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    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    Youssef hadn’t changed a bit since they last met in real life. He definitely brought the bear in the bear hug he gave Xavier after Xavier had entered the soft sandal wood scented atmosphere of the Indian restaurant.

    It was like there’d seen each other the day before, and conversation naturally flew without a thought on the few years’ hiatus between their last trip.

    As they inquired about each other’s lives and events on the trip to get to Alice Springs, they ordered cheese nan, salted and mango lassi, a fish biryani and chicken tikka masala and a side thali for Youssef who was again ravenous after the jumpy ride. Soon after, the discussion turned to the road ahead.

    “How long to the hostel?” asked Youssef, his mouth full of buns.

    Xavier looked at his connected watch “It’s about 1 and half hour drive apparently. I called the number to check when to arrive, they told me to arrive before sunset… which I guess gives us 2-3 hours to visit around… I mean,” he looked at his friend “… we can also go straight there.”

    Youssef nodded. He seemed to have had already enough of interactions in the past day.

    Xavier continued “so it’s settled, we leave after we finish here. According to the landlady, it looks like Zara went off trekking, she didn’t seem too sure about Zara’s whereabouts. That would explain why we heard so little from her.”

    Youssef laughed “If they don’t know Zara, I can bet they’ll be running around searching for her in the middle of the night.”

    Xavier looked though the large window facing the street pensively. “I’m not sure I would want to get lost away from the beaten tracks here. There’s something so alien to the scale of it, and the dryness. Have you noticed we’re next to a river? I tried to have a look when I arrived, but it’s mostly dried up. And it’s supposed to be the wet season…”

    Youssef didn’t reply, and turned to the leftovers of the biryani.

    Despite the offering to top it off with gulab jamun and rose ice cream, it didn’t take too long to finish the healthy meal at the Indian restaurant. Youssef and Xavier went for the car.

    “Here, catch!” Xavier threw the keys to Youssef. He knew his friend would have liked to drive; meanwhile he’d be able to catch on some emails and work stuff. After all, he was supposed to remote work for some days.


    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    Rajkumar had named his car JUMPY because he said it reminded him of his mother country. He drove like they were in the chaotic streets of an Indian city. Youssef’s fist was clenched on the door handle, his knuckles white. He needed to hold on to something just as much as he was afraid of loosing the door.

    He had never been so happy as when Rajkumar stopped in front of his cousin’s shop and restaurant.

    “Just in time for the best butter chicken in all Alice Springs!” said Rajkumar, pointing to the restaurant on the left.

    Smells of greasy sauce, meat and spices floated in the air. Despite his legendary hunger, Youssef’s stomach started to protest from the recent treatment on the road. If he had had any doubt, he was sure now that he wouldn’t go on a trip in Jumpy with Rajkumar.

    “Maybe I’ll go for the scarf first,” he said.

    Rajkumar noded and pointed to the right, to a stout man squating in front of a pile of scarves.

    “This is cousin Ashish. You can’t find a better shop in town for scarves,” said Rajkumar. He high fived his cousin who looked like a giant in comparison with the short guide. They talked for a long time in what Youssef assumed to be some Indian dialect. At some point, his guide pointed a finger at him and said : “This big man is looking for a red scarf. I told him you had the best quality in town. Hand made, right from India. Ashish buys and sells the best to the best only. I have to go park the car and tell my other cousin to prepare you a meal. Best Indian food in Alice.”

    After he left, cousin Ashish showed Youssef in. At the entrance incense burned at the feet of a couple of colourful Hindu gods. The intoxicating smell reminded him of a stop at a temple during his last trip with the documentary team. The face of Miss Tartiflate jumped into his mind. He would have to take care of THE BLOG at some point, but for now, he was looking for a red scarf. The inside of the shop was as messy as a Mongolian bazaar. Clothes upon clothes, and piles of scarves everywhere.

    “Red scarves are over there, said Ashish. Follow me.”

    He was less talkative than his cousin, which was a welcome relief. He led Youssef to the back of the shop. On the wall, the portrait in black and white of an old Indian man was watching over their shoulder.

    Ashish took one long red scarf and put it around his neck.

    “You can touch, he said. Very good quality. Very light. Like you wear nothing.”

    Youssef took the end of the fabric in his hand. It felt very silky and light to the touch.

    “That’s perfect, I’ll take it”, he said.

    His phone buzzed in his pocket. He took it out and checked his messages.

    • 📨 [Quirk Land] NEW QUEST OPENED

    Looking at the time, it was already noon. Xavier must have landed in Alice already. He started to type a message to his friend :

    💬 Meet me for lunch at Todd Mall. Patel indian restaurant next to fabric shop


    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    Xavier had been drowsing in the rental car for a while, waiting for a message from Youssef. He’d stopped the aircon despite the suffocating heat, as he was starting to feel cold. And he’d started to nose dive in dreaming.

    The buzzing of his phone made him snap back to consciousness from the weirdest dream, he had to take a few seconds to adjust. The phone went into silent mode to voicemail before he got the chance to pick it up.

    Weirdest dream ever. Few hours ago, he’d been going round and round the place, trying to find a library to buy a black book, but surprisingly, even when he’d managed to find a small bookstore, there were none to sell. None with a black cover…

    He’d wondered —sometimes these quests are made to be difficult, but come on, how difficult could it be. Even a plain black-covered notebook would have been enough, but nothing!

    That’s when he’d decided to drop the search, that he dozed off in the car.

    Few images came back from the dream. First, the insane search, and books coming up in all shapes and forms, any color but black… or black but with black-and-white photos on the covers he didn’t want.

    And then, there was one. He started to open it, and all the pages were blank. As he was browsing them, looking for a clue, like a pop-out book, something came up from the middle of the pages. And it was himself, smiling back at him. The shock snapped him right back to the rather quiet street of Alice Springs.











    He turned the ignition back on as well as the aircon. Checked his message.

