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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2011 at 21:34
It's morning.
The activity of the days before seem almost forgotten.
Spens and Sophia ache from their ride but it seems they were the first to get the clue, and the map.  The town feted them.

The baton is now with someone else.  Calamadus is already heading into the wilderness, a pot of bear grease amongst the tools on his caravan.  He's got the next gift, a barrel of the finest beer, to deliver to a human city.  He's ready for a long pull through days and nights without sleep, with two horses on the back to run in relays, and apart from the gifts and the tools, the caravan is only carrying horse food so they don't need to stop for grass, and a bit of bait for Calamadus.

Calamadus is listening.  He's listening to his horses.  Harold and Henrietta, Hetty and Hyoyi.  Usually, the horses' minds go pretty much blank when they are harnessed between the shafts of a caravan - just awake enough to avoid potholes, plodding along.  Usually you only hear the road going past, the sound of hoofbeats, maybe a bit of horsey gossip.  But these four seem to have got infected with the excitement.  They couldn't fail to know that something was up, two horses in the cart shafts and two behind.  Horses don't sleep anyway, but they are used to stopping for humans, and no horse is much good in the dark.  But something has got into them.

A shadow flits across the sky, a giant bird.  But that isn't what Calamadus is listening for.  A shadow has also passed across the horses' minds, and they are laughing at something.  He missed it, couldn't quite make it out.  He can't keep is curiosity at bay, and interrupts.  Calamadus has worked with Henrietta all of her life, and she forgives him his lack of formality.  She explains, as clearly as she can, what Hygens saw at the camp.  So they've been talking - Hygens briefing her before the changeover.  I didn't think the horses would be bothered about this Quest but Hygens must have picked up a lot from the young scout and his little sister!  Calamadus will need to rethink his relationships with the horses, even after 25 years of working with them, he'd assumed they weren't ambitious.  He wondered what else they thought of.

No time to wonder.  They were moving at a trot, and the offside back wheel was wobbling.  Not much, but he'd got the experience to know that he had to act fast.  
He jumped down and jogged alongside, investigating.  Swung himself up to get tools, and back down again.  Bear grease to the hub - he was putting this on every 6 hours anyway - then knock in some wedges of horn to tighten its travel, so it ran straight.  They'd fall out in a few hours, but he'd got plenty.  Running repairs - and this time, with him running!  He heard a snort and looked back to see Hyoyi - this is ridiculous, horses weren't supposed to understand puns!  What were they doing reading HIS mind? Calamadus had a lot to learn.

36 hours later, he reached Castle Hugie.  The bunting was out, the hog on the spit, the fire lit!  Mages had colored lights in the sky - Cal was a bit overwhelmed.  The deputy mayor came out to meet him, with gifts for the horses as well as the driver.  They were surprised that he hadn't brought a co-driver, and Cal was used to the staw of a stable, not the bright lights of the castle!  And what's this?  Herald the deputy mayor was leading Hetty (Hetty and Hyoyi were the lead horses when they reached Castle Hugie) up a ramp constructed into the castle!  His muddy, travel-worn, jerry-rigged caravan, driving right into the main hall of the castle!  Sleep could not be further from Cal's mind, even though 30 minutes before he'd been thinking that all he wanted was to lie down and close his eyes!

Hugie himself received the gift!  It was quickly tapped, the chief gnome tasted it and declared it quite the best beer on the whole continent, the horses were quickly brushed down and given plenty to drink, and Cal had trouble waving away the masseuses.  Then he was sent on his way with a sealed scroll, and a boy scarcely older than 8 years, on the van beside him.  Cal marvelled at the welcome - they certainly knew a thing or two about horses at Castle Hugie!  He knew that humans were generally good with horses, but Hyoyi and Hetty were still chatting about the marvellous welcome and Harold commented that he wouldn't mind a rub down every time he came in from a journey.  And the water - Cal had forgotten how much water the horses would need and hadn't worked out how they would drink on the road, so he'd lost precious minutes each time they needed to stop.

Peter seemed to be in touch with all four horses.  He'd already jumped down and run to Hetty to check her hoof, whilst she was trotting!  She seemed to welcome his touch.  There was something about him.  Then Cal looked in the gift bag he'd received, and as the scent of herbs hit him, so sleep hit him too, like the crash of a hammer on an anvil, and he fell backwards into the oats.  He was dreaming, he was in a boat, but the boat was going faster than a boat can go.  The four horses were each in their own boat.  Their boats were calm, but somehow they were keeping up with his. His boat rocked, and brushed against the lavender which grew out of the sides of the river, and yet as he looked at the lavender it looked like blue feathers, like the feather of a brown bird which flashed blue when it flew, like a bird with a large beak.

The blue feather, in the dream
Cal must have slept for 18 hours.  He couldn't believe he had lost consciousness on such an important journey, but the stars were up and the moon was shining but it was in its last quarter, so it didn't give much light.  Yet they were going faster than horses like to go in this dimness.
The horses had been changed - surely he would have woken up when they changed?  Then he saw Peter, riding Harold, and suddenly he realised that Peter was looking at the ground 4 or 5 metres ahead, surely not what a rider does, but what a HORSE does.  Peter was being the horse's eyes!  Cal could hardly believe it, but here they were, at a fast trot, the horses placing their feet as though they could see clearly, and Cal knew that they couldn't!  This was a new relationship, and Cal hadn't even bothered to get to know Peter, had assumed he was too young to know anything, didn't know why he was there.  So Castle Hugie had known he'd be dead tired, and had taken precautions!

