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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 17 - An Unexpected Visitor)

The stark moon had broken through the grip of the clouds. It’s silvery rays lit up the indigo landscape—spotlighting two figures standing in the center of what normally was Liberty Square. Two brothers, leaning upon a large, skull bell with a gaping crack down its side, were surrounded by colonial shadow soldiers.

Searching the perimeter for and escape, and panting heavily, Charlie said, “I…I don’t…I don’t think we’re going to get out…of this one…Michael.”

“Oh, c’mon, Charlie, there is always a way out. We just have to find it,” Michael replied.

“Really? Are your eyes even open?”

“I see them, their faceless figures staring us down. But so what. I’ve had enough. We’re in Deep WONDER and we’re animated. Remember what that means Charlie?”

The older brother turned his attention away from the circling soldiers of death, with a grin of appreciation, and said, “You're right, Michael. We are animated…which means—”

“We can do anything, or be anything, we want.”

“Right, so let’s get to it,” said Charlie.

At that moment, the swarming shadow soldiers turned up the intensity, screeching and hissing—tightening the perimeter of their swirling path upon the boys.

Charlie and Michael covered their ears. The sounds were almost unbearable, making it impossible for them to transform into anything that would help them escape.

With both hands covering his ears, Charlie shouted out to his brother, “It’s like they knew what we planned to do next.”

Michael, also covering his ears and squinting from the overbearing noises, replied, “So what do we do now? I can’t concentrate with all THIS NOISE!”

The oppressive sounds of the soldiers continued to intensify, bringing the boys to their knees, almost paralyzing them.

Suddenly, the noises stopped.

The ring of swarming soldiers disbanded—allowing the shadow horseman to enter the circle.

Slowly, he approached the skull bell, where the boys laid helplessly curled up on the ground.

“Look upon me, pathetic children,” said the shadow horseman, sitting high atop his mighty steed.

Charlie removed his hands from his ears and looked up at the horseman with defiance in his eyes. Deep down he was scared beyond his own thoughts, but he would never let the rider have the satisfaction of knowing.

“That’s it. Now, bow before me, keeper of shadows and faithful servant to the Queen.”

Michael uncovered his ears and looked at the rider. “Queen? What Queen?”

A sudden burst of light shot upward into the dark sky, beyond the dilapidated buildings where Cinderella’s castle usually stood.

Sounds of an approaching army on horseback thundered through the air—shaking free loose materials from the surrounding architecture which had seen better days.

The shadow horseman pulled his horse around to face his attackers, as he readied for battle.

Charlie and Michael quickly rose to their feet, anxious to see why the dark horseman had suddenly turned his attention elsewhere.

“What do you think it is, Charlie?”

“I don’t know, but at least it gives us a chance to escape.”


POOF! Frank, Albert and Clara suddenly appeared—seated at the large circular table in the Library of Dreams. Every concept or dream ever thought up by Disney’s creative talents, were randomly floating above. All were concealed by magic, within luminescent orbs.

Kicked back in her chair, admiring the ceiling mural of the sunlit sky, Clara exhaled, then said, “This place never gets old.”

“Too bad the same can’t be said about you,” said Alfred, jokingly.

Frank giggled under his breath, as he looked over at Clara, waiting for her to return the favor.

“Clara turned towards Alfred and fired back, “Look who’s talking. Why, if you were any older, you’d be dust.”

“What was that dear, I couldn’t hear ya,” said Alfred, in humorous fashion.

The three Patrons broke into a bit of laughter.


The remaining council members suddenly appeared in their respective seats at the table. Henry, Gloria and Chester had arrived.


Another guest unexpectedly appeared.

Everyone at the table was caught off guard by the late arrival. Everyone, except Frank. His star apprentice had made a surprise entrance.

“Aghhh, glad to see you found your way, dear,” said Frank, trying to pave a socially smooth path for Valerie’s entrance.

The other five council members looked amongst themselves, confirming none had known about the surprise.

