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Bookland Fantasy Fiction: Halden Prologue 1st Person

One of the most satisfying things about participating on a kickboxing team was days like this one, where me and my twenty teammates could band together and put on a good show while kicking some ass at the same time. Crestwood High School was not an official sponsor of the team, but Coach Daniels worked for the local community center as well as the school, so sometimes he managed to get use of their gym for our exhibition matches.

There was nothing half so rewarding as the feel of a fist or a foot finding its mark. Sure, that was a strange thing to satisfy a girl of seventeen, especially one who was a bit on the petite side, but there it was. And really, it wasn’t the only unusual trait I possessed—I was also a total nerd and science buff.

Even though my Uncle Zim had plenty of money I didn’t expect him to put me through college when I was smart enough to earn a scholarship, but every time I even brought up college the man would merely frown and shake his head. “There’s no need to concern yourself with the costs of further schooling, Poppy. When the time comes for you to make such choices, it would be a small matter for me to provide the funds.”

Today had been no different when I’d brought the topic up. It was weird, but it almost felt like Zim didn’t want me to go to college at all, yet that was never precisely what he said. It just felt—well, implied. Clearly he seemed to have other plans for me once I graduated, but he never bothered to enlighten me as to what they were.

But now, with mere days until my eighteenth birthday and my upcoming graduation, I’d hoped my uncle would be more agreeable to discussing the future. When I’d spoken to him that morning, however, he seemed more cryptic than ever. I was so frustrated that I truly looked forward to blowing off a bit of steam in the exhibition ring.

“Poppy, you’re up,” the coach called. “The opponent they’ve got you pitted against is a pretty big guy. You sure you’re up for this?”

I scoffed and raised a fire-engine red brow in his direction. “Coach Daniels, if you have to ask you clearly haven’t been paying much attention to all the progress I’ve made during my senior year, both academically and on this team.”

He smirked. “No, Miss Hart, I’ve watched every moment. I simply don’t want you to get hurt. Much as you refuse to acknowledge that size matters when it comes to this sport, the truth is that guy could hurt you if he wants to, and their school and ours are huge rivals. There would be no dishonor in bowing out.”

“My uncle didn’t raise a quitter,” I replied. “I’m going in there and giving it all I’ve got.”

“That’s the spirit,” he told me. “Just remember, blocking is every bit as important as the attack. Don’t let this guy mess you up, all right?”

“Sure thing, coach,” I agreed. “I’m all over it.”

I did a bit of limbering up as I headed for the ring. Before I managed to reach it, however, six black-clad, huge and imposing guys stepped into my path and arranged themselves in the most threatening manner possible. It was obviously me they were focused on since each one cast me a sinister glare.

“Whoa, who let the ninjas out?” I scoffed as I pulled up short and moved into a fighting stance of my own. Behind me, I heard one of my team members shout to the others, and they all gathered around me within a matter of seconds, ready to help if I needed them to.

“Who are these guys?” Becky asked close to my ear as we waited to see what they would do.

“No clue,” I admitted. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let them jerk me around. Coach Daniels is coming over to ask them what they want. Let’s see what happens – but be ready for a fight. I don’t think these guys showed up just to pose.”

“Gentlemen, what’s the meaning of this?” Coach Daniels demanded, hands on his hips as he stepped between the thugs and the students.

“Stand aside, teacher,” said their apparent ringleader. “We’ve been searching for this girl for many years, and no mere human is going to prevent us from obtaining her now.”

He cocked his head in confusion. “What’s that supposed to mean? Are you guys totally cracked in the head or something? I’m not going to let you attack one of my students, so you can forget that. Just get out of here before I have you arrested. Don’t you know there are always four police officers on the school property each day?”

“Your law enforcement agents have already been dispatched,” he added smugly. “They were no match for one Attan warrior, let alone more. Now step aside so we can tend to the job we came here for.”

Suddenly, Uncle Zim appeared in a puff of smoke, except he didn’t look anything like I remembered him. First, he’d changed out of his usual understated business suit and was instead dressed up like some sort of green ninja. He was also sporting a wicked sword which he clearly knew how to use.

