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    Bea! Come and look at this! Blimey O’RILEY, I ‘ave NEVER seen anything like this is me life!

    What’s up, Leo? Bea rushed over, rather unsteadily, slopping some gin down her clothes from the ever present glass clutched in her hand. Bloody ‘ell, Leo, what’re you doing looking at them crystal skulls again?

    It’s not the bloody skulls Bea, it’s all these rhino beetles ! There’s a blimmen HERD of them in this trunk! All over the skulls!

    Yeuch! exclaimed Beatrice, who was not particularly fond of insects. Better get the fly spray, hang on, I’ll fetch it.

    YOU CAN’T DO THAT! shreiked Leo. They’re symbolic!

    Symbolic of bloody WHAT?

    Well, I ‘int worked it out yet, ‘ave I? But you mark my words, they’re symbolic!

    Bea rolled her eyes, remembering the ‘symbolic ants’ she’d been obliged to endure all over the kitchen. Leo was losing touch with reality, Bea reckoned.

    Symbolic they may very well be, however, I am NOT having them in my bed, she said firmly. What are we going to do?

    Google it? suggested Leonora.

    Good idea. I’ll google it; now you make sure those bloody things stay in the trunk, eh. If any of them escape and head for the beds, call me!


    The glowing light was showing a familiar face…

    — So the boy is wavering?
    — Yes. He is uncertain of the path… Does seem to have difficulty to trust his calling and take responsibilities being the owner of…
    — He’ll do that. We can’t let him run away from it, nor afford the time of little vacationing. Did you secure the item?
    — Yes. But you know it is worthless unless willingly handed over by the previous owner, right?
    — Certainly. But I feel he’ll soon wish it back.
    — I have words of cankerous corruption, endemic to where he was sent.
    — Precisely.

    :fleuron2: :fleuron2: :fleuron2:

    Glasgow, Scotland, February 25 th 2068, Wrick Fundation

    — So Cuthbert has refused?
    — Yes. With his sister busy with her first-born, she can’t take on that much responsibility either.
    — This is most regrettable. Lord Wrick’s will was perfectly clear though. Should none of the twins accept running his empire, all of its wealth would be used for humanitarian projects of the Fundation.


    A week before, Orkney Islands

    Cuthbert, you must accept.
    — Please, don’t wear yourself out Pope. Your body is weak.

    Cuthbert’s face was drenched by emotion. Despite his small frame and his scrawny body, Lord Hilarion Wrick’s strong will was still present, as if etched on his face by all the years of reign. He wouldn’t take a “no” for answer, even now he was dying, just as he had never accepted it in his nearly 120 years of existence.

    Cuthbert, listen to me. All this time you and your sister have spent at the Manor, all of the time I spent with you, this was not meant for naught, you know that. I was not some old decrepit rag of an elder waiting for his death cushioned between the laughters of his great-grand children. I noticed how you and your sister handled at an early age what I have been showing to you. The books,… the mummy even. This was only a test. What I had not found in Sean, nor in his son, I found out in you and your sister. Mind you, it took me that long, but it was worth the wait, and I know how to be patient.
    — You’re repeating yourself Pope, I know this story. I am very grateful for all that you did, all the knowledge I owe to you, but I can’t accept. It’s just… too much! I just want to spend these moments with you.
    — You just cannot whine throughout all of your existence Cuthbert. You chose to be born here, at this moment, in that family. There is no point in refusing what you have placed on your path.
    — I’m not whining! It’s just that… I just want a normal life! answered Cuthbert vehemently
    — Very well then. The face on the Lord was resolute despite his writhing in pain. You will have to see how much life is nothing meant to be normal. In the meantime, I would appreciate your letting me die alone.


    I was giving Tracy a brief run-down of the Tifijikoo Island thread, and thought I would might find it really useful to have brief summaries of some of the threads, hence I have started this conversation as a little project. I know I still feel hesitant to join in threads I don’t follow…. Well, I am not sure how this will work really, and if you have any ideas or suggestions … please let me know.


    Elvira eventually reached the 25th bush on the left at Nutley Park with a bag of assorted garments for the near naked Becky, but there was no sign of her. Elvira investigated the rain drenched foliage, and deduced correctly that the bush had recently been used as some kind of camoflage cover by a taller than average person, mixed race and probably naked.

    Elvira chortled with delight; she had loved her days as a private investigator, all those years ago. Well, she said to herself, With a combination of forensic and physical clues, and telepathic and remote viewing skills, I’ll have Becky into some dry – and decent! – clothes in no time at all. Elvira stood quite still (in the torrential rain, which drew a few puzzled glances from the people rushing past), with her eyes closed and a happy contented smile hovering about her lips.

    Elvira was connecting to Becky, but she was picking up diverse and nonsensical impressions. A moose running up a flight of stairs, a monk sitting in the road talking about a cup……

    Pffft, said Elvira, no point in pushing it. Let’s have a look at the physical clues.

    There was an obvious trail of flattened wet grass footprints which meandered, at an incongrously liesurely pace, Elvira noted, in a random higgledy-piggledly fashion between the bushes, and occasionally in circles.

