Search Results for 'rukshan'

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  • #4551
    AvatarJib
    Participant

      Fox popped back into existence, blind, after what felt like a very long black out. He heard a thud on the ground as he let go of the ice flute. A strong smell of decay and cold ash rendered him dizzy. He fell on his knees, threw up and cursed when the pain caused by a little stone reached his brain. It hurt.
      He rolled on the side and banged his head on a tree trunk. He cursed, grabbing his head in an attempt to contain the pain that threatened to make him faint.
      Where is the hellishcopter? he thought, confused as his hands touched the sandy ground. He tried to control a wave of panic.
      Rukshan? Lhamom?”

      Maybe I fell off the carpet during the transfer, Fox thought. But why am I blind?
      Olli?..” he tried. His voice broke off. _Where is everyone?”

      He remained prostrated. He would have been glad to hear any noise other than his heartbeat and his quick breath.
      After some time his sight came back. He would have preferred it did not. Everything was grey. The forest had burnt, and so had the cottage.
      He looked around what remained of the kitchen. His heart sank when he saw what looked like a burnt body trying to escape. He went back out and found Gorrash, broken into pieces scattered near the pergola. The stones were covered in a thin layer of grey ash. Fox cried and sobbed. He couldn’t believe what had happened.
      Where was everyone? Wasn’t he supposed to have the power of miracles? His heart ached.

      A black silhouette slid between the burnt trees.
      Glynis! You’re aliv…” Fox’s voice trailed off. He could now see the dead trees through the burka. It was only a ghost.

      She came and met him with a sad smile.
      “You were not there,” she said more as a constatation than an accusation. Still Fox felt the guilt weigh on his shoulders. He wasn’t there for his friends. The people he had grown to love. The people he called family in his heart.

      “What happened?”
      “You were not there. The monster came right after the others came through the portal. I wasn’t prepared. They counted on you and the flute. But it was too quick. It escaped and went to the village where it merged with Leroway. Eleri tried to cast her stone spell but it bounced back and she met the same end as Gorrash.”
      Fox looked at the scattered stones on the ground.
      “Once it controlled Leroway, it went into a frenzy and burnt everything. Everything. Only ashes remain.”
      Fox remained silent, unable to speak. It was his fault.

      “You have to go back,” said Glynis’s shadow. “They count on you.”
      “What?”
      The breeze blew. The ghost flickered, a surprised expression on her face.
      “Under the ashes in the kitchen, the last potion,” she said quickly. “It can turn back time. Bring the sh…” A cold breeze blew her off before she could finish.

      #4549
      AvatarJib
      Participant

        A deep guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
        Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the other his eyes wide open.
        Olliver had teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw had dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
        “Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
        Rukshan nodded.

        “It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo.
        She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow. It hissed and hurled back, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo started to play a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.
        It shook the group awake from their trance of terror. Everobody stood and ran in chaos.
        Someone tried to cover the fire.
        “Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan, and he himself rushed toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly. It needed something more for the magic to take the relay. Something resisted. There was a strong gush of wind and Rukshan bent forward just in time as the screen and bamboo poles flew above his head. His chanting held the sands together, but they needed to act quickly.

        Lhamom told the others to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. Fox didn’t wait to be told twice but Olliver stood his ground.
        “But I want to help,” he said.
        “You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. Not checking if the boy was following her order, she went to her messenger bag and foraged for the bottle of holy snot. On her way to the mandala, she picked the magic spoon from the steaming cauldron of stew, leaving a path of thick dark stains in the snow.

        Lhamom stopped beside Rukshan who had rivulets of sweat flowing on his face and his coat fluttering wildly in the angry wind. He’s barely holding the sands together, she thought. She didn’t like being rushed, it made her act mindlessly. She opened the holy snot bottle and was about to pour it in the spoon covered in sauce, but she saw Rukshan’s frown of horror. She realised the red sauce might have unforgivable influence on the portal spell. She felt a nudge on her right arm, it was Ronaldo. Lhamom didn’t think twice and held the spoon for him to lick.
        “Enjoy yourself!” she said. If the sauce’s not good, what about donkey saliva? she wondered, her inner voice sounding a tad hysterical. But it was not a time for meditation. She poured the holy snot in the relatively clean spoon, pronounced the spell the Lama had told her in the ancient tongue and prayed it all worked out as she poured it in the center of the mandala.
        As soon as it touched the sand, they combined together in a glossy resin. The texture spread quickly to all the mandala and a dark line appeared above it. The portal teared open. Rukshan continued to chant until it was big enough to allow the hellishcopter through.

        COME NOW!” shouted Fox.
        Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter, behind it an immense shadow had engulfed the night. It was different from the darkness of the portal that was full of potential and probabilities and energy. The Shadow was chaotic and mad and light was absent from it. It was spreading fast and Lhamom felt panic overwhelm her.

        They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it not knowing what to do with it.
        “You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
        Fox nodded unable to speak. His heart was frozen by the dark presence.
        Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward. The shaman looked at them disappear through the tear, soon followed by the shadow.
        The wind stopped. Kumihimo heard the dogs approaching. They too wanted to go through. But before they could do so, Kumihimo closed the portal with a last chord that made her lyre explode.

        The dogs growled menacingly, frustrated they had been denied their hunt.
        They closed in slowly on Kumihimo and Ronaldo who licked a drop of sauce from his lips.

        #4545
        AvatarJib
        Participant

          “That is unfortunate,” said Rukshan when Fox told him about the dogs’ answer. They were all gathered around the fire on rough rugs for a last meal before activating the portal. For a moment shadow and light struggled on Rukshan’s face as the flames of the fire licked the woods, making it crack and break. A few sparkles flew upward into the dark starry night.

