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Old 02-11-2007, 11:16 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril The Return of the Entish Beings (RPG) - and perhaps also of a King...

Merisuwyniel awoke suddenly. The darkness of night surrounded her, yet she had the distinct impression of having been called. Instinctively she stretched out one arm, but there was nothing, and she remembered. The Bow that had been her companion for so many years was no longer.

Not only had he been restored to the wholeness and glory of his original Ent-ity, but he had chosen to stay in Valleyum instead of accompanying her back to Muddled-Mirth. She was happy for him, of course; after all, that had been her quest, and despite the difficulties she and her companions had faced (and sometimes despite her companions), she rejoiced in the triumph of her accomplishment. Yet she felt a pang of emptiness at times, and wished that they could still communicate as they had so often done.

Feeling the warmth next to her, she smiled. She was not alone; her beloved spouse lay beside her, and nothing could separate them now. The sound of not-so-distant snores reminded her that they were not here alone either. Their travelling companions shared their fate upon this journey. She shuddered slightly, recalling the fear that had come upon them when their frail vessel had suddenly lost its speed, then its height. The ocean below rushed at them so quickly that they had no time to do more than proffer a quick, fervent prayer to Tî-Kulmí Ulmo, the Lord of the Seas, that he would save them from a watery grave.

And lo! they had landed upon the sandy shore of an island, and though their vessel was sorely damaged they themselves had suffered no harm. They did not despair, for food and water were plentiful, yet they did wonder how they should now resume their journey to their homelands.

“Merisuwyniel!” A sharp voice interrupted her reverie. She looked in its direction, startled. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?”

“Mother!” she gasped. “But is it already...”

“No,” Vinaigrettiel sighed, “that’s what I’ve been explaining to you. I bring you a special message from your sponsors, Saladriel and Celery. This shipwreck was not an accident, but was ordained by the Powers That Be. There is a Purpose to all this. Hear the words which were given unto me:

Seek for the ship that was broken:
The ocean still it sails;
There on the isles you shall waken,
Sped by Manuël’s gales.
From each you will bring a token
Of virtue obtained in that land.
By Gormlessar’s heir unshaken,
Who as King at last shall stand.


“But what do they mean?” Merisu asked, bewildered.

“That is for you to find out,” her mother replied. “They concern the task that was assigned unto you by Yawanna. Now farewell, my daughter; unless Mantoes gives me some time off before then, I’ll see you when Dead Mothers’ Month comes around.”

Then the vision was gone, and Meri was left to ponder those words in her heart.
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Old 02-12-2007, 07:03 AM   #2
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
The young man stood on the threshold hesitantly, pausing to let his gaze wander around the crowded ballroom with a studied diffidence that masked his innate shyness. He noted the throng of pretty girls in gaily coloured dresses that surrounded one whose dark, wavy locks were visible above all others. His elder brother had obviously arrived before him. Though he was happy to see him, he could not help but wish that he too could share Halfullion’s popularity. But no one took the least notice of him.

His slightly stooped shoulders and the wrinkles around his near-sighted eyes gave testimony to astute watchers of his bent to scholarship, yet none heard him express his opinions as his sibling so confidently did. Though he would have had much to say that was worth hearing, his voice was not loud. He was as well-trained as his brother in weaponry, but he did not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. He loved only what they defended – the home of his family and friends. Alas, these virtues were ignored by the young maidens intent only on their pleasure; they preferred Halfullion to him.

Well-mannered as he was, he strolled around the room, conversing here and there with acquaintances, yet too shy to approach any of the damsels who hoped for a dance partner. When he saw his hostess coming toward him purposefully, there was no time to escape. With a bright smile and a never-ending stream of chatter, she pushed him toward the chairs by the wall, where one lone maiden sat.

She had her hair, of an indiscriminate brown, pulled back tightly to an unflattering knot, and her eyes were hardly visible behind a lorgnon. She was engrossed in a book, and only looked up after the hostess spoke reproachfully. “My dear, I fear that my festivity is not entertaining you as it should! May I introduce this gentleman to you as a most suitable dancing partner?”

Then they took their place in the dance, and it was difficult to say which was more awkward – their steps or the faltering conversation. Yet there was something that kept them conversing long afterwards, and when the evening was over, Halfemption promised that he would return to her after the journey upon which he embarked in the morning. And Dulciníniel smiled...



With a start, Halfemption awoke. Why, he had been dreaming, dreaming of home far away and a time long ago! He had not thought of Dulciníniel for weeks, months, or was it years? He wondered where she was, and if she still waited for him. Would he see her again when he returned to Muddled-Mirth? And could he and his travelling companions even hope to return, without a seaworthy boat to take them there?

Quietly, he began to sing as the sun rose over the restless sea:

I have dreamed thee too long,
Never seen thee or touched thee.
But known thee with all of my heart.
Half a prayer, half a song,
Thou hast always been with me,
Though we have been always apart.

Dulciníniel... Dulciníniel...
I see heaven when I see thee, Dulciníniel,
And thy name is like a prayer
An angel whispers... Dulciníniel... Dulciníniel!

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Old 02-13-2007, 12:12 PM   #3
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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Pipe

Quote:
Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate,
Misread his maps and so arrived too late,
Forlorn on Illiúmë’s gilded shore.
Daebolic the Loremaster

Many are the legends told of the heroes of Muddled Mirth. They speak in hushed tones of Halfullion Gormlessar, of Gravlox the Redeemed, even of Earnur the Confused, Bucket-Helm of Dun Sóbrin; but there are countless heroes who, but for a capricious twist of fate, could have joined those illustrious names. These are the might-have-beens; the almost-legends, who missed their moment by the narrowest of margins and fell straight into obscurity. Mëanderin the Indirect was one such man, and his crew weren’t the first to be condemned by association.

To give Fate its due, it was a particularly careless mistake. Inaccurate maps with enormous blank patches are one thing, but such a map held upside-down for the best part of three-hundred nautical miles does very little to shorten one’s journey. So it was that Mëanderin and his crew had missed their chance to be involved in the greatest armament in the history of Muddled Mirth, to share in looted treasure beyond the dreams of avarice and to write their names large in the annals of legend. By the time of the Entish Bow’s re-unification they had missed the opening skirmishes, the important tactical set-pieces, the drawn-out siege warfare, the miraculous midwinter truce and a disputed contest involving an inflated sheep’s bladder. In short, they had missed the entire war and were presumed dead by most of the combatants.

And yet their voyage continued; day after day, day after day, with only the suggestion of breath or motion. Once there had been dreams of glory, but now there was only the grinding monotony of weeks at sea punctuated by brief landfalls, each of which had left them with new horrors to haunt their dreams: the crazed harridan who had dressed their pigs as sailors; the one-eyed shepherd with a million holiday snaps to discuss; a trench filled with congealed blood and dairy produce, where former celebrities wallowed in a vain quest for lost youth. Somewhere was either home or their destination, but they had lost their bearings long ago. Who could tell how long they had wandered? Who could say how far they had travelled, or how many miles remained? There was only the unforgiving sky, the cruel sea, the dreadful boredom and the grim, mirthless mummery that was the International Date Line ceremony - of late a weekly event. It says much of Mëanderin’s leadership that at this stage he announced what a good idea it would have been to have brought a navigator.

***

‘Land ho!’

A hundred pairs of hollow eyes turned, more out of habit than hope, to follow the lookout’s outstretched arm. A question burned on a hundred pairs of cracked lips and a hundred swollen tongues, but while it remained unasked the answer all the crew dreaded would remain unspoken.

After an eternity of seconds, an unimposing figure left the steersman’s side and called up to ask the inevitable.

‘Is it…?’

‘No, Cap’n’. Small island. Three points off the larboard quarter.’

Mëanderin turned to cast his world-weary gaze in entirely the wrong direction. His voice was irritable and tense.

‘I smell land, but I see no land. Is it that blasted whale again? I told you lot not to feed it.’

The first mate was used to such minor lapses of seamanship. He moved quietly to his captain’s side and gently translated the lookout’s report: ‘Over there, sir’.

‘Well, why doesn’t he say so? It’s all port this and starboard that; what’s wrong with good old-fashioned left and right? That’s what I’d like to know. Anyway, does it look familiar?’

With enthusiastic relief, the entire crew answered: ‘No, sir’.

This was better than he’d expected: they weren’t sailing around in circles any more. Now if only they were pointed in roughly the right direction this voyage might actually end one day. Only one pertinent question remained.

‘Does it look safe?’

‘Yes, cap’n’

‘I mean really safe. There aren’t any mysterious banquets laid out for us, or some suspiciously fat sheep? No bevies of beautiful mezzo-sopranos?’

‘No blatant traps, Cap’n’`

‘Well, best be sure anyway. I’ll take all the senior officers ashore with one dispensable subaltern for support, while the ship remains dangerously close inshore to wait for us. Laetninrod! Put on this red tunic!’

By now, all hands were accustomed to their captain’s unique tactical style, so no attempt was made to argue. Once the third mate had made the satirical suggestion that the landing party should take the fresh water ashore too; they had gone a whole week without drinking, but the man-eating plants had flourished.

Accordingly, three hours later Mëanderin, along with his first and second mates, Starstruc and Redwine, Asperin the ship’s surgeon and the aforementioned Laetninrod, put ashore upon an apparently uninhabited island to see if it was safe for their less mission-critical subordinates. They were also, not to put too fine a point on it, on the scrounge. Several years at sea amid inclement weather conditions, hostile mythical entities and, on more than one occasion, aggressive geology, tend to take it out of a ship’s company, and the time was long overdue to bring the vessel ashore, patch the larger holes and fit some new rigging. For some reason, cyclopean subaqueous behemoths have a keen taste for yardarms.

The island was more welcoming than they’d hoped: nobody tried to kill or enchant them as they rowed ashore, and the sand was neither burning hot, made from powdered human bones nor inhabited by giant carnivorous worms - everyone has a good day once in a while. No mysteriously abandoned suits of armour lounged beside innocent pools; no suspicious wisps of smoke curled from yawning caverns and nobody seemed to have left any large herds of sleek farm animals wandering around unattended. The companions were beginning to relax and enjoy a quiet stroll along the beach when they found the ship.

Wrecked ships were no novelty to the crew of the Hyperbolic. Waters don’t normally remain uncharted if people can spend a quiet summer sailing around them taking notes; and in fact it was only the scavenging of various ill-fated expeditions that had kept them boldly going where they’d quite often been before. All that differed in this case was that the ship, far from looking as though it had been wracked by mighty seas, appeared to have lost an argument with gravity. That a ship had come to fall from the sky should have given such hardened wanderers pause for thought, especially since they had managed not one uneventful landfall in all their protracted peregrinations; but one doesn’t have adventures like theirs by seeing trouble coming.

‘I say, what luck,’ announced Mëanderin with ominous enthusiasm. ‘Laetninrod: go back and fetch the others. I’ll go aboard and see what I can… salvage.’

Five minutes later there was a scuffle in the trees just inland from the beach, which ended in an abbreviated scream. Redwine sighed and walked back towards his ship, studiously keeping to the shoreline a safe distance from the waves. Meanwhile Mëanderin swarmed aboard the newly re-christened Pile of Free Stuff (it’s not easy for one person to swarm, but years at sea had perfected the skill) and checked the soundness of the mast by giving it a good shake.

By the time they dug him out at the end of a night’s intensive labour, his men had removed everything useful from the heap of wreckage, with the result that it could now more accurately be described as ‘three rotten planks covered in barnacles, and a commemorative egg-timer'. They had only delved so deep in search of a valuable cargo that didn’t exist, which goes to show where greed will get you. A collective groan greeted his cheerful thanks; they had been discussing the matter of his replacement even as they worked.

Last edited by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh; 02-13-2007 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:19 AM   #4
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
A loud yawn from beside her tore Merisu’s mind from its musings and caused her to turn to her spouse.

“Oh, you’re awake, Gravlo – Gravendil,” she corrected herself. She was still not accustomed to his Elvish name, given to him in Valleyum upon the completion of his transformation. “Did you hear what my mother said?”

“Well, yes,” he answered a bit too casually. “I couldn’t help it, you know.”

“Oh, that’s no problem,” she replied. “I have no secrets from you. But why didn’t you arise to greet her?”

He stuttered an imcomprehensible answer, and she asked, “Do you have something against my mother?” Her tone was not exactly accusing – nothing could ever disturb the perfect harmony of an Elven couple, of course – but it did sound slightly pointed.

“Well, dear, it’s not easy for me – she was a part of my evil past, and I’m still not used to thinking of her as reformed in the afterlife,” he replied. “Besides, I didn’t want to interrupt a heart-to-heart mother-daughter talk. I did hear that she spoke about seeking our broken ship and thought that we could do that together this morning.”

She smiled at him forgivingly. “That’s a good idea. But I’ve been thinking – we don’t know yet how large the island is. I have the two magical gem earrings from Yawanna; if I climb up to a high place, I may be able to use them to find something that can help us. In the meantime, you and the others can go back to the spot where we landed and see how much of the ship can be salvaged.”

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

Before long she was on her way; after all, her appearance needed very little attention - she looked as fresh and lovely as ever despite their shipwrecked situation. A few bites of lembas and some spring water was all the sustenance of which she partook, and soon her long, shapely legs in their long, shapely boots, which were made for walking, strode up toward higher ground. For some time she climbed, until she came to a grassy place. She halted and looked down to the Sea, far below her, seeing the gulls wheeling over the water. The waves roared with a deep throbbing boom as they crashed upon the shore.

She sat down upon a fallen log, then reached into the capacious pocket of her skirt and took out the earrings which had been bestowed upon her by the Green Goddess. They sparkled in the sun in all colours of the rainbow, and she wondered what powers Yawanna’s spouse Howlie, the Velour smith, had placed into them. She cupped her hands and gazed at the shining jewels. Nothing happened.

Seven stars, and seven stones, and one wight tree, she whispered, recalling an old riddle, but it gave her no helpful clue. Finally she sighed and, on an impulse, reached up to fasten the earrings in her delicately pointed lobes. Almost instantly she was aware of a light that shone before her; it reflected on the flat plane of a rectangular stone nearby and began to flimmer. Astonished, she beheld images that seemed to come from a place and time far away from the lands in which she abode.

A dark sky, pinpointed with stars, planets, and galaxies could be seen. One of the bright points grew larger, seeming to fly without wings. Soon it was visible as a silvery disk; then another, and yet another, appeared. Strangely, the disks appeared to battle each other with rays of coloured light until the pursuing ones had burst into flames and the first went boldly on its way undisturbed.

