When the Shadow World came to our world, a lot of things changed. Magic became a power people could harness and wield. Monsters appeared. The sky was dimmed slightly so that less heat came through. Weather was more variable and certainly less predictable. Strange occurrences became something to just accept rather than disbelieve.
But a major change were the portals. Rips in the air, shimmering, showing another place within the opening that anyone could get to if they simply stepped through. At first portals scared people, they thought the world was being torn apart. Then they were tested. People went through to other parts of the world. Then they altered. Over time, humans and monsters came to understand what these were. They were openings through reality to another place, and this target would change over time, and magic could control them.
Portals are a risk to use, it has to be said. There is always risk when it comes to magic. There are stories of people being lost in transit and portals closing behind them, but it is widely suspected these are just stories. The real risk is that you step through to find yourself in a place where the inhabitants don’t like you. Or to somewhere so different to your own that you won’t survive there. The destination can be seen so that shouldn’t be such a problem, but to someone in a jungle, a snowstorm might seem a wondrous thing, until the cold hits.
Portals are all over the world and, to those who know about such things, no portal has ever closed, nor can they be closed. They exist beyond the control of people, of all kinds. They are tears caused by the Shadow World. They will change, but never end, and while the destinations vary, it will be the same series of places that will reset and continue. Essentially, if you know a portal, it can lead you to a number of destinations, but only those. Fortunately, there will be other portals to find to lead you around the world. If you want to risk that.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why portals are where they are. No one knows how many there are in existence either. There seems to be more in magical areas, such as Great Britain, but they are also in desolate locations. Australasia has only one, in the centre, which has greatly helped to seclude the island – that and the fact it has been taken over by a group of devil-beasts. Why it has only one is unknown. But there is nothing that can be done about it.
As for finding portals, they give off a radiation so devices both magical and technological can be fashioned to detect them. This radiation is harmless to life, just there, as the portal pulses in the landscape. The stronger it is, the longer the portal is linked to the current location, so many have learned to use it before the radiation starts to ebb. Otherwise, you’ll be cut off from returning home. They can blink, as many term it. Portals will show a place, then change, then change again, and the time period for each link will be different. Rarely, a portal will show a place for a moment and then change – a blink. So that is another risk for anyone hoping to use one, especially if you lack in any means of detecting the flow of power.
Portals are used often, though. People with hi-tech equipment will place beacons in areas and are then able to detect them via portals, so they can know where a presented destination is in the world. Those who have mastered magic can feel more sure, using their power to hold a link or try to sense through the portal. This could alert someone with similar abilities at the other end, of course. But portals are instant transportation, so for all the dangers and concerns, using one can enable messengers to reach destinations far quicker and even armies can attack suddenly. Portals aren’t big, usually enough for a few humans to go through at a time, or a single totem, yet forces can be moved through gradually if both ends are secure. Again, risks and benefits.
One important note has to be about portal keys. They were made long ago, when jumping around the world happened more. They are nothing more than items made with magic and tuned to portals. Often they can look innocuous, sometimes they need operating. Either way, when someone has one, they can use it to shift through the destinations, choose one and hold it. There aren’t many, but enough are scattered around the world for them still to be known. More can be made, most likely are now and then, but they take a lot of time. Patience and focus are vital. Most suspect the magi made the original keys, that they each have one and hop and sneak around the globe this way. That is likely true on all counts. Now others can too.
It should also be noted that portals tend to sit on the land, a vertical rip that can be looked or stepped into from either side. They don’t appear half embedded or hidden within a mountain. They also sit on the surface of the oceans, yet can also be found on the seabed. While their creation seems to have been a haphazard event, a reaction to two worlds merging, they at least are there to be used, not hang out of reach. Useful, if weird.
Some people guard portals, claim them, try to keep them to themselves, for obvious gain. Yet most portals sit there for any to use. On the one hand, sitting guard on one means many others will attack to try and use it. It also means the occasional surprise attack from the other side. They are not easy things to keep hold of. Also, they don’t provide a great deal of benefit. They help to control an area, but only if you have the power to control that area as well, or at least if it is shut off. In Australasia, it has taken a group of devil-beasts in the middle of a wilderness to take command of the portal there, and the fact the island is surrounded by mines and has strong defences to keep even flying monsters out, means they are maintaining a level of control. In essence, they are preventing a stronger individual or group from coming in and making their lives unpleasant. But for most, you are better off leaving portals alone. They cannot be destroyed. There is another end to them. There are others around, other means of transport if really needed. Portals make travel easier, but it is not that difficult without them, especially for the more powerful groups.
One last note on portals. Most of the destinations they offer will be far away, but all seem to have a few nearby locations as well. They can be used to get to far off and strange places, yet also for a short hop to somewhere nearby. If you know your way around, you can travel a circuit of a region with ease by using various portals in sequence. For this reason, long ago (at least according to some stories) powerful magic-users tried linking portals and to set them that way for good. Nothing lasted for long, so again, no one tries that any more.
Portals are now a common feature of the world. Taken for granted by many, still feared by some; they sit there, gleaming, pulsing, offering chances to those seeking them, enabling those who would traverse the world to do just that. In a way they make the world smaller, but there is too much going on everywhere – too many warring factions, too many imposing individuals – that even these magical wonders haven’t tipped the balance. So far.