Shane and Egret

Tolomay_cottage

Once there was an old woman named Tolomay who wanted to be the wealthiest person in the land. She used magic to look for sources of wealth and had wonderful success finding buried treasure, lost jewels, and forgotten kingdoms whose storehouses were full of gold. She was never satisfied because her greatest desire was to locate a place called the Lost Cavern and get her hands on the treasures that were said to be hidden deep within.

The Lost Cavern had not always been lost. Long ago, there were many known entrances. The cavern was made up of underground chambers connected by a vast network of passageways. The cavern extended under numerous kingdoms and lands. Kingdoms that were located near a cavern entrance would use the the cool, dry chambers to store food and supplies.

These storehouses were used for generations, until a dragon moved in and made its home in the heart of the cavern. The dragon would come from the depths of the cavern to the storehouse chambers near the entrance. It would eat the food, ruin the supplies, and terrorize the people of the kingdom. The Kings would order offerings of treasure to be put into the cavern storehouse, then the entrance would be sealed up. It was assumed that the dragon took the treasures as payment, because it never returned to those kingdoms afterwards.

As time went on, there were fewer entrances for the dragon to come out. Dragon sightings decreased, until only stories were left about the Lost Cavern, the treasures, and the dragon.

Tolomay discovered a crystal ball on one of her more successful treasure hunts. When she gazed into it, she saw the dragon resting on a mountain of gold, pearls, and precious stones. She could see the details of the cavern quite clearly, but could not see an exit. After years of searching and spell casting, the witch located a shaft in the earth that led to the Lost Caverns and build a house on top it.

The entry to the cavern was quite small and try as she might, she could not get her magic to open it any wider. She spent her days staring at the treasure in her crystal ball and trying to find a way in.

At the edge of the dark forest where the old woman had built her house, a girl named Egret and a boy named Shane lived with their father. Their father was a woodcutter. He loved his children very much, all the more so since his wife had passed away. He worked long hours in the forest most days, and returned in the evening to his family.

On days when their father worked, the children were left alone from early morning until sunset. They had to amuse themselves as best they could, as there were no other children to play with.

The children’s father had told them not to venture into the forest because it held wild animals and bad magic. Egret took heed and spent her time reading the books her mother had left them.

Shane’s favorite game was to wander into the forest as far as he dared to test his courage.

One evening, as the children were waiting for their father to return, Egret read a story to her brother. It was the story of the dragon in the Lost Cavern. Shane was enthralled. When their father returned home, Shane asked him all sorts of questions about the dragon. His father told him everything he could remember from his childhood about the legend.

The next day, Shane made a shield and sword out of a stick and a basket and proceeded to play “Tame the Dragon.”

“What are you doing, Shane?” Egret asked.

“I’m practicing. When I get bigger, I will find the dragon and tame him and he will be my friend,” said Shane.

“What makes you think you can tame him?” asked Egret.

“I just know in my heart. When I heard the story, I felt sorry for the dragon. I don’t think he’s bad. He didn’t do anything too awful, just ate some food and scared some people. I want to tame him so people can see he’s not a bad dragon.That poor beastie has been stuck in the dark caves for so long. He must be so sad and lonely.”

Egret has a big heart when it came to animals, and felt a little ashamed that she hadn’t thought of it from her brother’s point of view.

Shane continued to play Tame the Dragon for weeks. Egret thought he would eventually grow tired of the game, but the passion for the dragon seemed to be growing. Shane would ask his sister to read him the story every night before bed, and he would dream of the dragon in its lair deep within the Lost Cavern.

One morning just after their father had left for the day, Shane announced, “I am leaving today to search for the dragon.”

“Oh no you are not!” said Egret.

“Oh yes I am, and you can’t stop me,” said Shane.

“What will father say when he finds you gone?” said Egret.

“Maybe I can find the dragon and be back before he gets home tonight!” said Shane defiantly.

Egret sighed. She knew when he got like this, it was senseless to argue with him. She helped him pack a bag with food and supplies and walked with him to the edge of the forest.

“Goodbye fair sister! I shall return this eve with the dragon by my side!”

Egret let Shane go a ways into the forest, then quietly followed him.

