Chapter 1: Kalina
She only saw darkness around her. She searched for light. Even a small glimmer of something would have satisfied, but she searched in vain.
A man’s voice, soothing and deep, called to her. She again searched the darkness, looking for the man who called to her. She knew the voice, but how? Had she heard it somewhere before? No, she was sure she hadn’t, but she knew it somehow.
“Elias?” she called.
Who was Elias?! She didn’t know anyone with that name. How did she even know that was his name? She was sure that was his name, but how?
“Zoey…” he called again. “Come to me.”
“I can’t see you, Elias!” she called back.
“Follow my voice, Angel,” he whispered.
Angel? No one called her that before. She was suddenly confronted by a handsome face with hazel eyes and a head of short, tousled black hair…a black mask covering the upper half of his face starting from the hairline and ending at the tip of his nose. She gave a gasp but he didn’t move away, and it seemed that she didn’t either.
“Elias…” she breathed in realization.
“Help us, Angel,” he breathed.
The mask suddenly fell away as his face changed into a reptilian creature with black scales for skin and completely blood red eyes, baring its sharp teeth to snarl at her.
Zoey screamed and sat straight up in bed. The room was dark, but moonlight shined through the window next to her bed which brought her relief. She breathed heavily and placed a hand on her forehead, closing her eyes.
Zoey jumped again at the sound of the timid voice and shot her gaze to her right. She sighed in relief when she realized the little figure with long black hair and huge green eyes was her five year old adopted sister, Christine.
“I don’t know,” Zoey admitted through a smile.
“Then why were you calling him?” Christine questioned, curiously.
Caught me talking in my sleep again, she sighed inwardly, but smiled, warmly as she shifted to sit on the edge of the bed, facing the little girl.
“It was just a dream, Chris,” she murmured.
“You sure it wasn’t a nightmare?” Christine wondered, making Zoey frown in wonder but the little one explained, “You screamed.”
“Well, it turned into one,” Zoey corrected. “Is that why you’re here? Did you have a nightmare?”
Christine nodded, hugging the teddy bear she was holding closer and pouted, “There’s monsters under my bed.”
Zoey couldn’t help but smile as she stood from her bed and leaned down to her level, smiling, “No there aren’t. But…do you wanna know what’s really under your bed?”
Christine shook her head, her little black curls hitting her cheeks with every shake.
“There’s a magical land full of wonder and beauty. There are so many things that live there, too. Elves and mermaids and wizards—”
“And fairies?!” Christine grinned, hopefully.
“Yup,” Zoey chirped with a quick nod then grinned, “Fairies, and regular people like you and me that become pirates!”
“What’s it called?!” Christine grinned back, the monsters and her nightmare now forgotten.
“It’s called…” Zoey trailed off, trying to think of a good name then quickly made something up to reply, “Kalina. That’s Elvish for Light. Wanna know how to get there?”
Christine nodded with great enthusiasm.
“You lie in bed, and close your eyes, and after you fall asleep, the fairies fly out from under your bed and sprinkle their fairy dust on you so that you can fly under your bed. When you wake up, that fairies dance around you and tell you all about their adventures, and the ones you are going to have.”
“Really?!” Christine grinned and Zoey nodded again. “Is it under your bed, too?”
Zoey nodded, making an affirmative noise.
“Is it under mommy’s bed?”
Zoey shook her head, pursing her lips to one side of her mouth in a disappointed gesture making Christine frown.
“How come?” the little girl wondered.
“Well…” Zoey sighed, trailing off to think for a moment and taking her sister’s hand to stand and lead her toward her room. “Grown-ups don’t see things the way kids and teenagers do. They don’t think about Kalina because they have too many Grown-up things to do.”
“Why don’t they think about it? Don’t they like visiting there?”
“Oh, sure they did, when they were your age, but they don’t go there because they know they’ll want to stay for a long time, and they can’t. Some Grown-ups go and never come back, and everyone misses them.”
“Is that where my real mommy and daddy are?” Christine asked, genuinely.
