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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part One - The Dragonslayers - Chapter 2

Both Gretel and Crispin ran to the bed and pulled the quilt over their heads. “I hear noises out there and they don’t sound like spider noises. Spiders don’t screech and make flapping sounds. There are probably a million bats flying around in here!” Gretel held her shirt tight at the collar in case any of them tried to crawl down her back. “No wonder there’s a sign on the door.”

“I’m going to look.” Finding courage, Crispin peeked out. “Wow! These are definitely not bats and they’re not spiders. They’re dragons! At least I think they’re dragons. I’ve never seen a dragon before, so I’m not sure, but they look like dragons. Some are purple and look like big, juicy grapes. Some are blue; some are red, green, and black. There are brown ones too. They’re about the size of my arm and their skin is covered with shiny scales. Cool, Gretel. Wings! They've got wings made of thin leather. Some of them have horns and others don’t.”

Gretel didn’t dare look, even though she heard the sound of wings flapping. 

“Leather? Dragons? Are you sure they’re not bats? They can’t be dragons. Dragons are huge and could burn this cottage down with one breath.”

“They’re small dragons.” Crispin tossed the blanket off him and stood among the buzzing creatures. “They’ve got fat bellies. It’s a good thing Marti keeps the windows and doors shut.” Several of them swooped down and landed on the plate of butter. Another pulled the cloth from the cheese and bread, tore pieces off with its claws and gobbled them up. A purple dragon knocked the cowbells over. They fell to the floor with a loud clang. “Gretel, come out from under the quilt and see. I can’t believe they’re eating Marti’s bread and butter and cheese. They’re sort of cute and don’t look dangerous to me.”

            Gretel peeked out and saw the creatures flying around the cottage. “Oh my! They are cute.” Her fear disappeared. “I don’t think they’ll hurt us.” A red dragon landed next to Gretel, nudging her hand, looking for food. “I don’t have any food in my hand, little dragon, but you look like you’re a nice dragon. Can I pet you?” She moved her hand to stroke the dragon’s back. “You’ve got two little horns and a row of stubby spikes down the middle of your back. And look at your tail! How adorable. Your scales are shiny and rough and you look like a big strawberry.”

            A gust of wind rattled the cottage, blowing the back window of the cottage wide open. Some of the dragons jumped with fright; others scattered under the table.

            Gretel fell backwards on the bed and Crispin leaped three inches into the air.

The wooden-bordered panes of glass flew inward and banged against the walls. When the dragons heard the bumping and spotted the open window they fought each other, trying to find space to fly out.

Gretel reached for the red dragon's tail. One moment it sat on the bed next to her and the next moment it dashed toward the open window. The room emptied within minutes leaving both of them standing in silence. “Marti is going to be so mad.” She ran over to the window and stuck her head out. “Where do you think they went?”

“I don’t know, but we’d better try and get them back.” Crispin ran outside and watched as the dragons disappeared over the hill into the other valley. “They’re gone, all of them. We are in big trouble.”

            Gretel stood near the door, rubbing her chin. “Why does Marti have dragons in his closet anyway? I didn’t know there was such a thing as dragons, except in fairy tales.” She looked toward the village.

            “I have a bad feeling we’re going to find out real soon.” Crispin collapsed on the grass.

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