Bastian Balthazar Bux has returned to the land of the Neverending Story but now has found that through the power of the mystical AURYN, he can travel between any literary world that exists. But this new power has awakened a new force of evil, the Wicked Witch of the Southwest, who has stolen AURYN and plans to use its powers to conquer every world, starting with Oz.
Fortunately, Bastian has assembled a team of heroes to help retake AURYN, if they can only just start believing in themselves...
Knights of the Neverending Story #13
"The Oz War, Part Three"
The mutated monster that was formerly known as Tiny Tim carried the unconscious Bastian and George into the witch's castle, tossing them both to the ground before bowing to his queen.
"Very good, Tim," the Wicked Witch said as her guards came in to take the two captives away. "I think I like having you around so much, that I might just transform the rest of these little do-gooders into monstrous beasts, as well. After all, my winged monkey army can only be spread so thin as we conquer future worlds, we'll need more help. But for now, we'll just keep these two alive until we can get the rest of their friends."
"I think that distraction worked a little too well," Mike said as he opened the door with little trouble. The last he saw of Bastian and George was something large flying in their direction. "I just hope that our friends are okay."
"Bastian's survived worse, like, way, WAY worse," Nibs said as they looked around. "We just need to find the others and then-," Nibs was cut short as they rounded the corner and found an army of Winkie guards and winged monkeys waiting for them. "Damn."
"You're not even the tiniest bit upset that I'm in love with a boy?" Huck asked as he snuck through the back with Tom and Dorothy.
"Why would I be?" Tom asked. "I don't care who you love, Huck, as long as he's good to you. You're my best buddy, I just want the best for you. And this Nibs person better be the best, or he'll have to deal with me."
"Can we discuss this later?" Dorothy asked. "We've got a blood-thirsty all-powerful witch that needs to be dealt with."
"And she's got Tiny Tim here somewhere, he's probably so scared right now," Huck told them as they headed up the stairs.
"Looks like you got a lot of tales to tell me when we get out of this," Tom told him. "I just wish I'd been there with you."
"I know, buddy, but there'll be plenty of time later to catch up," Huck said.
Bastian and George woke up in a cell, with Tiny Tim standing guard nearby.
"Tim?" Bastian asked as he tried to get the monster's attention. "It's me, Bastian. Your friend, remember? What did that witch do to you?"
"It's some kind of hex," George told him. "She's cursed him."
"Can you fix it?" Bastian asked.
"Only a powerful wizard could undo a curse of this size," George said. "I keep telling you that you've brought the wrong person with you."
"The Childlike Empress is never wrong. She led us to you, George. You're the one we need, you just need to find your self-confidence,"
"That died the day my brother did,"
"I don't believe that," Bastian said as he stared at George. "You are a powerful wizard, George. I've read the books, I know you can do this."
"I don't even have my wand anymore," George told him. "It's outside somewhere."
"Can you perform magic with something else?"
"Then let's get out of here, maybe the witch has something you could use to reverse what she did to Tiny Tim,"
"I'm not afraid of any winged monkeys!" Nibs said as he cracked his knuckles. "This is for our friends!"
"Nibs, wait!" Mike shouted. "It's just the two of us, and we have no weapons!"
Nibs just smiled at him. "Bastian told me about you and the world you come from, Mike. He says you're one of the smartest kids from that story you come from. We don't need weapons, we can use our brains to beat them."
Mike looked around the room, seeing what they had to work with.
"Okay, let's do it,"
"Are you sure about this, Bastian?"
"We can't get through to Tiny Tim, so that leaves us one option for getting out of here," Bastian said, having taken his shoes and socks off, along with everything in his pockets. "Let's do this. Hey, big and ugly!"
Bastian tossed a rolled up sock, hitting Tim in the back of the head. The monster turned around, just in time for George to hit him right in the face with one of his socks. The monster started growling as Bastian laughed.
"That's right, I'm talking to you!" Bastian said as he tossed another sock. "What are you going to do about it?"
George beaned him in the head with another sock as the creature started fuming.
"Yeah, you're really not going to like this, then," Bastian said as he tossed his sneaker, hitting Tim in the nose. "Got plenty more where that came from, big boy!"
The creature roared as he flew toward the cage, bursting through the metal bars like tin foil. George climbed onto Tim's back and used his sweater to blindfold the creature, who started thrashing around.
"Let's roll!" Bastian shouted as the rushed out of the cell while Tim tried to get the blindfold off of his face. "Let's get AURYN back."
The winged monkeys lay scattered across the room, having been knocked out through a combination of a fallen chandelier and the two boys tricking the rest into punching each other unconscious. Nibs, Mike, and Terrance looked around at their fallen enemies before running up the stairs.
