Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 7.3 To Cudgel’s House

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CH. 7.3 To Cudgel’s House
Eli snuck down the cobbled streets of the town, keeping to the darker areas. The waning moon provided enough light to see, so he didn’t need his lantern. Even though he was invisible, he’d discovered that he still had a shadow. Eli was hungry, tired, and cold, but still he kept going. He wished he had brought his coat, with a muffin or two in the pockets. A stray dog sniffed at him and growled, but he kept walking. Two guards trotted up the street riding steel gray war horses, but they rode right past Eli. One of the horses snorted and rolled its eyes at Eli.
“I don’t know why they don’t lock their kids up at night,” said one of the guards. “If Eli was my son, I’d turn him over my knee and give him a tanning he wouldn’t forget.”
“Just you watch, he’ll turn up in his bed in a couple of hours, looking all innocent, with crumbs on his face. All this searching about will have been for nothing.” The hooves clopped down the street.
Eli felt bad. He knew his mother would be crying, but he couldn’t stop now. He had to get his vorpal sword back.
When Eli reached 67 Second Street, he wondered how he would get in. He peeked in through the shutters of the narrow front window. Inside on the rug was a dog roughly the size of a horse. Eli gathered up some pebbles and threw them at the shutters. The dog began to bark – a deep, loud bark that made Eli’s heart hammer.
“Quiet, Mutt,” Cudgel yelled.
The dog continued to bark.
“All right, fine. I’ll let you out, you mangy cur. Why didn’t you go before bedtime?”
Eli heard heavy steps thudding towards the door. He ran up the steps and crouched on the porch by the side of the door.
The door swung open. Eli ducked inside, just as the monstrous brown dog leaped outside, snarling.

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Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 7.2 Another Gift From the Wizard

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Ch. 7.2 Another Gift from the Wizard
Eli continued to creep along the passage of the dungeon. Ten doors down, he came upon a cell with thick metal bars across the front. Inside were the wizard, Colin, and Bernice, the witch. To Eli’s surprise, a glowing ball on the floor lit the small stone room. He wondered if it worked the same as his little magic lantern.
The old man and woman sat together on the narrow bench, looking dirty, hungry, and sorrowful. When they saw him, they straightened up and smiled.
Wizard Colin said, “Ah, Prince Eli, how are you?”
“Your salve worked. Ezra and I are both fine. Thank you for saving our lives.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve brought a key? Or perhaps you’ve brought the good news that the king is going to let us go home?”
“Sorry, no.” Eli frowned. “Why don’t you just use your magic and escape?”
Colin shook his head. “This prison cell has special anti-magic spells forged into it. We can’t get out. Besides, we’ve sworn to only use our magic for good. Unfortunately, upholding the king’s laws is part of that oath, even when it doesn’t have the results we want.”
“Prince Eli, what are you doing in the dungeon?” asked Bernice. “You’ll get into trouble with your father.”
Eli knew it was late. By now his mother would have the servants and guards searching for him. She’d be very upset. And if his father knew he was missing, he’d be furious. But Eli couldn’t quit now.
“Is there anything else you can do for my baby brother? Can you give him another gift?”
Colin dropped his eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry, but nothing can be done. Once the name day gift is given, it’s set.”
Eli’s eyes filled with tears. “But you were able to change the dragon’s curse.”
“That’s because we hadn’t given our gifts yet. We had the power to modify the curse, not to completely undo it.”
“My father is really angry, and my mama cries every day.”
Colin and Bernice looked at each other and then at Eli.
“We are very sorry that the king didn’t like our gifts,” said Bernice. “We did the best we could at the time.”
“You see,” said Colin, “you can’t always help what you say. You open your mind and heart, and then you say what comes to you. Rest assured that someday the gifts given him will help Prince Ezra. That’s all we know. Meanwhile, keep your brother away from swords and assassins.”
Eli felt very discouraged. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”
Colin’s eyes twinkled. “No, but there’s something you can do.”
“Me?”
“Has anyone every told you about your name day? Perhaps you’ve read the account?”
Eli shook his head. “My parents won’t talk about it, and Duncan keeps the records locked up in the library.”
Bernice shook her head. “Books are for reading, not hiding away.”
Colin’s stare was so intense that Eli began to feel a little nervous.
“The Fey queen gave you the gift of invisibility,” Colin said. “Mind you, it doesn’t last more than three hours, and it doesn’t work on animals.”
Bernice nodded. “And I seem to recall that a leprechaun gave you three wishes. Use them wisely.”
Eli’s heart pounded with excitement. “How do I become invisible?”
Colin waved his hand at Eli. “Illusium. There. Now even I can’t see you. Be careful not to make a sound or run into anything. Invisibility will only get you so far. And don’t forget the time.”
“Thank you. I’ll talk to my father for you.”
“We’d appreciate that,” said Bernice. “The queen of Saltonia gave birth to a baby girl last month, and her name day is in two days. We were assigned to be there.”
“I’ll do my best.” Eli slipped away, feeling very dangerous. He was about to go and commit a crime.

