It was dark around him when he came to his senses. As the world of the awake dawned on him, he found himself on what appeared to be a concrete floor. Trying to rub the sleep from his eyes, he discovered that his hands were sealed in cuffs.
‘Logan, what did you get yourself into this time?’ he muttered to himself.
He grunted as he tried to sit up.
‘How did I even get here?’ Logan asked himself, ‘and how do I get out?’
Another grunt. His head hurt from whatever impact it had suffered.
‘Think, Logan. You’re a smart dragon. What is the last place you can remember?’
Sadly enough, the dragon remembered nothing. Everything beyond his own name and his awakening was a gaping hole. He sniffed the air to catch scents in an attempt to figure out where he could be. Nothing. Just darkness, a concrete floor and ditto wall.
‘Hello?’ Logan called out loud.
There was no response. Whatever place he was in appeared to be quite large, or least very high, judging by the echoes his voice produced.
‘Is anyone there?’ He yelled, but it resulted in a similar effect.
Logan decided to follow the wall he leaned against. He got on his paws and started to fumble the wall. The material appeared softer than the floor, almost like it was sandstone. Logan scratched the wall with his claws, leaving a mark he could easily detect by touch.
Should the first direction lead to nothing, he could always return to the original location. Not that it mattered much, but it was his only point of orientation. The dragon sighed and started walking slowly next to the wall, shuffling his paws to detect obstacles while keeping both his hands on the wall.
For what must have been a few minutes, there was nothing but the sound of Logan’s paws, his hands on the wall and the chains of the handcuffs rattling in the darkness. The movement gave Logan a sense of progression, accomplishment maybe, until the unexpected happened: the dragon ended up at the mark he had scratched in the wall. The room was circular.
‘Well, so much for going anywhere.’ Logan grumbled.
The dragon sighed and looked up, as if there would be anything to see above him.
‘Nothing but darkness. What is this place? A pit, a well? Whoever dumped me here must have gotten out somehow. Magic can do a lot, but teleportation is not one of them. Or is it?’
Logan shook his head. ‘Impossible. Still, there must be a way out. The walls are solid and so is the floor, so the only exit must be up there.’
‘There’s no other option but flying in hopes of reaching the ceiling. I cannot see where I’m going, though.’
He pondered his options. Staying in the same place would not solve anything, and neither would calling out for help. The dragon had to find a way out on his own, but with no visual clue of any goal, this would become tricky.
Logan tried to remember the lessons his magic teacher had taught him. “Do not interrupt your enemy when he makes a mistake”, “in magic, not everything is what it looks like”, “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over”, “people do their best, but it doesn’t mean that what they do is the best thing to do”.
‘I’m forgetting something,’ he thought out aloud, ‘one of the most important lessons.’
He closed his eyes and dug in his ragged memory until he could almost hear the fennec’s voice speaking to him.
‘Never go all out at once. Go in, watch your opponent, then strike with what he does not anticipate.’
One of the easiest theories, but virtually the hardest to put in to practice when it comes to magic. Logan felt he was close to the answer. Usually, this came down to strength and weakness. Being a sky dragon Halfling, his natural strength was the element of air, obviously.
Natural weakness includes the elements of water and earth. Water was not present, and the only earth around were the walls, which of course would not pose a real threat. However, darkness, or the absence of light, was the least ignorable problem.
This is where Logan’s hidden strength came in. As any magic user, and most dragons in general, Logan was trained in the magic of his own natural element. However, a sorcerer of a few generations before him had discovered that some magic users possessed the ability to tap into the element that is the opposite of their own.
Recently, Logan discovered he was one of those people. In his studies magic, he stumbled upon a scroll that described the moves for a combat spell. The gestures were drawn clearly, but the actual words for the spell, however, were not written down.
In an attempt to decipher the scroll and to find the words to match the spell, Logan showed the scroll to his teacher, whom then mimicked the moves as described on the scroll. Unfortunately, there was no response to the fennec’s endeavors.
