Deltora Quest #1: The Forests of Silence

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Authors: Emily Rodda
the road.
    But no insects were to be seen. Only the dark green of the leaves. And the eyes, watching. And the sound, which grew louder and louder with every step they took, so that soon their heads were filled with it, and their ears began to ache and ring.
    And still the sound rose — high, piercing, unbearable. Desperate to shut it out, they clapped their hands to their ears and bent their heads against it, walking fast, faster — breaking into a run. Their feet thudded on the endless path, their breath came hard and panting, their hearts beat like thunder. But they were aware of nothing — nothing but the pain of the sound that rose and rose, piercing their brains, driving out every thought.
    They ran, weaving and stumbling, desperate to escape it. But there was no escape. They cried out forhelp. But they could not even hear their own voices. Finally they fell, exhausted, to lie writhing, helpless in the dust.
    The sound rose to an agonizing wail of triumph. The leaves thrashed and rustled. A host of pale, lanky creatures with hot red eyes scuttled towards them.
    And, in moments, they were covered.

    Lief woke slowly, with no idea of where he was, or how much time had passed. There was a dull ringing in his ears. His throat was raw. Every muscle in his body was aching.
    I am alive, he thought, with dull surprise. How is it that I am alive?
    He struggled to think, though his brain seemed clouded by a thick fog.
    The last he remembered was running with Barda along the Wenn Del path, his head almost bursting with sound. After that there was only blankness.
    Or was there? He seemed to remember a dream. A dream of needle-sharp, stinging pains all over his body. A dream of being poked and prodded by thin, hard fingers. A dream of being carried, jolting, on bony shoulders. A dream of shrill tittering and muttering, while night turned into day and day to night again.
    A terrible dream. But … had it been a dream? Or had it been real? Had it all been real?
    He was lying on his back. Light slanted through branches high above him. It is day now, then, Liefthought drowsily. Late afternoon, by the look of it. But which afternoon? How long have I been unconscious? And where am I?
    He heard a groan nearby. He tried to turn his head. And it was only then that he realized that he could not move.
    Panic seized him. He tried to lift his hands, move his feet. But he could not even twitch a finger.
    How could they have bound me so completely? he thought stupidly.
    And slowly, horribly the answer came to him. He was not tied up at all. His body was simply refusing to move at his will.
    “What — has happened?” he cried aloud in terror.
    “They stung us — as wasps sting caterpillars, as spiders sting flies.” Barda’s voice was thick and slow, but Lief recognized it. He realized that it was Barda who had groaned. Barda was lying near to him. Barda was as helpless as he was.
    “The creatures have paralyzed us so that we still live, but cannot move,” Barda’s voice went on. “They will be back, and then they will feast.”
    Again he groaned. “We were fools to ignore the warning sign. I am to blame. I could not imagine a weapon we could not fight. But that sound! No one could stand against it. I cannot understand why the Guards in Del did not speak of it.”
    “Perhaps they did not know. Perhaps no one who has ever heard the sound has lived to tell of it,” said Lief.
    “Lief — I have led you to your death!”
    Lief licked his dry lips. “It is not your fault. We took the road together. And we are not dead yet! Barda — where are we?”
    The answer came even more slowly than before, and when it came it filled Lief’s heart with dread. “They carried us a long way,” Barda said weakly. “I think — I think we are in the Forests of Silence.”
    Lief closed his eyes, trying to fight the wave of despair that was sweeping over him. And then a thought came to him.
    “Why?” he asked. “Why bring us here, to a place so

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