A World Like No Other…
When a newly formed group of friends finds themselves fighting for survival, little did they know that was just the beginning.
When Chloe, Megan, Jason and Zach are forced to take cover in a nearby cave from a violent storm they find their new friend Preston there as well. Zach guides the group through the cave but as they go deeper strange things begin to happen and they find themselves separated in a magical kingdom surrounded by unusual people and wizards. Things get even more dangerous as they travel the kingdom in search of the city of Mere and each other.
As their journey unfolds, Preston discovers that the bedtime stories he was told as a child are true and that his rightful place in time must be realized. The kingdom itself has gone under attack as Jacan, a traitor to the crown, forces his armies through the magical borders.
Looking back Preston should have recognized that it was all real. He should have seen the signs. But how could he have known? After all, Jacan was just a villain in a story that took place in a far off mystical land. How could he have imagined that the stories that his father told him as a child were true?
How could any of them have known that their destinies were already written, and that to discover who they really are would take courage that they never realized they had?
CHAPTER ONE PREVIEW
CHAPTER ONE PREVIEW
“Nebula has been defeated, Sire. We must get you out of here immediately!” said a tall, muscular man.
The King looked up from his throne, the signs of exhaustion clearly visible in the dark lines surrounding his pale, blue eyes.
“Is there no other way?” he asked the man.
“No, Sire, we must leave now,” the man repeated. “Jacan is nearly at the gate.”
The King rose quickly and walked toward the front entrance of the grand hall. He turned to give his beautiful castle one last look. A boy of no more than three ran up to the King, his father, and jumped into his arms. A beautiful woman holding a baby girl followed the boy, stopping at the King’s side. The tall, muscular man, who was dressed in a bright red robe, black pants, and a white V-necked tunic, raised both hands above his head, and the family disappeared.
The kingdom in the clouds, that’s what it was named after. Nebula was a beautiful city full of happy people, marketplaces, gardens, and one of the most beautiful castles ever built. Each stone changed color depending on the way the sun shone on it that day. Each spire looked as though it was spun delicately on a loom, and the dark blue color made it even more enchanting. The five turrets were around ten stories tall, each one encircled by a golden ring. In the center was a lush garden full of wildflowers, daisies, and bluebells. The water features trickled down stone-cut designs, and soft benches were placed strategically around for any extra relaxation one might need. However, this kingdom was different than any other; it was a kingdom that was built literally on top of the clouds. It went wherever the wind blew it, never staying in one place for too long.
Unfortunately, the once beautiful city was now being devoured by Jacan and his army of Umbra. The houses that had been built meticulously by the hands of their previous owners were now either being lived in by the terrible black-clothed beasts or simmering ash from the recent raid. Jacan had won over the entire Kingdom of Nebula. The King and Queen, along with their children, had sounded the retreat and disappeared.
Jacan was furious that they got away and vowed that he would find them, if it was the last thing he did. You see, he was once the Duke of Calidity, a prosperous city in the Kingdom of Nebula. The King trusted him and considered him his right-hand man. When the King received the news about Jacan’s betrayal, he was furious and put a warrant out for his arrest. However, the man he once thought a friend was nowhere to be found. The kingdom was told of a possible attack, and nearby kingdoms were informed of the betrayal, but no one expected the nightmares that had haunted them as children would become real.
Jacan discovered a way to gain power over the Umbra, dark fearsome creatures that lived and strived in the shadows. They were nearly impossible to kill, only able to die from the poison of a bilian plant. These plants were only found in the waters of the Todswan River, but you have to ask a very strange creature to get it for you, because if a human were to pick the plant, he would have bad luck brought upon himself. They have bright blue petals and prickly stems. Once you have the plant, you rub the thorns up and down the sharpened sword until the blade glows blue. One thorn will cover an entire sword and also the tips of the arrows in a quiver.
Once Jacan had these powerful creatures, he knew that he had the power to defeat Nebula and someday the entire Kingdom of Mere. He planned his attack carefully, finding the smallest towns first, destroying them, and getting even more recruits from captives. He would threaten the stronger men to fight with him, or he would destroy their families. The smaller cities in the kingdom were very weak and had only a few guards, so destroying them was no difficult task. Jacan’s army grew larger and larger and soon his army was so large, you could see it from miles away.
People in the kingdom became frightened of their own shadows, and would only leave their homes at noon day when few shadows were cast amongst them. The King called together his army to go out and meet them, to fight for their homes, their land, and their families. He himself mounted his horse and suited in armor. Wizards were called to assist and thousands of arrows were made, hundreds of swords were forged, and tunnels were dug through the clouds to protect the women and children.
The King’s army rode forward, not knowing if they would live to see their families again. Fear showing on their armored faces, they marched on. Soon it was time to fight; the army of Jacan was only a hill away. Their numbers were scarce compared to that of their enemy, but they were ready. The King raised his sword, and the archers stepped forward and aimed their arrows at the enemy. With a movement of his sword, the archers released their arrows and they went whizzing toward the beasts in black. Jacan did the same and the arrows of his men flew straight toward the good people of Nebula. The arrows hit their targets, many of the King’s soldiers fell, and many more were injured. However, none of the arrows of the King’s warriors killed their enemy. They were simply thrown aside, and Jacan sent forth his army.
At the time, the King knew nothing of the special poison needed to kill the black beasts, and with each slash he made with his sword into his enemy, the wound inflicted would immediately heal. The wizards set up guards around the King’s army, protecting them as much as they could, but the forces were too strong. By the time the King called for retreat, he’d lost hundreds of his men, and not a single enemy had been destroyed by their swords. The wizards did manage to kill a few dozen of the enemy with magic, but magic is very draining, and without rest, will kill the person using it.
