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Renaissance Raiders... 

                “Y’know,” Phil sighed miserably, “I’m starting to get a real complex about the prop department around here.”

                “I know what you mean,” Paul replied.  “Where are we this time?”  He sighted a medieval cottage in the distance.  “Or should I say when are we this time?”

               

                Another day, another film shoot for Where The Action Is.  The Raiders were accustomed to the daily grind, right down to spending long hours in their heavy velveteen coats….or some other weird costumes.  What they weren’t used to was the glitch in the “Time Machine” gag they used on the show.

                Kip had sent the prop to the department shop for repairs, convinced by Phil that the latch on its door was broken.  The thing returned a day later, complete with a brand new latch.  The Raiders were understandably apprehensive about entering the closet-sized contraption again, considering their last experience with it.

               

                “Wanna guess where are we this time?” Paul asked.  He sat on the ground, frowning.  The time traveling didn’t settle well with his stomach.

                Mark observed the countryside and the quaint houses.  “Ahh…The days of old when knights were bold….”  He straightened the tunic he found himself suited with.  He smirked at Paul’s robes.  “And who are you?  Merlin?”

                Paul pulled his pointed hat down almost over his eyes.  “Shaddup.”

                Phil tumbled out of the machine next, his feet slipping on the grass.  “Think we coulda gotten some shoes with real soles on ‘em?”  He noted his leather knee boots.  He sat next to Paul.

                “Where’s Smitty?” Mark asked.  He stuck his head back into the prop.  “Smitty?  You still in there?”

                No answer.

                “Smitty?”

                “I’m not coming out.”

                “Why?”

                “Yeah, it’s not the first time we’ve been stuck in tights!” Phil laughed.

                “I’m NOT coming out!” Smitty growled.

                “What’s eatin’ ya, little man?” Paul asked.

                With a disgusted look on his face, Smitty emerged from the doorway of the machine.  He had his floppy hat pulled over his ears and nearly over his eyes.  He twisted his gauntlets around so they laced under his wrists instead of on top of them.  He crossed his arms angrily.  “There.  I’m out.  Happy?”

                “Man, you can’t tell me you can see like THAT,” Mark complained, grabbing Smitty’s hat.  The minute he yanked the hat off the man’s head, he began laughing.

                “What’s so funny?”  Phil glanced back at his friend, then did a double take.  “Holy cow!  Smitty?  You’re…ah….  You’ve got….. uh…”

                “Yeah, I’ve got pointed ears.  What of it?”  He snatched his hat away from Mark, throwing it back on his head.  This time, he didn’t bother with covering his ears.

                “How did THAT happen?”

                “Beats me.”

                “Where’s Drake?” Mark asked, glancing into the empty machine.  “We left with him, didn’t we?”

                “I was sure we did,” Paul replied.  He rose from his seat on the ground and peered into the machine with Mark.  “Did we drop him on the way here?”

                The four Raiders looked at each other gravely.

                “Crap.”

                “Wait-wait-wait—Don’t overreact yet, guys,” Phil said.  “Maybe he got out of the thing before we did and we just missed it.  Levin can be pretty quick, right?”

                A few mumbles signaled agreement.

                “Then maybe we should look for him, right?”  Phil began trudging towards the houses in the distance.  He paused, looking at his band mates.  “Well?”

                Paul adjusted his hat and followed Phil.  “C’mon—Can’t have a band without my guitarist.”

 

                The quartet entered the medieval village with quite a bit of trepidation.  They were in a strange place and time and were also worried that they might have lost Drake somewhere along the way.  He could have been stuck anywhere, from the Victorian Age to prehistory.

 

                “Good day!” a villager greeted them.  He studied them carefully.  “And what brings you to our fair village?”

                “We’re looking for someone,” Phil answered.

                The villager stared at Paul and Smitty.  “I gather that it must be someone of great importance for you to bring a wizard and an elf on your quest,” he commented.

                “An elf?”  Smitty groaned and hid his face behind his hands.  “This is humiliating….”

                “Would you rather be called a troll?” Paul whispered.

                Smitty looked back up slowly.  “I hate it when you’re right.”

                “Pray tell, who is it you seek?” the villager asked.  “The prince?  The king?”

                Phil opened his mouth to answer, only to have Paul interrupt him immediately.

                “He is one of our band of gallant knights….sir,” Paul grinned ridiculously.  “Sir Drake.”

