AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, here we are, with the latest story in my Danny Phantom series. For those of you who have already been keeping up, I hope you enjoy this as much as you've enjoyed my others. For those who are just seeing this for the first time, you'll no doubt have questions. Questions that can easily be answered with the stories I've written before. The list so far is as follows...
"Facing the Future"
"Strength in Numbers"
"Trial by Fire"
"Hearts and Minds"
"A Family Thing"
"Laws of Attraction"
Well, enough of my mindless prattling. On with the show. Hope you enjoy...
Danny Phantom: Royal Occupation
An undisclosed ruin somewhere in Europe…
What activity could possibly be found here? What was once an impenetrable castle of wood and stone now seemed to be little more than piles of gravel. Any small sections of wall that had somehow miraculously remained standing were nevertheless, threatening to crumble under their own weight. Surely nothing of value could possibly be found here. And yet, the crypt-like silence of the ruin found itself being broken with the sounds of digging and scraping, as a pair of archeologists continued painstakingly sweeping away layers of dirt and soil, hoping that their efforts would bear fruit.
"Professor, don't you think we should have waited for the rest of the team to wake up before continuing?" the younger of the two asked as they continued working. "This HAS only been the second day of excavation."
"You can't be serious!" the older man protested. "Think about it, a completely undocumented ruin. There are archeologists who live their whole lives without even coming close to making a discovery of this magnitude. What is it? Who did it belong to? So many questions, I couldn't possibly wait another second."
Carefully, the professor went on brushing away wisps of dirt, until finally he came across an object with actual substance. Barely able to contain his excitement, he and his assistant began carefully brushing and digging away until the entire item was revealed. But what they discovered only created more questions than answers as the Professor reached down and pulled up a long, thin, wooden case, in perfectly pristine condition.
"This can't be right," he remarked in bewilderment. "This wood is old…IMPOSSIBLY old. My research indicates that this structure is from the 10th century. This case should have disintegrated in the ground hundreds of years ago. What could this POSSIBLY be?"
With a hint of caution, the Professor slowly opened the case to satisfy his curiosity. And what he discovered made his eyes go wide as the color absolutely drained from his face. For lying inside the case, shimmering in the early morning light, was a long, golden scepter. But while the assistant was dazzled by the glittering sight before him, the Professor was more astonished by the head of the object, which held the shape of a haunting green eye.
"Look at this. Do you recognize that symbol?" he pointed out to his assistant.
Quickly breaking out of his trance, the assistant ran over to grab a nearby book, leafing through it frantically. After a few moments, he finally discovered the page he was looking for as he flipped the book around to show the Professor an image of a medieval object that held the same symbol…
…the cursed Amulet of Aragon!
"…they're the same…," the Professor uttered under his breath, growing more thrilled by the second. "Could this be from…the lost kingdom of Aragon? My boy, we may have just confirmed the existence of one of the most controversial myths in medieval history! DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS!"
"Indeed I do…," a third voice sounded behind them.
Before either Professor or assistant could react, a pair of gloved hands flashed out, placing a small object behind their ears and rendering them both into a daze. With both incapacitated, Vlad Plasmius smirked victoriously as he reached down, collecting the scepter and case from the Professor's frozen hands.
"…Too bad you don't," Vlad continued as he stared in awe at the glittering rod. "But then, that's archeologists for you…always chasing after history instead of trying to MAKE history."
Neither the Professor nor his assistant, were in any shape to reply, still under Vlad's spell. And Vlad would have had it no other way as he leaned down to the pair and spoke to them directly.
"You never found this, do you understand?" he declared sternly. "You never even saw it."
"Saw-what?" the two droned in a hypnotic monotone.
"Precisely," Vlad replied with immense satisfaction.
With that, Vlad reached over and plucked the hypnotic dream rings he'd developed from the duo's ears. And as both the Professor and his assistant crumpled to the ground, unconscious, Vlad then flew off, opening the case to take one more glance at his pilfered prize.
"So…Walker wasn't enough of a challenge for you, eh, Daniel?" Vlad thought out loud, gazing at the scepter with wicked intentions. "Then maybe we need to pit you against someone in a heavier weight class."
Halloween was once again fast approaching the city of Amity Park. And Casper High was no exception to getting into the spirit. This year, the annual Haunted House Party was being held in conjunction with a Halloween dance, and prizes were being offered for the best costume of the evening. In fact, at least a third of the student body were already parading the halls in costume, hoping to get some advance word of mouth among the faculty judges.
"Boy, people are REALLY taking this contest seriously," Valerie remarked as she walked down the hall alongside Tucker's school robot, while Tucker watched the action through his two-way monitor from his office at City Hall.
"Yeah, no kidding," Tucker agreed as they noticed Danny fishing some objects out of his locker and proceeded over to him. "Still, this is the time of year where clanking around with my face inside a giant robot actually DOESN'T draw a whole lot of attention."
"So Danny, what are you planning on wearing this year?" Valerie asked curiously when they reached the locker.
"Are you guys talking to me?" Danny's voice sounded behind them.
"Whoa! Danny?" Tucker exclaimed and he and Valerie whirled their gaze toward him and then back to the figure by the locker. "But…if you're over there…then who's…?"
"Hey guys," Sam announced as she popped her head out from inside the locker, wearing clothes and a hairstyle that looked identical to Danny's.
"Sam, what are you…?" Valerie blurted out as she and Tucker exchanged confused looks. "That's not ACTUALLY what you're going to be wearing for Halloween, is it?"
"Is there a problem?" Sam inquired, raising a curious eyebrow.
"Well, no offence, Sam, but…isn't this kind of a missed opportunity?" Tucker had to ask. "I mean, you know…Halloween…YOU…I kind of expected something a little more…you know…creepy?"
"Oh, you want 'creepy', do you?" Sam replied, flashing a wicked smirk. "Check THIS action out. Oh, Danny…"
"Yeah…Mmmph!" Danny just barely answered as Sam threw her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his in a long, slow, lingering kiss. Admittedly, Danny was surprised at first, but he quickly melted into the moment, sliding his arms around Sam's waist and gently pulling her close.
Tucker and Valerie, however, were nowhere near close to being as touched by the moment. In fact, the sight of Sam kissing Danny while LOOKING like Danny reduced them both to a pair of wide-eyed zombies who could only look on in frozen shock.
"O-o-o-o-h-h-h-h…," Tucker responded as he and Valerie both shuddered, finally able to tear their eyes away from the spectacle. "Th-a-a-t is V-E-E-R-R-Y dis-tur-r-r-bing."
"Isn't it, though?" Sam answered evilly while Danny could only observe Tucker and Valerie's reaction with an amused grin.
"So, uh…do you think we're going to get any ghost action this year?" Valerie asked, eager to change the subject as they proceeded to their next class.
"Who knows?" Tucker replied, moving the theme of the conversation along while Danny and Sam walked alongside them, hand-in-hand. "After all, it IS Halloween. It's gotta be like CHRISTMAS to them."
"I don't know. I mean, wouldn't you think that logically, Halloween would be the day they decide not to cause trouble instead of Christmas?" Sam wondered. "I mean, who made that decision?"
"Honestly, I couldn't care less," Danny answered. "As far as I'm concerned, ANY day that they're not causing trouble is a good day for me."
In one of the far corners of the Ghost Zone, the black castle of Prince Aragon continued to tower menacingly over its kingdom. However, appearances could be quite deceiving as the kingdom itself was rapidly changing. Where once were nothing but gnarled, dead trees surrounding the castle, was now an ever-evolving community, with cobbled streets and buildings of brick and mortar. Definitely, it was a step forward from the wishes of the former ruler, Prince Aragon, whose approach was to remain in the Dark Ages forever. But for Dora Mattingly, Aragon's sister and the current ruler, there was still so much farther to go.
"Hmmm, let's see. What advancement should we try for next? Electricity or plumbing…electricity or plumbing?" she thought to herself from inside the main hall of the castle before turning to one of her two handmaidens, who remained floating close by. "What do you think?"
"Far be it from me to be presumptuous, milady," the handmaiden replied with a shrug. "But…do ghosts really NEED indoor plumbing?"
"Hmmm," Dora mused thoughtfully. "Electricity, it is."
"Milady, emergency!" a guard shouted as he burst into the chamber. "One of the subjects has reported spotting your brother on the outer reaches of the kingdom."
"Again?" Dora complained, even as her handmaidens shuddered in fear. "Just last week, someone started a panic because they thought they saw his face in a cobblestone. And a few days before that, someone swore they saw a cloud that looked exactly like him."
"All apologies, milady," one of the handmaidens replied. "But so long as the black prince continues to roam the Ghost Zone, no one in this kingdom will feel safe."
"Oh…you're right of course," Dora sighed heavily before turning her attention to the guard. "Very well, send out a patrol. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it'll at least make people feel better."
Sure enough, skulking through the streets of the kingdom, hooded and cloaked, was none other than Prince Aragon himself. Darting into one dank alleyway after another, he desperately tried to make his way toward the castle. It sickened him to see what Dora had done to the kingdom in his absence, but the dark corridors did serve a purpose. After all, he knew a direct assault on the castle would surely fail. Even if he was physically stronger than Dora, he would still have little chance of overthrowing her if the palace guards came to her aid. But if he could at least get to the castle without being spotted, he could barricade himself inside, free from the guards' interference. And once he'd dealt with his treacherous sister, the rest of the kingdom would have no choice but to fall into line. And then…
"OVER THERE! I SEE HIM!"
Of all the accursed luck! Could there possibly have been any worse timing? A passing guard just happened to spot him under the lamplight as he was darting across the street to another alley. Within moments, a swarm of soldiers appeared to support him. And Aragon had been so close, too!
"Halt, in the name of Princess Doratea!" one of the head guards shouted as the brigade surged forth, brandishing ecto-charged pistols and muskets.
No sense in sticking around to fight it out. Every moment he stayed made it just that much more likely that Dora would get involved. And if she joined forces with the battalion…Without a pause Aragon tossed his cloak aside and used his amulet to change into his dragon form, blowing a wave of flame that kept the soldiers at bay long enough for him to spread his massive wings and take off into the sky. Unable to follow, the guards could only shout in protest as they raised weapons into the air, firing projectiles blindly in the hopes of shooting Aragon down.
"So if Sam is dressed as you, what does that mean you're going to be dressed as, Danny?" Tucker asked, having caught up with Danny, Sam and Valerie from City Hall and walking home with them. "Are you not going to be dressing up at all?"
"Well, you know. The fact that we're both showing up, looking the same, it's…kinda the heart of the bit," Danny replied with a shrug, tenderly holding Sam's hand as they walked, with Sam still in the Danny hair and clothes.
"Well, I suppose I can agree with that," Valerie commented. "I mean, as long as you don't end up doing something like…I don't know, showing up dressed like HER."
"Mmm…naaaah. He hasn't got the legs for it," Sam answered tenderly, gently leaning over to nuzzle against Danny's cheek before caressing it with gentle kisses.
