"The Legend of Tony Jones"
By Mike Christopher

The mocking sounds of the boys?taunts followed Tony into the darkness of the cave. Tony paused momentarily, peering intently into the blackness before him. He could see nothing ahead—certainly not the crystals the boys had told him would be in the back of the cave. They’re probably just making it up, he thought. Seeing how stupid I am! Determined to prove his bravery, Tony firmed his resolve and pressed onward into the darkness of the low-ceilinged cave. A heavy muskiness lingered in the air, as if even fresh air was reluctant to enter the unknown depths.
Hands sliding along wet, slimy walls led Tony around a curve in the narrow tunnel, cutting off the last vestiges of light from the now distant entrance. Still the mocking voices followed him, echoing forward and back, forward and back; lashing Tony with wave after wave of the sort of casual cruelty boys his age were so very capable of. Being the new kid in town sucks, he thought. His hand slid through something soft and wet, clinging to his fingers. Grimacing invisibly in the solid dark, he wiped his hand on his jeans and continued on.
Why am I doing this? Am I this desperate for friends? He lost his footing and slid downward several yards, coming to rest none too gently against an unseen boulder. He lay still for a moment, listening to the sound of his own ragged breathing. The boys?could no longer be heard. Probably running back to town right now, he thought miserably, laughing all the way! Well—who needs ‘em! Tony felt his face settle into the scowl that his mother so hated. This is all her fault—if she hadn’t just had to take that new job, we never would have had to move to this stinky old town and I wouldn’t be stuck in a slimy dark cave trying to prove myself to a bunch of redneck punks!
Tony climbed to his feet, discovering several new cuts and bruises as he did so. He reached out to find the rocky wall, but his hands met nothing but the still, stale air of the cave. Stumbling blindly, momentarily panicked, Tony tripped over the boulder which had halted his earlier slide and tumbled face down into a pool of stagnant water. That’s it!
I’ve had enough! I’m going home! Tony pounded his fists in frustration, and only succeeded in further splashing himself with the frigid water. Hair dripping, the sharp tang of minerals on his lips, Tony stood once more and tried to figure out which direction was the way out.
A slight glow came from just ahead. Tony fervently hoped it was the light from the cave entrance, visible now that his eyes had become fully accustomed to the dark. Carefully, Tony eased his way blindly toward the dim light. Step by step he inched his way across what seemed to be a huge gulf of chill air. This is not the way I came, he thought. Where’s the slope I slid down? The glow before him brightened, and he could soon make out the rough textures of a rocky wall ahead of him. The source of the light seemed to be hidden beyond a curve in the passage ahead, dimly glistening off the wet rock before him.
Tony moved faster as his eyes began to see the rock-strewn floor beneath his feet. He reached the wall and squeezed his way into the narrow passage revealed by the dim glow coming from beyond. Finally breaking free of the claustrophobic grip of the rock walls, Tony found himself in a dead end chamber. The light was coming from clusters of glowing crystals sprouting from the rock at all angles. He looked around, seeing no exit other than the narrow cleft through which he had entered. Great—just great. Now what? He eyed the crystals glowing dimly all around him. Well, he thought, at least they weren’t lying about the crystals.
He reached toward a nearby cluster, hesitating when the crystals began to grow brighter as his hand came closer. What’s making them glow? Crystals are just rocks and rocks do not glow! Maybe they’re radioactive, he thought with a sudden wash of uneasiness. He pulled his hand away from the crystals and the glow faded to its previous level. Looking back at the pitch black beyond the cleft, he realized he still had to find his way back out through the dark cave. Standing in the warm radiance of the crystals, he suddenly dreaded the idea of returning to that darkness.
The crystals…maybe they can light my way back! His previous unease forgotten, Tony reached out to grasp the largest single crystal he could find. The crystal’s glow intensified once more as his fingers neared its sparkling surface?


Far, far away, deep within the hollow core of the moon called Magi-Nation, Agram begins his enchantment. He calls upon the power embedded in the animite walls of the Core itself and concentrates on giving birth to the first of his carefully designed Shadow Geysers, his pathway to freedom. The animite core begins to vibrate with power—a deep-rooted resonation that slowly builds until the hollow core of the moon rings like the tolling of a monstrous bell—wave after wave of magical energy emanating across space, and resoundingly echoing across the unformed vastness of the Dream Plane itself?/div>


Tony’s finger’s brushed the now brilliantly glowing crystal just as a deep rolling roar of a sound began to build within the cave—coming from everywhere and nowhere. The floor of the cave shuddered violently and Tony swayed to regain his balance. An earthquake! I have to get out of here now, he thought. The ground rippled beneath his battered sneakers and the sound roared and crashed around him. He quickly reached out and gripped the largest crystal firmly and broke it off at its base. The crystal shone like a tiny star as he held it aloft and turned to retrace his steps.
