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  • #5837

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The nurse outfits were a good size too tight.

    “I didn’t realize that cult was short for horticulture,” Tara said, while struggling with the chafing elastic band of her… mask. She almost regretted that mission wasn’t risqué enough to warrant the Moulin Rouge ensemble.

    “Don’t be daft,” Star answered, not knowing what else to say. She clearly wasn’t expecting carrots either. Although it sort of made sense in a culinary continuity sort of way, now they were looking for basil, come to think of it.

    “Where do you think they’ll be keeping him?” whispered Tara.

    “With the garlic and butter?” guffawed Star Wrexham.

    “HEY! You two!” someone waved at them from the back. “Yes you two! About time you arrived!”

    It was too late to flee. Tara rolled her eyes. It wouldn’t take one minute for their undercover to be uncovered.
    But with Star’s luck, the guy could well guide them straight to the missing uncle Basil. Unless of course there was another side business of the cult which required scantily dressed as nurse ladies, and they could still hope to blend in… Either or, but in any case, they would figure it out pretty soon.

    #5593
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Was trying to get a basic timeline in place for future reference:

    • (1935) Birth of Mater
    • (1958) Mater marries her childhood sweetheart (ref)
    • (1965) Birth of Fred
    • (1970) Birth of Aunt Idle
    • (1978) April 12th, Mater’s husband dies
    • (1998) Birth of Devan
    • (2000) Birth of the twins Coriander & Clove
    • (2008) Birth of Prune
    • (2014) Start of Prune’s journal about the Inn (she’s 6 at the time – ref)
    • (2017) visit of Arona, Albie, Maeve, Hilda, Sanso etc. to the Inn
    • (2020) The year of the Great Fires (ref). Mater is 85. Idle is 50. The twins are 20. Prune is 12.
    • (2027) First settlers on Mars; Prune’s left for a boarding school to pursue her dreams

    Fast forward 15 years later

    • (2035) Idle receives news from the twins (now aged 35) & waterlark adventures.
      Mater is alive and kicking at 100.

    Fast forward a little more

    • (2049) Prune arrives with a commercial flight on Mars, having won a place through a reality show.
      Mater is deceased. She would have been 114.
      Little after, the Mars mission is revealed to be an elaborately constructed mass illusion, and the program is terminated via an alien invasion simulation; like the other survivors from the program, she returns to Australia but cannot reveal the details of the program.
    #5584
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.

    May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.

    “Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission.  She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off.  Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.

    iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta

    Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon.  May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?

    Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one.  Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late.   May burst into the room, beaming.

    Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary.  Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience?  And that impulse to switch the glasses!

    “Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.

    “Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.

    #4800
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ed Steam had called for a strategic team meeting this morning.
    He looked at his pocket watch. It was only a queerter to thriety, which meant they were all late, as usual. True that time was notoriously difficult to read in these alternate dimensions, but this particular dimension had been fairly stable since Bea was taking her homeopathic pills, keeping her sneezing fits under control, and all their identities rather clear.

    The next mission required a two pronged approach, with one part of the action on the Pacific Island where another doll was to be revealed, and the other at the Doctor’s lair.

    The Australian tunnels were still under observation, in case the murlocks that were crawling there would be awoken by the blunderous adventurers that had gone investigating.

    Frooteen past thriety. They wouldn’t come now. He probably shouldn’t have left the organization of the meeting to Aqua Luna.

    He looked at the next item on his agenda. “Interdimensional call to Miss Bossy.”

    True, he had to get her update on her investigation into the Doctor’s history. That would surely reveal clues as to his current whereabouts.

    #4777
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
    But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
    Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.

    Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).

    There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.

    Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”

    I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.

    As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.

    #4773
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Albie, wake up, sweetie!”

    “He doesn’t seem to have been hit as hard as the others, yet, he doesn’t look very bright…” Mandrake said to Arona, with a hint of concern behind the usual snark.

