We returned to Freddie to watch as their new bodies appeared and then waited while Dommi and her helpers joined the souls to the bodies. We projected for them so that they would not wake up in the nude.
We had taken most of the Normals to the void with us and then helped them all share the awakening of the new family. They felt the wonder and joy, the love their Robert felt when he looked at his family and knew this is a good family they have to share their reality with and are keen to help them. We had a small ceremony, introducing them to the leaders of their world and then we started our party for them and Cherine. First we had a golden circle of love and then the Wendys and Candy sang, with Lua and Iona dancing. After that we all danced and partied until morning.
Robbie spent the next two days with the local Robert, sharing his memories of this world and making suggestions. Robbie sat back. “I guess you are ready and we can leave.”
“How can I bring them the alien technology you promised? I don’t have a Freddie.”
“You want a Freddie? Make one.”
“But the aliens are your friends.”
“Nonsense. They are Cherinians and would gladly help you if you ask.”
He looked at his Cherine and then smiled. “Fine, I’ll do that.”
“Are you really thinking of leaving?” I asked.
“Well, you can’t. Your honeymoon with Syrina is not over yet and if we leave, then so is the honeymoon over.”
“How many more years do you think it should last?” He was amused, but also touched.
“At least until we have done the latest thing she is planning.”
Candy has been banned from reading the diary and our minds so I can write freely.
We are going to use an alternate Earth that does not have humans. Because we cannot use filters long-term (needed so as not to contaminate the planet by our bacteria and the alien ones of those who are to participate in the story), Robbie and his healer will create bodies for us out of our own cells, but they will be created on planet so we will not bring any parasites, micro-organisms or bacteria to infect the planet. Not that there is any real risk, since we all have healers. Aliens will have bodies made from our cells, but their appearance will be altered to their true shapes or those of the characters they will be. Iziko is bringing back with him volunteers from his home planet, who will assume shapes of dragons, goblins, ogres and other monsters. Cherine, in a teasing mood, suggested her mother, Marian, become a dragon, and Marian loved the idea.
Robbie is jumping every day with Aganthi to what I will call Candy’s Magical World, to prepare castles, villages, hamlets, roads and so on according to Meli’s wishes. Meli is working with the imps at sketching out our game plan and mapping out in her mind our personalities for the adventure. We will not recall our lives here, though we think there is bound to be some seepage - it is very difficult to block all the memories. Apart from Candy being the Candy of that world, the rest of us do not know in advance who or what we will be. Our excitement includes a tinge of anxiety, especially when Meli gives a smile and chuckles.
We will be keeping our healers and Vincent will join us (not as Vincent of course). We asked for volunteers for the bad guys - except for Thorn King. Syrina told him that he will be handsome and charming, but working against the family. We suspect that Candy will ‘discover’ that she has certain magical abilities. She will ‘know’ that she was created out of Wendy (at the appropriate time) by an evil magician and that she is meant to betray us at some crucial point. She will feel a compulsion to do so and it is up to her to fight it. Though Dommi goes as a child, her main role is for Meli to use her to prompt everyone if they stray from the game plan. That is all I am going to tell you from now. Oh, one more thing, Freddie will show on his screens edited versions of all that happens. All he will remove are those private moments none of us enjoy being watched. The Inguel will also record this trip (the edited version), as we have a feeling many of us will want to see it repeatedly.
Vincent let Iziko know we are ready and when he returned with his volunteers, Robbie was waiting for Candy as the void. He helped her lose consciousness and then entered her mind and blocked her memories and most of her gifts.
“Prince Robert, you do not understand.” Even as he talked, Alkion’s eyes searched the growth to either side for possible dangers, his ears straining to catch the faintest sound. “Let me put it in straightforward terms. There are many people I would die for, but very few I would live for.”
“How typical of you Alkion. As a warrior I understand your willingness to die for others, you chose that career, but what do you mean you would not live for many others?”
