Will didn’t like unexpected visitors. What kind of people turned up unannounced nowadays? He was tempted to ignore the knocking but then it is the not knowing that’s the killer. And what if someone gets it in their head to nose around the property?
“Yep?” he said opening the door. The pair of them were starting off down the front steps as though they meant to go exploring. He’d been right to answer.
“Oh, you are here!” said the girl, turning towards him with a bright smile. “Sorry to just turn up like this …”
Will gave her a curt nod and she faltered a little.
“Uh, my name is Clara and this is my grandfather, Bob, and we are hoping you can help us … “
The old fellow with her, Bob, was staring hard at Will. He looked familiar but Will couldn’t quite place him … he wasn’t local. And he certainly didn’t recognise the girl—very pretty; he would definitely have remembered her.
“Have we met somewhere, Bob?” Will asked.
Bob sighed loudly as he rummaged through the odds and ends drawer: old menus from the takeaways in town, pens, rubber bands, a button, reading glasses, newspaper clippings. He’d never expected to need the phone number; now he did and what do you know? He can’t find the damn thing.
“What a shameful mess that drawer is in,” said Jane. She was seated at the kitchen table, arms folded, shaking her head at him. She looked about twenty today with her dark hair cascading prettily over a lacy pink mini dress.
Bob frowned at her though his heart did a leap. The way it always did when he saw her. “You were the one who kept it clean and you jumped ship. And I’ve said, can’t you look your age?”
“Don’t I look pretty?” She pouted and fluttered long eyelashes at him.
“Makes me feel old. And I don’t recognise you like that.”
“You are old,” she said as her hair turned white. “And bad-tempered as ever. What are you hunting for?”
“The phone number. You know the one he said to call if the box was ever unearthed. Can’t find it anywhere.”
“You’d lose your head …” said Jane as her head lifted off her body.
Bob jumped. “Darn it, Jane. I’ve said don’t do that! Why do you always do that and go giving me the heebie jeebies?”
“Cos I can, love.” She grinned mischievously before settling her head back on her shoulders. “Just a bit of fun. Now think hard, where else might you have put it? The shoe-box under our bed? The safe in the pantry?”
Bob flung a hand to his head. “The shoe-box! That’s where it will be!”
Jane grinned. “Well, get a move-along, old man. Before our Clara gets in more deep than what’s good for her. She won’t let it go now she’s found it. Stubborn as a mule my grandchild,” she added proudly.
Bob reached a hand to her. “Come with me while I look? I miss you, Jane. You never stay long enough.”
“Oh stop with all the sweet talk!” She poked her tongue out at him. “Anyway I’ve told you before, it takes too much energy.” She was fading and Bob felt his chest tighten. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on you, old man.” She was vibrating air now, sparkly and pink.
Clara couldn’t sleep. Alienor’s message asking if she knew anyone in the little village was playing on her mind. She knew she knew someone there, but couldn’t remember who it was. The more she tried to remember, the more frustrated she became. It wasn’t that her mind was blank: it was a tense conglomeration of out of focus wisps, if a wisp could be described as tense.
Clara glanced at the time ~ almost half past three. Grandpa would be up in a few hours. She climbed out of bed and padded over to her suitcase, half unpacked on the floor under the window, and extracted the book from the jumble of garments.
A stranger had handed her a book in the petrol station forecourt, a woman in a stylish black hat and a long coat. Wait! What is it? Clara called, but the woman was already inside the back seat of a long sleek car, soundlessly closing the door. Obliged to attend to her transaction, the car slipped away behind Clara’s back. Thank you, she whispered into the distance of the dark night in the direction the woman had gone. When she opened her car door, the interior light shone on the book and the word Albina caught her eye. She put the book on the passenger seat and started the car. Her thoughts returned to her journey, and she thought no more about it.
Returning to her bed and propping her pillows up behind her head, Clara started to read.
