"Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something"
When a mission goes wrong, the Heroes are taken to a strange world that looks like it's from a dream-but quickly changes into a nightmare. They must find an escape back to their own world, but will they live long enough to find it? Written by Hazelcats.
“It has been too long, my friend. Much too long.”
The dark sky reflected against the water, bright, sparkling gems shining on the surface. Waves washed against the shore. The moon seemed to change colors from its spot in the sky.
“I realize this, sir. But you cannot risk going out.”
The first man tapped his fingers against the wooden railing. “I have heard this all before. You should know this.”
The second coughed, looking down. “Yes, yes, I know, sir. But it is too risky. You would be killed. We just need to wait until the searchers-”
“Damn the searchers!” The first turned suddenly, angrily. Fury came off of him in waves. “They either die in the wilderness or abandon us! I have had enough of it!” There was silence. There was a sigh, and he was calm again.
Shifting awkwardly for a moment, the second spoke up. “I realize, sir...but...we just need to wait. For another. They shall lead the way to freedom. Freedom for us all.” The first laughed. “You think I care about freedom for them? Or for you? No. I search for my escape and my own only. You just happen to be the first I would chose to come with me.” He turned back to the shimmering blue lake. “But, yes, we shall wait, but my patience has left me. It disappeared quite a long time ago. If salvation does not come soon....” He chuckled, cold, cruel and vindictive. “Well, there will be quite the hell to pay, then, won’t there?” He smirked. “They’ll all pay. And once they are crushed and I have escaped, my father will be the next to die.”
“Sir...your...father...I apologize, but he is not...He will be quite difficult too....” “Are you saying I am not good enough for this task?” The man asked coldly. “Not strong enough? Not smart, well-trained, or angry enough for it? Because I can assure you, my friend, I am quite capable of it.”
He cleared his throat. “Of-of course, sir. I did not mean to...to upset you, sir. You are completely and totally capable of the task. I do not doubt you, sir.”
The man grinned. “You are quite amusing when you squirm.” He laughed. “Do not worry, my friend. I do not have any plans of getting rid of you...not yet.”
He coughed. “Sir, pardon my curiosity, but I just wonder how exactly..you...you plan on escaping this place. Few have done it before. Many die, or are driven to insanity.”
“Which is exactly why I won’t be doing it.” The man said. “Another shall lead the way. Who, I do not know. But I can sense they shall be here soon. Far away. They shall need a searcher to find them... Yes, yes, instinct says they shall be arriving in our world very, very soon. They shall have the ability to find the way...and when they are about to escape...I shall crush them like a bug underfoot. No one will know, and if they do find out...I will be long gone.” He laughed his cold laugh, looking up at the sky. “Yes, yes, very soon this shall happen. It will be a good day...such a good day for us....” He looked up. “Did you hear that, my friend?”
The second one blinked. “Sir?”
And then, there was the rustling of leaves. Just a few feet away, one of the bushes moved, and there was the sound of footsteps running. For a moment, you could see a boy running in the distance.
The man’s mouth twisted into a cruel, sadistic smile that easily resembled a snarl. “My friend,” he said, tapping his fingers on the wooden railing. “I believe...” The second swallowed hard. “Yes, sir?”
“I believe we have found our chosen searcher.”
Rachel was bored.
There was no other way to describe it. She was bored, and so was everyone else.
That is, if everyone else was Malcolm and Annie, whom Rachel had been paired up with for this quest, and if trying-and failing-to stare at eachother every five seconds without being caught by the other counted as an act of boredom.
In her book, it did, seeing as they had nothing better to do.
But she couldn’t blame them. There was nothing to do except stare at the empty, old hallway and wait for something to happen.
‘Come on,’ she thought. ‘Zombie attack, alien invasion-just one bad guy! Please!’
She proceeded to slam her head against the wall, sighing in frustration.
“You realize you’re killing brain cells while doing that, right?” Malcolm muttered.
Rachel glared at him. “That’s just a myth.”
“No it’s not,” Annie argued. “It’s just...not enough to cause any severe damage.”
“What about when people get amnesia and stuff? When they hit their head?” Malcolm asked, narrowing his eyes. “No....it’s something else...but wha-”
A sudden, loud beeping noise rang in Rachel’s ear, causing her to jump slightly, before realizing it was one of her teammates trying to talk to her. She glared at the two of them, whispered, “Quiet!” before pressing the small silver button on her earpiece. “Yes?”
“People moving your way.” Stella’s voice said. “Go towards the main entrance. Do not attack unless necessary. You remember our orders.”
“Right,” she said unenthusiastically. “Got it. Thanks.”
They were on a mission dealing with some stolen objects that had been taken from Olympus, but it was an “observe and report only” mission, which was incredibly stupid, and the only reason they had gotten it was because they were the newbies, and everyone else was apparently busy.
Rachel looked up at Malcolm and Annie, who were staring at her expectantly, and sighed. “We need to move-towards the main entrance. C’mon.”
The three walked carefully through the hallway, checking for guards, and hiding in different rooms and behind boxes whenever they thought someone was coming, but nothing ever showed up, and they managed to get to the entrance without being caught.
They then hid behind a large stack of boxes, and waited for something to happen that never would.