“I was not speaking as a warrior. If we came out of these trees to find a lone traveller being attacked by a gang of cut-throats, who among us would stand back? Would not even your sister try to join us as we risk our lives to save a man we do not know? For all we know, that lone man might have a black heart and have caused untold suffering, but we would not stop to ask questions. As for living for others, can you think of many you would devote your life to?”
Prince Robert gave a quick glance at Princess Wendy and then looked away, his eyes betraying the pain he felt. “You are right, not more than a hand-full.”
“I can count…” his hand gestured abruptly for silence. Whatever sound had caught his attention originally, they all now heard the soft sad song that came from ahead. Not one horse nickered as they silently listened, as if the horses too were enchanted. As the song ended, Alkion spoke very softly, “It sounds like a child.”
Jescus leant forward to whisper, “There are magical creatures that can sound like children to the unwary, take care.”
Prince Robert was staring at Princess Wendy, as if troubled by something he could not identify. He put away the question he could not formulate, “Do not strike unless our lives are in danger. Let us see what magical creature this is that can sing of so much sadness.”
The horses had been trained by scouts and having survived a number of gragger hunts, they were quick to pick up the mood of the men and moved forward silently, their ears twitching. As they came out into a clearing, they saw a girl child of about five sitting under a tree. She looked up, saw them and stood up, her little body trembling. Only Jescus noticed that her eyes were fixed on Princess Wendy.
Prince Robert smiled gently, “There is no need to fear us, your song brought us to you.” He got off his horse and crouched before her. “Indeed Jescus, she is a magical creature. Tell me little one, what are you doing in the forest alone? Where are your parents?”
“I have no parents.”
He stared into her eyes and liked the way she stared back. “What is your name?”
“The one who named me said I would be Candy, sweet so as to tempt, but bad for the health of those who love me.”
Prince Robert laughed. “Indeed! Candy, do you thirst, are you hungry?”
“A little bit thirsty, the stream is sick and I could not drink.”
While they handed her a flask, Sylvestro led his horse to the stream. It bent its head to drink and then pulled back. Sylvestro got off his horse and kneeling, brought a palm full of water to his lips and sipped.
“Prince, the water tastes good but my horse refuses to drink it.”
Prince Robert ignored him, for he noticed that the pale face of Wendy, haunted and withdrawn since…well, he saw that she has come alive, staring with fascination at Candy. As if his awareness has snuffed out the tiny flame, her eyes withdraw again, returning to their bitter reflections and fears that he has not been able to draw her away from. Indeed, this journey is not much more than that, a way prophesied to brighten the spark in her again.
While Candy reluctantly responded to the questions of the men and Princess Cherine, Prince Robert drew Jescus to the side. “Do you sense evil in her?”
“No. I do not sense a normal child either.”
He did not smile at Jescus. “Something about her troubles me. Her singing, there is no question that she is gifted but something about it is…it disturbs me.”
“She sounded as Princess Wendy would sound if she sang a melancholic song?”
“You’re right!” He turned and stared at the little girl. “Now that you mention it, does she not resemble her in many ways? Did you notice the effect she had on my beloved? Jescus, I have an idea.”
As his Prince walked away, Jescus muttered softly to himself, “A Prince who is always full of ideas! How will our people survive him?” He was laughing at himself, for his eyes showed his fondness for the young man he had tutored and helped shape.
Prince Robert picked up Candy. “We cannot linger here much longer, we must be out of the forest before nightfall.” He walked over to Princess Wendy and raised the child. “Here, let her ride with you.”
“No!” Her horse pranced backwards a couple of steps. “Give her to your sister.”
“We might need her sword arm free my love, surely you do not fear a child?”
“Keep her away from me my Prince. She charms me.”
He was puzzled and tiny shivers of alarm tingled up and down his back, especially when he noticed how intensely Candy stared at her. “Charms you? Do you mean she is trying to cast a spell on you?”
“Maybe. It is as if I feel a need to crush her to me with such force that she bursts through my skin and becomes a part of me. I know I sound crazy.”
