The Valleys of Armon stretch like five
fingers, all uniting like the palm of the hand into one great valley. A
river flowed through each, coming together to form Lake Logo. Toast and
Xander stood at the entrance to the middle valley. “I think we can assume
that Larf and Jix are in one of the other valleys. The problem is, which
one will it be?” Xander looked down at Toast. “Any ideas?”
“It will take us a month to search all the
valleys, Xander. We’ve only got nine days left. We should just pick one
and if we can’t find them there, then we head back with what we have.”
Xander sighed in defeat. “You’re right. We
don’t have time. Which one should we pick?”
Toast looked to the west and then to the east.
“I say we go to the next valley to the east.”
“I wish I had a map. I know that the Zeyth
Elves live in one of these valleys. I hope it’s not the one we’re going
to. They’re known to be mischievous and at times, deadly.” Xander
stretched his arms high in the air and yawned. “Climb on my back, Toast.
I’ll carry you. We can go much faster that way.” Toast hopped onto his
back, wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.
Unlike the forested valley they just left,
this one had very few trees. Most of the growth was grassy fields with
clusters of bushes dotting the sides of the narrow river. Aside from a few
bird and yippimice, Xander couldn’t see much of anything. “I don’t think
there are elves here. Where would they hide? Everything’s so open.” Xander
stepped on a row of stones that stretched across the water. “We’ll cross
the river here. I wonder if we’ll find anything to eat. I’m getting
Toast, enjoying the view over Xander’s
shoulders, saw something run across the grass several hundred feet in
front of them. She tapped on his shoulder. “Xander, there’s something out
there. We should go back and try another valley. I don’t like this one.
Besides that, I can’t see any sign that Jix and Larf came this way.”
Xander stopped. He scanned the path in front
of him. “What did you see?”
“I don’t’ know. It moved quickly. I think it
might have been a Zeyth Elf. It might have been a bandiff though. Let’s go
back, please.” Toast buried her face in Xander’s back. “I don’t like it
“Maybe you’re right. I don’t think Larf and
Jix came into this valley. I also don’t think we’ll find anything rare and
precious either.” Xander turned and walked back across the stones. When he
stepped onto the riverbank at the other side he looked in front of him.
Twenty Zeyth Elves stood in a row, each
holding a wooden spear with an obsidian point, tied on with rope. Before
he could say another word they ran towards him and knocked him to the
ground. Toast fell off his back and rolled into the grass. The elves
gathered around, looking down at them. One carried rope and dropped it on
the ground. The elves tied Xander’s legs and hands together and then
slipped one of their spears through the ropes. They did the same to Toast.
Together they lifted their caught prey and carried them deeper into the
valley, walking in a straight line.
Toast was at the back, watching Xander sway
back and forth, dangling by his hands and legs. “Xander, are you all
Xander tipped his head back. Toast was in no
better position than he was. “I’m alive, for now.” He looked at the Zeyth
Elves. Each of them was about the size of Toast, but had gray,
unhealthy-looking skin. A dirty cloth wrap tied around their bodies,
covered them from their neck to their knees. Their ears were long and came
to a point at the top. Their noses poked out a few inches from their face.
Green eyes centered above the nose were shaded by long, thick eyelashes.
Wiry hairs sprung from their scalps. “You guys are ugly,” Xander said to
the one standing next to him.
The elf ignored him and walked on in silence,
carrying the sticks on their shoulders and working as a team. Xander’s
wrists and ankles rubbed raw from the ropes around them, began to swell
and bleed, but there was nothing he could do to change it. After a few
miles they reached the elf’s village. They dropped Xander and Toast on the
dirt ground and slipped the spears out. “Stand up,” one of the elves said,
poking Xander with the sharp point.
A dozen huts, each made of leaves and sticks,
formed a circle around a center hut. Smoke came from small chimneys on top
of each. Xander and Toast were taken to the center hut and pushed inside.
The door shut behind them. They sat on the filthy blankets spread across
the dirt floor.
Toast cried. “Xander, I hurt. These ropes are
too tight. I’m bleeding.”
Xander inched his way over to the plumtuggle.
“I’ll try to loosen them for you.” He bent over and pulled at the ropes
with his teeth, tugging and squirming until they were loose.
Toast slipped them off her ankles and then
using her toes as fingers, untied the ones on her wrists. “Let me help you
The rope knots tying Xander fell to the
ground. Using his shirt, they wiped the blood off and stretched their sore
legs and arms. “That feels so much better.” With nothing else to do, both
of them lay down and closed their eyes, falling asleep, unsure of what lay
Xander woke up first, saw the sleeping
plumtuggle and quietly crept over to the door. The bamboo walls and door
had gaps between the canes. He saw a guard standing near the door. A fire
roared a few yards away. Elves carried dead branches and dried grasses and
tossed them onto the fire, fueling the flames. “I hope that’s not for us,”
Xander whispered. He couldn’t see any other elves. Gazing up at the sun,
he presumed it was early afternoon. Toast lay snoring on the other side of
A loud flapping noise came from outside. Toast
woke up. “What’s that?” She saw Xander standing near the door, peering
through the slats. “What are you looking at?” She ran and stood next to
“They’ve got a fire going and this huge
bubbagon just flew into the elf village. I’ve never seen one that big
“Let me see. Let me see.” Toast squeezed under
Xander’s legs. “Whoa! That’s a big bubbagon. It seems to be friends with
the Zeyth elves.”
