The 21st Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series
6,000 years ago in Bronze Age China, Bingwen Lóng, a dragon disguised as a man, Yao Jin, a sorceress and sword wielder, and Xia Jiuzhou, an eight-year-old boy whose real name is Landon, stand on a ridge overlooking the mystical and mythical city of K’un-Lun.
“I shall miss our time here.”
“Yao Jin, we were all almost killed here.”
“Yeah, I want to go home now.”
“We will, Landon.” Bingwen Lóng looked down at his friend and patted his shoulder.
“It was still an extraordinary experience. Even you must admit that, Landon. After all, you met an immortal moon goddess and the daughter of a dragon.”
The boy took a deep breath. Yes, it had been thrilling to be among such amazing people, but he missed his Dad, his Grandpa, and his little sister.
“Well, as Landon said, time to go home.”
The tall Chinese man stood some distance from his companions and transformed into a large, magnificent golden dragon.
“I forgot how much I hate flying,” Landon whispered.
“Courage, child.” Yao Jin lifted him up so the boy could climb up on the dragon’s neck. “We’ll be home soon enough.”
The magician followed him up.
“We’re ready here, Dragon.”
“Very well,” Bingwen Lóng’s voice boomed. “We’re off.”
The golden dragon took flight and soared into the cool evening sky. Up and up flew the dragon. Landon closed his eyes and hung on to Buddy’s scales as tight as he could. Yao Jin was over him, making sure there was no chance he would fall. “It will be over soon,” she whispered into his ear.
There was a series of loud crackles and booms and shimmering purple that meant a time portal had opened. Landon felt the bottom of his stomach fall out as they flew through. Now he expected to look down and see his house far below.
Instead, he saw a desert at dawn.
“Something’s wrong. We didn’t return home,” declared the dragon. “I can’t form another portal. We are trapped here, where ever here is.”
“Look there, Dragon. In the distance.”
“I can see quite well, Yao Jin. A town, an old western town by the look of it, one with a river just a few miles to the west.” The dragon pondered for a few minutes. “Railroad tracks. I’ll land down there.”
The golden serpent set down on the ground gently and his woman and child companions got off his neck. When Landon turned around, the dragon wasn’t a dragon anymore but he wasn’t a Chinese man either. He looked like a cowboy from the old west.
“I’d say the mid 1870s. New Mexico Territory.”
“How do you know these things, Dragon?”
“For the moment, address me as “Clayton Moore” or “Clay”.
“This time, I don’t understand the reference, Dragon…uh, Clay.”
“Me either, Buddy.”
“Have Grandpa explain it to you when we get back home, Landon. Oh, we’ll just call you Landon here.” The dragon chuckled.
Yao Jin looked down and discovered she was now clothed in a long, thick calico dress with a matching hat. “This is ridiculous, Dragon. I will not wear this horrible costume. I demand a pair of trousers.”
“Very well, Yao Jin.” Her clothes transformed to an outfit similar to what Clay and Landon were wearing, and while the man and boy did not have weapons, the woman still wore her sword at her side.
“That will probably attract attention here, Yao Jin, but…”
“But I dare you to take it away from me Clayton.”
“Do you seriously think you can threaten me, especially after all we’ve been through?
Yao Jin removed her hand from the handle of Demonslayer. “Let’s say then that I’m glad you are allowing me to keep my weapon.” Her voice still sounded edgy but she allowed herself a slight smile.
“If this is the old west Buddy…Clayton, can’t you give me a six-shooter?”
“Even here, children do not commonly wear firearms, Landon. So no.”
Once again the trio walked together, this time following the railroad tracks into town, just like Marty McFly did in “Back to the Future III.”
“I’ve got it, Buddy. Clayton like Clayton Ravine in ‘Back to the Future’.”
“No, not that, though it’s a good guess. Even your Dad wouldn’t get it, but Grandpa would.”
“That means it’s really old.”
“Well, old by your standards, Landon.”
