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  1. #1
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    The Melancholy Imp - A Collaborative Story

    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!

  2. #2
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    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).]

  3. #3
    Registered User An8el's Avatar
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    "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.


  4. #4
    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.

  5. #5
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    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.

  6. #6
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    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).]

  7. #7
    Cadfael
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    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"

    "They?"

    "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.

  8. #8
    Registered User An8el's Avatar
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    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).]

  9. #9
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    "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).]

  10. #10
    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.

    "NO!"

    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).]

  11. #11
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    ***

    The sound of urgent voices pulled Gnash back to lucidity. His head ached and his eyes were sore and gritty. Someone had carried him back to the safety of his bed. Dozens of imps were milling about in his cottage, wringing their hands while they nervously paced the cold stone floors.

    "Did I save them?" he asked, coughing up a mouthful of phlegm.

    "Gnash! You're awake!" Linala shouted. "We've sent for the Healmaker. As soon as he's done with-"

    "Did I get to them in time?" Gnash ask again, more urgently this time.

    Linala dropped her head and the room fell suddenly silent. Tears welled in Gnash's eyes and he read the expressions on his friends' faces. "The Healmaker's been doing all he can, Gnash, but the blast..."

    "Leave me, please...all of you," Gnash said, waving his friends away. "And tell the Healmaker not to waste his time coming to see me. I have not been harmed...at least, not in any physical way," he mumbled. "Now, please leave me to rest a while longer. I shall see you all after dinner." Gnash slowly closed his eyes again, burying his face in the folds of the bed linen, his mind slowly filling with images of the Kingdom's Herbalist.


    [This message has been edited by erebus (edited August 22, 2001).]

  12. #12
    Registered User An8el's Avatar
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    Just then Herbalist Ryan was making up one of his concoctions in the apothecary. He shuffles over to the jars and feels the heat from their chemical responses.
    He begins to lean over, then tucks in his red beard that hides a craggy, young face. Finally he finds the jar he decides is done and opens the lid to sniff the contents. Eyes watering, he bends down to get the stepstool to reach up to the top shelves where there are smaller vials. He grabs a few and begins to fill them methodically, making attempts to keep the liquid off his hands, which are cracked and worn from gardening.
    He pauses awhile, thinking. Are there reasons why I should not try it on myself now?
    He goes to the drawer and brings out a knife and dips it in the mixture, tapping it on the back of his hand just enough to break the skin.
    Just then Ryan hears someone else calling out, walking across the gardens.
    "Herbaliiiist Ryan!" says the kidlet imp.
    "Over here, inside," answers the herbalist.
    The little imp slams open the door. "Diviner Raight's cottage blew up!"
    "Where did you hear about that, Gnat? I find that pretty hard to believe," said the herbalist, continuing to fill the vials.
    "I saw it myself. I saw them carry the Diviner to the infirmary because his books fell on him when it happened. They sent me to tell you to make something to make him wake up. He got hit on the head really bad. There was blood everywhere. Gnash is hurt too, but they don't know what's wrong with him."
    "I'll be along right away." Ryan put the lid on the treatment and stoppered the vials he had already filled. He tied up his tattered shirt, grabbed his hat and carry bag and slammed the door too on his way out.
    On his doorstep he noticed a small package. He picked it up, turning it over and noticed the string was unusual. He carried it to the potting bench in the shed and left it there on his way out.
    As he hurried down the path, the package he left behind began to hiss. A fine mist began to escape from the top of it, covering everything with a pink dust that slowly faded to become undetectable.

  13. #13
    Cadfael
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    ***
    The small hit the wall, and bounced... knocking over the lectern that stood there, he landed on the hard floor, the coppery taste of his own blood... he cowered under the gaze of his master.

    "THIS... this... should not have happened! What in the name of all that is evil did you put in those packages" screamed his tormentor "they should have infected them... 'dead in seconds' you said"... the angry threw his hand up into the air... "how can we work with this... this... DISASTER!!!"

    "I... I... never thought that the infusion would react with the catalyst for the packages. Instead of the dust being released in the the surrounding air... they... they..."

    "EXPLODED!" shouted his master and hitting the small man in the face to get his point across, the master then began to pace, his face a mask of concentration "we have to make this work... we must make this work... I wanted it to be done thi..." the Master paused in his rant... "Ah... AH... yes... yes" he turned to the small man "you are lucky..." he said, waiving a finger "I do not need to end your existance just now... we shall say it was the blast that caused the spour to be released"

    He began to pace one more time, nodding his head... "Yes... yes... listen to this... instead of their infernal experiment accidentaly releasing the plauge into the worlds... it was their experimenting, that caused the explosion... therby" he began to dance"... releasing the toxin!"