                The villager pondered the name a moment, rolling it over in his mind.  “Sir Drake….Sir Drake….”

                “Yeah, he’s about six feet, curly hair, gray eyes,” Phil added anxiously.  “Usually seen wielding an Epiphone guitar…”

                “What’s an Ep—Eppyfone?”

                “It’s a special kind of lance for slaying dragons,” Mark answered.  “Makes them stop in their tracks.”

                “And brings women to their knees,” Phil snickered beneath his breath.  Drake’s blistering guitar riffs had earned him quite a reputation back home.

                “I can’t say that I’ve seen this Sir Drake of which you speak, but there is a dragon in the wilderness.  Perhaps he has gone to slay it with his Eppyfone?” the villager said after some time.

                “Hmmm….”  Paul looked to his other band mates.  “Should we go find a dragon, guys?”

                Phil groaned in dread.

                Smitty’s pointy ears lowered with his anxiety.

                Mark threw his hands on his waist proudly.  “Let’s go get that dragon!”  He sauntered ahead of the other three men, strutting like a peacock.

                “C’mon, guys,” Paul said, thumbing at Mark.  “Let’s see if Drake’s out there.”

                Phil nodded unsurely, then followed Paul.

                “Yikes and away,” Smitty said lowly.  He trailed behind the others.

                “Good luck on your quest!” the villager called as the figures faded into the distance.

               

                “So, now we’re on a quest?”

                “Just like in all the movies, Smitty,” Mark answered.  “We’re brave knights on a quest to rescue one of our own!”

                “We’re four guys in tights looking for our guitarist,” Phil said flatly.  He pulled his bass from his back; he had had it with him when they entered the time machine last, therefore bringing it with him on the “trip”.  He was more than disappointed when he saw it had been changed into a four-string lute.  He sighed audibly.  “Yippee.  I’m a minstrel.”

                “Then minst, minstrel!” Paul laughed.  “Make with the singin’ already!”

                Phil gaped at the lute, biting his bottom lip in frustration.  His fingers ran up and down the neck of the instrument for a moment, then he finally tried playing something.

                “Welllll… I gotta woman mean as she can be…. YAAAAAY-EEEEE… I gotta woman mean as she can beee…”

                “Not exactly Ren-Pop Top, but not too bad,” Mark observed.  “Just what are we supposed to be, anyway?”

                “What do you mean?” asked Paul.

                “Look at us—Phil’s pretending to be a Renaissance Roy Orbison; you look like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Smitty’s got ears a mile long…  What’s going on?”

                “Cool!  Do that again!” Phil exclaimed.  “Hey!  Look at Smitty!  Do it again—“

                Smitty smiled and wiggled his ears.

                “That’s just disturbing….”  Mark rolled his eyes.  He sat on the ground, cross-legged, resting his chin in his hand.

                “You’re just jealous,” Smitty sneered.  He wiggled his ears again.  Phil cracked up.

                “Alright, alright—Settle down you two,” Paul barked, snickering.  “If you keep those, we’ll work ‘em into the act when we get back home.”  He pointed at the elf and sparks flew from his fingers.  Smitty had to duck to avoid being hit.

                “What was that?!?”

                Paul stared at his fingers, wide-eyed.  “I think they might be loaded….”  He pointed again, but in the opposite direction.  The sparks hit a rock, turning it into a frog.  “Oh boy…”

                “How did you do that?”  Phil grabbed Paul’s hands, examining them closely.  A stray spark shot from Paul’s index finger, grazing a path down the middle of Phil’s head.  He immediately sprouted antennae.

    Smitty had to bite his fist to keep from laughing.

    “It’s not funny!” Phil argued.  “Make it go away!”

    “I don’t know how!” Paul shouted.  “I don’t even know how I did it!”  He waved his hands excitedly; sparks flew everywhere.  Mark ducked, but not before a section of his ponytail was hit.  It dropped to the ground, turning into a squirrel and scurrying away.  Another spark hit Smitty, giving him a giant pair of dragonfly wings.  Phil was hit again, this time disappearing completely.

    “Somebody turn him off!” Mark bellowed.  He grabbed Paul’s wrists and held his hands above his head until the sparks had faded.  “What the heck are you DOING?”

    “If I knew, I’d tell you!”  Paul looked panicked.

    They were all quiet, trying to calm themselves.

