Tag Archive | portal closed

The Portal Closed 5: The Refugee

It didn’t end up being Millie Dioli that they went to meet with first.

Actually, it didn’t end up being them going to meet with someone at all, the first time.

A senior, a kid they didn’t recognize at all, came up to them after fencing club.  He was awkward and lanky, someone who looked like, Diane thought, he might grow into his body and his face in a few years.

He hadn’t taken part in the club, but he’d watched with a hungry look on his face.  

Now he was aiming the same hungry look at Diane and Barbara.

“You’re… You’re Diane, right?  And, uh, Barbara.” Continue reading

The Portal Closed 4: The Other Side

Previous: Searching for Answers

They spent hours looking at the papers before they had to go back to their childhoods, back to chores and schoolwork and things that, some days, seemed downright constraining.

Barbara’s mother, happy she was “taking some initiative” helped her put together a flyer for babysitting, and helped her post it at the Library – the proper downtown one, which had never been abandoned because, bright and shiny and brand-new, it didn’t tend to lose kids in its recesses.  It had no portals to other worlds.  Barbara had looked.

With three others posted  – grocery store, post office, and their church – Barbara returned home to some math homework that was only exciting if she thought about it in terms of national economies and some literature homework that was so stultifying she added in a 2-page book review of The Wealth of Nations.  Surely that counted as literature, didn’t it? Continue reading

Searching for Answers, Chapter 3 of The Portal Closed

After: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1007793.html and http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1007910.html – for the Finish It! Bingo. Not technically a finish, per se, but another chapter.

“If there are other portals, it stands to reason that someone has heard of them.” Clarence came into their hide-out with his arms loaded down with books and his backpack heavy with more.

Barbara set up the camp light and cleared the main table to give them a workplace. “Like that old woman, oh, dear…. Dorothy. Dot Garrington. The one who told us when she had been to Ombrion, and we thought she was putting us on for the longest time?”

“Or,” Diane said more softly, “Donald Jackson, the one that Verdana told us about. Went missing here — I still have the clipping. Because he died in Ombrion.”

“Do you think there’s another portal here? In [town?] If we have to go further out, it’s going to take some doing, especially with the school administration getting so concerned about us.” Barbara wrinkled her nose. Mr. Richardson was doing his best to intervene on their behalves, but the school administration had started paying far too much attention to the four of them.

“Well, that’s the first thing to look into. We know about Mrs. Garrington, and we know about Donald Jackson. Verdana confirmed those. So we have to find anyone else. I’ve got twenty years of old newspapers from old Mr. Dellard’s garage, and gloves, because old Mr. Dellard is not the tidiest.”

“How is that not going to bring suspicion?” Ralph demanded.

“Because Mr. Dellard paid me to clean out his garage,” Clarence shot back. “Because we need spending money, and we’re not old enough for jobs — and besides, I’m too short for the counter of anything retail here, and I don’t think they’d hire me as a fencing instructor.”

Barbara did not giggle, although she did smile a little bit. They were all shorter than they had been, but Clarence, they had discovered, did not have his growth spurt until eighteen or nineteen. He, of course, found the entire thing completely unfair, but there was not much one could do about biology in Ombrion, and less here on Earth.
“Jobs are a good point. I could pick up some babysitting work. The Hardessy triplets are nothing after dealing with…” Barbara trailed off softly. There were things they never talked about. That was one of them. “Well, anyway. I could babysit.”

“I think the branch library needs someone to work afternoons,” Diane offered, “and there’s more research time. After we read through Clarence’s papers here.” She slid on a pair of gloves and picked up a notepad.

Barbara did the same. “So, we’re looking for Dots and Donalds. Strange stories and missing people?”

“And maybe missing time. You remember when we made the paper and all got grounded for a month and a half?”

“Urgh. Yes.” Barbara glared at the paper. That one had been Clarence’s fault, but it was ancient history in so many ways now.

Ancient or not, it probably didn’t stink as bad as these papers. Barbara opened a window after the first thirty-year-old paper, but that didn’t help much until Ralph opened another one on the other side of the building. It meant they had to be quieter — their little hideout might be out of the way, but people did still walk by here — but since all they were doing was reading, that wasn’t all that difficult.

