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  • #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.

    #6044
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.

    As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.

    Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.

    When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.

    “Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.

    “Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”

    “Look, it’s almost twilight,” said Rukshan. “We’ve walked the whole day, the children are exhausted.”

    Tak and Nesy showed their best puppy face, risking to make Fox burst into laughter. That seemed to soften the man a little.

    “Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”

    “I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.

    “Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.

    Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.

    “You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.

    “It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”

    #5955
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    It wasn’t such a bad day, thought Olliverand it might even be a good day. The birds are singing, we saw a boar and a few deers already. Animals are getting back and they don’t seem to fear the humans so much.

    Rukshan was walking first and Fox was following him with a heavy backpack. Tak and Nesy were mostly playing around and marvelling at everything their path crossed. Olliver envied their innocence, the innocence he had lost not so long ago.

    Except the animals and the two guards they had to hide from, the day had mostly been uneventful and Olliver’s mind was wandering off into the mountain where he could feel useful and strong. He felt strangely blissed and suddenly had the impulse to walk toward a patch of yellow flowers.

    “STOP! Pay attention where you walk,” said Rukshan. “Come back to your left two feet and walk straight. I told you to follow my every steps.”

    “Okay, uncle Ruk!” said Olliver a bit ashamed to have been caught not paying attention.

    “I don’t understand,” said the Fae. “Glynis’s potion doesn’t seem to work for you. The aetherical tentacles around the traps don’t seem to detect us but only you, and you also seem susceptible to their power to attract you. It’s not the first time I had to warn you.”

    The Fae could see the etherical traps and especially the free flowing tentacles or the tension lines attached to trees, stones, wooden posts, anything that would cross a trail at different heights. With the potions they should be impervious to detection and affections by the traps. Olliver hadn’t thought that far. He had thought that by following them he could manage not to be caught. Right now, he feared more Rukshan’s piercing eyes than the traps. He looked at Fox involuntarily.

    “It’s my fault,” said Fox looking a bit contrite. Sweat was pearling on his face. “It’s becoming too dangerous for Olli so I must confess something.” He put his heavy bag on the floor and opened it and a dwarf’s head peered timidly out.

    “Ohh!” said Tak and Nesy together. They looked rather happily surprised but looked at Rukshan’s waiting for the storm.

    “Are we already there?” asked Gorrash, his face rendered a bit red by the lack of breathable air in the bag. When he saw the anger on Rukshan’s face he stopped talking.

    “By the fat belly of the giants! What made you do such a stupid thing?”

    “We thought that it would be enough to follow you for Olli to avoid the traps,” said Fox.

    “You didn’t think at all!” said the Fae. “The potions were not just for the fun of drinking something pungent and bitter with the taste and texture of yak wool.”

    “Please! Don’t make me and Gorrash teleport back to the cottage,” said Olliver.

    “Leave me out of this teleportation stuff!” said Gorrash.

    “What an idea! But I already thought of that my little friend. You two are going to to back.”

    “No we’re not! If you make us go back we’ll follow you from a distance.”

    “You know the boys,” said Fox putting a hand on Rukshan’s arm.

    “Oh You, I’m sure it’s your idea,” started Rukshan.

    “No, it’s mine,” said Olliver. “Uncle Fox had almost convinced Gorrash it was better to stay, but I couldn’t let him be stay behind after just being reborn. You said it once, we don’t leave our friends behind.”

    “I’m sure it was under another set of circumstances,” countered the Fae.

    “Anyway you see the traps, I can follow your instructions. And if there is any fever problem I can teleport Gorrash back to the cottage.”

    “I do not totally agree with you but I see you have learned to make an argumentation.”

    Fox felt the Fae relax. “Agreed, you come with us to the Great Lakes to meet the Graetaceans and you’ll follow what I tell you to do from now on. I’ll treat you as a responsible adult.”

    “Yay! We’ll meet the Graetaceans!” said Nesy.

    Olli and Gorrash will stay with us,” said Tak jumping around his friends with such a broad smile. Rukshan thought he was growing too soft on them all, with the new generation growing he started to feel his own age.

    #5788
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The first thing the dwarf did was a finger of honor. “Take that darn blubbit queen!” he shouted before he crumbled butt naked down on the wooden floor surrounded by his former golden carapace. His skin was still glowing with a strange lucent light.

    “What did he say?” asked Fox.

    “What’s a blubbit?” asked Olliver.

    Glynis put her hands on the baby snoots eyes, but there were too many of them and she only had two hands.

    “Have you seen his skin?” asked Eleri.

    “Well yes, he’s butt naked,” said Kumihimo.

    Gorrash had had time to clear his mind and started to realise they were all looking at him.

    “I mean, he HAS a skin now,” insisted Eleri. “Smooth and… all that comes with it. Not his former rocky mossy textured whatever it was before even after daylight.”

    The dwarf who never had to worry about his own modesty before couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of that simple fact. “Am I still dreaming?” His stomach growled and he looked surprised at his belly. “Am I starving?” Fox laughed.

    Glynis brought the dwarf a blanket, and he marvelled at the roughness of it on his new skin. They all started to talk at the same time, wanting to know about the blubbits, about the new skin, asking Kumihimo and Rukshan how it was possible.

    “I don’t know,” they both said.

    “Well! I don’t know about you, but now that he has skin he can certainly appreciate some champagne with us!” said Margoritt, trotting to the kitchen. She came back with a bottle and a sabre. “Who wants to crack it open?”

    “Don’t forget the food,” said Glynis. “It’ll be his first time eating.” Olliver brought some leftovers of Jambalaya, salad and cheese among other things.

    “How can he eat so much?” would ask Eleri later.

    #5575
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “What are we waiting for?” asked Fox. “Let’s do it now. I’ll gather his blocks and pieces together before night falls.” He left the house before anyone could say anything and left the door open. The afternoon was near to its end and the light was dimming fast. Glynis, Rukshan and Eleri soon could hear the cyclical grating noise of the wheelbarrow and the thumping noise of the blocks being loaded.

    Glynis sighed.

    “I don’t have all the required ingredients,” she said, “That pink clay from Sina, I used it all to lift the jinx on the loo.”

    Olliver appeared at that moment. “You need my help?”

    “We would if you could go somewhere you have never seen before,” said Rukshan. His panda eyes gave him a really tired look.

    “Oh but I can, now,” said Olli. “If you’ve been there, I just need you to say the name and I can follow the vibration back to its origin.”

    “My, What have I missed? I’ve been away far too long,” said the fae.

    “You certainly have,” said Fox who was back and waiting at the door. The baby snoots, who were never far from the dwarf, had followed and their colourful glows brought an interesting set of nuances to Fox’s aura. “Can someone help me bring all those blocks into the house?”

    Eleri would have helped of course, but pain you know, her ankle was so bad at the moment, she couldn’t risk making it worse. Glynis cleared a space and put a table cloth on the floor. “Don’t you make a scratch on my new wooden floor,” she warned the boys who brought the pieces together.