    Elvira set off along the trail with a spring in her sprightly old step and an aura of pleasant anticipation. She loved following a trail of clues! My, my, she said to herself, this is what I’ve been missing. Hhhmmm…..


    I take it from that you don’t know where the wedding dress is currently. Well if you do come across it would you mind letting Felicity know. said Tina haughtily, switching the phone off abruptly.

    Al’s words running through her head she started walking quickly nowhere in particular.

    Tina, what’s the point of these experiments we have been doing with Becky and Sam if you are going to keep relying on the phone all the time? And why are you trying to sort out the dress for Felicity, it isn’t your problem.

    It wasn’t the so much the words which had stung, after all he was right, it was the annoyance she thought she had heard in his voice.

    She felt him making contact, quickly blocked, feeling too hurt to be open.

    She knew he was tired, god knows he had put so much into the wedding preparations, as he did with all his projects. He was fast building a reputation for his ground breaking experiments with body processes. Tina loved Al whatever he looked like, which was just as well really considering some of the rather bizarre effects he managed to produce.

    Becky had been a bit irritated with her as well, Tina you are so last decade, nay century even! she would say, rolling her large eyes dramatically. Becky too was racing confidently and exuberantly ahead. Her intriguing contributions to the reality play never failed to amaze Tina. Her own contributions felt stolid, words trapped in a big gluggy ball of last century energy, she had to work hard to extricate each one.

    It was nearly dark, raining harder now, wind-driven rain. Tina liked it, the rain complemented her mood and disguised the self-pitying tears streaming down her face. There were very few people in the street. Just the long line of shop windows, glass faces warmly lit, overhangs offering some shelter from the rain, though it wasn’t shelter Tina was looking for.

    Her long hair whipped around her face, wet blue satin clung to her slim frame.

    Sam had taken off unexpectedly and suddenly to Australia. He had been gone only a few days and she missed him. Dear Sam, his wicked and irrepressible sense of humour could make her laugh even in the blackest of moods. He too was playing with new potentials, forging new and exciting paths.

    The others are probably all communicating with their advanced telepathic skills right now, laughing at dumb old last century Tina, she thought morosely. In fact even last century I would have been so last century, judging by my spectacular lack of success at anything I have undertaken recently. A vision of her recent humiliation in the ballet dancing class sprang to mind. She winced and quickly blocked the distressing image of the dance teacher drawing her aside after class and gently suggesting she might try the Ancient Kuzhebar Motional Practices beginner’s class, to get some basic rhythm, before attempting the ballet. ….

    An elderly woman who had disembarked at the nearby gondola stop splashed by her, and, illuminated momentarily by the street lamp, Tina felt a flash of recognition. The woman turned suddenly towards her, smiled, gesticulated with her free hand, the other was clutching a large bag, towards some distant bushes. She mouthed some words at Tina, but these were lost in the wind. Tina waved and managed a reciprocal smile.

    She noticed a Positivity Robot parked in front of Samantha Lingerie, and found herself drawn towards it, 3D images of models wearing the latest in underwear fashions rotated in the shop’s window, their faces beaming irritatingly at her. These Positivity Robots had been all the rage in the early 2020’s, you did not see as many of them now. On impulse she stood in front of the robot, touched the screen, allowing it to read her energy. “negative 21” its glass face discreetly informed her. The words “I AM PERFECT flashed up on the screen as a suggested thought pattern to implement. Tina grimaced. I wonder how low I can make this damn thing go. The idea made her giggle and to her alarm shot the meter up to a positive 12. Bugger, a bad start!

    What am I going to do with myself, Mr PR, if you are so positively smart?


    perfectly grumpy, perfectly insecure, perfectly last decade, perfectly soaked to the skin, Tina watched as the meter climbed all the way up to 55.

    She glanced at the shop window, just as a smiling model wearing a minuscule open net dress and nun’s habit rotated by. She felt an inexplicable burst of amusement as the meter climbed to 57.


    The last words of the stranger were still resonating in his mind. Franiel was feeling a bit drowsy and he had the odd sensation of being looked from the inside. A smile illuminated the face of the man.

    You are the weirdest man I ever saw. he said in a sigh. When he realized what he had told his guest, he blushed with shame. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t mean…
    Hahahahaha. The man was slapping on his legs. Hahahaha, my dear Franiel, you don’t know how close to the truth you are. I appreciate when one speak his heart.

    Franiel couldn’t say anything. He was aware that he should have been feeling shameful, but the laugh of the stranger had dissipated that convention. He was just feeling in harmony with his creation. This last thought surprised him. His creation? He’d been told that the gods created all that is on the Duane, her sister the Murtuane and their ghostly sister the Phrëal.

    What was in the nectar? I’m seeing things. He frowned. Something in the surrounding objects, the mossy rocks and the earthly path, the grass and the insects flying or crawling around. The colors were different. Your eyes… they are… blue…

    The stranger was still smiling, not saying anything, and though Franiel was feeling as if he was communicating him important things.

    Something leapt from behind a tawheowheo, making the nearby dandelion seeds fly away silently.
    The creature was barking and Franiel jumped on his feet, making the chalice fall in the dust. It was similar as a mountain wolf, but smaller. Black and fuzzy. And it was running toward him.

    Don’t be afraid of Moufle, he’s my long life companion, he’s been following me in my exploration for quite some time in a form or another. He makes a lot of noise, but he knows his friends.

    Moufle was trying to lick Franiel’s face. All the love he had felt a second before was shaded by the need to keep the animal away. Not that he was dangerous. The stranger… what was his name? He didn’t tell him his name. Franiel was too shy in his normal state to dare ask directly. But he could at least relax as Moufle was now occupied with his master, who spoke as if he’d read his mind.

    I am not his master, you see. he was fondling his companion. He’s just choosing to come with me.
    He kept silent for a minute, snooting around.

    By the way, my name is Leonard.


    After a long but uneventful ride in the yellow gondola cab, Becky stepped out onto terra firma and strolled through the park.

    Various fleeting images of the wedding party flashed through her mind, and she recalled the change in Elvira after the meal. She certainly tucked into that reindeer stew, Becky mused, Had a right good scoff, she did. Funny, anyone eating four helpings of that slop would be expected to slump in a chair for an hour or two, but Elvira had sprung into life. She looked pretty good for 121 years old, but who would have guessed what a splendid dancer she was! She put the younger guests to shame with her fancy steps, and tireless enthusiasm.

    And not only that, she’d really come into her own when the drunken fights started, fearlessly breaking up fights between men twice her size.


    Several days later, when the wedding celebrations had finished, nobody could remember anything about it, other than the jokes and poems. In true Russian custom, there had been ample alcohol…well, more than ample, there had been several hospital admissions from alcohol poisoning, drunken brawls and accidents.

    Becky swallowed another aspirin, recalling one of the jokes that Sam had told.

    As a Lord Wrick was driving down the freeway, his cell phone rang.

    Sam continued: Answering, he heard the mummy’s voice urgently warning him, “Wrick, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on the M4. Please be careful!”

    “It’s not just one car,” said Wrick, “It’s hundreds of them!”

    Sheesh, sighed Becky.

    As she poured herself another mug of coffee, a limerick popped into to her head.

    There was an Old Crone with a beard,
    Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
    Two Owls and a Lynx,
    And a Rabbit in Pink,
    Have all built their nests in my beard!’

    Who had told that one, was it Sean? Becky smiled wanly as another one popped into her head.

    There was an Old Abbot whose habits,
    Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
    When he’d eaten eighteen,
    He turned perfectly green,
    Upon which he relinquished those habits.

    The toast popped up, and as Becky buttered it she remembered a joke of Al’s.

    Most dentists chairs go up and down, don’t they? Al asked the wedding guests.
    The one I was in went back and forwards.
    I thought, “This is unusual.”
    The dentist said to me, “Al, get out of the filing cabinet.”


    tjmarshall57: hahahaha as if it’s not bad enough with the weeding, now poor girl has blotches all over her face!
    tjmarshall57: wedding not weeding
    tjmarshall57: do russian wear velis?
    tjmarshall57: veils
    tjmarshall57: hhhm, blessing by a shaman, plaiting together of the couples hair….(is Becky still blad?)
    tjmarshall57: The biggest concern at the wedding is to have enough liquor. A Russian Wedding is an event where everybody must be drunk. No one will be surprised if people drink themselves to unconscious on the wedding – and many do.
    tjmarshall57: well, that will appeal to Sean
    tjmarshall57: You are probably surprised to find out that a Russian wedding lasts for 2 days!! (Well, at least. Some weddings last as long as a week, and this is something to be proud of and remember for years: it means the couple had enough liquor to go on and on, and enough devoted friends to stay.)
    tjmarshall57: The Russian church ceremony is colorful and solemn but the complete traditional ceremony is very long, and as guests and the couple have to stand during the ceremony (there are no benches in Russian churches at all; people must stand during all church services), faints are not rare.
    tjmarshall57: right, so a fair amount of fainting and drunkeness then
    tjmarshall57: Then the witnesses continue running the wedding, reading jokes and poems, and sometimes asking the new couple questions to make fun of them.
    tjmarshall57: Franci will you be my witness, you’d be perfect
    tjmarshall57: “Za molodykh!” (“For the newlywed!”)
    tjmarshall57: Traditionally money is considered as the best gift, and is given in an envelope. Some time after the beginning of the reception when people start to become drunk the witnesses will ask everybody to give their gifts and one of the witnesses will collect envelopes from the rest of the guests with a tray.
    tjmarshall57: Then people have time to dance. First dance is opened by the new couple. After the music starts, there is no exact script anymore, and witnesses can relax a little. They still occasionally announce a toast but do not entertain the guests with jokes and poems; guests by this time are already having lots of fun and are able to entertain themselves.