This Chrysoprase was a real gargoyle; he even did not need to be described. I just could not understand how he moved if he was made of stone, not to mention how he was able to speak. He was like the Stone Guest from the story Don Juan, though the Stone Guest was a giant statue, and Chrysoprase was only about a meter tall.
Chrysoprase said: But we want to pay you honor and Gerard is very hungry.
“Most important is wine, don’t forget wine!” – Gerard jumped up.
“I’ll call the kitchen” – here the creature named Chrysoprase gets from the depth of his pocket an Iphone and calls.
I was absolutely shocked. The Iphone! The latest model! It was not just the latest model, it was a model of the future, which was in the hands of this creature. I said that he was made of stone, no, now he was made of flesh and he was already dressed in wide striped trousers. What is going on? Is it a dream? Only in dreams such metamorphosis can happen.
He was made of stone, now he is made of flesh. He was in his natural form, that is, he was not dressed, and now he is wearing designer’s trousers. A phrase came to my mind: “Everything was in confusion in the Oblonsky house.”
Contrary to Clara’s expectations ~ reading in bed invariably sent her to sleep after a few paragraphs ~ she found she was wide awake and sitting bolt upright.
Of course! Now she remembered who lived in that little village!
“I think you’ve forgotten something, Star.” Tara didn’t want to put a dampener on Star’s high spirits, but felt obliged to point out that New Zealand was still out of bounds with the quarantine restrictions.
“Not only that,” Tara continued, “Where exactly in New Zealand?”
This was unanswerable at this stage and was quickly forgotten.
“We can send Rosamund on a recce to find out more. That way if she gets arrested for breaking the lockdown rules it won’t matter much and we can carry on solving the case.”
“It will take two of us to keep an eye on Aunty April, anyway. And it would behoove us to have a thorough look at that wardrobe, and decipher those notes. And check the lining of the fur coats. I read a book once and spies used morse code in the hem stitches for sending messages.”
“Do you know morse code?”
“Of course not, why would I?”
“Well then how will you know..?”
The conversation went on in a similar vein for some time.
Board 9, Story 1
Madame Chesterhope gets ready for her favorite sport: transdimensional puddle crossing in her refurbished bike. New worlds await!
I’m bored out of my mind, cooped up inside. Working from home is a new form of slavery it seems. They’re going to get me mad with all the legalese they ask me to review, approve, sign and all. These people don’t get a sense of what’s happening, they still cling to the familiarity of their mind constructs. But flog me instead, that’ll be less painful than another ration of compliance and control rules.
I’ve been listening to whale songs on the internet. Got to do something to keep me from going bonkers. The wife and I are barely talking, she spends her day on the balcony, planting tiny carrots in the hopes of what, I wonder? At least, she gets some sun.
Funny creatures the whales. Blue whales got to be the only creature that man hasn’t been able to build a zoo big enough to accommodate. Sometimes despite the pollution in the oceans, I envy the big bastards.
I got to laugh a little at being a fish in a tank like the rest of the world. You would think you’d get for free the much touted chloroquine from the tank cleaner too. Pity it’s just deadly, but not for the virus. Talk about being morbidly stupid. Too much reading of the news do that to the brain too I guess.
Thing is, if I continue on chugging wine and boritos, I think I may be able to outsize my container. Isn’t the dream of every aquarium fish?
What was I thinking. That all will be good and all, and forever after.
Lord, sometimes I miss that bloated boat, and its ordeal felt like an old familiar pain that distance makes bearable in retrospect.
A week back into life, and all goes to hell. Good thing I’m not a trader, looking at the stock market would make you want to jump from a tall building.
Since all is in chaos, I’ve been noticing them more. The synchronicities. Seems like the voices have found other ways to reach at me. Talks of forest and trees, arcane words spoken in different contexts.
If only I weren’t paying attention. But then there are the dreams. Last ones have been insane. And not just those after a heavy meal, you know. The kind that gets you more tired when you wake up, as if you’ve spend the whole night piling up mountains upon mountains.