Still sensing tension in the air, Frank cleared his throat and said, “Yes, because, uh, my wonderful apprentice…Valerie, expressed such great interest in the library yesterday, I thought it would be beneficial to us, as a team, to introduce her to this sacred place of ours.”

“You know, Frank,” said Alfred, “I’m not so sure—”

Frank nervously interrupted, “Besides, we are going to need all the help we can get. Who knows what we’ll be up against. Especially now that the Thorn army appears to know where the map leading to the Magic Dream Expander is hidden.”

“Which, as we know, is here…in the Library of Dreams,” said Gloria.


Trumpets sounded, echoing through the full moon sky. Battle cries from an army of valiant knights grew louder and louder.

Like a train breaking out of a dark tunnel, ninety knights, clad in bright, silvery armor, came charging around the corner atop ninety white horses.

Forced to retreat, the dark horseman and his soldiers scattered like rats into shadows of the surrounding buildings—startled by the unexpected visitors.

The dark circle had been broken. The Knights of the White Horses now controlled the hub of a frightful Liberty Square.

“Hey, lad, did ya miss us?” said Ben.

Charlie looked around, but could not see his friend.

“It’s so good to see you,” another voice said.

“Midnight? Is that you?” said Michael.

The boys looked about, trying to spot their friends.

“Over here, behind Sir Ludington and Sir Traverse,” Oteza said.

“Sir who and Sir what?” said Michael.

“Sir Ludington, at your service.”

“And I am Sir Traverse.”

The two knights raised their helmet guards, revealing kind faces.

“Oh, glad to meet you. I am Charlie and this is my younger brother, Michael.”

“The honor is ours, young squires,” replied Sir Ludington.

“And our friends? I still don’t see them?” said Charlie.

“Oh. Yes, of course,” said Sir Ludington.

The two knights separated, allowing a black horse to step forward.

“Hello, boys, said the horse.”

“Midnight? Ben?” said Charlie.

Clad in shiny green armor, Ben was sitting atop Midnight, and in his left hand, was another familiar friend.


The table was silent. None of the council members knew what to say next. All except Frank were wary of Valerie’s presence.

Chester stood up and proclaimed, “The night grows old, and I say we not waste another minute worrying about anything but how to lock this place down and protect the map as best we can.”

“I agree,” added Frank.

“This room, as we know, is surrounded with maze-like hallways, sprinkled with unusual rooms.”

“Its architecture is complex enough to confuse even the wisest of new visitors,” said Henry, sketching in his magical pad of paper.

“And amongst those hallways and rooms are many doorways and windows. Any of which, a perpetrator could secretly use as an entryway into our beloved library,” said Gloria.

“However, as Henry clearly just stated, even the wisest of new visitors would be confused by the complexity of the libraries architecture, said Frank.

“Yeah, but remember,” said Alfred, “My dreams have been compromised by the Dark Thorns, meaning…the Thorn army now knows where the map is hidden.”

“Right,” said Clara, “which also means they know how to find—”

“This place,” finished Gloria.

Frank stood up and walked away from the table. Searching the room in deep thought, he scratched his chin, then ran both hands through his long, gray hair. Turning back towards the table of Patrons, he said, “We’ll divide up.” Spinning and pointing in all directions, he continued, “Everyone is to cover a segment of the library.”

“How? What?” said Alfred.

Frank continued to turn in circles, pointing and counting. Studying each area of the large, central room of the library. Then he stopped. Turning back to his friends, he said, “There are six hallways and six of us. Each will choose a hallway and play guardian to that wing of the library. Nobody comes in. Nobody goes out.”

“What about me?” said Valeria.

Without looking, the wise Patron pointed to his apprentice and said, “You will come with me.”

Out of respect, Valeria nodded—not saying a word.

Everyone still seated at the table stood and gathered close together.

Eyeing each council member, and Valerie too, Frank leaned in towards the center of the group and said, “Whatever happens, just remember, we are all in this together.”

“And together, we will overcome,” Gloria added.

