Spring Ceramic DM™: WINNER POSTED! - Page 67
  1. #661
    Macbeth my man!

    See, the longer he leeps winning the betetr a writer I am.

  2. #662
    Quote Originally Posted by alsih2o
    Macbeth my man!

    See, the longer he leeps winning the betetr a writer I am.
    So that's your theory too, huh?

    Now I just have to wait and see if Mythago can make me a better writer.

    Seriously, I'm looking forward to the next entries, and congrats to Macbeth.

  3. #663
    Quote Originally Posted by alsih2o
    Macbeth my man!

    See, the longer he leeps winning the betetr a writer I am.
    So, does that mean you are so cool that you are beyond better?

    *ducks*

    Zhaneel

  4. #664
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhaneel
    My phrases are more than a match for your semi-colons.
    My semicolons have slaked their thirst on the blood of thousands! Soon you shall join them, impudent pup!

    Anyway--please don't interrupt the cool combat whirling animation. I had to practice for weeks to get it right. Ever whacked yourself in the back of the head with one of these things? Yeah. Big owie.

  5. #665
    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat
    Never trust anyone named Lyesmith. Neil Gaiman's American Gods taught me that. *grin*
    D'Oh! I just got to that part of the book today! Though, to be honest, I had my suspicions, because of this post. Complete coincidence that you mentioned that just as I started reading the book, but it did lessen the suprise.

  6. #666
    Writing TimeWatch!
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Quote Originally Posted by mythago
    My semicolons have slaked their thirst on the blood of thousands!
    Most people have a full sized colon! If yours is smaller than normal, no wonder it turned to vampiric blood-drinking in order to survive outside of your body. I'll admit to a sick curiosity as to how you manage to whirl it around like that, but really -- it's better I never ask. Eww.

    Suddenly, I'm reminded of the Malaysian vampiric penanggalan. My D&D geekiness knows no bounds.
    Last edited by Piratecat; Thursday, 6th May, 2004 at 02:46 AM.

  7. #667
    Round 3-2
    Mythago versus Zhaneel

    It's Elemental

    Carson entered the Hall of Prophecy with no fanfare nor announcement. It was not needed in the Hall. He knew he was supposed to be there, and anyone who waited in the hall would know of his coming. He remembered the summons that had brought him here.

    Your magic is needed. Attend the Hall of Prophecy at two marks after the high sun on the morrow.

    Unsigned, as were any summons from the Hall. It was Carson’s first summons, but he’d known it would happen at some point. Every mage trained by the Academy was promised to fulfill no less than three summons as payment for their training.

    The Hall itself was bare, with naught but the symbols of the Four Elements adorning the walls in their cardinal directions. Earth in the north, with a strong Oak tree growing in dirt surrounded by stones. Air to East, with light fabrics waving in the breeze and a spear upright on the wall. Fire to South, with a captive flame burning proudly and a sword hanging over the flames. Finally, Water to the West, with a small fountain spilling continually into a cauldron. Carson faced east, having entered from the west as his elemental power demanded. He dipped his hands in the cool waters and smiled as he felt the ever changing energy of water run over his hands.

    No sooner than he had withdrawn his hands from the pool than he heard another enter, small bells ringing to announce the presence. He turned and saw Perriwyn entering from the East. Carson resisted the urge to smile at the friendly face. If Perri was here it was because she was one of the prophets involved and therefore an official, not a friend. He inclined his head as was proper. Perri inclined her head as well and together they crossed to the center.

    However, before Carson was able to ask Perri about what she must have seen, another sound filled the hall. Both Carson & Perri turned to the north where an unfamiliar woman was entered, stooped with age. The old woman reached down and scooped up a handful of dirt so dark it looked black. She lowered her face to the soil and Carson saw her lungs fill with the scent of the loam. The woman seemed to be standing a little straighter as she let the earth fall from her fingers. Her eyes were bright and belayed her obvious age. As did her strong voice.

    "Welcome Carson, Master of Water, and Perriwyn, Mistress of Air. You have been summoned as it has been seen that the world has need of your skills," the old woman spoke clearly, her voice resonate and filling the room. "My name is Kawen, and I am a Mistress of Earth. I am the one who saw the vision which calls to your aid."

    While the masteries were obvious, it was rare to have them named. Care was taken in the magical world to not reveal the natural mastery that each mage possessed. Such information could be used against the mage during a duel, and so the academy taught tolerance and secrecy. Of course, the Prophets were among those allowed to access the records detailing the masteries, but Carson was a little off balance to have his mastery revealed so easily. It was also strange to now know the masteries of the two other mages. He'd known Perri for a long time, and it was only through that long association he'd guessed she might be an Air Mistress. However, he'd never known until now as it was rude to ask for such knowledge. And to be informed of someone's mastery in the same sentence of meeting them was almost unheard of.

    "In the Hall of the Prophets, all things are known. It is necessary to have understanding for success. However, upon leaving the Hall you are not to reveal your knowledge. Do you understand?"

    Carson and Perri nodded their assent.

    "Good. While the area of prophecy is normally regulated to Air, this dream came to me through the bones of the Earth. I will tell you of what I dreamt, and it is your responsibility to stop this dream from becoming our world," Kawen said.

