by Nicki Tate
New Adult, Contemporary Portal Fantasy
| Chapter 6: It Matters Not After a Thought
I was making my way slowly along the corridor to meet Gabriel when I finally saw her. Nagalia walked quickly from a door on my right and without so much as a glance in my direction disappeared through another door to my left. This was the first I had seen of her since the day she had left me sitting atop that horse and I wasn't about to lose her now.
I couldn't risk alerting the guards to my interest in speaking with her, as I was almost positive they reported my movements back to Gabriel. So it was time to test some of the evasive maneuvers I had come up with. Unfortunately for me there wasn't much in the way of smoke bombs in the empty hallway and I realized that my plans were a little too situation specific to actually be useful. I noticed that one of the doors on my left was labeled as a ladies room, and decided to improvise. I casually turned to open that door and the guards went to follow me. I turned to them and raised an eyebrow. Putting on the most regal and commanding voice I could muster I said,
"Gentlemen, as honored as I am to have you protecting me, I do believe I can manage to piss on my own. I doubt the Worldshaper is waiting to ambush me in the bathroom."
The men halted and blushed a deep red as one.
"Of course Miss Rilea, we will be right outside." said Arnis the biggest of the three.
I nodded my thanks and then pushed through the door into the small privy. Now for part two of my plan. I pulled my dagger out of its hiding place in my boot and knelt down on the floor facing the shared wall between the bathroom and the room Nagalia had gone into next door. Magical tent or not it was still made of canvas and should be easy to cut through with my dagger.
Then again perhaps not. Try as I might to pierce the "fabric" with my dagger, nothing gave. I might as well have been poking a steel wall. I sat back on my heels in frustration. I needed to find a way into that room quickly so the guards didn't come looking for me too soon.
I looked around the room hoping for inspiration, and wished there was a connecting door. Then it hit me. If I could make an entire apple orchard with a few thoughts, surely I could make a plain old door! Excitement coursing through me I quickly faced the wall again and closed my eyes.
I imagined a dark brown door and focused on it for a few moments. I opened my eyes eagerly, expecting to see a brown door in front of me, and was greeted with a blank wall. I didn't understand, it had worked so easily with the orchard. I had smelled the apples, tasted the cider, felt the summer breeze. Of course! I needed to engage all of my senses, it had worked so well with the orchard because it was such a vivid memory! I closed my eyes again, this time focusing on my bedroom door from back home. I imagined the off white and slightly chipped door with the old brass handle that always stuck a bit if you turned it to the left. I pictured the small apple shaped scratch and sniff sticker Nagalia had put on it. I felt the cool metal of the handle under my palm. This time when I opened my eyes and slow smile spread across my face. There was my door, right where I wanted it. From outside I heard the guards begin to talk, they were growing restless, and I needed to act fast.
I threw open the door and hurried through. I closed the door behind me and glared at it for a moment, willing it to disappear. I hadn't tried to get rid of something before and wasn't sure if just glaring at it would work, but I was pleasantly surprised when, with a small pop! It vanished. I nodded at the wall in satisfaction and turned to find myself face to face with Nagalia. Oh boy did she look pissed.
"What do you think you are doing? Do you have any idea what it cost to get you here safely? But nooo you have to slip your guard the first chance you get! What were you think-
"Garik's alive!" I blurted before she could finish reprimanding me. The color drained from Nagalia's face as my words sank in.
"Garik was a great swordsman but even he was no match for more than thirty grevirs. There is no way he survived." she said coolly.
"No I saw it he-"
Before I could finish there was a loud knocking on the door to the ladies room.
"Miss Rilea, is...is everything going alright in there?" came the slightly softer voice of Hosper one of my other guards. I liked Hosper, he was a bit greener than the other guards and often snuck me sweets when it was his shift. I turned back to Nagalia and grabbed her arm.
"I need time to explain but not here, follow me!" I whispered.
Whether it was surprise in being manhandled by her formerly quiet and unassertive roommate or because she really wanted to know what I knew about Garik, Nagalia followed me without a fight. I led her out of the room we were in via another door I created at the back, it was quite handy to pull doors out of thin air when I needed to. We found ourselves in a large room filled with bottles of different liquids and scientific looking machines. I had never been in this room before and it was more than a little unsettling. I got the feeling that we had stumbled into a room we definitely should not have been in.
"What is this place?" I said.
"I think you have just gained us access to the Honeran's secret quarters. I've been trying to find it for months..." She stopped suddenly and looked at me as though she just realized what she had said was basically admitting treason in this little hamlet.
"Nagalia, if you are one of the Honeran's greatest and most devoted warriors, then why have you been looking for his secret rooms?" I said allowing a note of suspicion to creep into my voice.
"I never said I was his most devoted warrior, just his best." she replied. Like that was going to be enough of an answer for me.
"Uh, huh. What aren't you telling me?" I said. Nagalia was silent for a moment, a frown marred her delicate features and she seemed to be fighting an internal battle. Her features hardened as she came to a decision but as she opened her mouth to respond, footsteps in the hallway caught our attention.