          Lhamom used the magic metal spoon to serve steaming soup in carved wooden bowls, and Olliver was doing the service.
          When he took his, Fox felt a chilly breeze find its way past his blanket. He shivered, put the bowl on the carpet in front of him and attempted to readjust the yakult wool blanket in a vain attempt to make it windproof. He took back the bowl and took a sip. The dogs barked in the distance. They were impatient to start the hunt. Fox shivered again.

          “I could still serve as bait,” Fox said because he felt it was his fault if the plan failed. “You know, surprise the dogs while they are focused on the Shadow and make it follow me to trap it into the portal after we crossed it.”

          “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rukshan. “It’s too dangerous. If you try to do that, we could have not one but two problems to solve. And you might get stuck too.”

          Fox tried not to think about the implications of being stuck here, or in between the portals. He looked at Olliver who was looking at his soup as if it was the most important thing in the world.

          Rukshan shook his head. “No. It was a foolish of me to hope those dogs would help us.”

          “What can we do then?” asked Lhamom. They all drank their soup, the silence only broken by the fire cracking and the dogs barking.

          “I can be in several places at once,” said Olliver quickly. Fox held his breath.
          Lhamom and Rukshan looked at the boy.

          “I know,” said Lhamom. “You were so helpful today with the cooking and all.”
          “What do you mean?” asked Rukshan. “Olliver was with me helping me with the sand all day.” He stopped. His face showed sudden understanding. “Oh! Of course,” he said. “The book we burnt. The shard’s power was not only teleportation, but also ubiquity.” Rukshan turned to look at Fox. “You don’t seem surprised.”

          Fox shrugged, making his blanket slip off of his shoulders slightly. Before he answered he adjusted it back quickly before the warmth he had accumulated could vanish into the night. “Well I saw him… I mean them. How do you think I came out of the negotiation alive? I can not teleport! I don’t even know what my powers are, or if I have any now that the shards have gone.”

          “Grace and miracles,” said Rukshan with a grin.
          A strange cristalline noise rang to Fox’s hears.
          “What? Oh! Yes. Well, that explains it then,” he said, feeling a mix of grumpiness and contentment. He finished his soup and was about to leave the comfort of his blanket to take some stew when Lhamom took the bowl from his hands. She gave him a good serving and gave him back his bowl.

          “What is it about shards and powers?” she asked.
          Fox, Rukshan and Olliver looked at each other.
          “It’s…” started Fox.
          “It’s a long story,” cut Rukshan.

          “Don’t make as if I said nothing important,” said Olliver.
          The red of the flames enhances his angry look, thought Fox.
          “I can be at two places, even more, at once. I can still be the bait and go back home with you at the same time.”

          A dog barked impatiently.

          “Yes,” said Fox.
          “I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” said Rukshan, concern on his face.
          “Why? I’m not a boy anymore, if that’s what it’s all about. I can do it. I already did it this afternoon.”
          “Well this afternoon was nice and cosy, wasn’t it? You had plenty of light, and yes you helped Fox escape from the dogs, so you can certainly do it. But what about the Shadow spirit. We have no idea what it is, or what it can do to you. And what will happen if one of you get killed?”

          Once again, they fell silent. There was a dog bark and that strange cristalline noise again. It sounded closer.
          “What’s that noise?” asked Olliver. Fox suddenly realised the strange noise had nothing to do with the sound of miracles, but it was a real noise in the real world.
          “What noise?” asked Lhamom. “And what are you all talking about, shards and powers and ubiquity?”
          “I can hear it too,” said Fox. “I’ve heard it before, but thought it was just me.”

          The noise happened again, this time sounding a lot like metallic ropes snapping on ice.
          Fox wriggled his nose. There was the smell of an animal and of a human.
          “I think someone is coming,” he said, sniffing the cold air. “A donkey and a human.”

          It was not too long before they saw an odd woman riding a donkey. She was playing a lyre made of ice, the strings of which had a faint glow. The woman was smiling like she was having the best adventure of her life.
          “Hi guys. I came to help you. You didn’t think I would remain forgotten in my cave, did you?”

          Kumihimo! Ronaldo!” said Lhamom, standing up.

          #4543
          AvatarJib
          Participant

            In the white silence of the mountains, Rukshan was on his knees on a yakult wool rug pouring blue sand from a small pouch on a tricky part of the mandala that looked like a small person lifting his arms upwards. Rukshan was just in the right state of mind, peaceful and intensely focused, in the moment.
            It was more instinct than intellect that guided his hands, and when he felt inside him something click, he stopped pouring the sand. He didn’t take the time to check if it was right, he trusted his guts.
            He held the pouch to his right and said: “White”. Olliver took the pouch of blue and replaced it with another. Rukshan resumed pouring and white sand flew in a thin stream on the next part of the mandala.

            After a few hours of the same routine, only broken by the occasional refreshments and drinks that Olliver brought him, the mandala was finished and Rukshan stood up to look at the result. He moved his shoulders to help relieve the tensions accumulated during the hard day of labor. He felt like an old man. His throat was dry with thirst but his eyes gleamed with joy at the result of hours of hard concentration.

            “It’s beautiful,” said Olliver with awe in his voice.
            “It is, isn’t it?” said Rukshan. He accepted a cup of warm and steaming yakult tea that Olliver handed him and looked at the boy. It was the first time that Olliver had spoken during the whole process.
            “Thanks, Olli,” said Rukshan, “you’ve been very helpful the whole time. I’m a little bit ashamed to have taken your whole time like that and make you stand in the cold without rest.”
            “Oh! Don’t worry,” said the boy, “I enjoyed watching you. Maybe one day you can teach me how to do this.”
            Rukshan looked thoughtfully at the boy. The mandala drew its power from the fae’s nature. There could certainly be no danger in showing the technique to the boy. It could be a nice piece of art.
            “Sure!” he said. “Once we are back. I promise to show you.”
            A smile bloomed on Olliver’s face.