    He ran over to the small man and lifted him, rather as a father would raise his baby son over his head... "You have done well, I knew I could trust you"

    He tenderly placed the small main in a chair, and began to walk from the room. The small man was sure his arm was broken.

    Just before his master exited the room, he glanced back and looked at the small man...

    "I bless the day I mastered you... Imp!"

  14. #14
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    Beads of sweat slowly formed , then slid down the Patriarch’s tired face. She quickly re-wetted her cloth and gently wiped the old man’s forehead. He had started to babble again. Sometimes he was coherent, but those times were becoming more infrequent. She tried to remember when he’d last recognized her, but lately her days seemed to blend together.

    “Tamra?” his voice strained as his eyes fluttered open.

    “No, Grand-pappa. It’s Talli. Your granddaughter,” she answered softly.

    “Tamra, we’re late for my coronation. We must hurry,” he insisted, his voice rising in urgency.

    “Grand-Pappa, you’re not late, no need to hurry,” she reassured him calmly.

    “Tamra? Where did you go? TAMRA!!” he shouted, looking wildly around the room. Finally his eyes settled on Talli. She tried desperately not to think of her grandmother. Her hand quickly dashed the tears from her eyes.

    “She’ll be right back. She just went to check on the baby,” she tried to alleviate his fear.

    “Talli? The baby’s alright? Talli must be alright. Everything depends on her. Talli . . . and the laugh maker. The laugh maker one must laugh again. Everything depends on them,” he insisted, fixing his gaze on the woman.

    “Talli is fine. Tamra will be right back,” she assured him, sorrow tainting her voice.

    A small commotion pulled her attention from her grandfather. A small man with one arm in a sling had entered the room. The attendants were questioning him quietly. After a short inspection the attendants nodded. The small man handed a package to one of the attendants, hesitating only a moment before releasing it. He looked toward Talli and their eyes locked. She tilted her head in surprise and his eyes lowered instantly. The small man quickly found the door and vanished from sight.

    The attendant brought the package to Talli and bowed. “This is the new medicine from the senior Healmaker,” she said softly as she handed the package over.

    “Thank you, I’ve been expecting this, but I didn’t recognize that runner. Is he new?” she inquired.

    “Yes, your Highness. Said he just started today,” the attendant answered quickly.

    Talli paused for a moment then spoke, “Very well. You may return to your post.” The attendant quickly obeyed. Before Talli could ponder the small man’s defiance, the Patriarch again started to ramble. This time about a dark man, death, and suffering. Talli re-wetted her cloth and once again delicately wiped his brow.


    [This message has been edited by KATS (edited August 26, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by KATS (edited August 29, 2001).]

  15. #15
    It took herbalist Ryan only a cursory examination of Gnash to begin ordering those in attendance into action.

    "You...yes, you, I need the jar of Unglin, 2 Sprox nobs, and some ambergris," he said to the imp closest to Gnash's side. When she didn't move, he said in a loud voice, "HEAR ME! We can save them all but we must move fast. When I give an order you'll carry it out."

    "You! Go get me those reagents. Now! Move!" The imp nearly wept but made no motion towards the door.

    "Damn fools," said the Healmaker as he pushed past the startled imps and headed out into the hall.

    Moving with all speed, he descended the dimly lit stairway, and exited out into the noonday sun. Ignoring the gravel path, he headed directly through His Magesties Garden, ignoring the yells of the groundskeeper, and arrived at the door of his workshop. He flung the door open, and pulled up short.

    An imp who followed him from the sickroom crashed into his back. "Oooph! You oaf. No, wait!," said the Healmaker, grabing the startled imp and shoving him roughly against the door jam.

    The Healmaker sniffed, then sniffed again. "So, the ancient terror is reborn again," he thought. He glanced about the room, but the noonday sun cast shadows which obscured the package from his sight. "It happens again."

    He released the pained imp, who fell to the floor gasping for breath. The Healmaker lifted the imp by his arms and dragged him outside, shutting the door to his workshop.

    "You, what is your name, oh never mind, you stay RIGHT HERE and do not let ANYONE enter that building. No one is to enter for any reason, understand?"

    The imp nodded painfully.

    The Healmaker sped off, in search of the fire brigade. He'd need a torch, some oil, and some water to ensure it didn't get out of control.

    As he sped down the gravel path, he thought "The ancient terror is back. Oh, my workshop, yes, my entire workshop is lost. Fire, must get fire. Who would unleash such a horror? My reagents! That poor imp, I could have eased his suffering. Now he must deal with it as best he is able. Lucky thing I noticed the smell or we'd all be...ah, the rope." He pulled the rope, and the town alarm bell rang, once, twice, faster and faster, as people raced from the fields, from the nearby cottages, and from the castle itself.

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