I wake up to the sound of someone making an obnoxious racket, slamming their hands on what is probably a keyboard.

"Who the fuck keeps making all that noise...?"

Groaning, I lift my head from the table.

Wait...table? The last thing I remember is falling asleep in my bed. Definitely not a table.

"Oh! You're awake! Sorry for, um, waking you up!"

"You're a nerd, can't you just reroute the encryptions or some shit like that and shut up about it?!"

"...Oh, I see. You must have been taken in by the popular misconception that everyone smart knows how to hack a computer. Or that computer hacking is magic...or that encryptions are a thing that can be rerouted."

My head is still spinning in confusion as I try to make sense of my surroundings. I look around me, and I seem to be in some kind of library. After my examination, I turned my attention to the voices I heard. There was a blond haired girl in a cheerleading outfit, a boy in football armor, and another bespectacled boy who was sitting in front of a computer.

The blonde haired girl looked apologetically at me, while the two boys were still arguing with each other.

"And who are you people?"

Still none too happy about being abruptly awoken, my question came out more biting than I intended.

"I'm Jen, and that's Billy and Nelson over there. And you're Anne, right? Um, the new girl?"

"New girl?"

"Yeah! It's your first day here, right? It must suck to have detention on your first day of school, huh?"


Suddenly, I felt a splitting pain in my head as I cried out. I clutched my head tightly, closing my eyes, as memories of someone else's life flashed by: "Anne", the teenager. She's sixteen years old this year. She's an orphan, but was adopted by a family when she was younger. They recently moved to Pennsylvania.

When I opened my eyes again, Jen was by my side, worried. In her hands, she was holding lipstick and a compact mirror.

"Hey, are you alright? Do you need some aspirin or something?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks. There is something I need though. Can I borrow your mirror?"

"Huh? Oh, sure I guess?"

Jen handed me her mirror, and as I examined myself in it, the reality sunk in for me. Anne was a Thai girl, with light brown skin, auburn hair, and dark brown eyes. Nothing like my old appearance.

How did this happen?! I went from being an adult to a teenager?!

Wordlessly, I handed the mirror back to Jen.

"Thanks again. And what'd you say your names were? Jen, Billy, and Nelson?"


Oh god. As if my previous realization that I had just possessed the body of a random teenager wasn't bad enough, I knew those names. I knew three teenagers with those exact names from Pennsylvania.

They were in a podcast I listened to before falling asleep.

Shit. I was in The Once and Future Nerd.

As if right on cue, thunder flashed outside the library's window, and the next moment, the power went out. I heard everyone around me panicking and searching for their lipstick (Jen), a flashlight (Nelson), and whatever the hell Billy was doing.

Meanwhile, I found a backpack next to my side on the floor. Knowing what would happen next, I hurriedly strapped the backpack to myself, just in case.

The lights came back on, and I watched as everything played out the way it did in the podcast. Nelson found himself looking at Jen's butt, Billy gets mad at Nelson, Jen gets between the two's ensuing argument. I expected all of this, but what I did not expect was the lightning bolt that burst through the window and immolated Jen, Billy, Nelson...and me.

o - o - o - o - o

Annoyingly, once again, I was the last to wake up. At least this time, I wasn't the only one who was unconscious.

I imagined the other three were not in better shape than me as we all stood up, battered and bruised.

"Don't worry, Jen, I used to go hunting with my uncle. Now the sun's setting that way...And the moss is growing that way...Which means...wait..."

"I don't know if you can go by that. I think we read in bio class about lots of things determining moss growth. Didn't we?"

"Actually, while it's true mosses will grow on any hard surface, including the sides of trees, they prefer to grow on North-facing surfaces because they like the darker, more humid environment. If you don't see any moss growing on trees, also check on rocks."

I blinked, stunned by my sudden outburst. Judging from the reactions of Billy, Jen, and Nelson, they were similarly shocked.

"What the fuck? I thought Nelson was the only nerd around here! And you're a girl too! Don't you have better things to do, like makeup and shopping and shit? Then again, you're Asian. Are Asian girls nerds too? Thought that was just the guys."

"Hey, babe, that was kind of uncalled for."

