Kian Roh stood in the ancient Temple of Anthai, watching intently as his younger sister Maia silently prepared to open the gateway to the Land of the Gods. Kian, for his part, was apprehensive about the whole thing. Although he had somewhat come to terms with the fact that Maia could take care of herself, he was still almost always apprehensive where his sister was concerned. They’d faced mortal danger together before, along with their friends Aron and Risa – who, at this moment, stood beside Kian before the dais – and prevailed. Kian commanded water magic, and Maia was a fire magus, and between the two of them, there was very little that stood a chance against the siblings.
But this was different. Maia was the focus of an ancient prophecy that demanded she go to Alderia, Land of the Gods, to face and destroy the insane God Ral Gant. That was the part that worried him. His green-skinned, silver-haired sister was an extremely capable young lady, but what mortal could hope to stand against a God? And how could Maia have been in a prophecy that was a thousand years old? Ten’maa’s blood, she was only eighteen!
Kian shook his head. Worrying wouldn’t do any good. All he could do was pray to the Gods – excepting one, of course – that Maia would prove equal to her task. He grinned suddenly. Of course, with him at her side, how could she not?
Kian fixed his violet eyes on his sister. She stood with her arms raised in supplication, her face tilted towards the sky. Her fire magic began to build at her hands, the shimmering red spilling out of her palms and over her fingers.
Without warning, Maia’s slender body jerked forward, and the magic burst from her outthrust hands and struck the empty air, spattering against it like raindrops on a window. The magic began to swirl, whirling faster and faster in a circle, its crimson hue gradually fading to warm gold. Kian shielded his eyes as his sister was absorbed into the portal. Suddenly, the golden vortex shot forward, enveloping Aron and Risa in its auric arms of flame, and finally Kian himself was sucked into its depths, being drawn toward Alderia.
As he passed between the dimensions, pulled along the fiery tunnel almost against his will, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye – a white light hurtling towards him at lightning speed! Kian tried to duck out of its way, but he was immobilized by the gold fire. He shut his eyes tightly and braced for impact.
The shock was incredible when the white light passed over Kian’s body. He howled in pain as his muscles were ratcheted by a powerful electrical jolt. His blue skin actually began to steam from the heat of it. Mercifully, Kian blacked out from the pain. His last conscious thought was the sensation of falling.
Lara Night found herself plummeting through soft white clouds, the cool mist saturating her skin and hair as she passed through them. She was spinning out of control, feeling her stomach churn as glimpses of the horizon passed before her eyes, never in the same place as before. Thoughts were racing through her mind – that it was all an illusion somehow, that it was a dream. It couldn’t be real.
Before long, she felt branches and leaves tearing at her skin and clothing as the sound of cracking wood filled her ears. Closing her eyes, she began to silently pray that none of the cracking sounds were her own limbs…she begged for the falling to stop.
And it did.
The breath in her lungs rushed out of her violently as the merciless ground slammed into her back. She felt her head bounce once slightly after it hit, and a wave of dizziness followed almost immediately. As she opened her eyes slowly, she realized the falling was over – but she had no idea where she had come to a stop.
“Ohhh…that hurt.” Lara sat up slowly, leaning her head against her left palm to try and stop her head from throbbing painfully. A quick survey of her arms, hands, legs and head told her that she was uninjured – yet every muscle and joint in her body cried out to her. Resistance to damage didn’t always guarantee absence of pain.
She stood slowly, and paused to pick out the many leaves and branches which had wedged themselves in her hair, as well as inside her costume. She decided not to ask herself how the foliage ended up in there – some things were better off not discovering.
As soon as she’d had a few moments to calm herself, Lara tried to remember the events which had preceded her fall and violent crash to the ground. She had traveled across the universe, even between realities, dozens of times without incident. What had been different this time?
