After a request for a collaborative story, which interested members could add to and continue, I've decided to get the ball rolling with a story entitled The Melancholy Imp.
Thanks to An8el for the suggestion that we try this again! Anyone wishing to contribute may do so by posting their additions/chapters as a reply. I look forward to seeing how it goes!
August 19th, 2001, 06:43 PM
The Melancholy Imp
1. Herbs and Crisis
Gnash had always been such a happy, somewhat mischievous imp. If there was ever laughter echoing around the capacious halls of the kingdom's palace, you could be sure in your belief that Gnash had started some sort of ruckus or practical joke.
His humor was legendary and unrivalled, at least it had been. Everything changed with the rising of the seventh moon this year. No longer was there fun and laughter in the kingdom. Instead, a feeling of unexplained sadness had overcome Gnash, descending across the kingdom like a veil of evil.
[This message has been edited by erebus (edited August 22, 2001).]
August 20th, 2001, 12:36 AM
"It can't be *that* bad."
Gnash had just hit his head on the top of the doorframe. He'd brushed against the edge of it to get around Neffer and the cross-beam had fallen on him. He stood there, rubbing it and looking up while Neffer parted his hair to appraise the damage, narrowly supressing a giggle.
"How could I miss the fake edge!" growled Gnash. He picked up the linen he was carrying.
"It's just a cut. The healmaker will rub it away with some of his stinky gunk and you're heading there anyway. Whoever set that one up must be trying to make you feel better?" Neffer giggled openly this time. She slapped Gnash's back. "Right?"
Gnash twisted by her with no comment.
She grabbed his cloak and said,"Meet me in the library after dinner or next time it will be me!"
Neffer continued out to the river with a worried look on her face. She was heading to pick spices from the herbalist for dinner, but she decided she had time to stop in at the diviner's to ask about Gnash.
August 20th, 2001, 06:47 PM
Gnash stumbled down hall, rubbing his head while awkwardly balancing the linen. He'd skip the healmaker; not enough time as it was. Not enough time at all.
The light from the window he was passing glistened off the fresh blood on his hand. He stopped, dropping the linen in shock as he glared at his bloody fingers. It reminded him of what was to come, and how he was powerless to stop it. He was an Imp and he knew what that meant.
"Gnash! Pick that up this instant. What do you mean leaving my clean linens on the floor?"
"Sorry ma'am," Gnash bowed and rose, then bent again to retrieve the linens. "Just taking them..."
"...back to the laundry. I'll not have Her lying on filthy linens." said the parlor maid, pointing the way to laundry.
A clever retort flash in his mind, but was gone before he could grab it. He frowned. "Yes, ma'am." Another bow and he disappeared up the hall.
The parlor maid watched him go, the wicked grin on her face fading. When she was certain he was out of sight, she pulled the small package she was carrying from within her robes and cautiously headed down the hall after him.
"Stupid," she thought, "I should have let him pass. Now I'll be delayed following him. And me late already." She clutched the package closer to her. The Diviner would know what it meant.
August 21st, 2001, 02:46 PM
Gnash grumbled quietly to himself as he reached the laundry. None of the imps spared him a glance as he heaved the heavy linens up onto the shelf with a grunt, a sign of how tense things had become since the Patriarch had fallen ill.
Of course the fate of the Patriarch was hardly the concern of imps, particularly those on the opposite edge of the Kingdom, but no citizen could shake the feeling that things had begun to decline when he took ill, and didn't show any sign of stopping. Even the King seemed lost nowadays. Whatever it was that had befallen the old man, they had better cure it soon or it seemed the whole land would suffer the results.
Finally relieved of his burden and thus deprived of the opportunity to dawdle he turned dutifully and headed off to the great hall to help with the dinner preparations, his head still throbbing.
August 21st, 2001, 03:21 PM
Linala followed the imp as far as the laundry door to make sure he didn't try anything. Satisfied that the dirtied linen was indeed being rewashed she clutched her package tightly in one hand, picked up her skirts and ran.
Swishing past a number of servants and narrowly avoiding knocking the head butler clean over (for which he had awarded her one of his most disapproving glares) she landed outside the Diviner's study with only a few hairs out of place and a great deal less late than she would have been. She had gone to some trouble to get this appointment, and could not afford to be tardy.
Taking a deep breath to calm her pounding heart she knocked timidly on the huge oak door and waited.
"Come!" came the distant command from within, and she pushed into the room with only slight hesitation.
"You are late young woman."
The Diviner had his back to her, leaning over some volume on one of the bookshelves, and his matter-of-fact tone betrayed little of his thoughts on the matter. He was a wiry little man with a wrinkled brown raisin of a face always screwed up with one profound thought or another. His white hair and beard fell in almost transparent wisps all about him, straggling this way and that as if possessed of it's own free will. He was a kind man at heart, or so it was whispered, but his abrupt manner and constant fidgeting made Linala nervous.
"Yes sir," she mumbled out, crinkling her nose at the musty old book smell of the room. Didn't he ever have a maid in to clean?
"Well then? I don't have all day dear, I am a busy man," he replied, turning to peer at her with raised eyebrows.
[This message has been edited by Aleya (edited August 21, 2001).]
August 21st, 2001, 07:58 PM
In another part of the academy, a small man entered a darkened room and approached the seated figure...
"I hope you have something good to tell me?" inquired the figure in the chair.
"They are being delivered as we speak"
"I have also taken the liberty of having a package delivered to the herbalist my Lord" he shuffled his feet, waiting for the outburst... "He is an aquaintance of the diviner, thus I decided..."
"For this once, I shall let that pass", the seated man rose, and looked at the small man "you have shown initiative, but in the future... check with me first. You are sure that no other has an inkling of what is to come?"
