Lisa Chitty - The Heart of Trelyssia

By Audrey Knight,2014-10-31 11:03
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Lisa Chitty - The Heart of Trelyssia

    The Heart of Trelyssia

    Lisa Chitty


     2008 Tag(s): "fantasy" "science fiction" "adventure" "novel"



    Abi stirred restlessly. Bright sunlight was filtering through her eyelids, forcing her out ofher deep sleep but she wasn’t ready to wake up yet. She threw an arm across her eyes to blockit out and try to go back to sleep. But as she moved her arm, she became aware that she wasn’tlying in bed anymore. Bizarrely, it felt like she was outside, when the last thing sheremembered was working on her computer in her study. She sat up hurriedly and opened her eyes,then gasped with shock. She was lying on grass, and as she looked around she realised that shewas in a clearing, surrounded by trees. This couldn’t be right. She had definitely been in herown home the previous night, although she couldn’t actually remember going to bed. She hadn’tbeen out, hadn’t been drinking, so this couldn’t be some prank. It had to be a dream.Realistic, but a dream nonetheless. She decided to go for the old fail safe and pinch herself.

    ‘Ouch!’ Abi rubbed her arm where she had pinched it to ease the pain and red mark that wasleft. She was still sitting in the clearing, so it didn’t look like this was a dream. Unlessit was an incredibly vivid one.

    ‘Hello.’ A male voice came from behind her. Abi jumped up and span round to find out who hadissued the greeting, hoping they could make sense of where she was. An old man with long whitehair and a long white beard was sitting on a log. He was leaning forward and holding a staffbetween his hands. ‘You took your time waking up’ he remarked. ‘I was beginning to wonder ifyou intended to sleep all day.’

    ‘Do I know you?’ Abi asked, fairly certain that she didn’t but it seemed a good place tostart.

    ‘Unlikely’ the strange man replied. ‘As a short while ago you were happily leading a safe,if somewhat boring life, somewhere else. Welcome to Trelyssia.’ He rose as he said this andwent over to Abi holding out his hand. ‘I believe it is a custom where you come from to shakehands when you meet someone.’

    Abi backed off. Whilst he appeared to be sane, the fact that he seemed to think that she wassomewhere that she had never heard of was indicating otherwise. ‘Where do you think that Iam?’ she asked, frowning.

    ‘Trelyssia,’ he repeated. ‘That’s the name of the Kingdom that you are currently in.’

    ‘Um, no it’s not.’ Abi retorted. ‘This is just called the UK, as in the United Kingdom.’The old man was clearly not in a correct state of mind.

    ‘I’m afraid not.’ The old man disagreed. ‘You’re no longer on your home world. You’vebeen summoned from where you live to come here and assist the people who in Trelyssia here inour battle against the Baron.’

    Knowing now that the old man had either been drinking or was insane, Abi decided that she hadbetter be leaving here and finding her way home. ‘That’s nice,’ she said soothingly. ‘ButI’m afraid that I have to be going now as I’ve got lots to do. Have a nice day.’ Abi turnedaway from him towards a path she had seen earlier but had taken no more than a few stridesbefore the old man suddenly re-appeared in front of her. She stopped in her tracks. ‘How didyou do that?’ Abi was amazed as she was fairly certain that he hadn’t been able to run thatfast round her and besides, she hadn’t heard any footsteps.

    ‘I have certain skills,’ he replied, ‘that you are probably unfamiliar with. One of them isto be able to move myself instantaneously from one location to another. Though I can only do itfor short distances.’

    ‘But that’s not possible.’ Abi was shaking her head trying to deny what she had just seen.

    ‘It might be were you come from, but here, as you just saw, it is very much possible. However,not everyone can do it. It takes certain skills to be able to practice magic.’

    ‘There’s no such thing as magic. That’s just for stories. I’m a grown woman now and Idon’t believe in fairytales.’ Abi tried to go round Theldon, to reach the path but he blockedher way with his staff. ‘What?!’ she exclaimed.

    ‘I haven’t finished yet.’ The man fixed her with a stern gaze. ‘There are certain thingsthat I must tell you before you go on your way. Firstly, my name is Theldon. My job is to guideyou and give you assistance where I can.’

