Arc 1 Prologue – “What happened to me?”
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Where… am I?

Stone brick walls extended far into the distance alongside me, only giving way as the light streamed in through stained glass windows, illuminating the floor below me in a myriad of colours. Am I… floating? The stone bricks arched above me into the ceiling, seeming as if they could collapse at any moment with their haphazard placement.

Why am I so high up?

A sharp clanging sound rang out from below, ringing in my ears as it echoed around the walls. My body felt weightless as I tried to follow the noise, spinning and rolling in the air. I need… to… a flash of light from the floor below caught my eye. 

“Get a move on, you lot!” A gruff voice called out, as the sounds of ordered marching and the clattering of metal chains slowly came into earshot. “You’re going up to the Grand Jury.”

My vision slowly cleared as I floated down towards the source of the voice. Knights… and prisoners? A small group of people clad in red robes were marching along, their wrists bound to each others’ by dark, heavy chains. As one of them stumbled, a knight following along just behind jabbed them with the butt of his spear, forcing them upright.

“Keep moving,” he growled, prodding at the prisoner as they scampered back upright, trying to catch up with the group so that the chains attached to them wouldn’t drag them back.

I followed just above them as they marched along, making for the largest part of the room. They can’t… can they see me floating? This is so weird… I swooped up higher, trying to get a better view of the whole procession. A few dozen knights all marched in formation, with a gap in the middle of the group for the prisoners.

...This is kinda fun! Following along with the prisoners, I started to get the hang of the whole floating thing, nosediving and gliding around the group. I know this is… probably a dream, but it feels so real. It was so freeing, feeling the air on my face as I swooped faster and faster, orbiting around the group.

“Alright, get in the circle!” The same gruff voice as before pulled me back to reality. Or… as real as a dream could get, at least. The knights’ formation split as they reached the more open part of the castle, veering off into two lines as they herded the prisoners towards the centre of the room.

Is that… Strange white markings traced out an elaborate pattern on the floor, surrounding where the prisoners had halted. The paint seemed to dazzle and sparkle, catching the coloured light from the stained glass window to the side as a few of the robed convicts flopped down onto the floor, breathing heavily.

“Oi,” the gruff voice called out, as a man clad head to toe in reflective silver armour stepped out from the knights’ formation towards the prisoners. “No sleeping in your trial.”

A loud clattering sound echoed out from the side of the room as a man wearing elaborate white robes, not unlike a set of overly fancy priest robes, climbed up onto a raised platform, his wooden cane knocking against the steps as he went up.

“Your charges are as follows,” he began, glaring down at the hooded prisoners with contempt. “Conspiracy to assassinate the royal family, conspiring to poison the water and food supplies, and being an accessory to a foreign invasion.”

What did they do?! I quickly backed away from the group of prisoners, having gotten curious and slowly approached as the priest was reading out their crimes. Are they terrorists or something? An evil cult? Who does that?!

“If you have any last words, speak them now.” The priest standing on the platform decreed, no hesitation in his voice as he gripped his cane. I looked back at the prisoners, wondering how they would respond, when I saw a red glow rising off the cloak of one of the convicts.

“I have just one thing to say,” he hissed, the chains on his wrists jingling as he raised his hands out in front of himself, towards the centre of the markings on the floor. “Thank you for setting the stage.”

Strange words spilled out of the robed prisoner’s mouth, as the markings on the floor began to glow and shift, the bright white reflecting off of the knights’ armour. The other prisoners crowded around him as the red glow on his cloak grew brighter, and the knights’ formation devolved into chaos.

“Stop him! He’s a dark mage!” one of them screamed, pointing the blade of his spear towards the group of prisoners. “Did no one think to put magical restraints on them?” Another one shouted, holding his shield up.

Towards the centre of the markings on the ground, a small hole opened up, and the air rapidly began to get pulled towards it. The hole grew, shifting and stretching into a crack in the floor as a bright blue glow shone around the edges. Stars slowly became visible within it as the mage stood over it, holding his hands out towards the ever-growing rift.

“Stand back!” the gruff guardsman barked, lifting his arm to block the knights next to him from approaching the prisoners. “Everything’s being sucked into the portal!”

