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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 11 - An Interesting Dinner)

Dusk had settled upon the Magic Kingdom. The first evening of the Zastawits vacation was well underway. Charlie and Michael had seamlessly rejoined their parents after a secret afternoon meeting with Frank, Oteza and the other Patrons.

“What do you think boys? Isn’t the food great here at the Liberty Tree Tavern?” said their father.

“It reminds me of Thanksgiving,” said Charlie, “turkey, pot roast, potatoes, mac and cheese, and buttery rolls—mmmm.”

“Feels like it too,” added Michael, rubbing his belly.

“Michael is right, Ed,” said Mrs. Z. “After this meal, I don’t think I’ll need to eat again for quite some time.

“And we still have desert, so I hope everyone wore stretchy pants,” their father jokingly said.

Charlie, about to reply, was unexpectedly caught off guard. The Lion Crest Ring on his finger, invisible when worn in the real world, began to vibrate. No one could see his hand-jerk reaction, as his ring hand was hidden from sight under the table.

Two strange, and unfamiliar, voices suddenly rose up within earshot of the teenage boy, which seconds ago, he could not hear through the background noise of other conversations in the restaurant. Charlie casually turned in every direction, trying to pinpoint the voices—not wanting to alarm his parents. The magic ring had honed in on something. Something it wanted him to hear.

Charlie whispered to his brother, “Michael.”

There was no reply.

“Pssst, hey, Michael.”

The younger brother turned and gave Charlie an odd look, then said, “What?”

“Shh, not so loud,” said Charlie, “Mom and Dad might—”

Charlie paused to observe his parents, who’s voices had been muffled by the ring. It quickly became apparent to the teenager that they could not hear what he and his brother were saying.

“What?” Michael repeated, annoyed that his brother had interrupted his meal, then failed to complete a coherent sentence.

“Do you hear voices in the background?” asked Charlie.

“There’s lots of voices in the background, Charlie. This is a restaurant, and we are at Disney World—duh,” his brother replied with sarcastic tone.

“No-no-no, not those voices you idiot, there are two ladies talking in the background. They sound really creepy, but whatever they’re saying is gurgled—like they were speaking under water or something. And now, Mom and Dad sound the same way.”

Michael gave his brother another look.

Charlie shrugged his shoulders, then said, “I don’t know, it’s hard to explain…just touch my arm and see if that makes a difference.”

Michael placed his hand on Charlie’s left forearm, as not to let their parents see him. Suddenly, he understood. His parents were carrying on in muddled conversation— unaware the boys were even there. The center of the table they were sitting at had become a dividing line between two separate dimensions—the boys were on one side, their parents on the other. And though the restaurant was fully occupied, the only voices the younger brother could now hear were those of two strange ladies and their parents.

Their parents voices had faded until barely noticeable.

“What about now, Michael?”

“Uh, yeah,” Michael replied, “this is really weird. Plus, Mom and Dad—”

“I know, you can barely hear their voices at all. But the two ladies…they have to be here in the restaurant, right?” said Charlie.

“Over there,” his brother said, with a subtle nod towards a small corner table.

Charlie turned his head slightly and glanced out the corner of his eyes. The lighting around the table was dim, the two ladies seated at the table were cloaked by shadow—making it impossible to identify their faces. However, the lighting was just so that Charlie could read their lips—which, precisely matched the muddled voices he heard.

“It’s them, Michael. You were right.”

The posture of the lady seated on the left appeared a bit older, similar to that of a grandparent–slightly bent over, hunched shoulders, slower arm and hand movements, spectacle glasses and a mature hairdo. The one on the right was seated more upright and appeared leaner and stronger. Her hand gestures were confident and her hair, long and full of body.

If only I could understand what they are saying, Charlie thought.


“Don’t look now, but I think we’re being watched, dear” said Madame Sera.

The Queen looked at the reflection in the window next to their table. “Ahh, it looks like fortune has found us tonight. It’s our little friends. Those little rats are trying to eavesdrop on our conversation.”

