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  • #4811
    AvatarJib
    Participant

      A red leaf fell on the nose of the biggest gargoyle and Fox stopped his rehearsal. It had been exhausting and he didn’t remember why on earth he was doing that. He also didn’t remember how long he had been speaking in front of the Gargoyles, maybe he drank the wrong potion in the morning. Glynis had given him a potion especially made for him to calm his anxiety and help him solve a few energy blockages from childhood, or in his case, cubhood.

      One of the baby snoots giggled behind the back of the shrieking gargoyle.
      “You don’t mess with me, little…” He found himself lacking the creativity to find any insult the could understand. It was no use cursing the little rainbow creatures, they didn’t seem to care. Fox suspected it was not because of a lack of intelligence but simply because they didn’t view life, or anything, as a problem. He took note that he should get some inspiration from that.

      “What were you doing, uncle Fox?” asked Olliver.
      Fox opened his eyes wide. The boy seemed taller everyday and Fox had to look up to actually meet his eyes.
      “Will you never stop to grow?” he asked with a little resentment.
      “Well…” the boy started with his breaking voice.
      “Where were you,” asked Fox. “I thought you had left with Rukshan.” In a way Fox was relieved that it was not the case and it soothed a little the pain caused by the sudden departure of the Fae.

      “Oh! Teleporting here and there,” said the boy, considering adding some semi-truth about going to school.
      An idea sprouted in Fox’s mind. It was too tiny for him to know what it was but his unconscious mind was already working about a plan to catch up with Rukshan, connecting the bits and pieces left by the Fae in his tales to the children and his innocuous comments.
      “What do you think about… having some dinner,” he said not yet able to formulate in his imagination that he could even go on an adventure with Olliver.

      #4792
      EricEric
      Keymaster

        The Doctor was at times confused about his own plan. Well, most of the time if felt clear and perfectly diabolical, and he could easily understand why at times lesser minds could get confused about the twists and turns —and to those lesser minds, it would usually suffice to say “don’t worry, it’s all part of the Plan.” It was difficult to properly phrase the sentence so that the Plan doesn’t get too easily confused with any plan. But he was expert in conveying that it wasn’t a mere plan.

        After having tried and used old or elaborate devices beyond known technology like alleged alien crystal skulls to outcomes of various satisfaction in the past, he’d realized that those so called AI technologies were a silent gangrene for the mind. By becoming more tech-savvy, people lost their savoir and their savour by relying too much on external support. People were becoming malleable, predictable, and replaceable.

        His bloody assistant was a sad testament to the downward evolution humanity was rushing towards. It was a strange and sad irony, that by enhancing their ineptitude, he was actually working to the perfection of the human race.

        “Ah yes! Evolution!” That was his legacy, and he was of course profoundly misunderstood.

        This whole sad business with the chase after the dolls and the keys and the remote control of magpies, and the psychic blasts, beauty treatments and Barbara enhancements, all that made sense once you showed it in the proper light. These were the catalyst to the real and interesting events. The ones which mattered.

        It all started after the Army got him out of his prison rot in exchange for his work on some special science experiments. Top-secret, evidently. His handler, a certain nobody by the name of Fergus, was assigning him the experiments.
        While he was dutifully working on his assigned projects, he quickly realized that he was given vast funding which would have taken him more time to gather on his own, so he did his part, all while experimenting and honing his skills. Clearly, the Army lacked any vision beyond the confines of “find a better way to torture, maim or kill mass amount of individuals.” Primates. Luckily, their experiments with remote control, brainwashing, and body modelage were less gory than the average science experiments, and far more into his own area of expertise.

        It took him 5 years to escape. This plan (a smaller plan, part of the Plan which had not yet fully hatched at the time) — this plan for an escape started to form when Fergus let slip important bits of information, which seemed insignificant taken in isolation, but meant a whole new area of discoveries when put together by a brilliant mind like his own.
        Fergus started to gloat about securing some secrets as a blackmail or fail-safe policy in case the Army’s “hired help” misbehaved. This part was known for a long time, it was what was called our ‘retirement plan’ in the contract we signed. What was more peculiar was when he started to let details slip about the method. All thanks to little doses of hypnotic potion in spiked shared drinks, courtesy of the Doctor. It seemed clear that this elaborate scheming of keys and dolls was child’s play and nothing particularly genius, however what was more interesting was when Fergus started to realize that the dolls his niece had made somehow matched certain persons of interest without her conscious knowing. There was a deeper mystery to be cracked, and even Fergus wondered if the Army had not tempered with his family genetics to induce certain characteristics or something of the like. Well, all ramblings of a simpleton you would say, but maybe it wasn’t.
        After all these searches to externalize certain abilities of the mind, the Doctor was starting to get fascinated by people exhibiting these qualities naturally.

        The appearance of this strange red crystal seems to confirm these doubts. There are untapped forces at play, and maybe doors that could be opened.

        Barbara suddenly irrupted into the room “Our guests are coming, just received a text!”

        The Doctor sighed thinking some doors should remain closed.

