Okay, the beauty session took a bit longer than Nadine expected. But it was fun, and both Audrey and Horera were in much better spirits now. Nadine knew things were hard for them when they were awake, so she’d actually been worried when she came into the garden and it was all sunshine. Worried that her own day was so good that her friends might need her support and she wouldn’t know it.

Things were going great back in Eden—weird to finally be thinking in terms of different worlds even though they hadn’t been to any yet. Nadine didn’t have as good a sense how things were going in Fantasia or Terra though. Audrey had a tough fight ahead of her, though it wasn’t really clear how far ahead that was. Then Horera’s situation suddenly made no sense at all, but even looking through her portal it was obvious that she was surrounded by a lot of good friends trying to help her out.

So they decided the first world they’d visit with the key would be Fantasia to deal with the Death Giant. And they’d look good too, Nadine was really happy with what they threw together—mostly from her and Audrey’s combination of memory and imagination. They’d even made little charm bracelets they were now wearing.

“Okay, Fantasia here we come!” Nadine whipped out the iron key. “Do you want to do the honors, Audrey?”

Audrey shook her head and shifted her book to the other arm, “No, you go ahead.”

Nadine met Audrey’s eyes seriously, “You have to believe this will work.”

“I do,” Audrey nodded.

“Horera too!” Horera yipped.

Nadine turned resolutely to face the portal depicting Audrey and her party from Fantasia camped in a magic circle on a storm-swept plain. After a quick wish that they appear inside the circle, Nadine thrust the key toward the portal. A satisfying grabbing sensation met Nadine’s thrust.

“Here we go!” Nadine flashed a grin to Audrey and Horera and turned the key.

The heavy click of metal is what Nadine had hoped to hear, but then the key began dissolving!

“What!” Nadine grasped at the key, but it was absorbed into the portal beyond her reach.

“I-I guess, it was only good for one portal.” Audrey’s voice was about as heavy as Nadine’s heart.

“Maybe, we should have used it to get you back to London…” Nadine turned slowly back toward Audrey. They had to be able to get more keys, right? There had to be a way to make this work.

Audrey shook her head, “It’s okay. I couldn’t go back now anyway. My friends need me.”

Nadine nodded, regaining her composure, “Yeah! So let’s go take care of that death giant! Man, he’s going to be sorry he messed with us!”

Stepping into the portal first Nadine felt a solid, pillowy sort of presence holding her back. Her skin tingled and began to go numb. No! They unlocked the portal! They had to be able to pass through it now! There had to be a way!

Gritting her teeth Nadine leaned into the resistance and tried to force her way into Fantasia. She wasn’t going to give up! Everything was going black! It felt like tiny feelers were picking at her brain, pulling it away in wisps. Was this what it felt like crossing between worlds? Maybe if she just kept going…

“Nadine okay?” Nadine heard Horera’s voice, then felt the dogling rubbing her face against Nadine’s.

“Uhn,” Nadine opened her eyes. Laid out on her back. Audrey and Horera over her. Still on the portal platform.

“You gave us such a fright! You shouldn’t have pushed so hard,” Audrey admonished, though the relief in her voice was clear.

Nadine’s first sob hit the same time as the overwhelming sense of loss, “I’m sorry,” she’d failed her friends and was soon crying uncontrollably, “I’m so sorry! I just wanted to help you guys, I don’t know what went wrong! It should have worked!”

Audrey lowered her forehead to touch Nadine’s, “You did help us. You cheered us both up, and that counts for a lot.”

“Wan,” Horera agreed and snuggled Nadine.












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