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  • #6076
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Let’s begin,” said the teacher. She was short and seemed around sixty seven. She walked around the room like a tamer surrounded by wild beasts in a circus. Her dark hair was tied into a long braid falling on her straight back like an I. She wore a sari wrapped around her neatly. “I’m Ms Anika Koskinen, your cryogurt teacher today. You’ve got the recipe in front of you on the benches right with the glass and a bottle of water. The ingredients will be in the cabinets on your left and everything is referenced and written big enough for everyone to see.”

    “Those benches look like the ones in chemistry class when I was in college,” said Glo. “I have bad memories of thoses.”

    “You have bad memories, that’s all,” said Sha making them both laugh.

    “But where’s Mavis?” whispered Glo after looking around the room at the other participants. A majority of women,  wrapped in colourful sarongs and a few older men.

    “How do you want me to know? I was with you since we left the bungalow,” said Sharon who was trying to decipher the blurry letters on the recipe. “Their printer must be malfunctioning, it’s unreadable.”

    “You should try putting on your glasses.”

    “I didn’t bring’em, didn’t think we’d need to see anything.”

    “Oh! There she is,” said Glo as Mavis just entered the room with her beach bag. “Mav! Weehoo! We’re here!”

    “I saw you! no need to shout,” whispered Mavis loudly. She muttered some excuse to the teacher who had been giving them a stern look.

    “I’m afraid you’ll have to go with your friends,” said Ms Koskinen, “We don’t have enough material for everyone.”

    “Oh! That’ll be perfect,” said Mavis with a broad smile. “Hi girls,” she said while installing herself near Sha and Glo.

    The teacher resumed her explanations of the procedure of making frozen yogurt, checking regularly if everyone had understood. She took everyone bobbing their head as a yes.

    “Is he good looking?” asked Sha, showing one of the men who had been looking at them since Mavis arrival.

    “You shouldn’t ask us,” said Glo, “our eyes are like wrinkles remover apps.”

    “I think he looks better without glasses,” said Mavis.

    After Ms Koskinen had finished giving them instructions, she told everyone to go take the ingredients and bring them back to their benches.

    “I’m going,” said Sha who wanted to have a better look at the man.

    “Don’t forget the recipe with the list of ingredients,” said Mavis waving the paper at her.

    “Oh! Yes.”

    She came back with the man helping her carry the tray of ingredients.

    “Thank you Andrew,” said Sha when he put the tray on their bench.

    “Oh you’re welcome. And those are your friend you told me about?”

    “Yes! This is Gloria and this is Mavis.”

    “Pleased to meet you,” said Andrew. “I’m Andrew Anderson. I suggested Sharon we could have lunch together after the workshop. I’d like you to meet my friends.”

    “Of course!” said Sha. She winked at her friends who were too flabbergasted to speak.

    “That’s settled then. We’ll meet at 1pm at my bungalow.”

    “See you later,” said Sharon with a dulcet voice.

    “What the butt was that all about?” asked Glo.

    “Oh! You’ll thank me. I pretexted not to be able to find everything on the list and Andrew was very helpful. The man is charming, and his yacht makes you forget about his Australian accent. We’re going to have lunch on a yacht girls! That means we’re not stuck on the beach and can have some fun exploring around.”

    Sha looked quite pleased with herself. She put a bottle of orange powder among the ingredients and said :”Now! Let’s make some wrinkle flattener ice cream, ladies. I took some extra tightener.”

    #6071

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Listen” said Gabe, the cult leader. “How long have you been Gourd level? One year?”

    The other nodded.

    “See Gavin, I think you’re ready to go Operating Tomathetan.”

    Gavin gulped. “But, but… are you sure about such a leap? And… what about…”

    “Oh, don’t worry about him, the yielding of his crops has been written, and it’s not good. Better look toward the future Gavin. And let me ask you something, don’t you think about the future?”

    When the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe had spoken, it was customary to bow and continue listen, in case he wasn’t finished.

    “Is there anything more I can do you for, oh GLUG?”

    “Sure. Get me your proposal for the new organization of the crops. No rush. Tomorrow will be fine.”

    “Your great leaderness is too bountiful.”

    “Of course. Now scram, I have rituals to attend to.” And with that, Great Leader Undisputed Gabe made a hasty retreat into the inner sanctum with his favourite vestal priestess of the moment.

    :fleuron:

    Gavin was flummoxed. It had all been foretold by the heretic Basil. He wondered, should he consult him? The weight of this sudden assignment felt heavy on his shoulders. He wondered how he could solve the mountain of problems that had accumulated like horse shit on a pile of manure.

    :fleuron:

    “You’ll see, it’s all connected.” Star signaled Tara when they were ushered into the inner sanctum. “I’m sure all the trail of clues have led to this for a reason. Have I told you about my theories about multiple timelines and probable selves? Maybe the Vince who called us called us from a different probability…”

    “You probably right, but that nurse outfit is really too tight.” Tara wiggled impatiently on her chair.

    “AH! There you are!” a manly voice behind them. “Welcome, welcome, young fresh divine sprouts.”

    “Did he call us prouts?” Tara almost tittered. “Sshtt” Star elbowed her.

