“Did someone say drinks are on the house?” asked Rosamund, pushing past the burly bouncer as she entered the pub. “What’s your name, handsome?”
“Percival,” the bouncer replied with a wry grin. “Yeah I know, doesn’t fit the image.”
Rosamund looked him up and down while simultaneously flicking a bit of food from between her teeth with a credit card. “I keep forgetting to buy dental floss,” she said.
“Is that really necessary?” hissed Tara. “Is that moving the plot forward?”
“I’ll be away for a while on an important mission,” Rosamund said to Percival, “But give me your number and I’ll call you when I get back.”
“The trip is cancelled, you’re not going anywhere,” Star told her, “Except to the shop to buy dental floss.”
“I’m glad you mentioned it!” piped up a middle aged lady sitting at the corner table. “I have run out of dental floss too.”
“See?” said Rosamund. “You never can tell how helpful you are when you just act yourself and let it flow. Now tell me why I’m not going to New Zealand? I already packed my suitcase!”
“Because it seems that New Zealand has come to us,” replied Star, “Or should I say, the signs of the cult are everywhere. It’s not so much a case of finding the cult as a case of, well finding somewhere the cult hasn’t already infected. And as for April,” she continued, “She changes her story every five minutes, I think we should ignore everything she says from now on. Nothing but a distraction.”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Tara. “Exactly! Distraction tactics! A well known ruse, tried and tested. She has been sent to us to distract us from the case. She isn’t a new client. She’s a red herring for the old clients enemies.”
“Oh, good one, Tara,” Star was impressed. Tara could be an abusive drunk, but some of the things she blurted out were pure gold. Or had a grain of gold in them, it would be more accurate to say. A certain perspicacity shone through at times when she was well lubricated. “Perhaps we should lock her back in the wardrobe for the time being until we’ve worked out what to do with her.”
“You’re right, Star, we must restrain her….oy! oy! Percival, catch that fleeing aunt at once!” April had made a dash for it out of the pub door. The burly bouncer missed his chance. April legged it up the road and disappeared round the corner.
“Oh I say, that’s going a bit far,” interjected the middle aged lady sitting at the corner table.
“What’s it got to do with you?” Tara turned on her.
“This,” the woman replied with a smugly Trumpish smile. She pulled her trouser leg up to reveal a bell bird tattoo.
“Oh my fucking god,” Tara was close to tears again.
Star paused in the lobby. “I need some more persuading,” she said. “What if she dies in that wardrobe? What will we do with the body? Or, worse, what if she doesn’t die and sues us?”
“I’m going back. I can’t leave Rosamund to face the consequences of our drunken stupidity.” Star headed defiantly towards the stairs; the lift was out of order, again. “We would have to be on the eight bloody floor,” she muttered. “You do what you like,” she flung over her shoulder to Tara.
Tara sighed. “Wait up,” she shouted.
Star was relieved that Tara decided to follow. The building was scary at night – the few tenants who did lease office space, were, much like themselves, dodgy start-ups that couldn’t afford anything better. Missing bulbs meant the lighting in the stairwell was dim, and, on some floors, non-existent.
As they approached the door to their office, they paused to listen. “Can you hear something … ?” whispered Star.
“Is it … singing?”
“That’s never Rosamund singing. She’s got a voice like … well let’s just say you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.”
“I’m going in,” hissed Tara and flung open the door.
“Don’t come any closer!” cried a woman in a mink coat; she did make a peculiar sight, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and brandishing a broom. “And you, shut up!” she said reaching out to bang the wardrobe with her broom. There were muffled cries from within, and then silence.
“Was that you singing?” asked Star in her most polite voice.
“Yes, what’s it to you?”
“It was rather… lovely.”
The woman smirked. “I was rehearsing.”
“We are awfully sorry about locking you in the wardrobe. We thought you were a masked intruder.”
Loud banging emanated from the wardrobe followed by mostly unintelligible shouting but it went something like: “Bloody-let-me-out-or-I-will-friggin-kill-you-stupid-bloody-tarts!”
