Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: The Ibex and the Chamois

An elaborate symbolic poem from the Fangs, written by a now anonymous Ogre skald centuries ago, said to describe the pains of rejection in love.

Said to.  It's exceedingly symbolic.  And long.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: The Mask of the Wolf

An epic tale of a young Kizek chieftain who flees the slaughter of his family and lives as a bandit for ten years to prepare his great and bloody vengeance.  Purportedly based on an old Kizak legend, though many are skeptical.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pages From the Cthonique Library: The Hundred and One Improving Stories of Aismeralda, Princess of Albracca

Story collection that purports to be related by the Aismaeralda of the Nibelung to her prospective husbands over a period of weeks, whereby those who she deems to understand the wisdom and truth revealed therein will gain her hand.

Notably, only three of the original sixty suitors make it through the entire recitation of the tales.  The tales themselves are a mixed lot--romances, histories, and several that are slightly smutty, and also tend to vary by collection.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 73

The wind howled outside the window of the small chamber the Dark Lords were now seated in.  "Man that sounds ghastly," said Viviane with a shudder.

" 'And know that whither goes the wind, it goes to serve Blessed Unholy Mother Night...'," muttered Mansemat.

Viviane glanced at him.  "You do know that story!" she said with a smile.

"Mother used to..."  He shooks his head.  "It's been a long time."  He shut his eyes and leaned his head against the wall.    "Not important now."

Viviane smiled at him.  "I think it's very important, Manny.  You have to remember what we're fighting for."

"Peace.  Sanity," muttered Mansemat.  "A world where we don't have bombards being shot at White Pine.  That seems very important at the moment."  He shook his head.  "We seemed to be coming so close to that and now...  It's all slipping away."

Viviane shrugged.  "Like you said, one step at a time."

"And hope we make it,: agreed Mansemat, nodding.

Outside, the wind continued to howl.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 72

Viviane sighed as they sat at the table.  "Manny, what are we doing here?"

Mansemat blinked.  "Eating at the moment..."  He stared at the stew before him.  "What we've been told is rabbit.  The question to my mind is, do we believe it...?"

"You know what I mean," said the Badb.

"Well, if we want to get existential..." began Mansemat.

"Straight answer, Manny," she snapped.  "What are we accomplishing here?  Because it seems to me all we do is run from one problem into another, and as soon as one crazy bastard seems to be wrapping up, we've got another one."  She scowled and crossed her arms.  "Most of whom we've thrown away perfectly good opportunities to kill."

Mansemat stared at the stew again.  "Are we having that conversation again?" 

"Unless you really want to talk about what's in the stew," replied Viviane.

"Fine," continued Mansemat.  "I'm as frustrated at you sometimes.  We're all just muddling along, trying to get out of this and not let the bastards win.  Still--perhaps I should have killed Amfortas back in Joyeuse.  But whatever the case, he's been losing territory at a steady click.  He's down to the north of Leonais, the Isles of Holly and support from the Concordat.  It may be that by leaving him alive, we've hurt what he's tried to accomplish more than we would have if I'd killed him.  Or maybe that's just a rationalization."   Mansemat shook his head.  "But I will say this--that man is seeking death in the end.  No, no, he's seeking a glorious death."  He shrugged. "As for the Necklace, Asterot and Belberith, well, all of them have wanted me and mine out of Castle Terribel for years.  They just saw their chance now.  So what do we do?  The same thing we did during the Rising.  We walk forward one step at a time, and hope we make it."

"I wasn't there for the Rising," said Viviane.

"You know what I mean," muttered Mansemat.

Viviane nodded, and glanced at the stew.  "You know I have to agree with you.  No way that's rabbit."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 71

Another bombardment shook the walls as Mansemat and Viviane descended down the stairs.  "Damn, those are loud," muttered Viviane, clenching her teeth.

"What was that?" said Mansemat blankly.

"Is that a jo..?" began Viviane, only for another explosion to rattle the walls.

Mansemat covered his ears.  "They go right to your skull," he muttered with a shudder.  He turned to Viviane.  "So what was that again?  I really am having a hard time making this out with all the noise..."

The Captal glanced back up at them.  "They only keep at it for half-an-hour at a time, you know.  Why, you can time a watch by it!"  He gave a deep laugh.  "I know I am." 

Mansemat frowned.  "What happens at half-an-hour?"

"The bombards get too hot to use," said the Captal.  "It's a bit of a design flaw really."

Viviane nodded.  "You seem to know your bombards."

"Well, I help make them," the Goblin noted with pride.  "Why, some of my handiwork is probably firing at us right now."  He considered things.  "On reflection, that is less than comforting.  I'm quite good at making them after all."

Viviane sighed.  "And you were selling these things to the Shadow Wood..."

"Well, we were all allies, and going to stay that way," said the Captal.  "Until we weren't."  He glanced around.  "Mmm, see?  Stopped right up."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 70

"Your Magnificences," came a voice.  "You should not be out here now." 

Mansemat and Viviane turned.  "Ahh, Captal," said Mansemat.  "Relax.  My wife and I are protected by..."

"Yes, yes, yes," muttered the squat Goblin before them.  "You are magic.  The sounds of those bombards are not, and right now they are waking people.  Some of whom are small children."

The pair coughed.  "Ahh, yes," muttered Mansemat.

"We're sorry," said Viviane.

The Captal gave them a dismissive wave as they walked away from the wall.  "Ahh, you are feeling cooped in.  We all are.  These are strange times for White Pine.  Why do you realize that I'm the first Captal in a century?  One should have been called during the Retreat, but Lord Shaddad's man forbid it."

"You seem to be doing an excellent job," offered Viviane.

"Don't flatter me!" snapped the Goblin all at once.  "I'm desperately winging this entire thing, and hoping people don't notice!"

Mansemat stared for a moment.  "Why would you tell us that?"

"Well, you're the Dark Lords," said the Captal.  "I figured you..."

"No, we're pretty much in the same boat as you," said Viviane.  "Only with magic, which helps, but not as much as you think."

"Right, we can summon awesome forces, but knowing what to do with it, that's tricky," agreed Mansemat.

The Captal stared back at them. "Why are you telling me this?"

"We... figured it's sharing time," said Viviane.

"Right, builds trust and confidence," added Mansemat with a nod.

The Captal blinked.  "I'm feeling less of both."

There was an awkward silence.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 69

Mansemat and Viviane climbed the battlements of White Pine, and stared out below.  The armies of the Shadow Woods lay spread out below, frightful bombards and iron siege towers ready.  "We keep finding ourselves in this situation," noted Viviane.

"This bunch are a lot more frightening than the Milesians," said Mansemat.  "For a start, they've actually prepared for a siege."

"Any new from up north?" asked his wife, the concern on her face obvious.

"Elaine says Amfortas' forces have been falling back all year."  Mansemat gave a shrug. "The money isn't coming in from the Concordat like it was when he started, largely because he keeps losing.  Still the Leonais aren't happy about allying with the Easter King."

"I'm not hapy about allying with that creepy bastard," said Viviane.  "Erls should know that their Erls, damn it, not stand around talking about the Holy Light and how they're willing to ally with the Nightfolk in a pinch..."

"That's what you find creepiest about Ilarion Skarvsky?" asked Mansemat.  "For me it's the spy organization."

"I find that creepy too..." began Viviane, only for a round of bombard bursts to quiet her.  When it was over she turned towards the forces and waved her fist.  "Hey!  Give it a rest, you damnable sons of whores!  You're not going to hit anything!"  She turned back to Mansemat.  "That reminds me... you were going to say something about my story, when the last bombardment cut you off."

Mansemat gave a dismissive wave of his hand.  "Oh, just that it seems... strangely evocative..."

Viviane considered that.  "Hmmm, you know who's good at figuring out old stories...?"

"No, Viv," said Mansemat harshly.

"He's your brother, Manny," stated Viviane.  "And you love him.  And being without him is like having a part of you cut off."

"Yes," agreed Mansemat.  "That's why I can't call him back yet."

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 68

"And as she stared upon the Darksome Lady's children, Lulea of the Wind felt a great sense of duty enter her and she..."  Viviane's tale was interrupted by a snore. 

"Mamble mim blah," murmured Malina in her sleep.  Viviane smiled and kissed her stepdaughter on the forehead. 

"So, she's finally asleep," said Mansemat.

"Hey," said Viviane with a shrug, "it worked for my grandmother when I was her age."

"I doubt she told it quite the same way," noted her husband.

"It's a folk tale," she answered.  "You're supposed to put your own spin on it.  If you don't, it's no longer a folk tale, it's just a legend."

Mansemat considered that.  "I hadn't realized there was a science to these things."  He gave a bow.  "Well, I consider myself thoroughly educated."

"That's what we witches are here for," said Viviane.  "Well... the nice ones among us anyway."

"And you are the nicest," agreed Mansemat with a nod.

Viviane rose to her feet.  "Thank you for reminding me why I married you."

"Have you needed reminding?" asked Mansemat, a touch of anxiety on his face.

"No, but it's still nice," replied Viviane.

Mansemat was about to reply to that when an explosion interrupted him.  When the noise ended, he scowled out the window.  "Damned Asterot.  Spoiling things as usual."

"Is Malina up?" asked Viviane.

"Gruh gruh gah," murmured Malina, followed by a snore.

"She can be a very sound sleeper at times," said Mansemat.  "It's a gift."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 67

"Raindrops," muttered Polychrome.  "Making sure raindrops are shaped right.  This is such a waste of my unique talents."

"You're not supposed to like it," said Lulea. "That's the idea of punishment duties."

"You would say that," snapped her former superior.  "You get the cool punishment duty!  The wander around the world and be the Maker's eyes and ears one!  Me?  Raindrops!"

"Yes, you keep saying that," noted Lulea.

Polychrome scowled.  "You are such a Maker's Pet."

"And you are an awful person who should never have been given the authority she was given, and should be glad she has been given a chance to do something of value," said Lulea.  As Polychrome stared at her, Lulea managed a smile.  "Or at least, that's my opinion."

Polychrome seemed to consider a reply then simply turned away, grumbling.  CHILDREN OF THE FIRST ERA OF THIS CREATION, came the stately voice of the Maker, IT IS TIME TO UNVEIL YOUR PURPOSE.  As the Maker rose to Her immense height, Polychrome and Lulea rushed to the group that was gathering around Her.


