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Book 1 (Mystic Charm)

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Chapter 3

When Zeke woke up, he let his eyes stay closed for a few minutes, feeling that he was lying in a bed which meant that this was not part of the dream that he just had. I finished it, he thought quietly to himself, a sense of achievement flooding through him. Smiling slightly, he opened his eyes to see the ceiling programmed for all of the football team records, circled in their respective team colors were the Belgons and the Starsers team records, along with Luke's and his brother Jerry's records. Good old Luke, thought Zeke. He always loved football. Zeke sat up slowly, looking around. Starsers and Belgons posters were plastered everywhere on the maroon wallpaper. There was a dresser just off to his right and the closet door was slightly open off to his left. Next to the dresser was a black laundry basket. It was currently half full. The carpet was thick and colored a dark gray. There was a wooden chest at the end of the bed. The door to the hallway was across the foot of the bed and wide open. Downstairs he heard his friends talking about the chill they had all just felt.


Suddenly, his dream and Sémaj's request came back to him. He immediately got out of bed, but grabbed the dresser as he swayed. Why was he so light-headed all of a sudden. He must’ve gotten up too fast. His body swaying caused the floor to creak below him. He heard his friends stop their conversation and, almost instantly, appear out of thin air at the foot of the bed.


“Zeke?†said Jade, sounding concerned. “Are you okay?â€


“Yeah, I think so, Jade,†said Zeke with a small smile. He felt a little dizzy still but he didn't want to worry them by complaining. He wasn’t that type of guy. Besides, he thought. I can rest later. I have to do what Sémaj asked me to do.


“Sit down, Zeke,†said Kiro with a mother-like tone in her voice. “You are looking really pale. We don't want you fainting again and getting knocked out for another hour.â€


Zeke did as she requested, surprised. “I was out for an hour?†he said, feeling better as soon as he sat down, some of the color coming back to his face. The others nodded.


“So, Zeke,†said Lucky quietly, speaking for the first time. “What happened? One minute you're standing there talking with us about the pendants. Then, the next thing we know, our pendants shine brighter than I've ever seen them before. When we could open our eyes, we saw you laying on the ground, knocked out cold. We hauled you up here then went downstairs to talk for a while. All of a sudden we all feel a weird chill and then hear the floor creak up here to tell us you were awake.â€


“Dragonlyer's Cave,†muttered Zeke softly under his breath.


<Don't forget to get everyone who has a dragon-star pendant to Dragoon Lake in two days’ time. Before the full moon, Zeke, find the portal at Dragonlyer's Cave,> said Sémaj's voice in his head. Startled, Zeke looked around but all he could see was Jade's, Kiro's, and Luke's faces looking at him expectantly. Well that was slightly odd, he thought to himself. I wonder why they didn’t hear it too.


Kiro cleared her throat, getting Zeke out of his thoughts. Haltingly, he told them all that had happened leaving out the detail that Sémaj was Jimmy's twin and the part about the ghosts. “Now I have until Wednesday to get everyone to Dragonlyer's Cave and into Markan,†he concluded. “Sémaj will meet us at Dragoon Lake.â€


“Are you sure you just didn't dream all of this, Zeke?†said a deep voice from the doorway, making them all jump. Zeke looked over in the direction of the doorway to see Luke's twin, Jerry, standing there with a puzzled look on his face.


Jerry looked a lot like Luke. They both had green eyes, dark brown hair and the same friendly smile. They both loved football as well and trained hard for it. Jerry, however, was different than Luke in a couple of ways, even though they were twins. Jerry's muscles showed more than Zeke's, making him look more buffed, and he was slightly taller than his slightly older twin. Lucky, on the other hand, was skinnier even though his muscles showed, making him look more like a runner than a football player.


“I was coming up the stairs when I heard your voice, Zeke,†explained Jerry. “When I heard you mention the pendants, I listened in because I have one too.†He pulled a maroon dragon-star pendant out from underneath his shirt. It was strung on a black cord like Jade's, Kiro's, and Luke's.


Luke looked surprised. “Where'd you get that, Jerry?†he asked. “I don't ever remember you having that before.â€


“I bought it at a card game shop in town. It was the last one. Dad told me where he had gotten yours. I liked it, so I went and got my own,†answered Jerry, not looking at Luke as he added to Zeke, “So, are you sure that this was a vision and not just a dream, Zeke? I mean, I've been around Dragonlyer's Cave. The people who live closer to it tell everyone not to go in it. It’s kind of a taboo place around those parts and a source of dares for most kids: how far they can go and how long they can stay in. Strange things happen around that place.â€


“Yes, Jerry. I am sure,†replied Zeke with a note of finality in his voice. He was thinking back to the ghosts. Come to think of it, Jerry’s was among them. Who else? If only he could remember... The dream was slipping from him, like water through his fingers. “It was like a vision. I seem to be more sensitive to these pendants than you guys are. Now, let me ask you something. Have you been having any weird dreams lately?â€


Jerry blinked, surprised. “I have,†he answered. “There’s one with a greenish light that calls to me. Why do you ask, and how do you know that?â€


Lucky nodded. “I've been having the same dream,†he said.


“As have I,†added Kiro. “What's this all about, Zeke?†Jade nodded in agreement.


“Sémaj was trying to reach all of you,†he said. “The only one who didn't have that dream was me. I've been having the dream about the tunnel, but every time I got close, someone would wake me up. I've been having it for about four years. That's was this was about today. I'm most likely the only one he got through to.â€


“Four years, Zeke, really?†said Kiro. Zeke nodded. “Well, I should say that you are sensitive, Zeke. You didn’t even have your pendant back then did you?â€


Zeke started, rather surprised, because what she said was true. He didn’t have the pendant then. Why was this all happening to him. Wait, they kept mentioning Keith Rhiner. Could it be that his great-grandfather was involved in all of this somehow? No, that couldn’t be true. His great-grandfather... disappeared in his early forties. No one knew how or why or even where he had gone, but his great-grandmother Sharla seemed to think it was okay. That it was for the best. Zeke had asked about his great-grandfather when he was only seven. His parents had been trying to make up again, so they had dropped him off with his great-grandmother while they had went out for dinner and a movie. His great-grandmother was always fun to be around. His grandmother Nacia usually put him to work out in her garden or on the farm.


Sharla loved to tell Zeke stories about heroes and pirates and bandits and other such kid stuff. That night when he was seven, he had asked his great-grandma to tell him a story about his great-grandfather. Whether it was everything that had happened the past few months or some after-effects from his vision from his pendant, he didn’t know. He was remembering that night as if it were last night.


It was a cold, stormy night as Sharla had tucked him into bed with his favorite stuffed animal, a cheopard he had named Synthero. She had looked at him, her silver hair dancing in the fake firelight that flickered from a part of the wall. “Can you hear the tree spirits dancing on the gusty winds?†Sharla had asked him. “If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of the chief banging on his big drum.â€


Zeke had listened, his eyes wide, Synthero clutched to his chest, and sure enough he had heard the rum-tum-tum tim-tum-tum that sounded like the little drums from his great-grandma’s story. He had nodded vigorously. His great-grandmother had smiled. She was about ninety then, it had only been about forty years since her husband had disappeared, but the toll it had taken on her seemed like it had been much longer. She had lost all of her teeth, so she wore dentures, but her wrinkled face and brown eyes were warm and kindly. She almost always smelled like lilies blooming. Zeke always loved to think of his great-grandma like that: a lily blooming in the moonlight. He thought that was how his great-grandfather saw her as all those years ago.


That was the night Zeke had decided to ask her about him. “Hey, Grandma?†he had asked, his tone climbing upward at the end to hint at a question. “What was great-grandpa like? Did he get mad and leave like Dad threatens to do? Or is he off on some big adventure?â€


Sharla had blinked, obviously surprised at the question. “Why would you think he was mad at me? Your great-grandfather is out there having the biggest adventure of his life,†she had replied with a twinkle in her eye. “Would you like to hear a story about him?†Zeke had nodded. “I have a tale about when he first came here.â€


“Did he come in a ship?†Zeke had asked. “Like a pirate or an astronaut or an explorer?â€


“No,†Sharla had said, her voice tinged with laughter. “He came through a doorway from another planet that is linked with ours.â€


“Really?†the little boy’s voice was full of excitement as he held his toy closer. “What was its name?â€


“Are you going to let me tell the story?†she had said. He had nodded. “One more thing,†she had added, her voice taking on a stern tone that she rarely had to use with him. It had surprised him more than anything, but Zeke had listened more closely to the words that followed. “You must promise never to tell anyone this story or any other adventures I tell you about your great-grandfather, okay? These stories are more important than you may realize now, but you will in time. Promise me you won’t tell anyone.â€


Zeke had nodded, put an “X†over his heart with his pointer finger then put up three fingers like a Cub Scout salute (three fingers up and held together) and answered, “Cross my heart and hope to die; I will not tell anyone about these stories Grandma, I swear.†He even made Synthero swear too. “See, Grandma? Even Synthero said he won’t tell either.â€


Suddenly, she was back to her old self. “Let’s see, your great-grandpa Keith Rhiner came from a land called Markan, which lies out of reach from any boat or plane. He came through a magic portal that’s hidden not very far from here. No electronics will work on Markan or near the portal. That’s what he told me. He brought with him eighteen necklaces. They were the prettiest things I ever saw,†she said. She had touched her hand to her heart then, as if remembering some far off memory. A few seconds later, she had snapped out of her reverie and continued. “Each one of these necklaces were unique, he said. Each had a different dragon’s blood in them. He said they would save his world and ours if given to the right candidates. He told me that his world was in grave peril by a sickness and an evil black dragon.


After several months of being here, he said he would like to be with me. Within a year he confessed that he had instantly fallen in love with me the moment he saw me and that he wanted to stay with me.Time moves differently here than in Markan he told me. No matter how long we were together here, he would get back at the time he would be needed. We were wed and he told me about the pendants. Then we had your grandfather, Zeke.â€


Zeke had nodded. “What happened to him? Did he return home?â€


Sharla had smiled at him. “Yes, he returned to Markan. He said he was needed again,†she had answered, a small tear forming in her eye. “I knew one day it would come, but that didn’t make parting any easier.â€


“Is he having an adventure right now?†he had asked, so inquisitive as he held his cheopard close.


