Circle of Eights, Stories

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  • #78


      Back from the depths of his sleep, the dragon Naasir exhaled in a puff of smoke. He’d just woven a wonderful dream —for all dragons and creatures do dream of course, even if most humans doubt it.

      Yawning, Naasir stretched out his long slithery body. Fully stretched, his body was an impressive sight to behold. He was quite old by human standards, while in fact, he was still in his youth, and could very well stay as rambunctiously lively for many other long centuries.

      He had given the final touch to a new world he had been creating in his dream time for many nights now, and was rather proud of it —even if dragons knew no such thing as pride, his feeling at this very moment was very akin to being proud.

      He had filled this world with many wonders, dragons of course, and other creatures yet to be named. And magic was all pervasive in that world, and so slightly cloaked, that it could be used by many.
      It would be a great playground he thought, for he was not a possessive and dictatorial dragon. In fact, he could feel some others were about to step in, and tell and live the story of that world.

      Sighing in delight, like a sleepy cat of majestic dimensions, he cuddled again, about to sink deeply into the harp music playing in his mind, ready to dream and let that story be told again…

      Another Never Ending Story

      Malvina. That name had been thrown into a conversation Yann and Quintin had had together, during which Quintin had felt images come into his awareness. He had instantly liked that name.
      He was feeling the aura of a woman, long hair of a pale rosy color, with a noble bearing. That name had been around, and they had played with it to find more impressions.
      And they had felt it linked to breeding of dragons, in a sort of rookery.

      They’ve both felt her connected to Malika, an online friend of them, whose gentle touch and kindly influence, as well as her passion for dragons seemed to fit in quite interestingly.

      Then on an impulse, Quintin had begun to paint an image around it, letting his feeling guide his movements. He’d loved the peaceful environment he’d drawn, and even if he was not wont to share “unfinished” drawings, he immediately shared the initial sketches with Yann and Fiona.

      They both loved it, and Fiona even considered for a moment adopting one of the cute baby dragons to be born.
      “Buckberry” : that was the name Quintin felt for the baby dragon… But he did not see any character in that picture for Fiona. She would have to decide to step in, to get that baby dragon. What character would she be? A young impetuous rude adventuress, or an o(w)ld wizened witch? Perhaps a bit of both?

      These thoughts were now coming back to him.
      Ever since he had seen Yann’s pictures, those taken when he’d been in Old Albion, he had felt that something strange was manifesting.
      One of these intriguing coincidences: the picture of a cave that Yann has been visiting looked so strikingly similar to Malvina’s Rookery… And that playful kid in the cave was probably linked to Yann.

      So, now that the painting was finished, perhaps he could have people join in the fun. All that was required was imagination…

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    • #812

        Ella Marie put the encounter to the back of her mind, and whistled loudy and kept her eyes averted when dusting the mummy case during the following months. It wasn’t until the floods of the following spring that she heard Elioctyl’s voice again, urging her to take action, that now was the perfect opportunity.

        Pssst! Ella! Do it now, NOW!

        NO! shouted Ella Marie.

        Suit yourself, Honey, replied her husband Arthur, pouring himself a cup of coffee from a thermos and screwing the lid back on.

        Ella Marie spun round, saying HUH? Yes, I mean yes, please.

        Arthur raised an eyebrow and tutted. You said No, Ella, who was you talking to anyway?

        Oh Lordy, Art, I was just saying NO to all the flooding, NO more rain, and all….Ella Marie replied, but her mind was racing.

        Art Honey, why don’t you wade round to your mothers and see if she’s ok, why dontcha, and I’ll start moving stuff up into the attic. River’s gonna burst its banks tonight, I reckon, we oughta do what we can now.

        Don’t get lifting nothing too heavy, ya hear? Leave anything you can’t manage for me, I’ll do it when I get back, Arthur replied.

        As soon as Art was out of the door and down the porch steps, Ella Marie raced out the back door and into the garage. The adrenaline was pumping through her veins, and she felt light as air, and fit as a twenty year old. Her flashlight beam swept the garage…she didn’t know what, precisely, she was looking for, but she knew she’d find it.