The Maker regarded them all with an enigmatic smile. YOU WONDER WHY I AM SO UPSET BY ALL THAT HAS HAPPENED--WELL, THIS IS WHY.  THIS WAS TO BE A TIME OF REST, AND BUILDING, AS WE PREPARED FOR THE WORLD AS IT IS TO BE.  WELL, THAT IS DONE NOW.  STILL, EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN SET ASKEW, THIS WORLD IS A FAIR, FINE ONE, AND IT WILL SERVE.  BEHOLD MY YOUNGEST CHILDREN, THE MORTAL KIN.  FOR THEIR SAKE, THIS HAS BEEN DONE.  FOR THEIR SAKE, YOU SHALL SERVE ME.

"Hmmm," muttered Polychrome.  "They're... kind of short, aren't they?"  Lulea glared at her.  "What, just saying what we are all doubtless thinking!"  She glanced around.  "Back me up here people!"

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 66

"...All of them?" asked Polychrome.

YES, responded the Maker.

"Every single raindrop from now until the end of time?" continued the Sylph.

AGAIN, YES.

Polychrome glanced at the ground.  "But what if I don't want to..."

AGAIN, YOU WILL BE EXILED.  TO SOMEPLACE THAT IS NOT PLEASANT.


Polychrome considered things.  "I'm hearing an implication of a third unstated option in that..."  She smiled at the Maker hopefully.

YOU ARE MOST ASSUREDLY INCORRECT.  MAKE A CHOICE.

Lulea strolled away from Polychrome's attempts at negotiating with the Maker, glancing around.  She had a long, lonely job ahead of her, it seemed, and...

"I'm glad you decided not to get exiled," said Etain walking up to her.  Lulea was considering how to respond to that when the Salamander hugged her.  "

"Umm, thank you," said Lulea.  "But really, I thought I owed this..."

"Well of course you do, " said the Salamander.  "You're nice."  She smiled at Lulea.  "I'll... I'll try to visit you from time to time.  When my job lets me."

"Oh, you're getting a job too?" asked Lulea

"Yeah, it's something about making sure the Sun gets this place just warm enough, but not too warm," said Etain.  "She seems really, really worried about that for some reason."

Lulea shrugged.  "Well, Her ways are mysterious."

"Very true," agreed Etain with a nod.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 65

The Maker was staring at the sky when Lulea reached Her.   Lulea stood before her for a long while in silence. LULEA OF THE SYLPHS, She said at last, I HAVE REACHED A JUDGEMENT ON YOU.

Lulea nodded at this, and did her best not to squirm in discomfort. 

The immense eyes fell upon the Sylph.  THIS LATEST... SERIES OF MISHAPS HAVE SHOWN THAT I CANNOT LEAVE THIS WORLD TO ITS OWN DEVICES.  AND SO YOU, LULEA, WILL BE MY EYES, WANDERING IT ENDLESSLY SO THAT I MAY KNOW WHAT TRANSPIRES HERE.  The Maker folded Her arms before her. INSTEAD OF GETTING IT IN SNATCHES BECAUSE THE PEOPLE I LEFT TO NOTIFY ME TRY TO AVOID THAT PART OF THEIR JOB.

Hyperion and Etain both gave nervous laughs at that.  "In our excuse, Maker, you are spooky!" said Etain.

"Oh, yes, exceedingly so," said Hyperion.

The Maker sighed.  WHAT SAY YOU TO THIS, LULEA OF THE SYLPHS?
Lulea blinked.  "What?  I... get to make a choice in this?  In my own punishment?"

The Maker nodded.  I WANT YOUR LOYAL SERVICE IN THIS. ACCEPT, AND YOU WILL GIVE ME IT.  REFUSE, AND I WILL ARRANGE A QUIET EXILE.  IT WILL NOT BE UNPLEASANT, BUT IT WILL NOT BE A REWARD, AND IT WILL NOT BE HERE.

"I see," said Lulea.  She shut her eyes.  "Very well.  I accept the duty.  I... hurt this place, even though I didn't mean to.  I should work to keep it safe.  It's only fair."

I WOULD NOT SAY THAT, said the Maker softly.  STILL IT IS WHAT MUST BE DONE.  AND YOU ARE THE ONE WHO WILL DO IT NOW.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 64

It had been silent a long time in the little spot they were waiting at, when Lord Vulcan came to see them.  "Lulea," he said.  "The Maker has said she has reached a decision about you."

Polychrome turned to regard the Salamander.  "Has she reached a decision about me?"

"If she has, she wants to say the decision she's reached about Lulea first," stated Vulcan flatly.

Polychrome snorted and turned away.  Lulea stood up and then joined Vulcan as they walked back to see the Maker.  "So," said Lulea at last, "are you all... all right?"

"We've got dues to pay, but..." Vulcan sighed.  "Nothing to onerous.  Frankly, we're probably getting off with less than we deserve."  He turned to look at her again.  "I'm sorry you know.  For everything that's happened to you.  And my part in it."

Lulea shrugged "Ehh, I don't blame you.  I don't blame anyone, but myself for what I did in this.  Well, possibly Polychrome, but still..."

"That's very noble of you, but it's not right," said Vulcan.  "After all, who put us where we are, and made us what we are.  Polychrome was unfit to hold power.  Who gave her power to begin with?"

Lulea blinked.  "Are... are you blaming the Maker?"

"Pretty much," said the Salamander.  "Told Her so when I argued my case."

"How'd she take it?" asked Lulea.

"Well, I'm talking to you, aren't I?" answered Vulcan with a smile.  He shrugged.  "I think She was a bit surprised, really.  But then, pressing my point has always been weakness of mine..."

Lulea nodded.  "How's Etain?" she asked.

"Sad and confused," replied Vulcan.  "That's why I'm here talking to you, and she isn't." 

Lulea sighed. "I feel kind of guilty how..."

"Listen, I know how Etain can be kind of flighty and feckless, for all that she has a good heart," said Vulcan.  "That you occasionally feel irritated with her isn't a flaw.  Nor does it outweigh the good you've done her."

"When you say things like that, I get the feeling things will turn out all right," said Lulea with a smile.

""Well, remember, I'm the guy who mouths off to our creator," said Vulcan.  "Best to be wary of my endorsement."

"True, true," said Lulea with a nod.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 63

VERY WELL, LULEA. The Maker gestured, Her arm unwinding like a snake around a rock as it pointed out the way.  GO WAIT WITH POLYCHROME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU MY SENTENCE IN DUE TIME.

Lulea managed another bow.  "I... thank you... Maker..."  She shuffled off to where the former Chief Sylph was seated.  NOW THEN, VULCAN, I MUST SPEAK OF YOUR DECISIONS... 

Polychrome was seated on a rock when Lulea reached her, knees drawn to her face.  "Oh, it's you," muttered Polychrome.  "This is your fault, you know?"

"The Maker just said something similar," noted Lulea, sitting down beside her.

"Ha!  I knew it!" said Polychrome, standing up.  "The Maker may be misinformed about me, but she has you down..."  She snorted. "Disloyal little thing.  Should have had you down in the depths forever and always, cleaning things."

Lulea realized she felt rather calm.  "Well, you can't anymore," she noted.

"No, I can't," snapped Polychrome.  "And it's all your fault!  All of it!  I would have been a great Lady of the Sylphs, if you hadn't meddled."

"The Sylphs who were here say you abandoned them, when we came," said Lulea.

Polychrome glared at her briefly then turned away.  "Of course.  They failed me."

Lulea nodded.  "You deserve what you're going to get, Polychrome."  She shut her eyes.  "Of course, so do I.  So who am I to cast judgement?"

"Nobody, that's who!" declared Polychrome.

"And so are you now," said Lulea.  She took a deep breath.  "Please don't bother answering.  I don't think either of us really wants to hear anything from the other."

Friday, November 10, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 62

YOU PUT ME IN A QUANDARY, LULEA OF THE SYLPHS, stated the Maker.  AND I DO NOT LIKE BEING IN QUANDARIES.  IT IS DISCONCERTING FOR A BEING OF MY MAGNI...

Etain gave a slight cough.  "Ummm, Great Maker?," she asked quietly.

The Maker's immense form shifted, and She gazed intently on the Salamander.  YES, LADY ETAIN?

"Could... could you please be nice to Lulea?" continued Etain nervously.  "She's good.  And brave.  And kind."  The Salamander managed a shy smile.  "I really think she's one of  your better works, actually."

YOU AND YOURS HAVE YOUR OWN JUDGEMENTS TO FACE
, said the Maker quietly.  AND YET YOU WORRY ABOUT THIS SYLPH OVER THAT?

Etain considered matters.  "I guess I do, yes.  Is that all right?"

A slight smile touched the Maker's face.  IN A WAY, LADY ETAIN, IT IS VERY RIGHT INDEED.

"Well that's good," said Etain. 

"Ummm, Etain..."  Lulea looked at the Salamander, and then looked away.  "I... I really don't deserve that."

"Sure you do," said Etain with a smile.  "You were nice to me."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 61

Lulea chuckled to herself as she watched Polychrome shuffle away.  "Heh, yeah take that you meanie," she said.  "You had it coming.  And whatever else she does to you!"  Despite herself, the Sylph threw her head back and laughed.

LULEA OF THE SYLPHS, STEP FORWARD, said the Maker.

Lulea gulped and glanced around.  "Ummm, are you certain that...?"

The Maker gave a nod of epic proportions.  YES.

Lulea shut her eyes and stepped forwards. 

TELL ME, LULEA, ARE YOU PROUD OF YOUR ACTIONS? asked the Maker, Her voice somehow gentle even as it engulfed the Sylph.

"Well," said Lulea shifting nervously, "shouldn't I be?  I stopped Roquat from taking over and... oh..."  She held up the Sphere.  "Doing whatever he was going to do with this...  Could you take it, please?  It feels odd..."

The Maker shut her eyes and the Sphere vanished.  THERE.  I HAVE PLACED IT ELSEWHERE FOR THE MOMENT.

"Thank you, Maker," said Lulea with a bow.  "And I helped Etain, and I... did a lot of good."

The Maker waved her hand.  IS THIS GOOD IN YOUR EYES? She noted, gesturing to the ruined and blasted landscape, covered in the bodies of the dead Elementals.

"Ummmm...."  Lulea fidgeted.  "I... didn't do... most of this...?"

INDEED, YOU DID DO A FAIR PORTION OF IT DIRECTLY.  The Maker brougher Her hand to Her face.  AND WHAT YOU DIDN'T, YOU FREQUENTLY HAD A HAND IN, OR COULD BE TRACED BACK TO YOUR ACTIONS.  SO AGAIN I ASK YOU, LULEA OF THE SYLPHS, IS THIS GOOD?

Lulea glanced around and then looked at her feet and whimpered.  "I just wanted to help."

The Maker nodded.  I KNOW.  THAT IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 60

The Maker considered things.  WELL THEN, AS YOU ACTED UNDER PROVOCATION I GRANT YOU A PARTIAL PARDON FOR YOUR ACTIONS, BUT REMEMBER THEY WERE HEEDLESS AND CAUSED MUCH WOE.

