Farmboy Jed is in deep trouble with the Fairy Mafia. He’s in debt and his time’s up. Seconds before the Mafia’s retrievers carry out their sworn duty to banish the farmboy into the Haunted Forest, a yard gnome offers Jed a deal; he knows how the scrawny human can get his hands on a butt-load of gold.
“You rescue a Princess!”
And so Jed stalls for more time, intent on finding a Princess to save. Yet in a fairy-tale land, it’s not always easy to find some silly git getting herself kidnapped.
Will Jed find what he needs before the Fairy Mafia returns to take his soul?
The Gnome, The Farmboy, and The Rose
The yard gnome cackled loudly between Jed’s ears. Stupid git. Make a wish—come on—I can turn them all into stone.
The headline splashed across the evening edition of the Goblin Globe read, “Local Pauper to Wed Princess Penelope.” The onionskin newspaper lay in a sprawled, upside-down fan across the worn and termite ridden wooden floor of Farmboy Jed’s one-room shack. Jed could see this clearly from his present position—suspended upside down from his ceiling. His shirt no longer hung over his head and arms, as it had been just recently removed by one of the evening’s guests.
He preferred to look at the fortunes of other poor men because if he looked straight ahead, he’d see the floating feet of the Gotti trio, the city’s most notorious “debt retriever” gang of fairies.
“Whu-whu-whu-wait!” Jed cried out as the two gorgeous blondes with bobbing breasts (which looked a might gravity defying from Jed’s new point of view) spread his legs wide, exposing his most valuable assets.
Uncle Gotti’s tiny wings were nothing but a gray blur to Jed as the roundish, toot-brush mustached fairy moved to a better position so Jed could see him. “I’m afraid the time for mercy is over, dear Jed.” The fairy’s voice was soft, sweet, in a singsong cavity forming way. “With interest, and six false promises, I’m afraid your total owed has reached one-thousand gold pieces.”
The roar of blood whooshing past Jed’s ears deafened him for an instant. He took several deep breaths as he held up (or down, according to perspective) the index finger of his right hand. The Gottis had already taken the left one several months ago. “Uh—excuse me. But did you just say one-thousand?”
Uncle Gotti nodded. Jed could hear the tinkle of tiny annoying fairy bells.
“But my debt was only fifty!”
“Don’t forget our interest. Oh—” Uncle Gotti glanced away from Jed. He could only imagine the brutish fairy had looked at his nieces. “You should never have professed your ability to find the shard of some great deity with promises that it would redeem your debt. Oh really Jed—and that ridiculous claim that the Elves over in Glenwood Glade held a secret talisman capable of granting magic.” He chuckled and held onto the straining belt about his middle. “‘Twas the Prince who found the treasures, and you—Farmboy Jed—brought back the ridiculous statue of a gnome?”
There were several snorts and a bullhorn laugh. If there was one thing Jed had learned during his brief (very brief) dalliance with a Gotti daughter, it was that beauty truly did run skin deep. Matilda and Mattie—the two buxom blondes who now traced their razor sharp nails up and down his exposed chest and moving ever closer to his jewels—had voices like grinding metal, and sharp, Trenton New Jersey accents to boot. And their laughter—
Well, he was sure he could somehow find a nice and willing Wizard that could conjure him in another set of back teeth. That is—if he didn’t lose his skin—which was the standard price for debts these days.
“You couldn’t even steal a babe from its cradle for the Elves, Jed.”
Well, it wasn’t like stealing children was a common occurrence nowadays, right? Changelings did not come cheap, and more humans were affording better security systems. Stealing children from cribs had become an all out specialty skill and not something any upstanding citizen did in today’s politically correct climate. Though the pay if one was successful was astronomical.
“But—but the gnome.” He tried to protest, though his tongue swelled with the flood of blood to his head. “It has great powers. The Elves said so!”
“And you trust Elven magic? How do you know that gnome out there isn’t what’s left of the last schmuck who tried to steal from them?” Another round of raucous, porcelain-shattering laughter from the girls, and Jed bit down on his remaining teeth. He did not want to lose those as well. He struggled against the magic curse imprisoning his feet, but there was no escaping. Jed was only a man, a simple human, and subject to the laws and whims of magic.
