Bashir and the Islands of Mirage

Raymond J. Harding

Pepperell, MA

 

Bashir and the Islands of Mirage

[A Children’s Story:  A Dragon Comes of Age.(ed.)]

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“Are there REALLY dragons?” I asked once.

“There are REALLY Storybook Dragons,” my mother told me. “Bashir the dragon lived on an island very far from here, an island called Tooquart Island, one of the six Islands of Mirage. The largest of the six islands is called Daisy Island, where most of the grown-up dragons lived, and then there is Misty Isle…”

“ Is it really misty?”

“It is so misty that sailors have warnings on all their charts: STAY AWAY FROM MISTY ISLE! Which means that they stayed away from the other islands as well. The next island is called Torpor, and the people who live there a very lazy. After Torpor, comes Vanilla Island —”

“ And after that, Chocolate?”

“ Well, no, actually, the next island is called Gull Cliff, and finally, the last island in the chain is called Tooquart. That is where Bashir lived.”

“How did he get there?”

“His mother and father sent him there when he was fifteen.”

“Why?”

“To learn. Just like the British send their children off to school. There was a lot for Bashir to learn on this island and he had lots of time. You see, Bashir’s mother and father wanted very much for him to be the first dragon to make friends with the human people who had always been suspicious and very much afraid of dragons.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. People were so afraid of dragons once that they drove them away whenever one of them showed up. Dragons are very sensitive, and when they saw that people didn’t like them very much, they moved  away by themselves to the Islands of Mirage. Now, Bashir Buckenheimer – “

“Buckenheimer? That’s a silly name for a dragon.”

“Not really. Buckenheimer is a perfectly good name, and there’s no reason that a dragon could not be called Bashir Buckenheimer.”

“I suppose. What happens next?”

“Bashir was supposed to be studying very hard to learn all the things that grown-up dragons are supposed to know.”

“Like what?”

“Like how to do arithmetic so that he could add up all his apples and oranges and pieces of pie.”

“And do his check-book like you do?”

“Yes.”

“And do his income tax like daddy does?”

“ Well, yes, I suppose so.”

“ And did he ever get angry like you and daddy do when it doesn’t come out right?”

“ That was the hardest part of Bashir’s lessons. He did very well in arithmetic and  reading and  history and geography, but he also had to learn manners, and how to get along with people, and most of all not to lose his temper. People do not like it when other people lose their tempers, and they most definitely would not like it at all if a dragon were to lose his. Bashir had to learn control himself and use his powers very carefully so that no one would get hurt.”

“Powers? What powers?”

“First of all, dragons can breathe smoke and fire — the grown-up ones of course – and that can cause all kinds of trouble if it gets out of control. Then, don’t forget, dragons grow to be quite large and powerful. It would not do to shake hands with someone and hurt them. After all, he was going to be the first dragon in a very long time to make friends with humans. He would have to be very careful. But the most awesome power of all was that  grown-up dragons can fly, and when Bashir got his wings he was going to have to take his flying lessons very seriously. It was not like the old days when the only one that could fly were birds and dragons – – – “

“You forgot something.”

“What?”

“Bats.”

“Yes. You’re right. I forgot bats. I wonder why. Well, to go on with the story, Bashir would have to avoid airliners and military jets and helicopters and all those other aircraft swooping around in the sky.”

“ Is that all the powers that dragons have?”

“No, they have one more power which people could also have if they paid more attention to things.”

“What’s that?”

“Dragons are very observant. Sometimes they can guess exactly what people are thinking. Dragons can also communicate with other animals like birds and foxes and bees.”

“Bees don’t talk.”

“I didn’t say they could. I said dragons could communicate with these other animals, and that is a very hard thing to be able to do.”

“But didn’t Bashir already have wings?”

“No. He was much too young when he arrived on the island, but his mother and father promised they would send him his wings on a very special birthday, and then he could fly from the island and join the grown-up dragons.

“Was he lonely?”