"Okay, PLEASE stop doing that," Tucker cringed, shielding his eyes from the sight along with Valerie while Danny and Sam could only chuckle in amusement.
It was only a few moments later before the group reached the steps of Fenton Works. From the outside, everything seemed quiet enough. But that was about to quickly change after they all walked in, as a series of alarms began to blare wildly.
"Lockdown!" Jack Fenton's voice could be heard echoing through the Fenton Works intercom system. "Quarantine measures are in effect!"
To the shock of Sam, Tucker and Valerie, Danny and Sam found themselves slapped inside a pair of clear, plastic boxes. But while the other three had no idea what was going on, Danny could only let out an exasperated sigh.
"Oh, not again," he groaned as a trap door opened under all of them, dropping them into the Fenton Works lab.
"Uh…hi, Mr. and Mrs. Fenton," Tucker announced, growing even more bewildered as he noticed the array of glowing rocks lined up along various lab tables. "Everything…okay?"
"Danny, why are we in these things?" Sam had to ask. "And what's that stuff over there."
"It's…ectoranium from that asteroid." Danny explained. "Apparently what happened was that chunks of it had already started breaking off in the atmosphere before we had the whole planet completely phased. Then when Earth became tangible again, those pieces got caught in the gravitational pull and well…here they are. My parents have been locating as much of it as they can to see what it's all about. Unfortunately, whenever they pull any of that stuff OUT, Danielle and I…always end up IN…one of these, that is."
"Sorry Sam, but we can't be too careful," Maddie added. "You, Danny and Danielle all have ghost powers, after all. There's no telling what any kind of lengthy exposure to radiation this material might do to you."
"Uuuuhhhh…radiation," Valerie chimed in nervously. "Are…WE okay? You know, shouldn't we be wearing some kind of protection or something?"
"Oh, don't worry, you're perfectly fine." Maddie answered reassuringly. "According to our tests, ectoranium only affects ectoplasmic material."
But just as Danny and Sam were both letting out a unified sigh, the Fenton portal suddenly sprang to life, flying open to reveal the portal's swirling mass. Moments later, an image began to materialize in the void, forming into the shape of Dora Mattingly's head.
"We got a Floater!" Jack shouted, he and Maddie both grabbing the largest guns they had and aiming straight for the portal.
"WHOA! WHOA! Guys, hold up!" Danny exclaimed. "She's one of the good guys, remember? We told you about her!"
"Dora, what is it? What's going on?" Sam asked, moving the situation to another topic.
"Look, I'm sorry to interrupt…whatever that is you're doing," Dora answered through her crystal ball in the palace, quickly getting past her perplexity at seeing Danny and Sam in plastic crates. "But we need your help. It seems my brother, Prince Aragon, was just spotted trying to get back into the kingdom."
"Again?" Danny complained. "This isn't going to be like last week, is it?"
"No, this is definitely a confirmed sighting." Dora replied worriedly. "It turns out he managed to escape the guards pursuing him, but we think he might still be in the area. I hate to ask, but could you possibly help join the search party?"
"Yeah, sure," Danny answered dismissively, drawing a grateful smile from Dora as her image vanished from the portal.
"Well…so much for a day with ghosts not causing trouble, huh?" Danny sighed, turning to Sam.
"Hey, it beats standing around here playing 'Bubble Boy'." Sam answered with a shrug as she and Danny both transformed.
"Uh, guys? Are you sure you want to go in there by yourselves?" Tucker asked as Danny and Sam both lifted their containers from the inside and floated them over as close to the Fenton Portal as they could. "I mean, this IS Aragon we're talking about. You want some back up?"
"Aw, I wouldn't sweat it," Danny answered. "Odds are, he probably just ran off and went into hiding somewhere. It's only about the hundredth time he's done it."
"Yeah, don't worry," Sam agreed. "Look, Danny and I will fly in, we'll look around for an hour or two, give up and come back in plenty of time before the dance even starts. It's not a problem."
With that, Maddie triggered the remote release on the containers, allowing Danny and Sam to plunge headlong into the portal. But as confident as they both sounded in their assurances, there wasn't a single face in the lab that could avoid looking on with worry.
Back in the Ghost Zone, Aragon had no idea how long or how far he had flown to finally evade Dora's guards. It almost felt like forever. But eventually, the shouts of the pursuing guards began to thin and fade, and a few moments later, Aragon finally managed to duck behind a floating patch of ground to rest and see if he could spot any lingering soldiers still tailing him. For a moment, all appeared to be clear. Only the bare expanse of the Ghost Zone lay stretched out before him.
"My, my, how the mighty have fallen," a voice called out from behind, causing Aragon to whirl around to see an all-too familiar malevolent smirk, floating just a few short yards away.
"Plasmius," Aragon noted through his teeth, his voice laced with contempt.
"Oh dear, such hostility," Vlad casually remarked. "How disappointing…especially when you consider who was chiefly responsible for the return of your amulet."
"As I recall, I already fulfilled my half of that bargain," Aragon pointed out. "I allowed myself to be captured by your gaggle of so-called 'Ghost Hunters' as part of your grand scheme to humiliate Danny Phantom…for all the good it apparently did you."
"Perhaps," Vlad replied, unaffected by Aragon's attempted barb. "But what would you say if I came here with yet ANOTHER gift to impart upon you?"
"Dealing with you is a dangerous game, Plasmius," Aragon remarked with a note of cynicism. "Your activities have made you almost as many enemies here in the Ghost Zone as you have on Earth."
"What have you got to lose?" Vlad inquired with a simple shrug. "Not your kingdom…and CERTAINLY not your pride. You have THEM to thank for that, right?"
Whipping out a small screen phone, Vlad quickly displayed who it was he was referring to as the screen split three ways to show images of Danny, Sam and Dora. Upon seeing their faces in the palm of Vlad's hand, Aragon immediately growled in anger, his eyes turning dragon-like.
"That's what I thought," Vlad continued, feeling quite satisfied as he put the phone away. "But what if I told you that I had a way for you to get it back…AND take your revenge, all at the same time."
The moment he heard Vlad's words, Aragon's anger immediately began to subside. Taking a deep breath, he paused only briefly to compose himself before raising his head and looking into Vlad's eyes with a deathly seriousness.
"Why rely on your ears? When using your eyes is SO much more effective," Vlad announced, smirking as he pulled a familiar wooden case from behind his back and revealed the golden treasure inside, much to Aragon's shock. "Behold."
"Impossible…," Aragon uttered under his breath, his eyes growing ever wider. "How did you find…?"
"Ah, you DO recognize it, then," Vlad noted. "Then you now know full-well what it is I'm TRULY offering you."
"Why would you just GIVE me such power?" Aragon asked, still stunned by what Vlad was presenting to him. "You could have asked for ANYTHING in exchange for this."
"My reasons are my own," Vlad replied straightforwardly. "Do you want this opportunity or not?"
Without a word or a pause, Aragon reached toward the box, taking in every moment as his thing fingers inched ever closer to the scepter nestled within. Even when he picked it up and gripped it tightly in his hands, a part of him still couldn't believe what was happening at that moment as a wild, eager smile spread across his face. A reaction which was exactly what Vlad was hoping for as he grinned in satisfaction.
"However, if I may be so bold," he added while Aragon remained dazzled by his gift, "I do have…ONE suggestion of where your conquest could begin…"
"Jazz, your father and I are almost finished with this Ectoranium experiment," Maddie announced as Jazz walked down into the Fenton Works lab. "Could you just make sure Danielle stays outside for just a few more minutes?"
"Sure, Mom," Jazz replied, casually walking upstairs to report to Danielle, who was sitting on the back steps. But Jazz's calm demeanor quickly vanished when she looked to see none other than Wulf standing in the back yard, a large pillowcase dangling from his paw-like hand.
"Okay, let's try it one more time," Danielle instructed as Wulf listened intently. "Now, repeat after me…trick-or-treat…"
"…Trick…or…treeeeeeat." Wulf slowly mimicked.
"You got it! Ooooooh, good booooooy," Danielle praised dotingly, rubbing Wulf's head and face as he panted happily and then giggling as he proceeded to lick her cheek.
"Danielle, what is he doing here again?" Jazz objected, walking outside. "Get him back to Lake Eerie. You know Mom and Dad aren't going to let you keep him."
"He's not staying! It's just for tonight," Danielle protested, pausing for a moment to snuggle up against Wulf's big furry head. "He's gonna be my backup for Trick-or-Treating."
"Excuse me…'backup'?" Jazz asked with a bewildered glance. "I wasn't aware one NEEDED backup for Trick-or-Treating."
"Jazz…let's do the math," Danielle methodically explained. "This is essentially my very first Halloween, right? But when I got cloned, I was grown into a 12-year-old. That means I've missed out on AT LEAST six other Halloweens that every other 12-year-old kid got the chance to cash in on. And this is basically going to be my ONE and ONLY chance to go out Trick-or-Treating while I am still at a socially acceptable age to do so. So taking into consideration that this one time is ALL I'm ever going to get, you'd better believe that tonight, I'm planning to take this WHOLE TOWN for everything it's got!"
"Oh…I have got SO much work to do on you," Jazz groaned, lightly face-palming herself as Danielle wrung her hands evilly with a wicked giggle.
Just then, Danielle was broken from her moment of villainous bliss as her Ghost Sense suddenly kicked in. Without a pause, she turned to Wulf and instantly noticed that she wasn't the only one sensing something as Wulf sniffed the air before growling angrily.
"Danielle, what is it?" Jazz had to ask before looking up to the sky and spotting a swirl of black clouds gathering overhead.
"I don't know, but I DO know that I'm going ghost!" Danielle answered, quickly transforming before turning her attention back to Wulf. "Feel like going for a run, boy?"
Wulf's reply was all-too clear as he let out another heated snarl, his claws springing from his hands, much to Danielle's satisfaction.
"Danielle, wait…!" Jazz tried to intervene, but there was nothing she could do as Danielle rocketed into the sky.
Wulf was equally quick to burst into action, leaping over the backyard fence and following close behind as Danielle headed toward the center of the dark mass. Within a few minutes, the pair found themselves joined by some additional force as Valerie coasted by on her rocket sled, along with Tucker's robot, naturally being controlled by Tucker.
"Guess I'm not the only one who picked up on something, huh?" Danielle noted as the group continued surging ahead.
"Hey, with Danny and Sam out of town, SOMEBODY'S gotta pinch hit," Valerie replied, mentally preparing herself for the battle that was to come all-too quickly.
Eventually, they all reached the central point of the accumulating blackness, revealing a tall, thin figure grasping a golden scepter. Danielle and Valerie were both at a loss to identify the stranger, who was laughing with maniacal glee. But the image to Tucker was all-too clear.
"Aragon!" he blurted out in shock.
"Aragon? The Aragon that Dora lady mentioned?" Valerie exclaimed.
"What is THIS?" Aragon bellowed from the center of the tempest as he looked down to see Danielle and the others preparing to face him. "I come seeking the Phantom boy and he sends his meager UNDERLINGS to face me? I can't decide if this is an act of cowardice or an attempt at an insult!"
