I apologise for the delay in getting this posted. The full moon threw me off a little this month. Without further delay, however, here be Chapter Two of the newly released third (and final) edition of
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“Wattle-Gum” No More
Six months after Wattle-Gum arrived at the red brick orphanage, he was in the top of his class for all his subjects, except physical education. It seemed he’d lost his desire to move about. Any effort to encourage physical activity resulted in his flopping to the ground and sitting, immoveable, right where he was.
In all academia, however, none could come close to his scores. The orphanage director began throwing “genius” around and was sure he would be placed in foster care quickly. Unfortunately, at nine years of age, exercising his mind was crushing his possibilities of making any friends.
Wattle-Gum was alone, scared, and picked on constantly by both the boys and girls in the orphanage. It wasn’t hard to find something to laugh at; long, curly, blond hair and the name Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell provided much ammunition.
But, a free spirit can only take so much.
One morning, Wattle-Gum woke up with his hair slathered in black, sticky, smelly vegemite. He carefully combed it through as if it were hair gel and went to breakfast.
Even the teachers grimaced at the stench. When they strongly encouraged the boy to go shower, he glowered at his laughing peers and quietly requested to visit the barber on their field trip to the shopping center that day.
By the time his classmates had exhausted their financial freedoms at the shops and were ready to return to the orphanage, the boy known as Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell arrived at the bus with his washed, white blond hair cropped just under his ears. His natural curls now expressed a rough, movie-star look. The girls stopped laughing and took extra notice.
Chester stood up to him.
“I hope you don’t think a little haircut is going to change anything, Bottle-Lizard.”
The short-haired boy stood his ground and said,
“No, but I will.”
Chester landed flat on his back with a bloody nose.
“And, by the way, my name is Mitch.”
Mitch spent the night smiling in solitary confinement.
“Come in, Gash.” Prince Hadigan, aged twenty-one years, welcomed his eighteen-year-old friend.
The two sat on a private balcony overlooking the great columned Poseidon Memorial Parthenon.
“Remarkable feat that, don’t you think? Drink?” Hadigan motioned to a large selection of crystal bottles and decanters.
“N-no, no th-thank you.” Gash wrung his cap in his hand and peeked out over the balcony. “Ooh!” He stepped back again, not enjoying the height.
“That is the greatest memorial to the greatest king of our entire history. Cheers!” He raised his glass.
Gash wavered back from the edge and stuttered.
“M-m-m-maybe I will have a d-drink, j-j-just what you’re h-having.”
Hadigan looked to a tiny wrinkled man in the corner, who moved remarkably fast for his age and had an odd, long snout.
It took Gash a minute to realize what it was. He, being poor, had never seen one before and stared blatantly at the little figure pouring the drink.
The Kobolds—or box brownie, for that was what it was—are bad-tempered lizard-ish creatures. Their service is given, grudgingly, only to those who can afford it.
They come in boxes that are kept by their masters, who also keep many other boxes lying around to hide the real one. If someone other than the master opens the Kobold’s home box, setting it free, the Kobold will run riot in an impish raid of mischief.
The extra boxes have frightful carvings on them and ugly surprises in them that jump out at you should you open the lid. This fact usually deters meddling with the boxes.
Hadigan snorted the air with vigor.
“I love this spot. When I was younger, I would climb up the side here and go all the way to the roof. Do you know what it feels like to be on top of the world? I do.”
“This is s-s-soft d-drink?” Gash looked at the tumbler in his hand, at the Kobold by the bar, and then at Hadigan in disbelief.
“Spirits will cloud your mind, my friend. Didn’t you pay attention in Mind Powers class at school?”
The prince jumped up onto the balcony railing. An Agent in a suit the color of seaweed quickly rushed out and reached for him. Hadigan kicked him in the chest, jumped and spun in a straight layout over the Agent’s head, and landed walking straight back at him.
