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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Three - The Dragon's Hope - Chapter 38

“Gordinth, why don’t you eat the taradak? Everyone else does, but not you. Don’t you like it?” Crispin picked up a piece with his finger and shoved it in his mouth. “I think it’s delicious, especially with that sauce on it.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an old man. Would you believe I am one thousand and fifty years old? I’ve lived way beyond my time. I’m not complaining, but there are things that I prefer not to eat anymore. They don’t agree with me. Roasted taradak, while delicious, is high in fat and gives me a bit of indigestion. I much prefer to eat cardooli and cold mork eggs. They’re just as good cold, especially when fried in hot butter.”

“Where do you get butter from? Back home we have cows that give us milk. Marti’s cow, Heidi, gives creamy milk. I helped Marti make butter. He makes the best cheese. Do you have cows here?” Crispin looked at the wizard. “I’ve never seen any.”

“No, Crispin, there are no cows here. We get our butter and milk from the graypees. They’re sort of like a goat, quite tame. We have a herd of them on the other side of the woods. Claring takes care of them and milks them every day. I don’t like the taste of the milk. It reminds me of sour yogurt, but the butter is delicious. Maybe you can help Claring with the butter and cheeses, since you’ve had experience.” Gordinth laughed.

They finished eating. Crispin wiped his hands on his pants. “I’m ready for another magic trick.”

“Why don’t you run to my hut and bring back my harp. It always makes me feel better when I play after supper.”

“You play the harp? I’ll go and get it. Is it easy to find?”

“Oh yes. It’s hidden behind the mummified alligator and the box of golden goblets,” Gordinth said.

“Mummified alligator? Okay.” Crispin ran off and opened the door to Gordinth’s hut. “Whew, it smells in here. What is burning?” He saw a thin trail of smoke rising. “He burns incense. It stinks.” He picked up a box holding sticks of lavender, chamomile and brasti incense. “Weird.” Looking around, the boy laughed at all the strange things he saw – jars of foy toes, umbi wings, and arum eyes. “What are all these things for?” Another gray cloak and hat hung on the bedpost. The harp was easy to find once he stopped examining everything else. He picked it up and carried it back to Gordinth. “Why do you burn incense?”

“I like the smell. Ah, there’s my harp.” Gordinth took it from Crispin’s hands and strummed the strings.

Melodic tunes floated through the air, relaxing Crispin’s mind. He sat down and thought about chasing dragonflies and butterflies back home with Gretel; his mind filling with scenes of snow-capped peaks glittering as the sunlight sparkled on the tiny flakes of ice. Fond memories full of meadows of edelweiss and bluebirds enchanted him until he noticed the music stopped.

 “Well boy, have you remembered the spells I’ve taught you?”

Crispin sat up, wide awake and eager to learn more. “Oh yes. I remember all the spells. Teach me the one where I can make myself invisible and can transport myself to other places. I know I can do it.”

“That, my young apprentice is not as easy as you might think. I remember the first time I tried it. I ended up transporting myself to my mother’s bedroom, right when she was changing her clothes. I was not only embarrassed, but also horrified that she might see me. Trust me, it takes practice to learn the ways. I see you’re not going to leave me alone until I show you. Where’s your wand?”

“Right here.” Crispin pulled it out of his pants pocket. “I’m ready.”

“Do you remember the invisible spell? I want you to make other things disappear too.”

“Yes. It’s Bicto Zomani Xeler!”

“To make yourself invisible you must add a word. You must say, ‘Bicto Zomani Xeler Uripa’. That’s the first part. Go on and give it a try.”

Crispin held his wand out in front of him. “Bicto Zomani Xeler Uripa!” With a poof, he became invisible. “It worked! I’m invisible! Can you see me, Gordinth?” He ran to the other side of the wizard. “How about now?”

“There’s much more to learn. Tell me, Crispin, how are you going to get yourself back to being visible again?” Gordinth smiled as he questioned.

“Um, I don’t know,” a voice said from behind Gordinth.

“Once again you didn’t show patience. You didn’t even ask me. You went right into the spell without asking the most important question, how will you get back? We talked about this earlier. You’ve forgotten the rules already.”

“Sorry, Gordinth. I’ll try harder. How do I get back?”

