A knock on the front door startles me, so I put my pencil down on my math book and go to open the door. Opening the door, I see my best friend, Vivian, standing on my porch. She is wearing a vintage dress made of thick wool and a dirty,blue cloak is tied around her shoulders. She looks ready for a ren fair, I think to myself, stifling a giggle.
Before I could comment on her strange appearance she hands me a sword and says, "I need your help. Your family's life depends on it."
She grabs my hand and and waves the opposite hand through the air in front of us. A circular portal, for lack of a better word, opens up. Vivian jumps through the swirling energy that is the portal, pulling me with her.
We land roughly on a muddy, dirt road and the rain is still pouring down. I groan as I sit up rubbing my sore shoulder. There is sure to be bruises from the landing tomorrow. The sword that Vivian gave me is laying in the mud not far from me.
Standing up and attempting to wipe some of the mud off of my clothes I shout,"Vivian, What is going on?"
"Calm down, Tara," says Vivian standing up and pulling the hood of her cloak up to cover her head from the rain.
"I won't. Not until you tell me what I want to know," I say crossing my arms and stomping my foot on the muddy ground.
"It's not safe here. Come on."
Vivian picks up my sword, thrusts it into my hand again, grabs my empty hand ,and pulls me West all with an annoyed scowl on her face.
As we walk I take a closer look at the scenery around me. The dirt road runs through a forest, tall pine trees stand on either side of the road. The sky is definitely darker when we finally stop at a two story building called Forest Inn. Vivian pushes the door open and I follow her. Both of us are soaked to the bone and shivering from the cold. Keeping up with Vivian's urgent pace has kept me from feeling the cold until now.
I let my eyes adjust to the light before glancing around the room. To my right, there is a large fireplace with a fire crackling it it. Tables and chairs are scattered all around the room and the bar is directly in front of us. A tired woman stands behind the bar wearing a stained apron over her dress. She is the only other person in the room which I find surprising given the awful weather outside.
Vivian marches up to the bar, pulling her hood off as she walks. I follow her slowly.
Reaching the bar Vivian says, "We would like two hot meals with Ginger Ale, and your most comfortable room for the night. If possible we also want a fresh set of clothes for the both of us."
Looking us over from head to toe and giving us a hard glare the woman says,"That's a tall order. You got money to pay for it girl?"
"Of course," says Vivian pulling two large,gold coins from a pouch on her belt.
The barkeeper's eyes widen at the sight of the coins. She curtsies then quickly says, "Please forgive my rudeness my lady." She glances at Vivian with wonder and gives me another strange look.
Vivian ignores the barkeeper's reaction and moves to sit at the table closest to the fire. Not knowing what else to do, I follow her.
Sitting down with a sigh I say," Now will you tell me what's going on?"
"Not yet. After dinner when the door is locked I will answer all of your questions," says Vivian also sitting down.
Vivian takes a dagger from her belt and starts to clean dirt from under nails with it. Looking at her now, I can hardly believe that she is the same Vivian I've grown up with. I take a closer look at her searching for any sign of the Vivian I remember in this "new" Vivian. Everything about her is different: except she is still wearing her half of the friendship necklace I gave her for her seventh birthday; the silver circle says Friend.
Breaking the uncomfortable silence between us I say, "Will you at least tell me why the barkeep looked at you like you were the best thing she's seen all day but looked at me like I should get lost?"
"It's your clothes. They stand out," says Vivian like she's not really thinking about what she's saying.
The barkeep comes to our table with two plates balanced on her thick arms and two mugs in her hands. She sets the plates down and I see that they each have a leg of chicken covered with gravy and a thick slice of bread with butter on them.
"If you'll be needing anything else my lady please ask my boy, Thomas, and I'll fetch you the clothes you requested,"says the barkeep gesturing to the bar behind her where a short, skinny boy stands.
"Thank you,"says Vivian without looking at the woman or the boy.
"Thanks," I say giving the woman a small smile.
