The 1st Step
Hello my name is Aurora and I’m an Ingression. Don’t know what that is? Basically, I’m a gateway, a portal to another realm. People can literally step through me and end up somewhere else. Sounds cool right? Well it’s not! Can you imagine going through puberty then suddenly random objects start flying out of your naval? Now that was scary. Fortunately, the local healer explained that this peculiar behavior was normal for an Ingression my age. It was still odd though. Neither of my parents had magic anything resembling mine. Mom was imbued with ice magic and Dad can make simple illusions. Mom was obviously the more favorably endowed of the two. Still while growing up, I thought I would get some kind of cool mashup of the two. Like making illusions that freeze people when you touch them. You know something like that. But instead, I got this stupid curse. Some of you that aren’t endowed are probably thinking well maybe it’s not the best magic but it’s still something. Well, I’d really rather have nothing than this ability. This curse has ruined my entire life.
When I realized my magic had finally awakened, after the trip to the healer I was very excited. Once I learned to open my portal on my own the expulsions of random objects stopped (which was a huge relief). When I focus my magic into my navel, I feel the tickle of the portal becoming active. I remember I used to giggle every time I did it. Then I feel a rippling sensation that spreads through my whole body. And... that’s it. People can walk through me to another realm. It’s super basic. And that little bit of hocus pocus is all I’ll ever be able to do. There’s no one that can teach me anything else. Even Zale doesn’t know much about Ingression magic. By the way Zale is my butler. He’s one of those perfect butler types. He can do anything from beat up thugs to pour a perfect cup of tea. Seriously! I mean he’s a strong magician, well learned, polite, a great cook, patient, dependable, and I started to notice a while ago extremely handsome.
Anyway, back to what I was saying, Ingressions are extremely rare. There’s only one other known Ingression in our realm, but not only is he on the other side of the continent he’s also part of the royal family. So, the chances of being taken on as an apprentice is basically zero. So knowing I would probably never be able to be more than convenient transportation for other people was a big letdown. Still, it’s not even close to the worst of it.
As disappointing as this ability is for me it is invaluable for others. A lot of people would pay good money for access to an instant portal. A fact that my Dad was quick to move in on. Discovering my abilities turned Dad into a completely different person. He use to look at me and see his little girl, but now when he looks at me he sees a golden idol. As soon as my portal was stable my Dad was ready with large groups of people ready to pay to go inside me. Wait… ok that sounds worse than it is, but honestly not even by that much! I really felt violated! Just imagine every other day strangers coming up to you with expectation. They already paid for your services so you’d better deliver. Of coarse being 11 at the time I had no say in the matter. That and I felt like I was letting my dad down.
Before I couldn’t do more than 5 people a day. My Dad was furious. “Is that it?!”He asked standing over me. I’d fallen to my knees drenched in sweat after the last customer had passed through. “I thought you said you were practicing!” “S sorry Dad” I panted from the floor unable to support myself any longer. “Hey, am I still gonna be able to go to Nocturne, because I paid extra gold to be able to go today?” “Heh heh, sorry everyone.” my Dad said addressing the four people who were still waiting. “We’re having a few minor complications... I’ll deal with you later.” He growled at me out of the corner of his mouth.
Things seemed to change so abruptly Mom and Dad started fighting. I’d never seen them fight before my magic awakened, but it became an almost nightly event. My Mom was against the idea of making money off me from the start and she only grew more adamant as my Dad continued to change. One night there fighting reached a fever pitch. My Mom was screaming that she would just take me and Zale and leave and he could keep all the stupid money if that’s what really makes him happy. When I woke up the next day Mom was dead. My dad said she tripped on her gown and fell down the stairs. I knew he killed her. So did Zale and the guards he hired to protect the house, so his precious golden goose never gets stolen. What could we say? I was a kid, Zale a young butler, and he was the now rich and prestigious figure that was helping to stimulate the economy in our lonely town. Honestly, I’m sure he knew that we knew he killed her. There was shame in his eyes whenever he held my gaze and at the funeral, he even managed to shed a few tears. I on the other hand bawled like a baby.
