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  • #6067
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Since the sudden disappearance of the two au pair maids, a lot had happened. But for August Finest it has been a lot of the same routine going on.

    He wakes up in the early, early morning, his eyelids rubs on his eyeballs as if they are made of sandpaper. He seizes his belly with his hands, feels a little guilty about the nice meals prepared by Noor Mary especially for him since the start of the confinement. His six packs have started to fade away under a layer of fatty insulation and he tries to compensate by a daily routine in white T-shirt and underwear.

    The coffee machine has detected his movements and starts to make what it does. It’s always cleaned and replenished by the discrete Mary. The noise and the smell creates an ambiance and when it rings he eats breakfast before taking his shower.

    When he’s dressed up, his real work starts. It had not been easy for a man of his origins to appear as the best choice for the job under the Lump administration. President Lump was known to make bad jokes about his tan and him having spent too much time at the beach, and other worse things. But his worth was in the network he could connect the president with, his high discretion, which Lump was in dire need to compensate his innate tendency to boasting, and a strong adaptability to fix the president’s frequent messing around.

    If August Finest had once admired the man and accepted the job for him, it soon changed when he realised there was nothing more underneath the boasting than more boasting and unpredictability. At the moment the only thing that make him continue was his ability to go stealth when the president had a fit of nerves, and the imposed confinement that made it impossible to leave the Beige House.

    After the morning meeting during which the president asked him to fire a few members of the staff, August had to prepare a press conference. President Lump said he had thought about a few remarks about China and making a connection with the Mexican immigrants threatening the country by stealing the masks of the American People. After which, he had to plan a charity with first Lady Mellie Noma and redefine what a Masquerade meant. He had been asked to invite nurses and medical personnel, meaning republican and good looking in a blouse with a medical mask to make the promotion of the new mask industry Made in America. One of Mr Lump’s friend had just started a brand and was in need of some media promotion.

    August reread the memo to be addressed to the director of the FBI, a good friend of his. A special cell at the FBI had been created especially since Lump came to power. For this particular occasion, agents posing as patients victims of the virus would be sent in the best ranked hospitals in the country with the task to look for the best nurse and doctor candidates and send them an invitation printed by Lump’s nephew’s printing company.

    As Lump always said: “America Fist! And don’t forget people, I am America.”

    August hit the enter button and closed the window of his professional mail account, leaving the draft of a personal mail on screen. He wasn’t sure if he could send this one. It was addressed to Noor Mary and he feared she would misunderstand the meaning of it.

    #6062

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The journey to the Pistil itself would have been worth its own story, thought Charlton. They had to avoid road blocks, crowds of chanting christians that had certainly vowed to spread the virus as fast as possible, and howlers who you were never sure weren’t the real thing from Teen Wolf. They had to be, in such a landscape. Once arid, it had turned greener in just a few weeks. Rain was now weekly when drops of water used to only show up with the bottles of water from the tourists.

    Despite Kady’s advice not to take anything, he’d still brought the book of drawings. Kady had said nothing about the book, nor the clothes, or the snacks. Charlton was sometimes literal about what people told him, but he also knew it. So he didn’t say anything when he saw Kady had her own backpack with clothes, some money and food. During the trip, he tried to reproduce the experience with the drawings and the dreams —but nothing happened. Charlton felt a little disappointed.

    They saw the pistil long before they arrived at its foot. It was at the end of the day and the sunset was splashing its reds and purples all around it. Charlton had had time to get used to its tall presence in the landscape. Yet, seeing it at a close range from below was a strange experience. Taller than the tallest man-made tower. He wondered what he was supposed to feel in its presence. Awe? Electricity? Enlightenment? Bursts of inspiration? This should at least be a mystical moment, but all he could feel was annoyance at the crowd of people crawling around like aphids avid to suck its sap.

    Kady looked more annoyed than surprised. She was walking past the flock as if she knew exactly where to go. Charlton followed, feeling dizzy by the sudden increase of activity and smells. He soon got nauseous at the mix of incense and fried sausages.

    “There are so many of them,” he eventually said. “How come? It was so difficult just for the two of us to avoid police controls. Do we have to wait with them?”