    ‘Well, Theldon, thanks for the offer, but I’m more than capable of following a path to a roadand finding my way back home. So if you could just put your big stick down, I’ll be on myway.’ Abi tried to push past him, but for an old man he was surprisingly strong.

    ‘I get the point. You’re not prepared to listen to me yet. I’m sure that when you realiseyou’re not on your own planet anymore you’ll pay attention then. In the meantime I’ll giveyou one more piece of information. You weren’t the only one to come here from your world. Youhave companions to assist you. Your first task is to find them.’ With that he lowered hisstaff.

    ‘Fine, whatever.’ Abi was really exasperated now and before he could change his mind andprevent her from leaving the clearing, she ran down the path he had been blocking.

    * * *

    Meanwhile, in a similar clearing in a different part of the forest, three men were having anargument.

    ‘It’s all you fault!’ Randall, the tallest of the trio, was berating one of the two othershe was with. ‘If you hadn’t had us drinking beer until the small hours of the morning Iwouldn’t be standing in a forest now, wondering how the hell I got here.’

    ‘Excuse me’ Steve, who was the youngest of the three men interrupted. ‘You were quite happyto stay in the bar of the hotel drinking, even though you knew that we were meant to beattending a conference today.’

    ‘Steve's right,’ James, the third man of the group, replied. ‘You were just as happy to bedrinking as the rest of us and as much as I’d like to argue with you, this isn’t getting usback to the hotel.’

    ‘Alright,’ Randall said. ‘How do we get back to the hotel then seeing as how none of thethree of us know where we are?’

    ‘It’s simple. We pick a path, it’ll lead us to the road, and then we’ll flag down a passingcar and get a lift.’ James gave a decisive nod of his head, sure that this was the rightcourse of action to take.

    ‘I hate to burst your bubble,’ Steve interrupted. ‘But have either of you two actually heardthe sound of a car recently?’

    All three men paused to listen. All any of them could hear was birdsong and the occasionalrustle of a bush as some small animal disturbed it.

    ‘That doesn’t matter,’ Randall broke the silence. ‘Just because we can’t hear anyvehicles, doesn’t mean that we aren’t close to a road.’

    ‘Fair enough.’ James shrugged his shoulders. ‘Let’s take this path over here.’ He gesturedto the track closest to him, leading out of the clearing. ‘I’m sure that the hotel is in thisdirection.’

    ‘James, don’t be ridiculous. It’s not that way, it’s this way,’ Randall selected a pathgoing in a different direction.

    James turned to Steve. ‘Back me up on this, mate. This is the correct path.’ James pointed tothe one that he wanted to take.

    ‘Randall’s more likely to be right,’ Steve replied hesitantly. ‘Your sense of direction isawful, James. Randall is much more likely to find the hotel than you are.’

    ‘Thank you, Steve,’ Randall exclaimed. ‘That’s two against one James. We’re going thisway.’ Randall turned to go down the path he had chosen, but stopped with a startled oath.Suddenly, standing before him where there had just been an empty space, was an old man withlong white hair and a long white beard who was holding a staff. ‘How did you get there?’Randall questioned him. ‘You weren’t there a second ago.’

    ‘I’m Theldon,’ the man answered Randall. ‘I’m here to …’

    ‘I don’t care who you are or what you’re here to do,’ Randall interrupted. ‘Can you tellus if this path will take us back to the hotel?’

    Theldon sighed. These three appeared as though they were going to be just as difficult as theyoung woman had been. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘This path won’t lead you back to where you camefrom.’

    ‘Yes!’ James punched the air with a fist. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong Randall. You won’t beable to taunt me about my sense of direction again!’

    ‘Yes I will!’ Randall responded. ‘Just because you got it right this time, doesn’t mean youwill again.’

    James was about to reply when Theldon interrupted. ‘Actually, none of the paths will take youback.’

    The three men turned to look at Theldon in amazement. ‘What do you mean?’ Steve asked.‘Where on Earth are we?’

    ‘I don’t know about Earth,’ Theldon replied. ‘But you are currently in the Kingdom ofTrelyssia.’

    ‘Excuse me? Where?’ James was frowning. ‘I’ve never heard of wherever it was you said.’

    ‘Neither have I,’ Randall and Steve said together.

