Some updates on the Heartwoods Weave
So far, there were loosely 2 chapters in this story, and we’re entering the 3rd.
Let’s call them:
- Ch. 1 – The Curses of the Stolen Shards
- Ch. 2 – The Flight to the Desert Mountains
- Ch. 3 – Down the Lands of Giants
Ch. 1 – The Curses of the Stolen Shards
In Chapter One, we get acquainted with the main characters as their destinies intertwine (Rukshan, Glynis, Eleri, Gorrash, Fox, Olliver and Tak).
In a long past, the Forest held a powerful artifact created and left behind as a seal by the Gods now departed in their World: a Gem of Creation. It was defiled by thieves (the 7 characters in their previous incarnations of Dark Fae (Ru), Toothless Dragon (Gl), Laughing Crone (El), Mapster Dwarf (Go), Glade Troll (Fo), Trickster Dryad (Ol), Tricked Girl (Ta)), and they all took a shard of the Gem, although the innocent girl was tricked to open the woods by a promise of resurrecting a loved one, and resented all the others for it. She unwittingly created the curse all characters were suffering from, as an eternal punishment. Removing the Gem from the center of the Forest and breaking it started a chain of events, leading to many changes in the World. The Forest continued to grow and claim land, and around the (Dragon) Heartwoods at the center, grew many other woods – the Haunted Bamboo Forest, the Enchanted Forest, the Hermit’s Forest, the Fae’s Forest etc. At the other side, Cities had developed, and at the moment of the story, started to gain control over the magical world of Old.
From the special abilities the Seven gained, some changes were triggered too. One God left behind was turned into stone by the now young Crone (E).
Due to the curse, their memories were lost, and they were born again in many places and other forms.
During the course of Ch.1, they got healed with the help of Master Gibbon, and the Braider Shaman Kumihimo, who directed Rukshan how to use the Vanishing Book, which once completed by all, and burnt as an offering, lifted the curse. Tak (the Girl of the origin story), now a shapeshifting Gibbon boy, learned to let go of the pain, and to start to live as a young orphan under the gentle care of the writer Margoritt Loursenoir and her goat Emma, in a cottage in the woods.
Glynis, a powerful healer with a knack for potions, still haven’t found a way to undo the curse of her scales, which she accepts, has found residency and new friends and a funny parrot named Sunshine. Eleri besides her exploration of anti-gravity, learnt to make peace with the reawakened God Hasamelis no longer vengeful but annoyed at being ignored for a mortal Yorath. Eleri continues to love to butt heads with the iniquities of the world, which are never in lack, often embodied by Leroway and his thugs. Gorrash, who adopted the little baby Snoots activated by Glynis’ potions seemed simply happy to have found a community. Fox, a fox which under the tutelage of Master Gibbon, learnt to shapeshift as a human for all his work and accumulation of good karma. Olliver, a young man with potential, found his power by activating the teleporting egg Rukshan gave him. As for Rukshan, who was plagued by ghosts and dark forces, he found a way to relieve the Forest and the world of their curse, but his world is torn between his duties towards his Fae family in the woods, his impossible love for his Queen, and his wants for a different life of exploration, especially now knowing his past is more than what he thought he knew.
At the end of the chapter, the Door to the God’s realm, at the center of the Forest seems to have reopened.
Ch. 2 – The Flight to the Desert Mountains
In the second Chapter, strange sightings of light beams in the mountains prompt some of our friends to go investigate, while in the cottage, the others stay to repel encroachments by brutal modernity embodied by Leroway and his minions. Glynis has found a way to be rid of her scales, but almost failed due to Tak’s appetite for untested potions. Remaking the potion, and succeeding at last, she often still keeps her burka as fond token of her trials. Eleri is spreading glamour bomb concrete statues in the woods, and trying her hand with Glynis supervision at potions to camouflage the cottage through an invisibility spell. Muriel, Margoritt’s sister, comes for a visit.
In the mountains, the venturing heroes are caught in a sand storm and discover spirits trapped in mystical objects. Pushing forward through the mountain, they are tracked and hunted by packs of hellhounds, and dark energy released from an earthquake. Rukshan works on a magical mandala with the help and protection of his friends. Olliver discovers a new teleportation trick making him appear two places at once. Kumihimo rejoins the friends in trouble, and they all try to leave through the magical portal, while Fox baits the dogs and the Shadow. Eerily, only Fox emerges from the portal, to find a desolated, burnt Forest and his friends all gone. They had been too late, and the Shadow went with them through the portal instead of being destroyed. Luckily, a last potion left by Glynis is able to rewind Fox in time, and succeed in undoing the disaster. The beaming lights were only honeypots for wandering travellers, it turned out.
Shaken by the ordeal, Rukshan leaves the party for some R&R time in the parallel world of the Faes, which is now mostly abandoned.
Ch. 3 – Down the Lands of Giants
In Chapter 3, which has only just begun, some time has passed, and Margoritt has come back to the City, at the beginning of winter for some special kneedle treatments. Glynis and Margoritt are in turn taking care of Tak, who has joined a local school, where he seems to have befriended a mysterious girl Nesingwarys (Nesy). Gorrash seems to have been hurt, broken whilst in his statue form by Leroway’s thugs, but the Snoot babies are still staying with him, so there is hope. Fox is always hungry, and helps with the reconstruction work for the cottage, which was damaged in a fire (we suppose during Leroway’s men foray in the woods).
Rukshan emerges from his retreat after an encounter with a mad Fae, babbling about a Dark Lord’s return. Piecing clues together, he finds a long lost World Map and connection with a renegade magician who may have been the Maker of Gorrash (and maybe linked to the trapped spirits in the mountain after all). He sends a pigeon to his friends before he returns to the thick of the Heartwoods.