"The witch's chamber is through there," Dorothy said as she led Tom & Huck down the corridor. "We just have to be really careful, she's got the silver slippers and that medallion, plus all of Glinda's magic."
"Enough to conquer every world," Huck said as he looked at Tom. "If we charge in there, just the three of us, we probably won't come out alive."
"Then let's die saving the world," Tom told him. "Ain't no one better to die with than your best friend, right?"
"Damn right," Huck said. "Let's go kick some ass."
The trio snuck into the chamber, finding the witch staring into her globe.
"The portal will soon be open," the Wicked Witch said. "The first world after Oz will be Fantasia. I'll overrun that world will enough beasts that they'll never be able to mount a counter-attack."
"We've gotta stop her from opening that portal," Huck said. "Any suggestions, Dorothy? Dorothy?"
Dorothy stepped out and was walking toward the Wicked Witch with her bo staff drawn.
"This is where your story ends, witch!" Dorothy said. "This is for Glinda! Turn and face me!"
The Wicked Witch just started laughing as she stood with her back to Dorothy.
"Stupid child. Did you really think you made it all this way without my knowledge? I let you in," the doors closed and barricaded themselves as Tom and Huck looked around for a way out. "Once I kill the Queen of Oz, any and all resistance to me will cease. I will truly be all powerful without even having to lift a finger, and all I have to do is have your head to show the world."
"You want my head?" Dorothy asked as she twirled her staff. "You have to come take it."
"Very well," the Wicked Witch said as she turned around, tossing a bolt of energy towards Dorothy, who swung and knocked it away.
"You'll have to try harder than that,"
"If you insist,"
The Wicked Witch held out her hand and moved the table that Tom and Huck were hiding behind. "Perhaps I'll start with a little target practice."
"I can't move my feet," Huck said as he tried to run.
"Me, neither!" Tom said as the two found themselves stuck in place.
"You can't save them both," the Wicked Witch said. "Although you're welcome to try."
"Hey!" Nibs shouted as he flew through the window with Mike and Terrance. "No one threatens my boyfriend! That- that is what we are, right?"
"It is now," Huck told him as Nibs blushed.
"Alright, enough of that," Mike said, pulling out George's wand, having gone back to get it after finding the door sealed.
"And what do you plan on doing with that?" the Wicked Witch asked.
"Just watch," Mike said as he held up the wand. "I'm going to summon a dragon!"
"You're pathetic, you have no powers!" the Wicked Witch laughed as a rumbling sound was heard. The roof of the palace opened up as Falkor, with Atreyu on his back, flew around the sky. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys were also there for support, keeping the winged monkey army at bay. Atreyu jumped down, with his bow and arrow drawn.
"The odds aren't in your favor anymore, are they?" Atreyu asked. "Where is Bastian?"
A pounding came at the wall as Tiny Tim burst through, falling to the ground. Bastian and George peeked their heads in.
"Huh, didn't think that would work a second time," Bastian said as the two ran in. "Sorry we're late to the party."
"Is that my wand?" George asked as Mike tossed it to him. "Much obliged."
"Hand over AURYN," Bastian said. "The fight is over."
"It's far from over," the Wicked Witch said as she sent out a powerful echoing blast that knocked everyone to the ground. The blast was so powerful it sent Falkor crashing to the ground outside, and Peter and the Lost Boys crashing into the room. "You don't get it, do you? I possess all the magic! You pathetic mortals are powerless against me!"
"No, they're not," George said as he stood up. Terrance landed on his shoulder as George looked down at him. "Our magic isn't the most powerful, but our friends believe in us."
"How pathetic," the Wicked Witch said as she raised her arms, sending glass shards flying everywhere, George quickly raised his wand and sent out a wave of blue energy, causing the shards to turn into feathers.
"How did you do that?" Terrance asked.
"I think it's our magic working together," George told him. "Think we can take her?"
"Let's find out," Terrance said as he flew onto George's wand.
The Wicked Witch sent out a powerful blast of energy toward George. He took a deep breath and held his wand out, hoping he could pull off this spell.
A powerful surge of white light flew out of George's wand, repelling the Wicked Witch's blast. The surge sent the witch flying back, with AURYN sliding across the room, where Bastian quickly scooped it up. As the white light began to fade, George saw the form of his brother in the light. Tears started flowing as George ran toward it.
"Don't go!" George pleaded. "I need you!"
"You don't need me," Fred said, smiling. "You did great, brother. I'm proud of you. Never forget me."
"I won't," George said as he reached out his hand, but Fred's hand faded, along with the rest of him.
The group surrounded the witch, with Dorothy coming through with her bo staff, holding one end of it at the witch's throat. "It's over."
