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Halloween Hill by Jeikor

Does the story reflect a Halloween theme?  

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  1. 1. Does the story reflect a Halloween theme?

    • Definitely
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    • Somewhat
    • It's a stretch
    • Not at all
  2. 2. Was the story gripping and enjoyable?

    • Definitely
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    • Somewhat
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  3. 3. Were you able to connect to the main characters?

    • Definitely
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  4. 4. Did the Author develop a strong plot within the story?

    • Definitely
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    • Somewhat
    • It's a stretch
    • Not at all
  5. 5. Would you recommend this story to others?

    • Definitely
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    • Not at all
  6. 6. Would you like to see this story continue?

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  • Poll closed on 10/31/2017 at 06:17 AM

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Halloween Hill
By Jeikor

Thirteen year old Ram or as he is legally known, Rama Aleko Morahan, stopped to run his fingers through the sweaty, straw colored mop of hair that covered his head. That was the fifth and hopefully the last, at least for today, box of junk he had carried to the curb while helping his dad clean out the house they had moved into at the beginning of the school year.

It was the first full weekend of October and they were just now clearing out the rest of the rooms they planned to use. When Ram and his dad first moved in they made do with whatever space was already useable. After they had his grandparent’s house (to be truthful it had belonged to his dad’s grandparent’s first or had it started before that; anyway the house was old) cleaned up, Ram had planned to ask his dad if he could host a Halloween party.

The ancient but well-built house creaked and groaned at night and threw weird shadows inside and out and Ram thought it to be perfectly spooky. He loved it! Spooky was one of his favorite things, He had even discovered his dad’s old Goosebumps books and read them at night under his covers with a flashlight. To Ram that wasn’t the best way to enjoy a frightful book but the only way.

Running back into the large house, Ram called for his father then made his way to where he had heard the reply come from. Walking into the room, he groaned when he saw a newly filled box beside the practically empty one his dad was now filling.

“I thought that was the last one for today that I just put on the curb,” Ram complained with a sigh. “I wanted to go bike riding for a little while.” He bent over preparing to lift the full box.

“You can,” stated Ram’s dad, Ralph who was known to some as Wolf. “This can wait. I’m only going to fill one more box then call it quits for the day. By then it will be time to start on supper.”

“Thanks, dad,” Ram said appreciatively and turned to leave the room.

“Just don’t go down the hill to the left, please,” insisted Wolf eyeing his son meaningfully.

“Gotcha, dad,” Ram agreed stopping to look back.

“And put on a shirt. You’ve been sweatin’ and it’s getting cooler,” Wolf called out to his son’s retreating back. Ram waved his hand in acknowledgement before turning the corner out of the room.

Rama shook his head as he slipped on the t-shirt he was wearing earlier. That was the second time this week his dad had forbid him to go down the hill in that direction but Ram had been riding both ways from the house all last month.

He shrugged in puzzlement as he jumped on his bike and took off. It didn’t matter to Ram anyway; where he planned to go was to the right from his house. Pender, who was quickly becoming Ram’s best friend, lived in a neighborhood that was off the road Ram lived on, Sam Hain Boulevard.

Once he had arrived at Pender’s house and they had holed up in Pender’s room, Ram vented to his friend, “I wish I knew what my dad’s deal was. He is insistent that I stay off the other side of the hill where we live.”

“You mean you don’t know about it?” asked Pender incredulously.

“Know about what?” returned Ram.

“All the stories of kids disappearing from that hill during October especially the closer it gets to Halloween,” answered pender. “Most people refer to it as ‘Halloween Hill.’ The disappearances date back to before our parents time.”

“Oh! . . Okay, so he does have a good reason,” admitted Ram reluctantly. “That’s good. Now let’s get to playin’ some video games.”

The town’s Halloween happenings were brought up the next week at the lunch table. Several students supplied stories they’d heard from parents, siblings, cousins, friends and others. Ram listened carefully to each and every story but figured many of the claims were false or blown out of proportion.

On Friday, Morton and Rocky, two football players on defense, came to the table where Ram, Pender, another friend, Caroline, and a couple of others were eating. Pender was the first to notice them and elbowed Ram to get his attention.

The two larger boys still made Pender a little nervous after they had threatened him with bodily harm if Ram competed for a running back spot against their best friend. Ram not only ignored their threats but promised Pender he would protect him if they did try something. At try outs when he was handed the ball Ram made Rocky who was a defensive tackle miss so badly he fell on his face. Morton, a linebacker, made a beeline to tackle Ram as hard as he could but Ram lowered his shoulder and knocked the taller boy on his ass.

After Ram had got the best of them at three more practices they took back their threats not wanting to mess with him and his friends. It all was a moot point anyway as the coach chose to use a two back system with Ram as fullback and the other guy as a halfback or scat back. The two came later and apologized to both Ram and Pender but the shorter, slim thirteen year old was still skittish around them.

Morton started right in talking about their middle school football game while Rocky noticed Pender’s slight tremor at the closeness of the two larger and slightly older teens. He leaned in close to Pender causing his tremors to increase and he nervously pushed his glasses up his nose even though they hadn’t slipped.

“We ain’t gonna hurt ya, dude,” Rocky spoke quietly and gently. “Matter of fact you let us know if’n somebody bothers ya and we’ll make ‘em stop. ‘Kay?”

Pender nodded afraid his voice would squeak if he tried to speak.

Ram and Morton paused their discussion of their chances in the upcoming ball game when they realized a separate conversation was going on. Morton saw the nervousness still displayed by Pender and asked, “What’s up, dudes? Whatcha doin’ to make our friend so shaky, Rocky?”

“Weren’t tryin’ to make him shaky. Tryin’ to tell ‘im he’s safe with us and that we got his back,” asserted Rocky.

“He’s right, dude,” agreed Morton solemnly. “You’re a friend of Ram’s so you’re our friend too and we take care of our friends.”

At this point Caroline jumped in to change the subject, “Have you heard what Mr. Mearlyn’s starting next week in English?”

“Please tell me he’s not,” exclaimed Morton.

“No way!” Pender nearly shouted forgetting to be anxious around the football players.

Rocky just shook his head in dread.

“What?!” Ram asked loudly looking from one to another. “What is it?”

The others stared right back like he was crazy until Pender remembered, “Oh, yeah! You’re new here. Sometimes in October Mr. Mearlyn switches to Shakespeare’s MacBeth. If he does and he makes a big deal about a certain passage then bad things usually happen.”

“Yeah,” confirmed Rocky. “Like at least one kid disappears from Halloween Hill. You won’t catch me goin’ anywhere near that place.”

“I’d hate to be one of them that lives ‘round there,” Morton conceded. “Especially that spooky mansion at the top.”

“No kiddin’!” Rocky added. “Even you wouldn’t last a whole night there, Ram. Even as much as you like that stuff.”

Ram started chuckling at that, Pender had a huge grin and Caroline had her hand over her mouth trying to stifle a giggling fit.

“What’s so funny?” asked Rocky looking from one to another.

Catching his breath after the laughter Ram was finally able to answer, “That is my house. I’ve stayed there every night since we moved here. I love it!”

Morton smacked his forehead and said, “Shoulda known!”

“So, what is this passage from MacBeth we’re supposed to watch to see if Mr. Mearlyn stresses it?” questioned Ram.

“It’s only one of the most quoted parts of the play,” supplied Pender. “Everyone around here knows it even if they haven’t read it.”

