“Portculia,” by Daniel Deisinger

Dec 20th, 2018 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“We journeyed through the forest of the frenzied fists,” Armella said. She had her hands on her hips, frowning. “I got punched in the eye by a maple.”

“She got punched in the eye by a maple.”

“We crossed the living mountains. Triyn almost became a rock-husband to a village of stone maidens.”

“I almost became a rock-husband.”

“We had to walk all the way around the lake of boiling glass. That was fine;it was very pretty. What wasn’t pretty was when those goblins tried to sacrifice you to the Mirror Soul. You haven’t even thanked us for rescuing you, and you were seconds away from being torn into glittering shreds by the Soul’s thousand knife-fingers.”     

“I would have been fine.”

“She would have been fine.”

“You didn’t even thank us!”

“You didn’t even thank us.”

Both of the women glanced at the warrior. His eyes hung half-closed, and every few seconds he would smack his unlatched mouth shut to keep from drooling on his hauberk.

“I hired you to escort me,” Poth said. She crossed her arms. “The pay you get will be thanks enough. Or do you want to go back to working at the inn and watching all the other adventurers go on quests?”

Armella scowled. “It was just to earn some money!”

“A warrior who has to close one eye to count to one,” Poth said. Triyn blinked, though the right eye led a little.” And a cleric of the god of stubbed toes. Just how many clerics are there for Furnitus?”

Armella crossed her arms over Furnitus’ symbol—a crumpled foot with lightning bolts lancing out from it—on her tunic’s front. “Eleven!”

“Oh. Excuse me. I hope Furnitus doesn’t strike me down with some mildly inconvenient foot pain! Well, we’re here, aren’t we? We made it. Portculia.”

The three of them stood on a door set in the floor. They had opened a door which had a tiny door as a handle. Before them walls made of doors, ceilings made of doors waited for a hand to pry them open and gaze beyond. Long, narrow doors, backwards and sideways and upside-down, made up stairs.

A door-shaped chandelier swayed above them.

“Somewhere in this structure is a door that can lead us to an unimaginable treasure,” Poth said. She gestured forward with her staff. “All we have to do is find which one it is. Every single surface can be opened and entered.”

The three of them fell onto a walkway next to a banister after Triyn reached down and opened the door under them. The warrior landed first, then Poth, then Armella flattened her. The handle of the cleric’s mace cracked her head.”Maybe we should split up.” Armella said. “Triyn, you go over there. I’ll work on the main entrance. Give a shout if you find something good.”

“Will shout.”

“I’m going to try that hallway down there,” Poth said. “If either of you try to escape with the treasure, just know that I’ll be sure to hunt you down!” She stomped away, rearranging her robe.

Triyn clumped down a hallway of doors. His fingers wiggled out and seized one of the handles at his side, and the door opened. Snow and gusting wind blew in the doorway. A few snowballs pelted him in the chest and face. He shut the door.The next presented a roaring crowd, this time flinging balls of mustard.

Armella looked around the big main entrance. The doors looked like part of the decor: brown tiles for the floor, pale white walls. She tried a door only a foot long and wide, set in the floor. When she opened it, a swarm of spring-loaded snakes shot out, landing around her as she covered her head.

Poth stood in a big room, which appeared to be a library or sitting room. All of the bookshelves had handles on them. She stomped into the middle of the room and eyed her choices. She chose one of the bookshelves, and when she opened it she found another bookshelf, this one with functioning books. She closed it and went to the next one, wondering what it could contain. It contained a possum.

Looking around, she realized doors made up the couch, chairs, and even lamps. One of them hung ajar. Her old master, the Western Sage, would have warned her against investigating, but then again she hadn’t died after insulting his Sharpness the Bladelord. She nodded to herself, adjusted her hat, and pried open the door.

A few hundred miles away a princess lounged on a garden bench in the sunshine, reading poetry from a suitor. She opened her mouth to ask her governess about one of the bigger words when Poth landed on top of her.

Armella tried counting all doors she had left to try, just in the entrance area, when Poth reappeared, smoking from the effects of a transportation spell and grumbling to herself. Armella had already found a door leading to a thunder-topped tower in a wide meadow, a tea party of woodland creatures, and a male version of herself. He had winked at her, and she had spent some time sitting on the steps of the entrance, reflecting on the event. Now she wandered away from the entrance, having lost count of those she’d tried and had yet to try, finding what looked to be a bedroom. She went to the wardrobe first, and discovered an immense rack of clothing, endlessly cycling past her eyes. She picked a few of the items out, and when she wanted to replace the items, the rack jolted to a halt. She came across a window; when she pushed it up a band began to march past, and listened for a while until the window came unstuck and slammed on her fingers.

