Chapter 1 - The Hero
The soft sounds of waves crashing against the shore drew the young man out of his sleep. The sound of birds chirping filled the sky above as he opened his eyes to the bright light of the sun. Slowly rising, he thought he was still travelling between the two worlds and it was not until his eyes had adjusted to the light that he finally realised that he had appeared on a very beautiful, small beach.
Turning around, he noticed that behind him stretched an endless group of gigantic green trees, higher than any he had ever seen back home. Before the trees, which he could only assume was the beginning of a very large forest, giant stone rock cliffs surrounded the open area, leaving the forest or the water the only exit. Along the stone wall he noticed a strange hole, leading to who knows where he thought to himself, but was too distracted to look a second time. The water behind him looked crystal clear blue, the most beautiful water he had ever seen. There were strange, odd birds flying above, screeching a cry that reminded him of nails on a chalkboard. He thought they looked like a cross between a seagull, a crow and a pelican. They had the pelican's head, but the dark feathers and feet of a crow with the body and wing shape of a seagull. He couldn't help but laugh at the weird sight.
As the young man stared out at the ocean, he noticed something else that held his gaze. He saw it for only a fraction of a second but he could have sworn he had just seen a white, diamond castle in the water. Yet, just as soon as he blinked, it was gone. That is odd, he thought to himself.
Ignoring the potential imaginary castle, he continued to look all around his new surroundings and breathed in the fresh sea air. He had never been to a beach in his whole life – how could he when he lived in such a big city like New York. He had been taught how to swim but never had the chance to swim in a pool this big, with no boundaries or limitations that he knew of.
The young man felt a heavy weight around his neck and he looked down and frowned at the golden amulet sitting against his chest. He had forgotten about it until now and decided that it might be time to forget about for a brief moment. He placed the amulet under his shirt as he went closer to the water, walking in up to his waist. It felt cold, but it was refreshing and surprisingly filled him with a sense of calm and peace. He had never felt like this in water before – like all his problems had floated away with the soft waves. He did not care that he was still dressed and was now soaked, chest down. The weather here was beautiful, warm with a light sea breeze that brought the smells of the ocean to him.
Feeling the heat from the sun above, he decided to splash some water on his face, but as he did so, he noticed a reflection that could not possibly be there. He could quite clearly see a girl, her long brown hair flowing elegantly behind her in the water. Her green eyes, shining as bright as the emerald on his amulet, glistened in the water and Lucas noticed that she had a strange necklace on, one that had a large shell in the middle with two smaller shells on either side. Each shell was a different colour, the same kind of colour that Lucas's amulet shone: silver, red and green.
She was staring up at him, moving exactly the same way he moved. He looked behind him, expecting to see her standing behind him but noticed no one there. When he looked back, she had a seductive smile on her face. Curiosity getting him, he waved his left hand and just as he thought she would, she mirrored him exactly. He stuck out his tongue and once again, she did the same. As he stared at her, a strange sense of familiarity kicked in, although he couldn't quite place a finger on why she looked so oddly familiar. As he moved his hand to touch her, she jolted away and disappeared into the waves.
The young man couldn't believe what he just saw. As soon as he became lost in his thoughts, the birds he had seen before and had forgotten about decided to remind him of their existence. Before he even realised what was happening, the strange birds began to dive and attack him. He had forgotten all about them, but as their claws reached for him, he realised they had remembered him. As their sharp claws ripped at his skin and clothes, he swung at them with his fists, trying his best to fight them off. He realised he was being forced back onto the land when all of a sudden, the strange birds mysteriously gave up and flew away. As quick as they vanished, he turned back towards the sea to see why they suddenly decided to leave him alone, only to notice then that the sun was setting. As dark started to take over, he heard a noise that made his skin crawl.
Out of the trees, four large, black creatures flew high into the sky. Upon first glance, the young man thought they were human women flying at him. As they flew closer, he instantly recognised them from stories back home. They were called harpies and they never had good things told about them. However, as they flew closer, he noticed these creatures were a little different than the harpies he had read about.
These harpies had the entire full body of an adult woman, except instead of human hands, their arms merged into massive black wings. Their legs ended in sharp, razor claws and not human feet that he had expected from first sight of their bodies. Their long hair flew down around their naked bodies, covering anything revealing and strangely staying in place as they flew fast threw the sky. As soon as the group of harpies noticed him, a flash of their sharp claws told the young man he was in trouble. He remembered the hole in the wall he had noticed earlier and darted out from the ocean.