Rachel sighed. She was starting to wish they had been captured. At least it was something.
“What’s in here?” Annie whispered, looking into a small hole in one of the boxes.
“Open it,” Malcolm said, looking up.
Rachel nodded-finally, they could do something. “Here,” she whispered, giving Annie her knife. “Use this.”
“Thanks,” she whispered, and proceeded to use the knife to force the lid of the box open.
The lid came off with a loud, CRACK!, and after freezing for a few moments to make sure none of the guards had heard it, they looked into the box.
There were golden drachmas, shining, expensive looking jewelry, old bags filled with gods knows what, knives, and several other things, all crammed into the box as if they person packing it had been in a hurry.
“Look at all this gold,” Annie muttered, picking up a handful of drachmas.
Rachel picked up one of the knives, staring at the gold-and-emerald decorated hilt. ‘Nice,’ she thought.
“What’s this?” said Malcolm, picking up a very thick, very old looking book. There was writing on it, but it wasn’t English-it looked like a mix of Ancient Greek, Latin, and something else Rachel couldn’t identify.
“What’s it say?” Annie asked, squinting at it.
“Dunno. The Greek says something about...sleep?” He frowned and opened it.
The book burst into flames.
Or, it looked like fire, anyway-it was certainly bright enough, and the light gave off enough heat-but before Rachel could do anything, Malcolm disappeared.
Annie screamed. “Malcolm!” she cried, and immediately reached for the book.
“No!” Rachel yelped-Annie could disappear, too-and she grabbed her arm to try and stop her, but it was too late. Annie disappeared, and Rachel disappeared along with her.
Stella was determined.
She knew that none of her teammates liked this mission. She knew the only reason they had gotten such an easy mission was because the gods underestimated them and didn’t trust them with an extremely important mission.
Stella bit her lip, staring down at the ground. They had to do well on this mission. They had to focus, because they could underestimate this mission as easily as the gods had underestimated them.
“Do you hear that?” Arthur’s voice snapped Stella out of her thoughts.
“Sounds like footsteps,” Arcana said in a bored voice.
She was right-as Stella listened, she could hear footsteps, and someone laughing. It wasn’t someone from the team-she at least hoped none of her teammates would be so stupid and talk so loudly.
But they weren’t her teammates-the footsteps got louder and a group of older teenagers in torn up, stained clothing came around the corner-guards. They were laughing about something, and they didn’t seem too concerned about their job, but they all had different, very sharp weapons, and they certainly looked strong enough to fight without them.
The guards passed them without noticing, and even if they actually were looking for trespassers, Stella figured they probably wouldn’t have noticed the three behind the several boxes, crates, and various other containers and objects anyway.
“They’re not exactly stealthy, are they?” Arcana said, raising her eyebrow and staring the direction of the guards.
“They’re going in Malcolm, Annie, and Rachel’s direction.” Arthur said. “We need to warn them.”
Stella nodded, realizing this. She picked up her communicator-a small, round silver device that could pass for a phone if needed-and contacted Rachel. “Yes?” She answered, in a voice that practically screamed ‘Kill-me-now.’
“People moving your way,” Stella told her. “Go towards the main entrance.” Then, on an afterthought, said, “Do not attack unless necessary. You remember our orders.”
“Right. Got it. Thanks.” Rachel replied, and the line ended.
The three sat in silence for a few minutes-Stella trying to pay attention to the mission, Arthur staring into space thoughtfully, and Arcana leaning back and twiddling her thumbs.
And then they heard the scream.
The scream was distant, and it echoed through the hallways. Dread washed over Stella.
“What was that?” Arthur gasped, eyes wide.
“It was coming from-the direction the guards went....” Arcana muttered.
“Where Rachel and the others were.” Stella finished. She reached for her communicator, but she couldn’t call anyone-someone was trying to contact her.
“Yes?” She asked immediately, praying it was one of the three.
“You heard the scream?” Her older brother, Lucian, asked immediately. She had forgotten about them, and guilt settled in her stomach. Even though it obviously wasn’t now, what if it had been Lucian or Matt or one of the others in their group who was in trouble?
“Yes; Do you know if-”
“I can’t contact any of them. All I can get is static.”
“Oh,” Stella replied. That was all she could manage. ‘This is bad, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad-’
“We can go investigate what happened, seeing as we’re closer. That good?”
“Um-yeah. Yeah, that-that’s fine. But if you don’t contact us-within five minutes, we’re going over there. Got it?”
So, they waited. Each second was a minute, every minute an hour. What if they had been kidnapped? Taken hostage? What if they were dead? And it would be all her fault. She was the leader. She should be the one to go and see if the others were okay-not Lucian. It was her responsibility-everyone’s life was all her responsibility.
‘Rachel’s a leader, too.’ A voice spoke in Stella’s head. ‘And it’s not like, if anything did happen to them, you were the one who directly caused it. It’s not your fault.”
“Shut up,” Stella muttered under her breath.
Arthur looked up. “What?”
Stella blinked, realizing she had spoken aloud. “N-nothing.” She said, and shook her head. “It’s been five minutes. No call. Let’s go.”
They walked carefully through the hallway, watching for guards, but none showed up. None that were conscious, anyway.