            :fleuron:

            In the white silence of the mountain, Lhamom sat on a thick rug of yakult wool in front of a makeshift fireplace. She had finished packing their belongings, which were now securely loaded on the hellishcarpet, and decided it was cooking time. For that she had enrolled the young lad, Olliver, to keep her company instead of running around and disturbing Rukshan. The poor man… the poor manfae, Lhamom corrected, had such a difficult task that he needed all his concentration and peace of mind.

            Lhamom stirred the content of the cauldron in a slow and regular motion. She smiled because she was also proud of her idea of a screen made of yakult wool and bamboo poles, cut from the haunted bamboo forest. It was as much to protect from the wind as it was for the fae’s privacy and peace of mind.

            “It smells good,” said Olliver, looking with hungry eyes at what Lhamom was doing.
            “I know,” she said with pride. “It’s a specialty I learned during the ice trek.”
            “Can you teach me?” ask Olliver.
            “Yes, sure.” She winked. “You need a special blend of spiced roots, and use pootatoes and crabbage. The secret is to make them melt in yakult salted butter for ten minutes before adding the meat and a bucket of fresh snow.”

            They continued to cook and talk far all the afternoon, and when dusk came Lhamom heard Rukshan talk behind his screen. He must have finished the mandala, she thought. She smiled at Olliver, and she felt very pleased that she had kept the boy out of the manfae’s way.

            :fleuron:

            Fox listened to the white silence of the mountain during that brief moment, just after the dogs had made it clear, despite all the promises of food, that they would not help the two-leggeds with their plan.

            Fox sighed. For an instant, all felt still and quiet, all was perfectly where it ought to be.

            The instant was brief, quickly interrupted by a first growl, joined by a second and a third, and soon the entire pack of mountain dogs walked, all teeth out, towards a surrounded Fox. He looked around. There was no escape route. He had no escape plan. His stomach reminded him that instant that he was still sick. He looked at the mad eyes of the dogs. They hadn’t even left the bones from the meat he gave them earlier. He gulped in an attempt to remove the lump of anguish stuck in his throat. There would be no trace of him left either. Just maybe some red on the snow.

            He suddenly felt full of resolve and camped himself on his four legs; he would not go without a fight. His only regret was that he couldn’t help his friends go home.
            We’ll meet in another life, he thought. Feeling wolfish he howled in defiance to the dogs.
            They had stopped and were looking uncertain of what to do next. Fox couldn’t believe he had impressed them.

            “Come,” said a voice behind him. Fox turned surprised. On the pile of his clothes stood Olliver.
            How did you,” he yelped before remembering the boy could not understand him.
            “Hurry! I can teleport us back to the camp,” said the boy with his arms opened.

            Without a second thought Fox jumped in Olliver’s arms and the next thing he knew was that they were back at the camp. But something was off. Fox could see Rukshan busy making his mandala and Olliver was helping him with the sand. Then he could see Lhamom cooking with the help of another Olliver.
            Fox thought it might be some case of post teleportation confusion. He looked at the Olliver who helped him escape an imminent death, the fox head slightly tilted on the side, the question obvious in its eyes.
            “Please don’t tell them,” said Olliver, his eyes pleading. “It just happened. I felt a little forgotten and wanted so much to be useful.”

            Fox turned back into a human, too surprised to feel the bite of the cold air.
            “Oh! Your clothes,” said Olliver before he disappeared. Fox didn’t have time to clear his mind before the boy was back with the clothes.

            #4541
            AvatarJib
            Participant

              The full moon was high and a cluster of fireflies were flying stubbornly around a lone corkscrew bush. The baby rainbow creatures were playing like young squirrels, running and jumping around on Gorrash’s arms and head.
              The dwarf was still, as if he hadn’t awoken from his curse despite the darkness of the night. He was looking at the bush illuminated by the fireflies and his the dim glows of the rainbow babies were giving his face a thoughtful look.
              My life is certainly as complicated as the shrub’s twisted branches, he thought, his heart uneasy.

              The others all had been busy doing their own things during the day, like Glynis with her invisibility potion, or Eleri with her Operation Courtesan. Rukshan went away with a goal too, finding the source of the blue light the children had seen in their dreams and he left for the mountains with Olliver and Fox.
              Margoritt was an old lady and with all the fuss about the upcoming eviction and destruction of her nice little cottage farm she had been tired and went to sleep early. Gorrash understood very well all of that.
              A ball of sadness and frustration gathered in his throat. The rainbow babies stopped and looked at him with drooping eyes.

              “Mruiii?” they said as if asking him what it all was about.
              “Don’t do that, you’re gonna make me cry,” he said. The raspiness of his voice surprised him and distracted him from the sadness.
              “Mruii,” said the little creatures gathering closer to him as if to sooth him. He shed a few tears. He felt so lonely and frustrated because he couldn’t be with his friends during the day. And the summer nights were so short.

              Gorrash didn’t like the sadness. It made the nights seem longer, and the joyous explorations of Glynis’s garden seemed so far away.

              I have to find a project for myself, he thought. Maybe find a cure to my own curse like Glynis.
              Gorrash felt a tinge of bitterness in his mouth. Why? he wondered. Why didn’t my maker come lift my curse like that man came to deliver Glynis from hers?
              He regretted this thought, if anything it only made him feel more miserable and lonely.

              An owl hooted and there was some noise coming from the house. Light was lit in the kitchen, and soon after the door opened. It was Glynis. She carried a small crate written Granola Cookies, but it was full of potions and other utensils. Her eyes looked tired but her face was shining. Since she used that potion to cure herself, she had had that inner glow, and despite himself Gorrash felt it started to warm his heart with hope.

