Wendell and the Dragon's Heart

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Chapter 26

Wendell didn’t know how long he had been on the hill. He woke up to find himself staring at a startling blue sky, and for a moment he forgot where he was. It was so pleasantly warm here. There was always a gentle, gentle breeze that never changed.

Looking down from the hill, there was a little valley with hedges, and a path between all the greenery. It did look like a maze after all, but not even a very difficult one. It wasn’t that large at all!

Wendell looked carefully, trying to see if anyone was there, but he couldn’t tell. He was very sorry to have left the wolf behind, but there was nothing to do about it. At least if this was the maze, it shouldn’t take very long to get through, he thought hopefully.

Soon the friendly winding path led to a wider space with a stone well on one side. Strangely there was no bucket but the whole well was filled to the brim. It was made of rough gray stones piled in a circle. He hurried and dipped a finger in the water, looking down a long, long ways into a kind of hollow emptiness.

The water tasted salty but somehow delicious, like the flavor of a forgotten memory. He almost recognized it from somewhere, but couldn’t remember where.

“Tear-water!” he muttered. “I think. But why?”

Once inside the maze it was taking a lot longer than he had expected to reach the other side. Now he went around a bend, and there was another water well there just like the one before.

Wendell halted completely and looked at everything carefully. Did he make a wrong turn, and end up right back where he started? He got out a copper coin and put it on the well’s edge. He made sure to take a different turn than before.

The well was there again. And again he went by, and the coin was still there, on the rock where he had left it.

There was another place, with a willow tree sitting on a grassy hillock. It looked as ordinary as everything else.

It was beginning to get lonesome, even though the greenery was so fresh and cool around him. He wished that at least the wolf was still with him. It was like the maze outside was making a maze in his head, as if he was now trapped in his own ludicrous thoughts. There was no one else to ask, for once!

Even though it made absolutely no sense, Wendell decided he should take the path that went past the willow tree, instead of the gray well. It was the only thing he could think of to do.

But suddenly, the tree wasn’t there anymore, no matter where he looked.

“This is impossible!” Wendell snipped to himself. “I’ve passed that willow tree a dozen times. Why can’t this maze make any sense?”

Then he slumped against the side of the path. Think, he thought. Right about now, Garim would always pipe up and say something like, “To give up is to fall down.” He laughed heartlessly at the stupid joke. Surely Garim was very wise, but what good would that advice do in a meaningless, nonsense place like this?

He decided to get up for one last time. Hey, maybe that weird old guy was on to something! After all, he knew a lot more than Wendell, probably!

It must be near somewhere!! He heard Garim’s voice urging him onward. “Remember, quitters never get anywhere! At least if you keep going, you’ll get somewhere!” Just a few more steps... just a few more more... a few more...

Wendell really didn’t know how long he had been walking. The well was mocking him, with his endlessly stupid hope and forceful cheerfulness.

If only there were skeletons to fight, more rivers to cross, something, anything but this horrible nothing place! If someone left clues for him why didn’t they just show up? How did he know there was anyone helping him?

Finally, he hung his head. Okay, he thought, I’ll do it. I’ll keep walking, whoever you are, and I’ll keep going until you show me the way, or I go crazy. Wendell gave a great, terrible, endless sigh. He didn’t feel better at all, but he knew what he was doing at last. The maze of his mind straightened into neat rows, even if they were rows that were never got anywhere.

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