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Story Promotion / FantasyReincarnated in a Fantasy Worl...
Last post by NeilH - May 03, 2024, 07:14 PM

My new manga-style isekai novel is now available on Kindle Unlimited:

Murderous Intent book 1

Interactive Tales / Another Path. - The Lost King.
Last post by NeilH - Feb 24, 2024, 01:00 PM
"Uh?"  Josh looked up, to see a large, bearded figure standing over them both.  He was dressed in furs that, once perhaps, were possibly grand things, but now were worn, faded and slightly grimy through use and age.  He was leaning on a massive axe with both hands, the metal head resting on the ground.

"And just who the hell are you?" Josh asked, pulling himself up to a sitting position.  Samantha did the same, her hand straying to her gun at the same time.

"I wouldn't missy," the large newcomer growled.  "I'll cut you in half before you can get a shot off."

Scowling, Samantha halted her movement.

"You didn't answer my question," Josh said again.  He didn't want a fight now.  This man looked like he could handle himself, and he was drained from holding off the guardian.
The man drew himself up proudly.  "I am..."  He paused.

"Yes?" Samantha prompted.

"I was..."  The man slumped.  "To be honest, I can't remember.  But I know I am in hiding, and I cannot allow any knowledge of my whereabouts to become known.  Hence, I'm going to have to kill you."  He lifted his axe.

"Hey hey hey now!" Josh said, waving his hands about and climbing quickly to his feet, then moving to stand in front of Samantha, who had also stood up.  "There's no need for murder here.  We're not going to tell anyone.  We're on a vital mission to save the world as it is, and our presence needs to be kept a secret too."  That wasn't particularly true, but Josh decided he wasn't bothered about lying a bit.

"Besides," he added, holding a hand up.  "You may find us harder to kill than you think."  He forced what little power he had left into his hand, creating a reasonably impressive display of blue electrical bolts.

The man paused, eyeing them both again.  For a moment, Josh thought it might come down to a fight, but then the man slumped. 

"Fine," he said, but you need to swear that you shall never reveal my existence, agreed?"

"Not a problem."  Josh nodded.

"Agreed," Samantha said.

"Very well."  The man lowered his axe again.  "You both look like you could use a rest, come on, I've somewhere."


"I must admit, this is rather pleasant."  Josh stretched his arms.

"I've had time."

The man's base was slightly off the road, down a very narrow ravine, hidden by a boulder.  There was a short, dark, tunnel, which curved slightly, which led into a circular cave area, furnished with rugs, furs and various other materials to make it more homely.  Lights, some appeared to be magical, others tech powered, were dotted around the walls.  In the middle of the area was a fire, burning low.  The smoke rose up through a natural chimney above.

"I've managed to collect a few things over the... years," the man went on.

Josh wondered exactly how many years.  All around the walls was, well, loot was probably one way to describe it.  Salvage perhaps another.  There were piles of armour, old weapons, clothing, wooden crates, packs, sacks and more, piled up neatly.  Most of it looked very old.

"You certainly..." he started to say, when he was interrupted by a familiar, unwelcome voice.

"Well, well, well," the Narrator declared, standing apparently obliviously, in the middle of the fire.  "It never rains but it pours, as the humans say."

"Who are you?" Josh's new acquaintance asked, looking directly at the Narrator.

"What's going on?" Samantha looked around.

"The Narrator."  Josh gestured at the figure in purple.

"Not only were we treated to a spectacular run past the guardian, but who should our hero meet on the other side?"  The Narrator indicated the large man, who was frowning hard.  "The Lost King, that's who!  The very one missing for so many centuries!  We all assumed he was dead, but now we know!  Oh, this is going to get interesting!"

"Get out of my home!" the Lost King, as he'd been described, thundered, throwing a rock at the Narrator.

The rock flew true, but hit only empty air, as the annoying figure had vanished.  The fire seemed untouched.

"Will someone tell me what's happening?"  Samantha scowled.  "How can everyone except me see this Narrator fellow?"

"Who was that?" the Lost King growled in turn.  "Where did he go?"

Josh sighed, addressing the Lost King first.  "I don't know who he is, he just pops into my life occasionally, declares this and that, and vanishes again.  You are only the second other person, well, being I guess, who has been able to see and hear him, other than me."  He turned to Sam.  "Just the usual," he explained.  "Except he said our new friend here is the Lost King, missing for centuries apparently."  He looked back at the man.  "Does that make any sense to you?  Can you remember?"

The man scratched his head, dislodging several small insects.  "There is something...  No, I don't know.  I do know I've been here a long time, hiding from... Someone?"

"If you were the king, what were you the king of?" Samantha asked.  "Was it To?  Were you there before His Grace?"

The man jerked, as if hit.  "That name!" he roared.  "Where did you hear that name?" 

Samantha, startled, blinked a few times before replying.  Her hand had automatically gone to her gun, but she pulled it away.  "He's the ruler of To.  He has been for as long as anyone can remember."  She looked at Josh.

"Maybe centuries?" Josh said.  Such a timespan would match what Alisia had told him, back in the Puritan camp.

"Do you think he could have been the ruler of To, before His Grace?"  Samantha looked at the man, wide eyed.

"Stop saying that name," the Lost King said.  "It makes me uncomfortable."  He paused.  "Do you think that is true?  Was I the ruler of this To place?"

"The facts fit."  Josh nodded.  "And the Narrator, as annoying as he is, hasn't been wrong about anything so far.  He seems to know more than he should."

The Lost King sighed.  "Well, I suppose I have been here for some time."

Looking around at the supplies stacked up in the cave, Josh nodded.  "So, what will you do?"

"I don't know, you have given me something to think about, that is for sure."  The Lost King rubbed at his beard.

"I don't suppose you know of the Red Man do you?" asked Samantha.

"I'm sorry, no." 

"Well, if you were exiled by His Grace, it would have been after your time anyway."  Samantha looked around.  "Would you mind if we rested here for the night?  It's been a strenuous day so far."

"Of course.  Where are my manners?  Forgotten along with my memory."  The Lost King stood.  "I shall fetch some food, we can eat together.  It will be my first meal with others in some while."

"That would be wonderful," Josh said, stretching his aching arms.  "Where do you get the food here anyway?"

"I hunt, there is a reasonable wildlife population, and there's an underground river not far from here."  He gestured at another entrance to the cave, one half covered by a crude curtain.  "The fish in it are tasty, if a little strange looking.  They live in darkness you see?  There are various mosses and other plants too, and I have a small vegetable patch on a tiny bit of flat land near the cave.  I make do."

"We'll pitch in with a few supplies too," Samantha said, reaching for her bag.  "I hope you like Beppo meat."

"Aye, every so often I stumble over one in the wild.  They're hard to kill, but very nutritious.  Let me go and collect some supplies.  You can cook the meat over the fire in the meantime.  There are some pots over there."  He pointed at a pile of kitchen items to one side.
"Thanks," Josh said, as the man headed out. 

The meal, consisting of Beppo meat, and various vegetables supplied by the Lost King, was as tasty as anything Josh had had, especially recently with the limited diet he'd had in the village, and traveller rations before that, over the Green.  Over dinner, Josh and Samantha explained their mission to the Lost King, who ate up the information, but, unfortunately, wasn't able to tell them anything useful in return.

Once the last of the food was done, the Lost King sat back, hands on his stomach, and gave the most enormous burp.  "That," he said.  "Was a nice meal.  And with company too.  I'm glad I didn't kill you now."

"Us too," Josh agreed.

"I am sorry I can't help you.  The only thing I can tell you is that Dark Valley is about half a day's walk away.  Just follow the pass down, you can't get lost, as there is literally nowhere else to go.  The mountains to either side are essentially impassable.  I chose this area because it's the only place the walls on either side of the path aren't sheer, and because of the cave of course, and the tunnels beyond."

"The tunnels?" Josh asked.  "Do they go anywhere?"

The Last King shook his head.  "Possible, but they're wurm tunnels.  Old ones too.  The wurms are giant and ancient creatures.  They don't usually come this near the surface.  If you followed their tunnels, you would likely spend a lifetime, or at least until you starved to death, wandering through them.  Although I have heard rumours of creatures living within.  However, I do think they are just rumours.  What I do know is that the tunnels go on and on and on.  They run under and all through this vast range of mountains.  Getting lost in them would be the end of you."

"Very well, I guess the pass it is then."  Josh sat back and yawned.  "I know it's still early, but I need sleep.  Holding off the Guardian has worn me out."

"Get out the sleeping mats," Samantha said.  "I'd like to check out the local area, if our new friend wouldn't mind showing me around, that is?" 

"It would be my pleasure."  The Lost King did a small, sitting, bow.

"Cool."  Josh stood up and picked up his bag.  "And don't forget, you owe me something special for holding off that monster."