Merisu shook her head in wonderment; the image blurred, then changed. A man sat astride a horse, apparently attempting to escape from enemy beasts which thundered toward him in large numbers. His face was shaded by a wide-brimmed hat, and his features seemed pleasant enough, yet he must be an apparition of the enemy, Merisu conjectured, for dragon smoke issued from his mouth. She shuddered, knowing a moment of fear, and again a new image appeared.

Now she beheld a warrior maiden, striding into battle with her long dark hair flowing behind her, and she marvelled at her apparel. For it seemed that she wore armour as protection, yet it was incomplete, leaving a great deal of her body unprotected against the elements and against the weapons of her enemies. The scanty breastplate and brief skirt were indubitably feminine, but eminently impractical, Merisu thought, and definitely immodest. Her cheeks flushed in shame for the young woman, and she shook her head, embarrassed. The image flickered, and once again the scene changed.

This time she saw only the head of a man. Dark were his eyes in the midst of a harsh, weathered face, and his hair dark with only a trace of white. He looked vaguely familiar, as if she recalled his face from a time beyond memory, yet he was a stranger to her. His eyes seemed to see her, and he was aware of her gaze. Involuntarily she drew nearer to the image, feeling a fierce eager will that leaped towards her, searching for her. Very soon it would nail her down, would know just exactly where she was. It touched upon the shore – she threw herself down, crouching, covering her head with her hands.

She heard herself crying out: Never, never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? Then as a flash from some other point of power there came to her mind another thought: Take them off! Take them off! Fool, take off the Earrings!

The two powers strove in her. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, she writhed, tormented. Suddenly she was aware of herself again. Merisuwyniel, neither the Voice nor the Eyes: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:34 AM   #5
Thenamir
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The Gateskeeper had found it hard to sleep that night, possibly because of the hermit crab that kept trying to make its way into his natty white left shoe, having mistaken it for a spanking new home in which his entire family could easily lodge…if only he could use his claws to snip this enormous foot out of it. Casting the cantankerous crustacean one last time from trying to steal his sole, the mid-level mage decided to divert himself in his insomniac hours to the problems of shelter and necessities (and as many luxuries as he could drum up) until they could continue their voyage home. What a pity, he thought, that Kuruharan wasn't about -- his store of useful items (usually at exorbitant mark-ups) would have been welcome. Not to mention having the dragon Chrysophylax for some aerial surveying.

Arising well before the sun (observing proper solar etiquette), the first thing on his mind was, of course, his hair, out of which he shook a great deal of beach sand, along with several bloated mosquitoes which hadn't had a good meal in weeks. Taking his staff, he ambled off a short distance down the shoreline, so as not to disturb his companions, and began searching his store of lore (or in the Quixotic, dât-ábaÿsse) for some way of determining their location – star charts, do-it-yourself sextants, the Zagat’s Guide To Fine Dining on Mysterious Islands – but came up empty, both in knowledge and in sustenance. In short, his stomach was rumbling. Further research would have to wait.

---------

Beside a rock which jutted a few inches above the waters of a calm lagoon a small school of fish swam placidly, enjoying the sunshine and the warmth of the day. Theirs was a carefree life, nibbling at the water plants that grew in abundance, darting into and out of the shadows, playfully chasing each other just for the sheer sport of it. A small splash momentarily startled the silvery swimmers into scattering, but they were just as soon back again, attributing the noise to the occasional coconut that from time to time would fall into the waters from the surrounding trees of their paradisial venue. One fish, who had seen the item fall, did not understand why this particular coconut had a tail that bubbled and smoked as it sank, nor did it understand the runes which were graven upon its side, Dÿnômi-tè

…PFOOMP!!

----------

Sometime later, Gateskeeper returned to the camp bearing several wonderful fish, thankful that Captain Cirkdan had taught him the art of making explosive powder from materials found on the countryside -- an art Cirkdan himself learned whilst battling a large lizardly creature he’d encountered on one of his voyages. Before long the smell of roasting fish wakened the rest of the Shipwrecked-ship.

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Old 02-19-2007, 10:18 AM   #6
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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The good ship Hyperbolic lay upon a golden strand on the mysterious island, whilst all around, her crew were occupied in sailmaking, carpentry and other assorted nautical trades. Each member of the ship’s company had been hand-picked for his possession of incomparable skills that would be indispensable on their original mission, which was all-out war as part of a large besieging army with its own support units. Accordingly they had brought mighty Exlax, before whom none could withstand the urge to run, Hennaples the Red and Chilabes with his deadly spearmen. They had even enlisted the aid of the awesome Numidian known only as Mr. Tau. What Mëanderin had forgotten to ask of any of these mighty men was whether any of them knew any basic handicrafts, so that their repair stops often required frequent reference to the mysterious tome of arcane lore entitled Boat-building the Professional Way .

'Okay,' gritted Noplan the Destroyer, squinting at the book in his hand and holding a reclaimed board in place with the other. 'Now we hammer in the nails.'

There was a sheepish silence.

'Oh come on! We must have brought a hammer!'

'I've told you before,' boomed Harald Nicehair. 'It's an insult to my people and my god to use the symbol of his might to bash in a few nails. That's a sacred weapon dedicated to the destruction of the unrighteous, that is; not some petty camping tool.'

One of the most notable things about heroes is the amount of time they don't take over discussions of religious diversity or cultural sensitivity. Soon the mighty hammer Trollbeer had been readied for the sacred task of maintaining the cosmic order by smiting the impious nailish horde. This brought the intrepid band up against their next problem.

'What do you mean "no nails"? I can see some sticking out of that plank there; the one Dimsod's almost standing on.'

'What? Oh $£%&$£@#!'

With this word of power and a questing foot, Dimsod found the nails all over again, not to mention effortlessly pronouncing an apparently random string of symbols. His enraged curses were cut off only by the sudden re-classification of the island as 'inhabited'.

Starstruc the First Mate was the first to notice them: partially clad in shimmering scarlet and brandishing strange, bulbous implements of similar hue; hair streaming in the breeze that none of the observing maritime heroes could feel. They seemed to run energetically, yet moved no faster than had they been walking, and their eyes were ever fixed on the middle distance. Yet it was none of these things that transfixed every heroic eye, stilled the working of each mighty - for want of a better word - brain. The cause of that was rather more obvious.

'Women?' muttered Starstruc.

Harald patted his flowing locks.

'Women!' growled Noplan, twitching an over-developed bicep.

Several of the crew grabbed extremely heavy baulks of timber that weren’t obviously required for the repairs to the ship and began to heft them. Entirely coincidentally, this caused their muscles to bulge heroically.

Now the word was taken up, until it spread even so far as mighty Mëanderin himself, where he sat in his tent failing to calculate their position. No one voice was raised unduly, yet their mingled murmurings were as those of the surf, and with cautious reverence, as though to speak over-loudly would dispel the vision, the crew uttered that strange and exciting word.

'Women.'

'I think there are some men with them too.'

'So what?'

Well, they had been at sea for the best part of fifteen years. One can scarcely blame them.

For the sake of a balanced description, we must now turn our attention to the male runners (and we have plenty of time, since they still have about half a mile to go before they’ll get any dialogue). They were cast in rugged mould: large of muscle, steely of sinew, square of jaw and determined of gaze, albeit that they appeared to be staring meaningfully at nothing in particular when an entire ship's company of newcomers was waiting directly in front of them to be discovered. They and their leader were like and yet unlike, for he was the elder, and his hair moved not in the invisible winds; and his torso was seemingly clad in a shirt of coarse black homespun, which upon closer inspection turned out to be his own body hair. Something glittered on his chest, but what it was could not be divined.

Suddenly, the strange runners turned sharply and rushed into the surf, diving cleanly into the waves and strongly swimming out some distance before returning, skilfully yet pointlessly, to the beach. There each tossed their heads in a manner heavy with allure for their respective opposite sexes, sending a rain of glittering droplets cascading to the sand at their feet. Apart from the mysterious leader, whose coiffure remained untouched by its total immersion in salt water, the strange figures now wore their locks flattened to their skulls; and their strange garb, immodest even by barbarian adventurer standards, clung to them closely, leaving even less of them to the imagination than before. They continued their strangely impeded approach at an even more energetically bouncy pace than before.

Starstruc dipped a comb in the sea and ran it through his hair. He straightened his tunic and brushed off the heavier patches of sand. Mëanderin donned his ceremonial garb of command with unpracticed difficulty: the mighty breastplate, which only stayed in place by virtue of some extra holes in all its straps and some strategic padding, and the great ancestral helm. This latter had a horsehair plume which had seen better days and now looked like a well-used toothbrush, and it had been persuaded to remain atop his head by the application of some rolled-up papyrus. He flung his mighty scarlet cloak about his shoulders, gathering the hem around his arm to prevent it from trailing in the sand and to hide the worst of the stains, and strode out to greet his new and winsome guests.

And those fellows who seemed to be travelling with them.

'Hail, fair strangers,' he intoned grandly. 'I bid thee welcome to our encampment.'

He was answered, not as he had hoped by one of the lovely damsels, but by their hirsuit companion, who hailed them with courteous greeting, thus:

'Hi. Put it there.'

The great travellers of legend are never fazed by strange local greetings. Mëanderin, as has already been discussed, was not one of them.

‘Erm… Put what where now?’

'Uh, put your hand on my hand so we can indulge in a comradely test of strength and endurance by squeezing one another’s hands really hard.'

'Forgive me if the idea of squeezing another man’s hand isn’t quite my beaker of tisane. Who are you anyway?'

'I am Botherhonn, who is also called "He who rides at night"'.

Miraculously, the entire crew failed to rise to the tempting bait.

'I am Mëanderin, grand high admiral of the fleets of my lord Rǿdidendrun, who is reckoned the flower of chivalry. What manner of travellers are you?'

'Actually we, uh, just watch this beach.'

'Then you are sentinels, set to bar landing to all who may not best you in single combat! We shall choose a champion by the drawing of lots and…'

'Wait a second there. We kind of just watch to make sure nobody drowns. You know, just keep everyone looking happy and attractive; say "hi" to all the pretty girls. You know, just… hang out, really.'

Once more our intrepid heroes refused the obvious opportunity for risqué comic misunderstanding. It was left to their captain to point out the obvious.

'There's nobody here but you and us. Who’s going to drown?'

'Well, you might. That boat of yours ain’t in such good shape.'

'Which would be why it's on the beach being repaired and not, for example, plying the seven seas.'

'Yeah, well, just don’t sail it before it's fixed, okay? I've got to go off now for mysterious reasons of my own and leave you and your men alone with these scantily clad women. Ladies: make sure that these guys don't try any sailing before I've given their ship a checkup. Guys: we've got a lot of posing to do, so let’s hit the beach.'

Before Mëanderin could point out that, in fact, they meant to be finished by the end of the day, and that in fact they did not mean to set sail in any case until their ship was fully restored, his crew had clustered around their new guardians. Meaning, as the nominal commander of the expedition, to greet their unnaturally curved leader, he strode forward; but as he did so he noticed his men’s strange inactivity. Normally they would be engaging in the ancient custom of putting on the moves in no uncertain terms, and indeed already some voices were raised in disappointment. However, the destructive mass-brawl that would normally have broken out at this point had failed to materialise, and this meant more than the absence of a decent bar to wreck in the process. As he thrust his way to the centre of the admiring throng he understood the absence of facile tableau scenes: their strange new acquaintances were standing motionless, their hands held palm-outward in token of warning. As one, and in voices empty of emotion, they were intoning a strange and mystifying incantation.

'Thank you for using Môgul Bildûr Temptations, Inc. All our incubi and succubi are currently busy with the unvoiced cravings of others, but your soul is important to us. One of our demonic agents will be free to tempt you to eternal damnation shortly.'

Something about this cheerful, friendly message caused Mëanderin some concern. He called for silence, rallying the attention which had so recently been focused on more prepossessing things.

'Err… Is anyone actually talking to one of these people?'

Everyone looked at everyone else. One or two people accused Glaucomar the Seer of talking to someone they couldn’t see, but he did this too often for it to be considered noteworthy.

'So who is, in fact, getting this rather poorly disguised temptation scene?' the gallant captain mused.

'Logically speaking, captain,’ Starstruc's voice was grave, as usual. 'If we are all receiving this ridiculously anachronistic hold message, then there must be someone else on the island; possibly someone whose soul is more valuable than all of ours put together. Perhaps we should find them and somehow warn them of this danger.'

'Either that,' replied his commanding officer, still smarting from this disappointing response. 'Or somebody botched their Create Magic Island spell and left us with a broken plot hook, which will only annoy them as much as it has us. In any case it’ll do no good to warn them; it never does. Whoever heard of a half-way decent trap being set up without somebody triggering it so that the gods can enjoy the sick pleasure of watching it in action? Back to work, lads.’

With that he would have turned back to his tent, where he had unfinished napping to continue, but instead he remained rooted to the spot, his face suddenly frozen and waxy. All around, his intrepid adventurers were likewise immobile, all enchanted by a mighty spell of holding. As his limbs froze, Mëanderin caught the gentle strains of elven harps as they picked out a mournful yet popular refrain. It was a beautiful piece, but after the twelfth repetition he still wanted to cut off his own ears rather than hear it again.

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Old 02-19-2007, 09:37 PM   #7
The Saucepan Man
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White Tree

The Wight City glimmered pearly white as the sun’s early rays struck its freshly enamelled walls and intricate bridgework. Day was dawning in Minus Teeth and the Signal had been given for the city’s workers to begin their regular morning duties. A small procession wound down from the lower slopes of Mount Mentadhent bearing basins of water gathered from the sacred stream, Aquäfrésh. On reaching the Wight City, the procession passed through the Great Coll Gate and entered the first tier of the city, where the great army of workers was gathered, poised to dip their ceremonial brushes into the foaming basins. Soon, their daily toil was underway, and they were hard at work lathering and scrubbing at the city’s gleaming palisades, ramparts and parapets. Only a few weeks had passed since the siege of Minus Teeth had been broken, but not one imperfection remained, such was the intensity of the daily Ceremony of Bhrûsh-èn-Gärgelh.

