Authors: Kate McMullan
Wiglaf and Angus started up the stairs to Mordred's office.
“I'll bet you anything, he says no,” said Angus.
“Will you bet your stash?” asked Wiglaf, who was still hungry from missing lunch.
Angus gasped. “My stash?” Each month his mother sent him a fine chest of goodies, which he kept hidden in a secret place. He never shared if he could help it. “Not a chance.”
When the lads reached Mordred's office, they heard voices inside. Suddenly, the office door swung open.
“Farewell, Sir Fuzzydice!” Mordred clapped a white-haired man on the back. “After the graduation ceremony, we shall carry out our plans.”
Wiglaf glanced at Angus as Sir Fuzzydice hurried off down the hallway. DSA had never had a graduation ceremony before.
Angus only shrugged.
Now Mordred spied the lads. “Egad, students!” he cried. “What do you want?”
“I must ask you, sirâ¦,” Wiglaf began.
“Spit it out!” cried Mordred, his face turning red.
“Some of us in Class IIâ¦,” Wiglaf went on.
“Say it!” The headmaster's violet eyes bulged from their sockets.
“â¦wish to go on a quest, sir,” Wiglaf finished.
“Is THAT all?” thundered Mordred. “Blazing King Ken's britches, GO!”
“Excuse me, Uncle,” said Angus, “but did you say something about graduation?”
“Ah, graduation day!” Mordred's red face faded to pink. His eyes popped back into their sockets. “Yesâ¦the sooner the better.”
“Are we to have festivities this year?” Angus asked eagerly.
“None of your beeswax!” bellowed Mordred. “Go on your quest! And take every little rotter you can round up with you. Go, GO,
he next morning, Wiglaf rolled up his thin blanket and tied a rope around it. He was packed! Then he stuck his sword, Surekill, in his belt, breakfasted on eel porridge, and stopped by the henhouse to tell Daisy about the quest.
” said his pig.
Back in the castle yard, Wiglaf found Janice waiting beside the slightly-less-greasy eel cauldron.
“Frypot gave us food for our travels,” she called, holding up a bag that smelled strongly of eel.
Erica was sitting on the scrubbing block, scowling down at a letter.
At last she looked up. “My uncle Homer and aunt Marge, who rule Palmlandia, are visiting my parents,” she said. “And my horrid cousin, Rex, is with them because his parents want to send him to school here at DSA!”
“How horrid is he?” asked Wiglaf.
“On his last visit, he rode my bloodhound Rufus around the palace like a pony,” said Erica. “He smashed everything in his path, including my Sir Lancelot piggy bank.”
Wiglaf thought Rex sounded a lot like his brothers. Their favorite pastime was banging their heads on the tableâhard!
Erica stuck the letter into her pack and pulled out a map. “'Tis a two-day hike to Fire-Breathers' Lair,” she said. “Where is Angus? We must be off!”
“Ready!” called Angus, who came out of the castle carrying an enormous pack.
Just then, Wiglaf spied his younger brother Dudwin racing toward them. Dudwin was a stout, yellow-haired lad and already taller than Wiglaf.
“Wiggie!” said Dudwin when he reached him. “Where are you going?”
“On a quest to find Worm.” Wiglaf sniffed. “You smell fishy, Dud.”
“I went skinny-dipping in the moat.” Dudwin grinned. “I want to go on your quest!”
“All right,” said Wiglaf, remembering Mordred's order to take along every little rotter.
Dudwin pounded his chest with his fist and gave a loud thank-you burp.
“Yuck!” said Erica. “Give your blanket to your stinky brother, Wiggie. You can use my extra one. Now let us be off!”
In the morning light, the questers marched over the DSA drawbridge, and then they headed north on Huntsman's Path.
“'Tis still hard to believe you and Dudwin are brothers, Wiggie,” Erica said, keeping her voice low. “You two look nothing alike.”
“I know,” he said. “All my brothers are big, beefy, yellow-haired lads. I alone am skinny and have carrot-colored hair, which my own mother says shall bring me bad luck.”
On the questers marched through the Dark Forest. Every time they spied a cave, they stopped to search it, but they found no sign of Worm.
Long before midday, Angus cried, “We must stop! I need lunch!”
They all sat down on a flat rock beside the entrance to another cave.
“Wiglaf!” exclaimed Erica. “This is the very cave where we slew the vile dragon Gorzil!”
