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Synopsis

Chelsea always thought that she was a normal teenage girl, that is until she finds herself suddenly stranded in Amar, a mysterious world rife with magic and monsters. She must somehow, with the help of her brother and two childhood friends, accomplish a quest that their fathers set out on over twenty years ago but failed to complete, or risk never being able to return home. The only problem is that they have no idea what this quest is.

Four Misplaced Teenagers. Two Different Worlds. One Impossible Quest. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Chapter One

I collide with a duck pond

It was a shame, really, my day had started so normally.

I guess I wouldn’t be so disappointed about the fate of my day, except that this is just an absolutely horrible way to ruin a normal day.

I gasp for breath, hoping that I won’t heave my lungs out, and blink my eyes profusely trying to relieve the sting of the sweat dripping into them. I shove the branches in front of me out of the way trying to help preserve some part of my body from getting scratched up, but it was a failed endeavor because already I was bleeding in several areas on my neck, face, arms, and legs.

As I ran I chanced a quick peak over my shoulder, hoping that I wouldn’t trip over any roots or overgrown foliage while my eyes were otherwise occupied. It took me a moment to spot him, and when I did I groaned. Despite the dense foliage he was still keeping up with me.

Who is HE, you ask?

Well when I say he, I am referring to the large, hungry beast thundering after me trying to catch up with me, probably to devour me. I met him when I walked past his foul smelling (think rot and decay) cave, and he burst out with an angry roar ready to eat me. Of course, I didn’t stick around long enough for him to do so. I raced into a nearby cluster of trees which then turned out to be an entire forest. Of course the beast followed me into the forest. Which leads to the predicament I am in; so exhausted that I am about to collapse, chased by this beast, and hoping that I wasn’t going to end up as lunch.

But honestly he had been chasing me for… well actually I didn’t know how long he had been chasing me, I was never very good at estimating the passage of time, but it had definitely been a long time.

Couldn’t he just give up, call it a day, and go home?

I hurtled over a jutting root and then managed another quick peak over my shoulder at the beast. It was getting denser the further I went into the forest and sooner or later he had to slow down. He was about six feet tall and maybe five feet wide. He was fast probably, faster than I was. I was certain that if I was not running through a thick forest, but instead through, say, a large grassy field then I would probably be monster chow by now.

My eyes found the beast a good fifteen yards behind me. I would have breathed a sigh of relief had I not been currently heaving my lungs out and so incapable of preforming the action. The dense foliage was finally beginning to slow him down.

I pushed myself through the densest parts of the forest squeezing through thickets so closely grown together that I could barely fit through them, till the beast was long left behind.

I was just beginning to slow down, too tired to continue running at the pace I was, when I heard a bloodcurdling howl echoing through the woods.

I startled, but then I realized that the howl had come from pretty far off, far enough away that I still felt safe. The beast hadn’t caught up with me… yet.

I let out a nervous, breathy giggle, as the beast howled again. This time mournfully, probably upset over the loss of its meal. Sorry, beastie, but you messed with the wrong girl. I am so not your next meal.

My giggles turned into full fledged laughter. I was shaking with relief, or maybe it was just exhaustion. I fell against a tree for support, digging my fingers into the bark trying to keep myself upright.

My laughter finally turned to little snickers, but still my body trembled all over, and it was all I could do not to collapse into a very unflattering heap. I was hungry, thirsty, tired and cranky, scared witless, and lost; but, hey, at least I wasn’t lunch. That’s a plus.

Looking around, I didn’t see anything familiar. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to. I’ve only been to this world four times (this being the fourth), and all my other stops here have brought me to different places: a hill near a small village on Tuesday (I never ended up making it to the village, though); I didn’t see where I was on Wednesday because of a torrential downpour,; on Thursday I landed in the middle of a large lake or sea, I wasn’t quite sure but it was certainly a large body of water (I got almost as drenched then as I had on Tuesday). That leaves me with today: Friday in which I am chased by an ugly beast through a forest.

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against the rough bark of the tree exhausted.

I wanted a break; to take a power nap or eat at an all you can eat buffet, perhaps. But I couldn’t very well do either of those in the middle of a forest in a mysterious world while still hounded by a hungry beast.

The beast, if it was still hunting me, would be able to find me easily enough. It would just have to follow my scent, and BAM! Free lunch.

