A Portal Doesn’t always Have To Be A Door
I first discovered the idea of a portal to another world in Andre Norton’s Witch World. The hero, Simon Tregarth, is
on the run and desperate when he’s offered a chance to try the Siege Perilous, which legend says is a vacant seat at the Round Table, kept by Merlin for the knight who finds the Holy Grail. Highly skeptical but with nothing to lose, he agrees (after a lot of good conversation with his host about myth and legend and reality). There are three stones, with a fourth laid flat as a seat and when he takes his place as dawn breaks, he sees inviting moors, smells a fresh breeze, rises and strides forward…into Witch World, from which there was no return.
I was a pre-teen at the time and I was absolutely enthralled by the idea of gates and portals. Andre Norton had written another novel featuring a similar concept, Star Gate, but powered by high tech. In that one you moved into a different version of the same world and might even encounter an altered version of yourself. That didn’t appeal to me nearly as much as the idea of a one way trip into a world featuring magic and all new adventures. Of course there are many examples in science fiction and fantasy, including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Even Dorothy found a kind of portal to Oz in the midst of a tornado and Alice reached Wonderland by falling through a portal (the White Rabbit’s burrow) and stepping through a mirror.
The movie “Stargate” gave us another version of a portal that was sort of a “bounce off the wormholes, go to another planet” but with interstellar zip codes for picking your destination.
So portals in all their various guises are useful plot tropes!
I knew I wanted to write a book where the hero and heroine are forced to make that irrevocable choice – step through the portal to a totally new life, or stay and die. Since I was writing science fiction set in the far future, not on Earth, I didn’t feel right sending them to King Arthur’s chair or Stonehenge, and I wanted something a lot more on the mystical side than a stargate (beautiful as that was). Here’s what I created, complete with Lajollae the mysterious Keeper, from Lady of the Star Wind:
“Behold the Globes of Amarkana.” She yanked at a corner of what Mark had assumed to be the tent’s rear wall. The shimmering panel fell away, revealing a tree taller than Mark fashioned entirely from crystal. Jagged, sharp branches of clear glass, patterned with leaves incised deep into the surface, jutted from a thick trunk at odd angles. At the tip of each branch hung a perfect golden ball, ethereal bubbles made of solid material. The globes were translucent, empty at first glance, but then Mark saw faint spirals of white smoke in some, flickering lightning in others, flames in a few. Several appeared to contain misty rain droplets suspended as if captured in midair…the branches stirred with a faint chiming sound.
“Pick the globe meant for you,” Lajollae said. “You’ll know which one is your destiny.”
“What if we pick differently?” Sandy clutched at his sleeve. “I can’t lose you again!”
Lajollae shook her head. “You can each choose your own destination, or one may decide for both.”
Mark and Sandy exchanged glances. “We stick together,” he said, clenching his jaw.
“Agreed, this mad escapade we’re on is because I trusted you,” Sandy said, releasing his sleeve with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “So I trust you to decide for us.”
Mark took a step toward the globes, studying them, trying to decide which to pick, not sure what would happen next—there was no retreat, no other way to end this.
He kept going back to one particular globe, high on the tree, dangling precariously on its crystal branch. Nothing differentiated this bubble from all the rest, but it drew him nonetheless.
When he stretched to touch the globe, it fell into his hand.
“You’ve chosen, now breathe the air of the destination you’ve selected,” Lajollae said in a harsh whisper. “Make haste, for your time is over—I’m leaving this place for my next station.”
Mark stared at the surprisingly heavy globe in his hand, not sure what she wanted him to do. Breathe the air? Was that what the shimmering glass encapsulated—air from somewhere else? How could air win them freedom from Kliin’s pursuit?
Mark knelt, the gesture feeling somehow appropriate at this moment. He let the globe roll from his fingertips onto the carpet. Rising, he positioned his heavy boot on top of the orb and glanced at Lajollae. Features difficult to discern in the blinding aura now surrounding her, she nodded. Mark drew Sandy into his arms. Closing her eyes, leaning against him, she locked her hands behind his back, over his spine. Angry shouting grew closer, Kliin calling the princess’s name. Mark raised his foot and brought it down in one violent motion, shattering the globe.
Heat and a rush of spice-scented air swirled around them. Mark felt as if he’d been picked up by a whirlwind. He was afraid to open his eyes as the air filled with grit, scraping across every inch of exposed flesh. Tightening his arms around Sandy, he buried his face in her soft, fragrant hair. From the sensations, he’d have said they were flying through the air, yet a solid footing remained under his boots.
Worries flooded Mark’s mind. Had Lajollae been trying to save them, or had she sent them into the path of some worse fate?
Too late for regrets.
Regrets later maybe, says Veronica the author with a snarky smile. Have you ever written a unique sort of portal? What inspired you?
Here’s the story:
Are they merely luckless lovers … or a legend come back to life?
Mark Denaltieri, ex-Sector Special Forces, has been hired by the Outlier Empress to rescue her granddaughter, Princess Alessandra, from kidnappers. Since the Empress once had him tortured and banished, she’s the last person Mark wants to work for. But he takes the job. He’ll save Alessandra, his first love, and discover why she didn’t speak for him when he desperately needed her. Then he’ll be on his way, finally free of his past.
Alessandra would rather her rescuer was anyone but Mark–after all, he let her believe he was dead all this time. But when the couple are forced to flee her captors by Traveling via a strange crystal globe, they find themselves in a lovely Oasis on a desert planet, the old attraction sizzling between them again.
They soon discover they are far from alone. The Oasis holds the entrance to another world, one in which the inhabitants are convinced Sandy and Mark are the Lady of the Star Wind and her Warrior, come to free them from an evil Queen.
Mark and Sandy must work together to unearth an ancient mirror, and crown the true king of this land. Can they fulfill the prophecy of the Lady and her Warrior … and this time, will their love survive the test?
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dadloved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.” Connect with Veronica: