The kingdom of Bethany was once a beautiful place made up of five magical nations, each with their own special gifts. It all changed in a day, however, when the murderous dredgelings arrived. No one quite knows where they came from or how they keep multiplying, no matter how many are killed in the long, cruel war they’ve waged.
All seems to be lost, until a human girl named Taylor is mistakenly transported to Bethany. Kane, the king over these nations, despises her whole-heartedly at first, and then she makes him laugh for the first time since the devastation began years ago. And the earthling manages to find new ways to surprise him with her valor and loyalty every single day. Unfortunately, Taylor’s only wish through their dangerous quest to reunite three magical stones and save the kingdom, aside from surviving this fearful place, is to return home.
But as fate goes, she soon discovers the only way to recapture the stones and save the lives of the royals she’s come to love as her first real family is to give up any hope of ever returning to her old life. In the end it all comes down to what sort of hero she truly is, one to her own self, or one to entire nations.
But if she ran away, the girls would probably die, killing a part of her four friends with them. The cage’s door was only held shut by an old unraveling rope. Charity and Hope would be easy to free if she could just get past the dredglings. There was absolutely no way she could take them all on alone, though.
She remembered the firecrackers. Carefully, she rolled to her side and slipped her hand in her pocket. Stupid wrapper, she thought when she realized she would have to take it off. Paper was noisy no matter what.
“Yes, let’s kill them now,” the second dredgling said. “I’ll take the one on the right and you take the one on the left.”
Taylor lay on top of her hands and the package to tear it open.
“No!” one of the girls shrieked.
“Hack, cut them from their confines!”
“Cut them out yourself,” a third voice said.
Taylor slid the fireworks out and took out her lighter. She tried to light it, but didn’t get a flame.
“What was that?” Hack said.
Come on, come on, come on. She tried it again, this time getting it to light just long enough to ignite the fuse.
“Cult, go see what’s up there,” a dredgling said.
“You go see what’s up there.”
Taylor tossed the fireworks over the tree into the ditch and covered her ears.
“BLACK MAGI—” The explosions cut the dredgling off and then they were all shouting almost as loud.
Taylor looked around the tree and watched the dredglings run away through the ditch in both directions, all except for one that had crouched behind the cage and its screaming girls. She reached for her sword, but decided instead to grab her knife. It felt more natural than the sword did and was easier to use. Even the rope would have been a pain to cut off with a sword.
She stood up and ran into the ditch, head pounding with fear. Hopefully, the dredgling would stay where it was. It was too much like a human to kill. She felt fear like she couldn’t imagine, as if she were surrounded by dredglings already, the torture and death only moments away, as she forced herself closer and closer to the one still crouching on the ground with its elongated hands over its head.