I also gave it goodread's page so it can go ahead and start gathering interest. If you want to vote it onto this list while you're there, that'd be appreciated. You can also vote for Kingdom while you're there.
Anyways, I might not be done, by I'm almost done, and I promised you the first of Andrew's chapters. Normally, I don't share two chapters for my books, but I feel it's important to properly introduce both of the characters. So, here you go!
“Yes Kyle, you may take Josh and Parker for a hike before we leave,” said Andrew, without looking up from the map he was examining. “Just don’t push them off of any cliffs. We don’t have time to call 911 right now.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to ask, Andrew,” said Kyle, with a groan. “I –”
“Well, it happens to be what I just gave you permission to do, unless you want to stay and help me pack up the tent. On second thought …”
“I’ll take them hiking,” Kyle quickly amended, before Andrew could finish the thought.
“Good. Make sure they’re both wearing proper climbing gear.”
“We’re not babies anymore, Andrew!” protested Josh, who was apparently in earshot. “We know how to prepare for a hike.”
“Good, then do so.”
Andrew, satisfied with the directions they needed for the day’s trip, folded up the map and put it into his backpack. Now just to get everything into the car, and maybe, just maybe, he’d have time for a quick hike of his own.
Sleeping bags and food was easily and quickly packed down and thrown in the trunk. He carefully stacked his dad’s computer and other electronics in the front seat, where they wouldn’t get broken. As per orders, his brothers already had their own clothes already back in their suitcases, so Andrew only had to make sure they were zipped closed – Parker’s wasn’t – and toss them in the trunk.
Only the tent was left, and then he would have to go track down his dad, who was chasing a rare butterfly or something of that sort, and hope that his three younger brothers would be back in time. They still had a four hour drive before they got to their aunt’s.
There was a girl of about five years old sitting in front of the tent. Andrew’s eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
“Laura,” she said, simply, hopping to her feet. “We’ve met before, Andrew, but I don’t think you’d remember it. I was older then.”
Andrew opened his mouth to protest, then shook his head. Sometimes kids had trouble with the whole older/younger concept. “Where are your parents?”
She shrugged. “That’s not important right now. You are what is important. Your people need you, Andrew.”
She darted away towards the forest, and Andrew naturally followed. After all, this was a five-year-old with no apparent supervision. She disappeared into the trees and immediately from sight. Andrew stopped, considering whether following was the best idea.
No, it wasn’t. He had a car to pack. The girl’s parents were probably close enough, and while that didn’t explain why she knew his name, it wasn’t really all that important. Confusing, but not important. He would inform the park officials there was a girl who may or may not have supervision loose, but for now …
Just as he turned away from the trees, he heard the terrible roar of fire, so he spun back around. Where the trees had been just moments before was a spiraling inferno. It wasn’t spreading, the trees touching it didn’t burn, but smoke and heat poured out of it. He shrunk back. This was turning into a very strange day.
And, unfortunately, his dad had the cell phone so he couldn’t call 911 or the park authorities.
But – what about that girl? She had just run that way? Was she caught in the blaze? Or maybe she had somehow caused it. She hadn’t looked like an arsonist, but they did come in all shapes and sizes. It might not have been on purpose.
He heard a scream – not a girl’s scream though. It sounded more like …
“Parker!” he exclaimed. And forsaking all caution, he ran into the inferno.
The moment he hit the flames, the ground slid out from his feet and he fell. Liquid fire surrounded him, burning, yet strangely cold at the same time. He struggled to breath, but there was only smoke. On and on he fell, regretting his rash decision, and wondering why this had to happen today of all days.
He tried to find something, anything to grab onto, to claw his way back to safety and life, but not only was there nothing there, but whatever he touched burned. Closing his eyes, he tried to calm himself, to think about this logically, but there was no logic to be found. It had been such a normal morning until Laura appeared, all things considered, and now …
Was he going to die? Was he already dead? He couldn’t! His family needed him. His dad couldn’t remember he had kids half the time, and Kyle wasn’t responsible enough to do what Andrew did.