Stones began to fall from the ceiling, pelting Tony’s head and shoulders and catching in the hood of his thick red sweatshirt. The deep ringing sound rolled through Tony’s bones as the air within the cave began to fill with glimmering lights. Tony leaped for the narrow cleft; his only thought to leave the cave before it all came crashing down about his head. Then the walls of the cleft were pressing against him as he desperately squeezed his slight frame through. Tiny sparkling lights darted before his eyes, filling the narrow space with brilliance. Shock waves passed through the unyielding rock pressed against his chest and back, his hands and feet scrabbling desperately for the leverage to free himself from the grip of the collapsing cave.
Tiny lights filled his vision, and the sound rose and rose to become the single thundering focal point of his awareness. The pressure on his torso slid away and he felt as if he were falling, falling, falling. And then, his consciousness was snatched up, up and away; spiraling heedlessly into a maelstrom of light and sound until it was lost and tiny and nothing much at all amidst the whirling chaos that had become all and everything.


Grass. Yes—that’s the smell, grass and…and…dried leaves? And that sound…running water? Some kind of birdsong? Warm and…wet…I think. Tony cracked open one eye only to be blinded by a sudden stab of painfully bright sunshine. Bright! And warm…so warm. A rustling sound nearby brought his thoughts into sudden focus.
He struggled to push himself up, bringing one arm up to shield his eyes against the glaring light. Carefully, he looked around. His feet were dangling in the warm water of a small river, while the rest of him sat on the muddy grass of the bank. All around, huge trees rose toward the sky, leaving only a small clearing in the leafy canopy through which the sun shone brightly. What happened? How did I get out of the cave?
The rustling sound came again, from just behind. Tony turned, aching muscles protesting the sudden movement. Tangled brush blocked his vision; he could see nothing. I’d better get home, he decided, and crawled slowly to his feet to stand blinking in the leaf-dappled sunshine of the forest. Which way is home? Shrugging, he picked a direction and began walking. The underbrush was thicker than he remembered. A cramping in his right hand caused him to notice that he still held the crystal from the cave—his knuckles were white with the tightness of his grip. He forced his hand to relax and held the crystal up before his eyes. In the light of day, its glow had disappeared, leaving just a faint bluish tint to the otherwise translucent stone. Well, at least it wasn’t a total loss, he reassured himself as he tucked the crystal into his pocket.
Looking around, he began to notice his surroundings in more detail, noting that the trees seemed much larger than he remembered. And what’s with these weird leaves? Tony paused to examine a huge glossy leaf hanging down into his path. It was almost as wide as the length of his arm from wrist to shoulder. I don’t remember the leaves being so BIG!
Tony pushed aside the leaf to continue his hike, and found a hideous face snarling back at him. Glowing eyes burned beneath a thick brow. Tony jumped back in alarm as the terrible visage parted its thin black lips to reveal huge, crooked yellow teeth. Hideous green flesh was pulled tight across a misshapen skull, atop which sat a battered red helmet sprouting tiny little bat wings. Its breath smelled like rotting garbage.
Frightened, Tony turned to run, only to stumble over a second monstrous apparition blocking him from behind. This one was much shorter than Tony, but uglier still than the first—if such a thing were possible. This new menace leered up at Tony, its teeth even larger and more stained than those of its companion. Two prominent horns spread out from either side of its scaly green skull—giving it a decidedly sinister appearance.
Heart pounding, Tony realized he was trapped. He whirled as the creature behind him advanced. It raised a knobby, clawed hand and scowled. A huge ring upon one of its fingers began to glow. The short creature grabbed Tony’s legs from behind and pulled him off his feet before he could react. Then it hopped across his legs and joined its much taller companion. It reached up and grabbed the huge tattered cape of the tall one and snarled something in a strange language. The larger monster laughed in reply—an evil sounding chuckle, which did nothing at all to reassure Tony.
Tony scrambled to his feet just as the big monster’s ring began to shine brightly, emitting a low sound like the howling of distant winds. A dark shape began to form in mid-air between Tony and his assailants. Tony backed further away as the shape began to take on form and substance, sprouting dark jagged wings and a long sinuous body. A slitted tongue darted from between black lips.