“Oh no, he had many, many friends. He had his friend, Ferdinand, and Ferdinand’s friend, Jordan. Ferdinand and Jordan were Twillers. It was Jordan who showed Bashir the meadow where the Tooquarts grow.”

“What’s a Twiller,  and what are Tooquarts?”

“Twillers are little animal people who only live on Bashir’s island. They look very much like bunnies, but they have round little ears like the mouse that lives in our attic. Tooquarts are pretty, green vegetables that look like carrots and grow on trees and taste like chocolate candy and are very good for you. This is much nicer than chocolate candy that tastes like carrots.”

“Yuk.”

“Remember that the next time you eat your carrots”

“But who taught Bashir all his arithmetic and reading and geography and manners?

“Weren’t there any people on the island?”

“Only Mrs. squiggle who is a retired school teacher and had chosen to live on Tooquart for a while to be alone.  She had a neat little cottage, and a garden for flowers and another one for vegetables, and she liked to take long walks on the beach. However, she finally became very bored and was almost ready to leave the island when she received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Buckenheimer asking if she would take Bashir as a pupil”

“So she was the only human person on the island?”

“She was. Once a sailor who had heard rumors about the abundance of tooquarts on the island and who thought he could make a fortune selling them to restaurants, landed on the island. He was taking a drink of water from a fresh, spring fed pool, when he thought he saw something deep down in the water. It looked like a sea serpent. But, he thought, what would a sea serpent be doing in a fresh pool? Then he realized that what he saw was only a reflection, and when he looked up, he saw – – – Bashir”

“What did he do?”

“He rowed back to his boat as if all the sharks in the ocean were after him, and sailed away. When he told his story to the other sailors, they all wrote on their maps: Stay Away From Tooquart Island! IN THIS PLACE BE DRAGONS.”

“Did it work?”

“You bet it did. Even today, sailors — except the ship that comes to bring the mail — stay well away from all the six Islands of Mirage”

“What happened next?”

“Like all children Bashir lost all track of time. He spent twenty years climbing the large mountain at the center of the island. When he finally reached the top he could see every bit of his island. Way down on the beach he saw Ferdinand and Jordan. He waved to them, but they were so far away and tiny that they didn’t see him. Off in the distance, far, far away, he could see another island. “I’ll be that is the island where the grown-up dragons live,” he said to himself, but he was wrong. It was Gull Cliff Island where nothing lived except for the sea birds, and where great white cliffs rose straight up from the sea, making it impossible for any ships to and there.”

“Twenty years! What did he eat?”

“He brought a great big sack of peanut butter sandwiches and a supply of carrots – I mean Tooquarts.”

“How long did he stay on the mountain?”

“Not very long. It was too cold up there. Dragons don’t like the cold at all.”

“Did it take another twenty years for him to get down?”

“No, he slid most of the way and was down in two weeks. When he reached the bottom, Ferdinand and Jordan were there to meet him. They were very excited.”

“A ship!. A ship! They yelled together.”

“There was a big cruise ship — the mail boat— in the harbor. People were at the rail, waiving and smiling. The captain climbed down the gangway and asked Mrs. Squiggly if he could have a private talk with Bashir. The captain had brought him to the island years ago, and was one of the few people who still managed to get along with the dragons. “Bashir,’ said the captain, “I’ve got some very bad news. We had a birthday package for you but as we were going around the Misty Isle, we were set-upon by Parkenwate the Pirate. He demanded all the passengers jewelry and he also took the big box of gifts that your parents sent. I’m very sorry Mam,” he said to Mrs. Squiggly, “I will report this to the Coast Guard and the Navy, but they’ve never had very much luck trying to catch this clever pirate. He hides somewhere on the Misty Isle and they can’t get to him.”

“Bashir was very sorry, too. He knew that his wings were in one of those boxes. ‘What else was in those packages’, he asked the captain.”

“The captain looked at the list on his clipboard and said, ‘Some story books and  some books on behavior for dragons. Also, there was a magic ring. I think that was what Parkanwate was really after.’