I’d rather just pop a pill and see the elephants dance from branch to branch, if you see what I mean. But the voices wouldn’t let me go. Now they are egging me on to do something I don’t want to do.
A book opened at random, summarizes it all: “Our heart is anxious about being sent here.“
Next line is a tease: “Gathering the resources of all under heaven as in a storehouse.”
But when did I sign up to be the bloody storehouse manager?
Young Jimmy says to me this morning, “I dreamed we were travelling far away from here, Mama. It was only you and me and Bella.” I nearly choked on my grits. I am thankful Cook did not hear. She is as superstitious as the day is long and takes great store in dreams and the like. “Funny things, dreams,” I says to Jimmy. “Hard to know what they mean.” I longed to question him more on the dream, same time, don’t want him talking about it in front of Cook. Best he forgets it.
I’ve heard no more of the sickness. Methinks perhaps it has come to naught. And I’m fit as a fiddle and the children too. I’ve decided Thursday next. On Thursdays, Master goes to the meeting in the Village and Cook has her night off when she goes to see her brother in Thombeen.
I think how pleased they will be to see me. How astonished they will be. When I think about it like that, stops me from fearing. Ten years it has been. I would send a letter ahead but cannot risk it falling in the wrong hands.
It’s a funny thing what tiredness can do to a girl. I could have sworn it was daytime when I knocked on Mr August’s door. Turned out it was nearly midnight and Mr August wasn’t best pleased to see me. Judging by the giggling I could hear and the way he was trying to barricade the door, he already had company. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was a bit of a ladies’ man with his smooth chest and satin bath-robe. (Although, if you ask me, the embroidered dragon down the front is overkill). Mr August snapped at me that I had the job and he’d get the paperwork sorted tomorrow. The mix-up worked out in my favour; he was that keen to get shot of me and back to business.
Not knowing what else to do, I made myself a possie under a large desk in the hall and tried to get comfy. Anyway, that’s when the fun really started. The maid, the rude one who took the baby, came tiptoeing out of her room wringing her hands and muttering that she had a doubt. Not long after that, two middle-aged ladies barged in, both off their faces I would say. “I’ll give that maid Alabama if anything has happened to our Barron!” shouted the short one, and they lurched their way into the baby’s room.
Finally, the maid tiptoed back to her room and the ladies went back to whatever hole they’d crawled from and I hoped that me and the baby would be able to get some sleep at last. Who was I kidding? I nearly managed to drop off when the doorbell rang again. The maid answered it—I’m starting to understand why she is so ill-tempered; she never gets any sleep. This time it’s some crazy looking lady who said she had come to help me! But I’ve never seen her before in my life!
I’m pretty flabbergasted by the lack of security and all the comings and goings. Things are going to be a bit different from now on, I can tell you that right now.
There’s no two ways about it: I’ve let myself go. There’s never any excuse for that, even if you are turning one hundred. I’ve always tried to impress this on Dodo, but will she listen? That hair of hers! God knows what’s hiding in it. And those nasty dungarees she likes so much; they’d stand on their own if she ever got out of them.
Not that I am one for fashion, mind. Last thing I bought was a few decades ago. Some striped pants that one of the twins helped me buy on the internet, on the line, as they say. The legs were that wide I was scared some critter might crawl up to my privates. Don’t want that going on at my age! When Bert said he had a pair like it once, well, that was the last straw.
One hundred! Wonder if I’ll get one of those letters from the King. That’s about all the monarchy are good for now. After that debacle back in the 20’s, thought they’d do away with them. But old big ears is hanging in there; reckon he must be nearing his hundredth soon.
Anyway, the mirror doesn’t lie and what it’s telling me ain’t so fancy. My hair looks like something the moths have had a chew at and I’ve put on that much flab the only thing will fit me is a potato sack. And now Prune’s planning some big birthday bash…I’ve got my work cut out! She thinks I don’t know but there’s not much gets by me. If people think you’ve lost your marbles, they’ll say all sorts in front of you. And since those magic pills the aboriginal fellow gave me, my marbles are all back where they should be, thank you very much! Now I just need some pills for my boobs.