    “It’ll take him a day or two to recover. This was a psychic attack the scale of which I haven’t seen before.” Arona was assessing the situation. Luckily for her, the old protective spells woven in the cloak that she’d used to make her hijab had protected her from it. Sanso seemed to have been hit more, although the effects varied and honestly, it was always a bit difficult to be a fair judge of his sanity or lack thereof.

    “Strange things happen around these keys.” Mandrake said pointing at the key that Arona was wearing around her neck. “Are you sure you still want to run around places finding the others? Especially after what Fergus said about them?”

    “I never knew you to pussy out like that” she said with a smile “where’s your sense of adventure?”

    “The point is, I wouldn’t know where to start. It was all supposed to be a simple recon mission, wasn’t it? But that energy surge… Something else entirely; maybe we should leave it to Ed Steam and his team.”

    Mandrake stretched lazily, and continued “I wouldn’t feel bad about them, seems they got the hang of living in a ghost town, they don’t need all the action to feel good. Might end up wake up the underground monsters, if you let them.”

    Arona sighed “You still have a few of these pearls left, do you? Then let’s give Albie a day or two to recuperate, and we’ll bring him back to the Doline.”

    “Oh, that’s smart. From the Doline’s vortex, it’ll be much easier to pick up the energy signature of the other keys, check if they haven’t been moved.”

    “Better pray that they haven’t been moved, or found.”

    #4764
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I couldn’t offer Sanso a drink, as there wasn’t a drop of anything in my room, so I sent him down to the dining room to get a bottle of gin, and a couple of glasses of ice. I was a bit reluctant to let him out of my bedroom at such an early stage of the proceedings, but felt he was a man of his word when he assured me (with an engaging twinkle) that of course he’d be back, in just two shakes of a mongooses tail. Odd expression if you ask me, but then, where does he come from? Hard to say. He had a slight accent, but it was impossible to pin down to a location, and it had a changeable quality, too.

    He wasn’t gone long, and said that the only person who’d seen him was Prune, but that was inevitable, he said. That kid sees everything! She’d be a fount of valuable information, if she didn’t put such a unique spin on everything.

    I sat on the bed, and he sat in the wicker chair by the window, and after we’d clunked glasses and said cheers, he came right out and asked me what my mission was. Well! Mission? I asked. I’d never really thought about it in terms of a mission. Then a funny thing happened. I could hear myself speaking but hadn’t thought about what to say, you know how it is sometimes.

    I said, “my mission is a glorious infinite wandering, threading multicoloured silken skeins of clues and riddles, people and places, weaving them in and out of time and to each other…”

    Sanso laughed. “He said “That’s my mission, too!” and we raised our glasses in honour of that, and then he got serious. No, not like that. I mean, he started going on about the mines, and how we really had no time to lose because there were two daft tarts in extreme danger down there, and they needed rescuing. I rolled my eyes as you can imagine. I’d already started semi reclining in anticipation.

    “It’ll be fun,” he said.

    #4744

    In reply to: The Stories So Near

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Newer developments

    POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])

    Granola is popping in and out of the stories, exploring interacting more physically with her friends through Tiku, a bush lady focus of hers.
    Luckily (not so coincidentally) Maeve and Shawn-Paul were given coupons to travel from their rural Canada town to the middle of Australia. Maeve is suspicious of being followed by a strange man, and tags along with Shawn-Paul to keep a cover of a young couple. Maeve is trying to find the key to the doll that she made in her secret mission for Uncle Fergus, which has suddenly reappeared at her friend Lucinda’s place. She’ll probably is going to have to check on the other dolls that she made as well.
    Jerk continues to administrate some forum where among other things, special dolls are found and exchanged, and he moderates some strange messages.
    Lucinda is enjoying Fabio’s company, Maeve’s dog, that she has in her care while Maeve is travelling.

    FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])

    The mysteries of the Flying Fish Inn seem to unravel slowly, like Idle’s wits.
    Long time family member are being drawn inexplicably, such as Prune and brother Devan. The local bush lady Tiku is helping Finly with the catering, although Finly would rather do everything by herself. The totemic Fish was revealed to be a talisman placed here against bad luck – “for all the good it did” (Mater).
    Bert, thought to be an old flame of Mater, who’s acted for the longest time as gardener, handyman and the likes, is revealed to be the father of Prune, Devan, Coriander and Clove’s mother. Mater knew of course and kept him around. He was trained in codes during his time with the military, and has a stash of potentially dangerous books. He may be the key to the mystery of the underground tunnels leading to the mines, and hidden chests of gold. Devan is onto a mystery that a guy on a motorbike (thought to be Uncle Fergus of Maeve’s story) told him about.

    DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)

    Mandrake & Albie after a trip in the bayou, and looking for the dragon Leormn’s pearls and the sabulmantium, have finally found Arona after they have emerged from the interdimentional water network from the Doline, to the coast of Australia in our reality, where cats don’t usually talk.
    Albie is expecting a quest, while the others are just following Arona’s lead, as she is in possession of a mysterious key with 3 words engraved.
    After some traveling in hot air balloon, and with a local jeep, they have arrived at a local Inn in the bush, with a rather peculiar family of owners, and quite colorful roster of guests. That’s not even counting the all-you-can-eat lizard meat buffet. What joy.

    NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)

    Ms Bossy is looking to uncover the Doctor’s surely nefarious plans while her newspaper business isn’t doing so well. She’s got some help from Ricardo the intern. They have found out that the elderly temp worker who’s fascinated by the future, Sophie (aka Sweet Sophie) had been the first subject of the Doctor’s experiments. Sophie has been trying to uncover clues in the dreams, but it’s just likely she is still a sleeper agent of the Doctor.
    Despite all common sense and SMS threats, Hilda & Connie have gone in Australia to chase a trail (from a flimsy tip-off from Superjerk that may have gone to Lucinda to her friend journalist). They are in touch with Lucinda, and post their updates on social media, flirting with the risk of being uncovered and having trouble come at their door.
    Sha, Glo and Mavis are considering reaching out for a vacation of the nursing home to get new free beauty treatments.
    In his secret lair, the Doctor is reviving his team of brazen teafing operatives: the magpies.

    LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)

    Not much happened as usual, mostly an entertaining night with Inspector Melon who is quizzing Liz’ about her last novel about mysterious messages hidden in dolls with secret keys, which may be her best novel yet…

    DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)

    Before Rukshan goes to the underworld land of Giants, he’s going to the cottage to gather some of his team of friends, Fox, Ollie etc. Glynis is taking care of Tak during Margoritt’s winter time in the city. Margoritt’s sister, Muriel is an uninvited and unpleasant guest at the cottage.
    Tak is making friends with a young girl who may have special powers (Nesy).
    The biggest mystery now is… is the loo going to get fixed in time?

    #4730
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The vegetable garden was luxurious and greener after the rain. The trees were trembling with delight in the light afternoon breeze.

    Rukshan found Fox seated upright and legs crossed in between the courgettes and the purple cabbages. His eyes were closed and he didn’t flinch when the Fae approached.

    “Are you meditating?” asked Rukshan who wanted to get going on the mission already.
    “Kinda,” answered Fox without opening his eyes. “I’m using my imagination as a creative tool in order to make the carpenter show up and finish his work.” He breathed in deep and exhaled a humming sound.
    “I think you’re mistaken. It’s not about making the other do what you want.”

    Fox opened his eyes. “Don’t tell me what to do,” said Fox feeling a tad tense. “It’s a technique transmitted to me by Master Gibbon.”
    “I’m just saying…” began the Fae.
    “Oh! You’re happy, I can’t meditate now I’m too tense,” Fox bursted out.
    “I guess if you got tense that easily, you weren’t that relaxed in the first place.”

