Discussion in 'BOARDANIA' started by plaid, Jul 8, 2006.
Other islands? Hm. Is Plaid originally from one of those, I wonder.
More. Please. Kindly.
This would be LSD-y as a graphic novel.
That made me chuckle.
holy drug-induced what?
I searched every visible stretch of cavern. There were no traces. I walked to the nearest cave wall and scrutinized its surface. No traces. Where before it had been crammed with words, now there was nothing. Just rock.
'They're gone,' I said, turning to Jordan. He nodded.
I sat down next to him and stared at the fire. Instead of being full of doubt I felt wronged. I felt like things should make more sense than they did. I felt like I deserved to know why I was here.
There was no hope for Brad; although we'd never seen Maljonic's body, Black and Moon Cat had both said he was dead. Hadn't they? There had never been much hope for Brad either way. I wondered idly what it must be like to be a llama. A llama with no hope.
On the other hand, all sorts of weird things happened on this island. Ba knew. I remembered Pat's undead face. What was that recipe for? Had she meant to tell it to me? What was I supposed to do with it? Rincewind, I supposed, would be the one for monkey brains. That is, if he weren't dead and dissolving in some dragon's fiery stomach by now.
Brad was pacing frantically. I had no idea what he hoped to accomplish with this fire in this desolate cave.
'Does he know why the words are gone?' I asked.
Jordan just blinked, not even turning his gaze from the fire.
'Is it Trollmother's fault? Why would she...' I muttered. 'They're not the words of Ba. But... Hey Jordan. What are you getting out of all this?'
'Doors owed you something? For making sure Mossfoot killed the Captain, right? What was it?'
Jordan shifted uncomfortably and didn't look at me. 'Don't matter anymore.'
He didn't answer. I frowned.
'Can we do anything about this? Are we just going to sit here?'
The pirate glanced at me sideways but continued to say nothing. I looked at Brad. He was pacing, and muttering. Hopeless.
There was nothing I could do. I stood up and stretched and blinked into the fire. Socks. If Colonesque had been killed while wearing my boots... Where was I supposed to get another pair of boots?
Julienned yak tongue. Three gallons of monkey brain. Boiled. I didn't know how much a gallon was but it sounded like a lot.
'Do you think...' I began. But Jordan was asleep. The fire settled a little. I blinked again, wondering if I were tired enough to fall asleep again too. Before I could make up my mind, a familiar six-inch figure was poking my face with a stick and asking me what I'd done with the Words.
'They're gone. What did you do?' Pepster demanded severely.
I swatted at him. 'Nothing. I didn't do a thing.'
'They're gone,' he repeated.
'Yeah. Why do you care?'
'You musta done something.'
I shook my head and looked around for the candles. The smoke in here was making me crazy. There was no reason for me to stay.
Pepster followed me to the fire as I lit a candle and to the staircase as I climbed out of the cave, still poking with his little stick, still insisting it was all my fault. I ignored him.
It had gotten a little bit cloudy outside. What do I do next?
Yak tongue. And... an onion?
Pat's study. I needed to know more, and that was the place to find it.
With a prayer to Ba that the afternoon pie would come soon and that I'd get the answers I wanted to get, I set off as straight south as I could go, right up against the rocky crater of the Garner.
I ate my pie alone up high on the mountain, Pepster having given up on me and flown away somewhere. It was just me and the Garner. I laughed to myself at its name. Mountains can't tell you things, I felt absolutely certain.
Whose words were they, then?
I ran my tongue over the tines of my spork. Not the words of Ba, they said. Not the words of anyone? Or... the words of someone else.
I thought very hard about this. The island of Ba, Maljonic had called it. The island where Ba gave out pie twice a day. Yet the volcano was not named after Ba. Was not named at all, I'd heard. Just was. Garner. Where had it all come from?
For the rest of my walk I kept glancing up at the black crater as if I were waiting for something. Trollmother said the fulgurite spork was the union of Ba and Garner. Pie and volcano. She wouldn't leave the island with it, would she?
The doormen had. Just to the Catface, but still...
But what good would it be away from Garner himself? Away from the pie? It didn't make sense. Nor did why Brad was so upset. From what I knew of Trollmother she'd find a nice little tree to sit under and use the spork as a knitting needle, most likely.
On the southwest side of the crags and rocks I finally spotted the broken walls of the underground building and climbed through. I sighed, remembering the dark sloping corridors. My candle had long gone out, so I walked slowly, listening to the deep, distant humming of the earth.
I hardly trusted myself to find Pat's study. Had it been on this level or a deeper one?
Yak tongue. Monkey brains. Onion. Yak tongue. Monkey brains. Onion. I never did find out where Rincewind kept his monkeys. Would anyone else know about them, if the doormen were all killed?
I supposed Doors might.
I entered the lit parts of the building sooner than I expected. They were mostly deserted.
Turning a corner, I suddenly recognized everything, including the tall shape of Orrdos walking towards me. There were two others with him. I couldn't see Fred. If the three recognized me they gave no sign. I walked faster.
'Hey,' I called when I was close enough they'd have to take notice. What I wanted was to ask directly which room had been Pat's. But for all I knew Orrdos had abandoned Pat and the others to be eaten by zombies and I just couldn't trust him.
'Plaid, what're you doing down here?'
'Looking around. What's wrong with that?'
Doors just shrugged and folded his arms. I noticed in one hand he held a spatula.
'Saccharissa,' he said, pointing to one of the girls behind him. She had short hair and large, beautiful eyes. 'And--'
'Hsing,' the other said. 'We've met.'
I smiled briefly. 'The dragons...' I started to say.
'She's still alive, isn't she?' Doors asked.
I shook my head, 'We don't know that... But the Yak Pit. The Doormen.'
Orrdos's eyes narrowed. 'You've seen the Doormen?'
'Yes.' I looked at Doors and Hsing and Saccharissa in turn, searching for something. Clues. Did these women know what a coward Doors had been at the river?
'I need a map,' I said.
'Tr--Brad-- For Brad. He sent me to fetch one. Pat had one in her study. Which door is it?'
'The rusted brown one, on the left up there.' Doors turned the spatula over in his hands.
'Thank you.' I could feel them all watching me as I rushed past them down the corridor. Thank Ba it isn't locked.
I closed the door behind me and let my eyes adjust to the brown shadowy light in the room.
Four, three, two, one, I thought, and started pulling out drawers.
I found a lot of paper, a few rolls of tape, and various smaller boxes of clips and pins and other tidbits.
After piling the paper from the last desk drawer onto the desk I realized I would have to read all of this. I would need more light for that.
There'd been a lamp, hadn't there? Where... Ah. I had to climb on the chair to reach the cord.
It was going to be a long evening.
Long, but fascinating. After every page I glanced at the door, expecting to be interrupted any moment by Orrdos wondering about Brad needing that map, right?
But nobody came. There wasn't so much as a footstep outside.
Pat had drafted maps, sketched landscapes, and put together long lists of things all about the island. There were margin notes full of cross references, and everything had a neat heading and an accurate page number. Much of it was scientific, but there was history there. More history than I could've ever asked for: the Sock Wars, the pie, the Words...
And then in between a list of weather patterns and a sketch of different types of seaweed, I found what must have been the woman's personal diary. Leatherbound like the book of Om, but hand stitched. The pencil was smudgy but still very legible. On the very first page there were several rows of neat tally marks.
She had been on the island 539 days. And kept track of them all. I'd already lost count.
I laughed. She hated the llama too. At least at first. Evidently she'd stayed on his side, so she must have learned to tolerate the animal.
Who's side was I on now? No side. If the mermaidens can get away with that, so could I.
The journal was full of notes on pie and the names of other islanders. Doors, especially. It seemed he'd been around almost as long as Brad.
I was curious about a lot of things. These other islands. The llama fiasco. Fred and his cult. Unearthing the important details--whichever details those might be--from every single new arrival and every minute description of pie ingredients wasn't going to be easy.
I flipped to the last written pages of the journal, wondering what Pat might have written about me when I'd showed up. French silk, banana merengue, Hermes, rain... Plaid... plaid... ...
And then the light sparked and went out.
I stood up and hoped that somewhere in this dusy room there was another lightbulb, or at least a match to light the candle in my pocket.
