Damn these municipal restrictions! Frustrated, Nora looked again at the photo of the inscriptions on the mysterious pear shaped box that Clara had found. She picked up a pen and copied the symbols onto a piece of paper. Glancing back over the message her friend had sent, her face softened at Clara’s pet name for her, Alienor. Clara had started called her that years ago, when she found out about the ouija board incident and the aliens Nora had been talking to. Was it really an alien, or….? Clara had asked, and Nora had laughed and said Of course it was an alien or! and the name had stuck.
Nora’s mood had changed with the reminiscence, and she had an idea. She was working from home, but all that really meant was that she had to have internet access. Nobody would have to know which home she was working from, if she could just make it past the town barriers. But she didn’t have to go by road: the barriers were only on the roads. There was nothing stopping her walking cross country.
Putting aside the paper with the symbols on, she perused a map. She had to cross three town boundaries, and by road it was quite a distance. But as the crow flies, not that far. And if she took the old smugglers track, it was surprisingly direct. Nora calculated the distance: forty nine kilometers. Frowning, she wondered if she could walk that distance in a single day and thought it unlikely. Three days more like, but maybe she could do it in two, at a push. That would mean one overnight stay somewhere. What a pity it was so cold! It would mean carrying a warm sleeping bag, and she hated carrying things.
Nora looked at the map again, and found the halfway point: it was a tiny hamlet. A perfect place to spend the night. If only she knew someone who lived there, somebody who wouldn’t object to her breaking the restrictions.
Nora yawned. It was late. She would finalize the plan tomorrow, but first she sent a message to Clara, asking her if she knew anyone in the little village.
“It’s Thursday today,” remarked Star.
“Special subject the bloody obvious?” Tara replied rudely. “You should be on Mastermind.”
“Well, we were wondering what we were going to do to pass the time until Thursday, and here we are. It’s Thursday!”
“Are you losing your marbles?”
“Actually it’s you losing your memory,” Star sighed. “Remember the case?”
“The case we were working on!”
“Oh, that case! Well you can hardly expect me to remember that when it’s been such a strange week!” Tara was starting to get tearful and agitated.
“Look, Tara, the tests came back negative. You can stop worrying about it now. We can go back to normal now and carry on. And just in time for the rendezvous at the cafe on Main Street.” Star patted Tara’s arm encouragingly. “And what timing! If the results hadn’t come back yet, or we’d tested positive, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe.”
“Well we could have gone and just not said anything about the tests,” sniffed Tara. “Everyone else seems to be doing what they want regardless.”
“Yes, but we’re not as morally bankrupt as them,” retorted Star.
Tara giggled. “But we used to work for Madame Limonella.”
“Is it a fancy dress party? I could wear my plague doctor outfit.”
Star rolled her eyes. “No! We have to dress appropriately, something subtle and serious. A dark suit perhaps.”
“Oh like my Ace of Spades T shirt?”
This is going nowhere fast, Star thought, but then had a revelation. A moment later, she had forgotten what the revelation was when the door burst open.
“Ta Da!” shouted Rosamund, entering the office with two middle aged ladies in tow. “I nabbed them both, they were lurking in the queue for the food bank! And I single handedly brought then back. Can we talk about my bonus now?”
One of the ladies piped up, “She said you’d be taking us out for afternoon tea at a nice cafe!”
The other one added, “We haven’t eaten for days, we’re starving!”
The first middle aged lady said, “Oh no dear, it’s September. I’m quite sure of that.”
“Never again,” said Tara, pouring her second black coffee. “I’m done with these hangovers. You’ll have to find someone else to drink with from now on.”
“You say that every week, Tara. What are we going to do next? We’re floundering. We don’t even have a plan. Everything we do takes us further away from the case. I don’t even remember what the case is!”
“Here, have some more coffee. Don’t roll your eyes at me like that, cases are always like this, they always go through this phase.” Tara wasn’t in the mood for this kind of depressing talk, it was much too complicated. Surely it was simply a matter of drinking another coffee, until everything fell back into place.
“Cases do, do they?” Star asked, “Do they really? And what phase would that be, and how would you know?”
“Snarky tart, yes they do. I’ve been researching things you know, not just swanning around. We’ve reached the part of the case where nothing makes sense and the investigators don’t know what to do next. It’s an essential part of the process, everyone knows that. The important thing is not to try and work things out too early. The danger is preconceived ideas, you see,” Tara pontificated, warming to the theme.
