Silver ballet flats slipped across the top of the wooden floor. Tick-tocks came steadily from the Grandfather clock beside her. Wait patiently, like a good girl, Kelsey told herself, to say goodbye to the woman who had been her mother for the last eight years. Across the hall in the parlor, her uncle and his lawyer talked in hushed tones over full glasses of red liquid. Every now and then they would look out into the hall at her. The soon to be heiress of her grandmother’s vast fortune. The soon to be orphan.
The doctor cleared his throat from the top of the stairs. Uncle and his lawyer quickly joined Kelsey in the hall.
“Well?” Uncle asked. “Is the old bat dead yet?” Kelsey glared at him. If he wasn’t so tall, she’d break his nose. Good thing he had already weaseled out of being her guardian. Despite the lawyer’s attempt to quiet the drunk, Uncle continued, “I have an inheritance to claim.” He sneered at the girl. “If she’s even left me anything.”
“She wants to see Kelsey,” the doctor said. Uncle swore loudly. She ignored him as she ran up the stairs and pass the doctor. Grandmother’s room was at the end of the hall. Kelsey knew it well; she spent her first month with grandma sleeping in that room. Grandma didn’t mind. She kept every light in the room on for those nights. And, like her grandmother promised, the light drove away the nightmares.
Now, the hall provided the only light. The thin beam stopped before it hit the large bed. Shallow, desperate breaths greeted Kelsey as she slipped in. Plush carpet absorbed her steps, letting her stand beside the bed before her grandmother even heard her. Kelsey placed her hand on top of the pale one.
“Grandma?” she whispered.
“I’m still here,” the old woman promised. Her eyes remained closed.
“Please don’t go,” Kelsey said. “Please don’t leave me.”
“I wouldn’t leave you if I had a choice.” She let out a deep breath. “But I’m afraid that stars will fall in Roinad tonight.” Darkness hid Kelsey’s scowl.
“You don’t believe in Roinad?” her grandmother challenged. Kelsey didn’t answer. Part of her wanted to believe because believing that her mother and little sister were pulled away to a mythical place was easier than the truth; whatever the that truth was. Her uncle always said that his proud, whore, sister ran off with her lover, and took two-year-old Ashley with her to start a new family. In tones loud enough for Kelsey to hear, Uncle defiantly stated that the grief was too much for Kelsey’s father. He killed himself, while Kelsey played in a playpen. Kelsey was only three.
“That’s okay,” her grandmother stated. “You don’t have to believe right now. But one day you will be called. In times of danger, Roinad will always call home a new queen and return the last.” That, according to grandmother, was the reason she magically appeared right after Kelsey’s mother disappeared. Uncle also had an opinion about why his mother abandoned him decades earlier. But he never went into any actual details.
“As long as you wear the crest,” her grandmother continued, “you will be safe.” Her voice wavered at the end. Tears bit at Kelsey’s eyes. “Never lose it.”
“I won’t.” Kelsey promised, vowing right then to never take off the oval necklace. Breaths became shallower. Finally, they stopped altogether.
At eleven years old, Kelsey was once again, orphaned.
Now, seventeen, Kelsey had accepted that her grandmother was crazy. Probably due to a broken heart, she thought as she sat on the swings, absently playing with her necklace. Her combat boot traced lines in the dirt. Without glancing up, she knew that every mother at the park was watching her and whispering to each other. They probably already called the cops, Kelsey thought. The idea of sitting in a cruiser was just as depressing as sitting in class. Being in school was worse than being in jail. And today, the anniversary of her grandmother’s death, was a good enough reason to skip. Her foster parents wouldn’t see it that way. Kelsey wondered if they had enough guts to make good on their threat and send her back into the system.
“Why does it even matter?” she whispered to herself, leaving the swings and heading for the park stage. “A few more months and I’ll be out.” Although, there was something about ten foster homes in six years that would make her feel accomplished.
A stiff, cold wind slapped her back and pierced through her shirt. Instinctively, she turned. Everyone in the park had vanished. Chills swept up and down Kelsey’s spine. Clouds darkened the sky. Hairs stood on end.
Kelsey sang softly, trying to comfort herself, “It’s the last midnight; it’s the last wish. It’s the last midnight. Soon it will be boom, squish!” She scanned the park. Experience told her two things: either she was about to become the star of a horror movie, or caught in the middle of a gang shoot out.
