Chapter 1 - A Sign From Above
A slight breeze whispered through the trees, brushing against the tall grass of the forest floor and startling a small yellow butterfly from a nearby flower. It fluttered to the shade of the oak tree and came to rest on the tip of the nose of the man who was resting in the shade. The man let out a small snort, causing the winged insect to flutter a foot or two away before coming to rest on a small pink wildflower.
The man smiled as he watched the little butterfly flit among the flowers. In truth, he was no ordinary man; he was a Dreamer. That's all well and good, but exactly what is a Dreamer anyway? What made this young man different from any other? Certainly it wasn't his physical appearance; his baggy blue-jean shorts, green-and-gray striped shirt, and unkempt brown hair made him look more like some teenager playing hooky than a being who could bend reality to his will.
His name was One, Narrator Number One. That, of course, was not his true name; rather, it was the name he had chosen for himself, with some aid his best friend, a Dreamer fittingly known as Narrator Number Two.
None of that, however, answers the original question; just what is a Dreamer? In truth, this is no simple question … though perhaps by the end of this tale, you will find your answer.
Oblivious (or perhaps unconcerned) about the mystery of his existence, One shifted slightly to make himself more comfortable, so that he might better enjoy the peace and relative quiet.
Unbeknownst to One, a strange distortion had begun to form above the clearing. Had he been watching, it would have appeared to the naked eye as though a whirlpool had inexplicably formed in midair. In a matter of moments, the strange disturbance began to bend and stretch until it was roughly as large as the oblivious Dreamer resting below.
Without warning, something fell from the center of the disturbance and smashed through the upper branches of the oak tree. Hearing the sounds of leaves rustling and twigs snapping, One opened his eyes just in time to see something shiny crashing down through the upper branches of his tree at an alarming rate. With a loud yelp, he flung himself aside just in time to avoid being flattened by the falling object.
The Dreamer pushed himself from the ground, a faint look of annoyance on his youthful countenance. Brushing the grass and leaves from his shorts and his green and gray-striped shirt, he approached the object that shattered the tranquility of the clearing.
As One drew near, his eyes went wide. "Cyber-cripes! It's a dude!"
Indeed, the object was in fact a young man. He was a strong-looking fellow with light-brown hair even longer than the crop that graced One's head, and faded to a silvery white at the tips. His skin was deeply tanned and crossed with numerous scars. One had his share of scars as well, but his skin was much fairer.
The Dreamer recognized the metal footwear that practically encompassed the young man's legs as tek-boots, magically and technologically augmented footwear that let the wearer run faster and jump higher. Most of the rest of the warrior's armor was traditional metal plating, with the exception of his shirt.
"Selanium threading." One commented, scratching his chin thoughtfully. "That narrows it down. Question is, how did a kid from Earth end up here?"
His 'guest' didn't respond.
Kneeling by the man's side, One asked, "Hey, uh … guy! Can you hear me?"
The young man did not reply. One leaned over and pressed his fingers against the young man's neck to check for a pulse.
Several crowded seconds later, One found himself on his back with the business end of a sword inches from his throat. With only a little more effort than he had spent to discourage the butterfly earlier, One sent the young man flying off him.
"Norms." One muttered as he stood up.
He had hardly finished straightening his shirt when he found the glimmering tip of the man's sword in alarmingly close proximity to his face.
Staring cross-eyed at the tip of the sword, One said, "Chill out, dude. I'm unarmed."
The warrior looked One over before slowly lowering his weapon.
Watching with mild interest as the sword's blade retracted into the hilt, One slid his hands in his pockets. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" demanded the warrior.
One scowled. "Oh, that's nice! You fall from the sky and nearly crush me into a Dreamer pancake, totally ruining what was up till now a perfect day, and now you want to know what I'm doing here? Who the heck are you?"
"That's no business of yours." The warrior replied briskly.
"Fine. If you don't want to be nice, get lost." Without another word, One started to sit back down beneath the tree.
The warrior grabbed One's arm and jerked the Dreamer to his feet. "This is no place for a picnic! Don't you know the Revs patrol this area?"
With a sudden yelp, the warrior let go of One's arm.