“I can assure you that I have no preconceived ideas because I have no clue what’s going to happen next,” replied Star, trying not to roll her eyes too obviously. She knew from experience not to provoke Tara too much until at least the third cup of coffee.
“Precisely!” Tara said triumphantly. “Now it will all start to come together and make sense. ”
Star didn’t look convinced. “What are we going to do about the middle aged lady we locked in the wardrobe last night, though?”
“What did we do that for?!” asked Tara in astonishment.
“I can’t remember. Maybe we thought it was Aunt April?”
“Wait, if Aunt April isn’t in the wardrobe, then where is she?”
“That’s what I”m saying!” cried Star in exasperation. “What do we do next?”
Well. I did it. I made my escape. I had to! Nobody came for three days and I’d run out of biscuits. Thank the lord my hip wasn’t playing up. I decided not to take anything with me, figuring I could just steal things off washing lines when I wanted a change of clothes. I’ve always hated carrying heavy bags. I reckoned it would look less conspicuous, too. Just an old dear popping out for digestive perambulation. Nobody suspects old dears of anything, not unless they’re dragging a suitcase round, and I had no intention of doing that. I did put a couple of spare masks in my pocket though, you can’t be too careful these days. And it would help with the disguise. I didn’t want any do gooders trying to catch me and take me back to that place.
I had the presence of mind to wear good stout walking shoes and not my pink feather mules, even though it was a wrench to say goodbye to them. I used to love to see them peeping out from under my bath robe. One day I might strike lucky and find another pair.
I’ve been eating like a king, better than ever! I accidentally coughed on someones burger one day, and they dropped it and ran away, and I thought to myself, well there’s an idea. I stuck to random snacks in the street at first and then one day I fancied a Chinese so I thought, well why not give it a try. Coughed all over his brown bag of prawn crackers as he walked out of the restaurant and he put the whole takeaway in the nearest bin. Piping hot meal for six! Even had that expensive crispy duck!
Tonight I fancy sushi. Wish I’d thought of this trick years ago, I said to myself the other day, then my other self said, yeah but it wouldn’t have worked so well before the plague.
Not having much luck with the washing lines though, lazy sods either not doing any laundry or putting it all in the dryer. Weeks of sunny weather as well, the lazy bastards. Lazy and wasteful! You should see the clothes they throw in the clothes bank bins! If the bins are full you can get your arm in and pull out the ones on the top. I change outfits a dozen times a day some days if I’m in the mood. I do sometimes get an urge to keep something if I like it but I’m sticking to my guns and being ruthless about not carrying anything with me.
“Finnley, stop pacing like that with that concerned look of yours, you make me dizzy. Is that too difficult a task to hire a secretary?”
“You mean the perfect one for me?”
“No I mean, she’s called Pearl. She’ll start tomorrow. What concerns me is something else entirely. Something strange, if you ask me. But you never ask, so I’m telling you.”
“Well, this whole conversation started because I asked you.”
“You asked me because you thought it was related to your previous request.”
“Then tell me and stop brooding. It’s killing the mood.”
Finnley snorted. “If you want to know, someone is throwing things on the balcony. Children things. The other day I found that cheap toy to make soap bubbles. And then it was a small blue children’s plastic sand shovel. And today they dropped a red bucket.”
“I’ve asked Godfrey and I’m positive it’s not him because it’s driving him nut too. We asked Roberto because he’s been attempting to teach tricks to the dogs. A waste of time if you ask me, letting the garden going to the dogs,” she smirked.
“Then, was it Roberto and the dogs?”
“Not at all! We kept an eye on him while he was training the dogs. Nothing. But the objects keep coming. I’m telling you either we have a ghost or a portal to another dimension in this mansion.”
“That sounds like a nice idea,” said Liz, pouting at the possibilities.
“You wouldn’t say that if another you came into this thread.”
Those last few days have been hectic. But we finally arrived. I can’t believe we survived all those police controls and those christian mobs, and I didn’t know Kady was a adept at car borrowing.
I forgot my journal because it was on the computer and I didn’t take the computer. So I don’t know how to contact you, Whale, other than using the old method: with a pen and a sheet of paper. Max gave me this piece of wrapping in which Kady had put the chocolate. He said he can still reuse it later with the writing. He’s nice, although he doesn’t look like it. I think I like him.
