Through the Portal
She couldn't believe it. After all these years of being careful she was being blackmailed. Blackmailed, of all things in the world, and three days to the winter solstice at that, she didn’t understand it. She didn't need this right now. She had to go through the portal on the solstice to protect all that she held dear: to protect her family. She wouldn't let anyone stop her. It was too important. She was going out to the local museum where her art collection was being displayed. She needed to make sure that everything was secure for her 'vacation' till after Christmas. She went out the door of her house muttering a string of curses in Somaglic a language that was not only unheard of in this time period but had been extinct for more than five thousand years.
“Hey, Bren, are you at the gallery? Yeah well we need to have an emergency meeting I’ll see you there.” Mara closed her flip phone and got in her red SUV to drive downtown.
Samara Joy Collins was a striking woman with her dark skin and bright blue eyes and curly brown red hair that went down her back. She made a stunning contrast. Her hair alone had all of the colors of fall in them from earth brown to the burnished red and gold of the leaves. With her blue eyes and dark skin she was obsessively beautiful. People always wanted to take pictures of her. She had been approached by more modeling agencies than she could count and even though her figure was anything but waif like or slender they still wanted her. She turned them down and even started wearing brown contacts and dying her hair black. The dye never lasted of course because her hair would change back to its normal color in about a month. Sometimes she thought her hair protested the dye, but of course she knew it wasn't her hair or scalp protesting the change but the magic that surrounded her.
Mara was no ordinary woman she was a Guardian of the past, present, and future. She protected the world from things more dangerous than human minds could comprehend. She sang more beautifully than all of the sirens in the mythology books and was more striking than Medusa laughing.
Her voice, her face and her body shielded the world as we know it from the forces of evil. The creatures of old loved to hear her sing and she had stopped many a dragon, phantom and sphinx from destroying everything that she held dear.
The immortals loved her everlasting beauty and they worshipped her face and form, because while they will live forever and their minds will be with them always they didn't stay young.
These things alone didn't make up Samara they didn't even scratch the surface of her. They didn't explain why she was willing to give up her life for a world of loneliness, evil, and lies, because give it up was what she had done. She wasn't even from this world, but a parallel one that coincided with ours and to protect her world and her family she needed to protect Earth and to do that she needed to stay anonymous. She had been so careful. She changed her name, address, and appearance every fifty years or so.
Mara arrived at the gallery and spotted her friend and confidante Brenna Jacobson who also happened to be the owner of the gallery. Brenna was the only person in this world who knew of Samara and her secrets. She wondered now if confiding in her had been a mistake, but at the time it couldn't be helped. She could have done a memory spell but that always has repercussions on the person’s memory beyond just the one memory being replaced or deleted, and really it had been all Taurus's fault anyway.
Taurus was her friend, and pet dragon. He had the gift of illusion, and size control among his other dragon ways. He had revealed himself to Brenna without Samara's knowledge. He does so at least once every hundred years because he thought that she needed more than just him to confide in and talk too. She was caught unawares when Brenna confronted her. So she told the truth. He went every were she did, no question. She should have wondered why he didn't want to go 0ut with her that day, but as usual when it came to Taurus she didn't ask questions. She waited as Brenna finished with some people who had wanted to purchase one of the artifacts. Of course she knew that nothing on display was for sale but if they wanted a replica they could purchase one or two. When Brenna finished she walked to her friend and asked,
"So what brings you here this time of day? I thought you'd still be sleeping."
"I need to talk to you," Samara said as she grabbed her friend by the arm, and leading her to her office.
"Okay. We're alone. What’s up?"
"I know you wouldn't do anything to purposely hurt me, but I want to know who you told about me."
"What are you talking about? I told no one about you or Taurus, I swear. And you know I didn't so what's this all about?"
