The rain was pouring cabbages for several days now, almost the whole week… Baul was fed up with that filthy weather of Cromash Tur. The capital of this 4th kingdom was quite nice and pleasurable, but it lacked sun and warmth… Baul had come to Nâabooli, the capital of Cromash, in order to settle an arrangement. Something quite particular that he couldn’t find in his own land of Erpet Mesh. He’d been travelling for weeks with his guards and servants when he arrived in the city and all that for some foo’kin rain! But something more important than brooding and pouting was on his mind.
Tonight he was alone, no servant, no guard… he was wearing a black coat made of goat skin on his usual blue and yellow silk robe, he couldn’t wear anything else, his skin was too smooth and delicate. He was spending great amount of money to take care of his body, it was his own pride, and he considered himself as a very handsome and appealing male.
The man he was about to meet wasn’t hiding, but oddly was acting in full sight. Nonetheless, Baul didn’t want to be seen with him, Baul was an ambassador of sort from Erpet and he couldn’t be seen entering in an Assassin’s house. In Cromash, the Assassins were quite a respectable and wealthy, but in Erpet they were outlaw… one of the numerous differences between the two kingdoms, one they would never agree upon. Baul found it quite useful though; many times he’d met Ar’Am Khra, one of the best of this profession.
For this meeting, as always, Baul had chosen a tavern, the Landgurdy, called after one of the former 12 kingdoms. The 4 remaining ones were at war most of the times, they couldn’t maintain peace more than a few years at best, and Baul had found many ways of benefiting of this situation. Merchant, Ambassador, and much more. He was thriving with plotting and it was quite useful to be one of the ambassadors of Erpet Mesh, offering him safety wherever he was going. It was one of the few respected rules that were common between the Warring Kingdoms.
The Landgurdy was quite a crowded tavern, and the owner was a friend of his, though not really officially. There was that private room on the rear of the building, know only of a few chosen “friends”, so they could enter unnoticed by the usual customers and by would be spies. The rear door was seemingly leading into another building, and some arrangements had been made over the years.
Baul knocked the code at the door, and a vasistas was open quickly and closed even more quickly. The door opened then and he entered in the darkness of the house. If anyone opened the door, he or she wasn’t there anymore, but Baul knew the place quite well as it wasn’t his first meeting with the Assassin.
The Assassin was waiting in the small room, square shaped with only a wood table and one chair. No window. One dim lamp.
He was sitting on the lone carved chair. His clients needn’t sit.
They were mere beggers.
The one that was coming now, was quite amusing.
The first time he met him, Baul was quite young and inexperienced in his own skills. Though he was quite ambitious, Ar’Am Khra had to admit it.
The usual reaction when seeing the Assassin’s pale complexion was shivers and disgust. He was used to it and it was a game that he had enhanced with a little bluish glowing dagger tattooed on his forehead.
The dagger was the mark of his profession, though not so obviously exhibited by the others. Cowards.
At that first meeting, Baul didn’t react the way his other clients did. And it was not influenced by his utmost concerns at that time. Beside his inexperience he was quite engrossed in what he had called his “mission”.
Ar’Am Khra did not know of any mission, there were merely contracts.
And he was doing what his clients were paying for.
Accomplishing his contract even after the death of his clients.
He was remembering of an amusing event.
A client had hired him to end the life of another man, and the second man went a few days after to his office to beg him to kill the first man.
The Assassin accepted the contract.
A few days later he killed the second man.
He executed the first one not long after that, thus respecting the second contract.
He never questioned the motives of his clients.
It was not for him to judge or to understand. Though most of the time he did understand quite well.
His main motivation was the payment and his own pride in expressing his skill with subtleties and newness.
The door opened smoothly. Baul entered the room.
Yann and Quintin had an interesting chat during the afternoon. Yann had some new impressions about the map of Lord Wrick annotated by Quintin. Something about the Warring Kingdoms, triggered by a dream of an Assassin in one of them. It was frustrating not to be in the same room so Yann could show Quintin directly on the map, but with Internet there were some other options.
The names of these lands were Ata’Meliu, Dam Adbor, Erpet Mesh and Cromash Tur. These 4 Kingdoms were rather scattered on the Lan’Ork part of the continent, pieces and bits everywhere, though Ata’Meliu was more in the center and the South of the Lan’Ork, Dam Adbor in the East and in the North, and Cromash Tur in the West and South West parts, Erpet was divided in 2 main areas, one located on the Northern land just before the Isthmus of Ghört’s Hammer, and a smaller one lost in the middle of Ata’Meliu.
Yann only had the impression of 2 of the capitals, Naat Medin was the one of Erpet Mesh and Nâabooli of Cromash Tur.
Quintin just sent him the map so he could draw some more comments and sketch the boundaries of the Warring Kingdoms. He didn’t know why, but he felt some movements were about to begin, some reconfigurations of the bordersJibParticipant
Yann was wandering about in a pet shop, looking for nothing in particular.
Quintin had said something about inserting the shift now… well, that sucked… Yann was in a very bad mood, feeling like everyone was against him, nothing was going as he wanted to, and most of all he had lost inspiration. No desire to draw, or to write anything. His life was not fitting. Or so it seemed.
Looking closer to the bird cages, and the birds inside, he was amazed at their similarities and their differences. Their shapes and sizes, their colors was the obvious parts. Their shouting also, it was quite messy, and stridulent. But what he noticed most was their behavior, some were just living their own life, proud of themselves and quite fearful when Yann was getting closer to the cage, and others were just flocking together like they couldn’t live apart. Some were singing, some crying, some just quiet and moving nervously or randomly…
He went to the parrots room, it was written babies on the cages… they were like full sized parrots to him, very big birds!!! very colorful and impressive. But looking closer, they were not so healthy, their feathers were sort of dull, and even bad shaped and like the parrot had been attacked savagely :yahoo_thinking:. Not very impressive eventually.
A few days ago things had become quite erratic at his work… he had felt a strong desire to change, change everything. First he couldn’t understand that desire and he resisted strongly, but soon he created some uncomfortable manifestations. Breathing difficulties, headaches, itching, and even boredom. He just felt the desire to tell bugger off to everyone.