Which just royally sucked.
He was also getting dizzy from the blood pooling at the top of his skull. With a grunt he looked up (or down, whichever way you look at it) and saw the headlines again.
Lucky pauper. Why couldn’t he have rescued a Princess? Then he’d be marrying rich. He’d be a Prince. And he’d be powerful.
Princesses get kidnapped all the time, right? It was as daily an occurrence as muggings in the city square. Certainly there’s bound to be another one any day now—and then Jed could go and rescue her. They’d marry—and he’d be rich! As a prince, he might even be able to have these criminals (not him of course—he never actually stole the baby now did he?) thrown in the dungeon and not pay them one gold coin.
He dreamed of stringing them up by their pointy little shoes and plucking their wings off one by one.
But wait—would the Gottis give him another chance? No, not with any normal promise of repayment with interest. And they’d never go for another treasure-seeking-quest. And as for enlightenment? Too over-rated.
It’d have to be something special—something they couldn’t take by force. He couldn’t think of anything he had that valuable.
Jed wasn’t sure if it was delirium brought on by the blood filling his brain or by the thought of being disemboweled by buxom blondes, but he gasped inwardly as his mouth spat out “Wait! Give me a week and if I don’t deliver the gold, you can have my—”
He managed to slap his hands over his mouth before he spat out something he’d regret—he couldn’t believe he’d been about to offer them that!
The yard gnome’s voice rang in his head. Oh come on…you don’t really need it now do you?
Jed kept his jaw firmly clamped down.
“What?” Uncle Gotti was interested.
“Oou—” He pulled at his lower jaw hard, but some invisible force seemed to be attempting to work his mouth for him. He fought it so that his words came out as mere sounds. “Ooy can ‘ave my—ahhtttnnj.”
Argh! Stop that! Let my tongue go! He railed at his inner conscience. How could it make such a bargain? The mere thought was preposterous. You can’t give them that! Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and then I’m exiled to the Haunted Forest to be a rotting corpse for all eternity!
Jed continued to clamp both hands over his mouth as the Gottis stared at him with wide, almost frightened eyes. And who could blame them? He was arguing with himself.
“Jed? What is it you’ll trade?” Uncle Gotti leaned in closer.
Jed’s vision blurred. He really needed to be upright so he could think straight—but that wasn’t going to happen till the Gottis let him go.
Oh just say it. If your plan works, then it won’t matter now will it?
But Jed thought back. “And if there is no plan? Dude—you’re talking about me giving up my—”
Jed’s momentary need to argue with the gnome’s voice was enough of a distraction for his tongue to free itself. His jaw released his tongue long enough for him to spit out “Soul!”
No! Jed slapped his hands to the sides of his face.
Come on…the Elves didn’t lie—not really. You could always let me grant you that wish.
Uncle Gotti clapped his hands. “Ah, Jed. Well done. Well done. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to our business today. Darlings…” he waved his hand.
Jed felt the binding curse on his ankles release just before he fell on his head.
“Now,” Uncle Gotti was saying. “I have by my watch that it’s Sunday evening at five’o clock and a half—”
“Five thirty—” croaked Jed from the floor.
“—so by next Sunday at this time, if you’ve not produced the amount of one-thousand gold pieces, the price becomes your soul. We have a deal?”
Still rubbing his knocked noggin, Jed looked up to see Uncle Gotti’s tiny outstretched hand. The fairy’s entire palm would fit inside Jed’s human-sized one. I could snap it off like a twig, he thought as he took the fairy’s hand in his.
Burrs abruptly sprang up through Uncle Gotti’s skin and stuck hard into Jed’s. The Farmboy yelled out and pulled his hand away, the inside of his palm covered in tiny dots of blood.
Uncle Gotti gave him a ‘tsk-tsk’ noise before waggling a finger at him. “Naughty thoughts, Jed. Naughty thoughts. But—” he smiled and his tooth-brush mustaches bristled out and up. “The deal is in blood, thanks to those thoughts. Matilda. Mattie. Let us enjoy the rest of our evening.” He held out his arms as his “nieces” flittered over to him.