The small man at last felt his feet on firmer ground "Of course my lord, whom else would know?"
"Whom else" agreed the now standing man.
August 22nd, 2001, 02:15 AM
Linala sat down in the dusty chair and gathered her nerve to speak to the Diviner.
"Here...here's the package from Forsyth," Linala stammered, unwrapping it from her apron's pocket. "I would have been here sooner, but I had to chaperone that helper of yours to the laundry."
"Lay it on the other chair next to you." He slammed the book closed with a puff of dust and climbed the ladder return it to the bookcase. He took his time coming down, and seemed to be finding the next volume. Linala waited patiently while he dawdled. She arranged her beltskirts. Suddenly, he jumped off the last rung of the ladder and shot out, "You are still here for...?"
"Well, ah, I thought that I could have your professional opinion..." Linala's voice trailed off. Both of them looked to the door Linala had left ajar that seemed to be squeeking by itself as it creaked further open.
It's Neffer who peeks around the edge, "Guess you have to get Gnash to oil that door again, Diviner Raight. Sorry, I tried to be quiet."
"Come in and be quiet then, Neffer. This young lady here says she wants my opinion." He swivels his head and his body at the same time to face Linala.
Linala stammers and fumes with excuses, saying nothing. She can't ask her question while one of the apprentices is watching, she has been told that nobody else must hear. She finally gets out that she has something very important to do elsewhere and makes a hasty exit. The diviner closes the heavy door after her.
"I guess that I made her leave," Neffer said sheepishly. "I was on my way to the Herbalist Ryan's shop so I thought I'd stop in and ask if you had anything you'd like me to run over there for you."
"Yes, just a moment. I have some charts for you to take for the next geomancy plot this next new moon." He unrolled multiple sheets wound together and selected a smaller one. He rolls it up and drips a seal on it with the candle wax while he talks. "People think their worries are so important and special. It's not your fault that she left in such a huff."
He shuffled up to the chair and picked up the package as he handed the roll off to Neffer. "This doesn't seem to be what I expected. I don't think it's even from Foryth, look at this unusual string." He turned the package around and looked at the seal on the bottom.
"I also wanted to ask you about Gnash. I'm worried about him. He's lost his fun snide remarks and just ignores me."
"Gnash is getting his sight. It's going to be a long time before he feels like himself again. Very disturbing when you start to see what's going to happen right in front of you, without knowing anything more about Timing. That's happening to him and he's not very happy about it. Nothing he can do but learn to use it now."
Raight patted her on her shoulder. "Get on to your Master Ryan. The cook is going to be upset if she doesn't have her garnishes before the dinner bell."
[This message has been edited by An8el (edited August 22, 2001).]
[This message has been edited by An8el (edited August 22, 2001).]
August 22nd, 2001, 03:10 AM
"But it seems more than that, Diviner. He never laughs any more, and just today he-"
"It will pass, Neffer," he said, dropping the small package on his desk before leading her gently towards the door. Neffer turned quickly and headed back to the desk. "I must have dropped my list," she said, bending down to pick it up.
Gnash had taken only a few, less than enthusiastic strides when he was suddenly overcome with a sense of foreboding. The hallway darkened around him as if a shadow of evil had momentarily obscured the sun's welcome light. A familiar image briefly flashed into his mind but was gone in an instant. "Neffer!" he shouted, setting off again, this time racing as fast as his little legs could carry him.
"Here it is," Neffer said. "I would never have been able to remember to get all of-"
The small package on the Diviner's desk exploded into a fireball, incinerating Neffer's body in an instant. A second, larger explosion ripped through the room, bringing down much of the ceiling.
Diviner Raight stood frozen in the middle of his office, a look of absolute horror on his face as the large, walnut bookcase crashed down on top of him. When the flames died away and the dust eventually settled, both he an Neffer lay dead amongst the ruins of the room.
Gnash stood weeping in the doorway, blocking the path of many curious onlookers gathering in the hallway behind him. "What have I done?" he sobbed, crumbling to his knees.
End of Part 1
[This message has been edited by erebus (edited August 31, 2001).]
August 22nd, 2001, 11:34 AM
Gnash lay on the ground, in shock. His eyes unfocussed and glazed, his face passive, his skin a pale white.
Assuming he was injured in the blast, villagers bent to his aid, but found a catatonic imp. No obvious injuries, not even a burn, nothing but an imp frozen in body.
But not in mind. From the depths of Gnash's despair a foreign feeling erupted. His mind focussed on a package, lying on a desk. He could feel the rising heat of ignition. The paper slowly gave way to the expanding gas, which burst free in an hellish fireball. The flames rose from the desk in a distorted sphere, the outer edge of the shock wave growing faster now. The edge of the flame reached Neffer and froze. Captured for an instant was his friend, no comprehension of what was to befall her, at the edge of perdition. Then the ball engulfed her and she was gone.
Suddenly he was as if a hummingbird hovering feet above the heads of the crowd. He saw his own prostrate form partially blocked by the rescuers' backs as they bent to offer aid. He heard the word that erupted within him, though saw his mouth never moved. He saw the rescuers fall back, away from him as if they had been shoved. The door to the cottage swung suddenly open, affording him a view of this inside of the cottage. Through the portal he could see a hellish red light -- flames! -- but they weren't consuming. It took his mind long to accept what his eye was showing it: the flames were retreating, gradually coalescing into a single ball, which shrank and diminished and faded until they were no more.
The afternoon sun streamed into the open portal, illuminating a small package lying on a desk, a girl bent over picking up a list, and the Diviner standing to one side.
And then he was Gnash again. And the light went out.
[This message has been edited by sanclemente99 (edited August 23, 2001).]