Samantah giggled.  "You need to regain your strength first."


Josh slept like the dead the whole night, but woke up early, feeling refreshed.  By his side, Samantha mumbled in her sleep, whilst a massive snoring echoed around the cave, originating from the Lost King.

After a breakfast, they packed up their gear, and a few new items that they scavenged from the horde of the Lost King's cave.

"If I've not used it now, I probably never will," he said.

With their farewells, and a promise to return if possible, they finally departed, heading down the pass towards Dark Valley.

"I really didn't expect us to take so long getting to this place," Samantha complained, as they trudged along.

"I just hope your friend can guide us to the Red Man after all of this," Josh agreed.

"Let's just hope that's the case, and let's also hope the Red Man has something useful he can tell us."

They walked on, under a clear sky, the mountains looming large on either side, until, finally, they turned a bend, and there, down below them, was Dark Valley.

Right, sorry it's taken a while.  I've been swept up in a bit of an Amine craze, and, of course, that's inspired me to start another story, as if the two I'm working on right now aren't enough.  Anyway, look out in the future for: "Regret – Reincarnated with Murderous Intent."   Coming, well, I don't know when.
In the meantime, suggestions here are simply: What does Dark Valley look like?  Is it like To, or something else?  Ideas of the look, feel, culture etc. of the place, all welcome.  Including any strange laws they may have, for Josh and Sam to run afoul of!

Interactive Tales / Another Path. - Guardian
Last post by NeilH - Feb 06, 2024, 03:06 PM
A blue light lit up in front of them, revealing a nondescript human-like figure. 

"Retreat!  Danger!  Danger!" it screamed.

"Who the hell are you?" Josh screamed back, still gazing at the approaching guardian.

"I'm Panic of course.  I'm just projecting a hologram to impress upon you the seriousness of the situation."

"Fucking hell," Samantha swore, pulling out her gun.  "I really think we can see it for ourselves."

Indeed they could.  The approaching monstrosity was unparalleled in Josh's experience, even given the odd encounters he'd had since arriving in To.

Both of them backpedalled madly, as the thing stomped forward.

And it was a thing.

Standing at a good fifteen metres tall, if not more, the beast appeared to be a horrific mix of Beppo, man and reptile.  Possibly dragon.

It stood on two gigantic, muscular human legs, apart from the fact they seemed to have slightly shiny, maybe even scaly, skin.  These legs led up to a Beppo body, complete with four waving tubetacles that grew from the sides, except that they terminated in hands.  These hands, though, had deadly looking claws instead of nails.

The upper part of the Beppo body didn't end there.  From the top sprouted a neck, and a horrible human-style head.  It had wavy black hair, a face with large grey eyes, and a hooked nose. The mouth seemed to have a bit of canine mixed in too.  There was definitely a muzzle-like quality to the lower head area.

The thing stamped closer, and opened said mouth, revealing teeth a shark would have been proud of.  Flickering between these teeth was a forked tongue, taken, perhaps, from the devil himself.

"Holy fuck!" Josh said.

"Danger!  Danger!" shouted the Panic hologram, living up to its name.

"Yeah, we know!" Josh screamed back.

"Delicious!" roared the guardian, lunging forward.  "Food!"

"Fuck!"  Josh threw up his hands, and the creature's attack met his blue force field.  At the same time, he felt like a house had just landed on him.

"Josh," cried Samantha, opening up with her gun.
The guardian screamed as her bullets peppered his head, and then screamed louder as one hit an eye.
"Nice shooting," the holographic Panic commented.

"I think we've just pissed it off," Josh said, as the thing roared, and swung it's tubetacles at them.  "Oh fuck!"  He was nearly driven to the floor as his shield blocked the latest blow, but which sent a shockwave through his body.

"Are you okay?" Samantha asked, firing more shots up at the beast.

"We need to retreat," he shouted back.  "I can't hold him off much longer!  He's worse than the Blightning!"

They did retreat, running at full pelt back along the mountain path they'd so innocently wandered up.  The guardian kept attacking, pounding Josh's shield, which grew weaker and weaker with every attack.

"I can't go on any more!" he gasped, after the most recent lunge.  "Sam, save yourself, I'll distract it."

"No fucking way," she replied.  "We're going out of this together."  She lunged forward, and wrapped her arms around his body.  "I think we made a good go of it, don't you?"

Josh smiled at her, suddenly calm, despite his impeding death.  He leaned in and kissed her, and waited for the end.

It didn't come. 

After several seconds of snogging, in which they failed to die, he broke off and looked up.

The guardian was still there, raving and roaring, except he seemed to be beating at some kind of invisible wall, which was holding it back.

"Not that I'm upset to still be alive," he said.  "But, what's going on?"

"Shield wall detected," said the blue hologram that was Panic, which had travelled along with them.  "Please remain calm.  There is no danger."

"Well, that's nice.  But, what's going on?"  he repeated.

"Think about it," Samantha said.  "You need to have a guardian guarding a pass, but you can't have it wandering off now, can you?  So, what do you do?"

"What?" asked Josh.

"You limit its movement, that's what," she said.  "There's some kind of boundary it can't cross.  I guess it doesn't wait at the edge, otherwise everyone would just run off.  It waits until we're well within its territory, and then attacks.  We only survived because of your power.  I doubt anyone else would have made it out."

"You're welcome," Josh said, bowing. 

Samantha giggled, but then made a more serious face.  "Still, that doesn't tell us how to get by it."

They both took another step back as the guardian beat against the invisible screen holding it back.

"Wait is it... speaking?"  Samantha asked.

"I..." Josh paused and cocked his head, listening.

"It is speaking the local dialect," Panic informed them. 
Josh took a longer look at the hologram.  It was a little genie-in-a-bottle-like, appearing as a bald, elderly male with a long goatee beard, albeit all made of sparkly blue light.  It was wearing a shirt and a waistcoat.  Below there were trousers, but these tapered off into a cartoon-ghost point.  A very thin, barely visible, silver thread led back into Josh's pocket, where he had put the egg.

"What's it saying?" Samantha asked.

"It's rambling, but essentially: Food, pretty girl, girl pretty, food, girl, pretty, food food food, pretty girl... Well, you get the idea."

"Not the most scintillating of conversationalists," Samantha commented.

"He's right about the pretty girl though."  Josh smiled.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," she replied, but then looked back up at the guardian, which had, finally, stopped bashing against the invisible barrier, and was now pacing up and down along it.  "But that doesn't answer the question.  How do we get by?  Do you think you can hold it off long enough with your shield, if you are prepared?"

Josh shook his head.  "I doubt it.  We barely made it back here, and we don't know how far it is to the other side's shield, I assume there must be one.  But even if it's only the same distance again, I can't hold it off that long.  Perhaps if it went back to where we first encountered it, managed to get by it, assuming it's no further to the other side, then it would be possible.  But it would be a risk."

"We need to distract it then, give us a head start at least."  Samantha looked at the hologram.  "Hey, Panic, can you speak to it?"

"I can try," it replied.  "What would you like me to say?"

"How about asking it about pretty girls?" 

"Oh?  Well, okay then."  The hologram looked up at the monster and growled out an incomprehensible question.

It was incomprehensible to Josh perhaps, but the beast certainly understood it.  It stopped pacing and roared back, beating against the barrier again.

"What did it say?"  Josh asked.

"Girls! Pretty girls. Like pretty girls.  Want pretty girls."

"So, he likes pretty girls then."  Josh rubbed his chin.

"I get the feeling he must be lonely," Samantha added.

"And maybe horny."

Samantha looked at Panic again.  "Your form."  She gestured at his old man image.  "Can you change it at all?"

"Of course.  I can transform into anything you would like, up to a certain size limit of course."

"And how far from your egg can you project?" she asked.

"Not very far.  Perhaps five or six metres at most."

"That's a shame.  I was hoping for more."  Samantha scratched her head and looked at Josh.  "How fond of your AI are you?"

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

"Are you ready?"

"I am."  Josh looked at the egg.  "Are you sure you're okay with this?  I feel bad about it."

"Don't worry, I was sitting in the Between for several centuries before you picked me up.  I can manage."

"Fair enough, I'll pick you up again, should I ever get the chance."

"I calculate the odds of that will be slim," Panic replied.

"Yeah."  Josh looked at Samantha and nodded.

"Let's do this.  Panic, get ready."

"I am always ready."  The hologram sniffed, but then vanished.  "Okay, throw."  The voice came from the egg in Josh's hand this time.

Josh waited until the guardian was to one side slightly, and then threw the egg as far as he could up the pass, near the edge of the path.

The guardian glanced around, but remained where it was, against the invisible barrier.

