“Aunt Abby, Aunt Abby,” Jules ran up with a large water bottle. “Now you can finish the story!”
“Drink, drink,” said Ellie.
Constance, Joshua, Bruce, Jude, and Imogene gathered behind the two sisters encouraging Aunt Abby to hurry up with the drinking and get back to more important matters like saving the dragons.
“You know, I could really go for a snack,” Aunt Abby said.
“No,” whispered Constance. “We want to save the dragons.”
Aunt Abby laughed and gave her a big hug. “Okay, story now, snacks later.”
All the cousins cheered.
They settled in around Aunt Abby on Great-Auntie Janet’s quilt under the bright blue Texas sky filled with white puffy clouds.
“Once upon a time…”
Alchemist plummeted down down down. Some of the cousins screamed in delight and some in fear, but Alchemist didn’t let a single one of them fall off his back. Spinning in a tight cork-screw, he tucked in his wings and dropped through some large pine trees to the forest floor.
“Where are we? Jules asked.
“We’re in the forest,” Constance said waving her hand to indicate that the flat Texas yard had turned into a tree-filled forest.
Jules squinted. “Oh! I see it.”
“This is my forest,” Alchemist said. He spread his wings so the cousins could slide off his back down to the forest floor. Jules required a little cajoling, but Bruce and Joshua promised to catch her at the bottom, and she finally slid down too.
“Follow me,” Alchemist said.
The older cousins took the hands of the younger cousins and they all followed Alchemist through the tall swaying pines.
“It smells like Christmas,” Imogene said, smiling.
“We should sing a Christmas song,” Constance said.
“No,” said Bruce. “Don’t do that.”
“Yes,” said Joshua.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” Ellie started. Everyone, even Bruce, joined in. They sang loudly as they walked along through the Christmas smelling forest.
“I do hope you children are aware that it is June and Christmas is far away?” Alchemist said.
Before anyone could argue, Alchemist came to a stop. The forest had ended at the base of a large mountain topped with snow. A glimmering silver dragon passed back and forth, back and forth, at the mountains feet in front of a small hole.
“Oh Alchemist, you found them!” the dragon said with a smile.
“Of course I did, my dearest.”
“You’re a girl,” Ellie said.
“A girl dragon!” Jules hissed. “Is she a party girl?”
“Dragons aren’t party girls,” Joshua said, appalled at the idea.
“My dragon is,” Jules said.
“So is mine,” Constance said.
“Mine’s not,” said Ellie.
“Mine either,” said Bruce.
“Yours isn’t cause your dragon’s a boy,” Jules said wrapping her arms around her invisible dragon.
“Mine breaths FIRE!” Bruce said.
“Mine too,” said Jude, copying Jules and pretending to hug his dragon with little baby arms.
“Mine’s red,” said Imogene.
Everyone started yelling their favorite colors. It took Aunt Abby a few minutes to remind them of the story.
“Yes, I am a girl,” the silver dragon said nuzzling Ellie.
“My name is Oceana. I’m Alchemist’s wife.”
“Why do you look sad,” Imogene said.
“Well,” Oceana turned her slim head to Imogene, “my egg is trapped in this mountain and I can’t get it out.”
“Oh, that is sad,” said Jules. She gave Oceana a hug around the neck.
“Why can’t you get your egg out?” Joshua said.
“It’s trapped inside. The hole is too little. Can you help us?”
“Yes!” everyone said at once.
“Come look,” Alchemist said. He led the cousins to a hole in the mountain. Seven rocks lined the hole each in different colors. “It’s guarded by a curse that we can’t break.”
“What’s a cures?” Jude asked holding Imogene’s hand as he studied the rocks around the hole.
“It’s something evil, and it’s keeping us from our egg.”
“Will it hurt?” asked Jules.
“I do not think it will. See, the hole can only be entered by seven children related by blood but not siblings.”
“Ellie’s my sister,” Jules said.
“Jude’s my brother,” said Bruce.
“Josh is my brother,” said Constance.
“Then you will have to enter by different pairs,” said Oceana. “Cousin pairs.”
The cousins studied one another. Jules took Constance’s hand. Imogene took Jude’s. Joshua and Bruce stood next to each other.
“What about Ellie?” Jules said. “She’s all alone.”
“Dear one,” Oceana said in her soft voice, “are you brave enough to walk through by yourself?”
Ellie grinned from ear to ear. “Jason’s my Daddy. Of course I’m brave enough!”
Settled into none sibling sets, and Ellie coming last, the cousins approached the hole in the mountain. Seven stones lined the hole, each one glowing a faint different color.
“What do we do now?” Bruce asked.
“Pink’s my favorite color,” Jules said touching the soft pink stone.
“Mine’s red!” Bruce said.
“Purple,” said Ellie.
“Green,” said Constance.
“Brown like a puppy,” said Joshua.
“Blue,” said Jude.
“Pumpkin,” said Imogene.
They each put their hand on one of the stones and the stones gleamed. The tiny hole opened enough to let the cousins from Texas walk through. Jules and Constance stepped through first. Jude and Imogene followed them. Bruce and Joshua came next with a glance back at Ellie. She turned and waved at the dragons before following her cousins into the mountain.
“Okay, break time,” Aunt Abby said.
The seven cousins gasped.
“You can’t stop there,” Joshua said.
“Do you need more water?” Constance asked.
“I’m brave,” said Ellie with a wide grin.
“I need a snack. Let’s go as Grammie for something to eat.”
“Then you’ll finish the story?” Bruce said.
“Promise,” said Aunt Abby.
To be continued…