Toast opened her eyes. Sitting in the
purple-leafed tree above her was a purple bird. Its feathers were the
color of ripe spigs. She almost couldn’t see it. When the bird chirped her
eyes moved to a lower branch. “Hello pretty purple bird.” It chirped
again. It was joined by another chirp. Toast looked at the orange-leafed
tree. An orange bird sat on a limb chirping. Soon dozens of other birds
began to chirp. Each bird was the color of the tree it perched in. “This
is like a choir.” She smiled and listened to the music. The sun rose over
the horizon and the chirps got louder.
Xander woke up. “What’s all that noise?” He
sat and looked around.
“Be quiet. We’re being serenaded by the birds.
Xander heard the birds singing. “A nice way to
start the day. I’m hungry. What color of fruit do we want today? Diamonds,
garnet or jade?”
“I prefer amber,” Toast said. She giggled and
plucked an orange fruit. They feasted until full and pocketed the jewels.
With the sun well over the horizon they
gathered a few more fruit for later and headed north. It didn’t take long
for Xander’s back to get sore from carrying all the gems. He didn’t walk
straight and stiff; instead he was bent over and trudged through the
forest. Soon the trees thinned and instead of green, purple, red, and
orange trees, prickly plants sprouted from sand. “We’re in the desert now.
At least we’re going the right direction. We have to walk through the
desert all afternoon, but by night we should be out of it. I hurt.” Xander
rubbed his back.
“Toss some of those jewels. When we finally do
find something rare and precious, you won’t have room for it. Throw some
of those garnets and pieces of jade and amber away.”
“No, Toast. I never want to be homeless again.
Even if I don’t get the most precious thing, this is enough to build a
house and have food and nice clothes.”
Toast shook her head. She didn’t say another
word. The two of them plodded on through the hot desolation. Several hours
later, after all their fruit was gone, Toast thought she saw something.
“I’m not sure if that is real or if I’m just seeing one of those mirage
things, but I think there’s a man standing next to those rocks.” She
“If you’re seeing a mirage, then so am I. It
is a man. Not only is it a man, but I think it’s Blumb Yibtung.” Xander
scoffed. “Watch out for him. He’s got a nasty habit of spitting. It’s
Blumb saw Xander and the plumtuggle. He waved
his hand. “Hello!” He shouted their direction. When he recognized who it
was, he called, “If it isn’t the orphan boy from Appleworth.”
Xander and Toast walked up to him. “If it
isn’t Blumb Yibtung. What are you doing out here in the middle of the
“I could ask you the same question. I saw one
of those gicky birds flying by and you know what they say about gicky
birds, don’t you?” Blumb gawked at the two of them.
“No, what do they say about gicky birds, Blumb?”
Xander leaned against one of the boulders.
“They say,” Blumb said, “that if you see a
gicky bird and follow it, it will lead you to a field of gold, where
nuggets grow on every bush and tree. That’s what they say. I followed the
bird, but a sand storm came up and I lost it.”
“What’s a gicky bird? I’ve never heard of one
before.” Toast questioned the big man.
“Little plumtuggle, a gicky bird has golden
feathers that shine in the sunlight. Their beaks are made of glass and
when they sing, their music makes the bushes grow more gold nuggets.
Anyone who catches a gicky bird will be rich for the rest of their life.”
“We’ve not seen a gicky bird.” Xander wiped
“What are you two doing out here anyway? It’s
a bit too hot for a plumtuggle, isn’t it?”
“I’m just fine,” Toast said. “We were in the
“Ah. The Rainbow Forest. I’ve heard stories
about that place. They say that there are trees of every color and the
fruits have jewels inside, instead of pits. Is that true?” Blumb spit on
the ground near Toast’s feet.
