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  • #5589
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Barron was not really a baby, more a toddler already. He was playing alone in his play fence, like he was usually left doing when his odd caretakers had gone for an escapade. After a while, he got bored cooing like a baby looking at shiny stuff and suckling at noisy things. After all, as not many had realized, he was blessed with a genius IQ — there was no point at hiding his smarts when no one was around.

    The house bulldog was sleeping nearby, snoozing like a roaring motorbike. Apart from that, this part of the House was quiet. Occasionally he could hear gurgling sounds coming from the badly soundproofed pipes of the old building. Somebody was having an industrious bowel movement. Hardly news material, his father would have say.

    He checked the e-zapwatch that his nannies had put on his wrist. Bad news. His kidnappers were late. He wondered if something had changed in the near perfect plan. Yet, he’d managed to have the money wired to the offshore account, while his contacts, codenames Jesús & Araceli (he wasn’t sure they were codenames at all) said it was in order for the baby abduction.

    He could hear suspicious sounds outside; the bulldog barely registered. What if some acolytes in the plan had bailed out? The sounds at his bedroom’s window could be his abductors, waiting for a way in.

    As usual, he would have to take matters in his own tiny hands, and let others get the credit for it.

    He peeled off one side of the net and tumbled outside of the playpen. Damn, these bodies were so difficult to manœuvre at times. Reaching the window would be difficult but not impossible. After dragging a chair, and a pile of cushions, he hoisted himself finally at reach of the latch, and flung it open. The brisk cold air from outside made his nose itch, and it was the last thing he remembered while he smelled the chloroform.

    #5055
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Oddly enough, I was optimistic about the new year. First of all, it was novel to even realize it was a new year.  And what a tonic it was to have Finly back!   And not just because of the dusting, although it was a pleasure to see a bit of sparkle about the place where she’d spruced things up.  Even Mater had a new spring in her step. She said it was the chocolates, one a day she said was better than any vitamins. I’d eaten all mine the day Sanso and Finly and the others had arrived (and regretted it) but Mater had hidden her box to savour them slowly and secretly.  I remarked to her more than once that she should have the decency to wipe the chocolate off her lips before coming downstairs, gloating because all mine were gone.  But it was nice to see her happy.

    It was a funny thing with chocolate, I’d forgotten all about it. It wasn’t like I’d spent years craving it, and yet when I unwrapped (gift wrapped! oh, the memories!) the box Sanso gave me, it all came flooding back. I popped one in my mouth and closed my eyes, savouring the slow melt, ecstatic at the way it enveloped me in it’s particular sweet charm.

    I felt so sick afterwards though that I was left with the thought that there was something to be said for a simple life with few opportunities for indulgence.  I hadn’t felt that sick since the plague.

    I was glad I’d worn that old red dress when Sanso arrived, and just a little disappointed when he left before my seduction plans reached fruition.  I did try, but he had a knack of dematerializing whenever I got close enough to make a move. Disconcerting it was, but it kept me on my toes. Literally, in those high heeled red shoes.  I twisted my ankle on the damn things and been limping ever since. Oh but it was worth it.

    And the champagne! I asked Sanso where he found it and he said that was Finly’s work, she’s got it from the water larks.

    Finly! What water larks, where? Did you see…? I was almost afraid to ask. Had she seen the twins?

    Yes, she said, with a smug and enigmatic smile. But that’s a story for later, she said.  Maddening creature that she is, she still hasn’t told me about it. She will when she’s finished cleaning, she said.

    #5049
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Bert tells me it’s new years eve today.  Looking forward to the champagne and fireworks I said to him. Joking of course.  The wonder is that I even remembered what such things were.  Bert looked sharply at me then, bit strange it was.  Then he relaxed a bit and had a peculiar secretive smile on his face.  Of course that’s easy to say in retrospect, that he had a secretive smile on his face. But little did I know at the time.

    I’d been in the doldrums ever since that hot air balloon thing didn’t materialize into anything. I told Bert about it, and he went off down to the Brundy place, gone ages he was,  and came back saying it was nothing.  He had an odd spring in his step though which puzzled me a bit at the time, but I was so deflated after the excitement of thinking something might actually happen for a change, and when it didn’t, well, I couldn’t be bothered to think about Bert acting funny.