The survivors, including the King, returned to the city of Nebula, and the King called for immediate evacuations. He informed his people that the Kingdom of Nebula was no longer safe and they needed to seek refuge among the other kingdoms in the world. The people quickly packed their valuables and began their descent toward the kingdoms on the ground. It wasn’t easy to get there; you needed a wizard to make the clouds go lower to the ground, creating fog so you could easily get on land.
The wizards began working together to get the people down, but Jacan’s army came too quickly. Few escaped; most that did retreated to other kingdoms with their families. Some hid themselves in the lowering clouds. The King and Queen knew it was time for them to retreat as well. Nevertheless, the King promised that one day he would find a way to defeat Jacan’s army and gain control of his kingdom once more. He vowed he would save his people from captivity, and destroy Jacan.
The wizards transported the royal family to the Kingdom of Mere, where they were looked after by the King and Queen of Mere. Immediately, the entire kingdom became a target for Jacan’s army. All the wizards of both Mere and Nebula called a counsel to search for ways to defeat the army of Jacan and protect the Kingdom of Mere. Hours went by, and nothing had been established. The wizards talked well into the night and through the next day. Each hour they talked, Jacan grew closer to the entrance of the kingdom.
Finally, after two days of debate, they found a solution to protect Mere and also possibly defeat Jacan. It wasn’t going to be easy; they would have to put a protection spell over the entire kingdom. No one would be able to come in or out unless they held the key to the gateway. Only four people would have that key, and no one except those four would know how to get in and out. They also sealed a marriage between the two kingdoms. The King of Nebula gave his eldest son, while the King of Mere gave his only daughter. Once they were married, the two…
“Dad, why are you telling me this story again? I’m not a child anymore,” Preston said as they sat by the fire in their log cabin.
Preston’s family had lived here since Preston could remember. He had grown up here. They lived on the banks of a large lake in the Rocky Mountains—Mirror Lake. It was so beautiful. The water was so clear you could see the fish swimming through the dead logs at the bottom.
Preston loved it here. His dad had told him they moved here after his grandparents passed away and left them the two cabins. One was where they lived. The other was across the lake and was always made up for anyone who might want to visit, although Preston couldn’t remember any visitors ever staying there. He would occasionally use it as his fortress when he was a small boy, where he would pretend to fight off the evil Jacan and his army of black soldiers from his father’s stories.
He had no idea why his dad brought up this story again. He had heard it many times before, along with many others about the wonderful creatures that lived in his fairy tale of an imagination. Each time the story became longer and more detailed.
“I just thought we might enjoy a blast from the past. It’s been awhile since we’ve had time to sit around the fire together,” his father responded.
Preston's mother rose from her favorite armchair and walked to the kitchen. She placed a tea kettle on the stove and heated up some water.
“I love your stories, dear, they make me feel so young,” she replied.
“I’m just too old for these stories now,” said Preston. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I had a blast as a boy playing the King of Nebula and fighting the fearsome Jacan, but I’m almost eighteen now. Isn’t it time to grow up?” He couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his tone.
His father smiled at him.
“Well, you never know when my stories of war might be helpful,” he said jokingly.
Preston laughed and took the cup of hot chocolate out of his mother’s soft hands.
“Oh, we forgot to tell you, son, the other cabin is going to be occupied for two weeks. We’ve decided to rent it out during the summer,” his mother said.
Preston nearly choked.
“Really?” he asked. “I’ve never seen anyone else up here, except of course a few hikers that come wandering out of the woods completely lost and looking for water and food.”
Jennifer, Preston’s mother, laughed. “Yeah, that cabin has been empty far too long. They should be here tomorrow sometime.”
Preston blew on his hot chocolate and took a large sip. He couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have someone else around for two whole weeks. He wasn’t really around people that often. Only when he and his parents drove the two hours out of the mountain to a nearby city once every couple of months to restock their food supply had he ever even seen other people.
“We need to go and make sure that the beds are made and there’s plenty of firewood for them. I figured we would go right after lunch,” his father said. “I also want to make sure that they have a boat. Would you mind letting them borrow your canoe for a while?”
Preston nodded. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow. He only hoped that they had kids around his age. It would be great to take them hiking or swimming and show them all the cool caves. And maybe they would have one of those handheld Nintendo things that ran on batteries. He had always wanted one, but his dad said they were too expensive. He saw one in a magazine in the city once and had wanted to at least have a chance to play one someday. He could even remember the game that was being sold with the system: “Zelda.” He couldn’t believe they had games that would let the characters use swords.
“Preston, are you ready to work?” his dad asked, bringing him back to reality.
“Uh, sure, are we going to get more firewood?” he asked, clearing his throat and setting his empty cup of cocoa on the small coffee table.
“Yeah, we are running a little low, and the wind is telling me there’s a storm coming.”
Preston was always amazed at how well his father predicted the weather. He was nearly always right, but sometimes some weird storm would blow in and they would be caught completely off guard and have to bunker down under the staircase in case a tree blew down.
He quickly put on his boots and a light jacket. His father opened the door and walked out into the bright sunshine. It was a beautiful day; the sun was warm. Preston always enjoyed being outside. Ever since he was a little boy, he loved playing near the water, hiking, going fishing, or even just lying in the warm sand along the beach of the lake.
His father handed him an ax and Preston quickly went to work chopping wood, his thoughts never leaving the excitement that was only twenty-four hours away.