“                                                                       ‘Well,’” Bashir said to his friends, Ferdinand and Jordan, “ ‘If I want my wings and my story books and my book on behavior for dragons, and my magic ring, I guess I will just have to sail to Misty Isle and get them back from Parkanwate the Pirate.’ ”

“ ‘But Parkenwate is a Grimble,’ “Ferdinand and Jordan exclaimed.”

“Now, what is a Grimble, you may ask — “

“What’s a Grimble?”

“I’m glad you asked. A Grimble looks like a cross between a teddy bear and a troll. They are very grim, and they grumble a lot.”

“And they are very, very bad.”

“Not always. They are like boys and girls. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad. Parkanwate the Pirate just happened to be bad more than he was good.”

“How did Bashir get to Misty Isle?”

“First he went to Mrs. Squiggles and asked, ‘do you think I am ready to go out into the world and meet people, and get my wings and my other good things that my mother and my father sent to me for my birthday?’ ”

“Mrs. Squiggles looked at him for a long time and then she said, ‘I know you must be very disappointed about this, losing your gifts and all, but you did not get angry and you were very polite to the captain.’ ”

“ ‘It was not his fault, Bashir said.’ ”

“ ‘That’s right,’ ” said Mrs. Squiggles. “ ‘I think that you are ready to meet people. But first, we must have an important test.’ ”

“He had to take a test?”

“Oh, yes, sometimes tests are very important, and teachers, like Mrs. Squiggles love to give tests just to make sure that their students have learned all that they are supposed to learn. ‘Let’s see a little dragon fire,’ said Mrs. Squiggles, and Bashir took a deep breath and let it out slowly. A little puff of smoke drifted out into the breeze. ‘Not very impressive,” said Mrs. Squiggles, but at least it’s a start.’ She picked up a small rock from the seashore and threw it high into the air. ‘Now try a little harder, and let’s see you hit that with your dragon fire,’ she ordered.  The rock was almost out of sight, just a tiny speck. Bashir took a deep breath and fired.”

“Did he hit it?”

“Smashed it into a million little grains of sand that came drifting slowly down to add to the beach. Ferdinand and Jordan cheered. Bashir smiled. “ ‘Remember,’ said Mrs. Squiggles, ‘you must never hurt anyone with that fire of yours!’”

“ ‘I’ll remember’, “said Bashir.” ‘But now, I guess its time to go.’”

“ ‘Can we go with you?’, “Ferdinand and Jordan asked as they jumped and down in excitement.”

“ ‘I don’t know,’ “said Bashir”. “I don’t even know how I’m going to get to Misty Isle.’ ”

“ ‘Well I do,’ “said Mrs. Squiggles.” ‘It just so happens that I have some presents that I made for you for your birthday.’ ”

“ ‘Oh boy, thank you very much,’ “Bashir said politely, even before he knew what his presents were.”

“What were they?”

“Just listen to the story and you’ll find out. Mrs. Squiggles went in to her little house

and came out with a great big nylon bundle. “This’ “she said”, ‘is a hot-air balloon. Fill this up with hot air, and you can sail with the wind.’ ”

“ ‘But where will I find the hot air.’ “Bashir asked.”

“Mrs. Squiggles looked at him and laughed”. She said, “You had better start using your imagination, Bashir.’ ”

” ‘My dragon fire!’  he exclaimed.”

” ‘Now, you’re thinking,’  Mrs. Squiggles smiled at him.  She went into the house and came back with another great big nylon bundle.  ‘This,’ she said, ‘is a magic sail, made by my own little hands.  We’ll put this on my sailboat down in the harbor, and you’ll be able to sail all around the Islands of Mirage.  With that and the balloon, you can go anywhere.  And you better take Ferdinand and Jordan with you.  They can help you sail the boat.’ ”

 

“So off they sailed.  Bashir steered the boat out of the harbor as Ferdinand and Jordan tugged, and tugged at the sail until it was finally up.  Everyone cheered as the sail snapped in the breeze.  It was a great red sail with a white dragon sewn on it.  Mrs. Squiggles had done a very good job.  The ship with its dragon sail looked just like the pictures of the ships that the Vikings used to go exploring long, long ago.  Ferdinand and Jordan had packed the hold with tooquarts, peanut butter sandwiches, and lemonade, and water.  They had also stored Mrs. Squiggly’s super balloon in a safe place.”

