Writing

Life At Hedgerose – Chapter 1

Chapter One

Leaks, Fireworks and Dragon Eggs

Titus blinked hazily and rolled over in his bed, warm, content and comfortably tired. He heard the faint, fat tapping of a bee fuzzily thumping into his window and he sat up and brushed back the curtain with the tips of his fingers, looking out through panes slightly frosty from the coolness of early spring beyond his window.

            From this window, he couldn’t see the rest of the village of Hedgerose, but it was a fine view nonetheless; better in fact.

            To the North, and to his right, there was an expanse of farmland—rich earth tilled and richly dark and ready to snatch at the seeds into its heart.

            To his left, and to the South, there was the rough tangle of shrubs that marked the beginning of Petalmist Forest, like a party of humble serfs gathering around to pay tribute to their stately lords, for the tall, softly blowing trees of Petalmist were already beginning to show their blossomy raiment of budding limbs.

            Titus and his guardian lived in the cottage at the end of a long row of cottages at the very edge of the village—a suitable place for someone like Folrolf—and past their small and tidy orchard, their newly tilled garden and past the ramshackle fence smothered in honeysuckle that kept out woodchucks that Folrolf hadn’t turned into cabbages, was a considerable distance of grass and wild flowers and onions, and past all that, was the river.  It wasn’t exactly a proper river, but it was far more than a creek and it made a very respectable rumble when one was close by and it widened as it passed through PetalMist into fine pools for fishing and it was full of outcroppings of sun-warmed rock made for sitting and thinking, and it was always ice-cold and smelt of a faraway source so foreign to their village, the only thing like it was Folrolf.

            A sudden thud pushed through Titus’s sleepy mind, and turned a vague thought of Folrolf into a reality for undoubtedly, that thumping was Folrolf—and he would be wanting his breakfast.

            Titus rolled out of bed and several pillows plumped to the ground after him before he untangled himself from his nightshirt and began searching rapidly through his bedclothes to locate his trousers, all the while cocking one ear to listen to the customary bellow that started his mornings with the regularity and bombasity of a cock crowing his defiance. But the bellow didn’t come, although Titus’s fuddled brain now recognized the ever-increasing thumpings as a hammer.

            Snapping his suspenders over his shoulders, Titus hurried into the kitchen with increasing uneasiness but instead of finding Folrolf pacing like a cantankerous bear just aroused from hibernation or setting the table in a riotous bombardment of cutlery and ejaculations, he saw . . . nothing.  The kitchen was as clean and spotless as he had left it last night.

            A clink from outside the kitchen window caused Titus to look towards the window in bepuzzlement.  Something small and oblong fell past the window and he realized he could hear muttered coming from above.

            Oh no, tell me he isn’t, Titus thought with a gradual surge of fear.

            He rushed down the front hall and flung open the front door as two more nails, followed by a shingle, cascaded to the ground at his feet.

           Oh no—he IS!

            Titus dashed outside and craned his neck back to stare at the roof in trepidation. The blaze of morning sunlight caused him to squint into its rays but he could still see what he feared to see quite clearly.

            “Folrolf!” he shrieked. “What are you doing?”

            Folrolf was crouched placidly on the roof, like a large, grey spider turned handyman. His stiff beard and hair looked even more disheveled than ever—he must have run from his room without even his pathetic semblance of daily grooming. His customary moth-eaten robes were tucked into his belt, and he had a generous amount of nails between his teeth and framing his mouth in a macabre grin.

             He was staring with frank fascination at the hammer in his hand as if he had never seen anything like it before.  He turned it over in his hands, entranced, spellbound. He didn’t take away his gaze away from the hammer but he spat out the nails and said to Titus.

            “Remarkable tool, the hammer, if you stop to think about it,” he said reverentially.  “You know, Titus—we have so many amazing tools at our disposal that we take for granted. It’s shameful. We should never lose our wonder for the things that make our daily tasks easier, remember that boy. Why it makes repairing this roof as ease as falling off a log.”

            “Please don’t mention falling,” Titus groaned.

            Folrolf didn’t appear to hear him. “Here, hold this.”

            He picked up his toolbox and flung it carelessly at Titus, who caught it awkwardly, hugging it to him and wincing at the ensuing cacophony of chisels and pliers rattled within and deafened his newly-wakened years.

