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by Margo Fallis
Chapter 3

“Toast! Toast!” Xander took a deep breath and jumped into the water. Down, down, down he went. He opened his eyes and looked up at the surface. He could see the sun shining and the reeds bending over the pond. Down, down, down he went. The deeper he got, the darker it got. Xander’s breath was running out.  His feet hit bottom and much to his relief, he saw a tunnel up ahead. He swam towards it and pushed himself through the opening. He raised his head and found air. Gasping, he took three lung-filling breaths and then looked around. The water came up to his neck.

“Xander! I’m over here.” Toast waved. “It’s dry up on this rock.”

Xander climbed out of the water onto the rock and sat next to Toast. “Where are we?” Water ran from him, puddling at his feet.

“I don’t know, but the frog hopped that way.” Toast pointed to another tunnel. “It had your diamond in its mouth.”

“Let’s wait for a few minutes. I want to write this down. This is so exciting. I don’t want to forget any of it.” Xander scribbled a few lines on a page and then shoved the journal back in his pocket. “I’m glad this didn’t get wet.”

“Why would you want to write at a time like this? What are you writing, a book?”

“I guess I could call it ‘The Adventures of Xander Qigma’.”

“This is hardly the time or place to be writing, though that’s a good idea. I wish I could write.”

“I’m done already. What do you mean you can’t write? Would you like me to teach you?”

“Maybe later. Right now I want to help you find the frog and your diamond,” Toast said. “If we stay on the rocks, we can avoid the water. You might have to bend over a little bit, but you’ll be fine.”

Creeping through the tunnel, they headed for a strange pink glow. “Wow! Where are we? I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Xander said. “It’s magical.”

They found themselves inside a dry cavern. The sound of rushing water caused them to seek out the source. A twelve-foot high waterfall cascaded into a river and then flowed across the cavern, disappearing into another hole on the cave floor. Tiny pink lights danced through the falling water, glowing off and on and tinkling like tiny bells as they dropped into the river. Glittery sparkles of brighter pink shone from the cavern walls. Toast didn’t know what to say. “I…I…I think this is…”

“Beautiful?” Xander finished her sentence.

“Yes, it’s beautiful, but that doesn’t even describe it. It’s magnificent, splendid, superb, wonderful, excellent and brilliant too.”

Mushrooms grew from the walls in rows. Each one clear as glass except for the veins of pink liquid flowing through them. “Can we eat those? I’m starving.” Xander reached up and plucked one. “They’re spongy.” Bubbles blew out from the place where the mushroom had been attached to the stone wall, floating through the air and filling the cavern. They popped, making soft noises as they bumped into the ceiling. “Maybe I shouldn’t do this,” he said, taking a bite of the mushroom. “It tastes sweet, like boiled sugar with anise.”

“Can I taste it?” Xander broke off a piece of mushroom and handed it to Toast. She took a bite. “It tastes good, just like you said.”

Xander picked so many mushrooms that the room filled from top to bottom with bubbles. He also ate so many that his tummy bulged and he had to sit down. “I don’t want to eat another thing all day. 

“I don’t want to eat another thing for the rest of the week.” Toast patted her full stomach.

What Toast and Xander didn’t know was that those mushrooms were hallucigenic and caused sleepiness and nightmares. Xander closed his eyes and immediately the dreams began. The bubbles, looking so serene and peaceful, grew antenna, large, bulging eyes and sharp teeth. They bit him over and over again until he wanted to cry. Toast’s dream went much the same except her bubbles had green fur all over them. The nightmares went on for hours until finally Xander woke up. He was relieved to see the bubbles had disappeared. “Wake up, Toast.”

“Did you have nightmares?” The sleepy plumtuggle wiped her eyes and yawned.

“I had horrible nightmares. No more mushrooms for us. I think we’ve been sleeping for hours and hours. It’s probably dark outside by now.”

Tiny feet pitter-pattered towards them, the noise amplified by the immense size of the cavern. “What is that noise?” Toast stood and looked around.

Before Xander had a chance to stand, hundreds of mice-like creatures came marching into the cavern, each carrying a tiny red clay pot. They all looked the same; big round ears, long tails and whiskers, but instead of being just plain old white, their fur was covered with colored polka dots. Some were yellow, others green, blue, red, and purple. Xander pushed himself against the wall, scooting his body backwards. Toast leaned over and whispered in his ear, “What are those? They look like yippimice, but they’re not.”