"'Underlings', huh? You want to see what THIS underling can do?" Danielle shot back angrily, her fists blazing with ecto-energy.
"Now, wait a minute…let me get this straight. YOU'RE the Aragon Danny and Sam went into the Ghost Zone to look for?" Valerie added as she turning her attention to Tucker's face, in the view screen of his robot. "Come on, this scrawny beanpole is the guy everyone's so worried about?"
"Ooooooohhhhhh, I wish you hadn't said that," Tucker groaned, wincing slightly.
"So they're not here, are they? How disappointing," Aragon declared. "Oh well, I suppose I can settle for the satisfaction of seeing the looks on their faces when they see what I've done to their precious home!"
With that, Aragon once again lifted the scepter over his head, which began to glow with an ever-brighter light. In fact, the light grew so intense that it even penetrated through the crystal ball inside the main chamber of Dora's palace in the Ghost Zone, instantly getting her attention.
"What is that?" she thought out loud as she rushed to the ball, only to gasp in shock as the image of Aragon burned into her mind…particularly the object he was holding.
"No…it's not possible…," she uttered, backing away from the ball with her bottom lip trembling in dread. "He COULDN'T have…"
Just then, two ribbons of light burst from the scepter through the crystal ball, streaking through the palace until it reached the lower dungeons…specifically the cell where Aragon's former Archer and Executioner were being held, chained to the dungeon wall. Once the light struck them, both ghosts surged with newfound strength, effortlessly breaking their chains before bursting from the cell, grabbing their confiscated weapons. Within moments, the pair smashed through the palace wall to escape into the Ghost Zone, being drawn to their former master who was back on earth, still blinding Danielle and the others with the dazzling radiance of his staff.
"What is he doing?" Valerie asked as she squinted in vain, her visor providing her eyes with little protection from the penetrating light. "What IS that thing?"
"I don't know!" Tucker replied, his own eyes straining to view the action through his monitor. "I've never seen it before!"
"Not that you could do anything, even if you HAD!" Aragon proclaimed triumphantly. "As of this moment…ALL OF YOU BELONG TO ME!"
Before any of the others had a chance to react, the light from Aragon's staff suddenly exploded, washing over them and beyond. Within moments, the entire city of Amity Park was enveloped in a blinding flash.
"Well, that was time well spent," Sam remarked sarcastically as she and Danny flew their last few yards towards the portal entrance. "Surprise, surprise, another dead end."
"Well, we've still got a few hours before the Halloween festivities start, so it's not like we're rushing to get anywhere." Danny noted in an attempt to be reassuring.
"I suppose," Sam replied as they stopped just shy of the portal. "Got anything in mind?"
"I dunno," Danny answered with a shrug before an amused grin passed his lips. "We could always have another make-out session and freak Tucker out again."
"Mmm, a FREAK-out Make-out," Sam mused, her voice lowering to a seductive purr as she grabbed Danny by his suit and pulled him up against her. "I liiike."
"I thought you might," Danny responded, with Sam letting out a muffled giggle as Danny slipped his hands onto her hips and their lips met in a soft lingering kiss.
The kiss continued on, even as Danny and Sam passed through the portal, both simply wishing to savor the moment. It wasn't until they stepped through to the other side that they realized in the back of their minds that someone might still be in the lab, at which point, they both chanced to open one eye, just to see if anyone might be watching. And that was when the utter bliss of the moment completely drained from their minds.
"Uh, Danny?" Sam mumbled, their lips still pressing together. "Where's the lab?"
Looking around, Danny and Sam were quick to notice themselves in a dark, confined space, with only the eerie light of the portal revealing cold, damp walls all around them. It wasn't until they instinctively glanced up that they saw an opening high above, revealing a grey sky with dark clouds passing overhead. Without a pause, they both shot up toward the exit, only to find, once they had burst out into the open air, that the portal had actually delivered them to the bottom of an empty well.
"Forget the lab. Where's my HOUSE?" Danny exclaimed.
But he and Sam were about to receive an even greater shock as they both twirled around, only to see that where Amity Park once stood was now nowhere to be found. Paved streets now gave way to dirt roads. Concrete buildings had been replaced with shambling huts of wood stone and straw. And off in the far distance, a tall black castle loomed over the entire area, accented by ribbons of lightning and explosions of thunder.
"Forget my house…WHERE'S OUR TOWN?"
"AAAAAHHH! GHOSTS!" a voice cried out from behind, causing Danny and Sam to whirl around and finally see a familiar face of Jack Fenton. Although there was nothing familiar about what he was wearing, as he was dressed, head-to-toe, in a court jester's outfit.
"Dad?" Danny blurted out, although Jack hardly seemed to recognize them, his face a white mask of terror.
"GHOOOOOOOOSTS!" he bellowed again, turning around and dashing around the corner of a nearby shack.
"Dad, wait! It's us!" Danny called out instinctively as he flew after him with Sam, only to peer around the corner to see him running towards a crowd of people, all dressed in tattered medieval garb.
"Everyone, flee! Ghosts!" Jack shouted in panic. "The spectral invasion has begun! The great march of the underworld is upon us at last!"
But instead of being horrified, the ragged masses simply laughed hysterically at Jack's ravings, clearly not taking him seriously. Some even began throwing eggs and vegetables at him over the roars of laughter, while a sputtering Jack still tried desperately to get everyone to believe his pleas.
"Okay, if we didn't know something was wrong before, we DEFINITELY know now," Sam commented. "I mean, I've seen people throw things at your dad before, but never LAUGHING while they did it."
"This is just nuts!" Danny yelled in bewilderment. "What is going ON?"
As if in answer to Danny's question, the blare from a pair of horns echoed through the streets. And the throng immediately took notice and halted their ridicule of Jack to line up at the sides of the road and quickly drop to one knee.
For Danny and Sam, the display was all the more perplexing. But they were soon to get all the answers they could handle when a familiar redhead slowly came into view, her fine clothes in stark contrast to the mule-driven cart she was riding in on.
"Jazz?" Danny exclaimed as the cart creaked to a halt, with Jazz clearing her throat and preparing to speak.
"Hear ye, hear ye!" she announced. "Prepare to show your awe and humble respect to your Lord and Master, from now until the end of time…KING ARAGON!"
At that moment, a black carriage, driven by a skeletal coachman and two demonic horses, came rolling up the road, with the people on either side bowing their heads as it passed. Only when the carriage came closer did Danny and Sam finally see that it was indeed Aragon, peering through the window. With a twisted golden crown atop his head, a sneering grin of superiority crossed his face as he looked down upon the common peasants lowering themselves in his presence.
"Aragon?" Sam exclaimed. "But how?"
"I don't know and I don't care," Danny answered through gritted teeth, his eyes glowing with rage. "All I DO know is he's about to set an all-time record for the shortest reign in history!"
Sam couldn't argue with that logic as she and Danny burst from their hiding place and charged Aragon full-speed. Unfortunately, their offense was brought to a screeching halt as a giant, double-bladed axe and a trio of arrows slammed into the ground in front of them.
"Oh great, not you guys again," Danny responded with an annoyed frown as he and Sam looked up to see Aragon's Archer and Executioner, floating just overhead.
With a flick of his wrist, the Executioner's axe dislodged itself from the ground and flew back up into his hand, just as both ghosts prepared to attack again. Bellowing in rage, the Executioner flung his axe straight at Danny, who luckily managed to dodge it. However, the axe kept going and cleaved through an entire line of trees not far behind him before returning back to its owner. Meanwhile, Sam was also fortunate enough to dodge a volley of arrows from the Archer, but they clearly displayed their own destructive power as they exploded on contact with a nearby stone building, reducing it to a pile of gravel.
"Whoa, SOMEONE'S been working out," Danny noted, realizing that both of Aragon's henchmen were clearly much stronger than they were the last time he'd fought them.
"Yeah, well…they're not the only ones with a few new tricks, right?" Sam responded with a sly grin in Danny's direction as her eyes suddenly turned a bright orange.
Danny was quick to pick up on Sam's hint with a knowing smirk as his own eyes went from green to an icy blue. But this was of no consequence to the Archer or the Executioner as they prepared to attack again. Once more, the Archer unleashed a barrage of arrows towards Sam. But this time, Sam intently stood her ground. And with a snap of her fingers, a searing column of flame erupted around her, reducing the arrows to kindling before they got anywhere near her. Meanwhile, the Executioner was beginning his own assault, charging in with a mighty swing, intent on cleaving Danny in two. But Danny simply threw out his arm as the axe swung through, causing it to pass through a wave of freezing Ghost Ray energy.
What happened next stunned both Archer and Executioner alike as the Executioner's axe was revealed to be contained in a pillar of ice just inches from Danny's body. And if that wasn't enough, the Executioner couldn't even let go of his axe, as Danny's makeshift glacier had also encased his hands all the way up to his wrists. Instinctively, the Archer flew in to offer aid. But his efforts were in vain as Sam unleashed a Ghost Ray Strand that wrapped around the Archer's bow, flinging him towards her with a hard yank just as she and Danny each pulled back a tightly balled fist. And with a pair of crushing blows, both the Archer and Executioner were sent flying like cannonballs, smashing through four houses before finally collapsing through the wall of a fifth.
With the hired help out of the way, Danny and Sam quickly turned their attention back to their true objective. But as they whirled around, they discovered that Aragon was already one step ahead as he hovered above them, scepter in hand.
"Well, well, look who finally decided to make an appearance," Aragon boasted, looking down on the pair with a smile of pure wickedness. "So what do you think of my new kingdom? I modeled the décor myself."
"You've got a lot of nerve, pulling a stunt like this, Aragon!" Danny shouted with contempt.
"That's KING Aragon, to you, boy!" Aragon snarled back before another smirk crossed his lips. "And all this is simply fairness itself. After all, you both robbed me of MY home..."
"…I'M SIMPLY RETURNING THE FAVOR!"
"Then you just signed on for a world of hurt!" Sam replied, forming a set of Ghost Ray Claws around her hands while Danny's own fists blazed with ecto-energy.
"I was hoping you'd say that," Aragon hissed as his scepter began to glow. "What better way to ensure my reign than to humiliate you both in front of my new subjects."
There was no longer any point in talking. Danny and Sam were both ready to go to war. But just as they were about to charge in, a wall of blue flame ripped through the air in front of them halting the battle before it started and sending panicked citizens running in all directions.
Even before Aragon could think to react, an enormous blue tail burst from the flames, slamming into his body and sending him flying back, smashing into his royal carriage. And with Aragon at least temporarily dispatched, Dora Mattingly quickly reverted from her dragon form before turning her attention to Danny and Sam.
"I was hoping to find you before you got here!" she shouted over the roaring flames. "Both of you, come with me now, quickly! He'll recover at any moment!"
"We're not done here!" Danny protested, still eager to go on the attack with Sam.
"LISTEN TO ME!" Dora cried out, her voice laced with panic as she grabbed Danny's shoulder, looking straight into his eyes. "You are NO match for him! We have to go NOW!"
