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  • #5614
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

      #4805

      Olliver was surprised when he teleported back to the cottage to see everyone busy with their own affairs.

      Fox was practicing a speech in front of the gargoyles statues rearranged in the garden like pupils in a class. He looked so serious that Olliver swallowed his guffaw. He wanted to update him about his scouting around, for the entrance that Rukshan had spoken about, and Fox had seemed interested at the time to join the exploration. His keen sense and shape-shifting abilities were always handy to have in a team.

      The kids were at school, and he found out that Glynnis was teaching birds in the wood thicket.

      “So much schooling going around” he whispered, almost afraid to be caught skipping classes.

      “You can still join me, if you’d like,” Eleri said, having jumped out of nowhere. Her black dress was an interesting piece of improvisation. “I’m going to a funeral, but it should be fun, the deceased has promised he would haunt Leroway and his thugs.”

      #4760

      Aunt Idle:

      The old ruse was still working, so I continued to use it. Only way to get a bit of time to myself, especially lately. A bit of quiet time, to think. And there was so much to think about, what with all these people around. I wasn’t put on this earth to make beds and pander to tourists, and the clues were coming in thick and fast. Oh yes, some of these new guests were thick, and some were fast. Anyway, I pretended to be inebriated again and did a pretty good imitation of a lurching drunk to throw them off the scent. They always fall for it.

      After turning the key in the lock of my bedroom door, I leaned my back against it for a minute and closed my eyes. It was the bird flying in the window at the crack of dawn that got me worried. Now I’m not a superstitious person by any means, but there have been times when a bird in the house has been followed by a death, and things like that stick in your mind. The sight of Mater in that red pantsuit had etched itself on my mind as well, which was almost as worrying as the bird.

      I went over to the window and pulled down the blinds. The bright sun was making my head hurt. I was thirsty, and wished I’d brought a cup of tea with me, but lurching drunks can’t be seen to be making plans for a quiet afternoon of sober contemplation. I tried valiantly to ignore my parched mouth, but it was no good. I put my ear to the door, and the coast seemed clear so I inched it open, looking up and down the hallway. I sprinted to the bathroom, unfortunately tripping over the vacuum cleaner that Finley had no doubt left there deliberately to trip me up. She was a dark horse, that one. Good at dusting, and reliable, so I suppose that was something. Hard to get hired help out here so we had no choice, really.

      I smashed my nose on Mater’s doorknob and skinned my shin on the hoover. My nose hurt like hell, and quickly spurted an astonishing quantity of bright blood, similar in colour to that ghastly pantsuit. My fall made a hell of a din so I staggered quickly to the bathroom wash basin for the much needed drink of water before anyone came to investigate the crash, hoping to get back to my room before anyone appeared on the scene.

      Had the water in the cold tap been cold, it might have been different, but the new water pipes were still above ground, and the cold water was scalding hot from the heat of the sun on the black pipes. I didn’t have a moment to waste, so drank some quickly, horrid though it was. The unfortunate side effect of the cold water being hot was that it encouraged and diluted the blood, making the overall effect look considerably more alarming. I was tempted to blame Mater for the whole sorry affair, for starting the red theme with that damn pantsuit. I actually said “bloody pantsuit”, which struck me as inordinately funny, and made it hard to get back to the bedroom quickly. I was still laughing hysterically, leaving red hand prints and strange red markings along the corridor wall, when Sanso appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

      “I saw cave paintings like that in Zimbabwe,” he said conversationally, taking a closer look at the bloody hand prints. “I’ve often wondered what the purpose was, the meaning.” He raised an eyebrow and smiled at me. “Have you interpreted these?”

      I was momentarily speechless, as you might imagine. Then I had an impulse, and grabbed his elbow and propelled him into my room, slamming and locking the door behind him. He was almost unnaturally calm and unperturbed, albeit looking as if he was trying not to smile too broadly, which was just the kind of energy I needed. My kind of man! I gave him one of my famous coquettish looks, which made him laugh out loud, and then I caught sight of myself in the wardrobe mirror and hastily grabbed an old nightgown off the floor and spit on it to rub the blood off my face.

      “My kind of girl!” he laughed. Oh, how he laughed.

      #4757

      The loud throbbing of a Harley Davidson interrupted the unexpected revelation moment.
      A few seconds later, the door banged open and a man with a long moustache, thick eyebrows and a rather bushy hair entered the Inn.

      Fergus?” said Mater, frowning.
      Uncle Fergus?” said Maeve.
      “You old bastard!” said Bert.

      Devan didn’t know the name of the man, but he did manage to infuse his wide open mouth with an interrogation.

      “Who’s Fergus?” asked Dodo, who didn’t want to be left behind.

      The fact that Mater was the first person to pronounce the name of the man didn’t escape Prune’s shrewd mind.
      “How do you know him?” she asked Mater who blushed and used another puff of dust to cough and avoid the question.

      But one surprised all the others, even Fergus.
      “My long lost brother!” said Sanso. He moved forward and hugged the newly arrived man. Truth be told, there was some ressemblance between the two of them.

