“What a great day! The sky is blue, the sun is
shining and our clothes are completely dry!” Xander rubbed his hands up
and down his body. “There’s still enough food for breakfast, though the
sound of a tasty buzzi sausage makes me wish we had more than sweets.”
“I know what you mean. They say that you can
find some of the biggest
clabber-rats in the Land of Waterberry right here in these hills. If we
could just catch one or two, we could have a feast,” Toast said.
“I remember my grandmother making clabber-rat stew. I’d put my
spoon in the bowl and find big chunks of meat. I miss my grandmother.”
Xander leaned against a tree.
“What happened to your family, Xander? How did you get to be
“About two years ago my mother asked me to go to the barn and
milk our blue moo. Her name was Creampuff.”
“Creampuff? What a silly name for a blue moo.” Toast giggled.
“She might have had a silly name, but she gave the best milk.
My mother made cheese and butter almost every day. Grandmother came to
live with us after grandfather passed away. I went out to the barn with a
bucket and sat down to milk Creampuff. The bucket was full, but instead of
going right back into the house, I went to check on the yippimice traps. I
smelled smoke and by the time I got back to the house, there was nothing
much left. My mother, father, grandmother, and twin baby sisters, Ilka and
Silka died in that fire. I had nowhere to go. I’ve lived in Appleworth
since then, trying to survive. When I heard about Grazan’s quest, I had to
try. Now do you see why it’s so important? If I win the prize, whatever it
is, I can buy myself a new house and not have to live under the bridge any
Toast wiped the tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Xander. I
don’t have any family either. I can be your family and you can be mine.”
She smiled at the boy.
“It’s too pretty a morning to be sad and gloomy. I’m hungry
for some roasted clabber-rat.” Xander gathered their belongings and they
headed up the nearest hill. “I wonder how Pussel and Nomg are doing.
They’ll be furious when they realize their rubies are gone.”
“Try not to think about it. If I remember correctly,
clabber-rats live inside empty glumvo trees. I see a cluster of them up
ahead, at the top of that other hill. All we have to do is watch out for
womp ants,” Toast said.
They ran up and down the grass-covered hills. “We’d better be
quiet. Clabber-rats have a keen sense of hearing.” Xander slowed down to a
walk as they approached the trees.
“How are we going to catch them? We don’t have any rope or any
traps.” Toast whispered in Xander’s ear.
“Look. There’s one over there. Let’s follow it.” Xander
watched the clabber-rat run down the tree trunk into the grass. They ran
“I don’t think we can catch it, Xander. Maybe the person who
lives in that cottage over there will give us something to eat,” Toast
said, pointing to it.
They stopped running. “You’re right. Clabber-rats are too hard
to catch and not worth the effort. I wonder if anyone lives in that
cottage. It’s covered with ivy. I can hardly see the outside walls.” They
walked closer and stopped in front of the door. A wind chime hung from a
hook. It rattled and clanged in the breeze. The glass beads blew against
each other, making a tinkling sound. Xander reached for it. “The beads
remind me of glass marbles. I never had any of my own, but I used to watch
the other boys in the village play with them.”
“Should we go inside? I don’t hear any noise and I’m really
hungry.” Toast knocked on the wooden door. “Nobody’s answering.”
Xander turned the knob and opened the door. Its hinges creaked
as he stepped inside. They stood there gazing at the room. “This is
Toast’s gaze roamed the room. “Unusual? That’s putting it
mildly. Wow! It’s bright and colorful in here.” A china hutch stood
against one of the walls. Its shelves were filled with plates, pitchers,
teacups and soup tureens, all decorated with fancy flowery designs. On top
of the hutch were dozens of statues of stone gargoyles. “Gargoyles?” Toast
“They don’t really match with the rest of the room, do they?
Why would someone collect gargoyles? Look at them. They’re all made of
stone and remind me of the ones all over the towers and parapets of Castle
Lialy.” Xander stood on his tiptoes, hoping to see them better.
“Xander, forget about the gargoyles. Look at these.” Toast
stood in front of a wicker basket, overflowing with grapefruit-sized
balls. She bent over and picked one up. “It’s made of glass.” She held it
up to her eye and turned to look at Xander. “You’re all green.” She
giggled and picked up another.
“I’d be careful not to drop those. This isn’t
our cottage and we shouldn’t even be in here.” Xander warned the
plumtuggle. His eyes wandered to the couch. Six pillows, embroidered with
sunflowers, lay scattered across. On a table sitting next to the couch,
stood a hand painted, mouth blown glass carafe with an etching of a
sunflower on it. “This person sure likes sunflowers.”