    “Nah! They’re just the usual bunch of weirdoes,” Kady said. “They’ve been here a long time. I bet some of them aren’t even aware there have been a virus. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you, it’s a maze before the maze. I just need to see someone before we go in.”

    They walked for about another ten minutes before stopping in front of a big tent. There, a big man with a boxer’s face was repairing all kind of electronics on a table with the application of a surgeon. Phones, cameras, coffee machines… Charlton wondered how they got electricity to make it all work.

    “Hey, Kady!” said the man. “You’re back. Did you give it to her?” His face looked anxious.

    “Of course Max! I even got an answer,” Kady said handing him a pink envelope. Max smelled it.

    “Her favourite perfume,” he said with a broad smile.

    “I told you she still loves you. I also brought you something else.” Kady dropped a box on the table among the electronics. Charlton didn’t think it could be possible to witness the expression of a ten year old child on such a hard face, but what was inside the box certainly did magic.

    “You brought chocolate?”

    “Yep.”

    “Did you find the chestnut one?”

    “Yep.”

    “My favourite,” said Max to Charlton. “Is this your friend?”

    Max, meet Charlton. Charlton, Max. Listen, we plan on going in tomorrow, but tonight we need a place to get some rest.”

    “I told you, you’re always welcome. Did you know she saved my life in there?”

    “Saved your life?” asked Charlton looking hesitantly at Kady. “No, I didn’t know.”

    #6029
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Based on post #5959 in The Whale’s Diaries Collection.

    As soon as Charlton finished editing his journal entry, someone knocked at the door. It was Kady in a red dress. She looked different than his dream. For starter she was not restless and she had some kind of self-assurance that she didn’t have before.

    “Oh! Hello,” Charlton said. “Are we going to the pistil?”

    “So you got the dream I sent you. It’ll be easier. I’m not against a cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I could enjoy one in a couch.”

    Charlton made some rare Da Hong Pao Chinese tea, the one called Big Red Dress. A warm and rich aroma steamed out of the purple clay teapot he had brought from a trip in China. He thought the tea was a nice touch considering his friend’s garment.

    “So, where have you been?” he asked.

    Kady brought up the little cup to her nose and smelled the tea.

    “Oh! You truly know your shit, Charlton.” She took a sip before continuing. “The pistils, they have been around for longer than everybody think. We call it the Pistil Maze,” Kady said. She looked at him with hesitation in her eyes. “You may not believe me, but aliens put it there, you know. Who else? But most of the people they don’t understand. They don’t want to. It’s too frightening for their little comfort. People are perceiving them now because of the virus. It’s making them able to see their frequency when they weren’t able to before. But they have been there for a long time.”

    Then Kady told Charlton about an ancient alien race from another dimension that was bringing a power, a treasure of knowledge and abilities, but that current humans bodies were too weak to bear its intensity, and that people had to somehow upgrade before they could. The pistils, they were a series of mazes, a path to transformation. People had to follow it in order to change themselves and there was not just one path. Everyone had to follow their own.

    The whole story about the pistils fascinated Charlton, especially after his dream. It didn’t took him long before asking his next question.

    “Do I need to pack up special things for the trip?”

    “Actually you don’t. We’ll find all that we need inside.”

    #5960
    DevanDevan
    Participant

    Working at the gas station gave me the possibility to not only be confined at home but also at work. At least I could enjoy the transit between places, that’s what I told me everyday. And better go to work than turn around all day in the studio I rented since I left the Inn.

    You can’t imagine how many people need gas during the confinement. It looks like in this part of the country people don’t have as many dogs as them in the big cities, so they do all sorts of crazy things to be able to get out.

    A man came to the station this morning. I’m sure it was to give the equivalent of a walk to his brand new red GMC Canyon, you know, treating his car like she needed fresh air and to get some exercise regularly. From behind the makeshift window made of transparent wrapper, I asked him how was his day. You know, to be polite. He showed me the back of his truck. I swear there was a cage with two dingos in it.

