donned his hat and cape. A smile spread across his face. “The fire warmed
them up nicely. Thank you, Marti.”
Crispin’s eyes wandered up and down, examining
the wizard. “You look cool. Do you think you could get me one of those
capes and a hat, except in blue?”
“Stop that, Crispin! It’s no time to think
about capes and hats. Bundle up. The snow’s died down a bit, but the wind
is still howling.” Marti cautioned the boy.
Crispin slipped on gloves, wool hat, mittens
and his coat. “Will this do?”
Marti nodded with approval.
“Where are we going, Quirin? You said you knew
where Gretel is.” Bundled up, Crispin ran to the door.
“I said I thought I knew where
Darmantha may have taken her. We’ve got to start somewhere. Follow me.”
Quirin put his hand on the doorknob and started turning it.
“Wait! If you’re a wizard, why do we have to
walk in the cold wind? Why can’t you just use your magic wand and zap us
to where Gretel is?”
Quirin smiled at Crispin. “You ask a lot of
questions, young boy. Magic is not a toy. We don’t use our powers for such
trivial things. It won’t hurt us to go out in the fresh air.”
“It’s not fresh air. It’s freezing out there!”
Crispin rubbed his arms.
Quirin opened the door. Frigid air and snow roared past them into the
cottage, encircling them in a tornado of cold dampness. He pushed the door
shut and turned to Crispin. “Perhaps the boy’s right. I’ll just get out my
While he searched for it, Crispin smiled a proud grin at Marti.
“Ah, here it is.” Holding the wand high in the air, Quirin shouted,
“Arooza Capatua Bernosi!”
Tiny, colorful sparks exploded around the three of them. “Wow! This is
great!” Crispin laughed and clapped his hands together, full of
excitement. A warm wind began circling them, pulling the sparkles in with
it. Popping and crackling noises filled the air. When it stopped, they
found themselves standing in the middle of the living room of Gretel’s
house. “Can we do that again?”
Quirin and Marti went from room to room
searching for Gretel. Marti sighed. “I thought she might be here. There’s
no sign of Jorna or Provan either. Where else could they be?”
“Do you know of any caves in this area besides
the one under your house? They’ll have to take the dragons…wait, something
just occurred to me.” Quirin stopped his thought and his eyes lit up. He
knew where they‘d disappeared. “Provan and Jorna have taken the dragons to
“Where’s Arbutel and why would they take the
dragons there? Didn’t you say it was a safe place? Is that near our
village? I’ve never heard of it before, except that Gordinth comes from
there.” Crispin frowned with confusion.
“Arbutel is far away.” Quirin sat down on one
of the couches in Gretel’s living room. “Sit down. There’s more I need to
“More? What now?” Marti whined and then he and
Crispin sat in two leather chairs opposite Quirin.
“Gordinth, the wizard I told you about, originally came from
Tritem, a land on the other side of the world. You could say it’s in
remote unexplored parts. His people lived peacefully with the dragons
until one day. It started out as any other, but by midday half the dragons
in the land lay dead. There were no wounds, no signs of anything physical,
that we could see anyway, and it was a mystery to everyone. By evening all
the dragons lay dead, except Jago and Rosenwyn. The beaches, the meadows,
the hilltops – all were covered with dragon carcasses. Gordinth, upon
seeing the dragons falling, took the two living dragons and as many eggs
as he could gather to another land, Arbutel. The people of Tritem,
confused at the lack of an explanation for the deaths, were devastated by
the loss of their friends, the dragons, and became a sad people. No
singing was ever heard again, no laughter, no joy ever felt by a single
person. Within five years every one of them died of a broken heart. Only
Gordinth, who had the wisdom to take the two dragons with him, lived. He
stayed on the island of Arbutel. The only time he left was when he brought
the eggs laid by Rosenwyn and others that he’d gathered to this land.”
“Why didn’t he keep them at Arbutel, where
they’d be safe?” Marti didn’t understand.
“With everything that had happened on Tritem,
Gordinth was afraid. What if Jago and Rosenwyn caught the disease? What if
they died? What if the eggs died too? He felt it best to put them
somewhere away from Jago and Rosenwyn. After about 50 years, the eggs
hatched. At first the villagers welcomed the eggs. As they grew into adult
dragons everyone helped raise them. In fact, for several hundred years
they lived together in peace and harmony. Those dragons had babies too. It
wasn’t until Jarltor Gygli and his hunting parties came along that things
“Why did all the dragons die? What happened to
the first Jago and Rosenwyn? Did they stay in Arbutel? Did they die? Did
“One day, just before Jarltor came along,
Gordinth showed up with two more eggs and left them with one of the
dragons, Cloudwaltzer. She was later killed. We were lucky to save the
eggs – little Jago and Rosenwyn. Young boy, you ask too much and too
quickly.” Quirin wiped his brow with the sleeve of his cape. “Jago and
Rosenwyn are still alive. They are old, but doing well. Gordinth is with
them. He was concerned and always asked how the young dragons were
progressing, but his heart lay in Arbutel with his two beloved dragons. As
for the reason, nobody knows what happened on Tritem. No spells were used
against them. It was just one of those things. Often diseases ravage
certain species and eliminate them. I suppose it is nature’s way of
keeping a balance.”
