The tunnel they had walked through gave way to a large domed cavern. At the center in a circle on the ground were nine large stones which turned from white to grey to white again, as the plumes gathered from around and between them, and then rose and wafted to the stone ceiling. Inside the smoke column were several two winged creatures resembling Earth dragonflies, each with a black wing and a white wing. They flitted about as a group inside of the smoke column and were contained within its parameters.

The illumination from the smoke caught something glimmering to the left of them, which caused Tanner and Tobbs to look over to the side of the cave where they saw two dragons sitting on golden high-backed thrones.

One was the dragon that had brought them there. Next to it sat a slightly smaller dragon, who stared at them with sharp eyes, and who had its tiny arms with long, pointed claws raised in front of it.

“Why have you come here?” it inquired coldly.

Tobbs began to stutter a little bit as he started to answer, something Tanner had never seen him do before. “We..we..we came to find Lady Singefork. And to tell her about her children, who asked us to come.”

“What do you know of our children?”

She summoned a tendril of smoke by swirling a talon. It was closely followed by a black and white dragonfly, which flew into the palm of her hand and transformed into a spectacular jewel.

“Why did you come here?” Lady Singefork asked again as she gazed at her prize transfixed. The light from the smoke column made it shimmer with green and gold.

Slightly annoyed that they weren’t being given Lady Singeforks’ full attention, Tobbs continued on. “We came here from Earth.”

“Ah,” Lady Singefork said with great distain, her eyes not moving from the ornament. “The land below us.”

“Yes,” Tobbs concurred. “We were playing in the forest at the end of our street, when Queen General Glacktoline – “

“Do not say that name here!” growled King Tyflannius from his chair.

“A portal was opened up in the sky, and magic rained down upon the forest, and all of the animals started talking, and the Iheeloos came out – “

“The Iheeloos!” Lady Singefork suddenly became very interested in what Tobbs was saying and sent the jewel floating back to the smoke where it reconverted itself into a dragonfly. “Queen Elasia from the Middle Hall has awoken on Earth once again?”

Tobbs answered weakly, “Yes. She’s back.”

Upon hearing this, she reclined against her chair and closed her claws into a fist as much as her dragon physiology would allow. “Interesting occurrences indeed.”

Her voice then suddenly became threatening, and she shouted at Tobbs. “Speak! Tell us where our children are! Are they on Earth? Still!”

Tobbs instinctively lowered his head as he answered, not wanting to offend her. “Yes. They are each in a cave in the forest, and they can’t get out, and they asked us to come and get you!”

Lady Singefork was now truly incensed. “Glacktoline will GIVE HER LIFE FOR THIS!”

Tanner was unsure of what she was about to do, but felt he had to say something to keep her focus from veering away from rescuing her children. “Please. If you take us there, we can show you where they are. That’s why we came here. They’re crying and they want you to come and get them.”

“Tell me. You saw Queen Glacktoline? What did you say to her? Did you tell her you were coming here?”

“No.”

King Tyflannius turned to his wife. “Well, my dear I’m afraid that’s a lie.”

“No! No!” Tanner and Tobbs both pleaded.

“They came in a ship from Hewolatootin, and within that ship was the young Prince Nisren, himself.”

Lady Singefork gasped.

“I was taking my afternoon fight around the farthest edge of our kingdom, when I saw them coming. I saw their ship crash, and as I came to it I could smell him.”

“Treachery!” The dragon queen of Gonraland hissed.

“We couldn’t come by ourselves! We didn’t know how to get here!”

Tobbs was terrified and on the verge of tears, and also confused as to why the dragons weren’t simply happy that he had Tanner had come there to tell them about the whereabouts of their children, so Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail could get help.

“Never mind! Earth children, you will take us there. But first, you will watch as we make the sorceress pay!” Lady Singefork shot up from her seat, rising to her formidable height, and spread out her wings. Her husband followed suit, and with blood-freezing volume and anger, bellowed at Tanner and Tobbs to run out of the cave.

Both were breathing heavily with anxiety and fear when they got to the platform. The two dragons slithered out of the tunnel after them, and then readied themselves for flight. King Tyflannius ordered the boys to climb on to his tail, and then he and Lady Singefork dove off the platform and soared high at maximum speed to the wreckage of the Raverabberdoor.

Upon reaching the ship, they pounced on the ground, instead of gliding into a more routine landing, and Tanner and Tobbs were rudely shaken off of King Tyflannius’ tail and deposited harshly onto the rock terrain.

Lady Singefork instantly took to smashing the ship apart with her powerful tail, as Tanner and Tobbs watched helplessly and screamed for her to stop.

Paying no mind to them, she continued to pound the vessel to pieces, until the Prince was exposed, laying at the bottom of the cabin, and with her sharp claws she picked him up and threw him several yards where he fell against ground like a rag doll.

The boys cried and tried to run to him, but King Tyflannius held them back with his wing.

Lady Singefork swooped upon him and picked him up again. “Well, well, if it isn’t the young prince of Hewolatootin. I hope I haven’t caused you too much damage, your majesty. How does it feel to return to Gonraland, where under your orders so many dragons died?”

The Prince was bloodied, but not badly hurt, and his heart was full of courage in facing a danger he had hoped he would he would never have to face. “I brought these boys from Earth here so they could help you find your children.”

“How thoughtful of you, except I didn’t even know MY CHILDREN WERE MISSING! And who might be the cause of my children’s disappearance, their banishment to below, hmmm? Isn’t it none other than your mother, the great Queen General Glacktoline?”

“My mother has grown very powerful.”

Lady Singefork laughed; a hearty, satisfying, chuckle. “Has she? Well. We will see.”

Still holding on to the prince, she began to pound the rock beneath her madly with her tail.

“There is dirt under this rock, where I will bury you!”

The rock cracked, and split, and crumbled, revealing the dirt below. With her free hand, Lady Singefork dug out a grave and dropped Prince Nisren into it. Before the sound of his, and Tanner and Tobbs’, vigorous protests could reach her ears, she had swept the excavated dirt back over the hole and had covered him completely.

“Oh, what a fool you are! If your mother returns our children, perhaps I will return you. If you’re alive!”

She bent down over the grave and poked a talon into the dirt, making a small hole for the prince to breathe through.

Tanner and Tobbs were crying. Tanner became furious at the injustice happening before him, and yelled at Lady Singefork. “You’re making everything worse! Your children need you, and instead of helping them, Prince Niesren might die.”

Then Tanner stood as straight as he could, and threw down the gauntlet. “If you don’t let him go, we won’t tell you where they are!”

The dragon swooped her formidable snout down and shoved it in Tanner’s face, forcing him to look at her fangs and smell her terrible breath. “You dare to threaten me?”

“You threaten us, and all we want to do is help you and your children. We would never have been able to come here, if Prince Nisren hadn’t brought us, and you still wouldn’t even know they were missing, if he hadn’t have helped us. Just let him go, and we’ll go back down to earth and we’ll take you to them.”

Ignoring Tanner and his request, Lady Singefork flew off.

King Tyflannius pushed his tail in front of them, but they refused. “We’re not going,” Tanner insisted, holding strong.

“Then I will eat you.”

“Go ahead. We’ll give you the worst indigestion of your life. And your children will know that you don’t love them, because you ate us instead of saving them, and they’re both going to die in a cave alone.”

The dragon king considered this, and his demeanor grew softer. “It is not my place to go against my lady’s wishes. The best thing to do is to come.”

Again, he offered his tail. “Are you taking us to Queen General Glacktoline?” Tobbs asked.

King Tyflannius answered yes. Nathanial and Napoleon looked at each other, and deciding it was safe, climbed on.

Once King Tyflannius had flown across the border of Gonraland into Hewolatootin, they saw Lady Singefork. Her head was bowed, and her wing strokes swift, as she darted through the kingdom of her enemy with fiery determination.

