Gretel woke up to the aroma of roasting meat. Her tummy growled, reminding
her she’d not eaten in a long time. She stretched her body and climbed off
the bed. “Come on, Venec. Come on, Cardew. Something smells good. I’ll bet
you’re hungry too, aren’t you?” The two dragons bumped their tails up and
down. When they went out of the hut, Gretel saw Sindri standing over a
fire in the center of the village watching an animal turning on a spit.
She heard the juices sizzling and splattering in the flames.
“Gretel, you’re awake and just in time for the feast. We’re
celebrating yours and Marti’s arrival. Let’s not forget the safe return of
Gretel liked Sindri. She looked at the woman. A bit on the
plump side, Sindri wore shoulder length brown hair pulled off her face and
tied up in a bun on top of her head. An apron, tied around her waist, hung
to the ground. “Hello, Sindri. That smells good, like bacon.
What is it?” Gretel stared at the animal. A stick poked through its mouth
and came out the other end. At one time it had four legs and hair. A pile
of it, along with its skin, now lay in the dirt next to the fire. Venec
and Cardew sniffed the air.
“It’s taradak. It’s the only meat we eat, except for fish and
things we catch in the sea. It’s quite delicious. I’m brushing bumubi
juice on the outside. It will make a sweet, crunchy crust, but keep the
inside juicy and tender. Are you hungry?”
“I’m starving. The last thing I ate was a yamita. I think
that’s what Quirin called them.”
“We’ve got some yamitas and all sorts of things for you to try
and enjoy. Go and sit at the table with the others. I’ll start putting the
Gretel didn’t want Sindri to do all the work herself. “I’ll
help you, Sindri.”
“Well, that’s quite sweet of you. You can carry those trays of
cardooli and endobin over to the table for me.” Sindri pointed to two
platters, “And don’t forget the brasti honey. Claring just brought some
from the hives yesterday morning. It’s nice and sweet.”
“What’s brasti honey? Do you have bees here?”
“We’ve got cluder bees. They’re much larger than the bees
you’ve seen in Switzerland. They pollinate only the brasti flowers,”
“Cluder bees? That’s the funniest word I’ve ever heard, aside
from brasti flowers. What are brasti flowers anyway?”
“Help me put out the food and later on we’ll go for a walk and
I’ll show you. Everyone’s hungry.” Sindri put another platter down on the
Gretel picked up a plate of flat bread. “This smells good. Is
this the cardooli, or the endobin?”
Sindri grinned. “You do ask a lot of questions. Curiosity's a
good quality. I keep forgetting, you aren’t familiar with many of our
foods. That’s cardooli. The blue carrot-shaped fruits are endobin. They
taste like peach cobbler.”
Gretel carried the platters to the table.
Marti looked at the food cautiously.
“It’s endobin.” Gretel whispered to him, knowing he was as
curious as she’d been. “I think it tastes like peaches, but I’m not sure.
Marti nodded. Gretel sat next to him. Claring sat near Quirin
and Gordinth sat at the head of the table. The dragons sat on the ground
next to Marti, waiting for him to drop some food. After carrying over
dozens of platters, Sindri sat next to her husband.
Claring cut into the taradak. Juices sizzled out along with a
delicious aroma. “Try some of this, Marti. You too, Gretel. You’ll love
it.” He put several slices on their plates and did the same with Sindri’s,
Quirin’s, and Gordinth’s plates. “Help yourselves to the rest.”
Sindri tossed a few slices to the dragons. They devoured them
in one bite. “I think the babies like roasted taradak too. I’ll give them
some more.” She chopped a few slices up and put them in a pile near the
dragon’s feet. She then added some dizban, endobin, and tore a piece of
cardooli into bits for them. After Venec and Cardew started eating, Sindri
Gretel took a piece of cardooli and bit into it. “It does
taste like bread. It’s good. Did you bake it, Sindri?”
“Every morning, dear. I’ve got a wooden cask
filled with ground flour. I’ll show you later.”
Gretel looked up at Sindri. She pointed at a
platter. “What are these?”
“Those are dizban. They look like potatoes, don’t they? They
aren’t. They taste just like lemon cream pies. Try one.”
