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Of the Well, Well, Well

Of The Well, Well, Well.

In the infinite plane of Heaven, gold pollen of contentment drifts from the ground into the sky and turns the day a warm shade of yellow, obstructing the far regions of space. Down below, a first-time lieutenant fits her new shiny lieutenants helm and struggles to feel the part, but she has no time to gather her thoughts, as it is now that she must leave the barracks yet again to meet her General down by the well. Little does she know that this might well be the last time she’d ever see those barracks, the last time she’d ever see Criochan. Perhaps even the last time she’d ever see Otum.

[The abandoned Well Portal, just outside Criochan, Otum.]

The General’s right-hand guards - and left-hand guards - were all gathered around in golden plated armour. One of them, a tall woman with cold eyes, stood forward and took a small flask from a leather pouch and poured the clear liquid into the leaf-covered well. From below the leaves, a pure white flash occurred before Tripphire’s retinas. That was when she started to get an inkling of a bad feeling about this. The portal out of Otum (well, there was two. The main one was much bigger but had been sealed long ago and was now surrounded by a wasteland decimated from the great Reaper-Valen wars of the Afterlives.) opened with a ghastly swish of black wind and white flares, blowing leaves about the place and spawning a small radius of chaos. Tripphire wondered if anyone else would go first, but the General’s eyes didn’t seem to be glaring in that way they did at anyone but herself.

“Should I hold my nose?” She asked.

The General sneered in that horrible way that he tended to do. Though he served several ranks under the Captain, he was far worse than any captain could ever be. His was the horse that ran from its master, only to be caught up in all the cruel cheesewire that hung from the surrounding trees of the man’s domain for absolutely no reason other than to lacerate horses. Tripphire had reached the conclusion that he was a putrid, vile man with no home - for a home he did not have. He had a lair. “If you will. Step forward.”

Tripphire stepped forward without thinking, onto the cobbled edge of the well. A stone underfoot wobbled ever so slightly, below, a tunnel of pirouetting orbs like stars flushed into a black hole loo.

“Little closer.” Said the General.

This posed a great question to Lieutenant Tripphire - what did she want to do the least: Plunge into a dark vortex swirling at fatal speeds to hopefully reach an unmapped world outside of Otum that she has never heard of and is probably full to the brim with dark creatures and twisted figures lurking around every fungal body, or disobey the General.

The answer was clear; she stepped forward, and then she was gone. Not just elsewhere. Gone. Well, sort of. Her molecules were no longer physical but were simply information transferred through the metaphysical to a different land. She was spinning, the orbs of energy around her seemed to take a piece of her soul as she spun in the vortex that didn’t quite look real. It was a strange feeling, non-existence. The orbs slowed, as if passing through a dense sea of cosmic cobwebs, and Tripphire was reconstructed on the other side and was assigned the same mass and energy as before, and the same velocity, which was in the direction that the portal was moving, which in this case happened to be upwards.

Tripphire popped up out of the well and got caught in a tangle of eerie branches, which dropped her onto a hard bed of dead vegetation and solid dirt amongst the darkness. She fumbled in the complete balckness for her gauntlet’s inbuilt torch button - before she found it, her crew whizzed out of the portal - two light knocks on the ground, a wooden thump and crack of old joints, a small flash of flames and a tremour that toppled all within a miles radius followed. Upon figuring out how to turn her light on, Tripphire shone it about the Glade and was met with the expecting faces of her crew. Meet:

’ZUREI - Archer, of the mountain people of Stum. Her grandpa sells grapes and her mother is an archery champion who lives very far away. Novice archer, black hair, brown eyes and skin, slim build. Yes, she has an apostrophe in her name, what of it? Quite interested in science, but not enough in her mind to actually justify getting an education. Likes to read textbooks and weird sci-fi/fantasy nonsense books. I suppose you and her have something in common.

McKRAKEN - The halfman. Old, wrinkly, wiry, varicose veins, only scraps of thin hair left on his head like a freckled egg. One arm, one leg, one tooth (but has dentures), arthritic. Has a fascination for tech and electronics and loves the new generations and their mechanical antics. Other than that, a cranky old bugger with nothing much good to say.

IRIG - Savage, middle-aged dwarf lady with crude oil in her blood. Literally. Has a day job breaking rocks into gravel with her bare fists for roads. Smokes a pipe full of asphalt on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and some other days, wears a heavy copper crown and leather wristbands.

KRY - Actually a good soldier, has fire powers and a fire beard, handsome (or so his mother tells him) muscular and tall. Narcissist.

