Prior to coming to your world—an adventure in itself, transdimensional immigration—most of my adventures happened in books. I thrilled to the accounts of Ollister Pembrick’s forays into the wilderness, his impressive disguisery, and his encounters with wildlife. I did wonder if perhaps he didn’t exaggerate or go a bit overboard. But imagine strolling about in a tree and looking down to realize that there is a whole world beneath your feet, a world wholly apart from all your experiences in town. There is a bit of romance in an adventure like that. It makes me wonder what other worlds exist, right here within our own, if we only had eyes to see them.
From their perch on the tree bridge, the Igibys watched silently as a pack of horned hounds passed through the trees below like a gray fog. When the hounds had gone, the leaves on the forest floor directly beneath the bridge rustled, then the ground bulged like a pot of boiling cheesy chowder. Out from its burrow popped a warty, brown digtoad as big as a goat.2
At the same time, to Leeli’s horror and her brothers’ fascination, an oblivious fazzle dove lighted on the ground not far away, pecking at worms in the dirt. Without warning, the digtoad’s tongue shot out and sklotched the bird into its mouth, leaving a cloud of gray feathers floating in the air where the bird had been.
Leeli squeaked and covered her mouth. The digtoad turned up its black, bulbous eyes and regarded the children for a long, terrible moment. Finally it let out a blatting croak and half-walked, half-hopped away. Just as the sound of the digtoad’s departure faded, a smaller creature with black, matted hair skittered into the area.
“A ratbadger,” Janner whispered to Tink and Leeli.
The ratbadger twitched its large, pointy ears and sniffed around the forest floor until it found the digtoad’s hidden burrow, where it slunk inside without a sound. A moment later, the large rodent appeared with a yellowish egg held carefully in its mouth.3
With what Janner could only assume was an angry croak, the digtoad returned, its tongue darting out as it pursued the fleeing ratbadger.
In seconds, the forest was quiet again. Janner marveled at the way the forest could hide things. It could seem so innocent and harmless, even beautiful, while beneath its surface prowled such ruthless, deadly creatures. Why was so much in Janner’s world not what it seemed? He thought about his mother, about Oskar, then about Peet the Sock Man. They all had secrets.
2The bumpy digtoad has been known to attack humans, though never yet fatally. Victims of a digtoad attack complain of the “squishy, flootchy feeling” of having a sticky tongue violently flapped upon them. Since the bumpy digtoad has no teeth, its bites are said to feel to the victim like being “gummed like a dumpling in an old man’s mouth.”
3The ratbadger is dangerous not just because of its long claws or jagged teeth or because of its feisty disposition. The ratbadger’s greatest weapon is its eggish flatulence.
Discussion: Do you have a friend who gets you into trouble, the way Tink leads Janner into unwise situations?
What would you do if you found a rope bridge in a dangerous forest?
Janner notes here that many of the adults in his life have secrets. We’re still talking about secrets in the forum, and you’re welcome to join us. And speaking of forum conversations, Leeli’s compassion is relevant again this week too.
Challenge: Can you write a Dragon Day poem that doesn’t include the phrase “best of all”? 😉
Recipe: If you’ve got Fang you need to bribe, we’ve got Nia’s maggotloaf recipe right here.