Sitting around the large dining room table, seven cousins and one aunt passed around chips, raisins, marshmallows, animal crackers, jelly beans, and even a few healthy carrot sticks and strawberries.
“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said. “Tell us the story.”
“Yes!” the other six cousins chorused.
“Now!?” gasped Aunt Abby with a twinkle in her eye.
“Now!” all seven screamed with their outside voices.
Aunt Abby laughed. “Okay, where were we . . .?
“In the Cave,” Jules whispered.
“Oh, right, in the cave.”
The seven cousins, hand in hand, and brave Ellie crept into the dark, dark cave.
“It’s very dark,” said Constance.
“Is it scary?” said Jules.
“I’m not scared,” said Bruce
“Me either,” said Joshua
“It’s not scary,” said Aunt Abby. “Just dark.
They stood just inside the very small door. How could they find the egg if they couldn’t see?
“Well now, well now, what have we ‘er?” a high-pitched voice rang out of the darkness.
“You sound funny, Aunt Abby,” Jules said.
“You sound like Kipper,” Constance said.
“Yes, it’s called a British accent,” Aunt Abby said.
The seven cousins huddled together.
“It’s just us,” Bruce said.
“Us. Who’s us?” said the voice.
“Us. Julie, Ellie, Constance, Joshua, Imogene, Jude and me,” said Bruce.
“My names not Jules,” Jules said. “Or Julie-bear, or Julie, or even Party Girl. My name’s Queen Party Girl.”
“Yes,” Aunt Abby said seriously, “but in this story it’s just Jules, or things get confusing.”
“Who are you?” the voice asked.
“Who are you?” Imogene asked.
“Yeah?” said Ellie.
“Me? Why I’m Max, the glow worm.”
A soft blue light infused the cave. The cousins blinked and stepped back from the glowing little worm clinging to the wall. Far overhead, the roof was still lost in shadow.
“You’re very pretty, Mr. Max,” Jules said.
“He’s not pretty,” Constance said. “He’s cute!”
“Boys aren’t cute,” Bruce said.
“Or pretty,” Joshua added.
Jude threw in a growl for good measure.
“Now, now,” said Max. “I’m not offended. But I am curious. What are seven tikes like you doing in this dragon cave?”
“We’re helping Alchemist and Oceana find their egg,” said Jules.
“They lost it,” Constance said.
“It’s very sad,” said Ellie.
“Very,” said Imogene.
“Do you boys think it’s sad?” Max asked.
“It was a curse,” said Bruce.
“That’s something evil,” said Joshua.
“And bad,” added Jude with another growl.
“I see,” said Max. He glanced up at the ceiling for several seconds. “Right-o. I know what I’m gonna do. I’m going with you.”
“You are!” they all said together.
“Yes, but you’re going to have to be a lot quieter than that,” he said.
“Why?” Bruce said.
“Cause there are two dragons in the other room?”
“Are they bad dragons? Do they breathe fire?” Bruce said.
“Well, honestly, I’m not quite sure.”
“We should go look,” Joshua said.
“Yes!” Imogene said taking Jude’s hand. “Which way?”
“Well, one of you pick me up and I’ll guide you.”
Jules backed away, but Bruce hurried over to the glowing worm and held out his hands.
“Now, don’t squish me, lad. Just leave your hands open and I’ll tell you where to go.”
“I won’t squish you,” Bruce said.
“Good boy,” said Max. “Look over to your left. No, your other left. Do you see that tunnel?”
“Yes,” said Bruce.
“Go that way,” Max said.
With Bruce leading the way, the seven cousins hurried across the cave to towards the tunnel mouth.
“Stop!” yelled Max.
Bruce stopped. Jules stopped. Constance and Joshua tried to stop. Ellie, Imogene, and Jude didn’t stop. They ran right into Constance and Joshua. Constance and Joshua fell forward bumping into Jules. Jules screamed and accidently pushed Bruce right through the tunnel mouth. Suddenly! There was no floor. The fell down down down. Every one screamed and tumbled. Arms and legs flew this way and that. A shoe almost hit Bruce in the head. Several pink barrettes flew out of Jules hair. Ellie laughed shrilly and Imogene screamed with joy, her red hair streaming out behind her.
Woosh! Seven children and one glow worm landed in a pile of feathers. The feathers drifted up around them, floating in the air.
“Achoo!” Jude sneezed.
“Bless you,” said Imogene.
“Now where are we?” Jules asked.
“We’re in the hall of feathers—”
Max cut off with a little high-pitched shriek as Bruce fell through the feathers and into a small dark hole. The six other cousins found themselves too heavy for the bed of feathers. They fell through them giggling and laughing as the feathers tickled them and then down into the hole following Bruce and Max’s light.
Slipping and sliding, the cousins shot down the dark hole that had turned into a giant slide. It twisted around and around, went up up, down down, and around again. Flying out the end, they skid to a stop in a shallow but wide puddle of water.
“Let’s do that again!” Ellie said.
“No,” Jules said with a shudder. “Let’s not.”
“Puddle!” said Imogene and Jude together. They leapt to their feet and started splashing.
Constance, Joshua, and Jules joined in. Bruce held Max up high so he wouldn’t get wet, but then jumped so hard with both feet that he showered them in water.
“Goodness, goodness, I never,” Max sputtered.
“Who is splashing in my puddle?” A loud voice boomed in the small room.
All the cousins screamed and hugged each other. Max’s light went out. Two blue eyes and two green eyes glowed in the darkness.
“Well,” said Aunt Abby with a yawn and a stretch. “I think I need a nap.”
“No!!!” Imogene said. “You can’t nap now. What about us?”
“We’re in the dark with glowing eyes,” said Jude.
“Will they eat us?” said Bruce.
“Down in their tummies,” Aunt Abby said tickling him.
“Hurry, Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Finish the story.”
“Okay, but first I need some hugs.”
Seven cousins gathered around her in one big family hug.
…to be continued…