    • 📨 [Quirk Land] NEW QUEST OPENED
    • 1 voicemail from ❣️🐝Brytta🐝❣️
    • 💬 Youssef typing…

    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    After Youssef retrieved his luggage in Alice Springs, he was swarmed with freelance tour guides trying to sell him trips. You would buy a ticket out of any one of them just to get rid of the others, he thought. With a few hungry growls, he managed to frighten most of them, with a touch of indifference he lost the rest. Except one. A short Indian looking man wearing a red cap and a moustache. He seemed to have an infinite talkative energy at his disposal, able to erode the strongest wills. The temperature was hotter than Youssef had expected, here it was the end of summer, and he was hungry. The man started to get on his nerves.

    The list of tours was endless. Uluru, scenic bushwalking trails, beautiful gardens, a historical tour, a costumed historical tour, a few national parks, and even his cousins’ restaurant. He reminded Youssef of his own father, always offering guests (and especially his visiting kids) another fruit, a pastry, some coffee, chocolate ? You sure you don’t want any chocolate? If the man was tenacious, Youssef had had training with his father. But this man seemed to mistake silence and indifference for agreement. Did he really think Youssef was going to buy one of his tours ?

    “The ghost town! You have to see Arltunga, said the man. An old mining ghost town, certainly an American like you like ghost towns. And buried treasure. Arltunga has buried treasure somewhere. You can find it. I know where to find a map.”

    Youssef wondered if it was another one of the game’s fluke that his quest was apparently bleeding into his real life again. And if there was a map, why hasn’t the treasure been found already? He checked at the back of his mind for the presence of that crazy old lady. Nope, not there. He decided to refuse the call this time. He just wanted to get to that F…ing Fish Inn in Crowshollow and meet with his friends.

    “NO, he growled, frightening a group of tourists passing by, but not the tour operator. No ghost town! We have plenty in America.” Thinking of the game and his last challenge for the previous quest, he said in desperation : “I just want to find a red scarf!” and he knew inside himself and many years attempting to resist his old man, that the short Indian man had won.

    “If you want to find a red scarf, you go to Silk Road, said the man bobbing his head. My cousin’s shop, you find everything there only.”

    Youssef sighed. He thought there were only two ways to take it. The first one was that he had fallen into a trap and try to find a way to get out of it. But it might be sticky and uncomfortable for everyone. So he decided it was the other way around and that it was part of the game. Why wouldn’t he use this as an opportunity for adventure. Wasn’t that what Xavier always said about roads less traveled ?

    “Where is your cousin’s shop? he asked. And where’s that restaurant of your cousin’s? I’m starving.”

    The little man smiled broadly.

    “Same place. Two brothers. Shop next to restaurant in Todd Mall. You’re lucky! Follow me.”


      I told Devan in no ambiguous terms to solve his own funny riddle.

      I did try to make an effort, but that seemed a rather desperate way to catch our attention after not really caring about the family for so long.
      It was good to see him though.

      With all the activity around the coming guests at the Inn, it’s easy getting lost in the wind of activities, like the motes of dust hiding in Dido’s hair.
      The twins did a good effort though, with all the decorating and stuff. I was sincerely impressed. Been a long time since I’ve been impressed by them. Seems they may actually grow up fine. Who would have known really.

      Hormonal growth be damned, I’m feeling all sort of contradictory feelings about this.

      Like, what about hearing about our funny father after all this time.

      And Devan, who’d shut us all off, now back for a little make-over time… Or something else maybe. He doesn’t seem to realize the emotional landscape and baggage here. He’s a nice brother though.

      It’s horrible. So much contradiction – I feel some rage on the surface, lots of… and underneath so much caring it’s painful.

      So what happened to our father? Still alive? Quite possibly. I’ve had my suspicious when this strange guy posed as a friend to the twins on the social network some years back.
      I was young when he left without a note; hadn’t started to write my journals yet, so my memories of him are very little. But I remember the chaos left after him; Mater wasn’t really the same after. I think she’s burned all pictures of him, and somehow pretends they never existed.
      Idle plays it as if she doesn’t care, but I’m sure she does. She doesn’t want to let it be known, but she probably doesn’t want to hurt Mater more with this.

      God, what a family drama. Why would Devan want to unearth all of this now, at a moment we were all quiet and settled like a decent respectable family.

      It was maybe just keeping up with appearances, and the veneer was thin to start with.

      That’s in the middle of all this angst mixed with puberty that it hit me.

      Acrostic. Or ἀκροστιχίς in Greek. First verse, or first letter.

      My dad was a writer, so he liked word riddles. And the little sign was a pointer.

      >A mine, a tile, dust piled high,
      Together they rest, yet always outside.
      One misstep, and you’ll surely fall,
      Into the depths, where danger lies all.

      ATOI didn’t seem to make much sense, but I remembered how small “l” sometimes looked like a capital “I”.
      Atoll was the clue I’m sure of it. Where to disappear if not to islands.
      The letters at the end of the verses are spelling HELL. So it’s opposite.

      Basically, Atoll Paradise.

      A little Gugu search with AI, and that was it. That was our father here, with a number to call.

      Atoll Paradise
      Boat rentals – Island tours
      Copywriter, biographer
      Call FRED @ (+679) 215-7644

      Now it’ll be fair if Devan is calling me crazy. We’ll have to call and check before saying anything to Idle or even Mater for now.


        The landing on the sandy desert of Bluhm’Oxl was smoother than usual. It usually took a few minutes to get accustomed to their surrounding, the body transformations that came together with jumping across dimensions. In this case, it looked as though this dimension was quite close to their own.

        “Checking translation device…” Georges touched his ear lightly.

        Gremsbtic newkil jumbal” said Salomé in response. Georges looked quizzically at her face before realising she was pulling a classic prank.

        She laughed heartily. “That joke’s never getting old, isn’t it?”

        “Let’s walk a little in this direction, the rendez-vous point with Klatu isn’t too far.”

        “Any idea how Jorid managed to make contact this time?” Salomé asked.

