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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 18 - Battle Upon the Mountain)





“We can’t hold’m off much longer Sir, there are simply too many,” yelled one of the knights.

The Knights of the White Horses had retreated to the top of Spider Mountain, hoping to gain an advantage over the shadow horseman and his wicked soldiers.

The wind stirred—a bolt of lightning struck the mountain, followed by a burst of light, temporarily blinding all who looked upon it.

The light receded, leaving behind Frank and the other Council members.

Confident and poised, they looked upon the knights and animated friends, Charlie, Michael, Ben and Oteza.

Sir Ludington, his armor now battered and dirty, donned a smile. He shouted out to Frank, “I say good fellow, I never thought I would be so happy to see you as I am right now. ”

“Looks like you could use a little help,” Frank replied. Instantly transforming into a silvery-white horse with wings, the light charm embedded in his chest. “What do you say we go for a ride, Ben?” He shouted.

Exhausted from battle, Ben quickly climbed upon the silvery steed—Oteza in hand.

Following Frank’s lead, Henry drew a suit of shiny armor, pulled it out of his sketch pad, and suited up. “Ready,” he yelled, jumping atop an extra white horse as it passed by.

Alfred was next. “Jiggly piggly, he shouted, instantly turning into a giant purple pig, suited in silver armor. “Hurry up, Clara, there’s work to do.”

“You don’t say,” said Clara, transforming into a knightly figure—fully equipped with armor a mirrored shield and a magic jousting stick. Jumping into the pig’s saddle, she yelled, “Lets ride!”

Chester stuck with the medieval theme, turning himself into a large mechanical horse made of steel, coated in shiny metallic armor.

Gloria was next to follow, transforming from a pristine dressed English woman into a pink armored cowgirl. Equipped with a whip in her right hand and flare gun in her holster, she quickly mounted the mechanical horse, shouting out, “It’s time to teach this filth a lesson.”

“All ready,” Frank called out to Sir Ludington.

“Charlie, Michael, you stay here, at the top of the mountain,” said the noble leader. “Henry, you stay back with Sir Traverse and Sir Pentwater to help protect the boys from the shadow horseman. Everyone else…it’s time to clear the mountain.”


******


Nearby, another life-force had begun to stir.

Bursting into the blue moon sky, a silvery-white streak came shooting down, and around, Mayor Jolly Crow at the end of Cobweb Street U.S.A. Landing on his right shoulder was the wise and noble owl, Alexios.

“Wake up, Crow,” said the owl.

The Mayor’s head shook. His jack o’ lantern eyes lit up with life. Both arms, fully extended to his sides, began to bend. He looked to his white-gloved left hand. In it was a wooden walking stick, which he began to twirl. His knees bent. In one fluid motion he did a forward flip—shaking the owl from his shoulder.

Irritated by the Mayor’s action and flapping his wings madly in the air, Alexios said, “Enough, Crow, we have serious work to do.”

“That’s Jolly to you, my feathery friend,” the Mayor said in an upbeat manner—smiling.

Alexios flew back down, landing on a dead tree branch next to Jolly.

“Well, Jolly, Mayor Crow, or whatever you want to be called— the Patron Council needs our help. Who, as we speak, are battling the evil horseman and his dark army of soldiers on Spider Mountain.”

“Spider Mountain?” said Jolly. “Ooooh, that’s a terrible place. A terrible place indeed.”

“They’re trying to rescue two young boys. They were pulled into this mess-of-a-place by the shadow horseman.”

“Two young boys?” said Jolly. “Why would he do a thing like that?”

“I’m not quite sure, pumpkin brains, but now is not the time to figure that out.”

“Alright-alright, I got it,” said the Mayor, He reached into his deep, coat pocket with his right hand and pulled out a handful of magic pumpkin seeds.

“Any time now,” said the owl, rolling his eyes.

The Mayor of Haunted Square threw the seeds high into the air, which burst outward into a colorful mix of yellow, orange and white light.

SHOOOP!

The light sucked back into its core, transporting Alexios and the mayor to Spider Mountain.

Haunted Square was desolate and dark, once again.

******


Poised at the base of the mountain in a state of solid matter, the dark rider raised his sword, as his horse stood upon its hind legs. Coming down with a thunderous clap, a jagged network of wicked light rushed out from the horse’s hooves and up the mountainside—waking the creatures within.

“Giant spizards!” shouted Sir Pentwater, pointing down the mountain.