Amphitrite gave a respectful nod.  "I thank you, Great and Dear Maker, for your mercy."  She backed towards Glaucus and Phocys, and gave a quiet sigh of relief.  "Well, it looks like I'm not getting hurled to the Outer Realms tonight."

"Glad to hear, boss," noted Glaucus.

Phocys rolled his eyes.  "Suck-up."

POLYCHROME OF THE SYLPHS, COME FORWARD, came the Maker's voice.

Polychrome strode forward cheerfully.  "Right, so..."

I DO NOT RECALL ASKING YOU TO SPEAK, said the Maker.

"Oh."  Polychrome shifted and coughed.  "Well, don't you need to hear my..."

I AM ALREADY AWARE THAT AMPHITRITE HAS GIVEN ME AN ACCURATE TELLING OF WHAT HAS OCCURRED.
  The Maker eyed the Chief Sylph dispassionately.  THE FACTS DO NOT DO YOU MUCH FAVOR. 

Polychrome gave a hopeful look. "What..."

YOUR BEHAVIOR DOES NOT DO YOU  MUCH FAVOR AS WELL.
The Sylph gulped.  "Can I try throwing myself on your mercy?"

The Maker gave a truly epic sigh.  POLYCHROME, I DISMISS YOU FROM THE POST OF CHIEF SYLPH.  HOWEVER YOU WILL NOT BE BANISHED FROM THIS CREATION AS ROQUAT WAS.

"Well, that's nice...," began Polychrome.

I WILL FIND A USE FOR YOU, declared the Maker, leaning forward.

"That sounds less nice," muttered Polychrome.

The Maker nodded.  THAT WAS MY INTENT.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 59

SO, came the words of the Great Maker in tones that were as booming and loud as thunderclaps and as clear and gentle as raindrops, THIS IS HOW YOU HAVE SPENT YOUR TIME WITH YOUR CHARGE.  IN PETTY VANITY AND RIVALRY, AND ABUSE OF THE HONOR GIVEN TO YOU.  Her great eyes fixed on Roquat.  WHEN YOU DID NOT SIMPLY BETRAY ME.

"Hey!" said Polychrome.  "I did a lot of organizing the Silver Palace!  And taught my fellow Sylphs to live in fear of the lower levels."

The Great Maker turned to the Chief Sylph for a moment.  YOU DO NOT SEEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I MEANT WHEN I TOLD YOU TO STOP.  I AM FINDING IT IRRITATING.

Polychrome coughed.  "Sorry, Great Maker.  May I state that I am in awe at your ability to keep up with the constant irritations from so lowly..."

NO.  STOP IMMEDIATELY. 
The Maker crossed her arms.  IF YOU START AGAIN, I WILL FEED YOU TO THE DRAGON.
Polychrome seemed about to speak, but thought better of it.  "Wow, so that's where everybody gets it from!" said Etain cheerfully.

The Maker turned to the Salamander.  THAT... YOU... She finally gave a frustrated groan.  I WILL SPEAK ON THIS LATER.  THERE ARE OTHER MATTERS TO DEAL WITH NOW. ROQUAT, ONCE CHIEF OF THE GNOMES, YOU ABANDONED MY SERVICE TO SERVE THAT WHICH I GAVE YOU TO GUARD.  AS YOU NO LONGER SERVE ME, I BANISH YOU TO THE OUTER REALMS.  BOTHER NO MORE MY CREATION, TRAITOR.  She waved a massive hand and Roquat vanished with a scream.  The Maker gave a satisifed nod and turned to the Undines.  SUMMON YOUR CHIEF.   I HAVE WORDS FOR HER AS WELL.

Glaucus gulped and then coughed.  "Of course, Great Maker.  Right away.  With... no hesitation at all."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 58

Lulea did her best to keep calm as the immense eye stared at her.  Slowly the hand she rested in pulled back, bringing an enormous face into view.  Lulea felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she recognized who held her.

WHY HAVE THESE DISTURBANCES COME TO MY CREATION? came the booming voice into Lulea's head.

Lulea gulped as she through herself onto what she was thinking of as the ground but was in fact the palm of a gigantic hand.  "Great Maker!  I am unworthy of your presence!  Exceedingly unworthy!  My lack of worth..."

TELL ME, SYLPH LULEA, said the Maker in a voice that was more than a voice, WHY DO YOU IMAGINE IT WOULD PLEASE ME TO HEAR ONE WHICH I HAD MADE DECLARE ITSELF UNWORTHY OF ME?

Lulea blinked.  "Ummm, well..." She coughed.  "You know, on retrospect, it was this idea that started circulating..."

"Rejoice, people!" came a familiar voice from on high.  Lulea glanced up to see Lady Polychrome and her guard floating gracefully to the field.  "Polychrome of the Sylphs with her retinue has arrived to serve as reinforcements and save the--"  The Chief Sylph coughed as she saw the Maker.  "Ahh.  Maker.  Didn't realize you'd be here."  A cheery smile touched the Chief Sylph's features.  "Not that I can be expected to keep up with the beacon of perfection that is you, oh, Great Maker of all things..."

The Maker frowned.  I AM FORMING A DEFINITE OPINION ON WHERE THE SOMEWHAT IRRITATING TENDENCIES OF THE SYLPHS TOWARDS ME ORIGINATED FROM.  AND AM GROWING INCREASINGLY DISPLEASED.

Polychrome fidgeted nervously as she touched the ground.  "Of course, apologies for any..."

PLEASE STOP, noted the Maker, with a wince.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 57

As the Black Sphere sailed through the air, it made a sound like a scream.  Where its shadow passed, green things withered, and a chill frost covered the ground.  As it fell, it seemed to increase its speed far beyond what it should have, travelling faster and faster.  To look on it, was to know that when it hit the ground, bad things would occur.

Which is why Lulea leapt up into the air to catch it.   Because to stare at that wrongess was to know that everything she had done, everything she had suffered would be for naught if the sphere it hit the ground, and she had gone through so very much.  She leapt flew with as much strength and speed as she could, and she grabbed the sphere in midair.

"I don't know what you are, and why that damn Gnome is so obssessed with you," she muttered, as she touched down on the ground, "but you are not causing anymore horror today..."  She settled back, and shut her eyes.  "I am going to sleep for an aged,"  Lulea whispered to herself. 

That was when she felt herself being lifted, as if by a great hand.  "What...?  What is thi..." she cried, her eyes snapping open. 

The first thing she saw was an immense eye staring at her.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 56

The sphere seemed to shine despite its perfect blackness, seeming to not only absorb the light, but... to bend it around itself, somehow.  "Look at it," said Roquat.  "The Maker bid me keep it... secure.  When I saw its beauty, I could not help but obey Her orders.  But the longer I looked at it, the more I knew that this was what I should serve, not Her..."  The Gnome's face stirred with a strange longing.  "It told me all that this was happening, that you were breaking the Maker's peace, creating the way in..."

Vulcan regarded the Chief Gnome worriedly across the field.  "Roquat," he said, "you... you don't want to do this..."

The Gnome chuckled.  "You don't even know what I want to do, you meddling Salamander prince.  All your poking and prying, and you still are as ignorant of true power as ever."  He stared again at the sphere.  "Yes, yes, I know.  They are stupid, aren't they?  Stupid and ugly..."

"No, we aren't!" snapped Etain. "At least, not most of us..."

Lulea nudged her with her elbow.  "Don't insult the crazy man talking to the inanimate object..."

"Oh, it is quite animate, Lulea of the Sylphs," muttered Roquat.  "Yes, I ken your name.  Many things I ken, thanks to the Master's voice..."  He raised the sphere again.  "Soon, you will hear it as well.  All of you, when the tears are great enough to let the Master in..."  He tossed the sphere, and smiled.  "Very, very soon." he whispered, as the sphere sailed through the air, like a star falling from the heavens above.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 55

Lulea glanced across the field, covered with soot, burnt boulders and other burnt things that she did not wish to think too deeply upon.  "Who... is there someone here to surrender?" she muttered.  "This is..."

Lord Hyperion coughed.  "I--I think just saw a Gnome waving a green stick around." 

Etain looked up at them.  "Does that mean we won?"

Vulcan nodded.  "I believe so."

"Yay," she said clapping her hands.  "All the violence was worth it!  Hurray!"

A group of Undines approached them, with the Gnome in tow.  "Lord Hyperion, Lord Vulcan," said the tallest of the Undines.  He glanced at Etain and Lulea.  "Honored... others..."

"I'm Lulea and that's Lady Etain," said the Sylph.

The Undine nodded.  "Right, right," he said.  "I am Glaucus, Lady Amphitrite's marshal.  I thank you for your aid in this darkest hour of our cause, and bring you..."

"Ommpley," said the Gnome.  "No title, no honorific, just Ommpley.  I'm surrendering because there's no one else on this field to do it.  General Guph is gone and King Roquat..."

"Has arrived!" came a booming voice.  The small figure of the Chief Gnome was seen on the plain, holding a shining black sphere on high.  "And let me state,  if you thought you just got through your darkest hour, you are about to discover that you were sadly mistaken."

Etain blinked.  "You know that would be scarier if he were taller."  The others stared at her.  "Well, it would!"

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 54

"Sir," said the Gnome rushing up beside Guph, "the left flank's withering.  These Salamanders just tear right through--"  A stray burst of flame struck the Gnome, causing him to melt.  Guf decided to relocate as quickly as he could, something his stubby little Gnome legs made difficult.   Crouching behind a stump, he swore to the Maker. Just an hour ago, he had been near victory.  But now--now it was all falling apart thanks to these damned Salamanders. 

Guph bit his lip and tried not to cry.  It was so unfair.  He was a General.  Lord Roquat had promised him great rewards after this was done.  Guph had even considered possibly usurping Lord Roquat's power, if he could figure out how to do that.  But now... now this.  He couldn't see how things could get worse.

"For the Palace of Pearl!" came the cry of the Undines charging out into the distracted Gnomes. 

Guph winced.  Of course.  Of course.  Because his humiliation had to be complete.  He wondered what he would say to Roquat.

"I'm disappointed, Guph," said Roquat, holding a... shiny black orb in his hands.  "I thought you could handle this."

"I... I tried, Lord," muttered Guph.  "I really did."

"Sadly, trying was not what I wanted," said Roquat.  "What I wanted was 'succeeding'.  Thankfully, you can still be of use to me, though I add the cost will be considerable..."

"Oh, anything, Lord," muttered the Gnome.

