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  • #4593
    EricEric
    Keymaster

       :fleuron:‪

      Konrad had to cover his brown eyes as he watched the wall collapse.
      On his left was the Tower, the one-of-a-kind creation under which the Dark Lord, Garl, swore an oath. The stone from the center fell toward the right with a soft thunk. The walls surrounding the Tower were broken apart by a flash of light.

      Konrad continued to the center of the twelve-tiled square he drew onto the floor to make his escape.

      Two or three days later, he would meet another of his patrons, the mysterious Surt, who’d come across him first. They talked about the recent events leading up to the Dark Lord having fallen, and the dark rumors that were rampant.

      ‪Surt seemed to be one of those who didn’t believe the news. This one had only heard the official stories, but was still somewhat interested. He said, “My apologies for not making the trip to the capital earlier… it was not easy to travel in such close proximity to it.” Surt explained why he came to this place, even though he had no clue on his own.

      “So what brought you here?” Konrad asked the giant.

      “Surt has something you’ll want to know about the Dark Lord’s sister Nesingwarys.” Surt explained.

      “What about her?” asked Konrad.

      “She’s a magical girl. That sort of thing. She goes to school with a little girl with some special abilities. I’ve taken a keen interest.” His eyes narrowed. “Her abilities are her own. You know, something with the potential to kill the whole school. She’ll keep you safe. You’ll become her protector and help her survive the Dark Lord. Maybe one or two times. It’s her calling.”

      “N-no-it’s not my calling!” Konrad shouted. “My calling is to protect you!”

      “Surt is well versed in her abilities, and she has her own reasons not to go down the Dark Lord’s path. She has no interest in the Dark Lord, or anything related to him.”
      Konrad replied with a tone of bitterness. “I will help her by keeping my own thoughts hidden, and not talking about it outside of the school.” Konrad walked away to go back and forth between Surt and Soren. Surt continued to watch him with curiosity.

      Soren was looking around worried, confused, bewildered.

      #4544

      In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

      TracyTracy
      Participant

        familiar threads rather realised sign
        moving puzzled sounded maeve
        walked pleased bed warm wondering ear
        others enter given trust longer present

        #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.

          #4540
          AvatarJib
          Participant

            Talking with the dogs. That’s what Fox had to do. Easier said than done, he thought scratching his head. His previous encounters with dogs were rather tumultuous and limited to being hunted down in the forest during a hunting party or being chased at the market because he had caught a hen. He had never really talked to dogs before, unless taunting counted of course.

            Rukshan had said it was urgent, but Fox found there were so many little things to do before, like tidying up the cave, putting some suncream on his sensitive red head skin, or trying to see if Lhamom needed help.

            But after some time, Fox realised he had to go eventually. Everyone else was busy with their own part of the plan. Rukshan was building the sand mandala on a flat surface that he and Olliver had cleared, and Lhamom was finishing a makeshift screen to protect the mandala from the wind with a few bamboo poles and rolls of fabrics she had found on her journey here. It was very colourful fabric with Bootanese patterns that Fox wouldn’t have used to cover a chair. It felt too busy for him.

            So, he went to see Lhamom as she was struggling to plant the last stick in the rocky ground.

            “Have you talked to the dogs? she asked.
            “Ehr, not yet,” mumbled Fox who felt a bit ashamed when Lhamom frowned. “I think I need to give some kind of present to the dogs and I was wondering if you had something suitable in your many bags.”
            “Oh! Sure. Can you finish that for me then?” she asked.
            “Sure,” said Fox. He replaced her with the bamboo stick and, as she was walking away, he shouted: “I don’t think chocolate will do this time.”
            “Oh! I know,” she said with a smile and a wink. It cheered Fox up a little bit, but a gush of wind called him back to his task of holding the pole. Once he secured it he put on an awkward smile, but noticed that Rukshan and Olliver were too busy to have noticed.

            Lhamom came back with a big ham which Fox thought was more than suitable. He thanked her and made a joke about leaving her with her pole that he thought afterword he should not have done and walked away from the camp in the crunchy snow.