Well, I definitely don’t want to participate in the second option; not again, Kelsey thought, heading for the closest park’s exit. A child’s giggle stopped her cold. Should she turn? Run? Walk like a dinosaur? No one gets killed in movies if they walk like a dinosaur.
The giggle came again, closer. Kelsey muttered the exorcism prayer before she turned. If it was a demon child, she’d go down swinging. A little girl looked at Kelsey from halfway across the park. No blood clotted in the corners of the girl’s mouth. Blue eyes stared across the space intelligently. Brown pigtails sat neatly on the girl’s shoulders.
“I know you.” The words tumbled out of Kelsey’s mouth as an even bigger realization hit: the girl looked exactly like Kelsey did at that age. The girl smiled revealing a gap between her two front teeth. Kelsey’s heart dropped. She had that same gap the night her mother and sister went missing.
Slowly, testing if the image was real or if the second-hand fumes of marijuana had finally caught up with her, Kelsey approached the girl. No dark demons sprang up so she kept moving. The girl remained still until Kelsey stood across from her. Then only her smile got bigger.
Do I touch her, Kelsey wondered, or what? Would that break whatever spell this is?
“I know you.”
The little girl nodded enthusiastically. Against her will, Kelsey’s hand lifted. Eyes squeezed shut in preparation for the worst, she placed her hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“Huh.” She opened her eyes. The sky turn completely black and the grass red. Like the flip of a switch, everything swirled together, making her sick. Giving in, Kelsey tumbled through the darkness.
Pain brought Kelsey to consciousness. Groaning and cursing, she sat up and rubbed her head. The pain was in her back.
“Ow.” She leaned against the trunk of a tree and waited for her body to determine whether or not she was paralyzed. It took a full minute, but she could feel the pain everywhere. Not paralyzed.
Biting her tongue to keep the moans in, she stood and looked to see if anyone saw her faint. No one was there. Just trees. Kelsey turned around.
More trees. And not the park kind either. These were woodsy trees.
She spun around again.
Yep, she was in the woods.
“Quae est infernum?” she muttered. What the hell? A cool breeze swayed the canopy, letting golden sunlight drizzle down. Fear of breaking the illusion kept Kelsey completely still. Basic nature sounds greeted her ears.
“Okay,” she whispered to herself, trying to squish the rising panic. “There is a ninety percent chance that this is just a dream. And what can we not do in dreams? Scream. So, we’re gonna scream and see what happens. On the count of three. One.”
Her scream sliced through the air. Vocal cords burned under the strain. Ceasing her screaming, Kelsey groaned. Vibrating vocal cords meant she wasn’t dreaming.
“Ooo-kay then.” She nodded, easily accepting the new truth: she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Not that she ever lived in Kansas. Or any of the Midwest states, really.
Thoughts abandoned ship in Kelsey’s head as she straightened. That wasn’t her stomach. Eyes wide, she looked over her shoulder. A creature stared at her. Her legs moved before Kelsey could comprehend the danger. Brush slapped her jeans as she darted between trees. Heavy thuds confirmed the creature followed closely behind. Physically running out of options, she thought a Hail Mary and ran at the tree directly in front of her. Keeping her speed, she pressed her foot against the bark then forced herself vertically up into the air.
Hands gripped the lowest hanging branch. Then the next branch, and the next. Pure adrenaline propelled Kelsey higher up the tree. Only when the branches looked new did she stop and lean against the trunk.
“That’s right. Parkour sucker!” Below, the creature snarled. Eyes still on its lunch, it circled the tree.
At first Kelsey couldn’t figure out what it was. A sabretooth tiger came close, mixed with a rhino and the mane of a lion. The most interesting part was the tail like a shark.
“God must have hit you with the ugly stick several times when he made you.”
It growled at the insult. Kelsey stuck her tongue out at it. Then she climbed down a few branches and sat against the trunk. The creature jumped up on the tree, but still couldn’t reach her.
Pleased with herself, she said, “Circle all you want; I can stay here forever.” She closed her eyes. “You say the price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay. You cry in your tea which you hurl in the sea when you see me go by.”
She just started on King George’s third song when a whizz and a thud cut her off. Below her, the creature gurgled then collapsed against the tree. Is it dead? Kelsey wondered. Feathers from the arrow stuck out from the beast’s skull. Through the thin foliage, she watched a young man run up. Brutally, the man kicked the creature.
“Well? Is it dead?” Kelsey called down. The man jumped. Eyes searched for the young voice but he couldn’t see its owner.
