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 wasnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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.
â€œWhat?â€ he said, rubbing his face with a napkin. â€œDo I have leftover ice cream on my nose or something?â€
â€œNo,â€ she answered, moving her head back and forth as if trying to confirm something. â€œZeke, 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. â€œI'm not sure,â€ 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 Dragonologistâ€™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 hadnâ€™t heard him yell. After that Zeke always went to the secluded area of the Dragonlyerâ€™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. â€œKiro invited me over to Lucky's today. Do you want to come with me?â€
â€œSure, Zeke, why don't we go right now?â€ she answered, a thoughtful look on her face, as if the attempt to remove the previous event from her mind hadnâ€™t completely worked.
â€œWell, it's about twenty miles or so from here,â€ 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. â€œDon'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 isnâ€™t expecting us right away.â€
â€œNo, Zeke,â€ replied Jade, finishing her ice cream with relish. A grin lit her face as if she knew something that Zeke didnâ€™t. He knew that she would tell or show him eventually, so he just let it go. â€œI have a faster way to travel with no speed bumps.â€ 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 wasnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 Zekeâ€™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, â€œWell, it looks like Kiro is already here, Zeke.â€ 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. â€œYou'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 couldnâ€™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.
â€œI wonder who could be here,â€ Kiro's voice was saying. â€œI thought you said your parents wouldn't be home until this evening.â€
â€œThat's what they told me. I'm not sure who could be here, Kiro,â€ said the other voice, obviously Luke's. â€œMy 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. â€œHey, guys,â€ said Zeke with a smile at Kiro's bewildered face as she raised her arm and gave a small wave.
â€œHow did you get here so fast, Zeke?â€ she said, mildly confused and thoughtful, as if trying to work something out in her mind. â€œYou 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. â€œIt was Jade's doing,â€ he said, looking at Luke and Kiro. â€œI 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.â€ 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 â€œLuckyâ€ 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, â€œI'm just lucky, I guess.â€
Luke looked at Jade. â€œHow did you get him here then, Jade?â€ he asked.
Jade smiled. â€œI used a teleportation spell with my dragon-star pendant,â€ she answered, showing them. â€œMy 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€
â€œSo, Zeke,â€ said Kiro, looking at him, her voice taking on a slightly serious tone. â€œWhen 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. â€œIt 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,â€ he answered slowly. â€œI think it has something to do with my dragon-star pendant.â€ He pulled it out slowly to show them, seeming to not have the same comfort level as Jade when it came to the pendants. â€œI'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.â€ 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.
â€œI take it you both have pendants too?â€ 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. â€œHow do you know so much about them, Kiro?â€ asked Zeke. â€œI didn't get much knowledge from that book, just the legend itself.â€ He was sure she hadnâ€™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. â€œThat is a very good deduction, Zeke. I actually learned all of this from my grandmother,â€ she explained. â€œShe'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€
â€œWhat about you, Luke?â€ asked Jade. â€œHow did you get yours?â€
â€œMy dad bought it for me at a card game shop for my birthday,â€ he said. â€œIt 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€
â€œThanks, but you're not experimenting with me,â€ 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.
â€œLet's pick him up and take him to my room,â€ said Lucky. â€œI think he'll be alright.â€
â€œYeah,â€ answered Jade. â€œIf this has anything to do with that dream, he won't want to be woken up.â€
Kiro nodded in agreement. â€œYou get his feet, Jade,â€ she said, getting them moving. â€œI'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 didnâ€™t even occur to him that he shouldnâ€™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. â€œJimmy?â€ he said uncertainly. â€œWhere are we?â€ When Jimmy didn't respond in any way, Zeke repeated his question.
This time, James turned to look at him. â€œWho are you talking to, Zeke?â€ he said. â€œThe ghosts don't talk.â€
Now it was Zeke's turn to be puzzled. â€œI was talking to you,â€ 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?
â€œMe? Oh, you thought...â€ Jimmy's look went from puzzlement to amusement in a matter of seconds as he broke off with a laugh. â€œI'm SÃ©maj, not Jimmy. James is my twin.â€
Zeke was very surprised to hear this. â€œI 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€
â€œYou've seen Jimmy?â€ asked SÃ©maj, sounding hopeful. When Zeke nodded, SÃ©maj smiled happily, looking like his twin with that big goofy grin as he added, â€œThank 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.â€ SÃ©maj looked at his brother's ghost almost longingly.
Zeke blinked. â€œWhat 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?â€ he said.
SÃ©maj looked away from Jimmy's ghost with a chuckle. â€œWhy do you think I sent you those visions, Zeke? Why do you think you are here?â€ he answered, smiling still. â€œI 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 SÃ©maj 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. â€œWho's Orenga Dark?â€ he asked, shivering slightly at the feel of the name.
â€œThe way into Markan is through Dragonlyer's Cave,â€ said SÃ©maj anxiously, seeming to ignore Zekeâ€™s question. â€œPlease 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!â€ Zeke made to say something, but SÃ©maj shoved him back against the ghosts and told them, â€œWake 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.