“Got it!” Ralph crowed out. “Look, here…” he dropped his voice to a whisper as all three of them glared at him. “Here. I mean, probably not the only one, but Millie Dioli, here. She was missing for a week, and they assumed she’d fallen in the river.”

“People fall in the river all the time,” Clarence argued.

“Yes, but they don’t come back talking about strange things she saw in the library. The Dolan library,” Ralph added, with heavy emphasis. They looked around the building they were in — the “old, abandoned library” that had “Dolan” carved very clearly above the front door. “She said she’d been in the library the whole time, and that she’d only been gone for an hour.”

“Nnng.” Barbara curled her knees to her chest. “They didn’t institutionalize her, did they?”

“No, although she was, um, ‘soundly punished for her lies’ and eventually told them she’d been off playing pirates and lost track of the time.”

“If she’d been ‘playing pirates’ in the Bay of Sorrows…” Clarence pursed his lips. “That would explain the time shift.”

They all shuddered. The Bay of Sorrows seemed to work differently from the rest of Ombrion in all ways, and it was infested with pirates that they had never been able to get rid of. “So what happened to her?” Barbara leaned forward. “If she didn’t get institutionalized…”

“I brought some phone books.” Clarence pulled them out of his bag. “Although if she married…”

Diane shook her head. “After ‘playing pirates’ with those pirates?”

They all shared another shudder, and Barbara pulled Diane close to her in a sisterly hug. “Probably not,” Clarence allowed. “Dioli… Dioli… All right, she’s in the phone book. But we should keep looking, too. If she’s only been to Ombrion, she won’t be able to help us find someplace else.”

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In the Real World, Chapter Two of The Portal Closed

Chapter One

“I’ve been delegated to ask what the four of you think you’re doing.” Mr. Richardson, the school’s guidance counselor, looked more than a little amused as he stared at them over folded hands. “So: what, exactly, do the four of you think you’re doing?”

What they had been doing was sorting out life here on earth at the same time as they tried to prepare themselves for their next adventure. It hadn’t occurred to them that the staff of their school would notice. They stared at Mr. Richardson, attempting to slot a staff that paid attention into their plans.

Barbara recovered first, if weakly. “College?” she tried. “College entrance reports.”

“It was you, I believe, who told me three months ago that you couldn’t give a fig about college, that it was years away. And after that you, Clarence, added that ‘who knew if you’d get to college anyway,’ which seemed more than a bit fatalistic for such bright children, I might add.” His bushy eyebrows went up. “So something has changed. I repeat: what are you doing?”

Ralph sat up a bit straighter. “There comes a time when the doors of childhood slam shut in your face and you must face adulthood, whether or not you’re ready.” Ralph had spent five years as a troubador, and his turn of phrase brought him no end of romantic attention – when he was in a body which could grow a beard and had a voice which didn’t still sound like a girl’s. “We’re simply stepping forward as adults now. Which requires some preparation.”

Mr. Richardson looked down at his notes. “Fencing club. Heavy weapons club. I’ll note that both of these are new – no, pardon me. Fencing club was reinstated.”

Barbara had done the research; Diane had convinced Mr. Prewitt, their gym teacher, to reinstate Fencing Club. Clarence had done his best Hurt Masculinity act and gotten Mr. Prewitt to also start a “proper swordfighting” club. They were finding the clubs helpful, if occasionally frustrating. Diane had this habit of attempting to run the targets all the way through.

“Don’t forget trying to restart debate club,” Clarence offered helpfully. “It’s not like we haven’t done that one before, it’s just that we had a little… conflict… about how it should go.”

“You mean that you and Barbara trounced everyone and were insufficiently apologetic about winning.” Mr. Richardson’s mustache moved in what had to be a concealed smile.

Barbara jutted her chin forward. “We were good. I don’t see any reason to apologize for being good.”

“And you shouldn’t.” Mr. Richardson nodded approvingly. “However, I understand that not everyone in the school feels that way.”

“What, exactly, are these unknown people concerned about, sir?” Diana was sitting very primly, her hands folded in her lap. Barbara couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Richardson had seen Diane’s fencing targets. Or her archery targets. “We’re not doing anything wrong.

“I don’t suppose you could?” He brushed the request off with a hand, smiling widely enough to show beneath the mustache. “No, no. Of course not. But when four bright students who have been actively disengaged change all of a sudden, and all together, I suppose the administration worries they’re missing something.”