Feeling along Pat's shelves, squinting in the thin light from the window, I tried to swallow the creepy feeling that the gloom brought back. I was snooping in the study of a woman who had been zombiefied and left to choke on her own orange slime. Every speck of dust in the air seemed to assert the fact that this was not my business. This was not my space.
But I had to find out. The recipe. The islands... The sock wars had fallen completely apart and everyone on the island was flinging blame and doubt at everyone else.
I found the narrow entrance to the lab behind the study; it was narrower than I remembered, as if the shelf on the right had been shifted to a funky angle. The light in the lab was still working. I flicked it on and blinked, took one look around, and stopped breathing.
There was an overwhelming smell of chemicals. All the experiments Pat had been running in here when I'd come down before were gone. The cauldron in the corner was spotless and empty. Every counter cleared off.
I coughed and coughed. My eyes started watering. Someone... but Pat might have cleared it out herself, I didn't know. I sneezed painfully and leaned against the doorframe.
Matches. I didn't suppose there was much chance of my finding any in the bright sterility of that lab.
I could steal the lightbulb from above the lab table. Or I could haul my stack of paper and books in here and read. Or I could haul my stack of paper anywhere else.
Obviously not anywhere. Somewhere safe.
I laughed pathetically, knowing there wasn't really anywhere on the island that was safe.
Sighing, I rubbbed my eyes and squinted off into space.
No one to trust. Not Brad, not Doors. Even Buzzfloyd didn't care. The mermaidens were psycho. Maljonic was dead. The Doormen were probably dead. Trollmother...
But I had no idea where she was.
And everyone else had been eaten by zombies. I choked on the thought.
So somebody had sacked Pat's laboratory but hadn't touched the shelves full of paper in the study. Why?
They were cheating. Mynona had said... Orrdos and the others, apart from Pat and her assistants, know nothing about it.
He was trying to cover his tracks. Brad ... the zombies... My eyes stung. That llama... that cursed filthy llama.
I turned back to the desk, my shadow sharp even against the gloom of the study. If the window might open, I would stay here and read. Shoving aside a bookshelf, I fiddled for several minutes with the catch on the pane, flicking spiders away and trying not to break anything. It finally gave, with a cold creeking sigh and a shower of dust and paint chips.
I shifted the pile from the desk to the chair and settled myself against the entrance to the empty, sterile lab.
'So,' I said to myself. 'Where do we start?'
I decided there was no answer to that, so I just started at the top.
It was a draft of rules. Half of them were crossed out. They had nothing to do with the Sock Wars, just normal everyday living stuff. Don't bring animals into the hideout. Thank Ba for pie. Keep away from the mermaidens' property.
I read for hours, getting lost in the smudgy handwriting. My legs went numb and I stood up, trying to remember what it was I was trying to find in this mess of information.
'Yak tongue.' But what was it for? I paced the three and a half feet of dark study behind Pat's desk. The only thing I could think that made sense was that it might cure Brad of his llama-ness. But how? I didn't know enough to decide if it was a worthy solution or just craziness.
Something small and niggling and quiet in the back of my head reminded the rest of me that zombies weren't dead. There was the horrifying possibility that I could find Pat again and talk to her. But was the chance of finding out what this recipe was about large enough to warrant the risk? The memory of all that itching orange goo made me shiver. I could not and would not do it alone.
'Julienned yak tongue,' I said to myself. 'Three gallons of monkey brains, boiled... and an onion.' On toast. But... but... None of this made any sense and there was nobody to ask about it.
I swallowed every bite of my pie with a question, still pacing the study. Whose side am I on? Whose side is worth being on?
Doing anything all by myself was not going to be easy. It probably wasn't even possible. I'd need Rincewind for monkeys at any rate. And some way to make toast... and someone... anyone to be an accomplice.
My thoughts went back to Trollmother. She'd taken the spork thing and presumably gone to another island. To find her I'd need the Catface or a dragon. And a map. Pat's maps I'd set aside to study later. There was still a foot or so of papers I hadn't gone through yet.
I took a careful peek into the corridor, praying that no one would find me here and throw me into another confusing plot or argument or brawl. It was empty and quiet in both directions so I closed the door again. Stretching out on the floor, I blinked several times and resumed reading.
I woke up with the smell of dust and ink in my nostrils. I rolled over and suddenly an answer flashed before my eyes. Hex was still alive, unzombied... and she had to be able to help me. She could. She'd have to... Hex would know what to make of these files. She would know what Pat had been working towards with the recipe. And she'd protect me from the zombies.
Standing up and shifting my coat back a little on my shoulders, tucked the two maps I had found into my pocket and left Pat's office, headed toward the stairs.
Pat has been loyal to Brad. She had known about his attempts to cheat. I wondered what those were, exactly. Or had been. 'Pathetic,' I said to myself. 'All over a measley supply of useless socks.'
There were a few people upstairs in the cave but I didn't recognize any of them.
'Hey,' I said to one short girl. 'I need to find Hex.'
'Plaid... innit? Ask Cynical Youth.' She pointed.
'Thank you.' I followed her arm to the sofa and the curly-haired young man sitting at the end of it. 'Cynical Youth?' I asked tentatively.
He squinted up at me. 'Hello again,' he said. But his mouth didn't move.
Then I noticed Pepster, standing on the side table, tapping his foot.
'Hi..' I said. 'I-- I'm looking for Hex.'
'Hex? Why?' Cynical Youth shifted in his chair.
'I have a question. Pat... gave me a message.'
'Pat did? When?'
'Just before she tried to kill me,' I said, flippantly. 'Can you just tell me where she is?'
'She, eh?' Pepster laughed. 'What're you up to, Plaid?'
'What're you up to?' I returned. 'Where do you even come from?'
The little man tsked at me and jumped up in the air.
'And how can you fly?' I asked.
He simply winked and floated away. I stared after him until Cynical Youth reminded me why I'd come up here.
'Hex is outside, scouting,' he said. 'What did Pat tell you?'
'Did you know her very well?' I asked.
He shifted his weight forward and leaned his elbow on the arm of the couch. 'As well as anyone,' he said. 'She was here a long time before most of us.'
'Brad named you too?'
He nodded, his eye glancing at the doorway off to the side of the room. 'Pat led us on scouting expeditions, exploring the island. She made maps and took measurements of weird things like the leaves on the trees.'
'You know she's a zombie now.' It was sort of a question. Mostly a statement.
He sighed and stood up. 'Yes.'
I followed him through the tunnel. 'She-- I saw her...become...'
'Lucky you,' he whispered.
'What she said.. the last words she said were a recipe. I'm trying to find out what it means.'
'A recipe? To change Brad, you think?'
I shrugged. 'No idea. I was hoping Hex would know. Or at least point me in the right direction. I've searched Pat's study already--'
'Who let you in?' Cynical Youth seemed shocked.
'I did. It wasn't locked.'
A long silence followed.
'The lab had been sacked,' I decided to mention. 'Completely cleaned out. Everything.'
We left the hideout and entered a rustling darkness.
'Woah, is it late or early?' I wondered. How long had I been in that study?
'Early. Probably 4 or so.'
'My sleeping is messed up. Blasted Doormen.'
'Doormen? You've seen the Doormen?'
'Mhm.' I nodded. 'I hope they haven't got eaten by dragons.'
'Dragons? Oh my.' Cynical Youth slowed his pace and navigated the woods carefully.
'Are you going to be able to find her?'
'Her. Heh. Yeah. It might take a minute, but yeah.'
'What's so funny?'
He didn't answer me.
Ten minutes or so later I was staring at a mechanical person amid a bunch of ferns, shivering, trying to make myself understood.
Continue, please. Loosen Hex's tongue (maybe it is made of Yak?).
'An onion. Three gallons of monkey brains. Normal monkeys she said. I don't know how much julienned yak tongue. And I don't know how we'd make toast... but that's what she said.'
Hex whirred frighteningly and turned her head. 'It is a recipe.'
'What's it for? What will it do?'
'For Brad? Or...'
'The llama betrayed Miss Pat,' Hex said. 'The antidote is not for him.'
'He did? He was... You know how he was cheating then,' I whispered.
'She's a zom-- it's for zombies? We can... it--' I gasped. An antidote for zombieism. 'But will it really reverse it?'
Hex shook her head slowly.
Cynical Youth was peering at me suspiciously. 'What are you plotting?' he asked.