        #4774
        AvatarJib
        Participant

          “I think we’d better go chase the giant,” said Fox. Rukshan looked at him, his right eyebrow looking like an elevated archway. “I mean, I heard Mr Minn’s nephew has been delayed and we have nothing better to do anyway. Glynis and the boys should be ok now that Mooriel is gone.”
          “You’re assuming a lot of things. Like for example the fact that Glynis won’t mind staying and taking care of the cottage and the boys. Not to mention Eleri, who’s been too silent recently, she must be up to something. Anyway. Let’s just ask everybody what they think want.”
          “Are you sure?” asked Fox. He was thinking that a short trip with his friend would be a nice change from the indoor life. It’s been too long a stay for him who had been living in the woods for so long before he met his friends. And Glynis was always too generous with appointing the house chores. A character trait that had only increased recently with Muriel’s long stay. “Maybe we can ask Margoritt to come back.”
          “I’m sure she has better things to do, and better company in the city.” Rukshan chortled as if he had said something funny.
          “Well, let’s ask Glynis,” said Fox who didn’t quite understand the hidden meaning.

          “Oh! I would have loved to see giants,” said Glynis. “Unfortunately I have started a class for the forest birds, and it’s a buzz. I’m teaching them to be a choir for the upcoming town festival.”
          “That’s too bad,” said Fox. “We would have loved to have you with us,” trying to ignore Rukshan’s throat clearing.
          “But ask Eleri, and the boys. I would be totally thrilled if you could take care of them for a while. I’ve been doing all the work around lately and I need a little time of my own, if you know what I mean. I’m sure they’ll all love to see giants.”

          #4759
          EricEric
          Keymaster

            While she was posing for Maeve’s sketches this first afternoon before the Landlady’s theatrical entrance, Arona had felt her usual distrust towards strangers melt.

            Her magical senses told her she could trust this girl. Maeve herself seemed still a bit on the fence, as though she was guarding a heavy secret, but she seemed to have moments of unexplained boldness and was not shy to engage either.

            Without thinking twice, Arona had drawn her key out, and produced it in front of Maeve’s almond shaped eyes.

            “Something tells me this is familiar to you; me and my friends are looking for what it is locking away.”

            Maeve initial reaction was shocked and her composure seemed to be shaken for a moment.

            Mandrake, be nice to Maeve!” Arona called, as the cat had jumped on Mave’s lap and was starting to pur.

            “Don’t worry, I’m going to relax this precious moppet.” he replied back in purring meows only Arona could understand. “I heard that’s what cats do in this dimension when they don’t sleep.”

            Maeve replied “Don’t worry, I quite like animals, he seems well behaved too. And he’s so cute with his tiny boots.”

            Only momentarily distracted, and mildly relaxed by the cat’s purring, Maeve asked “how did you come by this key? It was not supposed to be found. I don’t know what it’s supposed to open, I suspect it was a fail-safe for my uncle, and I hid them in my dolls for safe-keeping.”

            “Them?” Arona asked, rather as a validation to herself.
            “As you suspected. There are more.” purred the cat harder.

            Maeve leaned in close, almost dropping her sketchbook’s coloured pencils on the floor, “I think some bad people are after it. I suspect that my Uncle sent me those tickets to Australia so I could retrieve this one before the bad people arrive to snatch it.”

            She jumped a little, realizing too late. “Wait? You don’t seem to be one of them… But what about all these other guests?”

            #4713
            EricEric
            Keymaster

              Tak didn’t like school at first. It was only at the insistance of Glynis that he had to socialize that he tried to put some effort in it. He didn’t know what socializing meant, one of these strange concepts humans invented to explain the world, but if Glynis thought highly of this socializing, he had to give it a try, whatever it was.

              Rather quickly, he’d managed to make friends. He didn’t realize it at first, but his new friends were all a bit desperate, and more or less called freeks or something. He wasn’t sure he deserved to be called a freek, but he was going to try hard at this too.
              “You don’t have to try hard”, his new friend Nesy told him “I think you’re a natural at this.” Nesy’s name was really Nesingwarys which is really hard to pronounce, so she told him to call her Nesy. She had dark and white hair, shining like a magpie’s feather coat, and dark blue eyes that were both kind and ferocious at the same time.

              “Don’t mind the others, they’re all ignorant peasants, or worse, ignorant spawns of the bourgeois elite.” She’d told him. Tak had opined silently, not wanting to show that he wasn’t sure about the meaning of all the shiny new words. He suspected Nesy to like shiny words like magpies were attracted to precious shiny stuff.
              When she was staying at the cottage, Margoritt also liked to teach him shiny new words, but he would only taste them and forget — to him they were more like sweet food for his tongue than shiny stuff to keep.
              When it came to stuff, Nesy had rather simple tastes. She showed him some little clay statues she’d made, and kept carefully wrapped in a small felt satchel. They had all sorts of funny faces, she was really talented. They reminded him of Gorrash, so it almost made him cry.
              Tears were a magnet for nasty kids, so he knew better than to let them out, but Nesy had noticed, and squeezed his hand for comfort.

              He liked the other freeks too. They seemed to understand him, and he didn’t have to use his hypnotic powers for that. Glynis had told him not to use his powers at school, otherwise he wouldn’t learn anything. Aunt Eleri had disagreed with that, but she disagreed with everyone.

              “You should come visit at my home” he said to her spontaneously “I want to show you the baby snoots, now they’re almost grown up, but they look funny and pretty, especially when they eat Glynis’ potions.”

              #4711
              AvatarJib
              Participant

                The aircon was buzzing and Sophie walked in her pajamas through the open space to reach her dreaming base. That’s how she secretly called it. She could feel the eyes of her colleagues following her, and as usual she felt proud to be the center of attention. It didn’t matter that it was jealousy or anything else. People were looking at her and she was doing something different.

                Once in her base of operation, she settled on the couch and looked at the brew that had been brought for her. It was her second attempt at remote viewing the Doctor and this time she had requested a bucket and some padding around the sharp corners. She feared a little the unleashing of her wild nature, but in truth she had no idea what to expect. She had read on the Internet that there was nothing to fear and that there would be no side effects, and usually with her natural paranoia she would have double checked before using the drugs, but her obsession with the Doctors had rendered her a little bit… more reckless.

                She pinched her nose and swallowed the brew. One gulp. But some of it stayed in her mouth and nausea followed. She didn’t like the taste at all. Then she laid down the couch and waited. The effects weren’t long to come. Space lit up, soon followed by the usual geometrical dynamic animation and the strange floating spirits. One of them looked like her old nanny. She had a hair on her chin and Sophie couldn’t focus on anything else. The hair grew and multiplied on the face, it was soon a forest of wiggling glowing worms growing indefinitely.

                After what seemed an eternity to her, she saw the doors. A huge circle made of doors like a giant neckless. Sophie giggled at the typo especially that she could see the neckless giant now below the doors. It was definitely a male, with boobs covered by skulls.

                Find the door, she reminded herself. Her thought took the shape of a butterflowck —understand a flow of a flock of butterflies— that rippled in a pond of honey… suckles.

                It reached the door and she was sucked in.

                :fleuron:

                “Why are they doing this?” asked a male voice behind her. “They’re supposed to be magpies, not monkeys.”
                “I’m not sure,” said a bald woman with six fingers and an ethereal beehive hairdo. The strange thing was that she had a beard.
                “Do something quick. I need them operational soon” said the man, “You’re the one controlling them after all,” he added with poison in his voice.
                “Yes, Doctor.”

                Sophie startled at the name. She turned around and tried to look at the man, but he was headless, or rather pixelated. Shit! I watch too much science fiction, she thought.

                “Anyway,” he continued. What are the news on the dolls’ front?”
                “We are closing in on the next target, Doctor. It’s a small Inn in Australia where the vortex or probabilities converge. I took the liberty to send another sleeping agent there to steal the key and the list of other addresses from the dollmaker. He’s taking the same airplane as she is.”

                #4661
                AvatarJib
                Participant

                  A small gecko head showed up from Arona’s hood. It seemed to shout loudly, but to Mandrake it sounded just like the compelling sound of a mouse. His instinct were stronger and he stretched his paw to catch it, but Arona was quicker.
                  “Don’t think of it. Ugo the gecko helped me get out of that labyrinthine doline the other day. I don’t quite understand what he says, but I think he’s a bit jealous when I cuddle people… or cats.”

                  #4652
                  EricEric
                  Keymaster

                    Despite the underground currents, following the trail of blue glow from the glukenitches’ droppings was easy; far less subtle than old fashioned glow worms starmap reading…
                    Mandrake was alerted to a sudden drop when the trail started to disappear abruptly, indicating the strong possibility of a chute of some kind.
                    He only managed to catch Albie’s pants before he fell right in, and pulled both of them back to the shore. He had to be sure.

                    “Good thing, that slimey dragon managed to power back the sabulmantium, we may get a hint of where we’re headed to.”
                    “There’s no other way than the waterfall, is there Mr Mandrake?”
                    “Shht. Let me concentrate, this thing is sensitive.”

                    Under the paws of the cat, the sand inside the clear sphere started to move in shapes and describe a living story.

                    “Mmm. Seems he wasn’t joking, never seen this thing behave so strangely before.”
                    “What is this?”
                    “It looks like something that I have seen a long time ago, but that wasn’t in this dimension… I guess we won’t know for sure until we get there. Ready boy for the dive of your life?”

                    Albie didn’t have time to answer, as the cat wasn’t waiting for him.

                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:
                    :fleuron2:

                    The fall seemed to last forever. But then a light appeared, and they started to float up, up, up.

                    When they emerged, they were clearly out of swamp waters. Salty water was all they could see for miles around.

                    “A blessing you had an inflatable zodiac in your purse, Sir.” the boy said to the cat once they were up on the boat, waiting for a sign as to where next.

                    “Whales! Whales!” the boy shouted excitedly, pointing to the shapes moving under their boat.

                    “Ah, finally, someone with some wits about that can tell us some valuable information.”
                    It didn’t take long to Mandrake to grab the attention of one of the belugas and engage the conversation; it didn’t seem particularly long to Albie, but it seemed like a lot was exchanged.

                    “We’re on the Gold Coast of Australia” Mandrake said. “That dimension is a bit tricky for my species, humans here take us for lazy playthings and don’t really understand us, so I may have to rely on you for some of the talking, boy.”
                    “For sure, Mr Mandrake. Did you get any news as to where Ms Arona might be?”
                    “Might be. That whale started to babble thing about granola cookies and dolls. I have no idea what she meant, she might have been popped in by some alien force. Luckily whales are used to manage multiple personalities well, so I managed to get the rest of the navigational hints once she got her channels back in order.”
                    “So where to now?”
                    “Starboard, son, starboard!”

                    #4570
                    AvatarJib
                    Participant

                      Liz felt someone tug at her almost transparent pink silk gown. She tried to ignore it as she worked hard to recall the young woman’s name, she had it on the tip of her tongue.

