Midway through the second day since stumbling onto that strange blue colored Crasayeedaix in the distance, they saw a strange sight over the horizon.
“Look!” cried Polo. “There’s thunder in the distance.” Towards the east, the team could make out a series of dark-grey clouds silhouetted against the golden-brown sky. They didn’t look too abnormal, save for the amazing colored aqua blue lightning bolts scattering out of them in random directions like a cosmic spider web made up of dark cloud and electricity. Some of the clouds there were irregularly shaped: they themselves resembling webs in their own abnormal manner.
“We’re getting there!” cried Tarnunen rather excited. “Just a bit longer!” After another hour of walking they stumbled on to a strange sight to the south: larger than many of the other statues here were two twin warriors carved in a green stone that were standing next to a small pyramid. They were carved wearing Egyptian headdresses and strange looking masks that covered their face. Each one was holding a small shield on their right arm and a spiked club on their left. Even though they stood side by side to the right of the green pyramid, they looked like they were guarding the mausoleum. They had to have been at least a hundred feet high. Another thing the team passed by that was just as jarring were the ancient remains of a giant wooden ship that was rotting and laying along a pile of rocks by a large green hill.
“Does anybody even care to ask anymore what stuff like that was all about?” Ricardo asked Polo rather facetiously.
“Not really,” said Dixie who overheard them talking. “There’s so many messed up things about Anakaland that I’ve started to accept this kind of thing as perfectly normal.”
“It was due to a great flood covering Anakaland thousands of years ago: the remnants of a previous time cycle,” said Na-lli-ula. “That wood is glazed with ancient Kayo Vorcillenium coating, but no Berrebo of sound mind would desecrate such a sacred artifact.”
“The animals guard the monuments here from Moroller attacks it is said,” added Tarnunen.
“Na-lli-ula is right,” said Zizfvah. “Your own mystic writings in the Outer Realms talk about such things. These floods happened everywhere: they wiped out those who were not strong enough to survive. There were places here in Anakaland where those who understood what was going on could hide from destruction in our own fallout shelters – as you can call them -- deep below the earth.”
“Wait a minute!” cried Dixie with some frustration. “If the world does end up ending, why didn’t someone remind me about this? I’ve been getting sick worrying about all this crap!”
“It’s pointless,” said Tarnunen who also overheard the conversation. “Do not start thinking like that. We may not have another choice: the shelters were built for flood and temporary, not for eons. Who knows how long the contents of those portals could remain consuming over the earth. If your accounts are accurate and the codices are not lying either, then a strange anomaly which glazes the landscape may not be something that we can protect from such a fate: we’d be sealed underground in living tombs.”
They kept walking a little longer. To their delight they could see some pinwheel-shaped clouds forming in between the dark thunderclouds in the distance: they literally looked like small hurricanes that had turned sideways and whose tops could be seen perpendicular to the horizon ahead. About five miles ahead of them, there stood a series of green hills on either side of their path. On top of two of these that where closest to the trail they could make out the distinct shapes of two humanoids sitting cross-legged in meditative pose.
“There they are!” cried Preskenio. “Those have got to be it!” He was right: the company had nearly reached their goal. This was it: in a little over an hour, they knew their very lives might be ending. Each member of the company was lost in their own thoughts. It didn’t matter how powerful some of them were. the way Arminer had described these gates, no living body (unless anyone had mastered the ability to morph into a different phase change) could withstand the intensity of some of the spiral storms if they were swirling fast enough. The team was hoping to catch one spinning like a slow-moving pinwheel – provided all went well.
On top of that, whether any of them cared to admit it or not, each member of the company was coming to grips trying to make peace with their own mortality. The few discussions that could be heard against the silence (for the most part), although somber, were stoic and dignified – except for Dixie. He was so mentally burned out that he just kept dishing to Polo and Ricardo all the grievances he could remember about his life.
“Yes, I do have a dark secret to confess,” he said to them. “I despise halogen xenon lights. Anyone that defends the use of them I would wish a fate worse than this upon them. I would hope Bigfoot beat them up and gave them noogies until their scalps fell off if need be just so they could learn a lesson. I don’t care how uncivil they would think I am. Halogen lights are some of the most barbaric things that exist in the modern world.”
“Noogie?” Ricardo pondered lost in thought. “I wonder who invented the word. And who uses that analogy to describe revenge?”
