Mirael, capital of Kelnor, seat of Skydancers
I opened my eyes to a familiar setting. A ceiling made of light wood, open beams. When I sat up, every one of my muscles protested, shooting pain through me, and I resorted to lying back down. A quiet feminine voice spoke. “Just rest. You’ve been through a lot. Changing time takes from everyone.” Then a cool hand rested on my forehead and I was asleep again.
I woke three more times, but was only up for a moment or so before falling back into a stupor. Finally, on time number four, I woke with no pain. When I sat up, my head pounded, but it was a bearable ache. I was lying back in the white sheeted bed, curtains to either side of me. Sitting next to my bed was easily the most lovely, if not the strangest, girl I had ever seen. She had wild raven hair that cascaded around her shoulders and down her back, barely contained by a silver circlet she wore. Though her clothes were plain, dark brown pants, tall leather boots and a long purple tunic, she looked resplendent in them, wearing them as if they were of the finest silk and not riding leathers. Her eyes were purple as well, a deep violet that seemed to pierce and heal as one. Her skin was one of the strangest things about her, for unless it was a trick of the light, it shone pale green. But by far the first thing that caught my eye were her wings. They were huge, stretching at least a foot over her head, feathered in dappled greys and blacks. She noticed me staring and smiled. “My name is Nyssrin,” she said, with a sunny grin. “I’m an Adme. I think your people call us angels, right?”
I nodded, still trying to take it all in. Despite everything, this was one of the most normal things that had happened to me all day. “Where am I?” I asked. I grimaced at my voice, for it was rough and coarse with disuse.
“Oh! That’s right!” Nyssrin jumped up and reached for a purple cape hung beside the bed I was lying in. “I have to get Storm- he’s your Assigned until you meet your fellow Greens. He’ll explain everything to you. Stay here!” She whipped the cape around her shoulders with what could only be a practised motion, and then she was gone. Judging from the rhythm of her footsteps, she was running. When I climbed out of bed to take a look, my legs wobbled underneath me and I almost fell. It seemed someone had redressed me, in cozy grey pants reaching past my knees and a long green shirt of the same caliber as the angel lady’s. I peered out from beside the curtains to see that my bed was one of of many stretching down a long hall. At one end of the hall was a staircase going down, and on the other end was a door. I watched the angel carefully shut it behind her and wondered where it went.
The window in front of my bed yielded a very strange view. When I looked through it, in any direction, all I could see was blue. For an absurd instant, I wondered if it had been painted. I was about to go and explore down the hallway, perhaps down the stairs, but then reality hit.
My brother was dead.
My brother was dead and I was who knows where and my parents were probably worried sick or ready to murder me themselves. Possibly both.
I sank to the ground, back pressed against the cool stone wall. Hot tears buzzed behind my eyes and I wrapped my arms around my legs. Where was I? All I needed to do was get home and explain the whole situation. Or wake up, or forget the entire thing had ever happened, or spend every cent getting a very good psychiatrist. Probably all three.
I only had peace for a moment, because I heard footsteps coming towards me. When I looked up, the boy with blond hair was swiftly advancing towards me with long strides. Storm, I reminded myself. The fucking Peter Pan from my dreams was finally a real person. Goody. As if my day couldn’t get any worse. I stood up shakily just as he reached me. He extended a bundle to me with a grin I could only describe as arrogant. “So Sleeping Beauty finally awakes, eh?” he asked. I pretended not to have heard him and began to rifle through what he had presented me. Inside was a sturdy pair of grey boots, socks, and a large green cape with a hood. “What’s with the capes?” I asked.
Storm scrunched his face at me. “Imbecile. They’re called cloaks, didn’t you ever take a historical fashion class? Only royals wear capes.” He sounded completely serious, venomous, which made me angry.
“I have not,” I replied. “They don’t really offer historical fashion classes.” Though I could tell he wanted to say something, I took my sweet time putting on the boots. They really were quite comfortable, grey leather and black laces almost to my knees. Finally, when I looked up, he had his arms crossed and an air of superiority about him.
