Seven Twines and the Dragon Heartwoods

Forums Yurara Fameliki’s Stories Seven Twines and the Dragon Heartwoods

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  • #122
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It felt as if all hell had broken loose this morning. Everyone seemed to look for their heads, and all in the wrong places.

    What he was really looking for, was his heart. Taking about other people, they used to say things like “his heart’s in the right place, you know”, as a form of apology, as if they knew what was the right place. Maybe they all were wrong, and nobody knew for sure.

    In the morning, the ginkgo trees in the lane leading to the fortified city had all started to turn to gold, glittering the path with golden flecks. Magic comes from the heart they all whispered in the cold wind telling tales of first snows. Autumn had arrived late this year, and the weather was playing all kinds of strange choreographies.

    He could do well with a bit of magic, but magic was tricky to harness these days. All the good practitioners of old seemed to have been replaced by snake oil merchants. But the trees still knew about magic.

    He had a theory, that some pockets of old magic remained, shrouded in nature, oblivious to the city-life encroachments, ever-alive and ripe for the picking. He had heard the term “area of enchantment”, and that was to him the perfect description. He knew some sweet spots, near derelict places, gently overgrown with foliage, sitting side by side with the humbums of the busy city life.
    He would ask the trees and vines there if they could help with the unusual wreckage of this morning.

Viewing 20 replies - 161 through 180 (of 222 total)
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  • #4547
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Eleri nodded off to sleep after a warming bowl of Alexandria’s mushroom soup, followed by a large goblet of mulberry wine, and woke up to the warmth of the flickering fire her friend had lit while she’d been dozing. They sat in a companionable silence for awhile, and even the little dog was silent. Alexandria smiled encouragingly at Eleri, sensing that she had things on her mind that she wished to share.

    “I had an idea, you see,” Eleri began, as Alexandria topped up her wine goblet, “To do something about Leroway. I fear it may be considered intrusive,” she said with a little frown, “but I expect it will be welcome notwithstanding. Drastic measures are called for.”

    Alexandria nodded in agreement.

    “The thing is, since I had this idea, I’ve remembered something that I’d forgotten. Hasamelis It’s all very well turning people into stone statues, but I must ensure they don’t reanimate, and there was the issue of the vengeful emotions on reanimation. Luckily that damn rampaging reanimated guy never caught up with me, and we don’t know where….”

    “Oh but we do!” interrupted Alexandria.

    “You do?” exclaimed Eleri. “Where is he?”

    “He’s behind you!”

    Eleri slopped wine all over her lap and she jumped up to look behind her. Sure enough, Hasamelis was lurking, thankfully immobile, in the dark corner of the room. Eleri looked at Alexandria enquiringly, “Is he..?”

    “Oh yes, don’t worry. He’s quite rigid and immobile again. We found the spell you see, Yorath and I.” Eleri swallowed a frisson of jealousy as her friend continued, “ Yorath got a clue from you, when you brought the bones home. I provided the missing ingredient by accident, when I spelled Hasamelis wrong.” Alexandria chuckled merrily at the memory. “I jotted down Hamamelis instead and when Yorath saw it he said that was it, the missing ingredient: witch hazel! Witch hazel and ground bones to reverse a reanimation.”

    “I say, well done!” Eleri was impressed. “But how did you administer it?” She could not imagine getting close enough to him, or him being amenable to ingest a potion.

    “We ground the bones up and mixed them with distilled witch hazel and rolled them into little balls, and then catapulted them at him. I’m not very good with my aim, but Lobbocks was brilliant. We had to run like the blazes afterwards though, because it took some time to work, but Hasamelis did start to slow down after a couple of hours. He was heading this way, to your cottage, and eventually came to a standstill right here in this room. We managed to push him into that corner, out of the way.”

    “I wonder..” Eleri was thinking. “If I immobilize Leroway into a statue..”

    Alexandria gasped, and her hand flew to her mouth.

    “If I turn Leroway into a statue, I don’t want him reanimating at all. I wonder if we incorporate the witch hazel and the ground bones into the elerium in the immobilizing process it will prevent any reanimation occurring in the first place?”

    “I think you need to speak to Yorath,” suggested Alexandria. “But where is he?”

    #4548
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “You can’t do that!” Glynis shook her head decisively and regarded Eleri sternly. “You can’t. It’s wrong.”

