“You’re looking for your sons?” Montgomery the Moose asked, already sure of which sons the small woman was talking about.

“Jerry and Tommy,” she replied. “They’re about my size. Have you seen them?”

Montgomery was too surprised to know what to say, but the Chocolate Lab replied “No. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“I’m Dorothy,” Jerry and Tommy’s mother replied. After examining the Chocolate Lab closely, she continued gently, “You don’t remember me, do you, Fred?”

The Chocolate Lab’s whole demeanor suddenly softened, as if considering a long-forgotten memory and trying it on for size. He used to have recurring daydreams of being a dog that was made out of flesh, bones, and fur – not chocolate – and going on adventures with two small companions, as a team of some sort, but those dreams faded away a long time ago. Now they all came flooding back to him – Dorothy was one of his companions. And they weren’t dreams. They were memories.

“Dorothy,” he said with love filling his voice. Chocolate tears started to fill his eyes, and he ran to hug her. The size disparity was so large that he just knocked her down, but she gave such a smile and laugh that he knew she didn’t mind at all. He licked her and snuggled her as closely as he could, before she gently but firmly nudged him away.

Through her laughter she said, “Hey, hey, hey. Fred, you’re getting chocolate all over me!” Montgomery’s ears perked up. Fred the Chocolate Lab stopped and apologized, turning himself into a dog made entirely of soft fur, including a fur tongue, a fur nose, and fur eyes.

The chocolate on Dorothy was still chocolate, though, and Montgomery thought now would be his time to chime in.

“Dorothy, my name is Montgomery,” he said, and Dorothy turned to look up at him as Fred snuggled in next to her.

“Hello, Montgomery,” she replied with a polite smile.

“Hi. I have two things I need to tell you,” Montgomery continued, trying to decide which one to tell her first. He figured he should tell her the one she’d care about most first. “Your sons, Jerry and Tommy – they’re good friends of mine. And they’re here. I lost them, but they’re here somewhere, looking for something on a map.” Dorothy nodded. This news confirmed what she’d always thought about her sons; that their determination and their friendliness would get them here eventually.

“Thank you, Montgomery,” she replied with another smile.

Montgomery paused. He decided it might be rude to say the second thing. But Dorothy didn’t let him forget.

“And what was the other thing?” She asked.

“Oh, well, it’s nothing.”

“It’s okay,” she added. “You can tell me.”

“Well, it’s more of a question really…”

“Okay,” she continued.

He looked embarrassed and tried to avoid eye contact.

“Well,” he finally began, “it’s just that chocolate is my favorite food, and it’s been really hard to be around… Fred… without eating him. And now you’re covered in chocolate and you don’t want to be…”

“Ugh, disgusting,” Fred the Fur Lab said.

“Can you get the chocolate off me without eating me?” Dorothy asked.

“Yeah, I can. I’m pretty good with chocolate,” he bluffed.

“Okay, my new friend,” she said. “Come on then.”

Montgomery tried not to show his excitement as he bent down and closed his whole mouth around Dorothy, lifting her off the ground and savoring the taste he’d missed for so long, and when he was confident he had sucked all the chocolate off her, he spat her back out onto the ground.

Dorothy looked over her clothes and cringed as she saw she was now covered in moose saliva.

“Okay, my bad,” she said. “I thought you were just going to lick me.” She saw the embarrassment on Montgomery’s face. “It’s okay,” she reassured him. “I’ve been through worse.”

She looked at Fred, who confirmed with a laugh. “Oh, yeah, she’s definitely been through worse. Remember that time…?” he started before losing himself in laughter.

“The cow?” she asked.

“…in the cow?” Fred finally finished through his laughter.

“Yeah… I couldn’t make it back through all four stomachs and had to come out the other end. That was definitely worse.”

Before long, Dorothy, Fred, and Montgomery were all laughing. Seeing Dorothy and Fred as two old friends reunited for the first time in who knows how long made Montgomery happy and confident that they would find their other friends. Montgomery wondered how Montgomery the Mouse was doing; he missed him greatly.

“So what happened, Fred?” Dorothy asked. “You were a regular dug. What happened to you?”

“Well, there’s this horse…”

Just then, Roger the Giant Raccoon stirred, interrupting Fred’s story. She turned her head to look at the creatures close to her, then closed her eyes again before tipping her head back for an enormous yawn that reverberated through their tropical surroundings. Rolling onto her back and knocking over Montgomery the Moose in the process, she stretched her body as long as it could be to wake herself up, and gave another yawn.

