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Interactive Tales / Another Path. To To.
Last post by Ren - Aug 11, 2023, 11:41 AM
Samantha sighed, and looked around at the mist they were still walking through.  "I'm not the one who is supposed to debrief you," she said, eventually.  "It should be someone else, certainly not someone like me."

"Someone like you, what does that mean?  You're a captain aren't you?  Someone important in your... organisation."  Josh indicated a small round golden insignia he spotted on her breast plate.

"No, I mean, well, someone like me."

"A woman?"  Josh raised an eyebrow.

"What?"  It was Samantha's turn to look confused.  "Why would that make any difference?  No, I mean."  She glanced at the men accompanying them, and lowered her voice.  "I mean, I'm a... a Null."

"A Null?  What's that mean?"

"You don't know?  Really?"

"I wouldn't ask if I did, would I?"

"It's... it's a person who can't do any magic.  I even inhibit magic a little, not enough to be any use of course, but enough to be annoying."

"Doesn't sound unusual to me," Josh replied.  "No one on my world can do magic."

"That can't be true!" she replied.  "You're a great wizard!  You're going to cure the Blight!"

"This is news to me," Josh said.  "I've never done any magic in my life.  I can't even do any card tricks, and I have no idea what this blight thing is."

"Well, maybe you don't know what you're capable of.  Perhaps in this place you do have the power.  I don't know.  This is why I'm not the one to explain things to you.  My orders are simply to bring you in.  I wasn't even supposed to be the one to do this, but when you didn't arrive at the expected spot they sent out everyone to look.  I'm sure it will be fine.  Oh, we're here.  Hold on a minute."

As they had been speaking, the mist had been thinning further.  Now it was no more than a mild haze in the air, which allowed Josh to see, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, further than a metre in any direction.

At long last, the ever present grass finally seemed to be succumbing to bare patches of sandy earth.  Ahead of them, on a low rise of the harder ground, a wheeled contraption, rather like a limousine golf-cart, sat waiting.  A tall chap, in the same uniform as Samantha, was standing next to it.
He stood still whilst she walked up to him, to report no doubt.

"And so our hero arrives in the To, late, as they say, but better than never."

Josh jerked in fright as the strange man in purple started talking in a loud, clear, voice, standing next to him, but again, facing away, seemingly speaking to some unseen audience.

"Who the fuck are you?" he demanded.

"He is as yet unaware of the trials ahead," the stranger went on, ignoring him.  "But, as the hero, we are sure he will prevail, justifying our faith in his as-yet untapped abilities."

"Who the hell is this?" Josh demanded of Samantha, who was walking back towards him.

"Who?" she asked, looking puzzled.

"This dickhe..." he stopped short.  Once again, the man had vanished.  "Didn't you see him?  Tall fellow, dressed in a ludicrous purple outfit."

She simply gave him a Look.
"No one?"  Josh whirled around, looking at the other guards, who all made various gestures of negativity.  "Fine."  He slumped and looked back at Samantha.  "Lead on Macduff."

"I told you, my name's Captain Samantha Miller."


"Wait.  Stop!" 

The cart limousine, as Josh had termed it in his own mind, slewed to a halt at his shout.

"What? What is it?" Samantha asked, looking left and right for a threat.

Josh ignored her, and stepped out of the vehicle.

They had been climbing a low hill for some time now.  The mist had finally lifted, to reveal a sky that was a darker blue than the one he was used to, almost purple in fact, and with a few stars visible, though it was obviously day, as there was a fat orange sun almost directly overhead.  A few clouds, the same appearance as those at home, drifted about aimlessly in random directions, as if under their own power, rather than pushed along by wind. 

The earth had slowly turned greener, and straggly plants and even the odd tree, decorated the sides of the path, which was of the same, hard orange earth he'd encountered earlier.  The temperature was a little hot for him, but not unbearable.

They had crested the brow of the hill finally, which revealed a magnificent view over a low lying land, dotted with lush farmland, trees and, in the distance, a huge and impressive mountain range.
These things weren't what Josh had stopped the cart for though.  The road they were on meandered down the hill and towards a city, no doubt To City. 

And what a city it was.  It was a mix of fantasy and futuristic sci-fi, with a cluster of tall, thin and shining towers, impossibly balanced in some instances, surrounded by houses that looked as if they were the dwellings of fairy folk and witches.  The roads that he could see varied between a few large, super modern, highways and twisting winding paths made of cobbles.
The vehicles, distant as they were from his viewpoint, seemed as diverse, ranging from flying pods to animal drawn carriages. 

"Wow," he said.

"Our hero takes in his first view of To City!"

Josh jumped in shock as the purple clad man reappeared.  Gazing out at the view, he continued.  "A city that looks magnificent, and yet is in dire distress, plagued by the horror known as The Blight.  But the end is in sight!  The Blight will wither, as it, itself, causes crops, magic and people to do, now that our hero is here!  Hurrah for To City!  Hurray for our hero!"

"Listen you..."  Josh reached out to the man, but before he could make contact, the being vanished again.  "Fuck."

"Jox?  Who are you speaking to?"  Samantha had climbed out of the cart, to stand nearby.

"I..."  Josh looked at her, but then shook his head.  "Never mind."  He gestured at the city.  "Impressive."

"Thank you," she said.  "But I'm sure it's nothing compared to what your world has to offer."

"Don't underestimate yourself," he replied.

"Shall we go and see it close up then?"

"Why not?"  With one last look around, Josh returned to the waiting cart.


"Oh fuck!"  said Josh.

"It seems word has leaked about your arrival," the burly driver of the cart said, which was the first time Josh had heard him speak.

The streets that he was now being driven through were jam packed with cheering people.  Quite a lot were throwing what looked like multi-coloured rice.

"What are they throwing?" he asked Samantha, as he brushed the seeds from his face and hair.

"It's Pioc," she said.  "A local staple crop."

"It's nice they have food to waste," Josh said.

"They don't," she replied, in a much more sombre tone.

"This is the Blight you mentioned before?"

"I shouldn't really say," she said.

"But it is, isn't it?"

Sam just made a face, which Josh interpreted as a yes.

"You could wave a little at least," she said, after a few minutes of driving through the throng.

"Well, okay then."  Josh did a royal wave at the crowd, feeling rather foolish.  The result was a massive increase in cheering.