“Very,” he reported. A branch moved and he thought he saw blue eyes. “Are you alright?” The last thing he needed was an injured boy and a hysterical mother. Who would let a child roam this far into the woods anyways? The branches moved again as the person dropped from branch to branch.
When Kelsey finally landed on the ground, the man’s eyes went wide.
“Just peachy,” she said. Dirt from the tree coated her hand but she hardly noticed. The man before her looked like he just walked out of a medieval reenactment. Brown simple pants matched the once white shirt. If Kelsey had to guess, those were authentic leather boots.
“You’re a girl,” the man said. Kelsey scowled.
“Woman,” she corrected. She placed her hands on her hips. “Look Renaissance Festival, I’m a little confused as to where I am exactly.”
“Neutiquam erro.” I’m not lost. “Just a little confused. Where am I?”
“Maroon Forest, just on the outskirts of Onauta.”
“Ri-ight.” Kelsey studied him as he studied her. He kept eyeing her pants with a frown. Probably because he’s never seen a female wear them before. Kelsey rolled her head slightly. Please, she prayed, do not let this be that type of world. “Okay, which way to that city then?”
“There is a path that will take you to the road through there.” He pointed in a direction. “Travel the road north a day and it will take you to the city.”
“Kay.” She turned in that direction. “Oh, this better not be some cos-play prank that you’re doing. Otherwise I will seriously put you in a hospital.” The guy only stared at her declaration. “Whatever. Later.” Kelsey gave a short wave and started walking.
“Miss, please!” She stopped. “The road is filled with bandits and thieves. Allow me to fetch and load my horse then I will escort you.”
“Seriously? Look, Prince Charming, I am a grown woman who don’t need no escort. You’re hot, but not hot enough to blindly trust. See you.” She strode confidently away, not looking back.
Had she, she would have seen the man smile.
Wagon wheel indentions ran perfectly parallel and held the standing mud. But no actual tire tracks marred the mud so Kelsey walked down the middle of the road. Maybe she could hitch a ride. How dangerous could it be in this world?
“In this world?” She shook her head as she walked. “That, or I’ve officially gone crazy.” The ground trembled. Cart? Kelsey jumped over one of the wagon wheel trenches and walked slower. Hooves pounding against the dirt grew louder and closer. Enough hooves to be four or five horse, Kelsey determined, and they were running.
Bile clinched the muscles in her throat. Upping her pace, Kelsey glanced over her shoulder. Each horse held a male rider. Slimy black hair and greasy beards, the men whooped and hollered when they saw her. Cursing, Kelsey looked ahead. Do not run, she told herself. You have nothing on you; they will just pass by.
She didn’t believe her own lie.
The racing horses slowed. Kelsey’s heart hammered as one trotted beside her.
“Hello,” the rider whistled. “It’s a girl.” The men behind Kelsey murmured. Their leader pulled his horse to a stop in front of Kelsey.
“Sanctorum de inferno,” she muttered as he dismounted. Saints of hell.
“Not a girl; a woman,” he corrected. His breath nearly made Kelsey gag. She kept a stone face. Experience was a cruel teacher but it taught her never to react. The other five men dismounted behind her. The front man eyed her like she was dinner.
“What is a lovely young lady like you doing out here, all alone?”
“Just making my way to the city.” The sound of her unwavering voice gave her strength.
“A pretty thing such as yourself shouldn’t be traveling alone.” The man smiled and Kelsey’s skin crawled. “Allow us to escort you.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I know your kind. And I am not willing to pay the price you’re thinking of.” She tried to shove pass the man and head into the trees. Better hiding spots in there. But the man grabbed her shoulder. Adrenaline shot through her veins as every muscle tensed. The fight played out in her head.
“You haven’t even heard my asking price.”
“Remove your hand or I will remove it for you,” Kelsey warned. Behind her, the men laughed. Their leader raised an eye brow and tightened his grip. Kelsey mocked his smile.
Then the heel of her boot collided with his manhood. She grabbed the hand on her shoulder and yanked the body forward. When he hit her back, she bent and flipped him over. Mud slopped on top of him. Kelsey drove the heel of her boot into his chest with a war cry. Then she dislocated his shoulder. To make sure he was out of the fight, she kicked his head.
A fist hit her face as she turned. Pain flooded her mind. It had been a few weeks since her last fight and the pain caught her by surprise. She turned into the blow, fist hard against the attacker’s kidneys. He grunted and Kelsey brought his head down to her knee.
