The Apprentice

magical

Image: AA VFX YouTube channel

The Sixth Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

This story resolves the cliffhanger begun in the previous tale The March of the Stuffed Animals. Read that story before continuing here.

Eldritch magic surrounded Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon and Tarmreiboth the Dark Wizard of Setioval as they battled for the very soul of a seven-year-old boy. Landon was lying unconscious in a circle of light surrounded by living stuffed animals, animated by Landon’s own spell which was secretly taught to him by the Dark Wizard, the animals ultimately being controlled by that same wizard.

Landon’s Dad and Grandpa watched helplessly, held motionless by the dark magic of the stuffed animals, as the dragon and the wizard wove brilliant and violent spells around each other designed to defeat; to annihilate. Buddy fought to take Landon and his family back home and to safety, while Tarmreiboth desired that the child become his apprentice and an operative of evil, perhaps one day to inherit the title of Dark Wizard.

The only illumination in this out-of-the-way “pocket” dimension, not a true realm, but a reality constructed for just this purpose, was from the circle of light surrounded by the stuffed animals and the flashes of magic woven by the two combatants, but somehow, Grandpa and Dad could see everything.

“You cannot defeat me, dragon. You never could. That’s why you ran away with the boy last time.” The wizard was confident and with good reason. Although possibly thousands of years old, in many ways Buddy was still young and immature. He could not make full use of his abilities yet, while Tarmreiboth was at the height of his powers.

“Me fight. Me win. Love Landon. Save him.” If a pure heart and determination were all that mattered, Buddy would have given the dark wizard serious competition, but unfortunately even goodness and love had to give way to superior skills and strength. Buddy could feel himself weakening.

In his fitful dreams, Landon could see the battle. He wanted to wake up, needed to wake up in order to add his own magic to Buddy’s. Even that small bit might be enough to turn the tide. But the battle of good vs. evil within him was too strong, and the mind of a small child could not endure, so unconsciousness was there to protect him from going mad.

“Baby”. Landon managed to murmur the name of his favorite stuffed animal, the little giraffe who had been with the boy as long as he could remember.

But Baby was a thrall of the Dark Wizard as were all the stuffed animals that normally resided in Landon’s bedroom. They had one mission: hold onto the boy until their master Tarmreiboth was victorious. And if by some miracle Buddy should win the day and the wizard lay dead at the dragon’s feet, the stuffed animals were ordered to kill Landon on the spot. It took little more of their magic to hold Grandpa and Dad away from the child, preventing them from saving him.

Mystic bonds work strangely, especially the bond between Landon and Buddy. The spell of the stuffed animals was designed to prevent magic from entering or leaving the circle, but there are many ways that magic travels. Landon’s mind knew the way to travel between dimensions and somewhere in his thoughts, he discovered how to send his magic into another realm, bypassing the circle of light, and have his magic re-emerge around Buddy.

The dragon felt that power added to his own and the strength of it surprised him. Landon had only begun to explore the outer edges of his own abilities. The potential for strong mystic power within him was enormous. In time, he might become one of the mightiest sorcerers in all the known-realms.

A powerful blast of force magic emerged from Buddy and struck the astonished Dark Wizard. Suddenly, the dragon had become much more powerful than he had been before. Now the fight was real and Tarmreiboth knew for the first time in the battle that he could lose.

“No! I will not be defeated by this upstart dragon. The boy will be mine, no matter what the cost!”

The cost indeed was rising, and without realizing it, in marshalling his forces he was inadvertently taking the controlling magic away from the stuffed animals. Even unconscious, Landon could feel the will of these creatures slowly shifting from evil to good.

“Landon?” Baby, still living, still feeling, looked at the boy as if he’d never seen him before. Then he remembered how much the child loved him, how Landon often depended on Baby to help him not feel scared in the dark. Baby’s heart was filling with compassion for the little boy. “I love you, Landon.”

In his dreams, Landon heard the fuzzy giraffe and inside, he smiled.

As the stuffed animals returned to Landon’s control, the energy Tarmreiboth gained made the battle between the wizard and the dragon more balanced at first. Then, as the wizard gained more might from the evil controlling spell, he became even stronger. The dragon’s protective spells were weakening. It would only be a matter of time before the wizard got lucky and broke through one of them.

Landon began to regain consciousness but the pain of his own internal battle between good and evil was still too great, and he could just barely see Buddy. The dragon was being beaten down. He was bleeding from a dozen different wounds. Tarmreiboth was standing over the golden dragon, relentlessly pounding him with spell after spell.

“I’m going to win after all, dragon. I’ll have your body stuffed and mounted in my great hall as a trophy. Every day, I’ll have Landon dust your carcass and remark how it represents my greatness as a necromancer.”

“No,” Landon whispered and passed out again.

In his dreams, the boy saw that his best friend was only moments from defeat. Buddy would die and Landon would become the apprentice of the Dark Wizard of Setioval, traveling down the path of evil forever.

Then the light seemed to waver around Landon and the scene in his dreams filled with a dozen or more characters. The stuffed animals were fighting with Buddy, fighting for the sake of Landon.

“Aha, dark swizzle stick!” Baby was screaming and laughing as he used his own spells to attack. All of the stuffed animals surrounded the wizard and hammered him with magic. Tarmreiboth didn’t know where to turn. Even the exhausted Buddy was filled with renewed vigor as he redoubled his efforts and aided the animals. Stuffed bats and dragons flew around the wizard. Dogs, bears, giraffes, crabs, and all manner of other creatures danced around the Lord of Setioval, overwhelming the now helpless magician.

“I surrender. I give up. I…” Tarmreiboth vanished in a puff of dank, black smoke and the stuffed animals continued to dance and sing in victory.

