Marti heard a knock on the door upstairs. “It must be Gretel’s parents.
I’ve got to tell them the news of her disappearance. Wish me luck.”
“I’ll stay down here with the babies.” Quirin sat on a ledge,
reveling in his new-found family once again.
Marti climbed the stairs one at a time, stopping for a breath.
He rubbed his knees, leaned his cane against the wall and opened the door.
“Crispin, what are you doing here?” He saw two adults standing behind him.
“Erika, Jules, please, please, come in.” He ushered the three into his
cottage. “I thought I told you to go straight home.” He pointed at
“My mom and dad said it was all right to come as long as I was
with Gretel’s parents, so I came.” Crispin ran to the table and ate a
piece of the buttered bread with marmalade. “Whose green hat is this?” He
picked it up and slipped it on his head. “Wow! It’s big. It feels funny
though, like it’s alive.”
Marti rushed over and pulled the wizard’s cap off Crispin’s
head, turning in time to see the Bendels exchange glances. He set the hat
down on one of the benches. “Never you mind, Crispin. Now, eat your bread
“Where’s Gretel? Crispin wouldn’t tell us a thing. Is there
some sort of problem?” Erika clenched her fists and paced back and forth.
Her skin-tight black pants rubbed against the table, getting crumbs on
Jules sat on a stool, surprisingly calm and staring at the
pointed hat. He brushed his light brown hair from his forehead.
Motioning to Erika, Marti sighed. “You’d
better sit down next to your husband. It’s a long story. Gretel’s been
Crispin finished his food and sat down on
Marti’s bed. He pulled the blanket over him and listened.
“Captured? By who? What is going on here?” Erika’s voice rose
to a high pitch, annoying her husband, who pulled her down next to him and
told her to calm down and listen.
“A few days ago…I’ve forgotten how many, or was it only this
morning…?” Marti struggled to remember.
“It was only this morning, Marti,” Crispin
“Ah, well, this morning Crispin and Gretel
decided to visit my cabin while I was away. After helping themselves to my
food,” he glanced at Crispin, scowling, “they opened this door.”
Erika and Jules looked over at it.
“What did you do with the sign saying not to enter?” Crispin
saw it lying on the floor. “Oh. There it is.”
“What do you have behind there?” This time it
was Gretel’s father who asked the questions.
“When the children opened the door they let out the baby
dragons.” Marti watched for their reaction, surprised to see all they did
was give each other quick,
suspicious glances. He continued. “The window blew open and they flew out.
We’ve spent this whole day trying to catch them and bring them back to the
cavern, which is behind the door.”
“Dragons, you say? Just how many baby dragons are there?”
Jules didn't know how many eggs the dragonkeepers had managed to save.
“I’ve never really counted. You don’t seem too
concerned that Gretel is missing. I must say, you both don’t seem
surprised that there are dragons in this day and age. I’m a bit confused.
What is going on here?” Marti, prepared for any answer, gasped when
Gretel’s parents pulled out their daggers.
“Wow! Those swords look just like that other
man’s sword, the one who took Gretel.” Crispin jumped off the bed and ran
“That man’s name is Darmantha. He’s a dragonslayer and so are
we!” Jules snarled at them.
“What do you mean? Gretel doesn’t know anything about this,
does she?” Marti couldn’t believe it.
“Gretel only thinks we’re bad parents. She has no idea we’re
dragonslayers. When Quirin hid the dragons, we knew it was somewhere in
this area. Darmantha told us to stay here and keep an eye on the
villagers. He wanted us to look for odd visitors or strange events. Never
did we dream you had the dragons hidden right under your house. We kept
our identities hidden. Foolish old man. You’ve no idea what your involved
in, do you? Enough of Erika and Jules. My name’s Jorna and he’s Provan.”
Her voice was full of anger and rage. “I’m so glad we don’t have to use
those pathetic names any more.”
“Will Darmantha hurt Gretel?” Crispin wondered.
