Fox’s stomach growled and resonated on the cave’s walls. He feared it would awaken the others. It was cold and he curled up inside his ten blankets made of yak wool, tempted to turn into a fox to get extra fur.
After being caught in a snowstorm, they had found a cave with a frozen toothless body. Rukshan had used incense and chanting to perform a commummycation spell, and to everyone’s surprise, Lhamom’s voice came out of the toothless frozen mouth. It was feeble and was full of sharp crystalline harmonics that made Fox’s grind his teeth. Because the commummycation was bad, Rukshan had to lean closer, almost touching its face. Fox shivered incontrollably, unable to know if it was of disgust or of cold.
Rukshan told them that Lhamom had been rescued by a hellishcopter from the underworld and was on her way to extract them from the ice. He seemed as puzzled as Fox, but their guide seemed to know the strange beast and assumed their friend was blessed because hellishcopters were not known to help strangers.
Dogs barked in the distance. Fox winced and wondered why he came to the mountain. He wished he could be back to simple cottage life in the enchanted forest. Then he recalled it was not that simple at the moment and he wondered how their friends were dealing with their own problems.
He couldn’t sleep, like the previous nights and he didn’t dare go to far from the camp to relieve his bowels by fear of the hungry dogs.
He also had had dreams. Strange dreams of master Gibbon’s home in the forest threatened by dozens of bulls with bright red eyes running angrily toward his unaware master. Each time Fox woke up when the bulls were about to crush the hut and master Gibbons opened his eyes, his face hurling towards Fox. Afterwards he never could go back to sleep. So he waited. He waited for their friend Lhamom to arrive as she promised.
When Jerk came for his shift at the WholeDay*Mart, it was still early in the morning. He liked this shift best. Early customers were always a bit sleepy, except for a few of the early riser soccer moms up for a jog, and usually were far less chatty than the midday crowds.
One had to find ways to keep awake though. What he liked best were the invisible people. There was one in particular who’d caught his attention for the past few days. She had the insolent smile of people in the know, piercing eyes that would go straight to you without care for the social barriers, or untold rules and rites of the place. In short, she’d struck him as the only awake person in the lot, almost winkfully so.
And to his surprise, nobody seemed aware of that. It was as though she was in the background of the other drone people, who just couldn’t register such oddity into their daily computation.
He couldn’t care less — after all, for a meager pay, he wasn’t there to police. He was just intrigued by how she would seem to get away with it and be totally unnoticed.
Fox sat back on the wooden chair in Margoritt’s kitchen, and crossed his arms, a little unnerved by the heat and his growing desire to go out in the woods and let go of all restraints. He had been struggling daily to control it and he had noticed it was particularly difficult during the new moon.
“If we have to do it in the house,” said Fox, “Can’t we at least open the windows? It’ll let in some fresh air.” He wrinkled his nose at the heavy scents of sweat mingled with that of fermented goat milk, irritating his delicate sense of smell. Rukshan had gathered their little group and they were waiting for Gorrash to wake up.
“The purpose of meeting here is that nobody can hear what we are saying,” said Rukshan with a hint of exasperation in his tone. “If we open the windows it’ll just…”
“Isn’t it rather because of the mosquitos?” started Fox feeling a little argumentative.
Glynis cleared her throat and got up, mumbling that she might have a solution. She came back a few moment later carrying a big bottle with a big sticker. Rukshan and Mr Minn helped her lift it while Eleri and Margoritt cleared a space on the table where they put the bottle.
The sticker had something written on it : AIR CONDITIONED, winter quality. Handle with caution.
Glynis turned the cap a few turns and a wooshing sound escaped from the neck of the bottle, followed by a gentle and continuous breeze of fresh air which provoked a murmur of appreciation from everyone.
“What’s this?” asked Gorrash who had just woken up.
“It’s what the sticker says. Cooling the atmosphere is just one way to use it. One has to be careful not to turn the wheel too much though or you could get frost bite.”
The fae looked at the bottle appreciatively, impressed at Glynis’ many talents. He was already thinking about a few other ways to put this frozen air bottle to use when Glynis cleared her throat again.
“It’s not infinite content and I only get a few of them, so if we could start the meeting.”
“Of course. I’ve received words from Lhamom. Her father has passed away and they are sending him to the sea during the week-end.” He allowed a moment of silence, sending a silent prayer toward their dear friend. Then he continued : “That means she’ll be able to join us for our trip in the mountains. We only have to decide who’s going and who’s staying to help Margoritt.”
The rain had poured again and again, across the night, with short fits of howling winds. There had been no sign of Eleri or Gorrash, and people in the cabin had waited for the first ray of light to venture outside to find them.
The newcomer, the quiet potion maker, stayed in her small quarters and hadn’t really mingled, but Margoritt wasn’t concerned about it. She was actually quite protective of her, and had continued her own chatter all through the night, doing small chores or being busy at her small loom, stopping at times in the middle of painful walking. She would however not cease speaking to whomever was listening at the time, or to her goat, or at times just to the wind or herself.