“Please don’t spit on me.” Toast stepped
backwards. “That’s a disgusting habit. I think…”
“Don’t lecture me, little one. Now, what about
the jewels?” Blumb spit again, but turned his head away from Toast and
“Yes, there are jewels there, just like you’ve
heard. If you share your food and drink with us, we’ll pay you with a
jewel we picked.” Xander patted his pockets.
“I see. So the stories are true. I’ve got
plenty of food and several bottles of water. Let’s sit on the other side
of the rocks, in the shade and have a bite.” Xander and Toast followed
Blumb. They gobbled down two bottles of Nectarine wine and water, an
entire roasted plef and a handful of qugnuts. “Sorry that you have to eat
the qugnuts by themselves. I didn’t have time to baste the plef with
them.” He spit on the rock. Xander and Toast nearly gagged watching it
drizzle down to the sand.
Toast and Xander were grateful to have
something to eat. “It’s too hot to walk further. Maybe we should travel
across the desert at night.” Xander looked up at the sun.
“There’s only another hour or two walk until
we reach the edge of the desert, but if you want to wait, we’ll wait. I
suggest we take a wee nap so we’ll be refreshed.” Blumb pulled his hat
over his face and closed his eyes.
Xander and Toast leaned their backs against
the boulders and dozed off. An hour later Xander woke. Toast was shaking
him back and forth. “Xander! Xander! Wake up. Blumb’s gone!”
Xander jumped up. “What do you mean?” He
looked around and realized Toast was right. His hands went to his pockets.
All of the jewels were gone except for one piece of jade. “He stole our
jewels.” Xander collapsed on the sand. “He stole our jewels and left us
with nothing but this.”
“We should just go back to Appleworth.
Nothing’s working out for us. Let’s take the one piece of jade and go
home, Xander. I’m hot and I’m tired and I feel sad.” Toast fell next to
Xander and cried. “I just want to go home.”
Xander heard a noise. “What’s that?”
Toast wiped her eyes and listened. “It’s
probably Blumb. He’s coming back to take the last jewel.”
“It doesn’t sound like someone walking. It
sounds like a snake slithering across the sand.”
“A big snake?” Toast’s eyes bulged out with
“Yes, a very big snake. In fact, it sounds
A large head cast its shadow on the boy and
plumtuggle. They lifted their gaze and saw two sharp fangs shining in the
morning sun. “It’s a blarkee!” Toast backed away from the boulders,
keeping her eye on the creature. It’s long, snake-like body writhed and
wrapped itself around the rocks.
Xander moved back to join Toast. “I think
we’re in big trouble.”
The blarkee hiss. Its slimy blue tongue darted
out of its mouth and wrapped around Toast and Xander. It lifted them in
the air. Xander looked down and saw the blarkee had no legs, no arms and a
fat body that wriggled and jostled around each time it moved. Its skin was
like cow hide, but with silvery bumps. Long purple hairs poked from each
bump. At first he thought the blarkee was going to eat them, but it lifted
them even higher and then uncoiled itself from the boulders. It used its
tail to open the door to a wooden cage and then it shoved them inside,
releasing them from the tongue’s grasp.
“Ick! Ugh!” Toast wiped the slime off her fur.
“That thing is the most disgusting thing we’ve seen yet. I thought it was
going to eat us, didn’t you?”
Xander had never seen a blarkee before and
couldn’t take his eyes off it. Without answering Toast, he wrote some
things in his journal and drew a picture of it.
“Xander? What are you doing? We’ve got to
escape. I know what blarkees do. They put you in a cage and then take you
back to its nest. Once you’re there they seal you up in some disgusting
jelly stuff and leave you there until they are ready to eat you. Unlike
bandiffs, blarkees like their meals to be decomposing. We’ve got to
escape. Put that journal away.”
“We’re not going anywhere for a while, Toast.
I might as well draw this while I can. If I see that we’re going to be
sealed in jelly, then I’ll toss it aside somewhere and someday someone
will find it and know of our story.”
