The New Apprentice


A peregrine falcon flies near the Throgs Neck Bridge. Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.

Landon stood majestically on top of the wind-swept plateau dressed in archaic and stereotypical magician’s apparel. The robe draped over his slight nine-year-old frame from neck to ankle was colored a deep violet with bright yellow crescent moons and five-pointed stars dappled generously across the fabric. His head was adorned with a tall, conical hat made of the same material, displaying identical hue and decoration.

In his right hand, he held a long, slender wand made of a dark wood with no name, and on his left hand and wrist, he bore a thick, heavy glove of leather. High above in the deep azure sky, he saw a mere speck of darkness contrast against the pink and yellow clouds, spread thin as paper by the light of the setting sun to his back.

The wind rushed past his ears, but he could still hear the distinct cry of the falcon circling over his head. The bird of prey was too high for him to hear the boy, but he projected his thoughts into the heavens and the avian would be compelled to respond.

“You must choose now, Perry. Is she to join us or not?”

The bird seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then he folded his wings behind him and began his dive toward the escarpment a thousand feet below. This was how the falcon struck once it had spied his prey from aloft, streaking downward at blinding speed toward some rabbit or field mouse identified by its keen eyesight.

But today, it was no small beast of the high desert or prairie in its sights, but something much larger. The peregrine falcon pulled up from it’s over 200 mile per hour dive barely a meter above the little girl’s head, and she wasn’t even aware of its existence until she heard its loud, high-pitched shriek and felt the wind of its passage directly above her.

The bird then climbed, but not nearly as high as before and began circling again, but this time not above Landon’s head but Ana’s.

The boy then pointed his wand directly at his classmate and declared, “It is done. You have been chosen. You may approach now, my apprentice.”

Ana, who had been standing a hundred paces away, started to walk toward her friend who now had also become her teacher.

“What?” Landon’s eyes snapped open and he found himself in his own bed. It was a dream, but he had been wary of dreams for a long time, and especially since his most recent experiences with the Soul Reapers.

It had been one of his most dangerous and terrifying experiences, and this time he had barely escaped with this life, or rather, his soul. His friend and teacher Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon had been unable to help him, at least directly, and he had to rely, not on magic, but on his own wits and the sporadic help of the Dream Dragons to get free and return to the real world.

Buddy assured him that he was safe now from the Reapers, but he had come to the point of examining every dream for signs of mystical influences.

The third-grader looked at the room around him and on his bed. The light was dim, meaning it was still early in the morning, and for once, he could sleep in all he wanted since this Monday was the first day of Spring Break. No school meant an easy, relaxing week, or so he hoped, but the dream startled him and now the child was wide awake when he didn’t have to be.

Buddy and all of the living stuffed animals were still fast asleep on the top of his blanket, although Baby and a few of the others had been snuggling with him under the sheets and on his pillow.

Now the boy had to go to the bathroom, so he figured he would just stay up. Maybe if he kept the sound down low, he could look at some YouTube videos on Grandpa’s iPad.

Buddy and a few of the stuffed animals stirred as he slipped out from between the covers, but none of them woke up.

After he was done with the bathroom, he walked as quietly as he could down the hall. On the way to the living room, he passed the kitchen and saw Grandpa pouring a cup of coffee.

“What are you doing awake, Landon,” he whispered? “I thought you’d sleep in this week.”

“A dream woke me up. Why are you awake?” Landon loved his Grandpa, but he had been hoping to have the living room to himself to watch videos.

“I always get up before everyone. I like the peace and quiet. Helps me wake up slowly before the day has to get going. Dream?”

He knew Grandpa was worried about his dreams, too. This hadn’t been a bad dream, but it had been a strange one.

“Why don’t you tell me about it?” The boy wasn’t sure he should, but then decided he might as well tell someone. After pouring himself a big glass of milk, he joined Grandpa at the kitchen table and related the dream, which helped him remember something.

“Wait a minute. The clothes I was wearing. I remember them from the Reaper’s maze.”

“Could the Reapers be involved in your dream.”

“I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think so.”

“What part of the maze are you talking about?”

“At the very center, there was a riddle I was supposed to solve. It was on the base of a statue.”

