Explosions rocked the earth and sent rubble hailing down onto the yelling civilians below. Strange creatures flew through the air on even stranger golden jet-skis. Screams, cries, chaos. People were dying. People were fighting. People were losing.

But then a mass of green flew off a building and crashed into a group of the flying …thingies, roaring like a beast spat out of hell. But in the center of it all was the most important figure. He dressed in green and gold, but shone a malevolent shade of red.

Suddenly, it was him and only him, towering over me. He was holding a still beating heart. But who's-

I looked down to see the hole in my own chest and blood pumping out of the wound.

"Please," I whispered.

But his ever white teeth flashed into a smile as he bit into my still beating-

I jolted awake, sweat dripping down my brow. A quick glance at my phone told me it was past noon and different glance told me that there was no apocalypse outside. Well that was a relief.

Groaning, I urged myself out of bed. My dream had been particulary intense and left me feeling more drained than rested. But I was getting used to waking up tired; I'd been seeing the destruction of the world on repeat for the past couple of months. It was starting to give me the creeps.

"Boil, boil, toil and trouble," I murmured halfheartedly to myself. This wasn't the first time I'd been plagued by relentless and bizarre dreams. It started when I hit puberty, every couple of years I would get reoccurring dreams of some horrific event that lasted for about six months or so, and then they would stop. My dad said that they were prophesies of coming misfortune.

My dad was also high at the time.

He was high almost of the time.

I mean, you had to be some sort of whacked out junkie to name your daughter Verdandi. Luckily, growing up a tomboy, I had settled into the moniker Andi just fine, but he really hadn't made it easy for me.

I sighed as I went through my morning routine, trying to put all thoughts of my errant father back into the never-think-about-ever category. Instead I tried to focus on my plans for my day off. After months of saving, I had purchased a brand new DSLR camera and I wanted to go try it. Given that this was the first day in three weeks I wasn't working a double at the diner, I couldn't think of a better time to get snap-happy.

It didn't take long for me to brush my teeth and gulp down a breakfast shake. I probably should have brushed my hair, but the mass of red curls seemed like way too much of a battle. Maybe if I tamed them a little more my coworkers wouldn't call me the female Gimli. Then again, John Rys Davis was pretty hot, so maybe it wasn't that bad of a thing to-

I snorted at my own line of thought and hurried with getting dressed. I picked a basic black cami and shirt, and then struggled for about ten minutes with getting my jeans on. Sighing, I poked my belly. "Listen, I am size sixteen. These are size eighteen pants. You will fit, do you understand?"

Of course my stomach didn't answer, and it only took a minute or two of rolling around on my bed to get my pants up over my thunder thighs. After that bit of a work out, I grabbed my already prepared camera and rushed out of my little studio apartment.

I was down the building's stairs and out the door before any of my chatty neighbors would halt me with mundane conversations about work, or the weather. Not that I didn't like my neighbors, but I was on a mission. A mission that involved trekking through the forest at the edge of town.

It was just a quick ten minute walk through yards and between houses before I reached the harsh line of trees that marked the edge of suburbia. The greenery had once been much larger, but three new subdivisions had caused the woods to be cut back drastically. I personally had never been in them since I had moved, but I was eager to get some nature shots before the rest was all cut down.

I would like to say that I moved gracefully through the forest like I belonged there, but let's face it, I was a two hundred lb, 5'8 ginger who was in a hurry. I tromped over the moraine like an elephant and I loved every minute of it.

I hummed an aimless tune to myself while I scanned for the perfect place to break in my new baby. I could feel that I was almost there, and excitement started to bubble up in my stomach. I knew it was going to be the best day ever.

Nothing could dull my mood as I moved through the trees, even when I came upon a huge hill that was almost completely vertical. A little climb was not going to stop me.

Swinging my camera bag so it was safely resting on my back, I grabbed some roots sticking out of the hill face and pulled myself up the steep slope. For once my normally impractical steel pointed boots came in handy as I kicked out foot holds for myself.

The song I was humming took on a decidedly more determined edge as I moved up the mini-mountain, but I wasn't letting anything slow me down while I had so little daylight left to do all that I wanted to do. I had been defeated by a lot of things in life, but a hill wasn't going to be one of them.

