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Heyo-eyo little world - welcome to me!

I'm a simple man at heart; I enjoy designing games, critiquing them, good (concise) stories or else larger ones built up from layers of smaller internal ones, construction or modelling toys/diaramas, considerate pets and coniderate peeps, and most important of all...CONTEXT!

Most important beyond all of that? My Best Friend.

Most Recent Posts

Old Friends

Save for the odd foodstuff or discarded newspaper...this place was surprisingly tidy. For a moment his mind flashed back to those weeks and years past, eeking out a living on the old island - the Bad Isle; being forced to hide, the hours spent talking to his own illusions and yet always having to rationalize the fact that he had been, well & truly, Alone. In the absence of civilization, he'd been forced to make his own, to establish order wherever and (usually quite frequently) whenever he could within the confines of his humble underground abode. Perhaps . . .

. . . Then, just as fleetingly as it'd come, the memory was gone - he had a job to do.

Three chests stood out to him near the backmost clump of thick, almost petrified-looking leaves that made up the rear "wall" of the room. Of them, two were plain, mirthless and unpleasant to look over...only the third and final caught his significant attention. As he drew closer, Rainbow could more easily tell that it wasn't just the relative shadow secluding this pedestalled centerpiece - no, no this was something far more special. Its finely carved timbers were coated a glossy black, secluded yet alluring, as if it had been hidden solely to be viewed and admired.

"How's the view up there, ey lad?", came the pleasantly worried tamber from down outside. Rainbow ignored him, a soft smile creeping over his face as he placed his hands on the lid and pryed.


...Wait. . .what . . . ?

He was . . . Stuck? A surprised Rablin flinched and tugged back, wincing in pain at a feeling like he had nearly just torn off his own palms. He tried sliding them, peeling them, rotating them off the pitch black lid, all to no avail. He tried to panick, yet his strength suddenly began to fail him. He stooped, them crumpled, then grovelled beneath a deep, exhausting weariness that slowly injected itself into him from the magic placed on the chest. It was all so soon, so fast, so unexpected - and before he knew it, even kneeling proved too difficult a position to maintain.

Reality morphed and twisted into unreality, the room became dim and hazy - some force slammed into his back, then rolled across his shoulders, before reversing across his back again as he faintly recognized the feeling of fullblown collapse. Of body, of heart...of mind...all failed him. The world became nothing but a blur, and in his final moments he could only understand two things:

His hands were free.

And He was laughing...or. . .wait . . . w h o . . .

Unintelligible, yet audible; Discordant yet coherent.

Then Darkness Came...And All Was Still.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A relaxed, calloused and bare foot tread softly past the unconscious body below. With measured steps, it carefully followed the lead of the inquisitive cane that guided it, tapping along until it was brought to a halt by the object of its desire. Slowly, tentatively, a weary hand stretched out toward the glossy black - for a moment it seemed to hesitate...

...and then with sudden defiance, pressed firmly down on the lid, and pryed.

It opened without issue - much to the devious glee of the hand's owner. The gnome beamed, briefly nodding his head in gratitude to the unfortunate pawn sprawled beneath the shadow of the tripped chest: "My thanks, two-eyed and yet oh-so-blind; perhaps I'll repay the favor someday"

He reached inside, gently creeping fingers along the velvet interior until...yes, there. A swell of deep, cold-blooded joy surged through him - after 20 years of anger, hardship, and regret, regret at being so powerless for having trusted those around him; after all these years, having trusted in the incredible foolishness of another, having undergone the hardship of making it through his forested exile, having fostered that untapped rage into mad joy and one singular goal...they were one once again.

He felt, whole running his fingers across the five black opal rings, their polished surfaces sending chills down his spine at the possibilities to come. Dreams of unbridled hate, Dreams of revenge, Dreams of unending suffering for those treacherous few who took these, his hand, and his eyes to boot? Dreams, No Longer.

Throwing aside the cane with a sharp disgust, the old gnome greedily scooped the rings into the palm of his wrinkled and veined hands. Slowly, coldly, he counted off the names of the ring leaders, one last time to the timing of each ring being slipped onto its appropriate finger. Even after all these years, they seemed to fit perfectly, as if they too had been waiting, biding their time for this very day:

Boss "Fire Eater" Kelregor.
Boss Mequet "The Gentle".
Boss Gala "Red Wood".
"The Voice Of The People", Mother Darmae "The Pure" of Thorn City.
. . .
Liz, "The Leech", Lackadaisical.