    When Bert had a shower and asked me to iron ~ iron, I ask you! ~ his best shirt, I was more depressed than ever. If Bert goes mad as well, then where will we be? I was already wondering if I’d started hallucinating and if that was a sign of madness.  I’d been catching glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye all week.  I’d even heard stifled giggles.  It was unnerving, I tell you.

    When Bert suggested I have a shower as well, and asked if I still had that red sequinned dress I started to worry.  What was he thinking? Then ~ get this ~ he asked if I had red knickers on.

    Bert! I said, aghast.

    He mumbled something about it being a tradition in Spain to wear red underpants on new years eve, and surely I hadn’t forgotten?

    I gently reminded him that we weren’t in Spain, and he said, You’re damn right this isn’t Kansas anymore, hooted with laughter, and fairly skipped out of the room.

    I sat there for a bit pondering all this and then thought, Hell, why not? Why not wear red knickers and that old red sequinned dress?  Why not have a shower as well?

    And much to my surprise I found I was humming a song and smiling to myself as I went to find that old red dress.

    #4865
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    So whatever did happen to those two women who went down the mine? Good question!
    I can tell you one thing, they hadn’t had the Etruscan flu like the rest of us, and when they finally resurfaced, they had a bit of a shock. They haven’t really recovered yet, they look dazed all the time. They were in good shape when they came out of the mines, don’t ask me how. A bit pale. I don’t know what they’d been eating but they hadn’t lost any weight, and oddly enough all tidy and spanking clean, considering they’d spent months down an old mine. I’d have expected them to be ragged and filthy and emaciated, but they looked better than we did. We were still too sluggish from the flu to ask them what had happened.

    #4853
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “He said he would come in 3 days only.” Fox said, not knowing whether it was too early or too late to rejoice.
    “That would have been Lheimoong’s birthday, the great Tribeltian philosopher.” Glynis said, as she tasted the sour milk from Emma the goat. She made a face. It was perfectly tart to mature into a fine cheese.
    “Pity though,” she mused licking her finger, “he’s been oddly quiet lately, though I’m sure his wisdom continues to guide us.”

    #4847
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Here you are then,” said the driver. They were parked outside of an imposing iron gate with a large padlock. “This is as far as I can take you. I dont have authority to go any further.”

    “Authority? You mean this is it?” said Maeve. “All I can see are trees.”

    “Usually there is someone here to open the gate when visitors arrive. Must be running late. That’s not like them.”

    “Oh,” said Maeve. “They aren’t actually expecting us. I mean, we didn’t make an appointment or anything.”

    The driver shook his head and laughed. He turned his head to look at them. “I might as well take you back then. You don’t get in here without being expected.” He started the engine.

    “Wait!” said Maeve. “We haven’t come all this way to give up. Have we?” She looked at Shaun-Paul who, after a moment of hesitation, nodded.

    #4837
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Liz was not pleased about the latest insubordinate action of those plotting against her. Fashion choices indeed! She had been sorting out her wardrobe, having to do it all herself because of Finnley’s latest scam to take time off, putting away the summery things and bringing out the clothes for the coming cooler weather.

    She’d had the usual little thrill at seeing familiar old favourites, clothes that she’d felt comfortable and happy in for many years. It would be unthinkable to throw them out, like tossing out an old friend just because they were getting wrinkled and saggy, or fat in the wrong places.

    Liz prided herself on her thoughtfulness about the environment when making her “fashion” choices, always choosing second hand items. She liked to think they already had a little of their own history, and that they appreciated being rescued. She abhorred the trends that the gullible lapped up when she saw them looking ridiculous in unflattering unsuitable clothes that would be clearly out of fashion just as they were starting to look pleasantly worn in.

