For as long as Rozalee remembered in her young life, she has always loved books and stories. Her favorite pastime was to get a book, mostly fairytales and fantasy books, and have her parents read it to her. Her father doted on her that way, always bringing new books to show little Rozalee. She would pick one and they would sit on the couch, sitting her on his lap and open the book. His finger would sometimes run across the pages as he read, helping little Rozalee follow along, teaching her how to recognise words and read while she was captivated by the distant world and fantasy.
They lived in a comfy little two story house: The main entrance lead to a thin hallway with the living room to the left and the doors to the kitchen and dining room up ahead. Stairs that lead up to the bedroom was to the right. There also a patio door on the dining room portion to lead to the backyard, fenced off and thick with grass. Rozalee often spend her time playing here, with a plastic sword in her hand pretending to be a knight fighting off dragons and witches like those in the story.
She still loved being read to, but had been reading on her own too. Sometimes she had gotten into trouble because she spent all night reading and end up falling asleep in class.
"Sweetie, look at you. If you keep sleeping so late you would end up getting sick," her mother said to her one day after picking her up after the mother had spoken to the principal. Rozalee had always been a good girl. When she was five she had fun helping her mother fold laundry, especially the bed sheets. Her and her mother made a little dance and game from daily chores. She even help set the table, mostly just the utensils and napkins, because plates was too heavy for her little arms.
A simple disappointed and concern look on her mother's face sent enough guilt within Rozalee to cause her to look down on the floor, frowing. "Then you end up sleeping in class. You know your teachers are working hard up creating all those activities and lessons to help you learn. You wouldn't like it much if people fall asleep when you are talking right?"
"No," Rozalee pouted, shuffling her feet. "I'm sorry."
"Don't do that again okay? Or else I would have to take those books away from you. You understand?"
"Yes, mommy," she nodded.
"Okay." Her mother brushed her long black hair with her fingers. "Do you want to help with dinner today?"
Rozalee grinned and nodded.
It was tough for her to not read at night, and she had trouble sleeping. "Mommy!" She called out one night.
"What's wrong sweetie?" Her mother asked when got to Rozalee's room.
"I can't sleep."
Her mother laid on the bed next to Rozalee, holding Rozalee in her arms. "Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in, then let it out." Rozalee did as she was told. Her mother's voice was soft and soothing as she continued. "In and out. Keep your mind clear and focus on your breathing. In and out." Rozalee body relaxed as she meditated, then soon fell asleep. Ever since then, Rozalee remembered her mother's soothing lesson and mediated at night to help her sleep.
One day, when she was seven, her parents decided to take a little trip to the Alhambra Public library. They took her once a month ever since she turned six to pick up her own books to read. Everything in the library was a various shade of brown except for the dark colored carpet. The tinted automated glass doors lead into a wide hallway with the bathroom to the right and a little further down was the checkout and reference desk to the left. Straight ahead was several desk with chairs set for people to use and behind that was a computer room. Lines of bookshelves were lined up on both sides. Rozalee went directly to the fiction section to the left, going down aisle after aisle with books from hardcover to paperback. Some had fancy print, others just plain bold black letters, but each had their own story to tell. She loved walking through the library, it was like walking through rows of different possibilities and worlds. She could almost see the different worlds pop out of the books as she read one title after another.
Then, she noticed a non-descriptive little black book, disregarded, on a shelf. It caught her attention, full of mystery. No description or design to give away what would possibly be hidden within. Out of curiosity, she opened the thin, little black book with no title. The moment she opened the cover, the air was sucked from her lungs. Her long black hair was hitting her face. She felt her feet being lifted from the ground and pulled forward into the book. She couldn't breath and shut her eyes tight. Her belly tingled with the sensation of falling and she screamed.
Having landed roughly on her face against the ground, she pushed herself up to see she was no longer in a world she knew. The forest was massive, covered with thick moss. The trees were taller and thicker than anything she had seen or read in books. The forest ground was covered with different colors of green plants and bushes, all bigger than she was. As she looked around, Rozalee noticed a ten foot long and four foot wide centipede, crawling on the trunk of a tree only a few feet in front of her.
She was terrified. All she desired was to scream and cry as she trembled and cowered on the dirt. The terrified little girl, Rozalee, backed away from the centipede she viewed as a monster. She hoped it did not sense her. She felt something poke her back, which made her jump and almost caused her to yelp. She turned around. It was a large black rock, she thought, until hot air blew into her face. She began to inch away from the rock, but remembered the large centipede crawling on the tree behind her. Nowhere to run and unable to cry she sat there, huddling to herself, hoping this was all a bad dream and to wake up in bed, but it wasn't a dream. She started whimpering as tears flowed down her eyes.
Mommy! Daddy! Save me! Where am I? Mommy! Rozalee thought as she shut her eyes tight.