The harpies were faster than he was and blocked the entrance. The young man realised in horror he was now trapped. He turned to run back to the water, unsure of what else to do and that was when he noticed the reflection girl was there, standing and holding a spear. The dark brown shirt she wore was covered with light brown string that seemed to be stitched into the material. Her dark brown pants matched her top, with two small knives sticking out of side pockets by her legs. Her necklace shone in the sunset, the red, green and white shining in the semi-darkness. Her spearhead shone as bright as her necklace and she had a smile on her face while staring in his direction. On her back, there was a small holder where he noticed she had arrows stored, though oddly, he couldn't see a bow.
‘Well you seem to be in quite a predicament,' she smirked at him.
Great, the young man thought to himself. He turned back to the screeching of the harpies, before turning back towards the strange girl. He was trapped: no matter what he did, he was in trouble. No matter who he turned towards, each of these new threats stared death towards him. Turning back to the harpies, he could not help but think to himself how he hadn’t asked for any of this and how his life had changed so drastically, and dangerously, in the past 24 hours…
* * *
The young man was running very fast. His blood continued to ooze from the cut on his forehead, blending in with his messy blond hair, dirt and soot covering his face. The enormous red and black dragons flew over Times Square, their deadly battle raging on - a battle to the death. The two massive shapes collided with each other, claws and teeth cutting into each of the other’s flesh. He looked up and noticed the two humans on top of the dragons. Their swords continued to clash in mid-air whenever the two beasts were close enough to one another.
He could not do anything to help. He began to yell at them to stop, but then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something bright heading towards him. He dived to his left in the nick of time, seeing a massive fireball fly past his head. It hit windows in the stores behind him, making them shatter and sending glass flying everywhere. People were screaming; people were dying. He looked up as the ground began to shake violently and noticed the giant man battling the bigger giant. Their two weapons, two massive swords each as big as a bus, clashed together, making a massive noise that hurt people's ears.
Horrible black monsters with long, hairy arms and sharp claws slashed their way through crowds and started to make their way towards him. Their faces reminded him instantly of horses, their heads sprung out in a long muzzle covered in black skin and hair. They screeched in victory, opening their long faces to reveal and endless supply of razor sharp teeth. The creatures dragged their long arms across the ground, unfazed by the cuts and scars.
The centaurs ambushed them first. Arrows flew towards the beasts, hitting them in the deadliest of places. Bright lights flew at the black creatures, working with the centaurs in destroying them. The fairies slashed at their opponents, taking many down; however, many of their own fell.
The merpeople, now in their human forms, cut their way through the crowds of red robed guards. Screeching harpies flew at the guards, helping defend the merpeople from danger. The elves fought against the dwarfs and goblins as more demonic beasts continued to pour out of the large, dark purple portal that hung open in the middle of Times Square.
The young man turned and noticed an older blonde-haired woman staring at him with the same kind blue eyes he had. For a brief moment, he thought she had long pointy ears, but he could not be sure. She was yelling something to him, but he could not hear her. Creatures blocked his view and when they finally moved, she was gone.
A girl ran over to him and fell onto the ground, practically on top of him. She grabbed his arm and tried to raise him. She was screaming something to him, but he couldn't hear her. All he could pay attention to was the creatures that were falling before him. Giants fought with other giants, fairies and centaurs fell at the hands of the black monsters, the merpeople tried to defeat the palaces guards and two dragons and their masters clashed over the city of New York, drifting closer to the Empire State Building. He had never seen anything so terrifying.
Without warning, a massive blast filled the streets. He turned in horror to witness the red dragon slamming through the center of the Empire State Building. The building, already on flames from both dragons’ attacks, began to weaken and crumble. Windows shattered to the ground below as people ran screaming. In only a few seconds, the metal finally gave up and the building came crumbling down.
Within seconds, the Empire State Building was gone. Moving down to the ground below, the black dragon rested on top of the famous building's remains, roaring and breathing fire into the sky. Beneath its feet, the red dragon lay motionless as a massive cloud of white smoke and debris filled the air, drifting closer towards the young man. People continued to run out of buildings screaming and crying, covered in the soot from the fallen building.
The girl continued to try pulling him up, oblivious to the events around her. As another fireball came flying at the two of them, she turned and noticed a water hydrant fallen over, spraying water high into the air. As the water flew up, she used her powers to send the water in the direction of the fireball, extinguishing it. She turned back around and slapped the young man, who looked up at her face in surprise. Her kind green eyes were now sharp and serious, her brown hair also covered in blood and dirt. She grabbed his arm again and this time he stood up. He looked away from the carnage and finally noticed the strange man who was throwing the fire at him.
