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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Two - Arbutel - Chapter 16

            Crispin knocked until his knuckles bled. Nobody answered. The doorknob wouldn't move. “Where are you guys?” Walking around to the window, he peeked inside. “There’s nobody in there. Where did they go?” Crispin ran to the shed only to find the door already open. Heidi lifted her head and looked at him. “Heidi, you’re here. Do you know where Marti went?” The cow ignored him and continued eating the hay. Crispin shut the door and went back to the cottage. “I guess I’ll have to break in.” A stacked pile of firewood near the back window offered a way to climb inside. Relief came when he discovered the window unlocked.

            Sliding one leg through, Crispin slipped inside the cottage. Quietness cocooned him. He saw the note on the table, sitting next to a loaf of bread and a block of cheese. “What’s this?” Lifting it up, he saw his name and read out loud.

“Dear Crispin,

Quirin, Gretel, and I have gone to Arbutel. We left tonight and hope to be to the cave at the top of the mountains by morning. Don’t come looking for us. It’s too dangerous for you, my boy. Take care of Heidi for me. Find her a good home. I’m sorry we had to do it this way, but it’s for your own safety. Come by the cottage now and then and make sure everything’s all right, will you? Again, we’re all sorry.


            “I can’t believe they left without me. They tricked me.” He sat at the table and laid his head in his arms. “Why did they go without me? They need me. Well, I’m going to go and find them! They need me, even if they don’t know it.” Crispin went out to the shed and grabbed hold of Heidi’s rope. “Come on, girl. I’m taking you to my house.” Pulling her along, he forced her to walk faster than she really wanted to. The two of them went to Crispin’s house, where he immediately took her to the barn and spread out a pile of hay. Feeling a pencil deep in the bottom of his pocket, he pulled it out, thankful it was still there. An old paper bag was just what he needed to scribble a note on before nailing it to a wooden beam near Heidi. “I hope my parents understand,” he said, petting Heidi. “I’m off to find Marti and Gretel. You stay here, Heidi and give my family lots of milk. They need it.” After wrapping his arms around her neck, he ran off. “Someone will come to milk you soon.”

            Crispin stopped at Marti’s cottage one last time. He opened the chest at the bottom of the bed and pulled out a pair of gloves, a scarf and woolen hat. When he opened the door to Marti’s pantry, he was surprised to see all the food and started pocketing everything. “They must have had a party after I left.” Wrapping the loaf of bread and block of cheese up in a towel, he shoved them into his pack that he’d brought from home. With a tear in his eye, he locked the door to the cottage behind him and headed in the direction of the mountains. “I’m going to find you. I belong with you. You’ll see!”

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