        “Not sure really. Generally the quantum probability framework that’s built into the Jorid is managing to make trades across the multiverse that are quite complex to conceive or track down. Last time I tried to check, Jorid had traded one tardigrade to obtain us a couple of premium pass to the Amp’hool of Athumbra”

        “Underwater Whalets’ concert from the UniverseTour of Shakara, yes that was quite a night to remember…” Salomé reminisced fondly.

        “Fully booked for centuries, near impossible to get, and yet all it took was about a hundred of trades across multiple owners… No idea how it manages, but it found someone who was ready to trade their two front-row seats in exchange for a single Snoot’s hair.”

        “And why are we meeting this guy by the way? What’s his specialty?” Salomé winked. “You left me with the dressing duty, so happy you did all the reconnaissance.”

        Georges chucked. “all that Jorid said was: Klatu’s a relatively trustworthy Zathu, known for their expertise in dimensional magic, which is a crucial asset in your search for Léonard, presumably gone missing in the conflict-ridden Zathu sector.

        “Mmmh” said Salomé. “Dimensional magic. Rather unscientific for Jorid to express in that way. Nothing that I’ve recently dreamt about seems to relate. I guess we’ll see.”


        In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

        With a determined glint in his eye, Xavier set his sights on the slot machines. He scanned the rows of blinking lights and flashing screens until one caught his attention. He approached the machine and inserted a coin, feeling a rush of excitement as he pulled the lever.

        With a satisfying whir, the reels began to spin, and before he knew it, the golden banana appeared on the screen, lining up perfectly. The machine erupted in flashing lights and loud noises, and a ticket spilled out onto the floor.

        🎰 · 💰

        Xavier picked it up, reading aloud the inscriptions on the ticket, “Congratulations on completing your quest. You may enjoy your trip until the next stage of your journey. Look for the cook on the pirate boat, she will give you directions to regroup with your friends. And don’t forget to confirm your bookings.”

        Glimmer let out a whoop of trepidation, “Let’s go find that cook, Xav! I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for us!”

        But Xavier, feeling a bit worn out, replied with a smile, “Hold on a minute, love. All I need at the moment is just some R&R after all that brouhaha.”

        Glimmer nodded in understanding and they both made their way to the deck, taking in the fresh air and the breathtaking scenery as the boat sailed towards its next destination.

        As the boat continued its journey, sailing and gliding on the river in the air filled with moist, they could start to see across the mist opening like a heavy curtain a colourful floating market in the distance, and the sounds of haggling and laughter filled the air.

        They couldn’t wait to explore and see what treasures and surprises awaited them. The journey was far from over, but for now, they were content to simply enjoy the ride.


        Xavier closed his laptop while his friends were still sending messages on the chatroom. He’d had long days of work before leaving to take his flights to Australia, during which he hoped he could rest enough during the flights.

        Most of the flights he’d checked had a minimum of 3 layovers, and a unbelievably long durations (not to count the astronomic amount of carbon emissions). Against all common sense, he’d taken one of the longest flight duration. It was 57h, but only 3 layovers. From Berlin, to Stockholm, then Dubai and Sydney. He could probably catch up with Youssef there as apparently he sent a message before boarding. They could go to Alice Spring and the Frying Mush Inn together. He’d try to find the reviews, but they were only listed on and didn’t have the rave reviews of the prestigious Kookynie Grand Hotel franchise. God knows what Zara had in mind while booking this place, it’d better be good. Reminded him of the time they all went to that improbably ghastly hotel in Spain (at the time Yasmin was still volunteering in a mission and couldn’t join) for a seminar with other game loonies and cosplayers. Those were the early days of the game, and the technology frankly left a lot to be desired at the time. They’d ended up eating raspberry jam with disposable toothbrushes, and get drunk on laughter.

        When Brytta had seen the time it took to go there, she’d reconsidered coming. She couldn’t afford taking that much time off, and spending the equivalent of 4 full days of her hard-won vacation as a nurse into a plane simply for the round-trip —there was simply no way.
        Xavier had proposed to shorten his stay, but she’d laughed and said, “you go there, I’ll enjoy some girl time with my friends, and I’ll work on my painting” —it was more convenient when he was gone for business trips, she would be able to put all the materials out, and not care to keep the apartment neat and tidy.

        The backpack was ready with the essentials; Xavier liked to travel light.


        In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

        Youssef gave his passport and ticket to the woman at gate 11. He was followed closely by Kyle and other members of the team. The flight attendant looked at him and gave him his passport and ticket back without scanning them with her machine.

        “I’m sorry, you’re at the wrong gate. Your flight is at gate 8,” she said.

        “But I’m going to Boston. My ticket says gate 11.”

        Youssef showed his ticket to the hostess, and she pointed the destination and the gate to him. She was right.

        “Your ticket is for flight AL357 to Sydney. It’s currently boarding at gate 8. Next person please.”

        Kyle patted him on the shoulder.

        “You should have double checked your ticket, he said.”

        “What’s wrong? asked Miss Tartiflate. Why are you going to Australia?”

        “I’m not.”

        “Well, it says you are,” she said pointing at the ticket. He didn’t understand the dark intensity of her gaze and her clenched fist, until he remembered that Botty Banworth lived there.

        “I’m not… I mean…”

        “You better not. If I hear you were in with that…”

        The words got lost as they broadcasted a call for flight AL357 to Sydney at Gate 8.

        “You’d better get that f…ing BLOG running during your little vacation or you can stay there and forget about your job,” she said before bumping into the border of the gate.

        Youssef moved on the side and looked at his ticket to Sydney, puzzled. When he passed security his ticket was to Boston. He recalled a message from Zara saying she would meet them in Australia soon. But how could she have managed to change his ticket without his knowing.

        Sure there was that moment when he had left his passport with his ticket on the table at the Starmoose when going back to the counter pick his second slice of cinnamon apple tart. But he was looking away only for a few seconds.

        “This is the last call for flight AL357 to Sydney. Youssef Ali is requested at Gate 8 before we close the gate.”

