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    “The thing is Godfrey,…” She was clearly savouring her small victory. Liz’ paused for a long time looking at her long hands, lost in the small wrinkles that led to the nails in need of a manicure. She took a mental note to complain to the writer about getting carried away in inaccurate descriptions of her wrinkly bony-sausagey fingers.
    “Yes, Liz’?” Godfrey said plaintively.
    “Those AIs are good enough to spout endless nonsense, but there is no soul in it. Endless strings of words, more produce of books that don’t make any difference. Cheap undertainment, mark my words.”
    “True. Had to stop Fliz, it was ruining the business. If new books were to be published every day, even the most avid reader got overwhelmed, and the others… they saw it as the worthless poubelle it was.”

    “Well, that’s depressing enough, even for you Godfrey. You left all your peanuts untouched.”
    “I need a hobby I think. Something without tech. Maybe raising a flea would do me good.”


    Elizabeth was even more impressed when the Obviously Intelligent Daily Comment Generator mentioned something very similar to Alice’s cookies .
    She was delighted to see that Sanso was one of the early arrivals to the garden party, and that he’d brought with him a rag tag assortment of strapping young Arduino time hackers.

    And who was that following then? Hypatia ~ and someone else. Could it be Galatea? Liz clapped her hands delightedly. What a party this was going to be!

    Finnley bustled past with her arms full of colourful bed linen, muttering under her breath.

    “Would you like me to write that the French maids arrive next Finnely, perhaps they’d give you a hand with that….I’ve forgotten their names though ~ Mirabelle?”

    Liz scratched her head, perplexed. Suddenly it came to her along with the sounds of a carriage approaching with a deafening clatter of hooves. “Adeline and Fanella, of course!” she exclaimed.

    The horses snorted as they were reined in to a halt an the front entrance. A young woman in what appeared to be a fancy dress costume descended from the carriage.

    “I ‘ave come to ‘elp Finnley wiz ze bedding!”


    “Enough of all that nonsense!” exclaimed Liz, who was brimming with enthusiasm, a bit like a frothing glass of cava. “Now then, Finnley, pay attention please! I’m calling a meeting to be held this evening for ALL of our story characters. I’d like you to make sure they are all made welcome and have suitable refreshments. Yes, I know it’s short notice, but I’ll give you the key to the special pantry in the Elsespace Arrangement. Some of the characters will help you, you just need to make a start and it will all fall into place.”

    Liz beamed at Finnley, who was looking aghast, and then fixed a piercing gaze on Godfrey.

    Godfrey, my good man. You know what I’m like with technical details. Your job will be to write my questions, with the relevant technical minutia. Don’t interrupt my flow with questions! Use your powers of intuition and telepathy!”

    Roberto attempted to slip out of the French windows, but his yellow vest got caught on the latch.

    “Not so fast, young man!” Liz had plans for the gardener. “There won’t be room inside for all the characters, so it will be a garden party. I’ll leave it to you to ensure there is plenty of outdoor furniture for people to make themselves comfortable. I’ll give you the key to the special garden shed in the Elsespace Arrangement.”

    “May I ask”, Godfrey ventured, “What the meeting is to be about?”

    “Indeed you may! I want input, lots of input. And ideas. The topic is Alternate Intelligence. That is a slightly better way of saying it than Artificial Intelligence, but not quite the perfect term. But we can change that later.”


    Lucinda answered her honking phone, while silently indicating to the waiter whose drink was whose. She smiled as she noticed the reaction of the people sitting at the other tables to the strident honking geese noise she’d chosen for her phone. The mundane daily things that amuses one are more important that you think, she’d say if anyone mentioned it, and the reaction to the honking tickled her every time her phone rang.