They stared as the tiny creatures filled the pots with the milky pink river water. After the pot was full, they carried them out of the cavern. “Let’s follow them.” Xander stood, being sure to stay hidden in the shadows. When the last pot had been filled, they crept behind the mice into the other room.

Xander stared through a window made of paper-thin slices of white quartz. It was so huge that it took up one side of the cave. He could see the mice climbing a ladder and dumping the pots into water. “What is in that water? It looks like baby frogs. They’re not pouring the pink stuff into the water; they’re pouring it right into the baby frog’s mouths. They’re feeding them. Huh? I don’t get it. I thought baby frogs were tadpoles. Since when do mice feed frogs?”

“In this cave, everything is strange. We’ve come across a whole new magical world that we didn’t know existed. Things are obviously done differently down here,” Toast said.

“There’s the frog who stole my diamond. Let’s get it back.” Xander pointed across the cave, took a deep breath and walked toward the frog.

“He must be the daddy,” Toast said, following Xander.

The frog saw them coming. It unrolled its tongue and dropped the diamond on the stone floor. It hopped over to the window and watched the baby frogs swim about in the water.

“Thanks.” Xander picked up the diamond and put it in his pocket. He walked over to the window and stood next to the big frog, watching the babies swim around.

“I wonder what that pink stuff is.” Toast saw a mouse run past with an empty pot. She grabbed it from the mouse, which ran off to get another. Toast carried the tiny pot into the other cavern, filled it up with pink liquid and then poured it into her mouth. “Ick. Yick! It tastes like spoiled giffi fish.” She spit it out on the floor and dropped the pot. It rolled into the water and floated away. “Xander, let’s get out of here now. You’ve got your diamond. This place is too strange. We don’t belong down here.”

            Xander petted the frog on top of his head. “Good luck with your babies.” The frog croaked and licked Xander with its rough, bumpy tongue.

            “I think that frog just wanted us to see what it was like down here. I’ll be more careful when I try to catch frogs, won’t you? I’ll never eat another one again, ever.” Toast touched the frog’s leg. “Be a good daddy.”

            The frog hopped down a tunnel, turned around and croaked. “Wait! He wants us to follow him,” Xander said. They ran after him and soon found themselves in another cave. This one was much smaller and didn’t have any sparkles. Steps cut into the stone spiraled their way upward. “You want us to go up the steps?” The frog croaked again. “All right.” They waved to the frog and climbed the steps.

            “There must be hundreds of these steps. My legs are tired.” Toast rubbed her calves. “Can I get on your back?”

“Stop complaining! It’s not much further. I can see light above us.” Xander kept climbing. A few minutes later they came out of the ground and found themselves in a meadow, with a midnight sky above them. Stars twinkled and the moon shone with lunar brightness. “It’s night! We were down there all day.”

            Toast collapsed on the grass, huffing and puffing. “We’re in the Meadows of Framlin. We might as well find a place to sleep. How about up in that krislac tree? The branches are thick and we’ll be safe in case any wucas or bandiffs come by.” Toast pointed to the tall leafy tree.

“Good idea. I know I don’t want to be anywhere near a bandiff. When they pass gas, watch out!” Xander giggled and then put his foot on the lowest branch. He climbed until he was a safe height from the ground.

Toast ran up the tree and sat on the branch next to him. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow we can go to your village and you can show the diamond to your wizard. It must be the most precious thing around.”

“Oh no! Nuh uh! I’m going to find more than one thing. I am not taking any chances that Zog, Larf, or Blumb might find a bigger, better diamond. We’re going to keep going until we have all of the most precious things in all of the Land of Waterberry. You can go to sleep. I want to write in my journal, before I forget. We had an interesting afternoon in the underground cavern.”  Xander scribbled away as Toast’s soft snores floated into the cloudless sky.



Giffi fish – lives in rivers in Land of Waterberry. Good to eat, easily caught because of huge numbers of them. Black fish with orange spots, only one fin and large flowing tail

Goowl- bird – sleeps in krislac trees, apricot colored beak, beady purple eyes, large, cornflower blue feathers. Meat eater with razor-sharp beak

Krislac tree – found in Meadows of Framlin, thick branches, tall, leafy, often home to goowl birds

Yippimice – brown, black, white, or gray colored mice that live in burrows all over the Land of Waterberry

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