— Peeeeerrrry! Peerrrry!
Yann was recalling Quintin’s mother… she was calling the cat playing in the garden, obviously more fascinated with the mice he was chasing than with the non-living food Scooter had just put on his plate…
Scooter… he smiled at the affectionnate nickname he had given her. She was always going somewhere, doing something, never staying calm and quiet.
The phone rang…
Of course, as soon as they had stepped into the powerful magnetic field generated inside the T.R.A.P., the reality around them was transphormed as if they all had been into a huge deFørmiñG mirror, that they could shape with their strangest thoughts.
Obviously, they had all started to hallucinate some funny stuff…
It was happening so quick, Sam noticed. Sean’s breath was smelling of whiskey, and Sam felt Sean had forgotten something on his way to New York. He felt compelled to ask him if there was something on his mind…
— Who’s that?
— Oh, he will be so disappointed… Sean started to sob. I’m such a bad father!
— Hey, look, she said, the children are more adept at these games than we are,… if we want, we can have him project here from his bedroom and share the fun with us. What do you reckon?
And she started to yell:
— Peeeeerrrry ! Peerrrry !
The rain was pouring cabbages for several days now, almost the whole week… Baul was fed up with that filthy weather of Cromash Tur. The capital of this 4th kingdom was quite nice and pleasurable, but it lacked sun and warmth… Baul had come to Nâabooli, the capital of Cromash, in order to settle an arrangement. Something quite particular that he couldn’t find in his own land of Erpet Mesh. He’d been travelling for weeks with his guards and servants when he arrived in the city and all that for some foo’kin rain! But something more important than brooding and pouting was on his mind.
Tonight he was alone, no servant, no guard… he was wearing a black coat made of goat skin on his usual blue and yellow silk robe, he couldn’t wear anything else, his skin was too smooth and delicate. He was spending great amount of money to take care of his body, it was his own pride, and he considered himself as a very handsome and appealing male.
The man he was about to meet wasn’t hiding, but oddly was acting in full sight. Nonetheless, Baul didn’t want to be seen with him, Baul was an ambassador of sort from Erpet and he couldn’t be seen entering in an Assassin’s house. In Cromash, the Assassins were quite a respectable and wealthy, but in Erpet they were outlaw… one of the numerous differences between the two kingdoms, one they would never agree upon. Baul found it quite useful though; many times he’d met Ar’Am Khra, one of the best of this profession.
For this meeting, as always, Baul had chosen a tavern, the Landgurdy, called after one of the former 12 kingdoms. The 4 remaining ones were at war most of the times, they couldn’t maintain peace more than a few years at best, and Baul had found many ways of benefiting of this situation. Merchant, Ambassador, and much more. He was thriving with plotting and it was quite useful to be one of the ambassadors of Erpet Mesh, offering him safety wherever he was going. It was one of the few respected rules that were common between the Warring Kingdoms.
The Landgurdy was quite a crowded tavern, and the owner was a friend of his, though not really officially. There was that private room on the rear of the building, know only of a few chosen “friends”, so they could enter unnoticed by the usual customers and by would be spies. The rear door was seemingly leading into another building, and some arrangements had been made over the years.
Baul knocked the code at the door, and a vasistas was open quickly and closed even more quickly. The door opened then and he entered in the darkness of the house. If anyone opened the door, he or she wasn’t there anymore, but Baul knew the place quite well as it wasn’t his first meeting with the Assassin.
The Assassin was waiting in the small room, square shaped with only a wood table and one chair. No window. One dim lamp.
He was sitting on the lone carved chair. His clients needn’t sit.
They were mere beggers.
The one that was coming now, was quite amusing.
The first time he met him, Baul was quite young and inexperienced in his own skills. Though he was quite ambitious, Ar’Am Khra had to admit it.
The usual reaction when seeing the Assassin’s pale complexion was shivers and disgust. He was used to it and it was a game that he had enhanced with a little bluish glowing dagger tattooed on his forehead.
The dagger was the mark of his profession, though not so obviously exhibited by the others. Cowards.
At that first meeting, Baul didn’t react the way his other clients did. And it was not influenced by his utmost concerns at that time. Beside his inexperience he was quite engrossed in what he had called his “mission”.
Ar’Am Khra did not know of any mission, there were merely contracts.
And he was doing what his clients were paying for.
Accomplishing his contract even after the death of his clients.
He was remembering of an amusing event.
A client had hired him to end the life of another man, and the second man went a few days after to his office to beg him to kill the first man.
The Assassin accepted the contract.
A few days later he killed the second man.
He executed the first one not long after that, thus respecting the second contract.
He never questioned the motives of his clients.
It was not for him to judge or to understand. Though most of the time he did understand quite well.
His main motivation was the payment and his own pride in expressing his skill with subtleties and newness.
The door opened smoothly. Baul entered the room.
Yann and Quintin had an interesting chat during the afternoon. Yann had some new impressions about the map of Lord Wrick annotated by Quintin. Something about the Warring Kingdoms, triggered by a dream of an Assassin in one of them. It was frustrating not to be in the same room so Yann could show Quintin directly on the map, but with Internet there were some other options.