“I am sure he is, Zeke,†she had said. “Maybe one day you will too.â€


He had blinked in surprise, his eyes wide. “You really think so?†When she had nodded, a grin lit up his face from ear to ear and he added, “I’ll go to Markan and bring him back for you, Great-Grandma, I promise.â€


So intense were his eyes that Sharla had to chuckle. He was certain he would go and bring Keith back to her. Her eyes had twinkled as she answered, “I’ll hold you to that promise, little man. Just come home safe too, you hear?â€


He answered her and swore just as he had when she told him to keep it a secret that he would. She had smiled and tucked him into bed. As she laid a good-night kiss on his forehead, he had asked what sort of adventure his great-grandfather was on then.


She had smiled and changed the programming on the walls to a jungle setting and wove her tale, her green pajamas blending in with the setting, gently lulling her little explorer to sleep.


But she had not seen his promise fulfilled. Sharla passed away at the age of ninety-seven in the hospital after a stroke. Just before she died, she gave fourteen year-old Zeke the gold dragon-star pendant which he currently wore. As she lay there in the white hospital bed, an IV in her arm, Zeke thought she had looked like an angel. Her white hair had shone like moonlight and somehow the doctors had allowed her to keep her perfume. She had asked for Zeke to come in alone. Meera told him to be brave for his great-grandma, so when the door opened, Zeke walked through with a smile and was instantly greeted with the smell of lilies.


“Hi, Grandma,†he had said, trying to keep a smile on his face. He had seen that she looked like she was doing better and hoped she would make a full recovery. In his hand, he held a get-well card. It was about the size of a small poster and it had a picture of lilies blooming in the moonlight on the front that he had drawn. Inside, it had read: “Get well soon, Great-Grandma Sharla!†and it was signed by almost everyone at the school. Teachers, students, friends and family, all who knew Sharla was in the hospital had wrote their name or a little note. Sharla was well-known in the school. She had helped with the kindergarten as often as she was able. She held the highest purchases from the school fundraisers and donated everything she could. Everyone loved her. She even insisted they call her Great-Grandma Sharla. Zeke had read most of the notes out to her, pointing out a few particular names that he knew were personal friends of hers. Sharla was like her old self, smiling at some notes and names and laughing at others.


After what seemed like an hour of going through the get-well card, Sharla had him prop it up on the stand next to her. “I have something for you, Zeke,†she had said, smiling mysteriously as she always did on his birthday or on the gift exchange day.


He had blinked, surprised. “For me? What is it?†he had asked.


She had answered, “Close your eyes and open your hand. No peeking.†She had caught him trying to glimpse at it from a sliver of his eyelids. He felt something cold slide onto his palm and a tingling sensation creep up his arm. Instantly whatever was cold in his hand became warm and he had heard her say, “Okay, Zeke, open your eyes.â€


Zeke did as he was told and there, in the palm of his hand, rested a pendant on a silver chain. It looked like a silver dragon claw. It was clutching a golden marble about an inch across. As he looked at the marble, the insides seemed to be swirling and pulsing with a strange light.


“Here, Zeke,†she had said. “I think your great-grandfather would have wanted you to have it. Always keep it on you whenever you can.â€


Zeke had smiled, awed by the gift. “Thank-you. I will always treasure it,†he had answered.


She had yawned then. “I need my rest, my dear boy. Go back to your parents now and I will see you the next time you are here.â€

He had nodded and kissed his great-grandma’s forehead, but she was already asleep. She had looked peaceful, as if all the weight had left her shoulders. He knew she was flying with his great-grandfather again. She had told him stories about that too: flying on the wings of a dragon up into the clouds where humans were barely beginning to reach. Planes and jets flew, but the feeling of having your own wings, the wind in your hair, being able to look down and see the world, she told him, his great-grandpa said there was nothing else like it. Zeke had tucked her in carefully and left the room, not knowing that she wouldn’t wake from her slumber again.


Suddenly, a snap of fingers in front of his face literally snapped Zeke from his memories. “Zeke? Come in, Zeke,†Jade was saying.


“What? Sorry,†he answered. “I was just thinking. What were you saying?â€


“I was saying, fainting at the first sight of the four of them together, what are you going to do when there are more?†answered Kiro before Jade could respond.


Zeke shrugged. “I think this was a one-time thing,†he said. “Sémaj really needed to get through to somebody and I guess the barrier was weak at that point. I should be fine.â€


Jade cut in and asked Jerry, “Who else do you know that has a pendant?â€


“Miron, Cole, Marco, and Dave,†he answered. “They showed me theirs when I showed them mine. Apparently, they got theirs and left about half an hour before I did.â€


“I think Sitka, Ivan, and Genryu have them,†said Zeke to Luke and Kiro. “Sitka gave me a funny look that day I talked to Jade about it. I think Jimmy and Zach have them as well.†He wasn't telling them the whole truth, but he knew that they had to hurry and as long as they were convinced, then that was all he needed. He didn't want to have to explain the ghosts as well. “Okay,†he added, not letting them ponder on it for too long. He sounded like the leader of a search party. He had to stop getting involved in all of these leadership positions. “We need everyone who has a dragon-star pendant to get to Dragonlyer's Cave on Wednesday. If you guys see the people we just named, ask them if they could come play paintball with us on that day around five P.M., okay? Also ask them if they know anyone else who has a dragon-star pendant. I don't want anybody left out.†They all nodded.


“What about you, Zeke?†asked Kiro suspiciously. “You seemed to have left yourself out.â€


“I'm going to take another look through your book, Kiro,†he said. “Maybe there is something in there to explain why this is affecting me so much and what else we can do to prepare. I also just thought of something that I need to check on.â€


The others nodded although Kiro seemed unconvinced. “Well then,†she said. “I guess we'd better get moving. Wednesday is only two days away.â€


Zeke got up slowly and found that it was easy enough to stand without swaying around. He felt a lot better. “Alright then, I'll see you guys at five on Wednesday,†he said. When they nodded, he half-turned on the spot and vanished into thin air.


“Well,†said Jade after Zeke had gone. “At least it looks like he recovered quickly.â€


Luke and Jerry nodded. Kiro however remained silent and looking after the way Zeke had gone, thinking privately, There's something he's not telling us.


“Are you okay, Kiro?†said Jerry. “You are awfully quiet, even for you.â€


Kiro looked at Luke, Jerry, and Jade, who were all looking at her and blinked. “I'm fine, guys,†she said with a smile. “I was just thinking that’s all.â€


Jade nodded. “Well, I might as well go home,†she said. “I have some stuff to do if we are going to Dragonlyer's Cave on Wednesday. Hey, Kiro, why don't you come over tomorrow and we can talk for a bit? I have some things I need to talk to you about.â€


Kiro blinked, surprised, because Jade didn't usually invite her over. In fact, no one usually invited her over. The only reason her and Luke had been hanging out recently was because of the pendants. “Sure, Jade,†she answered slowly, still surprised, “how about we meet at three?†What could Jade want? Could she be having the same doubts as Kiro was about Zeke?


Jade nodded then waved good-bye to everyone and left in the same manner Zeke had. Kiro sat there thinking until a tap on her shoulder made her come back from her thoughts. Jerry and Luke were looking at her. “Yeah?†she said.


“You look a little preoccupied, Kiro. Is something on your mind?†asked Jerry. “Luke asked you a question twice.â€


“No, I'm fine, guys,†she answered, a little untruthfully. “What did you ask me, Luke?â€


“I forgot,†he said slowly. “If I remember it, I will let you know when I see you next.â€


Kiro nodded then said, “I should probably be getting back to my parents' house. We all know my dad doesn't like it when I go over to boys' houses for long.â€


Jerry nodded as Luke sighed softly. Kiro waved to Jerry as Luke led her out. When they had reached Kiro's bike, Luke looked at her. “Kiro, what's really wrong?†he asked. “You've been acting really strange since Zeke woke up.â€


“It's nothing, Lucky,†she answered. “I'll be okay. I'll see you on Wednesday.â€


Luke sighed softly again, giving in because he knew how stubborn Kiro could be. “Goodbye, Kiro. Please be okay,†he said, waving as she hopped on her bike and rode out of sight on the three mile ride back to her house.


Chapter 2

Final exams came and with it came the pressure of finishing last minute assignments the week before and during the last week of school. Zeke was no exception. He crammed the night before only for his pre-calculus test. He wasn’t sure he did all that well on it. Zeke thought he did well on his history exam though. That should get his mother off of his back about his grades. Nothing strange had been happening to him for weeks now. At least that was a good sign. Well, he had been working on controlling it.


He had borrowed a book from Kiro two months previously about the dragon-star pendants. It was not very enlightening. He had just been getting ready to set the book down when he noticed something strange. His pendant had begun to glow. He had started to flip through the pages again, but it wasn’t long before he had realized that whatever was making his pendant react was at the back of the book. Quickly, he had flipped to the back inside cover and touched his pendant to it. With a blinding flash of light, a little compartment had appeared, containing a wallet-sized little book. It was a deep, ocean-blue, bound in cloth with silver bindings and a clasp. Silver-colored runes were on its cover in spidery handwriting as if it was written in liquid silver the day previously. It read A Guide to the Arte of Becoming a Dragon Mage. As soon as he had taken the book out, the compartment sealed and Zeke couldn’t find it again. Why was he different from Jade with the dreams or with his pendant for that matter? Could it be that it had been truly meant for him? It was obvious that Kiro had never found it. Something had told him to keep it hidden, so he had and worked on the spells whenever he could. Over time he had learned control, or thought he did.


It was a week or two after final exams on a Monday when something strange happened to Zeke as he was walking back from his favorite ice cream shop with Jade. He was first aware of it when Jade stopped eating her double chocolate chunk ice cream and started looking at him with a curious expression on her face.


“What?†he said, rubbing his face with a napkin. “Do I have leftover ice cream on my nose or something?â€


“No,†she answered, moving her head back and forth as if trying to confirm something. “Zeke, why can I see through you?â€


Zeke looked at the hand that was holding the napkin and his other hand which had previously held his mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. He jerked slightly in surprise. He could see the ground right through them. “I'm not sure,†he answered slowly as his mind raced. How did it happen this time? It had happened to him once before shortly after he had found the little book hidden in A Dragonologist’s Guide to Runes and Stones. He had been looking through the spell book when he noticed he could see right through his hands. At that time he had panicked, barely controlling a muffled yell. He had dropped the spell book and ironically it had landed on the page showing his very predicament. After a few tries he managed to change himself back, just before Meera had walked into the room to ask him a question about what he wanted for dinner that night. He had found it odd that she hadn’t heard him yell. After that Zeke always went to the secluded area of the Dragonlyer’s Cave, mainly near the Teeth, to work on his spells. It seemed the appropriate place for it. The air was lighter there and the atmosphere reminded him of his dreams.