    Movements become quite hectic; some people go out “to refresh”, and at some moment in this movement the bride gets… “stolen”! She disappears, and when the groom starts looking for her, he is faced with a request for a ransom. Usually it’s his buddies who “steal” the bride. A more or less short wrangle about the amount, and he can have his new wife back. But he must watch out – the bride sometimes may be stolen a few times!

    tjmarshall57: right, so we have drunkeness, fainting, jokes, poems and insults, and theft and abduction
    tjmarshall57: Then there are the bride’s friends – they steal the bride’s shoe. The groom must pay ransom for the shoe too – the guests enjoy watching wrangles.
    tjmarshall57: Often guests leave the wedding in such a condition that they cannot remember what happened. If this was the case with the majority of guests, then the wedding was a huge success
    tjmarshall57: AHA! This is the key! I will write about it after the wedding, when nobody can remeber anything about it
    tjmarshall57: Day two of the wedding:After the meal the bride must “clean” the floor in the room. The fun part is that guests are allowed to mess as much as they want while she is cleaning
    tjmarshall57: another part for you!
    tjmarshall57: guests on a Russian wedding enjoy it much more than the newlywed couple who are all the time made fools of.
    tjmarshall57: The most popular period for wedding ceremonies in Russia was between the Christmas and Shrovetide (a week before the spring fast). This period was called the wedding period.
    tjmarshall57: well, the timing is right
    tjmarshall57: One of the many superstitions still prevailing among the peasant population of Russia is that, on the occasion of a marriage, the happiness of the newly-married couple is not assured unless the parents of the contracting parties are soaked with water from head to foot. When a marriage takes place in summer this is easily accomplished by ducking the fathers and mothers in the nearest river, but in winter they are laid on the ground and rolled in the snow.
    tjmarshall57: who are the parents?
    tjmarshall57: Among the Koraks of Siberia a young man seeks for a maiden with considerable dowry in the form of rein-deer
    tjmarshall57: oh, well we can have psychoactive reindeer pies, anyway
    tjmarshall57: Kovalevsky has well shown that many of the marriage customs of this country are survivals from a primitive and prehistoric age when the woman ruled the household and had more than one husband.
    tjmarshall57: hhmmmm
    tjmarshall57: it all points to a distant age when the matriarchal system prevailed, and the brother was his sister’s guardian. In Little Russia the brother’s sword is decked with the red berries of the rowan tree, red being the emblem of maidenhood.
    tjmarshall57: red fruit sync!
    tjmarshall57: no wonder I threw the cherries away!
    tjmarshall57: ahahahahha!
    franci_free: oh hrllo
    franci_free: goodness
    franci_free: will need to read back
    tjmarshall57: hahahah oh there you are
    franci_free: well what a complicated theme
    tjmarshall57: haahah well
    franci_free: you will have to write about the wedding
    tjmarshall57: the key to the whole thing is that everyone was so drunk that nobody can remeber any of it aftrwards
    franci_free: hahahah
    franci_free: great!
    tjmarshall57: thats my angle, I think
    tjmarshall57: and s few things fit perfectly
    tjmarshall57: the red fruit
    tjmarshall57: the time of year
    tjmarshall57: the drunkeness, Sean will love that
    franci_free: the splotches?
    tjmarshall57: well, nobody will remeber that
    tjmarshall57: afterwards


    So you have requested audience… a deep voice, hoarse as a water’s torrent running and jumping on a river bed smothered with pebbles, asked from the darkness.

    Midora was not afraid of the darkness. As best as she could explain it, it was the void of creation, where everything came from, and where all was stripped of intrinsic meaning. It was from this place that she could reach for the answers.

    She knew this place, she felt memories swirling around, as uncatchable as a swarm of short-lived sparkles born from the reddish embers of a dying fire.
    In this lifetime, she was only a eleven year old girl, but she was as old as this voice within her. There was a time where she was playing with that voice, a time where her being was not yet, and yet a time which was in her future.
    She was pure consciousness in that dream time space, and yet, she was feeling more comfortable with physical symbols around herself. So she focused on one of the symbols that she knew would help her stabilize her vibration, and in doing so, all the small particles of golden light around her started to swirl and coalesced into a dream body.

    She was in front of a cave, in a mountainous area. This body provided her a slowing down of the stream of information that came to her, and she could manipulate more efficiently the interaction with that huge presence she felt. The precipitous rocky environment was a symbol of that steadiness and slowing down and also, for her benefit of her beliefs in that acquiring such information might be a difficult task.
    Now she had identified it, she could more easily dispel the obstacles on the path to the cave. The cave of course, was her symbol for reaching into her deep inner nature. And the darkness was only a fitting blank canvas for herself to project and translate the energy interactions.
    All of that she knew, as it was knowledge embedded into herself that she could more easily access into this trance-like state, in her room in that location in space and time of 2112 in New Venice. And she knew that also for she was taught by her parents, Bart and Oscar, on how to access it.

    The voice was inside the cave. And no sooner had she thought of it that she was finding the whole place morphing into a vast room built into the rock, in the middle of which a majestic golden dragon was slowly breathing.
    She had translated the vast energy as that of a dragon, but she knew when she felt into it that it had possible variations, one of which being that of a she-phoenix, of various sizes, where sizes where symbolic of its age and wisdom.

    You may call me Naasir the dragon grinned at Midora. You are right, in a sense, you can consider yourself being born from me, though in your true form, you are equally august and splendid as I am. You will, in time, have access to that form, again. But for now, I can provide some answers to your questions. The only thing is… Are your questions up to the challenge? he added with the most benevolent smirk his wide toothed grin could convey.

