I stood and crossed to my bedroom, then grabbed my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. After grabbing my temporary mirror case out of a drawer, I placed it on top of my dresser.
I wasn’t sure if I should cringe or laugh as I scanned my new mirror. I’d found it at the dollar store after a frustrating day of trying to create a new mirror box with no success. I’d bought it because it was absurd and to remind myself that it was temporary.
The plastic box was pink with the name BARBIE scrolled on the top. Inside was a foam liner that had once held five nail polish bottles. I’d cut the foam to make larger slots. Now, it held my five figurines that represented the races of Faythander: Dragon, elf, Wult, pixie, and goblin.
After unlocking the latch, I opened the lid. “You’re fabulous! Inside and out!” sang to me in a bubble-gum voice as I propped the lid open.
As I said, temporary solution. Extremely temporary. It had a mirror under the lid and was the perfect size for my figurines, so it worked. For now.
Scanning my figurines, I found the Wult and removed it from the foam, then propped it upright against the mirror. I needed to get to the Wultlands, and this would be the easiest way to do so.
I ignored the glittery scrolling along the edges of the mirror and focused on the glass. Taking a deep breath, I paused before touching my fingers to the mirror.
Months ago, the portals had started acting erratically. I’d thought the problem had been solved after we’d restored the fairies’ stone, but when I’d returned to Earth four months ago, the portal had almost torn me apart. I’d gotten several stitches in my abdomen because the crossing had been so violent. Since then, I hadn’t once been able to open a portal, but tonight, I had no choice. I needed to return to Faythander before the equinox, and I had one thing in my favor—I hadn’t tried opening a portal with my new Barbie box yet.
Here’s to hoping my luck improved, I thought. Then again, this was my luck we were talking about. Yeah, probably not.
Carefully, I placed my fingertips to the screen, inhaled a deep breath, and then conjured the word to open the portal.
Magic flowed from my heart, through my arms and hands, and into the mirror. Gold and amber swirls licked like fire over my skin as the magic interacted with the mirror, mingling with the blue glow coming from the plastic case.
The power grew inside me as the portal opened. Wind swirled around me until the room disappeared and I floated in a void. Voices came from somewhere. Soft whispers. Among them was a familiar one. The cold, detached voice of Theht.
I am here. I am waiting.
I’d gotten better at tuning her out, but being in a place like this, between worlds, made it almost impossible to keep her away.
Soon, we shall destroy the world together. Deathbringer.
The wind grew stronger and faster, wrapping around me, squeezing the air from my lungs. It compressed me until I couldn’t breathe. Pain coursed through my nerve endings as the pressure weighed me down. I felt as if I’d been buried under millions of tons of sand.
I cried out, but couldn’t hear my voice over the wind. Tears leaked from my eyes. I felt their warmth on my cheeks. In a desperate attempt to survive, I focused on the magic within me, unleashing every ounce, pouring it into the portal to keep it steady.
I thought for sure I was dead when I hit the ground. I landed awkwardly, my shoulder and hips taking the brunt of the impact. My mirror, on the other hand, made a graceful landing in a pile of leaves beside me.
I lay on the ground, panting for air, staring at the faded blue sky through the patchwork of branches with budding green shoots.
“Never again,” I muttered between gasps. Next time, I would find a Viking ship and cross through an underground ocean filled with man-eating sea-snakes before using a portal. “Never. Again.”
On the bright side, at least I’d finally made it back to Faythander. The $.99 investment into the Barbie mirror wasn’t such a bad buy after all.