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  • EricEric
    Keymaster

    This year, Christmas has come a month early for Clara.

    VanGogh, her Malinois with the lopsided ear had dug a hole in the garden of Grandpa’s home in the countryside. She usually wouldn’t have given it second thought, but the hole was big this time, and the dog unusually excited. Looking at it, that’s when she noticed the shiny corner of what seemed to be a very large metal box.

    There was something buried there, apparently since a long time. Her archaeologist senses were all tingly. What, why, how, and how far back in time could she go… She couldn’t wait to tell the others.

    #6123

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Did someone say drinks are on the house?” asked Rosamund, pushing past the burly bouncer as she entered the pub.  “What’s your name, handsome?”

    “Percival,” the bouncer replied with a wry grin.  “Yeah I know, doesn’t fit the image.”

    Rosamund looked him up and down while simultaneously flicking a bit of food from between her teeth with a credit card.  “I keep forgetting to buy dental floss,” she said.

    “Is that really necessary?” hissed Tara. “Is that moving the plot forward?”

    “Careful now,” Star said, “Your Liz is showing.”

    “I’ll be away for a while on an important mission,” Rosamund said to Percival, “But give me your number and I’ll call you when I get back.”

    “The trip is cancelled, you’re not going anywhere,” Star told her, “Except to the shop to buy dental floss.”

    “Will someone please tell me why we’re talking about dental floss when we have this serious case to solve?” Tara sounded exasperated, and glared at Rosamund.  What a brazen hussy she was!

    “I’m glad you mentioned it!” piped up a middle aged lady sitting at the corner table. “I have run out of dental floss too.”

    “See?” said Rosamund.  “You never can tell how helpful you are when you just act yourself and let it flow.  Now tell me why I’m not going to New Zealand? I already packed my suitcase!”

    “Because it seems that New Zealand has come to us,” replied Star, “Or should I say, the signs of the cult are everywhere.  It’s not so much a case of finding the cult as a case of, well finding somewhere the cult hasn’t already infected.  And as for April,” she continued, “She changes her story every five minutes, I think we should ignore everything she says from now on. Nothing but a distraction.”

    “That’s it!” exclaimed Tara. “Exactly! Distraction tactics!  A well known ruse, tried and tested.  She has been sent to us to distract us from the case. She isn’t a new client. She’s a red herring for the old clients enemies.”

    “Oh, good one, Tara,” Star was impressed. Tara could be an abusive drunk, but some of the things she blurted out were pure gold.  Or had a grain of gold in them, it would be more accurate to say. A certain perspicacity shone through at times when she was well lubricated.  “Perhaps we should lock her back in the wardrobe for the time being until we’ve worked out what to do with her.”

    “You’re right, Star, we must restrain her….oy! oy!  Percival, catch that fleeing aunt at once!”  April had made a dash for it out of the pub door.  The burly bouncer missed his chance. April legged it up the road and disappeared round the corner.

    “That’s entirely your fault, Rosamund,” Tara spat, “Distracting the man from his duties, you rancid little strumpet!”

    “Oh I say, that’s going a bit far,” interjected the middle aged lady sitting at the corner table.

    “What’s it got to do with you?” Tara turned on her.

    “This,” the woman replied with a smugly Trumpish smile. She pulled her trouser leg up to reveal a bell bird tattoo.

    “Oh my fucking god,” Tara was close to tears again.

    #6073

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The words of the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe were still resonating in the back of Gavin’s mind. The promotion to Operating Tomathetan seemed a great honour on the surface, but it certainly brought its lot of responsibilities with it. And from what he had seen before, it would only add to his current ones.

    Gavin descended the Pealgrim path to the Dark Room where all the sorting happened. Many trails from the many carrot fields combined into one and all led to that central building all painted in black, hence its name.

    A zealous Seed level had recently been put in charge of the re-painting. As there was only black paint in the warehouse he had the genius idea to save the order some money by using only what they already had, and as there was enough paint he covered all the windows, certainly thinking light could damage the crops. Repainting everything was out of the question so they had kept it like that and just added some artificial light to help the workers. Great Leader Undisputed Gabe, had thought it was a nice initiative as now workers could work any hour of the day.

