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March 24, 2023 at 10:09 pm in reply to: The Chronicles of the Flying Fish Inn #7218
There’s nothing quite like the morning of the cart race, watching for the dust anouncing the arrival of another van or cart full of people on a partying mission, there’s something in the air, well dust mainly after awhile. Yes I know there’s a lot to do with all the extra people but Finley can manage and nobody will expect much from overworked staff anywhere today anyway. I just love catching the first sight of a decorated cart and people in costumes, you have no idea how monotonous the attire around here is. People of all ages, too, that’s what I love about it. Some people been coming for as long as anyone can remember, they came back when it started again, and some of them never took their masks off, nobody ever saw them without masks and you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be here later, they always turn up. You won’t catch them with their mask off though. Always see some new ones. Every year new ones turn up, and then we never see them again, like pop ins they are. Some of them stick in your mind, oddly enough. There’s one in particular I’m always keeping an eye out for, got a cart all decked out like a pirate galleon, and barrels of rum instead of lager. Maybe I’ll get lucky this year and get a ride in the pirate galleon, you never know. Anything can happen in a dust storm after a lager and cart race.March 24, 2023 at 11:57 am in reply to: The Precious Life and Rambles of Liz Tattler #7217TracyParticipant
“Well now, Godfrey,” said Liz, who was trying to get up to speed with the latest developments her editor had been pondering in his journal, “And who might this potential new husband be? It’s a wonder you didn’t have me dressed in a pink satin nightgown with ostrich feather mules. Let me guess!” she added with a flash of inspiration. “Will it involve a thread jump?” Liz winked conspiratorialy at Roberto and then frowned. “You look fed up darling, why don’t you take the day off? Forget the gardening, the bees will thank you for it. Be a dear and go and wake Finnley up, heaven only knows why she sleeps all day and stays up all night.”March 24, 2023 at 10:05 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #7215
Zara the game character was standing in the entrance hallway in the old wooden inn. There was nobody around except for her three friends, and the light inside was strangely dim and an eerie orange glow was coming from the windows. She and the others wandered around opening doors and looking in rooms in the deserted building. There were a dozen or so bedrooms along both sides of a corridor, and a kitchen, dining room and lounge room leading off the entrance hall. Zara looked up the wide staircase, but as a cellar entrance was unlikely to be upstairs, she didn’t go up. The inn was surrounded by a wrap around verandah; perhaps the cellar entrance was outside underneath it. Zara checked for a personal clue:
“Amidst the foliage and bark, A feather and a beak in the dark.”
Foliage and bark suggested that the entrance was indeed outside, given the absence of houseplants inside. She stepped out the door and down the steps, walking around the perimeter of the raised vernadah, looking for a hatch or anything to suggest a way under the building. Before she had completed the circuit she noticed an outbuilding at the back underneath a eucalyptus tree and made her way over to it. She pushed the door open and peered into the dim interior. A single unmade bed, some jeans and t shirts thrown over the back of a chair, a couple of pairs of mens shoes….Zara was just about to retreat and close the door behind her when she noticed the little wooden desk in the corner with an untidy pile of papers and notebooks on it.
Wait though, Zara reminded herself, This is supposed to be a group quest. I better call the others over here.
Nevertheless, she went over to the desk to look first. There was an old fashioned feather quill and an ink pot on the desk, and a gold pocket watch and chain. Or was it a compass? Strangely, it seemed like neither, but what was it then? Zara picked one of the notebooks up but it was too dark inside the hut to read.March 24, 2023 at 7:49 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #7214
“Bossy, isn’t she?” muttered Yasmin, not quite out of earshot of Finly. “I haven’t even had a shower yet,” she added, picking up her phone and sandals.
Yasmin, Youssef and Zara left the maid to her cleaning and walked down towards Xaviers room. “I’d go and get coffee from the kitchen, but…” Youssef said, turning pleading eyes towards Zara, “Idle might be in there.”
Smiling, Zara told him not to risk it, she would go.
“Come in,” Xavier called when Yasmin knocked on the door. “God, what a dream,” he said when they piled in to his room. “It was awful. I was dreaming that Idle was threading an enormous long needle with baler twine saying she was going to sew us all together in a tailored story cut in a cloth of continuity.” He rubbed his eyes and then shook his head, trying to erase the image in his mind. “What are you two up so early for?”
“Zara’s gone to get the coffee,” Youssef told him, likewise trying to shake off the image of Idle that Xavier had conjured up. “We’re going to have a couple of hours on the game before the cart race ~ or the dust storm, whichever happens first I guess. There are some wierd looking vans and campers and oddballs milling around outside already.”
Zara pushed the door open with her shoulder, four mugs in her hands. “You should see the wierdos outside, going to be a great photo opportunity out there later.”
“Come on then,” said Xavier, “The game will get that awful dream out of my head. Let’s go!”
“You’re supposed to be the leader, you start the game,” Yasmin said to Zara. Zara rolled her eyes good naturedly and opened the game. “Let’s ask for some clues first then. I still don’t know why I’m the so called leader when you,” she looked pointedly as Xavier and Youssef, “Know much more about games than I do. Ok here goes:”
“The riddle “In the quietest place, the loudest secrets are kept” is a clue to help the group find the first missing page of the book “The Lost Pages of Creativity,” which is an integral part of the group quest. The riddle suggests that the missing page is hidden in a quiet place where secrets are kept, meaning that it’s likely to be somewhere in the hidden library underground the Flying Fish Inn where the group is currently situated.”
