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The Nature of a New World

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Chapter 1

Within an instant the darkness receded and a smooth layer of light fluttered over my closed eyes. Soon, that light swayed periodically, blocked out in sporadic patches. This flicker of the lights was like the ignition of a car being jump started. Everything burst to life. The engine that pounded in my chest beat a thrilled tune whilst the lungs gasped for substance.

However, as everything awoke to the current space, my mind replayed its previous moments. Shattered glass, piercing screams and blood. Lots of blood. The metallic stench still permeated in my nose, lingering like moss on a tree. A rush of memories and senses assaulted my mind and became too much to bear. It had to expel it somewhere. I shot from my prone position, leaning over to my side and released whatever substance had remained in my stomach. The vile liquid left my burning throat and hit the trodden mud with a wet slap. My eyes stung and my stomach ache but thankfully, I was alive.

I was alive? I was alive!

I patted every inch, every surface and every nook over my body, ignorant to my nakedness as excitement bubbled with each confirming tap. A heavy, worriful sigh left my body as the familiar appendage dangled freely between my legs.

"Oh, thank fuck for that..." Establishing my manhood brought a fresh sense of relief, but also brought on questions around my current state. Why had I been left naked in the middle of a shabby, tattered tent, without so much as a first aid kit present? It was certainly not a sanitary situation to be in and no matter where I was in the country, the paramedics could not leave me here.

Unless... No. There was no way. Surely I hadn't died in the incident? Or did they just think that I had died and used whatever they could find to store my body for the time being? Even then, I had watched TV shows where those that were proclaimed dead were placed within body bags and stored to the side whilst they cleaned up the scene. I was left underneath a shitty, thin blanket, completely exposed to the elements. If I did die, this was a ridiculous place to wake up in.

My thoughts turned to the crash. I could not have dreamt that. The details, down to the minute shard of glass, were too vivid for me to have conjured in my sleep. The pain I had experienced was profoundly real. However, there was no more pain. Patting down my body elicited no shock or bruise and there were no cuts marking the skin along my arms. I was entirely unblemished save for the regular few moles. To say I was completely rejuvenated was an understatement. In fact, I felt like I had just woken up from the best night's sleep I had ever had.

What happened to me? Nowhere in the world had resources great enough to heal the injuries I had sustained, and mine could not have been the worst.

An icy wave of realisation washed over me.

Where was everyone else?

At that moment, reality sank in deep. There was nothing else here. Nothing that really indicated any kind of medical assistance, nor were there any pieces of clothes that I could wear. If they truly believed me to be dead, why leave me here?

Wherever here was.

Throwing the questions aside, I wrapped the bedsheet around my frame, determined to figure out where I was and why I was left alone. Caution guided my step as I gripped the entranceway, and took a step outside. Where I was greeted by a shimmering blade to the neck. The cold steel was a warning that my instincts followed.

"Don't move." Came a hard voice.

I traced my eyes up the blade back to its owner. Specks of rust dotted the steelwork, with obvious chips donning a majority of the edges. Holding this mediaeval weapon was a balding, gristly man with a horrendous case of acne. He stood a head above me, glaring down with a thick hatred in his eyes.

I dared not speak. Not with the sword at my neck.

"Now," He breathed and his rotten breath washed over me. "Yer gunna follow me and yer gonna stay fucking quiet." He radiated a bloodlust that chilled me to my core. I had never experienced something so potent in my entire life. Every ounce of my being wished to slink away, try my luck, but a sword could be very persuasive; especially in the hands of someone on the brink.

"Where-"

Stars burst into my sight as my head whipped to one side. I staggered hard and crashed to the ground.

Did this fucker just swipe me? Fuck, that hurt.

I kept my mouth tight and lips firmly pressed together, knowing the next time wouldn't be as lenient. I heaved myself off the floor, gripping the makeshift robe tightly in one hand whilst the other clutched at my throbbing skull. I had no idea where he was about to take me but I was not a fan of being smacked by a pommel again. Raising back on shaky legs, Baldy shoved me to walk in front of him and I complied in an instant.