        Aha! Ella Marie spotted a coil of washing line rope, and a tarpaulin. Stuffing the flashlight into her pocket, she grabbed the surfboard off the hooks on the wall and dragged it outside, the rope and tarpaulin under her arm. Quickly she tied the tarpaulin to the surfboard, tethering it to the garage door handle while she went back inside for the oars out of the uninflated dinghy. The flood water was past her ankles now, inching towards her knees, as she set off for the museum, pulling the surfboard behind her, thankful for the power blackout and the dark streets.


        I am here to offer you my services in exchange for board and lodging Madame Chesterhope, said Franiel, deciding to tactfully ignore for now her rather odd remark regarding his reality.

        Oh please, call me Phoebe. Phoebe smiled kindly at Franiel. Have you come a long way? Well really, I forget my manners. Sit down and I will prepare you a drink and some food. Then you can tell me your story and what has bought you here.

        And so it was that just a short while later Franiel found himself ensconsed on the settee sipping hot mulled wine from a huge mug. What strange twists and turns life may take, he mused.

        And whether it was the wine that loosened his tongue, or the kindly look in Phoebe’s eyes and the attentive way in which she nodded her old head so wisely, but he found himself telling her the most surprising things, as though she were an old friend he had known and trusted all his life.

        Thus it was that it had soon been agreed that Franiel’s proposal would be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

        It is as though you are an angel, laughed Phoebe, sent by God to help me, for it was weighing heavily upon me that there is much that needs doing. Dear Lydia who you met on the path, well what would I do without her, but she is not getting any younger, and Derwent …. her voice trailed off.

        Well you are the second person to call me an angel, for I met Derwent earlier who also mistook me for an angel, but I am afraid I must disappoint you both, for I am a very ordinary mortal.

        Oh I am not the slightest bit disappointed, smiled Phoebe. Here, she said, delving into the top drawer of a huge oak dresser, take these keys. I keep most of the rooms locked, for the place is so big and there is no need for all those rooms. Feel free to have a look around as you will. You will find your room prepared for you on the second floor, third room on the right.

        Franiel was surprised and it must have showed on his face.

        It is the room I keep ready for visitors. She chuckled. Most of the visitors I have here have no need of a place to sleep mind-you.

        These are the others you spoke of earlier? asked Franiel,curious. At that moment though Phoebe’s attention was distracted. She looked towards the window, which was wide open though there was a chill in the late afternoon air.

        Ah! there you are my lovely one! she cried, her face lighting up in delight as a large and colorful parrot flew in the window and landed on her shoulder.

        The bird squawked and cast a steely gaze on Franiel.

        Of course I will introduce you, said Phoebe calmly, Franiel, meet Vincentius.


          Dr Bronklehampton just put the finishing touch on his last work of art.

          It had required him more patience than he usually had for such things, but his guinea pig has been behaving quite docilely, well, docilely enough to make his task easier.
          The most painful part for the Doctor had been to beautify the visible scars which had appeared upon careful examination of his subject, but he was greatly helped in his task. In fact, he never ceased to be amazed by the accuracy of the information delivered by the costly computer that the Confregation had granted him to pursue his work.
          But now,… now, she was perfect. Lovely as like a Chinese porcelain doll.

          Now that things finally were coming back into focus, the distant voices around made him frown. He was even starting to become suspicious of that Veranassessee girl that had supposedly come to assist him, as she was becoming dangerously close to the experience subjects, not to mention the visits of that Gabriel.
          This island was becoming more and more a crowded resort rather than the secret facility it was supposed to be. Not that he really cared, now that his ultimate deadly bodyguard was finished…


          Still no parcel from NZ in the mail… :kiwi: :weather-overcast: :weather-overcast: :weather-few-clouds-night: (mmm, looks like a prout kiwi)
          Yurick almost laughed thinking it was quicker to mail stones and rusty keys…