“They like sunflowers as much as they like
gargoyles,” said Toast. In middle of kitchen table were three vases
filled with sunflowers, mixed with bright orange creamtails and pink
bubbaloos. Stems and green leaves stuck out between the flowers. A bowl
full of yellow, orange and green fruits, hidden by the flowers, gave off a
The walls and floor were bare except for one
wall. “That’s odd. The walls have nothing on them except for a picture of
a door painted on it.” Xander rubbed his hands over the design. “This is
weird. It’s part of the wall.”
“Why would someone paint a door on a wall? Why
didn’t they just build a real door? Oh well, I’m hungry. You play with the
door. I’m going to see if I can find something to eat.” Toast ran into
A grandfather clock stood on the floor,
reaching just below the ceiling. It chimed. Xander forgot about the door
and stood in front of the clock. The chimes sounded distant, yet vibrated
his ear drums. On the eleventh chime noises came from behind Xander. He
turned to see the painted door, now open. “Toast! Come in here. You won’t
The plumtuggle came running back into the
room. “The door opened? How did it do that?”
“I don’t know, but it opened when the clock
chimed eleven chimes. It looks like poppies outside of it. Should we go
through the door and see where it leads to?”
“I don’t know, Xander. What if the door shuts
behind us and we can’t get back in?” Toast hesitated.
“I’ll put something in front of it so it can’t
close all the way. How about that basket of glass balls?” Xander pushed
the basket in front of the door. “There. Now it can’t shut and we can come
back through whenever we want.”
“Okay. I guess we’re safe. I couldn’t find
anything to eat. Maybe there’s a sugarapple tree out there.” Toast and
Xander stepped through the door. A blast of warm air hit them. “Whew,
Xander unbuttoned the sleeves of his shirt and
rolled them up. “It is warm.” Just then a blue lizard ran across the dirt
path in front of them. It stopped and looked up at Xander. “Hello, lizard.
I’ve never seen a blue lizard before. How did you get that color?”
Not expecting the lizard to reply, Xander was
shocked when it said, “I was born blue. What are you doing here? I’ve
never seen the likes of you before.”
“It talks,” Toast said, nudging Xander’s leg.
“Yes, I can talk. My name’s Clanci. And you
are?” The lizard stood on its back legs.
“I’m Xander and this is Toast.”
“Welcome to Goobagog.” Clanci reached for
“Goobagog? I’ve never heard of that. Are you
the one who painted the door on the wall in that cottage?” Xander bent
down to shake Clanci’s hand.
“What cottage?” The lizard looked behind the
boy and plumtuggle.
“Why this…” Xander gulped when he saw nothing
but a field of bright reddish-orange poppies. “Where did it go? It was
there a moment ago?”
“Xander, how will we get back inside? Are we
stuck out here forever?” Toast climbed on Xander’s back. “I don’t like
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Goobagog is
a safe place. You’ll find your way back when the time is right. Follow
me,” the lizard said, running through the poppies. Xander ran after it,
carrying the plumtuggle piggy back.
“Where are you taking us?” Xander saw nothing
but poppies for as far as he could see in every direction.
“You’re looking for something rare and
precious, aren’t you?” Clanci asked.
“How did you know that?” Xander gasped.
“I know a lot of things. Just follow me and
After running over three hills they came to a
forest. At the edge of the forest was a clearing. “Do we have to go in
there?” Toast didn’t want to get lost in the trees.
“No. Close your eyes, both of you.” The lizard
ran around in circles. A few minutes later it said, “Now open them.”
When Xander opened his eyes he gasped with
surprise. “Where did all these come from? Look, Toast. It’s the glass
Hundreds of balls, just like the ones in the
basket they’d used to keep the door open with, danced in the air. They
floated like balloons, bouncing gently up and down. There were aqua blue
balls, crimson red balls, olive green, orange and buttery yellow balls.
“What are these things?” Xander reached for one.
“Uh uh. Don’t touch them. These are made of Goobagog crystal.
They’re magic balls,” the lizard said.
“They’re worth a lot of money, aren’t they?” Toast smiled,
seeing her reflection in one of them.
“They’re priceless. Would you like one to take home to the
Wizard Grazan?” Clanci saw Xander’s eyes glow with delight.
“I’d love to. May I pick one?” Xander laughed out loud.
“There’s only one that you can have. It’s the color of a
tropical sea. It’s priceless too, but I’ll let you take it, provided you
give me something.” The lizard’s tail swayed back and forth.