As he walked, he dropped his hands, making a few motions and symbols with the hand that was out of Jade's sight. His body reverted back to normal as he finished the last sign. He saw Jade still looking at him funny so he quickly changed the subject. “Kiro invited me over to Lucky's today. Do you want to come with me?â€


“Sure, Zeke, why don't we go right now?†she answered, a thoughtful look on her face, as if the attempt to remove the previous event from her mind hadn’t completely worked.


“Well, it's about twenty miles or so from here,†he said, surprised at her insistence to go immediately. They were at least ten blocks away from either house so a car was out of the question until they reached one of their places. “Don't you want to go get a car or something and not walk? I mean, I just told Kiro we were at the ice cream parlor, so she isn’t expecting us right away.â€


“No, Zeke,†replied Jade, finishing her ice cream with relish. A grin lit her face as if she knew something that Zeke didn’t. He knew that she would tell or show him eventually, so he just let it go. “I have a faster way to travel with no speed bumps.†After they had thrown away their trash, Jade took Zeke to the park nearby. It was called Rhinestone Park. It had a swing set, jungle gym and a few seesaws as well as a couple of slides. The ball pen sat there as well, but only the younger children were supposed to go into it. A little merry-go-round that consisted of blue bars and benches sat in the middle of it all. There were a couple of pavilions with picnic tables under them. These sat nearby along with a couple of outhouses, complete with plumbing, for the visitors to go to the bathroom. A few trees grew scattered along the park, providing some shade, and there was even a rock climbing wall for the older kids. Right now the place was almost deserted due to the immense heat, beating down from the three suns that were almost eclipsing each other in the sky.


Zeke remembered coming to the park when he was just five years old. His mother and father were together then. They watched as he got into the ball pit, playing amidst a sea of rainbow-colored spheres, pretending he was a pirate in search of treasure. On that day he had actually found some. It was a small toy necklace with a crystal on it. He had pressed the weird spiral on the side to find that the crystal lit up with a cool blue light. He wasn’t sure where it had come from, but he put it around his neck and kept playing anyway. It was getting dark when it happened again. His parents were talking in loud voices. Everyone else had gone except for a little black-haired girl sitting on a bench next to the other edge of the park, waiting for her parents. His parents had always talked in loud angry voices. By this time, Zeke understood that they were mad at eachother, so he hid under the balls in the pit, holding onto his treasure as he waited for it to stop. By the time they were finished, he had started to cry. It was a long time before he would stop crying and come out from the pit. When he finally emerged, his dad had left and his mom looked like she had been crying as well. Shortly after that, his dad had left them. He still wasn’t sure what had become of the necklace that he had found that day. He had lost it soon after the fight.


Zeke blinked away the memories as Jade took him to one of the trees where they could have some shade then she told him to close his eyes and not to peek. While Zeke had his eyes closed, she made several symbols around them both which made Zeke shiver, feeling the amount of energy within it. Was she doing a teleportation spell? How did she learn it? Questions tumbled one after another through Zeke’s mind. Finally, Jade took a hold of Zeke's hands and told him to picture Lucky's house within his mind, keeping his eyes shut. Zeke did as she told him and she made a final symbol with her hands on his. This final symbol confirmed the teleportation spell. Zeke felt a slight pulling sensation right behind his navel but thought nothing of it, doing what Jade told him to do. Within the next few seconds, Jade let go of his hands and told Zeke to open his eyes.


Zeke opened his eyes to find the two of them standing in front of Lucky's house. He quickly let his face register a look of surprise before changing it to puzzlement. It was a large, two-story, red brick house with a little white garage beside it. It had an average-sized pavilion-type porch out back. The lawns were neatly cut and a football lay in the grass near the steps. The garage door was open but no cars were around. The two black dogs, Harper and Link, were on their leashes running back and forth. They spotted Zeke and Jade, wagging their tails as they barked.


Jade spotted Kiro's bike leaning against the garage wall and said, “Well, it looks like Kiro is already here, Zeke.†She looked back at him, looking rather pleased with herself. She smiled at the confused look on his face, mistaking the meaning behind it, and tried to suppress a small laugh. “You're not the only one with a dragon-star pendant, remember?â€


Zeke smiled slightly and nodded slowly as the questions still tumbled around in his mind, but he couldn’t seem to get any out at the moment so he started walking around back but stopped as he heard voices talking. They seemed to be heading towards the front of the house.


“I wonder who could be here,†Kiro's voice was saying. “I thought you said your parents wouldn't be home until this evening.â€


“That's what they told me. I'm not sure who could be here, Kiro,†said the other voice, obviously Luke's. “My brother Jerry is the only one here besides you and me. I don't know what has Harper and Link riled up. You said Zeke should be here soon though.â€


They came around the side of the house to find Zeke and Jade coming up the driveway. “Hey, guys,†said Zeke with a smile at Kiro's bewildered face as she raised her arm and gave a small wave.


“How did you get here so fast, Zeke?†she said, mildly confused and thoughtful, as if trying to work something out in her mind. “You just told me that you and Jade were at the ice cream parlor in town near the park. That's about twenty miles away.â€


Zeke glanced at Jade. Almost immediately, he heard her voice in his head saying, <Go ahead and tell them Zeke. Kiro knows more about this than we do. I'm not sure about Luke though.>


Zeke gave a very faint nod to show that he had heard. “It was Jade's doing,†he said, looking at Luke and Kiro. “I offered to go get a car but she told me not to. Then she brought us here. I'm not sure how she did it.†Everything he said except for the last statement was the truth. Thanks to A Guide to the Arte of becoming a Dragon Mage (for short he just called it the Spellbook) Zeke knew exactly how she did it. The teleportation spell was several levels ahead of him though. The little book currently hiding in his pocket was becoming increasingly more and more helpful by the hour, but something told him not to reveal it just yet.


Luke was shorter than Zeke by several inches even though they were both sixteen. He was muscular with an average build. The girls all liked to call him cute as well, mostly because he just had that look and he had a great personality. Luke was loyal to his friends and family and loved playing football. His favorite team, Belgons, was second in the league and he could recite their records like it was the alphabet. He also played for the high school team, Starsers, and hoped to be admitted to college for football after his high school career was out. He was one of the best players on the team and co-captain. He was the youngest player to become co-captain in the past thirty years and his parents were proud of him for it. Luke was nicknamed “Lucky†by his friends and the name stuck throughout his football career as well. He always carried around a good luck charm that varied from week to week. Even without it, however, he always had an uncanny amount of luck. When someone asked about this, Luke would just smile in that knowing way and reply, “I'm just lucky, I guess.â€


Luke looked at Jade. “How did you get him here then, Jade?†he asked.


Jade smiled. “I used a teleportation spell with my dragon-star pendant,†she answered, showing them. “My grandmother gave it to me my last birthday. She said it was given to her by a young, handsome, blond man named Keith Rhiner for her sixteenth birthday and it had brought her good luck, so she passed it to me.â€


“So, Zeke,†said Kiro, looking at him, her voice taking on a slightly serious tone. “When did these bizarre 'accidents' like the ones Jade has been telling me about start occurring?â€


Wait... Keith Rhiner? He's my... thought Zeke, but was snapped from his momentary thought as he looked back at Kiro, surprised at the quick change of subject. “It started about the middle of the school year, I believe, on the day that Jade saw me hit myself in the nose with my pencil,†he answered slowly. “I think it has something to do with my dragon-star pendant.†He pulled it out slowly to show them, seeming to not have the same comfort level as Jade when it came to the pendants. “I've also been able to hear other people's thoughts since I received the pendant from my great-grandmother. I keep having this weird dream, though, and Jade says she's having something similar as well. In hers it's a greenish light and a strange voice calling to her for help.†He saw that both Kiro and Luke were unsurprised, although his mind was beginning to work out why. It seemed everyone with the pendants was having the same dream.


“I take it you both have pendants too?†asked Jade, looking at them.


Lucky and Kiro both nodded, each pulling out their own dragon-star pendants. Zeke chuckled softly to himself, an action that was almost invisible. His mind had worked it out right. Kiro's was as red as a ruby while Luke's was as blue as a sapphire. “How do you know so much about them, Kiro?†asked Zeke. “I didn't get much knowledge from that book, just the legend itself.†He was sure she hadn’t found A Guide to the Arte of becoming a Dragon Mage. It explained not only how to do a variety of spells, but also the purpose of the dragon-star pendants and the reason they would flash. Something told him that it was meant for him for the time being.


Kiro chuckled softly in response. “That is a very good deduction, Zeke. I actually learned all of this from my grandmother,†she explained. “She's the one that gave me the book and my pendant. My mom scolded her for it, but I don't think Grandma cared. She seemed insistent that I know the legend. She said it would have a great part to play in my future.â€


“What about you, Luke?†asked Jade. “How did you get yours?â€


“My dad bought it for me at a card game shop for my birthday,†he said. “It apparently was one of the last ones that were there. Kiro was at my party and she told me about them. Since then, we've been working together on them and experimenting with a few spells and other stuff. When we heard about you, Zeke, from Jade, we knew that we had to include you.â€


“Thanks, but you're not experimenting with me,†answered Zeke with a half-nervous chuckle, joking.


Just then, of their own accord, all four pendants began to glow, but none more brightly than the one Zeke had hanging around his neck, who felt himself getting light-headed and dizzy. Everyone else had to shut their eyes due to how bright it was. Zeke, however, felt his vision dimming and suddenly collapsed as the glow subsided. The last thing he remembered was Kiro and Jade kneeling next to him, calling his name before he fell unconscious and back into his elusive dream.