    "I dreamt of heat. Not the comforting heat of the sun, but something much hotter and closer to the coolness of the Earth. The heat grew ever hotter, and as I rose up through the layers of the earth I felt the soil dry and crack around me. When I emerged from the earth, my breath scorched my lungs the air was so dry with heat. I looked around and the trees called out to me in agony as they burned. I traveled along the ground, feeling nothing but heat and fire. I came to a patio where the children who had been playing in the water were nothing more than cinders against the white ground and the fountains steamed as they tried to refresh the ground with life giving water. The air was constantly being distorted by waves of heat, but I could see that not far from the white plaza with fountains there was a tower. And as I grew ever closer to the tower, the heat increased. My dream ended with my legs failing me and I suffocated in the dust of the earth thrown up with no water or plants to weigh it down. That was my dream."

    Carson had to force himself to breathe. The dream was a powerful one and not one he cared to think about. A Fire Master gone out of control was definitely what it sounded like. Most mages knew that each element had to be in balance with the other three if the world was going to survive. But occasionally, a mage decided the world with better off if one element ruled, as guided by the Master. Oceanus had tried to cover the world in water several centuries ago and had been thwarted. Now it seemed history was going to repeat itself, only with a Fire Master threatening to obliterate the world.

    Perri's soft voice broke Carson's reverie. "I understand, Kawen, that this is indeed a trouble that needs to be averted. But, may I ask, what made you choose Carson and me?"

    Kawen had slumped through the course of her telling, but she stirred at Perri's question. "After I awoke from my dream, I beseeched the earth to give me some guidance as to who should deal with this matter. Your names were whispered by the earthworms and the stones. And it makes sense. A Water Master is clearly necessary, to douse the fires of destruction. Hence: Carson. However, water alone often cannot contain a fire. While air can feed a fire, it too can control a fire by deigning to not travel. Your magics are needed to prevent the fires from overrunning the land, and to hold the fire at bay while Carson delivers the final blow. And from the air, you might gain inspiration as to where to go. Do not underestimate the value of planning."

    With that Kawen turned from them and shuffled out of the hall. And so it was, in the Hall of Prophecy. Carson turned to Perri, "Do you want to come to my place for planning or shall we go to yours?"

    "I'll come by your place in a while. I have some things to take care of, and besides it might give away the game if our fire friend is scrying," she said.

    "Fair enough. I'll be waiting."

    With that Carson turned and walked out the way he came, and he could hear Perri's bells ringing as she left the Hall too.

    #

    When Carson got home, he did the one thing he knew would relax him. He paid a visit to his dearest friend and familiar, Pepe. Pepe was a huge bear from the north where the earth is constantly covered in snow. Pepe himself was covered in the purest white fur, to blend in better with the snow. Carson had been drawn to the extreme north on his journeyman-ship, and it was there that he found Pepe. In truth, though Carson was a Water Master, his true mastery was over the frozen form. Pepe had come to him while Carson was making his camp, building a shelter out of the hard-packed snow. The first thing Carson had seen was Pepe's eyes. And Carson had lost himself in them: the black pools of darkness set into the white face. Pepe had chosen to follow Carson home from that artic adventure, and stayed with Carson as a familiar.

    Which was good and bad. Good, in that Carson was thrilled to have a familiar. Bad, in that northern bears are not happy in temperate zones, so certain accommodations had to be made to Carson's home. This wasn’t a terribly hard thing, but a drawback still. So it was that Carson made his way to the tank of ice cold water where Pepe spent much of his leisure time. Carson leaned his head against the cool tank and waited for Pepe to come over to him.

    He didn't have long to wait. A splash of very cold water washed down his back and he looked up to find Pepe staring at him. No one else would have known it, but Carson knew Pepe was grinning. Shaking himself, Carson smiled and raised his hand up to the glass that separated the partners. “Hey there, buddy,” he said.

    He heard Pepe reply in his mind. Welcome friend. You look troubled. Do you want to come play in the water with me?

    “No, thanks. I need to talk to you. I’ve got to go on a trip. There’s a fire mage who is megalomaniacal enough to want to cover the world in flames. An Earth Mistress foresaw it and designated me and Perri to go stop him before he gets started. I don’t know how long we have or how far we’ll have to go. I can’t promise that there will be cool lakes along the way. I would appreciate your help, but I will not force you.”

    Silly man. I have bound my life to yours. I will come with you and lend what help I can. Pepe’s voice resounded in Carson’s head. The mage smiled and leaned his head against the glass and let the coolness fill him while Pepe looked down benevolently and raised his paw.

    They spent a few moments in quiet contemplation of the bond between them. Then Carson heard the sound of a knock on his door. Carson waved to Pepe and made his way to the front room. He opened the front door to Perri who entered gracefully, a breeze of flowers following behind her.

    “Hello Carson. Mind if I come in?”

    “Not at all, please,” he said, noting the distance. He started reinforcing the anti-scrying traps in effect all around his home. There were no holes and he was satisfied that no one was listening in.

    “It is safe. Do you have a plan?”

    Perri shook her head. “Not yet. I think it might be best if we head southeast. The white patio sounds like something from the plazas from Alkibar.”

    Alkibar was a land of deserts. An appropriate place for a Fire Master to plot his destruction of the world, thought Carson. It would require about two weeks of travel to reach the borders of Alkibar, and it would be hard going for Pepe. The most direct route would be through the forests and across the river Thamas.