    “Wow, the blocks are like magnets, but also different,” said Olliver, “It’s difficult to take one away because they attract each other, but if you bring them too close they repel each other. I can feel it.”

    “Yes,” said Rukshan, “the Master creator told me we can’t force the process without the proper requirements.”

    Once every pieces were on the table cloth, they all gathered around, even the baby snoots, and they looked at the rocks for a moment. Glynis had lit a few candles since the night had fallen and the light was painting dancing shadows on the walls. Fox’s stomach growled but his attention was all on what Rukshan would say next. They all were.

    “So where is this pink clay?” asked Olli who couldn’t wait longer.

    #5357
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Isn’t it a pretty loo?” Glynis was marveling at the marble work, and the exquisite boiseries. “Master Guilbert really outdid himself.” Fox opined.

    The jinx on the cottage loo was finally lifted, and not before the hiemal cold had settled in, right before the Sol Invictus festivities.

    Meanwhile, they’ve had occasional updates from Rukshan, who was exploring the Land of the Giants. He’d mentioned in his last telebat echoing that he’d found the elusive Master creator of Gorrash, and had hope for the dwarf. The magic binding the stones was strong he’s said, although some additional magic would help speed up the recovery process which otherwise would take probably centuries if not millennia.

    Glynis had looked at the requirements; it only said

    ‘strong magic, born from pain, hardened in gems
    – dissolve in pink clay, mix well and apply generously’
    .

    None of her magic had seemed to fit. Pain, she’d had plenty, but her magic was born from the water element, emotions, plants and potions. She went to the nearby Library, their restricted section of applied magic was scarce, nothing really applicable there. Honestly, if she’d known her whereabouts, it would have been a task better suited to Eleri. Her kind of area of expertise with concrete and iron work and stone paints was a bit more unpredictable though; it could end up do more damage to Gorrash’s continuity than else; she’d quickly put that impetuous idea to rest.

    Glynis was still mulling over, thinking about finding a solution when she noticed a gaunt figure was at the door. It took her a few seconds to realize it wasn’t a stranger, but a familiar friend. Rukshan had returned, although verily worn down by his travails, with a full grown beard that gave him a seriouser look. Without thinking, she went to hug him. Such unusual display of affection did surprise the Fae who was beeming.

    He smiled widely at Glynis and showed her an unusually large ampoule: “I’ve found the kind of magic our friend needs. These three Giant’s gallstones weren’t a picnic to obtain, I can tell you.”

    “I can’t wait to hear all about this exciting story.” interrupted Eleri.

    #4693

    In reply to: The Stories So Near

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Some updates on the Heartwoods Weave

    So far, there were loosely 2 chapters in this story, and we’re entering the 3rd.
    Let’s call them:

    • Ch. 1 – The Curses of the Stolen Shards
    • Ch. 2 – The Flight to the Desert Mountains
    • Ch. 3 – Down the Lands of Giants

    Ch. 1 – The Curses of the Stolen Shards

    In Chapter One, we get acquainted with the main characters as their destinies intertwine (Rukshan, Glynis, Eleri, Gorrash, Fox, Olliver and Tak).
    In a long past, the Forest held a powerful artifact created and left behind as a seal by the Gods now departed in their World: a Gem of Creation. It was defiled by thieves (the 7 characters in their previous incarnations of Dark Fae (Ru), Toothless Dragon (Gl), Laughing Crone (El), Mapster Dwarf (Go), Glade Troll (Fo), Trickster Dryad (Ol), Tricked Girl (Ta)), and they all took a shard of the Gem, although the innocent girl was tricked to open the woods by a promise of resurrecting a loved one, and resented all the others for it. She unwittingly created the curse all characters were suffering from, as an eternal punishment. Removing the Gem from the center of the Forest and breaking it started a chain of events, leading to many changes in the World. The Forest continued to grow and claim land, and around the (Dragon) Heartwoods at the center, grew many other woods – the Haunted Bamboo Forest, the Enchanted Forest, the Hermit’s Forest, the Fae’s Forest etc. At the other side, Cities had developed, and at the moment of the story, started to gain control over the magical world of Old.
    From the special abilities the Seven gained, some changes were triggered too. One God left behind was turned into stone by the now young Crone (E).
    Due to the curse, their memories were lost, and they were born again in many places and other forms.
    During the course of Ch.1, they got healed with the help of Master Gibbon, and the Braider Shaman Kumihimo, who directed Rukshan how to use the Vanishing Book, which once completed by all, and burnt as an offering, lifted the curse. Tak (the Girl of the origin story), now a shapeshifting Gibbon boy, learned to let go of the pain, and to start to live as a young orphan under the gentle care of the writer Margoritt Loursenoir and her goat Emma, in a cottage in the woods.
    Glynis, a powerful healer with a knack for potions, still haven’t found a way to undo the curse of her scales, which she accepts, has found residency and new friends and a funny parrot named Sunshine. Eleri besides her exploration of anti-gravity, learnt to make peace with the reawakened God Hasamelis no longer vengeful but annoyed at being ignored for a mortal Yorath. Eleri continues to love to butt heads with the iniquities of the world, which are never in lack, often embodied by Leroway and his thugs. Gorrash, who adopted the little baby Snoots activated by Glynis’ potions seemed simply happy to have found a community. Fox, a fox which under the tutelage of Master Gibbon, learnt to shapeshift as a human for all his work and accumulation of good karma. Olliver, a young man with potential, found his power by activating the teleporting egg Rukshan gave him. As for Rukshan, who was plagued by ghosts and dark forces, he found a way to relieve the Forest and the world of their curse, but his world is torn between his duties towards his Fae family in the woods, his impossible love for his Queen, and his wants for a different life of exploration, especially now knowing his past is more than what he thought he knew.
    At the end of the chapter, the Door to the God’s realm, at the center of the Forest seems to have reopened.

    Ch. 2 – The Flight to the Desert Mountains

    In the second Chapter, strange sightings of light beams in the mountains prompt some of our friends to go investigate, while in the cottage, the others stay to repel encroachments by brutal modernity embodied by Leroway and his minions. Glynis has found a way to be rid of her scales, but almost failed due to Tak’s appetite for untested potions. Remaking the potion, and succeeding at last, she often still keeps her burka as fond token of her trials. Eleri is spreading glamour bomb concrete statues in the woods, and trying her hand with Glynis supervision at potions to camouflage the cottage through an invisibility spell. Muriel, Margoritt’s sister, comes for a visit.
    In the mountains, the venturing heroes are caught in a sand storm and discover spirits trapped in mystical objects. Pushing forward through the mountain, they are tracked and hunted by packs of hellhounds, and dark energy released from an earthquake. Rukshan works on a magical mandala with the help and protection of his friends. Olliver discovers a new teleportation trick making him appear two places at once. Kumihimo rejoins the friends in trouble, and they all try to leave through the magical portal, while Fox baits the dogs and the Shadow. Eerily, only Fox emerges from the portal, to find a desolated, burnt Forest and his friends all gone. They had been too late, and the Shadow went with them through the portal instead of being destroyed. Luckily, a last potion left by Glynis is able to rewind Fox in time, and succeed in undoing the disaster. The beaming lights were only honeypots for wandering travellers, it turned out.
    Shaken by the ordeal, Rukshan leaves the party for some R&R time in the parallel world of the Faes, which is now mostly abandoned.