A small basket hanging from the saddle of Rosemary’s horse popped open, a tiny head stuck out and then, before she could prevent it, a little dog hurtled to the ground and ran to Prince Robert. It barked with joy as it jumped up and down, trying to reach for Candy. Even more deeply puzzled, Prince Robert set Candy on her feet and Bitsy was soon squirming from delight in her arms, trying to lick her face.
“Let her ride with me.” Lady Rosemary said in a cool voice, “She can’t have more fleas than the mutt has and I won’t have to keep running after the stupid dog.”
Princess Cherine was the only one to laugh. “Lady Rosemary, you are no longer at court.”
Dryly, “That is no excuse for us to behave like the rabble.” She slightly bowed her head. “I apologise my lady, my comment was not meant as a rebuke.”
Princess Cherine laughed again. “I sometimes think my dear brother brought you along because he enjoys the sharpness of your tongue. Why did you come though, surely this kind of quest is not fitting for a lady of the court?”
She tossed her head. “All the interesting people were leaving, did you expect me to stay behind with a simpering group of ladies who have no sense of humour and even less intelligence?”
Sharply, “Do you include our parents in your description?”
Lady Rosemary did not look one whit crushed. “They do not appreciate my sense of humour my lady, I would have to stay out of their way.”
Alkion grunted. “May we leave this place my Prince?” Prince Robert hid his grin, knowing that Alkion was uncomfortable around Lady Rosemary, as he often is her favourite target for exercising her sharp wit on.
The sky was darkening and there was still no end to the forest. Jescus with Alkion shared the hand drawn map, trying to puzzle out their whereabouts. Alkion was certain the map was wrong, but Jescus insisted magic had been used to draw it and it was correct.
Almost teasing, Prince Robert asked Candy what direction they should travel in. Without hesitation, she pointed. Surprised he thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. “It is as good a direction as any.”
As they travelled, Rosemary felt Candy begin to tremble. Gently she whispered to her, “What is wrong?”
“We must not go this way, I am sorry, I did not mean to…” she began to cry.
“Prince Robert! We must stop.”
Prince Robert made to interrogate Candy, but Lady Rosemary put her arms around her protectively and glared at him, so he walked off to consider the situation. “ Sylvestro, you’ll come with me. Alkion, take everyone that way and we’ll meet up with you later. I have to see what we were being led into.”
“That is foolish! If what is waiting is powerful enough to kill all of us, how can just the two of you survive? We will find enemies enough later, there is no need to walk into a trap just to satisfy your curiosity.”
“I’ll come with the two of you.” Princess Cherine said, so Prince Robert changed his mind.
Just before it was totally dark, they found a small clearing and made camp. Jescus drew a line around them and mumbled to himself while a fire was started and food was prepared. Obviously the circle did not keep the mosquitoes out and they soon got tired of slapping themselves, and wrapping themselves lay down to sleep.
Dominique lay wrapped within the cloth cocoon against her mother, but Candy had refused to be held by Lady Rosemary and lay by herself. After everyone had settled down she got up and walked around within the circle, obviously searching for something. Jescus kept his eyes on her, convinced she knows something. He saw her sit by Princess Wendy and he wondered what the attraction between the two is.
Despite the vigilance of Candy and Jescus, they all realised they were being attacked at the same moment. The horses, that were outside the circle, screamed and broke away, galloping in a panic. With a word from Jescus, a wall of flames shot up around the party. With curses, all of them struggled to unwind the cloths and get to their feet. The only one not being attacked was Princess Wendy - Candy, who was stamping her little feet, was protecting her.
The ground was covered by huge spiders. Spiders from outside were launching themselves through the ring, their bodies exploding with little plops as the magical flames destroyed them. With an oath, Jescus rushed towards Prince Robert. The spiders were now ignoring everyone, most of them rushing at the Prince, some of them already climbing up him looking for exposed skin. Jescus waved his arm and Prince Robert rose into the air. He was swirled around with force and most of the spiders were flung off him. Before Jescus could relax, he saw more spiders landing on the shoulders and head of Prince Robert. There seemed to be a flying carpet of spiders hanging from threads attached to the branches overhead. To make matters worse, the remaining spiders on the ground now attacked the rest of the party again.
