It was afternoon, the sun was high in the sky. JaJa was snuggling up to Jasmine in a bid to get more candy. Gorge and Jolyn had returned from their excursion and were sprawled on the grass talking in a desultory fashion to Jasmine. Jacinth was writing still at a little distance, lost in her own make-believe world. Jamie was fast asleep, as if sleeping off the exhaustion of his whole lifetime.
Suddenly, the dragon snorted and shook his head. “I managed to contact Jacaranda,” he said looking at Jasmine. “She says she had been expecting you for the last couple of days. But yesterday, she stopped getting all communication from you. I told her you are with me and from my cave telepathic communication by anyone except me is impossible as I have created magical barriers. So, she is coming, coming very soon through cold fire…”
As the dragon communicated, the hollows on the gnarled tree flared up with a pale blue silver and magenta flame with started with a loud whooshing sound. Everybody, except the dragon, jumped up! Jacinth stopped writing and came close to the others. JaJa stopped fidgeting and even Jamie woke up with a start as Jolyn cried out, “Wow!”
The flames threw out a little magenta, silver and purple swirl rotating at very high speed. The swirl seemed to grow in size. As it grew bigger, everybody cowered behind the dragon. Finally, from the swirl emerged a young girl with multi-colored hair like a rainbow. The girl wore a strange costume, which seemed like an extension of the flame. She had on a pair of flaring mauve harem pants and a silver clinging top. On her hair and around her neck was a long turquoise scarf and on her feet blue green shoes with gold embroidery. She looked exotic. She had hazel eyes and thick black lashes. She was truly vibrant, though in features she did resemble Jasmine.
No one knew how to react and were staring open-mouthed.
The dragon said, “That was Jacaranda emerging out of cold fire! There is no need to be stunned…just plain old magic.”
“Hi!” she greeted everyone. “Good to see you well and happy Jasmine and thank you Mr Dragon. I wonder why people call you fierce! You have been most kind and helpful to all of us! ”
“It is a long story…some other time. Perhaps, Jasmine will tell you some other time. You both had better talk quickly before people notice you are missing. What is JaJa doing?” asked the dragon prince as JaJa started digging into Jacinth’s pockets in a bid to find candy. Now, JaJa had started treating Jacinth as her next caregiver.
“She is looking for candy. She is as hungry as are the rest,” replied Jacinth.
“Ah! You need is a larder and a kitchen!” said the dragon. “Then you are all free to eat and drink as you like.”He swished his tail and mumbled strange words. He closed his eyes and snorted three times. Then he said, “Go in and check. Near the left corner of the hall is a dining table. Adjoining it is the kitchen and larder, replete with food and drink. Get what you want! There will be other times to know Jacaranda. She needs to be very quick now and to return to work. She is supposed to have gone to a doctor for a quick check up, I believe. So, before her office checks with the school clinic, she needs to be back.”
Everybody except Jasmine, Jacaranda and the dragon went in.
Jasmine turned to the dragon, “I am truly grateful to you.”
“Hurry and talk. She could be missed at work anytime,” he responded.
“I am glad you are fine,” said Jacaranda to Jasmine. “I thought you were in the clutches of the mind police when I lost all contact with you yesterday.”
“Yes. Thanks to the generosity of the dragon prince, we are fine. We have decided to make this lair our safe house. The others will remain here while I travel to different dimensions to gather all our selves. It would be convenient if I had some help from you. Will you accompany me?”
“Yes. I will come. But we should have a few more in our team, I think…”said Jacaranda.
“Well, I could ask Gorge…if only Jolyn would let him go. Tell you what let us finalise the thing for tomorrow morning. We can start out at the break of day.”
“And I will give you a golden dragon cloud to make your escape into a new dimension…” said the dragon. “You will need a reason not to go to teach dancing at the school and be absent from home. What will you say Jacaranda to make things foolproof?”
“I could always pretend to have come down with zingpin at night and to have left for a rest cure. I told my class when it came I was feeling unwell and left,”said Jacaranda.
Jasmine said, “Hold on. I need to understand what you are talking of. What is zingpin and what is a dragon cloud?”
“You don’t know?!” said Jacaranda amazed. “A dragon cloud is a most powerful concealment spell. Concealed by a golden dragon cloud, you could go anywhere and stay concealed comfortably till you choose to reveal yourself. However, you can use this cloud only once. Once you step out of it, it dissolves. And zingpin is a contagious disease which weakens your magical ability. All people in magicland fear it above all other diseases. The only cure for it is rest in one of the four homes which have enchantments to help you regain your normal powers. So, except for my parents and the dragon, no one else will know the truth. I will be here at six forty five am sharp tomorrow and we will leave at sunrise. Is that okay?”
“Great!”responded Jasmine. “I will be ready to with or without Gorge.”
“See you all tomorrow. Give the others my good wishes,” said Jacaranda as she moved towards the gnarled tree. Putting her hands into the pocket of her harem pants, she drew out a little silvery powder from a tiny box, closed the box carefully and placed it back into her pocket.
She blew the powder in the hollow of her palm. Again she was covered in a puff of smoke and disappeared amidst a swirl of magenta, silver, purple and flames of pale blue and silver.
Jasmine stared mesmerized. The dragon called her back to reality with a, “Are you not hungry? Go join the others and bon appetit.”
Jasmine realized she was ravenous, smiled at the dragon and said, “Thanks. You are very kind and considerate.” She went indoors.
At the dining area, the others were eating. JaJa had finished her meal and was humming and swinging in a corner.
Everyone turned on seeing Jasmine. “Where is Jacaranda ?”
“She had to return. Will be back early tomorrow. What is there to eat?” said Jasmine , picking up a banana and peeling it.
“Come join us,” said Jolyn. “Sit here.” She laid a plate for her at an empty chair.
“Thanks,” said Jasmine.
She ate in silence as the others chatted. Even Jamie seemed to be calming don and settling in. She would broach the topic of their departure after the meal.
The meal ended. Jasmine said, “Jacinth, if I were to go away for a few days, could you take charge of JaJa and the rest of the team? The dragon prince would definitely help you communicate.”
“I guess so. But we could all come with you as we have been doing, you know?”
“No that becomes highly risky. This is a place safe from the mind police. The host is kind. He will be in touch with me all the time. It is better you all remain here. Jacaranda will come with me. And Gorge, if Jolyn will be kind enough to let him go.”
“I can come too,” said Jolyn.
“Please stay here and help by looking after everybody. That is something you do very well,”said Jasmine.
“Gorge and I have never stayed away from each other,” said Jolyn, looking appealingly at Jasmine and Gorge.
“I am always with you in spirit. If you need me desperately physically, ask the dragon to recall us and we will be here. It is safe here for you and the others. We can take care of ourselves. Don’t worry,” said Gorge. “ I would like to do this for us, for our children’s future, Jolyn. We will tell them these stories with pride and happiness.”
Jolyn had tears streaming down her cheeks. Gorge put his arms around her, pulled her close to himself and said to her, “Come let us talk in the privacy of our room.” As he left the hall with Jolyn, he told Jasmine, “Count me in.”
“I am happy to stay in the safe house…away from adventure with enough food, sunshine and rest,” said Jamie.
“That is why you can stay here Jamie.We all want you to be happy,” said Jacinth. “Jasmine, where will you go next?” asked Jacinth.