Unknown Date 2479 A.R.T
I must apologize for my continuing deviation from the main events of my diary as I realize that, whilst relating the events of Queen Trifida’s visit, Blancmange’s ordeal with the onion and Ink’s inability to understand metaphors, some twenty pages have passed between here and the last instalment of my diary’s main storyline, (leaving you on quite a cliffhanger.) I will therefore provide you with a recap of events;
Myself and sixty-five other individuals awoke in the burnt-out ruins of a mental asylum finding ourselves much altered and with little or no memory of what had come before. We found ourselves caught between a mounting storm and an erupting volcano. We sided with the volcano and took shelter within its caverns until storm waters forced us to climb some ancient ladders which led to a rocky ledge upon the mountainside.
The unfortunate death of a butterfly led us to participate in an ill planned game of hide-and-seek, a trip which not only provided us with some knowledge of our past and a possible calling for our future but also led us to discover a mysterious forest on the eastern horizon. Wishing to provide food for a colony of bunny rabbits myself and a fellowship of nine companions set out on a daring expedition to the distant forest only to find that it had completely vanished. The following day, whilst innocently taking a morning stroll I was involved in a most horrific and painful toe-stubbing accident which had potentially left me crippled for life and in a state of unconsciousness.
Thankfully, some six days after my ordeal, I had awoken to find that my foot had not been completely obliterated and that I even still had the full use of it. I had also discovered that, during my unconsciousness, my brethren had discovered the remains of an ancient and extinct civilization within the mountain and had inadvertently used the mummified remains of a king and a selection of priceless artifacts as kindling. I had been informed that the mysterious eastern forest had made a reappearance and so, with the welfare of the bunnies in mind, I had decided to relaunch our mission.
I will now continue with this most harrowing section of my tale.
Following my horrendous toe stubbing I had adhered to Phlegm’s advice and I had lay on my hard stone slab for a full day, rest which may well have done my foot good but had done nothing for my back. I had feared that I would become bored and fidgety, but I had been kept occupied by a string of visitors who had come to wish me well. Smoke had spent the entire day with me, feeding his fire with the old ladders and other wooden objects which looking back on it now looked remarkably like ancient statuary and furniture. (Again, apologies to the archeological community.)
Pitterpat had also visited to report that, as predicted, the eastern forest had once again vanished, meaning that it should return around noon the following day. We had discussed the matter further with Horizon and we had decided that we would leave on our mission before the forest’s reappearance, hoping that it would re-materialize before we reached it.
Later, Cloud had visited me, bringing me a very nice slate drawing of a bunch of grapes which he’d believed was a traditional gift for people in hospital. Personally, at that point I would have much preferred a pillow but the thought was there all the same. We’d then engaged in a rather thrilling game of eye-spy but, due to the sparseness of the chamber, after rock, fire, Smoke, feet and sky had been guessed the game had begun to lack variety and Cloud had become bored and had made his leave, telling me that he would visit me again before his bedtime..
After Cloud’s departure the chamber had become quiet and still and, as I’d watched the clouds drift lazily through the blue beyond the skylight I had once again begun to nod off, lulled to sleep by the warmth and gentle crackling of Smoke’s fire which still burnt at the center of the cavern.
The tranquility had soon been broken however by a strange rhythmic squeaking sound which had remined me of the sound produced by a poorly oiled shop sign caught in a breeze. The sound had steadily grown louder and louder until two Orderlies had stepped into the chamber. I had sat upright and had waved at them, recognizing my visitors as Pineapple and Rhythm.
Pineapple had waved back rather noisily, his suit creaking and squeaking with every movement he’d made. Hello Sunrise, he’d written on his slate. We’ve been practicing some dance moves and we’ve come to show you a fabulous new routine we’ve come up with. It’s marvelous, simply marvelous!
Rhythm had carried no slate with him and he had pirouetted quite skillfully on the spot before arching his feet and standing upon his toes. Following my injury, the sight of this had made me cringe and it had been then that I’d noticed that Rhythm’s leather shoes were quite unique and greatly resembled ballet slippers, dark ribbons securing them around his ankles.
Pineapple had struck a striking pose, his hands on his hips and Rhythm had placed one foot in front of the other so that the toes of his front foot were aligned with the heel of his back foot, his arms held in an arc above him. I had later learned that this was one of five basic positions learnt by all ballet dancers.