With confident expression, the group disbanded. Each Patron headed towards a different maze-like hallway. Valerie followed Frank.


Midnight, now a horse, was clad in colorful armor. Mounted atop his back, Ben sat true and upright, almost noble in appearance, in his stark green armor. In his hand he held a long jousting stick with the head of an ostrich—Oteza had taken on a medieval theme as well.

“We gathered a few friends,” said Ben. “Thought you might be need’n some help.”

“You two are very challenging to keep up with,” added Midnight. “We tried to reach you before the Boo-To-You parade, but by the time we arrived, it was too late. Fortunately, old Ben was quick to think up a noble idea.”

“Ooh. Let me guess,” said Michael, “you went and found this army of knights to rescue us?”

Sir Ludington laughed, which triggered the entire knight army to laugh. Once things quieted down, he said, “You’re too kind, lad. We’re no more than faithful guardians of the castle.”

“I have to say, it was quite a brilliant idea,” added Oteza.

“I always wanted to be a knight,” Ben added with a goofy smile, quickly degrading the compliment Oteza had just paid him.

Midnight shook his head in embarrassment, then said, “I guess it must have been a happy accident.”

Ben paused for a second. Still smiling, he finally caught up to his friend’s insult. His face turning red, he said, “I say, you overgrown flea bag. Why, I—”

“If I were you, I would choose my words wisely, little man,” said Sir Traverse.

“Yes, your friend here is carrying the weight of the load, if you don’t mind me saying,” said Sir Pentwater.

“Oh he is, is he?” replied Ben, defensively.

“It’d be a long walk back to the fortress bearing a full load of armor,” added Sir Ludington.

“He does have a point,” added Charlie, giggling.

“Fine then,” said Ben, “what say we get on with what we came here for in the—”

“Trouble on the perimeter, Sir Ludington,” shouted one of the knights far back in the group.

“They have returned,” said Sir Traverse.

“Quick, let’s split the men,” said Sir Ludington. “Sir Traverse, Sir Pentwater, each of you take a third of our soldiers and secure the perimeter. Ben, you will stay here with me and the rest of the soldiers.”

“What? What do we do?” asked Ben.

“We fight,” replied Sir Ludington. “It is our duty to protect these two young gentlemen at all costs.”


Frank and Valerie’s elongated shadows were cast upon the hallway walls by sunlight from the live ceiling mural which traveled throughout the library.

For almost an hour they slowly and methodically checked each window and room as they passed by. Opening each door, they looked in to make sure it was unoccupied—then closed the door and moved on to the next room.

Turning left, then right, then another right, then left again, they continued on. Neither, remembering where the center of the library now was located. Every room they checked was completely different from the last. One had been filled with live trees, shrubs and forest animals. A second was like stepping into outer space—with no floor, walls or ceiling to define it as a room. And a third had thousands of rubber bouncing balls—in many sizes and colors, madly bouncing about in every direction imaginable. Scattered randomly through the hallways, between many of the rooms, were scenic windows of varying sizes and shapes. All of which, offered a view of still more unusual and unimaginable things.

Frank and Valerie had completely lost focus on the task at hand.

“What kind of place is this?” asked Valerie. “This is completely insane,” she said, putting her hands on her head. “How…how are we supposed to protect the library with all this chaos going on.”

Frank chuckled, then said, “It’s not chaos my dear, it’s sprinkles of imagination. All of which, Disney’s Imagineers use to help generate new, and better, ideas.”

“Sprinkles of Imagination?” replied Valerie.

“Have you ever made something to eat using a recipe?”

“Yes, the young lady replied.”

“You use ingredients from the recipe, correct?”

“Of course,” Valerie said.

“Well, think of what you see here as ingredients,” said Frank. “Each room and window view offers a different flavor you can add to an idea—wait, what was that? Did you see it?”

“No,” said Valerie. Perplexed by her mentor’s comment.

“A shadow. Very subtle yet still noticeable. It was running along the left side of the hallway. Over there, just before the next turn,” Frank said, pointing.

“Are you sure?” said Valerie.