Tanner and Tobbs held on the Kings’ tail, and he didn’t move it as much as he had on their previous flights, making for an easier ride that they were both grateful for. Unfortunately, the wind was much fiercer and colder, as his speed was greatly increased in an attempt to keep up with his wife.

Lady Singefork reached the castle first and spit fire on it, which struck the velos field with hot orange flames that were instantly transformed into hundreds of falling red roses.

King Tyflannius dropped Tanner and Tobbs off on the tower they had met Prince Nisren on, and Queen General Glacktoline strode out onto the roof, followed by members of her cabinet to get the clearest view of the commotion.

When she saw Tanner and Tobbs standing out on the tower alone, she became very cross with them, and chastised them in a motherly tone.

“Where have you been? Where’s Prince – “

Her face changed suddenly to an expression of shock, her mouth hung open and her eyes moved upward, as the head of Lady Singefork rose up beside the tower and glared down at her with a sinister smile.

“Well, hello Glacktoline. How unfortunate it is to see you.”

Queen General Glacktoline looked down at the boys in disbelief. “Did you – go to Gonraland and come back with dragons?”

Both boys hung their heads and Tobbs answered. “The prince took us.’

“The prince?”

“Yes,” chimed Lady Singefork, more than happy to fill her in. “I’m afraid the prince is underground, and soon may die unless our children are returned to us.”

“What did you do to him?”

“I buried him. And I would have burned you alive, if you weren’t stealing magic from the Webenhay cloud. What happened to the idea that magic given to the Wizenwhere through the cloud belonged to all magical kingdoms, and should not be STOLEN by one!”

“I did what was necessary to protect Hewolatootin!” Queen General Glacktoline was quick to maintain. “You have made your own claim on the lake!”

“We have taken the portion of the lake that belongs to us!” Lady Singefork was starting to get angry and smoke was beginning to stream out of her nostrils.

“The entire lake belongs to all kingdoms,” Glacktoline countered, righteous in her argument.

Lady Singefork put her claws up on the edge of the tower, and seemed close to climbing up on to it. “As does all of the magic from the entire cloud!”

Just then a horn sounded, and everyone turned to see the Army of Hewolatootin coming around the forest of Deemglit trees and over a blue hill, with Gostram, the Duke of Ignlemarem, leading the way.

His troops consisted of several women and men in armor that was made from a glittering multicolored fabric instead of metal, with ribbons that were attached to their arms and shoulders and waved heroically in the wind.

Tobbs giggled, for the animals they were riding on appeared not to be animals at all; in fact they were invisible, and the women and men mounted on them bounced up and down at such a quick rate that it made for a ridiculous sight.

Tanner started laughing too. Both the Queen of Gonraland and the Queen of Hewolatootin glared at them quizzically, not understanding what the two boys from Earth could possibly be finding so funny.

The Duke rode his creature up the tower wall and dismounted.

From an invisible bag he pulled out a large object that had been wrapped around several times with a green cloth.

He knelt down on one knee and presented it to Queen General Glacktoline.

“Your highness.”

“We had not heard any news from you.” Glacktoline looked down at him with a mix of relief and surprise. “I was beginning to fear that you had been lost.”

Next to Tanner and Tobbs, the creature Gostram had been riding on became visible. It was a large beast, strange and frightening in appearance, with sharp spikes of different lengths coming out from all over its body. It had two wolf-like snouts with two grey dog noses pointing upward on top of its head, and only one long eye that ran the length of its chin, with four eyeballs of different colors that looked in separate directions independent of each other. In the middle of its face was a red lipped mouth, filled with sharp, shark-like teeth. On its behind, was a tail like a beavers that it held up straight, and that was smooth on the front side and on the back side had several tiny jets of purple flame shooting out from it. It turned its head in Tobbs’ direction and growled.

Gostram unwrapped the towel, revealing the severed head of Verslotton; it was a dragon’s head scaled down to human size.

The dead eyes that stared out at them were still those of the agriefin who had caused his own transformation from man to beast.

Lady Singefork was taken aback by the grizzly and disturbing sight. “Verslotton! We had heard stories, but were not sure that he was real.”

Queen General Glacktoline examined the trophy held out in front of her, and then turned her eyes and the rest of her body away from it with a weary sigh. “Not only was he real, but his forces had been attacking our kingdom and our very castle. Your children had somehow found their way out of Gonraland and into Hewolatootin. I heard them flying around the castle. We have been attacked on an almost daily basis and it was not safe for them.”

The growling creature which was known in Hewolatootin as a Gurrgrol, stopped making its threatening sound toward Tobbs and retracted its teeth back into its mouth, replacing them with a long slippery tongue. Its tail wound itself up and withdrew into a pouch in its backside, and the spikes around its body softened and untangled into lush fur.

It licked Tobbs like a friendly puppy, and then flopped over onto its back and emitted happy sounds as Tanner and Tobbs scratched its tummy.

“You could easily have sent them on their way!” snapped Lady Singefork, who, upon hearing the unacceptable excuse, was becoming angry again.

“Do you not have ears?” Glacktoline’s anger began to match hers. “This country is not safe! I was having a meeting of my cabinet, and did not have the time or a way to escort them back over the border to you.”

“And so you sent them to EARTH! In caves that they cannot get out of!”

“They are safe! And hopefully have learned their lesson!”

“And what lesson have they learned? You need to learn to keep your magic off my children.”

“Your Highness,” Gostram interrupted with urgency, “forgive me, but there is more to report.”

“I have will hear the rest at a later time,” Queen General Glacktoline said, waving her hand dismissively.

“But there is another threat to us, one that will be upon us at any moment. We were driven out of Mokscrim and Evate Kingdom by a new enemy that could prove to be an even greater adversary.”

“But – you have brought me the head of Verslotton.”

“Cut off by my own hand. Yet before I could perform that act, he released a potion into a pit of blackest gorcem fire, that clung on to the smoke from the flames and became a wind of death. My Queen, we lost several brave soldiers to it; they disintegrated before our very eyes.”

Glacktolines’ face froze upon hearing of yet another threat to her kingdom. She asked in a slow, measured way, preparing herself to hear an answer she did not want hear: “Did the wind follow you?”

“The merlitozens that were with us were able to bind it, although with a warning that they could not keep it confined for very long; perhaps days, perhaps hours. But it is purest gorcem, Queen General, strong and without mercy for any living thing. It is a force unparalleled that could destroy all who exist in the Wizenwhere.”

Glacktoline was silent for a moment and considered the situation, then made a quick decision of what was to be done. “We must get our children.”

Lady Singefork had also been scared by Duke Gostram’s report, but the thought of her children returned her to an indignant and combative state. “Mine first! You will go down to Earth and undo the spell you placed upon my children. When they have been returned to me, you can have your son.”

“Buried!” With her own resumed ire, Glacktoline shot back. “How do I know he’s alive?”

“There are no guarantees,” replied Lady Singefork, with a vengeful chill.

“And yet I guarantee the lives and safety of your children, but do not receive any for my own. I suppose I can expect nothing from a dragon – but deceit!”

Lady Singefork brought her snout across the tower floor and snorted hot smoke at Glacktoline.

“Prince Nisren is dead!?” The color drained away from the Duke, confused and afraid by what the Queen General and Lady Singefork were saying about his husband.

“Not dead!” Lady Singefork corrected. “He has air to live. For a while. But first we will get my children!”

Queen General Glacktoline faced the dragon with her chin up and her fists clenched. “If you had not done this to my son, I would have been glad to go down with you and release them. But now I don’t trust you. I can’t believe your word.”

“Fine, then let him DIE!” Lady Singefork hissed.

“I am the only one who can reverse that spell and free your children. But I will never free them now.”

