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Plumtuggle
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 5


Making sure he had the jewels and a few extra honeypears in his pockets, Xander took Toast’s hand and walked down the dirt path that wound its way through the Meadows of Framlin.

“I’ve never seen so many flowers before,” Xander said. “Just look at all the bubbagons. There must be millions of them in all different colors.” He picked up Toast and gave her a ride on his back. She tried to catch a few of the fluttering bubbagons with her hands, but none came close enough. “Are you sure this is the right way to the Hills of Jeshar? I don’t see any hills, just fields and fields of creamtails and dibbletops.”

“I’m sure this is the right way. Just follow the path. I’m glad we got rid of that goowl, though if it wasn’t us, he’ll be having something or someone else for breakfast.”

“Better them than us.” Xander glanced at the surrounding trees. “Is it just my imagination, or are the trees getting taller?”

Toast had to tip her head back to see the tops of the trees. “I think they’re either getting taller or we’re shrinking.”

“Everthing’s getting bigger, even the butterloos and the grasses. I want to sit for a while and write about this in my journal. I think I’m going to draw a map of where we started, where we’ve been and where we’ll go.”

“While you’re writing, I think I’ll see if there’s a brook nearby. I’m feeling thirsty.”

“Don’t wander too far. There’s something very odd about this place,” Xander warned.

Toast hummed a tune and went into the woods. She heard hulfs twittering and fexes chirping. A cluster of orange creamtails grew from a decaying log. “Those are pretty.” She didn’t need to bend over to smell them. They were taller than her chin. She grabbed a stem and pulled it over so she could sniff its fragrance. The ground shook, tickling her feet. “Hee hee. That tickles.” The shaking grew stronger and she started bouncing up and down. “Whee! I’m bouncing.” The ground shook so hard that the petals fell off the creamtails. “Whoa! Something’s going on here.”

The shaking stopped. Toast let go of the bare stem. A dark shadow fell across the log. “I hope it’s not that goowl,” she whispered, turning around slowly. “A giant!” She screamed and hooted and ran behind the log, hoping the giant didn’t see her. When she peaked out, it was still there. Luckily it hadn’t seen her. It was busy picking pinecones. “It’s got two heads!” She had to cover her mouth so the giant wouldn’t hear her giggle. “One of the heads has purple hair, like the color of a thistle, and the other has gray hair that shines like silver. Hee hee. How silly.”

She tiptoed behind a bush and then ran to find Xander. She found him sitting against a tree, drawing in his journal. “Put your book away, Xander. There’s a giant with two heads and it’s picking pinecones.”

“Nuh uh. You’re just trying to tease me.” Xander smiled and then went back to drawing.

“Didn’t you feel the ground shaking a few minutes ago?”

“Yes. It must have been an earthquake.”

“It was no earthquake. It was a giant. Follow me and I’ll show you.”

Xander put his journal back in his pocket and followed Toast.

“Tiptoe and be quiet. If you step on a stick and it snaps, they’ll hear it and catch us.” The plumtuggle led the way back to the log. They both dropped to the ground and hid behind it.

“You’re right. It is a giant with two heads. Do you think it’s a friendly giant or a mean one?” Xander wiped his brow.

A loud burp belched from Wilpo’s mouth. He and Vem were camped in a clearing not far away.

“What in the world was that?” Toast turned toward the noise.

“Oh no! It’s Wilpo and he’s burping. The giant will hear them for sure.” Xander choked when he smelled the stench. “It’s Vem. His feet stink. P.U. The odor is floating this way.”

Just then the giant turned around. Piddle sniffed the air. “Fiddle, what’s that awful smell? Did you pass gas?”

Fiddle dropped his armful of pinecones on the ground. “Me? It’s not me that smells.” Another loud burped echoed through the trees. “Did you hear that? It sounds like papa after he’s drank a whole barrel of grilk.”

“Let’s get out of here. They’re going to find us.” Xander stood and ran off.

“Hey! That’s what stinks. It’s that boy.” Piddle reached for Xander with the left arm and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. Piddle sniffed. “He doesn’t smell at all.” They heard another burp. “That wasn’t him either. Okay, who are you and what are you doing in our forest?”

“Your forest? I didn’t know it was your forest? Where are we? We must be lost.” Xander squirmed, hoping to free himself from the giant’s grip, but gave up quickly.

“Who is we? I only see you,” the other head said. He lifted the log and saw Toast curled up in a ball hiding. “What have we here?” Fiddle picked her up with the right arm and held her in the palm of that hand.

Piddle dropped Xander next to Toast. “Two of you in our forest! What nerve!”

“You’re not going to eat us, are you?” Xander stood, trying to balance himself on the fleshy palm.

“Eat you? We’re vegetarians. We don’t eat boys or plumtuggles,” Fiddle said.

“You know about plumtuggles?” Toast jumped up and down with joy.

“We don’t eat meat, but our pet, Sweetboy does,” Piddle said.

“Sweetboy? What sort of pet is he?” Xander looked at the ground, trying to decide if he could jump or not.

“Sweetboy is our pet bandiff. He loves to eat plumtuggles. I’m sure he’ll enjoy a boy too, don’t you agree, Piddle?” Fiddle laughed.

“Wait a minute, Fiddle. If the boy and the plumtuggle didn’t make that noise and if they don’t smell, then who else is out there in our forest?”