Rage like a poison coursed through his veigns at that final name. The first of the traitors...the last who would suffer The Serpent's bite. Disgusting little thief, that...That..."thing" of a v i l e little being.

He reached back again to close the lid, yet his fingers stopped just under its lip. Strange, carved remarks scrawled along the inside, surely unseen to all but himself and their creator:

"For Mother & Father - a gift from Boss Scer'Pi'Kenes. For all eternity."

Scer'Pi'Kenes couldn' but smile at that. In a twisted, brutal sort of way.

20 years, it really had felt like an eternity...but That Time was almost up.

Slapping the lid closed and concentrating on the power of the rings, the gnome groaned at the pain of his body fusing with the grain of the wood, of the magical energy that wove its way across his body, until the whole of his resembled the very tree he stood within. Then another grunt of pain, and slowly, excruciatingly, he began to sink, the very fibers of his being morphing with that of the floor. He sunk ankle height, then knee height, then to his waist, to his shoulders, and finally into the black below as he began the arduous process of the druidic art of elemental transit. A single phrase echoed on his mind amidst the pain:

"Rose Palace. Rose Palace. Darmae. Be So!"
Counter Play

...Rainbow almost couldn't believe he'd agreed to this.

"...You're sure this", he asked in the nicest possible way one could behind gritted teeth. Oh how the mighty had fallen, when a masterful thief's secret hideout was secluded to...a tree. No floating castles, no mysterious caves...just haphazard branches and what looked to be termite-infested claw-marks from a passing wildebeast. The abusive cripple released a despicable chuckle out from between his stubbled cheeks. "Eehehe - for a two-eyed kid you're looking pretty blind lad! Behold the Master." Rainbow felt the palm of his hand sinking into his forehead as the blind fool staggered up to the overgrown weed, tapping the bark with a ridiculous series of scattered, uncoordinated knocks.

"CLICK. . .RRRRRRR--K-THUNK!", like magic a series of circles suddenly slid back in from the surface, creating a set of handholds that wove their way almost ornamentally up the side of their trunk. They were small but neat, unnaturally so, and the relative ease with which his new partner in counter-theft had produced them made the alien adventurer...wary, to say the least.

A sudden caned rap of his arm jolted the green little man out of his inspired curiosity. "So certain you know it all now, ey laddie? Eee-hee-hee - well come on now, what good're those eyes if you can't make use of 'ehm! Get a move on up there, or do you just naturally prefer to gift your keepsakes to strangers?"

Rainbow restrained a low growl and rubbed his arm to soothe the pain. Pearl...first; Justified murder...soon.

Oh so very soon: He took a handhold and began to make his way, cautiously, up the side of this more-than-met-the-eye hideaway.

The old gnome just chuckled gleefully to himself. What an absolute fool.
A Fork In The Forest

Quickly shaking off his initial surprise, Rainbow jumped to his feet, fingers at the rea--What IN- -???

He stumbled, taken aback anew by the intrusion of Ribbon sliding her fuzzy pelt between his legs and lifting him up, over the railing, and bolting down with a gleeful "AHR-OOF!!!" into the flowery earth and maze-like thicket beyond. "N-NHO--!!!" Without any chance to concentrate, it was all he could do to hold onto the all-too-eager huntress as she tore through a dizzying array of sickly fragrant flowerbushes and unnervingly low, clawing branches. Screeched cries could be made out behind them even with the constant torrent of greenery whipping past all around them - Flower too, had joined the chase.

"Hop on!", Edward yelled in his equine form, hunching enough to give Caleb a leg up. Everything was flying by so quickly now, and if they weren't fast then he was sure they'd end up losing the others - not to mention the pearl! Caleb looked tentatively bewildered for just a moment more, but then, seeing the seriousness in his companion's eyes, he nodded and did as he was told. Barely even grasping the mane firmly enough, a sudden ripple of force flashed through him as the pair volted the railing and galloped away into the blind rush.