A smirk on his face, One rubbed his arm, transmuting the rigid metal needles back into his natural arm hair. "Don't like the Revs, huh? Good on you. You don't look like a Ranger."
"The Rangers fell." the warrior's face showed a moment of sadness. "The Knights of the Star rose in their place."
"Knights of the Star, huh? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's been ages since I was on Earth."
The warrior's face went pale. "Wait, go back a sec; what do you mean 'on Earth'?"
"Yeah, I haven't been there in awhile. Too depressing, you know? I've been meaning to stop by again." One stopped, noting that the warrior's face had gone pale. "You didn't know this wasn't Earth, did you?"
The warrior stammered, "I just … back on … this isn't Earth?"
"Of course you didn't know." muttered One, "That would be way too convenient."
Quickly recovering himself, the man asked, "If I'm not on Earth then where am I?"
With a sigh, One spread his arms wide. "This is the planet Vinta, the Prylliat Woods in southern Ircandesta to be precise. I'd say we're roughly seven thousand light-years from Earth. Don't quote me on that though."
A dumbstruck look fell over the knight's face at this revelation. One held his peace; the poor guy had a lot to think about, after all. Still, if One's experience had taught him anything, in a matter of moments the knight would say the old 'I have to go back' line and start pestering One for help.
"I have to get back." said the warrior, a look of resolve on his face.
"Of course you do." One said tiredly.
"I don't suppose you could …"
"No." One said rather bluntly, "I'm a Dreamer, not a taxi. You gotta find your own way back; it's character-building."
Seeing the warrior's scowl, One let out a sigh. "No offense dude, but Earth's a crap hole. Why do you want to go back so bad?"
After a moment's hesitation, the knight pulled on the tarnished silver chain that was around his neck, revealing a small data chip encased in a protective plastic sleeve. "This contains a detailed schematic of the Rev HQ in Vegas."
"I thought the Rev Headquarters was in Topanga."
The knight gave him an odd look. "The Rev HQ hasn't been in Topanga since the fall of the Ranger's Collective. Look, it's important that I get this chip back to Misakren as soon as possible. With any luck, we'll be able to stop the Revs once and for all!"
"I really can't help you, though God knows I wouldn't mind being partially responsible the fall of the Revs."
"Then why? Why won't you send me home?" The knight demanded, "If you know about the Revs, you must know that they need to be stopped before more innocent lives are lost."
One massaged his temples as a dull ache began to spread through his head. "Look, I can't just move people from one end of the universe to the other on a whim. It's complicated. Don't ask me to explain; I'm not sure even I understand the specifics of it all. I can't take you to Earth, and that's that."
For a long moment, One thought the knight might attack him. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. The anger in the knight's face faded in a matter of moments. Looking tired and lost, he sank down against the oak tree.
One didn't want to get involved, but the expression on the knight's face made his resolve waver. It wasn't that One didn't want to help; he just didn't want to get involved in what was obviously going to be another drawn out assignment. He wished there was a way to help the guy without having to hand-hold him through the entire process.
A smile crossed One's face as the perfect solution popped abruptly into his head. "Say, what's your name, buddy?"
"Well, Mikaen, now that I think about it, there might just be something I can do to help you out." He pulled a scrap of paper and a marker from his pockets. "I can't teleport you back to Earth, but maybe I can point you in the right direction to find your own way back."
He scribbled something on the paper before handing it to Mikaen. "This'll point you to a nearby village called Homestead. The vuestan will be more than willing to help you out."
Mikaen took the paper uncertainly. "The vuestan?"
"Yeah, local humanoid race. They're easy to spot: cat ears and tails like monkeys, usually less than five feet tall. Look, just ask around for a boy named Elduran Thistlethorn."
"Elduran Thistlethorn." Mikaen repeated, committing the name to memory.
One nodded. "Yeah, Elduran's an old friend of mine. Brown-headed kid with a bit of white on the tips of his ears. Just say my name, and I'm sure he'll help you out."
"What's your name?" Mikaen's eyes narrowed as he noticed the only thing on the paper was an elaborately drawn arrow. "Hey, what gives?! Is this some kind of joke?"
After a moment of silence, he looked up to find that he was alone.