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Gerig the Great, mayor of the Ell village, waded out to grab the tow rope at the front of the long boat.  He pulled it toward the beach and handed it to a handful of volunteers.  They tugged until the boat was snagged on the sandy bottom.  Another volunteer hastily drove a stake into the sand so the rope could be tied off.  Gerig nodded and the volunteers formed a greeting party behind him.  He announced himself and waved to the volunteers who bowed.


"I am Eric's son.", the leader of the visitors bellowed.  "I am Eric, too.  This is my son, Eric.".  He was pointing to the scruffy kid to his left.  "This is my other son Eric.".  He pointed to the scruffy kid to his right.  "We bring greetings from the Aisle of Madmen.  Got anything to eat?".

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OOC:  since there are 27 volcanoes and only 26 letters of the alphabet, the 27th village at the base of the main volcano can be the capital.  I hereby proclaim it's name to be Dar.  Yes.  That sounds good.  Dar.  Capital of Dorphalia.  * nods *  Since it is the capital, it can be large enough to have an inn and some real houses as well as a dock for visiting ships.  It will also feel the greatest impact of the coming of the fourth age.  No, I haven't forgotten being edited.  I'm just trying to get over it and move on.

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Jaja couldn't believe what she was feeling.  The ground shook to the point that she felt the Great Tree would surely fall over.  Such trembling could only mean one thing.  All 27 volcanoes were getting ready to erupt!  :o

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"Readiness Condition Number One Is Now In Affect.".


Bayree scrambled to his REDCON 1 post.  He ordered his legs to move faster but they couldn't comply.  His eyes were watering from the breeze whistling by.  For a brief moment he wished that he had been able to figure out the flying trick.  No time for that now.  Something BIG must be happening.


He finally reached his limb.  About half way to the top on the sunward side.  Luckily, this late in the afternoon, the sun was on the other side of the Great Tree.  The shaded side was actually now in the sun.  Bayree wondered why they didn't just call it north, south, east, or west but that was a fish to catch and cook some other day.  He nestled into his nook and contacted the True Source by touching a spot known only to him.  He now had a direct link.  He was ready.


The Great Tree continued to quiver.  Bayree caught sight of motion above him and raised his eyes.  He now knew what all of the commotion was about.  The volcanoes weren't erupting.  The Dark One wasn't attacking.  The Old Ones were here for a visit.  Their massive craft was a large as the Great Tree itself.  It slowly came closer until at last it was hovering just above the top of the Great Tree.  "This will be a day to remember.", Bayree whispered to himself.

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Testing. Testing.


Seems to be working today.  Yesterday's post wouldn't post.  Might have been the content was blocked?  A ten year old island boy who was physically and mentally abused by his wine drinking father (who had been abused by his father) decided to run away and spend the rest of his life UP THERE so the chain could not possibly continue to HIS children because he would never have any children.  It was a heavy subject and I pulled very few punches while writing it.  Alcoholism and child abuse on an island in the middle of nowhere...who would have guessed.

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Bahbee was no longer running.  For one thing, he had long since passed the hut of Old Rahja the hermit which marked the outermost boundary for most of those who dwell in the village of Aaych.  His lazy drunken father would have given up the chase long ago.  He had followed the flow of the stream until it split into several smaller creeks.  There, he had randomly chosen the middle creek and followed it.  When the volcano slope became steeper the creek was fed only by small trickles.  None of them was distinct enough to follow so he was simply going up.


As long as he had been near the water, he could pause whenever he wanted to get a drink.  Now that the climb was getting harder he wished for a break and a cool sip of water.  He did stop long enough to look back the way he had come from.  He could see over the tops of the trees all of the way to the shoreline.  A small sprig of smoke here or there were the only way to tell where the village was.  The dock where the fishing boats tied up at night was a fine line reaching out from the beach.  The fishing boats were bobbing dots beyond the surf.  The view made him feel very alone.


OOC: this is the ten year old that I wasn't allowed to post about before.  Maybe this is more acceptable?  ::)

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Grzchrt was more than happy to have solid ground under his feet.  He chuckled to himself.  Since he was hermaphroditic it still seemed odd sometimes that he thought of himself as being male.  And Grschrta, his lifetime mate, saw herself as being female.  It was purely psychological since they were physically identical except that he was more muscular and she was more delicate of build.  How many times over the past few millenniums had he had that same chuckling thought?  Oh, well.  It was good to have the ship's propulsion system shut down for a while.  That's what was important at the moment.


The guardians had relaxed their readiness condition to a level 2.  That provided enough protection for the Great Tree and the ship that now rested at it's top.  The untrained eye would not believe that sight.  Anyone who did not know that the Great Tree was a building would see it as a living tree that had simply grown to about 100 times the normal size.  They would REALLY be surprised to learn how long it has stood on this exact spot.