              “I will need some help,” said Glynis.
              The rainbow babies ran around and changed colours rapidly.
              “Sure, I can do that,” answered Gorrash. And as he said that he realised he had felt the need to talk to someone so badly.
              They sat near the corkscrew shrub and Glynis began to get her stuff out of the crate. She drew the shape of a circle with a white chalk that shone under the moonlight and gave Gorrash eight candlesticks to place around the circle. Gorrash placed them a bit too conscientiously around, and he felt the need to talk become stronger, making him restless.
              “Can I tell you something?” he asked, unsure if she would want to listen to his doubts.
              “Of course. I need to reinforce the charm before the others arrival. It will take some time before I actually do the spell. We can talk during that time.”

              Encouraged by her kindness, he told her everything that had been troubling his heart.

              #4540
              AvatarJib
              Participant

                Talking with the dogs. That’s what Fox had to do. Easier said than done, he thought scratching his head. His previous encounters with dogs were rather tumultuous and limited to being hunted down in the forest during a hunting party or being chased at the market because he had caught a hen. He had never really talked to dogs before, unless taunting counted of course.

                Rukshan had said it was urgent, but Fox found there were so many little things to do before, like tidying up the cave, putting some suncream on his sensitive red head skin, or trying to see if Lhamom needed help.

                But after some time, Fox realised he had to go eventually. Everyone else was busy with their own part of the plan. Rukshan was building the sand mandala on a flat surface that he and Olliver had cleared, and Lhamom was finishing a makeshift screen to protect the mandala from the wind with a few bamboo poles and rolls of fabrics she had found on her journey here. It was very colourful fabric with Bootanese patterns that Fox wouldn’t have used to cover a chair. It felt too busy for him.

                So, he went to see Lhamom as she was struggling to plant the last stick in the rocky ground.

                “Have you talked to the dogs? she asked.
                “Ehr, not yet,” mumbled Fox who felt a bit ashamed when Lhamom frowned. “I think I need to give some kind of present to the dogs and I was wondering if you had something suitable in your many bags.”
                “Oh! Sure. Can you finish that for me then?” she asked.
                “Sure,” said Fox. He replaced her with the bamboo stick and, as she was walking away, he shouted: “I don’t think chocolate will do this time.”
                “Oh! I know,” she said with a smile and a wink. It cheered Fox up a little bit, but a gush of wind called him back to his task of holding the pole. Once he secured it he put on an awkward smile, but noticed that Rukshan and Olliver were too busy to have noticed.

                Lhamom came back with a big ham which Fox thought was more than suitable. He thanked her and made a joke about leaving her with her pole that he thought afterword he should not have done and walked away from the camp in the crunchy snow.

                Fox had been aware that the dogs were observing him, and especially the big ham he was carrying. A few of them had begun to gather at a distance and they were beginning to whine, which attracted more of them. When he estimated he was far enough from the camp he put the ham down. He couldn’t transform into that many layers of clothes so he started to undress, watching wearily the dogs that were now growling.

                It was freezing outside and Fox was shocked by how skinny his body had become. He shivered badly and focused to change into his natural red fox. It took him a little bit longer than usual but when the fur grew and started to keep the warmth close to his body, he growled with pleasure. The world around him changed as his senses transformed. Colours were different and slightly less varied, sounds were more crisp and a profusion of noises he couldn’t hear as a human suddenly vied for his attention: the sound of the wind on the rocks, the harmonics of the dogs’ voices, and the scents… simply incomparable. He wished he had kept the ham for himself.

                “It’s a fox!” barked a voice.
                “Let’s kill it!” said another.
                “Where’s the two-legged gone?” asked a young dog.
                “Who cares? It brought us meat. It’s gone. Let’s eat!”

                Fox suddenly regretted he had made a full change.

                #4539
                AvatarJib
                Participant

                  Fox, layered in warm clothes, looked dubiously at the hellishcopter. He had assumed it was fantastic and awe inspiring creature from the underworld. But it wasn’t.

                  “It’s a carpet with a circular wooden platform,” he said, feeling a bit disappointed. He noticed the steam that formed out of his mouth with every word and it made him feel cold despite the numerous layers around him.
                  The carpet was floating limply above its shadow on the snow. It looked old and worn out by years of use. The reds blues and greens were dull and washed-out, and it was hard to tell apart the original motives from stains. Oddly enough it was clear of dust.

                  “Not just a carpet, said Lhamom with her usual enthusiasm illuminating her face. It’s a magic carpet.” She wore that local coat of them which looked so thin compared to his multiple layers, but she had assured him it was warm enough for far worse temperatures. Steam was also coming out of her mouth when she talked.

                  Fox was still not convinced. “And how fast does it go?”

                  “Fast enough,” said Lhamom. “You’ll all be back in no time to the forest.”
                  “Isn’t there a risk for the luggage to fall off? I don’t see any practical way to attach them.”
                  “Oh! Sure,” retorted Lhamom with an amused look. “You won’t fall from the platform unless someone pushes you out.”
                  Fox winced and gulped. His mind had showed him someone shaken by an uncontrollable movement and pushing him off the platform above the sharp mountain tops, and even if it his fantasy had no sound, it was not very reassuring.

                  Lhamom looked at him sharply. “Are you afraid of heights?” she asked.
                  Fox shrugged and looked away at Rukshan who was busy packing the camp with Olliver and their guide.
                  “What if I am?” Fox said.
                  “I have some pills,” she said, foraging in her numerous pockets. She brandished victoriously an old little wooden box that she opened and showed him brown pills that looked and smelled like they had been made by dung beetles.

                  Rukshan had finished his packing and was approaching them with a messenger bag.
                  “Don’t play with him too much, he said, in his current state Fox’s will swallow everything, except food.” Rukshan and Olliver laughed. Fox didn’t know what to make of it, feeling too exhausted to find clever retorts. Lhamom winked at him and put the pills back in her pocket.

                  Rukshan put his hand on Fox’s shoulder. “We’re going home through a sand portal, he said giving putting a hand on his bag. I’ve gathered coloured sand from the different places we visited and Lhamom had brought some holy dripping water collected from the running nose of the lama headmaster of Pulmol Mountain when he last had a cold.”
                  That sounded a little complicated to Fox and he didn’t try to make sense of it.
                  “We’ll only go on the hellishcopter to fly throught the portal with all the stuff we collected. But I need time to make the sand portal, and from what you reported the dogs have said, we may only have little time available before that thing you have felt come to us.”