“Let's pick him up and take him to my room,†said Lucky. “I think he'll be alright.â€


“Yeah,†answered Jade. “If this has anything to do with that dream, he won't want to be woken up.â€


Kiro nodded in agreement. “You get his feet, Jade,†she said, getting them moving. “I'll get his shoulders and, Luke, you'll open doors. Let's go.â€


They carried him into the house and laid him on Lucky's bed, then went downstairs to wait, talking amongst themselves.


Zeke, meanwhile, was walking back down the round earthen tunnel, softly lit by torches. Here we go again, he thought to himself, slightly annoyed at being back in the dream again since he was actually learning something from them. Let's see if they'll let me sleep this time. He noticed this time that the whole place reeked of sulfur. He walked for what seemed like fifteen minutes at least. How long would the tunnel continue? He was starting to get aching feet from walking too much. It didn’t even occur to him that he shouldn’t get aching feet in a dream. Suddenly, a little light that reminded him of a white laser appeared at the end of the tunnel. Zeke, anxious to be free of the tunnel and the sulfur smell, immediately sped up. I may actually get to find out what is at the end of this tunnel, he thought hopefully. I'd better hurry before they wake me up.


After a few minutes of running, the tunnel abruptly ended, making him almost trip over his feet as he stopped, revealing a dense wooded area. The area around the tunnel was grass with a few bushes poking up to hide the mouth of the cave. The trees were in a ring around the area as if protecting it from outside invaders. The trees had a strange, round, purple fruit with green stripes so close that Zeke could reach up and pick a whole bushel of them. The whole place had a lingering smell of sulfur, but not strong enough to make him gag like it was in the tunnel. The main smell in the area was the fruit, which smelled of Pyloberries from Austoka, or all of the fruits rolled into one. They made Zeke's mouth water and his mind reel with how vivid it was. Wow, he thought. For being a dream, this seems very realistic. Could this still even be just a dream?


As his heart calmed in his chest and his breathing eased, he realized that all of his senses, but especially hearing, was heightened marginally. The colors he saw were more vivid than he remembered them. He could also distinguish where sounds were coming from and what they were from. He could hear a mouse squeaking in the bushes a few feet off to his right, the wind rustling the branches of the trees, the birds singing sweetly, and the sound of water somewhere ahead of him. What could cause this to happen? Could it be something was different here? His mind was tumbling with more and more questions as he looked around, trying to feel if there was a change. The air felt slightly heavier, as if something invisible hung within. He also heard a steady thumping noise that was growing louder; and it set his heart pounding again as he realized what it was. It was the sound of footsteps. Someone was coming towards him.


Abruptly, the thumping stopped somewhere right in front of him just out of sight. A twig snapped and leaves crackled as whoever it was moved closer to him. The bushes rustled about in front of him. Before he could even think of hiding, however, the bushes suddenly parted to let a figure pass through. Zeke blinked, shocked. It was Jimmy. So this is why I thought I had seen Jimmy before, thought Zeke triumphantly. Then he realized that he couldn't be right because he never made it this far before in his dream. Then how could he have remembered James?


Zeke opened his mouth to say something, but Jimmy shook his head, motioning for Zeke to keep silent and follow him. Zeke was rather taken aback, but since James seemed to know this place better than he did, he decided it was best to follow whatever orders were given.


James led Zeke deep into the woods, following a narrow path that was rather difficult to see and wound through the trees like a snake. As they went along, Zeke felt the hairs prickling on the back of his neck from the feeling of being watched and followed. He let it go for a few more minutes then gave in, glancing back and almost tripped over a tree root as he gasped at what he saw.


At least fifteen ghosts were following them. Zeke looked among them and his stomach clenched slightly to see that they were the ghosts of his friends. He noticed Jimmy, Zach and Jade were amongst them. Creepy, he thought. I'm so close to figuring out what this dream is about and my friends show up. I hope no one wakes me. I have to see what this dream has been about or else it will never get solved. How could they be there? Was it a trick of the light? He moved his head left and right, but the ghosts never vanished. He shook his head with his eyes closed, but they were still there when he reopened his eyes.


There was a slight tap on his shoulder that made Zeke jump as he remembered he wasn't alone. Zeke turned around just in time to see James start moving again, walking faster this time. Zeke took off after him as Jimmy sped up. Zeke knew that Jimmy was in a hurry for some sort of reason. When he finally caught up, Zeke was out of breath and panting. Jimmy however showed no signs of being tired.


Zeke looked around and gasped at the beauty of it all. They were standing at the edge of a pond that was crystal clear and the bottom sparkled like the colors of the rainbow. Around its edge, farthest from them, was a cliff with a grove of willow trees at its base. The area was covered in a thick, lush carpet of blue-green grass and clear as a meadow around them and a fire pit was to be seen about ten feet from the pond. A huge waterfall cascaded into one side of the pond as another came out of the other side. Oddly enough, the pond itself was smooth as glass, acting like a crystal clear mirror as it reflected the sky perfectly. The sky was a clear blue pockmarked with clouds here and there. The whole area seemed to be a part of a huge mountain and looked out over a gigantic forest that spread off in all directions. Zeke could see several other cliffs and a wide river that wound to the north. In the distance Zeke thought he could see a sparkling light that meant an ocean and the sky seemed darker over that way. Behind the waterfall, all Zeke could see were more mountains.


Zeke looked over at James, but the latter had his back to him, looking out over the pond as if reminiscing. “Jimmy?†he said uncertainly. “Where are we?†When Jimmy didn't respond in any way, Zeke repeated his question.


This time, James turned to look at him. “Who are you talking to, Zeke?†he said. “The ghosts don't talk.â€


Now it was Zeke's turn to be puzzled. “I was talking to you,†he answered. Why is he being like this; he thought. I know that's Jimmy though I still don't understand how he looked so familiar. Wait, how did he know my name?


“Me? Oh, you thought...†Jimmy's look went from puzzlement to amusement in a matter of seconds as he broke off with a laugh. “I'm Sémaj, not Jimmy. James is my twin.â€


Zeke was very surprised to hear this. “I didn't know Jimmy had a twin. He hasn't said anything about you. Then again, I only met him halfway through the school year.â€


“You've seen Jimmy?†asked Sémaj, sounding hopeful. When Zeke nodded, Sémaj smiled happily, looking like his twin with that big goofy grin as he added, “Thank goodness he's alright. Jimbo probably doesn't even know I'm alive. Just don't mention it to him. He'll find out when you all get here.†Sémaj looked at his brother's ghost almost longingly.


Zeke blinked. “What do you mean 'when you all get here'? I don't even know where here is for one and two, why are we supposed to come?†he said.


Sémaj looked away from Jimmy's ghost with a chuckle. “Why do you think I sent you those visions, Zeke? Why do you think you are here?†he answered, smiling still. “I need you and everyone who has a dragon-star pendant. Right now, we are standing beside Dragoon Lake in a parallel dimension to Mylaran called Markan. We are in the western hemisphere because no one ventures into the eastern hemisphere. Orenga Dark is the only one that comes back from that place because he rules there, which is why I need all of your guys' help.â€


Zeke felt a weird chill come over him when Sémaj said Orenga's name. Zeke's friends, who were waiting for him to wake up at Lucky's house, felt it as well but they didn't know what it was from, nor did Zeke know that they had felt it. “Who's Orenga Dark?†he asked, shivering slightly at the feel of the name.


“The way into Markan is through Dragonlyer's Cave,†said Sémaj anxiously, seeming to ignore Zeke’s question. “Please get everyone who has a dragon-star pendant here by the next full moon. That's two days from now. We need your help, Zeke. You need to go now and quickly. Hurry or he'll see you!†Zeke made to say something, but Sémaj shoved him back against the ghosts and told them, “Wake him up now!â€


Zeke shuddered as he felt ice-cold hands grab his shoulders from behind, shaking him. As the ghosts were shaking him, Zeke felt something very big hovering over the area. As the shadow of it fell over him, Zeke felt cold to his very core. He looked up to see what it was and gasped. A gigantic black dragon, its wingspan bigger than the lake itself, was grinning evilly at him. Its jagged, sharp scales were blacker than Jade's hair and its eyes were a deep ruby red color. Its wings had streaks of red on the undersides of them. It had a massive tail and spikes running the entire length of its back. On the top of its head sat two huge, razor-sharp black horns, longer than Zeke was tall. From its mouth, darkness and bright green acid rolled and dripped everywhere. The trees throughout the whole area bent back from the sheer wind power from them and Zeke was blown backwards onto his back, just barely getting missed by the acid as the land became charred below it. It was as if it had breathed fire in liquid form. As Zeke fell, everything went dark and he knew no more.


Chapter 1

Zeke walked down a round earthen tunnel softly lit by torches. He kept feeling like something was calling to him, pulling him farther along. It was rather strange. Even though Zeke knew he was in a dream, he was surprised at how realistic it felt. He could smell the burning wood and sap from the torches and feel the slight breeze wafting from the openings somewhere at either end of the tunnel, bringing along the rather peculiar hints of an ocean and fruit. He heard his feet pattering on the damp ground as he walked and the torch lights crackling as they burned. The smell of fruit was growing stronger with each step. Just then, Zeke noticed a light at the end of the tunnel, but before he could go investigate, he felt his body shaking and heard a voice calling to him, slowly bringing him back to reality.


He woke to find his mother, Meera, standing over him, shaking him. “Zeke?†he heard her call softly. “Sorry I woke you up, honey, but you were having a bad dream.†He sighed softly. Why did she have to wake him right then? If he remembered correctly, this dream had been coming to him every single night for the past two weeks straight. The tunnel seemed never-ending. He would always wake before he could reach the end. What could it mean? He sighed softly once more and looked over at his mother’s concerned face.


Meera was shorter than her son by at least two feet. She had dark brown, almost black, hair that flowed down to her shoulders in waves and was a rather robust woman with hazel eyes that sparkled when she laughed. She was wearing a black silk robe that matched her hair and was held closed by a silk belt tied neatly in a bow at her back along her waist.


He nodded and looked out the window quietly, rubbing his eyes with a soft yawn as he said, “It's alright, Mom. What time is it?†He asked the question for sake of conversation as his deep green eyes had already caught the bright red display sitting on the desk next to his bed.


“It's just past one, dear. You were mumbling and tossing about in your sleep. I thought it best to wake you,†she answered, lightly stroking his hair, noting how he didn’t quite meet her eyes, as if he was upset with her for disturbing him. “What were you dreaming about, honey?â€


“Almost had it that time,†he mumbled quietly, not listening to his mother, as if she wasn’t there. He was off in his own world thinking about the tunnel. What could it mean?


