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  • #5980

    In reply to: Snooteries

    The SnootThe Snoot
    Participant

    Fat Blue Whale sends her greetings
    Of bubbles tickling the dream
    For Snoot to dive in the stream
    Flowing to City Plaza
    Where hairy feet jumped on tiles.

    All of them had long feathers,
    And to solve your good riddle
    You must spiral on the One,
    To accept the world’s wonders,
    Where can hatch your three graces.

    Therein lies all your answers.

    #5952
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Today was a good day.

    It didn’t matter the state of the world, it was all about internal conditions. Those were the ones you could control, and do magic with.

    Rukshan was amazed at how quickly the beaver fever had turned the world in loops and strange curves.

    Amazingly, magic that was impossible to do for months had suddenly unlocked today. He could suddenly gain again access to his Fae Bank account, despite months of unsuccessful attempts. Other streams of untapped energy had started to reappear. That could only mean one thing.

    Maybe it was the time that the Elders had foretold, the time of the Graetaceans also known as the Titanic Ancient Ones. It was said they would come back at a time of great crisis, through networks of tunnels, and emerge in the Great Lakes at the End of the World.

    When he’d talked about them to the children, they had jumped in joy and immediately wanted to go and visit them.

    Leroway’s decrees were a bit tricky to work around, but he knew of magical carrots and asprotegus crop that would help Glynis make them the perfect recipe for this quest: a protective imperius needs potion to cloak them from the controls.

    #5761
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Curiouser and curiouser” said Blithe after Hilda and Ric’s call led the improvised investigation to the doors of the Beige House. “It’s like those huge bills, I tend to find myself at the places I hate the most.”

    The clue trails were solid. Track marks led to the Carpet cleaning business, and by following the plates of the van, and interrogating the suspicious yet gossipy neighbours (once she produced her P.I. badge), it was just a matter of time before they tracked the van’s whereabouts into Washingtown.

    “I wonder what business they could have had there…”

    Ricardo was doing his part too, tracking the social media feeds for anything hashtagged. Difficult to sort through, yet something came up.

    Hilda, what do you think?” he showed the distracted journalist his finding. “Two au pairs arrested for credit fraud and a French maid wanted in relation with illegal immigration & anchor baby case.”

    “I’m not sure, usually I would have jumped at the occasion…” Hilda was showing unusual restraint. Maybe the perspective of US prisons…

    Thankfully Blithe Gambol raised to the challenge. “Of course, we must check that out. Can’t be a coincidence. Just… Remind me what the case was already?”

    #5663
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Meanwhile, Granola was doing her yearly assessment with Ailill, and it didn’t go as planned. She’d hoped for recognition and an increase of responsibilities, but nothing of that sort was given.

    She’d felt like crying and had to pop in the little dog in the room to whine insistently and express her frustration.

    Ailill had said she wasn’t at fault, but management, blahblah. She would have loved to strangle him at the moment; all her efforts, her successful pop-ins, and the gruesome timeless experience trapped in the Doctor’s crystal… That ought to be worth something. She was still dedicated to her work and her vision to help people around. Rather that than being hanging around with blissful dudes in an ethereal after-life.

    “Where is the fun?” she’d asked to the vortex Ailill had made when he left. The vortex had answered in sparkles and she’d suddenly felt connected to her friends. She felt confident their story was now in their own capable hands, and she was free to explore new dimensions. There was potential in a tart wreck repackage. It finally brought an inner smile back to her thoughts before she jumped in: “To boldly go where no man has gone before!”

    #5660
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Arthur was driving the minivan. It was an old Chewy Express van with the big bold “DRAPES CLEANING” sign on it that he’d repainted by himself over the years. The business wasn’t doing great, truth be told, so he’d cut down the marketing costs, which according to Ella Marie wasn’t a bright idea. “You never know where you next patrons could hide.” She’d said, and then had him hooked up on some social website to post random things and get some likes and thumbs up. He’d come a little late for the new century’s game and couldn’t see any of the appeal, but he’d learned over the years never to make the missus irate.