Now, it seems the Door to the God’s realm has reopened the ancient Realms of the Underworld too, all accessible through the central pillar of the World, intersecting their World precisely at the Heartwoods, were the Gem of Creation originally was. He’s planning to go to the long lost Underworld of the Giants, were he suspects the so-called Dark Lord is hiding.
“You do that, Sha. Nurse Trassie wasn’t it?”
Sharon nodded and pursed her lips tightly. “Bloody uppity tart. We bloody pay enough to be ‘ere, I reckon. They should get the tea bloody right.” Her eyes narrowed menacingly. “ Anyway, she’ll keep. So,‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?”
Gloria scratched her head vigorously, perhaps checking it was still there, before taking a moment to examine her fingernails.
“Wot’d Mavis say then?” she asked at last. “When you did that texting thing to ‘er?”
“‘Ere let me find my phone and I’ll read it out loud to you. Oh, blimey, ‘ave you seen my glasses, Glor?”
Gloria’s generous curves wobbled and gyrated as she convulsed into fits of laughter.
“They’re on yer bloody ‘ead!” she said pointing and gasping for breath. “Oh, I nearly peeed myself, ya blimmen muppet!”
“Thanks, Glor. Wot I’d do without you, I don’t bloody know. Don’t mean to make you pee yerself though. It’s ‘ard enough getting them nurses to give out them extra thick pantyliners. Blimmin uppity tarts. Expecially that Nurse Trassie. Anyway, she’ll keep.”
“Oh, it’s text talk. The younguns talk like that now and our Mavis always did like to keep up with trends. Lots of lust it means. That saucy cow!”
“She always was a saucy one that, Mavis! Look at us stuck in ‘ere and ‘er with a new fella. Lucky sod. Maybe after our beauty treatment, we might get us a new fella too.”
“I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track down the Doctor though, Shar. I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track him down when we’re stuck in this bleedin’ ‘ole.” Gloria shoulders shook and she began to sob loudly.
“Wot’s that then,” asked Gloria, sniffing loudly into her hanky.
“I’ve ‘ad one of my bloody brainwaves!”
“I knew you would, Shar! You’ve always ‘ad brains. I’m all agog!”
“We’ll get Mavis to go to the papers! Put in an advert to find ‘im!”
“You’re a blimmin genius, you are, Shar!”
A deep guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the other his eyes wide open.
Olliver had teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw had dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
“Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
“It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo.
She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow. It hissed and hurled back, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo started to play a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.
It shook the group awake from their trance of terror. Everobody stood and ran in chaos.
Someone tried to cover the fire.
“Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan, and he himself rushed toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly. It needed something more for the magic to take the relay. Something resisted. There was a strong gush of wind and Rukshan bent forward just in time as the screen and bamboo poles flew above his head. His chanting held the sands together, but they needed to act quickly.
Lhamom told the others to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. Fox didn’t wait to be told twice but Olliver stood his ground.
“But I want to help,” he said.
“You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. Not checking if the boy was following her order, she went to her messenger bag and foraged for the bottle of holy snot. On her way to the mandala, she picked the magic spoon from the steaming cauldron of stew, leaving a path of thick dark stains in the snow.
Lhamom stopped beside Rukshan who had rivulets of sweat flowing on his face and his coat fluttering wildly in the angry wind. He’s barely holding the sands together, she thought. She didn’t like being rushed, it made her act mindlessly. She opened the holy snot bottle and was about to pour it in the spoon covered in sauce, but she saw Rukshan’s frown of horror. She realised the red sauce might have unforgivable influence on the portal spell. She felt a nudge on her right arm, it was Ronaldo. Lhamom didn’t think twice and held the spoon for him to lick.
“Enjoy yourself!” she said. If the sauce’s not good, what about donkey saliva? she wondered, her inner voice sounding a tad hysterical. But it was not a time for meditation. She poured the holy snot in the relatively clean spoon, pronounced the spell the Lama had told her in the ancient tongue and prayed it all worked out as she poured it in the center of the mandala.
As soon as it touched the sand, they combined together in a glossy resin. The texture spread quickly to all the mandala and a dark line appeared above it. The portal teared open. Rukshan continued to chant until it was big enough to allow the hellishcopter through.
“COME NOW!” shouted Fox.
Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter, behind it an immense shadow had engulfed the night. It was different from the darkness of the portal that was full of potential and probabilities and energy. The Shadow was chaotic and mad and light was absent from it. It was spreading fast and Lhamom felt panic overwhelm her.
They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it not knowing what to do with it.
“You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
Fox nodded unable to speak. His heart was frozen by the dark presence.
Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward. The shaman looked at them disappear through the tear, soon followed by the shadow.
The wind stopped. Kumihimo heard the dogs approaching. They too wanted to go through. But before they could do so, Kumihimo closed the portal with a last chord that made her lyre explode.
In the white silence of the mountains, Rukshan was on his knees on a yakult wool rug pouring blue sand from a small pouch on a tricky part of the mandala that looked like a small person lifting his arms upwards. Rukshan was just in the right state of mind, peaceful and intensely focused, in the moment.
It was more instinct than intellect that guided his hands, and when he felt inside him something click, he stopped pouring the sand. He didn’t take the time to check if it was right, he trusted his guts.
He held the pouch to his right and said: “White”. Olliver took the pouch of blue and replaced it with another. Rukshan resumed pouring and white sand flew in a thin stream on the next part of the mandala.
After a few hours of the same routine, only broken by the occasional refreshments and drinks that Olliver brought him, the mandala was finished and Rukshan stood up to look at the result. He moved his shoulders to help relieve the tensions accumulated during the hard day of labor. He felt like an old man. His throat was dry with thirst but his eyes gleamed with joy at the result of hours of hard concentration.
“It’s beautiful,” said Olliver with awe in his voice.
“It is, isn’t it?” said Rukshan. He accepted a cup of warm and steaming yakult tea that Olliver handed him and looked at the boy. It was the first time that Olliver had spoken during the whole process.