Triyn walked up and down the hallway, looking for the right door. The most exciting by far had been the door containing an enchanting, nubile temptress with thirty-one hands, each one holding a sundae. He had also found a door containing a trio of people wearing colorful capes and masks fighting an army of steel-made men, and what could be best described as the “falling dream” door. He had participated for a few minutes, but the funny feeling in your stomach disappears once you realize the ground isn’t getting any closer. He tried a door. Within, sights beyond compare.

He closed it and went to the next one, revealing a small sitting room, not constructed of doors but of fluffy sponges. He sat and finished his sundae, leaving it on the table before rising. The room refused to let him leave, making the sponges sticky and hindering. By the time he flopped out of the room they covered him head to toe in all the colors of the rainbow, and made little wheezing sounds whenever he tried to pick them off.

Anhour passed. Poth opened a door onto a sea tossing in the wind, the sky bursting with lightning-clouds, and made to close it. She turned as she did so,stumbling and falling through the opening. A bit of sea water splashed into the room, and when Poth had teleported back to Portculia, she slammed the door with a clamped jaw and burning eyes. The teleportation spell had dried her out, but her clothes had gained a few burned patches, and smoked slightly. After straightening her cravat, she tried the next door.

Arather dark room, lit with a few lamps spilling purple light onto the walls and floor, stretched beyond her sight. She couldn’t see a ceiling, and sounds seemed to echo a little louder. After only a few steps in she realized there would be nothing worthwhile, and ran back to the door. Not because she was afraid, of course. She had many other doors to open, you know. She couldn’t be scared by something like an endless, yawning darkness, through which hot winds moaned, and the light of the lamps becoming darker as she stared. And she certainly didn’t need a little bit of a rest to slow her heartbeat, no.

She left the room, yet failed to see she hadn’t fully closed the door to the dark place behind her. Some time passed–during which Triyn got the help of a many-armed woman wearing a lei and a grass skirt to remove the colorful sponges,and Armella spent a little bit of time conversing with a crossing guard who carried a sign reading “¡Toros!”—and the door eased open. Purple light tumbled out, casting shadows from the many handles around the room, and the light rolled across the floor, morphing into a vaguely humanoid shape, like Triyn after just waking from a nap.

And Armella encountered it first, after discovering the doorway of sow bored her quite a bit more than she had hoped. The Purple Being rose in front of her as she brushed dirt from her tunic, muttering about how she had just wanted to meet some pigs. Black in the center but purple around the edges, huge and hulking, twice her height, with a head lodged into its shoulders, and burning yellow eyes.

She looked up, squinted, looked behind her, and then back at it. “Triyn?”

It reached a clawed hand toward her, and she took a step back. “It isn’t time for your daily hug yet. Why don’t you go over to that hallway there? And get all that…stuff off you. You know you aren’t a winter.” She turned around and went to find an unexplored area, leaving the Purple Being standing with its hand out. It headed in the direction she had pointed, before a thought penetrated its ancient, shriveled brain. By then she had disappeared, and it did its best version of a shrug, plunging its head down for a moment.

It lumbered on, through the many halls and rooms of Portculia, and when it passed Triyn, neither noticed for a few seconds. Then they both spun around, legs wide and arms out to their sides, sizing each other up.

In this battle of wits, neither combatant had the upper hand, but eventually the purple being opened its mouth, releasing a roar, and charged ahead. Either Triyn let it get close enough to make it impossible for it to change course, or his reaction time really did suck. Regardless, Triyn stepped out of the way and the purple being crashed over a banister, tiny doors making it up flipping open as he spun around it. It fell onto Poth.

“Triyn, get off me, you bipedal meat pie! It’s Armella’s turn to hug you!” She felt her hair burning, and twisted her neck to peer directly into the abyss made form, the darkness between the stars, the chaotic entropy of death become life. She blinked. “You aren’t Triyn.”

Perhaps it opened its mouth. Poth couldn’t see anything, but she felt warm, moist air roll over her, and the stench of most evil things. She kicked away from it,squealing, and stumbled up to her feet, putting on a burst of speed. The Purple Being rose and rumbled after her, shaking the doors open slightly. From one, a rotting hand emerged, and tripped Poth, who fell into the next door. It slammed shut after her, and she found herself very suddenly riding what looked like the illegitimate child of an elephant and a kangaroo.

The Purple Being, now lacking prey, glanced around, and found Triyn still standing on the upper level of the room. It ran to the wall and began climbing, digging claws of darkness into the stone doors.

