Read a chapter of Ambril's Tale
Return of the Dullaith or
Riding the Cursed Shoots-2

Fowlclun to the Rescue

Fowlclun to the rescue, Ambril's tale book 1So why wasn’t she dead?

Ambril's limited experience with monsters had been that they generally wanted to eat her not tuck her into bed with an ice pack. She became aware of the odd, rocking sensation again. Wherever she was, she seemed to be moving.

She heard the whuffle of fabric, the crinkle of paper, and a grating ping, as if someone were hopping around on a metal-tipped pogo stick. There were whispers too. Perhaps the monsters were planning a dinner party–with her as the main course.

Ambril reached up and moved the ice pack from her eyes. She was lying in a huge bed layered with patchwork quilts. The vaulted ceiling above her was covered with a fuzzy, warm fabric. Judging by the swinging lanterns hanging from the rafters, they were moving along at speed. She looked around with her eyes half closed. The spacious room was filled with comfortable furniture which had softened with age. As far as she could tell, she was alone. Where were the whispers coming from?

She took another look. There was an old-fashioned kitchen, a huge stone fireplace, and an umbrella hopping around all by itself. The umbrella flapped its fabric as it preened. The ornate bird’s head carved on the handle yawned and blinked. Ambril scanned the room quickly and swallowed hard when she saw a feather pen  sweeping crumbs off a kitchen table.

What had happened to the world? Ambril’s body went rigid as she clamped her eyes shut and wished she could just reset the clock, go to sleep and wake up in her old familiar room with the sound of the streetcars outside.

But what was she thinking? They didn’t even live in San Francisco anymore. In fact, they didn’t live anywhere. Even if she managed to escape, how would she ever find her family? She imagined herself tacking up signs all over the forest:

HELP!
LOST FAMILY!
One blonde mother - One grumpy brother
If found, send up a flare

She had to smile at that and smiling helped calm her. Her breathing evened out just as the whispers became loud enough for her to make out what was being said.

“–Such a slip of a thing and chilled to the bone. How she ever took on a Dullaith is beyond my thinking!” A young girl’s voice tisk-tisked from across the room.

A boy’s voice said grumpily. “And us out of the action again, Quill. Just once I’d like to make the party! The most exciting thing to happen around here is when Brolly falls over.”

Someone snorted in disgust as a dry, dramatic voice bleated, “I was nearly ripped to shreds last time! TO SHREDS, I tell you! Not that any of you care what happens to me!” Flapping fabric followed this, then pogo stick sounds as something tapped across the floor. Ambril guessed it was the umbrella.

“Of course we care, Brolly,” the young girl voice said, but not very convincingly.

“Cocoa’s ready.” It was the boy’s voice again. There were sounds of cups rattling.

“Just pour it into the pot, Jute.” The young girl who must have been Quill answered.

The snappish voice belonging to Brolly sniffed. “What does it matter? We’ve more important things to attend to than babysitting a silly child. First Fowlclun is ambushed, AMBUSHED, I tell you! Ohhh! The snags I endured as we went down. The HORROR! Why, I nearly bent one of my ribs!” Brolly whuffled hysterically. “And now, this MONSTROUS Dullaith!”

There were more flapping noises, then a soft ting. Brolly continued in an ordinary tone, “Your scones are ready Quill.”

“Oh! I nearly forgot them,” Quill said.

There was the sound of an oven door opening, then warm, cinnamon smells wafted Ambril’s way as Quill continued. “Fowlclun’s fall was probably an accident Brolly, but this tonight—”

“Accident aye?” Brolly snorted. “Quill, Do you recall the last time Fowlclun stubbed his claw? Never! Not in a hundred years, I’m telling you there was strong magic at work!” Ambril heard the sound of metal being stretched to its limits. “Someone wanted to bring us all down!”

“Brolly stop being so dramatic! If you bend the wrong way like that again you might just snap your handle right off!” Quill sounded annoyed. Ambril didn’t blame her, she was already sick of the old guy. “Besides, even if there was a trap set for Fowlclun, it didn’t work. He just stumbled a bit, right? So there’s nothing to worry about. Try to calm yourself. Hendoeth will be in soon. She just went out to strap up the chimney.”

Ambril spotted two eyes and a mouth at the top of the feather pen’s shiny black shaft. It glanced at Ambril and fluffed its feathers when she saw that Ambril’s eyes were open.

“Finally, she’s awake!” Sailing toward her was a paper World War II airplane with a piece of string dangling from it. The string was knotted into a huge smiling face. It was the face that had spoken. The airplane crashed into a pillow and immediately unfolded itself into a piece of paper on which was written the word, “HI!”

The knotted face raised itself from the quilt it had landed on. “That’s Parch there.”

“Oh, Hi—Parch.” Ambril said, feeling weird about talking to a piece of paper. “Let me guess, Parch is short for Parchment, right?”

The paper crinkled as it nodded and flexed itself clean. Then it immediately drew a sketch of Ambril. Blinking words appeared underneath, “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

Ambril noticed a large, circular water mark near the bottom as if someone had carelessly put a wet mug of tea on it.

“He’ll do that all night long if you don’t answer,” said the string face. “My name’s Jute.”

“Hi—I’m guessing you’re made of jute, right?”

Jute wiggled his eyebrows at her and grinned. “If for nothing else, you get points for knowing your natural fiber.”

