Stop! If you haven’t done so already, read The Quest to Save Landon first.
Landon’s soul shot straight up from the pits of Hell as fast as he could go, but Hell was a lot more confusing than he realized. There were all kinds of tunnels and passageways all over the place. Which one led him out of Hell, and even if he could find it, how was he going to get back to the Moose realm and his dying body?
“Wait!” He saw a blue light just above him. “That’s got to be it.”
He heard yelling, and screaming, and a bunch of voices making vile threats against him. Looking back, there were hundreds of winged demons pursuing him, and they were catching up.
Taking a chance, he headed right for the blue light, and as he got closer and closer, the demon horde slowed and then turned back. “Then I’m right. They can’t leave Hell.”
Enormously relieved, The spirit of the nine-year-old boy rocketed up to and then into the blue.
“Glub, glub.” Instead of being in the sky, he was underwater, and it looked like the bottom of the ocean. Could a soul drown? Why couldn’t he breathe? As panic seized him, Landon realized he wasn’t alone. Large, dark shadows were approaching, shadows with long, jagged teeth.
Ana and Ha Shu were being escorted through a maze of tunnels and corridors by the Moose King’s elite guard, led by the Captain of the Guard. His name was Mann Ha, and he was an enormous and brutal looking moose man, standing fully a head taller than Ha Shu and with a rack half again as wide, which occasionally caused him problems when he walked too quickly through narrow doorways.
Ana didn’t dare laugh as the Captain again bumped one end of his antlers against a wooden door frame, but she really wanted to.
Every so often, they would climb a set of stairs, which probably meant they would soon arrive at the main level of the castle and be confronted by the Moose King. But then, they took an abrupt right and the party descended down a very, very long spiral staircase, probably as far down as they had come up.
On this level, all of the doors had openings the size of small windows, but instead of glass, they had sets of iron bars. She heard moaning coming from some, and sobbing from others, which was scary, but not as scary as the blood-curdling scream that came out of the one she and Ha Shu were just passing on the left.
“Yah!” She yelled and jumped.
The guards had relieved her of all of her magical items, including the amulet, but the tunnel here was narrower than the others (causing Mann Ha considerable trouble), and there wouldn’t be any place to fly anyway.
“Here we are. Guard, open the door.” The Captain faced a door on the left and one of the guards produced a collection of keys on a ring. Selecting one, he opened the cell door.
“What are you doing to us?”
“Imprisoning you and your friend, child. The King doesn’t have time to mete out punishment for your crimes at the moment, but once he does, rest assured, you will suffer. In the meantime, you will wait in there. Put them in!”
Several of the guards shoved Ha Shu and Ana into a dank and dreary jail cell and slammed the door behind them. The only light came from a torch on the oppose wall in the corridor.
Ana looked around in terror. The room was only six feet on a side and ten feet tall. It was made of large stone blocks and embedded in some of the blocks were chains. She was glad they didn’t chain the two of them to the walls. Besides the chains, there was nothing in the room but a large bucket.
“What’s that for?”
Even in the dim light, the Mooseman looked embarrassed. “When the time comes, I’ll let you know, but rest assured, I will turn my back as you find it necessary to use it.
A wave of disgust came over the fourth grader as she realized what he meant.
Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon had spent a good part of the day trying to track down an illusion-delusion spell. Someone was trying to hide something and he had a pretty good idea of who that someone was.
“Landon’s trying to get tricky, very tricky. Difficult phase in his apprenticeship, tempted to take matters into his own hands.”
Sitting on the floor of the little boy’s bedroom in the midst of a number dozing stuffed animals, his eyes suddenly grew wide. “Landon!”
“What? What’s the problem?” Alfred, the bunny in the bow tie, was playing solitaire on Grandpa’s iPad. He’d been trying to teach the other stuffed animals poker, but they weren’t very good at it yet. He was the only animal wide awake.
“What about Landon? He’s with Ana.”
It was no secret that the rabbit was attached to the little girl. “Come,” commanded the dragon, and then wrapping a wing around Alfred’s furry body, they vanished.
It seemed stupid that a disembodied spirit should be able to drown, but maybe that’s because in Hell, everything was a spirit, including the water. What was water doing in Hell?
At first, Landon tried to form a bubble of air around him, but the spell didn’t work. What did work was magically extracting the air from the water and putting it in his bloodstream. It felt weird to breathe without breathing, but it was the closest thing to gills he could create.
The demon sharks kept circling. There must have been a dozen of them, all ten to twelve feet long, and with an evil, hungry look in their eyes. The boy looked around for shelter, but all he could see was dimly lit water all around. He couldn’t even figure out where he’d entered.
