The Adversary

ninja

Image: pngall.com

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

It was very early in the morning and the first day back at school after the Christmas break for seven-year-old Landon. Buddy, the Ambrosial Dragon who had become part of the family nearly five months ago, was sitting out in front of Grandpa’s house. Everyone was just getting up except for little 18-month-old Dani, Landon’s sister, who was still warm and asleep in her crib.

Grandpa’s house was outside of town and considered pretty remote. Even then, Buddy didn’t go outside during the day time just in case someone saw him. He looked left and right, up and down. Only the occasional bird overhead. No cars, no people walking, no one to see him.

David, Landon and Dani’s Dad, and Grandpa were going to have to shovel the driveway before they could go anywhere, well, that’s what they thought, anyway.

No one around.

Buddy took careful aim, adjusted the amount of heat at the back of his throat, and started spraying a focused stream of flames across the driveway at just the right temperature to turn the snow into steam without scorching the concrete or harming the dormant grass and plants around it.

It did make quite a bit of noise, and Grandpa rushed to the front door to see what was going on.

“Buddy!”

“Hiya, Gramps.” Buddy turned around to greet Grandpa.

“What’s going on?” Grandpa’s eyes were wide seeing the gigantic plume of steam rising above his driveway and drifting off with the breeze.

“Cleaning snow. Cleaning snow off driveway. Being big help.” The little dragon was widely grinning, exposing hundreds of needle sharp teeth.

“Oh. Okay, Buddy.” Grandpa was just a tiny bit in shock but after five months, the family had experienced a lot of magical adventures with Buddy so he was getting used to things like this.

“See you inside, Buddy.” Grandpa was about to go back in and close the door since it was really cold outside.

“Coming now, Gramps.” Buddy pranced to the open door, wiped the snow off his four paws, and walked inside. Grandpa closed the door and went back to helping Landon get his school backpack organized.

“I’ve got to go to work soon, Dad. We’d better start shoveling the driveway.”

David had just finished his breakfast and was taking his dishes to the sink.

“Don’t worry David. Buddy took care of it for us.”

Grandpa and Landon were sitting at the kitchen table putting the last items he’d need for school in the backpack.

“Buddy, you shoveled the driveway?” Landon tried to imagine Buddy using a shovel.

“Nope. Used fire. Turned to steam.”

Landon didn’t know Buddy could breathe fire. He thought it was pretty cool.

Buddy took a plate with a stack of pancakes from by the stove to the table, put butter and syrup on them, opened wide, and devoured the whole thing (fortunately, leaving the plate undamaged). “Seconds?”

“I’ll have to make more pancakes later, Buddy. I’m kind of busy now.” Grandpa could hear Dani fussing in her crib and he knew he’d have to get her up in a minute.

“No problem, Gramps. I do it.” Buddy pulled a stepping stool next to the stove, turned on the burner under the cast iron frying pan, and ladled more pancake batter in. He was getting to be pretty good at making simple meals.

“I’ve got to get to work, Landon.” David gave his son a hug.

“See you later, Dad.”

“Bye, Landon.” David made for the exit from the kitchen. “Bye Dad, Bye Buddy.”

“Drive safely, son.”

“Bye-Bye, Davy”. Buddy was developing affectionate nicknames for the two grown-ups.

A minute later, they could hear the roar of the engine as David started his pick up.

Buddy was consuming his second stack of hot pancakes while Grandpa got Dani up and changed. Soon, they’d have to get going so Landon could be at school on time.

Landon had agreed not to take anything magical to school starting this year. Grandpa and Daddy didn’t want to take the chance of someone discovering Buddy or any of the living stuffed animals. Landon was kind of disappointed, but he was a good boy and understood that this was to keep the family safe.

No magic until after homework that night.

*****

Since Landon was Buddy’s apprentice, Buddy would tutor Landon in the mystic arts, but during the school week, only after his homework and chores were done.

The two weeks Landon had off from school were great, because he got a lot of extra practice in, except when Uncle Mikey and Aunt Jamie were visiting from California for the holidays (Buddy had to stay in Landon’s room hiding, since Buddy was supposed to be a secret, even from them).