Sylvestro picked up the two children, the group drew into a circle, back to back, and they stomped as fast as they could. Most of them were barefoot and getting bitten and it was obvious they would not last long once the flying carpet of spiders landed. Prince Robert was already covered head to toe and was no longer moving.
A flame shot out from the side, outside the circle, cutting through the spiders floating above them. The flame swivelled back and forth, even licking across Prince Robert, burning the spiders. As soon as the air was clear of spiders, the flame stopped and then shot out again, covering the ground. Sylvestro and Alkion quickly placed the ladies behind them, as their leather clothing was not as combustible as the clothing covering the others.
“That is it, I’m out of breathe, you’ll have to kill the rest yourselves.”
Dominique called out, “You are a dragon!”
“Actually, I’m a baby dragon. My name is Iziko. I’m sorry, I did not know the horses were yours and I ate most of them.”
Prince Robert was lowered. He was unconscious. The rest of them were not feeling well either. They had all been bitten by a number of spiders and the venom was coursing through their bodies, paralysing them. Soon their hearts would be paralysed and they would die.
“Magician, let down your curtain of fire!” A figure ordered from among the trees.
“Who are you, friend or foe?”
“You are all dying, what need have you of foes? I am friend of Iziko and a healer, act quickly or your Prince will soon be beyond my help.”
“Aqutina, you came!” Iziko sounded happy, but then he wilted. “I’m sorry, I got delayed and was not in time to save your friends.”
“You mean you stopped to eat the horses.”
“I’m sorry, I was hungry.”
Jescus opened the circle so that Aqutina could enter. He kept the opening small, as he was not comfortable with the idea of allowing the dragon through. She ignored them all and went straight to Prince Robert. She knelt by him and lightly touched his cheek.
“He is alive, his second heart is still beating. All of you stand still, movement makes the blood flow faster and I need time to heal him first.”
Rosemary held the mug in her hands, sipping at the black coffee. “Your dragon called us your friends.”
“He is not my dragon, he is my son. To him all of our race are my friends, he does not understand.”
“Your son!” Even Prince Robert had looked up, interested despite his depression at losing most of their necessities and horses.
“I found him next to his mother. He had just hatched and she was dead. He adopted me as his mother.”
“You impressed him!” Prince Robert explained to the others what he meant. “How did you know we were to be attacked?”
“At odd times I have the gift of prophecy. I am in search of the Blue Eyes of Death and I dreamt we became allies.”
Jescus noticed that Candy had withdrawn, huddling her knees to her in an effort to make herself inconspicuous. He was about to question her, but the fear in her eyes made him hesitate. Finally, against his better judgement, he picked her up and walked off so that the others would not hear. “Candy, you knew we were about to be attacked. I saw you defending Princess Wendy.”
“She must not die.”
“But the rest of us may? Why Princess Wendy?”
“I don’t know.”
“I sense you are speaking the truth, as you know it. Are you going to lead us into further traps?” she nodded. “Who wants us dead?”
“I don’t know. The one who named me.”
“Is he a magician?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said you do not have parents. How did they die, did he kill them?”
In a very small voice, “I don’t know.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much you do know. Candy, you are also a victim of the man who named you, tell me what he plans for us.”
“He only said one thing. He laughed and said he plans for you to find the Blue Eyes of Death.”
Jescus kept quiet for a while. “Keep what we discussed between us Candy. Do not be afraid, none blame you for what happened.”
“Are you of the McUrly people?”
Aqutina shook her head. “I do not think so. I grew up in the White Mountains.”
They talked to keep themselves awake until the sky lightened. Sylvestro left before dawn and returned with a young boar wrapped across his shoulders.
“Bacon. Did anybody find eggs?” he asked, with a proud grin.
Prince Robert said, “For a map to be of any use we first need to know where we are. We have to get out of this forest.”
Alkion frowned, “I think I know our approximate position. We thought we were travelling north, but if we went north-west then we should be close to this swamp. That would explain the multitude of insects - and spiders.”