"You see?  You're a hero," Samantha said.

"Great."  Josh carried on waving, but slumped back in his seat.  This was turning out to be a disappointment-in-waiting, in his opinion.
It took another half hour of waving, which was increasingly hard to maintain enthusiasm for, before they turned into a wide avenue, lined with blue leafed trees and shining silver skyscrapers.  At the end a majestic, white stoned, muti-towered building rose high into the sky, as if someone had decided to build a modern hi-rise castle.

"I assume that is our destination?" Josh asked, rubbing his arm.

"The Grand Palace, home of his Grace, the High Mage, ruler of To," Samantha confirmed.

"How exciting," Josh said, in an unenthusiastic tone.  "I've never wanted to meet royalty."

Samantha put her hand on his arm, which send a chill down Josh's spine.

"Don't say that," she hissed. 

He just nodded.  It seemed free speech was limited in his new world.  He would have to be careful.

The limo-cart finally arrived at a grand entrance to the Grand Palace, which towered above them.  Josh couldn't help but gawp at the massive building as he stepped out of his ride.

"This is where I say good bye," Samantha said.

"What?  Wait, no!" Josh didn't want to lose the only friendly, and he had to admit, attractive, face he'd met so far.

"Don't worry, you'll be fine."  She smiled at him, and then saluted.  "Welcome to To, Saviour," she said.

"Fuck," Josh said.

I was going to write more today, but was distracted by various things, so...  Today's suggestions needed...
What does 'His Grace' the High Wizard look like?  Personality, appearance, any suggestions welcome!  Is he all you expect him to be?  Or the complete opposite?  Human?  Other? 
Any other suggestions/ideas also welcome!
Thank you for reading.
Interactive Tales / Another Path. - New Friends
Last post by Ren - Jul 31, 2023, 07:57 PM
"Oh.  Of course.  Of course there's something worse than a human-eating land-catfish."  Josh took a cautious step backwards, although he had pretty much lost all hope at this point.

Standing in place of the now-dead fish creature, was a huge, well, it could only really be described as a troll.  After all, it was green, and it was giant, like Hulk's bigger, uglier, cousin. 

To add to the air of menace, although that was not necessary at all, it was holding a large hand cannon, now resting with the barrel slung over its shoulder, the muzzle smoking slightly.  Finally, for the pièce de résistance, it was wearing a long coat that seemed to be made of bones.  Many of them looked human, to Josh's untrained eye.

"Well, I guess at least I won't have to endure any more surprises."  He spread his arms wide, in a gesture of defeat.  "Go ahead then, I just ask you make it quick."

The troll stepped forward, towering over him, and raised a bushy eyebrow.  "I'm not sure what you're implying," it replied, in a surprisingly light voice.  "But you're welcome."  It pointed a large finger at the now dead land-catfish. 

"I...  Wait, you're not going to eat me?"

The troll looked him up and down, and made a noise.  "Oh dearie, you're far too stringy for me.  Besides, what do you take me for, some kind of monster?"

"Well, I mean..."  Josh looked meaningfully at the skeletal jacket the creature was wearing.

"This old thing?"  The troll fingered the clothing.  "I bought it from a costume shop.  These bones are all fake sweetie.  Well, most of them."

"Oh.  I see.  I think.  In that case, thank you.  My name's Josh."
"Arthur," the giant replied.  "And I know who you... wait, Josh?"

"Yes."  It was Josh's turn to raise an eyebrow.

"You mean Jox."

"No, no, I mean Josh.  Although, strangely enough, I met a fellow called Jox back on the road."  He looked around, as if expecting the other, or at least the road, to suddenly reappear.

"Oh.  Well, that is interesting.  He's fucked up."  Arthur paused for a moment and then, surprisingly, chuckled to himself.  "This is big, it could change everything." 

"Change what?"

"Listen, if anyone asks, and this is for your own good, tell them your name is Jox, okay?"


"Long story, but if you want to keep breathing, do as I say."  Arthur looked about.  "I'll say nothing about it either.  Come on, we don't have much time, I'm surprised they haven't found you already, they must be looking."

"Who's looking for me?  What's going on?"  Josh found himself talking to the back of a retreating Arthur.  Not wanting to get lost in the menacing fog again, he hurried after him.
"Where are we going?" he gasped, when he finally managed to catch the troll, who was walking with large strides over the grassland.  "And how do you know where you're going?  How can you see through this mist?"

"You get used to it, and it's not always this thick, there are landmarks, if you know what to watch for.  Not that we come out when it's this dense usually, as that's when the Grgz hunt."


"The thing that you were running from," Arthur said, gesturing back at where they had come from, meaning the land-catfish.

"There's a lot of them?"

"Sometimes a lot, sometimes just one or two, again, but more when the mist is dense."

"I saw a girl... a young girl, back there.  She had been bitten in half."  Josh suppressed a gag at the memory.

Arthur sighed.  "Yes, sadly we lose quite a few that way."

"Quite a few?  Where am I, exactly?"

"You're in The Between."

"The Between?  What's that?"

"It's neither From nor To.  The Between.  I think the name speaks for itself."

"Okay then, so, From is, I'm guessing, where I'm from.  Where is the To?"

"You're right.  From is whatever world you were in, and..."

"Wait wait wait," Josh interrupted.  "What do you mean whatever world I was in?"

Arthur sighed again and stopped walking.  Turning to Josh, he spoke slowly and clearly, as if to someone not very bright.  "Are Grgz common where you come from?"

"I've never seen anything like that creature," he replied.

"That's because you're not in your world any more.  You passed through... well, I'm no wizard, but some kind of barrier, into The Between.  Which is here.  It's... Do you have the multiverse theory in your home?"

"Yes, I've heard of that.  So... I'm in another universe?"

Arthur shrugged, and began walking again.  "I'm not really sure, like I said, I'm no wizard, but that's the generally held view."

"And this To place?"

"It's actually part of the same universe as The Between, but a stable part.  The barriers shift and move, as well as alternate between universes in The Between.  To is just normal land, although populated by a diverse set of beings that have wandered in, as well as the natives of course."

"Okay.  I see."  Josh didn't, and fell silent for a few minutes, trying to digest the madness he'd stepped into.  The whole thing felt like a dream still, but, as he'd already established, as best he could, that he wasn't asleep, then he had to accept he was really in some fog-covered land in another dimension.
He shook his head, as if that would help.  Then something Arthur had said trickled back into his mind.

