“Right there,” said Rose, looking out from under the flat of her hand. “That’s where we have to go. As you can see, the snow white cliffs are turning out to be a whole forest of limestone pillars which we could never begin to sail between, if we haven’t improved since Oyster Cove.”
“Remember when I took Edward to explore all the abandoned buildings of Dragonsport?” said Fuzz. “I had no idea about this side.”
“You’ve not seen anything,” she said. “Wait until we start in.”
“Those leaning trees on top of the pillars are spectacular,” said Olloo.
“You can see those?” said Rose.
“Well, I can’t decide if they’re oaks…”
“My word!” said Fuzz. “Leaning oaks is indeed what they are. Derwen pwysaf is the old name. I only know that from discussions, ‘way back when I was here. But I can’t see whether the vegetation on top is trees or not.”
Before long, they had furled their sails and dropped anchor. They decided to row ashore, leaving their unicorns and their strike falcons by themselves on board, except for Olloo’s bird, Baase. Rose had indeed been correct about where to go, for they found themselves rowing ashore along a broad corridor between the gigantic columns of limestone, making for the break in the sheer cliffs behind, which formed a narrow canal where teams of dragons once hauled ships inland to the lagoon and the quays of Dragonsport.
At the quays, Baase hopped out with a splash and dashed after a lizard. They stepped out as he gobbled it down and hauled their boat ashore in a pulsing sea of cicada calls in the noonday sun and made their way past the abandoned barns and warehouses and up the blinding white dirt lane beyond, which wended up a great flat topped hill covered with leaning oaks.
“They seldom brought in ships when we were here, so no signs of anyone didn’t bother me,” said Rose, pausing to look back the way they had come. “But the only tracks up this entire lane are ours. Well. If they’re not here, it’s off to the Black Desert, then.”
“I don’t know,” said Fuzz. “The Black Desert is a huge wasteland.”
“Yea, but we’re going to find them.”
“You know that? If it were any one but you a-saying such a thing, I’d not be paying attention.”
Before long, they came to the broad hole in the ground with its great stairway, which was the entrance to the Dragon Caves. By the time they had reached the enormous fountain and statuary of dragons being driven by Razzorbauch at the bottom of the stairs, the caves seemed abandoned to everyone. The Elves begged for an explanation about the towering sculpture from Rose, and held their breaths in rapt attention as her tale echoed from the empty reaches of the vast gallery. There was not a soul.
Soon they found themselves in Spark and Lipperella’s cavern, respectfully turning over this and that of their remaining flotsam. Rose stepped into Edward and Laora’s room. “Fuzz,” she said, pulling out a wooden stick from under Edward’s mattress. “Look ‘ee here.”
“My word!” he said, looking it over. “That’s the very sword I was not finished carving for his sixth birthday. I reckon he missed it, under the bed like that. My. Now I never once had the slightest amorous urge for Myrtlebell, as I’ve said many times, but Edward actually grew up as a son to me. Did I ever tell you that he was even born in my old den?”
“Oh my. I’m no midwife. I just ran back and forth, fetching clean rags and pans of water. But it had me worried. I mean, I hadn’t so much as pulled a calf nor helped an old ewe in my life, so I dashed out and found Rotundra.”
Rose laughed out. “You didn’t need her.”
“At least I quit dropping and spilling things when she came. And I even managed to pour Myrtlebell’s shot of whisky for Edward’s crowning without spilling a drop. But mercy, did I ever regret it.”
“Have you any idea how many cozy little romantic suppers I ended up obliged to share with Rotundra after that?”
“Oh my land yes. An entire eternity of them. At least two, as I remember.”
“Aw!” laughed Rose. “Rotundra was sweet, Fuzz. But I was glad her pursuit of you ended when she became Mary the White. I mean, she’s beautiful and things might have turned out different.”
“Go on! Not after we’d met. I’ve actually been in love with you since we were first acquainted.”
“Fiddlesticks! I was a child.”
“Yea. Sixteen and heart stopping gorgeous. And I was a bear with no hair. I could only yearn. Just remember that there’s a lot behind it when I tell you that you are a dream come true.”
“I love you Fuzz,” she said giving him a dear hug. “Say. You just said something. You said that he must have missed it, you know, the sword. I don’t see how he could have. It was down here, sticking half way out from under his mattress like this, see? Hey look! This paper was right here with it.”
“Why that’s a map,” he said.
“Titled, ‘New Dragon Caves!'” she gasped. “And look. A letter to us both. He says he copied this from a map in dragon’s council room. Thank the Fates the witches never found this.”
“If Spark or any of the other adults had known Edward had this, they’d have snapped it up for just that reason.”
“Edward undoubtedly thought that this was his only way of leaving it behind.”
“He just isn’t old enough to grasp how dangerous something like this could be,” he said. “Hey! You were right. I bet we do find them.”
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps