The Spider Cliff Mysteries

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Words out of rust (Poetry? Poetry!)

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Posted by Radek, 5:22am, 23 Feb, 2011

*Chuckling at the obvious delight in Alice's eyes as she proceeds to tear into the floor of her shop, Radek takes one of the many tools thrust into his arms - which looks like the ill-fitted combination of an egg-whisk and a bayonet - and begins to pry at one of the floorboards, although unable to make as much progress as Alice and the teaspoon she wields with absolute authority.*

"Have i mentioned how refreshing it is to see your smile? Well, madame most discordant, I'd be glad to help - wait, w-wait. The last time you tried this-?!"

*The incredulous tone in his voice gives way at the same time as the floorboards do, leaving him both speechless and oddly impressed. He shakes his head with a tiny smile - which turns into a look of surprise as she passes one of the revealed tomes to him. The gesture, or perhaps the tiny smile on her lips elicits an almost inaudible sigh and a flood of memories... But for some reason, he cannot shake the haunted look Alice had as she stared seemingly into space out of his mind... Or perhaps something she just said.

Accepting the book with a gracious smile and hoping his sudden concern didn't show as much as he hoped, (as well as wondering if his cheeks turned as red as they feel,) he opens the book, expecting to see walls of arcane text displaying the properties of magickal origin and their maintenance. Those are there, but so are detailed blueprints, alchemical recipes and methods of enchantment - all of which leave Radek feeling hopelessly out of depth.*

"This is amazing, Alice - you've had this under your floor for this long?... A-haha, i'm not sure if i'm really the one who should be reading this- but is this what we're looking for?"

*Standing behind her, he holds the book so that she can see it, moving his hand over hers and pointing to an incredibly detailed diagram of the gilded egg before them, or more likely a similar cousin. A spidery script, written with great care, describes how to preserve the egg and open it further... But more jarring still is the postscript, written in the same measured prose. Radek doesn't mean to speak in a whisper, but finds the words coming difficultly to his throat.*

"On Fulgrum's Device -Fulgrum's Device is commonly used by mages as a means of securing things, often new formulae, spells of some note, and in certain unstable cases, as a 'vessel' for Entities; the compartments enclosed make suitable tethers. Find you then that such compartments are used both as a storage and as a beacon - if an accompanying display of sound & light is ushered after opening of Fulgrum's Device, it has been tampered with, and possibly opened or altered in some way; as a safety measure, most such 'Eggs', as they are commonly known, react strongly if other, nearby Devices have been broken into..."

*Radek's voice trails off as the text does - someone else has written under the continuing academic discussions of the device, in a vivid burgundy ink; whatever this second writer refers to is vague, indeed.*

"What else can the egg store?... And how many things? More tests are in order - no research can be conclusive without empirical evidence."

*On the table, the egg has stopped emitting it's screeching hum and lies soundless, only the working of it's second-level gears indicating that it possess any automation at all; the question of whether it has been opened previously, and whether it's contents remain intact or it has reacted to other eggs in the vicinity unanswered as it glistens in the dust-flecked light...

After some time, during which he is sure the expression on his face must be blank as fresh parchment, the encouraging hints of a tired smile flicker into life on Radek's face. He gently puts the book on a nearby shelf, and moves to better face Alice, arms folded across his chest.*

"Alice. Ehehe, to say that opening this further would be a risk is probably a huge understatement - even for two impossibly lucky - and dashing, have I mentioned that? - rogues such as ourselves. It's easy enough to open, according to that diagram - we just spin the middle gear counter-clockwise, and then remove that gold 'shell'. You found it - so if you feel it's best we throw the thing into the sea, i'll do it in a heartbeat; and if you think we should open it, it'd mean a lot to me if you'd let me do the honors and wield that blowtorch at the ready!"

He laughs in a way that he hopes sounds reassuring - as if to say, it's probably just some faulty old witch's alchemical grocery list, and even if it's something else - it's nothing we can't handle-

Even if this one egg contained something that connected a chain of memories.
This message was last edited on 23 Feb 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 5:53pm, 23 Feb, 2011

Alice says nothing for some time, gazing at her gloved fingers as if she wished to bore a hole in the faded brown leather. Then, rallying somewhat, she gets to her feet and dusts herself off, looking suddenly business-like.

"I don't think there'll be any cause for wanton destruction, Radek. You know me, always very careful and certainly not one to make any rash decisions! I think we should weigh our options, study that book carefully, and not make a move until we know exactly what we're dealing with. Or, we could just do it the old-fashioned way, by breaking the damn thing open and reveling in the glorious chaos doing such a thing may cause. It's a tough decision, and for that reason I'm giving it to my senior book-keeper, Mr Leonard Frumplegast. He's an expert in all kinds of ancient magical lore, and he makes a splendid lemon pastry."

As Alice finishes her sentence, the sound of a shop's bell tinkling alerts her to the fact that she does, in fact, own a shop, and that it is not completely out of the question to occasionally receive some customers. She takes Radek by the hand and leads him out of the room to meet the first patron of the day.

"You know, it's been quite a while since anybody visited my little shop. Mind you, after the business with the biting lampshade, It's hardly surprising. Though of course there were no fatalities, these things do have a habit of getting blown out of all proportion. I mean, they were only a few light bites, and i promised to buy that chap a new pair of trousers as well as refund him the full cost of the item. People, eh?"

She delivers this last comment with a cheerful, yet slightly frightening grin, and pushes him through into the the shop's entrance room, where a small number of people are milling about and inspecting the merchandise with interest.
Alice positions herself behind the counter, an air of professionalism about her. Here, she seems to say, is a shopkeeper who definitely knows her way around an antique toasting fork.

A well-off looking woman wearing a hat with a huge purple feather and several stuffed crows on it approaches the counter, her left eyebrow raised and her nostrils flared somewhat alarmingly.
She begins to speak, or rather begins to make a series of arresting, if not entirely intelligible noises directed towards Radek, whom she seems to take for some kind of assistant.
Alice, possessing of an occasional mercilessly cruel streak, decides to leave them to it, and melts away into another corner of the room, where a short man is having trouble with a furious pair of bookends which are trying to brutally murder him.

As she proceeds to whack them energetically with a slightly bent hat stand, assuring the man, who is in a high state of animation, that they certainly don't normally behave this way, a distant crash can be heard from somewhere upstairs. Then silence. Then another crash, slightly louder.
Alice apologizes to the short man, and hurries off to investigate, still carrying the hat stand, the bookends sulking quietly in a corner.
As she passes Radek, she murmurs something about "keeping everyone distracted", and quickly disappears through the doorway.

~Meanwhile, not too far away, a hooded merchant makes his way towards the shopping district, a heavy-looking sack slung across his back, a faint humming coming from within...~

This message was last edited on 24 Feb 2011.

Posted by Radek, 4:20am, 24 Feb, 2011

It might just be a brave face, but the confidence already seems to be pouring back into Radek's posture as Alice decides on a course of action. Although he'd never met the semi-legendary Mr. Frumplegast, Radek faintly recalled Alice mentioning his bibliognostic skills - and if he made the lemon tarts they had partook of some evenings ago, on Alice's roof, they were something fantastic indeed. Of course, beating the early summer heat while discussing some or another odd tome with Alice hadn't hurt his memory of that evening, either...

However, like many faint recollections, Radek's somewhat embarrassingly fluffy expression is jolted harshly back to reality by Alice excitedly dragging him to the front of her shop.

"i liked the biting lampshade, actually. Sure, it was a bit rough around the edges, but no intruder expects the lampshade to attack, except the worst sort of horror writer. Really, the article that tabloid wrote blew things out of proportion-"

Although he's been talking with Alice as though they had never pried open the mysterious device, as cheerfully as any conversation could be, his words freeze upon his lips like an arctic river as he sees... Customers! Not one or two, either, but a small cluster. Although not a throng, to see so many people milling around in a store as unique as the one Alice owns, well... Radek almost wishes he'd actually got around to remodeling the astronomy tower. That was supposed to be fixed months ago - or was that years?

Trying to hide the way the tips of his ears are now a loud shade of red, he offers a welcoming smile and professional bow towards the crowd - who don't take any notice, their attention caught by the sprawl of mysterious objects littered around shop. And, regardless - Alice is looking proud and professional as a proud eagle, or some other regal comparison - she's in her element, and there is no way he can really assist - especially while looking suspiciously shabby and sleep-deprived, Radek muses.

Unfortunately - or perhaps amusingly - Alice seems to have other ideas, and blends into the shadows with only the faint flicker of hair an undefinably burnished brownish blond hinting that she had previously been there. And that leaves him alone with... Well. Sighing with the overdramatic resignation of someone who has accepted Alice's eccentricities, hoping that she is at least enjoying the show from wherever she has darted off to, Radek smiles as professionally as he can muster and tries to decipher the woman's strange bellowing.

"... And naturally, BOY, there is a shortage of GOOD RAMEKINS in my pantry. I HIGHLY doubt that you would know where to find RARE SILVER in a shop as vast as this, but there must be SOME reason you were hired on. Go fetch them, would you? QUICKLY, if you don't mind- not ALL of us are payed to LAZE AROUND on our employer's charitable time!"

Unable to avoid a slight smile at the woman's imperious manner, Radek bobs his head as low as it can go without hitting the ground - and still manages to narrowly clip one an island, the sharp crack drawing a brief moment of interest from the crowd before they go back to searching through the stacks. An old man has began to make a pile of books - which he may or may not be planning to buy - and a young couple(?) are haggling over whether or not to haggle over a squat bronze goat.

"Yessiree, right on it. We have a fine selection of custard cups, and- ah, couldn't you have at least pretended to be interested?..." Radek's pleading words meet silence - the lady, having expected him to dart off and find her baking equipment, has already begin to pester a lady wearing preponderance of coats about the stringless instrument she hesitantly picked up.

Sighing at this complete lack of appreciation for his mercantile manner, Radek begins to look for a shipment from long ago, one of the many unpacked shipping boxes full of silverware wrapped tightly in parchment paper, lacquer plates bearing intricate designs that seem to move in the light of the crescent moon, and the occasional bejeweled frog statuette. As he carefully grabs several mismatched, yet semi-valuable looking ramekins, he feels a familiar presence nearby, and almost jumps as Alice mutters something into his ear.

"Ah, sure- Alice?"

He replies back, uncertainly - but she has already woven her way through the stacks and shelves as if they weren't there, obviously set on something. Radek casts his stormy eyes towards the ground - and noticing a book has fallen out of it's shelf, gingerly puts it back in it's place - unable to ascertain what might be running through her mind.

-Not that it matters.-

He'd go along it without question - well, perhaps kicking and screaming, but that was par for the course. Talk could come later. Grinning a little wryly, he makes his way back to the front counter, where several of the customers have left, making one for several new ones - a disturbingly preserved gentleman in a very blue outfit, a gaggle of students from a certain institute, an old woman constantly fidgeting with her glasses...

Distracted for a minute, he can't help but feel a little proud on Alice's behalf - then remembers his role here, and hands the still-wrapped custard molds to the gaudily wealthy lady with the crow hat; making sure to bow elegantly as he does so.

"Ah, it is about time, BOY!... These are quite passable, however. I shall make sure to send one of my STAFF to pick up any others you might have, later. You took far too long, however - Why Miss Belladora employs such layabouts remains a mystery to me!"

As the woman leaves, Radek grins inwardly. "Awright! One down, ah... Several to go. How to do this, hrmn..." The grin spreads onto his face as an idea forms. Jumping up into the air and flailing wildly, Radek yells as loud as he can. "Aieee! Fire, there's a fire in the building! i say, if you value your life and limb, run! But please make your purchases, first!... Aah... Umn...

You can run, anytime, you know."

Barring a young child of indeterminate gender, who is staring at him with a baleful expression, no one seems to have heard his dire warning - or perhaps they just don't care, given how many fascinating objects line the shelves, tables, aisles - and some extreme cases, the floor. Scratching the back of his neck and giving a weak little laugh, Radek shies back towards the counter, figuring that the customers are distracted enough as it is... And too embarrassed by his complete lack of presence among them to try anything else.

If the slight buzz of conversation had died down slightly, or perhaps if he hadn't been wallowing in embarrassment and trying to hide himself under the brim of his hat, his normally sharp ears might have picked up a slight hum, seeming to come from far off and yet just audible among the bustle of Alice's crowded shop...

This message was last edited on 24 Feb 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 12:16pm, 24 Feb, 2011

Alice moves silently between rooms, holding the newly weaponized hat stand out in front of her, expecting the worst. Not that she actually has much of an idea of what the worst might be, but, in her experience, mysterious crashes almost never turn out to be a hatful of kittens.
She darts across a particularly narrow hallway and down a flight of stairs, heading for the basement where she keeps the most dangerous artifacts.
She is interrupted, however, by yet another crash, coming from far above. She looks up, dust motes dancing in a shard of sunlight which has escaped through a crack in the heavy wooden beams.
She stands perfectly still for several long moments, toying with the idea of letting loose the caged fire-demon, but decides against it, not wishing to be left lying in a pile of lightly smoking rubble where her shop once stood.
Instead, she hurries back the way she came, a determined yet somewhat weary expression forming across her face.

Meanwhile, downstairs, the number of customers is beginning to thin out somewhat, eventually leaving only an exceedingly tall woman, her lackey, and the "young couple", who are really a pair of escaped convicts on the run.
Time stretches on, and the only sound to be heard is the whispered conversation between the tall woman, whose name is Madame Josephine-Baxter, and her pet duck, over whether it would be a good idea to purchase a broken trumpet.
No sound can be heard from upstairs. The hands on Alice's ancient grandfather clock edge slowly past four o' clock. Finally, twenty-five minutes after her disappearance, Alice returns, though only for the few moments it takes to evict the remaining customers, put a "closed" sign over the entrance, and pull Radek through the door from which she emerged.

"I'm sorry i took so long. I was having a spot of bother with our little egg, you see. It seems to have activated somewhat more that we realized. I managed to contain it, though not without Spektor's help.
It looks like the book was correct, and there is another egg nearby. Possibly more than just one.
I haven't thought of how, but i think we should probably get rid of it as soon as possible. It's already divulged its entire contents, or near enough, so we really don't have much of a use for it anymore, besides decorative purposes.
Though it would make a rather effective projectile weapon. Nearly took my hat off, you know. You should see the state of the study. Broken furniture everywhere. And i don't even want to think about what it's done to my collection of nautical-themed pottery.
The best thing to do, i think, is chuck it into the portal and hope it doesn't end up anywhere too heavily populated. I'd hate to see it in the hands of some evil sorceress, or crooked insurance salesman. That wouldn't do at all. But it's a risk I'm willing to take. I mean, that armchair was a gift from a very old friend,
and now it's all in bits on the floor."

As her conversation, as it usually does, ends up directed towards herself, they turn into the study, where the egg is bouncing angrily around in a small, heavily locked and bolted wooden chest in the corner.
Spektor sits perched on the wreckage of what was once a very nice coffee table, eyeing it warily.

Alice wipes a small trickle of blood from her forehead, walks over to the chest, picks it up with some difficulty and staggers towards the exit, smiling reassuringly at the gunman.
Spektor follows them down the hall, as Alice leads the way presumably towards the aforementioned "portal."

~Meanwhile, the hooded merchant makes his way down the cobbled street, ignoring the various stallholders trying to grab his attention, his gaze fixed on the little shop at the end of the row...~

This message was last edited on 1 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 7:21pm, 25 Feb, 2011

"Well, if it's that dangerous, i think that there are some particularly rude customers loitering outside-" The flippant comment has only just left Radek's lips when he realizes how deathly serious Alice is - the expression clouding her eyes as her words turn tangential is good enough indicator of that. Cursing this momentarily blithe observation, he forces onward, whistling at the egg as it flounders around, the cracking as it pulls at chains sounding ominous indeed.

"-Right. i'm glad you took care of it safely, Alice. You are safe, aren't you?" Showing a hint of concern that blossoms into a poorly concealed panic as he notices the blood pooling down her forehead from a shallow wound.

Didn't i have a handkerchief? Somewhere? Anywhere?!

Unfortunately, the voluminous pockets of his brown coat seem to have everything but the handkerchief he'd been certain he placed carefully among his positions mere moments ago. It seems to have disappeared, or perhaps he imagined it in the first place, and he is about to give up his search when his fingers stumble upon something else through lucky coincidence - something too serendiptitious to be coincidence, perhaps.

Grinning childishly, he takes the lump of compressed gauze and pats several strips to her head with a satisfied smile, all the while trying to steal some of the load of the surprisingly heavy chest out from under her. In the end, he manages to succeed in grabbing the chest's right end, as they wobble uncertainly towards the "portal," the hallway becoming darker as they go into the deep recesses of her shop.

Still worried about Alice - perhaps starting wonder just how something as tiny and apparently delicate as a jeweled golden egg could leave such a deep cut - he is caught off guard entirely by the portal. Perhaps he wasn't expecting it to look somewhat like a well in the fathoms of Alice's shop - or perhaps the concurrence of magickal energy playing off the entry into the seemingly bottomless well, it's swirling colors of imperceptible hue dancing off of one another faster than the eye can count. For some reason, the scent of sunflowers and faint wind chimes seem to come from nearby; holding up his hand to his eyes to shield them from the sudden brightness, he nearly drops the chest and quickly shores it up against his side.

"I'll help you repair everything in your study if you tell me how the story of how you came into possession of a portal like this, Alice. It's incredible. It's far more beautiful than i thought something like this would be... It's suitable for you, though." He smiles lightly, having grown accustomed to the room's darkness being shattered by the light show around them, then looks back towards the portal - ready to sling the egg in as soon as she is; only to notice that it's gone deathly silent.

~The merchant coughs, the result of a passing sickness, or perhaps a long smoking habit. Wiping his mouth across one sleeve, he puzzles at the sign proclaiming that the shop is closed... Then slowly reaches a finger towards the lock, fiddling with the catch. Two convicts who were waiting near by point at him, wondering aloud if they should rob the merchant for his sack - the merchant only exhales and wipes his sweat away as they laugh and decide he isn't worth the time.

The lock clicks open with a satisfying click, and as soon as he is certain no one else is watching, the merchant lets himself inside...~
This message was last edited on 25 Feb 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 1:26pm, 27 Feb, 2011

~In the small desert kingdom of Raikinowan-Ka, a portly fellow wearing a slightly singed silk waistcoat and a deafeningly loud green fedora makes his way across the eastern district, breathing rather more heavily than a man should breathe after walking only several hundred feet.
In his right hand he holds a short, somewhat stumpy wooden staff, and in his left, what looks to be a rolled up map, tied with a faded red ribbon.
The sun beats down mercilessly, turning the dusty cobbles into small, dirty hotplates, and soon he has to stop for a rest.
He chooses a low stone wall, and settles himself into position in the manner of a hen arranging itself onto a nest of eggs. He wipes his brow, which resembles a small, gritty river, and lets out a deep sigh, hands on his knees.
He wishes he had been sent somewhere else, anywhere else. He had never been good in high temperatures. Why was it always him? Why hadn't they made old Arkrizard go instead? He loved hot weather. Couldn't get enough of it. Why, his office was practically a furnace! ...~

...He knew why. It was because he, Horatius Elderberry Hodges, was basically a laughing stock at the Akademy. Just because of the little incident last year with the Chief Summoner's potted Dieffenbachia. It wasn't as if there had been any casualties, and he had even offered to help rebuild the left wing.
But no. Just because of one little, tiny mistake, they had to hold it against him for all eternity. Why, he was basically a glorified tea boy! It wasn't right. He deserved more respect. He ought to turn their underpants into porcupines. That'd teach them.
He was a professor, by jove, and he didn't appreciate being sent out on errands whenever the faculty needed more chocolate digestives.

~...He takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly, before picking up his map and staff, and going about the business of removing himself from the wall and getting back of his feet. Not an easy task, when one weighs in excess of three hundred and fifty pounds.
Eventually, after much struggling and cursing, he manages to obtain an upright position, and sets off again, hat pulled low over his eyes.~

Meanwhile, many hundreds of miles away, Alice prepares to send the egg on its way, seemingly oblivious to the changed atmosphere. Or perhaps she has noticed, and has simply chosen to ignore it out of stubbornness.
After a few moments hesitation, she nods to Radek, and with surprising strength flings the chest into the whirling vortex. For a few seconds, it seems to hover in midair, but just as quickly vanishes, leaving no trace of its previous existence behind, save for a lingering smell of burnt toast.

"Well, that was easier than i thought it would be. To be honest, i half expected it would end this way. I doubt we'll ever come across it again. It could be anywhere right now. Atop a snowy mountain, at the bottom of the sea... There's really no telling."

She pauses, adjusting her hat and staring down into the well with a strange expression.
The colours appear to have changed, their patterns of movement slowed.
Alice looks her left at Radek, and seems to be about to say something, but is interrupted by the sound of muffled footsteps advancing from down the dark corridor.
She moves somewhat closer to the gunman, having pulled out the hat stand she -very clearly- left in the study earlier, holding it out in front of her with the expression of someone who really doesn't care how they may or may not look to the casual observer.
After what seems like several hours, the figure of the hooded man finally makes an appearance, melting out of the shadows in a way that says "I am quite experienced in making needlessly unsettling entrances."
He drifts across the floor towards them, letting his sack fall from his back and onto the floor with a surprisingly heavy-sounding "clunk".

He stops several feet from them, his bony grey hand outstretched, the room slowly darkening.
Now, usually one would expect something entirely more dramatic to happen, rather than the somewhat pedestrian sight of Alice bringing the hat stand down upon the bugger's head with a deeply painful sounding crack.
Judging from the resulting yelp, this was not something he expected to happen either, and he stumbles towards Alice, clearly enraged.
Without even stopping to blink, she dives to the side and out of strangling range, grabbing Radek by the sleeve and hauling him over towards the portal. With a cheerful grin and an unladylike hand gesture, she climbs onto the lip of the well, waves goodbye to the hooded man, and calmly falls backwards into the vortex, pulling Radek along with her...