On the highest of the city’s eight levels, stood the Wight Tower. Below it, a row of great flags, each bearing the city’s Arm and Hammer Crest, rippled gently in the morning breeze, marking out the Courtyard of Mâk the Clean. There lay the Fountain of Euthìmoll II, its waters sparkling brightly in the sunshine. And beside it, at the centre of the Courtyard, a dull green, withered stump lurked, its twisted and gnarled branches contrasting starkly with the minty fresh flow of the Fountain. Once it had stood proud and vibrant as the Holy Wight Tree Bhró-cholï, but it had long since withered and decayed and, with the passage of time, its name had become corrupted too. Now, it was known to all simply as Y-cholï.

****************************
In the uppermost reaches of the Wight Tower, in a room as dark as the city was light, a denim-clad figure sat hunched over a glowing orb. Ere long, he chuckled grimly to himself and turned away from the Cell-antír.

Denimthor Two, thirty-second Proctor of Grundor, remained an impressive figure, although age and troubled times had taken their toll on his once handsome features. Dark were his eyes in the midst of a harsh, weathered face, and his mane of luxurious dark hair dark was streaked with tinges of white. He was clad in the traditional denim jacket and trousers of Grundor, below which he wore a green t-shirt bearing the words “You don’t have to be mad to work here - but it helps”.

To be fair, it had not been a great year for Denimthor. His only son and heir, Orogarn (Two), had set out on a quest to find his wallet, fallen in with a bad crowd and proceeded to plague him with seemingly endless requests for financial assistance. And, while his son’s untimely death had ended the persitent demands for funding, it had also been something of a disappointment to the Proctor, leaving him as it did heirless (although not hairless). Then there had been that business with the fire, no less disturbing for having been caused by his son and his reckless companions, prompting Denimthor to borrow vast sums, at an unfeasibly high rate of interest, from Môgul Bildûr Enterprises LLC in order to restore the Wight City to full dental glory. Morever, not content with financially crippling the Proctor, the Dread Developer had then rudely added insult to injury by despatching a rather unsavoury and somewhat rancid army to lay siege to the Wight City. And while Môgul’s final defeat had brought some relief, discharging both debt and besieging army, news had recently reached him that a few of his son’s bothersome former companions were seeking to supplant him with some upstart king. It really was too much for an ageing Proctor to bear.

His first instinct, predictably, had been to begin scheming over the many ways in which he could prevent this attempted restoration of the outdated concept of monarchy. After all, Grundor had no king and Grundor needed no king. By Denimthor’s reckoning, a Proctorship was a far more democratically sound and politically correct way of running things, being as it did not rely on the ludicrous concept that the right to rule was determined by the blood that flowed in one’s veins. A Proctor was, in theory at least, an elected official, although voter apathy had led to it becoming a hereditary role some five generations back. But Denimthor was never one to let inconvenient facts spoil the opportunity of a good moan and a spot of diabolical scheming.

Then again, now that he thought about it, there was not really much to be said for his continued Proctorship of Grundor. The upkeep of the Wight City, and particularly the Ceremony of Bhrûsh-èn-Gärgelh, was an immense and unwelcome financial drain on his dwindling coffers. And, now that he was heirless (although not hairless), the Proctorship would pass to that idiot nephew of his upon his death. Indeed, the more he pondered the issue, the less attraction the effort and responsibility of his Proctorly duties held for him. Perhaps an early retirement wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Yes, he could just picture himself running a nice little holiday cottage on one of the southern islands, entrusting its upkeep to the care of loyal staff while he spent his days fishing and playing beach volleyball.

And so, with that appealing thought in his mind and a new-found spring in his step, he was just turning to leave the Chamber of the Cell-antír, when a knock came on the door.
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Old 02-20-2007, 09:06 AM   #8
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
“Now everyone remember where we parked!” Gravendil had called out on the previous day, when they had left the remains of their ship after its rough landing on the island. Now he, Squire Windsor, Halfemption and Gateskeeper headed for the shore with the confidence possessed by males of every species concerning their ability to find their way around without directions or maps. The reader can hardly imagine their consternation when they arrived at the spot (and they were so very sure this was it!) only to see – nothing.

Mist had arisen to blur their sight, and they began to walk around aimlessly, searching the ground for clues. And lo! there seemed to be runes in the sand, and they hoped to find guidance for their search. “D7,” Gateskeeper read, puzzled. Yet no ship, not even a patrol boat, was to be seen.

“C9,” Halfemption called out.

“See what?” Gravendil asked. “I see nothing; it is as if our ship were sunk or a sub, merged.”

“2B or not 2B,” Windsor murmured.

“What’s the question?” Hal wondered.

“Our cruiser may not be as large as a battleship,” Gravendil said, “but we have searched so many areas that we should have hit upon it by now.”

“Perhap a spell of Tar-Gêt will help,” Gateskeeper suggested. He searched his pockets for a device he called Só-Nar, and a ray of greenish light pierced through the mists. He invoked words that none of them understood (for he knew the wisdom of that time-honoured principle that one should not divulge useful information to others, thereby keeping them dependent on a hot line to the experts), and suddenly Windsor Gummidge, whose eyes were closest to the ground, peered ahead and began running. He stumbled, fell, and lay sprawling amidst – slivers. With a voice strangely unlike his own, he spoke the mysterious words, “You sank my battleship.”

Wow! Gateskeeper thought. With the right device and some colourful images, this could be a fun game to play. When I get back home to my beloved Pea Sea, I will have to ask my buddy Mílt Bradlë what he thinks.

“A little closer inspection is needed,” Gravendil proclaimed, and his Elven eyes discerned the nature of the wooden piecelets: they were indeed of Valleyumian origin, though they looked as if they had been consumed by a starved horde of Mogulian termites. He could find no explanation, though the flattened grass indicated that something considerably weightier than insects had been at the site. But alas! none of them was a ranger who could have reconstructed the events of the past hours by deducting them from the way the grass blades were bent.

“We are not alone,” Halfemption dared to speak what they all thought. “We need to find out who else is here, and whether they are friend or foe.”

“Merisu is walking all by herself!” Gravendil cried out in concern. “I must seek her and protect her.”

And so they scattered, unwisely perhaps, yet driven by the urgency of possible danger.

Windsor struggled to his feet after the others had left. He turned to see what had caused him to stumble (though it frequently happened that he stumbled without a cause), and there at his feet lay a small object, its curved surfaces glinting in the morning sunlight which had conveniently dispelled the mist. Instinctively, he picked it up and put it in his pocket. He had no time to look at it now, but he could examine it later.
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Old 02-20-2007, 12:50 PM   #9
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
"Alone again, naturally!" Halfemption thought as he walked purposefully yet aimlessly. "What use is a fellowship when everone splits up as soon as adventure comes?" It seemed the story of his life - his older brother had never wanted him to tag along behind him, so he was left to busy himself alone. Books had been his best friends, and yet always there was the gnawing pain of loneliness in his heart.

Now he was part of a group, yet the Elves were preoccupied with each other and their own happiness, the Squire followed them around, trying to be helpful, and the Maya spent many hours watching his various gadgets and pressing their keys tenderly. He felt as useful as a fifith wheel, and though they spoke of achieving a future kingdom for him, he was more than doubtful of that fate. Why, he could just as well joust with windmills!

So busy were his thoughts with those musings that he did not see the vision before him until he almost collided with a sword. Startled, he looked up to see a beautiful flaxen-haired maiden swinging her weapon most skilfully. Instinctively he drew his own sword from its scabbard to parry her blows. Thus they fought for a time before she lowered both brand and head respectfully.

"My lord," she said, "I can see that thou canst teach me a thing or two about swordplay." Her hand reached out to caress the hilt of his sword playfully. "I would not fight against thee, but for thee. Pray permit me to go with thee as companion in arms and heart."

"B-but what is this?" he stammered. "How comes it that a noble maiden goes forth to seek battle instead of waiting at home, wielding her needle, not a weapon?"

"I am Wynwyn, a shieldmaiden of the Goget'im," she answered proudly, lifting her chin, with admirable results for the display of the well-proportioned anatomy below it. "I do not desire to remain in a cage until old age and neglect make me useless. I seek him whom I love, to follow him."

Halfemption looked around. "Where is he?" he asked, puzzled.

"Thou art the man!" she proclaimed. "Whither thou questest, I will quest, and whither thou slayest, I will slay."

A vision of life with this dazzling companion filled Halfemption's mind. He saw himself riding to bold deeds with her at his side, her admiring gaze on him, her sword flashing out together with his, her flaxen tresses and his darker ones flowing mingled in the wind. (The thought that this would be a potentially dangerous maneuver, physically risky if not impossible, did not occur to him.)

Involuntarily he took a step toward her and one hand stretched out to grasp hers. The other hand sheathed his sword and in doing so, brushed against his pocket, feeling an object there. "What have I got in my pockets?" he wondered, and paused to check. He reached in and touched - a coney's foot. Suddenly he remembered: Dulciníniel had given it to him upon their fateful meeting so long ago. "It is mine to give to whom I choose," she had said. "May it bring you luck on your journey and remind you of your promise to returen to me when it ends."

A vision of her, sitting at her window in her chamber, head bowed over the intricate pattern of the traditional double wedding ring quilt, fingers pricked from the many tiny stitches, came to him. The picture seemed so tame, so predictable, so boring. But this maiden before him, clad all in white with silver mail, promised excitement, adventure - and above all, she was here, not in a land Far Far Away.

Once more his mind compared the two images, and suddenly he realized that the quilt that was taking shape under Dulciníniel's hands was king-sized! She believed in him and was willing to share the destiny to which he was born, though he had not realized his fate at that time.

His hand tightened around the coney's foot, his shoulders straightened, and his eyes flashed with righteous resolution. With an authoritative voice he hardly recognized himself, he spoke one decisive word, "No!"

And lo! the maiden disappeared instantaneously. He was alone again, naturally, and yet not lonely. He had passed the test, he would go back to his land, and remain faithful to Dulciníniel.

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Old 02-21-2007, 10:31 AM   #10
Thenamir
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Gateskeeper, as has been elsewhere noted, was an accomplished runner. In his former occupation at Dorktank he had become expert in keeping ahead of deadlines, beating around the bush, dancing around issues, jumping to conclusions and outdistancing disgruntled armed customers – all of which kept him in top condition. Thus it was that he was soon out of sight and hearing of the rest, and making good time down the sandy beachfront. Likely he would have quickly discovered the hapless sailors-on-hold (poor old Hap having perished in an unfortunate accident involving an overripe tomato and a blunted knife, but I digress) if it had not been for a sight that brought the reformed raconteur to a dead stop. (Stop’s death was not related to Hap’s in any way.)

There on the edge of the tree line stood a woman whose beauty rivaled that of Merisuwyniel herself. She was in strange garb attired -- though why her fatigues should be thus fatigued was not immediately apparent from her apparel. Unless perhaps it was the warfare being waged against her summertime wear by the stare-sparing pair-without-compare, which was wearing bare the apparel that was despairing of bearing the fair pair without tearing beyond repair -- a true battle of the bulges.

A (ahem) form-fitting tunic left her arms and midriff uncovered, which met with Gateskeeper’s approval – as a supporter of the right to bare arms. Very short shorts left as much of her long and shapely legs bare as her arms, except for the black straps encircling her thighs that secured what appeared to be twin scabbards for some kind of black weapons. Long dark hair tied back in a thick braid topped a face of perfect, computer-generated features, with glinting brown eyes and pillowed lips in which an unwary wizard could get very lost indeed.

She beckoned to him with a playful come-on smile, flashing enamel whiter than his own pasty skin. Gateskeeper walked up the beach to the statuesque vision (stumbling only twice). From his mouth came something with the suaveness and intelligence commensurate with every knowledgeable, self-confident man of his stature and capabilities in this situation.

Drool.

Something in the back of his mind kept trying to remind him that something was very much amiss here…that she couldn’t possibly be after him for his looks…that beauty and geeks don’t mix…that this had to be a set-up…that the square of the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Something in the front of his mind kept ignoring it though -- namely, his eyes. The voluptuous vision held his gaze for a moment, then draped her arms around his neck and leaned in to kiss him passionately. Gateskeeper closed his eyes and waited for the touch of her honeyed lips…and a name came back to his benumbed thought processes. Tara Kraft, Catacomb Plunderer.

Long ago, in the days before Gateskeeper had branched out on his own, when he and Nintendo the Blue were still working in the recruitment department for the (late) wizard Sauerkraut in the Networkgaard of Dorktank, many were the geeks hypnotized and lured into the service of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) by the alluring and ultimately addicting puzzles and quests they designed. And one of the most effective baits that could be dangled before the socially-challenged intelligentsia of the day was the seductive wiles (and the animated, er, anatomy) of Tara Kraft.

With a shudder of realization he ducked and spun away from her just in time to hear a voice of sweet poison begin to intone, “Thank you for using Môgul Bildûr Temptations, Inc…” Scant seconds before the dreaded Music of Holding would have begun, he swung his staff around in-between them (no, not *that* staff!) and thundered the word of power, “Mutebutton!” Instantly the voice was silenced, though the villainous vixen continued mouthing her spiel uncannily, since cans had not yet been invented.

With the danger past, he approached her again, examining the alluring automaton’s fine, er, workmanship. “Magnificent,” he reflected. “Back when Nintendo and I designed her, she was so blocky and angular. They’ve radically improved her, er, visuals since then, but perhaps I can still hack in if my old back-door is still in place.” Walking around to her back (while she continued to act as if he wasn’t there, the way most girls treated him), he pressed two spots on her left shoulder blade with one hand while simultaneously tapping her 5th thoracic vertebra with the other. To Gateskeeper’s relief, the access panel in her neck popped open.

Connecting a hair-fine wire of twisted mithril from the head of his staff to the open panel, he accessed the inter-succubus network within. Gazing into the crystal atop his staff, he directed the network to locate other units on hold. After a few moments he was able to make out (no, not *that* kind of make-out) the images of several frozen sailors via the eyes of the scarlet-clad Watchers of the Bay. Quickly he ascertained the location of the sailors via O-GPS (similar to O-mail).

