Chapter 2

Downtown Deyri was enormous for a city of its time. I felt like I was in a maze while we navigated the narrow cobblestone streets, weaving in and out of buildings, and there were several areas where the street would come to a dead end at the entrances to the larger buildings. Like the first street we walked down in the outskirts of Deyri, these streets were densely populated with people and animals.

A merchant dressed in a long white robe came up to us with an enormous barrel on wheels, which was filled to the brim with fresh fruit. "Do you guys want some?" he asked us in a cheerful manner.

"I'll take an apple, please," I told him.

"Banana, please," Jenna said.

"And some pears for the two of us," Ramses said.

"Okay, that would be five cruts," the merchant said, holding out his hand. Ramses gave him five silver coins, and we gathered our fruit from the barrel.

"Thank you," the merchant smiled. "Come back again." He then wheeled the barrel down the street to reach more customers.

I took a bite out of the crunchy apple, and the sweet juice immediately ran down my throat. It seemed like everyone else was enjoying their fruit as well, because we were left with nothing but cores and peels in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

After tossing them into a garbage cart that was being pulled by a large horse, we started to make our way towards the castle in the very center of the city. Along the way, more of the citizens glanced at me and Jenna.

"Wow," I overheard someone say. "Those people look so rich. I wonder where they came from."

Someone else began to reply, but I didn't hear anything that he said as we marched onward. We soon came to a set of gates that were made from pure gold. Two guards were standing at the gates, dressed in partial body armor and wielding long daggers.

"Welcome to Deyri," one of the guards announced while they bowed down in front of us. "The king and queen proudly welcome you to their castle. We are honored to have guests arrive here. We usually have guests fairly often, but it's been almost four years since any outsiders have showed up. You two seem like wonderful people." He then noticed Ramses standing behind us.

"Ramses!" he cried with joy. "It's been a while since I last saw you. How are things going with you?"

"Good," Ramses replied. "I was just showing these two around our magnificent city."

"Wonderful," the guard replied. "You may carry on." He turned to the other guard. "Open the gates, please."

The guard released a latch with his foot and the gates slowly parted, revealing a long, dark tunnel that burrowed into a large hill. The four of us walked down the narrow hallway, and then we turned to the left through a large set of doors, ending up in a large, high-ceilinged antechamber. The room was lit by several torches suspended high above the floor. Ramses turned to us, the light from the torches casting an ominous-looking shadow behind him.

"Michael and Jenna," he said while I lightly held on to Jenna's hand, "your initiation will begin in less than twenty minutes. I know you're excited, but there are some rules you must follow. Of course, you must display your best manners and dignity onstage, since you will be accompanied both by royalty and by every citizen of Deyri. I know your manners are really good and everything, but I just want you to remember. Got that?"

"Yes, Ramses," we nodded.

"Also," he continued, "make sure you stand up completely straight, and show your utmost pride. Always bow down both when you enter and exit the stage. When the king and queen deliver their speech, you are not to whisper a single word. Understood?"

"Yes, Ramses," we nodded again.

"Lastly," he finished, "Michael, you will be standing at the king's side, and Jenna, you will be standing at the queen's side. That is very important and is a sign of sincere respect. Please remember that."

"Yes, Ramses," we nodded one last time.

"Perfect," he smiled, clasping his hands together. "We will leave the room, so it will be just the two of you. As soon as you are called up, walk proudly down the hallway and smile at the audience once you enter the amphitheater. Best wishes. We will be rooting for you two." And with those final words, he left the area and disappeared down the tunnel where we came from, with his mysterious partner trailing closely behind. The two of us sat down on a plush ledge and turned to each other.

"Do you think you're ready?" I asked Jenna nervously while my stomach did a backflip.

"I think so," she replied. "You?"

"I think I am," I smiled. "I would have never dreamed of this."

We were only able to converse for two more minutes before a guard entered the room. "Michael and Jenna," he said while bowing down, "You may now proceed to the stage."

"Oh, boy," I nervously whispered, watching Jenna carefully smooth her hair so that it gracefully flowed down her back and shoulders like a river. I stood up, straightening my body as much as possible and proudly held my head up high. Jenna did the same as we began to strut through the doors and continue down the long tunnel. A shaft of light from around a bend pierced the darkness like a needle, and before we knew it, we walked through a large archway and into the amphitheater.