April nodded. “Go on then, little fool’s learnt her lesson. The cheek of her not letting me have pineapple on my pizza.”
“About bloody time,” sniffed Rosamund when the door was opened. She made a sorry sight, mascara streaked under her eyes and her red fingernails broken from where she had tried to force the door.
April crinkled her brow.”Well, as I may of mentioned on the phone, my husband, Albert — that’s your Uncle Albie,” she said to Rosamund, “is cheating on me. He denies it vehemently of course, but I found this note in his pocket.” She reached into her Louis Vuitton hand-bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. “That’s his handwriting and the paper is from the Royal Albert Hotel. He was there on a business trip last month.” Her face crumpled.
April sniffed. “It says, meet you at the usual place. Bring the money and the suitcase and I will make it worth your while.”
“Let me see that,” said Rosamund, snatching the note from April. She reached into the front of her tee-shirt and pulled out another crumpled note which had been stuffed into her bra. She smirked. “I found this in the wardrobe. I was keeping it secret to pay you back but … ” She brandished both notes triumphantly. “The handwriting is the same!”
“It says, If you find this note, please help me. All is not what it seems..”
“Wow, cool!” said Tara, her face lit up. This was more like it!DevanParticipant
Working at the gas station gave me the possibility to not only be confined at home but also at work. At least I could enjoy the transit between places, that’s what I told me everyday. And better go to work than turn around all day in the studio I rented since I left the Inn.
You can’t imagine how many people need gas during the confinement. It looks like in this part of the country people don’t have as many dogs as them in the big cities, so they do all sorts of crazy things to be able to get out.
A man came to the station this morning. I’m sure it was to give the equivalent of a walk to his brand new red GMC Canyon, you know, treating his car like she needed fresh air and to get some exercise regularly. From behind the makeshift window made of transparent wrapper, I asked him how was his day. You know, to be polite. He showed me the back of his truck. I swear there was a cage with two dingos in it.
The guy told me he captured them the other day in case the cops stopped him in the street with no reason to be out. At least, he said, I could still say I’m giving them a walk. I told him them being in a cage would hardly pass as a walk but he answered me with a wink and a big grin that cops weren’t that intelligent. I’m glad we have makeshift windows now, at least seeing his teeth I didn’t have to smell his breath. I’m not sure who’s the less intelligent in absolute terms, but in that case I’d rather bet his IQ would fail him.
Well that’s probably the most exciting thing that happened before I went home after work. As soon as I got home I received a phone call from Prune. On the landline. It’s like she has some magical means to know when I’m there.
Anyway, she asked me if I washed my hand. I told her yes, though I honestly don’t recall. But I have to make her think all is ok. She started to talk again about Jasper. Each time she mention the subject I’m a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure I fancy having a brother, even if it’s kind of being in a TV series. She said she had looked for him on internet, contacted some adoption agencies, even tried a private called Dick. That’s all that I remember of the private’s name. Dick, maybe that’s because he never answered her calls. Might be dead of the pandamic I told her. PandEmic, She corrected. I know, I told her, I said that to cheer you up.
We talked about Mater too. That made me laugh. Apparently Idle saw her in a fuschia pink leotard. Prune half laughed herself when she mentioned the leotard, but she said : Truth is I don’t know what Dido had taken when she had seen Mater outside. I suspect the om chanting was simply snoring.
There was a silence afterward. Maybe Prune was thinking about age and the meaning of life, I was merely realising I was hungry. I swear I don’t know what crossed my mind. I have a tendency to want to help my sister even if I think there is no hope. You know, I told her, about Jasper we could still go and ask that woman in the bush. It’s like she already knew what I was going to say. Tiku? I knew by her tone that all the conversation was fated to lead there. Yeah. I can drive you there after work tomorrow.
Of course, we didn’t even have to go there after all.
Helle Jorid, my Whale friend.