          Small parcel, gone for a long trip around the globe :www:, what a great adventure it was.
          Miles and miles, and the ability to reach distant friends…
          Perhaps they could try some kind of experiment, like sending a little book or a paper with a few words, and have it completed at each stage of its trip, with a count of the miles crossed… That would be another kind of exquisite story link between them… :yahoo_daydreaming:
          That is, until they could figure out a way to turn into a little mouse able to travel into a mail parcel :creating_magic: :mouse: :buffoon:


          “Phew…” said the plump lady to her trip companions “it really felt like this trip would never end…”

          Paquita rolled her eyes to the sky, sweating as her and Joselito were moving the heavy luggage of the lady out of the hydroplane’s trunk.
          Apparently, the welcoming committee either had not been aware of their landing, or simply had forgotten them. Nobody was there to greet them past the wooden pontoon, only the thuds of coconuts falling on the white beach.
          One of them rolled towards Paqui, bouncing on the little waves of sand.
          She leaned forward to get the hairy fruit, brushing the sand off it with her hands until she spotted something that instantly congealed the blood in her veins.

          She shrieked at the sight of a blue spider under the coconut.

          “Well, she seems dead enough” shrugged Mavis at the sight of the splattered arachnid. “Now, what do we do… I think I have a bathsuit somewhere in that piece of luggage” she said, designing a mammothesque thing that bore more resemblance to a military trunk than to any piece of luggage.

          “Did the pilot leave us there?” asked a pale Paqui to her cousin.
          “As soon as we got the last piece of luggage out of his plane… Guy didn’t seem to want to stay here”
          “I wonder why… It’s such a gorgeous place…” Mavis was saying distractedly while plunging into her trunk occasionally drawing some outrageously gaudy piece of cloth that seemed like out of a theater’s props. “Here it is!” she finally said, holding a glittering hot pink latex bikini, so tiny it wasn’t leaving much to imagination.

          Paqui and Joselito sighed of relief when the lean figure of a black haired smart woman appeared waving at them from the path leading to the island’s center.


          How restless that dragon is, thought Arona. Always shifting this or that, always talking in his damn riddles. She thought fondly of Buckberry, and how peaceful and content he seemed by comparison.

          She was no longer sure where she was. She had gone over it a few times in her mind, but try as she might she could not make sense of Leormn’s cryptic explanations. Or that Malvina either, although at least she is a bit more pleasant about it.

          Anyway, wherever it is, it feels a bit grey, she decided matter-of-factedly. And I am missing the others, even that grumpy Mandrake if the truth be told.

          She closed her eyes and began to paint colours over the grey. She was not sure what to paint at first, so she just dabbed bright blobs of colour haphazardly onto her mind’s canvas. The colours began to run into each other and form shapes and it it seemed to her they wanted to take on a life of their own. So she let them, and it was not long before she found herself in a meadow of spring flowers.

          That’s much better, she thought, taking a deep breath and lying back in the soft green grass.


          As she lay there her mind drifted sleepily, butterfly thoughts every now and then resting on some bright petal in her field of flowers.

          Just living is not enough, said the butterfly as it danced by her head, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.

          Oh! said Arona excitedly, recognising the words from a far away time, You must be the butterfly of the story! The one my grandmother used to tell me when I was a little girl in the Village.

          Perhaps I am! danced the butterfly and it whirled and twirled and swirled in the sky.

          Arona rolled her eyes in exasperation. Now you sound a bit like that wriggly dragon. A simple yes or no would suffice.

          The butterfly landed on her nose. Now listen here you! Don’t go blaming me. I am YOUR imagination!

          Oh good point Butterfly, said Arona graciously. She pondered a moment … Well in that case …

          And next moment Mandrake, Vincentius and Yikesy were sitting in the meadow with her.

          Oh THERE you are Missy, said Mandrake. Might have known you would be lying around in some spring meadow leaving Vincentius and myself to look after your little sprog. Tsk Tsk, he tutted.

          hmmm, thought Arona, that’s not quite what I had in mind ..

          I would have said it’s exactly what you had in mind, whispered the butterfly, fluttering by her ear and then off again until it disappeared into the field of colours.