Zoey stopped at Christine’s door and gave a small sigh before kneeling in front of the little girl and admitting, “I don’t know, Chris. I’m sure they’re happy there if they are.”
“Is that where your daddy is?”
Zoey stiffened and swallowed, silently. She didn’t think the little girl noticed her own father wasn’t around, or that he hadn’t been for at least a year.
“Yes,” was all she could murmur.
“Can I go to Kalina right now?!” Christine grinned, gripping Zoey’s hand.
Zoey smiled as they walked into her room and Christine ran toward her bed to jump into it as Zoey pulled the covers over her.
“Ok,” Zoey sighed, sitting at the edge of the bed. “Now close your eyes…”
Christine grinned, but shut her eyes with a huge nod.
“Now, let yourself fall asleep and you’ll be there in no time at all,” Zoey smiled, and was about to stand to leave, but the little girl gripped her arm, making her frown down at her.
“Could you sing to me first?” she requested, not opening her eyes.
“Sure,” Zoey nodded with a warm smile, setting on the mattress again to lean over to stroke Christine’s hair as she sang a soft, sweet, lullaby.
She smiled at her adopted sister, fast asleep and soundly dreaming without a care in the world. She had to admit, she was jealous of Christine. She didn’t worry about anything except which game she felt like playing. Zoey would have given anything to be that age again, when everything was simple and she didn’t have to worry about choking up for a talent show.
Zoey sighed and stood up to walk back to her room, her thoughts wandering to the day before. She remembered standing on that stage, in front of all those people. She remembered the music starting as her cue to sing. She vividly remember choking before her world went dark and the next thing she knew, she was backstage on a duvet, being fanned by another contestant. She felt humiliated.
She shut the door when she stepped into her room but when she turned to face her bed, she froze when she heard something.
His voice again. She knew she wasn’t dreaming. She looked around the room.
“Elias?” she called, involuntarily.
“Follow my voice, Angel,” he whispered.
If she was being completely honest, she didn’t want to, but she felt compelled to. She silently walked toward her bed, where it sounded like the voice was coming from.
She stopped at her bed and crouched down to look under her bed, not knowing what to look for or expect. She saw a small ping of silver light flash from beneath the bed and frowned in wonder.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Zoey smirked, sarcastically. “Next I’ll see a white rabbit hop by with a pocket watch shouting, ‘I’m late!’”
She crawled on her stomach toward the direction of the light.
“Zoey…” the voice whispered. “Angel…”
Zoey picked her head up a bit and hit her head on the frame of her bed making her wince and bow her head to rub it.
“That hurt!” she hissed before she began crawling again. “I swear, if there are any bugs under here, I’m gonna scream!”
She fell forward as she literally screamed the last word, her voice echoing down what she could only assume was a tunnel. She felt herself sliding down a dirt slide and she held her hands in front of her, trying to see through them. She caught a bump under her chest and now started somersaulting down the slide. She was suddenly thankful that it was dark, otherwise she would have been a whole lot dizzier than if it had been light. She suddenly came to a stop when her feet slammed into a wall and she landed on her back.
“Zoey…” the voice seamed to fade as she groaned and sat up. “Welcome.”
“Oh, shut up!” she snapped. “Don’t start welcoming me when you got me into this mess in the first place!”
She gave a loud sigh as she stood then looked around the darkness, feeling a sense of déjà vu from her dreams and muttering, “Ok, that was a bit more than disturbingly creepy.”
Thinking quickly, she knelt down and felt around for the hole she had come through, but it had completely sealed itself off. With a growl of frustration she stood up and looked around again.
Desperate attempt number one…
“Hey!” she shouted upward. “Anybody around?! I could use some help here!”
Silence was all that followed.
All she heard now was her own voice echoing back, making her sigh and sit where she’d been standing.
“Now what, genius?”
Zoey jumped to her feet when she heard rustling from the wall in front of her where a small beam of soft light suddenly peeked through. The hole became bigger, and bigger until the whole wall came crumbling down sending dust up into the air. She coughed and covered her face to protect herself from it and when it settled, she looked up to see three figures standing in front of her with firelight behind them. A scream caught in her throat when she her vision adjusted and she could see what they really looked like.
