Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Inappropriate Lady

“Think again.”
“I don’t know,” said Gustav hurriedly. “I’m wet and cold. I want to get out of here first, how about that?”
“Oh right,” replied Lin as if he just realized it. “Yes of course. How right you are Gustav. Today I saw two qualities I’ve never seen in you before! One of them may have been awfully out of character but I’m all the more curious to find out what you’ll surprise me with next. Shall we then?”

Gustav narrowed his eyes. It hardly had much to do with Lin’s teasing though. It just struck him as odd that his companion did not seem to be shaking from the cold or even showing any signs of discomfort. More importantly however...

“Exactly what way are we supposed to go?”
“Not sure,” said Lin unconcerned. “Why don’t we try that way and see where it takes us, yeah?”
Gustav gritted his teeth. “You’re depending on chances a lot these days!”
“And successfully so, so far, wouldn’t you say?” said Lin with a proud pretence. “For aren’t we still alive?”
“Only just,” mumbled Gustav quietly. 

He could just about make out the smile on Lin’s face as they walked their way carefully through the dark.

Somewhere in the capital city of Hexaria sat a middle-aged woman on the sill of one of the poorer looking houses. Her gaze wandered far beyond the city walls as she sat there smoking a long pipe (a rather unusual behavior for a woman when it came to the norms of the city). In fact, her very choice of fashion was just as alarming and uncommon as finding a four-leafed clover. Though some may see it less positively and certainly would not consider it a *lucky sight to behold. She would be described as the black sheep of the flock in their dictionary and they indeed saw her as such.
**Judging from her funky overalls (where the women of the city would naturally wear dresses or gowns), and her free display of her pipe on the sill of the window right next to the stony and crowded walkway, it was clear that Mika Ceidara, as she was called, cared very little for their gossips. Long did she ignore all manner of rumors and hints about her nature, both the bad and the good (which were outweighed anyway). It was not uncommon to see her indifferent replies when encountering such things. "You should do a little more following of your own absurd rules yourselves and a little less preaching, fools!" she would say. "Then again, even if you did choose to follow something my friends, your choices of what to follow would always be as awfully folly as your preaches about others!"

Yes, Mika had a short temper and very little tolerance for rules. At least certain rules.
Meanwhile, as she sat on the windowsill refilling her tobacco, she looked round the kitchen at the dining table. It was placed in the middle of everything where a travel-worn man in his mid-fourties*sat watching her.*
"Who would have thought you could show so much sympathy for someone Mika?" he mused. "You seem very worried. Very unlike you!"*
His gaze at her was in admiration.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lin's Little Trick

Echoes of water droplets could be heard from all around. Gustav opened his eyes and beheld himself to be in what looked like a long dark muddy, wet tunnel. It was freezing and he found Lin’s cloak wrapped around him.
“Where are we?” he asked quietly, almost to himself.

“Under the woods I’d say,” replied Lin calmly sitting by his side chewing on some sort of root. “Want some?”

Gustav’s face could not easily be seen in the dark, the little light there came in through small holes. Even so, Lin could tell Gustav was fixedly staring at him. 
“It’s really not bad,” said Lin through his munching. “Edible. Since we forgot a long journey’s essentials, we’ll have to sustain ourselves with what the wilderness can provide. I hope you’re not too sorry.”
Gustav made no reply and still sat there ogling. 
“Of course I can always find something else if you’re not fond of roots.”

An unforeseen response took place. Gustav stood up holding the cloak, turned around, and dropped on the ground with his face 2 inches away from Lin’s. His eyes narrowed as he looked at him concentrated, like an artist would examine every streak of a painting. 

 photo TunnelDone.gif

“Exactly what are you?” he said gravely. It was probably the most serious and suspicious state Lin had ever seen him in, but even so, being too earnest never really suited Gustav. Lin could only sit still, look back and try to keep himself from laughing.
“What am I? I wouldn’t be here had I known the answer to that. I can’t tell you what I am, but I can tell you what I’m not, and that’s a villain in disguise.”
He shoved the extra roots into Gustav’s open mouth before he was able to speak, pushed him aside and rose. “Eat! And put that cloak back on. You got knocked out on our way here... I must’ve slipped a bit too far up or something. Haven’t used that trick in so long.”