'But it'll protect us? If you can't tell me about Brad, Hex, I'll have to ask Pat... her memories--will her memories be in tact? Will she be able to tell us anything?' I started fidgeting, stripping leaves from ferns. Running through my head were all the possible ways I could think of procuring a knife, and a yak, and toast. 'Cynical, do you have any bread?'
'What? What is all this about?'
I took a deep breath. 'Brad...' Cynical Youth was staring at me as if to ask, why does any of this matter to me? and I choked trying to think up an answer. 'The Sock Wars...'
He raised an eyebrow.
'I'm just trying to find out what's going on.'
'What makes you think anything's going on? How much can happen on a stupid little island?'
'I don't know. But I want to find out. If Pat can tell me anything I'm going to try. You don't have to come.'
'If there's bread anywhere,' he said, 'it's on the Catface.'
I grimaced. 'Well we'll go there. We'll-- somehow. I need a knife.'
Hex pulled one from somewhere amid her metalwork and held it out. I smiled.
'Together, then?' I asked.
Cynical Youth nodded, but Hex insisted she stay at her post.
'No,' Cynical said. 'There are others who can scout. And considering...'
'The Sock Wars don't matter that much, do they?' I said. 'Maljonic's dead anyway.'
'What?' Cynical gasped.
'Hasn't that news reached you all here yet? The mermaidens-- Mossfoot killed him. Orrdos put him up to it, I'm pretty sure.'
'But Doors... he...'
I raised my eyebrows. 'We ought to get going,' I said.
'Doors is... He and Fred are ... champions.'
I scoffed as we started walking back to the hideoug. 'You still think that? After he let the zombies take all those people? Pat and Keli and Emma?'
Cynical's eyes widened.
'No--' Cynical grumbled. 'He can't have.'
'He did. I don't know why, but I saw him and his silly elephant standing there, just watching them get torn apart.'
'Yeah,' I said. 'It's dispicable.'
We re-entered the cave and I unthinkingly led the way back to Pat's study. 'Do you know who cleaned out the lab, Hex?' I asked.
She walked around the long counter and inspected the white walls carefully. 'It's hard to tell who,' she said. 'But I know why.'
'Why?' I leaned on the desk chair in the dark, waiting.
'Brad must have given up hope. The experiments here were all meant for increasing our chances at winning the Sock Wars. There were... machineries and electrical things. The cloning device was on its last phase of testing. We could've finished it in a week if Pat...'
So the Wars were over. At least to Brad, they were. With Maljonic dead that made sense... but-- 'Where did they take the equipment? Was it destroyed or would he have hidden it somewhere else?'
Hex shook her head. 'I don't know.'
'I--Pepster, actually...he said something about an experiment. It might be something different but I-- well, he just mentioned it.' Cynical Youth shrugged in the shadows cast by the light from the open door.
'Pepster? Is there any way we can find him?' I asked.
'I doubt it.'
'Plaid, are you intending to perform this recipe?' Hex asked me. She seemed very concerned.
'Is there a reason I shouldn't?'
Hex paused. 'Pat's experiments are only experiments. I have no record that this one has been tested. In theory it will do what she expects, but...'
I sighed. 'But what?'
'Well, you don't want to end up a llama, do you?'
I tried to laugh at that, but couldn't.
Did I trust Pat enough to try this? I took a deep breath and stared at the floor. My coat pocket still held a small jar of gerbil food. She'd been loyal to Brad. I guess I wasn't sure.
'Pat knew a lot about this island. And I want to know it too. If you can't tell me what she knew, Hex, then I have to try.'
Hex's aluminum eyelids flicked themselves open and shut a few times. 'You have her whole study, here. What else do you need?'
My eyes moved around the shelves. 'It's just so much...' I said.
Hex nodded. 'And the last month's worth of weather readings haven't even been recorded from Electric Man's sensor database.'
'I don't know what's important and what's not. I need Pat.'
'Just what are you trying to accomplish, Plaid?' Cynical Youth asked.
'I just want to know where I came from,' I said. 'I'll take all the answers I can get.'
Hex switched off the light in the laboratory and we all shuffled out of the study into the hall.
'What first?' I asked. 'Yak tongue, monkey brains, onion, or toast? And what will we do with it when it's done if we can't eat the stuff?'
'Wait.' Hex closed her eyes. A few minutes later a strip of parchment peeled itself out of the top of her head. 'The full recipe, metric and conventional measurements, temperatures, and other instructions.' She yanked the paper out and handed it to me.
julienne and saute:
1 large onion
4 cups (946.3 mL) yak tongue
3 gallons (11.4 litres) un-modified monkey brain
4 slices wheat bread or similar grain product
Combine monkey brain, onion, and yak tongue. Stir gently and spread over toast. Let sit for 8 hours overnight.
NOTE: Add no salt or seasonings.
NOTE: Do not consume yak tongue or monkey brains.
NOTE: Do not drip any of the mixture on any wooden or metal surface.
'Thank you...' I said.
'What exactly will it do?' Cynical wanted to know.
*jots this down*
Oh, and aluminium.
aluminium yourself, kid
'Zombie repellant,' Hex said. 'Pat may know other possible uses. The onion and toast first. I expect they will be easier.'
I nodded. 'Do onions grow on the island?'
Cynical Youth shrugged while Hex thought for a minute. 'We have discovered thirteen types of grass, four dozen species of fern, two or three herb-like things, but no root vegetables. Lots of trees and mosses, too.'
'The Catface, then,' I said. 'Trollmother made soups, she must have access to onions.' I thought about the other islands Jordan had mentioned. How far away were they? If we could... We could find another of those sporks... But then whose blood would we use? The blood of a child...
'They were under the cliffs last I knew... this won't be easy.'
Cynical Youth looked at me nervously. 'Are you sure you need me? I-- We could split up. I could go after the yak tongue.'
'Not by yourself you couldn't. The dragons are guarding that yak pit. And we'll need help dealing with pirates. Come on.'
I started towards the staircase again, Hex close behind.
'I'm not sure why this is so important,' Cynical Youth shouted after us.
'Then don't come,' I shouted back, not turning around.
We walked straight through the muraled cave and out into the brightening morning, through the underbrush, around boulders, straight to the beach. I turned east, hoping we'd find the pirate ship close. If they'd sailed from the island I wouldn't know what to do.
'So, Pat built you?' I said by way of conversation over the morning pie.
Hex twitched. 'Yes, and together we built Electric Man. I didn't like him as much as I thought I would.'
I stifled a giggle. 'How long ago?'
'Roughly one year. I was here for the last Sock War before this one, and we built Electric Man shortly after it ended.'
'And Brad won that one, didn't he?' The picture of Electric Man's dismembered body among the dragons was flickering annoyingly in my mind. I didn't know how to tell Hex about it. I wasn't sure I should. 'You know I haven't more than half a dozen socks on this island. Where do they keep them?'
'There are rooms in the buried school, in the lower levels. As for Malory, we don't know where he keeps his.'
'There are other islands marked on Pat's map. Have you been to them?'
'No,' Hex admitted. 'She trained smaller things than I to travel there and send reports back. Once, during peacetime, I think she traded a handmade knife for passage with the pirates and went exploring herself.'
I was both curious and jealous. What might I trade? Dare I do business with pirate scum like Black? I nodded vaguely, tossed my empty plate into the sand, and strode further east. The sun was searing away the low clouds, casting sharp shadows up near the cliffs. A moment later we passed a pile of half-burnt sticks. Shivering, I recognized the hole where Colonesque had dug up the fulgurite spork.
'What happened here?' Hex asked, watching me slow down and stare. I was almost certain I could see bloodstains in the black ashes of the fire.
With a sigh I answered. 'I followed the Doormen here. They dug up a spork made of glass and... with blood and fire they went from here to the Catface, like nothing... like magic.'
'Glass? You mean the fulgurite... Pat has--had--samples of it in her lab. It is magic?'
'I guess so. Trollmother has the spork now. Jordan said she must have gone to another island with it.'
Hex closed her eyes and emitted a few clicking sounds. I turned east again, squinting. 'Not very much further... and there's shade up there.'
We kept walking, up over a small rise, and saw at the bottom of it the mouth of a clear river.
I took out the maps and sat down for a moment to look at them. This river came out of the lake, at a southeastish sort of angle. This was mermaiden territory, I guessed. I waded out into it, holding the maps carefully.
'Can you get across, Hex?' But she'd joined me already and was nearly to the other bank before I'd finished my question. 'Oh,' I said.