    He’d been so glad when she’d come back from the floods, unscathed and full of completely batshit crazy stories. Mummies and stuff. Sounded like being rolled in shredded drapes fanfiction to him. Complete garbage, but you can’t tell people they’re crazy, they’d hate you for it, and in truth you may be wrong. You might be the one crazy and all the others the sane ones. How’s that for a thought.

    Anyway, he loved his Ella Marie dearly, and had learned not to sweat the small stuff. Like this night drive to a funny place she’d just received coordinates from an acquaintance on the Net. Those were mad times, mad times indeed. At least, she could have told him she wanted to catch a new rare pokemeon go! in the dead of night, and it might have sounded… well, just as mad probably.

    They were driving steadily, being careful about the road signs; the van wasn’t much for crazy stunts anyway.

    “How far is that?” he asked the wife, who was busy on her phone tracking the route and chatting on the thing with her friends imaginary or else.

    “Not far, luv’. Next turn right, then left, then right and we should be there.”

    The last turn took them off the road, and Arthur started to wonder if that wasn’t another “turn left at your peril” GPS experiment, where they’d have to haul the van out of a tar pit, but it seemed fine so far. The place looked ominous, and full of croaking noises 🐸🐸🐸🐸.

    He killed the headlights, and moved in the parking lot at a crawl. There was no point in alerting whoever was there of their nocturnal visit. A barn owl flew straight in front of the van, scaring them.

    “STOP!” jumped Jacqui, who’d been sleeping the whole time, and woke up to a frightful sight.

    Arthur pushed on the brakes that gave off a screeching sound that would wake up a mummy.

    Ooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this” Ella Marie said. “Something evil is afoot, that owl was bad omen.”

    #5654
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “What do you think about that last one?” Miss Bossy handed the scribblings to Ricardo.

    “Mmm, it might be a hit. Sophie’s remote viewing has been right on spot even if odder and odder. I guess it fits with the intent of our… I mean your newspaper, doesn’t it?”

    Miss Bossy glanced at Ricardo sideways, and adjusted her corsage with an élan of coquetterie she found very French, even for her repressed tastes. “You should get on it then, Ric’.”

    Ricardo looked surprised. Was it the recognition he was waiting for all these past months working hard behind the scenes. Not a promotion yet but… Or maybe, just because the usual writers Connie & Hilda weren’t around, off to somewhere only they had the secret.

    “Still, you must admit, investigating an alcohol made of rillettes does sound rather ludicrous, even for this newspaper, or even for Sweet Sophie.”

    “There might be more to cover, a tree hiding a forest. Besides, she was right about the reptiles falling in Miami during the cold snap! We missed that story… If only we’d jumped on it right away!”

    “What else you need? I told you to get on with it, chop chop!”

    “Maybe a promotion?…” he added tentatively.

    “You’re already staff writer by default dear…”

    “A raise then?”

    “Don’t push you luck. And you’ll book those tickets to Chickasaw, Alabama in charter. We’re not rolling in the dough, like the Yanks say.”

    #4805
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Olliver was surprised when he teleported back to the cottage to see everyone busy with their own affairs.

    Fox was practicing a speech in front of the gargoyles statues rearranged in the garden like pupils in a class. He looked so serious that Olliver swallowed his guffaw. He wanted to update him about his scouting around, for the entrance that Rukshan had spoken about, and Fox had seemed interested at the time to join the exploration. His keen sense and shape-shifting abilities were always handy to have in a team.

    The kids were at school, and he found out that Glynnis was teaching birds in the wood thicket.

    “So much schooling going around” he whispered, almost afraid to be caught skipping classes.

    “You can still join me, if you’d like,” Eleri said, having jumped out of nowhere. Her black dress was an interesting piece of improvisation. “I’m going to a funeral, but it should be fun, the deceased has promised he would haunt Leroway and his thugs.”

    #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.