That thought brought Grzchrt back to the mission at hand.  Seven of this world's ages, one complete revolution of the Wheel of Time, have passed since the Great Tree underwent it's last overhaul.  It was time.  A complete inspection was due.  Some repairs would definitely need to be done.  Even with the protection of the True Source there was bound to be some slight decay.  Some updates since the last overhaul would also be incorporated.  At the end of this mission, the Great Tree would be good for another seven ages.  But that was just part of the mission.


All of the off duty guardians were assembled in the Great Hall in the trunk of the Great Tree.  Grzchrt and his traveling companions were sitting facing them.  Grzchrt asked if everyone was present and the lead guardian nodded.  Trying to seem friendly yet at the same time grand enough to represent his station, Grzchrt stretched the palms of his hands in a sweeping gesture toward the chairs behind the guardians and urged them all to be seated.  They responded in unison without hesitation.


He took his time before speaking.  To increase the intensity of the moment he stepped slowly and deliberately back in forth in front of his vacant chair while concentrating deeply at the floor where his next footstep would land.  This audience needed to know that his words were important and not given in haste.  He meant what he was saying.  He wanted them to listen.  When he felt that they were ready to actually hear and absorb his words he spoke.


"This group is very privileged indeed.  Countless generations of guardians have lived and died since the last time that we Old Ones came here on this mission.  The will of the Pattern itself has chosen that you be part of this.  You should feel very honored.".  He gave that thought a chance to settle in.  Most of the guardians were beaming with pride.  Although most of them were too disciplined to actually rejoice, a few did reach to hold the hand of their partner.  When the time was right Grzchrt continued.


"Even the Great Tree is not invincible.  Besides the normal care that you all provide so diligently day-by-day she periodically requires a little something extra.  A broken branch here.  Some missing leaves there.  A chunk of bark with scrape marks.  Little things that have piled up over the past seven ages.  Now is the time to bring everything back to pristine brand new condition.  This will be a difficult time but the Pattern has chosen well.  This group is up to the task.".  The guardians erupted with enthusiastic shouts of acceptance and eagerness to get started.  Grzchrt smiled.


Allowing an appropriate amount of celebration before signaling for them to stop, Grzchrt continued.  "There is more.".  He paused to allow that thought to settle.  "At various locations around this planet there are sites that some of the people of this age refer to as 'portal stones'.  These are actually links to the Great Tree and thereby to the rest of the universe through various connecting links.  These sites have not been reconditioned since the last time the Great Tree was overhauled.  Since this world is entering a new age that coincides with one Wheel of Time revolution since the last updates, this is a perfect time to perform the required maintenance to the links.".  Silence and apprehension was prominent among the guardians.


"You know every inch of the Great Tree.  None here has ever been near one of the links.  Have no fear.  My fellow Old Ones and I do not merely assign unreasonable tasks then leave.  You will not falter.  We will guide and assist you.  We will provide you with assistance from Ogier volunteers.  Actually, the link renewal will only require two guardians.  Most of you will remain here at the Great Tree project.".  The smiles returned and there was an almost inaudible community sigh of relief from the guardians.


"Your leadership did not know what the proper way would be to select the two guardians for the link project, so we have decided to leave the selection up to the Will of the Pattern.  Slips of paper with the name of each guardian have been placed into this bowl.  My lovely wife Grschrta will draw out two slips.  Those two guardians will work on the links.  My dear?", Grzchrt offered his wife the bowl.  Grschrta smiled and reached in to grab a slip.


"The first lucky guardian is...", she paused to tantalize the audience, "Jaja!!!".  She searched the audience until she saw Jaja standing.  Grschrta led the applause.  When the clapping trailed off, she reached to the bowl again.  "Jaja will be accompanied by...", another pause, "Bayree!!!".  A loud cry of joy rose from the back.  Bayree was jumping up and down with excitement.  Jaja's face went flush and she collapsed in her chair.

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Jamaykah watched as her mother rose from the table that she had placed at the edge of the beach under a palm tree for the negotiating.  As was traditional, she left the items that she had received in trade lying on the table until the sea folk were in their boat and free of the sand bar.  That was tradition.  To touch the items before then would be considered an insult.  Did you not trust them?  Did you think that they would cheat you?  A touchy lot, those sea folk traders.  Jam had learned those rules at a very young age.


When her mother finally gathered up her things and turned away from the beach, Jam ran to her.  "What did you get?  Any gifts for me?  What news did they bring?".  She was not containing her excitement very well.  The traders did not stop often.  It was hard to be casual.  Another trading lesson was to use your head and not your heart.  Many a bad deal was made by getting emotional.  Trade was a business transaction, not a pleasure excursion.


"They took two sacks of candy and a small barrel of rum.  Hard bargainers, those sea folk are.  I got this one small bolt of plain cloth and some salt.  Hardly worth their stop, they said.  Was that all that I had to offer, they said.  Would I like to go to sea with them, they said.  Yes.  Hard traders, indeed, they are.  Remember that well, daughter, for some day it will be your turn to try to squeeze a drop of blood out of those turnips!".  Jam's mother was not happy.


