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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part One - The Dragonslayers - Chapter 10

            “Where did they go? They just disappeared, like magic. Is he going to hurt Gretel?” Crispin shivered.

            “I don’t know where they went, Crispin. This is all very upsetting. I have no idea how to get hold of Quirin. I’ve been trying for seventy years. We’d better go to the cottage and warm up. A heavy snow is coming down. Besides that, Jago and Rosenwyn are still out there somewhere.” Marti pulled Crispin along, heading back to the cottage. “We’ve still got the upper hand. I don’t think he has any idea that we have the rest of the dragons.”

            “But what about Gretel? Where did he take her?”

            “I don’t know, boy. I can’t think straight. We must get to my cottage.” They marched through the snow in silence. The cottage, filled with warmth, welcomed them home. Marti lit a fire and it roared to life in the fireplace. He put a kettle of water on to boil. “We’ll have some tea with edelweiss honey to warm us up and then you need to go home. You’ll be safe there. Don’t say a word to anyone, no matter what. I need you to do something.”


            “On your way home, stop at Gretel’s cottage and tell her parents they must come here immediately. You go home after that and stay there. Do you understand?” Crispin nodded. “Now, about that tea.”

            Marti hung their wet clothes on a line in front of the fire. As they dried off, the two of them sipped their tea. When the time came for Crispin to leave, Marti helped him put on his scarf, gloves and hat. “Go quickly, young man. I’ll need their help.” Marti shut the door behind him.

            An hour later, a knock on the door alerted Marti of his expected visitor’s arrival. He opened the door and gasped, surprised to see a lone man.

            “Well, are you going to make me stay out here and freeze all night or are you going to invite me in?  By the way, I’m Quirin. Remember me?” The wizard walked into the cottage like he owned it. He brushed the snow off his velvety, pine green cape. “I never did like the snow.”

            “Quirin, the wizard? I haven’t seen you since I was a lad. I’m glad you’re here.” Wondering if he’d heard about the missing dragons, Marti asked in a somewhat agitated voice, “Why are you here anyway?”

Quirin removed a tall pointed cap. The embroidered moons and stars twinkled under the flickering flames of the fire.  His waist-long gray hair, soaked from the falling snow, dripped in the warmth of the cabin. Water splattered on Marti’s floor. Quirin walked over to the fire and rubbed his hands together.

“That’s an interesting cap you have there.” Marti picked it up and touched the symbols. “I don’t remember this. These aren’t embroidered; they’re woven into the fabric. Each radiates a soft electrical current, almost like they were alive. Curious.”

 Ignoring Marti’s comments, the wizard said, “I’m here to collect the dragons. I found a safe haven for them where they can grow up without fearing man.”

“And it only took you seventy years? Where have you been? You left me to care for these dragons and then abandoned me.” Marti's face was red with anger.

Quirin took the cap from Marti’s grasp and put it on the table. “I should have come back years ago for them, but…well…there’s a reason that I didn’t. Someday I’ll explain it to you, Marti.”

“Someday? Someday? You leave us here for seventy years to take care of the dragons and then you just waltz in during one of the worst storms in history? I suppose you know nothing of the stranger who just kidnapped Gretel.”

“Stranger? Gretel? What are you talking about? You’re not talking about Gretel, the girl from Lachmund?”

“Yes, Gretel. She and Crispin, a village boy, are friends. How do you know Gretel?”

“I know of Gretel. That bread smells good,” Quirin said, changing the subject.

“It tastes good too. I’ll feed you, but then we need to talk.” Marti picked up a knife and cut a few slices of bread, buttered them and spread orange marmalade on each piece. He handed the plate of food to Quirin. “Have this for now. I’ve got a hot loaf baking in the oven. Let’s warm you up first. Would you like some tea, or perhaps a drink of milk? I milked Heidi this morning.”

“I’ve not had fresh milk for many years, at least not cow’s milk; at least I presume Heidi is your cow.”

Marti replied, “Heidi’s out in the shed and yes, she’s a cow.”

Quirin said, “Well, all right. In that case I’ll have some.”

Marti poured the creamy liquid into a wooden cup. “I think I’d better tell you what’s been going on here during your absence and then I demand an explanation from you.”

            “I am curious about this stranger you mentioned. Go on.” Quirin listened as Marti told him of the day’s events, from the time the children showed up and released the dragons to Gretel’s capture. “Darmantha.” Quirin muttered. “He’s back. I should have expected it. You say the dragons are safe?”

            “Darmantha, if that’s what you call him, took two of the dragons along with little Gretel. Another two are still missing, Jago and Rosenwyn. I’ve no idea where they are. Darmantha doesn’t know the other dragons are here. He thinks I only had the two and doesn’t know about Jago or Rosenwyn either.” Marti sighed.

            “Jago and Rosenwyn? They’re missing?” Quirin’s eyebrows arched in surprise. Marti nodded. “That’s interesting.” After finishing off the bread and milk, Quirin stood. “May I see the dragons?”  He saw the sign on the door and shook his head. “I see now why the boy wanted to open the door. What better invitation to a child than to forbid him from doing something.”

            Marti’s face reddened with embarrassment. He pulled the sign off the door and threw it on the floor. “I’m much too old to be reprimanded,” he mumbled. “Of course you can see the dragons, but what about Gretel and the others? You don’t seem too concerned.”

            Quirin winked. “On the contrary, I’m quite concerned. Gretel will be fine, for now. Let me see the dragons first and then I’ll tell you everything.”

            Marti opened the door and they stepped inside, closing it behind them. After going down the long flight of slippery steps, they came into the cavern. Quirin smiled with delight at the sight of the baby dragons flying all around. “They’re beautiful. They were just eggs when I left them here. Look at them now. I knew each and every one of their parents. You’ve done well, Marti.” The dragons landed around him. When he called each one by name, they came to him, showing no fear, like they’d known him all their lives. “The two that Darmantha took are Venec and Cardew, both males.”  Quirin stood in silence. A tear trickled down his cheek. “To see these magnificent creatures so alive and thriving brings me great joy. It seems like so long ago when I witnessed all their parents being slaughtered by humans, with little I could do to stop them. The only hope for their survival was to get to the eggs before Darmantha and the others did. Looking at these younglings makes me want to rejoice.” He walked among the dragons, stroking them, talking to them, holding them, and carrying them in his arms. “Ah, I see Zara’s still here. Good.”

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