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The Wishing Map
Chapter Ten: Lost… (Continued)
Previously: Zack and Aviar continued their search for Zack’s sister Gina. Meanwhile…
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Gina woke up in Ismara for the second time. The first night she’d fallen asleep with her head on a dragon’s egg; last night she’d fallen asleep with her head on a dragon. She awakened in a pool of caramel sunlight and took inventory: Let’s see, I’m a girl hero with homes in two worlds and a pet dragon. Check. And check. Everything good. Heck, everything’s freaking incredible!
But she still needed to find Zack—the little twit—so that day she chose twenty-three able-bodied young men and women to search for her brother.
“We shall go wherever the Dragonmeer of Rennou sends us!” they vowed.
Gina arranged to meet with them again at the Great Porch that night during moontop (when the moon is directly overhead). Then she spotted B’frona and said, “You’re coming, right?”
“How is it possible for you to be so ignorant?”
“They are not here to serve you. You are here to serve them, to protect them!”
“’Protect?’ From what?”
“When Rennou is prosperous, there will be attacks. You and Boof will risk your lives many times over. You will probably not live to see adulthood,” he taunted, “but at least your brief life will be glorious.”
It was late evening before Gina was able to break away from the well-wishers and Puff-petters. The day had been long but satisfying; to be so adored was humbling. She and Puff slipped through the doors of the Dragon Manse and headed for the stairs.
“Tolerable lodgings!” said a voice from the shadows.
Gina let out an involuntary gasp. Puff leaned protectively against her.
“Yes, and far too big for just one little girl and a dragon hatchling,” added a gravelly older voice.
The loupp oil lamps were low, but Gina recognized the voices as those of Artifíga and his unpleasant father, Skelljaip.
“What are you doing in my house?” she asked, her fear painted over with a thin coat of indignation.
Skelljaip walked into a gouge of light. “Our hearts ache for such a small warrior alone in such a big house.” His skin strained like parchment over spidery fingers as he gesticulated. “So we have decided to move into the Manse with you!”
“Wha—!” Gina gagged at the stench of leeks, toogle, and unwashed clothing. “But you—“
“Are your new family!” Artifíga grinned like a jackal. He sucked the remaining drops from a leather jug and tossed it on the floor. It dribbled jewels of nectair onto the wooden inlay. “Oh, how clumsy of me! But the servants will clean it up in the morning. I think it’s time we all went to bed, don’t you?”
“What? No! You can’t…” Gina stepped up onto a higher stair, hoping to gain authority by elevation. “I don’t know why you thought you could… As Dragonmeer of Rennou, I demand that you leave now, both of you, or I’ll—“
“Or you’ll what?” Skelljaip glided up onto the ledge two stairs below her.
Puff planted himself in front of Gina, a smoky growl emanating from his muzzle.
“Or you’ll have this hatchling attack us?” Skelljaip pulled an iron needle from his grease-smeared jerkin and, without warning, stabbed the little dragon between the horn nubs.
Puff collapsed against Gina, howling in agony. Gina fell back onto the stairs.
“Oh, no!” Artifíga sneered. “The Dragonmeer has bruised her noble buttocks!”
“And now shall we witness her magnificent wrath?” asked Skelljaip from below.
Gina kissed the tender space on top of Puff’s head, and then rose to her full height, fury replacing fear. “Go ahead and laugh!”
For a moment Skelljaip and Artifíga actually tottered back.
“The armory is at the top of those stairs, and as soon as I get my sword you’re going to—“
“We knew the great J’nah would wish to display her skills,” Artifíga interrupted, “so we had the foresight to bring the great warrior’s weapons to her!” He pulled a dagger from his belt and then threw it. It sheeng’d through the air and embedded itself in the banister between Gina’s thumb and forefinger.
She jerked away. “S-s-s-so what? That’s just a little—“
“Perhaps this is the weapon you would prefer?” Skelljaip said, unsheathing a heavy double-edged sword.
“Or this one!” Artifíga offered, pulling a ten foot serrated pike from the shadows.
“So you’re going to attack me when I don’t even have a weapon?” Gina sucked raw chutzpah from the air. “If only I had a—“
One by one swords, shields, spears, daggers and battle axes clattered onto the staircase around her, as Skelljaip and Artifíga hurled them.
“See anything that suits you?” Skelljaip asked.
“Be careful, father,” Artifíga warned histrionically, “or she may cut off your feet the way she did that horrible pink beast!”
He pointed at Gina’s slippers and pantomimed spitting out a cotton-filled claw.
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Thoughts: Have you ever been caught in a half-lie and faced severe consequences? What did you do next?
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