"Was there any news?".


After a few moments of concentrated thought, her mother answered, "Well, I guess that you are old enough.  You will have to deal with the news of the world one day.  Come.  Sit.".  She pointed to a spot in the shade.  When they were both settled she continued.  "The Cooramor has died.  A new age is upon us.  Things will change.  Our lives as we have known them will never be the same.  By the time that you are my age, all of the rules that you have learned will be long forgotten.  Some changes will be for the better.  Some will not.".


Jamaykah studied the concern on her mother's face.  She took hold of her mother's hands.  Looking her mother straight in the eye, she forced herself to smile.

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The streets were still a bustle even though the sun was nearing the beach.  Youngsters were still showing off for one another.  They were doing the latest "in" thing.  While visiting some of the smaller villages during Dorphalia Days, someone had learned how to stand up on a slab of wood and ride the waves while shouting "kawabunga" at the top of their lungs.  Such silly stuff for the kids to dream up.  They just didn't know how to have fun.  Not like Leo and Rex had done when they were young.


"Right, Rex?", Leo asked as he pretended not to notice the predicament that he was in.  That last stone that Rex had placed put several of Leo's key stones in harm's way.  Leo cursed his aging mind.  He would have seen that move coming three moves ago had he been twenty years younger.  Rex tried hard not to grin as he looked up from the board.  He knew that he had made a very strong placement.  "What?".  Rex really did act like he didn't know what Leo was talking about.


"I said, kids nowadays don't know how to have fun like we did when we were young.", Leo pronounced every word slowly and clearly.  His friend knew that he was being made fun of but he didn't mind.  The two of them had long since gotten over getting upset over such things.  After all.  They had grown up together.  The streets and alleys of Dar had been their stomping grounds as youngsters.  They had paddled to the village of Be together as adolescents when they heard that wild women could be found there.  They had walked to Zee together on the Dorphalia Day that they decided to find mates.  Their children grew up together.  Their children's children were somewhere on that surf riding on those stupid kawabunga boards.


Leo pretended to get a muscle spasm in his calf that caused him to kick his leg which "accidentally" sent the board and all of it's stones flying.  He jumped up and tried to act like he was sorry that the blasted spasm had ruined the game of which he was about to claim victory in.  Rex did not get upset.  This was their traditional way of ending a game.  Neither of them had ever won or lost at a game of stones.

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Bayree could not believe his good fortune of late.  First to be present at the time of one of the rare visits by the old ones.  That was something special in itself.  Then to have them announce that this visit was "once-in-a-revolution-of-the-wheel"...WOW!!!  Being chosen to be on the link restoration team was super!  It could only be topped by one thing...having Jaja be his partner!  He had known when he saw the space craft that this would be a day to remember, and it was indeed just that.


He could never have dreamed in his wildest dream that any of the other events would have taken place today.  Who would have ever guessed any of that?  But getting together with Jaja had been a dream of his for oh so long.  She was the fairy of his dreams.  The way her eyes slanted ever so slightly upward above those puffy pink cheeks.  The way her wings fluttered when she was nervous.  The gentle glow that lit up around her when she hummed to herself.  He loved how she walked on her tip-toes when she was happy.  She was everything that a he-fairy could ever ask for and more.  And now, she was going to be his partner on the link restoration project.  How many hours would they enjoy together?  Oh, day of days!!!






Bayree.  Bayree!  BAY-REE!!!  Jaja couldn't believe her luck.  Out of all of the guardians working at the Great Tree, how could the Pattern possibly have made such a horrendous mistake as to choose that worthless slug as her partner for such an important assignment?  She really never could understand how he had ever been chosen to be a guardian in the first place.  His head was always somewhere in the clouds.  He couldn't keep his mind on his work for more than a few seconds at a time without being brow beat into action.  Bayree?  :o


The initial excitement of being chosen was wearing off all ready.  Instead of being able to enjoy her selection she was overcome with the dread of having to spend time working with that...that...HE-fairy!  Why couldn't the pattern have chosen someone more suitable to the task?  Someone with half a brain?  Someone with some ambition?  Or at least someone with some ability?  It was really hard to look forward to doing the job.  This had to be the crappiest day of her life.  How many hours of torture would she have to endure?  Oh, day of days!!!

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The delicate flickering of his dainty fire occasionally lit up yellow eyes.  Several sets of those eyes never seemed to blink as they stared in Bahbee's direction.  Even after all of these long months of living among the wolves he still became nervous sometimes.  Those stares made him feel as if he was not fully trusted.  Which, he understood, sort of.  After all.  He would not be an official member of the pack until he led a successful hunt.


