Asmodius, the King of the Demons of Hell and Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon, were literally battling tooth and nail in a fight to the death at the shore of a bubbling cauldron sea of sulfur and lava, both of them bleeding from a dozen wounds, though the dragon was getting the worst of it.
Hundreds of nearby demons flew or ran to them, forming a semi-circle near the combatants, setting up lawn chairs and sitting down with soda and popcorn to witness the fight.
Buddy had been thrown back by the demon and both paused, heavily breathing the fetid air of Hell.
“So, allies you call. In Hell all cheat.”
“Not so, dragon. What need of I with allies. In Hell, I’m supreme. I’ve got the home town advantage. They just like to watch.” The demon audience cheered for their champion, and Asmodius took a bow.
Buddy knew he had to hurry, but he had gravely underestimated his foe. The nearby sea was continuing to boil faster and faster, and when it reached its tipping point, perhaps only minutes away, it would shoot up like a gigantic geyser and vaporize every living thing in the Moose realm, including his apprentice and closest friend in all the worlds, Landon.
Breathing dragon fire was useless here. Demons love fire, and his magic had gone haywire in this darkest of evil dimensions. All he had left was his strength and courage, and this time, that might not be enough.
“Let’s have at it again, shall we? My minions are getting bored.” Then Asmodius leapt at his hated enemy, and with fading endurance, Buddy desperately tried to defend himself.
“I have an idea.” Ana was holding her wand and thought she might have the answer to freeing themselves from the blocked escape tunnel.
“You’d better hurry,” uttered the Mooseman Ha Shu, his voice no longer entirely calm. “The King’s guard approaches, and they’ll be upon us in moments.”
“Stall them until I can get this to work.”
“Your friends never thought to retrieve my sword, but I will do my best.”
“Darn it, Merlyn,” groused the bunny in the bow tie. “I told you to bring that, too.”
The dragon, smaller than Buddy by half, squawked.
“So what if it was heavy?”
“Quit arguing and hold them off for a minute,” yelled the nine-year-old girl. “I think I’ve just about got it.”
Merlyn cried out again as six armed Moosemen, their swords and maces in hand, came into sight and charged them. Then the dragon opened his mouth and a white-hot stream of fire blasted back down the tunnel, engulfing the soldiers.
“Flee!” one screamed.
“We are undone,” another declared.
“Ouch, ouch, owie, ouch, this is hot,” complained a third.
“Hah, you losers,” cackled the rabbit. “Plate mail armor’s not so cool when its heated to 2,000 degrees, huh?”
Ana focused her will, or as much of it as she could with all the commotion behind her. The light spell. It had to work. If only she could squeeze it down into a thin, intense stream of…
“Oh Wow!” Suddenly, a screaming hot beam of light blasted from the tip of her wand, cutting through the rock in front of her like the proverbial hot knife through Crisco. She expected it to make the wall explode outward, but it acted more like a cutting tool, so she drew a big circle as wide and as high as the tunnel itself.
Then nothing happened. “I don’t get it. I’m sure I cut through. The beam was more than hot enough.”
“That was terrific, Dollface. First rate stuff. I didn’t know you were that powerful.”
“I’m not, but since you being around automatically increases magic, I figured it would work.”
“I think it did work, Ana. Look. All of the smoke and dust is being sucked out around the edges.” Ha Shu pointed out how the air was escaping through the cuts in the rock she made. “I think I can finish the rest.”
The Mooseman warrior pressed against the debris blocking the rest of the tunnel and mightily pushed. Slowly, the barrier began to move.
“Come on,” Alfred said. “We’ve got to help.”
Combining their meager strength, the girl, bunny, and dragon joined the Mooseman in a valiant effort to free themselves. Hesitantly, the rocks moved outward, one foot, two, five, six, and as the rest tired, Ha Shu continued on.
Then, they all had to jump back as the massive boulders fell apart outward and the bright light of day shined into the tunnel, momentarily blinding them.
