I had always hated heights. When he was fifteen, Sam had convinced our parents to take us skydiving. I had gone, but was so nauseous that I had thrown up while free-falling through the air. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant day.
This topped that by tenfold. At least while skydiving, there was a parachute securely strapped to my back, ready to be pulled at any time. Now, I was falling without any sort of restraints, with only an insane and idiotic blond boy to keep me company in the few minutes before my untimely death. Maybe he could fly. Maybe I could fly. Maybe this was all some sort of awful concoction my mind had made up and I would wake up, safe and sound, before I slammed into the ground. I was beginning to doubt that eventuality, however.
The ground was becoming much closer. When I looked down, I could actually see the city rushing towards us at an alarming rate. If I squinted, I could make out different sections of the city, all divided into colors like a great wheel. I couldn’t see all of it because the mountain we were falling out of marked something that looked like the exact center, but the half I could make out was different from any other city I’d ever seen. It was circular, with a large wall surrounding it and enclosing the buildings from a great green field on the outside. Different sectors were divided off by central streets. Each part had distinctly colored rooves. The one we were falling toward was full of buildings with purple tops. I could see a red section as well, next to a brown. There seemed to be no particular order the colors were laid out in. It was beautiful, in a weird sort of way that made my head go muzzy. Or maybe that was just because I was falling through the air, about to be turned to mush on one of those lovely purple rooves.
“Enjoying yourself?” came a nasally voice. I managed to turn my head despite the rushing wind and reached up to swat some hair out of my face. Someone had taken it out of its tidy braids while I lay unconscious, and now I was forced to endure it whipping about my head. Storm was falling alongside me, arms and legs stretched out, looking perfectly at ease. I shot him a dirty look and he blew me a kiss.When I stayed silent, he cocked an eyebrow. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Well, I wasn’t planning to die at the hands of some asswipe I’ve just barely met!” I said, yelling to be heard above the roar of the wind in my ears.
He grinned, a smile that was all perfectly white teeth. “We’re not dying today,” he said triumphantly.
“Well then, enlighten me on your brilliant plan,’ I said, spreading sarcasm like butter. He flashed another thousand-watt smile my way and closed his eyes, laying one finger to the side of his temple. I waited for the grand reveal, the parachute or plane that would (hopefully) come. Nothing. “Nice plan, idiot,” I groused, after a moment. My voice was calm, but my stomach and my brain were roiling as the ground flashed closer.
He opened his eyes into mine and for the first time, there was something akin to terror reflecting back at me. “That was supposed to work,” he told me. “Where’s Ice?” He turned away and threw his head up, scanning the skies, hair tossed every which way. “Icefire!” He was yelling as loud as he possibly could, but still we fell.
“What’s your game, Storm?” I was becoming venomous. When I looked down, we were almost to the city. I could see specks of people walking the streets. More of the multicolored birds wheeled about below us, brilliant reds and blues and greens. I strained my eyes. Something about them looked familiar, somehow, like out of an old tale.
Suddenly, there was a great shout above me, a voiceless roar. Wind buffeted my hair and I shrieked as a pair of claws suddenly latched around my middle. I could turn my head just enough to the side to see that one of the birds had caught me. When I saw scales, brilliant in the colors of sunset, I realized that it wasn’t a bird at all.
The sky was filled with dragons.
Suddenly, an accented voice popped into my mind. Greetings. Are you alright? I was so shocked that an exclamation of “What the hell?” flew from my mouth before I could stop it. There was a loud laugh from somewhere above me, and a shout, the same accent as the voice. “One single moment, and then you’ll be alright!”
Before I had a chance to ask what I was supposed to be waiting for, I was no longer in the claws of the dragon. I blinked, disoriented, for I appeared to be sitting on top of the creature I had been in the clutches of only moments before. I was comfortably situated in a large leather saddle. In front of me was a figure, hands free, legs bound in a complex arrangement of straps. He had short dark hair, cropped close, and was wearing a cloak of the sort everyone had, in a brilliant orange-red color. When the figure turned around to glance over his shoulder, I was staring into the eyes of a young man with tanned skin, perhaps my age, with a sharp angular face. He smiled at me brilliantly and I noticed that his eyes weren’t any natural shade. They were the most unnerving shade of yellow I had ever seen. “I’m so sorry for that,” he told me jovially. “Teleportation magic is dicey occasionally. I trust I didn’t give you too much trouble?” His voice was cool, accented with a strange flavor I didn’t recognize.