Josh tensed, waiting.  A few seconds later, appearing in a slightly more solid form, Panic's hologram materialised again.  This time it as a female, not too dissimilar to Samantha in appearance, although certain attributes had been enhanced, and it was wearing a fairly skimpy bikini.  Josh had to force himself not to ogle.

"Woo hoo," Panic shouted, waving.  "Here big boy!"  It growled something in the beast's lingo.

It worked, the guardian swung around and roared, running up to the hologram.

"Go!" Samantha said, in a low voice.

Keeping to the opposite side to Panic, they ran as fast, and as quietly, as possible, along the pass. 

The beast, meanwhile, was swiping at the hologram, trying to grab the projection, which obviously wasn't working.  Panic was keeping up a verbal monologue too, although Josh couldn't hear what it was saying.
Within seconds they were past the beast, which still hadn't noticed them, thanks to Panic's efforts.

They made it further than Josh expected before there was another roar, as it finally caught on.

"Faster!" Josh cried out, glancing back, to see the monster start to lumber after them.

"Really?" Samantha panted back.  "I was... thinking of taking a break."

Josh didn't reply, concentrating on running, as the guardian began to pick up speed.  He risked another peek over his shoulder, and was dismayed at how fast it was catching up.

"Fuck!" he gasped.

Still, they managed to get a ways beyond where they had met the beast the first time before it managed to catch up, and Josh had to throw his hands up to shield them. 

He was more prepared this time for the jolt, but it still made him cry out in pain as the attack hit.

"I hope the other end isn't far!" he wailed. 

"We're... going... downhill a bit now," Samantha panted back, just as Josh deflected another blow.

Samantha, seeing his distress, pulled her gun out and fired several wild shots back over her shoulder.

The guardian howled as it was hit, but didn't slow down, and attacked again.

"Don't!"  Josh wailed, nearly stumbling.  "You're just making it madder!"

"Sorry!" Samantha gasped back.

Josh didn't reply, but just focussed on moving forward, which wasn't easy whilst holding his hands above him, and concentrating on protecting them both from the ever-increasing blows from above.

"I can't hold out much longer!" I wailed.  Despite his new-found fitness, his heart was beating so hard he was sure it was about to explode, and he was struggling to breathe.  That, and his arms felt as if they would fall off any second.

"Come on, it can't be far now!"  Samantha cried out.  "Hold on out and I'll reward you with something special tonight!"

That statement boosted Josh enough to endure three more hits.

"Shit!"  he moaned, after one mighty blow staggered him.  "I'm out... we're... unprotected. Veer... veer right, give... it... two... targets!"

"Not... going... to."

And then it was done.  The monster let out an almighty howl, but the thud of its footsteps stopped abruptly.

Glancing back, Josh let out a huge sigh of relief.

"We're through!" he managed to get out, as he collapsed to the ground.

"Thank fuck!"  Samantha slumped down beside him.

For what seemed like several minutes, both of them lay there, gasping for air to relieve their oxygen debt, whilst the guardian ranted behind the shield.

Just as Josh was beginning to feel like he could breathe again, a shadow fell over them.

"Well, that was impressive," said a new voice.  "Shame it's all going to be or nothing."

Yay!  Guardian finally done.  That was somehow tough to write. 
Anyhoo, another obvi one here, who's greeted them on this side?  What do they want?  What are they like?  Etc!  All suggestions welcome!
As always, thanks for reading.

Interactive Tales / Re: Another Path.
Last post by NeilH - Jan 21, 2024, 07:34 PM
"We're not going to make it," Samantha gasped, after several minutes of desperate running.

Josh wasn't sure.  The mountains seemed a lot closer now, and there was, just about visible to his eyes that seemed to be having trouble focussing, what looked like a cave entrance.

"Keep... going," he panted back.  "We'll make it."

As if to contradict him, an enormous Blightning blast from behind them shook the ground, nearly knocking them both of their feet.

Josh glanced backwards.  The blast had hit several of the Beppo still chasing them.  Two or three of the beetle creatures had been fried into powder, and the rest had been blown metres away, but even as he looked, they were finding their feet, or at least their tubes, and beginning the pursuit once more.  Even the Blight couldn't stop a Beppo swarm, it seemed.

"I don't want to die!" Josh wailed.

"Use your powers," Samantha responded.  "We're not going to make it otherwise."

"I don't...." 

The world changed. 


"What the hell?"

"Whilst he felt his body was still running, it was as if he was suddenly detached from it.  Detached from the world.  And everything was moving in super slow motion.  There was a moaning noise, like a video being played at one tenth speed, and the light seemed to be a lot bluer than usual.

He looked around.


His vision had changed in some fashion.  It was as if he could see the very fabric of reality, the threads holding creation together.  His vision was piercing the veil of space and time. 

"Cool," he muttered.

Then he looked up.

The clouds that were so ominously looming before were still there, but now he saw them for what they really were.
Yes, there was the blue-grey mist, but sailing within that mist were, well, ghosts was about as accurate description as any.  Phantom bodies, skeletal forms, swam in the fog, their skull faces somehow radiating hate as they looked down at the living below.  One was holding out a bony hand, from which one of the red lightning bolts was stabbing down.


The world came back.   The noise, the colour, the terror.

"Do something!" screamed Samantha, as another explosion shook the earth just behind them, scattering them with debris.

Josh held his hand up, somehow, he knew what to do now.  Maybe there was something to this whole Blight Saviour after all.

A bolt of red fire lanced down.
Both Josh and Samantha winced, but it stuck something before it reached them.  A blue dome was briefly visible, deflecting the lightning.

"Yes!" Samantha screamed.  "I think I love you!"

"What?"  Josh stumbled, and a bolt exploded nearby.

"Concentrate!!" she screamed.

Josh nodded, and focussed again.  He ran forward, arm held high, as blast after blast pounded down at them.  All of them were deflected by his blue shield, although he could feel the impact, like a jolt to his arm, as they hit.

"Ow!"  He made a face as a particularly vicious bolt blasted down on them, colouring the world in blood red light.

"There!  There's the cave!"  Samantha pointed forward, at the shelter Josh had seen before, but now far closer, under the mountains that loomed up over them.

"Thank fuck," Josh moaned, as several more bolts hit.  "I don't know how much longer I can hold them off."  He was hurting.  The repeated attacks felt like someone hitting his arm with a hammer.  Each one slightly more intense than the last.

The last two minutes seemed like they would never end, but, finally, Samantha and Josh stumbled into the shelter of the cave, which stretched back and down as far as they could see, into the dark earth.  Josh dropped his hand, and the shield.

"Look out!"

He whirled around, to see a large Beppo jumping towards him.  In his relief at getting under cover, he'd forgotten about the things following. 

There was a loud retort, and the creature squealed as it was thrown to one side, where it twitched several more times as Samantha put more rounds in it from close range.

"Shit, thanks," Josh gasped, looking out of the entrance as Samantha lowered her gun.  It seemed that had been the sole surviving Beppo.
"It was my turn," she replied, as several Blightning blasts exploded in front of the cave.  "Come on, let's move a bit further in." 
"No argument there."

They wandered into the cave, the floor of which was coated in soft soil that had no doubt drifted in over time.  The walls flickered with reflected red flashes as the Blightning continued to stab down outside. 

Finally, Samantha stopped and dropped her pack.  "We should be sheltered enough here," she said.   "Are you okay?"  She stepped up to him and ran her hands down his arms.

Josh dropped his own pack and nodded.  "A bit tired."

"Come on, we'll rest here for the night, let the storm pass over."

"Good idea."

Josh picked up his pack, and started rummaging through it, when something occurred to him.  He dropped the bag and lifted his shirt, turning to face the entrance to see better.

Josh had never been fat in his own world, but his job, which consisted mostly of office work, and a laziness when it came to exercising, meant he had always carried around a little bit of excess stomach.  Now though, it was if he was looking at his teenage body.
He laughed.

"What?"  Samantha asked.

"I'm ripped."  He turned around to show Samantha his newly rediscovered six-pack abs.  "I just realised, I ran up here with a heavy pack on my back, and I'm barely winded.  Back in my world I could just about climb a flight of stairs without taking a rest."  He dropped his shirt again.  "How long were we wandering the Green, really?"

Samantha shook her head.  "I don't know, but this whole journey has taken far longer than I thought it would.  We don't even know if my... friend knows where the Red Man is.  It could all be a waste of time."

Josh stepped close, and wrapped his arms around her.  "As far as I'm concerned, Beppo and Blightning attacks aside, I'm having a great time."

She giggled, but then he kissed her...


"Okay, you are fitter now."  Samantha panted as he rolled off her, onto the sleeping mat they had hastily pulled from their bag.  "That was pretty intense."

"Thank you Captain," he said, as she snuggled up to him.  He looked up at the cave entrance.  "I think the storm is passing at least."