Sara, as Bahbee had taken to thinking of her, came over beside him and lay close looking out toward the eyes almost daring any of them to move toward her adopted child.  He still had trouble remembering her full wolf name which could only be heard as an image in his mind.  He could tell that it had something to do with the feel of moist breeze penetrating your fur as you ran by moonlight working hard to close on the stag that was leaping through the underbrush on a strangely moonlit night.  Sara was much easier.  That had been his human mother's name.


Sometimes Bahbee wept when he thought about home and his mother.  He did not miss his father at all and he was glad that he had decided to get away from that monster.  But, he missed his mother.  She had always taken Bahbee out behind the hut away from his father after one of the "lessons" and gently patted cool water onto his bruises with a rag.  As she did she always told him that his father really did think that he was teaching Bahbee to become a responsible adult.  He just couldn't handle the wine.  Someday things would get better for the both of them.


And now things indeed were better for Bahbee.  While climbing UP THERE during his escape, he had slipped and cut his knee on a very smooth black rock.  Not knowing for sure why he did it at the time, he used a large rock to break off several good sized pieces of the sharp stone and had brought them with him.  Those were now his most precious possessions.  They were his tool heads and weapon points.  He even had a battle axe fashioned out of a large piece lashed to a large stick.  The axe earned him his wolf name.  Fang.  It was actually something more like the fur-less slow loping two leg with one large tooth youngling with honor but Bahbee preferred to interpret it as Fang.  Bahbee remembered how he had come by his name.


That long climb could have been the end of him if not for Sara.  Toward the end he was finding very little water and no food.  He was bleeding from mostly all of the parts of his body.  Bruised.  Exhausted.  Hungry.  Just as he thought he could climb no more, he entered the mist and found flat ground where he collapsed and went to sleep.  When he awoke, Sara was licking his wounds.  At first it startled him and he rolled away from her and curled into a ball waiting to be eaten.  She came to him and licked any wounds that were available to her.  He wondered if she was just tasting his blood.  Somehow her licking took away some of the sting.  He looked at her and remembered his human mother's attention.  He relaxed and let her lick.


When he was able to sit she smiled at him in a motherly fashion and regurgitated some of her recent kill.  Bahbee almost threw up himself.  Sara pawed at the pile then used her nose to push it toward him.  She backed away and watched with a no-nonsense expression that told Bahbee that he had better not refuse her offer.  He plugged his nose and quickly gobbled the entire pile trying hard not to think about what it was or where it had come from.  When she was satisfied that the pile had been swallowed, Sara lay down in front of Bahbee.  It took him a while to realize that she was offering him more nourishment.  Her mammary sacks were full as if she had pups somewhere.  More from thirst than hunger, Bahbee accepted her offer.


After Bahbee gained enough strength to follow her, Sara had led him to a watering hole.  He drank until he could hold no more then rolled over to take a nap.  That was when he met Jynx.  He was the dominant male of Sara's pack and the father of her recently deceased pair of pups.  Jynx moved as if to take Bahbee by the throat.  Sara took Jynx by the throat and growled.  They stood motionless for several long seconds.  Bahbee expected to see blood running from Sara's mouth any moment.  Instead, she let go and Jynx stepped back.


So much had happened since then.  Bahbee had met the rest of the pack.  He had tried to follow the hunting party and became lost so that the hunt had to be canceled to find him instead.  He had grown faster and stronger.  He was eating on his own.  He could "talk" to his wolf family through the mind link.  And, perhaps most importantly, he had remembered one of his father's "lessons".  He had found a small piece of flint and used it to build a fire.  Dry tinder was terribly scarce in all of the heavy mist of the clouds but Bahbee had learned how to dry new kindling beside his fire.  The wolves found this both mysterious and dangerous.  They were not fans of fire.


Lying here at this moment Fang could feel curiosity and anxiety trickling through the mental link that he held with his brothers and sisters.  Some of them yearned to come near the pleasant warmth.  Others wanted to grab Fang by the throat and shake him so that he could not burn their home.  None of them even thought about the rats that he had turning on the spit.  They liked their meat rare.  He caught a peculiar sending from one of them staring toward him.  A newer, better name for Fang.  "Golden Eyes.".  He wondered if his eyes really did glow in the dark now.

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Gerig sat stone still.  Well, still except for shivering.  Even in the heat of the noonday sun the surf was cold and the breeze blowing on his wet naked body increased the cooling affect.  He closed his eyes as the next wave struck him.  He tried very hard not to move a muscle.  That had been the command given to him by Eric.  "Don't move a muscle and your daughter MIGHT live!".  To protect Elrig from harm he would be sure that not so much as an eyelid twitched.  Except when the next wave came.


It would be kind of hard to move anyway with all of that rope wrapped around him.  He had all that he could do just to sit upright.  If only he had known that the visitors were going to act so...rudely.  He could have assembled some men into a quick militia to chase them back to where they came from.  They offered him greeting.  They ate his food.  Then, instead of proposing trade, they erupted into violence breaking things and trashing his hut...demanding wine...looking for gold...making threats toward the women.  Such behavior for grown men.  And guests, at that!  The huge burp by the eldest Eric turned out to be a compliment for the meat being done just right.  Imagine that.


