Ten years later.

x

David had absolutely no sense of direction.

If he'd had, he never would have ended up in a strange village who thought it best to tie him up to a pole and leave him there as a sacrifice to their god. After a day and a half of intense boredom, David was definitely doubting the existence of their spirit of whatever, (guessing they were Scientologists). He wished that he'd made a pocket knife in Campfire Boys like everyone else.

When he was finally found, the other boys never let him hear the end of it. He never completely regained his composure or dignity (as there were several more embarrassing incidents which followed over the years.)

But that was years ago, David told himself. He could make a personal comeback. However, no longer allowed out of the town unaccompanied (and who wanted to go with him?), he'd occupied his restless nature by daydreaming and fantasizing about his future—one which he hoped included dragons and castles and princesses. Especially princesses.

However, shoemakers did not generally lead lives that included dragons and castles and especially not princesses. If David followed in his father's footsteps (no pun intended), and he no doubt would, he'd have no reason to ever leave the village again. There were enough feet in his town alone to give him enough work to live happily for a long time.

David, however, was not very good at making shoes. Actually, David didn't seem to be very good at anything. His big, clumsy hands and feet prevented him from doing most work properly, and he got distracted too easily anyway. His father roared at him mercilessly and his mother babied him and told him everything would be alright whether or not he asked, and he couldn't decide which was worse.

He was sitting in his front yard, once again, leaning against the large oak tree and staring into space with quite a stupid look. Anyone who didn't know him very well (and very few people did) would think that whatever brains he had were dysfunctional.

Quite the contrary, however, was true. David's head was constantly full of more information than most normal people would think in a week's time—but unfortunately none of it had anything to do with anything he was supposed to be thinking. Most of it involved pixies and magic lamps and vampires and other completely ridiculous things that he knew he was fooling himself with dreaming.

He'd rather be imagining things than seeing what really surrounded him, he thought. At least in his mind he could make sure that not everything around him was colored a grey-green that was just about as exciting as someone who goes to a thirty-one-flavor ice cream shop and buys vanilla.

Even the houses and carriages had been painted to match the forest that surrounded them in all directions. Everything was dull green or brown or grey or off-white, including everyone's clothes. It didn't help that neutrals were in that season.

The only person that didn't openly think of David as lazy and a burden was an old man that lived in a rather beat up house on the outskirts of town. It was obvious that it had once been vibrantly painted—whitest white on the wood and deep chocolate brown on the bricks, velvety green for the shudders—but after years and years of not being repainted, it looked just like everything else.

And he only didn't think it because he didn't know who David was.

The old man didn't know much of anything anymore. He didn't leave his house except to buy food, and even that he did too early or too late to see many people. Most people assumed he'd simply gone crazy from old age—either crazy or anti-social to the point of being a hermit, and to most of the people in the town not socializing was the same thing as being insane.

The boys of the town—led by a kid about David's age named Caine, enjoyed nothing more than playing pranks on David—pranks which David always seemed to fall for. (His mother and father often wondered, in fact, if he was smarter than a fifth grader.)

Caine was especially bad if he was bored and was somehow reminded of David's laziness. (He, being the son of a grave digger, had developed rather large biceps. And triceps. And quadriceps. Actually, all of his ceps were pretty big by that point—especially compared to David's). Because he worked so hard (physically, at least), he'd also developed a special aversion towards David.

When Caine and his friends were walking past David's house, they found him staring up at the clouds, waving his index finger around as if he were drawing designs in them and sticking his tongue slightly out to the side, as if in intense concentration.

"…What's up?" Caine asked coolly, sitting beside David carefully, eyeing his finger as he moved it back and forth as if he were afraid it was going to lash out and jab him in the eye.

"Trying to separate the clouds from the fog," David said distantly.

Caine glanced up, squinting. Interesting, he thought. He'd never considered the way the thick grey fog that constantly shrouded the village blended the trees into the sky, making the landscape fuzzy and vague as if perpetually in a dream.

Not interesting enough, however, that he was going to admit that David had a point.

"Listen, we've got a problem," Caine said suddenly, as if he'd just remembered something terrible.

"Do you now?" David chuckled, about ready to say something in return to that. (David, for some reason, thought that he was extremely witty, and liked to use his wit whenever he could, especially against Caine.) "Well—"

"We've found a fawnox in the forest, it seems to be hurt and—"

"A phoenix?" David demanded excitedly, forgetting that phoenixes were not, actually, real. (He could get so lost in his day dreams that sometimes he was even worse than a Harry Potter fan-fiction writer.)

