Toast kept Xander in her sight as she walked
around. She saw a familiar mountain off in the distant. “Wow! I know where
I am. There are the Hills of Jeshar. I’m not lost. That way is west.” She
saw a large mound in the middle of a small clearing. It was surrounded by
tall goddersnoff trees. Their long branches reached the ground, brushing
the dirt when a gentle breeze blew them back and forth. “What’s that
thing?” She ran over to it. It was ten times her size, as round as she was
and had a hole at the top. “I guess if I want to know, I’ll have to climb
it and find out.” Wrapping her legs around it, she scooted her way up,
inch by inch until she was at the top. “There is a hole. I wonder what’s
in it.” She stuck her nose into it and honked. “Hello down there. Is
anyone down in the hole?” She thought she heard a noise. She stuck her
face in further. “Hello! Is anyone down there?” When she tried to pull her
head out, it was stuck.
It was pitch dark inside. Something tickled
her face. “Who’s tickling me?” It touched her face again. “Stop that!
You’re tickling me.” Whatever was in there tickled her face all over.
Toast laughed and laughed. “Stop it. Please stop it!”
Xander heard her laughter. “What is she
giggling for now?” He put his book and pencil away. “I guess I will go and
see.” He called her name. “Toast? Toast? Where are you?” He followed the
sound of her laughter and saw her body sticking upside down out of the
hole in the top of a huge mound. Her orange legs wiggled from side to
side. “Oh no. She’s gone and got her face wedged into an oigle mound. No
wonder she’s laughing. It’s tickling her to death.” Xander climbed up the
mound and grabbed hold of Toast’s feet.
“Who’s got my feet? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Is
that you, Xander? Ha, ha, ha, ha.”
“It’s me.” He looked at the swaying branches
of the goddersnoff tree. “I’ve got an idea. I’ll be right back, Toast.” He
climbed the tree and slid down to the end of a branch. He saw Toast below
him. He hung from his knees, wrapping them tightly around the limb.
Grabbing her feet, he pulled as hard as he could. Toast came flying out
and the two of them swung back and forth, slowly coming to a stop.
“Thank you for rescuing me. Something was in
that hole and it was tickling me.” Toast rubbed the itch off her face.
“That was an oigle. It has long feather
sticking from the top of its head. It usually tickles its prey to death
and then gobbles it up. It has sharp teeth and ten eyes. It lives in the
mound. Never, ever go near an oigle mound again.” Xander dropped the
plumtuggle into the grass and then flopped down himself.
“I promise I won’t go near an oigle mound
again.” She sat and brushed the dirt from her fur. “I wonder where Vem and
Wilpo went. The giants didn’t find them. I guess that’s good,” Toast said.
“It is for them. They must be heading for the
Hills of Jeshar too. I thought I saw them go south. They probably tricked
all the others. I wonder if they have found any precious things yet.”
Xander felt the two jewels in his pocket. “I hope their precious things
aren’t more precious than the two we’ve got.”
“Let’s not worry about them right now. Let’s
just keep going. Are you sure you don’t want to go back to Appleworth with
what we have? It seems foolish to stay out here in the wilds just to get
another jewel when we’ve got two already.” Toast climbed onto Xander’s
“I want a few more things, just to be sure,”
Xander said. “I’ll show them that I’m as good as they are.”
“But, what are you really trying to do? You’ve
got the jewels and they’re obviously both precious and rare. Why are you
doing this? You want glory, fame, or what?”
“I just want to be somebody. If I have the
most precious thing, I won’t be just an orphan boy that has to steal to
eat. I’ll be somebody and I’ll get whatever Grazan has in that bag. Come
on, Toast. Just a while longer, please?”
“All right, but I think you’re wrong.” Toast
didn’t say another word.
Goddersnoff trees – grow near the Hills of Jeshar, long branches that
reach to ground, covered with thin, long, dark green leaves.
mound – oigles tickle their prey to death with a long feather sticking
from the top of its head. It has ten eyes, sharp teeth