I dreamt I sailed on one of those ancient ships made of wood with no engine other than the wind and man power.
In the dream we were very few and not all there by choice. Chased after by some kind of police force we, a motley bunch of people found ourselves on that ship by chance. I saw one man on the dock pass by and cut the big rope that held the ship still.
As the rope limply hanged from the mooring post, I watched the ship being guided away by the backwash from its mooring place to the ocean. At that moment someone wanted to disembark and I heard myself say : In your dreams! It’s too late we’re on the open sea now.
I think someone mentioned a captain Cook, but I’m not sure as I never saw the guy. Maybe it was merely a cook, but did we really need it? As I went deeper into the ship I found a wonderful meeting room with all the technological comfort of TV sets embedded in the walls and loads of electrical plugs at the end of mechanical arms coming out of these same walls. Surely there were microwave oven and tons of dehydrated food.
But our attention was still on the discovery of the treasures hidden in the heart of that ship. There was a circular sofa set around a nice coffee table. And we all settled comfortably there for a get together, happy we had escaped and seemed safe. None of us thought one second about where the wind and the gulf stream were taking us. I guess anywhere was better than what those men had in store for us.
I woke up. Alone at night. It was dark. My heart was pounding. Is that how we feel when we are in a lock down? I almost wrote placed under house arrest. What’s the difference apart the name to make us think it’s different?
Was the ship the symbol of our longing for freedom? It’s still the same place moving around on water. Even if the place move around, we can’t move away from it and from the flatness of the ocean. I wonder. I wonder if I stayed longer in that dream what would have happened? A storm? An interesting encounter? Like a whale. How would I know unless I write the rest of the story?
The clay mixture was giving off a golden hue. Everyone had gathered to look at the miracle happen, especially the two kids and their Snootish pets.
“I think there’s a word in the old language for what we are,” mentioned Glynis feeling that pregnant silence was too dangerously promising of unsilent babies. She was looking fondly at the odd looking family. “Tūrangawaewae. They are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.”
Eleri whistled a tentative “whoohoo to that!” but she was starting to get inebriated with the fermented goat milk, and was wondering what it was all about.
“Good for her,” said Eleri “although I wished you’d kept some of that magical clay for me, had experiments to make on that. Could help in the great fires recovery process down under.”
“As a matter of fact, there was some left that I kept for you.” said Glynis. “I’ll give it to you later, but for now, just shush, and let the process unravel, or we’ll never catch up.”
Indeed, the protective golden carapace around Gorrash embued with rebuilding powers was finally starting to crack as the last ray of light of the day were vanishing behind the horizon.
It was a rhetorical question, and Lucinda chose not to answer it, at least not out loud. Although it was possible for a character to remove their attention from a story as long as the writer wasn’t writing about them, as soon as the character was mentioned again, they would inevitably be required to participate. Or would they? wondered Lucinda. Who really knew?
Well, it wasn’t what I expected. but once I got over being slightly miffed that it was all about Mater, stealing the limelight again, I realized that I would get my wish after all, if Corrie and Clove and the others were going to come back for a visit. When they arrived, they could tell me all about what had been happening. The twins and Pan were to set off soon, on a sea worthy raft they’d been working on. It would be a long trip and hard to judge how long it would take. The waters were uncharted in places, Corrie mentioned in the letter, given that the waters had risen in so many places, but it also meant there was a chance of safe passage by water in places that had previously been dry land. Narrow canals had become wide shallow lakes, so they’d heard. Pan would be able to dive to his hearts content along the way, and they were all excited about the coming adventure.
“We will continue to communicate telepathically during the trip, Auntie”, Corrie had written, which gave me a glow of pride and satisfaction. I hadn’t been making it up, we truly had been exchanging messages all along.
I wasn’t sure how easy it was going to be dealing with Mater in the meantime, though. She was demanding plastic surgery now.
“Plastic surgery?” I said, “You can’t even get a decent tupperware these days, lid or no lid. Where on earth are we supposed to get plastic surgery from?”
