It’s not every day that your basement door takes you to another world.
I awkwardly turn the silver handle, struggling to keep my stack of books and notebooks in one arm and my glass of water in the other from ending up on the floor, and push the door open. I flip the light switch, but the only light comes from the bulb at the top of the stairs- shadows await at the bottom. The light bulbs must’ve burned out again. Didn’t we just replace those? I shake my head and head down the stairs.
Oddly, the basement doesn’t come into view as I step below the level of the first floor and the wall on my right gives way to open air- only more darkness greets me. I’d guess that all the lights have somehow burned out at once, were it not for the fact that I’ve been walking for nearly a minute and haven’t found the ground yet. The air is also growing uncomfortably cold, and I can’t help but wonder . . .
Eventually, light diffuses through the shadows- but not the yellow brightness of lightbulbs; it’s the pale, cold glow of sun on a winter morning. My next step brings the sound of snow crunching beneath my slipper- Oh dear- and with that, the staircase disappears and my surroundings come fully into focus.
Blue trees. Pink snow. “Toto,” I mutter, to no one in particular, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Or New York, for that matter.” I shiver as a chilly breeze blows past, and then I notice something lying in the snow: a pair of tall brown boots and a matching leather bag. A scroll lies on top, and I bend to pick it up, nearly spilling my water and dropping a book in the process. With some struggle, I get the note open, and grin when I read it: “I thought you might need these. Enjoy Rizkaland (and keep an eye out for a friend showing up soon)!- Laura”
Without hesitation, I first stuff my notebooks and books into the bag, and then slip my feet into the boots- which fit perfectly. I push my slippers into the bag as well, shaking the snow off them first, and look around. Judging by the snow color, I’m probably in Lower Klarand- though where exactly I haven’t the foggiest idea.
“Hello?” An oddly familiar voice comes from behind me and to my left. “Hello?”
I turn and grin at the red-haired girl pushing her way through the trees. “Katelyn!” Will she recognize me? There’s a fifty-fifty chance either way- even if she’s not a bard and not from Udarean, she still comes close to seeing life in story-terms, and she’s not technically in her story anyway . . .
Sure enough, she grins back. “Sarah!” She darts forward and hugs me. “What are you doing here? What am I doing here? Where is here anyway? I was looking in the back of my wardrobe for something when it suddenly opened up and dumped me in this place . . . at first I thought I’d finally managed to get into Narnia after all, but everything’s the wrong color.”
“Well, the sky’s still blue, at least.” I sip my water, amazed it hasn’t turned to ice yet. “You’re in Rizkaland. Lower Klarand, to be exact. Why we’re both here . . . must be a Character Encounter.”
Katelyn wrinkles her nose. “Where’s Rizkaland? Another of the Seven Worlds?”
I shake my head. “Rizkaland is from the Rizkaland Legends . . . which you haven’t read because I’m pretty sure they came out the summer after you left. I’ll try to get you a copy of Water Princess, Fire Prince once I get home, and maybe Lady Dragon, Tela Du, if it comes out before I get around to getting you the books. You’ll enjoy them.”
“Thanks.” Katelyn looks around. “So, where to now?”
“Um . . .” I shrug and point in a random direction. “That way? I really have no idea.”
“Works for me.” Katelyn sets off, apparently unconcerned by the fact that we’re both directionless in a strange world. I decide to hope that it’s her genre-savvyness at work; she knows as well as I do that no matter which way you go in a fantasy world, you’re bound to encounter something or someone interesting.
Sure enough, after some time, we hear footsteps up ahead, and a voice calls, “Hello? Who’s there?” A moment later, a redheaded young man emerges from the trees, with two older men behind him. The young man wears a circlet studded with rubies on his brow, leaving me with no doubt to his identity.
“Katelyn Stevens, formerly of Earth, now of Aralan,” Katelyn replies, her grin widening at that last bit. “And this is Sarah . . . um, don’t know her last name . . . of Earth.”
“And you’re Andrew, the Fire Prince,” I offer. “Aren’t you?” The fact that I’m talking to one of my favorite characters from the Rizkaland universe while wearing an oversized sweatshirt and fleece pajama pants with owls on them suddenly hits me, and I feel my cheeks go red. I mean, meeting Katelyn’s one thing- she’s worn the same sort of thing on more than one occasion- but meeting Andrew is entirely another. At least Katelyn looks more or less at home, in brown leggings, a long green tunic, and brown leather vest.
“I am.” Andrew, diplomatically, gives no sign that he’s surprised by Katelyn’s words- or that he’s noticed my embarrassment. His next words explain the former, just as his character does the latter: “The Doorkeeper stopped by yesterday, and told Clara and I that we’d be having visitors from Earth soon. I didn’t expect you this soon, but . . . there’s always rooms ready at the Kastle. Would you care to come?”
“We’d love to.” Excitement rises up over my embarrassment, pushing me forward. “Please, Fire Prince, lead on.” Katelyn and I share another excited look. Her and I, on an adventure-of-sorts in Rizkaland- what could be better?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)