 

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 7.1 Into The Dungeon

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Ch. 7.1 Into the Dungeon
Eli followed the guards down into the dark dungeon, which was lit only by smoky torches. The smell was terrible, and his feet slipped a few times where water trickled down the passage. From behind the closed doors on both sides came the sounds of moaning and weeping, sometimes even screaming. Eli’s hair stood up, and his heart pounded, but still he kept going.
Eli ducked from one shadow to the next and watched as Josiah was thrown into a cell. The door slammed shut with an ominous boom, and the keys jangled as the guard locked him in. When the guards had tramped back upstairs, taking their torches with them, Eli was left in the dark.
Eli pulled a small lantern from his pocket – a magic lamp gifted to him by the Gnome Prince on his name day.
“Light,” he whispered.
The tiny light began to glow. Eli held it high and continued down the passageway. The king often commented on how useless some of the name day gifts were, but tonight, Eli found this gift quite helpful.
He knelt at the cell’s door, opened up the little door at the bottom, which was used to slide the food trays in, and peered inside. He felt sorry for the postman, who sat on the floor of his cell, moaning and muttering.
“Excuse me, sir, is there anything I can do for you?”
Josiah shrieked and jumped to his feet, staring wildly around the cell until he saw Eli’s face in the food door opening. “Who are you?”
“I’m Eli, one of the princes. I’m really sorry about what’s happened.”
Josiah groaned. “You and me both.”
“What did your grandfather mean when he talked about that big wind?”
Josiah came over to the door and sat down on a stool nearby. “I don’t know what it was, but the wind came up very suddenly. What Gramps and I didn’t tell the king was that it took three weeks to find all the mail scattered in the bush. But if he says he delivered the invitation to the dragon, he means it. Gramps is very dedicated.”
Josiah sighed. “There is something you can do for me. Go talk to my wife, Betty. We live at 120 First Street – it’s a green house. Tell her not to let Gramps do the Eastern Mountain route. He’ll mess it up just as badly as last time.”
“I will.” Eli thought for a moment. “Where does Cudgel, the Arms Master, live?”
“He’s in the blue house on Second Street. Number 67. Why?”
Eli thought it was a good time to change the subject. “I’ll talk to my father and see if he’ll let you out early.”
Josiah reached through the food door and took Eli’s hand. “Thank you, Prince Eli. You’ve given me hope. I don’t know how, but someday I’ll repay you for your kindness.”
Eli said goodbye and continued down the passageway.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 6.3 Eli Hears Another Important Conversation

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Chapter 6.3 Eli Hears Another Important Conversation

Once again Eli hid behind the tapestry in the conference room and watched his father pace back and forth.

“Why didn’t the dragon get an invitation?” asked the King.

Master Burgess, the royal Correspondence Minister, pushed his glasses up on his long nose. Then he unrolled a very long scroll and scanned it. “Sire, an invitation was drafted. See, his name is right here — Jay B. R. Wokky, and a checkmark by his name. It was sent all right. I just don’t know what happened to it.”

“Arrest the postman. I want to interrogate him.”

Two of the royal guards bowed and went out.

The king ordered refreshments while they waited. When the servants brought in a tray with hot fragrant tea, warm rolls, butter, new strawberry jam, and cakes, Eli’s mouth watered. Oh, he was so hungry. But Eli didn’t dare make a sound.

