The Amazing Adventures of PonytailGirl, Chapter 14: The Shimmering Isles

Mohs was missing. No one seemed to know where he was, but he was often absent from the station. Tessa was looking for him because her little Obsidian was coughing. PonytailGirl was looking for him because he was good at telling stories. Dalfgan was looking for him because Dickinson was being promoted and they needed a gray tourmaline for his Metal Master's badge.

“Tourmaline! Piffle. What's wrong with a moonstone like mine?” he had asked Dickenson.

“I saw one once,” Dickenson had stuck to his guns. “It was gray with a reddish streak down the center, like a Metal dragon orb. I liked it, and Mohs said he would find one.”

“But who is going to find Mohs?” Dalfgan wondered.

He turned up that evening in the dining hall at the central treat farm and was immediately set upon by everyone. “Where have you been? I've been looking for you!” Dalfgan exclaimed.

“You look worse than after a week in the Andes,” Tessa said, taking his dirty cloak.

“Yogo laughed and said, “You look like you had a run-in with a Dust dragon!”

Mohs seemed taken aback and embarrassed. “I haven't been gone that much,” he said, “it's not that bad.”

“Did you find the Shimmering Isles?” PonytailGirl asked.

“The Shimmering Isles?” Bixby said. “He hasn't been telling you stories about them?”

“Well now, as it happens, yes, I did come across them,” Mohs answered. “Now don't jump on me girl, let me get some food in me and I'll tell you.” And he wouldn't say another word about it until he had cleared two platefuls of stew and half a baguette and settled down in a seat in the fireplace nook. “Now then, what do you want to know, child?”

“Did you find the islands?” asked PonytailGirl, pulling up a stool.

“Supposed to be adrift in the sea,” put in Bixby, sliding onto the other seat, “ surrounded by dangerous shards of glass, and inhabited by unknown monsters.”

“Crystal shards,” corrected Yogo, “or jewels. The Isles are supposed to be full of jewels.”

“Glows from a distance, but no one can land there because they'll get cut to pieces by the shards,” put in Franklin. “Mor'Gynne the Ancient was supposed to have cursed the islands.”

“And hidden her treasure there,” said PonytailGirl bouncing up and down, “and moved the islands.”

“ And enchanted the dragons,” added Spiderdog.

“So the story goes,” said Mohs finally. “But it was never clear whether the islands drift or she moved them, or whether they are made of jewels, or she left her jewels there. But I have been searching for them for many years.”

“I know,” laughed Bixby,” but I never thought you'd find them! Is that where you've been?”

“No, I haven't been there, but I know where they are.” He stopped talking for a bit, and then settled the children on either side of him, and began again. “The stories about Mor'Gynne say she came from an island called Avalon that no one can find. Some say she was the half-sister of King Arthur and took him there at the end of his battles, when he was wounded. The stories grew until any island that can't be reached, even a mirage at sea, was connected to her. There is a kind of mirage that builds up when air layers of different temperatures reflect something from beyond the horizon. Fata Morgana they are called. Straight and upside-down images stack up in layers until they look like castles in the air. For a long time I searched out these Fata Morgana, and tried to follow them to their sources. Then I decided to find her house.”

“Her house? You found her house?” Rudna asked. “She is supposed to have destroyed half a village at Halloween once, when the people made her angry. But no one knows what village.”

“To be precise,” said Mohs, “all too many people claim to know which village, but can't prove it. I found the village and the house. It is very old and overgrown, and full of dust and cobwebs, but it has an oval window and a round window, and erudine crystals sticking up from the gables.” He shot a look at Dalfgan and raised his eyebrows.

Dalfgan had perked up. “It's a classic set-up for a listening spell!” he exclaimed.

Spiderdog sat up straight. “You mean the house can hear?”

“No. It's like a magical radio set,” Dalfgan explained. “When you hear, sound waves go into your inner ear through a place called the oval window. Right by it is another place called the round window, that echoes the vibrations. You can copy that with magic.”