          Arona turned her attention to Vincentius and Yikesy, sitting a short distance away in the meadow. She noticed how smooth and golden Vincentius’ skin looked in the morning sunlight, and how deep and melodic his voice was as he told Yikesy one of his seemingly endless repertoire of stories. Imagining a gentle hug and a kiss on his sweet, but it had to be said incredibly ugly face, she sent Yikesy into a peaceful sleep.

          Oh great idea, smiled Vincentius with a wink. What I had in mind all along really. Perhaps you could also imagine Mandrake chasing a field mouse or something?


          Veranassessee was not in a happy mood.

          The sight earlier in the day of Dr Bronkelhampton wearing his yellow wig, a bright pink dress which was several sizes too large for him, and carrying a chinese porcelain doll had disturbed her profoundly. She sighed, remembering how he had glared at her suspiciously and muttered to the doll he was holding in front of him as though it were some sort of a shield.

          He has totally lost it, but what to do?

          She had also spent much of the morning trying to avoid Sha and Glor. The pair seemed rather distressed about something … a missing dress was it? Veranassessee shook her head in annoyance. Good grief! She had neither the time nor the patience to deal with another of their foolish and pitiful concerns.

          Perhaps I should tell those stupid nincompoops that to get hit on the head with a coconut is another special beauty treatment.

          To top it off, Agent Gabriel kept slipping into her thoughts in a most disconcerting and bothersome manner. And where the hell is he anyway? she thought miserably, cringing at the memory of their last encounter. Avoiding me, no doubt.

          Bugger! she swore, suddenly remembering the arrival of the new guests and feeling a growing sense of foreboding.


          Twenty minutes later the disturbing vision of a fat woman in a tiny pink bikini waving at her gleefully did nothing to dispel her concerns.


            A man was walking on the narrow path shaded by the tall pandanus trees.

            Mahiliki was coming back from the sawmill where he worked, smiling to the people he met on his way back home. The island of Fikitupi was a small island in the Pacific, and he knew most of the people living around this small corner here.

            An old wizened lady with a toupee was busy weaving pandanus dried leaves into baskets and mats on the front door of her small house, while children were running to and fro among noisy chicken all around the place.
            Mahiliki smiled, fond as he was of Nanaiis, whom all children loved deeply, for she always had new tales for them to hear, and cheering words to share. She was quite intuitive, and had said to him years ago that his new girlfriend wouldn’t stay around and have lots of children.
            He didn’t want many children anyway… but as Nanaiis had said, Vera had left, not without saying she would come back though.
            Mahiliki didn’t count much on it, but he had all the time to wait for her. Life was calm and sweet here, and its appeal was great.

            At a short distance, he could spot the hut of O’panié and Twahissi. They were some funny strange hoots these two. Twahissi was the light-haired niece of O’panié and she was sharing with him her love for otherworldly matters. Twahissi’s parents had left her in his care, when they left to open a shop in the main island of the archipelago, and frankly, Twahissy was far more comfortable staying in Fukitupi where all felt magic to her.

            Mahiliki smiled when he finally understood they were trying to bury something near the culvert on the side of their hut. For apparently no reason, a month or two ago, O’panié had become interested in old papers and had become convinced that the date line was not only passing on the island of Fukitupi, but even more, it was passing right through his hut, and thus might explain his apparent sudden feelings of time loss.
            Some educated people had tried to reason him, but he’d stood fast in his opinion. Sightings of rainbow bubbletons by his niece Twahissi had him convinced even further that there was the possibility to improve this technique of time-travel. For as he crossed the bedroom he could step one day forward or backward! How thrilling it all was!
            Guess only the Elders knew what he was trying to bury now…

            Mahiliki could not but agree with him, as they were giving the whole village some pleasant laughing, and he had to admit that his enthusiasm was winning him more and more people to his quest. He wondered what sweet Vera would think of all of that, Cartesian as she was…


            Beattie! called Leonora, who had just returned from an early morning walk. She had an envelope in her hand and was looking at it with a distinctly puzzled expression.