Metal zang by her ear followed by a force to her knees. Small stones dug into her hands as she hit the mud. Strong hands turned her over. Panic over came composure. Her legs flailed as she screamed. A hand clamped over her mouth; Kelsey bit it. With a howl, the hand let go. Her foot hit someone’s face. The awkward angle of the hit hurt her more than the recipient.
Suddenly, the hands holding her down let go. The hot guy from before gripped the attacker and banged the hilt of his sword on the man’s head. The remaining attacker let go of Kelsey and pulled out his knife. Hot guy pointed his sword at the pitiful knife.
“Do you really want to test my skills with a blade?” Hot guy asked. Kelsey stilled. The attacker lowered his blade. A wad of spit came from his mouth and landed on Hot guy’s boots. Run him through, Kelsey mentally begged. Leave all their bodies for the crows to feast on.
Instead, Hot guy didn’t react. One by one, the attackers climbed to their feet and mounted their horses. Cursing the hot guy, they rode off. Kelsey still laid in the dirt, not entirely sure if it was over. What if they came back? What if they came back with more people?
“Are you alright?” Hot guy asked. He sheathed his sword then offered a hand. Since he did just technically save her life, Kelsey took it.
“I’m fine,” she lied. Gently, she tried to put pressure on her injured foot. Pain. “I had everything under control.”
“You call that under control?” Hot guy sounded angry. “Do you know what they would have done to you if I hadn’t come?”
“Yes.” She tried to put her foot down again. Pain. Better not let him see that she was injured. Or terrified. “It’s nothing I haven’t already lived through.” Her heart betrayed her calmness.
“You. You. You are reckless.” Kelsey shrugged off the accusation. Once again, she put her foot down. Pain flooded her face. “You’re injured!”
“It’s just a flesh wound.” To try and prove her point, she started hobbling down the road. It hurt.
“Please stop. You are in no condition to travel alone. It’s almost night. Travel with me and I promise I’ll get you to Onauta tomorrow.”
Kelsey whirled around and put her hands on her hips. “Okay Prince Charming, but how do I know that you won’t try to do to me what they tried to do?” Charming flinched.
“My name is Damon. And you are?”
“Brittany.” The lie rolled off her tongue easily.
“Brittany, I will swear on my name that nothing will happen to you. Is that agreeable?”
She didn’t have any other options, and she knew it. She started hating this world.
“Fine. Lead the way.” She hobbled behind him, going as fast as she could. Each step hurt but a dull pain in her shoulder distracted her.
Damon led her through the trees and to the camp he had already set up. His horse looked at the new comer then went back to sleeping. Fire contained by stones danced purple from the Eak wood. Kelsey sat down in an undignified heap as Damon added normal wood to the flames. The color changed to orange and the heat it provided grew.
She was a strange one, Damon thought, looking over at the woman. Her brown hair was not pulled up in an elegant arrangement like a lady of the court. Nor was it braded like those of the lower class. It was simply pulled back with some sort of tie. Stray hairs, wet with mud, dangled. Though she won’t admit it, he saw fear hovering behind her blue eyes. If he had learned anything from his five sisters, it was this woman wanted to cry. Either pride or strength kept her face dry and Damon found it surprisingly attractive.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” he asked, hoping to distract her. She snorted.
“What gave it away?” Damon didn’t dare answer. She shook her head at his silence, then winced. Her hand touched the back of her shoulder. In the bright fire light, Damon saw blood.
“They cut you.” He jumped to his feet. Kelsey tried to look at the wound, completely unalarmed.
“Apparently. Don’t suppose you have a Band-Aid.” Damon frowned. “Didn’t think so.”
“It needs to be cleaned.” He poured water from his canteen onto a clean shirt. He knelt behind her. The cut was a long one. Blood stained the edges of the strange blouse. He would have to cut away some of the cloth to see the full damage. Embarrassment flooded his body.
“I am not a doctor, but I am going to have to cut away some fabric to clean the wound.”
“Alright.” Kelsey considered just taking the whole shirt off. Better not give the poor man a heart attack. Cloth ripped away and she felt a cold breeze hit her shoulder.
Black ink marked her shoulder and Damon hesitated.
“Seriously?” Kelsey asked. “Have you never seen a tattoo before?”
“I have; just never on a woman.” Water touched her shoulder, causing Kelsey to suck in a breath. Wouldn’t he be surprised to learn that she had several tattoos. “What does it say?”
