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Interactive Tales / Another Path. The One.
Last post by NeilH - Nov 22, 2023, 07:46 PM
"Well, what do you know?" she snarled.

"I know you're pointing a gun at me for no reason," he pointed out.

"You had me tied up!"  The woman gestured at the rope.  "Maybe I was your captive."

"Why would I leave you with your gun if you were my captive?" he pointed out, quite reasonably.  "Maybe I was your captive."

"I..."  The woman lowered her gun, looking confused. "I don't know who I am.  I don't know where I am!"  She looked around, at the green expanse.

"Yeah lady, that makes two of us."  He stood up and tried to stretch the aches and pains out of his joints, before looking around.  There were two backpacks in the hole.  One looked like it contained water.  He stooped down to pick it up.

"What are you doing?"  the woman asked.

"I'm thirsty.  This looks like it has water in."
"Oh.  Well.  Pass it over when you're done then."  To his immense relief, she holstered her pistol whilst he recovered the bags.

The one he had spotted did, it turned out, to be mostly a large water skin.  He turned a spigot near the base, and then lifted it up to drink the liquid that dribbled out. 

"Hey, don't drink it all!" the woman said.

"Sorry."  He wiped his mouth and handed her the pack.

Whilst she quenched her thirst, he recovered the second pack, and gave it a quick once over.  There were a number of supplies in it, as well as a sheet of paper with some writing on.  Before he could read it though, the woman interrupted him.

"Those people don't look well," she said.

He glanced at her, and then in the direction she was looking, which turned out to be the group he'd spotted earlier.  They were much closer now, and he could make out three figures, one of which was pulling some kind of cart.  Squinting, he saw what the woman meant.
All three were wearing long green, somewhat tatty, robes.  Two looked human, whilst the third, who was the one pulling the cart, was an enormous green skinned being.  Both humans were male, one very tall and thin, whilst the other was female, with long black hair.  The tall human was using a long, pale, staff as a kind of walking stick.

All of them had black lines under their skin, like some kind of subdermal plant, and, where the tendrils had spread, the travellers had become splotchy green, or in the case of the large fellow, even more so.

"They look half zombified," he muttered, retreating to stand slightly behind her.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"From these packs I'd say we were travelling together, and you're the one with the gun, so..."  He shrugged.


They stood and waited as the three approached.

"That's far enough," the woman shouted, once they neared the other side of the hole.  "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

"Hail," the tall one shouted back.  "Blessings of the Green be upon you!"

"Blessings of the Green!  The Green will sustain," the other two intoned, as one. 

He looked at the woman, who raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, that's nice.  Can you tell us where we are?" she asked.

"Why, you are on the Green of course," the tall man replied.  "Blessed is the..."

"Yes, yes, blessed is the Green," she interrupted, before they could kick off again.  "And where, exactly, on the Green are we?"

This seemed to throw the man for a second.  "You are on The Green," he repeated.  "Glory to the Green, for it sustains!"

"Glory to the Green!" the other two chanted.

"They're nuts," he muttered to her.

"Well, it was lovely meeting you," she shouted, "but we'll be heading off now.  You have a nice day."

"Oh, but no, you must join us," the tall man said, raising his staff.

"No, no, I don't think we must."  She put her hand on her gun.

"Don't worry, the Green will sust..."

"Sustain, yes, yes, we heard you.  All the same, I think not."  The woman pulled her gun out and held it, although pointed down.

"No.  You will."  The tall man pointed his staff, and a bolt of white light flashed across, hitting the woman and knocking her backwards onto the grass.

"Hey!" he shouted, turning and going for her gun, which she had dropped.

"Don't move," the tall man said, striding forward and raising his staff.

"Fuck you," he said, putting his hands up to defend himself.

There was a flash of blue lightning, which leaped from his upraised palm to strike the tall man in the middle of the chest, blowing him several metres backwards.  He landed hard on the green, a small crater smoking in his torso.

"Shit," Josh said.  "Shit!  I remember my name!  Don't come any closer!" he said, pointing at the other two.  "Unless you want the same."  He looked at the woman.  He still didn't remember what she was called, but he had a feeling she was on his team.  Maybe even a girlfriend?  She was cute.

Putting those feelings aside for a moment, he knelt down and shook her shoulder.  "Hey, you okay?"

She groaned and looked up at him.  Her eyes were really pretty, he noted.

"What happened?" 

"You were hit by tall man's staff.  Don't worry, I took care of it.  Here."  He passed her her gun and helped her upright.

Josh looked over at the surviving two travellers.  Instead of lamenting over their dead friend, they were frantically looking through a large book and pointing at passages within.

"What are they doing?"

"I have no idea.  My name's Jo... Jox by they way."  Something in his confused and addled memory told him this was important.

"Nice.  What's my name then?"

"I don't know.  I think we were travelling together.  We may even be a couple."  He smiled, more in hope than anything.

"Are you certain? I'm not sure you're hot enough for me."

"Well, I'm not going to argue there," Josh replied. "You're at least a nine."

"I don't know what that means.  Oh..."  She looked over at the two strangers, who seemed to have come to some conclusion.

"What?" Josh asked.

"You are the One!" the woman declared.  "All hail the One!"

"Okay."  Josh looked at the woman, who shrugged.

"What do you mean, the One?" Josh asked.

"It is written in the Memories," the large green said, jabbing a giant finger at a page in the book they had been poring over.  "For he who shall wield the Blue is the One, and they shall be the author of great change, the likes of which has never been seen before," he quoted.  Looking back up at Josh he nodded.  "You are the One.  And yet, this was written many Greens ago.  Many, many Greens.  It is the most sacred prophesy.  All hail the One!" 

Both of them fell to their knees and prostrated themselves towards Josh.  "All hail the One!" they chanted again, for good measure.

"Wow, you certainly have a strong impact on people," the woman said, holstering her gun.  "Still not sure you're hot enough for me though."

Josh just frowned.  "Explain these Memories to me," he asked the two quivering beings on the ground.

Both looked up.  "This," the woman said, hefting the large book, is a written account of all Greens, spanning... well, a long, long time."

"Okay."  Josh frowned, and marched around the hole to stand closer to the two.  They both sat up as he approached. "Explain to me two things.  Firstly, who, or what, are the Greens?"

"We are the Greens," the woman said.  "We belong to this place.  We wander the plains, looking for others to carry the Memories."

"Right, and, two, the Memories are what, exactly?" Josh asked.

"Exactly that," the green man replied, tapping the book. "If you stay in the Green, you will forget everything, who you are, what you are, where you are.  Every night, anything new is written in the book.  So, when we awake the next day, we know who we are.  The Memories are from the many Greens who have come before us, for whilst the Green sustains, it doesn't sustain forever, and, after some time, we must, in turn, sustain it."

"I think I see."  Josh scratched his head and remembered something.  "Hold on."  He marched back to the woman, and dug through the bag he had found in the hole with him, pulling the paper he'd seen before out, and reading it out loud.

"You are on the Plains of Never.  It makes you forget who you are.  Your real name is Josh, but you must use Jox.  The pretty lady next to you is Samantha."  The writing changed at this point, to add: "She is not your girlfriend."

"Told you," Samanth said, smugly.  "Oh, wait..."  she held her hand to her head and staggered back slightly.

Follow the compass.  You must get over the plains."  Josh finished off.

"I... I remember!"  Samantha looked at him.  "Josh!  Oh fuck!  We could have..."

"Ended up being a Green?" he finished her sentence.

"We have to get to those mountains, get off this plain."

"No arguments there," he said. 

"We shall follow the One," their two new companions said, together.

"Great," Josh said, dryly.


Very well, shorter episode this time.  So, our heroes are heading off the Green, and back towards the Dark Valley.  Of course, the DV isn't right there.  There has to be some other feature they will have to encounter first.  What I would like to know is... what, exactly?  A tribe of sentient dead?  Another geographical oddity?  Wandering drunkards?  Savage beasts?  A malicious salesperson?

All and any ideas welcome!  Glory to the Green!  The Green Sustains!


