Talia dashed from the house, dragging Dray. The two women made their way down the flagstone walkway, Dray tripping and stumbling as she was tugged along. When they reached the street, Dray stopped dead and jerked her arm free from Talia’s grasp. “Wait! Where are we going?”
“Why?” Dray rubbed her wrist where Talia had been holding her in a vice-like grip.
Talia frowned. “Didn’t you say Marisol and some giant, talking rabbit left here together and were supposedly going back to her yard?”
“Then, obviously, that’s why we’re going there.” Talia rolled her eyes and shook her head at Dray.
“Are we not taking your vehicle?” Dray gestured toward a flashy red Ferrari parked haphazardly at the curb.
“No. I don’t want Bastina to know we’re there. So, stay close to me and be quiet now. I’ll cast a spell of concealment over us.” Talia raised her hand and started to mumble an incantation.
Dray shook her head. “I think we should let Bastina know we are looking for Marisol. She is worried about her daughter.”
Talia scowled. “You should know better than to interrupt when a spell is being cast. Hush!”
Ignoring Talia’s admonishment, Dray continued talking. “But Bastina . . .”
Talia cut her off. “We told Marge and Miles to tell Bastina we’re looking for Marisol. We don’t have time right now to deal with a frantic mother.”
She raised her hand again and resumed mumbling.
Dray wrinkled her brow. “Bastina will be more reassured if we are the ones to explain what is happening . . .”
Scowling, Talia grabbed Dray by the shoulders and gave her a shake. “I said you should know better than to interrupt when a spell is being cast. Hush!”
Dray shimmered as she shapeshifted back to her true form. The angry dragon loomed over Talia and growled, black smoke spewing from her snout. “It is not wise to maltreat a wyrm, or to order one quiet.”
Talia’s eyes narrowed. “It isn’t wise to interrupt me when I’m trying to cast a spell. Some vainglorious reptile might just find herself transformed into a puny lizard and dropped down the nearest storm drain.”
Dragon snarled. “You dare not try; and if you did, you might not survive long enough to regret it.”
Talia scoffed. “Oh, please! Do you really think you could take me on?” She chuckled. “If we had the time, I would love to accommodate you. But right now, it is imperative that we find Marisol. So, get over yourself and come along . . . quietly!”
Dragon roared, flames erupting from her mouth. The next thing she knew, she was a tiny lizard, swimming with all her might while trying not to drown in a tiny puddle full of fallen leaves next to the curb. Before she was half-way across the water, she was once again a dragon.
Momentarily stunned, she stood gaping at Talia, who crossed her arms over her chest and smirked.
“Now can we go . . . quietly?”
Dragon narrowed her eyes and continued to stare at Talia for several long minutes. Finally, she nodded curtly and quietly followed Talia down the street toward Marisol’s house as the smug woman raised her hand and mumbled the incantation that would keep them hidden.
When they reached Marisol’s house, Dragon reached out and clamped a taloned hand firmly on Talia’s shoulder, causing the woman to wince. “Now . . . if you are quite certain you have successfully cast the spell of concealment . . . let us talk.” She raised her other hand traffic-cop style and silenced Talia when the woman opened her mouth to reply. “First, let me say this – do not ever again attempt to cast a spell on me.”
“Attempt?” Talia snickered. “I thought I did a lot more than attempt. I thought I was quite successful.”
“For a brief moment at most, and then only because you caught me off guard. Believe me when I say that will never happen again.” Dragon narrowed her eyes, and smoke drifted from her nostrils.
“Fine. Sorry.” Talia shrugged and snickered again, clearly not sorry at all. She attempted to move, but Dragon’s claws in the woman’s shoulder kept her pinned to the spot.
“Now, precisely what are we doing here?” Dragon scowled at Talia.
The woman sighed. “We’ve been through this. Do try to keep up. We are here because you said Marisol and some giant, talking rabbit were supposedly coming back here.”