A short time later, back in the company of Meanderin, the motionless mariners were about to descend into complete catatonia. Suddenly, several loud reports echoed down the beach, and the monstrous Music of Holding was silenced as the Bay Watchers crumpled to the ground. Almost as one the dazed deck-hands fell to their knees and shook their heads as if to cast off a nightmare with a disturbing soundtrack. When they could look up again, there on the crest of the dunes was the Gateskeeper and Tara, with her black weapons still trailing a thin smoke. Gateskeeper had designed her to be deadly accurate. “Well done, my dear!” said the gleeful genius, noting with satisfaction that she still had the coy smile he’d loved way back in the day. He marched with Tara in tow down to meet captain and crew.
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Old 02-21-2007, 06:54 PM   #11
The Saucepan Man
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The Eye

Something was stirring. Deep within the earth. Or possibly in the outer reaches of Eëugh. Or yet still on another plane of existence. It doesn’t really matter where, as such. Suffice it to say that it was somewhere far far away and utterly mysterious. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. Something was stirring. Something dreadful, immensely powerful and terrible to behold.

Not that anyone could see it. Being that it was in a place so far far away and utterly mysterious. But, if anyone could have seen it, they would have noticed right there and then that, in terms of being beheld, it was most definately of the highest order of terribleness. In an awe-inspiring way, that is. Not in a badly conceived way. Actually, terrifying is probably a better word.

So, dreadful, immensely powerful and terrifying to behold.

And beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

Not that any mortals ever got anything like sufficiently acquainted with it to even begin to attempt to comprehend it …*



Something was stirring. In a place beyond all understanding. Something dreadful and immensely powerful was waking from its long, deep slumber. Terrifying to behold, it was. Neither inherently evil, nor yet wholly good. It simply was. And as it awoke, its vast mind stretched out to apprehend the affairs of Muddled-Mirth and its countless hands stirred into action, beginning their unceasing work once more.

The Liquidator it was. Collector of debts, redeemer of equity, divester of assets and distributor of dividends. Terrible was the fury wrought upon those who crossed it, yet bounteous its mercy towards those who were able to show a valid claim, properly evidenced, in the estate under its dominion.

The Eldest it was, save only for Emu Ilovetar Himself. For, with creation came matter. And with matter came ownership. And following hard upon the heels of ownership came solvency. And, folks being what they are, it was only a matter of time before solvency was to become insolvency.

No sooner had Mögul Bildûr been consigned to the Void than the Liquidation of Mögul Enterpises LLC had begun. The Liquidator had a job to do. And, to this end, it sent forth its minions to walk upon Muddled-Mirth and do its bidding.
_________________________________________

* Research suggests that the original scribe of this passage, Cérkuitus the Long-Winded, mysteriously disappeared at this point, and the text was taken up by Gràvittus the Sufficently-Serious.

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Old 02-27-2007, 08:59 AM   #12
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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Released from the saccharine Music of Holding, Mëanderin and his crew looked about in a slightly more dazed and confused fashion than usual. They looked at one another, then at the dead Watchers, and finally at Tara and Gateskeeper before losing their places and going back to the beginning. It was Redwine who voiced their common thoughts; he whose previous nautical experience had also consisted of getting lost in exotic places.

‘?’

‘!’ replied his captain, also dispensing with an actual sentence.

‘Too late,’ lamented Gateskeeper. ‘Already their minds are lost.’

‘Command not found, Player 1’ replied Tara, whose vocabulary was intended for simpler situations.

‘Who are you?’

Mëanderin’s confused tones were soon drowned out by the cry of his heroes. The first to shout his defiance was Noplan the Destroyer, who still held Trollbeer in one meaty fist.

‘You killed the girls!’

‘Yeah,’ added Harald Nicehair. ‘And the blonde was giving me the eye!’

‘What are you going to do now?’ wondered Orphultrus the Bard. ‘Spill all the wine? Break my lyre? Steal our playing cards?’

‘Hang on,’ Exlax interjected. ‘He’s brought another girl with him, and she’s not wearing much either.’

‘Yeah, but she’s also just killed all the others. What if there are more free women on this island and she kills them all?’

The crew began to edge menacingly towards Gateskeeper and Tara. Some of them still hefted large pieces of wood, but this time there was a distinct threat to their flexing.

‘Wait!’ cried Starstruc. ‘I remember something else: we were…’

At the cry of ‘wait’ the rest of the crew immediately and abruptly ignored him and carried on with what they were doing. In a crisis, volume trumps competence every time. Mëanderin leaped to his subordinate’s aid by tripping over his cloak and falling headlong onto the sand. His helmet fell off and rolled into a patch of seaweed.

Gateskeeper’s greeting died on his lips as he realised how the situation had been misinterpreted. Fellow masters of arcana would have recognised his companion sooner, and failing that he could simply begin the mantra of greeting known as Dédparôt Sceč, which his order were obliged to recite in full as soon as one word of it was spoken. These men, however, knew nothing of the sacred lore of Monteé Pi-thon, and men of their stamp might be enraged by gratuitous quotation. Thinking fast, Gateskeeper invoked the most powerful spell of diversion known to his craft. Drawing himself up to his full height, he raised his staff above his head and in a voice of doom declaimed the dread words of the Charm of Distracted Purpose:

Maenswëpr hârts Sol-Itár! Bëdë-fôr um’*

The Hyperbolists stopped dead in their tracks. Some began to argue loudly about arcane matters, such as the origin of seagulls and how many days it had taken to arrive from the previous island. Others simply gazed into space, occasionally moving their hands in an apparently random combination of actions. None retained any of their violent interest in Gateskeeper or his lethal companion except Mëanderin himself, whose attempts to retrieve his lost helmet from beneath his crew’s feet had distracted him from Gateskeeper’s words. He stood up, grasping his headgear triumphantly.

‘Got it!’ announced the captain, turning to face his men. ‘Now, as I was about to say… um… lads?’

Gradually it dawned on Mëanderin that his men might not have their minds so set on diplomacy as might have been the case.

‘Well, that’s hardly polite,’ he remonstrated. ‘You haven’t even greeted these strangers yet.’

Some of the crew called out vague words of welcome, without once focusing on the newcomers.

‘Welcome to our camp, strangers,’ announced their leader, hamming slightly in the style of someone teaching manners to a toddler. ‘I am Mëanderin, captain of the Uncounted Surplus Ship Hyperbolic; and these are my crew of gallant heroes, who seek to aid in the great war of Frân-čaes.’

Gateskeeper had got rather drunk at the victory celebrations several years before, but he didn’t have the heart to mention it to this bedraggled specimen; especially since he saw an opportunity for free transportation.

‘I am Gateskeeper, creator of Soft Wares and Guardian of the Coded Source. Whither art thou bound, warrior of Rǿdidendrun?’

Gateskeeper was under the mistaken impression that all heroes respond well to archaism, particularly those deficient in directional competence. After his previous experience in the Fellowship of the Things, one can scarcely blame him.

‘Well, since the war’s at Illiúmë I thought we might go there next, not that it’s any of your business,’ responded the captain, mildly annoyed at being mistaken for a tourist.

‘I only ask,’ explained Gateskeeper mildly, ‘because if you are indeed Mëanderin, lord of Mithicà, you’re about six-hundred miles off course. I thought you might be going somewhere else first.’

‘Ah. I was wondering when you’d spot that,’ rejoined Mëanderin. ‘Well done. We are, in fact, in search of an oracle to guide us in our quest.’

‘I know oracles,’ announced Gateskeeper. If you know how to phrase your queries properly they can tell you anything you want to know, but none may be invoked in this environment. You must call on them using methods that are known to me’.

‘Will you guide us in our search for data? We had thought many things lost to us since we crashed the ship.’

‘I will help you on two conditions,’ replied Gateskeeper portentously. ‘Firstly, you shall stop all of these anachronistic I.T. related puns; and secondly, you will agree to transport me and my companions for the duration of our quest, which shall remain nameless for the present.’

‘So you want us to provide you with a vehicle to achieve your ends, which will remain secret from us until you’ve reached them; in return for which you will help us to do something complicated in such a way that we don’t learn anything about it and therefore can’t do it again without your help?’

‘Yes. Such a pact is known among my order as –he searched his mind for the meaning of the words- a boilerplate end-user licence agreement, but what I said about anachronisms counts double for making me do it.’

It is now, gentle reader, that you will come to know those bargaining skills that had earned Mëanderin such a reputation throughout the seaways of Muddled Mirth. Examining Gateskeeper’s offer with great care and deliberation, taking into account the unspecified duration and requirements of their agreement and the vagueness of the proffered support, he looked his new acquaintance squarely in the eye and announced the only decision that had even occurred to him.

‘O wise one, you have my solemn pledge on it. Now, what's the chance of getting a few moments alone with your companion?’

--

* Quixotic: ‘You shall forget what you were doing and proceed no further.’
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Old 03-08-2007, 08:46 PM   #13
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On opening the door that led from the Chamber of the Cell-antír, Denimthor was somewhat surprised to find no one there.

“Curious …” he thought to himself.

Suddenly a dazzling array of bright, shining teeth appeared in the darkness.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” he mused as he shielded his eyes.

“Visitor for you, sire,” said the teeth in a familiar voice.

Bergassol, the Captain of the Tower Guard, stepped out from the shadows which had masked his tanned features. Countless days spent on guard duty in the bright Grundorian sun, reflected mercilessly off the pearly white walls of Minus Teeth, had turned his face a burnished bronze, which contrasted sharply with his sparkling teeth, a hallmark of all residents of the Wight City.

“Visitor for you, sire,” repeated Bergassol. “He is rather insistent, sire, only …”

“Yes?” prompted Denimthor as he followed the Captain down the staircase that wound round and round, around the bound of the Tower of renown, down to the ground.

“Well, he’s a little chap, sire. Only so high,” replied Bergassol, somewhat dizzy from the circular descent and excessive narrative rhyming, and gesturing to his waist. “He is as like a child to my eyes, only with the voice of a man.”

“Hmm, I wonder what brings one of the Teiniewyniedhil to these parts,” mused Denimthor, adopting the (rather offensive, if the truth be told) Grundorian term. “Perhaps he is looking for an opportunity to trade with our people. Could do wonders for the local hospitality industry. Show him in. I will meet him in the Throne Room.”

********************************************

Denimthor sat regally on the grand Throne of the King, studiously ignoring the smaller and significantly less impressive Proctor’s Seat which stood below it. It was not long before Bergassol entered with a Hobbit in tow.

“Denimthor, Proctor of Grundor?” enquired the Halfling. He was a particularly rotund specimen, middle-aged and finely garbed in an expensive pin-striped three piece suit. Unusually for a Hobbit, he wore an expensive pair of spotless patent leather brogues, and sported pince-nez spectacles on his nose. He peered over them expectantly at the Proctor.

“Yes. I am he,” replied Denimthor, imperiously.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” said the Hobbit, proffering a small white card.

Denimthor took the card and studied it.

Billingsworth A. Fastbuck, Esq.
~Attorney-at-Law~

Charger, Fastbuck & Bankitt
13, Pennyfarthing Lane
Big Buckland
The Mire

“A loyer!” he exclaimed.

“A respectable profession, I am sure you will agree, Proctor. I specialise in the recovery of debt.”

“Ah well, I have no need of your services. Rest assured that I have adequate provision of my own in that regard.”

“No, you quite misunderstand me. I am here in connection with a certain sum loaned by Mögul Bildûr Enterprises LLC in connection with restoration work on the Wight City.”

“But you must be mistaken,” exclaimed Denimthor, as a slight facial tic manifested itself on his drawn features. “The Dread Developer is no more. That debt is discharged.”

“I fear that it is you who are mistaken, Denimthor, Proctor of Grundor,” replied the Halfling loyer. “I have been engaged on behalf of the Liquidator in connection with the winding-up of Mögul Bildûr Enterprises LLC.”

Denimthor blanched at the name of the relentless Receiver.

“And I am duly authorised to seek repossession of Minus Teeth, the Wight City, upon which the debt was secured.”

“Ah,” ventured Denimthor, recovering slightly and surreptitiously slipping into the Proctor‘s Seat. “But, you see, neither Grundor nor the Wight City are actually mine. I am merely the Proctor. A shepherd, if you like, tending to the flock of Grundor until the King returns. And I hear tell that the rightful King is on his way back as we speak. You’ll have to take this matter up with him.”

“I am aware of the returning King’s claim,” replied Fastbuck. “And, if his claim is established, I accept that the encumbrance over the Wight City will stand discharged ...”

“Well there you are,” said Denimthor, relaxing. “Now, if you have no further business …”

“… only, there is the small matter of the personal guarantee.”

“The wha …?” spluttered Denimthor, his face tic-ing faster than the Halfling's pocket watch.

“You personally guaranteed the debt in the event that the charge over the Wight City was insufficient to disharge it. I am therefore also duly authorised to seek repayment from you personally of the full amount of the debt, namely, let me see …” Fastbuck unfurled and studied a parchment which he had removed from his inside pocket, before continuing, “… the sum of 10,500,000 guineas ...”

“But …”

“… plus interest, compounded daily at a rate of 22.5%, amounting to 2,385,999 guineas, making 12,885,999 guineas in total as at today‘s date …”

“How …?”

“… plus all legal costs and disbursements incurred in the recovery of said debt.”

Denimthor was by now a quivering wreck, having calculated that, with the current strength of the guinea to the Grundorian kabob, he was short to the tune of approximately 25 million kabobs. He was not, however, a Proctor to be fleeced lightly. Composing himself, he glared defiantly at the diminutive loyer and countered with a speech of great eloquence.

“Yeah, you and who’s army?”

“Ahem,” answered the Hobbit. “Since you ask ….”

With this, he began to mutter beneath his breath. Denimthor’s hand moved to his great sword, Äurrel’Bei, but before he could unsheathe it, the spell of summoning was complete and two terrifying figures materialised in the chamber.

The first was a mountain of a man, as like a half-troll, only with less charm. Shaven was his head, and pot-bellied his physique. He wore a black short-sleeved-shirt and tracking-suit bottoms, and his feet were shod with the large black boots favoured by the physicians of Mahrten. His rough skin was wrought with colourful designs, some declaring his love for his mother, others depicting tigers and anchors. And in one great hand, adorned with a sovreign ring, he bore a thick chain, at the end of which languished an enormous black hound, flat of face and toothy of maw, and sporting a sharply studded collar of great girth.

The other was smaller, but no less fearsome. Swarthy of complexion, lean of frame and muscular in build, he wore a bandanna on his head bearing a grinning skull and crossbones. A dangerously mad glint was in his eyes and his mouth leered maniacally as he puffed on a weedstick, revealing two shining gold teeth. He wore a black vest, black leather trousers and boots as like those of his companion. His skin, too, was decorated, but in a more stylised fashion, with swirling, jagged patterns. Thrust in his belt were two evil-looking light crossbows, cocked and ready to fire.

