Loud banging on my door jerks me awake, almost making me fall from my bed in the process. The glare of the moonlight from my bedside window strikes my eyes as I rub them vigorously as if that would somehow shake away the hold of sleep. I try to ignore it, but after five minutes of nonstop banging, I force myself up. I search for my fluffy bunny slippers on the floor while the banging continues. At this point, it’s really starting to irritate me. But for once, I’m glad that the power is still out. Otherwise, they’d learn how to use a thing called a doorbell.
I don’t get many visitors often. Dawson City, Canada is a relatively small town. And a peaceful one too. Not many thieves or crimes in my town. Everyone knows everyone and we all trust each other. But most of all, we don’t knock on each other’s door in the middle of the damn night.
“Yeah! One sec!” I yell as my feet find the soft velvet of my slippers. “So impatient,“ I mutter to myself. “It’s three in the morning, for god’s sake.”
I grab my glasses from my bedside table and head down, my feet stomping all the way. Miraculously, I managed to find the kitchen and a candle in the midst of the darkness. I light it with the stove, the yellow light casting shadows on the wall. I make my way to the door, the faint candlelight illuminating the way. The rhythmic banging finally stops when I open the door.
They don’t even greet me. Rude. They simply barge in, perfectly ignoring me as if the night swallowed me whole. I thought I was dreaming at first, but after pinching myself, their tattered clothes are still in shreds. And a staff still rests in their hands. A raven perches on the top, carved into the wood I assumed. Their cape is torn in half. Whether it was burned or ripped off, I can’t tell. They busy themselves sweeping my home. What they’re looking for, I have no idea. But they leave no stone unturned, tossing books from their shelves, picture frames from the walls, and pillows from my couches. It’s like a tornado has ravaged my living room.
“I— I’m sorry, but who are you, exactly?” I ask, my voice a little hoarse from a dry throat.
Their eyes meet mine, their masked face concealed with a white cloth lined with purple and gold. I gotta say, their stare is intimidating even in the dim light of one candle. It puts a little chill down my spine and it’s not from the cold. I’m starting to regret answering that door.
“No time,” he says through his mask, his voice too deep to be a woman. “Where is the heirloom?”
“Heirloom— what? I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I replied, still too dazed to think about anything other than going back to sleep. “You know what, it’s three in the morning. Just clean up the mess and we’ll talk in the morning. You can sleep on the couch. I’m going back to bed.” I walk away, leaving the stranger to his search.
He slams the butt of his staff on the ground, shaking the entire house. It makes me stumble. I look back, only to see the glowing blue eyes of the staff’s raven staring right back at me, its long, wooden wings extended. I must be dreaming.
The stranger closes the distance between us in a few long strides. Our faces are only a foot apart. At this distance, I can somehow feel the aura of his staff, the power pulsing.
“I said there’s no time. It’s only a matter of hours before Truwin realizes I’m looking for the only artifact that can thwart his plans. Now, I need that heirloom before he and his army invade this realm as he had the other two.”
Yep. I’m definitely dreaming.
“Umm… Again, I do not know what you are talking about mister…?”
“Everard, wizard apprentice to Aednoth, Elder to this staff.” His gaze drifts down, faltering, fierce turning into sorrow. But it hardens again just as fast. “I’m not mistaken that your name is Osgarr Glover.”
“No, that was the name of my great-great-great-grandfather. I’m Stacey Glover. How do you even—”
“Because he was entrusted to keep the artifact safe and as far away as possible from Truwin’s hands. I’m the last of my people to know its location. And I need it. Now.”
“Maybe if you specified what kind of heirloom it was, then I’d be able to help you.”
He sighs, rubbing the gap between his eyebrows. He’s tired as much as I am.
“It’s a book. A very, very old book.”
“Any idea what the name of the book might be?”
He groans as if the answer’s obvious. “Heregil’s Journal of Spells and Summons.”
“I have… never heard that title before in my life.”
He turns on his heels, returning to his endless search. “Waste of my time,” I think I hear him mutter.
I noticed that he left his staff resting on the side of my couch. I play with it, twirling and swinging it in the air. It’s rough under my touch, the uneven wood not smoothly sanded down. I think it might give me a splinter or two. He doesn’t seem to mind. He probably knows that I have no idea how to use this thing.
“You said you’re from another world?” I asked, swinging the staff like a child with a new toy.
“Yes, the Realm of Stava. It took most of my magic to summon the portal to your realm,” he says, focused on tossing more books from my shelves. I spent so much effort arranging those books alphabetically.
But my mind lights, realizing the cause of the blackout. “And what happened to your clothes?”
“Burnt in the battle. That is why I need you to remember where your ancestors hid that book. All the Realms and everyone in it are at stake.”
