Yes – I’m rewriting it! It’s going MUCH better this time around! I thought you might like to have a peek at the new and improved version!
A few things for you to know: I am NOT writing Malec in this time. Much as I and others liked him, he’s not necessary.
Two: We all like Salebeth better this time around =)
Three: The twins have RED hair! (a la my sister Riah =)
Without further ado…
“No, Cassie, you’re not listening to me.” Sienna watched the sign across the busy street – still a red hand warning her not to cross. She turned her attention back to her cell phone. “What? Oh, yeah, then that’s fine. No. I’m telling you, I can’t make it! Yeah, I know… me, too. But I’ve got rehearsal. Okay… sure! Love ya.” She hung up and groaned to herself, ignoring the business man on her left and the woman with her two children on her right.
Finally, the sign changed to ‘WALK’ and she ran across the street, up onto the sidewalk, and past several of the tall buildings that are the trademark of cities like New York. Finally, red-faced and panting, she burst into the corner-street Starbucks. It was full, as usual, but she wormed her way through chatting girlfriends, single entrepreneurs, and teenagers like herself until she reached the table in the corner by the window and quickly sat down. She looked out the window, half watching her reflection, half watching the street outside for any signs of her brother.
What felt like an hour later, she pulled her cell phone out and looked at the time. He was almost ten minutes late. She was just preparing to call him when the door opened and she turned to see a handsome, broad-shouldered fifteen-year-old boy hurry in and jog over to the table. He slid and sat down in his seat, breathing hard. His eyes twinkled.
“What took you so long?” she demanded, showing him the time on her phone. “You’re ten minutes late! You would think by now that-“
“Go easy on me, sis,” the boy answered, his face serious as he rubbed his forehead as if he had a headache. He looked up and said in a solemn voice, “I was held by gangsters and mugged. I tried to call you, but-“
“Ha, ha, little baby brother,” Sienna interjected, rolling her eyes.
Alec rolled his in return. “I was held up by crowds, cars, and those ridiculously slow ‘walk-and-stop’ signs. Honestly.” He looked at the round, empty tabletop and then looked up at her. “Did you order already?”
“No, I had to save a table,” said Sienna, pulling off her scarf and yanking her hoodie over her head. “I’ll go get them.”
“’Kay, I’ll stay here and make sure nobody steals your scarf,” said Alec, leaning on his elbows and grinning at her. She grinned back and walked to the back of the line. She was there for over five minutes while someone up front had trouble because they didn’t understand the difference between a frappuccino and a cappuccino.
Sienna looked outside. It was gray, and the clouds were growing darker by the minute, casting shadows on the streets and buildings outside and making everything seem either blue or gray.
“Hey, Sienna!” She looked up when she heard her name being called and saw one of her friends from school behind the counter.
“Hey, Sean!” Sienna grinned. “Oh, I made those coasters!”
He glanced up as he poured some milk foam into a white cup. “Oh, yeah? How?”
“I took some pieces of glass I had and put an old black-and-white photo on each one, then varnished it. Looks really cool,” Sienna grinned.
Sean laughed. “I had an old cork board that I just cut into circles. You win this time.” Then he looked up. “The usual?”
“Yeah,” said Sienna, perusing the menu just for the fun of it. In the winter, she and Alec always got the same drink every time.
“One grande caramel macchiato and one extra-hot grande peppermint mocha with half-pump peppermint and whipped cream coming up!”
It took a couple minutes for their drinks to be ready, but Sienna didn’t mind. Michael Bublè was crooning quietly over the speakers and the air was warm, with the wonderful smells that only coffee shops had to offer.
She jumped as someone appeared behind her. “Alec, don’t do that!”
“Sorry,” her brother said. “It looks like some heavy rain out there. We’d better get home fast.”
“Oh, okay,” said Sienna, handing him his drink and glancing out the window. “Let’s go. Thanks, Sean! ‘Bye, guys!”
Several baristas waved and called ‘bye’ back to them as they ran out the door, holding their drinks tightly. “Wait!” Sienna said, “my-“
“Got ‘em,” said Alec, wrapping her scarf around her neck and tying her hoodie around her waist. “Let’s go!”
They ran down the sidewalk, dodging to avoid people who were also wary of the coming storm. The clouds roiled darkly above, and thunder rumbled ominously several times.
“I don’t see any lightning, though,” said Sienna, as they waited to cross the intersection. She peered at the sky in all directions.
“Me, neither,” said Alec, taking a sip of his drink, “but that doesn’t mean it won’t jump out of the sky at any moment!”
Sienna rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t be a dork,” she said, hitting him on the arm. “Come on, let’s go.” They looked both ways and then stepped off the sidewalk, moving quickly to cross the street without spilling their drinks.
Sienna’s skin began to prickle strangely. “Alec?” she looked over at him, and he had a puzzled look on his face. “Do you feel-“
Suddenly her entire body jolted and she screamed. She was on fire! A crack that sounded like a cannon firing roared above their heads and Sienna screamed again, but her voice was muted by the thunder. White lights seemed to flash around her and she fell forward. She did not hit the street.