                      The tug got stronger and Liz feared that whomever was doing it they were going to tore her silk veil. She turned around, her irritation colouring her high cheekbones with a nice tint of pink and gasped.
                      “What I do with the spiders,” asked a small woman with dark skin and wearing a rainbow sari. “They’re so big big, and SOOOO hungry. They’re going to eat the guests only.”

                      Liz shook her head, seeing the curls of her newly acquired blond wig bounce about her face. She looked at the cocktail. What did Roberto said was in those? she wondered.

                      “What spiders?” she asked. The maid pointed behind Liz with her chin. When Liz looked she almost dropped her glass. A swarm of colourful giant jumping spiders were running and jumping near the swimming pool, frightening the human guests, while Roberto was riding one of them in his sparkling cowboy costume, laughing like a teenager.
                      “So?” asked the maid insistently. “What I do?”
                      Liz was confused.
                      “Why are they here?” she asked, “I don’t understand. Where’s Godfrey?”

                      “They are the daughters and sons of Narani from the giant spiders island,” said a man with a beard in a WWII uniform. A ghost dog barked silently at his feet.

                      “Of course,” Liz said. But it was too much for her and she gulped, all at once, the remaining fifteen jewels of condensed information floating in her cocktail. She shoved the glass in the maid’s hands and said: “Bring me another,” before she collapsed under the afflux of so much knowledge.

                      #4564

                      In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

                      TracyTracy
                      Participant

                        magic direction covered thin
                        laughing outside getting understand leaves
                        rude telling discussion elderly
                        trip strange
                        surprise dog comment
                        hour candlesticks seen

                        #4545
                        AvatarJib
                        Participant

                          “That is unfortunate,” said Rukshan when Fox told him about the dogs’ answer. They were all gathered around the fire on rough rugs for a last meal before activating the portal. For a moment shadow and light struggled on Rukshan’s face as the flames of the fire licked the woods, making it crack and break. A few sparkles flew upward into the dark starry night.

                          Lhamom used the magic metal spoon to serve steaming soup in carved wooden bowls, and Olliver was doing the service.
                          When he took his, Fox felt a chilly breeze find its way past his blanket. He shivered, put the bowl on the carpet in front of him and attempted to readjust the yakult wool blanket in a vain attempt to make it windproof. He took back the bowl and took a sip. The dogs barked in the distance. They were impatient to start the hunt. Fox shivered again.

                          “I could still serve as bait,” Fox said because he felt it was his fault if the plan failed. “You know, surprise the dogs while they are focused on the Shadow and make it follow me to trap it into the portal after we crossed it.”

                          “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rukshan. “It’s too dangerous. If you try to do that, we could have not one but two problems to solve. And you might get stuck too.”

                          Fox tried not to think about the implications of being stuck here, or in between the portals. He looked at Olliver who was looking at his soup as if it was the most important thing in the world.

                          Rukshan shook his head. “No. It was a foolish of me to hope those dogs would help us.”

                          “What can we do then?” asked Lhamom. They all drank their soup, the silence only broken by the fire cracking and the dogs barking.

                          “I can be in several places at once,” said Olliver quickly. Fox held his breath.
                          Lhamom and Rukshan looked at the boy.

                          “I know,” said Lhamom. “You were so helpful today with the cooking and all.”
                          “What do you mean?” asked Rukshan. “Olliver was with me helping me with the sand all day.” He stopped. His face showed sudden understanding. “Oh! Of course,” he said. “The book we burnt. The shard’s power was not only teleportation, but also ubiquity.” Rukshan turned to look at Fox. “You don’t seem surprised.”

                          Fox shrugged, making his blanket slip off of his shoulders slightly. Before he answered he adjusted it back quickly before the warmth he had accumulated could vanish into the night. “Well I saw him… I mean them. How do you think I came out of the negotiation alive? I can not teleport! I don’t even know what my powers are, or if I have any now that the shards have gone.”

                          “Grace and miracles,” said Rukshan with a grin.
                          A strange cristalline noise rang to Fox’s hears.
                          “What? Oh! Yes. Well, that explains it then,” he said, feeling a mix of grumpiness and contentment. He finished his soup and was about to leave the comfort of his blanket to take some stew when Lhamom took the bowl from his hands. She gave him a good serving and gave him back his bowl.

                          “What is it about shards and powers?” she asked.
                          Fox, Rukshan and Olliver looked at each other.
                          “It’s…” started Fox.
                          “It’s a long story,” cut Rukshan.

                          “Don’t make as if I said nothing important,” said Olliver.
                          The red of the flames enhances his angry look, thought Fox.
                          “I can be at two places, even more, at once. I can still be the bait and go back home with you at the same time.”

                          A dog barked impatiently.

                          “Yes,” said Fox.
                          “I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” said Rukshan, concern on his face.
                          “Why? I’m not a boy anymore, if that’s what it’s all about. I can do it. I already did it this afternoon.”
                          “Well this afternoon was nice and cosy, wasn’t it? You had plenty of light, and yes you helped Fox escape from the dogs, so you can certainly do it. But what about the Shadow spirit. We have no idea what it is, or what it can do to you. And what will happen if one of you get killed?”

                          Once again, they fell silent. There was a dog bark and that strange cristalline noise again. It sounded closer.
                          “What’s that noise?” asked Olliver. Fox suddenly realised the strange noise had nothing to do with the sound of miracles, but it was a real noise in the real world.
                          “What noise?” asked Lhamom. “And what are you all talking about, shards and powers and ubiquity?”
                          “I can hear it too,” said Fox. “I’ve heard it before, but thought it was just me.”