    Maeve, darling!” she gushed, showing off a bit in front of Shawn Paul and Jerk, and then her face puckered into a frown as she cringed. “Oh dear, I’m awfully sorry… . No, of course you can’t decorate it all on your own, that wouldn’t be fair at all, but that’s the thing I wanted to tell you,” Lucinda was thinking quickly, “The neighbour, you know that tall one with the nice smile, and the, er..the well dressed one, yes that’s the one, the writer, well he’s going to help us with everything…”

    Almost imperceptibly, Shawn Paul’s head jerked back a little upon hearing this, as he wondered what exactly he was expected to help with.

    Lucinda continued into the phone, “And you know the guy from the supermarket down the road, the , um, the quiet one, well ok perhaps you haven’t noticed…. what? yes, that’s the one! well he’s going to help too. What? Oh I’m sure he’s only like that at work,” Lucinda glanced at Jerk with a little laugh, mouthing something indecipherable to him and pointing at the phone with a roll of her eyes. Jerk raised a single sardonic eyebrow and sipped his cocktail.

    “I tell you what Maeve, come and join us. We’re having drinks at the Red Beans cafe. Where? It’s next to the Karmalott Kafe on the river front, you know it? Good! See you in ten, then.” Lucinda snapped her phone shut and beamed at the two men.


    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.


    Shawn-Paul lived in a studio apartment, crammed with bookshelves full of books and trinkets that he gathered during his many walks around the city while looking for inspiration. He hadn’t read all of the books, but he always had the intention to do it one day. One day easily became two and three, and so many.
    Someone with OCD could dust date the different purchases by measuring the thickness of the layer of dust on the books.

    That day, Shawn-Paul was drinking a hot chocolate at his computer on the small desk where some books lied open or closed on top of each others. The top one’s cover claimed in bold red letters “NARRATIVE COACHING, The Definitive Guide to Bring New Stories to Life”. Shawn-Paul had bought it thinking it was a coaching book for writers but it apparently aimed at teaching coaches to tell good stories. The book had proved interesting and especially another occasion to enrich his knowledge about the world or in one word procrastinate.

    Shawn-Paul took a sip of the hot chocolate, which was now more lukewarm than hot and felt the impulsion to open his browser and watch a video about narrative coaching on U-stub. That’s when it all went wrong and myriads of ads popped up and covered the screen and his newly bought writer software were the first word of his novel still waited to appear.

    At first, he panicked and his sudden movements back and fro almost broke the fragile equilibrium of the desk clutter. But then he shrugged, took his phone to call his friend Jeremiad for help and remembered how that went last time when he had to listen to his friend’s imaginary problems, just like imaginary friends but worse. He put the phone back in the clutter and looked at the last ad. A girl with sensuous cherry red lips winking at him with a packet of granola cookies spinning around her head.

    Unaware of what was happening, Shawn-Paul felt hungry and considered his lukewarm chocolate. He smiled as he thought he could make another one and enjoy dipping some cookies in it.
    He went to the kitchen and foraged through the clutter of dirty dishes and empty cookie packets. There were none left. The effect of hunger on Shawn-Paul was square grumpiness. Not round, not rectangular. Square. And it didn’t fit the curves of his stomach.

    Shawn-Paul put his writer’s jacket and cap on, added a wool scarf because he had a sensitive throat, and it looked cool on him and he winked at his reflection on the mirror hanging on the main door.
    He left, unaware of the smile of the granola girl.


    Maeve liked to make dolls. They were all quiet, and full of an inner life that would transport her in wild imaginary adventure while she was making them. She liked also to collect strange people and make them into her dolls.
    She would often go to the mall, take a table at the coffee shop, and observe the daily life show for inspiration…

    In the apartment next to hers, lived Shawn-Paul, a handsome bearded bachelor, who was a writer he’d said. She had not made him into a doll, not that he wasn’t doll material, he seemed weirdo plenty, but she noted there were subtleties to the character she wanted to explore more.


    “Are you ready?” Ailill, had a blue suede hat this time. He liked to change his headpiece regularly to fit his mood, but somehow couldn’t or wouldn’t change it to any other color than blue.