Interactive Tales / Another Path. - Plains of Neve...
Last post by NeilH - Nov 15, 2023, 08:17 PM
"The Dark Valley is forbidden to residents of To," Samantha explained.  "The main way to get there is a road through the mountains, through a pass, which is blocked by His Grace's orders.  Not even I could get through there."
"Shit."  Josh scratched his chin.  "Wait, you said the main way, is there another?"
"Well, yes and no."
"Now you're just being cryptic."
"Fine."  Samantha sighed.  "In theory it's on the other side of the Plain of Never."
"Sounds a little ominous."
"That's because no one who sets out over it ever comes back."
"And there's no getting over these mountains?"
"They're very steep, icy cold and inhabited by creatures who eat people.  So, no, not really."
"Yet your contact is there?"
"He was exiled, a long time ago now.  His Grace used to use the Dark Valley as somewhere to send prisoners."
"A kind of Australia, I see.  And what changed?"
Samantha shrugged.  "It was a long time ago.  I think perhaps he's more confident in his power these days.  Now he just executes people.  Easier and cheaper."
"Throws them to the carrots, eh?  Yeah.  Okay, well, what's your suggestion then?" 
"I've told you already, go to His Grace."
"Not happening.  Damn."  Josh scowled.  "How far is this Never place?"
It was two days later.  Two days of hard travelling by carriage.
They dropped off the driver at an outpost early on, and then Samantha had taught Josh how to drive the thing.  After that they took turns travelling along a series of roads and paths, some smooth, broad and well paved, others muddy tracks barely wide enough to get the vehicle down.
Josh also discovered that the sun in To rose from different directions, and sometimes veered 'off course' during the day. It made things very confusing.
"You get used to it," Samantha said, at one point, when they had pulled over in a grassy area for something to eat.  The carriage had several days' worth of white blocks, with the consistency of fudge, tightly wrapped in waxed brown paper.  Army provisions, she called them. 
They weren't unpleasant to eat, and came in various, random, flavours, none of which Josh could identify.   
"How can anyone tell the direction they're travelling in though?" he asked, biting down on a block and chewing thoughtfully.  It tasted a little like banana mixed with bacon.
"The stars, at night," she replied, eating a block of her own.  "They are always the same.  You line them up with some landmark and then head in that direction during the day.  Or you can use a compass."  Putting down her food, she rummaged around in a pouch on her belt for a second, finally pulling out a small round device, attached to a chain, which she handed to Josh.
It looked like fairly normal, old fashioned, compass, except the quarters were marked with four symbols he didn't recognise.  One was red.  There was a small button on the side as well.  He raised an eyebrow at Samantha.
"You press and hold the button, and aim the red glyph in the direction you wish to go.  The needle will slowly align to it.  When it does, you release the button, and from then on, the needle will point in the direction you have chosen."  She took another, large, bite of her block, and chewed industriously.
"Handy."  Josh passed it back to her.
She replaced the device, and picked up a metal bottle, one of several that had been in their transport.  "We're nearly out of water, keep an eye out for a stream or something."
Josh nodded, and took another mouthful of banana-bacon.
The water was replenished later that day, when they pulled over near a body of water, some lake, Samantha hadn't known the name of it.  In any case, Josh parked the carriage behind some trees, out of view of the road, and the two had spent a not very comfortable night sleeping on the seats, inside the cabin.
The next day was spent travelling on a fairly straight, but rather bumpy, stone road.  At one point a small group of men in dark robes, the only other people they'd seen, stood in the road ahead of them.  Josh, who was driving, called out to Samantha, who, without any hesitation at all, leaned out of the window and fired her pistol at them. 
"Don't stop!" she called up.
The group had scattered in any case, and they proceeded, unmolested.
The road ran into a hilly area, and Josh had to slow down slightly as it wound around some tight turns, and then started to head down. 
Finally, they drove over a brow of a hill, to look down onto a village, maybe a small town, surrounded by fields of purple and yellow crops, below.
"That's Never," Samantha said, peering out of the window when Josh paused the carriage.  "Look beyond."
Josh looked.  Beyond the town, an expanse of level green stretched as far as the eye could see.  The Plains of Never.
Samantha waved at him, and he kicked the carriage into motion again.  Driving carefully and slowly, they made their way down into the town, which was a bustling place, resembling a kind of medieval village with advanced alien technology mixed into it. 
Eventually, Samantha indicated an area that looked a lot like a car park.  Josh turned into it, and pulled the carriage up near the far corner.
"So, we're here," she said, climbing out of the cabin. 
"And what do we do now?" Josh asked, stretching his legs.  It had been a long and rather harrowing journey.
"Open that hatch there."  She pointed at a small latch on the back wall Josh hadn't noticed before.  He did as he was directed.
The latch sprung open to reveal a small leather pouch inside.
"Take it out."
Josh reached in and extracted it.  He pulled the small bag open and looked inside.  There was a large quantity of small, shiny, purple counters.  He looked at Samantha and shrugged.
"Purples," she replied.  When he looked blankly at her, she explained further.  "Money."
"Oh," he said.  "How much, and what are we buying?"
"We're going to need supplies if we're going to be insane enough to try crossing the plain.  This will buy us those supplies."
"Fair enough," Josh said.  "Let's go shopping then."
It took another day and a half of preparation, buying supplies, clothing, equipment from the numerous shops that had been, apparently, set up specifically for this very thing.  Samantha had treated them to a small hotel for the night, using her purples. 
"May as well have one good night of rest," she explained. 
Josh wasn't about to argue, although he was a little disappointed when she got them single rooms.
The next day, after a well needed wash and a nice breakfast, they took the gear they had bought, and set out for the plains, until finally, they stood on the edge of the seemingly never-ending expanse.
Josh looked at Samantha, who was setting the compass in their intended direction of travel.  Finally she nodded, and slipped the chain around her neck, so it hung in front of her.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be," he replied.
"Then let's go."
They went.
The first few days went without incident.  Samantha had used their 'purples' to good effect in the town, and the compact supplies served them well.   More rations, of a similar fashion to those in the carriage, sustained them, as well as water that Josh carried in a large skin container on his back. 
At night Samantha unrolled a tent, which was just large enough for them to sleep in, although Josh was finding it difficult to be in such close proximity to her.  He could smell her body in the tent.  Yes, she was sweaty, but he was falling for her more and more. Even though they barely spoke, concentrating on their footing as they trekked their way over the endless green, spongy, grass that made up the Plains of Never.   It felt a little like the Middle, without the fog.
He woke up on the morning of the third day and frowned.  There was a woman, an attractive woman, he had to admit, sleeping next to him.
"I..." he started.
The female woke up and looked at him with big, attractive, eyes.  "You okay Jo... Jox?" she asked.
He frowned.  Jox?  Was that his name?
"Are you okay?" she repeated, frowning.
"Is... Jox my name?"  he asked.  He rubbed his head, which was throbbing.
"Jox!  You're scaring me!" 
"I..."  Josh shook his head. "Sorry, sorry!  I don't know what happened there.  I just... wow, that was weird."
"What happened?" Samantha asked, pulling herself out of the covers they had bought for the trip.
Josh was distracted for a moment by the very delectable body of Samantha in the rather flimsy shirt that she slept in.
"Yeah, sorry.  I must have been half asleep.  I couldn't remember who I was.  Really odd."  He rubbed his head.
"No, let's not assume that," she said.
"What do you mean?" he asked looking at the side of the tent.
"This place is somewhere that no one ever returns from.  Anything could be the cause of that.  I suggest we take precautions from now on.  What did you feel like, when you woke up?"
"I... I couldn't remember who I was.  Or you, for that matter."
"Maybe it's what this place does.  Imagine.  You wake up, and you can't remember anything?  What would happen?"
Josh thought about it, and nodded.  "Nothing good."
"Right, so we need to be prepared."  She sat up, dropping the cover.
"Oh my fuck," Josh said.
"Give me a minute, I need to... use the toilet."  Josh scrambled out of the tent, his hands over his crotch.
"Who are you?"  He was in a small tent, next to an, admittedly, very attractive woman.
"Are you looking at my tits?"  The female pulled her sleeping bag up to her chin.
"I... Hold on, what's this?"  There was a piece of paper with bold black writing on it, next to him.  He picked it up.
"You are on the Plains of Never," he read out loud.  "It makes you forget who you are.  Your real name is Josh, but you must use Jox.  The pretty lady next to you is Samantha."  The writing changed at this point, adding: "She is not your girlfriend."  Josh, or Jox as he had to be called, looked up at her for a moment, and then continued reading.  "Follow the compass.  You must get over the plains."
He put the paper down, and then reeled, as memories came flooding back.
"Wow, it happened again." 
Samantha was gasping herself.  "Oh my word!" she said.  "Yes, at least reading that label out seems to kick start our memories."
"Let's get going," Josh said.  "The sooner we're out of here, the better."
They scrambled out of their tent, and went through their by-now well practiced morning routine, although maybe a little faster than usual, and soon, after Samantha had checked their direction on the compass, they set off, munching on some ration blocks as they walked.
"How long do you think we've been walking?" Josh asked, after some time.
"I think... four days?  Maybe five?  Oh my gosh!" She put a hand over her mouth.  "I have no idea!"
"It's just, I had a shave in the hotel, and, well, look."  He pointed at the beard that was accumulating on his chin.  "And the rations are lower than four or five days too.  We're actually running short."
"But we remember!" Samantha pointed out.
"We remember this morning.  Do you remember yesterday?  Setting up the tent?"
"I..."  She frowned, which looked cute on her.  "I don't know."
"Exactly.  We're in trouble.  The water is a lot lighter, we've nearly had it all.  Does it ever rain here?"
"I've no idea."  She was looking worried now. 
"So, what can we do?" Josh asked.
"There's nothing we can do.  You've said it yourself, the water is getting low.  We'll never be able to walk all the way back without running out.  We have to continue and hope for the best."
"Onwards it is then."  Josh made a face, and sped up his pace a little.
Whether by chance or destiny, some time later Samantha gasped and pointed.  "Look!"
Josh, who had been plodding on, face down, looked into the distance, where she was indicating, and his face broke out into a grin.
Ahead, still many miles away, just barely visible, dark hills could be seen.
"Yes!" he shouted, and impulsively hugged Samantha.
She did the same, and they both jumped up and down, only to stop suddenly, as they both realised their faces were very close to each other. 
"I..." Josh started to say.
She stopped him by kissing him. 
For several seconds Josh was in heaven, but then it ended abruptly, as she pulled suddenly away.
"I..." he started again.
"No, never mind. Not now.  That would be a mistake," she panted, looking flushed.
"Didn't feel like a mistake."
"Nevertheless," she shook her head.  "I have to maintain discipline."  She stood still and looked at him.  "We will... reevaluate this later, but first, we need to get to safety, agreed?" 
Josh looked at the distant hills, and nodded.
"Let's go then."
Spurred on by the possibility of finally getting off the plain, they started walking again, at a faster pace than before.
The hills didn't look much closer an hour or so later, when they paused to take a drink.  In fact, when Josh looked again, they seemed to be slowly disappearing.
"What's happening?" he gestured.
Samantha squinted for a few seconds.  "It's a storm," she said eventually, "a big one too."
"Now it rains," muttered Josh.
"Yes.  Come on, let's keep going."
So they set off once more, but it wasn't long before the wind started to pick up, and visibility started to drop drastically.
"This isn't good," Josh had to raise his voice over the rising gale. 
"No, look, let's set the tent up now, get into shelter," she replied.
Samantha slipped the tent bag off her back, and, with some difficulty, they got the tent out, struggling to set it up in the ever-increasing wind. 
Then, just as Josh thought they had it, and enormous gust yanked the thing out of their hands and took it away, high into the air.
"Fuck!" screamed Josh, and started to go after it, only to be held back by Samantha.
"No," she cried in his ear, "you'll never catch it, and we don't want to lose each other.  Here."  She pulled a short rope out of her bag, which they hadn't used thus far, and passed him one end.  "Tie it around you," she said, wrapping the other end around her own waist.  "Make it secure."
"Good idea!"  Josh busied himself with the rope, and soon they were linked.
"Come on, if we can't get shelter, we should keep going!"  Josh could barely hear Samantha over the gale. 
He nodded, and they set off again, leaning into the wind and, soon after, the rain.
"Fuck fuck fuck," Josh muttered.  His jacket had a hood, which he pulled over his head, but the clothes they had bought, whilst practical, weren't waterproof enough to keep them dry in a torrential downpour, which the storm soon became. 
As if that wasn't bad enough, lighting struck nearby, several times.
"We have to find some shelter!" screamed Josh.  "We're a magnet for lightning here!"
"Where?" Samantha screamed back, gesturing around at the flat plain.
"Fuck!" repeated Josh, and kicked at the ground.  Then, looking down, he kicked again.  He dropped to his knees, and began tugging at the turf loosened by his kick. 
It took some doing, and it was cold and wet, but he finally managed to yank the top layer of grass off, which peeled away like an old carpet, revealing dark earth below, into which he began to dig.
Samantha, seeing what he was doing, joined him, pulling out a short, stiff board that had helped support the tent and using it as a makeshift spade.
In a surprisingly short time, they had dug a small hole, which was hardly comfortable, but crawling into it, and snuggling up together, was a least warm.  Josh pulled some of the peeled away turf back over them too, to form a bit of a protective shelter.
"We're going to be very wet," Samantha said, the water will drain down into here.
"Better than being struck by lightning," he said. 
"I think so."  She put an arm around him, and he breathed deeply.  "Don't go getting any ideas," she added.
"But it's so romantic," he said, then jumped as another bolt of lighting crackled overhead.  "Shit."
He smiled, and then tried to straighten his leg a bit, unsuccessfully. 
So they lay there and listened to the rain and tried not to shiver too much as the rain trickled in.  It didn't seem likely, lying in a cramped, wet and claustrophobic hole, but finally, Josh fell asleep.
He woke up, to find himself in a hole in the ground, cold, wet, stiff and very uncomfortable. 
"Fuck."  Struggling upright, he sat up and peered around.  He was on a green plain, which seemed to stretch on forever.  In one direction, some distance off, he could just about make out some low hills.  He looked down, to find a rope tied around his waist, the other end was lying loose, in the hole.
Crawling, painfully, out of the small pit, he stopped.  A young, and admittedly attractive, woman was pointing a gun at him.
"Who are you?" she asked.  "Why were we in a hole?"
"I'm..." he stopped.  He had absolutely no idea who he was.  "I don't know."
"And who are those people, are they your friends?"  She gestured with the gun behind him.
Swivelling around he could make out three, maybe four figures, some distance away, but definitely walking towards them. 
"I don't know!" he wailed.