For the next several months. I spent the better part of the days crying. When I wasn’t crying I would just lie on my bed hating myself. Why did I have to be an Ingression? If I didn’t have these wretched powers Mom would still be alive. I was too depressed to eat. I pretty much reverted back to infancy. I only ate what Zale spoon fed me and when I’d sob uncontrollably Zale would hold me in his arms and rock me to sleep. My Dad was absent during these months. I stayed locked in my room and he did whatever he was doing. I wanted to hate him. I did hate him. But still as the months past I wondered why he never came up to check on me. I guess I can at least thank him for getting me out of my depressed stupor. One day he showed up at my room and poked his head through the door. “Hey are you ok?” He asked. “Yes.” I responded monotonously. “Good. Someone wants to travel get yourself ready.” And then he was gone.
So I dragged myself out of bed put on decent clothes and waited to receive the latest traveler wondering if I even still had the capability. Fortunately, it was just one guy and the process went as smoothly as if it’d been just yesterday since last opening my portal. After that it was back to business as usual. I’d manage to increase the duration of my portal opening significantly but it still wasn’t exactly easy. This was especially true when there were andragons in the group. Since the average andragon was over 7 feet tall I found it surprising I could even pass them through. There height along with their wide frame meant they would often protrude past my portal space even when taking a wide stance and extending my arms as far as they would go. This always gave me a weird feeling of being uncomfortably stretched and I could almost feel the scales scraping against my translucent body.
Sometimes after these sessions I felt so tired that all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but Zale insisted that I get out of the house for a while for my own good. I had no idea how much I needed it until I was outside. We didn’t go far; we just walked to the town market then came back. Still, it was enough. Just seeing the sky and feeling the wind on my face gave me such a liberating feeling. After that I made it a point to get out of the house every day. Sometimes it was for brief periods after sessions of transporting people. Other days when no one was traveling I would spend the entire day out of the house. I would go on walks with Zale, spend time by the river, visit my friends in town, and browse around the market. For a while this was acceptable. Then Dad started seeing this as a problem. He said it wasn’t safe for me to go be going outside all the time and insisted that I never leave the house without the company of at least five guards. I didn’t see the point of it since we never went too far from town, where we knew everyone. Even if something actually did happen, Zale was always with me and I’m pretty sure he was worth more than five guards. In any case we complied. Having the guards always on our heels definitely put people on edge whenever we came through. That caused us to start spending more time in remote areas. As time went on my Dad grew more and more agitated by our excursions. He would show clear disapproval of my casual coming and going to the point that leaving, even with the required guards, was met with a challenge.
One day when I was thirteen I decided it was a nice day for a picnic. So Zale made us lunch and we planned on going to get my friend Naomi and enjoy our meal amidst nature. As we were heading out the door my Dad asked boorishly, “where are you going?” “We’re going to have a picnic in the dead woods” I answered. Our escort of guards was already forming a line behind us. “Why do you have to go out?” He said “you can have lunch here in the house.” I couldn’t fathom what his issue could be with us going to a location so close to home especially when we were still being escorted by the guards. “Umm well it’s a nice day outside, I stated. And no one is traveling today so I just thought…” “Oh there no travelers today so you’ll just leave huh? Guess you have too much time on your hands fine then, go on go, go!” So we went. He was like that now. He just got angry for no reason.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, he spent the remainder of that afternoon and the next couple of days sending out messages far and wide by any means available. In a months’ time half the continent knew that there was an Ingression in Ozrin. Travelers came flooding in with renewed vigor. Every day there were more people to transport. Where were all these people even coming from? I felt like the entire realm should have been vacant by now! The groups got larger and larger and the breaks in between got shorter. I thought things were at their worst when an entire troop of andragons showed up wanting to go to Yandrasille. That led to an incident Zale had to diffuse, but in the end I was able to transport them all. Things really did hit their worst serval weeks later when I passed out trying to transport a group of twenty six. I made it to nineteen.