“Have you opened that letter yet?” I asked her. But she started moaning on about it being too dark and la di da. So I said, “Don’t they have electricity where you come from?” That made Bert laugh, not that it was funny but I guess you had to be there. Anyway, if you ask me, (and I can hear Dodo saying, nobody asked you, you old bat) she’s scared of something. Goes on about savouring it but it doesn’t make any sense. I mean Dodo’s never had any self-control, not when it comes to fellas or the drink, anyway. And all of a sudden she gets some over a letter? Nope, somethings up.
It had been a long day and MIB decided he could spare a few moments to recuperate before propelling himself at the speed of light to Destination D.
Probaby better to let the targets get there first so there was no chance of detection.
MIB sauntered to a nearby park bench and sat down. He then proceeded to take the water flask from his briefcase and gently unscrewed the top. After a surreptitious glance over his shoulder, he pulled the doll’s head out of the flask. “Oh for flove’s sake!” he said and quickly shoved it back in.
“Target doll is Man in Black i.e. myself,” he said into his wrist watch. “It appears conscious detection of target is no longer necessary for Magpie to actualise dolls. Repeat, conscious detection of target NOT NECESSARY. Subliminal factors at play. Doll will be destroyed poste haste before activation takes effect.”
He carefully pulled the doll out of the flask for a second time. He fingered the miniature moustache; the doll was perfect down to the last detail, even the small scar he had over his right eyebrow. He felt the back of the doll and pressed, relieved to feel the hardness of the key.
As long as the key is still in the doll, activation can’t happen. What harm is there …
He stuffed the doll back into the flask and put it back in his briefcase.
I bet you were expecting reports of action and adventure, a fast paced tale of risks and rescues, with perhaps a little romance. Hah! It’s been like a morgue around here after that fluster of activity and new arrivals. Like everyone lost the wind out of their sails and wondered what they were doing here.
Sanso took to his room with no explanation, other than he needed to rest. He wouldn’t let anyone in except Finly with food and drinks (quite an extraordinary amount for just one man, I must say, and not a crumb or a drop left over on the trays Finly carried back to the kitchen.) I told Finly to quiz him, find out if he was sick or needed a doctor, or perhaps a bit of company, but the only thing she said was that he was fine, and it was none of our business, he’d paid up front hadn’t he? So what was the problem. Bit rude if you ask me.
Mater had taken to her room with a pile of those trashy romance novels, complaining of her arthritis. She’d gone into a sulk ever since I ruined her red pantsuit in a boil wash, and dyed all the table linen pink in the process. The other guests lounged around listlessly in the sitting room or the porch, flicking through magazines or scrolling their gadgets, mostly with bored vacant expressions, and little conversation beyond a cursory reply to any attempt to chat.
Bert was nowhere to be seen most of the time, and even when he was around, he was as uncommunicative as the rest of them, and Devan, what was he up to, always down the cellar? Checking the rat traps was all he said when I asked him. But we haven’t got rats, I told him, not down the cellar anyway. He gave me a look that was unreadable, to put it politely. Maybe he’s got a crack lab going on down there, planning on selling it to the bored guests. God knows, maybe that’d liven us all up a bit.
I did get to wondering about those two women who wandered off down the mine, but whenever I mentioned them to anyone, all I got was a blank stare. I even banged on Sanso’s door a time or two, but he didn’t answer. I made Finly ask him, and she said all he would say is Not to worry, it would be sorted out. I mean, really! He hadn’t left that room all week, how was he going to sort it out? Bert said the same thing when I eventually managed to collar him, he said just wait, it will get sorted out, and then that glazed look came over his face again.
It’s weird, I tell you. We’re like a cast of characters with nobody writing the story, waiting. Waiting to start again on whatever comes next.prUneParticipant
It’s been only a day since I arrived, and I’m already over it. Nothing seems to have changed. What a drag this place is.
