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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 26 - Too Hot to Hang Around)

The curly-horned beasts released their snake whips, freeing the owls just long enough for Lavanya to cast two flaming rings—each wrapping around a Patron then hardening to solid lava rock. There was no escape.

“Take and feed them to my pets,” shouted Lavanya.

The shadow horseman jumped off his steed, grabbed the owls, then effortlessly leapt back into his saddle. “Yah!” In a flash, he circled round the enormous lava pool to the drop-off point. “It’s the end of the line for you two,” he said—tossing Alexios into one bucket and Frank into another, as the trolls passed by in their gondolas for pickup.

Their bodies confined, the two owls struggled to get free, as the gondolas carried them higher and ever closer to their demise.

“Can you hear me, Alexios?”

“Of course I can. What is it you want? I’m kind of busy right now.”

“I say it’s time for a change,” Frank replied.

“A change?”

“Yeah, you know, a change.”

“Ohhhh, a change,” said Alexios.

Frank’s rock restraint began to pop and crack.

The troll holding Frank’s bucket growled, then covered the top with his enormous, warty hand, in an attempt to hold the black owl down.

CRACK! The ring around Frank shattered, the sides of the iron bucket bowed outward.

A mighty force pushed hard on the troll’s hand, who struggled to contain the owl.

The head of an elephant emerged from the bucket. Then a body. Throwing the troll backwards and out of the gondola, causing it to swing wildly back and forth.

In the gondola ahead, the troll carrying Alexios, was distracted. Setting down his bucket, he turned to face the elephant-stuffed vehicle, as a white squirrel emerged, jumping onto the troll’s back, shoulder, then head.

The angry troll attempted to swat the elusive squirrel like a bug, but was much too slow.

Jumping into the air, the white squirrel stretched out its legs and glided downward towards the elephant, who caught him with its trunk.

“Gotcha,” said Frank, safely placing the squirrel on his back.

“Looks like we’ve got company,” said Alexios, changing back into an owl.

The elephant turned and looked back.

Led by the shadow horseman and his soaring steed, a flock of fire ravens were quickly approaching the Patron-occupied gondola.

Frank changed back into an owl. “We best be on our way.”

“Fly my pets,” Lavanya shouted from below. “It’s feeding time.”

“Feeding time? Why do I feel like we’re the main course?” said Alexios.

Hundreds of small dragon-like beasts launched out of the jagged, dark holes of the mountain core walls. Their glowing orange bodies were covered in lava rock, with long, spear-tipped tails. They had burning red eyes, razor-sharp teeth made of rock and flaming tongues. Their screeches echoed through the mountain core as streams of fire shot from their mouths.

“I guess now we know what was in those holes,” said Alexios.

“Yeah, I wish we didn’t,” replied Frank. “Time for evasive action.”

“Right,” said Alexios.

The owls split—one going left, the other right.

The shadow horseman and his flock of fire ravens broke right to follow the black owl, while the charbeasts focused on the white.

Like a blur of wispy smoke, the dark rider shot forward, engulfing Frank completely—causing him to loose his bearings.

The black owl struggled to find his way through the moving obstacles in the evil mountain core. He banked left. Dove down. Then back up. But he could not shake the cloudy mass of the horseman.


Frank smashed into a passing roller coaster car and began to free-fall. Spiraling down towards the giant lava pool.

“I’m coming,” shouted Alexios. With charbeasts nipping at his tail feathers, he exploded forward—leaving only a trail of silvery dust for the lava-eating monsters to pursue.

A passing troll caught the falling, black owl with his giant hand.


Knocked from his gondola by a white flash, the free-falling troll let go of the owl.

Alexios banked hard right, then dove to save his unconscious friend.

“Eighty feet, seventy, sixty, fifty. Almost there,” the white owl said to himself. “Forty, thirt—”


Frank’s limp body was stolen away by a sweeping shadow.

“What?” said Alexios—pausing in mid air.

Seizing the opportunity, a troll leapt from one gondola to another, grabbing the unsuspecting owl.

“Let go of me you overgrown thug,” said Alexios.

“The end of you is near,” said the shadow rider, as he descended to the ground with Frank in hand.

“Toss him in the lava,” said Lavanya. “We needn’t waste anymore effort with this one.”

The shadow horseman took off in a gallop towards the bubbling pool, holding the black owl upside down by its feet.

“I said, let go of me.” Alexios pecked the hand of the ugly troll, drawing blood.

The troll screamed in pain, opening his giant hand, the owl was set free.

Alexios spotted the shadow horseman and dove to attack.

The jarring and jiggling of the galloping horse woke the black owl, who instantly vanished—reappearing in flight next to his friend. “You were worried about me, weren’t you?” said Frank.

Alexios shook his head.

“The only way we’re going to get out of here, my white-feathered friend is to make a stand.”

“Agree,” replied Alexios.

The two owls swooped round and headed for a higher vantage point.


“They’ve landed on the upper bridge,” said the dark rider.

“Not the wisest of choices,” replied Lavanya, "but…good for us. Rider, take the trolls and head to the east end of the bridge. Magma and Molten, take the west end. Have the fire ravens and my precious pets cover the air. Do not let them escape.


“You think this is really going to work, Frank?”

“It has too. We have no other choice.”

“Looks like we have company on both sides of the bridge,” said Alexios.