“Had what, Zeke?†Meera asked gently. “You kept mumbling that in your sleep.â€


Zeke glanced over at her, lightly biting his lip before looking back out the window. It was a clear night, the stars shining brightly in the gray darkness of night. The two moons, Luna and Galaz, glimmered as bright as the three suns in the middle of the day. Earth, Mylaran's North Star, was reflected in his eyes. The planet never moved from over Mylaran's North Pole, which was the reason why it was named the North Star. It wasn’t too far away, so the suns reflected on its surface making it shine as bright as any star; yet it never moved. It was one of the mysteries in the space around Mylaran. The scene outside his window, however, was play of light and shadow. The moons cast enough light that it looked like it was daylight outside, but the light was pale in contrast to that of the two dwarf stars and the red giant that made up the three suns of Mylaran during the day. It really threw off one’s sleeping schedule. He lived on the outskirts of town, so his two-story red brick house was hidden amongst the trees on the edge of the lake. The lake itself was crystal clear and dark at the same time that night. It reflected the night sky perfectly. In the center, Luna and Galaz were reflected, making them look like two eyes peering back up at the sky. He thought for a moment longer about the mysterious dream before having to focus his full attention to Meera. “It was my soccer ball, Mom. I dreamed I had lost it down a well,†he answered slowly.


Meera could tell, as any mother could, that her son was lying to her. She smoothed the black sheet blanket that was lying over her son as she picked her words. “Are you sure you're okay?†she asked nonchalantly, trying to prod information out of him. “I know you haven't been sleeping well. What's been bothering you?â€


“I'm fine, Mom,†answered Zeke, faking a yawn (which promptly turned into a real one), not fooled by the innocent act. “I'm just worried about the game coming up next week. I should really try to get back to sleep. Goodnight.â€


“Goodnight, sweetheart,†said Meera with a soft sigh, knowing her son would not tell her anything else. She got up, walked to the door, clapped her hands to shut out the light and walked out. The door slid closed automatically behind her.


Zeke waited until her footsteps had died away before lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling that he had programmed to look like deep space. The walls were programmed to look that way as well so Zeke's mother had bought him a carpet for his floor that looked the same way as the rest of his room. The carpet looked like the twenty planets, fifty moons, and three stars solar system that Mylaran was a part of, glowing in the dark, with the programs on the walls and ceiling actually moving. He could see a star dying and being reborn without having to actually travel into outer space. A young scientist by the name of Barik Kontara had developed this technology that used the same concept as an old laptop. Using the LCD screen's technology, he had made wallpaper with the thin, flat microchips that one could easily post to his or her wall or ceiling and program them to do just about anything. Zeke would always pretend to be floating off in space, often putting him to sleep easily.


Nothing hung from the walls in his room. His bed was in the shape of a flying saucer complete with lights that circled it. Next to his bed was his dresser that held the only light in his room next to the glowing yellow and green ring around his bed: a desk lamp. It looked like a black vase but the galaxy patterns on the outside swirled like real galaxies did. He had mobiles and model rockets everywhere. He even built a human-sized model rocket that sat in the corner of his room with a bookcase next to it filled to the brim with astronomy books and had a Galilean thermometer on top of it. Currently the temperature read 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In the other corner of his room sat a music stand and a trumpet case. He had been practicing for his audition for marching band that was coming up in the next few days. His soccer ball was there as well to remind him to practice for his big game. Being in both band and soccer really took a lot out of him, but Zeke didn’t care. He enjoyed being busy with things that he loved.


Why this comes to me every night, I’ll never know, he thought to himself. I never get to the end. I guess I'd better try getting back to sleep. I have school tomorrow. He rolled back over and closed his eyes, drifting off into a dreamless sleep.


Zeke was a tall, yet normal, boy by Mylaran standards. He was a 6'5'', skinny, yet muscular and rather handsome sixteen-year old with short black hair. He usually wore jeans or shorts and a t-shirt unless he was in his uniform for band or soccer. Most people were surprised at his complexion, however. Unlike most, he didn’t tan or burn. Even though he was usually out under all three suns most of the day, his skin remained white and pale. Zeke was the type of kid one could look to for leadership, although he never wanted to lead. He had become leader of the brass section in only a few short months. The band director had seen his potential to go far with his playing. Even though he had declined the brass leader position, the director put him there anyway. He received pretty good grades in school, but since the dreams began his grades had been slipping. He zoned off in class just thinking about it, and his mother was called into school about it on one occasion.


Zeke had been in gym class that day, playing outfield in starball. It was a game similar to Earth's baseball but instead the ball was a round, sphere-like, cloth-covered object filled with miniature pieces of rocks that came from Galaz, the closer of Mylaran's moons. Zeke had been staring off past the game he was involved in, zoned out, and someone hit a fly ball in his direction. One of his teammates, noticing that Zeke wasn't paying attention, had yelled at him but he hadn't listened so she ran off to catch the ball. Zeke was still zoned out when the player reached him and they collided. The only good thing that came out of it was the girl had caught the ball for an automatic out. Zeke ended up with a broken ankle, bloody nose, and two bruised ribs. The girl only ended up with a sprained ankle and some bruising on her elbows. Meera had been called in, and she had a long talk about Zeke's performance with the guidance counselor. After that, Zeke and Meera went home since the high-tech medicine would only keep him off his feet for one or two weeks rather than a few months. Zeke made sure to not zone off in gym class again.


Besides his reoccurring dream, Zeke had one stranger characteristic. This one started up randomly; mostly at times he didn't expect or want it to. Zeke couldn't explain it, but he could “hear†other people's thoughts. Every so often, he would “hear†someone say something, or at least he thought he did. When he looked at that person, he or she would be sitting there, listening quietly to the teacher or chatting with a friend about something that had nothing to do with what he thought he had heard. He never told people about what he thought he heard. He didn’t want them to give him surprised stares or forced blank looks. It also would have brought about awkward questions. Despite this and his dreams, he managed to get through life without any major problems; well, major normal problems as he was soon to discover.


“Why did you do that?†asked Zach, confused.


It was two weeks after his mother had woken him from his dream. He was sitting in his second period geometry class listening to his teacher, Mr. Monder, lecturing about Pythagorean’s Theorem and its uses in a right triangle.


Mr. Monder was a well-aged man. He had streaks of brown left in his curly, fuzzy gray hair, mustache, and what little bit of stubble he would let grow before shaving it off. He had dimpled and wrinkled cheeks from laughing and smiling too much as if the world was a private joke of his. His skin was tanned a deep tan and muscles were prominent. Mr. Monder gave pop quizzes once or twice a week as if it were a religion. He never missed his weekly pop quizzes. Bonus was always a number puzzle given once a month.


The room Mr. Monder taught in had white walls like the rest of the school, but he had covered them with posters of math equations and little comics. The students had laughed when he pointed out his favorite. On it, a turtle was sitting in front of its class. Next to it there were two rabbits. The turtle had a bubble over its head that read “Multiplication will be taught today by the rabbit.†A few others had rhymes and one or two showed previous winners in big math competitions. Mr. Monder would always hide the posters that showed that week’s lesson so the students wouldn’t be tempted to cheat from it.


Zeke was stretching after Mr. Monder had taken the quiz from him and got a real shocker when his pencil flew up and hit him on the nose. Zeke looked around but everyone was paying attention to the teacher so he was sure he had done it himself, but didn't have the slightest clue how he had done it. Luckily, he was sure no one else but Zach noticed what had happened.


Zeke looked over at his best friend. Though they were the same age, Zach was shorter and stockier than Zeke. Zach also had short, dirty-blond hair and green eyes. He always wore baggy camouflage jeans that had big pockets and dark colored t-shirts that showed off his rather muscular body underneath. Zach was normally a prankster and was always keeping an eye on the girls to see if one could be his match, but he could never stick with a girl very long. Zeke and Zach had been friends since their fifth year in primary school. They were put on different teams during the same dodgeball game and the match took them the rest of the class. Neither one got out. They met afterwards and soon became best friends. Now, Zach had a look of confusion on his face.


Zeke shrugged at Zach, who immediately came up with a different question. He was always full of questions or blond jokes. “Well, how did you do it without touching it?†asked Zach softly. “Could you make it hit someone else?â€


Zeke shrugged again, lightly biting his lip, and motioned for Zach to pay attention to Mr. Monder and act like nothing had happened. In truth, Zeke was just trying to buy some time to figure out how he had done it. Was it a motion he had made with his hands or something else entirely? He was sure he had done something but he wasn’t sure what it could have been. He managed to at least buy a few minutes of thinking time before Zach interrupted his thoughts.


“Are you going to tell me?†asked Zach softly.


“To be honest, Zach, I really don't know how I did it,†answered Zeke with a slight shrug. “It was an accident.â€


Zach's face changed from a look of excitement to one of puzzlement. Before he could open his mouth to say anything, however, their conversation was interrupted by a voice behind them saying, “You're lucky Mr. Monder didn't see that, Zeke.†Zach scowled at the interruption.


Zeke smiled slightly as he turned partially in his seat to see his second best friend, Jade. She was a tall, beautiful, willowy-looking girl who was the same age as Zach and Zeke. She had long, straight, waist-length hair that was silky smooth and as black as a midnight sky. She also had shocking, jade-green eyes that were her namesake. In a way, her appearance reminded him of his mother. Zeke and Jade had been friends since their first year of primary school. They talked about almost everything together. Zeke hadn't mentioned the dreams or hearing other people's thoughts to her though. He thought it would be awkward for the both of them. He kept a few other things from her as well and was almost positive that she kept things from him. She was easily the smartest kid in their grade and it was a wonder that she hadn’t been pushed into becoming a junior instead of being a tenth-grader with them. She always received top marks and was constantly reading even during class. The teachers knew she could ace any of their tests so she pretty much got away with anything. There were more benefits to having her as a friend than Zeke first realized as she would always be able to help him out in any of the subjects he struggled with.


There were only two classes she did poorly at: chorus and gym. Although she was a lithe teenager, she wasn’t very fast. She relied heavily on her fast-thinking to get her out of situations. She also couldn’t sing. Most girls her age could sing prettier than a bird, but Jade couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Despite either of these, Zeke knew that if he was ever in a jam, Jade would be the one he trusted to get him out of it.