Soon the guards were back, dragging the unfortunate postman between them. They threw him on the ground before the throne. The poor man still wore his brown uniform, and a large pouch stamped with the words “Nelsonia Mail” was slung across one shoulder.

“Dumfries, isn’t it?” said the king.

“Yes, your Majesty,” gasped the postman. “Josiah T. Dumfries the Thirteenth.”

“You were supposed to deliver invitations for the name day celebration to everyone in the kingdom,” said the King.

“I did, your Majesty. I really did.”

“The dragon, Jay. B. R. Wokky, did not get his invitation.”

The postman, who was already trembling and white-faced, looked even more terrified.

“Your Majesty, thousands of invitations had to go out and get to their destinations in a short amount of time, so I asked everyone in my family to help me. My grandfather delivered the invitations to the inhabitants of the East Mountains.”

“Your grandfather?”

“Josiah T. Dumfries the Eleventh. He was the head postman for fifty years, but he retired three years ago. He’s been very bored ever since. Grandpa was glad to help me out, even if he is a trifle slow. But he says he put an invitation in the dragon’s mail box, just the same as everyone else’s.”

The king glared at the postman. “If that is the case, then what happened? Why does the dragon say that he didn’t get an invitation?”

“I can’t imagine what happened. I’ll ask my grandfather.”

“No, I’ll ask him.” The king motioned to the guards. “Find Josiah T. Dumfries the Eleventh and bring him here. Immediately.”

Eli wondered if his father would let Josiah have some of those delicious-smelling rolls, but the king just paced the floor. The postman continued to kneel on the floor, with his head down.

Soon the guards were back, carrying a large tin washtub that sloshed when they walked and frothed over with soap suds. Sitting in the water was a man so old that his snow-white beard hung down to his belly button. His ribs stuck out, and his arms were scrawny. He squinted around the room and spoke in a high, scratchy voice.

“Here now, what’s the idea of interrupting a man during his bath time?”

“Grandpa,” Josiah Dumfries the Thirteenth hissed from the floor. “That’s no way to talk to the King.”

Josiah peered outward. “Oh, beg pardon. Can’t see very well nowadays. Still, your Majesty, you could have waited till I was dressed in more than bubbles.”

“Josiah Dumfries the Eleventh, did you or did you not deliver an invitation for Prince Ezra’s name day celebration to the dragon, Jay B.R. Wokky?

The old man scratched his head. “Hmmm. Let me see now. I went up and down all those little roads in the mountains. I’m sure I delivered an invitation to all of them.”

He held up a hand. “Wait, I remember now. There was a big gust of wind that day. Foul smelling. Scattered the letters from my bag all over. Peter, my donkey tried to bolt on me. Terrified, he was. Don’t know what got into him. I had to scramble to get the mail all picked up, but I did. Took me a bit of time, but I got them all.”

He nodded. “Yes sir, the dragon’s servant was real glad to get the letter. Fritter, his name was. He kept hopping up and down and smiling.”

The king scowled at him. “Wind, rain, snow, or storm, the mail must be delivered on time. Your tardiness cost us dearly. Guards, take the old man to the dungeon.”

Eli gulped.

Josiah lifted his head and stared in horror at the king.

“The dungeon, Sire?” asked one of the guards.

“Do you have a hearing problem?”

“No, Sire.”

“Twelve months.” The king sat down in his chair. “Be grateful I do not sentence you to death.”

Josiah the Thirteenth bowed again until his face touched the floor. “Please, your Majesty, don’t put my grandfather in prison. He gets the chills at night. He’ll die in there. I’ll go in his place.”

The king drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair and frowned. “Very well. Guards, take the old man back to his home. Josiah Dumfries the Thirteenth will serve his father’s time. Duncan, send someone out to the dragon’s cave and talk to his servant. Get his side of the story.”

Duncan bowed to the king. “But Sire, who will deliver the mail?”

“That is not my concern. The Dumfries family caused this problem. They can solve it.”

The king rubbed his forehead. “There are times when I think my grandfather was a fool for insisting that everyone in the kingdom learn how to read. If he hadn’t started the postal system in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

The old man grinned a mostly toothless grin and sat up straight in the tub. “I guess this means I get to put on my uniform again. Thank you so much, your Majesty. Josiah, I won’t let you down.”

