Chapter 7: "I Am Bird and Bird Is Me"

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn
 copyright Christina Wald
Chapter 7
"I Am Bird and Bird Is Me"

King Omicron did not know about the book, even though it had belonged to his grandmother, Queen Mu. Wordsworth did not know about the book. In fact, no one in the castle knew about the book except Princess Rho. And only Princess Rho knew how to use the spell on the page now open before her. 

 She went to her window. Leaning slightly against the ledge, she made several sharp cries from the back of her throat. Then she waited. In a few minutes, a dark, winged shape appeared against the bright blue sky. In another minute, a small falcon landed on the ledge. Bracket gave a frightened yip and scooted under the bed.
The falcon cocked its gray head and fixed its bright eyes on the princess. She stroked the speckled white feathers on the bird's throat, and the falcon gently touched her hand with the tip of its beak. 
 "It will be like the other times," she told the falcon. "Only I will need to go farther. I must find Wordsworth and make sure he is safe."
The bird gave a short, harsh cry and began to preen its feathers. Princess Rho reviewed the spell quickly to make sure she remembered it correctly. She lit a candle and gazed into the flame. She took a deep breath and quietly spoke the magic words: "Z to A and A to Z
Wings and beak, sharp eyes to see
Z to A and A to Z.
I am bird and bird is me."

~ * ~
The shadows of the forest grew darker and deeper as Wordsworth and Klause made their way along the narrow path. Soon there would be no light at all. At lunch, Wordsworth had finished nearly all the food Phrasia had packed for him. His stomach was rumbling. To take his mind off his hunger, he stared between Klause's spiraled horns, thinking about how useful they might be if a muddletongue attacked them.
"How much farther do you think it is to the village?" he asked.
"Not sure," the cavabok replied. "Maybe not far."
They rode for a few minutes in silence, then Wordsworth spoke again. "Klause, have you ever seen a muddletongue?"
The cavabok snorted. "No."
"I hear that they are mean and wild."
"Yes," said Klause. "Very big. Red eyes. Yellow teeth. Smell like rotten eggs."
Wordsworth felt sick in the pit of his stomach. I don't have to fight them, he told himself. I will find out where the letter is hidden, and report to the king. I just have to make sure the muddletongues don't find me first! 
Wordsworth saw firelight and heard music at about the same time the rotten-egg smell hit him. Ewww! he thought. He pinched his nose with his fingers, but soon realized he couldn't do that forever. He would have to get used to the stench. 
Peering through a break in the trees, he saw a large clearing. The moon was nearly full, and by its light Wordsworth could see mud huts with thatched roofs arranged in a circle around the clearing. In the center burned a large fire. At least 20 muddletongues were dancing and singing in loud, gravelly voices. Some of them pounded on drums.
Wordsworth wasn't sure which was worse: the smell or the noise. He couldn't really see what the muddletongues looked like -- just that they had long, wild hair and walked on two legs like people, only a bit more bent over. 
"I'm going to sneak up behind the huts and look in the windows," he whispered in Klause's ear. "Maybe I'll see the letter."
While Klause stayed hidden in the forest, Wordsworth crawled up to the back of one of the mud huts. Trying to ignore his pounding heart and queasy stomach, he put his ear against the wall. He heard nothing. Slowly, he stood up, keeping to one side of the window with his back against the hut. 
The bonfire in the middle of the clearing cast enough light through the doorway for him to see a room with a dirt floor. There was a large flat rock that Wordsworth thought might serve as a table or chair. Piles of straw, shaped sort of like beds, were pushed against the wall. Wordsworth thought about the comfortable bed and nice furniture he had in his room at the castle. He started to feel sorry for the muddletongues. Then he remembered all the trouble they had caused. 
He didn't see anything that looked like the letter "C" in the hut. Crouching down again, he crawled to the next hut and peered through the window. Seeing no sign of the stolen letter, he moved to the next hut. As he stood behind the fourth hut, the muddletongues in the clearing gave a loud shout. It was an angry sound, not like the singing Wordsworth had been hearing. He dashed into the woods and hid behind a tree, gasping for breath.
"Wordsworth!" said a strangely familiar voice. 
It almost sounds like Princess Rho, Wordsworth thought. But that's impossible.
Klause stepped out of the bushes. To Wordsworth's surprise, a bird was sitting on the cavabok's back. It looked like a small falcon. 
"Lady knows you," said Klause.
Wordsworth straightened up. Lady? What lady? He didn't see a lady.
"Wordsworth, it's me, Princess Rho," said the falcon.
Suddenly Wordsworth couldn't focus. It seemed like everything was spinning The next thing he knew, Klause was nudging him with his cold, wet nose. How did I get down here, flat on my back? Wordsworth wondered. Great Gamma's ghost!  I hope I didn't faint. Knights don't faint!
The falcon stood on the ground beside him. "I'm sorry, Wordsworth," she said. "I didn't mean to frighten you."

Discussion Questions - Chapter 6

copyright Christina Wald

Be sure to read _CHAPTER SIX: DRAGON'S TROTH_ before you try to answer these questions:

(1) Wordsworth learns that Dash makes himself invisible when he flies. Does that make him trust Dash more, or less?

(2) What does Wordsworth keep in a pouch around his neck? Why do you think he does that?

(3) Why do you think Sir Clooney and the knights have not gone into the Forest of Spells yet?

(4) Lady Craddish says that Phrasia has a ring with "a grayish white stone splashed with broad bands and swirls of deep orange." Does that description remind you of anything?