    “Alright….  We need to handle this like the rational adults that we are, right?” Mark said quietly.  “Just take a minute and get it together and then we’ll figure out what to do, right?”

    “I can’t see my fingers!” Phil shrieked.  “I can’t see my hands!  Where am I?”

    Smitty groped the air beside him, finally making contact with his friend.  “You’re right there,” he said.  “You’ll be fine.”

    “Smitty, why do you have wings?”

    “Paul, can you think of what you did to make that stuff start happening like that?”

    He looked at Mark, then at the grass around his feet, mired in thought.  “Well, I was kinda wound up.  Maybe that did it?”

    “Maybe…”

    “WHERE IS MY BODY?!?” Phil cried out again. 

    “Would ya shaddup?  I’m tryin’ to think!”  Paul waved an angry hand at Phil, zapping him once again.  Phil quickly faded into view, restored to normal.

    “Hey, that worked!” Mark beamed.  “See if you can turn Smitty back.”  He looked beside Phil, noticing Smitty had vanished.  “Uh oh.”

    “Uh oh?  What ‘uh oh’?”

    “I think you made him disappear this time.”

    Phil shook his head and pointed up.  “He’s just buzzing around.”

    Smitty had dashed out of the line of fire when Paul zapped Phil that last time, putting his new wings to good use.  He hovered overhead, turning aerial cartwheels.  Phil was right—His wings DID buzz.

    “Come on down, Smit.  Paul’s gonna change you back,” Mark called.

    Smitty stuck his tongue out and only fluttered up higher.  He had perfected his figure eights and somersaults in record time.

    Paul aimed his hands at the drummer and threw sparks in his direction.  Smitty zipped out of the way.

    Paul tried it again.

    ZIP!

    And again.

    ZIP!

    “Smitty, would you hold still so I can turn you back?!?” Paul screamed, his face red.  “If we’re gonna find Drake before Hell freezes over….”

    “Betcha didn’t know there are some pretty nasty looking woods over there, did you?” Smitty asked.  He pointed over the hills.

    “Woods?  What, like a forest?”  Phil’s face suddenly lit up.  “The dragon!  Of course!”

    “Just like the guy back in the village said,” Smitty added.  He looked at Paul.  “You wouldn’t want to lose out on having a lookout in the air, would you?” he asked beseechingly.

    Paul crossed his arms, his wizard hat fell over his brow.  “Naaaaah, I guess not,” he grumbled lowly.  “You can keep the wings till we find Drake.”

    Smitty flew past Paul, practically dive-bombing him before crashing to the ground.  He spit the grass out of his mouth.  “Blecch.”

    “The landing needs a little work,” Phil critiqued.

    “Don’t you think I know that?”  Smitty straightened his clothes out the best he could and stood uneasily.  His ears turned red with embarrassment.

    “On with the quest!” Mark announced.

    “Don’t you think Drake could have found a better place to get lost?” Paul asked absently.

    “He’s not lost.  I bet he knows exactly where he is,” Phil said with a grin.  Paul merely shot him an unamused look.

    The troupe marched on through the countryside.  Mark was in the lead, followed by Paul, who kept practicing his sorcery on various rocks and plants as they passed by them.  Phil was still trying to perfect his lute playing and kept humming or singing lowly.  After learning a tough lesson with his new appendages, Smitty hovered just above the ground, getting a better feel for flying.

     They came upon a lone cottage near a brook.

    Phil ceased his singing and examined the cottage.  “I bet the Three Bears live here,” he laughed.  “Who’s in the mood for porridge?”

    “Very cute, Fang,” Mark said, groaning.  He rapped on the door.

    “Who’s there?” came from within.

    Mark cleared his throat.  “Tis a band of knights in search of one of our own.”

    “Harken there unto you,” Phil imitated.  “My nameth is Markus of Lindsay-eth.  I’m pleathed to make your acquaintanth,” he lisped.  He finally stuck his tongue out in a raspberry.

    The door creaked open.  A pair of eyes was just barely visible in the shadows around the entrance.

    “You don’t look much like knights to me,” said the resident.

    “Of course we are,” Mark boasted.  “I am Sir Markus and this is the Wizard of Revere, Sir Phillip the Minstrel and Smitty…our…ah….lucky elf.”

    “What—I don’t get a title?”  Smitty’s wings fluttered angrily.

