Day 231 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Drop your character in a portal to a mystery location.
Shannon: Everything on the other side of the portal was so vibrant and breathtaking. And that was before I realized most of it was alive. The colorful leaves on the trees were actually butterflies that fluttered off the bare branches as we walked past. They filled the sky like a cloud above our heads and then they settled back on the tree. Turns out after you see one strange thing move, you start to notice everything else that’s moving too.
Erin: The fall was dark and long. At the end though there was light, almost blinding. When I could see however the beauty nearly brought me to tears.
Take your character places.
When I finally arrived at class, a little worse for wear in the thought-processing department and having forgotten my homework, I took my customary seat at the back and yawned dozily. Throughout the small one-room school, students in all castes from around the kingdom sat going over their notes on the wide variety of subjects we were learning about. Holding about twenty students comfortably, the room was currently bursting at the seams with an attendance of forty-five eager learners. Some of them walked for hours every second day to attend, thinking education a valuable commodity in the ever-changing world, while others were just down the street and thought it a given right; I attempted to hold myself in the mindset of the first, though I could see how easily one might fall into the second.
In the absence of our teacher, who had to travel from the far end of town, some students were whispering excitedly to each other, distracting those of us who were trying to go over our notes. Catching a snippet of conversation from a couple of town girls, Ivy and Lea, I almost screamed out loud; they were discussing Lea having overheard the royal guards speaking with a number of magickally-adept people on her street. According to them, every single magickal person in the entire kingdom would soon be converging on our fair village for a tournament of sorts designed to choose an interim magickal heir. Though they didn’t have all the facts right, I was concerned about this kind of event being common knowledge.
Just before I was about to question Lea on her observations, our teacher Plum burst through the door with a number of books cradled under one arm and a look of reckless abandon on her face. “Oh, students, terribly sorry for not getting here sooner; my son has some latent abilities so we were practising a smidge in the garden after a visit from the royal guards,” she explained, tipping her texts onto the solid wooden desk and struggling to suck in breath. After a moment of steadying herself, she stacked the books neatly on the corner and turned to face her captive audience. Nodding to herself, she started off-topic in a slightly boastful tone, “Did any of you hear the news? How exciting is it that someone from the kingdom will be accompanying Natalie in her duties! Who could pass up that kind of opportunity?” she asked.
I felt the flush of embarrassment, though mine was utterly private, and the nausea of bad decisions sloshed around in my stomache. Nothing in Cor would have changed my mind about the whole thing, but there was an awful feeling that accompanied passing on something anyone would kill for; it was like an illness that was deeply rooted in guilt.
“Anyway, on to how the streetlights on main street differ from the oil lamps in many of our homes,” she began in a chipper voice.
After class, having signed up for a new sewing course that was set to begin in a week, I headed for the village market with Rue, Violet, Darren and Jesse. Rue was studying to become a mechanic for the royal council, though her luscious mousy locks were a clear sign she wouldn’t be treated as an equal; her personality was strong enough to overcome any matter of inequality. Over the course of our friendship I’d learned she was the kind of person who could sell ice in the middle of winter, and she always did the right thing with her power. Wearing the well-worn and torn patchwork dress, with a pair of leggings underneath to allow her to move her legs freely, of a handmaiden’s daughter, she still managed to sparkle among the better-dressed competition.
Violet was a whole other kind of girl. Having grown up with her family the proprietors of the best-known bakery in all the kingdom, she was allowed to dress in expensive fabrics and had been courted on several occasions already; in all attempts to woo her, the suitors made the mistake of asking her father’s permission first. If it was a permitted action, Violet always wanted to do the opposite or die trying. I supposed it was her upbringing that forced her to rebel against any and all forms of authority, so long as it didn’t directly scuttle any of her previous stands of course. As we walked down the streets, her solid-soled leather boots kicked up dirt and mud as though she were a child, just to prove she wasn’t a princess, while her bountiful navy skirts showing off her perfect hourglass frame.