    Midora pondered for a moment, beholding the perfection of her translation of the energy. Each scale on the body of the dragon was a work of art. His half-closed eyes, with an amber shiny center, and teal border were equally mesmerizing.


    — What is the significance of these books I have inherited from my parents?

    As you know, this place is the place were significance fades away, or radiates, depending on the direction in which you look, only to be replaced by fulfillment. Your… books hence, have no significance, I would say, for me at least. What do you want to know about them?

    — They were passed from people to people, and as far as I understood, they started to be imprinted with these people’s stories, starting from my grand-parents Indy and Cuthbert. But there are still blank pages inside them, and no seeming order from one page to the other. I think that’s why my grand-parents grew tired of it.


    — What I mean is… I feel attracted to them, and yet I don’t understand how they work…

    These… are not mere books as your ancestors understood them. In fact, they were crafted by a distant civilization, not denizens from this dimension in which you are presently focused, but travelers, with whom you can still interact by means of this device. When the “books” traveled into this dimension, they retained their initial properties and functioning, but their initial shapes were translated into something as close as you could understand so that you would allow them to appear into your reality. This knowing might help you unravel their true nature.

    Another thing. Books are energy deposits, in your reality. There was a misunderstanding in that they were thought to be able to liber or to free your memory by imprinting it into the pages, but memories are alive and not separate from you. They live as you live and change them. So, the books are still being written, and that which you can read is the part of the book which is the most probable story in which you choose to insert yourself, so as to explore it. You can alter these probabilities, even if you might doubt it, but as you chose them, they are much a part of your design of your reality, that which you chose to explore. In short, a complete book means the end of your exploration, and prompts for a disengagement for you to continue other explorations, and on the contrary, a blank books means a boundless realm of probable explorations.

    — Can you tell me why there are two of them?

    They are more than a couple. These ones are the only known ones that your ancestors happen to have found. Most of them have been destroyed over time in this dimension, as their possibilities were heavily cloaked. They are all linked together, as you will find out. You may gather some answers in finding Badul

    And with that, Midora was once again floating in an intermediate state hung between space and time, longing for her physical body. She woke up strangely energized…


    Zhanochka ran until she could run no more, and then she collapsed into a heap on the ground. Birch trees shimmered against the watery blue sky abover her head and before long her eyes had fluttered and closed.

    Moments later she smiled. Nishanti, she whispered. You’re here.

    Zhanochka slept soundly where she had slipped to the ground, sprawled on the tussocky grass beneath the trees, her sleeves still pushed up over her elbows and a smile on her lips.


    “He ran down the heart of the old midway, where the weight guessers, fortune tellers, and dancing gypsies had once worked.
    He lowered his chin and held his arms out like a glider, and every few steps he would jump, the way children do, hoping running will turn to flying. It might have seemed ridiculous to anyone watching,This white-haired maintenance worker, all alone, making like an airplane.
    But the running boy is inside every man, no matter how old he gets.”

    —Mitch Albom
    from the book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”


    “I wish that you could see me when I’m flying in my dreams.
    The way I laugh there way-up high. The way I look, when I fly.”

    —Patti Griffin


    It was a perfect year for mushrooms in the mossy green fields of the Upper Ubzich regions, and gaily coloured clumps of them glistened in the morning dew. The weak sun felt deliciously warm to Zhanochka, after the interminable months of frost and ice. She pushed her sleeves up past her elbows, exposing the milk white flesh that she (or anyone else for that matter) rarely saw, clutched her grimy skirts up above the oozing mud, and ran across the field for no reason at all, other than it felt good to run.

    Zhanochka kept running. And running……something strange happened to Zhanochka that day, the day she ran and ran…..

    It was, in retrospect, as if she had run from one world, into another one, a completely different world, and she was glad.


    The landscape had become oddly unfamiliar to Franiel. He had walked this path to the Village at the foot of the mountains maybe a half a dozen times, yet he felt certain he had never before seen these surroundings. He had never seen this patch of bright yellow flowers with their golden centers, nor this gnarled tree whose branches dropped down over the path causing Franiel to stoop in order to pass by. He stopped, hesitating, should he return the way he had come, find where he had left the path? Yet even while his mind was telling him what he was seeing should not be, he knew in his heart that he had taken no wrong turning. He touched the trunk of the old tree, and asking for wisdom, felt it’s reassuring energy calm his anxiety. The way ahead, though unexpected, felt friendly.

    As fate would have it he had not journeyed much further when he spied a fellow traveler coming towards him on the path ahead, a small figure swathed in colourful robes, wild and dishevelled locks of hair protruding exuberantly from beneath his brown leather cap.

    Greetings Fellow Traveler, cried out Franiel as he drew nearer, My name is Franiel. I am travelling from the Monastery of Margilonia to the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon, and foolishly I appear to have mislaid my way.

    The stranger chuckled merrily. Greetings Franiel, Indeed If that is your destination then I fear perhaps you are more lost than you care to admit. He motioned towards the grassy bank at the side of the path. Perhaps we might sit awhile and talk, for I know that I for one, could do with a rest and bite to eat.

    A splendid idea, replied Franiel, sensing magic in the stranger and enjoying immensely the unexpected diversion.

    So my friend you are a long way from the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon.