    “What do you want?  Aerial acrobat?” Mark argued.

    “I’d think it wise if you didn’t anger the pixie, Sir Markus,” the cottage-dweller warned.  “Their vengeance is unequaled by man.”

    “Oh, come on…  He’s just Smitty!  Right?”  Mark took a good look at his friend… Pointed ears and dragonfly wings.  “Smitty, the Pixie of Portland….”

    “I liked ‘elf’ better.”

    “Beggers can’t be choosers!”

    The “pixie” turned his head and curtly dashed into the air, again hovering over the group. 

    “Is there something I can help you with?” asked the cottage-dweller.

    “We’re on a quest to find our missing knight,” Paul answered.  “Sir Drake.”

    “We think he might be looking for a dragon,” Phil added.  “Or a dragon might be looking for him.”

    “Hmm…”  The cottage resident opened the door wider, stepping onto the front stoop.  His blue eyes examined the peculiar men in his presence.  “I might be able to help you.  I know these woods well.”

    Paul grabbed the man’s hands, shaking them thankfully.  “Then what’re we waiting for?  Let’s go find Drake!”  He dragged the man behind him, making him fall into the group.  “What’s your name, fella?”

    “Oh,” the man replied, quickly grabbing a satchel by the door, “I’m Jim of the Valley.”

    “And what do YOU do, Jim?”

    “For a time, I was the king’s buffoon, but I was relieved of that job.  Now I just stay here and enjoy the countryside.”

    They regrouped and again proceeded towards the forest.  Phil signaled Smitty when they left.  Smitty flew from his perch on the cottage roof and landed more carefully at the end of the procession.

    Phil began strumming the lute, trying to coax another tune from it.  Jim’s eyes brightened.

    “I’m a bit of a musician myself,” he commented.

    “Really?”

    “Oh yes,” he said, reaching into his satchel.  He revealed a hollowed bull’s horn.  He put it to his lips and blew, making a horrid, honking noise.  Phil cringed.  The noise made his “fangs” hurt.

 

     “What do they call this place again?” Mark asked.

    “Tis the Forest of Gnorr,” Jim answered lowly.  “Legend has it that those who enter never return.”

    The Raiders exchanged worried looks.

    “Jim, how’d you like to join a band?” Paul asked, suddenly throwing an arm around Jim’s shoulder.

    Phil elbowed him in the side.  “That’s just rude.”

    “Sorry.”

    “We can’t just leave Drake in there—What if something eats him?”

    “But no one ever comes out of the Forest of Gnorr,” Jim insisted.  “We may already be too late!”

    “I’m not giving up on him.”  With that, Phil began hiking into the woods.

    Mark turned to his leader.  “Are you just gonna let him go in there like that?”

    “He’s a big boy,” Paul said, shrugging.  He watched as Smitty quickly darted into the woods behind Phil.  “Although…”

 

    “I love the woods.  Don’t you love the woods?  They smell so pure and earthy…”

    “Jim…”

    “Yeah?”

    “Shaddup.”  Paul tried to navigate through the trees, but felt like he was running around in circles.  “What I wouldn’t give for a compass…”

    “A what?”

    “Nevermind,” Mark interjected.  “What’s the best way to find dragons around here?”

    “Follow the trail of barbecued knights’ ribs,” said Paul.

    “We could always yell ‘here dragon-dragon-dragon’,” Phil laughed. 

    “That is the last thing you want to do!” Jim warned.  “They would eat you in a heartbeat!  Even faster if you were a pixie!”

    “Pixie?  What?  Me?”  Smitty was still flying overhead and not paying attention to the conversation.  He was distracted momentarily and bumped into a tree bough.

    “Be careful, Pixie,” Jim continued.  “Your kind is a delicacy to the dragons in this land.”

    “I knew I should’ve stayed in bed this morning.”  He sat on the limb, resting his wings.  He noticed something in the corner of his eye.  He squinted his eyes, straining to see it.  “Guys—I think there’s something up ahead!”

    All eyes were locked on the man perched upon the tree bough.

    “What is it?” Mark asked.  “Is it Drake?”

    “No,” Smitty answered, his disappointment evident.  “Looks like a clear piece of land.”

    “The dragon’s lair!” Jim gasped.

    “I sure hope Drake’s there…and he’s okay,” Phil said, worried.

    “I second that,” Paul added.