            “Folrolf!” he cried. “Folrolf please come down from there!  It’s not safe.”

            Folrolf looked at him with vague surprise.  “Unsafe?  Nonsense!”

            “What’s that silly old goat doing now?”  Honey Winstalk—an elderly neighbor who did not do a very good job at living up to the sweetness of her name—let herself through her garden gate and walked over to stand by Titus.

            Titus glanced at her then back at Folrolf.  “Folrolf, please.  Its—you shouldn’t be up there.”

            Folrolf frowned at him.  “Why not?”  He looked once more meditatively at the hammer then slammed it against the roof.  The shingles groaned in protest. The front door was still open, and a distant bang informed Titus that at least one shingle had collapsed into the parlor.

            An image of Folrolf hurtling through the roof, breaking every bone in his body and causing the house to fold up on itself flashed through Titus’s mind in vivid color. He closed his eyes.  “Folrolf—please your—your—“

            Folrolf glared at him.  “I’m what? You’re stammering, Titus—you know I can’t abide stammering. What are you trying to say?”

            “Your—your—“

            “Spit it out.”  Folrolf said with an irritable huff of air.

            “Oh for goodness sake, I’ll say it,” Honey murmured disgustedly before pitching her voice to a strident bellow: “You’re too old to be up on a roof, you idiot!”

            “Whaaaat!”  Folrolf roared, leaping to his feet and slipping on a shingle and nearly falling over.  He stomped up and down in rage shaking the roof, hair flying straight out, face livid and scarlet, every muscle strained in a burst of violent temper.

            “But then, it’s no concern of mine,” Honey snapped, though she was backing up towards the edge of the yard as she continued to express her opinions. “Anyone who’s stupid enough to get on a roof at your age deserves to break his back.”

What!” he screamed. “What, what, what?”  He seemed incapable of saying anything else.  Titus thought the man’s heart was going to fail.

            Still roaring Folrolf launched himself of the roof.  Titus screamed and ran around the corner of the house, heart in his throat.  Folrolf flung himself out of the rose bushes shaking out his robes furiously as he charged past Titus and around the house.

            Titus plucked blankly at a broken branch.  So much for the reviving roses.  His stared with a sigh at the crushed petals.

            Honey was already running towards her house with Folrolf storming after her.

            “Come back here you puckered old prune!”  Folrolf bellowed.

            “How dare you!  I’ll remind you I’m on the sunny side of forty!”

            “You could have fooled me!”

            “I’ll tell my brother on you!”

            “Go and tell!”

            “You stop chasing me, you old badger—you hear?”

            “I’m going to give you so much exercise you won’t be able to run your mouth, Honey Windstalk!”

            “You monster, how dare you!”

            “Save your breath and run, you nasty little baggage!”

            Titus stood alone in front of house. A slight noise caused him to turn his head to see Diggle McCunn, a farmer and the neighbor across the lane standing beside him. Diggle was infamously hard of hearing—though he tried to deny it—and doubtless hadn’t heard Folrolf’s shouted threats, though he could see just fine.

            Diggle looked after Folrolf’s and Honey’s retreating figures with an astounded expression as he puffed on his pipe, as if unsure of anything else to do with his hands.

             “Well!” he remarked at last. “Spring makes love come to everyone, I suppose. But er . . . isn’t your guardian a little old to be chasing ladies?”

            Titus turned and stared at him stupidly for a full minute until Diggle shrugged and walked on.

             It was just another way to start the day when one lived with a faerie.

            Titus went inside and started brewing Folrolf’s morning coffee.

 ~

            Titus’s parents had died when he was ten years old, claimed in a village plague that had spared him as casually as it had taken his parents.

            Bewildered and alone, Titus’s future had been sorted out by the towns people who uncovered the Bromley’s will and made the life-altering discovery that Titus had a godfather, a Welkin named Folrolf.

            Titus had felt rather grim about the news when it had been put to him. Surely, he was the only boy in the whole world that had a Welkin as a godfather, and the novelty didn’t please him—it merely made him feel more different from every other boy he knew. He didn’t have any parents, he wasn’t apprenticed yet, and he had a Welkin for a grandfather. One more difference didn’t make things easier, it was as if one more rope had been tugged free of his moorings and he were drifting out onto an unfamiliar sea, full of reefs he wasn’t sure he could navigate, and ports he could only hope were populated by friendly people.