      Mandrake was looking at Ugo who seemed rather focused on the scene. Something was off, he could feel it. He should warn Arona, but the darn lizard never left her side, or her hair. It was pretty annoying since she would not brush his fur very often now, and he certainly needed some refreshing with all the knots caused by the dryness of the climate.

      #4718

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      #4693

      In reply to: The Stories So Near

      EricEric
      Keymaster

        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.

        #4689

        “So, ‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?” asked Sharon, taking a slurp of thick muddy-looking tea. “Ow! That’s too bloody hot. I’m going to ‘ave another word with the Matron about that Nurse, I am.”

        “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?”

        “Whose that then, Shar? Oh, you mean the doctor who does the beauty treatments? I’d forget my bloody ‘ead if it weren’t screwed on, wouldn I!”

        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.”

        Sharon peered at her phone. “Mavis says: Wot a bloody brainwave! I need a makeover for my new fella!!’ LOL! “ She frowned. “Wot’s that word mean, LOL, Glor?”

        “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.

        “There, there, Glor. Don’t cry,” said Sharon, rubbing her friend’s back. “They’ll put you on more bloody pills if you cry. Oh! I know wot will cheer you up!”

        “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!”

        #4549

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        #4543

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

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

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

        :fleuron:

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

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

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

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

        :fleuron:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        #4538

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Rukshan gave his friend a strange look before answering.

        “Yes. We are going… home.”

        #4495
        AvatarJib
        Participant

          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.

          #4464
          EricEric
          Keymaster

            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.

            #4447

            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.

            #4432
            AvatarJib
            Participant

              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.

              #4420
              F LoveF Love
              Participant

                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.”

                #4416

                In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

                TracyTracy
                Participant

                  thick straight meant space
                  hoped house sadness
                  seven waiting desire lost shook
                  holding front hand unexpected
                  hold thought sleep hut mum

                  #4403
                  F LoveF Love
                  Participant

                    random plot generator

                    A BOOK SHOP – IT IS THE AFTERNOON AFTER ALBIE HIT HIS MOTHER WITH A FEATHER.

                    Newly unemployed ALBIE is arguing with his friend JENNY RAMSBOTTOM. ALBIE tries to hug JENNY but she shakes him off angrily.

                    ALBIE
                    Please Jenny, don’t leave me.

                    JENNY
                    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!

                    ALBIE
                    I am such a person!

                    JENNY
                    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.

                    ALBIE
                    Goodness, Matt! Is everything okay?

                    MATT
                    I’m afraid not.

                    ALBIE
                    What is it? Don’t keep me in suspense…

                    MATT
                    It’s … a hooligan … I saw an evil hooligan frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!

                    ALBIE
                    Defenseless elderly ladies?

                    MATT
                    Yes, defenseless elderly ladies!

                    ALBIE
                    Bloomin’ heck, Matt! We’ve got to do something.

                    MATT
                    I agree, but I wouldn’t know where to start.

                    ALBIE
                    You can start by telling me where this happened.

                    MATT
                    I was…
                    MATT fans himself and begins to wheeze.

                    ALBIE
                    Focus Matt, focus! Where did it happen?

                    MATT
                    The Library! That’s right – the Library!

                    ALBIE springs up and begins to run.

                    EXT. A ROADCONTINUOUS

                    ALBIE rushes along the street, followed by MATT. They take a short cut through some back gardens, jumping fences along the way.

                    INT. A LIBRARYSHORTLY AFTER

                    ROGER BLUNDER a forgetful hooligan terrorises two elderly ladies.

                    ALBIE, closely followed by MATT, rushes towards ROGER, but suddenly stops in his tracks.

                    MATT
                    What is is? What’s the matter?

                    ALBIE
                    That’s not just any old hooligan, that’s Roger Blunder!

                    MATT
                    Who’s Roger Blunder?

                    ALBIE
                    Who’s Roger Blunder? Who’s Roger Blunder? Only the most forgetful hooligan in the universe!

                    MATT
                    Blinkin’ knickers, Albie! We’re going to need some help if we’re going to stop the most forgetful hooligan in the universe!

                    ALBIE
                    You can say that again.

                    MATT
                    Blinkin’ knickers, Albie! We’re going to need some help if we’re going to stop the most forgetful hooligan in the universe!

                    ALBIE
                    I’m going to need candlesticks, lots of candlesticks.

                    Roger turns and sees Albie and Matt. He grins an evil grin.

                    ROGER
                    Albie Jones, we meet again!

                    MATT
                    You’ve met?

                    ALBIE
                    Yes. It was a long, long time ago…

                    EXT. A PARKBACK 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.

                    ROGER
                    Would you like some wine gums?

                    ALBIE’s eyes light up, but then he studies ROGER more closely, and looks uneasy.

                    ALBIE
                    I don’t know, you look kind of forgetful.

                    ROGER
                    Me? No. I’m not forgetful. I’m the least forgetful hooligan in the world.

                    ALBIE
                    Wait, you’re a hooligan?

                    ALBIE runs away, screaming.