He squeezed his eyes shut, to block out the burning smoke and to try to come up with some sort of plan … but there was no way out of this.
Just when he was about to lose all hope, he felt a hand grab his arm, and he was pulled out of the fire. His skin collided with icy cold, and his eyes flew open.
The fire was gone. He knelt in a strange pink substance that felt like snow, though there was still heat coming from behind him.
“Are you all right, Fire Prince?”
Andrew looked up from the strange snow to find a bearded man standing over him - his rescuer? The man was dressed in a strange green outfit, with a knife in his belt and a bow strapped to his back.
Closing his eyes and shaking his head in an attempt to clear it, Andrew pushed himself to his feet before his legs and hands could freeze. Had he somehow ended up at a renascence festival? ‘Cause that was certainly what the man looked like he was dressed for.
“Where am?” he asked.
“Three feet from the Firefall in Lower Klarand,” the man replied.
“Right.” Andrew didn’t recognize those names at all. “So … do you mind if I could use your cell phone. I should probably call my dad and let him know I’m all right and where I am. He must have seen that fire from where he was.”
“My … cell phone, Fire Prince?”
“You know, the phone you use when you’re not at home,” Andrew explained, feeling very annoyed. “I know you’re in character and all that, but I need to let my dad know I’m okay. I need to get back to them!”
But the look on the man’s face was as innocent and confused as though he had never heard of a cell phone before in his life.
“What is a phone?”
“A telephone. You use it to talk to people from far away,” Andrew explained. Frustrated, he turned away from the man and tried to take in his surroundings. It was apparently winter here … and it had been summer just a few minutes ago. Not only was there pink snow on the ground, but most of the trees were bare. Those that weren’t were … purple? And that one was blue.
He shook his head again, trying to convince himself that he was seeing things. He opened his eyes again, and they fell on the source of the heat – a rushing river made of fire.
Heart hammering against his chest, he knelt down to get a closer look. It certainly wasn’t water - it was smoke, not steam that rose off of it. And it wasn’t lava either. Andrew had seen lava - and many forms of it. His dad was a scientist who studied many things, and took their family pretty much everywhere. There wasn’t much in the natural world that Andrew hadn’t seen.
But red snow, blue trees, and fire that flowed like water were new to him.
“Are you all right, Fire Prince?”
Andrew pushed himself to his feet and spun back around to face the man. “My name’s Andrew.”
The expression on the man’s face didn’t change. “Yes.”
“Andrew Stevenson,” he added.
“Yes. You are the Fire Prince.”
“Fire Prince, if you are trying to tell me your true name, I don’t think it’ll work,” the man informed him. “The prophecy states that we shall only ever know you by your title.”
The words swirled around in Andrew’s head and frustrated him all the more. His eyes traveled back to the river of fire, traveled to its source. He and the man stood at the foot of a cliff made of black rock, and the fire spewed from a hole in it about three hundred feet up.
“The Firefall, you said this was?” Andrew asked.
“Yes, Fire Prince.”
“Stop calling me that!” Today was crazy enough without adding a man from his history books insisting on calling him this strange name. He needed to find a way home!
“It is who you are, you cannot deny it,” said the man, calmly. “The fact that you tried to tell me your real name and I still heard only your title confirms it.”
“I don’t care – stop calling me it!” He gestured wildly towards the fire river. “This isn’t scientifically possible.”
“Perhaps not in your world, but you’re in Rizkaland now.”
“I thought you said something about Lower Klarand.”
“Klarand is one of the islands,” the man explained. “And you’re in the lower part of it. If it makes you feel any better, this is the only place in all of Klarand where fire flows like this.”
“Right. So … when am I going home – how am I going to get home?”