    Ch. 3 – Down the Lands of Giants

    In Chapter 3, which has only just begun, some time has passed, and Margoritt has come back to the City, at the beginning of winter for some special kneedle treatments. Glynis and Margoritt are in turn taking care of Tak, who has joined a local school, where he seems to have befriended a mysterious girl Nesingwarys (Nesy). Gorrash seems to have been hurt, broken whilst in his statue form by Leroway’s thugs, but the Snoot babies are still staying with him, so there is hope. Fox is always hungry, and helps with the reconstruction work for the cottage, which was damaged in a fire (we suppose during Leroway’s men foray in the woods).
    Rukshan emerges from his retreat after an encounter with a mad Fae, babbling about a Dark Lord’s return. Piecing clues together, he finds a long lost World Map and connection with a renegade magician who may have been the Maker of Gorrash (and maybe linked to the trapped spirits in the mountain after all). He sends a pigeon to his friends before he returns to the thick of the Heartwoods.
    Now, it seems the Door to the God’s realm has reopened the ancient Realms of the Underworld too, all accessible through the central pillar of the World, intersecting their World precisely at the Heartwoods, were the Gem of Creation originally was. He’s planning to go to the long lost Underworld of the Giants, were he suspects the so-called Dark Lord is hiding.

    #4562
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Aunt Lottie the dwarf, you mean? The one who stole my candlesticks? I don’t want her anywhere close to me!” exclaimed Liz, who was extremely flustered and not at all prepared for the subterfuge.

    Finnley rolled her eyes, saying cryptically, “It’s early for those trees to be losing their leaves. I wonder if Roberto is nearby with his gardening hands and that new braid in his hair.”

    “I think he’s dealing with those hooligan birds,” remarked Godfrey helpfully, “He’d made a carved decoy, free standing and heavy.”

    The voice of a dog stopped the conversation, a talking dog. “It’s alright. The sadness was just a dream.”

    #4541
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The full moon was high and a cluster of fireflies were flying stubbornly around a lone corkscrew bush. The baby rainbow creatures were playing like young squirrels, running and jumping around on Gorrash’s arms and head.
    The dwarf was still, as if he hadn’t awoken from his curse despite the darkness of the night. He was looking at the bush illuminated by the fireflies and his the dim glows of the rainbow babies were giving his face a thoughtful look.
    My life is certainly as complicated as the shrub’s twisted branches, he thought, his heart uneasy.

    The others all had been busy doing their own things during the day, like Glynis with her invisibility potion, or Eleri with her Operation Courtesan. Rukshan went away with a goal too, finding the source of the blue light the children had seen in their dreams and he left for the mountains with Olliver and Fox.
    Margoritt was an old lady and with all the fuss about the upcoming eviction and destruction of her nice little cottage farm she had been tired and went to sleep early. Gorrash understood very well all of that.
    A ball of sadness and frustration gathered in his throat. The rainbow babies stopped and looked at him with drooping eyes.

    “Mruiii?” they said as if asking him what it all was about.
    “Don’t do that, you’re gonna make me cry,” he said. The raspiness of his voice surprised him and distracted him from the sadness.
    “Mruii,” said the little creatures gathering closer to him as if to sooth him. He shed a few tears. He felt so lonely and frustrated because he couldn’t be with his friends during the day. And the summer nights were so short.

    Gorrash didn’t like the sadness. It made the nights seem longer, and the joyous explorations of Glynis’s garden seemed so far away.

    I have to find a project for myself, he thought. Maybe find a cure to my own curse like Glynis.
    Gorrash felt a tinge of bitterness in his mouth. Why? he wondered. Why didn’t my maker come lift my curse like that man came to deliver Glynis from hers?
    He regretted this thought, if anything it only made him feel more miserable and lonely.

    An owl hooted and there was some noise coming from the house. Light was lit in the kitchen, and soon after the door opened. It was Glynis. She carried a small crate written Granola Cookies, but it was full of potions and other utensils. Her eyes looked tired but her face was shining. Since she used that potion to cure herself, she had had that inner glow, and despite himself Gorrash felt it started to warm his heart with hope.

    “I will need some help,” said Glynis.
    The rainbow babies ran around and changed colours rapidly.
    “Sure, I can do that,” answered Gorrash. And as he said that he realised he had felt the need to talk to someone so badly.
    They sat near the corkscrew shrub and Glynis began to get her stuff out of the crate. She drew the shape of a circle with a white chalk that shone under the moonlight and gave Gorrash eight candlesticks to place around the circle. Gorrash placed them a bit too conscientiously around, and he felt the need to talk become stronger, making him restless.
    “Can I tell you something?” he asked, unsure if she would want to listen to his doubts.
    “Of course. I need to reinforce the charm before the others arrival. It will take some time before I actually do the spell. We can talk during that time.”

    Encouraged by her kindness, he told her everything that had been troubling his heart.

    #4462
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Night had fallen when Rukshan came back to the cottage. He was thinking that they could wait a little bit for the trip. He did not like that much the idea of trusting the safety of their group to a stranger, even if it was a friend of Lhamom. They were not in such a rush after all.

    Rukshan looked at their luxuriant newly grown pergola. Thanks to the boost potion Glynis had prepared, it had only took a week to reach its full size and they have been able to enjoy it since the start of the unusual hot spell. The creatures that had hatched from the colourful eggs Gorrash had brought with him were flowing around the branches creating a nice glowing concerto of lights, inside and out.

    It was amazing how everyone were combining their resources and skills to make this little community function. In the shadow of the pergola there was an empty pedestal that Fox had built and Eleri had decorated with nice grapes carvings. Gorrash was certainly on patrol with the owls. His friends had thought that a pedestal would be more comfortable and the pergola would keep Gorrash’s stone from the scorching heat of the sun. Also, he wouldn’t get covered in mud during the sudden heavy rains accompanying the hot spell.

    Seeing the beautiful pedestal and the carved little stairs he could use to climb up, Gorrash had tried to hide the tears in his eyes. He mumbled it was due to some desert dust not to appear emotional, but they all knew his hard shell harboured the softest heart.

    The dwarf had repaid them in an unexpected way. Every day just before sunrise, he would take a big plate in his hands and jumped on the pedestal before turning to stone. It allowed them to put grapes or other fruits that they could eat under the shadow of the of the pergola.

    Rukshan came into the house and he found Margoritt sitting at the dining table on which there was a small parchment roll. Her angry look was so unusual that Rukshan’s felt his chest tighten.

    “They sent me a bloody pigeon,” she said when she arrived. She took the roll and handed it to Rukshan. “The city council… Leroway… he accuses us of unauthorised expansion of the house, of unauthorised construction on communal ground, and of unlicensed trade of manufactured goods.” Margoritt’s face was twisted with pain as the said the words.