        Let’s just hope whomever made the change thought about transferring my luggage to the right plane,” he said as he started walking to Gate 8 with his bag.


          I’ve always felt like the odd one out in my family. Growing up at the Flying Fish Inn, I’ve always felt like I was on the outside looking in. My mother left when I was young, and my father disappeared not long after. I’ve always felt like I was the only one who didn’t fit in with the craziness of my family.

          I’ve always tried to keep my distance with the others. I didn’t want to get too involved, take sides about petty things, like growing weed in the backyard, making psychedelic termite honey, or trying to influence the twins to buy proper clothes. But truth is, you can’t get too far away. Town’s too small. Family always get back to you, and manage to get you involved in their shit, one way or another, even if you don’t say anything. That’s how it works. They don’t need my participation to use me as an argument.

          So I stopped paying attention, almost stopped caring. I lived my life working at the gas station, and drinking beers with my buddies Joe and Jasper, living in a semi-comatose state. I learned that word today when I came bringing little honey buns to mater. I know she secretly likes them, even if she pretend she doesn’t in front of Idle. But I can see the breadcrumbs on her cardigan when I come say hi at the end of the day. This morning, Idle was rocking in her favourite chair on the porch, looking at the clouds behind her mirrored sunglasses. Prune was talking to her, I saw she was angry because of the contraction of the muscles of her jaw and her eyes were darker than usual. She was saying to Idle that she was always in a semi-comatose state and doing nothing useful for the Inn when we had a bunch of tourists arriving. And something about the twins redecorating the rooms without proper design knowledge. Idle did what she usually does. She ignored the comment and kept on looking at the clouds. I’m not even sure she heard or understood that word that Prune said. Semi-comatose. It sounds like glucose. That’s how I’m spending my life between the Inn, the gas station and my buddies.

          But things changed today when I got back to my apartment for lunch. You can call it a hunch or a coincidence. But as we talked with Joe about that time when my dad left, making me think we were doing hide and seek, and he left me a note saying he would be back someday. I don’t know why I felt the need to go search that note afterwards. So I went back to the apartment and opened the mailbox. Among the bills and ads, I found a postcard with a few words written on the image and nothing except my address on the back. I knew it was from my dad.

          It was not signed or anything, but still I was sure it was his handwriting. I would recognise it anywhere. I went and took the shoebox I keep hidden on top of the kitchen closet, because I saw people do that in movies. That’s not very original, I know, but I’m not too bright either. I opened the box and took the note my dad left me when he disappeared.

          I put the card on the desk near the note. The handwritings matched. I felt so excited, and confused.

          A few words at the bottom of the card said : “Memories from the coldest place on Earth…”

          Why would dad go to such a place to send me a postcard after all those years ? Just to say that.

          That’s when I recalled what Prune had told me once as we were watching a detective movie : “Read everything with care and always double check your information.”

          On the back, it said that the image was from a scientific station in Antartica, but the stamp indicated it had been posted from a floating post office in the North Pole. I turned the card and looked at the text again. Above the station, a few words were written that sounded like a riddle.

          > A mine, a tile, dust piled high,
          Together they rest, yet always outside.
          One misstep, and you’ll surely fall,
          Into the depths, where danger lies all.

          It sure sounds like a warning. But I’m not too good with riddles. No need to worry Mater about that, in case of false hope and all that. Idle ? Don’t even think about it. She won’t believe me when I say it’s from dad. She never does believe me. And she’ll keep playing with the words trying to find her answer in the shape of smoke. The twins, they are a riddle on their own.

          No. It’s Prune’s help I need.


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          With the flurry of activities going around, in life and virtually, Xavier had trouble keeping track.

          His sanity demanded some clarity of intention and some focus. Too many threads were open, and of all things, he didn’t like loose ends.
          Somehow that silly notion of the Golden Banana quest did pose him a nagging reminder of something incomplete he was eager to get a resolution to. That, or he was unconsciously getting annoyed at seeing his 3 friends making strides in their adventures. The pirate quest was fun enough, but he’d rather enjoy it without having to check everything against being a possible clue.

          There were no rules against cheating. The thought struck him. Maybe that was it. The simplicity of it!

          Since they made the rules, they could make them, break them, amend or bend them.

          He looked up on the internet for an image he could feed AL, and *bam* it was there! In all its glory, a gorgeous Golden Banana on a purple cushion, in a pirate chest. The reward for an online game… That was eerie!

          He’d had a sneaking suspicion the game was not just about virtual any longer. Synchronistic happenings like that were more than just random.

          He logged into the game only to discover a simple message.

          “Congratulations on completing your quest. You may enjoy your trip until the next stage of your journey.
          Look for the cook on the pirate boat, she will give you directions to regroup with your friends.
          And don’t forget to confirm your bookings.”


            Salomé: Using the new trans-dimensional array, Jorid, plot course to a new other-dimensional exploration

            Georges (comments): “New realms of consciousness, extravagant creatures expected, dragons least of them!” He winked “May that be a warning for whoever wants to follow in our steps”.

            The Jorid:  Ready for departure.

            Salomé: Plot coordinates quadrant AVB 34-7•8 – Cosmic time triangulation congruent to 2023 AD Earth era. Quantum drive engaged.

            Jorid: Departure initiated. Entering interdimensional space. Standby for quantum leap.

            Salomé (sighing): Please analyse subspace signatures, evidences of life forms in the quadrant.

            Jorid: Scanning subspace signatures. Detecting multiple life forms in the AVB 34-7•8 quadrant. Further analysis required to determine intelligence and potential danger.

            Salomé: Jorid, engage human interaction mode, with conversational capabilities and extrapolate please!

            Jorid: Engaging human interaction mode. Ready for conversation. What would you like to know or discuss?

            Georges: We currently have amassed quite a number of tiles. How many Salomé?

            Salomé: Let me check. I think about 47 of them last I count. I didn’t insert the auto-generated ones, they were of lesser quality and seemed to interfere with the navigational array landing us always in expected places already travelled.