"Yes, finally.  That was the worst Blightning storm I've ever seen."

"I saw into it you know, back when we were running."

"Saw into it?"  She lifted herself up onto an elbow and looked at him.

"The clouds above, they were teeming with... I don't know, ghosts, spirits, the dead.   They are the things casting down the red lightning."

Samantha frowned.  "I've heard rumours of this sort of thing before.  Many of our scientists and mages have tried to study the Blight, with limited success, because of how dangerous it is.  The one thing that everyone knows, though, is that it targets life force, sucking it out of everything and anything it can."

"So, you think these dead things are trying to recover their lost life energy?"  Josh shook his head that he could even say such a mad sounding sentence with any seriousness.

"Like I said, there isn't much known, and there are a lot of theories.  That is certainly one of them."


"But you held them off.  You are the Saviour."

"That is yet to be confirmed."  Josh made a face.

"I don't think I've ever heard of anyone else fending off Blightning strikes," she said.

"I doubt many get the chance."

"You're right."  She sat up.  "We need to check our supplies.  I guess we may as well take the Beppo meat from that dead one too.  No sense wasting protein."

"Oh joy, one more Beppo to dismember."

Samantha giggled.  "Come on, we'll do that, then, if the storm has passed enough, we can look for some wood to make a fire.  It'll be cosy."

"Yes, why not?  I just wished we'd stashed some Beppos too, I could use a drink." 


They spent a fairly pleasant night, in the end, after a meal of Beppo meat, snuggled together in the cave, in their well-used sleeping bag. 
Dawn had risen, as it tends to, and they had made a breakfast of more Beppo.

Whilst packing away their supplies, Josh had found the metallic egg that called itself Panic.

"Oh, I'd forgotten about this," he said, as it unfurled. 

"Good morning," the thing said.

"Hello Panic, how are you?" Josh asked it.

"I am functioning within acceptable parameters," it replied.  "May I be of any assistance?"

"Unless you know of a way to the Dark Valley, I don't think so.  Perhaps you can just keep an eye out of any dangers though?"

"Very well, I shall remain on standby," it said, flashing a green light.

"Fantastic."  Josh put the AI in his pocket.
Once they had finished packing, including wrapping some of the recently slaughtered Beppo in some of their waxed paper, Josh and Samantha headed out into the post-Blightning world.

After some debate, they decided not to return to the hamlet.  It was time to move on, and going back they would no doubt get involved in rebuilding, assuming anyone had survived.

Hence they followed the path up into the mountains, into what was obviously the Pass, and the infamous guardian.

"I just want you to know," Samantha said, after a while of walking.  "If we die here, I've enjoyed my time with you."

"Hey, come on!"  Josh said.  "Don't talk like that.  We've a way to go yet."

"But this guardian doesn't sound like something we can easily overcome."

"We've managed so far, haven't we?  We've beaten Afflicted beings, memory sapping plains, swarms of Beppo and monster Blightning storms, to name just a few.  One lousy guardian isn't going to stop us now."
She sighed.  "I hope you're right."

"Of course I'm right, how bad could it... oh fuck."

A shadow had fallen over them.
"I'm guessing that's the guardian then."  Samantha looked up.

"Danger!" Panic shouted, from his pocket.  "Imminent threat!"

"Yeah, no shit," said Josh.

Yay!  Finally managed to squeeze one out! 
We have had some ideas about the guardian before, but now, I'd like to know what form it takes.  Any ideas?

As always, thanks for reading!

Interactive Tales / Blightning
Last post by NeilH - Jan 10, 2024, 08:35 AM
"I'm going to throw you into the deep end," Lesh said.  "Hope you're not too squeamish."

"I've literally seen people explode," Josh replied.

Lesh gave him an odd look, but then shrugged.  "Well, good.  Because you're going to be working in the slaughter area."

"Such fun," Samantha added, dryly.

"It's not as dangerous as it used to be."  He led them along the main walkway, which led up the middle of the warehouse, between many pits full of Beppo.  "However, it's not entirely risk free.  This lot aren't so big, so it's a good time to start."

"Yay," Josh muttered, looking down a pit with Beppo the size of suitcases.  They were all sitting still, which meant, according to what he had just learned, they'd eaten recently.  He wondered what they fed the big ones, possibly each other, he speculated, as there weren't so many of the creatures in this particular pit.

Before he could ask, Lesh gestured ahead, at a set of doors.  "We keep the slaughter area separate from the main area," he explained, taking a left turn along another walkway.
There was a pit, on right side, full of Beppo about the size of large dogs, moving sluggishly.  Unlike the other pits, this one had a metal gate of some kind set into the far wall. 

"The waiting area," Lesh explained.  Through the gate is a tunnel, which leads to, well, you'll see."

They followed him through the door, to a cleared area outside.  The main feature was a pit.  Not such a large one this time, and no more than half a metre deep.  It did, however, feature a cage, hanging above it from a sturdy rope, itself attached to a kind of mini-crane, made of solid, black, wood.

The pit had a small tunnel leading into it, which, Josh surmised, was the other end of the one that started inside.  An older man and a middle-aged woman were working on the far side, sorting through a large box of tools.

"Hey," Lesh waved at them.  "Have some trainees for you."  He nodded his head at Josh and Samantha.

"Excellent," the woman said, standing up and wiping her forehead.  Josh estimated she was about forty, with straggly white hair.  She was wearing a short, dirty, top, black trousers and boots.  Her exposed midriff was of Olympic athlete level fitness though, and her arms were pure muscle.

"Josh, Sam, this is Rinna and Gregg.  They'll show you the ropes."

"Yay," Samantha said, evidencing a lack of enthusiasm.

Gregg was a portly fellow, older, maybe sixty, wearing a once-nice suit, now ragged.  His hair was long and unkept.  For some reason he reminded Josh of a pirate.

"You're just in time," Rinna said.  "Come over here, let's show you how it's done."  She waved a hand in the air.  A signal, Josh assumed, as they made their way over to the indicated spot.  There was a grinding noise, and the cage on the rope lowered over the pit.

Rinna reached back into a pile Josh hadn't noticed before, and pulled a couple of handfuls of something from it, throwing it down into the pit.

"Bait," she said, winking at him.

The smell hit Josh then.  The same, musty kind of smell that was inside the warehouse, but more... raw.  More brutal, somehow.

He peered over at the mound Rinna had pulled the bait from, and realised it was just one of several piles.  It took a moment or two to realise what they consisted of, and when he did, he choked a bit.

"Are those piles..." Sanantha asked.

"Yes, Beppo."  Rinna grinned.

Beppo parts might have been a better description.  One, the pile that she had taken the bait from, was a kind of very dark red meat.  Beppo meat.  There were other piles too, of the same substance.  And a few different ones too.  Josh identified one pile as chitin, and another of their strange leg-tube things.  He was distracted from further examination by Gregg, speaking for the first time.

"Here one comes," he grunted.

Josh turned towards the pit.  Rinna and Gregg were standing on opposite sides of it, holding sturdy looking spears.  Both were made of the dark wood, and both were tipped with a shiny silver, lethally sharp, tip.  A rope was attached to the end of the spear, and lay in a coil on the ground behind them.

From the tunnel came one of the Beppo that Josh had seen in the 'waiting area' inside.  As soon as it was in the pit, a metal hatch dropped down behind it, cutting off escape.

The Beppo, ignoring everything else, slid over to the bait, and, using its front two tubetacles, began shoving the meat of its fallen companion into its mouth.

It didn't eat much.  With practiced ease, both Rinna and Gregg drove their spears into it. 

Gregg's penetrated the body of the creature, and Rinna's the head, both piercing the chitin at vulnerable joints with a gruesome crunching.

The Beppo let out a brief, high pitched, squeal, and collapsed. 
Both Rinna and Gregg pulled back on their spears, withdrawing them from the corpse.

"Here's where you have to be careful," Rinna explained. "They can be cunning, and incredibly resilient, these things.  Sometimes they'll pretend to be dead.  If they do pretend, and you let your guard down, things could go badly."  She prodded the creature with her spear again, near its mouth.

"Generally, if you mess with its mouth, and it's still alive, it will judder.  Not a certainty, but mostly, especially for these smaller ones.  The bigger ones, they are far more intelligent.  Far more dangerous."

Gregg grunted, and looked over at Rinna, who nodded. 

"I think we're good with this one," she said.  "How about you two put it over there."  She indicated a clear area to one side, featuring a sturdy looking bench.

"Us?" Samantha asked.

"Have to start somewhere."  Rinna gave her a wicked grin.

"Come on," Josh said, and plodded forward. 

The two of them approached the dead thing carefully, the recent warnings ringing in Josh's ears.  There was no movement from the Beppo though.  Hopefully it really was dead.