With a mighty flapping of leathery wings, the new monstrosity rose into the air, its reptilian eyes never leaving Tony. It hovered momentarily and began to dive. Tony finally recovered from his fear enough to regain the use of his legs. Turning, he dove into the heavy foliage, hoping to lose the monsters in the dense underbrush. Within seconds, however, the winged beast was upon him. Its heavy talons raked his shoulders, once again knocking him to his feet. He was filled with a sudden weakness and fought against an urge to be sick. Glancing up, Tony saw the monster swoop around a tree just ahead and head back in for another pass.
Desperately, Tony searched the nearby forest floor for something, anything, with which to fight off the beast. There were no large sticks or fallen branches nearby, only soft mounds of moss and forest wildflowers. Tony’s mind raced as he struggled to his feet once again. The monster was almost upon him. At the last moment before it struck, Tony dove behind the nearest tree, avoiding the ebony talons. The creature shrieked in rage at its prey’s narrow escape and whirled for yet another attack.
Tony turned and ran. He ran as he had never run before. Ducking branches, dodging gnarled roots and leaping fallen limbs, he fled. The sounds of pursuit from behind told him that the two monsters on foot were following him as well. Ahead, the trees thinned as the forest parted to allow the passage of a wide river—presumably the same river he had found himself next to when he first awoke. Not wishing to be caught in the open, Tony swerved to head deeper into the huge trees.
Without warning, the flying monster slammed into his back once more. He felt the fabric of his clothing rip as the grabbing claws barely missed his flesh. The claws sank deep into the hood of his sweatshirt, and the beast pulled up, taking Tony with it. From below, he could hear the grotesque laughter of his other pursuers. Feet flailing in mid-air, Tony reached up to pound ineffectually against the tough claws of his captor. As he raised his arms, he fell right out of his shirt and went plummeting to the ground below. He landed against a huge upraised root and bounced gracelessly down its length to land in a spongy bank of moss. The pungent scent of crushed vegetation filled his nostrils as he took stock of his condition. Battered, bruised and now shirtless, Tony was frightened and confused beyond anything he had ever experienced.
A shriek from above reminded him that he had not yet escaped. Ignoring his aches and pains, he took off through the trees once more. He had no idea of where to go, his only thought was to remain out of reach. A tree blocked his path and he began leaping its gigantic roots to go around it when he ran headlong into the first two monsters. The big one grabbed for him and Tony barely avoided the huge swiping hand. He fell backward over a root. The crystal slid from his pocket to bounce off his chest before landing awkwardly on Tony’s face. He grabbed the crystal, having forgotten all about it. The two monsters loomed above him, while the flying one was hovering just above their heads. They were all staring at the crystal.
Why aren’t they attacking? Tony lifted the crystal toward his attackers, and to his surprise, they retreated a few paces. Are they afraid of this crystal? Tony looked directly at the crystal. It had begun to glow brightly in his hand—the way it had back in the darkness of the cavern. Blue light began streaming from between his fingers with a cold, furious presence. Hey—maybe I can scare them off with it!
Tony sat up, holding the glowing stone before him. The monsters backed off further. Back on his feet, Tony waved the crystal menacingly toward them. The small one again shouted something in a strange language, and the flying monster dove again. So much for that idea, thought Tony. I need something to fight with! A weapon!
As abruptly as the thought came into his head, the crystal in his hand began to tremble beneath his fingers. A distant roaring sound came to his ears as he dove to avoid the clutches of the flying monster. The claws raked his bare shoulders and once again he felt the crippling weakness wash through him. What’s going on? He looked around once more for anything to use to defend himself. I need a weapon—a BIG one.
With a great sound like the clanging of a million bells, the crystal exploded in his hand, becoming a blinding ball of light. The light dimmed as swiftly as it had appeared, leaving behind a gigantic furred beast with daunting wooden antlers spreading from either side of its massive head. Not another one! Tony despaired. The new beast regarded him calmly from huge liquid green eyes. A soft blue pelt covered its gigantic bear-like body from nose to tail. Its muzzle parted to reveal brilliant white teeth and its breath spilled across Tony’s nose, a scent of crushed clover and fresh earth filled his nostrils. It dipped its great head and swiped its huge black nose gently across Tony’s cheek—before turning to face the other strange creatures. Dazed and terribly confused, Tony retreated behind a sheltering root and watched as the flying monster turned its attentions to the huge shaggy beast which had come from his crystal.