“Thanks, Olli,” said Rukshan, “you’ve been very helpful the whole time. I’m a little bit ashamed to have taken your whole time like that and make you stand in the cold without rest.”
“Oh! Don’t worry,” said the boy, “I enjoyed watching you. Maybe one day you can teach me how to do this.”
Rukshan looked thoughtfully at the boy. The mandala drew its power from the fae’s nature. There could certainly be no danger in showing the technique to the boy. It could be a nice piece of art.
“Sure!” he said. “Once we are back. I promise to show you.”
A smile bloomed on Olliver’s face.
In the white silence of the mountain, Lhamom sat on a thick rug of yakult wool in front of a makeshift fireplace. She had finished packing their belongings, which were now securely loaded on the hellishcarpet, and decided it was cooking time. For that she had enrolled the young lad, Olliver, to keep her company instead of running around and disturbing Rukshan. The poor man… the poor manfae, Lhamom corrected, had such a difficult task that he needed all his concentration and peace of mind.
Lhamom stirred the content of the cauldron in a slow and regular motion. She smiled because she was also proud of her idea of a screen made of yakult wool and bamboo poles, cut from the haunted bamboo forest. It was as much to protect from the wind as it was for the fae’s privacy and peace of mind.
“It smells good,” said Olliver, looking with hungry eyes at what Lhamom was doing.
“I know,” she said with pride. “It’s a specialty I learned during the ice trek.”
“Can you teach me?” ask Olliver.
“Yes, sure.” She winked. “You need a special blend of spiced roots, and use pootatoes and crabbage. The secret is to make them melt in yakult salted butter for ten minutes before adding the meat and a bucket of fresh snow.”
They continued to cook and talk far all the afternoon, and when dusk came Lhamom heard Rukshan talk behind his screen. He must have finished the mandala, she thought. She smiled at Olliver, and she felt very pleased that she had kept the boy out of the manfae’s way.
Fox listened to the white silence of the mountain during that brief moment, just after the dogs had made it clear, despite all the promises of food, that they would not help the two-leggeds with their plan.
Fox sighed. For an instant, all felt still and quiet, all was perfectly where it ought to be.
The instant was brief, quickly interrupted by a first growl, joined by a second and a third, and soon the entire pack of mountain dogs walked, all teeth out, towards a surrounded Fox. He looked around. There was no escape route. He had no escape plan. His stomach reminded him that instant that he was still sick. He looked at the mad eyes of the dogs. They hadn’t even left the bones from the meat he gave them earlier. He gulped in an attempt to remove the lump of anguish stuck in his throat. There would be no trace of him left either. Just maybe some red on the snow.
He suddenly felt full of resolve and camped himself on his four legs; he would not go without a fight. His only regret was that he couldn’t help his friends go home.
We’ll meet in another life, he thought. Feeling wolfish he howled in defiance to the dogs.
They had stopped and were looking uncertain of what to do next. Fox couldn’t believe he had impressed them.
“Come,” said a voice behind him. Fox turned surprised. On the pile of his clothes stood Olliver.
“How did you,” he yelped before remembering the boy could not understand him.
“Hurry! I can teleport us back to the camp,” said the boy with his arms opened.
Without a second thought Fox jumped in Olliver’s arms and the next thing he knew was that they were back at the camp. But something was off. Fox could see Rukshan busy making his mandala and Olliver was helping him with the sand. Then he could see Lhamom cooking with the help of another Olliver.
Fox thought it might be some case of post teleportation confusion. He looked at the Olliver who helped him escape an imminent death, the fox head slightly tilted on the side, the question obvious in its eyes.
“Please don’t tell them,” said Olliver, his eyes pleading. “It just happened. I felt a little forgotten and wanted so much to be useful.”
Fox turned back into a human, too surprised to feel the bite of the cold air.
“Oh! Your clothes,” said Olliver before he disappeared. Fox didn’t have time to clear his mind before the boy was back with the clothes.
The next morning Fox woke up exhausted. He was surprised he could even sleep at all. The sound of someone walking in the snow filled in his ears and he looked around him. There was nobody in the cave with him, except for one little rat looking at him from the top of a bag of food. Fox shooed it away with wide movements of his arms and he regretted immediately when all the warmth kept under the blankets dissolved in the cold morning air. But he noticed there was improvement in his health as he felt hungry.
He decided it was no good being lazy in a bed and put on a few more layers of clothes. He took some dry oatcakes from the bag where the rat had looked at him earlier, and made sure they were securely wrapped before he left the cave.
The air was clear and crisp, and the ground had been covered in a thick layer of blinding white snow. The brightness hurt Fox’s eyes and he had to cover then with his hands. He walked towards Rukshan’s voice and his heart leaped in his chest when he recognised their friend Lhamom. She had come at last. She looked at Fox.
“You look dreadful,” she said. “It is time I got to you.”
“Yes,” said Fox, and he was surprised that this simple word could carry such great relief.
“This is the magical artefact we were looking for. I found it on my way to see you and fortunately I had chocolate bars with me that I could trade for it with the monks.”
Fox’s stomach growled. Maybe he would have preferred she kept the chocolate.
“Does that mean that we can go home?” asked Fox, a tear in his eyes.
Rukshan gave his friend a strange look before answering.
“Yes. We are going… home.”
Shawn-Paul lived in a studio apartment, crammed with bookshelves full of books and trinkets that he gathered during his many walks around the city while looking for inspiration. He hadn’t read all of the books, but he always had the intention to do it one day. One day easily became two and three, and so many.
Someone with OCD could dust date the different purchases by measuring the thickness of the layer of dust on the books.
That day, Shawn-Paul was drinking a hot chocolate at his computer on the small desk where some books lied open or closed on top of each others. The top one’s cover claimed in bold red letters “NARRATIVE COACHING, The Definitive Guide to Bring New Stories to Life”. Shawn-Paul had bought it thinking it was a coaching book for writers but it apparently aimed at teaching coaches to tell good stories. The book had proved interesting and especially another occasion to enrich his knowledge about the world or in one word procrastinate.