The birds were getting boring actually, he left the shop.
Walking in the street among the crowd was kinda soothing his uneasiness… though at times he was like feeling what they were strongly projecting. There was that Muslim woman with her chador, and as she went right past him he had that twinge of anger against her, coming from nowhere, and as soon as he noticed that, he just moved his attention to his energy and it was over, no more anger or polarization. Was it his own feelings or was it from that young woman?
Whatever, he just enter another shop, home shop, with little thingies and furniture… all these statues, the ones looking like 1920’s ladies were the most appealing… and there were these fairies also, wasn’t it Fiona who had told him about a dream where she was the fairy princess?
Oh! that pic… the man had a blue skin… with dolphins on his face creating shadows… the pic was a blend of sort, very funny, and the man was cute as was the shop assistant…
Time to leave… he went off the shop and continued walking. Bright sun, fresh air, all was clearing. His mood also. He thought again about what he and Quintin had been planning. It seemed something crazy, but it also seemed related to what was happening in his life. Since Vienna, their relation had become closer and closer, and for the most part it was very endearing, very fun and also very intense. All these energies, all this creativity, it had to be part of a bigger picture.
Thinking about that, his friend Dory had told him about a bigger picture once, and he was teasing her about that… but now it was making sense. His abilities to remember his dreams had increased in a way, though most of the time he did not remember his dream in the morning. He’d noticed he could if he was just relaxing a bit and let his attention go back to that dream self of his… At times he had also some weird experiences about parallel realities and shift of perception, like the room is translucent and he can move through it in another dimension, very freaky that one
The City, year 2257
Janice had just awoken from a strange dream, where she was watching big round cabbages being harvested in what looked like Quintin’s father garden. They were all firmly rooted on a black irrigation pole across the garden, and people were using strange devices to turn them all delicately and pick them afterwards. In the dream, there were black puppies too, sleeping in the straw of a kind of hut nearby. And she had seen another creature, and had been surprised first because it was unlike anything she had ever met, even in dreams. It was hairless and brown as soft mud, and was hiding in the neighbour’s garden. Then it had crossed and came to play with her…
Janice was lost in her thoughts strolling on the way to the common dome, when she met Rodney, her father’s friend.
They had been recently trying with her father Jacob, and also Qixi to connect with their shifting focuses of the Ancients, two centuries and half before their time.
Some of them, they had found, had been playing a sort of game of story-telling and clue-sowing… (Janice was laughing as her father’s friend, the scientist Arkandin, always insisted on seesawing instead)
Perhaps her dream was telling her that the crop was ripe, and it was time to harvest some from it. She told her dream to Rodney. All at once, he was quite excited and they started to feel they wanted to chat more freely. So they went into one of the Medraw Caps that was available and soon imagined a comfortable environment for themselves to explore more.
Janice could hear Al or Quintin complain about how things were getting confusing.
She tried to convey to both of them that they could be excited about it, as it was expanding their understanding, but they weren’t very receptive.
Somewhere Al was saying to Becky
— The more you try to fix it, the more confused I am
— Hahahahah yes! Becky was answering, I guess so! Ahahahah! Al, what a fabulous dance of confusion we do… The Confundo Tango
— Ahahah, yes!
Al started again to moan:
— So who’s dead, who’s the shapeshifter? Who’s the human, who’s the cat?
(Rodney was laughing, as for him, he could accept the confusion as much easier, letting him free to wander around!)
— Illi was a woman, a shapeshifter who shape-shifted into a cat, then, she died. Becky was saying (Rodney added mentally “Now, she is disengaged” as he knew that “death” was a confusing word.) She was an archaeologist
— Okay, that’s cool, that’s what I thought, Al acquiesced. Then thought back of what was said of her and wondered… Anyway, it will probably find a perfect answer …
— I got lost myself when two Illis appeared, and a grip-thing as well
— Because I didn’t want the grip-thing to be dead! Al couldn’t help but laugh. That would have been too easy, like wiggling out. Not using your imagination within the context of objective imagery to sort out “things”…
While Rodney and Janice were seeing that their other focuses were kind of stuck in their explanation, they had time freeze and both decided to come back to their “now” to start from their understanding.
A funny thought had come to Janice, that she shared with Rodney.
— Oh, the funny thing you know, about Becky having written to Sean…
Rodney nodded. Janice continued:
— It just appeared in my mind just moments ago, at the same time you (well, Rafaela) inserted into the story of Malvina. That Becky would have been asking Sean something, and that perhaps it would have helped him talk to his father in the future.
— Well, that Sean is SUCH AN ENIGMA! bumped Rodney a bit excited by the implications.
— What do you mean? asked Janice, who just remembered that Sean Doran has a cousin named Dorean.
— Who is he? Where is he? was asking Rodney now.
Rodney was having a hard time remembering what had been inserted yet in the story about him.
So Janice manifested the Wrick family tree in front of them, so that he could see better. She started by manifesting an acorn, then threw in on the grass, and it sprung forth in a little sapling with signs hanging from its branches.
— Well, it’s all in the script, answered Janice, he’s Lord Wrick’s son.
— Oh boy, I am in trouble again for not keeping up with the facts! Rodney sighed, and laughed…
Janice laughed “So that you can surprise yourself again!”
Janice stopped the growth of the family tree for a moment and started to comment it.
— See, in Becky’s time of the reality play, Sean is Lord’s Wrick son, and has just lost his wife Margaret, and got his two young children around their 10s.
— When is Becky’s time then? Rodney wondered, I hadn’t though of that…
— Becky’s time for the reality play is around 2033…
Then Janice had the tree grow again, and sprout more branches from Sean’s children:
— …Now, Sean is the grand-father of the twins, except than the twin’s time is around 2057 if it had not changed yet. It’s so carefully woven, but it’s fun how it effortlessly came to fit in.
— TRUST AND ALLOWING AND GOING WITH THE FLOW cried Rodney and Janice in unison, in the realisation of how well all this was.
Rodney was beginning to remember it all.