The man was wearing a long silk red robe, the hood covering his face. The long red robe reminded him of the guards, except the boy could tell this was the man the guards obeyed. The man grabbed the openings of his robe and slowly pulled it off and as the boy stared at the man, the white smoke from the fallen building moved and covered the man's face, preventing him from seeing what he looked like. In the corner of his eye, he noticed the woman with blonde hair running towards him out of the smoke, with fear in her eyes, screaming silently. By the time he turned back, the fire was upon him …
* * *
Lucas jolted awake with a start. Sitting up, he placed his head in his hands, as pain began to fill his head. Sweat continued to pour down his forehead and onto his hands as he tried to calm his breathing down. This was the fourth night of the same violent recurring dream and every morning he woke up the same – sweaty, struggling for breath and confused.
Slowly turning to his clock, he noticed he had slept in once more and slowly turned around in bed. Placing his feet on the cold floor, he made his way to his feet and scooped up some clothes to put on. Making his way to the bathroom, he continued to be lost in his thoughts, not hearing his name being called behind him.
The small room had only one tiny basin, mirror and small shower and toilet. He walked in and locked the door behind him. He knew he wouldn’t be disturbed or anything – he just felt safer and at peace, as if he was locking himself away from the world and its problems it threw at him. He turned on the shower and the steam rose from the hot water pouring out. Staring into the mirror as it fogged up, he hardly recognised himself. He jumped into the shower, hoping the water would help clear his mind.
After a few minutes, Lucas jumped out and dried his wet hair. He walked over to the mirror, wiping it down and checking himself out. He looked like he hadn't slept in weeks. His sandy blond hair was all over the place, as per usual, his blue eyes worn out and tired; however, something else caught his eye. His eyes, normally a deep blue seemed to be lighter, reminding him of the same clear blue water from his dreams. Shaking his head in disbelief, he slowly made his way downstairs.
The sound of plates being moved around in the kitchen drew his attention and he made his way in as the smell of bacon and eggs filled his nose. As he entered, a tall woman turned and smiled in greeting, placing a plate by an empty chair. Lucas smiled in greeting and took a seat, grabbing the cutlery next to the plate and began to slowly eat. His continued to be lost in his thoughts as the woman sat down next to him.
‘You okay Lucas?’ she asked, taking a bite of her own breakfast.
Lucas finally snapped out of his thoughts and looked up at the woman. Linda Swanson stared at him with the same concerned eyes she always seemed to wear around him. He wasn’t sure what to say to her, not when he didn’t know how to explain his dreams to himself. He had a small feeling that she would think he was going crazy, so he thought it was best to keep it to himself at least for now.
‘I’m fine,’ Lucas smiled weakly, taking another bite of food. ‘I just didn’t sleep to well last night.’
‘You look like you haven’t slept in days, let alone last night,’ Linda frowned, staring hard into his eyes.
Linda always seemed to notice when he was lying to her, ever since he was young. Linda Swanson was Lucas’ adoptive mother, taking him in when he was only seven years old as a foster child. Linda was thirty one when she took in the young Lucas, both seeking a new family and life. At that time, Linda had just moved to New York with her boyfriend. They had planned on raising Lucas together, but as fate had it, he vanished so fast Lucas didn’t even remember him. Since then, it had been the pair of them, and it had been fine for great for them. Only last year did his adoption become official, and the pair had never been happier that Lucas finally had a permanent home.
Lucas had been to countless foster homes before landing on Linda’s doorstep, constantly being thrown out for strange reasons he could never explain. It suited him fine, as all of them were never the perfect fit for him. Some families were horrible and some were really sweet and nice – it just didn’t seem to work out. With Linda, they seemed to click instantly and when he moved in, it was the first time in his life where he felt safe and at home.
Linda continued to stare at him as he ate in silence, waiting for him to talk first. The pair sat in silence for a few moments before Lucas mumbled, ‘It’s nothing. I just had a bad dream.’
‘Again?’ she asked in concern, placing her utensils down.
‘Fourth time in a row this week,’ Lucas nodded softly, continuing to play with his food and not look at her. ‘It was nothing – just freaked me out a bit cause it felt so real. I’ll be fine. Just need to shake it off.’
‘It’s just a dream Lucas,’ Linda smiled warmly. Lucas looked at her and noticed her warm eyes only showed him warmth and kindness. She tucked away a strain of her curly brown hair, before she continued to eat.
‘Just felt real.’
‘What was it about?’ she asked in curiosity, turning her gaze back to him.
‘Don’t remember it,’ he lied, and though he could see she didn’t believe him, she seemed to let it slide.
Frowning slowly, and knowing he will tell her when he was ready, she replied, ‘Ok. Once you’re finished, you need to go to school.’
‘I might swing by the bookstore on the way home, if that’s ok?’