                          The noise happened again, this time sounding a lot like metallic ropes snapping on ice.
                          Fox wriggled his nose. There was the smell of an animal and of a human.
                          “I think someone is coming,” he said, sniffing the cold air. “A donkey and a human.”

                          It was not too long before they saw an odd woman riding a donkey. She was playing a lyre made of ice, the strings of which had a faint glow. The woman was smiling like she was having the best adventure of her life.
                          “Hi guys. I came to help you. You didn’t think I would remain forgotten in my cave, did you?”

                          Kumihimo! Ronaldo!” said Lhamom, standing up.

                          #4543
                          AvatarJib
                          Participant

                            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.

                            #4526
                            FloveFlove
                            Participant

                              There had been more than one occasion over the past few days when Glynis wondered if all the trouble and effort was worth it. As a rule, Glynnis preferred to go with the natural flow of events and trust all was working out as it should, even if she did not always understand the big picture. It seemed to her that once one started fighting for things, well really, there would seem to be no end of injustices one could get involved in. But she cared about her friends and was determined to persevere with the plan.

                              “Are you nearly done?” Eleri bounded into the kitchen where Glynis was intently stirring a concoction of herbs in a large saucepan. “Oh my god! It smells disgusting. Maybe the stink alone will scare them off and you don’t even need the magic spell!”

                              “It’s not going to get done any quicker with you asking every few minutes,” snapped Glynnis. “I need a mirror.”

                              Eleri regarded her with quizzically. “This is no time for vanity, Glynnis!” she said firmly.

                              “Very funny. I need a mirror for the invisibility spell. I am nearly done. Oh, and you need to purify the mirror with sage to ward off bad energy.”

                              “For sure, I’m on it!” said Eleri, eager to assist and speed the agonising slow process up anyway she could.

                              It had taken nearly two days, toiling well into the night, to create the spell to Glynis’s satisfaction. But now it was nearly done and she was excited to try it.

                              “Gather round, Everybody,” she called. “We are going to have a trial run.”

                              #4524
                              AvatarJib
                              Participant

                                The air was crisp and dry in the mountains. They had been walking for days under the guidance of their local guide Strumpjioku, whose name was simply pronounced Sok despite or because a very complicated writing system. It seemed to interest Rukshan a lot but Fox had had some brain freeze trying to understand their guide’s nebulous and proud explanations about it.
                                Of course, it might have been caused also by the lack of air. They were so high in the mountains, and at times Fox had even seen and heard things that should not have been there. Especially during the long nights when packs of wild dogs barked endlessly. Fox understood their language. They were hunting things. It wasn’t clear what, but Fox could sometimes sense a lingering smell carried by the otherwise empty air that he couldn’t identify.

                                They had established camp for the night and Sok was busy cooking for them. Fox growled miserably. He didn’t fancy too much the spicy food that seem the only thing they could get in those mountains. He missed the running hens of Margoritt’s cottage in the forest and her secret mushroom sauce that was to die for. He would even have eaten her ratatouille with only vegetables.

                                Rukshan was trying to cast a fae spell in order to contact their friend Lhamom who had left them for a special ceremony in a temple. She said it was for her friend Donny whose mother had passed away recently. Being in a hurry as they were, they didn’t insist to wait. Lhamom said she could catch up on them later. The spell failed again and Rukshan cursed.

                                Dogs started to bark loudly. Not too soon after the strange smell became stronger, and it made Fox nervous, especially hearing to the hunting dogs.

                                Fox approached Rukshan.
                                “The dogs are hunting something, he said.
                                “As long as they don’t hunt us, retorted Rukshan with a shrug. He seemed upset by his failed attempt and not too eager to talk.
                                Fox caught Sok looking at them, but the guide turned back to his cooking when he saw Fox looking at him.
                                “That won’t help me sleep”, mumbled Fox more grumpy than usual.

                                #4490
                                EricEric
                                Keymaster

                                  Jerk Munkinn closed his laptop and sighed. It had been a while he’d looked into the Group. So long actually, he’d felt a pinch in his chest when he’d realized so many of his friends had departed.
                                  “Must have to do with the gettin’ old, eh”.

                                  Truly, that was a bit of a let down, when you thought of how so many of them tried hard to be chirpy and funny all the time. Exhausting really, like living with kaleidoscopic glasses shooting rainbows in your optic nerve all the time. No wonder some got depressed and left, virtually or for real. Even he could feel the withdrawal effects at times.
                                  The new joiners were active too, but that didn’t feel the same, he couldn’t bother to get involved any longer.

                                  A few days ago, there had been a renewed noisy agitation on the Woowoo group. Nothing unusual, he’d first thought, these things tend to go in stress cycles, losing a little more steam at each turn.

                                  It was not obvious in the beginning, but as he was almost done rolling more and more of the same tiring feelgood stuff, he caught a vaporous idea. Something lying behind. The slow revelation of the loops everyone was caught in. The tearing of the veil of disguise everyone was so wrapped up in. What was he, without that veil?

                                  For a moment, the door of understanding was there, at hand’s reach, and it went out of focus and moved away.

