“Impossible or not, there is boy downstairs that would like to see you. So get your butt moving”, Rita said as she shooed Tyler out the door once he had walked past her.
On the way down the hall, and down the stairs, Tyler kept wondering who it was that would have come to his house, asked for him, and dressed in a cosplay of Rin? He didn't remember telling any of his classmates that the played Dark Rising. Even if he had, he didn't consider any of them friends to the extent that they would do this. He liked the idea of cosplay and had thought about going to a few of the conventions in the city. But he thought it would be weird just to go by himself and not with a friend, so he never did.
When he got to the bottom of the stairs, Rin must of heard them, stood up and turned around to face Tyler taking the last few steps to the floor. Tyler almost tripped the last two steps because standing in front of him, on the other side of the couch, was the spitting image of Rin from his game. Startlingly blond hair, it was a bit shaggy and dirty, and looked like he only ran his hands though it to keep it back rather than a comb. He was just a bit shorter than Tyler, maybe two or three inches, thought you could have easily guessed that Rin was probably a year or two older. His arms and chest made Tyler think of the gymnasts that he had watched a few times at school. Very muscular, and in a way that Tyler himself thought he could never be. His kilt you could tell was timeworn, but well cared for, like the leather bound books in his Grandfathers kept in his old library. The straps at the bottom were pointed and had a brass stud on it that looked like a lion's head.
As Tyler got closer to Rin and stuck his hand out to say hi, he noticed that he was wearing sandals. They were flat with at strap about an inch wide right under his toes, and a string that went from the heel and crossed twice up to where they were tied off just below his knees. On his right leg he also had strapped to him a knife, with maybe a four inch blade if he gave an estimate.
"How are you doing," Tyler asked Rin, not knowing what else to say. Besides who he looked like, he did not recognize him at all.
"I'm doing particularly well on this beautiful day," Rin said giving Tyler hand a firm grip. "Though I do apologize at the time of the day. I was not able to make it here any sooner. So I do hope that I am not intruding." Rin looked down at the floor, and crossed his hands in front of himself while waiting for a reply.
"No, not at all," Rita said making her way to Rin on the left side of the back of the couch. "We were just getting ready to sit down and have a lasagna dinner. I always make enough for leftovers, and I'd be happy to set another plate for you." Tyler looked at his mother when she said this and almost gasped. She didn't know him, let alone Tyler didn't know who this was, and she was inviting him in for dinner?
"I'm sorry. I do not have the time to stay and enjoy a meal, though I must say that it does smell wonderful. It reminds me of the way our home would feel when Mother had spent the entire day cooking. Father and I loved that. I just need to speak with Tyler for a few minutes outside, if I could, and then I need to be on my way."
"Well, yes, of course. You and Tyler go out into the yard then, and I will finish up setting that third place. Don't you dare think that I'm letting you out of this house with at least something in your stomach. That's what we mothers do. We fatten up our children," she said as she turned and walked into the kitchen to get a new table setting.
“Don't worry,” said Tyler, “she not fattening you up to eat you. She just thinks I'm too skinny and tries to make me gain weight by making me eat a lot.”
“Is it working?” asked Rin as he made his way through the front door and back out into the bright sunny day, with only a few wispy clouds high up.
"No. I've been about this weight for like two years now." Tyler followed Rin out the door, down the steps of the porch and off to the middle of the yard. "OK, so like, who are you?" This time was Tyler's turn to stand with his hands on his hips.
"You know who I am," Rin said turning to face Tyler. He walked up to Tyler, so there were about three feet between them. “We have been friends for a long time. Don't you remember out first meeting at the edge of the Manrodal Desert, outside the east gate of Fesnial? The adventures we had finding the Dark Fjord and slaying Galmanok the Dragon when nobody thought a couple of kids could do it?
"That was a game. A video game. I sat in my bedroom the whole time, playing Rin as character in the game to go do those things. Rin isn't a real person."
"What is real?" Rin asked sitting down on the soft green grass and picking a blade to start chewing on. "Isn't real what you make it? Sit down Tyler. If you didn't think Rin was a real person why did you talk to me. Why did you share your secrets with me? Why did you always rush home when you were done doing your things, turn your game on, and not just play me as a character, but talk to me like I was sitting right there? I longed to answer your questions, to be able to speak to you as you were doing to me. But at the time that was just not possible. But now the power of the Great White Dragon has brought us together."
Tyler just sat there listening to all the Rin had just said. Was it possible that somewhere in the universe there was a power that let the line between video game and reality cross? Rin, the character from Dark Rising that he had played off and on for two years, and even more so now that they lived in this town, had become real? He wasn't Pinocchio.
"Come with me for a few minutes," Rin said as he was standing up and brushing the loose grass of his legs. "I have something to show you." And he started walking down the driveway.
"Hey, my mom's almost got dinner ready," Tyler said jogging just a little to catch back up Rin. "Where are we going. Where ever it is, it can't be too far." Tyler kept looking over his shoulders a few times and began to wonder what he had gotten himself into. So much for the not talking to stranger's rule, he thought, here I am following one.