Shawn-Paul took a sip of the hot chocolate, which was now more lukewarm than hot and felt the impulsion to open his browser and watch a video about narrative coaching on U-stub. That’s when it all went wrong and myriads of ads popped up and covered the screen and his newly bought writer software were the first word of his novel still waited to appear.
At first, he panicked and his sudden movements back and fro almost broke the fragile equilibrium of the desk clutter. But then he shrugged, took his phone to call his friend Jeremiad for help and remembered how that went last time when he had to listen to his friend’s imaginary problems, just like imaginary friends but worse. He put the phone back in the clutter and looked at the last ad. A girl with sensuous cherry red lips winking at him with a packet of granola cookies spinning around her head.
Unaware of what was happening, Shawn-Paul felt hungry and considered his lukewarm chocolate. He smiled as he thought he could make another one and enjoy dipping some cookies in it.
He went to the kitchen and foraged through the clutter of dirty dishes and empty cookie packets. There were none left. The effect of hunger on Shawn-Paul was square grumpiness. Not round, not rectangular. Square. And it didn’t fit the curves of his stomach.
Shawn-Paul put his writer’s jacket and cap on, added a wool scarf because he had a sensitive throat, and it looked cool on him and he winked at his reflection on the mirror hanging on the main door.
He left, unaware of the smile of the granola girl.
Phew, 7 years after that initial assessment… 10% done in a blip.
The man in pistachio wondered if he had got it right. That odd contraption he’d just acquired seemed to be able to accelerate time.
Not sure if it was a boon or a curse in disguise. Now he dreaded to push that button again. The refund policy of the auction house has expired obviously, people would have thought him disappeared or dead for all this time… And 7 years down the line, the world seemed a slightly foreign place.
He brushed the thick layer of dust on the telly, and turned it on. It was the stuff of nightmares. President Tusk gloating on the news with his improbably orange hair. For a shift, he was in a deep shift.
It had taken Rukshan close to a year to clear the fog.
He had to admit, he’d dreaded more than was necessary. Faes where a bit thick headed and stubborn when it came to honoring vows and sacred words. There had been lessons to unravel for a lifetime in that year span they’d spent on the holy grounds.
Even the angry God had come around, and he wasn’t the threat Rukshan had thought he would be. Only another lonely soul, longing for companionship.
Yesterday, Rukshan had finished the book of Kumihimo. Propitiatory work, but he was beginning to see the benefits. He had finished collecting all the pages of the vanishing book, by burying himself in work for the commune, and on the few moments of silence left to himself, reaching towards the source of knowledge and gathering the elements once thought forever lost. Clearing of his Mind Palace.
Now he had to let it go. The Book was complete, and needed to be offered on the pyre.
Only then the Shards would be rightfully returned, rejoined and ready to spell the next evolution of their journey.
The pyre was neatly prepared. Gathering of fragrant herbs of the woods was a specialty of the Potion maker, the gorgeous assemblage of the beams had created a sriyantra-like pattern that seemed like it could easily open a portal to the Gods’ realm.
All of them had gathered around at the full moon. Gorrash had just awoken, and the feast was joyous and full of sparkling expectations.
Each of them took a thread to light the flames, and once the Book was put on the pyre with great reverence, all of them, one by one lighted one of the corners.
They all felt a great weight lifting from their chest, the weight of the sins of their past lives vanishing in the light, and a great joy pouring in from the dancing flames at the centre.
All was well and fresh on this night, and there was great content, and anticipation for what tomorrow would bring.
Roberto had gone to the swimming pool. He was mostly puzzled by how reality had shifted into those broken pieces that didn’t seem to fit together since he had come back from that strange tunnel with all the roots spawning strange characters from glowing pink bubbly growth.
It must have something to do with the pink liquid leaking frrrrom those strrrange pouches, he thought.
He looked pensively at the swimming pool. Half of it was covered by thick ice while the other half was boiling with micro bubbles rising from the bottom and the walls, and steam slowly rising in the cool spring air.
Roberto had first thought there might be something wrong with the water cleaning mechanism of the swimming pool, but he had checked it and nothing was wrong, except the cleaning bot was stuck in the icy part of the swimming pool.
His second thought had been that it was a fancy pool cover installed by la señora Liz. But he didn’t find the retracting mechanism. La señora Liz and la muchacha Finnley, his colleague, seemed busy with the man with the moustache. Roberto had the impression the man wanted to find a wife, he didn’t want to intrude and say anything. He had tried to talk to el mayordomo Geoffrey, but he was busy again preparing another viaje de negocios for la señora.
So Roberto was there pondering in front of the swimming pool. That’s when he noticed the entrance of the green maze just on the other side of the pool, at the junction between summer and winter. He didn’t remember if it was there before.
As soon as the words had left her mouth, Lottie regretted them. She looked at Albie’s shocked, crestfallen face and knew she had been too harsh. Maybe she wasn’t cut out to be a writing mentor. It was a constant battle for her: should she be brutally honest and possibly save them years of misdirected effort or should she foster their creative spirit at all costs, even if it meant being dishonest? She sighed and tried to backtrack.
“Look, Albie, there is some good stuff in here but it needs work … “
“It’s okay,” Albie broke in quickly. “It’s fine. I knew I was no good … it’s fine. Thanks.” He gave an embarrassed laugh. “Mum has been on at me to do something since I lost my job so i thought … well, I thought I’d give writing a shot. Better stick to walking the dog, eh!”
“Yes, you and Alex are a right pair, walking off the job like that.” Lottie shook her head, causing the thick reading glasses to slip down her long beaky nose. Lottie always wore black and she reminded Albie of a crow. He liked her though, which is why he had asked her to read his play.