Jescus said, “Those spiders were directed by a human will.”
Aqutina replied, “They had to exist here for them to be directed. I suggest we travel east for two hours and then turn north again.”
“Iziko.” Lady Rosemary called out and he raised his head to look at her. “When you ate our horses, did you also eat our dog?”
“What is a dog?”
“Did you eat a small animal?”
“We must find Bitsy, he will not survive in the forest alone.”
Alkion growled, “He was probably bitten by the spiders. We cannot search the forest for a dog.”
Candy jumped up. “I will.”
“Candy, did you see which way he went?”
“I’ll find him.” She jumped up and ran, ignoring their voices as they called for her to wait. Lady Rosemary jumped up in pursuit, so everyone followed. They found Candy sitting on the ground with Bitsy trying to lick her face. “He was hiding in his basket.”
They looked at the bones scattered around and Iziko was rewarded with some angry glances. Shyly, his head and tail drooping, he withdrew.
“Wait here, I’ll collect our few belongings, we cannot afford to lose anything more.”
Iziko kept a watch on them through the foliage and he was the only one to see Candy slip away. As quietly as he could he circled the group and went after her. He found her, by her scent, hiding among the roots of a tree.
“Are you playing? Sometimes Aqutina plays with me, she tells me to hide and she takes a long time to find me. One time it took her two days.”
“Go back to her. You must not tell them where I am.”
“For how long?”
Iziko shook his head vehemently. “No. Aqutina says we must never allow children to die, that is why she stayed with me. You will die if you are not found.”
“I must die or else they will. I cannot fight it Iziko.”
He settled on the ground, his face politely kept sideways so that he does not breathe on her. “What must you fight Candy?”
“I have to do what he wants and he wants Prince Robert dead. If I let him, then Wendy will die.”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you a baby Candy?”
“No. I’m five years old.”
Iziko flicked an eye, and softly mumbled to her, “I’m a baby and Aqutina says babies don’t know much. How can you fight him, the one you do not know.”
“He wanted me to take them somewhere where they would die and I tried to fight him and make them go somewhere else. He still nearly killed them. When I don’t do what he wants, it hurts in my head and I feel sick.”
“You must ask Aqutina to help, she can make you better. Candy, will it help if I am your special friend? It will be our secret.”
As soon as he had won her over, he told her to sit on him behind his head and he returned to the group.
Thorn King sat back with a smile. “So, my little Candy wants to fight me? Perhaps I can teach her a lesson or two.” He ordered his soldiers to prepare a trap ahead of Prince Robert’s party.
Prince Robert watched Candy. She was full of life, her vivacious voice carrying as she talked with and bullied Iziko, her tiny hands holding on to his skull ridges. When she fell silent, he watched as Iziko tried to jolly her back into a good mood again, but Candy would not respond. Iziko turned his head, trying to look at her. “Are you hurting Candy?”
She pointed to the left. “We must go that way.” When Iziko did not turn she put her hands to either side of his head and tried to make him turn. Iziko stopped. She insisted, “We must go that way.”
“Is it a trap Candy?”
“Yes. Oh, we must not go there, Iz…Iziko, we must go this way to escape. My head hurts.” Aqutina had heard and she raced over. She put her hands to either side of Candy’s face.
“I cannot heal her pain!”
Candy gave in and pointed at her original direction, pleading with Iziko to go that way. She slumped and Aqutina caught her.
“Somebody is compelling her. We must not go in that direction.”
Prince Robert strode up to them and lightly touched Candy’s face. “Alkion, Sylvestro, we must find out who and what our enemies are, split off from us so that when they spring their trap you can attack from outside.”
Thorn King watched as they went in the direction he’d compelled Candy to want and laughed at himself, ordering his soldiers to return. He’d prepared his trap along the second choice of Candy’s, but his plan had misfired. “So my Prince, you are foolish, but braver than I expected. I’ll have you chasing your tail until I’m ready to deal with you.” He rose from his chair and floated out the window.
