Gary swiveled around. He swore he could feel a cold clammy hand on the back of his neck. But he didn't see anything. "Liz!" An echo was the only thing that he heard back. He walked a few paces, and turned a corner. There on his left was a door. A red door, with black stains on it. He slowly started to turn around, when he heard an eerie voice whisper, "Open the door. Lizzy is there." "Get out of my mind!" He yelled back. Again, only echos shattered through the silence. Where was Lizzy? Was the voice in his head right? Or was it even in his head? "Lizzy, this isn't funny! I know you're hiding from me!" He thought about turning around to go look for her, but he quickly reached out his hand so he wouldn't have a second thought, and stepped through the door. As soon as he opened it, he knew something was about to happen.
"Ugn," Gary moaned. He'd wandered through the doorway, and stumbled upon another door. This one was white, and it had a symbol carved into it just above the handle. It looked like a star. He looked at it from the right and it looked like a star, but then he looked at it from the right, and the inside pieces of the star made something different. What it made, he had no idea. He felt reluctant to open the door at first, but if opening the door meant finding Liz, he would do it. As soon as he touched the doorknob, he felt a cold, icy, tingling sensation. Adjusting his fingers worriedly on the knob, he opened the door.
He turned around to close the door behind him, but before he could, it snapped shut itself. He turned back around, hands in his pockets, and saw a cloaked figure. It didn't move, just stood there. "I've been waiting, Gary." It said.
"Who are you?" I asked. Instead of answering me, he slowly turned around. "Don't you recognize me?" "Uh, Nope." "I'm... Your worst nightmare!" Gary yawned. "Doesn't ring a bell." He said tiredly. "Ok, well I have Liz. Ever since you guys got put here, I've been after you two." "Wait. Put here?" "Yeah. By me." He flashed a sarcastic grin. "Anyway, I've been after you two--" "Ya you established that." "Let me finish! I have Liz, and all I need is you." "Duh." "Aghh! Stop it! You think you're so funny! Well, let's see where funny gets you!" He waved his hands, and a single light came on, right above a chair. And a gagged Liz. She tried to yell out to him, but it didn't come out as she hoped. "Liz! What do you want with us?" Gary shouted. "Just for you to find something for me. A box. Filled with magic. Then in return, I give you freedom." Gary looked over at Liz, and she shook her head at him. She didn't want him to get hurt. "Done." He said firmly. "But Liz gets to come too." Evil cloak guy looked at the two of them. "Fine. You have one week to find it. Or no deal and you stay here forever." He untied Liz, and she rushed over to Gary. Cloaky turned to them, and with a sinister grin, disappeared into thin air. Gary and Liz shared a look, then raced out of the room with the creepy door.....
They found themselves in a long, eerie hallway. It was dimly lit by some kind of weird sconces every few feet, with pale lavender flames that didn't do much to combat the darkness.
"This is a bad idea," Liz whispered, glancing at her brother uneasily.
"I couldn't just let him keep you tied up like that!" Gary protested.
"And us both dying is better how?" Liz retorted. Before Gary could give her a reply, the siblings heard a low growl from a ways down the hallway. They looked at each other in fear.
"What," Gary asked slowly, "was that?" Liz shook her head in answer. The growl came again. Then they heard a sound like an animal running, and Liz threw open a nearby door with a plaid pattern. The door itself was a metallic rose gold color, and the doorknob looking haphazardly screwed on, possibly by someone with no clue what they were doing.
The inside of the door was freezing, but the siblings could almost feel the hot breath of the beast warm on their heels. Liz shoved Gary inside and quickly followed, slamming the door. They both heard a loud smack as if something had hit the other side of the door, before the door began to vanish into mid-air, leaving Gary and Liz in a strange, wintry scene. Liz shivered, realizing her thin t-shirt would not be nearly enough for this weather. Snow whipped through the air, falling into Liz's hair like small gems.
