Xander heard a rooster crowing off in the
distance. He opened his eyes and right away noticed Toast wasn’t lying
next to him. He crawled out backwards from the bush. He could hear Wilpo
burping in his sleep and could still smell the putrid stench of Vem’s
feet. He crept off into the woods. “Toast! Toast!” He called to his
“Here I am,” the plumtuggle shouted, jumping
out from behind a tree.
“Toast, you scared me! What are you holding?”
“While you were sleeping, I paid a visit to
Wilpo’s and Vem’s tent. I think we’ll be eating well this morning, but I
suggest we leave quickly, before they wake up and see half of their food
“Way to go, Toast!” Xander took some of the
food from Toast’s arms and they hurried into the trees. “Which way to the
Hills of Jasher?”
Toast looked at the rising sun and then turned
in a circle. “That way,” she pointed.
“We’ll stop after we’ve walked a mile or two,
when we’re far enough away from their camp,” Xander said about Vem and
The morning sun warmed the air. Birds chirped
and the air was full of the sounds of dawn. “Can we stop now? I’m
starving.” Toast dropped her armful of food on a patch of thick grass.
Tiny white daisies with yellow centers nodded in the breeze. The first
bees of the day left their hive, eager to gather pollen.
“This is a good enough place. Now, what did
you get for us?” Xander opened the cloth Toast had wrapped around some of
the food. “Wow! You got us yeast rings with icing sugar. I love those.
What else is in here?” He rummaged through the rest of the things. “Dried
hoona meat strips and brimsh nuts. I love brimsh nuts too.”
“Look at this. They packed a whole box of
sweets. Lomen slices, anise ropes, chewy maragels with vanilla centers. I
wonder where they got the vanilla. I heard that the only place left in the
whole world that grows it is the Land of Spatternack,” Toast said, popping
a lomen slice into her mouth. “This is very crunchy and sweet.”
“Traders. They come through the Land of
Waterberry once or twice a year with their wagons filled with things from
far away places. I have no idea where Vem or Wilpo got them, but I’m glad
they did.” Xander put a maragel in his mouth. “Oh, that tastes good. What
else do we have?”
Toast held up a bottle of coiberry juice, a
bar of Gandfli chocolate full of chopped iggy nuts and bits of dried
fruit. “We are going to have a delicious breakfast.” Toast giggled. She
pulled the cork from the bottle and poured some of the juice into her
mouth. “Delicious! It tastes like it’s been aged for 600 years. Try some.”
She handed the bottle to Xander.
He poured a mouthful and gulped it down. “Good
They ate until their bellies could hold no
more. “I suppose we’d better get a move on if we want to be there by
nightfall.” Toast’s round tummy jiggled as she walked. “We can take the
rest of this food with us and have it at noon. There’s enough left for
another good meal.”
Xander put everything into one bundle and tied
it with a cloth. “I need to write in my book before we leave. You don’t
mind waiting a few minutes, do you?”
“If I sit, then I’ll fall asleep, so I’ll just walk around for
a while until you’re done,” Toast said.
“Don’t wander off. I’ll only be a few minutes.” Xander
scribbled in his journal, writing the events of the night before and that
Toast saw a bush covered with bright red berries. She went
over to see what they were. “They don’t look like any berries I’ve seen
before. I wonder if I’ll get sick if I eat one.” She reached to pick one
from the bush. “On second thought, I am too full to eat anything else.”
She rubbed her tummy. Something bumped into her foot. She looked down and
saw something thick and blue. Feeling it with her toe, she rubbed the
leathery object. She got a little braver and ran her fingers over it.
“It’s warm and soft.” Bending over, she grabbed it with two hands and
tried to pick it up.
“Who said that?” Toast dropped it.
“Leave my tail alone.”
Toast walked around to the other side of the bush. There sat a
baby dragon, blue from head to toe, with pearly white horns and a ridge of
bright pink spikes down its back. “Who are you?” Toast saw tears puddle in
the dragon’s eyes. “Why are you sitting in the middle of a bush?”
“My name is Cinder.” Tiny puffs of smoke blew out of its
“Cinder, are you a girl dragon or a boy dragon?”
“I’m a girl dragon.”
“What are you doing out here all by yourself?” Toast put her
arm on the dragon’s shoulder. “You’re not very big. You’re not that much
bigger than me!” Toast didn’t see any wings. “Can you fly? Where are your
“I’m a baby dragon. I’m only a year old.” Cinder unfolded her
wings. “See, I have wings. I can’t fly very fast or very high, but I can
fly a little. That’s why I’m lost. Last night after Mama put me to bed in
the cave, I did something naughty. I didn’t want to go to bed, so I got up
and went out to look at the moon. I flew towards it and got lost.”