    Eleri had returned from her visit to Alexandria feeling buoyed and more certain than ever that something had to be done about Leroway and that she was the one to do it. She found Glynis at the dining room table pouring over her big book of spells. She hardly bothered raising her head to greet Eleri.

    Eleri was irritated — Huh, she thinks she is the only one who can do magic! — and so she had impulsively told Glynis of her plan. Now she was regretting having spoken.

    “Wrong is it! So chucking an old lady out of her home is right I suppose.” Eleri glared back at Glynis and folded her arms across her chest. True, she wasn’t sure her plan wasn’t morally flawed, but Glynis could be such a righteous prig sometimes. “And it isn’t like your stupid plan has been such a great success. Look at you there with your big book acting like you can save us all!”

    So far, the magic spell had only succeeded in altering the solidity of the cottage and from a distance it now shimmered like a mirage. They all agreed it was very pretty but not that effective in hiding the cottage from Leroway’s men.

    “I never claimed to be an expert — although i know a hell of a lot more about magic than you, Glynnis added mentally — but there is good magic and there is bad magic and even if you succeed in turning him to stone, which I actually doubt you can do ….” She immediately wished she could retrieve her words; It was like rag to a bull to tell Eleri she couldn’t do something. She softened her tone.

    “Why don’t you talk to Gorash about it. It’s nearly dark so he should be around soon. Ask him how he feels about being a statue and that’s only during the daylight hours! Imagine what it would be like to be encased in stone forever and no hope of redemption. There is no crime that deserves such a harsh punishment as that.”

    #4549
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    A deep guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
    Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the other his eyes wide open.
    Olliver had teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw had dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
    “Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
    Rukshan nodded.

    “It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo.
    She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow. It hissed and hurled back, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo started to play a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.
    It shook the group awake from their trance of terror. Everobody stood and ran in chaos.
    Someone tried to cover the fire.
    “Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan, and he himself rushed toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly. It needed something more for the magic to take the relay. Something resisted. There was a strong gush of wind and Rukshan bent forward just in time as the screen and bamboo poles flew above his head. His chanting held the sands together, but they needed to act quickly.

    Lhamom told the others to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. Fox didn’t wait to be told twice but Olliver stood his ground.
    “But I want to help,” he said.
    “You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. Not checking if the boy was following her order, she went to her messenger bag and foraged for the bottle of holy snot. On her way to the mandala, she picked the magic spoon from the steaming cauldron of stew, leaving a path of thick dark stains in the snow.

    Lhamom stopped beside Rukshan who had rivulets of sweat flowing on his face and his coat fluttering wildly in the angry wind. He’s barely holding the sands together, she thought. She didn’t like being rushed, it made her act mindlessly. She opened the holy snot bottle and was about to pour it in the spoon covered in sauce, but she saw Rukshan’s frown of horror. She realised the red sauce might have unforgivable influence on the portal spell. She felt a nudge on her right arm, it was Ronaldo. Lhamom didn’t think twice and held the spoon for him to lick.
    “Enjoy yourself!” she said. If the sauce’s not good, what about donkey saliva? she wondered, her inner voice sounding a tad hysterical. But it was not a time for meditation. She poured the holy snot in the relatively clean spoon, pronounced the spell the Lama had told her in the ancient tongue and prayed it all worked out as she poured it in the center of the mandala.
    As soon as it touched the sand, they combined together in a glossy resin. The texture spread quickly to all the mandala and a dark line appeared above it. The portal teared open. Rukshan continued to chant until it was big enough to allow the hellishcopter through.

    COME NOW!” shouted Fox.
    Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter, behind it an immense shadow had engulfed the night. It was different from the darkness of the portal that was full of potential and probabilities and energy. The Shadow was chaotic and mad and light was absent from it. It was spreading fast and Lhamom felt panic overwhelm her.

    They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it not knowing what to do with it.
    “You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
    Fox nodded unable to speak. His heart was frozen by the dark presence.
    Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward. The shaman looked at them disappear through the tear, soon followed by the shadow.
    The wind stopped. Kumihimo heard the dogs approaching. They too wanted to go through. But before they could do so, Kumihimo closed the portal with a last chord that made her lyre explode.

    The dogs growled menacingly, frustrated they had been denied their hunt.
    They closed in slowly on Kumihimo and Ronaldo who licked a drop of sauce from his lips.