At first, Shane headed straight into the forest, head held high, but the further he got, the darker it was. He seemed to lose his resolve and walked this way and that, stumbling along the way. This kept up for hours. Egret had been so intent on not losing sight of her brother, yet not being seen, that she lost all direction to where her home was. They would not make it back before their father returned, she thought.

Shane was now stopping more often. He looked around, unsure, then set his jaw and leading with his chest, set off in an arbitrary direction. At last his reserve of bravery expired and he collapsed on the ground and wept. Egret stepped out from behind a tree and put her hand on her brother’s shoulder.

“Egret! What are you doing here?” said Shane. He seemed relieved. There was nothing in his voice that showed he was angry with her for following him.

Egret ignored his question and responded with, “I’m sorry you didn’t find the dragon. Let’s try to get home and perhaps you can try again another day.”

They both looked around the dark woods.

“Which way should we go?” they both said at once. It was at that moment they noticed a glowing green light blinking through the trees. Shane got up and brushed himself off. They held hands, and walked silently towards the light.

The light grew brighter as they walked towards it. They could see that the blinking was due to branches swaying in the wind and obscuring the light. They stepped out of the forest into a small clearing.

There, they found a cottage made of dark brown sticks tied together. It looked more like an animal nest or beaver’s dam. There were randomly placed vent holes with curls of dark smoke rising out of them and an eerie green light glowing in the windows. The children looked at each other. Before they had a chance to discuss what to do next, Shane let go of Egret’s hand, ran to the door, and knocked loudly.

The door opened and an old woman appeared.

“Hello children, hello! Welcome to my humble cottage. My name is Tolomay, and I am so happy that you have come to visit me!”

Shane spoke up, “Hello Miss Tolomay. My name is Shane and this is my sister Egret. We are lost in the forest, and were hoping you could help us get home.”

“You did not come to visit me?” said the witch in a hurt, sad little voice.

Little Egret, not wanting to hurt the old woman’s feelings, said, “We would be happy to come in and visit for a while, and maybe you could tell us the way to our home while we chat?”

“Lovely, lovely,” chuckled the old woman. “I will put a kettle on for tea. Come in, please,” said Tolomay.

Tolomay invited them to sit at her kitchen table. She placed a plate of gingerbread in front of them, put a kettle on the fire, and sat down between them.

“Now, tell me all about yourself, my darlings. It’s been so long since I’ve had guests.”

The children talked about their home and their father and told her the story about how they had lost their mother the year before when the great sickness had passed through.

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Egret looked around the cottage as they talked. The light was dim, but yellow; there was no sign of the green light they had seen before entering the cottage. There were strange tools hanging on the walls and dreadful-looking things in glass jars on shelves. There was a workbench near the fire with small burners heating up flasks of dark bubbling liquid, whose smoke rose thick and black into vent shafts in the ceiling.

There were old trunks stashed everywhere wrapped tightly with massive chains and thick locks. A large wrought iron cage hanging in the corner caused her to shudder. The place had a very peculiar smell, like metal sparks and rotting things and moldy dried herbs.

When they had finished their tea, Egret glanced over at her brother and said, “Thank you for your hospitality, Miss Tolomay, but we really should be getting back home. Our father will be worried if he comes home and we’re not there.”

“Oh, I understand,” said Tolomay in a rather hurt voice. “I suppose I should give you directions for getting out of the forest. I’m assuming your cottage is on the outskirts of the village?”

“Yes it is.” said Shane. “Right at the edge of the forest. Can you draw us a map? I love maps. It will be like a treasure hunt, but the treasure will be that we find our home.”

Tolomay got up and walked over to the workbench. She took a quill pen and some parchment and started to write something.

“Shane, darling, will you come over here and help me with this map? I want to make sure you understand my symbols,” said Tolomay.

Shane hopped off his chair and ran over to the workbench. He peered over the parchment.

“Those are funny symbols. What do they mean?” he asked.

“They are magic symbols,” she replied.

“What do they do?” asked Shane.

“I’ll show you,” said Tolomay with a wicked smile. She recited some garbled words under her breath and touched the symbols. Egret, who had been watching uncomfortably from the table, saw the cage door screech open. Tolomy lifted her brother as if he was light as a feather and threw him into the cage. The cage instantly slammed shut and locked itself. Tolomay turned quickly towards Egret. Her face had lost all of its meekness. She stood strong and tall and glared at Egret.