~...Many hundreds of miles away, a merchant leading his camel across the desert watches as the air shimmers over a nearby sand dune, slowly spreading outwards like the ripples across a pond into which a frog has just leapt.
He stands stock still, mouth hanging open in disbelief, as it spits out two extremely disheveled-looking people, before closing up with a flash of green light...~
This message was last edited on 1 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 7:54pm, 28 Feb, 2011

The sand whispered as something - several something's feel into the towering dunes. No, perhaps whispered was the wrong word; perhaps the sound was more of a muffled explosion, because as the two wayward travelers fell into the ocean of sand, the dune showered the warm desert air with enough brittle brown granules that it almost seemed like snow - the illusion held for an instant, then dissipated in an instant as the sand drifted away on the currents around them.

Radek got up slowly - his mind fuzzy from the shock of everything that had happened. He remembered Alice disposing of the egg, blushing like an idiot and not being at all prepared for the arrival of the strange man due to how close Alice had gotten in a short amount of time, and being suitably impressed at the way she had disposed of him. His eyes widen - half out of the shock of realization, and half to blink the thin layer of sand that has settled upon them away - as he realizes what happened the moment they vanished through the polychromatic portal in Alice's shop.

Contrary to all expectations, he looks like he might burst into song and dance! Radek does manage to hum a few bars of some old folk tune, but can't seem to remember the lyrics, or perhaps not care for them too much. Either way, he rushes over to Alice, some of his earlier excitement tempered with concern - which quickly fades away as it becomes apparent that once again Alice's adventuring prowess has helped her land on her feet once again!... Metaphorically speaking, of course. They both fell into the sand from a great height, after all.

"Alice!" He places his hands on her shoulders gently and rocks them slightly. Still receiving no response, Radek bites his lip - time for desperate measures. "Right. Alice, i'm going to take your hat if you don't get up soon." Noticing that she's already started to climb to her feet, he deems this effective! Even as a voice of reason insists it's far more likely that she had been rousing herself since they fell, most likely...

He doesn't let that stand in the way of his excitement, however, grinning from ear to ear like a child who feels they have done something particularly extraordinary. "We're in a desert, Alice! There were deserts in Almeria, but smaller, so perhaps they were more like steppe, but this! It's as far as the eye can see- you've really outdone yourself this time, Belladora. And the way you took that intruder - it was beautifully violent - i wonder if he'll get back up again, anytime soon..?"

The playful tone in his voice doesn't vanish even with those slightly ominous words, possibly because they both saw the figure's last snarl, contorted with pain and hate as the portal closed around them. The fact that a murderous stranger seemed to be tracking them since the opening of the egg either hasn't crossed Radek's mind, or, perhaps more disturbingly, he welcomes the challenge.

Spreading his arms around him as if to welcome the desert sands - and catching a mouthful of sand for his efforts - Radek bows deeply to Alice, staring at her with a wide grin framed by loose strands of orange hair. "An excellent choice or lucky accident, m'lady. i have only a faint clue where we are, vaguely recalling seeing these deserts in a brochure for an organization that seemed something like an old men's club for aging wizards - just enough to know that it should provide plenty of ground between us and our pursuers, ahahaha!... Looks like we've got a puzzle or two to solve, Alice. Should we begin by following that path?"

Covering his eyes with his right hand to protect them from the sudden desert breeze, he points to where the steam rises off a series of broken paved stones, perhaps a mile or three in the distance... Above them, several strange birds are circling, their long necks the color of bruised flesh, and their great wings beating only occasionally as the ride the currents. For the moment, they seem content to ignore the new visitors, watching only those lifeforms slowly collapsing from exhaustion into the merciless sands...
This message was last edited on 28 Feb 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 7:44pm, 1 Mar, 2011

Alice, as usual, says nothing for some time, seemingly staring into eternity, a habit she seems to have only recently acquired.
Spitting a large quantity of sand out of her mouth and running her fingers absent-mindedly through her hair, she turns to face Radek, wearing a troubled expression.
Neither of them seem to have noticed the nearby merchant who witnessed their arrival. Possibly because he is currently lying face down in the sand, having fainted from shock.
A small green lizard watches Alice as she begins to speak, rummaging around in her left pocket.

"Yes, yes... i think we should. After all, paths are meant to be followed. Symbolically and literally, though i do find myself doing the former quite a lot these days. Ah, there it is."

She pulls out a small yet decidedly fat scroll, its parchment stained with what looks to be an arresting combination of tea and absinthe. Unfurling it, she walks up to Radek, her footsteps, most unusually, leaving no impression on the sand. The lizard continues to watch unblinkingly.

"So. This is a map of the where we are now. Or at least it will be a map of where we are now. You see, it re-writes itself to depict the surrounding area, wherever that may be.
Yes... it looks like we're not too far from some sort of town... or perhaps a very small city. About two miles down that road you so helpfully pointed out just now. Oh, and it looks like it's on the edge of a lake. Most curious indeed, no?"

She gazes at the map, which is still in the process of writing itself, for a short while longer, her arm draped casually over Radek's shoulder. Once it has finished, she hands it to him with a solemn nod, and sets off towards the road. Or at least she starts to set off towards the road, but appears to change her mind, turning slowly around and waiting for Radek to catch up with her.

"...I just wanted to tell you, that, um, I'm quite sure everything will be fine. Back at the shop, i mean. Leonard will sort everything out. He's a black belt in kickboxing, did i tell you that? among his other estimable talents. He'll be marching that fellow of to the authorities right now, I'll bet. Absolutely nothing to worry about. In fact, i don't know why i even mentioned it."

