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  • in reply to: The Precious Life and Rambles of Liz Tattler #7216

      Roberto sighed and scratched a red patch on his left hand. Spring was here. It was obvious as vibrant lime green leaves had grown on freshly sprouted twigs. If it added a nice touch of colour to the garden, the box trees, lined up on the opposite side of the pool that he had dedicated so much time last year to carving them as birds, elephants and rhinos, had now a dishevelled appearance, and that only added to his despair.

      The lawn was sprinkled with yellow spots of dandelions. Roberto just tried to remove some of them with his hands, but got badly stung by nettles. They had invaded the garden from the new neighbour’s meadow. That estúpido, had said he wanted nature to grow on its own terms, but looking at the result, Roberto thought it was more of a natural disaster than anything else.

      “Don’t get rid of the dandelions,” said Liz. “It attracts bumblebees and wild bees. I’ve heard that we need to save them.”

      “You talked with that neighbour again?” asked Roberto.

      “Dominic? Isn’t it nice the birds are back?”

      Roberto looked at the birdbaths on top of the four Corinthian columns at each corner of the pool. A group of sparrows were fooling around cleaning their feathers. At Roberto’s feet, a hedgehog was drinking in a puddle left by  the 7:30 morning rain, remains of a feast of slugs behind him. Sometimes, he envied their insouciance and joie de vivre. They were content with whatever was provided to them without wanting to change their environment.

      “The diggers arrive around 2pm. Just mow the lawn behind the box trees. That’s where Dominic’s son spotted strange growth patterns with his drone. He said that’s highly likely we have roman ruins in our garden.”

      Roberto wondered why you needed to cut the grass of a place where you’re going to dig everything out anyway. He rolled his eyes, something he had learned from Finnley, and went to the patch of lawn behind the box trees. From there he could see brambles starting to emerge from the thuja border with Dominic’s jungle. Another thing he could not touch, because Liz wanted to have Finnley make jams with the berries.

      in reply to: The Jorid’s Travels – 14 years on #6791

        The trio entered the medical bay, Barney proudly perched on Salomé’s shoulder. Léonard was sitting on the edge of his bed in a blue hospital dress, looking around him, confused. He turned his head toward them and squinted.

        Georges?” he asked. “Salomé? Where…” He winced and slapped his forehead.

        “Are you ok?” asked Salomé, moving toward him.

        Léonard stretched his arm in front of him and Salomé felt her body pushed backward. Barney squeaked and the wave subsided.

        “I’m ok,” Léonard said a few seconds later, breathing with difficulties, “just a headache. Where…”

        Georges exchanged a look and a brief telepathic communication with Salomé. He had felt the wave too, and he was also feeling some kind of shield around his mind. It was different from all they had encountered before. They might have to fall back to the old ways.

        “We’re back on Duane,” he said with a cheerful tone, hoping it would help their friend relax. Léonard had explored this system extensively, and it was there he had introduced Georges and Salomé to the reality of multidimensional travels and Elemental magic. It was a place full of memories and Georges was looking closely at his friend’s face and at the same time prodding his mind. But Léonard’s face didn’t show any reaction and his mind appeared empty.

        “Actually, way back… in time,” Georges continued. “Jorid’s navigation array was gravely disturbed by this little creature… where is Barney?”

        A weak chirp came out of Salomé’s luscious raven black hair.

        “Come on, Barney,” she said, trying to take him out. “Come meet our friend Léonard.”

        The creature was trembling like a leaf and clinging to strands of her hair, clearly not wanting to leave his hiding place.

        “I think he likes your shampoo,” said Georges with a smirk. “Well, we just found this little sand Rin on Jorid’s hull, and the little culprit is generating interferences in the Boodenbaum quantum field. So until we find a way to neutralise whatever he’s doing, we’re stuck.”

        Léonard looked annoyed. He tried to stand up, but his legs wouldn’t support him and he fell back on the bed.

        “Why did the Zathu put you in that sand egg on Bluhm’Oxl?” asked Salomé, trying not to sound too concerned.

        Léonard opened his mouth and froze, looking surprised. He frowned.

        “I don’t recall,” he said.

        “What do you recall?”

        “I recall… receiving a tip from an old friend.”



        “Jorid, can you read us the message from his friend?” asked Georges with a smile, as if he had found a simple solution.

        “I can’t access the data,” said the ship. “Léonard deleted it, and the backups before he left.”

        Georges’ smile faded. He looked at Salomé. She was thinking the same thing he was thinking and nodded.

        “Why don’t we let you have some rest, you’ll join us for lunch when you’re dressed up and ready.”

        in reply to: The Jorid’s Travels – 14 years on #6740

          When Salomé got closer to examine the creature, it jumped towards her. She caught it by reflex.

          “Wow!” said Georges. “Sand Rin clearly has a death wish.”

          “Thank you,” said Salomé. “Again.”

          “I didn’t mean…”

          She smiled. He was so easy to tease.

          “Why did you call it Sand Rin?” she asked.

          “I think our little friend has telepathic abilities. She showed this scene to me and I heard myself call her that.”

          “You might want to revise your diagnostic concerning its gender. It seems he’s got balls.”

          “Does that necessarily make it a male ?” asked Georges with a grumpf.

          Salomé looked at her friend and raised one eyebrow.

          “Does it indeed,” she said.

          Georges snorted. Salomé’s attention moved back to the creature. The fur was soft, and produced little blue sparks when she stroke it with her hands. It wasn’t static electricity because Salomé didn’t feel anything except a desire to stroke it again.

          “Interesting,” she said. “You clearly want us to like you. What’s your name little guy?”

          “I told you, it’s Sand Rin,” said Georges.

          “You told me you saw a scene in which you called it Sand Rin. That doesn’t make it his name. It might just have shown you your own mistake.”

          Salomé looked into the eyes of the creature. It wiggled its nose.

          “Hello, Barney,” she said.

          “What? I can’t believe I find an alien creature on Jorid’s hull, and it’s called Barney,” said Georges.

          “Rectification,” said Jorid, “The creature found you. He jumped onto your helmet and licked it. It’s most probable if you had tried to catch him, you’d still be tickling my hull with your boots.”

          Salomé grinned.

          “You told me SHE liked me,” said Georges.

          “I also told you the creature was causing interferences with my sensors and navigational arrays.”

          “Why do you always have to take her side?”

          “She’s most often…”

          “Nope, I don’t need that answer.”


          Salomé laughed as Georges rolled his eyes. She turned her attention to Barney when he started squiggling like he was talking.

          “He’s agitated,” she said. “Something foreboding, urgent.”

          “You’ll be happy to know Léonard’s vitals are showing he’s about to wake up,” said Jorid.

          “Wehoo! At last”, said Georges. “He’ll be able to tell us what the Zathu did to him.”

          “I’m more curious about what he did to them to deserve being treated like that,” said Salomé with a frown.

          in reply to: The Jorid’s Travels – 14 years on #6737

            I hear the greenhouse airlock open. I don’t look up and keep my focus on the alien sweat pea plant I have been working on. I’m trying to get it to bind itself to the carbon mesh I printed to help it spread instead of grow like a ball. My hands are precise and my movement efficient. I’ve been practicing everyday since I embarked on this ship some fourteen years ago. I don’t allow distraction when I’m in the greenhouse, and Georges was often one.