It was near noon before they got into town and it was really hot. As they left the vicinity of the railroad station, they noticed a commotion in the middle of the main street. Two men were facing each other, and they looked ready for a gunfight, just like the one between Marty and Biff Tannen at the end of the movie he’d been thinking about all morning.
On either side of the street, men, women, and children were witnessing the spectacle as though it was a form of entertainment.
“I think you’re full of hot air and so’s your reputation, Mitchell, and I’m here to prove it.”
“I figured that when you called me out, Francis.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“It’s your name, Whitney. I’m not the one who gave it to you.”
“You first, Francis.”
Francis Whitney was a bully and a braggart. He worked as the bouncer in Clem’s Saloon and was well suited to the job. It was the only job he could hold down, mainly because he liked pushing his weight around, which was considerable, and because he was too lazy for any other kind of work.
But Whitney had barely touched the butt of his Smith & Wesson by the time his opponent had pulled out his Colt and aimed it at the thug’s chest.
“Still think I’m full of hot air, Francis.”
“Don’t…don’t shoot.” Like most bullies, Whitney was a complete coward when he didn’t have an advantage. He put both hands up in the air. “You wouldn’t shoot me in cold blood, would you, Mitchell?
In response, Jacob, “the Magician” Mitchell laughed and started firing rounds at Whitney’s feet. “Dance, you gutless, yellow snake.”
Two, three, four, five shots. Francis Whitney ran over to his horse, hurriedly untied it from the hitching post in front of the General Store, and rode out of town. He didn’t go into Clem’s for work that night and never did again.
Clayton had calmly witnessed the dramatics, but Yao Jin’s reaction was half horror and half admiration. She enjoyed seeing a skilled warrior at work, but was astonished that parents let their children, some as young as infants, be present at what could easily have been a murder.
They watched money exchange hands among some of the men. “They’d actually been betting on the outcome, Clayton.”
“Throughout your human history, people have bet on all sorts of contests, many of them involving life and limb. This is no different. On the other hand, I think this Mitchell may be of more interest to us than we imagined at first glance.
Landon noticed the same thing that Clayton had. Where they’d seen the gunslinger’s bullets hit the ground, now there was no indication the dirt had ever been shot.
The crowd dispersed to go about their usual business. At first, no one took notice of Clayton, Yao Jin, and Landon, but then a group of four young cowboys saw them.
“Would you look at that chink all dressed up like she’s a man, Buford?”
“Maybe she’s that guy’s house girl or something, but why dress her up that way, Smiley?”
“Damn if that ain’t a sword she’s wearing, boys. What’s that for?”
“Maybe slicing up little punks like you, Willy.”
“Aw, shut up, Emmett.”
Emmett was the leader of the four cowpunchers and he started walking over to the object of their attention, prompting the others to follow after.
“Hey chink girl. Why you dressed like you was a man? Maybe we ought to peel them pants off of you and dress you up in some proper chinee clothes.”
“Be careful you four.” Clayton was warning them, but not of what they imagined.
“You ain’t even wearing a gun, Dude.” Buford put his hand on the butt of his pistol.
“It’s not me you need to be afraid of.” Clayton was quite amused at the scene while Landon half hid behind him.
Yao Jin drew out Demonslayer and held it aloft.
“You dumb girl.” Everyone but Willy started to pull out their handguns. He was the youngest and smallest, but he was also smart enough to tell this wouldn’t end in their favor.
To Landon, it looked like the scene was moving in slow motion. Each of the three men drew out their weapons and as they did, Demonslayer moved through the air like a streak. The tiniest fraction of a second later, one gun was cut in half while the other two were bent and twisted. The three were holding their hands in pain, but their handguns, now lying in the dust, would never fire again.
Willy had started running when the fight started and after the shock of what had just happened wore off, so did his three friends.
Yao Jin looked around, still holding her blade in attack position. Numerous town’s folk were staring at her, but no one dared approach her or even say anything about what they’d just seen.
“Perhaps we should make ourselves scarce.”