    Warming to the theme, Liz recalled some of the particularly useless garments she’d seen over the years. Woolly polo neck sweaters that were sleeveless, for example. In what possible weather would one wear such a thing, without either suffering from a stifling hot neck, or goose flesh arms? High heeled shoes was another thing. The evidence was clear, judging by the amount of high heeled shoes in immaculate only worn once condition that littered the second hand markets. Nobody could walk in them, and nobody wanted them. Oddly enough though, people were still somehow persuaded to buy more and more new ones. Maybe one day in the future, collectors would have glass fronted cabinets, full of antique high heeled shoes. Or perhaps it would baffle future archaeologists, and they would guess they had been for religious or ritual purposes.

    Liz decided to turn the tables on this new character, Alessandro. She would give him a lesson or two on dress sense. The first thing she would tell him was that labels are supposed to be worn on the inside, not the outside.

    “One doesn’t write “Avon” in orange make up on one’s face, dear, even if it’s been seen in one of those shiny colourful publications,” Liz said it kindly so as not to rile him too much. “One doesn’t write “Pepto Dismal” in pink marker pen upon ones stomach.”

    Alessandro glanced at Finnley, who avoided catching his eye. He cleared his throat and said brightly, “I’ve organized a shopping trip, Liz! Come on, let’s go!”

    “While you’re out, I’ll see what Liz has thrown out, so I can cut it up for dolls clothes,” Fnnley said, to which Liz retorted, “I have thrown nothing out.” Liz cut Finnley short as she protested that Liz didn’t wear most of it anyway. “Yes, but I might, one day.”

    Turning to Alessandro, she said “Although I’m a busy woman, I will come shopping with you, my boy. You clearly need some pointers,” she added, looking at his shoes.

    #4832
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Shawn Paul continued to rub his temple. He didn’t want let on how badly it hurt, and even nodding that he was ok made his brains hurt. He was starting to get double vision, but told himself to calm down, that it would soon pass. The jolting of the taxi over the pot holed roads didn’t help. He started to wish he’d never come on this beastly trip.

    #4830
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Bloody hell,” said the driver. “Sorry about that. You fellas alright back there?”

    “Don’t turn … just keep your eyes on the road … we are fine,” said Maeve. “Are you okay?” she mouthed to Shawn-Paul. He rubbed his temple tentatively and then nodded.

    “Yeah, I couldn’t stop,” said the driver. “I’ve only just got my bloody licence back.”

    #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.

    #4776
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Albie woke up, it was shaking all around, as if the ground was quaking under him. It took him a moment to realize he was at the back of the jeep, and the jeep was careening on the dirt road, with none other than Mandrake at the wheel.

    “Don’t stare at him like this, kid, and make yourself useful!” Arona shouted in the action, taking a Jiborium Emporium pellet gun while pushing a bag of ammo at him.

    WHAT?!”

    “I’m not sure you realized, but we’re being chased!”

    The sound of a bullet flew by, missing the car window only thanks to an agile quarter turn of the wheel by Mandrake, followed by a sudden acceleration back onto the road.

    “Who’s chasing us!!?” Albie was confused.

    “Unclear!” Arona shouted, aiming at the black and white corvette behind them, with Ugo the gecko trying to keep stuck onto her head despite the shaking.

    She fired three shots of her magical Owl Pellets, reloading after each one.

    “We’re going to be short of ammo, Mandrake! How far?!”

    “I DON’T KNOW” the cat meowed, braking to avoid running over a loitering marsupial.

    HOW FAR Mandrake!?” Arona said, taking three new shots, managing to hit a headlight and the windshield.

    “You have no idea how difficult it is to find a body of water in this place, do you?! We missed the turn to the waterhole about 30 miles ago, at this speed!”

    “Better not to risk it, not enough water depth! We need the river.”

    “Todd River should be around that cliff there,” he pointed. But the road ends… heEEere!!”

    “GO FOR IT!”

    :fleuron: ** S PLASH ** :fleuron:

    The other car had braked just before the cliff, while the jeep was sinking slowly into the river which was carrying them near the shore.

    “Quick Mandrake! The pearl!”

    All Albie could see next was the swirl of pouring light mixed into the water vortex.

    He held his breath as tight as possible, for as… long… as… possible.

    GASP!

    “Mmm, that was entertaining. But it ruined my dinner.”

    The dragon was there, looking at the three of them drenched near its pool. They were back at the Doline.

