A/N: So I really don't have any excuses for the crazy amount of time between the last chapter of Lightning Strikes and the beginning of this story except for the fact that I am lazy. Sorry. But enough apologizing! On to the story!
Chapter 1: Toto, I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore…
The first thing Ashley noticed was that she was no longer wearing the same clothes: her jeans, black Linkin Park t-shirt, and red high-top Converse sneakers were gone. In their place was a dirty white dress with long flowing sleeves and a rather comfortable pair of brown cloth boots. The sleeves of the dress were adorned with gold stitching, as were the bottom of the dress and the edge of a short hooded shawl that was the same color as the dress. A few small pouches hung from the belt around her waist, completing the look.
Ruth's clothes had changes as well. Instead of her normally fashionable attire, she now had a chain mail shirt on under a breastplate. Over her brown cloth pants were metal plates to protect her legs. She also wore sturdy leather boots and a broadsword hung from her belt. Her long dark hair had been tied back with a strip of cloth.
Marcie's clothing was similar to Ruth's, except her armor had vine and leaf patterns etched into the metal. Her sword was also thinner, incased in a scabbard similar in decoration to that of her armor. Her long coppery-brown hair hung loose, the left side tucked behind her ear, which Ashley noticed was pointed like an elf's.
Heather wore dark brown pants and boots. She also wore a long-sleeved shirt that was a dark green and a leather vest that laced up in the front. A hooded cape that matched her shirt in color was draped over her shoulders, held in place by a leaf shaped pin. A bow and a quiver of arrows lay on the ground by her feet.
"So… I'd hazard a guess that we're here, though we seem to look a bit different." Heather was the first to speak.
"Just out of curiosity, do you have any idea how to use that thing, Heather?" Ashley asked, pointing at the bow.
"Dunno." Heather picked up the bow and pulled an arrow out of the quiver. After struggling for a few moments, she pulled back the string and fired. The arrow flew and imbedded itself in the lower part of a near-by tree.
"Not bad," Ruth commented.
"So Heather is some sort of archer, and Ruth and I appear to be warriors, but what," Marcie turned to Ashley, "the hell are you supposed to be?"
"Isn't it obvious?" she replied, throwing her arms outward with a huge smile on her face, "I'm a mage!"
"…No, I don't see it," Marcie said, stroking her chin as if she had a beard.
Ashley's arms fell back down to her sides as she said, "I'll prove it to you!" Her eyes fell upon a backpack and a nondescript wooden staff on the ground nearby. Further inspection of the pack revealed a thick book with a white cover covered in dark green runes. "Hmm, not much in here. Sleep Spell, I think this one has something to do with lightning, and… YES! Fireball!"
"What is she looking at?" Ruth asked, leaning over towards Heather.
"It's her spellbook," Heather replied.
"SO!" Ashley exclaimed, slamming her book closed with more force than was strictly necessary, "Where are we?"
"Compared to us, you're the expert on all things Krynn, so shouldn't we be asking you where we are?" Heather asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well," Ashley looked around, dragging out the word and surveying her surroundings, "We appear to be in a forest of sorts."
"Thank you Captain Obvious," Marcie replied sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
Maybe we should walk around a bit, see if we can find anything or anybody," Ruth suggested.
"It's worth a shot," Heather replied, picking up her bow, quiver, and pack of supplies. The other three girls picked up their gear and walked towards the nearby trees, the appointed "expert of Krynn" leading the way.
After an hour of walking, just as the sun was beginning to set and the pale white moon of Solanari was beginning it's ascent into the sky, the tall trees began to thin out slightly. In a matter of minutes, the girls reached an area that could almost be defined as a clearing. Ashley looked up suddenly and gasped.
"What's wrong?" Marcie asked. She scanned the trees and frowned. "All I see is a bunch of bridges up in the trees."
"Do you recognize this place, Heather? Do you know where we are?" Ashley asked, her gaze still fixed on the trees, a huge grin lighting up her face.
"If anyone's going to recognize this place, it's going to be you, Ash."
"Come on Heather, think. What town in Krynn can you think of that's almost completely up in the trees?"
Heather's eyes widened. "No… No way. Is this…?"
"Solace," Ashley replied, nodding her head emphatically and continuing to grin like a loon. "Fizban sent us to Solace!"
"Well we know we're in the right place. But how are we ever going to find Sarah?" Marcie asked, turning towards Ashley to find that she was talking to thin air.
"Excuse me, sir?" Ashley asked, tapping a nearby young man on the shoulder. "Do you know where the Inn of the Last Home is located?"
The man turned to face her and, when he saw her attire, a look of distain appeared on his face. He looked to be in his early twenties and he sported the beginning of what could one day be a fantastic mustache. He seemed to not want to help out the young woman in front of him, but in the end his chivalrous nature must have won out, for he said,
"That tall tree over there with the staircase winding around it, that is the inn you seek."
Ashley, however, instead of rejoining her friends, stood stock still, eyes wide as she stared at him, her mouth hanging open slightly. The mustached man scowled at her before saying,
"Your mother must have taught you that most people find staring in the manner you currently are to be rude, if not unnerving. However it seems to have fallen upon deaf ears, so I must ask you to cease your actions immediately."
"What?" Ashley blinked a few times and shook her head to clear it. "Sorry. You look like someone I know. What did you say your name was?"
"I did not state my name. However, if you must know, it is Brightblade, Sturm Brightblade."
"Well it's a pleasure to meet you, sir. My name's Ashley," she said, quickly deciding that it was safe to give her name to the knight. She held out her hand for a handshake. Sturm stared at her outstretched hand for a moment before she lowered it back to her side.
"Indeed," he stated, though the look on his face indicated that he thought otherwise. "Now if you will please excuse me, I must take my leave." With that, he turned on his heel and walked stiffly away, muttering something about spell components messing with her head.
Noticing that Ashley had finished her conversation, Ruth walked up to her with a confused look on her face.
"Who was that?" She asked as Heather and Marcie joined them.
"I just got directions to the Inn of the Last Home from Sturm Brightblade," she replied, giggling softly. "I just met Sturm Brightblade and I don't think he liked me very much."
"Because you're dressed like a mage?" Heather asked, remembering the Solamnic knights' deep-rooted distrust of anything magic.
"Most definitely because I'm a mage. Though staring at him and gaping like a fish probably didn't help things," she answered, starting to laugh in earnest.
"Not to interrupt your giggle fest over here, but what is this Inn of the Last Home you asked about?" Marcie asked.
"It's where we are going to sleep for the night," Ashley replied, regaining her composure. "But we better get going before it gets too dark to find it."
E/N: Finally finished the chapter! I hope the length makes up for the ridiculous amount of time between updates. I actually had some fun writing this chapter, especially Sturm's part. He is just so much fun to write. So, hope you enjoyed the chapter and until next time!