"As a fellow marginalized member of society, that was, in fact, 'uncalled for'."

"If I had better things to do, would I be standing here listening to your misogynistic ass?", I snapped.

My day just keeps getting worse and worse. Possessing the body of a 2013 Pennsylvania teenager, being transported to another world with three other teenagers, and one of them is literally a dumb jock?!

Who doesn't get character development until he's slapped in the face with a fever dream of his abusive dad?!


Reminding myself of Billy, Jen, and Nelson's sad backstories made me feel guilty, and when I feel guilty, I can't also stay mad at Billy...ugh, fine. I'm the adult here, even if I no longer look like it, so I need to act like it instead.

Because I had momentarily been lost in my thoughts, I was brought back to the current circumstances by Jen's startled gasp.

"Did you guys feel anything? I coulda sworn this log just moved..."

Fucking hell. Even though I knew we would be fine, I still couldn't let Jen get hurt.

"Everyone, get away from that log!"

I grabbed Jen and pulled us away from the log as fast as I could.

"Anne, what - "

The "log" uncurled itself and lifted up its head. A massive serpent with tree bark-like skin now looked down on us, poised and ready to strike. I knew what was going to happen beforehand, but even I couldn't stop myself from trembling. It's not everyday you come face to face with a giant snake that could easily devour three or four people in one go.

Finally, to my utter relief, the arrow from a certain elf embedded itself in the eye of the serpent, which dropped dead after.

"What are you doing out here? And what in Selbirin are you wearing?"

I was relieved that Anne wore practical clothing, unlike what the other teenagers were wearing (aside from Nelson). She was wearing a blue hoodie, jeans, and sneakers.

While Nelson moved to get closer to Yllowyn, Jen, Billy, and I observed from afar as he started cutting away at the serpent's neck with his knife. I knew the resulting conversation with him would be awkward, if nearly choking Billy to death was "awkward", so I was ready to step in when I was needed again.

Billy and Jen stayed where they were, and I could hear them whispering.

"I can hear you perfectly well."

"Okay, lemme guess. You're in some kind of a militia or something."

"My clan has a proud military tradition, if that's what you're asking."

"...Nelson, honey, you wanna take a few steps back from the heavily armed klansman?"

"And I bet you and all your kin can trace your lineage - "

I elbowed Billy in the gut, and watched with some Schadenfreude as he bent over and coughed.

"What the hell was that for - "

"Ahem, what my friend here meant to say is, could you tell us where we are right now?"

"You're in lands claimed by His Majesty, Gunther Guernatal, High King of the human realms of Iorden."

Yllowyn looked perplexed, whether at what had just transpired, or, more likely, the fact that four human children were dressed strangely and had no idea as to where they currently were.

"You think you could point us to the nearest town without going schizo on me?"

Billy had recovered, and I found myself disappointed that he was already back to spewing dumb remarks - like that one.

"I'm heading that way myself. I suppose I could escort you, since you're obviously in no place to defend yourselves."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means you were very nearly a serpent's supper, human. Speaking of which, as long as you're heading back to town with me, would you mind helping me with that?"

So that's how four teenagers, an elf, and a dead serpent made their way to the nearest human village. Billy and Nelson dragged the body of the serpent with leather straps, Yllowyn had its head under his arm, and Jen was walking ahead of us.

And where was I?

...Also dragging the body of the serpent. It was surprisingly doable. Maybe it was because it was easier with three people than two, but Billy wasn't even complaining about the weight. Speaking of Billy, this jerk, he had no objections when I offered to help drag the snake. So when it's Jen, he acts all macho, but with me, another girl, he doesn't bother?

Well, to be fair, I also elbowed him in the gut, so...

Again, I was lost in my thoughts, so I didn't pay much attention to anything until we came across the boulder in a crater, with dried blood.

"The hell is that?"

"A very easy way to kill a bear, if you're a dragoness looking to feed her young."

Oh. OH. Oh my god, that's right. There were fucking DRAGONS in this world too. Fucccckkkk...

Another hour later, and another hour of hyperventilating about how I'm in a fantasy world with evil cults, necromancers, magic, and terrifying creatures, we made it to Guernatal City.

"Listen, Mr..."

"My name is Yllowyyn."