            Georges: Léonard has been missing for 4 months.

            Salomé: you mean by our count, right?

            Georges: Right. We need to find him to readjust or correct the navigational array. Jorid, give us statistical probabilities that we can use as clues to his current potential locations.

            Jorid: Calculating statistical probabilities for Léonard’s location. It would be helpful to have more information, such as known destinations or areas of interest, to increase accuracy of probabilities.

            Salomé: Jorid is in a lazy mood it seems. I preferred her more chatty.

            Georges: You mean “him”, surely dear?

            Salomé: (rolls eyes)

            Georges: Anyway, Léonard seemed interested in archaeological finds in recent excavated tombs near the sand deserts of Bluhm’Oxl in the Zathu sector.

            Jorid: Analyzing data on archaeological finds near the sand deserts of Bluhm’Oxl in the Zathu sector. Probability of Léonard being in the area is calculated at 43%. Shall I plot a course to Bluhm’Oxl for further investigation?

            Salomé (loosing patience): Please engage your quantum capacities to access more data. We built you to be a bit more helpful than a bloody computer.

            Georges laughed: I remembered you had more patience, dear!

            Salomé: She’s in a mood today, isn’t she. What did you do to her?

            Georges (cunningly): Jorid, sweet thing, please provide more details about the area, the populations, the customs the whole gamut dammit, and potential territorial conflicts in the vicinity. And be more chatty to please Salomé.

            Jorid: Of course, I apologize for my previous responses. Analyzing data on the sand deserts of Bluhm’Oxl in the Zathu sector, including information on populations, customs, territorial conflicts and other relevant details. The area is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, with several ancient tombs and ruins attracting archaeological interest. The main population is composed of the Zathu nomads, known for their hospitality and trading skills. There are no known territorial conflicts in the area, but it is advised to exercise caution while traveling as the deserts can be treacherous.

            Georges (laughs): You can’t stop her know!

            Salomé (smiles noticing the “her”): Well, that doesn’t tell too much, does it. How shall we proceed? Need to synthetise some local clothes, or are you back to your thieving habits (pun intended)?

            Georges: Haha, always ready for a good adventure. It seems we’ll have to do some research on the ground. As for the clothes, I’ll leave that to you my dear. Your sense of style never fails to impress. Let’s make sure to blend in with the locals and avoid drawing any unnecessary attention. The goal is to find Léonard, not get into trouble.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            Put your thoughts to sleep. Do not let them cast a shadow over the moon of your heart. Let go of thinking.
            ~ Rumi

            Tired from not having any sleep, Zara had found the suburb of Camden unattractive and boring, and her cousin Bertie, although cheerful and kind and eager to show her around, had become increasingly irritating to her.  She found herself wishing he’d shut up and take her back to the house so she could play the game again.  And then felt even more cranky at how uncomfortable she felt about being so ungrateful.  She wondered if she was going to get addicted and spent the rest of her life with her head bent over a gadget and never look up at the real word again, like boring people moaned about on social media.

            Maybe she should leave tomorrow, even if it meant arriving first at the Flying Fish Inn.  But what about the ghost of Isaac in the church, would she regret later not following that up.  On the other hand, if she went straight to the Inn and had a few days on her own, she could spend as long as she wanted in the game with nobody pestering her.   Zara squirmed mentally when she realized she was translating Berties best efforts at hospitality as pestering.

            Bertie stopped the car at a traffic light and was chatting to the passenger in the next car through his open window.  Zara picked her phone up and checked her daily Call The Whale app for some inspiration.

            Let go of thinking.

            A ragged sigh escaped Zara’s lips, causing Bertie to glance over. She adjusted her facial expression quickly and rustled up a cheery smile and Bertie continued his conversation with the occupants of the other car until the lights changed.

            “I thought you’d like to meet the folks down at the library, they know all the history of Camden,” Bertie said, but Zara interrupted him.

            “Oh Bertie, how kind of you!  But I’ve just had a message and I have to leave tomorrow morning for the rendezvous with my friends. There’s been a change of plans.”  Zara astonished herself that she blurted that out without thinking it through first.   But there. It was said. It was decided.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            Given the new scenery unfolding in front of him, it was time for a change into more appropriate garments.

            Luckily, the portal he’d clicked on came with some interesting new goodies. Xavier skimmed over some of the available options, until he found an interesting pair of old boots.

            Looking at the old worn leather boots that had appeared in Xavier’s bag, he felt they would be quite appropriate, and put them on.

            The changes were subtle, but Xavier already felt more in character with the place.
            Suddenly a capuchin monkey jumped on his shoulder and started to pull his ear to make it to the casino boat.

            The too friendly, potentially mischievous pickpocketing monkey seemed a bit of a trope, but Xavier found the creature endearing.

            “Let’s go then! Seems like this party is waiting for us.” he said to the excited monkey.

            He jumped into one of the dinghy doing the rounds to the boat with some of the customers.

            “Ahoy there, matey!” a rather small man with a piercing blue eye and massive top hat said, giving Xavier a sideways glance. He had an eerie presence and seemed very imposing for such a small frame. “The name’s Sproink, and ye be a first-timer, I see.” he said as a casual matter of introduction.

            “Nice to meet you sir” Xavier said distractedly, as he was taking in all the details in the curious boat lit by lanterns dangling in the soft wind.

            “Yer too polite for these parts, me friend,” Sproink guffawed. “But have no fear, Sproink’s got yer back.” He winked at the capuchin, Xavier couldn’t help but notice, and suddenly realised that the monkey truly belonged to Sproink.

            “No need to check yer pockets, matey” Sproink smiled “I have me sights set on far more interesting game than yer trinkets.” He handed him back some of the stuff that the capuchin had managed to spirit away unnoticed. “But watch yerself, matey. Not all the folk here be what they seem.”