"Wait, you said you were expecting me?  And someone else..."

"Shhh!"  Arthur stopped and waved a hand.  "Shit, they're here."  He turned and looked down at Josh.  "Remember what I said about your name, and don't say anything about me, understood?  Your life depends upon it.  We'll be in touch when it's safe."

"I..."  Josh trailed off as Arthur made a complicated gesture in the air, and faded from view.  Literally disappearing into thin air.

"What the hell?"  Josh poked at where the troll had been standing.  Nothing.

Suddenly there was a tall, thin, man standing next to him.  Like Arthur, he had appeared from nowhere.  One second there had been fog, and the next second he was there.

Unlike Arthur though, this man appeared human, probably in his early fifties, and had a body structure one might describe as 'lanky'.  He was dressed in purple trousers, a matching jacket with long coat tails, and a similarly coloured top hat, which was perched on his head at a precariously jaunty angle. Grey hair jutted out at odd angles from underneath.

"Hel..." Josh started to say, but was interrupted as the man started to speak, not looking at him at all, and seemingly addressing the fog.

"And so our hero is here, late perhaps, but safe.  He is naturally bewildered, but soon things will be made clear.  Even as the questions line up in his head, help arrives."  The man made a gesture, and Josh looked over to see other figures come into view, in a more traditional manner this time.

They were part of one group, for sure, dressed in dark clothing and wrapped in long cloaks, which fluttered back as they walked to reveal swords hanging at their sides.

"Here you are," the lead figure said, a woman, seemingly not much older than Josh, with long black hair tied in pigtails.

"Hi," he said, weakly.

"Please, tell me your name," she asked, coming to a stop in front of him.  The four men behind her, all much larger and more menacing looking Josh couldn't help but notice, came to a stop too, but said nothing.

"Jo... Jox, the name's Jox," he managed to choke out.

"Well, lovely to meet you Jox, we've been expecting you.  Apologies for the delay."  She held a hand out. 

For a second Josh just stared at it, but then pulled himself together and put his own out, to shake her hand.
It had calluses on, he noted.

"And who's..." he turned to the purple clad man, but found nothing but mist.  "Oh."

"Come, come, you must be tired and have questions.   My name's Samantha, you may call me Sam.  It's Captain Miller actually, but I hate formality.  Come.  Let's get out of here, there are sometimes creatures in the fog."

"I... see."  Josh decided to speak less and listen more, until he understood what the hell was going on.

"I hope you weren't wandering around here long," Sam went on, as they walked along.  Her men had fallen in around them, in a protective phalanx.  "There can be dangerous creatures, as well as the subversives."


"Never mind for now.  I expect you're wondering where you are?"

"I figured I'd wandered onto some moor or other," Josh said, deciding to follow Arthur's advice, and play dumb.

"Ah, not quite."  Samantha went on to describe From, The Between and To, in a more rambling fashion perhaps, but it essentially came down to what the troll had told him.  Different universe, shifting barriers, stable area.

"Very well then," Josh said, when Samantha had finally finished.  "And so, who are you, and what am I to you?"

"We are here at the behest of the ruler of the To City.  You arrival has been predicted."

"I see.  And you come out and find everyone who wanders in to The Between?"

"Oh no.  You're special."  Samantha smiled at her.  Josh decided she was really quite pretty.

"Special how, exactly?"

Sorry for the abrupt stop there, but time for more suggestions if possible! 
I actually know who Sam is etc. but I'm interested in what you think Sam will tell Josh.  Also, ideas for To City welcome, as in what kind of place/architecture/structures etc.  Wild and outlandish suggestions welcome!
Once again, thank you for reading.
Interactive Tales / Another Path. - Part 2
Last post by Ren - Jul 26, 2023, 06:23 PM
At first he his brain refused to register what it was, but then, like one of those magic-eye pictures, he realised he was looking at a young girl, maybe ten years old.  A desperate, mad expression of terror was etched upon her face, unseeing eyes staring wide, right at him.  Even more specifically, it was a dead face.  As white, as they say, as a ghost.

Josh turned and threw up.

"Fuck!  Fuck fuck fuck!" he gasped, once he finally recovered his breath.  Then again, "Fuck!" with feeling.

Scrambling slightly away from his horrific find, he forced himself to try and calm down and look at the poor girl again.  This time he managed to take in a fuller picture, which was no improvement. 
She was dressed in what seemed to be a school blazer, and was lying on her front, arms outstretched as if trying to reach some never-to-be-achieved goal, fingers clawing at the grass.  Even more horrifying, as if the scene needed that, was the fact that she was only half there.  The body ended at her waist, her innards trailing slightly behind, discolouring the ever-present grass.  There was no sign of the rest of her.

Josh turned and threw up again.

"Oh my world," he moaned, after heaving for another minute.  He scrabbled backwards some more, only to bump into something hard.
Jerking to one side, he looked wildly about, to find out that he'd discovered a white painted wooden post.  Staggering to his feet, and keeping his eyes averted from the girl, he looked up at the shaft, and realised it was, in fact, some kind of old fashioned sign-post.
There were two arrows at its top,  pointing in opposite directions.  Squinting through the fog, he read the words, which were painted in elegant green font.

One said: 'From' and the other said: 'To'.

"Odd," he muttered to himself, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  "And spooky.  What the hell is going on here?"

The signpost had no immediate answer, and, thankfully, neither did the body of the girl. 

"Well, I guess it's some kind of direction.  Maybe 'From' is back to my car," he rambled on.  Apart from 'From' was also pointing directly at the body on the grass.

"Maybe 'To' is a better choice," he decided.

Purposely not looking back, he set off again, in a more careful fashion, following the direction of the sign.

He'd barely walked five paces when he kicked something in the grass.  Nervously, Josh looked down, to find a shiny metallic egg on the ground. 

Frowning, he carefully bent down and prodded the thing, preparing to leap away if it made any sudden movement which, under normal circumstances, would have been ludicrous.  Here, here he wasn't taking any chances.

It didn't move, somewhat to his relief, so he cautiously picked it up. 

After a few moments' examination, he came to the conclusion it was, indeed, some kind of metallic egg.  It didn't seem to be solid, being too light for that, but it made no noise when he (gently) shook it either. 