"Yellow ween? Your name's Yellow Ween?"


"Okay, well, pleased to meet you. I'm Jennifer. Thank you for walking us back to town."

"Yes, yes. Merely doing my civic duty as an officer of the King's court."

"I can't believe this asshole's name is Yellow Ween. How many ass-kickings did you get in school?

"Mr. Yllowyyn, if you could point us in the direction of Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, we'd sure appreciate it."

"I've never heard of it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I find the three of you very odd, and I don't care much for your company."

Okay, rude. But, can't blame the guy for thinking we're odd. We are pretty odd, and he doesn't even know we're from another world yet, or that one of us is the Anointed One, and another is the Stormbringer...

Yllowyn handed Jen a coin purse, and left just like that.

"Hey Jen, do you mind if I hold on to that coin purse?"

"Oh! Sure!"


No way am I letting Billy lose all of our money just because he's too stupid to recognize when he's being scammed.

"Let's go look for some food. There must be a market around here selling fruits and stuff."

"What, fruit? Are you kidding me? Why can't we go to a tavern or something?"

"Shut the fuck up, Billy. In case you've forgotten, we still need to go home, and we can't do that drunk."

And, not that these three knew it yet, but we would be arrested by the king's men on account of being "suspicious". I don't want to waste money on beer when we wouldn't even be able to drink it.

Eventually, after stopping a passing villager for directions, we did find a market, where they were selling fruits and vegetables, among other things. I bought a few apples for the four of us to eat. They were smaller and not as sweet as apples back on Earth, but they were apples. And they only cost a five coins. I still had 70 coins left in the purse.

I waited, while the other three were still looking around the market, for the guards to appear and apprehend us. Sure enough, I heard a commotion, and armored men with pikes came marching at us. By the time they herded us back to the castle, I had finished eating my apple.

o - o - o - o - o

I'll admit, being held captive in the dungeon is probably the low point of what I've experienced today, but it's nothing compared to what we'll have to go through later in the story.

Eventually, the jailer came to take us out of the dungeon. After leaving our belongings behind, we were led up several flights of stairs and out into a small, walled-off courtyard in between the dungeon and the castle proper.

"Wait here until someone comes for you."

The jailer headed back towards the dungeon.

"I can get us out of here."

"Nelson, I know what you're thinking, but playing all of the Legend of Zelda games doesn't mean you're an escape artist."

"Wha - how'd you know I've beaten every single Legend of Zelda?!"

I smirked, "I didn't, but I assumed you did, what with how video games seem to be your life blood. But back to my point, Nelson, you see that? That is a guard tower." I pointed above us to the tower that overlooked the courtyard.

"Oh shit, it is -"

"Nelson, this is a castle. The King's castle. There's no way they would miss something that obvious."

"Thanks Anne, you really saved us from being shot at with arrows or something."

"No problem."

The jailer returned, and took us to King Gunther's throne room.

I've been able to identify the characters so far either because they told me their names, or they're literally non-human, like Yllowyn. And for Gunther, he's obviously the old guy sitting on the throne, and the similarly aged man on his right must be Brennen. But as I look around me at the unfamiliar faces of the nobles staring at us - with hostility, curiosity, fear, etc., I had a hard time trying to spot that asshole Ardel Redmoor, or even his sister Arlene.

Well, I guess he'll reveal himself eventually, considering how arrogant he is.

"Oh great, it's Weenie."

"Thank you for the floor, your Grace. As you can see, their attire is completely unfamiliar. And you can take my word that their manners are equally alien. Furthermore, if you'll look at the puny one, you'll see he wears tokens of Garedian around his neck."

Gasps broke out throughout the court. Crap, I forgot to tell Nelson to take off his d20 and put it in his pocket or something.

"I swear to God, Nerd..."


"Your Grace, I would have brought them to the court's attention sooner, but I had been out hunting and did not hear of Her late Majesty's tragic demise until I returned."

"I understand, Kalth'yr."

King Gunther turned towards us.

"Where are the four of you from?"

I interrupted before Billy could say something unintelligent and get us all in trouble, again. The king was still waiting for an answer. I stepped forward from my position in line with Jen, Billy, and Nelson.