Almost a hundred years old, and still vain. I ask you. “Do you see me fussing over my looks?”
“Quite” she replied, and pursed her shriveled lips.prUneParticipant
I’ve been checking old records those past few days. Yes, I know, not much ever happens, and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands between my studies. Anyway, I read something rather odd about a bit of rare magic… Sorry, getting carried away again, I mean, I found a passing mention of Jasper.
Guess, the letter is about our long lost brother that nobody ever mentioned. My sisters, with all of their flaws, which I don’t hate them for, have a keen sense of investigation. Must be in the genes, though it may have skipped over Aunt Dodo.
That, or they have just sent a copy of the Boynitch manuscript to sent her into a spin, that wouldn’t be a first.
The jinx on the cottage loo was finally lifted, and not before the hiemal cold had settled in, right before the Sol Invictus festivities.
Meanwhile, they’ve had occasional updates from Rukshan, who was exploring the Land of the Giants. He’d mentioned in his last telebat echoing that he’d found the elusive Master creator of Gorrash, and had hope for the dwarf. The magic binding the stones was strong he’s said, although some additional magic would help speed up the recovery process which otherwise would take probably centuries if not millennia.
Glynis had looked at the requirements; it only said
‘strong magic, born from pain, hardened in gems
– dissolve in pink clay, mix well and apply generously’.
None of her magic had seemed to fit. Pain, she’d had plenty, but her magic was born from the water element, emotions, plants and potions. She went to the nearby Library, their restricted section of applied magic was scarce, nothing really applicable there. Honestly, if she’d known her whereabouts, it would have been a task better suited to Eleri. Her kind of area of expertise with concrete and iron work and stone paints was a bit more unpredictable though; it could end up do more damage to Gorrash’s continuity than else; she’d quickly put that impetuous idea to rest.
Glynis was still mulling over, thinking about finding a solution when she noticed a gaunt figure was at the door. It took her a few seconds to realize it wasn’t a stranger, but a familiar friend. Rukshan had returned, although verily worn down by his travails, with a full grown beard that gave him a seriouser look. Without thinking, she went to hug him. Such unusual display of affection did surprise the Fae who was beeming.
He smiled widely at Glynis and showed her an unusually large ampoule: “I’ve found the kind of magic our friend needs. These three Giant’s gallstones weren’t a picnic to obtain, I can tell you.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about this exciting story.” interrupted Eleri.
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.
For a moment, Granola felt in a dream world. It wasn’t the first time it happened, so she relaxed, and let her consciousness focus despite the distraction from the shimmering and vibrating around the objects and people.
She was in another mental space, but this one was more solid, not just a diversion born from a single thought or a single mind. It was built in layers of cooperation, alignment, and pyramid energy. A shared vision, although at times, a confused one.
The first time she’d visited, she thought it was a fun fantasy, like a dream, quickly enjoyed and discarded. But then she would come back at times, and the fantasy world continued to expand and feel lively.
It slowly dawned on her that this was a projection of an old project of her friends. The more striking was how people in the place looked a bit like Maeve’s dolls, but she could see the other’s imprints —Shaw-Paul’s, Lucinda’s and Jerk’s—, subtle energy currents driving the characters and animating everything.
It felt like a primordial fount of creativity, and she basked in the glorious feeling of it.
Once, she got trapped long enough to start exploring the “place” in and out, and it all became curiouser when she found out that the places and the stories they told were all connected through a central underground stream.
Granola had been an artist most of her life, so she understood how creativity worked. Before she died, she had been intrigued the first time her online friends had mentioned this collaboration game, creating that mindspace filled with their barmy stories. She didn’t believe such pure mental creation could be called real at all.
Maybe that was the kind of comments that let her friends forget it.
If only she could tell them now!
“You could, if you’d hone your pop-in skills, dear”, a random character suddenly turned to her and spoke in the voice of Ailill, her blue mentor.
