Chapter Fifteen: Biffendear’s
Hillary and Windslow ignored the wizards’ protests and stepped inside Biffendear’s cottage. Molly, Tillie and Nelly sat side by side on a table in the center of the room. Three scowling faces and three pairs of folded arms greeted Hillary and Windslow. Nelly deepened her scowl, pinched her lips together and turned her head.
Molly stared at Hillary, but her face softened when she looked at Windslow.
"No like-a wizards," Tillie said and picked up two glass beakers that sat next to her. "Big bully mosa time. Alla time." She poured the blue liquid from one beaker into the pink liquid in the other and set both bottles down.
"It okay, though," Molly said. "Hillre and Windso nice. We help anyway, but not wizard."
"It’s Windslow," Windslow said. "And we’re all going to need to work together. I’ve got a feeling it might take more than just us to fix things around here. Nelly, I don’t think you should be playing with that stuff."
"She not Nelly, she Tillie," Molly said. "Tillie twin with orange hair. Tillie that one," she said and pointed to her sister who jumped down from the table and skipped across the floor to a broad desk bounded by shelves at the end of the room.
The desk drawers stood half open and overstuffed. Papers, books, big and small clay pots, bits of bone and things Windslow couldn’t identify littered the top. Multi-colored jars, some with liquids, some with coarse powder, others with chunky things suspended in fluid, filled the shelves. Tillie grabbed an orange jar that matched the color of her hair and unscrewed the lid.
"Ah, Tillie," Windslow said, but gave up. The girl started dropping pinches of different colored powders into the jar.
"I think we should just leave everything alone," Hillary said. "Windslow, keep an eye on things. I’ll go get your wizards."
"They’re not mine," Windslow said over his shoulder as his sister walked back out the door.
Windslow ignored the girls, except for an occasional glance he gave to Molly who stayed on the workbench and kept staring at him. He had always wanted a chemistry set. The tools and glass beakers on the table intrigued him too. He walked around the table and poked at a couple pots, lifted the lid from a carved wooden box and twisted the knob of a brass tube that looked like a gas burner. He followed the rubber hose to a copper tank under the table. Stamped into the bright metal were the words, "Hippograff Gas".
A small bed, littered with more papers, and wadded up blankets sat against the back wall, close to the middle of the wall where a wooden ladder stretched up to a trap door in the ceiling. Windslow figured that must have been the door Hillary mentioned.
Something moved under one of the blankets and Windslow took a step back.
"That just-a leaper," Molly said.
Windslow looked over his shoulder. He felt a bit uneasy knowing she was still watching him. Carefully Windslow pulled the blanket back and a large bullfrog jumped off the small bed. Two more hops and it disappeared out a three inch square opening cut in the back wall. Windslow heard the "plop" when the frog landed into the water.
He looked carefully and saw more little openings cut at regular intervals all around the cottage.
Tillie put the cover back on the jar she had been playing with and shook it up. When she put the jar back on a shelf, a salamander scooted out of the way, dropped to the desk, then to the floor and scurried out a hole.
A rustling overhead caught Windslow’s attention. Two long beams and a couple of square planks held up the roof. Small bags, bigger pouches and bundles of dried plants hung from them. One moved and Windslow watched a toad wiggle under a nest of wet moss on one of the beams. A rubber tube ran from the nest up to the roof. Windslow wondered if mist from the falls could reach far enough to drip water down and keep the moss damp. He saw more tubes at other spots in both the ceiling and walls. They all led to small dishes, some half full of water, others filled with moss like the nest on the roof beams.
Windslow jumped and spun around.
"Windso kind-a cute," Molly said, looking at Nelly. Molly held a wooden ladle. A copper pot hinging above her head rocked back and forth. She gave it another small tap.
"He mostly ugly," Nelly answered back. "You get him."
"No way," Molly protested. "He mine."
"Now!" Hillary’s voice sounded from the doorway.
Windslow and the three Sallyforth sisters all turned their heads.
"They’re impossible," Hillary said and shook her head as she marched back inside the cottage. The three Wizards walked single file, close behind her. Hillary looked at her brother and shot glances at all three girls. "And leave all that stuff alone!" She hollered.
Even Windslow jumped. The triplets put down whatever they were holding and folded their hands.
"Now," Hillary continued. "We are going to work together. Aren’t we," she said and looked at the three wizards. Haggerwolf nodded, Fernbark blushed and Larkstone studied his boots. "Agreed?" she said, just as loud and looked at each of the triplets.
Molly nodded and grinned. "Yep. I biggest friend of Hillre."
"Me too," Tillie said.
"I not work-a them no matter what," Nelly said.
"Nelly," Hillary said, her voice very stern. "I mean all of us."