    #4550
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    There was a knock at the door. It was a tentative knock, 3 small taps really, and It would have been easy to miss if Glynnis and Eleri had not lapsed into an uncomfortable silence and now sat glowering at each other across the kitchen table.

    They turned their heads towards the door in alarm, differences forgotten in light of this new threat. Nobody had knocked on the door of the cottage in the woods for such a long time.

    “It could be one of Leroway’s men”, hissed Eleri. “I wonder how they found the cottage now it is so well hidden,” she added, unable to help herself.

    Glynis went to the window by the front door and peeped out.

    “It’s an old lady,” she said in surprise

    “Could be a trick! Don’t answer it! What’s an old lady doing in the forest this hour of the evening? That’s too strange.”

    Eleri rushed to the door and put her body in front of it, blocking Glynis.

    “She looks a lot like Margoritt, only shorter,” said Glynis. “I don’t sense any danger. I’m going to open it. Get out of the way will you.”

    “Well, I sense danger actually,” said Eleri haughtily but she stood aside and Glynis opened the door carefully, just a few inches at first, peeping out through the gap while Eleri hovered anxiously behind her. A plump little lady wearing a crinkly blue suit and a hat with a bird’s feather on it stood on the front step.

    “Hello, can I help you?” said Glynis

    “Hello dear, I was starting to think nobody was home. Is this where Margoritt lives? I do hope I have the right place. I have come such a long way.”

    Margoritt is out on business at the moment. May I ask what it is you want with her?” said Glynis politely.

    “I’m her sister, Muriel, from the North. I’m sure she must have spoken of me. Do let me in, dears. It is icy cold out here. And I think I may be having one of my turns because your lovely wee house is looking ever so twinkly. It’s the migraine you know … they get me in the head ever so badly now and then. It’s the stress of the long journey I think ….”

    She took a step inside, gently but firmly pushing Glynis and Eleri aside, and entered the room, a strong smell of lavender wafting off her clothes and lingering in the air around her.

    “I am not sure where my case is … I left it in the forest I think. Perhaps one of you young things could find it for me. It was getting ever so heavy. Now, tell me your names and then if someone could make me a nice hot cup of tea, and one for themselves of course!” She laughed brightly and Glynis and Eleri joined in though they weren’t sure why. “And perhaps you could get me a wool blanket for my knees and I expect after a good sleep I’ll be right as rain.” She looked around the cottage with a small frown. “I can see I have come to the right place. I’d know my sister’s tastes anywhere.”

    #4551
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Fox popped back into existence, blind, after what felt like a very long black out. He heard a thud on the ground as he let go of the ice flute. A strong smell of decay and cold ash rendered him dizzy. He fell on his knees, threw up and cursed when the pain caused by a little stone reached his brain. It hurt.
    He rolled on the side and banged his head on a tree trunk. He cursed, grabbing his head in an attempt to contain the pain that threatened to make him faint.
    Where is the hellishcopter? he thought, confused as his hands touched the sandy ground. He tried to control a wave of panic.
    Rukshan? Lhamom?”

    Maybe I fell off the carpet during the transfer, Fox thought. But why am I blind?
    Olli?..” he tried. His voice broke off. _Where is everyone?”

    He remained prostrated. He would have been glad to hear any noise other than his heartbeat and his quick breath.
    After some time his sight came back. He would have preferred it did not. Everything was grey. The forest had burnt, and so had the cottage.
    He looked around what remained of the kitchen. His heart sank when he saw what looked like a burnt body trying to escape. He went back out and found Gorrash, broken into pieces scattered near the pergola. The stones were covered in a thin layer of grey ash. Fox cried and sobbed. He couldn’t believe what had happened.
    Where was everyone? Wasn’t he supposed to have the power of miracles? His heart ached.

    A black silhouette slid between the burnt trees.
    Glynis! You’re aliv…” Fox’s voice trailed off. He could now see the dead trees through the burka. It was only a ghost.

    She came and met him with a sad smile.
    “You were not there,” she said more as a constatation than an accusation. Still Fox felt the guilt weigh on his shoulders. He wasn’t there for his friends. The people he had grown to love. The people he called family in his heart.