    When Gavin entered the Dark Room, it reeked of carrot and sweat. Members of the cult of all ages were sorting the divine roots by shapes, sizes and thickness. Most of them didn’t know what was the final purpose, innocent minds. All they had was the Sorting Song written by Britta the one legged vestal to help her fellow cultshipers in their work.

    If a carrot is short, not worth the effort
    As a long stalactites, like ice on your tits
    A bar thick as a fist, you’ve just been blissed

    Each verse gave advices about what they were looking for, where to put them after sorting and each team had their own songs that they sang while doing their work with the enthusiasm of cultshipers. Even though the song had been crafted to answer most of the situations in terms of carrot shapes, sizes and thickness, it happened that some would not fit into any categories. And recently, those seem to happen more often than once and the pile of misshapen carrots threaten to exceed that of the others combined.

    “Eugene, Have you found what is the problem?” asked Gavin to their agronomist. His surname was Carrot and he came from noble Irish descent, quite appropriate for his work, thought Gavin. Eugene was skinny with a long neck and he often seemed to abuse the ritual fasting ceremony ending with the consumption of sacred mushroom soup.

    “It’s because of the microscopic snails that infest the crops,” Eugene said. Gavin couldn’t help but notice an accumulation of dried saliva at the corner of his mouth. “They’re carried by bird shit and they are too small to be eaten by our ducks and in the end they cause the carrots to grow random shapes unfit for Odin.”

    Odin, short for Organic Dildo Industry, has been the main source of revenue for the cult. Since the start of the confinement the demand has skyrocketed. Especially appreciated by vegans and nature lovers, it also procured a nice orange tan on the skin after usage.

    “Can’t you find smaller dwarf ducks?”

    “Your Gourdness, microscopic means very tiny, even dwarf ducks wouldn’t be able to eat them unless they eat the carrots.”

    “And that would be a problem,” sighed Gavin. “What is your solution then?”

    “I don’t have one.”

    Gavin raised his hands to the black roof in despair. Did he have to do the jobs of everyone? He needed some fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

    #5834
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Shaking, Liz wiped the egg yolk out of the corner of her eye. The beer that was gluing her hair into sticky clumps would have to wait. She flicked a half sausage off the corner of her desk with a tremulous sigh and sat down. Her noble features creased into a momentary visage of despair when she saw the bacon, but her natural stoicism corrected her expression as she picked the rasher up between her thumb and finger, removed if from her keyboard and blithely flicked it over her shoulder.

    Roberto, standing silently behind her, ducked nimbly as the greasy slab flew past.  It stuck to the French window briefly and then slithered down, leaving a snail trail of lard.

    Liz cleared her throat and looked sternly at each of them in turn.

    “What,” she said, her voice cracking, “What next? Whatever next?”

    “A whale, maybe?” asked Godfrey with a lop sided smirk.

    #5662
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk had been tracking all of it. He’d done a nice map of all the location the both of  them had travelled, with little animated pins for the dolls they’d collected.

    It was a bit difficult to get them all to focus, and by them he didn’t mean the pins.

    After Shawn-Paul and Maeve had come back home, their little lives at the building had resumed with some slight changes. For one, he’d finally realized through some fine deductive work worthy of Sherlock that Maeve was the one behind the dolls postings on his website. He was finally sure after a firewall update got her locked out of the website and she requested to get back in. Anyways, that made things easier, although they still mostly exchanged and discussed though the website despite them being front door neighbours on the same floor. But the arrangement was convenient, especially since Shawn-Paul had kind of unofficially moved in with her and Fabio.

    He’d invited them in Lucinda’s apartment to do a little old fashioned slide show  —Lucinda’s apartment was bigger he’d argued; and all the funny collection of paraphernalia she’d gathered on the walls and cabinets tops was always great to set the mood or do an improvised theme party. For sure, it didn’t have anything to do with the fact he wouldn’t need to clean up and push all the mess in the corners of his own apartment.

    Lucinda was all excited. And not just by her new boyfriend Jasper. She wanted to make a book about their expedition, and everybody had immediately rolled their eyes. Books in this century, she must be the last one dinosaur raving about books.

    The slide show started by the end. Where the dolls all ended up finally. La Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico: the Island of Dolls.

    That’s when they were all appreciating the fitting finish line that the door bell rang.

