Chapter 10 Life in the Fairy Glade
As Jen lay, then sat, recuperating from her near-death experience, a little routine started in the glade. Bleat the faun became a regular fixture, though he was still a little uncomfortable around the humans and the fairies. His predicament led folks to believe there was definitely someone around enhancing his communication skills, but they couldn’t isolate who it was. Whenever he was around Jen and the Carter girls, he could speak just fine, and whenever he was not, he sounded like a perfectly ordinary walking fainting goat.
A group of fairy women and a few men took it upon themselves to set up a field kitchen, and serve grand breakfasts of fruit and berries, nuts and fairy cake. Each individual in the camp would file past filling platters large and small made from large, broad leaves, and then walk away to sit on fallen trees, or climb up into the trees and find a comfortable place amid the branches.
They could return as many times as they desired throughout the day.
The refuse took care of itself. Throwing out the trash was a simple matter of dropping the platter, which was biodegradable and perfectly at home on the forest floor.
Ayla took Jen outside more and more, to sit in the dappled sunlight and make short walks to build her strength.
Mowbry came to Mr. Anderson and Princess Nallah one day, when Ayla had announced that Jen was not quite ready to resume the march. “The information the goat gave us could be poppy-cock,” he said, “But we must not discount it. My intelligence network has informed me that there is a great public works, canal building, going from Dalrimple to Tole. It could be for the purposes of transporting dragons, or some other such nefarious reason.”
“Or it could be for the mobilization of troops,” Nallah suggested.
“Not for the tourist trade?” Mr. Anderson asked. He was not serious, but the others did not know that.
“I’m afraid that nobody deliberately goes to Tole anymore,” Budrick offered.
“We could use some armor,” Mowbry suggested. “I have noticed under one tree there are a lot of nuts, and the caps to the nuts. We could use the caps as helmets,” he said.
“Those nuts are acorns,” Mr. Anderson pointed out. “They come from oak trees.” He looked at the tree in question, and the acorns and caps on the ground. “This is a live oak tree.”
“We wouldn’t find much useful under a dead tree,” Princess Nallah observed.
“This species of tree grows in the American south. I’m very familiar with it. It does not lose its leaves until spring. Since there are acorns on the ground, we must be in the fall season.”
“Of course it’s the fall season,” Budrick exclaimed. “That’s why there are nuts all over the ground. Plenty to eat during the harvest.”
“I’m going to ask Bucsprat how long it will take to grow these nut caps into helmets. Now for body armor, I was thinking of creating some sort of apron that is hardened. Any ideas?” Mowbry asked.
“Everyone knows that to deflect dragon fire, one must have a shield of dragon scales,” Princess Nallah suggested. “It’s the only thing that is truly impervious to dragon fire. If we only knew where to pick up some dragon scales, we could get to work on those shields.”
“There is a dragon lair half a day’s hike away, according to my intelligence sources,” Mowbry said.
“They are birds,” Mr. Anderson pointed out.
“They have eyes and ears, and they are not great at deception, so I think they are fairly reliable,” Mowbry seemed a little defensive.
“They are birds,” Mr. Anderson repeated, as if to suggest that anything a bird had to say was not worth consideration. “They have tiny little bird brains.”
“Let’s not quibble. Is the dragon at home?” Princess Nallah asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Budrick interjected. “They sleep for decades sometimes. I have seen bears hibernate in the same cave with a dragon and no harm come to them for years on end, until the dragon finally wakes up. Then there are no more bears.”
“It’s worth checking out,” Princess Nallah decided. “Send a large group up there to look for dragon scales.”
“Bucspat!” Mowbry summoned the grower.
“Yes, General,” Bucsprat panted after running over.
“Can you grow these little caps into something larger, so it would fit on the head of a man?” Mowbry asked.
“Let me see,” Bucsprat said, aim his wand toward the ground. Three acorns and a cap all enlarged at the same time. Mr. Anderson picked up the cap, and tried it on. It covered his head all the way down to his nose.
“It’s a little large,” he said.
“I’ll have another go,” Bucsprat apologized. Before he pointed his wand again, he squatted down and separated the acorns from the caps, isolating a single cap. He took careful aim and enlarged it to a size he thought appropriate, but he was still a little surprised the larger one hadn’t fit Mr. Anderson’s head perfectly.
Mr. Anderson tried it on for size and indeed it was a good fit, though he felt very silly wearing an acorn cap as a helmet. “It’s good, I guess,” he said.
“How many do you need?” Bucsprat asked.
“As many as we have heads to shield.”
“Goodness, that will take a week, at least,” Bucsprat said.
“Then you’d better get started.”
“What can I do?” Budrick asked.
“Lead the expedition to the dragon’s lair. Bring back as many scales as you can find.” Mowbry whistled and a blaze orange sparrow landed on his finger. He whistled to the bird, who whistled back. The sparrow seemed to be reluctant about the request, but eventually he relented.
“Jack will be your guide,” Mowbry said, after coming to terms.
“Seriously?” Mr. Anderson asked. “Jack Sparrow? I hope you are not going to give him a commission and make him a captain.”
“Why would I do that?” Mowbry asked.