“If they are,” Ralph offered, “it is only that we have always worked as a team, and so we’re… well, we’re growing up as a team. Paying attention to our physical and mental health together, that sort of thing.”

“Mmm.” Mr. Richardson made a note in his folder. “I’ll tell them that. And if you’re planning on starting any more clubs, come talk to me first, all right? I’m sure I can find a way to soften the blow to the Administration. Children being active. Heaven forbid.”

Barbara found herself smiling at the man. They should have engaged his help years ago; he might not be a sorceress, he might not be Verdana, but he seemed plenty wise enough for them.

Next: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1143339.html

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The Portal Closed, a beginning/introduction/Prelude

“It’s all your fault!”

They were fourteen – except Ralph, who had always been the baby of the group and was just turning thirteen – when the portal into Ombrion stopped opening for them.

They had known it was coming. Only children could enter Ombrion through the portals. And for the past year, the openings had been rarer and rarer. Two months had passed when the four of them huddled around the door in the old abandoned school library and called out toVerdana, who had guided them. They lit the candles, even though they knew the candles weren’t necessary. They wished on the fullness of the moon, all of it the way they had the first time.

The gates stayed closed. Verdana did not answer. And to all of them, the gates felt more sealed, more dead, than they ever had before.

“It’s got to be you.” Clarence glared at Barbara. “With your…” He flapped his hand in vague disgust.

She sneered back at him, uninterested in his squeamishness. “What about you? With your voice changing, with all the squeaking through the calling there?”

“Maybe it’s Ralph…” Clarence flopped against the old wooden doors that had, until so recently, been their portal to Ombrion. “No. They’re just done with us.”

They’d been seven and eight the first time, full of the books they were reading and playing make-believe, no matter what the other students said about growing up, when they’d first opened the portal. They’d tumbled through the door again and again, only to come back with only a few minutes, a few hours having passed.

Until now. No matter how many times they grew up in Ombrion, today they’d grown up too much in America.

“Maybe if we…” Ralph moved the candles despondently. “I can’t believe that’s it. Just – ‘thanks for saving us, go back to your world now and be teenagers.'”

Barbara put her face in her hands. “I can’t believe Verdana just abandoned us. I mean.” She held up her hand, because Clarence liked to poke at everything lately. “I can believe it, I know, she always told us she would. But it makes me angry.”

“Guys…” Diane had said nothing at all, which was, for Diane, not that uncommon. But she was staring off into the shadows with a look that had, once, presaged her saving an entire nation. “The way I see it, we have a few options.”

The rest of them settled in to listen. Of the many things they had learned over their decades in Ombrion, “listen to Diane” had been one of the first lessons.

She ticked off on her fingers. “We can sit here and complain. We can go out there and live our lives. Come on, how many teenagers have the experience we have? I tried; I don’t have the muscle memory but I have all the knowledge of swordcraft, for example. It would give us a leg up, whatever we decided to do.”

She paused, and despite the fact that dramatic pauses were far more Ralph’s purview than Diane’s, they all leaned forward. “Or we can do one better. We can find magic here. We can find other portals.”

“The portal’s closed.” Clarence’s voice was harsh and angry.

This portal is closed. Only this one. What did Verdana say? The portal led to that world, and always has. Oh, what was it?” She closed her eyes.

Barbara picked it up. She’d had nightmares about that part. “‘I shudder to think about what would have happened, if you four had found some other door, some world that ‘needed’ you for some far more nefarious purpose.”

The words hung in the air, but it was Ralph who picked them up. “There are other worlds.” The conclusion was inescapable.

“There are other words.” Clarence breathed it out slowly. “And we aren’t the children we were, back then.”

“If you count experience,” Diane added dryly, “we’re ancients. And I do count experience. You guys remember that debate club debacle last year.”

They’d been disqualified, Barbara and Clarence. The teachers had been certain they’d gotten outside coaching. In a sense, they had – in the small room behind the throne room, in Ombrion, before the ambassadors from Fregoran visited.

Barbara nodded slowly. “Let’s do it. Let’s find another portal. Let’s find all the portals.”

If the portals needed people, let it be them, who already knew how to live two lives at once. If they needed soldiers, generals, diplomats, let it be them.

She had no desire to spend her entire life remembering what it was like to be a Warrior Queen.

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