“Why do you say that?”
“One of them just climbed off the bubbagon’s
back. Zeyth elves use bubbagons to fly around the valley.”
“Big bubbagon’s, Toast. Very big bubbagons.
Maybe we can use that one to escape.” Xander moved to a different part of
the hut to get a better view. “Look how they just left it there
“But we’re not unguarded. There’s an elf with
a sharp spear right outside our door.”
“Somehow we’ve got to distract it, or, maybe
we could dig a hole under the walls of the hut and get out the other side.
You’ve got long fingers. Are you any good at digging?” Xander looked down
at Toast’s toes and fingers.
She grinned and held up her hands. “I am good
at digging. Just watch me.” Toast fell to her knees and crawled around the
inside walls of the hut. “I think we should dig here. There are some
bushes not too far away and all the elves seem to be around the fire.” She
scooped up a handful of dirt. “It’s like sand. This will be simple.”
Xander fell to his knees and together they dug
until there was a hole big enough for them to crawl through. Xander went
first. He lay on his back and pushed his way out of the hole. His head
stuck out, giving him a view of the elven village. “We’re safe. I can’t
see any of them. Come on. Hurry.” Toast followed him out. They crept on
hands and knees until they were safely hidden in the bushes. “By the way,
Toast. Good job digging.”
“Thanks. I’ve had a lot of practice. Where’s
“If we stay low and keep behind the bushes, we
can get to it. We’ve got to be really quiet though. If we even snap a
twig, one of those elves will hear us.” He pushed the bushes to the side
and bent over, making his way toward their escape.
“There it is. One problem though; do you know
how to fly a bubbagon?” Toast stopped and looked up at the giant insect.
“No, not really, but it can’t be that hard.
We’ll climb on its back and tell it to fly away.”
“What if it only understands Zeyth elf
language? What if it doesn’t obey us? The elves will catch us and roast us
over that big bonfire they’ve got going there.”
“Toast, stop worrying. Bubbagon’s can’t be
that hard to fly. Follow me.” Xander stood next to it, looking up at its
height. “Wow! It’s bigger than I thought.”
“Well, smarty pants, how do we climb up? We
don’t have a rope and we can’t fly up?”
“You climb on my shoulders and grab hold of
some of those long hairs poking out of its body. Pull yourself up.”
“What about you? I’m not strong enough to pull
you up.” The plumtuggle stroked the bubbagon’s violet wings. They were
folded back against its body. Pale pink and lemony yellow spots dotted the
“You just get up there first and then we’ll
worry about me.” He picked her up and put her on his shoulders.
She stepped on her tiptoes and grabbed a
handful of the fine hairs. Pulling herself up, she climbed onto its back.
“I’m high up, Xander. This is kind of scary. I don’t think you can get up
here all by yourself.”
Screams and shouts came from the hut. The
elves noticed their prisoners were missing. “Hold on, Toast.” Xander moved
back into the bushes and then ran as fast as he could, leapt with all his
might and landed with his arms over the bubbagon’s body. “Help me. Pull me
up!” While he struggled, the elves spotted them. Spears shot through the
air towards them. “Get the bubbagon into the air. I’ll hold on. Make it
Toast didn’t know how to fly a bubbagon. She
started calling out commands, “Go, bubbagon. Take off. Fly.” Nothing
worked. When one of the elves spears hit the bubbagon on her back, she
flapped her wings and flew into the sky. Toast grabbed onto the hairs and
clung for dear life. Xander’s feet dangled in the air, but his arms
grasped firm onto her body. Up they went, above the trees. The Zeyth elves
disappeared from their sight as they soared into the clouds. “We did it,
“Help me up.” Xander reached for Toast’s hand.
She pulled as he pushed with his feet. He climbed on top and wrapped his
arms around Toast’s waist. “This is almost as fun as flying around in that
bubble.” Just then the bubbagon dipped. “Whee! Where’s it taking us?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how to steer it.
There are not reins or anything.” Toast looked frantically for some way to
control the insect.
“I guess we’ll just fly around until it drops
us or lands. At least we’re away from the Zeyth elves.” Xander pulled his
journal out of his pocket. “I’ve got to write all this down. I’m going to
draw a picture of the bubbagon too.” He sat back and wedged himself in
between the different parts of its body and once steady, he wrote.
Toast talked to the bubbagon. “Can you
understand me? We are trying to get back to Appleworth. Do you know where
The bubbagon gave no sign of understanding,
but gentle swerved to the right and dropped lower. They flew just above
the treetops and hills. Toast saw a field of color up ahead. “I wonder
what that is, Xander.”
Xander looked up. “Probably just a meadow of
flowers. Maybe there’s a flower farmer. Where are we anyway? I’ve been
writing and drawing and not paying attention.” He gazed from side to side.
“I can’t see the sea, or any rivers.”
The bubbagon went lower and lower and landed
in a clearing. Xander and Toast climbed off and the bubbagon flew away.
“Wait! You can’t leave us here!” Toast shouted and waved. “Well, I guess
we’re on our own again.”
elves - mischievous, gray skin, long pointy ears, poky noses, green
eyes, long, thick eyelashes, wiry hair, live in huts in a small village in
one of the Valleys of Armon