The 22nd Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series
Clayton, Yao Jin, Landon, Mitchell, and Illanipi were trapped in a narrow canyon which was blocked at both ends by black clad gunmen, all firing their six-shooters at our heroes. Landon’s lantern amulet was shining a bright white light under his shirt indicating great danger.
Jake “the Magician” Mitchell turned his horse sideways, whipped out twin Colts at lightning speed and started firing a seemingly endless number of rounds in both directions.
Only Illanipi was totally calm throughout the battle. The trio from the future were ducking, even Clayton, a dragon disguised as a man, since he, the sorceress, and the eight-year-old boy were in between the gunslinger and his targets.
Astonishingly, his bullets didn’t go in a straight direction. Rather, they twisted and curved in midair around his allies and then sought out and stopped the bullets fired by the black assassins. Every single one was knocked out of the sky, but that’s not all. As Mitchell kept shooting, his bullets turned into fireballs, ice missiles, lightning bolts, terrifying bats, and monstrous mosquitoes, all intended on driving off the warriors who were trying to end them.
Landon had closed his eyes, plugged his ears with his fingers, and was hunched over the back of his horse’s neck. When the noise stopped, he looked up and, as the smoke cleared, saw that both ends of the canyon were now free of any evidence of their attackers, except for pools of what looked like rapidly evaporating black rainwater.
All of the adults had managed to control their mounts to keep them from spooking during the gun fight, and the child saw that it was Illanipi who had a hand out holding onto the reins of Landon’s animal. The boy and the Apache made eye contact, and the native’s dark brown eyes communicated a serenity he had only experienced from the monks at K’un-Lun, who had become enlightened only after many decades (or centuries) of training and meditation.
“How the heck did you do that, Mitchell?” Yao Jin’s reaction sounded like anger, but it was mostly surprise.
“Well, that’s part of what we need to talk about. Look, we’re almost at my place. Let’s get there before the Sun sets.”
“How do we know they aren’t going to ambush us the second we ride out the canyon?”
Mitchell turned to Illanipi who released Landon’s reins and then started slowly riding ahead. He stopped at the exit of the canyon and seemed to be listening. After a few moments, he turned and motioned for the rest of the party to follow him.
“It’s safe,” Mitchell told the others. “I trust his instincts. They aren’t waiting for us.”
“If he can tell so much, how come he didn’t know about the gunmen in the first place?”
“I can answer that, Yao Jin.” She turned to look at Clayton. “It’s because they weren’t there until a moment before we first saw them.”
“Teleportation?” she whispered.
“Not exactly. More like they exist both here and in a realm just a second or two out of phase with our own. I think Jake had a bigger accident than he realized when he tore a hole in time.”
Overhearing the conversation, Jake spoke up. “You mean it’s my fault those men in black showed up?”
“If I’m right, then the answer is yes, Jake.”
“Terrific. Just terrific.”
Illanipi turned his head to look at Jake for a second, gave another slight frown, then faced forward again.
After another fifteen minutes of riding, the quintet arrived at Mitchell’s home, a small ranch house that backed up to a large rock face.
“That canyon is the only way in or out of this valley and normally I have, well, guards that keep out anything or anyone dangerous when Illanipi and I are away.”
“Those guards were no match for the black gunmen, apparently.”
“Apparently, Clayton.” Bitterness tinged Mitchell’s voice.
They all dismounted and Illanipi took the horses to a nearby corral, most likely to feed, water, and brush them. Meanwhile Jake escorted his guests into his home.
“May not look like much, but this is where I hang my hat.”
They walked into a rustic but comfortable looking living room. There was a fireplace at the far end with a pot sitting on hot coals.
“Smells good.” Landon realized he was starving.
“My special slow cooked beef stew, boy. I made plenty so I guess they’ll be enough for everyone.”
“What about Illanipi?”
“He generally takes his meals alone. In fact, I can hardly remember ever seeing him eat.”
Jake brought fresh well water in from outside so everyone could wash up. Then they all ate. Yao Jin thought it was passable but ordinary fare while Landon had two bowls and thought it was great. As a dragon, Clayton liked to eat a lot but restrained himself to two bowls as well.
“Glad you all liked it, folks. Boy, why don’t you help me clean up?”
Landon helped Jake gather the dishes and wash them in a nearby pan, then hand dry them. He missed the dishwasher at Grandpa’s but figured machines like that hadn’t been invented yet. While he was drying, he kept looking over at where Jake had hung up his gun belt next to his hat on a hook by the door.