I’m not sure those women are really related to him, Jed thought as he watched them fly over his prone body and out through the glass-less window.
Nah, ya think? The gnome’s tone was more than sarcastic.
“Oh screw you. This is all your fault.” Jed grabbed up his shirt from the floor and clasped it around his prickled right hand. His head ached from tasting too much of his blood and he stumbled more than walked to the window. The moon lowered over the kingdom, just as the sun was yanked up and out of sight with a squelch.
Pixies twinkled like glitter in the half-darkness. Luckily the gnome was pixie proof; otherwise the little buggers would be all in his house tearing holes in the wood.
If only I’d replaced it with a fairy-proof yard-gnome.
The gnome mooned him.
Jed leaned against the window frame. The wood creaked.
The yard gnome pivoted in the dirt just outside the window. Where are you gonna find a kidnapped princess? I still think you should let me grant you that wish. I only get to do the one, and if you never make yours, I can’t make mine!
“No,” Jed shook his head and then grabbed the window frame with both hands when his vision blurred again. “I might be poor but I’m not stupid (okay—not most of the time). Uncle’s right—I don’t really trust Elven magic, nor a statue that disappears in the middle of the night.”
I do not.
But Jed had had enough. “Just zip it. I don’t trust you.”
And I should trust you? You tried to steal a baby.
“That was—well—I was desperate.” Jed frowned. “I’m still desperate.”
Make a wish.
Jed eyed the gnome’s shadow. “I’m not that desperate. I just know if something as freaky as you grants me a wish, it can’t be good. Don’t be so bothersome,” he scowled. “Tomorrow’s Monday. There’s bound to be some stupid git kidnapped in the paper first headline.”
* * *
But on Monday morning, there was no stupid git listed as being kidnapped. Nor was there one on Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, there wasn’t even so much as a house invasion.
It was as if the entire kingdom had suddenly put itself on its best behavior.
Wednesday night, Jed sat at his single table with a single candle burning to light the single-room shack. He clutched at the nub of his left index finger and stared out at the Pixies as they bashed into the magical shield protecting the house.
Less than four days before the Gottis came back and took his soul.
You desperate enough now? The yard gnome’s silhouette became pronounced in the light of the round full moon. The thing hadn’t been there a moment ago, gone again and off to whatever it was yard gnomes do in the moonlight.
“No.” Jed folded his arms over his chest. “I’ll give it another day. Should be a kidnapping the morning.”
But there wasn’t. And none by that afternoon. No evil sorcerer or magician, not even a wicked witch. Where the hell had all the villains gone?
Seemed the gnome knew. Found out what’s up with the lack of serious villainy. It’s Villain’s week.
Yeah, something the High King instituted about a year ago—gives the villains a week off every year, and gives heroes and the like time to spend with their families. Everyone’s at the beach. The gnome pivoted again from his position outside the shack. Vacation. Kidnappings probably won’t resume till next week. Monday morning for sure—they’ll be loads of them.
Vacation? Jed shook his head. “Monday will be too late. I won’t have a soul by then.”
‘Fraid so, Jed old boy. Now are you desperate? Care to make that wish?
“No,” Jed paced the shack. “I can’t. You’ll mess it up somehow.”
No I won’t. Just try it. Why would I mess this up when my own happiness depends on you?
He narrowed his eyes at the gnome. “How exactly does that work? You keep saying you’ll get your wish if I get mine. What kind of wish-giving-enchanted thing are you?”
Let’s just say I’m one of a kind. The gnome shrugged its ceramic shoulders. The brown cap on his head shifted to the right. Make a wish, and I’ll give you your heart’s desire.
Uh-oh. Jed took a step back. “My heart’s desire, huh? I’m not sure you’re being vague enough here.”
The gnome did a mental shrug. That’s all I can say.
With a scowl, Jed nodded. “Then I have to phrase this just right.” He cleared his throat. “I wish—uh—I wish to be—no—I wish uh to have—no, no, no.”