"Yes, that's what I said," Caine said with quite a perturbed expression, but tried to hide it so David would go along with him. "Well anyway, it's in the forest and we thought you might know what to do, David—" he tried to sound pleading or helpless or something, but it came out rather silly coming from a tall, brawny eighteen year old boy who had seen a lot worse in his time in his apprentice than a hurt bird. In fact, he'd killed quite a few… "—you simply must help us. I mean, the bird."

"Right," he nodded, leaping up. "Where is it? Once I get to it, it'll be back to normal in no time. It'll be as if it never got hurt at all. It'll be lucky I was around, because…"

Caine had learned to tune David out while he was busy tricking him, because when David got excited about something, he had a tendency to forget what was going on and started talking like words were going out of style.

"Alright," Caine said, trying very hard to keep a straight face as they reached the line where the town stopped and the trees started. "It was over there somewhere," he pointed straight ahead, farther than any of them could see.

"Where?" David blinked.

Take a right at the dark scary tree and then keep going until you've gotten lost, Caine thought, smirking to himself, but didn't say this, of course. "Over there," he said again, giving David a little push.

"Oh, right," he tried to sound as calm as possible, stumbling forwards. "Well, are you coming?"

"Oh yes," Caine said. David couldn't hear him or any of the other boys snickering. The only thing he could hear, in fact, were the leaves that crunched beneath him as he walked. He felt suddenly chilled, despite the fact that there was absolutely no breeze, not even enough to make the leaves that were dangling precariously off the tips of the dead branches above him sway even slightly.

"Hello?" he said, his voice echoing. "Phoenix? Are you there? …Caine?"

He turned back but the other boys were no longer in sight. It suddenly hit him that this must have been a trick, but he was more scared than mad. He'd been in the forest before, but never alone. Even so, he hadn't remembered the forest being that scary. If it had been a normal forest, he still should have been able to see back to where he started. But the fog was thicker than pea soup.

He'd stopped, ready to head back to the village, even if he had to face the taunting smirks of the others and the reprimanding from his father once he'd found out, but then he could sworn he heard a cry that sounded like a hawk, which he assumed must have been the phoenix (David had a very short attention span.)

David looked straight up, trying to see the tops of the trees but the where nowhere in sight. He could see fairly high up the thick trunks, but they seemed to go on for miles until they faded away into the sky. He turned around a few times, trying to look at it from all angles, but it made him rather dizzy.

He looked straight ahead and heard a shout—a deep voice that sounded an awful lot like Caine's. But this voice was distressed somehow, and he suddenly felt nauseous. He tried to start running back towards the town, afraid that the others were in trouble. He felt somewhat protective towards them, even if they didn't get along very well, simply because he'd known them for so long.

However, when he realized that he couldn't remember from which direction he'd come, he fell over backwards into a sitting position, trying to make everything stop spinning.

It wasn't until he stood back up a minute or two later that the ground beneath him gave way and his feet slipped out from underneath him. It took a moment for him to realize that he was falling, but then it hit him. Actually, it quite literally hit him—he began to roll down a hill, becoming even sicker than he'd been before, twigs and rocks poking into his sides.

It seemed like it was forever before he stopped, even longer because he'd spent the entire time convinced he was going to hit a tree. He kept down for a minute or so after he'd stopped rolling, curled into a ball with his arms wrapped around his head protectively. When he finally stood up, he plucked all of the roughage that was stuck to him off, wincing once he saw that he was bleeding in a few places.

A bird, a bird! His dignity for a bird!

He turned to see the massive hill behind him, looking up to try and see where he'd been when he slipped. However, he couldn't see the top of this any better than he could see the tops of the trees. They all seemed to keep going until they reached the heavens—and even then went on.

Well fine, he thought, starting towards the mound. All he had to do was climb back up and keep going, because obviously this wasn't the way he'd come from, so it must be opposite the way he had come from… unless, of course, it was to the right or left of it. But he tried not to think about that.

However, when he started to try and climb up the hill, he couldn't get ten feet without sliding to the bottom again. It didn't help that the fog had made everything damp and extra slippery and that he wasn't very coordinated to begin with.

After at least half an hour of trying (not only was he clumsy, but also stubborn. Not a good combination at all), he decided that it would be best to go where he could keep his footing better, and just take the long way back to the town. Maybe, in fact, he could just keep going until he got to the next town and wait there until the fog cleared up a bit…

It was funny, because he realized he'd never really thought about there even being another town besides his. There certainly must have been, though. It wasn't as if all of the books he'd read and stories he'd heard could have been invented by any of the people there.

They may have all been made up, but they had to come from somewhere.