    ‘That’s because Trelyssia isn’t on the same planet that you three are from.’ Theldonexplained patiently. ‘You’ve been summoned here, from your world to mine, to help my peoplein their time of need.’

    ‘Right! That’s it,’ declared Randall. ‘I’m not taking directions from someone who lives ina complete fantasy world. I’m taking the path you’re standing on because James is neverright, so get out of my way.’ He stared to walk towards Theldon menacingly.

    ‘I will in a moment.’ Theldon was standing his ground much to Randall’s amazement as hetowered over the old man. ‘You need to know your first task. You were not the only onesbrought here. You have another travelling companion and you must find her and get her to joinyou.’

    ‘Well that depends,’ Randall responded. ‘If she’s tall, blonde and with a great figure ofcourse she can join us. And if she knows the way back to our hotel, that’ll be an added bonus.Now, are you getting out my way?’

    Theldon regarded Randall for a moment, shook his head and then abruptly disappeared.

    Randall, James and Steve stood there for a moment, too shocked by Theldon’s sudden vanishingact to say anything.

    Steve was the first to recover. ‘Did you two see an old man here a minute ago and have abizarre conversation with him about being on another planet?’

    Randall and James turned to Steve and nodded.

    ‘Great,’ said Steve. ‘So it wasn’t just me then.’

    ‘Enough of this,’ said Randall. ‘He’s just a crazy old man, who wanders round these woods.I say we just ignore him and carry on with our plan to follow this path and find a road.’ Heturned to the others to wait for their reply.

    ‘Well, as it was my idea to start with, I’m all for it. Steve?’ James turned towards hisfriend.

    ‘Yeah, why not,’ Steve replied. ‘Anything’s better than standing here waiting for that manto come back.’

    So the three of them set off down Randall’s chosen path trying to forget about the strange oldman they had met. All three of them were looking carefully around them as they walked butnothing appeared wrong. All the plants and trees looked familiar, as did the birds and insectsthey saw.

    The path was a winding one and didn’t seem to be taking them in one particular direction.However, as they didn’t have any better ideas and all paths had to lead somewhere, theycontinued to follow it. It wasn’t doing anything for any of their already frayed tempersthough.

    ‘This isn’t getting us anywhere,’ James eventually said. ‘We’ve been following this pathfor some time now and there’s no sign of it leading us to anywhere remotely inhabited, or toany sign of civilisation.’

    ‘Give it a chance,’ Steve told him. ‘There was a large forest not far from our hotel. Ifit’s that forest that we’re lost in then it’s going to take us some time to get back. Whoknows, we could even have been heading away from the hotel.’ Steve shrugged his shoulders.

    James gave him a filthy look. ‘Thanks for that mate. I really needed to know right now that wecould be heading in the wrong direction and we’re going to have to go back the way we came.’

    ‘Stop acting like children,’ interrupted Randall. As Steve and James’s boss he was used tostopping arguments between them. ‘Steve’s probably just trying to wind you up James, ignorehim. This path will take us somewhere and then we’ll get back. Although I’m not sure gettingback is going to be a good idea as I’m sure the conference organisers are going to be mad atus when we eventually return. We’re going to be way behind schedule.’

    Steve looked a this watch, and then stopped. ‘What time do you make it?’ he asked curiously.‘I just checked my watch but it appears to have stopped.’

    Randall and James looked at their watches too, but theirs had also stopped. The three of themregarded one another uneasily. For one watch to stop was fine, two coincidence, but three?

    ‘It’s probably nothing,’ Randall tried to shrug it off. ‘We probably got too close to astrong electrical field or something.’

    ‘Yeah, that’ll be it!’ James replied sarcastically before walking on again. Randall andSteve exchanged looks, but followed on after James.

    They carried on in silence for a while until they noticed that the trees around them werebeginning to thin out. The further they went the thinner they got until, eventually, theyreached a track that bisected the path that they were on. It wasn’t any wider than a singletrack lane but it did have wheel ruts running down either side of it.

    ‘Yes at last!’ exclaimed Steve thankfully. ‘Hotel here we come. Now all we have to decide iswhich way to go. Left or right?’ He instantly turned to look at Randall.

    ‘I don’t know,’ was Randall’s response. ‘I can’t see that there’s much either way.’