            But nothing could be done but to pack up his few things and climb aboard a cart bound for Hedgerose. Titus had been dropped off with Folrolf’s weekly cheese and milk. And both their lives had been turned upside down.

            Folrolf was every bit as different as Titus had imagined he would be. He was an immensely tall man, with a voice like a trumpet and eyes like bits of clear, blue glass. His face was creased as smooth and fine as rubbed parchment and was it once ageless and ancient. He was so tall and thin, his beard and robes so loose and flowing, and his feet so big, he reminded Titus of a weeping willow with an extensive root system.

            Folrolf had been imposing and rather alarming, but at the time, his rather abrupt manner had rather suited Titus, he did not want to be coddled just then.

            Folrolf had stared down at the small lad with beetling brows and a barked inquiry and when he had deposited all his parcels, human and otherwise, in the kitchen—he had read the letter Titus had brought him—the one his parents had left with their will and addressed to Master Folrolf.

            Titus had stood stiffly in the cluttered kitchen, staring at his guardian and wondering how this man would receive him once he sorted out that Titus was his responsibility. Would he be able to stay? Or would he be one of those orphans who were tossed about from one home to the next? Or to get rid of him, might he be sent to some master that would board their apprentice, but be cruel.

            Folrolf had been quite for a moment after reading it and then he had looked at Titus, gotten up and gave him a big mug of milk and a piece of cheese.

            “This is your home now, Titus Benjamin,” he had said a bit gruffly, but perhaps, it had only been that he was trying to disguise the brightness that Titus had seen clearly in his eyes. “I’ll do my best by you and you’ll be all right, because I’m not going anywhere for at least three hundred years. Now drink your milk.”

            And after that, they had actually gotten along fine.

 ~

            Faeries had been popping into stories since time began. Parts of the stories were true, some of them were not, and one point that was always wrong. One thing that was always missing from the poems and ballads troubadours and storytellers related was that Faerie was a human-term. Those long-lived, magical beings they knew as faeries were called Welkins by their own kind, and their names weren’t the only thing that got changed in the stories. They were certainly terrible and fearsome, but they weren’t quite the ethereal, majestic, and kindhearted bards often made them out to be. They were rarely much to look at—though it would be advised not to call a Welkin ugly to their face—quite unkempt, possessed a sizable temper and had a propensity for using their magic in not very helpful ways, for being turned into a cabbage is never helpful.

            Welkins lived for a thousand years, and to be generous, living that long can make anyone irritable. Welkins births and marriages were few and far between and some had married other species and the blood and fire and magic and agelessness had been lost. Even a full-blooded Welkin rarely used their magic. A true Welkin was very rare, and were far too difficult and intense by nature to live together and thus they were often found scattered about the world in surprising and inconvenient places, bringing havoc and wisdom to the people around them.

            Welkins were a foot taller than humans—although Folrolf was only six and a half feet, a sore point with him—and three times as strong as the most powerful human male. Folrolf himself was as thin and brittle looking as an old tree—and his immense feet looked like a fitting root system—and his face was lined with deep lines and his hair decidedly grey—there was no denying his incredible strength or fitness. No human man could get away with such irregular sleeping hours, eating like a centaur, indulging in pipes and spirits or pursuing every feasible form of hurting himself in existence. Not to mention explosive bouts of temper that would cause apoplexy in anyone else—but Folrolf showed no sign of slowly down at the ripe age of seven hundred and fifty three. He rather gave the impression that he had barely started. A few tried to claim that he was getting senile when Folrolf kept forgetting things, but Titus knew better. Folrolf was simply distracted, although he had no intention of admitting it.

~

          While Folrolf’s coffee stood warm and ready on the stove, Titus finished breakfast and he was swallowing the last bit of honey and toast and washing it down with tea when the front door slammed open on its hinges and crashed against the wall.  Titus choked and spurted tea everywhere as Folrolf rushed into the room, eyes gleaming, robes disheveled as always and hair and beard flying about behind him in a torrent of violent movement.

            “Titus!” he roared. “Get me some fireworks.”

            Titus had dropped his teacup with a clatter and he put out his hand to stop the brown tide spreading across the table. “Er—what?”
“Fireworks,” Folrolf repeated, hurrying past him and rummaging about in his desk. “About twenty crates will do.”

            “Twenty crates?”  Titus gaped.

            “Go to Hedge, he makes them.  Bright reliable boy.  He’s sure to have them in stock.”  Folrolf said absently running a hand through his hair and frowning at a piece of paper.

            “. . . Hedge?”

            Folrolf turned round, shifting without warning from abrupt abstraction to roaring impatience.

“Jack-By-The-Hedge Carbunkle!” he bellowed.  “Now for goodness sakes, Titus don’t ask so many questions!”

            “Yes sir.” Titus replied earnestly, running for the door and deciding he’d clean up the spilt tea later.

Fireworks? he wondered as he hurried towards the edge of town. What could Folrolf possibly want with fireworks?  Titus was never quite sure what idea Folrolf would pull out of the blue but fireworks were a first.

            His puzzled thoughts turned to Hedge, whom he had not much opportunity to think of until now. The villagers had always gossiped that after Folrolf, Jack-By-The-Hedge Carbunkle was the craziest occupant of Hedgerose. Hedge never seemed to be about, though and in the two years Titus had lived in Hedgerose, he had never met or seen him. It seemed the Hedge and his cousin were often flung neck-and-crop about the country and shunted from one relative to another. Titus had heard brief mentions of a terrifying madman that blew things up for fun, which might explain for the frequency of Hedge’s moving, if he were in the habit of blowing up the establishment in which he was living.

           Titus knew the villagers had a tendency to exaggerate—after all, Folrolf wasn’t that bad—and so he wasn’t sure how true the rumors were regarding Hedge, but all the same, he was a bit apprehensive, as well as growingly curious, as he approached a little shed on the edge of town. After inquiring of several neighbors, he had been directed here. This was not where Hedge lived, but where he made his fireworks, and thus, the best place to get some.

            It was a ramshackle affair with sagging frame, and shabby looking shutters that appeared to have been nailed on as an after thought.  One shutter was missing and the others hung limply from one or two nails, swinging leisurely in the breeze. Perhaps some previous explosion had sent the shutters flying off the house—a great deal of wreckage and bits of refuse on the ground surrounding that cottage, supported that theory—for there was a great quantity of evil black smoke billowing out the windows, like smoke from a dying dragon. Titus halted and stared, and he realized that amidst the smoke, there were also flames.

            Titus gasped aloud and instantly seized upon the thought that Hedge must still be inside.
He charged towards the house, wrapping his scarf around his nose and preparing to plunge in while hoping that getting burned didn’t hurt as badly as everyone said when the front door crashed open and a boy ran towards him, waving his arms wildly.

            “No, no!  Get back!” the boy yelled excitedly.  “It’s going to!”

            There was a gigantic explosion from the hut, and Titus and the boy dove for cover behind a broken down stone wall. There was a whining screams of rockets as the smoke redoubled itself, and lights flashed wildly from within the shack.

            The boy sat up slowly and peaked over the wall with a calm expression.

            Titus glanced at him, then back at the house, then at the hobbit again.  Then he sat down next to the hobbit and the two watched the light show in silence.  The hobbit showed no surprise or alarm as a rocket skipped across the grass and exploded against a tree.  He only smiled whimsically as the glass from one of the windows shattered, and cupped his head in his hands thoughtfully as roof began to cave in.

            Trying to still the convicted agitation that he should be doing something, Titus watched the fireworks with growing interest, as the fireworks spiraled and twisted in delicate veins and flowers of sparkling light.  There was a symphony of repetitive pops and a green dragon faded away against the sky.

            Still the hobbit said nothing but merely stretched his legs out in front of him to a more comfortable position.

            Titus glanced at him then back at the house.

            “This, uh . . .” Titus nodded towards the disintegrated roof, “happen often?”

            The hobbit was silent a moment, then he glanced at Titus.

            “Oh yes.”  He said with a matterafact innocence, and his slight, mysterious smile utterly unnerved Titus.

            Silence fell again for a long moment then a window box full of dead flowers fell to the ground with a crash.

            Hedge gave a slight sigh and rose slowly and with aplomb to stand with his hands in his pockets, tongue in the side of his cheek, staring meditatively into the distance. He moved with mind numbing slowness towards the damage and surveyed it with a brief, detached glance. Titus followed him and the two of them stood in front of the blackened door now lying flat on the ground.