“Permit me to introduce my … ah … associates,” said Fastbuck. “Myhrrdôk and Ess’Tevèz.”

To Denimthor, who had studied well the ancient texts, the two interlopers required no further introduction. The Baîllíffs were they, the Reaperwraiths, the Liquidator's most terrible servants. Destitution went with them, and they rejoiced in the collection of debt.

Bergassol stepped forth, his spear at the ready, determined to to protect his lord from these dreadful foes and to enforce the Wight Tower‘s strict no smoking policy. But as he did so, Myhrrdôk’s fearsome hound growled menacingly and Ess’Tevèz let out an ear-splitting whoop.

“Come not between a Baîllíff and his claim!” warned Fastbuck. “Or he will not rough thee up where thee stand. He will bear thee away to the courts of administration, beyond all beaurocracy, where thy assets shall be stripped, and thy bankrupt estate be left naked to the Grasping Hand.”

“Yeah punk, and you most definitely do not want that to occur,” added Ess’Tevèz.

Bergassol faltered, and Denimthor, ashen faced, waved him back.

“I cannot pay this debt,” he said. “My coffers will not avail me now.”

“Then I would advise that you take precautions to ensure that this King, rightful or not, does not return,” replied Fastbuck. “For then, the debt may be redeemed through repossession of the Wight City. You have two weeks. In the meantime, I have taken the precaution of invoking an Ynch’ankh-Shön enchantment over your assets. They shall remain encased in ice until further notice, although you may have a weekly allowance of 5 guineas for personal expenses. Good day.”

And with that, Billingsworth Fastbuck turned and walked briskly from the chamber, flanked by the Baîllíffs, leaving the Proctor utterly shaken and languishing in the depths of despair, where he remained for the rest of the day.

The next morning, however, he had brightened somewhat. After a sleepless night turning over in his mind the seemingly hopeless situation in which he found himself, an idea had occurred to him in the early hours as to how he might raise the necessary funds. For this Proctor liked to gamble. And so, anonymously hooded and cloaked, he set off on foot (his horse having been clamped) for the Wight Mountains.

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Old 03-11-2007, 04:07 PM   #14
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Gravendil’s light-footed, sure-footed Elven steps led him rapidly further in and further up, following the direction Merisuwyniel had taken earlier. Concern for her welfare filled his mind, perhaps not very logically. After all, she had survived the greatest part of her adventures without him, coming through victorious as well as flawlessly coiffed and attired. Surely this small island could present no danger that would imperil her more than combat with the Dread Developer himself?

Nevertheless he sped up the wooded hillside, dodging tree trunks both vertical and horizontal, until he was almost at the pinnacle. He entered a clearing, pausing (no, not for breath – running is of course effortless for an Elf!) to get his bearings. To his astonishment, a completely unexpected sight met his eyes.

There stood a female, to all appearances Orcish in nature, though her only deformations seemed to be abnormally swollen mammary glands. Strangely enough, those did not rend her unattractive to him.

She was clad – well, at least those body parts that were clad – in a dark material, neither hard as metal nor flowing as fabric, but shining and supple, following every swaying movement of her lithe body. Had he been capable of coherent thought and speech at that moment (he was not), he would have said that it was neither feminine nor practical, though it certainly affirmed her gender and did not hinder her with any superfluous abundance.

One of her hands clasped the slender trunk of a birch tree, apparently needing its support for her slow, rhythmic motions. She sang, and as Gravendil involuntarily drew closer, he heard the words of her song.

The minute you walked in the woods
I could see you were an Elf of distinction,
A real big quester,
Good-looking, really hot –
Say, wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on in my plot?

So let me get right to the point,
I don’t pop my sword for every Elf I see.
Hey, big quester!
Quest a little quest with me.


She stopped, looking at him suggestively, with an indication that he was welcome to join in her – well, call it ‘dance’, for lack of a more appropriate word.

His brows drew together as he pondered her words. She seemed to expect an answer.

“Sorry,” he replied, “but I’m already questing with my wife.”

“Married, eh?” she said. “Aren’t they always! But that doesn’t stop a guy from having fun with me. You know that we bad girls are always more interesting than the good ones at home, with their cheerful songs about the hills being alive with the sound of music, and a few of their favourite things, and the musical alphabet. You know what? If your conscience bothers you for liking me, just remind yourself that I’m only a fictional character, so ‘evil’ is irrelevant.”

“B-but,” Gravendil stammered, “she’s having my baby – what a lovely way of saying how much she loves me.”

“Got herself knocked up, did she?” the dancer grinned. “Then just what do you think she’ll look like soon? Do you really expect her to be able to compete with this?” With one long, blood-red* fingernail she traced a line from the hollow of her throat down to her shapely navel.**

Swallowing hard, Gravendil made one last valiant stand. “She’s the woman I love, and I love what it’s doing to her,” he gasped.

His words were ignored. Her hand moved toward the straps of her upper garment, and though the days of his Orcness were long gone and nearly forgotten, he recalled a chant used by his soldiers in times past:

Take it off, take it off!

He hardly knew whether he had actually spoken the words, but suddenly realizing that he was in danger of losing all that he had achieved in Mantoe’s Educational Halls and the Elven love of his life for whom he had gone through it, he cried out to himself, “You fool!”

The Orc female looked enquiringly, but he no longer cared. Resolutely he turned his back on her and strode onwards purposefully. She shrugged, then called out, “Hey! If you ever want to come back and take me up on my offer, here’s where you’ll find me.” She tossed a small oblong card at him and, startled, he caught it instinctively, thrusting it into his pocket without looking at it. Had he done so, he would have seen the runes inscribed upon it:

Tel-Éporniel Dôtkömm
‘always ready to help you while away lonely hours’



*the colour of human and Elvish blood, of course – for some reason more attractive as a makeup colour than that of Orcish blood

**which, if you think this through to its logical conclusion, provides the answer to speculations about the nature of Orcish reproduction.
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Old 03-12-2007, 08:28 AM   #15
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"So," thought Windsor Gummidge, left standing alone on the beachfront, "my mistress could be in mortal peril, but my master has run off to rescue her. I guess I should thank my luck that neither of them left me any instructions, and I’ve got an unexpected holiday. Well, as me old gaffer used to say, 'when life gives you lemons, don't look that gift horse in the mouth,' and no mistake." Before you could say “knife and fork” the hobbit had used both to consume a second breakfast out of the leftovers from the first, after which he got out his pipe, stuffed it from his pouch of Old Toady, and sat down on a rock overlooking the shoreline camp to smoke it.

He was just working on his third smoke ring when he caught a whiff of a passing smoke ring on the ocean breeze that definitely did not come from his own pipe. It had to be Troll’s-bottom Leaf – Windsor claimed that he could sniff out the brand last smoked by a week-dead orc at a hundred paces – and better than his own smoke by half. Clambering down from his rock (one small step for a man, one giant leap for a smallish hobbit), he prowled up the beach to find out who’d been holding out on him.

He rounded a bend where the beach turned to the left, and hey presto! sitting there on the sand, blowing smoke rings as pretty as you please, was a hobbit lass as pretty as Windsor pleased and more. A fair and wonderous hobbitess the like of which Windsor had never seen -- the pearl-white teeth, the protruding bosom, and oh, the beautiful fur that curled aound her dainty toes! But all that was beside the point -- she was smoking a pipe of Troll's-bottom! Could it be that he had found someone that shared his favorite pastime? Such a woman he would give his all for! (At least, all but his favorite pipe!) So startled was he that he nearly fell face forward into her lap, which he really didn't want to prevent. Recovering slightly, he put on his best smile and blurted out “Good morning!”

The Hobbit lass looked at him from under long delicate eyelashes that stuck out further than the whiskers of a shady cat. "What do you mean?" she said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"

"All of them at once," said Windsor, warming to the conversation -- at least, he tried to tell himself it was just the conversation. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.” Then Windsor sat down on the sand by the lass, crossed his legs, and tried to blow out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over the dunes, but all he could manage was a short, roughly cylindrical column of smoke which hung in the air before them.

"Very nice," commented she sarcastically, then with a wink and a sly grin she blew a ring of smoke which drifted over to encircle Windsor's, moving slowly up and down the column which inexplicably doubled in length. "But," the winsome hobbitess continued in a sultry voice that curled the hair on Windsor's toes, "I really have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an...adventure...that I am arranging, and as you can imagine it's very difficult to find anyone here on this nearly deserted island, you big strong hunk of hobbit, you!" At this the petite femme fatale looked longingly at Windsor with her big blue eyes, fluttering those eyelashes like some kind of organic chaff flails. She took another draw off her pipe and blew the aphrodisiac vapors gently into his face as she dreamily intoned, "is that a ring in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

Windsor was now almost completely under her spell. Since leaving Pimpiowyn in Valleyum he'd had a difficult time trying to forget her, but now all thought of the half-halfling was banished. Now there was just...her...and her pipeweed...but then he began to feel something in what passed for his brain. When he tried to recall it later for his friends he could only say, "If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn't got nothing on, and I didn't like it...well, I might have liked it but that's beside the point. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Mire to a nice little hole* with a bit of garden of my own."

Windsor remembered his pledge to Merisu and Gravendil to be their servant and gardener, and then the face of Merisu came before his mind. And it seemed to him in his reverie that Merisu spoke to him, saying "No oath or bond do I lay on you to go further than you will, but if you want my advice, get up off that sand and get away from that floozie!!"

From where he lay on the beach, with the tiny temptress nearly atop him, he threw her off of him, jumped up, and fairly ran for his life back towards the camp.

----------

* -- the translators were unclear as to whether the word here was "hole" or "ho'", but the coin flip went for the gentler word.
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Old 03-13-2007, 10:08 AM   #16
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Gravendil was relieved to see Merisuwyniel standing at the top of the hill, apparently unharmed. (He was also relieved to see that her gaze was toward the sea, not toward the woods whence he had come, though he would not have liked to admit the reason for that relief even to himself.) She turned to smile at him tranquilly, yet he recalled the possible danger lurking on the island and grasped her hands, pulling her into his arms urgently.

“What is amiss?” she asked.

“There are signs that we are not alone on this island, and we know not whether there be friend or foe awaiting us. Let us hasten to rejoin the others, for in numbers there is strength,” he replied hurriedly.

Hand in hand they ran down to the shore, arriving almost simultaneously with Halfemption and Windsor. They stopped short when they saw Gateskeeper surrounded by strange men and an even stranger woman, apparently heavily armed. In an instant their weapons were drawn.

The captain reacted promptly. Since he was not sure that ‘fight’ was the best option, he decided on the alternative. “To oars, to oars!” he cried out. Unfortunately, in the din a number of his men understood his words imperfectly.* They turned away from the shore with cries of “Girls, girls, girls!” Complete confusion reigned for several minutes, with jostling and shouting and a general lack of efficiency hindering any kind of purposeful action.

“Pause!” a voice called. Noise and activity ceased, and Gateskeeper was finally able to make himself understood. “Peace, my hasty friends!” he called out with a broad smile. “Let me introduce you to Captain Meanderin and his crew. They have, um – appropriated parts of our ship for repair work and are willing to carry us onward to Muddled-Mirth.”

The Questers looked at the motley crew dubiously, but quickly realized the advantage of accepting the offer of a bird in the hand instead of holding out for more elusive possibilities.

And so it came that Merisuwyniel, Gravendil, Squire Windsor Gummidge, Halfemption Gormlessar, and the Gateskeeper (plus his newly-found female companion, of whom no one took notice in the general hullabaloo) again boarded a ship, again hoping that this one would take them safely to their homelands.


*The document does not name the word which was substituted for “oars” by the misunderstanding men, so the translators could only conjecture that it must have sounded similar, perhaps rhyming with the original word, and that it must have denoted something familiar to sailors on shore leave.

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Old 03-21-2007, 06:18 PM   #17
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

“Six,” said the croupier, as Denimthor turned over his cards.

The banker, currently a dwarf with a rather shaggy brown beard named Fazi, smiled and turned over a 5 and a 2.

“Seven,” said the croupier and began ruthlessly moving Denimthor’s stake into the bank. The frivolous and scantly clad nymphs that seem to congregate around high stakes games in high power casinos tittered and began stroking Fazi’s hair and beard (they had already clustered around him long since). Fazi sat there and looked smug.

Denimthor, on the other hand, sat there near despair. He couldn’t allow himself to remember that he’d started a line of credit to get his chips. He also couldn’t allow himself to remember what happened to defaulting debtors. Groaning, he looked about himself. The room was large and full of people of different sorts. The carpets and furniture were very rich. Figuring prominently in the décor was the image of a dragon. To take his mind off his troubles for a moment, Denimthor studied the image. At first glance it appeared to be just a typical image of a dragon, twisting and wreathed in fire. But what was that clutched in the dragon’s claw? It looked like a…microphone? What grim omen is this, wondered Denimthor, to see this fell beast with such a thing.

…and where was that awful music coming from? It was low and faint, as one would expect in an establishment of refinement and taste…but it had an effect on the ear similar to a cat being put through a ringer. These contemplations brought him back to reality. How had this evening gone so horribly wrong? It had started reasonably well. He had almost doubled his stake, which is to say he had almost broken even. Then everything went all pear-shaped and he was down to his last thousand in chips.

There was no time for further contemplation as the next round had begun. Steeling his soul, Denimthor signaled that he would play. The nymphs looked at him in that vaguely pitying but mostly scornful way they have as they anticipated watching his last stand.

The cards were dealt. A 5 and 2. He had a 7, a splendid hand, not quite as good for him as a natural, but he had a definite advantage. He signaled that he wanted no card. Fazi took one. It was a 6. Denimthor began to feel more confident, surely the dwarf had gone over the limit and had nothing. Denimthor turned over his cards.

“Seven,” announced the croupier impressively. The nymphs winced, much to Denimthor’s satisfaction. Fazi just sat there and looked vaguely disappointed. Denimthor was suddenly feeling much better about life and stuff. He reached for his winnings. Fazi turned over his cards.

“I don’t suppose you brought more with you,” said Fazi in a rather contemplative tone.

Denimthor looked at the cards and collapsed in an undignified and most un-Proctorlike heap on the floor. The dwarf had a 2 and a 10.

The nymphs squealed with delight, a sound that to Denimthor held all the charm of fingernails across a chalkboard.

“Excuse me, sir,” came a rather aloof voice from above him, “but it appears you are out of chips. I’m afraid it is time for you to pay your bill if you wish to continue to play.”