Caroline shook her head at the unhelpfulness of her friend’s comment and added, “The quote is: Something wicked this way comes. It’s spoken by the witches.”

“Oh! . . . Sounds ominous,” remarked Ram. “So, if he pays particular attention to this section then bad things happen on Halloween Hill, right?”

“Everybody says so and I guess they’re right,” Morton concluded. “See ya at practice.” Then he and Rocky left the cafeteria.

*****     *****     *****

“Sir? The night watch has made their report.”

“Yes, Varner,” replied Hart. “Any news?”

“Two more creatures from Terranox Sonialis were found and destroyed, sir. They think they got them before they could do any damage. At least the patrol found none as far as they could track them.”

“Good! Tell them thanks,” ordered Hart then heaved a sigh. “That’s five times and a total of eight creatures and Samhain is still weeks away.”

“Have the diabolus been categorized, sir?” queried Varner as he stepped to the door of the office.

“The first six have been. I’ll have to check with the patrol leader on the two last night,” answered Hart. “So far they have been lesser diabolus. Three dasas, two ellyll and one niafol. I hope these latest are lessers too.”

“Do you think the Tugann Bas will attack this year?”

“I don’t know, Varner,” admitted the head of security for Shandodeshe, the mystical land. “If the death bringer does come I hope we have the Wolf and the Ram with us.”

*****     *****     *****

On Monday during English class Mr. Mearlyn did indeed hand out copies of Shakespeare’s play MacBeth. For the first twenty-five minutes he had them read the first act silently. After time was up he took volunteers and handed out parts for the students to read. When he ran out of volunteers Mr. Mearlyn chose from the rest of the class at random and gave them the remaining roles to read.

That is how Ram, Pender and Caroline were awarded the roles of the three witches. Pender was first witch, Ram got second witch and Caroline became the third witch. They still came out better than Rocky, Morton and their friend, Darren. Those three got the parts of the three murderers.

Mr. Mearlyn had them read over and rehearse their parts for five minutes then started them doing a dramatic reading. If a student didn’t read his or her part with the appropriate feelings the teacher made them do it again. They did an act each day and Act I Scene 1 was just the witches. Ram and his friends made it through that scene pretty good and were done until Thursday when they had another scene.

Ram read ahead and found that his character, the second witch, had the all important passage in the first scene of the fourth act. He read over it then tried to practice saying it out loud but couldn’t. Every time he started speaking he got a very weird feeling and stumbled over the words. Finally, he just read it silently but after a couple of times he got the shakes any time he tried to do the phrase everyone was worried about.

The hazel-eyed young teen gave up and went out to toss a football around practicing his accuracy against the net his dad set up in the side yard. He started well and hit the targets on the net fairly often but the net had been placed on the side of the house facing Halloween Hill. The more Ram tossed the more he thought about everything he had heard and wondered what the truth was. After one particularly bad missed bounced and rolled to the edge of the yard Ram stood staring down the hill once he picked up the football.

His eyes glued to the hillside Ram’s mind sorted through all the stories he could remember about the hill and pondered on the veracity of the tales that had sprung up over the years. Ten minutes later the words from MacBeth ran through his head causing the teen to shudder from head to toe. At the same time Ram thought he saw a field of twinkling lights like fireflies about halfway down the hill. They flashed across the road briefly then were gone. Ram shook his head to clear it then deciding he’d had enough went in the house for the night.

*****     *****     *****

“Did you feel that, Varner?” Hart asked his assistant as he relayed patrol duties for the coming week.

“Feel what, sir?”

“There was a faint ripple of mystical force just a moment ago,” replied the commander.

“Must have been very faint, sir. I didn’t feel anything,” replied Varner honestly. “But then I only have enough magic to rise above foot soldier.”

“There was definitely a small flutter went through the aether,” asserted Hart. “I wonder what it was?”

*****     *****     *****

By Wednesday night Ram worried how he would do when it came time to read Act IV. He had yet to be able to read that one passage aloud, Every time he tried a weird feeling traversed his entire being going beyond the merely physical. It wasn’t being sick at his stomach or nerves or excitement but all those things and more. Some of the feelings Ram couldn’t even find words to describe. He could barely think of the words without the surge of feelings making him weak in the knees. At least Mr. Mearlyn wasn’t making them stand.

Thursday morning Ram confided his worries and misgivings to Pender and Caroline eliciting their take on his predicament

“I think you’re worrying too much about all the stories associated with this quote and Halloween,” Pender stated after a moment’s thought.

Caroline agreed adding, “You’re just hearing about all of them at once while the rest of us have grown up with the stories. You’re letting them get to you. Probably because you also live so close to where they take place.”

“Relax and put them out of your mind,” suggested Pender. “Think of this as only another English assignment that has to be done and you’ll do fine.”

“I hope so. It’s driving me nuts,” admitted Ram turning to go into the classroom.

“Hey, you’ve faced down defenses in football and bullies that became friends,” supplied Caroline following him. “You’ve got this!”

Ram merely nodded as they sat in their desks to wait for class to begin. The room soon filled with students headed for their desks. Rocky and Morton acknowledged the three friends as they filed past to their seats. A couple of minutes later all the kids were seated and Mr. Mearlyn walked in closing the door behind him.

“You have ten minutes to look over the fourth act before we start,” Mr. Mearlyn advised the students as he sat at his desk and pulled a book from his briefcase.

Opening his book to the first scene of the fourth act Ram set about studying the lines while skipping one certain passage. He hardly needed to since he almost had the entire scene memorized. He also tried calming his nerves and getting relaxed by thinking about busting through the defensive line and backs for a touchdown.

The teacher stood signaling the end of the prep period and time to start the dramatic reading of Act IV. The three witches around their cauldron started well and the three friends were in sync with one another on the ‘Double, double toil and trouble: Fire burn and cauldron bubble.’ However, when the girl reading Hecate’s part finished and Ram began his next lines the feeling hit him once again.

“By the pricking of my thumbs,” came out in a whisper and it had taken Ram some effort to manage that but Mr. Mearlyn stopped from saying anymore.

“I know you can do better than that, Rama,” chided Mr. Mearlyn gently. “I just heard you a few minutes ago. Try it again a little louder and with the proper inflections.”

Ram nodded still not trusting his voice, took a few calming breaths and closed his eyes tight in concentration before trying again.

“By the pricking of my thumbs,” started rough but was in a good normal voice by the last words. Ram noticed a weird sensation in his thumbs as he spoke and wondered if that was what pricking felt like.

He went on to the next line, “Something wicked this way comes,” which started out normal but his voice began to deepen the closer he got to the last word. Those last two words came out extremely loud and deep and Ram felt the strangeness even more than before like a bubble inside his chest. He severely wanted to stop because it was beginning to scare him a little but couldn’t and continued with the next line.

“OPEN, LOCKS,” flowed from his mouth in a deep powerful voice that reverberated throughout the room leaving shocked looks and open mouths on all but two faces. At the same time Ram felt the bubble explode from his chest leaving him with an calm, empty feeling.

Mr. Mearlyn was momentarily shocked but that soon gave way to slight surprise then a satisfied smile as realization dawned on him. He had found one of the three protectors. The other face that showed no surprise but a devilish smirk belonged to one of the readers of the  three murderers with Rocky and Morton. No one saw or noticed his facial expression before he had it wiped away to mirror the others.