            Fox had been aware that the dogs were observing him, and especially the big ham he was carrying. A few of them had begun to gather at a distance and they were beginning to whine, which attracted more of them. When he estimated he was far enough from the camp he put the ham down. He couldn’t transform into that many layers of clothes so he started to undress, watching wearily the dogs that were now growling.

            It was freezing outside and Fox was shocked by how skinny his body had become. He shivered badly and focused to change into his natural red fox. It took him a little bit longer than usual but when the fur grew and started to keep the warmth close to his body, he growled with pleasure. The world around him changed as his senses transformed. Colours were different and slightly less varied, sounds were more crisp and a profusion of noises he couldn’t hear as a human suddenly vied for his attention: the sound of the wind on the rocks, the harmonics of the dogs’ voices, and the scents… simply incomparable. He wished he had kept the ham for himself.

            “It’s a fox!” barked a voice.
            “Let’s kill it!” said another.
            “Where’s the two-legged gone?” asked a young dog.
            “Who cares? It brought us meat. It’s gone. Let’s eat!”

            Fox suddenly regretted he had made a full change.

            #4538
            AvatarJib
            Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              Rukshan gave his friend a strange look before answering.

              “Yes. We are going… home.”

              #4531
              FloveFlove
              Participant

                “The potion should have worked. I’ve been over it again and again and … I need to get out for a bit. Clear my head.”

                Margoritt frowned. “Are you sure? It’s getting dark out there. Take Tak with you. He’d love to go for a walk!”

                “No, I just need to be alone at the moment. Sorry, Tak … later maybe, okay, little buddy?” Glynis ruffled his head and ignored his pleading eyes.

                “Take a jacket then. You’ll find a spare one of mine hanging up by the front door.”

                “You’re daft,” said Eleri.

                The night was closing in quickly and Glynnis was glad of Margoritt’s woollen jacket as she hugged it tightly around herself to ward off the evening chill. She walked quickly, partly for warmth but mostly hoping she could somehow out-pace the painful thoughts which bumped around in her head.

                The problem is I have no vision, no goals, no dreams. I have spent so many years ignoring the call of my dreams that they no longer cry out to me. No wonder I can’t make a spell to work any longer. Magic comes from the heart and my heart is dead!

                #4523
                FloveFlove
                Participant

                  Glynis woke early but did not want to open her eyes. Last night’s conversation had gone on till late and was still heavy on her eyelids. She could hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen and small clinks and clatters of morning activity and some muffled conversation. Margoritt and Eleri were also up early.

                  “They can’t do that!” Eleri was saying angrily when Glynis walked into the room. She shook a piece of paper accusingly in Glynis’s direction. “They say we’ve got a week to vacate the cottage before they begin the demolition. A week!” She crumpled the letter and flung it on the table.

                  “I know,” said Glynis. “Margoritt showed me the letter last night.”

                  “Morning, Glynis,” said Margoritt. “Pomegranate tea?”

                  “Yes, thanks.” Glynis sat down opposite Eleri and picked up the letter. She smoothed it out, thoughtful.

                  “Well?” Eleri persisted. “They can’t do this. Forcing Margoritt out of her home.”

                  Margoritt placed a cup of steaming pomegranate tea in front of Glynis and sat down. Glynis noticed she had used the dainty floral tea set which was kept for “best”.

                  “I had an idea in the night,” said Glynis. “It might be crazy but it might just buy us some time.”

                  The others looked at her enquiringly. “We are all ears,” encouraged Eleri.

                  “I used to make an invisibility potion which would render a person invisible for a time. I think it might be possible to make a stronger brew and cloak the whole cottage. I would need to adjust the spell and we would need huge quantities of the potion but I think it might just work. It might buy us some time till the others get back. They can’t pull down what they can’t find!”