There was nothing else for it, he had to try and overawe this mere functionary with his high rank, title, and lineage.

“Do you know who I am?” Denimthor demanded in his most imposing voice from his not so imposing heap on the floor.

“A defaulting debtor,” said the voice.

“I, sir, am the Proctor of Grundor,” Denimthor bellowed, still from his most un-Proctorlike heap on the floor.

“And I’m the Queen-Mother,” said the voice. Strong hands seized Denimthor.

“Grundor has no Queen-Mother!” cried Denimthor, “Grundor needs no Queen-Mother!”

This reminder of monarchy did little to improve Denimthor’s mood, for some odd reason. But on the other hand, neither did the savage series of buffets he suddenly received about the head and shoulders.

“Congratulations,” said the dwarf in front of him, “you now qualify for our special rewards program.”

“Here it comes,” thought Denimthor, bracing for the whips and chains.

“A free concert down in the most exclusive part of the casino,” said the dwarf. “A show just started and if you hurry you won’t miss much of it.”

Denimthor reacted in the only way he could under the circumstances.

“Whaaaa…” he stammered. “No feather-tickling? No pillow torture? No c…c…comfy chair?”

“Of course not!” said the dwarf, seeming surprised. “We want to reward special patrons such as yourself. It keeps you coming back.”

“Ahh,” said Denimthor. This was more like it. They were going to accord him treatment befitting his status. He adopted his most gracious and generally Proctor-like demeanor. “Lead the way,” he said.

The dwarves led Denimthor through the casino, making something of a parade of him in front of the customers. Denimthor strode with dignity behind the dwarves. Who could blame them if they wanted to make a show of having THE Proctor of Grundor in their casino; that would bring in the crowds. He failed to notice that the eyes watching him held a mixture of fear and pity.

They started down a long corridor. As they proceeded Denimthor grew increasingly uneasy. He couldn’t lay his finger on the source of it. Was it because he was no longer basking in the crowd? Was it because the corridor they were leading him down grew darker? Why were the dwarves stopping and putting large wads of cotton in their ears?

Then it hit him, the hideous music was much worse down here. It all made sense!!! He tried to run, but the dwarves grabbed him and dragged him down.

“No…no…no!” he jabbered, “I’ll pay…I’ll find a way!!!” The dwarves were oblivious to his protestations and carried him down until they drew near some large doors. The music came from behind the doors. The dwarves were about to open them when the music stopped. They heard a soft groan. A *WHIPPPOOOOOWWWW!!!* <thud> was instantly succeeded by thunderous applause.

The door burst open and four dwarves carrying a body came bundling out. The dwarves shoved Denimthor through the door and closed it. The crowd around him was in a frenzy…the sort of frenzy that usually attends speeches given in the Soviet Union where the first person who stops cheering goes to Siberia. Several members of the crowd seemed to be a little overcome with their rapture and were screaming at the top of their lungs and foaming at the mouth.

“Thank you, thank you!” boomed a voice from up front, “You are too kind. And now my next number…”

Somewhere in the room somebody started sobbing.

*CRUNCH*

feeeEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGGGSSSSSS!!!!!
NoTHing mOOOOOOOOOreEEEEE thAAn FEEEEEEeeeeeeeLLLLLLLLL…


Denimthor cast his horrified gaze toward the stage.

There, mikestand in hand, singing in all the dulcet tones of an elephant in its death agony, stood Chrysophylax Dives.

AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! !!!

Dead silence.

Denimthor could hardly believe that he’d screamed like that. All the eyes in the room were on him. They looked at him with…well, it was that sort of look that one gets when one has just gone running naked through some public place. Everyone looks at you with horror but at the same time wishes they’d thought to do that first. This look was sort of like that…only much, much worse. And one pair of eyes had nothing of that look about them.

“Oh,” said Chrysophylax sweetly, “a critic!”

Denimthor’s mouth went dry..er.

“Come up here and let’s see if you can do better,” commanded the dragon. Whimpers of dismay stealthily crept from the audience. Denimthor was only dimly aware of all this. All he saw were the razor sharp teeth and the powerful jaws moving about.

“Come now,” said Chrysophylax. “It isn’t like the Proctor to leave an audience waiting.”

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Old 03-22-2007, 04:22 PM   #18
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'Wait!'

Even as Hyperbolic floated on the first waves of an outgoing tide a stentorian voice rang out across the mystery island's shimmering sands. There upon the strand hard by the water's edge stood mighty Botherhon, a dew of salt water glinting on his manly quiff; his bronzed thews gleaming in the rays of the westering sun. Even now, as they drifted from his presence, authority sat upon him, crowning his rigid coiffure and robing his hirsuit limbs; and his words were words of power. Needless to say, the ship's company, now swelled by the erstwhile Fellowship of the Things, completely ignored him and continued their respective running repairs, schemings, groomings and crooked card games, unabashed at having ignored his injunction of post number six.

But Botherhon was set at the head of a mighty bureaucracy; and mastery was given him of many things unknown to walkers on his silver shores. Many Watchers, too, there were, whose sleepless vigil none might long elude. There gathered about the ship a host of lithe and lissom forms, which wound it about, ever pushing with their strange devices, ever dragging at the vessel's sides. And as the fresh wind filled their billowing canvas, so too did very Nature turn against them. For the wind died in their sails, as drunken ravings wither in the dawn; and mighty Hyperbolic, even she, paragon of ships and finest of wave-swans, was stalled like a watch full of treacle.

The Watchers of the Bay were mighty swimmers. As Mëanderin's flagship lay becalmed perforce yet more golden sentinels swam out from the shore, and they bore with them a great cable; and at its end was fastened a great baulk of timber, studded with many hooks. This they fastened athwart the questing bows, and others on the shore fell to dragging Hyperbolic back to the shore she had but lately spurned. Aboard the gallant vessel, chaos reigned.

'Captain,' intoned Starstruc, 'they appear to have caught our prow with a form of traction beam. We must escape.'

'Jolly good,' replied his commanding officer, with the air of a man who is senior enough not to have to give his own orders. 'See to it, would you?'

But Redwine had already routed out a nearby poker school, pushed billhooks into their hands and set them to cutting the ropes that towed them ever closer to shore. Eventually, his face pouring with sweat, hands blistered from his long labour, the second mate freed the last of the cables that held them, grunting with exertion and satisfaction as the fibres parted. Unfortunately by this time Hyperbolic was already on the beach, and the Watchers were scrambling aboard to seize the senior ship's officers and Merisuwyniel's party. Redeemed though he was, the words of Gravendil were not those of an Elven lord, though doubtless they were apposite enough. The Hyperbolists hearkened to his speech with new-found respect as he bolstered his curses with gestures not known in Valleyum; but even he was overcome in time, and a ward was placed about Hyperbolic lest her crew should seek to depart ere the judgement of Botherhon should be complete.

They stood before him on the sand, captives in a ring of seductive, scarlet almost-clad forms, hemmed in by the company of holding and their ominous locks. And now the greatest of the bay's Watchers turned upon them the full majesty of his hirsuit chest, and he demanded of them in kingly tones: 'I'm very disappointed, guys. I told you to wait for a safety inspection and you tried to cut corners. When will you kids ever learn?'

Something in his tone caused even Harald Nicehair, Reaver of the Coasts, he who had personally sailed a small rowing boat through a full hurricane and looted a village at the end of it, to hang his head sheepishly. ' 'M sorry,' he muttered.

'What was that?' demanded their captor, with all the patronising good humour of a tax inspector. The company replied as one.

'Sorry, Mr. Botherhon.'

'Well,' continued Botherhon. 'At least I stopped you before anyone was hurt. You'd best all come ashore now and make camp, because this vessel's impounded until we check every last join.'

And with that he leaped for a trailing line and hauled himself nimbly aboard. Among the Babel of voices on the sands, he caught a question that caused him to pause and call back over his shoulder: 'I don't know; one week, maybe two.'

With that he was gone, and his watchers began to follow him, chivvying the crew ashore one by one. Merisuwyniel turned to her spouse, interrupting a disturbing image of leather and green skin.

'This simply won't do at all,' she announced with a primness only achieved by Elven shieldmaidens and elderly maiden aunts, both of which have long lives of peril behind them. 'I shall complain to the management.'

'Yes, dear; sorry, dear...' began Gravendil, but at this point he realised that someone else was the object of Merisuwyniel's displeasure. He decided to try a question.

'But who are the management, dear?' he asked carefully.

'I think I might be of assistance,' announced a suave voice from behind them. Gateskeeper stepped forwards, taking a strange parchment from a voluminous sleeve as he did so. In the confusion he had become separated from Tara, who was busily administering an impromptu lesson in unarmed combat to an amorous crewman. Gateskeeper's voice dropped; his tone became insinuating, conspiratorial. 'Tara knows. She gathers information on every game environment. Old habits, you know.'

'Very well; we'll ask her,' decided our heroine. Gateskeeper's response was careful.

'She is not aware of this knowledge; we must take her at unawares and perform the necessary operation.'

At this point the sound of breaking bone and a brief, pathetic whimper reminded them what a difficulty they faced. Gateskeeper unfolded his mysterious document and read aloud from the dread runes inscribed thereon.
'Núrelës plá ermods rêllëbigguns: gettupgräd!'*

Tara stopped and went rigid. A beam of bright green light shot forth from her right eye, and there appeared the ghostly figure of a woman clad in white robes and sporting the elaborate hair of the perennially waited upon. She said something about a wrong number and vanished in a blizzard of grey spots to be replaced by a green line drawing of the island, which began to rotate disconcertingly.

'As we can see from this simulation,' lectured Gateskeeper, 'this island is home to a number of convincing illusions and, indeed, physical entities controlled from a central complex here.'

He attempted to point to the building in question, but the continued rotation of the map meant that he ended up running around it foolishly. When he eventually tripped over the hem of his robe, he gave up and paused briefly to get his breath back before rising to continue.

'Every entity we have encountered thus far has been in some way controlled by the magical artefacts in this building. If anyone still controls them, that person is here.'

'Then we are decided,' quoth Merisuwyniel. 'We shall crave a boon from the master of this land, that he might suffer us to depart in peace.'

'I love it when you talk fancy, baby,' murmured Gravendil under his breath. Merisuwyniel winked surreptitiously at him.

***

The great gates were set into the side of a large hill near the centre of the island. Of mithril and gold were they wrought, glimmering faintly even through the dust and soil of ages. It had been a long time since Môgul's cleaning contractors had paid a visit: they hadn't been paid in two millennia.

Graven upon the lintel, picked out in silver and in precious stones were letters strange and marvellous.

'That is the script known to the Wise as Daebolic's Runes,' quoth Gateskeeper, 'yet the language is that of Slangbad, which I shall utter here because Môgul can no longer hear us anyway. It reads Disizmine Cuman Avago Ifyefinkyer Ardënuf.'

'The Doors of Môgul, Lord of Barát. Speak, minion, and wait in terror.'

The voice was that of Gravendil, who spoke quietly and with pain in his eyes. His words were slow and without expression, as though he tore them from the depths of a great wound that could never quite be healed. When he had spoken, he stood in silence, his gaze cast earthward.

'That's not what it means!' Gateskeeper snapped. It clearly reads: "Say 'servant' and abide with trepidation'".

'I'm sure my old schoolmaster told me that avago ifyefinkyer meant announce [the] valued colleague, chimed in Mëanderin, more for the sake of having said something than out of any real intention to contribute. His effortless pronunciation of square brackets went unnoticed.

'That's ridiculous,' retorted Gateskeeper. 'How can the same word mean 'minion', 'valued colleague', and 'servant' at one and the same time?'

'I only say what I remember.' The almost-mariner sounded hurt. 'What's the point of a classical education if you can't use it to show off once in a while?'

'I once read that it can mean "master",' said Windsor Gummidge helpfully.

'Where could you possibly have read that?' wondered Mëanderin incredulously.

'Will you shut up?!' Gravendil's outburst was close to being a scream. 'Can't we just accept that some words have a very wide semantic range and be done with it?! Anyway, the important thing is that we need a password.'

Gateskeeper stood for a moment, deep in thought. He raised his Cell-antír on high and pressed his palm against the great gates. His voice thundered and reverberated about them all as he proclaimed a powerful spell of opening.

'passwd001!' he cried. White light burst forth from the instrument in his hands; bright fire played across the runes above the gates. Slowly, ponderously, they failed to open.

'Mypass!' called Gateskeeper. This time the fire was brighter still, and tiny snakes of white light writhed across the surface of the gates. They remained steadfast.

'Eru! Abc123! newpass1!' cried Gateskeeper again, but to no avail. He flung himself down upon the ground and began to fiddle with his Cell-antír abstractedly.

But a figure stepped forth, and his eyes were fixed upon those dread portals. He gazed at the writing, at once so familiar and yet so strange. The shadows of dark memories played across his face, and his hands bunched into fists. A mighty draught of breath he took, and proclaimed in a voice of adamant 'opensezme!'

'What sort of a terrible joke is that?' demanded Gateskeeper. 'You think the Dread Developer would stoop to such a pathetic...?'

But at that moment, even as the echoes of Gravendil's voice ceased to echo, the portals of Bildûr shuddered and swung smoothly inward, opening a great cavern to their eyes. Nothing did it contain, save only a metal frame, in which were supported several boxes; each of which bore the M-rune of Môgul. Green lights flashed erratically across their sides, and a constant humming filled the air. Upon the wall behind them was affixed a mighty wheel, which bore no markings save the single word: 'DANGER'.

They stepped forward: the senior officers of the Hyperbolic were there, Mëanderin, Starstruc and Redwine; Asperin the surgeon; Gravendil and Merisuwyniel; Gateskeeper and Windsor. Silently they entered this place of power, their feet stirring up the dust of ages and great mounds of paper writ with many spells of untold potency. Windsor lit his pipe, shook the match and threw it into a corner.

'$£!%$&*'#@!' **

Redwine leaped aside as a tinder-dry pile of the flimsy paper exploded into flames. Immediately he whisked off his captain's cloak and threw it over the pile, stamping frantically at the smoking garment.

'Never fear!' cried Mëanderin, leaping for the far wall. 'I see the fire hose!'

He grasped the great, red wheel and threw his weight against it. Veins and muscles stood out like whipcords as he strained against the ancient mechanism. It moved easily, and he fell flat on his face, the wheel spinning freely until it reached the limit of its travel and jarred to a stop. As he picked himself up he noticed for the first time that above the word 'DANGER' was a small dial, divided into regular increments and sectioned into colours from green through blue and yellow to red. The indicator needle was pointing to the utmost limit of the red sector; next to it was written: 'Ambient Risk Level critical. Move very, very carefully'.