“But how can you see me? I’ve tried and the characters of these stories don’t ever see me!”
“That’s what popping in is all about, justly so!” Ailill had this way of making her mind race for a spin.
“Now, will you stop hijacking this person, and tell me why you’re interrupting my present mission?” Granola turned burgundy red, increased her typeface a few notches, and pushed her ghost leg vigorously at the story character.
“Oh, you are right about that. It is a mission.” he smiled, “I think you’d want to go find certain characters, or avatars. Your friends personae are always shifting into new characters, but they hide themselves and don’t progress. Actually, some of them are trapped in loops, and those loops are not happily ever after. You can help free them, so they can recover their trapped creativity.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound like an impossibly vague mission at all!”
She was about to continue ranting, but the pop-in effect was gone, and the character was back to his routine, unperturbed by her ghostly agitation.
Elizabeth was even more impressed when the Obviously Intelligent Daily Comment Generator mentioned something very similar to Alice’s cookies .
She was delighted to see that Sanso was one of the early arrivals to the garden party, and that he’d brought with him a rag tag assortment of strapping young Arduino time hackers.
Finnley bustled past with her arms full of colourful bed linen, muttering under her breath.
The horses snorted as they were reined in to a halt an the front entrance. A young woman in what appeared to be a fancy dress costume descended from the carriage.
“I ‘ave come to ‘elp Finnley wiz ze bedding!”
Lucinda answered her honking phone, while silently indicating to the waiter whose drink was whose. She smiled as she noticed the reaction of the people sitting at the other tables to the strident honking geese noise she’d chosen for her phone. The mundane daily things that amuses one are more important that you think, she’d say if anyone mentioned it, and the reaction to the honking tickled her every time her phone rang.
“Maeve, darling!” she gushed, showing off a bit in front of Shawn Paul and Jerk, and then her face puckered into a frown as she cringed. “Oh dear, I’m awfully sorry… . No, of course you can’t decorate it all on your own, that wouldn’t be fair at all, but that’s the thing I wanted to tell you,” Lucinda was thinking quickly, “The neighbour, you know that tall one with the nice smile, and the, er..the well dressed one, yes that’s the one, the writer, well he’s going to help us with everything…”
Almost imperceptibly, Shawn Paul’s head jerked back a little upon hearing this, as he wondered what exactly he was expected to help with.
Lucinda continued into the phone, “And you know the guy from the supermarket down the road, the , um, the quiet one, well ok perhaps you haven’t noticed…. what? yes, that’s the one! well he’s going to help too. What? Oh I’m sure he’s only like that at work,” Lucinda glanced at Jerk with a little laugh, mouthing something indecipherable to him and pointing at the phone with a roll of her eyes. Jerk raised a single sardonic eyebrow and sipped his cocktail.
“I tell you what Maeve, come and join us. We’re having drinks at the Red Beans cafe. Where? It’s next to the Karmalott Kafe on the river front, you know it? Good! See you in ten, then.” Lucinda snapped her phone shut and beamed at the two men.
Night had fallen when Rukshan came back to the cottage. He was thinking that they could wait a little bit for the trip. He did not like that much the idea of trusting the safety of their group to a stranger, even if it was a friend of Lhamom. They were not in such a rush after all.
Rukshan looked at their luxuriant newly grown pergola. Thanks to the boost potion Glynis had prepared, it had only took a week to reach its full size and they have been able to enjoy it since the start of the unusual hot spell. The creatures that had hatched from the colourful eggs Gorrash had brought with him were flowing around the branches creating a nice glowing concerto of lights, inside and out.
It was amazing how everyone were combining their resources and skills to make this little community function. In the shadow of the pergola there was an empty pedestal that Fox had built and Eleri had decorated with nice grapes carvings. Gorrash was certainly on patrol with the owls. His friends had thought that a pedestal would be more comfortable and the pergola would keep Gorrash’s stone from the scorching heat of the sun. Also, he wouldn’t get covered in mud during the sudden heavy rains accompanying the hot spell.