“Where did they go first?”

“First, they came to the next island, the one that Bashir had seen from the top of the mountain.”

“Where he thought the grownup dragons lived, but they didn’t.”

“Yes, only this was Gull Cliff Island, where the cliffs come right down to the ocean. They sailed completely around the island and found that there was no place to land.  ‘Shall we take the balloon and see what is on top of the cliffs?’  Ferdinand asked.

” ‘What do you think, Jordan?’  Bashir asked.  He wanted advice from his friends.”

” ‘I don’t think there’s anything on this island except all those sea gulls,’  Jordan said very thoughtfully,’ and certainly, Parkanwate the Pirate couldn’t be hiding here.  I think we should go on to the next island and ask the way to Misty Isle.’ ”

” ‘I think you’re right,’  Bashir said, so off they sailed for the next island.”

“Vanilla?”

“Right.”

“Why did they call it Vanilla?   Was there a lot of vanilla ice cream there, or vanilla pudding, or vanilla milkshakes?”

“They called it Vanilla Island because the beaches all the way around the island were the color of vanilla ice cream and vanilla pudding and vanilla milkshakes.  It was a very pretty island as you can imagine, with palm trees and little white houses and green farms.  Bashir and Ferdinand and Jordan sailed into the little harbor, lowered their anchor, and rowed ashore.  As soon as their little rowboat scrunched on the sand,  a great number of boys and girls came running down to meet them, but they all came to a sudden stop when they saw Bashir.  This was the first time that any of them had ever seen a dragon, you know.”

“I’ll bet they were scared!”

“Well, they might have been a little bit scared, but when they saw the Twillers, Ferdinand and Jordan, who were much smaller than they were, and didn’t seem to be the least bit frightened, they came just a little closer.  Actually, the one who was really scared was Bashir.  After all, this was his first meeting with the humans that he was supposed to be impressing.  ‘Good morning,’ he said.  ‘I’m Bashir, and these are my friends, Ferdinand and Jordan.  We are on our way to find my birthday presents that were stolen by Parkanwate the Pirate.  Can you tell us the way to Misty Isle?’ ”

“The boys and girls looked at each other and shook their heads.  One little girl with golden hair and big blue eyes who had studied her geography lessons very well, smiled and said, I know!”

” ‘Ah,’  said Bashir, ‘I would be very grateful if you would tell us.’

” ‘First,’  the little girl said, ‘you have to sail northwest from here for one whole day and night until you come to the island called Torpor.  Everybody is very lazy on this island, so don’t stay there very long, or you’ll never leave.  From there you go just a little further north and you will come to Misty Isle.  Be very careful because Parkanwate the Pirate is a very fierce Grimble.’ ”

” ‘Thank you very much,’  said Bashir.  ‘Ferdinand, Jordan, don’t you think we should give these children some of our tooquarts?’ ”

“Ferdinand and Jordan dug into one of their bags and passed around the tooquarts.”

” ‘These look like carrots!’  exclaimed one little boy.”

” ‘Try them,’ said Bashir.”

” ‘Umm!  These are good,’  said the little girl who had given Bashir his directions.  Bashir and Ferdinand and Jordan shook hands with all the children, and Bashir was very careful not to squeeze too hard.  He felt very pleased at having made friends with so many people on his very first try.  As they rowed away from the beach, the three sailors waved to the children, and the children waved back, still munching their tooquarts.”

