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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nine: The Ties That Un-bind
Previously: Zack’s sister Gina befriended the proud but lonely millboy B’frona.
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Gina had sprouted a theory when B’frona said he hated the people of Rennou: he really longed for their acceptance, and believed that becoming dragonfaer would bring him that acceptance.
To test her hypothesis, she dashed out of his sparse little room, knowing Puff would follow. If she was right, so would B’frona. “Come on, Puffy!” The little creature bounded after her, knocking the millboy sideways as he pursued his beloved dragonmeer. Puff slid into her at the third floor stairwell. She scratched behind his ears, cooing loudly, “Who’s my little draggy? Are you my little draggy? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!”
B’frona plummeted down the stairs, yelling, “He is not yours! And he is not a ‘d-d-d-draggy’!”
He stutters when he’s mad, Gina noted with a smile, and drools a little too.
The moment they reached the gristmill level, Puff ran over to the grinding stones, but Gina began walking away from the house. The dragon pup panicked, looking back and forth between his hero and the big yummy pile of shrennel, then ran after her, tripping over his own tail on the way.
B’frona hit the ground floor a few seconds later, shouting, “You cannot take him to M’dell tóne! He belongs to the people of Rennou!”
Gina whirled around. “So he belongs to ‘the people of Rennou,’ huh? I thought you hated them.”
“Fro, I get how it works. Frengan dragons belong to everyone in the village, only the person who adopts the dragon, well, she—or he—is just a little extra special, right?”
“So, who wouldn’t want to be dragonfaer? And with your family gone, you need—“
“I do not need anyone!”
“So, OK, cool. I’ll just go to the village and tell them I found Puffy all by myself.”
“C’mon, Fro.” She ruffled the twelve-year-old’s curly brown hair. “We’ll say we found him together!” She figured once they got to Rennou she could turn Puff over to the villagers and get on with the search for her brother. But after that I’ll come back and visit my dragon every day!
En route to Rennou, Gina used the same subject-changing skills on B’frona that she’d perfected on her dad. She coaxed him into telling her about Frenga’s art and architecture, its famous knights and battles. Southern Frenga, she learned, was a multi-colored quilt of grainlands and vineyards, criss-crossed by sauntering streams and lush wealds. Gina was astonished at how much the book-loving Miller’s son knew:
“But more than anything else,” he summed up, “it is known for its dragons. There are dragons throughout the Ten Kingdoms, some as small as shrews, others as large as irontrees, yet none is as magnificent as the dragons of southern Frenga. Each is uniquely marked and colored. They are the most beautiful creatures in the world!”
Gina glanced down at Puff, trundling along beside her, brushing his undersized wing against her every now and then just to maintain physical contact with his adoptive mother.
“Every town in Frenga,” the boy concluded, “either has or is desperately seeking a dragon.”
“So it’s a marketing thing! People come to see your dragon, and then they buy, like, dragon flip flops and eat dragon burgers and play dragon golf and—”
“How can you be so ignorant? No! It is because, as everyone but stupid girls who make up nonsense about dragon buggers and fib-fobs knows, a village without a dragon is cursed!”
“So you’re saying that villages without dragons are usually—“
“—are always ‘cursed?’”
“And Rennou’s been ‘cursed’ without a dragon for—“
“For almost fifty years, yes!”
They finally came to the edge of Rennou. Gina gasped. It was the kind of village she thought only existed in grandmothers’ sewing room pictures: the cobbled main street wound its way between shops with over-hanging garrets and flower-boxed windows, set against a backdrop of water-color hills and parti-color vegetables. Some of the houses were only a few stories high and still had live irontrees growing out of their roofs, others, at four, five, and even six storeys, were complete and festooned with ancient nectair vines full of succulent blue grapes. The newer structures were made of cross-hatched timbers, thatched in pale green shrennel.
“These are waiting for a dragon,” B’frona commented, “so that permanent houses can be built in their place.”
“OK, you need to explain that, Fro.”
He rolled his eyes in that exasperating way only pre-teen boys can. “The dragon lifts the heavy materials to the upper floors, and tempers the tree with its burning breath. After that it is like iron.”
“Which is why they call it—“
“An irontree, yes, you witless girl, and why the tree is strong enough to support an entire building for thousands of years.”
“Holy…! And so no more houses can be built until Rennou has—“
“A dragon!” the voice of a child shrieked. Within seconds, people began flooding into the street, pointing at Puff and shouting:
“The curse is over! The curse is over!”
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Thoughts: Have you ever been to a place so enchanting that it caused you to fantasize about moving there and starting life over again?
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