There’s nothing better than having your kids get excited about a story you’re writing. We read each new installment over dinner, and my girls asked tonight if I’d written anymore. I was happy to say that I had.
Special thanks to Sparks of Ember for her contribution to this week’s installment.
If you’re new, the story starts here: Flash Flood: In Search of Dragons, part 1 or click on the link in the sidebar.
Laurel carefully clutched the tin cup by the handle, the steaming cocoa too hot to drink just yet. Next to her on the settee, Alexa held an identical cup. The two of them gazed around the room. They’d never been in a dugout before but both girls had a feeling this one would have surprised them anyway.
The walls were covered in intricate mosaics made mostly out of turquoise & silver with bits of amber. The furniture was carved, polished and draped with plush cushions. Even the floor was covered with the lushest, softest grass Laurel had ever encountered. The entire room was beautiful, from the desk in the corner to the bookshelves lining the back wall. The kitchen was to her left by the steps from the entryway and she could just glimpse the one bedroom through the not-quite-closed door across the room. The only thing in the room that didn’t quite fit was a huge round tunnel in the wall between the bookcases. A curtain made of colorful strips of fabric tied in knots along the rod covered most of the hole. It was pretty – for a tunnel. From a rack on the side of one of the adjacent bookcases hung a shovel and rock-pick along with a bucket and some other tools.
Laurel wiggled her bare toes on the grass. Her & Alexa’s soggy boots and socks hung from little hooks by the door, dripping onto a patch of cactus that grew alongside the steps. But her eyes kept returning to that big circle in the wall. Well, that and the rather large jackalope that was just now hopping back from the kitchen.
“Okay then, now that we’re settled, how ’bout we introduce ourselves, hmm?” The rabbit grasped his own cup of cocoa that amazingly didn’t spill a drop as he crossed the room. Setting it on the short coffee table, he hitched up his colorful patchwork overalls, his fluffy tail protruding from a hole in the back, and plopped himself onto a rocking chair.
“Name’s Flapjack. And I’m sentry for The Crossing. And you are?” He waggled his paw between the two girls and then leaned forward to grab his cocoa and took a rather noisy sip.
Laurel caught Alexa’s stare. Her rule-following big sis was already in a tizzy about not only talking to a stranger, but going into his house. The way Laurel figured it, Mom and Dad would be okay with them seeking help from a big talking bunny. How were they going to figure out what was going on and get back home if they didn’t get some help?
“I’m Laurel Goodfriday, and this is my big sister is Alexa.” Laurel blew across the top of her hot chocolate before taking her own small sip. The melted chocolate warmed her throat and made her smile on the inside and the outside. “Yummy hot cocoa, Mr. Jack.”
The jackalope’s ears twitched with pleasure at the compliment. “Just Flapjack, dearie. One word, mind you. No need to be formal ‘round here.”
Alexa sat ramrod straight in her chair, her hot cocoa untouched, although Laurel noticed she held both hands on the cup as if warming them. “Please, sir, what is The Crossing?”
Flapjack made a big show of searching the room before returning his attention to Alexa and raising one bunny brow. Laurel snickered.
Alexa heaved a big sigh and tried again. “Please, Flapjack, what is The Crossing?”
“I figured you two’d know.” Flapjack scratched behind one long ear with his paw. “Yer humans, ain’t ye?”
“Yes, but—” Alexa began.
“Yep. Said to myself, ‘Flapjack, them two girls are here for a quest. I’d bet me whiskers on it.’ And I ain’t lost me whiskers yet.” Flapjack slapped his knee with his paw and laughed. At least, Laurel assumed the nasal chirping was a laugh.
“I’m sorry,” Alexa raised her voice over Flapjack’s guffaws, “did you say a quest?”
The hot chocolate had cooled enough that Laurel was able to take reasonable sized drinks. Maybe Alexa would let her drink her cup after she was finished asking Flapjack questions.
Flapjack sobered. “Is there somethin’ wrong with your hearing, girlie?” The jackalope enunciated each word loudly. “Yes, I said quest. You know, an expedition to search for something.”