                  Fox started. With his bowel adventures and Rukshan’s previous dismissal of the matter, Fox had forgotten about the odd presence he had smelled and that had seemed to preoccupy the hunting dogs at night.
                  “What do you mean?” he asked, trying to not let worry crept back in his mind.
                  “I first thought it was fantasies coming out of your imagination because of your poor health condition, but when I told Lhamom this morning she told me what it was.” Rukshan hesitated.
                  “What? asked Fox, his heartbeat going faster.
                  “Some kind of ancient spirit roaming through the mountain. It feeds of human flesh and is attracted by magic. It was liberated by an earthquake recently and it that Olliver and Tak felt. Up until now the dogs, who are the gardians of the mountains, were enough to ward it off for us despite the presence of the baby snoot. But now that Lhamom has brought the spoon and that I’m going to use magic for the portal, it may get bolder and the dogs will not be enough to stop it. Fortunately it only gets out at night, so we have ample enough time, Rukshan said cheerfully. Olliver also is exhausted and he can’t use his teleporting abilities for all of us. By using a sand portal I may even be able to lay a trap for the spirit when we leave, but I need to begin now and let’s pray the weather remains clear and windless.”

                  It took some time for the meaning and the implications of flesh eating to sink into Fox’s mind. He looked nervously at the sky where it seemed a painter had splashed a few white strokes of clouds with his giant brush. Were they still or moving? Fox couldn’t tell. He looked back at Rukshan and Lhamom.
                  “What can I do to help?”
                  “I need you to explain the plan to the dogs so that they release the spirit when I give the signal.”

                  #4538
                  AvatarJib
                  Participant

                    The next morning Fox woke up exhausted. He was surprised he could even sleep at all. The sound of someone walking in the snow filled in his ears and he looked around him. There was nobody in the cave with him, except for one little rat looking at him from the top of a bag of food. Fox shooed it away with wide movements of his arms and he regretted immediately when all the warmth kept under the blankets dissolved in the cold morning air. But he noticed there was improvement in his health as he felt hungry.

                    He decided it was no good being lazy in a bed and put on a few more layers of clothes. He took some dry oatcakes from the bag where the rat had looked at him earlier, and made sure they were securely wrapped before he left the cave.

                    The air was clear and crisp, and the ground had been covered in a thick layer of blinding white snow. The brightness hurt Fox’s eyes and he had to cover then with his hands. He walked towards Rukshan’s voice and his heart leaped in his chest when he recognised their friend Lhamom. She had come at last. She looked at Fox.

                    “You look dreadful,” she said. “It is time I got to you.”
                    “Yes,” said Fox, and he was surprised that this simple word could carry such great relief.

                    That’s when Fox noticed the big old spoon Lhamom had in her hands.

                    “This is the magical artefact we were looking for. I found it on my way to see you and fortunately I had chocolate bars with me that I could trade for it with the monks.”

                    Fox’s stomach growled. Maybe he would have preferred she kept the chocolate.

                    “Does that mean that we can go home?” asked Fox, a tear in his eyes.

                    Rukshan gave his friend a strange look before answering.

                    “Yes. We are going… home.”

                    #4537
                    AvatarJib
                    Participant

                      Fox’s stomach growled and resonated on the cave’s walls. He feared it would awaken the others. It was cold and he curled up inside his ten blankets made of yak wool, tempted to turn into a fox to get extra fur.

                      After being caught in a snowstorm, they had found a cave with a frozen toothless body. Rukshan had used incense and chanting to perform a commummycation spell, and to everyone’s surprise, Lhamom’s voice came out of the toothless frozen mouth. It was feeble and was full of sharp crystalline harmonics that made Fox’s grind his teeth. Because the commummycation was bad, Rukshan had to lean closer, almost touching its face. Fox shivered incontrollably, unable to know if it was of disgust or of cold.
                      Rukshan told them that Lhamom had been rescued by a hellishcopter from the underworld and was on her way to extract them from the ice. He seemed as puzzled as Fox, but their guide seemed to know the strange beast and assumed their friend was blessed because hellishcopters were not known to help strangers.

                      Dogs barked in the distance. Fox winced and wondered why he came to the mountain. He wished he could be back to simple cottage life in the enchanted forest. Then he recalled it was not that simple at the moment and he wondered how their friends were dealing with their own problems.

                      He couldn’t sleep, like the previous nights and he didn’t dare go to far from the camp to relieve his bowels by fear of the hungry dogs.
                      He also had had dreams. Strange dreams of master Gibbon’s home in the forest threatened by dozens of bulls with bright red eyes running angrily toward his unaware master. Each time Fox woke up when the bulls were about to crush the hut and master Gibbons opened his eyes, his face hurling towards Fox. Afterwards he never could go back to sleep. So he waited. He waited for their friend Lhamom to arrive as she promised.

                      #4524
                      AvatarJib
                      Participant

                        The air was crisp and dry in the mountains. They had been walking for days under the guidance of their local guide Strumpjioku, whose name was simply pronounced Sok despite or because a very complicated writing system. It seemed to interest Rukshan a lot but Fox had had some brain freeze trying to understand their guide’s nebulous and proud explanations about it.
                        Of course, it might have been caused also by the lack of air. They were so high in the mountains, and at times Fox had even seen and heard things that should not have been there. Especially during the long nights when packs of wild dogs barked endlessly. Fox understood their language. They were hunting things. It wasn’t clear what, but Fox could sometimes sense a lingering smell carried by the otherwise empty air that he couldn’t identify.