ADRIAN - HUGE. As tall as Bronze, and as wide as a barge. Does not even have rolls of fat, as his fat is so dense that it has become a sturdy, bouncy cocoon that can stop spears. Believe me, this has been proven. He sort of looks and acts like a gigantic baby with a horned helmet. He is crying, for he is afraid of the dark.

There was hustling amongst the crew, as everyone tried to understand what was going on. Tripphire stood there for a minute, with absolutely no idea what to do now. “Hey!” She said, but nobody payed a morsel of attention. She tried to channel her inner Captain. ”Hey."

That didn’t work either. What button on this forsaken gauntlet was the call to attention button? She tried everything - the torch button, the levitation button, the cool battle music button, the spiritual awakening button, the instantly-call-your-granny button, and eventually the firework button. The latter of these worked, but left Tripphire a soot-covered, dazed Triclopse.

“ALRIGHT, LISTEN UP YOU MEASLES! I am Lieutenant Tripphire of the Tricloptic circle of… Tricopse… soldiers… a-and it is I that you miscreants are now under the command of! ALRIGHT, THUGS?”

They all sort of nodded, Kry with a rather cheeky smirk and McKracken cleaned his ear with his pinkie. ’Zurei adjusted her glasses (yes, a short-sighted archer, brilliant). Tripphire groaned and started examining the surroundings, and tried to compose herself. They were in a circular glade, with no apparent openings or paths making themselves known. Just think woods all the way around.

Tripphire stared into the abyss. She was Lieutenant now - what makes a good lieutenant? Evil eyes? Wickedness? Hardness? Minions? Fancy capes? How could Tripphire ever become a lieutenant? She was poorly trained, barely even making it as a cityguard. She couldn’t even look people in the eye without panicking, and every soul in this glade, she came to realise, was waiting for her in dead silence. Despite this being her dream, she decided that this was not what she wanted. She wanted to go home, go back to the barracks with Bronze. She had hardly had any time to recalibrate from her last venture before she was called to… this. A dry leaf passed on front of her disconnected eyes, and she jumped.

“Hey boss,” Said Kry after a while, “why don’t you give us some orders?” He grinned smugly and tried to nudge Irig with his elbow, but it went right over her head.

That was it. In a split second, Tripphire just let it all go. She would give them orders.

“You want orders!? Why don’t you shut up when I’m trying to echolocate my way out of this forest!? I’ve worked hard on this ability for hundreds of years and I’m not going to let some defective imbecile interfere with my mental radar! Go set fire to some badgers or whatever it is you do for fun you dunderhead!”

“Aye, Lieutenant.” Said Kry, his posture weakening.

Tripphire was taken aback by the look of obedience and slight surprise on his face. “Y-yeah, or I’ll uh… Fire you!”

Kry tried hard to hold back his mocking laughter, which wasn’t extremely successful.

The Lieutenant went back to her “echolocation” and tried to decide on a direction to walk in. Little did she know that this world did infact have a known map, and a digital copy of it was available in the screen of her gauntlet which she didn’t know how to use. Kry already knew about that as he has been paying attention during the briefing but wanted to see if this fool could figure it out for herself.

"- - - KKRRRHK - - " Said the gauntlet, ” - - - tenan - - how - - - s worki - - over?"

“Captain!” Shouted Tripphire, forgetting to press the ‘talk’ button.

" - - - pphire ov -?”

“Whit’s he sayin’?” said McKraken, voice breaking like an old rusty pipe squeaking as it is bent in two.

" - - breaki - - - panic - - - it wo - - ixed in - - weeks. Hol - - - - - - and rem - - your mission.”

Tripphire turned her arm round back and forth to try and get some sense of how to use the darn thing. It was heavy, and couldn’t possibly be practical. It was hardly even a tactical piece of equipment for crying out loud, and with all the buttons it looked like someone had built a three hundred and sixty-seven storey skyscraper and wrapped the elevator wall around her forearm.

" - - tracking - - - adly damag - - - - ot to worry, but - - an’t op - - - eturn portals.”

“Captain Sir, can you repeat that, over?”

But only static replied, giving an apologetic ′kkrrrhk’.

Soon, the Lieutenant decided to stop trying to communicate with the Captain and chose a direction. Kry brought up the map in her gauntlet, to which she replied “I’m aware, smartass. I know where I’m going!”

She had no idea where she was going, but she had to show not just Kry, but everyone that she was the boss. Besides that, she was too stubborn to admit she didn’t know about the map. What luck she must have, as she had set out in the direction of Witch Mulberry’s house - whether that luck is good or bad remains to be seen.

At the back of the pack, Adrian nervously munched on an entire loaf of fine angelbread, leaving a tender trail of golden-brown crumbs behind him as they cautiously stepped into the quiet, nae, silent wood...

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