“Now, my sweet little Egret, you will do everything I ask and nothing I do not ask or I will cook your baby brother and eat him!”

Egret was frozen with fear and anger. What had just happened? She set her jaw and resolved not to speak until Tolomay had her say.

“Good!” said Tolomay. “I was afraid you’d be a talker, or worse, a crier. I will tell you a story. It is about a treasure, a dragon and a lost cavern.”

Shane, who had been rattling the cage doors and yelling “Let me out!” since he had been thrown into the cage, froze at hearing the witch mention the dragon and the Lost Cavern. He squatted down on the cage floor, gripped the bars and leaned as far forward as he could to hear Tolomay’s words. Egret could see his face peering out of the cage, shining in the firelight.

Tolomay continued,  “For years, I have been tracking all of the stories related to the Lost Caverns. Have you children heard the legend?”

“Yes, yes!” cried Shane. “It is my favorite story. I want to meet the dragon and tame him. I would give anything to find the caverns.”

“And so would I,” said Tolomay. “My long search has led me to this spot where I have built my house. I have discovered one of the few remaining entrances to the caverns.”

Tolomay got up and walked over to a crude clay oven against the far wall. She opened the oven door. A green light emanated from the opening and the metal spark smell grew stronger in Egret’s nose.

“This!” Tolomay said triumphantly, “is an entrance to the Lost Caverns!”

Shane gazed with wonder and delight. All of his fear had vanished. Egret, on the other hand, felt a deep sense of dread as her heart pounded rapidly in her chest. She got up her courage and asked, “So…what do you want from us?”

“The entrance is small. Try as I might with all my magic I cannot find a way in. I will need you, Egret, to go through and find another entrance suitable for me.”

“Don’t you want me to find the treasure?” asked Egret.

“What about the dragon!” asked Shane.

The old woman shot out a glare at Shane and tried to control her impatience. She turned back to Egret and answered her.

“I simply want you to find the nearest alternative entrance so I may go myself and find the treasure. I don’t want you to look for the treasure. It is mine to find, and besides, I don’t want to risk you being killed by the dragon before you succeed in your task.”

“Why can’t I go?” said Shane. “I want to go and Egret doesn’t, so send me. Besides, I am even smaller and would have no trouble fitting into the oven entrance.”

“No!” snapped the old woman. “You will want to see the dragon. Egret is more concerned with keeping you safe, so I have more control over her.”

Egret felt a bit of relief when she heard that. As much as she did not want to go, she certainly preferred it to having Shane go in her place.

Tolomay took a dirty sack from her workbench and went to the kitchen area. She put a large helping of gingerbread and a dingy bottle of water into the sack. She thrust it towards Egret.

“Here. I don’t want you coming back early with the excuse that you are hungry or thirsty. You must leave right away while your fear is still fresh.”

Tolomay opened the oven door and motioned for Egret to climb inside.

“Crawl in,” said the old woman.

Egret gripped the sides of the oven opening and stuck her head in. The green glow came from an unknown source. The walls were like a narrow cave. It looked wide enough, as long as she crawled, and it seemed to get bigger as it went along.

“Go on, get in!” Tolomay said impatiently.

Egret, a little less frightened now, crawled in then peered around to face the old woman.

“Remember, I am an impatient woman. The quicker you take, the less likely you will return to find that I’ve eaten your brother.” And with that, Tolomay slammed and bolted the oven door.

Egret crawled down the corridor. The angle was steep, heading deep into the ground, but not so much that she feared falling. After a while, she noticed she could stand. She covered ground much faster now. The experience was curious. Other than the passage getting a bit larger, there were no other changes or irregularities. No turn-offs or alcoves; just straight. At least this part was easy; no choice but to keep moving forward.

After a while, she noticed her footsteps made an echo. She soon reached a large open chamber filled with unusual rock formations. The space was still lit with a dim green glow, but it was clear that the rocks themselves were rich hues of oranges and reds.

“Now what?” she thought to herself.

Looking around, she did not see any exits to the large chamber.