“Why, Clayton? These people seem to enjoy violence. Maybe some of them will even bet on me.” She sheathed her sword in disgust.
“I saw what you did, young lady. That’s pretty impressive.”
They turned and saw the mysterious gunman approach them. He stood in front of the three and extended his right hand. “Jake Mitchell. Pleased to meet you.”
“Clayton Moore,” the Dragon replied and shook the man’s hand.
“Never shook hands with a woman before, but I figure you’re no ordinary woman.”
“Yao Jin and yes, I am hardly ordinary.”
“Who’s the little fella?”
“His name is Landon.”
“Your boy?” Mitchell addressed Moore.
“No, I’m a friend of his family. We are traveling together.”
“Well you make the strangest bunch of travelers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff.”
They saw an older Apache man leading two horses approach. Mitchell turned to him. “I’ll be ready to leave in a minute, Illanipi.” The Apache nodded but didn’t say anything.
“He’s kind of shy,” Mitchell said by way of explanation.
“Well, we’ve got to be going. Got a long ride back home. Just came into town for supplies when that idiot called me out.”
“Where did the bullets go, Mr. Mitchell?”
Clayton looked the other man straight in the eyes. “I saw where you shot into the dirt. A minute later, there was no evidence that shots had ever been fired.”
“I think you need glasses, Mister.”
“And I think your nickname of ‘the Magician’ doesn’t just mean how fast you are on the draw.”
“How did you know that, Clayton?” Yao Jin was impressed that at first the Dragon seemed to know nothing of where or when they were, but was rapidly becoming an expert on their situation.
“Maybe you do need to explain that last part, fella.”
“Not here I think. Shall I buy you lunch and we can talk?”
“They don’t let Illanipi into many places here in town, damn bigots.”
“They will today, Jacob.”
“Well then, lead the way.” Mitchell thought the tall stranger must be out of his mind, but he wanted to see just how far this game was going to go. Amazingly, when they walked into Miss Maple’s Cafe, no one seemed to give notice except to seat them and take their orders. Illanipi chose not to order but sat silently at Mitchell’s left.
“This isn’t exactly a private place to talk.”
“Believe me Jacob, no one will pay any attention to what we say, just as they have not paid attention to Yao Jin or Illanipi.”
“Nifty trick. You ought to show me how you do it sometime.”
“Maybe I will, Jacob. In any event, I suspect we have something in common.”
Before Clayton could answer, their food had arrived. It had actually taken longer than Landon expected. He hadn’t realized that this being almost 150 years in the past, everything had to be prepared from scratch. The benefit was that his Beef and Potatoes were a lot more tasty than just about anything, except what he ate in K’un-Lun.
“Like magic. Assuming you didn’t reload afterward, I would be willing to bet that there are still six shells in your revolver.”
“No bet, Clayton. How the heck did you know.”
“I take it your kind doesn’t involve using a gun.”
“I use something a lot more formidable.”
Landon couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny.”
“I may show you someday, Jacob.”
“You sound like my Ma, always calling me ‘Jacob’. I go by ‘Jake.'”
“Very well, Jake. In any event, the three of us were on a journey. A very unusual journey, when something interrupted it. We cannot continue and I suspect you know something about it.”
“I might. What’s it to you?”
“Jake, we come from very far away, from a place you likely couldn’t imagine. It is important that we get home, but if you have done something to stop us, you may have unleashed an incredible and dangerous power.”
“Well…” He leaned closer to the table and lowered his voice. “Maybe I have.”
Clayton and Yao Jin noticed that Illanipi reacted for the first time since they’d met him. He frowned slightly.
“I can’t tell you, Clayton. I’d have to show you. Tell me though, you weren’t traveling to…well…another world, were you?”
“What makes you ask such a question?”
“Well, I sort of had an accident the other night and well, something ripped but it wasn’t exactly a thing that ripped…more like the air or ether or something.”
“You were using magic and ripped a hole in time, one that we fell through.”
“Is that what that was?”
Illanipi looked at Jake out of the corner of his eye and his expression was one of disapproval.
