Of Camping Awhile
Of Camping Awhile
“What’s with all the skeletons?” They said, and wondered. One would not say such a thing in a cemetery, lest one risks some odd looks of general despise. Call this a cemetery, and ask no more, ye bickersome fools!
[Lost in a forest, Somewhere in Ahbon I hope.]
Like the Lieutenant’s brain, the ground was uneven and unsuited for camping - for where in this unpredictable purple land past the windmills could the crew pitch a tent? Nowhere! They forgot to bring a tent.
Tripphire looked to the little panel on her gauntlet that she had just now realised displayed her location between [Square brackets]. It didn’t seem to know where it was either. This biome was an enigma to top topology, geologically, geometrically gibbered, jiggered, and scrambled atwain - a tangled jungle sprinkled with steeples of steppe. It was uncomfortable to roll or look around in it, and was humid beyond belief.
And that’s why the Lieutenant led the group into the early hours of the nightmorning and out of the jungle, and through a field of both wheat and poppies. She found this a slightly peculiar crop combination, but at least she could make heads and tales of it.
Yet still she led them onward, taking about a forty-five degree turn towards where she thought the ocean was, and walked for another hour ’til she found the coastline. She almost walked straight over it and fell down the tall cliff to the rocky beach, and she took a deep breath of the purple seabreeze. Across the ocean, as she opened her eyes, she looked upon the great city of Atlantis. It lay just around the corner, six brilliant suspension bridges flaying out from its lowest tier - the widest, poorest, most populated tier. The ghetto, so to speak, the outer regions of the city, enshadowed by the smoke from the industrial second tier and the skyscrapers of the higher tiers. The bridges were the only visible way of entering the city - as they spanned across a wide and far-down moat of water that refracted light into all sorts of colours within itself.
They were near, but Tripphire turned away in disgust and dread - as it was the biggest city she had ever seen.
So they stayed by the edge of the trees and flattened a spot for a campfire in the field of wheat and poppies. Stars watched intently from above as the ground p set up camp - rolling Adrien across the plane to create a flat space, looting as much wheat as their bags could allow for, collecting branches, helping one-handed McKraken with his flint and steel, and lighting the wheat as kindling when the branches turned out too sodden to catch fire. Every action was under the self-overstated genius of the Lieutenant, who, once a fire had finally been lit, celebrated her achievement with a crew-mocking victory rant and passed out from exhaustion in the crops.
They had no marshmallows, but ’Zurei tore pieces of bread I to marshmallowey clumps and roasted them on a stick. From a satchel on her waist, Irig took a handful of a handy dwarven grain that grew under the flowery fungus of her homeland. This grain, known as Maisdes-Todes, popped like popcorn when she held it over the fire with her bare fists.
And as Adrien contently chewed on a piece of wheat, McKraken took a second look at what he (correctly) had guessed was called a tape-recorder.
’Zurei passed him one of the tapes - the same one that she had heard before, which by chance was the first tape recorded by their mysterious creator.
He pressed the sidewards triangle-shaped button that he knew was the “play” button, and the machine started its humming spin. An overture of static and the cracking of the campfire came before the voice from the tape, which said in a voice overflowing with the chirpiness of youthful enthusiasm: “Aaand hello again! I am Doctor Darrol O’Licht and this is the second side of Tape One. Hopefully it will record as good as the first side did! Haha!” He took a brief pause to shuffle some papers, “Well I think I’m onto something with the stairs, but more on that later - for there is greater news at hand! It is currently eleven PM, and for the next couple months, I will be working non-stop on a project commissioned by none other than Lord Luciére himself. You see, Our Lord has decided that for half of our days, the sun will be masked, creating worldwide darkness - the likes of which none of us have ever witnessed. He will call this darkness Night, and the benifits of such a daily spectacle I can only guess at - our Lord works in mystical ways.” The man took a breath, presumably to compose himself. “To me, he poses the task of designing the machine to mask the sun, and I have a couple ideas already drawn up. They are as follows: A gigantic tower, reinforced by a percentage the sun’s own power to keep the impossibly tall structure standing. It will be as if it never left the sky, though lenses will refocus its light around the plane of the world like a spinning flashlight, so that half of Ahbon’s surface is illuminated at all times. Oh, the tape’s about to run out. Please, I will continue this entry on the next- ”
’Zurei stared into the fire, completely mesmerised by the man’s voice, and tried to imagine such a structure. Her mind failed to imagine such tower to hold the great lamp-sun of heaven - what she imagined looked like some of the steetlamps she had encountered back in what once was Pier, though much larger.
It was a difficult thing to imagine for her, certainly, though she had never visited Otum’s capital - Antlewick.
McKraken pressed one or two cautious buttons on the recorder, and Dr. Darrol continued, “I shall build a prototype for my light-tower right here in this windmill. My other, more outlandish idea I call a Sunlit Orbital Lock, or SOL for short. Now this design relies again on a percentage of the sun’s energy or the aid of a powerful magician to sustain for any length of time. It will be a significantly smaller machine, and will orbit above and underneath this finite plane of Ahbon, guided by the recently discovered magnetic fields that envelope this world. The machine will house the sun in a diamond brace, and when it moves below the horizon and into the void, the world will go dark as intended, and should appear again half a day later. These designs I will research further, and it is a pleasure to work with Lord Luciere and as a simple, non-magical scientist, an honour. Anywho, that about wraps it up for this tape. Farewell!”