She seems to hesitate for a moment, the silence of the desert pressing in all around her, before darting forward and giving Radek a quick hug.
The lizard hops from one foot to the other, before quickly taking advantage of Alice's sudden distractedness and leaping into one of her voluminous pockets with an almost imperceptible rustle.
Several long moments pass before Alice releases the gunman and hastily brushes herself down, not looking at him, and seeming immensely preoccupied with her bootlaces. Which, to be fair, have become severely undone. After they have been securely tied, she turns to the east and towards their destination, looking substantially more cheerful than she did twenty seconds ago.

~Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, a heavily locked and bolted chest washes up on a beach, upon which a man and his octopus are taking a leisurely afternoon stroll...~

This message was last edited on 2 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 11:03pm, 2 Mar, 2011

That look upon Alice's face...

Radek clearly wants to say something, but the words don't come to his mouth. After some time, his usual grin manages to reassert itself, although looking perhaps more thoughtful than usual; and soon enough, it ceases to be a grin, remaining instead pensive and lost in thought.

"... Interesting though there, Alice. For some reason, it almost feels as if i've heard such words before, ah, or thought of similar things. Well, maybe we should take the paths to come more literally?... Although i find a great deal of safety in symbolism, sometimes. Especially when the path is as unexplored and mysterious as this!"

Following after her with the clomp of heavily booted feet, he tries to shake the faint feeling that tiny reptilian eyes are staring at them with unconcealed curiosity; he stops when she does, eyes quickly darting from Alice to the map. He smiles lightly at it the stains of tea powder, several blended leaves, and the unmistakable green of wormwood liqueur staining it's surface.

"Seems like something you're lucky to have on you, Alice! Not that i'm too surprised... That you have it, that is. The map itself is a curious indeed. If we're not too far from a town - maybe even a city - we can get our bearings and perhaps supply ourselves. Maybe see if there are any occurrences related to those ovoid boxes we can investigate; and failing that, it never hurts to have some good tea while we ponder our next move - although a shot of whiskey right now wouldn't hurt, either..."

Radek makes no secret of the smile on his face as they stare at the map together, smiling contently as the sand furls about them and a certain lizard peeks out at the two from underneath a rock. He does however, return Alice's nod with steely grey determination in his eyes, placing the map carefully in one pocket of his voluminous jacket - which is a tad unpleasant to wear in the heat, but contains too many assorted items to cast off. Set for the city, he is a little surprised when Alice stops as if she's forgotten something.

He looks surprised at first, and then his face twists into a concerned look which must be invisible to her as she buries her head in his chest. Unsure of what to do or say at first, he does what comes naturally, and embraces Alice back tightly, closing his eyes and lost in the moment until she lets go - still a little concerned, slightly guilty for holding on as long as he did, and slightly confused as to the suspiciously lizard-sized bulk he felt mysteriously materialize in one of her pockets.

Watching her tie her boots with a look prying for any sign or clue, his expression melts into a relieved smile almost as warm as the desert air around them at her expression. Smiling to himself, he places his arm around her back and gestures ahead of them as they walk along the simple cobbled path, unsure of the city that awaits them.

"If it's Leonard we're talking about, he's probably tied that unpleasant fellow up and put the finishing touch on your finances, first. An excellent bookkeeper never leaves business left hanging, after all! We'll have to get him a good souvenir or two, while we're here - when we make it back to your shop, i'm sure Leonard'll have a few stories that'll make our adventure pale in comparison - and we'll spend hours trading them after the store is closed, with some nice tea and the stars hanging heavy in the sky. Ah, we'll have to take notes about this place! Stars in the desert sky should be breathtaking..."

As Radek trails off, lost in the thrills of simple astronomy and glad to be close to Alice, a merchant pulls himself from the sand, confused as to the loss of a certain lizard, more confused as to what just happened (due to slight memory loss from shock and trauma), and even more confused as to who would head towards the city of Mina al-Nazr on that old path... Shaking his head at the universe in general, he slowly gathers his things and sets off, slightly to the north, looking for the merchant's road...

~Many miles away, a man and his octopus carefully approach a highly sealed chest, unsure of it's contents or it's risk. The man, being unfamiliar with locked chests, but very familiar with their unlocking, mentions opening it - the octopus, being sensible about such matters, recommends taking it with them to a witch they know for evaluation. They discuss it for some time, curious about the slight ringing sound, so barely audible...~

This message was last edited on 2 Mar 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 9:32am, 4 Mar, 2011

The sun is high, and the road, as the two travelers discover, is long. It is also punctuated by occasional clouds of steam, rising up from the various metal grates built into the cracked ground.
The city can be seen, just about, shimmering on the horizon, the skies around it intriguingly speckled with slow-moving dots. To complete the scene, a ball of tumbleweed bounces past.
All we need now is some lazy guitar music and a pair of maracas, Alice thinks. And then she thinks some more. This time about where they're going, and why it feels so familiar.

She remembers a few things, like how the city is mainly populated with wizards, and how the coconut liquor is renowned for its potency, capable of rendering a fully grown high summoner unconscious within minutes.
And, of course, not forgetting the city's primary mode of transport. Yes, it had been a while since she'd floated aimlessly, carefree as a bird or other similar carefree-sounding thing, through the clouds...

They continue on, the sun beating down mercilessly, until Alice decides to stop for a rest.
Or rather, she decides to flop down onto the ground in the manner of a haddock falling from a tabletop, even managing to make a sort of "splat", despite being reasonably dry.
She lies motionlessly for a while, the only signs of life emerging from her being in the form of heavy breathing. At length, she sits up, fanning herself ineffectively with her hand and saying "blasted weather" under her breath.

