Chapter 11 Point Person
It was a full week before Budrick and the dragon scale gatherers returned to the glade with only a handful of dragon scales to show for their efforts. “It’s not much,” Mowbry said, looking at the pitiful stack. “But it’s better than nothing. We can make one shield.”
“Where’s the food?” Budrick asked. “You wouldn’t think a little expedition like that would work up an appetite, but we couldn’t find anything worth eating out there, even with all the talent we had.”
“Pretty barren?” Mowbry asked.
“Completely devoid of edible foodstuffs. Too many wild creatures competing for the resources,” Budrick replied, falling ravenously on a small bit of fairy cake sitting on the serving table of the little field kitchen.
“Wild creatures?” Mr. Anderson perked his head up from examining a dragon scale. The scale was like a fish scale, round and rough, but a hundred times larger than any fish scale he had ever scene before. It was thick and tough, but not very heavy, and light dimly filtered through it. Mr. Anderson was almost salivating as he asked his next question. “What sort of wild creatures?”
“Oh, terrible creatures. Awful creatures. There were bunnies in abundance, and deer, and little fauns running around all over the place,” Budrick wiped crumbs of fairy cake from the corner of his mouth.
“What do you have against fauns?” Bleat demanded. “Do we not weep when insulted? If pricked with a thorn, do we not bleed?”
“When asked, does he not hold his tongue?” Mowbry murmured dryly.
“Do you hear that, girls? Food!” Mr. Anderson turned to the girls.
“Daddy, we agreed that we would be vegetarians while we are here,” Jen said.
Mr. Anderson shook his head. “We agreed that we would probably have to be vegetarian. Now I find out they have game. I could really use some game!”
“Sir Dave,” Princess Nallah said slowly, “Would you really revert to your meat eating ways when you have come so far?”
“In a heartbeat, Your Highness,” he smiled, licking his lips. “In fact that goat is looking pretty good to me about now,” he turned his attention to Bleat, whose eyes opened wide in surprise, right before he fainted. “I get the biggest kick when he does that,” Mr. Anderson chuckled.
“That wasn’t very nice, Daddy!” Jen scolded.
“Maybe not nice, but it was funny, wasn’t it?” he laughed a little harder.
“Actually,” Jen snickered a little. “It was kind of funny.”
“Hilarious!” Gina said, joining in. Julie laughed so hard she started snorting.
The fairy folk didn’t understand the humor of a faun that fainted every time it was surprised, but they understood laughter and it was not long before they were laughing along with them.
After they all had a good laughing spell, and Bleat was mildly surprised that he had not been devoured while he was incapacitated, Mowbry got down to more pressing issues. “Have these dragon scales fashioned into a shield, as large as can be made from so few scales.”
“Yes sir,” Budrick agreed.
“How are the helmets coming along?” he asked.
“I think in a few more hours I will have made enough for everyone,” Bucsprat explained. “It’s the little ones that I am having problems with. It is hard to grow them to the right size.”
“Hey,” Julie turned to Jen. “I found some berry bushes yesterday with ripe berries on them.”
“I would think if they were any good, the locals would have stripped them off by now,” Jen replied.
“I tried one and I didn’t die,” Julie smiled mischievously.
“From now on, you ask me before you try any more wild foods,” Gina said. “Show me.”
The three girls started to inch away from the group, and Mr. Anderson stopped them. “You shouldn’t be going anywhere, as sick as you’ve been,” he advised his daughter.
“Daddy, I’m feeling so much better.”
“I still don’t want you to strain yourself.”
Ayla approached him and smiled. “I believe she has fully recovered. There should be no harm in wandering around.”
“You don’t know her like I do. Illness lingers with her. You never had to take a week off work to sit with her while she recovered from the chicken pox.”
“You stayed with her for a week while she had an illness?” Ayla asked.
“No, but I had to hear about it from Lisa, my wife, every day when I got home from work. I really don’t want her to put herself in harm’s way.”
Ayla put her hand on his wrist reassuringly. “I just spent a week with her while she recovered from death. If that didn’t stop her, I don’t believe berry picking will.”
“Okay,” he gave permission, “But stay together.”