All of the sharks were swimming roughly in a sphere encompassing him, so there was no obvious path to freedom.
“Wait. Dimly lit,” he thought to himself since he couldn’t open his mouth to speak. He decided to take a page out of Ana’s book and use a simple light spell. That should distract the sharks long enough for him to get away, although he still had no idea which direction he should escape to.
“Here goes.” He summoned a bright ball of light, but it didn’t work the way he thought it would. Sure, there was light, but there was also a huge concussion wave that shot in all directions away from Landon, hitting each of the sharks like a giant fist and knocking them unconscious.
The wave also produced echos, kind of like sonar. He used his strange magic to make a mental picture of his surroundings, even as he used his levitation spell (which was a funny thing to do underwater) to dart away from the stunned sharks.
As far as he could tell, there were no boundaries to the ocean in any direction whatsoever, but there were things in the water. Some were creatures like the demon sharks, but others were big islands underwater with him.
“Maybe I can hide in one until I figure out what to do,” he thought.
He didn’t choose the one nearest him, since that’s probably where the sharks would look for him first after they woke up, but he found the biggest one that was still pretty close and made for it. He had to get there before the sharks came to and saw where he was headed.
“Made it.” Landon slipped inside a cave which led to a collection of underwater passageways. He didn’t want to go too deep, since he might get lost, but he had to go in deep enough to where the sharks wouldn’t see him or smell him if they searched this way.
The boy found a nice round hiding place at the intersection of a number of tunnels and remained still. It was quiet in here, maybe too quiet. Then pairs of glowing eyes began to appear in each of the tunnels, and once again, Landon found himself quickly surrounded.
Ana and Ha Shu hadn’t been in the cell long enough to worry about using the bucket when they heard booted footsteps outside, a lot of them. Then they heard a woman’s voice say, “Open the door and wait here.”
“But what if they’re dangerous, Your Highness,” a man replied.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Obey my command.”
“At once, Your Highness.”
Then there was the jangling of keys, the lock being sprung, and a creak as the door swung open.
If Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony were a moose girl instead of a pegasus girl, that’s what appeared in the cell with Ana and Ha Shu.
She was mostly blue, but her hair was every color of the rainbow. Her ears and eyes were pale pink, and her clothes were a bunch of multi-colored stripes, decorated by pink hearts in place of polka dots.
And as ridiculous as all of that was, she made it worse by giggling. “Oh excuse me. I didn’t mean to laugh. I always laugh when I get nervous. Permit me to introduce myself. I am Princess Fountain of Perpetual Cuteness, at your service.”
It was Ana’s turn to giggle, but she stopped herself from actually saying how ridiculous the moose woman’s appearance and name were. The girl looked over to Ha Shu, whose face seemed impassive, but then she noticed that he was biting his inner cheek, probably to keep himself from laughing in the presence of royalty, and at the presence of royalty.
Instead, the Mooseman stood and bowed. “Your Highness, I am at your service.”
“Well of course you are, silly.” Then she called out behind her. “You see? I told you they would be reasonable.”
The Princess walked a few steps into the chamber and said to Ana, “And aren’t you the cutest thing, next to me, of course. You must be Ana. I’ve heard a lot about you. You are so brave for a human child.”
“Um, thank you, Your Highness.” She bowed awkwardly because she’d seen Ha Shu do the same and it seemed to be expected.
“Now, unless you’ve grown accustomed to the scenery, please come with me and my guards. You won’t be missed for some time since the King is in an awful mood, but the sooner we get out of here, the better.”
“At once, Your Highness,” Ha Shu responded with as much seriousness as he could summon. “Come, Ana.”
The girl let herself be led from the cell by the Mooseman and followed the rainbow Moose Princess and her half-dozen guards down the corridor back the way they’d come.
The eyes in the dark tunnels kept gathering around Landon. He didn’t doubt that, just like the sharks, these creatures had the power to injure his soul, and if they did that, his body in the Moose realm might die ahead of schedule.
Slowly, he used a light spell, keeping careful control and letting the illumination come up a bit at a time. They looked like piranha except they had little horns on either side of their heads. Landon remembered from school that piranha were fresh water fish, and that most sharks are salt water fish, but then again, this was Hell, and there were no rules.
“Hello.” It come out as a glub because Landon momentarily forgot he couldn’t talk underwater.
If he used the full power light spell again, he’d be trapped inside of tons of rock with the concussion and he’d get knocked out or worse along with these nasty looking fish. Then he got an idea. It was a good idea, but it was kind of mean. Then again, these fish might decide to do something mean to him at any second. He could reverse his “gill” spell on them and make it impossible for the fish to get air out of the water. That would mean they’d drown.