The dragon then tried the moves himself and surprisingly, he produced a whimsical fire spell. In the months that followed, Logan borrowed a tome with elemental fire magic and studied as many basic spells as he could learn.
In accordance with the teachings of the fennec, Logan decided to keep his ability to cast fire spells a secret, waiting for the right moment to reveal his skill to whatever enemy he would be facing. It disappointed the dragon that this was the moment of his debut.
‘Now let’s hope I can still perform spells with my hands tied,’ the dragon thought, ‘Fenrierc be with me.’
He stepped back a few paces, his right heel touching the sandstone wall again.
‘Arcána ickron!’ Logan uttered, flinging his arms upwards.
Disappointingly, where there should have emanated a fireball from his fists, there was nothing but a fizzle. The dragon lowered his arms.
‘It must be these handcuffs. Maybe they’re made of lead, or some other magic-absorbing metal. Well, there’s no other choice but to crank up the power.’
Logan breathed in deeply.
This time, a decently sized fireball shot upwards, although there was less result than the dragon expected and desired. He growled and blamed it on the handcuffs, whether they were the cause or not. The fireball rose and rose, the flame illuminating the cylindrical room. It was indeed made of sandstone, but that was all Logan could make of it.
Eventually, the light faded. Whether the fireball had flown out of sight or burned out was impossible for Logan to figure out. He decided to fly upwards for a bit first and then cast another spell, in hopes of actually seeing the ceiling this time.
The handcuffs and the darkness both made it harder to navigate, but there was no change in the structure for the first part of the distance anyway.
‘Let’s see if I can do this in mid-air as well. Arcanára ickronan!’ He uttered with determination.
Another fireball shot upwards, meeting the same fate as the previous. Logan became irritated.
‘How much higher does this place actually reach? Or how deep does this hole go?’ He asked himself.
He maintained his height for a short while to give his stamina a break.
‘Last try. If this doesn’t work, nothing will. Arcanára nèrickrónan immûril!’
As Logan raised his fists from his waist to above his head, the sandstone walls started to greatly heat up. The tunnel lit up in an orange glow as the walls started to melt on the surface. Contrary to previous attempts, Logan’s spell was far more powerful than he anticipated. The combination of his energy getting swiftly drained by the powerful spell and the walls radiating heat, the sky dragon had clearly pushed himself too far.
Losing grip on his consciousness, he fell down as the light and the heat from the sandstone-turned-glass walls faded. Strangely enough, Logan’s fall took not nearly as long as the flight up. It appeared as if the drop was equal to jumping from a single story building. Nevertheless, the blow from the impact was the last drop and knocked the dragon out.
It was still dark around Logan when he woke up. His head hurt from whatever blow it had suffered. The dragon grunted as he tried to sit up.
‘Something tells me I’ve seen this before,’ he complained.
Logan knew this was different, though. He could clearly remember the backfiring of the fire spell, he could even feel his magic energy being diminished from casting a spell so powerful. It might have been easy for a Flame Dragon Halfling, but casting spells of one’s opposing element usually demands more energy.
‘Lady Ivaldi, what did I do to deserve this?’
The dragon’s wailing was interrupted by a weak noise. Logan perked up his ears and listened closely. It was a beeping sound, repeating itself on regular intervals.
A few minutes passed before Logan was startled by a female voice.
‘They’ve told me you’re in there somewhere, still,’ the voice said.
‘Hey! Are you here to get me out?’ Logan replied, looking up as if he would see the face to match the voice.
‘I just wish I could get you back. I’d do whatever it takes.’
‘By Fenrierc, is it that hard?’
‘Don’t leave me… I need you, more than anything.’
‘If you need me so badly, why don’t you do something? Drop a rope down from the top or whatever.’
A short silence, only penetrated by the steady beeping sound.
‘Are you still there? Can you do something about the noise? It’s more annoying than the average human!’
The woman remained silent.
‘Hey! Whoever you are, answer me!’ Logan shouted.
‘Please, wake up. I know you can.’
‘Wake up? I’m wide awake, by Fenrierc!’