“Anyway what’s done is done.” Lottie continued. And then she hesitated for a moment, pushing the glasses back up her nose and looking down at the manuscript on the table in front of her as though weighing her words carefully before continuing. “Look, Albie, one thing I did notice in your writing was that there was a recurring theme. Perhaps your subconscious trying to tell you something. It often works like that.
“The Doline thing?”
“Yes,” said Lottie. “Something to think about anyway.”TracyParticipant
thick straight meant space
hoped house sadness
seven waiting desire lost shook
holding front hand unexpected
hold thought sleep hut mum
random plot generator
A BOOK SHOP – IT IS THE AFTERNOON AFTER ALBIE HIT HIS MOTHER WITH A FEATHER.
Please Jenny, don’t leave me.
I’m sorry Albie, but I’m looking for somebody a bit more brave. Somebody who faces his fears head on, instead of running away. You hit your mother with a feather! You could have just talked to her!
I am such a person!
I’m sorry, Albie. I just don’t feel excited by this relationship anymore.
JENNY leaves and ALBIE sits down, looking defeated.
Moments later, gentle sweet shop owner MR MATT HUMBLE barges in looking flustered.
Goodness, Matt! Is everything okay?
I’m afraid not.
What is it? Don’t keep me in suspense…
It’s … a hooligan … I saw an evil hooligan frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!
Defenseless elderly ladies?
Yes, defenseless elderly ladies!
Bloomin’ heck, Matt! We’ve got to do something.
I agree, but I wouldn’t know where to start.
You can start by telling me where this happened.
MATT fans himself and begins to wheeze.
Focus Matt, focus! Where did it happen?
The Library! That’s right – the Library!
ALBIE springs up and begins to run.
EXT. A ROAD – CONTINUOUS
ALBIE rushes along the street, followed by MATT. They take a short cut through some back gardens, jumping fences along the way.
INT. A LIBRARY – SHORTLY AFTER
ROGER BLUNDER a forgetful hooligan terrorises two elderly ladies.
ALBIE, closely followed by MATT, rushes towards ROGER, but suddenly stops in his tracks.
What is is? What’s the matter?
That’s not just any old hooligan, that’s Roger Blunder!
Who’s Roger Blunder?
You can say that again.
I’m going to need candlesticks, lots of candlesticks.
Roger turns and sees Albie and Matt. He grins an evil grin.
Albie Jones, we meet again!
Yes. It was a long, long time ago…
EXT. A PARK – BACK IN TIME
A young ALBIE is sitting in a park listening to some trance music, when suddenly a dark shadow casts over him.
He looks up and sees ROGER. He takes off his headphones.
Would you like some wine gums?
ALBIE’s eyes light up, but then he studies ROGER more closely, and looks uneasy.
I don’t know, you look kind of forgetful.
Me? No. I’m not forgetful. I’m the least forgetful hooligan in the world.
Wait, you’re a hooligan?
ALBIE runs away, screaming.
INT. A LIBRARY – PRESENT DAY
You were a coward then, and you are a coward now.
He turns back and shouts.
I mean, I am running away, but I’ll be back – with candlesticks.
I’m not scared of you.
You should be.
INT. A SWEET SHOP – LATER THAT DAY
ALBIE and MATT walk around searching for something.
I feel sure I left my candlesticks somewhere around here.
Are you sure? It does seem like an odd place to keep deadly candlesticks.
You know nothing Matt Humble.
We’ve been searching for ages. I really don’t think they’re here.
Suddenly, ROGER appears, holding a pair of candlesticks.
Looking for something?
Crikey, Albie, he’s got your candlesticks.
Tell me something I don’t already know!
The earth’s circumference at the equator is about 40,075 km.
I know that already!
I’m afraid of dust.
While ROGER is looking at MATT with disgust, ALBIE lunges forward and grabs his deadly candlesticks. He wields them, triumphantly.
Prepare to die, you forgetful aubergine!
No please! All I did was frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!
JENNY enters, unseen by any of the others.
Don’t hurt me! Please!
Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t use these candlesticks on you right away!
Because Albie, I am your father.
ALBIE looks stunned for a few moments, but then collects himself.
No you’re not!
Ah well, it had to be worth a try.
ROGER tries to grab the candlesticks but ALBIE dodges out of the way.
Who’s the daddy now? Huh? Huh?
Unexpectedly, ROGER slumps to the ground.
Did he just faint?
I think so. Well that’s disappointing. I was rather hoping for a more dramatic conclusion, involving my deadly candlesticks.
ALBIE crouches over ROGER’s body.
Be careful, Albie. It could be a trick.
No, it’s not a trick. It appears that… It would seem… Roger Blunder is dead!
Yes, it appears that I scared him to death.
MATT claps his hands.
So your candlesticks did save the day, after all.
JENNY steps forward.
Is it true? Did you kill the forgetful hooligan?
Jenny how long have you been…?
JENNY puts her arm around ALBIE.
Then you saw it for yourself. I killed Roger Blunder.
Then the elderly ladies are safe?
It does seem that way!
A crowd of vulnerable elderly ladies enter, looking relived.
You are their hero.
The elderly ladies bow to ALBIE.
There is no need to bow to me. I seek no worship. The knowledge that Roger Blunder will never frighten elderly ladies ever again, is enough for me.
You are humble as well as brave! And I think that makes up for hitting your mother with a feather. It does in my opinion!
One of the elderly ladies passes ALBIE a healing ring
I think they want you to have it, as a symbol of their gratitude.
I couldn’t possibly.
Well, if you insist. It could come in handy when I go to the Doline tomorrow. With my friend Matt. It is dangerous and only for brave people and a healing ring could come in handy.
ALBIE takes the ring.
The elderly ladies bow their heads once more, and leave.
ALBIE turns to JENNY.
Does this mean you want me back?