Just at that moment, Aragon erupted from the ruin of his carriage with an explosion of power, bellowing in rage before extinguishing Dora's fire with a simple wave of his hand. But as the flames faded, he immediately noticed that Danny, Sam and Dora had already disappeared.
"I'm disappointed, 'Dear Sister'," Aragon muttered through his teeth. "I WAS going to graciously allow you a few more hours of salvation before dealing with you. But your involvement has only ensured your demise THAT MUCH SOONER!"
"This better be good, Dora!" Sam shouted, still fuming with Danny, even after the trio had retreated to the camouflage of a nearby swamp. "What did you pull us out of there for?"
"Listen…I realize that you're upset," Dora replied, trying to be calming. "But you both have to understand…you had absolutely NO hope of winning."
"Says who?" Danny fired back.
"You saw that scepter he was holding, right?" Dora answered. "You want to know how he got the power to do all this? THAT'S how."
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked, her rage finally giving way to curiosity, to which Dora would respond with a heavy sigh.
"It's called the Scepter of Fey," Dora explained. "Like the amulets my brother and I wear, it was believed to have been created by Morgan Le Fey herself, back during the reign of King Arthur. Alone, the scepter was said to grant any mortal who held it superhuman strength. But among my family, there was a legend. If one wearing one of our amulets ever possessed the scepter, it would make them all-powerful."
"Excuse me, 'all-powerful'?" Danny remarked cynically. "Come on, Dora. You're kidding, right?"
"Just look around and see for yourself," Dora answered. "According to legend, one of our ancestors, a kind and humble ruler, lived in such fear of its power that he ordered his strongest knights to take the scepter and bury it at the far end of the world. During his life, my brother saw references to the scepter mentioned in our family's history and searched in vain for its location for years, without success. His obsession with finding it was one of the reasons our kingdom fell into ruin. As for me, I was never sure if the legend was true…until today. Now I find myself wishing that it wasn't."
"So if Aragon never found it, what's he doing with it now?" Sam wondered.
"It doesn't matter," Dora replied. "What matters is that he HAS it. And as long as it remains in his possession, his power is limitless. Do you understand now? If I had not intervened when you were about to attack him, he would have swept you both aside with a thought."
"But…if he's really that powerful now…," Sam uttered, feeling a twinge of fear take hold as she looked over to the black village that was once Amity Park. "Our home…our friends…our families…Danny, what are we going to do?"
"Sam, calm down. Trust me, we'll figure something out, okay? We're going to put a stop to this," Danny answered softly, taking Sam's face in his hands and caressing her cheeks before wrapping his arms around her in a reassuring hug. But as his gaze shifted over to Dora, his face still held an expression of grim seriousness.
"Please tell us you know how to do that."
"My amulet may offer us a certain…advantage," Dora answered uneasily. "But still, it won't be anywhere NEAR enough. If we want ANY chance of defeating my brother at all, we must get that scepter out of his hands."
"Then we need to find a way to even the odds," Danny responded, putting himself deep in thought.
Just then, a light, chirpy croak happened to break up the tension of the moment. At that moment, Sam felt something land on her foot as she looked down to notice a small, green frog had hopped onto her boot.
"Great…like we've got time for this," she muttered in frustration as she prepared to shake the slimy critter off. "Come on, little guy, shoo…!"
"Sam, wait! Look," Danny exclaimed, getting Sam's attention as they both crouched down to take a closer look at their little newcomer.
"No way…," Sam breathed as she picked up the frog and stared at it intently…particularly its tiny, red beret and little glasses. "Tucker?"
The frog that appeared to be Tucker offered no kind of reply, or even any indication that it recognized Danny or Sam in any way. Staring blankly, it only let out another simple croak.
"Ooooh, I can't believe he did this to you," Sam groaned, gently patting Tucker's head in pity. "Danny, we can't just leave him here."
"Maybe I can help," Dora suggested, gently holding her amulet.
To Danny and Sam's confusion, Dora knelt down and softly pressed her finger to the back to the frog's head. For a moment, both the amulet and the frog began to glow softly. But as the glow subsided, the frog suddenly began to shake its head, before looking up at Danny and Sam with wide, stunned eyes.
"Danny! Sam! Man, am I glad to see you!" The frog suddenly blurted out, revealing that, in fact, it truly was Tucker. "We gotta move! Aragon just showed up and…why are you guys so huge?"
"Uh, we're…not," Danny answered pensively, sharing a nervous glance with Sam before turning their attention back to Tucker. "Let's…just say you're not going to want to look into a mirror for the foreseeable future."
"Why?" Tucker asked, looking down at his body, much to Danny and Sam's unease. "What…are…you…"
"You couldn't have done a little more for him?" Sam asked of Dora while a trembling Tucker frantically scanned over every inch of his froggy form.
"My amulet only grants me the ability to free my brother's control over their minds," Dora answered meekly. "The only way to reverse the physical effects is to retrieve the scepter from him."
"What IS this!" Tucker shouted in a full-blown panic. "When did THIS happen? Guys, what happened to me?"
"Look, calm down, Tuck, okay?" Danny responded. "Just trust me, we're working on it. Right now, we've gotta move. We'll explain everything on the way."
"Move where?" Sam asked curiously.
"She just said she can free people's minds, right? That gives me an idea" Danny replied, tossing a glance toward Dora before flashing a confident smirk and turning back toward the town.
"We want to even the odds? We're going to need an army."
"What? Come on, Tucker, you're reaching," Sam whispered as she, Danny and Dora quietly made their way through the town, with Tucker riding on Danny's shoulder.
"What? We can be a little open-minded about this, right?" Tucker argued. "You know the story, right? Guy gets turned into a frog, gets kissed by a girl and turns back into a guy again. Who's to say Aragon didn't set it up like that? It's possible."
"No offense, Tuck, but you're starting to sound a little desperate," Danny commented.
"Yes, I AM!" Tucker protested. "I'd like to see you end up like this and see how long YOU can take it! Come on, guys! It's not like I'm asking for much. Dora…?"
"Oh, you're very nice," Dora replied, gently patting Tucker's head. "But I think it would be better if we…just stay friends."
"Well, that…kinda only leaves one person left," Tucker mentioned, directing his gaze towards the only other female of the group, "Sa…?"
"Not it!" Sam cut him off, throwing up her hands.
"Aw, come on, guys!" Tucker pleaded. "Look Danny, I promise, I won't even enjoy it, okay? Sam…"
"I said…NOT-IT," Sam interrupted again, with stern emphasis.
"Oh, all right!" Tucker submitted angrily, his voice lowering to a low mutter as he began to sulk. "…sheesh, what's the big deal…? …not like it would've been the first time…"
"What did you say?" Danny asked innocently, still unaware of the time Tucker accidentally kissed Sam during the Health Science class' "Flour Bag" assignment.
"Nothing!" Sam answered quickly, nervously snatching Tucker from Danny's shoulder before turning away to face him with a menacing scowl, her voice lowering to a deathly hiss through her teeth. "One more word about that out of you and my boot size will be decorating your butt forever."
"My loyal subjects, this is a royal proclamation from your king!" Aragon's voice boomed through the air, preventing anyone from pursuing the subject further as his face mystically appeared in the skies above town. "Intruders have come to our kingdom, seeking to disrupt the peaceful existence that has come from my benevolent leadership. This is an image of the three offenders."
Just then, the image of Aragon's face became replaced with visions of Danny, Sam and Dora. And as the masses looked up at the likenesses floating overhead, they all seemed to be in a daze, still under the thrall of Aragon's control.
"Royal guards will be patrolling the kingdom day and night until these vile conspirators are caught," Aragon continued, his face reappearing in the sky. "Anyone who spots these invaders is to notify of their presence immediately."
"Okay, that's gonna complicate things," Danny remarked dryly as Aragon's image faded away. "We were looking to raise an army against him and he's already gone and raised one against US."
"And my amulet only grants me the power to free one mind at a time," Dora added.
"Which means we're going to have to pick our troops wisely," Sam concluded. "So where do we start?"
"At last! It's finished!" a perky female voice squealed with delight, interrupting the group's train of thought.
"That could only be one person," Danny noted, recognizing the voice immediately as he and the others rushed to the opening of a nearby alley to see Maddie happily running out into the street.
"Look everyone! I've just finished creating a new type of bow!" she announced excitedly to anyone who would listen, holding what appeared to be a crossbow in her hand. "Not only does it hold the string in place, without needing to be drawn by hand, but it also has a sight on the shaft, ensuring perfect aim!"
"Your mom making weapons, color me shocked," Sam remarked sarcastically as Maddie loaded the crossbow, preparing a demonstration.
The people around found themselves looking on with a hint of fascination, much to Maddie's satisfaction as she fired a series of rounds from her crossbow, each arrow striking its target with perfect precision. But the crowd was soon to quickly disperse as a group of ghostly guards came marching up to her, each bearing a look of stark disapproval.
"Woman, you are to be placed under arrest immediately," the head of the guards stated.
"You can't be serious," Maddie argued. "For what possible reason?"
"You stand accused of violating the laws of King Aragon, expressly forbidding innovation of modernization of any kind," the head of the guards stated. "That weapon will now be immediately confiscated and destroyed."
"Are you insane?" Maddie continued protesting, even as the guards grabbed her by the arms and proceeded to drag her away. "What in the world could be wrong with creating something to make people's lives easier?"
"Mom!" Danny shouted, bursting out from the alley with Tucker clinging onto his shoulder for dear life.
The head of the guards was the first to feel Danny's wrath, taking a full-power Ghost Ray blast straight to the head. Four more were sent flying from a spiraling sweep from Danny's fists. The remaining guards immediately rallied to strike back, but were cut short by a wave of Sam's Ghost Ray Strands. Wrapping them up, Sam immediately snapped back her arms, pulling the Strands taut and whipping the final guards back to smash into a hut behind her.
"Come on, we've got to get her off the streets!" Danny exclaimed, with Sam helping him to fly Maddie back into the safety of the alley before anyone else knew what was happening.
"Not one of your more subtle moments, Danny," Sam criticized before turning her attention to a dazed Maddie, who was just getting her bearings back. "Are you okay, Mrs. Fenton?"
"It's…it's you…," Maddie uttered, her eyes widening in shock. "You're two of the invaders here to defy the will of Aragon! Guards! GUAR…!"
Instinctively Maddie turned to run away, but her cries were cut off as she found herself running straight into none other than Dora, who was gently clutching her amulet. Reaching out and pressing her finger to Maddie's forehead before Maddie could react, the glow from Dora's amulet quickly encircled Maddie. And a moment later, Maddie soon let out a dull groan as she dazedly shook the cobwebs from her head.
"Uuuunh, what the…? Danny? Sam?" Maddie murmured as she looked around, trying to digest what was going on around her. "What's going on? Where ARE we?"
"Believe it or not, this is still home," Danny replied. "Look, we don't have time to go into details, but long story short, a ghost has turned the entire town into his own personal playground…along with everyone in it."
"Everyone in it…," Maddie repeated under her breath, a cold fear clutching her chest, "Danny, where's Jasmine? And Danielle? And your father?"
