Chapter 1 - Drakon
That was the first thing I felt before sitting up, spluttering and gasping from the chill of the water. I wiped it out of my eyes before gasping again, this time in shock.
I was sitting at the top of a large hill that was situated at the edge of the most beautiful meadow I had ever seen! I heard a slight giggle behind me, but when I turned, all I saw was a large oak tree. Its roots spread out and formed a comfortable seat before burrowing deep into the hillside.
The meadow was a gorgeous paradise. A forest encircling one side while a running river snaked around the other side like a moat around a castle, curling around the base of the hill before heading towards a town I could see in the distance. A stretch of rolling hills and farms separated me from civilisation.
That was when I realised what I was wearing. A dark red tunic with a green cloak draped around my shoulder. My feet were in some kind of leather sandal. How did I get here?
I tried to remember what had happened. All I could remember was studying for my final exams. I remember falling asleep at my desk in my room. But that was it.
Was I drugged? Kidnapped? No! There’s no way somebody could take me from my apartment to this gorgeous paradise in a single night...unless...they didn’t move my body...NO! I refused to believe I was dead. This must all be a dream. That was it! Just a dream.
I looked around at the paradise I found my self in. “If this is a dream,” I said aloud. “I sure hope nobody wakes me up to soon.”
There it was again. The same laughter from before. I spun around in time to see someone dart back behind the oak. “Hey!” I shouted, running after them. I guessed from the laughter that sounded, my observer was a girl. I chased her around the tree, reaching out for her. But my foot snagged one of the tree’s roots and I was sent tumbling down the hill.
“Ow! Ah! Oomf! Oh!”
I rolled down the hill, landing in a cluster of flowers ranging from red to yellow to blue. I heard a burst of laughter and looked up to the girl at the top of the hill. My glare sent her to the ground, clutching her stomach in uncontrollable laughter.
I couldn’t see her very well because of the setting sun behind her. All I could see was her indistinct shape rise to her feet and start walking down towards me.
She held her hand out and helped me to my feet. Now I stood there, nose to nose with her. Her eyes were the most beautiful violet I had ever seen. She was only slighter shorter than me, though I had always been called tall for my age.
Her skin was light brown, and I thought I could make out small green swirls on her cheeks. Not a sickly green, but a soft, muted green. Like moss. Her hair was a curtain of silken chocolate with shoots of bright green.
I realised I was staring and backed away quickly, sure that my face was burning furiously. “Uh...s..sorry a..b..bout that,” I stammered, the words rolling over each other.
“Um...it’s quite alright,” she said nervously.
There was a silence that lasted a few moments while I searched for something to say, trying to stop myself from staring again. “So...um...can you tell me where I am?” I asked eventually.
She tilted her head to the side in confusion, “What do you mean? You’re the one who fell asleep on my tree.”
"Your tree?” I asked.
“Yes. My tree,” she replied indignantly, narrowing her eyes and crossing her arms. “This entire meadow is mine.”
As she crossed her arms, I noticed she was wearing a sleeveless dress that seemed to be made out of blades of grass. A long root wound around her waist, giving the impression of a make-shift belt. She was barefoot and seemed to plant herself in the ground where she stood, slightly swaying in the breeze like the oak tree watching us.
“Okay,” I said calmly, raising my hand in a non-threatening gesture. “I just want to know how to get back to Sydney, that’s where I’m from.”
“Sid-knee?” she asked. ”The closest mortal settlement is right there.” She pointed in the direction where I had seen the town.
“Yeah, but...” I started before freezing in confusion. “Wait...what do you mean by ‘mortal’?”
“I mean what I am saying. Mortals, like you.”
I just stared back blankly.
“Oh!” she cried. “What’s the word...HUMANS! Yes! That’s what you are!”
I tried to take a step back without her noticing. “And...what are you if you’re not human?” I asked nervously. One move from her, and I would bolt and take my chances in that strange town.
“I’m a Dryad,” she said proudly. “And my name is Fern.”
“Dryad?” I asked. I knew that word from somewhere...wasn’t it in one of my exams?
“A nature spirit that inhabits a certain plant. In my case, it’s this great oak tree on the hill.” She turned around and spread her arms out as if the oak was some great god of hers.
Gods! Dryads! That was it!
“You mean the kind of Dryad from Greek Mythology?” I asked her.
‘Fern’ turned back to me, “Do I look like a myth to you? Are the gods myths to you?”
“Well...no one believes in them anymore. There hasn’t been more the one god in almost five thousand years.”
Fern’s expression made a strange thought come to mind. “Wait...what year is it?”
“You really must’ve hit your head on the way down the hill,” she commented. “The year is 850.”
“BC or BCE?” I asked her. “Or is it AD?”
“What are you talking about?” Fern asked me. “What do all those letters mean? The year is 850, nothing else.”
“I assume I’m in Greece?” I sighed.
“Yes,” Fern answered, eyeing me warily. I found I didn’t like it. “Not far from the mountain of Olympus. The town doesn’t realise how close they are to the gods.”
“I’m guessing you don’t know how to get me back to my own time?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “This could only be the work of the gods. For some reason, they wished you to be here at this particular time.”
We both fell silent. Digesting the information and reality of my situation. Eventually, I looked up and gazed at the hills, farms, rivers, trees, and a clear sky.
“Well...I suppose it could be worse. If this is the work of the gods, then I can certainly agree that this place is divine.”
“I suppose you want to start your new life in the town,” Fern said behind me. Her tone sounded bitter, and I couldn’t understand why.
I turned back to look at her and thought for a moment. She looked down at the ground and was slowly tracing one of the green swirls on her arm. “It’s not like it’s going anywhere,” I told her with a smile. “And I’m not all that great around people anyways. Besides, can you imagine anyone just taking a random kid off the streets into their homes?”
“Then...” she said slowly. “You’ll stay here?” Her eyes brightened as a hopeful smile broke out on her face.
I shrugged. “Sure. But first I’ll need to build some kind of shelter if I want to stay out of the rain.”
“I can help you with that,” Fern announced, taking my hand and leading me towards the outskirts of the forest, suddenly filled with energy. I was glad she was facing towards the trees, because my face felt red-hot.