Instead of chasing them away as he surely could have with a little help from his friends and fellow villagers, here he was shivering in the surf.  A small group of curious onlookers were huddled just off the beach near the underbrush where they could dart away quickly if they needed to.  Gerig could just imagine what they were saying about his bare fat tanless body bobbing side-to-side with the action of the waves.  Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse the eldest Eric began to rant at the top of his lungs.


"Vi?  Vi?  VI?  Vi me, king of kings?  Vi do you torture me so?  Vat did I ever do to deserve this?  Tell me king!  Vi me?  Vi?  VI?  VI?  VI, KINGS?  VI, KINGS?  VI!!!".




Muzak stood near the outer edge of the crowd that had gathered to watch the mayor bargaining with the visitors.  He must be trying to trade for silk.  Why else would they tie him up naked and put him in the surf?  Even fish oil would not be worth THAT!  One of the visitors was getting angry.  He was shouting but Muzak could not make out what he was yelling.  She edged closer to the front of the crowd and asked if anyone could understand what he was hollering about.  The mayor's wife turned and answered.


"Something about Vikings.".





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Thom had turned out to be just the most SUPER man that Dora had ever met.  He had swept her off her feet and carried her away...following a proper ceremony, of course.  Since Dora was the only young woman leaving the village this year all of the village families had turned out to throw a huge party complete with all manner of gifts ranging from cloth to hand tools.  Some of the gifts were not new but most were in good condition and appropriate.  Even the village lush provided a jug for the "honeymoon celebration".  Dora could remember vividly how her head had throbbed the following morning.


The Pattern could not have picked out a more perfect man for her.  Strong.  Handsome.  Caring.  Delightful to listen to.  Willing to listen.  Right from the start they got along as if they had grown up together.  He was totally head-over-heels for her and she for him.  He had stood the strong central log that supported the roof of their hut all by himself.  She had tried to help but was more in the way than anything.  When she commented about how far she had to carry water from the stream he dug a deep trench from the stream leading directly past their home.  He was ambitious AND dedicated.  She should have been very happy.


Their new hut was located near his family but also within a reasonable distance of her family.  On certain occasions the ease of having family drop in for a visit had proven...embarrassing.  But, overall, the location was good.  His brothers came to help him thatch the roof.  Her mother was constantly bringing food and never considered that Thom might see it as interference.  Dora told her that she was perfectly capable of feeding the two of them without assistance but her mother kept showing up anyway.  Thom didn't need to smile so when he saw her coming.


Yes.  Dora could see herself happily raising a family here with this beautiful man.  But she also felt somehow haunted by the memory of the old man who used to visit from the other side of the island.  She hadn't seen him for some time now.  Although he had never done anything threatening to her he had always given her the creeps by the way that he looked at her.  And now, here in this wonderful new life, somehow his image kept popping into her head.  Oh, well.  It was nothing to be concerned about.  It would pass with time.




Jym liked being able to soar like a bird.  He wasn't crazy about the idea of being dead, but the flying thing was cool.  There really didn't seem to be any explanation for how he was able to do this.  He assumed that he had somehow popped out of his body before it hit the ground because he did not remember the "thud" of landing and here he was flying about UP THERE.


He did remember thinking about visiting the large object at the center of the clouds.  And he remembered the beautiful view from the top of his volcano.  Most of all he remembered Dora.  Sweet, innocent, beautiful Dora.  In his new free state he could soar to the top of any one of the volcanoes that he chose whenever he chose.  He had visited the Great Tree and watched it's curious tiny inhabitants scurrying about their daily tasks.  Some of the girls had wings and could fly.  Cute creatures, they were, if not a might strange.


He had flown over to Dora's village to try to see her but she was gone.  One afternoon he had followed Dora's mother out of the village.  When she reached her destination he almost wished that he had remained UP THERE.  Apparently Dora had been mated to a young handsome man and they were building a hut together.  Jym realized that he should not feel bad since he was dead and Dora was alive but the scene left him feeling somehow...empty.  He promised himself not to be jealous but for some reason he was having trouble keeping that promise.

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Norg tried really hard to remain calm.  Even with his superior spear tip he did not think that he could defeat an entire village.  Even if they were lazy.  No.  This was the time to use his superior brain not his brawn.  Still, a part of him wanted to let out a mighty yell and charge in to the center of his enemies just to watch them scatter like the flightless birds that they were.  He itched for action but chose to be patient and think.  Thinking made him remember.


Four sets of tracks.  That usually meant a hunting party.  And it appeared that they were dragging a fifth because there were heel marks in the middle with two walking to either side.  It could be they already had their prize and were headed home.  Or, maybe those heels belonged to one of Norg's former hunting partners.  There was only one way to find out.  Norg kept a vigilant eye out as he followed the trail.