Luckily it didn't take too long to reach the lip of dirt and grass, and I pulled myself over the crest. Instantly my breath was taken away. I knew it!

Before me was a massive tree, perhaps the largest I had ever seen, with yew colored branches reaching high above the rest of the forest line. It's trunk was stories tall, and ended in a mass of tangled roots that had to be at least twenty feet long. A stream of what had to be the cleanest, clearest water I had ever seen bubbled out from beneath it, and a handful of deer were resting in the lush green carpet stretching out from it.

"I think I'm in heaven," I whispered to myself.

As quietly as I could, I pulled my camera out and chose my lense. Never before had I been so thrilled to do a light test. Somehow I managed to take a picture without it blurring from my excited shaking, but the composition was all wrong. If I didn't want the tree to be backlit, it had to be in the dead center of my photograph, and I wasn't feeling that for this shot. Making sure my camera strap was secure around my neck, I moved along the lip to find a better spot.

I got maybe four feet before there was a cracking sound that ripped through the forest. My head snapped up to the sound and I saw a giant branch crashing down through the foliage toward me.

Thinking fast, I dodged to the side. Unfortunately, I moved so fast, that I didn't have time to remember that I was on the crest of a valley and there was no ground to land on.


And so I fell, rolling like a snowball, until I slammed into something hard. Wheezing, I opened my eye and shook my head, realizing I had been stopped by a root. It was even bigger up close.

Allowing myself a groan, I righted myself and staggered to my feet. The first thing I checked was my camera, and I was relieved to see that other than being a little dirty, it was fine. Second thing I did was check my face, making sure I still had both eyes. Yup, check.

Finally, I took a breath and examined where I fell to. I was at the base of the valley, just a few feet from where the stream started flowing from the roots. Well, at least I still was going to get some great shots.

I popped my neck and dusted myself off, then got right back to what I had planned to do all along. I started by focusing on the steam, seeing if I could get my camera low enough to still show the length of the flow, but not catch my reflection off the water. It took a few tries, but eventually I felt satisfied with the effect, and turned towards the tree itself.

Out of nowhere, a wave of dizziness crashed into me, and I had to steady myself against a root. The moment my fingertips touched the wood, the feeling intensified until I was hardly able to stand up. Vision fuzzy, I looked around for something to help –not that I had any idea what would. Knowing there was nothing out here in the forest that would magically stop my oncoming nausea, I was surprised when my eye landed on a large dark shape at the base of the tree.

Abruptly, the dizziness and spinning stopped, and my head was clear. I breathed out through my nose, confused, but suddenly absolutely certain that I needed to see that that shape was. Without any hesitation, my feet spurred me towards it, bringing me closer and closer until I realized exactly what it was. A door.

A door in a tree in a valley in the woods.

…Sure, that was totally normal.

But no matter what sarcastic barb my conscious spit out, I knew I had to open that door. It's pull was irresistible, and I wasn't exactly fighting. I'd read enough YA novels throughout my childhood to know strange things like this were always where an adventure started, and hell if I was going to give up on my chance to experience someone that wasn't so mundane as real life.

Finally I reached the door, and could see it was carved from black stone. Obsidian maybe? And words were carved into it's glossy surface. Entranced, I let my fingers trace the symbols.

"Yg…gdrass…il…" I sounded out, unable to quell the anxious tug within me. There was something familiar about the word, like some echo from my past, but I couldn't place it. I could only hear the insistent whispers of my mind to go through.

Who was I to argue? I took a deep breath, and pulled open the heavy door. For a fleeting moment I worried that I was making the wrong decision, but then I stepped into the blackness.

For a while I just seemed to float in nothingness. Had I died? I was pretty sure I was dead. …How boring.

But just when I was about to voice my complaint about the dull afterlife, color swirled into my vision and the world rebuilt itself around me. It took less than a second, and I realized I was standing in some sort of concrete hallway.

I let out the breath I had been holding since walking into the tree, and tried to wrap my mind around what had happened. I was pretty sure I had just been teleported, and last I checked, that was hella weird.