“Maybe they were poisoned?” Crispin suggested.
“We’ll never know for sure, but we all
accepted that it was just their time to go,” Quirin said.
“Why don’t you take us to Tritem and we’ll
see.” Crispin smiled.
Marti sat listening to everything Quirin and
Crispin said. He interrupted, “Quirin, why do you think Provan and Jorna
took the baby dragons there?”
“That’s a good question. I hope I can answer
it to your satisfaction. Arbutel is a land like no other. Not even Tritem
equaled it in beauty. The leaves on the trees never fall. They stay green,
like springtime, all year long. Birds sing enchanting songs, captivating
all who happen to hear them. The colors of the flowers are brilliant and
there are shades of red, blue, yellow and pink that you can’t even imagine
in all your wildest dreams. The seas are greenish blue and the sunlight
dances on the waves as they roll onto the beach. The sand is whiter than
snow. The air is fragrant and perfumed with the sweet smell of flowers and
fruits, always ripe and ready to be picked and eaten. Jago and Rosenwyn
live with Gordinth in one part of the island, at the bottom of a mountain.
There’s a part of the island that’s not so nice. It’s full of dangers. We
avoid it. One of the marvels of Arbutel is that you can travel for days
and never see it all, so we saw no problem keeping the babies safe. If
Jorna and Provan took the babies to the other part of the island, they
could keep the baby dragons hidden from us for years.”
“But they want to kill the dragons, not keep
them. I heard them talking about it. They are dragonslayers, not
dragonkeepers.” Crispin cried with worry.
You’re right. I don’t think they went there
with the dragons so they could live in peace and harmony. I believe they
have some sort of ritual that they want to do, but want to do it on
Arbutel. Darmantha has strong ties to his past, which began on Arbutel.
They’ll soon find out, if they haven’t already, about the missing babies.
I know they’ll do nothing until they’ve found them all.”
“What sort of ritual?” Crispin didn’t like the
sound of that word. “Why doesn’t he just kill them all right away?”
Quirin stood up. “There are many ancient
rituals regarding dragons. I’m sure Darmantha has some evil plan in mind.
His hatred for dragons is deep. He’ll want to have the biggest thrill he
can get when he does get around to killing them. Enough of this for now.
It’s time to find Gretel, Venec and Cardew.”
“Do you know where they are?” Marti questioned
“I think we’ll have to look for them the old
fashioned way, with our two legs. I don’t know where they are, yet, I
sense they are nearby.”
Crispin ran to the door. “Let’s find them. I
know all the hiding places in this village. Follow me!”
The wizard and Marti bowed to the boy, smiled
at him and then went out into the cold. “Wait Crispin! Slow down! I don’t
think they’ll be at the chocolatiers, nor the butcher shop, nor the
bakery.” Marti called after the boy, who walked towards the buildings.
Crispin slowed his pace until the others
caught up with him. “I know that, Marti. At the other end of the
village there’s an abandoned cottage. Mr. Hochstetter used to live there,
way before I was born. My mother once told me about him. Nobody has lived
there for years and it is all full of spider webs and most of it is
falling apart. There’s no furniture and some of the windows are cracked or
broken.” Crispin pointed up the street. “It’s the perfect hiding place and
it’s not far. My brothers and I used to sneak inside and go exploring.”
“We might as well try.” Quirin pulled his cape
around him. “Onward, young boy. Show us the way.”
They marched down the middle of the empty
street. Their feet crunched on the icy snow. “It’s eerie at night.
Goodness, it is well after midnight.” Marti glanced at his pocket watch.
“You should be in bed, Crispin. What will your parents think?”
“I told you already, Marti, my parents
probably don’t even know I’m missing.” Crispin reminded him of their
“What about your brothers and sisters?” Quirin
stopped and looked around the village.
“The only one that might miss me is Hendrik.
Don't worry. He'll just hog up the bed and think I'm sleeping in Karl's
They had just passed William’s Butcher Shop
when Cardew and Venec came swooping down from above, surprising them. For
several minutes they soared around the wizard’s green hat. “Well, what
have we here? Venec? Cardew?” The two dragons landed on the ground in
front of them.
“It’s the dragons. Where’s Gretel?” Crispin
knelt down on the snow-covered ground and stroked their bumpy backs.
Marti squatted. “It’s good to see you two
boys. I’m glad you’re safe.” He patted Venec’s head. He then noticed the
tear on Cardew’s wing. “Oh no, you’ve been hurt. Quirin, look at Cardew’s
wing. Can you fix it?”
Quirin looked at the wing. “He’ll be fine. It
will heal itself in no time and will not hinder his ability to fly.
However, I don’t like this bruise on Venec’s belly? That will take a bit
longer to heal.” He stroked the bruise with his fingers. Venec flinched.
“Yes, I know it hurts. We’ll have to be careful with you for a while.”