"Your Grace...I think there's a more important question than where we're from. It's who we are. You all seem to think that we're enemy spies, but I think the man sitting next to you has a different opinion."

I switched my gaze to Brennen, who had not taken his eyes off of us since our entrance.

"Is this true, General?"

The King turned inquiringly to Brennen.

"It's probably nothing, your Grace. But I may have had a dream about these four."

Hold on, four? Why four? I'm not the Anointed One, not the Stormbringer, not even the Stormbringer's boyfriend! Yeah, I'm from Earth like Billy, Jen, and Nelson (albeit a different Earth), but why am I in this dream with them?

A very, very old priest in purple robes, with a golden disk on a silver chain around his neck, spoke up.

"What sort of dream?"

"I was in danger, and was rescued by birds. Of the same colors that these four wear."

There it is again! Four! Why does Brennen keep mentioning four? And the same colors? I'm not wearing red or gold!

"General, had you seen these strangers at any point before these things were dreamt?"

"I had not, your Eminence."

"And have you ever heard of the scrolls of Baradir?"

"Time is of the essence, Bishop."

"They are writings, your Majesty. Their veracity has been refuted by the Elders, but they have not been declared outwardly heretical. The writer speaks of a time of Garedian's reign. An Anointed One will save us from the dark times. The prophet of the Anointed One's coming will be a great warrior, and the sigil of the Anointed One will be a bird."

The Head Priest actually got straight to the point. I thought this was when a younger priest was supposed to interject, but my presence must have changed things. Having one extra person makes the situation more urgent, maybe?

"You can't expect us to give weight to this prophecy, Bishop. You said yourself that the Elders refuted it."

Ugh, there's the slimy bastard. And he looks every bit the petulant man child the story made him out to be.

Alright, after some ridiculous back and forth, with me trying to keep myself in check before I go and deck this fucker in the face for trying to have me, Jen, Billy, and Nelson executed, Arlene finally speaks up.

"With respect, your Grace, what harm can they possibly do from within the dungeon?"

And then there's more back and forth conversation. I'm trying to keep a poker face on while all of this is happening, but I really just want to skip ahead to the part where Jen, Billy, and Nelson travel with Brennen and Yllowyn. And I guess me now too. I'm not staying here with Ardel running the kingdom and there's nowhere safer then by the main characters' sides.

Sure, Jen burns herself trying to cast lightning, Brennen gets wounded and sick until he gets healed by the elves, and that's not counting all of the emotional and mental turmoil we'll have to go through, but...

Shit. I'm gonna have to become a murderer, aren't I? God damn it, god damn it, GOD DAMN IT.

My train of thought is derailed by one of the King's soldiers bursting into the hall at a full sprint, struggling for breath.

"Pardon, Lords...Traft's army crosses the Black Mountains. Fifty thousand strong. Foot, horse, bows, and siege engines."

After King Gunther orders the nobles present to leave, and our group of four follow Yllowyn out the door, we wait for Gunther to finish conversing with Brennen. Once they're done, we head back inside.

"For your own protection, you will accompany General Brennen on his journey. Now, have the four of you any supplies that might be of use?"

"The tall one was carrying armor of some sort when I found them. And the blue one had some sort of bag."

I roll my eyes at hearing Yllowyn call me "the blue one". Wow. The puny one, the tall one, now the blue one? Truly, Yllowyn is a master of nicknames. He could give Billy a run for his money, that's for sure.

Nelson, Billy, Jen, and I left the throne room with Yllowyn, while I glanced back briefly at Brennen and King Gunther.

One last conversation later, and I knew that the next time Brennen would see Gunther would be under very unfavorable circumstances, Brennen rejoined our party of five. We stopped by the dungeon to reclaim our belongings, and then Brennen led us to the secret door, located near the sewage site.

Ugh, this stinks, literally!

"We are headed 30 miles north."

"We're walking?"

"Even if we had horses, do any of you know how to ride?"

I found myself answering before I could think better of it.

"Well, I do."

Everyone looked at me with confusion written on their faces, an expression which I had come to get used to lately. I don't even know where this knowledge comes from, so how am I supposed to answer anyone else's questions? Anne, just what life exactly have you lived prior to me possessing your body?

