Landon woke up feeling sore all over. His shoulders hurt, his back hurt, but worst of all his ankle hurt. It didn’t help that his hands had been tied behind a pole, his wrists lashed together. He had hoped as he had drifted off to sleep last night that maybe he would wake up to find all of this some sort of crazy nightmare. That didn’t happen. He was tied up in a tent to the main pole. A small fire burned away in a pit somewhere behind him, but it was not needed. The morning was already very warm and he wished he could pull off his hoodie.
Somewhere in the distance he could hear the voices of people. He even made out the sound of children playing not too far away. He wondered what his mom was thinking right now. She was probably waking up and finding him not in his bed. He hoped that she wouldn’t worry too much. He was probably going to be really in for it when he finally got home.
The tent flap pulled back and two familiar figures walked in along with three others that were not so familiar. Derrick and Jeff strolled up to him looking him over. Derrick had his arms wrapped across his chest.
Odd, Landon thought. He was so sure last night their eyes had been bright yellow. But now Derrick’s eyes were a perfect green and Jeff’s was brown. They were still dressed strangely.
“If we untie you, think you can behave?” Derrick’s voice rumbled.
Landon glared up at him. “I’m a twelve year old kid. What the heck am I going to do?”
The other men chuckled earning a few dark looks from Derrick and Jeff. Jeff walked around and untied the bindings. Landon winced as he rubbed at them. They ropes hadn’t chaffed the skin, but the blood rushing back didn’t feel too nice. “I need to get home. My mom’s going to be worried. There’s laws against kidnapping kids, you know.”
Jeff chuckled and dropped to one knee grabbing Landon’s chin. “Kid’s got a bit of a mouth on him, doesn’t he? How about we start with your name and then we’ll worry about moms and kidnapping.”
Landon blanched and jerked his chin away. He suddenly wasn’t too sure how much he should tell these guys. He had once watched a horror show where a killer had traced back to a house just by the kid giving his last name. “L-Landon,” he said hesitantly.
“And what are you doing here, Landon? Humans can’t normally get on this side.”
“I don’t understand. What side? This is my grandma’s woods.” He paused and stared between them feeling even more unsure suddenly. “Aren’t they?”
“You’re in Delancia, kid. You crossed the barrier of the fairies. You’re not in your world anymore.”
“How did you get here?” Derrick’s voice asked, breaking over Jeff’s. “What did you do last night that wound you up here?”
To hell with killers and protecting himself. Somehow he didn’t think these guys were making this up and he was starting to panic. “I just followed a girl! That’s all. Look, yesterday I met some girl in my grandma’s woods. I woke up last to her and some other kid in my room. I thought they were robbers. They took my necklace but when I realized who she was I chased after her. Her name was Kite and I… I think the other kid’s name was Jasper.”
“Kite and Jasper?” Jeff said startled.
A groan passed through the men and even Derrick reached up to rub the bridge of his nose. “Kite. I should have known she would be behind this. Her father should have tethered her down the day she came back after stealing from the Book of Lore from the accursed lands.” He turned around to one of the men behind him. “Go alert the Hawk and Rabbit tribes. They’ll want to hear about this.”
Hawk and Rabbit tribes? The man that Derrick had been talking to bowed and ducked out of the tent. “Ok, my turn,” Landon announced, pulling courage from where he wasn’t too sure. “If I really am in another land… can I get back?”
The corners of Derrick’s mouth lifted into a smile. “Fortunately, human, yes. That will be easily arranged. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I can’t understand how a human got through in the first place,” Jeff said. “Magical creatures can get through, but not humans. You don’t think the fairy’s spell is weakening?”
“Without the fairies to tend it, it’s a possibility. But I’m not fully convinced that our Landon here is as human as he claims to be.”
“Excuse me?” Landon demanded.
“There’s something else about you, boy. It’s buried deep. I could be wrong, but there’s just the tiniest trace of magic in you.”
“Magic? Like… for real magic?” Already Landon’s mind was taking flight. All the video games and books he had ever read danced in his mind. “Wait – so are you guys magic? Like… are you wizards or something?”
The men burst out laughing and Derrick shook his head. “No, kid. Nothing like that. There are wizards, yes, but you won’t find any here. We’re shape shifters.”
“Shape shifters? Like… what do you mean? You can change into somebody else.”
“Something else. Particularly an animal. One animal. We’re the Squirrel tribe.”
It was hard for Landon not to laugh. Looking around the room he tried to imagine these men suddenly changing into tiny squirrels. But the memory of last night and Jeff’s skill with rescuing him it suddenly didn’t seem quite so funny. “Wait, so Kite is…?”
“From the Hawk tribe.”
Derrick came across to him and bent down to his ankle. “I hadn’t realized last night that you were injured,” he said. He turned to Jeff. “Let’s get this boy mended up and get him some food while we wait for Gawain and his daughter.”
“That stupid girl better bring me back my necklace, too,” Landon snapped. “That girl’s a thief. That necklace was given to me by my grandmother. I… I want it back.” The recollection of his grandmother suddenly drove the pain of loss home again. He cursed himself feeling tears welling up into his eyes. He didn’t want to cry here – not in front of all of these men, anyways. “It’s precious to me,” he finished vaguely, forcing himself to keep it together.
“Don’t worry, boy. We’re in for a very long talk with Miss Kite.”