Alexa slammed her mug on the coffee table and stood to her feet with her hands on her hips. “I know what a quest is! And I can hear just fine. What we don’t know is why we’re here or how to get back home.”
Flapjack’s whiskers quivered. “Are you sure you know what a quest is?”
Laurel set her empty mug on the table and grabbed Alexa’s full one, enjoying the show.
Alexa flailed her arms in frustration before plopping back in her chair, all the while making a sound like a hundred bees forced through a pipe.
The unflappable Flapjack turned to Laurel. “What about you, youngster?”
Laurel shrugged. “I’m searching for a dragon.”
Flapjack nodded his head sagely. “A noble quest, indeed.”
Alexa groaned and reached for her mug. She sipped, raising her cup further and further up before pulling it away in confusion. A frown crossed her face as she stared into the empty cup. “Laurel!”
More snuffling chirps chorused from Flapjack as he hopped to the kitchen to refill Alexa’s mug. On his return, he gave Laurel a sly wink. “Dragons, eh?”
Laurel explained to their new friend all about the dude ranch, the story teller, the glowing scale, and what she had seen outside the cabin window. She told him all about their trip outside, the ground shakes, the disappearing bits of moon, and their search for the lost buildings. Laurel finished with, “If jackalopes are real, then dragons must be real too. Right, Flapjack?”
“Oh, dragons are real, all right.” Flapjack’s voice was soft as if he weren’t paying full attention to what he was saying.
Laurel stuck her tongue out at Alexa who rolled her eyes in return.
“Right, then.” Flapjack nodded once—a decisive gesture. “May I see the scale, girlie?”
Laurel pulled the deep indigo gem from her pocket and offered it to the Jackalope. Instead of taking it, he peered at it closely, snuffling. His whiskers tickled her hand, and Laurel had to fight a giggle.
“Hmmm,” Flapjack hmmed. “Interesting indeed.”
Alexa, having finally finished her mug, returned the cup to the table and wiped away her chocolaty mustache. “Does this Crossing of yours have anything to do with how we got here?”
“Yes and no, missy.” Flapjack returned to his chair and Laurel placed the gem back in her pocket.
“Do you know how we can get home?” Alexa tried again.
Flapjack favored her with a wink. “Aye, ‘course I do.”
Alexa’s body quivered somewhere between excitement and frustration. Laurel couldn’t tell which side of the scale was tipping. To her, it was enough that Flapjack knew how to get them home. Plenty of time to return after she’d found a dragon, or two, or three, and not before. Definitely not before.
“Will you tell us how?” Alexa asked, her right eye twitching.
“Simple, dearie. The being that brought you here can return you home the same way. In your case, that’d be the dragon belonging to that scale in your sister’s pocket.”
Laurel cheered inside. No matter what her sister argued, they wouldn’t be able to leave here without meeting a dragon.
Resigned, Alexa slumped into her chair. “Where can we find this dragon?”
“No idea. I haven’t seen him in a thousand years.” Flapjack bounded to his feet, slapping his paws together. “Time for bed. Long day tomorrow.”
It didn’t take them as long to fall asleep as Laurel expected. She and Alexa lay side-by-side in what their host referred to as the guest room, while Flapjack hopped into the round tunnel to go sleep in his burrow. Tired from walking, and emotionally drained from her roller coaster day, dreams claimed her as soon as her head rested against the lavender scented pillow.
Warmth and a buttery aroma woke her. Laurel stretched, careful not to punch her sleeping sister in the face. She bounced out of bed, eliciting a groan from Alexa, and bounded into the kitchen.
“Something smells delicious.” She took a place at the kitchen table and watched Flapjack make their breakfast.
“Thank ye, youngster.” The Jackalope waved his griddle over the heat and then flipped a pancake high into the air, catching it on an antler then slipping it onto a plate. In the meantime, he poured more batter into the sizzling skillet.
