Last night was a pretty crazy night. I had to go eat dinner with my mother-in-law… and her boyfriend. The awkward was strong with that one. So as a result I got started on my wordcount super late, but still managed to knock out around 1900 words taking my total wordcount at this point to 24,297. So I am now within spitting distance of the halfway point. Still managing to drum up something to write about, even though I keep deviating from the path I had set aside as it feels right. It feels a lot like Doctor Who, with fixed points but everything between them is wibbly wobby timey wimey.
Here is the story to date. Just a friendly reminder no editing at all has been applied. That will start probably in January.
- Shadowed Stone
- Little Giant Girl
- Birthday Wishes
- The Gifts
- The Incursion
- The Watch
- Rough Landing
- Dragon Bone
- People of the Storm
- The Lady
- Cambridge Beneath
- Prisoner of War
14 – Parting the Veil
The sensation of passing through the portal was something that Pico was simply not prepared for. It was like submerging yourself in a pool and then breaking the surface again. There was a rush that came with the air pressure change, a burst of wind, and then a feeling of falling. She had been unable to keep her balance when she broke through to the other side as she toppled over clumsily. As she righted herself and climbed back to her feet she noticed that she was in a very similar circular room save for a few pretty significant changes.
Firstly there was no stone frame on this side, and even more shockingly no sign of the portal she had just come through. Before stepping through she could clearly see the other side, but from this side there was absolutely no sign of anything even resembling a portal. Slight difference number two, there was nothing that appeared to be a doorway leading out of the room. The round stone dome appeared to be completely sealed. Pico had done many foolish things in her time, but this may in fact be the worst.
She sat down on the cold stone floor trying to tell herself that she was not in fact now trapped in a sealed room in another dimension. The two rooms had been connected at one point, that much was certain, but as she examined the floor around her she saw what appeared to be the remnants of the stone frame in the form of a thinly strewn line of rubble. So someone or something had seemingly broken the frame, but the real question was why. If they were trying to keep someone from travelling from her world they obviously had failed. More likely it seemed to her that they were trying to keep someone from returning.
She laid down on her back and began examining the entirity of the room. The shapes were significantly different from that of the dome on the other side, however after some time she started to piece together a sort of symbology. She noticed there was this one shape that repeated itself at regular intervals around the room. It was a sort of S shape with a bar intersecting it diagonally making it look like a really oddly formed dollar sign. There was one place however where the symbol changed slightly. In that location in the pattern it was upside down.
Pushing off the floor and getting to her feet again she moved over to the place with the upside down version of the symbol. At first she tried to turn it but it seemed as though something was in the way. Digging through her pack she uncovered a small flathead screwdriver, the kind that you would use to take apart delicate electronics. She often found it handy if she got into a jam, and had used it to bypass more locks that she would ever admit. She gently used the tip to work around the bevel at the base of the symbol. She cleared a bit of debris that had built up over time, and when she tried the symbol again it began to turn every so slowly.
When she reached the upright position that the rest of the symbols were in there was a clicking sound and the room began to shake. At first Pico thought a crack was forming along one of the walls, but as it grew she realized it was the edge of a doorway swinging inwards. Within a few minutes the fissure was wide enough that she could pass through it. She stowed the screwdriver and picked up her pack slinging it over her shoulder. “That wasn’t so hard” she thought to herself as she inched towards the now open doorway.
When she passed through she saw a long hallway, that appeared to be a mirror of the one she had seen on the other side. Similarly she passed along chambers on either side choked with dust and cobwebs but containing the same deep bookshelves as the ones underneath Cambridge. The two bases had at one time or another been used by the same group. She found the staircase in exactly the spot she would expect it and begin climbing up. Wherever she was, she as now committed to the mission, as she had no real way back.
At the top of the stairs she saw a sort of hatch, and could see a thin line of light protruding around it. She pushed up slightly testing it, and saw that she could push it open. She slid it up and over to the side noticing that some sort of a rug was also covering the opening. It did not take much to find the edge and roll it back as well. She climbed up into what appeared to be a kitchen. There was a great pot of something cooking on the stove and it smelt amazing. Nothing in the kitchen looked modern, but instead something she would imagine as medieval.