‘I love you, Roger. I’ll come visit you again tomorrow.’
‘Roger? My name is Logan…’
No response. The dragon got up on his paws again.
‘Hello? Are you still there?’
Again, the beeping noise was the only sound to be heard.
Logan sat down and sighed, thinking about what spells he knew. There had to be an elemental air spell he could use to help him fly towards the ceiling. But what if there was no ceiling? Nonsense, there had to be a ceiling. The dragon knew there had to be a way out, because there had to be a way in.
His train of thought was interrupted by the beeping noise getting louder and louder. The intervals appeared to slowly get shorter, too. The sound grew penetrating and Logan laid down on the floor with one ear, covering the other with his tied hands. With might and main, the dragon tried to remember the words of a spell that could block off sound, but the noise made it impossible for him to concentrate.
The noise had become almost unbearable, even with covered ears. Each beep seemed louder than the previous, pounding against Logan’s eardrums like a hammer on his skull. Logan could no longer take it. He flung up is head and shrieked with his eyes closed.
It was light around Logan when he came to his senses. As the world of the awake dawned on him, he found himself staring at a white ceiling with eyes wide open. To his right, there was a monitor that appeared to be showing his pulse and heart rate. A steady, gentle beeping noise emanated from the machine. Another machine was connected to his right lower arm by an IV drip.
After he had looked around for a bit, Logan concluded that he was in a medical facility, lying on a hospital bed. Trying to rub the sleep from his eyes, he discovered that his left arm was wrapped in a cast. All of this could be surmountable, except for the most off-putting fact.
As Logan reached for his eyes with his right hand, he noticed that his silver scaly hide had made way for a smooth, peachy-colored skin – and his round claws had become short, flat nails. The machine next to Logan started to beep faster again. His heart rate increased as he came to the sudden realization: he had turned into a human.
Logan wanted to scream, but somehow, his voice failed to cooperate. A few moments later, a female human entered the room. He estimated that she would be a nurse. The woman tried to soothe him and lower his heart rate. Eventually, Logan calmed down a little.
‘It’s good to see you awake, Mr. Kilmore. This may sound blunt, but please try to relax. You have been hurt badly and you need to rest.’
Logan cleared his throat.
‘Where am I?’ he said with a weak voice.
‘Miami,’ the nurse replied, ‘Bayshore Hospital.’
‘How did I get here?’
‘You have experienced a car crash and were severely injured. The impact left you unconscious for quite a few days, Mr. Kilmore.’
‘That’s not what I meant, woman,’ Logan replied, his voice still hoarse, ‘I’m not…’
He coughed a few times. His voice had decided to give up.
‘Relax, sir. Straining will only make it worse. Just lay down and rest. If you need anything, hit the blue button on your right side.’
The woman might have said more, but Logan did not notice. Drifting off, he lost his grip on everything as he succumbed to the weariness.
A female voice dragged his consciousness back to the hospital bed. The voice was familiar to Logan somehow. He had not noticed that the room appeared void of scents, until now.
‘Roger, the doctor told me you’ve been awake for a short while.’
Logan’s eyes shot open. A female human with long blonde hair and chestnut brown eyes stood beside his bed on his left side. Her hands were on the railing of the bed.
‘Who,’ Logan stopped to cough, ‘Who are you?’
At first, the woman did not respond. A tear welled up in one of her eyes.
‘You don’t recognize me? I’m Emily, your wife?’
‘Emily…’ he repeated to himself, ‘wait, my wife?’
‘We married four years ago. You don’t remember any of that, Roger?’
‘I think you’re confusing me. I’m not your husband, human.’
Emily hid her face in her hands. The soft sniffing sounds made it obvious that she was crying.
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. I have heard your voice once before, down in the pit, but you didn’t seem to hear me then.’
Silence reigned in the room for a minute.
‘Now that I think of it, I remember that you called me “Roger” then as well.’
‘Roger, please tell me you’re playing around.’ Emily said through her tears.
‘Look, I’m not Roger, okay?’