            He plants himself on my left.

            “I found the beast,” he says.

            “One moment. I’m almost done.”

            I have to be careful with the tendrils. An abrupt gesture would cause them to wind around my fingers and pierce my lab gloves with their myriad of teeth. As sharp and poisonous as black mamba teeth, I’d be dead in seconds.

            “Here, little thing. That’s good,” I say, encouraging the plant.

            After the first three tendrils find their bearing on the carbon mesh, the rest of the plant follows.

            “That’s gross,” Georges says. “I don’t know why you always pick the most dangerous ones.”

            I don’t answer and observe the plant wraps its tendrils around the carbon wires like it found a prey. I spent weeks trying to find the right combination of softness and tension for the alien plant to accept it.

            “I’m done,” I say.

            I look up and I see the creature in Georges’ hands.

            “Isn’t she cute?” Georges asks.

            “She? Should I worry next time you tell me I’m cute?”

            The creature’s cute, as much as a rodent with protruding eyes can be. It’s clearly neither from Earth, nor from Alienor. The eyes are looking straight at me and its muzzle wiggles as if getting some information through its sense of smell. It isn’t dangerous, since Georges is still alive. He’s the opposite of careful and after all those years together, I have to wonder how he’s still alive.

            in reply to: The Jorid’s Travels – 14 years on #6636

              Georges had always thought going out into space with the spacesuits generated by Jorid was an exhilarating experience. The tight fitting suit and gloves were full of sensors that could transmit different kind of sensory informations to the brain. Pressure, temperature and the fluctuations of the Boodenbaum surface field. It was a lot like feeling the surface tension of water and moving in space with these suits was as easy as swimming in a warm ocean.

              The light of the star gave Georges’ white suit a green hue. There was no doubt they were back in the Alienor system after 14 years. The Jorid was currently orbiting Duane, not very far from there, Georges could see the twin planet, Murtuane. But no sign of Phrëal anywhere. His helmet speakers started playing “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg.

              “Jorid,” said Georges, “what are you doing?”

              “I thought it was fitting for such a grandiose moment, Georges. The sensory information about your body tells me you’re filled with nostalgia and awe at the sight of your home planet.”

              “It’s not my… forget it. What am I looking for?”

              “Likely a small creature, the size of a rodent from Earth. I can fell it run about the greenhouse where Salomé is taking care of her sweet pea plants from planet Attalyi. It seems to have developed an interest in her activities.”

              Georges glided over the curved hull toward the giant window Jorid had manifested for Salomé’s little experiments. She wanted to grow alien vegetation in an intersticial environment kept in stasis in between dimensions to spice up the dishes from the replicator. He hid behind one of Jorid’s spherical gravitational wave sensor.

              “I can see the creature. Is Salomé aware it’s spying on her?”

              “Negative. She required not being disturbed during her experiments.”

              Georges pushed a button on his wrist keyboard. Beethoven’s fifth symphony started playing. Georges pushed the same button again. The track changed to Mozart’s “Little Night” music.

              “Jorid, the wristboard is malfunctioning. Can you stop the music and activate the cloaking shield for me ?”

              “Negative. The creature is creating of interferences.”

              “How? Wow!? What the …”

              A creature the size of a marmoset had landed on Georges helmet and was licking the glass, using its gecko fingers to stick it. An image formed into Georges mind : Salomé stroking the creature in the green house and calling it Sand’Rin.

              “I think she likes you,” said Jorid.

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6617

              Youssef had brought his black obsidian with him in the kitchen at breakfast. IdleYoussef had realised that on top of being her way of life, it was also her name—was preparing a herbal brownie under the supervision of a colourful parrot perched on her shoulder.

              “If you’re interested in rocks, you should go to Betsy’s. She’s got that ‘Gems & Minerals’ shop on Main street. She opened it with her hubby a few years back. Before he died.”

              “Nutty Betsy, Pretty Girl likes her better,” said the parrot.

              Idle looked at his backpack and his clothes.

              “You seem the wandering type, lad. I was like you when I was younger, always gallivanting here, there, and everywhere with my brother. Now, I prefer wandering in my mind, if you know what I mean,” she said licking her finger full of chocolate. “Anyway, an advice. Don’t go down the mines alone. Betsy’s hubby’s still down there after one of the tunnels collapsed a few years back. She’s not been quite herself ever since.”

              Main street was —well— the only street in town. They’ve been preparing for some kind of festival, putting banners on top of the shops and in between two trees near the gas station. Youssef stopped there to buy snacks that he stacked on top of the obsidian stone in his backpack. The young boy who worked there, Devan, seemed quite excited at the perspective of the Lager and Cart Race. It happened only every ten years and last time he was too young to participate.

              The shop had not been difficult to find, at the other end of the street. A tiny sign covered in purple star sequins indicated “Betsy’s Gems & Minerals — We deliver worldwide”. He felt with his hand the black rock he had put in his backpack. If Idle had not mentioned the mines and the dead husband, Youssef might have reconsidered going in. But the coincidence with his dream and the game was too intriguing. He entered.

              The shop was a mess. Crates full of stones, cardboard boxes and bubble wrappings. In the back, a plump woman, working on a giant starfish she held  on her lap, was humming as she listened to loud rock music. Youssef recognised a song from the Last Shadow Puppets’ second album : The Element of Surprise. Apparently, the woman hadn’t heard him enter. She wore a dress and a hat sprinkled with golden stars, and her wrists were hidden under a ton of stone bracelets. The music track changed. The woman started shaking her head following the rhythm of the tune. She was gluing small red stones, she picked in a little box, on one of the starfish arms.

              “Bad Habits! Uhu. Bad Habits! Uhu.”

              Youssef moved closer. His shadow covered the starfish. The woman raised her head and screamed, scattering the red stones in her workshop. The starfish fell from her lap onto the ground with a thud.

              “Oh! My! Little devil. Look at what you made me do. I lost my marbles,” she said with a high pitched laugh. “Your mother never taught you? That’s bad habit to creep up on people like that. You scared the sheep out of me!”

              “I’m so sorry,” said Youssef, getting on his knees to help her gather the stones.

              When they were all back in their box, Youssef got back on his feet. The woman looked a him with a softened face.

              “You such a cutie with your bear shirt. You make me think of my Howard. He was as tall as you are. I’m Betsy, obviously” she said with a giggle, extending her hand to him.

              They shook hands, making the pearls of her bracelets clink together.

              “I’m Youssef.”


              Youssef didn’t need to insist too much. Betsy was a real juke box of gossips. He just had to ask one question from time to time, and she would get going again. He was starting to feel his quirk could be more than a curse after all.