“Well,” Arcana muttered. “I think it’s safe to rule out that they were kidnapped.” The entire group of guards they had seen before plus a few others laid on the ground, unconscious, and many of their faces made it appear as if they were having a nightmare.
‘Lucian,' Stella thought, thinking of her brother’s powers.
“Not necessarily,” Arthur said. “There could’ve been more guards, and I’m guessing they were defeated by Lucian and the others-not Rachel, Malcolm, and Annie.”
“But then they would have been stunned by Lucian’s powers,” Arcana argued. “Son of Phobos, remember?”
Arthur opened his mouth, ready to retaliate, but Stella stopped them.
“Guys!” she snapped. “We need to figure out where they went. Look around-maybe they left a clue or something.”
It didn’t take long for them to find something-Stella immediately found her brother’s knife, and quickly grabbed it. Arthur and Arcana were looking around the boxes, and the former quickly discovered an open box with a pile of things around it-including Rachel’s silver hunting knife.
“Lot of gold,” Arcana muttered, staring at the pile of drachmas next to the knife. She glanced over at Arthur, who was kneeling next to a large, old book. “What’s that?” “I dunno,” He said, narrowing his eyes at the writing. “Pictures are the only things that make sense, and even then, they’re not...” He grabbed the book.
Stella and Arcana jumped back shocked. “What-what-” Arcana gaped at the book, which was glowing. “What the hell-”
The book glowed even brighter, and the temperature in the room seemed to grow ice cold. The light flickered, before it seemed to explode in a rainbow of different colors, and the two girls vanished.
It was supposed to be a simple mission.
Just a quick trip to Albany and they would be done! Sure, it wasn’t exactly the most entertaining mission, but it was supposed to be simple.
So of course his siblings had to go mess it up.
Matt was sure Rachel or Malcolm had something to do with this-had something to do with that damned book that Kat found.
He also blamed Kat. The others could insist that someone would’ve ended up picking the thing up anyway, but it wasn’t like that would change the fact that it had been her. He sighed, frustrated, and looked up at the sky. It was strange. The colors here, wherever they were, looked like paint-moving paint, as if the artist was constantly adding more to his artwork. It was disorienting.
“So, what now?” Kat asked, glancing at Lucian, who was kneeling and staring at the ground.
He looked up. “We need to try and figure out how to get back to New York, but first we need to find Rachel and the others. Any sign of them?”
“They won’t be here,” said Cal. “I mean, not in this area-they obviously got sucked into the book too. I’m guessing wherever you end up in this world is based on the pages-there were pictures of a desert in the book, right? We’re in a desert. So, they’ll be where whatever page they opened the book to.” The other three stared at him, and he shrugged. “Educated guess.”
“That makes sense,” Lucian said, nodding. “But then-”
Suddenly, a bright, blinding light appeared, and Matt heard a small shout. When it disappeared, there was Arthur, lying on his back. “Arthur?” Kat gasped, staring at him. And then the same light appeared again, and someone was screaming.
“And cue the others,” Matt muttered, and ran over to help Stella, who had just appeared along with Arcana, who was swearing loudly.
“What the hell?” She demanded. “What-the-hell!?”
“Calm down, Arcana,” Stella said, looking around. “Where are we?”
“We’re inside a freaking book!” Arcana said angrily. “That’s where! A book! A book.”
“I think that’s been established already.” Matt said in a bored voice. She glared at him.
“Guys!” Stella said sharply, and Matt thought she looked cute when . “Stop it. Fighting with each other isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to find the others. Did you guys find anything that indicates they were here?”
Lucian shook his head. “No, but Cal has a theory that they’re here, just in a different place-that the book pages decide where you go.”
“That makes sense,” Arthur said. “But we need to find someone who knows more about this place, and there has to be someone else here.”
“Where do we look?” Matt asked, gesturing to where they were. A range of spiky, dark looking mountains sat to the right and desert steppe plains to the left. “There’s no one here, and I don’t want to die out here trying to find someone.”
“He’s right,” Kat said. “There might be someone in those mountains, but...” She shook her head. “I don’t know. They look..terrifying, to be honest.”
Stella nodded in agreement. “They do-and I don’t want to risk going there anyway, because there’s obviously water that way-look at how little plant life there is compared to that way,” She pointed to the left. “We’ll go that way, because there’s more chance of finding people. For now, we watch our water intake-you all have water with your supplies, right?”
It turned out that almost none of them had water, and in the end they had about three and a half bottles of water and two protein bars.
Stella sighed, staring down at the rations. “We are having a serious talk on survival skills when we get back to Olympus.”
Malcolm was getting really sick of walking.
It seemed like they had been walking for hours, without stopping, and no change of scenery. Never ending water to their right, jagged, sandy cliffs to their left, and unnaturally clean, footprint-free sand behind and ahead of them. He held his sword ready at all times-their painfully obvious lost-tourist look practically screamed, ‘Mug me!’
“This is your fault,” Rachel said for probably the hundredth time.
“You said that already,” Malcolm muttered.
“It’s true,” she said angrily. “You just had to touch the book. I lost my knife because of you! You realize those aren’t cheap, right? And we could be stuck here! Forever! Hell, we could be dead right now!”