Zach, however, didn't trust her, having known her for only about three years. He didn’t like Jade being a know-it-all and barely talked to her. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Sherlock,†whispered Zach sarcastically. “Just ignore her, Zeke. She's going to get you in trouble.â€


Jade just ignored Zach. Her piercing gaze was on Zeke. “It was an accident, Jade,†he mumbled uncomfortably. “I don't know what happened.â€


Jade's look changed from piercing to skeptical as if she didn’t quite believe him. “I think you would have noticed something.â€


“No, Jade, I honestly didn't,†whispered Zeke defensively. “I was just stretching when it happened.â€


Before Jade could answer, Zach interrupted. “If Zeke says he doesn't know; then he doesn't, Jade,†he said, coming to Zeke's defense. “Stop pestering him and trying to be an insufferable know-it-all like always. How can you say you are his friend? Just trust him.†Zeke shot Zach a look that said he had taken it a bit too far, but it was already too late and the damage had been done.


Jade sat back in her chair, crossed her arms, and refused to talk to either of them throughout the rest of math. As the bell rang to signal the end of class, Zeke turned to apologize to Jade but found she had already left. He rushed out of the classroom, but he couldn't find her anywhere. Resigned, he went to lunch.


The tables were round and large enough to fit six to seven people at a table. Both chair and tables were black. The rest of the room was a spotless white, with a row of windows on the west side looking out over the soccer field. The floor was white tiled linoleum, with a grey swirled pattern, to give a different shade to the room. Here, anyone who didn’t bring a lunch had to pay for their food. The students would go through a door toward the front of the cafeteria which would lead them in through the kitchen. There, they had several choices per day. Mainly it was a sandwich or some other healthy food with a carton of milk or juice and a fruit. Every lunch had the basic food groups in it even when it didn’t look like it. For those who got lunch and forgot their student card, they had to press their thumb to a scanner. Dessert was a bit different. Anyone could get dessert. It was free. All they had to do was walk up to one of the five machines and stick their heads in. The machine, depending on which you went to, would make ice cream, yogurt, cakes, pies, or brownies and cookies. It all depended on what you were craving at the time.


As he walked into lunch, he saw her sitting at a lunch table all to herself reading a book as she ate. Zeke sighed, knowing that as soon as Jade was reading a book, it was useless to try and talk to her. He walked over to the lunch table where he and Zach usually sat at to find Zach chatting with someone else. This kid seems familiar, but I’m sure I haven't seen him around here before. Strange... thought Zeke as he walked over and sat down, starting to eat.


Zach finished his conversation and looked at Zeke. “No luck, huh?†he said. Zeke shook his head, looking at the new kid, but Zach didn’t seem to notice as he continued. “I really don't see why you bother with her, Zeke. She's annoying,†Zach said with a faint smirk. “Oh, and this is James,†he quickly added, turning to James. “He's new here. James, this is my best friend Zeke.â€


Zeke and James shook hands. “Nice to meet you, James,†said Zeke.


As Zeke sized up James, he could see the latter was slightly taller than himself by a couple of inches with short, light brown hair and cool grayish-blue eyes. He had lighter skin than most but had a lot of freckles on and around his nose. Zeke learned later on that even though James was sixteen, he was rather clumsy due to being very skinny and having rather large feet. He was honest and almost always cheerful, brightening up a room as soon as he walked into it. It was very rare to see Jimmy show any signs of being upset. No matter what his problems were, he hid them with his bright exterior attitude on life and a big goofy grin.


“Right back at ya, Zeke,†answered James. “You can call me Jimmy.â€


“So, where are you from, Jimmy?†asked Zeke, starting to eat again, savoring his favorite meal of goulash as he tried to think of where he had seen James before.


“I come from Mardan. It's in sector 3-1-2 Delta,†answered James automatically, sounding as though he had memorized it.


“Where is that?†asked Zeke, trying to remember his astronomy class, knowing they had just learned this recently.


To Zeke’s surprise, Zach answered with, “It's this planet's, Mylaran's, North Star. We call it Earth around here.†Zeke was just staring at his friend, knowing that it was rare for Zach to actually pay attention in Astronomy class. He usually sat there doodling the entire time. Seeing Zeke's look, Zach added, “Just because I draw and stare out the window in Astronomy class doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. Next time, Zeke, you shouldn't fall asleep. We learned that last week.†He turned to James. “Jimmy, what happened there? That planet is looking rather different colored these days. It seems dead.â€


Jimmy's face sobered even before Zach finished asking his question. “That's because it is dead, Zach,†he answered quietly. “It used to be a beautiful blue and green planet occupied by several oceans and continents covered in forests, mountains, lakes, streams, and even a few deserts. It was very much like Mylaran, so full of life and color,†he paused for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts, before continuing softly. “Then, about four years ago, one of our scientists noticed that our moon kept orbiting closer with each passing year. The scientists deduced the collision would happen this year. They devised a missile that would set the collision back about three or four years.†He paused again and wiped away tears that were forming at the corners of his eyes, ducking his head down.


“Take your time, Jimmy,†Zeke said softly. “It's not like we have to rush or anything.†Zach nodded in agreement, starting to eat his double cheeseburger that had been saved till last as usual. He always ate the fries first.


James nodded slowly, keeping quiet for another moment before wiping away the last of his tears and continuing, his voice thick with remorse. “The missile worked almost like the scientists had planned, but there was one major miscalculation that just ruined the planet way ahead of its time. The sudden change in the orbit of the moon affected the nature of the planet. Mardan was dying, gradually at first but it picked up as things became much worse. First, the lakes and rivers began to dry up. Where there were deserts, typhoons appeared, the rain forests caught on fire, and even the oceans began to dry up. Volcanoes, even the dormant ones, began to erupt all over the world. The ice melted at the North and South poles. It was terrible. Everything was in utter chaos.


We were living underground at the time after a disease wracked the planet 800 years ago. We had forgotten how to live life above ground although the disease had finally died out and those who were affected had long since passed away. With the drastic changes in the climate, we lost most of our food supply. We felt the huge tremors wrack the planet two years ago and we knew we had to leave. It was destroying the underground cities where we lived. So, the military brought out the huge ships they had confiscated from the secret extraterrestrial landings. We managed to evacuate most of the planet. I missed all of the transports and was separated from my mother. I was never good at being on time. I was lucky enough to find a one-man transport hidden in the military base where the evacuations were held. I flew it here. As far as I know, I'm the only one who made it here. I may just be the last survivor from Mardan.â€


“That’s horrible,†said a sympathetic voice behind them, making the trio jump and whirl around. Sitting behind them were three sixteen year-old guys wearing clear glasses with varying frames. They were Sitka, Ivan, and Genryu.


Sitka was taller than the other two, but shorter than Zeke wearing his usual white t-shirt and blue jeans. His black sneakers with white shoelaces contrasted harshly with the floor. He had shorter dark brown hair that curled slightly at the bottom and brown eyes. He was muscular to some extent and the girls called him “cute†with his farmer’s tan. Sitka acted like more of a big brother to most and would defend his friends even if it came down to a fight. He was loyal and easygoing with a great sense of humor. Zeke and Sitka were good friends because Zeke had known him since the sixth grade of primary school. The two had to stay inside after lunch once due to problems with their homework. It was there that they had hit it off. They joked about the teachers and instantly became friends as they talked about computer games. Zeke was able to help Sitka when it came to English class, aiding with grammar and punctuation. Sitka, on the other hand, helped Zeke with his hands on classes, like Woodshop and Electronics. Somehow Zeke always managed to fumble up something, but Sitka could always set it right.


Next to Sitka, Ivan was shorter by a few inches or more and was much skinnier too. Ivan and Sitka had been best friends from the fifth grade. Ivan had a mop of curly brown hair that came down just past his ears and deep blue eyes. He almost always wore a black, leather jacket, even indoors which gave him a pale complexion. Ivan was a quiet kid who rarely got into trouble, but spoke his mind if he felt it needed to be spoken. He was always there for a friend in need. Zeke had met Ivan the same year he became friends with Sitka, because Sitka was friends with Ivan and introduced the two to each other. Once again, video games became the bonding point. Zeke helped Ivan improve in gym over the years. Ivan showed Zeke a thing or two about the video games as well, showing him the new games and new cheats that came out.


The final member of the trio was Genryu. He stood off to the right a little, but his pose struck Zeke as one who was overconfident in himself. He was almost the opposite of the other two. He was shorter and stockier than both of them with longer dark brown, almost-black hair that was almost always in his green eyes and came down about an inch or so past his collar. Not too tan or too pale, he was in the middle when it came to skin tone. He liked to play the tough guy and he could back it up for the most part if need be. He always wore a loose t-shirt and baggy jeans. People had nicknamed him Jet Lee because his hair and appearance was similar to a movie character. Zeke had met Genryu through Sitka as well, but not under good circumstances. Genryu had been trying to pick a fight with Zach over a girl. Zeke and Sitka had broken the two up telling them both to act their age. Later on, Zeke and Genryu had met at a gaming party and slowly became friends although not as good as the friendship with Sitka and Ivan.


Zach didn't know any of them as well as Zeke and wasn't too keen on their company, especially Genryu’s company. “What do you guys want?†asked Zach rather rudely, knowing Genryu liked to make fun of him behind his back.


“Geez, Zach, what's your problem?†countered Genryu, mimicking Zach's tone perfectly.


“Lay off it, you two,†interrupted Zeke, trying to stop them before they got carried away for the fifth time that week, and it was only Tuesday.


James looked over at Sitka. “So, why did you come over here, uh...?†asked Jimmy, unsure of the other's name.