“Is you’re mama looking for you?”
“I don’t think she knows where I am. Can you help me find
her?” The dragon stood up. Her long tail thumped on the ground.
“I’ll have to ask my friend, Xander. Come with me.” Toast took
Cinder’s hand. “You’ve got some sharp claws there, Cinder.”
They walked hand in hand and found Xander putting his journal
back in his pocket. “Toast? What is that?” Xander saw the dragon.
“I found Cinder crying. She’s lost and wants us to help her
find her mama,” said Toast.
“But that’s a dragon baby. That means her mama is a big
dragon. Dragon’s roast people and use our bones to pick their teeth,”
“My mama doesn’t roast people. She’s a nice dragon. We live in
a big cave. If you take me home, my mama will be happy,” Cinder said.
“But, Toast, I want to get to the Hills of Jeshar tonight. I
want to find some more jewels. If we take Cinder home, we’ll not make it.”
Xander wasn’t sure what to do.
“I want to take Cinder home. If you want to go, then go
without me. She’s lost and is afraid. She wants her mama. The jewels can
wait.” Toast pulled Cinder along, heading across the meadow.
“Wait for me! I’ll go with you. I guess it doesn’t matter if
we get there tonight or tomorrow. We’ve still got almost two weeks to go,”
Xander said, his face pouting.
“Good. I’m glad you’re coming,” Toast said.
“Me too.” Cinder slipped her other clawed hand into Xander’s.
“I didn’t know dragons were blue,” Xander said.
“Not all dragons are blue. I’m blue, but my mama, Firestorm,
is red. My papa’s name is Lightning and he is purple. My big brother,
Ember, is black,” the dragon said. They came to the edge of a field where
the meadow stopped. “We can’t go in there,” Cinder said.
“Why not?” Xander looked to the other side.
“Because juckles live in there,” Cinder said.
“Juckles? What are juckles?” Toast listened for unusual noises
“My mama said never to go where the juckles are. I’ve never
seen one and I don’t know what they are, I just know they live right
there.” Cinder stepped back.
“That must mean your cave is around here,” Xander said,
smiling. He wanted to get Cinder back home so they could get to the Hills
“It’s over there, on the other side of the juckle holes.”
Cinder pointed to the ground.
“Juckles live in holes. What if we tiptoe around the holes,
very quietly, and try not to disturb them; then we can take Cinder back to
her mama.” Xander counted the holes. “I see 27 holes. I wonder if that
means there are 27 juckles or just one or two that use all the holes.”
Cinder shrugged her shoulders.
“There’s only one way to find out,” Toast
said. She took a step. The ground was covered with brownish-red dirt clods
and black and white dotted stones. “Come on,” she whispered.
“Cinder, don’t say a word. Follow Toast’s footprints.” Xander
added, “and if you have to talk, whisper.”
Cinder nodded and followed Toast. Xander counted the holes as
they walked past. He tried to look in them, but all he saw was blackness.
“We’ve passed 19 holes. So far, I’ve not heard or seen anything. Let’s
hurry.” He whispered to Toast and Cinder. “We’re almost to the other
Xander was so busy counting holes that he wasn’t watching what
he was doing and stepped on Cinder’s tail. “OUCH!” The dragon screamed at
the top of her lungs.
“Oh no!” Toast gulped.
The three of them stopped, hoping the juckles
hadn’t heard. The ground shook in a gentle rumble and then large lemon
yellow heads popped out of each of the holes. Each head had two bulging
black eyes, a horn on top, and a long nose that dangled in front of a set
of sharp teeth. Each juckle opened its mouth and roared.
Xander, Toast and Cinder put their hands over
their ears. “Juckles!” Cinder shouted, grabbed onto Toast and ran.
Xander didn’t wait to follow.
Each juckle grew taller until their long necks
were 20 feet above the ground.
“Run!” Xander darted across the field. The
juckles bent their heads, trying to grab the dragon, plumtuggle, or boy in
One of them got hold of Cinder’s tail. She
screamed as the juckle lifted her into the air. “Help! Put me down, you
stupid juckle! Help! Mama, help me!”
Toast and Xander stopped. They tried to jump
up and grab the dragon’s hands. “I can’t reach you,” Xander said.