    “That sounds reasonable. Pepe has agreed to come with us, and I am thankful for that.”

    Perri smiled at Pepe’s name. She knew Carson very well and had met Pepe previously. They had been lovers, Carson and Perri. But that was a long time ago. Though there was still a closeness that he felt for her like no other mage. Their magics complemented each other, and he hoped it would be enough to stop the fire maniac.

    “I’ve sent word to the butterflies that travel the skies and the birds that fly. If there is aught the air denizens can learn, we will know. Though time may or may not be of the essence, I believe that we should prepare to leave tomorrow.”

    “As you wish, my lady,” Carson said, resisting the urge to brush a lock of Perri’s hair back from her face.


    Perri nodded and showed herself out. It hurt that she no longer reached out to him, but Carson had come to accept that over the years. He sniffed to clear his mind and worked on packing for a long trip.

    #

    The dawn broke bright and early, and Carson and Pepe met Perri at the gates of the city. She was seated astride a fine bay mare, and had a pack mule trailing behind her. She had discarded the bells that normally adorned her clothing to be able to make better time, and if necessary to have the element of surprise. The mare initially shied when Pepe came near, but Pepe’s continued ignorance of the mare made the horse decide that perhaps Pepe wasn’t a bear at all. Carson’s gelding, Marsipe, had long since accepted that Pepe would accompany the ride no matter what and just snuffled Pepe’s fur when he came near.

    Carson and Perri easily fell into a pattern. They rode at a brisk pace, but not fast enough to tire the horses out until noon every day. They would take a short break to eat and water the horses and rest, before remounting and continuing on until evening. If there was a village nearby, they would stop at an inn. If there was not, they would make do in the outdoors. Perri was able to often locate an acceptable camp location by consulting the birds, and Carson guaranteed they would be able to easily locate water to refill their flasks and to let the horses drink. Food was made from the dried stores they had each brought or found along the road. It was an easy time and the days passed uneventfully. Perri & Carson made small talk and compared the different disciplines. It was an easy relationship they had, based on a decade of friendship with a short time of intimacy to make things easier.

    They passed the borders of Alkibar after thirteen days, just as Carson thought. The fringes of Alkibar were still forested, though it was a light cover. It was on the day of crossing the border that something eventful happened.

    They had camped for the night and Carson had decided to take the first watch. He was staring into the flames of the campfire, pondering what their enemy would be like and how difficult it would be to defeat the mage. Pepe was wandering the perimeter, content to help with standing watch, though his white fur stood out in stark contrast to the growing dusk.

    Something comes, Pepe alerted Carson.

    Carson stood, and crossed to wake up Perri but stopped when the air in front of him started to shimmer. Two humanoids came into the being in front of him. Carson felt more than heard Pepe arrive on the outskirts of the clearing, growling under his throat.

    “Please ask your bear-friend to stand down. We mean you no harm,” said the taller of the two figures, which was shrouded in a long white veil. Her voice tinkled like crystals, making him aware a child of the earth spoke with him.

    “Pepe, you can relax. We speak with Heleads, children of the earth,” Carson said and heard Pepe cease to growl. “Greetings, lady. I pray we have not trespassed?”

    A smile touched the shorter Helead’s lips. “No, Master of Water. You have not. We have been waiting for you. You may wake your companion.”

    Carson attempted to keep his surprise in check. The continual recognition of his mastery was unnerving. But Heleads were fey, and may well have experienced the same dream Kawen had, which meant they would know of his purpose here in these lands. He entered the tent where Perri lay sleeping. He gently shook her awake, taking care to remain out of range of a strike. She was known to respond poorly to being woken up early. This time, however, she must have recognized his touch, for though she awoke quickly it was easily and without violence.

    “We have visitors from the Heleads. They know my mastery and knew that you were here. They wish to speak with us.”

    Perri pursed her lips into a thin line and nodded. Carson left the tent to allow her some modesty in dressing. She exited not long after him and together they faced the Heleads.

    “We are sorry to have startled you,” said the shorter one with hair the color of rust. “But we have heard the earth cry out and know that you will be the ones to answer. We have been waiting for you so that we may aid you.”

    “Thank you. May we ask your names?”

    “If you must,” said the tall one. “We do not use many names. You may call me She-Who-Sees-Beyond and you may call my partner Little-Mother.”

    “Little-Mother?” repeated Perri.

    Little-Mother smiled and reached down into the ground. The air shimmered again as she pulled a bundle out of the ground. Inside a blanket made from vines and leaves lay a very small Helead. “I am a mother, and this is my child,” she said holding the baby between her and She-Who-Sees-Beyond.

    They made a very touching picture. “We too have dreamed. We too have felt the flames that clear the trees and dry the earth. It is not something we wish to come to pass. If it does, our children will be no more, and that is something we just cannot let stand.”

    “We could not agree more, She-Who-Sees-Beyond. We will accept what help you are willing to give us,” Perri said.

    “Well and good. We do not have much more to offer you, save that you are on the right path. Your opponent does reside in Alkibar. When you reach the fountains described to you in the dream by Kawen, look to the north. The tower which you seek and the mage within will be there. And you must hurry, as his power grows ever greater.”

    It was not much new information, Carson reflected. But it was a little. And the knowledge that time was now a consideration was a valuable piece. He bowed to the Heleads and thanked them for their concern and support.

