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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 28 - Hope Awaits)

Two days had been lost and it was now the 6th day of the Zastawits vacation, but that did not matter anymore. Charlie and his Patron friends were deep underground, planning their escape from the evil queen’s Shadow Kingdom. An escape that was to include—at least everyone hoped, Michael, Frank and Alexios.

“Our first task, grow the mayor a new crop of scarecrows,” said Abigale.

“How do you plan on growing anything in this small, underground dwelling?” asked Oteza.

“There’s barely enough room for those who are already here,” added Ben.

“Door number two,” said the fairy.

“Yeah? What about it?” said Oteza.

“There’s plenty of room behind door number two,” Abigale replied.

The three sprites backed the orange fairies words with smiles.

“At least you have somebody on your side,” Oteza sarcastically added with a chuckle.

“Maybe she’s telling the truth,” said Charlie.

“Right, and I’ve got some magic beans in my pocket. We can grow a giant beanstalk and climb our way out of this place,” said Ben, sarcastically.

“Shhhh, Midnight is trying to sleep in the other room,” said Abigale. “We mustn’t wake him if he is to be of any use to us when the time comes.”

“I think door number two holds great promise,” said Jolly.

“Oh, so now we know who’s side you’re on,” said Oteza.

“Side? We are all on the same side,” said the mayor. “And together we will defeat the White-Shadow Queen and her soulless Dark Thorns.”

“Spoken like a true politician, Jolly,” said Ben.

The elf-like sprites were gathered in front of door number two, trying to gain Abigale’s attention.

“It looks like my friends have something to show us,” said the pumpkin fairy.

One of the sprites gestured at the door knob, as if to open it. While the other two pointed to their sister.

“That’s a wonderful idea. Come along everyone, it’s time to open your minds a little further,” said Abigale. Flying over to the door, a wand made of twisted vine magically appeared in her hand. She tapped the door, turning it from wood to sparkling gold. The ornate doorknob twisted itself and the door began to open, as everyone in the room stared with eager anticipation.


“The enchanted garden is just over the next hill, your highness,” said Elontra.

“Ready yourselves,” the White-Shadow Queen commanded.

The Dark Thorn’s horses, black as night, grew larger and much stronger. Their eyes began to glow red, as the five evil riders transformed into ghost-like matter—cloaked by dark, hooded gowns that flowed weightlessly in transparent, layered fashion around their bodies.

Leading the way, the queen’s white stallion transformed into a horse-like creature with a dragon’s head and sharp claws. A gold harness decorated in jewels, hung down from the sides of the beast’s snout, its radiant purple eyes staring straight ahead. Chartreuse flames shot from the creature’s tooth-lined jaws with each exhale, as it dug its razor-sharp claws into the ascending hill with each stride.

Atop the galloping white beast, wearing a gold, jeweled crown, sat a transparent figure. Her identity cloaked by her white, flowing gown and hair. Piercing green eyes cut through her ghost-like facade, as she held her dragon staff high in the air. Cresting the hill she shouted, “Now, we strike!”


“Did you see that, Frank?” said Alexios.

“I did. “But we have to find the boy.”

“Yes. Yes, of course. I’m sure the orange fairy will be well prepared.”

“We can only hope,” Frank replied.

“Speaking of which, the castle sits just ahead. Let’s hope the boy is there.”

“Indeed,” said Frank.

The owls closed in on the dark, twisted castle. Unsure Michael would be there. Unsure Charlie and the others would be able to hold off the forces of evil headed their way.


Everyone stepped through the magical doorway into a clearing filled with the largest underground lake they had ever seen.

Turning crystal blue, the sprites took off in a flurry. Effortlessly skating across the water’s surface, they performed a hypnotic arrangement of water-top skating excellence—circling and intertwining with one another. Rich, curly vines sprouted up from the wake of the sprites in every direction while hundreds of clear-water pumpkins bloomed from the vine tips.

“Very impressive, Abigale. If I must say so myself,” said the mayor.

