Ana Gets a New Friend

alfred

© James Pyles

“Well, I, Greigen the Shadow Dragon have found you. Not sure yet whether I shall tell the others. I rather fancy having this little hunting ground all to myself. Besides, you’re well off the proverbial beaten path, so it’s not like there’s a freeway leading to your door.”

“Yeah, well put up your dukes and let’s see who’s tough!” The bunny in the bow tie stood on his hind legs and raised his paws in his best boxer stance, but even Ana could tell he was quaking with fear.

“Oh, come now, bunny. You want to be eaten first, is that it? Fine, you shall be an appetizer, and your child friend will be a slightly larger appetizer.”

“You’ll have to get through me to get to her.”

Even though Ana was terrified almost senseless, some part of her felt amazed that the rabbit, who couldn’t wait to get rid of her, was now defending her to the death.

“Easily done.” The Shadow Dragon flicked a claw and sent the hare flying out of sight.

“Oh, terrific. I don’t know my own strength. I’ll never find his body now. Oh well.” He turned to Ana. “Plenty more live game on this planet. I’d ask how you’d like to be prepared my dear — fried, boiled or stewed — but as I said, after my long journey, I’m famished, so I think I’ll just swallow you whole.”

While the dragon was monologing, Ana slowly started backing away with the idea of turning suddenly and then running. Even though she knew it would be hopeless, she couldn’t just stand here and wait to be eaten. She sure didn’t think Landon’s and Buddy’s adventures were fun anymore.

“HA!” The dragon roared to scare her. It worked and she spun and ran like the proverbial bunny. She was too scared to think of the late, lamented rabbit at the moment, hearing the dragon’s breath puffing behind her as it drew ever nearer.

“Yes, run. Work up a sweat. The salt will make your skin taste better.” He was laughing and teasing her, knowing he could catch the child anytime he liked.

“Time to finish our game, little girl.” He jumped up and started to lunge for her.

“Ha Ya!” Something flew at Greigen’s face so fast, it startled him, resulting in a premature landing, several yards short of Ana. The girl kept running and then looked back over her shoulder to see the impossible. It was the bunny, and it was riding on the back of that small, golden dragon that pulled her into this mess.

The dragon and the bunny banked and dove in for another pass at the Shadow Dragon’s head. “I told you not to mess with Alfred J. Rabbit.” The tiny dragon cried out like a bird of prey, and then spewed out a stream of flame. It was too small to actually burn the dark dragon, but nevertheless, caused him to duck reflexively, and as he did, the small pair soared barely over his head.

“Run, Ana!” They were buying her time to escape.

“Oh, yeah,” she muttered, turned and streaked away as best she could in her bare feet over uneven ground.

“Well, if that’s the way you want it, roast rabbit it is.”

Ana didn’t turn this time, but she heard what sounded like an enormous column of flame being released. After that, she heard nothing at all from the rabbit or the little dragon, though she might have detected the sound of a “plop” as they hit the ground.

“Now, let’s see…where have you gone?”

The Shadow Dragon seemed to have forgotten her for the moment, so Ana left the bottom of the gorge, and climbed into the brush. She had no idea where she was, or how far she’d gone from the place where she’d heard Landon calling her.

She just kept running and running, trying to find a good place to hide, and hoping the Shadow Dragon couldn’t track down her scent or something.

Landon heard the commotion from his vantage point high above and enough of the conversation to know a Shadow Dragon was involved. He was just about to use a levitation spell to rush down and try to save Ana when he heard a familiar voice.

“Wait, Landon wait.”

He looked behind him just as Buddy landed.

“It’s Ana! She’s down there with a Shadow Dragon. We’ve got to help her.”

“You stay here. Buddy help.” The Ambrosial Dragon took off and rocketed downward into the gorge, disappearing in a cloud of smoke and dust.

Landon knew that a Shadow Dragon could kill Buddy, and he couldn’t let his friend face that kind of danger alone. Besides, if Buddy could distract the other dragon, maybe Landon could find Ana and get her out of there. He used his levitation spell and moved himself after his friend as fast as the magic would allow.

Landon dove into the still rising cloud of smoke and dust caused by what he thought was a terrific fight. He couldn’t see and might be flying directly into a trap, but then this was the exact same way that Buddy had flown, so if there were anything dangerous waiting at the bottom, his friend would find it first.

But when he landed, no one was around. He couldn’t see Buddy, and there was no sign of Ana or the large Shadow Dragon.

Wait! He saw tracks, big dragon tracks, and in the middle of them, what looked like prints made by bare feet. They could have been Ana’s and probably were. The dragon was chasing Ana!

“Thought I told you to wait, wait above. Why not wait, Landon?”

The boy turned and saw Buddy bent over what looked like a cooked animal. The smell of burning fur was awful.