“Excuse me.” The biggest and meanest looking piranha swum forward, but his voice wasn’t mean at all. In fact, he sounded like a very polite, and even shy old man.
“Yes.” That came out as a glub, too.
“I believe you have come here by mistake. Is that true? Nod your head up and down if it is.”
“Not all of us in Hell are evil. We represent the souls of men who have done much wrong in the living world, but who now repent of our mistakes. In repenting, we displeased Asmodius and he had us transformed into these repulsive creatures and cursed us to remain in these caverns in misery for all eternity.
“I would not ask you to help us, because you seem to have enough problems of your own, but where we cannot leave this place, I believe we can help you escape.”
Landon grinned and remembered just in time that he couldn’t talk.
“Please follow us.”
The rest of the piranha swum down the largest of the tunnels with the old man fish following. Landon glided after them all fully aware that this could be a trap.
“Here we go.” Princess Fountain as Ana had come to think of the flamboyant Moosewoman, had managed to sneak them all the way upstairs using secret, if brightly colored, passageways, and through a hidden door into her chambers.
“Thank you guards, that will be all.”
“But, Your Highness.”
“That will be all.” Normally, the Princess sounded like a fourteen-year-old valley girl, but when she got mad, her voice twisted into a deep, vicious growl.
“Yes, Your Highness.” All of the guards bowed and left back down the secret corridor.
After the secret door closed, she walked over to a chest at the foot of her bed and opened it. Inside was a weasel holding a box. The slender predator handed the box, also blue and pink, up to the Princess.
“Thank you, Mustel. You may also leave. Don’t forget to take a snack on the way out.”
At the bottom of the chest next to the weasel as a bowl of meat. Mustel gobbled a mouthful, opened a trap door, scurried inside, and closed it behind him.
The Princess closed the chest and then with the other hand, gave the box to Ana. “I believe this is what you came for.”
Ana opened the box and saw a vial of pale liquid. The vial was labeled, “Holy Grail Moose Milk Poison antidote.” She also saw her wand. She took both items and put them in her pockets, and after giving the box back to Princess Fountain, bowed deeply.
“Thank you for this. Now we can save Landon’s life.” She found herself overcome by emotion for a second, but then contained herself. There was still a lot of work to do such as getting back out of the castle unseen.
“I appreciate the return of my wand, but what about the rest of my property.”
“I’m afraid this is all Mustel could manage. The King put the antidote on a pedestal in the throne room after he heard of your capture, but my sly friend managed to substitute a small bottle of sour Moose Milk for it. The wand was a stroke of luck, as the King had been examining it and then, discovering it was only a stick, threw it in the trash.”
“There’s no time to lose. We’ve got to get this out of here and back to the Mooseman Village. My friend doesn’t have much time left.”
Before the Princess had a chance to answer, there was several loud knocks on the door. “Princess Fountain of Perpetual Cuteness! It is I, Mann Hu, the Captain of the King’s Guard. Open your door at once.”
“I’m busy. Come back later.”
“I am here on the King’s orders and have been instructed that if you do not open the door, to break it down. Now quickly unlock the door. You are in grave danger from intruders!”
The Princess looked at Ana and Ha Shu and whispered, “Hide.”
There were several more loud knocks as the huge Mooseman guard pounded on the door again. “Open the door right now!”
Buddy, Alfred, and Merlyn, the small golden dragon all materialized in the home of Sha Su, the Moosewoman healer. Buddy had traced the spell transporting Landon and Ana here and located the dying boy.
To her credit, Sha Su accepted their presence stoically. Recognizing the three of them, she looked at the dragon. “I’m sorry. There’s not much time left. Six hours at most.”
“I know, I know.” Buddy walked over to the unconscious child and laid his head on the boy’s chest. “Landon.” Hot tears fell from his face onto the apprentice’s shirt.
The rabbit slowly walked over. “Sorry, Buddy. We’ve got to go. It’s his only chance.”
“Might not work.”
“It better. Now come on. We have a mission, and if we don’t finish it in time, not only will Landon die, but all Hell will boil over, and it’ll take the Moose realm with it.”
I wrote this story for two reasons. The first is in response to the Sunday Writing Prompt – Things Watery challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The second, and more important reason, is that I owe my grandson Landon the next chapter in the series of stories I’ve been writing for him these past twenty-two months.
Today’s tale happens immediately after the events in The Quest to Save Landon.
Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for the better part of two years 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.