Back on Terridia...

The wizard Oranthuz peered over his work. Everything was proceeding according to plan. The portals he had opened were wreaking havoc across the land. And no one yet suspected him or his endgame.

A minion rapidly and fearfully approached him. Oranthuz knew his name and rank, but didn't bother mentioning either. He simply barked: "Report!"

"News spreads across the land of the chaos you have wrought, my liege," the minion said. "There are reports of over two hundred portals opening from Barnoria to Loneldrin."

"Two hundred? Did you say two hundred?"

"Y-y-yes, my liege. that a problem?"

"Leave me."

The minion bowed and left Oranthuz alone with his thoughts. Two hundred? He was positive he only opened one hundred portals. He checked his spell book again. He hadn't made any mistakes.

Of course, there was always the chance that people had miscounted. He had intended to cause hysteria; it wouldn't be surprising if people began feeding on the frenzy by adding false reports. There was also the possibility that some of his incompetent minions had counted the same portal more than once.

Oranthuz tried to comfort himself with these thoughts, and tried not to entertain the possibility that a force for good in this world had opened some portals of his own.


"Pardon me. Are you okay?"

Katie turned over and picked herself up off the ground. Her head was pounding, but she was otherwise okay. She brushed the dirt off of her pants.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Who's..." Before Katie could finish the thought, she looked around in confusion. She was no longer in a dark crawlspace; she was in a forest, and the sun shone brightly through the trees. Her confusion also came from the fact that she couldn't find the source of the voice that talked to her. It sounded older than her own voice, but it sounded far away.

"You had a nasty fall there. I'm glad to see you're standing up, though."

This time, Katie had a chance to look for the source of the voice. To her astonishment, she found that it wasn't that the voice was far away; it was close, but just coming from someone very tiny. Someone very tiny, with wings and a wand.

"You--you're a fairy."

"Yes. My name is Florian. What's yours?"

"Katie. Are you my fairy godmother?"

"What? We just met. I think it's a bit much to presume that I'm your personal caretaker!"

"Sorry. It's just...Where am I?"

"Normally I would just say 'Castle Hope' or 'Barnoria.' But since I just saw you fall through a portal, I think you need to know what world you're on. This place is called Terridia. Where did you come from?"

"Did you say Terridia?"

Florian nodded. Katie pulled out her paperback from her back pocket. How could this be happening? As much as this felt like a weird dream, Katie could tell she was way too wound-up to be asleep.

"Um, Columbus, Ohio...I mean, Earth. Planet Earth. Wait! Did you see a boy come out of the portal, too? He's my brother."

"No, you were the only one."

For a moment, panic overtook Katie, as she feared that Tim had been lost or injured. Then she realized that, if he didn't come through the portal, Tim was probably safe back at home. For once, she was actually glad for her brother's penchant for running to get Mom and Dad when something went wrong. She needed that now.

She looked up at the portal. She wasn't good at measuring things, but Florian could tell it was a little less than 10 feet off the ground. Any further, and Katie could have been seriously injured.

"Well, maybe I should try to climb back up into that portal to get home," Katie said. "What do you think?"

But before Florian could answer, the portal quickly closed.

"Ugh!" said Katie. Turning to Florian, she said, "Can you reopen it?"

"Sorry. Fairies have very specific powers, and opening or closing portals isn't one of them."

"Great," Katie said with a sigh. "So now what?"

"Let's go to the castle," Florian suggested. "Someone there should know what to do."

"Sounds good," Katie replied. Florian flew off, being careful not to get too far ahead of Katie.

Katie was far and away the most adventurous girl in her class, but she was still only 9 years old, and her parents were nowhere near. So she still felt very afraid, but she tried not to show it. She marched bravely behind the fairy, tucking the book back in her pocket, deciding that she would deal with all that weirdness later.


“I’m surprised at you, Bronfus, for trying to hide this invader.” Arthandus gave him an intense look. “You’re lucky we’re I'm giving you a pass this one time. But don’t ever lie to me again.” After scolding the bear, Arthandus shifted his attention back to the traveler. “And as for you, Mr. Sy-Furr, you’re coming with me.”

"My name's not Sy-Furr!" the traveler protested.

"Then what is your name?" Arthandus asked.

The traveler stood there awkwardly for a moment before saying, "Well...I don't know. I woke up here in these clothes and I don't remember anything. I was saying that I felt like a cipher, that's all."

"Well, then, Cipher will do for now, won't it?"

The traveler grumbled something under his breath. Arthandus was a kind person, but this Cipher was getting on his nerves. Nonetheless, he would allow the grumbling to slide -- for now. "Let's go to the castle and sort this out. Walk ten paces in front of me." Arthandus indicated with his sword that this wasn't a suggestion.

Cipher, who wondered how he was supposed to know if he was ten paces in front of someone if he couldn't see behind him, decided to keep those thoughts to himself for now. Begrudgingly, he walked ahead at a brisk pace, but not so fast that Arthandus thought he thought he was trying to escape. At least, it was his best estimate. He had no doubt that Arthandus would let him know if he wasn't happy with the pace.

As Cipher walked and Arthandus followed with his sword still out, Bronfus brought up the rear. Arthandus seemed to have forgotten about him for the moment since he was so preoccupied with the stranger. No one specifically asked Bronfus to come along, but he wanted a chance to make things up to Arthandus.

Like most bears, Bronfus was a simple creature with humble desires. The events of a few years back had made him pay more attention to culture and history, and he had become quite a fan of knights like Arthandus that he had served alongside. But he enjoyed the recent time of peace, so he couldn't help but assume the best when he ran into Mr. Sy-Furr.

After they had traveled on for a bit, Cipher stopped.

"What are you stopping for?" Arthandus asked. "We're nowhere near the castle, and it's not time to rest yet."

"Um, do you have some kind of way of letting your fellow knights know that we need help?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, there's a group of about a dozen orcs just up the road. And they spotted us. And now they're headed fast towards us."

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