Titus waved his hand at some of the stray smoke wafting about the hut and glanced at Hedge, who was still studying the place in silence.

            “Do you need any help with . . . cleaning up?”

            Again, the silence stretched on and grew so awkward—for Titus—that he was rather wishing he hadn’t spoken when the boy finally answered. “Oh, that’s all right.” He paused, picked up a piece of wood, rubbed some soot off of it. It said, Do Not Mix, and then it became too blackened to read the rest of it. Titus wondered what it the rest of it had said, and rather gathered that Hedge had not followed its instructions very conscientiously.

            Hedge dropped the sign with disinterest and put his hands back in his pockets again.  “My cousin will help me,” he remarked at last. He poked at what was left of a work bench with his foot then raised a shoulder in a half-shrug that encompassed the demolished hut, the smoke, the blackened grass, and the dead willow tree that Titus had not noticed till now. “This happens all the time.”

            They stood there quietly—Hedge thoughtfully, and the Titus in blank astonishment.

            Suddenly Hedge looked around as if seeing Titus for the first time and gazed at him with the expression of a toddler discovering his own shadow. “Can I help you?”

            Titus stared at him—Hedge’s long silence appeared to be catching—then regained his voice and answered:  “I was…my friend wanted me to get some fireworks.”

            “Oh,” Hedge said blankly. “Well, you might have to come back some other time.”  He glanced around. “I’ll be . . . a little busy.” Then he wandered off through the blackened remains of his shed, looking like a lost and thoroughly dirty little ghost.

            Titus stood in front of the house for a long time, simply staring, and then he turned homewards, speculating ominously as he went what Folrolf would say when he returned without the wanted items.

            He reached the house much sooner then he would have wished and stood on the porch a moment in a tangle of indecision. At last, he walked inside and stood in the doorway of the study. Folrolf was still crouched over his desk scribbling away with a mangled quill and chunnering to himself and he did not turn around.  Titus waited for a few moments, but Folrolf remained utterly unaware of his presence.  Titus went to the kitchen, cleaned up the mess he had made earlier—very loudly, in the hopes that Folrolf would come to him instead of the other way around—but still, his guardian did not appear. He returned to the study doorway and coughed raucously. Folrolf only scowled at his parchment and hunched deeper over his writing desk. Sighing and giving up, Titus crept up and touched Folrolf’s shoulder.

            Folrolf whipped around as if he had been waiting Titus for ages. “Ah, Titus,” he said brusquely. “Where have you been?  Never mind. Let’s have tea shall we?” He stood up and shooed Titus into the kitchen. Titus wonderingly set out a plate of iced gingerbread while he watched Folrolf setting the kettle on before he sank down into one of the kitchen chairs and fell into a brow-furrowed reverie. The kettle began to shrill, and Titus poured them both a cup. The sound of liquid splashing into the cup caused Folrolf to give a little shake, like a bird awakening, and he looked down appreciatively and took a long sip of tea.

            Titus sat down across from him. “Um . . . Folrolf?”
Folrolf blinked several times, his gaze seemed to be drawn back into his head as if by a string and suddenly he was aware of Titus and looking right at him. “Yes?”

            “I” Titus paused.

            “What?” Folrolf prompted. Wherever he had been, he apparently wanted to go back there as quickly as possible and there was the burgeoning rumble of irritability in his voice.

            “I—didn’t get the fireworks.”

            There was a short silence while Folrolf stared at him as if his head had just sprouted parsnips.

            “You didn’t get what?” Folrolf repeated slowly.

            “The fireworks.” Titus replied.

            Folrolf stared at him blankly, looking him up and down and Titus began to squirm.

            “The fireworks?”  Folrolf said slowly and shook his head.  “Titus Benjamin Bromley, sometimes I wonder about you.”

            Titus stared at him, dumbfounded.

            “Now, don’t look at me like that as if I’ve said something wrong.  I neverI repeatnever mentioned the word ‘fireworks’ today.  The whole town may think I’m some sort of eccentric scatterbrained fool but I’m not as bad as all that.  I assure you that if I had said anything like about fireworks, I would have remembered.  No Titus, you are clearly getting me mistaken with something else.”

            “But Folrolf!” Titus protested, feeling strangely desperate.

