Discussion Questions - Chapter 4

copyright Christina Wald

 First read

then talk about these questions with your friends!

(1) Were you surprised when Klause spoke to Wordsworth?

(2) In the Forest of Spells, Wordsworth has doubts about whether he can fight -- or even find -- a dragon. Have you ever started to do something and then realized you really don't know what to do or how to do it? What happened?

(3) How does Wordsworth feel when he sees the dragon reaching for Klause? Why?

(4) Why do you think Klause stood at the mouth of the cave instead of running from the dragon?

(5) What do you think will happen next?

Chapter 4: Finding the Dragon

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn

copyright Christina Wald


Chapter 4
Finding the Dragon

Riding along through the Forest of Spells, Wordsworth scarcely knew when day ended and night began. Tree branches hid most of the sky, and he could see neither sun nor moon. He heard an owl call: Hoot-hoot-hoo! Rustling noises came from the bushes—maybe a fox or a rabbit. Or a dragon? Wordsworth tried to push that thought out of his mind.

Klause's big ears flicked back and forth at each sound. Sometimes he bobbed his head up and down. Wordsworth lit one of the candles Phrasia had given him. Why did I tell her I knew how to fight dragons? he asked himself. As they climbed into the hills, the narrow path grew steeper and rockier, but the sure-footed, sturdy-legged cavabok put each hoof in place with confidence. In the middle of a small clearing, he stopped. Wordsworth saw the opening of a cave nearby.

"We'll stay here tonight," he said.

Klause bobbed his head. Wordsworth slid off the cavabok's back, being very careful not to drop his candle. After peering into the cave and listening for a minute, he decided it was safe to go in. The bread and cheese Phrasia had packed for him tasted good. He washed it down with water from the flask.

Covering himself with the blanket from Klause's back, Wordsworth lay down on the hard ground. It took him a long time to fall asleep, but once he did, he dreamed of poor Lord Reading waving his book in the air and crying, "A terrible rime has been ommitted!" Lines from Lord Reading's poem danced a crazy jig in Wordsworth's head: "...harming lass...herry tree...hirping rikets..."

The next thing he knew, he was squirming and thrashing, trying to get away. Something cold and wet was pressing against his neck. He felt hot air blowing into his ear.

"Hey!" yelled Wordsworth. His eyes popped open. All he could see was a very large, very close face—the brown-and-gray-speckled face of a cavabok. Wordsworth rolled away and sat up. "Did you have to do that?"

"Up," Klause said in a deep voice. His huge dark eyes gazed steadily at Wordsworth.

Wordsworth jumped to his feet. "How did you learn to talk?"

Klause's ears twitched. "Phrasia."

"Phrasia taught you? Wow! So what can you say?"

"Few words," Klause said.

"But do you understand what people say? Do you know what I'm saying?"

"Yes, most."

"Wow!" Wordsworth said again. "Well...okay...I think I'm going to eat something before we go."

Wordsworth ate more of the bread and cheese in his knapsack. Klause munched on grass at the edge of the clearing. Wordsworth couldn't help staring at him. It was hard to believe that an animal could talk. Even Starfire, the king's favorite horse, couldn't do that! After a long drink of water from his flask, Wordsworth climbed onto Klause's back.

"Let's go," he said. "We’ve got to find that dragon!"

There were two paths leading away from the clearing. Wordsworth had no idea which one to take. Before he could decide, Klause ambled down the path on the right as if he knew exactly where to go. Wordsworth didn't have any reason to argue with him.

As they plodded along, Wordsworth noticed that the trees weren't quite as dense as they had been before. Here and there a ray of sunshine cut through the gloom. But the Forest of Spells still wasn't a cheerful place. Birds twittered in a hushed sort of way, as if they were afraid to make too much noise.

Wordsworth knew he should be looking for signs of a dragon, but he had no idea what those signs would be. Bones scattered outside a cave? A terrible smell? Leaves with their edges burnt off? When they came to another clearing, Klause stopped. Wordsworth decided he had better explain himself.

"I'm a dragon fighter," he told the cavabok. "Not a dragon hunter. I don't really know where to look for a dragon."