It seemed like he'd been walking the entire day before he finally saw a brighter patch of the forest in front of him. He practically squealed with relief, jogging towards it as fast as he could while still making sure he wasn't going to trip on anything. He had the strangest suspicion that all of the roots he'd tripped over on his way there hadn't been there until he tripped over them. As if the tree had stuck it out on purpose, the same way Caine had done with his feet.

But that was ridiculous.

He didn't realize he was out of the woods until he'd broken through the trees. He had to squint, it was so bright all around him. It took several minutes, in fact, until he could see everything around him properly. His eyes felt as if they were shriveling up.

Straight in front of him was a field so big that he couldn't see the end of it—but unlike the forest, he could see a long way. There was a warm breeze now, drying the cold sweat on the back of his neck as it caused the golden wheat to ripple and glaze over, looking more smooth and shimmery than even the hair of the prettiest girl in the village. He could smell it, even, and it smelled quite …dry, actually. It was rather nice.

Wait until I tell Caine and the others about this, he thought proudly, feeling much better than he had when he was in the forest. He didn't feel any rush in going back, however. He suddenly realized, much to his delight, that he could pick out each individual cloud in the sky. Every single one. He could even pretend they looked like things! See, that one looked a bit like Father's mustache, and that one looked like a dog, if he squinted and turned his head to the side. And perhaps stood on his head and—

"You there!" someone shouted from beside him. "Who are you?"

The first thing he saw when he looked was a rather large sword being held by a rather large hand, pointed straight at him. He felt the blood rush out of his face as his knees wobbled. Was he in trouble already?

It was beginning to feel like school on a Monday.

His heart stopped pounding, however, when he saw who the hand belonged to.

He was a she.

She was about to say something else, but she was interrupted when he burst into a fit of laughter. There he'd been expecting (or perhaps hoping?) for something exciting like a knight, or even a bandit. Instead, it was just a girl.

This thought made him laugh even harder.

"You'd better watch it," she warned, getting a bit riled up. "You don't want to mess with me, trust me."

"Oh really?" he said between snorts (he had a rather unattractive laugh.) "What are you going to do, tossell your hair at me?"

"I'm going to tossell your face if you aren't careful," she glared. Her dirty blonde hair was tied into a messy bun, and her face had several splotches of dirt on it. She was tall for a girl and wearing men's clothing—and you really wouldn't have been able to tell she was a girl at all had it not been for her face being distinctly feminine.

She had stepped closer to him, standing as tall as was possible for her. She was still slightly shorter than him, though it was obvious now that she could be pretty intimidating. A lot more intimidating than David would have been, actually, had they been faced with a real adversary.

"You're not going to be taller than me in this lifetime," David smirked, feeling rather proud of himself. It wasn't often that he got to feel bigger than someone that he'd wanted to feel bigger than.

"Not unless I kick you first," she said, making David start laughing again. However, she hadn't been joking. He felt a sharp pain as his knees buckled, sending him falling face first into the dirt. The girl hopped over him smugly, chuckling to herself.

David decided it would be best if he kept on the ground until she left so she wouldn't kick him again, but as he looked up to watch her leave, he suddenly realized that he had absolutely no idea where he was or how to get back home. Or, quite frankly, if he even wanted to go back home, at least right then.

"Hey wait!" he called, scrambling up and jogging to her side. "Where're you going?"

"None of your business," she snorted.

"Oh," he said, shrugging. "Okay."

He followed her for several minutes before she groaned and stopped. "Go home," she grunted, starting up again as soon as he'd stopped moving as well.

"I… can't," he said, sounding a bit dramatic even to his own ears.

"You can't?" she laughed skeptically. "What, nobody wants you?"

He didn't know what to say, because saying that he was lost was too embarrassing, so he just looked at her, still walking beside her.

"Oh," she frowned, looking uncomfortable. "Sorry, I didn't mean… well, I hope you don't think you're coming with me, because you're not."

"I'm just looking for the nearest village," he blurted.

"Well… alright," she sighed. "You can walk with me until we get to the nearest town, but after that it's everyone for themselves, you hear? And don't complain, or I'll kick you again. If we run into trouble, you're on your own. Capishe?"

"Sure," he shrugged, laughing to himself.

What trouble could they possibly run into?

x

A/N: To clear things up a bit...

The time period is possibly medieval, but it actually doesn't really matter. I want the whole thing to seem kind of in limbo/surreal. A fairy-tale with modern day references. :D Huzzah. (Hey, Shakespeare did it all the time!) Besides, it's not like I know enough about the middle ages to reference it. ("Oh, ha ha, it's just like the jousting tournament of '63!")

Anyhoots, I would still LOVE constructive criticism, especially because this is the first 3rd person pov I've tried to write. And set in non-modern times.

As for the previous chapter, it'll all come together. :D