— I just remember the part about Sean, so he is still a bit of a mystery
— Yes, absolutely
— We don’t really know do we why Hilarion didn’t mention him
— Oh, there’s also the Margaret newspaper thing… Janice fumbled in her memory to find the proper link that would display the image of the newspaper cut just at the right of the family tree. Adding with a wink “with more dates to get bearings”
— Ahahah, I’d love to have pocketfuls of ball bearings said Rodney who manifested a pocketful to distract him from the load of information. OH YES! he cried, I had forgetten about this! What an incredibly HUGE story this is…
Then, all of a second, Rodney erupted in an uproarious laugh
— AHAHAHA, I had just forgotten to de-hallucinate these pince-nez spectacles! Now, it is much easier to read!
Janice was laughing so hard, she thought she would shatter the hallucination with the wobbles of the soundless sounds.
Then she added:
— Sean is born around 2000, a bit before.
— OK, maybe he went to help the Tuaregs, Rodney was accessing some information now. Maybe he was the one who put the mummy in the locked room that India found.
— You know I had something funny in store for the mummy mystery, Janice couldn’t help but laugh again. I imagined we could have inserted Old Manon, coming down to secretly drink from her old malt whiskey’s flask, and finding them messing up with her old dear stuffed cat…
— Maybe the mummy was the same one that Dory saw in the oblong hole in the ground outside the cave, Rodney was still accessing flickering images swirling around his head. And Sean was there helping the Tuaregs and moved it to safety.
Of course, years previously, Illi Fergusson, the archeologist had buried the mummy there too for safe keeping.
Now, Janice was hooked:
— Was it where Illi learned about shapeshifting tricks from the old tribe?
Rodney noticed Janice’s funny remark and laughed before continuing:
— The Tuaregs were conducting secret coleslaw experiments in the desert. In combination with sound and irrigation techniques, they were going to run the entire Sahara into a broccoli field.
Janice was amazed at the cabbage “coincidence” and irrigation stuff with her dream of that morning. Of course she knew there where probably mis-interpretation of the imagery coming from Rodney’s visions, but something made sense.
— Around which year? she asked
— Arrggh I don’t know!… Then, taking a breath of dream air, Rodney said “1923”. When Illi learned shape-shifting trick, 1923.
— It makes sense, said Janice who was now thinking of other dispersed informations about Illi Fergusson.
— Yes, she learned from Dashine Ashara… Although who that is, I don’t yet know.
— Wow, said Janice. She had felt a connection with the “da’sheen” sound. She continued: somewhere, Illi Fergusson has said: “my parents were aristocrats”
— Yes, answered Rodney who was accessing again, they were, and they knew the Wildes .
— And it was said too: “[…] a nurturing presence that reminded Illi of the maid she and her parents had in their cottage in South Africa”… like her parents were traveling a lot.
— Ah, South Africa! Illi’s parents emigrated to South Africa with Sir Abingdon Portfellow, an elderly scholar on ancient artifacts and embalming.
— Seems she knew John Lubbock too, said Janice again, reviving old data banks of information. Dates seem okay, so if she was around 30 in the Tuareg adventure, she could have met him.
— Wow, said Rodney, this is even more interesting…
“But we may sit at home and yet be in all quarters of the earth.” Janice had just summoned the voice of the naturalist and archaeologist. Rodney applauded “Lubbock said that? cool quote!”.
— Yes, like Illi’s quote, which was from him “What we see depends mainly on what we look for”. I wonder if that’s one of your (Illi’s) overlapping focuses, said Janice…
They were both amazed at the magical cooperation they were doing at that moment. Janice would have loved to share all of that with Qixi and Jacob, but probably their energies were present at the moment too, though not focused here.
She then remembered something else:
— Oh, and there is something else! Quintin’s dream of the woman detective. Let me fetch it she said, summoning now Quintin’s memory to talk to them.
… by night, near a museum in London, in the 1920s. She was investigating a case of a strange disappearance near a small replicate of an Egyptian pyramid that had been put here for display. There had been an exposition of ancient artifacts in the museum, which had been recently unearthed by a team of archaeologists and graciously lent by Egypt’s officials. Strangely enough, the woman detective feels linked to the story, and is probably Dory…
Date fits again, she said in awe.
— Perfect! said Rodney. She was of course Dory too, but in that focus she was Illi Fergusson… he slowed down, then said No! wait! The detective was another one of my focuses. The archeologist who stole the mummy for safekeeping was Illi.
— So you are both the thief and the detective, the one who creates mystery for yourself, how interesting, giggled Janice.
— Yes, and not only that Janice! Rodney was taking a mysterious air… I am the mummy too!
Janice bust out laughing imagining Rodney in bandages. Yes, of course!
Then, she had a name come with that: Apsh’un Shet she said, very self-absorbed.
Now, that was Rodney’s turn to burst out laughing.
— “I am not sure about that!”
— Doubting my insights… mmm, how rude… Janice frowned then laughed again.
— If you call me that, I may have to make you out to have a speech impediment
— Sounds a good Egyptian name for me though, seems it means “Light of the Dawn”
— Does it? Oh that sounds nice…
— Well, in some Egyptian dialect, yes. She was a Princess…
— Hahaha! Reminds me of Aspen Shit. Rodney doubted Janice could be serious about that name, but Janice was now the one to be accessing some information.
— Bit bossy Princess
— Which dynasty?
— III rd, answered Janice, who fumbled in links of consciousness to find some timeline to project for them.
— What year?
Janice projected the timeline below then said
— I’d say around 2657 B.C., in Ancients way of telling time.
They both marveled at the splendid team work they had been doing, and hoped that the other focuses involved would be able to get some parts of their insights too.
Rodney was seeing something else
— There is also, a very fascinating link between Tassili in the Sahara and Egypt which is a mystery AND there is a connection with Egypt and Scotland too…
— Illi the gripshawk comes from the mysterious land of the Sands, south of the map fragment
— We may unravel more than we think… Illi is an other dimensional focus of the Illi essence…
— Yes she is. She is a connection too, being “lost” in the land of dragons after hopping through traveling portals…
— And they communicated because they are helping each other
— Which is why she doesn’t always ‘fit’ into this reality’s energy configuration
— And they have some difficulties at times with translations of other dimensional stuff
— Yes! resulting in confusion!
And they both laughed again, looking at the great tapestry of clues that was woven before their dream eyes.