“I’m sure you know that I’m Storm Fallingstar,” he said, when I finally looked him in the eye. He had a strange shaped face, too angular, with expertly arched eyebrows and large blue eyes. There was nothing gentle in those eyes, they were ice, chunks of the North Pole placed in a person’s face. His mouth was wide and seemed to be made for mischievous smiles. The hair framing his face was white-grey as snow and unruly as a blizzard, and it matched strange tattoos, two thick lines of stark white that carved up from his shirt line to end, points on his cheeks.
“I did, actually,” I replied, which seemed to take him aback. “I’m Ivy Whitehall. I’d appreciate it if you’d tell me where I am and how I can get home. Even a phone would do, do you have a cell I can borrow?”
“What’s a phone?” he asked, quizzically.
Now it was my turn to be confused. “You know, a thing to call people on?”
He seemed excited for an instant, like a child, but then the mask of superiority came back. “That can’t be a real item,” he said. “And hasn’t anyone told you? This is your home now. Follow me.” He turned on his heel and began striding back towards the door. When he realized I wasn’t tagging along, he turned around, one eyebrow nearly to his hairline.
“Um, no,” I said. “This isn’t my home. I need to get home. Where are we, anyway?”
He sighed, a loud and exasperated thing that I could hear from down the hall. “Come with me, darling,” he said. “I’ll show you.”
I growled my next words, teeth bare: “I am not your darling.” This made him laugh, and he extended a hand to me.
“Come with me, Whitehall. The world awaits.”
I saw no other option, so I strode up beside him, the strange green cloak still in my hands. We walked to the end of the hall side by side, but he stopped before the great wooden doors. “You’d best put that on,” he said, gesturing to the garment in my hands. “It’s cold out there.”
I awkwardly swung it around my shoulders and then he reached up and clasped the cloak at my throat. I pushed his hands away but he only grinned. “First impressions, love?” he asked, wickedly.
“Of what?” I was tiring of this game he played.
“Me, of course.” he replied, flashing me white teeth.
“You were nicer in my dreams,” I replied, tiredly. “Right now you’re kind of an asshole.” Surprisingly, this didn’t wound him at all, he just grandly pushed the door open with one hand and gestured for me to step outside.
It was a very strange sight. Wind was whipping around us, whipping my newly acquired cloak every which way. I was standing in a huge rough-hewn cavern, nearly fifty feet wide and twice as tall. The roof was sheltered from rain, but light still shone in. When I stepped forward, I could see why. About five feet in front of me, there was a hole in the floor, large enough for three or four school buses to fit through. As I stared into it, I could see a city, down and down and down. Through the sky whirled clouds and strange colorful specks I assumed to be birds, flying in strange formations far below. Now I understood why the view from my window had been so skewed. I was inside a gigantic mountain.
“Welcome to Dragonsreach Infirmary,” said Storm, stepping up from behind me. “The very top of the Great Peak. We’re going down to that city. It actually surrounds the mountain, can you believe it?”
I couldn’t believe it in my rational brain, but looking down, feeling the wind whip my dark hair, I could. “Where is this?” I asked. “I’ve never heard of such a place. What city is that?”
Storm swept his arm beside me grandly. “The finest in all the dimensions. Mirael, seat of Skydancers. Ready to go down?”
“How?” I asked. “Is there an elevator?”
“How, you ask?” Storm replied. I could hear the wicked grin in his voice without seeing it. He set his hand on the small of my back. I tried to shy away but he gripped his fingers into my cloak. “Like this.”
His fingers tightened on the back of my green cloak before letting go and shoving me forward. I wheeled my arms, struggling to keep my balance before falling, falling, falling. When I glanced up, I saw that Storm was smiling from above me, wickedly. Then, he leaped out after me and we spiraled through the air.