    They curtsied themselves. Little-Mother spoke, “We will watch over you this night so you may rest. Head east in the morning until you find the plaza. Be careful and be strong.” They slowly melted back into the earth. Soon, there was no trace of them and only the crackle of the campfire was heard on the night air.

    Perri looked at Carson and their eyes locked. They both knew that gone would be the days and nights of easy riding. Now they had a destination and a place. This would be the last night of good rest. Slowly Perri took Carson’s hand and lead him back to their tent. Nothing happened, other than sharing in the warmth of each other’s bodies, but it felt good nonetheless.

    #

    The forest gave way to open ground the next day. There was no shade to rest the horses in come noon. Perri called to what little aerial animals they were and asked for some directions. They indicated a slight hummock that would provide shade in the lee side. Carson was able to find some water in a nearby prickly plant. Pepe used his thick paws and sharp claws to open the plant safely and the liquid was shared all around. They stayed in the lee of the hill for longer than the normal hour as the heat was shimmering down.

    It is very hot, Carson complained Pepe.

    “Yes, it is very hot, Pepe,” Carson said. Perri looked up and then understood. Carson had never gotten down the knack of speaking back into Pepe’s head. “But this is just normal heat. Imagine how much worse it could be if we let the Fire Mage get out of control.”

    Perri nodded and took a sip of the plant juice. They rested only a little longer before setting out. Instead of making camp just at dusk they rode on into the coolness of the night. In fact they pushed their horses farther than the horses truly wanted to go, but nighttime was the coolest time of day. The rested against before the sun came up, taking a short nap. And then it was time to ride again. By midmorning the horses were lagging, but they were able to make out the shape of a white city not too much further away. As the heat grew worse, threatening the noon-time highs again. They managed to enter the shade of the city just before then.

    A few people noticed them and went out of their way to avoid them. Pepe caused no small amount of alarm and the city guard stopped them shortly. Carson murmured a spell of communication and told the guards that he and his companion were looking for lodgings and that Pepe was tame and would not cause any problems. Though the guards raised their eyes at that claim, they understood mages & their familiars so directed them in an inn in the foreign quarter of the city.

    The inn was nice enough, though the main important thing was that it was cool within. Perri & Carson gave their horses and mules over to the stables and found their rooms and gratefully lay down to sleep. Pepe, with murmurs from the common room trailing, followed Carson to his room and slept on the floor. Blissful sleep took over Carson’s body as he too lay down in the bed.

    It was early evening when Carson next awoke, having trained his body to sleep on less than normal. It was important that they find out if the plaza was in this town, and move on if it was not. He rapped softly at Perri’s door. She greeted him, also awake though the edges of her eyes showed that more sleep would have been preferable.

    Outside the inn they wandered the streets. Pepe had been left in Carson’s room, to avoid drawing large amounts of attention and possibly scaring the inhabitants. They asked around for a white plaza with fountains and were directed to several small ones, but those just didn’t feel right. Finally a townsperson directed them to the Plaza of Laughing Water.

    Carson smiled at the name, for it indicated the likelihood of a water ley-line that he might be able to use to refresh his energies. Following the pulls of power in addition to the directions, they came upon a large plaza. Both Perri & Carson knew upon sight that it was the right one. A multitude of fountains set into the ground stream water forth. Adults and children laughed and played in the cool water, splashing each other vigorously. It was not a problem for even the late afternoon sun was warm enough to evaporate the water quickly.

    Carson shuddered to think upon what this Plaza would look like as seen in Kawen’s dream.

    Perri & Carson both raised their eyes to the north, seeking the tower as they had been told by the Heleads. It did not take them long. Though the tower was not much taller than its surrounding neighbors, the architecture set it apart. Bronze plating reflected the sun’s rays. Orange paint could be seen from even this far away to be decorating the sides. If someone wanted to proclaim themselves a Master of Fire, this was as good a way as any.

    Slowly, through the winding streets and twisting roads, Perri and Carson traveled to the tower. They stopped when still a good distance away, hoping to avoid setting off any perimeter alarms. They studied it from several angles, each silently wondering what the best approach was. It was distressing that the tower was still within the city, because that chanced innocent lives if things got out of hand. It also meant the local law force could become involved, which would mean a lot explaining after the fact. While most cities respected that mages dealt with their own kind, they did not take kindly to property damage.

    Carson closed his eyes and let his water senses show him the underlying sewage lines and the well within the grounds. Well and so, it seemed that even the fire mage who intended to scour the world with fire still needed drinkable water for now. But there was no direct water route into the tower that he might be able to take advantage. This meant his opponent had most likely already prepared for the common water counters. It was good that Perri would be along to help change up his spells and distract the mage.

    He opened his eyes and glanced over at Perri. Her eyes were closed, though she opened not long after he looked to her. She nodded to him and he returned the nod. They returned to their inn.

    Carson told her what he had seen and she told him what little knowledge she had been able to glean from the air. There were few windows into the tower, and all windows that were there was small. This prevented Perri from calling on any large aerial allies she might have been able to claim. It also meant that sneaking in through levitation would be impossible. And though they both agreed a frontal assault was the least pleasant option it seemed the only option left. So it was that they discussed and discarded many plans throughout the night.