Right, sorry, that went on longer than I thought.  I didn't realise they would get hit by the weather. 
Anyhoo, obvi, need suggestions on who these people are, and if they are friendly or not.
Any other ideas as to what sort of environment the Dark Valley is, where it is, how to get there, etc.  also very welcome! 
As always, thanks for reading!
Interactive Tales / Another Path. Gun.
Last post by NeilH - Nov 08, 2023, 09:57 PM
"No, fuck this," Josh said.  "I don't want to go back to His Grace.  How do we find this Red Man?"
"I didn't say that I would lead you to him.  I work for His Grace, remember?"
"I get that, but I'm here against my will, you get that, right?  All this talk about me being a saviour, I've no idea about it."
"It doesn't matter, you are here, you are the Saviour," she said.
"Okay, okay." Josh held his hands out.  "How about, we find this Red Man, and then we go to His Grace, how does that sound?"
"The person who may be able to help us find the Red Man, he lives in the Dark Valley," Samantha replied.  "It's not easy to get to.  We should report in to His Grace first."
Josh pursed his lips, thinking.  Eventually he nodded.  "Fair enough."  Let's get back to the carriage."
"Good," Samantha said.  "Come on."
They resumed their trek back up the side of the crater, a tiring, but not impossible journey, and finally arrived at their waiting carriage.  The door was open, and the small driver could be seen sleeping in the back.
"Typical," muttered Samantha, accelerating her pace towards him.
This allowed Josh to come up behind her as she was berating the poor fellow in an unsuspecting fashion, and pull her pistol out of her holster before she realised what he as doing.
"Jox!" Samantha whirled around, but Josh retreated backwards, holding the gun on her.
"I don't want to have to do this Sam," he said.
"Jox, don't be silly!"  She stepped forward, and then stopped abruptly, as Josh fired into the ground at her feet.
"Sorry, really, sorry about this," he said, as she glared at him.  "But I can't go to see His Grace now."
"This is crazy, what they said back there, in the camp, it can't be true!" Samantha took a step forward, but Josh waved the gun about, and she stopped again.
"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but there's more to it than just that."
"What?  What else is there?"
"I... I'm sorry, really I am, but I can't tell you.  You may report it to him, and then, well, then I don't know what would happen.  I really want to tell you Sam, but I can't.  It's for your own protection too."
"I find that unlikely, what with you holding a gun on me and everything.  Why do you need a gun anyway?  You have your powers."
"I told you, I can't control them well.  If I try and stun you, which would be preferable, I may end up blowing you up or something instead.  With a gun, well, I can shoot you in the foot perhaps."
"That's so comforting.  I'm glad you only want to maim me."
"I don't!  Look, again, I'm sorry, but I need to go and see this Red Man.  Oh."
"You've just realised you don't know how to get to the Dark Valley, do you?"
"It doesn't matter, I'll ask someone."
Samantha sighed.  "Look, you can't do this.  I know you well enough by now, I think.  If you leave us here, we'll be trapped.  There's no way we can get back on foot, we don't have the supplies.  I doubt the Puritans will be willing to help either, and I'm not sure I'd even be able to get back into the hospital.  You're not a bad person, you wouldn't just leave us here to starve, or die some horrible death."
Josh held the gun silently for a minute, and then, slowly, lowered it. 
"Fuck it, you're right.  Here."  He handed it back to her.  "But I'm still not going to see His Grace, at least until I've seen this red chap.   You can take the carriage if you must, I'll find another way.  Maybe I can use my powers to fly or something."
Samantha re-holstered her gun and glared at him. 
"Shit," she said, finally.  "I can't leave you.  It's literally my job to look after you, not that I've been doing very well so far.  Fine.  We'll go and find the Red Man."
"You promise?"
"If you tell me this thing I don't know."
"I'll tell you if you swear by all you hold holy, or whatever, you won't tell anyone else.  And I mean anyone," Josh countered.
"Arg!"  Samantha stamped her foot.  "Fine.  Deal.  I so swear."
Josh looked at the driver.  "Sorry fellow, could you give us a minute?"
The tiny driver shrugged.  Josh wondered if he could actually talk, he'd never heard him say anything, but nodded as he climbed back up into the seating area at the back of the carriage. 
In the meantime, Josh took Samantha a little way away.
"So?" she asked, as he looked left and right, to ensure they were alone.
"I'm not Jox," he said, in a low voice.
"What?  What do you mean?  Of course you are!"
"Shhh, keep it down," he hissed. 
"There is literally no one here," she complained.  "Now, explain yourself."
So he did, describing his journey, his encounter with Jox, the foggy and terrifying trip in the Between, being saved by Arthur, up to him meeting her.
"So?" he asked, as she simply stared at him.
"I..."  She shook her head.  "I don't know what to say."
He shrugged.
"But you have the powers of Jox."
"And I'm as surprised as anyone.  Possibly more so."
"And this Narrator?  Does he know?"
"I have no idea, but from what he says, probably not."
"Well, shit."  Sam took several deep breaths.  "Let me think a minute." 
Josh watched her as she paced in a wide circle for several minutes, scowling and muttering to herself.  Eventually she stopped, and returned to stand in front of him.
"Right, I've decided that this doesn't make any difference, at least to our immediate situation."
"We go with the current plan, which I am now slightly more in favour of.  Perhaps this Red Man can shed a little more light on this whole thing.  I am beginning to feel that there's more to this than we know."
"I'll say," Josh agreed.
"So, you're really called Josh?" she asked.
"Yes, but please don't think that here.  Keep calling me Jox."
"I was intending to, I'm not entirely an idiot, despite being jumped by someone I thought I could trust.  Someone who was going to shoot me in the leg."
"The foot!"  Josh complained.  "And I probably wouldn't have managed to anyway.  I like you too much for that."  He blushed.
For a second she just glared at him, and then threw her hands in the air in defeat.  "Come on, we have to figure out how to get to the Dark Valley."  She started walking back to the carriage.
"You don't know?"  Josh hurried after her. 
"Maybe the driver will know a way."  She seemed to be talking more to herself now.
"What?  Why?  What's the problem here?"
She stopped.  "Sorry, sometimes I forget you don't know this world.  The Dark Valley is not easy to get to.  There's a major obstacle to reaching it."
"Okay, and what would that be then?"

Gah, sorry, event this short episode took some squeezing out, but something is better than nothing yesno?  I know, it wasn't action packed either, but they can't all be, can they?
Now, obvi question here, but WTF is the obstacle getting to the Dark Valley?   A guardian?  Some form of befuddlement enchantment?  Some other weirdness? 
As usual, all suggestions welcome!
And as usual, thanks for reading.
Interactive Tales / Another Path - Spy.
Last post by NeilH - Oct 30, 2023, 05:09 PM
"Jox!  Come on!" the hand waved again.

"Well, why not?" Josh muttered to himself.  He changed course and walked towards the tent, surreptitiously glancing left and right to make sure none of the Puritans were looking at him.

The hand retreated, but the entrance was kept open a sliver, and then further, to allow him and Samantha inside.


Josh looked around the interior of the tent. 

It was large, but then that was pretty much the theme of the Puritans.  There was a dark, slightly worn, but serviceable carpet on the ground.  Scattered around the spacious interior were all the furnishings you would expect from a living space, only twice the usual size.

A wooden bed was in the far corner.  A kitchen type area in the second corner, with some kind of black metal, fuel burning stove exuding heat.  A pipe serving as a chimney exited through a hole in the side of the tent.

In a third corner a low table was surrounded by large bean bag seating whilst, finally the remaining corner was partitioned off, presumably to serve as a bathroom area.
The Puritan that had invited them in, if that was the correct description, was a female.  A very impressive looking female, Josh had to admit.  In his world she could have been described as a giant Amazonian. 

Long blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders in wild rivers.  An attractive face looked down at him, over a statuesque physic which would have stood out in any universe.  She was wearing something that looked like a sort of Roman Centurion uniform, which was highly stylised.  It took Josh a second to compose himself, despite, or possibly because of the fact that she loomed over him.

"Thank goodness you're here!" the giantess said, in what was probably a low voice for her.

"And you are, exactly?" he asked.

"I'm Alisia," she said.  "So good to finally meet you."  She held out a hand, which Josh just looked at.

"Oh, sorry."  Alisia looked at Samantha, distaste on her face.  "Can we speak, in private, please?"

"It's okay, she's with me," Josh said.

"She works for Him," Alisia said. 

"Look..." Josh started.

"It's okay," Samantha interrupted.  "I'll wait outside."  Before he could respond, she ducked back out of the tent.

"Good."  Alisia beckoned him over to the bean bag chairs.
After a moment's hesitation, Josh followed, and sat into one of the things.  His new friend slumped back into the one next to him in a far easier fashion.

"So, who are you, and what do you want?" he asked, shifting around, trying to get into a stable position.

Alisia glanced about and leaned forward.  "I work for the resistance," she informed him.  "I understand you met one of us in The Between, large green fellow, name of...?"  She looked at him.

"Oh, Arthur, yes."  Josh nodded.

She sighed, and relaxed slightly.  "Good.  Good.  Listen, we don't have a lot of time here."

"When do we ever?"  Josh scowled.

"Yes, well, listen.  His Grace is a danger to you.  He intends to, well, we're not sure what he actually intends, but we're fairly sure that it will mean your death."


"This whole 'cure the world' thing they're saying, it's happened before, about a century ago."


"Yes," Alisia nodded.  "And it was His Grace that brought someone into To to 'cure' it."  She made the speech marks gesture with her fingers.  "Except that 'hero'," again with the speech marks, "was never seen again."

"Did it cure the problem though?"

"Well, yes, but there's more to it than that, we think."

"Go on."

"We think that the cause of the whole problem is His Grace.  We think that, somehow, he causes the Blight, and then sucks in some poor sap, apologies, to cure it.  Then slowly, it gets worse again, and repeat."

"Well, that only happened once, right?  How come no one remembers this?"

Alisia slumped back. "That's the thing.  Collective memory seems to blank about that time.  It's only because of certain records that the resistance stumbled across that we know of it.  Plus, it happened so long ago, not many people from that period are still alive.  And there's more."

"Oh, good," Josh said, trying not to sound too sarcastic.

"We think that time, a hundred years ago, wasn't the first time.  There's some evidence of it happening at least once before, and even before that."

"And you think His Grace is responsible?"

"We think he is."

"But that would make him, what?  Three, four hundred years old?"

"We've done some research.  There is actually no record of anyone ruling To before him.  It's always been His Grace."

"Well, shit." 

Alisia nodded.  "Shit indeed.  In any case, that's what I had to tell you.  You should beware."

"Any idea how I get out of this fix?  Get back home?"

She shook her head.  "There are rumours of people getting back to their reality, but they are just rumours.  Sorry.  What I do know though, is someone who may be able to help you use your powers."

"Okay, finally some useful information."  Josh leaned, with some difficulty, forward.

"You need to seek out the Red Man."

"And where..."

Josh was interrupted by Samantha, poking her head into the tent.
"Josh, we have Puritans approaching.  We need to get out of here."
Alisia stood up.  "Yes, go.  Go quickly!"

Josh didn't need telling twice, he managed to extricate himself from the bean bag and rushed over to Samantha, and the exit.  Before he went out, he turned back to the giantess.

"What are you doing here, exactly?"

"I'm an agent here," she replied.  "No time to explain, go!"

Josh went.


They made it out of the Puritan army, which was a relief, but Josh didn't relax in any meaningful fashion until they had climbed halfway up the crater wall, where they stopped to catch their breath, sitting on boulders of obsidian on a small ledge.

Samantha had said nothing all the way, as both of them concentrated on getting away.  Now though, she looked at him.

"Tell me," she said.


"What she said, is it true?  Do you believe her?  Who is Arthur?"

"You were eavesdropping?  That wasn't very trusting of you!"

"It's my job.  Well, part of it.  Now, tell me."

Josh looked at the floor for a minute.

"Tell her," said a high pitched voice from his waist.

"Oh, shit!"  Josh jumped.  He'd forgotten about the egg.  "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I am fine. Tell her, you can trust her."

Nodding slowly to himself, Josh looked up at Samantha.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm lost here.  I have no idea what's going on.  I'm not even..." he stopped short, still unsure if he could tell her everything.  "I'm not even sure about my powers."  That was true enough.   "I never had anything back in my world, no one does."  He held up his hand, and squinted.  Blue sparks crackled along his fingers.

"How interesting," said the egg.

"Sure," he nodded again.   "Interesting."

"Egg," Samantha said.  "Is what the big woman said back there true, as far as you know?"

"I don't know for certain.  My race has a collective memory, but we've been cut off from this world most of the time," it replied.  "However, what was said matches the data we have."

"So His Grace is hundreds of years old?"  Samantha put a hand to her mouth.

"Possibly more than that," the egg said.

"Who is this Red Man?" she asked.

"I have no idea."

"Great."  She looked at Josh. 

"What?" he asked.

"I don't know what to do."

"Yeah, welcome to my world," he said.

"Maybe..." she stopped.


"There's someone I know, they may know who the Red Man is."

"You would do that for me?  You're not going to turn me in?"

She smiled at him, a distant, unsure, smile.  "I like you Josh," she said, eventually, a statement that sent his heart racing. Before he could respond, she held up a finger.  "But I need to think some more on this.  You are supposed to be the cure for our ills.  If I'm wrong..."

"You're not."

"And our hero has escaped!"
Josh cried out and fell off his rock as the Narrator appeared once again, this time appearing to stand in mid-air.

"What?" Samantha asked.

"He has escaped from the clutches of the evil aliens, and even now returns to fulfil his destiny, and cure the people of To!  What a man, what a hero!  We must all look forward to him becoming our saviour, as has been foretold."

And, unusually for this being, he looked directly at Josh.  "He needs to become the hero we all know he is."

With that, he vanished.

"Fuck," said Josh.  "It was the Narrator."

"Really?  Here?"

"I told you, he appears anywhere!  He wasn't even standing on anything this time, but he did look at me."  He repeated what the strange being had said.

"He seems to think you should return to His Grace," she said.

"Yeah, no shit."

