“What is it?” Talia was pale and wide-eyed. She stared at the tree branch Dragon was holding, the tip of which had vanished when Dragon had thrust it at the spot where Talia had been about to walk. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/the-search/
Dragon frowned. “It appears to be a portal. That is, a gateway or conduit between worlds.”
“A portal?” Talia peered at the air swirling around the end of the branch, like the ripples from a tiny pebble dropped into a mirror-calm lake. “So, what do we do now?”
Dragon held up her clawed index finger, indicating Talia should give her a minute to investigate. Then the huge reptile pulled the branch back from the portal and examined it. The tip was still intact and showed no signs of damage. Tossing the branch aside, she walked around the portal, giving the area a wide berth. She carefully studied the ground and sniffed all around the area. Finally, the beast turned to Talia. “I see no footprints on the far side of the portal; nor do I detect any scent of Marisol or Hab’itt past this point. It is obvious they went through the portal. Methinks the only course of action left to us is to follow them.”
“Fo . . . fo . . . follow them? Through the portal?”
Talia took a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at the beads of sweat that were forming on her forehead and dripping down into her eyes. “Errr . . . I really think Christine would be better suited for such an endeavor.”
Dragon knew the woman was referring to her partner, the other half of the team that managed the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. “Christine is not here. You are.” Smoke started to drift from Dragon’s snout.
“She could be here in nothing flat. Just let me call her.” Talia fumbled for her cell phone.
“No time.” Dragon clamped a taloned hand around Talia’s wrist and pulled her into the portal.
Talia closed her eyes and held her breath as Dragon tugged her along. The trip was short, just like walking through an open door. One second, they were in one world, three seconds and an equal number of steps later, they were in another.
“Well!” Talia smoothed her jacket and looked around. “That wasn’t at all what I was expecting.”
“Oh?” Dragon looked at her questioningly.
Talia shrugged. “In the movies and on TV, when people go through a portal like this, they fall, or they float, and it takes a long time for them to emerge on the other side.”
Dragon nodded. “Some portals are like that. Conduits can be exceptionally long and take a great deal of time and effort to navigate. Gateways, on the other hand, are simple doorways between two adjacent worlds.”
Talia nodded. “I see. Well, now that we stepped through the door into this world, what do we do? How do we find Marisol?”
“We continue our previous endeavor. We look.”
As she was saying that, Dragon noticed that Talia was already looking. Looking up. And up. And gulping.
“Haa . . . haa . . . Hab’itt?” Talia’s voice squeaked and cracked as she looked up at a giant rabbit.
“Hab’itt?” The immense animal towering over Talia threw his head back and laughed. “Do I look like that little runt?”
Dragon raised an eyebrow. “Hmmmm. It disappoints me to hear such words in the homeland of which Hab’itt spoke so fondly, the land to which he longed to return.”
“Oh?” The rabbit gave Dragon a long look. “And why is that?” He sat back and twitched his ears at her.
“Hab’itt spoke of a way of life enjoyed by his kind, a way of life marked by inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, and peace. Such flippant and discourteous speech, such name-calling, does not seem to fit into that idyllic picture.” Dragon wrinkled her nose at the big rabbit and smoke began to drift from her nostrils. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/an-interesting-encounter/
The rabbit laughed again. “Hab’itt described our homeland accurately. And the name-calling to which you refer is just a pet name, a sign of affection for my little brother.”
Dragon raised an eyebrow again and folded her arms over her chest. “Oh?”
“Indeed.” The rabbit smiled warmly. “I call him the little runt; he calls me the big ox.” Seeing Dragon remained unconvinced, he chuckled. “Have you never had a relative or friend who used a term of endearment that, to others, seemed unkind?”
Dragon blushed, thinking of the times the Old Dwarf had called her beastie. “Forsooth! You make a good point.” She reached out a clawed hand. “I am Dragon. This is Talia.”
The rabbit took her hand as best he could in his massive paw. “I am most pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Hopper.” He shook Dragon’s hand, then extended his paw to Talia, who took it a bit apprehensively.