Toast sat down and dangled her legs from the
cage. The blarkee slithered across the sand with the cage hanging from its
tail. “This thing must be a hundred yards long. I can hardly see its head
“It’s taking us to Lake Wite,” Xander said.
“Uh oh. There’s a huge blarkee colony at Lake
“I thought they lived in the desert?”
“They stay in the desert all day to hunt, but
at night they go home. They travel great distances each day. After looking
at the size of this blarkee, it’s easy to see they can travel a lot.
They’re huge!” Toast used her hands to demonstrate the size. Xander
finished drawing and then wrote a few poems. Toast glanced at his journal.
“What are you writing? Are you writing poetry?”
“Don’t make fun of me, Toast. Even though it’s
desert here, it made me think of writing a poem about it. Would you like
to hear it?”
“You’re a strange person, Xander. Okay, let me
“The sun beats down on my head.
Sweat trickles and runs like a raging river
Dancing on my skin, energy and calm.
Around me I see yellow sand
Whipped by the wind, floating down, down, down
And mingling with the drops of moisture
Tingling my skin, roughing it like sandpaper
And I laugh, for nature is beautiful.”
Toast scratched her head and gazed at Xander
without speaking. “Uh huh. That was interesting. And you thought this up
all by yourself. I see. Hmm.”
“I’ve got another one. Would you like to hear
it?” Xander turned a page.
“Is it as good as the one you just read?”
Toast rolled her eyes.
“It’s even better.” He recited,
“Slithering across the burning sands
A blarkee moves towards its home,
It’s silvery bumps shining in the sunlight
Move like accordions, wriggling the purple hairs
Up and down, up and down.
I watch from above, the movement of its obese form
Jiggling like lard, or jelled drippings from pork bellies.
My cage is wooden, like bars holding my soul,
Saving me from burning feet if I had to walk.”
Toast didn’t move. She simply stared at Xander. “What can I
say. That was definitely better than the first one. Um, you’re quite a
poet, aren’t you?”
“I’ve written another.”
“No! I mean, no thank you, Xander. I would like to just shut
my eyes and have a little nap. Wake me when we get to Lake Wite.” Toast
curled in a ball and turned away from him.
“I guess I’ll write a few more poems. I’m not tired.” Xander
scribbled in his journal, snickering now and then as he thought of
something funny to write about. When he looked up he saw trees in the
distance. He shook his friend awake. “Toast. Toast. We’re there.”
Toast yawned and sat up. “How long did I sleep?”
“About four hours. It’s after noon now. I’m starving. I hope
there’s something to eat there.”
“I don’t think blarkees care if they fatten us up first before
they encase us in slime, or maybe they do? I hope so. I’m hungry too.”
Toast watched the trees come closer. She got her first glimpse of Lake
The blarkee dropped the cage among a grove of glumvo trees. A
few of the wooden bars snapped in two when it hit the ground. Toast and
Xander looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. They pushed and
pulled the bars back and forth until three of them fell off. A hole big
enough for them to squeeze through, invited an escape.
first,” Xander said.
Toast stepped through the hole and looked at Xander, still
trapped in the cage. “That was easy. Your turn now.” Xander squirmed and
pushed his way out of the cage. “You did it! Let’s get out of here.”
They turned to flee and ran right into another blarkee. Xander
turned in a circle. There were at least twelve blarkees gawking at them.
“Psst, Toast. Do you speak blarkee?”
“No. What sort of language do blarkees talk?” The plumtuggle
“We speak the same as you do,” one of them said.
Xander and Toast gulped. “Oh.”
“Sigmund, take these two creatures to the clearing. Begin the
cocooning process. The rest of us will be counseling with each other on
today’s evening feast.” Henog, the largest of the blarkees spoke.
bird - has golden feathers that shine in the sunlight. Their beaks are
made of glass and when they sing, their music makes the bushes grow more
gold nuggets. Anyone who catches a gicky bird will be rich for the rest of
– a fruit that is purple, grows in the Land of Waterberry.