Ambril turned back to the paper named Parch. “Um, my name’s Ambril.”

Her name appeared under her face. Then the words “YOUR AGE?”

“I’m fourteen.”

That appeared under her name.

“HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RECYCLING?”

“Good I guess, we do it all the time at home,” she answered.

Immediately a picture of a roaring crowd appeared, accompanied by the sound of a roaring crowd.

“Oh, you can make noises! Can you talk too?” Ambril asked, fascinated.

Parch wiped itself clean and new writing appeared, “WE’RE HAVING A CONVERSATION AREN’T WE?”

Ambril shrugged and nodded.

“SO WE MUST BE TALKING.”

“You’re as white as a sheet!” said the feather pen as she pushed off and rolled a tea table, loaded with scones and a pot of cocoa, toward the bed. Ambril guessed that she must be Quill. “You’ve had a time haven’t you?” Her voice was warm and sympathetic, “first battling a Dullaith and then getting hit on the head by Fowlclun’s old chimney brick, you poor thing.”

“That’s Fowlclun for you—first knocking out the good guys, then getting us all lost.”

Ambril went rigid as an earthquake rumbled through the house. Every rafter moaned and creaked in annoyance. Even the bedsprings sounded irritated.

“Jute! You know how sensitive Fowlclun is. He didn’t mean to knock her out with one of his chimney bricks, he can’t help it, he’s molting. And of course we aren’t lost, we’re just taking the long way around so we aren’t seen.” Quill scolded.

“All right, all right–sorry Fowlclun!” Jute yelled into the rafters.

Ambril hadn’t heard that last part as she was still trying to get her mind around the fact that she was riding in a Fowlclun. She suspected it was some kind of living house, complete with lace curtains and doilies on the sofa. Worse, she was chatting with a piece of paper, string, and a feather pen. If her head hadn’t been hurting, she would have banged it against the headboard to see if that might bring back reality.

Quill frowned at Ambril. “She thinks we’re going to eat her or something.”

Jute giggled. “Just how we’d manage that is a puzzle. Just look at us!”

“I guess we should introduce ourselves. This is Jute.” Quill pointed at the string face who winked at Ambril. “Yes, he’s always this annoying. You’ve met Parch.” She pointed one of her feathers at the piece of parchment now folding itself into a paper steam roller. “He’s quite the prankster–you’ve been warned.” Parch then steam rolled over Jute who then entangled the rollers and brought Parch to a standstill. “And that’s Brolly over there in the umbrella stand, he’s the drama queen of the bunch.” She pointed over to the irritating umbrella who frowned back at her. She turned back to Ambril. “And I’m Quill,” she said, pointing a feather at herself. “So you’re–” she squinted at Ambril’s sketch that had reappeared on Parch, “Ambril.”

“Yeah, um, Hello Quill.” Ambril managed to smile and nod, which made the ice pack shift down over her eyes again. She righted it as she continued. “So, let me get this straight, this—Fowlclun you call it? Did he—eat us or something?”

The string face of Jute literally let his eyes fall out of his face. He grunted as he gathered them up again and said, “Legged Houses don’t eat people! Don’t you know anything? He’s our home, how else would we get around? Well maybe we could lash ourselves to some other house’s chimney so we can knock out, excuse me, rescue more kids.”

“Be polite, Jute!” Quill put two feathers on what might have been her hips and gave him a look that would have melted something more solid.

“OK–but I’m disappointed. This can’t be the Ashera-wielding savior that Parch keeps talking about. She’s too average. And she doesn’t know anything.”

There was a dry cough from the corner, “You can’t think that fortune teller was serious, Parch? Pallleeese, he was just a garden gnome swathed in curtains having a little fun at our expense. Didn’t you see him laughing as we left?”

Parch quivered slightly, as an image of Pinocchio appeared with the words “I just want to be a real boy!” printed beneath it.

“What does that mean?” asked Ambril. “Do you mean you were once real—I mean, normal people?”

“We were once but now, well, we ain’t normal now, are we?” Jute waggled his nose at her and let it grow into an elephant’s trunk.

Honestly, Ambril couldn’t tell the difference between normal and not normal anymore.

Fortunately, Jute didn’t expect an answer. “Fowlclun found us just like he did you, wandering around in the forest.” The string face puckered a little as if in pain. “But at least you know who you are, at least you remember your name. We on the other hand don’t remember anything before we got picked up.” 

Quill rounded on him her feathers quivering fiercely. “Don’t be so ungrateful! Have you ever thought about what would have happened to us if Fowlclun and Hendoeth hadn’t picked us up? We’d have all ended up in the junkyard, broken and scared.” Quill glared at him, then nodded. “We owe them a lot.”

Jute looked anything but grateful, “yeah, hurray for Fowlclun,” he grumbled. “But getting saved from the junkyard doesn’t change the fact that deep down I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing big pieces of myself. And I’m getting tired of feeling broken, aren’t you?"

Quill ignored him and turned back to Ambril, “a fortune teller in Chert told us to be on the look-out for the Ashera. That the Ashera would make us whole again.” Quill shrugged and sighed. “It might be just as Brolly said—the fortune teller did look sort of gnomish, he was probably playing a joke on us.”

Before any of them could speculate further on gnomes, fortune tellers, or being the butt of anyone’s joke, the front door slammed...