Chapter 1: The Stranger
Panting, Josh raced across the street and into the park. He dodged around the trees and benches, heading to the little hollow surrounded by trees. He'd be safe there. Just as he reached his haven, he looked over his shoulder for pursuit and so wasn't looking when he crashed through the bushes, causing him to trip and roll across the ground. Spitting out dirt and leaves that had gotten into his mouth, the boy turned around to find out what had tripped him.
There, rubbing his legs where Josh had accidentally struck him was a young man who couldn't be much older then himself. What had Josh staring was the fact he was obviously dressed in armour. Black leather armour with steel shoulders that had spikes coming out of them with a matching spiked collar. His pants were baggy and black and he was wearing a wide red sash about his waist.
Josh's contemplation was interrupted by voices and he froze. "Where'd he go?" That was Chris, his chief tormenter.
"Dunno. He's too frigging fast." That was Tyler.
"Well get him tomorrow. We've got to go back or we'll be late for practice." Chris replied.
Josh released the breath he'd been holding in a sigh of relief. He was safe for today. He returned his attention to the stranger he'd tripped over. They both stared at each other for a long moment before three boys burst though the bushes, much as Josh had done earlier.
Pushing himself backwards, Josh attempted to make a break for it. Tyler and Ryan grabbed his legs and dragged him back towards them.
"Trying to hide on us, huh?" Chris sneered and caught sight of the stranger who was still sitting on the ground. "Who's this? Another freak like you?"
The bully moved until he was standing over the man in armour. "You must be some kind of fantasy-geek, huh? No wonder you and that freak are hanging out." Chris leaned down until their faces were level as he said this before grabbing the man and hauling him to his feet or at least he tried to.
Almost as soon as Chris's hand encircled the stranger's wrist, the armour-clad man broke the grip and swept the boy's feet out from under him. "Don't touch me." He said as he stood up slowly, danger oozing from every pore. At least that's the way it seemed to Josh who watched, wide-eyed as Chris clambered to his feet, face red and with a sound like an enraged bull, charged the stranger.
Neatly side-stepping him, the man slammed his fist into the back of Chris's head, sending him flying. Here, Tyler and Ryan released Josh and leaped forward for the attack. The stranger kicked Tyler in the chest, ducked Ryan's punch before landing a solid hi to Ryan's jaw, causing his head to snap up.
All three boys picked themselves up and fled, knowing they had no chance against this armoured man. The Stranger snorted once at their retreating backs before turning around. He stopped short when he saw Josh standing in front of him, staring.
"What?" he asked.
"Umm… Thanks. They…well they don't like me and you got rid of them and well…thanks. And I'm really sorry about tripping over you earlier."
The man snorted again.
"Uh… well I'm Josh. Josh Jacobs. Pleased to meet you." He said sticking his hand out.
"Flaen." The man replied and gave Josh's hand the briefest of shakes.
"Uh, did you get lost on the way to a con or something? Josh asked after a moment of silence in which Flaen took in his surroundings.
"A convention. You know like a gaming convention or something."
He snorted a third time. "No." After a moment of hesitation he added. "I'm lost."
"Well where are you heading? You're in St. Francis Park about ten blocks from downtown, if that's any help."
"No it's not. Where is the nearest inn?"
"Inn? Umm… there's a hotel at one end of town and a motel about a fifteen minute walk that way." Josh replied, after a second of thought, pointing."
Flaen stared at him for a long minute before looking around again.
"Where are you from?" Josh asked.
"Mayclow." Flaen replied with obvious reluctance.
The man whirled about to stare at Josh who returned his gaze with surprise. "What country am I in?"
Flaen's eyes narrowed. "I am farther away then I thought." He hissed.
"Why? What country is Mayclow in?"
For a long time Flaen studied Josh, almost as if he was trying to red his soul. Finally he seemed to come to a decision. "Mayclow is a country."
"Eh? I've never heard of it."
Snorting was obviously Flaen's favoured response. "I've been sent through from my dimension to this one."
"Another dimension?" Josh was mentally reeling. This kind of thing only happened in books.