“Is there a cellar here do you think?” Zara mused. “Imagine finding a real underground library!” The idea of a grand all encompassing library had first been suggested to Zara many years ago in a series of old books by a channeler, and many a time she had imagined visiting it. The idea of leaving paper records and books for future generations had always appealed to her. She often thought of the old sepia portrait photographs of her ancestors, still intact after a hundred years ~ and yet her own photos taken ten years ago had been lost in a computer hard drive incident. What would the current generation leave for future anthropologists? Piles of plastic unreadable gadgets, she suspected.
“Youssef can ask Idle later,” Xavier said with a cheeky grin. “Maybe she’ll take him down there.” Youssef snorted, and Yasmin said “Hey! Don’t you start snorting too! Right then, Zara, so we find the cellar in the game then and go down and find the library? Then what?”
“The phrase “quietest place” can refer to a secluded spot or a place with minimal noise, which could be a hint at a specific location within the library. The phrase “loudest secrets” implies that there is something important to be discovered, but it’s hidden in plain sight.”
Hidden in plain sight reminded Yasmin of the parcel under her mattress, but she thrust it from her mind and focused on the game. She made up her mind to discuss it with everyone later, including the whacky suppositions that Zara had come up with. They couldn’t possibly confront Idle with it, they had absolutely no proof. I mean, you can’t go round saying to people, hey, that’s your abandoned child over there maybe. But they could include Xavier and Youssef in the mystery.
“The riddle is relevant to the game of quirks because it challenges the group to think creatively and work together to solve the puzzle. This requires them to communicate effectively and use their problem-solving skills to interpret the clues and find the missing page. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate their individual strengths and also learn from each other in the process.”
“Work together, communicate effectively” Yasmin repeated, as if to underline her resolution to discuss the parcel and Sister Finli a.k.a. Liana with the boys and Zara later. “A problem shared is a problem hopelessly convoluted, probably.”
The others looked up and said “What?” in unison, and Yasmin snorted nervously and said “Never mind, tell you later.”March 19, 2023 at 5:49 pm in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #7173
The morning of the lager and cart race dawned bright and clear. The camping ground was full to overflowing with tents and camper vans, with several parked up outside the Flying Fish Inn. Zara overheard Finly complaining to Mater about all the extra work with all and sundry traipsing in and out using the toilets, and Bert muttering about where was all the extra water supposed to come from and what if the well ran dry, and was it all really worth it, and Zara saw him scowl when Idle told him to lighten up and enjoy it. “Hah! Enjoy it? Nothing good ever happens when a dust storm comes for the cart race,” he said pointedly to Idle, ” And damn near everyone asking about the old mines, I tell you, nothing good’s gonna come from a cart race in a dust storm, the mayor shoulda cancelled it.” Bert slammed the porch door as he stomped off outside, scowling at Zara on the way past.
Zara watched him go with a quizzical expression. What was going on here? Idle had told her about her affair with Howard some forty years ago, and how she’d had to disappear as soon as it became obvious that she was pregnant. Zara had sympathized and said what an ordeal it must have been, but Idle had laughed and said no not really, she’d had a lovely time in Fiji and had found a nice place to leave the baby. Then Howard had disappeared down the mines, and what was the story about Idle’s brother leaving mysteriously? Idle had been vague about that part, preferring to change the topic to Youssef. Was the Howard story why Bert was so reluctant for anyone to go down the mines? What on earth was going on?
And how had Yasmin’s parcel ended up in Xavier’s room? Xavi had soon noticed that he’d picked it up by mistake and returned it to Yasmin, but how had it ended up on the table on the verandah? It was perplexing, and made Yasmin disinclined to deliver it to Mater until she could fathom what had happened. She had tucked in under her mattress until she was sure what to do.
But that wasn’t the only thing that had piqued Zara’s curiosity. When Idle had said she’d had the baby in Fiji, and found a nice place to leave it, Zara couldn’t help but think of the orphanage where Yasmin was working. But no, surely that would be too much of a coincidence, and anyway, a 40 year old orphan wouldn’t still be there. But what about that woman in the BMW that Yasmin felt sure she recognized? No, surely it was all too pat. But then, what was that woman in the dark glasses doing in Betsy’s shop? Betsy was Howards wife. Idle had mentioned her when she told her story over the second bottle of wine.
Should she divulge Idle’s secrets to Yasmin and quiz her on the woman in dark glasses? Zara decided there would be no harm in it, after all, they would be leaving soon after the cart race, and what would it matter. She fetched two cups of coffee from the kitchen and took them to Yasmin’s room and knocked gently on the door.
“Are you awake?” she called softly.
“Yeah, come in Zara, I’ve been awake for ages,” Yasmin replied.
Zara put the coffee cups on the bedside table and sat on the side of Yasmins bed. “There’s something going on here, I have to tell you something. But first, have you worked out who that woman in the BMW is?”
Yasmin looked startled and said “How did you know? Yes I have. It’s Sister Finli from the orphanage, I’m sure of it. But why has she followed me here? And in disguise! It’s just creepy!”
“Aha!” Zara couldn’t suppress a rather triumphant smile. “I thought it was just a wacky idea, but listen to this, Idle told me something the other night when we sat up drinking wine.” As she told Idle’s story, Yasmin’s eyes widened and she put a hand over her open mouth.
“Could it be…?”
“Yes but why in disguise? What is she up to? What should we do, should we warn Idle?” Zara had warmed to Idle, and if there were any sides to be taken in the matter, she felt more for Idle than that unpleasant woman from the orphanage who was so disturbing to Yasmin.
“Oh I don’t know, maybe we should keep out of it!” Yasmin said. “That parcel though! What am I going to do about that parcel!”