“Guys!” Annie snapped. “Stop it! This isn’t Malcolm’s fault-we probably would’ve ended up being here anyway-and I really doubt that we’re dead. Aren’t you supposed to be Hades’ kid? You should know this.”
Rachel scowled. “Hades doesn’t know everything, and he’s not exactly number one dad-we end up finding out all of that crap by ourselves.
“It’s still not Malcolm’s fault. Knowing you and the huge book collection in your room back at Base, it would’ve been your fault we got here. Plus, you have a new knife, which looks a lot more expensive than your old one,” she said pointing to golden knife in her hands.
Rachel glared at her, and muttered something about ‘sticking up for her stupid boyfriend’. Malcolm felt his face go red. He coughed. “Anyway-shouldn’t we be going in a different direction? We’re not really getting anywhere.”
“Oh, so you want to go rock climbing?” Rachel said irritably, jerking her head to the left. “Or swimming? Sure. Go ahead. Don’t blame me if you die.”
He scowled at her. “I thought you didn’t care about the flying-and-swimming rule for Hades kids.”
“Oh, I don’t. It’s just that they’re probably shark infested or full of robbers and rapists and I’d really rather get out of here alive, thank you.”
“Let’s just keep going,” Annie muttered. So they kept walking.
And walking. And walking.
Malcolm was losing track of time. It could’ve been minutes, it could’ve been days-he wasn’t sure. But the scenery wasn’t changing, and the sun wasn’t moving, and their footsteps always faded after after a few seconds. It was like they were walking and place, trapped in time for the rest of their lives.
“Don’t you think-” Malcolm started, but was immediately interrupted.
“No. Until there is absolutely no other choice, we are going forward. We will not go into the ocean or up on those cliffs.” Rachel said sharply. “They...they give me a bad feeling-the cliffs do, at least. The ocean..well, I don’t really see how we could go that way, anyway.”
Malcolm sighed and stared down at the sand. It was creepy how clean and untouched it looked-not even the perfect white sand beaches that you saw in pictures and on tv looked like this. It just sat there, unaffected by the water splashing against it or the people walking on it, and-
Wait. He stopped, and Annie and Rachel quickly stopped as well, giving him a strange look. “What-” Annie began, but Malcolm shook his head.
“Look,” he said, kneeling down on the ground, and pointed. There, by his finger, was a shining, silver disc. It was about the size of a quarter, maybe a little bigger. “What is-” he went to pick it up, Rachel immediately cried, “No!”
He glanced at her, annoyed. “What?”
“Don’t you remember the last time you picked something up?” she demanded. “We ended up here! That could lead us to some zombie infested world or another planet-if we’re not already on one-or it could kill us!”
“Someone’s paranoid,” Annie muttered. Rachel crossed her arms, glaring.
“I am not paranoid! I just find it a little strange that, after walking all this time with seeing absolutely nothing, and we happen to find that. It’s just...I mean...It doesn’t make sense!”
“Well, we’ll have to take the risks,” Malcolm said, and picked the object up. Nothing happened.
But what had they been expecting? An explosion? A burst of light? To be taken somewhere else, like the zombie infested alien planet Rachel had described?
No. Nothing had happened, and what did they know? Maybe these had been everywhere along the beach, and they just hadn’t noticed?
“See, Rachel? Nothing happened.” Annie said, glancing at the Hunter.
She grumbled, turned around, and kept walking. Malcolm glanced at Annie, who shrugged, and as they followed after her Malcolm secretly slipped the disc into his pocket.
Annie was exhausted.
They’d been walking for hours and getting no where in the stupid heat, and the little bit of hope that they’d actually be able to get somewhere was crushed when the thing that Malcolm had found didn’t work.
But it was still the same. Blue water, blinding sun, sand that stretched on forever- Annie blinked, and squinted, looking ahead. She could see something in the distance; barely, but it was there. “Is that a tree?” she asked, looking at the others.
Malcolm and Rachel turned to look at her. She pointed ahead, where she had seen the tree, and Rachel gasped. “A tree! A tree! We’re free! We’re free from this hellhole! “ she cried, and immediately started sprinting towards it, Malcolm and Annie right behind her.
And while they were running, it actually looked like they were moving, and more trees came into view, and they promptly collapsed in the shade.
“Thank gods,” Rachel gasped. “Thank gods, thank gods, thank gods...”
“Looks like I was right, huh?” Malcolm muttered, leaning against the tree, and breathing heavily. “About picking up that thing. It obviously worked, whatever it did.”
Annie nodded in agreement, while Rachel just scowled.
“So, what now?” Annie asked finally, after they had rested for a little while.
“We keep walking,” muttered Rachel, who was drawing pictures in the dirt with her hands. “There has to be water somewhere, and that’s a priority. And wherever there’s water, there’s people.”
“And if these people aren’t friendly?” said Malcolm.
“We cross that bridge when we get there-just be on the lookout for anything suspicious.” she replied, standing up and stretching. “C’mon,” she sighed. “Let’s go.”
