My pulse pounded in my ears as I kept running through the streets of Draconia, passing gloomy buildings, wealthy houses with perfectly trimmed lawns in their front gardens. Nothing tonight went according to plan, and they were all after me now: the Dark Ones, and some wardens too. The dragon egg—the most valuable possession that I had ever held in my arms—it weighed several kilos, like the size of a small rock. That damn thing was heavy, but I gritted my teeth and told myself to quit moaning, knowing that I couldn’t let it go. My feet pounded against the concrete when a tiny spark of energy moved past me. Magic flew over my head, brushing a lock of my ponytail. Seconds later, the wall opposite me exploded, nearly knocking me off my feet, and I jumped to my right. Someone behind me roared for me to stop, but I kept going.
I was breathing hard, thinking about Dara and everyone else in Draconia who had no idea that they were being brainwashed.
“Stop, warden! Stop or you’re going to die!” shouted another voice behind me. I didn’t dare turn around this time, but I knew that they were closing in on me. I made a quick turn to the left and sped up again.
The alleys around this part of Draconia were narrow, and I had to be careful because I didn’t want to get trapped.
No one in the city knew about the egg, and I had always been a very skilled thief, but tonight things just didn’t work out. The owners of the house that I had broken into must have set up some kind of magical wards around the attic. I could sense energy rushing around me when I slipped inside. I’d been stealing valuable possessions for the past ten years and never made a mistake before, until today. Once I had the egg and tried to squeeze through the window, I accidentally knocked over a large statue, making a hell of a racket. When a thick fog suddenly began to spread everywhere, I realised that I must have awakened everyone in the house. I panicked, and instead of escaping through the window like I normally would, I rushed downstairs, not realising that the weight of the egg could slow me down so much. I knew that if they caught me, then life as I knew it would be over.
The owners of the house must have called for backup as soon as they realised that the egg was missing. His secret was out, so he sent the Dark Ones after me.
The mages were gaining on me, throwing spell after spell in my direction. All at once, I was struck in the back and I nearly fell to the ground. The pain was excruciating, burning my skin. I stumbled on my feet, but somehow, I managed to stay upright. Then something happened: the egg’s energy rushed down my spine, slipping inside me, deep into my bones and bloodstream. The pain was gone in an instant and I had more strength than ever before. I was the lowest class of warden, born with only a tiny bit of magic, and right then, I felt like I was raging with power. I sensed warmth spreading throughout my entire body like a storm—this truly felt amazing. I continued passing townhouses, not recognising this part of Draconia anymore—strange-looking buildings and stylish stores. Only the wealthiest wardens could afford to live around here, the ones who could enter the Dimond City that was located in the underground of Draconia.
The Dark Ones were several hundred meters behind me, and so far, their spells failed to stop me. I didn’t know how long I had, but I eventually needed to stop to rest. Sweat dripped down my face, and my T-shirt was stuck to my back. My legs were aching, and my chest burned. I didn’t want to die just yet. Maybe if…
“No, Fran, don’t even think about it. Keep running. I know that you can escape. They will never find you once you lose them,” said a voice in my head.
It was Dara’s, my best friend who was supposed to be dead. My pulse sped up when I saw her running next to me a split second later. She was urging me to keep going, and deep down I was freaking out.
More spells were flying past me and a few brushed over my head, but the egg was protecting me. I had no idea how I knew it—I just did.
“Dara, what the hell are you doing here? Just leave me alone. We both know that I won’t be able to run forever,” I said, as my feet kept pounding along the concrete slates. The street lamps were off in this part of the city, and the blackness of the night was obscuring my senses. When I looked up, I saw heavy clouds gathering in the sky. My breathing turned to wheezing, and I didn’t know how much longer I could continue running at that pace.
When Dara was alive she wasn’t very fit, but as a ghost or a spirit, she managed to keep up with me.
“Shut up and keep going no matter what. You just stole the dragon egg, and that thing is worth a fortune. You can’t get caught, not now,” she shouted, breathing hard.
Then a large concrete block crashed on the road in front of me, blocking my path. I didn’t know how, but I almost flew over it. The dust spread everywhere, making its way into my lungs. I coughed, but refused to stop. Dara was gone when I glanced to the right. My exhaustion must have caused some kind of hallucination.
“There she is. We have her trapped!” shouted someone behind me and my blood ran cold. I kept moving, aware that they were closing the gap between us. I had never been in this part of Draconia and didn’t know my surroundings, but then I saw another alley to my left. Without thinking, I jumped and landed straight there, then ran all the way through the narrow path. I managed to lose them for a little while, but soon I realised that I had entered what looked to be a dead end.
There was only a tiny passage and a wire fence in front of me. Adrenaline pumped through my system as I began to realise that I shouldn’t have gone this way. I stopped for a moment, telling myself that there had to be another way out of here—this wasn’t the end yet. The Dark Ones and wardens were going to be here any second. I suspected that they could already sense me.
Without a second thought, I jumped on the fence and started climbing over it. The egg gave me the strength I needed. Its energy flew through me, feeding me with enormous power.
I slammed to the ground on the other side, resting for a few seconds. My breathing was laboured, but I lifted myself back up, then continued to run through the unknown dark streets. Joy filled my system, because I knew that this was it. I had finally lost those bastards.