The black, rocky surface shook, crumbled and cracked. Dozens of spider-like creatures burst out from within the core, leaving huge craters and cracks from which hot molten lava oozed and flowed. A mix between giant spider and purple lizard, the spizards had the head of a lizard and body of a spider. Eight hairy spider legs made it easy for them to climb any surface, including the webs they weaved. Their translucent purple skin made visible the lava-like magma which filled the abdomen area of their bodies. On the front end, their enormous lizard heads sported two large red eyes, which could rotate independently in any direction, making them virtually impossible to sneak up on. When extended, their tongues reached almost ten feet in length, and were strong enough to snap a tree trunk in half. The creature’s rear end featured a long, powerful lizard tail, allowing them to swat or upend, any potential victims. And hidden beneath their tails were spinnerets, from which lava webs were spun.

“That’s it,” said Michael, “I’m not sticking around to see what those things can do.” Reaching deep inside his thoughts, the young boy transformed into a mighty hawk and took to the air—avoiding the spizards attack altogether. Or so he thought.

As he ascended into the sky there was a sudden THWIP!

One of the spizards had snatched the hawk with its web and was beginning to pull Michael back to the mountain.

“Hang on, lad, Sir Pentwater called out. Pulling his sword, the mighty knight charged the beast, attempting to chop Michael free of its web.

But the evil spizard swatted the knight with his giant tail, knocking him fifty feet off his horse.

“Charlie, do something,” yelled Michael.

“I’m working on it,” the boy nervously replied. “Think-think-think, Charlie. What would…I got it,” he said to himself. Taking off in a sprint towards the wicked creature, Charlie leaped off a boulder—transforming into—

The chosen outsider was side-swiped by one of the horseman’s soldiers—sending him tumbling out of control down the mountainside.

Michael continued to be reeled in by the spizard.

The beast’s large tung lashed out, wrapping around the young hawk’s body. It looked as though Michael was about to meet his end.

KATHUD!

A solid blow to the beast’s belly caused it to release the hawk, who soared off into the night sky.

Frank had cleverly approached the creature from a rare blind spot, allowing Ben to strike the beast with a mighty blow with his friendly jousting stick, Oteza.

“Take that you hideous creature,” Oteza shouted down to the upended beast.


******


Sir Ludington, flanked by Chester, Gloria, Albert and Clara, charged down the mountainside. Reaching the base, where darkness and a swarm of shadow soldiers made it nearly impossible to see, Sir Ludington and the Patrons found a group of struggling knights. Though none of them would ever admit it.

“Glad you could make it Sir,” said one of the knights—wrapped in a blanket of shadow soldiers.

“Yes, we’re having a jolly good time,” said another knight, as he turned three opposing soldiers to dust with one fell swoop of his sword.

“I say fellows, it looks like you could use an extra hand or two,” said Sir Ludington.

“No reason to be shy, Sir,” said a third knight, riding in random directions to avoid four shadow soldiers. “Feel free to jump in and join the party.”

“You heard the man. It’s time to party. Yeeehaw!” shouted Gloria.

The mighty mechanical horse took off like a shot, heading straight for the heaviest concentration of shadow soldiers he could find.

With Chester in full gallop, Gloria extended her magic whip with her right hand and pulled the flare gun from its holster with her left.

SNAP! CRACK! POW!

Three strikes with her whip—three giant sparks of light. Each of which, took out a swarming shadow.

Light was the enemy of shadow, the key to winning the battle…and the Patrons knew it.

The loud crack of Gloria’s whip caught the full attention of the dark horseman. He stopped and turned—glaring down the mountainside.

Out of nowhere, Charlie came tumbling past the evil rider, yelling, screaming, and out of control from the soldier who had struck him. THUMP, BUMPITY-BUMP, he continued to roll towards the base of the mountain—into heavy fray.

The rider’s plan to hold Charlie and Michael in his web of shadow long enough for the Queen to steal the map was about to be cut short. He could not fail. Charging down the mountainside, he weaved between spizards, shadow soldiers and knights with only one thought in mind…capture the boys.

******


Michael soared high into the moonlit sky, cool and peaceful. The battle below looked like a miniature scale model, its noises faint and non-threatening.

SWOOOOOSH!

A sizzling streak of light shot past the bird—leaving behind a trail of sparkling silver and white.

Michael focused on the jetting burst of light with his keen hawk vision. The blur of silver and white was headed directly towards him.

SWOOOOOSH!

The hawk banked hard left. Quickly, he looped around, staying focused on the airborne threat. Unable to locate his target, he mumbled to himself, “Where did it go?”

“Up here, young squire.”

The hawk looked up. “Alexios? You’ve grown.”

“Looks like we arrived just in time,” said the giant owl.”

“Your friend told me all about you,” said the owl’s rider.

Alexios swooped down, alongside Michael.

“Good to meet you, Michael, I’m Jolly Crow, Mayor of Haunted Square.”