When Dragon simply blinked and said nothing, Talia rolled her eyes and continued. “If they came back here, you should be able to track them from here, either magically or with your keen sense of smell.”
“Suppose they did not return here? Should we not have started tracking them from Mistress Writer’s yard, the last place I saw them?”
Talia scoffed. “I doubt the rabbit would have taken her anywhere else before coming back here. Even a child her age would be suspicious if the creature suddenly suggested a different destination.”
Dragon took a few moments to consider this before nodding. “So, do you believe the rabbit kidnapped Marisol upon their return here, or do you believe Marisol’s curiosity compelled the child to follow the rabbit when he continued on his journey?”
Now it was Talia’s turn to consider. She furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip before answering. “I’m not sure. Did the rabbit seem like a kidnapper to you?”
Dragon shook her head. “No. Hab’itt seemed too open and too sensitive to engage in a violent transgression.”
Talia raised an eyebrow and giggled. “Hab’itt? Hab’itt the rabbit? You’ve got to be kidding.”
“That was the name he gave.” Dragon did not seem amused. “Do try to stay focused. Now, if Hab’itt did not kidnap Marisol, that leaves the distinct possibility that the curious child merely followed him, perhaps becoming lost somewhere along the way.”
Talia, doing her best to stifle her giggles, nodded. “We better check out this yard carefully and see if we can pick up their tracks.”
Dragon frowned. “It seems to me you have sufficient magic to track them yourself. I resent being dragged along to be used like a bloodhound.”
“Bloodhound?” Talia giggled again. “Thank you for that priceless image. I admit that was a part of why I brought you along, but I was actually thinking more of having a comrade-in-arms, should the need arise for self-defense.”
Dragon scoffed. “You expect a murderous confrontation? From a rabbit?”
“A six-foot-tall, talking rabbit.” Talia raised an eyebrow and gave Dragon a steely look. “I don’t suppose you noticed if he was disguised, magically or otherwise.”
Dragon shook her head. “I did observe he was not an illusion. Beyond that, I really did not examine him. I suppose he could have been hiding his true nature, but I should think Marisol would have seen through that. She saw him, as did I, as a large rabbit, capable of speech and coherent thought.”
Talia nodded. “Then let’s take a look around the yard and see if we can find any clues.”
It took about forty-five minutes for Dragon and Talia to thoroughly examine the acre-and-a-half of lawn and flower beds between the back of the house and the fence adjacent to the patch of woods to the north, but they uncovered no clues.
“Did you pick up their scent anywhere?” Talia pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and squinted at Dragon.
Dragon made a gesture of frustration. “Marisol’s scent is everywhere, which I expected since it is her yard and she plays here daily. Hab’itt’s scent is here as well, but I am unable to determine where he entered the property, or whence he left.”
Talia frowned and tapped her chin with a perfectly manicured nail. “Maybe we should try going a couple feet past the end of the yard and see if you can find their scent out there. That might point us in the right direction.”
Dragon nodded and clambered awkwardly over the split-rail fence at the back of the yard. Talia squeezed through the rough wooden rails. “Darn! I snagged my blouse on the fence.”
Examining the damage to her expensive silk shirt, Talia failed to watch where she was going. She shrieked as Dragon grabbed her roughly and jerked her back.
Talia pulled away from Dragon and rounded on the beast. “Why did you grab me like that?” She glared at Dragon, who ignored her and focused on something behind the woman.
Talia turned around and followed Dragon’s gaze. She furrowed her brow. “What is it?”
Dragon picked up a fallen branch. She walked over to the spot Talia had been when Dragon had pulled her back. Carefully, the beast raised the branch about waist-high and thrust it forward. The end of the branch disappeared.
Dragon looked at Talia. “I daresay we have found whence they left Marisol’s yard.”
Talia’s eyes bulged. “And whence they left this world.”
What has happened to Marisol? Is she in danger? Will Dragon and Talia be able to find her and return her home? Come back next week for more of this exciting adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.