Shrugging, he put it in his pocket and carried on walking.
The grassland seemed to go on forever, but Josh was now getting numb to the strangeness he'd wandered into.  He kept going, one foot after another, trudging onwards in this place that made no sense. 
The world around him remained white. White, with green underfoot.  Endless silence, broken only by Josh's footsteps, trudging forward towards... Well towards To.

"I have to be dreaming," he said to himself.  "Maybe a nightmare."  He pinched his arm, hard, purposely hurting himself.  The pinch did, indeed, hurt, and yet he remained in his unending white and green existence.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity of walking, he dropped to his knees.

"What the fuck!" he screamed at the invisible sky.  "Why?" 
He fell forward, onto the grass, and beat, in a futile fashion, at the ground.

There was a Noise.

He stopped moving.  The noise wasn't a Good noise.  It was a noise that sent warning signals that primitive man would have paid particular attention to, back when creatures walked the earth.
"Shit," he whispered to himself, and rolled over. 
The growling, for that's what it was, flowed over him, reaching parts of his primeval brain that he'd not realised existed.

Trying not to breathe, he sat, and then stood up, turning, trying to work out where the continuing low, and yet definitely threatening sound was coming from. 

As if working in tangent, the mist seemed to recede somewhat, allowing him a view of, well, more of the same really.  Spongy, springy grass. 

The ominous growling grew louder.

"Shit," Josh whispered, desperately feeling in his pockets for anything that could help him defend against werewolves, or even just regular wolves.  The only thing were his car keys, wallet, phone and the recently found metal egg. 

He pulled the egg out, simply because it was about the only thing he could throw at any attacker, although it wasn't heavy enough to do any real damage.

The growling was getting louder, although the mist made it hard to figure out which direction it was coming from.  Josh swung about, desperately trying to locate the source which, unfortunately, soon made itself known.

"What the fuck?" he gasped, staggering backwards as a shape came into view.

It was now evident what had put paid to the poor girl.  The monster, and it was surely a monster, was like nothing Josh had ever seen.  It was about two metres long, and looked a little bit like a catfish in shape, certainly it was a similar brown, but a catfish that had grown dozens of legs out of its sides, and developed a huge, wide, needle-tooth-lined mouth.  To top of the weirdness, it had about half a dozen pale white eyes waggling about on stalks on its head. 

"Holy shit!"  Josh turned and ran in terror, as the thing scuttled forward, mouth opening to reveal a black maw, easily capable of swallowing a leg whole, at least.

The pattering of its many feet grew closer, despite his desperation fuelled turn of speed, and he wailed in terror as its rasping breath grew louder.

Josh was just about to turn and make a mad last stand, when there was a noise and a squawk from behind.  The thing's footsteps abruptly stopped, and, gasping for air, he slowed and stopped too, cautiously turning to take in the situation.

The land-catfish was on the floor, most certainly dead.  Half of its horrible face had been blown away by some unseen weapon, decorating the nearby grass with a mixture of black blood and brown flesh.  Josh would have thrown up again, had he anything left to hurl.  Instead he just gagged and tried to get his breathing under control.

Before he could fully recover, another shape emerged from the never-ending fog.

"Oh," he said.

So then, a bit of a struggle to push this out, but I managed to get most suggestions in.  Thanks to Key for those. 
This time, as well as any other ideas and comments, I'm looking for two things:  1. What's the metallic egg, exactly?  (Doesn't have to come into play urgently, can be further down the line).  2. Who/what has rescued Josh?  Ideas ranging from appearance to motive all welcome!
Thank you for reading!
Interactive Tales / 1. Lost.
Last post by Ren - Jul 15, 2023, 09:04 PM
If it wasn't for a simple mistake, Josh's life would have probably carried on along the same mundane, normal, path that it had ambled along for the previous twenty two years.  He would have likely met some nice girl, or boy, (although that wasn't really his thing), settled down with them, married perhaps, probably had children.  You know, all the standard stuff that the average Joe, or here, Josh, does.
In this case though, a too-early turn at a junction, sent him off towards a totally different destiny.  Let's see how it all started, shall we?

o O o

"Damn it!" Josh said, smacking his steering wheel as he slowed down and looked about.  "I knew that wasn't the right turn."  He squinted at the road ahead, which was rapidly narrowing into a path barely wide enough for the car.  To add to his woes, a fog seemed to have appeared from nowhere, making navigation even harder.  His sat-nav showed him going in approximately the right direction, although the road he was on had apparently petered out shortly after the turning.  According to the screen, he was driving through fields. As this patently wasn't the case Josh ignored it, and kept going.

The road started to climb a hill, which became steeper even as it wound around a number of sharp turns, testing Josh's driving skills, and forcing him to drop to second, and then first gear.

"Fuck," he said, leaning forward and hoping to hell he wouldn't meet another vehicle coming the other way.

Of course, as soon as he thought that, he did.  Luckily the road had straightened, and even flattened out just at that point, but the other car turned a blind bend at the end and suddenly appeared in front of him.

As Josh was barely moving at that point, their collision was limited to a small bump, but he thought he heard the tinkle of glass breaking even so.

"Bugger," he said.  He turned the engine off, and climbed out of the car, even as the person in the other vehicle did the same.

Josh did a bit of a double take at the other driver, who raised his eyebrows in a similar fashion.  The reason for this was because he looked practically identical to Josh.  Same sandy coloured hair, same tall, lanky frame, and, most striking of all, his face.  Even his clothing was similar, with a plain blue shirt and jeans, although the jeans were black, not blue.

"Hello," Josh said, approaching the other him.  "Do I have a twin I didn't know about?"

"I was going to say the same," the other him replied, grinning.

"Seriously, this is spooky," Josh went on.  "My name's Josh, Josh Wheeler."

"Fuck.  No way.  I'm called Jox Williams."

"Jox?  Kind of cool," Josh said.

"You wouldn't say that if you'd had to explain the spelling all your life.  Everyone assumes it's Josh."

"Ah, yes, I get that."  Josh tore his attention away from his other self, and looked at the cars.  Despite what he had thought he had heard, neither vehicle appeared damaged in any way. 

"Seems we lucked out," Jox said, coming to the same conclusion.  "Although I'm not sure how we're going to get past each other.  Do you know where we are anyway?  I'm lost, and my sat-nav seems to have no clue either."