The tape ended, and ’Zurei reclined and looked blindly to the stars. What she had just heard was baffling - could it be true at all, or was this person simply a madman? She didn’t know, but dreamt upon the former ’til they were rudely interrupted.
“Oh my GOODNESS!!!" Screamed Adrien, “I think I hear FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOREST!!!”
Tripphire choked on thin air as she sprun upwards in fright,
“Ah! Wha- what did you say- where am I, uh… what’s happening?” She looked to Adrien with sleepy, purple-bagged eyes.
Adrien whispered loudly, “I’m hearing something in the woods!!!” He whimpered.
They all listened.
Patchy, laboured footsteps sounded over the cracking flames, and were accompanied by a sinister scraping sound, like some creature clawing at the ground.
Tripphire croaked, “’Zurei, give me McKraken’s torch. Try to throw in the general direction of the groans of fatigue.”
And so the Lieutenant, accompanied by Irig, shone the torch into and slowly advanced upon the chessnut trees. Wind blew threw the branches and the footsteps and scraping noise became louder as they neared the source. Tripphire was cautious, and scaredly let Irig out on front, “SHOW YOU SELF.” Said the dwarf, just as the source came into view.
It was a cranky-looking pumpkin-headed man, who stood only a little taller than Irig and had but a green stalk for a body. He wore a jute sack tied with ribbon around his skinny shoulders and legs, and wound around his pumpkin hand was a leash attached to a creature that bounced and scraped noisily along behind him.
“Can I help ye, lady?” He asked, annoyed.
Tripphire’s eyes drifted like sand to the creature he was tagging along on the leash, and found that it was not a creature at all, but rather a smallish table.
“you’re... A pumpkin?” Tripphire looked curiously at the skinny stalk man with the carved face.
“Yeah is that such a problem, what’s your deal!?” The man stood about two inches shorter than Tripphire.
“...” She said, entirely still, and not quite knowing what to say. “...Taking your table for a walk?”
The man went redder in the face with fluster. “Yes I’m taking it for a walk! Please don’t tell Janice about this! Oh Lordy oh blimey!”
The man looked behind Tripphire to the campfire.
“You realise this is private property right!?” He blurted, loudly to the rest of Tripphire’s squad.
“Ah,” Tripphire explained, “no you see, we’re soldiers on a mission, so we’re allowed to do what we want under the orders of Queen September. Speaking of, empty your pockets!”
“What? No! You’re trying to mug me!”
“It’s called looting, you useless vegetable. Hand over your possessions!”
The man began to run on his little green stalk legs, dragging the table behind him as it bounced into the field.
“Come back here! Or I’ll eat you!” Tripphire yelled.
“You sicko! I’m telling the farmer!”
“Do that and I’ll tell Janice that you were... Uhh...”
“NO PLEASE! I won’t tell if you don’t!” He shouted, disappearing and running out of earshot.
The lieutenant stood and watched as Irig charged after the stranger, her head the only thing that was above the tall wheat stalks. “COME HERE I’M GONNIE EAT YAHHRRR!” She yelled.
“Hey Dwarf, wait!” Tripphire called, but Irig had put on her metaphorical blinkers of rage and hunger, and was pretty much unstoppable. Tripphire chased after her, not wanting to loose her in the field, “Don’t move!” She called back to everyone else, and disappeared.
And so McKraken, ’Zurei and Adrien sat around the fire pit and listened to another tape. The Archer sat and listened to the recorded scientist’s story, McKraken marveled at the technology of the machine as he placed a different tape in, and Adrien attempted to talk back to it yet to no avail.
“Hello again, it’s...” The man yawned - for he was tired, though full of the joys of Spring. “... Doctor Darrol, as usual. Who else did you expect? Ha ha...” Sleep deprivation had loosened his words, “Today was a very good, and productive day. I dealt with the stairs, and I didn’t even have to shorten my tower. How you ask? I guess you could say I borrowed a bottle of topological delinquency from a kind witch, hah... She was very helpful indeed. And interesting. We conversed for hours about the possibilities in the pairing of science and magic, she told me about the remote regions she has visited, I told her about my projects. We discussed the possibilities for the future of Ahboneers and you know, just... Stuff. She was just as tall as I am too, if not maybe a little taller! That’s damn impressive for a Nordic woman... Ahh, I’m tired. Shoot, what else? Ah yes! I started on my lighthouse. Currently I’m lying down, looking up at my day’s work right now and it’s going great so far! Only a few difficulties here and there. I drew up a few concepts for my Orbital Sun idea, too...” The Doctor yawned again, “Well, that’s about it for today. This recording is at an end... Good fortunes and goodbye!”
The tape anded with a click, and ’Zurei reckoned she’d save the rest for another time. She looked into the sky, too blind to see stars - besides, the sky was brighter this close to Atlantis, and the stars paled in comparison.
Soon, the Lieutenant returned with a face not simply longing for sleep, but afraid and more dusturbed than usual by the waking world. She had seen things that night that she would never forget, and that would make her shudder forever on moments of reflection. When her time came to die - which logic suggested wouldn’t be too far away - and her life flashed before her eyes, she prayed to skip the last five minutes.
Irig, however, returned with a happy, satisfied smile on her stern face. Her copper crown was strewn with stringy white bits and pumpkin seeds, and her cheeks were orange and belly full.
And nothing much else happened that night worth telling - all but ’Zurei slept soundly, and a couple of small front-lobed crickets hopped over the Lieutenant’s unknowing face and nested in McKraken’s brass-buttoned pockets for the night. It was night for that particular pair of front-lobed crickets, though not for the eleven crows that passed overhead.