    Rukshan winced. Too much bad news were arriving at the same time. If there was a pattern, it seemed rather chaotic and harassing.

    “They threaten us to send a bailif if we don’t stop our illegal activities and if we don’t pay the extra taxes they reclaim,” she continued. “I’m speechless at the guile of that man.”

    Rukshan smiled, he wondered if Margoritt could ever be rendered speechless by anything except for bad flu. He uncoiled the roll and quickly skimmed through the long string of accusations. Many of them were unfair and, to his own opinion unjustified. Since when the forest belonged to Leroway’s city? It had always been sacred ground, and its own master.

    “I have no money,” said Margoritt. “It’s so unfair. I can’t fight with that man. I’m too old and tired.”

    “Don’t forget we are all in the same cottage, Margoritt. It’s not just you. Eventhough, they clearly want to evict us,” said Rukshan. “Even if we had enough money, they would not let us stay.” He showed her the small roll. “The list of accusations is so ludicrous that it’s clearly a ploy to get rid of us. First, that road they want to build through the forest, now evicting us from the ground.” And those bad omens from the mountain, he thought with a shiver.

    “We are not going to give them that satisfaction, are we?” asked Margoritt, pleading like a little girl. “We have to find something Rukshan,” she said. “You have to help me fight Leroway.”

    “Ahem,” said a rockous voice. Gorrash had returned from his patrol. “I know where to find money,” he added. “At leas, I think I know. I had another dream about my maker. It’s just bits and pieces, but I’m sure he hid some treasure in the mountains. There was that big blue diamond, glowing as brightly as a blue sun. And other things.”

    A big blue diamond? It sounds familiar. Rukshan thought. There was an old fae legend that mentioned a blue diamond but he couldn’t remember. Is it connected to the blue light Olliver mentioned earlier? He wondered.

    “That’s it! You have to go find this treasure,” said Margoritt.

    Rukshan sighed as he could feel the first symptoms of a headache. There was so much to think about, so much to do. He massaged his temples. The trip had suddenly become urgent, but they also had to leave someone behind to help Margoritt with the “Leroway problem”. And he winced as he wondered who was going to take care of that road business. It was clear to him that he couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. He would have to delegate.

    He thought of the telebats. Maybe he could teach the others how to use them so that he could keep in touch and manage everything at distance. He sighed again. Who would be subtle and sensitive enough to master the telebats in time?

    #4370
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The memories of the strange vision had faded away. Only the feeling of awe was lingering in his heart.

    Fox was walking in the forest near Margoritt’s cottage. The smell of humid soil was everywhere. Despite it being mostly decomposing leaves and insects, Fox found it quite pleasant. It carried within it childhood memories of running outside after the rain whild Master Gibbon was trying to teach him cleanliness. It had been a game for many years to roll into the mud and play with the malleable forest ground to make shapes of foxes and other animals to make a public to Gibbon’s teachings.

    Fox had been walking around listening to the sucking sound made by his steps to help him focus back on reality. He was trying to catch sunlight patches with his bare feet, the sensations were cold and exquisite. The noise of the heavy rain had been replaced by the random dripping of the drops falling from the canopy as the trees were letting go of the excess of water they received.

    It was not long before he found Gorrash. The dwarf was back in his statue state, he was face down, deep in the mud. Fox crouched down and gripped his friend where he could. He tried to release him from the ground but the mud was stronger, sucking, full of water.

    “You can leave him there and wait the soil to dry. You can’t fight with water”, said Margorrit. “And I think that when it’s dry, we’ll have a nice half-mold to make a copy of your friend.”

    Fox laughed. “You have so many strange ideas”, he told the old woman.

    “Well, it has been my strength and my weakness, I have two hands and a strong mind, and they have always functioned together. I only think properly when I use my hands. And my thoughts always lead me to make use of my hands.”

    Fox looked at Margoritt’s wrinkled hands, they were a bit deformed by arthritis but he could feel the experience they contained.

    “Breakfast’s ready”, she said. “I’ve made some honey cookies with what was left of the the flour. And Glynis has prepared some interesting juices. I like her, she has a gift with colours.”

    They left the dwarf to dry in the sun and walked back to the house where the others had already put everything on the table. Fox looked at everyone for a moment, maybe to take in that moment of grace and unlikely reunion of so many different people. He stopped at Rukshan who had a look of concern on his face. Then he started when Eleri talked right behind him. He hadn’t hear her come.

    “I think I lost him”, she said. “What’s for breakfast? I’m always starving after shrooms.”

    #4364
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Rukshan had stayed awake for the most part of the night, slowly and repeatedly counting the seconds between the blazing strokes of lightning and the growling bouts of thunder.
    It is slowly moving away.

    The howling winds had stopped first, leaving the showers of rain fall in continuous streams against the dripping roof and wet walls.

    An hour later maybe, his ear had turned to the sound of the newly arrived at the cottage, thinking it would be maybe the dwarf and Eleri coming back, but it was a different voice, very quiet, somehow familiar… the potion-maker?

    He had warned Margoritt that a lady clad in head-to-toe shawls would likely come to them. Margoritt had understood that some magical weaving was at play. The old lady didn’t have siddhis or yogic powers, but she had a raw potential, very soundly rooted in her long practice of weaving, and learning the trades and tales of the weaving nomad folks. She had understood. Better, she’d known — from the moment I saw you and that little guy, she’d said, pointing at Tak curled under the bed.
    “He’s amazing,” she’d said “wise beyond his age. But his mental state is not very strong.”

    There was more than met the eye about Tak, Rukshan started to realize.
    For now, the cottage had fell quiet. Dawn was near, and there was a brimming sense of peace and new beginning that came with the short silence before the birds started again their joyous chatter.

    It must have been then that he collapsed on the table of exhaustion and started to dream.

    It was long before.

    The dragon is large and its presence awe-inspiring. They have just shared the shards, each has taken one of the seven. Even the girl, although she still hates to be among us.
    The stench of the ring of fire is still in their nostrils. The Gods have deserted, and left as soon as the Portal closed itself. It is a mess.

    “Good riddance.”

    He raises his head, looking at the dragon above him. She is quite splendid, her scales a shining pearl blue on slate black, reflecting the moonshine in eerie patterns, and her plastron quietly shiny, almost softly fiery. His newly imbued power let him know intimately many things, at once. It is dizzying.

    “You talk of the Gods, don’t you?” he says, already knowing the answer.
    “Of course, I am. Good riddance. They had failed us so many times, forgot their duties, driven me and my kind to slavery. Now I am free. Free of guilt, and free of sorrow. Free to be myself, as I was meant to be.”
    “It is a bit more complex th…”
    “No it isn’t. It couldn’t be more simple. If you had the strength to see it, you would understand.”
    “I know what you mean, but I am not sure I understand.”