Congratulating Ram Mr. Mearlyn took back control, “Very good, Rama! Even better than I anticipated. Now then, enter MacBeth and let’s get on with our reading.”

Realizing he had risen to his feet during the incident Ram sat back in his desk while the other students blinked several times as they scurried to find their spot in the play. The teacher smiled encouragingly at Ram then motioned for the geeky kid reading MacBeth’s part to proceed.

*****     *****     *****

“Oh my god! It’s opened!” exclaimed Ralph louder than he intended since he was in his office at work.

“What?” questioned one of his co-workers who happened to be passing by the open door to his office.

Startled Ralph took a minute to answer, “Oh . . uh . . one of my programs was giving me trouble and it finally opened for me.”

“Uh . . . okay. That’s good,” commented the guy as he went on his way.

Ralph plopped into his chair and ran his hands through his dark hair as he worried about the magical event he had just felt. He would have to double his efforts to keep Rama off that side of the hill at least until he could go with his son in case his mom had been right.

*****     *****     *****

Varner came rushing into the commander’s office, “What was that, sir?”

“Felt that one, didn’t you?” chuckled Hart at his second’s reaction to the wave that blasted through the aether.

“Almost everyone felt that one. Even most of the young, raw recruits; one is almost in hysterics going on about a monster. What happened?”

“We need to increase the patrols; both the number of and the number of guardians in each patrol,” announced Hart apparently ignoring Varner’s question. “The portals between dimensions have been unlocked. We can expect more diabolus to enter Shandodeshe including some greaters.”

“Is that what we felt? Did a diabolus open the way here?” inquired Varner anxiously.

“Yes and no,” replied Hart ambiguously. “What you felt was portals being opened but not by a diabolus or only between here and Terranox Sonialis. All the portals have been opened and that wave of mystical force came from the human realm. So, the patrols will also have to watch for humans that have slipped between realms.”

“A human? How could a human do all that? They’re the weakest race in magic.”

“True but they do produce strong mages once every few hundred years. That could have been a new protector coming into his or her power,” Hart answered rising from his desk. “Bring me the lad who went into hysterics. I need to hear what he saw.”

“At once, sir,” snapped Varner along with a salute and he turned to obey the order. He returned a few minutes later with a young recruit in tow and left him with the commander.

Hart studied the young teen making an already rattled recruit even more unnerved. Before him stood a thin, wiry lad with goldenrod hair to his shoulders, gray eyes looking straight ahead and body stiff at attention in the common garb of a Guardian foot soldier: leather armored vest over a linen tunic and leather pants held up by a belt with a short sword attached.

“What’s your name, son?” asked Hart softly trying to put the boy at ease.

“R-r-riker, sir,” trembled the recruit worried he was in deep trouble.

“Relax, Riker. No need to be upset,” coaxed the commander trying to add a pleasant smile. “We‘re going to talk about the event we all experienced a little while ago. How old are you?”

Riker calmed himself as best he could and managed to answer without stuttering, “Sixteen, sir.”

Hart raised his eyebrows at that. He had thought the teen to be younger than that based on his size. Sixteen was the oldest a recruit could be, after that if one joined the Guardians, they were assigned to a patrol and learned on the fly. Some didn’t survive it.

Despite being frazzled Riker was quite observant and not only caught the lifted eyebrows but the meaning behind them as well. He hasten to explain, “I’m small for my age, sir. So my mother convinced my father to have me wait before joining. If it had been up to me I would have been here three years ago.”

“I am glad you are here now,” stated Hart beginning to like the lad’s attitude. “I understand you had an unsettling experience when that wave came through.”

Hart held up his hand to stop Riker when he opened his mouth and said, “You’re not in trouble. You’re here to tell me what you saw. Something about a monster? Describe it as detailed as you can.”

“Oh . . okay, sir. Well, it was tall; at least seven feet. The head was like that of a bull with horns but the face was still human, kinda. The eyes were red and cruel looking and the mouth was full of fangs. The body was like . . uh . .  like a large cat and marked the same as a leopard or jaguar but it still stood upright  on legs like a goat’s with a black scorpion’s tail. It looked right through me, sir. That’s when I yelled out.”

The boy shuddered at the end of the telling and Hart came around his desk to guide Riker into a chair before he collapsed. The lad looked at his commander with trepidation. Hart smiled kindly and spoke, “Sit, Riker. Few can say they’ve seen the Tugann Bas and fewer yet lived to tell the tale.”

“Yes,” Hart answered the look of shock and surprise on Riker’s face and in his eyes. “That is what you saw.”

“B-but . . but . . it’s a . . “

“A legend? A myth?” questioned Hart. Riker nodded. “I assure you, my young recruit, while it may be a legend; it is no myth. I have come face to face with the death bringer myself.”

He patted the startled youngster on the shoulder as he stepped to the office door and yelled, “Varner! Get in here!”

The commander’s assistant hadn’t gone far and was quickly at the door saying, “Yes, sir! What do you need?”

“Young Riker here needs to be reassigned. He does not belong in  . . .” started Hart before being interrupted.

“No! Please, sir, don’t kick me out. All my family has served in the Guardians; my brothers, my father, his father,” plead Riker desperately.

“Riker! Stop! You’re not being dismissed from the Guardians,” Hart stressed to the young teen. “But anyone that can pierce the veil around Terranox to see the Tugann Bas does not belong with the foot soldiers. You’re being reassigned to train with the mages.”

The boy’s eyes opened wide hardly able to believe he was going to train with the Guardian mages. They were among the best magic users in all of Shandodeshe.

“Varner, find a sergeant to escort Riker to his new unit then get back in here.”

“Yes, sir,” saluted Varner then motioning for Riker to follow him he left the office. In a few minutes Varner returned after finding an officer to accompany the new mage recruit to his unit. “You needed me, sir?”

The commander looked up from the report he was reading to address his second, “I want the Guardians on high alert. Tugann Bas is looking this direction this year and the human who opened the portals could be a new protector. I don’t know if it is a Ram finally or if Wolf has given up his position. I still have my rapier so I’m not being replaced. Keep an eye out; a close eye.”

“I’ll relay the order right away, sir.”

“Thank you, Varner,” replied Hart then muttered mostly to himself, “Looks like my sister might have been right after all.”

*****     *****     *****

After all the excitement on Thursday Ram overslept Friday morning and was running late. Normally he would ride his bicycle down the right side of the hill and meet Pender before riding on to the school. That was the long way around and Ram could probably get to school on time if he went the more direct route down the left side from his house. The problem there was his dad didn’t want him on that part of the hill and everyone at school believed the stories relaying the danger there.

He had never been late to school before and didn’t want to start now plus if he had too many marks against him he wouldn’t get to play in the next football game. Decision made Ram flipped on the lights of his bike and started slowly down Halloween Hill. If he took it stealthily he could avoid whoever or whatever grabbed those other kids in years past.

Ram was nearly halfway down the hill when he heard the homeroom bell sound off. If he didn’t rush now he would still be late. Hopefully, he would be going too fast for them to catch him. He took his hands off the brakes but before he started to pedal Ram noticed the twinkling lights like he saw the other night. At the same time he felt that weird sensation in the pit of his stomach and pondered what it meant. It could be his nerves from riding down Halloween Hill in the dark or it could be like yesterday during English class. He felt something leave him when he practically shouted, “Open, locks.”

