Ned decided to leave the Foijen one bright morning and adventured toward the edge of Ragged Wood, close to the village. He heard noises and dropped to one knee. Boys were shouting. The commotion came from a meadow so Ned moved in silence to the tree line and watched. He was invisible to the outside world. Four boys were arguing and it was all kicking off. By the look of it, three boys were picking on one. Ned listened.
“Well, my Dad says we’re just as good as you lot.” It was Gobba Gronk and he had two big kids either side. “You’ve no right to look down on us.” He pushed the other boy in the chest.
“I… I don’t. I’ve never even seen you before.”
“Look at you in your fancy clothes. I bet you’ve got money stuffed in your pockets.”
“I don’t have anything. Leave… just leave me be.”
“Let’s get him!” Gobba squealed. The boys moved menacingly in.
Ned picked an acorn from the forest floor and fed it into his catapult. Drawing an arm back, he held his breath and waited to steady his aim. The acorn launched through a gap in the branches and smacked against Gobba’s forehead.
“Owww!! You hit me!” He spluttered.
“I never touched you… honest,” the other boy said.
Gobba glared at him and clenched a fist. Ned broke cover and emerged, phantom-like from the trees. He was in full camouflage with fern and oak-leafed twigs tied to green clothing. His face was obscured with cloth and leaves.
“Like he said, leave him be.”
Gronk’s eyes widened. “What… Who are you?”
“Just walk away and you won’t get hurt,” Ned replied.
Gobba was angry. “Really? Three against one and you want us to retreat?” He stepped forward with his side-kicks. “What’re you going to do, twig boy?”
But Ned would not back down. He pulled a stone from his pouch, loaded the catapult, raised it and cocked his right arm.
“Let’s rush him,” Gobba whispered to his gang. “He can’t get all three of us with that thing.”