The names of these lands were Ata’Meliu, Dam Adbor, Erpet Mesh and Cromash Tur. These 4 Kingdoms were rather scattered on the Lan’Ork part of the continent, pieces and bits everywhere, though Ata’Meliu was more in the center and the South of the Lan’Ork, Dam Adbor in the East and in the North, and Cromash Tur in the West and South West parts, Erpet was divided in 2 main areas, one located on the Northern land just before the Isthmus of Ghört’s Hammer, and a smaller one lost in the middle of Ata’Meliu.
Yann only had the impression of 2 of the capitals, Naat Medin was the one of Erpet Mesh and Nâabooli of Cromash Tur.
Quintin just sent him the map so he could draw some more comments and sketch the boundaries of the Warring Kingdoms. He didn’t know why, but he felt some movements were about to begin, some reconfigurations of the borders
Tomkin had a keen eye, and despite the dazzling light reflected on the calm glittering surface of the sea, he could see a little dark shape detaching itself from the three bigger forms, and that little dark shape was quickly identifiable as a bird.
Apparently the bird was not from these lands, it was black with white strips, or perhaps the contrary, and was flying like a grake drunk of having gorged on overripe Scotch bonnets.
Obviously the bird was exhausted, and crashed on the shore where it was nearly knocked out by the grogonuts which fell with big *thuds* from the grogonut tree on which it had just finished its erratic course.
Seeing the whole scene from the top of the fatly mossy cliff, Tomkin decided his curiosity was a much more pressing matter than taking care of the herd of grakes, so he ran to the little rocky path which led to the beach below.
Apparently the bird was still alive, and more surprising even, that was a talking bird. It could speak strange words.
And even stranger, though Tomkin knew none of these words, he could understand all of what the bird wanted to communicate to him.
What an odd thing, he wondered… The bird was requesting some food apparently.
Tomkin fumbled in his pocket for some bread crumbs, when the gift of the Captain fell on the sand.
Could it be?
Tomkin’s heart was racing. Could it be that there was magic after all in this strange simple gift? The Captain had said it meant all was connected. That could explain why he could understand that foreign bird… And perhaps it worked on other talking creatures and people too…
A whole realm of potentials seemed to open in front of young dreamy Tomkin, who was quickly brought down to more earthly matter when Rudy the myna pricked his hand with its beck for the bread crumbs, projecting to him “Give it to me! Give it to me!”.
The boy was approaching in a manner he obviously wanted to be threatening, but the little girl was still giggling unafraid.
He took his most growling voice.
“Don’t you fear DRRRAAAGONSS?” he blew in her face.
“Hahaha. What’s Dregguns?” she said with difficulties as if it was her first attempt in pronouncing the thunderous name.
He took a deep breath as if to answer the question and stopped.
She was looking at him with such innocence and friendship in her eyes.
“You really don’t know what dragons are?”
He drew closer and his gaze changed. And he looked surprised as if he was eventually noticing something important.
“Oh hoho! I understand now why you seem such an unafraid little girl…”
“I’m not little, I’m five.” she said grumpily. But she laughed as readily after that
“It appears I’m in the middle of one of your dreams. What’s your name?”
Huÿgens was not much of a cat person.
He liked his dogs because they were solid, loyal companions, and he could count on them to take care of his herd of langoats.
Langoats were a kind of three-eyed manic woolly and horned creatures, with a big sensing tongue, attracted to every new sound, or scent, or colour, or texture… well almost anything new that came before their eyes (when said eyes were not covered by thick layers of wool that is). And as their memory was short too, all kinds of things were always new to them.
That was why the dogs were extremely useful in channeling their movements; not that the langoats would have hurt themselves, because they were very able to provide for themselves, and jump from the top of a cliff without suffering much injuries. But they could very well loose all notion of their physicality and pop in and out of the fabric of time and space.
When they came back, because they always did magically come back, even after months of wandering, they would at times be reconfigured into another creature, and that would be pointless applying too much effort in trying to bring them back to their previous form, because it was said, in relation to their stubbornness that once a langoat, always a langoat…
Huÿgens had already lost some, especially during the shearing season.
And he had found himself back once with a cumbersome hippoliphant, and a bouncy shulimeek instead of two langoats.
Anyway, langoats wool was a very precious asset, highly sought after, as it could very easily bind with magical spells. Most of the clothes made for royalties were actually made with langoat wool, and it was also said that some enchanters had used langoat wool to make magical tapestries that would shapeshift, and reveal things to their owners.
So losing a langoat was not small concern for Huÿgens, and he had to be careful during the shearing season to leave some mops of hair to cover the three eyes of the beasts, so as to curb their insatiable thirst for discoveries.
But these days, Huÿgens had been very concerned about his herding dog Fjutch. Fjutch was a fluffy black dog he had found when it was still a puppy. He had trained it to become the head of his pack of dogs, when he had noticed the old rheumatic Thöm was taking the puppy under its wing —because the old faithful dog was knowing that it would depart and would reconfigure into a new form, but would not allow that to happen, not before he could have found a reliable companionship for his beloved master Huÿgens.