Before he could decide one way or the other about the sensation a bright light slit the darkness directly in front of him. His momentum carried right into sooner than he could think to hit the brakes or turn away. When his eyes could focus again it was very apparent that he was not on Sam Hain Boulevard anymore. He was sitting astride his bicycle atop a grassy knoll with a narrow valley spread in front of him.

What really caught his attention and hammered home the fact he was not ‘in Kansas anymore’ was the skirmish between guys who looked a lot like his mom did right before she died and creatures that were rejects from a Lord of the Rings type movie set. Their weapons were from medieval times with swords, spears, maces, armor and shields. There were occasional flashes of light going from upraised hands toward the enemies on the opposite side. ‘Was that magic?’ marveled Ram.

The amazement turned to concern as a small group from each side broke away from the fight and advanced on his position. He briefly considered running but didn’t have a clue which way to go and besides he had never backed down from a challenge and wasn’t starting now. Swinging a leg over his bike Ram laid it down and moved to the side planting his feet in a secure stance to wait for the groups to arrive.

The first to reach him was a threesome of the human looking guys that stopped several feet away and began discussing him as if he were an object.

“Great! We get to babysit the first human to stumble through the open portal,” said one of the two dressed like soldiers.

“Yeah! Probably wet his pants when the diabolus show up,” snickered the other soldier.

While listening to the insults Ram felt a warmth flow through his body and the strange sensation started again only to dissipate a moment later. He looked at the third member of the party who was dressed differently than the other two. The young looking teen had on a long tunic that fell below his hips and leather leggings.

“Enough!” commanded the teen. “I know him.”

“How could you know him? He just got here,” questioned the first soldier.

“I don’t know,” admitted the one in charge. “He doesn’t look familiar but when I scanned him he felt familiar.”

“That don’t make any sense, Riker,” argued the second soldier.

“I know but I can’t explain it,” replied Riker with a shrug. “In any case it is our duty to protect him until he can be returned to his world.”

As Riker finished speaking the other group had reached the top of the knoll and were charging straight for Ram. He turned their direction to find three creatures that reminded him of goblins and two that were similar to orcs. They were snarling and growling as they rushed forward with weapons raised. Ram tried to think of a way to defend himself when the one called Riker stepped in front of him, raised his hands to shoulder height and uttered an incantation.

Fire poured from his outstretched hands and struck the leading two creatures disabling one but only infuriating the other. Being only an apprentice mage Riker could not cast another spell in time and the two soldiers had not been as quick to the battle. The goblin-resembling dasa that Riker had burnt but not stopped attacked wildly. Having been a soldier recruit before being transferred to the mages Riker was able to hold him off for a couple of minutes but without a weapon he soon was knocked to the ground.

The two soldiers were now occupied fighting against the two ellyll which were the ones Ram thought looked like orcs and would be no help. The dasa raised his long knife above his head and muttered, “Stupid mageling. Now you die!”

Before the dasa brought his arms down Ram looked into the eyes of the mage on the ground at his feet and saw the fear and resignation in them. Anger built in his mind and a funny feeling built in his chest stepping over the teen who had defended him, Ram screamed, “NO!” and shoved the dasa back away from Riker.

This made the dasa even angrier and he focused on Ram, “Okay, human, you can die first then the little mage.” Ram reared back his fist to swing at the dasa and saw the furious sneer change to shock and fear. At the same time that he started his swing forward Ram felt a weight in his right hand. Looking towards his hand he was surprised to find he was holding a slightly glowing mace.

Instincts he didn’t realize he had caused Ram to continue his swing forward modifying it to aim the ball of the mace at the dasa’s head. The hideous creature tried fending off the advancing weapon with both his long knife and his free hand to no avail. The mace broke both arms then broke the jaw as it passed through. Ram used both hands to check the swing then brought the mace up two-handed into the chin snapping the dasa’s neck putting it out of the fight.

The third dasa came rushing in hoping to catch Ram before he could recover from his last swing. The thirteen year old kept his head low and brought his left foot up in a side kick. The dasa’s wild slash sailed over Ram’s outstretched body and the kick to the midsection backed the creature up enough to allow Ram to get into a fighting stance.

They traded a couple of blows then Ram caught the creature on the hand sending his long knife flying. The return backhand smash caved in the dasa’s head dropping it to the ground. Ram started to offer his hand to the teen on the ground when he heard a pain filled shout.

While Ram was fighting with the dasa the two soldiers had all they could handle with the two ellyll who were larger and fought more fiercely than the dasa. The soldier who had spoken first dispatched his opponent after a few minutes and moved to assist his friend who was struggling against the ellyll he faced.

“No! Go protect the human,” panted the second soldier as he parried yet another stab from the ellyll’s long sword. “It’s the commander’s orders.”

Torn between his duty and helping his friend the soldier glanced where Riker and the human were expecting to see them both injured or dead since he had seen Riker fall. He was shocked motionless at the sight of the human using a mace to bash the last standing dasa. A pain filled shout brought his attention back to his friend in time to see the ellyll pull his sword out of the soldier’s right shoulder causing him to drop his own sword to the ground.

With neither the standing soldier nor Ram close enough to stop him the ellyll cackled with delight as it raised its sword for a killing strike. A feeling like fury, yet different, welled up in the pit of Ram’s belly at the sight. He bent down, picked up a long knife and attempted to fling it at the foul beast hoping to gain time to reach it before it slaughtered the soldier lying on the ground.

As his arm came forward the weapon in his hand suddenly increased in weight causing Ram to hang on to it rather than throwing it. When it was in sight and pointed straight out from him Ram could see that he was now holding a war hammer in his left hand. The buzz in his belly swelled until he thought he would burst from the pressure.

Seeing the ellyll bring its sword down to end the soldier triggered a release of the sensation from Ram’s abdomen. It flowed through his body to his left arm down to his hand and into the hammer. Just as the sword was halfway to its destination a blue beam shot from the head of the war hammer striking the ellyll sending it crashing partway down the hill.

Although he didn’t fall to the ground Ram’s body did wilt a little after the huge expenditure of energy. He was baffled to discover that the mace and war hammer had vanished when the weirdness left his body with that final blast. Looking over at the two soldiers he was met with faces full of amazement and a little awe although the one on the ground still showed the pain of his injury too.

“A protector,” whispered Riker seconds before he passed out from pain and spent energy.

Ram looked down at the teen then over to the soldiers again and spoke, “If you can help your buddy I think I can get this guy.”

The standing soldier merely nodded as he observed the human they were meant to keep from harm but saved them instead bend down and lift the older teen. Ram took a couple of steps closer to the pair and said, “Whenever you’re ready.”

The soldier quickly aided his squad mate to stand and led the way down the hill toward the rest of the patrol.

*****     *****     *****

On the other side of the valley atop another hill the commander motioned his second to follow as he too headed for the group on the valley floor. Hart, as the leader of the Guardians, had monitored the battle in case the patrol needed any help. He had felt the portal open, saw the figure on a bicycle and watched as a group split from each side to approach the visitor. He didn’t give it much thought as it was only a child that had slipped through the open gateway.

That changed when he saw and felt a protector’s magical weapon appear in the hand of the human: not a child but a young teen. Hart watched closely as the human defeated not one but two of the dasa using the mace. Although dasa were the lowest of the creatures from Terranox Sonialis it was still impressive for a young human to have the temerity to face them much less win against them.