Lara remembered leaving her home in Los Angeles in her black and white costume, locking her door before she leapt toward the skies. She wanted to begin her cross-reality journey to Otherverse in the air, so she would end up in the air once she re-materialized on Otherverse Earth. It gave her an advantage over anything which might be on the ground at the time.
That was the last thing she remembered clearly. Then, a vision – a blue-skinned young man, flying toward her at high velocity. She felt him pass through her intangible energy form as she instinctively cringed and closed her eyes in anticipation of an impact which never occurred. Next thing she remembered-
Lara looked up at the trees painfully and sighed. It was time to forget the past and begin exploring to figure out exactly where she was. She began walking through the forest she had apparently landed in the middle of. It was a short walk – by the time she took a few steps, she saw a single-lane paved road winding through the woods…as well as a wooden sign.
“Whitewater Forest?” She smiled as the words she spoke out loud reached her own ears. She knew where she was – on the home Earth of someone she hadn’t visited in a while. He was a good listener, someone who was nice to her…someone she was happy to call a friend.
But just as she considered visiting him, her thoughts turned again to the blue-skinned young man. An ordinary human falling from the sky would have been killed – had the “blue guy” met the same fate? Was he seriously injured, in need of help? Lara knew that as long as she had a chance of saving someone who could possibly be dying…she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t.
She leapt into the sky, quickly shifting into intangibility, intent on sending herself to wherever the “blue guy” went. Only as soon as she began to change to energy, she felt pain like never before. Her skin felt as if it was on fire, like someone had just tossed her into a blast furnace. The shock was enough to break her concentration, causing her to fall to the ground once more, not even feeling it this time when she crash-landed.
As the pain subsided, she rose slowly to her feet. She looked at her hands, expecting to see burns, even blood – but they were uninjured.
“What is going on here?” Lara looked up at the sky again as she stepped over to the edge of the road on shaky legs. She thought about flying somewhere…anywhere that could help her find out what was happening. But after her last attempt, she had to build her courage first.
Lara floated off the ground gently, higher and higher – testing herself, to be prepared for any pain her flight might cause. But even as she rose above the treetops, she felt nothing. She looked at her hands again, realizing in a flash what had caused the sudden, painful heat – she had been trying to teleport herself somewhere!
“That’s it! I can’t travel-” Lara’s voice began in triumphant discovery, but trailed off in sadness. She began to realize that she was trapped on this Earth, and didn’t understand why. Her mind imagined the blue-skinned young man somewhere, bleeding to death…and she was helpless to stop it.
A deep sigh cleared her mind. She couldn’t harbor any fear, any worries – the problem at hand, her inability to leave this universe, would have to be addressed first. Lara knew she would have to visit the one person with enough imagination – and possibly power – to send her home. “Well…I’m off to see the wizard.”
Kian regained consciousness just in time to see that he was falling head-first towards a small body of water. With a startled cry, he extended his arms and summoned his magic. A silvery shimmer shot downwards, enveloped the rapidly approaching ground, and brought up the water into a cushioning fountain.
Kian splashed hard into the waterspout, but it worked – slowly, he lowered himself until he could let himself fall without breaking any bones.
“Gods, what a headache,” he groaned. His skull was pounding, and every muscle in his body twitched spasmodically as a result of the shock he’d gotten from going through the portal to Alderia…he stopped himself in mid-thought. The shock hadn’t been from the portal, he realized abruptly. It was that white blur he saw.
Puzzled, he looked around for Maia, but didn’t see her – or Aron or Risa, for that matter. A horrible realization began to ice up in his stomach. This was not Alderia. He knew it instinctively. For one thing, it looked like he was in somebody’s backyard. It was fenced in, and had a large willow tree off in one corner. The other side was landscaped with odd-looking plants, although they had yet to bloom. In the middle of everything (where, though?) was what looked like a pond set in stone. Kian turned around, and sure enough, a yellow one-story house was staring back at him.
