Sela climbed onto the unicorn, throwing her leg across as if she were riding a horse. “Um…okay. I’m right behind you.”
“Don’t try sitting on a real unicorn. They sometimes have a nasty attitude.”
He passed into a mossy clearing populated by several fruit trees and sculptures of fairies. Focusing on an intricate sculpture of a brownie, he nearly smacked into a strange kid.
“Whoa,” Jon said, rearing back. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
The boy, perhaps eighteen, was bare-chested, muscular and gripped a six-foot long staff. “State your Clan and your business.”
Jon’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Your Clan and your business,” the boy repeated, giving his staff a threatening twirl.
Annoyance flickered in Jon’s eyes. “I don’t answer to Manga comic book rejects.”
He glanced over his shoulder to check Sela’s progress and suddenly found his legs swept out from under him. He landed on his back with a loud thud, wincing from a stinging pain across his calves.
“Hey! What’s wrong with you?”
The kid responded by rotating the staff around and around like an incoming helicopter blade. Jon scrambled to his feet, leaving his duffle bag on the ground. From somewhere behind him, Sela gasped. His attention riveted on the weapon, Jon held up a warning hand.
“Stay there, Sela. This guy is seriously nuts!”
The wooden staff whooshed toward Jon’s head and he jumped back out of reach. Unfortunately, he stumbled over his duffle bag and fell. At that, the stranger dissolved into mocking laughter.
“You’re mean!” Sela cried.
A nearby fruit tree provided Jon’s sister with juicy ammunition. Her aim was wide, but the teen ducked anyway. While the kid was distracted, however, Jon tackled him to the ground and wrestled the staff from his hands. Jon burned the weapon with the flames shooting from his fingertips and flung the seared wood onto the gravel path.
“Stay down, punk, or there’s more where that came from.”
The kid raised his hand and Jon noticed –too late– he wore a Clan ring. In the next moment, Jon flew backward as if yanked by an invisible elastic cord. He twisted in the air and slammed face-first into one of Quixoran’s stone sprites. As Jon spat blood from a cut inside his mouth, the stranger advanced.
“More of what, lightweight?” he sneered. “Seems to me like you got nothing.”
The situation disintegrated fast.