Zara frowned. “Well, you have three options, Yas. Open it and read it… don’t look so horrified! Or deliver it as promised..”
“We’ll never know what it said though if we do that,” Yasmin was looking more relaxed now.
“Exactly, and I’m just too curious now.”
“And the third option?”
Ignoring the question, Zara asked where the parcel was. Yasmin grinned wickedly but a knock at the door interrupted her intention to retrieve the parcel from under the mattress. It was Youssef, who asked if he could come in.
“Shall we tell him?” Zara whispered, as Yasmin called out “Of course! Is Idle after you again? Quick, you can hide under my bed!”
“Not yet” Yasmin whispered back. “I need to think.”March 12, 2023 at 10:19 pm in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #7164
Perhaps it was the approaching storm that was the cause of the annoying inability to fall asleep, and when Zara had had enough of the bizarre juxtapositions of the hypnagogic images flashing before her closed eyelids, she gave up trying and switched the bedside light on. Often she felt restless before a storm, not really a fear of danger but an alertness to the power and the agitation of it. A bit like having one strong coffee too many and wishing you hadn’t.
Zara padded over to the door barefoot, and opened it a crack. Silence, and dark but for a night light in the hall and a distant light on the porch. Quietly Zara made her way to the verandah. The night air washed over her face and made her smile and breathe deeply. She felt her self relaxing, and reminded herself that she was supposed to be relaxing, it was a holiday after all. There was something in the air though, something she couldn’t nail down. A restlessness in the air. It was as if something wanted to come to light, come out in the open, and yet an approaching dust storm threatened to obscure even the most obvious of things.
“May as well sit up and have a glass of wine when it’s like this,” Aunt Idle said when Zara had finished her deep breathing relaxing mental turmoil exercises and had eventually turned to sit down at one of the tables. “Fetch a glass over there and come and join me. Ever been in a dust storm in a lager and cart race?”
Zara welcomed the distraction and smiled encouragingly and said that she had not.
“Oh, I could tell you a tale or two about dust storms and cart races,” Aunt Idle said, and then drifted off into silent reverie. Zara refilled their glasses with wine. “Do tell,” she said, “Tell me a tale about dust storms and cart races.”March 12, 2023 at 6:53 pm in reply to: The Chronicles of the Flying Fish Inn #7163
Endless legal squabbling,
Eventually it comes to blows.
Zhang Ji has a speech defect,
Hair loose, turning northward.
I don’t know what the dickens that I Ching is supposed to mean, I was hoping it would give me a clue about that new guest. There’s something about her but I can’t put my finger on it. I must remember to ask Bert about her, see if he’s noticed anything funny. Not that she’s acting funny, not unusual for a guest who’s travelled far to get here ~ and anyone getting here has travelled, let’s face it ~ to stay in their room catching up on sleep, but I don’t know, there is something niggling me about her. I barely caught a glimpse of her but she seemed familiar somehow. I’ll ask Bert, but we’re all so busy now what with the lager and cart race coming up, and those four friends staying, and god only knows when that dust storm comes what we’re supposed to do to entertain them all when they can’t go outside, and they’ll be expecting poor old Finly to keep the place dusted and the windows cleaned. I sometimes think I prefered it here when nobody hardly came.
Hardly got a moment to myself and our Prune is up to something but god knows I don’t have time to follow her around, and there’s no weaseling anything out of her when she’s got one of her secret missions going on. Mater’s pulled her finger out, it has to be said, she’s been as good as gold with the guests, she can turn the old dear charm on when she wants to, and she’s pulled out all the stops playing the gracious hostess, and I can’t say a word against good old Finly. She’s a cheeky minx when we’re not busy but she’s been a real trooper. I think I’ll speak to Mater about a little bonus for her. Yes, I think that might sweeten her up for when I ask her to do my roots tomorrow which reminds me to put pink dye on Berts list for when he goes to Alice in the morning.
Honestly there’s too much to think about, I haven’t had a minute to get a costume ready for the cart race, maybe I’ll ask the twins. Gotta say it, they’ve been brilliant organizing the cart decorating with the four friends. They’re a lovely group, I just wish I had more time to hang out with them, especially the big guy, oh my. Maybe after the cart race, anything can happen after a cart race, lord knows ~ it was after a cart race in a dust storm that Howard and I had a fling and thank god Betsy never found out, she’s have had my guts for garters and nobody would have blamed her. I still wonder what happened to Howard. We always had a soft spot for each other, but he felt so guilty he never strayed from Betsy again. I’d have been game, I’ll be honest, but I didn’t push it. Betsy was a big girl back in those days, but nowhere near as big as she is now. Must be hard for her wondering what happened to her husband all these years, no wonder she got sucked into all that mumbo jumbo and stuffing her chops all day long.
And not being able to claim the inheritance that would have been Howards, that must have been hard. They could have lived in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives when Howard’s father died, and he hasn’t died yet, must be pushing 90 by now. I know she’s hoping Howard didn’t die in the mines ~ obviously ~ and that he’ll come back one day somehow, and you can bet your bottom dollar she’s hoping he comes back before the old man dies and it all gets left to someone else.
That new guest went in Betsy’s before she even checked in here, Corrie saw her, I guess she’s into mumbo jumbo in a big way if she had to get supplies of crystals or amulets or whatever they sell in there, before checking in to the hotel.March 10, 2023 at 7:13 am in reply to: The Precious Life and Rambles of Liz Tattler #6798TracyParticipant
“Think, Finnley, think,” Liz grabbed her arm as the bad tempered cleaning lady tried to make her escape.
“Ouch! You’ll pull my arm off, then who will clean the windows? And anyway you said I didn’t have time to think”, Finnley retorted.