“‘Vivos voco, mortuos plango’. I call the living, I mourn the dead.” He didn’t need to know why she got it. Fortunately, he didn’t ask. He kept quiet as he wiped away the dried blood. The scab already forming would have to hold until a real doctor got a chance to look at it. For the first time, he saw the pendant dangling from her neck: An image of a tree with the roots wrapped around a globe sat carved into a Roinad diamond.
“Where did you get that?” The question slipped out before he could stop it. Kelsey looked at her necklace.
“My grandmother gave it to me. Why?”
Damon shook his head as an answer. Thoughts and implications swirled in his head. “Never mind. Here; put his on.” He gave her his last clean shirt and turned around as she pulled it on.
“I don’t suppose you have any food, do you?” Kelsey asked tapping him on the shoulder when she was done. He handed her some meat from the beast he just killed. Neither of them talked much after that. Kelsey could tell that his mind was occupied by something. He wore his thoughts on his face. If only Kelsey could translate them.
A moon and a half rose in the sky as the sun quickly dropped behind the horizon. Kelsey stared at the two moons for a while, fighting the urge to sleep. In the end, she couldn’t keep her eyes open. The soft ground welcomed her. For a few moments, she relaxed. Things would turn out alright. Somehow, she would get home. Maybe her wound would scar and she’d have a wonderful story to tell people.
Her dreams stopped abruptly as her nostrils filled with the unmistakable smell of chloroform.
“Brittany.” Something nudged her foot. “Brittany.” Every part of her body hurt. Quite frankly, she didn’t want to open her eyes. But the nudges kept coming on her injured foot. Fine, she thought, snapping open her eyes. Damon let out a sigh of relief.
“What happened?” Kelsey asked looking around. While she never sat in one before, she knew she was in some wooden cage. Like the ones in movies that people used to transport criminals. Metal chains dug into her ankles as well as her wrists behind her back. Damon looked tied up too. Light came into the cart through a barred door on the back. She could hear a fire cackling and several men talking. She prayed they weren’t the same men as before. None of their words made sense. The only word she could understand was Varosted. It sounded like a name, and they repeated it often.
“This isn’t good,” Damon muttered, trying to wiggle out of his chains. “If they took me, then they must be desperate.”
“What do you mean?”
“They are probably slave traders.” The iron links held him firm. Exasperated, he stopped.
“Slave traders?” Kelsey repeated. Unable to help herself, she swore. “This is a messed-up world you have here.” Damon shrugged. “So, how are we gonna get out of here?”
“Our best bet is to wait. When they unload us, I’ll make a bargain with them.”
“That’s your plan? Wait?”
“Do you have a better one?” He sounded snippy.
“Aut viam inveniam aut faciam,” she declared. “I will either find a way, or make one.” She felt the chains and the lock holding them together. “Okay. It feels like a basic lock. Can you reach into my left boot?” Damon turned around and slipped in his hand.
“Find me the small metal thing.”
He felt mostly slick paper, then the thing she described. “Got it.” He dropped it into her hand. “What is it?”
“A paper clip.” Kelsey bit her lip as she concentrated. The paper clip wiggled for a moment, then the lock clicked open. Damon’s brown eyes went wide as she rubbed her free hands.
“How did you?” He stopped as she freed her feet.
“Let’s just say that I had a brief but wonderful run in the life of crime.” She picked the lock holding him.
“You’re a criminal?”
“More like an accomplice. Anyway, it was a year or two ago.” She stuck her head out between the bars. No one rode behind the cart. Another lock held the barred door shut. It looked more complex than the ones before. But it was still just a simple lock.
Kelsey pulled a bobby pin from her hair and went to work on the lock. Damon had the good sense to stay quiet. The lock had more tumblers than the ones used to tie their hands. Blood pooled on Kelsey’s lip where she bit it. Damon hovered above her shoulder. His eyes flickered back and forth, watching for trouble.
God he smells good, Kelsey thought distantly. And that’s without deodorant. The lock clicked. Both metal tools slipped back into her boot.
“Okay, now what?” she whispered.
Damon sighed. “They are going away from the city. If we run now, we can but hundreds of yards between us and them before they realize we are gone.”
“Run away? That’s your plan? If we run, they can catch us.” Kelsey slowly opened the door and slid onto the grass. Shadows danced along crates and sacks. No one guarded the cart. Probably figured that a girl couldn’t pick a lock. Cuilibet fatuo placet sua calva; every fool is pleased with his own folly.