Becky had decided to take her friends out for the day. Poor Al needed a break from scratching his head in confusion, and dear Tina needed a break from rubbing her aching temples. She knew Sam would enjoy a day out too.
Becky was enjoying preparing the itinerary.
Champagne breakfast at the Droles de Dames cafe in Le Touquet~Pu first, a table reserved under the gaily striped awning overlooking the sea. Fresh croissants and hot coffee, Bavarian cream donuts, tangy fresh squeezed Tesorillo orange and Tiki kiwi juice, scrambled dragon eggs on French toast, and Moroccan mint tea.
The exhibit of Sand Sculpture was next, a pleasant stroll on the beach after breakfast would be just the ticket, Becky thought.
Next, a little side trip to place a few hibiscus blooms on the grave of Oscar Wilde. He was buried at the Father Chase Memorial Garden on a mossy knoll overlooking the sand sculptures, a short stroll from the beach.
A golden coach and six dappled grey horses would meet them at Father Chase gardens and take them to the lawns of Sandlebright Hall, for the hot air balloon ride. The big red balloon would land on Isla de los Perdidos, a magical island in the Rift Straits, for a picnic lunch under the coconut trees and a relaxing swim in the deliciously warm lagoon. Balti had agreed to provide head massages for the little party of day trippers, and had suggested a big iced jug of crop juice as the perfect accompaniament.
A paddle steamer would arrive to take them back to the mainland after the sojourn on the magical isle. There were comfortable whicker steamer chairs on the deck with cosy tartan blankets for those wishing to snooze a little, or raucous poker games inside the red plush interior for those who chose to exercise their creating skills on the green baize tables.
The Cirque de Paradoxia matinee was on the agenda for the afternoons entertainment, with the new sonic stone juggling as one of the highlights.
A theatre supper in Covent Garden, Becky had decided, and the Orient Express was the perfect way to get there. Hercule Poirot had kindly agreed to serve drinks and nibbles on the journey. Becky perused the entertainment section of The Reality Times, wondering which play to take her freinds to. Aha! Salome, of course!
Becky considerately booked rooms at the Hogwarts Hotel on Queen Street for her friends to freshen up and change, ready for the evenings festivities. A hot pink stretch limosine would call for them and escort them to the Blue Man Group show, and then on to the party at the Dragondrome Stadium.
Becky booked rooms at the Taj Mc Fal Hotel for her friends to retire to after the party, whenever they so wished…the pink limo would be available all night.
There, said Becky in satisfaction, they will love it.
Illi was beginning to really appreciate being dead and the freedom it provided to create whatever she wished at a moments notice. She’d enjoyed being a shape shifter while she was alive, often changing into a rather odd cat-like creature which was one of her favourites. She’d had tremendous fun over the years, confounding people with that one! Is it a cat? Is it a person? Is it a goat? A mongoose? hahaha what fun she’d had!
Illi surveyed the long glittering white beach on her paradise island. There must be a million billion grains of sand here. I think I will conjure up some sand sculptures, fill the beach with fantastic magical creatures….
Illi picked up a bambu cane to use as a magic wand ~ not that she needed a wand in order to perform magic, but she rather liked waving a stick around.
Abracadabra the magic palabra, fairies and goblins and sprites!
In an instant the beach was full of sand sprites, a veritable sea of impish little figures as far as the eye could see.
HHHMM, though Illi, they are all so small, I’d like something big I think, for contrast and added dimension.
Abracadabra the magic palabra, centaurs and unicorns and giants!
Lordy, the giants had flattened whole tribes of sand gnomes. A few less giants, I think! Illi waved her magic wand of cane again, and disappeared all but one of the giants. RaFa the Giant, you may stay on my beach, Illi graciously declared to a kindly looking character of monstrous proportions who had considerately appeared at the very end of the beach so as not to flatten the sand sprites.
On impulse, Illi found herself chanting the spell again…Abracadabra the magic palabra, DRAGONS appear on my beach!
Four splendid sand dragons appeared in the shallows of the lagoon, sensuously sepentine in appearance, and sparkling in the tropical sun.
India Louise and Eugenia momentarily forgot about the gold locket and walked over to the exceptionally long trunk. India dropped the locket into her pocket as she investigated the exterior of the trunk, which didn’t appear to have an opening. It seemed to have been made around whatever it housed, and permanently.
‘How strange’, mused India, ‘it must not be intended to open, ever!’
‘That makes me want to open it’, said Eugenia. ‘Let’s! Let’s open it!’
Eugenia was rummaging in the desk drawers for a suitable tool.
‘Wow, look at this, Indy’. She held a heavy black letter opener up to show India, with an elaborate carved dragon on the handle. The dragon had glittering amethyst eyes, and a serpentine line of coloured stones along its back.
India shivered involuntarily at the sight of the dragon. Horrid nasty creatures, dragons, she muttered, resisting an urge to cross herself. ‘Peace be with you, now bugger off’ she whispered the spell under her breath so Eugenia wouldn’t hear her and think she was a silly goose. Horrid scaley slimy stinky reptiles.
‘You go first, Genie, try and prise the trunk open.’ India didn’t want to touch the letter opener, but she was rather curious about the contents of the trunk.
‘Nice one, Genie, well done.’ India said as Eugenia wrenched off another few planks.
‘Oh MY GOD!’ ‘Jumping Jehosophat!’ ‘What the……’ ‘Holy Moly, Genie, what the….’. After a few initial exclamations, the girls were silent, the hair standing up on their arms.
They were looking down at the shrivelled features of a dried up body, covered in bits of disintegrating faded fabric.
‘A mummy! It’s a friggen mummy!’
India Louise shivered in the draughty corridor and glanced furtively over her shoulder. Bill! she hissed into the keyhole. She tapped softly on the door again, afraid of waking Manon in the next room. It would be difficult enough to explain to Bill, let alone trying to explain to the nosy and rather batty cook.
She wrapped her dressing gown tightly round her, and felt the weighty key clunk against her thigh. Eugenia and India Louise had been playing ‘let’s pretend’ with the key that Grandad Wrick had thrown on the bonfire (that India found in the ashes the next day and thought would make a super present for Eugenia….. they both loved odd little gifts).
For days they’d been wandering around the many corridors and wings of the Wrick castle, and Eugenia’s ancient rambling Sandlebright Hall. On fine days they’d explored the grounds, the aviaries and stables and hay barns, the meadows and follies, the lodges and farm cottages, through the spinney to the river and the boathouse, and back through the rose arbours… imagining themselves in different times and places, as different people, making up stories and weaving the key into each little story…… the murder at the boathouse and the key to the mystery… the key to the kitchen and the affairs of the cook… the parrots and the key to the bird cage…… the key to the captains trunk in the attic…
Until they found the place where the key didn’t fit into the story…that is to say, the one place that should have needed a key, The Locked Room that only great grandad Wrick ever went in, was unlocked.
Malvina had been busy opening doors for herself, and thus, for the All.
Creating the sabulmantium with Leörmn had revealed new potentials to her. And just before putting the final touch to the device, she had felt engulfed in a huge wave and before she knew it, she was talking with someone. A great creative power, which was stemming from herself, and also from which she stemmed too.
It had named itself Naasir.
It had revealed to her, in the form of a dark abyss, myriads of unknown potentials waiting for her to leap in faith into them. It had gently requested that she release her hold on the caves openings, so that she could explore more, and also bring more to herself.
Then Naasir took the form of a great dragon in that abyss, from which roots were growing and pushing their way, slowly and surely, into the rich soil towards the light of their fullness.
She had then seen the dragon’s arched back and tail shift into a chain of spiked rocks, separating the worlds seas in two. Three of the scales on the right of the dragon’s skin were glimmering, and she could see they were looking for a passage.
Would she allow that to happen? Yes, she wanted to. Open the doorways, and reunite what was separate, but gently, one at a time.
Slowly, the kite-shaped rocky plates on the back of the dragon moved apart, to open a slight, safe passage for the glimmering scales. They were caught in the eddies that surged from the opening, but Malvina’s focus helped them to float and cross safely, as they wanted to.
She then came back to herself, seated in front of the glass-shell dragon egg filled with coloured sand, awed with that power she had just felt through her. She knew it was her own power, and that the device had only allowed it to be expressed, but she had felt wary of how the sabulmantium could be used by others.
At the same time, Leörmn who was once again the tiny weaszchilla trotting on the wooden table in front of her had laughed squeakingly. And looking at the toy in front of her, she had understood how it could only be used by those who would see beyond the thinly veiled surface. For the uncaring eye, this would only be a toy, mundane and without interest, but for the pure of heart, its help could be harnessed.
That’s how she’d knew she did not need it any longer, and could release it.
So, the doors had been opened, and people were feeling the new jewels sparkling behind the dark passages. And gifts from friends could now come across the veils.
When she entered, she saw a guéridon table in the middle of a moistly pungent room. On the table, a polished egg was here. She recognized it at once. It had an azure blue glow to it, and fond memories came back to her.
Back then, she was a young Sorceress in training on the Island of Mörk, in the middle of the Icy Lands, the birth and dying place of the dragons.
This egg was one from a set of three. It was the first glubolín she’d ever made, along with her two companions. They had kept it to communicate with each other when they parted.
Malvina, the youngest of the three, had kept the azure blue, and chose to go to the Dragon Head Peninsula.
Oörlaith had kept the mauve, and went near the town of Kapalÿka, on the Snimeÿa River delta bordering the Marshes of Doom.
As for Roselÿn, the eldest of the three, she had taken the amber one, and had went as far as anyone would have dared go, flying on her spiked dragon Rëgkvist, past the Great Rift.
They had kept in touch, but contacts had been more and more sporadic as each were discovering their own new environments, and had ceased altogether, almost at the same time.
As far as she knew, Roselÿn had been starting her own rookery in the sandy ice deserts of Åsgurdy, mostly hiding there from the superstitious people of that land. And Oörlaith, whom she was closest to, had been devising another funny way to keep people away from her rookery. Her own dragon, the playful Andarión, was shape-shifting as a huge shrimp to pretend that the surroundings were haunted.
Recalling all these moment, Malvina laughed at how silly they all were, and felt a long to be connecting again with her friends. Would anyone of them be around their own glubolíns?
India Louise sat at the end of the extraordinarily long oak dinner table. A tiny figure engrossed in some drawing. The morning sun shone in the window, brightening the otherwise dark room.
Lord Wrick walked in, not seeming to see India Louise at first. He held a letter in his hand, and some old newspaper clippings. He sat down heavily at the table, opened the letter, and read it. After reading it, he sat staring into space for a long while.
India Louise looked up from her drawing.
What is wrong Grandpa? You look sad. She walked over to him and hugged him. See look at this. Look at my drawing of a flower, perhaps that will cheer you up. The painter Bill has been showing me how to use these paint sticks and also how to use my mind to help make the painting have life.
It is beautiful India Louise.
What did the letter say Grandpa. Why is it making you so sad?
It is just an old letter, India Louise.
Yes it looks very old. Was it bad news?
Just reminds me of things I wish I had said a long time ago, said her great grandfather, Regret is an awful curse
The little girl hugged him again. Yes it sounds awful. I think I will draw another flower for you grandpa.
He smiled. Thank you India Louise. I will be back soon. I will put the letter away now.
Yes, put it away now. I can’t see any point looking at it if it makes you sad, and then come and see the flower I will draw for you.
Lord Wrick walked over to the bookshelves and reached up. There was a tin on the top shelf. He opened the tin and got out an old key.
He walked down the passage way, to the right and then down some stairs leading to the cellar. There was a door, which had not been opened for some time, and he had to use some force to get the key to work in the lock.
The room was dark, musty, mostly full of what would seem to be junk, which had been thrown there when people did not know what else was to be done with it. There was an old chest of drawers against one wall. He pulled open the top draw, fingering gently some of the items, more old letters, a feather, some pebbles, a diary, some old paintings and photos. He knew each object had a life of it’s own, memories which create worlds. He added the letter and the newspaper article.
As he left the room, he wondered whether to lock the door again, and decided not to. He had a funny feeling within himself as he made this decision to leave it open, a shift, as though his simple decision had changed things, somehow.