    The guy told me he captured them the other day in case the cops stopped him in the street with no reason to be out. At least, he said, I could still say I’m giving them a walk. I told him them being in a cage would hardly pass as a walk but he answered me with a wink and a big grin that cops weren’t that intelligent. I’m glad we have makeshift windows now, at least seeing his teeth I didn’t have to smell his breath. I’m not sure who’s the less intelligent in absolute terms, but in that case I’d rather bet his IQ would fail him.

    Well that’s probably the most exciting thing that happened before I went home after work. As soon as I got home I received a phone call from Prune. On the landline. It’s like she has some magical means to know when I’m there.

    Anyway, she asked me if I washed my hand. I told her yes, though I honestly don’t recall. But I have to make her think all is ok. She started to talk again about Jasper. Each time she mention the subject I’m a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure I fancy having a brother, even if it’s kind of being in a TV series. She said she had looked for him on internet, contacted some adoption agencies, even tried a private called Dick. That’s all that I remember of the private’s name. Dick, maybe that’s because he never answered her calls. Might be dead of the pandamic I told her. PandEmic, She corrected. I know, I told her, I said that to cheer you up.

    We talked about Mater too. That made me laugh. Apparently Idle saw her in a fuschia pink leotard. Prune half laughed herself when she mentioned the leotard, but she said : Truth is I don’t know what Dido had taken when she had seen Mater outside. I suspect the om chanting was simply snoring.

    There was a silence afterward. Maybe Prune was thinking about age and the meaning of life, I was merely realising I was hungry. I swear I don’t know what crossed my mind. I have a tendency to want to help my sister even if I think there is no hope. You know, I told her, about Jasper we could still go and ask that woman in the bush. It’s like she already knew what I was going to say. Tiku I knew by her tone that all the conversation was fated to lead there. Yeah. I can drive you there after work tomorrow. 

    Of course, we didn’t even have to go there after all.

    #5953
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Bubbling and turning from orange to green to duck blue, the potion was perfect and smelled of good work, a strong blend of cinnamon, cardamom and crushed cloves. She smiled broadly and poured the potion into five vials, which she gave to Rukshan. They were all gathered around her in the kitchen looking rather fascinated by the whole operation.

    “One for you, and one for each of the children,” Glynis said with a grin.

    “I’m not a kid,” said Fox.

    “Why only five?” asked Gorrash who suspected something was off. “We are Six. There’s Tak, Nessy, Olliver, Fox, Rukshan and I,” he said counting on his chubby fleshy fingers.

    “I don’t need a potion to go wherever I want,” said Olli with a grin.

    “Well,” started Glynis, “Despite your unique skill, Olliver, you still need the potion in order to thwart the control spells Leroway’s saucerers had scattered around the country,” Glynis said. “You all remember what happened to aunt Eleri last time she went out. You know how skilled she is when she need to sneak out. She barely escaped and Rukshan and I had a hard time turning off that dancing spell, which I’m sure is the least damaging one.”

    She looked at Gorrash with compassion but the light dimmed as a cloud passed in front of the sun outside. She pointed her finger at him. “Your immune system is still like one of a newborn. And I’d prefer you’d stay home and not go around during a beaver fever pandemic. There are plenty of things you can help me with!” Glynis showed the cauldron, vials and other utensils she used to make the potion, and the cake earlier, and yesterday’s dinner.

    “Well, if I have not to challenge my immune system…” Gorrash started.

    “You know better than to argue with me,” she said.

    Gorrash opened his mouth to say something but decided otherwise and ran away into the garden.

    Fox started to follow him.

    “Don’t said Rukshan. There’s nothing you can do.”

    “He’s my friend!” said Fox.

    #5951
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The latex rompers were shaping her old body in a way she quite enjoyed. It was like being back in her… she counted on her fingers to be sure. To be even surer she counted twice. Yes! It was like being back in the sixties, especially with the choice of colours that had been made by whomever had made the rompers. Her silhouette looked gorgeous, if you didn’t pay too much attention to the bingo wings and the pelican throat. She laughed. It was like seeing a superposition of a younger and an older self. She would have loved the face of Ricardo if he saw her like that. And the beehive haircut, it certainly was a good idea. She wondered if she was still under LSD. But the walls and the beehive hair seemed too solid for that.

    A sliding door that she had not noticed before opened.