“Oh we’re not finished yet.” The pumpkin fairy shot up into the air—shrinking down to the size of a humming bird, only her trail of orange pixy dust could be seen.

“Where’d she go?” said Charlie.

“The orange trail, my boy,” said Ben, pointing.

“Oh, I see her now.”

It was a sight to behold. As the sprites skated across the water, creating clear-water pumpkins, the orange fairy tapped each with her wand. Everything happened so quickly, all Charlie and the others could see were intertwined trails of orange pixie dust and blue-vine scarecrows popping up everywhere.


Gargoyle-like creatures made of stone were climbing about the exterior walls of the dark and twisted castle tower. On high alert, their stone-green eyes searched the skies for oncoming intruders.

POW! A streak of silver and white hit one of the chiseled guards, sending them into a free-fall of fait.

“Hey, over here you rock-headed numbskulls,” the black owl shouted from atop a nearby rooftop.

Three of the guards leapt from the tower wall onto the main section of the castle, making their way up towards Frank.

The streak of silver and white burst through the tower window, which flashed blue. Landing center room, the owl turned and greeted his friend. “Hello, young squire. Ready to go?”

Michael stood from his crouched position. “How did you find me?”

“We had a hunch the queen was behind your kidnapping, and there is nothing more obvious than a well-guarded tower,” replied Alexios. “Once Frank and I spotted those rock-heads crawling about this place, we knew you had to be here.”

“What about the queen and her Dark Thorns? I saw them leave the castle on horseback.”

“Yes, we saw them from afar, headed towards your brother and the others.”

“You know where Charlie is? Is he safe? What others? Are they in danger?”

“He’s safe for the moment. The pumpkin fairy and her sprites have great powers. By now the mayor’s army should be full strength. Ben, Midnight and Oteza are also there to help protect your brother. I just hope they can hold out long enough against the queen and her evil posse until we get back.”

“So they are in danger,” said Michael.

Shooop, POW! The black owl burst through the dark magic of the window, also landing center room. “The gargoyles have been disposed. So, you two ready?”

“Ready for what?” said Michael—unsure who the black owl was.

The owl morphed to human form. “To help your brother and the others, of course.”


“Who’d you expect?”

“You bet I’m ready,” the boy replied.

Frank transformed back into an owl, only this time he was much larger and now had a saddle. “Climb aboard, kid and hang on tight.”

Michael jumped into the saddle.

“Alexios, the roof…if you would, please,” said the black owl.

The mighty white owl took off into a circular pattern around the room as Frank and the boy sat at its center. Round-and-round-and round, Alexios flew—picking up speed with each pass, until he was moving so quickly all that could be seen was a streak of sparkling silver and white. Rising towards the ceiling, the force of the owls flight pattern lifted the roof off the tower.

Frank took to the air, exiting the tower with Michael on board.

The great white owl broke from his holding pattern to join his friends, as the rooftop crashed down upon the tower with a mighty THUMP—causing it to lean and become even more distorted than before.


The underground army of blue-vine scarecrows was gathered at lake’s edge, as their leader readied them for battle. “You are a highbred of vine and water,” said Jolly. “A new, stronger army of scarecrows. The pumpkin fairy and her sprites have presented you with an opportunity. To protect the chosen one, his brother, and his friends, from the evil that lurks in this dreaded kingdom. Are you up for it scarecrows?”

Before the soldiers could get a word out, the garden above began to rumble and quake. Cracks grew out in every direction. The soil started to sag. Large chunks fell, plummeting into the lake below. An enormous hole opened up near its center, as a bolt of lightning shot down through it, striking the water. Hurricane-force winds swept across the lake in all directions.

Jolly’s army pushed back against the strong winds, slowly regaining their footing.

The thunderous bolt and loud winds woke Midnight from his slumber. He joined the others lakeside, as they all stood in silence, staring at the giant, dark hole above.

An echoing rumble of laughter dropped down through the hole, blanketing the area. Then a familiar sound, one Charlie and the others had heard before, grew louder and louder.