The trees were tall, and they had to climb over several obstacles when walking. Eventually they found a stream, which led them to a bigger river. She wanted to stop for the night-it was hard to tell through the trees, but it looked like the sun was finally starting to go down, and Annie was feeling light-headed. She figured it was because of how much walking they’d done, and the little amount of food had eaten. (At least there was water-which at least looked safe enough to drink. They took their chances.)
But they had to keep walking, for at least a little longer. Rachel seemed to insist this, saying that they were finally getting somewhere, but it was obvious she wanted to stop as well.
She stumbled a little, Malcolm grabbing her quickly. Annie muttered thank you, looking down because she figured her face was bright red. She felt strange-her stomach felt weird, and her head was dizzy. Maybe she was sick? Was it the water? But then, wouldn’t the others be sick, too? Maybe they were. She wasn’t sure. Maybe-
Rachel came to a sudden stop. Her eyes were wide, staring at something up in the trees. She looked like she was going to be sick.
“Rachel?” Malcolm said, frowning. “What is-” She screamed, and started to slap the air as if trying to defend herself. “Get away, get away, GET AWAY FROM ME!” she screamed, before turning around and running in the opposite direction.
Annie stared in the direction she had disappeared in, eyes wide. “What was that?” she asked, turning to Malcolm, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was looking around wildly, and blinking rapidly. “M-Malcolm?” She said. “Are you-”
“Who are you?” He said suddenly. “Wh-where are you? I-I can’t see! What happened? Who are you?”
She froze. What? He couldn’t see? Why couldn’t he remember her? Why couldn’t he remember her?
“It-it’s me, Annie, remember?” She asked, terrified. “We’re friends,”
He stared in the direction of her voice, eyes wide. “I-I don’t remember. But-but why can’t I see? I can’t see anything! Why the hell can’t I see?”
‘This isn’t happening,’ Annie thought desperately. ‘Malcolm can still see and really knows who I am, and Rachel’s probably hidden up in the trees somewhere trying not to laugh because this is some sick joke and-’
‘This is happening,’ said a voice in her head. ‘They don’t remember you. Face it. They never will. They don’t care enough to remember.’
“St-stop it,” she said quietly, angry. “Shut up!”
“Wh-what?” Malcolm said, rubbing his eyes. “Who said that? Y-you? That Anne girl?” “It’s Annie,” she protested weakly. He couldn’t even remember her name right. Malcolm stared at her for a second, before continuing to rub his eyes and shake his head, as if that would bring his sight back.
Annie felt even sicker than she did before. What was going on? What happened to Rachel? What if she started to forget, too? Or lost her sight, or hearing, or-
She looked up, startled, to see a large, bear-like monster falling from its hiding place of bushes, an arrow its throat.
“Wh-what was that?” Malcolm said, behind her. “Annie? Are you okay?”
“I-I’m fine-” She stopped, and turned around. His voice sounded different, as if he recognized her. “Y-you know who I am?” She gasped, eyes wide.
“Yeah,” he said, blinking. “I....I can see!” His face lit up, as if he was a kid whose Christmas had come early.
“You can see again..and..you know who I am...but,” Annie frowned. “Where’s Rachel?”
“Right here,” a voice said behind them. There was Rachel, arms crossed and a severely pissed off look on her face, but Annie could tell that she was obviously shaken by what happened.
“You shot the-” Annie started.
“That was me,” a girl’s voice said. Standing behind Rachel, leaning up against a tree, were two teenagers, a brother and sister, Annie guessed from their matching dark skin and hair.
“I’m Hailey,” the girl said. “And this is my brother Alex.” The boy nodded to them.
“I’m Annie,” she said.
“That was one of the Nightmares,” Hailey continued. “They roam around this area-make you face your worst fear and then kill you. You’re lucky-if we had been just seconds late you could have died.”
“Great,” Annie muttered unenthusiastically.
“We need to go,” Alex said, glancing at his sister. “It’s getting late-we’ll take them back to the village.”
Hailey nodded in agreement. “Yes-we will leave.” She glanced at them. “C’mon, the village isn’t too far.”
Annie glanced at Malcolm and Rachel and sighed, and went to follow the two siblings. “So,” Annie said finally, breaking the silence. Alex and Hailey were up ahead-they wouldn’t hear them. “That was our..fears?”
“Figures,” Rachel muttered, an embarrassed look on her face. “I, ah, have Spheksophobia and Apiphobia-don’t like wasps and bees, along with..some other stuff.” She laughed nervously. “Kinda stupid.”
“At least you don’t have abandonment-remembering problems,” Annie grumbled. Maybe it was Annie’s imagination, but she could’ve sworn that Rachel stiffened for a second at the word, “abandonment.”
“Or blindness,” Malcolm said, scowling at the ground.
Rachel sighed. “Let’s all agree to never speak of this again. Agreed?”
Arcana hated the heat.
She didn’t know what it was about this place, but it was certainly hotter than it should’ve been. Sure, it was a desert, but this was unnatural.
They’d been walking for hours and hours it seemed, though according to Stella’s watch it had only been one hour.
But then, Arthur’s watch said it had been twelve.
She sighed and kicked one of the several rocks that were laying on the ground. Freaking desert...freaking heat...freaking book....
“Hey!” Arcana looked up, startled. “Did you guys-”
“Hey! Wait! Wait for a second!”