Okay, getting too drunk to type now, so going to stop and ask...
What should we do now?  Try and seek our Red Man? (BTW Ideas for the Red Man more than welcome) or should he return to His Grace?  Or should he deliver the egg to where they told him to? Or all/any of them, in any order. 
F this, I'm too drunk.
Interactive Tales / Another Path - Cure.
Last post by NeilH - Oct 24, 2023, 06:38 PM
The doctor leaned forward, which made Josh twitch.
"We are scientists, and yet, ever since we crash landed here, we've been unable to venture forth, due to... well you are aware of those who surround us."
"Yes, we had to come through their siege," Josh replied.
"Indeed.  Whilst they are unable to penetrate our defences, we are unable to venture forth, which, scientifically speaking, is unsatisfying."
"Can't you negotiate with them?" Samantha asked.
The doctor creature heaved a deep sigh.
"Sadly, they are old enemies of ours.  They refuse all attempts at mediation.  We are unable to eradicate them, indeed, we are restrained by our sworn oaths to do such a thing. It's a stalemate.  We can replicate enough supplies to survive, but not much else, which is why you find us is such a state of disrepair."
"So, what do you need from us?" Josh asked.
"In return for a cure, we would like you to smuggle one of us out of here."
"I don't see how we could do that," Josh replied.  "I mean, no offence or anything, but you're not exactly small."
"No, but we have a plan."
"Isn't there any other way we could pay?" Samantha asked.
Several of the doctor's tentacles rubbed at his face.  "Well, we are always interested in other species.  If you would agree to mate, and produce an offspring, that would be acceptable too."
"I don't think we have that amount of time," Samantha said.
"I don't know," Josh interjected.  "I'd be willing to give it a go."  He looked over at Sam, who laughed, which wasn't the reaction he wanted to see.
"I'm not going to wait here for a year until I give birth, and then give my baby to you," she said, looking at the alien doctor and resting a hand on her gun.
"No, no, of course not," the doctor said. "And yet there are other means..."
"No," Samantha said, crossing her arms, and leaning back.
"So," Josh sighed. "Who's this fellow you want us to smuggle out?"
"I'm really going out?"
"Yes, yes.  Now, please, again, be quiet." 
Josh patted the egg that was slung inside the pack hanging from his belt.
"But it's so exciting!"
"I get it, but if they realise you are in there, you won't be getting out at all.  They'll be frying you up for breakfast, or something.  Okay?"
"I understand."  The egg's voice was more subdued this time.
"Egg-sellent," Josh sniggered.
"Don't!" Samantha frowned at him.
"Sorry, couldn't help it.  Oh, hello doc."
Josh stood up from the bench they had been led to, and had been sitting on, as the doctor slithered up again.
"Hello human.  Here is your medicine."  He handed Josh a small box.
Josh opened it, to reveal a single, green, pill inside.  "This is it?"
"That is it.  Just take orally, and your affliction will be cured."
"Cool."  Josh tipped the medicine out of the packet into his palm, and then threw it into his mouth.  "Mmm," he said, "minty."  He crunched the thing up and swallowed.
Seconds later a tingling feeling swept through his body. 
"Oh, it's working already," Samantha exclaimed, peering at his face.
"Wow, you do good stuff," Josh remarked.  He jumped up and down, and then stopped as the egg squealed. "Sorry, but wow, I feel great!  Better than before even!"
"Yes, Mathradoxin II includes certain invigorating vitamins and additives, at no extra charge."
"Weee!  I'm top of the world!" Josh felt giddy.
"I think you've made him high doc," Samantha said. 
The alien rubbed at his horrific face with a tentacle.  "Mmm, I will pass the feedback to our chemists.  Seems the human version will need to be slightly reformulated.  No matter, it will wear off in a short time.  I would wait here until it does before you venture outside again."
"We will."  Samantha pulled Josh back down onto the bench. 
"I will get a nurse to bring something for you to eat.  There are facilities there," he gestured with a tentacle at a door, "where you can clean up.  It has a machine that will work on your clothes too," he added.  "Again, no extra charge.  If you can get our comrade out, it will be a big thing for us."
"No problem doc!" Josh said, brightly.  He felt as if he were floating.
"I shall depart now and write up my report.  Someone will be along shortly with some sustenance.  Fare well humans, and good luck."
"You too doctor," Samantha said.  Josh just waved.
The alien slithered away, and Josh slumped on the bench.  Various colours were floating about in his vision.
"Are you okay?" Samantha asked, peering at him.
"You're really beautiful, you know that?"  Josh beamed at her.
"You're high, or something," she said.
"Doesn't make it not true. Oh, hello."
Another of the nightmare nurses was approaching, holding a large tray in a tentacle.
"At last, we manage to catch up!"
Josh jumped to his feet again, as the Narrator appeared next to him.
"Once more, we are here with our hero, in a dark and..."
"Who are you?" the nurse flicked a tentacle at the man.
"Wait, you can see him?" asked Josh, startled.
"Shit," said the Narrator, and vanished.
"What just happened?" asked Samantha.
"How did that being get in here?" the attendant asked Josh at the same time, simultaneously putting the tray down on a nearby table.
"You really saw him?"
"Of course."
"What are you two talking about?" Samantha was looking confused.
"I told you, there's a strange chap who keeps popping into my life and narrating it, like I'm some kind of story."
"No one can get in here," the nurse said.  "I need to report this." The creature turned and hurried off.
"What's happening?" The egg asked.
"I have no idea," Josh said, sagging back down.
"Tell me."  Samantha frowned at him, which made her look even cuter.
"Did I tell you already say that you're really cute?  And hot?"  He beamed at her.
She sighed, and sat down next to him.  "You're high on drugs, so I shall ignore your ramblings.  Now, tell me about this narrator person again."
"I keep telling you.  He pops in from nowhere and narrates what's happening."
"To you?"
"No, he seems to be talking to... I don't know."  Josh sagged.  Some of the nice feeling was beginning to wear off.  "Can we eat something?  This is all nothing if we can't get out of here."
"Very well."  Samantha gave him another Look, but then went over to the tray that had been left for them.  "Oh wow," she said, as she examined the dishes.  "This is my favourite food!  How did they know?"
"What do we have?"
Samantha brought a plate over to him, which turned out to be a full English breakfast, complete with runny fried egg."
"Shit," Josh said.  "This is like, my perfect breakfast.  Is it morning?"
Samantha made a noise, and shrugged, stuffing some kind of purple vegetable into her mouth.
"We know what you like, of course."  The egg in his pack chimed up.
"Well, how?" Josh asked, picking up a rasher of crispy bacon and stuffing it into his mouth. "Oh my fuck!  That is so good!"
"Our civilisation is very advanced," the egg replied.  "To us, you're just cookroaches."
"Cockroaches," Josh corrected, taking a bite of the tastiest fried bread he'd ever had. 
"Cock, cook, what's the difference?"
"Quite a lot, actually," Josh said, munching.
"Very well.  Are we leaving soon?"
Josh looked over at Samantha, who was still stuffing food into her face.  "Not long egg," he said.  "Not long."
"How are you feeling?" Samtha asked, as Josh exited the alien's bathroom.  "You certainly look better."  She looked him up and down, which sent a shiver up Josh's spine.  He was really beginning to fall for the captain.
He had just spent what must have been the better part of two hours showering, washing, scrubbing himself in the finest shower he'd ever been in.  The hospital aliens may look like something from a horror movie, but they certainly had facilities. 
Not without some trepidation he had followed some pictorial instructions and stuffed his clothes into a slot in the wall.  After he had showered, brushed his teeth, and stuck his head into a helmet-like device that had trimmed and styled his hair, he had emerged to find his clothes folded up on a small table.  They had been cleaned, pressed and were as good as new.  In fact, he'd have bet they were better than new. 
So now he was back in the dingy hallway, where Samantha had been looking after the pouch containing the egg, which they had been tasked with smuggling out of the place, as payment.
"Here," she said, passing the egg bag back over to him. 
"Thanks," he said, fastening it to his belt.  "Do you think they'll notice?"
"Just do as the doctor said, we'll be fine."
Josh didn't believe her, but it wasn't like they had a great deal of choice. 
"Is... is the Narrator here?" she asked, looking left and right.
"No, I've not seen him since the nurse spotted him.  I think they frightened him off, no one else had been able to see him."
"Why are you?  Able to see him, I mean."
Josh shrugged.  "I seem to be the hero of his story, maybe that's why."
"Maybe it's because of your powers," she mused, as they set off towards the exit. "Was he there when His Grace has been there?"
Josh thought back over the frantic time he'd been in To.  "Not that I recall."
"Indeed."  Josh nodded.
They walked down the long hallway in silence after that.  Josh was pondering his feelings for Samantha, and he liked to think that she was doing the same about him, but realistically, she was likely thinking about the Narrator. 
Josh thought about that being for a few minutes himself, but then went back to more interesting thoughts about Samantha.
They finally made it to the exit, where no one at all was waiting to see them off.
"I guess we just go then?" Josh asked.
Samantha shrugged, and strode forward.
The doors slid open, and they walked out, into the gardens and their magnificent blooms.
"Why is outside so nice, and inside so run down?" Josh asked.
"No idea.  Maybe because flowers look after themselves." 
"Hold on."  Josh leaned over and picked a small yellow and pink bloom.  He turned and slid it into Samantha's hair, before stepping back.  "There."
She smiled at him.  "Thank you.  Now, let's go and see if we are going to be killed by alien soldiers, shall we?"
They walked towards the gate that led to the crater.
The crater was both a shock and not.  It was exactly as they had left it.  The Puritan desk was now, somehow, facing towards them, as the two approached.
"Halt!" the administrator said, as they closed in. 
"Hey, how's it going?" Josh asked, trying to remain calm.
"Was your mission a success?" the alien asked.
"I'm afraid the details of negotiations between agents of His Grace, which we are, and the inhabitants of the area beyond are classified.  However, as you have been so co-operative, I will divulge that initial contact was quite promising.  You may see us again."
"Very well."  The Puritan administrator thrust a small dagger and several more sheets of parchment towards them. "Sigh, and then step over there to be searched."
Josh, who had started to lean forward, stopped.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "But as political envoys, we are not subject to search from your forces."
"I disagree," the administrator glanced at his two guards, who glared at Josh.
"No," Josh said.
"You will do as I say, or face compulsory searches."
Trying to hide his terror, Josh stepped forward, placed both hands on the table, and leaned forward, to look the Puritan in the eye.  "We are official agents of His Grace.  I realise you have an army here, but His Grace also has substantial forces at his disposal.  Do you really wish to create a diplomatic incident?"
The Puritan administrator scowled, and fingered a knife that was in a scabbard by his side.  For a second Josh thought he was going to be sliced and diced, but then the alien leaned back. 
"Very well, sign and leave our area."
Nodding, Josh picked up the dagger. Wincing, he sliced a different finger from before, and, again, signed in blood.
"There," he said, sliding a copy over, keeping one for himself.
The alien merely jerked his head, indicating they should go, an instruction Josh was only too happy to comply with.
With Samanta marching behind him, hand on her gun, they made their way through the Puritan forces.  Once more weaving their way through the large soldiers.
They weren't far away from the edge of the camp when Josh heard someone calling his name. Or at least, the name he was supposed to have in this place.
"Jox!  Jox!  Hey!"
Looking to his left, he saw a face peering through the flap of one of the red tents.  When the face saw him looking, a hand waved at him, gesturing to approach. 
Looking back at Samantha, he raised an eyebrow.  She merely shrugged.