An army-sized pack of shadow wolves burst through the enormous vacancy of darkness, cascading down to the lake. Their eyes glowing green and their jaws snapping fiercely, they mounted a charge against the scarecrow army. Sprinting effortlessly across the lake’s surface.

The scarecrow army turned to confront the attackers. Magic horses made of water rose up from the lake to carry the blue-vine soldiers into battle.

Neither side backed down as they approached a common ground.

The two sides collided.

Wolves were thrown backwards by the force of the scarecrow riders, armed with water jousts, swords and shields.

Scarecrows were knocked off their water-horses by lunging shadow wolves, who attempted to tear apart their victims with razor-sharp teeth. But the blue-vines were much tougher than straw used to create the mayor’s previous army. Acting like rubber chew toys, the scarecrows bodies and limbs only gave so much before snapping back into place, making them impossible to tear apart.

A second lightning bolt shot down from the enormous hole above. It struck the center of the lake, creating a giant, concentric wake that pushed the battling wolves and scarecrows towards the outer banks.

“What was that?” said Charlie.

“Only one person possesses that kind of power,” said Abigale, looking up towards the gaping hole.

The White-Shadow Queen and her Dark Thorns dove down through the hole on their winged creatures of doom.

Swooping across the lake, the queen’s white beast opened its jagged, tooth-lined jaws—sending a barrage of chartreuse flames across the water, wiping out several battles taking place between the scarecrows and wolves.

“It’s the queen,” said the orange fairy, locking eyes with the empress of evil.

“Happy to see me,” the queen called out to the fairy, as she and her dark posse rapidly approached the shoreline.

“Bubble up!” Abigale cast her wand towards the lake.

A giant water bubble popped up from the water, disrupting the path of the queen and her riders.

The White-Shadow Queen and two of her riders shot left, the other three right.

“Nice try fairy, but it won’t be enough, said the queen as she swung around for another pass.

“We must protect the boy and his ring,” Abigale said to the others.

“I’m not quite there yet,” said Midnight.

“I know, my friend” the fairy replied.

“Without Frank, Alexios and a healthy cat we really don’t stand a chance against them,” said Ben.

“Which is why we’re going to play a game of hide and seek.”

“Aha, splendid idea, Abby,” said Jolly.

“Midnight, Ben, Charlie and Oteza will come with me in the bubble. Sprites, deal with those bloody Dark Thorns. And Jolly, you and your army do what you can with those hairy beasts.”

“We’ll give it our best,” the mayor replied.


“There’s a gaping hole in the enchanted garden,” said Alexios.

Constant flashes of blue, chartreuse, orange and purple were shooting up through the enormous opening.

“It looks like the battle is in full bloom,” said Frank.

“Then we’re just in time,” the white owl answered back. Shooting off in a blur, Alexios rose then swooped downward through the opening created by the queen and her Dark Thorns.

“Hold on tight, Michael. Things are about to get rough.” The black owl followed his friend’s lead, and took off at such high speed, the young boy could barely keep his eyes open.

Diving through the hole, Frank leveled off and circled the lake to survey the situation.

Michael opened his eyes, unable to process all that was happening around them.

Bordering the lake, Jolly and his army of scarecrows continued to struggle with the green-eyed shadow wolves. It was a constant battle of back and forth. Wolves were lunging and leaping as they latched onto the rubber-like scarecrows, who in turn, struck back with their water jousts and swords, or deflected the hairy beasts all together with their shields.

Dark Thorn riders Senkrad, Oltar and Kunn were madly pursuing the elusive sprites, who weaved in, out and around the battle-filled lake, as they effortlessly combined skating, flying and transporting from one spot to another as only sprites could.

Encased in a giant orange bubble, Abigale and the others magically skipped around the lake in random directions—driving the queen and her evil posse to the point of utter frustration.

“I have you now, you insignificant fairy,” the queen said, as she bared down on the elusive bubble on her white dragon-horse. Elontra and Tanion flanked her sides, as all three riders leaned forward in anticipation. Twenty feet, ten feet, five feet.