“You’re wondering about them, aren’t you?” Mitchell was addressing Landon but then spoke up louder. “You all are. I don’t blame you.”
The night was starting to turn cold outside so Jake stoked the fire. They all sat around it for warmth and then Mitchell began his story.
“Must be about ten years ago when it all began. I was just some no account drifter riding across the west, taking odd jobs and traveling from town to town. Truth is, I was running from the war between the states. I’m no deserter, but I wasn’t much of a joiner either. I had kin in both the Union and Confederate Armies, and I didn’t want to have to pick sides.
“Came to this one town, tied up my horse and walked into a saloon, saw this fella giving one of the saloon girls a hard time…with his fists. Well, I don’t care to see a man hurting a woman, so I grabbed him and told him to back off. One thing led to another. He pulled his gun, I pulled mine, and a minute later, that man was dead.
“Turns out, he was some rich rancher’s boy. Daddy had a lot of influence and the woman I’d tried to help told me I’d better get out fast.
“I rode and rode hard, but then I heard gunfire behind me. I got hit a few times but still managed to get away. Can’t remember much after that. Horse wandered for a while with me barely hanging on. Next thing I knew, I was in a small cave by a river. Illanipi had found me, he was a stranger to me then, tended to my wounds, kept me warm and fed, helped me heal up. Had these herbs and potions that did wonders.”
“It was he who gave you your first lessons in magic.”
“That’s right, Clayton. Turns out Illanipi is old, real old, maybe older than the Apache tribes themselves. Indians use nature based magic, animal spirits, that sort of thing. He started teaching me that, but then things started to get really strange.
“He knows magic that’s older than he is, magic not just from the natives here, but from other places. He says his ancestors come from a far place to the west, over the Pacific. I figure maybe he means like China or something, but that magic would have been first practiced thousands of years ago.”
“Does the name ‘K’un-Lun’ mean anything to you?”
“He’s only whispered it a couple of times over the years, Yao Jin. I don’t know what it means.”
“It means Jake, that part of what he knows and what he’s taught you originally comes from a mystic and sacred city that existed before men knew how to work iron.”
“You don’t say, Clayton.”
“What about the guns?” The boy could hardly contain his curiosity.
Jake laughed. “I was just getting to that, Landon. Anyway, turns out the cave he’d put me went pretty deep. It had a lot of strange stuff in it. One thing I saw when I first spied it looked like a sword, a little like this young women’s, but then it changed. When I got up close, it was a gunbelt with a pair of six shooters.
“I knew how to shoot, but Illanipi taught me to use the spirit within what he called the Talisman. He said with practice, I could make it do anything. I’d never have to fear another man again, but the Talisman wouldn’t work for just some no account drifter. I had to become a better person than the one I was before.”
“I assume you did, gunman.” Yao Jin listened to Mitchell’s tale with mixed feelings. She had a difficult time believing that the magic of K’un-Lun had made its way to the 19th century American west. On the other hand, there was no denying the power of his handguns.
“It took a while, but yes, I guess I did.” Mitchell looked up and saw Illanipi was sitting behind the others. No one had seen or heard him come in, not even Clayton.
“What about the accident?”
“Oh that, Clayton.” Jake looked at Illanipi again and the older native man nodded solemnly. “Alright. Guess it’s time to tell you.
“I said I was doing some work nearby. Well Illanipi has been teaching me about the existence of other realms, you know, different worlds with strange people and critters.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with them.” The dragon had come from one of those other realms, though he chose to keep that to himself for the moment.
“Well, we have a cave behind the house, and one of the tunnels opens up to a hollow. I was doing some incantations and drawing mystic runes when I must have said or done something wrong. I was in deep meditation when I heard a rip. I opened my eyes but couldn’t see what got torn.
“Illanipi came just then and tried to stop it with words and gestures I had no clue about, but he said it was too late. Said some folks had fallen through into this place and time from the outside. Guess you were some of them and those gunmen were others.”
“Did you get rid of them all?” Yao Jin was concerned that they were still in danger.
Mitchell looked at Illanipi. The Apache finally spoke. “They are gone but something worse is here.”
Clayton looked intensely at Illanipi for a few seconds and then said, “Yes, I see.”
“See what?” Yao Jin’s hand went to her sword which she was still wearing at her side.
There was a low growl from somewhere out in front of the house. Landon’s tiny railroad lamp amulet began to glow again.
“You folks wait here.” Mitchell got up and put on his hat and gun belt. “I’ll go see what it is, though I doubt it’s anything good.”