"S-STO-P - RIB-BON STO-P ! ! !", Ribbon heard her compatriot scream - even then, against the pounding of her heart in her ears, and the frenetic rustling of bushes below and the canopy above, it registered as little more than a whisper. She was Home, HOME, after so long, and the thrill of the chase was just like she remembered it. The distinct, guiding scents of particular flowers, acting as the city's "roads" for its citizens, wove an articulate path through the thickets for the old mutt, while it could only seem like pure madness to her rider. Even with the strain she was starting to feel from the pursuit, she felt so...Light; like the soft coastal air blowing through the trees, like the fluttering leaves that drifted loose wherever her quarry rustled through the treetops. She just felt so . . . Free!


...Rainbow spit the clumped and leaf-scattered dirt out of his mouth, wheezing from his fall. Ribbon echoed up ahead in the distance, but he didn't feel like he had the strength to try calling for her, let alone the confidence that she'd actually heed him after that display. A twinge of regret stung at his heart, and for a moment he thought he'd actually cry at what sure was feeling like a little betrayal for all the effort he'd put into taking care of that beast...his friend, really; but the situation came first, Rainbow, there would be time to worry and fret later...yes, yes now was the time to act, not whimper...

"What're you sniffling about--", came the sound of a voice that would've made a very good candidate for the role of his subconscious, "--Looks like Liz licked ya good, but I'd wager you're far from being in the worst state she could leave ya in! No skin on the youth these days...I tell ya." At this a sharp prod of a walking-stick reemed Rainbow's ribcage, and he made a half-hearted attempt to swat it away as he rose, staggeringly, to his feet. A snapping retort was just itching to let fly off the tip of his tongue - but he stopped, thinking over those last few words...and instead considered a different plan.

"...So you know Liz, hm - friend of yours?", Rainbow rubbed his bruised side as both a healing agent, and as a subtle means to protect it from any further abuse.

"FRIEND!!? HAHAAAAA!!!" The short, blind, hunched, raggedly-clad and bandana-plus-walking-stick-sporting gnome made the fuzzy green traveller jolt at the sound - it seemed to ring out through the forest with all the fervor of a town bell! "--FRIEND?!? Lad, you won't go making friends long here if you consider ANYONE a friend of that scaly-toed fiend!"

Rainbow grit his teeth: Patience was the path to Possibility...let's give that one. more. try.

"...But you Do Kn--"

"--Of Course I Know Her!", the gnome replied sharply, ramming the stick into the squeamish stranger's belly. "Everyone on the North Face knows Liz "The Leech" Lackadaisical - tsk, and her parents had such high hopes for her. Could've had it all, a life of pure comfort and luxury, nothing to do all day but recline on petal-pillows and dismiss servants; but the A r r o g a n c e of some people!" He shook his head and grimaced, retracting the cane back out of reach before the newcomer could take the chance to relieve him of it.

Rainbow gasped in pain, his teeth clenching so tightly that he could've sworn they were cracking. Yet again, he flared up, and yet once more logic sought to tame him: He was lost, new, unarmed, and at the mercy of this decrepit old fool.

...A fool with some information, no less.

...He sighed angrily...he could already think of worse occasions - now was the time to think, beating the cripple to death with his cane could come later.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

He could...barely...see! The constant onslaught of passing leaves, flowers, stray branches and overgrown undergrowth spun a disorienting carnival of mental noise around the black-haired boy. In desperation he clung tightly to his friend's mane, hoping each next jolt or swerve or passing claw of a branch wouldn't send him flying off in some unknown direction. He didn't have any idea how Edward was even navigating, much less traversing, this ancient and unrefined mess of a maze.

Edward ducked another low-hanging branch at full speed, his timing impeccable for his first time in a long time moving about on dry land, much less under...ah, what was the word again?

"--What Do You Call These Things Again??", Edward yelled over his shoulder amidst the constant hurricane of leaves and shrubs. He could hear the sound of more birds than just Flower screeching and squawking at what must've sounded to them like an audible stampede. "WHAT??", Caleb screamed back, head tucked down and ears barely registering the question. "WHAT DO YOU CALL THESE THINGS AGAIN??"


...Caleb had to think hard about that one...


"THANK YOU!", the boy heard the hippocampus respond, leaving him in complete confusion.

