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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Two - Arbutel - Chapter 20

            Brilliant canary yellow butterflies surrounded Crispin and the two dragons. Their jaws snapped, trying to catch them. “Don’t eat the butterflies, Jago and Rosenwyn. They’re much too pretty.” Jezerel meadow, blanketed with flowers of every color imaginable, stretched for miles. “I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of butterflies. I wonder which way we should go. I’ve no idea where we are. We must be in Arbutel. Gretel, Marti, and Quirin are here somewhere, but so are Provan, Jorna and Darmantha. We’ve got to watch out for them. You don’t know about them yet, do you? I’ve got to keep you hidden from them. They’re bad people. If we run into them, fly away as fast as you can, okay?” He spoke to the dragons with tenderness, yet firmness.

They responded by licking his hands.

“Whew, it’s hot here.” He took his coat off and laid it in the flowers, along with his gloves and woolen hat and scarf. “I don’t think we’ll be needing these any longer.” Rolling up the sleeves of his shirt, he said, “I think we’ll go that way.” He pointed to the east. I smell the sea. If nothing else, you guys can catch yourself a fish or two. Maybe I will too. I’m sick of eating bread and cheese. Come on, little ones. Let’s go and find the ocean.”

The dragons flew into the air and swished in and out of the masses of butterflies and flowers.

Crispin slipped the pack on his back and headed eastward. Sweat trickled down his forehead, dripping onto his shirt. “It’s pretty here, but it’s awful hot. I’m hungry too. Maybe we can find some wild berries or coconuts. Why don’t you two go ahead, but not too far, and see if you spot anything to eat. Remember, no butterflies!”

The dragons flew toward a patch of palm trees.

 “The smell of the sea is strong.” Crispin thought back to the day he went to visit his grandfather, who lived in a small cottage on the shores of the North Sea. Although he couldn’t remember much, Crispin vividly recalled his grandfather and him walking hand in hand along the beach and smelling a strange smell. ‘It’s the sea that you smell,’ he’d told Crispin. ‘There’s nothing like it. It’s salty, yet sweet and strong, yet remarkably gentle.’ Loud screeches came from the palms.

“What’s wrong?” Crispin shouted and ran toward the trees, afraid the dragons were in some sort of trouble. When he saw them, he fell to his knees laughing.

Jago wobbled around with a huge, round red fruit on his head. He’d obviously tried to take a bite and stuck his head in too far.

“Jago, you silly dragon! Here, let me help you.” Crispin grabbed hold of the fruit and pulled it off the dragon’s head. Pieces of the fruit’s flesh stuck to his face and neck.       Rosenwyn immediately ran over and licked Jago’s face clean.

“What sort of fruit is this anyway?” He’d never seen anything like it. “There are no seeds in it and it’s red all the way through.” Seeing that the dragons enjoyed the yamita, he picked one off the tree and sat down. “This tree is different than the palm trees. Look at the leaves. They’re big.” He punched a hole in the yamita with his fist and pulled out some fruit with his fingers, pushing it into his mouth. “This is great. I taste bananas and plums and other stuff.” He devoured it ravenously and didn’t stop with only one. When he’d finished his tenth one, he lay back, his tummy bulging. “I can’t believe I ate all those. How about you? Are you full too?”

The dragons lay down on their backs and put their legs straight up in the air. Their protruding bellies, round and firm, poked out.

“Yes, I think you’re full. I don’t know what that fruit was, but it tasted good. I don’t think I’ll want to eat anything else the rest of the day.” As they lay there, dozing off and on, Crispin heard the sound of waves crashing against the beach. Rolling onto his knees he said, “We’re near the sea. I can smell it and I can hear it. Come on.” He stood, holding his belly. Let’s go slowly. If I run, I’ll be sick.”

The dragons didn’t fly. They waddled behind him, their full tummies making them too off balance.

When they stepped onto the sandy beach, Crispin gasped. “Look at the size of those waves. They’re as tall as a pine tree.”

They crashed onto the beach with such power, frightening the dragons. They hid behind the boy.

“It looks like the tide is coming in.” He glanced up and down the white sand beach. “I see footprints. Come on.” He hurried along the beach, keeping a safe distance from the crashing waves. “There’s Gretel’s, Marti’s, and Quirin’s footprints. Let’s follow them.” Though they walked at a slow and steady pace and stayed back near the trees, it didn’t take long for Crispin and the dragons to travel a great distance. “We must have walked for hours, yet, it feels like we’ve only walked a short distance. It’s time for a break.”

The dragons plopped down in the sand.

“Good; you agree. We’ll rest for a few minutes.” Crispin looked at the sea. The waves sparkled and danced in the sunlight. Whitecaps bubbled as they broke over the top of the waves. He saw fish swimming in the wave as it crested, before plunging onto the beach. “Jago, Rosenwyn, there are a lot of fish out there. Do you like fish?” He smiled at the two dragons. “I don’t think you’ve ever tried fish, have you. I know you like sausages and cheese. Once the waves die down, I’ll see if I can catch you a few.”

 Jago dug his claws into the sand and screeched when it ran down between them.          “You’re laughing, aren’t you? Does it tickle?” He dug his toes in and did the same. “It does tickle.”

Rosenwyn tried it too. 

They weren’t paying attention to the sea and didn’t see the monstrous wave about to crash down upon them.  Jago looked up and let out a loud screech.

“Yikes!” Crispin jumped up. “Let’s get out of here.” He ran into the trees and the dragons followed. They heard the wave pound on the sand and the water rush towards them. “Go faster. You guys better fly away.”

Jago and Rosenwyn flapped their wings and headed up high into the treetops.    Crispin felt the water closing in around him. A wall of seawater went over the top of him, carrying him inland, through the trees. He struggled to breathe as it crushed the air out of his lungs and pushed him to the ground. Water rushed over the top of him and then he felt it pull back out to sea, dragging him along with it. The wave carried him back into the trees. Crispin reached out and grabbed onto a palm. Holding tight, he fought against the power of the sea. At last the wave disappeared, leaving him in a puddle of salty seawater. He coughed and choked, trying to get the water out of his lungs.

Jago and Rosenwyn flew down to him and stood nearby, curious about the sound of his coughing.

“Where did that wave come from? It must have been a tidal wave. I hope there’s not another one. Maybe we’d better head inland for a while.” He stood up, feeling weak and disoriented. “Let’s go this way.” He staggered a few steps and then remembered his pack. “My pack? Where is it?” He looked all around, but it was nowhere in sight. “It’s probably gone out to sea. Well, now we’ve got no food. I hope we can find more of those fruits.” 

Jago and Rosenwyn nodded.

Crispin didn’t know which way to go. Unsure of the correct direction, he shrugged his shoulders and headed away from the sun, hoping he was doing the right thing.

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