            Where did you get that? asked Bea. They had no mailbox, as there were no postmen to deliver to all the outlying cottages and smallholdings; they picked snail mail up from the post office in the village.

            Post Office isn’t open yet, where did that letter come from? Let’s have a look, Bea said, reaching her hand out. No stamp! It must have been delivered by hand.

            No stamp, Bea, but there’s a postmark! How did it ever get past the postmen with no stamp on it?

            This doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t delivered by the postman. Where did you find it, anyway?

            On the wall along the side of the lane… it was held down with a rock. The rock was a bit funny an’ all, said Leo, Now that I think of it. Didn’t look like any of the rocks round here, it had funny white markings on it.

            Bea was rummaging around in her bag for her glasses. She found them and squinted through the fingerprints on the lenses. Glass Hour, she read, 2163. Can’t be the date, 2163… wait! It says Nov 1st 2163!

            That’s ridiculous, Bea, lemme see it again. Leo frowned. I’m gonna google this here Glass Hour 2163.

            Coffee? asked Bea. But Leo didn’t hear her.


              The Glass Hour in sixty three
              Was quite an eventful spree
              Its tentacles spanned
              Over many a land
              And many a deep blue sea

              Becky wasn’t quite sure where she was now, although she was aware of the tarty nun outfit she was wearing, much to her chagrin, but still the Kuzhebarian Laughing Monk’s limericks kept popping into her head.



              I’m wondering where Irtak and the twin dragons have gone… The thought just struck Leormn.

              They’d probably been exploring the outside of the cave of these past events… But they couldn’t afford staying here for too long. Not so much because of the chilling environment of the Marshes… In fact, as soon as they had all appeared here, they’d been at first mere translucent unfocused spirits, but the longer they stayed, the more they became physical and solid here.

              Georges and Salome had wished Malvina to see something here before their departure to other ventures.
              Possibly, the twins and Irtak were part of the plan too… Not to mention Arona

              If his calculations were correct, they had a little more than a hexade left before they would be completely merged into that timeline, and after that… It would be less easy to come back…
              That would require the mediation of the Guardians.
              And all things considered, Leormn was less than enthusiast about that solution.


              It had been more than a week now that Claude had broken loose from one captivity to fall into another.
              Not that this gang of strange shape-shifting magpie beings seemed to consider him a captive, rather an impromptu host that they felt obliged to take care of. But Claude wasn’t duped one moment.

              His precedent prison on Tikfijikoo had been relatively easy to break out from, thanks to that unasked for gift of preternatural strength he had gained from the experiments he had be subjected to. Actually, had he not almost been driven mad from pain, he would have been on the loose earlier. Thank the Magpies for his recovered sanity…
              Security on the island facility wasn’t the highest and most difficult he had been confronted to. They seemed to consider the relative isolation of the island and its deadly sharp coral reef encircling it their main asset in keeping their experiments clear from outside interferences.

              Claude snapped back from his thoughts and gazed fixedly at a tender green sprout at his feet while humming a nursery rhyme. An effective trick.
              He had to be more cautious… He knew they could read his surface thoughts…
              Apparently, he could come and go as pleased him, but as he had tried to find his way back to the island facility, he had discovered that the landscape was changing each time he felt close to it. And soon enough, he was finding himself back to the hidden settlement. He knew enough to suspect his affable alien hosts of playing tricks on his mind to keep him in check. Perhaps they were even bending space around their settlement, as far as he knew…
              Not intrusive, and yet not a very different treatment from the inhumane experiments. Except he had no mummy bandages this time…

              Know thy foe so went the adage, and Claude was determined to know enough about his new captors to escape and complete his mission.
              From what he was guessing, as they had not killed him, they probably would release him (if he was lucky) as soon as their mission would be completed —a mission which was most probably the same as his own. Snatching the crystal skull he knew was there somewhere. He could sense they were after it too.
              He was wondering who had hired them to retrieve the thing. Obviously they were not from the common lot of thieves, most certainly not even from this planet, and anyone who had hired them must have been in dire need of the thing.
              He had been told by the Baron that the crystals were storing ancient vast knowledge and that accessing it had been only possible since a few decades, actually since the discovery of coherent beams of light (laser). But even accessed, the information stored remained vastly incomprehensible, and deciphering it could take another millennium without appropriate knowledge of its holographic proprieties.
              The Baron had told humanity was like a child being given a box of books on relativity… And even the mad transvestite doctor was only toying with the tip of an immense iceberg.

