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The 44 Dragons
by Margo Fallis
Part Three - The Dragon's Hope - Chapter 43

Gretel and Sindri arrived at the dragon’s cave. The babies flew around, happy to see Gretel. Where is Jago? Is he all right? What has happened? I sense something’s wrong. Rosenwyn questioned with concern.

Gretel sat on a hollowed out fallen tree so she could look into Rosenwyn’s eyes as she spoke. She told her of the trouble in Utheria and how Crispin and Jago rescued her from the river.

Where are Jago and Crispin now?

Gretel said, “Crispin left with Jago to find Quirin and the others. He wants to help them. We are to take care of the babies.”

I think the little ones are hungry. I need to find them something to eat. Will you stay here with them until I get back? Rosenwyn looked down at the babies.

“Of course we will. You go on and do what you need to do.” Sindri watched the dragon fly off, leaving Gretel and her with the babies.

 “Be careful, Rosenwyn.” Gretel shouted, but the dragon didn’t hear.

Some of the dragons flew around the cave, enjoying the large, open space. Others curled up and snoozed. Gretel stroked several of them. “I’m going to look for something we could use as a ball. They love playing ball. Do you know of anything around here that’s round? “I’m not sure, dear.” Sindri thought for a moment. “Wait, I know something. Keep going until you come to a clearing. Head towards the tree where we found the mork eggs, do you remember where that is?”

“It’s over that way?” Gretel pointed.

“Right you are. There’s a tree that grows fruggles.”

“Fruggles? What are they?”

“Fruggles are a fruit. I’m not fond of them myself, but never mind that. You can’t miss it. The tree has peach-colored leaves with dark green at the edges. The fruggles remind me of giant peaches. They’re quite large, but they don’t have fuzzy skin, but it's as tough as an elephant’s hide! Oh, the bother I’ve had peeling them! Bring a few back. I’m sure you’ll find some lying on the ground. The dragons can play for hours with them. Once they break them open, they can eat them. Jago and Rosenwyn love fruggles too. They’re the only fruit I know of on this island that have pits inside.”

“I’ll bring back an armful.” Gretel ran off to find the fruggle tree. While searching for the fruits, she picked up several more emeralds scattered along her path and put them into her pocket.

Sindri watched the dragons and thought about the events of the last few days and the new people in her life; her son, Gretel, Crispin, and the babies. Gordinth lay dead and buried in Luba and her husband was off on a dangerous quest.

 “I’m back! I found lots of them!” Gretel ran to Sindri and dropped the fruggles at her feet.

“My goodness! You certainly brought a lot of them. They should have a lot of fun with these. Let’s see how they like playing ball.” Sindri stood up and took several fruit with her to the cave. “Come on little ones. Come and play ball with Gretel and me.” She rolled one of the fruggles into the cave. It stopped at Tabitha’s feet.

The little green dragon tried to pick the large fruit up, but succeeded only in rolling it across the cave floor. She started screeching and ran to it, pushing it with her snout.

“She’s having fun with it,” Gretel said. “Oh look. Talwyn’s joining in. So is Breok.” During the last few days she’d made a point of learning each dragon’s name, but surprised herself. “I remember which dragon is which. I know their names!” She smiled at Sindri.

Soon a dozen of the dragons fought over who got to push the fruggle around. Sindri tossed another one into the cave and giggled when eleven of the dragons ran over to the new one to fight over it. “I think we’d better let them have them all.” She rolled all the fruggles among the dragons. She and Gretel sat back and watched them having fun with the fruit. “Aren’t they just adorable.”

“They are kind of cute.” Gretel laughed when one of the fruggles burst open and pink juice squirted all over Morcum.

He licked his lips and decided he liked fruggle juice. Instead of rolling it around, he took a bite out of it. Once again, when the others saw him eating, they started jumping up on down on the fruits, hitting them with rocks and doing whatever they had to do to break the peel open and get to the fleshy part. Soon only the fruggle pits lay scattered around the cave. A few dragons attempted to eat them, but soon gave up.

“Sindri, I really don’t feel like just sitting around here all day and night while the others are in danger. I think we should take Rosenwyn and go help them,” said Gretel.