Only Mater keeps surprising. She was a bit more emotional and hermitical than usual. Didn’t think those two cursors could move with her, but I guess she’s still has it in her.
Aunt Dido said she’ll croak one day, and we’ll find her having spent her last breath lying in a fresh dug hole in the ground. I don’t know if that was her idea of a bad joke or a veiled menace, there’s no telling when she’s been smoking.
Bert was all busy with things to repair and prepare, we barely had time to talk since I arrived. What a crowd-pleaser he’s become, don’t know what he gets out of this one-sided deal, with Dido having him wrapped around her fingers like this.
That funny Dido is all over the place, and nowhere to be found, as usual. She said we’ll be expecting guests. She probably was high as a kite. Would be a first since ages.
I wonder what would drag people here, it’s not like the place is on any maps, or on the way to a tourist spot. But who knows what instant instapound fame can do to lure people in the oddest spots… Been reading articles about those nincompoops going to severely polluted place to take selfies in front of azure acidic water pretending to be on Bora Bora. Wouldn’t be surprising if Clove or Corrie had started a trend on flabber just to prank us. Like using ///digger.unusually.playfully to send people in the middle of nowhere in search for gold…
There were some leftovers in the fridge. I was ravenous, and almost ate all of the funky shredded chicken. Smokey taste, but okay. Finly had an horrified look on her face when she came back with the supplies, probably the shock of seeing me all grown up now.
“Take a look at the nude old fart? Godfrey’s not cavorting about naked again, is he? Go and cover him up quickly, before anyone sees him. That kitchen towel won’t be big enough, you better get a sheet.”
“He’s not going to let me cover him up though is he, Liz?” Finnley replied. “You know what he’s like when he gets these urges!” Finnley was about to clarify that she hadn’t said Godfrey was prancing about the place naked anyway, but was rendered speechless when Liz replied.
“You’re right,” admitted Liz, reluctantly. Then she had an idea. “Tell him it’s a toga for the Romans party.”
“What Romans party?” asked Roberto, popping his head in the French windows. “I’ve always wanted to dress up as a Roman slave.”
“You mean mostly naked? Give him that kitchen towel Finnley to use as a loin cloth.” Turning back to the strapping gardener, she said, “Show me your costume, young man!”
“But Liz” Finnley started to say that there was no Romans party really, that it was just a ruse to cover up Godfrey, (who the reader if not the writer will remember wasn’t naked in the first place) and what was she doing getting the gardener to strip… and then she decided to just say “Oh never mind” and make a hasty retreat, mumbling something about dishes to wash.JibParticipant
Fox, layered in warm clothes, looked dubiously at the hellishcopter. He had assumed it was fantastic and awe inspiring creature from the underworld. But it wasn’t.
“It’s a carpet with a circular wooden platform,” he said, feeling a bit disappointed. He noticed the steam that formed out of his mouth with every word and it made him feel cold despite the numerous layers around him.
The carpet was floating limply above its shadow on the snow. It looked old and worn out by years of use. The reds blues and greens were dull and washed-out, and it was hard to tell apart the original motives from stains. Oddly enough it was clear of dust.
“Not just a carpet, said Lhamom with her usual enthusiasm illuminating her face. It’s a magic carpet.” She wore that local coat of them which looked so thin compared to his multiple layers, but she had assured him it was warm enough for far worse temperatures. Steam was also coming out of her mouth when she talked.
Fox was still not convinced. “And how fast does it go?”
“Fast enough,” said Lhamom. “You’ll all be back in no time to the forest.”
“Isn’t there a risk for the luggage to fall off? I don’t see any practical way to attach them.”
“Oh! Sure,” retorted Lhamom with an amused look. “You won’t fall from the platform unless someone pushes you out.”
Fox winced and gulped. His mind had showed him someone shaken by an uncontrollable movement and pushing him off the platform above the sharp mountain tops, and even if it his fantasy had no sound, it was not very reassuring.