“As they climbed back into their sailboat, Jordan whispered, ‘I don’t like the way that little girl referred to Parkanwate the Pirate as a very fierce Grimble.  I think I’m getting a little scared about this adventure.’ ”

” ‘Don’t worry,’  Bashir said as he and Ferdinand hoisted the sail.  ‘Perhaps, I can pretend to be a very fierce dragon if I have to.’ ”

“So once more, they sailed away for the next island.  All that day they sailed, and when he stars were hung out for lanterns, Bashir said that they would each take a watch while the other two slept.  He showed them (Thanks to Mrs. Squiggly’s teaching) how to keep their course through the long night, and when the round red sun broke over the horizon, there was the island called Torpor, just where the little girl had told them it would be.”

” ‘Does it seem musty to you?’  Ferdinand asked.”

“Jordan said, ‘Yes it does. I wonder why?’ ”

” ‘It must be because it is close to Misty Isle,’  Bashir explained.”

“Bashir brought the ship carefully into the dock, and the three explorers climbed the ladder, and walked along the rickety boardwalk to the shore.  There were benches on either side of the street that led into town, and on almost every bench sat an old, grey-bearded man, each one with his chin resting on his cane, dozing. Jordan yawned, “I think I’ll take a nap,’ he said and headed for an empty bench.”

” ‘Oh, no,’ said Bashir as he caught him by his furry tail.  ‘You remember what the little girl said.  We don’t have time for a nap.  We must get directions and get out of here quickly before we decide that it is too much work to go seek out Parkanwate the Pirate.”

“The old man on the next bench opened one eye and looked at them.  ‘What was that?’  he asked.  ‘You young fellers lookin’ for that old reprobate, Parkanwate?  Say,’  he went on, ‘you’re a dragon aren’t you, sonny?’  Bashir nodded.  ‘Not a very big one, though,’  the old man added.  ‘Haven’t seen any  of you folks around for a long time.  What do you want with old Parkanwate?’ ”

” ‘He’s got my birthday presents,’  Bashir explained, ‘and they are very important to me.  But tell me, he added, why is everybody so lazy on this island?’  Not far from where her stood talking to the old man, Bashir could see a large group of children playing baseball.  Bashir had read about baseball in his schooling, and even though he had never seen a real game, he had a good idea that all the infielders and outfielders should not be sitting down on the bases and out in the field the way these children were.  Even worse was the fact that the pitcher instead of throwing the ball to the batter, rolled it towards him.  Bashir watched at the ball rolled slowly past the batter who did not even try to swing at it, Instead the ball rolled right up to the catcher who was stretched out sound asleep behind home plate.  The batter sat down and rested his chin on his bat just like the old men with their canes.”

“The old man studied Bashir carefully, then he said, “We’re not lazy.  We’re just always sleepy, and that’s Parkanwate’s fault, too.  A long time ago, he stole some sleep dust from the Sandman’s supply, and he’s been mixing it with the mist.  Thinks it funny, he does, making us all mope around like this all day long.’  The old man’s eyes began to close again.”

” ‘Oh, please,’ sir, Bashir said, ‘don’t go to sleep again.  Tell us how to get to Misty Isle.  Is it far?’ ”

” ‘The old man opened one eye and pointed with his case.  ‘That way,’ he said, and then he closed his eyes and began to snore.”

“Ferdinand and Jordan were curled up at the old man’s feet, snoring away themselves.  Bashir knew that he had to move quickly to get them off this island.  He picked the two Twillers up, tucked one under each arm and ran as fast as he could down the rickety dock to their ship.  He hoisted the sail all by himself, and as  soon as they pulled out into the open ocean, he breathed a sigh.  Ferdinand and Jordan yawned and stretched and climbed to their feet.”

” ‘Boy, that was a nice nap,’  Ferdinand said.”

” ‘It sure was,’  said Jordan.  ‘Where are we now?’ ”

” ‘Half way to Misty Isle,’  said Bashir.”

 

“And did they find Misty Isle?”

“Oh, yes.  They had hardly lost sight of the island called Torpor, when the mist began to close around them, and the breeze softened to a whisper.  Even the water seemed the color of the mist, and it was hard to tell where the air ended and the sea began.  The sail flapped a few times and then hung as still as  a great red curtain.  Even Mrs. Squiggly’s white dragon seemed sad and quiet.  The boat began to drift with the current as night began to fall.”