“I guess I’ll start where I am and walk along the wall to try to find a way out.”

Egret turned to her left and walked along the perimeter counterclockwise. She encountered occasional black marks on the walls. She took no notice of them at first, but when an unusually large patch showed up at eye level, she took a closer look.

Egret ran her fingers along the blackness, then looked at her fingers. They were covered in soot. She swallowed involuntarily.

“Dragon fire,” she thought.

It was slow-going. Many times she thought she saw an exit coming up but when she got close, she saw it was blocked off by giant boulders and debris.

“This must be where the old kingdoms closed off their entrances.”

When Egret got about three quarters around the chamber, she noticed a immense black mark coming up on the left. When she reached the mark, she saw that it was an entrance to another narrow passageway.

“All that soot! Surely the dragon lives in that direction,” she thought.

Egret resolved to finish her walk of the perimeter. She hoped that there would be another corridor leading out; preferably with no soot marks.

It was hours of more trekking before finally arriving at her starting position. There had been no other unblocked exits. She would have to go back to the soot-covered passageway.

When she got back to the corridor entrance, she hesitated for only a moment, then stepped in. It was a bit darker in the passageway and it took a while for her eyes to adjust. The floor felt soft and squishy. She looked down and saw moss. Then she looked up. The walls and ceiling were covered in vines. Clusters of pink flowers and dark red berries drooped from the ceiling. She walked on silently in the lush tunnel.

At one point, Egret took a rest. She sat down on the soft green moss and opened the sack. She ate some of the gingerbread. It tasted good. A small drink of water, then it was time to move on again. Hours passed. She lost all track of time. Had it been a whole day since she left her brother behind, or merely an evening? She thought about her father returning from work to find his children gone.

Her thoughts thinned and after a while Egret’s mind stopped thinking at all. There was nothing but the soft padding in the moss and the dim green light. She glanced ahead and noticed that far away down the corridor, the light seemed a bit brighter. As she continued walking, the air became a little less stuffy and she could sense the slightest draft.

Further on, the corridor widened and she stepped out into another chamber. This one was not as high-ceilinged or large as the last one. She glanced around the walls.

Choosing to go counterclockwise again, she walked the perimeter. Every once in a while she caught the sweet smell of fresh air. A giant rock column stood between her and the half-way point, so she couldn’t see what was behind it until she was almost upon it. When she did get there, she froze.

There was a large alcove in the cave wall covered in soot. And there, asleep on an immense pile of gold and gems, was the dragon.

Egret peered beyond the dragon and saw to her dismay, a dragon-sized archway leading to a lighted corridor. A fresh breeze flowed through the corridor and into the chamber.

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She could see from her vantage that there were no other exits along the rest of the chamber wall. The exit behind the dragon was the only way out. It was the entrance Tolomay was looking for. Going through was the only way to get back to the old woman and save her brother.

“Think, Egret think! What to do now?” she said to herself.

She hid behind the rock column that was directly in front of the dragon’s alcove, and peered around it to watch him. He was about the size of a large bull. He had dark green scales, horns like a goat, and little wings above his shoulder blades.

“With those tiny wings, I doubt he can fly. That’s something positive, anyway,” she thought.

She stood there leaning around the column so long that she became stiff and achy. She had to get the dragon away from the exit so she could make her escape.

Egret bent down and quietly took a piece of gingerbread from the sack. She placed it at her feet where the view of the exit was blocked by the rock column. She then walked a few steps around the column toward the dragon and placed another piece of gingerbread on the ground. She repeated this, coming closer to the dragon with each step. When she was as close to the dragon as she dared, she left a small pile of gingerbread, then slowly made her way back behind the rock column.

Egret took a deep breath and picked up a rock. She threw it so it landed a few feet from the dragon’s sleeping head. The dragon stirred slowly. It blinked its eyes, stretched, yawned, and let out a great breath of fire followed by a thick puff of black smoke. It started sniffing the air around its front paws, and discovered the small pile of gingerbread.

“Please, please, please like gingerbread!” thought Egret.