    “Good to see you’re settling in,” said the woman who entered with a puff of bacon smell. “I’m Barbara.” She was holding a tray with a steaming plate of sweet peas and carrots. Sophie always had a sharp eye but couldn’t see any real bacon among the peas and the carrots. She smiled to the newcomer anyway. Barbara had the same latex rompers with the same colours. And she had a beehive haircut.

    “Hello! Barbara,” said Sophie. “I like that name. I knew a man once… well not that you’re a man. Are you? Anyway I see you have a beehive haircut too. Am I back in the sixties?” She realised she was a bit confused, not able to finish one sentence or follow a single narrative. But the smell of bacon was so unnerving.

    Barbara put the tray on the table.

    “Well, no,” she said to Sophie. “It’s just a haircut that I like and it’s very practical for all sort of things.” She reached into hers and got out a pen and a notebook. Sophie lifted her hand to her haircut.

    “Do I have?..”

    “No dear. But, I need your sign here… just a formality.” Barbara smiled and handed the notebook to Sophie along with the pen. Then she crossed her arms waiting. Her fingers were drumming on her soft pale skin and Sophie couldn’t help but notice that Barbara had six fingers on one of her hands.

    “Where am I?” she asked.

    #5828
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Day 222

    Or is it just 22? I’m losing count. Who would have guessed after the escape from the cruise nightmare, we’d be again confined to our homes. The world has gone in stasis, and it feels like the story has taken a dire turn. At least it is a welcome change; unpredictability reshuffles the cards,… if only slightly.

    We now should have more time to write the story of our lives, yet it’s still difficult to not feel absorbed by the global apathy and the impeding measures. Is it a failure of imagination?— I’m not sure I can project myself into a future without discarding a lot of useless garbage. Maybe it’s a collective wake-up call.

    For now, the whale is fed, but she’s close to an indigestion of epidemic scare news. We need to change her diet, that’s what I know. Because we’re in its belly, and it starts to smell of death.

    So, who’s up for a quest?

    #5812
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    They keep calling me Belinda, I don’t know why.  They’re all nice enough, the ones who come and bring my meals and keep the place tidy, so don’t make a fuss when they do. If I’m honest, I don’t always remember their names either.

    Today they had white paper face masks on, which seems a bit rude if you ask me. I asked the morning one, do I smell or something? and she said, no, it’s the bolona virus, hadn’t I seen it on the news?   My dear, I said, if you only knew how many times I’ve died of the plague!  She laughed at me and said don’t you worry, you’re not dying of the plague, as if I didn’t know that. They sound patronizing at times but they do it to cover up how dense they are, some of these helpers.

    The plague was long a-coming to our parish, I said, ignoring her remark, and when it did come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such violence.  By the time the cart came for you to dump you in the pit, you were glad to be out of it, I tell you.

    She gave me a funny look and reminded me to eat my toast.

    #5651
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Looking at the exasperated voices of his captors, Barron needn’t know how to speak Spanish to be entirely certain he was in over his head.

    He wondered why the negotiators hadn’t been brought in already; the plan was simple —well, initially. He was to get a cut of the ransom, and disappear with it in some nice sunny resort in the South. Like the extreme South, not Alabama South.

    Someone must have interfered… He could have sworn there was a woman’s voice with a funny accent speaking to them before she hung up on them.

    ¡La chica dice que ya tienen al bebé! :yahoo_on_the_phone:   That much he could understand; an impostor 👶🏻baby now? And who had replaced August in his duties?

    Well, at the moment, he had a group of angry Frenchmen and Mexicans in a smelly rillettes distillery with a useless baby on their hands. He knew too well that if he wanted to keep all his limbs, he’d have to improvise quickly. Good thing they hadn’t removed his eye-watch. By now, as inept as they’d be, the two nannies should have got his GPS coordinates.

    Well… They had trouble spelling their names without typos at times so he’d better not leave that to chance.

    He started to text:SOS - baby in danger at Rillettes Distillery, Alabama

    He added the GPS coordinates, just in case; now, with help possibly on the way, he’d have to prepare that distraction in order to extract himself of his predicament.

    #5626
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Barron woke up, he quickly realized he’d been double-crossed, or maybe triple-crossed.

