“Hello, King Ragoon!” called Harnswiggle happily.
The warriors parted a little and they could see a man who was slightly shorter than all the others, and who was even more dirty than all the others. He was also completely bald. He was more than bald. He was hairless.
And when Roger looked at the other warriors, each with more red hair than the last, he suddenly realized that King Ragoon might be very happy to trade a book that changed reality for a potion to grow hair. But then he thought, a little surprised, that King Ragoon did have a book that changed reality. Why didn’t he just write in that he was covered in hair and call it good enough?
“Hello!” repeated Harnswiggle. “Are all of you being well?”
King Ragoon rested his hands on his saddle horn and showed a mouth full of stubby broken teeth. “Very well,” he half spoke, half grunted.
“We have come from Esperanza,” Harnswiggle continued.
His eyes brightened. “Huhg?”
“She sent us with something special!”
Roger pulled the hair growing ointment out of his pocket and held it out for the king to see. It was evident that he knew what it was, his whole face contorting into a greasy and rather disconcerting smile.
“What do you want?” asked King Ragoon, cutting straight to the point.
“Well…” Harnswiggle smiled and cocked her head. “There was…”
“The Book,” snapped Bollygoggle. “She wants The Book.”
“Which book?” asked King Ragoon.
“The book that changes reality,” said Roger.
King Ragoon’s eyebrows furrowed, or at least his forehead furrowed. It was actually very fascinating to see what a forehead did underneath, where it was usually covered. “Who’s this?”
“This is being a humansperson named Roger, and this is being his sister, Mavis,” said Harnswiggle. “They are both from the Outside.”
King Ragoon’s men shifted and murmured to each other and then eyed them suspiciously.
“Why do they need The Book?” King Ragoon growled.
“They don’t need The Book,” said Harnswiggle hurriedly. “Esperanza is wanting The Book for them.”
He clearly didn’t take Harnswiggle’s evasive answer. “Keep potion.” He turned his pony’s head and acted as if he was going to simply ride away.
“No, please!” said Mavis. “You don’t understand! I have this horrible sickness, and the doctors can’t figure out what it is, and The Book says that it’s all in my head. And we’ve got to get it out, or I’m going to...well, I’m…”
“Come on,” said Roger. “Just let us borrow it, for like five seconds, and we’ll give it right back to you!”
“Can’t,” said King Ragoon.
“Please?” asked Harnswiggle.
“Please!” cried Mavis and Roger.
They all glared over at Bollygoggle, who just crossed his arms and looked prickly.
“Can’t,” repeated King Ragoon. “I already traded it away.”
Mavis felt as if she would choke on the lump in her throat.
“Who did you trade it with?” asked Harnswiggle, her hat drooping with disappointment.
“My cousin, King Dehn.”
“And where is he?”
“Give me the bottle,” he said, holding his filthy hand out, “and I’ll tell you.”
“Give it to him,” said Harnswiggle, defeated.
Roger handed it over and King Ragoon’s smile almost cracked his lips.
“A deal is being a deal,” said Harnswiggle. “Tell us where he is.”
“Don’t know. He’ll be out hunting, or sporting, or swimming, or maybe just trekking, for another month at least.”
“You must have some idea!”
“Not at all.” His smile was a little too...happy.
Now Mavis really did feel sick to her stomach.
Roger was furious.
But he wasn’t as furious as Bollygoggle.
“You! YOU!” and Bollygoggle snatched the bottle right back. “How dare you be such a! Such a!”
No one had an answer for that, least of all King Ragoon, who simply sat there in his saddle with his mouth open.
“You do know, you are lying. Tell us where your cousin is, or I will be breaking this bottle! So THERE!” And he raised the bottle threateningly, stretching it up as high as his arm would go, and even standing on his tippy-toes.
“No!” shouted King Ragoon, while his entire group of men gasped in horror.
“Being telling or!” and he waved the bottle.
“He’s at the fields! The sporting fields!”
Bollygoggle smiled, and started looking at the bottle with a smug air. “Maybe I’m just not giving this to you. You were being a Barnaclebum and a liar.”
King Ragoon made spluttering noises.
“Maybe Mavis should decide,” he continued, much to everyone else’s surprise.
Mavis was more than surprised. She hadn’t even thought that Bollygoggle wanted to help, or that he cared whether they were successful. What did she really think, about giving King Ragoon the ointment? “I think...I think that you should make him promise that The Book is actually with his cousin, and that his cousin is actually at the fields.”
Bollygoggle raised his eyebrows at King Ragoon and shook the bottle. “Promise. Or else.”
“I promise! It really is there!”
“Do you think that he should have it?”
Mavis crossed her arms. “I guess...but” she had a sudden thought. “How far is it to the fields?”
“Almost a day’s walk,” said King Ragoon.
“Is there a faster way?”
“We could ride,” said Bollygoggle, catching on.
“You broke the old deal,” said Mavis, crossing her arms. “And a deal is being a deal.”
There was a good deal of arguing and some name calling, with a smidge of insubordination, before it was finally decided which four of King Ragoon’s men would give up their ponies. Bollygoggle waited until he was mounted up and ready to go before he finally handed over the bottle.
King Ragoon laughed, tucked the bottle into his pocket, and then went thundering off into the forest, followed by his men, who sounded like a very small and very disorderly herd of elephants.
“You are being a very great help on this quest,” said Harnswiggle admiringly to Bollygoggle. “Maybe I am glad you came along.”
“I want this to be over,” sighed Bollygoggle, exasperated.
“Then we should probably be going,” said Roger.