When they reached the men they were very politely asked to sit down at a table, and asked if they would like something to drink.
Then a tall pleasant looking man, who introduced himself as Cedric Nolan, asked who their leader was. The other men looked on obviously very interested.
"We do not have a leader. We all think and choose for ourselves and have chosen to make this journey together," Anthony said.
"Do you speak for all of them?" the pleasant man asked.
"No," Jasmine said. "We each speak for ourself."
Cedric smiled at Jasmine and said, "And you're not shy about it either."
"Would one of you, then, please tell me how you know about the cave and why you came here?"
"I'm Jasmine, and I'll tell how we know about the cave but I'd prefer for Yuwon to tell you why we came. We were told about the cave by Marten Grandon, who once used the cave to save Nochose from the Forbidders."
"You know Marten Grandon?" Cedric asked.
"Yes. Very well," Jasmine said.
"How do you know him?" Cedric asked.
Jasmine chuckled. "I was roller skating in front of his house when I was very little girl, and fell down and cut my knee. Marten picked me up, patched up my knee, gave me lemonade, and I've been his friend ever since."
Cedric laughed out loud. "You must not have been afraid of him then."
"I've never been afraid of him, or anything else," Jasmine said.
"None of us are," Eddy added.
"Now why did you come here? Are you Nochose planning to stay?"
"No, Yuwon said."
"Are you Yuwon?" Cedric interrupted.
"Yes," Yuwon said, "and I'm the reason we came, or rather my aunt, ToyLin, is the reason."
"Not ToyLin Fogel?" Cedric said astonished.
"Yes, she's my aunt," Yuwon said. "Do you know her?"
"No, I never met her. I knew Harry, her husband which is how I know about your aunt. I know Harry passed away. Now how is your Aunt your reason for coming here?
"My aunt is dying of burbera," Yuwon said.
"Oh! Cedric said. "Then you've come for thessaline."
"Yes," Yuwon said.
"ChildIsle is the only place in the world you can get thessaline now, so you've come to the right place, but thessaline is very expensive."
"We can afford it," Yuwon said. "We'll pay for it."
"With what? Do you have ChildIsle money? You cannot use any other.
"We have no money," Lester said. "We have these." They all showed him their gold chains.
"Marten said the chains are worth about thirty five hundred dollars each, in our money."
"They'll actually be worth more than that here," Cedric said.
"Then we'll be able to get the thessaline?" Yuwon asked excitedly.
"Yes, I'm quite sure you will," Cedric assured her. "But it will take awhile."
"How long a while?" Yuwon asked. "We want to get back as soon as possible."
"Oh, we should be able to manage it in a day, and in the meantime you need a place to stay.
Cedric turned to one of the other men. "Oscar, is the hostel still usable?"
"Well, it hasn't been used in years and will need some cleaning up. I doubt if there is any bedding but we can scare some up if it's only for six. I'll ask Dora and Louise to help."
"Henry and I will check the plumbing and wiring." Henry apparently was the older man smoking the pipe and shaking his head while Henry spoke. "And make sure the showers work."
"Oh a hot shower!" Jasmine exclaimed. "I'm going to get in and never come out."
It was Jasmine's exclamation that made them suddenly aware of the fact they had not bathed or had a change of clothes for three days and it made them very uncomfortable. Apparently Cedric noticed it to.
"I'm sure you all want to have a shower, some clean clothes, and a little rest. I'm going to make arrangements to sell your chains and purchase your thessaline. I'll get back together with you all later. Oscar will take you over to the hostel," he said.
They all picked up their packs and followed Oscar. It was a bedraggled looking group.
"Just over and down the side of a little rise there was a very narrow paved road. Sitting next to the road was a strange looking three-wheel vehicle. It was completely open. The front was only wide enough for a single seat where Oscar sat. There was no steering wheel, only what looked like bicycle handle bars. Behind the seat was a flat bed without sides where they all climbed on."
"All set?" Oscar asked. Everyone was.
The tricycle began to move silently onto the road. It didn't go very fast. When they had gone about two miles Oscar warned, "it'll be a tiny bit rough, so hang on."
"To what?" Jasmine asked.
There really was nothing to hang on to so they hung on to each other. It really was rough, but no one fell of the trike which soon stopped in front of a long stone building. Oscar went directly to the door of the hostel, unlocked it, and went in.
At that moment another trike arrived which was very different from the one they were on. It was shorter and had four real seats and there were two ladies sitting in the two front seats.
When everyone had piled off the trike, the two ladies approached them.
"I'm Dora" the roundish woman said.
"I'm Louise" the taller dark woman said.
Lester introduced himself and the others.
"How long are you going to be on ChildIsle," Dora asked.
"Just tonight if everything works out right," Eddy said.
"Well we better get you settled then," Louise said. "Would some of you help bring that stuff in the back?"
The "stuff" was bedding and pillows and two big boxes which Eddy, Lester, and Anthony carried into the hostel.
The building walls were very low but the roof was raised a few feet above the wall and, though there were no windows, light poured in under the roof. There were about thirty cots lined up against each wall and at one end a huge table.
Dora and Louise started distributing the bedding to six of the cots.
"We'll make them up for you, if you like," Dora said.
They all said thank you but that they'd make them up themselves.
Dora and Louise placed the mysterious boxes on the table. The first was full of food, some of which, like the sandwiches, they recognized, but other things they did not. There were paper plates and utensils as well. "You probably won't need these," Louise said. "You can eat most of this with your fingers."
The other box contained two pitchers, one of water, the other of a yellowish colored drink they later found out was made from a local fruit unique to ChildIsle, and which they all liked very much.
"Don't worry about cleaning up," Dora said. "There's a trash bucket under the table. We'll pick this stuff up in the morning. Get some rest. See you tomorrow," she said as she and Louise left.
Everyone had the same idea. Shower first, eat afterward. There were plenty of shower heads but only one shower room. There was a short debate about who should go first, the girls or the boys. "I don't care who goes in first," Jasmine said, "boys or girls, I'm going in now," and she was off to the shower, which settled the argument for the rest of them.
Clean, refreshed, and smelling better, they ate and drank but suddenly felt very tired. They arranged their cots in a rough circle thinking they could talk easier that way, with all their heads toward the middle. They did talk for a little while, but Anthony, and Veronica fell asleep almost immediately and Yuwon and Eddy fell asleep holding hands.
Jasmine looked at them and smiled. "He's so happy," Jasmine said. "So am I," Lester said. Jasmine pulled her cot next to Lester's and began to undress.