Here Flaen rolled his eyes. "I need to know about this world. You will teach me."
Josh blinked several times before nodding. "I guess that'd be best. You'd better come home with me." The boy had just decided this was a dream and he had might as well go along with it. Another dimension? That was impossible.
So with Flaen in tow, Josh made his way home, ignoring the strange looks they got from passer-bys. They were lucky Josh lived nearby or they might have run into trouble. As it was they were safely inside within ten minutes.
"That you J.J?" A voice called from the office.
"No. My name's Josh, not J.J, Derrick!"
Laughter followed that statement and soon a man with the same blondish-brown hair as Josh appeared. He raised an eyebrow in Flaen's direction. "Who's this? New friend?"
"This is Flaen. He's from another dimension."
"Uh huh. Is he staying for dinner?"
"Actually is it alright if he stays with us for a while until I teach him about our world?" Josh asked, grinning. Even in dreams it wasn't often he got to shock Derrick like this. He'd dismissed his earlier comment as a joke.
"Oy did you get hit in the head or something?"
"No. Flaen got rid of Chris and them today."
"What? They tried to beat you up again?"
"Yah, but I'm alright."
Derrick shook his head. "This needs to be dealt with."
Josh's oldest brother sighed. "Your friend can stay as long as he likes. I have work to do so I won't see you until dinner." With that Derrick disappeared into his office.
Grinning, Josh beckoned, leading Flaen to the spare room. "You can stay here." He told Flaen. "You look like you're about Matt's height so you can borrow some of his clothes until we get you some of your own. Just wait here a sec, I'll be right back."
Josh raced out of the guest room and into his older brother's room and began rummaging through the piles of clean clothes Matt left on the floor. Clean clothes were only discernable from dirty ones by the fact that the clean ones were folded and the dirty ones just thrown onto the ground. Finally he had a pair of jeans he knew to be slightly too small for Matt and a shirt that looked like it might fit Flaen.
With his bounty piled in his arms, Josh ran back into the guest room and presented Flaen with the clothes. "Try these on. I think they'll fit. If they don't I can always go find some more."
Flaen shrugged and Josh left him to try the clothes on. He went to his own room and dropped his book bag on the floor. He'd do his homework later. If there was a later in this dream.
Grinning at himself for thinking about doing homework in a dream, Josh returned and knocked on the door to the guest room. "Enter." Came Flaen's muffled voice.
Josh opened the door and walked in. Flaen had the jeans on and was holding the t-shirt, obviously about to put it on. Josh stared at him. There were lots of light lines of scar tissue all over Flaen's chest. "What happened?" he asked in shock.
Flaen raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?" he asked before putting the shirt on.
"The scars! Your chest is covered in scars."
The stranger shrugged. "I get a lot of injuries"
"But there were so many. How'd you get them all?"
"From making mistakes." Flaen said in a tone of finality.
Josh opened his mouth and then shut it. He really shouldn't be pestering Flaen with questions, even if it was a dream. Instead, Josh sat down on the bed and asked. "So what do you want to know?"
"Umm…well why don't you tell me about your world so I know what you already know and I can tell you about ours."
Flaen nodded. "Mayclow is a country on the western coast. Good shipping trade. Capital is Grestir. King Betil is ruling now. Next in line is Princess Drillilia. Mage Academy is one of the best on the continent. We export a lot of wool and sheep."
"Whoa! Did you say Mage Academy? You have magic?"
"I am not a mage. There are plenty of mages in Mayclow though. Mages are who sent me here."
"That's so cool! We don't have magic."
"Then what lights this room?"
"Electricity. Like from lightning bolts but harnessed and controlled. It powers pretty much everything. Lights, cars, anything electronic really."
Flaen frowned. "What is cars?"
"Oh. Umm… Come with me. I'll show you on the T.V."
So for the next two hours, Josh taught Flaen using the T.V. It didn't take long for the strange man to learn about cars, electricity and guns. Flaen seemed to find guns and other weapons fascinating. Josh explained as much as he himself knew about how they worked.
It was after two hours that Josh's other brother, Matt, came home.