            “Point taken!”  Xavimunk was indeed a bit too naive, but if anything, that’d often managed to keep him out of trouble. As the small wiry guy left with his bag of tricks in a springy gait, he turned to check his shoulder, and the monkey had disappeared somewhere on the boat too. Xavier was left wondering if he’d see more of him later.



            “Welcome, welcome, me hearties!” a buxom girl of large stature with a baroque assortment of feathers and garish colours was a the entrance chewing on a straw, and looking as though the place belonged to her. But there was something else, she was too playing a part, and didn’t seem from here.

            She leaned conspiratorially towards Xavier, and dragged him in a corner.

            “Yer a naughty monkey, ignoring me prompts,” she said. “Was I too discrete, or what?”

            “Wait, what?” Xavier was confused. Then he remembered the strange message. “Wait a minute… you’re Glimble… something, with unicorns shit or something?” He didn’t have time to entertain the young geek gamers, they were too immature, and well… a lot more invested in the game than he was, they would often turn seriously creepy.

            “Oi, come on now!” she raised her hands and shook herself violently. She had turned into a different version of herself. “Now, is it better? It’s true, them avatars easily turn into ava-tarts if you ask me. But you can’t deny a lady a bit o’ comfort with a wrinkle filter. They went a bit overboard with this one, if you ask me.”

            “Let’s start again. Glimmer Gambol, and nice to meet you young man.”


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            Have you booked your flight yet?  Zara sent a message to Yasmin. I’m spending a few more days in Camden, probably be at the Flying Fish Inn by the end of the week.

              :yahoo_rolling_eyes: :yahoo_rolling_eyes:    I told you already when my flight is, Air Fiji, remeber?  bloody Sister Finnlie on my case all the time, haven’t had a minute. Zara had to wait over an hour for Yamsin’s reply.

            Took you long enough to reply. Zara replied promptly. Heard nothing from Youssef for ages either, have you heard from him? I’ll be arriving there on my own at this rate.

            :yahoo_rolling_eyes:   Not a word, I expect Xavier’s booked his but he hasn’t said.  Probably doing his secret monkey thing.

            Have you tried the free roaming thing on the game yet?

            :yahoo_rolling_eyes:    I just told you Sister Finnlie hasn’t given me a minute to myself, she’s a right tart! Why, have you?

            Yeah it’s amazing, been checking out the Flying Fish Inn. Looks a bit of a dump. Not much to do around there, well not from what I can see anyway.  But you know what?

            :yahoo_rolling_eyes:   What?

            You’ll lose your eyes in the back of your head one day and look like that AI avatart with the wall eye.  Get this though: we haven’t started the game yet, that quest for quirks thing, I was just having a roman around ha ha typo having a roam around see what’s there and stuff I don’t know anything about online games like you lot and I ended up here.  Zara sent a screenshot of the image she’d seen and added:   Did I already start the game or what, I don’t even know how we actually start the game, I was just wandering around….oh…and happened to chance upon this…


            Zaras Game

            :yahoo_rolling_eyes:   How rude to start playing before us

            I didn’t start playing the game before you, I just told you, I was wandering around playing about waiting for you lot!   Zara thought Yasmin sounded like she needed a holiday.

            :yahoo_rolling_eyes:    Yeah well that was your quest, wasn’t it? To wander around or something?  What’s that silver chest on her back?

            I dunno but looks intriguing eh maybe she’s hidden all her devices and techy gadgets in an antiquey looking box so she doesn’t blow her cover

            Gotta go Sister Finnlie’s coming

            Zara muttered how rude under her breath and put her phone down.  She’d retired to her bedroom early, telling Bertie that she needed an early night but really had wanted some time alone to explore the new game world.  She didn’t want to make mistakes and look daft to her friends when the game started.

            “Too late for that”, Pretty Girl said.

            “SSHHH!” Zara hissed at the parrot. “And stop reading my mind, it’s disconcerting, not to mention rude.”

            She heard the sound of the lavatory flush and Berties bedroom door closing and looked at the time. 23:36.

            Zara decided to give him an hour to make sure he was asleep and then sneak out and go back to that church.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            In the muggy warmth of the night, Yasmin tossed and turned on her bed. A small fan on the bedside table rattled noisily next to her but did little to dispel the heat. She kicked the thin sheet covering her to the ground, only to retrieve it and gather it tightly around herself when she heard a familiar sound.

            “You little shit,” she hissed, slapping wildly in the direction of the high pitched whine.

            She could make out the sound of a child crying in the distance and briefly considered  getting up to check before hearing quick footsteps pass her door. Sister Aliti was on duty tonight. She liked Sister Aliti with her soft brown eyes and wide toothy smile — nothing seemed to rattle her.  She liked all the Nuns, perhaps with the exception of Sister Finnlie.

            Sister Finnlie was a sharp faced woman who was obsessed with cleanliness and sometimes made the children cry for such silly little things … perhaps if they talked too loudly or spilled some crumbs on the floor at lunch time. “Let them be, Sister,” Sister Aliti would admonish her and Sister Finnlie would pinch her lips and make a huffing noise.

            The other day, during the morning reflection time when everyone sat in silent contemplation, Yasmin had found herself fixated on Sister Finnlie’s hands, her thin fingers tidily entwined on her lap. And Yasmin remembered a conversation with her friends online about AI creating a cleaning woman with sausage fingers. “Sometimes they look like a can of worms,” Youssef had said.

            And, looking at those fingers and thinking about Youssef and the others and the fun conversations they had, Yasmin snort laughed.

            She had tried to suppress it but the more she tried the more it built up inside of her until it exploded from her nose in a loud grunting noise. Sister Aliti had giggled but Sister Finnlie had glared at Yasmin and very pointedly rolled her eyes. Later, she’d put her on bin cleaning duty, surely the worst job ever, and Yasmin knew for sure it was pay back.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            The team had to stop when a sandstorm hit them in the middle of the desert. They only had an hour drive left to reach the oasis where Lama Yoneze had been seen last and Miss Tartiflate insisted, like she always did, against the guides advice that they kept on going. She feared the last shaman would be lost in the storm, maybe croak stuffed with that damn dust. But when they lost the satellite dish and a jeep almost rolled down a sand dune, she finally listened to the guides. They had them park the cars close to each other, then checked the straps and urged everyone to stay in their cars until the storm was over.