            “Now Titus, how many times have I told you not to contradict your elders? I did not ever ask you to get fireworks. I wouldn’t trust that madman Hedge with a match, much less a crate of fireworks. Now stop staring and do something useful. Go water the roses.”

            “But

            “Titus Benjamin, I’m beginning to lose my patience.”

            “Yes, sir.”

            Titus left the room, head reeling, as he heard Folrolf mutter to himself: “Sometimes I wonder about that boy.”

~

            The irascible Folrolf might unleash his wrath on villagers, and even occasionally his ward, but he was unfailingly kindhearted to those in need.

            That cool spring afternoon, there was a knocking on the door, and when Titus answered it, he found himself face to face with a trio of gypsies. Their leader, a grey-haired man with one eye and a soft voice asked if they might set up camp on the other side of Folrolf’s orchard.

            Before Titus could answer, Folrolf came stumping towards the door.  Clearly, his studying was not going well, because he normally wasn’t prowling about the house with such a keen interest in everything Titus was doing or wanting to know who he was talking to.

            Folrolf spoke to the gypsies quiet amicably and gave them permission readily. While they were speaking Titus glanced towards the only woman in the party. A dark, hunched woman with a great mane of hair shot through with grey that she kept pushing aside like someone peering from a curtain. But there was a curtain beyond the curtain, for even with that tangle pushed aside, her face was closed, her painted eyes hooded as she stared at Titus with a solemn, unblinking gaze. He looked away, uncomfortable. He couldn’t help feeling that she had been examining him and Folrolf with an unusual amount of thoroughness, far more than was necessary for the question at hand. She almost looked as if she were testing or weighing them in her mind. Titus was rather glad when the gypsies left and Folrolf shut the door after them.

            As evening fell that night, the sound of gypsy music began sliding over the fence, through the orchard and trickling into their kitchen. Odd and eerie music that were to dance to, but they sounded like ancient enchantments, not goodhearted jigs. It was sad and beautiful and bewitching and alarming all at once. It appealed to Folrolf though, for instead of complaining about the nice as he sometimes did, Titus found him kicking up his heels in the library in a rather mournful caper. Obviously the enchanting quality roused Folrolf’s Welkin blood, and just as obviously he had abandoned his research entirely.

            Titus made himself a cup of milky tea and decided to go to bed early, with several cushions around his ears.

            The next morning, Titus attended to his chores in the garden. Many of the gypsies had scattered from their camp to collect wild herbs from the flourishing creek bank before pulling up camp that evening. A few gypsies tended their camp and wagons and among them was the old gypsy woman. Titus could feel her eyes upon him and he found it necessary to hid in the house for longer periods of time until a peek out the window assured him she was busy doing something else.

            That evening the gypsies left, playing a traveling-song with a slow thrumming of a drum that echoed the drub of Titus’s own heart as he watched them leave in relief from the kitchen window.

He finished preparing the evening snack for him and Folrolf and was heading towards the parlor when there was yet another knock on the door.

            The last day and a half had left him feeling creepish, and Titus wasn’t altogether pleased with the idea of opening the door to the dark, but he was too embarrassed to call Folrolf.

            Cautiously, holding his plate of hard crumpets handy, just in case—he swung the door wide, then his heart gave a little jerk as he found himself alone on the threshold. His eyes dropped downwards and he took a step backwards, causing hot tea to splash on his hand as he stared at the square crate sitting at his feet.

            It was a small crate, lined with a ragged quilt and hay and nestled down into it, was an egg, but not like any egg that Titus had ever seen. It was the size of a small melon and its porcelain-like sheen was an indeterminate color between white and green—it was impossible to tell in the moon-shimmering light. Iridescent colors lined the egg like the eggs on a hand, threads of gold, pink, purple, silver and blue.

            Carefully, Titus touched it. And then he snatched his hand back, for the shell was not only hot to the touch, but it had suddenly become illuminated, with a dim but fierce red glow—like the determined sparking of an ember and Titus’s heart had jumped at the strangeness of it.

            “Titus, what are you doing let all the night air in the house, you silly little gingersnap?” Folrolf said, the sound of his great boots rattling the floorboards as he stalked up behind Titus, then stopped talking with a rapidity that was almost comical.

            He bent, bringing his nose close to the egg, and he looked a little like a swamp bird lowering its beak towards water.