    Fox got up and squished a courgette. That seemed to put him into even more anger, but Rukshan couldn’t help laughing and Fox couldn’t keep angry very long. He walked on another courgette and laughed.
    “I don’t like courgettes,” he said.
    “I know. Glynis will not be very happy though if you crush all the vegetables.”
    “Yeah. You’re certainly right. When are we leaving?”
    Mr Minn’s nephew, who’s a carpenter, was just visiting in the city and Margoritt asked them if they could help with the carpentry. You know how Mr Minn can’t resist her charms. They have collected the material from the other carpenter and they are coming tomorrow to finish the work. So we’ll be ready to go. I just have to convince Glynis to let Olli come with us.”
    Margoritt is coming back?”
    “No. She’ll stay in the city. You know, her knees… and her sister being at the cottage.”
    “Oh! I had forgotten about her,” said Fox raising his eyes to the sky.

    #4727
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Tak was surprised to see Rukshan back. He’d thought he would be gone on his secret mission for a longer time.

    As if reading his mind, Rukshan said as soon as he saw him “It’s a joy to see you, little devil! Don’t expect to have me here for too long though, I’m just gathering a few things before I go for my new exploration. How have you been? And aren’t you going to introduce this young lady?”

    The young lady in question wasn’t shy, and stepped in front to introduce herself. “I’m Nesy, Sir. It’s a pleasure to meet Tak’s family.”

    “It’s a pleasure too, have fun in the garden, but be careful not to trample Glynis’ new plantling.”

    Dropping his satchel on the front of the cottage, Tak started to run towards the little clearing where he knew the baby snoots liked to enjoy a nap, and waved at Nesy to join him.

    “He’s a nice kid.” Glynis was at the windowsill, enjoying the quiet afternoon air.

    Rukshan smiled and said. “I like your new carpet, and what you have done with the house. Has your spell worked to get the carpenter to fix the loo? I feel bad leaving you all again while there is still much to do.”

    “Don’t worry, Fox is good help, so long as you keep him away from the chickens.”

    They laughed.

    #4684
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It was done. The spell was lifted and Rukshan could see the path ahead.

    Some memories remained trapped in inaccessible places yet, but he wouldn’t need those; they were remnants from a different past.

    Now his mission was clear, he was to go back to the Forest, to gain passage to Jötunheimr, the land of Giants, and find the Master, that powerful Alchemist able to imbue life into stone. The ones that some had called Necromancer, or Dark Lord.

    #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?”

    #4672
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley before it finally flushed out a purple gooey juice.

    “Mmmm, I’ve always loved this power smoothie,” said the Doctor, “Made with five different purple berries and some other secret ingredients.” He licked his lips with such greediness, he looked like a kid he might have been once. His face was lit with the blinking lights of the other machine, the bigger one that had been his life work… so far, after his previous life work.

    “The subjects are livable,” said the assistant. “Pulses are steady and the brains well responding to the chemical stimulations, and the symbiosis with the new synthetic bodies seem to work smoothie…” He winced. “Sorry, it works smoothly.”

    “Good job,” said the Doctor looking at his assistant. He was trying to remember the young man’s name but it eluded him. The young man was slender and had six fingers on his left hand and the Doctor had hired him hoping it would make him work faster with computers, but it didn’t seem to have any correlation. It had only increased the chances of typoes, that in a way could be seen as computer code mutations, which could certainly give them some advantage over the competition at some point.

    After thirty seconds, the Doctor gave up trying to remember his assistant’s name and looked back at the seven pods. Marvels of technology, they were all shiny and antibacterial, the perfect combination for his SyFy operation.

    “Behold the rebirth of the Magpies,” he said. In his eyes the blinking lights reflected rhythmically. He slurped a mouthful of smoothie before continuing.
    “Faithful servants to me, the Doctor! They had been discarded into History’s junkyard, but I’ve saved them from oblivion and upgraded them. With their powerful new weapons and skills they are ready for their new mission.”
    The Doctor’s eyes opened like oysters. As nothing happened but the monotonous blinking of the machine’s lights, he said to his assistant. “Revive them now.”

    The assistant pushed a single red button on the control board and the bigger machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley and the Doctor laughed madly.