 

     Several hundred yards away was a clearing.  When they arrived there, they were indeed convinced they had found the dragon.  Paul’s quip about the knights’ bones held a great deal of truth: Human bones and rusty pieces of armor littered the scorched grounds before the mouth of the great cavern. 

    Phil dropped his lute.  “Oh no…”  An image of Drake being snapped up by a huge dragon flashed through his mind.  “Oh no!”

    “Steady there, Fang,” Paul quickly said.  “We don’t know if he’s even in there or not.”

    “In the cave or the dragon’s stomach?” Phil asked, his voice cracking. 

    “What do we do?”  Mark stooped to examine some of the burnt remains around the ground.

    “We go in and get us a dragon,” Paul answered.  “That’s about all we CAN do.”

    Smitty landed on a rock as far from the entrance as he could get.  He huddled in a ball, knees to his chest.  His wings buzzed nervously.

    “I think your pixie friend is worried,” Jim observed.  He looked again at the bones scattered around them.  “All is well—There are no new bones here.  These are from several quests past.”

    “Is it too late to go home?” Smitty whimpered.  “I hate thinking of Drake as a dragon snack.”

    “We’ll never know unless we go in there and find out,” Phil sighed.  “C’mon…”  He motioned for the men to follow him.  “For Drake?”

    They nodded, conceding, and ventured into the dragon cavern.

 

     Paul had torn off a piece of his robe and wrapped it around a section of broken lance he found outside.  With a snap of his fingers, he ignited the cloth, making a sufficient torch.

    “I’ve never seen the inside of a dragon cavern before,” Jim whispered, awe-stricken.

    “I’ve never seen a dragon,” Phil said.  “And I’m not too anxious to see the INSIDE of one of them, either.”

    “Wait—I hear something,” Mark blurted, halting the group.  He cupped a hand to his ear and listened intently.

    “When sundown pales the sky….  And I wanna hide a while….. Behind your smile….”

    “Do you HEAR that?” Mark asked.  “Listen!”

    “Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind….”

    “Drake!” Phil shouted.  “He’s here!  He’s okay!”  He was so happy, he was nearly in tears.  “Come on!”  He ran further into the cavern blindly, leaving the others behind him.

    “Uh, Phil….”

    “Yeah?”

    “What’s it like up there?”

    “Really…..dark.”  Footsteps could be heard approaching the group; Phil appeared from the shadows.  His eyes met Mark’s.  “I know what you’re thinking—Don’t say a word.”

    “I wasn’t gonna say anything,” Mark replied innocently.  He took his place at the front of the procession, torch in hand.

     As Mark rounded the corner, he sighted the dragon.  It was calmly resting on its back in a half-asleep daze.  His eyes scanned the cavern for Drake, but he was nowhere to be found.

    “And to take your hand….. along the sand….”

    “I hear him, but I don’t see him,” Mark said quietly.

    “He has to be here somewhere.”  Paul searched the cavern.  “Maybe he’s hiding.”

    “Then why would he be singing?”

    “To make the dragon go to sleep so he can sneak out,” Phil suggested.  He pointed at the beast, which looked very much at ease.  “We need to find him and get him outta here!”

    “Get who outta here?”

    “Drake?”  Phil whirled around, searching for his friend.  “Drake, where are you?”

    “Right here.”

    “Where’s here?”

    “Here!”

    “Where?!?”

    Phil was suddenly hoisted up by his collar.  He kicked and struggled in a panic, seeing that he had been picked up by the dragon.  He felt his heart pounding in his throat.  This was it.  He was as good as dead.

    “Put him down!” Mark demanded.

    The dragon brought Phil to his face, glaring at him through large, gray eyes.  He sat the human on the end of his snout.  “I’m HERE, Phil.”

    Phil’s jaw dangled open.  He was speechless.

    “You okay?” the dragon asked.

    “Drake?” Phil gasped, finding his voice at last.

    “You were expecting Mick Jagger?  Of course it’s me!”  He laughed, nearly shaking Phil from the seat atop his snout.  “Looks like things got a little weird this time.”

    “Yeah, no kidding.”

     “I said PUT HIM DOWN!” Mark bellowed again, charging at the dragon.  He swung the torch at it, scorching its foot.

    “OW!”

    “That’ll teach ya!  Drop him!”