Roquat raised the Black Stone and uttered the Words it had taught him.  Guph began to scream and shout and then to... wither.  Eventually only a pile of dust lay on the ground.  "So," said Roquat, "how was that?  Tasty as you thought it would be?"

The Black Stone notified him of its pleasure.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 53

Etain was cheerfully humming to herself as she and her brother traveled the Golden Road.  "Ooooh--look at that!" she said, pointing to the side.  "It's one of those shining things!"

"Comets," said Hyperion forebearingly.

"That's what they are?" Etain muttered.  "Well, that's a stupid name.  I would call them flimperflames."

Hyperion blinked.  "Why would you call them..."

"Because they flimper!" said Etain.  "Why'd the Maker create them anyway?"

"The story I heard is She had some stars left over, but couldn't decide where they go," said Hyperion.  "So she just cast them about, and now they travel through the heavens."

Etain chuckled.  "Well, that was silly of her.  I would have done something much more clever.  Like use them to play marbles with.  Or something of that nature."  She looked at the army following them.  "Wow, it will be so neat to lead our people into battle!"  She frowned.  "At least, if I don't get too cold and shrink."  She gave a sniffle.  "The world is really cold in spots, brother!"

"We're going to be there shortly," said Hyperion.  "There won't be time for us to cool down."

"Ohh, good!" said Etain.  "Ooooh!  Is that the battle there?  The loud cacophony, with all the people yelling and screaming!"

Hyperion managed a weak nod.  "I... believe so, sister..."

"Yay!" she declared, clapping.  "We got here in time!  Ooooh, it's all flimpering!"

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 52

Guf smiled as he watched the boulders slowly damming up the stream, changing the flow of water into a slow trickle.  "Just come out," he bellowed.  "Come out now, and I will accept your surrenders. "  He chuckled deeply.  "In a few minutes, you'll WISH you'd taken this deal..."

A head peaked up from the stream.  "You know," said the Sylph who glanced around, "that does sound like a good de--" 

The rest of the Sylph's utterance was cut off by a large boulder smashing into his head, something that swiftly rendered that head into a theoretical construct.  Guf glared at his men.  "All right, I told you, let some of them up before we summarily executed them!  If we kill the first one up, the rest stop coming up.  How many times do I have to explain that?"

"I'm sorry," said a Gnome.  "My ba--"

His fellows watched as he was rapidly buried under a hail of boulders.  "Apology accepted," stated Guf.  He turned back to the stream.  "Now, let's wait.  The water will dry up eventually, and we'll get them..."  Suddenly the earth began to tremor and quake, throwing many of the Gnomes off-balance.  "What... which one of you idiots is doing this?"

"We are!" said a Sylph flanked by a group of Salamanders.  "And also, we aren't idiots.  Actually, on reflection, I should have said that instead of just responding to your question..."

"Quit while you're ahead," whispered the tallest Salamander.

"Right, right," muttered the Sylph.  "Anyway... surrender now.  We have the drop on you."




Guf rolled his eyes.  "It's always something," he muttered as he got unsteadily to his feet.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 51

Glaucus crouched under the stream, glancing up to see the boulders hurl over it.  "They... they sure are tough little bastards, aren't they?"

"They are masters of the earth and soil," replied Phocys.  "Toughness is what they are."

Glaucus rolled his eyes.  "Do you have to correct me about everything?" he snapped.

"Only because you are frequently wrong," said Phocys calmly.  He glanced up. "Hmmm, they've stopped hurling the boulders..."

"That's good," said Glaucus.

Phocys looked at him piercingly.  "Is it?"

Glaucus coughed and turned to their prisoner.  "Right.  Well, this is why we took you with us..."

The Sylph nodded.  "Right, right."  He began to float up beyond the water level.  "Once again, I'm happy you didn't kill me, and kept those evil little things from catching me, so..."    After a second he darted back down again.  "Well, we're fine.  They're just... rolling boulders up to where the stream joins the river."  The Undines all winced.  The Sylph looked around in concern.  "What's... what's wrong?"

"They're going to flush us out," muttered Phocys grimly.

"Only the Maker can save us," said Glaucus dramatically.  He shut his eyes.  "Right, She hasn't appeared, has she?"

Phocys shook hishead.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 50

Vulcan coughed.  "So, you really feel this is the best plan at the moment...?"

Lulea nodded.  "It's our only option."

"I listed... several other options," pointed out Vulcan.  "In fact, this was the option I was the most uneasy about."

"But you left things up to me, and I said this is what we have to do," noted Lulea.

"Yes, you most assuredly did," muttered Vulcan.  "Still, if you want to change your..."

"We will do this," replied Lulea.  "My people and the Undines have been decimated.  The Gnomes are going to take over all the world, and then probably go after the Sun.  And then... then well, who knows what Roquat will do."  She bowed her head.  "We have a duty to the Maker."  She turned to look at him.  "You notified Hyperion and Etain, right?"

"They've both agreed to this," said Vulcan.  "Etain seems... almost eager, which is strange for her.  I think she likes you."

"She has a funny way of showing it," replied Lulea.   "Ehhh, not important now." She looked around the room at Vulcan's subordinates, and raised her sword.  "Let's go kick some Gnomish tail!  Wooo!"

One of the Salamander's blinked.  "Gnomes don't have tails."

Lulea rolled her eyes. "It's an expression.  Would you people please try to get... enthusiastic about this?"

The Salamanders managed a weak cheer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 49

Polychrome folded her arms before her.  "So, you all failed," she said severely.

The Sylph before her stared in numb amazement.  "That's what you get from this.  I tell you we died in droves, on your orders, and you just... blame us for it."

"Would you say you succeeded then?" asked Polychrome, leaning forward.

"What?" muttered the Slyph.  "Of course not! What does that even..."

"Well, you seem to be insisting that somehow what I was saying was untrue," noted Polychrome, leaning back in her throne.

The Sylph blinked.  "No, I was questioning the appropria..."

Polychrome raised her hand. "Stop.  We've already reached a problem.  You were questioning me.  The Chief Sylph."  She sighed.  "There really is only one way to respond to this."

"Right, right," muttered the Sylph resentfully.  "I'll get right on cleaning the lower levels..."

"Oh, no," said Polychrome, shaking her head.  "This isn't a light insult.  This is treason."

"That-- that's ridiculous!" snapped the Sylph.

"Well, that or sedition," noted Polychrome with a casual dismissive wave.  "Really, I'm in no mood to go into technicalities.  You'll be imprisoned, the matter tried, and then executed."  She clapped her hands.  "Guards!"  A pair of armored Sylphs marched into the room.  "Take him away to the cells."

The Sylph fell to his knees as the pair approached him.  "Aura--Eurus... it's... it's Egoi.  You know me!"

"Sorry, pal," said Eurus.  "Orders are orders..."

Polychrome watched as the pair dragged him from the room, then smiled to herself.  "I am growing as a leader," she declared cheerfully.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 48

The King of Gnomes sat on his throne and listened to the fighting occurring above. 

Then he listened to what the Black Stone told him, and nodded.

Yes, things were going as it said they would.  It had felt... bad at first, betraying the Maker's trust in him, but one got used to it.

The benefits after all, were quite considerable.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 47

Lulea lay on the ceiling, curled up into a ball.  It wasn't exactly comfortable, but it was marginally cooler than the floor of Vulcan's cave, even if she did have to fly to stay up there.  And there was something of a breeze, even if it was as stifling as the rest of the damn cave.  She could shut her eyes and pretend she was somewhere more pleasant.

"Ummm, Miss... Sylph..." came Vulcan's voice.

"Lulea," she said, keeping her eyes closed.

"Well, we cleaned up the sick," he said, "and if you want to come down and look at what's happening..."

"No, I don't," she answered.  "My friends are dying.  Because of me."

"The fact that Lady Polychrome is an arrogant fool played a part," noted the Salamander.

"Yes, but if I hadn't taken the mirror, she'd just be having people... oh, shining all the mirrors in the Silver Palace," said Lulea.

"Yes, if I had returned to the Sun, Etain wouldn't have been sent after me, and you would never have taken the mirror to help her," said Vulcan.   "We can play this game as long as you wa..."

"No, no," she said, perking up.  "That's pretty good.  This is all your fault.  Not mine."

Vulcan blinked.  "Uhh, yes, I was going to point out that it was more compli..."

"Yeah, yeah," said Lulea, floating down to the floor.  "It's all on you.  So, how are you going to help me fix it?"

Vulcan considered matters.  "That was what I hoped to talk to you about, so I will just accept this turn of events as a good thing."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 46

Glaucus smiled to himself, as he watched the Sylphs slowly withdraw from the field, fleeing in small groups.  "Well, it is proving a glorious day..." he noted to Phocys.

The old Undine snorted.  "If bloody is the same thing as glory, then aye, it is."  He shook his head.  "It is not right, for so many of us that the Great Maker set to serve this world to unmake each other."

"The Sylphs gave us little choice," noted Glaucus, slightly offended.

"You'll not hear me arguing that the Lady Polychrome is not a fool," said Phocys.  "But I will still call this day an evil one, not a good."  He gestured to the body of a slain Undine.  "And for us, as well as them."

Glaucus looked abashed.  "Still... it is a victory.  If for nothing else, I will praise this day for that."

"Foolish Sylphs and Undines!" came a booming voice.  The Undines turned to see a Gnome standing on a boulder that they were fairly certain was not there before.  "You have fought each other, and weakened each other, only for this--to assure my master Roquat's victory!  Soon, you have lorded over us shall bow to us!  We will use Sylphs for footstools, and Undines as chairs!  So declares General Guph!"  The Gnome threw his head back and laughed.

"Who is Guph?" asked a Sylph who'd fled to a nearby cloud.

The Gnome frowned.  "Guph is me."

"You mean 'I'!" said another Sylph.

Guph's frown deepened and he stomped his foot.  "Attack!"  Thousands of Gnomes appeared from out of the ground and rushed towards the field.

Phocys looked at Glaucus.  "Still consider it a good day on the whole?"

"I command you to shut up," muttered Glaucus wincing.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 45

"...Quite surprised when I discovered it," said Vulcan, as he adjusted the various lenses.  He turned to one of his assistants.  "Pyraemon, move the Flavor indicator to 'Strange'."  The smaller Salamander nodded and began to fiddle with a large wheel. "I arrived here for a simple task, but it was so... fascinating that I had to stay, and see what could be done with it!"    He gave a confident laugh.  "And let me say, it has been well worth it!"

"Uh-huh," said Lulea, trying her best to keep from passing out in the heat of Vulcan's cave.

"Why, the things I've been able to do," noted Vulcan.  "I honestly feel I'm starting to understand so many things that the Maker has done now!"