“You say Uripa Xeler Zomani Bicto; the same words, only backwards. Give it a try.”

Crispin shouted the words and re-appeared in front of Gordinth.

“Now, you go off and try that a few times until you’ve got it mastered. I’m going to take a nap.” Gordinth headed back to his hut carrying his harp, leaving the boy standing alone in the middle of the village.

Crispin mumbled under his breath. “Go back to your foy toes, whatever those are.”

Gordinth stopped and turned around. “Foy toes come from foys. They’re animals with big yellow wings, fingers that are nearly a foot long, and they have no eyes. They’re covered with leathery pink skin, have short green horns and their toes are excellent when roasted. I eat them for a late snack at night.” He laughed and went into the hut.

“Oops,” Crispin said, realizing Gordinth heard him complain. He shrugged his shoulders and spent the next hour practicing the words over and over again until he’d memorized them perfectly. He’d just made himself invisible once again when a puff of gray smoke appeared and along with it, Darmantha. Crispin ran and hid behind a tree. It’s the man with the breastplate, the dragonslayer, Darmantha. Darmantha stood near the fire, looking around the camp, his black cape blowing around him. When he stormed into Sindri, Marti, and Claring’s hut, Crispin ran behind a leafy bush and hid. Even though he was invisible, he feared Darmantha might see or hear him.

Darmantha came out of the hut and stood by the door. “Where are those fools? “Gordinth!” He shouted, calling the wizard. “Gordinth, old man, where are you? I know you’re in the village somewhere. I sense your presence. Boy, I know you’re here too, hiding like a coward. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay there and not interfere.”

Crispin swallowed, but stayed hidden.

Gordinth stuck his head out of his hut door. “Crispin, why are you shouting? I’m trying to sleep.”

“It’s not Crispin. At last we meet again, only this time, you’re alone. There’s no Quirin, or Claring, or Sindri to help you. It’s just you and me, old man.” Darmantha snarled.

Gordinth stepped out and walked with confidence toward Darmantha. “So, it is you. Feeling a little homesick, Darmantha? Come back to visit your ancestors and re-live the past?”

“Don’t antagonize me, old man. Have you forgotten what I did to your dear brother, Amtith?”

Crispin realized Darmantha was trying to provoke Gordinth. He knelt, parting the branches of the bush and watched the two great wizards, not knowing what either would do.

 Darmantha pulled out his wand. Immediately a bolt of black light flew from it, hitting Gordinth in the chest; the force pushing him backward into his hut. The wall collapsed with the impact and Gordinth lay still, his chest smoldering. “Come on, old man. Surely you’ve got fight left in you. You’re not going to let one meager zap from my wand kill you are you? Why, it took at least a dozen before it killed Amtith. You’ll never kill me. I’m the descendant of Kumtur, the greatest king of all time. This is my island, not yours, nor your do-good dragonkeepers.”

Gordinth struggled to get up. “You’re as big a cheater and coward as always,” he puffed. “You have no sense of honor or fairness.”

Crispin saw the wound in Gordinth's chest. Smoke billowed out and he smelled burning flesh. In a panic, he ran away from the village, not caring if he made noise. He heard the two of them exchanging blows. Darmantha screamed in pain and then Gordinth did the same. It went on and on until Crispin could bear no more. A thought entered his mind. Go and get the dragons. Bring them to me. Help me, Crispin. Gordinth called for his help. Crispin ran to the dragon cave, shouting. “Jago! Rosenwyn! Help! Darmantha’s killing Gordinth.” The dragons came out of the cave. They commanded the little ones to stay.

Gordinth needs our help? Where is he? Jago’s words came into Crispin’s mind.

“Hey, I can hear you. He’s in the village. Darmantha’s too powerful. You must help him, Jago. He needs you.”

Rosenwyn, stay here and take care of the little ones. They are the most important. Crispin, take me to Gordinth.

Crispin jumped on Jago’s neck and then climbed up to his back and held on.

 The dragon stretched his wings and flew to the village. He circled from a height, watching the events going on below. Gordinth’s power once was strong, but his age works against him.

“Help him, Jago. Darmantha’s going to kill Gordinth.”

Jago swooped down from above and flew like an arrow toward the village. Fire shot from his mouth, its red and orange blazing flames rushing out in a tempest of searing heat.