--...much less under trees, leaves-cover. It was certainly easier - everything up here felt so...Free! He could swear he'd had that feeling at least once before. But anyway, it was SO much easier to move up here than it was back home - there wasn't nearly the same resistance, except for maybe when you were trying to swim upward on land...then it was about the same, really.

Caleb, meanwhile, couldn't take much more of this - or maybe he would've been able to if he could actually *understand* what was going on around him, but this was...he couldn't even...finish a..-- THOUGHT!


"HUH?", Edward replied dumbfoundedly. Truth be told, he'd only been paying attention to where Flower was going - he trusted the bird's judgement, and certainly its sight, but...


". . ."


" . . . N O !!!"

That last response hadn't sounded good at all - Caleb had felt genuinely pained to the hippocampus. Immediately, his mind raced for ideas to calm his friend - not exactly an easy task when every other second whipped a bit of brush in your face. Still...still...yeah, Yeah that might work!

Hopping over another crestfallen husk of a "tree, leaves", the equine child planted all four hooves in front of himself and slid, rather gracefully too, to a full stop in the middle of a small clearing...or at least as much of one as this forest could offer. Caleb was Not okay, that much he could tell just by listening to the sound of his heavy breathing; and having a quick look behind him lay on an even more pitiable sight: the boy's hair was matted with sweat, his face and clothes scratched and torn, his exposed ear being especially badly carved up.

...He was only Human, after all...and Edward immediately felt guilty about not having paid closer attention to him.

Flower circled around, perching on a nearby branch and entering a raving squawking fit, presumably in response to the ever-growing distance between the party. But Edward just stood and shook his head: "Not now, Flower, Caleb can't go right now." The bird may not have understood the words, but either due to weariness itself, or a general sense of empathy for intonation, it did at least quiet down a little.

...This place stunk, now that boy-hippocampus thought about it; not just in the way that the rest of the forest seemed to reek of a suffocating odor both airily sweet and intensely earthen, but...genuinely, foul. Wherever they'd ended up, it smelled like something had died right around here.

"...Where even is Here...", he wondered aloud in a bewildered amazement at the colorful blossoms surrounding them.

"Nowhere Good.", came the sound of a deep, powerful voice from just off to his side. His lateral vision immediately tracked it to a particularly large clump of bushes spreading themselves apart. Then suddenly, a large, elongated snout with two incredible lengths of snapping teeth emerged from within - leading along a yellow-eyed, green-skinned, scaled and incredibly powerful figure. The beast then emerged completely, revealing his full height - he was almost as tall as one of these smaller trees, leaves...and a lonnnnng, powerful tail swayed along the ground behind him like a serpent. The alligatorman re-adjusted his...were those...eel-skin pants? He shifted them up a bit further for the sake of modesty, perhaps a little unexpecting of anyone passing through the area of his respite, and the look on his face suddenly made Edward wonder where that smell had been coming from.

"I am Byures, but most of my friends know me by "Hunter" - and I think you'd be wise to want to be considered among that grouping right now."

Edward turned himself toward the beast of a man fully, shielding his ragged friend from what had sounded an awful lot like a serious threat. "...And that'd be because...?"

"Simple.", the alligatorman replied, stretching his muscles and taking a few imposing steps forward before stopping again. "I'm the Yeoman of The Guard, and you're walking along Smuggler territory."

Edward had no idea what he was talking about, but it sounded serious. "...Oh.", he replied dumbly, not sure what to say next.

"...Well, could I be your friend?"
At Day's End

A deep, gutteral growl rumbled out aways of the distant and blackened sky, prompting the newly minted crew of The Eagle's Deliverance to shiver in agreement with their terse host. Suddenly a gleam sparkled in Caleb's eye, and all the quickly he exclaimed, "H-Hold On! Just one more thing!", before making a mad dash for the captain's cabin with Ribbon and Flower gleefully trailing after the boy's frenetic exit. The other half of the crew, alongside their gracious hosts, could only stare after him in bewliderment.