"No, but the road is going in roughly the right way for me."

"I think there was a bit of a wider area not long back," Jox said.  "I'll reverse and hopefully you can squeeze by then."


"No worries."  Jox nodded and climbed back into his car.

Shrugging, Josh did the same, and started his engine.  Moments later the other car started to back away.  After giving him some space, Josh followed slowly. 

After a minute of so of skilful reversing, Jox did, indeed, back into a small area by the side of the road, allowing Josh to drive past.  He waved at the other, who nodded in return, and carried on along the mysterious road.

"Should have asked him where he came from," he muttered, after several more minutes of navigating the twisting lane.  At least it had levelled off a little.  As if to make up for that though, the fog became more dense.  He turned his lights on, but all that seemed to do was create a kind of dazzling reflection.

Finally, after crawling along for a further five minutes, Josh was forced to stop.  He couldn't even see the end of his car, let alone the road ahead. 

"Well, this is fucked up," he muttered, reaching for his phone.  There was no doubt he was going to be late now, he needed to inform the company he had been heading towards.

Even in this task, he was thwarted though.

"No signal.  Seriously?  Where doesn't have a signal these days?"  Josh stared at his phone in disbelief, holding it up, as people tend to do in this situation.  "Maybe outside."
He climbed out into the fog, and shivered.  It was colder than it had any right to be outside.  Ducking back into his vehicle, he grabbed his jacket and pulled it on, before taking a few strides up hill, phone held high, searching for any kind of reception.

His search was interrupted by what sounded like a young girl's voice, coming out of the fog ahead of him.  Josh lowered his phone and stared into the mist.



"Is anybody there?" he took a single step forward, then stopped, suddenly feeling like he'd stumbled into a horror film.

"Hello?"  the voice, definitely a young girl's voice, was clearer this time.

"Are you okay?"  Josh didn't move.

"I'm lost."

Taking a deep breath, Josh shook his head.  This didn't feel right somehow, but he could hardly leave a young girl in trouble.

Putting his phone in his pocket, he took another few steps forward.  "Are you there?"

There was no answer this time.  Even so, he walked on some more, past his car and into a world of white. 

His vehicle disappeared within a couple of steps, and he found himself looking at the road surface, which was the only thing visible any more.

"Hello?" he repeated. 

There was a noise ahead, slightly to the right maybe.  Suddenly wishing he'd brought a tyre iron with him, Josh adjusted his course.  The road surface suddenly changed to rough grass, and he waved his hands in front of him, zombie-like.  The sides of the road had been lined with spiky looking hedges, and no doubt there was a ditch too.  There was a always a ditch.

And yet there wasn't.  He kept walking on the spongy grass, in a world of white. 

"Fuck this," he said, suddenly stopping.  Turning about, he tried to retrace his steps, only, to his horror, he couldn't find the road again.  The grass just kept on going. 
"This is impossible!" he told himself, panicking and veering from left to right in an attempt to find his car, or even the sides of the road.

He found neither, and then he really did panic, breaking out into a blind run, into an area that wasn't possible.  Until he tripped over something, and fell.

The fall didn't hurt, landing, as he had, on the soft grass, but the bewilderment and shock meant he just lay there for a while, trying to understand what was going on.

Finally, he sat up and looked back, at what he had tripped over.

Suggestions for what he's tripped over please! 
Interactive Tales / FantasyAnother Path.
Last post by Ren - Jul 15, 2023, 09:03 PM
I shouldn't be starting another story, but I feel the urge.  So...

Another Path.
Announcements / Opus Path domain name, forum i...
Last post by NeilH - Apr 30, 2023, 07:13 AM
Hello Opus Pathians.

It seems forums, or at least writing forums, or at least this writing forum, are not in vogue ATM, sadly.  I must admit, my writing focus has shifted a bit myself.

So, with money a bit tight, I'll probably not renew the OpusPath.com domain name, although I'm planning to still keep the forum itself open, as it's now sitting under my NeilHartleyBooks.com domain, so doesn't cost me any extra.

Hence the URL will be:  NeilHartleyBooks.com/op  in the future.  I'll put a link on my main website as well.

More info as and when.
Interactive Tales / Re: The Blood of Oz
Last post by Ren - Nov 18, 2022, 01:13 PM
It was quickly replaced by the form of Bob, which, she now saw, moved by means of a single large wheel under his torso.

"How will you pay for the damages?" it asked.

Dorothy snarled, the weariness she had been feeling before was growing, and she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep standing.  "How about, you can have the bodies of my chums here, for parts."  She gestured at the three inactive robots lying on the floor, still smoking from the damage she'd inflicted.

"Maybe they aren't yours to give?" Bob replied.  "They are in my inn."

"How about I fight them for you?"  She held a hand up, although this was a total bluff.  Apparently such powerful use of the boot magic was really draining, something she would have to be aware of.

Bob did what sounded suspiciously like a sigh, but then a green light flashed.  "As you say.  But you must leave."

"I'm waiting for my guide," she countered, sitting down again, and trying not to look like she was going to collapse.

"When your guide comes, you must leave." 


The deal done, Bob turned away and, wrapping tentacles around the destroyed robots, dragged them off to a door in the rear wall.
"Oh fuck me."  Dorothy slumped forward on the table.  Toto whined, and put his head on her lap.

"Are you okay mistress?" Crow asked.

"I need to rest, maybe eat something."  She looked up.  "Do you think Blake had a room here?  It is an inn after all.  Let's go and look."  She forced herself upright and, grabbing hold of Crow for support, she staggered over to a door set to the rear of the left wall.  A notice over the mantle read: "Residents Only", which she ignored. 
Through the door was a set of stairs, which she balked at.  Her legs were really wobbling now, and her vision was swimming.

"Help me get up these stairs please Crow," she asked.  She didn't want the scarecrow to know how weak she was, but there was no way she'd make it otherwise.

The request didn't seem to raise any suspicions though.  "Of course mistress," the creature said, and practically carried her up to the next floor.  Toto following behind.

There were four doors in a long corridor.  The first one was a crude bathroom.  The next two she tried were unlocked, and led to cramped, empty rooms, both furnished with a small table, a chair and a bed.
The final one was locked.  She looked at it, and then at Crow.  "Open."

