Toast kept looking up at Xander and giggling.
Xander, in turn, glared back.
“Say, Xander, where are you taking us? Do you
know of any other sugarapple orchards?” Elmot swung his fat, pudgy legs
back and forth. His wife and three children sat next to him.
“No. I told you I didn’t know where any were.”
Xander was tired of being asked the same question over and over again.
“Where are you headed?”
“I’ve told you this a dozen times too. Toast
and I are headed for the Hills of Jeshar. We’re looking for the most
precious thing in the Land of Waterberry. How many times am I going to
have to tell you?”
“Just asking. I hope we find a sugarapple tree
before we get there. Jarp, Morth and Tili don’t do well in the cold.
Pindy’s not that fond of it herself, are you dear?” Elmot looked over at
his wife and smiled.
“Well, Jarp, Morth and Tili are just going to
have to make do.” Xander shook his head back and forth in annoyance.
“Whoa there, boy,” Bonzu said. “Watch the
head. You nearly knocked us off.”
Toast giggled again.
They walked through the Meadows of Framlin for
several hours. The Hills of Jeshar grew larger with each step. Tili and
Morth got into a fight and shouted at each other. Ickpo slipped off the
left shoulder and landed in Xander’s shirt pockets. After an hour of
lecturing from Ranji, Xander was at his wits end. “That’s enough! We’re
going to stop and rest and find something to eat.” He reached up and
picked Bonzu’s family off and put them on top of a flat stone. Elmot’s
family was more than ready for a break too. He set them down on top of a
fallen log. “You stay here, all of you. Toast and I are going to look for
something to eat.”
“Bring us back a sugarapple,” Jarp said.
“If I found a sugarapple, then I’d have found
a sugarapple tree and I would take you to it to live in. What else do you
eat, anything?” Xander’s voice raged in pitch with his level of
Elmot scratched his head. “Pindy is partial to
zzux bugs. They’re rather small and can only be found at twilight under
the roots of a tinglepop tree.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful. You want me to go
into the woods, find a tinglepop tree and sit there until twilight so I
can dig under the roots and find a zzux bug? Sure. No problem! Why not!”
Xander folded his arms across his chest.
“Why thank you, my boy, and here I thought you
might object!” Elmot smiled.
“I do object! I was being sarcastic. I’m not
going to get you any zzux bugs. Is there anything else?” He heard Toast
giggling again. “Do you have a problem, Toast?”
She shook her head back and forth.
“I’ll tell you what. Toast and I will go and
see what we can find. You will eat what ever we bring back or starve!”
Xander’s patience wore thin. He marched toward the woods. Toast ran after
“Forget the worms. What are we going to find
for us to eat?” Xander looked at the woods. “If we’re lucky we might find
a mushroom or a lizard.”
They entered the woods. The afternoon sun was
lowering in the sky. Its rays shot through the trees at a horizontal
angle, creating an eerie light. “I see some mushrooms,” Toast said.
She pointed to a cluster of them. “Over there,
under that really old asti tree.”
“I see it. Wow! That is an ancient tree. Its
trunk must be twenty feet in diameter. Some of the roots are almost as
tall as me. Hey, that’s odd. The mushrooms are in a circle.”
“It’s a fairy ring, Xander. Haven’t you ever
heard of that before?” Toast ran into the center of the ring. “There’s
moss, acorns, grass and even tiny flowers, like primroses, growing in
“What exactly is a fairy ring, or do I even
want to know.”
“At night, when the moon is full, the fairies
come out to dance around the circle. If you dance with them, you are taken
to a magic fairy kingdom,” Toast explained.
“Can you come back, or do you have to stay
“You can come back, but they say life is never
the same once you’ve been.” Toast wiped her forehead.
“Are the fairies good fairies or bad fairies?”
“I think they’re good fairies.”
“There’s a full moon tonight. Maybe if we
bring Elmot and his family and Borzu and his family and leave them here in
the fairy ring, they’ll disappear to the fairy kingdom and then we won’t
have to bother with them any longer,” Xander said.
“Hey! That’s not very nice.”
“As long as the fairies are nice, then what’s
the problem with it? I’m sure they’d all love it there.”
“Well, you’re probably right. Okay, let’s do
it, but first we need to find something to eat.”
“Can’t we pick some of these mushrooms?”
Toast tapped her foot in the grass. “No,
Xander. It won’t work if you pick some of them.”
Xander found a plef and threw a stone at it,
knocking it out. “We can take this back and roast it.” When they spotted a
tree full of black qugnuts, Xander said, “If we mash these, we can use it
to baste the plef. It will be nice and juicy and sweet.”
“What about the worms? They don’t eat plef.”
“There’s a glumvo tree. I heard that womp ants
live under the bark.” They peeled a huge piece of bark off and scooped up
the ants. “See! There are hundreds of them. We’ll take this back for
After dumping the womp ants on the ground near
the worm families, Toast started a fire using the piece of bark. Xander
had to make sure the plef was dead and then he had to take the leathery
skin off. “These things are disgusting creatures. They’re like lizards,
but their skin is tough.” When he had it skinned and cleaned, he shoved a
stick through the middle of the plef. He used two other sticks with forked
ends to rest it on while it roasted. Toast mashed the qugnuts and Xander
used his fingers to brush it all over the plef. “This is going to be so
After they’d finished off the perfectly cooked
plef and the worms had eaten the womp ants, Xander said, “Toast and I
found a fairy ring in the woods. We thought you’d all like to go and dance
with the fairies tonight under the full moon.”
