Portal Roulette by R. A. Gatescf1 - Reviews

Story Title: Portal Roulette

“What are we looking for again?” Kody asked as he and Laney tromped through the woods on the way to the Portal Forest.

“Earlberry. I need it for my Potions final. It’s only found in the desert.”

They reached a grove of hundreds of trees with a shimmering aura around them. Each one a portal to a different place either on Earth or a different realm.

None of them were marked. “Which way should we go?” Laney asked.

Kody shrugged. “I thought you knew.”

She glanced at each tree, trying to figure out which one to choose. They all looked alike. All they could do was to try one. “Let’s go that way.” She led Kody through the nearest tree.

They came out of the tree to a beautiful meadow of colorful wildflowers. Laney’s nose tingled and her eyes watered. “Oh, no.” She sneezed, violently. Her throat began to swell.

“You didn’t take your allergy elixer.” Kody immediately turned around and pulled her back through the portal. Twenty minutes and a couple dozen tissues later, Laney was ready to try again.

“Let’s go this way,” Kody said as he led her to another tree. They entered a densely wooded area. The thick canopies interwove overhead, completely blocking out the sunlight. But glowing green eyes stared at them from the treetops and the ground.

Laney’s heart pounded against her chest as she recognized those eyes from last semester’s lesson on magical arachnids. When the clicking started, she slowly backed away. “We can’t be here.”

“What is that?” Kody asked, following Laney’s lead.

“You don’t want to know.” They ran back when the eyes started advancing toward them.

They tried dozens of other portals but couldn’t find the desert. Laney sighed. “We are oh for seventy-three. We’re never going to find the earlberry plant.” She slumped down to the ground, dabbing her nose with a tissue. “I can’t believe I’m going to fail. Why did I get assigned a potion with such a rare ingredient?” Her eyes stung with frustration.

Kody tapped his cane as he glanced at the remaining trees. “You stay here, and I’ll try this one. We will find this earlberry plant if it’s the last thing we do.”

Laney bit her lip as she wondered if him going in alone was a good idea. “Are you sure? What if you end up in a dragon lair or the Bog of Despair? At least I know some helpful spells.”

“I got this.” He turned and strolled through the tree.

A warmth spread through her chest knowing what a treasure their friendship was. No sooner had she opened her book to go over the potion again did she hear Kody’s voice.

“Retreat!” he screamed as he burst from the tree.

She jumped up. “What happened? Did you find the earlberry?” Laney clutched his arms to keep him from falling over as he bent over to catch his breath.

“Yeah, but…” *pant* “There’s a problem.” *pant*

Laney smiled. Finally, after all they went through, they found it. “Whatever the problem is, we’ll deal with it.”

He straightened up but still leaned on his cane. “It’s at the mouth of a cave being guarded by a vicious beast.”

Laney’s eyes widened. “What kind of beast?”

“A giant gorilla-dog thing. I don’t know. We can’t go in there.”

“But I have to. I need that earlberry.” She paced, trying to think of possible spells to use against such a dangerous animal.

After a moment of watching her, Kody sighed, his shoulders slumped. “You’re not going in alone. Are you good with first-aid spells? I have a feeling I’m going to need one.”

Laney clapped, bouncing in place. “I’m going to ace this potion after all, thanks to you.” She pulled an empty satchel from her bag to hold the collected berries.

“Okay,” Kody said as he stretched his arms and popped his neck. “I’ll distract el diablo while you go pick your berries. But you gotta be quick.”

On Kody’s “Go,” they took off running at the tree. Immediately the hot air hit Laney in the face like opening an oven door. She let Kody pull ahead as he headed right toward the…prairie dog? At first Laney thought he was crazy. The little thing was so cute sitting at the entrance to the cave, nibbling on some grass. But when it saw Kody coming towards it, the claws and fangs came out.

Kody used his cane to keep the animal as far from biting range as possible. “Get it!” he yelled at Laney who had unknowingly stopped to gawk at the battle.

“Oh, right.” Laney sprinted over to the earlberry plant. The bush had a lot more thorns than she expected. Most of the berries were concentrated in the center. The thorns pierced her skin as she reached in to get the precious fruit. Blood trickled down her arm almost as fast as the tears down her cheeks, but she kept going.

Once the bag was half-full, and she could no longer take the pain, she yelled to Kody. “Got it!” She ran back through the portal while Kody followed.

Laney clutched her treasure to her chest as she caught her breath. She hoped she grabbed enough. She opened the book to see how much she actually needed. She ran her finger down the page until she got to that ingredient. Her fingertip snagged on something sticking to the page. When she peeled off what resembled a dried-up piece of onion skin, she made an unfortunate discovery.

“Hey,” she turned to Kody who was examining the rips in his shirt. “I don’t need this for the potion. I need Pearlberry. Something was covering up the P. I’ve got plenty of Pearlberry at home.”

“Of course, you do,” Kody said before collapsing to the ground. “Of course, you do.”
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