Well you can’t have me.
You had no faith in me. You had to see my scare a hooligan to death before you would believe in me. I don’t want a lover like that. And I am going to the Doline and I may not be back!
Please leave. I want to spend time with the one person who stayed with me through thick and thin – my best friend, Matt.
You heard the gentleman. Now be off with you. Skidaddle! Shoo!
I’m sorry Jenny, but I think you should skidaddle.
MATT turns to ALBIE.
Did you mean that? You know … that I’m your best friend?
Of course you are!
The two walk off arm in arm.
Suddenly MATT stops.
When I said I’m afraid of dust, you know I was just trying to distract the hooligan don’t you?
The snow had turned into blizzard and it was hard to see even a few meters ahead. It was hard to move because of the wind and of the thick white layer covering the forest ground. Fox looked behind him, his footsteps were already gone. He felt worried for the dwarf. Fox thought he shouldn’t have left his friend like that. There was no point now looking for him, and anyway Fox wasn’t really sure in which direction he came from. He shivered, his clothes were soaked and covered with snow and ice. He felt cold inside his bones. He was too tired to even wish for shelter. He was about to sit in the snow when he felt something bumping into his left leg.
“Oh! you’re there,” said Gorrash. “What strange weather. I have never seen something like it.”
Fox was too cold to answer but he felt relieved that his friend was well. The dwarf seemed so lively. Fox noticed his friend was carrying three colourful eggs in his little arms. They reminded him of the glowing eggs of that strange creature, except they weren’t glowing. He wanted to ask where Gorrash had found them, but his mouth wouldn’t respond.
“Anyway,” said the dwarf, “You’d better come this way, there is a wooden house with a fire burning inside.”
Fox looked at the dwarf jumping over the thick snow as if it was a game. He hesitated but decided to follow. He had nothing to lose.
They soon arrived in front of a wooden house. The door opened and an old lady got out, opening an umbrella. She was waving her other arm and saying something that Fox couldn’t hear with the raging wind. He continued to advance and the old lady looked horrified. She hurried toward him still talking. Fox eventually heard what she was saying.
“Don’t come closer! My house will not resist that blizzard.”
It was so strange that Fox stopped where he was. The old woman had no difficulty approaching despite the wind and the snow. When she was close enough, she covered Fox with the umbrella and the world became still around them.
“Is that a magic umbrella?” he asked.
“Sort of,” said the woman. “It’s more of an anti-curse thingy that my friend Mr Minn gave me some time ago. I didn’t think it would be useful, until today.”
He took the road again not much later after a light breakfast.
The potion hadn’t seemed to bring about immediate noticeable changes. It told Rukshan something about its maker, who was versed enough in potions to create gradual (and likely durable) effects. Every experienced potion maker knew that the most potent potions were the ones that took time, and worked with the drinker’s inner magic instead of against its own nature. The flashy potions that made drastic changes in nature were either destructive, or fleeting as a bograt’s fart in the spring breeze.
If anything, it did give him a welcome warmth in the chest, and a lightness on his back and shoulders.
The Faes had been generous with him, and he had food enough for a few days. Generous may not have been the right word… eager to see him scamper away was more likely.
Enhanced by the potion’s warmth, the Queen’s words were starting to shake some remembrance back to him, melting away a deep crust of memories he had forgotten somehow, pushing against the snow like promises of crocuses in spring. The core of the Dragon Heartswood was very close now, a most sacrosanct place.
Faes were only living at the fringe, where life and magic flew, running like the sap of an old tree, close to the bark.
Inside was darker, harder to get to. Some said it was where life and death met, the birthplace of the Old Gods and of their Dragons guardians before the Sundering.
His initial plan was to go around it, safe in Fae territory, but after the past days, and the relentless menace of the hungry ghosts on his trail, he had to take risks, and draw them away from his kin.
The warmth in his heart was getting warmer, and he felt encouraged to move forth in his plan. He gave a last look at the mountain range in the distance before stepping into the black and white thickets of austere trees.
Margoritt Loursenoir wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders. The window of her lodge was open to the chill outside, but she would keep the windows open as much as she could bear, for she’d missed the fresh air for a long time inside the city.
The view of the forest was also a renewed pleasure, she could stay in meditation in front of the window for hours, as if looking at a moving picture, a better work than any painter from the city would ever accomplish.
Besides, she liked being wrapped in a shawl like these women from the far away east she admired so much for their strength and independence.
She’d come there to rekindle her inspiration. In the City of the Seven Hills, she had risen to quite a fame with her literary works, even though her works were deemed fictional, and that she was a woman.
To her, they weren’t fictions. They were just the order of things revealed, the natural evolution of things, a glimpse of what was to come if the civilisation were to keep its greedy pace.
That rheumatism is killing me she looked at her hands, swollen after yesterday’s rain. An old lady like me, and that lifestyle… for how long… She would need to return for a needle session in the City. Already the supplies she’d brought were becoming scarce. She would go find some mushrooms and roots later, but for now she didn’t want to worry about that.
There was something irremediably irreconcilable about life here and life there. She was aware of the artificial nature of her escapades, but every time she moved out of the bustling city, into the enchanted woods, she would see it. Magic was still alive here, not as strong as before, but still very much alive.
Rising from her chair, she put the last of her bread’s crumbs on the windowsill. The crumbs she’d put yesterday were still there, untouched. There were hardly any birds left during winter, merely a few suspicious crows who never came too close.
It was time for her morning writing session.
Rukshan woke up early. A fine drizzle was almost in suspension in the air, and already the sounds of nature were heard all around the inn.
They shared breakfast with Lahmom who was packing to join a group for a trek high in the mountains. He wasn’t going in the same direction —the rain shadow and high plateaus of the mountainous ranges were not as attractive as the green slopes, and in winter, the treks were perilous.