I wish you’d get your act together. For crying out loud, wish something.
“I wish I was powerful.”
There seemed to be a pause in the morning. The birds ceased to chirp. Even the rise of the sun seemed suspended.
Then, Is that it?
Jed pursed his lips together. He nodded. Then he shrugged. “Yeah…that’s it.”
It’s awfully broad.
“Well, I figure if I was powerful, then I could stop the Gottis from taking my soul, see? And I’d no longer be slave to the whims of magical meanness. It stinks being a human in a magical realm. Everyone else has magic. Elves, trolls, wizards, fairies. It’s better to be a magical creature.”
The gnome looked pensive. Not sure I can agree with you there. But, to each his own. Simply put, you don’t want to be a victim anymore.
With a tap on his chin with the stub of his left finger, Jed nodded. “Yeah, that’s it.”
Hoo-kay. Your wish is granted.
Instantly there was scream. And then a roar.
“Is that it?” Jed looked around the shack, expecting something to come crashing down at him.
Uh—yeah. You better go get it.
Jed did just that. He ran out of the door, grabbing up the sword he fashioned from tin on Monday evening, and raced down the path. The scream came again, and Jed turned in the direction of the Enchanted Mountains.
An hour later, and nearly out of breath, Jed reached the top of a ledge. A cave mouth yawned open before him. It was dark inside, like the blackness of a tomb that spoke of danger and bravery. Inside was his destiny—to save a princess and become a Prince.
It felt dangerous. It reeked of doom.
And it smelled like—
The scream came again from inside the cave mouth. Jed felt bravado fill his chest and he thrust it out as he bellowed. “I’m coming to save you!”
Once inside, the world took on a whole different look.
Chintz draperies of red and gold hung from the cave’s walls, woven in and out with pink roses and gold rope with tasseled ends. The floor turned from rock and sand to shiny hard woods, polished to a slippery finish—which of course with Jed’s momentum arrival speed sent Jed sliding forward on his backside to the back of the cave.
Lighted candles glittered from gilded mirrors on every wall and off of gold encrusted furniture. The place was a veritable gold mine!
But what caught his attention next was the sight of a fifty-foot dragon towering over him in the back of the cave. Its maw was open, showing very large, very white, and very sharp teeth. It batted about a large, white hanky in its left, taloned hand as it—screamed?
No way. Jed scrambled to a standing position and then held out his sword in front of him. So—the dragon was the one screaming?
From what? The hulking monster abruptly did a little dance, banging its enormous taloned feet on the hard wood. Jed was afraid the thing was going to crack the finish if it wasn’t careful.
“You there!” the dragon hissed at him. “Kill it!”
“Me?” Jed looked around. Dragons talked? Sure they shot fire, flew in the sky, and sometimes kidnapped maidens. But spoke. “Kill what?”
“That!” it shrieked and pointed to something to the right of Jed.
He turned and nearly toppled over with surprised laughter.
A tiny, white mouse with dark shades over its eyes stood on its hind feet. It was making faces at the dragon.
This was nuts.
Jed lowered his sword. “You’re afraid of this mouse?” He had to shout a bit to be heard over the dragon’s sobs.
The dragon nodded. “Yes! Please! Get rid of it! I’ll give you your fondest wish!”
Ah-ha! There it was. Though in the odd packaging of a dragon? Well, who was he to argue with destiny? Jed turned to the mouse.
The mouse whipped around, saw Jed advancing with his sword brandished, squealed once and then ran off out of the cave mouth. Jed chased after it and saw it launch itself off the ledge.
Oh no. He moved to the side to see if the thing had gone splat on the rocks below. His stomach wasn’t as squeamish when he saw it scrambling down the rocks to the valley beyond.
Jed turned and found himself face-to-face with the dragon’s head.
“Yow!” He took a step back and found himself tittering on the edge of the ledge. The dragon reached out and scooped him up, turned, and walked them back into the cave mouth.
“Oh, I’m so happy, and so thankful,” said the dragon. “My name is Rose. And you are?”