    Gabe took a while to observe them, then made a face. “Not the freshest batch I had, I must admit, but that should do.”

    He clapped his hands, and a woman entered. “Get those two well anointed, and prepared in the art of leafing.”

    Tara and Star looked at each other with an air of utter incomprehension on their faces, but decided unanimously to just go with the flow. Who knows, if all was indeed connected, it would probably bring them one step closer to Uncle Basil and the solving of mysterious comatose Vince.

    #6064
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    I’ve been up since god knows what time. Got up for the loo and couldn’t face going back to the awful nightmares.  That girl that came yesterday said she’d been having nightmares, she said it was common now, people having nightmares, what with the quarantine. I think I might have just snorted at the silly girl, but when I woke up last night I wondered if it was true. Or maybe I’m just a suggestible old fool.

    Anyway, I stayed up because lord knows I don’t want to be in a city in America at night, not waking and not dreaming either. I’ve had a feeling for a long time, and much longer than this virus, that it was like a horror movie and it would behoove me not to watch it anymore or I’d be having nightmares.  I didn’t stop watching though, sort of a horrified fascination, like I’d watched this far so why stop now.

    In the dream I was on a dark city street at a bus stop, it was night time and the lights were bright in a shop window on the other side of the sidewalk.  I had a bunch of tickets in my hand all stapled together, but they were indecipherable. I had no idea where I was going or how to get there.  Then I noticed the man that was by my side,  a stranger that seemed to have latched on to me, had stolen all my tickets and replaced them with the rolled up used ticket stubs.  I made him give me back my tickets but then I knew I couldn’t trust him.

    Then I realized I hadn’t finished packing properly and only had a ragged orange towel with bloodstains on it.  So I go back home (I say home but I don’t know what house it was) to pack my bags properly, and find a stack of nice new black towels, and replace the bloody orange one.

    I’m walking around the house, wondering what else I should pack, and one room leads into another, and then another, and then another, in a sort of spiral direction (highly improbable because you’d have ended up back in the same room, in real life) and then I found a lovely room and thought to myself, What a nice room! You’d never have known it was there because it wasn’t on the way to anywhere and didn’t seem to have a function as a room.

    It was familiar and I remembered I’d been there before, in another dream, years ago.  It had lovely furniture in it, big old polished wooden pieces, but not cluttered, the room was white and bright and spacious. Lovely big old bureau on one wall, I remember that piece quite clearly. Not a speck of dust on it and the lovely dark sheen of ancient polished oak.

    Anyway in the dream I didn’t take anything from the room, and probably should have just stayed there but the next thing I know, I’m in a car with my mother and she races off down the fast lane of an empty motorway. I’m thinking, surely she doesn’t know how to take me where I have to go? She seemed so confident, so out of character the way she was driving.

    I got up for the loo and all I kept thinking about was that awful scene in the  city street, which admittedly doesn’t sound that bad. I won’t bother telling the girl about it when she comes to do my breakfast, it loses a little in the telling, I think.

    But the more I think about that lovely room at the end of the spiral of rooms, the more I’m trying to wrack my brains to remember where I’ve seen that room before.  I’ve half a mind to go back there and open that dark oak bureau and see what’s inside.

    #6029
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Based on post #5959 in The Whale’s Diaries Collection.

    As soon as Charlton finished editing his journal entry, someone knocked at the door. It was Kady in a red dress. She looked different than his dream. For starter she was not restless and she had some kind of self-assurance that she didn’t have before.

    “Oh! Hello,” Charlton said. “Are we going to the pistil?”

    “So you got the dream I sent you. It’ll be easier. I’m not against a cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I could enjoy one in a couch.”

    Charlton made some rare Da Hong Pao Chinese tea, the one called Big Red Dress. A warm and rich aroma steamed out of the purple clay teapot he had brought from a trip in China. He thought the tea was a nice touch considering his friend’s garment.

    “So, where have you been?” he asked.

    Kady brought up the little cup to her nose and smelled the tea.

    “Oh! You truly know your shit, Charlton.” She took a sip before continuing. “The pistils, they have been around for longer than everybody think. We call it the Pistil Maze,” Kady said. She looked at him with hesitation in her eyes. “You may not believe me, but aliens put it there, you know. Who else? But most of the people they don’t understand. They don’t want to. It’s too frightening for their little comfort. People are perceiving them now because of the virus. It’s making them able to see their frequency when they weren’t able to before. But they have been there for a long time.”

    Then Kady told Charlton about an ancient alien race from another dimension that was bringing a power, a treasure of knowledge and abilities, but that current humans bodies were too weak to bear its intensity, and that people had to somehow upgrade before they could. The pistils, they were a series of mazes, a path to transformation. People had to follow it in order to change themselves and there was not just one path. Everyone had to follow their own.

    The whole story about the pistils fascinated Charlton, especially after his dream. It didn’t took him long before asking his next question.

    “Do I need to pack up special things for the trip?”

    “Actually you don’t. We’ll find all that we need inside.”

    #5692
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Not so fast, Granola,” Lucinda spoke the words aloud. “One you are in a story, you can never leave. And not only that,” she continued ominously, “No story is ever finished. No thread is ever snapped.”

