In a mysterious floating cloud city, eight-year-old Landon and his friend Ana were trapped in a roomful of inter-dimensional portals by a smoke dragon. When the dragon’s snout broke open a door from the outside, it bumped into the boy, knocking both he and the girl through a gateway into the unknown.
“Landon!” Ana cried out as she fell into nothingness.
The boy reached out and grabbed her by the waist and then used his levitation spell. “No, not this time. We’re not going to fall into another world.” He used the spell to stop and then reverse their motion. He didn’t take the time to look around but concentrated on getting the both of them back up and through the opening to cloud city.
“We’re almost there, Ana.” Landon could see the other side. Some of the mist from the sky city was drifting toward them, but was it mist or smoke? Then an intensely hot stream of flame shot through as the dragon tried to incinerate them from the other world.
Reflexively, Landon, still holding onto Ana, dove beneath the flames and further into…what?
Then the light vanished. Landon and Ana looked up and the doorway back to the cloud city was gone. In fact everything was gone.
The boy and girl found themselves floating in the dark as if they were in outer space, except there were a lot less stars than Landon would have expected. He could see a thin bubble surrounding them both which he supposed was air. They could breathe for a while, but what happened when the air ran out.
“Landon, where are we?” They were hanging onto each other so they wouldn’t drift apart.
He remembered where they were. “The space between worlds.”
“What does that mean?”
“There are all kinds of dimensions, different planes of existence, Buddy explained it to me. But there’s also a lot of emptiness between those dimensions, kind of like space but bigger, a lot bigger.”
“How do we get out of here?”
“Head for one of those points of lights. They aren’t stars. They’re either worlds here in the space or portals to other worlds.”
Then they both heard a deep and evil laugh.
“Landon???” He could feel Ana trembling as she looked around. “What just laughed?”
“I see you brought a different friend with you this time, boy.”
The lantern amulet around Landon’s neck had been glowing all this time and now it was bright enough to illuminate even something as black as night hiding in the surrounding darkness.
“Surely you remember me, though we’ve never formally met.”
“Buddy told me about you. You’re Zirge, the oldest daughter of Xian, the King of the Shadow Dragons.” When Landon and Buddy (who was in human guise as “Clayton”), along with Yao Jin had fallen through a portal into the old west, they had teamed up with Jake “The Magician” Mitchell and his friend and teacher, the Apache named Illanipi. Zirge had been caught in the same dimensional accident as they had been and was also trapped in the 19th century American west. While Clayton, Yao Jin, and Mitchell were fighting Zirge, Illanipi took Landon into a secret cave, and with a magic glove, showed him how to seal the breach, sending Zirge back home into the space between spaces where Shadow Dragons live.
“Correct. I’ve heard a lot about you from my father and you’re known as something of a nuisance among we Shadow Dragons. I’m just sorry you didn’t bring along that tasty looking golden dragon of yours. At his usual size, he would have made a nice appetizer. Alas, I guess you and this other human will have to do.”
Landon realized his powers were no match for the daughter of the Shadow Dragon King. Even Buddy would have a hard time fighting her off. But they were cut off from their world or anything they had ever known, and this time Ana was in the same mess as he was.
“Oh, come on. Do something interesting. This is all so easy.”
“Gee I’m sorry, Zirge. Would you like me to do a little dance for you?”
Suddenly, they were on a planet and horribly, Landon knew exactly where it was. The planet Setioval, realm of Tarmreiboth the Dark Wizard of the Castle of Moaning Summit. If the Dark Wizard should sense his presence, then it was just a matter of which one of them would kill him first.
“Brilliant idea, child. Do a little dance for me.”
Both Landon and Ana were held captive by the dragon’s spell and forced like marionettes on strings to dance for the Dark Dragon.
“Landon. I can’t control myself.”
“Me either. Just hang on. We’ll get out of this somehow.”
Landon hadn’t the faintest idea how they were going to get out of this one but they had to. Both children jerked and stumbled as Zirge first chuckled and then laughed at their forced performance.
“Oh this is such delicious fun. I wish I had more children to play with.” She sat on her backside and clapped her front paws together to the time of music neither of them could hear.
“My legs are getting tired, Landon. Can’t you do something?”
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” None of the spells he knew could be used to fight something as powerful as a Dark Dragon. Buddy had been almost killed by them more than once, and Landon was just a child apprentice.