“Unfortunately for them that will not be possible,” said Madam Sera. I have surrounded our table with an identity mask, which includes I might add, our conversation.”

“You don’t miss a thing, do you? I enjoy the way your twisted mind works,” said the Queen.

“Thank you, my dear. Really, it was nothing. I wanted to make sure we don’t get any unexpected ears popping in on what we are about to discuss.”

“That’s right, you mentioned earlier someone who may be of some assistance to our cause?” the Queen asked.

Yes, darling, he is known amongst the spiritual realms of which I dwell, as…the shadow horseman.

“Sounds like someone I need to meet,” said the Queen.

“And meet you shall, said Madame Sera.”

“Tell me about this…horseman,” said the Queen with a raised chin and peaked interest.

“He is, as his title suggests, the horseman of shadows. Spiritual protector of all shadows in WONDER. Every shadow created, or that will ever be created, is guarded by the horseman.”

“And how is that?” asked the Queen.

Seamlessly, atop his black, blue-eyed mare, the horseman can effortlessly jump into any shadow, or even from one to another. Pulling his unsuspecting victims into nightmarish experiences. He can manipulate any shadow for his own terrible desires, though it is only temporary—no permanent changes occur to the shadows you have created, your Highness.

“I see,” said the Queen, her eyes burning with excitement.

“Now you see, my dear, why the shadow horseman has such promise. Particularly the last detail I mentioned? It would serve your plan of distraction well, yes?”

“It’s brilliant,” said the Queen, “dreadfully rotten. The chosen outsider and his brother won’t know what hit them. And the Patrons, the Patrons will be so out of sorts, they will rush to try and rescue those two silly boys.”

“Which would leave the Library of Dreams, and the hidden map within its walls, completely vulnerable for the taking,” added Madame Sera, with a twisted twinkle in her eye.

“Delightful,” said the Queen, "simply marvelous. Is there any chance the Patrons will be able to save the boys from this shadow horseman and quickly pull them back to safety?”

“Very little, if any,” Madame Sera replied. “When the horseman pulls victims into a shadow, he takes them on a deep, dark journey. A journey that lies beyond the common layers of shadow you are familiar with in WONDER.”

“And this is why I have not heard of him, or crossed paths with the horseman before? Even though I am the creator of many, and ruler of all, said shadows?” asked the Queen.

“Yes, dear. Even for someone as powerful as you, his actions are quite impossible to detect. The places of which the shadow horseman travels are more of what you might call…personal journeys, rather than places based on the dreams and ideas of others—which, as you and I know, WONDER is commonly based on.

“So each journey is a unique experience for the victims at hand?” the Queen asked.

“Yes,” replied Madame Sera.

“Please, go on,” said the Queen. “I would like to know more about this, mysterious horseman. Besides, I find it rather enjoyable that those snoopy little boys can not understand a word we are saying.

The Queen and and her friend enjoyed a wicked laugh, then Madame Sera continued.


The power of the Lion Crest Ring was beginning to cut through Madame Sera’s spell—revealing key words of which they were speaking.

“Did you hear that, Michael? I know it’s hard to hear, but it sounded like one of them said, shadow horseman.”

“That’s what I thought too,” replied Michael. “So who is that, and what do they do? Should we be scared?”

“I’m not sure,” said Charlie, “Frank never mentioned a shadow horseman before.”

“Hey, what was that? Snoopy little boys?” said Michael. “Why those—”

“Easy, Michael. Just pretend like you and I are having our own conversation and can’t hear a thing they are saying.”


“The longer we listen, the better chance we might hear something to help Frank and the others,” said Charlie.

Michael left out a big sigh, then said, “I guess you’re right.”


“So, you were saying he is the spiritual protector of ALL shadows in WONDER?” asked the Queen.

“Yes Lila,” said Madame Sera. “I summoned the shadow horseman the same night I summoned the Dark Thorns to serve you and your purpose.”

“I like that you used my name. It has been so long since I have heard it. You may be the only one who still knows I even had a name,” said the Queen with a smirk. “I prefer we keep it that way.”