“My name is Sitka,†filled in Sitka. “This is Ivan, and Genryu is over there trying to pick a fight with Zach again. Those two usually fight so try to ignore them.â€


“Okay, Sitka,†said Jimmy. “I'm James, but you can call me Jimmy. Back to my original question though, why did you three come over here in the first place?â€


“I heard you talking,†explained Sitka. “I thought it was just another one of those adventure stories or a plot to a game. As it went on, however, I realized it wasn't. Now, it’s my turn to ask a question. Why didn't Mardan's scientists just evacuate the planet from the beginning?â€


Jimmy sighed. “Some of them did evacuate beforehand. I heard them talking about this planet which is why I set course for it as soon as I got in that transport. But as for the rest of them,†he replied, shrugging, “maybe it was pride, I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. I've often wondered that same question.â€


“I know why they mentioned this planet when telling the crews where to evacuate to,†said Ivan softly. “It’s because a quarter of the population came from Earth. We learned about it recently in History class.â€


“That’s right,†said Genryu with a nod. “I remember that now. It happened after the third world war.â€


Next to Zach, Zeke had been paying the conversation his full attention until he felt his body leaving his seat even though he had not gotten up. None of the others were paying attention as he floated up, his knees touching the table. A slight wave of panic went through his body. First it was the pencil and now it’s me, he thought. How am I going to get down? Calm, Zeke, think. He slowed his breathing and focused thinking. Then, he made sure he wouldn't float any higher, keeping his knees tight to the table. He knew that this was his fault but he didn't know what had happened. He thought he had made a funny symbol with his hands but he wasn't sure. Could that be what he had been doing? First it was the dream, then hearing others thoughts, and now floating objects. Why couldn’t he be just a normal kid like everyone else?


Suddenly, he heard Jade's voice in his mind as if she was right beside him, saying, <Just lower your hands, Zeke, and you'll come back down.> Zeke did as her voice told him to do, even though he doubted it would do much good. To his immense surprise, he felt himself coming down. It felt good to have the chair underneath him again. I wonder how she knew that would work, not to mention that I could hear her thoughts, he thought to himself, relief flooding through him. For a moment there he thought he would just keep drifting upward like a helium balloon.


A faint glow suddenly caught the attention of Zeke’s eyes. The pendant that he always wore around his neck had started to glow faintly. Wait, why is it doing that? he thought to himself, quickly bringing his hand to the neck of his t-shirt, attempting to cover it.


Zach looked over at him. “Zeke, are you okay?†he asked. “You look like you've seen a ghost.†Zeke was abruptly aware that most of the others were looking at him strangely, but he could tell from their concerned, rather than shocked, expressions they hadn't seen him floating.


Zeke noticed that Sitka was looking at him with a thoughtful, rather than strange look on his face, but it vanished almost as soon as he saw it. “Yeah, Zach, I'm fine. I'm going to go try talking to Jade again,†he answered, getting up and walking over to Jade's table, ignoring Zach’s comment that it was pointless, before sitting down across from her.


Jade put her book down slowly, biting her lip as she looked at Zeke. “Yes, Zeke, what is it?†she asked him, a little quieter than Zeke had expected her voice to be, almost as if she was trying to keep the words from coming out.


“How did you know what to do and how did you know that I would hear you if you spoke in my mind? I didn't tell you that I could hear thoughts.†Zeke's mind started to race with questions. So many questions flooded his mind that his tongue was struggling not to trip over his own words. For the second time that day, he felt like a little kid again always asking why and other such questions.


“I figured it out, Zeke. I'm not dumb,†answered Jade, before taking a bite out of the salad sitting in front of her. Zeke had always teased her about liking so much “rabbit food†in her diet, but she had always ignored him and ate a salad almost every lunch period anyway. Zeke looked at her, dumbfounded. “You glance around when no one had said a word, as if you hear voices,†she offered as an explanation, noting the look on his face. “When you don’t see someone speaking, you get a confused look on your face. By the way, how did you do that?â€


"How did I do what?" Zeke asked, his brain still trying to get over the fact that Jade had managed to work out his secret, even after his attempts to keep it hidden. It also made him wonder what else she could have worked out.


"Lifting yourself off of your chair, obviously," Jade said in response, shaking her head almost exasperatedly, resting one of her hands on the table, the other laying on top of it, but he could tell she was trying to keep her hands from trembling. She usually had problems with her blood sugar just before lunch. She was a diabetic and although doctors had found ways to almost stop the effects of it and have painless ways of getting insulin, they still had not found a way to completely cure it.


“I'm not sure, Jade,†said Zeke, before adding. “Did you take your pill yet?â€


Jade raised an eyebrow skeptically at him. “Of course I did, and let me guess. You have a pendant like this one, no?†she asked. She slowly pulled out a black cord from under her shirt after looking around to see no one watching. On it a dark, jade-green pendant, a little bigger than a marble hung, clutched in a silver dragon's claw.


Zeke nodded slowly, looking around nervously. He was sure no one was watching, but he wondered why she was showing him so quickly. Was there something special about his pendant? Could it be that this little necklace was the source of all his problems? He never took it off except to shower or swim. Even in soccer games he found a way to keep it from coming out from under his shirt. It was the last thing his great-grandmother had passed onto him before she passed away. He pulled it out reluctantly to show her. There were only two main differences between the two pendants. His was gold and it was on a silver chain instead of a black cord.


"Hmm…" Jade said quietly, quickly examining Zeke's pendant as it hung in front of her. "When did these strange accidents of yours start occurring?" she asked him.


“Just this morning in math,†said Zeke, slipping his pendant back under his shirt. “Why? Is there something special about it?â€


“I've read about these pendants,†said Jade, following his example and slipping her pendant back down through the top of her t-shirt.


“I would be surprised if you hadn't,†commented Zeke.


“Now what's that supposed mean?†Jade scoffed, throwing Zeke a reproachful look.


“Nothing, Jade, you were saying?†he replied hastily. He didn't need her mad at him again. Truth was, she did seem to know a lot about any subject that was brought up. She spent most of her time reading and researching.


She eyed him suspiciously before answering. “They are supposedly called dragon-star pendants,†she explained. “According to legend, a man brought them here through a mysterious portal. He said that they were the bringers of a new future to his world. The pendants were sought after throughout the years when they, and the man, mysteriously vanished about seventy years ago. No one knew where the portal the man had come through was. There are eighteen of them in total floating around this world. I was given mine by my great-grandmother who said that it had been with her for a long time and given to her by a strapping young man with wavy short blond hair and blue eyes for her sixteenth birthday. She said it had brought her good luck ever since. So, she decided to give it to me on my sixteenth birthday. She said she hoped it would give me as much good luck as it had given her.â€


“Where did you learn about the legend? I haven't heard that one before,†said Zeke, speaking when Jade fell silent.


“Kiro has a book on them. It's a really old legend that most don't believe or understand anymore,†she replied casually. “If you want to learn more, you should get that book off of her.â€


Zeke nodded. “I think I will,†he said. “I think it's all rather interesting. Besides, maybe something in that book may be able to help me with some weird dreams I've been having lately.â€


Jade looked sharply at him. “Dreams, what sort of dreams? Was someone or something calling to you in these dreams?â€


Zeke blinked slowly in surprise then nodded. “How did you know?†he asked. Was she having the same dreams as him? That would explain her reaction and how she knew about the calling. In his it was a feeling of being pulled along. He had tried turning and heading towards the ocean smell, but a blast wind or gushing water would make him turn around and head towards the smell of fruit.


Jade had a thoughtful look on her face. “I've just been having dreams of a weird greenish light and someone calling out for help. Anyway, here comes your new buddy.â€


Just then Zeke heard the bell ring, signaling the end of lunch and someone coming up behind him. “Bye, Zeke,†came Jimmy's voice in his right ear.


Zeke turned around and shook Jimmy's hand again. “It was nice to meet you, Jimmy,†he said. “Feel free to hang out any time.â€


“Don't worry, Zeke, I will,†said James, grinning.


“By the way, this is one of my other best friends. Her name is Jade,†added Zeke. “Jade, this is James.â€


“It's a pleasure to meet you, Jade,†said Jimmy, offering his hand. “You can call me Jimmy or James, whichever you prefer.


Jade shook it with a thoughtful look on her face. “Nice to meet you too, James,†she answered, seeming slightly preoccupied. “The bell rang. We should probably get going.†Zeke and Jimmy nodded towards Jade before the three of them gathered their things together and left for their next lesson.


Zeke forgot all about Kiro's book and didn't have any more of those weird accidents. However, the dream kept getting stronger. It woke him up almost every night when he would get close. Then one day in English class, a month or two after Jade mentioning the book, he was messing around, drawing random things on his paper when one of the books from the shelf went flying across the room and hit the door.


Zach immediately looked at him. “That was you, wasn't it? You gotta tell me how you did that,†he whispered.


Zeke shook his head and motioned for Zach to be quiet as the teacher, Mrs. Genzal, eyed the room sternly. “Who threw that?†she asked. “The culprit had better fess up. You know better than to throw books around. You are almost juniors now. Two more years, you graduate.†She walked over, picking it up, not even noticing that there was no one near enough to even think of grabbing the book to throw it.


As Zeke's eyes followed her, he saw Kiro looking at him with a thoughtful look on her face. Only then did he remember about Jade telling him that Kiro owned a book on dragon-star pendants. Maybe Kiro can help me control this, he thought to himself. She probably does know more than me on this since she has that book. Maybe she can figure out what is happening to me. I'd better borrow that book anyway, just in case. He looked over and saw Zach still looking at him eagerly and whispered, “I have no idea what you are talking about, Zach. I didn't do anything. Be quiet, or she will blame us.â€


Mrs. Genzal was a skinny woman, who looked like a vulture. She had wrinkles upon wrinkles, and no one doubted she was the oldest person at the school. The next oldest was Mr. Monder. They would bicker, as if they were married, about english and math. She always dressed in a dark green ankle-length dress with a white blouse, along with an exquisite gold watch on her right wrist. Her brown frizzy hair with gray streaks was tied up in a bun and not one hair ever stood out of place. She had rectangular glasses that stood towards the middle of her long, beak-like, nose. Whenever she was reprimanding a student, she would always peer over the top of her glasses, piercing the student with her gray-eyed stare. She almost always had a sever look on her face, her mouth pinched in a thin line constantly, and would rarely allow herself a smile unless it had something to do with her precious literature. She was the English teacher of English teachers. She was the authority on literature and no one double-checked her on anything. She knew it all. When she was being interviewed for hire, she answered every question the superintendent and principal asked her with impeccable grammar and pronunciation. She baffled them with her thorough knowledge on several older pieces that other applicants had not even come close to knowing. Mrs. Genzal knew them all, like a cartographer knows his own maps that he drew himself.