I stared upstream for a few minutes, thinking vaguely about toast and Mossfoot. Murder. 'Hm... It looks sort of like it gets rockier further on,' I mentioned.
'It does, but it is not unclimbable.'
Good, I thought. 'You've been this way?'
'I accompanied Pat on all her expeditions. She's been everywhere on the island.'
I took a look at the map again and tried to read its small, neat markings. The lake looked bigger than I remembered. The words were underlined once in red. The Garner was a charcoal smudge in the center. The shape of every beach, dotted lines where high tide came in... it was all there. Even Dragonmother's caves were fairly well outlined. I wondered how accurate it all was.
'If the Catface is gone,' I said, putting the maps away and lengthening my stride, 'I... What will we do?'
'Climb higher. Perhaps we will be able to see from the mountain where they sailed.'
I sighed a long and tired sigh and prayed the Catface would be anchored just the same where I'd seen it last. As loathe as I was to face any of those pirates again, this recipe was the only direction I had that made any sense at all.
'Hex,' I said, 'Do you know anything about banana daiquiris?'
'Banana I know. They come in the pie sometimes, and I think a few grow on the north of the island. Daquiri....' She paused for a moment. 'A daquiri is a cocktail of rum, lemon or lime juice, and sugar, often with the addition of fruit. Named after Daiquirí, a town on the east coast of Cuba.'
'Cuba?' I said. 'Where is Cuba?'
'Um,' Hex blinked a few times. 'Cuba: a republic in the Caribbean, to the south of Florida. The largest island in the West Indies.'
'Hex, how do you know all these things?'
'I... Pat gave me time to read all of her books. I believe a dictionary was among them.'
'Hm. Could we go there? I mean someday, not until we've seen Pat, obviously.' I pulled out the maps again. 'Is Cuba on these maps? Is it one of the islands nearby? What if...' But I couldn't see Cuba on any of the maps, and trying to read them while walking was making me stumble.
As I stopped to refold the maps, Hex walked on ahead. Seventy-two banana daquiries, I thought. Why seventy-two? 'What's rum?'
Hex didn't hear. We kept walking until noon, crossing the rockier parts of the beach. And there, a little further out to sea than I'd hoped, was the ship. Its black hull was crusted with salt, its sails turned grey in the sunlight. I asked myself if I thought I could swim that distance.
A few loose rocks tumbled from the cliff to land just behind us. I looked up the steep face to a familiar pair of narrow red eyes. Hex followed my gaze and clicked several times as she recognized the form of a dragon, sparkling in the sun.
'Om Kranti?' I asked in a whisper. Dragonmother...
I didn't know if the woman was alive but I had great flowering suspicions of it. She was watching us now. How long? Maybe as far as the Yak Pit. I took a few deep breaths.
'Hex,' I said. 'How did Orrdos defeat her the first time and bring Om to the Catface to rescue me?'
'I believe Fred had a hand in that battle,' Hex told me. 'We could hardly hope--'
'Well, can you swim that far to the ship?'
'Possibly. There is a high risk of rust--corrosion--'
I stared at various pieces of ground, then looked back up at the dragon. The book... I took The Holy Book of Om from my pocket and wished in a vague but very potent way that it was more readable than it was. The lines of text looked like grimy little worms. Nearer the binding whole words were legible, but out in the margins it all ran together. I resisted the urge to throw the whole thing into the ocean.
As I turned the matted, worn pages a sudden wind flicked my hair in my eyes and tore the knotted scarf away. The dragon had leaped from his perch on the cliff and was diving at us. All I could do was cringe.
'Hex... Hex!' But neither of us moved. The dragon swam overhead, knocking loose more rocks, stirring up the sandy shore. I shouted some more: at the dragon, at the pirates, at Ba. And then Om's face was inches from mine, blinking, cracking her jaw. She folded her wings and tilted her head.
Dragonmother climbed nimbly across the spines of the dragon's neck and peered at me. 'You don't belong here. None of you people belong here. Why don't you leave us alone?'
'Wh...' I didn't know what to say. 'I...' I turned The Holy Book of Om around in my hands. 'We all thought you were dead,' I decided to say.
'And rightly so. I trust you won't go blabbing to our llama friend, girlie?' She nodded smartly. 'Where did you get that book.'
I squinted up at her. 'Why?'
'Well, Om here is curious, you see.' Both of them turned their heads to Hex and studied her intently. The metal girl stood straight and fearless, silent, unmoving.
'Well,' I mimicked, 'I don't remember. Perhaps you could tell me.'
'Plaid,' Hex said calmly, 'we don't have time for this, do we?'
'Don't we? Zombies don't die.'
Dragonmother clicked her tongue. 'And Bradley scolded me for interferring. Foul llama.'
'Did you have the Doormen killed?' I asked. 'I know your dragons stormed the Yak Pit and tore that Electric Man into pieces... Have you been following me since then? What is it you want?'
'Oh what a lot of questions,' she grinned. I scowled. 'Be careful.'
Hex's fingers were turning red.
'If you'll excuse us,' I said. 'We have more important things to do than quibble with you and your pet.'
Om snorted and I suddenly felt quite sorry for saying that.
'Alright,' I conceded. 'Do you want something? I'm just... I don't know.'
'Ready to listen, are you?' Dragonmother's voice had a vague gravelly quality.
I shrugged and glanced at Hex. She looked like she was steaming. 'If you've got anything meaningful to tell me, tell it,' I said, looking back up at the woman.
She jumped from Om's head to the ground and kicked a few pebbles at Hex. Walking towards me she began to whisper. 'You want to know how you got here, eh? Who you really are?'
A chill came out of nowhere and pinched at my spine. I said nothing. 'You do, of course you do,' she continued. 'I don't know what sort of errand you're on now, but your identity is of infinitely more interest, isn't it?'
I said nothing. There was nothing I could say. Her questions were unsettling.
'There is a way,' Dragonmother went on. 'Brad's hidden it from the others. He doesn't want them to have pasts. He doesn't want them to hope for anything but the shallow concerns of this one little island.'
I stared at her. Her right arm was reaching out to me. Om's green face looked down at us, blinking patiently.
'Well what is it?' I said.
'The power of Ba is great,' she whispered. 'But the power of Garner is deeper.'
'Don't be so blasted vague,' I growled.
Dragonmother twitched and pulled at her collar. 'The power of seeing,' she said. 'The mermaidens have used it for centuries. To see the past, the distant present--the future--'
I glanced at her, at the book in my hands, and at the ground, pondering her words and trying to stifle the hope in my heart. I had no past. I'd nearly accepted the fact... I...
But if there was any chance. What would I give to know where I came from? Dragonmother wasn't half as trustworthy as the llama. And the mermaidens. Would it be worth the trouble?
A breeze from the ocean swept a handful of sand against my ankles. The Catface caught my eye as I looked up again. I'd already abandoned Hermes. Pirates. Zombies. Llamas. I had no place in it. I wasn't sure what I wanted.
I swallowed and wiggled my toes. 'I've met the mermaidens,' I said. 'They aren't very cooperative people.'
Dragonmother smirked. 'You don't know how to deal with them, obviously. There are ways.'
'I don't see why I should trust you.'
Hex approached my side. 'Don't. The Dragonmother's made nothing but trouble for any of us.'
With a sigh I turned to the metal girl. Her face was motionless.
'Why are you so interested in me, anyway? There are dozens more islanders without memories. If you have some magical cure to share, either share it or keep it to yourself. This sneaking around doesn't help anyone, does it?'
She frowned and coughed at me. 'You don't know what you're talking about, girl. You scorn your only chance, no matter what that elephant thinks.'
Hex started walking away.
'Fred? What do you mean?'
The smile that crawled across her face was disgusting. 'No matter.' Om lowered her scaly head for Dragonmother to remount. 'No matter; fare you well, you ungrateful toad.'
She was about to take her flying lizard and leave. Too bewildered to be insulted, I called out, 'Wait!'
A hundred images flipped themselves across my mind. Mermaidens, pirates, porpoises. Hermes. He'd said... And the ocean water. The lake... it flowed into the ocean,all of it... the zombie river and the mermaiden river and... I put a hand to my head and squinted up at Om Kranti's red eyes.
'Wait,' I said again. 'The mermaidens? But--'
'They are not easily manipulated out of their secrets,' Dragonmother conceded. 'But I have done it.' The smile on her face made me tremble.