    Uncle Fergus?!” Maeve was incredulous; it was months they weren’t in contact.

    “I’m here for Jasper.” he said ominously.

    #5582
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Glynis noticed the fae’s hands. They were trembling. It was so faint nobody had noticed, but she had trained her eyes to that sort of things.

    “Not now,” she said, looking at everyone. “He just arrived and we didn’t give him the time to rest and feel welcomed.” She turned to Rukshan. “My friend, forgive our rudeness. Come to the kitchen where I’ve made my famous chard and chicken gratin.”

    Everyone could see the relief on Rukshan’s face. A burden, that they all have been unaware of, seemed to lift a bit from his shoulders and a small tear appeared at the corner of his eye.

    “Maybe he can take a bath before going to the kitchen,” said Fox whose nose was wiggling. They all laugh.

    “Go prepare the bath,” Glynis said, “I’ll feed him before he faints.”

    “And maybe afterward he can tell us his story in the land of Giants,” said Eleri hopefully. She seemed to have forgotten her ankle.

    “Of course, we’ll do all that,” said Glynis. Then she pointed at the blocks on the floor. “Our friend here have plenty of time. A few millenia. Now, chop chop! leave our guest be.”

    #5049
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Bert tells me it’s new years eve today.  Looking forward to the champagne and fireworks I said to him. Joking of course.  The wonder is that I even remembered what such things were.  Bert looked sharply at me then, bit strange it was.  Then he relaxed a bit and had a peculiar secretive smile on his face.  Of course that’s easy to say in retrospect, that he had a secretive smile on his face. But little did I know at the time.

    I’d been in the doldrums ever since that hot air balloon thing didn’t materialize into anything. I told Bert about it, and he went off down to the Brundy place, gone ages he was,  and came back saying it was nothing.  He had an odd spring in his step though which puzzled me a bit at the time, but I was so deflated after the excitement of thinking something might actually happen for a change, and when it didn’t, well, I couldn’t be bothered to think about Bert acting funny.

    When Bert had a shower and asked me to iron ~ iron, I ask you! ~ his best shirt, I was more depressed than ever. If Bert goes mad as well, then where will we be? I was already wondering if I’d started hallucinating and if that was a sign of madness.  I’d been catching glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye all week.  I’d even heard stifled giggles.  It was unnerving, I tell you.

    When Bert suggested I have a shower as well, and asked if I still had that red sequinned dress I started to worry.  What was he thinking? Then ~ get this ~ he asked if I had red knickers on.

    Bert! I said, aghast.

    He mumbled something about it being a tradition in Spain to wear red underpants on new years eve, and surely I hadn’t forgotten?

    I gently reminded him that we weren’t in Spain, and he said, You’re damn right this isn’t Kansas anymore, hooted with laughter, and fairly skipped out of the room.

    I sat there for a bit pondering all this and then thought, Hell, why not? Why not wear red knickers and that old red sequinned dress?  Why not have a shower as well?

    And much to my surprise I found I was humming a song and smiling to myself as I went to find that old red dress.

    #4869

    In reply to: Coma Cameleon

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Tibu preferred selling second hand books to selling watches, for he could read them while waiting for customers instead of watching the minutes and hours tick by. Maybe that’s why they called them “watches”, he thought, because if you have one, you watch it. Too much, it would seem.

    He was reading “The Perilous Treks of Lord Gustard Willoughby Ferguson” while sheltering from the pounding rain, huddled in the corner of an office building porch with a few dozen books piled onto an old blue blanket. He rarely sold any books, but passing strangers kindly brought him a coffee in a take away cup from time to time, or a sandwich or burger. The more thoughtful ones dropped some money into the upturned bowler hat that he’d found in the bin, so that he could choose tea, which he preferred, or some fruit, which he preferred to burgers. One of the regular office girls, a fresh faced young looking redhead, brought him a brand new lighter one day, after noticing him asking for a light the day before. She was a good listener, and often stood beside him silently listening to him read aloud from one of his books.

    #4831
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Veranassessee snapped her phone shut, put it in her pocket and turned to hail a taxi. As she spotted one coming around the corner she lunged forward with her arm out to flag him down and slipped on a rolling apple in the gutter. Her extended arm got caught in the spokes of a passing bicycle, and she ended up headbutting the cyclist in the groin, before somersaulting right over the bike and landing head first in the ice cream vendors street cart. The innocent cyclist doubled over, his strange beannie hat with the wooden top getting caught in the mangled wheel spokes.