“Positive. My eyes may be getting older, but they still work quite well.”

Valerie stared at the old Patron…not knowing what to do or say next.

Frank scurried ahead to the next corner of the hallway and quickly glanced beyond. Then he turned back to Valerie and waved her up. Pointing, he said, “Look. It leads back to the hub of the library.”

“And?” said Valerie, confused.

“We need to find Alfred.”


“He’s the only one who knows where the map is hidden,” said Frank. “Quick. Take my hand.” Frank pulled the light charm out from underneath his colorful shirt with his right hand, while grabbing his apprentice’s hand with his left, then said, “Friend at heart, close to me, take us to the place he’ll be.”


They were gone.


“The shadows have overtaken the perimeter,” yelled Sir Pentwater, as he approached on horseback.

“Not much better here at the skull bell,” Midnight hollered back.

“We must retreat to higher ground,” replied Sir Ludington.

“Agreed,” said Sir Pentwater.

The swarming army of shadows had returned in full force, turning the knight’s shiny armor into corroded metal and their bodies to ash. Riderless horses scrambled off in every direction—startled by the sudden loss of their noble companions, and the dark swarm of colonial soldiers.

Leading the evil wave upon his blue-eyed stallion, and appearing as nothing but a blur of whirlwind smoke, the dark horseman struck down every knight within his reach—one swift blow after another, with his shadow-like sword. Instantly, his victims turned to ash, filling the blue moon sky with lost hope.

Charlie and his Patron friends began to sense defeat.

“Quickly, we must get the boys and they’re friends to safety,” said “Sir Traverse.”

Ben pulled on Midnight's left reign, turning the horse so both could look upon the approaching shadow horseman.

“Behind you, Ben!” shouted Michael. Running to his friend’s defense, the young boy leapt off the rocky skull bell, deflecting the sword of the enemy from striking his red headed friend.

Sir Ludington finished off the evil soldier with a fatal swipe of his sword. The soldier exploded into nothingness.

“Whew, that was close,” said Ben.

“Yeah, too close” said Oteza. “Sir Ludington, where do you suggest we go?”

Sir Ludington raised his sword. Gaining the attention of the remaining knights, he shouted, “To the mountains!”


“A shadow on the wall, you say?” said Alfred. Not convinced of his friend’s explanation, he scrunched up his face in doubt.

“I am telling you, I know what I saw,” Frank replied, trying to gain Alfred’s attention—who impolitely continued to walk down the hallway, examining each room and window he passed. “And…it was headed towards the heart of the library.”

Alfred stopped in his tracks and turned to Frank. “It knows where the map is.”

“You hid the map in one of the dream orbs?” asked Frank.

“Hurry, before it’s too late,” said Alfred.

“Valerie, you stay here,” said Frank. “Continue checking the uh…hallways.”


“Nope-nope-nope, it’s for your own safety,” Frank interrupted—holding up a finger to silence his apprentice.

“We need to go, Frank. Now,” said Alfred.


Michael was hanging on tightly to his brother, who had transformed into a grey battle horse, as they followed close behind Sir Ludington and his galloping white stallion. Trailing behind the boys were Ben—who was still riding Midnight, Sir Traverse and Sir Pentwater. The remaining knights fell back, attempting to slow down the ruthless pursuit of the shadow horseman and his soldiers. Though nothing seemed to work. The army of swarming shadows swirled and slashed through the noble barrier of knights—taking them down quickly, as they closed in on the chosen outsider and his protectors.

“Hurry lads,” said Sir Ludington, “we have to reach the top of that mountain to have any chance at all.”



“Do you see it, Frank?”

“No, not yet.”

“Good. I need to check on the map,” said Alfred. “This way.”

Alfred led Frank to the large circular table centered in the room, where they both sat down—opposite each other. Upon the table sat the golden, four-prong stand, ornately detailed. Sized perfectly to hold one dream orb at a time.

“You did hide it in one of the dream orbs,” Frank said with a smirk.

Alfred nodded yes.