'Um...' he said hesitantly.

'What in the Developer's name is going on in here?!'

The voice was that of Botherhon, but wroth was his mien, and scarlet was his countenance. Gone was the slightly tacky suavity and the good-natured grin, and his hair, though perfectly coiffed, was as a helm of wire. He rounded upon Merisuwyniel, who, possibly coincidentally, had always been impressed by men in touch with their anger.

'This place is forbidden, even to the Korprat Loyers of Bildûr! Only the Sisadmîn are permitted to pass its doors! What follies have you committed here?'

There was only one thing to do. Summoning all of her courage and strength, casting aside uncertainty and fear, Merisuwyniel boldly and valiantly fluttered her eyelashes.

She had meant to turn the full force of her charm against Botherhon, to call him 'Mr. Botherhon' and butter him up like a glutton's crumpet, but for some reason all was not going according to plan. Botherhon was silenced; his jaw dropped in cretinous awe and his hands clenched spasmodically. So like her former suitors did he appear that Merisuwyniel almost believed herself back at the Home-Grown Cows, once more riding swift to meet with Halfullion in the shade of Roneld's fountain. Steam began to creep out of the Watcher's ears.

Suddenly the air was rent with a shriek so clamant as to identify itself at once to Merisuwyniel as a siren warning of impending disaster. In a darkened corner of the cave a flat section of wall began to cast an eerie green light as strange, glowing characters multiplied across its surface. Gateskeeper strode to it, his eyes skating urgently among the glowing lines of script. Mëanderin strove to turn the great wheel back to its original position, but it came off in his hands, falling on the floor with a clang and opening there a great crack that stretched from wall to wall. Gateskeeper started at the sound and spun to face them with horror in his eyes.
'We must leave this place at once! The entity Botherhon has been stricken with a timeless love for Merisuwyniel, and will summon additional charm until he wins her. But he is stricken dumb and is unable to use it. The cycle cannot be broken and it will destroy the maker of illusions.'

'What's so bad about that?' snorted Asperin. Surely you don't expect me to heal a machine.'

'What is so bad,' replied the mage, 'is that the source of its power lies deep in the earth, and has been magically enhanced by Môgul's Sisadmîn. When it exhausts its source of energy, as it surely will, this very island will be consumed to fuel the Watcher's devotion! Normally this could not be, but some fool has altered through ancient craft the level of danger in this room.' ***

Merisuwyniel turned, and twitched her skirts (feminine yet practical). She called to all who could hear in her clear and tuneful voice: 'We must flee! Doom has come upon this island. Tragic, beautiful, romantic doom.'

As that great company surged as one (if solitary persons could barge themselves out of the way or trample themselves underfoot) for the decks of the Hyperbolic the earth began to tremble beneath their feet. The last of Mëanderin's mariners to pass the Elf-woman thought he saw out of the corner of his eye the lovely shieldmaiden turn and cast a brilliant yet wistful smile at Botherhon, where he stood motionless in the cavern of Bildûr. The wailing siren doubled in intensity.

**

On the decks of Hyperbolic they gathered, those who stalk the legends of that time (for never again was such a mighty company assembled in a single place). From half a mile offshore they gazed upon the beauteous isle, its alabaster sands and waving palms. Each bade a silent farewell to the distant screech that was the siren of doom, and made shift to imprint the images of those things on memories already poised to fade. The Hyperbolists turned to their work with reluctance, even their swearing strangely muted and poetic in the maudlin orgy of self-reproach aboard the questing ship.

It was Mëanderin's lookout who broke their silence with his hopeful call.

'I think the siren's stopped. I don't think it's going to blow up afte...'

In latter days they say that the explosion was heard a thousand miles away, where grim tribesmen huddled closer about their peat fires and muttered prayers to the Great Cow of their legends, burning offerings of bicarbonate of soda that the thunder might be silenced. But the travellers aboard Hyperbolic heard nothing more than a disappointing 'pop'. For a few moments a great crater lay open among the waters, into which fell a metal cage and the unmoving figure of a mighty man; then the seas rushed in and consumed them. A great wave arose from the ruin and towered like the walls of a fortress above the flimsy mast, but Hyperbolic rode atop it, and was carried many miles ere it passed beneath her keel and rolled on to devastate a great continent. Its inhabitants never realised amid their penury and loss that theirs had been the lesser visitation.

--

* Noodlarian: 'Now, you may feel a slight sting.'


** What are you looking at me for? I don't know what it means.

*** The technical wights of Môgul Bildûr, or Sisadmîn, were strange, pale, stunted creatures, whose chief skill was in the working of arcane things. They took delight in keeping about them the means of disaster, that the unwary might be gulled into causing cataclysms unaware. They it was who had invented the danger wheel, which controlled the background levels of danger in a localised area. With the wheel at its highest setting, such an action as wiggling one's index finger could cause such a disproportionate result as a global pandemic of chicken pox. That their race is now entirely extinct is not considered surprising by most commentators.

Last edited by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh; 03-22-2007 at 04:32 PM. Reason: The inevitable corrections
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Old 04-02-2007, 06:14 AM   #19
Estelyn Telcontar
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Merisuwyniel and Gravendil stood on the deck of the ship with Squire Windsor beside them. They watched in awe as the island met its spectacular end, and yet there was beauty as well as violence in the explosion.

"It is kind of gorgeous, isn't it?" Merisu said. "I wonder what happened to all the people we left behind there?"

Gravendil said nothing.

"It was a very strange island," his spouse continued. "I had visions which I did not understand - and that is not normal for an Elf of my intellect." She turned to him. "Did you experience anything unusual, or meet strange people there?"

Gravendil swallowed, but quickly regained his poise. Not for nothing had he concealed his true thoughts from evil lords and lordesses in his past life. Ósanwe could make life difficult for Elven spouses who hesitated to share each and every thought with their mates, yet somehow he felt that he did not want to tell his wife of his encounter with the dancer. He carefully schooled his mind to trees - many, many trees - then opened it to her. "Sorry, dear, you must have gotten all the excitement and left none for the rest of us - except maybe Gateskeeper there..."

Windsor paid no attention to their conversation - he watched the aftermath of the explosion with only one thought on his mind: "Mushrooms!"
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Old 04-05-2007, 04:09 PM   #20
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In the immediate aftermath of the giant wave’s passing, several of the less experienced crewpersons were standing at the rail performing their best impressions of the Puking Men, also known as the Woozies. Once everyone had settled down a bit and returned to their duties, Meanderin called Merisu aside.

"What was the name of the once-grand vessel which carried you to that ex-island?" asked Meanderin, continuing, "upon finding your wreckage with none aboard we made shift to repair our ship, the mighty Hyperbolic, from the remains."

Merisuwyniel thought back for a moment to their departure, remembering with a smile how Windsor had tried to slurp the suds off the hull after the ceremonial magnum of Glen Miruvor was smashed upon the stern. She replied, "We set sail from Valleyum in a ship provided for us by the Green Goddess Yawanna herself, may her lettuce never wilt. We re-christened it the Sensitive Swan, thinking that the original name,'Sethamir’s Stable Boats and Shipping Services,' was far too long and inelegant a name for such a glorious conveyance."

"Ah," quoth Meanderin, "therefore, since our present vessel represents the combining not only of our respective boats but also of our crews and our fortunes, this vessel shall henceforth be known as the Hypersensitive! Starstruc! We need our painter, D'avinn-chii, to emblazon our new nom-de-mer on our prow. Has Asperin been able to cure him of his mysterious ailment?"

Starstruc looked over from his position at the rudder and replied, "Nay, captain, neither Asperin nor any of the crew have seen anything like the D'avinn-Chii cold -- it remains as baffling and incomprehensible as ever. The symptoms seem to vary with the political leanings of the surgeon."

"No matter," said Meanderin cheerily, "find our new navigator, Gateskeeper, and set course for Muddled-Mirth. With these newcomers aboard I feel the winds of change in our fortunes!"

While the workings of Emu are as inscrutible as the reason why toast always falls buttered-side-down when dropped on expensive and delicate carpeting, the presence of Merisu and Company did seem to bring about a rather immediate change in their fortunes which was connected with winds only in the total lack thereof. In other words, Gateskeeper's directions were for naught -- the good ship Hypersensitive had unbecomingly become becalmed.

After a bit of programming by Gateskeeper, Tara Craft was able to supplement the ships victuals by leaping into the waters and punching sharks to be hauled aboard for fresh meat. Even so, after a fortnight fresh water and low-salt food supplies began to run dangerously low. The meals were rationed, and the water guarded. Gateskeeper spent every waking moment (and a few nightmares) trying to conjure up winds to fill their sails, from appeals to the mercy of the Velour to an abortive attempt to summon up a seventh-age political speechmaker, but in the end all was for naught. The experienced sailors began muttering in low and imprecatory tones of "Jonahs" and poor scriptwriting.

Gateskeeper, having run out of the coconut-shell explosives, had tied a line to one end of his staff and was attempting a bit of fly fishing from the bow. Tara stood at his side while the other male crew observed their interactions in envy and wonder at why the beautiful girl chose to fall for the skinny, pasty-skinned n'erd.. She was observing his activity with interest, asking in the native language of the Geeks, "Action query: purpose and parameters?" (Translated into normal speech, this meant, "What are you doing, why are you doing it, and how is it done?") Gateskeeper began to explain in some detail the male ritual known as fishing while Tara raptly absorbed the information.

"Would you care to try?" Gateskeeper asked, offering her the staff and line. Tara looked for a moment at the makeshift apparatus, then tersely replied, "Inefficiency -- optimization and upgrade required." ("I can do this better than you.") She strode forward before Gateskeeper could stop her and snapped off the bowsprit with one hand, then tied one end of a coiled hawser to it. Seizing a bronze pikestaff from one of the guards, she bent it bare-handed into a hook shape, impaled a small goat upon it, and affixed it to the other end of the mooring rope. While Gateskeeper and the crew watched in amazement she cast the massive rope assembly over the side, which landed with a splash some 100 meters off the port bow. She took up her oversized fishing rod and to all appearances settled in to wait patiently for a bite.

There were several moments of dumbstruck silence before Meanderin came rushing forward to Gateskeeper, spluttering and fuming, "Here now! She can't just go breaking parts off my ship..."

"Our ship," Gravendil and Merisu corrected him in unison.

"Right, our ship," acknowledged Meanderin, "but even so, Gateskeeper, if you can't control that vixen I'll have to..."

Just at that moment Tara interrupted with, "Target aquisition. Brace for acceleration, boys, this is where the fun begins." Now that she was back in her adventurous element, she no longer needed to resort to diagnostic geekspeak. Half a moment later the hawser went taut, Tara braced herself against the rail, and the ship lurched forward -- whatever fish, whale or kraken had taken the bait was towing the ship along at considerable speed in a direction almost perpendicular from the way to Muddled Mirth. "Well," said Meanderin, "at least we're not becalmed anymore, and anywhere is likely to be better than here. Reef sails, mates, let the beast have his lead."

For the next two hours the ship was dragged in a Muddled Mirth version of a Nantucket Sleigh Ride, but the beast, whatever it was, never veered from a straight course. Tara was attempting to haul the creature in, but it required all her preternatural strength just to hold against the strain. One poor sailor who happened to fall off the stern holding a secured line invented the sport of barefoot skiing.

Just then, the lookout in the crow's nest shouted "Land ho! Small island dead ahead!" Yet the ship continued inexorably on course until the crew began to fear running aground. Gateskeeper stepped forward to try to explain to Tara that sometimes the fish "gets away", when the line in her hands unexpectedly went slack and the ship slowed and stopped within rowing distance of the new shore. The crew immediately sent up a mighty cheer for Tara, and crowded around her to congratulate her on the mighty struggle that had probably saved their lives. Tara did not rebuff their adulation, but once the crew had begun preparing to disembark, she slumped to the deck, saying only, "mission failure...battery low."

The pair of crewmen who hauled in and wound up the great rope which had been used noted that the end had no remains of the pikestaff or the bait, and appeared to have been bitten off cleanly by two monsterous incisors. They were glad not to have seen the creature, whatever it was.

-----------

Back in Valleyum, Tî-Kulmí Ulmo was picking bits of rope out of his monsterous white incisors. "Ptooee! That stuff tastes awful!", said he in his squeaking voice, "Next time Emu wants a boat towed, he can get Mantoes to do it."
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Old 04-05-2007, 04:19 PM   #21
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White Tree

~SAVE~

Time to send in the Bailiffs.
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Old 04-18-2007, 09:33 AM   #22
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The ship’s gentle landing on the island lulled its crew and passengers into the misconception that it was a place of peace and quietness, and so did it seem at first glance. But when the roaring waves had ceased their rhythmic pounding, and the deck no longer swayed, so that they could see clearly, they perceived glimpses of gaily coloured banners amongst the greenery and heard the strains of lively music. The sailors pulled the ship onto the beach, securing it with the remains of the rope. And lo! an expansive figure appeared there, spreading his arms wide in a universally recognizable welcoming gesture.

His head was wreathed with ivy vines, and grapes hung about his otherwise sparsely clothed limbs. He held cups filled with rich liquid in both hands. “Welcome to Bâcchanalië!” he called out, and the sailors responded with enthusiastic cheers. They did not wait for their captain’s permission to leave ship, and indeed it was not necessary – Mëanderin was the first to follow their host* for the purpose of moistening a parched throat.

Halfemption, Squire Windsor, and the Gateskeeper hurried to catch up with them, eager to partake of the promised refreshments as well. Gravendil turned to his spouse apologetically: “I should go after them to make sure there is no danger,” he said. “Will you two, ummm - ladies be alright here?”

“Certainly,” Merisuwyniel answered, just a touch too brightly. “Don’t you worry about us; all those strong, armed men may need you more. I’m sure no one would even think of approaching an abandoned ship – we’ll be quite safe.”

Soon he arrived at tents under which stood long tables, laden with plates, glasses, tankards, and other auspicious articles. Numerous females, the Maenadwens, bustled about with pads of paper in hand, intent upon collecting the wishes of their customers.

“Hi there, my name is Tiffanë, and I’ll be your serving wench for this orgy. What would you like to order?” said one young maiden, whose skirt had apparently suffered shrinkage in the laundry, to a group of sailors.