                    INT. A LIBRARYPRESENT DAY

                    ROGER
                    You were a coward then, and you are a coward now.

                    MATT
                    (To ALBIE) You ran away?
                    ALBIE
                    (To MATT) I was a young child. What was I supposed to do?
                    ALBIE turns to ROGER.

                    ALBIE
                    I may have run away from you then, but I won’t run away this time!
                    ALBIE runs away.

                    He turns back and shouts.

                    ALBIE
                    I mean, I am running away, but I’ll be back – with candlesticks.

                    ROGER
                    I’m not scared of you.

                    ALBIE
                    You should be.

                    INT. A SWEET SHOPLATER THAT DAY

                    ALBIE and MATT walk around searching for something.

                    ALBIE
                    I feel sure I left my candlesticks somewhere around here.

                    MATT
                    Are you sure? It does seem like an odd place to keep deadly candlesticks.

                    ALBIE
                    You know nothing Matt Humble.

                    MATT
                    We’ve been searching for ages. I really don’t think they’re here.

                    Suddenly, ROGER appears, holding a pair of candlesticks.

                    ROGER
                    Looking for something?

                    MATT
                    Crikey, Albie, he’s got your candlesticks.

                    ALBIE
                    Tell me something I don’t already know!

                    MATT
                    The earth’s circumference at the equator is about 40,075 km.

                    ALBIE
                    I know that already!

                    MATT
                    I’m afraid of dust.

                    ROGER
                    (appalled) Dude!

                    While ROGER is looking at MATT with disgust, ALBIE lunges forward and grabs his deadly candlesticks. He wields them, triumphantly.

                    ALBIE
                    Prepare to die, you forgetful aubergine!

                    ROGER
                    No please! All I did was frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!

                    JENNY enters, unseen by any of the others.

                    ALBIE
                    I cannot tolerate that kind of behaviour! Those elderly ladies were defenceless! Well now they have a defender – and that’s me! Albie Jones defender of innocent elderly ladies.

                    ROGER
                    Don’t hurt me! Please!

                    ALBIE
                    Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t use these candlesticks on you right away!

                    ROGER
                    Because Albie, I am your father.

                    ALBIE looks stunned for a few moments, but then collects himself.

                    ALBIE
                    No you’re not!

                    ROGER
                    Ah well, it had to be worth a try.

                    ROGER tries to grab the candlesticks but ALBIE dodges out of the way.

                    ALBIE
                    Who’s the daddy now? Huh? Huh?

                    Unexpectedly, ROGER slumps to the ground.

                    MATT
                    Did he just faint?

                    ALBIE
                    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.

                    MATT
                    Be careful, Albie. It could be a trick.

                    ALBIE
                    No, it’s not a trick. It appears that… It would seem… Roger Blunder is dead!

                    ALBIE
                    What?

                    ALBIE
                    Yes, it appears that I scared him to death.

                    MATT claps his hands.

                    MATT
                    So your candlesticks did save the day, after all.

                    JENNY steps forward.

                    JENNY
                    Is it true? Did you kill the forgetful hooligan?

                    ALBIE
                    Jenny how long have you been…?

                    JENNY puts her arm around ALBIE.

                    JENNY
                    Long enough.

                    ALBIE
                    Then you saw it for yourself. I killed Roger Blunder.

                    JENNY
                    Then the elderly ladies are safe?

                    ALBIE
                    It does seem that way!

                    A crowd of vulnerable elderly ladies enter, looking relived.

                    JENNY
                    You are their hero.

                    The elderly ladies bow to ALBIE.

                    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.

                    JENNY
                    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

                    JENNY
                    I think they want you to have it, as a symbol of their gratitude.

                    ALBIE
                    I couldn’t possibly.
                    Pause.

                    ALBIE
                    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.

                    ALBIE
                    Thank you.
                    The elderly ladies bow their heads once more, and leave.

                    ALBIE turns to JENNY.

                    ALBIE
                    Does this mean you want me back?

                    JENNY
                    Oh, Albie, of course I want you back!
                    ALBIE smiles for a few seconds, but then looks defiant.

                    ALBIE
                    Well you can’t have me.

                    JENNY
                    WHAT?

                    ALBIE
                    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!

                    JENNY
                    But…

                    ALBIE
                    Please leave. I want to spend time with the one person who stayed with me through thick and thin – my best friend, Matt.

                    MATT grins.

                    JENNY
                    But…

                    MATT
                    You heard the gentleman. Now be off with you. Skidaddle! Shoo!

                    JENNY
                    Albie?

                    ALBIE
                    I’m sorry Jenny, but I think you should skidaddle.
                    JENNY leaves.

                    MATT turns to ALBIE.

                    MATT
                    Did you mean that? You know … that I’m your best friend?

                    ALBIE
                    Of course you are!
                    The two walk off arm in arm.

                    Suddenly MATT stops.

                    MATT
                    When I said I’m afraid of dust, you know I was just trying to distract the hooligan don’t you?

                    #4308

                    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.”

                    #4298

                    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.

                    #4249

                    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.

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