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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Two - Arbutel - Chapter 30


          The huge dragons stood at the entrance to a cave. “Wow. This cave is much bigger than the one at Marti’s cottage. It doesn’t have any stalagmites, or toys and there aren’t any sparkles, but it’s big!” Jago’s purple skin, scaly and rough, showed signs of age. Patches of faded color and scars from old wounds brought a gasp of sorrow to Gretel’s mouth. She looked at Rosenwyn. The black dragon’s hide didn’t look much better than Jago’s. Gretel stayed next to Quirin.

          The dragons lowered their heads for a better look at her. They blew tiny puffs of smoke from their nostrils.

         “The dragons are tall. They must be fifty feet high.” Gretel saw they filled up most of the cave’s entrance.

We won’t harm you. Come closer.

Thoughts flashed into Gretel’s head.

 Don’t fear us, little dragonkeeper. 

Gretel pulled her hand out of Quirins and walked up to the dragons.

You’re the daughter of Astrid and Reyka.

Gretel knew Rosenwyn’s words echoed sincerity and a fondness for her parents.

“Yes, I’m Gretel. I’m pleased to meet you both. Can I touch you? I’ve never felt a real big dragon before?” She looked at the black dragon. “Your eyes are pretty. They are golden and shiny and glow. Do you have fire inside of you that makes that happen?”

No, we don’t have fire inside of us. The glow you see is just the way dragon’s eyes are. You may touch any part of us all you want, but you’ll find we feel the same as the little ones. Go ahead and see for yourself.

Gretel stroked Rosenwyn’s scaly hide. “Wow, that feels weird. Most of your scales are shiny, but some of them are dull, almost gray.”

          That comes with age, little one. Jago and I have been around for a long time. We’ve seen and done many things. We loved your mother and father very much. We would not be here if it hadn’t been for them. We’re glad you are here with us now.

          Gretel lifted the tip of Rosenwyn’s tail. Jago watched in amusement as she explored the dragon. “Can I touch you, Jago? I know you probably feel the same, but touching you makes you more real. Your spikes are huge and pointy.”

Of course you may touch me. The only difference between the two of us is that Rosenwyn has horns and I do not. I do admit to having a few more battle scars than she, but Rosenwyn’s a much better flyer than I. The spikes aren’t as pointed as they used to be. Again, old age takes care of that.

          Gretel stroked his foot and examined his huge claws. “They’re quite sharp, but I’m not afraid.”

A brave little girl, that’s what you are. Did you bring our babies? We’ve waited a long time to see our descendants. Did they come with you?  Rosenwyn’s thoughts went into Quirin’s mind too.

          Quirin shook his head back and forth. “I’m afraid there’s been a problem. Darmantha and his sidekicks, Jorna and Provan kidnapped them. I was just telling Gordinth that I thought the babies were here, on Arbutel, right now. I fear Darmantha’s planning a ritual sacrifice, but he won’t do it until he has all of the dragons.  His hatred  hasn’t diminished over time. Don’t worry. We’ll get them back. That is certain.”

           Gretel said, “I love the babies.” Her voice, higher pitched with excitement said, “Venec and Cardew are here. They’re back at camp. Darmantha didn’t get them, but he almost did. They escaped. We’ll bring them to you later. They’re eating right now. Did you know they loved sausages from William the Butcher’s shop? Marti fed them a lot of chocolate. They like yamitas too. You should have seen them eat during our feast.”

You talk many words, little one. We sense your love for our babies and are happy to hear they enjoy eating. Quirin, please find them, all of them. Bring Cardew and Venec to us. Having little ones near us will add years to our life. Their energy forces will spill over into ours. Jago blew a cloudy puff of smoke out of his nose, frightening Gretel.

“Please don’t burn me with your smoke and fire,” Gretel said.

Don’t worry. I don’t use fire unless I have to. That was only a little snort of smoke. It’s a sign of affection, or concern. Jago explained, hoping to calm the girl.

“How do you make fire anyway? If you don’t have it inside of you, where does it come from?” Gretel tipped her head to the side and looked at Jago’s belly.

The dragon ways are too complicated for you to understand right now, little one. Let’s just say that the fire is made through a combination of many things all coming together inside of us at once.  

Gretel nodded.

           “There is one more problem. The babies, Jago and Rosenwyn, are lost. They escaped and flew off. Marti, Gretel and Crispin were unable to find them,” Quirin said.

           “It was my fault, mine and Crispin. He’s my friend. We let all the babies out of Marti’s cave and they flew away. Marti helped us find most of them at the baker’s and butcher’s and chocolatier’s shops, but Jago and Rosenwyn disappeared somewhere. We came here and left them behind. Maybe Crispin will find them.” Gretel struggled to explain.

Jago closed his eyes. When he opened them again a few moments later, a tear rolled down his leathery cheek. Little Jago and Rosenwyn are on this island, along with your friend, Crispin. I sense their presence. There is trouble though. Crispin and the two babies have been captured by Darmantha. Rosenwyn glanced at Jago.

           “What? They’re here? We must go and find them. When the sun rises, we shall begin our search. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we must go back to Luba. Gretel can bring Venec and Cardew in the morning. Good night.” Quirin took the silent Gordinth by the elbow and led him back to the village.

           “Goodbye Jago and Rosenwyn. I’ll come back soon with the babies. Thanks for letting me touch you.” Gretel waved and ran to catch up with Quirin and Gordinth.


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