              Those Magpies were far more advanced, Claude could see it clearly, and he wondered how he could outdo them, if that was possible. Quite frankly he didn’t know why they had not yet retrieved it. Perhaps they were having trouble locating it too…
              That would mean he still had a head start, however short.


              A faint barking sound seemed to echo in his head… It was apparently coming from… the gnarled trunk of an old majestic tree… Whispers seemed to come from it too, like a child talking with an adult, and whispers around them…
              The tree seemed wide enough for him to enter into the biggest crack of its bark…
              Could it be one of their secret entrances and exits? There had to be coordinate points were they could get out of this warped space… What was he risking to try?


              Midora was perplexed. These books were like an open-ended uncharted territory. That territory was so vast and fractal-like in nature that each attempt at following a single thread seemed daunting. There were always details growing like a reckless plant from the entry points where she started her investigations. Badul seemed lost in this jungled maze.
              Last time she’d tried to connect, she ended up with another focus of his, a child, vaguely related to the crystal skulls hunt.

              All it requires is a proper compass to navigate the thought suddenly appeared in her mind as clear as daylight, carrying with it a trail of concepts and clusters of associated ideas.
              One in particular…
              She’d had that book of designs she’d always loved to read when she was a child. It was full of colorful symbols which were called by the authors “tiles”. The authors associated some properties to them, and she remembered one which was about a compass…
              So she had found a compass… Now, she would have to learn how to use it. The introduction of the book said:

              The tiles presented in this book all have different functions; they can be primarily understood as focal points which enhance specific uses of energy. […] As far as we know, they can be discovered in many situations, either objective events (e.g. something that catches your gaze in the street) or in the subjective (dreams, visions, inspirations etc.). In both cases, the recognition is instantaneous, as each tile carries a distinctive energetic signature which is the essence of its “function”, so to speak.
              As such, it can be used theoretically in both situations (subjective and objective), though, as far as we have explored, subjective interaction with them seem to be the easiest and most quickly rewarding way of accessing them.

              Subjective interaction, yes that was child’s play, she would have said, though she could vaguely understand why people before the Shift completed had more trouble accessing it. Objective wasn’t so difficult, once you get to the idea that it’s all one, and you can easily switch from each of the attentions used to focus on them.

              The only thing that doesn’t seem to change, she thought, is the numbering. Even when the events shuffle through the pages and reorder themselves, or even when the very energy of the event subtly changes, their numbers were the same. She could start with that.

              She cleared her mind, envisioning the compass, then took a deep breath and asked herself a question, Where do I find Badul?
              Slowly, the compass started to shift and turn, while numbers started to roll in front of her mind’s eye, and like a lottery, at each draw a number appeared, slowly revealing a number: 1-2-3-8

              She eagerly leafed through the books to find the reference. Well… that was more perplexing than ever, that seemed like a totally unrelated story.
              But now, she was not so sure about that, as she read the entry and wondered about the fact that it seemed once again different from the first time she’d read it.

              And now, she marveled as a new entry started to write itself under that one. It was the first time she actually saw an entry write itself. Those she had spotted that were not here before, she just assumed they had appeared instantaneously. But not this one… and it started to link Franiel’s and Badul’s explorations…


              When he first witnessed how the traveling portals worked, Badul had been greatly impressed. No such magic existed on Asgurdy, and even though is was supposed to be a small portal, it was greater magic than anything his imagination could have devised.
              He and his crew were so much impressed that Badul had required his small crew to settle down so that they can study further the thing. Tomkin had frowned a bit, as he was eager to continue and above all to leave this uncharted district ruled by a fierce warlord (or “governor”, as it was required to address him) in a moistly forest miles away from any living creature, but then again, Badul’s orders were not to be discussed.

