Chapter 50: Man In Moon
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Previously: In Wonderland, Madnes and his group have split up in their search for the 7 crystals of the Terraforming Spell (a dangerous spell currently threatening to destroy their home on Earth, Okinala Island). Cheshire is with Cosmic, Harrey is with the orphans, and Madnes with Alice. They now journey through their individual missions, but the Red King has his own plan to put a stop to them, sending out his knights and Wanted posters. Meanwhile, the story follows Harrey, Ash and Drisel up in the Floating Isles of the Baa people as they hunt for the white crystal. Their new Baa friend Thimble is worried for Wolf, who people have been accusing for the disappearances of Baa. And now a mysterious trader has arrived: the Man in Moon…
The moon airship was the size of a two-story house as they drew near. A crowd of Baa surrounded the gangplank as it lowered to the docking platform. Ash was too short to see above the crowd. Harrey picked him up and let him balance on his shoulders, and held Drisel in the crook of his elbow. They all three watched as the gangplank thumped and a tall, narrow figure strode down it.
The blue sleeves of a long robe billowed, and a trimmed white beard snaked to the ground; a pointy hat with a crescent moon on its tip rose up. Silver stars and moons decorated the odd garb, the Man in Moon lifted his arms and waved. A shower of silver fireworks from his sleeves shot above the crowd, making sparkling waterfalls of light, and the Baa cheered and awed.
“Good Baa ladies and gents,” said Man, “I return with a bountiful haul of items, artifacts and precious things from the lands below.” He flung his hands and what looked like wrapped candy showered about the crowd—Baa eagerly catching the sweets. “Line up in an orderly fashion and see for yourself. First come, first served!”
The Baa rushed forward, and it was quite a bit of jostling and shoving before a line was formed leading into the moon airship: to see and buy what new goods he’d brought.
“Guess we’ll be waiting a while,” groaned Harrey.
The line and time crept by slow as molasses until most of the Baa had finished and it was finally their turn. Clomping up the gangplank and inside the airship’s hull, the air went from sun-baking to musty warm. The smell of old things, dust, and metal everywhere. To right and left of the wood plank walls was an assortment of oddities—most Ash had no idea what they were for. So much stuff crammed every space that it was an effort to walk about, much of it spilling out the small windows lining the hull and letting in dulled light. Propped up flags, stacked propellers and fans, big bulbous plants with teeth in one corner, ropes and nets of all kinds in piles, drawers of jewels and big colorful stones, paintings and warped photographs, bright patterned fabrics, gadgets that Harrey immediately dove to, and knick-knacks galore, were just a few of the items in the haul.
Ash inspected the large rocks, looking for the white spell crystal. Nothing looked promising though.
“Anything in particular you desire?” asked a voice.
Ash spun, and the Man in Moon displayed a toothy smile, his back hunched and hands folded behind him. “Um, no, not really,” Ash tried not to mumble.
“That so?” said Man, “But you looked to be searching so diligently through these rocks.”
“I…like rocks, is all.” Ash looked up, then away from the Man’s face—it wasn’t as wrinkled as he’d expected. Harrey came over, combing his blue wig disguise with a forked-like object.
“So you’re a famous trader here?” said Harrey.
Man in Moon nodded. “And you’re not really a Baa, are you?”
“Ah—what gave me away?” Harrey mock pouted and stuck out his tongue.
Man chuckled. “I’m around humans in the lands below enough to know when I see one trying to disguise himself.”
“Hehe, you got me!” Harrey laughed. “It’s been fun touring the Floating Isles, and even more fun dressing as a Baa.”
“I must say, you do almost look the part.” Though Man smiled, Ash was beginning to feel uneasy. It reminded him of the pretend smiles people would give him and his orphan friends: suspicious and lying.
“Where’s the really good stuff?” asked Harrey. “Y’know, the more valuable cargo most can’t afford?”
“Oh? Have enough money, do you?” gray bushy eyebrows rose.
Harrey shrugged. “If I like anything, maybe.”
“Well then.” Man pulled out a key and opened a blended-in door in the right wall. The extra room, not as crowded, held an eye-full of colorful and dazzling objects and weapons on display. He ushered them inside.
“Wooow,” Harrey whistled. “Quite a collection here!”
“Yes, I travel many lands, seeking only the best for my buyers.” Man folded his hands in his sleeves, a touch proud.
Ash scanned the area, but nothing of white crystal was in sight. How were they going to thoroughly search the place with the Man at their side? No doubt the crystal would be well hidden, if it was here. There could be more hidden doors and crevices to hide it in. They needed time to search.
“Ash, do you see anything you’d like?” Harrey asked suddenly. Ash blinked, and the Man’s attention went to him.
“Um, a dagger or something would be cool,” Ash mumbled, uneasy.
“I have a few here,” Man in Moon pulled out two drawers from the wall: daggers displayed inside. Ash couldn’t help but be awed by the sight. He noticed Harrey behind the Man: his hands were at work behind his back, pulling out and assembling something from a deep pocket. It looked like a robotic frog. The frog’s eyes glowed awake as Harrey’s fingers turned something, and he quick bent down and tucked the frog behind a cluttered corner. Meanwhile Ash pointed at different daggers, asking questions and keeping Man distracted.
“That dagger was forged in dragon’s breath,” Man described the one Ash fingered. “It was—“
“Find one you like?” Harrey interrupted, craning to look over Ash’s shoulder.
“Well, yes, but they’re pretty expensive…” said Ash.
“Oh, I forgot to switch more of my wallet’s currency.” Harrey pulled out a frayed wallet. “We need what I have left for the inn tonight. I don’t suppose you take green bills?”
“Green bills?” Man frowned. “Never heard of that currency.”
“Ah, that’s fine. I’ll change it to Baa currency and be back tomorrow,” said Harrey. “You will still be here, right?”
“For a full week, in fact,” said Man, but to Ash’s eyes he looked even more suspicious of them than before. ‘He suspects us,’ Ash thought.
“Let’s go and get that inn room.” Harrey caught both he and Drisel by the shoulders, steering them out. “We’ll be back tomorrow, count on it!”
The Man in Moon lightly bowed, arms folded. “I look forward to it.”
Back out on the streets of the sky town, Ash pulled free of Harrey’s grip and faced him squarely. “What was that frog-thing you hid?”
“Heehee, my robot frog helper! I’m glad I kept him with me all this time,” Harrey grinned. “He’ll scout the moon ship for us, and report back if the crystal is hidden somewhere. Pretty clever, huh? I knew good ol’ Frobbit would come in handy one day.”
“If it doesn’t get caught…”
Frobbit is back! Do you remember him from chapters waaay back? 😀 Share the story with friends and help spread the word about #MadnesSolver!
Coming up: This Thursday I’m hoping to write up a Monthly summary post. More #FishingForAnswers Friday! Don’t forget to click the “Follow” button to be notified of future blog posts!
Thank you for reading, and check back latenight June 21 for the next Madnes Solver chapter.
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This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “photograph.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your favorite 3 to win!
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