It was a bad week. Everything was going fine, but it was a lot of little things building up. The girls were giving the usual attitude the end of the school year brings, and the shop was busy with summer break coming on, which was stressful, albeit a good kind of stress. Kyne was trying to set me up on dates to get me out of my emotional rut, and clucking about like a mother hen.
Intellectually I understood it came from a place of concern, but it was annoying, to say the least.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I said, and picked up my things to leave.
“Erryn–” Kyne started, but I leveled a look his way that had him backing down. “Tomorrow, then.”
I stomped out, the happiness of those around me grating on my nerves. The sun was bright and warm on the skin of my lower legs where the dark wash, jean Bermuda shorts didn’t cover, and I rubbed at the sweat trickling down my spine beneath my black tank top. My flip-flops slapped the ground in an angry staccato on the way to my car, and people moved out my way, their smiles falling when they met my scowl.
When I got home, which was thankfully silent as the girls were still in school, the doorbell rang not long after I’d gone inside and sat down.
I groaned, got up, and walked to the front door. When I opened it, there was a small package on the porch, but no one was there. I picked it up and took it inside, turning it over. There was no return address, or even my address. Whoever had left it had done so by hand, and then skedaddled before I could get to the door.
When I got to the counter I opened the package, tossing the brown paper in the recycling as I pulled it off. Inside was a book, even older than the one Danika had given me a few weeks prior. There was no writing on the front or spine, but when I opened the front cover, my breath caught.
Portals: Pathways to the Other Dimensions, no author.
Blood rushed in my ears, and my heart pounded. They found the mages, but no Pullman, and no records on how Keeper Voss discovered how to open the portal. They all assumed it was a book, much like this one, lost somewhere in the wreckage, as they hadn’t found anything in his library, office, or home.
How did it get here? What should I do with it? And most importantly, why me?
Maybe Pullman sent it…but he hated me. I couldn’t see him sending this, unless it was a way for him to try and get the clans to execute me. Or blow myself up. I regarded the book suspiciously.
I thumbed through the rest of the pages, and found a note in the middle of the book. The handwriting was meticulous and elaborate, but I was no expert, and I couldn’t tell if it was written by a male or female.
The Nameless deserves a better fate, and so do you.
Maybe this can help.
Nothing more followed. No signature. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with the information. Become an expert on portals, and maybe manage some kind of suicidal rescue mission on my own? Who knew if Warren was even still alive…Then my stomach fluttered. The note said deserves, not deserved.
Could he still be alive? I had wanted to hope against hope, but the odds were stacked against it. I mean, I didn’t have human mages at my disposal, and it had been weeks. There was no telling that even if he’d survived the portal, that he’d be able to survive living in a world with crazy Dragons. But if he could, maybe whoever sent this knew something.
I flipped back to the front of the book and started to read. I was no expert by any stretch of the imagination, and some of the formulas were insanely complicated. But I was getting the gist that, as long as we weren’t trying to move Dragons around, it wasn’t going to take as much to go through. Especially if we were making one-way portals. One to go and find him, and one to come home.
The issue, apparently, is Dragons are pure magical beings, unlike Drakkens, and as such it took more mojo to move them around. Just getting one, maybe two people over there was easier, and possible.
I closed the book and let it slide from my hands onto the counter.
I could save him.
It was absurd. I was one person, and a baker. What was I going to do? Throw treats at the Dragons while I searched whatever dimension they’d been thrown into? Still…
I had to go for a drive. Get out of the house. I texted Mina to let her know I wouldn’t be home when she and Talitha got there. I threw on my sneakers, grabbed my keys, locked up the house, and headed out to the swamp where the bunker had been.
It was a long drive, and I vacillated between turning around and going back home, and having nervousness clench at my innards like a fighter tightening his fist. Between this being a fool’s wish, and actually being able to do it, and possibly even succeed.
It was the most alive my emotions were since the portal collapsed.
When I got there, I had to park a ways away and walk in. The swamp was unforgiving to my sneakers, and the mosquitoes worse on my exposed skin. When I passed the tree where the kid had puked, the large depression in the ground where the bunker collapsed, had been dug out, and then filled back in, came into view.
Despite the heat, a chill settled over my sweat-soaked skin.
I hugged myself, and tears welled in my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
When I collapsed to the ground, just shy of the depressed earth, I had myself a good, long, pity cry. It was embarrassing, and not something I usually subscribed to, but once I was finished my insides were empty. Almost as though it’d cleansed me in some way.
I wiped my eyes on my bare arm, the warmth of the humidity seeped some feeling back into my limbs. Awareness of my surroundings returned slowly. The hearty St. Augustine grass was scratching at the skin on my legs. The cicadas were droning loud in the heat, and a light breeze managed to make its way that deep into the swamp, stirring the stagnant air and making the Spanish moss sway gently. I stood, wobbly, and clenched my fists.
I was going to make some calls and do some planning. The girls would need to stay with someone, of course, and Kyne would be the only one in charge of the bakery. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, if at all. But I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I at least didn’t try.
“I’m coming for you, Warren,” I whispered, the promise falling heavy through the air like an anchor sinking to the ocean depths. “If it’s the last thing I do.”