I am addicted to lying.

...

Okay, not really.

I'm not addicted to it.

It's just fun, is all.

My mom talked to some sort of doctor when I kept getting caught in lies, and they took me in to see some sort of shrink or something when I was a kid. The shrink said I was a pathological liar. He said I needed to learn to stop lying.

Well, I didn't want to stop, so I learned to lie better.

You see, the trick to lying is not getting caught.

Also, you should always ingrain just a smidge of truth in with the lie so it seems more believable. And never forget your lies. Always remember them, and make them vague so you don't get caught up in the details.

At 23, I've become a master of lying, mwahahahaha.

Like just now.

I'm not really 23.

"Rhyse, stop laughing evilly to yourself and get over here!"

I jumped at the sudden interruption, glancing over the back of the couch and across the apartment to my roommate, Ben, who was cooking something in the kitchen.

"I'm not laughing," I replied automatically, turning in my seat and resting my forearms on the back of the couch, watching Ben.

He scoffed, carefully squeezing some icing from a tube onto the cake he was baking.

You see, Ben and I have been roommates for a couple months now. He's studying to be a chef or a baker or something like that, and he makes the most delicious food ever.

He was currently baking a cake for his girlfriend, Michelle. Her birthday was coming up or something, and he was making it for her.

He wanted me to help, but I wasn't having any of it, so why should I help make it?

I flopped sideways onto the couch, staring up at the ceiling.

"Ben," I said, kicking my legs up and into the air. "Your mom called when you were at the store today. She wants you to call her back."

Ben was silent for a moment, then I heard a soft clatter and footsteps walking towards me. After a second, Ben leaned over the back of the couch, staring down at me. He blinked, his eyes locked on mine, before he scoffed, shaking his head.

"No, she didn't," he said.

I grinned. "No," I agreed casually, a little annoyed he'd seen through my lie so easily. "But you should call her, at least. I bet she misses you."

He simply grunted, before going back to his cake.

Feeling a little miffed, I jumped to my feet, then headed towards the front door. "I'm heading out," I called to Ben, tugging on my shoes, jacket, scarf and hat.

"When will you be back?"

"I wont!"

Ben just laughed, so I made sure to slam the door on the way.

But then I paused, cursed, then stormed back inside.

"Forget something?" Ben asked in an amused voice, still focused on his cake.

"No."

I stomped into my bedroom, snatched my wallet off the dresser, shoved it in my pocket, then repeated my dramatic exit once again.

And Ben did not laugh at me as I left.

Outdoors, it was freezing cold.

I honestly had no idea what to do out here in the middle of winter, but I'd figure something out.

Just messing with ya. I already knew where I was going.

The sign above the old pawn shop was fading fast, and I knew Mr. O'Reilly would have to repaint it soon, but he never seemed to actually want to. I think it used to say O'Reilly's, but it was too chipped and warped to read.

The bell above the door rang as I entered, but I couldn't see anyone around, so I shrugged and began browsing around. Mr. O'Reilly had a few new items since I last visited, but nothing really caught my interest until I managed to find myself standing in front of a display case full of jewelry.

Now, usually, I'm not really into antique necklaces, rings, bracelets, and other crap. But, something about that necklace...

I leaned closer, staring at the purple beetle frozen in amber. A ring of gold held the teardrop of amber, connecting the pendant to the thick chain. The chain was long and had no clasp, so I figured it was one of those kinds that you just slipped on over your head.

"Ah, Rhyse!"

I jumped at the voice, turning to look at the shriveled old man coming towards me. Mr. O'Reilly was, like, a thousand years old, wrinkled, stooped, and gray, but he has to be one of the nicest people I've ever met.

I actually feel bad lying to him sometimes.

"See anything interesting?" he asked, grinning at me, his perfectly white teeth flashing. I just knew they were dentures. They had to be.

"Mmm," I shrugged, pulling my gloves off and stuffing them into my pocket. "Just admiring your new items."

Mr. O'Reilly chuckled, nodding his head absently. He glanced passed me at the necklace I'd been ogling, his eyes narrowing and a weird look passing across his face.

"Rhyse," he said slowly, his eyes locked on the necklace. "Did you put that there?"

I blinked, then gave him a look like he was crazy. "Yes," I drawled sarcastically. "I grabbed the necklace, placed it carefully in the locked glass display, and carefully arranged it, all without you knowing."

The old man gave me a shriveling look, but I just grinned whimsically, bouncing on the balls of my feet. Sighing, he scratched his balding head, then unlocked the display and pulled out the necklace.

"This shouldn't be out here," he muttered, shuffling his creaky frame behind the shop's long glass counter.

For the rest of the day, I helped Mr. O'Reilly organize his store, pricing the new items and dusting off the old. A few customers came in, and when O'Reilly was busy, I dealt with them.

I kept coming back to that necklace, though, whenever I had free time. Mr. O'Reilly had left it sitting on his counter, and I couldn't help but stare at it whenever I was nearby. The purple beetle was unlike any bug I'd ever seen before, and, sometimes, I swear I could see it move out of the corner of my eye. But, when I glanced at it, it was still.

When it was time to close up the shop, Mr. O'Reilly left me to count the money in the register as he went around locking everything up and setting everything away. My eyes kept getting drawn to the necklace, and my fingers itched to touch it.

Glancing up, I saw Mr. O'Reilly was busy with one of the stubborn locks on a display, so I took the chance to reach out and let my fingers trace over the smooth amber.

I jerked back as something sharp seemed to pierce my finger. Cursing, I stared at the pad of my index finger, but didn't see anything. Feeling along the skin, I didn't find any splinters, so I carefully and slowly picked up the necklace. When nothing happened, I breathed a small breath of relief, letting the chain slide through my fingers as I set the pendant in my palm.

And then, without a thought, I slipped the chain over my head and around my neck, letting the pendant rest against my chest.

Blinking, I stared down at the beetle, feeling my throat tighten. Something wasn't right, but I couldn't bring myself to remove the necklace.

I heard a small shuffle, and quickly stuffed the necklace down the collar of my shirt, hiding it from view. Taking some money from my wallet, I stuffed it in the till to cover the cost of the necklace, then stepped away and headed towards O'Reilly.

"Hey, Mr. O," I said, patting him on his back. "I'm gonna head home for the night. Anything you need me to do before I leave?"

He glanced around the store, then shook his head, giving me a toothy grin. "Nah, nah, you go on and get. I'll see ya later, got it?"

I felt a little guilty as I left the store and headed back to the apartment. Fingering the pendant through my shirt, I hunched my shoulders as I walked through the cold air, my breath fogging around my head.

Ben was sitting on the couch eating a slice of cake when I finally reached the apartment.

"Hey, Spunky," he said, his mouth full. "The cake's in the fridge if you wanna eat some."

Ben doesn't really have a girlfriend, so no birthday cake (just regular cake). In fact, I think he's gay. I've never really asked him.

Oh, and I guess I should mention I never went to see a therapist when I was a kid. I discovered my "diagnosis" on the internet.

My mom's dead, too. Has been since I was born. Don't know my father. I lived with my Aunt Elsie all my life, but she was a bit of a nut, so I mainly took care of myself.

I guess I became so good at lying because I had to. Whenever social workers came to the house, I had to pretend everything was perfect, and lie my ass off so I didn't get pulled into foster care.

I have a slight suspicion that's why I'm so messed up now.

I grabbed a slice of cake and plopped down next to Ben. He was watching some sort of fashion show, but I wasn't really paying attention. His cake was to die for, it was so good.

"Mmm, Ben, marry me," I moaned as the flavors exploded in my mouth.

"I don't think that's legal here," he muttered, grinning into his cake.

"Then we'll move to Canada, buy a house on a lake, and you can cook me meals for the rest of our short, fat married lives."

Laughing, Ben shook his head, then quickly finished the rest of his cake. We sat in silence for the rest of the TV show, then Ben got up and did the dishes while I cleaned up the living room.

Yawning, we both headed to our rooms for the night. Stripping out of my clothes, I hesitated at the foot of my bed, my hand wrapped around the pendent. Sighing, I left it on, before sliding into bed and closing my eyes.

By the time I woke up the next day, I no longer felt guilty for taking the necklace. I mean, I paid for it, yeah? It's not like I stole it. And I highly doubted it cost that much.