Making a face, Josh walked around it, indicating Samantha should take the opposite side.  They bent down and slid their hands under the carcass.  Josh noted there was little to no blood around the injuries.

Trying not to think about what he was doing, Josh lifted the thing, Samantha following suite.  Beppo, Josh soon discovered, were remarkably heavy.

Staggering over to the bench, they managed to heave the carcass onto the work surface, where Gregg was waiting, holding a metal bar, sharpened at one end.

"Upside down please."  Gregg gestured, and then stood back and waited while the two struggled to upturn the thing.

"Very good," the older man said, when they had finally managed the task.  He hefted the sharp iron bar and grinned at them.  "Now, for the messy part."


"Are we bored yet?"

Josh let out a startled cry, and his spear went wide, missing the Bebo's head entirely. 

"What the hell are you doing?" Samantha screamed at him, having thrust her own weapon into the body of the beetle-like creature, which was now thrashing around inside the pit, squealing.

"It's the... Narrator," Josh said, struggling to regain his spear, which the Beppo had grabbed with its two front tubetacles, and was trying to pull from his hands.

"It's been three days now since our so called 'hero'," the Narrator made the speech marks sign with his hands, "joined the ranks of the dull and bland beetle stabbers.  When, I hear you ask, is he going to get on with his quest?"

"Shit," Josh swore, still wrestling with the Beppo.

"Do something!" Samantha screamed at him.

"I'm trying," he screamed back.

"Whilst the nights are full of erotic action with his lusty and buxom companion, no complaints there at all."  Josh glanced up from his struggles to see the purple clad man leer at Samantha.  "We have to endure this during the day."  He gestured at the, admittedly, not very exciting terrain. "Well, fear not!  Things are about to get much more interesting!"

Josh was distracted for a moment, as Samantha yanked her spear out of the body of the Beppo and plunged it into the creature's head area.  The thing gave a loud screech and slumped to the ground, releasing Josh's weapon at the same time.  He staggered backwards.

"If that doesn't kill them, then there are, of course, the Beppo," the Narrator was explaining, gesticulating wildly at whomever he spoke to.  "Finally, there's Gerald of course, if they survive that long."

"What's he saying?" Samantha asked, panting.

"Bad things," Josh replied.

"How long will we have to wait?  I hear you ask," the Narrator went on.  The man turned and looked out over the ground, back in the direction of the nearby Green.  "Not long now.  Not long at all."

Then he was gone.

"That doesn't sound promising," Josh gasped.

He wiped his hands on his clothes, which were far less tidy than they had been three days ago, covered with Beppo residue, dust, and just general dirt from the Hamlet of the Damned.   He scowled at his appearance.  The two of them had discussed simply moving on, up to this guardian everyone was so intent on telling them not to see.  However, if they left their job, Lesh had made it clear they wouldn't be welcome back, and, as they had a day off every five days, they had decided to wait until their rest period to explore, to keep their options open, and a roof over their heads.  At least until they knew more.

This had meant three days, so far, of Beppo butchering.  It wasn't a pleasant, or easy, job that was for sure, but at least he had the nights in the hut with Samantha.  The life of Beppo killer was turning out to be a hard, simple one, but not without pleasures.

"What doesn't sound promising?" Samanta padded over to him.

"It sounded like something was coming from the Green."  Josh stood on tiptoe and held his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun.   "Do they look like clouds to you?"

Samantha joined his scanning, and then gave a little gasp.


"Fuck, I think it's a Blight storm," she said.

"A what now?"

"Remember the whole reason you are here?" she asked.  "Blight killing off, well, everything?"

"The Blight is a storm?"

"It's one manifestation of it, and a powerful one too.  Lesh has never mentioned them out here though.  We'd better warn the others.  Oh!"

Josh had seen it too.  The dark clouds on the horizon were now spitting out red lightning, bolts that struck repeatedly, almost brutally, down to the earth below.

"There must have been something, or someone, there," Samantha said.  "The Blightning will attack anything alive.  We need to hurry, get everyone under cover, if there is any nearby."

"The huts aren't enough?" Josh asked, as they jogged towards the warehouse door.  He still had his Beppo spear, and for a moment, considered throwing it away, but decided to hold onto it for now, it was a solid weapon. 

"Maybe, but Blightning has been known to cave in reenforced bunkers before now, if the storm is bad enough.  Maybe there are some caves nearby.  Underground is better, it doesn't seem to detect things through the earth.  Hey!"  She waved at two citizens of the hamlet who happened to be working nearby.  "There's a Blight storm coming!  We need to get to cover!"

They ran along the now familiar walkways to the office area, to the third one along, and burst through the door.

Lesh was sitting behind his desk, which was buried so deep in paperwork it was no longer actually visible. 

"Lesh, Blight storm!" gasped Samantha.

"What?  No!  Impossible, the Blight hasn't reached this far!" he growled.  "It can't cross the Green."

"Okay, well, you can sit here and finish your tax returns," Josh added.  "Just tell us there are some caves nearby."

"Caves, yes, nearby, not so much.  There is some shelter near the base of the pass, but that's at least twenty minutes' walk."  He stood up.  "Are you serious about a Blight storm?"

"No, we just wanted to take our holiday early," Samantha scowled.  "Come on Josh, let's leave them to it."

Grabbing his hand, she pulled him out of the office, leaving Lesh cursing behind them.

"Our bags are in the hut!  Our supplies," Josh said.  "Do we have time?" 

Samantha nodded.  "Come on."

They ran back out of the warehouse, into a very different world to the one they had left mere minutes ago.

The sky in the direction of the Green was now on fire.  Red bolts of lightning, or Blightning as Samantha had called it, repeatedly struck the ground below. Rolls of thunder continuously filled the air, and the sunlight was fading fast, as a vast, dark grey-blue churning bank of cloud was rolling in over them.

"Fuck!" Samantha gasped, as they sprinted towards their hut which, luckily, was away from the approaching storm.

They barged into their small residence, grabbed their rucksacks, and flew out again.  Running like mad, towards the mountains.

There were explosions behind them, and Josh spared a glance, just in time to see the warehouse hit by several red bolts, collapsing part of the roof and some of the walls.  After-images seared his eyeballs, and he staggered slightly. 

"Come on!  Don't look back!" Samantha urged, although not before he saw a single, massive, blast take out their recently vacated hut, sending stone shrapnel flying.

"Shit, I had good memories in that hut," he panted.

They staggered on, distracted a minute later by screams. 

Glancing back once again, Josh saw a swarm of Beppo flooding out of the wreckage of the warehouse.  The creatures were fighting amongst themselves, but he saw a group of them catch up to the small goblin creature and overwhelm it.

"Shit!  Run faster!" he screamed.

Chased now by both Beppo and the storm, they fled for their lives, towards the mountains that looked impossibly distant.

Josh moaned.

"I don't want to die!"

Very well folks, thought it was time to action it up a bit.  Sorry for the delay in getting this out, been struck down with some flu or virus this last week. 
Anyhoo, ideas for how they survive this always welcome! 
And, as always, thanks for reading!

Interactive Tales / Another Path. - Beppo
Last post by NeilH - Dec 22, 2023, 11:46 AM
Josh awoke, slowly and painfully.

His head was agony.  Someone, overnight, had apparently beaten it repeatedly against a wall.

"Fuck," he croaked. 

Opening his eyes, he took in his situation, to try and assess who had tortured him.

...and found his naked self tangled up with a delightfully, and equally naked, Samantha.  Their limbs were intertwined in the most wonderful way. 

"Oh," he gasped.  She felt fantastically, erotically, smooth and soft, and he moaned slightly at the contradiction in stimuli.

A third stimuli intruded.

"Fuck," he repeated, and, with the greatest reluctance, he disentangled himself from her – she just muttered something in her sleep and shifted slightly – and slid off the simple, low bed they were lying on, landing on a smooth, cold, stone floor.

"Fuck fuck fuck." 

He scuttled towards the outline of light filtering in around a crudely made door.  Pushing it open, with some urgency now, he staggered outside, making it to a small patch of nearby straggly shrubbery before violently throwing up.

There wasn't much to throw up, it turned out, so he spent most of the minute heaving, until, finally, his stomach stopped complaining to some degree.  Wiping at his mouth, and gasping, he struggled upright and immediately had to make another use of the poor, abused bush.

Only after his bladder was empty, did he manage to look around and take in his surroundings.

He was in the Hamlet of the Damned of course.  Standing utterly naked outside one of the huts, the one that Lesh had directed them to the previous evening, he now remembered.  The hut that he and Samantha had stumbled into and spent several strenuous, but highly enjoyable, hours of sweaty, intense fornication in.

"Woah, go me," Josh croaked to himself.