I thought our routine might entertain you, Pineapple had written. Honestly Sunrise it’s just going to blow you away!
Not knowing that Pineapple or Rhythm had any interest in dance I had been taken aback and I had temporarily found myself unsure of how to respond.
I just need to warm up first, Pineapple had written. He had begun to make wide circles with his hips and stretch his arms over his head, motions which had caused his suit to groan in quite a flatulent manner. He had then attempted to touch his toes but he had got no further than his knees, his bulging physique denying his hands the company of his feet. During Pineapple’s ‘warmup’ Rhythm had held his elegant pose like a statue.
That’s enough warming up, Pineapple had written after another burst of pelvic gyrations. Ready Sunrise?
I had nodded enthusiastically and had settled myself in to watch the performance, though nothing could’ve prepared me for what was to come.
Okay, prepare to be astounded! Pineapple had written, nodding his readiness to Rhythm. We call this piece ‘The Serine Cornfield and the Plague of Mice.’
Before I’d had chance to question their choice of title Pineapple and Rhythm had begun. Rhythm had moved with elegant, fluid motion, spinning and leaping with a grace which had seemed at odds with his physique. He had glided, skipped and pirouetted in a spellbinding choreography, maintaining his poise at all times. Pineapple however had gyrated himself left and right with all the refinement of a bag of drunken chortles. He had hopped and shook, spun and jiggled, kicked, punched and smacked his bottom in time to some frantic, unheard tune which seemed at complete odds with the melody Rhythm was channeling through his body. As Pineapple had wobbled and cavorted the squeaking and belching of his suit had intensified until it had become so grating that I’d been forced to cover my ears. Together their dance duet had made me think of a drunken ogre with an un-scratch-able itch and tight uncomfortable shoes that had invaded the stage during the performance of a ballet master.
Rhythm’s routine had ended gently with him gracefully spinning to the floor and curling into a tight ball. Pineapple however had seemingly tripped over and had thrashed around the floor in a most alarming manner, moving how I imagine a fish would move if it were attempting to swim across hot coals.
Abruptly the routine had ended, and Pineapple had lay motionless on the floor, his chest heaving with his exertion.
I admit that at the time I had not known whether I should applaud or try to contact Doctor Phlegm but when Rhythm had uncurled himself and taken a bow, I couldn’t help but clap. My applause had seemingly revived Pineapple from his exhaustion and he too had stood and had taken a bow.
I had later decided that Rhythm’s graceful routine had portrayed the serene cornfield whereas Pineapple’s performance had most definitely represented the plague of mice, being uncoordinated, messy and all together far too squeaky.
At around noon Oats had appeared and I’d finally managed to ask him about his extra digits and his interest in the mud.
He had told me that he had no idea why he possessed extra fingers explaining that he had simply awoken with them. He had also expressed a concern that the other Orderlies would think of him as some sort of five-fingered freak and he confessed that he was quite self-conscious of them. He had said that the green leather that clad his extra digits made them stick out like a sore thumb and he had taken to concealing them in his pockets when other Orderlies were around.
He had informed me that he found himself very interested in plants and had said that, while he did not know where the knowledge had come from, he felt that he knew quite a bit about horticulture. I had informed him of Phlegm’s recollection of being a doctor in his previous existence and I had suggested that Oats had possibly been a farmer or plantation worker in his previous form, and that his knowledge of plants had stayed with him through his transformation. This had led me to ponder if Rhythm had once been a ballet dancer, (a wonderment which I will expand upon in my next entry.)
Oats had told me that the silt deposited around the mountain by the flood waters would be very fertile and he had expressed a belief that he would be able to cultivate a wide selection of crops and herbs in it if he could just obtain some seeds.
Phlegm had entered and had taken a great interest in our conversation. He had asked Oats if it would be possible for him to grow plants such as Aloe vera, Deadionia lateriflora, Nymphaea caerulea and Valeriana officinalis, explaining that they all had medicinal uses and would be very useful if we were planning to treat people medically. He had gone on to explain that Aloe vera was an excellent remedy for burns and skin disorders, Deadionia was the source of deadening spines which had amazing anaesthetic properties when its thorns were inserted into the skin, Nymphaea caerulea could be used as a mild sedative and Valeriana was an excellent sleep aid.