“J-Jed, ma’am.” He narrowed his eyes at the dragon. This was a girl? Then he looked at all the gold and pink. Well, maybe so. “I’m happy to be of help.”
“Not many knights would venture into the Enchanted Mountain to help an aging dragon, mind you.” She set him down beside a small, golden couch. The furniture was the size of a human, much too small for a dragon. “Please, have some tea.”
“Uh, no thanks,” he could smell the tea from the gold encrusted tea service which appeared magically on the coffee table. His stomach rumbled. When was the last time he’d eaten? “I really need to go—so as for my reward—”
“Oh yes, yes, of course. Your heart’s desire, well you’ll need to—”
“Ma’am. Miss Rose,” Jed waved up at her, still not sure he wasn’t going to be become a crunchy snack. “Please, I’d be happy with some gold. You have so much of it—maybe two thousand pieces?” He smiled, and thought himself quite clever, doubling the price of his soul’s ransom.
But Rose shook her head. “I can give you all the gold you wish, brave knight,” she sighed. “But this is dragon’s gold, and once it leaves the edges of the Enchanted Mountain, it turns to dust and forgotten dreams.”
Jed lowered his shoulders.
“But perhaps there is something else,” Rose spoke up and Jed looked at her. “If you give me a kiss—”
“What?” Jed took a step back and nearly tripped over the couch. “Kiss you?”
“Why yes,” Rose looked almost hurt and she leaned in close. Her eyes were the colors of a sunset. The ends of her mouth turned up in a smile. “Then I could give you your heart’s desire.”
“Uh,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re not like…a woman turned into a dragon are you? Like if I kiss you, you turn into a rich princess?”
Rose shook her head.
“A rich Prince?” Though the image of a nelly prince didn’t exactly excite Jed in the right way, he did consider the complications for a second. A very brief second.
Rose shook her head again. “Neither. I was born a dragon, and I will die as one. The last of my kind. But I must repay you somehow for your kindness.”
Well, he couldn’t take the gold, and if he kissed the dragon (ewwwghhhh) she wouldn’t turn into a rich princess either. So—what could he ask for a reward?
What can a dragon do?
Fly. Blow smoke and fire.
And— “Kidnap a princess!”
“Excuse me?” Rose moved back from him.
Jed looked up at her, excitement making his heart pound. “That’s it! I need gold to pay off my debt to the Gottis. You can kidnap a princess and she’ll reward me with marriage. I’ll be rich!”
Rose looked troubled. She put her huge sheet-sized handkerchief to her chin. “You want me to kidnap a princess. Well, I know it’s been done though the last one to attempt such a fiendish thing ended up stuffed and mounted in Prince Charming’s living room.” She looked skeptical.
“But I’m not Prince Charming—and I’ll only pretend to slay you to rescue the princes.”
“Uhm—” She shook her head. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s such a dirty business.”
“Look,” Jed said as he slid his tin sword into his string belt. “All you have to do is kidnap a princess. Tie her up and then I’ll come rescue her. We’re square and I can pay off my debt.”
Rose seemed to think this through. “Wouldn’t it be better if you just kissed me?”
Ew. No. Jed shook his head. “Please? For my reward?”
With a resigned sigh, Rose agreed. “Sure. When and who?”
Hrm. Good question. There were several princesses in the area—so he’d have to be selective as to whom. In this instance, he had a choice, unlike the other schmucks who had to go with what was given.
And if he had to choose a wife, he’d choose the High King’s daughter, Princess Vixennia. Beautiful. And rich.
When he told Rose his choice, she looked pinched. “Are you sure? I think her heart’s desire lies with another.”
“I don’t care. Look, you just snatch her up, do your thing and I’ll pretend to wound you. Okay?”
Rose nodded in agreement, and they set the time and place. Midnight tonight. In a cave near the foot of the Haunted Forest.
It all seemed so right.
When Jed arrived home, there was no sign of the yard gnome.
* * *
The kidnap went according to Jed’s plan. Apparently Princess Vixennia took midnight strolls for clandestine rendezvous with a forbidden love in a brown hat. Rose snatched her up and then carried her back to the cave. There, she bound the princess and tossed her in the back of the cave then sent up the signal (a brief flame flare) to let Jed know she’d done her part of the bargain.