Lhamom looked at him sharply. “Are you afraid of heights?” she asked.
Fox shrugged and looked away at Rukshan who was busy packing the camp with Olliver and their guide.
“What if I am?” Fox said.
“I have some pills,” she said, foraging in her numerous pockets. She brandished victoriously an old little wooden box that she opened and showed him brown pills that looked and smelled like they had been made by dung beetles.
Rukshan had finished his packing and was approaching them with a messenger bag.
“Don’t play with him too much, he said, in his current state Fox’s will swallow everything, except food.” Rukshan and Olliver laughed. Fox didn’t know what to make of it, feeling too exhausted to find clever retorts. Lhamom winked at him and put the pills back in her pocket.
Rukshan put his hand on Fox’s shoulder. “We’re going home through a sand portal, he said giving putting a hand on his bag. I’ve gathered coloured sand from the different places we visited and Lhamom had brought some holy dripping water collected from the running nose of the lama headmaster of Pulmol Mountain when he last had a cold.”
That sounded a little complicated to Fox and he didn’t try to make sense of it.
“We’ll only go on the hellishcopter to fly throught the portal with all the stuff we collected. But I need time to make the sand portal, and from what you reported the dogs have said, we may only have little time available before that thing you have felt come to us.”
Fox started. With his bowel adventures and Rukshan’s previous dismissal of the matter, Fox had forgotten about the odd presence he had smelled and that had seemed to preoccupy the hunting dogs at night.
“What do you mean?” he asked, trying to not let worry crept back in his mind.
“I first thought it was fantasies coming out of your imagination because of your poor health condition, but when I told Lhamom this morning she told me what it was.” Rukshan hesitated.
“What? asked Fox, his heartbeat going faster.
“Some kind of ancient spirit roaming through the mountain. It feeds of human flesh and is attracted by magic. It was liberated by an earthquake recently and it that Olliver and Tak felt. Up until now the dogs, who are the gardians of the mountains, were enough to ward it off for us despite the presence of the baby snoot. But now that Lhamom has brought the spoon and that I’m going to use magic for the portal, it may get bolder and the dogs will not be enough to stop it. Fortunately it only gets out at night, so we have ample enough time, Rukshan said cheerfully. Olliver also is exhausted and he can’t use his teleporting abilities for all of us. By using a sand portal I may even be able to lay a trap for the spirit when we leave, but I need to begin now and let’s pray the weather remains clear and windless.”
It took some time for the meaning and the implications of flesh eating to sink into Fox’s mind. He looked nervously at the sky where it seemed a painter had splashed a few white strokes of clouds with his giant brush. Were they still or moving? Fox couldn’t tell. He looked back at Rukshan and Lhamom.
“What can I do to help?”
“I need you to explain the plan to the dogs so that they release the spirit when I give the signal.”
Lucinda could hear the neighbours dog whining through the thin walls between the apartments, but she liked the dog, and she liked her neighbour Maeve, so the noise was a comfort rather than a bother. Moments earlier a movement from the window had caught her eye: fleetingly it looked like some sort of dust devil or whirlwind of dry leaves. Perhaps that was what had upset Caspar.
She went out onto the kitchen balcony and looked across at Maeve’s identical balcony and called softly to the dog. He came sidling out looking guilty, with a lowered head and nervous tail wag. Lucinda noticed that her neighbours tomato plants were ripening nicely, while her own were still hard shiny green, thanks to the shade of the big oak tree. A blessing in some ways, keeping the hot afternoon sun off the kitchen, but not so good for the tomatoes. Not that it was particularly hot so far this summer: glancing down she noticed the guy from the apartment on the other side of Maeve was wearing a scarf as he sauntered out onto the sidewalk. Surely it’s not cold enough for a scarf, though, thought Lucinda. Still, perhaps he’s just wearing it because it matches his socks. A trifle vain, that one, but a nice enough fellow. Always a ready friendly smile, and Maeve said he was quiet enough, and never complained about her dog.