    #4780
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “B’s in trouble!” Gloria cried out, waking up the two other snoring ladies who almost fell from their rocking chairs.
    “Whatcha sayin’ my Glor’?” Sharon was the first to react once she put her hand on her teeth.
    “Sayin’ that our B’s in trouble!”
    “Can’t let that be, cannit?” Sharon retorted “But where daya think you got your intel’ love, ain’t our B dead last year?”
    “Sure thing but I got up one my brainwaves, t’was vivid as day, like when I got my cataract all strung up and the good doctors lazered my eyes aye. She was stuck in a big ruby!”
    “Ahaha, that’s got to be a big ruby fossur’, remember ‘ow big our B was!”
    “Oh shush Shar’, lemme thing alright. Think it all links back to our beauty treatments I’m sure, hasn’t anybody answered our advert’?” Gloria asked Mavis
    “Oh bleedin’ hell no, I forgot to check, lemme get my spectacles, dear!” Mavis answered.

    THERE, THERE!” Mavis jumped at the article. “A time and location for a rendez-vous.” she said suggestively. “When do we sneak out?”

    “Tonight, tonight alright, all my store of Stillnox is already in the water supply, everybody’s going to snore in no time.”

    Glor’, I think we’ll have a problem.” Sharon said plaintively. “I drank plenty of the ol’ water supply alright too, the doctor said I needed to drink plenty with my lady problems and all.”

    #4775
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The wind swooshed in the garden, making fallen apples roll on the ground. The air had a lively smell of earth and decaying fruit, and the grass was still moist from the morning dew.
    The statue of Gorrash was facing East, and the rising sun was bringing golden hues to his petrified face. Little snoots were curled in glowing colourful balls of liquid fur around the statue, making it pulsate with a quieting purr. Around Gorrash, the slope was peppered with some of the gargoyles rejects that Eleri had made and couldn’t sell at the market. Still, instead of discarding them, she’d arranged a little forest of painted gargoyles as a sort of silent watchful army guarding Gorrash’s sleep.
    Rukshan liked to meditate at the place, it helped with the stress he’d felt at coming back from the last ordeals. He wouldn’t have thought, but his identity had felt more shaken than he knew. He wasn’t feeling at home with the Faes any longer, and there were few people who could relate to his adventures in the villages nearby, where he was nothing more than an ominous stranger. Retreating in the Fae’s dimension, hidden from all and mostly abandoned was a tempting thought, but he’d found it was a lure with empty promises. He still had work to do.

    Tak and Nesy were already awake and were coming back for the rest of the story.
    He’d started to tell them about the Giants, the old forgotten story which he’d learnt many years ago in his previous life as a Dark Fae. Both were captivated at the prowess displayed by the Master Craftsmen, the old Rings of Stones that they built, the Cairns of the Fallen, and the Fields of Chanting Boulders where magic rituals where performed.

    “Tell us more Rukshan!” they said. “Tell us more about the Three Giant Kings.”
    “Do you remember their names?” he smiled back at the children.
    “Yes! There was Ceazar…” Tak started
    “Caesar, yes” he corrected gently
    “… and Archimedes,” Tak continued hesitantly
    “Yes, and who was the third one?”
    “He had a long and strange name! Nesy, help me!”
    The girl tried to help him “It starts with a V”
    “Vergincetorix!” the answer came from behind a bush.

    Fox!” Nesy cried reproachfully. “It’s not even right! It’s Vercingetorix!”
    “Correct Nesy! And Fox, no need to lurk in the shadows, stories are not only for children you know.”

    Fox took a place near the gargoyle army garden, and a baby snoot jumped into his lap, cooing in vibrating mruii.

    “So what about these Kings do you want to know?” Rukshan asked.
    “Everything!” they all said in unison.
    “Oh well, in this case, let me retell you the story of the Golden Age of the Three Giant Kings, and how they saved their people from a terrible catastrophe.”

    #4759
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    While she was posing for Maeve’s sketches this first afternoon before the Landlady’s theatrical entrance, Arona had felt her usual distrust towards strangers melt.

    Her magical senses told her she could trust this girl. Maeve herself seemed still a bit on the fence, as though she was guarding a heavy secret, but she seemed to have moments of unexplained boldness and was not shy to engage either.