“Oh the heck we will, Mitchell.” Yao Jin also stood and then Clayton followed suit. “We’re coming along. Landon, wait here with Illanipi,” she ordered.
Clay looked down at the boy. “You’ll be safe with him.”
Clayton turned and followed Jake and Yao Jin to the front door.
Then Landon felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at Illanipi.
“Follow me,” the Apache said. Then he led Landon into the back of the house. He paused to open a hidden trap door in the floor, took the boy down some stairs and then closed the door after them.
Outside, Mitchell, Moore, and Yao Jin couldn’t see much in the darkness, just a large shadow blacker than the night. That wasn’t exactly true for Clay since he was really a dragon and his eyes were quite a bit more advanced than a human’s. He had been expecting that somehow Xian, the King of the Shadow Dragons had fallen through the hole in time Mitchell had created, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.
Unfortunately, it seemed to be one of his children.
“I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure, Zirge.”
“So here you call yourself Clayton Moore, o’golden dragon. However, I am always Zirge, eldest daughter of my father Xian.”
“And what makes you think you can accomplish what your illustrious sire could not?”
“That was not my intent here, golden one. I was brought here by accident, just as my late, lamented Shadow Warriors were brought here against their will.”
“If you want to blame anyone, blame me.” Mitchell wanted to take responsibility for all the trouble he seemed to have caused, but he could barely see where the voice of Zirge was coming from.
Yao Jin slowly drew her blade from its scabbard. “If you have no business here Dragon’s Daughter, then leave.”
“Would that I could, sorceress. Sadly, I lack the means to return to the space between realms, but then so do you, one called Clayton Moore.”
It was true. The Golden Dragon had no more ability to leave 19th century Earth than did Zirge. The Shadow Warriors did depart, but only through death.
They say a trapped animal is a most dangerous thing to face. Zirge, Daughter of Xian, was trapped. Now a dragon, a man, and a woman faced her to their everlasting peril.
Landon followed Illanipi down, down, down. At first the stairs were wooden, part of the house above. Then they became stone. At first the light was provided by torches, though Landon didn’t understand how they stayed perpetually burning, but then the rocks themselves gave off an eerie glow illuminating their path.
Finally, they arrived in a level tunnel. The boy could barely see the Apache’s shadow ahead of him. He walked for quite sometime, turning when Illanipi turned, this way and that, left, right, left, right. Then the tunnel opened into a chamber and the child was alone. Illanipi had vanished. Before him were three stones, and on each one there sat a small chest. Three stones and three chests.
The voice was Illanipi’s but it seemed to come from all around him.
“What?” Landon called out into the air.
“You mean a box? I’m supposed to choose a box. Can I look inside them first?”
“If you open a chest, you have chosen its contents.”
Landon hated this. He didn’t even know why he had to choose, but he got the feeling it was an important decision, that it might either save them all or destroy them.
“Choose. There is little time left.”
In the world above, a trio of heroes faced the Shadow Dragon’s daughter. “I may not be able to harm you, o’golden one, but your companions are all too human.”
“Have a care, Dragon’s Daughter. My blade is more than enough to pierce your scales, and I have spells aplenty to combat your own.”
“Then you will have to use them granddaughter of…” Zirge’s voice seemed to be getting smaller, but then again, so was Yao Jin’s.
“What’s happening to you, Clay?” The 19th century cowboy was astonished at what was happening to his two new friends.
Both Yao Jin and Clayton were just slightly transparent. There was a glow around Zirge now and she appeared to be suffering the same effect.
“Your time accident, Jake. It was more powerful and more deadly than I anticipated. I expected we could heal it, but now we’re out of time.”
“Transform, Clayton. Become the Dragon again.”
“Alas Yao Jin, I cannot. Like you, my life essence is being drained into the space between worlds. If this cannot be reversed, we will all perish.” Then a horrible thought crossed the dragon’s mind. “Landon. Poor Landon. I cannot help him, I cannot save him. I promised him we would go home.”
“Fear for your own existence as I do mine, dragon, not for the whelp,” the dark dragon hissed.
“Landon,” Clayton softly whispered in sorrow.
Underground, Landon made the only choice that seemed to be sensible to him. He chose the box in the middle. He opened it and… “A glove?”
It was black and seemed like it would fit Landon’s right hand. He put it on and it extended up to his elbow. The palm was a different color. It was red and it started glowing when then tiny lantern he wore around his neck glowed.
Then Landon wasn’t in the chamber anymore, but a grotto open to the sky, the one Mitchell had described, the one where he accidentally tore a hole in time.