    His captors were discussing loudly at the front how they could get a larger cut from an unknown bidder.
    He was incensed and almost threw a tantrum but realized it would be best to keep quiet for now.

    Suspicions were racing in his mind, who could it be? The Russians… or the Chinese maybe? His father had made so many ennemies, it could well be the nannies for all he knew. The thought almost made him giggle. These two inept nannies had been carefully chosen by him, there were little chances they would be able to concoct any sensible plan with more than an hour execution span. His parents were infuriated and almost despaired when he’d shouted, spat and cried like a devil at all the nannies they carefully selected for him. But they all looked too smart, too serious, too careful to please, there was no way his plan of escape would work with them. But Joo and Ape, well, that was something else. With them, the world was his oyster. Or Bob his uncle like the loud one liked to say when she faked a British accent. Evil sounded so much more delightful when spoken in British English.

    The van stopped. They’d arrived. Strong smells of alcohol,… and something… French? Was it rillettes? A clandestine distillery. Maybe it was the French mafia after all.

    #5614
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Suddenly May had a doubt. She had been so focused on her inner ramblings about men’s reputation, prostitution and what knot that… something felt awfully wrong with the baby. Not the shouting and crying, not even the smell from the dark ages. No something more subtle that kept her awake. She had to be sure.

    She woke up and put on some a brown woollen gown on top of her silky night gown (her little pleasure). She had to be sure nobody would pay attention to her, but she couldn’t resist the soft touch of silk on her skin. Anyway, she went rushing in the baby’s room and unclothed it.

    There it was, right in front of her. It was not baby Barron, it was a girl! She had been fooled by the clothes and the awful mess the baby had done in its pants. And for sure she had looked away because the smell, and she didn’t really liked babies.

    “Oh Look who’s awake!” said the voice of June, thick with bad Maotai.

    May felt the blood drain off her face. She dressed the baby back up to hide the missing appendage.

    “Oh! Nice baby Barron,” she said trying to hide the quiver in her voice. “Look who’s back, your two favourite Aunties.” May turned to face the two au pairs with a forced smile on her face. The baby started to cry.

    #5612
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Why was Mr August making interview appointments at this time of night? May wondered briefly, but the overpowering smell coming from the nether regions of the howling toddler had to be dealt with first. Anyone would think he’d been drinking the laced wine, judging from the volume that had over spilled the disposable diaper. There was only one way to clean him up and May took him back outside to the garden hose.  It was a cold night, but babies were not easily killed, she’d heard. She could easily warm him back up again afterwards.  At least the violent shivering had stopped that dreadful squawking.

    Once the child was clean and tightly swaddled in clean cooks aprons ~ she was tempted to swaddle right over his face but he’d gone quiet at last ~ May wondered again about the mysterious late visitor. She had to be a call girl, a prostitute, a lady of ill repute, to be calling at such an hour to see a gentleman.  How dare she take that hoity toity attitude with me! May became increasingly offended the more she thought about it.

    Oh well, she decided, it was highly unlikely that she’d ever cross the path of such a low life again, and there was no need to give any more thought to Mr August’s disreputable assignations.  It might come in handy if there was ever a need to blackmail him, though.

    May yawned and looked at the clock.  June and April would surely be back soon, and relieve her of the tiresome baby. Quiet at last, but an unpleasant shade of blue.  Better than that dreadful orange, anyway.

    #5589
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4819
    IdleIdle
    Participant

    Took me a while to get the gist of the thing, but it’s working now. Wait, is it?
    I’ll never know for sure, I have that old phone with no chip in that somehow allows me to text with no mobile reception.
    If Prune hadn’t left so fast, I would have asked her to put the darn thing on my phone, but mainly I’m able to have fun with bot.
    fuirt jllly fckgn e key stickign now as well T
    etetetetetetetete
    Anyway, Sanso buggered off without notice thogh, left me hanging dry in front of the old tunnels. I couldn’t get inside, too narrow entrance, got a tunnel fright! Talk about mood killer. So unlike me.
    Spent a bit of time chatting to various old freinds, part of the old crowd back in th e day, including pople still there I havent seen in years and thats been nice.
    It’s like smelling Mater’s cooking and realizing it was me burning dog food.
    Now I’ll just go la la la la until I find clarity and inspiration.