“You are strangers to our land. Did you come to see my brother, or just to see the land he spoke of?” Hopper smoothed his whiskers with his front paws as he spoke.
Dragon shook her head. “Actually, we seek another from our land. We believe a small child either accompanied your brother, or followed him, to your land. We need to return her to her own home and family.”
“A child, you say. Hmmm. Last I saw Hab’itt, he was with a group of friends in the carrot patch. I saw no small child with them.” Hopper looked from Dragon to Talia and back, then scratched behind one ear with a huge back paw. “What species is this child?”
“She is human.” Dragon saw a strange look on Talia’s face, and added, “to the best of my knowledge. At least, her appearance is that of a human.”
Hopper nodded. “Well, a human would stand out in these parts. We don’t have any, you see. But, of course, a young’un could be easily overlooked if she kept quiet. A small creature can find all sorts of places to hide. Not right here, of course.” The rabbit gestured around at the field in which they were standing amid the remains of grain stalks that had been mown for straw.
Dragon nodded. “Forsooth, nothing larger than a small songbird could hide in this stubble.”
“But there, that’s a different story.” The rabbit nodded to the east. “If the human child you seek has entered that savannah, finding her could prove most difficult.” Hopper thumped one hind leg nervously and smoothed his whiskers again.
Dragon and Talia followed the Hopper’s gaze. The landscape beyond the agricultural field was dominated by thick grasses, ferns, and flowering plants rising shoulder-high to the giant rabbit in some places and dotted by ancient trees with girths large enough for even Hopper to hide behind.
Talia tapped her chin with one finger and noticed her fingernail had broken. “Shoot!” Frowning, she fished an emery board from her pocket and filed down the offending nail while Dragon rolled her eyes at the woman. When Talia finished, she turned and addressed Dragon. “I was thinking . . .”
“Always a difficult undertaking for you.” Dragon raised an eyebrow and smirked.
Talia scowled at Dragon before repeating herself. “I was thinking . . . maybe you could fly over that area and take a look.”
Dragon furrowed her brow. “The vegetation there is so thick, I doubt I would be able to see Marisol from overhead.” The beast shook her head. “No, let me see if I can see her footprints or pick up her scent here in this field.”
Sidestepping the portal, Dragon looked closely at the ground. She grunted and shook her head. “This stubble makes it difficult to follow anyone’s trail.” She started sniffing. “Ah, yes! The child has been here, and rather recently.” She sniffed a few more times, turning her head this way and that. “Here. She went in this direction.” She pointed to the north.
“You do make a good bloodhound.” Talia smirked.
Dragon glared at the woman, and smoke drifted from her nose. “Be glad I do. A keen nose may prove the only way to find Marisol.”
She turned her back on Talia and addressed the rabbit once more. “What is in that direction?”
Hopper twitched his nose and thumped his back foot again. “That is the way to the carrot patch. Perhaps the child did accompany my brother.”
Dragon nodded. “Or she followed him without his knowledge.”
Talia snorted. “Followed him or went with him, what does it matter? Let’s just go and get her.”
The woman stepped forward, but Hopper grabbed her, snagging the collar of her jacket with his teeth and pulling her back. “Watch out for the portal!”
Blushing furiously and mopping the sweat from her brow, Talia murmured a thank you and carefully followed Hopper and Dragon.
The trio crossed the field to the eastern edge, then walked north along a berm for close to a quarter hour before Hopper led them onto a small path. “This way. The carrot patch is about a half-mile further on this path.”
Dragon took a deep breath, trying to identify Marisol’s scent among the many around that area. After a few moments of sniffing, she nodded. “The child has passed this way.” She frowned, as she continued sniffing. “So have a number of other creatures – Hab’itt, several other rabbits, a deer, a family of foxes, a badger, and a band of coyotes.”
Talia blanched. “We best hurry.”
Suddenly, they heard a piercing scream from up ahead.
Who screamed, and why? Is Marisol in danger? Be sure to join us again next week to see what is happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.