                  #4502
                  AvatarJib
                  Participant

                    Shawn-Paul exited Finn’s Bakery on the crowded Cobble street with his precious cargo of granola cookies. They were wrapped in a cute purple box pommeled with pink hearts. He put on a disdainful attitude, adjusting his scarf for better effect, while already salivating in anticipation of the granola melting in his hot chocolate at home. He was sure that would revive his fleeting inspiration for his novel.
                    It was hard not to swallow as saliva accumulated in his mouth, but he had had years of practices since he was eight. His aunt Begonia had just given him a snicker bar that he had swallowed in one gulp, spreading some chocolate on his face in the process. She had accused him of being a dirty little piglet and he was so upset of being compared to the animal, that he had vowed to never show his love for food again. Instead he developed a public dislike of food and a slender frame quite fitting his bohemian lifestyle, while always having some cookies in store.

                    Shawn-Paul turned right on Quagmire street. It was bordered with Plane trees that kept it cool and bearable in summer. He was thinking about the suggestion of his writing coach to spend some time with his artist self, thinking that he had not done it for quite some time, but immediately felt guilty about not writing and firmed his resolution to go back home and write. He walked past a group of two elder woman and a man arguing in front of Liz’s Antique. One of the woman had a caved in mouth and used her hands profusely to make her point to the man. She was wearing pink slippers with pompon.

                    Italian tourists, Shawn-Paul thought rolling his eyes.

                    He swallowed and almost choked on his saliva when he glimpsed an improbable reflection on the Antique’s window. A woman, smiling and waving at him from a branch of a plane tree behind him, balancing her legs. He particularly noticed her feet and the red sandals, the rest of the body was a blur.

                    As Shawn-Paul turned, the toothless Italian tourist whirled her arms about like an inflated tubewoman, frightening a nearby sparrow. The bird took off and followed a curve around Shawn-Paul. Caught together in a twirl worthy of the best dervishes, the man and the bird connected in one of those perfect moment that Shawn-Paul would long but fail to transcribe into words afterwards.

                    There was no woman in the tree. A male dog stopped to mark his territory. A bit disappointed and confused, Shawn-Paul felt the need to talk.

                    “Did you see her?” he asked the Italian tourists. They stopped arguing and looked at him suspiciously for a moment. “She was right there with her red sandals,” he said showing the branch where he was sure she had sat. “I saw her in the window,” he felt compelled to add, not sure if they understood him.

                    The other tourist woman, who had all her teeth, rolled her eyes and pointed behind him.

                    “There’s a woman in red right over there!” she said with a chanting accent.

                    Shawn-Paul turned and just had the time to glimpse a woman dressed all in red, skirt, vest, hat and sandals before she disappeared at the corner of Fortune street.

                    Moved by a sudden impulse and forgetting all about his writing, he thanked the tourist and ran after the red woman.

                    #4402
                    FloveFlove
                    Participant

                      (With thanks to random story generator for this comment)

                      Albie looked at the soft feather in his hands and felt happy.

                      He walked over to the window and reflected on his silent surroundings. He had always loved haunting the village near the doline with its few, but faithful inhabitants. It was a place that encouraged his tendency to feel happiness.

                      Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Ma. He felt his mood drop. Ma was ambitious and a mean-spirited bossy boots.

                      Albie gulped. He glanced at his own reflection. He was an impulsive, kind-hearted, beer drinker. His friends saw him as an amusing foolish clown. But he was kind-hearted and once, he had even brought a brave baby bird back from the brink of death.

                      But not even an impulsive person who had once brought a brave baby bird back from the brink of death, was prepared for what Ma had in store today.

                      The inclement brooding silence teased like a sitting praying mantis, making Albie anticipate the worst.

                      As Albie stepped outside and Ma came closer, he could see the mean glint in her eye.

                      Ma glared with all the wrath of 9 thoughtless hurt hippo. She said, in hushed tones, “I disown you and I want you to leave.”

                      Albie looked back, even more nervous and still fingering the soft feather. “Ma, please don’t boss me. I am going to the doline,” he replied.

                      They looked at each other with conflicted feelings, like two deep donkeys chatting at a very funny farewell.

                      Suddenly, Ma lunged forward and tried to punch Albie in the face. Quickly, Albie grabbed the soft feather and brought it down on Ma’s skull.