                                  A red flash caught his attention in his periphery. Seemed just the lights in the street, but of course he would know better. “Tonttu” his crazy aunt would have said.
                                  Trickster, or distraction at best. He chose to ignore it, focusing instead on the white noise of the rain falling on the awning, while he got to sleep. Tomorrow was Monday. Only one week of work and he could go back home.

                                  #4431
                                  AvatarJib
                                  Participant

                                    That sunny day would be remembered as the day the doline shook and trembled.

                                    The geckoes fell from their rock, cutting all communication between the inhabitants of the hidden world. The vibrations coming from leperchauns know where had swiftly spread into the walls down to the deepest cracks and hidden chambers of the back cave far deeper than any of the inhabitants of the doline dared to show their noses. And Most of them weren’t aware at all of all that empty dark and cold and wet space. At some point, the vibrations gathered and rebounded into the bottom of the deepest caves and came back out in a roar that might have take the inhabitants’ hats off, if they wore hats.

                                    The bats flew away into the sunlight, blinded and deafened, bumping into each others as their fabulously acute sense of hearing was overwhelmed by the vibrations and the rich harmonics generated in the crystal chambers down below. Some fell, spiraling down as if they had been shot by some anti aerial defense. They fell in the cockroach arena and into the reservoir of dung gathered by the dung beetles, almost crushing Daisy in the process. Her father caught her safe and rolled her like the little dung beetle she was.

                                    The rats ran away spreading panic like plague, and while some tried to take advantage of the confusion to steal others food, when the vibration kept on shaking the ground around them and stalactites fell like fringe hail exploding into thousands projectiles, they began to fear.

                                    It took some time for the dust and noise to settle down, long after the vibration had ceased. All the inhabitants of the doline had gathered on the edge of the entrance, not knowing if it was safe to go back home.

                                    Hugo the Gecko wondered like many of the others.

                                    What just happened? What if it happened again? Somebody had to volunteer to go see what it was that made that noise.

                                    But no one came forth, all too shocked by the recent events. You could even hear some calling their families or friends.

                                    Hugo didn’t feel up to the task, he was too small and fragile. What if another of those big rocks fell on his soft and elastic body? It would explode like a water bomb. Except the puddle would be red. Yet, when he saw little Daisy desperately looking for her mother, something rose in him. Something he had never felt before. Some might call it courage, but Hugo didn’t have a name for it. All he knew was that he entered the doline and went down to the flat stone, calling his gecko friends on the way to follow him. Dragged along by that strange emotion that was moving their friend, they followed and listened to him when he gave them a few instructions. They resumed their place on the stone, except this time Hugo was at the center and began to draw something.

                                    The inhabitants of the doline had looked not understanding what the geckoes were doing, calling them reckless idiots to venture back into the broken world. But they looked at the strange shapes appearing on the flat stone at the center of the doline.

                                    Suddenly a voice came out of the crowd. “It’s me! I’m here!” she said and waved her little beetle legs. “Daisy, Mummy’s here!”

                                    Then everybody wanted to pass a message and the geckoes felt they were making a difference.

                                    Despite the agitation, Hugo kept wondering. What happened? Someone has to go and see.

                                    #4364
                                    EricEric
                                    Keymaster

                                      Rukshan had stayed awake for the most part of the night, slowly and repeatedly counting the seconds between the blazing strokes of lightning and the growling bouts of thunder.
                                      It is slowly moving away.

                                      The howling winds had stopped first, leaving the showers of rain fall in continuous streams against the dripping roof and wet walls.

                                      An hour later maybe, his ear had turned to the sound of the newly arrived at the cottage, thinking it would be maybe the dwarf and Eleri coming back, but it was a different voice, very quiet, somehow familiar… the potion-maker?

                                      He had warned Margoritt that a lady clad in head-to-toe shawls would likely come to them. Margoritt had understood that some magical weaving was at play. The old lady didn’t have siddhis or yogic powers, but she had a raw potential, very soundly rooted in her long practice of weaving, and learning the trades and tales of the weaving nomad folks. She had understood. Better, she’d known — from the moment I saw you and that little guy, she’d said, pointing at Tak curled under the bed.
                                      “He’s amazing,” she’d said “wise beyond his age. But his mental state is not very strong.”

                                      There was more than met the eye about Tak, Rukshan started to realize.
                                      For now, the cottage had fell quiet. Dawn was near, and there was a brimming sense of peace and new beginning that came with the short silence before the birds started again their joyous chatter.

                                      It must have been then that he collapsed on the table of exhaustion and started to dream.

                                      It was long before.

                                      The dragon is large and its presence awe-inspiring. They have just shared the shards, each has taken one of the seven. Even the girl, although she still hates to be among us.
                                      The stench of the ring of fire is still in their nostrils. The Gods have deserted, and left as soon as the Portal closed itself. It is a mess.

                                      “Good riddance.”

                                      He raises his head, looking at the dragon above him. She is quite splendid, her scales a shining pearl blue on slate black, reflecting the moonshine in eerie patterns, and her plastron quietly shiny, almost softly fiery. His newly imbued power let him know intimately many things, at once. It is dizzying.

                                      “You talk of the Gods, don’t you?” he says, already knowing the answer.
                                      “Of course, I am. Good riddance. They had failed us so many times, forgot their duties, driven me and my kind to slavery. Now I am free. Free of guilt, and free of sorrow. Free to be myself, as I was meant to be.”
                                      “It is a bit more complex th…”
                                      “No it isn’t. It couldn’t be more simple. If you had the strength to see it, you would understand.”
                                      “I know what you mean, but I am not sure I understand.”