The fourth clueThe sun began to rise.  Peter had watered the horses using a bottle and a tube, as they ran.  The horses happily accepted Peter, even as they worked to pull the van.  In Cal's estimation, they were travelling nearly twice as fast on the way back as they had on the way out, and here was his city.  As it came into view, Peter jumped down and sped away into the wood, before Cal could stop him.  But Harold and Henrietta carried on into the city, whinnying their arrival, and a swiftsteed arrived to grab the scroll and take it to be read.

The scroll gives the fourth clue, and also the fourth piece of the map. There is one more to go.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Nov 2011 at 00:48
Great story
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Nov 2011 at 15:21
Peter paused when he reached the trees, and swung himself up.  He was small for his age - he was actually 19 but most people mistook him for 9 - and all his development had gone into his mind.  This meant that he could communicate with the earth, the sky, and the animals, but he needed to do so regularly or he simply ran out of energy.  He needed to think, and he hadn't had time to think whilst looking after the caravan.
He closed his eyes and went through the ritual - relax every muscle and feel the strength of the tree; relax mind and let thoughts come and go without constraint until they leave me alone; relax my spirit -  and soon he was looking at the whole of time and the whole of space.
History - that was the driving force!
Early on in his exploring, Peter had realised that the important thing was to find the driving force.  It was all very well to solve this problem and climb over that wall, but what if it was the wrong problem, the wrong wall?  Hugie (Peter was Hugie's second son) had felt compelled to start searching, because of that box Lilian had been given. 

Everyone in the Alliance had joined in.  The hunt was on.  Peter had volunteered for this caravan because all of the drovers were out, and it got him out of the noise and the many chattering MINDS in a human city.

His mind's eye was caught by a vast pyramid of people, elves/ dwarves/ orcs and humans, standing on each other's shoulders.  Yes, there he was, on the bottom row!  Where he belonged, second son of Hugie.  And there was Hugie, on  his shoulders, holding a blue feather.  So Hugie was the subject of one of the mysteries - but not the only mystery!
As Peter thought about this, he pictured a three-sided pyramid of blue.  A symbol, he would analyse that later.
Going up, his grandfather, his great grandfather, on and on.  It was more like a wall than a pyramid, with everyone who ever lived (Peter didn't have time to recognise anyone else), but he was caught by a giant of a man, with six fingers and six toes (you pick up this kind of information in a dream), standing aside six offspring, somewhere in his ancestry.

Peter snapped out of the meditation, and realised he was freezing. Time to move, and move fast if he was going to be somewhere safe before it got dark.  He'd consider some of the symbolism whilst travelling.


Edited by Hugie - 08 Nov 2011 at 07:05
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2011 at 22:13
Stopping only to wash and drink, Peter ran.  He couldn't go anything like as fast as a horse, but he could usually match the speed of a horse pulling a caravan.  None-the-less, it would be a 3-day journey home.  Still, plenty of  time to think.

tetrahedronThe giant, six fingers and six toes, six children.  When had there been giants - that must have been hundreds of years ago - perhaps even before the century of the pink pussycat (or pink striped cat as some people called it).  His position on the pyramid pointed to a time a long time before then, perhaps even the century of the fat man!  A giant, during the century of the fat man! That would make sense!

Six.  Was this symbolic?  They say that in those days a giant might have six fingers and six toes.  But six could also indicate imperfection.  No, Peter thought, this was just a physical attribute.  This giant had the mark of the feather on him - the first quest included the giant.  This question would have to wait until he got back to the mages and philosophers of Castle Hugie.

Now, the number of quests.  A blue tetrahedron.  Blue could itself be symbolic, of the number 5.  Or it could be a reflection of the blue feather.  Three sided pyramid, this, Peter was sure, counted the number of quests.  So it could be one, but why show a number if it were 1.
It could be four, it could be 10, it could be 20.  Was it important, and if so, why?  It clearly wasn't one quest, and perhaps the first quest was the least important, the one that explained why the others existed.

Over the days and nights that followed, Peter lapsed in and out of dreamworld and attention, turning the symbols over in his mind, or numbing his mind to the pain in his muscles - he hadn't run this far in a long time.  He ate moss and anything he could find, drank regularly, sweated profusely.  But then he reached the edge of Castle Hugie domains and a shepherd flagged him down, insisted that he stop and eat properly, and sent him on his way with the shepherd's own cloak to cover him.  The shepherd would have to break his stay on the mountain to get replacement food and clothing - thank goodness Hugie was loved around here.  Peter knew he'd turned these ideas over as much as he could, and would make no further progress on his own.  He wondered what had happened about the fifth clue.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 21:13
Back at Castle Hugie, the mages have been at work.
A whole history is being uncovered.
Peter looks down the genealogy that has been uncovered.  Giants pre-date the present four races - were one of the many breeds and half-breeds that existed long ago.  And there was a giant, called Humungus, father of the muses.
Down Hugie's line, Hugh the Chronicler, Hugor during the century of the pink-striped cat (who wrote about King Sigmund XIV the chocolatier, though why he had that name is anyone's guess), Hugacious, Hogorama.
It begins to make sense.
Then stories begin to filter through, half-truths, fragments, of a slab of stone on the jagged border between Zanpur and Elijal, where people are seeing visions.
They point to a cave, and Chertiozhnik is the first to find the fragment.

The full tale will be told, as the parts of the scroll are assembled
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2011 at 00:11
And so the message unfolds down the ages.  And it turns out not to tell anyone anything.
"This history must be written.  This tale must be told.  Humungus' child must do this, in the century of the black man"

Well that's now.  And Hugie is Humungus' descendant.  So what is the truth that needs telling?

As soon as the words were spoken, there was a rumble from the chest in the library.  The whole first compartment lifted up, revealing a second layer.  There's more!
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