    #4737
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Oooh, isn’t that a funny place” Granola was surprised to have jumped in the odd unexplored corners of the story.
    “No wait, that’s just a rambling thread, not even a story… No matter.”

    While the paint was drying on the fresh developments, she had found herself slowed down and frozen in still frames while she was waiting for her friends to move the characters along. It was a rather unpleasant situation —granted, it was still a nice change from the erratic jumps from mental spaces to mental spaces.
    But, now it was getting boring, and when her monkey mind was getting bored, she started to shift again.
    She blinked back a few times; it was like hitting a refresh button to see if the characters had moved while she was gone, after all, her focus Tiku has her own agency. But since all time was now, it was really just a matter of tuning to the right frequency and follow the mood. Gosh, she started to think like Ailil; it wasn’t a comforting thought.

    “What is there to learn here? I’m obviously getting lost in sideway explorations.”

    She was familiar with the theory of the Hero’s Journey (or Heroine, thank you), and she found that progress and fun was often found in the most chaotic of places, exploring and transcending the unknown. Even if the natural tendency was to draw back to the known. But known is boring and stale, right?

    The Man in Pistachio was still somewhere around, with the Teleporter in Pink, and the Telepath in Teal. That much was known, but not much else.
    It was tempting to add more things to the known, like their names, and garments and things. How long before these known would lead to more forgotten things?

    Would she dare? After all, nobody was here to see and judge. And what’s more, it would beat the waiting for another plot advancement.

    She decided to be the Grinner in Bordeaux. Wait, that was too poetic, and too confusing… and too French.
    So, let us be the Red Woman in Grin.

    And she would be called Josette.

    #4733
    DevanDevan
    Participant

    I have never seen so many guests at once at the Inn. Even old Bert is ferreting around, I’ve seen him many times near the shed or near the garage door. Mater knows about it of course. I’ve seen her looking at him from the corner of her eyes. I wonder if she knows about the hidden gold. I’m sure Bert knows, and that’s why he’s always been lurking around when we were kids.

    Mater, she hadn’t said anything when I came back and took my old room as if I never left. She just grunted and gave me some work to do.

    “It’s not good to stay idle all the time,” she had said, making me chuckle as I saw aunt Idle sneaking out to take care of her weed plot in the back yard. As if Mater didn’t know about it. I know she tried to chew some when Idle was in India and she didn’t like the taste of the raw plant, so I had showed her how to smoke it. After the coughing spell had passed, she had seemed to enjoy the experience then, but I don’t know if she had ever used some again afterward. She’s as stern as she used to be. But I like her that way. She’s the spine of the Flying Fish Inn. I’m not sure Idle could manage it all, especially I doubt Finly would stay more than a few days if Idle was the manager here.

    Although, I’m suspecting Finly to sell weeds to the guests. She’s been acting weird and I’ve come upon her and Idle arguing in the kitchen upon a loafed bush lizard. Dido was accusing Finly of stealing her last crop and Finley… Well, I don’t really care about what they do.

    I’ll just have to find some quiet time to go inspect the cellar. If what the man on the Harley had told me is true, I want to find the tunnels below the Inn.

    #4732
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The day was young, and Mandrake was enjoying playing the cat in the Inn.
    Besides the benefit of unrepentant naps, what best way to be undercover in a dimension where talking cats where unheard of. His boots had been a subject for a casual chat during the breakfast, but he managed to get away with them, thanks to Arona’s quick wits who had explained he had sensitive paws.
    Some of the other guests at the Inn were a bit curious though, too curious.
    He’d almost jumped to rip his face off, when the Canadian guy asked whether it wouldn’t be best to have him neutered. Luckily, years of dealing with humans and dragons had left him with a patience for these types of shenanigans, even tolerating a pat or two on the head.

