Nathan had known Maxim all his life, he also knew he hated being called anything but simply Max. When Nathan had just been moved into the orphanage, after his Mum disappeared and his Dad died in a horrible 'accident' involving drugs, Max had been his only friend. Helping to comfort the freshly orphaned three year old he had taken under his wing at just six, providing some calm for the younger boy. Also an orphan Max had been the only survivor when his house burnt down when he was just two and no family had the money nor the space to house him, deciding he would have been provided better support in a foster home. But before Max was adopted he got past the 'cute' age. Most of the kids knew that this was your window to impress a family and be adopted, two to seven. Nathan however was very popular when someone came to visit the orphanage, being adopted at four Nathan was angry when he couldn't get the family to adopt Max as well. Knowing the only way he could stay with Max would be too not be adopted, he caused as much trouble a possible and somehow managed to make the family change their minds. To avoid future scenarios Nathan did his best to scare off any families who looked at him twice, until he was ten when he knew his time had pasted. While the orphanage wasn't the worst place in the world it was run by Nuns so it was very strict and the kids inside weren't allowed pretty much anything with sugar, but these rules didn't stop most kids. As soon as Max had reached sixteen and been allowed to leave the Orphanage he legally adopted Nathan and they moved inner city. Pretty much all of Nathan's good memories up until his first day of real school outside the Orphanage were shared with Max. The time when they snuck into the sisters room and un made the beds, right before they were going to show the new boys how their rooms should look. The time when Max dared Nathan he couldn't climb the side of the Orphanage and sneak in through the roof, and best of all the time when they had left the Orphanage together, finally free after all the years in its walls.
Max stood mere metres from Nathan now, with a crossbow across his back and in light plated armour. Max wasn't short, and this armour easily boosted his height to a little over six feet, his mid length blonde hair messily stuck out around the sides of his helmet, which like the rest of the armour was covered in blue markings that faintly pulsed.
“Max?” Nathan stuttered, he knew that this wasn't just a dream, it couldn't have been but his friend was someone he could spot anywhere, and that was him, it had to be.
“How'd you know to come?” Asked Thotiln, marvelling at the sight of the ship.
“Well I figured you two wouldn't be using the bracer, and when we saw the massive blast of fire from the plateau we figured something might be happening. But I sure wasn't expecting a return from the dead my friends.” Max took off his helmet and told one of his crewmen to help Thotiln with Beleak. He studied Nathan with his deep brown eyes and Nathan studied him.
“Come, we need to consult the town elders about this.” He beckoned Nathan towards the airship and everyone got back aboard. The inside of the airship was warm compared to the mountain they were just on, and Nathan relished the heat after waking up being buried alive. The airship seemed to have a fairly normal layout of a renaissance boat, with four cannons on either side as well as flame-throwers at the back pointing down through a hole into the air. They went up to the upper deck and found the entire airship was being steered by only five men and Maxim, meaning they would have to carry less food and equipment. Going on what he had seen Nathan assumed this was a airship going for speed not fire power. The dark blue balloon was above them and the oak boards creaked below them. They pulled away from the plateau and started to make quick time down the side of the mountain.
“First question, What the hell is going on?” Nathan was confused, and finally no one was pestering him about not having time to answer his questions.
“You died-” Thotiln began
“As you,” Nathan poked him and Beleak in the chest “and you, keep saying but I have no memory of dying or fighting and killing these 'Shens” before today. I was on a train on my way to school when I decided to get some shut eye, and then I wake up in the middle of the nowhere being buried by two so called Dwarves. So someone please explain what the hell is going on.” Nathan was fuming, and the entire boat went into silence, even the wind seemed to have shut up.
“Nathan, are you okay?” Max looked at him like he was going completely insane. “Maybe coming back from the dead has confused you, granted you haven't met Beleak or Thotiln before but, come on”
“Why are you looking at me like I'm crazy? You should be as confused as I am! Look, screw it this has got to be a dream, and the way to forcefully end dreams? Die.” Nathan looked at the edge of the boat and realisation of what he meant came to the rest of the crew. Nathan walked towards the edge... and was knocked out by Max.