“Clever,” Frank replied.

Placing their hands, palms down, upon the table, they closed their eyes.

A bright golden ring, running the full perimeter of the table top, appeared and lit up—sending a funnel-like beam into the suspended mass of orbs populating the airspace of the enormous room.

Alfred opened his eyes first. He looked upwards into the golden beam—his mind locking in on one particular dream.

All the orbs began to hum and vibrate madly, wanting to break free of their position.

And then…one did. It’s light grew brighter, exceeding the others. Slowly it was pulled across the room into the golden funnel of light.

Alfred put his eyes to the glowing orb, which slowly descended—stopping mere inches from the four-prong stand, where it hummed, popped and sizzled with a vast array of spark-like flares.

Feeling the warmth of the glowing orb upon his face, Frank opened his eyes.


Valerie suddenly appeared two seats away from Frank, who was not happy.

“I thought I made myself clear,” said Frank. “Showing up here has put your life in terrible danger.”

“He’s right,” said Alfred, “this is no place for an apprentice.”

“But I want to help,” said Valerie. “There must be something I—”

A cold burst of air suddenly rushed around the table, and into the orb—which went out like a light bulb, falling into the prongs of the stand below it.

Alfred, shushed the young lady in mid speech. “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” replied Frank.

“I have to check and see if it’s still there.”

“Go,” said Frank. His face covered in worry.

Alfred clapped his hands together, vanishing into the magic orb. Seconds later, he returned.

“Well?” asked Frank.

“It’s gone,” said Alfred, beaten down and at a loss for words. “The map is gone.”



The floating orb exploded into countless microscopic pieces as the shadow shot out from its core and into the room.

Flying madly between and around the thousands of illuminated orbs above, the evil shadow flipped, looped and dodged failed attacks by Alfred and Frank to stun it with magical bursts of light.

With each failed attempt to bring the shadow down, another burst hit the painted mural ceiling above, or its support beams—leaving behind irreparable damage. Debris fell from the ceiling. Valerie dove under the table, seeking shelter, as the falling debris caused a terrible racket.

The loud noises pulled the other council members back to the heart of the library, who joined the battle.

“What is that thing?” said Gloria.

“Whatever it is, it’s sure not here to help us,” said Chester.

The flying shadow let out a series of terrible screeches, forcing the Patrons to cover their ears, buying it time to find an escape.

Henry drew up a pair of earmuffs on his magic sketch pad. He reached in, pulled them off the sheet and put them on. Quickly, he drew more for the others.

But it was too late.

The soaring shadow dove down, flying circles around the six Patrons and Valerie at such blinding speed, that a powerful wind funnel rose up and consumed them.

Every Patron lost their footing and fell hard to the marble floor. As the relentless wind whipped them in circles, they grabbed for anything to stabilize their positions.

Hanging on to a leg of the table, Frank could see that Valerie was still cowering underneath. Too scared to move.

The flying shadow pulled out of its circular pattern, shooting upwards, it disappeared through a large crack in the ceiling, created by the Patron fire.

The wind suddenly stopped, throwing everyone back down to the floor.

Tiny debris from the heavily damaged ceiling continued to fall.

Everyone stood up. Silently looking around while dodging the falling debris, they assessed the physical damage. Contemplating the nightmare of what was to come.


“Midnight? What’s wrong? Where is everyone else?” asked Frank.

With frazzled whiskers, his hair filled with grass, dirt and debris—and barely able to breath, the WONDER cat replied, “We…need your…help. Must come…to save…Charlie…and…Michael. Dark rider…and…his soldiers…too much…can’t escape.”

Midnight collapsed, exhausted from battle.

With serious expression Frank said, “Valerie, stay here and watch after my cat. And this time, I mean it.”

The apprentice nodded to confirm.

Frank and the others formed a bonding circle. He snapped his fingers and they vanished.

© 2024 Charles E. Zitta. Charles E. Zitta and Disney and the Wonder Within blog novels are in no way part of,  endorsed or authorized by, or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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