                        They had established camp for the night and Sok was busy cooking for them. Fox growled miserably. He didn’t fancy too much the spicy food that seem the only thing they could get in those mountains. He missed the running hens of Margoritt’s cottage in the forest and her secret mushroom sauce that was to die for. He would even have eaten her ratatouille with only vegetables.

                        Rukshan was trying to cast a fae spell in order to contact their friend Lhamom who had left them for a special ceremony in a temple. She said it was for her friend Donny whose mother had passed away recently. Being in a hurry as they were, they didn’t insist to wait. Lhamom said she could catch up on them later. The spell failed again and Rukshan cursed.

                        Dogs started to bark loudly. Not too soon after the strange smell became stronger, and it made Fox nervous, especially hearing to the hunting dogs.

                        Fox approached Rukshan.
                        “The dogs are hunting something, he said.
                        “As long as they don’t hunt us, retorted Rukshan with a shrug. He seemed upset by his failed attempt and not too eager to talk.
                        Fox caught Sok looking at them, but the guide turned back to his cooking when he saw Fox looking at him.
                        “That won’t help me sleep”, mumbled Fox more grumpy than usual.

                        #4514
                        EricEric
                        Keymaster

                          The so-called Police quickly left when they noticed there wasn’t much on the travellers, and that they didn’t look threatening.

                          If you’re looking for a place to stay the tallest one said you should go to the Hoping Spice Hospice, it’s not far away from the main street, just three blocks north of here. He looked at the sky, where the waxing gibbous moon was rising.

                          I wouldn’t stray too much outside if I were you. The desert black jackals are restless this time of year. He looked at Fox who was fidgeting suspiciously. The lack of sleep and being back in human form when they were called by the Police made him nervous.

                          Then, we’ll be on our way. Peace be upon you, Constable. Rukshan said, pushing forward.

                          :fleuron:

                          The Hospice was an unassuming building, like all the other mud brick houses, except it probably had been lime washed in the past, and patches of the external wall had whitish spots shining under the moon sky.

                          The veiled nurse in charge of the night service was sternly quiet, and guided them to a common room. Almost all the beds were full, and the patients seemed to have a fitful sleep.

                          “What are those?” Olliver said before Rukshan could shush him. He was pointing at the oil lamps regularly spread across the room, which were shining with a dancing faint blue light.

                          “Spirits…” whispered Fox gloomily “Captured spirits…”

                          #4507
                          EricEric
                          Keymaster

                            It was still raining clumps of wet sand when Rukshan, Olliver, Fox and Twee arrived at the oasis.
                            The light had dimmed and there was a feeling of hope mixed with dread in the vicinity. Only a mud brick wall no higher than a man’s waist was surrounding the village; and despite the infelicitous weather, standing here were a pair of sentinels so covered in sand clumps that they almost looked like a pair of stone wyverns guarding the entrance.

                            “Sسلام Salum’ friends. We are simple merchants, passing through, please allow us some shelter for the night” explained Rukshan using what he could remember of his rusty Nomads’ old tongue.

                            After a long silent glance at his strange companions, they shrugged and nodded him that he could go through.

                            Rukshan signaled to the others to follow him. The central paved road was leading the the market place, which would constitute, with the masjid, the centre of the city, and the most likely place to find answers on their quest.

                            Everyone seemed to have retreated to their places, in caves or the homes built on top of the caves from excavated materials. It was rather quiet except from the occasional thump noise made by the rain.

                            They were about to enter an alley when they heard someone loudly call them.
                            “Stop right here, Plastic Ban Police! – show us your bags and IDs.”

                            #4493
                            EricEric
                            Keymaster

                              “Did you know that the beyond of the deserts was the birth place of the Master’s tribes — the guy who gave life to GorrashFox said to Olliver in a conspiratorial voice. “I kind of miss him… though he’s too heavy to carry around by day, this chump.” He mused while wagging his tail smelling around for crunchy scorpions.

                              “Funny you would say that” said Rukshan, who was ahead of their group, between long strides on top of the sand dunes. “I had dreams about this place, and I get the feeling there is some connection to old Fay legends about these tribes. The Sand tribes had old ties to Fays of the Woods, some said they were even more advanced in the Arts — alchemy mostly. But most of the knowledge has been lost. Only legends remain — that they could crystallise diamonds imbued with life… this sort of things. Some versions of the legends spoke of darker truths, that the diamonds were made to capture elementals, to give them power…”

                              He stopped in his tracks. Looking at the horizon, the oasis village they were walking towards started to reveal itself. A beautiful patch of green against the variations of sand colours.

                              “If we keep on, we’ll arrive before sunset. Come on!”

                              #4487
                              AvatarJib
                              Participant

                                Something seemed to jump from one of those anormal birds. A small dark spot in the sky at first it began to spread and look like a giant red flying squirrel and it was diving right at them. Rukshan caught Olli who was running around like mad and making the baby snoot nervous.
                                “Relax. I think I know who it is,” he said.
                                The creature landed in a geyser of sand and tumbled toward them. Rukshan pushed gently Olli to let it go its way and the ball of red hairs tumbled farther away. It sat in the sand, dazed.
                                “Hi, Fox,” said Rukshan. “You couldn’t be left behind, could you?”
                                Fox who had taken back his human form enough to speak.
                                “There are more of them flying over the forest. I hijacked one of them to find you. I think Leroway has found new friends. I thought I could do like those squirrels, but I think I need more practice.” He said, spitting sand from his mouth.

                                #4485
                                EricEric
                                Keymaster

                                  When they reached outside the next morning, the sky was blue, and the light already intense.
                                  Birds were hovering silently above in regular patterns.

                                  “See Olli, those are not normal birds.” Rukshan pointed toward the sky. “Too regular pattern – they are the guarding watch of whatever landed there. Better not to attract too much attention.”

                                  He handed to Olliver a tan cape to put over his red shirt.
                                  “Better be careful with the sun too.”

                                  The baby snoot was quick to jump on Olli’s shoulder, and at its touch, the cape seemed to glimmer invisible.