When Nathan came too he was in a chair. A broken, terrible chair. He looked around and saw three faces he knew and one new face looking down on him. Beleak, Thotiln and Max looked concerned but the Old man next to them was the least homely person he had ever seen. He had an angular face and pointed ears, along with grey eyes and the only hair he had was a small shin beard he stroked while he looked down on Nathan in his purple robe. Nathan looked about the room, he appeared to be in a court of sorts, thirteen men and women stood behind lecterns placed periodically at the far end of the room, Nathan noted that two lecterns had no one behind them. The room was massive, and lit by a large light emitting stone suspended above the centre of the room, like a second sun. The wooden flooring was a dark colour, like teak and had a few regal looking carpets draped on the floor. The rooms walls looked like one solid stone, like the building was craved straight out of a mountain and behind the lectern a large glass window looked out on a town, a town like no other. Two adjacent cliffs were on the left and right of the building Nathan was in. Up and down the cliffs were walkways and houses both built in and out of the cliff sides. The walkways were covered in people, as well as Dwarves, Elves and a menagerie of strange and wonderful creatures.
“You knocked me out...” he drunkenly pointed in Max's direction and wiped the blood from his lip, it stung, a lot, wounds in dream don't hurt.
“Sorry mate, had too. You were gunna jump off The Flax.”
“That will be quite enough Maxim, return to your lectern and let us continue with this ruling.” The woman to the furthest left of the lecterns said. This woman looked like a female version of the man Nathan had previously seen. Max and the old man returned to their lecterns while Beleak and Thotiln moved behind Nathan's chair.“Get on your feet, You shall show respect when we rule on this matter” she looked at Nathan like he had disgraced her but taking a second to wake up after being smashed in the head with a butt of a sword. Nathan wearily stood.
“Good.” The woman turned to the other people in the room and acted like Nathan wasn't there. “I think there should be no discussion about the monster hunters fate.” Nathan was instantly confused, were they referring to him, whoever they were.
“What do you mean Nefari?” The old man spoke up first, looking annoyed at the woman that must be Nefari.
“You know exactly what I mean Farroway! The penalty for being brought back from the dead is death, it is the law!”
“You have a law for this? Does it happen a lot?” Nathan mocked Nefari.
“Quiet fool! You have no place speaking in this court.”
The door slammed and Kat Wake marched in.
When Nathan started real school at thirteen he had been out of the loop of celebrities and social networking, so he had been an outsider in every sense of the word. But one kid looked past that. Her name was Kat. She had been considered weird by the other boys and girls and had been ostracised by most groups. Kat and Nathan did everything they could together, often having to do work meant for three or four by themselves, but it didn't matter much, they were both smart and worked well together. They actually found they had some common interests like climbing, while Nathan was more of a rock wall climber Kat was a urban ninja. The taught each of skills they had learned until they were decent at the others craft. Kat was a sweet person by when you wronged her she would not hesitate to take revenge. She also never wanted to be wrong, and would go to extreme extents to prove herself right. Kat had lived a sheltered life in a big house with all the things she had ever wanted, much of this caused her to rebel and take up freerunning. She cut her red hair short and exchanged her smart glasses for coloured contacts that tinted her eyes purple. Sadly Kat had disappeared a few weeks prior to Nathan's train ride.
Whatever room Kat was in, she commanded it, she spoke and people listened. She wore tight black pants (like skinny jeans) a linen blouse and a patchy coat that had some many different colours of patches Nathan wasn't sure what was the original colour. Her long blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail and her purple eyes studied the room. She was physically fit, more than Nathan was, but she was shorter than an average person their age.
“I was given a fair trial when I came back!” She looked across the elders, all looked aprehensive except Farroway, Max and a woman at the head lectern.
“You came back during a time of turmoil, You were needed.” Nefari once again seemed to be gunning for Nathan's death.
“But I too had no idea where I was, As I too lost my memory.” Kat looked sideways at Nathan and gave him her 'Agree with me now' look.