The piercing screech of the flying monster was drowned by a terrific bellow of rage issuing from the lips of the antlered beast. The new beast leaped to meet the flyer in mid-air, their bodies coming together in a startling flash of multi-colored light. The abrupt tang of ozone filled the air. Shielding his eyes against the brilliance, Tony had a vague impression of flapping wings, gnashing teeth, ebony claws, and blue-furred paws all whirling in a frantic dance of clashing and burning energy. Then, as suddenly as it had all begun, it was over. With a final explosion of light, the winged monster seemed to disintegrate, and the furry blue thing was standing alone confronting the first two creatures.
For the their part, Tony’s original attackers were now shaking in their skins as they beheld the huge beast glaring angrily down at them from its twelve foot height. The small one was jabbering in its weird language, holding its hands out as if in entreaty. The big one just stood there with its mouth open, a rivulet of drool spilling unheeded onto its tattered cloak. They’re afraid of it! Tony regained his courage as he watched the blue beast intimidate the monsters. Maybe this weird blue thing is actually my friend!
He stepped forward from his hiding place and moved to stand beside the big furry creature. His head barely reached the beast’s shoulder—and its huge shaggy head loomed far above, its two long antlers spreading like branches across the forest ceiling. As Tony approached, the blue beast glanced at him momentarily and dipped its head in acknowledgement. Then, turning back to the monsters, it opened its mouth and blasted them with a bone-jarring roar. The terrified monsters were plastered to the tree at their backs with the force of the great sound—and when it had ended, they both lost their nerve and scattered in opposite directions. Tony watched them disappear into the surrounding forest, immensely relieved to see them flee.
The huge blue beast now calmly turned to gaze down at Tony. Its eyes were now gentle and Tony was not afraid of it, although he remained very confused.
“Uh…h...hello.?Tony stammered. “My name is T…Tony.? The beast remained placid, its eyes never leaving Tony and standing very still. Maybe it isn’t very smart, he thought. Like a big dog or something. He looked the beast over. Despite its gigantic stature, the thing was now exuding an air of…of…well, cuddliness. Tony approached carefully, and reached out his hand to touch the pale blue fur of the beast’s great mane. The fur was soft and silky, but also filled with the crackle of static electricity as he ran his hand through the strands. He looked back up into its surprisingly gentle face.
“Well, you’re certainly too big to take home,?he joked. “Mom would never let me keep you!?Tony smiled. The great shaggy head tilted to one side, cocking its head exactly like a curious dog.
“Umm…I’m sort of lost and I need to start finding my way back home…so, I’d better get going.?Tony felt sort of sad at the thought of leaving this strange new friend behind. He reached out to stroke the soft fur of its mane once more. “Uh…thanks for rescuing me from those weird guys.?
“You are welcome…Tony.?The deep booming voice caught Tony utterly unaware. He jumped back and stared up at the beast in amazement.
“You…you can talk!?/div>
The beast did not answer immediately, but looked thoughtful instead. “Yes, I suppose I can?was its eventual reply.
“Umm…what ARE you? And what were those things chasing me??/div>
Again, the beast hesitated. “I am not sure,?it finally said.
“Not sure of what? What those things were or what YOU are??/div>
“I do not know, Tony.?/div>
“Well then, how did you get here—where did you come from??/div>
Once again came the thoughtful silence. “I think you called me.?/div>
“Huh?? Tony tried to remember. The chase through the forest had happened so fast—it was all a blur. He mostly just remembered being scared. “I…don’t remember calling for you. I’ve never even seen anything like you before.?/div>
The great blue beast shrugged its shoulders. “I do not remember anything before…before you called for my assistance.?/div>
Tony sat down on a large root and stared up into the liquid emerald eyes of his new companion, all thoughts of home pushed aside in the light of this new mystery. He shook his head. “I’m so confused,?he admitted. “You say you don’t remember anything before I supposedly called you. Does that mean you don’t remember who and what you are? Where you came from??/div>
“Yes.? The beast was silent for another long moment. “I have the feeling that I did not exist until just now. Beyond that, I have no explanation.?/div>

          ?Tony lapsed into a reflective silence. His thoughts were a jumble of questions with no answers. It was into this thoughtful silence that a new sound intruded. Someone clearing their throat. Both boy and beast jumped at the noise and turned to face a strange man standing beside the trunk of a nearby tree.