Oats had given it some thought and he had said that he could easily grow the Deadionia and Valeriana provided he had seeds but he had said that the Nympaea would be a challenge as it was an aquatic plant and he doubted that Aloe vera would survive the cold climate, stating that he would require a glass house to keep it alive.
Among many others, Phlegm had then asked if he could cultivate mugwort, mistletoe, adders’ tongue and mandrake as these were all ingredients used in some powerful magical healing spells he knew.
Oats had nodded and had stated that he could easily grow all except the mistletoe as it was a parasitic plant which would require an oak or apple tree to act as a host.
I had been most enthusiastic about having a stock of medicinal herbs and I had suggested that Oats joined us on our expedition to the forest, stating that it would be a perfect opportunity for him to obtain some seed. I’d also asked Phlegm what other equipment and supplies would be useful for giving medical care. I had suggested comfortable mattresses might be a good start, my throbbing back concurring
Phlegm had given the question some thought and had written that if we were to treat patients then any medical equipment at all would be beneficial. He had stated that if I intended the mountain to be a hospital of sorts then it would need some major work as recently flooded caverns filled with moldering mummies were not an ideal setting. He had mentioned bottles of leeches for bloodletting, cauldrons for brewing magical medicines, suture and needles for stitching wounds and choom-chooms, a small creature which laid anti-inflammatory eggs which were the main ingredient in sloof ointment, a soothing, medicated balm. Though it seemed like quite a sadistic practice to me, he had also expressed a desire to own a little hammer which he could use to strike his patients knees to test their reflexes, presumably to see how many times he could hit them before they ran away. Phlegm was also very passionate about the benefits of snugs for patients, saying that they aided sleep and were also great relievers of stress and anxiety.
At the time I had not been sure what a snug was. I had imagined it to be some sort of magically enchanted robe or blanket which provided immense comfort and warmth to those swaddled within it but when Phlegm had explained that it was in fact a small, sleepy, fox-like creature with a temperature I had been somewhat dubious. It had seemed to me that putting a living creature into a patient’s bed was a very bad idea indeed and my mind had been filled with images of fleas, animal feces and buzzing flies but, as parts of Phlegm were once a qualified doctor I had not argued.
Some years after Mount Bedlam was recognized as a hospital for the mentally ill, we had received a donation of twelve pure white snugs from Slumber-Cat House, a manor house on the Pheonixhelm-Sanintale border. I had accepted the gift with trepidation but after researching them and meeting the snugs in question I had been instantly sold on their benefits and my prior fears had been quashed.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Kohlrabi’s Encyclopedia of Life which pertains to snugs:
Plural noun – Cozy. I came upon a cozy of snugs and I was sore amazed.
Snugs, or slumber-cats as they are more commonly known, are small, fox-like creatures from the woodlands of both the Chaarn and Phoenixhelm regions. The have large ears, thick usually russet fur and long, bushy, prehensile tails which they can coil around themselves to form a comfortable nest.
Due to their habit of sleeping for twenty-three hours a day and their unusually high body temperature which averages 64⁰C, (almost double that of most humanoids,) snugs are widely used by the people of the Known Expanse as a means to warm their beds. The snugs are placed in their owner’s bedding and are traditionally fitted with a collar and a pouch of lavender or other sweetly smelling herb which leaves a pleasant aroma on the sheets.
Wild snugs can usually be found in hollow trees or the abandoned burrows of other creatures. Much of their lifecycle is still shrouded in mystery and it is widely believed, due to their unequalled need for sleep, that they live their lives in the Realm of Dreams, their physical bodies acting only as a means to keep them anchored in reality. This belief is strengthened by the fact that snugs have no digestive systems or genitalia. It is thought that any nourishment their physical bodies require is somehow obtained whilst they sleep. Their reproductive process however is still in debate. Each snug has a womb-like organ in which their young gestate, and they are able to conceive their offspring without any physical contact with other members of their species. This has led many to believe that snugs are asexual, reproducing without the need of a sexual partner. Others however believe that snugs fornicate in the Realm of Dreams.
During the first six weeks of their lives, snugs are fully awake and extremely active. During this ‘awake’ time their bodies are sustained by two large glands on either side of their neck. These glands constantly leech a cocktail of nutrients, fat and adrenaline into their systems, keeping them alert. Young snugs spend these first six weeks searching for a suitable den in which to spend the rest of their lives asleep. During this time, they double in size and develop a bony growth on their foreheads known as a nightmare crest.