Mrs. Genzal picked up the book and surveyed the room sternly again, her mouth pinched as her voice took on an accent from her homeland that only came out when she was really angry. “So, no one is going to confess?†she asked them. “Well, I am ashamed of whoever threw that. You know, books are our heritage. They contain the stories of our past and will be carried on to our future. To throw a book means that you are throwing away your history.†She eyed the room again, her eyes lingering on Zach and Zeke for a few seconds longer than the rest, but no one looked guilty so she put the book on her desk and went back to her lecture on the literature in the early periods of history.


Zeke was listening to Mrs. Genzal when he put his head on his arm, which rested on his desk. He had been woken up by that dream at three in the morning the previous night and was still tired, having not been able to fall back asleep. When he put his head on his desk, he immediately fell asleep accidentally and back into the elusive dream. He was walking back down the tunnel, almost running this time. Maybe I'll make it this time and solve this, he thought to himself in his sleep, shivering. All of a sudden, his sleep was interrupted by someone shaking him awake, making him trip on a root in the tunnel. Why don't people ever understand how important this is to me; he thought with a soft sigh as he jerked awake to find Zach there.


“Our last class is over, Zeke,†said Zach. “I can't believe you slept right through that annoying bell. Even I couldn't do that. School is out for the day and we are going to miss the bus if we don't move it. Just think, two more months of this, then it's summer vacation and we will be juniors.â€


Zeke nodded groggily as he rubbed his eyes, his mind still focused on his dream. Am I going to walk down that tunnel for eternity, he thought while Zach was rambling on. What is the meaning of this? A tap on his shoulder told him that they were not alone in the classroom. He turned and found Kiro there.


Kiro was shorter than most of the kids, even in the grades below them. Zeke sometimes felt bad for her, but Kiro always came back with a cheerful, “short people always find a way†though she did like to curse tall people a lot, but she would laugh when she did it. She was a stocky sixteen year-old with a tomboyish personality. Kiro could deal with most of the guys' jokes and could laugh along with them at times too. She had hazel eyes and dark brown hair that she kept short, although sometimes she let it grow out a bit so she could put it in a ponytail to keep her bangs out of her eyes. Kiro was almost always wearing a starball cap (a hat similar to Earth’s baseball cap), and was often told that she was smart, but she didn’t believe it. She had low self-esteem, but tried to hide it. She was trustworthy and if a secret came to her, it stopped and stayed with her, so a lot of people came to her with their problems. She was loyal to her friends, family, and those that trusted her. Zeke and Kiro had met about the same time he met Jade since she was also friends with the other girl. Jade had been showing Kiro something in music class when Zeke had walked in. Zeke and Kiro had instantly become friends over their love of music. Zeke was teaching her how to play the trumpet when he had the time.


“Hi, Zeke,†she said. “I have something for you. Could you come with me to my locker?â€


Zeke blinked slowly, looking at her, not understanding why she would have something for him. Oh, wait, the book, could it be that Jade had talked to her about the pendants? Either way he wanted to find out what it was about. “Uh, sure, Kiro,†he answered, giving Zach a dirty look for snickering behind his back. “Oh, shut up, Zach.â€


Kiro smiled. “Let's go then,†she said as she left the classroom. Mrs. Genzal watched Zeke scramble for his books and Zach following him out, then sighed and looked over the book that had flown across the room, inspecting it for damages.


Zeke followed Kiro to her locker, which coincidentally was right near his own. While she was taking time to look for whatever it was, he went to his locker to get the rest of his stuff. He put in the combination, spinning the dial of the thick lock first to the left click, then to the right click, and finally to the left again, passing the previous number click. As an annoyance the locker had jammed shut again. He sighed, making sure no teachers were around, then kicked it and pulled up again on the handle. It slid open. He grabbed his bookbag and his homework that he would have to do for the weekend then shut his locker and went back to Kiro’s. She was still searching.


“Finally,†she said, standing back up with one of the thickest covered books that he had ever seen. The covers themselves were at least the thickness of the book and then some. They were a deep red color that really brought out the gold spidery lettering on the front and binding that read A Dragonologist's Guide to Runes and Stones. It also had a smooth, round green stone that sat in the middle of the front cover with a ring of strange silver runes around it. “Here's a book I think you will be interested in reading. Jade gave me the impression that you wanted to learn more about dragon-star pendants. This book has been with my family since someone gave it to my grandfather years ago. His name was Keith Rhiner, but, even though my grandfather had never seen him before, Keith seemed familiar somehow and said he knew my great grandfather.â€


Zeke looked at her confused for a few seconds after the comment about Jade, still entranced by the book and how the light seemed to dance off the covers like firelight. “Oh, right,†he replied. “I remember now. Jade told me to ask you about the book because of something that happened a couple months ago. I totally forgot about it because I didn't see you that day.†As he took the book from her, he felt his pendant grow warm against his chest. He glanced down but didn't see anything unusual. “Thanks, Kiro,†he said, dismissing the thought. Then he turned away and walked out of the school, walking to his bus, leaving Kiro scrambling to get her things and running to catch her bus.



(I need a better description for the pendants. If you can help that would be awesome!)


They look like this:




I have a red one! PM me or comment on it! Thanks!)



Dedicated to all of my friends. Without them, this story would not exist. Special thanks goes to my friend Tyler, who kept me motivated to finish.




“The year was 2012. America had been at war for eleven years with the Middle East. Time had come for a change. The U.N. stepped in and created a peace treaty for the warring nations. On October 23rd, the treaty was finalized: the Middle East would ship punctual, generous shipments of oil and other essential fossil fuels each month and the U.S. government would stay out of Middle East affairs. It was a total cease fire for the two. The President of the United States and the leaders of the Middle East signed the papers at U.N. headquarters and within the week, a shipment of oil and natural gas entered the U.S. Peace had come at last. It was a delicate agreement. One slip up from either side would renew the fighting.


During this long-awaited time of peace, conspiracy theorists turned to the Mayan prediction for December 21, 2012. The Mayans called it El Fin de los Tiempos (the end of the times). Most thought it meant the end of an age. Others thought it meant the end of the world. Most of Earth's population regarded this "End of the World" prediction as they had the others (Y2K, 06/06/06, etc): fake. Astrophysicists and meteorologists watching the sky that nothing would come from above even though there was a comet passing close to the planet that year. Geologists and oceanographers said nothing would come from below. Little did anyone know that the Mayan prediction would not come around by natural means, but instead by technological means.


A group of activists, refusing to hail any country as their own, gained control of a shipment of biological nukes. Within two weeks they bombed the major cities of the major countries including: United States, Africa, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and Australia. Immediately following the bombings, a ship exploded in the ocean. Authorities from all of the nations concluded that this was the ship used to bomb the world.


Where the nukes hit, a virus spread. Those who worked to clear the rubble realized it was changing them. They were able to see farther, run faster, and lift heavier loads. The cleanup of the major cities was finished within a month. The rebuilding of the U.S. capitol was started immediately. They worked tireless hours, not needing sleep because their bodies had adapted to it. They found sunlight to be uncomfortable and therefore completed it in the dark. The plans were finished and the buildings were re-erected within six months.


Luckily the President had been in a meeting at the U.N. when the activists attacked on December 21, 2012. He was given a home in Philadelphia until the White House and other buildings were rebuilt. Hazmat teams tried to detox the air as well. Finally, he was able to move back in. Peace and a sense of normality had been restored. But, it wouldn’t last for long.


The kids who had been near the areas that had been hit were noticing different changes than those of the workers. Those who used to wear glasses no longer had to, those who did badly at sports now excelled at them and most kids found that math and critical thinking problems weren’t even that hard. Doctors were baffled at the increased brain activity. Telekinesis and telepathy were no longer rare gifts. Almost everyone had them. Thoughts had to be guarded carefully.


Adults were also affected. Longevity increased by tenfold and more “powers†developed. A young man by the name of John Charleson sought to increase this “power†even more. He spent longer times in the affected areas. He wasn’t the only one to try this, but after dawn of his second week of doing this, he was the only one showing signs of change. Within a month, he had mutated into something barely recognizable as human. If asked to describe it, one could only use this description “a hodge-podge of animals: eyes like a snake, face of a dog, front feet of a maned wolf/deer, and back legs like a horse. He had a mane like a lion and a tail like a lizard. He was covered in sharp spikes and had two bony knobs that could only be a failed attempt at wings. He terrorized the streets of Washington, D.C. and the military was powerless to stop him. Anyone who was bit by this creature became something akin to him.


Soon the miracle of the bombing developed into Charleson’s disease. It happened widespread throughout the bombed areas and was carried on the wind. Face masks became necessary every day, especially outside. Citizens were encouraged to move as far away from these places as possible and to only be out during the day. The monsters loved the darkness and any shade was not safe either. Soon the military developed an underground system so the people could live below. The monsters couldn’t follow them down there. The military made it almost impossible.


Some scientists refused to leave the surface. Astro-physicists and biologists stayed above ground to keep an eye on the comet that was passing through and to study the air to see if there was an antidote that could be made. They weren’t the only ones to stay above. Anyone who was great at farming also stayed above. They were given expensive places to live above and below ground. When winter came, only the scientists stayed above. Using the extensive labyrinth of tunnels below these facilities, the military was able to get the scientists food and supplies throughout the winter.


With the threat of the beasts looming overhead, most of the population was pressing the scientists to find a new planet to inhabit. Finally, after five years of searching, the scientists found a suitable host planet. Using the technology that had been developed in the years directly after the bombs went off before Charleson’s disease had fully manifested, the scientists launched a rocket that powered on reactor technology. Within a month, the team responded that the locals had agreed they could move in, but there were minor stipulations. One, only a certain number of the population, mainly women and children could come through and two, they had to abide by all rules of the planet or be sent back.


A division became immediately apparent in what was left of the world. Some wanted to find a new planet, others agreed with the stipulations, ready to make whatever sacrifice necessary to save the young ones. In the end, the planet divided. Most of the 580 citizens that were left after the disease stayed on Earth while twenty men and eighty women and children (less than the stipulation) left for this new planet now known as Mylaran.


That was eight hundred years ago. We have not heard from them since.â€


Zeke closed the seventh edition of Our History-How We Came to be Here by: Anderson and Ritz and set it aside. He had been studying for his History test that would be right after lunch. He looked at his clock over on his bedside table. It read 22:38. It was time to get some sleep.