“In the case of this house,” Mohs said, “the crystals on the roof pull sound in through the oval window, the round window echoes the vibrations and makes them audible, and a map shows where the sound is coming from.”

Yogo laughed, “I'll bet she listened to her own village and got upset at something the neighbors said!”

PonytailGirl squirmed. “Can you hear an island, though? Oh! You heard the dragons!”

“Right. I heard dragon noise coming from an unknown island on the map. I have actually been here a couple of times today callibrating the map with the Earth Boost Stone. It is a crazy medieval map, you know.”

“The Stone was humming today,” admitted Tessa. “I thought you must have been around somewhere.”

“Tomorrow we can use it to set us on the islands, without having to worry about the shards at all,” Mohs nodded. “And none of the rest of you have to mess with the Dust House.”

“Oh no, I'm going there,” said Dalfgan. “Not visit Mor'Gynne's magic house once it's been found?”

“Although I think I'll get a little Dusting Spell ready first,” teased Rudna.

Using the big carnelian in the Earth Boost, Mohs could locate any place in the world and move there, as long as it was on dry land. Early the next morning several people stood around the stone as he moved them to the largest of the Isles.

“Ooh! Everything sparkles!”
“There's the crystals – they're spinning!”
“Look! Dragons! Way up there!”

Dalfgan and Tim went off to look for the best place for a permanent transporter. Tessa and Franklin went to look at Gem dragons. Bending Chalice found a ruby in a streambed, so Mohs took the children up the stream looking for more. It flowed out of a cave, but it was an odd sort of cave. There were cracks and openings in the sides and top, and the incoming light flickered from the reflections of the spinning crystals. BlazeDragon found a place where vines cascaded into the cave with a waterfall. PonytailGirl picked a handful of the puffy orange flowers that grew in the dim light. “Is that a ruby?” Spiderdog asked, pointing to a shiny glint among the vines.

Mohs came over to look. He reached out and grasped it through the leaves. Suddenly the bank of flowers exploded in their faces with a loud squawk. Something red burst through the leaves, was held down by Mohs' hand on its tail, and fell over on top of him screeching. It was a ruby dragon. Gem dragons are smaller than others, but in the excitement of the moment it looked big enough. “Oof! Mohs yelped as he went over on his back. The dragon landed on top of him. As its huge green eyes got close to his brown ones, PonytailGirl shoved her bouquet in between.

“Oh you poor baby,” she cooed. “It's ok, it's ok. Did that scare you? Aww.” Out of the side of her mouth she hissed, “Mohs! Let go of its tail!”

“Uh!” he managed, “it's on my stomach.”

“Let go,” she repeated, “Spiderdog, help me!” As the Ruby began nibbling the flowers, the children jimmied it off Mohs and Spiderdog helped him get up. “There you go, baby,” PonytailGirl purred, “you like these? I need some more, guys.”

“Uff, don't mind me,” Mohs gasped as he limped over to the hanging vines. By the time they left the cave, Baby was following PonytailGirl around and wouldn't leave. Her mother suggested a special habitat for Gem dragons, and when it was built Mohs and Olivine worked out a way to tame the sharp edges of floating crystals for it.

Mohs had another bad experience trying to find a big clear sapphire. Rudna had noticed he seemed to have a soft spot for Yogo. She thought he went looking for a blue gem because Yogo was a Water wizard. The one he found turned out to be on the horn of a Sapphire dragon, and it was too bad that as he came away from the encounter he happened to see Yogo holding hands with Mikael, a Water wizard who had come to study Pearl dragons. Mikael had been exploring the deep abyss near the Isles and found giant pearls, and given the first one to Yogo.

“Come on, Mohs,” Rudna and Dickinson dragged him out of the lab in the Colosseum where he was moping. “There's too much to do right now. The Grand Opening is coming up!”

“And you promised me that tourmaline,” added Dickinson. “Let's go prospecting. You want to try the Isles?”

“I don't know - “ began Mohs, and pulled himself together, “I was thinking of Brazil. But yes, let's try the Isles.”