"Mom, just…calm down. Jazz is fine…at least, for RIGHT now," Danny responded before looking away with a nervous wince. "As for Dad…weellll…"
"Repent! Repent! The spectral invasion is upon us!" Jack called out as he marched the dirt streets holding a sign reading "The End Is Nigh". "Our bones will be ground under the wheels of the horseless carriage! And the Cotton Gin will eat us alive!"
"You know, in a weird way, he really doesn't seem all that different," Tucker mentioned with a marked fascination as Danny and the others peered around the corner of a building.
"Maybe not," Danny had to agree. "But he's still better off on our side."
"Any ideas on how we're going to pull that off?" Sam asked. "He freaked out when he saw us the FIRST time. But now, after Aragon's little broadcast…"
"I may have a way to fix that," Maddie chimed in as she stepped out of hiding. "You all wait here."
"Tremble at the deathly roar of the 350 V8 Engine!" Jack continued to spout, even as a whistle from behind caught his attention. "And beware the devastating power of…ODS MY BODKINS!"
"Ooooo, you make everything sound so bleak," Maddie cooed softly, seductively swaying her hips and even slipping the strap from her top to reveal a bare shoulder. "Sounds to me like we should enjoy what little time we have left, don't you?"
"Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo, never have I been one to argue with a lady," Jack responded, his voice trembling with anticipation, even as Danny could only look on, his eye twitching disturbingly.
With a wink and puckered lips, Maddie quietly slunk into the darkness of the alley, with Jack quick to follow. Once he'd reached the alleyway, however, he saw only pitch black darkness. Which was exactly the opening Dora needed, who phased up through the ground and pressed her finger to the back of Jack's head, using her amulet to free his mind as she had done with Tucker and Maddie. And as the glow faded from Jack's body, Maddie and the others quickly came out of hiding.
"Uuunnh, Maddie? Danny? What's…going…," Jack groaned in a daze, only to have his eyes grow wide as he looked down and noticed the jester outfit he was still wearing. "Oooh, I've been drinking carrot juice before bedtime again."
"Oh Jack," Maddie sighed with relief, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. "I'm so glad you're alright."
"Yeah, and I'LL be glad if I never see my own mother doing something like THAT ever again," Danny added, a noticeable shudder creeping down his spine.
"So…he really has transformed the whole town," Maddie remarked uneasily after the whole group had retreated to a nearby clearing to be brought up to speed. "Danny, Jazz and Danielle are still in there. We have to get to them."
"Getting to Jazz isn't an option right now. She's too close to Aragon," Danny replied. "And we don't even know where Danielle is."
"Using the scepter is the only way to reverse everything my brother has done," Dora explained. "But that means first getting it away from him."
"But if the lab is gone, that means all our weapons are gone, too," Jack noted with concern. "How are we supposed to fight this guy?"
"Hold on, there's something I don't get," Maddie interrupted, looking in Danny's direction. "If the lab is gone, then that means the Fenton Portal should have disappeared, too. So how did you two even get back?"
"You know something, she's right. How DID we get back?" Sam asked with a hint of confusion. "The lab was gone…so what was keeping the portal active."
"Huh," Danny mused, unsure of what answer to give until his eyes suddenly widened. "Wait a minute. Mom, Dad, before all this happened, were you guys still experimenting on the Ectoranium?"
"The Ectoranium…OF COURSE!" Maddie exclaimed. "It must have been unaffected by the transformation! And the latent radiation from the samples interacting with the portal must have been enough to keep it wedged open!"
"But if Aragon can't affect the Ectoranium…then that means we may have a weapon after all," Tucker added, feeling a renewed optimism.
"Then let's get a move on, kids. We're gonna find those fragments," Jack declared boldly.
"Well, this is where we came out," Sam revealed, staring down into the empty well with the others.
"Which means the fragments must be on the other side of these walls," Maddie deduced. "We're going to have to get some proper digging tools."
"Wait a minute. Listen." Danny interrupted as the others paused to hear a voice humming pleasantly nearby. "Doesn't that voice sound familiar?"
Following the gentle sound, the group came upon a patch of thick brush. Peering through to a clearing on the other side, they chanced to spy a small girl in fine formal dress, kneeling down and picking flowers just as happy as could be. But upon another moment or two of observation, it soon became clear why her voice sounded so familiar.
"It's Danielle!" they all whispered in unison, trying their best not to spook her as she blissfully kept her attention to her growing bouquet.
"Lady Danielle, it's time to leave," another familiar voice chimed in, revealing Valerie walking on the scene, apparently cast in the role of Danielle's handmaiden. "You know you're expected to attend a dinner at the palace tonight."
"I know," Danielle sighed. "But all these flowers are so pretty. I wish I could just stay here and pick all of them."
"Ah, but milady, if you picked them all, you wouldn't have any to pick later," Valerie noted matter-of-factly.
"That's true," Danielle admitted, even if her voice held a hint of disappointment as she rose to her feet and ran over to join Valerie, both making their way back into the town, with Danny and the others still observing from close behind.
"Man, what I wouldn't give for a camera right now," Danny mused as Danielle happily skipped ahead, with Valerie only a few steps behind. "Jazz would never believe this if we told her."
"Uh, we ARE going to make a move, right?" Sam suggested. "I mean, if we're going to free them from Aragon's control, better to do it now than when there are a bunch of people around."
"Don't worry, I've got this," Jack replied confidently, trotting over to Danielle before anyone else could stop him.
Danny and the others had grave misgivings about this course of action however, trying to think of a way to approach Danielle delicately. And they were right to be cautious, for as Jack reached out to put his hand on Danielle's shoulder, Valerie whipped out and grabbed his wrist, whirling around and sending Jack tumbling over her shoulder.
"Stay your hand!" she commanded sternly, taking a defensive stance. "The Lady Danielle will not be sullied by the hands of the town fool!"
"O-kay, that was a new trick," Sam remarked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, Mom's been kinda…giving her a few lessons," Danny explained nervously. "She's been getting pretty good at it."
"Oh…we don't have time for this." Maddie groaned under her breath, running onto the scene.
Eager to defend the Lady's honor, Valerie focused her attack on Maddie, unleashing a barrage of punches and kicks. But to Maddie, these were small matters as she blocked each strike with minimal effort before catching Valerie's foot and twisting hard, sending her spiraling through the air before hitting the ground hard.
"Well, the teacher IS the teacher for a reason," Maddie commented, with no false modesty, before turning her attention to Dora. "Dear, if you would do the honors…"
"My Lady, RUN…!" Valerie managed to cry out before Dora appeared behind her, pressing her finger to the back of Valerie's head and breaking Aragon's control.
Danielle, meanwhile, was too lost in the insanity of the moment to understand what was going on. But as Valerie slumped over in a daze from Dora's amulet, Danielle's eyes went wide with panic, whimpering in fear as she ran for dear life towards the town.
"Oooooh, where have I been?" Valerie groaned as Maddie moved in to keep her upright.
"Danny, don't worry! Your father and I will get Valerie up to speed!" Maddie exclaimed, pointing towards a fleeing Danielle. "Whatever you do, don't lose her!"
"We're on it!" Danny confirmed, flying after Danielle with Tucker in tow and Sam and Dora close behind.
Practically on the verge of tears, Danielle ran through the town, hoping to hide in the dark dingy alleyways. But wherever she went, Danny, Sam and Dora were right behind her.
"Wow, she's fast," Tucker noted as the chase continued, "For a little kid, she sure can move."
"Maybe compared to YOU," Sam remarked with a lighthearted smirk.
"Okay, new rule," Tucker replied dryly. "As long as I'm stuck in 'Frog-Boy Mode', all mocking rights are hereby forfeited."
"Well, if THAT'S not a reason to win this thing, I don't know WHAT is," Sam answered back as Danny rolled his eyes in amusement.
Moments later, the chase ended in a blind alley, with no way out. Cautiously, Danny and the others peered inside. And while they could see no sign of Danielle, the fact that she was there was all-too clear as they heard the sounds of frightened crying coming from behind a stack of wooden boxes.
"Danielle…?" Danny softly called out, but his words were cut off as Dora blocked his path.
Shaking her head slowly with a serious gaze, Dora spoke not a word as she floated into the alley alone. It was there that she found Danielle exactly where her choked sobs revealed her, huddled in a little ball behind the crates.
"Hello," Dora greeted in hushed tones as she held out her hand, even though her voice made Danielle's eyes go wide with terror. "I imagine this must be very frightening for you. Can I help you?"
"Help? But…you're one of the wicked ones," Danielle whimpered, barely able to turn her head to look Dora in the eye. "King Aragon announced it."
"Oh come now. Surely I don't look THAT evil, do I?" Dora asked before unfastening her amulet and holding it out to Danielle. "See, look. I have amulet, too, just like the King wears. Does that make me an evil person?"
"…nnn-nooo…" Danielle sniffled uneasily.
"She obviously hasn't seen her on a BAD day," Tucker muttered under his breath.
"Not-helping," Sam hissed back through her teeth as the three watched the scene play out.
"Here…would you like to hold it?" Dora offered, slowly holding it out to Danielle. "I know it makes ME feel safe."
Pensively, and still with a stray whimper in her voice, Danielle reached out with a trembling hand to accept Dora's gift. And the moment her fingers touched the amulet, she became surrounded by a familiar glow and let out a dull groan, just as Tucker, Maddie, Jack and Valerie had before her.
"There," Dora confirmed softly, "Isn't that better?"
"Uuunh…where am I?" Danielle murmured before finally popping her head up to look around. "Danny…? Danny!"
Instinctively, Danielle rushed out from her hiding place to give her brother a hug. But not two steps did she take before she found herself tripping over her flowing dress and falling flat on her face. It was only then that she finally took notice of herself and realized exactly what look she was sporting.
"WHAT…AM…I…WEARING?" Danielle shouted as she snapped to her feet and changed into her ghost form, at the same time, unleashing an explosion of ecto-energy from her body which reduced the flowery dress to tatters.
"It was that scrawny little fancy boy who put me in this, wasn't it?" she ranted, her voice filling with anger. "Well, he is going into a HURT LOCKER for that!"
"Danielle, wait…!" Danny tried to interrupt, but Danielle was already beyond listening as she shot out of the alley at top speed to find Aragon.
"Oh, yes. This is MUCH better," Sam noted sarcastically.
"They…did…WHAT?" Aragon's voice echoed through the main hall of his castle as he scowled in fury at the head of the guards Danny and Sam had defeated earlier to rescue Maddie. "Not only did you fail to capture my sister and her compatriots, but you let them escape with a known LAWBREAKER?"
"Highness, forgive us. We were unprepared for…," the head guard tried to explain while Jazz tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible recording everything that was happening in Aragon's presence.
But Aragon was in no mood for excuses as the Scepter of Fey glowed in his hand and the floor underneath the guards fell away, dropping them all into a black pit. Having taken his anger out on his guards, Aragon then focused his attention on the source of his rage.