            Folrolf peered at the egg, and then his eyebrows nearly exploded from his face as he straightened and looked around with his hands on his hips.

            “Now, who’s gone and left a ruddy great dragon egg on our door step?”

 ~

            Titus poked up the fire and the flames sputtered and climbed further up the chimney, casting more light and deeper shadows across the parlor.

            Folrolf had set the egg crate on a table and pulled an oil lamp closer as he bent to examine the thing that had been left in their care. Titus hung back, watching uneasily.

            “There might still be some way to find the gypsies and return,” Titus suggested.

            Folrolf let out an impatient grunt. “They’ll be long gone by now. And this was hardly a practical joke, they don’t want it. No, if they left it here, they have no intention of taking it back.”

            “We could take it out into a field and wait for the mother to reclaim it!” Titus suggested, grasping at straws.

            Folrolf gave him an astounded look, his eyebrows bristling with disapproval. “Titus, I am surprised at you. Leave a helpless egg in the middle of nowhere in the hopes that a mother which might not exist comes to retrieve it?”

            Titus felt slightly sulky. “We could have someone watch the egg until we know its safe,” he mumbled.

            Folrolf gave a colossal snort of derision at that proposal.

            “Perhaps they found they egg near by and have merely left it in our care until its mother comes looking for it!” Titus suggested hopefully, then felt rather foolish for being hopeful about it. An angry mother dragon seeking her lost egg by and dismantling their house one shingle at a time in the process was hardly an event to look forward to.

            “Perhaps,” Folrolf said distractedly, and he placed a hand on the egg. It lit up again—it was as if the egg were trying to purr, but could only do so by illumination. Folrolf chuckled on a rather odd tone, a note that Titus rarely heard, the Welkin almost sounded as if he were cooing.

            “Why don’t we take it to Rockmere Castle? I’m sure there’s someone there who is qualified to care for a dragon egg.”

            Folrolf looked like a creature preparing to unleash its claws, his frame quivered with offense. “More qualified than I?”

            Titus opened his mouth.

            “No, no, Titus.  Our duty is clear. You and I must look after this orphaned egg ourselves.”

            He knew it.

            Titus stared at the egg. He could just imagine how this situation could develop. Folrolf might do the research and write down the instructions on how to care for the egg, but Titus would be the one caring for the egg, as sure as certain. That wouldn’t be so bad, but what about when it finally hatched? He realized most people wouldn’t categorize a dragon as an animal, but he did—and he and animals didn’t have anything to do with one another if they could help it.

            In spite of what Folrolf said, what if another dragon did appear, looking for the egg? And then what happened once the dragon could start talking and walking and running about the house? It could burn the whole place down or bite their hand off, and it wouldn’t matter whether it was an accident or on purpose.

            And suppose the hatchling was never claimed? Titus imagined a baby dragon eating them out of house and home, racing around the house and talking non-stop. It might even eat house guests or decide to burn the village one day.

            Folrolf had picked up the egg and tickled it a little. The egg glowed. “That really is quite fascinating.”

            Titus could feel his face moving to arrange itself into a scowl and he tried to hold it back when Folrolf looked up suddenly.

            “I know!” Folrolf burbled happily. “We’ll have a lesson tomorrow and use the egg as an objective lesson! It’s high time you learned more about dragons and this is the perfect opportunity.”

            “I have a feeling I’ll learn more then enough shortly,” Titus muttered, as he watched the egg twitching and glowing in its nest.

 

 

This is copyrighted by Allison Tebo 2018© . Please do not use or copy without permission.

 

READ CHAPTER TWO HERE.

 

OKAY, PEOPLE THIS IS IT.

This is the point where you start leaving your feedback.  First of all, what do you think?  And perhaps most importantly – is there something you would like to happen next?  What are you anticipating in this story?  Tell me everything?

 

(more detailed rules about how this serialized participatory story works can be found HERE)

 

I await your feedback with baited breath!

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Life At Hedgerose – Chapter 1

    1. Thank you, Gracelyn! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see happen next! 🙂

  1. I really enjoyed this! I love all things fantasy, and this seems to be a mix of all the best things. Faeries, Dragons, and Hobbits! Titus is also a really fun character! Looking forward to the next part, can’t wait for the dragon to hatch.

    1. Thank you, Skye! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Whoops! Did I say hobbits? I was supposed to change that to human.