“And of course, the air is peppered with fire ravens and red-eyed lava eaters,” said Frank. “Ready?”

“I’m ready.”


The charbeasts swooped in, filling the air thirty feet above the bridge with fire. The fire ravens dove through the flames, unfazed, making pass after pass over the bridge where the two owls remained perched.

Magma and Molten, both standing easily fifteen feet tall, and broad as cars, began to slowly advance towards the owls from the west side of the elevated bridge—their fiery snake whips out and ready to strike.

On queue, the shadow horseman signaled to the trolls with his smokey-black sword as they began to advance from the east side.

Lavanya stood and watched from far below, surrounded by despicable creatures.


Frank jumped off the bridge railing, transforming back into human form dressed in khakis, a colorful button down shirt and white sneakers, before landing in the center of the bridge walkway. “Time to battle.”

Alexios smirked. “I’m ready.”

Frank looked to his left. Then glared to his right. The light charm dangling from his necklace illuminated. He reached high above his head with an open right hand, then slammed it down upon the bridge. A blue wave of electrified energy shot out from his hand towards the approaching enemy fronts on the east and west ends of the bridge.

BOOM! The blue waves struck the enemy on both ends of the bridge, throwing the wicked soldiers backwards a hundred feet.


Alexios took to the air, as his feathers turned to heat resistant armor. The sliver-coated owl exploded into the fiery ceiling above, then banked hard into a circular flying pattern—distinguishing the flames.

Charbeasts attempted to reestablish the fiery ceiling, but to no avail. Alexios had created such powerful winds, fire could not be sustained.

The mighty owl broke out of his spiraling pattern and began his attack on the dragon-like creatures, who now were focused on him.


Enraged by Frank’s tactics, the shadow horseman quickly remounted his horse and charged again. Only this time he was not waiting for the slow moving trolls.

Snapping the reigns of his horse the dark rider and his wicked steed took off in a blur towards the wise old Patron—only the blue eyes of the horseman’s steed distinguishable.


The fiery snake whips of Magma and Molten wrapped around Frank’s body from behind and tightened, squeezing the air from his body, just as the shadow horseman raised his smoke-like sword, landing a mighty blow that dropped the weakened Patron to his knees.


Alexios weaved in and out of the charbeast’s deadly flames. The fiery creatures swarmed the airspace. They had the owl surrounded like a hive of mad bees.

SHOOP! SHOOP! POW! BAM! BAM! One after another, fire bursts shot past the owl, or struck his armor—causing it to weaken.

Alexios attempted to rise above the swarm, seeking a moment to regain his strength before his next attack.

BLAM-POW-POW! A Triple-strike of fireballs knocked the owl unconscious. He fell into the whirling winds, spinning round and round without response.


Kneeling in a weakened state and wrapped in flaming snake whips, Frank looked up to his friend, spinning helplessly in an endless whirlwind. It can’t end this way, Frank thought to himself, as the shadow horseman and his steed confidently stood over him.

“Your time is finished old man,” said the horseman. “The White-Shadow Queen is in control now.”

Frank did not reply. Closing his eyes, he took himself to a better place in his mind.

“What? Too tired to fight back,” said the horseman, eager to fight.

Frank remained still and quiet. His light charm illuminated once more.

“I’ll take that,” the evil rider said. He leapt from his horse and reached for the charm necklace, but jerked back. “Ahhh! What kind of trickery is this?”

The light charm had refused the dark rider, shocking his hand.

Frank opened his eyes, now aglow. Light shot out from the charm, turning the flaming snake whips to brittle stone. The old man broke free and magically jumped to his feet. With the wave of his hands, he sent the horseman, his steed and the lava beasts, tumbling towards the slow-footed trolls, striking them and knocking them off the bridge, into the hot lava below.

“Don’t let them escape,” Lavanya commanded from below.

The fire ravens attacked from above, as the shadow horseman and lava beasts regained their footing and charged the magic Patron once more.

Frank knew he only had seconds to respond. He could not miss. Reaching back, he thrust his right arm towards the whirling winds beyond the diving ravens. A ray of light struck his friend square and true.

Alexios was revived. Shooting off like a meteor, he took out the swarming charbeasts, like a bouncing pinball.

Fire ravens above, shadow horseman on the left and two lava creeps to my right, Frank thought to himself.

Swoooooosh! KAPOW! A streak of silvery white took out Magma and Molten. Only the shadow horseman remained.

The flock of fire ravens swooped round to the Patron’s blind side, as they closed in—talons out, screeching with fiery rage.

“Behind you, Frank!” shouted Alexios.

Frank turned, and in one fluid motion, waved his left arm across—creating a giant, transparent wall of snow flakes between him and the diving ravens.

Tssss-tsssss-tsssss. One after another, the fiery birds were extinguished, as they hit the wintery barrier and fell to their end in the bubbling lava below.

Alexios landed on the bridge railing next to his friend, his feathers no longer covered in armor.

Frank turned to the owl and said, “What do you say we get out of here.”

“My thought’s precisely,” replied Alexios.

Lavanya continued to shout from below, as the dark rider charged the Patrons, his wispy-shadow sword waving in the air.

Frank clapped his hands together, changing back into an owl. The feathery duo shot off into the air, exiting Wicked Mountain through an opening of the roller coaster track.

The evil rider skidded to a halt at the center of the bridge. Once more, left empty handed. “This will not happen again,” he said to his horse.

© 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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