Fenton Mardwich, amateur artist, steps through a wormhole and lands on Kaseto, a medieval world that’s been conquered by a vicious, brutal race.
He’s immediately put into service not as a soldier, but as a scribe, a war correspondent, someone who will record the action done by the Dranians, his new captors, and their leader, King Hallefwatt.
Aiding Fenton are Litro, Sekisa, and Angyalla, a winged woman with a mission of her own. Through fight and flight training, mock battles and real ones, the four bond and plan their escape.
Once they do, though, it becomes a battle of survival. Fenton’s life has to count for something. And if it means fighting the enemy and perhaps dying, then that will be his mission—and his destiny.
New York City. Manhattan. Nine-forty-five AM. Central Park. Saturday, June first, two days until summer vacation.
A song I’d once heard said that if you went downtown, you could find someone just like you, someone who was lonely and needed a hand to show them around…or something along those lines. As I sat in Central Park, ignored by everyone, I came to a conclusion.
That song lied.
A parade of people, all colors of the rainbow, all shapes and sizes, passed by. On this beautiful and warm June morning, I should have felt relaxed, but my mind was on an upcoming audition, a showcase, really, for what I did best—drawing. My nerves jangled so loudly they practically rang like coins spilling on a manhole, so I breathed deeply to relax. Hyperventilating wouldn’t help my cause.
This audition could determine the course of my future. Acing it would set me on the path to glory, while failure would condemn me to oblivion. To get my mind straight, I feverishly sketched a young couple sitting on a park bench a few feet away.
Sketching usually calmed me down, but not today. Nerves or haste—or both—caused me to draw a line through the woman’s eyebrow.
I tore the page out and tossed it in a nearby wastebasket. I hated messing up. It was part of the artistic process, but all the same, tossing away a picture was like destroying a part of my soul.
“Get a grip, Fenton,” I murmured. “You got this. You got this.”
Or did I? I was too nervous, and since nervousness counteracted any kind of productivity, I put my pen and sketchpad down to check out the people. About half of the pedestrians wore masks. Those who did, congregated. Those who didn’t, they were shunned by those who did, including me.
Since the recent pandemic, a lot of New Yorkers had gotten more careful, but there were some who threw caution to the winds. Virus? We ain’t afraid of no stinkin’ virus!
I’d been lucky so far. A few people I knew from school had caught it, but they’d recovered, although the aftereffects lingered. I’d stayed away from them, too.
At any rate, since it was Saturday, I’d come out to do what I did best before the audition. Landscapes, people, animals—everything was my jam. Meredith Maxwell had once been my jam, but that relationship had gone with the wind.
One-hundred-twelve days—that was how long we’d dated. Sure, I’d kept track. Almost four months, and when we first met, we couldn’t have been more different. Meredith was tall, blonde, and pretty beyond pretty. In fact, she had it all. Rumors circulated around the school. “Like, what does she see in him?”
Self-doubt could be crippling, but I had to admit it, in a way, it was true. I stood about five-ten, weighed one-seventy-five—somewhat stocky and hardly jock material. Sports-wise, swimming was the only thing where I didn’t embarrass myself.
Looks-wise, I was also nothing special. The mirror told me so. I had a high and aquiline Roman nose, higher cheekbones, and a narrow chin, which made me look like an upside-down triangle. Brown eyes and short dark hair completed the picture of someone very average. I had only one thing going for me—my artistic skills.
And Meredith knew it. When we first met, she asked me about the sketchpad I always carried around. “Drawings,” I said, trying not to pass out from the excitement of the hottest girl in school talking to me.
“Drawings, huh?” She perused each one and went wild. “Fenton, you have some serious talent.”
“Maybe nothing,” she declared, and after that, I became her official artist and unofficial boyfriend, although nothing outside of a few kisses ever happened. It wasn’t like she saw anyone else. She didn’t. No, Meredith was into herself bigtime. “Make me look good,” she’d say as she struck a cheesecake pose.
How could I not? “Uh, you’re perfect.”
That was my standard answer. “I know,” she said, taking a compact out of her back pocket and preening as she fixed her makeup. “I know.”
We’d laugh, but she was into serious self-worship, and she never complimented me on anything outside of my artistic ability.
And…it had finished. It had always been a one-sided relationship, anyway. So, here I sat, internally whining about it. I’d never mentioned it to my uncle, Frank Mardwich. He was too busy with his brick-laying business and had little time for his only nephew, yours truly, Fenton Mardwich.
Guardians—the state said we needed them, but maybe I’d have been better off alone in my case. Frank wasn’t totally terrible, but if I had a choice…oh, hell, I’d had no choice in the matter. He was my only living relative, and when things got bad, he was there.
Bad meant my parents dying when I was sixteen. My father, short, extremely fat, a heavy smoker and someone who didn’t care one bit about his health, had dropped dead of a massive heart attack when he was forty.
He’d come home after finishing his accounting job at his firm, ate a meal consisting of deep-fried chicken steak and six slices of bread, followed by apple pie and ice-cream, complained ten minutes later of having gas, and then he fell over. Lights out, done deal, and he was deader than the fried cluck-cluck he’d just consumed.
My mother, also short and fat, followed him into oblivion two months later. I was now an orphan. I’d felt terrible when my father had passed away, but I always thought my mother would be around. Wrong, and now, I was totally alone.