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Old 02-11-2007, 11:16 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
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
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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 has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
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
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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 03-21-2007, 06:18 PM   #7
Kuruharan
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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   #8
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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.

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Old 04-02-2007, 06:14 AM   #9
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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   #10
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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   #11
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The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
White Tree

~SAVE~

Time to send in the Bailiffs.
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Old 05-10-2007, 07:58 PM   #12
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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*

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Old 09-06-2007, 11:14 PM   #13
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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   #14
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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   #15
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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.

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Old 02-09-2011, 01:37 PM   #16
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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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