    #5672
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Aren’t you worried it’s been 2 days now the boy is missing?”

    “Nonsense” replied June curtly. “Don’t you start ruining our poker night.” She slurped delicately her overflowing mojito glass. “Besides, I told you Jacqui and her friends are on the case. I sent her the coordinate. Baby is obviously fine.”

    “I still preferred my pith helmet idea and leaving it to professionals though” April pouted her lips in a sulky way. “Now, what are we going to say when Mellie Noma is coming back? That we lost her baby but worry not, the local nutcase friend is on the job.” she finished her sentence almost out of breath “and I heard from August she was coming back at the end of the week.”

    “So, are you playing or what? Fold or call?” June was growing impatient about the topic. The French maid and her baby, like the strange Finnley, were making themselves dangerously at home now, like three little annoying cuckoos in her own nest, and June felt stifled as though the FBI were closing in, breathing down on her neck.

    That Finnley looked surely suspicious enough, there was no telling she wasn’t a Russian spy in disguise, or worse, some undercover cop…

    “You’re right!” she slammed the cards violently on the table, making April almost faint. “We have to take matters in our own hands. I’ll get Mellie Noma to fire her. Blame the Finnley and her French friends for Barron’s disappearance. Mellie No’ owes me that much, especially after I saved her neck from her husband after that horrible giraffe incident.”

    April’s face turned to shock at the mention.

    #5623
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Who can that be now!” exclaimed May as she made her way to the back door.  A flustered looking woman in odd looking mismatched clothes was standing on the door step.

    I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding!” she said by way of introduction, “But I ‘ave lost my baby, ’ave you seen ’er? My name is Fanella.  I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding, but I must find my daughter first!”

    “You’d better come in,” replied May, wondering what to do.  Until the right baby turned up, she could hardly give this woman her daughter back.  But the poor woman was distraught, and May wanted to ease her distress.  She would have to try to delay her somehow.

    “There is no need to worry, er, Fanella, as it happens there is an unexpected baby girl visiting with the bosses son, but they are both fast asleep. They are quite safe, but I am not in a position to disturb them yet. Do sit down, you look exhausted.  Let me get you a drink.”

    May handed her a glass of wine. “How on earth did you manage to lose your daughter?”

    “I was just about to ring ze bell but I was so nervous I ’ad to pee so I ran quickly be’ind ze bushes. And when I ’ad finished, my baby was gone!” Fanella started to weep.

    “Did you say you’d come to help Finnley in the bed?” Suddenly May started to wonder if this was another call girl for Mr August. Was he planning a threesome?

    “Yes, I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley,” Fanella replied, “Wiz ze bedding.”

    “And you brought your baby with you?”  aghast, May wondered what to do next. Maybe this woman shouldn’t be given the child back after all.  It had been a long night, with far too many babies.

    #5376
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I don’t know how I restrained myself from throttling Finly when she finally handed me the letter from Corrie.  A whole week she’d had it,  and wouldn’t share it until she’d cleaned every last window. Some peoples priorities, I ask you!  The funny thing was that even when I had it in my hand I didn’t open it right away. Even with Mater and Bert breathing down my neck.

    It was something to savour, the feeling of having an unopened letter in ones hand.  Not that this looked like the letters we used to get years ago, all crisp and slim on white paper, addressed in fine blue ink. This was a bundle tied with a bit of wool pulled out of an old jumper by the look of it, all squiggly,  holding together several layers of yellowed thin cardboard and written on with a beetroot colour dye and a makeshift brush by the look of it.  The kind of thing that used to be considered natural and artistic, long ago, when such things were the fashion.  I suppose the fashion now, in such places where fashion still exists, is for retro plastic.  They said plastic litter wouldn’t decompose for hundreds of years, how wrong they were! I’d give my right arm now for a cupboard full of tupperware with lids. Or even without lids.  Plastic bottles and shopping bags ~ when I think back to how we used to hate them, and they’re like gold now.  Better than gold, nobody has any interest in gold nowadays, but people would sell their soul for a plastic bucket.

    I waited until the sun was going down, and sat on the porch with the golden rays of the lowering sun slanting across the yard.  I clasped the bundle to my heart and squinted into the sun and sighed with joyful anticipation.

    “For the love of god, will you get on with it!” said Bert, rudely interrupting the moment.

    Gently I pulled the faded red woolen string, and stopped for a moment, imaging the old cardigan that it might have been.

    I didn’t have to look at Mater to know what the expression on her face was, but I wasn’t going to be rushed.  The string fell into my lap and I turned the first piece of card over.

    There was a washed out picture of a rooster on it and a big fancy K.

    “Cornflakes!” I started to weep. “Look, cornflakes!”

    “You always hated cornflakes,” Mater said, missing the point as usual.  “You never liked packet cereal.”

    The look I gave her was withering, although she didn’t seem to wither, not one bit.

    “I used to like rice krispies,” Bert said.

    By the time we’d finished discussing cereal, the sun had gone down and it was too dark to read the letter.

    #5055
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Oddly enough, I was optimistic about the new year. First of all, it was novel to even realize it was a new year.  And what a tonic it was to have Finly back!   And not just because of the dusting, although it was a pleasure to see a bit of sparkle about the place where she’d spruced things up.  Even Mater had a new spring in her step. She said it was the chocolates, one a day she said was better than any vitamins. I’d eaten all mine the day Sanso and Finly and the others had arrived (and regretted it) but Mater had hidden her box to savour them slowly and secretly.  I remarked to her more than once that she should have the decency to wipe the chocolate off her lips before coming downstairs, gloating because all mine were gone.  But it was nice to see her happy.

    It was a funny thing with chocolate, I’d forgotten all about it. It wasn’t like I’d spent years craving it, and yet when I unwrapped (gift wrapped! oh, the memories!) the box Sanso gave me, it all came flooding back. I popped one in my mouth and closed my eyes, savouring the slow melt, ecstatic at the way it enveloped me in it’s particular sweet charm.

    I felt so sick afterwards though that I was left with the thought that there was something to be said for a simple life with few opportunities for indulgence.  I hadn’t felt that sick since the plague.

    I was glad I’d worn that old red dress when Sanso arrived, and just a little disappointed when he left before my seduction plans reached fruition.  I did try, but he had a knack of dematerializing whenever I got close enough to make a move. Disconcerting it was, but it kept me on my toes. Literally, in those high heeled red shoes.  I twisted my ankle on the damn things and been limping ever since. Oh but it was worth it.

    And the champagne! I asked Sanso where he found it and he said that was Finly’s work, she’s got it from the water larks.

    Finly! What water larks, where? Did you see…? I was almost afraid to ask. Had she seen the twins?

    Yes, she said, with a smug and enigmatic smile. But that’s a story for later, she said.  Maddening creature that she is, she still hasn’t told me about it. She will when she’s finished cleaning, she said.

    #4855
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Fox was looking with appreciation at the brand new loo that completed the picture of the construction work. It had taken so much time to arrive that he felt a bit daunted to use it.

    “It’s amazing how much wonder a sprinkle of gold sheen obsidian dust can do to clear obstacles.” Glynis said, as she finished dusting the window ledge in a swift and zen practicality mixed with paradox.

    “Yes, that and a good measure of flogging.” sighed Fox. “At least now, I’ll feel free to find out where Rukshan has been hiding all this time.”

    #4809
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The downward climb had taken what felt like days. The more he went, the darkest it was even the stars at his feet were now swallowed in obliviating darkness.

    Rukshan felt like abandoning at times, but pressed on and continued, down and down as he rose above clouds.

    The ancient energies that had shaped this topsy-turvy passage spiraling around the fence of the heartwoods wouldn’t have done something of that magnitude and let it unfinished. It was calling for an exploration, while at the same time protecting itself from mere wanderers, the kind with lack of imagination or endurance.
    His mind reminded him of old tales that spoke of sacrificing to the trees for knowledge and passage, but it was surely meant as a metaphor. Hanging upside down for hours was probably in itself a form of sacrifice.

    He reached to his pouch for a drink of sour milk, when he suddenly realized that the gravity had turned, and the pouch was no longer floating above his head. With the darkness and the lack of landmarks, he’d failed to notice when this happened.

    It surely meant he’d crossed an invisible barrier, and was now journeying inside another plan, deeper down. Ground couldn’t be far now. He took a pearl off one of his braids, and threw it. Then he looked at the darkness beneath his feet with intent to discern the faintest sounds. Quickly enough, the pearl gave back a ricocheting sound, clean and echoing slightly against what seemed to be moist stones. Indeed ground was there, where once the sky was.

    Maybe the final test was a leap of faith. Or maybe it was just to patiently complete the climb. A few more steps, and he would be there. A few more steps.

    #4799
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Snap out of it!”

    Liz was gobsmacked, literally. “Did you just slap me, Godfrey? How unexpected!”

    “You were delirious for a moment, I guess the shock of it all. Myself, I haven’t quite processed the news.”

    “What do you mean? Tsk, about all that sag-shaming, and childish trifles?”

    “No, Liz. You know… That Finnley just announced she was secretly a writer, and doing her own saga, with almost a finished manuscript and a deal for three oth….”

    “Stop it! STOP IT! That little ingrate! All that time spent shadowing, learning from my brilliance. AAaar! AAAAAARRRR! I knew she was up to something pretending to spend so much time dusting, and so little got done around this house!”

    “The silver lining…”

    “What?”

    “Is that she’s back?” Godfrey ventured timidly.

    Liz suddenly cooled down. “It’s true I’ve had enough of the French pastries. Those maids were mostly good for entertaining value, but spent way too much time fooling around Roberto. At least Finnley isn’t turning any eyes. If you see what I mean,” she ended in a manic cackle.

    #4791
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Once he’d finished to tell the story, and let the kids go back to the cottage for the night, Rukshan’s likeness started to vanish from the place, and his consciousness slowly returned to the place where his actual body was before projecting.

    Being closer to the Sacred Forest enhanced his capacities, and where before he could just do sneak peeks through minutes of remote viewing, he could now somehow project a full body illusion to his friends. He’d been surprised that Fox didn’t seem to notice at all that he wasn’t truly there. His senses were probably too distracted by the smells of food and chickens.

