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The Wishing Map
Chapter Ten: Lost… (Continued)
Previously: Zack had finally returned to his human state. Meanwhile, his sister Gina was being celebrated as the new Dragonmeer of Rennou…
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“You have to find your brother, you empty headed girl. Why are you still here?” B’frona asked when no one else was near. “And why are you twitching in that ridiculous manner?”
“I haven’t forgotten, and I dance like this when I’m thinking. I have a plan.” Gina had just finished her tour of Rennou. She was being tailed by a retinue of volunteers who’d fought over the right to carry the one hundred plus gifts she’d been given (she’d settled it by sagely suggesting each one carry only two items, thus allowing as many people as possible the honor of serving her).
She was utterly infatuated with cobbley, vine-draped Rennou and the handsome, earnest Frengan people. She wanted to be their dragonmeer, wanted to be their warrior princess! And why not? She could do it all! She would find Zack—she’d sworn she would, and she would—and return to Middleton. But she would also live in Rennou. Important people had homes in more than one place. Why not her? It was her destiny!
“Zack could be anywhere,” Gina explained. “I could never find him by myself, but as Dragonmeer I can send people all over Ismara to search for him, and you can be my Assistant Dragonmeer!”
“I would rather eat my own feces.”
Gina did not hear this remark because the crowd was abuzz about Dragonmirth, the great celebration that would begin in just two hours (tradition demanded a cease to all work the day a dragon was found). “So, this is where I live?” She gestured toward the Dragon Manse.
“Of course,” B’frona sneered. “Are you not the Dragonmeer of Rennou, the ‘amazing girl knight’ who has broken the curse?” He left without another word.
Gina inspected every corner of her pocket palace, trailed by Puff, who made it his duty to lick each graven beastie and painted flower. The volunteer brigade of pink-cheeked girls and red-blooded boys distributed the gifts as they went: platters of shrennel bread, pots of nectair and plaited herbs to the kitchen; pleated gowns, satiny capes and bejeweled stomachers to the wardrobe chamber; truncheons, swords, daggers and shields to the armory.
The Dragon Manse was built around its armory. Comprising the entire second and third floors, it was lined with weapons—a veritable health club for knights. One long shelf was filled with artificial limbs made of wood, leather, and hammered rivets. Why would I need these? Gina wondered. She heard her boy volunteers drooling lustfully over the weapons: “Rauéill! Look at this pike!” “This must be the finest two-headed ax in all Frenga!” “I could wreak glorious havoc with such a mace!”
“Ahhh, mmmm…!” she concurred, fingering a lethal looking lance. “And this is the best, um, one of these I’ve ever seen!”
Rennou’s first Dragonmirth in three quarters of a century began just two hours later! Glowing lespin-wood lanterns were hung throughout the Marketplace. Children ran screaming back and forth across the Great Porch, fleeing in mock terror from Puff’s sulphured plum burps, which always ended in colorful showers of sparks. Elders tilted tankards of toogle and celebrated the days ahead when Rennou’s marketplace would once again burst with life.
Gina learned to do the utreánn, an addictive dance that began as a series of hops, then exploded into a whirlwind of kicks, and finally culminated in the hurling of a lucky girl (Gina every time) into the arms of a dozen laughing boys! “I’m never going to stop doing this!” she screamed.
The only sour moment came when Artifíga, the dour boy who’d taunted B’frona earlier, caught her left foot and bit off one of her monster slipper claws, then, flashing his rotting gums, whispered, “I promise not to tell.”
It was nearly dawn when Gina dragged herself up the magnificent lespinwood staircase to the Manse’s top floor. She giggled and stumbled, stumbled and giggled, falling on increasingly purple knees. By holding onto Puff’s tail she managed to arrive at the Dragonmeer’s bedchamber. She collapsed on top of the lavish featherbed, her head on Puff’s belly, his tail draped protectively across her legs.
Her sleep was unperturbed until late that morning when her unconscious mind was invaded once again by the figure in the heavy cloak and violet-gold helmet. Closer and closer he came, until he was secret-sharing close. For the first time Gina could see the intricate zodiacal etchings in the helmet’s surface, the fire inside its numinous gems. She could see his sad, beautiful eyes as never before. And then, for the first time, he spoke:
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Thoughts: Have you ever experienced a pampered but temporary retreat from regular life and longed to remain there forever? Would you be a different person now if you had?
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