However, the whole thing is not like I expected. Oh sure, the pistil itself is quite impressive: that lone and long stem coming out of that canyon and surrounded by those mountains in the distance. I’m talking about the camp. It’s like a refugee camp, and all of them avid to be able to go in somehow. I’m not sure what they expect. Kady hasn’t been in a sharing mood lately, and I haven’t asked that many questions. But she told Max we had to discuss before we go in tomorrow. So I’m feeling nervous about what I’ll learn tonight.
I’ve been told once: ask and you will receive. What am I supposed to know now? What am I supposed to do? Maybe that’s not the right question because I just got my voice telling me that I’m not supposed to know or do anything. Maybe supposed is not the right word. I’m too tired and excited at the same time to figure it out, but you get the gist I’m sure.
I didn’t have any more dreams. I’ve been watching the drawings in that book religiously every night of that trip before I go to sleep. Although I’m not truly sincere when I say that I didn’t have any more dreams. I had at least one that I recall. It was like some news about a parallel self, one that got the virus. I dreamt about that other me before, he couldn’t breath and it hurt. I had wondered if he had died because I didn’t have any more dreams about him, until last night. He seemed ok, he had recovered quite well considering the difficulties. He was at a gathering with other people at some kind of Lebanese buffet. I’m not too fond of the spicy merguez sausages, I prefer the hummus.
Max is calling, diner is ready. He’s made lasagna, apparently he makes the the best lasagna in the whole camp. I’m not sure when will be the next time I contact you so far Whale.
Boredom rang the bell in the morning and I made the mistake of opening the door. I should have known better in this confinement time, they said the postman should leave the package at the door, or be at least at 2 to 3 meters from it when we open. Apparently boredom didn’t receive the notice, and I opened the door and let it in.
Once it was there, nothing seemed interesting enough. I tried to show my guest a movie, or a series. New ones, old ones, none seemed to satisfy its taste. Even the expensive tea I opened just for the occasion and made for my guest tasted duller than gnat’s pee. I thought gnat’s pee might have been more exciting as I would have welcomed it as a new experience, but I’m certain it wasn’t that new to boredom.
Boredom is like a crowd, it amplifies the bad mood, and paint dull all that it touches. I had received a set of twelve chromo therapy glasses, all making a beautiful rainbow in the box. I remembered being so excited when I had received that set, all those moments I would spend looking at the world in different colours. Why did I wait? Now I couldn’t even get close to the box. Boredom seemed so comfortable now that I felt tired at the idea of driving it out of my couch, not to mention driving it out of my apartment entirely.
Boredom had not been passive as one could have thought. It had diligently painted everything in a shade of dull which made it hard for anything to catch my attention. Everything looked the same, I had become fun blind. Only the window started to look like a satisfactory exit. I had to trick my mind in thinking it too would be boring.
But at the end of the afternoon the phone rang. I looked boredom into the dull of its eyes. I almost got drowned in it again almost losing any interest to answer. It made it drop its guard and I seized the moment to jump on my mobile. It was a friend from Spain.
“You won’t believe it!” she said.
I looked boredom in the eyes and I clearly could see it was afraid of what was coming. It was begging for mercy.
“Try me,” I said to my friend.
“I got a swarm of bees gathering on the top of my roof patio! I swear there are hundreds of them.”
“What?” I was so surprised that I looked away through the window and lost sight of boredom. When I looked back at the couch, boredom was not there. I looked around trying to see if it could have hidden somewhere while my friend was talking about having put the dogs in the shed, not daring go feed the cats on the rooftop with all those bees swarming around. I could hear her hubbie in the background “Oh my! I think they are building something.”
My imagination worked faster than a pandemic and it had already built a manhattan beehive project. Despite my disbelief I had to face the fact that there were no traces of dull places anymore around me. I could almost see the swarm of bees getting the last touch in cleaning the dull-art boredom had crafted around so plainly while it was there.
“Send me some pictures,” I said. “I want pictures!”
“Crocuses in meadow, Flower, Flower”, was singing Eleri. Humming was more accurate, she didn’t recall much of the lyrics, but the tune was easy to follow. She was quite fond of that popular song and liked to sing it whenever she was going to town in her flower dress floating in the wind. She had thought it nice if Gorrash woke up with a festive atmosphere. It would certainly be a shock already that so much time had passed since he was last awake. She wondered if he would remember anything from his broken time. She hadn’t talked much with him before, especially about his day-slumber time.