“So you’re on our side?” asked the hawk.

“Indeed he is,” replied the owl.

“Not everything that exists here is bad,” said Jolly, holding down his hat to keep it from blowing away. “There is good in the shadows of WONDER as well, you know.”

“Speaking of good,” said the owl, “I think it’s time to spread a little down below. Follow my lead, Michael.” Alexios dove hard, targeting the shadow horseman.

******

Charlie awoke. The back of his neck in pain from tumbling down the mountainside.

“Come on young fellow,” said Alfred, “we need ya.”

The Patron’s voice cleared the boy’s foggy mind. Sitting up, he rubbed his neck, staring at the giant purple pig.

“Hurry up kid, bad things are coming,” Clara called out from atop the pig.

Her words brought Charlie back to full attention. Animated and in danger, he knew what to do. The chosen outsider transformed into a large silver rhino, fully armed with a set of luminescent horns.

“That’s the spirit kid,” said Clara.

“This way, junior,” the pig called to the boy, as he quickly turned and sprinted away.

Clara looked over her shoulder to make sure the rhino was following, then turned back and lowered her visor and jousting stick.


******


The dark rider was marching towards the base of the mountainside, bringing with him a wave of evil spizards.

Sir Ludington and the Patron soldiers were about to be taken by surprise from behind, as they battled the swarming shadows.

“Behind you!” Sir Pentwater shouted, as he, Sir Traverse and Henry rode up quickly behind the shadow army.

The rider halted and quickly turned to face the approaching enemies, angered by the knights warning cry. Raising his dark sword, he cast it forward—sending a purple lightning bolt towards the charging trio.

KAPOW!

Henry and the two knights were thrown from their horses—knocked unconscious.

With a sinister grin, the shadow horseman turned back around and continued to lead his spizards down the mountainside

There was a sudden flash of light, exposing the evil rider and his shadow mare.

“Focus Ben,” said Oteza.

SSSSSSWIIISH—BAM!

Ben delivered a solid blow, sending the rider tumbling across the rough terrain.

“Bullseye! I told you, you could do it, said Frank, the light charm glowing in his muscular chest. The flying horse soared upwards and spun around for another pass.

Ben crouched down with his jousting stick, Oteza, held in attack position.

The shadow horseman was quick to his feet. Leaping atop his horse, sword out, he braced for the second pass of his flying enemy.

CRACK, CRACK-CRACK-SIZZLE-SHAPOW!

The dark rider snapped his head to the left. His spizards had been turned to lava stone. Looking to the sky, the evil horseman could only catch a blur of silver, white and orange.

KATHUD!

The rider of darkness was blindsided. Knocked unconscious, he tumbled along the ground—dropping his sword in the process.

The green knight had landed another blow.

Frank soared high into the night sky, banking around, he pulled up in mid-air next to his trusted friend, Alexios.

“Nicely done, Frank,” said the owl.

“You as well,” Frank replied. “Good to see you again, Mayor—I trust you’ve been keeping a close watch on this place?”

“Doing the best I can, given the circumstances” said Jolly.

“Gentleman, how about we finish this and get those boys back to safety.”

“Indeed,” said the owl.

“After you,” said Ben, gesturing for Alexios to lead the way.

“Hold on to your hat, Jolly,” said the owl, streaking downward towards the fray.

Frank followed suite, taking off in a hard dive towards the soulless shadow soldiers.


******

“The dark rider has been neutralized,” said Clara, “let’s clean up the rest.”

The purple pig slid into a quick stop, changing directions, he snorted, “There’s five of them pesky shadows over there by Chester and Gloria. I say we give ‘em a hand. C’mon Charlie, let’s get to it.”

Alfred took off in a mad dash towards their friends.

Clara raised her shield and shouted to Gloria, “Hey girl, hit me with a flare!”

Gloria pulled her flare gun and let one fly.

KAPOW!

Striking Clara’s mirrored shield, the flare created a burst of blinding light, which Clara redirected towards the five shadow soldiers surrounding her friends.

Instantly, the enemy fled for darkness. But it was too late. The light consumed their shadows—erasing all five from existence.

“Yehaw,” yelled Gloria. “Now that’s what I call a money shot.”

KALUMP-KALUMP-KALUMP—ZINGGGGGGG!

The silver rhino barreled his way into a swarm of shadow soldiers—hitting them all with a giant blast of light, which radiated out of his large horn in every direction.

The air filled with ear-racking screeches, then sudden silence, as the shadows were erased from darkness by the light of the rhino’s horn.


******


Only a few dozen shadow soldiers remained.

The numbers of good versus evil were now even.

Sir Ludington knew it, and seized the moment. “On guard knights, we charge the mountain one final time for the greater good.”