One set of guards picked up the bathtub and carried the old man out the door.

Another set of guards grabbed the younger Josiah Dumfries and dragged him away. Eli took the hidden stairs and followed behind them to the dungeon.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 6.2 Eli Encounters Some Opposition

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Chapter 6.2 — Eli Encounters some Opposition

Eli raced through the castle searching for his brothers. He found Matthew and Mark in the fencing room, practicing furiously with their vorpal swords.  Eli told them the news.

Matthew and Mark wiped the sweat from their faces and shook their heads.

“We’re old enough to train in the barracks now anyway,” said Matthew.  “We’ll have real swords there. Don’t worry, Eli, we’ll keep you and Ezra safe.”

“This is all that stupid dragon’s fault,” said Mark.

Matthew brandished his sword.  “I swear that I will kill the dragon for doing this to our brother.”

Mark pointed his sword to the sky.  “And I swear that I will help you!”

Eli grabbed a staff from the rack of weapons. “I’m going to help too.” He could barely lift the heavy wooden pole above his head.

Matthew grinned. “You? Ha.” He picked up Eli by one foot and dangled him in the air. The staff clattered on the smooth, wooden floor. “What can you do? You’re no bigger than a mouse.”

“Put me down.” Eli struggled in vain to get free, kicking and punching at his brother, but Matthew held him out at arm’s length and laughed. Mark laughed with him.

Finally, Matthew turned him over and set him on the floor. “Sorry, little mouse, but you’re too young. Now go play with Esther.  We men will protect our family.”

“Yeah,” said Mark. They returned to their practice.

Eli blinked the tears from his eyes as he watched them.

Head down, he turned and trudged down the hallway. He almost ran into Cudgel, the Master of Arms.

“Here now, watch where you’re going, young Sire.”

“Where is my vorpal sword?”

Cudgel frowned at him. “You mean the one with the dragon’s blood on it? The one that has turned blue? It’s in the armory, under lock and key, and it’s going to stay there until the king sends orders for it to be destroyed.”

Eli folded his arms. “I order you to give it to me. Now.”

Cudgel raised an eyebrow. “No. That sword is poisonous now. And isn’t it past your bedtime? Go back to the nursery, boy.”

“I’m not a baby.”

Eli ran down the hallway and out into the courtyard. The sun had set, and it was beginning to get dark. His mother would be wondering where he was. Right now she was probably telling his guard to search in the yard for him.

Eli stared out at the dusky courtyard. Old Pat appeared from the yawning castle entrance with his lamp and pole, and began to light the lanterns along the walls. If Old Pat saw Eli, he would tell him to get home to his supper.

Eli’s stomach growled. The pie he’d taken from the kitchen hadn’t lasted him long. It would be so much easier to go back to the nursery, eat a delicious meal, and go to bed like a good little boy. He could forget about his vorpal sword and the dangers to the kingdom, and let his brothers and the grown-ups handle the whole thing. They would keep Ezra safe. Right?

Eli turned and slipped away into the shadows.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 6.1 Eli Overhears an Important Conversation

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6.1 Eli Overhears an Important Conversation

Back at the castle, King Frances was also in a temper.  He shouted as he strode back and forth across his conference room, while his advisors waited in trepidation.  Eli, who was hiding in a secret passageway behind the tapestry on the wall, watched the proceedings through a hole in the weaving as he ate a juicy meat pie that he had grabbed from the kitchen counter when Cook wasn’t looking.

“Can’t something be done?” the king said.  “We’re being invaded by terrible beasts from the east, and that dragon isn’t doing his job.  Can we fire him and hire someone else?”

Crumby, the court lawyer, shook his head.  “Sorry, Your Highness, but Guardian of the Eastern Mountains is a hereditary job.  Jay’s father had it, and his father before him.  If you try to fire him, he’ll come down and destroy the kingdom.  We’re just going to have to send out our armies to guard the borders.”

The king groaned.  “What can they do against Toves and Bandersnatches? And what am I going to do about that curse?  My poor son.”

Duncan, his chief advisor, looked up. “You could get rid of all the swords.”