              The portal was constituted of a wide circle of heavy limestones, with two crossing arched vaults made of limestones too, with smaller blue stones incrustations of various shapes tucked into round holes regularly scattered along the vaults. These smaller stones could apparently be rearranged, and Tomkin and Badul quickly figured out they were used to determine the coordinates of the various places they would be traveling to. This portal, they’ve been explained had a set of other stones, ocher and dark red ones which were not part of the traditional set of the main network on the continent. Their design was not overly displayed as the others which were left on the portal at all times. They were carried on the spot by one of the generals of the local governor, and used under strict guidelines, for fear that the parallel network would be uncovered.

              It took Badul a dozen of hexades to relinquish his fear of the unknown magic that made people disappear and reappear in thin air. He was a brave man, and that which he could see with his own eyes was no longer deemed irrational. It was very real, and he could use it. And there was no point in delaying the experience of it, as it was the only way for him to conquer his turmoil.

              So, on that fine morning of the falling season, he decided to move. Genflik Thran, the local governor, had come to appreciate the help Badul and his men had provided him in loading and unloading the cargoes of goods which were banned on various parts of the Warring Kingdoms nonetheless traded on the black market with great benefits, and occasionally escorting them to some of the nearest villages. But the deal had been made clear from the start: he would allow Badul and his men to use the network in exchange of two hexades of service. In fact, they had repaid the debt largely already.
              So he agreed to let them go on their journey and provided him and and his crew enough supply to continue their trip for quite some days. And as a token of appreciation, he allowed Badul to choose his destination, a privilege that was rarely granted, as usually people where glad to take whatever ship was about to depart.

              Badul turned to Tomkin, wondering where they could go next.
              “There are a few villages I heard of” Tomkin said after having pondered, “in the valleys down Mount Elok’ram. I heard this place is the tallest of the World, and is full of ancient powerful magic. Perhaps we can go to one of these villages, as I don’t think there is any portal on the top of the mountains.”
              “Ahaha, yes, you’re right” had smiled Genflik Thran “I’ve been heard there is a monastery on top of this mountain, but no portal unless you go in the valleys. Not that they couldn’t have built one, but they thought it would soon become too crowded and… how did they said? Yeah, unholy… with the ease of a portal access. Now, perhaps that with the new Abbott, it will change… who knows. We already have approached him, and he seems a man with a nice sense of compromise, for the good of all, ahahaha!”
              “What’s this village called?”, asked Badul
              Chard Dut Jep “ answered Genflik Thran “I have a local contact there, a witchy woman, with some sense for business too, when you’re there, ask for her, people call her Madame Chesterhope. Just don’t forget to mention you are coming on my advise, or else the bitch might reserve you a trick or two of her own, ahahaha!”.
              To Chard Dut Jep then!” cheered Badul, and his crew echoed with him.


              Irtak was following a singing path inside the Marshes.
              It was cold and windy. The air had this putrid smell that was not so unpleasant. It was adding to the dimensions he was already exploring. He wasn’t feeling the fatigue of walking in that soaked land, his attention was focused on the movement and not the obstacles.

              The twins were walking or flying, changing shape swiftly as the vibrations of the song were accelerating or slowing down, moving between all the energy currents and the lives of these Marshes. His perception merged with those of his companions, it was a completely different reality he was exploring. And these lands were straddling many dimensions, their energies intermingled with other times and spaces.

              The vibration had something similar to where they were from, but it was hidden and tenuous. The dominant harmonics were indicating to him that it was not even the same time framework and their cave was not even dug yet, not even one inhabitant had settled to create his village.

              The vibration suddenly decreased to a tiny nudging in the rear of his head… he was feeling sleepy and Heckle and Jeckle were now winding themselves on the damp floor as if for sleeping. Irtak was feeling their attention move from this regional area slightly, accessing it from another angle. He sat down and realized that though it was humid, it was also warm and soothing.

              He soon let his attention drift away, merged with these of his friends.