    The dragon smiles enigmatically. She turns to the lonely weeping girl, who is there with the old woman. Except her grand-mother is no longer an old crone, she has changed her shape to that of a younger person. She is showing potentials to the girl, almost drunk on the power, but it doesn’t alleviate her pain.

    “What are you going to do about them?”

    The Dragon seems above the concerns for herself. In a sense, she is right. It was all his instigation. He bears responsibility.

    “I don’t know…” It is a strange thing to say, when you can know anything. He knows there are no good outcomes of this situation. Not with the power she now possesses.

    “You better find out quick…” and wake up,

    wake up, WAKE UP !

    #4337
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    As the night was coming on the party, lanterns were lit around the place, and Gorrash started to wake up.
    He felt grumpy, and ready to take on the world, but suddenly realized there was quite a crowd assembled around the long table set up in front of the shack.
    He would have grumpfed and grumbled and sworn angrily that they had started without him, but someone had put a nice plate of pebbles in front of him.
    He couldn’t help but smile Nice touch, pointy ears!

    His friend the owl hooted as if in approval.
    “Oh there you are…” he said, seeing it was perched on… what exactly?
    There was another statue, a big old winged thing that wasn’t there yesterday.

    Fox has some explaining to do…” he thought, wondering about this… Then he was startled to realise that said statue was just a strange large being, stuck in a sort of hypnotic trance.

    “Has he woken yet?” the dwarf turned around to see the young lad who had addressed him, coming in his direction. “The witch’s magic mushrooms are very strong… it’s his fault; he wouldn’t calm down…” the lad said sheepishly.
    As the dwarf was looking at the owl for explanation, she just decided to fly away for some vole hunting.
    “Hello, I’m OlliOlliver is the name.”
    “Well, I’m Gorrash. You can call me Gorrash.”
    “Mr Go- go-gorrash, the Fae has called all of us to tell us something, could you come please…”

    Gorrash pointed at the tranced out god “and what about this big guy?”

    Olli shrugged, “Ruk- Ruk-, Rukji said we can leave him there, he will join us later on the trip…”

    #4309
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The remembrance had made the magic book reappear in Rukshan’s bag, and with it, its leaves ripe with vibrant parts of the long ago story. Rukshan started to read, immediately engrossed by the story it told.

    When the Heartswood was young, many thousands of years ago, during the Blissful Summer Age

    WHO
    — The Dark FAE
    — The Mapster DWARF
    — The Glade TROLL
    — The Trickster DRYAD
    — The Tricked GIRL
    — The Laughing CRONE
    — The Toothless DRAGON

    ACT 1, SCENE 1 – THE PREPARATION

    NARRATOR: It all started as an idea, small and unnoticeable, at first. Almost too frail to endure. But it soon found a fertile soil in the mind of seven improbable acolytes. It took roots and got nourishment from greed, envy, despair, sorrow, despondence, rebellion and other traits. And it grew. That growing idea bound them together, and in search of the way to obtain what it wanted, got them to work together to do an unthinkable thing. Rob the Heartswood of its treasure, the Crest Jewel of the Gods, the radiant Gem that was at its centre. It would be the end of their sorrow, the end of the Gods unfair power of all creation… The idea obscured all others, driving them to act.

    FAE: Did you get the map?
    DWARF: Of course, what do you think, I am no amateur. What do you bring to the table?
    FAE: I bring the way out. But first things first, the map will get us there, but we still need a way in. What says your TROLL friend?
    DWARF: He heard rumours, there is a DRYAD. Her tree is dying, she tried to petition the Gods, but to no avail. She will help.
    FAE: Can your friend guarantee it?
    DWARF: You have damn little trust. You will see, when she brings in the GIRL. She is the key to open the woods. Only an innocent heart can do it, so the DRYAD will trick her.
    FAE: How? I want to know everything, I don’t like surprises. An unknowing acolyte is a threat to our little heist. What’s her story?
    DWARF: I don’t know much. Something about a broken heart, a dead one, her lover maybe. The DRYAD told the GIRL she could bring her loved one back from the dead, in the holy woods.
    FAE: I can work with that. So we are good then?
    DWARF: You haven’t told me about your exit plan. What is it?
    FAE: I can’t tell you, not now. We need the effect of surprise. Now go get the others, we will reconvene at the woods’ entrance, tomorrow night, at the darkest moon of the darkest day.

    SCENE 2 – THE CURIOUS GODMOTHER

    GIRL: Godmother, I need to go, you are not to worry.
    CRONE (cackling): Let me come with you, the woods are not safe at this time of the year. The Stranger is surely out there to get you.
    GIRL: No, no, Godmother, please stay, you cannot help me, you need to rest.

    Rukshan looked at some of the blank pages, there were still missing patches

    ACT 2 – SCENE 3 – THE HEIST

    In the heart of the Heartswoods

    TROLL: Let me break that crystal, so we can share it!
    GIRL (reaching for it to protect it): No! I need it whole!
    DRYAD (in suave tone): Let it go! I will protect it and give you what you want…
    GIRL: Your promises are worthless! You lied to me!
    CRONE: (cackles) Told you!
    DWARF: Give it to me!
    FAE (quieting everyone): Let’s be calm, friends. Everyone can get what they want.

    GIRL (startled): Eek! A Guardian DRAGON! We are doomed!
    FAE (reaching too late for the crystal): Oh no, it had broken in seven pieces. I will put them in this bag, each of us will get one piece after we leave. (to the DRAGON) Lead the way out of this burning circle!
    DWARF (understanding): Oh, that was your exit strategy…
    FAE (rolling eyes): Obvious-ly.

    That was all that the book had to show at the time. Rukshan thought the writer got a little lazier with the writing as the story went, but it was good enough to understand more or less what had happened.

    There was one last thing that was shown in the book.

    WHAT THEY STOLE
    — Shard of Infinite Knowledge
    — Shard of Transmutation and Shapeshifting
    — Shard of Ubiquity and Teleportation
    — Shard of Infinite Influence and Telepathy
    — Shard of Infinite Life and Death
    — Shard of Grace and Miracles
    — Shard of Infinite Strength

    #4308
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The snow had turned into blizzard and it was hard to see even a few meters ahead. It was hard to move because of the wind and of the thick white layer covering the forest ground. Fox looked behind him, his footsteps were already gone. He felt worried for the dwarf. Fox thought he shouldn’t have left his friend like that. There was no point now looking for him, and anyway Fox wasn’t really sure in which direction he came from. He shivered, his clothes were soaked and covered with snow and ice. He felt cold inside his bones. He was too tired to even wish for shelter. He was about to sit in the snow when he felt something bumping into his left leg.

    “Oh! you’re there,” said Gorrash. “What strange weather. I have never seen something like it.”

    Fox was too cold to answer but he felt relieved that his friend was well. The dwarf seemed so lively. Fox noticed his friend was carrying three colourful eggs in his little arms. They reminded him of the glowing eggs of that strange creature, except they weren’t glowing. He wanted to ask where Gorrash had found them, but his mouth wouldn’t respond.