Gustav spit the roots back out. “Oii!” he yelled, “haven’t used it in so long?! Were you gambling our lives?”
“Yes,” answered Lin simply. “...if you want to call it that. However, if you prefer to go back up to the forest and die under Gove’s hands, be my guest. You’ll have to try that without me though.”
“We could’ve died,” retaliated Gustav through clenched teeth.
“We would have most definitely died had I not taken the risk,” said Lin impatiently. 
“So you knew him?” 
“You didn’t? ... my dear fool, that is Zen Gove, only known to be the most dangerous and deadly magician in this world, nothing more.”

Gustav stiffened. “What would someone like that want with us? Was he not paid for this?”

“Of course he was,” said Lin. “Only not by the nobles, they don’t have a hold over someone like that.”
“By who then?”
“I can only guess here, but what sort of person do you believe would be able to command someone like Gove?”
“Ahhh... someone even deadlier than he is...”
“That’s all very good, but do we look like we’re in a common fairytale here?”
“Yes,” answered Gustav. “Apparently, we do.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Zen Gove

The man that appeared in front of them was a very tall, dark haired and fair skinned guy with a goatee. He wore a smart looking black suit and a magician's hat (Gustav and Lin found his fashion somewhat strange and tacky. It showed in their expressions). 

Amid the rustling of the trees they stood there staring at each other. The man smirked and gave a mischievous smile, looking at each one of them in turn. Gustav and Lin stirred uncomfortably. Lin however was not paying any attention to the man at that moment, his gaze wandered through different parts of the woods. The Magician snapped his fingers.
"Do excuse me for interrupting your search for an escape route Sir Sythe, your best bet is there and there by the way, " he pointed at two small paths nearest to them. "But I'm afraid even if you did find an opening, you'll have to pardon me for not being keen on letting you go. It's like your whimpering friend here said, you cannot get away. You can try..." he said that whilst blowing and filing his nails, where the file simply appeared out of thin air. Then he looked up and said in a matter of fact tone almost as if he forgot what point he was trying to make... "Oh,yes, I was going to say... but you cannot get away."
Finally, he stood up. But wait, he was sitting? What was he sitting on? 
Gustav and Lin realized they were not dealing with an ordinary hunter, but an experienced trickster. They were not sure whether what he did was real or a trick of the eye.
'"So how about you just cooperate," said the magician stretching his arms and yawning. "Save us both the hassle and we'll be saving the few minutes I wasted listening to your arguments. Hmm?"
With one look at the other Lin and Gustav sprinted out of his way towards the two escape routes.
"Didn't think so," said the magician. " I was hoping my persuasion skills would've improved by now. What am I doing wrong?"
Despite what it sounded like, the escapees did not really escape. They were in fact pulled back by some invisible force and placed back into their positions.
"Alright, let me try this again," said the magician. "Kind sirs, if you would please follow me back to the village, I would very very much appreciate your cooperation. It would be my pleasure to become your escort tonight."
Lin, not giving up on finding a way out replied to him thinking. "That's what you would say to a lady you wanted to date. It makes me feel like getting as far away from you as possible."
" Oh my," exclaimed the magician with a truly painful frown. "Wait, ok... how about this?
May you kind gentlemen give me the honor of-"
"No," retorted Lin irritably. 
"What's the matter with this guy?" wondered Gustav. 
"Wrong again?" asked the magician. 
Lin finally turned around to face him in a most annoyed way. "The right manners would be to actually let us go. Your game of cat and mouse, magician, is irritating me. You've already failed to honor that when you blew up the cottage to smithereens."
"Funny coming from someone who failed to answer the door," smiled the magician with an airy stare, almost frightening. 
Gustav could now see where the danger was. This was a man who enjoyed playing with his prey before consuming them. A wolf in sheep clothing. The look in the magician's eyes were currently murderous and Gustav feared for Lin before himself. 