    #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.

    #4747

    In reply to: The Stories So Near

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    WHERE ARE THEY ALL NOW ? 🗻

    a.k.a. the map thread, and because everything happens now anyway.

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

    🌀 [map link] – KELOWNA, B.C., CANADA

    It looks like our group of friends live in Canada, Kelowna.

    Kelowna is a city on Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The name Kelowna derives from an Okanagan language term for “grizzly bear”. The city’s motto: “Fruitful in Unity”

    Interestingly, Leörmn the dragon from the Doline may have visited from time to time : Ogopogo / Oggie / Naitaka

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

    Though very off the beaten track, the Flying Fish Inn may be located near a location that was a clue left as a prank by Corrie & Clove on the social media to lure conspiracy theorists to the Inn.
    🔑 ///digger.unusually.playfully

    It seems to link to a place near documented old abandoned mines.

    🌀 [map link]  – SOME PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF AUSTRALIA, OFF ARLTUNGA ROAD

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

    This one is a tricky geographical conundrum, since the Doline is a multi-dimensional hub. It connects multiple realities and places though bodies of water, with the cave structure (the Doline) at its center, a world on its own right, where talking animals and unusual creatures are not uncommon.

    It has shown to connect places in the Bayou in Louisiana, where Albie & Mandrake went to see the witch, as well as the coastal area of Australia, where they emerged next in their search for Arona.

    At the center of the Doline is a mysterious dragon named Leörmn, purveyor of precious traveling pearls and impossible riddles. We thus may infer possible intersection points in our dimension, such as 🔑 ///mysterious.dragon.riddle a little North of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    However, the inside of the Doline would look rather like Phong Nha-Ke Bang gigantic cave in Vietnam.

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

    It is not very clear where our favourite investigative team is located. They are likely to be near an urban area with a well-connected international airport, given their propensity for impromptu traveling, such as in Iceland and Australia.

    For all we know, they could be settled in Germany: 🔑 ///newspapers.gone.crazy
    or Denmark 🔑 ///publish.odds.news

    As for the Doctor, we strongly suspect his current hideout to be also revealed when searching from his signature beautification prescription that has made him famous in connoisseur circles: 🔑 ///beauty.treatment.shot at the frontier of Sweden and Finland.

    LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)

    We don’t really know where the story happens; for that, one would need to dive into Liz’s turbulent past, and that would confound the most sane individual, starting with keeping count of her past husbands.

    As a self-made powerful best-selling writer, we could guess she would take herself to be the JK Rowling of the Unplotted Booker Prize, and thus would be a well-traveled British uptart, sorry upstart, with a fondness for mansions with character and gardeners with toned glutes. Of course, one would need the staff.

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

    This story happens in another completely different dimension, but it can be interesting to explore some of its unusual geography.

    The World revolved around a central axis, and different worlds stacked one upon the other, with the central axis like an elevator.

    We know of

    • the World of Humans, where most of the story takes place
    • the world of Gods, above it, which has been sealed off, and where most Gods disappeared in the old ages
    • Under these two, the world of Giants exists, still to be explored.

    At the intersection of the central axis of the world and the human world, radiates the Heartwood, a mystical forest powered by the Gem of Creation which has been here since the Dawn of Times, and is a intricate maze, and a dimension in itself. It had grown around itself different woods and glades and forests, with various level of magical properties meant to repel intruders or lesser than Godlike beings.

    The Fae dimension is a particular dimension which exists parallel to the Human World, accessible only to Elder Faes, and where the race originated, and is now mostly deserted, as Faes’ magic waning with the encroachment of humans into the Forest, most have chosen to live in the Forests and try and protect them.

    #4737
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And she would be called Josette.

    #4731
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Could you pass me the butter?” asked a strange fellow seated on Shawn Paul’s left. The man was odd, a bit looking like Captain Sparrow with his black jabot lavaliere shirt and golden earrings.

    Shawn Paul felt awkward, the kind of awkwardness cultivated for many years with shyness and fear of social interactions. No wonder I wanted to be a writer, he thought. Nonetheless he handed the butter to the stranger. Could he be daring for a change and talk like his grandma always pushed him to do? The best remedy to shyness is to talk. Start by saying your name Shasha!