Seeing the beautiful pedestal and the carved little stairs he could use to climb up, Gorrash had tried to hide the tears in his eyes. He mumbled it was due to some desert dust not to appear emotional, but they all knew his hard shell harboured the softest heart.
The dwarf had repaid them in an unexpected way. Every day just before sunrise, he would take a big plate in his hands and jumped on the pedestal before turning to stone. It allowed them to put grapes or other fruits that they could eat under the shadow of the of the pergola.
“They sent me a bloody pigeon,” she said when she arrived. She took the roll and handed it to Rukshan. “The city council… Leroway… he accuses us of unauthorised expansion of the house, of unauthorised construction on communal ground, and of unlicensed trade of manufactured goods.” Margoritt’s face was twisted with pain as the said the words.
Rukshan winced. Too much bad news were arriving at the same time. If there was a pattern, it seemed rather chaotic and harassing.
“They threaten us to send a bailif if we don’t stop our illegal activities and if we don’t pay the extra taxes they reclaim,” she continued. “I’m speechless at the guile of that man.”
Rukshan smiled, he wondered if Margoritt could ever be rendered speechless by anything except for bad flu. He uncoiled the roll and quickly skimmed through the long string of accusations. Many of them were unfair and, to his own opinion unjustified. Since when the forest belonged to Leroway’s city? It had always been sacred ground, and its own master.
“I have no money,” said Margoritt. “It’s so unfair. I can’t fight with that man. I’m too old and tired.”
“Don’t forget we are all in the same cottage, Margoritt. It’s not just you. Eventhough, they clearly want to evict us,” said Rukshan. “Even if we had enough money, they would not let us stay.” He showed her the small roll. “The list of accusations is so ludicrous that it’s clearly a ploy to get rid of us. First, that road they want to build through the forest, now evicting us from the ground.” And those bad omens from the mountain, he thought with a shiver.
“Ahem,” said a rockous voice. Gorrash had returned from his patrol. “I know where to find money,” he added. “At leas, I think I know. I had another dream about my maker. It’s just bits and pieces, but I’m sure he hid some treasure in the mountains. There was that big blue diamond, glowing as brightly as a blue sun. And other things.”
A big blue diamond? It sounds familiar. Rukshan thought. There was an old fae legend that mentioned a blue diamond but he couldn’t remember. Is it connected to the blue light Olliver mentioned earlier? He wondered.
“That’s it! You have to go find this treasure,” said Margoritt.
Rukshan sighed as he could feel the first symptoms of a headache. There was so much to think about, so much to do. He massaged his temples. The trip had suddenly become urgent, but they also had to leave someone behind to help Margoritt with the “Leroway problem”. And he winced as he wondered who was going to take care of that road business. It was clear to him that he couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. He would have to delegate.
He thought of the telebats. Maybe he could teach the others how to use them so that he could keep in touch and manage everything at distance. He sighed again. Who would be subtle and sensitive enough to master the telebats in time?
Margoritt’s left knee was painful that day. Last time it hurt so much was twenty years ago, during that notorious drought when a fire started and almost burnt the whole forest down. Only a powerful spell from the Fae people could stop it. But today they sky was clear, and the forest was enjoying a high degree of humidity from the last magic rain. Margoritt, who was not such a young lady anymore dismissed the pain as a sign of old age.
You have to accept yourself as you are at some point, she sighed.
The guests were still there, and everyone was participating to the life of the community. Eleri, who had been sick had been taken care of in turn by Fox and Glynnis, while Rukshan had reorganised the functioning of the farm. They now had a second cow and produced enough milk to make cakes and butter that they sold to the neighbouring Faes, and they had a small herd of Rainbow Lamas that produced the softest already colourful wool, among other things. Gorrash, awoken at night, had formed an alliance with the owls that helped them to keep the area clear of mice and rats and was also in charge of the weekly night fireworks.