Buddy collapsed on the ground but managed to turn his head and face the circle of light. This time it was Grandpa and Daddy who were joining hands and providing a protective shield for Landon.

“We temporarily transferred the spell to Grandpa and Daddy, Buddy. They watched over Landon so we could help fight.” Baby explained to the confused dragon how the two adult humans could shield the child when they could not inherently use magic.

With evil having retreated, there was only good now, only good for the stuffed animals, for Buddy, for Grandpa and Daddy, and especially for Landon. Outside, Buddy and the animals won the battle of good against evil, but inside himself, Landon also won. He was good. Evil could no longer control him. His destiny as a white magician was sealed.

******

Tarmreiboth’s dream had turned into a nightmare. Both Landon and Buddy could see that the realm where the battle took place was no dimension at all, it was the Dark Wizard’s dream. If he should wake up while they were still inside, would they stay there forever?

Buddy decided not to find out. “Leave, leave. In a hurry, leave.”

Still drained from the terrible struggle, Buddy needed the magic of the stuffed animals to get back to Earth. Even Landon was too tired to help.

Daddy bent over Buddy. “How do we know this won’t happen again? We can’t let Landon and Dani continue being threatened by your enemies.”

“Buddy fix. You see. Buddy still inside wizards dreams, inside his head.”

The spell that would take them back to their home grew and grew, and purple light surrounded the group.

“No. They can’t escape. They mustn’t escape.” Tarmreiboth was desperately trying to wake up from his dream, but it was too late.

The purple light flared to white, there was a loud popping sound, and the dream world was empty. The Dark Wizard heard a large door slam loudly and suddenly woke up, sitting bolt upright in bed.

“It was just a dream, wasn’t it?” Even though this had been his evil plan all along, to trap Landon and his family in his dream, to destroy Buddy and take control of the boy, now that it was over, it didn’t seem like it had ever happened.

But that was Buddy’s doing.

******

The next morning over breakfast, the dragon explained.

“No danger. No danger from Dark Wizard. It’s all a dream.”

“What do you mean, Buddy?” Grandpa paused in eating his omelet.

“I win fight. I control dream. I make spell. Tarmreiboth forgets how to find us. Forgets us all. No danger. No danger.”

“You mean he won’t attack us ever again?” Daddy took another sip of coffee but didn’t take his eyes off the dragon.

“Means more, means more. Wizard makes spell then forgets. Makes spell to shut the doors, all the doors.” Buddy’s wounds had begun to heal, and he was covered in a number of wrappings. It would take days if not weeks for his strength to completely return.

“What doors?” A good night’s sleep helped Landon recover from his ordeal, but he was glad it was Saturday so he could keep resting.

“All doors. All doors to Earth. All shut. All locked.”

“No more going to dimensions?” Landon was disappointed. How was he going to have adventures now?

“No more. Stop big danger. No more wizards. No more Shadow Dragons. Home safe. You safe. Buddy love.”

“But that means you can’t search the dimensions for other Ambrosial Dragons. You’re stuck here with us.” Grandpa patted the dragon on his head.

“Here home. Here family. Buddy home now. Love, love.”

The dragon was smiling, but he didn’t admit what he was giving up. He did want to find others of his kind, but if he left the dimensional rifts open, danger could find them at any time. Only by forcing the Dark Wizard to shut all the gateways to and from Earth would Landon and Dani finally be safe.

Landon got up from his chair and hugged Buddy. “Thank you. I love you, too.”

“Now what about this teaching magic thing?” David, Landon’s Daddy, was still worried about what Landon’s learning magic would mean.

“Buddy won. Landon not evil. Landon good. Landon be always good. Landon always use good magic. No evil.”

“I think Buddy’s saying that he won the battle of good vs. evil for Landon’s soul. Now Landon’s soul will always be good and he will always use his magic for good. Is that right, Buddy?”

“Right-o, Gramps. Right-o. Landon always use good magic. Become great someday. Great magician.”

Landon was jumping up and down for joy. He couldn’t wait to learn more spells.

“Hey wait! What about the stuffed animals? Are they going to be running around all the time?” Daddy didn’t want to have to take care of a zoo.

“Animals only alive when danger. Animals protect. No danger, no live stuffed animals.”

“Awwww.” Now Landon was disappointed again. He wanted to play with a living Baby and all the other animals. He couldn’t remember the spell to make them alive, but maybe Buddy would teach it to him again.

Grandpa and Daddy knew that in order to control his magic, Landon had to learn how to use it. Only Buddy could teach him. That made Landon the dragon’s apprentice.

Only time would tell how strong of a wizard Landon would grow to become, or if he would ever be able to help Buddy find the lost race of the Ambrosial Dragons.

******

In a realm unknown to Buddy and his human family, they were being watched by a pair of emerald-colored eyes. Her eyes widened as she saw Daddy answer the front door. Dani’s auntie was returning the baby to her Dad. The child giggled and reached for Daddy.

“Her. It’s her. Someday. Someday Landon and Dani will come. Someday, they’ll lead the children and the Ambrosial Dragons to victory over the darkness. Keep growing children. We’re all counting on you. Someday.”

Shay the Ambrosial Dragon closed her eyes as if praying. Someday, she and the dragon the humans called Buddy, who she had met face-to-face only once, would be reunited, but not until Landon and Dani learned how to harness their magic, not until they were much older.

She would just have to be patient. The adventure was just beginning.

I’m writing these stories for my seven-year-old grandson Landon. This one is the sixth in the series. If you’re interested in the earlier ones, start with the very first tale, The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us, and then click the available links to find the other short stories.

The next story in this series is The Dragon with Emerald Eyes.

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