They fed Landon a very odd breakfast of nuts and berries and lettuce. It was hard not for him to turn his nose up at it. He already missed his mom’s breakfast: pancakes with globs of syrup and sausage. He picked out a few of the bigger leaves and chewed down the rest as best he could manage.
He heard Kite’s voice before he saw her. “Nobody is listening to me. I don’t know why I have to come all the way out here when I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m telling you – that’s not just a rock!”
A whole group of people entered the tent with Kite in tow. Both Jeff and Derrick, along with other men he didn’t recognize. One man was a larger than all of them, with a thick chest and dark beady eyes. Beads hung from a long lock of hair and ended in a feather. Kite stomped around him arguing with him loudly. Two others her age followed her. One a scrawny kid with olive skin. He had a shifty demeanor and his eyes were constantly moving and scanning the area. The other was the same light skin as Landon, his hair a bright fiery red. The kid reminded Landon of the meatheads at school. The sort that were only good at sports, but that made you cringe as soon as they started to talk.
[kite brings back necklace. They all journey to bring landon back home but they get attacked. Kite tries to save him (picture scene) but they fail and they get captured. Meets Dubhlainn who brings out Landon’s inner wolf. Fortunately they get rescued. Or maybe Landon and Kite escape? Not sure about this part yet]
As soon as Kite’s eyes fell on him she immediately shut up – for all of a few seconds. “What are you doing here?” she demanded, pointing a finger at him.
He jumped up immediately furious but as soon as he took a few steps towards her his guards took a threatening step towards him so he backed off. “You stupid girl! You were in my room last night. You almost gave me a heart attack and then you stole from me!”
“Don’t call me stupid. I thought you were asleep.”
“I was pretending to be asleep because I thought you were a killer or something.”
Kite cast a quick dark look towards the scrawny boy. “Some thief you turned out to be,” she accused. Landon heard the boy mumble that something about not being a thief but it was drowned out when the large man, presumably Kite’s father, turned to her.
“So then what the boy says is true. You did steal from him?”
“Yes,” the girl answered. Landon felt impressed. Maybe it was just because it had been only him and his mom for so long, but he was amazed that this girl would actually talk back to someone as large and menacing as Gawain.
“Have you lost all dignity?” the man demanded, his voice rumbling like thunder through the earth around him. “You’re one of the princesses of our clan.”
“Talk to Lark. She’s the heir. I’ve got six other sisters in between me and that job.” She turned to him and pointed at him. “This boy is the last of the Wolf Tribe.”
Her father had been in the middle of saying something but he stopped. The whole crowd had suddenly stopped, some sort of wave going through them. Everyone turned around to stare at Landon. Then Gawain whirled back around to Kite. “That’s impossible.”
“It’s true,” she said as if it were the most obvious fact in the world. “You can feel the magic in it. I know you can. His grandmother handed the stone to him. I’m telling you. The last of the Wolf Tribe ran away into the world of humans with the last fairy that was trapped in a crystal.” She reached her hands into her cloak and fished out his stone necklace from a pocket and held it up for everyone to see. “This. There’s a fairy trapped inside.”
Gawain’s eyes narrowed and his fists tightened at his sides. “You are too old to be believing in these imaginary tales. The fairies are a frozen race and the Wolves died off protecting them. Return the rock to that human child at once. He shouldn’t be here, Kite.”
“You’re right,” she said. She stamped her foot hard into the ground. “He shouldn’t. But he is. A human is in Delancia. You are willing to believe that but you can’t believe that he’s got shifter blood in him and that this contains a frozen fairy?! This is the answer to Delancia’s prayers. This crystal was frozen by a Wolf a long time ago. If we can unfreeze it the fairy might know the secret to releasing all of the fairies from Dubhlainn’s spell. If we release the fairies we can get rid of Dubhlainn. You’ve said it yourself. Only the fairies were a match for him.”
Landon was having trouble processing all of the information as the girl talked. Him? A Wolf? His grandma’s rock? A fairy? Geez, this girl had on heck of a wild imagination. “We have names for people like you in my world. It’s called psycho. Give me back my grandma’s rock.” He scowled at everyone else. “I think you are all psycho. I have no idea what sort of game you are all playing but I’m sick of it. Give me my stone and get me the heck out of here. I don’t even care now if you’re in my grandma’s woods or not anymore. I just want to get home. My mom’s going to be worried sick.”
“Shut up, you. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kite snapped at him, tossing her head.
Kite’s father suddenly seized his daughter’s arm and jerked her in Landon’s direction. “Return what belongs to him.” He then turned back to Jeff and Derrick. “We’ll need to get the boy back. No human should be on this side. The fairy’s spell is probably weakening and we should look into ways to seal up the entrance after the boy has been returned.
Kite scowled at her father but as soon as he released her she walked up to Landon. He held out his hand. “I told you my grandmother is dead,” he said, practically growling out the words. “She gave me that on my birthday.”
“Look, Landon,” she said her expression lightening and her bossy tone giving away, “I know it’s precious to you. But it’s precious to us, too. My father doesn’t understand and I know you don’t either, but I’m telling you it’s our last hope. You’ve got to listen to me.”
Landon reached out and snagged the rock from her hands shoving her back. “Stay away from me,” he shouted. He turned to the adults feeling tears starting to fill his eyes. “Take me home. I want to go home.”