              “When the tunnel collapsed,” Betsy said, “I was ready to give up the stone shop. The pain was too much to bear, everything in the shop reminded me of Howard. And in a miners’ town, who would want to buy stones anyway. We’ve been in bad terms with Idle and her family for some time, but that tragic incident coincided with her brother Fred’s disappearance. They thought at first Fred had died in the mines with Howard, because they spent so much time discussing together in Room 8 at the Inn. I overheard them once, talking about something they found in the mines. But Howard never told me, he was so secretive about that. We even had a fight, you know. But Fred, the children found some message later that suggested he had just left the family. Imagine, the children! Idle was pissed with him of course. Abandoning her with that mother of theirs and that money pit of an Inn and the rest of the family. And I needed company. So we started to get together on a regular basis. She would bring her special cakes, and we would complain about our lives. At some point she got involved with that shamanic stuff she found online, and she helped me find my totem Bear. It was quite a revelation. Bear suggested I diversify and open an online shop and start making orgonites. I love those little gummy bears so much. So, I followed Bear’s advice and it has been working like a charm ever since. That’s why I trusted you straight away, lad. Not ’cause of your cute face. You got the Bear in your heart,” she said putting her finger at the center of his chest.

              My inner Bear, of course, thought Youssef. That’s the magnet. His phone buzzed. He took it out and saw he had an alert from the game and a message from his friends.

              You found the source of your quirk, the magnetic pull that attracts talkative people to you.
              Now obtain the silver key in the shape of a tongue to fulfil your quest.


              Zara : Where are you!? :yahoo_bee: We’re at the bar, getting parched! They got Pale Ale!

              “I have to go,” said Youssef.

              “Wait,” said Betsy.

              She foraged through her orgonite collection and handed Youssef one little gummy bear and an ornate metal badge.

              “Bear wants me to give this to you. Howard made it. He said it was his forked tongue key.”

              She looked at him, emotion in her eyes.

              “I know you won’t listen if I tell you not to. So, be careful when you go into the mines.”

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6613

              Despite the old man’s endless flow of words, Youssef couldn’t get him to explain what he meant about the abandoned mine and why the town’s people didn’t like people sneaking around and asking questions.

              Not wanting to waste more time, Youssef walked to the brick building where the twins had disappeared. It was crammed between the telegraph station and a grocery store. The door had been walled with red bricks. They were covered in faded graffitis and layers of torn-up posters. It seemed obvious the wall had been there for quite some time already.

              The old man was sticking to Youssef like glue, talking about that time when his now dead brother took in an old cat he called Phineas. Youssef tried to growl him away, but the man always came back, persistent as a cloud of mosquitoes over the promise of a blood feast.

              Youssef tried not to pay attention to him. What did AL said about that quest ? Go ask questions around to town’s people about odd things happening ? Well there were plenty of those things happening. Maybe the clerk at the telegraph station would know something, especially how to get rid of that old man.

              Youssef pushed the door and entered the telegraph station, leaving the old man outside. The interior was lit with a collection of old style tungsten lamps hanging in a random pattern from the ceiling. 

              The clerk was busy sorting out a pile of telegrams. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. He lifted his head up. The noise stopped and Youssef realised the young man had mechanical hands.

              “Welcome, welcome, welcome! What can I do for you today, my friend?” asked the clerk.

              “I just wanted to…” started Youssef.

              “Wait! Don’t tell me. I’m a bit of a psychic myself and I already know what you’re here for.”


              The man foraged through his pile of telegram with his mechanical hands and picked one. He looked at it for a few seconds.

              “My friend, you’re in luck today!” he said, looking intently at Youssef. “I just received this telegram that I think might interest you. Here, take a look!”

              Youssef took the paper and started to read aloud : “Words spoken by the talkative will unlock the path. Seek those who chatter and unravel the clue. What the…?” 

              “Interesting, isn’t it? That’s a real head-scratcher, if you ask me!”

              The door bell rang and the old man entered, holding his sore ribs. 

              “Get out, Phineas. You’re not welcome here.” said the clerk with a frown.

              The old man looked at the clerk with an air of confusion before turning to Youssef. “What did he say? Who’s Phineas?” he asked.

              Ignoring the question, Youssef tried to steer the conversation back to the telegram. “What does this mean?” he asked the clerk.

              The clerk stroked his chin, looking thoughtful. “Hmm, well, it seems to me that you have a certain magnetism for talkative people. Perhaps that’s the key to unlocking this riddle.”

              Youssef’s eyes widened in surprise. “What do you mean, magnetism?”

              The old man interjected, “For sure! You’re like a magnet, my boy. I can’t seem to stop talking when I’m around you.”

              Youssef rolled his eyes. “So, what do I do? Just wander around town and wait for someone to start talking?”

              The clerk nodded. “That could be a good start. But if you’re looking for something specific, you might want to try Betsy when you wake up. She’s got a boutique of Gems and Rocks. You seem to like them rocks,” he said pointing at the black obsidian. “Found it in a mine?”

              The old man’s eyes lit up. “Ah, the old mine! I’ve been there before, you know. My brother used to work there before he died. Strange things happening there.”

              Youssef’s interest was piqued. “What kind of strange things?”

              The old man leaned in conspiratorially. “There’s a magnetar hidden in that mine, my boy.”

              “Shut up! Phineas,” interrupted the clerk. “If you want my advice, stranger, don’t go near the old mine. ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ if you know what I mean.”

              The telegraph receiver started to make clicketing sounds. The clerk read it and looked at Youssef.

              “You’ve got a message man. Time to wake up.”

              “Wake up?”


              Youssef opened his eyes and looked at a black mass in front of his eyes. He had been sleeping with the stone just beside his head on the pillow. No wonder he had had weird dreams. He heard his phone buzz. He sat up reluctantly and looked at his phone. 8am. A notification that his game progression had been saved and several messages from Miss Tartiflate, the last one saying :

              Don’t think you can dodge work. I’m still expecting the last blog post you’ve been paid to write!!!”

              He groaned as reality was starting to catch up.

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6612

              Two young women, identical to the purple lock of hair hiding their left eye, entered the room. They moved as one person to the table, balancing their arms and bouncing on the floor like little girls. Youssef couldn’t help a shiver as he remembered The Shining.

              “We are the twins,” they said, looking at him from behind their purple lock of hair. “Don’t mind us.”

              One spoke a few milliseconds after the other, giving their combined voice an otherworldly touch that wasn’t reassuring. One took the sheets of paper from under the obsidian stone and the other the notebooks. After an hesitation they left the stone on the table and went back to the door.

              “Wait,” said Youssef as they were about to leave, “What was on that paper? It looked like a map.”

              “We leave you the stone,” they said without looking at him. “You might need it.”

              As they shut the door, Youssef jumped out of his bed and tried to catch up with them. People couldn’t just enter his room like that. But when he flung the door open, the corridor was empty. He had the impression echoes of a combined laugh remained in the air and, tired as he was, decided not to look for them. Better not break the veil between dream and reality.

              Intrigued by what the girls said, he took the black stone from the table and the last snicker bar from his backpack. He noted he would have to go to the grocery store tomorrow to buy some. Once he was back on his bed, he engulfed the snack and, while chewing, turned the stone around, trying to figure out what the girls meant by “You might need it”. The stone was cold to the touch and his reflection kept changing but nothing particular happened. Disappointed, he put the stone on his pillow and resumed the game on his phone.