“Yeah, I have no idea who any of you people are, my memory is gone.” While Nathan had retained his memory he knew Kat had some sort of plan.
“Silence!” The woman at the head lectern bellowed. “The oracle said this day would come, it was his final prophecy.”
“You old bat, the Oracle never wrote any prophecy about people returning from the dead. How can we trust you if you speak of fake prophecies.” Nefari was winning over some of the elders.
“Maybe never to you Nefari,” The woman pressed her hand to the centre of her lectern and there was a flash of light, and then she was holding a piece of paper. “The Oracle's final prophecy reads,” The woman appeared to go into a trance as the words bellowed in a voice that was not her own.
When two have returned from the dead,
The world will begin to dread
But not all is as it seems, ask the one who reads
The evil shall rise, unless these heroes claim it's prize.
The room erupted into chatter, most along the lines of, 'What evil?' and 'What heroes?'. All of which was interrupted by a banging gavel.
“We need to stay calm, obviously the first line of the prophecy is in motion, these too have returned from the dead, now we need to figure out what is not as in seems.” Farroway said.
“I agree with Farroway” said head lectern woman “You too are the ones who were dead, is there anything you can tell us about that time.”
“I wasn't de-” Nathan began but was interrupted again by Kat.
“Maybe we should give Nathan some time to rest and think about it.” She shot him a dirty look.
“You're right, show him too his house and we shall reconvene tomorrow at noon.” said the head lectern woman before Nefari could interject. The gavel banged and the Elders left their lecterns and Max and Kat approached the very confused Nathan.
“What just happened?” Nathan looked at Kat and then Max
“I just bought us some time, so you don't get killed.” Kat replied
“Do you really think he is from the same,” Max started to whisper “place as you Kat?” They looked at Nathan like he was a child.
“Only one way to find out, do you know who I am?”
“Yeah... I know both of you” Nathan looked about the room, a few elders were still around so he thought it was best not to make a scene.
“And did I disappear recently?” Kat quizzed him
Kat looked at Max and then Nathan and proceeded to hug him.
“Thank god it's you, we should bring you up to speed. But not here, let's get you back to our place.” Nathan was confused but the promise of some information soon pleased him.
“Alright what are we waiting for?” Nathan wanted to hurry them up, he stood and they walked towards the left side of the room and walked through a wooden door that was already open from the previous elder. They entered a tunnel that was lit by more smaller glowing stones, they were embedded into the wall every 3 or so feet. The tunnel was one solid rock like the room before it with the same teak-like flooring. The tunnel was maybe thirty feet and curved around right. When they reached the end there was a stone door that slid left into the cliff. The light assaulted the groups eyes and it took a few seconds to adjust, but once they did the town became even more of a spectacle. The basin of the cliffs was a town centre and where the two cliffs parted and the natural walls ended there was a massive wall made of the dark coloured wood, covered with guards in the same sort of armour Max was wearing. The town square was a massive circular area with many stalls and large buildings surrounding it. They walked up the side of the cliff on the stone walkways and passed an inn entirely in the cliff face. When they got about 5 storeys up they crossed to the other side of the cliff and entered a house built out of the cliff, with a large platform underneath it. The house was mostly made of a pale grey brick with that same dark wood for the roof, window frames and floor. The house was an L shape with the turn pointing towards the battlements. The roof was slopped at a low angle like a ramp. A massive bay window looked at the opposite side of the cliff. The inside of the house had trophies along the back wall, flags, crests, and body parts of various monsters. The house infact went into the cliff an seemed to have the bedrooms and kitchen in that area, while the main living area was out of the cliff. Red carpets were placed throughout the main living area and a few chairs, a table and a bunch of other furniture appeared almost randomly thrown about, like the house had been searched. Nathan and Max flipped over a couch and a chair and the three sat down.
“I'll grab us some drinks, it's a long story.” Max stood and walked off to the kitchen area.
“So now, someone has got to tell me what is going on.” Nathan was confused and wanted answers, now.
“Let me start from the beginning Nathan,” Kat began “A little while ago I disappeared right?”
“Well when I disappeared I came here.”
“Where would 'here' be?”