    Am I indeed? mused Franiel, How could that be, for that was where I was heading, and as far as I know I did not step from the path, and yet here I am.

    The stranger chuckled again, and his laughter was so infectious that Franiel joined in, not really being able to identify the source of the amusement, yet feeling all the better for it.

    And how important is it that you get to the Village of Chard Dam Jarfon?

    I am on a mission from Aum Geog, the newly appointed Abbot, replied Franiel, as he pulled out the chalice from his pack, to have this cup inscribed.

    The stranger reached out for the chalice, and studied it intently for a few moments. He took some of the water from his own water bottle and poured it into the chalice. Muttering a few words which Franiel did not recognise, the stranger closed his eyes and held the cup up as though offering it to the Gods. After a few moments he took a sip from the chalice. A look of delight crossed his face, As I thought! he chuckled.

    Now drink, my friend, he said offering the chalice back to Franiel.

    This is the sweetest Nectar you carry in your bottle ! Franiel exclaimed in surprise after taking some sips.

    The stranger chortled, It was plain water from the river I passed on my travels. I gather from your surprise that you do not know the magic of this chalice?

    Franiel shook his head. Well to be honest I have not really given the chalice much consideration, only to briefly wonder at my task. My mind has been more occupied with other matters. Franiel looked at the chalice in his hands, And what more can you tell me of this magic?

    I can caution you to be wary my friend, I would not be so quick to show strangers you meet on your path this cup, for be assured there would be some who would be keen to possess this. He frowned for a moment. What are the words which are to be inscribed on this chalice?

    Franiel pulled the sealed letter from his pack, and, feeling only a moment’s hesitation, opened it; “Bibere venenum in argento”, he read haltingly, then shrugged. I confess I don’t know what that means, I have not been taught in the old language.

    It is a curse of the Ancients, it means “drink poison from a cup of silver”. Seeing the puzzled look on Franiel’s face the stranger went on to explain. The magic of the chalice is to transform. I uttered words of love and the water transformed to sweet nectar. Had I whipered words of hate and fear, had my intention been to kill, I could have changed the water to bitter poison. The power though is not in the chalice, it is in the intention of the one who holds it and who knows of it’s magic.

    Franiel shook his head, bewildered, I can find no sense in this. Why would Aum Geog curse the cup in this way?

    The stranger turned and looked at Franiel, his clear blue gaze piercing and direct, I don’t know this Aum Geog, neither do I know his heart …. I know that you are the bearer of the cup now Franiel. Make sure you are asking the right questions.


    Looking at the clearing, where there was seemingly only a little girl on the trunk of a cut down coconut tree, Akita found himself puzzled. A girl, alone, in that dangerous jungle… Might it be a trick from his old enemies? The giant spiders were vicious, and could play some tricks of mind on humans, he’d witnessed before he’d run into Kay, who was granting him some sort of protection. But as far as he knew, they couldn’t do anything that elaborate. They were rather primitive in their projections, and were more inclined to slimy nightmarish visions than cute little dark-skinned girls, however untidy were her clothes…
    Besides, Kay seemed to trust her. And she could see him too. Usually, humans other than partners of spirit dogs couldn’t see them, but at times before they reached puberty, children were able to get glimpses of them, Kay had explained him.

    Apparently either the girl was a simpleton, or she had an impossible chance not having yet encountered the spiders, being as she were, pretty oblivious to what was around her, and speaking to herself or imaginary friends, while fiddling with a small device the like of which Akita never had seen in his life. The thing was making beeping noises much like a radio emitter, and his heart leapt at the idea that she might break some god-sent transponder found in the wreckage from which she surely had been a miraculous survivor…
    Kay, who had been observing and talking to the little girl, came back near Akita in a blink.

    — Don’t worry for that device, it’s just a game…
    — A game? It seems quite sophisticated for a game…
    — It’s my Gamegirl Advanced, said the girl, without detaching her gaze from the tiny screen… But the batteries will soon be dead, she added with a lovely pouting face.
    — Better the batteries than you, retorted Akita. So who are you? You can call me Akita… And I guess you’ve already met Kay.
    — I’m Anita, but everybody calls me Anu.

    She put the tiny thing at her side, and smiled broadly at Akita.

    — Wow, you have such strange clothes, it’s like you’re out of one of those black and white war movies that my father used to watch…
    — No wonder, little girl, we are at war.
    — I’m not a little girl, and I don’t think you’re right. We’re not at war!
    — That was probably well intended of your parents to hide you the truth, but thing is we are. I’ve been stranded on this island for months now with these loathsome creatures, and all I can suppose is that these spiders are secret weapons from the Nazis.
    — Oh, Nazis? Like in Indiana Jones! Anu started to giggle…
    — What do you mean? So you know of Nazis?
    — Sure, my great granddad fought them on the beaches of Normandy, that was many years ago.
    — I don’t understand… Do you have any idea of what’s going on? Akita asked Kay
    — Grwl… All of your human quandaries don’t usually make a great deal of sense to me, if you ask me, but I guess her friends would probably know more…
    — Her friends? You mean, her imaginary friends?
    — Oh they are not imaginary, Anu and Kay chorused.

    — Let me try something, Kay said.