“You don’t have time to waste on your own thoughts, frittering them away on stuff and nonsense. I need you to think about the new story characters. If we don’t get a move on they’ll get disgruntled and start turning up on other stories, and it’s bad enough as it is.”
“Not my problem,” Finnley muttered, trying in vain to twist her arm out of Liz’s vicelike grip.
“It’ll be your problem if I write lots of big new windows into the bedrooms and you have to clean them all,” Liz snapped. “I’ve half a mind to write a dust storm into the story.”
“Half witted mind more like,” Finnley snorted rudely. “Why, so you can hide all the loose ends in dust?”
“So Finly can find out all the secrets when she dusts. I can picture it now: All was eventually revealed about the secrets of the mines, when Finly had a jolly good spring clean after the sand storm. And then you’ll have to think of something.”February 24, 2023 at 8:31 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6661
The black BMW pulled up outside the Flying Fish Inn. Sister Finli pulled a baseball cap low over her big sunglasses before she got out of the car. Yasmin was still in the bar with her friends and Finli hoped to check in and retreat to her room before they got back to the inn.
She rang the bell on the reception desk several times before an elderly lady in a red cardigan appeared.
“Ah yes, Liana Parker,” Mater said, checking the register. Liana managed to get a look at the register and noted that Yasmin was in room 2. “Room 4. Did you have a good trip down? Smart car you’ve got there,” Mater glanced over Liana’s shoulder, “Don’t see many like that in these parts.”
“Yes, yes,” Finli snapped impatiently (henceforth referred to to as Liana). She didn’t have time for small talk. The others might arrive back at any time. As long as she kept out of Yasmin’s way, she knew nobody would recognize her ~ after all she had been abandoned at birth. Even if Yasmin did find her out, she only knew her as a nun at the orphanage and Liana would just have to make up some excuse about why a nun was on holiday in the outback in a BMW. She’d cross that bridge when she came to it.
Mater looked over her glasses at the new guest. “I’ll show you to your room.” Either she was rude or tired, but Mater gave her the benefit of the doubt. “I expect you’re tired.”
Liana softened and smiled at the old lady, remembering that she’d have to speak to everyone in due course in order to find anything out, and it wouldn’t do to start off on the wrong foot.
“I’m writing a book,” Liana explained as she followed Mater down the hall. “Hoping a bit of peace and quiet here will help, and my book is set in the outback in a place a bit like this.”
“How lovely dear, well if there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask. Old Bert’s a mine of information,” Mater suppressed a chuckle, “Well as long as you don’t mention mines. Here we are,” Mater opened the door to room 4 and handed the key to Liana. “Just ask if there’s anything you need.”
Liana put her bags down and then listened at the door to Mater’s retreating steps. Inching the door open, she looked up and down the hallway, but there was nobody about. Quickly she went to room 2 and tried the door, hoping it was open and she didn’t have to resort to other means. It was open. What a stroke of luck! Liana was encouraged. Within moments Liana found the parcel, unopened. Carefully opening the door, she looked around to make sure nobody was around, leaving the room with the parcel under her arm and closing the door quietly, she hastened back to room 4. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a voice piped up behind her.
“What’s that parcel and where are you going with it?” Prune asked.
“None of your business you….” Liana was just about to say nosy brat, and then remebered that she would catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It was going to be hard for her to remember that, but she must try! She smiled at the teenager and said, “A dreamtime gift for my gran, got it in Alice. Is there a post office in town?”
Prune narrowed her eyes. There was something fishy about this and it didn’t take her more than a second to reach the conclusion that she wanted to see what was in the parcel. But how?
“Yes,” she replied, quick as a flash grabbing the parcel from Liana. “I’ll post it for you!” she called over her shoulder as she raced off down the hall and disappeared.
“FUCK!” Liana muttered under her breath, running after her, but she was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully nobody else was about in the reception area to question why she was running around like a madwoman. Fuck! she muttered again, going back to her room and closing the door. Now what? What a disaster after such an encouraging start!
Prune collided with Idle on the steps of the verandah, nearly knocking her off her feet. Idle grabbed Prune to steady herself. Her grip on the girls arm tightened when she saw the suspicious look on face. Always up to no good, that one. “What have you got there? Where did you get that? Give me that parcel!”
Idle grabbed the parcel and Prune fled. Idle, holding onto the verandah railing, watched Prune running off between the eucalyptus trees. She’s always trying to make a drama out of everything, Idle thought with a sigh. Hardly any wonder I suppose, it must be boring here for a teenager with nothing much going on.
She heard a loud snorting laugh, and turned to see the four guests returning from the bar in town, laughing and joking. She put the parcel down on the hall table and waved hello, asking if they’d had a good time. “I bet you’re ready for a bite to eat, I’ll go and see what Mater’s got on the menu.” and off she went to the kitchen, leaving the parcel on the table.
The four friends agreed to meet back on the verandah for drinks before dinner after freshening up. Yasmin kept glancing back at the BMW. “That woman must be staying here!” she snorted. Zara grabbed her elbow and pulled her along. “Then we’ll find out who she is later, come on.”