I needed to keep going, to stay ahead of the beast. I knew I couldn’t run anymore, but I didn’t have to. I just had to keep walking in a general direction, away from the beast. No biggie.
I tried to take a step and nearly collapsed. Who am I kidding? Yes biggie. My legs were about as good as spaghetti noodles and my stomach was threatening to mutiny, if I didn’t get food into it soon.

In despair I leaned back against the tree. Maybe just resting another second longer wouldn’t hurt anything…

My stomach rumbled and my dry tongue reminded me that even without the beast hunting me I was still in plenty of danger if I didn’t get out of this forest soon, like I could find a way to sustain myself off of the forest, I wasn’t even all that good at camping! Why did I let my backpack out of my sight? If I had it I could re-hydrate myself and appease my stomach.

However, I suppose the blame shouldn’t all fall on me. The portal did show up while I was in the middle of washing my hands after using the restroom. I mean how’s that for inconvenient? Any other time and I would have had the backpack on me, then again it could have been worse. The portal could have arrived two minutes earlier.

As I stood contemplating this the temperature dropped suddenly. My ears popped and everything around me was washed in a blue light. I glanced up just in time to see the portal appear in front of me.

I didn’t even have a chance to breathe a sigh of relief before the portal sucked me in rather like a giant vacuum. I wouldn’t be able to choose not to go through the portal, even if I didn’t want to (which is always the case when it appears on earth).

All the portals I have gone through have always taken me to one of two places; home or this world (or at least I’m assuming it’s all the same world). As far as I could tell, the portal would take me to this world and then it would take me back home a little while later.
I’m still not sure why this is happening to me, but I’m sure there is a very reasonable explanation for it (one that doesn’t involve me going crazy, that is). I’m still trying to get over the shock of there being another world/dimension/whatever than Earth, Amar, as it was called by the one person I had ever run into here. A man near the village I visited on Tuesday. When I asked him where I was, he told me that I was in Len, some sort of country in Amar.

I stumbled through the portal, temporarily blinded by a bright flash of bluish light, and I crossed my fingers. I hoped that the portal would drop me off somewhere ideal (like a hot tub), and not somewhere unideal (Wednesday the portal deposited me on top of my neighbor’s birdbath and I had to pay for the damages I caused when I landed on it).

My ears popped again and the end of the portal opened up in front of me revealing black asphalt and the bright blur of speeding care. Before I had a chance to even consider the odds of popping out of nowhere in the middle of a busy intersection the portal spewed me out with a mighty gust of wind.

I had enough time to think about how this was probably the most unideal place the portal could ever put me and how I was going to end up as roadkill, before I heard honking. I glanced to see a speeding truck bearing down on me.

The driver slammed on his breaks and I dove out of the way- right into a duck pond that was on the side of the road.

Have you ever fallen into a duck pond before? If you did you probably thought, “Oh, my word, this is disgusting!” Because that is exactly what was running through my mind when I fell into this duck pond.

I hit the duck pond with a splash, and several startled ducks and geese (I guess they didn’t understand that this was a duck pond) quacked (and honked) and flew off angrily. The slimy, overly warm water (I don’t even know how water can feel slimy, but this certainly did) enveloped me and I sunk downward, pulled down by the weight of my clothes. However, fortunately for me I was a good swimmer. I kicked upward and ignored the chunks of stuff I saw floating around me.

I surfaced with a gasp and shoved several soggy tendrils of hair that had escaped from my braid out of my face. I glanced around expecting to find some concerned person holding their hand out to me to help pull me out of the water, but the driver wasn’t there. He must have driven on unconcerned.

Jerk.

I swam the short distance to the edge of the pond and dragged myself out sopping wet.

I lay there gasping for a second, my feet still partially submerged. I had not signed on for this at the beginning of the day.

I heard a honk and glanced up to see a goose sitting a little to my right glaring at me with angry, beady little eyes. The goose opened its beak and hissed at me.

“Oh, shoo,” I told the goose grumpily I wasn’t in the mood to be bullied by a goose now on top of everything else. “And if you bite me I’m inclined to bite you back.” I waved my arm toward him and the goose, like the coward he was, flew off.

After that, I dragged myself the rest of the way out of the pond and stood up. I glanced down at my dripping self then back at the murky looking duck pond. Then I shuddered. I didn’t even want to think about what I had just submerged my whole body in.

I turned to see a six year old kid who was sitting in a car stopped at a red light staring at me mouth agape.

“What are you looking at?” I asked sharply. I’m not normally this irritable, but given the day I was having, I think I earned myself some slack.