“That’s a wonderful suggestion,” said the king. “Except for the fact that we need those swords to defend the kingdom from this invasion of monsters. And don’t forget about our enemies, who would love to get their hands on Nelsonia.”

Duncan shook his head. “Our spies have seen no unrest in the troll’s kingdom. They’ve never recovered from the beating King Frederick gave them. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

“The best thing to do,” said Crumbly, “would be to have guards protecting Ezra twenty-four hours a day. They’ll have axes, staves, and knives, but no swords.  Everyone who lives here in the castle, or who comes into the castle, must give up their swords, which will be kept in the barracks under lock and key. Ezra will be banned from the barracks and forbidden to learn to use the sword. The practice swords that the children use must be destroyed. Especially the one that wounded the dragon.”

Eli stopped eating. No! Not his sword. It may have been only a vorpal blade, dull on the edges and suitable for children to practice with, but it was his birthday present.

The king stopped pacing and tugged on his beard. “Hmmm. You may have something there.”

Eli wiped his hands on his pants and stepped out from behind the tapestry into the open.  “But Father, why are the monsters leaving Wonderland and invading our country?  They’ve never come here before.”

The king leaned over and scooped his son up into his arms.  “Why? I know why. It’s because that irrational dragon isn’t doing his job. And how did you get in here?”

He patted Eli on the head. “Now, don’t you worry about things. We’ll figure it out. And isn’t it past your bedtime?”

He kissed Eli, set him down, and swatted him on the behind. “Off you go. Your mother will want to tuck you in.”

Eli trotted from the room through the main door, but he had no intention of going to bed.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch 5.5 Fritter sends out an Advertisement

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5.5 Fritter sends out an Advertisement

Poor Fritter had enough to do with all the cooking, cleaning, and scrubbing the dragon’s scales. He was in charge of counting the dragon’s treasure, dusting and reshelving the library books, and paying the bills. He was doing the jobs of the three gnomes who had worked here before, and it took from early dawn until late at night. Fritter had very little time for any of his own hobbies.

Now, because of the Borogoves nesting in the chimney, Jay’s allergies were even worse.  The dragon’s nose ran perpetually.  His sinuses were swollen, and his eyes were red.  On top of everything, Fritter had to put up with a dragon who wouldn’t go out and do his job.

His neighbors began to send written complaints.

The gnome scratched his head in bewilderment. “I need some help.”

Fritter sat down at his scarred writing desk and pulled out a piece of parchment from the drawer. After thinking for a few moments, he wrote a letter to the kingdom’s newspaper, asking for an advertisement to be placed in the Help Wanted section. He put one gold coin in an envelope, added his letter, and sealed it with wax.  Then he went outside, put the envelope in the mail box, and flipped up the red flag.

Fritter peered down the narrow, winding, dirt road.  “I sure hope the postman will come today.”

He knew Mr. Dumfries was an old man, and the donkey who pulled the mail cart was old too. The mail probably wouldn’t come soon. But one thing Fritter had was patience.  If Mr. Dumfries didn’t come today, he’d surely come tomorrow.  Or the next day.

After a few moments, Fritter went to see if his traps had any rabbits in them yet.  The dragon would be very hungry in a few hours, and his temper would be even worse.

 

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 5.4 More Invasions

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Ch 5.4 More Invasions

The next day Fritter checked Jay’s hand. The swelling was gone and the wound had closed. The salve worked! “Look, Sire. Your hand is healing.”

“That’s nice.” Jay put his head down and closed his eyes.

The following day, when Fritter checked the dragon’s hand, it was completely healed. “Sire, a flock of Jub Jub birds has come through the mountain pass and descended upon the kingdom.  They’re eating all the fruit off the trees.  Soon there won’t be anything left to harvest.  The people won’t have any fruit to eat.”

Jay sniffed.  “Let them eat cake.”

On Wednesday, Fritter had more bad news. “Sire, the Toves have invaded the city.  You can’t go anywhere without stepping on one.”

“So?”

Toves, with their corkscrew noses, teeth capable of chewing stone, and craving for minerals, would soon begin to burrow into the stone walls. The castle would be reduced to a crumbled cheese.  The caves would never be safe again.  Fritter wrung his hands. “But Sire.”

“Serves them right. Now leave me alone.”

