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by Margo Fallis
Chapter 17

            Sigmund’s tongue, the same faded blue as the others, wrapped around the two and carried them off. She dropped them on a patch of grass. Toast wiped the slime off. Xander looked into the trees. Hanging from every branch was a jellied cocoon. Blobs fell to the ground and splattered into piles. A wall of solidified jelly, built up over years of continual dripping, stood nearly as high as the lower branches. “That is so disgusting,” Toast said.

            The blarkee had a tear dripping from its eye. “Why are you crying?” Xander saw a frown on its face.

            “I am not a very good blarkee. Every time they make me do this, it upsets me,” Sigmund said.

            “You’re a girl blarkee. I’m a girl plumtuggle.” Toast smiled at the creature. “You don’t have to do this. You could let us escape.”

            “Good idea. Yes, Sigmund, you could just close your eyes and let us escape,” Xander said.

            “I could?” Sigmund looked at the other cocoons. “I didn’t let them escape.”

            “What are they anyway?” Toast scrunched her face up at the thought.

            “That one over there is a bandiff. That one is a wuca and the rest of them are grazniggles.”

            “What in the world is a grazniggle?” Xander didn’t know.

            “I don’t know what a grazniggle is either. Sigmund?” Toast stroked the blarkee’s tough skin. “Tell us about yourself.”

            “Well, a grazniggle is a bird. It lives around the shores of Lake Wite. It’s got lovely pink wings and a bright yellow body and its beak is orange with green stripes. I think they are beautiful,” Sigmund said.

            “If you think they’re so beautiful, then why do you eat them?” Xander saw feathers lying all over the ground.

            “They are beautiful, but they make this horrible sound,” Sigmund said.

            “What kind of a sound? What does it sound like?” Toast kept stroking the blarkee.

            “It sounds like…well, when Groby steps on my tail and I scream really loud, that’s what a grazniggle sounds like.”

            “Enough about grazniggles. Will you let us go or not? You seem to be a nice blarkee.” Xander winked at Toast.

            The blarkee looked around the clearing. She started giggling. Her fat body rolled with ripples. “I’ll help you escape. I’ll take you away from here. Where are you headed?”

            “We want to go to the Woods of Bilbarth. Do you know where that is?” Toast climbed on Sigmund’s body, struggling to reach the flat part on top without falling off.

            “Oh yes. We catch some of our best bandiffs there. I’ll take you. Of course, I’ll never be able to come back here to live with the others, but I’m okay with that too. I’ll live by myself and be just fine. I’m tired of them always treating me like a slave anyway.” Sigmund picked Xander up with her tongue and put him down on her back next to Toast. “Hang on, but try not to pull my hairs.”

            They’d only gone a few miles when they heard the snapping of twigs and branches and the familiar hissing. “Uh oh. I think we’ve been caught.” Toast turned to look back.

            “Don’t let them catch us, Sigmund. We’ve got to get back to Appleworth. Neither Toast or I want to be rolled in jelly and hung from a tree.” Xander kicked his legs into the blarkee’s side, hoping it would make her move faster.

            Sigmund stopped. “There’s only one thing we can do. You’ve got to hide. Jump off my back and find somewhere. Stay hidden until you know it’s safe.”

            Without argument, the plumtuggle and boy leapt from Sigmund’s back and ran off in search of a hiding place. The sound of heavy plops moved toward them. “Uh oh,” said Toast with a gulp.

            A huge face spilled over the rock they were hiding behind. “It’s me! Boy, are we lucky. It was only a rat.” Sigmund smiled.

            “I say we get going before anything else happens.” Toast came out from behind the rock. “Give us a ride, Siggy.”

            Xander gawked at Toast. “Siggy?”

            Toast stuck out her tongue and climbed on Sigmund’s back.

            Xander shrugged his shoulders and joined him.

            After several uneventful hours, they came to the edge of the Woods of Bilbarth. “Well, here we are.” Toast and Xander climbed down from the blarkee’s back. “I never thought I’d see home again.” Toast looked around at the trees.

Xander eyed the blarkee. “Thanks, Sigmund. What are you going to do now?”

“I was hoping I could stay with the two of you. Do you think the people in your village have room for a blarkee?” Sigmund shrugged her shoulders.

“You want to stay with us? Wow! I’d love to have you around. There’s plenty of room in the woods for all of us.” Toast stroked Sigmund’s leg.

“Oh thank you.” The creature burst out in tears. “I never did fit in with the others. I’ve always been an outcast. This means so much to me. You’re like family.”

Xander wiped a tear from his eye. “Family. We’re a family of outcasts, but I love it. Welcome to the Woods of Bilbarth, Sigmund.”

“You can call me Siggy too if you want, Xander.”

After a group hug, Xander pulled the last piece of jewel that they possessed. “We’ve got this worthless bit of jade. That’s it. After all the great treasures, precious treasures, we had in our possession, all we have to show for it is one small chunk of jade.” Xander sighed in defeat and sadness.

“It’s not that worthless, Xander. Jade is precious. We might as well give it a try.” Toast tried to encourage her hopeless friend.

“This is all our fault.” Xander slipped the jade back into his pocket. “We’re being paid back for taking those bags of rubies and tossing them in the lake. If only we’d not done that.”

Toast walked over to Xander and put her arm around his thigh. “Xander, who is paying us back? It has nothing to do with that at all. It’s the fact that they’re all thieves.”

“You’re right. Let’s stay here for the rest of the day and night. I want to catch up my journal. So much has happened. Why don’t the two of you round up something to eat. I’ll make a fire.” Xander looked for pieces of wood to build the fire with. After he’d got it going, he sat and wrote in his journal.

Siggy and Toast showed up an hour or two later with lots of berries and nuts to eat. They feasted until full and then slept, curled up next to each other.



Grazniggle- a bird. It lives around the shores of Lake Wite. It’s got lovely pink wings and a bright yellow body and its beak is orange with green stripes.

Groby – the leader of the blarkees

Sigmund -  a female blarkee that helps Toast and Xander escape

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