They turned around, to see someone running towards them. Arcana wasn’t sure what she should be more surprised about-the fact there was another person here, or the fact that he was running in this godsforsaken weather.
The person stumbled to a stop in front of them. He was probably her age, fifteen, with messy blonde hair and freckles. He was wearing old, torn up jeans and one of those loose, button up shirts that looked like it was from the 1800s.
“Who are-” Stella started.
“People!” he cried. “People! I found people! Yes! My mission was a success!” He laughed, a crazy look in his eyes. “I wasn’t allowed to come back until I found a portal or people, and I found you! Thank you, thank you!” He got down on his knees and started to bow to them-freaking bow.
“Yes!” He said happily, cutting Kat off. “Yes, my mission! The leaders were mad at me-for stupid reasons, really-so they sent me off on a mission to find something, and I’ve been out here for days-or weeks maybe, not really sure, time is strange here in the DreamWorld-and I found you guys!” He grinned. “I’m James, by the way.”
He had a strange accent when he talked-like he was a psychotic British kid who had been hanging around with a bunch of people country-western accents and had a strict coffee-only diet.
“This is great! I can take you back to the village and the leaders won’t be mad at me and you guys can tell us what’s been going on in the real world ‘cause we haven’t anyone new come here in a while-that we know of, of course-but the last people in the village that came here came from the year 2005, right? I think so, something like that. What year is it now? I came here about fifty mortal years ago since they came but what year is it now did you say?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter! C’mon! Let’s go! We have to get to the village!”
“Wait-” But the kid was already running off.
“Damn kid needs to lay off the coffee,” Matt muttered, staring after him in disbelief.
“So...do we follow him?” Kat asked, glancing at Stella.
Their leader bit her lip, staring after the boy. “Yes,” she said. “He’s the only chance we have right now of finding help. But keep your guard up.”
“Come on!” the boy shouted, turning towards them in the distance and waving.
Arcana sighed. “This is going to be a long day.”
This place was very interesting.
Kat stared around at her surroundings. They were starting to leave the desert, and there were more trees around. She figured that she should’ve been very thirsty or starving, seeing as they had run out of food and water despite Stella’s attempts to try and ration, but she wasn’t. It wasn’t too hot, either-she thought it was actually kind of cool, but maybe it had something to do with the world that they were trapped in.
That’s what James had said, anyway. They hadn’t been able to ask much, seeing as the kid wouldn’t let them get a word in, anyway, but he answered a couple of their questions, at least. The portal, or gateway, that he had mentioned before was apparently some kind of escape from this place that were hard to find, because they changed locations a lot and the people looking either didn’t have enough time to tell anyone else or they took the escape without thought for anyone else. The village he had mentioned was where most people-all of them demigods or clear-sighted mortals like herself-who had gotten trapped in here stayed, unless they hadn’t been found or preferred to be by themselves.
(According to James, there was apparently another, smaller group of cannibalistic loonies up north on some island. Seeing as how excitable James was, Kat wasn’t sure if she should be afraid about ever meeting these people if they were insane in his opinion.)
James was currently going on about some kind of animal Kat had never heard of (though it was hard to even understand him, so maybe it did exist in their own world), but she wasn’t sure. She hadn’t seen any animals, though she had noticed a few things out of the corner of her eyes a few times, but whenever she had turned to look it was gone.
“So, James,” Kat started. “Where exactly are-”
“The animals?” The boy asked happily. “Oh, they’re hard to see in the day-mostly come out at night, but not always! We dream at night right? So it makes sense it’s only at night!”
“Um..right,” she said, blinking as James continued to talk. He had mentioned something about dreams before, but Kat hadn’t really been able to understand it.
“Dreams are everything here,” he said. “Everything’s a dream, everything’s a nightmare! Which can be a bit of an inconvenience sometimes, since a lot of people can’t control their dreams, or have a hard time controlling them, and it’s much harder here, and we tend to have nightmares more than good dreams here-demigods usually have more nightmares anyway-so some people here have this little tradition of wishing each other sweet dreams when they go off to do something, leave the village, fall asleep-anything, really! People tend to have insomnia here, too, but sleeping can sometimes lead to peace, or more ability to control your surroundings-sometimes you can even see the outside world, too! But that’s really rare, I’ve never gotten to, I really wish I could though because...”
Kat tried not to gape at him as he spoke. Had he even needed to breath saying all that so quickly? She wasn’t sure. She had to focus on paying attention to his words and not zoning him out. She glanced at her teammates, and had to choke back a laugh at their expressions.
Kat figured she probably looked just the same.
Rachel sighed as she sat by the door of the small house they had been given to sleep in. Malcolm and Annie were nowhere to be seen-they had probably woken up from nightmares as well and gone on a walk or something (a stupid idea, seeing their current situation and environment, but maybe it would finally help to get them together. Rachel wasn’t sure if she could stand them sneaking those stupid glances at each other any longer).
She looked around the village. She could only see the few guards that were keeping watch. The place was strange-like everything was from a different era. The house she was in reminded Rachel of the little beach huts you saw in one of those wilderness survival movies, but the building right next to her looked like a log cabin from the 1700s.