“Uncle Zim?” I exclaimed, staring at him.

“Get to the car, Poppy, right now,” he instructed. “There’s no way I’ll be able to explain this right now, and we’re going to need to get you out of here.”

“Screw that,” I complained. “I prefer to fight my own battles. You know that.”

“I’ll not allow you to fight a battle you haven’t been prepared for,” he insisted. “This is a battle that right now you cannot possibly win. Now go.”

Something told me that I should listen to him. For one thing, the big, bad guys were no longer standing there and looking intimidating, but instead they’d started to fight. Both Uncle Zim and Coach Daniels stepped forward. Somehow or other, the coach was now holding one of those wicked swords as well, but though he was impressive, it was Zim who killed four of the attackers before the other two turned to retreat.

As I ran in the other direction to get to the car, I overheard Zim say to Coach Daniels, “We can’t let them get away. We need to find out how they knew to come to Earth. You must tend to them while I tend to the girl.”

I shook my head, but didn’t let my confusion slow me down as I bolted out the back door, sprinted to the car, and locked myself inside of it. Not too much later Zim joined me there.

“What the hell is going on, Zim?” I demanded. “Why are both you and Coach Daniels suddenly skilled swordsmen, and where did those damned ninjas come from?”

“They’re not ninjas,” Zim insisted. “And it’s a good thing we got your passport the other day because it seems we’re heading to the airport two days sooner than I was anticipating.”

“Airport?” I exclaimed. “What do you mean? I can’t leave, I’ve got graduation tomorrow morning.”

Zim rolled his eyes as he started driving. “Sorry to burst your bubble, princess, but you really are a princess, just not from this planet. Your true name is Princess Valima Raavi, daughter of King Ergon, and those guys want you dead so you can’t return home to fulfill the prophesy.”

“What prophecy?” I shouted, frustrated beyond belief. “Spit it out already!”

“You’re destined to marry The Halden,” he said. “It’s not my place to explain these things, they are meant to be revealed to you by your father, who asked me to take you to Earth to keep you safe. But with your birthday just two weeks away…well, I suppose it was too much to ask that our enemies would not discover your location and try to prevent your homecoming.”

“And this is why you wouldn’t let me pick out a college, right?” I asked in a disgruntled tone. “Because of some stupid betrothal I never even heard of? Well, that also explains why you refused to let me date, too. Wow, I really can’t believe this. This is the craziest thing I ever heard, Zim. Are you even my uncle?”

“No, Your Highness, I’m not,” he admitted. “I am a servant in the services of King Hal, who agreed to see to your safety once the marriage bargain had been struck. But after all these years I sure hope you’ll keep thinking of me that way. Raising you was the best job I ever had.”

“Sure, Zim, just because you’ve lied to me my entire life in order to keep me safe doesn’t mean I think you’re crusty or anything,” I agreed, though there was a bit of sarcasm in my tone. “At least these guys didn’t show up when I was ten, before you agreed to start teaching me how to kickbox. Can I go out on a limb here and assume maybe you knew I might need the skill?”

Zim laughed. “Of course you will, Poppy. Getting married isn’t going to stop the enemy from wanting to harm or kidnap you. Even after the wedding, you’ll still need to keep at it. But The Halden will take charge of your training then. There are a great many other skills you can learn once you have returned to Zaadar.”

“God, this is so crazy,” I said, sighing. I was pretty sure I ought to be pissed off, and yet somehow I was filled with a sense of calm, as if I may have had some idea of my fate all along. “Well, I hope at the very least that this Halden guy is cute. And nice. Nice always works.”

“You’re taking this much better than I anticipated, Poppy,” Zim said. “I think you are going to make a most formidable queen someday.”

“I mean, I could freak out, but then you’d still take me to some other planet to get married anyway,” I pointed out. “It doesn’t make any sense to complain. If I stay here I’ll just get myself killed, and I’m kind of partial to the idea of checking out another world, even if I am exchanging one set of societal rules for another.”

“Excellent,” he said, nodding as he pulled into the lane for the airport. “I’m pleased you have remembered all my teachings.”

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