                      Ma’s skinny ear trembled and her short legs wobbled. She looked excited, her emotions raw like a rabblesnatching, rare rock.

                      Then she let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later Ma was dead.

                      Albie went back inside and had himself a cold beer.

                      #4400
                      FloveFlove
                      Participant

                        Inquisitive Bert
                        A Short Story
                        by trove flacy
                        Bert had always loved rambling Fish Inn with its boiled boarders. It was a place where he felt happiness.

                        He was an inquisitive, depressed, tea drinker with skinny ears and tall sheep. His friends saw him as a moaning, mashed monster. Once, he had even saved a nasty old lady that was stuck in a drain. That’s the sort of man he was.

                        Bert walked over to the window and reflected on his brooding surroundings. The rain hammered like jumping dog.

                        Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Mater . Mater was a bigoted flower with attractive ears.

                        Bert gulped. He was not prepared for Mater.

                        As Bert stepped outside and Mater came closer, he could see the lovely smile on her face.

                        Mater glared with all the wrath of 1553 honest hilarious hippo. She said, in hushed tones, “I hate you and I want information.”

                        Bert looked back, even more ecstatic and still fingering the new-fangled car. “Mater, I own the inn,” he replied.

                        They looked at each other with annoyed feelings, like two delicious, damaged donkey laughing at a very free house sale, which had piano music playing in the background and two sanguine uncles shouting to the beat.

                        Bert regarded Mater’s attractive ear. “I feel the same way!” revealed Bert with a delighted grin.

                        Mater looked puzzled, her emotions blushing like a loud, little letter box.

                        Then Mater came inside for a nice cup of tea.

                        THE END

                        #4370
                        AvatarJib
                        Participant

                          The memories of the strange vision had faded away. Only the feeling of awe was lingering in his heart.

                          Fox was walking in the forest near Margoritt’s cottage. The smell of humid soil was everywhere. Despite it being mostly decomposing leaves and insects, Fox found it quite pleasant. It carried within it childhood memories of running outside after the rain whild Master Gibbon was trying to teach him cleanliness. It had been a game for many years to roll into the mud and play with the malleable forest ground to make shapes of foxes and other animals to make a public to Gibbon’s teachings.

                          Fox had been walking around listening to the sucking sound made by his steps to help him focus back on reality. He was trying to catch sunlight patches with his bare feet, the sensations were cold and exquisite. The noise of the heavy rain had been replaced by the random dripping of the drops falling from the canopy as the trees were letting go of the excess of water they received.

                          It was not long before he found Gorrash. The dwarf was back in his statue state, he was face down, deep in the mud. Fox crouched down and gripped his friend where he could. He tried to release him from the ground but the mud was stronger, sucking, full of water.

                          “You can leave him there and wait the soil to dry. You can’t fight with water”, said Margorrit. “And I think that when it’s dry, we’ll have a nice half-mold to make a copy of your friend.”

                          Fox laughed. “You have so many strange ideas”, he told the old woman.

                          “Well, it has been my strength and my weakness, I have two hands and a strong mind, and they have always functioned together. I only think properly when I use my hands. And my thoughts always lead me to make use of my hands.”

                          Fox looked at Margoritt’s wrinkled hands, they were a bit deformed by arthritis but he could feel the experience they contained.

                          “Breakfast’s ready”, she said. “I’ve made some honey cookies with what was left of the the flour. And Glynis has prepared some interesting juices. I like her, she has a gift with colours.”

                          They left the dwarf to dry in the sun and walked back to the house where the others had already put everything on the table. Fox looked at everyone for a moment, maybe to take in that moment of grace and unlikely reunion of so many different people. He stopped at Rukshan who had a look of concern on his face. Then he started when Eleri talked right behind him. He hadn’t hear her come.

                          “I think I lost him”, she said. “What’s for breakfast? I’m always starving after shrooms.”

                          #4347
                          EricEric
                          Keymaster

                            “I don’t have time for that” Godfrey said loudly, grumpy at being woken up by the smikst alert. “There are some people who do actually have real work to do.”