I got up and headed to the kitchen for breakfast after pulling on my pants from yesterday. Yawning, I plopped onto the bar seat and began heaping food onto a plate Ben had waiting for me. He was already chowing down across from me, dressed and wide awake.

"I'm heading to class in a few minutes," Ben said, finishing up his breakfast. "Midterms are coming up, so I'll probably be busy studying for the rest of the week. I probably won't be home much."

"M'kay," I said around a mouthful of food.

Aw, that means no more deliciously cooked meals for a while.

Oh, well. I'll survive.

Somehow.

Ben left not long after that, sticking me with washing the dishes. After I finished those, I lounged around the apartment for a bit, but was soon bored. Sighing, I took a shower, got dressed, and headed out.

I had work tomorrow at my job, and I didn't want to waste the day, but I couldn't think of anything to do. I didn't really feel like going back to Mr. O'Reilly's, so I simply walked along the sidewalk.

By the time my nose was beginning to run from the cold, I was contemplating heading to the movies or some other place warm. Spotting a cool looking little bookstore across the street, I paused, then figured I'd check it out. Maybe I'd find a good fantasy book or something.

Stepping off the curb, I nearly tripped over a plastic bottle, but quickly caught my balance. Glaring down the the offending pile of plastic, I kicked it out of the way, then continued heading towards the bookstore.

The bus came out of nowhere.

The last thing I heard as the vehicle barreled towards me was a terrified scream.

Whether it was a witness or me, I don't think I'll ever know.

I should have looked both ways before crossing the street.


They say, right before you die, your life flashes before your eyes.

Well―ha, the irony―they lied.

Your body freezes, your mind goes blank, your heart stops, and all you think is 'Oh, shit.'

Because getting hit by a bus doesn't really leave you time to contemplate your impending death. I mean, you see it, you have time to think 'Oh, shit,' and then Splat! You're toast. Finished. Pancaked. Flattened.

Dead.

Death.

Ah, yes. The ending of your life. The stopping of your heart and breath. The cooling of your body as rigor mortis sets in and―

Why the fuck am I still aware?

Shouldn't my mind be shutting down or something? And, there was no pain. I'd assume getting hit by a freaking bus would call up some serious pain.

But, other than a sharp burning in the middle of my chest, there was nothing.

And I was breathing. My heart was working. And I think I just moved my finger.

Or, maybe I am dead, but I'm a ghost?

Oh, God. I don't want to be dead! I-I'm still young! Too young to just fucking die! I haven't even had my wisdom teeth removed, or-or my tonsils taken out, or―fuck!―actually done anything with my life!

I can't be dead!

With a jerk, my eyes popped open, then abruptly slammed shut as my eyeballs erupted. Jeezus, it's bright!

Oh, no! Is it that bright light at the end of a tunnel people say you see when you die? I don't wanna go! I want to continue living!

"You can't take me!"

My voice was rusty, and a bit hysterical, but it worked.

It shouldn't work.

I'm dead, aren't I?

B-b-but, I don't want to be dead!

What the hell is going on?

Slowly, I pried my eyes open, letting them adjust to the bright light. After a while, I managed a decent squint.

I was staring up at the sky.

Okay, I could explain that.

I got knocked on my ass by the bus. Maybe I simply got clipped, with no real injuries. O-or, maybe some helpful bystander pulled me to safety, and I just don't remember that part.

But...I hear birds.

And was that a horse that just neighed?

No. I'm hallucinating. That's all. I'm in the hospital, jumped up on drugs, high as a kite. I'm hearing things.

But how do you explain the blue sky? And, hell, is that a tree in the corner of my eye.

Steeling myself, I slowly turned my head to the side, my eyes uncomprehending.

Swallowing, I let my eyes slide shut, denying what I saw.

I mean, there was no way in hell I could possibly be laying in the middle of a fucking field!

Okay. There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Totally.

I just couldn't think of one.

Come on, Rhyse. Pull yourself together and deal with the situation. Find out what happened.

But, to do that, you need to get up and look around. Find someone and ask what the hell is going on.

Taking a shaky breath, I opened my eyes and slowly sat up, my head spinning. Grabbing my head to keep it from spinning off my neck, I cautiously looked around, frowning as my eyes roved over my new surroundings.