    Drake swung his tail around and knocked Mark to the ground.  He plopped it on top of him, pinning him to the dirt.  He bent down in Mark’s face and growled, bearing his teeth.  Smoke rolled from between his fangs.  Phil, who was still seated between the creature’s nostrils, simply smiled and waved.

    “Phil!  Get away from it!  It’ll eat you!”  Mark was in a panic, trying to crawl from beneath the weight of the dragon’s tail.  It was an effort spent in vain.

    Paul ran to Mark’s aid, yanking on his legs.  Mark yelped in pain.

    “Hey!  Those are still attached!  OW!”

    “I’m just trying to help!”

    Jim grabbed his horn and began blowing on it, hoping to render the dragon helpless with its dulcet tones.

    Drake clasped his hands to the sides of his head, covering his ears.  “What is that awful noise?”

    “Little Boy Blue and his horn down there,” Phil answered, fingers in his own ears.

    The commotion was more than Drake’s nerves could handle.  He let out a great roar, silencing all of them.  They gaped at him, frightened.

    “Phil—It’s gonna eat you just like it ate Drake!” Mark cried.

    “I AM Drake!” the dragon boomed.  He sat on his back haunches, glaring at Mark.  “You can quit staring now.”

    “What happened to you?” Paul asked in a daze.  He still had a hold of Mark’s legs and was still trying to free him from the weight of the dragon’s tail.

    “Something got really screwed up this time,” Phil explained.  “He’s not quite himself.”

    “I’m fine….  It’s the rest of you I’m not so sure about!”  Drake scanned the cavern.  “You didn’t lose Smitty, too, did you?”

    “No, he’s outside,” Paul replied.  “His wings were tired.”

    Drake brightened noticeably.  He stood on all fours, spreading out a small span of the wings on his back.  “Is he a dragon, too?”

    “It’s a long story,” Phil sighed.

 

    Smitty was still firmly planted on the rock outside the cavern, exactly where the Raiders and Jim had left him.  He had a terrible feeling about this whole experience.  He rocked back and forth, wings buzzing, ears pinned back, and chanting, “Drake Drake Drake Drake….”

    He jumped the minute he heard the footsteps of the dragon crunching against the ground and the bones of knights past.  He quickly hid behind the rock, crouched as low to the ground as he could possibly get.  He saw the dragon creep from the cavern, expanding its wings and examining the woods for its next victim.

    “I knew this was a bad idea,” he said miserably.  He had heard a conflict inside the cave; he was certain his friends were no more.

    “Where is he?” Drake asked.  He looked at Phil, cross-eyed.  Phil was still perched on the dragon’s snout.

    “He was right over there when we left him…  Smitty?” 

    “Phil?”  Smitty’s head shot up, peeping over the rock.  He saw his friend riding on the dragon’s nose.  “Where are the others?”

    Phil pointed to the dragon’s tail.  Paul and Mark were seated on the end, while Jim was held around the waist by the curl at the tip of the creature’s tail.

    “But where’s Drake?”  Smitty stood, more concerned than ever.

    The dragon smiled.  “The pointed ears suit you, y’know that?”

    The elf pointed at Drake, stuttering.  He looked to Phil for an explanation.

    “Yeah, it’s Drake,” Phil said with a grin.

    “It just gets weirder and weirder…”  Smitty approached the dragon cautiously.  Drake lowered his head, while Phil pulled Smitty up by the arms.

 

    “So, now what?” Drake asked as he tromped through the forest.

    “We have to make it back to the time machine and get you back home,” Phil said.

    “How are we gonna fit him in there?” Paul asked.  “It’s not exactly roomy.”

    “He’s got a point.”  Drake paused, snorting out a puff of smoke.  “But I really don’t feel like staying here.”

    Jim, who was dangling at the end of Drake’s tail, was amazed.  “What wizardry did you work to tame the dragon?  What a feat!”

    “Wizardry?  What’s he talking about?” Drake questioned.

    “He’s a local,” said Paul.  He turned to Jim.  “It’s a spell from the Old Country, fella.”

    “A wonder to behold!  Bravo, Wizard!”

 

    As Drake made his way through the woods, he left deep footprints in the ground.  Any trees in his way were downed quickly and crushed to splinters underfoot.  He made sure to keep close tabs on his passengers, keeping them from falling off and being left behind…or squashed under his weight.  Being a dragon certainly gave him a new perspective on things.