The nightmare crest is a snug’s only defence mechanism, an appendage which prevents their predominately unconscious-selves from becoming an easy meal. Through it they can project waking nightmares into the minds of any potential predators that come too close, sending them running in the opposite direction. The nightmare crests of domesticated snugs are filled away, preventing them from accidentally inflicting their owners with lurid dreams.
Despite their ability to project nightmares it is said that those who treat their snugs kindly will be granted pleasant dreams. There are numerous accounts of snugs joining their owners in their dreams or leading them away from painful recollections and nightmares. Snugs are also said to often appear to psychics during meditation where they act as spirit guides, helping the psychic along their path to clairvoyance.
In my own personal opinion snugs are one of the most delightful and peaceable creatures in the entire Known Expanse. Doctor Phlegm is still very zealous about their therapeutic qualities and he prescribes them to patients for everything from broken bones to a runny nose. I am delighted to say that Mount Bedlam now owns over five-hundred snugs which are housed in a large hall affectionately known as ‘The Snug Barracks.’ At one point I had believed that we held the largest collection of snugs in the Known Expanse but when I researched my claim, I found that we came in second, beaten by Slumber-Cat House, the manor which had donated our original twelve snugs. Slumber-Cat House boasts over seven-hundred snugs and five different breeds which vary in size from the ‘mitten snug’ which can be carried in the pocket on cold days, to lion snugs which bare fluffy manes and are roughly the size and weight of several full sacks of wet flour which have been stacked upon a squat manger. I admit I had been a little jealous of Slumber-Cat House’s snug collection and I had sought to find out the reason why they had amassed such a vast cozy of snugs. I had found the answer in a book entitled A History of Smudgedale which contained an old folk law tale regarding a former Earl of the town. I had found the tale most compelling and so I have included it here.
In the late twenty-thirties, the Earl of a town called Smudgedale near the Pheonixhelm-Sanintale border developed an unhealthy obsession with snugs. The Earl suffered from insomnia and, after a visit to Sparrowstitch, his wife had gifted him with a snug, hoping that it would help him sleep. The Earl had placed the snug in the bed between himself and his wife and that night he’d had, in his own words, “Slept as deeply as a miner reading philosophy.”
The following day the Earl had given a handsome sum of money to two of his servants and had sent them to Sparrowstitch with strict orders to purchase every available snug in the town and bring them back to his manor house. Two weeks later the servants had returned in a holk-drawn wagon which had over seventy sleeping snugs loaded on-board.
The Earl had been delighted and he had placed the snugs all over his manor house. At night he was rumoured to have slept with up to twenty of the creatures, forcing his wife to sleep alone in an attic bedroom.
The Earl’s growing obsession with snugs gradually became an unwholesome mania and he would spend his days locked away in his personal chambers, talking to his snugs. He longed to see the Realm of Dreams in which his beloved pets spent their lives and he begged them to take him there. Eventually he renamed his manor house ‘Slumber-Cat House’ and ordered his wife, two sons and staff to leave him.
Over the next six months, the doors of Slumber-Cat House remained locked and the Earl became a complete recluse, not even leaving his house to purchase food. Fearing for his health and what remained of his sanity, the Earl’s wife had begged Smudgedale’s local sheriff to break down the doors of Slumber-Cat House so that her husband might receive the help he clearly needed. After much deliberation the sheriff had agreed.
Inside Slumber-Cat House, the snugs had dramatically multiplied in number and every available space was now covered with their sleeping forms. The collective sound of their gentle snoring was said to be deafening and a path had been cleared through them in order to search the house for the estranged Earl. The Earl was eventually found asleep in his bed, covered by a mound of snugs.
When the Earl’s wife was unable to rouse her husband from his slumber, a witchdoctor had been summoned. The witchdoctor’s diagnosis was that, for reasons unknown, the Earl had fallen into a deep coma. The Earl’s wife however was convinced that the snugs had finally led her husband into the Realm of Dreams as he’d requested of them and, whilst there, he’d either become lost or he was unwilling to return to the waking world.
The Earl never awoke again and upon his death over a decade later it was discovered that he’d left Slumber-Cat House and all of his possessions not to his two sons but to his beloved snugs.
Slumber-Cat House still stands to this day and has become a popular tourist attraction for snug-lovers from all over the Known Expanse. It is still legally owned by the descendants of the Earl’s original snugs who still slumber on every available surface.