Silly old fool he thought, laughing at himself. He would go and see the flower that India Louise was drawing for him.
Becky lay back and closed her eyes, and started to drift. Suddenly she felt a snap on the left side of her neck which seemed to alter her perception. After some moments, she felt as though she was an entire country, or even a whole continent, a huge expanded feeling, weightless and timeless.
BRRRINNNGGGG! Becky fumbled for the alarm clock. Surely not time to get up already!
‘Coastal parking on any of the gardens of the self’. What? ‘Coastal parking on any of the gardens of the self’. Becky wrote it down on a piece of paper, and put it in her Clue Box, wondering what on earth it meant. She was getting used to the strange cryptic clues and riddles appearing, and wondered if they would ever make any kind of sense.
She made her way downstairs to the kitchen, and the headlines in the Reality Times newspaper on the table caught her eye:
‘Mysterious Carved Rock Faces Appear in Yorkshire Villages.’
Dory was secretly delighted Georges had drugged the coleslaw, despite appearing to be angry. She loved the way different things altered her perception, and even though she knew how to alter her perception without using a drug now, she also knew she was creating the drug and its effects, and that it didn’t much matter whether she did or she didn’t.
(Becky wondered if that principle applied to pain relieving drugs too, and decided that indeed it must. She wondered though if she really really believed it enough to trust herself to create pain relief WITHOUT actually swallowing a little ball of physical matter)
Dory was reluctant to admit it at first, but she’d also known all along that she’d created Georges appearing out of nowhere like that, and that she had in fact invited him. Sometimes it seemed easier to forget that and just grumble, which of course was acceptable too. Grumbling was fun sometimes, but it got awfully boring if she carried it on for too long.
The coleslaw was delicious.
Have some more, offered Geroges
(Becky made a note to change Georges name to Geroges. It was no accident that she kept typing it like that, and she was beginning to think correcting it all the time was futile, and that she was somehow missing the clue)
Dory munched the crunchy coleslaw.
(Without a moments appreciation for her lovely strong full set of teeth, Becky noticed)
Dory unexpectedly felt a moment of appreciation for her teeth. Wow, she thought, I never even think about that, but teeth are cool. She shuddered when she remembered an awful dentist dream she’d recently had.
Dory looked up at Geroges and smiled.
Got any chocolate?
She found this quite irritating. They are really bit rude around here, she muttered.
Arona sat down on the floor of the cave and considered her options. She was tired of the cave and could barely remember what had drawn her here in the first place.
It had been the music of course. She had wanted to find the source of the music. However for the most part she decided her experience had been rather disappointing.
(Arona was never at her best when hungry and this was causing her to quickly forget some of the wonderful experiences with the music and the paintings, and take a rather negative view of events.)
All I have done is wander around dark passageways really.
And now, to top it all off, apparently things are shifting. In the name of heaven what does that mean?
AND if one more person tells me to use my magic I will probably scream or something!
Perish the thought, came a grumpy voice from a particularly dark corner. Your moaning is quite sufficiently bad enough.
Oh cute, said Arona, a talking cat.
Cute yourself, responded Mandrake, love your cape by the way.
(Mandrake was prone to sarcasm, considering it a perfectly valid form of humour.)
Arona stroked Mandrake’s soft black coat and tried her hardest to work out what to do. It was all feeling a bit bleak at the moment, the ever changing cave, the half light, the heat and humidity… and especially her hunger.
Mandrake sighed in an impatiently eggsagerated sort of a way.
Heavens to murgatroyd¹, how can I relax with your incessant thinking? Okay so here’s an easy one for you: what’s the most important thing about magic?
All of a sudden Arona felt a flash of lightness and a sense of new energy moving within her.
of course! She exclaimed delightedly, hugging the less than enthusiastic Mandrake, you have to believe in it!
[¹] Mandrake being a very educate cat from noble ancestors, some of its speech may be difficult to grasp for the average reader, which was certainly not the case for the astute Arona.
Anyway, here is some complement on that ‘Murgatroyd’ .
By the time Illi had finished reading the newspaper article she felt thoroughly confused. Mechanically she folded the newspaper neatly and then lit a cigarette, resting her elbows on the breakfast table and her chin in her hands. She gazed through the ribbons of blue smoke and the dust drifting through the sunbeams, wondering if she was dreaming, dead, or alive. It was becoming so hard to tell the difference.
Oh well, I’ll think about it later, she thought, and mentally popped it into her clue and riddle box. Her mind wandered back to the story she’d just been reading, and the charming illustrations. The drawing of the young man in the white robe had seemed familiar, and she liked his name too…Sanso, The Wanderer.
As she imagined him, she felt herself lurch ever so slightly sideways, and as she did, the image in her mind of Sanso became suddenly life-like…incredibly so! He was looking at her in astonishment, and taking a step backwards, saying Lordy! not another one appearing out of thin air!
Illi looked around and found herself not in the sunny breakfast room but in a sandy cave, with a little girl in a wooly jumper, a young man in a white robe holding a large rusty key, and a parrot.
Suddenly Illi didn’t care anymore whether she was alive or dead, dreaming or awake. This was beginning to look like fun.
Illi felt much better, and was sitting at the breakfast table, basking in the warm shafts of sunlight filtering in through the window, and listening to the birds singing in the lemon tree outside.
BelleDora came in from the kitchen bearing a large tray with freshly squeezed buckberry juice, soft boiled eggs in pistachio green eggcups and bread and butter soldiers, and The Reality Times newspaper.
Illi wasn’t in the habit of reading the news, but occasionally found an article of interest. Todays headlines looked intriguing: Fiona’s Diary: never before published excerpts of the Malvina Dragon saga.
Sanso was very hungry. He’d been living on the fungus that grew inside the dampest parts of the cave, but the recent stretches of tunnel had been much drier, sandy even. He hadn’t found a cave entrance for days and longed to step out of the cave into air and sunlight and green things, and find something fresh and juicy to eat.
Beginning to feel quite despondent, and with the hunger and thirst making his body ache terribly, he sat down, crumpled into a heap on the sandy floor. He lay back, stretching out flat and slept for what seemed like days.