...After the sun has begun to slowly sink into the horizon, Alice deems it suitable to set off again, clambering inelegantly to her feet and emptying her gloves of a mysteriously large quantity of sand.
She continues down the road at a brisk trot, pulling Radek along with her, apparently making up for lost time.
The city begins to grow nearer, and the black specks of before turn out to be many hundreds of gaily-coloured hot air balloons, drifting through the skies above.

"It looks like we'll make it after all, Radek. You know, i was half expecting to come up against some sort of barrier, like a sphinx or a banker. Silly me, eh? Of course, we still could..."

As this rather ominous remark is delivered with a sly grin and a wink, the city gates begin to come into view. Two guards stand by, looking bored. One of them is eating a large sandwich, the other is contemplatively scratching his bottom.
The one who is eating the sandwich turns to his compatriot, having spotted two figures approaching from the distance.

"Oi, Cid. Over there. Looks like two travelers."


"Over there."


"...Don't get many coming this way. Must be mad."

"The heat can do funny things to you, Bert. I remember me old uncle Ted. Used to go all peculiar in the heat, he did."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. Used to go runnin' round the garden barking like a dog. Me aunt Gladys had to turn the hose on Im'."

"You're having me on."

"I never tell a lie, Bert, you know that. It's as true as I'm standin' here right now."

"Well, fancy that."

"It's a funny old world, Bert."

"That it is, Cid."

"Ere. You wouldn't mind chucking some of that my way, wouldya? I'm bleedin' starving. And me leg's been givin' me gyp all day, it has."

"Your leg's always givin' you gyp, Cid. An' you're not avin' ANY of my sandwich. S'all i got to eat all day."

"You selfish bugger. After all i done for you, an' you can't even spare me a bit of ham and pickle. Charmin' that. Absolutely charmin'."

"Oh, shurrup, Cid. And wouldya' stop doin' that? It'll fall off one of these days."

"Never mind that. They're almost ere'."


"Your pair. The daft buggers."

"Oh. Right."

This message was last edited on 4 Mar 2011.

Posted by Radek, 10:09pm, 4 Mar, 2011

As the sun slowly rolls past in the sky, Radek can't help but notice how similar it looks to a large, golden egg. Unpleasantly unnerved by this comparison, he focuses on the present - two very tired looking colonial guardsmen, probably employed directly by one of several powerful wizards to keep an eye out for trouble. The more durable ones start it. These two look like if they found it, they'd probably run very quickly in the opposite direction - to warn the general public, of course.

But how did they get here? Well, it had been quite a trek - only some familiarity with the dry heat (and the subsequent chill as night fell) of the desert had helped him keep his composure while Alice took a prolonged breather. Although he'd wanted to build a sand castle around her, or perhaps play imaginary guitar to live up to her expectations, he fails at both, instead merely fanning her off with his coat -as it was far too hot at the time to wear it without falling to the ground in a mumbling pile.

It was ridiculously cute, though. She looked like a fish out of water. In a desert. Which is even stranger than a fish out of water, actually.

Then there was that comment. He'd replied lightly that between the two of them, riddles were nothing at all, but financial accountability!... It'd meant to be a joke, but the sly look in her eyes had mad him forget the punchline, and he'd said something noncommittal about arriving safely, just as planned.

Feeling the tips of his ears go red, he sighed and turned his attention back to the present. Al-Nazr stands before them, its airborne sprawl of magickally supported buildings reaching far above the night sky, beams of fractured color zigzagging through the air in a constant show for those lucky enough to stand at it's extremely impressive gates. He's feeling impatient, and can only imagine Alice is too, as a man with a half-eaten sandwich comes over to search them. Ah, right. Guards.

"Even though this is always so annoying, i can't help but feel sorry for people stationed out at the gates like this... Freezing at night, scorching at day, and look at that one guy, with the itch? He's making, ah, uh, 'Bert' here do all the work. What a tool."

That was supposed to have been a whisper, but 'Bert' - if the bronze-metal tag with the name cycling through multiple languages is any sign - seemed to have heard and shoots them both a look of indescribable... Apathy. It's really hard to describe the emotions that someone who is trying to cling on to a sandwich as a badge of power may be going through. That glare is fueled by the rage of night watchmen everywhere however, which makes it something to behold - or, at the very least, slightly guilt-inducing.

"Riiiiight. You two gonna turn out to 'ave any terrible things lurking on your persons? Only, we don't get paid to make mistakes." A pause. "Sometimes, we don't get paid."

Radek shoots a questioning look at Alice - it's always possible she has -something- of that description on her person at any time, not that it really bothers him. Deciding to risk things regardless, he offers a refreshing smile!

"Nope. Just two, weather-worn travelers, parched and in good need of something cold to drink and perhaps a place to rest for awhile. Any chance we could be let on through for.. Ah, a half-container of cinnamon pastries?"

Another pause.
Followed quickly by a sneer.

After several minutes of heated bargaining in which the contents of Radek's coat are hastily emptied, leaving the two watchmen in possession of said crate, a tin of cocoa, two matches, and a hearing trumpet, they are let through and given directions to take one of the heliovators up and step into the brightly flashing 'blue' building, which supposedly has an abundance of rumors, excellent drinks (but slightly grit-filled food), and, according to Cid, "A real lovely ambulance."

Past the city gates, gardens that have been grown without the use of any magic beckon the two forward; crawling roses as dark red as the most subtle wine, or perhaps the back of blade and tulips in every color imaginable stand out almost as much as the armada of balloons above them. Opening the heliovator door with a gentlemanly bow, Radek can barely contain his smile.