“Weren’t they afraid?”

“Maybe just a little.  Bashir had been doing so well making friends with people, and they had come so far on their journey, that he was feeling quite good about the whole trip.  He was sure he could deal with Parkanwate when the time came.”

“How about Jordan and Ferdinand?”

“They were just a little nervous.  Bashir seemed so sure of himself, that they  felt he could handle just about anything that came up.  That was just when something did come up.”

“What came up?”

“A giant rock came up.  Right out of the water.  It hit the ship, or the ship hit the rock, it doesn’t make much difference, but it made the loudest crash that the three explorers had ever heard.  Ferdinand and Jordan tumbled along the deck like little bowling balls.  Luckily, Bashir caught them both before they could hurt themselves.”

” ‘What happened?’  Jordan asked.”

” ‘What’s that funny sound?’  Ferdinand asked.”

” ‘That’s water coming into the ship,’  Bashir explained.  ‘I think we’re sinking!’ ”

” ‘Oh, no!’ cried Ferdinand and Jordan.”

” ‘I I had my wings, I could fly us al out of here, but I don’t have my wings thanks to Parkanwate.’ ”

” ‘What will we do;  what will we do?’  The two Twillers shouted.”

” ‘Don’t panic, mates,’ said Bashir, ‘I guess we’ll just have to bring out Mrs. Squiggly’s super balloon.’  So they tugged and hauled and soon had the balloon stretched out on the deck of the sinking ship.”

” ‘Will there be room for all of us in that wicker basket?’  Jordan asked.’ ”

” ‘It looks like a laundry hamper,’  Ferdinand said.”

” ‘Stop worrying,’  Bashir said as he began roaring out his great fiery dragon breath to fill the balloon.  ‘Mrs. Squiggly knew what she was doing.  There’ll be room for all of us.’  And he puffed again and again until the balloon was filled.  Quickly Bashir jumped in and pulled his two friends in after him.  Up into the air they went.  Down into the sea went their nice ship with the wonderful red dragon sail.  ‘That’s something else that Parkanwate is going to have to replace,’  Bashir vowed as they  drifted through the dark, swirling mist toward Misty Isle.”

” ‘How are we going to get down?’  Jordan asked.”

“How will we know WHEN to  get down?’  Ferdinand asked.”

 

“Did Bashir know?”

“He did not have the faintest idea.  Remember, Bashir had been on his island ever since he was a very young dragon, and nobody as all knew much about Misty Isle.”

“So how did they get down?”

“Mrs. Squiggly had provided the balloon with an anchor, a great big hook on a long rope.  On the bag that held the anchor and the rope were printed instructions.  LOWER THIS SLOWLY AND HOOK ON TO SOMETHING WHEN YOU WANT TO STOP.  In smaller print it said, Try not to  hook onto anything breakable!  So Bashir lowered the hook and waited.  Soon it grew lighter, and even though it was too misty to make out the ground below, Bashir could see that Mrs. Squiggly’s balloon was the same bright red as the tail she had made, and it had the same large white dragon stitched into the fabric.  It was a fine balloon.”

“Suddenly, there came a tug, and the balloon came to a stop.  Both Jordan and Ferdinand snapped awake.”

” ‘Are we there?’  Ferdinand asked.”

” ‘Where are we?’  Jordan asked.”

“Bashir peered down into the swirling mists, but could see nothing. ‘I have no idea,’ he admitted.  ‘We’ll have to make sure that everything is shop shape up  here and then slide down the rope to find out where we are.’ ”

“They made very sure that all the ropes were good and tight, then Bashir eased himself over the side of the wicker basket with his two friends holding tightly on either shoulder and lowered himself down the rope.”

” ‘At the bottom of the rope, they found that the hook had caught in some wires that were running from the top of a long, thin pole with a crossbar attached.  Bashir sat for a moment on the crossbar and gazed down. He could see where the pole ended below him, but he had a pretty good idea of where he was.  He whispered to Ferdinand and Jordan, ‘You know where I thin we are?’ ”  ‘You know where I think we are?’ ”

” ‘No,’ they answered, ‘where do you think we are?’ ”

” ‘I thin we’re on the tippity top of Parkanwate the Pirate’s main mast!”