‘Then who are you?’ the woman replied frustrated, ‘cause last time I checked, your name was Roger Kilmore and you were my husband!’
‘My name is Logan Porter. I’m a Paladin working for the resistance against humans that try to eradicate the Halflings.’
Logan looked at the woman with a slightly annoyed expression.
‘Before I woke up as a human here, I used to be a Sky Dragon Halfling.’
‘Roger, I don’t know if this is funny to you, but I think it’s not,’ Emily uttered in desperation, ‘stop this comedy!’
‘What are you talking about? For the last time, I’m not your Roger!’
Emily turned around and left the room. Logan could hear she was crying again.
‘Lady Ivaldi, what have I gotten myself into this time?’ he asked himself, staring at the ceiling again.
A few minutes later, Emily entered the room again, this time accompanied by a slender male human in a long white coat.
‘Good day, sir. I am doctor Brennan. Mrs. Kilmore here tells me that you claim not to remember being her husband, is that correct?’
‘And he says that he wasn’t a human before,’ Emily added, ‘but a Dragon Halfling.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ the doctor asked in curiosity.
‘He… I mean my husband, Roger, is a writer. Last time I asked, he was working on a fantasy story about a conflict between humans and Halflings, a race of beings that are half human and half animal.’
‘And your husband believes he is one of those Halflings?’
‘More specifically, he believes he is Logan Porter, the main character of his story.’
‘Hey, I’m right here, okay?’ Logan interrupted. ‘Between brackets, Halflings are no man’s fantasy. I swear I used to have wings and a tail. Furthermore, I know magic.’
‘Mr. Kilmore, you appear to suffer from a concussion, along with retrograde amnesia. It’s not unusual for someone to have amnesia after heavy trauma to the head, like you experienced in the car crash.’
‘I think there is a more reasonable explanation for this. Neither of you guys are real, it’s just a hallucination,’ Logan spoke, more to himself than to the others in the room.
‘Excuse me?’ the doctor said.
‘It’s simple, isn’t it? You’re an illusion. There’s probably just a Dreamweaver playing with my mind.’
The doctor turned to Emily. ‘Do you understand anything of what he’s saying, Mrs. Kilmore?’
‘If I remember correctly from what Roger told me about his work, a Dreamweaver is a mythical creature that uses magic to deceive mortals and trick them into making wrong choices.’
‘Judging on the fact that your husband genuinely believes that he is this Logan Porter he speaks about, I think your husband needs professional help.’
‘What?’ Logan said, louder than he wanted, ‘you think I’m crazy, don’t you?’
‘Roger, I don’t know what happened with you, but you believe you are the main character from your own story. In this world, that is considered a reason to need help.’
‘I don’t believe I am someone else, woman. I am Logan Porter, period.’
‘Prove it to me,’ Emily challenged, ‘show me your magic.’
‘Fine,’ Logan replied, clenching his right fist as he put it on his chest, ‘please stand back.’
Brennan and Emily complied to his request.
‘Arcána ickron!’ Logan shouted, flinging his fist towards the ceiling.
‘Arcánara ickronan!’ he tried, but again nothing happened.
Logan growled and took a deep breath.
‘Arcánara nerickronan immûril!’
A few seconds of awkward silence passed.
‘I’m sorry, but I believe that you are mistaken. I’ll find you an experienced counselor.’
‘Counselor? Find me a sorcerer!’
‘Sir, there are no practitioners of magic in the real world.’
Logan’s heart rate increased again as he became mad at the doctor.
‘My world is real, doctor. I just need to find a way to get back there.’
The beeping sped up.
‘And can you kill the beeping noise? It’s driving me crazy, by Fenrierc!’ Logan shouted.
The beeping noise grew faster again. In pure frustration, Logan let out a growl and slammed his clenched fist against the heart rate monitor. The screen cracked and Logan started breathing heavily. His high heart rate made him feel dizzy.
‘There I go again. Lady Ivaldi, do me a favor and bring me home,’ Logan thought, the last thing on his mind.