The rock like creature breath was ragged. Rozalee opened her eyes and stared at rock, and heard it grumble, whimpering like her. Suddenly she was less terrified, thinking that this rock creature might also be in pain too. She tried crawling closer to the creature, but she winced in pain when she placed pressure on her hand. She lifted her right hand to see a cut, with blood flowing out. She tried to wipe the blood away on her shirt.
The rock grumbled away a little louder catching Rozalee's attention. She ended up curious of what kind of creature this big rock was. The skin looked glossy and tough, more like black marble than rock with a ripple like pattern. She stood up and looked to the side. It continued beyond the bush, but Rozalee was uncertain how far. She noticed spikes on the bottom digging into the dirt. She unwittingly stepped forward, feeling pity for this unknown creature's labored breaths. She reached forward with her right hand to touch it. It was wet. She lifted her hand to see it stained in black.
Suddenly, the palm of her right hand started to hurt a lot and she fell back onto the ground. Her body felt hot, and her entire right arm felt like it was on fire. There was something slowly cutting into her skin as if to rip it off. Her screams echoed through the forest as she stared at her right hand, which her left hand gripped onto, trying to see what was causing all her pain and saw black marks slowly spreading up her arm. She cried and begged for it to stop as the pain spread up her arm trying to brush off the black that was digging into her skin like thousands of small needles over and over again. It made its way onto the back of her shoulders, then up her neck and onto her face. Her own screams was the only thing she could hear and tears streamed down her open eyes. Saliva drolled out of her mouth since she has been unable to close them. Her head began to hurt as if it was five times too small for her brain, and her skull was threatening to split open underneath her skin. Not a moment was she allowed to fade, to lose consciousness, or to even die. When all was over, her entire left side burned. She couldn't even touch it, or the pain would be much worse. She couldn't even move or cry, even breathing caused pain too. She was far too weak to do anything, but lay in that dirt like a rag doll.
"Human," a deep voice called to her. She tried to look up without moving her head to see the large black rock lift from the ground and moves towards her, revealing its head from the bushes. Rozalee knew what it was the moment she saw it: a dragon. The dragon moved to the side to eye Rozalee still sitting on the floor. "What you have done?" The voice, somehow in her head, sounded irritated. She uttered not a word. It let out a sigh. Rozalee could feel the pity in the dragon's mind.
The dragon said almost reluctantly, "I hereby agree to the contract you have entered by blood with me. From this point forward, for as long as this contract remains, you and I live as one." At that point, Rozalee understood as the information from the dragon's mind pours into her own, if the dragon had not accepted this contract she would die. "My name is Balthazar. You are?"
Rozalee still didn't have the strength to speak, but she said it in her head, trying to get her lips to move. Balthazar pulled his head back and disappeared into the dense forest. Balthazar's human form, a six foot tall man with short, dark hair; sharp, red eyes; and a strong, square jaw. He wore a cream colored cotton shirt, brown wool trousers, and long, brown coat stood in front of her. He removed the coat from his shoulders and wrapped it around her. She had feared it would cause her pain because of large black mark that took the right side of her body, blood lightly streaming from it, but it was really warm and soft. He picked her up into his arms, cradling her like a baby. "Rozalee," he said, "rest, for you have longer days ahead of you."
With absolutely no strength to even argue the idea if she wanted to, she closed her eyes and drifted away. It wasn't so much as sleeping as it was completely passing out from exhaustion and pain. Her breath was light, almost non-existent, but she was still alive.
When she opened her eyes again, slowly, it was dark. Her body ached and she couldn't move a muscle without feeling some kind of stabbing pain somewhere. She gave up her attempt to sit up straight, trying to find out where she was, and laid back down on the ground with labored breaths.
Where am I? Rozalee thought.
You're up? Rozalee looked right and left not seeing a soul. I'm outside right now. I can show you where if you like.
Suddenly an image of the starry night sky with sparse clouds and the dark shadows of trees created by the bright moonlight formed in her mind.
Shhh. Nights are dangerous. Think it like silent reading.
You are talking through my head?
Yes. I apologise, but I also took the liberty to look into your memories.
Her memories. That of her parents, her life, school, friends, and that book.
Close enough for now, I guess. What is it?
Am I ever going to be able to go home?
Most likely not. That book you opened. It doesn't belong there. I'm sorry. You probably won't ever see your parents again.
Her eyes started tearing up and she cried.
Close your eyes.
Just do it.
She closed her eyes. The next thing she was was the endless night sky filled with the twinkly lights of the stars and the bright moon. Underneath was a sea of clouds, ripples of bluish white that was the size of the ocean. It took a moment until she could also feel the cool night breeze through her entire body as if she was the one flying. Are you flying Mister Balthazar?
I can feel it.
Yes, it is. Try sleeping.
The rhythmic sound of the beating of wings, the calmness of the night, and her tired body led her to fall asleep once more, this time far more peacefully.