Right, sorry for the delay, RL interrupting.  So, ideas needed for who this being is, and what do they want?
As usual, all wild and wacky suggestions welcome!
Interactive Tales / Another Path. Hospital.
Last post by NeilH - Oct 12, 2023, 06:56 PM
"Go on," Samantha said, encouragingly.  "Give it a go, what can it hurt?"
"Blowed if I know," muttered Josh, but took a deep, painful, breath and thought about how to use his power for good. 
Logically, if logic worked in this place, and that seemed dubious at best, then if 'fuck it' was a Bad Thing, then the opposite would be...?  What was the opposite of fuck you?  Bless you?  He mentally shrugged. Worth a try.
Holding his hands up in front of himself, an act that took some effort, he placed his palm over the pulsating green spot on his hand where the Curse Giver had touched.  The effort of moving, and his own touch on the area, made his head swim, but he concentrated hard. 
"Bless this spot," he intoned, in a low voice.  Nothing happened.  He made an effort to think good, healthy thoughts, and tried again.  "Bless me!" he hissed.
This time, a response!  He experienced an odd feeling, as if his body was sucking in air from all around him.  Samantha gasped, and stepped away, as small sparks crackled around her.
The strange feeling stopped, and immediately Josh felt better.  Not back to full strength, or anywhere near really, but it didn't feel like he was about to die at least.  He looked at his hand.  The glowing green spot was still there, but smaller and weaker. 
"It's a start," he said.
"Did you do it?" asked Samantha.  "That was most odd."
"It helped," he said, "but I'm not really healed."
"How did this happen?" she stepped forward again, and examined his hand.
"Some hag in white touched me with a funny stick."
"You healed a Curse from the Curse-Giver?" Samantha looked at him with eyes wide.  "You truly are the saviour!"
"Now now, don't get all googly eyed.  I only improved it a bit," he responded.  "I still feel like crap, and it's still a mangy green. Perhaps I should see a doctor, get some pills, maybe some anti-biotics or something?"
"You want to see a doctor?"  The question seemed to startle the Captain.
"A doctor?  In... in the hospital?"  The last word was whispered, as if she was suggesting he was shagging his own sister or something.
"You have a hospital here, don't you?"
"Well, I mean, kind of, but not many people go there."
"Why not?  They do have healers and whatnot, don't they?  With medicine and so on?"
"I've never been, but so they say."  She shrugged.
"So, let's away then, get me some good old fashioned drugs."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course!  What could possibly be wrong with a visit to the quack?"
Josh dragged his ass off the table, stood up, with some effort, and beamed at her.

"Okay, what the fuck is that?"
"That's where you insisted we go.  The hospital."  Samantha gave him a Look.
They had left most of the guard behind and taken a fast coach, obviously a replacement, as this one didn't have a hole in the floor, and was powered by something that looked like an electric engine driven by steam, driven by a wizened looking midget sitting on a seat to the rear of the roof.  However it worked, it shot along the highway in splendid fashion, and then up a hill, and then through a long, dark, tunnel, and then out into a half frozen wasteland.  Spears of black, shiny, rock jutted up through snow covered ground. 
The steam-electric carriage had powered up the side of a mountain, along a winding road barely wider than it was, in a hair-raising ride that Josh, half out of it as he was, knew he would have nightmares about for the rest of his life. 
Finally it had reached the summit, onto a wide, and very flat plateau, much to his relief, and rolled up to a stop at the top of a massive, improbable looking, crater. 
Samantha had guided him out at this point, holding him up by the arm.  Josh had spent most of the trip in a half delirious haze.  His healing had made him able to stand, but he was far from cured, and although she'd spoken to him quite a lot on the way, he'd not really heard anything she'd said.
They were now standing on the lip of the crater, looking down to what could only be described as a gigantic black boulder sitting, dead centre, at the bottom of it.  The boulder, no, it had to be an asteroid, looked lived in.  It seemed, from what Josh could see, that someone had hollowed out the innards.  There were windows glowing all along the surface, and doors at ground level, made from some kind of metallic material.
Encircling this boulder-building though, was a besieging army.  Figures in shining silver armour paced around the perimeter, and here and there, amid dull red tents, the odd ballista would fire a lethargic rock towards the hospital, which would bounce off some kind of invisible shield before any damage was done.
"But... but..." Josh took another look at the strangest building he'd ever seen.  "But it's some kind of meteorite.  And it's under siege from a paladin army!"
"Yes, they're really quite determined," she replied, apparently not really concerned.
"What... I.. I mean..."  Josh took a deep breath.  "Do they actually have doctors, nurses... medicines in there?"
"Of course!  We're not barbarians you know."  Samantha managed to look offended.  "You do know many of us come from advanced universes, remember?"
"Yes, sorry."
Josh looked down into the crater again.  "And this paladin army?"
"Oh, yes, the Purity Army.  Don't worry, they'll let us through.  Probably."
"Purity army?  Probably?"
Samantha took a few steps backwards and sat down on the running board of the carriage.  Josh, deprived of his support, staggered over and sat down next to her.
"The Purity Army believe that everything is sent by 'The Creator'.  She made the quote marks gesture.  "They think that the hospital is going against the 'plan' by healing people who should have died.
"But, they'll let us in?"
"Oh yes, they're quite kind like that.  Getting out might be harder though, if you get treatment.  They will think you've cheated fate, or something."
Josh took a deep, painful, breath.  "Then we need a plan," he said.
Josh hadn't been prepared for the true appearance of the Purity Army, as Samantha had labelled them.  From up on the rim of the crater, they'd looked a little like people in old fashioned armour, but from only a short distance away, they looked like giant aliens in space-armour. 
They were all at least half again as tall as Josh, with many double his height, and goodness knows how many times his bulk.  The first one they encountered, on the outer perimeter, was one of these giants. 
"Holy shit," Josh muttered, as they traipsed up to a kind of check-point.  The armour did resemble plate-mail of old in style, but it was super shiny, and far better made than anything medieval could ever be.  The set was complete with spiky helmet, with a thin reflective visor instead of eye-slits, so the face was still hidden from him.  To complete the menacing effect, the beast had a gigantic two-handed sword slung over his back.  It must have been double the height of Josh, and from the look of it, he doubted he'd even be able to pick it up, let along swing it at any enemies.
Still, despite the imposing appearance, the guard didn't seem hostile.  As they closed in, he (?) stepped forward and said something, the voice coming out as a mechanical garble that Josh didn't understand. 
"I'm sorry, I don't speak Purity," he said.
"Do you understand me now?" the figure spoke again.
"Yes, thanks."
"Please state your business here."
Josh nodded, and tried to look relaxed.  This was the important part.  Samantha had stressed that if the Puritans thought he was here to get treatment, it could cause problems, so it was important that they didn't realise he was sick.  Hence, before they had made their arduous way down into the crater, Josh had tried healing himself again, this time the spot on his cheek. 
And again, he'd managed, just about, to make himself feel a little better, and the mark on his face had significantly reduced, according to Samantha.  It hadn't vanished entirely though, and she'd surprised him by pulling out some makeup and dabbing it over the affected area. 
"What?" she had asked, when she'd seen his expression.  "Just because I'm an ass-kicking captain of the guard doesn't mean I don't want to look nice."
"I think you look nice already," Josh had blurted out, and then blushed. 
She had merely smiled, and told him to hold still.
After that they had tried to make Josh look a little more presentable.  His rough treatment had left his clothes somewhat worse for wear.  Using a brush and a little water that was in the carriage, Samantha managed to get his jacket looking, if not respectable, at least a little less battered.
"It will have to do," she said, eventually.
So, now, he nodded. 
"We're here to interview those inside," he said.  "His Grace wishes to assess the facility, for tax reasons."  Josh held his breathe.
"You are from His Grace?"
"I am," Josh tried to look confident.  "I work for the tax bureau."  Apparently there really was a department called this, according to Samantha.  "And this is my escort, Captain Miller."  He gestured at Samantha, who nodded.
"And you think they will pay your ruler taxes?"
"This is what we are here to speak to them about." 
The being looked at them a moment, longer, and then shrugged.  "You are wasting your time."  Still, he stepped to one side and gestured.  "Go ahead."
"Thank you." 
"You are welcome."
Trying to appear more at ease than he was, Josh walked past the giant sentry, into the Purity camp.
The place was bustling, although not so much battling evil-hospital-forces-bustling as villagers-going-about-their-daily-business bustling.  Giant, armoured and armed villagers.
It was a minute, weaving his way between massive warriors, before Josh had his first look at one of the Purity army without armour.
For some reason he had still been expecting them to appear human, but that wasn't the case at all.  The... creature that stalked across his path was wearing a loose brown tunic.  His, Josh was assuming it was a male, but it may not have been, was slightly smaller than most of the others, although that could have been because he lacked armour.  In any case, the being was a dangerous looking specimen.  The skin was a light purple colour, and wrapped tightly around muscles that bulged, although in this case the torso wasn't bulky, but wiry.  In any case, Josh was sure it would have been able to lift him up with one hand (which sported long, needle-like nails) and toss him away with ease. 
The creature's face gave him a start.  It had two piercing pink eyes, and a lumpy skull, but the mouth was sideways on, and full of sharp teeth.  All in all, it looked very much like the creature from the Alien's films, only purple.  Josh wondered if the creators of the franchise had been to To.
They made their way steadily through the camp, past large tents of a uniform dark red colour, and the odd massive ballista-like contraption.  One was being loaded as they went by, with several of the Purity army winching, by hand, some kind of metallic sphere onto the end of the throwing arm.
"They are obviously from an advanced civilisation," Josh said in a low voice to Samantha.  "Why are they using swords and catapults?"
She shrugged.  "They've been here a long time.  Maybe they ran out of more advanced ammunition.  Why don't you ask them?"  She grinned, mischievously.
"You ask them," Josh muttered, giving her a glare. 
The went on, and now the focus of his attention was the so-called hospital.  The asteroid building, as he had decided to term it, loomed up in front of them.  A gargantuan, inhabited boulder from space. 
"It's even more massive up close," he said, looking upwards.
"I heard it crashed here about a thousand years ago, and threw up huge amounts of dust into the air.  It had started to affect the environment, but then the inhabitants did something, no one knows exactly what, and basically sucked all the dust away."
"Wow," Josh said.  "Wait, who are these people?"
Samantha shrugged.  "Supposed to be large, dark folk, but that's all I really know.  People don't come here a lot."
"Because of the Puritans?"
Josh was going to ask what the other part was, but they had reached another checkpoint.  This consisted of two giant sentries and another Puritan, this one is dark robes, sitting behind a table strewn with paperwork.
As they approached, the being behind the table pushed two sheets of paper over the desk, towards them.
"Sign these," it rasped, pointing at an 'X' at the bottom of the first sheet.
Josh looked at it.  The documents were covered in alien writing, none of which he understood, although they looked identical.  He looked at Samantha, who nodded, very, very slightly.
"I've lost my pen," Josh said, steadily.
"Here."  The Puritan passed over a short, but lethal looking dagger.
Josh looked at for a second, and then sighed.  "Great, I'm meeting with Klingons."
Taking the knife, it was heavier than it looked, he jabbed the end of his index finger.
"Ow."  Scowling at the Puritan over the table, who simply looked at him, he made a signature on both parchments, in blood.
"There.  I hope you don't wish me to write a formal statement, I may need a transfusion."
The Puritan didn't respond, but simply took the sheets back and, using a wooden instrument, stamped them with some kind of purple-inked seal.
He pushed one sheet back across the table.  "Your copy."
"Why, thank you," Josh replied, sucking his finger.  He picked it up, folded it, and pushed it into his pocket.
"There," the administer gestured, pointing at a narrow trail behind him.  It led to a door shaped frame, standing on its own.
Still sucking at his finger, Josh walked towards it, Samantha following behind.  In doing so, he passed the final layer of Puritans.  Somehow he was now in no-man's-land. 
Approaching the archway, he noticed a crackling in the air, and remembered the invisible shield that the besieging army's attacks had bounced off. 
Stopping in front of it, he poked at the area within the arch. 
There was a crackle of lightning, and he found himself lying on the floor, steaming slightly. 
"Are you all right?"  Samantha looked down at him, a concerned look on her face.
"Don't poke there," he replied.
"No, wasn't going to."  She held out a hand, and helped him back to his feet.
"Hello?"  A new, smooth and cultured voice made them look back at the arch.  No one was visible.
"Hello?" Josh replied.
"May we be of assistance?"  The voice was coming from a small grid set into the archway that he'd not noticed before.
"We would like..."  Josh looked around, trying to figure out of any Puritans were listening.  "We would like to come in please."
"Do you wish us harm in any way?"
"Very well, but if you work against us in any fashion, there will be painful consequences.  Are you in agreement?"
"Yes, sure."
There was a pause.
"I agree," Samantha added.
"Very well, come through."
A low hum, that Josh hadn't even realised was there, stopped.
Not wanting to show fear in front of Samantha, he took a step forward.  He remained upright, so carried on, through the arch, and suddenly, was in a well-maintained garden, full of plants, albeit plants that were mostly blue in colour.  A level, pastel yellow stone path wound its way towards the black stone of the hollowed out space rock, and a large set of double doors.
"This is nice.  How come we couldn't see this before?" he asked, looking about.
"I have no idea," Samantha replied.  "Obviously these people are from a very advanced civilisation."
"That is promising."
"I hope so."
They made their way up to the doors, which, in direct contrast to the wall of the asteroid, were white, modern looking and metal, with tinted black glass windows.
They slid open as the two approached, and cool air wafted out of the dark interior.
"Air conditioning too.  Nice."
Josh stepped inside, and stopped.
"Oh," he said. 
He found himself in a large, dark hall.  Spluttering yellow lights flickered overhead, resembling the gas lights of a Victorian city.  The floors were grey stone, and the walls pale cream, with the paint peeling in areas. 
Ahead of them was a long counter, which appeared to be unmanned.  Josh couldn't help but notice the surface was near head height. 
"More giants?" he asked, as their footsteps echoed on the floor.
"It's not very busy, is it?" Samantha said.
They reached the desk, and Josh, standing on tiptoes, peered over it.  There was a large, black bell, as you would find in a hotel lobby perhaps.
"Why not?"  With an effort, he reached up and hit it.
The resulting bell made him stagger back and clap his hands over his ears.
"May I help you?"
Josh and Samantha whirled around, and Josh screamed.
Looming over them, peering over the desk, was a creature out of nightmares.  One bloodshot eye, the size of a football glared at them.  The other eye socket was empty, a dark hole in a face consisting of black skin peeling off a yellow skull.  There was no nose, but the malformed mouth was full of rotting, and yet somehow still sharp teeth, each one the size of a finger.
The body was swathed in a dark robe that swirled about as if it has a life of its own. 
"We... we're here for treatment," Samantha managed to get out, holding on to Josh's arm to stop him running away.
"I see."  The eye looked at them for a moment longer.  "Please wait a moment, I shall get a doctor to attend you."
The horror retreated.
"What was that?" hissed Josh, when it had gone.
"I think it was the receptionist."
"I thought this was a hospital.  Why don't they cure... them?"
Before Samantha could postulate a reply, the creature was back, this time it lurched around the desk, towering over them.  Josh was beginning to develop a phobia of giant creatures.
"Please follow me," it hissed, and did an about turn.
"They're more efficient than hospitals at home at least," Josh mused, as they followed the being along a massive corridor. 
The walk took at least five minutes, and by the time they reached their destination, Josh was shaking slightly.
The corridor had many doors set into it, and some were open.  Many just had rooms with beds in, or at least bunks.  Bunks with rotting blankets.  More than a few had restraints dangling down from the sides.  Some had chains.
Others, more sinister, had couches or tables. These were not in best repair either, and there was a worrying amount of what could only be old bloodstains splattered on the walls and floors.
The most disturbing one had been a room with a huge, dark robed being, tentacles holding on to some creature, thankfully hidden by the standing figure, on a table.  Screams and sobs came from the patient.  Loud as they were, they were only just audible over the buzzing of the motorised saw that was being wielded by the attending physician. 
Josh winced at the sound of flesh being cut into was quickly masked by cries of terror.
"Our surgery is very efficient," their guide had commented.  "Many patients survive and go on to live lives afterwards."
"That's... encouraging," Josh had managed to get out.
"We have the most cutting-edge technology," the receptionist went on, appearing ignorant of her choice of words.  "Although, of course, the siege means that we have to make cuts here and there."
Josh just wishes it would stop using saying 'cut'.
Finally, they were shown through a large door, into a room that was slightly more comfortable.  Several soft chairs, human in scale this time, sat across from a much larger one, in which another horror sat, tentacles holding a clipboard. 
"Thank you nurse," their new acquaintance rasped. 
"Doctor."  Their guide turned and slithered out of the room.
"Please take a seat."  Several tentacles pointed to the chairs. 
Josh tore his gaze away from the doctors face, which had two eyes at least, but was otherwise similar to their recently departed nurse friend in nightmare level looks, and sat down.  Samantha sat in the other chair.
"So, what can we do to help you?"  The voice of the physician was well cultured, and totally at odds with his appearance.
"I..."  Josh cleared his throat and started again.  "This," he pointed at his cheek and hand, "was inflicted on me by a Curse Giver.  I've managed to reduce the effects, but I can't seem to cure it.  I was hoping you could help."
"You've come to the right place!" the doctor boomed.  "Let me see.  Hold still." 
Tentacles whipped forward, holding Josh's head in a firm, but surprisingly not all that uncomfortable grip, whilst another prodded at his cheek with some kind of silver instrument.
"Yes, yes, I see.  Yes, we can cure that with a simple dose of Mathradoxin II."  The tentacles withdrew.
"You can?"
"Don't sound so surprised young... human?  Yes, human," the doctor replied.  "Our establishment may have seen better days, but we are the finest medics in the galaxy."
"Oh, well, thank you."
"Not a problem.  Now, just the matter of payment."
"Payment?  Oh, well His Grace is a friend, I'm sure we can..."
"No no no, we don't need money here," the doctor interrupted.  "Not that you would recognise as such at least.  No, we do you a service, and you do us one, or volunteer to help us with our research, or maybe donate part of your body.  Although for Mathradoxin you're looking at a fairly major organ.  Are you a standard model human?  How many hearts do you have?"
"What service do you require?"  Josh asked.