    ‘Well,’ said Steve starting to lose his patience. ‘Which way do you think? Since you wereone who chose the path that we took to get here!’

    ‘Fine, I say we go left.’ Randall started heading off in that direction before James calledafter him.

    ‘What makes you so sure it’s that way?’

    ‘I’m using my sense of direction, which is something you don’t have,’ retorted Randall.

    ‘I just think, you’re making all the decisions at the moment and for all we know you could bewrong. Steve, back me up on this.’ James turned to look at Steve, expecting him to give thesupport he’d requested.

    Steve looked at James. ‘Lets just try Randall’s way and if he’s wrong we get to hold it overhim for the rest of his life.’

    James was thoughtful. ‘Whilst I like the idea of being able to taunt Randall I don’t want tohave to walk all the way back, if he is wrong. Still,’ James shrugged. ‘I guess he’s got afifty, fifty chance of being right.’ James sighed and then went to join Randall.

    Steve, glad that an argument had been diverted followed on after his two friends.


    * * *

    Abi had been trudging wearily through the forest for some time and was getting thoroughly fedup. The trees were growing so densely that she didn’t know if she was heading away from, ortowards, any towns that might be in the area. However, she decided that she would get somewhereeventually and carried on. Thankfully, it seemed that Theldon had decided to leave her aloneand she did wonder if he had just been part of her imagination. However, she knew that even herimagination wasn’t that vivid and guessed that he must be a hermit who lived in the forest andbeing alone all the time had driven him mad. Abi dismissed him from her mind and hurried on,anxious to put some distance between them, just in case he decided to follow her.

    After a while, Abi noticed that it appeared to be getting lighter, and there seemed to be abreak in the trees ahead. Hopeful that she was approaching a road she broke into a run. Whenshe got there it was faintly disappointing. Whilst the track was better than the path she hadbeen on it was still no better than a dirt track. It did have wheel tracks along it which meantthat it was used, and regularly, so she was more hopeful that she was beginning to getsomewhere.

    Abi stood looking up and down the track trying to decide which way to go when she noticed agroup of three men approaching. She remained where she was and let them come to her. They mightbe able to help, and there was always safety in numbers. If they seemed at all suspicious, shecould always run.

    The three men stopped when they saw Abi and seemed to have a discussion. She crossed her armsand waited for them to finish. Eventually they stopped talking and carried on towards her. Asthey got closer she saw that they appeared to be a better option than the crazy old man thatshe had run into. They were all well dressed and didn’t appear to be carrying anything withwhich they could harm her.

    ‘Hello,’ Abi said as they approached. ‘How’s it going?’ She decided a friendly approachcouldn’t hurt.

    ‘Hi,’ answered James. ‘Look, we’re a little lost. I don’t suppose you could tell us wherewe are can you?’

    Abi groaned. ‘I was hoping you were going to be able to tell me that.’

    ‘You mean, you don’t know where you are either?’ questioned James.

    Abi shook her head. ‘It’s all rather bizarre really. I went to bed last night in my own homeand then woke up in a clearing in this forest, with no idea how I got here or where I am.’ Abistopped, realising that she sounded slightly deranged.

    Randall, James and Steve exchanged looks with one another before Randall replied. ‘That isstrange, because the same thing happened to us, apart from some weird old man appeared andtried to tell us that we were on another planet!’

    Abi could only gaze at Randall in shock, her mouth slightly open.

    ‘I gather from the look on your face that you ran into this man as well,’ Randall continued.‘He didn’t say anything about meeting anyone did he?’

    Abi nodded. ‘Yes. Theldon, that was his name, said I’d been summoned and was here to help inthe fight against the Baron. He also said that my first task was to find the companions Ineeded to assist me, who had also been brought here.’

    ‘It sounds like you met the same nutter that we did,’ said Steve. ‘He said something aboutgetting a travelling companion and that they’d be female.’

They all stood in silence for a moment.

    ‘Well at least he’s consistent in his fantasies.’ Randall broke the silence before regardingAbi thoughtfully. ‘Listen, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be wandering aroundhere alone. I think you should join us. My names Randall by the way,’ he belatedly introducedhimself.

    ‘I’m Abi,’ she replied, offering Randall her hand.

