...The deer stepped out into the clearing. She had a dappled honey brown coat and delicate features; she walked daintily past them to the water's edge and lowered her head to sip the water.
“Oh wow,” said Max quietly, “this is such a cool place.”
Burly nodded his head and smiled. “It certainly is,” he replied. “Now, I think we should just carry on but be just a bit quiet so we don’t frighten her.”
They continued their picnic. “Here,” said Max, “do you want a peanut butter sandwich Burly, mum always makes way too many.”
Burly sniffed it with his snout and popped it in his mouth. “Mmmm, good,” he mumbled, “crunchy.”
“The only way to go,” said Max. “Smooth peanut butter is rubbish.”
The deer finished drinking and shook her head. Drops of water plinked into the river.
“She's beautiful,” said Max.
“Why thank you,” replied the deer.
Max dropped his sandwich. “She.... it... just spoke...”
Grum sniggered. “Any reason why she shouldn't? You've been talking to a bear and groblin for a few weeks now.”
“I suppose you’ve got a point,” muttered Max picking up his sandwich and flicking off the bits of dirt. “Why was I even surprised?”
The deer walked daintily towards them. “Hello,” she said and lifted her nose to sniff the air. “Are those peanut butter sandwiches you're eating? They smell good.”
“Here you can have one,” offered Max.
“Smooth or crunchy?”
“Ah, thank you, but I prefer smooth.”
Burly laughed out loud at the expression on Max’s face.
“You want some crispy fried earwigs instead?” asked Grum.
The deer flicked her ears and looked around. “I must be going,” she said politely. “Good day,” and she disappeared quietly into the wood.
“Wow,” said Max, “that was really cool. And odd. Cool and odd. And weird.”
“The forest,” said Burly, “is all those things, now come on you two, let’s get looking for something to take back for Mike.” ....
Max felt his heart beating wildly and he hurried along next to Burly who was moving quickly through the forest. Grum sprang into action and tried to cover up the fact a bear that weighed a ton and was the size of a small house had walked that way. “Give me the easy job why don’t you,” he muttered as he looked at the trail of broken branches and squashed vegetation behind them.
Burly was thinking hard as he walked. It was only a matter of time before the hunters found their tracks and he had to get Max and Grum to safety. He made a decision and stopped.
“Grum,” he called.
Grum’s face appeared behind a bush he’d been trying to make look natural. “What?” he asked tetchily holding large pieces of broken branch in each hand.
“The hunters,” said Burly. “They’re after me, not you. We got to split up - take Max back to groblin territory and then make sure he gets home safely, and I’ll lead them away. Do you understand?”
Max’s eyes immediately filled with tears. “No Burly! You can’t do that! We’ll come with you, we’ll lose them somehow!”
Burly looked at the trampled vegetation behind him and knew it was just a question of time. “Max,” he said gently. “Max, you have to do what I say. I’ll be alright I promise. You both promised you would do as I asked, now I’m asking you to leave. Grum, take Max.”
Grum’s face was pale, but he took Max’s arm.
“No!” shouted Max and held on to Burly’s fur.
“Max, I can move faster, I’ll stand a better chance without you, do you understand?”
Max wiped his nose. “Oh Burly...”
“Come on,” said Grum, tugging Max’s arm. “We’ve got to go. Good luck Burly.” Grum turned quickly so Burly couldn’t see that he, too, was close to tears...