Hex trudged up to my side and put her chill metal hand on my arm. I looked at her and she shook her head. The recipe, I thought. But I was finding it hard, in the face of a possible answer to my lost past, to remember why the recipe had ever seemed important. Pat. Monkey brains?
'Take us-- Would you be so good,' I attempted, 'to take us to the Catface? We--There-- It's something we need to do.'
I could feel Hex cringe next to me. She did not trust this woman not to dump us off the back of her lizard into the ocean. I bit my lip, just staring up at the dragon.
Om put her head down on the sand and blinked. 'Why?' Dragonmother asked.
The woman sat down, straddling Om's scaly neck. A hint of a smile still stayed in her face while the rest of it creased thoughtfully. 'Swear,' she grinned. 'Swear that once you've finished this mysterious task of yours you will come to me. Find me and give me one day.'
'One day?' I was shivering. 'Hex let go,' I said. And, 'Fine, but after we've seen to this.'
So we flew, Hex grabbing onto my coat as tight as she could. The deck of the Catface creaked as Om Kranti's claws scraped against it in landing. Moon Cat Blue's dagger was at the dragon's throat within seconds.
'Morning, Moon Cat,' I shouted. 'We'd like to-- We need to borrow an onion and some toast. How much toast was it, Hex?'
'Four slices wheat bread or similar grain product,' she recited.
'Why...?' Moon Cat inquired, holding her knife steady. 'And what is she doing here?
'Just transportation. Don't worry.' I hopped down to the deck and helped Hex down after me. 'We'll be gone in three seconds if you'll only cooperate.'
'I don't understand.' Moon Cat glared. 'What is this about?'
'Zombies. Stuff.' I looked around, trying to remember the way I might take to the kitchens.
'And dragons, I see,' she said menacingly.
I sighed. 'Just a means of transportation, Moon Cat. Watch her for us, will you? We'll be right back.'
'Hold it! You ain't goin' nowhere, Plaid. Where'd you take Trollmother?'
With a blink and a step back I really wished I had an answer to give her. 'She followed us back to shore.... She took the spork and ran off... I had nothing to do with it.'
'The spork.' Moon Cat looked very angry, but not at me. She put her chin in her hand and paced. I watched, not sure if this distraction was enough license to leave her presence and find the kitchens without her. And then she looked up, tilted her head, and threw her dagger.
It flew over my head, over the dragon's shoulder, and lodged itself in Dragonmother's throat. The woman could not scream; she slid clumsily over the other side of Om Kranti, who roared and arched her back furiously.
'What have you done?' I said, knowing no one would hear. Moon Cat had dashed to Om's leg and was climbing the beast.
The ship's sails were on fire.
'Hex, stop her! I'll be right back.'
I threw myself down the ladder and ran through the corridors below deck. The kitchen... The kitchen... it'd be... I circled back twice before I found the swinging doors that led to the large steel room. An onion. Four slices of toast. There was half a loaf of bread on the counter and wine leftover from my last visit. I rummaged in drawers, cupboards... there. Onion. Bread. Done. Everything was starting to smell like smoke. On my way back I ran into dozens of panicking pirates.
On deck, Moon Cat was shouting profanities at the dragon from atop its shoulders. Hex stood over Dragonmother's body, watching her bleed to death. Om's wings were high and rigid, motionless; her head continued to rage, spitting smoke and cinders. I ran to the dragon and attempted to follow Moon Cat's path up. The green scales were almost too warm to touch.
'Moon Cat!' I shouted, 'What are you doing?'
'Finding Trollmother,' she growled. 'She's the only one who can save the ship now.' She stared up in the sky, tugging at Om's spikes. I stared up too, and saw more of them. Dragons of every color, spiraling in mobs toward the ship.
'This is insane,' I whimpered. 'HEX!'
'Why won't this animal fly?' Moon Cat demanded. 'Infernal beast!'
'You just killed the Dragonmother,' I said. 'I think that's a big deal to them. I bet they'll eat the Catface. Will dear Trollmother be able to fix that?'
Moon Cat cursed. I suddenly wondered what a troll was as I clambered over Om's back to look down at Hex.
She was dissecting the woman. 'HEX!' I shouted. 'I have the stuff, let's go!'
The metal girl didn't flinch as she lifted a series of small organs into a container and squirrelled it away among her various internal gears and compartments. 'HEX!'
When at last she stood up, she looked up at me gravely. 'The ship is going to sink,' she informed us. 'Explode, probably, once the fire gets to the cannons.'
'Om won't fly. Why?' The girl was climbing the dragon's scales.
'Dragonmother is dead. This hasn't ever happened before...' she said as she reached me and Moon Cat.
Ickily intriguing... Hex becoming one with Dragonmother?
interruptions green and perpetual
The dragons above were getting closer, some of them digging into the waves with their massive wings. Several, if not most, of the pirates had flung themselves overboard.
'Explode...' Moon Cat said to herself. 'No.'
Hex reached out and put a hand on Moon Cat's shoulder. 'Let me try.'
Moon Cat reluctantly stepped back and made room for the metal girl to stand and put her hands on Om's throat. The dragon shifted, craning its neck and snorting steam. Her wings tensed and then beat a few heavy beats against the ship's deck. I noticed Hex was vibrating very strangely.
Fanned by Om's wings, the flames grew hotter and spread. The deck beneath us was beginning to crack. We lifted into the air, trailing smoke. I looked down, fascinated by the charred sails and whitening wood, all engulfed in orange fire. Moon Cat was staring too.
As we left the Catface behind, I turned my gaze to the expanding oceanscape and recited the recipe in my head. Four slices wheat toast... an onion ... three gallons monkey brains...oh, and yak tongue. 'So we're after monkeys next, right Hex?' I asked. 'Or are yaks easier?'
The dragonmob was following us. I shivered in the chilly air as we climbed higher and higher.
'Trollmother,' Moon Cat demanded. 'We must find Trollmother.'
I squinted. 'What for? The Catface is doomed.' I gestured to its flaming carcass and as I did so the ship broke, the masts toppling through the burning deck, and the whole thing flew apart in a rumbling, smoke-filled fulmination. Moon Cat trembled and sank to her knees.
The pie arrived amid the flapping of wings and hovered, one plate at my elbow, one at Moon Cat's. Nothing for Hex or the dragon. What an observant and particular god this Ba seemed to be.
Moon Cat shifted, grabbed her plate, and looked around for something to smash it against. Without looking at me she flung the thing away.
'You'll be hungry,' I said, finding my spork and sitting back down to savor the warm cherries.
'Trollmother.' It was all the woman could say.
'Do you know where to look?' I mumbled.
I turned to Hex and asked if she's said yaks or monkeys would be easier.
'Yaks,' she said, keeping her attention forward. 'Especially now that we've got the dragons.'
I nodded. 'To the yak pit then. Moon Cat, don't even--' I stood up in anticipation.
She was gripping her dagger angrily. 'Trollmother... the Catface...'
'We'll do what we can to find Trollmother, eventually. As far as I care you can take the dragons when we get to the yak pit, we won't need them after that. But right here and now we're in the middle of something and I could shove you right off this animal into the ocean unless you settle down.'
Her tattooed hand stayed on her knife, but she relaxed. And I relaxed.
There will be survivors, I considered. Almost all of the pirate crew had jumped before it exploded. But how would they survive? Memoryless? Terrified?
There were dozens of dragons behind us. I had no doubt that Hex was controlling them; there was no reason to be nervous. But looking back at them all, I was. Had they eaten the Doormen?
Circling back around to the northeast coast took almost no time. The large boulders and sparse trees surrounding the pit grew larger and nearer until suddenly Om Kranti slid into the sand and stopped. We three were barely on the ground ourselves before the whole sky was pasted with scaly color and the sand disturbed by hundreds of claws. The yaks started calling out in desperate murmuring moos. They hadn't been returned to the pit itself yet; it was still half full of ash.
'Just one?' I asked Hex. 'Does it matter what sort of yak it comes from?'
'No,' she told me. 'Om,' she invited with a twitching grin, 'if you please.'
The dragon leaned back and roared before lunging for the nearest yak. In her teeth she held the wriggling beast down while Hex crouched over its head. She felt around amongst its teeth for a minute and then yanked its jaw open.
'It has no tongue,' the metal girl said.