Phew, that just went on and on.  So, obvi ideas needed here for what kind of service Josh can offer?  All ideas, however off the wall, welcome!

And thank you for reading!

Interactive Tales / Another Path. Burbopee
Last post by NeilH - Oct 02, 2023, 08:35 PM
"Very well," her Tainteness declared, ignoring Josh, "bring out the Book of Burbop."

The crowd around cheered again, as the Bishop bowed and retreated to a door Josh hadn't noticed before, behind the throne.

"Clear a space," her Tainteness ordered, as the thin man vanished behind the door.

The Tainted around Josh suddenly became very busy clearing themselves, and any furniture, out of the way, until a large circular area was made in front of the throne, where her Tainteness was slumped, observing proceedings.

"Jox must face his greatest challenge yet!"

Josh turned to see his Narrator, once again seemingly invisible to everyone else, addressing the wall. 

"Our hero has been captured, and must partake in a trial he cannot hope to win!  How will he get out of this conundrum?  Will he get out of it?  Will his survive the questions?  Let's watch and find out..."

The man vanished.  Josh said a Bad Word.

As he did so, the Bishop returned, carrying a large, worryingly skin-coloured, tome under his arm.  It seemed to be dripping blood, which is never something you want to see in a book.  A pulpit was dragged up from somewhere, and placed to the side, slightly in front, of the throne. 

A hush descended as the Bishop approached.  Bowing once to her Tainteness, he stepped onto the pulpit and placed the book upon the stand.   

"Where is the Curse Giver?" he asked, looking left and right.

"Here I is yooz majesti!"

Josh turned to see the owner of the high pitched, screechy voice scamper up. 

The Curse Giver was an old female, frame bent and twisted with age and Blight, wearing, unlike everyone else, all white rags, with only a splash of red on her arm, worn like an insignia.

Her wild, white, matted hair hung down over her face, but from what he could make out, she had a long, hooked nose and teeth the Wicked Witch of the West would be jealous of.  In a gnarled hand she held a bent, white, stick. 

"Welcome Curse Giver," the Bishop said.  "Are you ready for the Burbop?"

"I is always ready I is!" The Curse Giver danced a little jig, cackling madly.

"Very well then," the Bishop turned to look at Josh.  "Here, standing before us, is the unseemly sight of an un-infected."  Boos and hisses rang out from the watching crowd. 

Josh, deciding he had to hold his own here, held up his arms in a 'champion' pose and did a slow three-sixty, bowing, which elicited even more jeers.

"Blasphemer!" screeched the Bishop, seemingly enraged by his act.  Spittle ran from his mouth. 

"S'up?" Josh replied, calmly.

"The Burbobee will behave accordingly!"

"Sure."  Josh shrugged, and winked at the Curse Giver, who screeched, and did another little jig, nearly falling over.

"You will come to order!" The Bishop banged his book.  When Josh didn't respond, he nodded, more calmly.  "Very well.  The proceedings will proceed in a procedural fashion.  Are you ready Burbopee?"

"I don't know what the proceedings are," Josh replied, reasonably.

"How can this be so?" the Bishop asked, seemingly taken aback.  He turned to her Tainteness, who had been drinking something from a gigantic wooden mug.  "Tainteness?"

The leader slammed the mug down on the arm of her chair, and belched enormously.  "The Bishop will ask you a question.  If you get the question wrong, the Curse Giver will curse you.  Each time you are cursed, it will weaken you, until you succumb entirely."

"And what if I answer correctly?" Josh asked.

"Unlikely, but..."  Her Tainteness paused, and scratched her head, dislodging a certain amount of rotting scalp.  "I'm not sure it's ever happened."  She shrugged.  "I'm sure we'll figure it out.  Proceed."  She waved at the Bishop.

"Very well!"  Bishop Taint opened the large book, which threw up a certain amount of dust from inside, as if a breeze was emanating from within. 

A low moan rose from the onlookers, and Josh thought the whole place darkened slightly.

"Oh great Book of Blight!" intoned the Bishop, "reveal the first question for this Un-Tainted!"

There was a sigh, and a low whisper, which Josh could swear came from the book.  The Bishop tilted his head, as if listening, and then nodded. 

"The Book has spoken!" he cried.  "The first question is: If X equals one, and it is late afternoon, what colour is the second moon?  Answer now, answer quickly of feel the touch of the Curse Giver!"

"What the fuck?" Josh said.  "That makes no sense!"

"Wrong!" the Bishop screamed, grinning like the maniac he seemed to be.  "Curse Giver!  Do your duty!"

"No, I mean, that wasn't my answer!" Josh tried to squirm away from the Curse Giver, as she staggered over to him, but was restrained by several nearby onlookers. 

"I gis you the gifts of Curse, I does!" screeched the old hag in white, and touched his hand with her stick.

Josh sagged as the point of contact burned like fire, and a spot on his skin turned a rotten, pulsating, green.  A surge of ill-feeling swept over his body, and he gagged, feeling his legs go weak.

"The first Curse is givens!" The hag pranced backwards, as Josh tried not to throw up.

"Well done Curse Giver," the Bishop said, and turned to Josh once again.  "The Book will now speak the second question."  Once again he listened as the book did the creepy-whispering thing.

"The Book has once again spoken.  Burbopee, answer this!"
Josh tried to pull himself together, and readied himself, although how he'd be able to answer nonsensical questions he didn't know.

"What colour is your hat?" 

Josh frowned, and was about to ask a question of his own, when he remembered what had happened last time, and shut his mouth quickly again. 

He had several hats, not here, but at home.  Most were black, but he did have other colours.  He shrugged to himself. 

"Black," he replied.

"That is wro..."  The Bishop stopped, suddenly, mid-sentence, a shocked look on his face.  "I mean... how can that be?  The Un-Tainted is correct!"

"Boo!" shouted the crowd.

"A lucky guess," someone shouted.

"Yes, that must be it."  The Bishop listened to the book again, for the next question.

"Answer this Burbopee," he said.  "For most it is the end, but you can fall through it without boots on."

"What the hell?" Josh asked, without thinking.  "That's not even a question!"

"Wrong!" screamed Bishop Taint shrieked, once more back on form.  "Wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong!  Curse Giver, do your duty!"

"Shit!"  Josh tried harder to squirm away as the hag approached once again, attempting to bat her away back when he was prevented from doing so, but a burly member of the Afflicted grabbed his arms, holding him still as the stick once more did its job, this time touching his face, on his cheek.

A wave of nausea swept over Josh again, and he leaned forward and threw up.  His insides felt as if they were disintegrating.
"Oh fuck," he gasped, eventually, once the heaving had subsided.  He drew himself back up, trying to stand upright again, even though he now felt as if he was suffering from a hangover whilst he had the flu.

Again, the Bishop listened to the book.  Again, he spoke.

"It comes after I most times," he intoned.

The fact that Josh was feeling like death warmed up meant that he didn't give any sarky remark.  He did frown though.  Could it be that simple?

"E," he said, conserving his strength.

"Curses!"  The Bishop slammed the book with his palm.
"Ha, that's two all," Josh managed to croak.

"He must be cheating!" The Bishop appealed to her Tainteness.
"I don't see how," the leader said.  "Proceed."

"Bah."  For a fifth time, the Bishop listened to the book, and for the fifth time translated.

"Burbopee!  Fipopsee ganatata gugug morphase?"

Before Josh had any chance to respond to this gibberish, there was a sharp explosion, followed by a crash, then more explosions and screams.

"Get them!" someone shouted.  A female voice, one that sounded familiar, and very welcome at this point. 