    The maid-who-wasn’t-a-maid was another story, she seemed to fear him, and chased him with a broom when he was wandering in the morning, looking for clues as to the key.
    While he was napping in a corner of the main hall on a dusted shelf near a silly looking fish, he had spotted a suspicious old man who had sneaked in and had done some business in a locked hangar before leaving. Maybe the man knew about the three words engraved on Arona’s key.

    doctor.experiences.funk

    #4718
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Tsk tsk,” said Rukshan when he heard that the carpenter hadn’t done anything yet.
    “At least the joiner came and fixed the mirror in the bathroom,” said Fox trying to sound positive.
    They were in the kitchen and Glynis was brewing a chicken stew in Margorrit’s old purple clay pot.
    Fox seemed distracted with saliva gathering at the corner of his mouth. Rukshan realised it was not the best of places to explain his plan with all the smells and spells of Glynis’ spices.
    “Let’s go outside it’ll be best to tell you where we are going,” said Rukshan.
    Fox nodded his consent with great effort.

    “If you go out, just tell Olli to bring in more dry wood for the stove,” said Glynis as they left.

    They took the Troll’s path, a sandy track leading in the thick of the forest.
    “Are you sure we’ll find him there?” asked Rukshan.
    “Trust me,” said Fox pointing at his nose.
    “I thought you had abandoned the shapeshifting and using your fox’s smelling sense?”
    “Well if you want to know, Olli is quite predictable, he’s always at the Young Maid’s pond.

    “I realise I haven’t seen the lad in months,” said Rukshan.
    Fox shrugged. “He’s grown up, like all kids do.”

    They arrived at the pond where Olli was sculpting a branch of wood in an undefinable shape. Rukshan had almost a shock when he saw how much little Olli had changed. He was different, almost another person physically. Taller and with a man’s body. It took the Fae some time when he had to tell himself that the person in front of him was the boy that had helped them in the mountain. But Rukshan was not the kind to show many emotions so he just said.

    “You’ve grown boy.”
    Olli shrugged and stopped what he was doing.
    “I’ve heard so,” he said. “She wants more wood?”
    “Yeah,” said Fox with a knowing grin.
    “Okay.”
    Olliver sighed and left with supple movements.

    When the young man was gone, Fox turned towards the Fae, whose eyes seemed lost in the misty mountains.
    “So, what is the plan?”
    “I’m thinking of a new plan that shall make use of everyone’s potential and save a young man from boredom.”

    #4711
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The aircon was buzzing and Sophie walked in her pajamas through the open space to reach her dreaming base. That’s how she secretly called it. She could feel the eyes of her colleagues following her, and as usual she felt proud to be the center of attention. It didn’t matter that it was jealousy or anything else. People were looking at her and she was doing something different.

    Once in her base of operation, she settled on the couch and looked at the brew that had been brought for her. It was her second attempt at remote viewing the Doctor and this time she had requested a bucket and some padding around the sharp corners. She feared a little the unleashing of her wild nature, but in truth she had no idea what to expect. She had read on the Internet that there was nothing to fear and that there would be no side effects, and usually with her natural paranoia she would have double checked before using the drugs, but her obsession with the Doctors had rendered her a little bit… more reckless.

    She pinched her nose and swallowed the brew. One gulp. But some of it stayed in her mouth and nausea followed. She didn’t like the taste at all. Then she laid down the couch and waited. The effects weren’t long to come. Space lit up, soon followed by the usual geometrical dynamic animation and the strange floating spirits. One of them looked like her old nanny. She had a hair on her chin and Sophie couldn’t focus on anything else. The hair grew and multiplied on the face, it was soon a forest of wiggling glowing worms growing indefinitely.

    After what seemed an eternity to her, she saw the doors. A huge circle made of doors like a giant neckless. Sophie giggled at the typo especially that she could see the neckless giant now below the doors. It was definitely a male, with boobs covered by skulls.

    Find the door, she reminded herself. Her thought took the shape of a butterflowck —understand a flow of a flock of butterflies— that rippled in a pond of honey… suckles.

    It reached the door and she was sucked in.

    :fleuron:

    “Why are they doing this?” asked a male voice behind her. “They’re supposed to be magpies, not monkeys.”
    “I’m not sure,” said a bald woman with six fingers and an ethereal beehive hairdo. The strange thing was that she had a beard.
    “Do something quick. I need them operational soon” said the man, “You’re the one controlling them after all,” he added with poison in his voice.
    “Yes, Doctor.”