I was sitting in the middle of a field, with the tree line of what looked like a forest to my left, and open plains with rolling hills to my right. In front of me about 200 yards away was a small river, with a little wooden house situated right next to it. I didn't see any people, but I spotted a few horses and cows in the distance.

Okay. I was on a farm. I could deal with this. I'll head to the house, ask if I can use their phone, then call Ben and tell him to come get me.

Uh, after I figure out where I'm actually at.

After a few false starts, I managed to stagger to my feet, swaying a bit as I was hit with another wave of dizziness. Once I managed to stand without feeling like I was gonna fall on my face, I assessed my body.

Wiggling my fingers, I deemed them workable, then began poking and prodding various parts of my body. I was a little sore in some places, but nothing major. Lifting my shirt, I examined my stomach, then lifted it higher and glanced at my chest

Holy shit!

Smack in the middle of my chest was a giant bruise, a nasty mix or green, purple, blue and yellow. Grimacing, I grabbed the pendant on my necklace to move it out of the way, then yelped as it suddenly seemed to pulse against my palm.

Shrieking in a most un-manly manner, I jerked my hand away, staring down at the necklace. Feeling my heart race and fear holding me still, I watched in growing horror as the beetle inside the amber began to move, clawing it's way free from it's confines. With a quiet buzz, it took off, flying away into the distance until it was nothing but a purplish speck in the sky.

Bewildered, I tentatively poked at the destroyed pendant, but when it didn't attempt to bite me or something, I picked it up more confidently. Turning it this way and that, I looked at it, not sure what to do with it. Should I keep it? Or toss it?

I mean, it was broken, not to mention, the supposedly dead beetle embedded in it freakin' came to life and flew away.

Sighing, I shook my head, then let it rest against my bruised chest. Thankfully, the bruise didn't hurt, but it was a little discerning having a huge black thing on my chest.

Letting my shirt down, I adjusted it a bit, then began walking towards the distant house.

It occurred to me halfway there that I was missing my winter jacket, scarf, hat and gloves. Thankfully, it seemed to be warm at the moment (I studiously ignored the fact that it seemed to be summer, while it should still be winter), so I wasn't cold in my t-shirt, jeans, sneakers and miscellaneous metal bracelets and rings adorning my wrists and hands.

By the time I reached the house, I was sweating beneath the hot sun. I breathed in relief as I escaped the cruel rays by hiding in the shade made by the house. Trying to make myself look presentable, I ran my fingers through my black hair, styling it the best as I could, then straightened my clothes. Clearing my throat, I stood straight and confident (though I was anything but) and resolutely knocked on the door.

After a few seconds, I heard some scuffling inside, then footsteps. A sudden fear that I was knocking on the door of a serial killer ran through my head, but before I could rethink my half-assed plan, the door was opened by a guy in costume.

I knew it was a costume because there is no way someone would possibly be wearing a tunic and breeches.

Medieval clothes.

Most definitely not 21st century clothes.

"Uh," I muttered smartly, blinking like crazy. "H-hi...?"

The man blinked back at me, his eyes widening as they roamed over my face, then skimmed down my body.

With a wordless cry, he abruptly slammed the door in my face.

Stunned, I stood there for a moment like an idiot, then knocked on the door again. "Uh, hey!" I called. "W-wait a minute! I'm lost! I was just wondering if I could borrow your phone really quick!"

I was met with silence.

Taking a confused step back, I poked at my face, but didn't find anything obviously wrong. I mean, I was a bit of a metal-head, yeah, but that didn't mean he had to slam the door in my face!

Then again, maybe I was at some sort of Medieval theme park. My various piercings (snake bites, lip ring, nose ring, eyebrow ring, piercings all the way along the shell of my ear, and some piercings you couldn't see while I was dressed) might be so against the theme, that maybe the 'characters' didn't know what to do with me.

The theory was so far fetched, I had a hard time believing it myself, but I clutched the idea to keep from freaking out.

Looking around, I couldn't spot any other houses nearby, so I turned back to the door and began banging on it.

"Okay, this isn't funny!" I yelled. "Dude, I'm seriously lost! All I need is to borrow the phone for a sec, then I'll go away forever!"

