"Portals," continued Bariso loudly, "were originally only used for commercial purposes. You know, transporting delicate items and that sort of thing, and after that transportation between realms. The mer don't like traveling by land in particular, and none of the other creatures like the desert but us gnomes. Stupid, really, but at least we get it all to ourselves. Anyway. A couple of years ago, the daemons invaded."
Elizabeth jumped, again. She was not expecting demons. She had not been expecting any of this, of course, but still, demons were demons.
Bariso made a disgruntled noise. "Don't be silly," he said. "Not like your demons."
Elizabeth mouthed "our demons?" at Maggie, who didn't notice.
"It's daemons with an a," continued Bariso, obliviously. "And they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, not just shadows like your pathetic ones. Ours come from Jupiter, but they don't like it there. But I'm sure you know the nature of daemons, don't you?"
Elizabeth shook her head wordlessly. She was glaring at Maggie, who had not really said anything yet and was not being any help at all.
Bariso scoffed. Again.
"Well, daemons come from worlds they don't like. We don't know how they evolved, but we suspect it involves magic, as well as lightning and possibly peanut butter. The nature of daemons is to seek out other worlds, and then destroy everything on them, and then live there for a few years and then find another world to destroy. Your demons on Earth, are as I said, pathetic. They can't destroy anything. But ours have... talents. They can shapeshift, primarily. A few of them have been known to disappear, though that could be rumor. The only trick to defeating them is to shout at them repeatedly. But unfortunately, you have to shout right at the daemon while looking them in the eyes, but most of the time they don't have any eyes. Quite annoying. It is possible to trap daemons with iron, as well, but everyone here is allergic to iron."
"What does this have to do with Portals?" said Maggie, who had finally noticed Elizabeth's glare.
"Oh..well." began Bariso awkwardly.
"Well... See, something needed to be done about the daemons. And the shouting didn't quite work. So we needed humans, who can handle iron safely. And we would like you to help us, please."
Elizabeth and Maggie looked at each other.
"You would be reimbursed, naturally." said Bariso quickly. "Probably with precious jewels. And you would get a free tour of Blotch. And probably a magic ring or token too."
"Alright," said Maggie clearly.
"Alright," said Elizabeth slowly. It didn't sound so hard, yet. And she could always back out.
"Excellent!" said Bariso, clapping his small hands together.
"Well, you see, we needed humans, and after traveling to earth a few times, which took a few weeks transport by rocket, we decided that teenagers would be the most help, particularly nerdy ones" (at this point Elizabeth began to interrupt but stopped) "and that they would likely travel with us, so that was why we began inventing long-distance portals, so it wouldn't take a month or so round trip. "
"So we aren't the only ones?" said Maggie curiously.
"The only what?"
"The only humans."
"Good gracious, no. I believe you, Elizabeth, are the twentieth, and you, Maggie, are the twenty first."