‘I have an appointment at the bank then so just let yourself in,’ Linda smiled warmly.
Nodding slowly, he finished his meal and slowly rose, taking the plate to the sink. Linda mumbled for him to leave it and he slowly turned and grabbed his school bag from next to the table where he had left it the night before. After a quick goodbye, Lucas turned and walked out the front door.
The sounds of Manhattan filled his ears as he moved his way down the streets. Countless cars and buses filled the streets as he walked his way to school. The streets were packed, people seemingly always in a rush around him. The soft sound of his voice being called drew his attention and he turned as he noticed a fellow classmate walking up to him.
Tom was one of the nicest kids Lucas had ever met and it was why he was Lucas’ best friend. The pair had met in second grade and Lucas always felt that Tom should have been one of the cool kids. He got along with everyone, was invited to all the cool parties and gatherings, played on the basketball team and yet, he chose to hang with Lucas. Lucas himself was bit of a social outcast. When people found out he was in a foster home, fake stories of why he had been to so many had spread and soon he became known as the pyromaniac who torched his last home. While this wasn’t true, the kids at school didn’t care enough to hear the truth and so Lucas was avoided out of fear and lies. Tom never wavered and continued to be Lucas’ best friend, although Lucas knew he did get a lot of hostility from his teammates for it.
‘You okay?’ Tom asked as he walked up, staring hard into Lucas’ eyes.
‘Yeah why?’ Lucas asked in curiosity.
‘Nothing,’ Tom replied in mumble, coming to a stop next to Lucas as they arrived at their bus stop. ‘You just look like crap.’
Staring at Tom, Lucas smiled as he finally noticed what was different about his friend. ‘Your hair is all spikey.’
Tom rubbed his hand through his dark hair, spike up with product that continued to hold his hair in place. Smiling, he turned to Lucas and nodded, ‘Lucy and I have a date after school. Wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to get home after school.’
‘What if you need more?’
‘Brought it,’ he beamed, smacking his bag in glee. ‘Always be prepared Lucas.’
Lucy was Tom’s girlfriend and another strange edition to their group. While Tom was the loudly outspoken, gigantically tall basketball star and Lucas the lean and shy social outcast, Lucy filled the void of petite, softly spoken local nerd. Lucy was the quiet shy type, one you would find more in a library working on homework then mixing it with the cheerleaders. She didn’t believe in blitz and glamour, usually wearing the minimum amount of makeup needed. She was very paranoid about her looks, always worried she looked unattractive and was always asking Lucas why Tom would pick her.
As the bus pulled up, the pair of boys hopped on and noticed that Lucy was sitting in her usual seat, her nose stuck in the middle of Great Expectations, her new obsession. She didn’t even notice as Tom took a seat next to her, with Lucas taking his seat behind them. It always amused Lucas how different his little group seemed: the outcast, the nerd, the jock. It seemed to work for him and at this moment, he seemed at peace and forgot all about his rough night.
‘Morning Lucy,’ Tom smiled in greeting, too impatient to wait for her to notice the boys had arrived.
‘Hey guys,’ Lucy whispered delicately, turning to face him. Pushing her glasses up, she stared at Tom with a slight blush as he pushed away a strain of her honey blonde hair.
‘Nearly finished,’ she sighed, turning back to her book. ‘I will need to find another soon.’
‘If you want, why don’t you come to see Mr. Dawn with me after work?’ Lucas asked in excitement. ‘I’m sure he will have something for you there.’
Mr. Dawn owned one of the bookstores in the large city near the school, selling new and second hand books. Everything from school books to classics, Dawn’s Books had them all and at a reasonable price. Mr. Dawn was one of the nicest men Lucas had met, and with the amount of time Lucas spent there, he had also become one of Lucas’ favourite people.
Lucy was not the only one who loved books. Lucas loved reading new stories, taking him away to fantastic worlds and characters. He loved his classics above all else, and his room was filled with books he had brought from Mr. Dawn. A good fantasy also excited him, but not as much as it did Lucy. She seemed to revel in the stories, as if she knew them before she even read them. Sometimes she would even correct the author, telling Lucas that’s not how a giant would act or how a centaur would look. It confused Lucas but he assumed it was due to the amount she read. It was only recently he was able to get her to start reading classics, which she had loved as much as her fantasy stories.
‘Yeah, I might do that,’ Lucy beamed, turning to face him. ‘I hope he has that new copy of Paradise Lost in. I requested it but haven’t heard from him yet.’
‘Hopefully,’ Lucas nodded with a smile. ‘If not, you can borrow mine when I finish.’
‘After, don’t forget our date,’ Tom reminded her, which made Lucas remember that Tom had already mentioned it.