    Without thinking twice, Arona had drawn her key out, and produced it in front of Maeve’s almond shaped eyes.

    “Something tells me this is familiar to you; me and my friends are looking for what it is locking away.”

    Maeve initial reaction was shocked and her composure seemed to be shaken for a moment.

    Mandrake, be nice to Maeve!” Arona called, as the cat had jumped on Mave’s lap and was starting to pur.

    “Don’t worry, I’m going to relax this precious moppet.” he replied back in purring meows only Arona could understand. “I heard that’s what cats do in this dimension when they don’t sleep.”

    Maeve replied “Don’t worry, I quite like animals, he seems well behaved too. And he’s so cute with his tiny boots.”

    Only momentarily distracted, and mildly relaxed by the cat’s purring, Maeve asked “how did you come by this key? It was not supposed to be found. I don’t know what it’s supposed to open, I suspect it was a fail-safe for my uncle, and I hid them in my dolls for safe-keeping.”

    “Them?” Arona asked, rather as a validation to herself.
    “As you suspected. There are more.” purred the cat harder.

    Maeve leaned in close, almost dropping her sketchbook’s coloured pencils on the floor, “I think some bad people are after it. I suspect that my Uncle sent me those tickets to Australia so I could retrieve this one before the bad people arrive to snatch it.”

    She jumped a little, realizing too late. “Wait? You don’t seem to be one of them… But what about all these other guests?”

    #4737
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And she would be called Josette.

    #4732
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

    doctor.experiences.funk

    #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.

    #4714
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Fourty four hours and 3 stopovers later, Maeve was glad to have arrived at Alice Springs airport. It was fun to see that the further she went, the smallest the aircraft became. Until it wasn’t too funny, and got almost downright scary with the last small propeller plane, that shook so much it seemed out of an old Indiana Jones movie, sans flying chicken.
    The airport was quaint and small, the way she liked, with a passageway shaded by large swathes of fabric reminiscent of Seville’s streets. The air was surprisingly fresh, and she wondered if she’d been too optimistic about the weather and her choice of clothes, considering it was still winter down here.
    While she was waiting at the luggage belt, she discreetly observed the other waiting people.
    Uncle Fergus always said she had to be observant. Besides, she had a natural eye for details.

    Apart from the few Crocodile Dundees that screamed tourists who were waiting for their oversized luggage, she could spot a few out-of-place people. One in particular, that seemed to have followed the very same route since the first layover in Vancouver. Too strange a coincidence, and the fellow was too unassuming too.

    Maeve! MAH-EH-VEH” She jumped at the sounds. Almost didn’t recognized her own name, if she hadn’t recognized her neighbour’s voice first, and his peculiar way to pronounce it like she was a precious wahine.

    Shawn-Paul?! What on earth are you doing here?” She frowned at him “Have you been stalking me?”
    “No, no! It’s not like that! I’ve received those funny-looking coupons, you see…”
    “What? You too?”

    Now, a second person following on her tracks even through a different combination of flights was more than a coincidence. It meant danger was afoot.

    “Shouldn’t we carpool? I looked up the trail to the inn, it’s a long drive and by the looks of it, not at all too safe for a lone woman travelling.”

    Maeve shrugged. That may keep the other creep off her trail. “I don’t mind, but if you insist on being so chivalrous, you’re paying for the taxi.”
    Before he could say anything, she handed him her piece of luggage to carry.

    #4695
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The note had troubled Maeve. It was different than the one Shawn Paul received, not only because it was handwritten and very long, but also because it implied someone, potentially even several groups, were after the dolls and the keys.
    “You have to retrieve them,” the note eventually said, “and use the clues they hide to find the important people they protect.”

    There was no signature, but it sounded so much like uncle Fergus, oddly wordy and mysterious. Was he still alive after all this time? Did he still ride his Harley?

    Maeve’s first thought after the surprise was that she needed someone to take care of Fabio. The next thought felt like a brilliant idea. Lucinda. Maeve would go ask her to take care of Fabio during her vacation to Australia and would use that opportunity to spirit away the doll. She had the intuition she might need it afterwards.

