Thinking With Portal

By Omnimancer Comments (3) (Tipped by 5 people!)

The ivory tower of Knowitall loomed over the leafy campus city of Fourquad. It was such a huge physical structure that Tick had gotten rather good at forgetting it was even there, ignoring its bulk as he scurried around the city performing errands for casters. After all, a lowly scholar like himself would never have reason to go there, so why even pay attention to it.

 

That’s what made the summons he had received this morning so unusual. Why would the overlord be interested in meeting him of all people?

 

Fourquad was a city-state, consisting of a single capital atop the plateau of Point Dexter. To compensate for the city’s territorial shortcomings, Lord Fourquad had focused on magic, obtaining as many casters as possible, and encouraging them to experiment with combining their disciplines in new and novel ways.

 

Their strategy of magical research paid off. Fourquad was not a strong side, but their advanced magic made them too much of a hassle for their stronger neighbors to bother attacking, for the limited reward of conquering a single city.

 

Magical research was dangerous though, particularly battle magic. Spells could backfire, thinkamancy links could fray minds. Casters were far too precious to risk on the truly dangerous experiments, which is where Tick came in.

 

He was a courtier with the scholar special, which allowed him to cast spells from scrolls despite not being a caster himself. Any time a life-threatening untested spell had to be performed, the caster would slap it on a piece of paper and hand it over to a scholar, then watch the results from a safe distance.

 

Fourquad’s scholars generally had pretty short life spans, which is why the overlord never bothered to meet with them or learn their names. Tick had said farewell to many colleagues, burnt to a crisp, or transformed into something unpleasant. In fact, Tick surmised that only reason the overlord would desire his presence would be to watch him perform an especially “interesting” spell.

 

This was quite possibly Tick’s last turn alive, so he decided to enjoy the stroll to the tower. He’d miss the city's ornate limestone buildings filled with libraries, the carefully manicured grass lawns, the huge willow tree he liked to sit beneath while reading books in his free time.

 

-----

 

At the tower gate the two guards on duty stood aside to let him pass. “You’re expected,” said one. “Portal room.”

 

Tick had never seen the portal before, but he was pretty sure its current signamancy was new. Instead of a glowing rectangle, the portal now resembled a wound, a jagged fleshy red membrane that pulsed and swelled, as though it were breathing. Black vines snaked out from it, spreading over the walls and floor like rot, dripping slime condensed from the acrid mist that hung in the air. Several casters and soldiers, and Lord Fourquad himself, were all surveying this horror with academic interest.

 

“Titans, what on erf is that?” exclaimed Tick, despite his intention to make a polite and formal entrance.

 

“Scholar, we have a slight problem as you can see,” said Lord Fourquad. “A magical experiment got a little out of hand. We hope you can help us with it.” He was a diminutive man, standing at just four feet tall, but his voice resonated with authority.

 

“Yes, lord,” said Tick, responding to the order. He glanced at the assembled casters, trying to figure out what combination of magics could result in this abomination. Dirtmanacy, carnymancy, turnamancy, findamancy, shockamancy, weirdomancy, thinkamancy… what had these magicians been attempting?

 

Sensing Tick’s unasked question, thinkamancer Edison Bulb, volunteered the answer. “We were attempting to find out if portals can only reach the Magic Kingdom, or if they can send units to other destinations as well. Unfortunately, our experiment was a success.”

 

“Where does the portal lead now?” asked Tick.

 

“A strange wasteland. A wrong place, somewhere outside of Erfworld. Nothing we want a portal connecting us to.”

 

“Plus, we’d like to regain access to the Magic Kindom,” said Lord Fourquad.

 

Edison handed Tick a scroll. “Recite this spell, this strange gateway should disappear, our portal should return to normal. But there’s a catch. It can only be cast from the other side of the portal. And once you do that, you’ll be stuck there.”

 

-----

 

The casters assured him that auto-disbanding wasn’t a concern. This portal was different that the usual MK portals. It had different rules, some of which they were able to magically decipher. It let any unit through, not just casters.