“Chestnut in the woods”, she continued. Crack, crack made the dry twigs she walked on on purpose. It made her laugh and snort. She liked playing with her environment and made it participate in her own expression, it was like she had many voices and she could hear herself everywhere. She picked up a few chestnuts because she knew Fox was crazy about them. It was a blessing that the enchanted forest would still produce them out of season.
When she arrived in town, Eleri didn’t waste time. She wanted costumes and props for the party, so she went directly to the Jiborium’s Emporium where she was sure to find everything she needed, and more. There was a crowd blocking the entrance, but it didn’t deter her from her idea. She elbowed her way up to the door where a man in a wheelchair was complaining about having not enough room to go in. Still in a jolly mood, Eleri found it funny that the man who took so much space with his cumbersome vehicle was asking for more room.
“Move already”, she joined her voice to the man’s complaint and managed, Flove knows how to make the crowd part away enough so they could both enter the shop.
“Thanks, young lady”, said the grumpy man. “It’s a hassle sometimes you know to move in this town. People with good health they do not realise.”
“Oh! I know”, said Eleri. “My ankle just got better, but it was such a pain to move. I would have loved to have a chair like yours to move around, but alas I live in the forest most of the time and I’m not sure the chair would last long in there.”
“Oh! but it would! They have the cross-country model here, on the fourth floor. Powered by lightning battery.”
“Really?” said Eleri more to herself than for the man. Her mind was already elsewhere. “Thanks!” She kissed the grumpy man on the forehead and left, thinking of costumes and confetti. A cross-country wheelchair would be nice to bring back all of those. They might even need it for Gorrash if he needed recovery time.
Jerk had been tracking all of it. He’d done a nice map of all the location the both of them had travelled, with little animated pins for the dolls they’d collected.
It was a bit difficult to get them all to focus, and by them he didn’t mean the pins.
After Shawn-Paul and Maeve had come back home, their little lives at the building had resumed with some slight changes. For one, he’d finally realized through some fine deductive work worthy of Sherlock that Maeve was the one behind the dolls postings on his website. He was finally sure after a firewall update got her locked out of the website and she requested to get back in. Anyways, that made things easier, although they still mostly exchanged and discussed though the website despite them being front door neighbours on the same floor. But the arrangement was convenient, especially since Shawn-Paul had kind of unofficially moved in with her and Fabio.
He’d invited them in Lucinda’s apartment to do a little old fashioned slide show —Lucinda’s apartment was bigger he’d argued; and all the funny collection of paraphernalia she’d gathered on the walls and cabinets tops was always great to set the mood or do an improvised theme party. For sure, it didn’t have anything to do with the fact he wouldn’t need to clean up and push all the mess in the corners of his own apartment.
Lucinda was all excited. And not just by her new boyfriend Jasper. She wanted to make a book about their expedition, and everybody had immediately rolled their eyes. Books in this century, she must be the last one dinosaur raving about books.
The slide show started by the end. Where the dolls all ended up finally. La Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico: the Island of Dolls.
That’s when they were all appreciating the fitting finish line that the door bell rang.
“I’m here for Jasper.” he said ominously.
“Don’t you realize we’re in trouble June?” April had sobered up quickly. June looked at her suspiciously, it’s been months she suspected April to swap her vodka drinks with plain water to avoid getting drunk.
“June! Are you listening?!”
“Of course I am, stop bawling like that horrid baby, I’m no deaf.”
“Speaking of which, I’m glad we’re rid of them. Leave it to May to handle, or the new maid?”
“What new maid?”
“The one who’s been pillaging your cognac’s stash, I though you knew her?”
“No I don’t. She’s been way too cosy here… you know her? She some of August’s little afternoon delights?”
“Stop with that, you know August is a married man, his wife’s so scary he wouldn’t…”
“Must you always kill the mood April, let me enjoy a little sneaky gossiping.”
“We must go to his last known location, find the boy!”
“Are you kidding? Old South USA? And I thought it couldn’t get worse than Washingtown. And in case you’ve all forgotten, I’m still wanted in so many places, even that splendulous new hairdo isn’t going to hide me forever. And how are we going to hire muscle, genius? As you must have noticed, all his security details have followed Gollump for his impricotment hearings.”