“You’d better hope not. I don’t know if he realizes who she is
yet. Show us the dragons.” Jorna grabbed Crispin's arm.
Quirin, curious about the visitors, made his
way up the steps. He stopped at the door and listened to the voices.
Recognizing his foes, he whispered, “Jorna and Provan. They’ve found the
dragons.” He crept back down the stairs to hide.
Marti led Jorna and Provan down to the cave, wondering where
Quirin lay hidden. He saw no
sign of the wizard. Out of nowhere the dragons flew at them from all
directions, squealing and screeching, with claws out, as if they sensed
death and approaching doom. They attacked the two dragonslayers.
“Call those dragons off, or I’ll start
stabbing them.” Provan swatted at the dragons. Shouting at Marti, he drew
his dagger. “It doesn’t matter to me if there are fifty or ten of them.
They’re all going to die soon anyway. Call them off. Now!”
Marti didn’t know what to do. He had no way of calling off the
dragons without concentrating.
Quirin, still hiding, communicated through telepathy with the
dragons. They flew down to the bottom of the cave and lay still and quiet.
Provan and Jorna glared at each other. “That’s better. How are
you able to communicate with them old man? How many did you say were
here?” Provan started counting them.
“There are forty of them.” Jorna had already counted.
“That makes forty-two, including the two you say Darmantha has
with him. How did Quirin gather that many eggs?” Provan mumbled to
Crispin, well aware of the two missing dragons, glanced at
“By the way, I like the touch of sparkles on the cave walls.
It’s an old trick used to keep things undetected. I sense Quirin’s hand in
this. No wonder we never knew they were here,” Provan snapped, looking at
the glittery walls. He walked around the cave. “Well, well, well; what’s
this? Come and see, Jorna. Bring those two with you.”
Jorna pushed Crispin and Marti ahead. Her
mouth dropped open when she saw Zara. “What is that?”
“Can’t you tell it’s a dragon?” Crispin made
fun of her. “Even I can tell that.”
Fury raged in Jorna’s eyes. “Don’t mock me,
boy.” She took out her dagger and jabbed it into the dragon and walked
over to see the wound. “There’s no blood.” She squeezed it. “It’s made of
cumminosal.” Provan kicked it with his foot.” This is what will happen to
the dragons if you don’t cooperate with us.” He kicked it again, this time
in the face. “Look at all this junk. It looks like a child’s nursery in
here. These balls,” he reached over and picked one up, “are made of
cumminosal too. And look, Jorna. They’ve got pictures of dragons on them.
Isn’t that sweet. It disgusts me.” Provan threw the ball across the room.
It bounced off the cave wall and rolled across the floor, stopping at the
bottom of a stalagmite.
Marti shook his head in disgust.
“Provan, they’ve got Rainbow Lights.” Jorna pointed to the ceiling. “Do
you know how rare those are, Marti? How did you get three of them?” Jorna
moved her face closer to his. “You’d better tell me old man. Remember the
“They were given to me by my parents long
ago.” Marti lowered his gaze.
“Where did your parents get them, or don’t you
know that either?” Jorna sneered.
“I don’t remember what they said,” Marti
muttered. “I was only a boy.”
“It doesn’t matter. I think we’ll take them with us, along with all the
dragons.” Provan jumped onto a ledge, wrapped his legs around a stalagmite
and scooted up to the top.
“Don’t take them, please. I haven’t got much
left to remind me of my parents.” Marti pleaded.
“Sorry, old man, but they’re ours now. This is a beauty, very rare. You
could say, priceless. You don’t need these without the dragons around.
Anyway, you’ve got memories of your parents, don’t you? What more do you
need?” Provan lifted one of the lights off its chain.
Crispin held Marti back. “Let them have the
lights, Marti. It’s not worth it.” They watched as Provan removed all
three Rainbow Lights.
“Lovely and rare,” Jorna said when Provan
handed them to her. “We can make a fortune with these things alone.”