Some jolted in front of me, and my eye snapped to a figure sitting on a bench. It's back was to me, and mostly covered by a cape. That was so not in fashion. Unless I was in Europe… which I guess I could be. I wasn't exactly sure on the teleportation range of ancient trees in forests, they didn't really teach that in college. For all I knew, I had been transported to another planet and this was the infamous green man all those UFO stories were full of.

Wait a minute, green. And gold. Slick black hair-

My breath hitched in my throat, and before I could move, the figure suddenly whirled on me, and had the sharp blade of its staff against my throat.

"What are you doing here?"

Oh dear lord that voice.

All of my words died as I could only look up in horror at the face that had been haunting my dreams for the past months. Alabaster skin, raven dark hair, and an enticing mouth that brought only lies and pain. He was painfully beautiful, and I was terrified.

"I do not recognize you, Midgardian." He continued, lowering his staff from my neck to my collarbone. "And you're not under my control. So I repeat, how did you get in here?"

Somehow I managed to swallow and wet my mouth enough to speak. "Floo powder, actually."

He gave me a curious look then shrugged, "We could always use another maid, I suppose."

Before I could think of another oh-so-clever response, he tipped his staff down and the blade touched the center of my chest.

What felt like cold lightening hit my spine and I don't know how I kept standing. A silent scream tried to rip its way out of my throat, but then my mind was suddenly flashing with pictures.

A giant metal ship rose from the clouds before disappearing entirely.

A museum full of well-dressed men and women.

An arrow exploding in a turbine.

A blond man falling in a glass cage.

Explosions. Screaming. Blood.

As suddenly as they started, the images vanished, and I was standing in the weird hall with the strange man again. I drew in a shaky breath, heart pounding, but one glace at his face stilled that very same intake of air.

He knew.

Oh god, he had seen.

A moment of silence passed between us, while we both figured out exactly what happened, but then his hand was at my throat and he was pushing me backwards until I was pressed against the wall.

"What are you?"

I looked up at that maliciously beautiful face, and found all my words had disappeared again. I had never been so thoroughly terrified as he towered over me. I wasn't used to being towered over, or manhandled, or choked.

"I do not like to repeat myself." He squeezed harder and closed the distance between us. Even if I had had an answer, I couldn't say anything now. But apparently I didn't have to, because he jabbed me with the staff again, this time harder. The lightning struck again, and my mind rushed off.

A giant metal ship rose from the clouds before disappearing entirely.

A museum full of well-dressed men and women.

An arrow exploding in a turbine.

A blond man falling in a glass cage.

Explosions. Screaming. Blood.

I gasped when it ended, only to have my air still cut off by his pale hand. I succeeded in making a sputtering/spittle sound before he stabbed me again.

Same lightning, same rush, same vision. When it stopped he was staring me down balefully. "How are you doing this?" He seethed. "What are you?"

But he was still clamping my airway with vice-like strength, so I could only claw at his pale wrists, a helpless kitten facing down a dragon. Finally, I managed a wheeze, and motioned him closer with a beckoning finger. Mercifully, he loosened his grip on my neck, and tilted his head so his ear was closer to me. I murmured something, I didn't even know what, but he moved even closer.

"Speak up, before I end you."

I knew my stalling tactic wouldn't work much longer, so I did the only thing I could. I scrunched my eyebrows as hard as I could while jerking my face forward, and my eye flew out to smack my attacker right in the cheek.

He dropped me and I sank to my knees, coughing like my life depended on it. …which it probably did. I had never gulped air so greedily, and for several blissful seconds I was full of relief and happiness. But then the man in green bent down so he filled my vision, glass eye rolling between his long, slender fingers.

"Cute." He murmured, smirk evident.

"Thanks," I wheezed, rubbing my throat. I don't know what came over me as I looked him directly in the face. "Any chance I could have it back?"

"Of course,"

I wasn't sure what to make of his genial reply, but his hand gripped the top of my head with strength that seemed inhuman, holding me still.

"What ar-"

Then it clicked exactly what he was doing, and less than a second later, his other hand shoved my eye so hard into my socket I thought I heard bone crunch.

"All better," He mused, releasing his grip to ruffle my hair.

I managed a weak whimper, before promptly vomiting over myself and his shoes. There was another one of those weird silences.

"Much better." I muttered, before passing out.