Spring Break had just begun in the cozy town of Arthursburg. For Reiko and her friends, this meant the chance to carry on the tradition they’d held since childhood: constructing the blanket forts they’d use to pillow-battle amongst themselves throughout their time off from school - at least, whenever they weren’t loading up on pizza or binging through their favorite movie series. Reiko’s friend Kirin hosted the group, as they had recently discovered that her attic was the best resource in town for old blankets and comforters.
Mired in dust and piles of old renaissance faire costumes, the group made their selections: Daniel selected a thick blue comforter, judging that it’s thick down construction would offer superior impact resistance. Ashley chose a green satin fitted sheet; green had been her power color since fifth grade, ensuring landslide student council victories every year. Liam picked a black drop cloth from an old theatre troupe; as always, his “fort” would shortly become a shadowy cloak to hide him during late-night pranks on the rest of the group. Favoring loyalty above all else, Kirin pulled out a red bedsheet that she’d had since childhood.
As Reiko searched to find something suitable, she pulled an old quilt from one of the attic’s dark corners, uncovering a strange wooden chest hidden beneath. The chest was clearly old, the kind of thing one would expect to find on a pirate ship, with gold lettering across the front. Wiping away years of dust, Reiko was stunned to see the word “Lifewhisper” glimmering up at her.
“Kirin?” Reiko called out, “Why is there a pirate chest in your attic with my middle name on it?”
The entire group converged around the chest, their impending warfare forgotten. Kirin was perplexed. “I’ve never seen this before. My parents always used to tell stories about someone named Lifewhisper, but I always figured it was some old LARP thing they’d turned into a bedtime story. They said he’d sacrificed himself to save his friends. A real hero.”
Kirin’s voice had become a whisper. Suddenly Liam exclaimed, “Open it!” Everyone jumped as he chuckled, but Kirin and Ashley quickly joined in, starting a chant: “Open it! Open it!”
“Shouldn’t you ask your parents first?” Daniel seemed a bit nervous about the whole affair.
“They said we could use anything up here, I don’t think it’s a problem to look inside.” Kirin smiled at Reiko. The chant began again, unanimous this time. “Open it! Open it!”
Reiko reached out, discovering a small padlock on the old chest’s latch. Before she could ask if anyone saw a key, the lock popped open in her hand. Before she could consider how strange that was, a deep cyan glow began seeping out of the chest’s interior. Everyone gasped in unison as Reiko slowly pushed the lid backward, revealing a strange blue crystal covered in runes.
Questions flew between the members of the group, but Reiko didn’t hear any of them. The crystal seemed to call to her, friendly and inviting. She reached inside the chest, her trembling hand touched the crystal - and everything went dark.
Disoriented, the only thing Reiko could see was the face of a man. He was old, practically skeletal, but his eyes glimmered with kindness. “At last, I’ve found you.” The darkness ended, and Reiko was back in Kirin’s attic, the crystal clutched in her hand - and a strange man now kneeling at the center of the group.
With the entire group stunned, the old man was the first to speak. “We have little time. I will explain everything, but we have to go. Now.” With the silence broken, everyone found their voices all at once, unleashing a barrage of questions.”Where are we going?” “Who are you?” “How did you get here?”
The old man rose to his feet, his long red robes swishing across the attic floor. “My name is Brian. I am an old friend to your parents.” He took in the group for a moment. “Of all your parents. Reiko and I need to escape Arthursburg - she is beginning to scratch the surface of her destiny, but she has much to learn.”
Kirin seemed almost as shocked as Reiko. “My parents told stories about you. They said that one day you’d come, and I’d have to be brave and protect my friends.” Suddenly, a scream echoed up into the attic from outside the house. Brian’s face turned grave. “I’d say your parents were right. Reiko, we have to go - now.”
As Brian extended his hand to Reiko, a crashing noise came from the front door of Kirin’s house. “What about my friends?” Reiko asked, looking at each of them in fear. Kirin embraced her. “You have to go with Brian. It’s your destiny. I’ll take care of everyone.” Her voice was calm, resolute - she had prepared for this day her entire life without even realizing it.
Brian took Reiko’s hand, then turned to the group one final time. “We’ll be counting on you to buy us time. Kirin, Liam, Ashley, and Daniel - I know we can count on you.” With a sudden flash, Brian and Reiko were gone.
The rest of the group looked at each other in turn. “What do we do now?” Daniel asked.
Kirin turned and sifted through the junk in the attic, then hefted an old axe as she turned back to the group. “The same thing we do every Spring Break. We go to war.”