"... a truly quirky and unique read that will be a new favorite for fantasy lovers." - San Francisco Book Review
"A parade of whimsical elements reminiscent of early, dreamlike video games" - Kirkus Review
Lahar’s life was regular- college, work, then binge watch whatever was in her queue. That was until she woke up in a new land. She meets a young wizard named Arena, who has made a home on the beach. With the help of his massive dog and mystical creatures called wisps, she must find a way back home while she fights the forces of a monster who lives among them. Join this Fantasy adventure, with new creatures to see and adventures to be had.
The sound of rushing water echoes in the tunnel. The chilling scent of sea air hits Arena’s nose as he steps past the archway. He stands on a stone bridge over a chasm. He looks up to see small crystals acting like stars scattered about in the dark night sky that is the stone ceiling. Spread about, embedded in the walls, are stone statues of shark heads with their jaws gaping. Water gushes out from their jaws and through their dagger teeth.
Arena sticks his finger in the mouth of a shark statue nearby. He tastes his finger; it is indeed seawater. He notices scratch marks spread all through the cavern walls. Stepping past the archway, Lahar and Pie gaze at the sight. At the end of the bridge is a large island floating in the air.
Illuminating most of the chasm are grand crystals branching off the rim of the island in a contorted fashion. Each crystal shines its own individual, gorgeous color. A sheet of white sand covers the island. In the center, someone sits. The person’s back is turned to them. A torn navy-blue hooded cloak hides the person’s physical features.
“Do you see him?” Lahar asks quietly so as not to alert the figure on the island.
“If you mean the only person here sitting in the middle of the island, then yes, I do,” Arena replies just as quietly.
“There is no way that they think I don’t notice them. I just can’t believe that,” they hear a voice say. The words don’t echo in the cavern; instead, the voice runs through their minds like a thought.
Arena and Lahar stand there for a moment in silence. They contemplate whether what has just happened is real or just imagination. They turn to each other, and by the expressions on their faces, they know that what just happened was real.
“Now, don’t be shy. You three are welcome to come down and talk,” says the same voice in a welcoming tone.
Lahar and Arena look at each other once more to confirm what they’ve heard. Arena shrugs and says, “We won’t learn anything standing here.”
“Plus, it’s rude to keep him waiting,” Lahar says as she gestures for Arena to go first.
They all walk down the long stone bridge, with Pie behind both of them. Lahar looks below them into the deep chasm. “That’s strange,” she whispers.
“There is a lot of water pouring down, but I don’t hear the water hitting the bottom.” They both look down into the seemingly bottomless pit with worried expressions. From then on, they walk practically in the middle of the bridge and avoid the sides.
As they walk, Lahar feels something wet hit her nose. She looks up to see drops of water occasionally falling from the stalactites above. Once Lahar steps on the white sand, a chill runs up her spine. The cloaked figure stands without turning.
The cloak stops midway down his back and is tattered, with ripped ends. He has tight black pants on with stone thorns ripping through the fabric in random areas around each leg. His feet are buried in the sand. “It’s strange to see that I have visitors. I normally don’t get company down here,” the voice says.
“You do keep yourself hidden. That might contribute to that,” Arena replies out loud.
The person chuckles. “That is a solid point.”
Arena steps forward. “Hello. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Arena. My friend here is Lahar, and behind me is Pie,” he says in a respectful tone.
“Hi,” Lahar says nervously. Her eyes focus on the stone thorns, while Arena examines the cave.
“I should introduce myself. Just please don’t overreact when I turn. It will be slightly…shocking,” he says. The man turns around to reveal that they have been speaking to a wooden mannequin. He is shirtless, revealing his slim wooden body riddled with small cracks and scratches. Each arm has the same stone thorns piercing out from under the wood. Small barnacles grow on his chest and sides, making his body resemble a sunken ship.
He pulls down his hood to reveal his face. His head is well kept, unlike the rest of his body. There are no strong facial features, only a smooth and round surface. He has two cleanly carved holes where his eyes should be. In each hole flickers a small white flame.
Lahar stares in shock at the sight in front of her. She tries her best to remain calm, but the fear and shock ooze from her face. Her eyes turn to Arena. His eyes shine as he stares in awe at what is in front of him. His heart beats like a hummingbird with excitement. “Phenomenal,” he whispers.
“This is the part where you both freak out and yell,” the voice says in a monotone.
Lahar chews on her gum more furiously, hoping it will remedy how she feels. In a shaking tone, she’s able to say, “No, we won’t do that. Will we, Arena?”
Arena snaps back into reality. “Of course not. We didn’t come all this way to freak out in front of you. If anything, you’re fantastic. Are you a wisp? How are you moving?”
“I am glad to see you all are reacting well,” he says, flattered by Arena’s words. Grains of sand rise in the air, clumping together to take shape as chairs, one for each of them. “Take a seat.” He gestures to the chairs.
“Thank you.” Arena pauses. “Actually, I did not catch your name,” he says as he sits down on the chair. Pie sits next to his chair, keeping his eyes locked on the mannequin.
“That is because I never gave you one. Well, to be correct, I don’t have one,” the mannequin says. He ponders to himself for a moment. His finger taps his wooden head. The noise reminds Lahar of a wooden spoon hitting a table.