“I had a brainwave.”
“Oh, that’ll be grand, do tell. Are you proposing one of your remove throwing session from your little art club?”
“It’s remote viewing! — and yes,… no! Not yet. I was thinking of his mother, Mellie Noma; she loathes the oaf as much as she loves her spawn. She may lend us some resources.”
“Yeah, right… And you’re going to bribe her with?”
“Oh I have the perfect idea. You know how fashion vane she is.”
June had a realization which turned into a horror face. “No way! Not my pith helmet!!”
Glynis giggled “Doldrums, you mean doldrums…”
“Yeah, something like that.” Fox became somber, he always felt rebuked when he had interesting news to share.
“Anyway, I’m off to my teleportation course. Olliver’s been trading me courses for shapeshifting mentorship.”
“Oh, good. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to be at multiple places at once. Like doing the chores at the cottage, while chopping wood at the same time.”
“Way to kill the mood lady!” Fox, said leaving a dust trail in his wake.IdleParticipant
Took me a while to get the gist of the thing, but it’s working now. Wait, is it?
I’ll never know for sure, I have that old phone with no chip in that somehow allows me to text with no mobile reception.
If Prune hadn’t left so fast, I would have asked her to put the darn thing on my phone, but mainly I’m able to have fun with bot.
fuirt jllly fckgn e key stickign now as well T
Anyway, Sanso buggered off without notice thogh, left me hanging dry in front of the old tunnels. I couldn’t get inside, too narrow entrance, got a tunnel fright! Talk about mood killer. So unlike me.
Spent a bit of time chatting to various old freinds, part of the old crowd back in th e day, including pople still there I havent seen in years and thats been nice.
It’s like smelling Mater’s cooking and realizing it was me burning dog food.
Now I’ll just go la la la la until I find clarity and inspiration.
“Slurge been detected Sir,” Madam Li said ominously to Ed.
“You probably mean a Surge, yes?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what I means, a Slurge. And you no mock my English, I’m no native, xielinlin de e gui!”
“What has transpired so far?”
“Interruption of energy flow, narrows it down to bleeding-through character la.”
“Sure. Let it unfold for now, there may be no need for intervention, those spurs tend to die out on their own. Keep monitoring.”
“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.
The conspiratorial mood changed as Liz noticed the figure clumsily moving behind the curtains.
Turning to the inspector, she said, “My dear Melon, forgive me for the brevity of my comment, but I must ask you to leave. Now, now! No arguing! I’m a busy woman, and I have characters running rampant across the globe, and converging in a most unseemly rushed manner. I simply don’t have time for any more of these delicious trifles, and what’s more, we have an intruder of the unofficial kind. No, you are an official kind, and I must ask you to leave.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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?”
Maeve liked to make dolls. They were all quiet, and full of an inner life that would transport her in wild imaginary adventure while she was making them. She liked also to collect strange people and make them into her dolls.
She would often go to the mall, take a table at the coffee shop, and observe the daily life show for inspiration…
In the apartment next to hers, lived Shawn-Paul, a handsome bearded bachelor, who was a writer he’d said. She had not made him into a doll, not that he wasn’t doll material, he seemed weirdo plenty, but she noted there were subtleties to the character she wanted to explore more.
“Are you ready?” Ailill, had a blue suede hat this time. He liked to change his headpiece regularly to fit his mood, but somehow couldn’t or wouldn’t change it to any other color than blue.
Granola wasn’t sure she would be ready to pop-in properly. She still had to build her character a little bit. She would have only mere seconds each time to make an impression, a glance was all it took at times. Something had to attract attention.
“I think you’re plenty ready” Ailill smiled as he pushed her in the downward spiral that had appeared at their feet. He jumped right after her.FloveParticipant
(With thanks to random story generator for this comment)
Albie looked at the soft feather in his hands and felt happy.
He walked over to the window and reflected on his silent surroundings. He had always loved haunting the village near the doline with its few, but faithful inhabitants. It was a place that encouraged his tendency to feel happiness.
Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Ma. He felt his mood drop. Ma was ambitious and a mean-spirited bossy boots.
Albie gulped. He glanced at his own reflection. He was an impulsive, kind-hearted, beer drinker. His friends saw him as an amusing foolish clown. But he was kind-hearted and once, he had even brought a brave baby bird back from the brink of death.
