The House of a Hundred Doors
The House is the world. It exists in nowhere and opens to everywhere. It is prison and sanctuary, exile and homecoming. It is where legends come to die and immortals remember to breathe.
It has one key and that is in my keeping.
There were other keys, once, and other custodians to bear them, but they were already old when I was brought over the threshold as an infant and all are gone now. I am strong – I have to be – but I was not strong enough to carry the weight of all those keys. So I made them disappear. Now there is only mine, worn on a chain around my neck and never, ever taken off.
There are always strangers in the House. People find their way here and must resolve the Riddle to its satisfaction before it will allow them to leave. Some never do. My task is to make them as comfortable as possible for the duration of their stay. Every day I rise early and dress in armour and apron, buckle on my sword and collect my bucket, to begin my rounds. I am the one who changes the sheets, who lays the fires and cleans the grates, who prepares the meals that are left anonymously upon their tables. I polish their boots and wash their dishes. I repair the furniture they break. My sympathy is silent and unseen, but they feel it; they notice when it stops. Duty demands only that they remain alive – to be kind is my choice.
Some of the House’s guests are glad to be here. The dark king who has slept for a thousand years. The serpentine goddess whose hunger is now sated upon my cooking rather than the hearts of reckless adventurers. Others express their discontent in whatever ways they can. I have faced illusions and curses within these halls, steel claw and dragon’s flame, but it would take more than that to stop my work.
I keep the House, and the House keeps me.
© Faith Mudge 2014