Yet again, I heard nothing but silence.

Sighing, I growled, then reached for the door handle. There was no lock, so all I had to do was push the door inward, and it easily swung open.

It was gloomy inside, and it took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I managed to make out five people cowering together against the far wall, looking at me with wide, terrified eyes.

Blinking, we stared at each other for a few seconds in silence. It was obviously a family, with a mom, dad, two boys and a little girl, all dressed in Medieval clothes. The little girl suddenly began crying, burying her face in her mother's stomach.

"Aw, shit," I muttered. I may be a liar, but that doesn't mean I like making little girls cry. "Look," I said, trying to look non-threatening. "I'm from the magical land of, uh, Shangri La. May I borrow a, um, communication device to connect with someone from my homeland?"

God, I was pulling this right out of my ass. But, who knows? Maybe they'll be more cooperative if I play along.

The man stepped forward, placing himself in front of his family. "We-we have nothing of value," he said, his voice shaky but controlled. He had a weird accent that I couldn't place, and his words were a little hard to understand, but I managed to make out what he was saying.

I blinked at him. "I don't want anything," I said slowly. "I just need to borrow a phoer, a communication device."

The man shook his head. "We have nothing like that."

I sighed. This act was getting increasingly annoying with ever second that passed. I just wanted to go home, and pretend none of this ever happened.

"Look," I said, crossing my arms and glaring at him, my voice clipped and strained. "Cut the act. This is serious. It's an emergency. I need to borrow a phone. I'm lost, and I just want to get home."

The man took a deep breath, then shook his head. "There is no, uhm, phone here."

Growling, I began tapping my foot. "Where can I find one?"

The man eagerly jumped on my question. "The capital! The merchants sell everything, from all lands, at the market."

Dammit. More walking.

"How far is it?" I asked.

"Three day's travel."

I gaped. "Three days? Shit, is it on the other side of the country or something?"

The man gave me a confused look. "No, it is across the plains, to the west, at the base of the mountain."

That sounded like directions for a treasure hunt or something. I turned my head and stared across the land, spotting the mountain range in the distance.

"Wait, that takes three days? It shouldn't be more than a couple hours to drive there!" I exclaimed.

I was getting a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and when I glanced back at the man's confused expression, the feeling grew.

"...Right?" I asked in a small voice.

"By horse, it might simply take a few days, but there is no faster way," he said simply.

Swallowing a lump in my throat, I glanced back at the mountains. Looking around, I tried to find something, anything, that indicated I was in the right century.

No roads. No cars. No power lines. No airplanes.

Nothing.

Slumping against the side of the doorway, I grabbed my stomach as I suddenly felt sick, my gut twisting.

"Oh, God," I moaned. "Impossible. This is a dream. This is not happening!"

Gasping, I stumbled away from the house. Falling to my knees, I felt my head begin to spin as my breakfast tried to make it's way back up, but I resolutely kept it down.

Peeking through my bangs, I stared bleakly around at the landscape, looking at it realistically. I should have known. There's no way this much land could possibly be untouched by modern society. There should be airplanes flying overhead, roads and power lines in the distance, hell, electricity!

Instead, there was grass, bugs, dirt and animals.

Medieval life.

Toto, we ain't in Kansas anymore.


I admit, I might have had a bit of a meltdown after my little revelation. Pacing and yelling, shaking my fist at the sky, and a bunch of other unsightly things.

But, I had a right to do that! I mean, I was entitled to a small freak-out!

Waking up in another time gives you quite a bit of leniency from politeness and being calm.

Once I wore myself out, I flopped onto the ground and laid on my back, staring up at the slowly darkening sky. Feeling my eyes begin to burn, I quickly shut them.

I should be home right now, with Ben cooking dinner, the TV on as background noise, the heater rattling, and the smell of spices filling the apartment. Not here, where bugs buzzed in the air, animals roamed free, people dressed funny, and there was no electricity.

Oh, God. No phone.

How-how will I get home? I can't be stuck here forever!

Jumping to my feet, I began to pace, trying to think of a way to get home, but, other than asking a freakin' wizard, I had no plausible ideas.

I felt like crying.

"H-hey."

I jumped, then turned towards the timid voice.