                            It was not difficult for him to ignore the “come back here right this instant!” of Liz’ when he walked away to the secret passageway that let him pop in and out of scenes like a peanut from its shell. He still had earplugs from his sleeping attempt, and thought they were actually quite useful.
                            Liz’ was far more than capable of handling the German and her ex without him.

                            #4344
                            TracyTracy
                            Participant

                              The sack got heavier with each step, as the old abandoned characters grew in anticipation, sending long tendrils through the loose weave of the hessian. The extra weight didn’t slow Roberto down, in fact he felt invigorated and inspired with something more interesting to do than pander to the others in that madhouse of Elizabeth.

                              One particularly persistent shoot near the top of the sack kept winding itself around Roberto’s neck, and when he unwound it repeatedly, it would jiggle as he walked and poke him in the eye, before curling itself back around his neck.

                              I wonder which character you will turn out to be when we get you planted, he admonished the tendril goodnaturedly, for it was a gentle twining around his neck, and playful.

                              As the gardener walked, appreciating the puffy white clouds scudding across the baby blue sky and the bird twittering and swooping, he felt a sense of purpose and depth that had been missing from his life in recent years. It had been entertaining at the madhouse, but only superficially. He had felt destined for more than raking leaves and pruning roses. Now he had a mission, and felt lighter at the same time as feeling very much more substantial.

                              The twining tendril round his neck suddenly thrust our several more pale green leaves, obscuring Roberto’s vision entirely. He was chuckling affectionately as he fell into the sink hole, and as he fell, the sack burst open, scattering the characters willy nilly into the vast underground cavern that he found himself in.

                              #4338
                              TracyTracy
                              Participant

                                Glad of the cover of the gloaming darkness, Eleri quickly cut a slice of cake and darted out of the kitchen door. She had heard the commotion that animated statue was still making, calling her a witch as if it were a bad thing, and thought it best to retreat for the time being while she gathered her thoughts. Either that vengeful lump of concrete needed therapy to deal with his past associations, or perhaps better ~ at least in the short term ~ an immobilizing potion until a workable programme of rehabilitation to the state of animation was concocted.

                                The screech of a parrot in the distance seemed to herald a new arrival in the near future, although Eleri wasn’t sure who else was expected. The raucous sound attracted her and she walked in the direction of it, deftly darting behind trees and bushes so as not to be seen by the rest of the party as she slipped out of the clearing around the shack and into the woods.

                                “Circles of Eight,” squawked the parrot, sounding closer. Eleri took another bite of cake, wondering why the cake in her hand wasn’t getting any smaller, despite that she had been munching on it steadily for some time. It actually looked as if it was growing in dimensions, but she dismissed the idea as improbable. “Circles of Eight!” screeched the parrot, louder this time. Preferring to err on the side of caution ~ not that she normally did, but in this instance ~ Eleri slipped inside a large hollow in a girthy old tree trunk. She would observe the approach of the new arrival from her hiding place.

                                Squatting down in the dry leaves, she leaned back against the rough wood and took another bite of cake, awaiting the next parrot call.

                                I wonder what’s in this cake? she thought, Because I am starting to feel a bit strange…

                                #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?

                                  #4272
                                  AvatarJib
                                  Participant

                                    Kumihimo was rummaging through the content of a wooden chest at the back of the cave. According to the smell it had spent too much time in the dark and humid environment. She might have to do some spring cleaning one day. But the chest was now too heavy for her to carry. I need an apprentice for this, she thought not knowing if if was a wish or a regret.

                                    In that chest, she had her many tools of the thread. Some were made of bones and she had carved them herself under the direction of her spirit guides. Each one had a specific purpose, either to catch, to extract, to guide, or to dissipate, and many more usages that even she had forgotten after so many years spent in that place.

                                    She had accumulated so many things in that chest. Fortunately she liked miniature, and most of her creations were seldom bigger than her little finger. However that made it difficult to keep things in order and finding something was often a real challenge. So she sang lullabies to lure the object she was looking for out of their sanctuary.