"That's great," muttered Lulea.  "Could... we really need to stop this war..."

Vulcan nodded.  "Right, right.  Sorry if I get distracted."  He tapped a sphere between all the lenses.  "Let's see how the war is going now..."  Suddenly a vast image appeared hovering in the air.  It was a great field--Lulea recognized it from her patrols--and it was filled with Sylphs and Undines, fighting.  Some of them seemed to be wounded, and some seemed to be dead, something she could recognize because of the fact that parts that should be inside were now outside.

Vulcan clicked his tongue.  "Oh, my this is getting untidy.  We really should hurr..." His thoughts were interrupted by Lulea throwing up.   "Not what I was going to suggest, actually."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 44

War was quickly proving infinitely less pleasant than Ariel had thought it would be.

"MY LEGS! MY LEGS!" shrieked one Sylph, whose name he couldn't quite recall.  "I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS!"

Ariel considered telling him that this was because said legs were no longer attached to his body, but it felt rude.  It vaguely occurred to him that he should try to do something more helpful, like find the legs.  Looking over the field, he thought he saw them, but on closer examination he wasn't sure they were.

A lot of Sylphs were missing legs now, after all.  So were a lot of Undines.

It was all so... untidy.  Another Sylph turned to look at him and said things he couldn't make out, then stared, as if expecting a response.  Ariel waved at him and walked away.  The man seemed to follow for a while, but then stopped.  That seemed comforting.  Yes.  Yes, he must have gotten the answer he was looking for after all.   Ariel felt suddenly light, as if every bit of weight he carried was suddenly gone.  As the ground rushed forward, he was aware that he seemed to be bleeding...

And then, he wasn't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 43

Lulea awoke in a flickering cavern, her head pounding.  After... well, she wasn't sure how long, but  a good long time of wishing herself away from the sun's heat and light, she wished herself back.  This place had light and heat too, both far more oppressive than the golden shimmering light of the sun.  The air seemed stale, and heavy--Lulea felt sluggish and slightly ill here.  And somehow, for all the light, there were menacing shadows everywhere.

"Ahh, you're up!" came the voice of Vulcan.  "Excellent.  I really wasn't sure how to wake you!"  Lulea turned and then stared as the Salamander made a shrug.  "I haven't had any Sylphs to deal with, after all.  It's something of a mystery to me!"

Lulea simply continued to stare.  She'd assumed that the image of Vulcan she saw exaggerated his height--in fact it downplayed it.  The Salamander towered over her, the tallest one of his kind she'd ever seen.  She assumed, from what Etain had told her that it had something to do with his enviroment, and that in another setting, he would be a more normal height--still it was unsettling to look at.  "Well, you are a tall drink of water, aren't you?" she blurted out.

"More pitch,"said Vulcan.  "I wasn't aware you Sylphs drank water, though..."

"Dew," muttered Lulea.  "It's... more a saying.  From the Old Court."

Vulcan nodded absently.   "Ahh.  I never really paid much attention to things there.  Had things to do."

Lulea shifted.  Things were still uncomfortable, but she seemed to be getting used to it, horrible as that seemed on some level.  "Like what?"

"Let me show you," said Vulcan with a grin.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 42

"So this will work...?" asked Lulea. 

"Oh, certainly," said the image of Vulcan looming over her as she stepped between the mirrors.  "Why it works when I do it with the lenses, and these recent events show us that the mirrors work on the same principle."

Lulea took a relieved breath, as Etain adjusted the mirror she was holding.  "Ahh, so you have done this before..."

"Oh, yes, and the rocks wound up exactly where I sent them," said Vulcan cheerily.  "Well, except that one time..."

Lulea's eyes spread in shock.  "Rocks?" she said.  "You've only done this with rocks?"  And then her eyes went wider.  "Wait--what do you mean 'that one time'?"

Vulcan had turned, his arms waving about in the chamber in a way that suggested he was doing something... wherever it was he was.  "All right, that should do it!"

Lulea turned to look at Etain and Hyperion.  "I am really, really uncertain about th--"  There was a sudden flash and she had vanished, the image in between the mirrors gone as well.  The two Salamanders were silent for a moment.

"Yay!" declared Etain at last.  "Something happened!  That can only be good!"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 41

"So... this will work?" said one nervous Sylph.

"Absolutely," answered Ariel, quelling any and all doubts he was feeling.  "Before, they've been attacking us while weren't expecting it, with weapons they had prepared.  Now, we are attacking them, in a place where we have an advantage."  He gave a positive nod as he repeated what Polychrome had told him.  "The Undines are about to learn a painful lesson."

"What advantage?" asked the Sylph, puzzled.

Ariel blinked.  "We--we're on land."

"There's water right over there," said another Sylph, gesturing at the river.

"And also clouds!" said a Sylph.  "Those have water in them!"

"They do not!" snapped Ariel.

"Yes, they do," said that Sylph.  "I've checked."

"Listen, the clouds and the river don't have enough water to let the Undines do the things they've done to the Silver Palace!" declared Ariel.  "Now, we can fight the Undines here, and beat them, or we can go back and clean the Silver Palace!  Anyone want to do that?  No?  Good!  Now, let's get ready to charge those Undines over there!"

As the Sylphs fell into formation, Ariel congratulated himself for showing talent as a commander, and avoiding having to clean the Lower Levels again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 40

The Sylphs were gathering on the plain, sharp spears and clubs in their hands.  Glaucus frowned.  "There are more of them then I thought."

Old Phocys snorted.  "What did you think?  The Sylphs cover this whole sphere, while we must lurk in the murky depths."  The Undine sighed.  "That is what happens when you send a boy to do a man's work.  Still, the lady has her favorites..."

Glaucus frowned.  Phocys was old by the nature of his people, created from the old primordial waters, something he never ceased to remind others of.  He bristled at being under Amphitrite's command, and quite frequently insisted on giving her advice.

Which is why Glaucus was the commander of the Undine forces.  "We've done far better than they," noted Glaucus.  "The Silver Palace has been battered and smashed, while we are safe and secure.  It is sheer desperation that they face us like this anyway."

"Hmmph," grunted Phocys.  "And it was from the Gnomes we learned of this plan?"

"They have been trying very hard to gain Roquat's trust,"answered Glaucus. 

"The more fools them," replied Phocys.  He spat.  "And the more fools us, if we believe him."  He gestured at the Sylphs.  "Tell me, Commander, do you think those Sylphs might also have been given information by Roquat?"

Glaucus gave a weary nod.  As annoying and ambitious as Phocys was, there was a reason they kept him around.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 39

Lulea stared at the strange twisting lights in the center of the room forming between the two mirrors.  For a moment, it seemed to be something like a woman--then it shifted and it was a plain on which tiny figures moved in formation, and then it shifted again, and the great glowing form of a Salamander appeared.  The Salamander shifted about, as if trying to line up something.

"Vulcan?" whispered Etain.

The image of the Salamander froze.  "Etain?" came a voice far lighter than Lulea imagined coming from the figure.  "What are you... How are you appearing in my lenses?"

Hyperion stepped forward.  "Lenses?  What is this, Vulcan?  More trouble?"

Vulcan seemed to frown.  "Ahh.  Hyperion.  You're there too, eh?  I'm not coming back. I thought I made that perfectly clear to Etain..."

Etain coughed politely and forced a grin on her face as Hyperion glanced at her.  "She didn't exactly..." began Hyperion.  He shook his head. "We've been preoccupied.  Look, we should probably try to catch up with each other instead of talking past each other."

"Well, make it quick," snapped Lulea.  "This is very unpleasant on my arms."

Vulcan glanced around.  "Who's that?"

"Another thing to explain," said Hyperion with a sigh.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 38

"I believe we may move soon, sir," declared General Guph positively.

Roquat nodded.  "Excellent.  The Undines and Sylphs will not know what hit them."

The Chief Steward sighed.  "I suspect they will, sir.  We are a rather distinct bunch."

"It's a metaphor, Kalliko!" snapped the Chief Gnome.  "Goodness me, it is so tiresome to have to deal with you sometimes."

Kalliko gave a dull nod.  "Your Lordship speaks for our mutual situation well."

Roquat grimaced at the Steward and turned towards his General, who it should be mentioned had previously been his gardener.  He disliked Kalliko immensely, and only kept him around because he'd been Steward for so long as to make himself indispensable.  He greatly preferred Guph, a Gnome who knew where his future lay. 

"I agree with the Steward," said Guph.  "His Lordship always summarizes things well."

Roquat sighed.  True, he wasn't that bright, but then that kept him from getting bothersome ideas.

One really couldn't get everything in a subordinate, after all.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 37

"I have to admit," said Hyperion as he took them into the tiny alcove, "I'm not exactly certain this will work. Vulcan thought it would, but he never really got a chance to test it..."

"So, we're just going on the theories of your crazy brother that everybody is spooked by came up with, that he never bothered to check," said Lulea.

"Oh, yes," agreed Hyperion.  "But thing about Vulcan is, he's brilliant."

Etain nodded.  "I mean, we frequently can't follow what he's saying.  He's that smart."

Lulea stared at the Salamanders for a moment, then sighed.  "So what's the plan?"

"Well," began Hyperion, opening the cabinet in which his mirror was kept, "he always maintained that if he got his hand on another mirror, if we used in conjunction with another mirror...  If you would just stand here, miss..." Lulea stepped before it as he indicated.  "Well, it could produce all sort of effects... Now please, raise the mirror." 

Lulea slowly did so. "How far?"

"Until it catches my mirror in itself," said Hyperion.

"How will I know if...?" began Lulea, only for the mirror to begin to glow.

"Ooh, I think it's working!" said Etain.  "This is just like the last time it did that!  Remember?"

"Yes," whispered Lulea through gritted teeth, as the mirror vibrated in her hands.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 36

"I first heard about it from Lord Roquat of the Gnomes," explained Hyperion.  "He was attempting to get my support for his own plans, which were in fact quite intriguing." He gave a frustrated shrug.  "But sadly, my concerns about Vulcan's activities kept me from signing on."

Lulea winced at that. "I hope you didn't tell him that."

"Of course not," said the Salamander.  "I think."

"What is he doing?" asked the Sylph.

"We can't tell you," said Hyperion.

"Right.  It would make Vulcan mad," noted Etain.

Lulea blinked in puzzlement.  "Why does that worry you?"

The pair merely stared at her for awhile.  "You've never met our brother, and it shows," said Hyperion at last.  Etain nodded in agreement.

"So, back to the war..." noted Lulea.

"Well, apparently the Sylphs tried to steal the Undines' mirror, which set the whole thing off," began Hyperion.

"Ohh, that's because you took the mirror!" said Etain, pointing at Lulea.  "That you still have."