The scarecrow pushed at the handle and, with a splintering sound, the door opened.


Dorothy and Toto wandered into what could only be Blake's room.  Charts and notes filled the walls, but right now she was too exhausted to even care.  "Stand outside and guard the door please," she asked the scarecrow.  "Don't let anyone in, but you can knock if the robot guide arrives."
"Yes mistress."  Obediently it closed the door.

Dorothy slumped onto the bed and frantically rummaged in her backpack, pulling out some of the rabbit she'd saved from the camp.  She stuffed it into her mouth, giving Toto a piece too.  After a few minutes of energetic munching, the meat was gone.  She sighed and lay back on the bunk. 

"Just a few minutes to..."  She was asleep before the end of the sentence.

Sorry, just a short one there.  More soon.
Interactive Tales / The Blood of Oz - Incident.
Last post by Ren - Nov 02, 2022, 11:23 AM
Dorothy made a face.

"It's, basically, the local crime boss here.  It's..."  he stopped, as the large robot clumped over to them.

"So, Blake, who are your new friends?" it grated.

"We're just passing through, seeing our chum," Dorothy replied, standing up, turning and facing the bot, which was about three times her height.  She loosened her jacket and touched her heels together.  A warm feeling began to flow up her legs.  "And who might you be?"

"They call me Bank," the large machine replied.  "If you are travellers, then you need to pay a toll."  It loomed over her, menacingly.

Toto growled, but Dorothy held his collar

"Stand back robo..." Crow slid in front of Dorothy, but was cut off by Bank, who brought a metallic limb around and backhanded him as if the tall scarecrow was nothing more than a fly.  Crow was catapulted across the room, smacking into the far wall, which he slid down, ending up a crumpled pile of sticks on the floor.

"Hey!  That's my friend!" Dorothy snarled.

"Listen, Bank we can surely work something out."  Blake stepped in.  "She's only just arrived in town..."

"Makes no difference," Bank grinded.  "Payment, now."  It held the same massive, metal, hand out that had just swatted Crow.

"You're making me angry," Dorothy snarled.  "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

"Don't give a fuck," Bank said.  He made a gesture to his minions, who so far had remained silent.  "Break her arms."

"Bank!  I..."  Blake took a step forward, but Bank simply swatted him as he'd done Crow.  Blake, being human, left a trail of blood as he was thrown across the room.

Dorothy saw red. 

"Now you've pissed me off." 
She didn't even bother with her guns, but threw both her arms out in front of her.  The heat from her boots travelled through her body and exploded in a white hot beam of fire, which hit Bank in the chest area, burning a hole clean through the robot and throwing it backwards. 

"Fuck you!" screamed Dorothy, bringing her aim around to Bank's two minions, cutting them in half with her energy.  The bots melted under her assault.

She stopped, panting hard, feeling suddenly weak, to the realisation that the inn was now on fire, and there were three half melted droids on the ground.  Crow was slowly standing up, but poor old Blake was a shattered mess on the floor.  Even so, she ran over, on rather wobbly legs, and knelt down beside him, putting two fingers on his neck, searching for a pulse.

"Mistress?"  Crow loomed over her.

"He's gone."

"I am sorry I failed you mistress.  Please don't kill me."

Breathing hard, Dorothy pulled herself upright and dusted herself off, fending off Toto, who was trying to lick her face.  "It's not your fault Crow.  You tried your best.  Sometimes a Bitch just has to do the work herself.  Woo.  I need a sit down."

She staggered over to a nearby chair, slumped into it, and looked around.  Bob had rushed over to the fire and was busy hosing it down with some kind of foam that emerged from the end of one of his tentacles.  The flames were rapidly succumbing under his assault.

"Are you all right?" she asked Crow, who was looking rather dishevelled.

"I am mistress, I will recover fully once I can gather some more sticks."  He shook an arm, dislodging several broken twigs.

"Very well."  Dorothy looked back down at the remains of the unfortunate Blake, and pursed her lips.  The bodies were piling up around her, it seemed.  An idea struck, and she pulled herself off her chair and knelt back down, to frisk his corpse, pulling out a rather wrinkled envelope and a small cloth purse, which jangled when she shook it. 

"Hey," a new voice shouted.

Quickly pocketing Blake's belongings, she managed to stand back up and turned to face the newcomer.

It was the robot with the star on again, the one that had questioned her before.

"What are you doing?" it demanded.  "Did you do this?" in gestured at the three melted robots and the charred wall, now dripping with Bob's flame retardant.

"It was self-defence, they murdered poor Blake over there, and assaulted my companion here."  She gestured at Crow.  "Then they tried to attack me.  I had no choice."

"You will have to come in for questioning," it responded.  "There may be charges, or fines."

"Oh, I don't think so.  You said: 'The Mechar authorities will not get involved if there is any damage sustained during your visit,' didn't you?" She made air quotes. 

"We meant to you."

"Even so, you didn't say that.  I assumed robots could be taken at their word.  Don't tell me that's not true."

The machine stood silently and hummed to itself for a few seconds. 
"You are correct.  We cannot contradict our statement from earlier.  However, we can declare you a danger to robot-kind and require you to leave the Mechar city limits at once."

"Oh come on!  I've only just arrived."

"Even so.  You are required to be out of the city by nightfall."

"Fine."  Dorothy crossed her arms and pouted.  "I will try my best, but as I don't know my way around, I can't absolutely guarantee I will be, especially as I don't know where the city limits are.  Is that okay?"

More humming.  "Yes," it said, finally. "We will supply a guide to assist you.  Wait here until it arrives."

"As long as it doesn't take too long, if I need to be on my way."

"It won't."  With that, the robot turned and trundled out of the inn. 
Interactive Tales / The Blood of Oz - Human.
Last post by Ren - Oct 25, 2022, 08:20 AM
It took a while, the smog didn't make the search any easier, but eventually Dorothy stumbled across a building with a sign over the large double doors.  The sign said Squashy Inn in glowing neon letters. 

"Subtle," she said.  "Come on."

They climbed the two wooden steps up to the doors, and pushed at them.  The doors swung open, old-west style.

Into what appeared to be an old-west cowboy bar, with a few notable exceptions.

The most notable was that the majority of the population inside, despite the sign, were obviously robotic.  As they entered, the inhabitants of the place, as one, stopped what they were doing and turned to glare at them.  It was almost like they had walked into a movie.  Even the piano, which was playing itself she noticed, stopped playing as the doors swung back and forth, slowly closing behind them.