The three stood as men and had long, white, stringy hair gathered in a single braid down backs. Their skin was made of black scales and they all had completely, blood red eyes with sharp claws and teeth.
“Look what we have here,” the one standing in the center smirked, evilly. “I’m General Rada. And what’s your name?”
“Z-Z-Zoey,” she sputtered in fright, as she thought in terror, The thing from my dream! What’s going on?!
“What are you?” the thing to her left questioned.
“I…I’m a girl,” she breathed, her heart pounding in her chest.
“A girl?!” the thing to her right growled. “What’s that?! You look more like a witch or an elf to me.”
“No, you idiot!” Rada growled over his shoulder. “Elves have pointed ears and different eyes. She must be a witch.”
“I…I’m not!” Zoey choked, feeling her legs start to shake an her mouth going dry.
“Well, if you’re not a witch, or an elf, then you know what I would call you?” Rada grinned, evilly making her shake her head. “Dinner.”
Zoey shrieked in horror and tried to scramble backward but she was barricaded by a wall.
“Help!” she screamed as the three came closer. “Somebody help me!”
She felt tears come to her eyes as she screamed again for help, the things only grinning at her and chuckling in amusement at her. She gasped when Rada lifted his hands on either side of her to keep her from escaping as her licked his chops.
“Scream all you like,” he murmured, looming over her. “No one can hear you, and no one will save you now.”
“Care to make a wager on that?”
Rada suddenly froze, his confident air falling as he felt the point of a sword on the back of his neck and Zoey stared through him in wide-eyed shock. She recognized that deep, rich voice, and she was glad to hear it.
“Elias…” she breathed, softly.
“Blackwood!” Rada hissed, not moving from pinning Zoey to the wall. “How did you get in here?!”
“You should cover your tracks more carefully, Rada,” Elias informed him coolly in an English accent, standing behind the creature and out of view. “Of course, it’s not hard to pick up that stench that follows you everywhere you go.”
“You’ll pay for that comment, Blackwood,” Rada growled through his teeth.
He suddenly recalled that Zoey was in front of him and she watched in horror as an evil grin spread across his lips. Before either of them could react, Rada ducked to the ground and jumped up again behind Zoey, wrapping an arm around her shoulders to hold a claw to her neck.
“Rada!” Elias growled, holding a broad sword toward him. “Let her go!”
Zoey stared at Elias in shock and awe. His face was exactly as it had been in her dream, including the mask, but now he had a body, clad in black from shirt to boots.
“You take one more step, and I slit her throat!” Rada growled as Zoey whimpered when she felt a cold claw touch the skin of her neck. “Drop your sword!”
When Elias didn’t move, he shoved his claw a little closer to Zoey’s neck but didn’t pierce her skin. “Do it!”
Elias stared at him for one more second before he released his sword just by opening his hand and it clanged to the ground.
“My men will kill you,” he grinned, smugly.
“Oh, you mean these men?” Elias smirked, stepping to the side in a sweeping gesture to reveal the two creatures on the ground. Zoey felt Rada loosen his grip and formed a plan but she was distracted for a moment when she saw a lavender light fly around the room and hover in front of Elias.
“A Sleep Fairy!” Rada growled in realization.
“Thank you, Coria,” Elias nodded.
Zoey shoved Rada’s arm away and Elias quickly ducked to grab his sword as she ran toward him. He held the sword toward Rada who raised his hands as Elias grabbed Zoey’s arm when she tried running past him. She felt herself slam into him and let him hold her close as she stared up at him.
“You would kill an unarmed man?” Rada smirked.
“Of course not, Rada,” Elias retorted, still holding Zoey. “But you’re never unarmed.”
“True,” Rada scoffed and quickly grabbed a small pipe from his belt, throwing his arm out to extend the pipe to a spear and charged at Elias who shoved Zoey away and instantly defended himself.
“Follow Coria!” Elias ordered, shoving Rada back as they fought. “She’ll lead you out of here! Go!”