It was the same way with the people. Everyone was younger, the oldest being somewhere in his early twenties and the youngest about eight (she was painfully reminded of Cole, who must be wondering where they were), but they all looked to be from a different time. Hailey and Alex, the ones who had found them in the forest, had only gotten here a few years ago. One of the village leaders, a tall, handsome-yet-terrifying-looking guy named Peter that had talked to them when they arrived, however, had apparently gotten here centuries before.
The thought of that made her sick. What if they were going to be stuck her for centuries? What would the rest of the Organization think? That they were dead? Gone forever? What about Cole? She couldn’t leave Cole, not again. She glanced up at the sky. It looked similar to the one back home, but like the rest of this place, it always seemed to change. The moon had a bright, color-changing aura around it, and the stars were always moving positions, changing shapes to form new constellations. It reflected back onto the large lake that sat next to the village.
Rachel grabbed one of the rocks that sat by her foot and threw it at the lake, where it skipped the water once before sinking. She sighed, resting her head on her hands. She wouldn’t be sleeping any time soon. The nightmare had freaked her out-an effect of the day’s earlier incident, most likely.
“....find out and stop you.”
Rachel looked up, glancing around for the person who had spoken. All the guards were still in their places, and wasn’t everyone else supposed to be indoors?
“Everyone here is ignorant,” a second voice said. “They will not find out.” “Those three are trained! They said it themselves, and that they came from Olympus. They will find out and stop you!”
“They no nothing of this world, and no one here knows who I am. Everything is legend. Even if they discover who I am, they will not know of the significance.”
‘What?’ She narrowed her eyes. The two people were obviously talking about Malcolm, Annie and herself. Both voices belonged to a male, and one sounded faintly familiar, but she couldn’t tell who it was.
“Besides,” the second voice continued. “They barely look fourteen. If they do find out, I can easily take them down.”
“You underestimate them. You remember what happened with that stupid British fool. He is the same age as them, if not slightly older, and we had to send him away so no one would find out!”
“He did not even realize what had happened, and I wanted to send him away anyway. He was annoying.”
Rachel stepped back into the house as the voices got louder. She kneeled next to the small window and looked through, waiting for the two people to appear, and they did, but she could only see their backs. She sighed. ‘Damnit.”
“But-” the first voice started desperately.
“Quiet,” the other snapped. “We will discuss this no longer.The plan is set, and you will take over here when I leave. Understood?”
“Understood,” he replied reluctantly.
“Excellent,” the second voice said, and Rachel’s eyes widened as she realized who it was. “Now, it is late, and...” The voices got quieter, and Rachel had stopped listening. She wasn’t sure what was going on exactly, but she needed to find Annie and Malcolm.
None of them slept that night.
That much was obvious. This place was too strange, and there was too much worry. Lucian really just wanted to keep going, to get to the village and find a way out of here already, but apparently it was ‘too dangerous’ and ‘risky’ to travel at night. So, of course, they had decided to set up camp right in the middle of the open forest. It was a waste of time. They didn’t even talk, even if one wanted to.
That was another thing. James said it was dangerous to make noise at night. Because the monsters that roamed the forest would come and find you and either kill you or drive you into insanity.
It was just sounding better and better. Quite the dream vacation, actually.
Surprisingly, though, the night was short. To Lucian, anyway. It seemed to be three hours at the most before the sun began to rise again. They all got up, put out the small fire they had had going (despite wanting to keep away from any creatures, the James kid had said fire drove off animals. In these parts, anyway. In others, it attracted them and was sometimes of use to the monsters.), and started walking.
“We’re pretty close to the village,” James said happily, jumping over a fallen tree. There were claw marks on the side. Seeing the huge size of it, Lucian was pretty sure he never wanted to see what was able to knock the thing down. “‘Bout an hour, maybe two.” He grinned. “The village leaders will be proud!”
Lucian doubted this. If he had been one of these leaders, he would’ve just been pissed off the kid hadn’t gotten killed or eaten out in the wilderness.
They walked mostly in silence, besides the few questions the others asked, and the many answers James replied. The kid talked a lot.
Lucian tried to resist the urge to strangle him.
“What’s that?” Kat asked suddenly, looking ahead and pointing. There, hidden behind the trees, was a small, wooden bridge. On the trees themselves, different symbols that were probably some kind of ancient language were painted, and bells were hung.
James’s face brightened up even more, if possibly. “That is the village!” Running to the bridge, he reached up and grabbed the rope to one of the bells and pulled. Despite the size being so small, it still continued to ring long after he let go.
They waited. Seconds passed by, and then minutes. The small amount of patience Lucian had to begin with was gone. “What are we waiting for, exactly?” He asked, scowling at the bridge.
“The guards,” was James’s, for once, simple explanation. “They’re going to pick us up. We can’t just go walking into the village.”
“But they’d know you,” Arcana said suspiciously. “I don’t see why we have to wait here for, what has it been, fifteen minutes?”
“Seemed like only five to me,” Arthur muttered.
“That makes sense,” James nodded. “Time runs differently for everyone here. It’s really only been a couple, to me. For someone else it could’ve been an hour, or half an hour, or-”
A girl had appeared on the bridge. She was about fourteen, maybe a little older, with dark features. She wore jeans, combat boots, and a dark blue jacket. A bow was slung over her shoulder.