It’s hard to remember clear details of that time. I know I had an extremely high fever after that. I mean unnaturally high. The town healer had never seen anything like it. A request was sent for a healer in the capital but he hadn’t seen anything of the sort either. He thought I was dying which was just as well because that’s how I felt. I spent most of the time sleeping having weird fever driven dreams. I remember waking up several times to Zale swabbing my neck and forehead with a cool towel. According to him my delirium led to a few crazy conversations. “Zale”… I’d whisper. “Yes lady Aurora I’m here.” “Could you take my skin off please…” “No my lady I don’t think that would be wise.” “Please Zale? Just for a little while, we can put it back on later. It’s cooking my insides…” another time I thought I dreamed my Dad and Zale were arguing above my bed. I was sure it was another fever dream because I’d never seen Zale so much as raise his voice in anger let alone engage in a full blown argument with my Dad. A few weeks later when I started to recover I ask him if I’d dreamt it. That’s when he told me it really happened. When I asked him what they were arguing about, he said I should focus on finishing my herbal tea, so I didn’t press him on the subject.
It was a slow process but when it seemed whatever it was that afflicted my body ran its course my strength began to return. My full recovery took almost 6 months. I remember in the last month when I was well enough to walk around my room I thought of how nice it would be to go outside. If only there was a way to sneak out of the house so my Dad wouldn’t know I could leave the house without keeling over. I wasn’t sure if I could make it if he made me start transporting people again so soon. But as I gazed out through my window, I realized that sneaking out was not an option. The guards around the house seemed to have multiplied two-fold. I’m not sure what it was but as I watched the guards from my room window it suddenly dawned on me; the guards weren’t really meant to keep people out, they were meant to keep me in. That’s why my Dad had guards following us everywhere we went. And that’s why he always got agitated whenever I wanted to leave. He thought I was going to try and run away. Something else clicked. The picnic. That’s why my Dad went out of control when we were leaving for the picnic. For all he knew our bags were packed with enough food and supplies to make it to the city. No doubt Zale had already figured this out long ago. I scratched my head violently in frustration. I wished he’d let me in on what’s going on sometimes…
This whole thing was ridicules I was fourteen already and my Dad had me under permanent house arrest. He couldn’t keep me here. He had no right to. There were times that I wanted to just tell him off and let him know that, but I always got scared. Since my Dads transformation there’s no telling how far he would go to keep me here. The truth is I always wanted to travel to different realms and go on adventures and stuff. That’s what Mom did. She was part of a guild based in Tiada. Since her death I struggled finding motivation to move let alone go to far off places. But the idea of My Dad tethering me to the house, to himself,… It made me feel like a bird in a cage. I had to get out!
So the obvious question. Aurora, you’re an Ingression, why don’t you just use your own portal to go somewhere far far away. Well that would be because of the extremely unfavorable stipulation that occurs when Ingressions step through their own gateways… their locked out of the realm they traveled from forever. When Zale read me that line in an old book he found after I’d discovered my abilities my stomach tied itself in knots. I had so many questions like what happens if you accidentally fall into your own portal or what if you somehow lock yourself out of all thirteen realms? Unfortunately the book was lacking in details but I decided then that it wouldn’t be a problem because I would never go through my own portal. The thought was just too horrifying. Who would have guessed I’d be contemplating it just four years later.
A few months after I recovered I was back to opening portals. Thankfully my Dad didn’t try to overload me like he did before. Maybe going almost a year without traveler money made him realize if you kill the goose you’re out of eggs. Still even with the more manageable group size it was still largely laborious work and I knew I couldn’t stay here forever. Since I became aware of the guards true intentions it became painfully obvious that they were monitoring my every move and reporting it back to my Dad. I felt stupid for not seeing it sooner. I thought more and more about how I could leave without using my portal but I could never come up with anything that didn’t involve Zale fighting an army of guards. If I was going to leave it would have to be through my portal.
I weighed the options over and over again. In reality there really wasn’t much for me here. My life consisted largely of waiting in my room for the next job transporting people trying not to faint then rinse and repeat. My relationship with my dad was that of a tool and the user, I barely saw my friends, I was monitored round the clock by guards, and it didn’t seem like any of that would ever change. On the other hand if I did use my portal I could end up anywhere with no way of getting back. Even though that wasn’t the most ideal situation I still preferred that to being my Dads portal slave forever.
