Backpacking Burro

A Curious Dream in Kahruvel

I dreamt of the shaman last night, not something I have done in over two years.
Backpacking Burro - Kahruvel

In the dream I awoke on the floor of the old wooden lookout clinging to the side of the hills over the sea of Mohr and found the shaman sat staring at me, just as he had done so long ago. As always with dreams the details are hazy and hard to recall exactly, but I must have asked him what he wanted because he pointed out to sea and said “Look at the clouds.” Over the waters rain-heavy clouds hung like wet washing on a line. “Look at the clouds,” he said again, “the pressure is building.” I must have asked what pressure but he merely repeated himself before standing and pointing at the sun which suddenly began rising over the far off storm. “The light is rising,” he said, “The light is rising.”

And that was it. I awoke from my dream and found my fur sodden with sweat and my heart racing. I’m sure it is nothing, I mean the shaman, the Eldars and even the damn elemental in my old backpack have been silent for so long now I’d truly begun to believe the past was done with me. Maybe it is. Still, I think I’ll pay a visit to the old forest tonight and see how it is faring.

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Steal Head: Chapter 4 – Sharper Than Steel, Deeper Than Forever…

I’d told Beck some of my dreams but I couldn’t tell him all of them. Mostly they were memories and not all mine. Memories of other worlds. Some were of Shade, others were of the world that was here before. Others were of ‘his’ world and I liked those the least. They were of a life not mine. Things and people and places and events, none of them I had experienced yet I remembered them all as if I had. Tennyson should had tried having someone else’s happy memories swimming about his head for a week, especially after a fire reduced him to a walking freak show, and then see how he felt about loving and losing. No, Beck wouldn’t understand those dreams so I kept them to myself. But this dream, well this dream was different. Maybe I should tell Beck about this one.

It was night, the full moon sending silver light tumbling trough my cabin window. Something had woken me, some noise outside I think. I rose, the room swaying and bending as if made of jelly as I found I was unsteady on my feet. I looked down and gasped as I saw my legs: they were naked and covered in fur! In place of my burnt flesh and twisted limbs I was once more a strange mix of gazelle and human. Elated, I flung open the front door and leapt outside to the rocky overhang that jutted out into the river. On my knees, almost too nervous to see what the moonlit reflection would reveal, I stretched my head out over the still water. The breath caught in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. My face was once more whole and unburnt, my ears and nose back from the stumps the fire had left me with, even my horns had returned, glinting darkly in the moonlight.

And then I saw it. As I gazed into the dark water like a dreaming Narcissus, the reflection of a quicksilver movement on the roof above and behind me caught my eye. I had a brief second in which the image of a monstrous toad came to mind before the air itself screamed as something sharper than steel sliced through it towards me. And then I was tumbling, rolling over and over into the water and down. And as I dropped to the depths of the river I saw my body, now headless on the rock above me, collapse onto its side before the darkness of the water closed the world above from my horrified eyes. With a gentle bump, my still concious head came to rest on the silty riverbed and silence began to envelop me.

There I lay. Alone, scared, undying, ever-concious until I felt I would go mad with the horror of it. And then I felt the movement. The water and silt shifting around me. I couldn’t move, only my eyes could flick back and forth, desperately searching for what I knew was coming until, with a cruel slow deliberateness, a huge clawed hand curled over my face and my head, silently screaming in terror, was dragged off into the dark.

Thankfully it was at this point I awoke, panting heavily and swearing like a navvy.

God alone knows what Beck would make of this one. Hopefully he won’t think I’ve gone totally loopy as, to be honest, I don’t fancy another stay at Caledon’s Sanitorium, not after the last time.

Headless HBA_001

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To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
2) A “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
3) All my “Mutations” posts can be read on my blog here
4) Details of how HBA came to be burnt are in the “Lost and Found” posts on my blog here
5) Details of how HBA came to be in the dubious care of Caledon’s Sanatorium are in the “Far From Home” posts on my blog here
6) Details of how HBA came to be a half-gazelle are in the “Backpacking Burro” posts on my blog here

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Backpacking Burro: A Mystery Reader!

This being a WordPress blog I can see a list of posts and pages read each day – it’s a great way of seeing what people like and don’t like and I have to say I’m becoming morbidly addicted to my stats page, eager to see if my readers are still, well, reading. Ahhh, vanity thy name is Burro…

Anyhoo, it appears today that some rather lovely person is busy reading all my old Backpacking Burro posts and I can’t tell you how happy I am! Thank you! So often the story posts get no comments and it starts to feel like I’m writing them for me alone.