Youssef followed Idle into the kitchen to ask for some snacks before dinner (much to Idle’s delight), leaving Xavier on the verandah. He looked as if he was admiring the view, such as it was, but he was preoccupied thinking about work again. Enough! he reminded himself to relax and enjoy the holiday. He saw the parcel on the table and picked it up, absentmindedly thinking the black notebook he ordered had arrived in the post, and took it back to his room. He tossed it on the bed and went to freshen up for dinner.February 22, 2023 at 8:47 pm in reply to: The Chronicles of the Flying Fish Inn #6625
I had an idea to take them breakfast in bed but I overslept. Especially the big muscley one with the dark glowering looks, I tell you, ooof! Haven’t seen men like that around here in I don’t know how long. The cheeky looking blond one looked a bit of alright too. Bit too young for me though. Well, no, not too young for me at all, just that I reckon I look way too old for them. Nice to see some new faces about the place. Nice gals, too. Seems to be a bit of life coming back to the old place, and there’ll be a bunch of people coming in for the cart and lager race. I think I might dye my roots, get rid of the grey. Hot pink maybe, do a few dreads to match, brighten myself up.February 22, 2023 at 8:54 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6621
As the four of them walked into the tavern, having walked the mile or so from the Flying Fish Inn to the main street of the tiny town, Zara noticed the black BMW that she and Yasmin had seen parked outside the Piggly supermarket on the way back from the airport in Alice. She elbowed Yasmin in the ribs to point it out, but there was no need as Yasmin was already snorting nervously at the sight of it.
Sister Finli caught sight of them as she was just about to leave Betsy’s gem shop and paused until they’d disappeared into the bar before leaving the shop. It was the first time that Finli had seen Betsy in the flesh, and what a lot of flesh there was to see. Finli was horrifed, comparing her own elegant thin fingers with the fat sausage like digits of Betsy. She would never have expected Betsy to look this way. Still, it had thrown her, and she lost her usual efficient composure and quickly purchased a pink speckled gummy bear necklace. Annoyingly, this transaction reminded her that she seemed to have lost her crucifix.
Finli was an orphan. The nuns had named her Finean Lisa. Finean meant beautiful daughter, and Lisa meant devoted to god. Later they shortened it to Finli. She’d spent all her life at the orphanage in Suva, having been deposited there at birth, and although she had no particular calling to be a nun, she had not known what else to do with her life. It was the only family she’d ever known, and so she stayed on. It was only in the past year or two that she’d had any curiosity about who her real parents were, when she read about DNA tests and ancestry research. She’d been told in the past that no records existed as she had been found on the doorstep of the orphanage one morning 43 years ago. The knowledge had filled her with comtempt for her parents, whoever they were, and for the most part she pushed them from her mind, not caring to know. But when she read about all the successes of adopted people finding their real parents, she was consumed with curiosity. At first she just wanted to know who they were. But once she had found their names, she wanted to know more. She wanted to know why. One thing led to another.
Her real father had disappeared, lost down some mines although the story there was far from clear. Indeed, that particular story was a darn sight more than unclear, it was downright fishy. Her real mother was was alive and kicking, and living near to the mines where Howard had disappeared. Finli deduced that she must have been born, or at least conceived, in this godforsaken place in the outback. What an ignominous start to her uneventful life.
She knew that Fred was her uncle, but she had not told him she knew that. Did Fred know who she was? He’d always been kind to her, but then, he was affable to everyone. When it came to her knowledge that Fred had given that tiresome snorting volunteer girl a parcel to take with her, to, of all places! that very town in the outback, Finli simply had to know what was in it. But she didn’t want to spill the beans too soon, in case it hindered her attempts to find the truth about Howard, her father. She decided to travel to the town incognito. But how was she going to find the money for it? Well, she knew she was burning her bridges, but she had to do it. She stole the golden chalice from the church and sold it on Ubay. She was suprised at how much money it fetched. Not only could she afford the trip, she could do it in style.
It was an exciting adventure, but Finli was not accustomed to travel and adventure. In fact, she was dreading meeting her mother. At times she wished she’d just stayed at the orphanage. But it was too late now. She was here.February 21, 2023 at 9:10 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6615
Like ships in the night, Zara and Yasmin still hadn’t met up with Xavier and Youssef at the inn. Yasmin was tired from traveling and retired to her room to catch up on some sleep, despite Zara’s hopes that they’d have a glass of wine or two and discuss whatever it was that was on Yasmins mind. Zara decided to catch up on her game.
The next quirk was “unleash your hidden rudeness” which gave Zara pause to consider how hidden her rudeness actually was. But wait, it was the avatar Zara, not herself. Or was it? Zara rearranged the pillows and settled herself on the bed.
Zara found her game self in the bustling streets of a medieval market town, visually an improvement on the previous game level of the mines, which pleased her, with many colourful characters and intriguing alleyways and street market vendors.
She quickly forgot what her quest was and set off wandering around the scene. Each alley led to a little square and each square had gaily coloured carts of wares for sale, and an abundance of grinning jesters and jugglers. Although tempted to linger and join the onlookers jeering and goading the jugglers and artistes that she encountered, Zara continued her ramble around the scene.
She came to a gathering outside an old market hall, where two particularly raucous jesters were trying to tempt the onlookers into partaking of what appeared to be cups of tea. Zara wondered what the joke was and why nobody in the crowd was willing to try. She inched closer, attracting the attention of the odd grinning fellow in the orange head piece.
“Come hither, ye fine wench in thy uncomely scant garments, I know what thou seekest! Pray, sit thee down beside me and partake of my remedy.”
“Who, me?” asked Zara, looking behind her to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else.
“Thoust in dire need of my elixir, come ye hither!”
Somewhat reluctantly Zara stepped towards the odd figure who was offering to hand her a cup. She considered the inadvisability of drinking something that everyone else was refusing, but what the hell, she took the cup and saucer off him and took a hesitant sip.
The crowd roared with laughter and there was much mirthful thigh slapping when Zara spit the foul tasting concoction all over the jesters shoes.