It was one of the little boys. He was standing in the doorway, his father standing behind him protectively.

"Yeah?" I asked, my voice depressingly weak.

The boy glanced at his father, then back at me. "U-um, it'll be night soon."

I blinked at him. Oh, yeah. Night. Dark. Sleep. I need a place to sleep.

"Oh," I said.

The boy licked his lips, then took a step towards me. "Are you a demon?"

I gave an abrupt bark of laughter at the absurdity of it. Me? A demon? Are you kidding? Ha! I wish. If I was a demon, I'd have the power to get out of here and go home.

"No," I said instead, shaking my head. "I'm human."

Nodding resolutely, the boy walked up to me and grabbed my hand. "We have an extra pallet you can sleep on."

Touched, I blinked my burning eyes, clearing my throat. "U-um, thank you," I said softly.

He tugged me after him into the tiny house, his father giving me a warning look. I nodded at him, then turned and looked around the house.

It wasn't much to look at.

It was one large room, with a stove in the corner, a few (what I guessed were) pallets, a small rickety table, a shelf with little stones and other miscellaneous tokens on it, a bucket, and a wash basin. The fireplace was small and placing in one wall, and there was only one window.

If I was being nice, I'd call it cozy.

But, it was a roof over my head, so who was I to complain?

The boy showed me to a pallet in the corner of the room, indicating I should sit on it. The little girl and other little boy were both sitting on a separate pallet, watching me with wide, cautious eyes. I gave them a little wave, but that seemed to scare them even more, so I let my hand drop and sat still.

The mother kept glancing at me as she cooked something in the fireplace, but made no move to talk to me. Occasionally, she'd whisper to her husband, making me feel uncomfortable.

Dinner was some kind of soup, with vegetables and a tasteless broth, but I made sure to thank the mother for dinner.

By bedtime, I think the family had finally relaxed a bit around me. I still didn't know why they were so freaked out about me, but I made sure to be super polite and nonthreatening.

They let me borrow a shirt and some loose pants, and I awkwardly changed as they did the same. Jeez, it was like the high school locker room all over again, except with girls and kids.

I felt a little better once we settled into bed and everyone slowly went quiet. I had a hard time falling asleep, and when I did, my dreams were filled with nightmares.

I was the first awake the next morning. Heading out to the river, I dunked my head in the cold water, gasping as I wrung the water out of my hair. Wiping my eyes, I swished some water around my mouth to get rid of the nasty morning breath, then spat it all out. Straightening, I shook my head, then went back inside the little house.

The mother was up. I think I remember hearing the husband call her Gwen. She stared hard at me as I walked in the door and went back to my pallet, grabbing my clothes. I said a pleasant, "Good morning," but she merely nodded.

Taking my clothes outside, I got redressed in them, folding the borrowed clothes. Heading back it, I set them on the table, then sat in one of the chairs.

"Um," I said hesitantly. "Thank you for your hospitality."

After a second, Gwen gave me a small, weak smile, nodding, then went back to cooking breakfast.

The rest of the family soon got up after that, leaving the house to go to their chores or something, I guess. Feeling a little awkward being left alone with Gwen, I went back outside and sat down against the wall of the house, watching as the father fed the various animals with the help of his sons. The little girls was gathering flowers in the nearby garden.

You know, for being sucked into an alternate time, this wasn't so bad.

Although, I still would have preferred someplace with TV.


I stayed at the little house with Gwen, Thad, and their children for a month.

I didn't know what else to do.

I was in a strange time and land, and I had no idea how to survive on my own. A small stint in boy scouts was the extent of my knowledge of survival, and I mainly learned how to tie good knots and that girl scouts were highly competitive.

Also, I had no money.

I mean, I couldn't go around waving green paper at people when their currency is probably gold or something. They'd think I was insane.

Hell, I'm still wondering if I'm insane.

I often wondered if Ben was worrying about me. He was the only real friend I had, not to mention my roommate. He'd notice if I was gone, yeah?

But what could he do? Call up the Wizard Express and magic me back home?

Ha!

I was stuck.

I was fucked.

"Rhyse! Rhyse!"

I glanced up from where I was sitting behind the little girl, Bida, braiding her hair. The two boys, Jern and Frein, where running towards me, equal expressions of excitement on their faces.