 "I don't know what your game is, but I don't really feel like I want to find out," said Lin. "Your masked face is merciful compared to what's hidden within. That posture is like a welcoming basket of fruits in the middle of a cage full of venomous thorns. And I do not like the look of that instrument you've been holding behind you since the very moment you eavesdropped by that old oak an hour ago. I may have underestimated your vile skills, but you, my insolent man, have been too hooked up with your own conceited brilliance, Mr Zen Gove," Lin was in an upright solid position, in an immediate counter-stance to the magician. His hands raised as a barrier. "That you unmistakably failed to notice mine."

A sudden flash infested the space in which they stood and as it subsided no trace of the two men could be seen by man or any manner of creature imaginable. Gustav and Lin were forthwith unexpectedly gone. 
The empty space was left with the magician quietly floating in the middle, a blank yet thoughtful shine in his eyes was all the response the darkness of the woods received. 
"ohh!?" he exclaimed to himself. "And no good-bye note..."

 photo magicianBGcopy.jpg

The Beginning

On roared the thunder as rain came drizzling down and sometimes through the roof of the cottage. The dancing flames of the fire were slowly dying out as a huddled figure on a swinging chair sat watching them. 
"What a pretty sight," said a deep voice from a dark corner. "Who would have thought long ago that a sight like that would be harmful to the touch?"
"Most likely those who got burnt in it...," said the huddled figure in an uninterested manner. "What are you doing here, Gustav? Shouldn't you be inside the city?"
"I came to warn you, they'll be patrolling the suburbs as soon as the sun rises. Had I known I'd be getting a haughty reception I might've saved myself the trouble."
"I find it rather challenging to receive guests after they let themselves in, especially when they don't use the front door."
"You must excuse my intrusion, Sir Lin, I thought it best not to openly visit an abandoned cottage in the middle of the night, seeing as we are all on the black list of this land. They are very determined to get their hands on the likes of us you know."
"I can't say it did not pass my notice," answered Lin. The silhouette of the huddled figure now sat up straight and the face of a man in his mid-30s could be seen through the light of the fire. "They did chase me throughout the whole city with their guns after all." 
"Yes well, let's be fair, you haven't been an obedient citizen Lin. What with your rude display of their corruption, charging right through the guards. What were you thinking?"
"I'm guessing the same thing you were when you pulled down that guard's pants for mishandling that young woman?... such a rash act Gustav, did she tickle your fancy?" 
Lin could vaguely make out a slight grin on Gustav's face. "Shall we call it even then?"
"Not yet, we have to get you out of here, and to be honest I might not have the energy or the luck to get away with another pant pulling stunt if they find you here. I'd rather avoid all that if I can help it. Pack your things, there's a hidden path from here to the woods we could take without being spotted. We must lea-"
A sudden sound of a knock came from the door. Lin stood up and froze with a look at Gustav. 
"Unlike myself, this guest had the decency of using the front door, Lin," whispered Gustav.
"Indeed... but I do not feel like answering it." 
Lin drew out a dull blade from his sheathe. The knock came again, this time slightly louder. 
After a silent pause the unexpected knock was no longer heard. Silence filled the room apart from the crackling of the fire and the water drops from the ceiling. It was the next minute that brought a deafening explosion. The hinges of the door blew apart with a flash and part of the cottage itself suffered destructive damage. The slow entering footsteps however... found an empty room. 

 They ran as fast as their legs could take them. 