Rukshan had had several dreams during the night, and could tell he wasn’t the only one. Everyone had a tired look. Images came and went, but there was a sense of work to be done.
There were a few things he had managed to gather during that time awake when meditative state brought some clarity to the confused images.
First, they were all in this together.
Then, they probably needed a plan to repair the old.
As soon as they would find the two missing ones, he would share it with everyone.
Rukshan looked at the clearing just outside the cabin, at first not realising two things had happened. Then they both dawned on him: the first ray of light had come across the cloudy sky, and second, the clearing was empty of the vengeful God.
“Grumpf” he swore in the old Elvish tongue “that rascal is surely going after Eleri — Eleri who he now knew was the laughing crone of the story, rendered younger by the powers of her goddaughter, the tricked girl. Eleri, who having inherited of the transmutation powers, had turned the angry God who had been left behind into stone to protect all of them.
If the God would find her before they could get her to extract her Shard, at best they would be condemned to another cycle of rebirth, or worse, he would try to kill all of them to extract the other Shards from the others, one by one, until the Gods old powers would be his…
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.
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 !
As the night was coming on the party, lanterns were lit around the place, and Gorrash started to wake up.
He felt grumpy, and ready to take on the world, but suddenly realized there was quite a crowd assembled around the long table set up in front of the shack.
He would have grumpfed and grumbled and sworn angrily that they had started without him, but someone had put a nice plate of pebbles in front of him.
He couldn’t help but smile Nice touch, pointy ears!
His friend the owl hooted as if in approval.
“Oh there you are…” he said, seeing it was perched on… what exactly?
There was another statue, a big old winged thing that wasn’t there yesterday.
“Fox has some explaining to do…” he thought, wondering about this… Then he was startled to realise that said statue was just a strange large being, stuck in a sort of hypnotic trance.
“Has he woken yet?” the dwarf turned around to see the young lad who had addressed him, coming in his direction. “The witch’s magic mushrooms are very strong… it’s his fault; he wouldn’t calm down…” the lad said sheepishly.
As the dwarf was looking at the owl for explanation, she just decided to fly away for some vole hunting.
“Hello, I’m Olli… Olliver is the name.”
“Well, I’m Gorrash. You can call me Gorrash.”
“Mr Go- go-gorrash, the Fae has called all of us to tell us something, could you come please…”
Gorrash pointed at the tranced out god “and what about this big guy?”
In the past twenty days since he got out of the forest, backtracking on his steps, Rukshan didn’t have much luck finding or locating either of the six others strands.
At first, he thought his best hint was the connection with the potion-maker, but it seemed difficult to find her if she didn’t want to be found.
So, for lack of a better plan, he had come back to Margoritt’s shack and was quite pleased at the idea of meeting the old lady and Tak again.
Her cottage had been most busy with guests, and in the spring time, it was a stark contrast with the last time he was there, to see all the motley assemblage she had gathered around her.
First, there was Margoritt of course, Emma the goat, then Tak, who was a very convincing little boy these days, and looked happy at all the people visiting. Then, there was Lahmom, the mountain explorer, who had come down from her trek and enjoyed a glass of goat milk tea with roast barley nuggets.
Then there were a couple of strange guests, a redhair man with a nose for things, and his pet statue, a gnome with a temper, he said. Margoritt had offered them shelter during the last of the blizzard.
With so many unexpected guests, Margoritt quickly found her meager provisions dwindling, and told Rukshan she was about to decide for an early return to the city, since the next cargo of her benefactor Mr Minn would take too long to arrive.
That was the day before she arrived to the cottage with her companion: Eleri and Yorath, had arrived surprisingly just in time with a small carriage of provisions. “How great that mushrooms don’t weigh anything, we have so many to share!” Eleri was happy at the sight of the cottage and its guests, and started to look around at all the nooks and crannies for secret treasures to assemble and unknown shrooms.
While Yorath explained to Margoritt how Mr Minn had send him ahead with food, Margoritt was delighted and amazed at such prescience.
Rukshan, for his part, was amazed at something else. There seemed to be something at play, to join together people of such variety in this instant. Maybe the solution he was looking for was just in front of his nose.
He would have to look carefully at which of them could be an unknown holder of the shards of the Gem.
He was consigning his thoughts on a random blank page of his vanishing book, not to store the knowledge, but rather to engage on a inner dialogue, and seek illumination, when some commotion happened outside the cottage.
That can’t be another coincidence Rukshan thought, recognizing the two new guests: the reanimated god statue of the tower, and Olliver, the boy who, he deduced, had managed to wake up the old teleporting device.
“Pssst Glynis, are you awake?”
There was no response so Sunshine, the parrot, leapt from his shelf onto the bed and nudged Glynis with his beak.
“I’ve got a joke for you. It’s a good one this time! You will be glad I woke you.”
“What’s smarter than a talking parrot?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.”