"I be big problem. And, that no promise," Nelly said. She shrunk down, as if trying to be a turtle and pull her head out of sight.
"She gave you her word," Haggerwolf said. He moved to a pile of books stacked under one of the amber-glass windows and used them as a stool.
"She’s lying," Larkstone said and sat cross-legged on the floor under the other window.
"No lies," Hillary said and looked back at Nelly.
"You don’t understand," Fernbark said and sat down between the other two wizards. "That’s what’s so hard about working with them; among other things."
Windslow checked the bed before sitting down. "I don’t have a clue about what any of you are saying."
"It easy, Windso," Molly said and gave Windslow a wink that made him blush. "I Molly Folly. She Tillie Truly," she said pointing at her orange haired sister. "And she Nelly Never. We alla Sallyforth."
"What she’s saying," Haggerwolf said, "is one of them always tells the truth. One sometimes tells the truth but not all the time. The other one always lies."
"You always lie," Hillary said. She stepped close to Nelly Never and squeezed the girl’s hand.
"I not try help you much," Nelly said and squeezed back.
"And you always tell the truth," Hillary said looking over at Tillie.
"And you," Hillary said and gave Molly a big hug. "That explains a lot of things about you knowing and not knowing the way out of Fistlock’s dungeon."
"Yep. I alla time biggest help. Bigger than ever-body else," Molly said. "Now I help Windso too."
"Wow, cool," Windslow said, then shut up when all three wizards rolled their eyes.
"It’s more than just that," Haggerwolf said. "There’s also-"
"We don’t need to go into that," Hillary said, cutting Haggerwolf off. She boosted herself up on the workbench next to Molly. "Now one of you was going to tell us about the oracle. Who wants to start," she said and looked at Haggerwolf.
"Well, it was this way," he began.
All three wizards jumped in at different times to tell about how the combined armies couldn’t stop the last Gorlon. It was unstoppable, with weapons or magic. The wizards’ council consulted the mountain oracle several times, but the number of questions the oracle would answer had a limit. While the generals prepared for the final attack, the wizards met with the oracle to ask their last question. Haggerwolf had led the group and gave instructions as the last surviving wizards assembled around the pond the oracle appeared from.
"I told them all to think of what our last question might be and just how we could phrase it," Haggerwolf said as he looked at Fernbark. "The wording is very important. You have to ask a single question and the oracle answers. I said that one of us must think of a question that would lead to a way to stop the Gorlon."
"Your exact words," Larkstone said, "were, ‘there must be a way to stop it.’ Fernbark mumbled something under his breath. The next thing we saw was him stiffen up and turn all silvery. The oracle settled back into the pond and Fernbark collapsed."
Haggerwolf interrupted. "The idiot had asked a question without even thinking about the consequences. The oracle took it as our last one and gave him an answer directly into his brain."
"I think Molly is right," Hillary scolded. "You especially, Haggerwolf, are rude and cranky."
"So what did you say and what was the message, Larkstone?" Windslow asked.
"It wasn’t much of a message, really," Larkstone answered. "I just muttered that I wished I knew someone that could save us. I got my answer. We kept going over it and over it again, trying to figure it out. The oracle said:
False hopes unsealed,
The truth revealed,
Uncertainty that yields.
With these three, the son of the summer storm and daughter of the mountain breeze will restore Gabendoor.
"The first part has to be those three," Haggerwolf said as he pointed at the Sallyforth triplets.
"Son of the summer storm has got to be you," he said pointing at Windslow. "And Hillary is the daughter of the mountain breeze. It all came together when you found the Book of Second Chances."
"We gonna help save ever-body," all three sisters said at the same time.
Hillary started to laugh but stopped when the flask Tillie had been playing with began to bubble. The air filled with the smell of sauerkraut and purple smoke streamed up from the bottle.
"Duck!" Fernbark yelled.
The girls jumped from the table and scooted back under it, just as the three wizards dove for the same spot. Heads clunked together and curses mixed in with screaming. Tillie ducked under the desk. Windslow tried to crawl under the bed, but the space was full of wood crates and more clay pots. He grabbed the biggest crock and held it over his head.
Windslow’s ears rang and he yanked the crock off his head. Frogs jumped, salamanders slithered and toads hopped everywhere; each leaper heading for the nearest escape. Tillie’s hair stuck out at even odder angles than before. Haggerwolf stood up and slapped at his smoldering whiskers. Hillary, Molly, Nelly, and the other two wizards crawled out from under the table.
Other than purple soot that fell like tiny snowflakes, Haggerwolf’s beard, and Tillie’s hair, everything looked undamaged.