                                    Victory! she exulted in the ancient tongue, which would translate also as ‘I have done all that is necessary to harvest the benefits of the next crop’. Kumihimo liked simple things and she liked when one word could signify a very complex meaning. Under an old donkey skin that she often used to camouflage herself when she was going down in the valley, she had found the loom she had been looking for.

                                    The loom was made from the right shoulder blade of a bear. It was one of the first objects she had carved when she arrived in the vicinity. It had a yellowish patina and felt very smooth in her hands. Its shape was octagonal and each side had seven notches under which were three rows of symbols, some of the ink was gone after so many years, but she could still feel the groove where she had carved them. She smiled at the fond memories and at the dear friend who allowed her to take his bone when he died of old age.
                                    In the centre of the loom was a heart with a circular hole in it. It was where the braid would emerge.

                                    Holding the precious object, Kumihimo could feel all the braids she had already made and all the potential braids that waited to come into existence. She felt warmth bloom in her heart at the task at hand.

                                    Each notch corresponded at the same time to a time of the year, to a direction on earth and in the sky, and some rather obscure references to many other phenomenon and concepts. The weaving depended on very complex rules that she had discovered from experience. Actually the meaning weaved itself into the braid through a subtle interaction between her and Spirit. That way she didn’t have to bother about what to do or what notch to use as it would all unfold during the weaving.

                                    She stood up and walked outside. The day was still young and she had a lot to do. The weaving ceremony was an act of spontaneity, but it required some preparation. She put the loom on a round rock to dry in the Sun and went to examine the hanging threads. She had to choose carefully.

                                    #4257
                                    AvatarJib
                                    Participant

                                      Gibbon was peeling a red apple at the end of their impromptu lunch. He handed a thin slice to Fox who took it and chewed it carefully. It was sweet and juicy, prompting him to want more.

                                      They had returned to Fox’s hut outside the city wall. It had not the comfort that plumbing and central heating could bring, but its four walls were enough to protect them from the chilly air outside and give them a sense of proximity. Humans like to be in human sized boxes, thought Fox. They lived in boxes they called houses; they went to work in other boxes they called bank, or smithery, or medical centre —even their outdoor markets were full of virtual boxes called booth or stand; then they had fun in another kind of boxes they called Inn, or Night Club, or brothel (depending on the persona).

                                      “You’re thinking again,” said Gibbon without raising his eyes from his apple. He handed another slice to Fox who was impressed and annoyed by how his master could read him so easily. Maybe it was luck or real power. Gibbon never told about how he did all that he did. He only said: “I’m not sure that would help you quiet your thoughts.” And that was the end of the subject.

                                      Fox took the slice and came back to his conscientious mastication. It was the rule, he had learned, with Gibbon. You don’t talk when you eat. You don’t think when you eat. You just eat, and breath when you are not swallowing. Fox felt like he was back into the Southern forest where Gibbon had found him, the lone survivor of a litter of five. His mother had been killed, and already four of his siblings were dead. Gibbon, who was already old at that time, took him in and taught him the wisdom of breathing innate among his kind. Fox then did as he was taught, focus his attention on his actions, and particularly on his breathing at all time. It helped him focus and calm down his heart.

                                      After they finished the apple and cleaned the place a bit, Gibbon took a deep breath. Fox knew it was the time he would Talk.

                                      “You’ve been looking for a reason,” said the old master in a breath. Fox was all ears, he almost began to feel them becoming pointy again. He moved his attention back to his breathing and peace filled in his heart again. It was mingled with the excitement of listening to his old master’s voice again, but Fox sticked to the peace and the excitement subsided naturally.

                                      “I’m going to give you an assignment,” continued Gibbon in between his long breaths. His eyes were shiny and seemed to glow in the dim light of the hut. He wasn’t blinking. He never blinked when he Talked. “I see you’ve mastered the power of breathing. You need to learn the wisdom of the Heart now.”

                                      Fox was ready. He had been for many years. Even when Fox left the Southern forest to find his destiny he was ready. He now realised he left because Gibbon would not teach him. And now, he came to teach me! Fox let the thought and the excitement subside again. His master would not Talk again until it was quiet.