    In the morning they still did not have a good solid plan, though they had several general strategies in place. It would have to do, and it would have to do now. The small psychic indicators of flow that Carson had placed around the waterways near the tower showed that the flow of the water was speeding up toward the tower, though almost no water was returning. Carson guessed this meant the mage was gathering his energies and beginning whatever massive fire assault he would, causing the water nearest to the tower to steam away.

    All the air shimmered as the small party made their way from the inn toward the tower. They saw no one else on the streets. All the locals knew better than to venture abroad in the hottest part of the day.

    Carson felt the first prickles of an alarm spell when he was within 10 feet of the door to the tower. A quick glance at Perri confirmed that she had felt it as well. They prepared for the attack, but none came. No response worried Carson more than any defensive attack could have, because it likely meant that they mage was too involved in whatever he was doing to spare the energy to active a minor defense spell. Though the heat urged him to lethargy, Carson sprinted the last few fee to the door. Those steps were even hotter than before and Carson sweated profusely. He reached for the door knob, only to snatch his hand back from the warmth radiating from the metal. He stood aside as Pepe crashed into the now dry, brittle wood.

    The door splintered under the weight of the bear and they rushed inside. Though they expected shade, there was none to be found. Bright light coming from within the tower itself spilled over the walls, and small fires burned in braziers set into the walls. Carson felt his skin starting to crack, being too hot to even sweat further. He climbed the stairs as fast as he could, fighting his body’s desire to just lay down and not exert itself. He called up the feeling of splashing in cold rivers, of playing with Pepe in the ice pond back home, of the cold artic north where he’d befriended Pepe. It worked to a limited extent, but the reality of the heat still overwhelmed the best illusion he had. So, Carson gave up on illusions and called rain.

    He drew on the ley line that ran under the Plaza of Laughing Water. He pulled and used the cool power that flowed through him to create water. In normal circumstances, it would have been as a cool rain. However, in the heat it sizzled as it came into creation and steamed. But the steam was welcome, hot still though it was. The steam hydrated his skin and throat and just the simple act of heating the water lowered the temperature even slightly. Every little bit helped.

    With his rain cloud following, the three continued their assent. Presently, Carson felt a breeze stirring the heat, pushing it out of the small windows and swirling the steam to prevent the steam from blocking vision. He knew Perri was calling on her own skills to make sure that they reached the top.

    And reach the top they did. At the very top of the stairs they entered a large round room that was the width of the tower. And in the center stood a man, half-naked with his arms outstretched trying to encompass a swirling mass of colored fire.

    This was the fire mage no doubt. And Carson had no need to see that ball of fire grow any larger.

    “Stop! In the name of Balance, you must stop what you are doing.”

    Laughter surrounded Carson. “What care I for Balance?” spat the mage, passion infusing his voice. “Fire cleanses and rids us of the weak. Balance is not needed for the strong to survive!”

    Carson heard Perri muttering under her breath and knew she was preparing a large air spell. For now it was his job to control the fire. And so he did. Joining his mind with Pepe’s they summoned snow from the artic. Carson wrapped the snow around the ball of fire, waiting patiently and ever wrapping more as the first layer sizzled. He could tell the fire mage was trying to expand the ball to prevent it from being surrounded, but in doing so he allowed the fire to cool somewhat, only making it easier for Carson to encase his target in ice.

    A roar from the mage expressed his displeasure, but still Carson kept on. He could see that white snow now held some of the fire ball at bay. He knew this was no way to win the fight, but it was a way to prevent the ball from getting out of control.

    Soon, another force joined his snow. Butterflies streamed in through the windows and beat their wings against the air to push the flame within itself. With the snow and the butterflies working in concert the ball of flame grew smaller and smaller. Soon, the compression made it too hard for the snow to help so Carson stopped that and considered his next move. The butterflies pushed ever closer to the ball, some going too close and burning themselves..

    Finally, Carson struck on an idea. It would be hard to accomplish, but he thought he could it. He stared at the globe, trying desperately to ignore the screams of the fire mage or the flapping of the butterflies. He concentrated on seeing just how large the ball of flame really was and reconstructing that in his mind. He extended the globe out about 3 inches and started crystallizing a globe of ice, with walls as thick as his arm, in his head. He built the globe up slowly, not allowing any cracks or imperfections. It was important that this ice shell be flawless and fully connected. Only when he was satisfied that he had it perfect in his mind did he release it into the world.

    He hated that it trapped butterflies too, but there was no way to warn Perri. A perfect ice shell encompassed the ball of fire. The cold itself would help prevent the fire from getting through its prison and at the same time, it severely reduced the amount of fuel for the fire to feed on. The fire mage quickly grasped this concept and tried to expand the fire to melt the ice before the oxygen trapped within was exhausted. But Pepe and Carson working together were better than the lone fire mage. They increased the shell as fast as they could without losing the structural integrity. And slowly, ever so slowly, the fire started to die. Though it was a fire commanded by magic, the fire was still subject to the rules of reality. And while the fire mage screeched at the drain of his energies, Perri edged closer and closer. Just as the ball of fire that had threatened to burn the world was extinguished, she clapped a manacle of anti-magic on the fire mage.

    The mage slumped and fell unconscious at the abrupt disruption to his power. Carson too slumped from the loss of energy he’d used during the fight. But he held the ice shell steady, slowly lowering it to the ground. It would melt in its own time, but Carson would let it do so naturally, just in case a spark still resided within the shell.