Tanner and Tobbs, who had been kneeling on the ground scratching the Gurrgrol’s stomach, got up and ran between the Duke and the Queen.

“No, you can’t!” Tanner yelled. “You’ve got to help them, both of them! Are you crazy?”

“You have to work together to save yourselves!” urged Tobbs, who was extremely distressed by their fighting.

“Silence, Earth children,” Lady Singfork cautioned, her dragon eyes large and wild, “or I’ll incinerate you.”

“Stay out of what you don’t understand.” Queen General Glacktoline gestured for them to move out of the way.

The two leaders went back to arguing about which one of them had done the most harm to the other. Tanner and Tobbs turned to Duke Gostram and pleaded.

“We know where Prince Nisren is buried,” Tanner told him. “If you’ve got a way to take us, we can show you.”

“Who are you?” The duke asked the children who were strangers to him.

“I’m Napoleon and he’s Nathanial, and we’re from the land down below – from Earth. It’s a long story, but we’re here to help!”

“Then I will go with you and we will save him,” said the Duke with no hesitation.

He made a formal bow of departure to Glacktoline, whose back was to him.

“Your Highness. If I may take my leave, to save your son and my husband.”

Lady Singefork heard this and responded by exhaling a burst of flame in the Dukes’ direction, which he managed to side step before being set alight while pushing the boys to safety.

“Listen to us!” Tobbs screamed at them, so angry he felt as if he might cry. “Fighting each other is only making it worse! Your kids need you and there’s a magic wind that’s going to destroy both your kingdoms!”

Queen Glacktoline looked directly at the boys and her rage quieted down.

“We can tell him were Prince Nisren is buried,” Tanner explained, meaning Duke Gostram, “and while he’s saving him, we’ll go down to Luperette forest with you, all of us, and free the dragons.”

“Oh, and the Candletreames in Wizenwhere lake,” Tobbs remembered, “the water is being drained away and there’s almost none left. If you don’t help them and find a way to refill the lake, they’re going to die.”

“Yes,” said Queen General Glacktoline, coming to her senses and regaining focus on the situation. “We must help them, or indeed our source of magic will be lost.”

She turned and addressed Lady Singefork. “There is so much we have to do. Whatever battles we have to wage against each other will have to wait another day. I will go down with you and release your children. Please, let Duke Gostram go and save mine.”

Without kindness or generosity, Lady Singefork half-heartedly agreed.

“Very well. You will find him buried near the border and past the remains of his ship. A patch of ground under broken rock. I made a hole for him to breathe through. You will see it there, in the ground.”

The Duke stood straight and faced the Queen, then bent at the waist in a formal, military bow.

“I will bring our Prince back, your Highness.”

“See that you do, Duke of Ignlemarem.” There was a gentle fondness in Queen General Glacktoline’s voice, as she locked eyes with her son in law in a shared need for a successful mission.

Gostram called his Gurrgrol, “Come Mestifion,” and the beast returned to its fierce former form.

Once Gostram was on its back, the beast returned to being invisible, and Tanner and Tobbs marveled at the sight of Gorstam again seeming to sit on nothing, as he went over the tower edge and down the wall. They watched with Glacktoline as he rode across the blue hill and around the Deemglit trees, until he could be seen no more.

“Now,” said Lady Singefork. “I have allowed him to leave. You will undo the spell you placed on my children, and I will take the two Earth boys and they will show me where to fetch them.”

Queen General Glacktoline reached behind her neck and unclasped her diamond necklace and threw it up into the air. It spun around like a discus, and dispensed a long mauve cape, then returned to the Queen and clasped itself around her neck. Her feet lifted up off the ground. The cape was a flying cape and was ready to take the Queen by air wherever she wished to go.

“What are you doing?” Lady Singefork sounded surprised. “As I said, I will go down and take the boys with me.”

“I cannot undo the spell from here,” Glacktoline explained. “I have to be down on Earth in order to undo a spell that has taken hold in that realm.”

“I disagree,” Lady Singefork countered firmly. “Do it here, and I will get my children myself.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible. I’m the only one with the portal to the forest. You will have to travel with me.”

Lady Singefork snorted steam, severely unhappy but forced to relent.

Tobbs said to Queen General Glacktoline; “Wait! Is there anything you can do for the Candeltreams? We can’t go home without knowing they’ll be alright.”

Glacktoline said a few magic words and wiggled her fingers, creating a tiny rain cloud, shedding a copious amount of rain. She sent it over the edge of the tower, widened the space between her hands to make it bigger, and then made a pushing motion that sent it on its way.

“It will arrive at Wizenwhere Lake soon, and can settle under the Webenhay Cloud,” she assured the boys. “I will check on it myself upon my return, but they will be alright.”

She slipped off a bracelet with many charms from her wrist and threw it off the tower. The charms detached and created a circle, each charm breaking up into shafts of colored light, and then pieced together until a kaleidoscope portal was formed.

King Tyflannius flew up and laid his tail flat so Tanner and Tobbs could climb on to it.

Then the Queen, the dragons, and the two boys from the land below known as Earth, all went into the opening in the Hewolatootin sky, and came out on the other end above Luperette forest.

“Einon Uf Agil!” Queen Glacktoline’s arms were outstretched and her voice low and commanding as she reversed the spell. Tanner and Tobbs climbed off King Tyflannius’ tail and stood next to her on a platform that protruded from a portal that was made of swirling fog and light.

From above the trees, Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail flapped their young wings and yelped happily at the sight of their parents. They flew to greet them, and Lady Singefork and King Tyflannius hugged their children by wrapping their tails around them.

Queen Glacktoline took each of the boys’ hands and glided down to the clearing where Queen Elasia and Erfunie the Bear were waiting for them.

“Congratulations boys!” Erflunie bellowed up to them in a warm and fatherly way, “You did it! Treoflagtail and Zelmaysnoz are freed!”

“You are very brave boys indeed,” Elasia said to them as their feet touched the ground.

Lady Singefork dropped her head to the grass in reverence to the Iheeloo Queen. “Your, Majesty. If I may inquire how things are these days with the Glieblings of the Middle Hall?”

Elasia was perfectly aware that Lady Singefork was a sycophant who was trying to curry favor and good standing with the purest of all magical beings through her. Although being of pure velos herself and a classy queen, she naturally took the high road and acknowledged the dragon.

“Everyone is blissful,” she answered. “Lady Singefork, I am glad to see that you and your family have been reunited and are well.”

Dripping with forced sincerity, Lady Singefork lifted, then bowed her head. “Thank you, your majesty.”

Queen Elasia then turned to Queen General Glacktoline, who gently spoke to the Sovereign of Velos of her concerns.

“Your majesty. We are having problems in the Wizenwhere. The source of magic given to us from the Middle Hall is being fought over and there is a new evil from the Evate Kingdom that may threaten the source entirely and has the power to destroy us.”

“But surely Hewolatootin and Gonraland can work together to defeat it. If you combine your velos magic’s, which is whole from you and half from Gonraland, together you should be able to easily defeat the darkest of gorcem. Now, we have two boys who have been on a long journey and they must get home, and you must go to yours and join forces against this threat that exists for both of you.”

Queen General Glacktoline bowed her head in silent gratitude.

Tanner pointed up to the portal suddenly and shouted, “Look!”

Duke Gostram had found Prince Nisren, and they had come through the portal out to the platform to say goodbye. They waved to Tanner and Tobbs, who waved vigorously back and shouted excitedly to them, very relieved to see that Prince Nisren was alright.

Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail, who had been playing with their father, soared down from the sky and sat before Tobbs and Tanner.

“Thank you,” Zelmaysnoz said. “Thank you for getting our parents and Queen Glacktoline to free us.”

“We will never forget what you did for us.” Treoflagtail had an expression that was almost human on his dragon face. “If you ever want to come up and play sometime, you’re always welcome in Gonraland.”