“What? Me fly on the dragon again. I’ve never flown on one before you came and I nearly died of fright coming back from Utheria. If I hadn’t kept my eyes shut, I’d have fainted.” Sindri giggled with embarrassment.

“I think when Rosenwyn gets back she should take you on a few short flights to get you used to riding her. Remember, Crispin and I are her Master now, and Jago’s too. I’m a dragonkeeper and so are you, Sindri. We have to help Quirin, Marti, Crispin, and Claring. Please try to be brave.” Gretel pleaded with her. Rosenwyn chose that moment to fly back, carrying some sort of dead creature in her mouth. “Is that a lagupa?” Its fur, though bloody, looked bright red.

“That’s a lagupa. I’m glad she caught one of those instead of one of the nice creatures we have around here,” Sindri said.

Rosenwyn took the lagupa into the cave. The little ones, used to sausages, chocolate and bread, looked at the dead animal. Today is your first lesson in the dragon ways. There will be no more sausages. This is what dragons eat. Now, my babies, come and have a taste. You’ll like it. She stood back and let them come closer. Sulion, one of the blue dragons, took the first bite. The others watched for his reaction. He chewed away for a moment and then took another bite. Good enough! If Sulion liked it, they all liked it.

Sindri and Gretel chuckled as the dragons devoured the dead lagupa. Their little faces looked a mess, all covered with sticky red hairs.

“Look at you!” Sindri laughed.

“What about you, Rosenwyn?” Gretel wondered.

I’ve already had something. I found a few lagupas terrorizing a bufamee. The poor little creature climbed to the top of the tree and was shivering with fear. I ate the others, but brought this one back for the babies.

“Rosenwyn, I want you to take Sindri and me to find Quirin. I think they’re in danger and need us.” Gretel changed the subject.

If you’re certain, I can take you.

“Well, there is one thing. Sindri is afraid to fly. Could you take her on a few short flights? Stay close to the ground until she gets used to it.” Gretel looked at Sindri.

Sindri, is this what you want?

“You understand what the dragons are thinking too?”  Gretel asked.

“We all do, dear; Claring, Marti, and myself and the wizards too. I would appreciate it if you helped ease me into dragon flying. Just take it nice and slow and no dips and whirls, please” Sindri shrugged her shoulders.

Rosenwyn bent to the ground and Sindri climbed on her back.

“I’ll stay with the babies. You go and have your flying lesson,” Gretel shouted. Rosenwyn stood up and flew into the sky. Gretel was relieved when she kept her pace slow and didn’t go up too far. An hour later the dragon landed. “Well?”

“I love it! I think I’m ready!” Sindri giggled, quite proud of herself.

“What about the babies? If Rosenwyn goes with us, who will take care of them?” Gretel didn’t want to leave them unprotected.

I will command them to stay in the cave. I have an even better idea.  Rosenwyn turned to the babies. “Doo forman carpe lee su. Doo forman lee su, lee su. Doo forman mi eer bo nah. Doo forman carpe lee su.”

Gretel and Sindri watched and listened as she sang them a song. “It’s an ancient dragon lullaby. Watch this.” Sindri nudged Gretel with her elbow.

As Rosenwyn sang, the babies dropped to the ground, their eyes heavy, and fell asleep.

“It didn’t sound like a lullaby to me. It sounded like she’d stepped on a cat’s tail,” Gretel said, “but, it must be a real song. Look at them all. They’re sound asleep.”

They won’t wake up again until they hear my voice singing to them. Are you ready?

Gretel and Sindri climbed on Rosenwyn’s neck and sat comfortably at the base, each grabbing onto one of her spikes. She flew into the air. “I don’t know where they are exactly, but if we head for Utheria, then go on that direction to Sparma Springs, we should find them. Do you know where Utheria is, Rosenwyn?” Gretel hoped the dragon knew her way around.

I know the entire island. I know exactly where Darmantha is. The evil in his heart is strong and his aura surrounds him with blackness and sadness. Hang on.  She flew higher, her wings flapping up and down, one beat at a time, in perfect rhythm.

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