“And your plan is to what? Fight?” Damon slid into the wet grass beside her. “They took my sword.” Kelsey ignored him. A wooden pole sat along the crates. Kelsey’s head tilted. Slowly, she pulled it towards her.
“Can you not fight without a sword?” she challenged. The pole had a good thickness to it, and a slight bend when applied with pressure. Kelsey smiled. It would do.
Damon didn’t notice her as he kept glancing around the wheels of the cart. Ten men sat around the camp fire. Most of them played with a sword or a dagger. Two walked back and forth, keeping guard on the whole camp.
“I can. I was just taught that, unless I’m in a battle or a war, not to fight.” Their best bet was still to run. They could make for the trees. No doubt the bandits got rid of his horse. Shame; he really liked that horse.
“And I was taught to make sure that the dead are dead.” Kelsey slipped alongside the cart.
“What does that even mean?” Damon asked, turning. She wasn’t there. Instead, she walked quickly, keeping low to the ground. One of the guards stood with his back towards the tree line. Kelsey moved in an arc, coming around to behind him. Gripping the pole tightly, she came up and whacked him solidly across the head with the pole. Grunting, he dropped like a bucket of bricks. She picked up his fallen sword. She motioned for Damon to join her. He stared for a moment, incredulous. This woman was beyond something else.
She motioned again. Keeping low like her, he came around. Instead of waiting for him, Kelsey left the sword and continued on, approaching those who sat at the fire. The man closest to her got knocked out like the guard. Swinging the pole like a bat, she struck the chest of the man sitting next to him.
Others finally jumped to their feet. Kelsey rammed an end of the pole into one’s gut, spun, and slapped another across the face. Speeding up her momentum, she swooped down, taking out two by their legs.
On the other side of the fire, Damon plunged his sword through a man’s thigh. The man’s scream got cut short by Damon’s hilt to his face. Twirling his sword, he eyed his next opponent. The man threw a bottle of alcohol, missing Damon and landing in the fire. Flames tried to touch the sky.
Kelsey turned and brought the pole up with both hands. A blade came down, wedging into the wood. She yanked the pole down to the left. The fighter lost his grip. Kelsey kicked him hard in the chest. Reeling backwards, the man fell into the fire. Her pole came down on another’s foot and her fist into his face.
Damon ducked under a wild swing. Metal cut into the other’s arm. The man was too drunk to feel the pain. So Damon sliced off the ears. The cowards of the group already fled the battle. Only four remained and they closed in as a circle around Kelsey.
She swung the pole like a baseball bat, ramming it on their arms and against their sides. Damon ran up on one and swiftly cut the man’s throat. Kelsey dropped to the ground. The pole pulled those standing off their feet. Each came down with a crash and were quickly finished off by Damon’s sword.
The world became quiet. Bugs called to each other and horses neighed softly. Kelsey tossed the pole aside and put her hands on her knees. ‘That was fun’ sprang to mind, but she didn’t have the energy to voice it.
“You alright, Brittany?” Damon asked.
“Yep. I’ll live.”
“Alright. Let’s get moving.” He put his hand on her back to help her forwards.
Kelsey still hobbled a bit as the two walked down the muddy road. Damon kept close to her side, just in case she fell. First rays of sunlight came up over the horizon. They had passed the whole night in silence, focused only on putting as much distance between themselves and their wounded captors as possible.
I should have kept my pole as a walking stick, Kelsey thought bitterly, moving as fast as she could on her still injured foot. Her shoulder had a dull ache. Damon didn’t seem hurt though.
Slowly, almost one by one, other roads joined into the one they walked along. More people started appearing too. Some with carts of household items, others with a whole line of things to be sold. They all cast questioning looks at Kelsey and her clothes. Surrounded by others, Kelsey let out a deep breath of relief that she didn’t even know she was holding.
“You alright?” Damon asked.
“Just starving.” Her stomach rumbled in agreement.
“Once we enter the city, we’ll find you some food.”
“Good. This would be a pretty crappy date if I don’t get at least food out of it.” The humor didn’t register with Damon. Whatever; Kelsey thought she was funny.
Walls rose in the distance. Banners of bright colors waved in the breeze. The wide road narrowed, forcing the two to walk closer to others. Everyone seemed to have an excited energy which only grew when they saw the giant, open gates. So many people, Kelsey thought. Someone here has to know how she could get out of this crazy world and back to her own.