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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Two - Arbutel - Chapter 27

          Gretel squeezed Quirin's hand. “I think Marti was happy to see his mom and dad, don’t you?”

“Yes, I’m sure he was happy. Now, where is Gordinth? I want you to meet him. He’s a very ancient wizard who has led a long, purposeful life,” Quirin said.

          An old man, dressed in a silvery gray cloak and wearing a hat similar to Quirin’s stepped out of one of the huts. “That must be Gordinth. You have a beard and he doesn’t. Why?” Gretel reached over and tugged on his beard.

          “I prefer a beard, thank you,” Quirin whispered back. “There’s no rule that says wizards have to have beards you know.” He winked at her.

         Gordinth used a cane, much like the one Marti had used. Gretel remembered something and tugged on Quirin’s sleeve. “Marti hasn’t used his walking stick since we came here. Did you notice? I wonder where it is.”

         Quirin shrugged his shoulders. “Ah, you noticed that.”

         She sniffed the air. “Gordinth smells like pine trees.”

           Quirin nodded. “It’s incense. He’s quite fond of the stuff. As for Marti, he'll find that things are different here on Arbutel. He'll never need that walking stick again, well, not for at least another nine hundred years.” He chuckled.

          Gordinth grasped Quirin’s arm. “Quirin.  You’ve finally arrived. I can’t wait to see the babies. Where are they?” Just then Venec and Cardew flew by and landed on the ground next to Gordinth. “I see two babies. Is this all that survived or are there others?” The ancient wizard looked around for them. “I can’t see them anywhere. Did you already put them in the cave with Jago and Rosenwyn?”

          “Gordinth, this is Gretel. She’s Astrid’s and Reyka’s daughter. Do you remember they had a child?” Quirin explained to him, knowing his memory turned itself off and on at times least expected.

“Oh yes, Gretel. You were just a baby when your parents were killed. Come here and give me a hug.”

           Gretel wrapped her arms around Gordinth and hugged him. His life force, strong and energy filled, enveloped her. “You’re a powerful wizard, aren’t you, Gordinth. I can feel it.”

           “Hee hee, child. I once was powerful. What you feel is experience. I sensed strength in you too, Gretel. You’ll be a great dragonkeeper some day. Did Quirin tell you?”

“Yes. I can talk to the dragons. Venec and Cardew came here with us.”

“Where are the other dragons?” Gordinth couldn’t remember Quirin’s answer.

           “There were complications. Darmantha, Jorna and Provan showed up. They took the dragons, but I think they are now on the island. We’ve come to find them.” Quirin moved closer to Gordinth, knowing his hearing was failing.

“Who’s we?” Gordinth gazed at Gretel.

“Gretel, myself, and Marti,” Quirin answered.

           “Marti? Oh, Sindri and Claring’s son. We owe a lot to him, caring for the babies all these years, without thinking of himself once. Great man. Where is he?” Gordinth glanced around.

           “He’s with Sindri and Claring, in their hut. They’re catching up on lost time. He’ll be along shortly,” Quirin said.

           “Can I see the hut my mom and dad lived in? I’d really like to.” Gretel’s eyes moved from hut to hut.

           “It’s over here, Gretel. Take my hand. I’m an old man. I need a pretty young thing like you to help me get around.” Gordinth slipped his wrinkled hands into hers. The bones, long and thin, held onto her. “There it is. Why don’t you run inside and look around. Quirin and I need to discuss the dragons.”

           Gretel looked to Quirin for approval. “Go ahead. It’s your hut now.” She smiled at both of them and ran inside. The two babies followed. “Wow, this is cool.” She saw the four posted queen-sized bed. A pale green feather quilt lay atop. Turquoise strands of thread wove through it from side to side, in wavy lines, making it look much like the ocean. Gretel looked at the pictures on the walls. Her mother and father smiled down at her from their photograph. “So you’re my parents. You’re pretty, Mother. Father, you’re quite handsome. I do look like you, Mother. Your hair was blonde too.” She pulled the photograph off the wall and hugged it to her and then put it down on the small set of drawers next to the bed. “I don’t have clothes to put in the drawers, at least not yet.” Venec and Cardew jumped up on the bed. “Well, hello. You’ve come to join me, have you?” She took the seashell and emerald out of her pocket and put them on the table next to her bed.

                                                * * *

           “That’s quite a few days you’ve had, Marti. Now you’re here with us in this wonderful place we call home. We’ll have to build you another hut, but for now, you can stay in here with us. It’s different, compared to what you’re used to, but I’m sure you’ll learn to love it here,” Sindri said. “Let’s have a feast to celebrate yours, Gretel’s and Quirin’s return. I’ll do the cooking. Claring, why don’t you take Marti to meet Gordinth.”

           “Good idea. Come on, son. Gordinth is a treasure. You’ll love him as much as we do, I’m sure.” Claring led Marti outside.

           Gordinth and Quirin sat on two tree stumps in the middle of the village. “Ah, there’s Marti now.”

          Gordinth and Marti bonded immediately. The four men talked, answering all of Marti’s questions and he theirs.

           Sindri started the preparations for the feast.

          Gretel took the lei from around her neck and draped it over a bedpost. She lay down on her parent’s bed and fell asleep, her arms wrapped around Venec and Cardew.

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