    ‘Good to meet you, Abi.’ Randall shook the hand that she had offered him. ‘My two mates hereare James and Steve.’ The two men nodded in acknowledgment. ‘Once we get back to our hotel,we can help you find your way back to wherever you need to go. It’s probably easier thatway.’ Randall looked at Abi, waiting for her response.

    She regarded him for a moment thinking about her options. Being with these guys did seem to bethe lesser of two evils. ‘Alright,’ she replied. ‘It probably is better if I come along withyou. That is if you guys don’t mind.’ She turned to look at James and Steve.

    ‘Of course we don’t mind,’ said James. ‘In this instance Randall is absolutely right. It’snot a good idea for you to be on your own round here. Besides which,’ James grinned. ‘I wouldnever leave a damsel in distress!’

    Abi smiled back at James and then turned to Steve. ‘I’m Ok with it too,’ he replied. ‘Aword of warning though. Just please don’t start siding with Randall in any arguments as thenwe’ll be in a deadlock and he’ll automatically think that it means he’s won, It’s badenough already that he’s our boss without making him feel even more superior.’

    Abi laughed before she responded. ‘I can’t make any promises. But if I think you’re rightSteve, of course I’ll side with you.’

    They all started walking off in the direction that the three men had been originally going in,generally talking and laughing but thankfully not arguing. They spent most of the time tryingto find out as much as they could about one another. Randall, Steve and James all worked inLondon for an advertising agency, working as a team, with Randall as their boss. They all hadvery different characters though.

    Randall was the oldest of the three, being almost forty. He was also the tallest, standing wellover six foot tall. As he was used to being in charge he had an authorities manner and used hisheight to emphasise it. His dark hair was tidy and cut short and was starting to grey at thetemples. He was the only one of the three who was married and he also had two children.

    James was a consummate bachelor. Slightly scruffy at the edges, his longer hair was indisarray, but that was probably down to a nervous habit of running his hand through his hairwhen he was thinking. He liked his single life and had no intention of changing it unless hemet what he called the ‘perfect woman’ or though who she was or what would make her perfect,he didn’t seem sure. He was slow and steady and liked to think everything through before doinganything, often winding up Randall and Steve in the process.

    Steve was the complete opposite. Still in his early thirties, he was a bit of a womaniser, andseemed to constantly live life on the edge. He seemed to radiate energy and didn’t enjoystanding still, he constantly wanted to be doing something and in his spare time enjoyedparticipating in any sport that he could. He was lean and athletic, but also self conscious.His mousy brown hair was cut in the latest style, and his clothes were from designer shops.

    The three very different personalities of the men blended perfectly, enabling the three to workas a very successful team, always satisfying their clients. Whatever they wanted, one of thetrio would be able to supply their needs. It also meant that they were very good friendsoutside of work.

    Abi didn’t seem to fit in though. She lived in Devon, working as a receptionist in a familyhotel on the South Devon coast. She loved her job, and delighted in making sure that the guestsof the hotel didn’t want for anything. Most of the time she achieved this by charming what shewanted out of the rest of the staff at the hotel, but occasionally she would lose the temperthat seemed to be the legacy of her being a redhead, to get what she wanted.

    Her long copper curls were currently tumbling untidily down her back, catching the sunshine andthe attention of both Steve and James. Like them, she was also single, and Steve had been quickto pick up on this, but had been rebuffed by Abi.

    They had been walking for about half an hour when they realised that they were coming to theedge of the forest. The sight of clear sky had them all hurrying forward as they were allanxious to get their bearings and find out exactly where they were. As they reached the edge ofthe trees, they saw that they were standing on top of a small hill overlooking what appeared tobe a little village.

    ‘Great! Civilisation at last’ was Randall’s response to the sight.

    ‘We’ll soon be back and I can have a shower and wash my hair,’ said Steve. ‘I feelabsolutely filthy.’

    ‘Who cares about washing?’ James answered. ‘I want a decent hot meal and something todrink.’

    Abi stood there smiling about to say what she wanted which was pretty much James’s andSteve’s responses combined, when she noticed that Randall had gone quiet and there was aslight frown on his face. ‘Randall, what’s up?’ she asked him.

    He turned to look at her. ‘Look down at that village and tell me if you think anything’swrong with what you see.’