The dragon sniffed the gingerbread, then gobbled it up. It seemed less sleepy as it made its way toward the second piece. By the third piece, it seemed ravenous and quickly moved on to gobble up the next piece. Egret circled around the rock column to avoid being seen by the dragon. When the dragon had made it all the way to the first piece she has laid down, Egret raced for the exit. She ran as fast as she could and didn’t look back until she was in the passageway.

She saw the dragon charging towards her down the corridor. She turned to face the exit and ran. She heard the beast getting closer. A few more feet, and she was out of the cavern and into the bright sunlight. She turned to look at the cavern entrance. The dragon’s head was sticking out of the entrance, but its body could not fit.

The dragon gave out a long low mournful cry. Egret’s heart was touched. She walked as close as she dared and looked at it. It laid its head down and appeared to be crying.

Egret reached into her pocket and found a last small piece of gingerbread. She rolled it towards the dragon. It strained its neck towards the food and gently ate it.

Egret remembered that she still had to find her way back to Tolomay’s cottage and save her brother.

“Goodbye dragon. I am sorry you are stuck. I will try to think of a way to free you.”

Egret looked around and saw that she was in a low grassy area. She climbed up the hill to get a better view, and found herself on a road. It was easy to see why the entrance had never been discovered. The location was out of the way, and the dragon couldn’t get out to cause any trouble.

Egret followed the road until it came to a town. She asked directions at the market and discovered that if she kept on the road, it would eventually lead to her village. She continued along the road, and by late afternoon, a forest appeared on her right. She was sure it was the dark forest where Tolomay lived.

“Now, how to find the cottage?” she thought.

She looked over the treetops and saw thick black smoke rising above them.

“That is most surely coming from Tolomay’s house,” she thought.

Egret kept walking until she was as close to the smoke as the road would take her, then cut into the forest. It was hard going. There were thorns and vines and the forest was dark with overgrowth. When she reached Tolomay’s cottage, Egret marched up to the door and knocked triumphantly.

Tolomay answered the door, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her inside.

“You’d better have found an entrance to the cavern,” said the old woman.

“I have! It’s just off the main road past the town,” said Egret. She glanced over to the corner where she saw her brother, still in the cage but looking no worse than last she’d see him. He waved and smiled with relief at the sight of her.

“We shall go at once!” said Tolomay. Without bothering to speak any more to Egret, the old woman started packing jars from the work table, tools from the walls, and various strange objects from around the room. She started mumbling to herself.

“Now now, Tolomay, don’t get overly excited. We must do this just right. Bring everything we could possibly need. You’ve waited so long, don’t ruin your chance from lack of attention to details.”

She turned back to Egret after gathering her things together, as if noticing her for the first time.

“Go into the stable out back and fetch Duckie!” Tolomay shrieked. “Hitch her to the cart and we’ll be on our way.”

Without a word, Egret slipped out the back, but not before she snuck into the kitchen and packed up some more gingerbread for the trip. Out back, she found a hopeless tangle of vines covering a stick hut. When she got closer, she saw there was a door. She opened it to find a grey-brown mule staring at her. She giggled.

“You must be Duckie. You seem friendly enough.”

Egret pet Duckie behind the ears then led her to the cart and hooked her up.

When she was done, she returned to the cottage, where Tolomay was using her magic to float Shane’s cage out the door and onto the cart.

“Come. We must leave right away,” said Tolomay.

“Please let my brother out of the cage,” said Egret.

“Not until I have what I desire!” snapped Tolomay.

The old woman threw a blanket over Shane’s cage. Shane protested. “Hey! I can’t see!”

“Shut up, boy! Make any trouble and I will kill you. I can’t let the townsfolk know I’m carrying a boy in a cage now can I?”

Egret heard Shane give one of his dramatic sighs from under the blanket, and was reassured he wasn’t scared.

They left just as the sun was setting. A well-hidden dirt path behind Tolomay’s cottage led to the main road.

“I wish I had known this was here before,” thought Egret.

They continued down the road and stopped just before the town. It was dark and the moon wasn’t yet out.

Tolomy warned the children “Don’t even think of trying to get help. I am almost through with you. If I get what I want, I will let you go free.”

They passed the town without seeing anyone and continued along the road. They walked all night. As dawn broke, they reached the spot on the road near the cavern entrance.

“It’s here,” said Egret, pointing over the bank.