    “Wake up, Magpies! Bring me the dolls and the dollmaker!”

    #4655
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    He didn’t like the City, but there he was again. There seemed to always be a trail of clues leading back to it, no matter how much he wanted to distance himself from it.

    Rukshan wanted to make quick thing of his mission there. Find the librarian and trade the old map that the Sages had given him during the gathering, for another one.
    His appointed quest was to find the origin of the dark force, and for that, all clues seemed to point toward the elusive Master that Gorrash said had created him.

    The Sages in the Forest had told Rukshan about how, long before, the Master was banned from the magic circle in the Forest for practicing forbidden magic. They suspected he had since been hidden in the land of the Giants. The librarian had the map that Rukshan needed in order to get there.

    “Of course” he said, looking at the worn-out parchment that the librarian had taken from a large leather binder. The land of the Giant was on no map known to man, because their land was on another plane, much like the Shadow world of the Faes. Except this one was underground, in a hollow plane under theirs, untouched by men, with only rare points where both worlds touched.

    Of course, the portal to this world was back at the center of the Forest.

    #4650
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Distraction always worked best when one was trying hard not to try too hard, and luckily for Lucinda, it came easy. She was a natural. It wasn’t that she’d forgotten her mission to find out more about those mysterious dolls and the twelve addresses, but the Roman themed birthday party was today, and that gave her plenty to occupy herself.

    The costume was easy, just a folded white sheet and a number of nappy pins. The birthday gift was another matter. She still hadn’t bought one, and had left herself no option but to buy something on the way to the party on the other side of the city. Counting the money left in her purse, she decided to travel by bus rather than taxi. She would have to change at the central bus station, which conveniently had a craft and antique market on in the nearby park. If she left home a couple of hours early, she could have a look around the market.

    Not to look for dolls! she reminded herself, her mind already imagining unlikely scenes.

    Checking the mirror one last time to make sure her toga was securely arranged, Lucinda left the flat and made her way to the bus stop on the other side of the park. She had debated whether to take her costume in a bag and change when she got there, and decided to just wear the toga. It was a diverse multicultural city, and there were often people dressed as if they were going to a fancy dress party, in biblical looking robes and scarves, or exotic coloured sari’s. If anyone wondered about her outfit, they’d probably just think she was from one of those foreign middle eastern places.

    #4623

    In reply to: The Stories So Near

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Recap of Pop-in thread

    After an untimely death, Granola (B) decides to stay under the tutelage of Ailill (E) in transition space, and learn to pop-in, so she can help people, and also reconnect with friends. She also finds out it’s more difficult than she thought, and can only have limited control or access to people. She also discovers she keeps popping in mental spaces such as the story playground, which is on a drone mode since her friends have stopped writing evolving stories. Her new mission is to reawaken their story, learning she can also interact with them in the mental space while they are inhabiting their characters…

    #4613
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    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.

    #4501
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Granola allowed herself a few moments to bask in the glow of satisfaction. At least Lucinda had noticed the side bar suggestion she had implanted on the Face It web page, and had perused the ideas sufficiently to motivate her to try out one of the missions.

    “Invite a random stranger to join you,” it had said, “to join you for coffee in a nearby cafe, or invite them home for dinner, or to see a movie.” The page had included numerous other suggestions, but that was the gist. They did warn the reader that often, people were suspicious and expected a scam of some kind, and if the random stranger exhibited more that a token display of wary caution, to leave them with a cheery wave, and thank them for helping you to practice your confidence boosting exercises. Under normal circumstances, providing the level of fear and distrust wasn’t too high, this approach usually rendered the random stranger more amenable to an approach in future.

    In truth this wasn’t a difficult exercise for Lucinda, for she often spoke to random strangers and quite enjoyed it, although usually she didn’t extend that to personal invitations. But the Ask Aunt Idle Oracle had been droning on and on about interconnection being the primary factor in reducing signs of aging ~ yes, strange, but true: nothing to do with food or toxins or exercise after all ~ so the coincidence of Aunt Idle’s advice mirrored in the side bar suggestion registered sufficiently for Lucinda to actually remember it, and try it out on the bored looking fellow in the supermarket.