Alexa trudged to the table and sat down. Her eyes were partly closed and her hair was wild from sleeping. She smacked her lips and rested her chin on her hand as if it were too heavy for her neck to hold up on its own.
“Sleep well, missy?” Flapback asked her.
“Not really.” She rubbed her face. “Something was howling outside and it kept waking me up. One time, it was so loud I thought it was right outside your door.”
“Howling, you say?” He turned from the stove and eyed her. “What did it sound like?”
Alexa blinked and looked to Lauren for help.
Lauren shrugged. “I didn’t hear anything last night.”
“Figures,” Alexa muttered, grumbling something about snoring and sister. Finally, Alexa titled her head back and howled, sounding something like a coyote with a sore throat.
Flapjack’s eyes rounded and his back right foot tapped. Laurel wasn’t sure because it’s hard to tell with a rabbit, but she thought he frowned.
The smell of something burning snapped Flapjack’s attention back to his work. After tossing the burnt pancakes and making replacements, he brought their dishes to the table along with a set of mugs.
Laurel’s sniffed the warm beverage and stuffed her disappointment inside. She’d hoped they might have hot cocoa with their breakfast, but instead, he’d given them something that smelled a lot like coffee, the most disgusting drink in the world. The pancakes, moist and delicious, made up for the drink. She shoveled bite after bite of pancake until she was so thirsty she couldn’t eat another bite. Taking the smallest sip possible, she let the warm brown liquid trickle down her dry throat. She followed the sip but a swallow and then a few gulps. The drink wasn’t coffee, after all, but a spiced honey drink.
The corner of Flapjack’s eyes crinkled as he watched her. “It’s the bees’ knees, ain’t it?”
Laurel gasped, and the swallow in her mouth chocked her. Coughing, she managed to ask, “It’s made of bees’ knees? I thought it was honey!”
Alexa giggled, her eyes dancing with merriment. “No, silly. That’s just an expression meaning that it tastes really good.”
Heat tinged Laurel’s cheeks as she took another sip of the tasty beverage. “Oh.”
They finished breakfast and then the girls washed the dishes as Flapjack hopped around his house collecting supplies in a worn canvas backpack.
“Are you going to take us to find the dragon today?” Laurel asked Flapjack as she and Alexa tugged on their socks and boots.
“No, youngster. Sentries can’t be galavantin’ off on quests.”
“You’re not going with us?” The disappointment in Alexa’s voice mirrored Laurel’s.
Flapjack sighed. “I can’t, girlie. But take heart, I’m gonna introduce you to a guide even better than me.”
FOR MY READERS: Flapjack is taking the girls to find a guide/protector for their quest. Here are some creatures who might be good guides and/or protectors. Vote in the poll to tell us which you prefer!
- Cactus cat – a cross between a bobcat and a porcupine. Instead of fur, he has spine-like bristles. Some people say he uses those spines to slash open barrel cacti at night to drink.
- Hoop snake – can grasp its tail in its jaws and roll after its prey like a wheel
- Wereoyte – Instead of a werewolf, this is a man who turns into a coyote.
- Texas horned toad – when threatened, a horned lizard will puff up and become very fat, which causes its body scales to protrude, making it difficult to swallow. The Texas horned lizard can squirt an aimed stream of blood from the corners of the eyes and sometimes from its mouth for a distance of up to 5 ft. This not only confuses would-be predators, but also the blood is mixed with a chemical that is foul-tasting to predators.
FOR OUR ARTISTS: Can you draw/sketch/paint? I’m still looking for artwork for any of the creatures in the story. Be creative!
FOR OUR WRITERS: It’s fun to think about where the story should go. If you’re up to it, write the next scene – Flapjack taking the girls to meet their guide.
- Are you more like Laurel (who is more interested in adventure than she is worried about danger), or Alexa (who wants to stay safe and follow the rules)?
- If you were Laurel and Alexa, would you have gone with the Jackalope to his house
- What do you think will happen next in the story?
- What do you do when you’re frustrated? Who do you go to for help?
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