“Come on! you aren’t even trying!”
“Aargh. Most things are.”
“Oh how rude. You really aren’t at your best this hour of the night. It’s a spelling bee! Get it? A spelling bee. A bee that spells. Not that anything is really smarter than a parrot. Hmm maybe I should have let you sleep,” cackled the parrot.
“Extremely hilarious. Now be quiet, Sunny, and get some sleep. We have to get away extra early in the morning.”
Glynis had been staying with the Bakers for a few weeks now, since the night of the storm.
She had taken refuge on their porch, as the gale tore through the pitch black streets, blowing anything not nailed down along in its wake. Intending to leave early before anyone in the house was up, she found a dry corner and wrapping her burka tightly around herself for warmth, she fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
“Well, what have we here! Good Lord, girl, you must be freezing!” said a booming male voice. Glynis started awake, trying to work out where she was.
“This is no place to be in a storm. Come inside to the warm,” the man continued. And before she could gather her senses and protest, he took hold of her arm and gently but firmly pulled her into a cosy warm kitchen already filled with the delicious aroma of baking bread.
“Anne!” he called to his wife, “look what I found on the front porch!”
“Oh you poor dear! You are shivering! Come with me and let’s get you into some dry clothes.”
Anne Baker was a portly woman with a purple scar covering a large part of her face. Glynis never mentioned the scar and likewise the Bakers never said a word about the dragon scales, seeming completely unperturbed by Glynis’s unusual appearance. In fact, in their kindly presence, Glynis sometimes found herself forgetting.
To repay their kindness, Glynis helped with the baking. With her knowledge of herbs, she had created several new recipes which had proved to be most popular with the customers. This delighted the Bakers; they were people who were passionate about what they did and every little detail mattered. They rose early, often before the sun was up, to lovingly prepare the dough; in their minds they were not merely selling bread; they were selling happiness.
Glynis was most surprised the day the stone parrot arrived in the mail.
“This is very peculiar. Who is this “laughing crone” and what does she want with me,” said Glynis to the stone parrot. “I wonder, did Aunt Bethell send you to me? She is very good at stories — perhaps she sent me the dream as well.”
But surely Aunt Bethell would not call herself a laughing crone! No, that is definitely not her style!
Glynis stared at the concrete parrot and an uneasy feeling had come over her. “You are alive inside that concrete, aren’t you,” she whispered, patting the stone creature gently. “Have you too been caught in the spell of some malevolent magician?”
That night Glynnis had a strange dream. She knew that it was no ordinary dream and in the morning diligently recorded it in her dream journal.
I was walking on a windy path through the forest. A young woman with bizarre hair and a cackling laugh appeared before me, blocking my path.
“Tell me your name!” I commanded.
“My name is Eleri, and I have a parrot to accompany you on your journey.”
“A parrot! What would I do with a parrot?”
“This is no ordinary parrot. This parrot can tell jokes,” responded the woman.
“A funny parrot! Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place. Give me the parrot and I will be on my way.”
“Hold your horses. It’s not such an easy thing as that,” said the woman. “It never is you know. First you must tell me what is going on.”
I sighed and handed her a manuscript. “Read this a dozen times and all will be made clear.”
A look of petulant fury distorted the young woman’s face.
“ Tell me what is going on, you rude tart!“ she said crossly.
Here is what I told her:
Glynnis is a young woman living in the enchanted forest in an abandoned mansion. She practices magic and has a great affinity for nature. She also has the face of dragon after she annoyed a powerful sorcerer. She is being troubled by dreams which seem to be calling her on a mission—the purpose of which she is unsure. Glynnis sells her potions at a stall in the city. One day she finds a map hidden behind a painting and knows that she needs to follow the path shown on the map.
Rushkan is fae. He works as the city ‘chief overseer’ looking after the clock tower. He isn’t that keen on his job. Rushkan has a half-formed vision to assemble a team but for what purpose he is not sure. He has also discovered something worrying, dark even, about the clock tower.
One day, Rushkan uses his magic to call for an Oliphant. He packs a small bag of belongs and departs on a journey. Before departing, he leaves a gift for Olliver, the office errand boy.
Rushkan is a little irritated to find that the forest has been fenced off and a toll-booth erected—who wouldn’t be annoyed by this needless bureaucracy? Anyway, after farewelling the helpful Oliphant he continues his journey on foot.
He hears a cry for help and comes across a dying Gibbon. The Gibbon entrusts her infant to his care. He takes the baby—named Tak—to an old woman who lives in a lodge close to the Dragon Heartwood: Margoritt Loursenoir, a writer. It seems Tak is a shape-shifter and can also take the form of a child. Perhaps that is his true form. Rushkan stays with Margoritt for a while to recoup but it isn’t very long before he feels compelled to continue his journey to find the hermit, Kumihimo,in the forest. Kumihimo seems to be weaving seven braids.
