But the people of the burning city were not alone on the plains of grass, there they joined the ranks of the army that was already engaged in furious battle with the invading mass. The army of the burning city held their own and threw the invaders back.

Then the scene shifted once again and Dominick found the invaders in full retreat. A surge of hope stabbed into Dominick’s heart. The city was saved. He almost cheered.

That was, until the dragon arrived.

The dragon was white, its wingspan like that of a jumbo jet. It flew over the two armies, and the people of the burning city broke, fleeing in terror as the dragon engulfed them in flames from its unholy maw.

“No!” Dominick found himself shouting. He backed away from the dumpster as the people fell to the flames.

The images in the chalk circle went black and soon there was nothing more than the dumpster.

“What was that?” Dominick said, breathing heavily. “Why would you show me that?”

“That was the city of Haven,” Harold said.

“More specifically,” Vivian said. “That is what will happen to Haven and our people without your help.”

“Why?” Dominick backed away another step, his hands gripping the hair on the top of his head like he was clinging to the side of a cliff. “Why me? I’m just a cook at a crappy fast food place,” Dominick said.

“You are the One,” Vivian said.

“It has been foretold,” Harold said.

“‘And so the hammer shall mark him as the One,’” Vivian said, sounding as if she were reading from a book. “‘And in our hour of most desperate need, when shadow and flame feed upon the land, when fire rains from the sky, the One will come from the old and into the new. With hammer and blade, with thunder and lightening, the One will bring light to the shadow and quench the fires of doom.’”

“So our prophecies speak,” Harold said.

Dominick looked down at the pale birthmark on his hand.

“Look,” Dominick said. “I’m sorry, but I have a life here, pathetic as it may be, it’s still a life, and I can’t just leave it.”

Harold and Vivian only smiled.

“We understand, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said.

“Yes, we will go and trouble you no further,” Harold said.

“When you change your mind, you will need this.” Vivian produced something tiny from a pouch at her side. She held it up for Dominick to see.

He had to squint. It was a ring. A ring made for pixie fingers.

“I don’t understand,” Dominick said.

“The ring will allow you to step between the two realms. To move between your home and ours,” Vivian said.

“Okay,” said Dominick, unsure how he was to use something so small. “But I won’t change my mind.”

Regardless of how he felt, however, something made him hold out his hand.

Vivian, ignoring his rejection, dropped the ring into his open palm. As the ring connected with his skin, it grew to what, for Dominick, would be normal size with an almost audible pop, and he nearly let it fall from his hand in surprise.

He studied the ring for a moment. It reminded him of the class ring his parents were unwilling to buy him when he’d been in high school, except the gem in the center of the ring was dark, almost black. Engraved on either side of the ring were a pair of symbols. He peered intently at each of them, but couldn’t quite make out what either one was supposed to be. It was almost as if the engraver had blurred them in some fashion.

“Place the ring on the middle finger of your right hand,” Vivian said.

“I won’t change my mind,” Dominick repeated. “I’m sorry.”

“Yes, of course,” Vivian said, dismissing his statement entirely. “Picture the place you want to travel to in your mind, the exact place. Since you have yet to travel to Gund, think upon the city you have seen in the circle. Turn the ring so that the gem faces inward, then, place the gem to your heart and you will travel.”

“OK, thanks,” Dominick said, rubbing his head. “I, ah, I’ll think about it, okay. That’s all I can promise.”

“Of course,” Vivian said.

“Of course,” Harold said.

“Look, I’m sorry. But I really have to get back,” Dominick said, pocketing the rings and backing away. “I want to help, but,” he turned to look back at the Happy Hamburger.

“But you will, Dominick Hanrahan,” Harold said. “You will help us.”

“Yes, Dominick Hanrahan,” Vivian said, gliding into his field of vision. “Our prophecies say you will help us, so you will help us, we have no doubt of that fact. There is no need for either of us to try and continue to convince you.”

“Your heart knows what you must do,” Harold said. “Once your head sees that your heart is right, then you will come.”

“You have the ring, Dominick Hanrahan. You know how to use it. You will come. There is nothing more to say,” Vivian said. “Pleasant day.”

Dominick only frowned and scratched his head.

“Okay then,” he said, breaking the silence. “Um, I guess I’ll see ya or something.”

The pixies did not respond. They hovered before him, smiling.

“Bye,” Dominick said, throwing a wave their way as he turned, left the dumpster pen, and ambled toward the Happy Hamburger.

“Wait!” Vivian called out. “The sword!”

To be continued . . .

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