The little boy swallowed hard and shook his head. “N-nothing, Mrs. Swamp monster, ma’am.”

Swamp monster? You, sir, are mistaken. This is a duck pond, not a swamp. There’s a difference.

“Yeah, duck ponds are more disgusting,” I muttered to myself and glanced down at my clothes. My jeans and tee shirt were covered in grime and- ew, was that a wrapper? My sneakers were soggy and probably completely destroyed inside and out, not that I would ever wear them again after what they’d been through.

I inspected the cuts on my arms. The water had washed away the blood leaving only the scrapes. I didn’t want to know how much bacteria was swarming those cuts right now. When I get home I am going to scrub down my skin with disinfectant.

I glanced up, speaking of which, where was my home? I recognized the duckpond it was the one right off the road that the one we lived on was perpendicular to.

I turned in the direction our road would be and started walking.
I got quite a few odd looks, but I ignored them. I was hoping that none of the kids who saw me were kids from my school. That would make this bad day, I was already having, ten times worse. I wondered what “clever” insults they would call me if they saw me. Chelsea the quack? The chick who swims with chicks (when in fact it would be ducklings I was swimming with- and maybe a few goslings)?

I wrapped my arms around myself, ducked my head, and quickened my pace.

Finally I made it to our road, I started to turn down it, but then I thought better of it. It was bad enough that I had to walk down the intersection looking like this, but the street I lived on too? I would never live it down.

I veered off course and plunged into the strip of woods that was behind every house on our block.

Our house was the fourth down so I made it to it relatively quickly. The woods were much easier to navigate than the forest in Amar. Much less dense, and way fewer trees. Still I was really too tired to avoid the branches in the woods and they tore into my clothes.
I stepped out of the woods into my backyard trying to dust leaves off of my soggy shirt. I’m pretty sure there will be no salvaging this outfit.

I heard a bark and glanced up to see that Hercules, our little, white, fluffy guard dog, was out. I smiled, finally a stroke of good luck. This meant that the door was unlocked.

I hurried onto the deck with Hercules jumping around my legs excitedly sniffing my legs. “Yes, Hercules, I am happy to see you too,” I told him patting his head.

Hercules sniffed one exceptionally foul looking stain on my pants leg and sneezed. Then he hurried off to go stand guard near the side of our house to keep watch over the neighborhood.

I turned and reached for the handle of our backdoor, but then paused trying to figure out an explanation for if anyone saw me looking like this. I was too tired to actually think up a reasonable explanation for the duck pond slime. I just need to get inside without anyone noticing me.

But mom would still wonder when she saw my ruined clothes. Unless I threw them away, but then she might still wonder where this outfit had disappeared to.

My head hurt like it did whenever I tried to think of what to do about my predicament. I fell back on the same question that bothered me since I started my daily visits to this world. Should I tell my parents? Part of me wanted to because, hey, they’re my parents. Another, more independent, part of me didn’t want to tell them and to figure this out for myself.

Even if I did tell them it still posed the question of what good would come of telling them. Like they would know what to do about my predicament anymore than I did. That was of course assuming they would even believe me, which was unlikely. I would probably just end up being forced to visit a psychologist or a head doctor or whatever.

Mom and Dad would probably just assume that my story of randomly being transported to a mysterious world is just some lame excuse to cover up something far more nefarious that I am up to. They already suspect something what with me showing up soaked to the bone twice this past week (if I’m caught today this will make the third), and disappearing for long hours in the middle of the day for the past three days, well four now if you count this one. The last thing I need is for them to ground me when I am going to need all my resources to try to help me figure out what is wrong with me.

My head pounded worse. I was so tired. I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up and realize that I had been dreaming this whole time, but first I had to get inside.

Which brought me back to the predicament of sneaking into the house and upstairs to my room unnoticed. I considered the possibilities of being spotted. Dad was at work, and my twin brother Clint was most likely holed up in his room playing video games. That left Mom who I hoped would be in the dining room washing another soiled outfit rather than in the kitchen preparing dinner.

I slipped off my sneakers so they wouldn’t slosh water on the floor when I walked in. On my walk here my clothes had dried to the damp stage and so no longer dripped everywhere.

I picked up my sneakers and opened the door. I froze in the doorway when I saw Mom standing in front of the stove. She was in the kitchen! What should I do now?