"Mornin' neighbour."  One of his fellow dwellers, the tall thin woman – Liz – he remembered her name was, strolled by, nodding at him in a civil fashion, totally ignoring the fact he was standing there, stark bollock naked.

"Morning," he replied, nodding back politely as she strolled on, towards the warehouse structure on the other side of the community.
There was a noise from behind him, and he stepped to one side as the wonderful, still naked, form of Samantha burst out of their hut.

She saw the bushes, lurched towards them in much the same way Josh had, and, in much the same way Josh had, proceeded to add the contents of her own stomach to his.

"Oh fuck!" she got out, as the spew finally subsided.

"Morning," Josh said, calmly.

"Shit," she replied.  "Don't look!" she added, as she squatted down, next to where he had made toilet.

"Sure."  Josh turned around, partly at her request, but partly to hide his body's reaction to the sight of her nudity.

There were various noises, which Josh tried not to listen to, as he attempted to reduce his physical reaction. 

By the time Samantha had finished, he had managed to subdue himself to enough of a degree that he felt he could turn and face her.  He didn't though.

"By the Universe, what do they make that Beppos out of?" Samantha said.  "Hey, turn around and look at me.  Don't be shy."

"It seems that's not a thing here," muttered Josh, as he turned to face her.  "Oh."


"You're so hot," he stammered.  She was standing there, naked as the day she was born, and glorious. 

Samantha gave him an evil smile, and sauntered towards him.  "You liked last night, big boy?" she asked, rubbing her super silky body against his, totally undoing the last minute of work on his lower regions.

"I... I..." Josh shut up as she kissed him, a long, passionate, if rather smelly, kiss.

"Oh my word!" he panted, once they parted.

"Someone's excited," she giggled, fondling his downstairs, which felt like it about to explode.


"Mornin' folks." 
"You have to be kidding me," muttered Josh, as Lesh appeared on the scene.

"If you're going to live here, y'all need to contribute," the man said, giving Samantha a slow look up and down.  She simply smiled back, apparently unphased by this attention.

Josh felt his lower half begin to deflate again, although there was still some conflict, being next to the naked girl of his dreams.

"What do we need to do?" Samantha asked.  "We're no freeloaders."

"Good t' hear," Lesh said.  "Get yourself dressed and meet us over at the big building."  He nodded to the warehouse.

"We shall be there soon."

"Yeah, I bet."  With a wink at Josh, and a final leer at Samantha's delectable form, he trudged off.

"So," Samantha said.  "Apparently, we have to go to work.  Maybe, though, we can be a little late, as it's our first day?"

Her hand roamed down his body, and she pressed her more than adequate bosoms against his chest. 

Josh simply grunted, and dragged her, giggling, back to their hut.


"Do you hear that?" Josh asked.

It was a good hour later.  An hour filled with strenuous, but not at all arduous, activity of the flesh. 

Josh was a little weak kneed, but otherwise felt on top of the world.  Better, in fact, than he had felt since he had been yanked from his own universe.  Probably better than he had felt in his own universe.

They were walking towards the warehouse that seemed to be such a dominant force in the hamlet, and from which a strange, high pitched, squealing could be heard coming from, albeit at a low volume.

"Yes," Samantha replied, frowning slightly.  "Oh, look who it is."

"Here they are."  The large door to the warehouse swung open, and Lesh walked towards them.

"Reporting for duty," Samantha replied.

"Let's give you a tour then."

Lesh gestured at the large door he'd just come through, and they followed him in.

"Oh I say." 

Josh stopped dead as the interior of the large building was revealed.

He hadn't envisioned what could be inside, but whatever he could have, it wouldn't have included this.

The first thing that hit him was the smell.  An overwhelming, not entirely unpleasant, dry, musky odour, which seemed to immediately infiltrate his clothing and skin.

The building itself was almost all open plan, which meant most of the large space was just that, one giant, open area.  The far wall had what appeared to be offices lining it, three stories worth, with sturdy wooden walkways outside them, overlooking the floor below.  Hanging at various heights, on metal chains from the ceiling overhead, were lights, illuminated by an undetermined power source. 
What they cast their luminance on was, basically, some kind of bizarre farm.

The ground was riddled with large square pits, several metres deep and from two to about fifteen meters square, or rectangular in many cases.  Running between them were walkways.  Various members of the community strode on these walkways, doing whatever they did.

In the pits was the source of the high-pitched squealing that Josh had heard outside.  It came from swarms of beetle-like creatures.
He took a better look, down at the pit nearest to him.

They were, mostly, a dull black.  The resemblance to beetles, possibly dung beetles – his insect knowledge was not advanced – was fairly strong.  They had the look, with a hard carapace, with not two, but three tentacles sprouting from their forward regions.  The main difference seemed to be with the legs.  They weren't the stick-like legs he would expect from his world, but more like tentacles, without the suckers perhaps.  Maybe flexible tubes would be a better description.  Two pairs of four tubetacles on each side of each Beppo, tubetacles that allowed the creatures to scramble around in a very nimble fashion.

As he watched, the thin woman, Liz, standing on the walkway above, tipped a bag of red dust into the pit.

The Beppos went mad, scrambling over each other to reach their food, snatching at it with the forward pair of tubetacles and stuffing it into mouths, he saw, that were lined with horrifically sharp, tiny, teeth.

"What the fuck?" Josh asked.

"Never seen a Beppo before?" Lesh asked.

"I...  No.  No I have not."

"They're a miracle," he replied.  "I know, look like beetles, a bit, yes?"

Josh nodded, slowly.

"And yet they are the foundation of this place, the Barrens.  Without them, there is no way we could like."

"The Barrens?" Samantha asked, gazing at the Beppo swarming over their red food.

"What we call the mountain area here," Lesh explained.  "It has a reasonable level of rain, but not a great deal else.  There are the Wurms of course, but they're deep underground for the most part, which is for the best.  But the Beppo, they can eat, they do eat, anything that is even remotely edible.  As far as we know, there's nothing that can poison them."

"You farm them?" Samantha asked.

"The red fruit, outside, did you see it?" 

Josh and Samantha both nodded.

"Horribly poisonous to, well, pretty much anything really.  However, easy and fast growing.  Doesn't need much water, and a wonderful source of food for the Beppo.  They scoff it down, no problem.  A bite of it would kill just about anything else."  He nodded at the nearest pit.  "These are fairly young ones.  They grow as they get older.  If they had enough food, they would grow to massive proportions, but we slaughter them before they get too large."

Lesh leaned over and looked down at the swarming creatures for a few moments more.

"A few tips," he went on.  "The faster they move, the hungrier they are.  Don't, whatever you do, let them bite you.  They are venomous.  Their venom both numbs pain and puts you to sleep.  It's highly valued, and, of course, dangerous to harvest.  Hence, valuable as fuck.  Oh, it's what we make the Beppos out of as well."

"The booze?" Josh asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Potent stuff, yes?" Lesh winked at him, and rolled his eyes at Samantha.


"Exactly.  If we weren't trapped here, we'd be beyond rich.  No one farms Beppo like the Edge."

"Okay."  Josh made a face.

"So, if they are still, or slow moving, they're full.  They eat, then sit and digest their food.  As they become hungrier, they become more active.  If we didn't feed them, they would fight, and eat each other, until there was only one left."

"How do they reproduce?" Samantha asked, still looking into the pit.

"They have queens.  Giant Beppo, pinkish in colour usually.  We have two here, one on each side of the building, as far away from each other as we can get them.  They would fight to the death if they could get to each other."

"So, this is what we do?" Josh asked.

"Yes.  Feed, manage, butcher them, harvest their meat, their chitin and, of course, their venom.  We eat them, and even trade with the Valley for essential items on occasion.  They are what keep us alive, and I mean that literally.  Without Beppo, we would be dead."

"You trade with the Dark Valley?" Samantha asked, perking up.

"Yes, but don't get any ideas.  They send a small flying machine, we load it up, and it zooms back to the Valley.  It stops by the guardian too, to be checked over, so even if you could fit inside, it wouldn't do you any good.  Sorry, you're stuck here."

"Very well."  Samantha pulled a thoughtful face for a minute, but finally turned and looked at the man. 

"Very well then, where do we start?"

Alrighty then, another, not so action-packed episode, but one has to move things along sometimes like this. 
Anyway, bearing in mind their lack of access to advanced machines, or even not-so advanced machines, ideas for how the Edge folk butcher and harvest the Beppo are welcome!  Also, any other comments and ideas of course.
As always, thanks for reading.

Interactive Tales / Dark Valley.
Last post by NeilH - Dec 12, 2023, 07:13 PM
"This is not as easy as it appears on TV," Josh said.

"What's TV?" 