              The sun had just come back on the Andalusian mountains. After a day of frying sun on the beach, and showers of cats and dogs (especially dogs), everything was still for a moment.

              It’s been a few days that Yurick and Yann had arrived at Dory and Dan’s house near Gibraltar, and they were beginning to feel like fishes in water —a little bit like smoked hot pink salmons somewhat.

              Last night was full moon, and among the howling of dogs around the room, they could at times feel the presence of their friend Finn who had promised to appear as a fishnet stockings sun-glassed trenchcoated sexy spy pop-in. So far, they only had got clues as to her presence, though they got the distinct feeling she was drawing closer each passing hour.

              In any case, life was different here, slower, and peaceful. The endless trail of pyramid shaped green mountains and rocky serpentine paths seemed to be each leading to a hidden network of long-lost treasures.
              Only Flove knew what they would discover on their way to Salitre…


              What really was Salitre’s mound? For most people around this valley, who had forgotten about the old times, it was nothing more than a rocky and steep piece of earth, barely good enough for Barbary sheep and piglets.
              In fact, when you were coming from the new macadamized roads encircling the mountains, it could almost slip unnoticed. But when, like Granny Mosca, you knew the paths for having worn countless shoes walking on them, you could no longer ignore the towering presence of this place.
              For her, it was a magical realm, a doorstep truly.

              Granny Mosca was the official owner of this place, though she preferred to think of it as being the gatekeeper.
              She kept a few animals up there, and went everyday here to feed them, pacing up and down the treacherous paths despite her old age.

              Something you couldn’t really realize until you first reached the top of the mound was that the mound was at the center of the valley, giving an impressive view miles and miles around. In that land of mountains, it could be just another peak among others, but when you were here, you knew it wasn’t.
              Granny Mosca had felt it many times, this surge of energy, almost as if there were streams flowing down the surrounding slopes, up to the top of Salitre’s mound. At special times of the year, it was like you could feel the dwellers of the past moving around… At this very spot were almond trees were now growing.

              Those tourists who came a few days ago where funny. Especially the blond woman, with the high-pitched laugh who had come a few times here already.
              For sure Granny Mosca didn’t fear that they discover anything, as the place had knew how to shroud itself without her for ages, even before she was born. In fact, it was the contrary. She was willing to share some of the secrets to people daring enough and open-minded enough to crack some of these nuts of wisdom.
              The land would tell them…

              That is… unless they left the bag of almonds to the dogs…


                Ella Marie Tindale was one of the many people reported missing after the floods. Her body was never found and her husband Arthur intuitively felt that she was still alive, although he had said little to the police. They hadn’t connected the mummy’s disappearance to his wifes disappearance, but Arthur had his suspicions.

                One night a few weeks previously, Arthur heard Ella Marie talking in her sleep. She often mumbled aloud, that was nothing out of the ordinary, but Arthur had had a nasty jolt when he read about the theft of the mummy, and recalled that Ella had been talking to a mummy in her sleep. He couldn’t imagine why Ella would steal a mummy, let alone walk out on their marriage in the middle of a flood, of all things, but then, Ella had always been strange.

                Arthur Tindale sighed. He missed his wife.


                  Holy Moly, that was quite a ride! whispered a beaming Ella Marie, who had been enjoying herself immensely. The dinghy and its strange cargo drifted on the open sea, the storms passed and the ocean calm and moonlit.

                  The floodwater currents had swept them along and Ella focused on avoiding obstacles like signposts, feeling exhilarated and alive with excitement.

                  Oy, we’re in the Gulf of Mexico now! she cackled, Lordy, I wonder where we’ll end up.

                  Elioctyl grinned.


                    After a look in her mirror, Patricia M knew she was perfect.
                    Her honey blond hair was enhancing the fascinating power of her green copper gaze.
                    She pouted outrageously and put some more lip gloss on. Yes, she was highly satisfied with her appearance.
                    She stretched her short tightly fitting deep pink dress and admired her silhouette. A surge of excitation filling up her body.
                    She was ready to do her next move.

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