But not even an impulsive person who had once brought a brave baby bird back from the brink of death, was prepared for what Ma had in store today.
The inclement brooding silence teased like a sitting praying mantis, making Albie anticipate the worst.
As Albie stepped outside and Ma came closer, he could see the mean glint in her eye.
Ma glared with all the wrath of 9 thoughtless hurt hippo. She said, in hushed tones, “I disown you and I want you to leave.”
Albie looked back, even more nervous and still fingering the soft feather. “Ma, please don’t boss me. I am going to the doline,” he replied.
They looked at each other with conflicted feelings, like two deep donkeys chatting at a very funny farewell.
Ma’s skinny ear trembled and her short legs wobbled. She looked excited, her emotions raw like a rabblesnatching, rare rock.
Then she let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later Ma was dead.
Albie went back inside and had himself a cold beer.
“Jingle has always been very precocious” her proud grandmother, Mrs Bell told Liz and Godfrey over nougat and peanut cakes. “She has read all your books so many times, and really was ecstatic that you agreed to have her for a couple of weeks.”
Ms Bell smiled at Godfrey “Obviously, it has nothing to do with it, but here is a generous donation that should more than cover the meals and lodging.”
“As well as a score of bills fallen behind, I reckon” thought Godfrey while smiling at the oddly bespectacled and bejewelled woman, while grasping the edge of his seat in case Liz’ would realize it would mean to have a moody teenager over the manoir for the next days.
“It is our dear pleasure to have this darling child,” Liz’ spontaneous answer astonished Godfrey by her graciousness. “Our Finnley will take care of her, she knows the ropes of writing better than my ropes of drying laundry, if you know what I mean huhuhu.”
Mrs Bell nodded with a look of lost perplexity on her smiling face.
For the last day, he’d gone to the shrines, pay his respects to his ancestors.
They had long joined with the trees, for most, still living in their roots, and while the trees that they prayed to were young in comparison to the ones in the Heartwood, they were all connected.
Here, it was harder to ignore their messages. Their voices had the gravity of silence, bearing the weight of ageless wisdom. Among them, Rukshan felt at home.
The cold was sharper than the day before, and the east wind brought with it smells of industry and worry, and that of the dragon’s bad tooth. He felt there was a past were such things disturbed him; for now, he was at peace.
Back to the campement, he retreated in his small lodge with the thin paper walls, and the warm mountain salt crystal lights.
There, in front of him, was the little he possessed, and the provisions needed for the climb to the mountain.
He’d found a page from the vanishing book reappear from time to time in his bag. Everytime it carried different words, and would vanish again. Its magic didn’t come from the trees, but their messages intertwined. The page carried bits and pieces of news about the Sage Sorceress, who had started to move on her healing path, the Teafing Tinkeress who was hunted by a swift menace of godlike powers, and also a Gifted Gnome, on his way to become his own maker under the protection of a Renard Renunciate looking for lost souls.
He couldn’t figure out the stories yet, but he was glad for the piece of paper. He was helpless at distant viewing in general, so it did save him additional worry about sorting through his impressions and getting them right. Like after the Court audience, when he couldn’t feel Margoritt’s presence, and worried she and Tak were in trouble. The resident Seer at the campement had peered through his glubolin and confirmed that they were both fine. He did also confirm that she’d fainted, and was recovering. Rukshan had wanted to go back, abandon the trip to the Hermit, but reasoned that Margoritt was fine for now, and that she was a proud woman. He would have to trust she and Tak would be alright.
“Magic comes from the heart. You will know when to use it.” the words said in passing were etched in his memory, and the potion was still here. Its color seemed to reflect his mood at times. After the morning praying, it was almost glowing gold. Now, it was a pale purple. He had felt no pull to use it. At first, there was strong resistance about it, but now, there was a mildly curious acceptance of the gift. Like the vanishing paper, whether it appeared or disappeared was of no consequence for now.
The paper wall shivered. His meditative state was easily distracted by the sounds around, even after nightfall when everything went quiet.
“Quiet suits you well.” The visitor was near him, wearing thin wool despite the cold.
“My Queen?” he was surprised.
“You still don’t remember who you are, do you?” the Queen leaned forward. He felt a strange attraction, and their lips touched. The kiss was warm and filled him with longing. They fell into each other’s arms.
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