"Hello?" called an unfamiliar voice. Then a pale girl with long, pale blonde hair and pale green eyes seemed to appear right out of a snowdrift. Part of her hair was intricately braided, while the rest hung down, blowing in the wind. Her thick coat was white and appeared to be made out of some sort of fur. With her paleness and the fact that she was petite, the girl almost blended into the snow around them. She almost blended in--except for one thing. She had strange, blue markings on forehead and cheeks. Her face was about the only skin the siblings could see with all the warm clothing was sporting. "You two must be freezing. Here, come with me." Her English was heavily accented, though it sounded unlike any accent Gary or Liz had heard before. They just stared at the stranger for a moment. "Come with me," the girl repeated. She couldn't have been much older than Gary, probably about eighteen or nineteen years old. The two of them followed her, and they began to walk (which was not exactly easy in the terrible weather). "I'm Ygslla," the girl explained, pronouncing her name like "Ya-sill-uh." "What are your names?"
"Uh, I'm Gary, and um, this is Liz." Something caught in Gary's throat. There was a small blue marking just behind the girl's ear. It looked like the one he saw on the red door. "Where are we?" He asked. He didn't know whether or not to trust this girl. And he didn't tell Liz, because he didn't want to freak her out too. But he was pretty sure he was doing enough freaking out for the both of them.
Gary looked back and hurried forward, running into Liz.
"What are you doing?" Liz cried angrily.
“Sorry, just nervous,” Gary explained hastily, with a glance at the strange girl.
“You have no need to be nervous,” Ygslla informed then, having heard what Gary said. He gulped, unaware she had such keen hearing. “As long as you mean no harm, then you have nothing to fear. As for where we are, this is the great land of Vankovia.” Ygslla turned and gave the siblings a quick smile. “Not far to the Arctic Bear, which is the pub that my family owns.” After a few more minutes of walking, Gary and Liz saw a big, brown building that looked as though it was made from some sort of wood. A sign above a sturdy-looking door proclaimed “The Arctic Bear” in bold lettering. Ygslla opened the door and they were greeted by a burst of warm air. “Visitors first.” She smiled again, and Gary and Liz exchanged a wary glance before stepping inside. They instantly felt better from the heat, since they had previously been freezing cold. Ygslla walked in and shut the door. Inside the pub was about what one would expect, with several patrons that looked similar to Ygslla in complexion and build, though there was a bit of variation. Men and women alike sat at some of the many tables (the inside was even bigger than it had looked) laughing and drinking.
At the bar itself was a middle-aged man, a boy about Liz’s age, and a girl who looked to be about Gary’s age. While the man and boy looked similar to Ygslla, the girl looked nothing like her, with curly brown hair and a much darker complexion. “Silla!” cried the girl, running over and wrapping her arms around Ygslla. “You’re back!” She positively beamed and then kissed Ygslla on the cheek. Gary and Liz stood there, unsure how to respond. The new girl just seemed to notice the siblings. “Oh, sorry for ignoring you! I’m Firah!” she said cheerfully. She didn’t have any markings that the siblings could see, and was wearing a red dress.
“Please sit down at the bar, and we’ll get you something to drink,” Ygslla offered. Gary and Liz were still a bit nervous about these near-strangers, but they sat at the bar while Ygslla and Firah went behind it.
"Should we drink stuff from them?" Gary whispered to Liz.
"I don't know," she replied.
"You can drink stuff from us. And eat our food. It's not like we would want to get anything from you. Like you short-sleeved shirts and jeans. In case you haven't realized, it's freezing here." Ygslla said matter-of-factly.
"True." Gary shrugged. He took the cup from her. He looked over at Liz, and saw that she had a puzzling look on her face, and kept glancing over at the boy that seemed to be Ygslla's age. He kept staring at her, with an expression he couldn't read. Gary realized suddenly what it was, and nudged Liz playfully. "Looks like you have an admirer." She punched him on the shoulder. Hard. "Ow!" He said. Ygslla turned around to look at him, raised an eyebrow.
"Do people from the Outside normally hurt themselves without doing anything?" Ygslla asked. Gary shrugged then winced, and nodded towards his drink. "The outside of the cup was hot." Ygslla nodded, not convinced, then turned around and continued washing dishes. Gary looked around the room, and noticed the girl that seemed to be his age that he noticed when he walked in. She was sipping a drink herself, and when she caught Gary looking at her, she half-snorted, half-coughed into her drink. He smiled, and she set her mug down quickly, spilling coffee as she did. Ygslla brought a towel over to her and wiped it up. Gary turned away, rubbing the back of his head embarrassingly, as he felt his face turn red. Liz nudged him teasingly now, and he shot her a look. She grinned over the top of her mug at him.