Peering closer at the smaller skirmish on top of the knoll Hart realized one of his men was down and being defended by the teen. As he viewed the scene Hart winced as another of his men fell with a stab from an ellyll and his mate too far to help. To his astonishment the war hammer materialized in the teen’s left hand and he was beyond belief when the beam of magic shot from the hammer killing the ellyll.

Never in all his years had Hart seen or heard of a human protector being able to call forth both weapons and the magical ability within minutes of arriving in Shandodeshe. Hell, very few of the enchanted protectors had been able to achieve that. He needed to know who this was, so he found himself approaching the patrol from one direction while the new protector arrived from the other carrying the new mage recruit, Riker.

As Hart and Varner reached the edge of the troop the mage captain turned and saw Ram and the others approaching. Noticing his student mage being carried by a strange human the captain strode purposefully toward the foursome. His hand began to glow with a blue light but before he could cast any magic, Hart called out.

“Hold, Kagan! Don’t release that!”

Recognizing the commander’s voice the mage dispersed the magic and waited keeping his eyes on the newcomer holding his apprentice. In the few minutes it took Hart to reach the group Kagan also managed to send a glare at the two soldiers for allowing the young mage to be injured.

“It would not have been wise to attack with magic,” advised Hart as he walked up beside Kagan.

“Why not?” questioned Kagan haughtily. “He’s either a diabolus or a mere human. It would have incapacitated him either way.”

“Watch this!” exclaimed Hart motioning to Varner. “Take Riker from the boy, Varner. Everyone clear us an area.”

“I can stand, sir,” whispered Riker weakly having awaken in the last couple of minutes.

“Varner, hold the mage recruit upright so he can watch the fun,” Hart changed his order stepping forward in Ram’s direction.

Ram observed all of this with a growing look of confusion wondering what was about to happen to him. The new guy that everybody deferred to raised his hands above his head crossed at the wrists. The vaguely familiar man lowered his hands and stared as they now held two thin swords. Ram’s confused face turned to concern. Was this guy going to attack him? Did he think he was the one who hurt the teen called Riker?

Ram didn’t have time to pondered any more questions as Hart hopped forward and slashed at him with the rapier in his right hand. The move was too swift for Ram to do more than raise his left hand in an attempt to spare his face. He was pleased and surprised to find the war hammer in his hand blocking the sword and when the man swung his second rapier Ram brought up his right hand and stopped it with the mace.

He was about to counter attack when his opponent yelled, “Halt!” Ram paused and saw the man reverse his earlier actions and the swords vanished from sight. After a moment's thought as to where he would keep his weapons Ram moved as if to tuck them into a belt and was gratified to see them also disappear.

“Behold, the protector of good, the Ram,” introduced Hart to the company around them.

Ram’s head popped up wondering how this man knew his name to find all the men staring at him with chins about to hit the ground. The older mage stepped forward and dipped his head as did all the soldiers.

“My apologies, commander,” said Kagan sincerely. “For what I was about to do.”

Ram looked around dazed that the man seemed to be talking to him. Wasn’t the guy in front of him the commander?

“Uh . . okay. I don’t understand,” replied Ram lowering his head. “Isn’t this the commander? I just arrived here and not even sure where here is.”

Hart stepped up to him and raised his head up to take a good look at the newest protector and gasped, “Sirena?”

“Mom?” spoke Ram taking a hard look at the man. “How do you know mom’s name? You look a lot like her too.”

“As do you . . . nephew,” replied Hart with a warm smile. “Your mother, Sirena, is my twin sister.”

“Was,” returned Ram sadly. “She died almost two years ago.”

Hart’s eyes filled with tears as he pulled his newly discovered nephew into a tight hug and held him as Ram cried for the first time since his mom’s untimely death. When they had both calmed down Hart pushed Ram back to arm’s length and smiled again.

“But at least now I have a nephew,” stated Hart with pride. “How’s your dad, Wulfrik, doing?”

Ram giggled before answering, “I’ve never heard anyone use his middle name before. Most people call him Ralph. Except for mom and few others who sometimes called him Wolf. By the way, how did you know my name?”

“I don’t know your name yet,” said a perplexed Hart. “I just met you.”

“Yeah, a little while ago you called me a protector which is the same thing that teen guy said before he passed out,” insisted Ram. “Then you called me; the Ram. That’s the name my old football team gave me and I still go by it. It’s short for Rama and it is my initials- R for Rama, A for Aleko and M for Morahan.”

“Ah, I see,” nodded Hart. “What do you know about Shandodeshe and the protectors?”

“I don’t know anything about them,” replied Ram shaking his head. “Who or what is Shandodeshe?”

“Come; walk with me and I’ll explain. Varner, take care of Riker and bring him along,” ordered Hart dropping an arm over Ram’s shoulders.

“Already done, sir,” Varner chimed in. “Riker had done most of the healing himself. That’s what caused him to blackout.”

Hart started them walking then began his explanation, “The reason I called you the Ram even though I didn’t know it was a name you already used is because that is the title of one of the three protectors of Shandodeshe. This place where you are now is called Shandodeshe, the mystical land, meaning we have a lot of magic here.”

“Oh . . okay. But why did all the men give those little head bows and that one called me commander? I thought you were the commander.”

“I am but as a protector so are you,” replied Hart. “I am the Hart.”


Hart chuckled as he explained further, “Not heart as the body part that pumps blood but hart as in a deer. The protectors all pertain to animals.”

“How did you know to call me the Ram?”

“By the weapons you called forth and by your strength. The mace and war hammer are the weapons of the Ram and that protector is known for great strength. You’re what? Maybe thirteen and you carried a sixteen year old down that hill like it was something you did every day.”

“So, I guess your weapons were those thin swords. What else makes you the Hart?”

“Quickness like a deer on the run,” laughed Hart. “And those swords are called rapiers.”

“Okay,” agreed Ram. “I work out a lot for football so that can explain the strength. Although, that guy, Riker? He’s kinda thin and not real heavy anyway. Sorry, dude.” Ram turned to face Riker who was following beside Varner.

“It’s okay. I am rather small for my age.”

“Maybe but your courage is as big as anybody’s,” asserted Ram who then turned to Hart. “Riker and those other two aren’t going to get in trouble because I had to fight are they?”

“Riker definitely not but the other two should have been right behind Riker when he came to defend you,” answered Hart curtly. “What do you want to happen? You’re a commander now.”

“What are my options?”

“First you can choose a second like Varner is mine.”

“Can I have Riker be my second?” cut in Ram.

“A very good choice if he agrees,” Hart said as he and Ram turned to look at the teenage mage again.

“Yes! I would be honored, sir,” responded Riker with enthusiasm.

“What about the two soldiers?” asked Ram with concern. “I don’t want them getting into too much trouble. They did fight and one was injured. They should have a chance to redeem themselves.”

“I’ll have them assigned to your detail and you can decide what to do then,” decided Hart.

Ram nodded then faced Riker, “What did you mean about knowing me when we up on the hill?”

“I’m not sure. I’d never seen you before but something about you was familiar,” shrugged Riker looking to Hart.

The commander peered closely at Ram then let his eyes glow with magic and nodded in satisfaction. “You recognized his magical identity, Riker, because you had felt it before when he opened the portals.”

“I did what? How? When?” panicked Ram momentarily then he calmed and reflected over the times he had used magic while he was here. “Yesterday at school when I recited those lines from MacBeth. I felt the same pulling inside me as when I call forth my weapons.”