(5) What do you think Princess Rho is going to do?

Chapter 6 Illustrations

Christina's latest illustrations go with _Chapter Six: Dragon's Troth_!

In this one, Wordsworth looks at the Dragon's Troth stone Dash has just given him...

copyright Christina Wald

And here is a drawing of the Dragon's Troth stone itself!

copyright Christina Wald

Chapter 6: Dragon's Troth

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn
 copyright Christina Wald
Chapter 6
Dragon's Troth

"I understand that the people of Atoz believe there are no more dragons in the kingdom."
"That's right," said Wordsworth.
"Good. I want to keep it that way. I mean no harm to anyone. I just want to be left alone. That is why I always make myself invisible when I fly, so no one will see me and be afraid."
Wordsworth didn't know what to say. If the dragon could make himself invisible, he could sneak up on the castle or the village and destroy it! Why should anyone trust him?
As if to answer Wordsworth's question, Dash reached up and removed a leather cord from around his neck. The pouch that hung from the strap was a lot like the pouch Wordsworth wore around his neck. In it Wordsworth kept the royal emblem of the Kingdom of Atoz: a coin with an eagle on it, drawn by Princess Rho.
"Open this bag," Dash said, handing it to Wordsworth, "and take a stone out of it."
Wordsworth did as he was told and handed the pouch back to the dragon.
"The stone is called Dragon's Troth," Dash said. "It is my promise to you and my bond with you. As long as you honor my wish to remain unknown, I will never attak the people of Atoz."
The stone was milky grayish white, splashed with broad bands and swirls of deep orange. Wordsworth had ever seen anything like it before. He couldn't help staring at it. For a second, he thought he saw a tiny dragon dancing among the colors.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew across the clearing, nearly knocking him over. He had to cover his eyes to protect them from the dust that stung his cheeks and forehead. When he was finally able to see, Dash was gone. The patch of sky above was empty except for a few clouds. Wordsworth put the stone into the bag that contained the king's emblem.
"Do you know the way to the muddletongue village?" he asked Klause.
"Will find," said Klause. 
            Back at the palace, King Omicron clutched the arms of his throne so tightly, his knuckles turned white. "What do you mean you haven't had any luk?" he shouted. "This isn't a game! The welfare of the kingdom is at stake!"
"I know that, Your Majesty," said Sir Clooney. "We will not rest until we have aptured the ulprit."
"I assume you are looking in the Forest of Spells?"
Sir Clooney's beard shuddered. "The Forest of Spells? Your Majesty, I hardly think..."
"That's the problem! You hardly think! No one hardly thinks around here! I order you to send knights into the forest at dawn tomorrow! And send them to the Village of the Muddletongues as well. They're a sneaky lot. Who knows what they've been up to?"
Sir Clooney bowed. "Yes, Your Majesty," he said.
After he left, Princess Rho came into the throne room.
"Papa," she said. "No one has seen Wordsworth. Do you know where he is? I'm worried about him."
The king sighed. When he spoke his voice was much softer than before. "You have no idea where he went, my dear?"
"Well..." she said. "One of my maids saw him talking to a servant in the ourtyard the morning the letter was stolen. Perhaps if we ask her..."
"I will have someone question the servants," King Omicron said. "Don't fret, my dear. We will find young Wordsworth."
Two hours later, Princess Rho's lady-in-waiting, Lady Craddish, came to her room to tell her the news. "The stable boy saw Wordsworth walking through town yesterday morning with Phrasia."
Lady Craddish said Phrasia's name in a hushed tone, and Princess Rho knew why. Some of the ladies thought Phrasia was a witch. They said she made magic potions in her cottage at the edge of the woods. They were always talking about the strange ring she wore -- a ring with a grayish white stone splashed with broad bands and swirls of deep orange.
            "Your father sent a rider to Phrasia's ottage," Lady Craddish continued, "but no one was there. The king thinks Wordsworth may have gone into the Forest of Spells to look for the missing letter."
Princess Rho's stomach flip-flopped in a most unpleasant manner.
"Oh dear, Your Highness," said Lady Craddish. "You've gone quite pale." She helped the princess sit down. "Now, now, please don't worry," she said, patting Princess Rho's hand. "Your father is sending the knights into the forest. I'm sure they will find Wordsworth. Do you want me to get your mother for you?"
"No, thank you," said Princess Rho. "I'll be fine."
After Lady Craddish left, the princess went to her window. In the distance she saw the Forest of Spells, broad and green, stretching up the mountainside. She hated to sit around wishing and hoping and fretting. She had heard terrible things about the forest. Wordsworth could be in grave danger. And as for Phrasia being a witch...
"That does it," said the princess.
Her spaniel, Bracket, whined nervously. Princess Rho picked up a little bell and rang it. Lady Craddish hurried in.
"Are you all right, Your Highness?"
"I think so, Lady Raddish."
Lady Craddish raised one eyebrow. Princess Rho felt herself blushing.
"No matter, Your Highness," said the lady-in-waiting. "We all have our burdens to bear."
"I am tired," the princess continued. "I am going to lie down. Please see that I am not disturbed."
"Yes, Your Highness."
When Lady Craddish was gone, Princess Rho crossed the room to a large jewelry box that sat on her dressing table. Using a little gold key, she opened the jewelry box and took out a thin, black book. Placing it on a table near the window, she turned to the page she had marked with a purple ribbon.