Voices. All she heard was voices.
“Who are they?”
“I don’t know…”
“… from around here, are they?”
“But how did they get here?”
“…take them inside…”
She felt the world spin as she was lifted into the air. She wanted to move, to open her eyes, to scream, but she had no control over herself. A thought frightened her – what if she stayed this way forever, locked inside herself, her body as her own coffin?
The thought was quickly dismissed as ridiculous, but the hand of panic had a grip on her throat. What was happening? She imagined herself lying on the street, being lifted into an ambulance. Had she been hit by a car? Where was Alec? Had he, too, been hit?
She did not know how long she was carried, but she felt herself suddenly on a firm, soft surface. A stretcher? A bed? She wanted to scream “What’s going on!?” but could not make her tongue obey her. Then the voices and sounds faded, and she was left alone, but not for long.
“Do not be afraid. Drink this.” She felt a hand underneath her head, and something hard and cold being pressed to her lips. She was afraid to open her mouth – what if someone was poisoning her? – but she finally accepted it, finding that she was regaining some control over herself.
The stuff was thick and slightly minty, and certainly did not taste like poison. “Wha?” she croaked, then winced inwardly. She sounded like a hoarse frog!
“Just wait,” said the voice. Sienna obeyed and lay there, arched overhead, and she blinked. staring at the blackness inside her eyes. She tried to open her eyes again and found that she could. Curved wooden beams
This was not a hospital.
She sat up abruptly, not bothering to be glad that she was able to do so as she looked wildly around. Huge, windows on either side of the room. She twisted underneath the thin, cool sheets to look behind her and blinked. Her headboard was carved in the shape of a swan, its neck curved gracefully over her head.
What was this place?
“Hello?” she called, her heart thudding. Where was she and where were her parents? Where was Alec? What was she doing with a swan over her bed? She looked down at herself. She was dressed in a long, silky empire-waisted white gown with loose long sleeves and intricate embroidering up the front.
“Feeling better?” a voice asked. Sienna looked up and saw a woman standing in her doorway, which was also curved and came to a point at the top. She was wearing a white dress, the hem of which touched the floor. The sleeves were quarter-length and the neckline plunging, but made modest with flowered lace beneath it. The dress was white, but flared into pink, then rose red at the bottom.
Sienna found her tongue. “I… um, well – who are you?” She fairly shrieked the question.
The woman came closer, and Sienna found herself unconsciously backing up in the bed. She had very fair skin and hair that was brilliant red, rolling in thick waves down her back. Her eyes were like crystals – almost clear, but catching the sunlight as she turned. She smiled down at Sienna, who swallowed.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“Who are you?” Sienna asked again, her face tight with fear as she viewed her otherworldly captor.
“Arie,” said the woman.
“Arie?” Sienna repeated. The name was short and pretty, but definitely not New Yorker. “Okay, what am I… doing…” her voice trailed off, her eyes glued to the side of Arie’s head. “No. Way.”
“Pardon?” asked Arie, frowning softly at Sienna’s stricken face. “Is something wrong?”
Sienna’s mouth moved, but she could find no words. “I – you’re – this is – I’ve been captured by nuts!” Her eyes moved to Arie’s face, her eyes huge in her pale face. “I don’t believe this. You’re way too into Lord of the Rings or World of Warcraft or whatever it is that made you glue elf ears to your head and wear that dress and build this house and I need OUT!” Sienna’s breath was coming in quick, short gasps and she wondered what was happening to her. “Where’s my mom and dad?” she demanded, the question barely more than a gasp.
The woman hurried over to a shelf built into the wall on one side of the room and came back with a handful of herbs, which she poured into a cup of something that rested on a table close to Sienna’s bed. Faint steam rose from it, and she held it out in front of Sienna.
“Breathe this in,” she instructed. Frightened at her shortness of breath, Sienna obeyed and inhaled the odorless steam. After a few minutes her breathing had become normal again, and she felt calmer, somehow.
“You drugged me!” Sienna accused, horrified.
“Drugged?” Arie looked puzzled, arching one dark eyebrow.
Sienna found herself taken aback. Didn’t this person know what a drug was? “Yeah, a drug,” she said, “you know, like aspirin?”
“I’m afraid not,” said Arie.
Sienna swallowed again and her words came out in a faint whisper. “Are you some sort of… cult?”
Arie’s crystal eyes flashed. “No,” she said, her voice calm, but her face upset. “This is no cult. All will be explained when you feel well.”
What? “I feel well!” Sienna exclaimed, throwing her feet out of bed, her eyes narrowed. “I’m fine! Where are my parents? And my brother?”
“Sienna!” the name was sharp, sounding odd coming from such beautiful features as Arie’s. “Lay down immediately.”
Sienna automatically obeyed and flopped back down onto the bed. “Why?” she asked as soon as her head hit the pillow. Then it struck her.
“How did you know my name was Sienna?” she asked, sitting up abruptly.