“That’s not the point,” said Dixie. “For every poor prick they blind in traffic at night, I would love something smack them in the face with a blinding stadium light – see how tough they really are then.”
“Quiet!” said Bill. “Hear the sounds of the funnel clouds ahead? We just keep our guard up.”
“What for?” protested Dixie who was in no mood to be polite. “The only thing bringing us danger is ourselves every step we walk into this death trap.”
“Something else out here too,” said Finjuna. “I sense something.”
“What do you mean – whoa ---!” cried Dixie as he slipped and fell face-first on the ground. It felt as if he had stepped on some really sleek ice, but he couldn’t see any. All he saw on the ground was grass, but for the first time he noticed the grass was moving around back and forth, and he wondered if it had come alive. Against all reason, it appeared to be losing its friction properties.
Tarnunen warned them all grimly that they were now venturing into the borders of the Frictionless Realms. “You’ll notice the ground beneath our feet is getting harder to get a foot hold.”
“It’s like a strange black ice – but green beneath our feet,” said Preskenio. “I think we should consider getting the lines up.”
“No, not yet, I think” said Tarnunen. “We still have a few miles to go before we reach the clouds. We haven’t even reached the markers. Besides, there are still plenty of obstacles that are anchored to the ground ahead of us if for some reason we were to start sliding.”
“Well there’s got to be some sort of warning sign,” reasoned Bill.
“This was it, I think!” put in Polo. He was having as much difficulty as Dixie moving ahead. It was as if they had stepped onto a slick skating rink full of natural obstacles coming out of the ground that they had to push off of in order to slide forward.
“How long do we have to walk like this?” asked Dixie.
“You see those spiral shaped clouds in the distance?” said Tarnunen. “Storm activity and fog come in and out in this area. Those statues straight ahead are the Crasayeedaix of course. Listen up everyone! We all know what we need to attempt to do, and we are going to have to do it under just the right weather conditions. At least for this door, we cannot enter the star gate ahead if the clouds are too violent! We have to wait until the right Orifli comes to us.
“What’s that?” asked Ricardo.
“An Orifli is a divine wind” said Tarnunen. “Did you not hear that back there? It looks like a vortex, but it is a white cloud that is shaped like a hurricane. Basically, it is one of those.” Standing on its edge about a half a mile past the twin Crasayeedaix was a cluster of storm clouds shooting blue lightning. Protruding out of this gaseous layer directly in front of that were several of these Orifli clouds.
“They only exist for a few moments, and we still want to avoid the lightning bolts coming in and out that are induced by the ionosphere,” said the Summoner.
According to Tarnunen, they had to plunge into one of these in a blind leap of faith and hope for the best – provided the Orifli was not ferocious enough to suck them up in a funnel cloud of hurl them into the east. If that was not troubling enough, the ground continued to lose its friction and they still had a ways to go.
At this point, the team prepared to take out their grappling hooks and any sharp weapons they could find to anchor themselves to the ground. Curiously, in areas of flat ground where the friction was at its minimal, it was becoming harder and harder to dig into the ground and anchor themselves: it was as if the ground had turned into a hardened rock underneath the loose layer of grass that was getting thinner and thinner each step of the way. About a quarter of a mile later, the grass had disappeared to reveal a hard- yellow surface that resembled sand, but the friction had all but vanished from the ground. Polo and Ricardo were the first to this discover this inconvenience, and they were sent sliding straight towards one of the Orifli’s straight ahead as if they were sliding down a sleek icy slope, only they were flat the whole time. Luckily for them, their ‘falls’ could still be broken by their attempt to hold onto a tree branch or crash into a rock ahead, which they barely managed to execute. A soft rain hit, and they could see one develop in front of them. Eventually they saw a huge one form right in front of them that looked to be a mile in height.
Using the same belaying technique as before, they made it towards some statues further ahead. They were ugly in design: Dixie and some of the LARPers thought they resembled men with wide eyes and sad faces and long beards in various fetal positions. But they were large enough to allow several members of the expedition to huddle around one of them without losing their grip. The only crumb of comfort they had was that they knew that if they had to turn around, sliding back was much easier than going forward. But they did not feel like giving up just yet.
Too bad what happened next didn’t help at all. In fact, it finally compelled them to completely run away in terror…
Excerpt from Book IV: The Doors of Pordula
Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes
"Note the excerpts have been slightly edited and abridged for non spoiler content"