    Sophie startled at the name. She turned around and tried to look at the man, but he was headless, or rather pixelated. Shit! I watch too much science fiction, she thought.

    “Anyway,” he continued. What are the news on the dolls’ front?”
    “We are closing in on the next target, Doctor. It’s a small Inn in Australia where the vortex or probabilities converge. I took the liberty to send another sleeping agent there to steal the key and the list of other addresses from the dollmaker. He’s taking the same airplane as she is.”

    #4654
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The door snapped open and made a hole on the wall. Sophie entered shaking plane tickets she brandished like a Viking trophy. She paused, looked at the wall and said :
    “Oops! Sorry for that. I don’t know my strength since that Doctor experimented on me. I never asked for that,” she added trying to put on a sorry face, but her shining eyes betrayed her mercilessly.

    “Well, what about those plane tickets ?” asked Miss Bossy. “I don’t recall validating the expense.” She kept her lips tight and didn’t say for you but thought it very hard.

    “You didn’t need to, someone sent them to me. Apparently they want me to investigate the China doll production and are sending me to…” she paused and looked at the destination. Her excited look faded away so fast that Ricardo and Miss Bossy looked at each other from the corner of their eyes. It was hard to maintain, but not impossible if you practiced yoga regularly.

    “What?” asked Ricardo, a tad irritated by the interruption.

    “Well, I thought they were sending me to China, but apparently they are sending me to
    Finland to investigate the Suomenlinna Toy Museum… about their china dolls… Someone can take my place if they want,” said old Sophie.

    Miss Bossy took the letter and read it quickly as only a boss can do.

    “They specifically ask for you. I’m sorry, dear old Sophie, but we can’t spare our resources at the moment, you’ll have to go alone,” she offered her best bossy smile face ever. Her aunt Marcella would have been proud of her.

    #4635
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul couldn’t help but listen when he heard Maeve’s voice. Was she at Lucinda’s again? He ventured outside his apartment with his unopened packet in his hands in order to have a clearer idea of what they were talking about.
    Not him apparently. They were talking about dolls and spies. He felt a bit jealous that other peoples had such beautiful stories to tell and he struggled so much to even write a few lines. Fortunately he always had a small notebook and a pen in his pockets. He scribbled down a few notes, trying to be fast and concise. He looked at his writing. It would be hard to read afterwards.
    He paused after writing the uncle’s name. Was it uncle Fungus? And the tarty spy in the fishnet, was it a photograph? And what about the bugs, was it an infestation? Too much information. It was hard to follow the story and write while holding the packet.

    He realised they had stopped speaking and Lucinda was closing the door. He suddenly panicked. What if Maeve found him there, listening?
    The time it took him to think about all that could happen was enough for Maeve to meet him were he stood the packet in his hands.

    “Hi she said. You got a packet ?”
    “Yes,” he answered, his mind almost blank. What could he possibly say. He was more of the writer kind, he needed time to think about his dialogues in advance. But, was it an inspiration from beyond he had something to say and justify his presence.
    “Someone just dropped this at my door and I was trying to see if I could catch them. There’s no address.” He turned the packet as if to confirm it.
    “There’s something written on the corner,” said Maeve. “It looks like an old newspaper cut.
    “Oh! You’re right,” said Shawn Paul.
    She looked closer.
    “What a coincidence,” said Maeve, looking slightly shocked.
    Shaw Paul brought the packet closer to his face. It smelled like granola cookies. On the paperclip there was an add for a trip to Australia with the address of a decrepit Inn somewhere in the wops. There was a photo of an old woman standing in front of the Inn, and Shawn Paul swore he saw her wink at him. The smell of granola cookies was stronger and made him hungry.
    He was not sure anymore he would be able to write his story that day.

    #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.