    “My name is Shawn Paul,” he said, feeling the heat rise to his face. He gulped, unsure of what to do next. Should he talk about the morning weather?
    “My name is Sanso,” said the man. “At your service,” he added waving his puffy sleeves. “Have you read the last article on _whateveralready_?
    The cat behind them snorted. Shawn Paul looked at it. It looked grumpy and ready to talk.

    “Don’t send Mandrake any food,” said one of the other guests, a woman wearing an indian looking outfit with a scarf hiding her hair. Something moved under the head scarf and a strand of red hair ventured timidly outside, soon followed by a lizard’s head. The woman pushed it back under her hood and emitted a disgusted grunt when she saw the meat dish brought by the maid.

    “I’m not a maid,” muttered Finly to whomever could hear/read her, or to the writer. “It’s good liz… chicken,” she said. No need for the long faces.”
    “But it’s dead, dear,” said the woman with the veil.

    “The Godfrey silently prayed under the third moon,” was saying Sanso who didn’t seem to mind that Shawn Paul was not listening to him. “And he entered late inside the lake wearing a funny blue toge. Sanso realised Finly was looking at him her mouth reduced to a tight line. “And I followed with opened hope,” he finished before gulping a spoonful of butter.

    “Do you happen to have a lock in your bedroom?” asked Sanso. The woman in the scarf looked at him with dark eyes. The lizard, seizing the opportunity to be free, jumped from under her scarf and landed into the gaspacho, splashing all the guests with a bit of red.

    #4729
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The room was not oversized and not to bright despite facing south. It had the oddest strange decor Shawn Paul would have expected from that place. It seemed to come right out of a Victorian movie with the heavy furniture that took all the space in the room and the dark and overloaded wallpaper that sucked up the light coming through the velvet curtains.

    Shawn Paul sneezed. It didn’t as much feel dirty as it felt old like his grand parent’s house. He wondered how often the Inn’s staff cleaned the room. He had to move his luggage in order to open the window to get some fresh air. It was so hot and dry. There was a drug store on the other side of the dusty road and a strange man was looking at him. A feeble wind brought in some red dust and Shawn Paul sneezed again, reducing the little enthusiasm he could have had left to nothing. He imagined his clothes covered with red dust and quickly closed the window. As the man was still looking Shawn Paul shut the velvet curtain, suddenly plunging the room into darkness.

    His fear of insects crept out. He had no idea where the light was so he reopened the curtain a bit.

    He then checked thoroughly under the pillows, the bedcover and the bedsheet, behind the chairs and in the wardrobe. Australia was know for having the most venomous creatures and he didn’t want to have a bad surprise. He looked suspiciously at a midge flying around not knowing if it was even safe to kill it. Shawn Paul had never been the courageous type and he began to wonder why on earth he had accepted that trip. He had never traveled out of Canada before.

    Needing some comfort, he looked frantically into his backpack for the granola cookies he had brought with him. With the temperature the chocolate chip had melted and he wondered at how to eat a cookie without dirtying his hands.

    Someone knocked at the door making him jump with guilt like when he was a kid at his grand parents’ and would eat all the cookies in his bedroom without sharing with his cousins.

    “Lunch is served,” a woman’s voice said from the other side.

    Shawn Paul remembered having said with Maeve they would meet at lunchtime so he closed his luggage with an extra padlock and made sure his door was safely locked too before going downstairs.

    Anxiety rushed in when he saw all the people that were already seated at the only table in the lunch room. He might have gone back to his room if Maeve hadn’t come from behind him.

    “Let’s go have a seat.”

    He read between the lines what he was thinking himself: Don’t leave me alone. Whether it was truly what she had meant was not important.