A wind came blowing down from above. Xander
and Toast looked up. There was a huge red dragon flying toward them.
“Mama!” Cinder called to her.
When the juckles saw the dragon, they dropped
back into their holes. Cinder fell to the ground, landing on top of Xander.
Her mama swooped down and scooped all three of them up on her wing and
then flew off. When she landed at the cave she dropped them. Xander and
Toast ran and hid behind a tree.
“Mama!” Cinder hugged the red dragon. “Don’t
be afraid of Mama. Toast, come out here. You too, Xander.” Xander and the
plumtuggle stepped away from the tree. “They saved my life, Mama.” The red
dragon went into the cave and came back out with something in her hand.
Xander’s eyes bugged out when he saw that she held a ruby. “Mama says this
is for you, as a reward for helping me.” Cinder puffed from her nostrils
and then carried it over to the boy. “Mama says thanks.”
Xander looked at Firestorm. Her horns spiraled
upwards from the top of her head. Her scales were as big as his hand and
as shiny as the ruby. Her spikes jutted up from her back and at the end of
her tail was a three-pronged spike. But what Xander noticed the most were
her wings. They were red, like the rest of her body, but thin, opaque, yet
strong. “Thank you, Firestorm. The ruby looks precious and rare.” He put
it in his pocket with the other two stones.
They spent the rest of the afternoon at the
cave with the dragons. Xander and Toast met Lightning and Ember. Cinder
told them all about dragons and how they came to the Land of Waterberry.
Xander watched the sky turn orange, red, and pink. “Cinder, would you ask
your mama if she’d give us a ride to the Hills of Jeshar? I wanted to be
there by night and there’s no way we can get there by then. Not now.”
Cinder giggled. “Mama won’t mind. Climb on her
Firestorm nodded her approval.
Xander climbed up her leg to her knee and then
pulled himself up onto her back, sitting at the bottom of her neck. “Hey!
What about me? I can’t climb up like that.” Toast studied the dragon.
“I’ll help you,” Cinder said. “Get on my
back.” She flapped her wings and flew Toast up, dropping her behind Xander.
“There you go. I’m going to stay here with my Papa. Mama will take you
safely. Thank you for saving me.”
Firestorm flapped each wing up and down and
then soared into the sky. Xander wrapped his arms around her neck and
Toast wrapped hers around Xander. They flew above the clouds and across
the meadows. When Firestorm landed, Xander and Toast slid off. “We’re
here. These are the Hills of Jeshar. Thanks, Firestorm.” Toast stroked her
Xander waved as the huge dragon flew back to
her cave. “Well, now what?”
ropes – sweets that taste like licorice
nuts – much like a pecan, meaty, tasty, oval shaped shell with black
– baby dragon, blue hide, pearly white horns, bright pink spikes down
back, female, about the same size as Toast, one year old
Coiberry juice – juice made from the coiberry, a small maroon berry.
After picked and smashed, it is put in wooden kegs and stored for up to
600 years before served as a drink.
– Cinder’s older brother – black dragon
Firestorm – red dragon, mother of Cinders, horns spiral from top of
head, scaly, spikes on back and at the end of her tail there is a
3-pronged spike. Has red, leathery, opaque wings
Gandfli chocolates – individually wrapped chocolates, each filled with
smashed snockberries, brimsh nuts, or iggy nuts and made by the people of
the village, Gandfli in the Land of Waterberry.
meat strips – type of jerky made from hoona, an animal with four
large, muscular legs, a long neck, small head, thick hide used for making
shoes and clothing. Eats bugs and small rodents, found in inland desert of
Land of Waterberry
nuts – fleshy, soft nut, used mostly in chocolates. When crushed it
can be spread on brow bread. Grows on flowering tree (white and yellow
flowers). Nut has bright yellow shell.
Juckles – live near the dragon’s cave, lemon yellow heads, live in
holes in ground, 2 bulging black eyes, horn on top of head, long nose,
sharp teeth, roar, and necks are 20 feet long. Eat by catching things that
fly by or walk past
of Spatternack – the only place in Land of Waterberry where vanilla
Lightning – Cinder’s father, purple dragon
slices – candied, crunchy sweets made from lomens, a fruit with a
thick sky blue peel, tangy.
Maragels – chewy black toffee with vanilla centers, tastes sweet and
made from thickened snockberry syrup
Yeast-rings – covered with icing sugar, donuts, sweet and usually
eaten for breakfast