Gordinth looked up in time to see the fireball coming his way and moved before it broiled him alive. He escaped with only severe blistering to his arm.

Jago swooped up into the sky to make another round.

Not waiting for the next attack, Darmantha blasted Gordinth with his wand and then whisked his scorched cape around him and disappeared, leaving the incinerated village behind.

“Quick! Land!” Crispin ordered the dragon. He glided into a field near the village. Crispin jumped off and ran to find Gordinth. “Gordinth! Gordinth!”

Jago followed.

The walls of every hut lay on the ground. Thick black smoke vomited from piles of burnt wood. “Where are you, Gordinth? Answer me, please!”

Jago let out a loud screech!

The noise nearly deafened poor Crispin, who stood only yards away. Crispin walked over to a gray, smoldering mound lying on the ground near Jago’s feet. There lay Gordinth; his body full of bloody wounds. His hair, singed and full of still glowing ashes. “No! Gordinth!” Crispin lay down and lifted the wizard’s head onto his lap.

“Boy,” Gordinth gasped. His long, bony fingers, red with burns, reached for Crispin’s hand. “My young apprentice, look at me.”

Crispin raised his tear-filled eyes and looked at the wizard.

A smile spread across the old man’s face. “Don’t cry, boy. I’m proud of you. You’ve done well. I’ve lived a long, wonderful life. I have nothing to regret, except that I didn’t get to teach you more.” He coughed; blood trickled out of the side of his mouth.

Crispin wallowed in sorrow.

Rosenwyn and the babies came from the cave and stood around the dying wizard.

“My precious babies, Rosenwyn and Jago. Here I am, surrounded by the ones I love. I couldn’t ask for more. Jago, you and Rosenwyn are to obey this boy, Crispin. You are his now. I know his heart. He’s good and kind. When Gretel comes back, she and Crispin will be your masters for all time. Take care of them. Take care of my babies too.”

Rosenwyn’s long gray tongue licked Gordinth’s cheek.

The babies stood around him, their tiny tongues lapping his skin in a shower of affection and in an attempt to heal him.

He coughed again and this time it took him several minutes to get his breath and find the strength to speak. “Crispin, there’s a chain around my neck. Undo it. Slip it off.”

Crispin reached behind Gordinth’s head and felt the chain. Taking great care not to cause the wizard any more pain, he slipped it over his head.

“Now, put it on. This amulet has great power. You aren’t ready to use it yet, but you will be someday.  Take my wand.” He searched inside his robe.

Crispin saw him grimace in pain.

“Take it. You are now ready to become a wizard. I endow you with my powers. It is up to you to learn the rest of the wizard ways. You’ve got Quirin to help you. Save my dragons.” He gazed into Crispin’s eyes. “My boy, Darmantha’s won again. Don’t let him hurt anyone else.” Gordinth grabbed Crispin’s hand and stopped talking. His eyes rolled back into his head. The smile disappeared and his life force left his body, melding with the universe.

 “No! Don’t die!”

Jago leaned over, his huge head gently resting on Crispin’s. He’s gone, Crispin. You are now master wizard and Lord of the Dragons. We will stand by your side for now and forever.” Jago licked Crispin’s face. Master.

Crispin moved Gordinth’s head off his lap and laid it gently on the ground. He pulled the wand out of the wizard’s hand and held up the amulet. The jeweled center sparkled with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, each encased it a silver circle. A larger stone, a sapphire, sat in the middle. Crispin slipped it around his neck. Standing up, he looked at the forty-four dragons. “First we’ll bury Gordinth and then we’re going to find little Jago and Rosenwyn. Once we are all together, we’ll find Darmantha. He will die for this.”

Revenge isn’t the wizard’s way, Crispin. He is evil and he has hurt many, but we will not become like him. He is sowing his own path of destruction. Rosenwyn looked at her new Master.

Crispin nodded his head in understanding.

They buried Gordinth in a shallow grave behind his hut. Crispin used Gordinth’s wand to create a marble headstone. “Here lies Gordinth, son of Sqirinth and brother of Amtith. A great wizard and loved by all. May he soar among the stars on dragon’s wings.” The dragons and Crispin wept, mourning him as the sun set until the skies filled with stars.

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