                                      IIIIIIII’m not going to teach you,” said the master. “You are going to find your own master for this one.”

                                      “But you are my master,” said Fox, not understanding why it was happening again. “You have the power of the Heart. You can teach me.”

                                      IIIIII’m not your master on this one, Fox. I taught you all I was supposed to teach you. No less, no more.”

                                      “Where will I find my master then?”

                                      “You will find him in time. But first your assignment,” said Gibbon. He paused to breath deeply, his eyes intense as the full Moon. “You’ll find a lost soul in the enchanted forest. Bring it back to its rightful owner. Then you shall find your master.”

                                      Fox had opened his mouth to ask him how he could find a lost piece of soul, or what a piece of soul looked like, but Gibbon had already closed his eyes and entered in a deep meditation from where there were no outside interruption possible. He stood up and stretched his body. There was no need to wait aimlessly around, hoping Gibbon would come out of his meditation state soon. It could last days, even weeks.

                                      While packing a few things he would need on the road, like food, a knife, some clothes, Fox pondered his options. Going in the enchanted forest looking randomly for something he didn’t even know about seemed to much like his old self. He needed some more information and he had an idea about who could give them to him. The witch from the market. She would know. And she lived in the enchanted forest.

                                      Before closing the hut’s door, Fox looked at his master one last time. His body was very still, if you didn’t know him, you’d think he was not breathing. He had a serene smile on his face. Fox smiled and felt the love of his master and his master’s way fill his heart. He had given him a purpose, and for that Fox was grateful. He shut the door quietly and began to walk toward the enchanted forest. He heard ducks in the distance, it was as if they were singing. He laughed. It was mid afternoon. If he walked at a good pace, he would arrive at the old mansion before nightfall.

                                      #4246
                                      EricEric
                                      Keymaster

                                        Rukshan woke up early. A fine drizzle was almost in suspension in the air, and already the sounds of nature were heard all around the inn.
                                        They shared breakfast with Lahmom who was packing to join a group for a trek high in the mountains. He wasn’t going in the same direction —the rain shadow and high plateaus of the mountainous ranges were not as attractive as the green slopes, and in winter, the treks were perilous.

                                        The inn-keeper fed them an honest and nourishing breakfast, and after eating it in silent contentment, they went on their separate way, happy for the moment of companionship.

                                        The entrance to the bamboo forest was easy to find, there were many stone sculptures almost all made from the same molds on either sides, many were propitiation offerings, that were clothed in red more often than not.
                                        Once inside the bamboos, it was as though all sounds from outside had disappeared. It was only the omnipresent forest breathing slowly.

                                        The path was narrow, and required some concentration to not miss the fading marks along the way. It had not been trodden for a while, it was obvious from the thick layers of brown leaves covering the ground.

                                        After an hour or so of walking, he was already deep inside the forest, slowly on his way up to the slopes of the mountain forest where the Hermit and some relatives lived.

                                        There was a soft cry that caught his attention. It wasn’t unusual to find all sorts of creatures in the woods, normally they would leave you alone if you did the same. But the sounds were like a calling for help, full of sadness.
                                        It would surely mean a detour, but again, after that fence business, he may as well have been guided here for some unfathomable purpose. He walked resolutely toward the sound, and after a short walk in the sodden earth, he found the origin of the sound.

                                        There was a small hole made of bamboo leaves, and in it he could see that there was a dying mother gibbon. Rukshan knew some stories about them, and his people had great respect for the peaceful apes. He move calmly to the side of the ape so as not to frighten her. She had an infant cradled in her arms, and she didn’t seem surprised to see him.
                                        There were no words between them, but with her touch she told him all he needed to know. She was dying, and he could do nothing about it. She wanted for her boy to be taken care of. He already knew how to change his appearance to that of a young boy, but would need to be taught in the ways of humans. That was what many gibbons were doing, trying to live among humans. There was no turning back to the old ways, it was the way for her kind to survive, and she was too old for it.