“Hailey!” He rushed over and grabbed her hand, shaking it happily. “I’m back! See? See? I brought people, too!”
“I see that,” Hailey said, obviously bewildered. She stared at him as if he were a stranger, as if the happy, excited attitude was completely foreign.
James turned around and grinned at them. “This is Hailey! Hailey, these are the people I found! Isn’t it great? I found people! The leaders won’t be mad at me anymore!”
“Right,” Hailey said slowly, blinking. “Um...we’ll just have to go to the village leaders and show them, then.”
James’s face lit up even more, he cheered, and started to run ahead. “Come on!”
“Um....” Hailey turned to look at them as they started to walk. “Well.... I’m Hailey, if you couldn’t understand him. How long have you guys known him?”
“We met him yesterday,” Cal said.
“And...he’s been that....hyper...since you met him?”
“Pretty much,” Arthur muttered.
“Huh,” she said, shaking her head. “Well, that’s...strange.” She frowned. “He wasn’t always like that?” Kat asked.
“Not at all,” the girl replied. “Not at all....” She sighed. “I shouldn’t be surprised, though. It changes people out there.” She stared at them curiously. “You,” she said suddenly, pointing to Matt. “You look familiar.”
Matt scowled. “Oh, great. That’s always a great thing to hear in the middle of gods know where.”
Hailey shook her head. “No, no, I mean, did you have a brother or cousin or something that’s here, too? You look like one of the people who showed up yesterday.”
They all seemed to slow down for a moment. Stella’s eyes widened. “There were other people here, too?”
Hailey nodded. “Yeah. Three showed up yesterday. Amazing, finding so many people in such a short amount of time. Were you all in a group?”
Matt nodded. “Yeah,” he muttered. “In a group. We got stuck here trying to find them.” “Oh,” Hailey said, realization dawning on her face. “So you guys didn’t come in here together? That makes sense, I guess.”
“So they’re in the village?” asked Kat. “We’ll see them there?”
Hailey frowned and shook her head. “No, they left this morning, actually. If you had just gotten here a little sooner, you could’ve met them. You might still be able to catch them, but you’d have to be quick, and get permission from the leaders as well. They’ll want to meet you.”
“Permission?” Arcana asked sharply. “Why the hell would we need permission? We don’t live here.”
Hailey shrugged, an apologetic look on her face. “It’s dangerous out here. I guess I shouldn’t say permission, exactly, but it would be helpful for you to be able to ask the leaders questions. They might be able to lend you a map, tell you where your friends went.”
“Can’t you just tell us?” Stella asked. “It would be easier on everyone.”
Hailey shook her head. “No. I don’t know all the details of their quest, only a vague direction of where they headed. It was north, I can tell you that, but not much else. My brother Alex might be able to help you more, as he’s guarding the northern border this morning, but I’m not sure.”
“Guys!” There was James, standing at the top of the path, waving and grinning. “Come on! Hurry! The village is here!”
It was like something out of a movie.
They were standing on a hill. Below was a sparkling blue lake, and next to it the village. In the distance stood tree-covered hills. The village was like a history museum. Like a timeline. The buildings, people, and overall setup was mix-matched and strange, from different places and eras.
It was kind of cool, in a way. In others, unsettling.
James was grinning, jumping around happily as if he were a child. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Can we go, Hailey? I want to see the village!”
“Yeah,” Hailey muttered, obviously still uncomfortable to this apparently new version of James. “Let’s go down. You go ahead and tell the leaders.”
James’s face lit up. Turning quickly around, he ran down the hill towards the village. Hailey turned towards them. “So, the village leaders. Officially, there’s three of them, but a lot of people help out, are consultants, sort of like a vice president kind of thing. The three of them are Andrew, Maria, and Peter. They’ve all been here for years, but Peter’s been here the longest, so he’s sort of like the chief leader. It’s kind of a hard to understand set up, but you get used to it.
“Maria’s more laid back,” she continued, walking down the hill. “The nicest of the three, but she can be pretty strict if she wants. Not to say the others aren’t decent, but Andrew can be a bit of an a**, and Peter’s got an ego.”
“Great,” Arcana muttered unenthusiastically. Arthur kicked one of the many rocks to the side of the path.
“They’re not horrible,” Hailey said. “Just be careful around them. Be careful around everyone, actually. You never know who might stick a knife in your back.”
“So, you could actually be planning to kill us right now,” said Kat. Hailey shrugged. “You never know, right?” She gave a small grin. “Don’t worry. Even if I was, I wouldn’t try it. Karma is very real here, and it really, really sucks. Remember that, too.”
James came running up to them again. “They’re coming!” He said, grinning. “They were so surprised when I came to see them!”
“I’m sure they were just ecstatic,” Matt muttered, too low to be heard more than a foot away.
“Of course they’re surprised,” Hailey said, face showing no emotion. “Where are they?”
“They are to see the leaders at their meeting place!” James replied. “We can show them, yes?”
“Yeah,” Hailey said, nodding, glancing at the group. “Let’s go.”
James beamed and began walking the other direction, whistling ‘We’re off to see the wizard...’ under his breath.
|The Heroes Organization|