“Yesterday?!” declared Riker loudly. “That was two days ago!”

“Time moves differently in the two realms,” informed Hart calmly.

“Then what times is it now back home?” inquired a worried Ram. “I was already going to be late to school.”

Hart closed his eyes and concentrated for a few minutes then opened them and announced, “You’ve missed school completely. It is evening now.”

“I need to get home right away,” proclaimed Ram. “ Can I come back?”

*****     *****     *****

“What do you mean he never showed up at school?” Ralph asked the boy standing on his doorstep.

Pender cringed at the question, “He isn’t here? I thought he must have stayed home sick.”

“No, he isn’t here” answered Ralph a little calmer. “Hang on a sec. Let me check something.” He left the teen standing there as he went to look in the garage. “His bicycle is gone so he left some time today.”

“Where could he have gone if he didn’t go to school?” Pender inquired.

Ram’s dad seemingly didn’t hear Pender’s question as he was deep in thought. Ram had a hard time waking up this morning so might have been running late . . . He wouldn’t have would he? Suddenly, Ralph pounded the door frame and shouted, “No!” causing Pender to jump.


“He may have went down . . .” Mr. Morahan petered out looking to his left.

Pender followed his gaze and finished the sentence, “Halloween Hill.”

“He was warned,” they spoke at the same time. Ralph looked questioning at the boy.

“We told about it but I don’t think he took it seriously,” Pender glanced back toward the place. “Man! Mr. Mearlyn never misses it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Every time Mr. Mearlyn brings out MacBeth in October and emphasizes ‘Something wicked this way comes,’ something happens on Halloween Hill.”

“Who spoke those lines this year?” questioned Wolf dreading the answer.

“Uh, Ram did.”

“Thanks for dropping by,” spoke Ralph in an this is over tone. “Why don’t you head on home. I’m going to look for Rama. I’ll let you know if I find him.”

“Okay, Mr. Morahan. I hope he’s alright.”

Ram’s dad closed the door then watched to see that Pender went down the hill to the right and not to the left. Once the teen was out of sight he went to change into attire more suitable for where he thought he would have to search. By the time he was ready the sun was about to set.

Turning the porch light on Wolf walked out of the house and turned left off the porch. First he paced the property line from one end to the other. Then he started down the hill using the sidewalk. Wolf had only gone about ten steps when he heard a sound a little ways down the hill. Peering into the gloom of dusk he could barely make out the silhouette of a figure coming up the hill and decided to wait where he was.

Soon he could distinguish the weary shape of Ram trudging up the hill pushing his bicycle. Wolf waited for him to get closer before he revealed his presence with a question.

“Just where have you been all day?”

Ram’s head jerked up in surprise then lowered again as he continued up the hill. He was within five feet of his dad before he answered, “I was running late to school and this way is quicker. I must have hurried too much and wrecked going down the hill. I just woke up in the middle of a field.”

Wolf chose to ignore the obvious lie and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” replied Ram. “I don’t think anything is broken or anything like that. I’m sorry I missed school; I’ve never missed before.”

Wolf wrapped an arm around his son’s shoulders and walked with him back to the house. They could discuss his disappearance later when he was better rested. Traversing realms could be very tiring after all.

During the weekend Ram put off talking about Friday whenever Wolf brought up the subject. If he couldn’t get his dad to drop it then he stuck to his story of wrecking and waking up in the evening. Wolf didn’t know how much Ram knew about where he suspected his son had been so wasn’t sure how or even whether to bring up Shandodeshe.

Monday at school Ram gave his generic false version of what happened on Friday if anyone asked him about where he had been. That is until they were on their way home and he told Pender there was more to it but he needed to know everything Pender could tell him about the Halloween happenings on the Hill.

At Pender’s house they settled into his room then Pender turned to Ram, “Okay! Spill! Why were you gone all day Friday?”

“Before I tell you I need to learn all I can about the previous vanishings from Halloween Hill,” insisted Ram. “I think I may know what happened to those kids.”

“Really?!  . . I’ve told you all I know abou . . .,” started Pender when he stopped and smacked his own forehead. “Mom! My mom has kept a scrapbook about it since she was a teenager. I think I know where it is.”

Pender returned a few minutes later carrying what looked like a photo album. When they opened it they found it held tons of newspaper clippings, old photos and handwritten notes and all of it had to do with October disappearances on Halloween Hill.

After they had been through the whole book they found a few things in common in each story. One was that people had reported seeing twinkling lights at different spots along the hill. Ram confirmed that he had seen those twice himself.

Another was one they had already figured out but didn’t know how far back it went. Mr. Mearlyn introduced the play MacBeth days before someone vanished. They looked at each other over that one: how old was Mr. Mearlyn?

The final common thread was the age of the kids who disappeared; they were all teenagers. None younger than thirteen and no one older than sixteen had ever been one of the victims.

Another strange thing they had found had to do with the few kids who had been found later dead. They were dressed in strange clothing and sometimes had ancient styled leather armor. Searching through the book they lucked upon one photo taken of a dead teen, Ram gasped when he recognized the clothing as that of a Shandodeshe soldier.

Ram sat deep in thought about what he could tell his best friend while Pender thumbed through the book some more. His ruminations were interrupted when Pender called out, “Here’s something!”


“Only once in all these events did a kid return alive,” informed Pender reading the article.

“Who was it?” inquired Ram anxiously. “Maybe we can talk to ‘em.”

Reading out loud Pender said, “Ralph Wulfrik Morahan reappeared four years after he vanished with a girl and a baby. A few days later they left town and told no one where they went.”

Pender set the book down and looked at Ram when it struck him, “Your last name is Morahan. Do you know if they’re your relatives?”

Ram sat there stunned not saying anything. Pender waiting several minutes then asked again, “Are they your relatives?”

Finally shaking himself out of his catatonic state Ram answered with a grimace, “Two of them are.”

“How can only two of them be your relatives?” questioned Pender confused.

Getting a hold of himself and the situation Ram halfway laughed as he replied, “Because one of them was me.”

It was Pender’s turn to imitate a statue before he exploded, “What!”

“That was my dad that disappeared then returned with my mom and me,” Ram explained. “I went to another place, different than here. I met my uncle, my mom’s twin brother, on Friday. And that’s not even all of it.”

“Tell me!” exclaimed Pender.

“It has magic and people there. Soldiers and these creatures they fight against. I fought and used magic. Apparently I’m some kinda protector. There’s three of them; I’m called the Ram for strength and my uncle is the Hart for quickness. We’re also commanders of their army.”

“Who’s the third protector? You said there are three but you only named two.”

“I don’t know. My uncle didn’t say and I had to get ba . . . Oh my god! Oh my god!”

“What, Ram? What is it?”

“My dad! I bet my dad is the third one; the Wolf. Mom always called him Wolf. No wonder he kept asking about Friday all weekend. He guessed I had been to Shandodeshe. I need to get home.”

*****     *****     *****

“Sir, do you think he’ll come back?” Riker asked for what seemed to Hart to be the thousandth time.

“Yes, Riker. He’ll be back and maybe Wolf will be with him.”

“A moment, sir?” Varner interrupted. “A report.”

“Go ahead, Varner,” commanded Hart then when he saw his second glance at the teen. “Riker is to be the second of Commander Ram so he might as well learn now.”