Pindy and Ranji clapped their tiny hands
together. “Dancing? I love dancing and so does Pindy.” Ranji chuckled.
“That sounds like a lot of fun. It’s a good thing tonight’s a full moon.”
“Yes, that is lucky. Why don’t we head over
there now? The sun’s going down and it’ll be dark soon,” Xander said.
After seeing that they agreed, he put the two
families of worms on his shoulders and walked to the woods. The worms were
delighted with the fairy ring. The moon rose high in the evening sky, full
and bright. Xander and Toast went and sat down, leaning their backs
against the asti tree. “Now all we have to do is sit and wait.” Xander put
his arms behind his head and looked at the moon.
“They’re having fun. I think the little worms
like playing with the mushrooms,” Toast said.
“Look at that!” Xander sat straight. A pale
lime-green haze seeped from the tops of the mushrooms, filling the air
above and around them with a misty light. “It’s the fairies.”
Xander and Toast watched as dozens of tiny
winged fairies, not much bigger than the worms appeared from the mist.
Some were blue; others were green, pink, yellow, orange, and purple. Tiny
bubbagons appeared, their gossamer wings glowing in the moonlight. Fairies
and bubbagons joined hands. The worms were invited in and they danced
around the mushroom ring. Xander heard soft voices singing,
“Under the light of the brilliant moon
We dance, we laugh, we sing.
Join with us, hold our hands,
And magic we will bring.
Tra la la la, Tra la la
And magic we will bring.”
“That’s a pretty song,” Toast said, straining to hear it.
“Look, Xander. Something’s happening.”
They watched as a beam of green light shot down from the moon
onto the fairy ring. The fairies and bubbagons fluttered inside of it,
heading upward. “There go the worms,” Xander said. The worms followed the
fairies. Up, up, up they went until the light disappeared. “Wow!”
“You can say that again. I hope the worms will be happy with
the fairies,” Toast said. “In a way, I wish I had gone with them. The
fairy kingdom sounds nice.”
“Toast! Don’t be silly. I need you here.” Xander stood and
stretched. “We need to find somewhere to sleep tonight and this time, we
need to be more careful where we choose.”
Toast sniffed. “Do you smell something burning?”
Xander smelled it. “Yes, it’s a campfire and if I’m not
mistaken, it smells like fried giffi fish.”
“Giffi fish? You’re right. That’s what it smells like.”
“That means only one thing. Wilpo and Vem are nearby. I wonder
if they’ve found anything precious.”
“I suppose we’re going to go and find out?” Toast knew the
“Yes, but first, can you make a little fire here. I want to
write in my journal,” Xander said.
Toast stacked the wood and lit a fire and then while Xander
wrote she ran into the fairy ring. She danced around the outside of it,
singing the fairy song. Looking up at the moon, she wondered what the
fairy kingdom was like and if she’d like it there.
* * *
“There they are. I was right. They are eating giffi fish
and hammelo berries.” Xander parted the bushes so he and Toast could
“The fire looks warm. Which one is Vem?”
“You’ll find out soon enough. After supper he’ll take off his
Toast gagged. “I remember that smell. How could I ever forget
that stench! So the one that is burping loud is Wilpo. Ew! He’s got
horrible smelling breath.” She plugged her nose.
They watched the men eat their supper and clean up. As
expected, Vem removed his shoes.
Xander’s eyes watered and Toast had to plug
her nose up with a ball of fluffy pink clover.
Wilpo opened his pack and pulled out a cloth.
“Something’s wrapped inside that,” Xander
Toast leaned closer to see. “I think they’ve
found something precious.”
Wilpo unwrapped the cloth and held a huge golden brown gem in
the palm of his hand.
“Wow!” Toast’s eyes bugged out. “That’s a
topaz, isn’t it?”
“I think so. Do you think that is more precious than our
diamond and our amethyst? What if the topaz is more precious? See. This is
why I want to have a lot of different ones, just in case.” He felt the
jewels in his pocket. “Tomorrow, we’re going to hurry on and we’re not
stopping until we reach the Hills of Jeshar. I want to find some more
precious things. We can sleep right here under this bush tonight. Vem and
Wilpo’s fire will keep the wild bandiffs away and we’ll stay warm.”
“Don’t worry about the topaz, Xander. The diamond is much more
precious and so is the amethyst. Let’s get to sleep. It sounds like
tomorrow will be a busy day for us both.”
Xander fell asleep near the orange flames of the campfire,
dreaming of finding more precious things and how proud Grazan, the wizard,
would be of him. Maybe finally the villagers would accept him.
tree – ancient tree with huge roots that poke out of ground, long
slender leaves, grayish green in color, thick bark and many branches.
tree – womp ants live under its bark and clabber rats live in decaying
Hammelo Berries - pinkish-purple, grow on bushes, sweet and juicy.
– a wild animal with leathery skin, much like a lizards. It’s got six legs
and lives in burrows underground. Comes out to feed on bugs. Often caught
by campers and roasted over open fire, but not usually eaten by villagers.
Tastes best when basted with qugnut sauce.
Qugnuts – black nuts, the size of a plumtuggle’s fist, thick shells,
meaty fleshy nut inside.
mashed, it makes a great sauce for basting plefs.
Tinglepop tree – zzux bugs live in its roots
ants – live in glumvo trees under bark. They are bright pink and their
bite is harmless.
bugs – small, found at twilight under roots of tinglepop tree.
Favorite food of worms.