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Chapter 30

Lizards. This boat was being driven by lizards. Okay, rowed by lizards. But it was incredible just the same. They were all various shades of red-orange, icy blue, or bright purple. Maybe it was a coincidence, but they were all the colors of the elemental schools. I even saw two or three green ones. But how did I get here? Oh yeah, Keira. But why would she put me on a boat full of reptiles? Maybe she hadn’t, and this was all some Twilight-zone hallucination. Maybe the poison had killed me after all. No, that couldn’t be true, because my hands were painful and raw from the ropes in that horrible hammock. I didn’t know indefinitely, but I was pretty sure that you didn’t feel pain in the afterlife. I wondered if these lizards could talk. I mean, they wore clothes and rowed boats, so why not? I could try saying something. If they didn’t reply, I would just feel stupid. Nothing wrong with feeling stupid. I was just trying to think of something to shout at these lizards, but one of them beat me to it. He (I’m assuming it was a “he” because it had a moustache) glanced up from rowing and said with a smile,
“So, our passenger awakes! We thought you had fallen into the Great Sleep, you were down there for so long.” Oo-kay, I had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. So I just said randomly,
“Yo.” Yo??? That’s not even a word! But I said it just the same. The lizard looked perplexed and then asked me,
“Does that mean ‘Hello’ where you come from, Effendi?” he asked. I realized that these lizards did not come from Wizard City, or Earth, or anywhere else I had heard of, so they probably didn’t understand our slang. I said,
“Yes. So, uhh, what are you guys? And where are you from?” the lizard looked at me as if this were the most obvoius question in the world.
“Why, we are the Manders of Krokotopia, of course! And I take it you are a wizard from Wizard City! I have heard stories about your kind, but never met one in the flesh…” he looked as if he wanted to reach out and poke me, but thought better of it. “So, Effendi, what name are you known by?”
“Me? I’m Elizabeth. Elizabeth Iceblossom. And you?”
“Captain Salalabad, at your service, Wizard Iceblossom.” he tipped his hat to me.
“Nice to meet you,” I said. I noticed that Captain Salalabad did indeed seem like the captain; he had a more elaborate robe embroidered with gold thread, and his fez had a few extra red tassels in it.
“Come, I’ll introduce you to some of my crew,” he said, leaping down from the higher deck. He led me around the boat, introducing me to several Manders as we went along. “This is Hetch Al’Dim, and he is Salam Ibn’dur, and over here is Rami, and that one is known as Ako.”
“Hi, hi, hello, nice to meet you,” I said to the Manders.
“And this is Tinu Bhak’Mal. Tinu, what are you doing!” Tinu jumped with surprise, fumbled, and dropped a piece of paper he had been holding. He scrambled to the floor and retrieved the scroll.
“Captain! I was just reading a very interesting scroll about a Mander named Oka, who competed in the arena! A Mander competed in the arena! Yessss!”
“Get back to work, Tinu, we don’t have time for fantasies aboard this ship.”
“Ooooh! Okay, Captain. I will get back to work! Yesssss.” Tinu scampered across the deck and began rowing.
“Sorry… Tinu can be such a procrastinator sometimes…” the captain whispered to me. Suddenly a purple Mander that I recognized as Hetch Al’Dim approached.
“We are nearing land, captain! Prepare to dock!” he reported. I was relieved. I was going back to Wizard City. I couldn’t wait to feel land under my feet again. As much as the Manders were friendly, I couldn’t wait to return home. But as it turned out, that was not the way things were meant to be.
“I can’t wait to get back to my home in the Oasis!” Hetch cried. The Oasis? Where was that? I’d never heard of it. Did this mean we weren’t going to Wizard City after all?
“The Oasis? Where’s that?” I asked frantically.
“It is in Krokotopia.” said Hetch. Nooooo!
“I want to go back to Wizard City!” I said. Captain Salalabad replied sadly,
“I am afraid that is something I cannot be doing. There is a fee to going on this boat. It is 20,000 gold coins to go back to Wizard City. I am sorry, Wizard Iceblossom. Your friend with the blue hair paid us some coins to take you to Krokotopia. You did wish to visit wondrous Krokotopia, did you not?”
“She’s not my friend,” I said. “That girl is wanted in five worlds. She’s an enemy. She must have paid to send me away. I have 1,000 coins. Will you send me back to Wizard City for that amount?”
“Since you have already paid, Wizard Iceblossom, I will accept your 1,000 coins.” I reached into my robe pocket where I kept my small pouch of gold, only to discover that it was gone. Now I knew where Keira got the money to send me to Krokotopia.
“I-it’s gone,” I said in despair. “I don’t have any money, and my wand has been taken from me.”
“I’m afraid then, Wizard Iceblossom, that I cannot get you back to Wizard City. My apologies.” Just then the boat bumped into a dock. Manders hopped off and began securing it with ropes.
“I am home!” said Hetch with emotion.
If only I could say the same.



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