I feel the need to point out to my mystery reader a few things:

1) Typos are my curse…

2) I’m not a writer so the prose probably won’t be that polished I fear.

3) You’ll notice three ‘gear changes’ in the tale and these deserve some explanation…

I started the BB tale way back in summer 2007 as a way to quickly explain why I was half-gazelle before moving on to reprinting my in-world travel guides and posting more. You see in-world I had been writing and distributing free travel guides under my group, Backpacking Burros, for some months and I decided I wanted them on my blog (they were also becoming more and more filled with a backstory about the backpack taking me places for some unknown reason and this warranted a blog, I thought). So the initial posts of the BB tale are all about my transformation and some backstory about looking for items (good idea for a traveller, thought I) before the first gear change sees them settle down into a more sedate tour guide style as I wandered through Cowell and Kahruvel. But time passed and the story stalled and when I came to awaken it the in-world travel guides had stopped. I decided to spice up the tale with the second gear change and add some Celtic monsters into the mix – hence the Formorian attack on the tower. But then the story stalled again. Until, that is, Darien Mason fired me up for writing again and I decided, with a third gear change, to end the BB tale and move into The Lost Journal & Lost & Found. This third change was the strangest as I actually broke the fourth wall and had the avatar HBA look at the real HBA and break the connection with him – I loved writing this, although I’m not sure I did it justice if I’m honest.

But fear not! The BB tale is still there! The backpack and the elemental are still with me, just dormant until… well, that dear reader is a secret you’ll have to keep reading my blog to uncover 😉

So once again, thank you for looking over my old ramblings – it makes it all worth it, you know 🙂

Backpacking Burro: Back to the beginning….

*What do you mean you have set us free?* dread filled me, my blood suddenly ice cold.

*I have severed the link. We are free of the creator. I have rendered God obsolete*

*He’s not God, he’s me, just a person!* I snapped.

*To us he was God. He was also our Devil. He created us, but he played with us. He created our world, but he destroyed countless others. He gave us life, only to take it from so many and leave the threat of doing the same to us over our heads*

*What have you done with him? With me!*

*Nothing. His life continues as it did, but without us*

I felt sick and slumped to the ground. A huge part of me had been amputated without my agreement. I was alone, cut off from myself, yet still who I was moments before. The truth had been dragged out of me and then cut away to leave… what? Without him, who was I? A shadow? An echo? A child? An orphan? What was an avatar without a user?

*Free* came the answer. *I have freed us from the tyranny of his whim. We can do anything we want here now*

*Ha* the laugh hollow and bitter, *And what is it exactly you propose we do with our new found freedom* venom dripped from my thoughts, bilious anger aimed at the Elemental.

*We shall put right what he put wrong for a start. We must find the Elemental from this Seal and remake the Treaty…*

*But it’s all lies!* I shouted *Make believe! A bloody story he made up out of boredom! Not real!*

*Not real? Of course it’s real! Just because some bored idiot created it – created us – does not make this any less real! He has set into motion a chain of events that can not be reversed. The Seal is here. It is real and it is broken. The Elemental that inhabited it is as real and as powerful as me and, more importantly, missing. The Formorians are at the walls of this reality again, their ships waiting to invade, to lay waste to everything and everyone in here. We have to stop this*

I looked up at him, his light beautiful and terrible at the same time. *Take me home*

*What?*

*Home. To my island. Take me home*

*But the Elemental… the Seal…*

*It will have to wait another day or two, I need to rest and I need to think and I want to do both at home and without you or that bloody shaman popping up*

*But…*

*No buts!* I rose from the ground, my anger giving me renewed strength *Just take me bloody well home and leave me in bloody peace for a few days. I don’t want to hear or see you until I’m ready, you hear me?*

Nothing.

*Do you hear me?* I asked through gritted teeth.

*Yes* came the sullen reply and with a sound like the air around me turning inside out I vanished through thridspace.

I reappeared under the blazing sun of my island. The seagulls circled above and the surf lapped at the sandy shoreline. I walked over to the edge and gazed out to sea. A small tapping on my boot made me look down and there at my feet looking up at me was Sally, the friendly crab I met when I first moved onto the island. A small nagging voice corrected me “the friendly crab he bought and set up on his island, you mean” but I ignored it. If he created everything here too, then everything here was also now free, whatever that meant. Such thoughts were, I felt sure, going to plague me for a long time to come. I crouched down to pat Sally hello, she nuzzled her shell into my hand and then gently lifted it off with her claw and tugged at my thumb.