“Did Darmantha do that? It looks like he
punched Venec, or kicked him. Poor dragon.” Crispin ached for the baby.
Quirin stood silent. “The dragons know where
Gretel is. Cardew tells me she’s safe for now. Darmantha is keeping her as
a hostage in Mr. Hochstetter’s abandoned cottage, just as you thought,
Crispin. Well done! When Darmantha wakes up and finds the two of them
gone, he may harm Gretel.”
“Oh no! He can’t do that. We’ve got to help
her.” Crispin ran towards the cottage.
“Wait, boy. Darmantha is a powerful wizard.
While I hesitate to use my powers, he won’t hesitate to use his for evil
purposes. He’d kill Gretel in an instant if he went into one of his rages.
We must be cautious.” Quirin warned Marti and Crispin. “Look what he did
to little Venec.”
“What will we do?” Marti wondered how they
were going to save her.
“I would suggest that Crispin take Venec and
Cardew back to your cottage and stay with them until we get back. It’s too
dangerous for him otherwise and for the wounded dragons. Would you do
that, Crispin?” Quirin gazed at the boy with fondness.
“I really want to go with you and help save
Gretel,” he said, but when he saw the dragons shivering, he knew they
needed to go to a warm place. “Oh, all right. I’ll take them to Marti’s
cottage. I’ll give them some bread and cheese. They love Swiss cheese,
don’t they Marti?”
“Yes, Crispin, they do. Feed them all you want
and eat whatever you’d like too. Check on Heidi for me, will you?” Marti
tussled Crispin’s hair.
Crispin picked up the two dragons, carrying
one under each arm, being careful of their injuries.
“Go with him.” Quirin commanded the dragons to
Crispin headed back through town towards the
“At least those two are safe.” With one less
thing to worry about, Quirin walked on.
“What’s our plan? How do we save the girl?”
Marti ran to catch up
“If Darmantha is still asleep, our problem is
over. I’ll simply cast a spell of prolonged, deep sleep on him. We’ll go
in and get Gretel and walk right out the front door. If he’s awake, well,
that’s another story.”
“It sounds too simple, Quirin. How can you do
magic on another wizard?”
“If he is awake, I won’t be able to and we’ll
have quite a battle, but when a wizard is having a moment of weakness,
such as sleep, another wizard can use that to his advantage without the
other knowing. The opportunity doesn’t happen too often. Let’s hope
Darmantha is sleeping.”
They walked toward the cottage. The wooden
boards of the outer walls lay on the ground after falling from around the
doors and windows. Marti looked in through one of the cracked glass panes.
“I see them. Darmantha is asleep. We’re in luck. Gretel’s sleeping too.”
“That’s wonderful. Stand back.” Quirin took
out his wand and chanted, “Hominum Dictami Tabula.”
Marti, puzzled when nothing amazing happened, looked in the
window again. No sparkles of color swirled about. No hot breezes blew
through the cracks in the walls and nothing inside the cottage changed.
“Did it work?” Marti wondered, unable to tell.
“Let’s find out. Stay here for a moment. ”
Quirin opened the door to the cottage, letting the wind and snow blow in
after him. When Darmantha stayed asleep, Quirin winked at Marti. He came
into the room.
Gretel stirred and sat up, rubbing her eyes.
“Marti!” She jumped up and ran into his arms. After a long hug, she turned
and looked at Darmantha. “Why is he still sleeping? We’re not being
that quiet. Who are you?” She stared at the tall, thin man’s pointed
“We need to leave, now.” Quirin went out the
Marti took Gretel’s hand and went outside. He
shut the door behind them. “Shh. Don’t say or ask anything yet, Gretel.
Wait until we’re back at my cottage. Just hurry, please.” He rushed along
behind Quirin, pulling her along with him. They burst through the door
into Marti’s cottage.
Crispin looked up and saw Gretel. “Gretel! You’re all right!”
He hugged her.
Venec and Cardew lay asleep on Marti’s bed.
“You found them!” Gretel ran over to the bed and stroked the
sleeping dragons, carefully examining Venec’s sore spot and Cardew’s wing.
* * *
The sound of cawing crows outside the window
roused Darmantha from his sleep. Remembering Gretel and the dragons, he
sat up and looked around the room. “The girl! She’s escaped! What has she
done with the dragons?” His fury, evident by the way he threw the stool
across the room. Kicking everything in sight, Darmantha went into a rage.
The dilapidated cabin burst into pieces and blew apart in all directions.
He stood in the middle of the pile of smoking wood. People walking past
stopped to stare. Darmantha glared at them. “Get lost. What are you
Nobody uttered a word, but rushed by, keeping
their eyes downward.
“How did this happen? How was she able to
escape? I wasn’t that tired.” He looked down at the rubble. “One of those
dragonkeepers is somehow behind this somehow.” Darmantha screamed in anger
and then ran into the village. “What time is it?” He grabbed the first man
who walked past. When he discovered it was late afternoon, he threw the
man to the ground and kicked him. In a temptuous fury he wrapped his black
cloak around him and disappeared.