15A

The banks of mist creeping through the forest made it hard to see what was ahead. Walking the path she knew by memory, Audrey wasn’t sure whether she was excited or anxious. She always liked to know what was coming, to be able to plan and take the best course of action. Studying before a test just made sense, so did scheduling activities to fit as much as possible into every day. Even when things didn’t go exactly as planned, having a plan to start with made it easier to proceed.

Only lately, looking ahead, Audrey had only seen hardship and precious little hope. Fantasia wasn’t her world, and it was still hard to think of this dream as real, and just all together hard to believe anything she could do would be enough. Now she had an idea, but still no plan, and Audrey wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

The clearing with the pond where she met Nadine and Horera every night was a great chilly wall of white. Audrey couldn’t even see the bench or the playground, let alone the pond. Then she saw a figure approaching out of the mist.

“Hey,” Nadine’s voice confirmed the identity Audrey had inferred from the figure’s height. “So if day is good and night is bad, what does misty mean?”

“I haven’t the foggiest!” Audrey laughed, finally having to remove her glasses to wipe the condensation off them.

“Nice,” Nadine laughed too.

“I’ve been reading up on magical portals though,” Audrey put her glasses back on. “Andromalus has an amazing library! I’m not confident yet, but I think I’m close to figuring it out.”

“Yip!” An excited little affirmation drifted through the mist.

“Horera?” Nadine looked around briefly before pulling her goggles down over her eyes.

“Where are you?” Audrey squinted for signs of their little dogling friend.

“Horera here,” Horera’s voice seemed quite close.

“Here,” Nadine gingerly took Audrey by the elbow and guided her to the edge of the pond.

Once they were standing right on the edge, Nadine put her goggles back up on her head. Looking through the mist, Audrey could just make out Horera’s face looking up at them from the surface of the pond—ears floating out to either side.

“What are you doing in the pond, Horera?”

Horera blinked innocently, “Horera was on fire.”

Nadine and Audrey exchanged a glance before Nadine crouched down closer to Horera.

“Are you okay?”

“Yap,” Horera nodded before crawling out of the pond and dripping between Nadine and Audrey. “Water feel nice.”

Audrey shielded herself and her spellbook with the Mantle of the Silver Moon while Nadine covered her face with her arms as Horera launched into her canine shake, spraying water everywhere. Lowering her defenses, Audrey laughed.

“Why don’t we get up out of this mist, and I’ll tell you what I’ve figured out about the portals.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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