"It's... ow, fuck!"  Josh sucked at his thumb, where one of the, as it turned out, very sharp plants that they were using for cover, had stabbed him.  "Never mind.  This isn't going well."

"I don't know, we're quite close now, and I don't think anyone's seen us."

"Is there anyone to see us?"

"Yes, it doesn't look busy, does it?"

They were near the group of buildings now.  And whether they warranted the definition of village was seriously in question. 
The huts, as he could now define them, were round, of slightly varying sizes, but all built in the same style, which was of stones, obviously of local origin, carefully placed on top of each other.  The rooves were made of some kind of grey slate material, arranged in a low cone shape. 

There were probably only about twenty or so of them, and they seemed to be centred around what looked to be a traditional well, complete with winch and bucket, which was resting on a kind of lid, made of wooden planks.

The only two other points of interest were on the opposite side of the hamlet.  One was a much larger building, in a more traditional rectangular shape, although constructed in a similar fashion.  Josh decided it was some kind of primitive warehouse.

Next to that was an area of, comparatively, lush greenery.  Some kind of plant growing in soil that was considerably more fertile than the surrounding area.  Red fruit, or vegetables, could be seen in clusters on some of the taller plants.

There was a distinct lack of movement within the area though, at least until Josh spotted someone moving near the warehouse.  He prodded Samantha, and nodded at the being.

She nodded back, indicating she had already noted it.  Well, she probably had, he thought.

They'd reached the end of their cover, but still crawled forward to better observe the settlement.

"New here, eh?"

A voice made Josh jump, and roll over, hands extended, in case he needed to attack or defend.

Samatha had had a similar reaction, and was laying on her back, gun pointed at the man looking casually down at them.  He was leaning on some kind of rake.

"Now then, now then," the villager said, apparently unperturbed by their hostile pose.  "No need for all that.  We're all survivors together here, on the Edge."

Josh slowly lowered his hands, and Samantha, after a slightly longer pause, did the same with her weapon.  Feeling slightly foolish, Josh stood up and dusted himself off.

"Hello there," he said.  "Sorry.  Can't be too careful, you know?"

"Aye.  I reckon I do."

The man was, from Josh's human viewpoint, about sixty years old.  He was about the same height, but had the wiry, muscular, frame of someone who has to work hard every day just to survive.  He was quite heavily tanned too, along the same lines. 

The man pulled at the wide brimmed, straw-like, hat he was wearing.  "Name's Lesh," he said.  "You'll have crossed the Green then, I take it?  Remember who you are do you?"

He put his hand into a pocket of the dark brown dungarees he was wearing and pulled something out, which he put into his mouth and chewed on. 

"What is this place?" Samantha asked, having joined Josh in the upright position, and holstered her gun.

"This," Lesh said, gesturing at the small settlement, "is the Hamlet of the Damned.  WoOOoOoOO."

"Woo?" Samantha asked, raising an eyebrow.

"That bit was for effect," Lesh said.  "It's a refuge for those expelled from the valley, and also for those who make it over the Green.  Not many of those.  Well done."

"Wait, expelled from the valley?  You mean the Dark Valley?" Samantha asked.

"The one and only."

"Why don't you just sneak back?" Josh asked.

Lesh smiled.  "The Guardian.  Hope you like this place, 'cos you're never leaving."


The arrival of Josh and Samantha in the Hamlet of the Damned, as they really did call the place, was apparently a cause for celebration.
The entire settlement had turned out, although, as this consisted of about a dozen beings, it perhaps wasn't the party it could have been.

The inhabitants of the hamlet were mostly human, but there was a three legged creature, who called herself Tasha, and a short green, and fairly ugly, person, who was, allegedly, a real goblin.
The party included some much welcome food and even some sort of booze, which, to Josh's mind, was even more welcome.  It had been a minute.

"So, what's the story?" he asked Lesh, after drinking several cups, which were made from some of the local clay apparently, of fairly intense clear liquid.  His head was already spinning a little.  "You said you had been exiled from the Valley?"

Lesh took a bite of one of the dark red meat patties that, along with a few strands of greenish straggly vegetable, made up the total variety of the makeshift buffet.

Josh was standing close to Samantha, who, in his inebriated state, was looking more and more attractive by the minute. 

"As I said.  Most of us have been thrown out.  Some because they committed horrible crimes, some because they disagreed with the policies there.  Only Liz there," he pointed to an older woman who was sniffing at her drink, "and Jhxy," he indicated the youngest of the group, an incredibly tall, thin male with long black hair, "came from the Green."

"And what was your crime?" Samantha asked, glaring at Lesh.  "To be evacuated from the Dark Valley?"

Lesh glared back, unperturbed, before replying.  "That's my own business," he said.  "Just as your business is your own.  We don't ask questions here, on the edge of the Green."

"What's this guardian you mentioned?" Josh piped up, not eager to rile the locals and possibly get thrown out of the only friendly place he's seen in a long time.  One which also had booze.

Lesh shook his head.  "Don't even think about it.  That thing is designed to stop any and all.  You're not getting to the Valley unless you can fly over the sheer cliffs between us."

"It's close?" Samantha asked, in a slightly less hostile tone.

"Aye, maybe a day or so by foot."  Lesh nodded.

"I assume there's a path then?"

"Oh yes.  The only passage through the mountains to the Valley is that way."  He pointed north, towards the towering peaks.  "But you go there, you won't come back.  No one has."

"Maybe those that didn't, got through?"  Samantha suggested.

"If only."  Lesh shook his head sadly, and took a deep swig of his drink.  "But let's not dwell eh?  Come on, try another Beppo cake, and let me refill your cup.  Beppos is the only thing that keeps life here liveable, I swear."

"The food and drink are from the same thing?"  Samantha asked, emptying her cup, and staggering slightly.

"Yep," Lesh was swaying slightly himself.  "Beppo are what we live off.  The only thing keeping us alive.  Dark Valley too, for that matter.  Nothing could live here without Beppo."

They half walked, half staggered, over to the low table where the food, now much depleted, and drink, even more so, were set out.
A Beppo cake later, and several more cups of Beppos, loosened Josh up quite considerably.  Apparently Samantha wasn't immune either, and the two of them spent several pleasant minutes getting intimate near the edge of the party before Lesh staggered up.

"There, that one," he said, pointing to a hut on the outer area of the settlement.

"Wha?"  Josh blinked several times. 

"That one is you... your two's.  Your hut.  Welcome t... to the Hamlet.  See you tomorrow."  Without waiting for a reply, he staggered off.
Josh looked at Samantha, who gave him a lopsided grin in return.

"Shall we?" he asked.

"I don't know what they make this Beppos out of," she slurred back.  "But yes."

She grabbed his arm and started pulling him along to the hut that had been indicated.  "Come on, you're about to get lucky."

"All right then."

Sorry, bit of a short one, but hey, at least we're still going eh?

Now, I know, or think I know, what the 'Beppo' are, but I'm always happy to hear what other people think they/it are/is, 'cause my reality can always change, at least until the next episode!