She doesn't say anything, but she walks in the direction of the stairs behind the bar. Now that I can smell the food, I realise how hungry I am and eat it eagerly. Vivian picks at her food like she's distracted or worried. It doesn't take me long to finish my food.
When I'm done I push the plate away from me and say,"Vivian, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she says stacking her plate,with the food she has barely eaten, on my plate.
"I know that something is wrong. Please tell me."
"Tara, things are complicated right now, but don't worry I'll make it up to you for this crazy day. I promise," she says tiredly, slouching in her seat.
The barkeep returns and Vivian instantly transforms. Her back straightens and her entire attitude shifts. She doesn't look tired anymore; in fact she almost looks happy. I turn my attention to the barkeep. She is holding a stack of neatly folded clothes.
"Will you be wanting to retire now, or should I have my boy sing songs for you?"
"No, thank you," says Vivian standing. I stand up too.
"I'll show you to your room now, my lady," says the woman turning in the direction of the stairs.
We follow the woman behind the bar, and up the stairs. After the stairs the woman stops at the first door and produces a medium-sized, dark grey key from one of the pockets of her apron and uses it to unlock the door. She steps back from the door and gestures for Vivian to enter first, she does, I follow her and the barkeep follows me.
"Apologies, my lady, if the clothes are not to your liking. They are not richly made, but they are warm and sturdy," says the barkeep handing the clothes to Vivian.
"Anything is better than wet clothes thank you. We will not be needing your services anymore tonight. You and your son may retire to your own beds."
"Thank you my lady," says the barkeep smiling widely and curtsying.
The barkeep hands the key to Vivian then she leaves closing the door behind her. Vivian sets clothes down on the king-sized, four-poster bed. She sorts the clothes for a minute then she hands me a smaller pile of clothes. I inspect them and see a sheer, white under dress, a brown dress made of wool and a faded brown cloak also made of wool. I peel off my wet clothes: a cotton, t-shirt; jeans and shin-height, black boots. Before putting on the new clothes I try to squeeze the water from my hair with little success. I put on the the under dress; it's sleeves end where my elbow bends. The brown dress is sleeveless. Once Vivian ties the corset strings behind me the dress actually looks pretty, if you can look past the stains on the brown fabric. Vivian wears an outfit similar to mine: except the under dress is long sleeved and the dress she wears over is is a faded green; the cloak she wears a blue cloak again.
Now that I'm warm I take a moment to look around the room before pelting Vivian with my questions. The room is large. In the center of the far wall is a fireplace larger than the one downstairs. It is clean with a stack of firewood and kindling inside waiting to be lit. The is covered with a white sheet and a blue dove-let. An extra blanket is folded at the end of the bed, and it is dark green.
Gesturing down to our wet clothes piled at our feet I say,"What should we do with these?"
"Give them to me," says Vivian opening the pouch on her belt.
I pick up our clothes and hand them to Vivian. She takes them from me and puts them in her poach. The opening expands so that the clothes are able to disappear inside. When Vivian closes it,the poach looks exactly the same as it did before she put the clothes in. Vivian crosses to the door and locks it using the key.
"Now I will answer your questions," she says climbing onto the bed.
Also climbing on the bed I say,"What is this place? I mean is it like another dimension or something?"
"Yes, We're in the Kingdom of Thedia. I like to think of it as a cross between the world in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones and Asgard in Norse mythology."
"Okay. What did you mean when you said my family's life depends on my coming with you?"
"Tara, it's late and we have to get up early tomorrow. Before we leave I'll give you a quick lesson in defending yourself with that sword."
Vivian slides off the bed and moves to stand in front of the fireplace. She waves her hand down and the fire dims until it goes out. Vivian unbuckles her belt with her dagger and poach and hangs it over one of the bed posts. I do the same with my sword and climb under the covers. Vivian waves her hand down over one of the torches that are on wall above the bed and the fires also go out throwing the room into darkness.