By noon, the trees were thinning and then they found themselves on open ground. The saw that small plots of land alongside a small, probably seasonal, river are farmed, mostly vegetables growing, and not much more than two hours walk away was a hamlet.
Princess Cherine said, “It must be a strange people that live here, I have never seen houses like these.”
Sylvestro said, “As long as they have an inn and some good ale, I shall excuse their strangeness.”
“I do not see any people.” Alkion peered around. “Prince Robert, if they are strange as Princess Cherine suggests, we must not forget we too will seem strange to them and not all are as tolerant of strangeness as you are. I’ll go ahead.”
“Candy, no feelings about whether we should go there?” She shook her head, her eyes filling with tears. “Iziko, sit down please.” He walked to them and reaching up took her hands in his. “You are a very brave girl. We will find the one who is trying to use you and we’ll stop him from hurting you, I promise. I think Iziko must not enter the village with us until the people are told he is a friend, so would you walk with me?” Wendy came out of her apathy long enough to notice the adoring way Candy looked up at Prince Robert as she walked with her hand in his. She did not care and looked away again.
Ahead of them, Alkion disappeared among the houses and Prince Robert made them wait. When Alkion appeared again he had two strange looking people by his side, but he waved for them to come in.
“They call themselves Kiards and are of a different race from us. They look menacing but are friendly.” He smiled. “They also have an inn with ale and clean beds for the ladies.”
“Will they accept the coin of our realm?”
“They’ll accept any coin of gold.”
Prince Robert has seen rundown and dirty inns in his own city and did not expect better here. As they entered he was struck by how clean the establishment is and, apart from an alien scent, he recognised the yeasty smell of good ale. The benches and tables were all in good condition and clean. Within minutes of them arriving, the few patrons inside walked out, complaining of the place becoming overcrowded.
The innkeeper, a fierce looking individual, towered over Prince Robert as he sat with Candy next to him. “We only cook for the evening, but we have some cold meat and bread if you are hungry. Ale for all?”
“Do you have anything else for the children?”
“Perhaps. Would the juice of pulped carrots do?”
“Carrot juice? I’ve never heard of that. May I try some first?”
“We can squeeze a few drops of lemons in it if you wish.”
“I am intrigued. We have never heard of your people, have you met our kind before us?”
“Yes, a few travellers, mostly those foolish enough to seek adventure. None with females and children though.”
“Have any of the travellers returned this way?”
“Not that I recall. I’ll get your order.”
They were served cold roast beef with big chunks of bread and ale. Throughout their meal the innkeeper stood close by like a statue, only his eyes moving as he looked at those speaking.
“The food was good, do you need more ale?”
“Clean rooms and a bath would be a blessing.” Princess Cherine said.
“We do not use baths. Water pours from the ceiling and you can wash yourselves. It is cleaner that way.”
“Is the water heated?”
“What for?” They looked at his hard body, his stance that was of a warrior, and they did not try to explain, knowing they would be thought soft.
“You are the first of your kind that come this way without searching for treasure. What are the blue eyes of death? Something magical?”
“We do not know. One of us ails, her spirit has been torn apart and a prophesy told us to find the blue eyes of death. You have not heard of them?”
“I have heard of many things, but not of these eyes. Are they real eyes or jewels?”
“We do not know.” Prince Robert looked around. “Your inn is almost empty, even with our group here, why did your customers leave, complaining they were overcrowded?”
“We need more space than your kind do, or else tempers grow short.”
“We do not wish to deprive you of your usual business. If we may retire to our rooms and you could send up some food this evening with more of your excellent ale, we will stay there.”
They were amazed when they saw their rooms. Though they were spartan in their lack of cushions, they had never seen rooms as secure as these were. A mastodon charging at the door likely would not be able to break through. The other point that was strange for an inn was that each room only had one bed.
They sat on the wooden floor in one room and discussed their predicament.
“I saw no evidence of horses, how do we continue on foot?”
Aqutina sat up, her face filled with dismay. “Iziko! I forgot him, he must be hungry. I better go to him before he tries to eat any livestock.”