"That’s what I was talking about outside!" Haggerwolf said. "I told you— Duck!" He yelled again. Everyone scrambled back to where they took shelter before. Windslow grabbed another pot, thought about his last experience and just spread himself flat on the floor. The jar Tillie had mixed and shook up, began rattling on the shelf above the desk. It pulsed with greenish light as if it held a thousand angry fireflies. The metal lid unscrewed and flung itself across the room like a wild Frisbee and clanged against the far wall. A grapefruit smell filled the room as yellow confetti blasted from the jar. Each tiny piece of paper turned into a pink butterfly and in a steady flutter of wings they flew out the door.
Haggerwolf poked his head up. "Did anyone fool with anything else?" he half shouted.
Two no’s and one yep, were the answers he was looking for from the Sallyforth triplets.
"I bang a pot," Molly said as she stood. "But that don’t count."
Everyone else slowly got back up. Hillary flinched when Windslow kicked a piece of broken pot. "That was so cool," he said softly.
Hillary shot him a stern look which didn’t last. She started a giggle that turned into an all out laugh. Windslow and the sisters joined in. Even Larkstone and Fernbark began laughing. Haggerwolf just "harrumphed," but the corners of his mouth curled up. He turned around and began adjusting his cloak.
"All right," Hillary said and dusted off a spot on the workbench. She boosted herself back up and everyone else sat down as they had before the Sallyforth excitement. "The first thing we need to do is figure out how the book… yawn… works.
"What?" Haggerwolf said and spun around. "But I thought… I thought—"
"You used it to give us a second chance in Dreadmoor Temple," Larkstone said and got to his feet. "You said you knew how to use it, Windslow."
"I’m sorry," Windslow said. "I was bluffing to keep those creatures back. It was the magic you three worked that saved us. I know I’ve worked the book and used a couple chances up already but I really don’t know how I did, yawn… it. We thought you… yawn… wanted to come here because Biffendear figured out how to use the book before he died."
"That’s why we wanted to come here in the first place," Haggerwolf said. "But then we thought you figured it out. Biffendear died just before he could tell us what he discovered."
"This is horrible," Larkstone said and put his head in his hands. "We’re no farther than when we started."
"Not really," Hillary said. She slid down from the table and walked around to sit on the bed beside her brother. "Tell us what happened to Biffendear and maybe it will be a piece of the puzzle that makes the other parts fit… yawn… together better."
"There’s not much to tell," Fernbark said as he scratched his head. "Biffendear stole the book from Fistlock about fifty years ago. Biffendear discovered that Fistlock must have used up all his chances because the book was latched. Biffendear opened it and began experimenting. He cast some sort of leaper spell on the book so Fistlock couldn’t track him."
"Do you know the… yawn… spell?" Hillary asked. "We could use it to keep Fistlock from finding us."
"Biffendear was secretive about most of his work," Haggerwolf said. "We don’t know what he did. He did get words to show up in the book, like you have, Windslow."
"I was here the night he discovered how the book works; the same night he died," Larkstone said. "Biffendear was at his desk, where Tillie’s sitting now. I was standing by the doorway, just about where I am now."
"What happened?" Hillary asked and yawned.
"Biffendear jumped up from his desk and slammed the Book of second chances shut. ‘I’ve got it!’ he yelled and began dancing around. He said, ‘I’ve got it… the three lines. You open the book. Learn the lesson and everything becomes clear.’ Just about then, it happened."
"What happen Biff wizard?" Molly asked.
"Well," Haggerwolf continued. "You know he’s a leaper. He had a potion to save him from spending all his time catching crickets to feed to his toads and frogs. He’d catch a fish and put one little drop on it. The fish would turn into a hundred crickets. He could get five or six crickets out of a big earthworm. He was dancing like mad and the bottle holding his potion fell off the shelf, bounced on the desk and splashed on him."
"You don’t mean…" Hillary said. She squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away.
"Yep," Haggerwolf said. "One second he was standing there. The next second, sticky tongues were flicking out. Toads, frogs, salamanders and creatures I’ve never seen before were all chasing crickets. A minute later he was gone, along with whatever he had discovered."
"Yuck," Windslow said and shuddered.
"Him bug food," Molly said. She was the only one who looked up when a small chirp sounded from outside.
"Gone pretty quick with alla leapers here," Tillie added.
"Bed pretty full," Nelly said. "Not any room for alla us to sleep."
Haggerwolf turned and looked at the empty bed.
A bluebird chirped, louder this time. In a blur of blue wings the bluebird flew through the open cottage door and landed on Molly’s shoulder. Almost as quickly as it had perched, it flew back out the door, buzzing close enough to Haggerwolf’s head that he ducked.
"Good thing Hillre, Windso fall-a sleep an dream-slip home. Gorlon come."
"What?" Haggerwolf said as all three wizards stood. "How long, Molly?"
"Come now; maybe later. Birdie not know. Fistlock set big Gorlon free. No more chain."