                                  “Ah,… that can work too.” Rukshan was still intrigued by the creatures’ capacity. They didn’t seem born of magic, but of inter-dimensional energy blending.

                                  “We shouldn’t be far from a village, I’ve seen some oasis from the top of the ridge earlier, we’ll follow that route, and hopefully will find out some more about these mysteries.”

                                  #4484
                                  EricEric
                                  Keymaster

                                    “I think a sandstorm is coming” Rukshan pointed at Olli the menacing clouds galloping towards them. “We need to find cover!”
                                    It was too risky for them to teleport again with this meteorological turbulence.

                                    A small ridge of rock was showing not far from their landing spot. They started to rush towards it, their steps burrowing in the shifting sands making their run almost like a crawl.

                                    “We won’t make it!” Olli had stumbled in the soft ground, his eyes filled with terror at the darkening reddish sky.

                                    Olli, hurry! we’re almost there!”

                                    “Kweee” a squeeky sound that almost felt like a purring seemed to alleviate Olli’s fears for a moment, and he managed to hurry back to cover.

                                    “Not a second too early!” Rukshan shouted in the midst of the howling sands.
                                    The rocky formation had a crevice which was just big enough for them, and would keep them safe. Rukshan had deployed a large cape to try to seal the entrance with a magical spell.

                                    “Safe, for now.” He felt tickled. “What the…?”

                                    “Kweeeyooobilibilibu” —

                                    Rukshan raised an eyebrow to Olliver. “Did you feel necessary to bring one of the baby Snoot with you?”

                                    “It’s not me, promise! It just hitched a ride on its own.” Olliver’s face was a mix of confusion and mischievousness, Rukshan couldn’t help but laugh heartily.

                                    #4483
                                    EricEric
                                    Keymaster

                                      Thankfully, there had been a little left of the potion that Tak had so voraciously eaten.

                                      Rukshan had almost aborted the trip to the desert to take care of the little shapeshifting gibbon urchin, whose new shade of green looked serious enough.

                                      As quiet as she used to be, Glynis had shown a lot of cool and dexterity in handling the suspicious food poisoning case. She was gentle with the little boy, and didn’t show much concern about his going through her stuff.

                                      In the end, she said she would be able to manage curing him, but that it would take probably a moon’s time.
                                      Seeing Rukshan’s longer than usual face about the delay, she was the one to push him to go to the desert mysterious blue beams.

                                      “Go with Olliver, he will teleport you both, and you can be back faster. Once you’ll be clear of what it is, we can plan something. It seems rather obvious nobody’s really ready to leave.” She glanced wryly at Eleri who was munching noisily on her goat milk’s oats.

                                      Rukshan smiled. She’d almost sounded as though she was the boss. In any case, Glynis was right. Despite the cottage becoming overcrowded, and the threat of nearby building work encroachments into the forest paradise, all the unexpected friends seemed not in a rush for a change of scenery. Fox, Gorrash, Eleri and Hasam’, Margorrit and Tak, and the occasional resupply visits from the village…

                                      “I think you’re right.” He picked up his bag and nodded at Olli. “Let us go and investigate this desert beam. Are you ready?”

                                      And in a flash of the golden egg device, gone they were.

                                      #4471
                                      AvatarJib
                                      Participant

                                        Fox sat back on the wooden chair in Margoritt’s kitchen, and crossed his arms, a little unnerved by the heat and his growing desire to go out in the woods and let go of all restraints. He had been struggling daily to control it and he had noticed it was particularly difficult during the new moon.

                                        “If we have to do it in the house,” said Fox, “Can’t we at least open the windows? It’ll let in some fresh air.” He wrinkled his nose at the heavy scents of sweat mingled with that of fermented goat milk, irritating his delicate sense of smell. Rukshan had gathered their little group and they were waiting for Gorrash to wake up.

                                        “The purpose of meeting here is that nobody can hear what we are saying,” said Rukshan with a hint of exasperation in his tone. “If we open the windows it’ll just…”

                                        “Isn’t it rather because of the mosquitos?” started Fox feeling a little argumentative.

                                        Glynis cleared her throat and got up, mumbling that she might have a solution. She came back a few moment later carrying a big bottle with a big sticker. Rukshan and Mr Minn helped her lift it while Eleri and Margoritt cleared a space on the table where they put the bottle.

                                        The sticker had something written on it : AIR CONDITIONED, winter quality. Handle with caution.

                                        Glynis turned the cap a few turns and a wooshing sound escaped from the neck of the bottle, followed by a gentle and continuous breeze of fresh air which provoked a murmur of appreciation from everyone.

                                        “What’s this?” asked Gorrash who had just woken up.

                                        “It’s what the sticker says. Cooling the atmosphere is just one way to use it. One has to be careful not to turn the wheel too much though or you could get frost bite.”

                                        The fae looked at the bottle appreciatively, impressed at Glynis’ many talents. He was already thinking about a few other ways to put this frozen air bottle to use when Glynis cleared her throat again.

                                        “It’s not infinite content and I only get a few of them, so if we could start the meeting.”

                                        “Of course. I’ve received words from Lhamom. Her father has passed away and they are sending him to the sea during the week-end.” He allowed a moment of silence, sending a silent prayer toward their dear friend. Then he continued : “That means she’ll be able to join us for our trip in the mountains. We only have to decide who’s going and who’s staying to help Margoritt.”

                                        Rukshan looked at each of them intently and Fox felt uneasy when his friend’s eyes fall upon him.

                                        #4470
                                        EricEric
                                        Keymaster

                                          Despite using his human form frequently, Tak was at heart still the same little gibbon his friend had found in the bamboo forest.

                                          A lot of his inner turmoil had been transformed, like a new skin on a wound, especially after the ceremony. He no longer felt the weight of the other lives they had lived, nor the stir of revenge that was festering inside. His heart was like a forest after a fire, growing anew, fresh below the cover of dead ashes.