Well, there was nothing to it, I had to get inside and to my room so I could clean off. Mom still had her back to me and so hadn’t spotted me yet. If I was quiet I might still be able to sneak past.
As silently as I could I stepped into the kitchen and shut the door softly behind me. Then I proceeded to try to tiptoe through the kitchen. Alas, I didn’t make it more than five steps before I stepped on a squeaky floorboard and it creaked under my foot.

“Chelsea is that you?” Mom asked.

I glared down at the floor. Traitor. “Yes, Mom?” I squeaked.

“Could you get the tomato sauce out of the pantry?” Mom asked turning around. She froze when she saw me. “Chelsea Jean Welling, what in the world happened to you?!”

I froze for a second trying to think up an explanation for my appearance. “I, um, fell into a duck pond, the one just off the street, um, accidentally,” I said at last. It wasn’t a lie. Technically.

“What about the tears in your clothes?” Mom asked crossing her arms. She raised an eyebrow at me and I knew she wasn’t buying my explanation.

“Um, I was embarrassed because I was dripping duck pond slime and so I came in through the woods, and I guess I wasn’t being careful.” Also not technically a lie.

“Chelsea, there are ticks in the woods!” Mom cried aghast.

I offered her a weak smile. “I was wearing long pants, so they shouldn’t have been able to get on me.”

Mom shook her head. She regarded me a second before her expression softened. “Chelsea is there anything you need to tell me, sweetheart?”

I felt a pang of guilt, but shook my head. I had already determined that Mom and Dad wouldn’t believe me anyway so there was really no need to second guess myself.

Mom sighed and turned back to the food obviously disappointed. “You should go get cleaned up then.”

With those words I was free to go. I made a dash for the stairs, before Mom could think up more questions to ask. I took the stairs two at a time, but all the while my mind was reeling.

What was I going to do? I couldn’t keep going to Amar. Sooner or later I could die, I had already come closer to death than I would care to admit twice today. What if someday I am stranded in Amar, indefinitely? Then no one would know what had happened to me. I couldn’t keep this secret any longer, but how could I prove that this was actually happening to me and that I wasn’t actually crazy?

I made it to my bedroom and shut the door before leaning back on it. That was assuming, of course, that I really wasn’t just going crazy, which I wasn’t entirely ready to not consider.

I stood there for a good five minutes trying to think, but too tired to form coherent thought, before my need to wash the duck pond slime off of my skin overcame my desire to mope and brood. I pushed myself away from the door and went into my bathroom.
I took a far longer shower than I think I have ever taken before, but it was totally necessary. I mean, hello? Duck pond.

When I was done showering I quickly changed into a fresh pair of clothes, my old ones in a wet heap on my bathroom floor. The I turned and studied my reflection in the mirror. Nobody would guess that this slightly taller than average girl with freckles, hazel eyes, and damp honey brown curls pulled back in a ponytail was being dragged against her will to another world.

I turned away with a shake of my head. Life was just too weird for words.

By now I was more refreshed, and I decided against a nap. I headed downstairs to help Mom finish making dinner. She didn’t mention anything about what had happened earlier, but I knew she was going to tell Dad tonight when he got home from work.
Just as soon as dinner was ready Dad pulled into the driveway. Punctual as always. I called my twin brother Clint down and we all settled down for dinner. It was delicious, of course. Mom really is a good cook. She could probably make a stale biscuit taste good. Maybe dinner tasted better because I was so hungry. I didn’t know, and I honestly didn’t care.

Dinner was also a silent affair. I was too busy eating to say much. Clint hardly said a word, he just stared at his plate with droopy eyes. I wondered how late he stayed up playing video games last night. My silly brother was trying to cram as much video game time as he could into the last couple weeks before our Summer vacation. Mom and Dad tried making small talk about how their days had gone, but even that seemed strained.

Clint excused himself early and disappeared back to his room. Then after thanking us womenfolk for the delicious dinner, Dad retired to the living room sofa to “watch” TV. More likely, he’ll be taking a nap. This left Mom and me to clean the kitchen.

When we finished cleaning the kitchen, I walked to the foyer. “I’m taking Hercules out for a walk,” I called, pulling on my combat boots since my sneakers were totaled, and grabbing Hercules’s leash.

“Take care,” Mom called as she headed into the living room. Probably to wake Dad and tell him about what had happened earlier today.

Rolling my eyes, I opened the front door and stepped out, then I closed it back behind me. I started down the sidewalk dragging Hercules, who had stopped to examine some flowers, with me.