Sure enough.  The tracks led to a neighboring village that Norg had been to once.  Most of the huts were built like a lean-to.  And those were the good ones.  Others looked like a pile of leaves on top of a couple of sticks jammed into some tree branches.  The children were barely dressed and filthy.  The stench was so bad that Norg wondered how anyone could walk into the place let alone live there.  One of the young women could have been pretty if you could have seen her face through the dirt.


In the center of the cluster of "dwellings" was a large cook fire.  The only way that you could tell that it was for cooking was by the presence of what resembled a spit.  Two crudely shaped branches supporting a single tree limb.  Or, maybe they used it to dry hides?  The fire really didn't matter.  Laying in a heap beside the fire was a member of his former hunting party.  Her eyes were closed but her foot twitched slightly and her face contorted as if she were in pain.  She was alive.


Frungra was not attractive but she had proven her skill with a spear.  She was from Norg's village.  She was by far the cleanest individual in that filthy village at the moment.  The counsel of seven had not been pleased when Norg had killed the interlopers before.  They would surely frown on him taking out an entire village.  Although, that would be a LOT of meat!  No.  Rescuing Frungra was important, but Norg needed to think of a better way to do it.


Diplomacy?  Not with this bunch.  The only thing that they understood was blood on a spear.  Asking them politely to return his village member would be a waste of time and end in a battle.  The only way that Norg could see to rescue Frungra was to wait until dark then sneak in and carry her out.  He would have to feel his way in the pitch black.  He had a few hours to wait so he began forming a path in his mind that he could follow in the dark.  Frungra had best appreciate what he was going through for her.

Edited by GrandpaG
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Grzchrt grinned slyly at Grschrta over the stones board.  Over the past millennium or so she had become quite good at the game.  Much better than she had been for the first few decades.  He still marveled at the fact that such a simple pass time could hold his interest so.  Even the snakes and foxes game had become boring since the two of them had learned the secret of how to win.  And even the most vigilant of pilot sometimes needed some outside stimulation to stay awake during a long space commute.


How inadequate his race had become.  That thought haunted Grzchrt from time to time.  Even with the social and technological advances that they had mastered, they were still far from perfect.  Everything that he had seen, smelled, tasted, touched, heard, or sensed since his creation would one day be passed on to his replacement.  All of it.  Every scrap.  It would be as if he simply "moved" to a new body.  That's how it had been with Grychrt whom Grzchrt had taken over for.  And that's how it would be when his Gradhrt replacement came along.  Still, one day he would be replaced.  No entity lasted forever.


Somehow, the knowledge of that finality bothered him.  Not so much the fact that he would be replaced.  That was a simple fact that could not be altered.  What bothered him most was KNOWING about it.  Some creatures wallowing about in the clouds below him had no idea that they would some day quit being.  They were totally ignorant of anything other than trying to find food and water.  They barely noticed the difference between day and night let alone the changes of seasons.  And they had absolutely no concept of time.  A day could be a century for all they cared as long as they had their next drink or meal.


Grzchrt shivered.  Partly because someone had turned on the cool air circulating fan.  Also the thought occurred to him that he did not know the EXACT instant that he would be replaced.  The schedule was for some time in this decade but he did not know all of the details.  Then, to top it all off, Grschrta was now grinning.  She had anticipated his cleaver move and had her counter move planned and neatly executed.  If he didn't jump up quickly to send the stones flying, she would surely conquer him within a few moves.  He covered his eyes with his hands, put his elbows on his knees and began to weep from all the stress.

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  • 7 months later...

Gerig the Great felt anything but great. Eric and sons had eaten him out of hut and home. Then they had humiliated him in front of the entire village. As their strange boat ship disappeared over the horizon he silently prayed that they would never return. Instead of bringing news and trade they had only brought sorrow. He would not soon forget the visit of Eric the Viking no matter how hard he tried.


They must have indeed been from the land of madmen. Several times during their visit they had mentioned something about the coming of a new age. Something to do with one of their pagan prophecies, perhaps? Superstitious people often imagine strange stuff. Not Gerig. He kept a cool head on his shoulders. That's how he got to the high position that he had attained in his village. He turned away from the water to head back to his hut. It was pure luck that he happened to notice the sharp edged shell lying open side up before he stepped on it. Besides suffering a nasty cut on the bottom of his foot, breaking that shell could have caused his next grandchild to be born with thick brown hair instead of bald as was normal. That could have been almost as embarrassing as being forced to sit naked in the surf! :rolleyes:

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Jorj raised his veil and knocked an arrow onto his bowstring. Being very careful to avoid any sign of hesitation he leaped through the gateway into what appeared to be the mist that used to surround Rhuidean. Even though he had been on several missions with the Maidens and Al'Thor it still struck him as...awesome...that he could move so easily across such vast distances. Yes, the end of the age must be approaching. The predicted changes were occurring almost daily. He had long since abandoned his life long dream of being chief of his clan. In fact, he no longer belonged to a clan. Nor did his society accept him. Since he had tied the ancient sign of the Aes Sedai around his brow his entire former life had evaporated. No longer a respected Water Seeker for the Blue Rift Sept of the Shaido Aiel. That which once was, was no more.