Lulea shifted awkwardly. "Uhh, yeah."  She looked at Hyperion.  "I'm guessing this is important."

"A bit," agreed Hyperion.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 35

Lord Roquat of the Gnomes sat on his boulder, and regarded the two emissaries before him with amusement.  "So, you Sylphs feel I should align with you, as the Undines have treacherously attacked your home?"

The Sylph nodded eagerly.  "Indeed, oh great and wise, and really terrific Lord of the Gnomes."

"And you Undines feel that I should align with you because the Sylphs treacherously attempted to steal your chief's mirror, and would have attempted to steal mine, had they not thought I was far, far too devious to be an easy target?" continued Roquat, looking ever more pleased with himself.

The Undine gulped.  "This is most true, Great Roquat."

Roquat sat back on his boulder for a moment, beaming, and then laughed.  "Well, for now tell your principles that I will... consider things.  But I will provide them with an answer.  Soon.  Very soon."  He nodded to himself, and chuckled. 

The emissaries glanced at each other, a brief flash of sympathy on their faces as each realized that they were in the same situation, relying on this manifestly unreliable figure for aid.  They might have even struck up a conversation if Roquat had not coughed then.  "Please.  I thought just made myself perfectly clear that the present discussion is over, and that you will have to wait for a future discussion for my answer.  Thus I kindly ask you to leave."

The pair scurried out.  When the Lord of Gnomes asked you to go, it was best to do so, quickly.  He could get unpleasant if you didn't.  Unpleasant, and creative.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 34

Lord Hyperion grinned loftily on his throne at the prisoners before him.  "So, your pathetic effort to flee has been thwarted!"

"Because I surrendered," muttered Lulea.  "And dragged your loopy sister with me.  And let me say, I do not know why the Great Maker put such a nutty family in charge of the sun and Salamanderkind."

"Oh, we wonder too," said Etain with a nod.

Hyperion ignored his sister, and instead stared menacingly at the Sylph.  "You dare speak to me in this manner?"

"Obviously, yes," muttered Lulea.  "Now, please, unless you have something constructive to tell me, just put me back in the cell.  I need someplace quiet and dark."

Hyperion turned away to look at the floor, nonplussed.  After a moment, he recovered enough equilibrium to manage a sinister laugh.  "Ah HA!" he declared.  "So, my great power has broken you so completely that..."

"It's more all this damned glowing," replied Lulea.  "But if it makes you feel happy, then, yes, yes, it was your mighty power.  Now, please, let me go.  I'm tired, and you're really not that good at gloating.  Lady Polychrome could give you some pointers, honestly..."

"Oh, like she is in any position to with the war..." muttered Hyperion.

Lulea blinked.  "What was that?"

"Ummm, a statement that has no bearing at the present situation at all," said the Chief Salamander.

The Sylph sighed.  "You are definitely her brother," she muttered, with a nod at Etain.

Etain shook her head.  "Well of course.  We told you that."

Hyperion looked at his sister.  "Are all Sylphs like this?"

"She seems to be a special case," answered Etain.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 33

"This is pointless," muttered Gerra, glancing at his fellow Salamanders.  "You know how clever the Lady Etain is.  We'll never find her"

"She's not that clever," replied Gibil.  "More persistant."

Gerra gave a dismissive wave.  "Call it what you will," he noted.  "This is a fool's errand."

The Salamander guards were startled by the sound of a scuffle from the bushes ahead of them.  This alarm increased when the fugitive Sylph emerged from them, dragging the Lady Etain with her. 

"Right!" shouted the Sylph.  "We surrender and throw ourselves on your mercy."

"No, no!" said Etain.  "We can still make it!  I can think of plenty more places to run and hide!"

"Quiet you," said the Sylph.  She coughed.  "Look, I'd like to be treated mercifully for this.  Though if you decide to stick me back in the oubilette for awhile--well, I'll get some rest.  I really need it."

"Uhh, well," said Gibil, "that's not our job.  It's all up to Lord Hyperion..."

"I figured that," said the Sylph, "and I don't care.  Now, please take to some place that is not bright and glowing.  Please. I am getting a headache just standing here."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 32

"Why do they keep following us?" groaned Lulea as she and Etain rushed through the woods.

"That's their job! said the Salamander.  "I mean, wouldn't the guards you Sylphs have do the same thing?"

"We don't have guards," snapped Lulea.  "If Polychrome ever needs someone chased, she just asks one of us to do it."

"Hmm, that explains a lot," said Etain.  "Like why we're here with the mirror right now.  You Sylphs really don't plan well, do you?"

Lulea thought about arguing this, but seeing as her choices had resulted in her running through these glowing woods with Etain for company, she didn't feel confident that she could make a good one. 

"Lady Etain!" came a shout from one of the guards.  "Just turn yourself in!  Please!"

Lulea paused briefly.  "They... really seem kind of reasonable."

"All a lie," snapped Etain.

"Your brother just wants to talk to you," said the guard. 

"You have a brother?" asked Lulea.

"Salamanders can have brothers," said Etain. 

"He just worried that Vulcan's turned you against him," continued the guard.  "If you'd just show him that this wasn't the case he'd calm down.  You know that Lord Hyperion has a stressful job..."

Lulea blinked.  "Wait, Lord Hyperion is your brother?"

"Maybe the guard's talking in a metaphorical sense," suggested Etain raising one sizzling eyebrow.

"But he isn't is he?" said Lulea.

Etain glanced abashedly at the ground.  "Not, really no," she muttered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 31

The Silver Palace hung in the air, a glittering jewel that shone with a pale light all its own.  The Sylphs who lived there all agreed it was a wonder--a marvel built for them by the Maker, to delight and cherish.  There was no place in all creation they liked more. It was a place where Sylphs could go after performing their duties to Creation and rest.

Thus they were quite shocked when the waters of the world began to shake and massive waves swat at it. 

This was startling.  Startling and new.  And as such it required an explanation.  As the waters of Creation did not do this on their own, it meant something was making them.  The obvious answer was the Undines, but most Sylphs couldn't see why they would.

The ones that did see why did nothing to shatter the former group's ignorance.  What both groups of Sylphs knew was that this changed everything.

And not in a good way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 30

Lulea panted as she climbed the tree, which like everything else on the sun was golden, shining and much too hot.  "No," she said at length, "I have no idea what that was about?"

Etain looked down, disappointed.  "But it happened because of things you did!  You should know what it meant!"

"That would be preferable," muttered Lulea.  "But I don't."   She glared at the Salamander, while trying to maintain her unsteady perch on the branch she was presently resting on.  "I don't know a lot about this situation.  You keep promising to explain things, and then shutting up whenever you get enough time."

"Well, yes," said Etain.  "That's because I don't want you to know things!"

Lulea shut her eyes, and leaned her head back against the tree.  She could almost imagine it was comfortable, in these conditions.  "You actually tell me that."

"Well, you've clearly figured it out!" chirped Etain.  "And it's much better then telling you how Hyperion and Vulcan fought, and so when the Maker needed a job done on the world, Vulcan went there, only now he won't come back, and Hyperion is getting worried."  The Salamander gave a satisfied nod.

Lulea cracked an eye open."Well, I have to say you're full of surprises."

"Mmm-hmm," declared Etain.  "I'm like a stinging thing nest that way!"

Lulea couldn't argue with that.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 29

Etain and Lulea shuddered on the ground, as a great pillar of light rose from the mirror. "Wow, I think I was wrong!" said Etain cheerfully.  "You should wish badness on the mirror more often!  It makes it do interesting things!"

"Shut up, Etain," said the Sylph quietly.

"Right, right," answered the Salamander.  "Still--think it's a good point to make!"

"That's not..." began Lulea, only to freeze as a great black spot emerged from the center of the pillar.  It shifted strangely, only to reveal a bright spot in its center.  As she stared at it, Lulea realized it was a great eye.  And she realized that not only was she staring at it, but that it was staring at her.  She shuddered to herself.

And then it was gone--the pillar of light, the strange eye--all vanished at once.

"Well, that was interesting!" said Etain.  She pointed towards the horizon.  "Oooh!  More guards!"  The Salamander jumped up.  "Let's start running again!  Hmmm?"

"I... I should get the mirror," said Lulea, rising unsteadily to her feet.

"Yes, you do..." said Etain, already running away.

Lulea grumbled to herself, and picked up the mirror.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 28

Iris shivered as she moved through the halls of the Palace of Pearl.  Sylphs did not enjoy moving through water, though they could do it in a pinch.  She felt so uncomfortable.  Still, it was better than going underground, which is why she was trying to take Amphitrite's mirror and not Roquat's. 

She grimaced as she hit a dead end.  Did the damned Undines not understand how to make a palace?  The Palace of Pearl didn't resemble the Silver Palace at all!    Iris nodded to herself.  Just another sign of how Undines weren't as clever as Sylphs.  She'd get the mirror soon, return to Polychrome, and possibly, just possibly, no longer have the Chief Sylph hate her. 

That was very important because Polychrome was powerful, and could have a Sylph she didn't like do things like clean out the basement of the Silver Palace. Which was a very  unpleasant thing to do.

It was as she thought on how unpleasant that was that the Undine guards caught her.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 27

"And that is why, oh, great and powerful mirror, you should help us," finished Lulea.  She gave a polite cough and waited fitfully.  After several moments, she gave a frustrated groan.  "Is it doing anything?"

"It just blinked at me!" said Etain.

"That's because you just blinked," noted the Sylph.

"Ooooh, right."  Etain nodded.  "Well then no."

Lulea glared at the mirror.  "Damn it!"

"Ooooh,  now it looks really angry!" said Etain.

"I am sick of this thing," snapped Lulea.  "I need the Maker's help to get out of this mess, and if the mirror can't give it than... badness to it!"

Etain gasped.  "Oh, not badness!  That's not good!"  She wagged a finger at Lulea.  "You mustn't wish it on the mirror."

"And what's it going to do?" seethed Lulea.  "More of what it's done for the last few hours?  Absolutely nothing?"

Suddenly, the mirror began to glow.

"Ooooh," said Etain.  "It looks like your question is going to be answered."

"It was rhetorical," whispered Lulea.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 26

Polychrome paced fitfully around the throne room.  "There must be something we can do!" she stated.

"Well, I'm certain that if you begged the Maker for..." said Iris.

"By 'we', I mean 'you'," answered Polychrome flatly.

"Don't the other Chiefs have their own mirrors," noted Ushas.

Polychrome's eyes widen.  "They do!"  She frowned.  "But they are all so difficult to deal with.  And we can't go to the Salamanders.  They're all on the sun."