"Thank you Grenid, that will be all. If you see Rilea please tell her I am very disappointed with her failure to appear for training today and that there will be consequences in our next session." came Gabriel's muffled voice from just outside the room.
Nagalia and I exchanged a panicked look as the door began to open. My eyes roved the peculiar room, searching for a hiding spot. A portion of the room that jutted out slightly caught my eye. It looked like there might be some sort of small antechamber beyond it but I didn't see a door. I ran over to it and began feeling along the wall. Sure enough there was a seam.
"There is a door hidden here!" I whispered frantically to Nagalia.
A soft voice that must belong to Grenid came from the hallway.
"Yes Honeran, did you still wish to proceed with Esri tonight?"
There was a pause and then,
"Yes and do see to it that she has on the correct attire this time. Make sure you have Frigilla assist you." came the Honeran's cold voice.
Just then I managed to press on the right spot of the wall and the door opened with a small snick. Nagalia and I launched ourselves into the small dark room and pressed the door shut just in time as Grenid said her final farewell and the Honeran entered the main chamber. As soon as the door was shut it was like we had been plunged deep underwater. A crushing darkness pressed in on all sides, and I had no notion of the size of the room we were in or even where the door we had come through was. I raised my hand an inch in front of my face, so close I could almost feel it touching my nose but I saw nothing.Â There was no sound around us, we could hear nothing from the outside, and even our own gasping breaths seemed muted.
"It-so." said Nagalia. Shit was right I thought. I could still feel her arm under my hand so I knew she was close, but she sounded so far away.
"Nagalia, is there a way to dispel this darkness? It doesn't seem natural." I said.
"I-I've never experienced anything like this." she stammered the fear evident in her voice.
"Ok, ok think. If light counteracts darkness and this is the deepest darkness I have ever felt, then I would need to use the brightest light I have ever felt to cut through it. Right?" I said, thinking out loud.
"I guess." mumbled Nagalia not sounding at all confident in my line of thought.
"Ok so what is the brightest light I have ever experienced? The sun? But that might fry us if I try to create sunlight in here..." I trailed off as a memory came to me.
I was maybe six years old and I was in a play at my school. I had been given the lead and had a solo I needed to sing in the big climax. I walked out center stage to deliver my song and the spotlight fixed on me. All I could see or feel was that light. Everything outside of the beam washed out. I couldn't even see the faces of the audience in front of me even though I knew they were there. I focused on that moment, called that memory forward and suddenly the darkness was bisected by a large spotlight. It pointed straight out from me, and cut a path through the dark to the other side of the room where we could now see another door. I heard Nagalia gasp next to me.
We began to move forward slowly as though we were afraid something would lunge at us from the darkness. Nothing could be seen other than the dirt floor of the path we walked and the door we were headed for. When we arrived at the door I sent up a silent prayer that it would lead us somewhere normal (well normal for this world) and turned the handle. With a sigh of relief we stepped out into a familiar hallway. The door swung shut behind us and disappeared into the wall as though it had never existed.
Nagalia and I just stared wide eyed at each other for a moment, before pounding footsteps and shouted orders in the next hallway told us the guards were out in full force searching for me.
"We'd better go." I said.
Nagalia nodded and we set off in the direction I had originally intended to go. We had a few close calls with the guards along the way, but luckily for me Nagalia moved like a cat and was able to help me stay out of sight. Finally we stopped in front of the door with the Worldshaper symbol on it.
"Here? This is where you wanted to take me? I've already seen the Honeran's little snuff film." said Nagalia with disgust.
"You need to see it again. Trust me." I said.
Nagalia looked at me for a moment, as though trying to determine whether she could actually trust me. Then with a shrug she pushed past me into the room.
It began the same as it had before, with the narrator describing the gruesome scenes.
"I told you I have already seen this." Said Nagalia through gritted teeth.
"Just wait." I said as the scene with the sandmen ended. The reel stopped for a moment just like it had for me. Then we were in the forest with the woman laying upon the altar.
"Frigilla?!" gasped Nagalia.
"Wait that's Frigilla?" I said. Although I had yet to meet her, from what I gathered Frigilla was Gabriel's second in command. She was in charge of all of the other disciples.
"Her eyes..." said Nagalia in awe.
"What about them?" I asked.
"They are blue!" she said as though that was supposed to mean something to me. I was about to ask what color they were supposed to be, when we got to the part with the dagger. Nagalia let out a scream identical to the woman's as the knife came down. Then just as it had for me, the scene changed before the knife could find its target, and suddenly we were in the orchard.
"Riley..." said Nagalia shakily, recognizing where we were.
"Just watch." I said.
Nagalia paced back and forth like a caged tiger. When the reel ended Nagalia had stormed from the room and I had followed. We were now in a small room I suspected might be some sort of broom closet.
"Nagalia." I said. No response.
"NAGALIA." I said with more force. Nagalia stopped her pacing to look at me.
"Garik is alive." she said.
"I know." I said. Then, when she still didn't speak, I added-
"So what are we going to do about it?"Â
A slow grin spread across Nagalia's face and an evil glint shone in her eyes. Something told me I wouldn't enjoy whatever plan she had just come up with.