“Let’s go and find out, but first,” Fiddle said, “I’ll put Sweetboy’s lunch in the cage so it can’t run away.” Fiddle pointed to a wooden-barred cage hanging from a rope that was wound around a tree branch, high off the ground.

“You’re going to put us in that? What if it breaks? What if we fall out?” Toast didn’t like the looks of it at all.

“You’ll just have to be careful and not bounce around or get too close to the bars, won’t you?” Fiddle opened the door with his fat, pudgy right hand. He tipped his palm and Xander and Toast rolled off into the cage. “That’ll keep you. Don’t go away.” He laughed and so did Piddle.

Xander watched the giant walk away. “Ugly thing, isn’t it?”

“Did you like the pants? I imagine their mama had a hard time making suspenders to hold those black pants up. They were full of holes, on both sides,” Toast rubbed her sore body.

“It looks like Piddle controls the left half of the body and Fiddle controls the right half. What silly names, Piddle and Fiddle.” Xander snickered. “I hope Vem and Wilpo get away, even though it’s their fault we got caught.”

“There’s not enough room in this cage for them too. Maybe the giant will feed them to the bandiff instead of us. We’re much smaller,” Toast said.

“Not even a bandiff would eat Vem. His feet smell too bad. He’s worn those same socks since I first met him. He just patches up the holes and doesn’t even wash them out, never.” Xander shook his head back and forth in disgust. “No bandiff will touch him.”

The cage bounced around. “They’re coming back.” Toast pointed. “I can see their hideous hair and bright pink and orange checked shirt.”

Piddle and Fiddle stopped near the cage, empty handed. “They got away. I guess Sweetboy will just have to do with you two today for lunch.” Piddle picked the cage up by the rope and held it in front of his face. “Let’s go meet Sweetboy, shall we?” He wrapped his fingers around them in a fist and held the cage.

Xander felt sick as he swung back and forth each time Piddle moved his arms. “I’m going to hurl.” He put his hand over his mouth.

Toast, who was already green, turned even greener with motion sickness. “Maybe if we do, he’ll put us down.”

Piddle and Fiddle stopped. Piddle opened his hand. “We’re here.” He put the rope tied to the cage over another branch and left it dangling about ten feet off the ground. They walked over to a cave and disappeared inside.

“We’ve got to get out of here.” Xander wiggled the door back and forth, trying to open it. “It’s locked.”

“Maybe I can help.” Toast moved in front of the door. “When I say go, kick the door as hard as you can.”  She took a deep breath and blew fire from her nose, aiming it at the lock. “Go!”

Xander saw the metal turn red. He kicked it as hard as he could. The metal-barred door flew open. Toast collapsed on the cage floor. “You did it!” Xander looked down. “We’re not that far. I can jump first and then you can jump and I’ll catch you.”

Toast crawled on her hands and knees and looked down. “Are you crazy? You’ll miss me and I’ll splatter all over the ground and then Sweetboy will lick up my blood and bones.”

“Toast, don’t be so dramatic. I’ll catch you. The giant went into that cave. We’d better get going before they come back. Is it an ‘it’ or a ‘they’? Oh well, never mind.” Xander lay on his stomach and slipped his legs over the edge. Holding onto the bars on the cage, he slid out until he was dangling several feet above the ground. He let go and landed in a pile of gnawed bones. “Come on, Toast. Dropped down. I’ll catch you.” The reluctant plumtuggle stood at the edge of the cage and jumped. Xander caught him, but they both tumbled into the bones. “There! See, you are still alive.”

“I smell the bandiff. I hear it too. It’s coming to eat us.” Without waiting for Xander, Toast ran into the bushes and didn’t stop running until he came to a small brooklet.

“Toast! Stop. I’m out of breath.” Xander bent over and gasped as he spoke. “Bandiff’s don’t like water.”

“I get it. If we stay in the brook, then it won’t be able to find us, neither will the giants.” Toast looked down at her feet. A few tiny golden fish swam past. “That way is downstream. I’ve lost my bearings, Xander. I’m not sure what direction we should go.”

Breathing easier now, Xander stood straight. “Let’s just follow the stream and see where it leads us.” Even though their feet were soaking wet, the two stayed in the water. After an hour, Xander said, “I think we lost the giant and the bandiff. Can we stop a few minutes? I want to write in my journal.”

“You and that journal. All right. We’ll sit here and rest. You write and I’ll go exploring and see if I can get a sense of direction.” Toast left him to his writing.

 

Glossary:

Bubbagons – lacy-winged, comes in different colors, much like a butterfly, but doesn’t sip nectar. It eats the flowers

Fex – birds that chirp, live in the meadows, have grape-purple feathers with red beaks

Grilk – a fermented, alcoholic drink. Fiddle/Diddle’s father drank a lot of it when he was alive

Hulfs – birds that twitter, live in meadows, brown feathers with red breasts, heads and tails. Can be found all over Land of Waterberry

Piddle/Fiddle – a giant with two heads. Piddle controls the left side and he has purple hair like the color of thistle. Fiddle has gray hair that shines like silver. They wear black pants, full of holes and dirty, and a bright pink and orange checked shirt.

Sweetboy – Piddle/Fiddle’s pet bandiff.


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