“Yes!” Zelmaysnoz seconded the invitation with a playful smile.

Tobbs and Tanner both returned the smile and the sentiment of friendship. Tanner nodded and said, “Thank you.”

Their mother had been sitting up next to them and now rose to her full height.

She looked down her snout at Tanner and Tobbs with a sneer, and huffed as she turned her tail and began to ascend back to the portal.

Her children and husband joined her, leaving Tanner and Tobbs alone with Queen General Glacktoline. She gazed at them in a quiet, almost maternal way, and was on the verge of saying something to them, but before her lips could move, something stopped her, and she lowered her eyes and turned away. She put her back to them in a self-conscious and awkward manner, and then nodded farewell to Queen Elasia before being lifted by her flying cape and moving up into the sky.

Prince Nisren, Duke Gostram, the dragons, and Queen General Glacktoline all went into the portal. A purple smoke appeared around the portal and swirled faster and faster, shrinking it down to a tiny dot, which faded into the blue of the sky. Tanner and Tobbs waved until there was nothing and no one more to wave at.

Around the clearing, the Iheeloos, who had kept respectfully quiet during the meeting of the magic queens, resumed their loud, boisterous merrymaking.

“Oh no!” Tobbs anxiously exclaimed, suddenly remembering he needed to be home before dinner. “What time is it? We were gone a long time. I’m gonna be in a lot of trouble!”

He became visibly distraught but Queen Elasia calmed him. “Fear not Nathaniel Tobbs. When you leave here, not a minute will have passed since the Circle of Velos came down around the forest, and the moment came when you and Napoleon could first interact with us. Anytime you want the Circle of Velos to descend around the forest so you may see and talk to us, you only have to close your eyes and say ‘’Luviebos.”

“Luviebos,” Tanner repeated. “What does it mean?”

“It is an old word,” the tiny ancient Queen told them. “Meaning that the pure velos that exists in one’s heart is calling out to the velos that exists around them.”

“You mean, we have velos within us?” asked Tobbs who couldn’t comprehend what she was saying.

“Come now!” The Iheeloo Queen clapped her hands together. “It’s been a big day for you boys, and it’s been a while since we were in this forest. We still have much celebrating to do on this, the first day of our return.”

“Climb on my back again, and I’ll take you for a ride,” Erflunie said to them.

“It’s wonderful riding a bear!” Tobbs declared. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” the bear assured them, once more lifting his hind leg and providing his paw as a step.

They got on and grasped his lush fur between their fingers as he ambled around the forest. Up in the trees the birds called down to them, “Tanner and Tobbs! Tanner and Tobbs!”

“You know us?” Tobbs inquired, with equal parts delight and shock.

“We do! We do!” they sang.

The plants talked to the flowers, and the tall grass laughed with the overhanging leaves, and Nathanial and Napoleon saw that everything in the forest was alive, and connected, and joyous.

After about an hour, Erflunie brought them back to the clearing. Tanner and Tobbs both thanked him as they got off.

Queen Elasia was standing in the center of the clearing, waiting for them. “Remember what I told you? Your first adventures in Luperette Forest and the Wizenwhere are over, and it is time for you to return the forest to its natural state. We will remain here, but you will not see us unless you say – “

“Luviebos.” Tanner and Tobbs both recalled the word at the same time. The sparkling magic Velos Circle drew down around the forest.

“Good bye for now.” The Iheeloo Queen evaporated before their eyes, and the clearing went back to the way it had been before Queen General Glacktoline had rained magic down from the sky, the way they had always known it. The Iheeloo houses faded into the brush, and the dirt ramp they had built reappeared in the center, along with their bikes which were lying on the ground exactly as they had left them. The air became hot and humid again.

For a moment the two boys just stood where they were. It was hard to believe everything had actually happened, and that now they were about to leave the forest and return to their homes as if nothing had occurred at all.

“Nath,” Tanner said to Tobbs. “That really happened.”

“It did,” Tobbs responded as if he could hardly believe it himself. “It really did.”

They picked up their bikes and walked them to the edge of the forest, where the trees and brush gave way to nearby lawns.

Tanner stopped and said, “That was,” he turned his face toward Tobbs and lowered his voice for emphasis; “Awe-mazing.”

“That’s so stupid,” Tobbs replied with a repressed chuckle.

Tanner held out a sideways turned fist. “See ya Nath.”

Tobbs gently slammed his own sideways fist down on it. “See ya Nap.”

They mounted their bikes and rode onto the suburban street of their neighborhood, back into the world where real magic was something that few people believed in or understood, and where they were seen by the people in cars driving past them as being just two boys on their way home for dinner at the beginning of an ordinary hot August night.

II

The tunnel they had walked through gave way to a large domed cavern. At the center in a circle on the ground were nine large stones which turned from white to grey to white again, as the plumes gathered from around and between them, and then rose and wafted to the stone ceiling. Inside the smoke column were several two winged creatures resembling Earth dragonflies, each with a black wing and a white wing. They flitted about as a group inside of the smoke column and were contained within its parameters.

The illumination from the smoke caught something glimmering to the left of them, which caused Tanner and Tobbs to look over to the side of the cave where they saw two dragons sitting on golden high-backed thrones.

One was the dragon that had brought them there. Next to it sat a slightly smaller dragon, who stared at them with sharp eyes, and who had its tiny arms with long, pointed claws raised in front of it.

“Why have you come here?” it inquired coldly.

Tobbs began to stutter a little bit as he started to answer, something Tanner had never seen him do before. “We..we..we came to find Lady Singefork. And to tell her about her children, who asked us to come.”

“What do you know of our children?”

She summoned a tendril of smoke by swirling a talon. It was closely followed by a black and white dragonfly, which flew into the palm of her hand and transformed into a spectacular jewel.

“Why did you come here?” Lady Singefork asked again as she gazed at her prize transfixed. The light from the smoke column made it shimmer with green and gold.

Slightly annoyed that they weren’t being given Lady Singeforks’ full attention, Tobbs continued on. “We came here from Earth.”

“Ah,” Lady Singefork said with great distain, her eyes not moving from the ornament. “The land below us.”

“Yes,” Tobbs concurred. “We were playing in the forest at the end of our street, when Queen General Glacktoline – “

“Do not say that name here!” growled King Tyflannius from his chair.

“A portal was opened up in the sky, and magic rained down upon the forest, and all of the animals started talking, and the Iheeloos came out – “

“The Iheeloos!” Lady Singefork suddenly became very interested in what Tobbs was saying and sent the jewel floating back to the smoke where it reconverted itself into a dragonfly. “Queen Elasia from the Middle Hall has awoken on Earth once again?”

Tobbs answered weakly, “Yes. She’s back.”

Upon hearing this, she reclined against her chair and closed her claws into a fist as much as her dragon physiology would allow. “Interesting occurrences indeed.”

Her voice then suddenly became threatening, and she shouted at Tobbs. “Speak! Tell us where our children are! Are they on Earth? Still!”

Tobbs instinctively lowered his head as he answered, not wanting to offend her. “Yes. They are each in a cave in the forest, and they can’t get out, and they asked us to come and get you!”

Lady Singefork was now truly incensed. “Glacktoline will GIVE HER LIFE FOR THIS!”

Tanner was unsure of what she was about to do, but felt he had to say something to keep her focus from veering away from rescuing her children. “Please. If you take us there, we can show you where they are. That’s why we came here. They’re crying and they want you to come and get them.”

“Tell me. You saw Queen Glacktoline? What did you say to her? Did you tell her you were coming here?”

“No.”

King Tyflannius turned to his wife. “Well, my dear I’m afraid that’s a lie.”

“No! No!” Tanner and Tobbs both pleaded.

“They came in a ship from Hewolatootin, and within that ship was the young Prince Nisren, himself.”