"...well...Well then--", a noticeably less projectile-vomit-shade-of-green Rainbow began, still clutching his stomach but lacking the previous accompanied stupor of an abject drunk, "--It's been, ehr, pleasant making your aquaintance your "Majesty" - admittedly we might not have made it this far without the..." At this point his eyes temporarily twitched, locking deadset on the hippocampus sat beside the larger Merman and his Siren companion: "...intuitive intervention of our newest mate, but I have a feeling he'll be a little more considerate about that when we head for this next shortcu---"

A short burst of WHACK, CHOP, CRACK, CRACKs erupted from out of the aftward cabin, jolting the fuzzy little gremlin mid-scathe and streaking a ripple of disgust at the discordant melody playing across their hosts' presence. Ribbon bolted out of the doorway ahead of her companions, barking triumphantly between a jawfull of a table leg; Rainbow was looking to turn green again.

"I've got it, I've Got It!", Caleb cried with a similar glee to his canine companion and the white gull screeching approvingly out and overhead of him as he slammed the door back open and charged down the brine-soaked planks. The three stopped just short of colliding with their miniature admiral and sending the lot of them tumbling over the railings, and the boy produced a hastily procurred, but nonetheless equisite wood-carved mold of a bear's growling face.

"Here - I'd like you to keep this until we see you two again. A luck charm, since nothing'll be able to happen to us until we come back to collect it again." The more imposing of the two mythological hosts took it gently in the palm of his hand, which on its own easily dwarfed the size of Caleb's head; he turned it over a few times by the tip of a finger, and although the boy could've sworn he heard the faintest mumbling about...salt, and...preserves, for some reason, the being returned his gaze with the slightest of smiles: "Very well, it will be a King's honor to keep this...artifact, in your stead, as a sign of your fortuitous passage across the Great Sea."

"--king-to-be...", the siren mumbled between some mock pruning of his feathers with a delicate hand.

Before anyone else could respond, Caleb beamed an absolutely radiant smile, shot his knicked sword into the air and waved a proud, hearty "GOOD-BYYYYYYE!!!". The sound of their farewell echoed across the ancient seas, rippling out like a great north wind in Rainbow's mind - afternoon passed into Twilight, and the reality of nightfall snapped him awake again. All around them was the glistening of silver waves dancing under moonlight, punctuated only by the sweeping strokes Edward made through them...all else was calm, almost serene.

He scoffed, crossing his puny arms over his chest and squinting his eyes at the makeshift form of the hippocampus wrestling between shadow and light. It'd been a good few hours more since they'd departed, and he was still, STILL swimming. Did he even need to sleep? Did he even need to eat? Wait...yes, technically that last one was true...

Meanwhile the admiral of the ship couldn't even stay awake long enough to keep an effective Night Watch, tsk. The rabbit-goblin shook his head, rising from the barrels he'd slumped himself up against and giving a nice, exaggerated stretch to signal his presence on deck. If he was going to play the part of the crown this ship, it wouldn't do to be anything other than "A Big Deal" in the presence of his newfound crew.

"I see we're still making steady progress--", he cut the words short, cursing himself at the momentary slipup; still, well, maybe the hippocampus hadn't noticed he'd been out of if there even was much "it" going on in the first place. The hours had probably all blended together in his little mind, and even the fleas knew that youth wasn't exactly the brightest fish in the barrel...
Black Foams Rising

"Your Hector sounds amazing! And your Eeegull friend too - they must've had so many adventures together!", Edward whinnied as his boat-sized body excitedly powered through the rumbling charcoal surf. "--Oh, I am DEFINITELY going to have to let the others hear this - do you have MORE?" Caleb beamed, his mind swiftly forgetting the dark skies and intensifying rain: "Yeah - Yeah SURE! And say, who do you mean by 'Others' ?" Rainbow's innerds churned over the distinct increase in the rocking of the boat, specifically those coming from the direction of the bow. For a split second the ship swung ever-so-sickly alongside its pilot as he made to heave across the rudder, yet he rapidly attempted to course-correct, his green complexion amplifying by the second. Edward bobbed to and fro about the increasingly choppy waves as easily as if he'd been trotting on dry land. "My Friends! They're going to be AMAZED by this - what other Stories can you tell??"
That was a very good question - Caleb had heard so many of Elder Eagle's stories over the was like he'd been the only one the old spellbeast had actually gotten to pay attention for more than a few hours. Now let's see, there was the tale about how the legendary duo rescued the Black Queen's prized hairdresser, Shaun, from being sheared and eaten; Or the one about how Kin--er, "Prince" Hector dressed up as a giantess, fooling the local mountain tribes into gifting him the long-lost Kingmaker's Rod as a wedding dowry; Or...---

A sudden unexpected tilt from port to starboard caused him to momentarily stumble across the narrow deck, clasping the mast as he attempted to reorganize his thoughts;

---...or-Or that one with the wild pig stampede - that one seemed relevant.