He woke up mumbling the name Eggleton, which reminded him of a dish he’d encountered at one of the cave entrance worlds. He’d wandered into a beautiful strange green and rainy land, and followed the delicious aroma of something that seemed so delightfully familiar, that he couldn’t quite place, something that reminded him of mornings. Coffee! He remembered now. The smell of coffee had led him to a door with big brass numbers on it: 57. He opened the door and peered round it, wondering if he’d be welcome. It had seemed as though nobody was there, but a table was laid for one, with scrambled eggs on toast (freshly cooked as if whoever had prepared it had known eggsactly when he would arrive) and a steaming pot of black coffee.
Sanso stretched and realized his many aches and pains had been eased by the sleep on the soft sand on the cave floor, and the dry atmosphere, and slowly opened his eyes. Lying flat on his back, he was looking directly up at the tunnel ceiling. There was a door in the ceiling, strangely parrallel to the floor, an odd position for a door, he thought. His heart lurched and his stomach growled again with hunger as he noticed the large brass numbers on the door: 57.
Arona eventually woke from her sleep, still tangled in the images from her dreams. Unable to remember these images she was left feeling as though she were adrift in a boat on the ocean, not caring where the wind and waves may take her.
She had no feeling that morning. It was as though a door had closed in her mind, shutting out the part that could feel. She did not know, nor care, whether she was shutting out joy or sorrow, only that some part of her wanted to be alone.
She remembered the words of the older woman who had sat with her and soothed her to sleep. Or was she already asleep? Was the woman a dream?
Use your magic, she had said.
When she was young, in the Village, magic had come easily to Arona. When did it end?. She screwed up her eyes trying to concentrate. It hadn’t ended all at once. Did it start to end with the cloak her parents had given her?
Arona shook her head briskly and thoughts, like leaves in the wind, lifted and fell back to earth again in new formations.
The candle still burned brightly and her attention was drawn to the heavy wooden door, knowing she could not put it off any longer. In her bag of treasures was a key. It had been given to her at the beginning of her 21 st year, as was custom in the Village. It was no surprise to her that it fitted the lock perfectly.
Thank you for having me room, she said as she left.
No, thank YOU, replied the sleepy glukenitch.
The door led directly into another space, larger, brighter. She could sense someone there, but not in solid form. It was a beautiful woman who Arona felt an immediate affinity with, and then a strange sadness came unbidden.
I have no clue answered Arona briskly, quickly shutting the door back on these pesky emotions.
You always know, just feel it
So Arona closed her eyes tightly and allowed herself to feel the answer.
Because you know who you are, and it made me realise I have no idea who I am.
Mmmmmmm, said the woman, maybe you would care to look at my new paintings. Actually they are some of yours.
Intrigued, Arona felt this would be a suitable distraction and she looked with much interest.
The first painting was of a child, in a beautiful meadow of flowers. The child appeared to be completely absorbed, concentrating on a small blue butterfly which had lighted on her finger.
The picture itself moved and changed shape as though it were a portal to another living, breathing world. In the corner of the picture were some other children who seemed to be playing happily together.
Arona, who had felt immediately connected with the young child frowned.
Doesn’t the little girl feel left out?
Go in, said the woman, Go inside the picture and feel the answer.
Oh, and you might want to leave your cloak behind.
So Arona did, and she became the child, but also stayed herself, observing the scene. She felt the child’s happy fascination in her connection with the butterfly. Not just the butterfly. She could feel her connected with the earth, and the gentle breezes and the beautiful flowers … The child was deeply contented, absorbed in the moment, moving happily with the flow of her interest.
I remember feeling like that, thought Arona, before the magic went.
She gently drew the child’s attention to the other children and felt the flow of energy between them. The child was so sure of who she was and where she wanted to be, and Arona could feel the loving acceptance of her playmates.
As the child’s attention went to the others, one of the children looked up and came running over. They sat together and laughed at some funny rabbits which had appeared in the meadow.
Arona returned to the cave.
You look troubled
Well, Arona felt a little perplexed. It’s all very well playing with butterflies and rabbits in a meadow, but it is not terribly practical.
On the contrary, perhaps it is very practical. Would you like to see another of your paintings?
Suspended gracefully between two posts was a beautiful, glistening spider web. Little drops of rain hung like jewels on a chain. An enormous spider waited patiently in the shadows. As Arona watched a small insect happened at that moment to be caught, and the spider began to creep along the delicate lines.
Arona shuddered a little. I might not jump into that one .
The woman laughed, Use your magic Arona. Weave your magic web and let it all come to you.
Oh you are the second person to tell me to use my magic. An old lady came to me in my dreams, I think.
Well I gave her the same advice, years ago.
More damn riddles, Arona thought to herself, and the woman laughed.
One final painting of yours I would like to show you. It is beautiful is it not?
Arona stared mesmerised for a moment, and then leapt right in.
She sat among an audience, captivated by the dancers on the stage ahead. Beautiful music played and it reminded Arona of the music she had heard earlier. The dancers leapt and twirled and Arona was enraptured.
Dance Arona, she heard the woman’s voice
I can’t dance like that, I’m not good enough.
It doesn’t matter
And Arona could not hold back any longer and entered the body of one of the dancers. She did not know the dance so she made up her own steps, and strangely this seemed to fit perfectly with the other dancers.
Back in the cave the woman seemed to be listening to something Arona did not think she could hear.
Things are shifting she said
Oh lordy, are they said Arona, What should I do now?
Feel the answer
Arona felt. I am very hungry, eggceptionally so.
The transmugrification was about to start.
He had been checking out every living being in the cave, and wanted to make things less complicated for them, without startling them too much. For creatures, that was easy, he could communicate well with them, and they knew the changes would be temporary.
But for humans, let alone gripshawks, that was more difficult as they could play deaf as pleased them.
Hopefully, the gripshawk was in good hands outside the cave, and that was probably better for her, as she would probably have hurt herself more than was necessary in not listening to the exhortations to stay calm.
As for the young adventuress, she was sleeping joyfully, and the little glukenitch that Leörmn had left to her side to keep watch and warn him in case she would be too distressed was silently watching over her.