Jake turned to his left. “I know, I know. You stay out of this.” He looked back at Clay. “You’d better come back to my place. I’ve been doing some, well…work nearby. I think you know a heck of a lot more about it than I do. Maybe if you can help me, you can get home or where ever you’re headed.”
They finished their meals, looked around, and found that they were still being ignored. People treated them politely, but it was as if there was absolutely nothing unusual about them. Clayton pulled out his wallet and paid their tab, leaving a generous tip.
Once outside, Jake asked, “I don’t suppose the three of you have horses. It’s a long ride to my place.”
“Our source of transportation would attract a lot of attention, Cowboy.” Yao Jin meant the comment unkindly. She didn’t like this place or era. Even in ancient China, a woman was treated with more respect, or at least she was in the mystic city.
“Besides, I hate to fly,” Landon added.
“Fly?” Jake didn’t know if they were joking or not.
“Never mind, Jake. We will rent horses from that stable over there.”
Although “rental horses” weren’t common in New Mexico Territory of the 1870s, Moore convinced the owner to let them rent three.
“Where are you getting all this money, Clayton?” Yao Jin hissed in the Dragon’s ear.
“I’ll tell you later, but I promise it is only somewhat illegal.”
Only Illanipi seemed to hear them, but he kept a stoic expression.
“Budd…Clayton. I don’t know how to ride a horse.”
Moore gently touched his fingertip on Landon’s forehead for a moment. “There. That’s the basics.”
Jake looked on with some curiosity. “How could anyone not have ridden a horse?”
Yao Jin gave Jake an angry look but Clayton and Landon ignored the comment. Clay helped the boy up on his horse, then the rest of them mounted their rides and left town. Yao Jin noticed that the backs of Jake’s and Illanipi’s horses were heavily laden with supplies, so their story of why they’d originally come into town seemed valid.
The desert landscape was vast and foreboding. It had its own kind of beauty, but it was the beauty of a rattlesnake, which is also deadly. They rode for hours and then finally approached the entrance of a narrow canyon.
“Sun’s going to set soon. We’re almost home.” The group had stopped for a moment, but now Jake and Illanipi started forward again. The rest of them followed, that is until they had nearly reached the canyon’s far side. That’s when they saw him and had to stop.
He was dressed all in black. It looked like cowboy clothes and a hat, but the black bandana was pulled up over the man’s face. He wore two guns, one of each side. “You responsible for us being here?” He was looking right at Mitchell.
“Us? I only see you.”
“Turn around, Jake.” Yao Jin was looking behind them. There were a similar group of dark clad gunmen blocking their way at the other end of the canyon. When she looked toward the front again, the first gunslinger had been joined by others.
“I suspect if we kill you and your companions, we can seal the rift and return to our realm. Ready to die, human?”
The black assassins all drew their weapons and dozens of bullets were shot at Mitchell, Moore, and the three others. There were only seconds before they’d all be torn apart.
This is a direct sequel to The Palace to Heaven Part Two. I had intended to return Buddy, Yao Jin, and Landon to the present, but earlier today (as I write this), my grandson and I were playing a game in which a modern magician had to travel back to the old west to recruit a wizard who uses a magical gun and bullets to help him defeat a terrible evil spirit.
I remembered the film Cowboys and Aliens (2011), a movie I’ve never seen and probably never will, and I thought “Cowboys and Wizards”. Turns out there’s a Facebook group of that name, so I changed it to “Cowboys and Sorcerers”.
My grandson has requested another magical item be given to him in this story. I’ll have to think about it. I’ll probably give in.
Oh, I’ve created a few “Lone Ranger” references in this story just for giggles.
To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the end of the story is a link to the next. Each subsequent tale contains a link to what follows. Keep reading and clicking and you’ll get back here.
2 thoughts on “Cowboys and Sorcerers, Part One”
Can’t Landon have some magical throwing stars…but something that he has to practise…just to keep his interest up in obtaining a rare skill?
He’s eight. He wants it all.