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The Wishing Map
Chapter Seven: B’frona (Continued)
Previously: The millboy B’frona was asked by the pixie king to lead Gina to a place where her hungry dragon hatchling could eat.
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They came to the edge of a field full of pale green grain dotted with white flowers. A delicious scent wafted from the stalks, somewhere between licorice and oatmeal.
“Shrennel,” B’frona explained. “It must be his first food. He must not eat flesh because—”
The dragon pup let out a throaty whoop and trounced into the field, biting playfully at tiny flying creatures ascending from the buds.
“Oh, no, bees!” Gina exclaimed, concerned that they might sting Puff.
“’Beezes?’ You really are a simpleton. Everyone knows that beezes don’t exist. They are mythical creatures, little striped monsters with poisoned swords in their tails who brew magical treacle syrup! How absurd to believe such a thing!”
“What? But in Middleton we have bees on our flowers all the…oh, wait, they’re not bees, they’re pixies!”
“No, stupid, they are flower faeries. Much smaller, and much more ridiculous than pixies; they never talk about anything but themselves. Still, how else could the plants produce more shrennel? Look, he is eating!”
Puff was chomping happily on a clump of shrennel stalks. Several faeries cursed at him in heavily accented tinkles as they flew off.
“And that’s good?”
“Yes! Now he will have the taste for shrennel forever. Have you never had shrennel? You really are the most ignorant person I have ever met, even if you do think you are a queen!”
“So teach me, Know-Everything Boy. And what about you? Where do you come from?”
The Mill on the River Rennou, Gina learned, was at the western edge of the Frengan Light Forest, and had been prosperous for generations. But B’frona’s family had broken that pattern. They had been far from blessed. He spoke vaguely about his father, alluding to an indistinct accident that had somehow incapacitated the man, leading to B’frona’s own dawn to dusk procession of duties.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Gina interrupted, “so you’re saying that your dad makes you do all the work?”
“No, I’ve told you, because of his accident—”
“Right. He crushed his—“
“Hand…his hands…both of them.”
“You told me he crushed his foot.”
“I…I didn’t say that.”
“Yes, you did!” From the moment Gina and B ‘frona had met, all pretense of politeness had been nonexistent, which generally means you’re either going to be someone’s enemy or their best friend.
“Well, yes, his…his foot and his hands, and so…he will never be able to work in the mill again because—“
“Left or right?”
“Left or right foot?”
“You said ‘right’ before.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You’re lying your brains out!”
Just as things were beginning to heat up, they reached the mill. Gina would have pressed the point (she couldn’t tolerate lying from anyone, except, when absolutely necessary, herself), but at that moment Puff picked up the pungent aroma of fresh-ground lespin nuts; it smelled like coffee, chili, and cinnamon all rolled into one.
B’frona’s house was situated directly over the grist mill. It was five stories high, and each storey was larger than the one below it. An immense irontree had grown up through the middle of the house, its vast branches spreading out to form the supporting structure for each successive level.
Puff began hopping up the stairway carved into the tree’s twelve foot thick trunk.
“Halt!” B’frona shouted, grabbing the little creature by the tail. The hatchling began dragging him up the stairs with a series of painful thumps.
The second floor was a rustic kitchen with a central fireplace for cooking, and two alcoves supported by the irontree’s outward extending limbs. Before B’frona could stop him, the little creature bounded up the narrow stairway to the next floor.
The third floor was a living room centered around a stone chimney woven into the tree trunk. There were two bentwood chairs, and a pile of blankets near the fireplace. Puff began climbing the stairs to the next floor.
“Stop, you gyaskutus!” B’frona screeched.
Why is he so upset? Is he afraid Puff will awaken his crippled father? Gina entered the fourth floor fast on his heels. There was a large bed frame in the corner of the room, but it had no mattress, and there was no other furniture. The little dragon bounded up the final flight of stairs.
“No!” B’frona hollered.
As Gina reached the opening to the fifth floor, B’frona tried to block her from entering. She affably pushed him aside. There was a single rag-filled pallet in the corner, with an oil lamp and several dozen books. Gina glanced back and forth between the stubborn boy and the spartan space.
And then she understood.
“When did your father die?” she asked gently.
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Thoughts: Have you ever had an antagonistic encounter with someone who later became your closest friend or even the love of your life?
To read The Wishing Map 28, click here!