    He’d wanted to check on his friends, and make sure they were alright, but it seemed his path ahead was his own. He realized that the finishing of the loo was not his own path, and there was no point for him to wait for the return of the carpenter. That work was in more capable hands with Glynis and her magic.

    His stomach made an indiscreet rumbling noise. It was not like him to be worried about food, but he’d gone for hours without much to eat. He looked at his sheepskin, and the milk in it had finally curdled. He took a sip of the whey, and found it refreshing. There wouldn’t be goats to milk in this part of the Forest, as they favored the sharp cliffs of the opposite site. This and a collection of dried roots would have to do until… the other side.

    To find the entrance wasn’t too difficult, once you understood the directions offered by the old map he’d recovered.

    He was on the inner side of the ringed protective enclosures, so now, all he needed was to get into the inner sanctum of the Heartwood Forest, who would surely resist and block his path in different ways.

    “The Forest is a mandala of your true nature…”

    He turned around. Surprised to see Kumihimo there.

    “Don’t look surprised Fae, you’re not the only one who knows these parlor tricks.” She giggled like a young girl.

    “of my nature?” Rukshan asked.

    “Oh well, of yours, and anybody’s for that matter. It’s all One you, see. The way you see it, it represents yourself. But it would be true for anybody, there aren’t any differences really, only in the one who sees.”

    She reappeared behind his back, making him turn around. “So tell me,” she said “what do you see here?”

    “It’s where the oldest and strongest trees have hardened, it’s like a fence, and a… a memory?”

    “Interesting.” She said “What you say is true, it’s memory, but it’s not dead like you seem to imply. It’s hardened, but very much alive. Like stone is alive. The Giants understood that. And what are you looking for?”

    “An entrance, I guess. A weak spot, a crack, a wedge?”

    “And why would you need that? What if the heart was the staircase itself? What if in was out and down was up?”

    Rukshan had barely time to mouth “thank you” while the likeness of the Braid Seer floated away. She’d helped him figure out the entrance. He touched one of the ring of the hard charred trees. They were pressed together, all clomped in a dense and large enclosure virtually impossible to penetrate. His other memories told him the way was inside, but his old memories were misleading.
    Branches were extending from the trunks, some high and inaccessible, hiding the vision of the starry sky, some low, nearly indistinguishable from old gnarled roots. If you looked closely, you could see the branches whirring around like… Archimedes Screw. A staircase?

    He jumped on a branch at his level, which barely registered his weight. The branch was dense and very slick, polished by the weathering of the elements, with the feel of an old leather. He almost lost his balance and scrapped his hands between the thumb and the index.

    “Down is up?”

    He spun around the branch, his legs wrapped around the branch. He expected his backpack to drag him towards the floor, but strangely, even if from his upside-down perspective, it was floating above him, it was as if it was weightless.

    He decided to take a chance. Slowly, he hoisted himself towards his floating bag, and instead of falling, it was as though the branch was his ground. Now instead of a spiral staircase around the trees leading to heavens, it was the other side of the staircase that spiraled downwards to the starry night.

    With his sheepskin and back still hovering, he started to climb down the branches towards the Giants’ land.

    #4731
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Could you pass me the butter?” asked a strange fellow seated on Shawn Paul’s left. The man was odd, a bit looking like Captain Sparrow with his black jabot lavaliere shirt and golden earrings.

    Shawn Paul felt awkward, the kind of awkwardness cultivated for many years with shyness and fear of social interactions. No wonder I wanted to be a writer, he thought. Nonetheless he handed the butter to the stranger. Could he be daring for a change and talk like his grandma always pushed him to do? The best remedy to shyness is to talk. Start by saying your name Shasha!

    “My name is Shawn Paul,” he said, feeling the heat rise to his face. He gulped, unsure of what to do next. Should he talk about the morning weather?
    “My name is Sanso,” said the man. “At your service,” he added waving his puffy sleeves. “Have you read the last article on _whateveralready_?
    The cat behind them snorted. Shawn Paul looked at it. It looked grumpy and ready to talk.

    “Don’t send Mandrake any food,” said one of the other guests, a woman wearing an indian looking outfit with a scarf hiding her hair. Something moved under the head scarf and a strand of red hair ventured timidly outside, soon followed by a lizard’s head. The woman pushed it back under her hood and emitted a disgusted grunt when she saw the meat dish brought by the maid.

    “I’m not a maid,” muttered Finly to whomever could hear/read her, or to the writer. “It’s good liz… chicken,” she said. No need for the long faces.”
    “But it’s dead, dear,” said the woman with the veil.

    “The Godfrey silently prayed under the third moon,” was saying Sanso who didn’t seem to mind that Shawn Paul was not listening to him. “And he entered late inside the lake wearing a funny blue toge. Sanso realised Finly was looking at him her mouth reduced to a tight line. “And I followed with opened hope,” he finished before gulping a spoonful of butter.

    “Do you happen to have a lock in your bedroom?” asked Sanso. The woman in the scarf looked at him with dark eyes. The lizard, seizing the opportunity to be free, jumped from under her scarf and landed into the gaspacho, splashing all the guests with a bit of red.

    #4698
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Muriel looked at the unfinished construction work with an eye of reproach.