“Believe me dame,” quoth the Jester, “I perceive proffered ware is worse by ten in the hundred than that which is sought. But I pray ye, tell me thy quest.”
“My quest is none of your business, and your tea sucks, mister,” Zara replied. “But I like the cup.”
Pushing past the still laughing onlookers and clutching the cup, Zara spotted a tavern on the opposite side of the square and made her way towards it. A tankard of ale was what she needed to get rid of the foul taste lingering in her mouth.
The inside of the tavern was as much a madhouse as the streets outside it. What was everyone laughing at? Zara found a place to sit on a bench beside a long wooden table. She sat patiently waiting to be served, trying to eavesdrop to decipher the cause of such merriment, but the snatches of conversation made no sense to her. The jollity was contagious, and before long Zara was laughing along with the others. A strange child sat down on the opposite bench (she seemed familiar somehow) and Zara couldn’t help remarking, “You lot are as mad as a box of frogs, are you all on drugs or something?” which provoked further hoots of laughter, thigh slapping and table thumping.
“Ye be an ungodly rude maid, and ye’ll not get a tankard of ale while thoust leavest thy cup of elixir untasted yet,” the child said with a smirk.
“And you are an impertinent child,” Zara replied, considering the potential benefits of drinking the remainder of the concoction if it would hasten the arrival of the tankard of ale she was now craving. She gritted her teeth and picked up the cup.
But the design on the cup had changed, and now bore a strange resemblance to Xavier. Not only that, the cup was calling her name in Xavier’s voice, and the table thumping got louder.
“Zara!” Xavier was knocking on her bedroom door. “Zara! We’re going for a beer in the local tavern, are you coming?”
“Xavi!” Zara snapped back to reality, “Yes! I’m bloody parched.”February 19, 2023 at 8:12 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6559
Why do I always pick the cart with the wonky wheel, Zara thought, but she wasn’t going to go back and get another one and keep Sergio and Yasmin waiting outside. She zigzagged up and down the aisles until she came to the wine. What was it the old dear back at the Inn was saying about the alcohol laws in Alice? Well, surely that didn’t apply to tourists. There were two men chatting in the middle of the aisle and Zara deftly skirted around them without the unpredictable cart crashing. While she was perusing the wines hoping to find a nice Rioja, she couldn’t help but overhear the clear ringing tones of one of the men saying “True love never dies!” and a few other things which she later forgot, which she thought was quite an odd topic for two men to be discussing in the Piggly supermarket in the outback of all places. The man with the poetic voice went on his way, leaving the other man with the little girl in the child seat of the cart ready to move on, but Zara’s cart was straddled across the aisle so she quickly moved it out of the way and continued scanning the wine selection. A clear sweet voice rang out behind her. “Thank you.” She turned, and her eyes met those of the girl (afterwards Zara could have sworn the child was 10 or 11, and surely too big to be sitting in the baby seat, but yet felt sure the child had indeed been sitting in the cart). They exchanged a deep meaningful smile of magical proportions that defied explaining in mere words. Later when Zara told Yasmin about it, she said it was “one of those moments, you know?” and Yasmin understood what she meant. The child seemed somehow familiar, and there was that shimmery timeless oddness to the encounter which made Zara feel a bemused lightness.
Zara was still gazing at the rows of wine bottles when Yasmin caught up with her. “What’s taking you so long, you haven’t even got anything in your cart yet!”
Snapping her attention back, Zara asked Yasmin to help her choose the wine, asking her, “Do you ever feel like you can’t tell the difference between the game and real life? Like sometimes a scene in real life isn’t quite real?”
“I dunno about the game but real life seems strange enough. That woman outside with the BMW hire car that was in the loo before me, there was something familiar about her, something creepy. And look what I found in the cubicle,” Yasmin looked around quickly to make sure they were alone and pulled something out of her pocket.
“Looks like the chain broke, is it gold? Might be worth something,” Zara was missing the point.
“It’s a crucifix.”
“If it’s gold it can be melted down and made into something else,” said Zara missing the point again.
“It’s the same as the ones the nuns at the orphanage wear,” Yasmins whisper turned into a nervous snort.
“I wonder who dropped it and what they were doing here. That tart in the BMW didn’t look like a nun to me.” Zara almost snorted too (was it contagious?) and then wondered why tart and nun sounded vaguely familiar and why yellow cabs had popped into her mind. “Come on, we’ve kept Sergio waiting long enough already.”
After all the deliberation over which wine to choose, they grabbed a half dozen bottles each without further ado and went to the checkout.February 16, 2023 at 8:18 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6550
“I’ve got something to tell you, too. Come on, you can meet him. He’s waiting in the car,” Zara told Yasmin as they made their way out of the arrivals hall at Alice Springs airport.
“Who the dickens is Sergio?” Yasmin replied, and then added, “You tart!” when Zara explained.
“That’s rich, coming from you, you old slapper,” Zara laughed, giving Yasmin an affectionate elbow poke. “He’s leaving tomorrow, so when he phoned this morning inviting me out sightseeing, I couldn’t refuse. Xavier and Youssef weren’t up yet when I left, lazy buggers. They’re an odd family at the Inn, and it’s a funny old place. Some strange undercurrents though, I can’t put my finger on it. Secrets, you know? Why, what’s up?” Yasmin had given her a funny look, but as they had just reached the hire car, Yasmin whispered “Tell you later!”February 15, 2023 at 7:59 pm in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6548
Made it through customs with the parcel. Should be at the hotel early this evening.
Finally a message from Yasmin. Zara replied: Finally, a message, wondered where you’d got to!
With an affectionate smile Yasmin pretended to roll her eyes.