    Everything after that was easy. The elements were in balance once more and the world was safe. At least for now.



    Zhaneel

    * post roll count doesn't match database

  8. #668
    Woo. Tired Zhaneel. Sleep now.

    5612 words, for those who care.

    Zhaneel

  9. #669
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    So when is closing time?

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    I Defended The Walls!

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    mythago vs. Zhaneel

    Sighting

    Chandra’s nephew Darnell came into the house when he was exactly two weeks old, three days after his mother tried to kill him by leaving him in a garbage can.

    The grown-ups hushed when they thought Chandra was near enough to listen, but she was the quietest little girl when she wanted to be. She heard them shake their heads over poor crazy Imani, leaving that pretty little baby out with the trash and wasn’t it just lucky that the newspaper man made his rounds a little early that morning and heard Darnell crying. Imani was in the psychiatric ward up in Northville and her baby was home with Chandra’s parents until the state got everything sorted out. Chandra was figuring out what to do herself. She didn’t understand why the grown-ups couldn’t see that Darnell wasn’t her big sister’s baby, didn’t look anything like a baby. When she tried to tell her mama she got slapped for her sassiness. She hung around the fringes of the living room when the visiting aunts and cousins and assorted relations fussed over little Darnell, waiting for somebody to see, the way she saw, that pretty little Darnell had pointed ears and fur around his face and big moon eyes, but nobody did. Eventually she got fed up and went over to Grandma Woodard’s house. Grandma always listened, even when she said things that would have gotten her spanked at home for telling lies.

    Grandma wasn’t too strong these days, so Chandra had to wait until Grandma woke up from her nap. Then she explained how there was something wrong with Darnell and none of the grownups saw it, and how maybe Imani knew it too and so maybe it wasn’t really her fault that she’d tried to kill the baby. Grandma nodded along, and sat so quiet that Chandra was afraid she’d fallen asleep again. When she finally talked it surprised Chandra so bad she almost spilled her jelly glass full of milk.

    “Honey, did your mama ever tell you much about the white side of the family?”

    “No, ma’am,” Chandra said. “I tried to ask her once because Orell at school asked me if my granddaddy was white, because he’s darker than me, and Mama got all mad. Was he white?”

    Grandma chuckled. “No, sweetie. But your great-great granddaddy was. Most people have some white back in their family from the slave days. Your mama’s people, the Baileys, one of their ancestors was Irish and that’s where they got the last name. That’s where you and Imani got the Sight from. Lot of magic back in Ireland in the old days, see.”

    “I see, Grandma,” Chandra said politely, though she didn’t see at all. Ireland? What did this have to do with her strange nephew and her crazy sister?

    “Chandra, you ever get in trouble for telling your mama and daddy things that they thought you made up? Like seeing things that weren’t there, or talking to people you couldn’t see?”

    “One time, at the zoo…” Chandra hesitated. “We were on a field trip last year when I was in Mister Carlyle’s class, and we went to see the new Arctic part of the zoo—“

    The Arctic Ring of Life sounded kind of silly to Chandra, because she knew from the Lion King that it was supposed to be the circle of life. And it was cold and she had left her new fall jacket on the school bus and Mr. Carlyle wouldn’t let her go back and get it. So she was glum and dragged her feet past the penguins and the harbor seals. Her field-trip buddy left her behind just when they got to the polar bears, the whole class going to watch the zookeepers throw the bears some fish, and Chandra stood there waiting for the group to come around and find her. Some bald guy started yelling to his friends in Spanish and pounded on the glass, trying to get the polar bear to swim over, and then it did, and it looked at Chandra and burbled, “Tell that man to come on the other side of the wall, little girl, and you’ll see something better than watching us snap up fish.”[1]

    She felt stupid again telling Grandma, sure that she would laugh like her classmates had laughed, or that she’d get in trouble like she did from Mr. Carlyle. But Grandma just nodded as if Chandra had said something right. “Not just the Sight, then, honey, if animals talk to you. What about Darnell, though? He say something to you? Or you see something strange that nobody else could see?”

    Chandra nodded eagerly. “Yes! I tried to tell mama that Darnell didn’t look like a baby and she—“

    “That’s because he’s not,” Grandma said quietly. “Least, the baby they have at home now isn’t Darnell. It’s a changeling. Fairy folk steal babies and leave their own behind, to cause mischief. They make little spells so nobody sees, but you got the Sight, so you look right through that. And I bet your sister has a little of it, too, enough that she went crazy when she looked for her baby and saw a hairy little man looking out of the crib.”

    Chanda waited while Grandma, tired from such a long talk, drank her tea. When Grandma leaned back on her big sofa and started to snore, Chandra shook her awake even though she knew it was very rude. “Grandma, how do I get Darnell back? The real Darnell.”

    “You have to go to the fairies for that,” said Grandma. “How you get there, honey, I have no idea. Go down to the library, look in the books. Maybe they help you. Don’t try and tell your mama, though.”