‘The show doesn’t start to seven, so I have time,’ Lucy smiled weakly at him, closing the book.
Tom had a strange obsession with musical theatre. Lucas nor Lucy could ever understand it. Ever since they were young, music was a big passion of Tom’s. He loved to sing and play the guitar, however he was horrible at both. Lucas had tried to tell him once, but Tom ignored him, saying Lucas was just tone deaf. Once Tom discovered Broadway and Off Broadway, it was basically over.
‘Ok that’s cool. Just remember traffic yeah?’
Staring hard at him, Lucy, eager to change the subject off the date, asked, ‘Did you finish your homework for Barrett’s class?’
‘No,’ Tom replied, opening his bag to pull out his book. ‘I didn’t get this bit. I was going to call and ask you, but I was fell asleep early.’
As Lucy and Tom discussed school work, the bus came to a soft stop. The sound of shuffling feet drew his attention and he turned to look as Drake Cane slowly made his way to the seat opposite Lucas. Drake nodded at Lucas but remained quiet as he usually did. Drake was the resident weirdo at school. Everyone knew he came from a rich family but he refused to join any cliques and kept to himself. He had never said a word to anyone in the school until one day when he spoke to Lucas.
Lucas himself was not sure what happened that day. All he could remember was that he was in gym climbing a rope. The next thing he remembered was Drake leaning over him, a strange look in his eyes. Lucas could have sworn Drake’s eyes had filled entirely with black but as quick as he noticed it, it had faded and Drake had asked Lucas if he was ok. Everyone was more shocked at his sudden words then Lucas’ fall but since then, Drake would constantly talk to Lucas. Never full conversations but more hello and goodbye types, as if he was checking in on Lucas.
Drake sat quietly in his seat, placing his headphones on and ignoring the world around him. Turning back to his friends, Lucas’ thoughts went once more to his dreams until Tom’s voice snapped him back into reality.
‘You ok?’ Tom asked, staring hard at him, Lucy’s own eyes peering at him in curiosity.
‘Weird dream last night again,’ Lucas frowned. He had already filled them in after the first dream, and they knew how confused and unsettling it was for him. ‘I woke up again sweaty and struggling to breathe.’
‘It was a dream Lucas,’ Tom replied, smiling reassuringly at him. ‘Don’t fret too much about it.’
‘I know, just felt real,’ Lucas mumbled, turning to face out the window.
Lucas turned back to Tom, and smiled weakly, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Always am.’
Lost once more in his thoughts, Lucas didn’t even notice the bus pull up to his school. As soon as the trio hopped off the bus, the group moved towards their lockers, their usual routine. Kids walked past, smiling and greeting Tom, who slowly drifted off with his teammates for a quick training session. Within moments, Lucy vanished herself, being dragged away by her fellow classmates to finish their work on an assignment. Lucas didn’t even notice, as he walked the corridor and entered class.
Sitting down at the table, he stared out the window, ignoring the teacher before him. As his mind began to wonder, a cold sensation began to overwhelm him. Shivering, he turned back towards the classroom to notice everyone had mysteriously vanished.
‘You know, sometimes dreams are more than that,’ a voice called out, causing Lucas to jump in shock. Turning slowly, he stared at Drake sitting quietly at the back of the class in his usual chair. Lucas could only stare at him in confusion, unsure what was happening.
‘Dreams Lucas,’ Drake replied, never turning his gaze away from Lucas’ own. ‘They can be quite powerful actually. Some are just silly images that are made up in the minds of humans. Memories, fantasies, gibberish. And yet sometimes, in some rare cases, dreams can be something more.’
‘Like what?’ Lucas whispered, eager to know more and seemingly oblivious to Drake’s confusing tone.
‘Like a warning.’
‘A warning of what?’
‘You tell me. It was your dream.’
Lucas jolted in his seat, realizing he had fallen asleep in class. Turning around, he noticed his classmates snickering at him as his teacher stared down at him from in front of him. Slowly turning around, he noticed that Drake was missing from class before slowly turning back towards the teacher.
‘Sorry sir,’ Lucas mumbled, opening his book and turning his attention back to the class.
As his teacher ignored his apology and continued on with his lesson, Lucas’ mind began to drift once more, although he was careful to not let it drift that far that he would fall asleep again. Drake wasn’t in class, which was odd as he had seen Drake on the bus. And strangely, it was Drake who was in his daydream, warning him that his dream wasn’t real. Shaking his head, Lucas smiled at himself, telling himself he was starting to go crazy. Throwing away all thought of his two mysterious dreams, he turned his attention back to class, unaware of the man outside the window staring at him in silence.