    #4725
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    A wild eyed crow was cawing relentlessly since the wee hours of the dawn.
    Nothing much had moved since everyone arrived at the Inn, and in contrast with the hot days, the cool night had sent everyone shivering under the thin woolen blankets that smelled of naphthalene.
    Deep down, Bert was glad to see the old Inn come back to life, even if for a little while. He was weary of the witch though. She wouldn’t be here without some supernatural mischief afoot.
    He glanced in the empty hall, putting his muddy pair of boots outside, not to incur the fury of Finly. He almost started calling to see if anybody was home, but thought better of it. Speaking of the devil, Finly was already up and busy at the small kitchen stove, and had done some outstanding croissants. In truth, despite all her flaws, he liked her; she was a capable lady, although never big on sweet talks. No wonder she and Mater did get along well.
    Bert started to walk along the hall towards the hangar, where he knew old cases where stored, one with a particular book that he needed. It was hard to guess what would happen next. He found the book, that was hidden on the side of the case, and scratched his head while smiling a big wide grin.
    He was feeling alive with the kind of energy that could be a poor advisor were his mind not sharp as a gator’s tooth.

    The book had a lot of gibberish in it, like it was written in a sort of automatic writing. For some reason, after the termite honey episode, Idle had started to collect odd books, and she was starting to see spy games hidden in the strangest patterns.
    Despite being a lazy pothead, the girl was smart, though. Some of her books were codes.

    Bert’s had his fair run with those during his early years in the military. So he’d hidden the most dangerous ones that Idle had unwittingly found, so that she and the rest of the family wouldn’t run into trouble.
    Most of the time, she’d simply forget about having bought or bargained for them, but in some cases, there was a silly obsession with her that rendered her crazy about some of those books. Usually the girls, especially the twins, would get the blame for what was thought a child’s prank. Luckily her anger wouldn’t last long.

    This book though was a bit different. Bert had never found the coding pattern, nor the logic about it. And some bits of it looked like it talked about the Inn. “Encoded pattern from the future”, “remote viewing from the past”, Idle’s suggestions would have run wild with imaginative solutions. Maybe she was onto something…

    He looked a two bits, struck by some of the parts:

    The inn had been open for a long time before any of the tenants had come, and it had been full of people once it had been full all day long.
    She had gone back after a while and opened up the little room for the evening and people could be seen milling about.
    The rest of the tenants had remained out on their respective streets and were quiet and peaceful.
    ‘So it’s the end of a cold year.’
    The woman with golden hair and green eyes seemed to have no intention of staying in the inn as well; she was already preparing for the next year.
    When the cold dawn had started to rise the door to the inn had been open all night long. The young man with red hair sitting on a nearby bench had watched a few times before opening his eyes to see the man that had followed him home.

    There was a young red hair boy that had arrived. He was curious as to the man following.

    The other random bit talked about something else. Like a stuff of nightmares. And his name was on it.

    The small girl stood beside him, still covered with her night clothes. She felt naked by the side of the road. There was nothing else to do.
    In the distance, Bert could faintly hear the howling of the woods, as two large, black dogs pounced, their jaws ready to tear her to pieces. The young girl stared in wonder and fear before the dog, before biting it, then she was gone. She ran off through the bushes. “Ah…” she whispered to herself. “Why am I not alive?” She thought to herself: this is all I need.
    If I am here, they’ll kill or hurt my kids. They won’t miss me for nothing.
    She ran the last few kilometers to her little cottage; not long after, Bert heard the sound of the forest. He was glad it was.

    Maybe the witch was not here for nothing after all.

    #4726
    matermater
    Participant

    Thank God for Finly. She appears to be the only one who has any sense left in her noggin. Dodo is passed out on the sofa in the lounge, sprawled in a most unladylike manner. It looks like she got rip snorting drunk again.

    Bert has disappeared. I can’t recall if I sent him to town to buy food for the guests … but perhaps I did. Bert is the only other person who knows the secret. I would like to discuss it with him but we’ve both kept our silence all these years and silence is a hard habit to break.

    What monster will we unleash if we speak I wonder? But if we don’t speak, will the monster choke us all?

    As I said, or I think I said, Finly is being a real trooper, showing guests to their rooms and for the most part being civil.

    I did see her slap an odd looking gentleman in a ruffle shirt when he asked if he was in room six. “Sex is not included in your room rate!” she shouted at him and glared most ferociously. Fortunately the man was not offended, indeed he ragarded her almost with a look of admiration. She did look a fine sight standing there, hands on hips and her face flushed with righteous indignation. Unfortunately, Finly has never managed to rid herself of her awful kiwi accent, despite the years she has lived here.