Pine trees enclosed us in every direction, and the ground was littered with broken twigs and sticks alongside half eaten pinecones. All of which I had to avoid due to not wearing any shoes. I was taking extra care where I placed my feet, looking for spaces with less debris so my soles weren't shredded. Each step was like walking on thousands of needles but better than the sword.

As we moved through the dense forest, the spaces between the trees began to fill and I had to take another look to notice the array of tents lined up within the thicket. All of them were similar to the scraggy one I awoke in. Beside each tent was a different type of farming tool. A large pitchfork beside one, whilst another was accompanied by a large ho.

Walking past them, it appeared that Baldy was one of the lucky ones. My stomach curled as I passed tents inhabited by multiple people nursing a wound more grievous than the last. A young man was slumped forward, his arm, or where his arm should have been, was wrapped in layers upon layers of bandages all stained a deep crimson. In another, a couple sobbed over a covered body and it wasn't hard to imagine why.

It went on like this for the next few tents. A sobbing partner or a fatal wound. It was horrific. No matter where I turned, the situation didn't change. It was as though they had fought a war and suffered an immense loss. There had to be a few hundred of them. All of them at a complete loss with no indication that things would get better.

What had I just stumbled into?

Baldy ushered me beyond the unsettling encampment, further into the forest until we reached a cul-de-sac of tents circling around a weak, timid fire. These tents were slightly larger than the previous ones, not much in terms of luxury, but whoever slept in these tents were held in a higher regard.

Behind them were large, wooden wagons, made of the natural material right down to the wheel, much like the ones that were used to transport goods back before cars and advanced metal work were developed. I would have thought these were those live action role players readying up for their next campaign had I not witnessed what I had moments before.

"Orion, why have you brought him here?" A man, clearly around his fifties, rose from the campfire. His face adorned with a gruff and greying beard but the crows feet around his sharp green eyes spoke of better times.

"'E looked like 'e were about to run off, Soran." The bald man, Orion, spoke, pointing the sword at me.

Soran's wise gaze scanned me, and he gave a weary sigh before retreating into his tent. He came back seconds later with a handful of neatly folded cloth.

"Use my tent, put some clothes on your back. The winters can be harsh here." The old man said, placing the clothes in my arms and guiding me to the tent he just came out of.

"Yer giving him clothes?" I heard Orion protest.

"He is not one of them, Orion."

"Not yet! Who knows what he could do!" The bald one exclaimed. He had a deep rooted hatred for something, and I was not quite sure I wanted to find out what it was.

"So freezing him and hitting him is the way we should go?"

"The empire would do much worse to one of us!"

The conversation faded as I entered Soran's tent. The inside was scarce of everything. There wasn't even a bed, just a roll of fur sprawled out on the ground. Around the edges were a couple of rucksacks and one lone crate with a simple golden pocket watch on top of it. Soran kept everything tidy, but he was still carrying light.

I shifted to the side of the opening, hiding around the corner to conserve my privacy as I pulled myself into the clothes. They fit loosely around my legs and torso and were clearly for someone with a heavier or stockier disposition yet they certainly were not Soran's size. At my full six foot two height, Soran came up to my nose, but these clothes sagged. They were not the typical fabric that I was used to, feeling coarse against my skin and I never knew that I could miss the feel of cotton or polyester hoodies more than I did in the moment. I did rejoice when the shoes, albeit a size or two too big, gave my feet much needed respite.

After donning the clothes, I emerged back into the clearing to find that Orion had left the area and Soran was the only one sat beside the fire.

"Thanks..." I said, sitting across from the old man. I had a million and one questions buzzing about but none of them wished to enter the conversation. Or even start it. Not that this surprised me, I never could talk to others very well. Aimy did all of the talking most of the time.

The thought of my best friend brought my mood down, and I unconsciously shrunk into myself. Soran picked up on this and prodded the burning fire which spat in annoyance.