To get to the hermit Rushkan has to cross Fae land. He isn’t overjoyed about this because he has left the ‘old ways’ of his people. Rushkan has to declare his presence to the Fae people—it’s a rule. The Queen is a bit annoyed because her empire is not as powerful as it once was and she has had to use precious resources to protect Rushkan on his journey. Anyway, she doesn’t stay uppity for long and ends up in bed with him.
Gorash is a dwarf statue who abides in the grounds of the deserted mansion in the enchanted forest. At night he comes to life. He has a friend called Rainbow. Gorash assists Rainbow in stealing Glynis’s magic potions and they make seven colourful eggs which Rainbow is infatuated with.
Mr Fox lives in a hut outside the city walls. At sunset he can shapeshift into a fox. He prefers being in animal form. Fox is quite a character. Not much gets past him.
Fox’s master is a Gibbon who taught him how to shapeshift. After going on a journey into the forest to find Gibbon, Fox is told that it is time to learn the wisdom of the Heart. Gibbon gives Fox an assignment: “You’ll find a lost soul in the enchanted forest. Bring it back to its rightful owner. Then you shall find your master.”
Fox goes back to the mansion in the deserted forest just as Glynnis is leaving on her journey. He befriends Gorash who has become increasingly lonely since Rainbow now has the eggs.
“That’s brilliant,” said the woman called Eleri. “You should probably get lots of points for doing that.” She gave one more loud cackle and shouted: “I am off to pick some mushrooms. You will find the parrot when you wake up from this crazy dream!”
His sleep had been deep. When he emerged, he felt as if ages had passed in his dreams. The Queen had left, only the evanescent scent of her in the sheets made him certain that no longer than a night had passed.
He could barely remember the dreams, already swirling in the chilly air like wisps of incense smoke, drawing ever-changing figures that a single careless breath would destroy forever. The tip of his remembrance was still incandescent, but it was formless, irreconcilable with the volutes of images dancing in his mind.
There were many lives he had lived in that night of feverish dreams, and he had the strange feeling that these were sent by the Hermit. With the overflow of lives lived, only lingered a sense of calm and fulfillment. A sense of a change of destination.
He had not remembered who the Queen knew he was, not entirely, but glimpses remained, obscured by an old curse. She couldn’t tell him, he had to remember by himself, and all his accumulated knowledge was worthless to divine the precious hidden gem of self-knowledge.
At least, her gift was that of perspective. He had erred aimless in the forests, and meeting the Hermit was an excuse to extract him from the rites and rut of his old life. The ghosts in his wake wouldn’t lay to rest without his reclaiming his power.
It was time to drink the potion that had been offered —which had a fiery copper colour now, and see which direction it would point to.
The garden was becoming too small for Gorrash. With time, the familiarity had settled down in his heart and he knew very well each and every stone or blade of grass there was to know. With familiarity, boredom was not very far. Gorrash threw a small pebble in the pond, he was becoming restless and his new and most probably short friendship with Rainbow had triggered a seed in his heart, the desire to know more about the world.
Before he’d met the creature, Gorrash could remember the pain and sadness present in the heart of his maker. He had thought that was all he needed to know about the world, that mankind was not to be trusted. And he had avoided any contact with that dragon lady, lest she would hurt him. He knew that all came from his maker, although he had no real access to the actual memories, only to their effects.
Gorrash threw another pebble into the pond, it made a splashing sound which dissolved into the silence. He imagined the sound was like the waves at the surface of the pond, going endlessly outward into the world. He imagined himself on top of those waves, carried away into the world. A shiver ran through his body, which felt more like an earthquake than anything else, stone bodies are not so flexible after all. He looked at the soft glowing light near the bush where Rainbow was hiding. The memory of joy and love he had experienced when they hunted together gave his current sadness a sharp edge, biting into his heart mercilessly. He thought there was nothing to be done, Rainbow would leave and he would be alone again.
His hand reached in his pocket where he found the phial of black potion he had kept after Rainbow refused it. He shook it a few times. Each time he looked at it, Gorrash would see some strange twirls, curls and stars in the liquid that seemed made of light. He wondered what it was. What kind of liquid was so dark to the point of being luminous sometimes ? The twirls were fascinating, leading his attention to the curls ending in an explosion of little stars. Had the witch captured the night sky into that bottle?
Following the changes into the liquid was strangely soothing his pain. Gorrash was feeling sleepy and it was a very enjoyable feeling. Feelings were quite new to him and he was quite fascinated by them and how they changed his experience of the world. The phial first seemed to pulse back and forth into his hand, then the movement got out and began to spread into his body which began to move back and forth, carried along with this sensual lullaby. Gorrash wondered if it would go further, beyond his body into the world. But as the thought was born, the feeling was gone and he was suddenly back into the night. A chill went down his spine. It was the first time. The joy triggered his sadness again.
