I know this is supposed to be a Touring Scotland post–in fact, last post was supposed to be a Touring Scotland post, and you got a new cover reveal instead–but I’m in the throes of writing the last few thousand words of the first draft of Becoming the Demon, and I really don’t have the headspace to write it. Sorry! Here, have another Monday Morsel instead.Be warned, it’s a long one!

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Wrong Way Around

In the brilliantly lit main Hall, a circle of doors stood end-to-end around the room. They looked innocent enough, if strange—they were doorframes with no doors, standing on their edges: doorways to nowhere. Except they weren’t. They looked like a step through the doorway would take you one step deeper into the room, when in reality it would take you, maybe, millions of miles across the world. Some of them led to similar rooms in other citadels, where there would be a door you could step back through to your origin. Some of them deposited the user in locations without doors—and no way home, except the long way, unless the user was a wizard capable of building his own permanent or temporary portal.

This room had been Alloran’s original inspiration for the hell-gates, when he was younger. What if the door didn’t just lead somewhere else on this plane? What if you could step through to another plane? What if you could step through time? The ‘what-ifs’ made him twitch, especially the last one—he never had gotten on to that question, and now that he was researching again, that old thought made him twitch like a rabbit scenting the hawk.

The Hall was empty, though of course at any moment that might change, due to someone stepping through a Door, or entering from outside the Hall. His use of magic to open the lock might go unnoticed, since the Hall was a constant epicentre of magic, or they might send someone to investigate. He could enter a false name in the log on a small table by the door to coincide with the time he used magic, but then he had no way of knowing who was currently within the citadel. A false entry might be more suspicious than no entry.

He turned away, brushing past Gisayne to close the door to the back hall, and locking it again against detection. Then he took the right hand passage, counting the racks as he went. One, two, three… At the fourth, he stopped, and counted the second door along. Its frame was metal, and pressed cold against his palms as he got a good grip and slid the door from the rack.

Portals were lengthy and complicated spells, requiring much preparation. A dormant portal spell could be started, and then suspended at a certain stage, to give a wizard quick access to a portal to anywhere at any time, but they could be volatile around other magic, and they weren’t portable—they had to be fixed to a certain location. The portals in the Hall were permanent, and portable, and thus designed to solve that problem. They could also be recalibrated to new destinations, although that was a specialist field currently practised by only a handful of wizards.

The doors were of a uniform height and size, but their frames were as per the taste of its maker. This one had a shining silver frame, though the exact metal was indeterminate in the blue shadows, in straight, simple lines, with no decoration. It was a common design for makers of portals who were practical and fuss-free, who attached no sentimentality to their doors, and therefore a design shared by the majority of portals. The only ornament was the rows of polished stones, five each on the left and right frames, their facets reflecting shards of light from the glow on Alloran’s finger.

He frowned, leaning closer to examine the stones. They looked like a random combination of precious jewels, rubies and diamonds and sapphires, but the stone was actually a rare mineral mined from the far western mountains on the main continent. Chakrin, or sorceress stone as it was sometimes called, was sensitive to magic, and so in high demand amongst wizard artificers like Alloran.

“How do you turn it on?” Gisayne leaned closer, blocking the light.

“Illiterate barbarian.” Alloran rolled his eyes and pushed her back so she wasn’t crowding his space, but the fact was most wizards would ask the same; they didn’t see the point in knowing how to do for themselves what they had specialists to do for them. Short-sighted. There was value in knowledge for its own sake, although sometimes too much knowledge was equally dangerous.

Then he straightened abruptly. “This is the wrong door.”

“What do you mean, the wrong door?” Gisayne didn’t so much as twitch, but there was tension in her voice, and her hand dropped to her sword. Uneasily, she glanced behind her, towards the exit. “Then where is the right door?”

“I don’t know!” Alloran shoved the door back into the rack, too hard. It clanged against the shelving, sending clamorous echoes rolling through the storage unit. “It might have been moved, or destroyed. Doors destabilise over time, and then they are dismantled.”

“Can you change the destination of another door?”

“Not these ones.”