Rainbow's voice was hoarse - his puny body broken by the perpetual turbulence, and his expression an absolutely livid sea-green. "THIS is a SHIP, you oversized BARNACLE, not some lifeless DRIFTWOOD you can toss any whichway!!!", he ROARED over the exponentially torrential winds! At first the hippocampus didn't seem to process this, yet he quickly began to slow, ease back - and eventually, just...stop. Flicking his gaze between the mythical beast idly contemplating at their bow, and the rapidly liquifying goblin at their stern, Caleb managed to eek out a squeamish smile and interrupt:

"Come on Rainbow, Where's your sense of ADVENTURE!?"

"ANYWHERE but T H E R E !", the halfpint admiral exploded, shooting a finger out across their portside!

. . .Oh.

"...It's too Difficult to tell from this distance -- I...I think !...!?", the boy sputtered meekly, his stomach sinking into his boots as he tried to dissuade the reality constipated across his companion's face.

"DO the SIZE of those Waves look HARD TO TELL!?!", Rainbow screamed in his most high-pitched voice yet. It was, really, a surprisingly big cyclone for having snuck up on them in the way that it did; a deaf silence rung out over the craft as it briefly drifted with the swell of the now monstrously thick, black sea.

" . . . You all Don't like Rain?"

The latter half of the crew remaining outside of the shelter of the captain's cabin Both shot their heads over in Edward's direction.

"...YES--", the pair started--
"--NO!", and finished in unison.

Edward bobbed peacefully with the thunderous slaps of the ocean waves, then seemed to have finished making up his young mind.

"...Okay, I guess we could meet Them now and wait it out from there."

And without a second thought, the hippocampus shot off like an arrow through the rolling black, yanking the hapless box of timbers along behind it like so many skipping-stones toward the cyclone.
A Bloody Toil

Without warning, a second dwarf came bounding in from the side towards the boy, cutting in front of the first with a look of murder, his whole face contorted into a monstrous rage. He screamed, leading the now dual-dwarf foray with a gutteral battlecry: "FOR THE MIGHTY BEAR, HEATHEN!!!" Caleb took a step back, skidding a little on the aftermath of his previous work - the shock tripling his heartrate and accelerating his response to a purely instinctive level; the dwarf charged, Caleb swung wide AND--

--Missed by a mile, the infuriated cultist hadn't even arrived at the spot!

Cold fear serpentined down the boy's frame at the sudden realization of just how exposed he was. For an instant his aggressor's livid expression twisted into a vengeful, jagged-toothed grin, the pair locking eyes in a moment of realization between hunter and prey. The predator, arm outstretched and screaming victorious - the quarry, limbs squeezing every muscle they could to stop themselves from recoiling any farther. Instinct kicked in, or perhaps it was inspiration from all those hours of watching better knights train with the older kids, or those few of being trained himself: A flick of the wrists inverted the blade's momentum, suddenly rising the point directly on line with its target; a weight like a boulder knocked Caleb down onto his knee - the dwarf hung confused and limp, panting with hoarse breaths, self-impaled down to the hilt.

Without even hesitating, imitating the movements he'd seen a thousand times before, Caleb rammed an elbow into his opponent's stomach, half-sworded the blade around its edge, unsheathed the bloodied iron from his foe's belly and promptly jabbed a warning-shot from the point into his second attacker's eye. She SCREAMED, recoiling with a mouth agape of sharply filed teeth.

Ribbon and Rainbow had made surprisingly good use of their initial ambush, weaving in and out of the vicious mob as easily as Flower sailed across the fresh sea air - those dwarves who remained clutching onto their wretched lives were quickly coming to regret it. Ochre mixed with scarlett beneath the flickering of candlelight as the blood of the dead and the dying scrawled a massacre across the sanctuary floor.

The battle was over. They had won...