                

                He stopped just a few feet short from the forest’s edge.  He sniffed the air.

                “Something smells funny.”

                “It’s probably just Paul—Those robes ARE awful heavy,” Mark laughed.

                “Oh yeah?”  Paul aimed an angry finger at Mark, swiftly replacing the hair on his head with a brown tabby cat.

                “HEY!”

                “Take it back!”

                “Alright!  Alright!  I take it back!”

                The cat disappeared and Mark’s hair returned, unscathed.  He felt over his head, reassuring himself it was really back.

                “Cool it, you two!” Drake snarled.  He cocked his head sideways, taking another whiff of the air.  “We gotta get outta here.”

                “What’s wrong?”

                “Yeah, what is it?”

                “It’s another dragon,” Drake replied very quietly.

                “Should you not be on good terms with another creature such as yourself?” asked Jim.

                “I’m a rock ‘n’ roller, not a lizard,” said the dragon, “and I’m not about to get acquainted with one.”  He turned sharply, picking up the pace.

                “Dragon at twelve o’clock!” Smitty shouted, pointing.

                “He’s right, guys!” Phil called to the men at the dragon’s tail.

                “Hang on tight!” Drake yelled.  He brought his speed up to a gallop, avoiding the other dragon as much as possible.

                The other dragon snarled and took off after Drake, determined to catch up with him.  It roared and gnashed its teeth.

                “What do we do?” Mark asked, his eyes wide with fear.  He clutched tightly to a spine on Drake’s tail.

                “Say your prayers, obviously!” Paul shouted, struggling to keep his seat.  “Can’t you move any faster, Levin?”

                “I’m going as fast as I can!” the dragon screamed angrily.

                The other dragon roared and blew smoke at the first one, choking Jim, Mark and Paul.  Paul waved his hat, trying to dispel the sulfur-scented fumes.

                Within seconds, the dragon was alongside Drake, still spewing smoke and flames.  It blew fire at Drake’s head; he turned quickly to avoid the blast.  Unfortunately, he jerked his head so fast that Smitty and Phil slipped.

                “YIKES!”  Smitty slid from his perch beside Phil and off the dragon’s snout.  His wings had been scorched, momentarily rendered useless for flying.

                Phil held fast to some of the scales on the dragon’s nose and reached to grab his friend.  He slipped past him.

                Even as a human, Drake had lightning fast reflexes.  No doubt the ability was doubled as a dragon.  In only a couple of seconds, he snagged Smitty by the very end of his tunic, catching him with his teeth.

                Phil was able to hang over the edge of the dragon’s snout and grab Smitty by the belt.  He helped him back up onto the dragon’s nose and they both made a scramble for the top of his head instead.

                The other dragon ran ahead of Drake, then stopped in front of him.  It stood on its hind legs, flapping its wings and shrieking.  Drake slid to a halt, his feet digging into the ground as he did so.

                “That’s one big dragon,” Phil said, gawking.

                “You don’t have to tell me twice,” Drake gasped.  He gaped at the other dragon, which looked to be twice his size.

                “What’s it want?” Paul asked.

                “That is the Gnorr dragon!” Jim called from the rear.  “I think the cavern you were in was his!”

                “Oh great, just what we need—A territorial dispute,” Mark grumbled.  “Can’t you tell it you’re sorry and let’s just go home?”

                The Gnorr dragon roared again, spitting fire at Drake.

                “I don’t think it’s gonna be that easy,” Drake said as he backed away.

                “Show it who’s boss, Levin!” Paul cheered.

                “Are you CRAZY?  I’ll get killed!”

                “Just trust me on this one, Kid!  Do what it’s doing—Put it in its place!”

                “The things I do to keep my job,” Drake sighed.  He swallowed hard, then stood on his hind legs and opened his mouth to roar.

                Paul sent a shower of sparks straight at Drake’s throat.

                White-hot flames erupted from the beast’s mouth, along with a deafening roar that matched that of at least a thousand lions.  When he quieted, he looked puzzled.

                The Gnorr dragon, on the other hand, backed away, cowering.  It tucked its tail between its legs and fled in the direction of its cavern.

    Drake still was puzzled.  “Did I do that?”

    “That was incredible!”  Phil patted Drake on the head.  “I didn’t know you had it in you!”