“I thought you slew Gorzil on your own, Wiggie,” said Dudwin.
“Erica and I were a team,” said Wiglaf.
In truth, Wiglaf had slain Gorzil by himselfâbut only by accident. It was his first week at DSA. Mordred had sent him and Erica out to kill the wicked dragon Gorzil, and Wiglaf happened to stumble upon Gorzil's secret weakness: bad knock-knock jokes. Wiglaf's father, Fergus, told bad knock-knocks all the time, so Wiglaf knew plenty of them. He kept telling jokes to the dragon, and the knock-knocks knocked him outâfor good.
Janice pulled the eel-moatweed wraps out of the bag. “Here's lunch!”
“Pee-yew!” said Erica. “Have anything better in your pack, Angus?”
“Wha are oo alking a-out?” Angus said, his mouth jammed with goodies.
“Listen!” said Dudwin. “I hear music.”
Wiglaf heard it, too. Someone was strumming a lute and singing:
“Gorzil was a dragon, a greedy one was he.
From his jaws of terror, villagers did fl
Wiglaf called, “Minstrel!”
The singing stopped. Leaves rustled. And out of the brush stepped a man in green minstrel's garb. He swept off his cap and said, “For some bread and cheese, I shall tell your fortunes.”
“Minstrel! Do you not remember me?” said Wiglaf. “'Tis I, Wiglaf! My friends and I are on a quest to find a lost dragon.”
The minstrel stared. “Wiglaf of Pinwick! Can it be?” he exclaimed. “I did not know you, lad, for you have grown.”
Wiglaf smiled. “Have I?”
“Aye, lad,” said the minstrel. He turned to the other questers. “I remember you.”
“We have no bread or cheese, only this.” Janice
held up Frypot's bag, and the scent of rotting eel filled the air.
The minstrel backed away. “Then I shall tell your fortunes for free!”
Janice snapped her gum and held out her palm.
“You shall soon say farewell to Dragon Slayers' Academy,” the minstrel said.
“Leave DSA?” Janice yanked her palm back. “Never!”
Erica stepped up and showed her palm to the minstrel.
“You,” said the minstrel, “shall be known as the Popular Princess.”
“I have no wish to be known as any sort of princess!” cried Erica.
“My turn!” Dudwin held out a grubby palm.
The minstrel said, “You shall fly on the back of a dragon.”
“Zounds!” cried Dudwin.
The minstrel turned to Wiglaf. “I once foretold that you were born to be a hero,” he said. “Has this proven true?”
“Wiglaf slew two dragons!” said Dudwin. “That makes him a hero.”
The minstrel cocked his head. “Are you a hero, Wiglaf?”
Wiglaf shook his head. “I never meant to slay them,” he said.
“Then your heroic deeds still lie ahead of you, lad,” said the minstrel. “Show me your palm. Let me see what it tells me on this day.”
Wiglaf held out his palm.
The minstrel studied it, frowning. “'Tis very hard to make it out,” he muttered. “People with many crisscross lines on their palm are never who they seem to be.”
“But I am exactly who I seem to be, minstrel,” said Wiglaf. “And no one else.”
“Perhaps.” The minstrel did not sound so sure. He looked again at Wiglaf's hand. “I do see one thing,” he added. “A queen shall smile at you.”
“Thank you,” Wiglaf managed. He liked Erica's mother, Queen Barb. She often smiled at him. Yet this seemed a most unexciting fortune.
Now Angus stepped up to the minstrel and held out his sticky palm.
“You,” the minstrel said, “shall share your goodies.”
“What?” cried Angus. “When?”
“Now,” said the minstrel.
Angus grumbled, but he doled out some Camelot Crunch Bars, Hog Lard Lollies, and Jolly Jelly Worms.
The minstrel and the questers feasted on the goodies.
At last the minstrel licked his fingertips, picked up his lute, and said, “I must be off to the East Ratswhiskers Sing-Along.”
“Before you go, minstrel,” said Wiglaf, “can you tell us anything to help us find our dragon, Worm?”
The minstrel closed his eyes. After some time, he said, “A song has come to me. I know not what it means, but perhaps you shall find out.”
He strummed his lute and sang:
“Soon upon a sunny day,
When families get together,
The winds shall blow and they shall bring
A sudden change of weather.”
Wiglaf hoped the minstrel would soon get to the part of the song about how they might find Worm.