    And the ghostly dog form contours started to wobble like a poked cube of jelly, becoming a single ball of phosphorescent ectoplastic energy that started to rotate around Akita. Akita’s vision, disturbed by the movements started to blink at a more rapid rate until his peripheral vision started to show some distinct coloured St Elmo’s fires. They were four he could count, at least for the closest ones. At time they overlapped, and when he was focusing on his peripheral vision, he could get more and more stability in these visions.

    Kay had stopped, and was again crouched near Akita.
    — That’s all? Akita asked in dismay…
    — Now you know the trick, answered Kay, almost shrugging…

    — It’s really easy, said Anita, beaming at a disoriented Akita. Also… Yuki told me that apparently time is considerably slowed down on this island. And while a month passes here, ten years pass in the world we come from…


    The new shop was splendiferous. It had all people could imagine about pets and stuff, pets most people wouldn’t have imagined existed. There was even a whole division for the pets health, with permanent vets…

    The “Rent’a Pet Shop, Boy!” was taking a whole building, with no less than thirteen storeys, and when Sidonie entered the huge hall at the ground floor, which was slightly above the waters’ level, she was awed by the quantity of animals which where stored in the facility.
    She didn’t know what she wanted for a start and now she was beginning to feel lost.

    A beautiful tall black woman, with short hair and wearing an ample avocado-coloured boubou and carrying a little dog close to her chest passed by her and Sidonie could hear her muttering apparently incoherent bits to herself
    Come on Chumpy, the doctor said it will be alright after that surgery, here, here little thing, breathe, breathe and say YES… Oh Lordy, I’m gonna be late, and Sam will be bugged if I make him wait in his friend’s flying car…

    Sidonie was mesmerized by the woman, who suddenly turned to face her and said winkingly “I’d rather not go for a squawking parrot if I were you, they can’t keep quiet… and not a magpie either… Al said this new breeds of nine-tailed foxes are great, but I can’t really get used to anything else but dogs… Oh, I must go, need to have the last alterations done on my wedding gown… How can they expect that I remember all of this!

    And the woman went running out of the shop…

    Sidonie was baffled… A nine-tailed fox… Why not, sounded like a nice idea. At least, she could start by renting it, and if it was a nice companion and Tonio was OK with it, she would adopt it…

    She asked a vendor where was the fox section. The vendor took a very professional look to ask her if she meant the new genetically engineered breed of foxes, or the classical breeds, desert, arctic or continental…
    Sidonie was lost for a moment, then remember the lady had said they were new breeds, so she asked for the new ones in an intimidated voice.

    Upstairs, thirteenth floor, on your right after the jump said the vendor and beware of the shrimpigators


    You know, Leo, there was something funny about that guy, mused Bea. It almost seems like a dream…

    Hmmm? Leonora wasn’t really listening, she was engrossed in the Yurara Fameliki website.

    Bea was running her hands along a length of thin black cable. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this cable, Leo, it just don’t seem right some’ow…

    With a sigh, Leonora turned to face Bea and said, I’ll never bloody catch up with that Yurara story now. Three weeks with no internet, as fast as I’m reading a chapter, another three have started, it’s doing my f’kin’ ‘ead in.

    Well I don’t know what your problem is all of a sudden, Leo, since when did you ever read anything in the right order?

    Oh, bloody good point, eh, Leonora felt instantly cheered. I forgot that, it’s true. Matter of fact, she chuckled, I just got lost roaming around all the first chapters, Heh…..wasn’t even trying to get the latest lot straight.

    What did you say it was called? asked Bea.

    What was what called?

    The website you were just going on about. Bea rolled her eyes.

    Oh! heh….Yurara Fameliki; why?

    There was an article in the Reality Times about them yesterday. Some batty old woman left them a fortune, apparently. Circle of Eights or something….

    Circle of Eights? Leo had an image of interlocking circles that felt strangely familiar, meaningful somehow…

    Yeah, this old lady was 88 when she died, and she was reading the 888th entry when she saw the ‘Buy A Drink’ link…she lived at 88, Faraway Close, too, Nottingham…..

    How much dosh did she leave them?


    F’kin’ ‘ell….ooof! It could be that easy, eh. I want a ‘Buy A Drink’ link, too.

    Well, a website would be a start, eh. Where you going to stick your ‘Buy A Drink’ link, on yer arse?

    Heheh, bugger off Bea, Leo said good naturedly.

    She was beginning to catch a few sparkly glimmerings of an idea.


    Before leaving the castle, the fake Viscountess needed to check something on the skull…
    Was it a genuine one? She had almost trusted the so-called experts of the auction room, while she knew perfectly well that they only could see what they knew. And they didn’t know as much as her.

    To her knowledge, there was only a handful of genuine old crystal skulls. But counterfeits were legions and a plague for such a skillful cat burglar as she was. Well, cat-burglar,… perhaps not as acrobatically as she used to… As a matter of fact, her life-long search for these skulls had suffered the competition of a little embonpoint… — the good thing being that those few sticky superfluous pounds had been perfect to impersonate the Viscountess.
    In the past, she had come across a few of these fake skulls and most of them bore very similar indications leaving her to think stakes were high that they were coming from the same con-artist.