"I'm being blackmailed. Look at this." Samara pulled a letter from her purse and handed it to Brenna it said,
I no who u are, an I no bout the dregon. I want 5hudred thowsand dolars buy this friday or Im goin to tell evrybody wat I no. Dont call the kops and or i will have to kill you and your pet dregon. Leave the monee at Cider Park inside the whole in the old peekan tree. Rember no kops.
Before Brenna could respond to the note there was a knock on her office door. Brenna called a quick “Come in” and the door opened to emit a man Mara had never seen before. He was handsome not cute like so many men you see on television. Mara’s eyes lit up with appreciation. That reaction shocked her to the core, because she had shielded herself from such reactions since the death of her husband. A death that had been so violent it had lead her to leave Atarius and become guardian of both worlds.
She figured he was about 6’3” or there about because she herself was 5’8” and he towered over her. He had hair so black it had blue highlights and his eyes were the color of gold silk.
“Hey, Wynn, come on in. This is my friend Samara Collins the art collector I told you about. It is her collection that has you inspired. Samara this is Wynn Balantine the art historian that I told you about, remember? He wants to write a book about the history of some of your collection,” Brenna explained.
“Yes, of course I remember. Nice to meet you Mr. Balantine, but could you give us a minute?” Samara said as she literally shoved him out the door, closed and locked it in his face.
“Mara, rude much.”
“Yeah, well, he can wait. This can’t. What do I do about this threat, Brenna? If I don’t make it to the portal in time it could mean thousands of lives at stake if not whole worlds. So I need you to tell me anything that might have come out of your mouth to lead someone to discover my secret,” Mara said.
“I didn’t say anything to anyone about anything. I’ve only spoken with people like Wynn who want to purchase or write about your art collection. If you come into the conversation it’s about your art not you,” Brenna replied.
The magic that protected her from the years and centuries of change also helped to shield her from the prying eyes of the mortals around her, but someone knew. Someone had found a way around all of the spells and enchantments that surrounded Samara and her pet dragon Taurus. He was disguised as a cat this time. A black cat with eyes that changed at will. Now they were purple.
They'd had a special connection since his hatching four hundred years ago. A connection that allowed him to speak to her telepathically and one also that allowed him to stay the size of a lap dog or large cat thanks to her magic and his too. He of course could change form at will and grow to an astronomical size but since that would be too conspicuous in this world and in this time period he stayed small.
The only time he got big was when she went home to her world Atarius where dragons roamed free and so did everything magical. She only spent a few hours every hundred years at home, but it was the time she relished and one that meant she was doing the right thing for both worlds since everyone she loved was still living.
‘Careful Mara, he’s listening at the door.’ Mara looked at the door and saw that Taurus had moved from her side and stood glaring at the door. He turned and looked at her saying telepathically,
‘Can’t you feel his aura? You need to watch out for him. Not as a threat but as a problem. He seems like the “save the girl” type to me.’
Mara harrumphed and went to the door, Taurus moved, and she opened it and watched as Mr. Balantine tried to look innocent.
“You can come in now. What was it that you needed from me, Mr. Valentine?” she said.
“Oh, it’s Balantine, and I just needed your permission to study your collection and I would like to know how you came by your artifacts if you didn’t mind explaining. I would be happy to take you to lunch or somewhere where we could talk privately. I brought my tape recorder just in case,” he said.
“She’d love to go! Wouldn’t you Mara?” Brenna said loudly then whispered in her ear, “When is the next time you get asked out by a guy that hot? Go have fun. I’ll watch Taurus.”
‘Not a chance human. Where Mara goes so do I besides I have a hunger for fish.” Taurus rumbled low in his voice with a disgruntled look at Brenna.
“Okay, I’ll go. Its okay about Taurus he wants seafood and ‘The Sharks Tale’ lets him in with no fuss. I’ll be back and when I get back we need to talk,” Samara said as she picked up Taurus and put him on her shoulders like a kitty scarf and walked out the door. When Wynn did nothing but stare at the two of them she turned and said,
“Are you coming or do I have to do your interview myself?” He turned and started to walk behind her. When they got to the parking lot she got into her car and told him how to get to ‘The Sharks Tale’ and left him standing there with his mouth open.