Klause ambled across the clearing to a large bush, took a big bite of leaves, and tore them off the branch with a jerk of his neck.

"Not worry," the cavabok said when he had finished chewing. "Dragon finds you."

"What do you mean?" asked Wordsworth.

Before Klause could answer, a strong, cold wind began to blow. The birds stopped chirping. Wordsworth shivered. Leaves flew off the trees and swirled around his head. Klause looked around nervously. Thunder boomed and echoed through the hills. Overhead, branches cracked and broke with a loud snap!

Without warning, Klause galloped toward him. "Get on!" he ordered in his deep voice. Grabbing the cavabok's stubby mane, Wordsworth flung himself onto his back. Klause dashed into a cave just in time. Something heavy landed in the clearing where they had been standing. WOOMPH!

Wordsworth gasped. His mouth went dry. The falling object had bright green scales. It had wings. It had big spikes coming out of its head and huge, pointed teeth. Wordsworth remembered the pictures he had drawn of dragons. None of them looked as fierce as this one. He slid quietly off Klause's back. He raised his wooden sword, then realized how useless it would be against the dragon. Why hadn't he thought of that before?

The dragon sniffed the air and scratched in the dirt with long, sharp claws. Then it opened its mouth and let out a roar that shook the Forest of Spells right down to its roots. Wordsworth cried out in terror.

As the sound of the dragon's howl began to fade away, Wordsworth heard his own voice still yelling. He clamped his hand over his mouth and backed further into the cave, but it was too late. The dragon cocked its head and swung its long, serpent neck toward the opening. Its glittery yellow-gold eyes narrowed to slits.

Wordsworth scampered even farther into the cave. When he looked back at the opening, he felt like his heart was falling into the pit of his stomach. Klause stood perfectly still, as if frozen with fear. Wordsworth remembered what Phrasia had said: I'm not worried. I know you won't let anything hurt him.

The dragon reached into the cave, curving its huge talons around the cavabok's body.

"Noooo!" shouted Wordsworth. He charged forward, waving his sword. "Let go!" he shouted. He chopped at the dragon's fingers. The sword bounced off the tough skin, but Wordsworth kept hacking. "Let. Go. Of. Him!"

Discussion Questions - Chapter 3

By now, you surely have read Chapter 3! No? Well, then, just click on the link below:

copyright Christina Wald

Once you have read Chapter 3, take a look at these questions and think about how you would answer them:

(1) How does Wordsworth feel when he sees the problems the missing letter has caused in the town?

(2) What has Wordsworth heard about the Forest of Spells?

(3) What does Phrasia give Wordsworth to ride?

(4) What is Wordsworth beginning to realize about the task he has offered to do?

(5) What do you think is the worst thing about not having the letter C?

Chapter 3 - The Forest of Spells

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn

copyright Christina Wald


Chapter 3
The Forest of Spells
 As Wordsworth walked through the village with Phrasia, he saw what a mess the thief had caused. A sign in the bakery window offered "akes" and "fresh baked pie rust." A notice outside the tailor's shop advertised "apes and oats -- made to order."

Outside the meeting hall a noisy crowd had gathered. One of the village elders stood on the front steps, motioning for people to quiet down. "My fellow Atozians!" he shouted. "I assure you that we are doing our best to apture the riminal who ommitted this unspeakable rime!"

The confusion and worried looks on the townspeople's faces made Wordsworth even more determined to find the letter and return it to the royal treasury. Phrasia led him past houses and shops, across a field and over a stream. Finally they reached her cottage at the edge of the Forest of Spells. 

The woods looked deep and dark. Wordsworth had never met anyone who had dared to enter the Forest of Spells. However, he had heard plenty of stories about people who went in and disappeared forever. Princess Rho had told him the forest got its name because a wizard had used magic spells to create it way back in the days of King Zeta.

"The traks always go that way," Phrasia said, pointing into the woods. There are lots of aves farther up in the hills, you know. Plenty of them are big enough to hold a dragon."

Wordsworth stared at a narrow path that led through the tall, thick trees and tangled brush. Suddenly he felt very small and not terribly brave. He felt Phrasia looking at him and turned toward her.

"I am glad to see you doing so well, Wordsworth," she said. "Your parents must be proud of you."