The inn-keeper fed them an honest and nourishing breakfast, and after eating it in silent contentment, they went on their separate way, happy for the moment of companionship.
The entrance to the bamboo forest was easy to find, there were many stone sculptures almost all made from the same molds on either sides, many were propitiation offerings, that were clothed in red more often than not.
Once inside the bamboos, it was as though all sounds from outside had disappeared. It was only the omnipresent forest breathing slowly.
The path was narrow, and required some concentration to not miss the fading marks along the way. It had not been trodden for a while, it was obvious from the thick layers of brown leaves covering the ground.
After an hour or so of walking, he was already deep inside the forest, slowly on his way up to the slopes of the mountain forest where the Hermit and some relatives lived.
There was a soft cry that caught his attention. It wasn’t unusual to find all sorts of creatures in the woods, normally they would leave you alone if you did the same. But the sounds were like a calling for help, full of sadness.
It would surely mean a detour, but again, after that fence business, he may as well have been guided here for some unfathomable purpose. He walked resolutely toward the sound, and after a short walk in the sodden earth, he found the origin of the sound.
There was a small hole made of bamboo leaves, and in it he could see that there was a dying mother gibbon. Rukshan knew some stories about them, and his people had great respect for the peaceful apes. He move calmly to the side of the ape so as not to frighten her. She had an infant cradled in her arms, and she didn’t seem surprised to see him.
There were no words between them, but with her touch she told him all he needed to know. She was dying, and he could do nothing about it. She wanted for her boy to be taken care of. He already knew how to change his appearance to that of a young boy, but would need to be taught in the ways of humans. That was what many gibbons were doing, trying to live among humans. There was no turning back to the old ways, it was the way for her kind to survive, and she was too old for it.
Rukshan waited at her side, until she was ready to peacefully go. He closed her eyes gently, and when he was done, turned around to notice the baby ape had turned into a little silent boy with deep sad eyes and a thick mop of silvery hair. As he was standing naked in the misty forest, Rukshan’s first thought was to tear a piece of cloth from his cape to make a sort of tunic for the boy. Braiding some dry leaves of bamboos made a small rope he could use as a belt.
With that done, and last silent respects paid to the mother, he took the boy’s hand into his own, and went back to find the path he’d left.
There was one inn he knew about, the last one before the haunted bamboo forest. It served a solid but plain mountain meal, enough to be worth your coins, and carry you through the rigours of the cold ahead.
He doubted the oiliphant would carry him further through the thickly planted bamboos, so he would have to let her go for now, let her return to one of the secret entrances to the Forest, and be one again with the wild and her own.
Already the little crowd following them was getting thinner and thinner. After a while, the spell of novelty wore off, and they would realise where the enormous beast was walking toward. Very few wanted to have anything to do with the place. Rukshan wasn’t sure how such legend had spread about the bamboo forest behind haunted, as he would as a youngling find the crackling and wooshing sounds in the large plants rather soothing. Of course, as of all places, it was dangerous to venture there mindlessly, but he’d found the spirits dwelling there usually rarely ill disposed towards visitors, unlike deeper and higher in the mountains were some evils would ride the wind to great distances.
Not without feeling a small pinch in his chest, he said a last goodbye to his oiliphant friend, and went in the direction of the inn as the sun was already low on the horizon. The distinct sound of the bamboos could be heard from miles away, and there was only a few people left looking at the beast. His goodbye seemed to have lifted the last of the trance, and they suddenly woke up to where they were, some with an instant recoil on their faces. After a few minutes, he was alone once more.
Strangely, the fence had continued for longer than he’d thought. It wasn’t very high, more like a little nuisance really, but the complete oddity of its presence was enough to grate his nerves. He was reminded of something his master had told him For every inside, there is an outside, and every outside, there is an inside. And though they are different, they go together. The secret of all insides and outsides is this – they look a different as possible, but underneath are the same, for you cannot find one without the other. It made him realise that he couldn’t tell where the people who’d built the fence were from – the city or the forest. He’d immediately assumed something, while it could have been easily the reverse.
Now he looked at the fence itself, it was quite an ingenious piece of work, trying as much as possible to reuse local and discarded materials. Maybe it was more a tentative of a connective tissue rather than a fence…
It was in this more peaceful mood that he reached the inn, just an hour before nightfall, as he could tell from the sun. Lanterns were already lit outside of the inn, and although he’d expected it to be empty of customers as often was the case, it seemed to have another guest. He wouldn’t mind a little company, maybe they could enlighten him about the nature of this new boundary.
“My name is Lhamom” the traveler said to him with an inviting grin and slim beaming face. She wore a deerskin hat, and a patchwork of tribal clothes from villages around the mountains in the manner of an explorer of old times. She was already drinking the local woolly goat butter milk tea, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy every mouthful.
Rukshan would only bear it with enough spices to soften the strong taste. Nonetheless, he took polite sips of the offered beverage, and listened to the pleasant stories of the nearby and faraway countries she would eagerly tell about.
Now, curled up near the burning woodstove, enjoying a simple meal and simple everyday stories, after a lovely day riding above troubles, he would already feel complete, and closer to the magic he sought.
He had gently coaxed the oiliphant who was reluctant to go past the fences, towards the haunted bamboo forest, a bit further along the way. He’d thought that the Forest had many secret entrances, and would surely provide a way in when the time would be right. All he had to do was to keep his direction steady, and not mind a little detour. There might be a reason for all that —already he could see people coming out of their dwellings eyes full of curiosity to have a closer look at the both of them. Most would only observe in wonder, but some dared follow them for a little while. He started to wave, but nobody paid him any mind, they were clearly here for the creature. So he’d decided to retreat in silent observation.
With the excitement of leaving and riding the oiliphant to the Forest, Rukshan had almost forgotten about the phial in his pocket. He wasn’t sure yet what it was for, but it felt auspicious and welcome. A little nudge that would help him once in the thick of the woods.