Triyn used his foot to flip open the door at the edge of the balcony, cracking the being on the head and making it fall back down to the first level. From the door he had opened, the cutest little bunny rabbits emerged, with eyes big enough, and fur soft enough for even the most eristic princess. Triyn had a wonderful time playing with them as the beast rolled to its hands and knees,rubbed its dented head, stood up, and looked around. It pointed a claw at Triyn, and Triyn pointed a finger back, moments before hurling bunnies at it. They latched on with their incisors, making the being howl with pain and rage,and this kept them occupied until Poth had returned, putting out small fires on her outfit.

“Triyn!” Poth yelled up to the second level. “Don’t try to fight it! It’s a being from another realm of existence! It–oh, fudge.”

She turned and ran, bunny-laden being hot on her heels. She turned a corner,entering a long hallway. It also contained Armella. “Run!” Poth shouted. “It isn’t Triyn!”

Armella struggled to keep up as Poth raced past her. The Purple Being changed its attention to the cleric, and she diverted into a room, one she had already explored. She yanked open one of the doors and leapt in. The being dove in after her. A few minutes later Armella emerged wearing a t-shirt for the Bounding Boulders, and the Purple Being wore an immense sundress. Armella fled as it struggled to free itself from its colorful confines.

When it finally rushed out of the room, not realizing it still had a wide straw hat on its head, it found the hallway deserted. It lumbered forward, yellow eyes squinting to peer into the shadows. Triyn entered the hallway behind it. It spun, and the two squared off again, legs spread wide and fingers quivering alongside their hips.

Their eyes narrowed.

The being rushed ahead, claws ready to tear. Triyn dove down the stairs to his right, armor banging on each step as he went ass-over-hauberk. He rolled up to his feet as the being jumped down after him, coming into a picturesque three-point landing Triyn didn’t appreciate—he had already left the room. Thebeing followed him, finding him standing in front of a door with his hand ready to open it, his upper lip stretched up to press against his nostrils. The Purple Being charged, and Triyn wrenched open the door.

A huge ball of yellow mustard fired out, covering the entire top half of the being with a loud and violent splorp sound. The force of the boulder carried it backward, and Poth, stationed behind it, opened a door in the floor.

It ended up elsewhere in the complex, landing on the floor still half-buried in condiment. It snarled and thrashed, curling its claws into tight fists and roaring. After extricating itself from the mustard, it stood, ready to hunt.

It lumbered through the halls and corridors of Portculia until it spotted Triyn, eating another sundae. He fled, and the being gave chase, following the scent of butterscotch.

A few minutes later sticky sponges covered the Purple Being, still dripping with mustard. The hat had also survived, though the floral arrangement upon it had seen better days. It bared its teeth, and charged after Triyn with all the unworldly strength it possessed.

It skidded to a stop, perceiving something out of the corner of its eye. It swiveled itself around, finding Poth hiding in a room, waiting for it to go past.It grinned, showing off its long, dark-purple teeth, and entered the room. Poth’s eyes went wide. It snarled and charged at her.

Armella, also in the room, watched the being rush past her, claws outstretched to add more holes to Poth’s raggedy robe. She looked for something she could use, and looked at the furniture in the room, even with its door-construction. She raised her mace. “I call upon the power of Furnitus!”

The being’s toe snagged on a handle sticking out of the floor. Bellowing with pain,it somersaulted forward, right into a still-open door from the first time Poth had been in the room. It obliterated the garden bench, and the suitor now lounging on it, into tiny pieces.

Poth slammed the door shut, cast a spell to place a padlock on the handle, and looked up. “Okay! Okay! New mission! Are either of your familiar with the kingdom of Seawind?”

“But the treasure?” Triyn asked, wiping his hands on his pants.

“Perhaps the treasure,” Armella said, “is the friendsh—”

“No!It isn’t! I hate you two!” Poth said. “I hired you to help me find the treasure of Portculia, and I’m not paying you until we find it! We just need to go to Seawind and… make sure… things are okay.”

“Because of the ancient, unknowable, and limitless evil we’ve unleashed on it, with the ferocity of chaos and the endless malignancy of the darkness between the stars?”

Poth glared at Armella. Triyn went to a nearby door. Would it contain an endless realm of fire, thronged with the charred armies of kings? A dragon, full of poison and rage? The scattered fragments of a lost queen, wailing in the ash? It contained another possum.


Daniel Deisinger lives in Minnesota, writing for work and fun. His writing can also be found in Whisky Island, Outposts of Beyond, and online at Saturdaystory-time.weebly.com. He is on twitter at @danny_deisinger.(Photo credit Kjerstin Balk)

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