    “Anyway,” said the dwarf, “You’d better come this way, there is a wooden house with a fire burning inside.”

    Fox looked at the dwarf jumping over the thick snow as if it was a game. He hesitated but decided to follow. He had nothing to lose.

    They soon arrived in front of a wooden house. The door opened and an old lady got out, opening an umbrella. She was waving her other arm and saying something that Fox couldn’t hear with the raging wind. He continued to advance and the old lady looked horrified. She hurried toward him still talking. Fox eventually heard what she was saying.

    “Don’t come closer! My house will not resist that blizzard.”

    It was so strange that Fox stopped where he was. The old woman had no difficulty approaching despite the wind and the snow. When she was close enough, she covered Fox with the umbrella and the world became still around them.

    “Is that a magic umbrella?” he asked.

    “Sort of,” said the woman. “It’s more of an anti-curse thingy that my friend Mr Minn gave me some time ago. I didn’t think it would be useful, until today.”

    #4306
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The drizzle wasn’t meant to last. At least that’s what the smell in the air was telling Fox. With the night it was getting colder and the drizzle would soon turn into small ice crystals, and maybe worse.
    “We should get going,” Fox said, enjoying the last pieces of rabbit stew. The dwarf had been busy looking around in the leafless bushes and behind the tree trunks. He had been silent the whole time and Fox was beginning to worry.
    “What have you been doing anyway?” he asked. “Are you hunting? You can still have a piece of that stew before I swallow it.” He handed his bowl toward the dwarf, who grumpfed without looking at Fox.
    “I don’t eat. I’m a stone dwarf. I think I get recharged by daylight.”
    Gorash kept on looking around very intently.
    “We should get going,” repeated Fox. The weather is going to be worse.
    “Grmpf. I don’t care. I’m made to stay outside. I’m a stone statue.”
    “Well even stone gets cracked with the help of ice when temperature drops below zero. How am I supposed to carry you if you fall into pieces,” said Fox. He thought his idea rather cunning, but he had no idea if Gorash would be affected by the bad weather or not, since he was not really like stone during the night.

    “And what are you looking for? It’s winter, there’s not much of anything behind those naked bushes.”
    “It’s Easter. You had your rabbit. I want my eggs,” said the dwarf.
    “Oh.” Fox was speechless for a few moments. He too had been thinking of the colourful eggs of the dwarf’s friend they had left in the witch’s garden. He wondered what had happened to it? Gorash had been gloomier and gloomier since they had left the garden and Fox didn’t understand why. He had thought his friend happy to go on a quest and see the outside world. But something was missing, and now Fox realised what it was.

    He didn’t really know what to say to comfort the dwarf, so he said nothing. Instead he thought about the strange seasonal pattern shifts. If it was Easter then it should be spring time, but the temperatures were still a havoc. And the trees had no leaves in that part of the forest. Fox remembered the clock tower of the city had had some problems functioning recently, maybe it was all connected. The problems with the bad smell around the city, the nonsensical seasonal changes and that gloomy quest… maybe it was all connected.

    Fox gulped the last pieces of rabbit stew without enjoying it. He licked the inside of the bowl and put it in his backpack without further cleaning. He had suddenly realised that it was not much use to ask Gorash’s permission to leave as Fox was doing all the walk during the day anyway. So he could as well do it at night. He didn’t have as much difficulties to put out the fire as he had lighting it up. He cleaned the place as much as he could and then looked around him. The night was dark, the drizzle had turned into small snow flakes. Fox smelled the air. It would soon turn into bigger flakes. The dwarf could stay outside if he wanted, but Fox needed to move. Let him follow if he wants to.

    #4296
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    That night Glynnis had a strange dream. She knew that it was no ordinary dream and in the morning diligently recorded it in her dream journal.

    I was walking on a windy path through the forest. A young woman with bizarre hair and a cackling laugh appeared before me, blocking my path.
    “Tell me your name!” I commanded.
    “My name is Eleri, and I have a parrot to accompany you on your journey.”
    “A parrot! What would I do with a parrot?”
    “This is no ordinary parrot. This parrot can tell jokes,” responded the woman.
    “A funny parrot! Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place. Give me the parrot and I will be on my way.”
    “Hold your horses. It’s not such an easy thing as that,” said the woman. “It never is you know. First you must tell me what is going on.”
    I sighed and handed her a manuscript. “Read this a dozen times and all will be made clear.”
    A look of petulant fury distorted the young woman’s face.
    “ Tell me what is going on, you rude tart!“ she said crossly.
    Here is what I told her:

    Glynnis is a young woman living in the enchanted forest in an abandoned mansion. She practices magic and has a great affinity for nature. She also has the face of dragon after she annoyed a powerful sorcerer. She is being troubled by dreams which seem to be calling her on a mission—the purpose of which she is unsure. Glynnis sells her potions at a stall in the city. One day she finds a map hidden behind a painting and knows that she needs to follow the path shown on the map.
    Rushkan is fae. He works as the city ‘chief overseer’ looking after the clock tower. He isn’t that keen on his job. Rushkan has a half-formed vision to assemble a team but for what purpose he is not sure. He has also discovered something worrying, dark even, about the clock tower.
    One day, Rushkan uses his magic to call for an Oliphant. He packs a small bag of belongs and departs on a journey. Before departing, he leaves a gift for Olliver, the office errand boy.
    Rushkan is a little irritated to find that the forest has been fenced off and a toll-booth erected—who wouldn’t be annoyed by this needless bureaucracy? Anyway, after farewelling the helpful Oliphant he continues his journey on foot.
    He hears a cry for help and comes across a dying Gibbon. The Gibbon entrusts her infant to his care. He takes the baby—named Tak—to an old woman who lives in a lodge close to the Dragon Heartwood: Margoritt Loursenoir, a writer. It seems Tak is a shape-shifter and can also take the form of a child. Perhaps that is his true form. Rushkan stays with Margoritt for a while to recoup but it isn’t very long before he feels compelled to continue his journey to find the hermit, Kumihimo,in the forest. Kumihimo seems to be weaving seven braids.
    To get to the hermit Rushkan has to cross Fae land. He isn’t overjoyed about this because he has left the ‘old ways’ of his people. Rushkan has to declare his presence to the Fae people—it’s a rule. The Queen is a bit annoyed because her empire is not as powerful as it once was and she has had to use precious resources to protect Rushkan on his journey. Anyway, she doesn’t stay uppity for long and ends up in bed with him.
    Gorash is a dwarf statue who abides in the grounds of the deserted mansion in the enchanted forest. At night he comes to life. He has a friend called Rainbow. Gorash assists Rainbow in stealing Glynis’s magic potions and they make seven colourful eggs which Rainbow is infatuated with.
    Mr Fox lives in a hut outside the city walls. At sunset he can shapeshift into a fox. He prefers being in animal form. Fox is quite a character. Not much gets past him.
    Fox’s master is a Gibbon who taught him how to shapeshift. After going on a journey into the forest to find Gibbon, Fox is told that it is time to learn the wisdom of the Heart. Gibbon gives Fox an assignment: “You’ll find a lost soul in the enchanted forest. Bring it back to its rightful owner. Then you shall find your master.”
    Fox goes back to the mansion in the deserted forest just as Glynnis is leaving on her journey. He befriends Gorash who has become increasingly lonely since Rainbow now has the eggs.