    Only hesitating slightly before extending his hand to grip hers in a surprisingly firm handshake, he responded: “I’m Jerk. Pleased to meet you.”

    Granola grinned from behind the pyramid of baked bean tins, and faded out of the scene. There was work to do on the side bar method for the next clue.

    Jerk’s eyes flickered over to the baked beans, registering the peripheral movement, just in time to see a disembodied foot wearing a red sandal vanish into the somewhat heavy air of the canned goods aisle.

    #4430
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    One spring day in 1822, so the story goes, Emerald Huntingford was walking the family dog on the extensive family estate, when the dog ran into a densely wooded area in hot pursuit of a rabbit. This was not uncommon, however on this occasion Emerald whistled and called but the dog did not return to her. She ran back to the house and shouted for her brother, Nigel, to help her find the it.

    After several hours of frantic searching, for it was a much loved family pet, and just as they were beginning to despair, they heard whimpering coming from a hole in the ground. They cleared away the brush covering the entrance to the hole and saw it went some way into the ground and it was here the unfortunate dog had fallen. It was too deep for them to enter unaided, so while Emerald sat with the dog and called reassuringly down to it, Nigel ran for assistance. With the help of ropes and several strong farm workers, Nigel descended into the space. To his amazement, he found himself in a clay filled dome with shallow entrances going off to other underground galleries. At that time, with his focus on the injured dog, he had no inkling of the extent of it. It was later on, after they had time to explore, that the Huntingfords started to comprehend the amazing world which existed under their land.

    Word spread, and they were offered a substantial amount of money by a mining company to mine the land. Locals, and others from further afield, wanted to visit the doline and many would try and do so, with or without seeking permission from the Huntingfords first. Some argued that if you don’t own the sky above your land, why should you have claim to the ground beneath?

    The Huntingfords were wealthy and had no need or desire to sell the rights to their land. Eventually, their patience worn thin by the aggressive mining company and invasive tourists, they decided to defend their claim to the doline in court; a claim which they won. From that time on, as one generation of the family passed the secrets of the doline to another, guards were employed to keep watch over the entrance, that none may enter the underground world without the approval of the family.

    And it seems none had, until now.

    #4426
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Albie pondered Lottie’s words. He’d been trying to forget the doline, but now he realized he’d been avoiding the inevitable. It was no good pretending there were other jobs for him, that much was becoming clear. His mission had been to protect the doline, and he’d failed.

    Or had he? A new idea was glimmering in his mind, that he hadn’t failed at all. At first he’d been so embarrassed and anxious about the security breach that he’d only seen the obvious superficial layer of events. Yes, strangers had entered the doline; true, they were not supposed to let that happen. But now he wondered, were they strangers to the doline? Who were they? Maybe they were meant to enter, and his apparent lack of attention was a providential and timely. How did he, Albie, even know for sure that he was working for the right side? What did he really know about his bosses? And what about that handsome fellow who’d slithered out of the doline, the dark eyed one with leaves in his hair?

    Albie hadn’t even told Alex about him, not after the shit hit the fan about the breach and illegal entry. The last thing he felt like doing was admitting that there had been an illegal escape as well. But Albie couldn’t stop thinking about him, the graceful way he shook the dust out of his hair, the depths of those lustrous dark eyes, his long slender fingers….

    Now, Albie was kicking himself for hiding behind a tree, for not approaching the strange man, or at least following him to see where he was going. His job was to stop people from entering. Nobody had said anything about stopping people leaving it. It was unexpected, and he’d been scared. Was it too late to try and track his movements? He’d come out of the doline, he’d have stories to tell. Albie needed to know, he needed to find him.

    He would find a way to trace him. He wondered if the new dog could help him, if he could find something with the mans scent upon it. Albie was determined to find a way.

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