His olive green cape dragged on the dirt
floor. Specks of crushed rock and broken twigs and leaves caught on the
velvety fabric as the wizard paced back and forth. The room, thick with
murmurs, suffocated his anxiety. Villagers waited patiently to hear his
wise advice. Grazan’s glances darted around the room, taking in the wide
wooden ceiling beams. They wandered to the loft; a chuckle escaped his
lips when he saw several children hiding under the straw, hoping to hear
the adults’ secrets. He watched a strand of the golden hay drift from the
loft and land near a stack of oak barrels. Each heavy barrel, with wooden
slots fitted to perfection and bound with metal rings, reeked of age and
wear. Inside they held ruby red wines, tangy huggle juice, and crushed
nectarines, fermenting slowly over the months.
Grazan cleared his throat. Conversations
ceased and gazes turned toward him. Next to his left leg sat a burlap bag
the size of a large pig. It was tied with a frayed piece of rope and the
sides bulged with pressure from the contents. Grazan nodded to the
villagers, each eager to hear his words. He cleared his throat once more
and spoke. “Villagers of Appleworth, I have called this meeting on this
fine summer’s morn to make you an offering. I am seeking something and
alas, I find myself too old and tired and cannot find the energy needed to
search, so I am asking for aid from you goodly folk. I ask you but one
thing, to bring me the most precious thing in this land. Whoever brings
the most beautiful and rarest thing in all of the Land of Waterberry will
receive the contents of this bag.” The wizard patted it with his gnarled,
Shimmy Ribble squirmed under the wizard’s
gaze. “Grazan, what sort of thing do you ask for? There are innumerable
rare and beautiful things in this land. Are you asking for a jewel, gold,
or simply an evening sunrise?”
“I do not ask for anything, except that you
bring me the most beautiful and rare thing in the Land of Waterberry. You
may conduct your search between the hills of Jeshar in the west, the
shores of Lake Wite in the east, our village, Appleworth, which is in the
north, and the Valleys of Armon in the south. That’s plenty of area for
you to cover and two weeks is more than enough time.” The wizard tapped
his sword on the dirt floor.
Mumbles rolled like a wave from villager to
villager. Zog Arnith stepped forward. “But Grazan, how will we know what
to look for?”
“You will know when you find it.” Grazan
turned to leave.
“Wait. What is in the bag? I’m sorry, Grazan,
but I am bewildered. What do we receive as our reward?” Zog and the others
muttered words of confusion.
“I cannot answer you. It is something you will
be very pleased with. You are the only ones in this village who made the
effort to come here today to hear my words. There are twelve families in
this room. Each family is to select a representative. Be sure to select
the bravest, strongest, most courageous and wisest of all. By the night of
the next full moon, the bag will be given to the person who has brought me
the most precious thing.” Grazan nodded at those looking his way. “I will
wait in the Woods of Bilbarth until the evening sun sets below the
horizon. The representatives must be at my side by then, with a bedroll
and enough supplies to last two weeks, or your family will not be
included. It is up to you if you choose to participate or not.” With that,
the wizard walked through the door, leaving the families in a quandary.
For the next several hours, squabbles between
various family members filled the air with shouts and snarls. Grazan sat
in the shade, with his back leaning against an ancient willow tree. He
sighed, hearing arguments coming from the different houses in the village.
“I can do it better than you! I am stronger! You are weak! I am the
wisest! You have no stamina!” He shook his head back and forth in
As the sky turned fiery shades of pink,
orange, crimson and blue, the lucky twelve who had been selected gathered
around the wizard. The rest of the families, some very annoyed with the
choices made, stayed in the village.
“Grazan, we are here, all of us,” Zog said.
“None of us are pleased with the secretiveness of our reward, nor with
such vague instructions, however, we are all intrigued enough to follow
through with your request. When do we begin our search?”
“Sleep under the stars tonight and when you
find the sun’s first golden ray on your face, you may begin your quest.