    “Way to go, Drake!” Paul yelled.  He knew a little embellishment on that roar wouldn’t hurt.  He didn’t remember adding fire breath to the spell, but maybe that was a side effect.  No matter—They were safe.

 

    They trekked back towards the village, ready to go home.  Phil had retrieved his beaten lute from his back and was still trying to plunk a decent song on it.

    “Why don’t you try something more traditional?” Smitty suggested.  “That might be easier on that thing.”

    Phil pondered the idea a moment, then strummed away.

    “King Henry’s wife, she had done him dirt…. For she’d sewn green sleeves on his yellow shirt…”

    Smitty raised an inquisitive eyebrow at him.  “Ahh…  Maybe you’d better stick to ‘Mean Woman Blues’ afterall.”

 

     “DRAGON!!!”

    “Dragon?  Where?”

    “DRAGON!!”

    The villagers ran for cover the moment they saw the greenish-gray beast heading toward them.  They hid their children; the men armed themselves.

    “What’s their problem?” Drake asked.

    “Oh, nothing, really….” Mark said with a bit of sarcasm.  “It’s just the fact that you could crush about six of them with your little toe…THAT’S all…”

    “It’s okay!  He’s friendly!” Phil shouted.  He sighted the villager they had met earlier.  “You there!”

    The panicked man stopped and looked at the dragon, who smiled at him.  He felt his blood run cold.

    “Up here!  Hello!” Phil continued to call.

    “You!” exclaimed the villager.  He spotted Smitty seated next to him.  “And the elf!  Did you find your missing knight?”

    “Sort of,” said Smitty.

    “I didn’t think you would bring back the dragon!  He’ll kill us!”

    Drake shook his head.  “Naaaaah…  That’s not my scene.”

    “He’s okay,” Paul yelled to the village man.  “He’s not into munching on little villagers.”

    The village man saw Jim dangling from the dragon’s tail as the beast moved past.  “If it isn’t the king’s old buffoon—Hello!”

    Jim kindly tipped his hat and smiled.

 

    “Where’s the machine this time?” Drake asked.  “Wait—Nevermind.  I see it.”

    As before, the contraption’s door was flapping open from what looked like blank space.  It was already beginning to fade; they would have to hurry to make it into the time portal.

    Drake lowered his head, allowing Phil to slide off.  He ran for the doorway; Smitty flew in right behind him.  Next, the dragon lowered his tail and Paul and Mark caught up with their other two band mates.

    “What do we do about Drake?” Phil asked, a look of grave worry on his face.  “He can’t fit in here like that!”

    “Paul—Change him back while you still can!” Mark yelled.

    “I’m not sure if I can.”  He looked at Drake, who was resting on the ground.  He seemed disheartened.  “I’ll see what I can do…”

    Paul waved his hands at Drake, shooting a weak trail of sparks in his direction.  Drake yelped and roared, his tail uncurling.  He dropped Jim, not realizing he still had his tail around him.

    “I don’t think it’s working,” Smitty observed.

    Paul tried again.  The dragon began to shrink in size.

    “C’mon, Drake!” Phil called.  He held onto the doorway, arms extended in order to help his friend.

    Drake was starting to look more like himself.  He made a leap for the doorway; Phil and Paul pulled him inside just as the door slammed shut.

    “You still look a little scaly there, Drake,” Mark teased.

    “Can it!”  He began scratching his arms and neck.  “I itch like crazy….”

 

     “Guys—You can’t convince me that the latch got stuck again,” Kip complained to the “time machine” door.  “What’s the hold-up?”

    The door flew open and the Raiders scattered from inside the prop.

    “What’s that all about?” Kip asked.

                “Drake’s got poison ivy!” Mark hissed, distancing himself from the remaining member in the time machine.

    “Poison ivy? How???”

    “I think it was that last thing we filmed,” Drake sighed, scratching his back and chest.  His skin looked somewhat rough, almost scaly.

    “With all the trees and ivy?”

    “It sure wasn’t English ivy, Kip.”  He hurried past him to the dressing room.

     Phil noticed Smitty kept jumping up and down, aggravated.

    “Smitty—They’re gone.”

    “Rats.  I kinda liked flying around.”

    “Wonder whatever happened to Jim?” Mark pondered.

                Paul shrugged.  “I’m not sure.”  He stole a glance at the “time machine,” almost sure he saw someone else coming out of it.  “But I get the feeling we might run into him again.”

          

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