    #4791
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Once he’d finished to tell the story, and let the kids go back to the cottage for the night, Rukshan’s likeness started to vanish from the place, and his consciousness slowly returned to the place where his actual body was before projecting.

    Being closer to the Sacred Forest enhanced his capacities, and where before he could just do sneak peeks through minutes of remote viewing, he could now somehow project a full body illusion to his friends. He’d been surprised that Fox didn’t seem to notice at all that he wasn’t truly there. His senses were probably too distracted by the smells of food and chickens.

    He’d wanted to check on his friends, and make sure they were alright, but it seemed his path ahead was his own. He realized that the finishing of the loo was not his own path, and there was no point for him to wait for the return of the carpenter. That work was in more capable hands with Glynis and her magic.

    His stomach made an indiscreet rumbling noise. It was not like him to be worried about food, but he’d gone for hours without much to eat. He looked at his sheepskin, and the milk in it had finally curdled. He took a sip of the whey, and found it refreshing. There wouldn’t be goats to milk in this part of the Forest, as they favored the sharp cliffs of the opposite site. This and a collection of dried roots would have to do until… the other side.

    To find the entrance wasn’t too difficult, once you understood the directions offered by the old map he’d recovered.

    He was on the inner side of the ringed protective enclosures, so now, all he needed was to get into the inner sanctum of the Heartwood Forest, who would surely resist and block his path in different ways.

    “The Forest is a mandala of your true nature…”

    He turned around. Surprised to see Kumihimo there.

    “Don’t look surprised Fae, you’re not the only one who knows these parlor tricks.” She giggled like a young girl.

    “of my nature?” Rukshan asked.

    “Oh well, of yours, and anybody’s for that matter. It’s all One you, see. The way you see it, it represents yourself. But it would be true for anybody, there aren’t any differences really, only in the one who sees.”

    She reappeared behind his back, making him turn around. “So tell me,” she said “what do you see here?”

    “It’s where the oldest and strongest trees have hardened, it’s like a fence, and a… a memory?”

    “Interesting.” She said “What you say is true, it’s memory, but it’s not dead like you seem to imply. It’s hardened, but very much alive. Like stone is alive. The Giants understood that. And what are you looking for?”

    “An entrance, I guess. A weak spot, a crack, a wedge?”

    “And why would you need that? What if the heart was the staircase itself? What if in was out and down was up?”

    Rukshan had barely time to mouth “thank you” while the likeness of the Braid Seer floated away. She’d helped him figure out the entrance. He touched one of the ring of the hard charred trees. They were pressed together, all clomped in a dense and large enclosure virtually impossible to penetrate. His other memories told him the way was inside, but his old memories were misleading.
    Branches were extending from the trunks, some high and inaccessible, hiding the vision of the starry sky, some low, nearly indistinguishable from old gnarled roots. If you looked closely, you could see the branches whirring around like… Archimedes Screw. A staircase?

    He jumped on a branch at his level, which barely registered his weight. The branch was dense and very slick, polished by the weathering of the elements, with the feel of an old leather. He almost lost his balance and scrapped his hands between the thumb and the index.

    “Down is up?”

    He spun around the branch, his legs wrapped around the branch. He expected his backpack to drag him towards the floor, but strangely, even if from his upside-down perspective, it was floating above him, it was as if it was weightless.

    He decided to take a chance. Slowly, he hoisted himself towards his floating bag, and instead of falling, it was as though the branch was his ground. Now instead of a spiral staircase around the trees leading to heavens, it was the other side of the staircase that spiraled downwards to the starry night.

    With his sheepskin and back still hovering, he started to climb down the branches towards the Giants’ land.

