© Sue Vincent
Little Mari, a year younger than five-year-old Zooey Davidson, took her by the hand as they ran toward the wishing tree. In their free hands, they each held a colorful cloth provided by Tala, who looked like she could be Mari’s teenage sister but wasn’t.
“Danilo helped me put my first one up. Now I’ll help you.”
“Did your brother tell you what it is?”
“Of course. It’s a wishing tree.”
“What do you wish for?”
“Anything you want.”
“Can I wish to go home?”
“I don’t know. A lot of the kids don’t want to go home.”
© James Pyles
“Dragons roared and children picked up musical instruments and played. Many alighted to the ground to dance, and the singers clung to tree branches like birds. It was a moment of grandeur and promise. But as bright as it was in the city of Vovin, the city of dragons and children, a dark night was coming.
The ancient dragon Gerliliam reclined in his favorite chair in front of the fireplace in his library, and slowly closed the book he had been reading.
“What do you mean ‘the end,’ Gerliliam? That can’t be the end. What about the Grey God? How are the kids supposed to get home? Does that mean the demons are going to come for us, too?” The excitable and feisty sparrow hopped annoyingly back and forth from one of the dragon’s shoulders to the other. In ages past the dragon would have simply swatted him with one of his wings, but then, that was ages past.
“Excuse me, but I think he’s right. You can’t stop reading now. There’s so much more to tell.” Mr. Covingham, a brightly colored garter snake, was comfortably curled on a pillow set on the floor, not too close to the fireplace, but not too far, either.
“But that’s what it says, my friends, ‘the end.’ That rather means there is no more to read.”
Kiyohira Arita was the only one in the lifeboat when he regained consciousness. What had happened? The eleven-year-old student had been on a ferry, the Shiun Maru. Yes, that was it. He was with his class on a school field trip crossing the Seto Inland Sea. The fog was so terrible. He and some of the other boys were on desk. He was trying to be brave, but he’d been freezing. Then he heard something, a horn of some kind. Then the world tore itself apart.
Now it was sunny and warm. Kiyohira had to take off his jacket because it was hot, like a summer day in the tropics though he knew it was only the beginning of May. Where was everybody? There must have been a crash, a collision. He looked in the water. No debris or wreckage. He looked further. Kiyohira knew she should be able to see land. They’d been in the middle of their transit so he shouldn’t be more than fifteen or twenty kilometers at most from the shore and even closer to one of the islands. They’d be impossible to miss on a day like this. Not a cloud in the sky.
But it was like he was in the middle of the ocean. He’d never been on the ocean before but he’d read books. Somehow he was put on a lifeboat after the collision and floated out to sea.
No, that was insane but how else could he have gotten here?
© Sue Vincent
The bridge between the exile of the Dark Hills and the tree city of the dragons Vovin was massive and ancient. Even the dragons and the elves had no name for it, nor did they know how it was built. It was wide enough to admit six golden dragons the size of Shay and Kaleen standing side-by-side, which was fortunate, since he was escorting his still weak and limping wife back toward home.
Danijel and Aidan were walking between them, the former feeling nearly as wounded and exhausted as her mentor.
Behind the dragons were the five Davidson children, and behind them was the Royal Vizier of Direhaven, Wynjeon, alongside the Mage Raibyr. In turn they were leading a troop of twenty elven warriors, the remains of Sergeant Petran’s meager forces replenished by hand-picked soldiers from the army’s main body.
“I can’t believe we made it.” Mandy was talking more to herself than anyone else. For months, they had fought the most deadly of foes, suffered immeasurably, and yet the five children were here, alive, and for the most part well.
Mandy wouldn’t tell anyone, not yet. The gift of healing was nothing short of miraculous, and she still didn’t know how she acquired it, but the healing came at a price. She was trying to hide her limp, the same one Shay suffered from, doing her best to conceal her fatigue, and the nausea that plagued her.
© Sue Vincent
“Archers! At the ready!” Petran gave the command to his meager squad of elven soldiers as they formed a perimeter around the five Davidson children and the magician Raibyr. Nine-year-old Taylor was at the center with his siblings when he remembered he also had his bow and arrows.
The wind was frigid and fierce, which fortunately made the attacking Beelzebub horde uncertain in the air, but would also make accuracy with the bow extremely difficult.
The sense of the warrior Azzorh within Taylor came over him, and he nocked his first arrow.
The bat-winged demons were in as tight a formation as possible given the storm that was tracking toward the party from the west; a massive cloud of swollen, sickly green flies whose home was sewage, and whose taste was for blood.
Beelzebub – Found at weebly, pinterest, and multiple other sources – no available image credit
Lethargy had come upon five-year-old Zooey so suddenly that she was hardly able to stand, and the mouse Sapplehenning was unconscious and barely breathing. Mandy was holding her sister close to her, as the elves of Direhaven finished constructing the enormous flatbed cart with which they would transport the disabled dragon Shay.
“I must say Jake, that your dreams are very creative, and I mean that in more than one manner.” The Vizier Wynjeon, consort to Janellize, the Queen of their people clapped a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“When I found out that Shay couldn’t walk, I thought the wagon would just, well, happen. When it didn’t, I drew a picture in the dirt of what I’d dreamed.”
A hundred sturdy soldiers brave and hardy struggled mightily to assist the great golden dragon onto the hastily manufactured conveyance, as Mandy murmured into Zooey’s ear. “I should never have permitted you to stay, and I’m not waiting anymore. We’re leaving with some of the soldiers and going to Vovin right now.”
“No. I want to stay with Shay.”
© 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.
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.”
© 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.
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.