"This has gone on long enough," he fumed, forcing the scepter to flash brightly again. "Clearly, I have been FAR too lenient in this matter. The time has come to use stronger measures."
Meanwhile, Danielle continued rocketing through the town, her anger giving her tunnel vision on Aragon's palace. But her focus was soon broken as Danny and the others finally caught up with her, with Danny grabbing her by the color of her suit and yanking her to a stop.
"Danny, what are you doing? Let me go…!" Danielle protested as she tried to free herself. But she was stopped in mid sentence as she took a look around and finally realized they were in the middle of a crowded street, with dozens of town citizens regarding them with looks of dread.
"Huh…you know, they don't look happy to see us," Danielle noted with a hint of confusion in her voice.
"My loyal subjects, your king returns to you with yet another proclamation!" Aragon's voice shattered the air as his face again appeared in the sky, followed by a repeated visual of Danny, Sam and Dora. "The three vile insurgents remain among us! Any appearance of these menaces must be met with the deadliest force! Your king commands it! ATTACK ON SIGHT!"
Suddenly, the glazed eyes of all the citizens watching Aragon's announcement began to glow a bright red. It was then that they turned their attention back to Danny and the others, with wild-eyed glares. And what were once hushed murmurs of dread quickly became replaced with growls of anger and spite.
"Okay, now they REALLY don't look happy to see us," Danielle remarked matter-of-factly.
"And…this would be one of the reasons we wanted you to wait," Danny responded uneasily.
Meanwhile, the entranced citizens were already taking action, grabbing pitchforks, farm implements and anything that could conceivably be used as a weapon before lurching towards Danny and the others in a daze. But it was two citizens at the forefront of the advance that Danny recognized right away.
"Dash? Paulina?" he exclaimed, almost in amusement at their peasant-style clothing. "Now I REALLY wish I had a camera."
Dash and Paulina, however, clearly were paying no heed to Danny's words. Still armed, they proceeded onward with their attack, along with the rest of the people, snarling and moaning like mindless beasts.
"So, just to be clear, THEY'RE attacking US…which means we're actually JUSTIFIED, right?" Sam asked with a wild grin as her gaze focused squarely on Dash and Paulina, her fingers squirming in anticipation. "OOOOOOHHHH, this is gonna be sweeeeeeet."
"Sam, no," Danny interrupted, grabbing her by the shoulder. "Trust me, odds are, you're just going to end up hating yourself later."
"I'm prepared to roll the dice on that," Sam replied plainly.
"It doesn't matter!" Dora argued. "They don't HAVE to BEAT us…just DELAY us long enough for my brother to arrive! We have to leave now!"
Reluctantly, Sam was forced to concede to Dora's point, sighing heavily as she took off into the sky with Danny, Danielle and Dora, quickly pursued by the brainwashed citizens. Luckily, since the spellbound people were only managing to shamble along at half speed, the getaway only took a matter of seconds.
"Well…that was surprisingly easy," Danielle pointed out as they landed.
"Maybe, but we can't stay exposed like this," Dora warned. "Not with all of your townspeople looking for us. It'll only be a matter of time before Aragon tracks us down through them."
"We need a place to lay low. At least long enough for the heat to die down in the immediate area." Danny agreed.
"Hey, Sam, isn't that your house?" Tucker piped up, pointing a webbed hand toward a nearby two-story building.
"I suppose," Sam replied, looking around. "It sure seems to be the right area. But with all the changes Aragon's made, there's no way to know."
"At this point I'll take what I can get," Danny admitted, rushing to the house and phasing his head inside to look around as the rest caught up. But as he pulled his head out of the door, a pale, wide-eyed look crossed his face.
"What is it?" Sam asked, her voice growing more concerned. "Is it my house?"
"Let's just say if it is, you REALLY don't want to go in there," Danny replied nervously.
"What? Is it my parents? Are they in trouble? Mom! Dad!" Sam cried out in panic, running through the wall before Danny could hold her back. But once she got inside, the sight laid out before her made her caused her to let out a wide gasp of horror.
Inside revealed that what appeared to be once Sam's home had now been transformed into a storage area for cured meats. Links and various cuts hung on hooks from every corner of the room. And as the others phased into the room, it became clearly obvious that this was the last place for Sam to be.
"Okay, no amount of therapy could POSSIBLY make this moment okay," Sam muttered in a half-stunned monotone.
"I tried to stop you," Danny commented.
Just then, the sounds of slow, creaky footsteps could be heard coming down the nearby steps. A moment later, a pair of figures came into view in the dim candlelight, revealing to be none other than Pamela and Jeremy Manson, themselves.
"Mom? Dad? So this really IS…" Sam noted with her face turning into a scowl of anger at what Aragon had done. "Oh, he is ABSOLUTELY going to suffer for this."
"Uh, Sam?" Tucker pointed out nervously as her hypnotized parents began shambling towards them. "I REALLY don't like that red in their eyes."
"Huh? Oh please," Sam remarked, rolling her eyes as she got back into the moment, twirling in between Pamela and Jeremy and quickly wrapping them up in a pair of Ghost Ray Strands without any trouble at all.
"See? These two can't even swat a fly without infantry support," Sam added as Pamela and Jeremy struggled in vain to get free. "Dora, would you mind."
Dora didn't need to say a word. She simply nodded as she floated forward, placing her finger to Pamela's forehead and then Jeremy's. Within moments, Aragon's control over them was quickly broken.
"What…what happened? Where are…?" Pamela started to ask before she and Jeremy finally got their bearings and soon recognized Sam's ghost form, looking back at them with slightly worried eyes. "It's you again."
"Listen to me, because we don't have time." Sam cautioned with deathly seriousness. "I'm about to tell you something frightening, but you don't have the luxury of being scared, okay? A ghost has transformed the entire city and has everyone else brainwashed. Everyone else is still affected, so believe me, you're safest, staying here. But we're working on a way to reverse this, so don't worry."
"The whole city…But…SAM!" Jeremy exclaimed. "Listen, our daughter…you have to help us! We can't just LEAVE her out there!"
"It's okay," Sam replied, trying her best to ease their fears as she took each of their hands and looked deeply into their eyes. "We're going to help her. We're going to help everyone. But you have to listen to me, because you'll be in danger if you go out there. Just stay here, keep the lights out and you'll be fine. And I promise we're going to fix all of this…"
"…Do you believe me?"
Pamela and Jeremy weren't entirely sure how to respond. They could only toss each other a worried glance before turning back towards Sam and offering a synchronized nod.
"Hey guys, there's a back door here," Danielle called, peeking out from an adjoining room. "We can get out this way."
"Okay, we got to go now. Now just do what I told you, okay? Stay here, lay low, and this will all be over soon, okay?" Sam pointed out before heading to the back with Danny, Tucker and Dora behind her.
"Wait," Pamela's voice chimed in again, halting Sam at the doorway. "Can you…REALLY put a stop to this?"
For a moment, Sam could only look at Jeremy and Pamela's worried faces, as if she didn't seem to know what answer to give. But suddenly, a reassuring smile crossed her lips as her eyes glowed, showing a grim determination.
"You just watch us," she answered defiantly, disappearing outside with the others and leaving Pamela and Jeremy alone, looking around what had become of their home.
"Boy," Jeremy commented as Pamela huddled beside him, "I REALLY wouldn't want to be in the same room with Sam if she saw this."
"Let's get this over with," Sam remarked as she took off with Danny and the rest of the group.
"We'd better get back to Mom, Dad and Valerie, first," Danny noted, turning the group back in the direction of the well.
"Uh, guys? Just out of curiosity, you haven't seen Jazz or Wulf around, have you?" Danielle asked.
"Wulf?" Danny and Sam responded in unison, tossing each other a wide-eyed glance.
Back in Aragon's palace, Aragon himself strode into his throne room, with Jazz following close behind, holding a book of parchment and quill at the ready. As he walked in, a series of snarls and roars echoed through the room. And Aragon was growing ever-more annoyed as he stormed over to the wall beside his throne where Wulf was chained, howling in rage.
"Oh, be silent, you loathsome beast!" Aragon shouted, waving the Scepter of Fey and slapping a spiked muzzle across Wulf's maw. "Your being a ghost may have spared you from falling under the thrall of my mind control, like your friends. But my power holds sway over you regardless."
Wulf could only growl softly through his teeth in response, which was more than enough for Aragon, who felt satisfied that he had proved his point. With that, he returned to take a seat on his throne, taking in the surroundings and proudly admiring his handiwork.
"Take a note, Royal Record Keeper. I have some new laws to implement," he announced. "There are going to be a lot of changes around here."
"Yes, your Highness," Jazz complied, preparing to hang on Aragon's every word.
Just as Aragon was about to speak, however, muffled sounds of commotion and battle could be heard through the closed doors. Moments later, the doors were smashed off their hinges as a wave of guards was blown into the room from an explosion of ecto-energy.
"Who DARES…?" Aragon bellowed in rage, only to have his eyes go wide with shock as he saw Danielle standing in the doorway, her fists blazing. "…You…"
"I want my sister and my werewolf back!" Danielle announced angrily. "You got a problem with that?"
"You truly are a glutton for punishment, aren't you?" Aragon hissed in aggravation.
Clearly, Danielle was in no mood for witty banter as she burst forward, firing a barrage of Ghost Ray shots in Aragon's direction. But Aragon was hardly impressed as he raised his hands and threw up a barrier which absorbed all of Danielle's Ghost Ray bolts before waving the Scepter of Fey. And a second later, a set of chains burst from the floor, clamping Danielle's wrists and ankles and pulling her back down to Earth.
"I sense my sister's hand in your sudden revival," Aragon declared, confidently striding towards Danielle as she struggled in vain to free herself. "It would seem that was far too generous allowing you to exist as one of my subjects. But perhaps you will serve me better as an example…AND a decoration…as part of a new collection I'm starting…"
"…Statues of my fallen enemies!"
At that moment, the Scepter of Fey began to give off a blinding flash as Aragon prepared to unleash its power at Danielle, who could only wince and look away. But Aragon's vision was also partially obscured by the light of the scepter and was too focused on Danielle to see another shape come streaking into the room, landing in between Danielle and the scepter. So without a thought, Aragon let loose with the scepter, temporarily blanketing the room in a flash of light.
Within seconds, the light faded and Aragon couldn't wait to cast his eyes upon his new trophy. But instead, the sight that greeted his eyes was that of a round, crudely shaped, green shield, obscuring Danielle, who was relieved to find that she had been protected from the blast of the scepter. But Aragon was even more surprised when a head peeked out, revealing that it was Valerie who was holding the shield.
"I guess your sister was right about you," Valerie remarked. "You really DO get tunnel-visioned when you're only focused on yourself."
Before Aragon could react, Valerie lashed out with an equally crude green sword, knocking the Scepter of Fey from Aragon's hand and sending it spinning along the floor to the far side of the room. Furiously, Aragon attempted to lash out at Valerie, but as his hand struck Valerie's shield, a jolt of searing pain was sent streaking up his arm, causing him to stagger back in shock.