I rolled my eyes and looked over her shoulder. The yak smelled terrible and its pierced sides were starting to ooze blood. She was right, there was no tongue in its mouth.
'Get another one. They cannot all be tongueless.' If this recipe was an impossible thing, I swore I would give up on it before the sun went down that day.
One of the other dragons caught another yak for us, and Hex surgically removed its tongue carefully before letting the dragon eat it. The monkeys were next.
'Trollmother-- please,' Moon Cat looked sick. I felt sorrier for her than I thought I should. But she had lost her ship and all her friends. My thoughts went to Trollmother and her way of pie. And Jordan.
'What do you want us to do?' I asked. 'I tell you I know nothing of where she's gone.' That ritual... the fire... all that had been lacking was the spork and the blood. But Rincewind is no infant. How... ?
'The mermaidens. The mermaidens will see. Take me to them.' Moon Cat was pleading with me. Without her ship she seemed so helpless.
'Go yourself,' I told her.
Hex touched my arm. 'The dragons will take us faster to the hideout,' she said. 'Or would you rather walk?'
I sighed and thought. 'I guess there's no need to waste time if we can avoid it.' So she motioned to Om and shooed the other dragons away to their dragony business.
'How do you control them?' I asked. 'Dragonmother's...'
'I am not certain,' she admitted. 'I took her heart, liver, and vocal chords for further study; any or all of them may be factors.'
'Where are we going for monkeys? The Doormen were here when I last saw them, but not here when I was last here.' I suddenly noticed Hex had gathered the pieces of Electric Man into a neat row just to the side. 'Can he be fixed, or what?'
'I hope so,' she said. 'Rincewind as you know is the one for monkeys. Lucky for us Brad's prohibitions did not crush his obsession.'
'But where is he?' I insisted. 'How will we find him?'
'Doors. They are his Doormen, after all.'
'And Moon Cat?'
Hex and I looked down at the woman, who was crouched against a boulder, digging angry symbols into the dirt. 'Moon Cat?' I said. She looked up with a cold, distant expression. Everything about her was different from the fiery golden first mate I'd known on the Catface.
'Give her a dragon. Can you do that? Let her go her own way and do what she wants. I last saw Trollmother on the south beach. Jordan, by the way, I left with our wonder llama at the Words. Now let's go.'
Hex waited for me to mount and then climbed herself up onto Om's back.
'Take your pick,' Hex shouted at the pirate woman as Om reared back and leaped into flight. Dragonmother was dead. I turned over the things she'd said about identity and secrets in my mind, wondering. But it was all too late now. Too late to ask.
When we touched down, knocking over a few trees, at the entrance to the cave hideout, Fred was waiting for us.
The elephant was a creamy yellow with blue and purple spirals, and appeared as large as the dragon at first. When Hex and I dismounted he shrank a little and stretched his trunk. He was looking at us with a mildly bored sort of inquisitiveness.
I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing and just stood there blinking. Fred wiggled an ear and turned around a few times, curling and uncurling his trunk impatiently until he became small enough to fit through the entrance. We followed him.
Once in the cavern of murals, I realized how little Hermes's paintings actually looked like Fred. But what did I expect from the kid, after all? The elephant trumpeted loudly from the middle of the room and suddenly it was crowded with irate islanders, shouting for the idiot creature to be silent or begone. I wondered why the cult of Fred hadn't taken any hold around here. Maybe Moon Cat made it all up for her pirate friends.
Orrdos rushed into the room from downstairs and added his own shouting. 'Shut up and mind your own business, people! Fred what do you need now?'
The strange silence of Fred speaking rippled about the room.
'Oh you think so? How gloriously ironic of you. Any idea where the creeps are?' Orrdos replied.
'The Doormen?' I asked.
Again, all eyes turned to the elephant, whose blue spirals morphed into thick stripes and deepened into a brighter and brighter green. I remembered something just then, and shoved past Hex, making my way to the other side. Banana daquiries. Banana tattoos... Just what had that dream of mine been about, anyway?
But there it was. Plain and banana-shaped, outlined in a thick black. The tattoo seemed to float amid the changing colors of the rest of Fred's skin. It was very weird.
'What's going on then?' I looked up. Orrdos had stormed away and Hex was plowing after him. With a glance at Fred I decided to follow.
The chase ended in the disastrously messy bedchamber where Orrdos kept his elephant. Orrdos was pacing wildly and Hex was trying not to shout at him.
'I don't know where the Doormen are. I don't know.' he growled. 'Fred is hiding something. From me! How dare he try and...'
'If you will just calm down, sir. If you'll just stand still and think for a moment... Surely they can be found.'
'Not if Fred's hiding them. Impossible.'
Hex clicked a few times. I interrupted, 'Why would Fred be hiding them? What did he say to you? What's going on?'
'Impossible!' Doors shouted. 'How dare that fat elephant pull a thing like this!'
Just then the fat elephant nosed his way into the room and grunted.
'How dare you!' Doors continued his rant, pausing strangely after each bout of shouting as the elephant responded.
'Not worry about the Doormen? How can I not worry about them? You insolen--'
'What was that!? You are nothing without--'
And then a glaring silence, a stomped foot, and a string of curses. Orrdos sank down onto the edge of his bed, his face red and his anger fading.
'Orrdos, we need to find the Doormen. Rincewind, more particularly. If Fred knows where they are...'
'And what makes you think your concerns are important to us?' he yelled. 'What could possibly be so urgent-- What?'
'Pardon?' I asked. But he was staring at Fred.
'So you say...' Doors continued. 'But... Oh.'
'What is it?' I was kind of jealous that only Doors could hear the elephant.
'I'm not sure I understand. You're looking for Rincewind? Why?'
'Three gallons unmodified monkey brains.' Hex was leaning against the wall, looking a bit unsettled and eyeing Fred.
'Monkey brains? Well that's easy enough.'
'So you'll find him for us?' I furrowed my eyebrows at Doors. He looked different. Uncertain about things. What was wrong with everyone these days?
'Who? Oh Rinso-- No, we don't need him. Are you two ready? I can take you myself.'
'Where? What?' Hex shifted herself away from the wall and clicked her arms.
'You'll want-- yes--' He handed us each a hockey stick and took a large sheild out from behind the bed. 'Hmm. That should do it. We won't be long, hopefully. Come on.'
'Where are we going?' I insisted, going after him through the connecting doorway between his room and the Doormen's.
Are you only using people from the old boards as characters? Because if you're not I think KaptenKaries, Katcal and Joculator deserve a place if you can find one for them. And maybe me, If I ask nicely : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer: : prayer:
Scrub, it has old members because it was started so long ago. Since then, it's become quite huge. There are only so many characters a writer can take on.
I'm sure she'll add some new characters when she can and when she wants to, but it's really not up to you to decide who 'deserves' to be in anyone's story. It's one thing to ask to be in the story (I'm sure Plaid loves the attention) and I have no doubt that your intentions are good, but you make it sound like this is something Plaid ought to do. And, well, it isn't. If KK, Katcal and Joculator want to be in the story, I'm sure they can ask themselves. :razz:
Ah, thanks. Sorry.
well, don't be too sorry. chris is very right, i love the attention. the plaid identity is huge. have you read the whole thing?
however, i have no firm idea of its ending. so there may or may not be plenty of room for a few more. i've only recently started writing the thing on these new boards, so the balance of old/new board people is naturally uneven.
Yeah, thanks for the mention mr_scrub, but as I haven't even managed to write myself into my own story yet, I'm not going to get all picky about not being in plaid's Which reminds me I really must get back to reading it, I lost track a few pages back... Great going plaid !
you are aching my head
'Fred, give us half a minute, would you? I'll be right back. Sorry about the smell, ladies.'
'Where, Orrdos, are we going?' I was getting very impatient.
'The wardrobe,' he said, walking up to the wardrobe and peeling at the tape that held it shut. 'If I can get it open.'
I stared for a moment, my eyes occasionally straying around the room to rest on filthy old shirts and stains in the carpet. 'That's where he keeps the monkeys...' I said softly. 'In the wardrobe?' Holy weird...
'Are you sure it's safe?' Hex asked. 'Are they... fed? How do they survive in there?'
It was a large wardrobe, a few feet taller than Orrdos and almost half the length of the wall on that side of the room. All we needed were three gallons... How many monkeys was that?