    “That’s brilliant,” said the woman called Eleri. “You should probably get lots of points for doing that.” She gave one more loud cackle and shouted: “I am off to pick some mushrooms. You will find the parrot when you wake up from this crazy dream!”

    #4293
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The night was almost there, the dwarf would come out of his heavy daysleep any minute now. Fox had been collecting mushrooms along with twigs and branches to make some fire. He hoped the constant drizzle of these last few days had not rendered them too wet.

    The differences of his needs and cravings depending on his being a fox or a human had always amazed him. When he was a fox, he feared fire and would avoid it at all cost. When he was a human, he couldn’t spend a night out in the cold without a fire. His body was simply not good at keeping warmth inside when he had no fur. Today was no exception and Fox was certain the dwarf would also appreciate it to get rid of the cold of the stone.

    After piling up the wood for the fire, Fox smelled his harvest of fresh mushrooms. He imagined them accompanying a good rabbit stew and felt saliva water his mouth. His diet as an animal was mostly meat, whereas as a human he was oddly attracted to vegetables, and even enjoyed the taste of mushrooms. He might not enjoy them so much had he not met a girl once, so long ago when he was a still a cub learning to transform into a human. He remembered the girl had said she was called Eleri, which he had found amusing because in French “Elle rit” means “she’s laughing”.

    “How do you know French?” she had asked.
    “Oh! My master Gibbon teaches me French, he says it would give me another way of thinking the world.”
    “Your master must be fond of Romance stories,” she giggled.

    Fox didn’t really understood what she meant by that, and he thought it was not so important because what she had in her bag smelt so funny.

    “What’s that?” he asked.
    “You want some?” She handed a bunch of butterstache fungi to the handsome redhead boy. “I realise I don’t know your name.”

    “I’m Fox,” he said his eyes fixed on the strange looking things in her hands. He sniffed and wrinkled his nose. “Is it safe?”

    He remembered the look of incredulity in her eyes, her beautiful eyes. She was the first girl he had seen. He didn’t know much about humans except what Master Gibbon had told him in French, which didn’t really make sense at that time.

    “It’s totally safe, you might only have some funny experiences if you take the wrong ones in the forest,” Eleri laughed and Fox remembered the meaning of her name in French. He thought the name suited her well. He accepted her gift, for her eyes, and for her sincere laugh.

    Since that time, eating mushrooms was always coloured with joy and a sense of daring. The last rays of the Sun faded away.

    “It smells like mushrooms, and butterstache if I’m not mistaken,” said the raspy voice of the dwarf.

    #4278
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    It had been three days. Fox wasn’t sure of what to do next. The witch was gone, the manor was empty, and she wasn’t coming back. For a moment he felt like the small fox he was before his master found him, feeling abandoned by his mother. She had been killed after hiding him from the hunters. But he didn’t know it at the time. Fox sighed. How was he supposed to find the lost piece of soul now? It was easier when he was in his animal form, he wouldn’t think so much about what to do next, he would just be doing, anything that fit the moment. But his master had warned him not to revert back to his animal form, that he was not yet free. Fox wasn’t sure if it was true, but he trusted his master, and despite the strong desire to turn back, each moment he was making the decision to keep his human form.

    There was another who was not yet free, Fox thought. He looked at the cold stone face of his new friend. They had talked every night since his arrival and as usual they hadn’t seen the daylight coming. This time, Gorrash had been frozen laughing, and Fox thought it was the liveliest statue he had ever seen. They had gotten along quite easily, especially after Fox had given the dwarf some medicine to help with the nausea after his incursion underground. Afterward, Gorrash had been an endless source of questions about the world. Fox thought the dwarf was an interesting character. He looked old with his long beard and the wrinkles around his eyes, but he had not been around very long. Grey during the day, he was very colourful once the daylight had gone; he wore red hat and pants, green jacket, and brown crakows and belt. His voice had the sound of a grinding stone, with a hint of melancholy as he talked about his maker. But for the moment, despite his expressive outburst, he was cast in silence.

    Fox shook himself and decided it was time to make some plans about where to go next. He would try to catch up with the witch, he might be able to find her before she went to far away from the forest. The woman looked old and she couldn’t have gone far, especially as she seemed to avoid human contact, she wouldn’t have found a carriage. Fox remembered his master warning him about hope, that it was one of the cause of suffering in the world. Nonetheless, roaming randomly into the enchanted forest could take him years to find the lost piece of soul. Hope or no hope, he had spent enough time waiting in his life. He had a quest now.

    Fox wouldn’t have admitted aloud, but his new friendship brought in some complication. Fox had tried to lift him, but despite its rather small size the statue was quite heavy. He would have to find something to carry it during the day as they couldn’t just walk at night time.
    Fox looked at the garden for a moment, the frozen pond, the yellow grass, some old abandoned furniture. Then he looked at the closed door of the house, and wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before. There might be something useful inside. And if the witch was gone, she wouldn’t mind, would she?

    Fox used a pair of pins to open the door. The smell of herbs, spices and a few other things he didn’t want to know about, brushed past his nose as he entered the dark house.

    #4276
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The garden was becoming too small for Gorrash. With time, the familiarity had settled down in his heart and he knew very well each and every stone or blade of grass there was to know. With familiarity, boredom was not very far. Gorrash threw a small pebble in the pond, he was becoming restless and his new and most probably short friendship with Rainbow had triggered a seed in his heart, the desire to know more about the world.

    Before he’d met the creature, Gorrash could remember the pain and sadness present in the heart of his maker. He had thought that was all he needed to know about the world, that mankind was not to be trusted. And he had avoided any contact with that dragon lady, lest she would hurt him. He knew that all came from his maker, although he had no real access to the actual memories, only to their effects.

    Gorrash threw another pebble into the pond, it made a splashing sound which dissolved into the silence. He imagined the sound was like the waves at the surface of the pond, going endlessly outward into the world. He imagined himself on top of those waves, carried away into the world. A shiver ran through his body, which felt more like an earthquake than anything else, stone bodies are not so flexible after all. He looked at the soft glowing light near the bush where Rainbow was hiding. The memory of joy and love he had experienced when they hunted together gave his current sadness a sharp edge, biting into his heart mercilessly. He thought there was nothing to be done, Rainbow would leave and he would be alone again.

    His hand reached in his pocket where he found the phial of black potion he had kept after Rainbow refused it. He shook it a few times. Each time he looked at it, Gorrash would see some strange twirls, curls and stars in the liquid that seemed made of light. He wondered what it was. What kind of liquid was so dark to the point of being luminous sometimes ? The twirls were fascinating, leading his attention to the curls ending in an explosion of little stars. Had the witch captured the night sky into that bottle?