    #4626
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul had decided that this particular day was dedicated to his writing. He had warned his friends not to call him and put his phone on silent mode. It was 9am and he had a long day of writing ahead of him.
    He almost felt the electricity in his fingers as he touched the keyboard of his laptop. He imagined himself as a pianist of words preparing himself before a concert in front of the crowd of his future readers.
    Shawn Paul pushed away the voice of his mother telling him with an irritating voice that he had the attention span of a shrimp in a whirlpool during a storm, which the boy had never truely understood, but today he was willing not to even let his inner voices distract him. He breathed deeply three times as he had learned last week-end during a workshop, and imagined his mother’s voice as a slimy slug that he could put away in a box with a seal into a chest with chains and lots of locks, that he buried in the deepest trench of the Pacific ocean. He was a writer and had a vivid imagination after all, why not use it to his benefit.
    A smile of satisfaction wavered on the corner of his mouth while a drop of sweat slowly made its way to the corner of his left eye. He blinked and the doorbell rang.
    Shawn Paul’s fragile smile transformed into a fixed grin ready to break down. Someone was laughing, and when the bell rang a second time, Shawn Paul realised it was his own contained hysterical laugh.

    He breathed in deeply at his desk and got up too quickly, bumping his knee in one corner.
    Ouch! he cried silently.
    It would not take long he reminded himself, limping to the door.
    What could it be ? The postman ?

    Shawn Paul opened the door. An old man he had never seen, was standing there with a packet in his hands. If he was not the postman, at least you had the packet right said a voice in Shawn Paul’s head.
    The old man opened his mouth, certainly to speak, but instead started to cough as if he was about to snuff it. It lasted some time and Shawn Paul repulsed by the loose cough retreated a bit into his flat. It was his old fear of contagion creeping out again. He berated himself he should not feel that way and he should show compassion, but at least if the old man could stop, it would be easier.

    “For you!” said the old man when his cough finally stopped. He put the packet in Shawn Paul’s hands and left without another word.

    #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?”

    #4502
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn-Paul exited Finn’s Bakery on the crowded Cobble street with his precious cargo of granola cookies. They were wrapped in a cute purple box pommeled with pink hearts. He put on a disdainful attitude, adjusting his scarf for better effect, while already salivating in anticipation of the granola melting in his hot chocolate at home. He was sure that would revive his fleeting inspiration for his novel.
    It was hard not to swallow as saliva accumulated in his mouth, but he had had years of practices since he was eight. His aunt Begonia had just given him a snicker bar that he had swallowed in one gulp, spreading some chocolate on his face in the process. She had accused him of being a dirty little piglet and he was so upset of being compared to the animal, that he had vowed to never show his love for food again. Instead he developed a public dislike of food and a slender frame quite fitting his bohemian lifestyle, while always having some cookies in store.

    Shawn-Paul turned right on Quagmire street. It was bordered with Plane trees that kept it cool and bearable in summer. He was thinking about the suggestion of his writing coach to spend some time with his artist self, thinking that he had not done it for quite some time, but immediately felt guilty about not writing and firmed his resolution to go back home and write. He walked past a group of two elder woman and a man arguing in front of Liz’s Antique. One of the woman had a caved in mouth and used her hands profusely to make her point to the man. She was wearing pink slippers with pompon.

    Italian tourists, Shawn-Paul thought rolling his eyes.

    He swallowed and almost choked on his saliva when he glimpsed an improbable reflection on the Antique’s window. A woman, smiling and waving at him from a branch of a plane tree behind him, balancing her legs. He particularly noticed her feet and the red sandals, the rest of the body was a blur.

    As Shawn-Paul turned, the toothless Italian tourist whirled her arms about like an inflated tubewoman, frightening a nearby sparrow. The bird took off and followed a curve around Shawn-Paul. Caught together in a twirl worthy of the best dervishes, the man and the bird connected in one of those perfect moment that Shawn-Paul would long but fail to transcribe into words afterwards.

    There was no woman in the tree. A male dog stopped to mark his territory. A bit disappointed and confused, Shawn-Paul felt the need to talk.

    “Did you see her?” he asked the Italian tourists. They stopped arguing and looked at him suspiciously for a moment. “She was right there with her red sandals,” he said showing the branch where he was sure she had sat. “I saw her in the window,” he felt compelled to add, not sure if they understood him.

    The other tourist woman, who had all her teeth, rolled her eyes and pointed behind him.

    “There’s a woman in red right over there!” she said with a chanting accent.

    Shawn-Paul turned and just had the time to glimpse a woman dressed all in red, skirt, vest, hat and sandals before she disappeared at the corner of Fortune street.

    Moved by a sudden impulse and forgetting all about his writing, he thanked the tourist and ran after the red woman.

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