      I’m glad you like Titus. As far as I know, dragon eggs take a long time to hatch, so it could be a bit. 😛

  2. OHMYWORD OHMYWORD OHMYWOOOOORD!!!!!!!!!! This was one of the most delightful things I have ever read IN MAH LIFE. Just…ALLI!!! I ADORE the feel. You have captured the whimsical, cozy, witty feel to a T. But, at the same time, there is MAGIC AND FAIRIES AND DRAGONS! I am in loooove with this combination of quiet, country life with fantasy thrown in. I’m utterly head-over-heels for this story already!

    I love Titus’ precious, long-suffering personality. And Folrolf had me grinning throughout the whole thing. Your characters pop off the page so vividly! All their antics were golden.

    AND BABY DRAGONNN!!!!!!! I nearly shrieked when they got a dragon egg! I AM SO EXCITED! I would definitely love to see some fun, hilarious baby dragon shenanigans. I can only imagine the trouble Folrolf AND a baby dragon will cause Titus. XDD

    EEP. I’m already looking forward to the next part!

    (P.S. I did find just a few typos, but I didn’t know if that was the type of feedback you’re looking for so I didn’t take note of them…)

    1. *is speechless and wriggling with delight*

      This is just one of the sweetest comments – you made my day, Christine! You’re enthusiasm for everything is the best. I’m SO happy you enjoyed it!

      When it first occurred to me to look at this story last month, I had forgotten how much fun I had writing it, and I had even more fun adding onto – such as the addition of the dragon egg!

      Though, I must say, as far as I know, it takes a LONG time for dragon eggs to hatch. 😛 At least, after I looked it up in one of Folrolf’s books – that is what I found. 😀 HAHA, yes. I can only imagine what kind of difficulty that would cause them!

      Sorry about those typos! I’m going to have someone help me fix those. I was in a hurry to post this first chapter before I lost my nerve – but next month, I’m going to have it more rigorously proofed!

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Christine! <3

  3. Awwwww, what a lovely start to this story! Your style is so colorful and delicious and descriptive and I love it!

    Let’s see here… Well, I did notice that you had a teensy bit of an info dump right near the beginning, about Hedgerose. I think information about the setting might be better cut up and then dotted here and there where appropriate, rather than clumped together near the beginning, if you know what I mean? 🙂

    I LOVE your characters SO MUCH. Like, I am already head over heels with Titus. <3 His patience is so endearing, and he is just all-around a great character! Folrolf is wonderful too – that part when he forgot about the fireworks was soooooo funny and perfect.

    I think you could do fun things with Diggle and his poor hearing, and ESPECIALLY the hobbit Hedge – I reaaaalllly like Hedge already!! He's so quirky, and I love it. <3 So I wouldn't mind seeing more of those two later on!

    Oooooooh, baby dragon!!! I can't wait to read more! I want to see more of the odd egg, then possibly the hatched deal grate on Titus's nerves, and then maybe win his heart?? 😉 So excited to see where you take it, though. 😀

    GREAT JOB, ALLISON!!

    1. Awww – thank you, Lila!! That makes my day. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it.

      Great point about the info dump! As I move forward, I definitely foresee spacing out all that information about Hedgerose and such!

      Aww – I’m glad you are enjoying the characters! And I’m VERY glad you just mentioned that about Diggle, because I was thinking he might not come back, but you mentioning that made me realize he has the potential to be a really fun reoccurring character! AND it makes me want to expand Hedge even more. 🙂

      As far as I know, baby dragons take a loooong time to hatch. 😉 So we might or might not see that in this story.

      Thank you, Lila! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! <3

  4. Hi Alli! This was so charming! Hedgerose reminds me a little of Hobbiton. 😉 My main critique is that the beginning, as Lila Kims said, was a tad info-dumpy which made it slower than it needed to be. It would definitely be better to show us the area as the characters interact with it rather than tell us about it in a big chunk. Otherwise, once I was past that, I really got sucked into your lovely writing style and enjoyed it. What will happen with this dragon egg, I wonder? 🙂 Looking forward to the next part!

    1. Aww – thank you, Beth! Thanks so much for your critique – that beginning info dump will definitely be getting some attention during rewrites! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Haha – well, we shall see. XD

      I’m posting the next part in just a couple of days! Thanks so much for reading! <3

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