“What happened?” Landon didn’t want to get any closer, but he was close enough to see what he thought was a dead, burnt creature, was moving and changing. In less than a minute, it had recovered. It was a bunny and it was wearing a bow tie. He noticed it was a white bow tie that had just a few yellow polka dots on it. There were a lot of blank spaces where he would have expected to see more dots.

“Thanks, pal. See Merlyn around?”

“Who?” Landon knew the little bunny was talking to Buddy, but he started looking around. Maybe there was another burnt animal that was missing. Then there was a rustling in nearby bushes. He didn’t get afraid, since the brush here was too small to hide a Shadow Dragon. Then the small yellow dragon Buddy had talked to before struggled into the open. He looked a little scorched and he was still smoking, but he seemed basically okay.

The dragon the rabbit called Merlyn snuggled his beak into the bunny’s fur and purred.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s okay, Merlyn. You’d have done the same for me.”

Landon was puzzled.

“Bunny save dragon’s life. Block most of Shadow Dragon fire. Let self be killed.”

“But if the rabbit was dead, how can he be alive now?”

“Hey! I’m right here. Just ask me.”

“Never mind that. Where’s Ana. Did you see her?”

“See her? Your pal and I faced down a Shadow Dragon together. Well, actually, he killed me for the first time and Ana took off. I got my second life back as Merlyn found me. We attacked the dragon again and I got killed again. By then, I had no idea where Ana had gotten to.

“How many lives do you have?”

Just three, kid, and I’m two down. One more and it’s permanent.”

“Got to find Ana, find Ana, Landon. I go look. You stay with them.”

Buddy shot into the sky before anyone could object.

“Well, looks like I’m stuck with another hairless ape. You’re Landon, huh?”

“Yeah. Your dragon friend is Merlyn. What’s your name?”

“I told Ana and I’ll tell you. Name’s have power and I’m not giving you power over me.”

“So what do I call you?”

“Rabbit, Bunny, Hare, whatever you like.”

“You’re sure you don’t know which way Ana and the Shadow Dragon went, because I saw some tracks leading in that direction.” Landon pointed toward the far end of the arroyo.

“I saw that, too. But they could be anywhere by now, and Shadow Dragons aren’t subtle. We’d hear him if he’d caught up with her.”

“We’ve faced Shadow Dragons before and sometimes they can be very quiet.”

“I wish you hadn’t said that, kid. Now I’m jumpy as a March Hare during rabbit season. You don’t happen to know Elmer Fudd, do you?”

“He’s a cartoon, not a real person.”

“Kid, here, there are a lot of things that are real that shouldn’t be.”

“Let’s follow the tracks.”

“It’s my funeral kid, and maybe yours, too.”

The trio followed the tracks until they disappeared on rocky ground. Then they saw a bunch of burnt and broken shrubs and tree branches off to the left leading up hill.

“Bet you that’s where your Ana went and the dragon took off after her.”

Landon looked up. “I wonder where Buddy is?”

“If he found the Shadow Dragon, we’d hear the fight all over the mountain. Let’s see if we can be more subtle than Greigen.”

“Who?”

“That’s the Shadow Dragon’s name.”

“One I’ve never met before.”

“How many of them do you know? Do you like go to lunch with them or something?”

“No, but I’ve met too many as far as I’m concerned.”

The little, golden dragon made a hissing sound.

The bunny lowered his voice. “Merlyn’s right. We’d better keep it quiet. C’mon.” The rabbit wiggled an ear indicating direction, and Landon started to have a new respect for him. The dragon had killed him twice and he was still going back for more, even though he had only one life left. Then again, Landon only had one life period.

The day had been sunny before, but gray clouds had moved in and it was looking like a storm was brewing. Just what everyone needed, rain.

Then the sky went from gray to almost black and a huge amount of lightning and thunder suddenly erupted. The three of them ducked under a tree and then Landon saw it wasn’t a storm, it was a dragon fight. Buddy had found the Shadow Dragon and they were battling almost directly above them.

“The famous Ambrosial Dragon, Buddy, isn’t it? I’d be honored to make your acquaintance, but you’ll be dead before I can bask in your esteemed presence.”

“The stupid dragon sure talks a lot,” the rabbit whispered.

Buddy didn’t say anything but he struck back with a concentrated stream of flame so tight, it almost looked like a big laser beam. It hit Greigen in the side leaving a large, smoldering wound and the black dragon cried out in pain and surprise.

“I…had no idea you were so powerful.”

When Buddy first came to live with Landon and his family, he’d almost been killed by a Shadow Dragon. This one wasn’t as big as the other, and in the nearly two years since then, the golden dragon had grown in size and power.

Greigen shot out another burst of flame but Buddy was small and maneuverable enough to easily evade it, as well as the second and third. The Shadow Dragon’s injury was more severe than they’d thought and he was fast floundering in the air.

Then he belched a large cloud of hot smoke directly in Buddy’s face, blinding him long enough to dive out of the field of combat. He seemed to see something far below.

“The little girl child. I owe her for luring me into the Ambrosial Dragon’s trap.”