Another, dressed in a very low cut, laced bodice and a long, wide skirt, with footwear akin to that of the herders of kine, bent over the table and purred, “What’ll it be, boys? Name your poison!”

Still another buxom woman, whose ample girth was exceeded only by the strength of her arms, carried a load of foam-topped tankards and retorted, “Here you are, chentelmen. Ziss is a beergarten, you vere eggspecting maybe côk-täls?!”

Quite obviously this was a land according to the men’s liking. They settled down for a long bout of toasting each others’ health, their journey, their ship, their host, the serving wenches – well, suffice it to say that the evening lasted far into the night...


(*Who was, of course, the fabled Bâcchwë, son of Wrongwë, son of Onewë, master of those children of Yawanna which bore fruits that fermented to become the liquids used for merry-making all over Muddled-Mirth.)
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Old 05-10-2007, 07:58 PM   #23
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Boots

“Merisuwyniel returns to Muddled-Mirth,” said Denimthor.

The two of them had retired quietly to Chrysophylax’s study after the author had utterly failed to think of a clever and amusing way to get Denimthor out of his choral conundrum. Denimthor is now attempting to persuade Chrysophylax to assist him in preventing the Return of the Entish Beings. Let’s watch.

“Merisuwyniel is coming back!” cried Chrysophylax. “How glorious! We can have a reunion! I’ll host, I’ll be the entertainment, I’ll charge outrageous prices…”

This was not the reaction Denimthor was hoping for at all! Clearly he would have to adopt a different tactic.

“But think about it,” he said, “you know what they are like, no horde in the history of barbarity has ever been more destructive!”

“I know,” said Chrysophylax smugly.

“But you are part of the establishment now,” returned Denimthor. “You have a lot to lose.”

“Oh surely they have reformed a bit now,” said Chrysophylax, for the first time slightly nervous.

“They’ve blown up one island already,” said Denimthor. “Nobody is safe from them.”

“I’m probably safe from them,” said Chrysophylax hesitantly. “They wouldn’t want to destroy my casino…”

“That probably makes it worse,” said Denimthor. He had saved his most potent weapon for last and he prepared to…

“Hey,” shouted Denimthor. “Annoying narrator person!! This is our scene, get out!!!!”

“Well! Of all the nerve!” Footsteps came form somewhere off camera and stomped off into the distance.

“As I was saying,” said Denimthor, “if your casino goes, there goes your singing career!”

“MY SINGING CAREER!!!” wailed Chrysophylax. “These fiends must be stopped!”

“What do you suggest?” asked Denimthor.

Chrysophylax was silent for a moment.

“Yesss…” he said to himself, “he might help us…”

“He who?” asked Denimthor.

“Oh…someone,” said Chrysophylax evasively.

He went over to a small box sitting on a table and pressed some knobs on the box. The box emit a single endless tone until Chrysophylax pressed some more knobs.

A frightful non-Euclidian voice suddenly spoke from the box.

“You must pass a Sanity (-5) Check to complete your call.”

“What?!” said Chrysophylax. “I didn’t get an upkeep phase!”

“Irrelevant,” said the slimy voice. “What is your sanity score?”

“Ummm…just a minute,” said Chrysophylax. The dragon pulled out a little card with some markers on it. He winced and cast a hasty glance at the black box.

“I hope you are not thinking about cheating and moving your sanity score up right before the test…” said the anti-parallel voice menacingly.

“Of course not! How dare you impugn my honor like that!” cried Chrysophylax, as he slipped the marker on his sanity score from 1 to 6. “My sanity score is 6.”

“Hmmm…” warbled the voice, “a –5 check means you get one die (har, har). Transmitting…”

“Just a minute,” said Chrysophylax, “I have some clue tokens left over from my last quest. I’d like to turn those in for more dice.”

There was the sound of frustrated muttering from the box. “How many,” said the voice.

Chrysophylax pulled out a little bag and emptied some of the contents into his claw. It was a few round objects with what appeared to be a magnifying glass pictured on them. The dragon stared at them for a moment, and then dumped the rest of the contents of the bag on the floor.

“Two-hundred and eight,” he announced.

“What is going on?!” demanded Denimthor.

“Hush up!” said Chrysophylax.

“Transmitting,” squealed the voice.

In a flash of malodorous green smoke all the clue tokens vanished to be replaced by an equal number of decidedly non-Euclidian dice.

“The by-laws specify that each die must be cast separately,” squiggled the voice (and if you don’t understand how a voice can squiggle, you are undoubtedly one of those people who would instantly go insane just hearing it).

“But the show will be over by then!” protested Chrysophylax.

“What show?” asked Denimthor.

“Then I suggest that you get busy…” said the voice, “and only the person asking the question can throw the dice.”

Chrysophylax turned to Denimthor. “This isn’t really a problem. We only have to get a five or a six and I pass this test.”

That said he started to roll the dice…and embarked upon one of the longest losing streaks in the history of the world. Whether it was due to bad luck, the non-Euclidian design, or the simple fact that the dice were loaded, Chrysophylax rolled an interrupted string of 1s and 2s. After the twentieth cast he started foaming at the mouth a little, after the fiftieth cast he started giggling slightly, after the seventy-fifth cast he started looking nervously around and whispering to himself and after the hundredth cast he began running about the room screaming that the pregnant llama-people were about to get him. The voice inside the box chortled and cackled and the box itself emit a green ooze. Chrysophylax began tossing the dice violently against the wall and yelling something about pokka-dot spiders (still coming up 1s and 2s). Tentacles sprang from the box and began groping about the room.

“Umm…excuse me,” said Denimthor in the middle of the chaos…right before a tentacle seized him and brought him to the floor. As he rolled across the room wrestling with his squishy antagonist, Chrysophylax was trying to eat the sofa cushions while hopping on his head and tossing the dice at the same time. Luckily (or not depending on what happens later) his 208th toss went flying off the wall and stuck to one of the flailing tentacles…showing the number 5.

*WWWAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH* went the box.

Suddenly, the tentacles vanished as if they had never been…except for the goo that was clinging to everything.

“Most irregular,” muttered Denimthor as he tried to rise from the floor, to find that he was stuck.

“Congratulations,” said the box, “your call has been completed successfully. Please stay on the line and your call will be on the show in the order it was received.”

“What is that thing?!” demanded Denimthor. “What line is it talking about and what show?”

“Uhhh…” said Chrysophylax, still standing on his head because the goo had stuck him to the floor. “You’ll see.”

They waited as the on-hold cacophony of screams and gibbers set them further on edge.

Suddenly from the box…

“From the furthest depths of the uncharted seas, in the sunken city of R’yleh, beneath the lives and minds of men, lies Cthulhu, mightiest of the Great Old Ones he rests in his death-like slumber awaiting the time when he shall again rise and feast on the souls of Man. Until that time when the stars are aligned and he breaks his sleeping seal Cthulhu comes to the minds of Men and answers their calls…It’s time once again for…Calls…for…Cthulhu!!!!”

*wild applause*

”THANK YOU PUNY MORTALS!!! IT IS I, CTHULHU, HERE TO ANSWER YOUR FLEETING CONCERNS AND MEANINGLESS DRIVEL!! I WARN YOU, I’M IN A BAD MOOD TODAY!! MY PET SHOGGOTH TRIED TO EAT MY SLKDJIFONENPHY THIS MORNING. I HAD TO DNF’NIDNSSIE HIS MFINFNNBYB’YBE TO RCZXSWQKLM HIM INTO TCKKJW’QIDP!!! HA-HA!! PUNY MORTALS, AS IF YOU, IN YOUR BOTTOMLESS STUPIDITY AND INADEQUACY, HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANT!! FOR ALL YOU KNOW I WAS JUST DISPLAYING MY SUPERIORITY BY CORRECTLY PRONOUNCING WORDS WITH PRACTICALLY NO VOWELS!!

LET’S GET SOME CALLS!!”

“Your on scaly!” hissed the box.

“Uhh…hi,” said Chrysophylax. “I was calling because I have a bunch of…errr…former friends coming by who have a bad habit of destroying everything they come into contact with. I have a burgeoning singing career and a little kingdom all my own. I’m really trying to make something of myself! Do you have any suggestions about how to keep them away?”

“CALLER, THAT IS AN EXCELLENT QUESTION! I’D LIKE TO ANSWER IT BY SAYING…

I WILL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!!!!!! YOUR MEASLY ATTEMPTS TO CLING TO YOUR POWER ARE AS NOTHING COMPARED TO MY INFINITE MIGHT!!!! THE RAVAGES CAUSED BY THE RETURN OF THE ENTISH BEINGS WILL ONLY SERVE TO HASTEN THE DAY WHEN I SHALL BREAK FORTH FROM MY PRISON AND DESTROY THE WORLD IN AN UNSPEAKABLE FIT OF MADNESS!!!!

…BUT, WITH THAT SAID…WHY DON’T YOU JUST HIRE SOME GUARDS OR SOMETHING?”

“I have guards, but guards have never stopped them,” said Chrysophylax. “I was sort of hoping that you might be able to…”

“HA!!”

BELIEVE ME, IF I WERE FREE YOU WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS PROBLEM…YOU’D HAVE A TON OF OTHERS!

*dial tone*

Last edited by Kuruharan; 05-11-2007 at 07:27 AM.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:14 PM   #24
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"Men gone too long. Must rescue them," Tara Kraft said.

Merisuwyniel looked up from the cuddly yellow baby sweater her skilful, slender white fingers were knitting and smiled approvingly. Her language lessons were beginning to show results; Tara could now express herself in the Common Tongue simply, yet intelligibly. "It's quite all right, dear," she answered reassuringly, "they can take care of themselves even in dangerous situations. After all, no noose is good noose."

"Sure?" Tara asked, hesitating to take off the weapons belts she had strapped to her shapely thighs. "Men so stupid sometimes."

"Well, I can't speak for the sailors," Meriu replied, "but I know Gravendil will keep a level head no matter what happens. I do hope they won't be away too long though, or I'll be looking like a beached whale when he comes back, and he won't recognize me."

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

Not so far away, Gravendil leaned his head on his hands, groaning. "I thought that Elves weren't supposed to feel the effects of these beverages," he moaned. "It's just as bad as it was back when I was an Orc."

Halfemption giggled beside him. "It'sh too mush for the two of you Elveshes there - only a true King can handle hish brew wish diggety - dinigty - whashacallit -" He fell over backwards from the (fortunately low) bench upon which they were seated and began to snore loudly.
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Old 12-25-2007, 10:25 AM   #25
Estelyn Telcontar
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"Christmas won't be Christmas without any men," grumbled Tara, lying on the deck.

"It's so dreadful to be alone," sighed Merisuwyniel, looking down at her increasing girth - which looked very fetching on her, of course.

"I don't think it's fair for the guys to have all the fun and us girls nothing at all," added Tara, with an injured sniff.

"We've got our ship, undamaged this time, and I've got Gravendil, when he comes back," said Merisu with the contentment that comes with Elven serenity - and the hormonal overdose of pregnancy.

The two pretty faces on which the sunset shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Tara said sadly, "I haven't got anyone - well, maybe that Gateskeeper guy, but I'm not so sure about him."

Nobody spoke for a minute. Then Merisu said in an altered tone:

"You know the reason we're alone for the holiday is because it is a hard trip for everyone, and we ought not to complain when our men could be suffering in battle onshore. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I'm afraid I don't." And Meri shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the adventure she was missing out on.


Meanwhile...
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Old 01-24-2008, 09:06 AM   #26
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Much happiness reigned in the land of Valleyum after its foe had been slain, (and much relief after the Questship had left!) and the Ent-That-Was-Rent-But-Now-Under-New-Ownership rejoiced to walk its pleasant meadows and verdant forests. He walked and sang all day and heard no more than the echo of his own voice in the hollow hills. And the smell of the air! He felt that he could spend a week just breathing.

Yet he was restless, at times filled with the feeling that he had lost something and wished to find it again. Vague memories haunted him; at first he thought of Merisuwyniel, with whom he had spent so many years in close fellowship. He missed her, to be sure, but even the thought of her loveliness and kindness, her marksmanship and bravery, could not fill the emptiness within him.

He asked Yawanna, yet she merely smiled and said, “Do not be hasty, my child! A day draws nigh that you have looked for in all the years of your Ent-ity, and when it comes you will understand.”

Then came a day when she took him out from the City by night, and brought him to the foot of Mount Tan-Quicklí-Hill; and there, between the studios of the darkening of skin, they found a path made in ages past that few now dared to tread. For it led up on to the mountain to a high hallow where only the Velour had been wont to go. And they went up by steep ways, until they came to a high field below the snows that clad the lofty peaks. And standing there they surveyed the lands, for the morning was come; and they saw the towers of the City far below them like white pencils touched by the sunlight, and all the Vale was like a garden, and the Mountains were veiled in a golden mist.

And Yawanna said: “This was the realm of your origin, and the heart of Muddled-Mirth. A new age is begun; and it is your task to restore much of what has been destroyed and to preserve what may be preserved.”

“But I shall die someday,” the Ent replied. “For I am mortal, and though being what I am and of the race of Ents unmingled, I shall have life far longer than other mortals, yet that is but a little while. I too shall grow old. And who then shall govern the forests of Muddled-Mirth, for the Entwives are lost, and there are no Entings.”

“Turn your face from the green world and look where all seems barren and cold!” said Yawanna.

Then the Ent turned, and there was a stony slope behind him running down from the skirts of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling no more than three foot high. Already it had put out young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.

Then he cried: “Yay! utube-isbest! I have found it! Lo! here is a scion of the Eldest of Ents! But how comes it here? For there is no Entwife to be seen.”

And Yawanna coming looked at it, and said: “Verily this is a sapling of the line of Deeproot [for that was the Ent’s name, unknown to the reader until now]. Who shall say how it comes here in this hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the Entwives failed, a seed must have been set here. For it is said that, though the seed of the Ent seldom comes to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

Then Deeproot laid his branched hand gently to the sapling, and it was removed without hurt, and he bore it back to the gardens of Yawanna. There they tended it, teaching it the ways of the Ents, and it grew and prospered, and the Ent was glad, for he was no longer alone.

Last edited by Estelyn Telcontar; 01-24-2008 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 02-09-2011, 01:37 PM   #27
piosenniel
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For the time being, this game will be stashed safely in Elvenhome.

It may be resurrected upon request.

~*~ Pio
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