“Perhaps the kitchen has meat to spare?” Prince Robert pulled out some coins and handed them to her. “Sylvestro, will you escort the lady? If she wishes to spend the night outside, please stay with her.”
As soon as they were gone, Alkion cleared his throat. “How will we find the eyes we search for if we do not know what they are and nobody has heard of them?”
“We are bound to come across someone who knows of them.”
Jescus whispered to Prince Robert, “Have you noticed how your bride-to-be stares at the child? There is a puzzle here and we must discover what it is about the child that has attracted her attention.”
He answered with a grim smile, “And how do you propose to do that? I can barely get a word out of her.”
“Something binds those two to each other. It is no coincidence my Prince.”
Aqutina heard laughter before she saw Iziko. A group of female Kiards surrounded him and they were busy questioning and teasing him, so she waited in the dark, listening.
“If you are a dragon then the stories lie. We were told dragons are taller than trees and bigger than a house. You should also be trying to eat us.”
“I am hungry.” They did not pull back in alarm and his head visibly sagged with disappointed. “I’m a baby dragon, I will grow much bigger - I think. I’ve never seen a grownup dragon.”
A female gently teased, “Were you too beautiful for a dragon so you were abandoned?”
“No, my mother told me that my dragon mother died before I hatched.”
“You have two kinds of mothers?”
“Yes. Aqutina is my mother. She found me so I am her baby now.”
“Do you mean that if I had found you, you would have been my baby?”
“I suppose so, if you wanted me.”
She laughed and the others joined her. “My male would not have thanked me, feeding you would soon leave us starving.”
That soon brought them round to the subject of food and a number of females rushed off to get him some meat. Aqutina stepped forward.
“It will not be necessary, we will buy some meat, I have coins.”
The Kiard females were delighted to meet Aqutina and asked her for the full story of her meeting the baby dragon and they wanted to know how she can afford to feed him. She explained that normally he hunts for himself and told them about his eating the horses. He was so obviously embarrassed that the females stood up for him, claiming he was not to blame, Aqutina should have taught him what he is not supposed to hunt.
They examined his wing stubs that had only recently begun to develop and were fascinated by the idea of flying and made him promise to return to take them for a ride high in the sky when his wings are fully developed.
Four males returned with the females who’d gone for food, carrying two halves (sides) of beef. They watched with amazement as Iziko polished it off within minutes, neatly piling the bones and then shyly asked Aqutina ‘more?’.
“No, in the morning we’ll go hunting.”
Half an hour later the innkeeper came to them. He placed his six-fingered hand on Iziko, feeling the texture and testing for toughness. He nodded, a very manlike nod. “Lady, go to sleep in comfort, your child will be cared for. He is safe here.”
She could not help giggling as she went to her bedroom. ‘Safe’ indeed! Iziko might be a baby, but anyone messes with him they’ll find out why dragons are feared. She still felt awed that the most fearsome creature in the world and all legends has bonded to her and is becoming so thoughtful and kind. She wondered what attracted him to Candy, the one of many mysteries, of the party she joined. She had wondered why the Princess Wendy was so apathetic and listless, but now that she knew, she only felt compassion for her. Who would do such a terrible thing to another human?
It seems the Kiards had decided to bear with the overcrowding, for a number of males stayed in the eating area while Prince Robert and his party had roast beef and ale for breakfast. The ladies found they’d lost most of their appetite, but the men climbed in with gusto. When they had finished, Prince Robert pulled out some coins.
“Innkeeper, we thank you for your hospitality, I will recommend your inn to any friends wishing to travel this way. How much do I owe you?”
“What you gave last night is enough. You are leaving?”
“We must, if we are to continue our quest.”
“Do you wish to leave the children here - apart from the overgrown baby, we cannot afford to feed him and he might be your best chance of returning.”
Prince Robert gave the suggestion thought and replied, “It is kind of you, but we prefer to stay together.”
I hope you enjoy reading this story of fantasy, adventure and love - and should some of it be true for our reality, I hope you will love our Cherine.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
14th February, 2020
- posted: 14th February, 2020
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