    Granola wasn’t sure she would be ready to pop-in properly. She still had to build her character a little bit. She would have only mere seconds each time to make an impression, a glance was all it took at times. Something had to attract attention.
    “I think you’re plenty ready” Ailill smiled as he pushed her in the downward spiral that had appeared at their feet. He jumped right after her.


    With a spring in her step that she had all but forgotten she possessed, Eleri set off on her trip to speak to her old friend Jolly about her husband Leroway’s latest plan that was causing some considerable controversy among the locals. Eleri planned to make the visit a short one, and to hasten back to Margoritt’s cottage in time for the departure of the expedition ~ because she surely wanted to be a part of that. But first, she had to see Jolly, and not just about Leroway. There was a sense of a stirring, or a quickening ~ it was hard to name precisely but there was a feeling of impending movement, that was wider than the expedition plans. Was Jolly feeling it, would she be considering it too? And if not, Eleri would bid her farewell, and make arrangements with her to send a caretaker down to her cottage. And what, she wondered, would happen about care taking the cottage if Jolly’s villagers were on the move again? Eleri frowned. How much did it matter? Perhaps a stranger would find it and choose to stay there, and make of it what they wished. But what about all her statues and ingredients? Eleri felt her steps falter on the old rocky road as her mind became crowded with all manner of things relating to the cottage, and her work.

    You don’t have to plan every little thing! she reminded herself sternly. None of that has to be decided now anyway! It’s wonderful day to be out walking, hark: the rustling in the undergrowth, and the distant moo and clang of a cow bell.

    The dreadful flu she’d had after the drenching had left her weakly despondent and not her usual self at all. But she’d heard the others talking while she’d been moping about and it was as if a little light had come on inside her.

    She still had trouble remembering all their names: ever since the flu, she had a sort of memory weakness and a peculiar inability to recall timelines correctly. Mr Minn (ah, she noted that she had not forgotten his name!) said not to worry, it was a well known side effect of that particular virus, and that as all time was simultaneous anyway, and all beings were essentially one, it hardly mattered. But Mr Minn, Eleri had replied, It makes it a devil of a job to write a story, to which he enigmatically replied, Not necessarily!

    Someone had asked, Who do we want to come on the expedition, or perhaps they said Who wants to come on the expedition, but Eleri had heard it as Who wants to be a person who wants to go on an expedition, or perhaps, what kind of person do the others want as an expedition companion. But whatever it was, it made Eleri stop and realize that she wasn’t even enjoying the morose despondent helpless feeling glump that she has turned into of late, and that it was only a feeling after all and if she couldn’t change that herself, then who the devil else was going to do it for her, and so she did, bit by bit. It might feel a bit fake at first, someone had said. And it did, somewhat, but it really wasn’t long before it felt quite natural, as it used to be. It was astonishing how quickly it worked, once she had put her mind to it. Less than a week of a determined intention to appreciate the simple things of the day. Such a simple recipe. One can only wonder in amazement at such a simple thing being forgotten so easily. But perhaps that was a side effect of some virus, caught long ago.

    Enjoying the feeling of warm sun on her face, interspersed with moments of cool thanks to passing clouds, Eleri noticed the wildflowers along the way, abundant thanks to all the rain and all flowering at once it seemed, instead of the more usual sequence and succession. Briefly she wondered is this was a side effect of the virus, and another manifestation of the continuity and timeline issues. Even the wildflowers had all come at once this year. She had not noticed all those yellow ones flowering at the same time as all those pink ones in previous years, but a splendid riot they were and a feast for the eyes.

    The puffy clouds drifting past across the sun were joining invisible hands together and forming a crowd, and it began to look like rain again. Eleri felt a little frown start to form and quickly changed it to a beaming smile, remembering the handy weightless impermeability shield that someone (who? Glynnis?) had given her for the trip. She would not catch another dose of the drenching memory flu again, not with the handy shield.