I’ve got something very odd to tell you when I see you. Gotta go, talk later
Bloody typical! Zara thought, rolling her eyes.February 15, 2023 at 10:54 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6547
On her way back to her room Zara picked up a leaflet off the hall table about the upcoming lager and cart race. Before starting the game she had a look through it.
The leaflet also mentioned the competition held annually each January in Port Lincoln. The Tunarama Festival was a competition to determine just how far a person could chuck a frozen tuna. A full-fledged celebration was centered around the event, complete with a wide array of arts and cultural displays, other participation events, local market stalls, and some of the freshest seafood in the world.
There was unlikely to be any fresh seafood at the local lager and cart races, but judging from the photos of previous events, it looked colourful and well worth sticking around for, just for the photo opportunities.
Apparently the lager and cart races had started during the early days of the settler mining, and most of the carts used were relics from that era. Competitors dressed up in costumes and colourful wigs, many of which were found in the abandoned houses of the local area.
“The miners were a strange breed of men, but not all cut from the same cloth ~ they were daring outsiders, game for anything, adventurous rule breakers and outlaws with a penchant for extreme experience. Thus, outlandish and adventurous women ~ and men who were not interested in mining for gold in the usual sense ~ were magnetically drawn to the isolated outpost. After a long dark day of restriction and confinement in the mines, the evenings were a time of colour and wild abandon; bright, garish, bizarre Burlesque events were popular. Strange though it may seem, the town had one of the most extensive wig and corset emporiums in the country, although it was discretely tucked away in the barn behind a mundane haberdashery shop.”
The idea was to fill as many different receptacles with lager as possible, piling them onto the gaily decorated carts pulled by the costume clad participants. As the carts were raced along the track, onlookers ran alongside to catch any jars or bottles that fell off the carts before they hit the ground. Many crashed to the ground and were broken, but if anyone caught one, they were obliged to drink the contents there and then before running after the carts to catch another one.
Members of the public were encouraged to attend in fancy dress costumes and wigs. There were plenty of stationary food vendors carts at the lager and cart races as well, and stalls and tents set up to sell trinkets.February 14, 2023 at 12:23 pm in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6544
Despite the late night and the abundance of wine, Zara awoke just after 6am as the sun was rising. It was too early to get up, but she desperately wanted a coffee. There was no sign of room service being available so she made her way quietly to the kitchen, hoping that someone would be up.
The strange child called Prune was sitting at the kitchen table eating rice crispies.
“Your friends are here,” she said, “But they went to bed before you came back. Late, weren’t you? Bert was cussing about you, you know, not letting him know.”
“Oh, terribly sorry,” Zara thought the child a tad impertinent. And was it really Bert’s place to be cussing about her, she was a guest after all. “Any chance of a cup of coffee? I’ll make it myself if you tell me where the things are.”
“Aunt Idle wasn’t bothered though,” Prune said, wiping some milk that had dribbled down her chin with the back of her hand. “But Bert said he didn’t want you to find it.”
“Find what?” The parrot had said the same thing.
“OBVIOUSLY I can’t tell you, can I? It’s a secret,” and with that Prune scraped her chair back, leaving her breakfast things on the table, and sauntered out of the kitchen in what could only be described as a cocky manner. Zara found what she needed to make coffee and made two cups and took them both back to her room. She had a couple of hours to play the game before breakfast and the reunion with her friends.February 13, 2023 at 7:45 am in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6541
When Sergio dropped her back at the Flying Fish Inn it was later than Zara realized. The verandah and reception lights were on but everyone had gone to bed, everyone except Idle who was poring over a pile of old notebooks at a dining room table. “Good day out?” she looked up over the top of her reading glasses and smiled at Zara.
Zara returned the smile. “It was great, thanks! I’d love one”, she added when Idle asked her if she fancied a glass of wine.
“Grab a glass off the sideboard there and come and sit down,” Idle said. “Are you hungry or did you grab a bite in Alice?”
“Yeah, I did, thanks,” replied Zara, trying hard not to pull a face at the first sip of the Australian wine. “Nice label,” she said, “Yellow Trail. I should be used to seeing kangaroos on wine bottles by now” she laughed.
“A place called Monte’s Lounge,” she replied when Idle asked where she’d eaten, “A cabaret meets circus theme, not what I was expecting out here. I met a guy on the trail…”
“The plot thickens,” Idle grinned, “Comedy and romance.”
Zara laughed, warming to her genial host. Accepting a second glass of wine, she told Idle all about Sergio. He was a Spanish archaeologist who had come over to see his daughter in Townsville on the east coast, and had booked a few side trips to see some of the indigenous rock art. When Zara walked off the trail after she found the compass (and the damn parrot vanished, leaving her alone) she had found herself in a small clearing with high rocky sides. Sergio had his back to her and was photographing the rock wall.
“Well, long story short, we got on like a house on fire,” Idle smiled encouragingly as Zara continued. “It’s been absolutely ages you know, ever since I left Rupert, nobody’s really taken my fancy. Anyway he invited me for dinner and said he didn’t mind bringing me back here later in the hire car.”
Zara had another sip of wine, thinking about Rupert. What a prize twat he’d turned out to be. Still, the divorce settlement had been good. He’d seemed so adventurous and just the ticket at first, lots of holidays in unusual places. Bit of a Hooray Henry and a Champagne Charlie, but it had been fun at first. And a tad too much charlie, too. She had been blissfully unaware of politics and conspiracy theories at the time, but it wasn’t long before his views came between them and she could no longer stomach his idiotic and, to her mind, dangerously cretinous beliefs.