    So she prepared her luggage and cuddled Fabio who knew he wouldn’t be part of the trip.
    “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I need you to keep that sad face of yours when we go see Lucinda.” In response, Fabio wiggled his tail happily and tried to lick Maeve’s face. “No! Keep the face,” she mimicked what she thought was a sad face.

    After all was packed she went to Lucinda’s with Fabio and her luggage.
    “I’m sorry, I’m going on a trip and I need someone to take care of Fabio,” Maeve said. As she had imagined Lucinda was moved by Fabio’s look and couldn’t refuse to take car of him.
    “Of course! He’ll be well treated here with my new parrot.”
    Huhu,” said the colourful bird.
    “I think it comes from New Zealand,” said Lucinda. “It flew in yesterday and had not left ever since despite me not putting it into a cage, so I’m buying it food. It seems particularly fond of that doll I told you about the other day.”
    Indeed, the parrot was on the sofa, trying to open the doll’s head. That’s when Fabio jumped and tried to catch the bird. He clearly didn’t like it and the parrot flew away to a higher ground on an old grannies’ Welsh dresser, making a few glasses and china fall down in an awful breaking noise. Lucinda tried to catch the bird or the china or Fabio, but could do neither of the three.

    Seizing that as an opportunity, Maeve put the doll in her messenger bag.
    “I don’t want to bother you longer, I have a plane to catch. Bye,” she said, and she left with bags and luggage without checking if Lucinda had heard.

    At the elevator, she met with Shawn Paul.
    “Hi.”
    “Hi. I’m going to the airport,” the young man said. “Australia. Like you?”
    She felt uncomfortable. The note hadn’t mention anything about him. Unless he was part of one of those groups who were after the dolls. Maeve grumbled something while holding her bag closer. She didn’t know if she could trust him.

    #4677
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    There were strong wind currents when they passed above land, drafts of warm air competing with each other, and it took some skill to land the Jiborium Air Express without any damage.

    Albie was impressed as he observed Arona swinging between cordages, pushing the levers for added hot air, or throwing away some ballast to adjust their elevation.

    “It’s incredible the distance we can travel without refueling,” he mused aloud. As if Australia’s coasts weren’t huge enough, their travel inland seemed to have stretched for days. Sanso had been seasick most of the time, and at first Arona thought his retching was just emotion sickness, but it was only motion after all.

    “The secret is in the lard, boy. It burns longer.” Sanso said, before reaching for a bucket.
    He resumed. “Arona could have taken a Zeppelin you know, the Emporium always used to have few spares, they’re so much more comfortable, and still quite affordable.”

    “Guess your comfort wasn’t the priority, nor were you expected, were you?” Mandrake was in a somber mood, well, somberer than usual.
    “Mmh, someone’s sprightly today! Guess it doesn’t have anything to do with Ugo the gecko, does it?”

    The bickering continued a while longer after all the landing was done, and the balloon was folded back in a neat package.

    Mandrake! are you coming, or do you prefer to argument to death under the sun?”
    “Of course I’m coming.” The cat stretched and jumped on his feet, with Albie in tow.

    “Before we venture further in Mutitjulu land, we’ll need to seek permission from the local shaman.” Arona said.
    Noticing the boy, she asked “Aren’t your parents going to be concerned, you seem a little far from home!”

    “We can still send them a postcard?” he answered tentatively. “It’ll be like a quest, a rite of passage for me. After that, I’ll be a man in my village!”

    “Well, when you have had enough, let me know. I think most bodies of water are connected to the Doline, I can just send a magical trace with the last pearls to guide you home.”

    “That is kind and generous, Milady. Thank you.”

    “So what is our quest?” Sanso seemed to creep out of the shadows where he was lurking.

    “I don’t know about you Sir,” Albie jumped, “but mine is clear now. I am at Milady’s… and Milord’s (he added for Mandrake) service.”

    “Well, that won’t surely get us run in circles now.” Mandrake sniggered. He turned to Arona who was already ready to trek in the rocks and sand. “What about you? Has your quest anything to do with that key you got?”