The dwarf looked at the dark phial. Maybe it could help ease his pain. He opened it, curious and afraid. What if it was poison? said a voice of memory. Gorrash dismissed it as the scent of Jasmine reached his nose. His maker was fond of Jasmine tea, and he was surprised at the fondness that rose in his heart. But still no images, it was merely voices and feelings. Sometimes it was frustrating to only have bits and never the whole picture, and full of exasperation, Gorrash gulped in the dark substance.
Nothing was happening. He could still hear the cooing of Rainbow, infatuated with it eggs, he could hear the scratches of the shrews, the flight of the insects. That’s when Gorrash noticed something was different as he was beginning to hear the sharp cries of the bats above. He tried to move his arm to look at the phial, but his body was so heavy. He had never felt so heavy in his short conscious life, even as the light of the Sun hardened his body, it was not that heavy.
The soil seemed to give way under his increasing weight, the surface tension unable to resist. He continued to sink into the ground, down the roots of the trees, through the tunnels of a brown moles quite surprised to see him there, surrounded by rocks and more soil, some little creatures’ bones, and down he went carried into hell by the weight of his pain.
After some time, his butt met a flat white surface, cold as ice, making him jump back onto his feet. The weird heaviness that a moment before froze his body was gone. He looked around, he was in a huge cave and he was not alone. There was an old woman seated crosslegged on a donkey skin. Gorrash knew it was a donkey because it still had its head, and it was smiling. The old woman had hair the colour of the clouds before a storm in summer, It was full of knots and of lightning streaks twirling and curling around her head. Her attention was all on the threads she had in her hands. Gorrash counted six threads. But she was doing nothing with them. She was very still and the dwarf wondered if she was dead or asleep.
What do you want? asked the donkey head in a loud bray.
It startled the dwarf but it didn’t seem to bother the old lady who was still entranced and focused on her threads.
Nothing, said Gorrash who couldn’t think of anything he would want.
Nonsense, brayed the donkey, laughing so hard that the skin was shaking under the old lady. Everyone wants something. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something.
Gorrash thought about what he could want, what he had been wanting that night. He remembered his desire to get out of the garden.
And there you are, brayed the donkey head, that’s a start. What do you want then?
Getting out of the garden?
Noooo! That’s a consequence of a deeper desire, but that’s not what you want.
I have never thought about desires before, said Gorrash. It’s pretty new to me. I just came to life a few weeks ago during a full moon.
The donkey head tilted slightly on its right. No excuses, it spat, If you’re awake, then you have a desire in your heart that wants to be fulfilled. What do you want? Take your time, but not too long. The universe is always on the move and you may miss the train, or the bus, or the caravan…
As the donkey went on making a list of means of transportation, Gorrash looked hesitantly at the old lady. She was still focused on her six threads she had not moved since he had arrived there.
Who is she? he asked to the donkey.
_She’s known by many names and has many titles. She’s Kumihimo Weaver of Braids, Ahina Maker of Songs, Gadong Brewer of Stews…
Ok! said Gorrash, not wanting the donkey go on again into his list enumeration pattern. What is she doing?
And, what is she waiting for?
She’s waiting for the seventh thread, brayed the donkey head. I’m also waiting for the thread, it whined loudly. She won’t leave my back until she’s finished her braid. The head started to cry, making the dwarf feel uncomfortable. Suddenly it stopped and asked And, who are you?
The question resonated in the cave and in his ears, taking Gorrash by surprise. He had no answer to that question. He had just woken up a few weeks ago in that garden near the forest, with random memories of a maker he had not known, and he had no clue what he desired most. Maybe if he could access more memories and know more about his maker that would help him know what he wanted.
Good! brayed the donkey, We are making some progress here. Now if you’d be so kind as to give her a nose hair, she could have her last thread and she could tell you where to find your maker.
Hope rose in Gorrash’s heart. Really?
Certainly, brayed the head with a hint of impatience.
But wouldn’t a nose hair be too short for her braid? asked the dwarf. All the other threads seemed quite long to him.
Don’t waste my time with such triviality. Pull it out!
Gorrash doubted it would work but he grabbed a nose hair between his thumb and index and began to pull. He was surprised as he didn’t feel the pain he expected but instead the hair kept being pulled out. He felt annoyed and maybe ashamed that it was quite long and he had not been aware of it. He took out maybe several meters long before a sudden pain signalled the end of the operation. Ouch!
hee haw, laughed the donkey head.
The pain brought out the memory of a man, white hair, the face all wrinkled, a long nose and a thin mouth. He was wearing a blouse tightened at his waist by a tool belt. He was looking at a block of stone wondering what to make out of it, and a few tears were rolling down his cheeks. Gorrash knew very well that sadness, it was the sadness inside of him. Many statues surrounded the man in what looked like a small atelier. There were animals, gods, heads, hands, and objects. The vision shifted to outside the house, and he saw trees and bushes different than the ones he was used to in the garden where he woke up. Gorrash felt a strange feeling in his heart. A deep longing for home.
Now you have what you came here for. Give the old lady her thread, urged the donkey. She’s like those old machines, you have to put a coin to get your coffee.