    “What happened?”
    “You were not there. The monster came right after the others came through the portal. I wasn’t prepared. They counted on you and the flute. But it was too quick. It escaped and went to the village where it merged with Leroway. Eleri tried to cast her stone spell but it bounced back and she met the same end as Gorrash.”
    Fox looked at the scattered stones on the ground.
    “Once it controlled Leroway, it went into a frenzy and burnt everything. Everything. Only ashes remain.”
    Fox remained silent, unable to speak. It was his fault.

    “You have to go back,” said Glynis’s shadow. “They count on you.”
    “What?”
    The breeze blew. The ghost flickered, a surprised expression on her face.
    “Under the ashes in the kitchen, the last potion,” she said quickly. “It can turn back time. Bring the sh…” A cold breeze blew her off before she could finish.

    #4554
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The wind was playing with the fine grained ash that had been the enchanted forest and Margorrit’s cottage. Fox felt empty, he sat prostrated like an old jute bag abandoned on the ground. He was unable to shake off the inertia that had befallen on him since his arrival.
    He was caught in an endless cycle of guilt that rolled over him, crushing his self esteem and motivation until it disappeared in the ashes like his friend and the whole world.

    After a moment, his stomach growled, reminding him that he was still alive and that he hadn’t eaten that well during the last few days. His nose wriggled as beyond the decay it had caught the smell of a living creature that was passing by. He heard a crow caw.
    Fox wailed, he didn’t want to be taken out of his lamentations and self pity. He thought he didn’t deserve it. But this time, like all the others before, hunger won the battle without that much of a fight and Fox was soon on his feet.

    He looked around, there was cold ash everywhere. It smell bad, but he couldn’t really tell where it came from. It seemed to be everywhere.
    The crow landed in front of him and cawed again. It looked at him intently.
    It cawed. As if it wanted to tell him something. The black of its feathers reminded him of Glynis’s burka. Glynis. She had told him something. They count on you, as if there was still time. The last potion, cawed the crow. And it took off, only to land in what would have been the cottage kitchen. It rummaged through the ashes.
    “The kitchen!” shouted Fox, suddenly recalling what she had said. The crow looked up at Fox and cawed as if encouraging him to join it in the search.
    “The last potion that can turn back time!?”
    “Caw”

    Fox ran and foraged the ashes with the crow. He found broken china, and melted silverware. He coughed as his foraging dispersed the ashes into the air. Suddenly he shivered. He had found a bone under a piece of china. He shook his head. What a fool, it’s only chicken bone.

    “Caw”
    The raven, which Fox wondered if it was Glynis, showed Fox a place with its beak. There was a small dark bottle. He wondered why they were always dark like that. He felt a rush of excitement run through his body and he was about to open it and drink it when he saw the skull and crossbones on the label. In fact it was the only thing that was on the label. Fill with a sudden repulsion, Fox almost let go of the bottle.

    “Caw”
    “I’m not drinking that,” said Fox.
    “Caw!”
    The bird jumped on his arm and attempted to uncork the bottle.
    “Caw”
    Glynis?”
    “Caw Caw”
    She picked at the cork.
    Fox looked at the dreaded sign on the bottle. He hesitated but opened it. When the smell reached his nose he was surprised that it was sweet and reminded him of strawberry. Maybe it was by contrast to the ambient decay.
    At least, he thought, if I die, the last thing I taste would be strawberry.
    He gulped the potion down and disappeared.
    The bottle fell on the floor, a drop hanging on the edge of its opening. Certainly attracted by the sweet smell, the crow took it with his black beak. It just had time for a last satisfied caw before it also disappeared.

    #4556
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m not doing this anymore,” said Alexandria, visibly shaken. “That was terrifying, tapping into Fox like that and not being able to see. It all felt so real!”

    Jolly squeezed her friends shoulder as she stood up. “Ghastly, wasn’t it. I can’t get the stink of wet ash out of my nostrils. I think we need a stiff pomegrandy after that ordeal.” Jolly bustled about in the kitchen fetching glasses and reaching into the highest cupboard for the special liquor, glad to be focused on something mundane and familiar.

    “Still,” she said, passing Alexandria a large goblet and sitting back down, “It was a successful teletrip though. We did find useful information about the future. We should congratulate ourselves!”

    Alexandria shuddered. “Can we change it, though? Or is that time meddling and forbidden? How does that work? We can’t just carry on, as if…” a sob caught in the back of her throat. “We can’t just pretend we don’t know, and carry on as normal!”