“I never really had a need for one. Wow, I can just name myself now!” he says with enthusiasm. With an abundance of joy and pride in his voice, he says, “In the spirit of your three odd names, I will go with Void.”
“Thank you, Void, for graciously letting us into your home, even though we sort of barged in,” Arena says. “We actually came here with a purpose. We were hoping you could help us out with something.”
“Of course. Fire away,” Void replies enthusiastically.
Lahar sits down in her chair. She feels as if the chair will collapse at any moment, but even though she shifts as she tries to get comfortable, it stays intact. She fixes her skirt. “I’m sorry if this comes off rude, but there is something I am curious about. Is it really necessary for you to speak through our thoughts?”
Void rubs the smooth surface where his mouth should be as he speaks. “Well, it’s not like I have any other choice. I thought that was pretty obvious. I know it’s strange, but it is really the only way I can communicate.”
Lahar understands as she stares at his face. She glances away, knowing she is just making it more obvious that she is staring.
Arena clears his throat. “This might take some time, but we would like for you to be honest with us,” Arena says.
“Don’t worry. I’m not running on borrowed time,” Void says as his flames flicker.
Arena is caught somewhat off guard by the statement but chooses to ignore it. “You see, you and I have made homes here,” Arena says. “You below the fields in this cavern. My home is on the beach not that far from here. Yet Lahar didn’t. She was brought here against her will.”
“It was sudden,” Lahar says as she clutches her skirt. She sits on the chair, her body tense.
Arena’s arm drapes behind the chair. He’s relaxed, except for his eyes. They are piercing through Void, cautious of him. Void, on the other hand, is completely calm. He slouches in his chair with his arms hanging to his sides, his gaze turning to whoever is speaking.
His snow-colored flames gaze into her hazels as a soft chill falls on her skin. She continues to speak. “I can’t remember how I got here. I…I woke up in my bed, but I wasn’t in my apartment. I was surrounded by grass under a tree. I wandered around and ended up on a beach and found…well…him.” She points at Arena.
Arena speaks in a calm manner. “She told me her story, and I decided to help. It wasn’t much of a hard choice after I heard her story.” Arena leans forward and looks directly at Void. “Is it safe to assume you know about magic?”
“Of course I do! I am a talking mannequin! You two are asking quite a few obvious questions.”
“Well then, you know about aura,” Arena says. Void stays quiet as he leans lower in his chair. “I can refresh your memory. It is the magical equivalent of a fingerprint. When I first met Lahar, I knew whatever brought her here had to be magical. We both know that the place we call home isn’t normal.”
Arena smiles as he speaks arrogantly. “So I did a spell that allowed me to extract the aura that brought her here. I worked on it for at least two days, so I know it is as accurate as it can be. The aura would bring me to its owner.” Arena points to the ground. “That led us here”—Arena raises his finger so that it now points at Void—“and led us to you.”
“I feel like you want me to say that I am the one who brought her here.”
“Well, did you?” Lahar asks Void with a crack in her voice.
“Of course I am. There is no reason to lie,” Void replies bluntly.
They are caught off guard by his forwardness. Lahar’s eyebrows start to twitch.
“So you are the one who kidnapped me? You’re the one who brought me to who knows where?” she yells, hearing her voice echo in the cave. Her hands shake with anger as she runs one through her hair.
As Void speaks, his arms flare around. He moves with his words, as if to emphasize them. “I wouldn’t put it in those words. You make it sound so…what’s the word? Deplorable. When you say it like that.” Void starts to speak in a calm, rationalizing tone. “Why don’t we put it as, I whisked you away to a new land as its new hero. You found this magical land’s prince, the man sitting next to you. Now you both are on an adventure to find your way home.”
“Exactly!” Void says with excitement. “This is a fairy tale, and I am here to help you get home. I’m like the good witch.” Void may lack a mouth, but if he were to smile, it would be at this moment.
“So this is the part in the story where you help me, then. Right? You show us the way home, and we live happily ever after, right?” Lahar asks, filling with hope.
“Of course. I brought you here so it would be no trouble at all to send you back. I did bring you here for a reason, though. It’s something only you can do.”
“Of course. If there is anything we can do, we will help,” she says, volunteering Arena with her.
“Is this true, Arena? Will you help me, too?” Void asks as his flames flicker.
Arena runs his hand through his hair as he stares into the flames. He taps his thighs while he contemplates for a moment.
“Well, this is all happening really fast for me. Still, I promised Lahar I would get her home any way I can.” He goes silent for a moment. “Fine. I’ll help you out.”
“Thank you, Arena. This means a lot. I will find a way to pay you back, I promise,” Lahar says.
Void claps his hands together with joy. “This is great to hear. I’m overjoyed. Don’t worry; I won’t ask for anything hard. In fact, this will benefit us both, Arena, so there’s a bonus incentive,” Void says, bouncing in his chair. His actions are reminiscent of a child who has been told he can have any toy he wants in the store.
“Oh, that’s good to hear,” Arena says. “So what will we have to do?”
Void turns his gaze to Arena directly. The flames burn brighter as he speaks. “As I said, nothing is too difficult. I just need Lahar’s help to get your heart.”
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About the author:
I'm Enrique Rosado, a Puerto Rican who grew up on the island for a bit before landing in Killeen, Texas, a town that cultivated me and made me who I am today. Now I find myself in New York City writing any chance I get.