"You are a queer one, Lin," laughed Gustav as they passed through a few winding paths in the dark. "You accept guests who break in uninvited and thwart those who actually follow the respectful procedures."
"And you, my friend, have a queer understanding of what's respectful" replied Lin looking behind his shoulders as he ran. The cottage they managed to slip out of in the nick of time was now burning. 
"Speaking of which," said Gustav with sudden earnestness in his voice. "Who and what could that have been?"
"You must have been followed," said Lin thoughtfully. 
"Yes of course, and my tracker decided thereafter, after figuring out how I entered your cottage that is, to take the front door nonetheless and create a ceremonious entry. And that is after a couple of knocks on the door, since he didn't want to forget his manners."
"Did I ever mention how annoying I find you sometimes?" mumbled Lin brushing aside a number of twigs as they found their way through narrower roads. As dark as it was they did not dare to stop. It was vital to get as far away from the cottage as possible and out of reach.
"You should be thankful. If I wasn't there I daresay you would have been caught in the middle of that burning furnace right now Mr. Lindsay Sythe. It may have done your useless blade well though... why do you even carry that thing around?"
"It was a gift..."
"Well your donor didn't like you much did they? Under what circumstances did they believe that thing would serve you?"
Lin gave a long sigh and made no reply. They strode on for a long time with no regard for where they were heading. As they walked for what seemed to be 1-2 hours something stopped them dead in their tracks.

Slow approaching footsteps were heard from a distance. Lin and Gustav made to get off the road only the steps did not seize no matter how fast they ran. 

"It's him!" whispered Gustav in awe. Lin could see his eyes widen with unmistakable fear. 
"Gustav!" snapped Lin. "What's the matter?"
"There were rumours of a feared hunter outside the city. He's a freelancer who gets paid by the aristocrats sometimes to do their dirty work for them. It seems like you've really angered them this time Lin, this guy's impossible to escape from! He's caught so many criminals before now!"
"Good thing we're not criminals then, innit?"
"Defying the big shots? We're as good as. There's no time to discuss our case, he's been paid for this and I doubt he'll be interested in anything we have to say!"
"Stop arguing Sythe, don't you get it?!"
"There's no way out of this now..."
"Shut up and listen!"

Truly enough, the footsteps seized. They were not able to see anyone in the darkness. An eerie feeling crept up their spines at the sudden silence.

Gustav stood slightly shaking. Beads of sweat trickled down his face.

"Stop panicking," said Lin. 
"Who me? I'm not panicking... Why would you say I'm panicking?"
"Even the fish can feel you shaking from here, you're creating an air tremor, pull yourself together!"
"I'm not shaking! I'm just a little cold, that's all!"
Lin realized that Gustav's current fashion was indeed useless for warming and as it stopped raining it had become chilling under the trees. 
"Where's your cloak?" he asked.
"I left it back in the cottage."
Lin rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Is he really that frightening?"
"Did you not hear what I said about him?"
"Have you ever seen him, Gustav?" asked Lin. 
"Did you see these rumours happening with your own eyes?"
"No, but-"
"Then perhaps it would be wise not to completely believe everything you're told."
"Yes, but you can't completely ignore it, those villagers do not get scared for nothing you know."
"Believe me, if they were anything like you. Just pull the right strings and convincing them will be no problem."
Lin felt a block of wood slam on his head.
"You would not believe something obvious even if it was proven under your very nose!" retorted Gustav. "It's almost as if you've forgotten the explosion that took place not 3 hours ago! Do you still think this guy's overestimated?"
"That was no ordinary fire, I'll give you that," answered Lin thoughtfully, nursing the striking pain from his head down to his back.. 
"There! Isn't that proof enough that something's not right?"
"Something's definitely not right here," a voice agreed.
"Thank you!" stressed Gustav with final triumph before he realized what happened and opened his mouth dumbstruck. 
Lin's posture stiffened. "Who's there-?"
"Here I am," cut in the voice again. "Having a good night's sleep and minding my own business, " Gustav and Lin were not able to see the speaker but they felt his voice travel from side to side as he spoke. "Only to receive an urgent message for some hunting job. As I heard the culprits this time were well known troublemakers, I was rather hoping I'd get a bit of a challenge in the chase. Yet here you are, not only choosing an obvious hideout, but stopping dead in the middle of the road as you heard me approaching, in order to discuss the reality of my existence. Which you then completely forget about after I stop moving." A sudden light from a small lantern shined behind them and the speaker instantly placed himself in between the two (whom curiously, neither of dared or bothered to turn around) all the better to see them. "And those are the rascals I am meant to capture? I feel quite insulted"

The face of the man who appeared behind the light was unlike anything they expected.