SHOOP! The orange bubble vanished. Or at least it appeared so.

The queen and her sidekicks overshot their target. “Where…where did that fowl little fairy and her friends go?” she demanded.

No larger than the size of a golf ball, the tiny glowing orb of orange skipped across the water, weaving its way through an intricate cluster of shadow wolves, scarecrows and vines—hidden from the queen’s evil eye.

“Brilliant move,” said Ben.

“She can not attack what she can not see,” Abigale giggled.


Bursts of white light shot out from the light charm embedded in the black owl’s chest, as he and Michael swooped past the queen and her Dark Thorns.

Elontra and Tanion were hit. The ghostlike figures, and the horses they rode, shuttered and began to crack apart—giving way to bright blue light pushing out from within.


The riders and their flying horses exploded into glittery blue dust.

“Nice shot,” said Michael, as they banked around.

The queen had lost her sidekicks. She pulled up in the air and cast her dragon staff towards the black owl and his rider.

ZZZZAP! A direct hit.

“I’ve lost use of my left wing, Michael. We’re going to have to land. Hang on.” The black owl looped around and dove for the shoreline, sending them into an uncontrolled tumble across the sandy lakeshore. UGH-OOMPH-UH-UH-OOMPH. “You OK, Michael?”

“I’ve been through worse,” the boy replied, shaking the sand out of his hair.

“Heads up, she’s coming back around.”

Claws out and teeth exposed, the dragon-horse inhaled, waiting for its master to give the command to strike.


The shadow wolves began to tire as the scarecrows gained momentum. Dividing and corralling the furry beasts into several small areas around the lake with their weapons and shields, they confined the wolves with blue-vines growing out from their bodies.

“Good job, everyone,” Jolly shouted, as he stood atop a cluster of vines in the lake. “Today we are, UMPH! Hey, put me down, you shadowy twit.”

“Today you are nothing, said Senkrad, ascending towards the hole above the lake. Higher and higher the Dark Thorn climbed. “Be careful what you wish for, mayor,” Senkrad replied.

“Oh. Heh-heh. On the other hand, perhaps I should hang around for a while?”

“I don’t think so, pumpkin head.” Senkrad let go.

Magic vines of straw extended out from the falling scarecrow’s arms and wrapped around the body of Senkrad’s horse.

The Dark Thorn reached around and slashed the vines with his long nails.

Jolly shouted for help, as he plummeted towards the lake.

Eighty, sixty, forty feet, SWOOSH!

“Alexios. What a great time to swing by,” said the mayor.

“Hold on, my friend. We need to finish this.” The mighty white owl landed on the vines below, returning Jolly to his soldiers. “Position your troops along the west bank, I have a plan.”

“Plans are good,” the mayor replied.

Alexios took to the air in search of help.


The sprites proved to be more than Oltar and Kunn could handle. Neither had come close to laying a hand, weapon or spell on their elusive targets.

“Oh dear, it looks like Frank and Michael are in trouble,” said Abigale.

“We need to help them,” Charlie replied.

“Here come the sprites. No Dark Thorns in sight. At least for a minute anyway,” said Ben.

The sprites landed, shrinking down, they entered Abigale’s tiny protective bubble. Instantly, they began to speak, as only sprites can. “We spoke to Alexios. He wants us to lead the queen and her Dark Thorns over the west shore of the lake.”

“Hmm. This may be your chance to escape,” the pumpkin fairy said.

“What…what do they mean?” asked Charlie

“Never mind, my boy. If the white owl has a plan, rest assured it will work. Sprites, lure in the Dark Thorns. The rest of you are coming with me.”



The queen’s dragon horse unleashed a deadly stream of chartreuse flames.

“Repelliose!” Frank commanded, as he pushed his right palm towards the flames.

A light shield appeared in his hand, blocking the beast’s attack.

The queen streaked by, turning round for another pass.

Again the dragon-horse unleashed its furry—and again, Frank blocked the attack.