Thanks for reading!
Interactive Tales / Re: Another Path.
Last post by NeilH - Dec 01, 2023, 08:39 PM
Josh and Samantha, and their two new followers, went on, towards the mountains.
As they travelled, he tried to get more information from the Greens, as they called themselves, apparently their names weren't written in the Memories, but to no avail.  They were almost as confused as he was, even though the memories of how, and why, he was there, had returned.
Somewhere about noon, as best as he could judge it, as they were sitting on the Green taking a rest, there was an explosion of purple.
"He still lives, our hero!"  The Narrator announced, to whomever he spoke to.  "And somehow he has gained new followers, pathetic examples of beings who have surrendered to the Green."
"Please go away," Josh said. 
Samantha looked up, a puzzled expression on her face.  "What?"
"The Narrator is back," he replied, gesturing, although he was fairly sure she couldn't see the man.
"And our hero remembers, finally!" the Narrator announced.  "Perhaps he will survive this place after all!  Perhaps, once again, we shall have something interesting to view, rather than this dull place.  Perhaps he will, against the odds, escape!"
"Please stop saying perhaps," Josh moaned.
The Narrator ignored him, and unusually, glanced down and to the side, and Josh had the impression he was looking at something he couldn't see. 
"Indeed!" the narrator went on.  "The odds of imminent death have been slashed!  This isn't over yet!  The mountains beckon!  And of course, the path to the Dark Valley isn't entirely clear!"
"What's he saying?" Samantha asked, just as the odd fellow vanished.
"Some good, some not," he replied, looking up at the sun, which had just swerved to the right.  "Come on, I really want to get out of this place."
"I totally agree," she said.
Picking up their bags, they carried on.  The hills, to what Josh had decided to call north, were getting closer at least, although he didn't think they would make it before nightfall, which meant another memory loss.
"What if one of us stayed awake?" he asked Samantha.
"You won't," the female Green interjected.  "You will always fall asleep.  It is the Green."
Samantha shrugged.  "Voice of experience there."
"Bah," Josh said, and plodded onwards.
His prediction came true, as the sun slowly sunk towards the horizon, long before they arrived at the hills.
"I think we should write a new note," he said to Samantha.
"I think our friends are already on the job."  She pointed at the two surviving Greens, who were busy scribbling in their book of memories.
"Even so," he said, and then paused, looking at her.
"What?" she asked.
"You remember our... kiss?"
Samamtha sighed, and then gave him a smile.  "I wondered if you would remember that."
"It's etched into my memory, even here," he said.
"And as I said then, let's get out of here first."  She pinched his cheek.  "For an all powerful saviour, you do have a certain cuteness."
"How many all powerful saviours have you met?" he asked, which, at least, made her laugh.
He woke up laying on a sheet.  To his left, snoring slightly, was an attractive woman.  To his right, and a little way away, another woman, who looked like she was being slowly taken over by a plant, was also asleep.  Beyond her, a large green being was slumped over a cart.
"Wha...?"  He shook his head, and then noticed a note attached to his wrist.  He read it, and then shivered, as a rush of memories swept over him.
"Who are you?" Samantha scrabbled away, having just woken up.
"No, it's okay.  Here," he passed the note to her.  "Read this."
"Finally!" Samantha said.
"Agreed," Josh agreed.
It had been four days.  Four days walking towards the hills to the north.  Four nights sleeping out in the open on the Green.  Four mornings of confusion, nullified, mostly, by detailed notes.
And after those four days, and Josh had to wonder how long they had really been on the Green, the end was here, or very nearly at least.
They may not have made it at all if they hadn't met their new followers, who showed them how to, at certain spots, dig into the earth, to find strange, bulbous roots, swollen with water.  The pack they had brought with them had given out three days ago.
Food had been harder to come by, and they had been reduced to rooting for grubs, and the occasionally plant, again, pointed out by his new followers, who made him uncomfortable with their devotion to 'The One', as they insisted on calling him.
"Let's hope there is some kind of civilisation there," moaned Josh.  He patted his belly, of which was considerably less of than when they had set off.  "I'm slowly starving to death here."
The Green was, at long last, beginning to lose its dominance.  Patches of lighter, or more 'normal', straggly grass interrupted the continual surface now, and here and there it faded altogether, to be replaced by dark, sandy, earth.
"Oh dear," muttered the Green woman, stumbling slightly as she walked over one of these patches.
"What is it?" Josh asked.
"I don't feel so good," she replied.
"The Green..." muttered her companion.  "It... it no longer sustains."  He too, faltered.
"Look, I don't want you guys to drop dead on me here," Josh said, seizing the opportunity to ditch his unwanted followers.  "Maybe you should stay here, on the Green."
"I don't know," the woman said, but then hesitated as she stepped on another patch of earth, and winced.
"I can't have you dying on me," Josh went on.  "Listen, why don't you go back, just a little way, and wait for us to return?  We will need your help if we come back this way."
The Greens looked at each other, and then back at him, but then the woman nodded. 
"Very well," she said. "We shall write of the Great Jox in the Memories, and wait upon your return."
"Thank you."  Josh patted her on the shoulder.  "I shall not forget your contribution to the, er, cause.  Please, in the Memories, put I am pleased with you both.  You are loyal to the Green."
"Thank you," they both said, and bowed, which made him feel a totally heel. 
"Go now," he added, nodding back at the Green.  Just enough for you to be safe, please.  Do what you must to survive."
"We always do.  Farewell, for now."
So saying they both turned back, and started out south again, back to the Green that had taken hold of them so thoroughly.
"We're not coming back this way, are we?" Samantha asked in a low voice, once they had travelled some distance away.
"Not if I can possibly help it," he muttered back.  "Now, come on, let's get out of here."
"No argument from me," she replied.
They headed north, towards solid, non-Green, ground.
Alone again, the two of them plodded onwards, finally leaving behind the plains, and exchanging it for a semi-arid landscape, which was mostly hard, sandy ground interspersed with the occasional rocky outpost, and a few patches of straggly grass.
"I hope we get somewhere a bit less dry soon," Samantha said.  "We have very little water left." 
"The hills don't look too far away now, at least," Josh said.  "Hey, shall we take a break?  There are a few rocks over there to sit on."
"Why not? I could use a drink," she replied.
"Shouldn't we ration the water?" he asked, as they shucked off their packs and settled themselves on the low boulders.
"No, best to use the water, sparingly perhaps, but as needed," she replied.  "Trust me, I've been trained in this sort of thing."
"Fair enough."  Josh handed over the waterskin, which had been partly refilled from the liquid filled balloon-roots dug up in the Green.
Whilst Samantha swigged the water, he dug about in the other pack, checking on their remaining supplies.  Right at the bottom he discovered a shiny metallic egg object. 
Frowning, he pulled it out. 
"What's that?" Samantha asked, putting down the waterskin.
"It looks familiar somehow. I just don't remember..."  He tapped it thoughtfully, and then nearly dropped it as the skin peeled away, rather like a flower, to reveal a small, round sparkly sphere resting inside.  Two eyes - tiny green gems - peered up, whilst a small, illuminated line below animated as a melodic voice spoke.
"You found me in the Between," the egg said.
"Holy shit!"   Josh nearly dropped the thing again.
"What is that?" Samantha stepped close and peered down at the thing.
"My name is Panic," it said.
"Sorry, what?"  Josh asked.
"Personal Alternative Neural Intelligence Companion. PANIC."
"Oh.  I see.  Well, hello Panic.  Nice to meet you, I'm Jo... Jox, and this is Samantha."
"Captain Samantha Miller," she corrected.
"Hello Jo Jox, Captain Samantha Miller," the thing replied.  "Nice to meet you."
"What are you?" Josh asked.
"I am an Alternative Intelligence comrade, as the name would suggest," it replied.  "I am the most advanced intelligence produced on my planet, which, it appears, is not this one."
"I've been carrying you for, well, ages.  Why haven't you said anything?" Josh asked.
"You've not activated me before, also, I had to absorb the language of this realm."
"But everyone speaks the same language here," Samantha said.  "No one has to learn it."
"And doesn't that strike you as odd?" Panic replied.
"I..." Samantha stopped speaking, and frowned.
"Can you help us?" Josh asked.
"Of course, I am very advanced," Panic replied.
"We need water, food, shelter," Josh said. 
"I shall scan the area."
"Okay."  Josh looked at Samantha, and the two waited.
And waited.
"How long will this scan take?" he asked, eventually.
"Oh, I have limited range.  You will need to keep moving."
"Fantastic."  Samanthas sighed.  "Come on, let's get going."
They packed their gear and started walking towards the hills again.  Josh put Panic in his pocket.
The sun beat down upon them as they walked, making the two sweat heavily, and stop more often than they liked to drink the remaining Green water. 
"It's going to be gone soon," Josh pointed out, shaking the bag.
Samantha shrugged.  "Nothing we can do except go on."
They walked on.
"I'm sorry," Josh said, eventually.
"For what?"
"For dragging you into this.  For this whole expedition over the Green, to the Dark Valley, into this place, whatever it is, where we're probably going to die."
Samantha smiled and moved closer. 
He stopped, and she put her arms around him, and then next thing he knew, they were kissing again.  Deeply, passionately.
"Shelter located."
"What?" Josh pulled back, reluctantly, and looked at the AI egg thing.  Samantha felt warm and soft in his arms, and he couldn't remember ever being as happy as he was at that moment.
"Shelter located," Panic repeated.
"Approximately two hundred metres..."  The AI paused. "I have no frame of reference.  However, in the direction you were walking, slightly to the right."
"Oh."  Samantha released Josh, and looked over the sandy ground.  "Yes!  I can see something."
Josh, taking a deep breath, and feeling suddenly lonely and cold, looked in the direction indicated, and saw some low buildings, squatting in amongst the rocks of the landscape.  He couldn't make out any real detail, but there seemed to be a good dozen or so of them.  What they were made of was unclear."
"Well done Panic," he said, half sarcastically.
"You are welcome," it replied.
"Mmm."  He looked at Samantha, who smiled.  "I suggest we approach with some caution.   Who knows if they're friendly or not?"
She nodded.  "Let's take the roundabout route then."  She pointed at some dry brush, over to the right, which would provide some cover.
"Aye aye Captain."  Josh saluted.

Well then, finally, off the Green.  But a village!  Need ideas for who/what lives there!  Are they friendly?  Hostile?  Are they in the middle of a civil war?  Are they green with 20 legs?  Who knows?
Maybe you do! 
Please tell me!
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!
🡱 🡳

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