When Ana could see again, she made sure she had all of her equipment, especially Landon’s cure, pressed the amulet inside her shirt, summoning its magic, and then made herself and everyone else light enough to fly. “Let’s go save Landon!” Then the quartet shot into the sky like four missiles heading back to the Mooseman village.
The tiny figure of Mustel the weasel scurried out and witnessed them vanishing into distant clouds. “Boy, I’m glad they’re out of here. Now I’d better go see how the Princess is doing with the Captain. I’m sure she has him tied around her little finger by now…or knowing her, she’s tied him to a chair and hit him over the head with a rock.”
Landon was standing helplessly by his own body, unable to re-enter it as he watched Sha Su, the Moosewoman healer, stare at the hands of the clock on her mantel. Then she looked back and tenderly ran her hoof through his hair.
“I’m sorry, dear boy. Only a few minutes left. I don’t think they’re going to make it.” Spectral Landon watched tears of sorrow stream out of her eyes and across her furry snout, but as dire as his situation was, he kept getting distracted by, of all things, the sounds of a fight.
He could hear his friend groaning and grunting. Then there was another voice. “Give it up, dragon. I may torture you for a few less centuries if you surrender now.”
“That’s Asmodius. And I can hear the demon horde cheering and screaming. But how unless…maybe being a spirit that’s escaped Hell has continued to change my powers. I…”
He stopped because at first he thought he had double vision. Then he realized that he could see into Hell. He was having a vision, but it was more. He could feel it. He was torn for a second. Should he stay here and hope Ana would get back in time to give him the antidote and save his life, or go back into Hell and help Buddy.
In the end, it was no contest. He had to help save Buddy and the Moose realm. Stepping into the vision, Landon was shocked to discover that it was just a vision, not a shortcut back into the evil empire, but then something else happened. As his spirit was momentarily superimposed over Buddy’s image, he could feel magic energy escape his body. At the same instant, a few of the dragon’s wounds were healed and he seemed to get stronger.
“Buddy, can you hear me?”
The Ambrosial Dragon didn’t respond.
“Okay, maybe not, but I can still affect you in Hell.” Landon concentrated and started beaming a stream of mystically charged particles through the vision and into his teacher.
“What is this? You’ve been holding out on me, dragon. You made me think you were on the ropes, when you actually were getting a second wind.”
Buddy seemed just as surprised as Asmodius, but took advantage of the demon’s hesitation and redoubled his attack. However, it wasn’t over yet. If the child let up for even a second, Buddy would still lose and the Moose realm would be destroyed. No matter what, Landon had to keep feeding the dragon power until his tutor and friend won or the boy died.
“We’re here! Did we make it in time?” Ana was the first to leap through the door with Ha Shu, Alfred, and Merlyn close behind.
The healer women jumped to her feet. “Yes, but just barely. Hurry.”
The girl ran toward her friend but then staggered to a stop. “Landon? How can there be two of you?”
“How can you see me?” He couldn’t let himself get distracted, but managed to talk while still sending energy across the void to Buddy.
“I see him, too, but how? His spirit must have escaped from the Underworld and arrived here some time ago, but he just became visible now.” The Moosewoman had one hand still on the boy’s material head.
“It must be Alfred. He’s increasing the ambient magic in the hut.”
“That has to be it. I’m sending even more strength to Buddy in Hell than I was a few seconds ago.”
“Quick, girl. The potion,” demanded Sha Su.”
Ana pulled the vial out, stood next to Landon and was about to take the top off and give it to him.
“Wait. Don’t do that yet.”
“But you’re about to die,” Ana emphatically cried.
“If I go back to my body, Buddy will lose and the Moose People will all be killed.”
“Here, let me help. You too, Merlyn.” The bunny and dragon stepped inside of Landon’s translucent image, and using the rabbit’s powers, added their own occult energies to his. Watching, they all saw Buddy becoming stronger, but the sea of Hell was moments from erupting.
Then the clock on the mantle began to chime. “Noon has come. I’m sorry child.” Sha Su lowered her gaze.
“Landon!” Ana yelled.
A second chime.