I was considering entering some old building, but then I heard more voices coming from the opposite direction. I stopped and wiped the sweat off my forehead. All of a sudden, it felt as if a tonne of bricks had cascaded down into my stomach. I sensed the Dark Ones, they were closing in on me, and now I couldn’t turn back.
The group must have split up earlier on, and now they had me trapped. My eyes widened as fear sunk its icy claws into my gut. There were several buildings in front of me, and on the opposite side, a tall brick wall that looked as if it separated the different areas of the city. The egg vibrated, and my heart pounded loudly, like it was spreading its energy around me. The voices were getting closer. I was considering going back the way I came—fighting them—then something strange began to happen.
The ground beneath my feet started trembling. I kept telling myself that I was still hallucinating. Earlier, my dead friend was running alongside me, and now a bright yellow light vibrated through the darkness. I swallowed hard and took the egg out of the sack. The shell had a scaly surface. The egg was warmer now, and I could almost feel its pulsating energy. Suddenly, something bizarre and wonderful happened. I felt at peace; my usual anxiety was gone. I didn’t even feel tired anymore, only calm. The fact that I was just about to get caught didn’t bother me anymore.
Then the ground began to split; the egg vibrated even more, and my heart skipped a beat. A blast of blue light forced me to close my eyes. Seconds later, the light dimmed, and I raised my hand above eyes, not believing what I was seeing. There was a crack forming in the wall right in front of me. It started descending, revealing another world behind it. Energy was crackling around it, sparkling with magic. It was another city with people walking quickly, passing each other on sidewalks, and strange vehicles moving along the streets.
I had no idea what was happening, but I took several steps towards it. The energy was crackling loudly around the edges of what I knew had to be a magical portal. I remembered seeing something like this once before several weeks ago.
It was right before Dara died. I lost the blood that was supposed to cure her when I was running and attempting to lose the Dark Ones who were chasing me.
That was the one and only time that I had been able to use that kind of magic—energy that I wasn’t supposed to have—I remember feeling it zooming along the surface of my skin. It was incredible. To this day, I have no idea what happened in that old abandoned house. I wasn’t supposed to know how to use magic.
This had to be the exact same crack I saw when I dropped the flask, only revealing itself in a different area. It appeared in the wall, exactly like in the tunnels and back then, I saw people there too.
My heart pounded in my chest when I looked into this other world, seeing oddly shaped vehicles speeding through the streets. People were walking up and down. No one seemed to be bothered by the noise and traffic on the streets.
Then voices coming from around the corner brought me back to my world. The egg was so warm; it was almost burning me. It was vibrating like crazy, so I placed it back in the sack.
“She couldn’t have gone far. Come on, let’s check around the corner.”
Fear chained me to the ground and I realised that in a few seconds, they were going to find me standing here. I glanced around, trying to think of another way of going back the way I came, but I saw shadows nearing from that direction as well. My heart pounded like it was just about to explode, and energy from the egg was somehow pushing me towards the crack.
Then I noticed that the magical portal in the wall began to get smaller. Maybe this was crazy and unbelievably stupid, but I decided that this was my only way out. I could either jump into an unknown world, and possibly die in the process, or get caught. Neither option was very appealing.
I took a deep breath and, a second later, I jumped right into the crack, holding the sack and shutting my eyes tightly.
Then I was falling, screaming at the top of my lungs. This wasn’t something that I expected, but my lungs tightened, and I could hardly breathe. It seemed that I was falling for a long period of time, but I couldn’t be sure exactly, because I was suspended in some sort of strange limbo. Somehow in my mind, I just knew that I had to hold on to the egg.
Flashbacks of my life with Dara kept appearing in front of my eyes. I was seeing us together as kids, walking through dirty neighbourhoods. She smiled at me and that always made me feel better.
Sometime later, I finally slammed onto the hard ground. I landed on my back. I must have hit my head pretty hard, because when I opened my eyes the world around me was spinning out of control. Every muscle in my body ached and it took me several moments to gather that I was lying on wet ground. The roads around me were empty, and I noticed a strange, large, wide vehicle parked several meters away.
I proceeded to lift myself up, attempting to find my bearings, when energy began zooming around me. I looked up, seeing that the crack had opened again. Another body fell through, landing straight on top of me. This time, I was knocked out cold for more than a few moments. When I started to come around, my shoulder radiated with pain. My head was throbbing, along with the rest of my body.
I pushed the moaning individual off of me, breathing hard. It felt like he had crushed my rib cage when he slammed on top of me and I was certain that some of my bones must be fractured. I glanced at my hand and lifted it closer to my eyes. I stared at my sparkling fingertips, completely mesmerised. My entire hand was static with electricity. I extended my fingers, and became aware of my whole body tingling with magical energy.
“What the hell?”
I snapped back and proceeded to lift myself up, suddenly realising that I had lost my egg. I began searching frantically, then noticed it sitting by someone’s front door. I found the sack lying on the street, grabbed it and quickly put the egg back inside. It took me a long moment to realise that I wasn’t in Draconia anymore, but another parallel universe—a world without magic that was basically a replica of my own, only much more advanced. Other wardens had talked about this strange city filled with technology and different cultures. The other world that I had always been so afraid of.