    #4667
    TikuTiku
    Participant

    “Oy! I did it! I’m here!” I laughed and laughed like I was mad, I couldn’t stop for words, too happy to be there I felt like cryin’ over the fire.

    Two fat bungarras roasting here, clubbed hard to be tender, a good hunt for the day.

    I don’t know what got into me, but I jumped on me feet, and told the other girls
    “They roasted good and crisp. Now I want to take these bungarras to the old lady and her family in the inn. Their old chap was always good to us, and I think they don’t eat lots of meat these days.”

    The others looked at me strange, but they let me take the lizards. And I went, not knowing how or why, but happy to be on the dusty road, on my way to the local Inn.

    #4637
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Before Mandrake jumped in the cold stream, he heard the dragon say “There, she’s here again. I can feel a steady pulse, at least once a day!”

    “Quantity over audacity… Pray she keeps the pace and we’ll get this over quick” Mandrake handed the nearly empty bottle of Nhum to Albie who was fitted with a spare scuba diving gear, ready to take on a journey to find in which story Arona was… pulsing.

    #4566
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    A strong and loud guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the others his eyes wide open.
    Olliver teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
“Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
Rukshan nodded.

    “It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo. 
She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow.

    You must remember, seemed to whisper an echo from the cave they had used for shelter for weeks. Fox dismissed it as induced by the imminent danger.


    The Shadow hissed and shrieked, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo engaged in a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.

    You must remember, said the echo again.

    Everobody stood and ran in chaos, except for Fox. He was getting confused, as if under a bad spell.

    Someone tried to cover the fire with a blanket of wool. 
“Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan before rushing toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly.

    Lhamom told them to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. 
“But I want to help,” said Olliver.
“You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. She didn’t wait to see if the boy followed her order and went to help Rukshan with her old magic spoon.
    “Something’s wrong. I’ve already lived that part,” said Fox when the screen protecting the mandala flapped away, missing the fae’s head by a hair.
    “What?” asked Olliver.
    “It already happened once,” said Fox, “although I have a feeling it was a bit different. But I can’t figure out how or why.”

    At that moment a crow popped out of the cave’s mouth in a loud bang. The cave seemed to rebound in and out of itself for a moment, and the dark bird cawed, very pleased. It reminded Fox at once of what had happened the previous time, the pain of discovering all his friends dead and the forest burnt to the ground by the shadow. The blindness, and the despair.
    The crow cawed and Fox felt the intense powers at work and the delicate balance they were all in.

    The Shadow had grown bigger and threatened to engulf the night. Fox had no idea what to do, but instead he let his instinct guide him.

    “Come!” he shouted, pulling Olliver by the arm. He jumped on the hellishcopter and helped the boy climb after him.

    “COME NOW!” he shouted louder.
 Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter and at the devouring shadow that had engulfed the night into chaos and madness.
    They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it, but this time he didn’t nod. He knew now what he had to do.


    “You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward.
    But Fox, aware of what would have come next, kept a tight rein on the hellishcarpet and turned to Olliver.
    “Go get her! We need her on the other side.”
    Despite the horror of the moment, the boy seemed pleased to be part of the action and he quickly disappeared. 
The shaman looked surprised when the boy popped in on her left and seized her arm only to bring her back on the carpet in the blink of an eye.

    “By the God Frey,” she said looking at a red mark on her limb, “the boy almost carved his hand on my skin.”
    “Sorry if we’re being rude,” said Fox, “but we need you on the other side. It didn’t work the first time. If you don’t believe me, ask the crow.”
    The bird landed on the shaman’s shoulder and cawed. “Oh,” said Kumihimo who liked some change in the scenario. “In that case you’d better hold tight.”

    They all clung to each other and she whistled loudly.
    The hellishcopter bounced ahead through the portal like a wild horse, promptly followed by Ronaldo and the Shadow.

    The wind stopped.
    The dogs closed in on the portal and jumped to go through, but they only hit the wall of the powerful sound wave of Kumihimo’s ice lyra.
    They howled in pain as the portal closed, denying them their hunt.

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