The wet land that he stepped out onto was worse than any that he had encountered before. It was almost...mooshie...under his feet. The short-leaf plants growing on the stones were slippery to the point that he nearly lost his footing. He took a deep breath and almost coughed. The air was thick and hard to breathe. It was like being immersed in water. Or maybe it was more like an overly saturated sweat tent. Either way, it made him consider turning back toward the gateway to return to where he had come from. The idea vanished when he remembered why he was here.


One did not ask why when a taller than normal shadow walker appeared with orders to be obeyed. Jorj was still amazed that he had been chosen. How had that monster known where to find him and that he would obey? Over the years he had been very careful to hide his alliance with the Great Lord. Jorj shook his head. Regardless of how it had happened, he had his mission assignment. He remembered each word clearly. "Someone is killing my ravens. I need information. Avoid detection. Kill only for food. Scout the area. Do not allow yourself to be captured. Return in seven days with your report to where you were delivered. OBEY and you will be rewarded. FAIL and you will DIE!" He would succeed. He would not fail. He took a shallow, painful breath and hunkered down to think.

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Jung scratched at his beard then yawned and stretched. Almost methodically, he twisted the ends of the rope strands that he had been braiding. He was getting quite good at making rope. He liked rope. And he liked burning the waste. His wife said that he spent too much time breathing the smoke from the waste pile. But he couldn't help himself. It made him feel good. It helped him to relax and took away the aches from his muscles. The only down side was how hungry that it seemed to make him. That wasn't all bad.


He still hadn't decided for sure that he had enough rope to make his climb down below the cloud line. Since it had never been attempted before it was kind of scary. What if his rope broke or wasn't long enough? Going DOWN THERE wasn't worth getting hurt or killed. Anyway. Everyone knew that all there was DOWN THERE was water and trees. Why endanger yourself for no reason. He took another deep breath and held it then sat back to relax.


Jung's vision was not totally clear. That happened sometimes during waste burning. But it was clear enough for him to notice a strange little plant tickling his foot. One that he had never seen the likes of before. It wasn't really moving to try to tickle his foot. It just happened to be in the right place to do it. Anyway, Jung didn't think that a plant could tickle him on purpose. He sometimes had strange thoughts during a waste burn. Trying to maintain his balance, he leaned closer to the plant for a better look. He sat motionless for several long moments just staring blankly at the plant. Grinning. It sure was a pretty plant. "Wonder what it tastes like.", he mumbled. Trying not to weave he went back to staring. The darn thing wouldn't hold still so he pulled it out of the ground for a closer look.


Above ground it didn't look that much different than most plants aside from the bright yellow stripes on the underside of each leaf. Those stripes stuck out away from the leaf in a pattern that got smaller and smaller as it approached the edge of the leaf. Interesting. The roots were strange looking. Kind of like forks. Only backward. "What is the opposite of a fork?", he thought. Matter. Anti-matter. Fork. Anti-fork. "Hmmmm.", Jung smiled. "Since I found it, I get to name it. Anti-fork.". He pondered. "No. It's the root that makes it special. I'll call it Anti-forkroot. Yup. That will do nicely. Anti-forkroot.". He smiled again. His "munchies" feeling kicked in. Before he could caution himself that this plant might be poisonous he stuffed the whole thing into his mouth, chewed a few times, and swallowed.


It didn't taste too bad. Especially with the waste still burning strong. Kind of stinging or burning like a nettle plant. A little bit of a bite. Not really sweet but almost. Or was it sour? He couldn't really tell. Overall, it was a rather tasty treat but one plant didn't quell his hunger. He looked around for more. After what seemed like a year of searching he decided to give up the hunt and take a nap. One more deep breath then he leaned back against the tree again.


Before his could relax enough to nod off he noticed a bright light in the distance. He opened his eyes and the light was gone. He closed them again and there it was. Open...gone. Close...there. Open...gone. Close...there. "This is strange.", he half mumbled and half blurted. He burped. Close...nothing. Nothing but an aftertaste of partially digested Anti-forkroot. "Man.", he exclaimed. I'd better be careful with THAT stuff!

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Frungra moaned and Norg cringed. Getting her out of that filthy village without raising an alarm had not been easy. He truly hoped that the guard was still alive. That would make the lazy ones less likely to seek revenge. She still did not open her eyes but she was alive. That was good enough for now so long as she didn't give away their hiding place.


Norg had taken care to cover the trail of their departure. Even a skilled tracker from his own village would have trouble following them. He was no longer afraid of the lazy ones finding them. There was a strange scent in the air. He knew the scent of most of the local animals and villagers. This new scent was not strong but it was different. Dry. Strange. Almost human but different. And whatever owned that scent would be visible very shortly.