Wait. Ana could read magic spells. That meant there was magic inside of her, at least a little. Zirge might have sensed it, but then again, she would never consider either one of them a threat, so she probably didn’t even check. There might be a way to surprise the dragon, but he dare not tell Ana what he was about to do.
Landon summoned the magic in Ana and in himself and remembered the spell that started all this. Suddenly, both Landon and Ana were living stuffed children. Since they were no longer flesh and blood, Zirge’s spell was broken and they were free.
“Come on, Ana!” Landon grabbed her stuffed cloth hand. “Run!”
It took seconds for Zirge to realize what happened because she’d been taken so completely off guard. “Why those miserable little…”
She opened her mouth and incinerated several trees that now stood between her and the kids, the flame just barely missing them.
“Keep going, Ana. If that fire hits us…”
Zirge was up on all fours spreading her wings to fly after them when she heard a familiar voice. “Do you intend to burn down all of my forest or will those few trees suffice?”
“Shut up, Tarmreiboth. I’m busy.”
“So I can see.” He pointed his magic scepter at her and fired a mystic bolt, instantly encasing her in a vacuum. Without air, wings can’t fly, at least momentarily. Zirge would need magic and not aerodynamics to soar now.
“Imputent fool, you dare challenge me?” She had been so insulted by the Wizard’s attack that she forgot all about the children.
“I am aware of your power Zirge, but this is my planet and I rule here. You are a trespasser. Why did you…?” Then he caught a brief memory from the dragon’s surface thoughts. “Oh, I see you brought guests and one of them is a very dear friend of mine. You know, he almost became my apprentice once.”
“He and the little girl are mine, Wizard. I suggest you back off.”
“Thank you for delivering them here to me, dragon. I shall have to think of a suitable reward for you…after I’ve used them as a lure for the pesky Ambrosial Dragon that is.”
“I…” At the thought, Zirge paused and then an evil expression crossed her face. “Hmmm. I wish I had thought of that myself, Tarmreiboth. I worthy goal.”
“Indeed. My worthy goal. You’ve done your job. Now please leave my planet.”
“Hear me out, Wizard. We have a common foe in Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon. I propose a truce while we re-capture those two little pests. Yes, use them as bait and he will come. Then with our combined powers we will destroy the golden dragon once and for all.”
The Dark Wizard stroked his beard in thought. “I like this proposal, as long as when the time comes, I am the one to deliver the coup mortel.”
Zirge had to think about that one for a moment. By nature, she was homicidal, which meant she had hoped to be the one to dispatch the annoying Buddy. On the other hand, this was his planet so he had jurisdiction (unless she wanted to kill Tarmreiboth as well, but he was a useful idiot, and might be of service in the future).
“Very well Wizard, but only as long as I get the children. It has been long since I have dined on young and tender flesh.”
“Done deal, Zirge. Now we just have to capture our bait. So where are they?”
Both of them turned their senses to detect human beings but in the excitement, the dragon hadn’t noticed just how Landon and Ana had escaped and certainly didn’t know they were no longer (strictly speaking) human.
“I…I don’t know. I can’t sense them!” This greatly grieved the dragon, not liking to be embarrassed in front of a mere humanoid wizard.
“I’ll send my personal shadow warriors to search the forest. They couldn’t have gotten far.”
In the distance, stuffed Landon and stuffed Ana could still hear the conversation and knew things had gone from bad to much, much worse.
“We’ve got to get out of here somehow, Landon.”
“I know, I know, I…wait. I just remembered something. It’s this way I think.”
“A way back home?”
“Not quite, but it’s a way out of here.”
“Can’t you turn me back into a human again?”
“Yes, but if I do, they’ll sense you. They don’t know we’ve transformed and that keeps us safe for a little while.”
“Where are we going?”
“The one place they won’t expect, into the castle.”
A few hundred yards distant sat the Castle of Moaning Summit and out of its front gates, hundreds of shadow warriors summoned magically by the Dark Wizard surged forth in search of Landon and Ana. How were the children going to get inside now?
This is an immediate sequel to the story Walking in the Clouds where yet another spell gone wrong has propelled Landon and Ana into different world to face a dire menace. At the last second, they escaped their enemy only to confront one that is even worse. Now they are hunted by two dangerous foes and the only way out is to somehow evade hundreds of shadow warriors and then make their way into the dreaded Castle of Moaning Summit.
Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for almost a year-and-a-half now. To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of that story is a link to the next. Each subsequent story has a link to the next chapter, so all you have to do is keep reading and clicking and you’ll eventually get back here.