On the third pass, the queen reached back and thrust her staff towards the wise old Patron, paralyzing his arms, which prevented him from blocking the white beast’s attack.

Evil descended upon its targets. Their faces masked in fear.

“It looks like the end for us, my young friend,” said Frank. “Without the use of my arms, I’m afraid we are…hey, what’s that?”

Abigale’s bubble magically popped onto the scene, growing to the size of a house.

“No. No, stop!” The queen shouted. But it was too late. Her dragon horse unleashed a stream of flames, which deflected off the bubble straight back in their direction.

The queen pulled the reigns hard right and up—sending them away from Frank and Michael.

“Quick, jump in,” said Abigale.

Michael and Frank leaped into the bubble, which instantly shrunk back to its previous size.

“If we can make it to the center of the lake, that should put us directly beneath that large, gaping hole,” said the fairy.


The sprites were toying with Dark Thorns Senkrad, Oltar and Kunn, and now had the queens attention as well. Swirling, criss-crossing and looping round and round, they stayed just out of reach from their evil pursuers.

Alexios quickly swooped in, cutting ahead of the queen and her dark sidekicks. Slowing down, he pulled next to the sprites and said, “Follow me,” then shot off in a glittering blaze of white and silver.

The sprites paused ever so slightly, letting their pursuers catch up, then took off—following the glittering trail towards the west shore of the lake.

The owl’s trail brought them in close to the shoreline. To the queen’s surprise, a new crop of blue-vine scarecrows stood waiting, along with their leader, Jolly.

“Now!” the mayor shouted. Clapping his glove-covered hands together with a loud SMACK, a magic wave spread across his crop of new soldiers. Instantly, their blue-vine bodies and limbs began to grow upwards and outwards—intertwining with one another, they formed and impassible barrier.

The queen and her Dark Thorns had no time to react. Hitting the wall of vines, they were instantly entangled.

The scarecrows tightened their grip, wrapping round the bodies of the dark riders and their horses over and over again, to ensure they would not escape for hours.

“When I get out of here, you will pay for this, Mr. Crow,” shouted the queen.

With a big grin, the mayor shouted back from the shoreline, “I prefer to be called Jolly, my queen.”

SWOOSH! Alexios swooped down, picking up the mayor. “You’re going to have a hard time talking your way out of this one, Jolly.”

“All I have is time,” the mayor replied.


Abigale’s magic bubble expanded back to full size just as the sprites joined them at the center of the lake.

“Here comes Alexios with the mayor,” said Ben.

The pumpkin fairy waved her wand, transforming the bubble into an island just large enough for all her guests to stand on. “Now that everyone is finally back together, we can get you out of here.” Abigale motioned for the sprites to gather in the center of the island, “Sprites, if you would please.”

The magical sprites stood arm-and-arm in a circle, facing out. Closing their eyes, they began to sparkle and glow—changing from blue to three different shades of green. They’re tiny, pointed feet grew out and downward—digging into the soil of the island. Slowly, their bodies began twisting together. Growing upwards, they spiraled round and round, creating a thick braided trunk from which more vines sprouted—growing giant branches and leaves. Up, up through the gaping hole of the enchanted garden above the lake, the giant green stalk continued to wind and rise into the dark sky of the Shadow Kingdom.

Everyone watched in amazement from below. The top of the stalk was too far to see now, as it continued to grow.

The dark sky rumbled. Lightening danced across the heavy clouds as if to defy the stalk’s passing.

A tiny glimpse of blue sky appeared. Barely large enough for the tip of the stalk to penetrate. Pushing through the crack, the enormous vines branched outwards into the hidden blue sky that lay beyond the gray mask of the Shadow Kingdom.

Upwards and outwards it continued to blossom like a tree top, until it could grow no more. At its center, among the lush green growth, a giant wreath…a magic portal, made of leaves and branches had formed.

Gesturing towards the magnificent treetop stalk, Abigale smiled to her friends and said, “Hope awaits you.”

© 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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