A chuckle escapes my lips. “This must be some kind of joke. Because as far as I know, there is no such thing as spells or other realms. Other worlds, sure. But they’re lightyears away, too far for any human to reach.“
His head jerks back like I’ve just insulted his entire life. “Do you really believe that our realms haven’t intertwined with each other before? The thing you call science and math? This technology you surround yourself with? All of these are a gift from the Realm of Veda, the Realm of technological marvels. It was the most advanced realm before Truwin beheaded its entire royal family and placed himself on the throne. It was the first one to fall. My home realm fell next, the realm of spells and magic. And now that he has technology and magic on his side, he’s coming for your world next. His endless hunger will never be satisfied until all three realms are within his control.”
“Uh-huh,” I say, more unconvinced than I’ve been before. “Well, I’m going back to bed. I have work in the morning.” I set the staff back on the couch.
“I’ve found it!”
“Oh? Well, that’s great for you. Where’d you find it?”
“It was hidden under a compartment in your bookshelf. And now that I finally have it, this realm will be mine at last.”
He turns to face me, the old leather-bound book in one hand. Through the dim light of the candle, I can barely make out the etched markings on the front cover of the book. But that didn’t need to be the case. His hands spark, and the book is engulfed in a flurry of flames. The hundred-year-old book turns to ash in seconds.
And then the portals appear.
Behind him, the view of my bookshelves is replaced by two circular gateways, the one on the left a different image from the one on the right. The glow from the portals lights up the entire living room, making my small candle look like a spark in a raging bushfire. This is one very strange dream. I’ll have to write this down when I wake up.
From the other side of the portals, four other people cross over. The two people from the right portal carry a similar staff to the one of Everard except for the unique animal on top. A cobra sits on one staff, its hood and fangs bared while a chameleon rests on the other. The two from the left portal are dressed in white, gold, and purple cloaks with high collars obscuring half their faces. They flank both sides of the wizard.
“So this is Earth Realm? How… pathetic,” the leftmost person says disgusted, their cloak shrouding their face.
“This will be an easy victory for us, my lord. They have nothing to defend against us. Who is that?” the rightmost apprentice sneers, describing me in my pajamas and night robe.
“With the book and the spell to defeat me destroyed, there is still only one caster who could summon the spell if it somehow survived. We can’t take any chances,” says Everard. His gloved hand points towards me. “She must die.”
The person directly to Everard’s right nods and slams the butt of their staff. In kind, the inanimate chameleon comes to life, crawling out of his place on the staff, its eyes glowing a sickly green. It spews a green goop in my direction, landing on my left arm.
“AGH!” I shriek, the green liquid burning through my clothes and onto my skin. It sends a ripple of pain around my whole body. I use my robe to wipe the unknown goop off my arm. I grab the staff from its place on the couch, placing it in between me and the group of otherworldly beings.
This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream.
This is a nightmare.
The leftmost apprentice plays with their hands, gracefully waving them in the air. A ball of fire comes to life and dances on their palm. They shoot it in my direction. I yelp, leaning to the side, dodging it in time, and looking back before it burns a hole right through my kitchen wall.
They grunt in frustration, recreating another fireball in their hands. But before they could hurtle it again, the ground below me disappears and I begin to fall. Before I can understand, my back hits the hard concrete with a resounding thud.
My head still spins as I force my eyes to focus. A person stands over me, hooded and masked. They hold the raven staff in one hand, its blue eyes still glowing. I survey my surroundings and spot bags of trash. The smell of gasoline stains the air.
“Who are you?” I ask while massaging the wound around my arm. But I realize that the burn is gone, skin perfectly healed like it never happened.
“My name is Truwin Aednoth, Stacey Glover,” he says as he unmasks himself. His hair is a blonde yellow and his ears are… pointed.
A wave of fear hits me, remembering the words of the strange visitor, Everard. “Aren’t you going to kill me?”
He furrows his brows. “Why on the other Realms would I kill you?”
“Because… Everard said that you were the one that conquered the other two Realms. And that you beheaded the entire royal family of some realm.”
He heaves a heavy sigh. “A master deceiver, Everard is. Whatever he said about me, is false. He was the one who has done all he said. But I am the true owner of this staff. I have to thank you for returning it to me.”
“And I’m supposed to believe what you say?”
“Yes, Miss Glover, because you have no other choice.”
“What do you mean ‘no other choice’? I don’t even understand all of this… realms and magic nonsense. I’m probably still dreaming! Yes, that’s it! I’m still dreaming and I’ll wake up any moment back in the comfort of my bedroom. You are not real. None of this is!” I get up and begin to stomp away, my robe flapping like a cap, flying as I go.
“Stacey Glover…” Truwin says as he grabs onto my shoulder, forcing me to turn. “The book you saw burned to ashes is not truly lost. The one Everard destroyed was a fake. A decoy. The real Journal is hidden in a temple in a place you call Chichen Itza, Mexico. And you are the only one who can summon the spell that can banish Everard and stop him from tearing down your realm like he has the other two. His apprentices will be looking for you, no doubt. So unless you want to die, I suggest you stick with me.” He lets go of me and proceeds to walk the other way.
I contemplate on whether or not to follow him.
“And Miss Glover,” he says behind his back. “I can assure you that this is not a dream.”
I puff before following him into the night as we start our long, long journey to Mexico.