“Pardon my intrusion, young man. I have been watching for some time, and I think I may have the answers to some of your questions.?Tony examined the man as he approached. He was tall and muscular, with long brown hair and a rugged beard. There was something very peculiar about him, though. His eyes were much larger than any man Tony had ever seen—but they looked somehow natural upon this stranger’s craggy face. He leaned on an intricately carved staff as he made his way toward them, his flowing cape shifting in the light forest breeze. Tony’s lost sweatshirt dangled over his arm.
Tony’s hopes surged. Perhaps this man could help him find the way back home. “Hello—I’m Tony. Who are you??/div>
The stranger’s large eyes were wide as they gazed down on Tony from the man’s imposing height. “I am Eidon, the Keeper of Naroom. I believe this is yours.? He handed Tony the sweatshirt. Tony was relieved to see it had suffered only minor damage. He eagerly pulled it on over his head, glad of the warmth it provided against the slight chill of the forest air.
“Thanks! Naroom? What’s that??/div>
Eidon gestured to the surrounding forest. “The great forest region.?He eyed Tony even more intensely than before, then nodded as if confirming some idea to himself. “Yes—I can see that you would not know. You must have many questions, young man.?/div>
Tony nodded. He didn’t even know where to begin asking! Eidon turned his gaze for the first time to the blue beast. “Amazing—simply amazing…” he whispered. “An art so long lost—actual REAL magining! I KNEW it was possible—I just KNEW it!?/div>
“Magining? What’s that??asked a bewildered Tony.
Eidon tore his rapt gaze away from the blue beast to look at Tony as he replied, “Magining is the ability to create something real from your imagination. Just as you created this blue furok here.?Eidon gestured toward the blue beast.
“Furok? Is that what this thing is??/div>
Eidon nodded excitedly. “Well, it has the basic shape of the type of dream creature we call a furok, but I have never seen one so large nor this color. The furok we possess are all gray or tan or brown. No—this one is something entirely new. You magined it yourself—I saw you do it. And without even using a ring! Just that big chunk of animite you were holding on to!?/div>
Tony held up his hands—the stranger’s words were posing far more questions than answers and he was starting to feel overwhelmed. “Wait…wait…stop! You’re saying I created this thing??/div>
The blue beast shifted its balance and nodded, antlers bobbing over Tony and Eidon’s heads below. “I thought so too…I…I felt it to be so.?/div>
Eidon replied, “Yes, you created it. It has been said that our ancient ancestors had the power to make their imaginings into reality—but we have long since lost this ability. The most we can do at present is to call forth those imaginary creations which already exist in the Dream Plane.?Eidon shook his head in wonder. “Never have I seen or heard of someone making something new! You are very special, young man—and I think I know why.?/div>
Tony sighed. Undoubtedly his next question would bring up still more questions and no answers. “Okay—why? Do you know how I got here??/div>
Eidon shrugged. “There is a difference in the energy you possess. I can feel it. I t reminds me of the feeling I find when examining artifacts of the ancients.? Eidon noted Tony’s look of confusion and hurried on, “As to how you came to be here, I am not sure exactly—but there has been strange magic afoot. The Core is stirring and disturbing the Dream Plane. You appeared with the last and greatest of these disturbances. Those magi who chased you were Agram’s henchmen, evidence that the Core is behind the Dream Plane disruptions. We’re still trying to figure out how they came to be here on the surface, rather than trapped in the Core.?Eidon paused to look Tony up and down. “I would wager you were brought here by that chunk of animite you used to create the furok. It must have responded to the disturbances in the Dream Plane. How did you come to possess such a large piece of animite??/div>
Tony ignored Eidon’s last question. “Why are you so sure I’m not from around here??/div>
“It is apparent that you are not from this moon. Your body is too thin and your eyes too small.?Eidon’s eyes grew even larger as he suddenly looked at Tony’s hands. He reached out to grab Tony’s right hand.
“Hey!? Tony had just about had enough of this strange man’s enigmatic speech.
“I meant no offense. You are a stranger here. But…look!?Eidon held up the hand he had tried to grab Tony’s with. The fingers were large and well formed—but there were only three, plus a thumb!
“Aaagh!? Tony reeled back, almost falling from his perch atop the root. “You only have three fingers!?Eidon held up his other hand. It was the same. Three fingers and a thumb. It did not seem to be a deformity, however. It was apparently natural.
