Dire Beginning

beginnings

© Sue Vincent

The afternoon sunlight, which had been shining dimly through the mist and overhanging trees, flickered and threatened to extinguish, as if a giant was blowing out a candle.

“They came! They heard me and they came!” In spite of their dire circumstances, trapped between an army of demons on one side and a strangely alien Shay accompanied by the resurrected Sakhr on the other, little Zooey was jumping up and down with excitement. Coming in from high above and crossing the sun was an unprecedented legion of vultures. It was impossible to tell the birds apart as the vast flock began its dive toward the demonic forces, but the girl knew that Gyffus was at the lead. She took the single feather he had left behind, held it up and waved.

The rest of them looked up and then back again at the wounded golden dragon and her companion, Dani’s shadowy reflection, who seemed no worse for wear after having been impaled on the dragonrider’s sword.

“Sakhr! I killed you!” Dani’s right hand ached as she tightly gripped Witherbrand’s hilt. The blade felt heavy, threatening to pull her arm downward, lowering her guard.

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The Quest to Save Landon

anime girl wand

Anime version of Hermione Granger holding a wand

Nine-year-old Landon and his classmate and friend Ana were in school, which was strange, because school was out for the summer. What was even stranger was that Landon was at the head of the class and Ana was the only student.

“Now today class, I want to introduce you to magic wands.” He was wearing a white shirt and tie, dark slacks, and was wearing something that looked like a cross between a jacket and a robe while Ana was dressed similarly.

“Stop being silly. I’m the only one here.”

“Just trying to get into the mood, Ana.”

“Fine, you teach me how to use a wand, and I’ll teach you moose healing magic.”

“Are you sure we should be keeping this from Buddy?”

“You said you knew enough to begin my training yourself. Besides, we’re ready to start the fourth grade. I think we’re old enough to handle the basic stuff ourselves.”

“Okay. Anyway, this is a magic wand.”

“It looks like a long, thin stick. What makes it magic?”

“We do. Wands help us focus our spells, especially ones that normally would affect a wide area.”

“Like my light spell.”

“Exactly. The elemental light spell explodes like a bomb or a flash bulb on an old-fashioned camera. If you focus it through a wand, you can create anything from a flashlight beam to a laser.”

“Cool. Can I try?” She stood up at her desk and held out her hand.

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Descent

feather

© Sue Vincent

The little girl had picked up the carrion bird’s feather, the only remains of her connection to the griffon vulture who had delivered the dire news of the Great Gray God, and tucked it in her pocket. For a few short minutes when their minds met, she had seen through his eyes, had seen the world from six miles up, flown through clouds and smoke, and witnessed the falling of a god to a vast army of demons. Zooey was only five years old, but in the space of a few weeks, she had seen so much of life and death.

“The Quag Lands.”

Dani stopped them at the edge of some unseen boundary. It was mid-morning and they had been walking through a grassy marsh since just after dawn. For the past hour of their journey, the grasses had become darker and the tree branches more twisted. The air was humid and thick with the smell of the dying, not that there weren’t living birds and animals here, but somehow that life didn’t belong solely in their bodies.

“It’s what I saw.” Jake was standing next to the dragonrider. She knew the way into this stinking pit because it was the one area of the Exile she had always been taught to avoid. The seven-year-old also knew by the dubious virtue of his dreams, both waking and sleeping.

“It gets darker ahead. She’s in there, Dani. Shay’s almost dead.”

They all turned as Paris shrieked. She had walked off to the edge of the trail and was gazing into a shallow pool when she saw it. Taylor was the first to reach her.

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Victory and Judgment

moosemods

From the Moose Mods YouTube channel

Stop! Don’t read this unless you’ve first read The Runaway Stuffed Rabbit, The Battle for the Holy Grail Moose Milk, and then Fierce Combat in Moose Valley.

Ana was still hanging on to the barely conscious dragon Merlyn and his companion Alfred, the bunny in the bow tie, using her amulet of flight to keep them up in the air. They were just above the treetops when they drifted over a trail. In fact it was the trail, the one that led back to the Moosemen village, and it wasn’t empty.

All of the Moosewomen, led by Ha Shu’s wife Lai Ma Moose, were riding on a herd of moose, the herd that had led Ana to the village in the first place. They were all wearing armor and helmets and carrying spears and swords. The little girl managed to glide in for a landing just a few hundred yards ahead of them, but Lai Ma had to pull up on the reins hard, as did the other Moosewomen warriors, to keep from running over the trio.

Lai Ma quickly dismounted and rushed over to them.

“Can you do anything? He’s hurt.” The child was pleading with her voice and her eyes.

“I believe so. First, let’s get you off of the road.”

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Conflagration

conflagration

© Sue Vincent

After Dani attached the leather leg band containing the message to her brother Aidan, Zooey whispered into the crow’s ear and released him into the air. The ebony bird took wing and flew up and northward, disappearing into the midnight blue sky.