                                        Rukshan waited at her side, until she was ready to peacefully go. He closed her eyes gently, and when he was done, turned around to notice the baby ape had turned into a little silent boy with deep sad eyes and a thick mop of silvery hair. As he was standing naked in the misty forest, Rukshan’s first thought was to tear a piece of cloth from his cape to make a sort of tunic for the boy. Braiding some dry leaves of bamboos made a small rope he could use as a belt.

                                        With that done, and last silent respects paid to the mother, he took the boy’s hand into his own, and went back to find the path he’d left.

                                        #4236
                                        EricEric
                                        Keymaster

                                          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.

                                          #4230
                                          FloveFlove
                                          Participant

                                            Deftly Glynis reached inside the flowing sleeve of her burka and pulled out a small vial of clear liquid she had strapped to her wrist. She pulled off the top and quickly threw the contents over Fox.

                                            “There you go, little Fella,” she said. “Now no-one can see you.”

                                            “Where’d he go, dammit! I saw him come over this way,” shouted a podgy red-faced man, puffing heavily with the unaccustomed exertion. “I’ll teach that little varmint to try and eat my hens! What did you do with him, Witch!?”

                                            Glynis took one of the remaining jars from her table and held it out to the man.

                                            “Give your wife three drops every evening as she sleeps,” she said, trying her best to sound crackly and old. “She will get well after 3 days — you don’t need to sell your hens to pay that doctor any longer. He wasn’t doing her any good.”

                                            “Eh?” said the man in surprise, at the same time taking the jar. “True enough that is, but how did you know?”

                                            “I know many things,” she answered mysteriously. “Now, take your hens home, and I wish you and your good wife all the best.”

                                            “Well, this is remarkable. Thank you very much indeed,” said Fox when the podgy man had gone.

                                            “If you are hungry I have a hard boiled egg and some fruit in my bag. Help yourself.”

                                            “Ha ha!” laughed Fox. “People will think you are talking to the ground.” He was quite delighted with his new invisible status and considering the various possibilities it offered him.

                                            “Now don’t you go taking advantage of any more hens just because you are invisible. It will wear off in about an hour, I think. I haven’t actually tried it on anyone other than myself before … I’ve never thought it ethical to sell the invisibility potion in case someone gets up to no good with it. But I like to keep some handy, just in case. “

                                            Just then the Town Clock chimed.

                                            “I’d best be going now. I have to go before the warden comes to check my permit … I don’t have one but as long as I get away early it is usually okay,” said Glynis. “Now, if you have any problems with the invisibility spell come and see me. I live in the old mansion in the enchanted forest. Do you know your way there?

                                            “I think I can find it,” said Fox. “Thanks again for your assistance.”

                                            Glynis had intended to head directly towards the forest after she left the market, but on impulse took the longer route through the pretty and tree lined Gingko Lane, part of the ‘Old City’. She walked slowly, in part to continue her ruse of being a person of advanced years, and in part because she felt a reluctance to leave the city and return to the solitude of her home.

                                            She pondered the events of the morning as she walked.

                                            The vision … the sandy haired woman on her sick bed, like stick and bone she was, with the doctor of dark intent leaning over her… and then the podgy faced man standing in the hen house and grieving over his hens.

                                            It had been so vivid. And unexpected. So she had acted on it, her heart beating in trepidation though she had spoken with authority to the man.

                                            And it had worked!

                                            It was not the first time Glynis had such a vision. But never in such testing circumstances!

                                            A young man was walking towards her. His face deep in concentrated contemplation, he did not look up.

                                            Fae, thought Glynis, though she was not sure how she knew.

                                            As he passed, Glynis reached out on impulse and touched his arm. He jumped, startled.

                                            “I think this is for you,” she said, handing him her last vial of potion. “Use it when you need it most.”

                                            The young man hesitated, unsure, but taking the vial.

                                            Glynis shook her head, wanting to deflect his questions. She turned quickly away.

                                            Relenting, she stopped and looked directly at him.

                                            “Magic comes from the heart. You will know when to use it.”

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