    The raindrops started spattering the path in front of her, spotting the dusty ground, and Eleri activated the device, and became quite entranced with the effects of the droplets hitting the shield and dispersing.


    “I have no bloody idea what just happened here” mused Godfrey to his cashew nut, mimicking Liz’ odd behaviour when she talked to the drafts of air only she could see, and stopped dead in her tracks and with wide saucer-sized eyes as if she was talking to Faes invisible to mortals such as themselves.

    “But I’ll expect Finnley would be able to ghostwrite all of it into a next bestseller. Wouldn’t be the first time, or the first Finnley to tackle the impossible.

    “But seriously,… I feel a bit concerned,” he found talking to the renewed pile of cashews in his palm oddly soothing, as they one by one disappeared. “All this sudden concern of old age, retirement and whatnot. It’s not like Liz’. She’d better snap out of it. Her well of inspiration is getting drier every minute she spends worrying about money.”

    He was considering naming the last cashew he’s salvaged. “What do you think, Rufus?”


    Liz had an idea, and was glad that the others were all out on a day trip to the museum so that she could think about it without interruptions. It had occurred to her that there was probably a theme right under their noses regarding the multitudes of non endings in the stories. Where exactly had they all ended without actually ending?

    Sure enough, the first one she looked at seemed promising with the mention of sheets:

    Yurick woke up from another spell of dreams. The patterns of the bedsheets where as though his newly inserted tile was creating a strong combination with other tiles.
    In his puzzlement, he forgot to take a physical dream snapshot…”

    Liz had had a personal breakthrough with bedsheets recently, and was pleased with this encouraging start.

    When Liz looked at the next non ending of a story, she wondered if this would prove to be a theme: the characters themselves had gone missing.

    “I haven’t heard a word from Lavender for the longest time, Lilac was wondering, When was the last time? Lavender, where ARE you?”

    Liz had a slight jolt when she saw the non ending of the story after that, worried that she would find a trend of herself being the last writer to comment. What would that mean, she wondered?

    “Minky was looking smug. “Enjoying the ride?”

    Ending with a question? Well, that was something to think about. Liz was relived to find she wasn’t the last writer to write in the next story:

    “For once, Arona was completely unconcerned about continuity.
    “I wonder if we could harness the power of the wind to create a flash mob to amuse and entertain me?” she suggested.
    Vincentius pondered for a moment “I did once employ a hamster to power a night light, so I don’t see why not.”

    Smiling at the continuity remark, Liz pondered the nature of the message in this one. Anything can be created to amuse… can it be that easy?

    Another nasty jolt as Liz read the last entry in the following story, considering the irritating few days she had just had with the online payment company:

    “She clicked with her dysfunctionning mouse and invalidated the transaction again.”

    Well, Liz said to herself, I certainly hope that little chuckle will have helped change the online transaction situation going on here presently!


    What the Huntingford’s hadn’t realized was that the doline on their land wasn’t the only entrance to the labyrinth, which extended considerably further than anyone would have imagined, even the Stripling Bryson’s.

    Aubrey Stripling Bryson, whose estate was a days ride up country from the Huntingford’s, was on an expedition in the tunnels when Emerald’s dog had fallen in the doline. His family had known about the underground galleries and passages for generations; indeed, the family had made use of the ones closest to the house for centuries. Nobody knew how long, although there were stories of ancient bones being found by the more adventurous, nobody knew what happened to them, and for comforts sake and the all too familiar fear of the unknown, many of the passages had been blocked off over the years.

    Aubrey had been an adventurous lad, and had ventured further along the tunnels during his childhood than anyone, other than his sister Evelyn, would have believed. When he inherited the estate at the early age of thirty three, he prepared a proper expedition including representatives of relevant scientific authorities, intending to map the subterranean network, and write a book about his findings. Evelyn wrote most of the book for him, in fact, but he was credited with it as was the custom at the time. Aubrey had done the physical explorations and obtained various reports from experts, but Evelyn assembled it all together.