“I keep telling you people, I am NOT going to die! Just like my father, great leader that he is, says every time he tries to cheat death. I, however, will not, barely hang onto life. I WILL LIVE IT!”
Hadigan hissed at the Agent, who retreated to his quiet place trying to breathe out the kick in his chest.
“Gash, my friend, I tell you, we are the ones who will live. We will make our names so great that no memorial will be big enough to house us.”
He stepped over to his nervous friend and drew him right to the edge of the balcony. Leaning the both of them over it, he whispered,
“Stay my friend, Gash, and you will see more in life than anyone in this gilded cage could imagine possible.”
Gash threw up over the edge.
“I have just the place for you. A young, scientific genius, with no family, wants a quiet place to work, right?”
To steady himself, Gash grabbed at the table set for tea.
The prince was mysteriously quiet as he spoke,
“I will set you up in my hidden castle beneath the river. You will work your little potion-secrets in peace, and I will sell them for what they are worth. The Trade Minister has a son who offered his help, and we will be a happy little family.”
Straightening up, Hadigan admonished,
“Now, go home and shower. You stink. I will call for you to leave tomorrow. Be ready. Cheers!”
Gash left with a green but greedy smile. His gift with chemistry was one he was as desperate to explore as Hadigan was to exploit.
Despite further roughhousing difficulties, enhanced by a sudden renewed love for athletic opportunities, the Orphanage Director was not exactly timely in assuming that Mitch would be soon placed in foster care. The boy lived at the orphanage for eleven months before his dream came true.
Tom and Helen Jaack always kept their eyes open for unique children. They looked for strong spirits to train up on their horse and cattle homestead in the Snowy Mountains. So, they were drawn to Mitch, not only by his healthy physique, but also by his uncanny mathematical skills, and already feisty attitude.
“I’m looking for a kid strong enough to control his own will. You think you can find that strength on the lonely mountains in the south?”
Tom Jaack squared his shoulders and examined Mitch, who he snorted back,
“I’d do anything s’long as ya just get me out of the city and this scum house.”
Tom laughed heartily.
“I’ve got to agree with you there, about the city. C’mon, kid, your number’s up.”
Mitch liked his new home, an open farmhouse in the Snowy Mountains. Even if the constant temperature was considerably colder than his northern home, it was perfect. How Mitch was so lucky he would never know?
He wrote his Gamma in Brazil:
“The whole house is wood, not just shop wood either, Mr. Jaack and his four sons built everything by hand. They all work their own businesses and Mr. Jaack Sr., my foster dad, runs a small stock horse farm so they’re hugely rich. It’s just like a movie here.
Mum would have loved it, but she would have frozen. Apparently, it snows here too.
I’m to be home-schooled, again, by Becky. Her husband, Craig, one of the Jaack sons, is teaching me martial arts. I was woken up at 5:30 am for my first lesson. They tell me that that is the schedule every morning, rain, snow, or shine. They are really tough, especially Tom, my foster dad. If he weren’t so kindhearted, he’d be an ogre.
I like it here.
Oh, yeah, I’m to learn how to use a computer, too. I played some games these last days and they say I’m pretty good, but that’s just the way they talk. They say everyone is good at anything, if you practice hard enough.
Maybe I’ll see you again, someday, Gamma. Bye.”
Gash was tired but excited when he entered his new home. There was a calm, almost clear blue glow all around him.
The castle was the most beautiful place he had ever been in. He didn’t think it was beautiful for the majesty of the carved walls, the delicate balance of jungle courtyard and manicured gardens, or the clear-river-roof that ran overhead. No, Gash was enamored by the quiet Underland solitude.
There were only two Kobolds to keep him company, and they wouldn’t talk often. This is the place where Gash would have his peace.
The aged Kobold spoke in a rusty voice,
“There is a rich market in Latoona, only ten miles straight shot from here. And if you like, the dragons are helpful if you respect them.”
Both Kobolds then bowed and left.