              Youssef finds himself in a small ghost town in what looks like the middle of the Australian outback. He’s standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings.

              He had a hard time focusing on the game. He started to feel the fatigue from the day. He yawned and started to doze off.


              Youssef is standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings. Scraps of mist are floating towards him. A ghostly laugh resounds from behind. He turns swiftly only to see a flash of purple disappear in a dark alleyway. He starts to run to catch them but a man, thrown out of the saloon, stumbles in front of him and they roll together on the dust.

              “It’s not that I don’t like you,” said the man, “but you’re heavy.”

              Youssef rolls on the side, mumbling some excuses and looks at where the twins had disappeared but the alleyway was gone. 

              “I think you broke one of my rib with your stone,” says the man, feeling his chest.

              He looks as old as the town itself and quite harmless in his clothes, too big for him.

              “What stone?” asks Youssef

              The old man points at a fragment of black obsidian between them on the ground. 

              “Don’t show them,” he says, “or they’ll take it from you.”

              “What did you do?”

              “They don’t like it when you ask questions about the old mines.”

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6545

              The road was stretching endlessly and monotonously, a straight line disappearing into a nothingness of dry landscapes that reminded Youssef of the Gobi desert where he had been driving not too long ago. At regular speed, the car barely seemed to progress.

              > O Time suspend thy flight!

              Eternity. Something only nature could procure him. He loved the feeling, and compared to the more usual sand of Gobi, the red sands of Australia gave him the impression he had shifted into another reality. That and the fifteen hours flight listening to Gladys made it difficult to respond to Xavier’s loquacious self and funny jokes. After some time, his friend stopped talking and tried catching some signal to play the Game, brandishing his phone in different directions as if he was hunting ghosts with a strange device.

              It reminded him he had to accept his next quest in a ghost town. That’s all he remembered. He could do that at the Inn, when they could rest in their rooms.

              Youssef wondered if the welcome sign at the entrance of the town had seen better days. The wood the fish was made of seemed eaten by termites, but someone had painted it with silver and blue to give it a fresher look. Youssef snorted at the shocked expression on his friend’s face.

              “It looked like it died of boredom. Let’s just hope the Innside doesn’t look like a gutted fish,” Xavier said.

              An old lady showed them their rooms. She didn’t seem the talkative type, which made Youssef love her immediately with her sharp tongue and red cardigan. He rather admired her braided silver hair as it reminded him of his mother who would let him brush her hair when they lived in Norway. It was in another reality. He smiled. She saw him looking at her and her eyes narrowed like a pair of arrowslits. She seemed ready to fire. Instead she kept on ranting about an idle person not doing her only job properly. They each went to their rooms, Xavier took number 7 and Youssef picked number 5, his lucky number.

              He was glad to be able to enjoy his own room after the trip of the last few weeks. It had been for work, so it was different. But usually he liked travelling the world on his own and meet people on his way and learn from their stories. Traveling with people always meant some compromise that would always frustrate him because he wanted to go faster, or explore more tricky paths.

              The room was nicely decorated, and the scent of fresh paint made it clear it was recent. A strange black stone, which Youssef recognized as a black obsidian, has been put on a pile of paper full of doodles, beside two notebooks and pencils. The notebooks’ pages were blank, he thought of giving them to Xavier. He took the stone. It was cold to the touch and his reflection on the surface looked back at him, all wavy. The doodles on the paper looked like a map and hard to read annotations. One stood out, though which looked like a wifi password. That made him think of the Game. He entered it on his phone and that was it. Maybe it was time to go back in. But he wanted to take a shower first.

              He put his backpack and his bag on the bed and unpacked it. Amongst a pile of dirty clothes, he managed to find a t-shirt that didn’t smell too bad and a pair of shorts. He would have to use the laundry service of the hotel.

              He had missed hot showers. Once refreshed, he moved his bags on the floor and jumped on his bed and launched the Game.

              Youssef finds himself in a small ghost town in what looks like the middle of the Australian outback. The town was once thriving but now only a few stragglers remain, living in old, decrepit buildings. He’s standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings.

              A message appeared on the screen.

              Quest: Your task is to find the source of the magnetic pull that attracts talkative people to you. You must find the reason behind it and break the spell, so you can continue your journey in peace.

              Youssef started to move his avatar towards the saloon when someone knocked on the door.

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6520

              Rajkumar had named his car JUMPY because he said it reminded him of his mother country. He drove like they were in the chaotic streets of an Indian city. Youssef’s fist was clenched on the door handle, his knuckles white. He needed to hold on to something just as much as he was afraid of loosing the door.

              He had never been so happy as when Rajkumar stopped in front of his cousin’s shop and restaurant.

              “Just in time for the best butter chicken in all Alice Springs!” said Rajkumar, pointing to the restaurant on the left.

              Smells of greasy sauce, meat and spices floated in the air. Despite his legendary hunger, Youssef’s stomach started to protest from the recent treatment on the road. If he had had any doubt, he was sure now that he wouldn’t go on a trip in Jumpy with Rajkumar.

              “Maybe I’ll go for the scarf first,” he said.

              Rajkumar noded and pointed to the right, to a stout man squating in front of a pile of scarves.

              “This is cousin Ashish. You can’t find a better shop in town for scarves,” said Rajkumar. He high fived his cousin who looked like a giant in comparison with the short guide. They talked for a long time in what Youssef assumed to be some Indian dialect. At some point, his guide pointed a finger at him and said : “This big man is looking for a red scarf. I told him you had the best quality in town. Hand made, right from India. Ashish buys and sells the best to the best only. I have to go park the car and tell my other cousin to prepare you a meal. Best Indian food in Alice.”

              After he left, cousin Ashish showed Youssef in. At the entrance incense burned at the feet of a couple of colourful Hindu gods. The intoxicating smell reminded him of a stop at a temple during his last trip with the documentary team. The face of Miss Tartiflate jumped into his mind. He would have to take care of THE BLOG at some point, but for now, he was looking for a red scarf. The inside of the shop was as messy as a Mongolian bazaar. Clothes upon clothes, and piles of scarves everywhere.

              “Red scarves are over there, said Ashish. Follow me.”

              He was less talkative than his cousin, which was a welcome relief. He led Youssef to the back of the shop. On the wall, the portrait in black and white of an old Indian man was watching over their shoulder.

              Ashish took one long red scarf and put it around his neck.

              “You can touch, he said. Very good quality. Very light. Like you wear nothing.”

              Youssef took the end of the fabric in his hand. It felt very silky and light to the touch.

              “That’s perfect, I’ll take it”, he said.

              His phone buzzed in his pocket. He took it out and checked his messages.