Skidding to a stop, they plopped down on the ground beside me, eagerly talking over each other. I finished up Bida's braid as they chattered, then turned to the two boys.

I held up my hand, then simply said, "Stop."

They shut up, but continued to wiggle in excitement.

"Okay," I continued. "What happened?"

They began to tell me of their adventures in the nearby forest. They'd spotted a bunch of different animals, and spent the time describing them all to me in great detail.

After lunch, they dragged me off after them into the forest. Jern, the older of the two boys, was teaching me how to use a bow and arrow to hunt.

Not to brag or anything, but I was pretty good at it.

I've been able to hit my target every time now. I don't always hit it right in the middle, bit still. I hit it.

We've been able to have meat for dinner now, rather than just vegetables.

By the time we made it back to the house, it was getting dark. We had a dinner of soup, with meat from one of the birds I'd shot. After that, we got ready for bed, curling up on our pallets and slipping off to dreamland.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

I jerked awake, my eyes wide as I looked around the dark room. Sitting up, I squinted as Thad, the father of the family, lit a small lantern. Frowning, he walked over to the window and stared outside, his eyes suddenly widening as he caught a view of the visitor.

Yanking the door open, he gave a quick bow, then said, "Sir Knight! Wha-what"

"Farmer," the maner, knight, I guesssaid, nodding at Thad. "I am sorry to awaken you and your family, but I am searching for someone."

I could feel Gwen's eyes on me, but she didn't say anything. Carefully, I scuttled into the corner where the light didn't reach, leaving it in darkness.

I had a freakin' knight looking for me! That couldn't be good.

"Searching for someone?" Thad asked, his voice light. "What for? Anything my family should worry about?"

"No, no," the knight said quickly, shaking his head. "Nothing serious. Mage Kira has simply told us to search for someone. It's nothing dangerous."

I perked up at the word 'Mage.'

Mage, like wizard? Is there magic in this world?

Could I get home?

Thad licked his lips, then glanced at me. The way he responded to the 'Mage Kira' thing made me think this mage was someone important.

"Have you seen anyone recently?" the knight asked.

I debated for a second, then figured maybe I could meet this mage and figure out what the hell happened to me. After redressing in my own clothes, I walked up to the door, standing behind Thad. Sensing my presence, he stepped out of the way, letting me and the knight get a clear view of each other.

I was expecting silver armor, a white steed in the background, and maybe even a procession.

What I got was a man in armor, yes, but not the kind I was thinking of. Leather shoulder, chest and stomach guards, along with metal gauntlets on his forearms, thick pants, black boots, and a sword strapped to his hip. A boring brown horse stood a few yards away, and there was only two other men traveling with the knight.

Wow. Don't I feel special.

I flicked my eyes back to the knight, and saw him staring at my clothes. I had washed my shirt and jeans in the river, so they were clean, and obviously not something you'd find in medieval times.

"Uh, you lookin' for me?" I asked.

Blinking at me, the knight quickly recovered, hiding his surprise. "I believe we are."

"Alrighty, then," I muttered. "So, er, what happens now? We going to see that mage guy?"

"Yes. Mage Kira wishes to see you immediately," the knight said.

Nodding, I tilted my head. "We leaving right now? You should know, though, I've never ridden a horse. And there is no way in hell I am walking miles away to wherever we're going."

"You shall ride on my horse," he said.

"M'kay," I agreed lightly. "But I don't do side-saddle."

Goodbye was hard. Bida ended up bursting into tears, while the boys didn't want to let go. Jern gave me his bow and arrows for my journey, and I nearly lost it. Hugging everyone, I finally waved goodbye as I followed the knight to his horse and the other two men.

"Oh," I exclaimed as we reached the group. "My name is Rhyse, by the way."

The knight nodded, then pointed to the two other men and himself. "That is Hollin," he said, pointing to a red-haired guy dressed in what looked like robes of some sort. "And that is Gunther," he said, indicating a beefy guy carrying an axe. Yikes. Not the kind of guy you'd want to meet on a street in the middle of the night.

"And I," the knight said, leaping up into the horse's saddle, "am Xeno."

"Nice to meet y'all," I muttered, struggling awkwardly up into the saddle behind Xeno.