    -----

    Chandra felt bad about skipping school, but she didn’t see any way around it. Her textbooks were at home, stuffed under the bed, and her backpack bumped uncomfortably with all the strange things she’d put in it. She felt even worse about taking change out of her daddy’s dime and nickel jar for the bus fare down to Belle Isle Plaza, and scared of all the adults who gave her suspicious looks, a ten-year-old riding a bus downtown all by herself. She didn’t really know where she was going anyway. Chandra had been riding buses around the city all day long, trying to figure out the right place to go to get to Tir Nan Nog, the place the books said was where the fairies lived. A city didn’t seem a good place, but the buses didn’t go out into the country.

    She got off at the plaza and was relieved to see that there were other children still playing so late in the day. It was still a hot, sticky summer day. The city had spent a lot of money fixing up the old waterfront, trying to get rich white people from the suburbs to move back in. Not too many did, but at least the junkies kept out of the park when the sun was up, and the fountains were mostly working and spraying up water. The little kids were playing a jumping game, shouting and hopping through the water in circles, moving widdershins—

    Chandra stopped, puzzled, shook her head. Widdershins? One of the words from the books, but she didn’t know what it meant until just right now. Her stomach was starting to feel funny. She dug in her pockets for another Fig Newton but came up with a handful of nickels. She wandered across the plaza. The little kids paid her no mind and kept up their chanting. [2]

    "Blue bells, cockle shells, easy ivy o-ver
    Jump from the tree and fall in the clo-ver

    Mama went to market to buy some meat

    Baby in the cradle was fast a-sleep—"


    Her stomach knotted and she knew it wasn’t just from missing dinner. There was something about the plaza, something only she could see, or maybe the little kids felt it enough to move in a circle. She walked to the middle of the fountain square, stepping around the scampering children. Her toe stubbed on something hard. She looked down and there was a trap door, plain as could be, cut into the tile with a little pull-knob. Chandra pulled on the knob, expecting it to be locked, and nearly fell on her behind when it came open easily. She looked around to see if any of the bored parents were looking, but nobody paid her any mind. Reminding herself that Grandma told her it was okay to look for Darnell, she jumped through the doorway. She fell onto soft grass covering hard dirt. Rubbing her bruised rear, she stood up and looked around. It was night, but awfully bright out. Chandra looked up and saw that the light was coming from the stars. There were so many of them, more than she had ever seen in her life, and the sky between them was so dark it looked solid. They lit up the whole world like candles.

    Chandra stopped to take her jacket out of her backpack, because it was pretty cold out here on this grassy hill at night. She turned it inside out first, which felt funny, but the books said it kept fairies away. Next she got out the blue cardboard box of Morton’s salt and filled her jacket pockets. Mama would be mad when she had to do wash, but the books said that was good to protect you from fairy magic, too. The backpack was still heavy, so she wiggled it over both shoulders and kept walking.

    She thought about Darnell, not the changeling in Darnell’s Pack-and-Play wearing Darnell’s newborn Pampers, but the real Darnell she’d never seen, round and laughing like her sister’s boyfriend Jamal, with big brown eyes and lots of hair like Imani. She let her feet carry her up and down the hills as she thought, and it didn’t seem like long before she found the fairy lady.

    If it had been back home, Chandra would have been surprised that she didn’t see or hear the lady coming. But this was the fairy land, so she figured the rules were different. The woman was as thin as a bird, and pale, with cornsilk hair that rose and drifted around her face even though there didn’t seem to be a breeze. She was wrapped in a sky-blue cottony robe Chandra thought she looked a little bit like the statue of Mary at church.

    There was a boy with her, taller than Chandra but just as thin as the woman. His hair looked like Chandra’s would if her mama didn’t do it for her every day, wild and tangled. His ears were pointed, just like the changeling’s. Chandra was surprised to see that he wore Levi’s, tattered and faded the color of the woman’s robe. He moved himself between Chandra and the fairy lady and snarled at her. Chandra planted her feet and put her hands on her hips, and stared right back at him. The fairy lady put her hand on the boy’s shoulder.

    “Little girl,” she called. She had an accent that made it hard for Chandra to understand her. “We heard you walking here, unasked and unsummoned.”

    “You have my nephew,” Chandra said. “Darnell. I have the Sight, Grandma said so. I want Darnell back. He’s not yours. You can have your stinky old changeling back.”

    At that, the boy hissed and took a step towards Chandra. The woman gripped his shoulder and he pulled up short, tense as a dog straining on a leash. “I do not have your Darnell,” she said. “Your changeling is my child. I would not have stolen your kin, for as you see, I have children of my own and have no need to be thieving from mortals. T’was one of the unseelie who took your babe, and stole my child as well, to put in his place.”

    Chandra knew that word from one of the books. Unseelie, the evil fairies. Not that any of the fairy people were nice, but unseelie were downright mean, like the older boys who went out on Devil’s Night and set cats on fire. She felt a shiver coming on and bit the inside of her cheek. She didn’t much like the boy with the pointy ears and she wasn’t going to be a sissy where he could see.

    The fairy woman had let her robe fall over one arm and was pulling something out from under it. “Niall, help me,” she said to the boy sharply. He colored and helped her. Between them they held a great glass ball. The woman breathed on it, lightly, and nodded. She motioned with her head that Chandra should come look. Suspiciously, the girl approached. There was something moving in the glass ball. She reached up for her backpack, and then saw that it was only a picture, nothing that could hurt her.