It certainly had the atmosphere down pat.  The rickety tables scattered around the room were mostly empty.  One, to the right, was full, with four humanoid bots playing what appeared to be some sort of card game. 

Another table, to the left, was occupied by two ancient looking droids, nursing glasses of dark black liquid. 

A long bar ran along the back wall, with a tall robot sporting half a dozen tentacle arms standing behind it.  It was wearing an apron.
Finally, and possibly most notably, sitting at table all by himself, was an actual human male. 

After the short, traditional, pause, the music started up again, and the denizens of the bar turned back around and carried on with whatever they were doing.

All except the other squashy, who stood up, eyes wide.

"You're human!" he exclaimed.

"Last I checked," Dorothy replied.

She looked the man up and down.  It was obvious he'd seen better days.  His clothes were one step up from rags, and his skin was an unhealthy pale yellow colour, no doubt from the atmosphere in the current locale.  What hair he had was white and straggly.  She put his age around fifty.

"I... I never thought I'd see another real human again!"  The newcomer was nearly weeping as he staggered forward, arms wide. 
Toto barked, but it was Crow that stepped in front of Dorothy, and the man reversed course quickly, scrambling back. 

"Leave the Bitch alone," the scarecrow snarled.

Dorothy rolled her eyes.

"I... I wasn't going to hurt her," the man stammered.  "I... it's just..."

"It's okay Crow," Dorothy intervened.  "I can handle him."

"Yes mistress."  The scarecrow gave one last snarl at the man, and stepped back.

"Hey, I'm Dorothy.  New here, obviously.  Who are you?"
"B... Blake," he stammered, still with one eye on Crow.  "Blake Cordroy.  Please, come, sit.  Allow me to purchase a beverage for you, they do a half decent ale here, which is about the only thing I'd recommend drinking if you don't wish to poison yourself."  He didn't wait for her response, but waved at the tentacled robot behind the bar.  "An ale for my new friend here Bob," he said.

"Bob?"  Dorothy slid into a chair opposite him.  Toto lay down next to her, whilst Crow took up position behind.

"Yeah, he's the owner.  Bit of a squashy sympathiser."  Blake tapped his nose and winked, which meant nothing at all to Dorothy.

"Okay then.  Tell me Blake, what's the deal with this whole place?"

"The bar?"

"No, Oz.  This whole land.  I'm going to take a wild stab and say we're not on Earth any more.  You are from Earth, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes.  I was born in South Africa, but grew up in England.  I moved to the States for work when I was older.  I assume that's where you are from, judging by your accent."

"I've travelled widely," Dorothy said, non-committally.  "Although not as widely as..." she gestured around her.

"Ah yes.  No, from everything I've seen, we're nowhere near Earth.  I really don't know where we are in relation to it even, although my theory is some alternate dimension.  I've seen things here that simply shouldn't be possible with the laws of our universe."

"I hear you," Dorothy said.  "Oh, thank you."  This was in response to a glass of pale liquid being placed in front of her by means of one of Bob's tentacles, which had snaked out across the room.

"Were you in a plane crash too?" Blake asked, as Dorothy took a caution sip of her drink.

"Plane crash?"

"I mean, how did you get here?  I was on a short haul flight to Texas when we hit a storm.  The plane crash landed in some rough fields.  I managed to get out, along with maybe a dozen others."

"And where are these others now?"  Dorothy took another drink of her ale.  It wasn't half bad, she concluded.

Blake shrugged.  "At least four of them are dead for sure.  Not sure where the rest are.  Maybe dead too.  We slowly parted company over the years."

"Years?  You've been here years?"

"Yes, I'm guessing about ten, but I've lost track of time entirely.  This place doesn't have seasons, at least this area doesn't."
"You've never travelled?"

"Not really.  I've always had a bit of a bad leg.  The crash wasn't far from the city, and the robots came out to see what was going on. We convinced them the plane was ours, what was left of it, and managed to trade the parts for, well, shelter and a few basic provisions.  Then we decided that we should split up into groups, four of them in the end, and go and explore in different directions, report back regularly and get a lay of the land, with one of us staying behind to act as a kind of central hub.  That's me.  Well, it was.  I've not seen any of them for at least two years now, as far as I can figure anyway."

"So you have information about the surrounding area then?" Dorothy leaned forward.  This could be a stroke of luck!

He shrugged.  "Some.  Although, like I said, it's a bit old now, could be out of date."

Dorothy took another swig of her drink, the taste of which was growing on her, and waved a hand.  "Terrain doesn't tend to move much, in my experience.  How far is the Emerald city?"

"You want to go The City?" Blake asked.

"I need to find a way home, and I figure that's the place I'm going to find answers, if I can find answers anywhere."

"It's a dangerous place," Blake shook his head.  "Those companions that died?  They went there.  And when I say they died, they were killed.  By all accounts, the leader there, and he's called The Wizard, is not too friendly."

"Mmm."  Dorothy finished her drink off as she assimilated this information, and then looked at her empty glass.  "What do they use for money here?" she asked.

"Oh, here, let me get you another.  They have these coins they mint themselves.  I've had a good run lately, so I can stand to buy you another few."  He waved at Bob again, and held two fingers up.

"And what do you do to earn your keep?" Dorothy asked.

"It's going to sound stupid," he said, draining his own drink, "but I started of by telling stories.  Still do from time to time."


"Yes, the robots seem to enjoy them, they like to pick my brains for ideas, to make new machines, and improve the ones they have.  Hearing my stories gives them a different perspective.  Other than that, I go out and scavenge, or hunt game, which I sell.  Bob here buys some of the game to make food for his visitors.  I also tend a patch of land a bit out of the city, where I grow a few things, some of which is what makes the booze."

"Very industrious."  Dorothy scratched her chin.  "So, you..."

Her line of questioning was interrupted by the doors opening again.  Dorothy looked around, to see a large, blocky, black coloured robot stride in.  Behind him, two smaller and thinner robots, all silver, stood. 

"Shit," Blake said. 

"Shit?"  Dorothy raised an eyebrow.