Montgomery picked himself back up. Roger then rolled over to stand herself up, and knocked him down again. Dorothy and Fred, who moved out of Roger’s way each time, seemed to find the whole thing very amusing.

Roger yawned once more while looking at the creatures. and deciding they didn’t pose any threat to her, she asked sleepily, “So what’s goin’ on?”

Montgomery the Moose picked himself up again, and decided to give Roger a recap. “Uh, Jerry and Tommy’s mom Dorothy is some kind of kick-butt adventurer or something, this guy used to be a dog called Fred but now he can change what he’s made out of – oh, and I guess they’ve known each other for years. You used to be a lot smaller. And I’m famous, apparently.”

“Yes, you are, Montgomery the Moose,” came a booming voice from the sky above. They all looked up. Their natural reaction was to be afraid of the creature that had spoken those words; the voice was deep and raspy, and the creature itself was a forty-foot long scaly purple dragon with enormous wings, huge claws, and teeth larger than Dorothy.

“Quick, get behind me,” Roger shouted to her friends, pushing them behind her, despite Fred’s objections. In her new, larger size, she felt brave and confident that she could handle this threat. She stood up on her hind legs to defend the group, but as the dragon came closer to them, she realized that she was more outmatched than she’d ever been in her life. The dragon landed lower on the slope leading up to them, and even from that lower ground level, the dragon’s head was still higher than Roger’s.

“Oh,” Roger said quietly. “That creature looked a lot smaller in the air.”

“That’s called perspective,” Montgomery the Moose added helpfully.

“Wait,” Dorothy called. “Why do you assume this dragon is against us?”

“He’s not!” Fred shouted.

“Umm, look at that thing,” Roger replied.

“I am not a threat to you,” the dragon said with gravity in its voice… before wanting to set the record straight. “I mean… I am a threat to you if I want to be. I am very scary.” He thought better of this approach and tried to sound serious and important again. “But I am not here as an enemy. I am here as an ally.” He paused. “But let’s just be clear that I’m super scary, okay?”

Other than Fred, who was being ignored, the group wasn’t sure what to make of the dragon, but as the dragon leaned its head forward close to them, their fear soon turned to celebration when they saw two small friends riding on the dragon’s head. Montgomery the Mouse and Jerry jumped off the snout and ran toward Montgomery the Moose with joy on their faces. Montgomery the Mouse clambered up onto Montgomery the Moose’s back, and they both immediately felt at home now that they were back together again.

“Jerry?” Dorothy announced her presence to her son.

“Mom?!” Jerry called in shock. “What are you doing here?” They ran to each other and embraced.

“If you think this is the first time your mother has been here, my young friend, you are gravely mistaken,” Fred said, before quietly clarifying to no one, “okay, maybe not gravely mistaken, that sounds a bit dramatic. But basically, yeah, she’s been here before.”

“Where’s Tommy?” Dorothy asked.

“I don’t know, Mom,” Jerry said, feeling like he had let his mom down even beyond his own concern about his brother.

“We’ll find him,” she reassured him. “He’s here somewhere. I can feel it.”

Roger wanted to hug her friends too, but wasn’t sure how, and ended up simply smothering the whole group under her enormous body. She thought the movement underneath was their way of hugging her and rubbing her belly to show affection, but really they were trying to get out.

“Can’t… breathe…” she heard someone say from underneath her fur.

“I know,” she said excitedly, “it’s so great to see each other again, it’s breathtaking!”

“You should… probably… get off them,” the dragon said gently. “You’re killing your friends…”

“What? No, they’re fine,” Roger said, lifting herself off her friends and looking down at them gasping for breath. “Look.”

“Please,” Fred the Cactus Lab said, panting, “please never hug us again.” Once he had regained his breath, and reverted to his Chocolate Lab form, which Dorothy realized was his natural state these days, Fred walked forward to the dragon as the emissary of the group.

“The Scary Stanley,” he said grandly, “may I introduce to you, the one you’ve been waiting for all these years… Montgomery the MOOSE!”

“(And friends)”, Montgomery the Moose whispered.

“…and FRIENDS!”

Click here for Chapter Twenty-Five.

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