” ‘Oh, no!’  whispered Jordan in despair.”

” ‘That’s bad!’   whispered Ferdinand.”

” ‘No, that’s good,’ whispered Bashir.”

” ‘That’s good?’  Jordan asked in amazement.”

” ‘What’s so good about it?’  whispered Ferdinand.”

” ‘Shhh!’  whispered Bashir as he began to slide slowly down the mast.”

“When Bashir reached the bottom of the mast, he set Ferdinand and Jordan quietly down on the painted black deck.  ‘We must be very quiet,’ he cautioned.”

” ‘How many pirates do you think Parkanwate has working for him?’  The Twillers asked.”

” ‘I don’t know,’  Bashir said as he began walking toward the gleam of a light behind a cabin door at the front–the bow–of the ship.  ‘I doubt if he has very many.  Things have not been very good in the pirate business lately, and it is hard to get good help.’ ”

“When they reached the cabin door, Bashir slid it open very quietly. A small lamp showed them a set of stairs leading below.  ‘It’s very dark down there,’  Jordan said as he shivered.”

” ‘And I can hear funny noises,’  Ferdinand said softly.  Bashir could hear the little Twiller’s teeth chattering.”

” ‘Follow me,’  Bashir said bravely as he set out down the narrow stairs.”

“At the bottom of the steps, Bashir had to duck his head as he made his way along a dusty corridor.  Ferdinand and Jordan pressed at his heels almost tripping over him in their effort to stay close.  It was very dark.  Cobwebs hung in   long grey mats that caught in their hair as they moved cautiously along.  There were squeaks and groans as the big pirate ship moved up and down and from side to side with the motion of the waves.  Bashir was making his way toward a crack of light that shone from under a door at the end of the passage.”

“When they reached the door, Bashir pressed his ear against it.  From within, he could hear mutterings and mumblings, in a deep, low voice.  ‘Does that sound like a Grimble to you?’ he whispered.”

” ‘It sure sound like a Grimble to me,’ said Ferdinand.”

” ‘Me, too,’ said Jordan, ‘Let’s get out of here!’ and he turned to start back the way they had come, but before he had gone two steps, he tripped over his feet and landed on the floor with a crash!”

” ‘Who’s that out there!’  shouted the deep, low, angry voice of the pirate.”

“Bashir trembled for a moment, but he knew that the had not come this far to turn and run away now.  He threw open the door and shouted in his own deep, low, angry voice, ‘It is me–(He remembered Mrs. Squiggle’s grammar lessons)–I, Bashir the dragon.  I’ve come for my wings and my books and my magic ring that you  stole from the mail ship!’ ”

” ‘Well, Bashir the dragon, I am Parkanwate the Pirate, and I intend to keep all those things whether they’re yours or not.  After all, I am a pirate you know, the captain of a pirate ship.  I have a reputation to maintain!’ ”

“Bashir stared in amazement.  From the sound of the voice he had heard, and the reputation that Parkanwate had acquired, he had expected a giant.  Instead, he faced a medium-sized, frowning, angry Grimble, not much larger than the average boy.”

” ‘And what’s that hiding behind you?’  Parkanwate roared.  ‘A pair of Twillers?  Excellent!  I haven’t had Twiller stew in years.’ ”

“Jordan and Ferdinand almost fainted at that, but Ferdinand spoke up quickly, ‘Never mind, Bashir, he can’t scare us–‘ ”

” ‘ He can’t?’  whispered Jordan who was very scared.  ‘He’s doing a good job of scaring me!’ ”

“Ferdinand said bravely, ‘We’ll help you take him on, Bashir, him and his whole pirate crew!’ ”

“Just then Parkanwate drew a wicked-looking curved cutlass that hung at his side, and waved it in the air.  “That’s it!’ he yelled, ‘I’ve had enough!   I’ll carve you all into little pieces!’  He began to advance slowly.  Nobody moved.  ‘Why don’t you back away while you have a chance?’  He asked.  ‘Get out of my hold!  Get off my ship!’ ”

” ‘Not without my birthday presents,’ said Bashir.  Bashir realized that Parkanwate was as frightened as they were. He also knew that he had to do something, but what?”