It took me a moment to realize that he was waiting for me to reply. “Oh, no trouble at all,” I told him. “I’m just…” I searched for the right phrase. “Not from around here.”
He tossed his head back and laughed, and I found myself instantly at ease, laughing along with him. “I’m Calic G’foria, Skydancer, Orange Division. I would offer to shake your hand, but well…” He helplessly gestured to his awkward position. I didn’t blame him, he was already turned all the way around just to talk to me.
“I’m Ivy Whitehall,” I supplied. “I don’t know what any of that other stuff is.”
“Storm didn’t tell you?” asked Calic. “Your Assigned is supposed to explain everything as soon as you wake up.”
I shrugged. “I’m lost. What is this place? Where is this place?”
Calic sighed, heavily. “As soon as we land, I’ll explain everything. It’s really quite a long story, and one hard to tell on dragonback. This is Orifer, by the way. Say hello, would you, dear friend?"
The dragon I was sitting on roared, but it sounded pleasant enough. When I glanced down, I saw that Orifer was descending towards the city. We were landing on one of the major thoroughfares, the one between purple and red. I could see, as we got closer, that people thronged the street, but it was plenty wide enough for even the biggest creature to land.
The dragon extended its feet and landed in a way that should have been awkward for such a large creature, but really was quite graceful. My stomach was roiling and I fought to keep down the contents of my stomach. Instead, I concentrated on watching Calic gracefully undo the array of straps around his legs, and then the ones around mine. He gracefully stepped down and offered me a hand to help me onto the street. I took it, grateful for the assistance.
In front of us, three more dragons were landing, one red, one of muddy brown, and a largish one in a dark shade of blue. People in the same strange clothing as everyone else were dismounting from the large beasts. Storm stepped down from the brown beast, languid as a cat. He didn’t seem fazed at all, only raised an eyebrow when one of the riders, dressed in brown to match the dragon, took Storm forcefully by the arm. “What’s going on?” I asked Calic, suddenly all too aware of the fact I was still holding his hand. I dropped it hurriedly.
“They’re taking him to see the Council. He’s going to report for his actions,” said Calic, cat eyes cool.
“Actions? Like pushing me out of that huge mountain?”
“Exactly. I don’t know why he’s allowed to train anyone, with the rash actions he continues to pull.” His lilted, accented voice, rose just a hitch on the last few words.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He sighed, turning to me. “It’s a long story, and one I shouldn’t be explaining. Come, I’ll show you to your quarters. You’re with the other Greens, across the city. Storm over there was supposed to be your Assigned, but since he seems to be, well, lacking, I can explain everything to you on the way.”
“Um, alright,” I said, but Calic wasn’t listening. He was already turning back to Orifer, speaking in a low tone. The dragon blew out a breath and took three large, running steps, before taking off into the air. The other dragons, blue and red and brown, soon followed. The three riders were escorting Storm past us, and when I turned to watch them pass, Storm winked at me.
“Are you ready?” asked Calic. I nodded, and he began to stride off into the other direction, down the thoroughfare. There had been a small group of people when the dragons had landed, but they had since dispersed, back into the groups of people heading in their own separate directions. I watched everyone with intense fascination as we walked by. Not only was everyone we passed dressed in the diverse colors I had seen from everyone else, there were other… peculiarities… about them. A few more of the angels like Nyssrin were lounging on a shop corner, dressed in striking yellow. I noticed a hulking man, probably over seven feet tall, stalking menacingly towards us. His skin was muddy green and his ears were huge and pointed, pierced all over with rings and studs. He was dressed, strangely enough, in a creamy pink cloak and brown shirt. A huge axe was slung over his back, a double bladed monster. Calic noticed my stare and his eyes grew merry.“An unfortunate color, indeed, for one so powerful and strong” he said. “He’s an orc, and a rose Skydancer. Storm and I are part of the race called elves, and that fellow over there with the wings is what you would call an angel.”
“Who’s she?” I asked, as we passed the shortest lady I had ever seen. She was stocky, dressed in sensible grey. She carried a huge axe and her hair was in two short little braids. “That’s a dwarf,” said Calic. “Do you really not know any of this?”
I shook my head. “I just want to get home. My brother’s dead.”