 

“Our scouts were able to go back and forth without a problem” said Edison. “They said the other side is unpleasant, but not immediately dangerous. No other units spotted. You should have time to perform the spell.”

 

Along with the scroll, Tick also received a sleeping bag and a backpack filled with assorted tools for wilderness survival and comfort.

 

“I’m not entirely without mercy, you know,” said Lord Fourquad,. “I appreciate what you’re doing for us, scholar. Your sacrifice will be honored. If you can survive over there, I’ll pay your upkeep and pop meals for you as long as you’re alive. “

 

It was a touching gesture, although Tick wasn’t sure what kind of life he was supposed to lead by himself with nobody to talk to, in some kind of otherworldly wasteland. He thought about asking for some of his favorite books to take with him, but felt too embarrassed to ask his ruler for favors.

 

“Thank you, lord.”

 

Fourquad nodded. “All right, in you go.”

 

----

 

The portal was firm and hard to push through, like ripping through leather. It didn’t want Tick to go through any more than he did, but he persevered until he toppled through and fell down in a heap on the other side.

 

Tick stood up, dusted off the black soil clinging to his tunic, and surveyed his grim surroundings. A thick fog made it hard to see more than a few feet. Thick vines snaked over the loamy ground, weaving between sharp gray boulders shaped like talons. Overhead the sky was livid purple, providing faint illumination without sun or moon.

 

This clearly was nowhere on Erfworld, nowhere that any unit should be.

 

“Home sweet home, I guess,” Tick muttered.

 

Behind him was the other side of the portal, a ragged glowing red curtain hanging in midair. Wasting no time, he pulled out the countercharm scroll.

 

“Glados Control Zee,” he cast, his eyes glowing white as he savored the rush of magic. Tick loved the feeling of performing magic more than anything else, a feeling that real casters must experience all the time. He felt titanic, extraordinary, able to sense the universe in ways he couldn’t normally even comprehend.

 

Those heightened senses now sensed something lurking out in the mist. Something moving closer to the portal. Quickly.

 

Tick tried to cast faster. “Azeroth Coda…”

 

His eyes now saw the shadow of a hulking presence running through the fog, his ears heard the scrabble of many legs. The creature leapt towards the rift, tentacles outstretched, inches away from passing through to Erfworld.

 

“Stargate Bleach!”

 

With a loud pop, the rift vanished into nothingness. The thing landed on empty ground with a thunderous clomp. “Darn, almost escaped,” it grumbled from one of its mouths.

 

Tick stared at it in open-mouthed terror. “Eee,” he faintly whimpered.

 

The creature turned towards Tick, eyed him critically with its hundreds of eyes. “That wasn’t very smart, you know, closing the portal. Now you’re trapped here too.”

 

“Eee.”

 

The thing sighed. “Well, it looks like we’re going to be spending a lot of time with each other. Might as well make the most of it.” It held up a pack of playing cards in one of its claws. “Know how to play Go Fish?”

Comments

    • falcore51

      Well thats interesting.

      • Jatopian

        Darn, I was all prepared for an epic journey.

        • Brother Mirtillo

          As soon as I saw the ivory tower, I knew this was going to be some kind of cerebral fun. I truly wish there were some scholars in canon -- a little curiosity can go a long strategic way. (Then again, maybe not if most Rulers use them in the animal-testing style.)

          The name jokes were clear enough, the scenery was picturesque, and the other realm was properly creepy -- on both sides of the portal. But I do wish he'd been able to explore his new neighborhood. After all that proper fear (though the meal-popping was a decent-albeit-doom-laden sendoff), after all that mystery, and after the nail-biting race to close the door... nothing. Well, nothing but a couple of teasers from the thing. The thing is civil enough, so maybe Tick has a chance to survive, but it wanted to escape, so maybe the realm really is dangerous. That's just tantalizing, that is.

          ...so if you feel like writing another chapter, you have plenty of material. As for this, as far as it goes, it's a lively piece of work!