The strange colourful eggs had hatched recently giving birth to strange little creatures that were not yet sure of which shape to adopt. They sometimes looked like cuddly kittens, sometimes like cute puppies, or mischievous monkeys. They always took the form of a creature with a tail, except when they were frightened and turned into a puddle. It had been hard for Margoritt who mistook them for dog pee, but Fox had been very helpful with his keen sense of smell and washing away the poor creatures had been avoided. Nobody had any idea if they could survive once diluted in water.
The day was going great, Margoritt sat on her rocking chair enjoying a fresh nettle lassi on the terrace while doing some embroidery work on Eleri’s blouse. Her working kit was on a small stool in front of her. Working with her hands helped her forget about her knee and also made her feel useful in this youthful community where everybody wanted to help her. She was rather proud of her last design representing a young girl and a god statue holding hands together. She didn’t think of herself as a matchmaker, but sometimes you just had to give a little push when fate didn’t want to do its job.
Micawber Minn arrived, his face as long as the Lamazon river. He had the latest newspaper with him and put it on Margoritt’s lap. Surprise and a sudden sharp and burning pain in her knee made her left leg jerk forward, strewing all her needles onto the floor. Margoritt, upset, looked at the puddle of lassi sluggishly starting to covering them up.
“What…” she began.
“Read the damn paper,” said Minn.
She did. The front page mentioned the reelection of Leroway as Lord Mayor, despite his poor results in developing the region.
“Well, that’s not surprising,” Margoritt said with a shrug, starting to feel angry at Minn for frightening her.
“Read further,” said Minn suddenly looking cynical.
Margoritt continued and gasped. Her face turned blank.
“That’s not possible. We need to tell the other,” she said. “We can not let Leroway build his road through the forest.”
“I had another vivid dream last night, Sunny. I dreamed of a man I met when i was selling my potions in the market place in town. He was chasing a little red fox and I gave him some potion … “
Glynis smiled reluctantly.
“No, that’s what happened. I’ve not got to the dream part yet.”
“My apologies,” said Sunny, nudging her ear gently from his perch on her shoulder. “Please continue.”
“Anyway the man from the market came to me in my dream and thanked me. He said his wife was well now. He said to look for a gift in the heartwoods.”
“Excellent dream!” said Sunny. “I adore gifts. I will keep my eyes open and hope we find it poste haste. How much further is it now, anyway?”
“Another few days travel to the fringe of the heartwoods. According to the map, that’s where the first X is.”
They continued in silence, glad of each other’s company on the journey.
Glynis had been sad to leave the Bakers and more than a few tears were shed on parting They tried to get her to stay but it was without much conviction for Glynis had shown them the map and, though plain folk, they had sound instincts and knew when something had to be.
“Any time you want, Girl,” said Mr Baker gruffly, “you’ll find a home here. You hear me? And make sure you keep in touch.”
And Glynis nodded, unable to find the words to thank him for his kindness.
And Mrs Baker had made her a new burka. She’d stayed up nights sewing to surprise Glynnis. It shimmered, sometimes green and sometimes blue depending on where the light fell and it felt like silk to the touch. Glynis thought it was the most pretty thing she had ever seen.
“You’ve a lovely heart, Lass, and anyone who’s worth a penny will see that and not those scales on your face.”
It was the first time either of the Bakers had mentioned her appearance and for a moment Glynis was rendered speechless.
But not so, Sunny.
“Knock, knock!” he cackled loudly. “Oh come on! It’s a good one!”
“Who’s there?” said Glynis softly.
“Dragon your feet again?”
Glynis had been staying with the Bakers for a few weeks now, since the night of the storm.
She had taken refuge on their porch, as the gale tore through the pitch black streets, blowing anything not nailed down along in its wake. Intending to leave early before anyone in the house was up, she found a dry corner and wrapping her burka tightly around herself for warmth, she fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
“Well, what have we here! Good Lord, girl, you must be freezing!” said a booming male voice. Glynis started awake, trying to work out where she was.