Gorrash had no idea what the donkey was talking about. He was still under the spell of the vision. As soon as he handed the hair to the woman, she began to move. She took the hair and combined it to the other threads, she was moving the threads too swiftly for his eyes to follow, braiding them in odd patterns that he felt attracted to.
Time for you to go, said the donkey.
I’d like to stay a bit longer. What she’s doing is fascinating.
Oh! I’m sure, brayed the donkey, But you have seen enough of it already. And someone is waiting for you.
The dwarf felt lighter. And he struggled as he began levitating. What!? His body accelerated up through the earth, through the layers of bones and rocks, through the hard soil and the softer soil of years past. He saw the brown mole again and the familiar roots of the trees of the garden in the enchanted forest.
Gorrash took a deep breath as he reintegrated his stone body. He wobbled, trying to catch his ground. He felt like throwing up after such an accelerated trip. His knees touched the ground and he heard a noise of broken glass as he dropped the phial.
“Are you alright?” asked a man’s voice. Gorrash forced his head up as a second wave of nausea attempted to get out. A man in a dark orange coat was looking down at him with genuine worry on his face.
“I’m good,” said the dwarf. “But who are you?”
“My name is Fox. What’s yours?”
When Rukshan awoke, all was quiet.
The little cottage felt completely empty, even with the presence of Emma.
He propped himself up, feeling hungry for the first time in many days.
The light outside was pale, everything seemed covered in a dense white fog.
There was a little note on the table.
“In case you decide to wake up while we are out, don’t be alarmed, I have taken Tak outside gather some wood —the kid was growing too restless inside, and even though my legs are not as strong as they used to, I will enjoy a little walk as well. Help yourself to the cheese. M~”
The fire had died in the chimney, so he started to clean the cinders and prepare some small wood for a little warmth.
The feeling of unrooted emptiness lingered around. Maybe it was just the fog. He would enjoy it a little longer while it lasted, before all thoughts of duties and things to do would catch up with him.TracyParticipant
Eventually Eleri fell back to sleep, warmed by her memories. She was awakened by the sound of a flute and the sun streaming in the window. Realizing she had overslept and that it would now be impossible to slip away unseen at dawn, she lay there watching the dust particles dancing in the shaft of light. The motes swirled and jigged as if to the lilting tune and the temptation was strong to drift off into another reverie, but Eleri roused herself. Stretching, she inched the blankets back. The tile floor was chilly on her bare feet so she inched over to the sunlit square, pleasantly surprised to find her body felt rejuvenated somehow, supple and limber. She made a mental note to remember to appreciate that, while simultaneously mulling over the ensuing inevitable encounter with Leroway.
Maybe she had avoided him too long, and it was no longer necessary. It had become a habit, perhaps, to keep out of his way, automatic. She dressed quickly, for it was a chilly morning despite the sun, and slipped down the attic stairs in search of a hot drink. Hippy tea they used to call it, back in the days when everyone preferred coffee but felt that herbal teas were more beneficial, but coffee was hard to come by these days, and the various hippy teas were welcome enough.
Pausing before entering the kitchen, Eleri frowned. Surely that was Yorath’s voice? What was he doing here? They had parted ways the previous morning, Yorath heading for the city and then on to other places, his rucksack of elerium replaced with dried mushrooms. She had hugged him and thanked him, and set off up the hill towards the mountain village to see her friend, wondering when he would return.
Eleri remained standing behind the kitchen door, listening. Leroway and Yorath were deep in conversation. Her mouth was dry and she badly wanted to visit the outhouse, but she didn’t want to interrupt their flow. They were talking about the bamboo forest.
She continued to eavesdrop, wondering where the rambling and seemingly aimless discussion was going.TracyParticipant
Eleri shivered. The cold had descended quickly once the rain had stopped. If only the rain had stopped a little sooner, she could have made her way back home, but as it was, Eleri had allowed Jolly to persuade her to spend the night in Trustinghampton.
Pulling the goat wool blankets closer, Eleri gazed at the nearly full moon framed in the attic window, the crumbling castle ramparts faintly visible in the silver light. The scene reminded her of another moonlit night many years ago, not long after she had first arrived here with Alexandria and Lobbocks.
It had been a summer night, and long before Leroway had improvised a cooling system with ventilation shafts constructed with old drainage pipes, a particularly molten sweltering night, and Eleri had risen from her crumpled sweaty bed to find a breath of cooler air. Quietly she slipped through the door willing it not to creak too much and awaken anyone. The cobblestones felt deliciously cool on her bare feet and she climbed the winding street towards the castle, her senses swathed in the scents of night flowering dama de noche. Lady of the Night, she whispered. Perhaps there would be a breeze up there.
She paused at the castle gate archway and turned to view the sleeping village below. A light glimmered from the window of Leroway’s workshop, but otherwise the village houses were the still dark quiet of the dreaming night.