“Dragon fire! he thought. But he remembered Mrs. Squiggly’s warning:  Don’t hurt anyone with that power!’   He squinted his eyes as he concentrated.  This would have to be a careful shot if he were to save his friends and himself.  He took careful aim–”

“WHOOSH!–POW!”

“There stood Parkanwate the Pirate, foolishly waving the handle of his sword. The rest of it, the cutting part, lay on the floor in a puddle of melted metal.  ‘How did you do that?’  he asked, and this time all the meanness was gone from his voice.  That’s a pretty good trick.’ ”

” ‘That’s nothing!  Jordan sneered.  ‘Wait till you see what he does to the rest of your crew!’ ”

” ‘Yeah,’ cried Ferdinand, ‘bring ’em on!  Bring ’em on!’  and he danced up and down waving his tiny fists at Parkanwate.”

” ‘Well, that presents a slight problem,’  Parkanwate sighed as he sat at the table where he had been counting his loot.  ‘You see,’ he continued, ‘there’s just me, and now that I’m captured, I guess the battle is over.  You’ll find all your presents in the locker over there.  I just haven’t had the time to get to them.  What does that magic ring do, anyway?’ ”

” ‘I really don’t know,’  Bashir admitted.  ‘It might make me invisible or something, but since you stole it, I haven’t had a chance to read the instructions or the Owner’s manual.’ ”

” ‘Well then,’  Parkanwate continued,’ what are your terms of surrender? Do I have to go to prison?’ ”

” ‘If I don’t send you to prison, will you give up pirating?’ ”

” ‘I might as well.  It wasn’t paying off much anyway.  Maybe I’ll turn my pirate ship into a windjammer cruiser.  That’s the up-and-coming thing.’ ”

” ‘You also have to return all the other things you’ve taken over the years, and you definitely have to clean up the air.  You have to stop putting that sleep dust into the mist.  Why, they can’t even play baseball over on Torpor Island, and that’s a shame.’ ”

” ‘You’re right.  I thought it was a pretty good joke at first, but I suppose those poor people don’t think it’s so funny.  Ok., no more sleep dust, I’ll give back all the goodies, and I’ll turn this boat into a cruise ship.  Probably you’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.  What else can I do for you?’ ”

” ‘You can show me the way to Daisy Island, and while we are gone, you can salvage Mrs. Squiggly’s ship  with the nice sail that she made for us.’ ”

” ‘Are we going to take the balloon to Daisy Island, or are you going to fly there on your birthday wings?’  Ferdinand asked.”

“Bashir smiled, and patter his two brave friends on the back.  ‘You are going to fly the balloon, and I’ll fly alongside with my new wings,’  he announced.”

“Up on deck, Parkanwate the Ex-pirate pointed the way they should head for Daisy Island.  Bashir shinnied up the past to the crossbar, and while Ferdinand and Jordan climbed the rope into the wicker basket with his other presents, he fastened on his new wings.  ‘Are you ready up there?’  he called.”

” ‘Aye, aye, captain,’  they called back.  ‘Cast us off!”

“Bashir pulled the anchor free of the mast, and the balloon began to rise majestically through the mist.”

” ‘Are you coming?’  their voices called.”

“Bashir flapped his wings twice just to get the feel of them, and then spreading them wide, he dove free of the mast and the ship and soared across the open water.  He began to rise, following the frantic calls of his nervous shipmates, until both the colorful balloon and the soaring dragon broke through the mist into the sunshine.  Far off on the horizon, they could see the golden island, the last island of the Islands of Mirage, shimmering like a jewel, waiting for Bashir–and his friends–to come home.”

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

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