The healing properties of the langoat milk seemed to had done wonders once again, and Fjutch dis-ease was probably just a false alarm, but it had reminded Huÿgens how much he appreciated his dogs, every one of them, every day he was with them.
As for the cats… Illi, that was her name, had decided to come back to the cave, and he was showing her the way to the place where he had found her. He had asked BelleDora to pack a few things for her. He could not give Illi the beverage she was referring to as “coffee”, as that plant was not found in their region, but in compensation, he gave her a gourd of langoat milk, because she seemed like she would probably need some.
When he left her near the hole, he had some tears in his eyes when Illi hugged Fjutch very tenderly, as if the dog was reminding her of something dear. Illi after a moment hesitation, where she was like speaking to herself and not knowing what to do, finally hugged Huÿgens too, thanking him for everything he had done.
And off she was… free and unfettered as a gripshawk…
When Illi had finished arguing with Illi about having her hug the big man, while this was not manners of her kind, she sighed as she saw that the opening she had first thought was here (yeah, because I fell in there! she said), her senses where telling her that it was now closed…
— How quaint said Illi for herself.
— Well, as a matter of fact, it reminds me of something, said Illi F. There was that delicious gentleman, John Lubbock who said “What we see depends mainly on what we look for” and somehow it seems perfect.
— I don’t know any Grubbeck, grumbled Illi, a bit irritated that the hole, which was there before, wouldn’t be here, now she needed it.
— Lubbock was such a nice person, said Illi dreamily… Perhaps I could just try to have a peek inside the cave, if you let me.
— What?! Do again your wizzy wooey thing and I’ll strangle you! Don’t know how I would do it, but I’ll do it!
— Oh, you are so sluggishly gloomy! That was just to help you…
— Mmm, sorry for that, I was a bit upset, said Illi. What could you do?
— Just focus on the inside, and carry us both inside… But actually you would have to leave your body here, and we’ll probably see other things that do not belong to this place, but heck! that should be fun, Illi F said grinning widely.
They were interrupted by some munching sounds and ruffling heavy breath.
— What the bejeezus is that?! hissed Illi the cat (who didn’t even know how she knew so funny sounding words as bejeezus)
— Can’t you see? That’s obviously a dragon eating some bushes… How strange… replied Illi F airily.
— A WHAT? I HATE DRAGONS!
— Ahahah, relax, I was just pulling your leg.
— That’s not funny.
— Well he has funny colours by the way. Pinkish purple I wouldn’t dare to wear in London streets.
— That’s REALLY NOT FUNNY!
— Why so? You can’t see it anyway…
— And what if he sees me? Dragons are vicious creatures.
— He’s too busy eating these funny berries, and will probably collapse of exhaustion once he’s full.
— A chance! A vegetarian dragon!
— OK. Shall we try to find an entrance in the cave with my method, or do we ask the dragon? He looks well-mannered by the way.
— Oh, by the eyeballs of the Mighty Shrimp, you tell me…
— No, you choose.
— No, you.
— Ooooh, bugger off…
When Dorothy Mc Leane, the imperviously impetuous and buoyant archaeologist, temporarily reduced to dust shawls in a small antique boutique of the coast of Madagascar, had been finally coming to her mind, she had felt so out of place.
She had been in many places at once, and these have hardly been vacations at all. Well, all she had wanted at first was to follow that funny lemur winking on a placard, which was hinting at a funny expedition in a cave.
But that may just have been phoney gooey advertisement, as she was now stranded in that shoppe with a stupid parrot. No-name parrot…
That’d make Fiona laugh for sure… she thought; she would say that she wasn’t doing things in halves. Can’t even think if I can find a postcard big enough to tell her everything, she had laughed.
— Well, you don’t have a name by chance? she suddenly asked the bright bird.
— Archibaaaaald howled the parrot joyfully.
Bugger this, I knew that… Dory couldn’t help but thinking.
Oh!, she had started to feel exasperated. Archibald would take care of the key anyway, no need to stay here any much longer.
And right after the parrot had flown through the window, as she was leaving the shoppe and heading to the mini-van where the distraught guide had been obviously looking for her since hours, she couldn’t help but wonder at the number of noisy Italian tourists who had just seemed to pop in, crowding the tiny shawl shoppe…
Wow… She could have bet they could have been as many as fifty seven…
She was somewhat familiar, a nurturing presence that reminded Illi of the maid she and her parents had in their cottage in South Africa. Except that BelleDora had big hairy feelers, like a huge velvety moth, and that her father and mother wouldn’t have been careless enough to recruit a maid with such laisser-aller.
She was perhaps dead in that dirty hole, but she was obviously still alive in this dirty hole. They all claimed she was something hairy and funny… a what’s the name already? A grim shawl? whatever…
She was having a hard time putting all her thoughts together. She felt like she was many people at once, and none of whom were of great help to her current adventure…
Perhaps she would have to play the game to discover more of what or who she was?
So she asked BelleDora to explain more about this strange land.
And BelleDora was more than eager to provide some answers…
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