Jed wanted to wait till morning, to let the news of the princess’ capture reach the Goblin Globe. Had to make sure it was on the front page for posterity.
But when he reached the cave, no one was there.
Jed ran all the way to the back of the cave. He found cut rope, and a knotted cloth. Okay, bindings here. But where was the princess?
And where was Rose?
He heard trumpets from the city. Jed’s heart sank. No…it can’t be. He turned and ran as fast as he could back to the gates. The banners of the king’s standard were flying in the breeze. People were lined up along the cypress planted path.
And there, in the center, was a very unhappy looking Princess and beside her, atop a white stallion, was a man in shining armor.
No! No, no, no! Jed started stamping the ground. But where was Rose? What had he done with Rose? Jed ran up to he nearest peasant. “Ma’am, what happened here?”
“Oh, it was so loverly, sir, ” the woman had no front teeth, and a huge mole on the end of her nose. “A big scarlet dragon came and took away the Princess—but Prince Charming here—he rescued her ya see, and now they’re to be wed—”
“But the dragon,” Jed panted. “Where’s the dragon?”
“Oh, it’s been put into the castle dungeon, it has.” She spat on the ground. “Foul creatures. Wanting nothing more than the spoils of kidnapping such a fine lady. The king’ll put it death, he will. Mark my words. Evil creatures—don’t deserve to live if you ask me.” And she bent her head and sent out a cackle that raised the hairs on the back of Jed’s neck.
He kicked her cane out from under her. “I didn’t.”
* * *
It took a few tight turns and twists, but Jed remembered the old passageways into the dungeons. He’d used them once or twice in his youth, before he’d tried to go on the straight and good path.
Too bad that path had sent him straight back into breaking and entering.
He found Rose in one of the larger cells. She was still too big to fit in properly, so it looked as if she’d been stuffed in, back end first, with her snout sticking out. Large, horse sized manacles encircled her wrists and neck, and she was chained to the floor and walls.
She looked miserable.
A group of the king’s guards sat in a circle nearby, playing a game or two of Go Fish. Jed moved quietly along the side until he was right up beside Rose’s eye.
“Jed?” came Rose’s snort.
“Shhhhh!” He nearly had a cow right there at the sound of her voice. He glanced around to the side of the cell opening and made sure the guards hadn’t moved.
They looked as if they hadn’t heard anything.
“Jed—no one can hear me but you,” Rose said in a calming voice.
That’s when he realized the voice of the dragon was in his head—just like the voice of the gnome. “Uh,” he turned and faced her eye. “Right. Didn’t know that.”
She sighed, and slight bit of black smoke came from her nostrils. “I’m afraid I sort of botched it.”
“Well I fell asleep,” she said. “Little miss spoiled was in the back of the cave, twitching and turning, and making all sort of racket into that gag, so I set up some nice chamomile incense—you know—to soothe things a bit. And well,” Rose focused her eye on Jed. “I sort of fell asleep myself.”
“And that’s how Prince Charming captured you.”
“I’m afraid so. Woke up and I was the one in chains. So,” she blinked at him. “They’re going to kill me in the morning. Oh Jed, I’m so sorry.”
He leaned against her. “Why are you sorry? I got you into this. Me and my greed.” Well, not just greed, bub. “And the need to save my soul. I just wanted to be powerful, you know? To not be stepped on all the time—to be something more.”
“Is that it?” Rose’s voice sounded incredulous.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Then kiss me.”
Jed shook his head. “Ick. I can’t do that, Rose.”
“Why not? Am I that ugly?”
Jed looked at her. “No—it’s just that I’m supposed to get a reward, aren’t I? I mean, the gnome said he’d fulfill my heart’s desire.”
“Then kiss me!”
There was a noise at the end of the hall. He could hear the sound of marching feet. “It thinks someone’s coming. I think it’s the guards to kill you.”
“It’s my last wish!” She looked pleadingly at him.