“I’ve got nothing to give you, except what’s in my back pack.”
Xander slipped it off his shoulders. “What do you want?”
“I want your ruby.”
“My ruby? But, that’s very rare and valuable and…”
“If you want the crystal ball, you have to give me the ruby.
Take it or leave it.” The lizard ran around Xander’s feet.
Toast whispered into Xander’s ear. “The glass ball seems to be
very valuable. I’ll bet none of the others bring back a ball made of
“You’re right,” Xander whispered back. “All right, Clanci.
I’ll give you my ruby, but take good care of it. A dragon gave it to me as
a gift. Where’s the glass ball?”
“Aha, that’s the trick. You have to find it yourself.”
“But there are hundreds of these things. How can we find it?”
Toast started counting them.
“Give me the ruby first and then I’ll help you.”
Xander took the ruby out of his pocket. “Are you sure these
are valuable? You wouldn’t trick me, would you?”
“Oh no,” Clanci said. “I’d never do that. The ruby please.”
The lizard put its hand forward to get it.
Xander gave it to him. The lizard rubbed it all over with its
tiny hands. “Magnificent.”
“Now, where’s the tropical sea colored crystal ball?” Xander
tapped his foot. “You said you’d help us find it.”
“I did say that, didn’t I? It’s over there.” The lizard
pointed and then ran back into the poppies.
“Come back here,” Xander shouted. “Now what are we going to
“The lizard said it was over there, so we’ll go over there and
look.” Toast scratched the top of her head.
They moved in the direction as instructed. Shiny balls jiggled
about, swishing back and forth and turning in circles ever so slowly. The
sunlight shone through them, causing a rainbow to appear on the ground.
“It really is pretty here.” Xander stood watching the light dance on his
legs and feet.
“There it is. That one is tropical sea colored, isn’t it?”
Toast pointed to one that seemed to be larger than the others.
“You’re right, Toast. That’s it.” Xander grabbed it with his
hands. “Got it. It feels so smooth and polished.”
“I’ll bet it breaks easy too,” Toast said.
Xander put it in his pocket. The minute he let go of it they
found themselves back in the cottage. The painted door was now shut and
merely a drawing. “Wow!” Xander reached into his pocket to see if the ball
was still there. It was. He sat down on the couch.
Toast jumped off. “I’m hungry. I think I’ll go
and see if there’s something hidden in the pantry to eat.”
Xander took his journal out and wrote about
their day’s adventure. When he was finished, he took out the Goobagog
crystal, the diamond, the amethyst and the topaz. “Toast, I wish Clanci
hadn’t wanted the ruby. That’s the jewel Firestorm gave us. It’s our only
token of our time with Cinder.”
Toast came back through, her cheeks full. She
swallowed. “You didn’t have to give it to the lizard. You could have kept
“I know. You’re right, but this Goobagog
crystal must be more rare and precious. What are you eating?”
“I found a loaf of brow bread. It’s sort of
stale, but edible. Do you want some?” Toast broke a chunk off and gave it
Xander sniffed it. “It is a bit dry, but it is
food.” He bit into it and swallowed.
“I wonder who lives here. The flowers in the
vase are fresh. Maybe we’d better get out of here before they come back
and find us.” Toast ran over to the window. “I don’t see anyone out there.
Do you think these balls are made of Goobagog crystal too?” She reached
down and picked one up. To Xander’s horror, the crystal ball grew larger
and swallowed Toast.
Toast pounded on the glass. “Get me outta
“Toast? How’d you get in there?”
“I don’t know. It just ate me.”
Xander looked for an opening in the ball, but
when he touched it, it grew and swallowed him too. He found himself inside
the glass ball with Toast. “Now how did that happen?”
The front door creaked open. Xander and Toast
had no choice but to sit there, trapped inside, as the ball floated
through the air, out of the front door and into the sky. It went higher
and higher, nearly to the clouds and then it stopped and floated south.
moo – much like a cow, with two horns, patchy blue and white leathery
hide, gives milk and eats butterloos and grass.
Lialy – the only castle in the Land of Waterberry, remote. Once home
to an ancient royal family, but now is uninhabited.
Clabber-rats – found in the Hills of Jeshar. Used to make stews and
taste good roasted
– a blue lizard, lives in Goobagog, talks
Creampuff – Xander’s blue moo
Goobagog – a magical place on the other side of the painted cottage
door in the Hills of Jeshar. Famous for its crystal balls.
Xander’s baby sister, a twin, died in fire
Twin sister to Ilka, Xander’s baby sisters who died in fire