On Thursday, Fritter rushed into the treasure room. “Sire, the Raths have changed their migration pattern.  They’ve begun to run through our Tulgey Woods.”

“Good.  Maybe they’ll eat the Borogoves, and we won’t have those pests nesting in the chimneys anymore.”  Jay sneezed and blew his nose with a large handkerchief.

“Sire, don’t you think it’s strange that all the creatures from Wonderland are invading Nelsonia? I mean, the Raths have held the same migration pattern for centuries. It doesn’t make sense that they would change now. What could be causing it?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care.”

Fritter shook his head in dismay.  It was true that Raths resembled miniature dragons without wings. They were cute, but they also were pests.  Once they established a migration route, they would invade twice a year, eating everything in their path.

“What about the trolls?”

Jay’s eyes blazed as he jerked his head up.  “What about them?” he roared.  “You can’t tell me the trolls are invading too.  Even with this blasted cold, I’d smell their stink.  Now get out!”

Fritter scurried away.

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch. 5.3 Fritter’s Discovery

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Chapter 5.3 Fritter’s Discovery

On the way home from the Tulgey Wood, Fritter saw something gleaming beneath a tree. He stepped off the path, brushed the leaves away, and found a small green bottle of liquid. The label was faded with age and a few letters were missing. At the moment it said “ART REMOV” which Fritter was pretty sure meant Fart Remover. He opened the top and sniffed it, and wrinkled up his nose.
“Ew. It smells bad enough.”
The trolls had invaded Nelsonia in Fritter’s grandfather’s time, and they had been especially gassy. One of the witches had invented something to clear the air, and it had been very popular back then, even after King Frederick and his forces had driven the trolls out.
Fritter put the cap back on and shook the bottle. It was more than half full. “Well, you never know when it might come in handy.” He put the bottle in his pocket.
He glanced uneasily around. No, he didn’t have to worry. Even with Jay acting so depressed, the kingdom was safe. Right?
Just then a couple of Borogoves squawked from a tree overhead.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Fritter.
When he got home, Fritter hid the green bottle in his satchel, but he took a jar of the Miracle Mix into Jay’s treasure room.
“Sire, I have something that might help.” Fritter applied the ointment to Jay’s hand and bound it in a clean bandage. “How does that feel?”
Jay sighed. “Better. I guess.” He closed his eyes. “Don’t bother cooking tonight. I’m not hungry.”
“Sire, a Bandersnatch raided Toffee Village last night.”
“I don’t care.” The dragon’s tone was flat and lifeless.
Fritter went away very troubled.

 

Jay B.R. Wokky Ch 5.2 Fritter Visits a Witch

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Ch. 5.2 Fritter Visits a Witch

Fritter was very worried about Jay. He went down into the Tulgey Woods that grew on this side of the mountains to visit a witch he knew, and there he heard what had happened at the prince’s name day celebration. Fritter was dismayed but not surprised. He wished the invitation had come on time.
The witch, Connie, told him all about the salve that Wizard Colin had invented, which healed the burns caused by dragon’s blood as well as just about anything else. She offered to sell a jar of salve to him.
“Everyone in the kingdom is buying it,” said Connie. “Old Cecil can’t keep it in stock. It’s being called Miracle Mix. Maybe you should try it on the old grump.”
Fritter opened the small jar and sniffed. The salve had a fresh minty scent. “Cecil? I thought Wizard Colin invented this salve.”
“He did, but the guards took his satchel, and Old Cecil ended up with its contents. Cecil persuaded Colin to give him the formula. Besides, Wizard Colin and the witch, Bernice, are still in prison.”
Fritter shook his head. “That doesn’t seem right.” However, he bought two jars from the witch.
“By the way,” said Connie. “A Bandersnatch raided Toffee Village last night. It took the mayor’s prize ram.”
“A Bandersnatch?”
Connie shook her finger at Fritter. “Sheep today, humans tomorrow. You tell that dragon to get out of bed and do his job. Soon the Tulgey Woods won’t be safe for any of us.”
Bandersnatches were not just a terrible nuisance. If they began to nest here and multiply, the humans would not stand against them for long — especially if they developed a craving for human flesh.

Now Fritter was filled with worry.