Quirin sighed and then explained the story to Marti and Crispin. “Long ago
many dragons wandered this land. They were peaceful creatures and
magnificent too. I can still see them now; the bluest of sapphire blue,
crimson red, emerald green, brilliant purple, brown as the earth after a
rainstorm, and black as obsidian glass. Their radiant scales shimmered.
Never has there been anything as magnificent.
“It all started with a man named Jarltor. He was known in the
village as the greatest bear hunter in the country. One day in the spring,
he went hunting. By accident, he came upon a female dragon, Dewmist. She’d
just laid two eggs. Most dragons lay one egg at a time. Laying two meant
twin dragons. That’s a rare thing. She was as red as the rarest ruby. I
knew her well. No other dragon had horns like hers. They spiraled up from
her head for about an arms length.” He held up one of his arms. “She lay
sleeping, exhausted after her ordeal, the eggs close by. While she slept,
Jarltor crept into her cave. Instead of searching further for a bear, he
decided to kill her, cutting out her still beating heart. After he
butchered Dewmist, he picked up the eggs and threw them over the cliff
onto the rocks below, shattering their clear, glass-like shells. Dragon
eggs glow. I’m sure he thought there might be a diamond inside. The babies
died, of course.
“He tied pieces of the dragon, her head and
tail, to his sleigh and pulled it down the mountainside and into the
village. When the people first saw what he’d done, they were horrified.
Jarltor mocked them and built a roaring fire. He roasted her parts right
in the village square and then had the nerve to invite all to partake. A
few hesitated, but after one or two tasted her meat, the other villagers
decided to try it.
“Some of them were furious and found it barbaric and unnatural
to kill a dragon. Some were frightened of the dragon’s revenge. Most were
happier than upset and soon dragon hunting became a sport. Fear of the
dragons seemed to have disappeared once they discovered the creatures were
mortal, just like them. But, it was only the beginning. The dragons, after
finding the remains of Dewmist’s carcass and the broken eggs, went on a
rampage. They fought back. Never needing to use their fire before, they
attacked the villagers, breathing flames and even roasting a few. They
sliced open a few bellies with their sharp claws, but only for
“When the villagers found the bodies of their friends and family, they
went to King Dinth. That’s when he formed a group of five dragonslayers.
They swore oaths of commitment and their sole purpose of being from that
moment on was to spend their lives hunting and killing every living dragon
in the land. Five of us, under the direction of the wizard, Gordinth, were
appalled by the massacre. We formed a group of dragonkeepers and we vowed
to save the eggs. We knew we couldn’t do anything to stop them from
slaughtering the dragons. Darmantha and the others beat us to them. Though
it took many months, we gathered every egg we could find and you know the
rest of the story.”
“Wow!” Fascinated, Crispin wanted Quirin to continue. “Where’s
“He left after our group formed, feeling sure we could handle
the job, and returned to his homeland, Arbutel, where there are two living
dragons named Jago and Rosenwyn. Yes, little Jago and Rosenwyn are their
eggs and another set of twins. There is more. Marti, you know your parents
as Anika and Rolph. They are known to me as Sindri and Claring and they
are two of the dragonkeepers. When we felt all the eggs had been gathered,
we five agreed to hide them. Astrid and Reyka, Gretel’s real parents, were
dragonkeepers, along with myself and your parents.”
“What do you mean Gretel’s real parents? You mean Erika and
Jules aren’t really her parents?” Crispin couldn’t believe what he was
hearing. “They weren’t lying.”
“No. Darmantha killed her real parents a few months after she
was born, before they came to your village. The ones you know as her
parents are really Jorna and Provan, two dragonslayers who’ve pretended
all these years to be her mother and father.” Quirin turned to Crispin.
“You surely heard them talking to each other in the cave, calling each
other by their real names?”
Marti, caught up in the conversation, tried to
understand fully. “You mean my parents are dragonkeepers and they are
alive? They knew all about the dragons?”
“Yes, Marti. They didn’t die in an accident. They left here
and went to Arbutel and are waiting for us there. We were supposed to take
the baby dragons to them tonight. After this long, we thought it would be
a safe haven for them. Now, I’m not so sure. Darmantha knows too much.