Dragon compounds could be useful in chemistry, Gash knew. Their potency was beyond any other known source and had not been explored much.
Truly, did the creatures still live, or was the liquid called Dragon Tears simply a rich mineral water?
“Many hours, many minutes: all will be told when time will tell.”
Gash pondered to himself, out loud as he began to set up his laboratory. There would be time to see the rest of the place later.
Who could resist either of the Dijex sisters? The whole village loved Tanya and Holly.
There was a faithful agreement between Salla, Hal, and the villagers: they all chose to forget which of the girls had lost her parents in the bombing.
Now, seven years later, here was Holly with her rich brown hair shining as bright as her dark eyes. She had begun questioning everything when she was three years of age and never stopped.
Yet today, something was not quite right.
“I tell you that chemistry is a fine art, little one.” Karenina, the primary teacher for the village, tapped Holly’s head, reminding her to pay attention on this field trip to the Main Street Market. “It would do you well to attend to your studies.”
“But I want to go to that pagoda and see the garden.” Holly pulled at her teacher’s arm.
“It is not like you, Holly, to fuss like this. Now, stop and listen to the Potions Master.”
Holly dropped her head and peaked out from under her hair at Tanya.
Her sister was standing right up against the counter behind the Potions Master. He scooted her away as soon as he realized how close she was to his wares. But was too distracted by all the eager young students to observe her too closely.
The sisters exchanged a serious nod.
When school was let out, the girls ran home to play.
“Can we take our tea set out, Mema?”
“Just be home for early dinner,” Salla instructed. “I want to get to the memorial service on time.”
Tonight was the anniversary of the Market bombing, and a service was to be held at the top of the crater to pay respects to those lost. The cause of the bombing would also be discussed. No one knew the answer, but all the rumors would come out again.
The villagers spent too much time on the horrors of the past. There was still so much fear surrounding the attack that no recovery plan was set in action.
Occasionally, a youngster would suggest they rebuild the resort and restart the plan for a Trevel vacation venue in the heart of the Amazon Jungle. But the elders would ominously warn them that a royal life had nearly been taken. The royal family would set a curse upon any who tried to rebuild over that sacred spot.
Holly gathered the teapot and two teacups from their play set while Tanya tugged at a blanket in the closet. They hugged each other solemnly and walked out the back door.
It took a lot of slithering and sliding to reach the bottom of the crater, but once they did, the ground was solid. Surprisingly, no water gathered here, even after the recent rains. It was dry, cracked, and hot.
The girls set up their blanket and tea set right in the center. Tanya pulled a small, red crystal bottle from her pocket and set it next to the teapot. It was delicately labeled,
“Liquide Compound: Tears, of the Dragon.”
She whispered conspiratorially,
“I’ve never stolen anything before.”
“I know. I’ve felt sick all afternoon.” Holly rubbed her tummy.
“Let’s just do this.” Tanya poured the clear, thick liquid into the pot.
“Let me stir the dragon tears; you sing.” Holly swirled the teapot around and around.
Tanya sang gently,
“A dragon tear for you,
A dragon tear for me,
Will you ever see-
Dragons come to tea?
The song will rise above
The new song down below,
See the dragon come,
See the dragon go.”
The girls paused a moment to let the atmosphere build, then Holly poured into Tanya’s bright little sunflower teacup, and Tanya poured into Holly’s. Together they raised the cups high and chanted,
“As much as the parents who live are ours, so also the parents who died are ours, and together we vow to destroy the one that took their life from us.”
As the friend-sisters lie there unconscious, overwhelmed by the potency of the liquid that passes through their young bodies, a rumor is whispered above them.
Some said the Market bomb wasn’t just an attempt to kill Prince Hadigan. They said it was also a plot to destroy the vacation resort that was being built. Someone didn’t want Latoona to benefit from the money it would bring. Perhaps, someone wanted to divert that money elsewhere?
Some also believed that the prince had laughed at the tragedy.