              • 📨 [Quirk Land] NEW QUEST OPENED

              Looking at the time, it was already noon. Xavier must have landed in Alice already. He started to type a message to his friend :

              💬 Meet me for lunch at Todd Mall. Patel indian restaurant next to fabric shop

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6517

              After Youssef retrieved his luggage in Alice Springs, he was swarmed with freelance tour guides trying to sell him trips. You would buy a ticket out of any one of them just to get rid of the others, he thought. With a few hungry growls, he managed to frighten most of them, with a touch of indifference he lost the rest. Except one. A short Indian looking man wearing a red cap and a moustache. He seemed to have an infinite talkative energy at his disposal, able to erode the strongest wills. The temperature was hotter than Youssef had expected, here it was the end of summer, and he was hungry. The man started to get on his nerves.

              The list of tours was endless. Uluru, scenic bushwalking trails, beautiful gardens, a historical tour, a costumed historical tour, a few national parks, and even his cousins’ restaurant. He reminded Youssef of his own father, always offering guests (and especially his visiting kids) another fruit, a pastry, some coffee, chocolate ? You sure you don’t want any chocolate? If the man was tenacious, Youssef had had training with his father. But this man seemed to mistake silence and indifference for agreement. Did he really think Youssef was going to buy one of his tours ?

              “The ghost town! You have to see Arltunga, said the man. An old mining ghost town, certainly an American like you like ghost towns. And buried treasure. Arltunga has buried treasure somewhere. You can find it. I know where to find a map.”

              Youssef wondered if it was another one of the game’s fluke that his quest was apparently bleeding into his real life again. And if there was a map, why hasn’t the treasure been found already? He checked at the back of his mind for the presence of that crazy old lady. Nope, not there. He decided to refuse the call this time. He just wanted to get to that F…ing Fish Inn in Crowshollow and meet with his friends.

              “NO, he growled, frightening a group of tourists passing by, but not the tour operator. No ghost town! We have plenty in America.” Thinking of the game and his last challenge for the previous quest, he said in desperation : “I just want to find a red scarf!” and he knew inside himself and many years attempting to resist his old man, that the short Indian man had won.

              “If you want to find a red scarf, you go to Silk Road, said the man bobbing his head. My cousin’s shop, you find everything there only.”

              Youssef sighed. He thought there were only two ways to take it. The first one was that he had fallen into a trap and try to find a way to get out of it. But it might be sticky and uncomfortable for everyone. So he decided it was the other way around and that it was part of the game. Why wouldn’t he use this as an opportunity for adventure. Wasn’t that what Xavier always said about roads less traveled ?

              “Where is your cousin’s shop? he asked. And where’s that restaurant of your cousin’s? I’m starving.”

              The little man smiled broadly.

              “Same place. Two brothers. Shop next to restaurant in Todd Mall. You’re lucky! Follow me.”

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6507

              To Youssef’s standards, a plane was never big and Flight AL357 was even smaller. When he found his seat, he had to ask a sweaty Chinese man and a snorting woman in a suit with a bowl cut and pink almond shaped glasses to move out so he could squeeze himself in the small space allotted to economy class passengers. On his right, an old lady looked at the size of his arms and almost lost her teeth. She snapped her mouth shut just in time and returned quickly to her magazine. Her hands were trembling and Youssef couldn’t tell if she was annoyed or something else.

              The pilote announced they were ready to leave and Youssef sighed with relief. Which was short lived when he got the first bump on the back of his seat. He looked back, apologising to the woman with the bowl cut on his left. Behind him was a kid wearing a false moustache and chewing like a cow. He was swinging his tiny legs, hitting the back of Youssef’s seat with the regularity of a metronome. The kid blew his gum until the bubble exploded. The mother looked ready to open fire if Youssef started to complain. He turned back again and tried to imagine he was getting a massage in one of those Japanese shiatsu chairs you find in some airports.

              The woman in front of him had thrown her very blond hair atop her seat and it was all over his screen. The old lady looked at him and offered him a gum. He wondered how she could chew gums with her false teeth, and kindly declined. The woman with the bowl cut and pink glasses started to talk to her sweaty neighbour in Chinese. The man looked at Youssef as if he had been caught by a tiger and was going to get eaten alive. His eyes were begging for help.

              As the plane started to move, the old woman started to talk.

              « Hi, I’m Gladys. I am afraid of flying, she said. Can I hold your hand during take off ? »

              After another bump on his back, Youssef sighed. It was going to be a long flight for everyone.

              As soon as they had gained altitude, Youssef let go of the old woman’s hand. She hadn’t stopped talking about her daughter and how she was going to be happy to see her again. The flight attendant passed by with a trolley and offered them a drink and a bag of peanuts. The old woman took a glass of red wine. Youssef was tempted to take a coke and dip the hair of the woman in front of him in it. He had seen a video on LooTube recently with a girl in a similar situation. She had stuck gum and lollypops in the hair of her nemesis, dipped a few strands in her soda and clipped strands randomly with her nail cutter. He could ask the old woman one of her gums, but thought that if a girl could do it, it would certainly not go well for him if he tried.

              Instead he asked the flight attendant if there was wifi on board. Sadly there was none. He had hoped at least the could play the game and catch up with his friends during that long flight to Sydney.


              When the doors opened, Youssef thought he was free of them all. He was tired, his back hurt, and he couldn’t sleep because the kid behind him kept crying and kicking, the food looked like it had been regurgitated twice by a yak, and the old chatty woman had drained his batteries. She said she wouldn’t sleep on a plane because she had to put her dentures in a glass for hygiene reasons and feared someone would steal them while she had her eyes closed.

              He walked with long strides in the corridors up to the custom counters and picked a line, eager to put as much distance between him and the other passengers. Xavier had sent him a message saying he was arriving in Sydney in a few hours. Youssef thought it would be nice to change his flight so that they could go together to Alice Spring. He could do some time with a friend for a change.

              His bushy hair stood on end when he heard the voice of the old woman just behind him. He wondered how she had managed to catch up so fast. He saw a small cart driving away.

              « I wanted to tell, Gladys said, it was such a nice flight in your company. How long have you before your flight to Alice? We can have a coffee together. »

              Youssef mentally said sorry to his friend. He couldn’t wait for the next flight.

              in reply to: Newsreel from the Rim of the Realm #6491

              Sophie was glad she could help that young guy Youssef get out of this mess with that false ingenue. She was clearly not for him, he needed someone more mature who would know how to handle his big body. She looked at Miss Bossy Pants’ office. Ricardo was there again and they seem to be in another of their grand discussions. When Miss Bossy saw Sophie watching, she moved to the big window and shut the venetian blind. What were they all about, always plotting things in the back of their journalists. If Sophie didn’t have an ounce of ethic, she would have RVed them long ago, but she made a point to only use her abilities for good, and at times good gossip with friends.

              She went out to the elevator and called it. While she waited, she started writing a message : “The boy is on his way. I did like you asked. Now book me a place to that Akashic Record training as promised.”

              The answer came only a few seconds later : “consider it done”

              The elevator bell rang and the door opened. Sophie got in with a big satisfied smile on her face.”

              in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6490

              Youssef gave his passport and ticket to the woman at gate 11. He was followed closely by Kyle and other members of the team. The flight attendant looked at him and gave him his passport and ticket back without scanning them with her machine.