A small smile was on Arie’s face. “Your brother has been alive and kicking for quite some time, now,” she said. “I will let him see you as soon as you feel more yourself.”
“I’ll feel more myself,” Sienna snarled, “when I find out who you are, where I am, and where my parents are!”
“That will take some time,” said Arie, her voice firm as she turned and walked from the room.
As soon as she was gone, Sienna climbed out of bed, nearly frantic. She had to find Alec and ask him what was going on! But as soon as her feet touched the floor, someone ducked under the doorframe and entered. Sienna froze, staring.
He was tall, definitely over six feet. He had the body of a dancer, slender but powerful. Leather armor wrapped his torso and thighs, and a dark green cloak, the folds of which disappeared in the wrapped curves of his mahogany breastplate, hung down his back. His hair was the color of steel, but the face that looked at her was no older than thirty. His eyes were dark green, nearly the exact color of his cloak. A long sword hung at his side.
“Who are you?” Sienna asked, wondering how many times she had asked that already today. These people really were nuts. What had he been doing – Live Action Role Playing?
“Talad,” he replied obligingly in a deep voice. “Arie spoke to me of our guests.” He smiled. “You gave our guards quite a shock.”
“Huh?” Such vocabulary skills, she thought to herself.
A thoughtful expression took over his face. “Arie hasn’t told you how you arrived yet, has she?” She shook her head. “I thought not.” Then he looked at her, a smile lurking in his eyes. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed? Your brother is.”
“I want to see him,” said Sienna with as much force as she could muster. But compared to the armor-clad elf-wannabe in front of her, it wasn’t much. “Please,” she added, hoping it might have more effect than her pleas had had on Arie.
“Soon,” he replied, smiling briefly at her. For the first time Sienna noticed that he looked… tense, somehow, in spite of the amused expression on his face. “You should rest,” he added before he walked out of the room and disappeared to the left.
Sienna threw herself onto the bed and screamed into the pillow, feeling it was the only safe way to vent her feelings of fear and frustration.
“I want to see Sienna!” Alec yelled at the top of his lungs and knowing full well that he was behaving like a three-year-old. But there was only so much he could take!
“Not yet,” said the person by his bed patiently, repeating the same thing he’d been saying all morning.
“She’s my sister,” Alec said, “and I have every right to see my own flesh-and-blood!”
“Perhaps. But you’ll have to wait.”
Alec glared as fiercely as he could at the man next to him. He was tall, even sitting down, and thin. His features were also thin, almost delicate, his eyes large and a strange deep green-blue color, that reminded Alec of the ocean the time he went scuba diving. He had straight, thick blond hair that looked windblown and reached the bottom of his neck. He had been kind to Alec; quiet and firm. But he still wouldn’t let him see his sister.
“Fine, then,” said Alec finally. He sank back into the pillows and looked up at the stupid swan that looked back down at him. He was finding all this hard to believe. “What’s your name?” he asked, mindlessly and repeatedly punching the soft (fur!) blankets on his bed.
“Salebeth,” the man replied, looking at him.
“What kind of a name is that?” asked Alec irritably.
“My own,” Salebeth replied amiably, “just as Alec is yours.”
“Yeah, well, Alec’s more normal,” Alec retorted grumpily.
Salebeth smiled. “To you, perhaps. But not to me.”
“Why is there a swan on my bed?”
Salebeth laughed softly. “Talad and Arie are of the House of the Swan,” he said. “That is why there is a swan on your bed.” He continued writing, forming symbols foreign to Alec on a sheet of thick paper.
“House of the Swan? So are you guys like major gamers? Doing some out-of-control LARP?”
Salebeth blinked at Alec and arched an eyebrow. “LARP?” he asked.
“Live Action Role Play. You know,” said Alec, sounding surprised. “You mean this isn’t one?”
“Correct.” The slender feather pen was poised above the paper, but then Salebeth placed it back in the ink bottle and looked closely at Alec, very thoughtfully for a long time. Then he stood and left without any word of explanation, vanishing out the door.
“Well,” said Alec, sitting up and glancing curiously at the paper Salebeth had been writing. What was that supposed to be? He was wearing white pants and a white shirt – very comfortable, but they felt too much like something you’d wear in a hospital for Alec.
Then again, his clothes were nowhere to be found, so he hurried out the door and looked down the wide hall. There were several doorways and halls that branched off of this one, with many windows looking outside. He walked over to one, wanting to get a look at his surroundings.
What he saw was a huge, deep green clearing and an entire village. Everything was beautiful and neat and looked as if large amounts of thought had been put into it. There was a graceful bridge curved over a wide stream that ran through the middle of the clearing, and an almost medieval-looking home with a water wheel across from him. There were trees ringing the village, trees that made the place look like Toy Town they were so huge. Their trunks were as large as the houses, stretching up and casting mottled light and shadows over everything.
He could see people – walking, talking, working – two who looked like soldiers riding a horse through the village talking animatedly to each other. He saw one house that had been built into one of the giant trees in an interesting design.
But even this discover only fueled his desire to have his one question answered -where on earth was he!?