"It's Bank," he replied.
Interactive Tales / The Blood of Oz - Mechar
Last post by Ren - Oct 16, 2022, 07:02 AM

The morning passed by without incident.  At first Dorothy's legs complained about the renewed effort, especially as the road started to climb upwards, towards and into the low hills, but she soon loosened up and began to enjoy the stroll.

Whilst they walked, she wondered again about this strange place.  Wherever she was, she had to accept that it wasn't Earth, it may not even be the same universe, considering the fact that she was walking along next to a person made of sticks and straw, and her boots seemed to have the ability to generate fireballs.

How had she managed to end up here?  Her memory was hazy.  The last thing she remembered was trying to get to her car through a massive storm that had seemingly come from nowhere.  Then she was waking up in lollipop land, or Oz, as they called it.

More importantly, how was she going to get back?  She had money owed to her from the hit she'd finished.  She'd put in a considerable amount of time and effort tracking down the targets, and it had been a risky job too.  Could the client have arranged this somehow?
   Maybe she was simply hallucinating, perhaps her body was really lying on some cold cellar floor somewhere, tied up and drugged.

Shaking her head, she coughed slightly, and realised that the haze she'd seen from a distance and thought to be clouds, was actually smog. 

"You have pollution here?" she asked.  "How very progressive."

"It's Mechar mistress," Crow volunteered.  For the first time the creature seemed unsure of itself.

"It seems to be quite polluted."
"Yes, it's the machine city."
"Sounds fascinating," Dorothy said.  "Come on.  What are you waiting for?"

"I'm not really comfortable in cities mistress," the scarecrow replied.  "I'm a country being."

"You'll be fine, you're with me," he said. 

"As you say mistress," Crow replied, although rather miserably.

Tutting at the weirdness of it all, Dorothy put her best, red-booted, foot forward.  Perhaps the city would have a restaurant, maybe even a hotel.  Certainly they must have more information.


The fields of crops, a constant since setting off, had been dwindling as they'd walked, and now they vanished entirely, to be replaced by lightly forested land, covered in unkept, sprawling plant-life, most of which was unfamiliar to her. 

As the smog increased, the first buildings appeared on the side of the road.  They were odd, uneven, things, made of an assortment of materials, apparently scavenged from a scrapyard.  She stopped in front of a low, single story affair that had been constructed from what looked suspiciously like corrugated iron sheets. The door was wood, patched with metal bands.  The single window was small, dirty and slightly cracked.  It was also slightly lopsided.

"Mmm," she said, and carried on.

As she walked on, the buildings became more frequent, and more elaborate.  Some rose three or four stories in height, with more than a few seemingly defying the laws of gravity, they were so twisted and bent. 

"I guess there aren't many earthquakes here," she commented.  Crow didn't reply.  It was walking close behind her now, as if it wanted to try not to be seen, which was always going to be a hard task for a creature more than two metres tall.

As they laboured uphill, the air quality became so bad that Dorothy had to stop and pull out some cloth from her pack.  She wrapped it around her face as a makeshift mask. 

"Not sure how effective it will be," she muttered to herself.  "But can't really hurt."

After another few minutes of walking along the trail, which had now widened to become quite a respectable sized road, she frowned.

"Where is everyone?" she asked Crow. 

"Probably working mistress," it replied.

"All of them?  Odd."

"I heard they are very regimented here," Crow added.  "It's nearly midday, maybe we'll see them when they break for lunch, I believe they do that."

"Okay," Dorothy said.  She started looking out for somewhere to stop and rest.  So far all the buildings seemed to be residential, although the smog was now so bad it was hard to see.  Her eyes were beginning to water, and she wondered if it might be a good idea not to hang around too long.  Goodness knows what noxious fumes she was inhaling.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud, low, moaning sound, a little like an air raid siren.

Immediately, several of the doors to a large building nearby burst open, to reveal a stream of residents.

"Oh, a machine city!" she gasped, stopping dead.

The denizens of the place were an assortment of sizes, shapes and colours.  They were also, without exception, robots.

Some strolled along on flexible, tentacle-like legs, numbering from one to a dozen, whilst others trundled on wheels.  She saw one that seemed to be a wheel.  Their sizes varied from that of a large rat, up to some towering thing that Dorothy dodged to one side to avoid, in case it trod on her.

"Mistress, I don't like this place," Crow complained, trying to duck down behind her.

"It's fine," Dorothy snapped, as the metal crowd rushed by.  "I'm sure they're just as scared of us as we... you are of them."

"Excuse me?"

Dorothy swivelled around to see a relatively human shaped robot, albeit rather a boxy one, speaking to her.  The face had two black square sensors for eyes, and a grill for a mouth.  An antenna sprouted out from the top of its head.

A golden star in the middle of its torso was the only interruption in an otherwise plain casing.

"Oh, hello there," she said. 

"Please present your ID and permit of travel," her new friend said, holding out a rather wicked looking claw.

"What? Do you not know who I am?" Dorothy, lacking any sort of permit, and only having her driving licence on her, which she doubted would be acceptable here, decided to do what she usually did, and go on the offensive.

"You are in Mechar, it doesn't matter who you are."

"I beg to differ."  She scowled and glanced down at her boots meaningfully.

The being leaned over slightly, to look down at her boots.  "I see," it said, after a moment.

"So, if you could direct me to the nearest restaurant, one suitable for organic beings, we'll be on our way, and you can be on yours."

"This city is not a safe place for squashies," the metallic being said.  "Even Bitches."

Dorothy took a deep breath of the polluted air, and immediately regretted it, her makeshift mask wasn't very good.  She'd probably just given herself throat cancer.

"Listen, unless you want to end up as scrap, do what I ask."  She folded her arms and glared up at it, using all the skills acquired from many years of staring down large, dangerous men who thought it amusing to be threatened by a slim female.  Still, if this thing called her bluff, she could be in trouble.  It was doubtful that Crow would be much help against beings with armour for skin.

"The squashy area is along the main thoroughfare," it said, after several heart stopping moments of tension. "Down that way and then the second right."  It gestured with its claw.  "Please note this official warning though:  The Mechar authorities will not get involved if there is any damage sustained during your visit."

"Sure."  Dorothy replied, as calmly as she could, whilst simultaneously letting out a mental sigh of relief. She turned to face the direction indicated.  "Come on Crow, Toto," she said, and strode off down the street, which was still busy with various robots, although they were far now more dispersed.
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