“Wait!” The boy didn’t want to die, but this was more than about his own life.
In Hell, Buddy was glowing, emitting wave after wave of magical force which threw Asmodius into his audience, who immediately started swarming chaotically.
“I lied, dragon. I cheat all the time, especially in Hell. Okay, gang. Get him!”
Another wave of energy and they were all scattered long enough for Buddy to complete his plan by soaring up above and then down into the rumbling, bubbling sea just as it explosively launched upward, engulfing him.
In the Moose village, the healer’s clock had chimed ten times with only two more to go.
“I don’t care what you say.” Ana popped the top off the vial, and with Sha Su holding Landon’s nose and opening his mouth, she little girl poured the cure down his throat.
“I said wait,” and then Landon’s spirit vanished and his body gasped for air.
The twelfth and last chime. It was midday and the 24 hours had expired.
“Landon!” Ana hugged him because she was so happy, but then they both realized everyone was watching and got embarrassed. The girl let go and stood up. “I’m uh…really glad we got the antidote to you in time.” Even in the dim light, it was easy to see both Landon and Ana blushing.
Ha Shu and Su Sha helped the weakened Landon sit up on the sofa in the cool of the Moosewoman’s living room, just as an earthquake began to rumble.
“We don’t get quakes here. I fear Buddy has failed us.” The Mooseman soldier ran to the doorway to look out. “No, not an earthquake.”
Far beyond the city limits of the Moose village, the forest shook and steamed with great heat and force, and then a tremendous blast of light and scalding, sulfurous water rose high into the sky, and at the top if it was Buddy. Then, as everyone ran outside to watch, Sha Su and Ana helping Landon, the geyser turned into a tornado, and then an airborne whirlpool and drained back down into the ground and then fell back into Hell.
After that, part of the eruption split off and splashed down into a deep depression in the verdant lands, forming a new lake, and through Buddy, Landon sensed that in the water where the piranha people he had promised to save.
Eldritch magicks were spinning out of Buddy’s forelimbs in violet and crimson, healing the land and the woods, and as he glided toward his waiting friends, what had come up from Hell had gone back down (except for the dragon, the piranhas, and their lake) and the scar he had ripped in the Moose world had disappeared.
“Landon.” The dragon landed at the boy’s feet, and the Moosewoman and Ana let him kneel down so they could hug.
“I’m so glad to see you again, Buddy. Are you alright?”
“Buddy okay, Landon. I happy, very happy you alive. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Thank you for saving everybody, especially the piranhas.”
They held each other for a long time.
Afterward, they were all invited for a big celebration in the Moose village. When the Moose Kings (there are several) heard the news, they rescinded their order banishing them from the realm, and suggested that the party be held at the Moose King’s castle.
“Sorry, sorry.” Buddy apologized to the crowd in the village square. “Can’t stay, can’t stay. Got to fix continuity mess in human world, keep Ana’s family from knowing about magic.
Landon, who was feeling a lot better now, put his hand on the dragon’s shoulder. “Can’t we celebrate a little bit? You can erase Ana’s family’s memory later.”
“Nope, nope, Landon. Got my reasons. Explain later. Gotta go now.”
The Moose village population stepped back as the five heroes from the human world were surrounded by the dragon’s portal magic. They all waved, and cheered, and yelled their “Good-byes” to the quintet. The air shimmered, and shuttered, and then flashed bright purple around the five, and when it cleared, they were gone.
The Moose and Human worlds were safe, but in Hell, a very put out demon was pretty sore and planning his revenge.
So ends this four-part tale of the latest adventures of our heroes in the Moose realm and in Hell. Stand by for an exciting announcement about the future of this endless series at the conclusion of this afterword.
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.
Attention! When my grandson found out that he wasn’t aging any faster in these stories than he does in real life, he was surprised and dismayed. He wants me to write adventures about him being older. In fact, he gave me a very specific scenario he wants me to follow, so starting with the next tale, things are going to be very, very different. Stay tuned.
A new chapter in Landon’s adventures begins with The New Dragon Saga: Training.