    #4775
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The wind swooshed in the garden, making fallen apples roll on the ground. The air had a lively smell of earth and decaying fruit, and the grass was still moist from the morning dew.
    The statue of Gorrash was facing East, and the rising sun was bringing golden hues to his petrified face. Little snoots were curled in glowing colourful balls of liquid fur around the statue, making it pulsate with a quieting purr. Around Gorrash, the slope was peppered with some of the gargoyles rejects that Eleri had made and couldn’t sell at the market. Still, instead of discarding them, she’d arranged a little forest of painted gargoyles as a sort of silent watchful army guarding Gorrash’s sleep.
    Rukshan liked to meditate at the place, it helped with the stress he’d felt at coming back from the last ordeals. He wouldn’t have thought, but his identity had felt more shaken than he knew. He wasn’t feeling at home with the Faes any longer, and there were few people who could relate to his adventures in the villages nearby, where he was nothing more than an ominous stranger. Retreating in the Fae’s dimension, hidden from all and mostly abandoned was a tempting thought, but he’d found it was a lure with empty promises. He still had work to do.

    Tak and Nesy were already awake and were coming back for the rest of the story.
    He’d started to tell them about the Giants, the old forgotten story which he’d learnt many years ago in his previous life as a Dark Fae. Both were captivated at the prowess displayed by the Master Craftsmen, the old Rings of Stones that they built, the Cairns of the Fallen, and the Fields of Chanting Boulders where magic rituals where performed.

    “Tell us more Rukshan!” they said. “Tell us more about the Three Giant Kings.”
    “Do you remember their names?” he smiled back at the children.
    “Yes! There was Ceazar…” Tak started
    “Caesar, yes” he corrected gently
    “… and Archimedes,” Tak continued hesitantly
    “Yes, and who was the third one?”
    “He had a long and strange name! Nesy, help me!”
    The girl tried to help him “It starts with a V”
    “Vergincetorix!” the answer came from behind a bush.

    Fox!” Nesy cried reproachfully. “It’s not even right! It’s Vercingetorix!”
    “Correct Nesy! And Fox, no need to lurk in the shadows, stories are not only for children you know.”

    Fox took a place near the gargoyle army garden, and a baby snoot jumped into his lap, cooing in vibrating mruii.

    “So what about these Kings do you want to know?” Rukshan asked.
    “Everything!” they all said in unison.
    “Oh well, in this case, let me retell you the story of the Golden Age of the Three Giant Kings, and how they saved their people from a terrible catastrophe.”

    #4754
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Look” Fox said to Glynis, not a little proud of his accomplishment.

    The frame now hanged above the missing toilet seat was already giving the privy a little more cosy look. Of course, the smell of the room with the open hole was still making his nose wrinkle inwards, but the framed dried roses were a nice touch.
    He was particularly happy about the clever no-nail solution he’d found. Crushing together two spiky caterpillars and sticking them at both sides of the back of the frame — it kept the frame stuck nicely, and it could be re-positioned and readjusted to be perfectly level.

    Lost in admiration of his work, he was dragged out of his thoughts by a thunderous sneeze.

    “Good flovious! That flu looks nasty Glynis, you should get some rest, dear.”

    Glynis almost rip-snotted her kerchief in half while blowing her nose.

    “But who will do all the cleaning?” she asked plaintively.

    #4725
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Maybe the witch was not here for nothing after all.

    #4718
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4680
    TikuTiku
    Participant

    I could smell trouble as soon as I entered. And it was not because of the lizards, i can tell ya. Lizards, once roasted, they smell delicious. They taste good too, a blend of chicken and fish, is what they say. But don’t get me started on food.

    It smelled trouble for sure. There was a convergence happening, something dark and twisted over the place. At times, I feel strange, like the Dreamtime speaking through me.

    The lady didn’t come down to greet me, of course, bad hip and all, at her age. Their maid, Finly took the offering by the tails with a painful look, I almost regretted bringing them. Maybe she’d have liked roasted gator’s paw better.

    “I think it all comes from your bathroom.” I said almost without thinking.

    “What about the bathroom?” snapped the Finly, with pride and outrage on her sweet wizened face.

    “There is some bad juju there, the Fish was a talisman to protect you from the evil eye here, but it has worn off, and your family ties… won’t do no, not strong enough, no. Evil seeps in, not good, not good at all.”

    At times, I like to make a ton and play the local madwoman, it helps seal deals, you have no ideas. But truth is, something’s amiss in that bathroom. It’s in serious need of magical help.

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