    The changeling looked up out of the glass. [3] She didn’t know whether it really saw them or not. The last time Chandra had seen it, she thought the changeling was an ugly little monster. Now she felt kind of sorry for it. It looked unhappy and lonely, like a baby looking for its mama really would. Niall looked really sad, just like a big brother who missed his new baby brother would, if he were a person. Chandra was embarrassed that she had called the changeling stinky, but figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to apologize and get Niall mad again.

    The image snuffed out. The fairy woman sorrowfully tucked the ball back into a fold of her robe. Chandra looked for a bulge or a pocket but didn’t see either one. The fairy woman’s eyes met hers. Chandra understood. The fairy lady wasn’t strong enough to go and make the unseelie get her baby back. Fairies had rules about that kind of thing. Chandra, being a mortal, had her own rules. She would go and take care of it.

    “Where do I find the unseelie?” she asked. “I’m lost.”

    “That way,” said the fairy woman, pointing away over the hills. “It is a long journey. Be careful. Do you need food or water to keep up your strength?”

    Chandra immediately started walking. “No, thank you,” she called back. She knew better than to take anything from strangers. Especially fairies. The books had been very clear on that part.

    ---

    She was very tired by the time her feet got her to the place where the unseelie lived. Her head ached and she didn’t have any aspirin. Chandra hadn’t known what to expect. The pictures of fairy houses in the books were always of pretty castles with tall, thin towers. This was more like what her daddy would have called a shotgun shack, small and ugly. Chandra wondered if maybe it was her Sight that made it look this way. Sometimes, the books explained, all the pretty things about fairies were just disguises, and underneath they were ugly. It made sense that an evil fairy would live in an ugly house.

    Chandra let her backpack hang from one arm and knocked politely on the door. The palest white man Chandra had ever seen pulled it open while her hand was still in the air. He was dressed in a glittery suit like a fashion model or a rock star, tall and beautiful, with a wild mane of golden hair that fell to his shoulders. Chandra squinted at him and saw something else underneath. She couldn’t tell what, but she knew that the pretty part on the outside wasn’t real.

    “I came to get my nephew Darnell back from you,” she said firmly. “The fairy lady told me that you stole him. He’s not yours and I’m taking him home.”

    The unseelie stared in frank astonishment, then burst into laughter that sounded like glass breaking. “Do you now! I went to a great deal of trouble to get that baby. Not so easy these days to find a mortal with a little fairy blood, and the doors in the hollow hills are nearly gone now….Well, little mortal with your determined lip and your hair like sheep’s wool. What do you propose to pay me for your nephew? Yourself in his place?”

    “No. I have a gift instead.”

    “Aye, a gift,” the unseelie sneered as Chandra reached into her bag. “And what do you have that is worth a mortal baby, one that I worked so hard and clever to steal?”

    “This,” said Chandra. Her hands came up clutching her daddy’s old snub-nosed .22, the only one from his gun collection small enough for her hands. “I read that fairies don’t like iron.” She squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the trigger.

    There was a boom louder than any thunderstorm Chandra had ever heard. She was afraid the whole house had blown up around her. She coughed from the smoke and opened her eyes.

    She had hit the unseelie square in the chest. He had spun around and fallen face-down on the filthy wooden floor. Chandra stood still, afraid to fire the gun again but more afraid that the unseelie was still alive. The gold ebbed from his hair and he looked like he was shriveling. Chandra realized that it was his magic fading because he was dead, that this plain-looking white man was the way the unseelie really looked. His blood swirled out from under his chest, more of it than Chandra had ever seen, even in a movie, and lit up with the dead fairy’s magic as it spread across the floor. [4] She watched, amazed, until it flowed away and vanished as it if had never been.

    She stepped over the dead unseelie and began to explore the house. It really was small, just as she had thought. There wasn’t much, just cobwebs and dirt and old boxes, mostly. She found the cellar door and pulled it open. Red light pulsed up the stairs. Holding the gun out like she had seen police officers do on the street, Chandra walked down the stairs, afraid of what the unseelie might have left to guard Darnell.

    There was no guard. The root cellar was tiny and cramped. Hanging from the ceiling was a warm, glowing red ball, like a fire on a cold winter night. Little ripples went around the surface. [5] Chandra dropped the gun in her backpack and wiped her hands on her pants, leaving black sweaty smears that she knew would get her extra chores once she got home. She reached into the red ball and felt smooth, soft baby under her hands. Chandra pulled out Darnell, the real Darnell, her nephew who nobody but Imani had ever really seen before.

    As soon as the cold air hit him, Darnell started to cry. Chandra guessed the unseelie had made the ball to keep the baby warm. She took off her jacket and wrapped him up in it. She tried to tie the sleeves around her neck, like a sling, but it didn’t work. She decided to just be cold and carry him, even if he was pretty heavy for just being a baby.

    Darnell fell asleep as she walked with him in her arms. When they got to the top of a high hill, Chandra carefully laid him down in the grass, holding her breath to see if he’d wake up. He stirred a little but stayed asleep. She opened her backpack, took out the .22, and threw it as far as she could, turning away so she didn’t see it land. Humming, she picked up Darnell and walked off, letting her feet and her gift take her to where the fairy lady would be. When her daddy asked her where his gun was, she could honestly tell him she had no idea at all.



    [1] commune.jpg

    [2] heat.jpg

    [3] hold.jpg

    [4] rapture.jpg

    [5] float.jpg

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