UGH; MY BACK ached when I woke and I grunted in pain. Why the heck didn't I just go to my bed? Man this floor feels lumpy. I shifted position. Five more minutes then I'll get up, I thought before dozing off again.

Some time later I went to roll over but jammed up against a large warm shape. Patting blindly down my side I felt Audi lying next to me. Cracking open an eye I peered down at her.

'Audi,' I mumbled. 'You're blocking me again.'

She gazed up at me and her tail thumped in the dirt, dislodging a couple of yellowed leaves that fluttered into the air.

Dirt? Leaves? My scrambled brain registered that I too lay in the dirt.

'Whhatt?' I croaked. Hearing something move, I pushed up onto my elbows. The world spun before my eyes. 'Ooooh dizzy.' I slumped back down and held my head with both hands. 'Helloooo?' I called. 'Sian? Kassie? Loi?' The shuffling sound started again.

KASSIE HEARD A voice call her name and woke up. Why do I feel so tired, she thought in bewilderment; her whole body felt like it weighed twice what it should.

'Sian? Kassie? Loi?'

Kassie opened her eyes and squinted at the light. She blinked in surprise and stared at the large tree in her immediate line of vision.

'Cat?' she mumbled. 'Why are we outside?'

'We're outside?' Sian sounded confused.

Loi groaned, 'I'm so dizzy. Guys, are you dizzy?'

The others made noises of agreement.

CAUTIOUS, I OPENED my eyes and could just make out the tops of trees.

Whoa, that's weird.

'We ARE outside.' I eased up to sitting and blinked, looking around. The others seemed as groggy as me.

Holy crap! Where the hell are we?

We lay in a circle on the ground in a clearing. Trees, bushes and low vegetation surrounded us but it didn't look like any forest I knew. Distant birdsong felt disconcertingly like listening to a radio, none of the calls recognizable as any I knew. The air had an almost spicy, fresh fragrance of ozone, damp and plant life I'd never smelled before. Swirls of panic spun in my stomach while I stared around us. I couldn't recognize any of the trees or bushes, nothing that looked like New Zealand forest, nothing at all!

KASSIE COULDN'T SPEAK. She simply gaped at their surroundings. What part of the spell had said this? Her brain just didn't want to make sense of it all; a dream she thought desperately, trying to ignore the sharp, clear scent of the forest and the rough dry dirt beneath her palms, the soft grasses tickling the back of her hands. Her heart thudded madly while her face grow hot, anger and fear rising.

'Sian,' she growled. 'Where the fuck are we?'

The others turned to stare at her in surprise, Loi arched an eyebrow.

'Don't arch your eyebrow at me, Loi,' she snapped in a thin, tight voice. 'There's a time and place for strong language and this is it!'

SIAN FELT TRULY little while she stared at the enormous trees surrounding them. Her stomach felt like it hit her feet when she'd first sat up and looked around. No spell she'd cast before had ever done this, how could she possibly explain this to her friends? Cat and Loi looked dumbfounded while Kassie looked as red as a roasted lobster.

Sian gulped, 'I, I don't know. This has never happened before.'

LOI COULD SEE Kassie looked ready to explode and while she understood the sentiment, it wouldn't improve their current situation.

The Arrival, Book one of the Birthright TrilogyRead this story for FREE!