“Just a few blocks to the Rushing Creek Bridge,” Rin said and picked up the pace just a little bit. “I have my pack just on the other side. I'd like not to have anybody steal it.”
“Why didn't you just bring it to the house? I don't know anybody that lives down here. I wouldn't have just left it out in the open.”
They walked the last block and a half until the got to the sidewalk that turned left, and just a hundred feet further you could see the arched wooden deck of the Rushing Creek Bridge.
“You came from the other side of the bridge?” Tyler asked as they walked up to it.
"Best to travel where people are not looking if you do not wish to be noticed," replied Rin as he made the first few steps onto the bridge. "My pack is just on the other side," he said pointing. "And that is where the real adventure begins."
Tyler had an uneasy feeling about this. One of those feeling that you just can't quite put your finger on, but are sure is bigger than what you bargained for. Though he was sure that Rin was no witch, and wasn't going to eat HIM up, he had a very uneasy feeling about the bridge itself. Bridges take you from one place to another, and though he could see what was on the other side, Rin was now three-quarters of the way across, what was waiting on the other side. Rin said it was his pack, but was that all?
Feeling stupid that he had already followed Rin this far with everything he had said in the yard, Tyler put his right foot on the bridge and started to make slowly his was to the other side. There were no sudden winds, no streaks of lightning and claps of thunder that he half expected. The world did not spin out of focus. He just saw Rin kneeling beside a pack that looked to be about the size of a paper grocery bag. And he was rummaging through it looking for something.
Feeling like his world wasn't going to fall apart now, Tyler walked the rest of the one hundred feet to where Rin was knelt down looking into his bag. "I know it's in here," Rin said as he heard Tyler approach. "I wouldn't have come to get you if I didn't have it. Oh whew!" Rin exclaimed and brushed some sweat from his brow. I found what I wanted to show you."
“What is it,” Tyler asked and he too now knelt down trying to get a look at what other things Rin might have in his pack.
"THIS," Rin said with extreme emphasis with his fingers grasping what appeared to be a gold circle just small enough for him to hold on to like that, "is the Amulet of Trillanockia. The amulet, and a map in the Library of Kings will tell us how to find the Sword of Kings." The smile on Rin's face told Tyler that was proud to show this to him. "Welcome to the land of Jinlan. My home city of Nestropia is just a day and a half hike from here. If we are lucky enough, we may even find a couple of Jincocks to ride part of the way." Rin stood up, put the straps from his pack and looped them over his shoulders. "We should be able to get and hour or so in before having to set camp for the night, so let's get going, yah say?"
Tyler turned around, and the Rushing Creek Bridge was not there, but the creek was. On the other side, he saw no houses, no roads, no streetlights. Nothing to indicate that there had been a town on the other side. "What the hell happened to the bridge?" Tyler nearly screamed as he jumped to his feet. "What happened to the town? Where did it all go? Did you just kidnap me?"
"I can assure you that I did not kidnap you," Rin said placing both of his hands on Tyler's shoulders. An adventure is what you told me several times you wanted. You wanted to join me on my next big adventure. And with the help of your mother's wish for you to have a friend here, it became possible for me to cross the creek.
"But my mom! She's going to think that you kidnaped me, or I ran away or something. I have to get back." Tyler started to climb down the creek bank to make his way across and up onto the other side when Rin stood at the top of bank.
“The only way home is forward. I can't cross the creek again, or make the bridge appear. That was all you.”
“But in the game if you get killed I just go back to the last time I saved you. If we die here won't we really be dead?” Tyler was standing on a couple of rocks in the middle of the creek trying to keep his feet from getting wet.
“I honestly don't know,” said Rin. “I've played with thousands of people, and none of them made me feel as human, or real, as you did. I loved it when you would put me on pause and while I'm either sitting or standing there, you telling me about your day. Good or bad.” Rin reached out his hand to Tyler, though they were about forty feet apart, indicating that Tyler should come back up the bank. “I've had others join me for parts of the adventures, but they were just part of the game.”
"Tyler," Rin started to say in a why that looked like he was about to cry. "I can't explain for one second how it came to be that I was able to cross the creek and find you. Of all the people that have played me as a game, you are the first that has represented me as a person, as a friend. I want that friend to help me find the Sword of Kings and end the war of Dalen Nah. We may be gone for days, months or years, but I promise you that you won't have missed that lasagna. So what do you say? Should we start the journey?" He said as he hitched the straps of his pack a little tighter over his shoulders.
"And if one of us dies?" Tyler asked as he started to follow Rin down the wooded path.
“Then we make sure we buy enough Death Drop to bring us back at least a dozen times each.” Rin replied with a smile on his face, standing up straight, walking down the path.
“I hope you have an idea about clothes for me. It's not like I got to pack a sack.”
"Don't worry about that. As long as you can survive in what you have on until we get to Nestropia then we can have my friend Billick the Clothier, get you suited correctly. I'll just have to say you told me you had been robbed, and I'm the one paying for his work. So let's get going, we have about an hour before nightfall. That should give us plenty of time to get to the edge of the woods to start making camp.
So down the small wooded path went Rin and Tyler. Two teen age boys out looking for adventure. And in a land that was sure to have both danger, and excitement.