The Afflicted holding him dropped him, and, as ill as he felt, Josh simply didn't have the strength to do anything but fall to the floor and lay there, as a fully-fledged battle erupted around inside the hall.  Several Afflicted dropped down near to him, bleeding from fatal wounds, and he vaguely heard Samantha shouting that she'd seen him, before he blacked out.


"How do you feel?"

Josh opened his eyes, to look up into the very welcome face of Samantha, Captain.  As nice as the sight was, he did not feel any better.

"Terrible," he croaked.

"Yes, you look awful."  She nodded.

"Your bedside manner needs work."  Josh tried to sit up, but failed.  He had enough strength to turn his head though, and found he'd been lifted onto the Afflicted's long table.  A number of heavily armed Grace guards were standing around him.

"Oh, I'm still here."  He rested his head again.

"We've driven them off, for now at least," Samantha informed him.  "You've been cursed somehow, do you think you can cure yourself with your powers?"

"I'm not sure," Josh said.  He didn't feel strong enough to sit up, how could he cure himself, even if he knew how?

Very well, not the most dynamic of chapters there, but I'm trying to push these out.

So, Josh needs to be cured, maybe he could do it himself, but maybe there's another way?  Any ideas welcome!

Thanks for reading!
Interactive Tales / Another Path. - Afflicted.
Last post by NeilH - Sep 24, 2023, 07:27 PM
"Listen, I..." Josh started to say, but was cut off as an enormous explosion hit the side of the coach, knocking it over and throwing both Samantha and him into the roof, which was now the wall.

Josh was lucky, he hit the soft seat, bounced off, and landed on Samantha, who was also fairly soft, before rolling onto the door, which was now the floor.

"Fuck," he said, after a few seconds, and the ringing in his ears had receded.  Pulling himself into a sitting position, he looked over at Samanta.  She was lying on the ground, out cold.

On the plus side the shooting seemed to have stopped.

"You, in the coach.  Surrender yourself."

Taking a deep breath, Josh pulled himself upright and clenched his fists. 

"I don't think so," he snarled.  "It's clobbering time!"

And with that unoriginal catchphrase he threw his arms forward.  "Fuck this!"

The previous floor of the carriage exploded, allowing, once the dust had settled, light to filter in through the resulting hole.

Stepping out, Josh looked left and right.

The scene was one of carnage.  A large crater had been blown into the road nearby, no doubt from whatever had hit the coach, parts of which were scattered around.

Slightly further away, the remains of the creatures that had been pulling the conveyance lay, limbs and chunks of flesh splattered gruesomely amongst the debris.

Further away still lay the bodies of his escort, in a variety of poses, but all blooded and damaged enough for Josh to feel that none of them were still alive.

Smoke drifted over the entire scene, and as a result it took a moment or two longer for him to see the figures that were slowly approaching.

There was probably a dozen of them, all wearing similar gear, which consisted mostly of red robes, but red robes that were torn and tattered, exposing yellow, unhealthy skin beneath, riddled with scars both old and new, some still oozing blood.
The group stopped, as one, with the exception of a single man, who strode forward to approach Josh.

"Come no closer," Josh growled at him, raising a hand.

The man stopped at his request, which allowed Josh to have a closer look at his new foe.

He had seen better days, that was for sure.  Despite the fact that he was tall and muscular, he was riddled with the same skin deformities as his comrades, which included boils and oozing pustules.  His hair, once probably dark and long, was now straggly tufts, and had mostly fallen out.  One bloodshot eye stared at him, whilst the other was nothing but a dark hole.

In one hand he held a large, and extremely lethal looking, pistol.
The man opened a twisted mouth, to reveal rotting teeth.  He pointed a crooked finger at him and snarled.

"Are you him?" he rasped.  "Are you the one they call the Saviour?  Are you the one named Jox?"

"Who's asking?"  Josh snarled back.

"We are.  We, the Afflicted.  We have come on behalf of The Holy Blight.  So, tell us, are you him?"

"Yes.  Yes, I am.  What are you going to do about it?"

"Kill," the Blighted leader said, raising his gun.

"Fuck you all!" screamed Josh, sweeping his hands around.

Lightning erupted from him, sweeping out in an arc and exploding the nearest Afflicted into bloody jam.

Still, shots echoed from further away, and several bullets zipped pasts him. 

He whirled around, and pointed at a woman, running towards him, firing a pistol.

"And fuck you!"

The women's head vapourised in a red mist.

Movement to his left.

"Fuck you!"

A chunk of the Afflicted's side blew out, twisting him around as he fell to the ground, spraying claret in a perfect circle as he went.
Fuck you, and you, and you!"

Josh pointed left, right, ahead, downing three more of the attackers in horrible ways.

Then something hit his leg.

"Shit!"  He looked down, to see blood gushing from a wound in his thigh.

Spinning around, he saw two more Afflicted closing fast.

"Fu.." he started to say, but then one of them hit him on the head with the butt of his rifle, and, after a brief moment of extreme pain, and a flash of light, everything faded from view.


The world came back.

It came back slowly and painfully.

Josh moaned and tried to rub his head, which felt like it was splitting apart, to find his arm was restrained in some fashion.  His thigh was sending message of extreme distress, which had to compete with all the rest of the complaints his body was throwing at him.

"Fuck," he tried to say, only to discover someone had jammed their used underwear into his mouth.

He opened his eyes.  Those, at least, seemed to be unimpeded.
Upon taking in the scene, he rather regretted the fact.

The room around him was long and large, somehow resembling a Viking longhall he'd seen in some TV series. 

A massive table ran the length of the centre of the place, chairs lining both sides of it.  Overhead, the roof could be seen, a sturdy wooden affair, as were the walls, which were lined with weapons.  Not axes and swords, as one might expect from a Viking hall, but all manner of fantastic guns and projectile weapons.  Some looked like they had come from a science fiction movie, others were more cyberpunk.  All looked well used and lethal.

Along these walls, placed in direct contradiction to any number of safety regulations, open pits of fire warmed the place to an almost unbearable heat.

All in all, the scenery was pretty cool.  The inhabitants, less so.
Sitting at the table, filling both sides, some sprawling out behind, was a crowd of nightmares. 

Afflicted, of all shapes and sizes, were in the middle of what appeared to be a celebratory feast.  They were wearing tattered robes, ripped leather armour, torn spacesuits, every manner of wild outfit, all of which had been dyed a horrific blood-red hue.

The celebration must have been going on for a while, as the drunken revelry was in full swing.  Servants shuffled here and there, serving the feasters, and Josh noted these servants also wore rags, and also shackles around their ankles.  Their beaten and bloodied countenance was more along the lines of abused slaves.

Even as he blurrily took in the scene, a young woman, holding a tray of drinks, stumbled and spilled ale over a large, orc looking creature in leather. 

The orc screamed, grabbed the much smaller human woman, and ripped her throat out, spraying all nearby with blood. 

Instead of recoiling at the barbaric act, those nearby cheered.  The orc's neighbour, a large human male, grabbed the poor servant's arm and took a bite out of it, chewing the meat noisily, red dribbling down his chin.

Josh had seen enough.  He rolled over and threw up.

His movement attracted the attention of those nearest to him, and shouts went up.

Hands grabbed him, hoisting Josh into the air and carting him, still gagging, along the length of the hall, up to the head of the table, where he was carelessly dropped onto the floor, knocking the wind out of him.

"Stand him up."  The voice was rough and deep, yet female.

He was grabbed again, and pulled upright, only now discovering that he had been bound almost mummy-like, in some kind of bandages.

In front of him, there was what could only be described as a throne, the second in his short visit to this realm, although this one was far rougher and cruder than the previous one His Grace had been lounging on.

It was made, like the hall, out of wood, and the carvings that covered it were crude, violent and sexual.  Phalluses, acts of extreme violence, demonic creatures, and death featured prominently.   
And the being sitting upon it could not have been more different from His Grace either.

She was big, maybe a troll, as per his friend Arthur, but looked as if she'd been killed and dug up again, possibly several times. 
Her head was practically a skull, the flesh peeling off.  The eyes were there, but sunken, and glowing red.  Yellow fangs jutted over rotten lips, and blood oozed down from weeping sores that covered her visible skin.

Yet, like the others, her frame was muscular, and, frankly, terrifying.  She wore metal chain-mail armour, torn and ripped in many places, but still functional.  And of course, it was deep red.
"Here he is!" the leader roared, to a replying cheer.

"We have been blessed this day!  Tonight, we shall feast upon our mortal enemy, and in one act end the Hope of To.  End the Hope of His Grace, and save the Holy Blight!"

The cheers of The Afflicted threatened to overwhelm Josh.  He tried to speak, but could only mumble.

"Wait!"  The Afflicted leader held a hand up.  "Let us hear what he has to say, before we feast upon his entrails.  Remove his gag."

A furry half-dog-like creature looked questioningly at the leader, but, at a confirming nod, removed Josh's gag.

Taking a moment to spit, and take a deep breath, which he quickly regretted – the air was not fresh – Josh turned to the giant Afflicted on the throne.

"You've got the wrong man," he said.


"I said, you've got the wrong person, I'm not Jox."

The leader snarled and leaped forward, grabbing Josh, painfully, by the throat with a large, callused, hand.  "What are you talking about?"  She shook him.

"I... I..."  Josh gave up and wiggled his head, trying to breathe.

Slowly she released her grip, allowing him to take in a lungful of horrible smelling air.

"I'm not Jox.  His Grace summoned the wrong person," he croaked.

"This is not possible.  You have the Power."  The leader snarled, making him gag on the smell of her fetid breath.

"N... No.  Really, I'm Josh.  I met a Jox back... back in my world.  He was looked like me and everything.  There's been a mistake."

The leader squinted at him for a moment more, and then released him, sitting back on her throne and looking at him thoughtfully, rubbing her chin.

"Your Infectedness, he lies!"  A figure that had been standing half behind the throne sidled up to her.  This new man was thin and ragged, but dressed in a tattered suit, still red of course.  He glared at Josh through round, cracked glasses.  Dark spider-web lines crept over his face.

"Speak to me Bishop Taint," Her Infectedness replied.  "Advise me.  What does the Holy Blight wish?"

"The Holy Blight speaks to me," Bishop Taint said, with the zeal of the insanely religious.  "The Holy Blight wishes the Slow Death of a Million Angels upon this wrong one.  This enemy, this smooth skinned un-sufferer!"  He glared at Josh and dribbled slightly.

"No!" Josh cried.  "I can help you!  I can help your cause!  I'm no friend of His Grace!  He threw me to the Carrots!"

"I say let the Burbop decide," Bishop Taint countered.  "The Burbop!"

"The Burbop!" screamed those around Josh.  "Burbop, Burbop, Burbop!"

The shouting stopped abruptly as the leader, her Taintedness, raised a large, scabbed hand.

"Your advice is wise and good, as always Bishop."  She looked at Josh, and slowly nodded. "Yes, indeed.  Let us let the Burbop decide!  For the Blight!"

"For the Blight!" screamed the crowd around Josh.

"Oh shit," he said.

Obvi, ideas needed for WTF the Burbop is here!  Your wildest and most unlikely suggestions are welcome and, frankly, needed!  Praise the Taint!  All hail the Burbop.  Or something. Yes, I'm drunk again.

Interactive Tales / Another Path. Bob Bob Duck.
Last post by NeilH - Sep 17, 2023, 07:43 AM
"The fuck!"  Josh stepped backwards at the sight of this new associate.

"Don't be afraid."  Bob, as he'd designated himself, raised a grey hand.

It was grey because there could be no doubt at all that Bob was dead.

"Shit," Josh said, taking a step back.  "Are you going to eat my brains?"

Bob sighed, a particularly wheezy sigh.  "That's a vicious stereotype," he moaned.

He moaned because Bob was obviously a zombie.  Apart from his skin being an unhealthy grey, in many places it was also flaking off, exposing a rotting carcass underneath. His eyes were glazed over, and his clothes were little more than rags.

"So you don't eat brains?"  Josh looked at the undead sideways.

"Oh yes, of course I do.  I mean, along with everything else."
Josh raised his hands, ready to do his newly found magic thing.

"No!  No, it's okay," Bob said.  "I'm here to help.  Well, to give you some advice at least."

"Go on."  Josh didn't lower his hands.

"You're not Jox, are you?"

"Why would you say that?"

"I see dead people," the zombie said.  "Hear them too.  Talk to them.  Chat to them.  I'd have coffee with them, if they had coffee here."
"They don't have coffee here?"  Josh lowered his hands in shock.