"Impossible…," he uttered under his breath. "My power is unassailable…"
"Now see, that's what happens when you don't keep up-to-date," Valerie explained, tapping her sword against the shield. "Ever heard of Ectoranium?"
Again, before Aragon knew what was happening, a full-stream Ghost Ray from Danny and a giant Ghost Ray fist from Sam came flying out from behind Valerie, slamming into Aragon's body and sending him flying into his own throne, smashing it to splinters. Struggling to get to his feet, Aragon looked up to see Danny, Sam and Dora, standing alongside Valerie, with Tucker still perched on Danny's shoulder. And a second later, Danielle was back in the fight, her chains shattered by some smaller Ghost Rays from Danny.
"You didn't ACTUALLY believe that we were just going to come running in here without a plan, did you?" Danny called over as Aragon glowered in rage.
"Danny, you have to let me go!" Danielle pleaded back at the well. "If Aragon has Wulf and Jazz…!"
"Danielle, listen to me!" Danny shouted, grabbing her shoulders hard. "Believe me, I KNOW how you feel right now. But you won't be able to help either of them if Aragon gets his hooks into you again. The only way we have even the SLIGHTEST chance of winning this thing is down in that well right now and we HAVE to get it."
"We found it!" Valerie's voice came from down in the well.
Valerie and Maddie had finally smashed through the wall of the well, being the only two who could fit down there and be able to actually collect the Ectoranium fragments safely. Within moments, the wall crumbled away to reveal a hidden opening, filled with all the Ectoranium Jack and Maddie had collected. Immediately, Maddie and Valerie began collecting the pieces and placing in the old well bucket which Jack was quick to pull up. And after two or three more loads, all the pieces were collected and Danny and Sam moved in to fly Maddie and Valerie up out of the well.
"Well, the good news is, all the fragments are here," Maddie noted as she examined their haul. "The bad news is, we don't have the quantity or the time to forge a giant arsenal out of this. That means we're only going to have a few main items that we're going to have to make due with."
"Well, it's a lot better than nothing," Sam replied. "But it's that scepter that's the REAL game-changer. We've got to get that away from Aragon if we want to seriously even the odds."
"We're gonna need one heck of a plan for that," Tucker added, nervously.
"Actually, I've been thinking about that," Dora chimed in. "I've known my brother long enough to know that his fatal flaw has always been his ego. Once he focuses on himself, everything else simply fades away. If we could come up with a way to exploit that…"
"Hmmmm," Danny mused as everyone else fell deep in thought as well. "I wonder…"
"You thinking of something?" Valerie wondered.
"Maybe," Danny answered, a coy smile crossing his lips. "Nothing gives someone an ego boost quite like when they're winning, right?"
"Where are you going with this?" Sam asked.
"We want Aragon to think he's winning, right?" Danny continued. "Then maybe we need to make a stupid mistake…"
"…Or at least, make Aragon THINK we're making a stupid mistake."
"Classic move of misdirection," Sam remarked, much to Aragon's growing rage. "Too bad that scepter didn't do much for your brain power, huh?"
Just then, Jazz came running out from behind a nearby pillar, making a beeline straight for Danny. Still under Aragon's control, she began beating him about the head and shoulders with her parchment book. Although her attempt to defend her king was quickly proving to be more annoying than painful.
"Jazz, will you cut that out! Give me that!" Danny hollered, snatching the book from Jazz's hands. But his demeanor quickly changed as Jazz pulled a dagger from behind her back as a substitute weapon.
"On second thought, you can have the book back," Danny remarked.
"Jazz, stop it!" Tucker shouted, leaping into Jazz's face in an attempt to block her vision.
But the result was a little different than what Tucker had originally intended. For as Jazz staggered back and Tucker began to pull away, it was revealed to Danny and the others that Tucker's lips had ended up pressing against Jazz's in a most unexpected, wide-eyed kiss.
Everyone else couldn't help but wince uncomfortably as Tucker flopped to the ground. But they were even more stunned by what happened next. For no sooner had Tucker had pulled away from Jazz, than his body began to mysteriously glow. And suddenly, in a flash, Tucker found that the room had suddenly become much smaller as he looked down and realized that his transformation had been undone and he'd been turned human once again.
"I can't believe it…IT ACTUALLY WORKED!" Tucker yelped as he leaped to his feet, overjoyed at being returned to normal. But just then, he realized what had just happened to make him that way, turning his focus to a stunned Jazz.
"Jazz…," Tucker tried to utter, not entirely sure what words to say in light of the circumstances.
Jazz, meanwhile, was still dumbfounded by the accidental kiss. But it was all the opening Dora needed as she pressed her finger to Jazz's forehead and quickly freed her mind, just as she had done with the others.
Meanwhile, Danny and the others turned around to see Aragon slowly trying to make his way back towards the scepter which was still lying on the ground. And in fact, he had only gotten a few short steps away until another combined attack from Danny and Sam sent him bouncing off the throne room wall and landing right back where he'd started.
"RrrrrrRRRRRRGUARDS!" Aragon roared in fury causing the room to suddenly fill with a wave of troops, not to mention Aragon's Archer and Executioner, who seemed quite eager to avenge their earlier defeat.
"Uuunh…what's…going on?" Jazz asked in a daze, her eyes suddenly going wide as Aragon's soldiers were just about to advance. "Where are we?"
"No time to update your notes!" Valerie responded, tossing a crudely-shaped, spiked Ectoranium mace into Jazz's hands and passing the Ectoranium shield over to Tucker. "Short version…swing at anyone who's swinging at you!"
Once again, Aragon made a grab for the Scepter of Fey. But once again, his efforts were thwarted as Danny and Sam each send a punch square into his face, smashing him into the far wall.
"We've got this guy!" Sam shouted. "Can you guys handle the rest?"
"Just try and stop us!" Danielle answered, firing a barrage of Ghost Rays that freed Wulf from his chains.
Growling in anger, Wulf tore the muzzle from his face before diving headlong into a wave of troops and the fight was on. Jazz still had no idea what was going on, but she wasn't complaining about the results of the Ectoranium mace as it sent more spectral guards flying with every swing. Valerie was holding her own as well with the Ectoranium sword, especially when the Executioner flew in to challenge her. With a bellow, the Executioner crossed his axe with Valerie's sword, only to discover that, to his shock, the axe was cleaved right in two. It was then that the Archer sought to provide backup to the Executioner with a rapid volley of arrows, only to have them all shatter on impact with Tucker's Ectoranium shield, as he jumped in to defend Valerie. Suddenly, Danielle jumped in from behind, blasting both the Executioner and the Archer in the back with a pair of Ghost Rays. And before either could recover, Wulf already had them both pinned down, roaring angrily into their faces. With the battle quickly turning against them, the remaining soldiers were quick to retreat, flying off at top speed.
One who refused to give up the fight, however, was Aragon, who was still trying to overcome Danny and Sam's tandem attacks with a barrage of Ghost Rays. But Danny and Sam proved too fast for Aragon's attacks, easily dodging them.
"Oh, by the way…this is for turning my home into a smokehouse!" Sam shouted, her eyes glowing bright orange as her flame powers activated.
Suddenly, a Flaming ball and chain flew from Sam's blazing fist, slamming Aragon into the ground and exploding on impact, bathing him in a searing wave of fire. It was then that Danny added his own personal touch, using his Freezing Ghost Rays to create a dome of ice around the fire, leaving a screaming Aragon to keep cooking inside.
"EEEEEEE-NOUGH!" Aragon bellowed as a surge of ecto-energy erupted from his body, shattering Danny's ice, extinguishing Sam's flames and sending them both bouncing along the ground to a stop.
"You miserable whelps!" Aragon shouted in rage, his body blazing with ecto-energy as loomed over them. "Even without the Scepter of Fey in my hands, I've still absorbed more than enough of its power to deal with the two of you! I've absorbed more than enough power to eradicate a DOZEN of you! What chance did you possibly think you had of defeating me now?"
"What made you think we were actually TRYING?" Danny replied as he and Sam both looked up, wearing an odd grin.
At first, Aragon didn't know what to think, a confused expression crossing his face. But it only took a brief moment for him to realize what was really going on.
"…No…," he uttered in shock, instantly turning his attention over to the wall of the throne room, only to see Dora casually leaning up against it, scepter in hand.
"Looking for something, 'Brother Dear'?" she taunted, flashing a sly grin in Aragon's direction.
"NOOOO!" Aragon growled, unleashing an enormous Ghost Ray blast in Dora's direction.
However, Dora merely grinned in response as she formed a barrier with a wave of her hand, absorbing Aragon's attack, just as Aragon had done minutes ago with Danielle. Of course, this only made Aragon angrier still as he reared back and let out a deafening roar, his amulet transforming him into his dragon form. But the transformation stunned Danny, Sam and Tucker more than the rest. Having already seen Aragon's dragon form before, they found themselves looking on in shock to see that this time, Aragon was at least twice the size he had grown to before.
"Okay…someone's been eating well," Sam remarked, looking up wide-eyed.
"What will you do now, Sister?" Aragon challenged with a vile grin. "You may hold the scepter, but I still hold much of its power! Even if you were to transform as well, you're STILL no match for me! And you KNOW it!"
"You may be right," Dora admitted, pulling the amulet off her neck. "It's just too bad I won't be the one fighting you."
"What are you up to?" Aragon snarled, growing even more confused as Dora turned her attention to Danny and Sam.
"Both of you, quickly, put your hands to my amulet!" she shouted. "It's the only way you can win!"
"What are you talking about?" Danny had to ask as he and Sam both grabbed the amulet. "What's going to…"
"Just trust me," Dora interrupted. "I have within me, the ability to grant the transformative power of my amulet to another for a brief period of time. My brother is right. Even with the scepter, I alone would not be strong enough to defeat him. But perhaps the two of you…"
"Hah! What fevered dream are you hoping to come true, you fool?" Aragon mocked as Dora began to concentrate. "You and I both know that the transfer doesn't work that way! How could you possibly think…What?"
To Aragon's stunned silence, a faint glow began to flow from the amulet into Danny and Sam. But what Aragon found even more shocking were when both Danny and Sam began growing in size. Suddenly, scales, wings and maws with razor sharp teeth sprouted from heir bodies. And within moments, where Danny and Sam once stood, there was a pair of enormous white dragons. Virtually identical, except that one had blue eyes and the other orange, their heads rose as they glare at Aragon, each letting out a low, throaty growl.
Everyone else could only look on at Danny and Sam's new transformation in stunned silence. But Aragon seemed even more surprised than the others. To him, it was as if Dora had just done something that shouldn't have happened under any circumstances.
"This can't be! What trickery is this, Doratea? Even the scepter can't grant you the ability to give the transformation of the amulet to more than one person! It's impossible for it to be shared by TWO…!" Aragon began to bellow before his eyes suddenly went wide with shock. "…Unless…those two…by some ridiculous miracle…just happened to be…"
Danny and Sam had no idea what Aragon was talking about. But at the moment, neither one of them could have possibly cared less as they both let out a monstrous screech in Aragon's direction.
