans there. If not, we’ll just wait till they show themselves. Don’t worry, you will all be safe. You have the whole sheriffs’ team to look after you, and we won’t allow you to come to any harm.”
When they arrived at the cave mouth, they surrounded it and waited. For a long time it seemed that nothing was happening, and some of the children started talking of returning home, but the head sheriff would have none of it. “This is their preparation time,” she said. “I am confident the humans are here, and they will be coming out soon, especially as the afternoon is approaching.”
Eventually a human came out. It was even smaller than usual, and it stopped when it saw them. In its hands it held a killing-stick stick, but it quickly put the stick down before going anywhere near the children. “Look,” said Lokie excitedly. “She’s trying to make friends. She has put her killing-stick down. That means she doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”
“But humans can kill you just by looking at you,” said Briskil.
“That’s not true,” said Lokie. “They can only kill you when they are holding their killing-stick. That’s why she put it down, so we would know it means us no harm.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Briskil, but Lokie ignored her.
“Look out, Lokie, it’s a human!” screamed Elik, finally unable to prevent herself from talking. “It’s going to kill you!”
“Lokie continued walking slowly forward, and the human started walking towards her. “It’s a trap!” shouted Briskil, and as she spoke, the human turned towards Lokie, still holding its arms out in front. “Look out!” said one of the sheriffs suddenly, and with a well-aimed thrust she threw a large rock at the human’s head.
In only a second the human creature was hurled backwards onto a sharp pile of rocks, and its head burst open with a loud popping sound, revealing another, smaller head inside. Briskil felt very sick and struggled to stay on her feet. Another human appeared at the mouth of the cave, holding a killing-stick. For a long time they stood looking at each other, waiting to see what would take place next. Then everything happened at once. The killing-stick spat fire and thunder, and three sheriffs lay dead, but not before the head sheriff managed to bring a huge rock crashing down on the human’s skull, and it too lay dead, next to its companion.
“I knew it was a trap,” said Briskil. And then she smelled the horrible smell of a burning body, and she vomited and wished she was dead.