"It's never over," the Wicked Witch said. "I'll destroy you all! I'll-"
The sounds of thunder were heard as a rain started pouring down in the sky.
"NO!" the Wicked Witch shouted as she started melting. "It can't end like this! I'll be back! I'll get my revenge!"
"Sure you will," Bastian said as he held AURYN in his hand. He stepped toward the monstrous form of Tiny Tim while looking at George. "I think I might need help with this one. I don't know if AURYN is powerful enough," Bastian closed his eyes and started wishing. "Bring our friend back to the way he was."
AURYN started glowing as Tiny Tim's monstrous form started shrinking down until he was the size of a small boy again. Huck grabbed a blanket and covered the boy's nude form.
"Is he going to be okay?" Dorothy asked as Huck scooped Tiny Tim up into his arms.
"We get the kid some pants, yeah, he'll be right as rain," Huck said as Tiny Tim started moaning. "It's okay, you're with your friends again, where you belong."
Bastian looked down at the witch's remains, then up into the sky, where the winged monkey army started crumbling into ash, washing away in the rain.
"Oz is safe, thanks to all of you," Dorothy told the group. "Thank you."
"Then it looks like there's only one thing left to do," Bastian said.
Everyone had gathered in Fantasia, as the Childlike Empress held a ceremony to honor the heroes who had saved every world in the Literary Universe. As she went down the line, she put medals around the neck of the heroes of Fantasia.
"Bastian Balthazar Bux,
Dorothy, Queen of Oz,
and last, but not least, Falkor.
The brave heroes who banded together to save Fantasia, and every world, from the threat of the Wicked Witch. I dub all of you the Knights of the Neverending Story. From this day forward, you will all be the protectors of not only this realm, but every world that needs a hero."
The heroes took their bow as they were applauded. Bastian looked sad as he looked at the Childlike Empress.
"What is wrong, Bastian?"
"This all started because of me," Bastian told her as he handed AURYN to her. "I don't deserve AURYN. I only made a mess of things."
"AURYN chose you, Bastian," the Childlike Empress said. "It is yours to wield until the day comes that a new champion is chosen. Until then, AURYN is a part of you. Learn from your mistakes, Bastian. Grow as a hero, and as the leader of your team."
"My... team?" Bastian asked as he looked at his friends.
"There will be other adventures, other threats," the Childlike Empress told them. "The worlds are now connected through AURYN. All of you may come and go from Fantasia as you please through secret doorways in your own worlds."
Bastian looked at all of his friends. "You know, I can't stay in Fantasia forever. Eventually, I have to go home to my Dad and real life, so I guess I should choose a second in command. Huck, you really stepped up and kept everyone together. How would like to be in charge when I'm not here?"
"I'd be honored, Bastian," Huck told him as they shook hands and hugged. "Thank you."
"George, about your brother-," Bastian started to say.
"I know, he's gone," George said. "But it's okay, I guess going on this wild ride really helped give me closure. I know he's always going to be with me now, no matter what. Thank you for helping me see that."
"Atreyu, I know about your little brother," Bastian said. "We experience everything the other goes through now. But maybe I can use AURYN to-"
"No, Bastian, what's done is done," Atreyu told him. "I did what I did to help you. I will miss my adopted brother, but he is in a better place now."
"Are you ever to get a replacement shirt?"
"No, this is a reminder of what I lost," Atreyu told him. Bastian reached over and hugged him.
"I'm coming back soon, my friend, and we'll have more adventures. But for now, I guess I should be helping everyone get home," Bastian said as he looked around.
"Well, if you don't mind, I have nowhere important to be," George said. "I'd kind of like see some other worlds."
"Me, too," Tiny Tim said.
"Well, if you guys don't mind, I'd like to spend some time in Neverland," Huck said as he held Nib's hand. "I think we earned a rest."
"You are coming home though, right?" Tom asked.
"Of course, Tom, I ain't gonna forget where I come from," Huck promised as the two hugged. "I'll always come home to my brother."
"You don't have to go home right away, do you?" Mike asked Bastian. "Maybe I still have time to make that chocolate factory tour, maybe I can score some free candy for you."
As they waved goodbye to their friends, Bastian, Mike, George, and Tiny Tim headed toward a portal that was opening courtesy of AURYN.
"You know, I just thought of something," Bastian said. "Out of all my new friends, I think you changed the most, Mike. You went from this bratty, violence-prone kid to a sort of pacifist who's not that bad. I hope this really change the outcome of-"
As the group stepped through the portal to the other side to the world of Willy Wonka, they found London in a devastated state. Buildings were condemned, the sky was polluted and there were very few people on the street. All over the place, there were red and blue tinted posters of an older Veruca Salt with the tagline "OBEY".
TO BE CONTINUED...