"They were my son's. He was a big lad. Good, hard worker too." The old man spoke, and I noticed the solemn droop to his eyes. "Take care of them for me, it's the last piece of clothing of his I have left."

A silence stretched between us, broken periodically by the crackling of twigs in the fire. The sight of the fire was somewhat relaxing. It didn't calm my racing mind or the thoughts that encircled and entwined within. But the familiarity of a burning flame was a soothing sight.

"My apologies about the whole naked thing." Soran began. "We retrieved you that way and with the current war raging, we just set you where we could. We had asked Orion to clothe you, but he has his reasons which you no doubt heard." He spoke with the disposition of an elder who had just about ran out of excuses to remain living.

I nodded in response. Whatever those reasons were must link back to the group trying to recover from the war.

It didn't add up though. Why hold me in a tent that was a few tens of yards away from the encampment?

"We couldn't take the chance of having you close to the rest of the group." Soran explained as though he had read my mind. "It took a lot of us to retrieve you from that location and we lost many lives in that attempt alone."

"What do you mean?" He definitely said 'retrieve'.

"What is your name, son?" He asked.

"Thomas," I said after a moment's thought.

"Thomas, huh?" Soran looked up at the rustling leaves. There was a resignation on his hunched shoulders. Any energy the old man once had had been stripped from him, down to the last fibre of his being. Whatever weighed heavily on his mind must have been a huge burden.

"There was once a story my grandfather used to tell me as a child, it helped me sleep at night. I guess you could call it a comfort story to get me to doze off." Soran began, going back to prodding the fire.

"It told of great warriors, ones who could lead thousands of men into battle and wipe out ten times more just by themselves. They were incredible, excelling in the arts of swordplay, strategy and magic."

So the old man was told bedtime fairy tales?

He chuckled, feeding the flames another tasty twig. "Bear with me a second here."

"Sorry." I mumbled.

"Your face told the truth, do not be sorry about that." Soran laughed, and the joy relieved some of the tension. It was a hearty laugh and one that was a rather nice change to the screams running around my mind. "Anyway, these stories were filled with those warriors and mages, granted power from the gods themselves and they used it to ensure that the races of the world were safe from the natural dangers and even worse, each other.

"However, no one from the world had access to such power. This power was only bestowed upon those who were chosen. Chosen to wield great strength and protect the world that they were brought to. At first, they were like babes, struggling to navigate on their feet and always tripping and falling over the slightest bump. But their growth? Exponential. They rise and rise until the skies are no longer the limits but a goal to burst through to aim for the realm of the Gods."

Soran returned his gaze to the clouds. "As a child, I wished and wished. Prayed to the Gods, to the Goddess herself, to grant me such a power. I wanted to keep my whole family safe at all costs but I was never granted much. The most I could do was a simple trick like this."

I couldn't believe my eyes. Soran reached his hand into the flame without hesitation and withdrew a swirling ball of orange deadliness. The fire in his hands flickered and lashed out in flares like a small sun burning on his hand, but neither the heat or the flames themselves seemed to bother the old man.

"How-"

"In this world, there is magic and with it the ability to control the world around us. Fire is an affinity I have had since I was a boy."

"Wha-"

"The empire!"

"No!" Soran said, "Stay in my tent, and don't let anyone see you!" He demanded, sprinting through the forest with a speed that did not match his appearance. Seconds passed and the screams began, accompanied by the sound of metal clanging together.

I rushed into the tent, shrinking behind the single crate Soran was currently using as a table. . I was not about to try and get caught up in whatever shit was going on outside. Besides, Soran's words rnag in my head like a police siren. He said 'in this world' as though we weren't on Earth. That was impossible. There was no way that I could be on a different world, it just did not make sense. Yet, the way he reached his hand into the flame and brought out a ball of fire, that had to be some sort of special effect or gadget. Technology was great at creating illusions like that one.

However, I couldn't shake the feeling that what Soran had said was true. There was a sense of urgency in his voice that I don't think even the greatest of actors are capable of. If I truly was in another world then I was completely out of my depth.