“This is an alternate reality, Sounds crazy I know, but let me explain how it was explained to me.” Kat leaned back into the couch “There are many different realities, each time anyone makes a decision a new one appears. We are currently in a reality where pretty much every monster and myth from our reality exists, with a few extra ones thrown in. Whenever something came through from here to our reality, we created a legend to rationalise the crazy thing we just saw.”
“You have got to be joking!” It was Nathan's turn to interrupt. Max handed them each what looked like orange juice in a cup made from stone.
“I'm not. Now it's very rare that someone comes from our reality to this one, and it usually happens for a reason. Amelia Earhart for example came from our reality to this one to give them flight technology, even if they used it in a different way.” Nathan was slackjawed at this point, an explanation about Amelia Earhart that Kat was totally serious about, was impressive.
“Anyway I was pulled through because this reality me, died”
“So that's why I woke up in a grave” Nathan mumbled
“What?” Max asked.
“Uh, nothing. Kat continue.”
“Well I was brought through to this reality to take up the job of, well me. This job happened to be assistant and partner to a famous monster hunter. You.”
“I'm sorry, Monster hunter? I don't hunt monsters, well maybe in video games but come on! It would take years to be as good as everyone seems to think I am at anything.”
“Can I other my thoughts,” Max spoke up “You just killed three Shen pretty much on instinct, No untrained Valkyrie I know could do that, When Kat got here she was just as inept as you think you are but within a few weeks she just seemed to pick up all the skills she- other she used to have, even changing to her Race.”
“What do you mean by 'Changing to her Race'?” Nathan knew this Kat, but her didn't know this Max, and wasn't sure he trusted him yet.
“Uh... well you see...” Max wasn't sure how to word what he had to say.
“I'm a fairy!” Kat burst out, she wasn't going to be all quiet about it to the only person she really knew here.
“A fairy? If you're a fairy why aren't you centre metres tall?” Nathan stifled a laugh.
“I can shrink down” Nathan forgot to stifle this time “Oh don't laugh! You'll be taking on the characteristics of and Valkyrie soon”
“Wait, Valkyrie? Like Protects the Viking after life, the ones who are always women?” Nathan looked horrified that he may become a winged girl.
“A lot of the things you know about Valkyries in our world are wrong” Kat explained “First not all are women, only the ones that have travelled through to our world have been. Vikings decided to call them the guardians of the afterlife because they could fly. So really all you have to worry about is accidental sprouting wings”
“Oh thank god. So why'd you stop me from jumping from the Flax?”
“Well I wasn't sure if you'd be able to pull up in time, or if you would even know how to, spread your wings persay” Max answered
“So how do I do that exactly?” Flying sounded awesome to Nathan.
“You will have to learn again, I'll give you lessons.” Kat punched him in the arm.
“I'm sure I'll figure it out. If I'm an Valkyrie you're a fairy” Nathan pointed at Kat and tried imagining her fitting in his palm. “What are you?” He gestured at Max.
“All human here, so no special attributes like you two, besides being a average alchemist.”
“Well now that I've finished my explanation, do you have any questions?” Kat asked.
“Yeah just two for now. How do I not die tomorrow?”
“Ah yeah, that'll be tough. We'll have to convince at least half of the elders. You obviously have my support, and Farroway will be leading the charge to keep you alive, the rest, besides Nefari or course, will have to be swayed. “ Max replied, saying Nefari's name with spite
“Right, and the way to do that would be to bring them a, symbol that you are the Monster Hunter they know, not a necromancers puppet.” Kat continued Max's thought.
“Before we get into that, what's the deal with the Elders?”
“Basically each town must be ruled by upwards of Ten elders, each elder is related to one royal family whose highest member is the Elder in the capital. It's to stop corruption or at least it tries to stop corruption. So each major decision must be ruled on by these elders, whether people live or die is a rare decision so the majority of Elders want time to think about it. When other you died Nefari was pleased, and she had trouble hiding that as well. So that's why she is gunning for you now.”
“And Farroway? Why does he want to help me?”
“He knows your Mum.”