Orrdos peeled layer of tape after layer of tape off into sticky lumps. Hex decided to help after a while and ended up with strips of tape all over her metal shell. I sat in a chair and watched sleepily, restlessly crossing and uncrossing my legs.
They were down to a dozen or so layers left when a knock came at the door.
'Who is it?' Doors shouted.
The door opened a crack and Buzzfloyd stuck her head in. 'Someone's spotted the Chimaera on the northwest beach. And Brad's back. He wants to see you.'
I grumbled. That llama and his 'wanting to see people.' What good was that?
'That pirate still with him?' I asked.
'What's he need me for? Send Fred.'
'No one else can talk to Fred, Doors.'
Doors grumbled and threw down another wad of tape.
'Look, it's probably not important. But have you seen Joyce lately? The Words have gone missing, Brad says.'
'Missing?' Doors sounded shocked. '...has that happened before?'
Buzzfloyd shook her head. 'Never.'
Hex looked at me. 'You didn't mention this, Plaid.'
I forgot to tell you how much I like this story. I have read all the segments on this board but not the old one.
there was a file of the whole thing floating around somewhere... if you're really bored, i'm sure one of us might dig it up for you.
'Is it important?' I asked, even though I knew deep down that it probably was. More important than a lot of things. Extracting the brains from a few monkeys was probably not very important at all, but it was on my more immediate list of things to accomplish, far far above talking to a llama about anything, Words or not.
'What are you doing, Doors? You taped up the wardrobe for good, I thought... the last time anyone went in... it...'
'Last time?' Doors said with a raised eyebrow.
'Yes, for Ba's sake, last time. It was horrible!'
Pie arrived: thin slivers of a rich tangy sort of mousse, with a layer of cream and sauce dribbling all down the sides and pooling on the plate. Buzzfloyd and Doors continued to bicker while we ate. Hex, who evidently didn't need to eat, kept peeling away at the tape on the wardrobe.
The Words... I thought about them. Mortality and time and packrats. So mysterious, and then just ... gone. all of it. Where did it go?
And where had it come from? Did anyone know. I licked my spork and wondered about Ba, the god of pie and unspeakable culinary acts. Boiled monkey brains on toast? Was that unspeakable enough?
'You really don't remember the last time you did this, Doors? How can you not remember something like that...?' Buzzfloyd's voice was a low sort of hiss. She was gesturing flailingly with her pie plate and her pie had fallen over.
Doors merely rolled his eyes. 'I'm sure Brad has more errands for you to run, Buzzfloyd. Please.'
'What happened?' I wondered. 'When?'
'It was months and months ago,' Buzzfloyd said. 'Brad was throwing a fit about the smell, insisted the boys clean out every inch of this room. Rincewind wasn't going to let anyone open the wardrobe but Brad wouldn't listen to him. But nobody was ready for what's in there.'
'Well what is it?' I asked.
Buzzfloyd took a deep breath. 'I didn't go in. But you--' she looked again to Orrdos, 'and the Doormen. Brad said you all looked half dead when you came out. All bitten and wet and bloody... and Karies didn't come out at all.'
Hex whirred and blinked, tilting her head. 'I remember... Pat and Igor, they were up all night tending them, weren't they? They didn't tell me very much about what happened.'
'No, we didn't want everyone to know. It's dangerous, that wardrobe. Full of crazed monkeys and curses and who knows what else.'
I eyed the wardrobe. 'So you taped it up.'
'It was all we had,' Buzzfloyd said.
Orrdos rolled his eyes and set his plate down on the upper bunk. 'Whatever it is, we'll handle it. Go away if you're going to be skittish.'
'We need monkey brains,' I said.
Buzzfloyd stared at her pie for a moment and then stood up. With a nod and 'If you survive, Brad still wants to see you,' to Orrdos she turned and left the room.
Hex and Doors quickly stripped the last of the tape from the front of the wardrobe and eased the two wide doors open.
Don't keep me in suspense! What else besides monkeys is in there? Is Igor a user or is he just an Igor?
there was a member on the old boards called We R Igorth. i shortened it out of laziness.
several of the oldboard members have deserted us since the birth of the plaid identity; most of them have turned into zombies.
savor the suspense. it isn't all that common in this haphazard and slow-moving tale.
fluttery and bang
A few crusted socks tumbled out. Hex and I remembered at the same time to pick up our hockey sticks. Orrdos held his sheild sideways and reached a hand out tentatively to the packed-in junk.
'I see no monkeys,' I said.
'But can you hear them?' Hex whispered, stepping nearer to the open wardrobe.
'I smell them,' Doors said. He poked at the wall of wire coat hangers, dented lunchboxes, half of a broken chair, and rather torn up plastic raincoats. 'They're in there.'
'Well,' Hex said. She leaned her hockey stick against the door and started pulling things out. Pretty soon her metal legs were sticking out of a tunnel in the corner. The sound of monkeys was a bit more noticeable, and echoey.
'It doesn't end,' Doors remarked. 'She'd have to have found the back of it by now.'
'It doesn't end!' Hex shouted muffledly back at us. 'But I've got through most of this rubble,' she added. Her feet and knees wiggled until she emerged from the mess. 'Shall we?'
I looked to Doors. He stared at the wall for a moment, perhaps remembering what Fred had said. Or what Buzzfloyd had said. Then he nodded and crawled into the wardrobe.
We followed, me and then Hex, dragging our hockey sticks, monkey chatter echoing strangely around us.
Doors held out a hand to help me up from the tapering end of the pile of garbage. There was an arch and it was hanging with ivy and covered with moss. We could've been back out in the island forest somewhere. The echoing of monkeys was much louder, but I didn't see any yet.
Hex stood up behind me and walked forward with a determined stride. As we all looked around I realized there was no sky. The trees beyond the arch stretched up to meet a smooth surface and bent. How did they grow at all without sunlight?
'There they are,' Hex said, pointing. 'Hundreds...'
'You've been here before and you don't remember it?' I asked Doors. 'How could you not...' I trailed off. Who am I to talk about remembering things, after all? I stared off into the distance, following a monkey's movement up a tree. Then I looked back at Doors. 'Was it the ocean water? Had you...'
He didn't answer me, just walked after Hex through the ferny, pebbly underbrush.
The monkeys were quite curious about us. I found it harder, almost, to believe that Rincewind had collected so many than that there was space beyond a giant wardrobe for them all to live. A crowd of a few dozen monkeys was gathered around us, sitting on boulders and broken bits of wood and each other, staring with round eyes.
Orrdos was about to whack a few of them over the head with his shield when Hex fell over in a cacophony of clicking. I hurried to her side and looked down at her lying in the middle of a puddle. 'You alright?'
She didn't move.
'Who are you?' one of the monkeys said. In his hand was a large slingshot, on his head was a large leather hat, and on his face was a guileless curiosity. He had blue stripes along his nose and small red eyes.
'Did you just shoot her?' I asked angrily. 'We're just--' And then I remembered why we were here, and knew that this monkey was thoroughly justified in attacking us, though perhaps he did not know why. Orrdos grunted and threw his shield at the monkey.
Hex rolled over. 'Unmodified monkey brain... Only unmodified. Don't forget.'
'How many could you grab, Doors?' I whispered. 'Let's just grab a few and run.'
The monkey in the hat threw the metal shield back at us, knocking Doors into a tree. Menacingly reloading his slingshot, he hopped onto a boulder and blinked at us. Behind him hundreds of monkeys congregated, falling silent and staring at us with wide eyes.
Orrdos lurched sideways, took my hockey stick, and charged the monkey. Helping Hex to her feet, I looked around for any smaller, weaker monkeys we might drag back with us before this whole situation got any stupider. I didn't see any. Looking back at Doors's grappling with the hairy animal I wondered if I really wanted to kill three gallons worth of these creatures. For the sake of a potion we weren't even sure would work? The knife Hex had given me did not seem like the right kind of instrument for harvesting monkey brains. I looked at the metal girl worriedly.
She winked and shouted at Doors to get down; her metal coverings creaked as she held aloft what I know recognized to be Electric Man's hand. I hadn't even known she was still carrying it. Opening a drawer below her knee she pulled out a full clip and then started bending the metal, extending one finger into something like a barrel, extracting from one smooth knuckle something like a trigger. After loading it she pointed the weapon straight ahead.