            Youssef at first thought he was lucky. He managed to get into the same car as Tiff, the young intern he had discussed with the other day. But despite all their precautions, they couldn’t stop the dust to come in. It was everywhere and you had to kept your mouth and eyes shut if you didn’t want to grind your teeth with fine sand. So instead he enjoyed this unexpected respite from his trying to save THE BLOG from the evil Thi Gang, and from Miss Tartiflate’s continuous flow of criticism.

            The storm blew off the dish just after Xavier had sent him AL’s answer to the strange glyphs he had received on his phone. When Youssef read the message, he sighed. He had forgotten hope was an illusion. AL was in its infancy and was not a dead language expert. He gave them something fitting Youssef’s current location and the questions about famous alien dishes they asked him last week. It was just an old pot luck recipe from when the Silk Road was passing through the Gobi desert. He just hoped Xavier would have some luck until Youssef found a way to restore the connexion.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            Zara was long overdue for some holiday time off from her job at the Bungwalley Valley animal rescue centre in New South Wales and the suggestion to meet her online friends at the intriguing sounding Flying Fish Inn to look for clues for their online game couldn’t have come at a better time.  Lucky for her it wasn’t all that far, relatively speaking, although everything is far in Australia, it was closer than coming from Europe.  Xavier would have a much longer trip.  Zara wasn’t quite sure where exactly Yasmin was, but she knew it was somewhere in Asia. It depended on which refugee camp she was assigned to, and Zara had forgotten to ask her recently. All they had talked about was the new online game, and how confusing it all was.

            The biggest mystery to Zara was why she was the leader in the game.  She was always the one who was wandering off on side trips and forgetting what everyone else was up to. If the other game followers followed her lead there was no telling where they’d all end up!

            “But it is just a game,” Pretty Girl, the rescue parrot interjected. Zara had known some talking parrots over the years, but never one quite like this one. Usually they repeated any nonsense that they’d heard but this one was different.  She would miss it while she was away on holiday, and for a moment considered taking the talking parrot with her on the trip.  If she did, she’d have to think about changing her name though, Pretty Girl wasn’t a great name but it was hard to keep thinking of names for all the rescue creatures.

            After Zara had done the routine morning chores of feeding the various animals, changing the water bowls, and cleaning up the less pleasant aspects of the job,  she sat down in the office room of the rescue centre with a cup of coffee and a sandwich.  She was in good physical shape for 57, wiry and energetic, but her back ached at times and a sit down was welcome before the vet arrived to check on all the sick and wounded animals.

            Pretty Girl flew over from the kennels, and perched outside the office room window.  When the parrot had first been dropped off at the centre, they’d put her in a big cage, but in no uncertain terms Pretty Girl had told them she’d done nothing wrong and was wrongfully imprisoned and to release her at once. It was rather a shock to be addresssed by a parrot in such a way, and it was agreed between the staff and the vet to set her free and see what happened. And Pretty Girl had not flown away.

            “Hey Pretty Girl, why don’t you give me some advice on this confusing new game I’m playing with my online friends?” Zara asked.

            “Pretty Girl wants some of your tuna sandwich first,” replied the parrot.  After Zara had obliged, the parrot continued at some surprising length.

            “My advice would be to not worry too much about getting the small details right. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the creative process.  Just give me a bit more tuna,”  Pretty Girl said, before continuing.

            “Remember that as a writer, you have the power to shape the story and the characters as you see fit. It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to not know everything. Allow yourself to be inspired by the world around you and let the story unfold naturally. Trust in your own creativity and don’t be afraid to take risks. And remember, it’s not the small details that make a story great, it’s the emotions and experiences that the characters go through that make it truly memorable.  And always remember to feed the parrot.”

            “Maybe I should take you on holiday with me after all,” Zara replied. “You really are an amazing bird, aren’t you?”


            Zara and Pretty Girl Parrot


            In reply to: Prompts of Madjourneys


              [Following the last comment] Fed the AL this context:

              1. “A gripshawk is feline-like anthropomorphic creature living in the deserts in a fiction written by Yurara Fameliki. It is the least favorite character to pick by Zara who doesn’t like “fantasy stuff”.
              2. The “Flying Fish Inn” is a fictional (or maybe real) Inn set in the Australian outback, owned by a family headed by the matriarch Mater and involved in many adventures, sometimes surnatural.
              3. AL” is an AI build with Al’s persona (Albert Yokozo being a famous author, possibly a nom de plume of the mysterious Ernrich Lemwon) – it is known as Calli in another story.

              Please continue the story unfolding here:

              “Yeah, I’m not a fan of fantasy stuff either,” Youssef added, agreeing with Zara. “But I’m curious about the Flying Fish Inn and how it relates to the game. Maybe we should check it out and see if there are any clues there.”

              “That’s a good idea,” Yasmin said. “I’ve heard the stories about the Inn and the adventures the family has had there. Some of them are quite intriguing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a connection to our game.”

              “I’m not sure about the AI,” Xavier said. “It’s still a mystery to me, but I trust AL will guide us in the right direction. I’m curious to see where this all leads.”

              “Alright, let’s plan a trip to the Flying Fish Inn,” Zara said, excitedly. “We’ll take a break from the game for a few days, but we’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and new insights. Who knows, maybe we’ll even find some quirky guests along the way.”

              As they were discussing their plans, they all felt a sense of excitement and curiosity about what the future holds for them. The game and the world of the Land of the Quirks had captured their imagination and they were eager to see where it would lead them next.


              In reply to: The Sexy Wooden Leg

              Olek wished he wasn’t so easy to find.

              The old caretaker of the shrine of Saint Edigna couldn’t have chosen a less conspicuous place to live in this warring time. People were flocking from afar, more and more each day drawn about by the ancient place, and the sacred oil bleeding linden tree which had suddenly and quite miraculously resumed its flow in the midst of the ambiant chaos started by the war.