    Jolly frowned. “I think it’s only meddling if you change the past, not the future. I think changing the future is alright though, we do it all the time, don’t we?”

    The amber nectar was warming and Alexandria started to relax. “Maybe it is a good thing, Jolly, you’re right. Pass the pomegrandy.”

    #4566
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    A strong and loud guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the others his eyes wide open.
    Olliver teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
“Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
Rukshan nodded.

    “It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo. 
She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow.

    You must remember, seemed to whisper an echo from the cave they had used for shelter for weeks. Fox dismissed it as induced by the imminent danger.


    The Shadow hissed and shrieked, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo engaged in a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.

    You must remember, said the echo again.

    Everobody stood and ran in chaos, except for Fox. He was getting confused, as if under a bad spell.

    Someone tried to cover the fire with a blanket of wool. 
“Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan before rushing toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly.

    Lhamom told them to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. 
“But I want to help,” said Olliver.
“You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. She didn’t wait to see if the boy followed her order and went to help Rukshan with her old magic spoon.
    “Something’s wrong. I’ve already lived that part,” said Fox when the screen protecting the mandala flapped away, missing the fae’s head by a hair.
    “What?” asked Olliver.
    “It already happened once,” said Fox, “although I have a feeling it was a bit different. But I can’t figure out how or why.”

    At that moment a crow popped out of the cave’s mouth in a loud bang. The cave seemed to rebound in and out of itself for a moment, and the dark bird cawed, very pleased. It reminded Fox at once of what had happened the previous time, the pain of discovering all his friends dead and the forest burnt to the ground by the shadow. The blindness, and the despair.
    The crow cawed and Fox felt the intense powers at work and the delicate balance they were all in.

    The Shadow had grown bigger and threatened to engulf the night. Fox had no idea what to do, but instead he let his instinct guide him.

    “Come!” he shouted, pulling Olliver by the arm. He jumped on the hellishcopter and helped the boy climb after him.

    “COME NOW!” he shouted louder.
 Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter and at the devouring shadow that had engulfed the night into chaos and madness.
    They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it, but this time he didn’t nod. He knew now what he had to do.


    “You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward.
    But Fox, aware of what would have come next, kept a tight rein on the hellishcarpet and turned to Olliver.
    “Go get her! We need her on the other side.”
    Despite the horror of the moment, the boy seemed pleased to be part of the action and he quickly disappeared. 
The shaman looked surprised when the boy popped in on her left and seized her arm only to bring her back on the carpet in the blink of an eye.

    “By the God Frey,” she said looking at a red mark on her limb, “the boy almost carved his hand on my skin.”
    “Sorry if we’re being rude,” said Fox, “but we need you on the other side. It didn’t work the first time. If you don’t believe me, ask the crow.”
    The bird landed on the shaman’s shoulder and cawed. “Oh,” said Kumihimo who liked some change in the scenario. “In that case you’d better hold tight.”

    They all clung to each other and she whistled loudly.
    The hellishcopter bounced ahead through the portal like a wild horse, promptly followed by Ronaldo and the Shadow.

    The wind stopped.
    The dogs closed in on the portal and jumped to go through, but they only hit the wall of the powerful sound wave of Kumihimo’s ice lyra.
    They howled in pain as the portal closed, denying them their hunt.

    #4577
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Everyone was back, safe and sound from that ghastly trip in space and time.
    Rukshan hadn’t felt the exhaustion until now. It all came down upon him rather suddenly, leaving behind its trail a deafening silence.

    For the longest time he’s been carried by a sense of duty, to protect the others that’d been guiding his every steps, acting through him without doubt or concern. But in the new quiet place they were for that instant, there was no direction.

    Riddles still abounded, and he knew too well their appeal. Knowledge and riddles seemed to go hand in hand in a devilish dance. Lila or Masti of the divine… Or just fool’s errand, enticed by the prospect of some revelation or illumination from beyond.

    There had been no revelation. The blue beams that had attracted them seemed to have come with more questions than answers. Maybe they were only baits for the naive travellers…
    Even the small crystals he’d collected from the trip, glowing faintly, apparently alive with some energy felt as though they weren’t his own riddle to solve. He left the pouch on the desk with a word for Fox, along with the other small gifts he’d left for the others: some powdered colors, a rare vial of whale’s di-henna, a small all-seeing glass orb, and a magical shawl.