“Yes, I remember you mentioning it.”

“The statue was of a person dressed just like I was in the dream in these old-fashioned wizard’s clothes, holding a wand in one hand and it had a little dragon sitting on the other.”

“But in your dream, it was a hawk or falcon flying above you, not a dragon.”

“They were the same size, Grandpa. Now that I’m thinking more about it, the statue was of a boy, not a grown up.”

“Was the statue of you?”

“That’s it. It was me. I was the wizard in the statue. But what does that mean?”

“Means time for breakfast, breakfast. Hungry, hungry.”

Buddy rounded the corner and was hopping up and down. He had an insatiable appetite, especially when he first got up.

“I’d better get the griddle heated and pancake mix made, but try not to be so loud. Everyone else is still asleep.”

“Gotcha, gotcha.” The dragon was trying to whisper, but he wasn’t always very subtle.

Everyone needed their rest, particularly Landon’s Dad David who didn’t go to work until the afternoon and didn’t get back home until after Midnight.

By the time the first stack of pancakes were ready, Dani was up and the stuffed animals began piling out of Landon’s bedroom. The animals didn’t have to eat, but they loved the company of sitting around and sometimes under the kitchen table. Dani cuddled with Grandpa for a little bit until she was more awake, and then she decided to get her Daddy up (whether he wanted to be or not).

“What do you think it means, Buddy?” It was after breakfast and Landon had just told the dragon about his unusual dream.

“Some sort of sign about future in Reaper’s maze, Landon. Your future and Ana’s.”

“Ana’s? I mean I think it would be great to teach Ana magic, but I thought you were going to do that.”

“Good question, good question. Ana not live here. How can I teach her and her family not know?”

“We’re supposed to get together to hang out this week, so maybe we can figure it out then.”

“Oh, I know, I know.” Buddy was hopping up and down on the floor of Landon’s bedroom, which he often did when excited. He was getting big enough that he made a lot of thumping noise.

“What’s going on in here?” Dad opened the door and looked in.

“Sorry Dad.”

“Yeah, sorry Daddy-o. Just talking, talking and jumping.”

“Well, if you two need to jump, go into the backyard, okay?”

“Sure, Dad. Thanks.”

“I’ve got to take a shower now. See you in a bit.”

Landon could tell Dad was still worried about how he had almost gotten lost in the Reaper maze forever. If he hadn’t gotten out in time, a Reaper would now be in control of his body and who knows what evil things it would have done to the family and everybody else.

Grandpa dropped Landon off at Ana’s house after lunch and they could play together until it was time for dinner.

After talking for a little bit, they started playing video games on the big screen TV in the living room. A few minutes later, something strange happened.

“Time for first lesson.” They could hear Buddy’s voice, but inside their heads and not with their ears. Then it was as if the image on the TV screen reached out and yanked at them, pulling the boy and girl inside.

“What is this?”

“Dreamscape, Ana. Training ground.” Landon and Ana were standing on the same plateau that Landon had seen in his dream. This time though, the wind wasn’t blowing, and the sun was almost exactly overhead. Also, Landon’s clothes hadn’t changed and he didn’t have a wand or a falcon. Buddy, however, was standing in front of them.

“I thought you had to be asleep to have a dream.” Ana was starting to get used to weird stuff happening whenever she was around Landon and Buddy, so she wasn’t as surprised or scared as she had been at first.

“Not dreaming. Dreamscape. Place in-between real world and dream world. Good place to hide out and learn magic.”

“Won’t Ana’s Mom and Dad know we’re gone?” Landon figured Buddy had this one covered, but he wanted the dragon to explain for his friend’s sake.

“Nope, nope, nope. Time here and time in real world move side-by-side. In real world, you play games while in Dreamscape world, you learn magic.”

“Great. What do I learn first? Can you teach me how to levitate? Maybe I can bring my stuffed animals to life.”

“Chill, chill, Ana. Start with easy stuff. Learn to make light spell.”

“Light spell?” She was clearly disappointed.

“It was the first magic spell Buddy taught me. You learn how to create a ball of light in your hand. Then you practice throwing it, making it brighter, and making it bigger and smaller. I even used it to save my Uncle Mikey once.”