                                      The dragon smiles enigmatically. She turns to the lonely weeping girl, who is there with the old woman. Except her grand-mother is no longer an old crone, she has changed her shape to that of a younger person. She is showing potentials to the girl, almost drunk on the power, but it doesn’t alleviate her pain.

                                      “What are you going to do about them?”

                                      The Dragon seems above the concerns for herself. In a sense, she is right. It was all his instigation. He bears responsibility.

                                      “I don’t know…” It is a strange thing to say, when you can know anything. He knows there are no good outcomes of this situation. Not with the power she now possesses.

                                      “You better find out quick…” and wake up,

                                      wake up, WAKE UP !

                                      #4335
                                      AvatarJib
                                      Participant

                                        In the kitchen, Fox beheaded the chicken in a swift move. He tried not to be horrified when the creature’s body kept on running around, headless like a peaslander. He felt vaguely aware that’s what he’d been doing all that time. Running around without a very clear idea about what he was doing.

                                        “Don’t let it run around bloody n’all!” said Margoritt, “Who do you think is going to clean that mess?” The old woman, huff and puff, limped rhythmically after their dinner. Someone had heard her scream and came into the kitchen. It was that tall Fae guy, Rukshan, who looked so successful and handsome. Fox felt depressed. The Fae had caught the dead body, which had eventually stopped moving, and put it in the basket Margoritt had taken on the table.

                                        “Thanks my dear,” she said with a giggle. “Would you be so kind as to pluck it for me?” She then looked at Fox. “Sorry, lad, but with a name like yours I’m not sure I can trust you on this one.” The old lady winked.

                                        Fox couldn’t be annoyed at Margoritt, he wouldn’t trust himself with a chicken, dead or alive. And the old lady had saved him from the blizzard and from that strange curse. He attempted a smile but all he could do was a grimace. Margoritt looked at him as if noticing something.

                                        “Why don’t you go with Rukshan,” she said, “A bit of fresh air would do you good.”
                                        Fox shrugged, and followed the Fae outside.

                                        “And send me that Eleri girl, I’d like to have a word with her while she clean the blood on the tiling.”

                                        Outside it was noisier. Fox found the woman arguing with her male friends, one of whom looked like a statue with big wings. She seemed relieved to have a reason to get away from the crowd and her own problems and left with a smile. He wondered how she could stay happy while being surrounded by conflict. Maybe she liked it. Fox shrugged again.

                                        He walked to the small courtyard, sat on a log and watched the handsome Fae removing the feathers. Rukshan’s hands looked clean, the blood was not sticking on his fair skin and the chicken feathers were piling neatly on a small heap at his feet.
                                        “Aren’t Faes supposed to be vegetarian,” he said. He cringed inwardly at his own words. What a stupid way of engaging a conversation.

                                        Without stopping, Rukshan answered: “I think you think too much. It’s not doing you much good, and it deepens the shadow under your eyes. Not that it doesn’t suit you well.” The Fae winked. Fox wasn’t sure of how to take it. He stayed silent. He saw the bag the Fae was always carrying with him and wondered what was inside.

                                        “It’s a story,” said Rukshan.
                                        Fox was confused and looked puzzled.
                                        “In the bag. It’s a story. But it’s not finished.”

                                        Fox felt warmth rise to his face. If the Fae could read his thoughts… he preferred not to think about it. Rukshan smiled gently.

                                        “I need help to complete it and better understand the characters. Would you like to help me?”
                                        Fox wasn’t sure what made him answer yes. Did it matter if it was for the welcomed distraction from his dark thoughts, or if it was for the promise of more time spent with the Fae?

                                        #4309
                                        EricEric
                                        Keymaster

                                          The remembrance had made the magic book reappear in Rukshan’s bag, and with it, its leaves ripe with vibrant parts of the long ago story. Rukshan started to read, immediately engrossed by the story it told.

                                          When the Heartswood was young, many thousands of years ago, during the Blissful Summer Age

                                          WHO
                                          — The Dark FAE
                                          — The Mapster DWARF
                                          — The Glade TROLL
                                          — The Trickster DRYAD
                                          — The Tricked GIRL
                                          — The Laughing CRONE
                                          — The Toothless DRAGON

                                          ACT 1, SCENE 1 – THE PREPARATION

                                          NARRATOR: It all started as an idea, small and unnoticeable, at first. Almost too frail to endure. But it soon found a fertile soil in the mind of seven improbable acolytes. It took roots and got nourishment from greed, envy, despair, sorrow, despondence, rebellion and other traits. And it grew. That growing idea bound them together, and in search of the way to obtain what it wanted, got them to work together to do an unthinkable thing. Rob the Heartswood of its treasure, the Crest Jewel of the Gods, the radiant Gem that was at its centre. It would be the end of their sorrow, the end of the Gods unfair power of all creation… The idea obscured all others, driving them to act.