    It was time for him to pack. He didn’t like it much, but his only calling at the moment was that of coming home. Back to the land of the Faes. The Blood Moon Eclipse was upon them, and there would be a gathering of the Sages in the forest to honor the alliances of Old. Surely their little bending of time and space wouldn’t have gone unnoticed at such auspicious moment. Better to anticipate their questions than being marked as an heretic.

    And he wasn’t all too sure the Shadow has been vanquished. Its thirst for the power of the Shards was strong, beyond space and time. If it were to reappear again, the Faes skills would be necessary to help protect the other Shards holders.

    “I’ll see you again my friends” he said, as he entered the center of the nine-tiled square he’s drawn onto the ground, and vanished with it.

    #4593
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    :fleuron:‪

    Konrad had to cover his brown eyes as he watched the wall collapse.
    On his left was the Tower, the one-of-a-kind creation under which the Dark Lord, Garl, swore an oath. The stone from the center fell toward the right with a soft thunk. The walls surrounding the Tower were broken apart by a flash of light.

    Konrad continued to the center of the twelve-tiled square he drew onto the floor to make his escape.

    Two or three days later, he would meet another of his patrons, the mysterious Surt, who’d come across him first. They talked about the recent events leading up to the Dark Lord having fallen, and the dark rumors that were rampant.

    ‪Surt seemed to be one of those who didn’t believe the news. This one had only heard the official stories, but was still somewhat interested. He said, “My apologies for not making the trip to the capital earlier… it was not easy to travel in such close proximity to it.” Surt explained why he came to this place, even though he had no clue on his own.

    “So what brought you here?” Konrad asked the giant.

    “Surt has something you’ll want to know about the Dark Lord’s sister Nesingwarys.” Surt explained.

    “What about her?” asked Konrad.

    “She’s a magical girl. That sort of thing. She goes to school with a little girl with some special abilities. I’ve taken a keen interest.” His eyes narrowed. “Her abilities are her own. You know, something with the potential to kill the whole school. She’ll keep you safe. You’ll become her protector and help her survive the Dark Lord. Maybe one or two times. It’s her calling.”

    “N-no-it’s not my calling!” Konrad shouted. “My calling is to protect you!”

    “Surt is well versed in her abilities, and she has her own reasons not to go down the Dark Lord’s path. She has no interest in the Dark Lord, or anything related to him.”
    Konrad replied with a tone of bitterness. “I will help her by keeping my own thoughts hidden, and not talking about it outside of the school.” Konrad walked away to go back and forth between Surt and Soren. Surt continued to watch him with curiosity.

    Soren was looking around worried, confused, bewildered.

    #4617
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Soren wasn’t the only one looking around worried, confused and bewildered.

    “What are they talking about?” Eleri whispered to Glynnis. “Where are we?”

    #4628
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Take your pills dear, you’re starting to sound like an old crone again. I think I’ve seen the little girl they speak about, Nesingwarys. She’s in the same class as Tak; with a name like this, hard to forget. Anyway, I’m also not sure what we are doing in this tavern. Wait! Now I remember” Glynnis leaned towards Eleri with an ironic smile on her face “it’s because you said you had a clue there was something fishy happening here. Always fancied yourself the knight in shiny armor, defender of the widow and the orphan, or simply enjoying sleuthing, I couldn’t really figure it out.” She stopped to catch her breath. The gin tonic from the tavern seemed to make her more prolix that she was used to.
    It was also a rare occasion for her to travel to the nearby city for other than groceries and school matter for Tak.

    They had rebuilt the cottage in the past few months, but it had been a long and painful process. Parts of it lacked convenience; the loo was still a hole in a ground in the garden. At least she was happy the back and forth trips to the blacksmith and the carpenter were over. Mostly now the joiner was a pain. He’d sent a telebat last day again that his cart had been impounded and not a few hours later, that he’d broken his hand with a hammer. She could swear he was making those excuses on the fly and meanwhile, they were all missing a modern and convenient loo. And there were only so many fragrant oils one could use…

    Glynnis!” Eleri looked alarmed. “You look like you had a bit too much, maybe we should go back.”

    “Look, now who’s the boring one! OK, OK, but before we go back, we still have this letter to deliver Margoritt in the city. Let’s go.”