    The book was in the final stages prior to going to print, when Evelyn had disappeared. And everything relating to the book had disappeared with her. Aubrey was distraught, and never recovered, and Evelyn was never found. He ordered the final tunnel to be blocked off, leaving an usual cave house cellar, nothing more than a curiosity.

    The story of Aubrey’s book that disappeared was told to generations of Stripling Bryson children, whispered along with other family ghost stories. And there were many. Even now, there are unusual goings on at the Stripling Bryson estate, adding to the repertoire of local stranger than fiction stories.


    “Hold right there!”

    Liz’ looked over her shoulder to see the too familiar trenchcoat of Walter.

    “Blimey! What are you doing here, lurking in the dark, you gave me a mighty fright!”

    “It’s the Good Thoughts Police! Freeze your pen right where you are! We had our eyes on you ever since you started introduce all the queer characters!”

    “What do mean, silly goose. All my characters have been queer, and I mean that as a compliment!”

    “Shush now! Blatant racism, and hints of sexism and female coercion, you can’t deny that now! Black on white -err, I mean… Look at what you’ve done to the poor maid! You better write this off before the rest of the Political Correct Bureau is sending the cavalry!”


    “What we all need now”, Liz was thinking out loud, “Is a more relaxed approach. We should stop trying to be proper clever writers and just blather.”

    “If it’s supposed to be relaxed blather, why did you just fix three typo’s?” asked Finnley, the annoying maid, who had once again been peering over Elizabeth’s shoulder, looking for something to find fault with.

    “Oh come on, that’s a bit much, Liz!” Finnley retorted, accidentally on purpose slopping Liz’s tea into her ashtray, knowing a pet hate of hers was a wet ashtray.

    “Do be careful, Finnely! snapped Liz.

    “Just taking a relaxed approach to being a maid, Ma’am,” she replied rudely with a flamboyant gesture with her feather duster, which whacked Liz smartly across the back of the head as she swanned out of the room with her nose in the air.


    “I’ve half a mind to write that lot out of the story,” muttered Liz, reading back.


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


    In the heart of the Heartswoods

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

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

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

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

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


    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!”


    You’re a fool, Olli

    His mother’s voice, even now kept haunting him. Olliver was a bit of a fool, far too credulous at times.
    People would think him a simpleton, and, at 17, he would still arch his back when he was around others, maybe a little more now that he’d grown so much, always feeling awkward and unsuitable for anything.

    He wasn’t so clear how the foolish plan had hatched in his head, honestly, he wasn’t very clever. Maybe he was guided. There was no other explanation.

    Slowly, slowly his mother Ethely would exhort him, when he struggled to explain so many things in his head.

    There was the house first. They had come early in the day, paint it with the white triangle in a circle. That meant it was to be demolished soon. The Pasha wanted to remove the ugliness of the town, the old bazar and the cows and chickens pens out of the town’s wall. He wanted a nice clean pall-mall place for his games, with boring clean white walls, and fake grass, his mum told him.
    What is fake grass made of? he asked at the time. It was all he could think of. He hadn’t imagined they could tear down their neighbourhood, or their old familiar house.

    So first, the house. Then the precious package. He liked it, the gilded egg with the strange difficult name. Rukji (that’s how he’d told him to call him, it was more easy) had left a note for him. He didn’t write much, in large big letters for him to read slowly. He remembered the stories Rukji told him about the egg. He used to forget a lot of things, but the stories were always very clear in his head, and he never forgot them.
    Rukji said the egg used to transport people and things to distant places, at the speed of thought.
    Olli had laughed when he told him that, he’d said his thoughts were not very quick. Rukji had smiled, with his nice and a bit sad smile.

    So, he’d thought, maybe the egg could send his house and mum to a safe place, before they remove the house.
    He’d tried to think of it, touch the eggs and its gilded scales, but nothing happened. You’re a fool Olli his mother said, while she was gathering their few things in a large cloth and wicker basket.