“You have four fingers upon each hand. My people have only three. We are not the same.?/div>
The reality of Tony’s dilemma was truly sinking in. He began to feel fear once more. Eidon’s intensity decreased as he saw Tony’s obvious distress. His voice was gentler as he replied, “It does not matter how you came to be here, so much as that you are here now—and you possess the power of the ancients.?/div>
“The power to create from your dreams or imagination.?/div>
“But…you said you’ve seen fru…furks…whatever…before,?Tony gestured to the blue beast, now sitting on its haunches and listening intently.
“Furok. Yes—but as I told you…never one like this!?Eidon’s arm waved expansively to indicate the gigantic creature beside them. “What did you think about when you called the furok??/div>
Tony thought about it. He certainly had not been thinking of anything like this strange blue thing next to him! “Well…I guess I was just wishing I had something to defend myself with—a weapon or something.?/div>
Eidon nodded. “Well then, using the power of that animite crystal you were holding, you unconsciously tapped into the Dream Plane and found the basic pattern of a furok, but your own special powers altered that pattern to make it bigger and blue! No one has done even such a small alteration in the dream patterns in the past 3000 years!?/div>
Tony shook his head once more. He didn’t remember doing anything of the sort! This was getting nowhere. “Do you know how I can get home??/div>
Eidon shook his head. That I do not know, but if you’re arrival is tied in with the magical meddlings in the Core—then I can only presume that your destiny is tied in with whatever dark plot Agram is brewing.?/div>
Tony would have asked who Agram was and what was the Core—but he was tired of confusing answers. He looked up at the furok who was sitting quietly. The great beast’s breath could be clearly heard in the quiet forest, the mighty lungs pulling air in and pushing it out again like a bellows. Again, he caught the faint scent of crushed clover and fresh earth—reminding Tony of lazy summer days spent at his grandparent’s farm when he was younger. Despite the strangeness of all that was happening to him—Tony now felt a strange comfort in the furok’s presence.
As if sensing his thoughts, the furok lowered its muzzle to Tony’s face. Its emerald eyes glowed faintly with an inner light, but they seemed warm and gentle nonetheless. “Are you alright, Tony??came the soft boom of his new friend’s voice.
Tony hung his head wearily. “I don’t know…” he sighed. “I’m very confused—one minute I was exploring a cave back home, and the next I’m here being chased by monsters and then you came and…” Tony glanced up at Eidon. “…and then you show up and tell me all sorts of weird stuff that doesn’t make sense, and…” He hung his head again. “I just don’t know. I want to go home.?/div>
Eidon replied softly, “Of course you do, young man. I must apologize. I can get…er, carried away…in my excitement at times.?Eidon moved closer and knelt down to meet Tony’s gaze at eye level. “You must be confused and frightened. Those things will pass with time—but for now we can see to your immediate comfort.? He stood and looked up at the furok. “The two of you should follow me back to the village of Vash Naroom where we can get him some food and a place to rest.?
The furok nodded in agreement. “I think that is a good plan. How far is it??/div>
“A half day’s journey.?Eidon looked to the sky between the overhanging leaves. “I believe we can be there by nightfall if we depart now. Follow me.?He turned to leave.
“Tony, let’s do as he suggests. I trust this man, although I am not sure where the feeling comes from.?The furok’s head remained lowered to Tony’s.
Tony nodded agreement and rose from his resting place. Together and in thoughtful silence, the unlikely trio set off into the forest of what Tony now knew to be another world altogether. He felt very alone and worried, but he took comfort in the reassuring presence of the furok. As the day progressed, Tony quickly tired. The newness of the world around him, coupled with the fear and confusion he had faced earlier, had drained him of his usual reserves of youthful energy. When he finally stumbled and landed on his face in a patch of soft moss, the furok urged him to climb atop his broad back and ride the rest of the way. Lowering his mighty head and dipping his antlers to the ground, the furok presented Tony with a convenient ladder to ascend.
And so it was that Tony was fast asleep, half-buried in the soft clean blue fur of the furok’s back, as they rode into the great forest city of Vash Naroom for the first time. He missed the sight of the towering trees crowded with wooden homes and shops, the connecting bridges soaring gracefully overhead, the spiraling stairs arcing grandly up the enormous trunks and the twinkle of hundreds of lanterns hanging from every branch and limb and railing to hold off the approaching night.
When he awoke in the morning, he would find himself in a comfortable bed in a cozy inn, welcomed by a hearty breakfast and surrounded by the magi of Naroom who would grow to be his closest friends in the adventures to come. And the rest is, well—history.
But for that moment of first arrival, it was enough just to sleep soundly, letting his worries vanish in the land of dreams; to rest safe and secure in the presence of a most unusual new friend.

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