Lady Singefork gasped.

“I was taking my afternoon fight around the farthest edge of our kingdom, when I saw them coming. I saw their ship crash, and as I came to it I could smell him.”

“Treachery!” The dragon queen of Gonraland hissed.

“We couldn’t come by ourselves! We didn’t know how to get here!”

Tobbs was terrified and on the verge of tears, and also confused as to why the dragons weren’t simply happy that he had Tanner had come there to tell them about the whereabouts of their children, so Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail could get help.

“Never mind! Earth children, you will take us there. But first, you will watch as we make the sorceress pay!” Lady Singefork shot up from her seat, rising to her formidable height, and spread out her wings. Her husband followed suit, and with blood-freezing volume and anger, bellowed at Tanner and Tobbs to run out of the cave.

Both were breathing heavily with anxiety and fear when they got to the platform. The two dragons slithered out of the tunnel after them, and then readied themselves for flight. King Tyflannius ordered the boys to climb on to his tail, and then he and Lady Singefork dove off the platform and soared high at maximum speed to the wreckage of the Raverabberdoor.

Upon reaching the ship, they pounced on the ground, instead of gliding into a more routine landing, and Tanner and Tobbs were rudely shaken off of King Tyflannius’ tail and deposited harshly onto the rock terrain.

Lady Singefork instantly took to smashing the ship apart with her powerful tail, as Tanner and Tobbs watched helplessly and screamed for her to stop.

Paying no mind to them, she continued to pound the vessel to pieces, until the Prince was exposed, laying at the bottom of the cabin, and with her sharp claws she picked him up and threw him several yards where he fell against ground like a rag doll.

The boys cried and tried to run to him, but King Tyflannius held them back with his wing.

Lady Singefork swooped upon him and picked him up again. “Well, well, if it isn’t the young prince of Hewolatootin. I hope I haven’t caused you too much damage, your majesty. How does it feel to return to Gonraland, where under your orders so many dragons died?”

The Prince was bloodied, but not badly hurt, and his heart was full of courage in facing a danger he had hoped he would he would never have to face. “I brought these boys from Earth here so they could help you find your children.”

“How thoughtful of you, except I didn’t even know MY CHILDREN WERE MISSING! And who might be the cause of my children’s disappearance, their banishment to below, hmmm? Isn’t it none other than your mother, the great Queen General Glacktoline?”

“My mother has grown very powerful.”

Lady Singefork laughed; a hearty, satisfying, chuckle. “Has she? Well. We will see.”

Still holding on to the prince, she began to pound the rock beneath her madly with her tail.

“There is dirt under this rock, where I will bury you!”

The rock cracked, and split, and crumbled, revealing the dirt below. With her free hand, Lady Singefork dug out a grave and dropped Prince Nisren into it. Before the sound of his, and Tanner and Tobbs’, vigorous protests could reach her ears, she had swept the excavated dirt back over the hole and had covered him completely.

“Oh, what a fool you are! If your mother returns our children, perhaps I will return you. If you’re alive!”

She bent down over the grave and poked a talon into the dirt, making a small hole for the prince to breathe through.

Tanner and Tobbs were crying. Tanner became furious at the injustice happening before him, and yelled at Lady Singefork. “You’re making everything worse! Your children need you, and instead of helping them, Prince Niesren might die.”

Then Tanner stood as straight as he could, and threw down the gauntlet. “If you don’t let him go, we won’t tell you where they are!”

The dragon swooped her formidable snout down and shoved it in Tanner’s face, forcing him to look at her fangs and smell her terrible breath. “You dare to threaten me?”

“You threaten us, and all we want to do is help you and your children. We would never have been able to come here, if Prince Nisren hadn’t brought us, and you still wouldn’t even know they were missing, if he hadn’t have helped us. Just let him go, and we’ll go back down to earth and we’ll take you to them.”

Ignoring Tanner and his request, Lady Singefork flew off.

King Tyflannius pushed his tail in front of them, but they refused. “We’re not going,” Tanner insisted, holding strong.

“Then I will eat you.”

“Go ahead. We’ll give you the worst indigestion of your life. And your children will know that you don’t love them, because you ate us instead of saving them, and they’re both going to die in a cave alone.”

The dragon king considered this, and his demeanor grew softer. “It is not my place to go against my lady’s wishes. The best thing to do is to come.”

Again, he offered his tail. “Are you taking us to Queen General Glacktoline?” Tobbs asked.

King Tyflannius answered yes. Nathanial and Napoleon looked at each other, and deciding it was safe, climbed on.

Once King Tyflannius had flown across the border of Gonraland into Hewolatootin, they saw Lady Singefork. Her head was bowed, and her wing strokes swift, as she darted through the kingdom of her enemy with fiery determination.

Tanner and Tobbs held on the Kings’ tail, and he didn’t move it as much as he had on their previous flights, making for an easier ride that they were both grateful for. Unfortunately, the wind was much fiercer and colder, as his speed was greatly increased in an attempt to keep up with his wife.

Lady Singefork reached the castle first and spit fire on it, which struck the velos field with hot orange flames that were instantly transformed into hundreds of falling red roses.

King Tyflannius dropped Tanner and Tobbs off on the tower they had met Prince Nisren on, and Queen General Glacktoline strode out onto the roof, followed by members of her cabinet to get the clearest view of the commotion.

When she saw Tanner and Tobbs standing out on the tower alone, she became very cross with them, and chastised them in a motherly tone.

“Where have you been? Where’s Prince – “

Her face changed suddenly to an expression of shock, her mouth hung open and her eyes moved upward, as the head of Lady Singefork rose up beside the tower and glared down at her with a sinister smile.

“Well, hello Glacktoline. How unfortunate it is to see you.”

Queen General Glacktoline looked down at the boys in disbelief. “Did you – go to Gonraland and come back with dragons?”

Both boys hung their heads and Tobbs answered. “The prince took us.’

“The prince?”

“Yes,” chimed Lady Singefork, more than happy to fill her in. “I’m afraid the prince is underground, and soon may die unless our children are returned to us.”

“What did you do to him?”

“I buried him. And I would have burned you alive, if you weren’t stealing magic from the Webenhay cloud. What happened to the idea that magic given to the Wizenwhere through the cloud belonged to all magical kingdoms, and should not be STOLEN by one!”

“I did what was necessary to protect Hewolatootin!” Queen General Glacktoline was quick to maintain. “You have made your own claim on the lake!”

“We have taken the portion of the lake that belongs to us!” Lady Singefork was starting to get angry and smoke was beginning to stream out of her nostrils.

“The entire lake belongs to all kingdoms,” Glacktoline countered, righteous in her argument.

Lady Singefork put her claws up on the edge of the tower, and seemed close to climbing up on to it. “As does all of the magic from the entire cloud!”

Just then a horn sounded, and everyone turned to see the Army of Hewolatootin coming around the forest of Deemglit trees and over a blue hill, with Gostram, the Duke of Ignlemarem, leading the way.

His troops consisted of several women and men in armor that was made from a glittering multicolored fabric instead of metal, with ribbons that were attached to their arms and shoulders and waved heroically in the wind.

Tobbs giggled, for the animals they were riding on appeared not to be animals at all; in fact they were invisible, and the women and men mounted on them bounced up and down at such a quick rate that it made for a ridiculous sight.

Tanner started laughing too. Both the Queen of Gonraland and the Queen of Hewolatootin glared at them quizzically, not understanding what the two boys from Earth could possibly be finding so funny.

The Duke rode his creature up the tower wall and dismounted.

From an invisible bag he pulled out a large object that had been wrapped around several times with a green cloth.

He knelt down on one knee and presented it to Queen General Glacktoline.

“Your highness.”

“We had not heard any news from you.” Glacktoline looked down at him with a mix of relief and surprise. “I was beginning to fear that you had been lost.”