Ushas smiled.  "Ahh but they are not the only Chief you could go to."

Polychrome snapped her fingers.  "Of course!  The Undines and the Gnomes!  I'm sure one of them could be persuaded to... assist in this matter."  She bit her lip.  "But, no, no, Amphitrite hates me.  And Roquat is such a sneaky little thing..."

"Then perhaps you simply shouldn't ask," whispered Ushas. 

Polychrome considered that for a while.  "Yes, yes," she said at last.  "A simple... arrangement.  After all, they don't need it, the way I do."  She turned to Iris.  "You go get a mirror from one of them."

"Why me?" said Iris.

"Because I say so," replied Polychrome.

Iris stared at the chief sylph beseechingly.  "But I think this is a terrible idea!"

Polychrome stared at her balefully.  "What part of 'because I say so' don't you understand?" she stated.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 25

The pair stared into the mirror.  "So... how did it work last time?" said Etain at last.

"I looked in it, and showed me the Road," answered Lulea.  "Eventually."

Etain considered things.  "Hmmm, that sounds unduly complicated," she said at last.  "Maybe if we hit with a rock."

Lulea glanced at the Salamander.  "This is a precious treasure granted to the Chief Sylph by the Maker Herself."

"Okay, okay," muttered Etain.  "We lightly tap it with a rock."

Lulea merely stared at her.

"We tap a rock with it," said Etain.  Lulea still did not reply.  "We lean it against a rock."

"Why does a rock have to be involved with this?" snapped Lulea.

"They just solve things!" said Etain.  "You wouldn't believe how many things you can handle by bringing rocks into the equation.  It boggles the mind!"

Lulea stared at her flatly.  "Give me an example.  Just one."

Etain grinned.  "Easy.  This other Salamander was bothering me.  So I..."

"Stop it right there," said Lulea raising her hand.

"Ahh, but it's a neat story!" said Etain. 

"Nope," said Lulea.  "I've gotten the gist of it."

"There's barely any blood in it!" offered Etain eagerly.

"Still no," said Lulea flatly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 24

"And here we are!" declared Etain grandly as she stepped out into the light.  "Outside again!"

Lulea winced in the bright glare.  "Excellent," she muttered through clenched teeth.

"Yeah, it is pretty great," agreed Etain. 

"So what's the plan now?" asked Lulea, trying to hide in the shade of a tree--difficult because trees on the sun didn't give off shade but glowed with a sparkling light.

"We run and hide some more!" answered Etain. 

Lulea stared at the Salamander.  "That's it?"

"I know!" said Etain grinning ear to ear.  "It's simple--but elegant.  It's perfect."

"Well, I'll give you... simple," muttered Lulea.  "I just wish you had something... more detailed."

"Give me a break!" said Etain with a shrug.  "It's not like I've got that mirror of yours to help get me out of this situation!"

Lulea blinked.  "Ahh, yes.  That."  She drew the mirror out of her shift.

"You still have it?" said Etain.  "And you haven't tried to use it?"

"I barely know how!" snapped Lulea.

"Yes... but... you were in a prison," said Etain.  "You had a better chance to try than when you were in the air with the... thingys."

"Birds," noted Lulea.  "They were birds."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Whither Goes the WInd--Part 23

"Have to say I'm impressed," noted Etain as the pair wended their way through the tunnel.  "Most Salamanders just lose it in there.  All dark and cold."  She shuddered.

"Yes," said Lulea.  "I have nerves of steel, under it all."

"Oh, I can tell," agreed Etain.  "I'm glad to have gained you as an ally.  It's the only hope I have in this terrible situation I'm in."

"Is there any chance I could get some details on this situation?" asked Lulea.

"What situation?" asked Etain cheerily.

Lulea froze for a moment.  "You just... mentioned one..."

"Did I?" asked Etain.

"Yes," snapped Lulea.

"Oh," replied the Salamander with a nod.  "If you say so, I must have.  I get distracted easily and forget things."

Lulea gulped as she realized that not only was her existence in this being's hands, but that she had no way to be sure if Etain was lying or not.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 22

The oubliette had quickly proven at least partially a pleasant surprise to Lulea's mind.  It was a small, cool, darkened chamber, apparently one of the only places on the sun that didn't glow with unbearable light and give off an unpleasant heat.  The Sylph was enjoying it, and taking the time to enjoy as much of a nap as she could.

As her thoughts were routinely haunted by the thought that she was likely going to be taken from the place soon it wasn't much of one, but in these circumstances every little thing counted, to Lulea's mind.  And so she tried to wear down this fretful wakefulness by count numbers forwards, and sometimes backwards, despite the rather poor performance of this plan.

"Are you counting?" said a familiar voice.  "Because noonteenth is not a number."

"Etain!" declared Lulea brightly.  "I thought you'd abandoned me!"

"I did," answered the Salamander.  "But then I felt guilty about it.  You did help me after all."

Lulea smiled at that.  "Why yes, I most certainly..."

"Even if you did try to betray me to the guards back in the woods," stated Etain cheerfully.

"Ahh, yes," muttered Lulea, glancing away.  "Sorry about that..."

"Oh,  you can't help it!" said Etain.  "You Sylphs are so funny looking, I'm not surprised at anything you do."  She turned away.  "Now come on!  I happen to know a secret way out of here from the last time I was here!"

As Lulea followed the Salamander, still trying to figure out the exact extent of the insult Etain had previously uttered, it occurred to her that Etain had once again let drop some rather disturbing information, when it was considered.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 21

Lulea glanced around the throne room.  It was arguably the brightest, most golden section of the sun she'd been in yet.  Which was saying something, as the sun was proving to be so very bright and golden that she would happily live in a dark spot with no gold at all for the rest of her days.

And as a Sylph, she'd been given to understand that in most circumstances, the rest of her days would be a long, long time.

As she managed to focus her eyes on the throne before her, she saw that it had an occupant, a tall male Salamander who seemed to gleam almost as much as the room.  It didn't take her much effort to guess who he was.  "So," said Lord Hyperion, "this is Lady Etain's little... ally, hmm?"

Lulea's escort all fidgeted at this.  "So far as we can tell," stated one.

Hyperion leaned forward.  "Well, then, Sylph, answer me--are you in the employ of my brother?  And has Etain betrayed me to serve him?"

Lulea gulped.  "Ummm... I have no idea about any of this, and am badly out of my depth."  She managed a hopeful smile.  "How's that for an answer?"

"Take her to the oubliette!" declared Hyperion.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," said Lulea, glancing at the horribly bright floor.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 20

Lulea trudged along, arms bound behind her back, Salamanders flanking her.  She glanced side to side trying to get some lay of the land. It was hopeless, however--the sun was simply so... different from what she was used to that trying to figure out where she might be was impossible.  She let out a cough.

"So... where are you taking me?" she asked.

"Prisoners don't talk," said a Salamander.

"Orders of Lord Hyperion!" noted another.

"So--you're taking me to Lord Hyperion?" she asked.

One of the Salamanders let out a disgruntled sigh.  "You really don't take hints, do you, thingy?"

"I think it's a Sylph!" said the second Salamander who'd spoken. 

"Well, it shouldn't be here!" noted another.  "And what was it doing with Lady Etain?  That was damned suspicious to my mind?"

"We really shouldn't be talking like this," noted the first Salamander.  "Might give it ideas."

As the group continued again in silence, Lulea had to admit she was not reassured by what she'd heard in the least.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 19

The steady peal of the bell rang out on the plains of the Sun as Etain and Lulea raced away.  "Well, it sure is loud," said the Salamander.  "It really makes you admire Lord Hyperion's skills as a planner, eh?  I mean, I would never have thought to prepare for a potential rebellion right off the get go, but he did!"

Lulea grimaced.  "You know, I preferred it when you were miserable!"

"Well, duh! You were in your Sylph home!" said Etain.  "Every thing was happy for you there!  Just like everything is happy for me here!"

"We're running from your own leader's people!" snapped Lulea, stopping to pause near an outcropping.

Etain shrugged.  "I meant aside from that.  This is where we're supposed to be, no matter what Vulcan says!  We feel better here!"

"You keep mentioning Vulcan," said Lulea.  "I'm starting to think he's pretty damn important."

"To us," answered Etain.  "Not to you.  And we should get moving again, I think..." 

"I still need to catch my breath," muttered Lulea.  "Which is a new experience for me let me..."  The sound of tramping feet interrupted her.  A group of Salamanders rushed into view, and leveled their spears at her.  Lulea panicked.  "No, no, you want..." she began, gesturing to where Etain had been.  The young Salamander was gone.  Lulea wilted and fell to the ground in exhaustion and despair.  "Of course," she muttered. 

As the guards approached, she realized that the ground here was uncomfortably warm.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 18

"See!" said Etain spreading her hands wide.  "Isn't exactly as I said?"

Lulea squinted--the Bell was like everything on the sun exceedingly shiny.  "Yes.  Great and golden and... bell-shaped," she muttered.  "What's it for?"

Etain stared at her, baffled. "What?"

"Why do you have a massive golden bell here?" asked Lulea.  "I assume it's got some purpose, besides... you know... existing?"

Etain's stare shifted to blank puzzlement.  "I have no idea, and have never asked."  She turned to the Bell. "I mean, why would I?  It's just... great!  This is the neatest thing on the sun! We all love it!  We come here and stare at it, for hours on end!"

Lulea nodded.  "You Salamanders have very dull lives."

"Only on the sun," said Etain, glancing on the doorway.  "Now come on, let's move.  Some more people have come in."

"What you're not going to give me time to... take this in," snapped Lulea.

"No, because that plan I mentioned of avoiding Hyperion involves avoiding people in general..." said Etain, as she rushed the Sylph out of the chamber.  "He can get real upset when people do that.  Unpleasantly so."  A loud ringing started behind them.  "Hmm.  So THAT'S what it's for!"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 17

Lulea came to with a sudden feeling of warmth surrounding her.  Her eyes opened unsteadily, and then shut again--wherever she happened to be right now gleamed in a way that hurt them.  Eventually she managed to get them open again.  She was in a place of rolling golden hills, and shining red lakes, a place that sizzled and snapped.  "Oh, you're up!" came a familiar voice that seemed... slightly deeper then she remembered.  "That's good!  Welcome to the sun!"

The Sylph turned to see Etain standing nearby.  At least, she assumed it was Etain--the Salamander she remembered was tiny but this one was far larger than Lulea.  Still the face was the same... "Are you... Etain's sister?" she asked--that seemed like a probable answer.

"Oh no! It's me!" said Etain cheerily.  "Here on the sun, we don't have to worry about food, so we can let ourselves be as big as we want!"  The Salamander gave a cheerful nod.  "It's so much more pleasant than being tiny!" 