Well, she had tried to help him, though he could tell the poor creature didn’t have a violent bone in her body. She was a nice dragon, as far as dragons went, and she hadn’t eaten him.
“You won’t eat me?”
“The Gottis are taking your soul—would it really matter now?”
He gulped. He guessed not. With a backward glance at the hallway and the approaching march of feet, Jed took a deep breath, closed his eyes and kissed the dragon.
“On the lips, you git.”
He moved out and repeated his action, and kissed Rose on the lips.
His world pitched forward, and then backward as he felt his body explode beneath him, and then move to fill the space where he stood. He could hear screams in the distance.
What was all the ruckus about?
Abruptly his vision cleared and he was looking down at the guards, who were all looking up at him, their eyes wide and their mouths gaping.
“Handsome! You’re so handsome!”
Jed turned to see Rose—only she was looking up at him.
“Dragon! Two dragons!” shouted the guards and they were running here and there along the floor beneath Jed’s feet. He drew back on his hind legs—hind legs!— and watched them go.
“Darling!” Rose said in a very sexy voice. “Please—can you free me so we can get out of here?”
Jed looked back down at Rose. She was still tethered to the floor and walls. With ease he tore the chains away and broke the manacles, and then he helped pull her out of the cell, her lower half coming out with an audible “pop.”
“What happened?” Jed was saying as Rose dusted herself off. He heard the crunch of something brittle and looked down to see he’d stepped on a few guards. Ew. “What did you do to me?”
“You’re a dragon!” Rose clapped her hands together. “Oh, I finally got my wish. I’ve kissed so many toads in my day, and they’ve all been toads. But I’d never thought to kiss a human,” she shook her head. “Who knew?”
“But, but,” he looked own at his own blue and green scales. He was also aware of how attractive Rose suddenly was. “I don’t want to be a dragon!”
“But the Gottis can’t touch you like this,” Rose said with a long talon pointing at the dungeon ceiling. “Think about it. No one can touch you—ever again. You’re powerful.”
He thought about the cave he’d found her in, and about the gold. It was dragon gold but hey…it was still gold. “And I’m rich.”
Something stung on his left hip. Jed looked down to see Prince Charming sticking a spear into it. He looked over at Rose. “Will this last? I mean, I won’t turn back into a human just yet?”
“No,” Rose looked hopeful. “You don’t want too, do you?”
Jed looked back down at the Prince and with little more than a belch, set the Prince’s robes and hair on fire. The little man went screaming down one of the dungeon tunnels. He looked back over at Rose. “Nah. But let’s get back over to my place.” He looked own at the still missing finger of his left hand. “I have a score to settle.”
* * *
On Monday morning Jed sat beside a simple breakfast of dragon kibble and mulled wine with a copy of the early edition of The GoblinGlobe. He read aloud to Rose the tragic torching of Farmboy Jed’s shack on Harmony Hill, another fiery event just on the heels of the drastic dragon escape of Saturday night. Two dragons, reportedly from the Enchanted Mountains, ravaged the castle grounds during their escape. Princess Vixennia was missing, and Prince Charming has declared an all out hunt to find the dragons—but only after his hair grows back out.
Rose clapped her hands. “How exciting.” Her eyes gleamed a brilliant gold. “Read the Nosey Nettle column on page three. It’s very interesting.”
Jed flipped the oversized onionskin edition and glanced at the headline. “Oh ho! The King’s Wizard is perplexed over two yard gnomes reportedly seen appearing and disappearing in the palace gardens,” Jed blinked. “A witness claims one of the gnomes resembles Princess Vixennia.”
“I told you the princess’ heart belonged to another.”
He stared at her incredulously. “So, the yard gnome was having an affair with the princess? That’s where he was going every night? To see her?”
Rose patted his green and blue scaled knee. “That was how I was able to catch the princess. Oh I love happy endings—even if they are a little out of the norm.”
Jed agreed. As for Uncle Gotti and his nieces, Jed glanced up at the ceiling at the new three-globe chandelier, at the tiny lights flittering about each of the globes. Every now and then, with his new super dragon ears, he could hear the Gotti fairies screaming to be set free with promises of fame and fortune.