So when Landon came home from school and eagerly zoomed through his homework and chores around the house, he was disappointed when Buddy said, “No magic. Not now. You wait.”

“But why, Buddy?” Landon was mad and sad at the same time. He wanted to learn more magic. He wanted that more than anything.

“I tell later. You wait. You wait.” Landon was trying to stay mad, but when Buddy talked, he sort of sounded like Yoda from Star Wars, so Landon thought it was funny.

The evening went as most evenings go. Daddy played with Dani while Grandpa continued to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” to Landon, Buddy, and an assorted collection of Landon’s living stuffed animals, including Baby, the stuffed pet giraffe.

Dani went to bed at seven and Landon an hour later. First Daddy told Landon, Buddy, and the animals a bedtime story, then it was Grandpa’s turn. Grandpa told them a story about Hank Pym, the Ant-Man, that he’d read in an old comic book when Grandpa was Landon’s age.

Then it was lights out for Landon. Grandpa went to bed pretty soon after that, but Daddy liked to stay up for a while playing video games or texting his friends.

*****

Some legends say that the stroke of midnight is an especially magical time, the time of night when the boundary between our world and the mystic world is the thinnest.

Buddy had locked out the interdimensional pathways to other worlds, other realms, in an effort to protect his Earthly family from being harmed my malevolent paranormal forces.

This didn’t include Dreamtime as both Landon and Daddy had recently found out.

Landon was dreaming. He dreamt he was standing in a dark place. He couldn’t tell if it was a dark room or just dark emptiness. A light was shining on him from above, like a spotlight, but he couldn’t see its source. He was dressed in his regular clothes instead of pajamas and he was standing in a circle of light.

A figure moved in front of him. As soon as it got close enough, Landon saw it was Buddy.

“Buddy!” Landon smiled at seeing his friend and started to move outside the circle toward him.

“Wait!” The dragon held up a wing and Landon stopped. “Stay inside circle. Do not leave.”

Buddy sounded really stern and Landon was worried he might be mad at him. Sometimes, when Buddy was teaching Landon something important about magic, he stopped being his loveable, cheerful self and got really serious.

“Okay, Buddy.”

“Now Buddy teach, Landon learn.”

The light went out and Landon was completely in the dark.

When Landon could see again, Buddy was gone.

It was daytime, but cloudy. It wasn’t cold at all. In fact, it was kind of hot.

desert plain

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Landon was standing in the middle of a desert plain. It was flat and hard with just a little loose sand and some small rocks. It was that way for as far as Landon could see in every direction.

Except there was something else right in front of him about twenty feet away. A figure, all in black, including a mask that covered his (Landon just assumed it was a “him”) head, and black gloves on his hands. Nothing showed or peeked out of the clothes.

The figure had his arms out in front of him. He was holding a big sword and the sword was on fire.

“Who are you?”

The figure uttered a single word muffled by his mask, “Iacobus.”

“Is that your name?”

Iacobus said nothing but slowly started walking toward Landon, waving the flaming sword menacingly to the left and right.

“Hey, wait!”

Landon took a step backward and almost tripped on something. It was a sword. He quickly looked up and saw Iacobus was advancing on him.

He looked down again and saw that his own clothing was a lot like his adversary’s, except Landon wasn’t wearing gloves or a mask, and his clothes were gray, not black.

He also saw that beside the sword was a lantern, a big oil lamp like the ones railroad workers used to signal trains with in the old days. Grandpa had shown him a picture of one once.

Why would he need a lantern when it was daytime out?

Landon picked up the sword. It was big, as big as Iacobus’ flaming sword, but light enough for Landon to pick up and swing without getting tired.

Landon held his sword out in front of him. Iacobus was almost upon him.

Suddenly, the metal blade of Landon’s own sword burst into flame, but where Iacobus’ sword burned red and yellow, Landon’s burned blue and white.

Buddy had taught Landon a lot of things, but how to use a sword wasn’t one of them. He had no choice, though. Iacobus lifted his fire sabre and sent the blade down toward Landon’s head.

Landon lifted his sword to block the killing stroke and found he knew how to use it. In fact, it felt like he’d always known how to use it.