    “What? Don’t you like the new loo?” Eleri was apprehensive about the old cantankerous woman, who had started to take herself to be the manager of the place while her sister Margoritt was away.

    “No, it’s not the loo, dear. Your atrocious gargoyles, I may say, do add a bit of… Gothic flavour to it. Does for lazy bowels better than prunes if you ask me. I can’t be more in a hurry to leave the place. But no, it’s more the sink —or lack thereof— that I’m worried about. But of course I’m sure you have a plan for that…” She eyed Eleri over her round spectacles, precariously balanced at the tip of her angular nose, in a way that made Eleri uncomfortable.

    “Well, we kind of lost hope, after all the joiners and handymen that have come to fix it, and abandoned the work.”

    “So? Are you calling it quits? That’s not reasonable. Are you sure you’ve not badly chosen the spot, like decided to put in above a cursed indigenous cemetery, or that there isn’t some trickster pixie spell there?”

    Glynis, who was there with a basket of laundry ventured rather boldly:
    “I don’t think so, Morayeel.” She smiled innocently, knowing full well Muriel didn’t like the nickname and continued, even more emboldened.
    “I have dejinxed the place myself. No, I think the problem is that it’s too clean now. I probably must lift the cleaning spell, or no worker will ever approach the place and get it finished.”

    #4686
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    One morning Fox noticed a pigeon on the fence. It was cooing and certainly trying to catch a female. But there was none. Actually there hadn’t been so many pigeons in the woods, and Fox had always thought they were city creatures. That’s why he looked closer. The pigeon fretted, a little bit uncertain of the two legged man, because of his fox scent that was still getting out from time to time. But it remained still enough so that Fox could catch it. It would make a nice addition to their lunch.

    He was about to break the bird’s neck when he noticed the little cylinder attached to its left leg. He detached it and called Glynis. The cylinder was enchanted and it required some skills to be opened. Someone didn’t want anyone to read that message.

    Glynis arrived and the pigeon tried to fly away, but Fox had a firm grip on it. Glynis glared at him.
    “Don’t kill the messenger, please,” she said.
    Fox, not after some hesitations, released the bird who landed heavily on the fence.
    “It’s a shame to let go of such a well fed bird.”
    “I know, but we may need it to send back a message and well trained pigeons are hard to come by in the woods.”

    So they didn’t have pigeon for lunch. And Glynis struggled. And after noon they were still trying without much success.
    “None of my spells have worked so far. I don’t know what to do to crack it open,” lamented Glynis.
    “Good idea,” said Fox, “let’s try that.” He took the cylinder and bent it slightly. It cracked open easily. Glynis looked at Fox daringly.
    Before Fox could talk, Glynis said: “You’re allowed to roll your eyes. Two turns only.”
    Fox did and they read the message. It was from Rukshan.

    “Dear fellow companions, I’m sure you’ll know how to open the message,” he started. They snorted.
    “I found a path that I hope would help revive our friend. Although I need some help. I’m sure the work with the carpenter and the joiner is done and Fox can come give me a hand.”

    Fox growled.
    “I’ll bring him their hands.”
    “Please, don’t,” pleaded Glynis, “not until they are finished with their work in the cottage.

    #4662
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I have to say,” Miss Bossy Pants took a dramatic pause for maximum effect “that you all have been incredulously industrious.”

    “Is she insulting us again?” Hilda hissed at Connie.
    “Shht! There’s no tellin’ with her…” Connie replied, as baffled as the other by the impromptu award ceremony.

    “Ahem-hem-hm!” Miss Pants melodiously hummed and cleared her voice making sure she had everyone’s attention, which was quite a challenge, if you’d asked her. Of course, she relished a challenge.
    “As I was saying, you all have been busy, and delivered well…”

    “Aaah, that’s what she meant!” whispered Connie
    “She should have said so, why all the confusing pistache?”
    “You mean panache?”
    “No, although I’d fancy a nice beer and lemonade.”

    Once they had finished their sideways discussion, Miss Bossy had already gone to explain the first award category : “Most Stylistic Synchronistic Article”.

    “It’s going to take a while” Ricardo winked at them, “considering all the articles you’ve produced this week only. But I wouldn’t discard the possibility of Sophie winning one yet.”

    Both Connie and Hilda’s faces turned woebegone.

    #4588
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Granola felt a bit stupid in her squishy giraffe suit, lying deflated on the carpeted floor of the entrance.

    Ailill!” she called for her afterlife tech support guy in blue.

    “Up here, darling.”

    She looked up, and sure enough, he was there, a blue pompom ball dangling from the ceiling. It landed quite gracefully next to her giraffe, and turned into a small guy in blue overalls.

    “Got yourself again stuck in rut, haven’t you?” he smiled at the giraffe, propping it up on its elastic legs.

    “You can say that. It feels like days I’ve been stuck in a loop, observing the same people doing the same things. When I think I’m moving on, I’m actually just switching to the next one, but it’s always the same moment.
    Lucinda blathering on the phone while I’m her cushion, and next I’m a paper roll in Jerk’s cash register, and the moment after, I’m the blank page that Shawn Paul stares at for hours, or one of Maeve’s unfinished dolls next. Actually, the giraffe feels kind of an improvement.”

