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

“Look at those dirt mounds over there.” Marti pointed in their direction. “They’ve got to be ten feet tall.”

“Trobubs,” Quirin said. “Don’t you remember Crispin telling us about them? Those are no ordinary dirt towers. I suggest we go around the perimeter and avoid any possible contact with them whatsoever.”

“I agree,” Claring added.

“It shouldn’t be far now. We must remember to avoid any waterfalls and black flowers growing on vines too.” Quirin looked at the desolation spread in front of them for miles. “What a mess Darmantha’s made of this island. Now we’ve got to worry about poison-spitting flowers.”

“What are those?” Marti looked at the objects flying towards them.

“When will Darmantha give up? Those are toonbabas. They’re bright yellow discs and they have razor sharp edges. They spin around and slice anything in their path to pieces.” Quirin shaded his eyes.

“Including people?” Claring scoffed.

“Including people. There’s not much we can do to avoid them except lie flat on the ground and hope they don’t see us.” Quirin dropped down in the dirt.

Claring and Marti followed.

The toonbabas moved closer. They could hear the noise of the spinning.

“Are they alive?” Marti wasn’t sure from Quirin’s description.

“Yes, they’re alive, but what a waste of life. Their sole purpose is to destroy. They aren’t usually on this island, but my guess is Darmantha conjured them up.”

The discs hovered above the three men, dropping closer and closer to the ground.

“I don’t think they intend to let us lie here unharmed,” Claring said. “I’d suggest you use your wand right now.  You’ve got water from the spring of life and ground taradak inside it. Zap them!”

The toonbabas hovered just above their heads.

Quirin lifted his wand, but one of the discs flew down and knocked it out of his hand. “Well, there goes that idea,” he said. Quirin’s pointed hat went flying into the air.

“There are too many of them and they are too close. It looks like the end for us now.” Marti covered the back of his head with his hands.

“Never give up until it’s over, Marti,” his father said.

A wave of raging fire roared above their heads. The three men threw their arms over their heads.

The toonbabas shriveled up to the size of pennies and fell to the ground, charcoal black.

The heat from the flames scorched the back of Marti’s pant’s legs, singed some of Claring’s gray hair and set Quirin’s long hat on fire. He jumped up and stomped on it. “My cap! My cap! What on earth…?” He didn’t get to finish his sentence. A gust of wind blew the ashes and charred discs, along with dirt high into the air.

“It’s Jago,” Claring shouted. “Crispin’s here too.”

Crispin and the dragon appeared out of nowhere. “Just when did you learn to do that?” Marti brushed the dirt off his head and clothes.

“You were invisible. So was Jago. How on earth…” Claring said.

“Gordinth taught me before he…”

“It’s all right, Crispin. You and Jago arrived in the nick of time. I wasn’t sure if I could get us out of that mess or not. You disobeyed my wishes and came anyway. I can’t be too angry with you, boy.” Quirin watched Crispin slide off Jago’s back. “And you, Jago, you disobeyed too?”

The boy is my master now, Quirin. Gordinth commanded me to obey him and I did.

“I’ll forgive you, since you saved our lives.” Quirin patted Jago’s leg.

“Have you found Darmantha yet?” Crispin looked at Quirin’s smoldering hat.

“No, not yet,” Quirin said.

“How much further?” Claring hoped they’d be there soon.

“It’s another hour or two at the most. I’d invite you all for a ride on Jago, but there’s only room for myself and one other adult,” Crispin said.

“Boy, I liked that invisible trick. Do it again and then head for Darmantha’s. When you get there, land away from the hut and wait for us. Don’t make a move, no matter what. We’ll give Darmantha a taste of his own medicine,” Quirin said. “Go on now. We’ll be right behind you.”

Crispin climbed back on Jago. “See you later. Be careful.”

The downdraft from Jago’s wings blew more dirt in their eyes and nostrils. Marti and Claring coughed and Quirin sneezed over and over again.

“When we get there, you and Marti go around the back way and see if you can find the hut where the dragons are being kept. I’ll confront Darmantha face to face,” Quirin said.

“Isn’t that dangerous? I mean, the man just killed Gordinth. He’s very powerful,” Marti looked at the huts.

“I’ve got one thing he doesn’t have.” He held up his wand. “The blood of his ancestor, Queen Zelinda and water from the Spring of Life mixed with taradak dust. He’ll have quite a battle on his hands.”

He slipped the wand into his cloak, put the burnt cap on his head, and held the staff out in front of him. With pride and confidence in his heart, he led the others to the final confrontation.

                                                * * *

Claring and Marti ran from hut to hut, looking for the dragons, making sure they stayed out of sight.

Crispin and Jago watched them from the other side. There’s Quirin. He’s walking right into camp!”  Crispin didn’t dare speak to Jago out loud.

“Darmantha! Come out here you coward!” Quirin called his foe. He stopped and laid his staff on the ground next to him. He pulled out the wand and slipped it inside the baggy sleeve of his cloak, keeping it nearby in case he needed it.

Darmantha, Jorna and Provan sat inside one of the huts. When they heard Quirin’s shout, Darmantha stood up. “Well, if it isn’t my old friend, Quirin. Erron, stay in here. You two stay with these dragons. If you leave them unattended, I will kill you both.” He threw the door open and went out. “Quirin, where is your cavalry? Don’t tell me you’ve come alone? Where is your army of children and old men and women? Oh, that’s right. Gordinth couldn’t make it, could he? He had a bit of an accident. Well, well, well, isn’t that a shame. Still, where are your protectors, the small children you hide behind?”

Quirin didn’t take the bait. Darmantha’s words slipped right over his head without affecting him in the least. “I’ve been privileged to be a participant in your games. You’re  cowardly! You can’t even fight like a wizard. Did you really think your little wave of water, or the tinkini spiders, or your toonbabas would stop us? Child’s play. Simply child’s play!”

Darmantha’s eyes turn downward and his fists clench tighter. “You foolish old man. Yes, those were all just child’s play. I’ve been saving the man’s play until you arrived. I knew you’d come, you old fool. I’ve got your precious babies in the hut. Provan’s been ordered to slit their throats if you even step near the hut, so stay right where you are.”

“It’s a good thing you’re not me, isn’t it, Darmantha. We had the thrill of visiting Utheria, land of your forbearers. You bring shame to them. King Kumtur must be rolling in his grave, seeing his descendant in such a pathetic state. After all that he went through, all that your ancestor, Queen Zelinda and her son, Caffi, went through to ensure their line would thrive. Look what they got as a result, you. Hah!”

Darmantha lifted his wand and once again a wave of black evil in form of light came shooting out the end.

Quirin quickly lifted his and blocked the beam of destruction with his own light. It shot off and blew up the nearest hut. “Oh dear. I hope Jorna or Provan weren’t in there. If so, they’ll have a nasty headache by now.”

What should we do, Jago? We can’t stand here and let Darmantha kill Quirin.

The dragon answered. Don’t worry about Quirin, Master. I think he can handle this one on his own. They stood silent and watched.

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