You’re mother and father will be wondering what has happened.” Quirin
watched Marti’s expression. “You, Marti, are the son of dragonkeepers. You
will live for a thousand years, as your parents are doing. You are also
endowed with special powers. You’ve not yet discovered them, but soon
will. When we see your mother and father, you will understand more, but
know this; I left the dragons with you for so long, just for that reason
alone. I knew, as the son of dragonkeepers, that you needed the experience
and training. It wasn’t easy for your parents to stay away, but I
convinced them it was for your best interest.”
“I can't believe all of this. Mother and Father are alive and
I'm going to live 1000 years?” Marti shook his head back and forth in
“Wow, Marti. You’re a dragonkeeper too. That means Gretel is
also a dragonkeeper because her real mom and dad were. Is that right,
Quirin?” Crispin’s curiosity and enthusiasm overflowed. “Why did you leave
Gretel with those bad people after her mom and dad were killed?”
“That’s another difficult decision we needed to make. We
discussed it and knew that Gretel was safe and that it would do her good
to be raised by non-wizards, at least for a while. Jorna and Provan aren’t
wizards. They never had the qualifications or dedication to be chosen.
We’ve kept our eye on her. Yes, Jorna and Provan weren’t the best of
parents, but they didn’t abuse her, or harm her in anyway. Had they, we’d
have immediately taken her. They knew she was the daughter of
dragonkeepers and that she’d come in handy some day. You see, Crispin,
being a dragonkeeper requires many strengths. Gretel’s younger years with
them helped her to grow in certain ways. I know it sounds like a poor
excuse, but someday you’ll understand.” Quirin gazed at the boy.
Crispin seemed accepted Quirin’s explanation.
“We’ve got to save Gretel from that bad guy. What’s his name again?”
Quirin responded. “Darmantha, and yes, we need to get Gretel
and the two missing dragons back as soon as possible.”
“What about Jago and Rosenwyn?” Marti remembered the missing
“The good thing is that Jorna, Provan, and Darmantha don’t
know about those two. We’ll have to act quickly, before they do find out.
Now that Darmantha has Gretel captive, it won’t be long until he knows.”
“What happened to the other two dragonslayers?” Crispin
“Their names were Pril and Festi. They died. I killed them.
That’s another story for another day.” Quirin didn’t want to explain any
further and stood up. “Come on. I know it’s a blizzard out there, but
we’ve got to find Gretel. I think I know where she is.”
* * *
Gretel, afraid to move, watched Darmantha. He lay asleep, curled up in a
ball like a black cat. Snores erupted from his nose and mouth. For a
moment, Gretel thought she might giggle. “He sounds like Mr. Tobler’s
pigs.” She whispered to the two dragons. They looked over at Darmantha.
She closed her eyes, concentrating. You understand what I’m saying?
Venec’s tongue darted out of his mouth, dragging it along her arm. You do
understand! You can read my mind. Which one are you?
Venec sent his thoughts to Gretel. I’m Venec.
That’s Cardew. We’ll help you get out of here. We need to get away from
here and warn Marti.
The blue dragon added, Stay here while Venec
and I find a way out.
Gretel nodded her head. She understood.
The two dragon babies went over to the
chimney. A cold draft blasted down from outside. They pulled back in
“Go on,” Gretel whispered and shooshed them
on with her hands.
Cardew stretched his wings. Gretel hoped his
torn wing wouldn’t prevent him from escaping. He flapped it up and down a
few times. It seemed to be working well. The dragon peered at Darmantha
and then flew up the chimney. Venec followed, his brown body disappearing
into the sooty hole. They flew out through the top and into the night air.
The snow still fell, but not at the rate it did before. Smaller flakes
brushed against them as they hurried toward Marti’s cottage.
Relieved, Gretel stood and went to the window.
She watched the dragons fly away. Darmantha’s snores continued.
Exhausted, she sat on the floor and laid her head against the wall. Soon
she joined the dragonslayer in sleep.