“Yes, sir,” nodded Varner. “The intrusions are getting worse from Terranox Sonialis. More of the greater diabolus are coming through now. We even have unsubstantiated sightings of a Rakasa.”

“It’s just as I expected. We appear to be in the time of the Foretelling and the Tugann Bas will attack on Samhain. I only hope all the protectors will be here and ready.”

*****     *****     *****

Ram dropped his bike on the ground and ran onto the porch only to find the door locked. He dug out his key and let himself in calling for his dad. After a hasty search Ram concluded that his dad wasn’t at home and went back out the front door.

In the yard he paused then turned toward the left wondering if his father had gone to Shandodeshe. He regarded the left side of the hill for a couple of moments then decided to try to go to Shandodeshe and look for his dad. Even if he didn’t find him Ram could visit with his uncle and Riker and possibly learn more about the protectors.

The teen had gone about ten yards when Wolf appeared striding up the hill. He smirked when he spotted Ram coming down the hill towards him. The new protector saw the smirk on his dad’s face and let his chin drop a little but lifted it up again ready to face the consequences.

“Want to tell what happened on Friday again?” questioned Wolf when they were closer together.

“I think you already know all about it now,” answered Ram. “I’m sorry, dad. I was afraid you’d think I really had hit my head if I told you. I didn’t know you had been there. Can I go back? I want to learn more from Uncle Hart.”

“So, it’s Uncle Hart now?”

“Well, yeah. Mom was his sister.”

“If you know that then why did you think I wouldn’t believe you if you said where you actually were.”

“I didn’t know you met her by going there, dad. Uncle Hart didn’t tell me that.”

“No, he wouldn’t have since it wasn’t his to tell. He would have left it for me to do. So you want to visit again, huh?”

Yes, please! I’ve got to learn to fight and how to be a commander of their army and about magic.”

“Hold up, son,” said Wolf chuckling. “You’re going to go back. We both are. From now on we go together. You have to learn all that and I have to knock the rust off especially if your mom was right as Hart thinks she is.”

“You are the third protector, aren’t you, Wolf?” Ram’s grin threatened to split his face. “What does the Wolf stand for and what are your weapons?”

“The Wolf is cunning, intelligent. He is strong but not as strong as the Ram and he is quick but not as quick as the Hart. My weapons are a broad sword and shield which you will get to see when we go to Shandodeshe next.”

“Can we go now, dad? My homework’s all done,” Ram uttered while trying to give puppy dog eyes.

“No, I need to find some old notes of your mother’s so we can manipulate the timestreams. You need all the training we can get in before Samhain.”

“Okay,” acquiesced Ram with some disappointment. “Whatever and whenever that is.”

“It’s on October thirty-first and it’s the old name for what is now called Halloween,” informed Wolf ruffling his son’s hair gently.

The pair went home where Ram put away his bike properly then went to his room and Wolf searched through boxes until he found the notes he needed. After they finished supper and cleaned the kitchen Wolf had Ram come with him to his home office.

There Wolf taught Ram more about Shandodeshe, timestreams and magic as they poured over the notes Sirena and Wolf had compiled over time. When they were done Wolf sent Ram to shower and hop in bed for the next few days were going to be long ones.

After work and school for the next four days Wolf and Ram would walk together down the left side of their hill and disappear through a gateway to Shandodeshe. While there, they practiced fighting and magic with each other and with Hart and sometimes with members of the Guardians. By the weekend they were worn out but confidant in their abilities.

The father and son took the weekend off from training to clean house, take care of the yard and then to rest. On Monday evening they were back in Shandodeshe running drills with the Guardians and getting to know their own battalion they would be commanding. Tomorrow was Samhain.

“Will we be battling more of things like those when I came here the first time?” asked Ram as they walked back to the Guardian administration building after the drills were finished.

“Those and more even worse,” replied Hart. “If your mother was correct and this is the time of the Foretelling, we will come face to face with the worst diabolus possible, the Tugann Bas.”

“Something wicked this way comes, for sure,” remarked Ram almost to himself.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Hart commented as he quickened his pace.

“He’s not kidding,” said Riker seriously. “I saw a glimpse of the Tugann Bas the day you unlocked the portals.”

“See you tomorrow then,” stated Ram as he and Wolf turned from the others, opened a gateway and walked through it for home and their beds.

*****     *****     *****

‘I thought you were going to have a party at your house for Halloween,” Pender asserted the next morning at school. “What happened?”

Ram answered in a whisper, “You know. I became a protector of a different place and their big battle for their land is tonight. Me and my dad have to be there.”

“Is it dangerous?” asked Pender lowering his voice to match Ram. “Do you need help?”

“Yes, it’s dangerous. We could be badly hurt or killed,” replied Ram earnestly. “I don’t think you could get there even if there were something you could do to help. But thanks.”

*****     *****     *****

That night Ram stood on the same hill where he had first appeared in Shandodeshe with Riker by his side. Behind him stood the soldiers under his command waiting for the battle to ensue. On the hilltop to his right stood  his uncle, the Hart, with Varner and the battalion he would lead. To the left of Ram was his dad, the Wolf, who had never chosen a second talking calmly with the soldiers set to follow him into combat.

At fifteen minutes before midnight a score of dasa poured into the valley amid shouts, squeals and growls. As soon as the group was completely in the valley arrows began to fly from archers in Hart’s and Wolf’s squadron who were closer than Ram. Two dasa broke away dashing up the hill toward where Ram stood. When they reached the halfway point four arrows flew in their direction dropping them both without them completing another step.

“Good shooting,” Ram complimented the troop clapping Riker on the back who had been one of the four archers. His arrow had skewered the dasa through the eye.

Five minutes after they appeared all the dasa lay dead on the ground but the real conflict wouldn’t start until midnight when the unlocked gateways would be easier to access.

At the stroke of midnight the air was split with the howls, cries, growls and other unearthly noises as the diabolus of Terranox Sonialis attacked in force. In front were hordes of lesser diabolus with a few greater diabolus scattered around as officers to keep them focused on the fight.

Once they were out of the portal the swarm broke into three groups one headed for each protector. A tall, brown and green mottled creature with a heavily muscled body pointed in Ram’s direction and growled at his minions. They broke away up the hill coming for Ram and his troops.

The soldiers behind Ram began to fidget anxiously to join the fighting. Ram held up his hand telling them to hold and wait until he gave the signal. As the front of the group went passed the midpoint Ram called out, “Archers! Fire!” From behind him soared tons of arrows toward the advancing enemies cutting them down left, right and in the middle. Even with the withering fire of missiles Ram and his group were outnumbered.

When the front line of diabolus was within twenty feet of Ram and Riker he called a halt to the archers and readied the fighters for close combat. The leading enemies were dismayed to find that the apparently defenseless teen in the front was suddenly armed with a very deadly mace and an equally devastating war hammer that he wielded with ease.

Beside him also seemingly weaponless Riker, now a full-fledged mage, had also handled the onslaught with ease. Soon all that could be heard was the sound of weapons clashing and howls of pain. Slowly but surely Ram and Riker began to wade through their foes down the hill. A quick glance to the left and right showed Wolf and Hart also enjoying early success against almost overwhelming odds.

The tall green and brown Bhuta watched as the pair pushed their way in his direction while he directed others to slow them. All the while hurling what Ram guessed were insults at them. Reaching the area where the Bhuta ordered his troops the protector and his second quickly dispatched the handful of ellyllon surrounding him.