“My parents are both archaeologists,” Zara told Idle, “I learned a lot from them and always been interested in it, but didn’t fancy all the years of studying, and I really wanted to work with animals. There aren’t many good paying jobs working with animals though, not the kind of animals that need helping. Anyway, it worked out ok in the end, thanks to Rupert’s money.”
“You must have had a lot in common to talk about with Sergio, then, him being an archaeologist,” Idle remarked and Zara felt herself blush, much to her astonishment. She couldn’t recall blushing in years.
“Yes we did do some talking,” they both laughed and Zara said “I better get off to bed. Thanks for the wine.”
Zara had completely forgotten about her friends arriving, or the game she’d intended to play until they arrived. She collapsed on the bed without brushing her teeth and was asleep within minutes.February 8, 2023 at 11:18 pm in reply to: The Chronicles of the Flying Fish Inn #6516
Bert came barging in my room, and I’d only just sat down, telling me the guest still hadn’t phoned to be picked up from the trail. Bert, I said, she’ll be fine. She probably phoned a taxi and went to Alice for dinner or to meet her friends, she’s fine. But he kept going on about what if she wandered off the trail, and I said, Bert, if she wandered off the trail that doesn’t mean she’s in trouble, does it? Anyway, I said, the parrot said not to worry. Parrot? he said and his face was a picture. Parrot? The flaming parrot said not to worry? Not like old Bert to be as rude as he was then, I don’t know what had got into him.
He stomped off muttering and I caught a few words like sandwich short of a picnic, but I’m used to that now, they’re all rude about me. Well Bert not so much, which is why it took me by surprise, and the twins are alright. Mater though, don’t even get me started, nor Finly. Prune’s up to something, I don’t know what, and so is Devan. I can’t put my finger on it. And something’s rattled Berts cage.
She’s nice, the new guest, a bit younger than me but struth! looks about 20 years younger. Living out here hasn’t done me any favours.February 7, 2023 at 6:20 pm in reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys #6506
Bert dropped Zara off after breakfast at the start of the Yeperenye trail. He suggested that she phone him when she wanted him to pick her up, and asked if she was sure she had enough water and reminded her, not for the first time, not to wander off the trail. Of course not, she replied blithely, as if she’d never wandered off before.
“It’s a beautiful gorge, you’ll like it,” he called through the open window, “You’ll need the bug spray when you get to the water holes.” Zara smiled and waved as the car roared off in a cloud of dust.
On the short drive to the start of the trail, Bert had told her that the trail was named after the Yeperenye dreamtime, also known as ‘Caterpillar Dreaming’ and that it was a significant dreamtime story in Aboriginal mythology. Be sure to look at the aboriginal rock art, he’d said. He mentioned several varieties of birds but Zara quickly forgot the names of them.
It felt good to be outside, completely alone in the vast landscape with the bone warming sun. To her surprise, she hadn’t seen the parrot again after the encounter at the bedroom window, although she had heard a squalky laugh coming from a room upstairs as she passed the staircase on her way to the dining room.
But it was nice to be on her own. She walked slowly, appreciating the silence and the scenery. Acacia and eucalyptus trees were dotted about and long grasses whispered in the occasional gentle breezes. Birds twittered and screeched and she heard a few rustlings in the undergrowth from time to time as she strolled along.
After a while the rocky outcrops towered above her on each side of the path and the gorge narrowed, the trail winding through stands of trees and open grassland. Zara was glad of the shade as the sun rose higher.
The first water hole she came to took Zara by surprise. She expected it to be pretty and scenic, like the photos she’d seen, but the spectacular beauty of the setting and shimmering light somehow seemed timeless and otherwordly. It was a moment or two before she realized she wasn’t alone.
It was time to stop for a drink and the sandwich that one of the twins had made for her, and this was the perfect spot, but she wondered if the man would find it intrusive of her to plonk herself down and picnic at the same place as him. Had he come here for the solitude and would he resent her appearance?
It is a public trail, she reminded herself not to be silly, but still, she felt uneasy. The man hadn’t even glanced up as far as Zara could tell. Had he noticed her?
She found a smooth rock to sit on under a tree and unwrapped her lunch, glancing up from time to time ready to give a cheery wave and shout hi, if he looked up from what he was doing. But he didn’t look up, and what exactly was he doing? It was hard to say, he was pacing around on the opposite side of the pool, looking intently at the ground.
When Zara finished her drink, she went behind a bush for a pee, making sure she would not be seen if the man glanced up. When she emerged, the man was gone. Zara walked slowly around the water hole, taking photos, and keeping an eye out for the man, but he was nowhere to be seen. When she reached the place where he’d been pacing looking at the ground, she paused and retraced his steps. Something small and shiny glinted in the sun catching her eye. It was a compass, a gold compass, and quite an unusual one.
Zara didn’t know what to do, had the man been looking for it? Should she return it to him? But who was he and where did he go? She decided there was no point in leaving it here, so she put it in her pocket. Perhaps she could ask at the inn if there was a lost and found place or something.
Refreshed from the break, Zara continued her walk. She took the compass out and looked at it, wondering not for the first time how on earth anyone used one to find their way. She fiddled with it, and the needle kept pointing in the same direction. What good is it knowing which way north is, if you don’t know where you are anyway? she wondered.
With a squalk and a beating of wings, Pretty Girl appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. “It’s not that kind of compass. You’re supposed to follow the pointer.”
“Am I? But it’s pointing off the trail, and Bert said don’t go off the trail.”
“That’s because Bert doesn’t want you to find it,” replied the parrot.
Intrigued, Zara set off in the direction the compass was pointing towards.