While Ronnie was coming to the realization that she was the Key Keeper, Wollomombi was winging his way across the land in search of Tilly. He found and lost the dog’s tracks several times as they marked sandy stretches, were hidden by the bed rock and reappeared again in the soft clay banks of streams. They finally led him into a vast forest where Wollomombi was sure he would find Tilly. He circled the forest, spied an opening in the trees and chose that as a landing spot. As he descended from the sky, his path was followed by a pair of watchful eyes.
Wollomombi landed in the centre of the glade and slowly turned to survey the scene. The trees were bursting with colour. There were orange birch, blue poplars, and the trees that we know as evergreen sported brilliant indigo needles. The underbrush was a rainbow of bright purple wild roses, orange willow bushes and multi toned ground cover. There was, however, no sign of Tilly. Still, Wollomombi knew he was not alone.
“It is not possible to deceive the ears of a dragon,” he said aloud. “Indeed, I hear you there in the trees. Come out and show yourself. I mean you no harm. I am in search of a friend who is a stranger to this land and is lost in these woods. Perhaps you have seen him.”
A man’s head emerged from the cover of the brush. His grey eyes were wary but held no fear. The tips of his ears came to a sharp point through his blonde hair which, though short in the front, flowed past his bare shoulders covering his otherwise bare back. “I may have seen the one you seek,” he said. “I did see a strange creature in the woods, but before I tell you more, I must be sure of your intentions. The creature seemed frightened and has hidden himself from all eyes. How do I know that he does not hide from you? Should he not be afraid of a dragon?”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Wollomombi, former Key Keeper and Protector of Iridal. The creature I seek is Tilly. He is the companion of Ronnie Biv, an Earth Mortal who is the new Key Keeper. The Harpies have been storming throughout the land and Tilly fears storms. He bolted when they last appeared and has sought a place of refuge. The Key Keeper is occupied with the task of discovering the secrets of the magic that she may banish the Harpies forever. I have been dispatched to return Tilly safely to her.”
At this, the stranger entered the glade and trotted closer to Wollomombi. His four strong legs were those of a mighty steed. Wollomombi had found a Centaur!
“I should have known you, Wollomombi by your luminous scales. Chiron, Teacher of Mortals, son of Chronos, at your service. The one you call Tilly is not far from here. There is a cave in a nearby hillside which I use as a shelter. He has taken cover there. Come, I will take you to him.”
The two hurried off toward Tilly’s hiding spot. It was, as Chiron had said, close by. “This is the cave into which the creature you call Tilly bolted. I called to him but he did not answer. He appeared so frightened that I decided to explore the area and see if there was some danger afoot. That was when I saw you landing in the glade.”
“I know not whether Tilly posses the power to speak to us in our tongue,” Wollomombi explained, “he has remained silent, save an initial growling noise, since we first met. He can, however understand what is said to him. I will call to him and let him know that he must now return to Ronnie Biv.”
The cave entrance proved large enough for both Wollomombi and Chiron to enter, though the dragon did find it necessary to duck. “Tilly!” he called. “Tilly! It is I, Wollomombi. Ronnie Biv is indeed concerned for your safety. You must return with me to the Gateway.”
Perhaps Tilly recognized the dragon’s voice, or maybe it was the mention of Ronnie’s name that gave him the courage to come out. At any rate, he did come, as called, and was reunited with Wollomombi. The trio headed back toward the glade.
“How is it that you are in Iridal’s woodlands?” Wollomombi was not only curious but in the mood for conversation as they walked. “These woods are beyond the Gateway and not accessible to most. I am sure I would have remembered had a Centaur traveled with me from the Dreamworld. You must possess much knowledge indeed to be able to penetrate the magic here.”
“I am the son of a Titan and therefore possess the power to enter different realms, as befit my physical being. That means I can be in the Celestial Realm, or on Earth, or here in Iridal by simply wishing it so. This land appeals to me and I spend much time here studying lore to pass on to new heroes.”
“I do believe,” said Wollomombi, “that you can be of further assistance to us. Ronnie Biv is in need of the tutelage that you can provide. I knew that Tilly would somehow prove to be of great use to us and, indeed, he has led me to you. Will you return with us to the Gateway and render aid to the Key Keeper in her quest for knowledge?”
“I am honoured by your invitation and your faith in my abilities. I will gladly accompany you and Tilly and do what I can to rid, not only this land, but all lands, of the Harpies. They have caused far too much suffering for far too long.”
Unlikely companions though they were, the dog, the Rainbow Dragon, and the Centaur set off across the land. Wollomombi and Chiron chatted amiably while Tilly found enjoyment sniffing every tree, bush, and rock along the way. When he detected a strange odour, his ears pricked in anticipation and his eyes darted from tree to bush to rock. Sure enough, someone - or something - was just ahead, around the next bend in the road.
Tilly crouched low and his throat rumbled like distant thunder. Throughout this display, his wagging tail defied his defiant posture. Although his primal instincts caused him to be guarded, his recent experiences with Iridal’s strange, but friendly creatures left him somewhat open to a new adventure. He trusted Ronnie’s warm response to everyone here.
When the Harpies had flown over the Gateway shrieking and howling, Tilly was already tearing off in the opposite direction seeking shelter from the storm. The sight of them may have encouraged a less than friendly attitude in him, but he believed the storm to have been just like any other panic-inducing one from which he had fled. His instinct to trust the creatures of the land was not tainted. Considering the showcase in the clearing ahead, this was altogether a good thing.