Írtak was aware that the process was about to begin, as he had been trained by Malvina to listen to the flimsiest changes in the cave, and how his body was responding to these subtle modifications. This one would probably become of great dragon rider, but for now he was young and needed to hone his abilities. His father had been renouncing of telling him what was best and most reasonable for him to do, and allowed him to spend much time in the cave. He was not really interested by these magical things, but he knew they were important for his son, and was encouraging, in his own manner.
As for Malvina, she was unaffected in a way, because she was part of Leörmn as much as he was a part of her, and it was like they were moving hand in hand. These hiding and seeking the eggs were like a playful game between them, because their interests were different, but all in all, they were one, and trusted each other completely.
The more troublesome was perhaps Sanso, the wanderer. This one seemed trapped in between Worlds. The caves at times also acted as portals between Worlds, and this one had been unknowingly crossing the Worlds, as the delimitations between imagination and reality were only in words, and did not really exist. Leörmn was hoping he would not appear in the midst of the ruckus.
So, on one of the wooden decks near the apartments of Malvina, he sat, overlooking the glowing eggs, and bathing into the music.
Closing his eyes, he felt every part of the cave as if it were an extension of his own body, which was in fact much bigger than this current appearance, so big in fact that it was the World itself. And every creature breathing in it was a very cherished part of his body, and he slowly breathed in and out.
He envisioned a great light pouring from the volcanic insides of the cavern, which inundated the cave in a misty warmth. It was a loving light that neither glukenitches nor schpurniatz feared. And the sinuous insides of the caves expanded and straightened in huge corridors, and doors disappeared, and gorgeous paintings from the mind and craft of Malvina decorated the walls in rich colours.
And near the platform, inside the hall, a huge table sprung from the floor, for the banquet that was to come.
And a new egg was laid somewhere in the cave, glowing of an emerald tint.
This “one” was a bit different though…
A middle-aged man was looking upon her when Illi woke up.
— Where am I? Who are you?, she asked a bit uncomfortable, her body swollen from the many bumps she had had in her recent adventures.
— Don’t move too much, answered the man, I found you near the gulch, you were exhausted and delirious. Actually, you can thank my dogs for having found you, though you were so anxious that you still found the strength to run away from them…
Illi smiled faintly.
— And, I’m Huÿgens.
— Thank you for your hospitality, finally said Illi, who was not accustomed to such kindness from the people of this land, especially towards her kind.
— Don’t mention it, that’s all natural, said Huÿgens. You know, my dogs have found you near a hole where my son had fallen some time ago. He had been lucky enough not to break his bones, because we humans are less prone to acrobatics than your kind… but well, I would have appreciated that someone take care of him, if he had been in the same predicament.
— I don’t have children, said Illi dreamily, that’s also why I left my tribe, I wanted to live a free life… What’s his name?
— Írtak, answered the stocky man with a hint of pride in his smile. It means “arrow head” in the Old Speech…
— That’s lovely, smiled Illi, feeling now much more comfortable on the rough bed.
— Now, take some rest. There is some pruidgee in the bowl here, if you want some, it’s made with milk of my langoats. That’ll make you stronger. If you need anything, just howl. I won’t be far.
— Thank you, answered Illi with gratitude.
Illi set off at a brisk trot in search of the cave. A deafening clap of thunder made her flinch and lose her footing. She slipped, and slid down a steep slippery wet bank, tumbling and rolling out of control. Arrgghh! How embarrassing, she thought, I hope no-one is watching….OUCH! She banged her head on a strangely perfect long oblong stone, which catapulted her into the air and into a cork oak tree. Lordy! She clung onto the knobbly grey bark, trembling and gasping.
Well, I may as well have a smoke and catch my breath, she thought, at least it’s fairly dry here in this tree. She inched upwards until she found a comfortable fork in the branches and leaned her back against the trunk, fishing in the pockets of her tartan jacket for her Camels and her lighter.
Ahhhh….that’s better! Now, where are we? Illi felt more optimistic, and surveyed the terrain. AHA! In a little dip behind the tree was a dark hole in the ground. That will lead to a cave, I’m sure of it! Illi lit another smoke, musing that she might never have found the cave entrance had she not banged her head on the strange oblong stone, and hurtled into the tree.
Feeling much more enthusiastic, Illi climbed down out of the tree and went to investigate the dark hole in the ground. HHmmmm…no sign of a rope, or steps, no light, she wondered what to do next. A voice boomed in her head TRUST! Trust is the key!
Suddenly feeling very devil-may-care and adventurous, Illi dived into the hole head first… wwwwhhhheeeeeee HOOOOO…… the free-fall was exhilarating, exciting, wildly fun….and then a little voice of doubt crept in, Are you stark raving MAD?
Whallop! Illi landed on something soft, something sodden and smelling a bit of mold. Momentarily stunned, she just lay there, in a heap on the soft wet lump.
“Holy MOLY” the soft wet lump shouted “Get OFF me! How incredibly RUDE to land on me like that without so much as an introduction!”
Leörmn was indeed very kind hearted, but he was also quite playful too, and wanted to be as extensively welcoming as was possible. Which meant, they would have some fun with that assertive young woman in visiting as much as possible of the cave.
Arona was heavily cloaked as if the cave were dark humid and cold, but in fact, it was all of the above, except cold. Leörmn grinned widely when he saw her surprise at the steamy temperature inside it.
Oh yes, he said you didn’t expect us dragons to feel comfortable in that grassy land where every dolt can make rain happen at any minute without warning… Then he added at least, we have some proper heating, but you’ll see that in due time…
Arona was adapting slowly her gaze to the light steam, and could see more clearly the inside of the cave. Right now, they were only in a wide tunnel, with many creaks and at times, smoother parts of the walls with paintings on them.
Her attention caught up by the richly decorated walls, Arona didn’t notice that the sly dragon had disappeared in front of her, and she was now standing in front of three openings at the end of the long tunnel.
Rats… she thought, exasperated by the heat, the heavy cloak and now the waggish dragon. Of course, she still could hear the sound of the harp, but she was not in the mood for more treasure hunt.
Hey there! That’s no fun! she cried in exasperation. But in her exertion she only managed to awaken the colony of bat-like schpurniatz nested in the cracks of the upper walls.
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