The Oracle cackled in delight. Her eyes widened in momentary madness as the glow returned to them even stronger than before. “You have no idea how true those words are, my dear. None of us can avoid our crìoch ùine and trust me, the greatest one of all is close at hand.”
Her words left them all confused.
Skye took out a thin slate from one of her pockets and quickly wrote down what the Oracle had said. The tiny old woman had amazing powers, but she was hardly infallible. Normally, there were limits to her powers. She saw everything in possibilities. What could happen?
Then there were times, such as just then, when she became almost possessed. Everything she said during those occasions held a different weight to them. They were no longer possibilities, but certainties.
The Oracle turned to Zack and Zara and simply smiled as the glow faded from her eyes. Only once she was back to normal did she say anything more. “Now, you all should hurry and leave. I need to rest. Using my ability so much takes a lot out of me.” She held out an arm each to Zack and Zara. “Do be sure to visit the next time this happens. I find the two of you pleasant company.”
The siblings stared at her arms, unsure of what to do with them before deciding to do different things. Zack clasped arms with her, his hand on her forearm. Zara, on the other hand, went with a different and infinitely more embarrassing tactic and hugged her arm.
Skye snorted and covered her face. “Come on, time to go. Oracle, I will report back when I return.” She grabbed everyone and shoved them out the door before they could do anything else embarrassing.
“Did I just hug her arm?” Zara squeaked, her face bright red. She ordered the suit puppet over and quickly retrieved her mask. Using it to hide her face from them.
“You did,” Zack chortled. “Even if what I did was wrong, at least it wasn’t super embarrassing like yours.”
Skye snorted again at this and shook her head. “The people of your world have so much to learn. Although what he said isn’t wrong, some cultures and worlds are more closed-minded than ours. For instance, our cousins the Forest Elves, clasping the arms like that, is a sign of respect. While among the Telaur people it is considered an intent of marriage when done among themselves. When someone from another world does it, however, it’s a sign they want to fight.”
“Did we ever get those primer books from the twins?” Zack asked Jean hopefully.
She nodded a patted a small bulge underneath her breasts. “I had nowhere else to store them, so I just put them in the suit for now. I figured I’d move them over to the suit puppet with everything else later.”
“Will they make the trip?” Zara wondered doubtfully.
“They should. The twins said they are made from normal materials found on most worlds.” Jean shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out if that includes Aperra.”
“Maybe we should have gone shopping then,” Zara muttered wistfully.
Skye, who was listening to them talk while she laid out her net, shook her head. “It wouldn’t have mattered. Most books aren’t made of that material anymore.” She held up the slate she had been writing on before. “Most just come on something like this. It makes their transportation easier since they take up less space and weight. I can almost guarantee something like this won’t make it back through your portal.”
Edith, who had been strangely quiet, spoke up then. “Could we try to get a couple of them, regardless? Ones that might help us to push our own magi-tech efforts forward if possible? Or ones with information on the portals or other worlds?”
Skye shrugged. “If you have something to buy them with, then I do not mind making the stop and running in to buy them for you. Just remember what the Oracle said, every delay will cause us more trouble inside the portal.”
“How certain are you that they wouldn’t make it through our portal?” Edith pressed. She had just wanted to be helpful. She was the reason the others were all here. If she hadn’t been captured and used as a hostage, then Zack, Zara, and Jean might have been able to escape.
Skye pointed up at the moons above, giving her net one final shake with her other hand. “Nothing is certain, but the odds are high. The material that these are made of is not even native to our world. It all gets mined from our two moons and a couple of asteroids close by.” Portions of the net clicked together and hardened, creating a surface they could sit on.
The dorm matron deflated. “Never mind then, I guess it truly was a silly request.”
Zara and her bears went over to her. “What’s wrong Edith?”
“Everyone onto the net,” Skye called out, letting them know she was ready.
“Nothing-“ Edith stopped at Zara’s glare, the young girl having already removed her mask. “Fine, I’ll tell you once we get going.”
“Zack,” Skye called out, as they all began piling on. “Do not forget to be on top, where you can attack if something comes. How you do it does not matter to me as long as you do it. Hook your legs through the net, stand on their shoulders, just be ready when the time comes.”
Zack nodded and joined the others on the net. He had until they went through the portal to get into position.
After making sure they were all inside the net, with the three bears gathered around the suit puppet for easy visibility, Skye gathered up the corners of the net and lifted them into the air. The net was clipped to a series of rings on her vest that left her hands free, while also spreading out the weight some.
Zack grabbed his charred staff from the puppet and threaded it through the loops of the net above their heads. It would give him a place to sit on later, although in all likelihood he would need to redo it after they went through the portal.
Skye kept her speed relatively slow as she carried them above and through the city.
Each person in the net kept their eyes focused on the ground. Taking what was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a truly foreign city and world from the sky. It was not a sight they wanted to miss. It was also a sight they quickly grew bored with.
The Snow Elf world was cold. Maybe not as cold as the portal they had come from, but snow still blanketed the entire city and beyond. Everything was white or covered in traces of mud. From above, one building blended in with another.
There was no doubt that they were more advanced than the Aperran’s, who hadn’t even thought of heading to space yet. Everything was so well hidden from view that no one who visited would ever know that was the case. No doubt, exactly as the Oracle and their other leaders had designed.
Skye sped up as they left the city behind, drifting closer to the ground when she spotted someone ahead of them. Chuckling to herself, she skimmed the ground with the net, picking up a wake of snow behind them.
Ahead of them, the poor fellow began to yell at her, his voice lost in the approaching wave of snow. Jumping on the cart of produce he was hauling, he protected them with his body as Skye pulled up at the last second. A blast of snow-covered him and the food he had been delivering.
“Who was that?” Zack called up to Skye, who they could hear continuing to laugh.
“That was the twin’s other brother, Xander. He is obsessed with potatoes and lives out on a farm near here called tall pillar or skinny rock or something like that.”
“So why did you do that then?” He wondered.
“Our last date ended badly.” She told them simply, before speeding up again and heading towards the distant portal.
“That is something I can completely understand,” Jean muttered, sitting down with her back against the net and stretching out her legs. “I’ve been on a few dates where I’ve wished I could do something to the guy afterward. And no, I’m not saying girls are any better.” She continued when she saw Zack’s expression. “But my personal experiences are with guys.”
“My husband could be a real blockhead at times,” Edith began wistfully. “And there were times I did want to knock some sense into him, but I always knew he was the right one for me. It makes getting through the hard parts easier when you know that the person you’re with is the one you want to grow old with.” She swallowed and looked away, her voice dropping off at the end.
Zara crept closer to her side and patted her on the head.
“Hold on,” Skye yelled.
In front of them was a building housing the portal. After a moment, the roof began to open, and she lowered them down inside.