The biggest dilemma for me was leaving Zale behind. The times that I was actually happy here was because of him. He’d been here with me all this time, even stepping in when my father left gaps. I couldn’t imagine what life would be without him at my side. But I didn’t know how to take him with me. The best I could do is to send him somewhere then follow after him. With my lack of knowledge and experience I had no idea if I would end up in the same place let alone the same realm. One out of thirteen. Not the best odds. There’s that plus, I know Zale would never agree to it. He would never agree to a plan that would leave me in a potentially dangerous situation without his help. He was much more likely to support the plan with him single handedly fighting the small army guarding the house since that plan involved us staying together. That was something I couldn’t agree with. I had no doubt the guards wouldn’t hurt me if I tried to escape. Zale on the other hand was a different story. Dad doesn’t even like Zale. I doubt he would give the guards instructions not to hurt or kill him if things took a turn for the worst. There was no way I was letting that happen. Not after everything Zale has done for me. I refused to drag him down with me.
Zale was the kind of person that could excel at anything. Without me to worry about I’m sure Zale could slip past every guard without a problem. He could live a successful happy life without having to foster me all the time. He would never say it but it was the truth. My situation was a miserable one and this extended to Zale by the fault. Zale would be better off without me. So I continued being Daddy’s little money maker in silence though below the surface I was plotting this best time to escape.
Knowing that I was now guilty of the “plotting” my Dad was already convinced of, was a pretty scary transition. But at least on the surface he did not appear to notice any changes worth increasing his surveillance on me. When I got the opportunity to go to the library (under supervision of course) I would casually add an extra book focused on skill building or survival knowledge mixed in with my usual selection. I dared not touch anything on different realms. Instead, I would try and take advantage of the more garrulous travelers asking them probing questions disguised as friendly banter. Though this did increase some of my basic knowledge of the different realms it was also successful in increasing my anxiety. (Please not Acrid! Land anywhere but Acrid!)
I also got pretty good at reading people. I would pay attention for cues of sympathy or general good nature and use it to my advantage. Sometimes people would walk in surprised that their transporter was just a little girl. Under my dad's watchful gaze, I was an unflinching machine but when he stepped away, I would take advantage of the traveler's sympathy to take longer breaks, and play up my fatigue by wheezing heavily and neglecting to wipe the seat from my brow. A quickly learned that sometimes this could lead to more money as some of the travelers would discretely press a few coins into my hand before preparing to depart.
Once my Dad walked in at the worst possible time while this was taking place. I’d put on a pretty big show of having a mild dizzy spell. The Elderly woman was handing me a whole gold coin when my Dad appeared in the frame of the door. I pretended I hadn't noticed him and excepted the coin. After I finished transports for the day, I presented him the gold coin and explained to him that one of the travelers had given it to me earlier that day. He eyed both me and the coin with a very odd expression before grunting just keep it. Before walking off.
A month after I turned sixteen I was ready. It was hard to tell how much I would need starting my new life in another realm. I figured if 5 gold coins was about a day's wage for someone with a good job, with the amount my Dad gave me after transporting sessions, pitiful as it was compared to how much was actually made, I should have enough to live comfortably for roughly 3 years. Slowly but surely I got around to seeing all my friends again because I knew it would be the last time. I spoke to them in private and let them know just how much I appreciated them. I tried not to get too choked up about the final goodbyes I didn’t want Zale to know what I was planning. He was already suspicious of me though. (Know it all!) I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when I left Naomi for the last time.
The hardest goodbye was Zale. I couldn’t tell him in person or he would try to stop me so I decided on a letter. Every time I started writing I started crying to the point that I couldn’t write anymore. Saying goodbye to Zale felt too real. It was almost too much to bear. It took six or seven rounds before I could finish the letter. Finally, everything was done I was ready to leave. Though my whole body was trembling with fear but also excitement. It was time to go…
but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t just leave without saying something to my Dad. I don’t know why I still cared but I did. So I wrote another letter much shorter than Zale’s but I still wasn’t able to get through it without crying.
Once that was done there was no longer anything holding me back. I had to leave, and now before I lost my resolve. I’d lived as a bird in a cage for five years. That was more than enough. It was time for this chapter of my life to end. I put on my pack with all my clothes and money, then took my stance. I felt the familiar tickle in my naval as my body responded to the focus of my magic. The rippling grew and spread thought my entire body. I took a last sweeping looked around the room that had been my home for so many years… then I closed my eyes and fell backwards and forwards simultaneously. Into my portal. Into myself, for a destination unknown.
Author Name: D-Reaper