As Greigen dove for Ana, Landon rushed forward followed by the rabbit and Merlyn, but when the Shadow Dragon got to the ground, he was suddenly out of sight.

“Where, oh where have you gone, little girl?”

Ana had hidden in a depression in a large rock just big enough for her to fit, but apparently it wasn’t good enough. She saw the dark dragon’s huge eye peering in at her.

“There you are. Now I’ve got you.”

She knew Buddy had been fighting the other dragon, but now she couldn’t hear him and she didn’t know if he’d be able to rescue her.

The eye. Before he looked away, Ana remembered she had a trick of her own.

The dragon’s eye dilated to adjust to the darkness where Ana was hiding and that was her cue for action. Without thinking, she summoned a light spell, and it went off like an old-fashioned camera’s flash bulb right on top of the big eye, burning and blinding it.

The dragon roared as it recoiled back. Landon, Merlyn, and the rabbit were right behind the creature. It was falling backward and in an instant, they’d be crushed.

“Outta the way.” The rabbit used all of its strength to shove the dragon and boy out of the path of the falling Shadow Dragon but couldn’t get out of the way himself.

Greigen crashed to the ground, rolled this way and that, and finally started to rise, just as Buddy soared down toward him.

“Oh no, not again.”

The Shadow Dragon launched himself into the air with Buddy in pursuit.

“Bunny!” Ana ran to the little rabbit who amazingly was still alive, but just barely.

“Don’t *cough* *cough* worry about me, Kid. You just *cough* grow up and have a nice *cough* life.”

Ana started crying. “You saved my life. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do.”

“He saved our lives too, Ana.”

The girl looked up. “Landon!” She was so happy to see him, but so sad for the rabbit.

Buddy suddenly landed beside them. “Shadow Dragon gone. Made portal. Took off.”

“He said it was a long way home, so maybe he won’t be back after this.”

Merlyn squeaked and mewed.

“This was his last life, Buddy. The rabbit’s going to die.”

“Maybe not, maybe not.” Buddy looked up, but the clouds were parting and there hadn’t been any rain from them.

“Need something like that, like that.”

“Like what?” Ana asked.

Then a purple field of crackling energy encompassed the group and with the sound of thunder they found themselves abruptly someplace else.

“It’s raining!”

Everyone was caught in a downpour. Landon could tell this was the field behind Grandpa’s house, the field where Grandpa had first found the wounded Buddy, August before last.

Then the rain was over, and as the clouds parted, a rainbow appeared in the sky. Buddy lifted the now lifeless rabbit’s body in his arms, the bow tie turning completely white, and rushed up into the air and toward the rainbow.

“What’s he doing that for, Landon?”

“I have no idea.”

The little dragon whimpered hopefully.

Long minutes passed, and then Buddy reappeared, but without the rabbit.

“Buddy, what happened?”

“You see, Ana. You see.”

She realized now that the excitement was over that she was still in her pajamas, and she was now soaked and covered with leaves, mud, bruises, and scratches. Worse, it must be hours since she disappeared, and her parents would probably have called every police officer in the state so they could look for her.

“What am I going to do?”

“Hey, where did Merlyn go? He was here just a second ago.”

“Lightning. One more time.”

There was a loud clap and a flash of light and then…

“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.

“Ana!”

“Wait a minute, Dad.” They heard a flush from the bathroom and then water from the sink, and a few moments after that, Ana came back out into the hallway. “Sorry, I was just using the bathroom. What is it?”

“We heard a bunch of noise from your room. What happened?”

“Nothing. Why?”

Mom, Dad, and her brother looked like they didn’t believe Ana, so she opened her bedroom door again. “Nothing going on. I just woke up to use the bathroom. That’s all.”

No one was sure that was all there was to it, but there was nothing else to do but accept the evidence of their eyes. Ana was grateful that Buddy’s magic could take her back to where and when this all started so no one would suspect. After everyone left her room, Ana closed the door. However, there was something new no one had noticed. She had a small, stuffed animal under her covers. It was a stuffed golden dragon and his name was Merlyn. She couldn’t wait until he could come back to life again.

Landon woke up again but not really. Buddy had turned back time to the moment they left and now everything was starting over again. Only one thing was different. The stuffed animals had a new companion, a brown bunny named Alfred. Alfred wore a white bow tie, and this one had pink, purple, and yellow polka dots on it. The rainbow had worked. It had given him his lives back, but now he was stuffed, just like all the other animals. When he woke up, he was in for a surprise.

This is the third and final tale in this story arc involving Ana and some new friends. It began with The New Apprentice and continued in The Bunny in the Bow Tie.

Ana faced a terrible danger but put her nascent magic abilities to good use and just at the right moment. In the next story, we’ll start to see how Ana’s relationship with Merlyn unfolds as well as what happens to Alfred.

Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for well 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 chapter is The Runaway Stuffed Rabbit.

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