Anthony, followed by Veronica, Eddy, Yuwon, Jasmine and Lester began the climb up the stone slide.
"Hold on to each other," Lester called from back.
"Good idea," Jasmine said. "That way if anyone falls, we all will."
But she took hold of Yuwon and she didn't mind Lester holding on to her.
It was much harder climbing the pile than it had been coming down it. They had to keep stopping as one or the other of them lost their footing. But at last Anthony reached the little flat area at the top and helped the others the last few feet. Lester had just helped Jasmine make the last step and was himself stepping onto the flat ground when they heard gunfire, lots of gunfire. They all took out their guns and ran for the opening.
"It's raining Nebers!" Anthony said when he reached the outside.
"What!?" the others all asked in unison.
"Being careful not to push Anthony off the little ledge, they all crowded to the opening to see the last of the dead Nebers tumble down the cliff wall."
Anthony looked up cautiously not knowing what he'd see and was ready to shoot the first Neber he saw, but what he saw were the faces of Terry and ToyLin peering over the side.
"It's them," he heard the two women shout, and suddenly the faces of Marten, Franklin and Donald Nast joined those of the women staring down at them.
"Get the ropes," Marten instructed.
From the day the children began their mission, Marten, Terry, and ToyLin had been preparing for their return. They, like the children, understood they couldn't just suddenly show up. There was also the thessaline that would have to be kept undetected but still available for ToyLin.
The ropes were just one part of the plan to get the children away as quickly as possible. It was a little crowded in Terry's van when they were all safely pulled up and had clamored in. They were being hugged and welcomed as they came over the edge of the cliff, but Marten insisted they put that off and get started immediately.
It was a good thing too, because three Forbidder Agency trucks passed them as they were leaving, obviously on the way to the cliff.
"I'd love to see the looks on their faces when they see all those dead Nebers," Jasmine said, grinning.
"It should smell pretty good around there in a couple if days too," Eddy said.
They were headed for a farm a few miles outside Plemberton. The farm belonged to old friends of ToyLin, Quanlo Nuck, and his wife Kimlee, from Lechakotet.
When the van pulled into the barn and the door was shut, everyone climbed out.
"Yuck!" Yuwon said. "Looks like a Shealist temple," when she had exited the van.
"Remind you of anything?" Lester asked Jasmine.
"It looks just like the inside of that horrid temple we explored," Jasmine said.
Quanlo and Kimlee were helping them out of the van and welcoming them. When Yuwon made her comment Quanlo laughed, "it is pretty disgusting, isn't it. But it serves two purposes. It reminds us of what we escaped from and it serves to hide the fact we are Nochose if anyone comes around snooping."
Like many from Lechakotet, the Nuck's were small people but boundless in energy, activity, and humor. They were always smiling, and the children instantly adored them.
There was a large room like a dormitory with showers and places for the children to clean up. "You'll want to get refreshed," Kimlee said. "Come over to the house whenever you are ready."
Before leaving Marten retrieved the bags of thessaline from each of the children and put them into a small insulated steel can. Before handing it to Quanlo, he took one of the packets from one of the bags and handed it to ToyLin. She took it and looked adoringly at Marten. "Thank you, she said softly."
Then Quanlo sealed the can and took it to another part of the barn where he hid it in a false well.
Though exhausted, when the children felt sufficiently refreshed they made there way to the house. "I just want to go back and go to sleep," Yuwon said to Eddy.
"Me too," Eddy and Jasmine said in unison.
The house was a typical old farm house of that area, sprawling huge rooms, an enormous kitchen which spread into the dining area with the sturdy old table in the center. There were drinks and snacks available.
When everyone was seated, ToyLin stood.
"I just want to say think you to everyone and how happy I am you are all back. I will usually do this in private, but I want to share this with you, because you have saved my life."
Kimlee handed ToyLin a small glass with warmed rice wine. ToyLin took one of the packets of thessaline and poured the powder into the wine. She lifted the glass and said "rootaba!" Then added, "No more pain," and drank.
There would be no more ceremony. Everyone stood and those who were leaving embraced the children, welcoming them home again. When Marten, Terry, ToyLin, Franklin and Donald Nast had left, Quanlo and Kimlee told the children to sleep as long as they wanted and to come to the house for breakfast whenever they were ready.