The little boy had been turned into a proficient swordsman, but Iacobus, being as tall as a grown up man, had the advantage because his arms and legs were longer. Iacobus could reach out further and jump back and forth longer, staying out of Landon’s reach while trying to get inside the boy’s defense.

“Stop! Why are you doing this?”

Iacobus said nothing and continued his attack.

Landon did pretty good for a while, but he started getting tired, and the size of his opponent gave him too much of an edge. Finally, Iacobus swung his sword and knocked Landon’s out of his hand.

It was too far away for Landon to get before Iacobus reached him, but the child discovered the lantern was right next to him. In all their fighting and moving around, he’d come full circle to where the battle had begun.

railroad lantern

Image: Rumble of the Rails blogspot

In desperation, Landon lifted the lantern in front of him hoping to block the flaming sword.

Then a bright light shone from out of the front of the lamp, illuminating the dark figure with white brilliance.

Iacobus completely froze and then collapsed on the ground. The fire on his sword blade turned back to ordinary metal.

Landon put the lantern down and slowly approached the now motionless Iacobus.

“Hello?”

The figure in black didn’t move. It didn’t even seem to be breathing. Landon nudged him with his foot and then jumped back. Still nothing.

The boy noticed that some of the folds of cloth had parted near his adversary’s chin. He could see part of the face. Landon timidly approached the mask of his foe and then removed it.

The child stood up shocked. It looked like his own face, but also like a doll’s, like it was made of plastic.

Everything went black for an instant, and then Landon found himself in the circle of light again surrounded by darkness, and his clothes were his regular clothes again.

“Landon in Dreamtime.”

The boy saw he was faced by his teacher once more.

“Dreamtime?”

“Dreamtime, but not like when you saw Dragonnys Children.”

“What do you mean, Buddy?”

“Dragonnys Children real. In future when you grow up. Fight with Iacobus not future, not past, but real because of magic.”

“Who was Iacobus, Buddy? His face looked like mine.”

“Iacobus you, the dark side you. Angry you. Mean you.”

“But I’m not a mean person, Buddy.” The little boy was hurt that his friend thought he was mean.

“Everyone gets mad. Everyone be mean sometimes. This is what you fight.”

“I almost lost.”

“Because you chose sword, not lantern.”

“He was coming at me with a sword to kill me!” Landon was getting kind of mad at Buddy. Why didn’t he understand that he was just protecting himself?

“Fight darkness with light, not sword.”

Landon thought he understood. This magical lesson was different from the others. He had to learn to control his own impulses, his own feelings about getting mad or scared. That was dark. Being good was light, like the lantern. That’s why the lantern stopped Iacobus and not the sword.

“Bigger dark can always beat you in fight, but it can’t beat the light.”

If Landon used his magic to be a bully or pick a fight, there was always someone bigger and stronger who could stop him. But if Landon used goodness and light, then his magic would always be used to do good.

The light went out. Then Landon woke up.

Everyone around him was sleeping, all of Landon’s stuffed animals and even Buddy. How did that work? Did both Landon and Buddy have to be asleep so he could learn magic lessons in Dreamtime?

Landon rubbed his eyes and by the dim light of a sun just coming up over the eastern horizon, he saw what looked like a toy on his night stand, but not like any toy he had.

It was a little lantern. It looked pretty real, made out of metal, wood, and glass. Just for a second, a tiny light shone inside it.

The lantern was attached to a chain. Buddy had given it to him to wear as a reminder to always be good, especially when using magic.

Later, Landon would learn what else the lantern could do, but that’s magic for another story.

This is an obvious take off from the “cave” scene in the Star Wars film “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), but given Carrie Fisher’s recent death, I’ve had these movies on my mind lately. It’s also a morality tale fit for a seven-year-old, which after all, the age of my grandson in real life, too.

Landon’s middle name is James, named after me. Iacobus is the Latin for Jacob and James is a derivative of Jacob.

The story that immediately preceded this one is Savior in a Storm. If you want to read this series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the end of the first story is a link to the second. Keep reading and clicking links. You’ll eventually get back here.

The next story in the series is The Mysterious Mummy.

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