The August air reinvigorated me. I smiled and strolled along enjoying the beautiful summer day. It wouldn’t be too long before fall set in, and then winter, so I was determined to enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasted.

I try to take Hercules out on walks as often as I can (if you don’t take him out on a walk he gets way hyperactive) during the summer. The only nights I don’t tend to take him out are Saturday nights. You see, we have a bit of a Saturday tradition. My dad and his two buddies, Edward Princeton and Charles Moncrief, get together with their families and have a cookout at our house.

The dads go off and grill burgers, while they reminisce the good old days (once Clint dared me to eavesdrop on their conversation and I swear they were talking about the pros and cons against wearing armor while wielding a short sword).

Our moms get together and as they prepare the rest of the food, they talk about mom things. Like how cute we were when we were three, etc., etc.

That leaves Clint and me with Bobby Princeton and Easton Moncrief.

Our parents practically forced us onto each other because they thought that it would be the greatest thing if we became best friends since we are all about the same age: fifteen. Easton is technically the oldest, being four months older than Clint and I. The youngest is Bobby, who is two months younger than my twin and I.

Easton has brown hair and blue eyes. He normally wears jeans and a neat button down shirt. He likes to play soccer and do school (I know: he’s crazy). Bobby is a different story entirely; she has chopped red hair and intense green eyes. She normally wears a camouflage shirt and ripped jeans (In my personal opinion, she’s crazy too- I mean, who’d want their jeans ripped on purpose? Mine get ripped enough without buying them like that in the first place). Her hobbies include teasing Clint and playing video games with him.

I glanced up the street spotting Easton’s house which was about five houses down from mine. Bobby’s house was across the street from his. I considered stopping by to see her and telling her about my predicament, what with her being my best friend and all. She would probably believe me, Bobby was always very open minded.

My thought process was interrupted when Hercules suddenly stopped walking and yanked against the leash causing it to dig into the palm of my hand. I drew to a halt and glanced over my shoulder to see that Hercules had latched onto one of our neighbor’s prized petunias and was now happily chomping away.

“Hercules,” I hissed, glancing up at our neighbor’s house. Nobody had noticed… yet. “Drop that flower.”

Hercules didn’t listen to me. He continued gnawing on the petunia.

“Really, dog? I am not in the mood?” I muttered irately as I knelt down next to him. I reached my fingers into his slobbery little mouth, and started trying to pry his jaw apart. For such a little dog, he had some tremendous jaw strength and his sharp little teeth cut into my fingers.

“Hey, Chelsea, do you need a hand with that?” a familiar voice from behind me asked. I startled a bit and glanced over my shoulder at the tall brown haired boy standing behind me. Jeez, when did Easton go all stealth on me?

As soon as Hercules heard the sound of Easton’s vice, he let go of the flower and started jumping around Easton’s legs like a happy kangaroo. I think Easton might be Hercules’s favorite person in the whole wide world, and no, that is not jealousy flavoring my tone, it’s only like he’s my dog.

“Hey, Easton,” I greeted standing up, wiping my slobbery hands on my jeans. Yuck, Hercules is so dead when we get home.

“Hey,” Easton greeted in return. He looked tired, his pants were ripped, and he had scratches all over his face. In fact, he looked a lot like I did earlier when I came back from my little adventure in Amar- minus the duck pond slime, of course. This gave me a pause. What if I wasn’t the only person being suddenly transported to Amar? What if Easton was going there too?

Or it is also possible that he was practicing soccer in the park and some bully threw his ball into the woods and he had to retrieve it. Then again, he was dressed in his usual button down shirt and jeans, rather than his soccer jersey, and he didn’t have his ball.
“Bark!” Hercules- well- barked. I glanced down to see that he was now standing on his hind legs leaning against Easton’s knee his tail wagging begging for attention.

“Hey there, Hercules,” Easton said bending over so he could scratch behind Hercules’s ears.

This is going to sound crazy but…“Um, Easton, can I ask you a question?” I asked before pausing and nervously clearing my throat. I shuffled my feet and told myself to pull it together. I had known Easton since we were both babies. If I couldn’t tell him then I couldn’t tell anyone.

“Sure,” Easton answered straightening. He looked at me expectantly.

I paused considering how to word my question. Before I could come up with a non-crazy way to ask Easton if he had been teleported to a magical world recently (see? It sounds crazy just thinking it) a portal opened up in front of us and sucked us both into the realm of Amar.

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Nicki Chapelway

Mentor, USA

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