Next to Tanner and Tobbs, the creature Gostram had been riding on became visible. It was a large beast, strange and frightening in appearance, with sharp spikes of different lengths coming out from all over its body. It had two wolf-like snouts with two grey dog noses pointing upward on top of its head, and only one long eye that ran the length of its chin, with four eyeballs of different colors that looked in separate directions independent of each other. In the middle of its face was a red lipped mouth, filled with sharp, shark-like teeth. On its behind, was a tail like a beavers that it held up straight, and that was smooth on the front side and on the back side had several tiny jets of purple flame shooting out from it. It turned its head in Tobbs’ direction and growled.

Gostram unwrapped the towel, revealing the severed head of Verslotton; it was a dragon’s head scaled down to human size.

The dead eyes that stared out at them were still those of the agriefin who had caused his own transformation from man to beast.

Lady Singefork was taken aback by the grizzly and disturbing sight. “Verslotton! We had heard stories, but were not sure that he was real.”

Queen General Glacktoline examined the trophy held out in front of her, and then turned her eyes and the rest of her body away from it with a weary sigh. “Not only was he real, but his forces had been attacking our kingdom and our very castle. Your children had somehow found their way out of Gonraland and into Hewolatootin. I heard them flying around the castle. We have been attacked on an almost daily basis and it was not safe for them.”

The growling creature which was known in Hewolatootin as a Gurrgrol, stopped making its threatening sound toward Tobbs and retracted its teeth back into its mouth, replacing them with a long slippery tongue. Its tail wound itself up and withdrew into a pouch in its backside, and the spikes around its body softened and untangled into lush fur.

It licked Tobbs like a friendly puppy, and then flopped over onto its back and emitted happy sounds as Tanner and Tobbs scratched its tummy.

“You could easily have sent them on their way!” snapped Lady Singefork, who, upon hearing the unacceptable excuse, was becoming angry again.

“Do you not have ears?” Glacktoline’s anger began to match hers. “This country is not safe! I was having a meeting of my cabinet, and did not have the time or a way to escort them back over the border to you.”

“And so you sent them to EARTH! In caves that they cannot get out of!”

“They are safe! And hopefully have learned their lesson!”

“And what lesson have they learned? You need to learn to keep your magic off my children.”

“Your Highness,” Gostram interrupted with urgency, “forgive me, but there is more to report.”

“I have will hear the rest at a later time,” Queen General Glacktoline said, waving her hand dismissively.

“But there is another threat to us, one that will be upon us at any moment. We were driven out of Mokscrim and Evate Kingdom by a new enemy that could prove to be an even greater adversary.”

“But – you have brought me the head of Verslotton.”

“Cut off by my own hand. Yet before I could perform that act, he released a potion into a pit of blackest gorcem fire, that clung on to the smoke from the flames and became a wind of death. My Queen, we lost several brave soldiers to it; they disintegrated before our very eyes.”

Glacktolines’ face froze upon hearing of yet another threat to her kingdom. She asked in a slow, measured way, preparing herself to hear an answer she did not want hear: “Did the wind follow you?”

“The merlitozens that were with us were able to bind it, although with a warning that they could not keep it confined for very long; perhaps days, perhaps hours. But it is purest gorcem, Queen General, strong and without mercy for any living thing. It is a force unparalleled that could destroy all who exist in the Wizenwhere.”

Glacktoline was silent for a moment and considered the situation, then made a quick decision of what was to be done. “We must get our children.”

Lady Singefork had also been scared by Duke Gostram’s report, but the thought of her children returned her to an indignant and combative state. “Mine first! You will go down to Earth and undo the spell you placed upon my children. When they have been returned to me, you can have your son.”

“Buried!” With her own resumed ire, Glacktoline shot back. “How do I know he’s alive?”

“There are no guarantees,” replied Lady Singefork, with a vengeful chill.

“And yet I guarantee the lives and safety of your children, but do not receive any for my own. I suppose I can expect nothing from a dragon – but deceit!”

Lady Singefork brought her snout across the tower floor and snorted hot smoke at Glacktoline.

“Prince Nisren is dead!?” The color drained away from the Duke, confused and afraid by what the Queen General and Lady Singefork were saying about his husband.

“Not dead!” Lady Singefork corrected. “He has air to live. For a while. But first we will get my children!”

Queen General Glacktoline faced the dragon with her chin up and her fists clenched. “If you had not done this to my son, I would have been glad to go down with you and release them. But now I don’t trust you. I can’t believe your word.”

“Fine, then let him DIE!” Lady Singefork hissed.

“I am the only one who can reverse that spell and free your children. But I will never free them now.”

Tanner and Tobbs, who had been kneeling on the ground scratching the Gurrgrol’s stomach, got up and ran between the Duke and the Queen.

“No, you can’t!” Tanner yelled. “You’ve got to help them, both of them! Are you crazy?”

“You have to work together to save yourselves!” urged Tobbs, who was extremely distressed by their fighting.

“Silence, Earth children,” Lady Singfork cautioned, her dragon eyes large and wild, “or I’ll incinerate you.”

“Stay out of what you don’t understand.” Queen General Glacktoline gestured for them to move out of the way.

The two leaders went back to arguing about which one of them had done the most harm to the other. Tanner and Tobbs turned to Duke Gostram and pleaded.

“We know where Prince Nisren is buried,” Tanner told him. “If you’ve got a way to take us, we can show you.”

“Who are you?” The duke asked the children who were strangers to him.

“I’m Napoleon and he’s Nathanial, and we’re from the land down below – from Earth. It’s a long story, but we’re here to help!”

“Then I will go with you and we will save him,” said the Duke with no hesitation.

He made a formal bow of departure to Glacktoline, whose back was to him.

“Your Highness. If I may take my leave, to save your son and my husband.”

Lady Singefork heard this and responded by exhaling a burst of flame in the Dukes’ direction, which he managed to side step before being set alight while pushing the boys to safety.

“Listen to us!” Tobbs screamed at them, so angry he felt as if he might cry. “Fighting each other is only making it worse! Your kids need you and there’s a magic wind that’s going to destroy both your kingdoms!”

Queen Glacktoline looked directly at the boys and her rage quieted down.

“We can tell him were Prince Nisren is buried,” Tanner explained, meaning Duke Gostram, “and while he’s saving him, we’ll go down to Luperette forest with you, all of us, and free the dragons.”

“Oh, and the Candletreames in Wizenwhere lake,” Tobbs remembered, “the water is being drained away and there’s almost none left. If you don’t help them and find a way to refill the lake, they’re going to die.”

“Yes,” said Queen General Glacktoline, coming to her senses and regaining focus on the situation. “We must help them, or indeed our source of magic will be lost.”

She turned and addressed Lady Singefork. “There is so much we have to do. Whatever battles we have to wage against each other will have to wait another day. I will go down with you and release your children. Please, let Duke Gostram go and save mine.”

Without kindness or generosity, Lady Singefork half-heartedly agreed.

“Very well. You will find him buried near the border and past the remains of his ship. A patch of ground under broken rock. I made a hole for him to breathe through. You will see it there, in the ground.”

The Duke stood straight and faced the Queen, then bent at the waist in a formal, military bow.

“I will bring our Prince back, your Highness.”

“See that you do, Duke of Ignlemarem.” There was a gentle fondness in Queen General Glacktoline’s voice, as she locked eyes with her son in law in a shared need for a successful mission.

Gostram called his Gurrgrol, “Come Mestifion,” and the beast returned to its fierce former form.

Once Gostram was on its back, the beast returned to being invisible, and Tanner and Tobbs marveled at the sight of Gorstam again seeming to sit on nothing, as he went over the tower edge and down the wall. They watched with Glacktoline as he rode across the blue hill and around the Deemglit trees, until he could be seen no more.

