A woman sat on her bed, scribbling in a notebook she hadn't touched in ten years. She wrote a decent, Odyssey-esque prologue and then thought, tapping her lips with the eraser of her pencil. Then she smiled, and began to write in earnest.

Irian

I had researched thoroughly. I had calculated the positions of the moon, the stars and planets correctly. It was the right day, the right time, the right place.

So WHY isn't this working?

"All right, last chance..." I muttered to myself. I had tried the Summonis Paladin spell twice already. This was the last time, for the powerful spell I had been using had attracted other mages—I could feel them at the edges of my 'Senses. Even Kyar had thought my interest in the Paladinic legends a touch odd. If this did not work, then all my work, all my arguments, my certainty that the Truedark sect was rising would be false, wasted. What was more, I would be a laughingstock. Once more I drew on the well of energy beneath my feet, breathed deeply and focused.

"Paladin, Savior Knight

I summon, summon thee

Come now, for us fight,

Through the veil of time come to me."

There was the flare of energy from me, making me slightly dizzy this time… then the unusual slight rumble in the ground warned me. Had I drawn too much from the pool, made it unstable? That had not happened in centuries, but the records had described it as catastrophic. There was little I could do to stop such a thing if it were to happen.

I stepped back just in time, as a whirling sinkhole appeared a mere pace from where I had been before, accompanied by a shockwave of magic not my own that knocked me off-balance. Gods, that was close…I thought, before realizing that one step could not save me if this was a sign of chaotic energies. I watched in shock as out of the vortex rose a… girl?

All right, definitely not unstable energies. Now what do I do?

XX

Casey

It was lunchtime, but I'd already finished eating. Listening with half an ear to my friends' conversations and scribbling in a notebook, most of my mind was elsewhere, watching the scene in my head unfold as I scribbled down dialogue and description. The supervising teachers have told me that they had no idea how I could write, read, or do homework at one of the loudest, most crowded tables in the Small Caf. What can I say, it's a gift.

To my left, four of my friends were engaged in a heated game of high-speed BS. On my right, two guys were playing one of those collector card games (I couldn't see which one), one guy was working out a new DnD character sheet for the summer campaign, the resident percussionist was showing off his "quarter notes with one hand, eighth notes with the other hand and sixteenth notes with his feet" trick and two freshman girls were complaining about how boring Medieval History was. Outside the window, it was warm, finally, a nice day in May. Hey, it rhymes I thought to myself absently.

"Hey Casey! Earth to Casey, come in Casey!" I glanced over my shoulder at my friend, who I supposed had played out her cards already. The movement made my right shoulder twinge. I hate PE, I reminded myself, I really, really do.

"Yeah, sorry. Oh, like the shirt," I commented. The short-sleeved black T-shirt had a cartoonish ninja and read "I am the Hug Ninja".

"Thanks," Stephanie replied. "I got it yesterday. Now, what's going on with you and—" she cut off.

"I told you yesterday: we're just friends, dangit, nothing more!" I retorted with a huff, indicative of my contempt for gossip.

There was no reply. In fact, the entire cafeteria was silent. No sound whatsoever. I didn't even hear breathing...

That's weird…I waved a hand in front of Steph's face. There was no response. I looked around at the other people at the overcrowded table. "Hello?" No response. Nobody moved; they seemed frozen mid-word, mid-bite… frozen in time… A flicker of motion on one of the stairways caught my attention, but it was gone by the time I was looking full-on.

What the hey…Weird. Very weird. Too weird…

At that point I saw the cyclone-thing extending from the ceiling. The instant my eyes locked on it, it started to lift me up, off my chair at the lunch-table. I made an "eep!" sound and then it occurred to me to react physically. I tried to keep a hold of the table, of a chair—my fingers scrabbled for purchase on the smooth paint of the wall but the pulling force of whatever-it-was was stronger than my resistance. And then I was inside the thing, and everything was a maelstrom of sounds and colors and my head felt like it was expanding from the inside and it hurt. My last coherent thought was Ow. If I was going to die, it wasn't the greatest of epitaphs. Oh well.