                                          During the past months, he had been mostly busy with himself. He couldn’t avoid the classes that Rukshan would teach him in the morning, but it still left a good deal of free time. He would wander in the nearby woods, listening to the sounds, exploring where it felt safe enough, and at times jumping from branch to branch in his gibbon form.
                                          He could feel Fox was a bit envious at times —struggling too much to retain his human form. It would become more difficult with the age, to stay longer in a form especially if you started to master it later in age. So he had to enjoy and relish the fact he was still young.

                                          In the forest, he had felt disturbance, but nothing like the ghosts that had chased them a long time back. There was work done at a distance, and it displaced creatures, the forest was angry. His companions too, and Fox was talking about doing sabotage work. Rukshan had asked him to take no part in it, but there was no telling how long he could resist the call.

                                          When he entered that night back in the cabin, there was a strange smell, something subtle and precious, like smokey and peppered with ambergris and with a feel of dew on a fresh lettuce. It came from a small package on the drawer in the burka lady’s quarter.
                                          It smelt too good. Surreptitiously he entered the room and opened the little thing, there was a creamy substance in it. Surely some nice spread for freshly baked bread.
                                          He couldn’t resist, the smell was tantalising. He dipped one finger, licked it, and… wow… in three quick gulps, licked the whole thing clear.

                                          Tak was at heart still the same mischievous little gibbon his mother loved so much.

                                          #4462
                                          AvatarJib
                                          Participant

                                            Night had fallen when Rukshan came back to the cottage. He was thinking that they could wait a little bit for the trip. He did not like that much the idea of trusting the safety of their group to a stranger, even if it was a friend of Lhamom. They were not in such a rush after all.

                                            Rukshan looked at their luxuriant newly grown pergola. Thanks to the boost potion Glynis had prepared, it had only took a week to reach its full size and they have been able to enjoy it since the start of the unusual hot spell. The creatures that had hatched from the colourful eggs Gorrash had brought with him were flowing around the branches creating a nice glowing concerto of lights, inside and out.

                                            It was amazing how everyone were combining their resources and skills to make this little community function. In the shadow of the pergola there was an empty pedestal that Fox had built and Eleri had decorated with nice grapes carvings. Gorrash was certainly on patrol with the owls. His friends had thought that a pedestal would be more comfortable and the pergola would keep Gorrash’s stone from the scorching heat of the sun. Also, he wouldn’t get covered in mud during the sudden heavy rains accompanying the hot spell.

                                            Seeing the beautiful pedestal and the carved little stairs he could use to climb up, Gorrash had tried to hide the tears in his eyes. He mumbled it was due to some desert dust not to appear emotional, but they all knew his hard shell harboured the softest heart.

                                            The dwarf had repaid them in an unexpected way. Every day just before sunrise, he would take a big plate in his hands and jumped on the pedestal before turning to stone. It allowed them to put grapes or other fruits that they could eat under the shadow of the of the pergola.

                                            Rukshan came into the house and he found Margoritt sitting at the dining table on which there was a small parchment roll. Her angry look was so unusual that Rukshan’s felt his chest tighten.

                                            “They sent me a bloody pigeon,” she said when she arrived. She took the roll and handed it to Rukshan. “The city council… Leroway… he accuses us of unauthorised expansion of the house, of unauthorised construction on communal ground, and of unlicensed trade of manufactured goods.” Margoritt’s face was twisted with pain as the said the words.

                                            Rukshan winced. Too much bad news were arriving at the same time. If there was a pattern, it seemed rather chaotic and harassing.

                                            “They threaten us to send a bailif if we don’t stop our illegal activities and if we don’t pay the extra taxes they reclaim,” she continued. “I’m speechless at the guile of that man.”

                                            Rukshan smiled, he wondered if Margoritt could ever be rendered speechless by anything except for bad flu. He uncoiled the roll and quickly skimmed through the long string of accusations. Many of them were unfair and, to his own opinion unjustified. Since when the forest belonged to Leroway’s city? It had always been sacred ground, and its own master.

                                            “I have no money,” said Margoritt. “It’s so unfair. I can’t fight with that man. I’m too old and tired.”

                                            “Don’t forget we are all in the same cottage, Margoritt. It’s not just you. Eventhough, they clearly want to evict us,” said Rukshan. “Even if we had enough money, they would not let us stay.” He showed her the small roll. “The list of accusations is so ludicrous that it’s clearly a ploy to get rid of us. First, that road they want to build through the forest, now evicting us from the ground.” And those bad omens from the mountain, he thought with a shiver.

                                            “We are not going to give them that satisfaction, are we?” asked Margoritt, pleading like a little girl. “We have to find something Rukshan,” she said. “You have to help me fight Leroway.”

                                            “Ahem,” said a rockous voice. Gorrash had returned from his patrol. “I know where to find money,” he added. “At leas, I think I know. I had another dream about my maker. It’s just bits and pieces, but I’m sure he hid some treasure in the mountains. There was that big blue diamond, glowing as brightly as a blue sun. And other things.”

                                            A big blue diamond? It sounds familiar. Rukshan thought. There was an old fae legend that mentioned a blue diamond but he couldn’t remember. Is it connected to the blue light Olliver mentioned earlier? He wondered.

                                            “That’s it! You have to go find this treasure,” said Margoritt.

                                            Rukshan sighed as he could feel the first symptoms of a headache. There was so much to think about, so much to do. He massaged his temples. The trip had suddenly become urgent, but they also had to leave someone behind to help Margoritt with the “Leroway problem”. And he winced as he wondered who was going to take care of that road business. It was clear to him that he couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. He would have to delegate.

                                            He thought of the telebats. Maybe he could teach the others how to use them so that he could keep in touch and manage everything at distance. He sighed again. Who would be subtle and sensitive enough to master the telebats in time?

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