The sounds of fighting drew closer, with the all too familiar cries of agony. It was a sound I would never get used to. I shrunk into my space in the shadow of the crate. Hopefully I was hidden enough. Or so I thought.

"Get him out of here!"

"We should give the empire what they're after! Why risk it for him?!"

He cannot... a new, sultry feminine voice spoke.

I shot out from the box, looking around the entire tent for the woman that spoke. But I was alone. That voice echoed in my mind as clear as day. It was like they were right next to me but not there at all.

"C'mere you little fuck!" Orion burst in. He charged right for me and my scared arse froze to the spot. The bald man was covered in fresh, crimson blood. It splattered over him like some expressionist had flicked a brush at a canvas. The smell permeated and the thickness of the iron burned as it entered my system. It was a miracle that I kept my body functions stable, even when a blood-tainted, calloused hand gripped at my throat.

"Orion, don't!" Soran staggered in not long after.

"Fuck you, Soran!" His grip tightened around my throat. I kicked and clawed but this bastard had me in vice grip. "We shoulda gotten away, just as our king had asked but you decided to interfere with that fucking ritual. It damn near killed us all and now the empire is here to take back their little fuckin experiment."

The old man's eyes were a pit of rage; like staring into the eternal flames of hell. His hatred shone right through and it was aimed at me. I sucked in what air I could but his hand closed around my larynx and prevented any reaching my lungs.

"If they get him, the empire will have an army of summoned ones! We cannot let them!"

Summoned ones? And an army of them?

"They already have a fucking army! Who the fuck do you think is out there, right now?" Orion said. "At least, if I kill this one, there will be one less for the rest of the continent to think about!"

I couldn't flail any longer. Orion had managed to lift me off the floor just by my neck. The kicking and scratching only served to waste energy and oxygen all at once. My vision dissipated in a snails pace and before long everything merged into one large blur. I was really going to die now... I guess I used my luck escaping the bus.

"No!"

NO!

A fluorescent blaze of blue scorched through the tent, piercing the shroud of darkness that had encroached in my sight. The hard ground was unforgiving as my body smacked against the roots and dirt. Air swept into my lungs and the rudeness had me hacking and coughing but desperate for more. I didn't have time to recover when a set of hands grasped at my shoulders. Instinct had me lash out, push away whoever was grabbing me. If there was a chance of experiencing that again, I would try my utmost to avoid it.

"He's here! I found the lost summoned!"

It took me time to regain an adequate amount of function once again. For a while, I sat up against the wooden crate, sipping in the air. Attempting to talk caused a sensation akin to swallowing drawing pins so I remained silent. Unlucky for me, as I could not complain about the acidic stench that emitted from the crisp corpse of my strangler. Whatever those flames were, they had singed my arms, leaving them bare of hair but that was nothing when compared to the barbecued human in the corner.

"That stubborn bastard." Soran swore.

The old man was on his last legs, crouched by the doorway of the tent and finding it harder than I am to regain his breath.. His greying hair was stained with blood whether it was his or not I couldn't tell. The clothes on his back were tattered from the battle and there were multiple open wounds still leaking blood though if they bothered him, it did not show.

"What was that magic you used?" Soran scowled, the expression reminding me of a wolf baring its fangs.

"I will not answer to the likes of you." The response took me aback. Not because of what was said, but because of who said it. A guard stepped in front of me, with a colossal, shining metal helmet.

"So, what happens now then?"

"You will come with us. There is no point in you resisting anymore," The armoured man said, "Besides, you are the only one left." He chuckled.

No... a pang of sadness resonated deep within me. It was foreign, like I was feeling someone else's emotion at that moment.

A knight came in, panting heavily. He took a quick scan of the room and stood back upright with practised professionalism. "All forces have been eliminated. Is this the missing one?"

Did they mean me?


"It is. Chain that one up," The larger knight commanded, pointing to the defeated Soran before turning back to me. "You don't look like much... You better be worth the effort."

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