Off to the side, in his own kind of world, was Darren. His imagination was one that could go on forever; his mind was so deep that a simple question had the potential to swirl out of control in his head. With a mass of dark hair pulled tightly in a ponytail and the ratty second-hand clothes his eldest brother grew out of, he might have been an overaged urchin if not for his dedicated parents. From the first time I met Darren I knew we would be friends because he was sweet and fiercely intelligent when it came to designing structures. Even if no one may ever understand fully the awesomeness of the mostly-possible ideas in his head, I knew he’d eventually do great things.
Jesse, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have a heading at all; everything he did was for the immediate pleasure or attention it brought him. Never thinking further than a fortnight into the future, our last friend might be the least prepared for the new world of anyone I knew. Every week he seemed to have a different idea for his career whether it be jester, royal guard, baker, farm hand or shopkeeper. New clothing went along with all these changes of mind, though no knew where our blue-eyed friend got the money for any of it.
As the lot of us sauntered down the crowded streets, Violet asked in her regal tone, “So, did any of your neighbours get the ticket to attend the challenge or whatever it was? Three of mine did, and I’m so jealous.” With a pout, she almost collided with one of the merchants carrying his wares in a cart, who swore angrily at her. She hissed under her breath and eyed us all in turn as we struggled to keep her long-legged pace.
“Well, the twins who live across the street from me each got tickets, but I don’t talk to them much so I don’t know if they can do much,” piped up Jesse, who was travelling on the far side of the street, dodging flowerpots and pets as he went along.
With a light chuckle, Rue threw back her hair with a greasy hand and added, “I got a ticket, actually. In unison, all of us stopped in our tracks to stare at her, seeing a new level to her kind appearance and ferocious strength. “So, yeah, I could be the new Wizard Aide to princess Natalie!” she shouted importantly, but was unable to hold the stoic, superior expression for long. Devolving into a mass of laughter, she finally caught her breath and added, “Yeah, right. I’m definitely not going to win, but I couldn’t pass up that kind of opportunity, you know?” As she regained her head, she skipped along.
From where I stalked a little ways behind everyone else, I could hear Darren congratulating Rue in his low voice, “Hey, congratulations, and I know you’ll do great. Who could pass you up?” There was a painful twisting in my stomache as I thought about my blown opportunity.
After spending an hour or so with everyone at the market, I bid them a good afternoon and headed off toward the forest with the idea of shaking off the suspicion that I shouldn’t have passed on the ticket. As I strolled along a heavily-used path that wound through the darkening forest, I noticed small, brilliantly-white shapes flitting through the bushes. Without paying much attention to my surroundings, I took a right turn at the first fork and felt the ground come out from under my feet.
For a moment I couldn’t figure out what was going on; everything was a strange, shimmering onyx shot through with occasional flashes of striking silvers, and there didn’t seem to be a solid surface anywhere. I struggled and lashed out, but my hands never collided with anything as I assumed they would, and I was weightless wherever I was. It wasn’t exactly the same as falling through space, but that’s the only way I could describe it.
Suddenly, a light flashed from far below me, growing with every passing second until I realized I was, in fact, falling at breakneck speed through the darkness. When I fell through the opening at the bottom, I was dazed and disoriented; everything spun and my skimpy lunch of an apple and some bread was fighting to head north of my stomache.
I shut my eyes for a few minutes to stop the spinning, and listened intently to my surroundings as I reoriented myself. From some great distance, echoed a strong, warm wind that filled the space I was in, lifting the hair on the back of my neck. When I opened my eyes again, I peered around at a musty cave with a small amount of light bouncing in from somewhere far away. Stretching my arm, which was now aching from my landing in a rocky cave, I stood and dusted myself off before edging forward and toward the noise and light. Everywhere I looked, it was blackness and piercing silence that met me.
Creeping around the final corner, the cave opened up into an enormous mouth overlooking a craggy gulch resting between mountains mirroring this one. Dripping from the ceiling and sparkling on every surface were crystals the size of my arm, as a small river gurgled in one corner. I started sliding down the pathway carved into the stone, keeping my eyes peeled for any sudden movements, and fingers ready to roast anything that moved. When I was staggering in the level part of the cave on the way to the mouth, I heard the strange, windy sound from before as a massive monster glided past me. Scuttling backward in shock, I spotted sparks leaping out of the water and realized that was where the light was coming from, as it was midnight outside.