    Puzzled, Abi turned to look down the hillside. She looked for some time wondering what Randallmeant but it gradually dawned on her that he was on to something. The village below wasn’t atall what she was expecting or even hoping to see.

    Randall must have seen the dawning realisation on Abi’s face. ‘You can see it can’t you?’Abi could only nod in response. ‘Well, at least you’re quicker than these two.’ He indicatedJames and Steve with a dismissive wave of his hand.

    ‘What?! It’s a village, with houses and people. Let’s just go down there and get somedirections.’ Steve turned to James. ‘Come on. If we start going down there the other two willsoon follow.’

    They both started down the hill before Abi called out. ‘Wait!’

    They turned to look at her and Steve responded. ‘Now look Abi, we did say not to side withRandall as it makes his head swell.’ Steve grinned and turned to James who was laughing.

    ‘But he’s right,’ Abi replied. ‘There might be houses and people down there but can’t yousee what’s missing? Hasn’t the complete lack of any cars down there registered in your brainsat all?’

    James and Steve turned to look. ‘She’s right mate,’ James eventually said to Steve. ‘Therearen’t any cars, and more than that, I can’t see any garages or driveways for any cars.’

    Randall moved beside James and Steve. ‘It’s not just cars that are missing. There are nostreet lights, no TV aerials or satellite dishes on any of the houses. There also aren’t anyelectricity cables or phone lines. In fact’ Randall continued, ‘there are no signs at alldown there of a civilisation that we would recognise.’

    The four of them stood on the hill gazing down at the village. Where were they? Could it betrue that they were no longer on their native planet?



    The four of them stood on the hill looking at the village for some time. They all feltuncertain and weren’t sure if they wanted to go down the hill and find out what lay in waitfor them.

    ‘Come on.’ Randall broke the silence. ‘There’s got to be a rational explanation for all ofthis so let’s go down there and find out what’s going on.’ He turned to look at the rest ofthe group. His gaze stopped on Abi’s face. He could see that she was afraid. ‘Hey, it’ll bealright. You’ve got the three of us to protect you now. Although,’ and here he pausedthoughtfully. ‘I don’t know how much help I’ll be as I have a bad back, and James hereisn’t renowned for the speed at which he does things, so he won’t be able to react fastenough. So that just leaves Steve, but because he’s so impulsive, I don’t know how much goodhe’ll be!’

    Abi laughed at the images this presented in her head, whilst Steve impulsiveness wasn’t a badthing and James was declaring that he wasn’t slow at everything. He just liked to take thetime to think things through.

    Randall smiled. ‘There, that’s better, you’re laughing now. Are you coming?’ Randall heldout his to Abi and she stepped forward and took it, for although he had proclaimed that thethree of them would be useless at protecting her, she felt strangely safe with them. As shetook Randall’s hand the reassurance that his touch gave her was all that she needed toaccompany him down the hill. James and Steve followed behind not wanting to be left on theirown.

    As they entered the village Abi’s nervousness returned. Randall had let her hand go by now andshe was wishing that he was still holding it. The place was totally alien to her. Now that theywere down amongst the houses they could all see that wherever they were it wasn’t like anylived in town back home. None of the houses were made of brick, it almost seemed liked thewalls were made of mud. They all looked small with tiny windows, glazed with imperfect glass.The street that they were on, which appeared to be the main one, wasn’t paved, it was coveredin cobbles. But this was better than the side streets that appeared to be no better than thedirt tracks they had all followed in the forest.

    The people who were about stared at them or ran away. Mother’s took their children’s handsand dragged them away. Those that they did see where dressed very differently from currentfashions. The women had full length dresses made of some very coarse looking material on, withrough cord belts round their waists. The men appeared to be wearing something similar to tunicand hose also in a rough looking material. None of the people that they saw looked too cleaneither. It was like they had stepped back in time into medieval England.

    Abi was walking more and more slowly as she became afraid of what was around her. When she felta hand on her arm she nearly screamed and jumped out of her skin. Then she realised that it wasjust James who had touched her.

    ‘Come on,’ he smiled at Abi. ‘If we all stick together it will all seem much better. Safetyin numbers and all that.’ He kept his hand on her and as Abi took a step towards him, helifted her arm and tucked it under his. ‘There, that feels better doesn’t it? Now neither oneof us will get left behind.’ The reassuring touch was all she needed and she was soon stridingon again beside James towards Steve and Randall who had stopped to wait for them.