“Never mind,” Mr. Anderson mumbled.
A thousand foragers set off to gather dragon scales, while Bucsprat isolated acorn caps and grew them to the size of helmets. A group of matter morphs and matter shapers took leaves and transformed them into imitation dragon scales, hard and durable, while the clothiers tied them together with strings of hair and vine (also toughened to the strength of steel) into vests that the warriors could wear.
The girls sat about with Jen, now in a reclining chair outside, with a warm blanket across her legs, and chatted. Bleat the faun also enjoyed jabbering with them about anything and everything, his little goat mind playing with goat ideas. “My favorite is those milkweeds that grow in ditches along the roadside,” he prattled. “Have you ever tried milkweed? It’s very delicious, and it has that sticky white sap that is both sweet and bitter at the same time. It’s a real taste sensation I can tell you.”
“Would you like something to eat?” Gina asked. “I can get you a tray.”
“That would be nice,” Jen nodded. “No milkweed, though.”
Gina giggled. “I’ll be right back,” she said, walking over to the kitchen area to fix a tray.
“And another thing I really enjoy,” Bleat blathered on, “Is those vines that baa, baa. Baa! Baa?”
“I can’t understand you,” Julie said, not that she really cared, because the faun was not very interesting even when he could speak.
“Baa? Baa!” Bleat bleated.
“I did you see anyone leave?” Jen asked.
“No. The healers are right next to us in the tent, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else around.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Jen quoted Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
Bleat continued with his story in goat noises, until Gina returned with a tray of fruits and berries and fairy cakes for Jen.
“Baa, baa and then there were these really nasty berries. I was so sick, I can’t even describe it. I puked and puked, and that was not all, it was coming out from both ends! If I ever see that vine again, I will avoid it! I wish I could describe it to you...”
“It’s you!” Jen squealed, pointing at Gina.
“Me? What?” Gina turned around to make sure that Jen was pointing at her.
“You have the talent for rapport.”
“I can’t even finger paint very well. I don’t have any talent.”
“But it’s around you that the faun can talk,” she said.
“And that’s why we could hear the queen hograth,” Lefty interjected. He had just wandered around from the side of the tent, and was inadvertently privy to their conversation. “We were right next to you.”
Mr. Anderson, Princess Nallah, General Mowbry and Budrick saw the fire master speaking with the girls and came over to see what they were talking about, and when it became apparent, they joined in the conversation.
“But how can that be?” Gina said.
“First we have to do a scientific test,” Princess Nallah advised. “Bleat, you start prattling again. While you are talking, Gina must walk away.”
“Where was I?” Bleat asked. “Oh, yes! I was puking my guts up because of the beautiful berries...”
Gina started walking away toward the spring to get a vessel of water. “They were on these vines with beautiful purple flowers baa baa baaa, baa...”
Gina filled the vessel from the spring and carried it back, all the while the goat was getting on everyone’s nerves. “Baa baa baaa band the next thing I knew, I was in a thicket of the things, surrounded by angry rabbits. Now, you might think that an angry rabbit is nothing to fear, but I can tell you...”
“That’s enough,” Princess Nallah told the faun.
“But I wasn’t finished with my story,” Bleat complained.
“You are quite finished,” Mowbry told him, touching his wand in its holster on his belt.
“I’m done,” Bleat gulped.
“It is you,” Princess Nallah turned to Gina.
“How could that be?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“Yes, how could it be?” Gina repeated.
“Well, sometimes talents are gifted to others, as Tula gifted her talent to Sir Dave,” Nallah thought aloud, “But I don’t think that is what is happening here, because of the rarity of the gift, I don’t believe that any of our current group have it.”
“If it wasn’t gifted to her, how could she develop this?” Mowbry asked.
Princess Nallah thought for a short moment, trying to recall everything every tutor had ever told her. “Other gifts are innate. You are born with them, and develop them over time. Do you have any of our people in your bloodline?”
“I don’t think so,” Gina spoke hesitantly. “In our realm our differences would make that impossible. We are so big and you are so small.”
“Yes,” Nallah agreed. “In your realm. But a thousand years ago we had open borders. People used to cross freely between the realms, and we have legends of our folk marrying giants, and their children being very special.”
“But a thousand years of breeding is quite a few generations. One would think that the talent would have been bred out,” Mowbry pointed out.
“It could be that she has a recessive gene that has been activated by returning to this realm,” Mr. Anderson suggested.
“You really think so?” Gina asked.
“That’s the only semi-logical explanation at this point,” Mr. Anderson said.
“Does that mean I have a talent too?” Julie inquired.
“Maybe,” Mowbry grunted. By his tone he had doubts, but he did not actually voice them.
“Anything is possible,” Princess Nallah agreed.
“I wonder what it could be?” Julie mused.
“We should have plenty of time to find out,” Jen observed. “Since Daddy has a talent, and I am his daughter, I should probably have one too.”
“I don’t think my gift is hereditary,” Mr. Anderson pointed out. “I’ve only had it for a week.”
“If we successfully defeat Rokko, and I am still alive, I will personally ensure you leave this realm with a talent,” Princess Nallah said, magnanimously.