Lulea nodded.  "Ahh.  Well..."

"So do you want to see something around here?" asked Etain companionably.  "I mean, you're the first Sylph to visit here, so I'm sure you'll find plenty of things interesting!  We could visit the Great Golden Bell!  Or the Eye of Wisdom!"

Lulea fidgeted uncomfortably--this place felt wrong to her.  "That...  Don't you have a message for Lord... Whathisname?"

"Hyperion," said Etain.  "And yes, but it can wait.  Because it's bad news, and I don't think he would react well to it.  He'd probably make me go back to the World again, and I really don't want that."

Lulea simply stared for a moment.  "So... a Great Golden Bell?"

"Yes.  It's very great.  And also golden," stated Etain.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 16

Polychrome glanced around the field.  "She was... just here!  And then she vanished!"  The Chief Sylph stomped her foot on the ground.  "Oooh, this is so infuriating!  Things should stay where they are when I want them to stay there!"  She glanced at her retinue.

The three Sylphs quickly nodded in agreement.  "Especially traitors," said Ushas.

"Indeed," said Polychrome.  "Very good Ushas.  A significant improvement from you."

"I aspire for your approval, Shining One!" said Ushas with a bow.

"As well you should," noted Polychrome with a nod.  She folded her arms.  "This is most grave.  Having stolen the mirror--why, Lulea has committed a crime against what was ordained by the Maker..."

"Of course, there is the question of what you are going to do about the loss of an important item given to you by the Great Maker," muttered Iris.

Polychrome's head snapped toward the smaller Sylph.  "What was that?"

"I was merely speculating how best to serve the Maker," said Iris, glancing away.

Polychrome narrowed her eyes.  "How admirable," she said.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 15

The image shone in the mirror, like a vast thread of gold waving in the wind, reaching into the heavens, seemingly for miles.  "So that's it?" whispered Lulea.

"The Golden Road," said Etain, her voice full of awe.

"Hmmm, don't know about that name," said Lulea.  "Oh, it's golden all right, but not much of a road."  The Salamander looked at Lulea in what appeared to be irritation to the Syph's eyes.  "Well I mean--why not the Golden Rope?"  Etain continued to stare.   "But then, who am I to judge?"  She placed the Salamander on the ground. "Anyway, here we are."

The Salamander made a slight bow, and tottered over to the Golden Road.  She grasped it in a tiny claw, a thick strand of it shimmering into view even without the mirror's aid.  She turned to regard Lulea for a moment.  "Thank you.  You were very kind."

"Oh, it was no problem," said Lulea, as the Salamander turned back and began to glide up the Golden Road.  Lulea smiled brightly, turned, and saw Polychrome flying towards her, accompanied by several rather angry looking Sylphs.  Lulea gulped then rushed towards the Golden Road and grasped it with both hands.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 14

"I am now absolutely certain this is a bad idea!" said Etain, as she and Lulea sped through the air, the Salamander clinging to the Sylph's back for dear life.

"Hey, you wanted to find the Golden Road!" said Lulea eyes flickering between the mirror and what was in front of her.  "This is how we'll do it!  And then, I'll return the mirror, and everything will be fine!"

"We've been gone for hours!" said Etain.  "They'll have noticed it's gone!"

"That's for me to worry about!" shouted Lulea.  "You'll be safe home!  Toasty and warm!"

"Except you don't seem to be finding the Golden Road!" snapped Etain.

"I am working on it!" replied Lulea.  "I really though the mirror would be easier to use!  Maybe..."   She began to shake it fervently.

The Salamander blinked.  "You really have no idea how to use it?"

"Oh, I have an idea," said Lulea.  "It's just... vague.  And completely untested."

Etain was silent for a moment, and then let out a scream.  "Flying feathered thing!" she shouted.

"I told you the last five times, they're birds!" said Lulea as she dodged it.

"Yes, yes, I'm certain it will sink in eventually," muttered Etain, tightening her grip on Lulea's back.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 13

Polychrome strode into the throne room, yawning, several retainers trailing behind her.  "I tell you, these duties are driving me to distraction!" She sighed.  "I almost wish I had not been chosen to be Chief Sylph..."

"Really?" said one.  "Because I..."

"Almost Iris," said Polychrome.  "However, as irritating as it is for me, no other Sylph is up to the job."  She turned and snorted.  "Why look at you!  Listless and witless, the lot of you!  What would you do without my direction?"  There was an awkward silence. Polychrome stared at them, glaring. "I asked a question.  Why aren't you answering?"

One of the Sylphs coughed.  "We thought it was rhetorical, Shining One..."

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about, Ushas!" snapped Polychrome.  "These weird failures on your part!  Why any of you people imagine you could manage to guard the mirror, for example..." she noted turning to the cupboard.    She stared at it a moment.  "Iris, am I imagining things or is the cupboard open?"

"It most certainly is, Shining One," agreed Iris quietly.

"And the mirror is gone?" asked Polychrome.

"I would assume so," noted Ushas.  "I mean--I've never seen it, because you've never shown it to me, or... any of us, so far as I know..."

"I wasn't talking to you," hissed Polychrome.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 12

"Are you sure this is wise?" whispered Etain.

"Of course it is," said Lulea as she clambered uneasily on the wall.  "The Maker left us the mirror to help us fix problems, and that is exactly what I am doing."  She gave a sudden yelp as she nearly lost her grip on a buttress.

"Can't you just fly?" asked the Salamander.

"Not here!" hissed the Sylph.  "Anyway, stop distracting me.  I need to focus."

"Well, it just--what you said sounds rather self-serving..." muttered Etain.

"Oh, who's the one doing secret work for its boss involving said-boss' sibling?" murmured Etain.

"Hey, I'm a her!" said Etain.  "Same as you!"

Lulea blinked.  "I'm sorry, but I had a hard time telling..."

"You Sylphs are so mean," muttered the Salamander.  "Are you going to tell me all Salamanders look alike next?"

"Well, you are all kind of little and orange," noted Lulea as she reached the cabinet and cracked it open.

"And you people are all kind of big and... sort of bluish," snapped Etain.  She turned to stare at the mirror.  After a moment, her mouth opened wide. "It's so... shiny..."

"It certainly is," whispered Lulea.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 11

Polychrome stared at the large statue of ice before her, pacing about it.  "Hmmm.  I would say.. this doesn't quite capture my... spirit," she declared at last.  She turned to the nervous Sylphs shifting about nearby.  "Wouldn't you agree?"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes, my Lady," answered one.  "It was a total error on our parts!  A total failure!  I told everyone we were going on a wrong path!"  She pointed at another.  "It was Ariel's fault!  All of it!  Completely and utterly his!"

Ariel seemed about to protest when the door to the Great Hall suddenly snapped open.   Lulea stood there, her face grave. "Shining One, I require the use of your Mirror as regards Eta... the Salamander problem.  Could I...?"

"No," stated Polychrome abruptly. 

Lulea gulped and looked about awkwardly.  "Oh."

"Now, as you are interrupting an important discussion," said Polychrome, "I suggest you leave immediately, before I become upset."  Lulea bowed swiftly and ducked out.  Polychrome gave a nod, and then turned to Ariel.  "Now then, as for you... the lower levels do require some cleaning..."

Ariel whimpered.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 10

Lulea sat with the little Salamander, whose name she'd learned at last was Etain, on the roof of the Silver Tower, their eyes on the sun.  Etain merrily munched on its straw, a contented smile on its face.  "So... that's where you're from?" said the Sylph half hoping to be told there was a mistake.

Etain nodded.  "It's very nice there.  Lord Hyperion keeps everything very bright, the way it should be!  And warm!  Toasty warm!  And, oh, we can walk about free, not like Vulcan's place."

Lulea blinked at that.  "Vulcan?  Who's that?"

Etain seemed to be aware that it had made an error.  "Lord Hyperion's brother.  We don't talk about him."  It looked away.

"But you have visited him?" asked Lulea.

"Only for a little while," muttered Etain.  "He was mean.  And when I wanted to use the Golden Road to return home, I couldn't find it again!"  The little Salamander gulped as the Sylph loomed over it.

"Go on," said Lulea.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 9

Polychrome paced around the Great Hall of the Silver Tower.  "This is... bothersome," she declared aloud, despite the room being empty except for herself.  The truth was that Polychrome was quite used to having people about her and thus tended to act as if they were there even when they weren't.  "This Salamander shouldn't be here!  The Great Maker made it a nice home, and it should be there... doing whatever it is Salamanders do!"  She stomped her feet.  "Oooh.  I tell you, when the Maker made me Chief of the Sylphs, I assumed things would be more pleasant."

The Sylph looked around the room, then glanced at a large cabinet at the end of the hall.  She bit her lip.  "Perhaps... Perhaps I should contact the Maker.  She did say that we could do so in emergencies..."  She shook her head.  "No.  No!  The mirror is for dire need!  Not... annoying little Salamanders being annoying."  The Chief Sylph gave a fervent nod.  "I mustn't fail in my grand task!  It would disappoint the Maker!"

She turned to see Lulea standing there, holding a great mass of something that looked suspiciously like grass.  Polychrome stared at her balefully. "What are you doing here?  And... what is that in your hands?"

"It's... straw," said Lulea.  "I... I really don't know what coal is, and..."  The lower-ranking Sylph gulped then rushed out of the Great Hall.  Polychrome grumbled to herself as she left, wondering if perhaps there was some other place far away she could send Lulea to.  Taking care of her fellows was one of her duties as Chief Sylph, after all.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 8

Lulea tread lightly through the halls of the Silver Tower, the whimpering Salamander still in her arms.  "Now then," she whispered, "if you keep being quiet like this I'll..."  The Sylph blinked.  She really hadn't thought ahead to what she would do.  "Give you something you like to eat," she declared at last.  "Assuming you Salamanders like to eat."

"A bit of coal is nice," said the Salamander.  "Or... straw, if you don't have it."

Lulea paused.  "You can talk!"

The Salamander nodded.  "Well, yes.  I... I've understood what you've said so far, haven't I?"  The creature shivered.  "Please miss, I am so very cold.  Everything is so strange here, strange and dark and... chilly."

"Well, I suppose I can give you some blankets," said Lulea, as she continued to her room.

"What's a blanket?" asked the Salamander suspiciously.

"It's a..."  She sighed.  "I'll show you.  Easier to trying to figure out the words, I suppose."

"You're much nicer than the other one!" said the Salamander.  "Even if she is shinier!"  A patronizing smile came to the little creature's face.  "But then, I guess that's not something you can change, is it?"

Lulea considered that for a moment.  "Thank you for the... kind thought," she said at last.  "I guess."