Sapplehenning finally poked his head above Zooey’s shirt collar. He had refused to come out while the crow was around, knowing of the bird’s taste for mice.

“Yeah, but why a crow and not a homing pigeon?” Even with the grim task facing them, Taylor still could tease his youngest sister a little.

“Because crows are really smart, unlike you smartypants.” Zooey stuck her tongue out at the nine-year-old just like in the old days before they came to this Exile, and before the demons had tried to kill her. “Besides, homing pigeons don’t work the way you think they do.”

“You’re sure the bird knows where Vovin is?” It had never occurred to Dani to send a message home before, but that’s because she thought Shay was watching over them. Now they were alone, and if there was any hope of saving the dragon, it was with them.

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Fierce Combat in Moose Valley

battling moose

Photo taken at Grand Teton National Forest – Found at Parkcamper.com

Stop! Don’t read this unless you’ve first read The Runaway Stuffed Rabbit and then The Battle for the Holy Grail Moose Milk.

Sam was dressed almost like a cowboy version of Batman without the cape and mask. The big, floppy hat, and flowing long coat made up the difference though. He was also heavily armed with about every medieval weapon and gadget he could carry. He’d need all of it, too. The battle between the Moosemen the Demons was raging just ahead of him.

He thought about yelling out a war cry and diving right in among the Moosemen, having caught a glimpse of his good friend Ha Shu Moose in the melee, but then, spying a large tree overhanging a portion of the battle, he got an idea. Swiftly climbing the trunk and then the hardy lower branches, he perched himself above the Moose Army so he had a clear field of fire of the Demons.

The Hell spawns were trapped between the Moose Castle and its warriors, and the Moosemen from the village, but they were still holding their own. Sam, the Demon Slayer readied his device, which was a cross between a belt-fed machine gun and a crossbow. He unwound the unwieldy belt from his backpack and set up the contraption. It could fire a hundred arrows a minute, which meant he’d be out of ammo in five, but with the Demons all crowded together, that meant he couldn’t miss.

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The Battle for the Holy Grail Moose Milk

moosemilk

Image from the Moosecraft YouTube channel.

Stop! Don’t read this unless you’ve first read The Runaway Stuffed Rabbit!

Alfred the Rainbow Rabbit sitting on the back of Merlyn the Dragon shot up into the air over Ana’s backyard like a bullet.

The nine-year-old girl’s Mom witnessing the astonishing sight nearly fainted, and the Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon followed the pair a scant second later. As Ana ran outside after all of them, a sudden whirlwind picked her up, and she flew into the air after all three of the supernatural beings.

Her Mom screamed, terrifying Ana’s little brother as he stared at these amazing events from the family’s back patio.

“Buddy! What are you doing? What’s going on?”

The dragon didn’t seem to hear the girl as all four of them continued to soar skyward toward a strange, black cloud.

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The Bunny in the Bow Tie

bow tie bunny

Found at Etsy

Ana kept chasing after the small dragon and then realized she was no longer in her room. In fact, she wasn’t sure she was even on Earth. It was early morning wherever she was, and the nine-year-old girl was freezing.

She looked around and she seemed to be in the mountains. There were trees, bushes, and other plant life. There was a trail beneath her feet, but it didn’t seem to lead back or lead to home or even any buildings. She was totally in the wilderness and the dragon she’d been running after was nowhere in sight.

Ana was still in her pajamas and barefoot which didn’t help matters any. Then, when she heard the voice behind her, she nearly jumped ten feet in the air.

“Hey, Dollface. You lost?”

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The Uneasy Pact

shelter

© Sue Vincent

Dani was with the Davidson children, all of them dressed regally if somewhat uncomfortably, sitting under a grand silken tent, served drink and treats by elven servants, while the Queen of Direhaven, Janellize, sat in front of them next to the golden dragon Shay, the two of them marvelously displayed against the backdrop of a magnificent waterfall.

It was mid-afternoon, and Janellize had just begun her tale of the shared history of her people and the dragons, one fraught with conflict and distrust. But who was at fault and why now was the enmity set aside?

“For time out of mind, we whom you call Elves and the race of dragons have visited your world, but neither are what you imagine us to be from your legends.

“Only in certain lands on your world were we called Elves. In other languages, we have been referred to as fairies, gnomes, and dwarves. In centuries past, an ancient Christian prayer book used the term elf as synonymous with Satan, though other nations of that time, considered some of our people light while others dark in nature. We have also been considered rbhus, hobgoblins, nymphs, demons, and angels.

“Our people have been all of these and none of them, for in truth, we were never truly realized by humans. In fact, just as your world contains differing cultures and individuals with varying characters, so too do we, and thereby hangs our tale.

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The New Apprentice

falcon

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?”

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