    Following the changes into the liquid was strangely soothing his pain. Gorrash was feeling sleepy and it was a very enjoyable feeling. Feelings were quite new to him and he was quite fascinated by them and how they changed his experience of the world. The phial first seemed to pulse back and forth into his hand, then the movement got out and began to spread into his body which began to move back and forth, carried along with this sensual lullaby. Gorrash wondered if it would go further, beyond his body into the world. But as the thought was born, the feeling was gone and he was suddenly back into the night. A chill went down his spine. It was the first time. The joy triggered his sadness again.

    The dwarf looked at the dark phial. Maybe it could help ease his pain. He opened it, curious and afraid. What if it was poison? said a voice of memory. Gorrash dismissed it as the scent of Jasmine reached his nose. His maker was fond of Jasmine tea, and he was surprised at the fondness that rose in his heart. But still no images, it was merely voices and feelings. Sometimes it was frustrating to only have bits and never the whole picture, and full of exasperation, Gorrash gulped in the dark substance.

    He waited.

    Nothing was happening. He could still hear the cooing of Rainbow, infatuated with it eggs, he could hear the scratches of the shrews, the flight of the insects. That’s when Gorrash noticed something was different as he was beginning to hear the sharp cries of the bats above. He tried to move his arm to look at the phial, but his body was so heavy. He had never felt so heavy in his short conscious life, even as the light of the Sun hardened his body, it was not that heavy.

    The soil seemed to give way under his increasing weight, the surface tension unable to resist. He continued to sink into the ground, down the roots of the trees, through the tunnels of a brown moles quite surprised to see him there, surrounded by rocks and more soil, some little creatures’ bones, and down he went carried into hell by the weight of his pain.

    After some time, his butt met a flat white surface, cold as ice, making him jump back onto his feet. The weird heaviness that a moment before froze his body was gone. He looked around, he was in a huge cave and he was not alone. There was an old woman seated crosslegged on a donkey skin. Gorrash knew it was a donkey because it still had its head, and it was smiling. The old woman had hair the colour of the clouds before a storm in summer, It was full of knots and of lightning streaks twirling and curling around her head. Her attention was all on the threads she had in her hands. Gorrash counted six threads. But she was doing nothing with them. She was very still and the dwarf wondered if she was dead or asleep.

    What do you want? asked the donkey head in a loud bray.

    It startled the dwarf but it didn’t seem to bother the old lady who was still entranced and focused on her threads.

    Nothing, said Gorrash who couldn’t think of anything he would want.

    Nonsense, brayed the donkey, laughing so hard that the skin was shaking under the old lady. Everyone wants something. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something.

    Gorrash thought about what he could want, what he had been wanting that night. He remembered his desire to get out of the garden.

    And there you are, brayed the donkey head, that’s a start. What do you want then?

    Getting out of the garden?

    Noooo! That’s a consequence of a deeper desire, but that’s not what you want.

    I have never thought about desires before, said Gorrash. It’s pretty new to me. I just came to life a few weeks ago during a full moon.

    The donkey head tilted slightly on its right. No excuses, it spat, If you’re awake, then you have a desire in your heart that wants to be fulfilled. What do you want? Take your time, but not too long. The universe is always on the move and you may miss the train, or the bus, or the caravan…

    As the donkey went on making a list of means of transportation, Gorrash looked hesitantly at the old lady. She was still focused on her six threads she had not moved since he had arrived there.

    Who is she? he asked to the donkey.

    _She’s known by many names and has many titles. She’s Kumihimo Weaver of Braids, Ahina Maker of Songs, Gadong Brewer of Stews…

    Ok! said Gorrash, not wanting the donkey go on again into his list enumeration pattern. What is she doing?

    She’s waiting.

    And, what is she waiting for?

    She’s waiting for the seventh thread, brayed the donkey head. I’m also waiting for the thread, it whined loudly. She won’t leave my back until she’s finished her braid. The head started to cry, making the dwarf feel uncomfortable. Suddenly it stopped and asked And, who are you?

    The question resonated in the cave and in his ears, taking Gorrash by surprise. He had no answer to that question. He had just woken up a few weeks ago in that garden near the forest, with random memories of a maker he had not known, and he had no clue what he desired most. Maybe if he could access more memories and know more about his maker that would help him know what he wanted.

    Good! brayed the donkey, We are making some progress here. Now if you’d be so kind as to give her a nose hair, she could have her last thread and she could tell you where to find your maker.

    Hope rose in Gorrash’s heart. Really?

    Certainly, brayed the head with a hint of impatience.

    But wouldn’t a nose hair be too short for her braid? asked the dwarf. All the other threads seemed quite long to him.

    Don’t waste my time with such triviality. Pull it out!

    Gorrash doubted it would work but he grabbed a nose hair between his thumb and index and began to pull. He was surprised as he didn’t feel the pain he expected but instead the hair kept being pulled out. He felt annoyed and maybe ashamed that it was quite long and he had not been aware of it. He took out maybe several meters long before a sudden pain signalled the end of the operation. Ouch!

    hee haw, laughed the donkey head.

    The pain brought out the memory of a man, white hair, the face all wrinkled, a long nose and a thin mouth. He was wearing a blouse tightened at his waist by a tool belt. He was looking at a block of stone wondering what to make out of it, and a few tears were rolling down his cheeks. Gorrash knew very well that sadness, it was the sadness inside of him. Many statues surrounded the man in what looked like a small atelier. There were animals, gods, heads, hands, and objects. The vision shifted to outside the house, and he saw trees and bushes different than the ones he was used to in the garden where he woke up. Gorrash felt a strange feeling in his heart. A deep longing for home.

    Now you have what you came here for. Give the old lady her thread, urged the donkey. She’s like those old machines, you have to put a coin to get your coffee.

    Gorrash had no idea what the donkey was talking about. He was still under the spell of the vision. As soon as he handed the hair to the woman, she began to move. She took the hair and combined it to the other threads, she was moving the threads too swiftly for his eyes to follow, braiding them in odd patterns that he felt attracted to.

    Time for you to go, said the donkey.

    I’d like to stay a bit longer. What she’s doing is fascinating.

    Oh! I’m sure, brayed the donkey, But you have seen enough of it already. And someone is waiting for you.

    The dwarf felt lighter. And he struggled as he began levitating. What!? His body accelerated up through the earth, through the layers of bones and rocks, through the hard soil and the softer soil of years past. He saw the brown mole again and the familiar roots of the trees of the garden in the enchanted forest.

    Gorrash took a deep breath as he reintegrated his stone body. He wobbled, trying to catch his ground. He felt like throwing up after such an accelerated trip. His knees touched the ground and he heard a noise of broken glass as he dropped the phial.

    “Are you alright?” asked a man’s voice. Gorrash forced his head up as a second wave of nausea attempted to get out. A man in a dark orange coat was looking down at him with genuine worry on his face.

    “I’m good,” said the dwarf. “But who are you?”

    “My name is Fox. What’s yours?”

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