Rick was falling from the sky in his Jeep. His hands had a death grip on the steering wheel as he plummeted, still unsure of whether or not this was actually happening. He looked out the window at the ground below. Below was a large, rounded continent and it was zooming in fast. But just before the car smashed into a hillside below, blinding light filled Rick’s vision. The car alighted upon the ground with no crash, but Rick’s consciousness faded.
He awoke to the sounds of movement. Heavy wooden wheels grinded against a rocky dirt road. Wooden boards and planks creaked. Horses neighed and whinnied, and people chattered and laughed. Rick opened his eyes.
He was in a small, old iron cage, cramped against an unknown being behind him, wearing dirty rags. His cage was on a large wooden cart with other cages and crates, and that cart was the last of a caravan crossing mountainous terrain. There were three carts in a line, two horses pulling each. Six armored horsemen served as escorts. Rick saw their armor had similarities to ancient European medieval armor, but the style was unlike any he immediately recognized. They wielded swords and shields.
The cart hit a bump, causing Rick’s head to slam against the bars. The impact brought him back to full consciousness. He grabbed the bars and shook them.
“Hey!” he called out to the nearest horseman.
The cart driver answered Rick. “Shut up back there!”
“What’s going on?” Rick tried to get a look at the driver, but could not turn around.
“Stop that!” a woman’s voice hissed. It was Rick’s cell-mate.
“Who are you? Where are we?”
An elbow flew jabbed Rick in the side. He grunted in pain, but it made him calm down.
“I said stop. Do you want to be beaten?” the voice whispered to him.
“You are a prisoner, just like me. Can you not tell?”
“Are we at a Renaissance festival?” Rick whispered back.
“I have never heard of this ‘Renaissance’. No, we are traveling through the mountains to be sold at auction in the city.”
“As slaves, of course.”
“Don’t have the Emancipation Proclamation around here, huh?”
“Cease your witticisms. It is a long journey, and I would much rather not witness your beating.”
Rick sighed. He looked at the nearest horseman. The horseman scoffed and kicked his horse to speed up so that he wouldn’t have to look at Rick. “Prick,” Rick said at him.
It was a nice, clear day outside of the cage. The mountain air was a little nippy and Rick found himself glad to be beside another person who provided body heat. Rick was stuck looking out the back side of the caravan, which revealed tall, snowcapped mountains in the distance. He wondered what the view from the front of the cart held but did not feel like getting jabbed again. Instead, he closed his eyes and made an effort to remember how he ended up in this cage.
There he was, living his life in America. He was at an intersection. The light turned green, so he started driving forward. Headlights blinded him, and then he was in the sky.
Rick opened his eyes. “Am I dead?” he whispered.
“You seem alive to me,” the other slave replied.
The silent, bumpy cart ride lasted several more hours, or what felt like several days to Rick. Eventually the caravan reached a small mountain town. The procession stopped at the edge and everyone went into the town except for two horsemen stayed behind to guard their belongings. They dismounted and sat on rocks to eat.
Rick tried to view the little town as best as he could. The buildings were made from wood and stone, definitely something right out of medieval times. Goats and sheep and chickens wandered around unattended, as did playing children.
“Okay,” Rick said, “Enough of this.” He put his hand on the cage’s lock, felt it, and knocked on a few places.
“What are you doing?” the slave asked.
“Hyah!” Rick struck the lock with an open-handed palm strike, and the cage door flung open.
The horsemen heard the ruckus and drew their swords to stop Rick. They did not have to go far because Rick sprang out of the cage and charged straight at them. With precise strikes to their heads, he knocked the two unconscious before they could ready their swords. Then he started stripping one of them.
The slave approached Rick from behind. “How did you do this?”
Rick looked over his shoulder to see the slave. It was a woman, but unlike any woman he had seen before. Her skin was suntanned and her hair was a vivid silver color. It almost fell to her waist. She also had brilliant amber irises and pointed ears. Rick could not take his eyes off of her.
“What are you?” Rick blurted out.
“A dark elf, of course. Have you never seen my kind?”
“Again, I must ask how you did this. I have never seen such magic.”
“Magic? No, I used martial arts.” Rick’s confidence surged. “I tested the lock to find its weaknesses, then exploited them. As for these clowns, well, all it took was the right amount of strength and accuracy. Nothing I couldn’t handle.” He resumed undressing the horseman. Underneath the armor, the horseman wore a basic cloth outfit to prevent unwanted chaffing from the leather armor he wore over it. Rick stripped that as well and began to put it on.
“What will you do with them?” the elf asked.
“I just want his clothes as a disguise. I’m not escaping in these rags.”
“Where will you go?”
Rick stopped. “I, uh, I don’t know. Away from here, I guess.”
“Now that I am free, I plan to return home. You may join me, if you would like. It is the least I can do for my savior.” She bowed her head.
“Sure, I’ll join you. It’s better than wandering around like a chicken with its head cut off.” He took a deep breath. “This is interesting. It’s like I’m on an adventure. I’ll have to write this down when I wake up.”
“When you wake up? Surely you don’t believe this is some dream?” The dark elf started undressing the other guard to provide her own disguise.
“Elves don’t exist and neither do knights, at least not anymore. This is probably a coma dream or something.”
“You are the strangest human I have ever met.”
They stripped the men bare and donned their leather armor with their swords sheathed at their waists. It was all pretty heavy but it was their best bet if they wanted to escape. The elf suggested they loot the carts for some coin. They gathered a couple of pouches of silver each, and went toward the town. Rather than pass through it and risk being spotted, they moved around it. On the opposite side of the town, they found stables. A man was tending the horses there. He was a greying man wearing clothes not much better than the rags that Rick had worn before.
“How can I help you?” he asked the two when they approached.
The elf stepped forward. “We need transportation out of the village,” she said.
Coin was exchanged, and the man led Rick and the elf to a covered carriage. He strapped two horses up to it as Rick and the elf climbed in and sat in the back out of the glare of the sun.
“My name’s Rick, by the way,” Rick said to the elf as the man took his seat in front and called for the horses to go. They were off to the neighboring town.
“It is good to meet you, Rick. My name is Lunala.” She bowed her head.
“Does your name mean ‘moon song’ by any chance?” Rick joked.
“It does! Do you speak the elven language?”
“No, no, it was just a guess.”
The carriage moved through the village and passed the caravan of their former captives. The two inside fell silent and peeked out. Their former cart driver was reprimanding the two bare horsemen while the others had begun to search the area.
“Looks like they lost something,” their new carriage driver said.
“Looks like it,” Rick agreed.
They made it safely out of the town. Their journey was not too slow but definitely not that fast. But Rick was in no hurry. He scooted toward the front of their carriage and admired the landscape. Lunala had begun to discard the armor down to the cloth underclothes across from him. Rick followed suit.
“Good idea,” he said to Lunala. “This is heavier than it looks.”
“It will take hours until we reach the next village,” she said. “We might as well be comfortable.”
“Aye, the elf is right,” the carriage driver agreed. “You two can even shut your eyes. We will get there when we get there.”
Rick shrugged and tried out that idea. He laid out on his side of the carriage and closed his eyes. The road was too bumpy for Rick to take a proper nap, but he closed his eyes anyway and let his mind ponder the day’s events. He tried again to remember how he had arrived here, but all he could recall was the oncoming truck followed by falling. This had to be a dream. There was no other explanation. Perhaps he really was in a coma. Rick thought and thought and thought. A short time passed, and Rick fell asleep.