    Then there was the tower. He’d thought Rukji would be there, still. He could tell him the secrets surely. But the stern man at the clock building told him he had gone.

    Olli didn’t trust the man, and went from the back-entrance he knew about, up in the tower, to see in case he was there. But he wasn’t.

    It was only the stroke of the 7th hour. And one of the mannequins from the tower moved as he would do, four times a day. Alone, at 7 in the morning, and 7 at night, and with everyone at noon, and midnight.

    Olli had recognized the god of travel, with a funny pose on his plinth. He called him Halis. He had trouble with remembering names, especially long names. Ha-sa-me-lis. Sometimes he would say the names out of order. Like Hamamelis, and that would make everybody laugh.

    That’s when something happened. He’d prayed to the god, to help his mother and their house. But the golden egg with his scales touched the statue, at a place where there was no pigeons stains. And zap! that was it.

    Black for a moment, and then he was in the forest.
    And he wasn’t alone.

    “Free! At last!” he’d shouted.
    Then he’d said “Ain’t that unexpected rusty magic… You tricky bastard managed to zap me out of my concrete shell! now, pray tell, where in the eleven hells did you send us, young warlock?”

    What a fool you are, Olli, you got us all lost he could hear her whisper in his head.


    In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud


    past writer ask godfrey
    kitchen hope hear stories comment
    outside ones soon morning
    immediately latest staff sort mission


    “Oh. how ridiculous!” exclaimed Elizabeth, throwing a transcript at Godfrey.

    Deftly catching the paper being tossed in the whirlwind of a forceful exhalation of Liz’s cigarette smoke, he raised an eyebrow but remained silent.

    “She had a dream, you see,” continued Liz. “A dream about a writer and her maid. She mentioned it to me because she had one of those funny feelings it was about me, and when she told me, well the first thing I thought about was, well, you know….”

    But Godfrey wasn’t listening, he was winking at Finnley who was reading over his shoulder. The maid stifled a giggle.

    “So then I said to her,” Elizabeth explained, “‘I wonder what she’s been up to, left to her own devices?” and then she asked him all about it, and that’s what he said. Thrown me for a loop, I must say.”


    E: (chuckling) Left to her own devices, she generates considerable intensity in extremes.

    A: is this a character that has become a focus?

    E: Reverse.

    A: So it’s a focus that has become a character…. is there any information on the focus itself that I could offer her to play with that?

    E: The focus is a past focus, but a recent past focus…a past focus in the timeframework of the 1940s…

    A: in the Americas?

    E: This focus travels, but I would express is based in Britain.

    A: That makes sense.

    E: And in actuality is involved with early computers…with large cables. LARGE cables…

    A: [babble babble ohh ahh blah blah] …and she is female?

    E: Yes.


    “I recalled a dream last night. One thing led to another, maybe I’ll tell you about that later, but it is connected, so remind me later. Then I was reminded of a story. Then I had a message from someone about a dream about a writer with a maid called Agnes, and she had recalled another story about Brooklyn. And of course, that got me thinking about stories. And story characters! And us!”

    At this point in Liz’s monologue she paused and looked meaningfully at Godfrey, Finnley and Roberto. She repressed an urge to slap Roberto, who was gazing out of the window (thinking about mountain tajines no doubt), to get his attention for the meaningful look that she wanted to give him, and cleared her throat loudly instead.

    Not a moment later she had to control the urge to slap Finnley, who was just about to make another remark about the length of her sentences.

    “I didn’t say a word!” Finnley exclaimed with righteous indignation. “I only thought about it!”

    “And I didn’t slap you, did I. I only thought about it too!” retorted Liz.

    “Ah, but you’re the one who wrote it down. You’ve gone and done it once you write it down.”

    “Don’t be daft,” replied Liz. But she wondered, what if?

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