“I know not,” the man answered, with a shake of his head. “Travel between worlds is complicated, and there are few who manage it. Come now, there’s no point for us to tarry here in discussion.” He paused however, and took a good look at Andrew’s summer-oriented outfit, then removed the cloak he wore about his shoulders and handed it to him. “Here,” he said, “it’s cold once we get out of RiFi’s range, and we can’t have you freezing, after all. We’ll see what we can do about finding you some warmer clothes.”
Andrew accepted the cloak grudgingly and wrapped it around his own shoulders. It stank of unwashed body, but at least it was warm. The man didn’t wait for him to say anything else, and started walking away. Since Andrew wasn’t interested in being left alone anywhere, he followed.
Why was this happening to him, of all people? Why couldn’t this “Fire Prince” have been some kid who wasn’t the coordinator of his family? A kid who wanted only to run away from home and get away from it all? Andrew was needed back home. He couldn’t be here and Fire Prince for these people.
As the man had warned him, it did grow colder the further they got from the fire river. Despite the smell, he pulled the cloak closer around him.
A lean-to shelter appeared, with a roaring fire, a man poking at the flames. Andrew’s guide picked up his pace. “He’s come!” he announced. “The Fire Prince has arrived at last!”
This second man stood up, his eye landing on Andrew. “Him?” he asked. “He doesn’t look like much.”
“It’s him, all right,” Andrew’s guide answered. “I pulled him from the Firefall myself. Jeptha has sent him at long last.”
“Well … let’s hope he knows what he’s doing.”
“Of course he does,” Andrew’s guide countered. “His plans are always so infinitely better than ours. Fire Prince, I would like you to meet Zimon, one of my fiercest soldiers.”
“Uh … hello?” said Andrew. He inched closer to the fire, not feeling comfortable under the man’s sharp gaze.
“I took our waste down the Firefall this morning,” explained Andrew’s guide - who still hadn’t bothered to tell Andrew his name, “and there he was. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
“I can see why,” said Zimon. “I’m having trouble believing mine. Well, Fire Prince, we just killed a schwazle. Would you care to come prove your worth and help us clean it?”
“I…” Andrew didn’t quite like the tone in the man’s voice. “I guess so, only … It’s cold.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Well, it’s winter, boy, what else would you expect?”
“It wasn’t a few minutes ago when I was still in my own world and normal life,” Andrew protested.
“He’s dressed for summer,” Andrew’s guide explained. “We need to find him a jacket at least, and then I’m sure he’d be happy to help us with our kill.”
Andrew was not as sure about that, but Zimon accepted the excuse, and with a humph retreated into the lean-to, during which time Andrew covered the remaining distance between the fire and himself. At least this fire was acting normally, and was a natural color. He tried to not look at the pink snow and purple trees.
Zimon emerged again and threw a leather jacket at Andrew, and it landed at his feet. “Here, I guess it makes sense that we have to keep our Fire Prince warm.”
Andrew ignored the comment as she pulled off the cloak and tossed it to the side and put the jacket on. It smelled a lot better than the cloak, even though it wasn’t nearly as warm. But he supposed that was because he had to wait for his body heat to warm it up.
“Now, let’s see about that schwazle,” said Andrew’s guide, smiling encouragingly as he picked the cloak back up and put it back around his own shoulders. “You’ll show Zimon you’re useful, won’t you?”
Andrew shrugged and reluctantly stood up, realizing that sitting here in front of the fire was not an option. How bad could it be, after all? His best friend’s dad hunted, and had taken Andrew and his brothers a few times. He’d cleaned game before.
Zimon and the other man led the way away from the lean-to towards a group of men who stood about their kill. Blood splattered the snow, which made the pinkish tint a bit less horrible. The animal hanging from the tree was nothing like anything Andrew had ever seen before, but even that wasn’t so bad.
Then his eyes fell on the creature’s head, sitting off to the side. It looked slightly like a camel’s, especially in the jaw. But it was covered in green scales.
It was too much, way too much. Andrew suddenly felt sick.