    #4631
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Fox had been out hunting wild geese for their diner.
    He came back after sunset with three of them, golden. Glynis was sweeping the autumn leaves from the new terrace under the light of fireflies, an endless task. Fox handed her the golden geese.

    “They look so beautiful, and so peaceful,” she said, “look at those golden feathers.”
    “They are dead,” said Fox with a hint of bitterness. “I’m not plucking them”, he added with a frown.
    “I know”, said Glynis. She looked at him with a puzzled look. “Come closer into the light,” she asked him. The fireflies also came closer as if they obeyed her. He came, trying to keep his head down. She touched the bruises on his forehead and tsked. He shivered with pain. “You’ve been fighting again.”

    He said nothing. Instead he looked at the patio. The little rainbows were playing around Gorrash’s statue. Despite the sun being set, it was rock still. It had been broken during an attack by Leroway’s men. The shaman had tried to glue the pieces together and Fox had believed she could revive him. But it had remained still for months.

    “I miss him too,” said Glynis. “But I’m sure he’s still there inside, or the little rainbows would not stay.”
    “You know, a few months ago I would have believed you,” he started, “but it’s been months and nothing has changed.” Fox felt suddenly angry, at nothing and at everything. Anger was better than sadness or pain. But he didn’t want to hurt her so he grunted and walked into the house with the geese and without another word.

    #4632
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Sometimes, you have to go underground to uncover the truth.

    Rukshan thought it meant taking the new underground carts once only.

    Frankly, he’d preferred to travel through the familiar Shadow Maps, the ones Dark Faes like him could draw, that would give them access to a secret parallel world of mist and phantoms, shadows and secrets. It was the true world the Faes originated from, long ago, in a time before history.

    It wasn’t used much nowadays, most Centenial Faes having lost the capacity, or the interest in the place, leaving only bitter unsavoury people creeping there, spying on secrets, and trading in for favours, while being too afraid to leave the known parallel world, too afraid that if they left it, they’d lose the way back.
    For Rukshan and a few in the Queen’s lineage, the place was still more or less of a familiar dwelling, a winter residence of sorts, for when solace and retreat was required.

    Only the Shadow Maps weren’t safe any longer, something had crept along the lay lines and was lurking at every corner, keeping guard at most of the known entrances and reporting to some unknown power.

    Few moons back, Rukshan was still meditating in the Shadow world, not very far from the work at the cottage, which he could hear at times through the thin dimensional walls, when he came across Konrad. Konrad, another Fae from the Old Houses, one with a heavy secret. “I’ve hidden her from him” he told him in short broken sentences. “His daughter, Nesingwarys, she is hidden for now, but He’ll be looking for her, once He recovers, and she won’t be safe. He can’t find her, I have to protect her, she holds power to bring his reign of terror back.”

    Truly, it didn’t make a lot of sense, but it had picked his curiosity. Rukshan left the other Fae to his apparent madness, but wondered about the coincidence. That Garl, the name Konrad gave to the dark fallen monarch, according to what he could piece together, seemed to have been vanquished or disappeared about the same time they’d all managed to repel the Shadow in the Forest.

    He would usually have left it at that, but then, a few days later, started to realize something was wrong in the Shadow world, and that this very something was growing.

    “And now, I’m stuck in an underground cart crammed full of people to go to the city. And they call that progress…”

    A bearded guy smelling of piss and wine, was doing acrobatics with his crutches and what was left of his left leg. He was looking at people with a half-toothed grin and a blissful face while muttering things Rukshan couldn’t figure. His face reminded him of a thespian he’d known. Rukshan couldn’t shake the feeling there was message in that. When the underground cart dinged to announce the Grand Belfrey Station, Rukshan was relieved to finally be out for fresh air. Magnificent craftsmanship he would say to the gnomes in charge of the tunnels, but really, underground cart wasn’t his thing.

    #4640
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The City of the Seven Hills wasn’t a pleasant city by many aspects, but at any time of the year, it was a sight to behold.

    Margoritt was walking with force into the streets, a warm shawl wrapped around her head like she’d seen the nomads do in the deserts, equipped with odd dark specs she’d made herself ages ago with twisted copper wires and cut bottle bottoms blackened over the smoke of dead branches from the Ancient Forest when she’d started to stay there for her escapades over the years. She liked how the narrowed down vision from the dark specs made the reflection of the sun over the tall white buildings less blinding.