‘You shouldn’t be so rude to him. He doesn’t know the reason you’re so touchy and if you don’t watch it you’ll peak his interest. Not that it will take much doing since I sensed he was already interested.’ Taurus said as he lounged in the passenger seat.
"Hmmm....Well enough of that. We need to think on what to do about this person who is blackmailing me and how to find him. Can you think of anyone who has been lurking around?" At the shake of his head she continued, "How about anyone too curious? Interested? Anything?"
'Nothing that I can recall. Everything is as it has been for centuries,' Taurus said.
Mara brooded the rest of the way to the restaurant. When they arrived they went into the restaurant and got their usual table. When Wynn Balentine showed up he was escorted to their table. After issuing pleasantries Mara signaled to the waiter and they made their orders. Wanting to waste no more time she got down to business once the waiter left.
"So what questions do you have for me Mr. Valentine?"
"It's Balentine, Ms. Collins with a B, and it is Dr. Wynn Balentine. Can I rightly assume it is Ms. and not Mrs.?" Dr. Balentine said.
"If that is your sly way of asking if I am single and looking you are right in one respect Dr. I am Ms. and not Mrs. but I am not looking for a name change. So if you don't mind I would rather we get down to business," Mara said frostily.
'Mara, don't look now, but you're being paged. Ahead of us two tables to the left. It's Theuderic the Wise, and a companion. Quite dashing in his bright orange jacket and not the least bit conspicuous isn't he,' Taurus said.
Mara looked up only to be blinded by Theo's jacket and made a mental note to stop by his house on the outside of town. Immortals! they never knew what was best for them. They thought that just because they couldn't die everything was just hunky dory. Damn that Theuderic I don't have time for him and his theatrics now. Mara closed her eyes, when she saw that people were beginning to notice the odd old man in the corner, and mumbled what sounded like Signum fye durnam echte ne moon: the room stilled. No one moved except Theuderic, Mara and Taurus.
"Theo! What have I told you about making a spectacle of yourself, and don’t' tell me it was all in good fun, I know you," Mara said as she waited for Theuderic to stand and look at her.
"Now, now Samara. It's my birthday and I should be able to do what I want on my birthday. I mean it’s not every day you turn 407 years old is it," Theuderic said.
"I know it’s your birthday but you know as well as I that going around in public in a getup that reeks of magic only leads to speculation and then we really have problems. So you either tone it down or the next time you need a rejuvenating draught I won't be available," she said.
"But Mara couldn't you over look the rules just once? In all my years, and there have been many, I haven’t been allowed to meddle in a little mischief. Not once," Theuderic said petulantly.
"Remember what happened to Isidora when she decided to meddle in a little mischief, don't you?"
"Of course, her magic was suspended for a hundred years and she went mad, but I’m not trying to take over the world. I just wanted a little company for a while. I was going to get rid of her later," Theuderic explained.
"Oh, really, how pray tell were you going to get rid of her? By using more magic that I would have to cover up, or by killing her like you did that other woman you'd made fall in love with you. What was her name again? Judy? Jane? No! it was Jenny. If I remember correctly I had to use magic to cover that up too, and I remember someone promising me that he wouldn't do it again. Now the person who made that promise couldn't have been you could it?" Mara said.
"Alright, you win. I'll finish my lunch date and send her home to mommy how’s that?" Theuderic said.
"I'll be checking up on her Theo. If she isn't alive, well and living a good life I’ll know who to blame for that won't I?" Mara said as she walked back to her table. she closed her eyes again and this time she muttered her spell backwards to restore time and everything went on as usual. She finished her conversation with Dr. Balentine and went on with her day. She had some appointments to keep with a group of the most volatile immortals on the planet: Vampires.