Upon their white steeds, the noblemen pushed their way back up the rough terrain, forcing the shadows into every crack and hole of Spider Mountain.

“Well done, men,” said Sir Ludington.

“Sir, what about Sir Traverse and Sir Pentwater?” one of the knights asked his leader.

“Right here fellas,” said Sir Pentwater, from the back of the group.

The knights turned to look over their shoulders.

“We’re OK, just a little knock on the noggin. Nothing to worry about,” said Sir Traverse, rubbing the back of this neck.

“And don’t forget old Henry, here,” said Sir Pentwater—patting his friend on the back.

Henry smiled. His helmet, partially crooked, was squishing his nose sideways.

Sir Ludington and the others broke into laughter.


******


The Knights of the White Horses had cleared the mountain and now stood at its base, taking in the aerial assault of the flying horse and owl.

Diving hard towards the mountain, Frank and Alexios focused on the remains of the enemy, as a sparkling trail followed behind.

“Lets finish this, Ben,” said Oteza.

“Ready Mayor?” said the owl.

Frank and Alexios continued to close in on the fleeing shadows.

Ben pulled back and thrust his jousting stick forward. A piercing beam of light shot out of Oteza’s large, ostrich eyes.

“My turn, said Jolly. The Mayor’s eyes focused intently on the mountain, as the interior of his pumpkin head began to burn like the sun—brighter and brighter, until a blinding beam of light exploded through his eyes.

The two beams merged, penetrating the heart of the mountain with enormous velocity.

Rays of light shot out of every crack and hole that had been created by the spizards.

Shadow soldiers who had fled into the mountain, were now desperately trying to escape its fury.

The mountainous structure began to crack and rumble, its entire surface literally being pushed apart by the beams of light cast down from the eye’s of the jousting stick and scarecrow.

BOOM!

The mountain exploded, shattering into a million pieces.

Frank and Alexios quickly shot upwards towards the moonlit sky, as Oteza and Jolly’s eyes returned to normal.

“Time to go,” Frank shouted to his Patron friends below.

Go ahead, what are you waiting for, said Sir Ludington.

Alfred looked at the knight, and smiled. Growing a set of wings, he took to the sky and jokingly said to Clara, “I guess pigs do fly.”

“C’mon, Charlie,” said Clara, looking over her shoulder. “This way.”

Chester sprouted wings as well, though he needed more power to get airborne. A set of jet engines grew out from his sides and ignited—launching himself and Gloria skyward towards Frank and Alexios.

“Michael? Michael? Where is my brother?” Has anybody seen my brother?” shouted Charlie, transforming back from rhino into an animated boy.

“Here he comes, lad,” said Sir Ludington, pointing to the sky.

THUD!

An enormous hawk landed next to the boy, startling and causing him to fall to the ground.

“Miss me?” said Michael.

Sir Ludington and his knights enjoyed a laugh at Charlie’s expense.

“Not really,” Charlie replied. The chosen outsider looked upon his magic, glowing ring. Pulling back, he slammed his fist into the ground. There was a loud crack of thunder—golden light shot up from the ground, transforming the boy into a handsome winged lion.

“Nice transformation, mind if I hitch a ride?” Henry asked.

“Not at all,” the lion replied.

As Charlie, Michael and Henry joined the others in flight, the knights waved goodbye from their horses below, then turned and headed back to the portal where they had entered the dark world of the shadow horseman.

Floating magically above its crumbled remains, the mountain core had transformed into a brilliant ring of light, large enough to encompass a house. Glowing, popping and cracking, it was hard to hear what Frank said next.

“This is it. Our way out of this retched place,” said the wise old Patron. “On my signal, follow me through the portal ring.”

The others nodded to confirm.

Frank’s light charm grew brighter. The winged horse raised its hooves high, as it prepared to fly into the portal. The light charm ignited—sending a burst into the ring.

The illuminated portal began to swirl like a horizontal funnel cloud.

“Now,” said Frank.

The ban of Patrons took off into the portal.

As the owl and Jolly Crow entered the light, the scarecrow began to fade.

“Time to go,” said the Mayor. “You know where you can find me.”

The scarecrow let out a big burst of laughter, waving goodbye, as he disappeared from the owl’s back.

“Thanks for your help, my friend,” said Alexios.

“Any time,” Jolly’s voice echoed through the air.

“That time will come soon,” the shadow horseman mumbled, as he watched the floating portal close from the remains of the crumbled mountain below.


******


Shortly after their return to reality, Charlie and Michael were secretly, and safely reunited with their parents to enjoy the remainder of the evening at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Deep in a hidden crack of WONDER, another celebration was taking place.


© 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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