Wordsworth's mother and father lived on a farm many miles from the castle. He didn't see them often. He missed them, but he tried not to think about that too much. The king kept him busy, and the royal family treated him well.

"My parents are pleased that I am serving the king," he said.

"I'm sure they are," Phrasia said. "Now, as you are a knight, you will need a beast to ride upon."

"Well, I'm not quite a knight yet," Wordsworth said, "and I don't have a horse, so I guess I won't be able to--"

"I have something for you to ride," Phrasia said. "Although it is not as grand as you might wish."

She put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. To Wordsworth's surprise, a cavabok trotted around the corner of the cottage. Wordsworth had seen wild cavaboks a few times. He knew there weren't many in the kingdom.

"His name is Klause," Phrasia said.

Wordsworth approached carefully to get a closer look. Klause was about the size of a pony. His head looked a bit like a horse's head, except his ears were larger and farther apart. Between his ears were two short, spiraled horns. His coat was rough and speckled brown and gray.

preliminary sketch copyright Christina Wald
"Are you sure you want to send him with me?" Wordsworth said. He had hoped Phrasia would tell him to go back home when he said he didn't have a horse. "Fighting dragons is dangerous. Klause might get hurt."

"I'm not worried. I know you won't let anything harm him. Now wait a minute while I pak some things for you to take along."

Phrasia put bread, cheese, a flask of water, candles, and matches in a knapsack. Last of all, she added a small white jar. "This is healing ointment," she said. "It's good for stings or bites or any kind of injury."

Wordsworth didn't think ointment would help him if a dragon attacked him. Maybe I should go bak to the astle and get one of the knights, he thought. But he knew that wouldn't work. The knights would laugh at him if he said he wanted to hunt for a dragon.

Phrasia helped Wordsworth slip his arms into the straps of the knapsack. She placed a folded blanket over Klause's back and helped Wordsworth climb aboard. Wordsworth was not at all sure he should be doing this. Still, Phrasia seemed to have faith in him, and he was determined not to let the dragon get away with stealing part of the Royal Alphabet.

I'll turn around and get out if I have to, he told himself. But I must try. Knights are always brave in times of danger. 

Klause snorted and flipped his bushy tail back and forth. Then he made a sound that Wordsworth could only describe as something between a horse neighing and a goat bleating:


Wordsworth nudged the cavabok's sides with his heels, waved good-bye to Phrasia, and rode into the forest. In one hand he clutched his wooden sword, in the other, Klause's short, bristly mane.

* * * *

Back in the village, chaos reigned. A man who wanted his wife to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies requested instead a "bath of hoolate hip ookies." At the courthouse, a judge ordered a witness to "state the fats."

By the end of the day Sir Clooney and the knights were no closer to finding the thief. King Omicron had begun to wonder what he would do if the third letter of the alphabet could not be recovered. All the books and laws and signs would have to be rewritten. It would take forever to change them all!

"We fear a guard may be involved," Sir Clooney told him. "One of them seems to have disappeared."

"What?" gasped the king. "What a terrible sandal to befall our kingdom! It is unthinkable! Who is this guard?"

"A man named Rottenbeer. .. er... well, no, that isn't exactly his name... You see, his name begins with..."

The king groaned.

Sir Clooney sighed. "Anyway," he continued, "I hope we are wrong about that, Your Majesty. We will keep looking."

"See that you do!" the king said. "And speaking of missing people, have you seen my page, Wordsworth?"

"Not lately," Sir Clooney replied.

Discussion Questions - Chapter 2

If you haven't read Chapter 2 yet, do take a moment. Just click on the link below:

copyright Christina Wald

Now, here are some questions you can discuss with your friends!

(1) How was the Royal Alphabet created?

(2) Why did Wordsworth feel like laughing when the librarian read poetry from his book? What made Wordsworth stop laughing?

(3) What happens if you take a short poem that you like and write it without the letter C? Is it easy to do? Hard to do? Can you still read it?

(4) Why does Wordsworth think a dragon took the letter C?

(5) All through this book you will find names of people and places that are based on words that relate to the use of language, grammar, and so forth. Do you see any of those kinds of names in this chapter? What are they?