Tolomay took them a little farther up the road where the embankment was less steep, and led Duckie and the cart towards the cavern entrance.

She left the cart and grabbed Egret, dragging her closer to the opening.

Back at the cart, Duckie had started to graze on the sweet dewy grass and Shane reached his hand from the cage to pull the blanket off so he could see what was happening.

Egret dragged her feet and resisted Tolomay.

“You have what you wish. Let me go!” cried Egret.

“No,” said Tolomay. “No one is going anywhere until I have my treasure. You will come with me into the cavern and show me what you’ve learned of the passageways.”

Egret tried to stall for time. She hadn’t told the old woman that the dragon and treasure were so close to the entrance. She needed a plan.

They entered the corridor that led to the dragon’s alcove. There was no sign of the dragon.

“Why are you still dragging your feet? You’ve been here before.”

Up to this point, the old woman had been so elated over the discovery of the entrance that it hadn’t occurred to her to ask more detailed questions of Egret.

Tolomay stopped and swung Egret around to face her.

“What are you not telling me?” said Tolomay.

“The treasure. I saw the treasure. I didn’t mean to. I was really only looking for the exit, but there it was, right next to the corridor that led to the outside,” said Egret.

“And what of the dragon? Well, you must not have seen it, or you would have been incinerated. We must move quickly. I doubt the dragon leaves the treasure for long.”

They entered into the alcove with still no sign of the dragon. Tolomay’s eyes grew wide when she saw the mountain of treasure.

“Oh, it is more magnificent than when I saw it in the crystal ball. My life’s work has come to fruition! Ahh, but I must get to work. It will take all of my magical skills to get the treasure into the cart and home safely,” said Tolomay.

She let go of Egret’s arm and swiftly vanished through the corridor, heading back to the cart to set up a makeshift work bench. She hardly noticed that Shane had taken the blanket off his cage.

“Whatchuh doing?” asked Shane.

“I’m creating a spell that will shrink the treasure into a small enough size so Duckie can carry it back to my cottage, fool boy,” she said.

She didn’t as seem as angry with him as usual. She was bubbling over with excitement, and wanted to share her triumph, even if it was just with the boy.

“But why would you want a tiny treasure? I thought the whole point of the treasure of the Lost Caverns was that it was huge,” said Shane.

“Idiot!” She said this with a gleeful tone. “I can reverse the spell when I get the treasure home. Now shut up and let me work!”

Back in the cavern, Egret finally had a little time to think. Perhaps it was because Tolomay had her brother under lock and key that she no longer cared about Egret’s whereabouts.

“Fine with me,” thought Egret. “Now, what to do, and where has that dragon gotten to?”

She wandered past the rock column into the middle of the chamber. The terrain was complex. She hadn’t really noticed back when she had been searching the perimeter for exits. There were heaps of loose rock and strange cave-like formations; many of them large enough to hide a dragon.

Why was she looking for the dragon? How would that help anything? Tolomay would surely kill the poor beast. And Egret wasn’t certain that the dragon wouldn’t kill her if she ran into him.

Egret heard the sound of rocks tumbling down a short distance away. She looked up to see the dragon barreling towards her. It was no use. She couldn’t scramble over the rocks fast enough to outrun him. When he was about 12 feet away, he leapt into the air and pounced on her, knocking her to the ground. She froze.

He put his tremendous snout next to her face and sniffed. Egret could smell his sooty breath. Then he sniffed down her left side and stopped at her left coat pocket. He nuzzled at it. His snout was much too large to fit into her pocket, so Egret slowly reached her hand in and retrieved a chunk of gingerbread. The dragon gobbled it up immediately.

The dragon got off her and stepped away. Egret stood up slowly. The dragon stared at her and drooled.

Back outside, the old woman had been hard at work copying symbols and spells out of several books onto a single sheet of parchment.

“There!” she said. “It is finished. Now to head inside and cast the spell. Stay here, boy,” she said looking up at Shane, then cackled at her own little joke.

“Very funny,” said Shane under his breath. “Where else am I going to go.”