“Now,” said Lady Singefork. “I have allowed him to leave. You will undo the spell you placed on my children, and I will take the two Earth boys and they will show me where to fetch them.”

Queen General Glacktoline reached behind her neck and unclasped her diamond necklace and threw it up into the air. It spun around like a discus, and dispensed a long mauve cape, then returned to the Queen and clasped itself around her neck. Her feet lifted up off the ground. The cape was a flying cape and was ready to take the Queen by air wherever she wished to go.

“What are you doing?” Lady Singefork sounded surprised. “As I said, I will go down and take the boys with me.”

“I cannot undo the spell from here,” Glacktoline explained. “I have to be down on Earth in order to undo a spell that has taken hold in that realm.”

“I disagree,” Lady Singefork countered firmly. “Do it here, and I will get my children myself.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible. I’m the only one with the portal to the forest. You will have to travel with me.”

Lady Singefork snorted steam, severely unhappy but forced to relent.

Tobbs said to Queen General Glacktoline; “Wait! Is there anything you can do for the Candeltreams? We can’t go home without knowing they’ll be alright.”

Glacktoline said a few magic words and wiggled her fingers, creating a tiny rain cloud, shedding a copious amount of rain. She sent it over the edge of the tower, widened the space between her hands to make it bigger, and then made a pushing motion that sent it on its way.

“It will arrive at Wizenwhere Lake soon, and can settle under the Webenhay Cloud,” she assured the boys. “I will check on it myself upon my return, but they will be alright.”

She slipped off a bracelet with many charms from her wrist and threw it off the tower. The charms detached and created a circle, each charm breaking up into shafts of colored light, and then pieced together until a kaleidoscope portal was formed.

King Tyflannius flew up and laid his tail flat so Tanner and Tobbs could climb on to it.

Then the Queen, the dragons, and the two boys from the land below known as Earth, all went into the opening in the Hewolatootin sky, and came out on the other end above Luperette forest.

“Einon Uf Agil!” Queen Glacktoline’s arms were outstretched and her voice low and commanding as she reversed the spell. Tanner and Tobbs climbed off King Tyflannius’ tail and stood next to her on a platform that protruded from a portal that was made of swirling fog and light.

From above the trees, Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail flapped their young wings and yelped happily at the sight of their parents. They flew to greet them, and Lady Singefork and King Tyflannius hugged their children by wrapping their tails around them.

Queen Glacktoline took each of the boys’ hands and glided down to the clearing where Queen Elasia and Erfunie the Bear were waiting for them.

“Congratulations boys!” Erflunie bellowed up to them in a warm and fatherly way, “You did it! Treoflagtail and Zelmaysnoz are freed!”

“You are very brave boys indeed,” Elasia said to them as their feet touched the ground.

Lady Singefork dropped her head to the grass in reverence to the Iheeloo Queen. “Your, Majesty. If I may inquire how things are these days with the Glieblings of the Middle Hall?”

Elasia was perfectly aware that Lady Singefork was a sycophant who was trying to curry favor and good standing with the purest of all magical beings through her. Although being of pure velos herself and a classy queen, she naturally took the high road and acknowledged the dragon.

“Everyone is blissful,” she answered. “Lady Singefork, I am glad to see that you and your family have been reunited and are well.”

Dripping with forced sincerity, Lady Singefork lifted, then bowed her head. “Thank you, your majesty.”

Queen Elasia then turned to Queen General Glacktoline, who gently spoke to the Sovereign of Velos of her concerns.

“Your majesty. We are having problems in the Wizenwhere. The source of magic given to us from the Middle Hall is being fought over and there is a new evil from the Evate Kingdom that may threaten the source entirely and has the power to destroy us.”

“But surely Hewolatootin and Gonraland can work together to defeat it. If you combine your velos magic’s, which is whole from you and half from Gonraland, together you should be able to easily defeat the darkest of gorcem. Now, we have two boys who have been on a long journey and they must get home, and you must go to yours and join forces against this threat that exists for both of you.”

Queen General Glacktoline bowed her head in silent gratitude.

Tanner pointed up to the portal suddenly and shouted, “Look!”

Duke Gostram had found Prince Nisren, and they had come through the portal out to the platform to say goodbye. They waved to Tanner and Tobbs, who waved vigorously back and shouted excitedly to them, very relieved to see that Prince Nisren was alright.

Zelmaysnoz and Treoflagtail, who had been playing with their father, soared down from the sky and sat before Tobbs and Tanner.

“Thank you,” Zelmaysnoz said. “Thank you for getting our parents and Queen Glacktoline to free us.”

“We will never forget what you did for us.” Treoflagtail had an expression that was almost human on his dragon face. “If you ever want to come up and play sometime, you’re always welcome in Gonraland.”

“Yes!” Zelmaysnoz seconded the invitation with a playful smile.

Tobbs and Tanner both returned the smile and the sentiment of friendship. Tanner nodded and said, “Thank you.”

Their mother had been sitting up next to them and now rose to her full height.

She looked down her snout at Tanner and Tobbs with a sneer, and huffed as she turned her tail and began to ascend back to the portal.

Her children and husband joined her, leaving Tanner and Tobbs alone with Queen General Glacktoline. She gazed at them in a quiet, almost maternal way, and was on the verge of saying something to them, but before her lips could move, something stopped her, and she lowered her eyes and turned away. She put her back to them in a self-conscious and awkward manner, and then nodded farewell to Queen Elasia before being lifted by her flying cape and moving up into the sky.

Prince Nisren, Duke Gostram, the dragons, and Queen General Glacktoline all went into the portal. A purple smoke appeared around the portal and swirled faster and faster, shrinking it down to a tiny dot, which faded into the blue of the sky. Tanner and Tobbs waved until there was nothing and no one more to wave at.

Around the clearing, the Iheeloos, who had kept respectfully quiet during the meeting of the magic queens, resumed their loud, boisterous merrymaking.

“Oh no!” Tobbs anxiously exclaimed, suddenly remembering he needed to be home before dinner. “What time is it? We were gone a long time. I’m gonna be in a lot of trouble!”

He became visibly distraught but Queen Elasia calmed him. “Fear not Nathaniel Tobbs. When you leave here, not a minute will have passed since the Circle of Velos came down around the forest, and the moment came when you and Napoleon could first interact with us. Anytime you want the Circle of Velos to descend around the forest so you may see and talk to us, you only have to close your eyes and say ‘’Luviebos.”

“Luviebos,” Tanner repeated. “What does it mean?”

“It is an old word,” the tiny ancient Queen told them. “Meaning that the pure velos that exists in one’s heart is calling out to the velos that exists around them.”

“You mean, we have velos within us?” asked Tobbs who couldn’t comprehend what she was saying.

“Come now!” The Iheeloo Queen clapped her hands together. “It’s been a big day for you boys, and it’s been a while since we were in this forest. We still have much celebrating to do on this, the first day of our return.”

“Climb on my back again, and I’ll take you for a ride,” Erflunie said to them.

“It’s wonderful riding a bear!” Tobbs declared. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” the bear assured them, once more lifting his hind leg and providing his paw as a step.

They got on and grasped his lush fur between their fingers as he ambled around the forest. Up in the trees the birds called down to them, “Tanner and Tobbs! Tanner and Tobbs!”

“You know us?” Tobbs inquired, with equal parts delight and shock.

“We do! We do!” they sang.

The plants talked to the flowers, and the tall grass laughed with the overhanging leaves, and Nathanial and Napoleon saw that everything in the forest was alive, and connected, and joyous.

After about an hour, Erflunie brought them back to the clearing. Tanner and Tobbs both thanked him as they got off.