"So, you mentioned that the place we came from was "The Outside." What does that mean?" Gary tried to change the subject.
"Outside of the door. We call the place you came from The Outside." Ygslla said, like it was the most obvious thing ever.
"Oh, Like outside. Like in the sun? And in the grass and dirt and trees?" Liz asked.
"What's grass?" Ygslla asked. Gary stifled a laugh, but failed and turned it into a cough.
"Oh, You're serious. It's a green thing that grows through the ground. They are about this wide," Gary showed her with his fingers, "and if you don't cut them with a special machine, they just keep growing taller and taller. Grass can be very tall or very short, very soft, or very--"
"It's little green blades that don't go away and are everywhere." Liz cut him off. Ygslla smiled and nodded.
"Well, The Outside for us is the mysterious door and tunnels outside of here. We don't really venture out because it's so dangerous." Gary smiled.
"So shouldn't this place be called 'The Inside' then?" He chuckled to himself, and Liz kicked him. Hard. "Ow!"
"What is it with you Outsiders hurting yourselves?"
"I didn't hurt myself," Gary said gritting his teeth in pain, and annoyance. Liz snickered and he glared at her, rubbing his leg where she kicked it.
Ygslla rolled her eyes. "Seems pointless to me," she concluded. "So why are you here, Outsiders?" She regarded them with a piercing gaze. Gary and Liz glanced at each other for a moment before Gary responded. "We were being chased by some sort of beast, and stumbled into through a door that led us here," he explained. Ygslla nodded gravely. "We know of this beast," she said. "It is why no one who has left here has returned." Her eyes glossed over, as if with a painful memory, and the siblings wondered exactly what brought on this look. But Ygslla continued this train of thought no further. "But now we have Firah to protect us." Gary was skeptical, and it must have shown on his face, because Ygslla began to explain. "None of us have any type of magic or powers, though some, like myself, can fight relatively well without them. But Firah isn't like the rest of us. She wasn't born like we were; she was made. She came from a candle. It seems absurd, thinking back on it. But one day, my father was lighting the candles for the yearly festival celebration we call Sprignotka, and suddenly the fire on the candle transformed, growing bigger and brighter until it became a girl. The most beautiful girl any of us had ever seen. And now Firah protects us. She has the gift of fire, and if anything were to attack us, she would destroy it. But we can't send her to the Outside, because we need her to protect us." Ygslla finished her narrative with a glance at Firah, a blush coloring her pale cheeks, but Firah was intently drinking from her mug and didn't notice.
"So what has attacked you guys that Firah has had to destroy?" Gary asked, swallowing. Ygslla looked away from him and continued washing dishes. Gary looked at Liz with a puzzled expression, and she shrugged. The girl that Gary was caught looking at earlier approached the place they were sitting at the bar. She took a seat next to Gary, and looked at both of them. Gary turned away embarrassed, and caught Liz's smirking face. He then smirked at her, because on her other side was the boy that was her age. She growled at Gary. The girl sitting next to Gary said, "I heard you ask Ygslla what attacked us." Gary slowly nodded. She continued, "Ygslla doesn't like to talk about it, because of an incident that happened. There was only one big thing that Firah needed to protect us from, besides The Outside. It was very dangerous, and it came here looking for something. Or, I should say, someone." She stopped talking and looked up. Ygslla was watching us out of the corner of her eye.
"We don't know who it was looking for, but it said in a prophecy that, "Two grains of sand in this mighty place, will fall down upon and change it. One of light, and one of dark. One of skills, and one of power. They bear the Firest name, but will be defeated." We thought it was kind of cheesy at first, but then it started to make sense. A very dark creature came here. No one saw its face. It grabbed everything-and everyone-it could. Including Ygslla's younger brother. He didn't make it, and the monster got away,” the boy said.
"But we know he's still out there. He didn't get what he wanted," the girl finished.
"Sorry, but who are you?" Gary asked. "I'm Kyella, and that's John," Kyella said. She pronounced it like "Kee luh."
"John seems like a pretty normal name compared to everyone else.”
"I wasn't from here. I was from Earth like you guys."
"Why are you still here?" Liz asked.
"I got trapped," John said with such a fierce sense of seriousness. Liz and Gary both looked down at the bar, fearful of what would become of them.