Gah. No reviews. And my current "updates" muse is poking me constantly. Again, gah. Being enslaved by a figment of your imagination is not fun, especially when they don't like you.

A girl with short, dirty blonde hair stepped into her office sleepily, looking around. Why were her papers scattered more than usual? Had someone attempted to organize them? As far as she knew, no one was hired to do so; Circle members were required to look after their own things.

"Gill, are you in here? If so, please come downstairs." The sound came from an irregularly-shaped reddish stone that weighted down a few of the papers on her desk. This was perfectly normal. Gill glanced at it when the message began, being too sleepy to focus, then took a gulp of coffee and started downstairs.

Although she was only twelve years old, everyone she worked beside or below knew that she was adept at creating portals. She was eager to appeal to her maroon-haired mistress, Alumè; before working with the Circle, she had lived within an orphanage. There were far worse places to live, such as the homes that many of the residents came from, but this didn't lessen Gill's obsessive hatred for it. At one point while there, she had created her first portal in an attempt to escape, although it was too small for most mice to slip through. After this, however, it was a matter of days before adoption papers were filled out, and Alumè was her guardian.

In her eyes, the Circle wasn't close to being her family; it was her family. And her job, and her life. She could see perfectly well that she had been taken in for her talents, but this didn't really bother her. She got good food, books, and could now create portals large enough for people to fit through. So, when she was told through the stone device on her desk that she should come downstairs, she did so.

The stairs were almost empty at this hour; most Circle members didn't sleep in the fortress, and the ones that did would be asleep. She quickly reached the room known as "Downstairs." She was about to open the door, but someone on the inside did so instead. A man and woman--known as Jarsyrin and Sapphire, respectively--stepped out and walked up the stairs. Gill looked after them for a second, then headed into the room.

Alumè was standing there. She had a subtle expression of conceit on her face--then again, with her, any expression that could be seen at all appeared subtle. She was most likely glowing with pride. She gestured to a cage beside her, where a number of alien-looking creatures were eying both of them nervously.

"Circle rules decree that I had to explain what I intended to do to at least one other general, so I told Sapphire and Jarsyrin," she explained. "Anyway, you know of the shifters, I believe. Here they are. If you hadn't already noticed, they were in your room. I will tell you the details when they're out of the way. Please create a portal; one with no magic and limited technology, if possible."

Gill nodded, opening a book on a table. It was oddly-colored, with some diagrams, symbols and pictures; most people who looked at it would have recognized it as a map, but been unable to decipher anything else about it. It actually explained places in Yi'erah where portals could be created. Gill stared at it, with Alumè gazing over her shoulder occasionally.

"Yeah. There's a field in a world like that I can get you to. Technology slightly worse than ours, but there's no magic to replace it. We'll need transportation, though," Gill finally replied, looking up.

"Good."
- - -

Gill stumbled off of her horse, glaring at it as it leaned down to eat some of the grass. Before joining the Circle, she had had fantasies about horses; now that she knew them well, she hated them, and they hated her. Alumè landed on the ground with more grace, and began to walk away from the shifters. Gill shrugged and followed her. When they were far enough away, Alumè muttered, "The details. All we've learned is that their leader's name is Drasaaj and that he's the birdlike one. Then again, we don't need to know even that. We're going to have an "adoption" where we're going, then go back. In case something goes wrong, I brought my throwing darts and food for two days. We should be back by then. For the picture of innocence, you're coming, too, of course."

"Of course. Do I get a weapon?" Gill asked.

"No. As I said, you're the picture of innocence."

"Ah. I'll create the portal now, then."

"Do."

They walked back to the cages. Alumè nodded at Gill, who nodded back, lowering her head. She muttered a few inaudible verses of something, tracing symbols on herself with her fingers for a few long minutes. Suddenly, she looked upward, without expression on her face. Her eyes blazed. Wordlessly, she sliced at the air in front of her with one of her fingers.

A gap appeared in the universe.

Gill's trance ended, and she watched with the others as the portal spread, from the size of the fingernail that she'd used to create it to being large enough for both of the Circle members and their prisoners to go through at the same time, with only a little difficulty. A number of the shifters were staring at her, although she didn't blame them. She could never remember what happened when she started a trance, but most people assured her that it was very unusual indeed.

Gill headed through the portal immediately. Alumè hesitated, considering how many things could go wrong. Still, it had to be done, and she didn't kill people in cold blood, as the government she was fighting did. She frowned, then followed, pushing the cage through.

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Gah is a good word. Review, lest I give up. Which you might want me to do, but...c'mon, please? Also, you can submit characters--shifters and Circle-members. Not that they'll probably end up being major characters, unless I'm starved of ideas. Oh well.