    Dear Prune is behaving oddly. I am loathe to even consider it but it did cross my mind she may have become one of those dreadful drug addicts I’ve read about. I caught her hiding behind a curtain and motioning for me to “Shush!” in a most agitated manner. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising given the influence Dodo has surely had on her over the years. I will be most disappointed if I find out this is indeed the case. In the meantime, I intend to give the dear child the benefit of the doubt.

    #4718
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Tsk tsk,” said Rukshan when he heard that the carpenter hadn’t done anything yet.
    “At least the joiner came and fixed the mirror in the bathroom,” said Fox trying to sound positive.
    They were in the kitchen and Glynis was brewing a chicken stew in Margorrit’s old purple clay pot.
    Fox seemed distracted with saliva gathering at the corner of his mouth. Rukshan realised it was not the best of places to explain his plan with all the smells and spells of Glynis’ spices.
    “Let’s go outside it’ll be best to tell you where we are going,” said Rukshan.
    Fox nodded his consent with great effort.

    “If you go out, just tell Olli to bring in more dry wood for the stove,” said Glynis as they left.

    They took the Troll’s path, a sandy track leading in the thick of the forest.
    “Are you sure we’ll find him there?” asked Rukshan.
    “Trust me,” said Fox pointing at his nose.
    “I thought you had abandoned the shapeshifting and using your fox’s smelling sense?”
    “Well if you want to know, Olli is quite predictable, he’s always at the Young Maid’s pond.

    “I realise I haven’t seen the lad in months,” said Rukshan.
    Fox shrugged. “He’s grown up, like all kids do.”

    They arrived at the pond where Olli was sculpting a branch of wood in an undefinable shape. Rukshan had almost a shock when he saw how much little Olli had changed. He was different, almost another person physically. Taller and with a man’s body. It took the Fae some time when he had to tell himself that the person in front of him was the boy that had helped them in the mountain. But Rukshan was not the kind to show many emotions so he just said.

    “You’ve grown boy.”
    Olli shrugged and stopped what he was doing.
    “I’ve heard so,” he said. “She wants more wood?”
    “Yeah,” said Fox with a knowing grin.
    “Okay.”
    Olliver sighed and left with supple movements.

    When the young man was gone, Fox turned towards the Fae, whose eyes seemed lost in the misty mountains.
    “So, what is the plan?”
    “I’m thinking of a new plan that shall make use of everyone’s potential and save a young man from boredom.”

    #4712
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    It’s been only a day since I arrived, and I’m already over it. Nothing seems to have changed. What a drag this place is.

    Only Mater keeps surprising. She was a bit more emotional and hermitical than usual. Didn’t think those two cursors could move with her, but I guess she’s still has it in her.
    Aunt Dido said she’ll croak one day, and we’ll find her having spent her last breath lying in a fresh dug hole in the ground. I don’t know if that was her idea of a bad joke or a veiled menace, there’s no telling when she’s been smoking.

    Bert was all busy with things to repair and prepare, we barely had time to talk since I arrived. What a crowd-pleaser he’s become, don’t know what he gets out of this one-sided deal, with Dido having him wrapped around her fingers like this.

    That funny Dido is all over the place, and nowhere to be found, as usual. She said we’ll be expecting guests. She probably was high as a kite. Would be a first since ages.
    I wonder what would drag people here, it’s not like the place is on any maps, or on the way to a tourist spot. But who knows what instant instapound fame can do to lure people in the oddest spots… Been reading articles about those nincompoops going to severely polluted place to take selfies in front of azure acidic water pretending to be on Bora Bora. Wouldn’t be surprising if Clove or Corrie had started a trend on flabber just to prank us. Like using ///digger.unusually.playfully to send people in the middle of nowhere in search for gold…

    There were some leftovers in the fridge. I was ravenous, and almost ate all of the funky shredded chicken. Smokey taste, but okay. Finly had an horrified look on her face when she came back with the supplies, probably the shock of seeing me all grown up now.

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