The foot falls were delicate and not very loud but Norg's ears picked them up easily. He could tell the direction that they came from. Whoever was making that noise was a skilled stalker. Only Norg's superior skills let him hear the noise instead of vice-verse. In a matter of moments his patience would pay off. Providing, of course, that Frungra didn't expose their position. Closer. Closer. THERE!


He could now detect movement in the anticipated direction. Slow, careful, deliberate movement. Yes. This hunter was skillful, indeed. And it WAS human. Norg tried very hard to control his breathing. He feared that this stranger would hear his heart pounding. He prayed that Frungra would not breathe so loudly. A couple of more careful steps. Norg could now see what he had been hearing.


The skins that the stranger wore were not like any animal that he had ever seen. The hair was very short. The hide appeared to be very smooth. The pattern of colors made them blend into the background making the person hard to see. Only Norg's trained eye made it possible for him to see more than the dark veil covering the person's face up to the eyes. Norg thought for a moment that such garb would aid him while hunting if he could find the animal that those skins had been taken from. Those eyes above that veil scanned carefully for any sign of movement. Norg remained still. He narrowed his own eyes to tiny slits so the hunter would not see them.


The trail that the hunter was walking would lead him safely past Norg and Frungra if their luck held out. Under other circumstances on a different day, Norg would have followed out of curiosity. And, to find out more about the strange skins. Today, he only wished for the minutes to pass so the strange hunter would be gone. Then, as the stranger's back became visible, Norg spied the most beautiful spear heads that he had ever seen! THREE of them! Why would that person carry a stick with a string and a twig when he had such wonderful weapons hanging from his back? Blast the luck! If it wasn't for having to tend to Frungra he could have learned SO MUCH by following this strange hunter! So much, indeed!

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Rex: "Hi, Leo."


Leo: "Hi, Rex."


Rex: "What are you doing today?".


Leo: "Not much. You?".


Rex: "Not much.".


Leo: "Wanna play stones?".


Rex: "Not really.".


Leo: "Wanna go watch the young ones on their cawabunga boards?".


Rex: "Not really.".


Leo: "What medicine do you take nowadays?".


Rex: "Let's play stones.".


Leo: "OK.".

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Dora tossed one way then the other. She had recently added more layers of thatch to her bed thinking that might help her to sleep better. So many sleepless nights. So many days spent yawning. Somehow, she just had to find a way to get some decent rest. She just had to.


Her marriage to Thom was in jeopardy. Everything had begun so perfect. Thom was still just perfect. Wonderful. Delightful. Attentive. He was head over heels in love with her. The problem was her. She was so cranky from lack of sleep that she was slowly driving him away. She wondered how many more of her tantrums he would put up with before he decided that she just did not deserve him. Try as she might, it seemed that she just couldn't get back to normal.


Most of her trouble sleeping didn't seem to be physical. She was definitely tired enough. Her bed was comfortable. Thom had even tried using a large palm leaf to fan her. Her mother had shared her "secret recipe" which had turned out to be a very strong shot of brandy. Physically, she could sleep. Once she got to sleep, the mental problems began. Even though she was sleeping soundly she could not rest because of her dreams. More and more her dreams would not let her relax. The Wise Woman from a nearby village had told her that it was up to her to regain control of her dreams. She tried. She just could not relax. Those haunting dreams were going to cost her Thom's love.




"Being dead isn't so bad.", Jym thought to himself. "I never get hungry. Or thirsty. Or tired. Or sick. Hot? No. Cold? No. I wouldn't bleed even if I cut my arm off. I can get drunk just by thinking about it.". That thought brought back an oozy dizziness that he could still remember. It had been an impulsive experiment. One that had not gone as expected. Who would think that a dead man could give himself a hangover? "And I can visit the top of any one of the volcanoes any time that I choose to. Or the big tree. Or Dora.". That thought sobered him.


He still didn't understand what he had discovered. Since time seemed to blend together now, it was hard to imagine if it had been a few hours ago or several months ago. Whenever it was, it had been entirely accidental. His best guess was that he had been given an answer to a prayer. He had been sitting atop one of the volcanic peaks feeling especially lonesome. In a moment of utter despair and heartbreak he wished that he could visit Dora.


Without knowing how it happened, he found himself floating in a vast area of blackness filled with thousands upon millions of small twinkling specks of light. One of those specks approached him. As it got closer, it got larger and brighter. Jym turned and tried to get away but it kept following him. As it got larger he was able to "see through" the side of it. Inside was the most beautiful sight. Dora.


Yes. That single magical wish had made his world of death come to life. Dora. So gentle. So lovely. So innocent. And here she was. Able to sit and chat with him just like the old times. Jym didn't understand how this was possible and he really didn't care. Being dead really wasn't bad at all.

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