. . .

...Caleb just felt sick.
After An Ark

It was an eerie walk they took, silent as they had to be to avoid detection. The jungle loomed around them in a motley web of twisting vines and tangled roots, and Caleb couldn't help but *feel* like something was watching them, somewhere, even though the space was silent; unnaturally silent, he noticed, even for such an early hour. As they passed beneath the latest in a series half-fallen branches, curiosity got the better of him, and softly as he could utter the words, he whispered:

"...w h y i s e v e r y t h i n g s o...y o u k n o w...q u i e t ?..."

Rainbow gently nudged Ribbon to tiptoe around what looked to be a particularly tripwire-inspired twig fork, narrowly avoiding what would surely have been a crack like a bullwhip at this hour. "...w e l l...y o u k n o w h o w I m e n t i o n e d t h e n u t h e a d s l i k e m a k i n g o f f e r i n g s ?"

"...u h - h u h ?"

" s i m p l e", the pint-sized creature finished promptly, flourishing a hand in the air without so much as confirming his scrawny bodyguard had even seen it from behind. For a moment Caleb's mind flashed back to the cramped hole he'd slept in, specifically to the snakes that'd supposably occupied it. He wondered if Rainbow *had* actually forced them out all by himself, or if they just hadn't been able to understand their newfound company. At any rate, he still didn't know why the jungle was so dead quiet.

It wouldn't be much longer that he could hold onto that thought though, for all of a sudden the vines and shrubs became sparse and unpopulated, like they'd stepped into a completely different world. Here there were no hanging vines, no crawling roots; here there was no tussling thicket - only woodstumps, broken axe handles and . .bones . . . ?

"...t h e r e...", Rainbow pointed out what appeared to be a rather carefully refined woodworking station at one end of the enclosed clearing, "...a n d t h e r e...", he continued, nodding to another. The scale was small, but organized - efficient...unnervingly so, frankly; it was like somebody had carved a swath of a chessboard out of the otherwise dense surrounding foliage. "...t h i s i s n ' t a n y o l d g a r d e n p a r t y -- t h a t ' s a m i l l , a n d t h e o t h e r ' s a j o i n e r y s t a t i o n..."

Caleb scratched his head again, the idea just hadn't sat right with him since he'd agreed to figure out if it was even real or not. If it was...well, it'd certainly be a fine ticket out of...wherever this was; but he couldn't understand how the "goblin" could be so sure it even least, in a useable state.

"...a s h i p i n t h e m i d d l e o f t h e j u n g l e...", Caleb pondered unbelievingly.

"...l e a v e i t t o t h o s e e a r t h - f o n d l e r s t o g e t i t a l l b a c k w a r d s . . . a n y w a y , l i k e I s a i d , i t ' s m o r e l i k e l y b u r i e d u n d e r g r o u n d t o o; t h u s . . . w e n e e d a K e y."

This had been the part the boy had been wondering about. It was some sort of special day of worship for the dwarves today...a day on which they didn't work, didn't go outside, didn't even eat (the fish carcasses must've been from the day or...days, prior). All day, today, they'd be locked up in that central forttress of theirs - and the keys they carried to get in would be with them. So imagine that Rainbow had just so happened to find a dwarf who not only just so happened to disdain this practice of theirs, but actively did so in secret, at the end of every week, and right out in the open. The chances had to be below those of finding a unicorn.

"OH Mighty One, are you pleased with me? Surely you who are the most cunning would look favorably upon your most cunning servant - KARRASS! Karrass who makes such beautiful carvings for you, Master, and do you not see how the others worship the work of Karrass as miracles of your own in his place? Karrass does not NEED the praise of others...of course, of course..Karrass is humble, and devoted to his god...but...if perhaps the Mighty Bear could bestow just a *little* sign of its affection upon him...why, Karrass would make A HUNDRED such assumed "miracles" in his god's name!

...or, a hundred more, that is...

...Praise be to the Mighty One...Karrass earnestly awaits your reply; As he always has; As he always does...Still."

Caleb froze. He hadn't even *n o t i c e d* the dwarf kneeling before the tiny figurine not fifty feet away - he'd been so still, and his clothes blended in perfectly with the sea of woodstumps checkerboarding the parched earth.