While the one of you who succeeds will be rewarded, the ones who fail may
be met with jeers and shouts of disappointment from your families and risk
the possibility of being cast out of the village forever. Are you all
still willing to go?” He gazed at the group. Each head bowed with
acceptance, ready to accept the consequences, no matter what they might
be. “Very well. At the next full moon, bring your finds to this spot. I
will be waiting.” The wizard pulled out his staff and sauntered back to
Appleworth, leaving the twelve alone.
* * *
Xander Qigma, a young orphan boy who had been
watching the events of the day unfold, stirred anxiously from the branch
of a mingo tree. Its thick grayish-green leaves offered protection from
the villager’s wandering gazes. “I can find something precious. Why should
I be held back from the quest just because I don’t have a family?”
Dropping from the tree, he landed with a thud in the knee-high grass
below. Wanting to hear more, he curled up in a ball and squeezed his thin
and undernourished body under a tibbo bush. Juice from the crushed orange
berries seeped in through the fabric of his light brown shirt, staining
his elbows. He listened to the men boast with surety that they would be
the one to find it. “I’m going to write all of this down in my journal,
starting right now.” He pulled a leather-bound notebook and pencil stub
from his pocket, scribbled the events of the day, as he usually did each
morning and evening, and then closed the book, slipping it and the pencil
into his deep back pocket. The arguments went on until the moonbeams
danced on the green barley fields. Xander, tired of the squabbling, fell
asleep under a twinkling starry sky.
When the sun rose, bringing with it a rosy
dawn, Xander longed for the bacon and buzzi sausages grilling over the
open fire. The aroma of spicy meat and fried diffo eggs was more than his
empty stomach could bear. He crawled out from under the bush, wiped the
rest of the smashed berries off his scratchy burlap shirt, and moved
closer to their camp.
“Throw the extra to the dogs.” Zog, being the largest of the
group, he’d taken over the role of leader and the others allowed it, at
least for the time being.
Xander peeked out from behind a tree trunk.
Zog stood as tall as the barn door at his
farm. His broad shoulders spread just as wide, giving support to his beefy
muscles. The only thing Xander didn’t like about Zog was his long
mustache. It was rusty red, like the rest of his hair, and it hung down on
both sides to his belly button. Pieces of chewed up food fell from his
mouth when he ate and landed in the mustache. Zog never cleaned it out, so
there were always bluebottle flies and roaches crawling around in the
Yok Comqul lifted the black cast iron cooking pan off the
smoldering fire with his bare hands and tossed the contents into the
bushes. Because of Yok's size and strength, Xander feared he’d toss the
food back all the way back to Appleworth. Fortunately for Xander, the pile
of leftover food landed within his grasp. He waited with anticipation. Yok
doused the fire with a bucket of water from Ugsnaw Creek and helped the
others pack their bedrolls.
Just a head shorter than Zog, Yok wasn’t quite as ugly, at
least Xander didn’t think so. Yok didn’t have a mustache. His face,
pockmarked with hole, took attention away from his unbrushed and
plaque-coated teeth. But aside from that, he kept his dark brown
shoulder-length hair brushed and lice-free.
Xander grabbed the still warm breakfast before
the dogs found it, shoving it into his mouth. He didn’t even stop to flick
off the pieces of dirt and twigs. His cheeks bulged with blackened,
overcooked sausages, greasy and very chewy bacon, and congealing pink egg
yolks. There was so much food in his mouth he could hardly swallow.
Zog picked up his back pack. “We separate from here. If anyone
would like to walk with me for a while, I’d like the company. Come to
think of it, we might be safer if we travel in pairs. There are some wild
animals that roam in these forests and mountains and other parts of the
Land of Waterberry.”
The others agreed. Yok asked to accompany Zog,
Xander parted the bushes and looked at the
others in the group, trying to decide which ones he wanted to follow. His
eyes wandered to Wilpo Ermix, who had paired up with Vem Gumk. “I do
not want to go with them. Wilpo burps so loud and so often that it
would drive me crazy and Vem has smelly feet. If only he changed his
purple socks once in a while. Nope, I don’t want to stay with them.”
Tupi Isxom partnered up with Smov Kwing. “No
way am I going anywhere near Tupi. His breath is so bad that it could kill
a wuca and Smov blows his nose all the time; besides that, they’re taking
the dogs with them.”