Zoey saw the lavender light fly down a tunnel and she shot after it as fast as she could. She had to get out of there. But, she stopped in the middle of the tunnel when she heard steels clangs from the room Elias and Rada were fighting. She looked back at the glow from the fire in that room, panting from running.
“What am I doing?!” she snapped at herself. “He just saved my life!”
She felt a tug on her hair and winced as she took a step back to slacken the strain, gripping her head as she looked up to see the lavender light pulling her hair and trying to get her to follow, but Zoey wouldn’t have it.
“Leave if you want!” she growled in pain before yanking out of Coria’s grip and looking up at the fairy again. “I’m helpingElias!”
Zoey ran back the other way, trying to come up with a plan. She stopped at the threshold of the room, hiding herself by ducking behind the turn into the tunnel. She had to strangle her own gasp when she saw blood smeared on Elias’s face from a cut on his face under his mask. He was on the ground, still defending himself from Rada’s blows and trying to get to his feet at the same time.
“You look tired, Blackwood!” Rada taunted. “Maybe I should let you have a breather before I put you out of your misery?”
Rada laughed manically and was about to deal the death blow, but just as a clang sounded, he froze with a shocked look on his face and fell to the floor, unconscious, Elias quickly moving to let him fall forward. He panted, trying to catch his breath as he stared at Rada in shock before looking to the place he’d been standing to see Zoey holding a metal platter she’d lifted from the table next to her. She stared at the creature in shock of her own before meeting Elias’s gaze.
“I…did that,” she breathed.
“You certainly did,” Elias groaned as he stood and sheathed his sword. “I could have taken him out on my own, however.”
“Oh, really?” Zoey retorted, placing her hands on her hips. “Yes, you were doing marvelously, holding your sword up while on the ground, trying to crawl away!”
“I told you to follow Coria!” Elias snapped, trying to ignore her insult.
“If I hadn’t come back, you would’ve been skewered!” she continued. “They would have been gnawing at your bones in a matter of moments!”
“Come on,” Elias ground out irritably, gripping her wrist as she walked past her, making her drop the platter as he dragged her back down the tunnel.
“That’s a fine ‘thank you’,” she muttered.
“You would not be saying that if something had happened to you,” Elias retorted..
The two were silent for the rest of the journey down the tunnel. When she caught sight of a light from above in the distance she ran toward it and out of Elias’s grip.
“Light!” she grinned, stopping below it. “Wonderful, beautiful, glorious light!” She looked to Elias as he stopped at the edge of the light and asked, “Now how to we get to it?”
A rope suddenly fell onto Zoey’s head, making her cry out, softly and look up to call, “Hey! Watch it!”
Elias chuckled in amusement, making her glare at him as he took the rope and began to climb.
“Sir!” a young man’s voice called in concern as Zoey started climbing after him. “You’re hurt!”
“Help the lady, Varen,” Elias groaned, making Zoey frown when she heard him but as she came up out of the hole, her eyes locked with a handsome young man no more than sixteen with bright green eyes and blonde hair.
“Hello,” he smiled offering his hand. “My name is Varen. Varen Fry.”
“Zoey Walsh,” she replied as she took his hand.
He pulled her up and out of the hole and onto solid ground in the middle of a thicket of trees. Elias sat on a nearby boulder, cradling his right side, and it was then that she saw the blood on his hands and the pain on his face. Without another thought, she ran toward him and pulled his hand away to get a better look at the wound.
“What are you doing?” Elias groaned.
“Why didn’t you say you were hurt so badly?” Zoey questioned back. “I wouldn’t have been so rude back there.”
“Shall I get the healing kit?” Varen asked.
“Yes,” Zoey and Elias replied in unison, causing them to look to each other in surprise as Varen ran to a bag a few feet away.
Zoey turned back to the wound to examine it before moving away slightly to tell Elias, “Take off your shirt.”
“Excuse me?” Elias smirked.
“I’m not treating the shirt, am I?” Zoey retorted. “I need to see the wound. Strip.”
Elias sighed and began unbuttoning his shirt as Varen brought the bag and she instantly began looking through it.
