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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Two - Arbutel - Chapter 19

            “This is the sea? I’ve never seen the sea before? It’s beautiful! Look at the waves. The water is almost green.” Gretel gazed at the scene around her. “Oh look, there’s a turtle in the wave!” A huge sea turtle rode in, its form silhouetted in the watery height of the breaking wave. When it tumbled onto the sand, the turtle used its flippers to move itself towards the group. “It’s coming to see us!”

            “Animals living here show no fear of humans. There is no reason for them to fear us.” Quirin patted the turtle’s leathery head. “If Darmantha, Jorna, and Provan are here, that might change.”

            Marti and Gretel stroked the turtle too, amazed by its trust and confidence in them. After watching the turtle make its way back to the sea, Marti said, “Well, Quirin, we’re here. Now what?”

            “Look at the trees and flowers and how blue the sky is. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Can I go and gather sea shells?” Gretel saw a few scattered across the sand.

            “Go right ahead, but there’s no need. They’re always here. Once you pick them up, you’ll have to carry them with you all the time. We’ll come back. Why don’t you just wait?” Seashells interested Quirin as much as emeralds did.

            “I’ll go and pick one. I don’t mind carrying it around. I’ll take good care of it.” Gretel smiled at Quirin and ran down the beach.

            “Where do we go now?” Marti looked at the palms swaying in the tropical breeze. “In there? Is that where we’ll find my parents?” Quirin understood Marti’s anxiousness.

            “This is Jobani Beach. We need to hug the beach for a few miles before we go inland. Your parents, Gordinth, and the dragons, Jago and Rosenwyn, live in the small village of Lubo. It’s not really a village. There are only a few huts, but we call it a village anyway. If we leave now, we can probably be there before nightfall. Time is different here, Marti. Even though we’re on the same planet, this island lives in its own time and space. A day lasts the equivalent of two days in your village in Switzerland.” Quirin glanced at the sun.

            “What about night? How long does that last?”

            “Night lasts just a short time here. I’d say about six hours. There’s enough time to rest. I always wake up feeling refreshed, even on nights I only sleep for two hours. There’s something about the air here. It’s quite a place, as you’ll soon find out.”

            Gretel came running back, seashell in hand. “Look at this one, Marti. It’s got pink stripes and green dots. I didn’t know there were shells like this. Isn’t it pretty?”

            Marti lay down his walking stick and took the shell from her, examining it. “Yes, it’s quite pretty and I’ve never seen anything like it either, but I think we’re going to see many things here that we’ve never seen or imagined before.”

            “Well, now that Gretel has found her shell, we can be off.” Quirin started walking. Marti followed, not noticing he’d left his cane behind and went on without its aid.

            “Wait, Quirin, I’m hungry. I’m sick of eating cheese and bread. Can’t we find something to eat?” Gretel complained of a rumbly tummy.

            “Hungry? Of course you are. Let’s see, over there.” Quirin headed towards a tree.

            Leaves, each about the size of a large cat, hung from the branches. Growing between them, ripe, red fruits dangled, inviting and succulent. “Here,” Quirin said, picking one for each of them. “These are yamitas. They are very delicious. Go ahead, take a bite.”

            Marti bit into his. Juice squirted out in all directions. “This is delicious. It tastes like melon and oranges mixed together with plums. Take a bite, Gretel.”

            She bit into the fruit, making sure to aim away from Marti and Quirin, so the juice didn’t squirt them. “Oh, this is good. I can taste the melon, Marti, and the oranges, and the plums. I taste banana too. Can you?”

            Marti took another bite, wiping the dripping juice off his chin. “Yes, I can. This is the best yamita I’ve ever tasted.” He laughed.

            “It’s the only yamita you’ve ever tasted, Marti.” Gretel giggled and took another bite.

            “They will fill you up for hours. I promise you’ll not be hungry for along time. Eat up.” Quirin watched them devouring their fruit.

            “There aren’t any seeds to spit out and we can eat the skin. There’s nothing to throw away.” Gretel wiped her sticky hands on her pants. “How do they grow new yamitas without seeds?”

            “Almost everything here grows by itself. That reminds me,” Quirin said. “You no longer need these clothes. He took out his wand and sprinkled glittery dust on the two of them.

            Marti’s winter outfit changed into a pair of summery cornflower blue shorts, leather sandals, and a white button up shirt with matching blue tropical flowers on the pickets and across the back.

            Gretel’s new ensemble included cotton candy pink shorts, white leather sandals, a matching pink top, and a flower lei around her neck.

            “That’s much better.”

            “This is wonderful, Quirin. These flowers smell so good. What are they?” Gretel sniffed her lei.

            Marti, not sure what to think of his new attire, looked down at his feet. “I’ve never worn sandals before, but they feel nice and comfortable. Thank you, Quirin. This will do fine. It’s the new me.” He laughed with joy.

            “Those yellow and pink flowers are honeyberry blossoms and the white and purple ones are fragrant dunomis orchids. They’re very rare. The only place you’ll find them is here on Arbutel. Aren’t they lovely?” Quirin, quite pleased with himself, bounced his head back and forth and smiled at the girl.

            “They smell better than roses,” Gretel agreed, “and I love the pink and purple colors.”

            “Now that we’re all dressed properly, we’ll be on our way,” Quirin said.

            “Wait, Quirin. That’s not true. You’re not dressed properly. You’re still wearing that old green robe. You must be hot.” Gretel tugged at the cloth.

            “Quite right, child. I am rather hot.” With his wand in hand, he changed his appearance in the blink of an eye. Though his hair hung to the middle of his back, long and gray like his beard, he no longer wore wizard’s clothing. Instead, he wore a pair of violet shorts, brown leather sandals, and a white tee shirt that said, ‘Wizards are cool’, written in bright pink. In place of his cap, a straw hat sat on his head.

            Gretel burst out laughing. “That’s so funny, Quirin. Do you ever wear socks?”

            “Never. Wizards don’t wear socks. What a silly question to ask. Do you like my outfit?”

            Gretel, still laughing, pointed at Quirin’s feet. “Your toes are long and bony.”

            “I’m glad you find them amusing. Now, are we ready to go?”

            “I am,” Marti said.

            “Me too,” Gretel said, still laughing at him.

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