It was dark but Landon’s lantern made light for him to see. It also made light for him to see what had been invisible to Jake. “The rip in time.”
The boy could see a tear, like a tear in a shirt or jeans but suspended in midair in front of him. It was about seven or eight feet long and about a foot wide. Inside was the darkest dark he had ever seen, and Landon had seen plenty of darkness.
“Seal it.” It was Illanipi’s voice again, all around him. “Use the glove.”
Landon thought of resealable sandwich bags like the ones Grandpa had at home. What if he could use the glove to seal the edges of the rip in time?
Illanipi seemed to think Landon could do it so why not? He reached out with his gloved hand at the end of the rip nearest him and grasped it. It was as if electricity were coming through the glove into his hand but not too much. He had the feeling if he tried this with his other hand, he’d probably get fried.
“Hurry. You haven’t much time.”
Landon looked at his other hand. He could see through it, just like Marty McFly could see through his own hand in the first “Back to the Future” movie, the one where his parents almost didn’t kiss and that meant Marty would never be born.
It was happening to him and probably to Buddy and Yao Jin, too. Illanipi was right. He had to hurry.
He was still holding one end of the rip in time. Slowly, he pressed the edges together and started to walk forward. He slipped and the edges didn’t align to form a seal.
“Oh no.” He was getting more see-through.
“Again,” whispered the Apache out of the darkness.
Landon tried again and slipped. He tried again and this time the edges seemed to line up. About halfway up the rip, he started to get dizzy. If he faded too much, he wouldn’t be able to finish. He decided to hurry it up. He thought he had a good grip. He walked faster and faster. Four feet, three, two one, six inches, he was almost there, almost there. Could he make it in time? His vision was going. Just two inches more.
Zirge, Clayton, and Yao Jin were now almost impossible for Mitchell to see. “No. Darn it, no. You can’t die. This can’t be my fault.”
Suddenly, they all shimmered and stopped being transparent, all except Zirge.
“Congratulations, Dragon. I now seem to be able to go home. You and your friends have been spared…for the moment.”
She vanished before anyone could respond and when she was gone, Yao Jin resheathed Demonslayer and said “Good riddance.”
“Landon.” Clay whirled and ran back toward the house. He burst through the door and found Landon and Illanipi sitting by the fire. “Hi Buddy. Hang on a few minutes. Illanipi was telling me his version of how he met Jake. It’s kind of different from the way Jake tells it.
“Now don’t you believe everything he says, boy.” Jake was chuckling and standing at the open doorway with Yao Jin next to him.
“Actually, I would like to hear Illanipi’s version of events, gunslinger. I bet they are most illuminating.” Yao Jin walked past Mitchell and took a seat beside the boy. Clay followed and Jake stood at the door and rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell ’em everything, Illanipi.”
The next morning an hour past dawn.
“I’ll see the horses get returned to the livery stable in town, Clay. Don’t you worry.”
“Thank you, my friend, and thank you for your hospitality.”
Clayton was standing some distance from the sorceress and the boy.
“So how to you plan on getting back to the future?”
In response to Jake’s question, Clayton Moore shimmered, shifted, twisted, and grew explosively. In moments, the man ceased to be and in his place was a magnificent golden dragon nearly as big as Mitchell’s house. Even Illanipi seemed impressed.
“This is how, Jake.”
“You know, I didn’t really believe it…about you being a dragon…not until now.”
Yao Jin helped Landon climb up on the dragon’s neck and then followed. They both clung tightly.
“Farewell Jake, Illanipi. Perhaps we’ll meet again…in time.”
The Apache raised his hand solemnly and Jake waved.
“Well, now I believe everything.”
“Not yet, Jake,” said Illanipi. “We haven’t even begun to cover everything.”
The dragon and his companions rose majestically into the air. Higher and higher they soared into the early morning sky. There was a crackling noise, a flicking purple light. A hole opened in midair. The dragon flew through it, the hole closed, and then they were gone.
“Good-bye, friends,” Jake whispered. “I hope you find happiness in that future world of yours.”
“Eat breakfast, Jake. Then lessons.”
“Yes, Illanipi. Yes my Master…my friend.”
This is a direct sequel to Cowboys and Sorcerers, Part One. Hopefully my western adventure, inspired by one of the games I play with my grandson, is satisfactory, because now my heroes have another adventure to pursue in the present.
This is the 22nd tale in a series of stories I’ve been writing for my grandson. To read the whole 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.
This next chapter in the series and the first anniversary chapter is called Beginning the Quest of Yao Jin.