“As you wish, dear,” Madame Sera replied.

“Tell me more of this horseman, if you will,” said the Queen.

“Yes, as I was saying, I summoned the shadow horseman that same Halloween eve the Dark Thorns were brought into this world. For I knew, sooner or later, upon the inception of your dark leaders, the shadows of WONDER would grow and thrive. But to thrive, they would need a protector—a guardian of darkness, who could watch over the shadows which you would create and grow.”

“Go on,” said the Queen.

“Though I did not want them to be exposed, not even to you, your Excellency.”

“And why is that?” the Queen asked.

“The element of surprise,” said Madame Sera. “I wanted to wait until the optimum moment arrived to unleash the shadow horseman’s fury upon WONDER. But to do this, and make it effective, I could tell no one. Not even you.”

“I am impressed,” said the Queen.

“Thank you, dear. Born from hatred, villainy and shadow—more than fifteen years ago, the horseman has grown and evolved into what may be, to this day, the most lethal shadow villain that exists within WONDER. His powers amongst the shadows are limitless, and his will to succeed, unbreakable.”

“So, if I ask him to carry out a specific task?” asked the Queen

“It will be done,” said Madame Sera.

“And where does his loyalty lie?”

“He exists purely to serve you, and you alone, my dear. And I assure you, there will be no back-talk and no excuses. Give him a command, and it will be done.”

“VERY impressive,” the Queen said with an evil grin. The wheels in her wicked mind began to turn. She had a new weapon—a weapon which would surely give the Thorn army a strong advantage over the Patrons.

“I don’t like the looks those two bratty children are giving us,” said Madame Sera.


“Michael, did you hear that? It sounds like they have a weapon,” said Charlie.

“Yeah, a weapon to use against the Patrons,” replied Michael.

“Which means…us as well,” added Charlie.

“Do you think—”

“Yes, Michael, I think there is a very good chance the shadow horseman has something to do with it.”

“But what?” asked Michael.

“I’m not sure, but whatever it is, my gut tells me it’s not something we should be happy about,” said Charlie.

“Look! Charlie, what, what is that?” said Michael, pointing towards the Queen.

“Michael! Stop it. You’re going to give us away!”


“If they want something to look at, we should give them something to really look at. Don’t you agree?” said the Queen.

“I believe it’s time they are properly introduced to the one true ruler of WONDER,” said Madame Sera—followed by a raspy giggle under her breath.

“Very well,” said the Queen. She lowered her head, turned slowly towards the boys, then raised her head back up—green eyes ablaze.


“But what is that, Charlie!”

“I told you I don’t know—hey, what the…what happened to the lights?” said Charlie. “Try to look away, Michael!”

“I can’t!” said the younger brother.


The Queen’s fiery green eyes burned brightly—everything around them gave way to darkness. The entire restaurant had disappeared. A gust of wind stirred up, pushing Charlie and Michael towards the Queen from behind. All they could see was her fiery stare. The evil Queen had pulled them into her spell—nothing else existed at that very moment, as she drew them near with her hypnotic eyes.

“You want to hear me speak?” said the Queen—her voice was amplified, booming through the darkness. The boys were hypnotized by her blazing stare. There were brief glimpses of her long, black, silky hair—which flowed in weightless slow motion around her face, concealing her identity even more so in the darkness she had created. “Listen well, young fools. I, am the one you should fear the most. I, am the one you should dread. Fear me, and you may live. Fear me not, and you most certainly will die—along with your pathetic Patron friends. Now go, leave this place, and NEVER return. You have been warned.”

The Queen’s fiery eyes shut—disappearing into the darkness.

Instantly, the wind switched directions, blowing the boys back into their chairs.


Darkness gave way to light. The two ladies had mysteriously vanished, and the restaurant had returned to normal. Charlie and Michael were sitting in their respective chairs—their hair, wind blown. Their parents, still seated across from them, were anxiously planning out the rest of their evening in the Magic Kingdom.

© 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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