“We’ll need to disinfect the wound, even if we can’t stitch it up just yet,” she explained. At that moment her hand bumped into a glass bottle, making her frown as she pulled it out to examine the liquid inside in the light. “What’s this?”
“Sereg,” Elias replied, leaning back a bit on the boulder. “Alcohol.”
“That’ll do,” she shrugged, making both men stare at her in wonder as she stood to head toward Elias, unscrewing the cap and handing it to him. “Take a drink.”
Realizing why she was offering it he grabbed the bottle and took two big swigs before handing it back to her. She knelt next to him and poured some onto his wound, making Elias growl in pain before she recapped the bottle and handed it to Varen to put away.
“Hand me that roll of bandages I saw in there,” she requested, and Varen obeyed.
“There’s no need for this, really,” Elias groaned as Zoey began unraveling a piece of the bandage.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” she retorted, and just as she was about to start wrapping his wound, she suddenly realized how…fit Elias was. Taking her mind off of it as she began her work, she asked, “So…what were those things down there?”
“Ramrans,” Elias replied, moving the tails of his shirt away to let her work a little better. Groaning in pain at moving his right arm he lowered them again as he explained, “That was General Rada and his men. They’ve been working on that tunnel for days now.”
“Where does it lead?” she asked.
“Our camp in Edan,” Varen replied, keeping a look out as Zoey worked. “They were planning a surprise attack.”
“Well, you took care of that threat quickly, didn’t you?” Zoey smiled up at Elias, but he was keeping a look out as well, making her sneer slightly before looking back at her work to finish it off and asked, “So, where are we now?”
The two looked at her at the same time before looking to each other, making her frown in wonder between them.
“I got lost,” she excused, drawing their attention to her again. “Humor me, please?”
“This is the ‘Ksh Region of Kalina,” Elias replied.
Zoey stared up at him in disbelief. He looked up at her in confusion as she slowly stood, still staring at him then looked around with wide eyes, suddenly realizing what she had thought all this time until that moment.
“This…That can’t be…” she breathed as Varen stood tall to step next to her. “I made it up. Kalina…isn’t real.”
“As you can see, this world is very much real,” Elias replied.
“Or I’m dreaming,” she murmured, still looking around the thicket. “I must be dreaming.”
“Then your treatment of me in your imagination needs some improving,” Elias groaned as he stood, Varen instantly at his side to help him. “Why would you think all of this was a dream?”
“Because…where I come from…this is a place that only exists in movies,” she replied, not paying attention to them.
“Movies?” Elias wondered as Varen looked to her with wide eyes just as she looked back at the two, meeting Elias’s gaze.
“Before I came here, I had a dream about you,” she breathed, making Elias stare at her in wonder. They stared at each other for a moment before he saw it in her eyes that she was telling the truth and turned to Varen.
“Sit me down again, Varen,” he murmured, and the boy did as he was told. Elias sat on the boulder again, and waved Zoey toward him slightly. She swallowed and stepped close to sit next to him on the boulder as Elias ordered, “Varen, go keep watch.”
“Yes, General,” he nodded, glancing between the two before turning to step a few yards away from them to give them privacy.
Elias watched him for a moment before looking to Zoey and saying, “Describe the dream.”
“You were calling me,” she began. “You told me to save you, but you said ‘us.’ Then you turned into that…Ramrod.”
“Ramran,” Elias corrected through. “How are you so sure it was me?”
“I saw your eyes…and your mask,” she murmured and he only stared at her for a moment before glancing to Varen.
“Where did you say you came from?” he asked.
“I’m from…America,” she replied. “I fell down a hole that was apparently under my bed and ended up in that room where you found me.”
Elias’s eyes widened for a split second before returning to normal size and he glanced at Varen again before he murmured, “We’ll discuss the rest of this at my home.”
Zoey nodded as Elias called Varen back to help him.
“We’re going to my home, Varen,” he explained through a groan of pain. “After you get me there, head to Edan and tell the men we’ve taken care of the threat and to wait for orders from me.”
“Yes, Sir,” Varen nodded.