Jesus, I was not meant to ride horses. I winced with every jarring step the horse took as we began heading towards the far away mountains.

Good thing I didn't plan on having kids.

It was morning barely an hour later. We stopped at a small town for breakfast. I guess knights were revered here in this world, because we got the best seat in the dingy little tavern, a hot meal (if a little tasteless), and we didn't have to pay!

We spent the rest of the day traveling in relative silence. I tried a few times (unsuccessfully, I might add) to strike up a conversation with the knight and his fellow travelers, but their curt answers kind of withered my urge to talk.

The rest of the day passed like that. We camped outside (horror of horrors. I found a spider in the blanket they let me borrow. I don't think I impressed them with my manly shriek), then started off against bright and early the next day.

We reached the capital just as it was getting dark again. We traveled along a road winding through the outskirts of the town, passing shops, stalls and houses closing up for the night. The road was cobbled, the houses were wooden, and there were intermittent wells spaced out along the road.

It was like the town was out of a medieval movie.

Just as it turned fully dark, we passed through a ginormous gate and into a courtyard.

Must have reached the castle, because there was nothing else I could call the giant gray stone building towering ahead. Towers and turrets, flags waving in the breeze, windows dotting along the walls, guards stationed on every conceivable flat surface.

It was magnificent.

We dismounted in a circular-type area covered in some sort of smooth stone. I winced as my feet hit the ground, waddling around a bit as feeling returned to my legs and my thighs proceeded to burst into flame.

Okay, not really, but it felt like it.

I was not meant to ride a horse!

"Traveler Rhyse," Xeno said (they kept calling me "Traveler Rhyse" rather than just "Rhyse." It was getting really annoying). "We shall leave you here. Please follow the servant to your room. You shall be called upon in a few candle marks."

And with that, I was dismissed.

Xeno and the other two men led their horses to what I guessed was the stable, while a servant/maid person popped out of nowhere and bowed to me.

"Please follow me, sir," she said, then led me towards the castle.

We entered through a side door into the castle, passing through the kitchen filled with cooks, er, cooking something. The room was hot and filled with the scent of sweat and food, making me nearly gag.

After that, we traversed through several more rooms filled with people milling about, some in servant clothing, others in elaborate dresses or suits. Feeling mussed and dirty, I studiously ignored the people and walked through the rooms with my head held high as if I belonged, and screw them if they made something of my raggedy clothes.

I'm guessing we finally reached our destination, because the servant stopped outside a wooden door in a short, deserted hallway.

"This is your room, sir," she said, curtsying. "If you need anything, there is a bell right inside the door. Ring it, and someone will come."

Giving a curt nod, I shouldered open the heavy door, then gaped as my eyes landed on the room beyond.

A plush rug covered nearly the entire floor, while a sitting area had been set aside on one side of the room, complete with a small table, two cushioned chairs, and a couch surrounding a fireplace. A canopied bed was resting against the far wall, with a giant armoire against another wall. Paintings and tapestries hung from the walls, while gold flashed on nearly every corner, inlaid on the walls and mantle.

"Jesus," I muttered, my eyes no doubt wide as saucers.

The servant had the mind to close the door behind me, leaving me in solitude, for which I was thankful. Wouldn't be seemly to wander around a room with your mouth hanging open.

Flopping onto the couch, I groaned as I sunk into the cushion, feeling like I was on a cloud.

Man, I could get used to this.

Letting my head fall back, I kicked off my sneakers, then proceeded to mold myself to the couch.

Of course, now that I was alone, my thoughts finally caught up with me.

I knew this couldn't go on forever. There's been some sort of mistake. This is obviously a room for rich people, er, royalty. And I'm neither.

I was dragged here because a mage wants to see me. I wonder if he knows I'm from a different world? Would they think I was a terrorist or something if they found out, and lock me up?

Oh, oh! What if they think I'm a god or something, sent from the heavens to defeat an evil dragon or something?

Should I lie?

Or tell them the truth?

...Well, I guess it all depends on how much they know about me.

We'll just have to see then, ay? Have to meet the mage, talk to him, and figure out what the hell I'm doing here.

And, with that solid plan in my mind, I promptly fell asleep.