"We did it Alice - this place is incredible! Have you been here before? It's almost like something out of a dream, perhaps one where you have the faint imagining it's a place you've seen before, perhaps in the pages of a long-forgotten book..." As he leans against the wrought-iron wall of the heliovator and smiles at her, the magickally controlled temperature engulfs them in a soothing wave, the lights and sounds of the city reaching out to greet them...


Far below, at the city gates, two guards stand by, looking bored. Both are eating small sandwiches, having recently traded a hearing trumpet. One, who cannot keep his hands from scratching himself in the most unpleasant manner, begins to elbow the other.

"Ey. Another visitor. At this hour, no less. Must be a sign."

"You don't believe in signs, Bert. 'Sides, you can't even read."

"Can too. And anyway, s'not that sort of sign. Something mystical."

"Well, excuse me for being wrong summat' time. Excuse me, stranger. S' a short check before you can go inside - oh, hell. S'you. Figured you would be out trading later than this. Good run, ah? Mind seeing a bit of that support your local security?"

Shuffling, then the sound of something metallic and definately coin-sized being slid from one bandage-wrapped hand to a significantly more meaty one.

"Real pleasure doin' business with you. See yerself in!"

The merchant tries not to sigh, having already had quite enough for one day, then steps into the city gates, dragging a small cart behind him...

This message was last edited on 4 Mar 2011.

Posted by Alice belladora, 6:39pm, 6 Mar, 2011

~In the quiet world of Alice's pocket, the lizard, whose name is Bianca, contemplates her surroundings. Now, lizards, as a rule, generally don't tend to do much contemplating, but Bianca is a notable exception.
She sits, slightly squashed beneath a silver pocket watch, wondering where she might be, and whether she might ever see Horatius again.
She did miss the old bugger really, even though he had smelt worryingly of onions for the most part... -not to mention the curious habit he had had of saving various foodstuffs in his beard "for later."
Of course, anything was better than being turned into a fashion accessory. She had been lucky in her escape.
Very lucky indeed.
She waits a little longer, before her curiosity gets the better of her and she pokes her head out into the cool night air...~

Alice, seemingly unconcerned by the rather obvious fact that a small lizard has taken liberty of her pocket, strides down the street, accompanied by her good friend and fellow silly-person Radek.
There is a noticeable spring in her step, and when she stops just outside of the aforementioned public house, she has to stop herself from tripping over.
The sign is indeed extraordinarily gaudy, and there is a particularly large bouncer standing outside, or rather leaning outside, smoking an expensive looking cigar, and being generally intimidating.

Stepping up, she indicates that she would like to avail herself of the establishment, and receives a long, hard stare. She smiles back pleasantly. After a medium-sized eternity, the bouncer shifts his considerable weight from one foot to the other and grunts, removing his cigar and putting it out on his forehead.

"You got an I.D?

"Ah. Why, of course i do. Why ever would you think otherwise, my good man?"


"Could you hold on just one moment? I'm having a little trouble with it, it keeps running away from me."


"Ah, there it is."

Alice pulls a small but heavy clock from her right pocket, and swiftly hits the very surprised man over the head with it. Without hesitating, she quickly sidesteps as he crashes to the ground in front of her, drawing a lot of extremely shocked stares from various passers by, and a small scream from one poor chap who has spilled his drink over his trousers.

"It's all right! He's had a few too many is all. I'm sure someone will be along to drag him home soon! Ah ha!"

With a cheerful grin she pulls Radek up the steps and through the doorway, pausing to adjust her hat, before continuing into the badly illuminated depths beyond, ignoring the small commotion behind her.
They move quickly down a long hallway, the walls lined with mirrors and a lot of other shiny, dangling objects, and an intriguingly musty smell assaulting them. They pass through a bead curtain and towards the foot of a spiral staircase, which descends into near pitch-blackness.
Alice hesitates for only a moment, before plunging ahead with reckless abandon. After a short while of nothing but the sound of boots on metal, she begins to speak.

"....I'm sorry about that. I really didn't want to do it. The thing is, this is a wizards-only club, and, contrary to popular belief, I'm not actually a wizard. It seems our friends at the gate neglected to tell us. But still. I'm sure it will be an enlightening experience, I've never really been in the company of wizards before, you know. Apparently they're grossly corpulent, lazy, and needlessly obsessed with rules and tradition.
Aren't you exited?"

As Alice finishes her sentence, they arrive at their destination, or at least they find themselves on solid ground. The darkness assaults them from all angles, and seems never ending, until...
One by one, lights begin to come on, pinpricks in the distance, large, glowing yellow orbs nearby.
Alice hurries forward, following the illumination in the manner of a pile of breadcrumbs, and soon finds herself standing before a large wooden door, which gives way easily with a hard shove. Too easily. As Alice picks herself up off the floor and dusts herself down, the smell of tobacco and sorcery washes over her, and causes her to look up.

The room is well lit, or at least in certain places, and there is, as promised by Cid, a certain piquancy about the place. An ancient looking man is playing a piano on a raised platform in the corner, and at the snooker table two portly chaps are having an argument about who enchanted the other's balls.
Alice saunters into the room, looking for all the world like a wizard, if not for superficial things like height, weight, gender, lack of facial hair, and age. She makes for the bar, where a unusually thin wizard is telling a monumentally bored looking bartender a story about an aardvark, and motions Radek towards a free table in the corner by the exit.
As she tries to get a word in edgeways somehow between the thin wizard's diatribe, which has reached an unprintable level of obscenity, Bianca again pokes her head out of Alice's pocket, and watches as a formidable-looking barmaid makes a beeline for Radek...

This message was last edited on 6 Mar 2011.

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