“This is no place to be in a storm. Come inside to the warm,” the man continued. And before she could gather her senses and protest, he took hold of her arm and gently but firmly pulled her into a cosy warm kitchen already filled with the delicious aroma of baking bread.
“Anne!” he called to his wife, “look what I found on the front porch!”
“Oh you poor dear! You are shivering! Come with me and let’s get you into some dry clothes.”
Anne Baker was a portly woman with a purple scar covering a large part of her face. Glynis never mentioned the scar and likewise the Bakers never said a word about the dragon scales, seeming completely unperturbed by Glynis’s unusual appearance. In fact, in their kindly presence, Glynis sometimes found herself forgetting.
To repay their kindness, Glynis helped with the baking. With her knowledge of herbs, she had created several new recipes which had proved to be most popular with the customers. This delighted the Bakers; they were people who were passionate about what they did and every little detail mattered. They rose early, often before the sun was up, to lovingly prepare the dough; in their minds they were not merely selling bread; they were selling happiness.
Glynis was most surprised the day the stone parrot arrived in the mail.
“This is very peculiar. Who is this “laughing crone” and what does she want with me,” said Glynis to the stone parrot. “I wonder, did Aunt Bethell send you to me? She is very good at stories — perhaps she sent me the dream as well.”
But surely Aunt Bethell would not call herself a laughing crone! No, that is definitely not her style!
Glynis stared at the concrete parrot and an uneasy feeling had come over her. “You are alive inside that concrete, aren’t you,” she whispered, patting the stone creature gently. “Have you too been caught in the spell of some malevolent magician?”
Deftly catching the paper being tossed in the whirlwind of a forceful exhalation of Liz’s cigarette smoke, he raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
“She had a dream, you see,” continued Liz. “A dream about a writer and her maid. She mentioned it to me because she had one of those funny feelings it was about me, and when she told me, well the first thing I thought about was, well, you know….”
“So then I said to her,” Elizabeth explained, “‘I wonder what she’s been up to, left to her own devices?” and then she asked him all about it, and that’s what he said. Thrown me for a loop, I must say.”
E: (chuckling) Left to her own devices, she generates considerable intensity in extremes.
A: is this a character that has become a focus?
A: So it’s a focus that has become a character…. is there any information on the focus itself that I could offer her to play with that?
E: The focus is a past focus, but a recent past focus…a past focus in the timeframework of the 1940s…
A: in the Americas?
E: This focus travels, but I would express is based in Britain.
A: That makes sense.
E: And in actuality is involved with early computers…with large cables. LARGE cables…
A: [babble babble ohh ahh blah blah] …and she is female?
“What did Clove ask about the other lodgers? You didn’t give away anything did you?” asked Sue later that evening. Sue was in bed with her latest Mills and Boon novel: Caride’s Forgotten Wife. She said to John that reading them was her “secret vice” and she hid them in the bedside cabinet — the one with a lock — so that none of the children would come across them. She whispered her question about the lodgers to John, although it wasn’t clear who she thought might be able to overhear.
John sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the bed. He didn’t believe in these sort of communications before bed time; sleep was a serious business and it was best not to get stressed prior to commencing. But he realised the importance of Sue’s question and decided to make an exception to his usual rule.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, luv, she did ask. She did … and I confess it was I who mentioned the lodgers in the first place. In my defence though, I was getting fed up with her pestering to go out gallivanting god-knows-where in the middle of the night. I was quite sharp with her. But I don’t want you worrying.” He patted Sue’s leg under the woollen beige blanket in a reassuring way. “Tell you what, in the morning we will put our heads together and come up with a story to put young Clove’s enquiring mind at ease should the matter of the lodgers arise again. Now, promise you won’t worry, dear?”
Sue nodded doubtfully.
“Oh I hope not, John, she can’t know … I couldn’t stand it … you know. I just couldn’t go through it again. All the turmoil and … upset.”
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