    She looked musingly and a bit enviously at Ailill’s form: “I didn’t think it’d be that tough to graduate to human form. Blobs of red lights were fun enough, but… things! This!” The giraffe looked at its chewed legs and wobbled precariously.

    “In actuality…” Ailill started loftily

    “Oh dear… make it simple please.”

    “It’s part of the evaluation of attachments. You need to move beyond them, then you’ll be free to do more things, to be more. For now, you still see yourself as a props in these characters’ dramaless lives. But try to think about that one: what if they were the props of yours? You are trying too hard to move around the wrong things. The journey is inwards, always my friend.”

    Something squished into the small giraffe, as if it something in Ailill’s speech had made sense to Granola.

    #4545
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “That is unfortunate,” said Rukshan when Fox told him about the dogs’ answer. They were all gathered around the fire on rough rugs for a last meal before activating the portal. For a moment shadow and light struggled on Rukshan’s face as the flames of the fire licked the woods, making it crack and break. A few sparkles flew upward into the dark starry night.

    Lhamom used the magic metal spoon to serve steaming soup in carved wooden bowls, and Olliver was doing the service.
    When he took his, Fox felt a chilly breeze find its way past his blanket. He shivered, put the bowl on the carpet in front of him and attempted to readjust the yakult wool blanket in a vain attempt to make it windproof. He took back the bowl and took a sip. The dogs barked in the distance. They were impatient to start the hunt. Fox shivered again.

    “I could still serve as bait,” Fox said because he felt it was his fault if the plan failed. “You know, surprise the dogs while they are focused on the Shadow and make it follow me to trap it into the portal after we crossed it.”

    “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rukshan. “It’s too dangerous. If you try to do that, we could have not one but two problems to solve. And you might get stuck too.”

    Fox tried not to think about the implications of being stuck here, or in between the portals. He looked at Olliver who was looking at his soup as if it was the most important thing in the world.

    Rukshan shook his head. “No. It was a foolish of me to hope those dogs would help us.”

    “What can we do then?” asked Lhamom. They all drank their soup, the silence only broken by the fire cracking and the dogs barking.

    “I can be in several places at once,” said Olliver quickly. Fox held his breath.
    Lhamom and Rukshan looked at the boy.

    “I know,” said Lhamom. “You were so helpful today with the cooking and all.”
    “What do you mean?” asked Rukshan. “Olliver was with me helping me with the sand all day.” He stopped. His face showed sudden understanding. “Oh! Of course,” he said. “The book we burnt. The shard’s power was not only teleportation, but also ubiquity.” Rukshan turned to look at Fox. “You don’t seem surprised.”

    Fox shrugged, making his blanket slip off of his shoulders slightly. Before he answered he adjusted it back quickly before the warmth he had accumulated could vanish into the night. “Well I saw him… I mean them. How do you think I came out of the negotiation alive? I can not teleport! I don’t even know what my powers are, or if I have any now that the shards have gone.”

    “Grace and miracles,” said Rukshan with a grin.
    A strange cristalline noise rang to Fox’s hears.
    “What? Oh! Yes. Well, that explains it then,” he said, feeling a mix of grumpiness and contentment. He finished his soup and was about to leave the comfort of his blanket to take some stew when Lhamom took the bowl from his hands. She gave him a good serving and gave him back his bowl.

    “What is it about shards and powers?” she asked.
    Fox, Rukshan and Olliver looked at each other.
    “It’s…” started Fox.
    “It’s a long story,” cut Rukshan.

    “Don’t make as if I said nothing important,” said Olliver.
    The red of the flames enhances his angry look, thought Fox.
    “I can be at two places, even more, at once. I can still be the bait and go back home with you at the same time.”

    A dog barked impatiently.

    “Yes,” said Fox.
    “I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” said Rukshan, concern on his face.
    “Why? I’m not a boy anymore, if that’s what it’s all about. I can do it. I already did it this afternoon.”
    “Well this afternoon was nice and cosy, wasn’t it? You had plenty of light, and yes you helped Fox escape from the dogs, so you can certainly do it. But what about the Shadow spirit. We have no idea what it is, or what it can do to you. And what will happen if one of you get killed?”

    Once again, they fell silent. There was a dog bark and that strange cristalline noise again. It sounded closer.
    “What’s that noise?” asked Olliver. Fox suddenly realised the strange noise had nothing to do with the sound of miracles, but it was a real noise in the real world.
    “What noise?” asked Lhamom. “And what are you all talking about, shards and powers and ubiquity?”
    “I can hear it too,” said Fox. “I’ve heard it before, but thought it was just me.”

    The noise happened again, this time sounding a lot like metallic ropes snapping on ice.
    Fox wriggled his nose. There was the smell of an animal and of a human.
    “I think someone is coming,” he said, sniffing the cold air. “A donkey and a human.”

    It was not too long before they saw an odd woman riding a donkey. She was playing a lyre made of ice, the strings of which had a faint glow. The woman was smiling like she was having the best adventure of her life.
    “Hi guys. I came to help you. You didn’t think I would remain forgotten in my cave, did you?”

    Kumihimo! Ronaldo!” said Lhamom, standing up.