Instantly, the knights returned to formation, armour clattering as they stood up straight, holding their shields out towards the rift. The knight who had given the orders waved his sword towards the priest, seemingly trying to get his attention.

“Where does that portal go?” he shouted, trying to be heard over the rush of wind.

“I don’t know!” the priest replied, holding his cane with both hands protectively. “Everything’s being pulled in! Magic, spirits, everything–it’s all going through!”

As he spoke, I felt a slight tugging at my feet, pulling me towards the rift. Is it pulling me in?! I tried to fly away, making for the corridor that the knights had escorted the prisoners down.

“It was nice to play with you.” A voice hissed from behind me, dripping with menace as it pierced straight to my core. “However… I’m afraid our time is up. Farewell…”

I froze, unable to move as the rift pulled me closer and closer. Sneaking a glance behind me, I watched as the robed prisoner walked into the portal, leaving a red trail as he went. The chains grew taught, pulling the rest of the prisoners through behind him as the rift seemed to stabilise, stopping its growth.

“Is there anything we can do?” The guardsman asked, his armour clattering as he sprinted towards the priest.

“No, nothing,” the priest frantically replied, all previous contempt for the prisoners completely gone from his voice. “He hijacked my magic circle, using it for his own means.”

The rift began to shrink as I was pulled ever closer, the stars within it slowly growing less and less visible through it. I… I don’t know what that ‘dark mage’ or whatever he is, did, but… I can’t move! I pulled my knees up close to my chest, closing my eyes as the rift sucked me in.

“As far as I can tell,” the priest continued, “he changed it from a curse circle into a portal. It pulled them in, along with some magic, and probably a few spirits, too, sending them all to some other world–”

The priest’s voice suddenly disappeared, replaced by the familiar hum of cars driving along distant roads, and the wind in the trees. That soon faded as a wave of tiredness washed over me, and I struggled to open my eyes. I don’t… even know what that dream was…

 

*****

 

“Mmrgh…” I groaned as I rolled over in bed, the dream still fresh in my mind. Medieval fantasy… Floating was kinda cool, but that dream was scary! Reaching out towards my bedside desk, I picked up my alarm clock, looking at the time.

7:28AM… a whole two minutes before my alarm goes off. I guess I’ll get up.

Switching the alarm off, I placed it back down on my desk, before lifting up my legs as I tried to kick the covers off. They didn’t seem to go as far as I was expecting, flopping back down onto my legs. Still tired… I gotta go to school, though. No avoiding it.

I climbed out from under the covers, wobbling as I tried to walk towards my shelf. This would be so much easier if I could float, like that dream… That was so much fun.

As I sleepily reached out to the middle shelf for my deodorant, my hands brushed past something soft, before smacking against the shelf. Owww… I misjudged it. How long has it been since I did that? I rubbed the back of my hand, wide awake now thanks to the pain.

Is my shelf… higher? As the last remnants of sleepiness washed away, my vision cleared, and I stared at my shelf. It looks wrong somehow. And my hand feels… I glanced down, seeing a slightly unfamiliar sight.

My arm was smooth and hairless, the skin bright and soft-looking. It felt soft, too, under my other hand as I rubbed the red spot where I had hit it. My eyes widened as I began to take in the whole picture, spotting something that seemed even more out of place.

There were two… lumps bulging out of my shirt.

“Uhhh–” I blurted out, before immediately closing my mouth in shock at how different my voice sounded. It was bright and clear… and distinctively feminine, way different compared to my usual low, dead-sounding voice. Glancing over towards the mirror, I watched in surprise as a girl stared back at me, her eyes wide and hands shaking.

After an excruciating moment, my heart jumped into action as panic set in.

What do I do? Where’s my phone? I have to call… no, should I–there’s no way she’d believe me, but what else am I supposed to do? She’ll be able to figure out something, right?

Rushing towards my desk, I picked up my phone and quickly navigated to the list of contacts, looking for the only person I could think to ask for help.

‘HELP! GET OVER HERE ASAP!’

Pressing the buttons on my old flip phone as fast as I could, I sent her a panicked message.

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