“This day can’t get any worse,” Kian lamented. Right on cue, as if to disprove his words, a pair of large, barking dogs came barreling towards him. Kian, it must be said, shrieked and ran like a woman – only there was nowhere to run. The larger, honey-colored dog leapt up and put his front paws on Kian’s chest, knocking him over. The smaller, black dog took the sleeve of Kian’s tunic and pulled, growling menacingly.
“Opie! Floyd! Knock it off!” a woman’s voice called out sharply from the house. The dogs abandoned Kian and ran to the back door. Kian sat up, shaking his head to clear the mental cobwebs, and looked up to see who had called the dogs off.
She was a young woman, barely out of her teens, with thick, rich auburn hair and pale skin. She was of average height and was dressed in the strangest clothing Kian had ever seen – blue pants of an odd fabric and a sleeveless black shirt of an unfamiliar cut. She wasn’t wearing any shoes, and Kian noticed that she had pretty feet.
“What are you getting into now, huh?” she asked the dogs, scratching their ears while their tails wagged enthusiastically. She looked up at Kian, and her blue eyes widened in sudden shock.
Kian caught her gaze and managed a guilty wave. “Hello,” he said lamely.
The girl continued staring. Kian indicated his wet, muddy clothes. “Could you give me a towel or something?”
“A towel. Sure,” the girl repeated dumbly. “Ah…can you come over here for a second?”
Kian acquiesced, looking apprehensively at the growling dogs, but the girl had them firmly by their collars. She stared at him for a long time, taking in his blonde hair, violet eyes, pointed ears and undeniably blue skin. She also noticed his dripping clothes – a yellow tunic, tan leather pants, soft leather half-boots and a dark blue traveling cloak. After a very long scrutiny, she sighed.
“Well, that’s it,” she said glumly. “I’ve finally snapped. I suppose I can go bomb my old high school or something now.”
Kian squinted at her. “Are you…quite all right?”
“Oh, sure. I’m fine. I’m seeing fictional characters walking around in my backyard, so yeah, I’m just perfect.” Her words were heavily laced with sarcasm.
Kian frowned. “Fictional?”
“Well, yeah. There’s this whole thing where you don’t exist and I’m insane.”
“I’m…” Kian began, then thought better of it. “Well, mostly I’m wet, but I’m also very lost, so could you please tell me where I am?”
The girl shooed the dogs into the house, shut the door and faced Kian. “Not until you tell me what happened to you.”
Kian sighed. It was going to be one of those days. “I was with my sister and friends at the Temple of Anthai. We were going to Alderia, and as I was traveling through the portal, I-”
“So you are him,” the girl said in amazement.
“Kian. You’re Kian Roh.” The girl stared at him, bewildered. “And I’m…talking to you.”
Kian decided that maybe the girl was a little crazy. “It seems you have the advantage over me.”
The girl smiled despite herself. Well, I’m nuts, not rude, she thought. “Dayna,” she introduced herself. “Dayna Abel.”
Kian shook her hand politely. “I’m quite sure we haven’t met before,” he pointed out.
Dayna frowned. “Let’s assume for a minute that I haven’t lost my mind. How did you end up here?”
“I don’t know!” Kian said in frustration. “I was going to Alderia and this white light hit me. I blacked out, and the next thing I know-”
“-you’re making a nosedive into my pool,” she finished for him.
“And for that matter, where is here?”
“Earth,” Dayna said with a shrug. “You won’t have heard of it. I hate to tell you, Kian, but you’re on another world.”
Kian absorbed that. “Okay. So how did I get here, and what was that white light?”
“I don’t know,” Dayna admitted. “I didn’t put that in the book.”
Kian blinked. “What?”
“Never mind. Why don’t you come inside and dry off? You and I need to have a very long talk.” She grinned suddenly. “You’re lucky I’ve got the house to myself this weekend. My dad thinks my friend Jay looks like a freak. He’d have apoplexy if he saw you.”
Kian followed Dayna into the house. Strange girl, he thought to himself.