Aragon was quick to accept the challenge, unleashing an enormous stream of fire at them both. But Danny and Sam were quick to fire back, countering Aragon's attack with ghostly flame breath from Sam and freezing breath from Danny. For a moment, Aragon was stunned that Danny and Sam's combined power was enough to match his. But he was in for another surprise as Danny and Sam spread their massive wings and lifted off the ground, flying in a loop and building up speed before slamming into Aragon. Even though Aragon was still larger, Danny and Sam's combined strength was still enough to take him off his feet, sending all three of them smashing through the throne room wall.
"Come on! They may still need your help!" Dora called to the others, the Scepter of Fey beginning to glow in her hand.
With a wave of Dora's hand, a faint glow passed over Tucker, Valerie, Jazz, Wulf and Danielle as the battle continued to rage outside. But Tucker and the others were more focused on what was happening inside. With a flash, they suddenly all found themselves dressed out in leather garb with armor plating. Especially Danielle, who found herself decked out in a full suit of armor…complete with a broadsword, no less.
"Yeeeaaaaaaah!" Danielle exclaimed with a big smile, holding the sword excitedly.
"Noooooooooo!" Jazz scolded, plucking the sword out of Danielle's hand. "Valerie?"
"On it," Valerie replied dryly, taking the sword away from Jazz.
"Aw man!" Danielle complained.
But Danielle didn't have anymore time to gripe as Danny, Sam and Aragon came crashing back into the throne room. Outside, Aragon appeared to have gained the upper hand in the fight and was exerting his massive frame to keep Danny and Sam pinned down, holding them each tightly by the throat.
"I have had just about enough of you two…AAARGH!" Aragon's remark was cut off as Jazz's Ectoranium mace and Tucker's Ectoranium shield spiraled through the air, striking him in the head and sending a jolt of pain down his spine.
"Yeah, boooy!" Tucker shouted triumphantly. "Frisbee…you know it's not just for playgrounds anymore!"
"You…!" Aragon hissed, preparing to unleash a stream of fire at both Tucker and Jazz.
"I don't think so!" Danielle piped up, streaking towards Aragon at top speed.
Pulling straight up just as she reached Aragon's chest, Danielle smashed her fists into Aragon's jaw, slamming it shut just as his fire as about to escape and causing it to explode inside his mouth. Rearing his head back, Aragon screeched in searing pain, only to discover that Danielle wasn't done yet as she shot back down, driving her knees right between his eyes.
The combination of attacks caused Aragon just enough pain to loosen his grip on Danny and Sam. And the pair became quick to capitalize, firing a combination of flames and freezing breath to strike Aragon in the head, causing him to stagger back with a great bellow. Now freed, Danny and Sam each leapt into the air, whipping around with their tails and sending Aragon crashing back into the wall. Pressing their attack, Danny and Sam surged forward, pinning a dazed Aragon to the wall as best they could.
"Tucker! Jazz! Come on!" Danny called over as he and Sam lowered their tails to the ground. "Going up!"
"You've…got to grab his amulet…quick!" Sam shouted, her voice groaning with effort.
Neither Tucker nor Jazz had any idea what Danny and Sam were trying to accomplish. But at the same time, they weren't about to let it stop them, either. With Tucker taking Danny's tail and Jazz taking Sam's, they each ran up until they finally reached the top of their heads and made the leap to Aragon's enormous shoulders. From there, they each grabbed the strap of Aragon's amulet from each end and began pulling tightly.
"Huh…What in the…?" Aragon exclaimed as he suddenly got his head back in the fight, trying to shake off Tucker and Jazz while Danny and Sam did their best to hold him fast. "I don't know what you hope to accomplish, but it will take more than you two to…!"
"VALERIE! WULF! NOW!" Danny and Sam both shouted.
"What?" Aragon shouted.
Raising his head, Aragon just noticed Wulf leaping through the air towards him. Danielle was also flying in, carrying Valerie who still had her Ectoranium sword in hand. With a heave, Danielle tossed Valerie toward the strap of Aragon's amulet that Jazz was pulling on while Wulf headed for Tucker's side. And with a slash of Valerie's sword and a swipe of Wulf's claws, the straps of Aragon's amulet were severed, causing it to fall from his body while Tucker and Valerie each jumped back to Danny and Sam.
"NOOOOOOoooooooo…!" Aragon cried out in vain as his body reverted back to its normal state.
Sharing a grin of satisfaction, Danny and Sam were all too happy to drop Aragon to the ground. His amulet lying just a few feet away, Aragon scrambled desperately to grab it, only to be stopped short by Danielle, who stepped right in front of it. Staring up to see Danny and Sam, still in dragon form, not to mention Dora, Danielle and all the others, Aragon could only look on in stark terror at the overwhelming force looming down. And he had neither the power of his amulet, nor the Scepter of Fey, to stand up to it.
"Not bad for a couple of 'underlings', huh?" Danielle remarked sarcastically, pulling back an armored fist.
"I think it's time we got you your home back," Dora announced as she raised the Scepter of Fey, which began to glow once again.
Within seconds, just like when Aragon first attacked, the entire town was washed over in a blinding light. As the light passed by, the dirt roads became replaced with paved streets, ramshackle huts became brick buildings and the entire town of Amity Park was restored to its original state. Even the entranced population returned to normal, with no memory of what had been going on the last few hours. The only other people who did know were Sam's parents, who could only hug each other in relief that Sam and the others had kept their word. And as Danny and the others looked around the inside of City Hall, which for the time had been Aragon's new palace, they all felt a deep sense of satisfaction at a job well done.
"Well…that was fun," Sam commented, having returned to her original ghost form, along with Danny. "At least now I can check 'being a dragon' off my list of lifetime goals."
"You seriously had that on a list of lifetime goals? Do I even WANT to know what else you've got listed?" Valerie asked, feeling a sense of unease as Danny and Sam both tossed her a sly grin. "On second thought, forget I asked."
"I just hope I didn't do anything TOO stupid before you guys helped me get my mind back," Jazz remarked, causing Tucker to flash a nervous look.
"Uh…I don't remember anything…offhand," Tucker replied uneasily, giving Jazz the sense that he might have known more than he was telling.
Even Danielle was enjoying how everything was back to normal, jumping onto Wulf and rubbing his chest while Wulf was flopped on his back, panting happily at the attention. But everyone being distracted was just the opening a recovering Aragon needed as he tried to quietly make his way out of City Hall, along with his Archer and Executioner.
Just as they burst out the front door, however, they all suddenly found themselves instantly pinned to the outside wall by their clothes with a barrage of arrows. Desperately, Aragon and his henchmen tried to pull themselves free, only to discover that the arrows refused to budge because the arrowheads were made from scraps of Ectoranium. Looking over, they quickly discovered that the arrows had been fired by none other than Maddie and Jack, who had just caught up with the action, having had to run the whole way to the palace on foot.
"Wow!" Jack blurted out excitedly. "Maddie, these babies aim like a dream!"
"Thanks, Hon," Maddie replied before turning her attention to Aragon with a smug grin. "And SOMEONE here thought that innovation was a bad idea."
It was then that Aragon turned his gaze to see Dora leaning out the door with Danny and the others, each flashing an amused grin. Well and truly trapped, Aragon could only roll his eyes as he let out a helpless groan.
Another person unhappy with what was happening was Vlad Plasmius, himself. Looking down from a nearby roof at how Aragon had ended up when it was all said and done, Vlad could only respond with crossed arms and a frown of disapproval before taking off into the sky.
In spite of a little confusion from the loss of time, Halloween remained in full swing on the streets of Amity Park. Of course, no little kid could possibly let a little strangeness get in the way of the one night of the year where free candy was up for grabs. And Danielle was certainly no exception as she prowled the streets with Wulf, being allowed to keep the knight armor that Dora had conjured up for her as her costume for the night.
"Onward, faithful steed!" she called out, riding atop Wulf's back. "Hyah!"
Wulf merely growled in anticipation as he bounded ahead, while Jazz, who was watching over Danielle for the night, could only shake her head as she followed behind. Other kids on the streets, however, were definitely intrigued by Danielle and Wulf's appearance on the scene.
"Aw man, those costumes are so cool," one kid was heard to say to his friends. "Where did they get those, anyway?"
Meanwhile, bigger kids were celebrating the occasion their own way at the Casper High Halloween dance. Having had more than enough of delving into the Dark Ages for one night, Valerie and Tucker chose to mark the night with a modern twist, with Valerie donning her armor and Tucker walking around with his robot.
"So, 'Mister Mayor', have you thought about what you want to say, regarding what happened today?" Valerie asked.
"I'm still working on it," Tucker answered. "Honestly, I'm kinda thinking the less people know about this one, the better, you know?"
"Well, it can't be a TOTAL secret," Valerie noted. "After all, there are a couple people who DO know what happened."
"Aw, I wouldn't worry about that. Sam's parents don't like to talk about these things," Tucker remarked dismissively. "Right, Sam…?"
But Tucker's words were cut off as what was becoming an all-too familiar sight once again greeted his eyes. Sam, dressed up in Danny's clothes and hair, had her arms around a plainly-dressed Danny who was leaning up against the gym wall, their lips gently caressing each other with soft kisses.
"Oooooh, that is never going to stop being wrong," Tucker groaned uncomfortably as he and Valerie looked away, shielding their eyes. "Can't you guys give that a rest?"
"Excuse me, but are you, or are you not, the guy who just kissed my sister today?" Danny argued while Sam trailed soft pecks across his cheek. "YOU officially gave up your right to speak."
"How many times do I have to say, I didn't mean it?" Tucker fired back. "Besides, the one night of the year where going ghost is borderline normal for you guys…not to mention a lot less creepy…and you couldn't do it tonight? Show a little imagination."
"Uuuuh, I think someone already beat them to it," Valerie noted, pointing to the crowd on the dance floor.
Curious, Danny and Sam turned to look, only to see Dash and Paulina emerging from the crowd, dressed, of all things, as Danny Phantom and Sam Tasma. And as both couples happened to notice each other with a pair of stunned blinks, they could only immediately turn away, all four of them shuddering with dread at what the other was wearing.
"Okay, still glad I didn't kick their butts before when I had the chance?" Sam had to ask as Dash and Paulina continued on their way.
"I'll admit, in hindsight, I could have gone without seeing that," Danny replied, while Tucker and Valerie could only roll their eyes with slight amusement.
Back in Dora's kingdom in the Ghost Zone, Aragon wasn't enjoying the Halloween evening nearly as much, chained in his cell, alongside his Archer and Executioner. But he was about to enjoy himself even less as a raw egg came hurtling through the window of his cell and hit him square in the face, followed by the mischievous laughter of some of the kingdom's ghost children.
"RrrrrrrGUARD! Get me some water to wash my face this instant!" Aragon's voice echoed through the corridors, causing the two guards standing watch over the dungeon's main entrance to both let out a heavy sigh.
"Uuuuh, I can't wait until we get indoor plumbing," the one guard groaned, causing the other to nod in full agreement.