The Bhuta grinned evilly as he pulled a nasty looking grooved sword from a scabbard at his side. Ram attacked immediately causing him to back up to get a defensive position. Soon the two were trading blows as they searched for an opening to take advantage of. Riker kept watch making sure no other diabolus attacked Ram from his blind side.

Eight minutes into the duel Ram smashed the sword hand of the Bhuta breaking three fingers and causing the sword to fly off to the side. Using his other hand the Bhuta started a spell and sent it at Ram’s chest. He crossed his weapons in front of him like he had been taught creating a magical shield. Coming out of the block Ram swung the mace high at the creature’s head and dropped the hammer down.

The Bhuta ducked under the mace but before he could straighten Ram brought the hammer full circle up and back down on the Bhuta’s back crushing the vertebrae. Taking a fast breather Ram saw Wolf still on his hill using magic to disrupt the attackers in the valley and using his shield against in close combatants. All he could see of Hart was the occasional flicker of his swords as they flashed here and there putting an end to diabolus after diabolus.

They continued fighting and after nearly two hours despite their own losses the Guardians had evened the odds. Using magic to keep the invaders at bay the three protectors pulled their troops back to take stock and regroup. While they were doing this a fresh influx of diabolus flooded through the gateway between the realms. The new cadre of diabolus consisted almost entirely of greaters and they were led by the largest monster yet seen.

“Is that the Tugann Bas?” asked Ram with apprehension.

“No,” answered Wolf, Hart and Riker at once. “Not even close,” added Hart.

With the fresh more powerful troops the diabolus pressed the attack once again. Even leaving the Guardians together rather than split into different battalions did little to stem the tide this time around and the Wolf, Ram and Hart found themselves fighting for their lives. A half an hour later Ram came face to face with the humongous Rakasa now commanding the diabolus army.

*****     *****     *****

“Are sure about this, Pender?” asked Morton for the third time.

“Yes,” returned Pender again. “It’s always on Halloween Hill. There has to be a way in. Ram’s in danger.”

“What’re we lookin’ fer?” inquired Rocky.

“Twinkling lights or a bright flash of light like a door,” answered Pender patiently. “Keep looking, guys.”

“Something I can help you with?” came an adult voice in the darkness.

Pender didn’t answer right away but peered into the night until he came upon their English teacher, Mr. Mearlyn.

“What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask all of you the same question,” Mr. Mearlyn evaded. “How many are out here?”

“Most of the football team,” replied Morton.

Almost all of the science club,” came from Pender. “We’re looking for a way into Shandodeshe.”

“Where?” Mr. Mearlyn wondered.

“Shandodeshe. It’s a land of magic and Ram is there. He needs our help,” insisted Pender.

“Maybe I can help after all,” spoke Mr. Mearlyn as he began to gesture with his hands. Five feet away twinkling lights appeared then the coalesced into a brightly lit doorway. “After you.”

The doorway soon expanded so the students could enter ten abreast. They stood atop the same knoll that Ram had entered on to and before them spread the battle. Even to their untrained eyes it was discernable that the human looking soldiers were in trouble.

Looking around Pender spotted a bunch of fist sized rocks. Picking one up he yelled, “Guys, grab some rocks and start pelting those monsters.”

Occasionally a well thrown rock would down a creature but mostly the rocks distracted them enabling the soldiers to deal a death stroke. The captain of the football took some of the players and did the same from the next hill and other went to the right so they could help more soldiers.

Slowly the tide began to turn back in favor of the Guardians but the three protectors were still hard-pressed. Wolf was barely holding his own using more shield than sword and rarely used his magic now. Hart was battling three Yama at once while Varner had his hands full with a Darjana.

Ram still fought the Rakasa toe to toe with Riker using a borrowed sword to supplement his magic keeping others out of the fight. The young protector had picked up a few cuts and bruises but was going strong against the larger opponent. After a fierce flurry of blows Ram managed to bring the war hammer down on the side of the Rakasa’s knee crippling him. Two more blows relieved the monster of his weapons. Putting the hammer away Ram used a two-handed shot to the skull ending the Rakasa.

The nearby Guardians started to cheer when a heart stopping roar sounded out of the darkness and the biggest, most hideous creature walked onto the battlefield. It was the Tugann Bas, death bringer, and its trajectory would take it right to Ram.

Around Wolf lay scores of dead diabolus and his area was clear as he leaned heavily on his sword exhausted. All the other diabolus in Hart’s influence were gone except for the Yama he battled. Varner finally ended the life of the Darjana and turned to assist Hart. He beheaded the last Yama just as the creature pierced Hart’s stomach dropping him to the ground.

With Wolf now hurrying toward Hart and the Tugann Bas approaching, Ram ordered Riker away to see that the other diabolus were taken down then he faced the death bringer with both weapons in his hands.

“Finally it will be my time to win and rule over this land,” roared the monster in a deep, reverberating voice. “One protector is dying and a second has exhausted the magic that makes him a protector so his title will pass to another. That only leaves a lone child for me to crush.”

With that word the Tugann Bas began his attack by slamming one paw down on top of Ram expecting to squash him into the ground. Instead Ram brought his hammer up and caught the paw with it. Then he used the mace to knock the arrogant one off balance.

The Tugann Bas tried unsuccessfully to pin Ram down to the ground. Changing tactics he managed to send Ram flying across the field and roared his victory only to see the boy get up. Ram rushed back into the fray swinging the hammer and the mace in a confusing pattern then catching the Tugann Bas twice. Once with the mace and once with the hammer.

This continued for an hour with the death bringer landing a blow, announcing his win and getting pummeled by the relentless teenage protector. Tiring of this and knowing if he had not won by sunup he would be bound in Terranox again the Tugann Bas switched to magical attacks. He caught Ram unaware once and thought it was over but a slightly groggy Ram rose to his feet again more vigilant than before.

He blocked shot after shot of magic beams, energy balls and fireballs. Finally, Ram had had enough and resolved to end it before dawn. With each blocked attack Ram worked his way closer and closer to the Tugann Bas.

Now he was close enough to put his hastily made plan to work. With his hammer Ram used the magical beam he used the first time he came to Shandodeshe. As he expected the creature blocked it easily but left itself open to a physical attack. Ram brought the mace down with all the power he could muster and added magic to it.

The Tugann Bas reeled back in real pain and tried to move away. Ram would have none of it and pressed his attack pounding away with both the war hammer and the mace adding magic to each blow. As the death bringer weakened Ram seemed to rise in strength until one last blow using both weapons at once destroyed the Tugann Bas.

With the battle over Ram seemed to lose all that extra strength but he put his weapons away and trudged to where his dad cradled his uncle’s head crying.

“No! You can’t die on me now,” wailed Wulfrik for he was no longer the Wolf. “I love you, Hart. I always have.”

“I know Wulfrik and I love you too, but destiny called for you to marry my sister,” croaked Hart. “Otherwise I wouldn’t gotten such a marvelous nephew. Don’t cry for me, Ram. It is my time. Take care of Shadodeshe you are the last protector.”

No, he’s not,” said Ram with wonder. “Look there!”

Hart and Wolfrik looked where he pointed and saw one very confused and surprised Morton holding a broadsword and shield. Over a few yards away, a crying but radiant Riker held the two rapiers aloft. Shandodeshe would be in good hands.


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