When Tolomay reached the treasure, she stood before it and cleared her throat. She touched the symbols on the parchment and started reciting in an ancient language. She pointed her finger towards the pile of treasure and was about to say the final words when the dragon appeared from behind her and ran up the treasure heap, placing himself on top of it. He let out a roar and a stream of fire propelled from his mouth.

Tolomay screeched in horror and headed towards the exit. The dragon raced forward and cut her off, chasing her into the middle of the chamber. The old woman scrambled over rocks trying to get away from the dragon. She steadied herself and held her finger up, pointing it towards the dragon. She finished the last phrase of her spell and lightning shot out of her finger. It hit the dragon and he dropped in his tracks.

Egret ran over to the beast. She put her hand on his side. He was still breathing. After a few minutes, a curious thing happened. He started shrinking and did not stop shrinking until he was the size of a rabbit. The little wing buds on his back that had before been too small to allow him to fly now worked perfectly. He flapped and lifted up off the ground. The dragon looked at Egret, who reached her hand into her pocket and gave him some gingerbread. He took the piece, then flew down the corridor and out to freedom.

The witch dusted herself off. Egret was sure she would be furious at her for not warning her about the dragon’s whereabouts, but instead, Tolomay picked herself up and congratulated herself.

“Excellent, Tolomay,” she said to herself. “Pure genius. I meant the spell to be for the treasure, but it also takes care of the dragon. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.”

Tolomay made her way back to the treasure. She picked up the parchment and re-started the spell in order to shrink the treasure. As she was reciting, Shane ran up the corridor into the alcove, accompanied by the tiny dragon flying over his shoulder. Tolomay, in deep concentration, did not notice them. As she pointed her finger to shrink the treasure, Shane lunged at her. The dragon bit her ear, then let out a puff of fire and incinerated the parchment.

Tolomay let out a cry. she aimed her finger at the dragon, but missed. Lightning shot from her finger down the corridor.

The children raced for the exit, but Tolomay was too bewildered from the knock-down and the ear bite to realize what had happened.

The children and the little dragon made it safely outside before they heard the earth shake and dust plume out of the exit.

When the dust settled, Shane and Egret walked up to the small entrance hole.

“Can you hear me, Tolomay?” said Egret.

“Yes I can,” came a grumpy reply.

“The entry has shrunk from your spell,” said Shane.

“I realize that, you dolt!” responded Tolomay. “This opening looks remarkably like the one in my cottage. I now suspect that my cottage entrance was once one of the large storehouse entrances, but was closed using magic. That explains why I could never widen it.”

“What will you do now, Tolomay?” said Shane.

“I have found my treasure and so I have succeeded in my quest. It is no matter that I am trapped here. I have no need of anything else. I do not even need my spells or potions now. I have everything I have always desired. I am the wealthiest person in the world.” Tolomay’s words trailed off and the children realized she had walked back to the treasure to be with it.

Egret sighed, “It doesn’t seem right to just leave her in there.”

Shane turned to Egret and said, “There’s nothing we can do, sister, and even if we could, she wants to be here.”

Egret turned away from the entrance and looked towards Duckie and the cart.

“How did you get out of the cage?” she said.

The dragon flew over to say hi to Duckie. When he saw me in the cage, he looked sad. He gave a little puff of fire on the lock, and it broke open, so I thanked him and raced in to help you,” said Shane.

They led Duckie and the cart back up to the road with the dragon following behind them like a puppy.

“Here,” said Egret. She took the gingerbread that was in her pocket and gave it to Shane. He likes this. If you want to tame him, you’ll need this, although I don’t think there is anything that needs taming.”

dragon

“I knew he wasn’t a bad dragon. Didn’t I tell you so? He was just hungry and looking for some company. It wasn’t his fault he was so big. Now he is just the right size, and I think he really likes flying,” said Shane.

They chatted about their adventures all the way back to Tolomay’s cottage. Once they arrived, they went inside and directed the dragon to burn up all the locks on the chests. As the children suspected, they found Tolomay’s treasures in there. They loaded it up on Duckie’s cart and took the road to the village and back to their home.

Their father greeted them with great relief upon their return. They all prepared a marvelous feast, which included fresh gingerbread, and the children shared their adventures with their father.

And Egret, Shane, their father, Duckie and the little dragon lived happily ever after.

The End

 

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