Eleri wandered through the castle grounds, alternately focused on watching her step, and pausing for a few moments, lost in thoughts. It was good, this community, there was a promising feeling about it. It wasn’t always easy, but the hardships seemed lighter with the spirit of adventure and enthusiasm. And it was much better up here than it had been in the Lowlands, there was no doubt about that.
Her brow furrowed when she recalled her last days down there, when leaving had become the only possible course of action. Don’t dwell on that, she admonished herself silently. She resumed her aimless strolling.
Behind the castle, on the opposite side to the village, the ground fell away in series of small plateaus. At certain times of the years when the rains came, these plateaus were green meadows sprinkled with daisies and grazing goats, but now they were crisply browned and dry underfoot. Striking rock formations loomed in the darkness, looking like gun metal where the moonlight shone on them. One of them was shaped like a chair, a flat stone seat with an upright stone wedged behind it. Eleri sat, appreciating the feel of the cool rock through her thin dress and on her bare legs.
It feels like a throne, she thought, just before slipping into a half sleep. The dreams came immediately, as if they had already started and she only needed to shift her attention away from the hot night in the castle to another world. Her cotton shift became a long heavy coarsely woven gown, and her head was weighed down somehow. She had to move her head very slowly and only from side to side. She knew not to look down because of the weight of the thing on her head.
Looking to her right, she saw him. “Micawber Minn, at your service,” he said with a cheeky grin. “At last, you have returned.”
Eleri awoke with a start. Touching her head, she realized the weighty head dress was gone, although there was a ring of indentation in her hair. Her heavy gown was gone too, although she could still feel the places where the prickly cloth had scratched her.
Suddenly aware of the thin material of her dress, she glanced to her right. He was still there!
Spellbound, Eleri gazed at the magnificent man beside her. Surely she was still dreaming! Such an arresting face, finely chiseled features and penetrating but amused eyes. Broad shoulders, flowing platinum locks, really there was not much to fault. What a stroke of luck to find such a man, and on such a romantic night. And what a perfect setting!
And yet, although she knew she had never met him before, he seemed familiar. Eleri shifted her position on the stone throne and inched closer to him. He leaned towards her, opening his arms. And she fell into the rapture.
Slowly and methodically, Glynis cleared away the rest of the broken glass. Her morning porage, one of the small luxuries she purchased with the coins she received for her potions, was bubbling gently on the stove top. A cup of rosemary tea sat brewing on the kitchen table.
Next to the map.
Glynis was not a believer in coincidence. She knew there were some who might say the picture had just happened to fall from the wall that morning. Perhaps the hook which for all these years held on so stoically was weakened over time and had chosen that moment —that very moment— to finally give in.
Yes for sure, this is what some would say, shaking their heads at any superstitious nonsense about things being ‘meant to be’.
But Glynis was not one of those people. As a child growing up she had been fed magic the way other children might be fed bread. And though there were times she had battled it, she knew magic was embedded in her heart, in every breath she took.
“I breathe the Wisdom of Ages,” she said quietly, comforted by the words.
She had sensed for a while that things were moving. She would wake in the morning, still fatigued from restless uneasy dreams, and know that all was no longer well with her world.
Could she resist that call? she wondered. What would happen if she just ignored it? Would the heavens open and lightening strike her? Or would she just slowly wither away and become the old crone others already saw?
And what would it matter anyway?
She touched her face with her hand, tracing the outlines of the scales. Nausea rose in her gut and she felt her chest constrict.
Calming herself, Glynis sat down at the table with her porage and rosemary tea to inspect the map.
Fox awakened from an agitated night in the forest. He was feeling weak and not so hungry. His stomach growled. Fox hoped it was not the precursor of another discharge of his bowels, but silence settled in. His body relaxed. He had the strange impression it helped him being more present. Anyhow, he couldn’t keep on running like that now. He needed to find food to refuel his body.
Don’t take advantage of your invisibility, had said the woman.
Fox thought there were two ways to look at his little misadventure. Either it was retribution for stealing that meatloaf, the meatloaf karma theory, or he had helped a poor family to avoid being sick all night. Which is just another expression of the meatloaf karma theory. All in all, the karma account was still balanced.
Fox smelled the forest wind. It was full of earth and water. Not so much fire with all this morning dew, he thought. There were also the scents of little animals, and mushrooms. Among it all, he was surprised to feel sadness. It was not so much about himself and his condition. He had been through worse. And it was more a quality of the atmosphere than a physical smell. It was as though the whole forest was feeling sad. Fox felt the tears at the corner of his eyes.
“I can’t continue running around like that,” he said.
“Good,” answered a deep voice.
The oiliphant had arrived. Rukshan had heard her powerful trumpeting that made the walls vibrate and resound deeply.
He’d called the great Oiliphant Spirit a month ago, with an old ritual of the Forest, drawing a complex symbol on the sand that he would fill with special incense offering, and letting it consume in one long slow burn. He had to chose the place carefully, as the magic took days to operate, and any disruption of the ritual by a careless passerby would just void its delicately wrought magic.