“The sky shall turn as black as night.
The people all shall run about.
âThe sky is falling! Woe is us!
The world is ending!' they shall shout.
But one brave prince shall stand his ground,
And what was lost shall soon be found.
Yes, one brave prince shall stand his groundâ¦
And what was loooooooooooooooooooooooooost Shall soon be found!”
The minstrel took a bow. Then off he went, humming to himself.
The questers stared after him.
“What a crazy song!” said Dudwin.
“I don't like the âwoe is us' part!” said Angus.
“âWhat was lost shall soon be found,'” said Wiglaf. “Do you think he means Worm?”
“Who knows?” said Janice. “And who's the brave prince?”
Erica shook her head. “I fear the minstrel has lost his wits.”
Wiglaf hoped this wasn't true. But the song was disturbing. He gathered his courage and cried, “Let us go thitherward to find Worm!”
On the questers marched.
ight fell. The Dark Forest grew so dark that the questers could not see their feet beneath them on the path, so Erica lit her mini-torch and they set up camp. They choked down Frypot's eel wraps for supper, then wrapped themselves in their blankets and fell asleep.
The questers woke to a raging storm. Off they marched in the wind and rain. They plucked sourberries from prickle bushes as they went, and that was breakfast.
As they marched, the path grew steep and narrow.
“My pack is so heavy!” cried Angus. “I can climb no farther!”
Wiglaf and Erica took Angus's hands and pulled him up the hill. Dudwin and Janice pushed from behind.
Thus the questers struggled thitherward. Thorn
bushes stuck them. Winds blew them sideways. The rain came down in buckets. Yet Wiglaf felt all the misery would be worth it if they found Worm.
When at last they reached the top of the hill, the rain let up and Erica pulled out the map.
“Below us lies Killerfish River Bridge,” she said. “Once we cross, 'tis but a short distance to the Lair.”
Killerfish River? Wiglaf had heard of it somewhere.
“Onward to find Worm!” he shouted, and the questers followed him down the steep hill.
As they drew nearer to the swift-flowing river, Wiglaf saw that the long, rickety-looking wooden bridge over it had only a single rope on one side to hang on to.
At the riverbank, Angus set his heavy pack down on a large, red rock at the foot of the rickety bridge.
“I'll never make it!” he said.
“Watch how I do it,” said Erica, stepping onto the bridge. The planks creaked, but very carefully she made it to the far side.
Dudwin cried, “Now me!”
Wiglaf could hardly stand to watch his little brother
zoom across the bridge. One false step and Dudwin would be swept away by the raging waters.
“My turn!” said Janice, and when she reached the far shore, she called, “Safe!”
“I don't want to go!” wailed Angus.
“But we must!” cried Wiglaf. “To find Worm!”
“I'm not so light as you, Wiggie,” Angus said. “And this heavy pack makes me heavier still. I fear I shall break the bridge!”
Wiglaf sighed. “Give me your pack.”
“What a fine idea!” Angus smiled. “But do you swear on your lucky rag not to open it and take my stash? Do you?”
“I swear.” Wiglaf took the enormous pack from his friend. OOF! It weighed a ton!
Angus stepped onto the creaky bridge. Step by step, he made his way to the far side.
“Easy as pie!” he cried. “Your turn, Wiggie!”
Wiglaf swung Angus's heavy pack onto his back. He grabbed the rope rail and began making his way slowly across the bridge. He was halfway there when a gruff voice called, “STOP!”
Wiglaf stopped. He was trembling so much that the whole bridge shook.
The voice shouted: “I COMING TO EAT YOU UP!”
The bridge began to swing wildly as a pig-tailed troll hoisted herself up from under it.
Wiglaf clung to the rope for dear life. He stared at the troll.
She licked her lips with a pointy, pink tongue. “Guh-huh, guh-huh!” she cackled. “I EAT YOU NOW!”
“No!” cried Wiglaf. “Youâyouâlive under this bridge?” he asked, hoping to change the subject.
“Yah,” said the troll. “Killerfish River Bridge good place to find food.” She licked her lips again.
Wiglaf's eyes flicked nervously toward the riverbank. Dudwin, Erica, and Janice were wading in the shallow waters at the river's edge and paying no attention to him. And then he saw Angus. He was gripping the rope and making his way back toward Wiglaf on the bridge. Angus! Coming to save him! Wiglaf could scarcely believe it.