    ‘Finally. You’ve made it here at last. You certainly took your time didn’t you? This isn’ta walk in the park you know. We do have a deadline.’

    The four of them froze in their tracks as they all recognized the voice. They turned as one tothe direction that the voice had come from. Standing in one of the side streets, was Theldon.

    ‘Are you stalking us now?’ Randall demanded. ‘If so, just go away and leave us alone. Wedon’t need your help. We got here on our own and now we’re going to get directions to our


    ‘Who are you going to ask?’ queried Theldon. ‘I don’t see anyone that appears willing toassist you.’

    Randall turned away from Theldon and went towards the person nearest him. As he took a fewstrides towards them, the man turned tail and fled. ‘Hey, come back’ Randall called afterhim. When the man took no notice, Randall looked back at Theldon. ‘I’ll try someone else.’Randall walked towards a knot of people standing on the corner. As they realised that he wascoming over to them, they all went off in different directions. This happened several timesbefore Randall gave up and came back to where James, Steve and Abi were standing.

    ‘You tried, mate,’ Steve told him. ‘But I think they’re scared of us. I mean, look at us,we don’t exactly fit in with the locals do we?’ Steve gestured to himself and the clothesthat he was wearing, which reflected the latest trends on the high street.

    Randall looked around him and shook his head. ‘So, what? We trust this nutter do we?’ Randallindicated Theldon. ‘You think that he’s going to be able to give us directions?’

    ‘Well, so far he is the only person who appears willing to talk to us. We could give him a tryand if we don’t like it we can carry on and find another town, where maybe the inhabitantswill be friendlier.’ Steve shrugged his shoulders as if he wasn’t that bothered.

    ‘James, I suppose you’re going to side with Steve aren’t you? You usually do.’

    ‘I do think Steve has a valid point. Theldon does at least appear willing to assist us.’James then turned to Abi. ‘It’ll be alright, I don’t think he wants to harm us.’ He stillhad Abi’s arm tucked into his and he gripped it slightly firmer as if to reassure her.

    Abi turned to look at Theldon. ‘I think you’re right James, he won’t hurt us. I trust him.’

    Randall looked at them in amazement. ‘Have you three lost every ounce of sense that you everhad? He’s delusional! He thinks that we’re on another planet! How on earth is he going to beable to help us?’

    ‘If you’d like to follow me I’ll take you to my home and you can freshen up and havesomething to eat and drink.’ Theldon turned around and went down the side street that he hadbeen standing in. James, Steve and Abi immediately followed him.

    ‘Oh, come on now, this is ridiculous! You’re just going to go into his house? Who knows whathe’s got in there, or what he’ll do when he’s got you inside.’ Randall stood on the mainstreet yelling after his friends. ‘Guys, this is a really bad idea, now come back here and wecan do something more sensible! Guys! Guys?’ Randall began to realise they had no intention ofgoing back to him and were leaving him standing in the middle of the street on his own. ‘Ohfor God’s sake!’ he sighed. ‘I suppose I’d better come too, you’ll only get into troubleotherwise.’ He swore and then walked after them to Theldon’s house.

    Theldon’s house was no different in appearance to any other they had seen in the village. Itwas compact and Randall and James had to duck their heads as they went in. Inside it was justone large room with a ladder going up to a sleeping loft. There was a fire in the hearth with abubbling pot over it from which came a tantalising aroma.

    ‘Sit, sit.’ Theldon urged them. ‘You’re probably starving and could do with some food. Ifyou’ll just give me a moment I’ll dish the stew up and you can tuck in.’

    The four of them went over to the wooden table in the centre of the room and sat down at one ofthe chairs. The table was just big enough for the five chairs that were arranged round it,almost as though Theldon had been expecting four visitors. He served up the stew deftly andpoured water for them all. The food tasted great and even Randall seemed to lose his misgivingsat this point, as he tucked in as heartily as the rest of them. However, once he had satisfiedsome of his hunger, Randall soon became his demanding self again.

    ‘Right,’ he declared. ‘I think an explanation is in order. That is if you can actuallyseparate fantasy from reality.’

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