"...j u s t l i k e w e p l a n n e d , r e m e m b e r ?...", Rainbow muttered quietly atop his equally subdued steed.

With a flash, a brief wash of purple light passed over him, and Caleb could begin to feel his features *seem* to change. But he knew it wasn't real, this was all an illusion, he didn't Really look like this...

...the question was, would their newfound friend see things differently?
Down The Rabbit-Hole

By the standards of his many practiced and flawlessly executed hurdles from various tree-branches, rooftops, and improperly balanced ladders, the descent down was surprisingly short - in fact it barely gave him time to properly brace up in anxiety before he'd reached the bottom. He landed on his feet with a heavy thud outside a squat, arched cavern entrance, the inviting gleam of some purple aura emanating from within. As he ducked inside, he could immediately make out the rag-tag assortment of "living conveniences" tucked away along the smoothed dirt walls of the cave - a motley assortment of twig-&-nettle "sofas", burnt plate-chunks of otherwise glossy green metal serving as makeshift tables for various knickknacks, a rather large and jagged shard of a mirror leaned just up adjacent the entryway, several melon-like fruits with what *appeared* to be Rainbow-esc faces carved into them, a few expertly stacked metal crates and chests, and tying it all together, a luminescent purple lantern of some sort pulsating dead-center in the room. Everything was surprisingly neat and tidy for a cave...

"Woah...", Caleb gawked.

"Yeah, real luxury - feel free to take a seat when you're finished playing in the dirt though." At that, Rainbow shot an irritated snap of his fingers over toward a "sofa" nearest his dumbstruck companion, and in an instant it looked like just about the most comfortable pillow he'd ever laid eyes on; Ribbon immediately brushed past him at the door to take dibs on their newfound convenience.

"...Or...stay where you are - anyway, I could give you all the background on the when-what-whys of our current predicament, but chances are it'd probably fly over you at this point. So instead I'll just say this: "

Rainbow paused for a moment, clearly trying to think of the simplest way to phrase his climactic statement.

"...N o t h i n g here is as it first seems."


. . .Ribbon took the opportunity amid the brief interim to scratch a flea; Caleb considered the same, but decided against it - this weird li--er, "Rainbow", was clearly upset.


Rainbow clapped his hands together for no apparent reason, and shortly continued with: "Great! Now that all the nitty-gritty backstory stuff is out of the way, let's outline what matters here: I've been stuck on this rock for two whole years amid a clan of mouth-breathing idiots with a penchant for zealotry, You just got stuck here with me, and of the two of us, you look like you'd stand more than 5 seconds in a fight - now, how experienced are you with Guerilla Tactics?"

Caleb attempted to look as composed as he'd ever been before answering: "...-- Glue-what now?"

The rising frustration in the creature's face was visible enough to practically be its own lantern.

"Can. You. Fight. With. That. Thing?"

He nodded over to the hand-me-down hunk of ir--the noble blade hanging at Caleb's side, prompting the also-increasingly-flustered boy to sputter: "O-oh that - no-yeah I've...practiced with many competent sword-Knights back at home, Heaps: They come through my village all the time."

Rainbow crossed his puny arms in an otherwise unnerving level of disbelief, putting a finger over his mouth in contemplation. For a moment the room entered another phase of nerve-wracking silence, and Caleb considered easing in aside Ribbon in the hopes of not completely losing his cool. He suddenly had the trailing realization that he looked *nothing* like the armor-clad heroes he'd idolized (and occasionally perturbed) as they stopped in from longer travels. His arms were too scrawny...well frankly, his Everything was too scrawny. And he had a girl's neck. And his hands were small with five "plushy" (as Mrs. Ardia had once called them - boy was he glad that nickname hadn't stuck longer than a few months) fingers protruding out of each of them...

...he didn't even own a helmet; E v e r y Knight had a Helmet...

It was at that moment that he realized the creature was pointing its finger at *him.*

S N A P! In an instant a wash of purple light enveloped him, toppling the boy over in his yet latest moment of complete unprepared-i-ness, landing him flat on his back, eyes glued to the upside-down mirror behind him.
@Dusty Alright, but why? And when?

@Zapdos Omg we just entered "Life of Brian" / "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" territory? XD)

This is gonna be gooooood!!!
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