Sadly, oiliphants had left a long time ago and many believed they were creatures of lore, probably extinct. He knew from the Forest fays that it was not so. There were still sightings, from deep in the Forest, in the part where the river water fell pristine and pure from the mountainous ranges. What was true was that even for the fay people, such sightings were rarer than what used to be, in the distant past.
It was a reckless move on his part, drawing one so close to the town walls, but he knew that even the most godless town dweller would simply be in awe of the magnificent giant creature. Besides, they were notoriously difficult to mount, their thick rubbery skin slippery and slick as the smoothest stone, as if polished by ages of winds and sky water.
Thus the magic was required.
Rukshan’s little bag was ready. He’d taken with him only a small batch of provisions, and his leather-bound book of unfinished chronicles, spanning centuries of memories and tales from his kin.
Leaving his office, he took the pile of discarded paper and closed the door. The office looked almost like when he’d first arrived, maybe a little cleaner. He liked the idea of leaving little footprints.
After throwing away the papers in front of the building with the trash, he looked up at the Clock Tower and its twelve mannequins. There was definitely something awry at play in the Tower, and the mere thought of it made him shiver. The forlorn spirits dwelling in the basements had something to do with the Old Gods, he could tell. There was fear, anger and feelings of being trapped. When you were a mender, you knew how to connect with the spirit in things, and it was the first step in mending anything. He could tell that what made him shiver was the unthinkable idea that some things may be beyond repair.
Before leaving, he walked with pleasure in the still silent morning streets, towards the little house where the errand boy of the office lived with his mother. He had a little gift for him. Olliver was fond of the stories of old, and he would often question him to death about all manners of things. Rukshan had great fondness for the boy’s curiosity, and he knew the gift would be appreciated, even if it would probably make his mother fearful.
The bolophore in his old deer skin wrapping was very old, and quite precious. At least, it used to be, when magic was more prevalent, and reliable. It was shaped as a coppery cloisonné pineapple, almost made to resemble a dragon’s egg, down to the scales, and the pulsating vibrancy. People used bolophores to travel great distances in the past, at the blink of a thought, each scale representing a particular location. However, with less training on one-pointed thoughts, city omnipresent disturbances, and fickleness of magic, the device fell out of use, although it still had well-sought decorative value.
Rukshan left the package where he was sure the boy would find it, with a little concealment enchantement to protect it from envious eyes. To less than pure of heart, it would merely appear as a broken worthless conch.
With one last look at the tower, he set up for the south road, leading to the rivers’ upstream, high up in the mountains. Each could feel the oiliphant waiting for him at the place of the burnt symbol, her soft, regular pounding on the ground slowly awakening the life around it. She wouldn’t wait for long, he had to hurry. His tales of the Old Gods and how they disappeared would have to wait.
“It’s simple,” said the clerk, “The dragon under the mountain has a bad tooth—hence the smell. We’ve already been alerted to that. Rest assured we’re making everything in our power to intervene rapidly.”
Fox couldn’t stop looking at the mole above the man’s left eyebrow. He was making great efforts not to snatch it from the man’s forehead. It was quite big, at least one centimeter, and seemed to have a life of its own, wriggling randomly with every word spoken.
“So you are sending someone ?” asked Fox. He was quite uncertain if what was in their power included dental surgery on a mountain dragon. Or anything pertaining to dragons in general for that matter.
“Mr Fox,” the clerk said with an insisting voice, “Rest assured we’re making everything in our power to intervene rapidly,” he repeated imperturbable. The man added a smile that would render Mona Lisa quite plain in her frame.
“Mr Fox,” said the clerk again but with a woman’s voice this time.
“What,” he said, trying to free his hand. The ground suddenly opened under his feet. The fall was short but was enough to awake him from his dream. He was in the waiting room of the City’s Desperate Request Service office. A young woman was shaking his arm gently.
“Oh,” said Fox, “I’m sorry, I must have been dreaming.” He wiped the corner of his mouth with his sleeve, he had been drooling again. He felt a bit embarrassed she witnessed that. But the young girl seemed not to care at all.
He followed her down the corridor lit by glowworms. The girl was of average height but still taller than him, her hair neat and well groomed. Fox could feel the perfume she wore, it made him dizzy. To many fragrances and information were coming from her. The corridor was narrow, and he tried to add some distance but each time he slowed down she would wait for him. He tried not to breath too much until they reached a red door.
The girl knocked and opened the door. She turned to Fox and said : “Mr Mole will listen to your request.” The she left, her perfume lingering around the place she occupied a moment before.
Fox entered cautiously in the room. He cringed internally. The place smelled of onion and garlic. Not really an improvement. And Mr Mole, the clerk, had a big one on his right eyebrow.
Search Results for 'wake'
Viewing 20 results - 41 through 60 (of 144 total)
Viewing 20 results - 41 through 60 (of 144 total)