My eyes widened. Doors took one look at her and then dropped to the mulch-covered ground. I backed into a tree and watched the hatted monkey wrinkle his blue-striped nose and shoot pebble after pebble at Hex. Small dents were appearing all over her metal skin.
Her first shot took out a small monkey with a white face and a fluffy tail. It fell out of its tree with a brief squeal. A warning.
Our friend in the hat dropped his slingshot as the rest of the monkeys put up a chorus of panicked yelps and hoots. The trees were full of chaos.
'Don't Move!' Hex screamed above the noise.
From under the brim of his hat, the monkey's red eyes glinted, but he stayed still.
'Make them quiet!' demanded Hex.
A long, low howling echoed behind the screeching of the monkeys and slowly, it all died away.
'Who are you?' he growled. 'Where is King Rincewind?'
'King?' I gasped. What had that mangy idiot done in this wardrobe? What had he done to these animals?
'Shut up!' Hex shouted. 'Do not move.'
The monkey blinked and did as he was told, shivering almost imperceptibly. Doors crawled toward us, his head barely above the level of the ferns.
'Bring us the dead monkey,' Hex demanded. They complied, scared silent, moving with stiff muscles in response to the hatted monkey's orders.
'Who are you?' Hex asked.
The monkey swept off his hat and danced a little bow (in which I sensed more mockery than consideration) before answering, 'Leather Monkey. King Rincewind's chief consort.'
'Can you all speak?'
Leather Monkey shook his head. 'Me and one other. And King Rincewind.'
'The other?' Hex raised her dented eyebrows.
'What if King Rincewind's been eaten by dragons?' I said softly.
Leather Monkey immediately prostrated himself and seemed to be fighting back tears.
'He hasn't.' This was Hex.
'Eaten by dragons?' Doors yelled.
'He hasn't?' I asked.
'I would know. The Dragonmother's... she can feel them all.' Still holding the gun on Leather Monkey, she put her other hand to her metal torso.
My face showed a sense of disgust. I wasn't all that relieved to hear that Rincewind was alive, either.
'We need three gallons of monkey brains,' I said, looking from the poor creature Hex had shot to Leather Monkey's fiery eyes. 'And we'll leave you to your King Rincewind.' To the monkey's slight questioning glance I told him it was a matter of life and death.
He said nothing and instead looked around, from Hex's gun to the dead monkey, to me, to Doors, to the pile of rubbish behind us which blocked the wardrobe. After a few seconds I was about to start shouting at the animal, but he dropped suddenly to his knees, bent over as far as he could go, and began mumbling something like a prayer.
Did these monkeys eat pie like us, or did the laws of Ba not apply in this wardrobe? Surely Rincewind couldn't have much power over the creatures... for all he called himself their King. hmm.... not eaten by dragons... not eaten by dragons...
'What is he doing?' I asked Hex. After looking around irritably, I noticed Doors looked very thoughtful. 'Any of this look familiar yet?' I wondered. He shook his head and took a step toward the praying Leather Monkey.
'Except that hat...' he murmured. 'That hat...'
It was just a plain, black leather hat. Nothing particular about it. Its brim was scratching a line in the dirt as the monkey wobbled on his knees.
'Look, who are you praying to, monkey?' I interrupted. He did nothing more than cringe. 'Hex, let's just take the monkeys we need and get out of here.'
'You may not go,' Leather Monkey droned, still not looking up. 'You may not go without granting the King his boon. The law won't let you leave.'
Leather Monkey tipped back his head and bared a few teeth. I stopped laughing but could not take the mocking grin from my face. 'This is ridiculous,' I said, quietly. 'King Rincewind?'
Hex reached down and lifted Leather Monkey to eye level. 'What are you talking about?' she asked politely, letting the gun in her hand draw a bit of attention to itself.
'All newcomers... A boon to the King. He asks it of every monkey he brings. All of us...'
Watching him blubber and squirm, I rolled my eyes. Doors reached out and slid the monkey's hat off his head; promptly the monkey screeched, bit at Hex's fingers, and scrambled futilely to get loose.
'This hat...' Doors furrowed his brow and gazed at it. 'Does it look... like a pirate's hat to you?'
Hex said nothing. I didn't know what to say, so I shrugged.
'Black...' Doors muttered. He turned the hat over and inspected its band, its lining, carefully with his fingers and then with his nose. 'Tony Black...'
'What?' I demanded. 'What about him?' I thought we were through with pirates!
'Is he here?' Doors insisted, shouting at the screaming monkey. Hex tightened her grip, but the noise continued. 'IS HE HERE?'
I closed my eyes and wished we'd never ventured into this strange place. I think I'd take a nasty llama over all this noise any day.
'He couldn't be here,' I yelled to Doors. 'He exploded with the rest of the Catface.' As I said it I knew it might be untrue. I said it anyway. It might not be untrue.
'What?' Doors screamed back.
'Oh good grief! Shoot the thing already!'
Hex had brought the barrel of her gun up to the monkey's chest, but its presence made no difference. He wanted his hat. He needed it.
'It is not worth killing him,' Hex announced. 'The recipe calls for unmodified monkey brain. His has been polluted.' With that she threw him at a tree, where he slumped unconsciously to the ground. With a ruthless clicking she stepped forward and shot four more small monkeys out of the branches.
A deep breath or two gave me time to relax and realize we were perfectly free to go.
'Leave the stupid hat, Doors,' I warned, as he was putting it on to free his hands. He looked at me for a long moment before tossing the hat away. Without a word he gathered the dead monkeys by their tails and followed Hex and I toward the tunnel we'd crawled in through.
Hex was shifting a broken chair and a torn mattress to make a bit more room when a hissing sort of laugh shredded the quiet. I searched for the source of it, dreading what I might see and trying to deny the panic rising behind my eyes. A hand reached out from the tunnel and yanked Hex's leg out from under her so hard it broke from its rivets and spilled a few nuts and bolts. As she fell over the gun went off; the hand, which belonged as I knew it did to Rincewind, 'king of the monkeys', crawled with its owner out of the tunnel to crouch behind Hex. I rushed at him before I could think, simply hoping Hex would have the sense to keep the gun out of the way. All I got was kicked hard into the broken chair and then a handful of dead monkeys tossed in my face.
The next thing I saw was Doors pounding Rincewind and Hex shouting from a safe distance. I was suddenly torn between the desire to slip through the tunnel back into the relative safety of the real world and a horrible curiosity to see what Doors was going to do to Rincewind. Or what Rincewind might do to Doors.
'WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY MONKEYS!?' Rincewind was screaming repetitively. He was leaving teeth marks all over Doors's arms. I looked at Hex; her face showed concern in a passive sort of mode. The gun in her hand just sat there, pointed at the ground.
'Where did you get them? Where? WHERE'S BLACK?' Doors shouted as he struggled with his fiercest Doorman. I heard snatches of other questions: how long have you... what were you thinking... but the loudest concerned the pirate, Tony Black.
I didn't know what to do. Hex wasn't giving me any clues. Monkeys swarmed, adding a deafening background to the noise of this brutality. As curious as I was I had to get out of there. Noticing me dragging away the dead monkeys by their tails, Hex followed.
When we had returned to the dingy Doormen bedroom, I asked Hex if we ought to shut them both in or not, when suddenly Doors was there, his upper body emerging from the wardrobe. 'Don't let him get away!' he groaned.
I looked. Rincewind was fleeing into the corridor and a second later Hex was running after him. 'What--' I gasped. How... Doors brushed himself off as he stood up. I noticed he had several scars and a shadow of facial hair I was sure he hadn't been wearing before. 'What's going on?' I said.
He just looked at me and moved aside to allow the just as scruffy-looking Tony Black passage out of the wardrobe, into the room.
Taking three hurried steps backward I demanded, 'Where did he come from? The-- He-- Holy--' There was a scream from outside. And then a chorus of screams.
'You're still here,' Doors commented. 'Why?'
'Still? What are you talking about? We just--' I leaned back onto the bunk behind me and in doing so knocked an pie plate to the floor. Doors's pie plate. I stared at it, my head spinning with the knowledge that Ba always took back the pie plates and leftovers. All of them, even if the plates were broken. How long had we been in that wardrobe? How long had we... not...? 'What's going on?' I asked again. 'This is... We left you fighting him. What happened?'
Black growled. 'We don't have time for this. Where's Fred, you lying traitorous snake?' There was a sword at Black's side. I wished Hex had stayed, or at least left her gun.
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