CHAPTER 21 - A Hero Emerges (1)
“Alright, what is the plan?”
Treya finished her plate and looked at the other three. A lot happened the night before, but Celia had relayed everything when she came into Treya’s room to sleep, while the men shared Celia’s old room.
Sunlight now streamed through the windows as they all ate breakfast. Alex and Quinn both had several empty plates in front of them, and Celia was still eating hers with dainty manners. Alex spoke through a mouthful of food, causing Treya to frown.
“Plan? We find out how to get me home. I can’t really say more than that since I have no idea how to do it.”
Celia wiped her mouth with a napkin and spoke up next.
“I suggest we head to the Archives and see what information we can find there. I am aware that it is not the safest of options, but given the skill and strength of these two, I feel confident we can reach such a destination without much issue.”
Treya did not look convinced, however.
“The Archives? Shooting straight for the moon, are we?”
“Well, unless you have a better idea, I fail to see why not.”
It was at this point Alex finished his food and set down his utensils.
“Okay, first things first: What are the Archives? I mean, I can make a guess, but I’d rather have concrete intel before moving, if possible.”
Treya watched Celia as she answered Alex’s question. “The Archives are the largest collection of magical beings in Arcadia, well outside our small Kingdom of Raistra.” Alex nodded, having only just now heard the kingdom’s name for the first time. He was slipping. “The trouble is that it lies at the opposite end of the Outlands, where powerful beasts reside. And, if the stories are to be believed, demons make their home there, as well.”
Quinn continued scarfing down his fourth plate. He had heard all of this before, and he already made a blood promise to follow Alex no matter what, so he didn’t care much about where they went.
“And you think that these Archives will be where we find a way to get me home?”
“They are our best bet, nothing more. IF there is a way to get you home, the Archives are where we will find it.” Celia’s voice was calm. Treya hesitated for a second before nodding in agreement.
“Alright, then. Since we don’t have any other viable ideas, let’s roll with this one for now. How do we get to these Archives?”
The man kept walking. His jeans and faded t-shirt were caked in dirt and blood. Torn bits of fabric revealed poorly bandaged wounds that ached every time he moved. The red landscape stretched on into the horizon, with no respite in sight. Overhead, the dark thunderclouds that forever threatened rain but never delivered continued to roll.
He licked his dry lips, and not for the first time, he wished he had at least a bottle of water. Or that he could find a muddy stream. A bug-infested puddle. Anything.
The fatigue, injuries, and dehydration finally overtook him, and the man fell forward. Collapsing on the ground, his once neatly trimmed brown hair disappeared in a cloud of dust.
He was still alive, but he no longer had the strength to move.
How long did he remain like that? It was hard to tell. The thick clouds let no sunlight through, and he didn’t know if it was night or day. He only knew that he had been walking for what seemed like an eternity.
Zachary Anderson looked back on his life. It wasn’t a bad life, but it couldn’t be called outstanding, either. He was from a middle-class family and was raised as the only child of two hard-working parents. He graduated from college with a degree in computer sciences, and he spent a lot of time playing video games.
He had just gotten a promotion at the massive video game corporation due to his work on their latest MMORPG, which had resounded in a huge success. While drinking with his friends and coworkers to celebrate, he got absolutely plastered.
They had offered to escort him home, but he was only a couple of blocks from the bar and felt he could make it home by himself.
‘Shoulda let them come with…’
He remembered leaving the bar. Waving at his companions as they went their separate ways. He could remember the lights of the streetlamps and the cars passing by.
Then he came to here.
At first, he thought it was a dream. But he couldn’t wake up, no matter what he tried. It wasn’t until some giant bird attempted to pick him up, presumably for food, and he got seriously hurt, that he realized it wasn’t a dream.
He had managed to escape the beast and bandage his wounds, but no matter how long he walked, the scenery remained the same.
Zach’s eyes slowly closed as he thought to himself.
‘Well, this is it. I’m gonna die here, aren’t I?’
Just as he slipped into unconsciousness, a group of individuals with snow-white hair and glimmering red eyes reached him. They were riding large panthers kitted out in fine metal armor.
The frontmost person, clad in ornate metal half-plate, climbed down from her mount and walked over, lifting a waterskin to his lips.
“We found you, Hero.”