The house appeared to be made from the same sturdy stone that the under chamber had been, leading to the appearance that the house itself was built at the same time as the other. She had pulled herself out of the hatch and gotten to her feet when she heard a shuffling of feet off to the far side of the room. Within a few moments a blond haired boy came bounding into the room making a direct line for a cupboard on the far side of the stove seemingly oblivious to the woman standing there. He rifled through the cupboard for a moment producing what looked to be some sort of a sweet roll.
It was around this time that Pico must have made a sound, as the boy spun around quickly staring in her direction. His happy face quickly turned to terror as his eyes widened to saucers. At the top of his lungs he screamed and before Pico could react went running out of the room and from the sound of it upstairs. “Shit” was all she could bring herself to say, there was really no place to hide other than to go back down into the chamber below. However it was pretty certain that the houses owner knew that the chamber existed and would find her before long despite her best efforts. No she thought, she would face whatever was to come and hope for the best.
There was a sound of footsteps rushing towards the kitchen door. A similarly blond man wearing thick blue robes came rushing into the room. He was holding out some sort of a staff in front of him, the tip of it emitting a bright green light. “Who are you? Where did you come from?” the man yammered nervously all the while pointing the end of the staff in Pico’s direction. “I came from a portal in the chamber below.” was the best explanation that she could muster. She sheepishly raised her hands showing her empty palms “I come in peace?” she said with a slight shrug.
The look of surprise faded slightly from the mans face, but he no less continued pointing the staff at her. “What do you mean you came from the other side? The portal has been destroyed for decades.” She shrugged again explaining “apparently it doesn’t work that way. There was a giant stone frame with two crystals on our side. I’ve come here in search of the Order of Merlin.” With the utterance of “Merlin” the man’s expression changed drastically to a look of terror. Looking around quickly he stammered “Never say that name. Never say it again!”
“They have enchantments listening for that word, we can never say it. We’ve created counter measures, but no place is safe. Instead just say ‘The Order’.” He furiously looked around listening for a few more tense seconds before relaxing again “Well… they would have arrived by now so I think we are safe. I am Astanax the steward of the former order house. There are not many of us left.” She saw a look of concern flash across his face “I’m Pico, I come from the other side. Over there we have a thing called the Watch, that guard the wards… but they are failing.”
She explained how over the years the wards have continued to degrade in strength, and how her own analytical weapons had managed to damage them further. “We need dragon bones to repair them.” she said without much thought to it. With that the other started chuckling. “So you ONLY need dragon bones? You might as well ask for a diamond scepter or for a magical gold laying goose. Dragons are extremely powerful beings, and even more so are extremely secretive. It might take us years to find a single dragon, let alone the list of types that you claim to need.”
It was as though all the wind was let out of a balloon as Pico almost shrunk visibly under the news. She was not sure exactly what she had expected. To some extent she thought she would bumble over to this magical realm and ask to borrow a cup of dragon bone and be back by dinner. Nothing was ever as easy as she made it out to be in her head, and now she just had to prepare a contingency plan. “Are there any dragon bones at all that we can get?” She mused looking at Astanax.
“I will have to make some inquiries, but in the mean time we have to get you into something less obvious. You cannot be found to be from the other realm. Merlin became a pariah when he built the wards, and inadvertently damned all magic users to exile here in this realm. His opponents brutally hunted the members of his order, and now only a handful of us remain.” Astanax leveled his eyes at her “You would be all the proof those same opponents would need to destroy my family.”
Astanax lead Pico upstairs to a large bedroom, as they went the young boy returned apparently changing from fear to amusement at the new guest. “You should be able to find something here suiting you. These wardrobes belonged to my wife. She was…” he trailed off but Pico could guess that she had passed on, and not in a pleasant way. She thanked him for being so understanding. “I will leave you to it, I have to go out now for fear I will be missed and they will get suspicious.” There would be time for answers later, but she wanted to know who exactly “they” were.
Pico rifled through the wardrobe attempting to disturb as little as possible. Before long she had found a rather lovely lavender gown. She felt like she belonged in a period faire, but she supposed it did look nice on her. Hopefully Astanax could help her find what she needed, and if not that a way back home. She could only imagine how infuriated Farragut must be by now, but this was yet another in a long line of decisions she had made where it was simply easier to ask forgiveness. As she sat down on the bed she wondered if maybe she had finally leapt one step too far.