“Tie them up, Jorna. We don’t need these two interfering while we gather
Jorna picked up a piece of rope lying on the floor. She forced Marti and
Crispin to sit next to a stalagmite, their backs pressed against it. Cold
moisture seeped through their clothing chilling their flesh. Jorna wrapped
the rope around the jutting rock several times, tying them to it. Provan
gave it a few extra tugs to make it extra tight. “That should hold them.”
He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out several large stiff cloth
Crispin noticed. “Don’t take the dragons.
Don’t put them in those dirty coal bags.”
“Shut up, boy, or you’ll taste my dagger,”
Crispin whispered to Marti. “Will the coal
dust hurt the dragons?”
“No, but cramming forty dragons into four bags won’t do them any good.”
Marti’s heart ached for what lay ahead for the dragons.
Quirin sent the confused dragons a message, urging them to stay calm and
do as they were told.
The dragons cooperated as Provan and Jorna put them in the bag. “If these
dragons know what’s good for them, they’ll not fight back or resist. I’ll
not hesitate to stab them to death.”
Marti turned his head, not wanting to watch.
After a few minutes Provan tied the last bag up. “I’ve got them all. You
stay down here and guard these two. I’ll carry the bags and our three new
Rainbow Lights to the sled.” One at a time, Provan removed the bagfuls of
babies from the cave. When ready to leave, he stood at the top of the
stairs. “Come on, Jorna. We’re ready to go.”
She looked at Marti. “Stupid old man. Did you really think you could keep
the dragons from us? I’m going to take great care to make each of them
suffer as I kill them.” She laughed in his face and then ran up and stood
near the door. After she reached the switch, she turned the lights off at
the top. “Enjoy the dark boys.”
Marti and Crispin found themselves in total darkness,
surrounded by a thick darkness, an emptiness, a nothingness. Crispin
forced himself not to cry, shivering in misery and cold.
Marti shouted, “Hang on boy. Stop that squirming. Quirin, help
It started with a soft glow deep at the back
of the cavern and then inch by inch, a light illuminated the cavern until
it shone like the full moon dancing on fallen snow. Quirin walked towards
them. The ropes untied, falling to the floor and without any struggle and
the two stood up. “Who are you?” Crispin knew it was the owner of the cap.
“I’m Quirin, the wizard.”
“If you’re a wizard, then why didn’t you stop
them from taking the dragons? Why did you let them take them and the
Rainbow Lights?” Crispin wailed. “They’ll kill them and you could have
stopped it. You’re not a very good wizard.”
“Crispin,” Marti said, grabbing the boy’s
arm. “I think the dragons will be all right.” He looked to Quirin for
“Yes, Crispin, I could have stopped
them, but I feel this needs to be played out, if we want to get all
the dragons back alive, so I allowed it,” Quirin said. “Remember,
Darmantha has two of them and Gretel. No harm will come to the dragons, or
Gretel, at least for the time being. We may also have a chance to get
those Rainbow Lights back. Both of you please sit down. There are some
things I need to explain.” Marti and Crispin sat down on the cold stone
floor. “I meant upstairs, where it is warm.” Quirin climbed the stairs
with a grateful Marti and Crispin close behind him.
“How do you know the dragons will be all right? Gretel’s
parents are mean. They’ll hurt them. You heard what they said. They are
going to kill them all. We’ve got to go and get them right now!” Crispin
ran toward the door.
“Crispin! Come back here. You’ll have to trust that I know
what I’m doing,” Quirin said.
Crispin pouted and flopped down on the couch. “How can someone
as nice as Gretel have such horrible parents? Does she know her mother and
father are dragonslayers?” Crispin frowned.
At the top of the steps Marti turned and
looked down into the empty cave. “I think Quirin is about to explain that
to us.” He sighed. “I can’t believe they’re gone. Seventy years with them
and this is the first time I’ve felt such loneliness.”
Crispin said, “We’ll get them back! I know we
Quirin sat at the table. “You two had better
sit in front of the fire and dry off. It’s a long
story I have to tell. I don’t know where to begin except at the