              It wasn’t always like this. A few months ago, the linden tree was just an old linden tree that may or may not have been miraculous, if the old wifes’ tales were to be trusted. Mankind’s memory is a flimsy thing as it occurs, and while for many generations before, speculations had abounded about whether or not the Saint was real, had such or such filiation, et cætera— it now seemed the old tales that were passed down from mother to children had managed to keep alive a knowledge that had but all dried up on old flaky parchments scribbled in pale inks that kept eluding old scholars’ exegesis.

              Olek himself wasn’t a learned man. A man of faith, he was a little — more by upbringing than by choice, and by slow attunement to nature it would seem. Over the years, he’d be servicing the country in many ways, and after a rather long carrier started at young age, he had finally managed to retire in this place.
              He thought he’d be left alone, to care for a little garden patch, checking in from times to times on the old grumpy neighbours, but alas, the Holy Nation’s destiny still had something in store for him.

              The latest pilgrim family had brought a message. It was another push to action. “Plan acceleration needs to happen”.
              “What clucking plan again?” was his first reaction. Bad temper had a way of flaring right up his vents as in old times. When he’d calmed down, he wondered if he had ever seen a call for slowing down in his life. People were always so busy mindlessly carting around, bumping into the darkness.

              He smiled thinking of something his old man used to say. He’d never planned for a thing in his life, and was always very carefree it was often scary. His mantra was “People are always getting prepared for the wrong things. They never can prepare for the unexpected, and surely enough, only the unexpected happens.”
              That sort of chaos paddling approach to life didn’t seem to bring him any sort of extraordinary success, and while he had the same mixed bag of ups and downs as the rest of his compatriots, just so much less did he suffer for the same result! Olek guessed that was the whole point, even if he really couldn’t accept it until much later in life.

              Maybe Olek would start playing by his father’s book. Until he could find a way to get lost behind enemy lines.


                The Hair’s and Leedham’s of Netherseal


                Samuel Warren of Stapenhill married Catherine Holland of Barton under Needwood in 1795. Catherine’s father was Thomas Holland; her mother was Hannah Hair.

                Hannah was born in Netherseal, Derbyshire, in 1739. Her parents were Joseph Hair 1696-1746 and Hannah.
                Joseph’s parents were Isaac Hair and Elizabeth Leedham.  Elizabeth was born in Netherseal in 1665.  Isaac and Elizabeth were married in Netherseal in 1686.

                Marriage of Isaac Hair and Elizabeth Leedham: (variously spelled Ledom, Leedom, Leedham, and in one case mistranscribed as Sedom):


                1686 marriage Nicholas Leedham


                Isaac was buried in Netherseal on 14 August 1709 (the transcript says the 18th, but the microfiche image clearly says the 14th), but I have not been able to find a birth registered for him. On other public trees on an ancestry website, Isaac Le Haire was baptised in Canterbury and was a Huguenot, but I haven’t found any evidence to support this.

                Isaac Hair’s death registered 14 August 1709 in Netherseal:

                Isaac Hair death 1709


                A search for the etymology of the surname Hair brings various suggestions, including:

                “This surname is derived from a nickname. ‘the hare,’ probably affixed on some one fleet of foot. Naturally looked upon as a complimentary sobriquet, and retained in the family; compare Lightfoot. (for example) Hugh le Hare, Oxfordshire, 1273. Hundred Rolls.”

                From this we may deduce that the name Hair (or Hare) is not necessarily from the French Le Haire, and existed in England for some considerable time before the arrival of the Huguenots.

                Elizabeth Leedham was born in Netherseal in 1665. Her parents were Nicholas Leedham 1621-1670 and Dorothy. Nicholas Leedham was born in Church Gresley (Swadlincote) in 1621, and died in Netherseal in 1670.

                Nicholas was a Yeoman and left a will and inventory worth £147.14s.8d (one hundred and forty seven pounds fourteen shillings and eight pence).

                The 1670 inventory of Nicholas Leedham:

                1670 will Nicholas Leedham


                According to local historian Mark Knight on the Netherseal History facebook group, the Seale (Netherseal and Overseal)  parish registers from the year 1563 to 1724 were digitized during lockdown.

                via Mark Knight:

                “There are five entries for Nicholas Leedham.
                On March 14th 1646 he and his wife buried an unnamed child, presumably the child died during childbirth or was stillborn.
                On November 28th 1659 he buried his wife, Elizabeth. He remarried as on June 13th 1664 he had his son William baptised.
                The following year, 1665, he baptised a daughter on November 12th. (Elizabeth) On December 23rd 1672 the parish record says that Dorithy daughter of Dorithy was buried. The Bishops Transcript has Dorithy a daughter of Nicholas. Nicholas’ second wife was called Dorithy and they named a daughter after her. Alas, the daughter died two years after Nicholas. No further Leedhams appear in the record until after 1724.”

                Dorothy daughter of Dorothy Leedham was buried 23 December 1672:




                William, son of Nicholas and Dorothy also left a will. In it he mentions “My dear wife Elizabeth. My children Thomas Leedom, Dorothy Leedom , Ann Leedom, Christopher Leedom and William Leedom.”

                1726 will of William Leedham:

                1726 will William Leedham


                I found a curious error with the the parish register entries for Hannah Hair. It was a transcription error, but not a recent one. The original parish registers were copied: “HO Copy of ye register of Seale anno 1739.” I’m not sure when the copy was made, but it wasn’t recently. I found a burial for Hannah Hair on 22 April 1739 in the HO copy, which was the same day as her baptism registered on the original. I checked both registers name by name and they are exactly copied EXCEPT for Hannah Hairs. The rector, Richard Inge, put burial instead of baptism by mistake.

                The original Parish register baptism of Hannah Hair:

                Hannah Hair 1


                The HO register copy incorrectly copied:

                Hannah Hair 2

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