I shut my mouth up pretty quick after that. Yllowyn and Brennen were still observing me warily, but the topic soon shifted towards our destination: the College of Armstrungard and the wizard Ba'a lo-Ky'yr.

We walked until late morning. Billy, Jen, and Nelson complained profusely about walking (no, it was pretty much just Billy...), but strangely enough, I still didn't feel tired. Oh yes, I certainly felt fatigue, but not nearly as much as a 16 year old should.

It was all coming together: dragging the serpent, horseback riding, hiking for long intervals.

Clearly, Anne was a very athletic teenager. Billy and Jen are a football player and cheerleader, respectively, but they're not as strong as Anne. Why? Is this an effect of me being a traveler to two worlds and not just one? Not to mention I haven't eaten anything in ages! Billy, Jen, and Nelson are exhausted from lack of sleep and food, but I didn't even feel the pang of hunger.

We made it to a frozen lake, where Brennen decided it way safe enough to set up camp for the afternoon. Yllowyn went to hunt for food, and Billy decided to go...take a dump.

"Billy, I fucking swear, if you do not bury your shit after taking a dump, I'll do a lot worse to you than elbow you in the gut."

Billy looked suitably afraid of my glare, and I was satisfied when no giant cockroaches besieged our camp.

I took the time to finally examine the backpack I had brought along with me during my impromptu trip to Iorden.

The brown cotton backpack blended in perfectly with a medieval setting. It had small slots on the side and additional loops on the bottom. Inside the backpack, there was a leather-bound notebook, various pens and pencils, a calculator, a water bottle, a granola bar, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a box of band-aids, earphones, a portable battery charger and a Samsung phone.

I opened the notebook and found various sketches and doodles of animals...wow. Anne is actually not a bad artist.

Yllowyn came back with a plump goose for us to eat, and we picked it clean.

I stayed silent during Billy, Jen, and Nelson's conversation with Yllowyn and Brennen, waiting until the general dismissed everyone to go to sleep.

"Um, General Brennen?"


"Can you tell me more about the dream you had? About the birds?"

"Aye, alright. There were four grey birds, one wearing a crown on its head. There was a red bird, a gold bird, and a red and golden bird. But the eighth and final bird...it was special. A small white and blue bird. Unlike the others, it stayed by my side and was the only bird to approach me."

"I see. Thank you for telling me, General."

"You should rest too. We'll be up again in a few hours."

"I will."

I found a place a little ways off from where the others were resting. I chose a spot where the ground was relatively soft. Sighing, I rummaged through Anne's backpack and found her smartphone and her earphones. Then, I arranged her backpack as a makeshift pillow to lay my head on, while lamenting the loss of modern day conveniences like sleeping bags.

To be honest, I didn't think much about it earlier, but there were lots of useful apps on a phone, even without a data connection. A voice recorder, a camera, a flashlight, photos, videos, and music...

Turning on the phone, I was glad to see that Anne still had a good amount of her battery. She must not have been one of those kids who used their phones during class. God only knows what she got into detention for then.

The first thing I checked was the media app for photos and videos. I scrolled through them, and I saw Anne doing various activities: camping, hiking, riding horses, boxing. Geez, Anne's family must have been loaded if they could afford to pay for horseback riding lessons, outdoor trips, and sports. Why the hell did they move to Pennsylvania of all places?

Anyway, my guess was correct. Anne was already an athletic teenager before I was teleported to Iorden with Jen, Billy, and Nelson. Did her body...mutate? Uh, magic perhaps? Jen became a mage after coming here, so it could be possible.

My body wasn't tired, but I couldn't say the same for my mind. I saw Anne with her family in those photos, and the crushing guilt came back full force. Just why did I come here? What is my purpose? Is Anne back in my old body?

I needed a break from it all, so I navigated to Anne's downloaded music library. She had good taste in music. One of the bands she listened to was...Young the Giant. I liked Young the Giant, too.

It was 2013, so Young the Giant had yet to release their albums other than their first one.

That's fine.

There was one song in their album I could play until I fell asleep.

I placed Anne's earphones into my ears, as I listened to the emotional lyrics of Cough Syrup.