He stopped abruptly in front of me, turning around. His yellow cat eyes were mellow, like butter. “This is the hardest part for everyone,” he began, voice soft with sympathy. “This is your home now. The dragons have chosen you for their own and now there is no going back. Whether you like it or not, you’re one of us now.”
I shook my head, tears brimming in my eyes. “Just give me enough money for a plane ticket, I have to finish my college degree! What’s my mother going to think, one of her children dead and the other run away!”
“Don’t you see?” he told me, putting a hand to the side of my cheek. “Your parents don’t know you exist anymore! Their memories of you were wiped as soon as you were transported. You’re in another dimension, now, Ivy. Earth is six dimensions away and we’re the only family you have. You’re a Skydancer now, and there’s no going back!”
Tears were threatening to spill down my cheeks, but I stood my ground. “Tell me everything that’s going on, tell me everything so I can start to make sense of it. Tell me why I can’t go home, tell me what’s happened!” I tried to stay strong, but my voice cracked on the last word and Calic's eyes filled with pity. I hated pity, had always hated it. I shrugged away from his touch, crossing my arms in a sulking manner.
“This is always what happens,” he said. “Every time.” He sat down on the nearest stoop, the step leading into a squat building on the corner. I followed him, and noticed the sky beginning to grow dark, the street emptying of people in their weird cloaks with their weird wings and their weird weapons. “Let me start from the beginning,” he said, and that’s exactly what he did.
“There are eight dimensions. One human, that’s where your Earth is located. Your entire universe is caught in that dimension. One elven, one dwarven, one angelic, one orcish. This one is the Dimension of Dragons, where our company is located. No one knows what’s in the other two. One is called the Reaches of Light and the other the Uncharted Lands.
“The dragons were the first race, living on this world. They were born a thousand thousand years ago and began to populate this planet. An orc named Gartarn was the first to discover the Dimension Jumper, which teleports between the Dimensions. When he accidentally fell into the Pool of Worlds, in the Orcish Dimension, he was transported here. He was promptly eaten by the dragons, but the point was there nonetheless. Soon, orcs were travelling between the two dimensions often. The orcs were the first to tame the dragons and ride them, and the first to popularize the Dimension Jumper. Eventually, inhabitants of every planet the Jumpers reached were part of the Skydancers, a protection force of dragon riders. Our job was to protect the Dimensions from warfare and problems, and we did just that for thousands of years.”
“So why have I never heard of you?” I asked.
Calic gave me a look that was somewhere between teasing and condescending, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out which it was. “I was getting there,” he said. “Now, if you’ll let me continue.”
“The Skydancers were the protectors of all realms for thousands of years. However, after the last Great War decimated the realms, our head of council Os’Dan decided anonymity was a better solution. With the help of the most powerful magic wielders in all the dimensions, he cast a huge memory-loss spell. Every citizen that wasn’t a Skydancer would have no knowledge of the fact that we ever existed. That is why you cannot go home, Ivy Whitehall. As part of the reforms, the memories of all of your immediate family and friends have been wiped. No one you ever knew will remember you exist.”
All of a sudden, I began to cry. “This wasn’t even my choice,” I whined, knowing too well I sounded like a child. “I didn’t want that stupid rock in the first place.”
Calic put a comforting hand on my shoulder. “I really am sorry, Ivy,” he said. “You are part of a select few who found eggs without their being Chosen. Usually, it is through extensive training and a rigorous selection process that new candidates are picked. Luckily, there is a small group of Greens in the same situation as you are now, so you’ve at least someone to relate to.”
“It’s a pitiful excuse for family,” I muttered, but Calic didn’t seem to hear.
“Now,” he continued. “I will take you to the others, before it gets too late.” He stood up and offered me his hand. The sky had grown completely dark by then, but lanterns at the edges of the street flicked on, bathing us in a comforting glow. I expected Calic to continue walking, but he simply stood, looking at me. “It’s faster to do a transport spell. Give me your arm.” When I did, he flicked his fingers and the world vanished for just a moment, before we were standing in a nearly identical street, in front of a large stone hall. Looking up, I could see that the hall was directly in front of the great mountain. There were large glass windows inset into the front, and in the center was a large green door. Calic shrugged off my arm and strode up to it, pushing down the latch with one hand. “Welcome, Ivy, to your new home.