I peered out again and when the enormous beast flew past, I didn’t fall back; this time I just watched the moonlight glisten off its dark leathery wings. Screeching into the air, it turned on a dime and went flying straight toward the moon, more black masses floating up from the other caves like spirits in the night. They all circled and dove and called to each other in playful tones that rattled me to the bone.
After a lifetime frozen to the spot, I sighed and turned back to the glowing spring behind me, revelling in its strange magick. Beside it was a miniscule pile of silver and gold coins, as well as some chalices and crowns of the same shiny materials. I’d heard the tales of dragons in the north, but I’d never put much stock in them; creatures that horded precious metals and lived in colonies without interfering with any of the nearby settlements didn’t seem likely. But, to their credit, here they were wheeling around before my very eyes. I wondered which of them lived in this cavern, and whether I would be eaten when they returned, but that was a fleeting thought I quickly set aside. With the power I could control, these beasts would bow before me, but touch a hair on my head.
It took me a long time to realize I needed to leave; it was mesmerizing watching the dragons and I felt a tug on my heartstrings to go home. What was home, anyway? That place where I would never be able to show my powers, ever, because I would die of embarrassment now. But I needed to return or people would search for me; not many would, but some.
As I leaned against the prickly cave wall for a few final moments with the dragons, I watched the smallest of the bunch struggling to keep itself airborne. It faltered in a turn and called out as it floated lopsidedly toward the ground. In a sudden moment of luck, though, it hit a current and came careening toward my hideout, brushing its off-pink wings along the crystal-studded ceiling as it fell. After a moment of disorientation, it shook a spiky head and spotted me with its enormous, bulbous eyes that blazed like fire in the night. Screeching ferociously and getting to its feet, wings spread wide behind it, the adorable baby stalked toward me.
From behind, out in the wild, there came a horrifying sound from the largest of the dragons as it wheeled around and headed toward me. I could see its eyes sparking with the same fire as the baby, but I also saw a strange glint of metal at its back. Just as it crushed the stone below the cave with its claws to gain purchase, the reptilian head peeked through the opening with its eyes trained on me.
“So, what happened in Wakanda?” August asks as he takes the driver’s seat.
Heather clicks her seatbelt into place, shrugging, “Not too much. My leg was amputated, I worked on using my prosthetic- after Shuri finally decided on a design- I hung out around the lab for check ups, or with warriors or Nakia.”
“Yeah… Also went through a portal, but-”
“Wait, wait, what?” August asks, tempted to slam on the brakes.
“Yeah, it spit me out in space,” Heather states.
“How are you so casual about this?” August sputters.
Heather laughs, “Because I know how to get you worked up.”
“Were you scared?”
“Of course I was scared. Sakaar is a garbage planet and it’s leader forces people to compete as gladiators.” Heather turns to look out her window. “But Thor was there.”
“Hulk, too. He was the champion. We escaped and made it to Asgard, where Thor’s sister was trying to rule the universe. To stop her we had to destroy Asgard.”
August’s eyes are bugging out at this point.
“We got all the people off, don’t worry. They are all heading to Earth. Heimdall was able to send me back to Wakanda, and not long after that I was back in the States.”
“Is there anymore surprising and important details you’re leaving out?” August asks.
Heather is quiet, but to August, that’s not a no. “…Loki was there, too,” Heather answers quietly.
August stares at the straight road ahead of him. “…Loki.”
“From the invasion.”
“How many Loki’s do you think I know?”
August shakes his head, “Never mind. Just…”
Heather puts a hand on his, “I know you were there that day. But he wasn’t the villain this time. He helped Thor. …Sorta…”
“Royal Asgardian/Jotun sibling relations,” Heather tries to explain.
“And how does that end for people like us?” August asks, looking at her for a second.
Heather looks away, sighing, “I never said I trusted him. I’m only saying he helped save his people, and me.”
August sighs as well, running his tongue between his teeth as he thinks. He then clicks his tongue, “So you went through a portal.”
“What did it feel like?”
“Like falling through a hole in a wall. Onto a pile of trash.”
“I literally fell onto a pile of trash, August.”