“Start with basics. Build up. Even Landon has much to learn.”

The boy felt both proud and humbled. Buddy recognized that he’d really learned a lot since he became his student, but at the same time, he still didn’t know very much. At least he knew more than Ana, but then, Ana knew almost nothing at all.

Buddy produced a book on elementary magic and turned it to the first chapter. Landon had long since mastered those spells, and as the dragon taught, Landon added his own experiences of learning the same material.

Ana discovered that even beginning spells weren’t very easy, and by the end of the first lesson, she hadn’t yet been able to conjure up even a small spark.

“Don’t worry, Ana. It was hard for me, too.”

He meant the comment to be encouraging, but she still looked disappointed.

“I guess in real life, magic isn’t as easy to learn as in books and movies.”

“You’ll get it. I mean, I did, so you can, too.”

“Lesson over for today, back where you belong.”

The image of the plateau seemed to fold in around them and when it unfolded, it deposited the two children back in Ana’s living room.

Then they had two sets of memories, one of learning light spells in the Dreamscape, and the other of playing video games and eating snacks.

The doorbell rang, and when Ana’s Dad answered it, Landon saw Grandpa was there holding Dani and waiting to take him back home.

It was getting late. Grandpa had put Dani to bed a couple of hours ago, and after she’d gotten back up a few times, the toddler finally fell asleep. Grandpa, Landon, and some of the stuffed animals finished watching a movie, and then it was time for everyone to go to bed.

Landon had a pretty good day after it really got started. He had a good breakfast and lunch, got to play with Ana and help teach her magic in Dreamscape, then his favorite dinner and a cool movie.

Now Monday was over and he was really sleepy. He hoped he had only ordinary dreams tonight.

Ana knew she was asleep but she was also in Dreamscape, or at least it was the place where she’d met Buddy and Landon earlier to learn the light spell (although she hadn’t actually learned it, yet). But now, the dragon wasn’t there, only Landon, and her friend was dressed in really old-fashioned purple wizard’s clothes, and he had a magic wand.

She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she kept repeating the words of the light spell over and over, trying to comprehend the language of the ancients, the ones who had first written spells to be used by people and people-like things.

Ana tried and tried and tried, and then she saw a spark light up in the palm of her right hand. The spark grew to the size of a pebble, but it was made just of light. Then it got bigger and bigger, it was the size of a baseball, then a soccer ball, then a basketball.

The light kept getting bigger and brighter and then it popped like a balloon, and instead of the ball of light, there was a glowing bird, a falcon.

Ana woke up and the glowing falcon was still there sitting on top of her bed covers. Only now it wasn’t a bird, it was a dragon, a glowing, yellow dragon. It squawked and shrieked at her and she knew Mom, Dad and her brother would wake up any second and come and see what all the noise was about.

“Shhhh. Hush.” She tried to get it to be quiet, but instead, it just got louder and, fluttering its wings, started flying around her room. She jumped out of bed and grabbed at it. Suddenly, it turned in mid-air and flew right at the little girl. She screamed and then all she could see was a blinding light.

“Ana?” Her Dad yanked open her bedroom door with her Mom looking in right behind him. It was dark and when he turned on the light, her bedroom was empty. Ana was gone.


Landon sat up suddenly in bed. “Buddy! It’s Ana. Something’s happened.”

The dragon was already standing on top of the bed. “Buddy know. Buddy see.”

There was a light in the room, like a trail, and at the far end of the trail, they both saw Ana chasing something flying just ahead of her. The image was getting fainter and in a few seconds, it would vanish.

“Hurry. Go get.”

Buddy and Landon jumped at the trail of light, grabbing at the very edge of it just as it disappeared. Then, just like Ana, they were gone as well.

This story immediately follows Show Me the Way to go Home, which was the climax to a three-part story arc which had Landon trapped in a strange dream world where he had only 48 hours to solve a series of riddles while avoiding deadly traps or have his soul destroyed forever.

This time, he must deal with the aftermath of the experience, which will have a direct and dire impact on one of his closest friends.

Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for over 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.

The next story is The Bunny in the Bow Tie.

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