Pussel Aomei and Nomg Evcom decided to travel
together. Xander shook his head. “I can’t go with them either. Pussel
snores like a bandiff and Nomg breaks off pieces of his toenails and
throws them wherever he wants. I’d gag if I found a piece in my stew.”
Larf Zicwo walked over to Jix Dkor. “Do you
want to partner up, Jix?” Jix nodded.
Xander chuckled. “Jix is way too skinny. He
hardly ever eats, so he would never cook any food, except taffies, or
boiled gushnugs, and I’d rather eat a dog. Larf doesn’t take baths. He’s
got fleas too. Nuh uh. I’ll not travel with them either.”
Blumb Yibtung and Deji Sleqx were the last
two. Neither of them liked the other and didn’t want to be a team. “I’ll
go off by myself. I am not traveling with him,” Deji said.
Xander snickered and mumbled to himself.
“That’s probably a good idea, Deji, because Blum spits all the time. Of
course, you pick your teeth, so which is worse? I think my only choice is
to go with Zog and Yok.”
So the six pairs and Xander left camp and
headed in six different directions, spreading out like the sun’s rays.
Zog and Yok were the only ones to head into
Xander ran behind, being careful to not let
them see him. “I’m glad it’s summer. If it was winter, we’d freeze to
death in the snow.”
Appleworth – a village in the northern part of the Land of Waterberry
Bandiff – a large, hairy creature with shaggy brown and white spotted
fur, 2 horns and farts when it walks and eats meat.
Bluebottle flies – large blueish-black flies
sausages- spicy, made from buzzi meat. A buzzi is a short legged, fat
animal that lives in the mud ponds around Lake Wite. They are lazy and eat
turnips and glunk onions.
eggs – laid by diffo birds, have pink yolks. Diffo birds have
brilliant pink feathers, neon green beaks and nest in branches of most
trees. Found all over Land of Waterberry.
– aged wizard who lives in Appleworth. He used to be the wizard of Castle
Lialy, but after deaths of king and queen with no heirs, he came to live
among the common folk of the village
Gushnugs- some sort of vegetable, black roots, have to boil for hours
to make it soft enough to eat, and when you bite into them it leaks a
of Jeshar – in the western part of the Land of Waterberry
juice – crushed huggles, a fruit, similar to a kiwi with hairy brown
skin, green seedy fruit inside. When left to ferment for years, produces a
licorice wine-like drink.
Wite - in the eastern part of the Land of Waterberry
of Waterberry – the land where this story takes place; full of strange
creatures, humans, wizards and elves.
tree – Grows in the Woods of Bilbarth; thick grayish-green leaves.
Ribble – female human who lives in Appleworth
bush – has pale orange berries, grows in Woods of Bilbarth, berries
Taffies- some sort of vegetable, brown leaves, horrible smell when it
cooks, leathery texture and if you’re not careful, you might find worms in
– a female plumtuggle, with horn type snout, bulgy eyes, green fur,
short neck, round plump body, short orange legs with 4 toes on each foot
and longer arms, orange, with 4 fingers on each hand, can climb trees,
can’t run well because legs are short and is about eighteen inches high
of Bilbarth – Just outside of Appleworth, place where the journey
– a smelly animal, odor of rotting fruit, hairless, fragile skin where you
can see veins through, four short legs which it walks on, long neck and
round head with two antenna poking out…yellow eyes
Quigma – orphan boy, joins quest for most precious and rare thing,
villagers who go on quest:
Arnith – red hair, red mustache (long), tall and muscular
Cumqul – no beard, face pockmarked, muscular, never brushed teeth, long
dark brown shoulder length hair (Kept hair clean)
Ermix – burps – they have the topaz
Gumk – has smelly feet, wears purple socks
Isxom – has bad breath
Kwing – blows his nose all the time
Aomei – snores loud
Evcom – clips off his toe nails and tosses them wherever
Zicwo – doesn’t bathe and has fleas
Dkor – skinny, never eats
Sleqx – picks his teeth
Yibtung - spits