A deafening roar of applause thundered throughout the massive arena, where no less than 70,000 pairs of eyes were locked on the two of us. The burst of sunlight as we entered nearly blinded me, and I was constantly blinking for almost half a minute as my eyes frantically tried to adjust. The stands circled all the way around the amphitheater, and every single seat was occupied. A red velvet carpet stretched all the way from where we stood to the massive stage in the center of the arena. As we walked, Jenna's hair seemed to be glowing like a fire while I looked around for Ramses in the stands. I saw him sitting close to the stage in the third row of seats. The mysterious woman was sitting beside him.

We reached the stage before we knew it. After climbing a short flight of stairs, I laid my eyes on the king and queen, who stood at the other end of the stage, and they smiled warmly at us. We took a long, deep bow and held it for about four seconds before we stood to face them.

The king was a tall man who had dark skin and wore an elegant red robe. A silver crown studded with rubies was perched on his head. The queen had dark skin as well, but she was slightly shorter in height than the king. She also wore a red robe, but her silver crown was studded with emeralds.

They turned around to face the audience as we moved into our positions. I stood beside the king, and Jenna stood beside the queen. The audience was cheering loudly as if they were at a rock concert, and everyone stood up and saluted to us before sitting back down.

The king cleared his throat, and all 70,000 audience members immediately fell silent. It was so quiet in the arena that you could hear a pin drop.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the king began in a bellowing voice that made me jump, "it is such a wonderful pleasure that we introduce these two young people to the beautiful city of Deyri!" The audience cheered for a bit before the king hushed them again.

"In the middle of what was essentially a period where no one wanted to move in or out of Deyri," he continued, "it is a major event to finally see two new faces here, after almost four entire years! Now, please applause as we formally welcome Michael Dwayne and Jenna Swan!"

The audience cheered as loudly as they did when we first entered, and even the king and queen lowered their heads to us.

The queen then rose up and walked to the far end of the stage. "Jenna," she said, waving her over, "Do you have anything you would like to tell the people of Deyri about yourself?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," Jenna said awkwardly. I saw her cheeks turn red with embarrassment. She cleared her throat and prepared to speak to the entire city.

"You're smoking hot, Jenna!" A young man in the audience blurted. Jenna ignored him.

"Well," she said while clicking her tongue, "you probably won't believe this, but we..." Her voice trailed off and beads of sweat began to run down her face. I could easily tell what she wanted to say. I nodded my head to tell her to go on, regardless of what would happen. "We came from the future," she said really quietly. The entire audience gasped.

"I-I know it sounds impossible," she stammered, "but it was true. I won't say any more about that. Anyway, this is my friend Michael," she smiled, gesturing to me. "I think I am all done here. That's all I have to say."

Despite her speech sounding rather awkward, the audience cheered loudly and enthusiastically. She then walked back to our end of the stage.

"You did the best you could," the queen said, laying her hand on Jenna's shoulder. "That's all that matters."

"Now," the king announced, "Michael, do you have anything you would like to say about yourself? You're a man. Don't be shy."

In that instant, my heart was racing as if I had finished a marathon. I tried not to show the fact that I was starting to sweat as I walked to the end of the stage to give my speech.

"Hello, everyone," I began. "It is such a pleasure to be here in front of all of you. We only arrived in Deyri about four hours ago, and it already feels like I've been here for much longer." I glanced back at Jenna for a split-second and took a deep breath. "As you know, Jenna is my friend, but I'll admit this right now: I have had, uh, passionate feelings for her for a long time."

My ears were then filled with the murmuring of the audience, which quickly turned into applause. I turned around to face my dream girl, who was covering her crimson-red cheeks with her hands. She let out a small giggle as I turned back to the audience.

"I know it's hard to believe," I continued, "but Jenna was completely truthful when it came to the fact that we time-traveled here. It was all part of a science project, and I will not divulge any more information. All I have to say right now is that I am deeply honored to be here, not only with Jenna, but with all of you. Thank you all for accepting our presence here, and I especially owe a huge thank-you to the king and queen of Deyri." I then bowed down to everyone for almost ten seconds, and the deafening roar of applause from the audience grew louder and louder as I walked back to the other end of the stage.

"Now," the king announced, "ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our anthem." The applause immediately died down as every citizen of Deyri stood upright. On cue, everybody began to sing in unison:

"Beautiful city, created by the gods,

We stand with pride as we hail the sun.

Let her light wash over you,

And brighten up your dreams.

Deyri, goddess of beauty,

Let her reach the deepest darkness

And cast her warm and loving light

Upon the grimmest of hearts."

A moment of complete silence followed, and everyone sat back down as the king and queen turned towards us.

The king spoke softly, just loud enough for me and Jenna to hear. "You two did very well. The initiation is now over, and in a few hours we will host a royal dinner inside our palace. Do not be late."