    #4543
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    In the white silence of the mountains, Rukshan was on his knees on a yakult wool rug pouring blue sand from a small pouch on a tricky part of the mandala that looked like a small person lifting his arms upwards. Rukshan was just in the right state of mind, peaceful and intensely focused, in the moment.
    It was more instinct than intellect that guided his hands, and when he felt inside him something click, he stopped pouring the sand. He didn’t take the time to check if it was right, he trusted his guts.
    He held the pouch to his right and said: “White”. Olliver took the pouch of blue and replaced it with another. Rukshan resumed pouring and white sand flew in a thin stream on the next part of the mandala.

    After a few hours of the same routine, only broken by the occasional refreshments and drinks that Olliver brought him, the mandala was finished and Rukshan stood up to look at the result. He moved his shoulders to help relieve the tensions accumulated during the hard day of labor. He felt like an old man. His throat was dry with thirst but his eyes gleamed with joy at the result of hours of hard concentration.

    “It’s beautiful,” said Olliver with awe in his voice.
    “It is, isn’t it?” said Rukshan. He accepted a cup of warm and steaming yakult tea that Olliver handed him and looked at the boy. It was the first time that Olliver had spoken during the whole process.
    “Thanks, Olli,” said Rukshan, “you’ve been very helpful the whole time. I’m a little bit ashamed to have taken your whole time like that and make you stand in the cold without rest.”
    “Oh! Don’t worry,” said the boy, “I enjoyed watching you. Maybe one day you can teach me how to do this.”
    Rukshan looked thoughtfully at the boy. The mandala drew its power from the fae’s nature. There could certainly be no danger in showing the technique to the boy. It could be a nice piece of art.
    “Sure!” he said. “Once we are back. I promise to show you.”
    A smile bloomed on Olliver’s face.

    :fleuron:

    In the white silence of the mountain, Lhamom sat on a thick rug of yakult wool in front of a makeshift fireplace. She had finished packing their belongings, which were now securely loaded on the hellishcarpet, and decided it was cooking time. For that she had enrolled the young lad, Olliver, to keep her company instead of running around and disturbing Rukshan. The poor man… the poor manfae, Lhamom corrected, had such a difficult task that he needed all his concentration and peace of mind.

    Lhamom stirred the content of the cauldron in a slow and regular motion. She smiled because she was also proud of her idea of a screen made of yakult wool and bamboo poles, cut from the haunted bamboo forest. It was as much to protect from the wind as it was for the fae’s privacy and peace of mind.

    “It smells good,” said Olliver, looking with hungry eyes at what Lhamom was doing.
    “I know,” she said with pride. “It’s a specialty I learned during the ice trek.”
    “Can you teach me?” ask Olliver.
    “Yes, sure.” She winked. “You need a special blend of spiced roots, and use pootatoes and crabbage. The secret is to make them melt in yakult salted butter for ten minutes before adding the meat and a bucket of fresh snow.”

    They continued to cook and talk far all the afternoon, and when dusk came Lhamom heard Rukshan talk behind his screen. He must have finished the mandala, she thought. She smiled at Olliver, and she felt very pleased that she had kept the boy out of the manfae’s way.

    :fleuron:

    Fox listened to the white silence of the mountain during that brief moment, just after the dogs had made it clear, despite all the promises of food, that they would not help the two-leggeds with their plan.

    Fox sighed. For an instant, all felt still and quiet, all was perfectly where it ought to be.

    The instant was brief, quickly interrupted by a first growl, joined by a second and a third, and soon the entire pack of mountain dogs walked, all teeth out, towards a surrounded Fox. He looked around. There was no escape route. He had no escape plan. His stomach reminded him that instant that he was still sick. He looked at the mad eyes of the dogs. They hadn’t even left the bones from the meat he gave them earlier. He gulped in an attempt to remove the lump of anguish stuck in his throat. There would be no trace of him left either. Just maybe some red on the snow.

    He suddenly felt full of resolve and camped himself on his four legs; he would not go without a fight. His only regret was that he couldn’t help his friends go home.
    We’ll meet in another life, he thought. Feeling wolfish he howled in defiance to the dogs.
    They had stopped and were looking uncertain of what to do next. Fox couldn’t believe he had impressed them.

    “Come,” said a voice behind him. Fox turned surprised. On the pile of his clothes stood Olliver.
    How did you,” he yelped before remembering the boy could not understand him.
    “Hurry! I can teleport us back to the camp,” said the boy with his arms opened.

    Without a second thought Fox jumped in Olliver’s arms and the next thing he knew was that they were back at the camp. But something was off. Fox could see Rukshan busy making his mandala and Olliver was helping him with the sand. Then he could see Lhamom cooking with the help of another Olliver.
    Fox thought it might be some case of post teleportation confusion. He looked at the Olliver who helped him escape an imminent death, the fox head slightly tilted on the side, the question obvious in its eyes.
    “Please don’t tell them,” said Olliver, his eyes pleading. “It just happened. I felt a little forgotten and wanted so much to be useful.”

    Fox turned back into a human, too surprised to feel the bite of the cold air.
    “Oh! Your clothes,” said Olliver before he disappeared. Fox didn’t have time to clear his mind before the boy was back with the clothes.

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