                                          FAE: Did you get the map?
                                          DWARF: Of course, what do you think, I am no amateur. What do you bring to the table?
                                          FAE: I bring the way out. But first things first, the map will get us there, but we still need a way in. What says your TROLL friend?
                                          DWARF: He heard rumours, there is a DRYAD. Her tree is dying, she tried to petition the Gods, but to no avail. She will help.
                                          FAE: Can your friend guarantee it?
                                          DWARF: You have damn little trust. You will see, when she brings in the GIRL. She is the key to open the woods. Only an innocent heart can do it, so the DRYAD will trick her.
                                          FAE: How? I want to know everything, I don’t like surprises. An unknowing acolyte is a threat to our little heist. What’s her story?
                                          DWARF: I don’t know much. Something about a broken heart, a dead one, her lover maybe. The DRYAD told the GIRL she could bring her loved one back from the dead, in the holy woods.
                                          FAE: I can work with that. So we are good then?
                                          DWARF: You haven’t told me about your exit plan. What is it?
                                          FAE: I can’t tell you, not now. We need the effect of surprise. Now go get the others, we will reconvene at the woods’ entrance, tomorrow night, at the darkest moon of the darkest day.

                                          SCENE 2 – THE CURIOUS GODMOTHER

                                          GIRL: Godmother, I need to go, you are not to worry.
                                          CRONE (cackling): Let me come with you, the woods are not safe at this time of the year. The Stranger is surely out there to get you.
                                          GIRL: No, no, Godmother, please stay, you cannot help me, you need to rest.

                                          Rukshan looked at some of the blank pages, there were still missing patches

                                          ACT 2 – SCENE 3 – THE HEIST

                                          In the heart of the Heartswoods

                                          TROLL: Let me break that crystal, so we can share it!
                                          GIRL (reaching for it to protect it): No! I need it whole!
                                          DRYAD (in suave tone): Let it go! I will protect it and give you what you want…
                                          GIRL: Your promises are worthless! You lied to me!
                                          CRONE: (cackles) Told you!
                                          DWARF: Give it to me!
                                          FAE (quieting everyone): Let’s be calm, friends. Everyone can get what they want.

                                          GIRL (startled): Eek! A Guardian DRAGON! We are doomed!
                                          FAE (reaching too late for the crystal): Oh no, it had broken in seven pieces. I will put them in this bag, each of us will get one piece after we leave. (to the DRAGON) Lead the way out of this burning circle!
                                          DWARF (understanding): Oh, that was your exit strategy…
                                          FAE (rolling eyes): Obvious-ly.

                                          That was all that the book had to show at the time. Rukshan thought the writer got a little lazier with the writing as the story went, but it was good enough to understand more or less what had happened.

                                          There was one last thing that was shown in the book.

                                          WHAT THEY STOLE
                                          — Shard of Infinite Knowledge
                                          — Shard of Transmutation and Shapeshifting
                                          — Shard of Ubiquity and Teleportation
                                          — Shard of Infinite Influence and Telepathy
                                          — Shard of Infinite Life and Death
                                          — Shard of Grace and Miracles
                                          — Shard of Infinite Strength

                                          #4306
                                          AvatarJib
                                          Participant

                                            The drizzle wasn’t meant to last. At least that’s what the smell in the air was telling Fox. With the night it was getting colder and the drizzle would soon turn into small ice crystals, and maybe worse.
                                            “We should get going,” Fox said, enjoying the last pieces of rabbit stew. The dwarf had been busy looking around in the leafless bushes and behind the tree trunks. He had been silent the whole time and Fox was beginning to worry.
                                            “What have you been doing anyway?” he asked. “Are you hunting? You can still have a piece of that stew before I swallow it.” He handed his bowl toward the dwarf, who grumpfed without looking at Fox.
                                            “I don’t eat. I’m a stone dwarf. I think I get recharged by daylight.”
                                            Gorash kept on looking around very intently.
                                            “We should get going,” repeated Fox. The weather is going to be worse.
                                            “Grmpf. I don’t care. I’m made to stay outside. I’m a stone statue.”
                                            “Well even stone gets cracked with the help of ice when temperature drops below zero. How am I supposed to carry you if you fall into pieces,” said Fox. He thought his idea rather cunning, but he had no idea if Gorash would be affected by the bad weather or not, since he was not really like stone during the night.

                                            “And what are you looking for? It’s winter, there’s not much of anything behind those naked bushes.”
                                            “It’s Easter. You had your rabbit. I want my eggs,” said the dwarf.
                                            “Oh.” Fox was speechless for a few moments. He too had been thinking of the colourful eggs of the dwarf’s friend they had left in the witch’s garden. He wondered what had happened to it? Gorash had been gloomier and gloomier since they had left the garden and Fox didn’t understand why. He had thought his friend happy to go on a quest and see the outside world. But something was missing, and now Fox realised what it was.

                                            He didn’t really know what to say to comfort the dwarf, so he said nothing. Instead he thought about the strange seasonal pattern shifts. If it was Easter then it should be spring time, but the temperatures were still a havoc. And the trees had no leaves in that part of the forest. Fox remembered the clock tower of the city had had some problems functioning recently, maybe it was all connected. The problems with the bad smell around the city, the nonsensical seasonal changes and that gloomy quest… maybe it was all connected.

                                            Fox gulped the last pieces of rabbit stew without enjoying it. He licked the inside of the bowl and put it in his backpack without further cleaning. He had suddenly realised that it was not much use to ask Gorash’s permission to leave as Fox was doing all the walk during the day anyway. So he could as well do it at night. He didn’t have as much difficulties to put out the fire as he had lighting it up. He cleaned the place as much as he could and then looked around him. The night was dark, the drizzle had turned into small snow flakes. Fox smelled the air. It would soon turn into bigger flakes. The dwarf could stay outside if he wanted, but Fox needed to move. Let him follow if he wants to.

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