              “I’m sorry, you’re at the wrong gate. Your flight is at gate 8,” she said.

              “But I’m going to Boston. My ticket says gate 11.”

              Youssef showed his ticket to the hostess, and she pointed the destination and the gate to him. She was right.

              “Your ticket is for flight AL357 to Sydney. It’s currently boarding at gate 8. Next person please.”

              Kyle patted him on the shoulder.

              “You should have double checked your ticket, he said.”

              “What’s wrong? asked Miss Tartiflate. Why are you going to Australia?”

              “I’m not.”

              “Well, it says you are,” she said pointing at the ticket. He didn’t understand the dark intensity of her gaze and her clenched fist, until he remembered that Botty Banworth lived there.

              “I’m not… I mean…”

              “You better not. If I hear you were in with that…”

              The words got lost as they broadcasted a call for flight AL357 to Sydney at Gate 8.

              “You’d better get that f…ing BLOG running during your little vacation or you can stay there and forget about your job,” she said before bumping into the border of the gate.

              Youssef moved on the side and looked at his ticket to Sydney, puzzled. When he passed security his ticket was to Boston. He recalled a message from Zara saying she would meet them in Australia soon. But how could she have managed to change his ticket without his knowing.

              Sure there was that moment when he had left his passport with his ticket on the table at the Starmoose when going back to the counter pick his second slice of cinnamon apple tart. But he was looking away only for a few seconds.

              “This is the last call for flight AL357 to Sydney. Youssef Ali is requested at Gate 8 before we close the gate.”

              Let’s just hope whomever made the change thought about transferring my luggage to the right plane,” he said as he started walking to Gate 8 with his bag.

              in reply to: The Jorid’s Travels – 14 years on #6479


                Chapter 1: The Search Begins


                Georges was sitting more or less comfortably in the command chair on the control deck of the Jorid, slowly drinking his tea. The temperature of the beverage seemed to be determined randomly since the interference patterns in the navigation array weren’t totally fixed when they removed those low quality tiles. Drinking cold or hot tea was not the worse of it, and it was even kind of a challenge to swallow it and not get burned by ice. The deck kept changing shape and colours, reconfiguring along with the quantum variations of the Boodenbaum field variation due to some leakage of information between dimensions. Salomé had preferred resting in her travelpod where the effects were not as strongly felt.

                “The worse is not as much seeing your face morph into a soul-insect and turn inside down, although those greenish hues usually make me feel nauseous, but feeling two probable realities where my organs grow and shrink at the same time is more than I can bear.”

                After a few freakish experiences, where his legs cross-merged with the chair, or a third eye grow behind his head, or that time when dissolved into a poof of greasy smoke, Georges got used to the fluid nature of reality during the trips. You just had to get along with it and not resist. He thought it gave some spice and colours to their journey across dimensions. He enjoyed the differences of perceptions generated by the fluctuations of the Boodenbaum field, as it allowed his tea to taste like chardonnay or bœuf bourguignon, and was glad when he discovered a taste that he had never experienced before.

                During the last few trips, he had attempted to talk with Jorid, but their voices were so garbled and transformed so quickly that he lost interest. He couldn’t make the difference with the other noises, like honking trucks passing by on a motorway, or the cry of agony of a mating Irdvark. He felt a pang of nostalgia as the memories of Duane, Murtuane and Phréal merged into the deck around him. He wondered if he could get physically lost during one of the trips as he started to feel his limbs move away from his body, one hairy foot brushing by his left ear while he drank a sip of tea with the mouth that had grown on his middle finger. Salomé had warned him about fractured perception and losing a piece of his mind… It seemed it hadn’t happened yet. But would he notice?

                Already he felt the deceleration he had come to notice when they neared their destination. The deck stabilized into a shape adapted to this quadrant of the dimensional universes. The large command screen displayed images of several ruins lost in the sand desert of Bluhm’Oxl.

                Georges looked at his hands, and touched his legs. His reflection  on the command screen looked back at him. Handsome as usual. He grinned. Salomé wouldn’t refrain from telling him if something was off anyway.

                Jorid: “I have woken up Salomé.”

                She won’t be long now. Georges ordered a hot meklah, one of her favorites drink that usually helped her refocus when getting out of her pod.

                A blip caught Georges’ attention.

                Jorid: “This is Tlal Klatl’Oxl, better know as Klatu. Your potential contact on Bluhm’Oxl and a Zathu. He’ll guide and protect you as you enter the conflict zone to look for Léonard.”

                in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6469

                The door opened and Youssef saw Natalie, still waiting for him. Indeed, he needed help. He decided to accept  sands_of_time contact request, hopping it was not another Thi Gang trick.

                Sands_of_time is trying to make contact : ✅ACCEPT <> ➡️DENY ❓

                A princess on horse back emerged from the sand. The veil on her hair floated in a wind that soon cleared all the dust from her garment and her mount, revealing a princess with a delicate face and some prominent attributes that didn’t leave Youssef indifferent. She was smiling at him, and her horse, who had six legs and looked a bit like a camel, snorted at the bear.

                “I love doing that, said the princess. At least I don’t get to spit sand afterward like when my sister’s grand-kids want to bury me in the sand at the beach…”

                It broke the charm. It reminded Youssef it was all a game. That princess was an avatar. Was it even a girl on the other side ? And how old ? Youssef, despite his stature, felt as vulnerable as when his mother left him for the afternoon with an old aunt in Sudan when he was five and she kept wanting to dress him with colourful girl outfits. He shivered and the bear growled at the camel-horse, reminding Youssef how hungry he was.

                sands_of_time?” he asked.

                “Yes. I like this AI game. Makes me feel like I’m twenty again. Not as fun as a mushroom trip though, but… with less secondary effects. Anyway, I saw you needed help with that girl. A ‘reel’ nuisance if you ask me, sticky like a sea cucumber.”

                “How do you know ? Did you plant bugs on my phone ? Are you with the Thi Gang ?” 

                The bear moved toward them and roared and the camel-horse did a strange sound. The princess appeased her mount with a touch of her hand.

                “Oh! Boy, calm down your heat. Nothing so prosaic. I have other means, she said with a grin. Call me Sweet Sophie, I’m a real life reporter. Was just laying down on my dream couch looking for clues about a Dr Patelonus, the man’s mixed up in some monkey trafficking business, when I saw that strange llama dressed like a tibetan monk, except it was a bit too mayonnaise for a tibetan monk. Anyway, he led me to you and told me to contact you through this Quirk Quest Game, suggesting you might have some intel for me about that monkey business of mine. So I put on my VR helmet, which actually reminds me of a time at the hair salon, and a gorgeous beehive… but anyway you wouldn’t understand. So I had to accept one of those quests and find you in the game. Which was a lot less easier than RV I can tell you. The only thing, I couldn’t interact with you unless you accepted contact. So here I am, ready for you to tell me about Dr Patelonus. But I can see that first we need to get you out of here.”

                Youssef had no idea about what she was talking about. VR; RV ? one and the same ? He decided not to tell her he knew nothing about monkeys or doctors until he was out of Natalie’s reach. If indeed sands_of_timecould help.