Queen Elasia was standing in the center of the clearing, waiting for them. “Remember what I told you? Your first adventures in Luperette Forest and the Wizenwhere are over, and it is time for you to return the forest to its natural state. We will remain here, but you will not see us unless you say – “

“Luviebos.” Tanner and Tobbs both recalled the word at the same time. The sparkling magic Velos Circle drew down around the forest.

“Good bye for now.” The Iheeloo Queen evaporated before their eyes, and the clearing went back to the way it had been before Queen General Glacktoline had rained magic down from the sky, the way they had always known it. The Iheeloo houses faded into the brush, and the dirt ramp they had built reappeared in the center, along with their bikes which were lying on the ground exactly as they had left them. The air became hot and humid again.

For a moment the two boys just stood where they were. It was hard to believe everything had actually happened, and that now they were about to leave the forest and return to their homes as if nothing had occurred at all.

“Nath,” Tanner said to Tobbs. “That really happened.”

“It did,” Tobbs responded as if he could hardly believe it himself. “It really did.”

They picked up their bikes and walked them to the edge of the forest, where the trees and brush gave way to nearby lawns.

Tanner stopped and said, “That was,” he turned his face toward Tobbs and lowered his voice for emphasis; “Awe-mazing.”

“That’s so stupid,” Tobbs replied with a repressed chuckle.

Tanner held out a sideways turned fist. “See ya Nath.”

Tobbs gently slammed his own sideways fist down on it. “See ya Nap.”

They mounted their bikes and rode onto the suburban street of their neighborhood, back into the world where real magic was something that few people believed in or understood, and where they were seen by the people in cars driving past them as being just two boys on their way home for dinner at the beginning of an ordinary hot August night.

********************

Napoleon was close to tears. He held on to Nathanial’s hand and said. “You’re the only person I’ve ever really loved.”

They fell into an embrace and held on to each other as tightly as they could.

From the darkness of the forest came a small light. It waited for them until they noticed something nearby and broke off the hug.

The light transformed into Queen Elasia.

“Nathanial and Napoleon. This is your graduation day. You are now men. Your destiny will be revealed in the future and to fulfill it you will have to be together. For the power given to you from the High Hall itself will only work and can only be used together as a team. Come now, sons of Luperette Forest. Your guests have arrived.”

Her body turned back into a ball of light and flew back through the trees.

Up in the sky above them rose a strange anomaly that shone as if it were mid-day.

“The pink sun,” observed Tanner.

Rose colored sunlight lit up the forest.

Tanner and Tobbs did not follow Queen Elasia right away, but stood for a moment and marveled at the bizarre sight of day during night that was before them.

Tanner looked over at Tobbs spiritedly and joked, “I’m not sure we should go in there. The whole thing might be – fanchanted.”

“That was awemazing,” Tobbs smiled, then shook his head. “Still stupid after all these years. We were either dumb kids or really board.”

“We were just kids. Come on buddy. Let’s see the pink forest.”

“That sounds weird.”

“It is weird. You and I are together in Luperette Forest. Things are definitely weird.”

They walked back to the clearing and the pink sun faded away. But there was a light in the clearing that was emanating from the sky; an angelic, golden light.

When they reached the outlying trees they could see the backs two people, a man and a woman, who were standing the middle of the clearing, surrounded by Rodollo, Mosunalie, Livitron and Bandron T71 and T72.

A little head popped out from behind the couple and smiled playfully at them. The light boy was now a real boy.

Jelmai was wearing the clothes of a regular preschooler and ran across the clearing to them. He took Tanners hand.

“I want you to meet my parents.”

“Okay – What?” Tanner leaned over to him in disbelief. “Did you say something?”

“I want you to meet my parents.”

“Okay,” Tanner looked over at Tobbs as Jelmai led him away. “Let’s go meet the parents.” The parents smiled warmly at them.

“You are Tanner and Tobbs,” the man said.

“Nathanial and Napoleon,” Tobbs corrected.

“We are Jaqua and Navmanio of the Elbons. Or in this world, John and Jane Johnson. Thank you for taking care of our son and protecting The Book of Light Words.”

“It was really all of us who took care of him,” Tanner said, nodding his head to the group.

“But it was our pleasure.”

“We have a long journey a head of us, but first Jemai, or Jace as he will be now called, would like to speak to you all and say goodbye.” Jelmai walked over to Mosuanlie who was weeping.

“Thank you for keeping me safe.”

“Course kid.”

Rodollo was next, Jelmai went to him and extended his little hand. Rodollo crouched down and took it.

“Thank you for protecting me.”

“Sure thing.” Rodollo reached out and patted Jelmai on the arm. “Thank you for coming into the world and trying to help us on our planet.”

Jelami rose up on his toes and gave Rodollo a sweet kiss on the cheek.

He then turned to Livitron.

“Hey little man. You’re an incredible being.”

“So are you Livitron. Keep making things for the world.”

“You know I will.”

Then it was time for Jelmai to say good-bye to Tanner and Tobbs.

Jelmai held The Book of Light Words up to Tobbs and offered it to him. Confused, Tobbs took it in his hands.

“My parents and I will take the book around the world to balance dark energy with good. But when we are done you will take it.”

Jelmai put his hands out and Tobbs returned the book to him.

“You and Napoleon and the only ones who can touch it, besides my parents and me.” Jelmai faced Tanner and looked up at him.

“Okay kid,” Tanner said beaming down at him.

“You got a family now.”

“Thank you Napoleon. I love you and goodbye.”

Tears welled up in Tanners eyes. “Goodbye.”

Jelmai, now Jace Johnson ran back to his parents and gave his mother The Book of Light Words. She slipped it into a crochet bag and gave Tanner and Tobbs a brilliant smile before turning and walking with her family to the other end of the forest.

The golden shafts of light followed them until they left the clearing. When they were gone, the night returned.

Tanner stepped over to Tobbs and put his arm around his shoulder.

Everyone was quiet for a moment.

Redollo left where he had been standing and walked up to Tanner and Tobbs. “I gotta get home. My family’s probably wondering where I’ve been. Call me when you need me.”

“Um.” Tanner pointed to Redollos shirt. His furry outfit had been shredded on his way to Luperette Forest and his t-shirt now hung in tatters.

“Come back to my place.” Livitron suggested. He had pushed Bandron T71 and T72 back into batons and was placing them in a large, handled case. “I’ll take you home but first we can stop at my apartment and get you a new shirt.”

Redollo examined the rag he was wearing.

“That’s a good idea. Thanks.”

He said goodbye to Tanner and Tobbs and Livitron walked over to them carrying his big case and stopped.

“I’ll get in touch with you.”

He kept walking and he and Rodollo left the clearing.

Tanner went over to Mosunalie who was standing by her car. She stared at Napoleon and thought about the impossible night.

“You realize that I just missed whatever was left of my senior prom. And I actually made this dress.”

“You look nice. Thank you for coming and helping.”

“Well,” Mosunalie started to get into her car. “Next time keep me up with what’s going on with you guys, so it’s not such a surprise. Now I have to find out what happened to my date. He’s really a nice guy.”

“I promise I’ll keep you informed.” Tanner called back. “Why don’t you take the bike trail on your way out?”

Mosuanlie said “Yep” before closing the car door. She turned the car around and drove out the opposite side of the clearing leaving Tannner and Tobbs in the dark under the whee-stars.

When Tanner got back to Tobbs he found Tobbs contemplative.

“I can’t process what happened tonight right now.”

“It’s okay,” Tanner reassured him. “I don’t think we really have to. We can just hang out. Look up at the stars. It is our prom night.”

“I always thought we’d go to prom together.”

“I did too.”

Tobbs took out his cell phone and held it up and shook it near his face, presenting an idea to Tanner.

He pressed on a music app and put on a nice slow song.

Nathanial and Napoleon laid down on the grass next to each other. They looked up at the magical stars and thought about the future.

Together.

The Awemazing Fanchanted Realities of Tanner and Tobbs