"I know, right?  It's fucked up."

"So you're not from here either?"

"Nearly all of the people here aren't native to this 'verse, or at least are descendants from other worlds, other universes."

"Okay, okay, so you said you had some advice?"  Josh tried to wrestle the conversation back on topic.

"Yes, don't trust the ruler of this place."

"No shit Sherlock," Josh replied.  "He already attacked me and threw me into prison."

"That's because he's batshit crazy."

"Yes, figured that out on my own, thanks."

"But he also needs you."

"So why did he try and have me killed by carrot then?"

"Oh, you were never in any danger, if you hadn't escaped by yourself, he'd have found a way to get you out."

"I don't understand."

"His Grace plays the long game. I'm not entirely sure what that game is, but it will mean your death, that I am certain of.  Also, as you said, he's a wackjob.  Totally nuts."

"They're saying I'm their saviour!"

"You're obviously a major talent," Bob said.  "One that has a lot of power."

"As unlikely as I'd have found that some hours ago, I seem to have some ability in this place."  Josh looked at his fingers.

"It may not have been apparent, or accessible, in your universe, but the rules are different here."

"How so?  And how do you know?"

"Because what is happening to you, happened to me," Bob said.  "My universe, my world, was aware of the multiverse, and even of this one in particular.  I was recruited to try and take out His Grace.  He was deemed a danger, so I was sent here to put him down."

"I take it that didn't go well?"

"How did you guess?  I..."  Bob stopped talking suddenly and looked around.  "Shit, they're looking for you."

"What?  Who?"

"The Palace Guard probably.  Listen, we don't have much time.  You cannot trust His Grace."

"Tell me something I don't know."

"He's after your power.  We're not sure why, but we were fairly certain it isn't to cure this Blight, at least not directly.  The Blight has been bad before, and then it's been 'cured', only to become gradually..."

Bob was cut off by a shout.

"Jox?  Are you there?" 

The voice, a female one, was familiar.

"What about the narrator?" Josh asked.  "Do you know about him?"

"Who?"  Bob looked confused.

"This guy in purple who...."

"We don't have time!" Bob insisted, interrupting.  "You need to stop this!"

Josh sighed.  "I know I'm going to regret this, but how?"

"Jox?"  the voice again.

"You need to kill His Grace."

"I knew you were going to say that.  How?"

"He has a weak spot, it's..."

"Jox!  Oh goodness!"

There was a short, sharp, explosion, and Bob's head exploded, splattering Josh with blood and brain matter.

"Are you okay?"

The under-any-other-circumstances-welcome-form of Samantha, Captain, rushed forward, a large mechanical gun in her hand, smoke wafting from the muzzle.

Josh reached up and slowly wiped some Bob off himself. 

"Yes, I'm fine," he said, dryly.  "Thanks."

"It's lucky we arrived, that creature could have eaten your brains!"  Samantha brushed an eyeball off his shoulder.

Josh sighed.  "That's a stereotype," he said.


"So, how did you find me?"

After a long walk through the jungle, which had made Josh sweat buckets, they had arrived at a nicely paved, modern looking road.  In almost direct contradiction to this highway, a coach, with some six legged creatures that weren't quite horses harnessed to the front of it, stamped their large paws impatiently.

"I was sent," she said, gesturing at a soldier to open the door.  "Apparently I was the closest to your location."

"Who sent you?"

She shrugged.  "Orders from above."

"And where are we going?"  Bob nodded at a guard holding the door of the carriage open for him, and climbed aboard.

"Back to see His Grace.  No, wait." 

Samantha held out a hand to block Josh from disembarking again.

"The guy threw me into an arena!  I was eaten."

Samantha looked him slowly up and down, and raised an eyebrow.

"I mean, I was eaten by a carrot, it wasn't all that serious I guess, in the end."

"No matter, it seems His Grace realises he made a mistake, and wishes to apologise."


"Yes.  He does have a temper, but he's been under a lot of strain recently, with the Blight and the rebels and everything."  She shrugged.

"Fine," Josh said, sitting down on one of the plush seats of the carriage. "But I'm not going to be taken by surprise again."  He flexed his hands.

Samantha nodded and sat down opposite him, simultaneously banging on the roof.  Their ride started to move forward, picking up speed quickly.

"Once more our hero heads towards the Master of To, and the Challenge that awaits him.  Will he fail?  Will he triumph?  Will he save To?  Only time will tell!"

"There, you don't see him?  Right there!"  Josh pointed at the Narrator, who appeared to be standing on the running board outside of the door, balancing with no problems, and talking to the air.

"Jox, there's no one there."  Samantha looked at him, a little sadly.
Josh was about to lunge at the mysterious purple clad man, when he vanished again.

"Fuck!" Josh sat back down again, a scowl on his face.

Sighing, Samantha leaned forward and touched his knee.  Josh felt a tingle of electricity run through him at her gesture.  She really was attractive, and he hadn't had any girl company for some time now.

"You are also under a lot of pressure I would guess.  You really didn't know about all this in advance?"  She gestured around.

"I had no idea."  Josh slumped backwards.  "I was driving in a fog, and then... I was here.  Well, in the Middle place."  He decided not to elaborate.  Samantha was nice, but he wasn't sure what she would do if he told her the full story.

He looked out of the window.  They were travelling through a heavily wooded green area.

"We're not going back to the city?" he asked.

She shook her head.  "No, we're going to His Grace's country estate.  It's more private there."

"And that's a good thing?"

Samantha simply shrugged.

Josh wanted to ask her more about herself, and, more specifically, if she had any current love interest, but he was interrupted by an explosion from ahead.  The carriage wobbled and swerved, coming to an abrupt halt and throwing him to the side.

Several more retorts, sounding horribly like gunfire, came from outside.  Similar sounds came from nearer by, as the guards on top of the carriage replied in turn.

"Death to the Saviour!" shouts could also be heard, over the shooting.

"That doesn't sound good," Josh said, ducking down.  "Are these your rebels?"

He looked at Samantha, who was now holding her large pistol again, and crouching down next to him.

"No, they want His Grace, not the Saviour, you."


Okay, trying to keep the momentum up here, not doing very well, but we can fix it in Post haha. 
So, they're being attacked.  Ideas about what the being/group looks like and their objectives, although it sounds fairly clear from above. 
Also, how does Josh get out of this fix?

Interactive Tales / When Carrots Attack
Last post by NeilH - Sep 06, 2023, 05:06 PM
The beast let loose another scream, and dived after him whilst Josh discovered that the problem with circular arenas, at least from the soon-to-be-eaten point of view, is that there were no corners, or anywhere else for that matter, to hide in.

He ran at the wall, having nowhere else to go, and gave a massive leap up, trying to reach the area where the crowd, such as it was, was seated.

The wall was far too high though, no doubt a design feature, and he slid miserably down it, to come to rest in the sand.

"Nice try though!" a member of the audience shouted at him. 
"Thanks," Josh said, and then dived to his side as the carrot beast caught up and lunged at him.


Jumping to his feet, he ran again, whilst the beast shook its, for want of a better word, head, and looked around for its prey once more.

"Okay, no more room to run, may as well try this magic thing, as that's what brought me here," Josh said to himself.

"Now, how did it go?"  He tried to remember, back in the throne room, what he had done to make the guards slam against the wall.

He waved a hand at the monster, who was approaching once again.
Nothing happened.

"What did I say?  Oh yes.  And you can fuck off too!"  He waved his hand again.

This time there was a distinct movement in the air, and the beast juddered slightly.  A small sliver of carrot fell to ground.

"That's it!  Get the bastard!" his fan in the stands shouted.
Josh waved again. "Fuck off!" he screamed, putting all his energy into it.

The creature visibly juddered.  Slices of orange skin flew off its side, but not nearly enough to make a difference.

Time seemed to slow down for Josh as the beast, now towering above him, lunged down from directly overhead, and swallowed him whole.


"It turns out that the reason carrot creatures are rare in the wild, is that they are, well, made of carrot."

Josh woke up to see his narrator companion speaking to no-one.

"The teeth, ferocious as they appear, are also made of, that's right folks, carrot!  Hence our hero now finds himself in the stomach of the beast.  Not as dangerous as you may think though, as carrots actually don't have stomachs.  So perhaps we should just say, inside the beast."

The narrator turned, and for only the second time, looked directly at Josh.

"And there's plenty to eat."

Then he vanished, taking the light with him, and leaving Josh, both figuratively and literally, in the dark.

"I wish I knew what the fuck was going on," he moaned. 

Despite being thrown into jail he still had his few belongings on him.  So, pulling his phone out of his pocket, he turned on the torch and looked around.

He was in a small pocket of inner carrot.  There was a tube, barely wide enough for a person to slide down, leading into the space, no doubt the throat, and that was it.  Josh wondered where things usually went from here, as there didn't seem to be any way out the other end.

"Well, fuck it," he said, remembering what the narrator had said.
"There's plenty to eat indeed.  Shame I hate carrot."

He stood up, as best he could in the small space and glared at one section of the wall.

"Fuck you!"


"The carrot snake thrashes and writhes in agony, as our hero blasts his way through the vulnerable, vegetable flesh from the inside.  Such is the power, the determination, of our hero, that no carrot beast can halt him!  Finally, the beast is defeated, and Jox steps forward, triumphant!"

"Oh, go suck yourself off," Josh said, stepping through the ragged hole in the carrot monster's side.

The narrator, whether co-incidentally or otherwise, vanished.


Josh brushed shredded carrot off his jacket and looked around.
He was in some kind of cavernous lair.  The ground was strewn with straw, whilst the walls were roughly hewn rock.  Behind him, the carrot beast lay still, but the hole he'd blasted his way out of was already healing.  To one side the portcullis into the arena had been closed.

"I guess carrots really are healthy," he said, stepping away and holding his phone up to illuminate the vicinity.  "Ah, an exit.  Maybe."

There was a door, human sized, set into the rear of the area, so Josh heading in that direction.

The door, which was a sold wooden affair with a heavy iron handle, was, perhaps surprisingly, open when he pulled it.

Light flooded in from the other side, making him blink and pause for a few seconds before, carefully and slowly, stepping through.

He found himself in a clean corridor constructed of uneven white bricks, as if someone had decided to use 'modern dungeon' as a decorative theme.  The illumination came from bright spots of light on the ceiling which, after some consideration, Josh decided had to be some kind of magic.

The corridor led off in one direction, so, lacking alternatives, he followed it.  And followed it and followed it.  It went on so long that he was beginning to wonder if there was some kind of illusion going on, and he was just walking in the same spot, apart from the entrance he had come through was long behind him.

Eventually though, a short flight of stairs came into view, terminating at another door.  This was of the same style as the last one, except it had a barred window set into it.

Peering through, Josh could see a small path winding through what appeared to be jungle.

"Better than an arena I guess," he mumbled and pushed on the door which, thankfully, opened.

"Woo, that hits you." 

The air on the other side of the door was hot.  Hot and humid.

"How far did I walk?" Josh asked himself, looking around. 

The sky was still the same near purple he'd seen earlier, with the same randomly moving clouds, so it seemed he was still in the To universe, but the jungle around him grew lush and verdant.  Odd tweets and noises came from the thick undergrowth, and he shifted uncomfortably.  The wildlife he'd met so far hadn't seemed very hospitable, and he didn't wish to encounter any more.

Then again, unless he wanted to go back to the arena, it didn't look like there was any choice.  The greenery was all around him, surrounding a raised area of rock that the door was stuck into.  It was an odd setup, but then it had all been odd, ever since he'd climbed out of his car.

"Onwards, ever onwards," he said to himself, and set off down the track he'd seen earlier.

The path was obviously not used a great deal, and various leaves and branches overhung it, many of them seemed to include sharp thorns, which made the going a little treacherous. 

Josh was soon hot and sweaty, and sported a number of new scratches.  He had taken his jacket off after only a short while, as it was far too hot.

"This is annoying," he scowled, stepping over a shrub that had sprouted in the middle of his route.  "Who made this path anyway?"

"It was me."

Josh stopped dead at the new voice, which sounded gravelly, and swung his head around, looking for the owner.

"And who are you, exactly?"

He raised a hand, in case he needed to try his 'fuck off' power again. 
The name's Bob.

And Bob stepped out of the undergrowth.


Okay, not a very exciting episode, sorry about that!  Suggestions for who and *what* Bob is here!  And anything else you feel the story needs!


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