                “So what do I do ?” asked Youssef.

                “Let me first show you my real self. I’ve always wanted to try that. Wait a moment. I need to focus.”

                The princess avatar looked in the distance, her eyes lost beyond this world. Suddenly, Youssef felt a presence creeping into his mind. He heard a laugh and saw an old lady in yoga pants on a couch! He roared and almost let go of his phone again.

                The princess smiled.

                “Now, wouldn’t be fair if only I knew what you looked like in real life. Although you’re pretty close to your avatar… Don’t you seem a tad afraid of experimenting with new things. :yahoo_smug:

                She laughed again, and this time Youssef saw her “real” face superimposed on the princess avatar. It gave him goosebumps.

                “Now’s your opening, she said. The girl’s busy giving directions to someone else. Get out of the bathroom! Now!”

                Youssef had the strangest feeling that the voice had come at the same time from the phone speakers and from inside his head. His body acted on its own as if he was a puppet. He pushed the bathroom door open and rushed outside.

                in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6468

                At the former Chinggis Khaan International Airport which was now called the New Ulaanbaatar International Airport, the young intern sat next to Youssef, making the seats tremble like a frail suspended bridge in the Andes. Youssef had been considering connecting to the game and start his quest to meet with his grumpy quirk, but the girl seemed pissed, almost on the brink of crying. So Youssef turned off his phone and asked her what had happened, without thinking about the consequences, and because he thought it was a nice opportunity to engage the conversation with her at last, and in doing so appear to be nice to care so that she might like him in return.

                Natalie, because he had finally learned her name, started with all the bullying she had to endure from Miss Tartiflate during the trip, all the dismissal about her brilliant ideas, and how the Yeti only needed her to bring her coffee and pencils, and go fetch someone her boss needed to talk to, and how many time she would get no thanks, just a short: “you’re still here?”

                After some time, Youssef even knew more about her parents and her sisters and their broken family dynamics than he would have cared to ask, even to be polite. At some point he was starting to feel grumpy and realised he hadn’t eaten since they arrived at the airport. But if he told Natalie he wanted to go get some food, she might follow him and get some too. His stomach growled like an angry bear. He stood more quickly than he wanted and his phone fell on the ground. The screen lit up and he could just catch a glimpse of a desert emoji in a notification before Natalie let out a squeal. Youssef looked around, people were glancing at him as if he might have been torturing her.

                “Oh! Sorry, said Youssef. I just need to go to the bathroom before we board.”

                “But the boarding is only in one hour!”

                “Well I can’t wait one hour.”

                “In that case I’m coming with you, I need to go there too anyway.”

                “But someone needs to stay here for our bags,” said Youssef. He could have carried his own bag easily, but she had a small suitcase, a handbag and a backpack, and a few paper bags of products she bought at one of the two the duty free shops.

                Natalie called Kyle and asked him to keep a close watch on her precious things. She might have been complaining about the boss, but she certainly had caught on a few traits of her.

                Youssef was glad when the men’s bathroom door shut behind him and his ears could have some respite. A small Chinese business man was washing his hands at one of the sinks. He looked up at Youssef and seemed impressed by his height and muscles. The man asked for a selfie together so that he could show his friends how cool he was to have met such a big stranger in the airport bathroom. Youssef had learned it was easier to oblige them than having them follow him and insist.

                When the man left, Youssef saw Natalie standing outside waiting for him. He thought it would have taken her longer. He only wanted to go get some food. Maybe if he took his time, she would go.

                He remembered the game notification and turned on his phone. The icon was odd and kept shifting between four different landscapes, each barren and empty, with sand dunes stretching as far as the eye could see. One with a six legged camel was already intriguing, in the second one a strange arrowhead that seemed to be getting out of the desert sand reminded him of something that he couldn’t quite remember. The fourth one intrigued him the most, with that car in the middle of the desert and a boat coming out of a giant dune.

                Still hungrumpy he nonetheless clicked on the shapeshifting icon and was taken to a new area in the game, where the ground was covered in sand and the sky was a deep orange, as if the sun was setting. He could see a mysterious figure in the distance, standing at the top of a sand dune.

                The bell at the top right of the screen wobbled, signalling a message from the game. There were two. He opened the first one.

                We’re excited to hear about your real-life parallel quest. It sounds like you’re getting close to uncovering the mystery of the grumpy shaman. Keep working on your blog website and keep an eye out for any clues that Xavier and the Snoot may send your way. We believe that you’re on the right path.

                What on earth was that ? How did the game know about his life and the shaman at the oasis ? After the Thi Gang mess with THE BLOG he was becoming suspicious of those strange occurrences. He thought he could wonder for a long time or just enjoy the benefits. Apparently he had been granted a substantial reward in gold coins for successfully managing his first quest, along with a green potion.

                He looked at his avatar who was roaming the desert with his pet bear (quite hungrumpy too). The avatar’s body was perfect, even the hands looked normal for once, but the outfit had those two silver disks that made him look like he was wearing an iron bra.

                He opened the second message.

                Clue unlocked It sounds like you’re in a remote location and disconnected from the game. But, your real-life experiences seem to be converging with your quest. The grumpy shaman you met at the food booth may hold the key to unlocking the next steps in the game. Remember, the desert represents your ability to adapt and navigate through difficult situations.

                🏜️🧭🧙‍♂️ Explore the desert and see if the grumpy shaman’s clues lead you to the next steps in the game. Keep an open mind and pay attention to any symbols or clues that may help you in your quest. Remember, the desert represents your ability to adapt and navigate through difficult situations.

                Youssef recalled that strange paper given by the lama shaman, was it another of the clues he needed to solve that game? He didn’t have time to think about it because a message bumped onto his screen.

                “Need help? Contact me 👉”

                Sands_of_time is trying to make contact : ➡️ACCEPT <> ➡️DENY ❓
                in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6460

                The vendor was preparing the Lorgh Drülp with the dexterity of a Japanese sushi chef. A piece of yak, tons of spices, minced vegetables, and some other ingredients that Youssef couldn’t recognise. He turned his attention to the shaman’s performance. The team was trying to follow the man’s erratic moves under Miss Tartiflate’s supervision.  Youssef could hear her shouting to Kyle to get closer shots. It reminded him that he had to get an internet connection.

                “Is there a wifi?” asked Youssef to the vendor. The man bobbed his head and pointed at the table with a knife just as big as a machete. Impressed by the size of the blade, Youssef almost didn’t see the tattoo on the vendor’s forearm. The man resumed his cooking swiftly and his long yellow sleeve hid the tattoo. Youssef touched his screen to look at his exchange with Xavier. He searched for the screenshot he had taken of the Thi Gang’s message. There it was. The mummy skull with Darth Vador’s helmet. The same as the man’s tattoo. Xavier’s last message was about the translation being an ancient silk road recipe. They had thought it a fluke in AL’s algorithm. Youssef glanced at the vendor and his knife. Could he be part of Thi Gang?