Lucinda had been passing by one day as Shawn-Paul had opened his door, and she couldn’t help but notice all his bookcases. He’d noticed her looking ~ she hadn’t been subtle about her interest and was trying to peer round him for a better look inside ~ and he’d invited her to come round any time to borrow a book, but that he was late for an appointment, and didn’t have time to invite her inside that day. Lucinda wondered why she’d never gone back, and thought perhaps she would. One day. One of those things that for some reason gets put off and delayed.
There was nothing Lucinda liked more than to find a new ~ or a newly found old ~ book, and to randomly open it. The synchronicities invariably delighted her, so she did know a thing or two about the benefits of timing ~ otherwise often known as procrastination. When she did decide to visit Shawn-Paul and look at his books, she knew the timing would be right.
“Don’t lean on me man, la la la la, synchronicity city…” she started singing an old Bowie song that popped into her head from nowhere, barely aware that she was changing the words from suffragette to synchronicity.
Meanwhile unbeknown to Lucinda, Shawn-Paul had just rounded the corner and bumped into the gardener, Stan, who was on his way to the apartments to mow the lawns. They exchanged pleasantries, and patted each others shoulders in the usual familiar friendly way as they parted. The two guys were not friends per se, they never socialized together, but always enjoyed a brief encounter outside with an easy pleasant greeting and a few words. Shawn-Paul always inquired about Stan’s family and so on, and Stan often complemented Shawn-Paul’s scarves.
Granola, temporarily rustling around in the big oak tree, noticed all of this and immediately recognized the connecting links, and peered eagerly at the three people in turn to see if they had noticed. They hadn’t. Not one of them recalled the time when they were all three suffragettes chained to the railings near an old oak tree.
In the past twenty days since he got out of the forest, backtracking on his steps, Rukshan didn’t have much luck finding or locating either of the six others strands.
At first, he thought his best hint was the connection with the potion-maker, but it seemed difficult to find her if she didn’t want to be found.
So, for lack of a better plan, he had come back to Margoritt’s shack and was quite pleased at the idea of meeting the old lady and Tak again.
Her cottage had been most busy with guests, and in the spring time, it was a stark contrast with the last time he was there, to see all the motley assemblage she had gathered around her.
First, there was Margoritt of course, Emma the goat, then Tak, who was a very convincing little boy these days, and looked happy at all the people visiting. Then, there was Lahmom, the mountain explorer, who had come down from her trek and enjoyed a glass of goat milk tea with roast barley nuggets.
Then there were a couple of strange guests, a redhair man with a nose for things, and his pet statue, a gnome with a temper, he said. Margoritt had offered them shelter during the last of the blizzard.
With so many unexpected guests, Margoritt quickly found her meager provisions dwindling, and told Rukshan she was about to decide for an early return to the city, since the next cargo of her benefactor Mr Minn would take too long to arrive.
That was the day before she arrived to the cottage with her companion: Eleri and Yorath, had arrived surprisingly just in time with a small carriage of provisions. “How great that mushrooms don’t weigh anything, we have so many to share!” Eleri was happy at the sight of the cottage and its guests, and started to look around at all the nooks and crannies for secret treasures to assemble and unknown shrooms.
While Yorath explained to Margoritt how Mr Minn had send him ahead with food, Margoritt was delighted and amazed at such prescience.
Rukshan, for his part, was amazed at something else. There seemed to be something at play, to join together people of such variety in this instant. Maybe the solution he was looking for was just in front of his nose.
He would have to look carefully at which of them could be an unknown holder of the shards of the Gem.
He was consigning his thoughts on a random blank page of his vanishing book, not to store the knowledge, but rather to engage on a inner dialogue, and seek illumination, when some commotion happened outside the cottage.
That can’t be another coincidence Rukshan thought, recognizing the two new guests: the reanimated god statue of the tower, and Olliver, the boy who, he deduced, had managed to wake up the old teleporting device.JibParticipant
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.
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