    She methodically drew a little dagger from a scabbard at her belt. Going to one of the window, she drew one of the curtains a few inches to reveal the pale sun of Shropshire which was already fading.
    Then, she turned the jeweled hilt in such a special manner that a soft clicking sound was heard, and a beam of light started to converge from the sun rays into the dagger. She directed the ray coming from the tip of the dagger’s blade into the bottom of the skull, and hold her breath in expectation.

    Soon the skull started to glow a bluish light, and light poured out of the skull onto the walls in dancing symbols, while a soft buzzing sound was being heard around, started to drown her in a slightly dissociated state.
    She cut the dagger’s beam very quickly, her heart pounding at the validation. It was a genuine skull. One of the six.

    She had to hurry, she needed to proceed on her investigations to find the missing ones.

    The trunk was there. She took another key that she had around her neck, leaving the first one on the cupboard’s lock for the Viscountess to be freed as soon as she would be out.
    With the key, she proceeded to open the high-tech lock of the armored trunk which opened with a blow of air.

    Her jumpsuit was here, along with the two turbo-reactor powered condor-wings that she strapped on her jumpsuit in very professional movements.

    A few moments later, with her big dark sunglasses that gave her the appearance of an obese fly, Carla was flying high over the countryside of England, enjoying the soft gliding on the slightly damp air.


    As soon as she’d come back from her trip, Dory had planned to travel again very soon.
    Of course, she had enjoyed tremendously being home, being with Dan and young Becky… yes, she had… the first day for sure…
    Well… She was a born wanderer, she couldn’t do against her own nature, no need to beat herself for that, and feel guilty for leaving Dan and Becky periodically. Hopefully, Becky was very understanding, and perhaps that the fact that Dory was her stepmother made things easier for them both, without burdening their relationship with useless obligations towards one another.

    On the other side, many exciting destinations were on her list, and she barely knew where to start. One that had attracted her curiosity was the site of Jiroft in Iran, where the famed lost Kingdom of Aratta had been supposedly found very recently. Artifacts had been discovered on this site, predating our commonly supposed invention date of written language, which had fascinated Dory for a while, before she got lost amidst the wide spectrum of her other interests.

    Well, all of this was of frenzying interest, but there were dogs and back issues…
    Somehow, Dory had been struggling with lots of tensions in her back, and the more she forced herself moving, the worse the pain was. Finally beaten by herself, when no one else, friend, family or doctor could accomplish such a feat, she was stuck to a cushioned armchair for most of the day holding to her pain as to a stuck parasitic hated friend.
    And then, there was the dogs.
    As she was barely able to move, Dan had renounced to have her come with him and Becky to see Sabine, Becky’s mother, in Mallorca, where she had invited them for the Epiphany.
    Secretly, Dory was happy to have to stay at home, and not to have to make pleasing faces to the horrid obsessive woman she could only stand a few minutes without having to go out and empty a whole pack of cigarettes to calm her down.
    The only little drawback was that she had to take care of the dogs… And she was running short of dog’s food…

    Before leaving, Dan had left her a phone number of their new neighbours, a batty couple of Brits who had just rented the farm nearby, and with whom Dan was occasionally playing golf and lending a hand in small DIY work.
    Reluctantly, Dory took the post-it and smiled at the familiar handwriting of Dan

    BEATTIE & LEONORA FLETCHER : 933-157-821

    She composed the number in a deliberate slow motion, which strangely felt very empowering.

    — Hello! a quavering male voice answered
    — Err… Mr Fletcher?
    — Ms Fletcher,… herself, what can I do for you?
    — I’m Dorothy Mc Leane, one of your neighbour, you probably know my…
    — Oh, yes! Dorothy, may I call you Dorothy, Dan spoke of you so much that we were very eager to meet you, weren’t we Leo?

    A ruffling sound behind Beattie Fletcher seemed to approve.

    — And is there anything we could do for you?
    — Well, I’m awfully embarrassed to have to ask you, but I’m stuck at home, and my dogs don’t have much food left…
    — Oh my dear! You did so very well to call us, didn’t she Leo? We’ll be at your home in a few minutes!
    — But…
    — Oh, no need to thank us for that, it’s all natural, after all that your delightful husband did for us! We see you in a moment…

    And with that the line was cut. Dory was a bit disconcerted by the strange couple, but decided to dance with what was coming to her doorstep (wishing it would not be flamenco), seeing that having placed these quaint people in her reality could not entirely be a stroke of wild madness… If only…


    Rafaela stopped her meticulous grazing and smiled, as far as a goat can smile, at the newcomer.
    We were waiting for you… and your other half so to speak.

    Kay looked at the goat suspiciously. He had never seen a goat speaking. And it was not an spirit animal. He automatically began growling.
    Grrrrowl… who are you?
    He looked successively at the lynx, the owl and the rabbit.
    Who are you 4?

    — Oh a dog!!

    Anita got on her feet quickly and began running toward him. That was when a winded Akita choose to appear in the clearing.

    Kay, why the hell did you run after that… What is a little girl doing in the middle of this jungle? he muttered, trying to catch his breathe.

    And he can’t see you guys, apparently thought the spirit dog.

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