Oboe sat, legs folded on a rock, and stared at the tiny notebook left by the ghast sheriff. It wasn’t easy to read. She hoped to find a clue inside, something they overlooked, but she was still upset and the notes were very boring. She forced herself to concentrate.
There was a log of when a bunch of imps and crawlies went missing and where they were last seen. She skipped to the last page and found a cute little map of the valley. A circle was drawn around the Twilight Grotto where lots of the creatures disappeared. That seemed like a good place to start.
Oboe didn’t like the Grotto. It was one of six places in the valley that were always dark even in the middle of the day. Humans used to mine magic down there a long, long time ago before the ore ran out. Now it was just old and spooky. Oboe was always too scared to go, but if the Hollows could be nicer than she thought than maybe the Grotto could be too.
She got a lantern from her tree and delved deep. Inky slate stone tunnels wormed and looped every which way. There were dead ends and collapsed shafts and it all seemed empty. After an hour of searching, alone with her thoughts, all she found was a fat crawlie.
Crawlies were a sort of lesser ghast. That meant they couldn’t talk and sometimes smarter creatures kept them as pets. This one looked like what might happen if a centipede and a lizard managed to make a dog-sized baby together.
“Hey there little buddy.” Oboe knew it couldn’t talk, but she was lonely. “You think Theo is mad at me?”
The crawlie licked its eyeballs, oblivious. Oboe bent down and let him lick her hand. It tickled.
“Yeah. I bet he’s real mad,” she said. “I yelled at him and called him stupid. He’ll probably fire me and I won’t even have him as a friend.” She sighed. “All I ever do is mess things up.”
The little ghast just stared.
“What am I doing here?” Oboe squeezed the notebook. “I’m not smart enough to figure this out without Theo. I’m just going to ruin everything like I did back at the Fairy Circle.”
No. What happened back then was her fault. She crossed a line shouldn’t. This was different. She yelled at Theo to stop him from crossing a line. Being good meant doing the right thing. It meant not tolerating wickedness. That’s what grandmother tried to teach her. She stood up.
“Well, so what if he’s mad?!” She stomped her hoof. “Something is wrong and Theo should know better! I’ll figure this out even if it’s hard!”
The crawlie scurried off in a sudden hurry.
“Wait!” Oboe said and chased after him. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! Come back!”
The little ghast raced around side tunnels, stopping only to lick the air and change course. A weird noise was coming from up ahead. It sounded like a child crying.
Oboe stepped into wider chamber and stopped. There was a short pedestal in the center of the room with a glowing green orb on top. The crying sound was coming out of the orb, a recording looping over and over. The strange contraption reeked of magic.
The crawlie poked around at the base of the pedestal and climbed up to get at the orb. He opened a mouthful of fangs to shriek back at the orb like he was trying to scare it.
“Wait!” Oboe said.
The orb vibrated, reacting to the shriek. There was a flash of light and Oboe covered her eyes. Magic shot across the room and wrapped around them like a net. The world rippled and before Oboe could do anything she felt herself being dragged through a fold in space. Magic bent and unfurled the cavern, teleporting her across the Whirlwood at blinding speed.
When Oboe opened her eyes and found herself lying on a concrete floor.
“Where am I?” She said. She groped for something to help her stand up. Something cold stung her hand. Oboe shook her head and gasped at what she saw. There were iron bars all around her. The magic had teleported her into a cage.