Gretel scooped a dizban, several endobin, and a slice of
yamita and plopped them on her plate. She looked at the ugnig, not sure if
she wanted it or not.
“That’s ugnig, dear. It tastes a lot like tapioca. It’s sweet
and fruity and gives you a giddy feeling. Would you like a taste?” Gretel
nodded. Sindri put a spoonful on her plate. “If you like it, take more. If
not, just leave it. Nobody on this island has to eat the food on their
plates if they don’t want to.” She giggled and poured herself a glass of
“Marti, will you pour me some of that green stuff? Have you
tried it? Is it good?” Gretel handed her wooden cup to Marti. He poured
the juice into it.
“I think it’s good. It tastes like watermelon,” he said.
“Fill me up then. I love watermelon.”
The feast went on for hours. Venec and Cardew lay next to
Gordinth. He stroked their backs and rubbed their bellies. None of them
noticed the setting sun, too busy laughing, talking and reminiscing. “Oh
my goodness. Look how dark it is. Claring, why don’t you and Marti go and
light some of the torches so we can see each other.”
Claring and Marti stood and went to the storage hut. Claring
brought out several sticks wrapped with pieces of rags sopped with black
oil. Used for torches, he put them on posts standing around the village.
In his other hand he held a piece of stone.
Marti asked, “What’s that? How do you light these things
Claring handed it to Marti. “This is a slabe. All I have to do
is hold it up next to the torch and strike it, like flint, but much
easier. It sends out a flame by hitting it with your fingernail. It works
like a match, but doesn’t get hot and doesn’t need refilled either. Here,
give it a shot.”
Marti held it up and watched in amazement. He struck it with
his fingernail and a flame shot from the slabe to the torch. It burst into
flames and they moved on to the next one. Soon the village lit up, ablaze
with light. Marti and Claring sat down with the others.
Gretel noticed some little flashes of color shining in the
darkness of the night. “What are those?” She pointed to the bugs.
“Those are nutui bugs. Aren’t they adorable? They come in all
colors. My favorites are the pink ones. How about you?” Sindri and Gretel
turned around and watched the bugs.
Gretel smiled. “I like the lime green ones,
but the pink is nice too.”
“They come around every year about this time, especially when
they smell roasted taradak. We throw our leftovers out for them. By the
time they’re finished eating, the poor little things can hardly fly.
Sometimes they have to spend the night on the ground, even though it’s not
safe for them. We catch them and keep them in jars. At night we take the
jars into our huts and they provide us with a soft light so we can get
ready for bed. The next morning we let them go and catch new ones. We
don’t want them to die. They’ve got enough problems avoiding the ractan.”
“What’s a ractan?” Gretel looked at the bugs.
“Ractans are nutui bug eaters. They have long snouts and a
tongue covered in little spikes. They sniff out the nutui bugs and catch
their wings with their tongues. They’re actually called ractans, but nutui
bug eaters sounds sweeter, don’t you think?”
“You’re silly, Sindri. I like you. You make it fun around here
and you’re a good cook.”
Sindri squeezed Gretel’s hand. “That’s nice of you to say. I
like you too.” She bent over and kissed the top of Gretel’s head.
Gordinth, who’d spent the entire meal talking to Quirin said,
“Gretel, Quirin just told me you’d enjoy seeing Jago and Rosenwyn.”
Gretel looked at Quirin, thinking Gordinth meant the little
dragons that were missing. “He means the big Jago and Rosenwyn. Would you
like to meet them?” Quirin explained, so she wasn’t confused.
“Wow! Yes, I’d love to meet big dragons. I’ve seen Zara, but
she’s not real, so yes, can I please?” Gretel jumped up and down.
“You go off with Gordinth and Quirin. Marti, Claring and I
will clean up,” Sindri said.
Gretel slipped off her chair and ran to Quirin. He took her
Gordinth walked along side of them. “We must approach them
slowly. Don’t make any loud noises or run at them. Stay close to Quirin
and me until I tell you it’s all right.”
“I won’t. Don’t worry. First of all, I’m too full to run and
second of all, I’m not about to run into a dragon cave screaming and
shouting, especially when the dragons are fire-breathing dragons.”