                Youssef didn’t have time to think of a plan when the vendor put a tray with the Lorgh Drülp and little balls of tsampa on the table. The man pointed with his finger at the menu on the table, uncovering his forearm, it was the same as the Thi Gang logo.

                “Wifi on menu,” the man said. “Tsampa, good for you…”

                A commotion at the market place interrupted them. Apparently Kyle had gone too close and the shaman had crashed into him and the rest of the team. The man was cursing every one of them and Miss Tartiflate was apparently trying to calm him down by offering him snack bars. But the shaman kept brandishing an ugly sceptre that looked like a giant chicken foot covered in greasy fur, while cursing them with broken english. The tourists were all brandishing their phones, not missing a thing, ready to send their videos on TrickTruck. The shaman left angrily, ignoring all attempts at conciliation. There would be no reportage.

                “Hahaha, tourists, they believe anything they see,” said the vendor before returning to his stove and his knife.

                Despite his hunger, Youssef thought he’d better hurry with the wifi, now that the crew was out of work, he would be the target of Miss Tartiflate’s frustration. Furthermore, he wanted to lay low and not attract the vendor’s attention.

                3235 messages from his friends. How would he ever catch up?
                Among them, messages from Xavier. Youssef sighed of relief when he read that his friend had regained full access of the website and updated the system to fix a security flaw that allowed Thi Gang to gain access in the first place. But he growled when his friend continued with the bad news. There was some damage done to the content of THE BLOG.

                To console himself, Youssef started to eat a ball of tsampa. It was sweet and tasted like rose. He took a second and spit it out almost immediately. There was a piece of paper inside. He smoothed it and discovered a series of five pictograms.


                The first one was like a hologram and kept changing into six horizontal bars. The second one, looking like a tako bell, kept reversing side. Youssef raised his head to call the vendor and nobody was there. He got up and looked for the guy, Thi Gang or not, he needed some answers. Voices came from behind the curtain at the back of the stall. Youssef walked around the stall and saw the shaman and the vendor exchanging clothes. The caucasian man was now wearing the colourful costume and the drum. When he saw Youssef, he smiled and waved his hand, making the bells from the hem ring. Then he turned around and left, whistling an air that sounded strangely like the music of the Game. Youssef was about to run after him when a hand grasped his shirt.

                “Please! Tell me at least that THE BLOG is up and running!” said an angry voice.

                in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6453

                Each group of people sharing the jeeps spent some time cleaning the jeeps from the sand, outside and inside. While cleaning the hood, Youssef noted that the storm had cleaned the eagles droppings. Soon, the young intern told them, avoiding their eyes, that the boss needed her to plan the shooting with the Lama. She said Kyle would take her place.

                “Phew, the yak I shared the yurt with yesterday smelled better,” he said to the guys when he arrived.

                Soon enough, Miss Tartiflate was going from jeep to jeep, her fiery hair half tied in a bun on top of her head, hurrying people to move faster as they needed to catch the shaman before he got away again. She carried her orange backpack at all time, as if she feared someone would steal its content. Rumour had it that it was THE NOTEBOOK where she wrote the blog entries in advance.

                “No need to waste more time! We’ll have breakfast at the Oasis!” she shouted as she walked toward Youssef’s jeep. When she spotted him, she left her right index finger as if she just remembered something and turned the other way.

                “Dunno what you did to her, but it seems Miss Yeti is avoiding you,” said Kyle with a wry smile.

                Youssef grunted. Yeti was the nickname given to Miss Tartiflate by one of her former lover during a trip to Himalaya. First an affectionate nickname based on her first name, Henrietty, it soon started to spread among the production team when the love affair turned sour. It sticked and became widespread in the milieu. Everybody knew, but nobody ever dared say it to her face.

                Youssef knew it wouldn’t last. He had heard that there was wifi at the oasis. He took a snack in his own backpack to quiet his stomach.

                It took them two hours to arrive as sand dunes had moved on the trail during the storm. Kyle had talked most of the time, boring them to death with detailed accounts of his life back in Boston. He didn’t seem to notice that nobody cared about his love rejection stories or his tips to talk to women.

                They parked outside the oasis among buses and vans. Kyle was following Youssef everywhere as if they were friends. Despite his unending flow of words, the guy managed to be funny.

                Miss Tartiflate seemed unusually nervous, pulling on a strand of her orange hair and pushing back her glasses up her nose every two minutes. She was bossing everyone around to take the cameras and the lighting gear to the market where the shaman was apparently performing a rain dance. She didn’t want to miss it. When everybody was ready, she came right to Youssef. When she pushed back her glasses on her nose, he noticed her fingers were the colour of her hair. Her mouth was twitching nervously. She told him to find the wifi and restore THE BLOG or he could find another job.

                “Phew! said Kyle. I don’t want to be near you when that happens.” He waved and left and joined the rest of the team.

                Youssef smiled, happy to be alone at last, he took his backpack containing his laptop and his phone and followed everyone to the market in the luscious oasis.

                At the center, near the lake, a crowd of tourists was gathered around a man wearing a colorful attire. Half his teeth and one eye were missing. The one that was left rolled furiously in his socket at the sound of a drum. He danced and jumped around like a monkey, and each of his movements were punctuated by the bells attached to the hem of his costume.

                Youssef was glad he was not part of the shooting team, they looked miserable as they assembled the gears under a deluge of orders. As he walked toward the market, the scents of spicy food made his stomach growled. The vendors were looking at the crowd and exchanging comments and laughs. They were certainly waiting for the performance to end and the tourists to flood the place in search of trinkets and spices. Youssef spotted a food stall tucked away on the edge. It seemed too shabby to interest anyone, which was perfect for him.

                The taciturn vendor, who looked caucasian, wore a yellow jacket and a bonnet oddly reminiscent of a llama’s scalp and ears. The dish he was preparing made Youssef drool.

                “What’s that?” he asked.

                “This is Lorgh Drülp, said the vendor. Ancient recipe from the silk road. Very rare. Very tasty.”

                He smiled when Youssef ordered a full plate with a side of tsampa. He told him to sit and wait on a stool beside an old and wobbly table.

                in reply to: Prompts of Madjourneys #6452

                  Youssef’s entry quirk is being grumpy when he’s hungry.

                  Quirk accepted.

                  Initial setting: You find yourself in a bustling marketplace, surrounded by vendors selling all sorts of exotic foods and spices. Your stomach growls loudly, reminding you of your quirk.

                  Possible direction to investigate: As you explore the marketplace, you notice a small stall tucked away in the corner. The aroma wafting from the stall is tantalizing, and your stomach growls even louder. As you approach, you see a grumpy-looking vendor behind the counter. He doesn’t seem to be in the mood for customers.

                  Possible character to engage: The grumpy vendor.

                  Objective: To find a way to appease the grumpy vendor and secure a satisfying meal to satisfy your hunger.

                  Additional FFI clue: As you make your way to the Flying Fish Inn, you notice a sign advertising a special meal made with locally caught fish. Could this be the key to satisfying your hunger and appeasing the grumpy vendor? Remember to bring proof of your successful quest to the FFI.

                  Snoot’s clue: 🧔🌮🔍🔑🏞️

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