Julie led the way a short distance from the clearing where there were several small bushes sporting black berries, each of them a series of small bumps in an overall round shape. “I think these are wild raspberries,” Jen said, reaching into the bushes to pick one.
“Watch out for thorns,” Gina advised, sucking her finger after already experiencing a particularly nasty thorn.
It was too late. A very large thorn penetrated her finger, and she recoiled. Before she could put the finger into her mouth like Gina had, she noticed the drop of blood that was threatening to spill, suddenly disappear.
“That’s odd,” she thought. She deliberately pricked her finger again, and again the blood seemed to well up, then suck itself back into her skin, which closed as if it had never been opened. “Hey, Julie. Gina. Come here.”
“What did you find?” Gina asked, looking at the bushes.
“Not the berries, my fingers,” Jen said. Julie also came over to see what was going on. “Watch,” Jen advised, as she deliberately pricked her finger with a particularly nasty thorn. The two girls watched as the thorn penetrated the skin, and the blood welled up, then retreated and the skin closed behind it.
“You’ve got talent,” Gina used the fairy meaning of the word.
“Can you heal others, too?” Julie asked, showing her own bleeding fingers.
“I don’t know,” Jen said, grabbing Julie’s hand. She felt a warmth in her arm, a little tingle of electrical current running from her heart down through her shoulder and out through her fingers. Julie’s bleeding sores, quit bleeding and the skin closed up behind them, leaving not so much as a scar, not so much as a trace of the injuries. She laughed and popped a berry into her mouth. It was sweet and tart, and stained her lips and tongue black, and turned her teeth an awkward shade of light blue.
The other girls giggled at her joy. “Go away!” they heard a small voice say.
Still giggling, they looked down at an irritated rabbit, who had its hole in the center of the bushes. “Sorry,” Jen said. “We are happy.”
“I’m sorry that you are happy, too. Now please leave!” the bunny snarled.
“I don’t know if I will ever get used to that,” Gina said.
“You are the cause of the talking animals,” Jen pointed out.
“It’s not my fault, I don’t do it deliberately.”
“You are damaging my burrow!” the rabbit snapped pointedly.
“Sorry about that, Mr. Bunny,” Jen apologized, as exited the raspberry bushes.
“How did she know my name?” the rabbit mused, as the girls walked away.
When they again approached the clearing, they saw that the shield had been made by skillful faircraft, and Lefty was getting ready to test it with a sheaf of hay behind it, to ensure that it would effectively protect against heat. Others were lining up to try several different methods to destroy the shield. A jet of flame shot out of Lefty’s wand striking the shield and incinerating everything on either side of it. Weather workers and water charmers set about dousing the trees and bushes that were now ablaze.
Other spells flung at the shield all bounced off at odd directions, leaving the sheaf of hay unharmed.
“I am impressed,” Princess Nallah said.
“So am I,” Mowbry agreed. “I wish we had enough for all of our forces, but someone will have to carry it and be a designated point man.”
“I’m not convinced,” Lefty said. “A dragon can shoot out a lot more heat than I can. It will be a very brave soul indeed who will carry that shield.”
“I volunteer,” Jen raised her hand.
Princess Nallah, Mowbry, Budrick and Lefty all turned to look at her, as well as the rest of the crowd. Jen was now the center of all attention.
“She does not,” Mr. Anderson intervened.
“Daddy, I can do this,” Jen said.
“Honey, you don’t know what I went through to get you back. You were eaten by a giant toothy maggot! I am not going to have you get torched by any dragon!”
Jen spied a dry thorny stick of bramble on the ground and quickly picked it up and stabbed herself with it. Daddy screamed, “Jen!” but when she pulled it out and the blood fled back into her skin, which closed up behind the little wounds leaving no trace, he was mystified. “Where did you come by this talent?” he asked.
“I’m afraid it may have been us,” Ayla approached Mr. Anderson, opening her arms wide to encompass the whole team of healers. “We put a lot of our talents into her to heal her from what was essentially death. We usually don’t have to work that hard. I am afraid that with our efforts, we also accidentally infused her with our talents. From this point on, it will be hard to seriously hurt her. Not that it couldn’t happen under the right circumstances, but it would be terribly difficult.”
Mr. Anderson sighed. “Okay,” he told Jen. “You are the point man.”
“I prefer the title, point person,” she smiled.