    It was the time of year where the first colds started to take the land by surprise, and it was more enjoyable to stay in the City rather than in her lodge. She was glad to let her little company of friends remain there, so she had the blacksmith make a few duplicates of the key. It was merely a symbolic gesture, after all, the front door’s lock had never worked.

    “It’s going to be the Sprites’ Summer, what a shame…” she liked to talk, but in the City, people didn’t pay much attention to each others, so she could speak to herself, and nobody would care. Sprites’ Summer was that blessed time when the Forest started to change colours and pare itself in gold before the biting colds would strip the trees down to their bare branches and bark. She loved the Forest this time of the year, but she had to come back with Mr Minn when he’d come to check on her. Her knees were painful, and she needed some needle work done on them. Only in the City could you find the best needlepractors.

    #4655
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    He didn’t like the City, but there he was again. There seemed to always be a trail of clues leading back to it, no matter how much he wanted to distance himself from it.

    Rukshan wanted to make quick thing of his mission there. Find the librarian and trade the old map that the Sages had given him during the gathering, for another one.
    His appointed quest was to find the origin of the dark force, and for that, all clues seemed to point toward the elusive Master that Gorrash said had created him.

    The Sages in the Forest had told Rukshan about how, long before, the Master was banned from the magic circle in the Forest for practicing forbidden magic. They suspected he had since been hidden in the land of the Giants. The librarian had the map that Rukshan needed in order to get there.

    “Of course” he said, looking at the worn-out parchment that the librarian had taken from a large leather binder. The land of the Giant was on no map known to man, because their land was on another plane, much like the Shadow world of the Faes. Except this one was underground, in a hollow plane under theirs, untouched by men, with only rare points where both worlds touched.

    Of course, the portal to this world was back at the center of the Forest.

    #4681
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The path ahead was blocked. Repeatedly.

    Some filter was preventing him to access the path, and move forward.

    He wished he had an oiliphant, or something equally powerful that could blast through. But more subtle measures were required. The evil that blocked his path was a different kind of monster, something built on inaction, and slow decay. One would exhaust oneself to argue with it, and moving it with force would only ensure its full and entirely focused resistance.
    Patience and proper action, in a flow like water. It was more than a magical mantra, it should be a way of life.

    Rukshan had looked at his options, and the map he found only confirmed what he had surmised so far. There were three barmkins, old defensive enclosures that hindered his way out of the Zaunoff Camp Fort, the Southern outpost leading to the safety of the Forest’s outer groves.

    Tackling the first wall would test his resolve, but he was ready. He removed his cloak, stretched his back and cracked his knuckles.

    Move like water

    The creeping ivy and catsfoot flowers started to react and whisper in the wind.

    A hole? There was a hole in the old wall, and with some chance, the plants would lead him through.

    #4682
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    He was through the first wall, but the second one was larger, further, and seemed indomitable.
    This one was built to discourage.

    Something moved and jiggled in his rucksack. An enchanted rope, of course.

    It would take a day or two to climb over and down, but with the rope, he could make it through.

    #4683
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It took him three days in total. The wall was slippery in places, and distraction was always there.
    But he was done with the second wall.

    There was a last one, the largest, encircling all, but it seemed here to confuse.
    Spores were sending whiffs of hallucinogenic compounds in the misty air.
    After a whole day, he felt like he’d gone through the same places over and over.

    Labyrinth, but in his own mind.

    He would have to think fast or risk being trapped and finish as meat for carrion crows.

    The crows
    They know the way…

    It was a leap of faith to trust the sound of the birds, but nature had no evil intent, only men had developed the skill. They only followed their nature.

    He drew a sigil on the ground, to tune in with the birds spirits.

    Moments after, he could see through their eyes. He only needed to follow their senses, and ignore his own.

    He could see there was some walk ahead of him.

    #4684
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It was done. The spell was lifted and Rukshan could see the path ahead.

    Some memories remained trapped in inaccessible places yet, but he wouldn’t need those; they were remnants from a different past.

    Now his mission was clear, he was to go back to the Forest, to gain passage to Jötunheimr, the land of Giants, and find the Master, that powerful Alchemist able to imbue life into stone. The ones that some had called Necromancer, or Dark Lord.

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