The oiliphant had arrived. Rukshan had heard her powerful trumpeting that made the walls vibrate and resound deeply.
He’d called the great Oiliphant Spirit a month ago, with an old ritual of the Forest, drawing a complex symbol on the sand that he would fill with special incense offering, and letting it consume in one long slow burn. He had to chose the place carefully, as the magic took days to operate, and any disruption of the ritual by a careless passerby would just void its delicately wrought magic.
Sadly, oiliphants had left a long time ago and many believed they were creatures of lore, probably extinct. He knew from the Forest fays that it was not so. There were still sightings, from deep in the Forest, in the part where the river water fell pristine and pure from the mountainous ranges. What was true was that even for the fay people, such sightings were rarer than what used to be, in the distant past.
It was a reckless move on his part, drawing one so close to the town walls, but he knew that even the most godless town dweller would simply be in awe of the magnificent giant creature. Besides, they were notoriously difficult to mount, their thick rubbery skin slippery and slick as the smoothest stone, as if polished by ages of winds and sky water.
Thus the magic was required.
Rukshan’s little bag was ready. He’d taken with him only a small batch of provisions, and his leather-bound book of unfinished chronicles, spanning centuries of memories and tales from his kin.
Leaving his office, he took the pile of discarded paper and closed the door. The office looked almost like when he’d first arrived, maybe a little cleaner. He liked the idea of leaving little footprints.
After throwing away the papers in front of the building with the trash, he looked up at the Clock Tower and its twelve mannequins. There was definitely something awry at play in the Tower, and the mere thought of it made him shiver. The forlorn spirits dwelling in the basements had something to do with the Old Gods, he could tell. There was fear, anger and feelings of being trapped. When you were a mender, you knew how to connect with the spirit in things, and it was the first step in mending anything. He could tell that what made him shiver was the unthinkable idea that some things may be beyond repair.
Before leaving, he walked with pleasure in the still silent morning streets, towards the little house where the errand boy of the office lived with his mother. He had a little gift for him. Olliver was fond of the stories of old, and he would often question him to death about all manners of things. Rukshan had great fondness for the boy’s curiosity, and he knew the gift would be appreciated, even if it would probably make his mother fearful.
The bolophore in his old deer skin wrapping was very old, and quite precious. At least, it used to be, when magic was more prevalent, and reliable. It was shaped as a coppery cloisonné pineapple, almost made to resemble a dragon’s egg, down to the scales, and the pulsating vibrancy. People used bolophores to travel great distances in the past, at the blink of a thought, each scale representing a particular location. However, with less training on one-pointed thoughts, city omnipresent disturbances, and fickleness of magic, the device fell out of use, although it still had well-sought decorative value.
Rukshan left the package where he was sure the boy would find it, with a little concealment enchantement to protect it from envious eyes. To less than pure of heart, it would merely appear as a broken worthless conch.
With one last look at the tower, he set up for the south road, leading to the rivers’ upstream, high up in the mountains. Each could feel the oiliphant waiting for him at the place of the burnt symbol, her soft, regular pounding on the ground slowly awakening the life around it. She wouldn’t wait for long, he had to hurry. His tales of the Old Gods and how they disappeared would have to wait.
After the Elders were gone back to the Capitol City of the Seven Hills, Rukshan was left pondering for awhile about his duties.
The visit had been pleasant enough, thanks to his deft organisation, and he had the skills to let just enough imponderables and improvising spots so that the whole thing didn’t look too artificially prepared.
The Sultan was pleased, and Rukshan was aware that some behind the curtains politics were are play, where he, somehow also was involved, although he couldn’t yet see how. It seemed his capacity for solving or clarifying complex matters was in high demand. One of the Elders of senior attainment had talked to him briefly, in a very amenable tone which was best suited when asking favours. “How odd” he’d thought, as the discussing dynamics would usually be the other way around.
“Rukshan, I wanted to talk to you about your future” — was how he introduced the conversation. After a few minutes, the intent was clear that there were other places where they had planned to send him.
The next few days had him struggle to appease his own feelings. As usual in the cities, people where dealing in abstractions, and abstractions had the inconvenient side-effect of stirring the sea of the mind in all sorts of directions, none of which related to what was happening in the present moment.
His family was for that matter very dismissive of his way of life, living as he had for many years in the city. Fays used to live in the forests flanking the mountains, deep inside the sacred groves, where they were in accordance with old rites and the natural time, the breath of life in the trees. They argued that men cities were an insane world of abstractions, that made you forget were you came from, and what sustained you.
Ages ago, one of his ancestors, CJ Soliman had written after a visit of the first city (a mere hamlet at the time) “It is quite possible that the Forest is the real world, and that men live in a madhouse of abstractions. Life in the Forest has not yet withdrawn into the capsule of the head. It is still the whole body that lives. No wonder men feel dreamlike; the complete life of the Forest is something of which they merely dream. When you walk with naked feet, how can you ever forget the earth?”
He wouldn’t have disagreed actually. He’d found the pull of nature was strong, soft but steady and immovable. But as far as his life was going, he’d come to realise that cities were in need of a fine balancing act, otherwise, leaving them unchecked would probably hasten the pace at which they ate away acres of forests in their developments. Already, the sacred woods were threatened, and with them, his family and ancestors’ way of life.
After that discussion with the Elder, he’d found the need to clear up and make space for the new. He’d spent a whole day throwing away stuff, amazed at how much even himself would gather of unnecessary things. In the new space, he’d let the birds songs enter through the window, despite the biting cold and the grey fog.
A resolve was birthed in his mind and made clear at the time, as clear as the morning chirping in the thick air.
He would soon go back to the mountains, in the Dragon Heartwood, visit his family and look for the old Hermit for counsel.
Search Results for 'thick'
Viewing 20 results - 21 through 40 (of 80 total)
Viewing 20 results - 21 through 40 (of 80 total)