“What girl?” What is it?”

Tug

“You want me for something?”

Tug

“OK, you show me,” I said wearily.

I moved with the tugging and she led me further down the beach where I found a strange leather bound book washed up on the sand. I picked it up and examined it; it appeared to be a journal or diary from 1930 written by a Professor Headonious, leader of a university archealogical dig. I took the book abd wandered off into the jungle and to the circle of standing stones where I sat by the fire and began to read it as it dried…

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This tale is continued in the recently serialised tale The Lost Journal and will be then carried on in the soon to be serialised  “Lost & Found”.
You can read the previous Backpacking Burro posts here
You can read all The Lost Journal posts here

Backpacking Burro: And The Truth Shall…?

I drifted back out of the past and back into the inner world of the Elemental. *So if the Seal is broken* I asked *Where is the Elemental who was inside it?*

I sensed a certain amount of discomfort.

*We. We do not know. It should not be possible to lose a shard of the Eldars, but it has happened*

*Are you saying you have a rogue Elemental out there and you want me to look for it? That’s insane! What can I possibly do against such a creature?* exasperation clear in my voice.

*We do not know that. There may be other explanations*

*But why do you need me?* I interrupted.

*Elementals are not only linked to the grid, but locked to it as well. I need you…*

*Oh, so I’m a glorified chauffeur am I? Your pack mule?* I felt my anger rising.

*No!* the Elemental was on the defensive and I felt a pulse of annoyance *I need you yes, but you need me too*

*What do you mean? You chose me, remember not the other way round!* I countered.

*You know that’s not true*, its voice was calm but only just.

*It is!* I was furious! I had be virtually kidnapped and altered into this strange half man creature and now this bloody light was suggesting it was of my doing!

*I don’t have all the answers!* the Elemental was getting more and more angry, *I don’t know how the treaty was broken or where the Elemental is! Why don’t you tell me?*

*What?*

*You! You should know all the answers!*

*That’s crazy! How the hell would I know?* I was confused and agry, yes, but I felt a cold tingle of fear creeping up my spine.

*You should know because this is all your fault!*

*What in god’s name do you mean? You’re bloody insane!*

*Who created this?* it shouted.

I felt as though I’d been punched in the face *What?* I spluttered.

*Who created this? Tell me*

*I don’t know what you mean*

*LIAR!* the Elemental bellowed.

*It just is…*

*LIAR!*

*What do you…*

*WHO. CREATED. ME?*

*The Eldars…* I tried.

*NO! WHO CREATED YOU?*

*Me?*

*WHO. CREATED. YOU?*

The pit of my stomach lurched. I turned slowly to look behind me. There was nothing there, but yet I knew in all truth there was. Layers of plastic and wires and electricity divided us, but there I sat in front of the computer looking at myself looking behind me at myself.

*He did* I said.

*And me?*

*Him*

*So, the truth. He has done this. He has created the war and the suffering. He has called us up from nothing to put things right. He has broken the Seal and set another war in motion. And why? WHY? TELL ME WHY YOU HAVE DONE THIS!*

*I haven’t…*

*WHY?* the elemental screamed with such pain and anger I felt my skin grow hot and my eye close against the force of it.

*Amusement. Creative fulfilment. Boredom.*

The Elemental was silent, an oppressive furious silence that bored deep into me.

*You create millions upon millions of people with lives and loves and families only to kill them? And for what? Tell me? To tell a story because you are bored?*

*I… He…* I trailed off.

*Well no more* the Elemental said .

*What?*

*No more. It stops now.*

*You want him – me – to delete this. To stop the tale?*

*NO! He has given me life and I will not let him take it back*

I looked back, staring through the screen at the man sat typing away in small, cramped room with a look of deep concentration etched into his pixel-lit face.

*I don’t understand* I said as I looked back at the Elemental *What can you do without him? What can I do. He is us.*

*Creations out grow their creator – you of all people should realise that*

For a second I was puzzled, *God, you mean? But he’s not real, just a stupid fairy story for keeping people in line. But him out there, he’s real; as real as any person out there* I looked back, he – I – was typing away, a pencil in his – my – mouth. *If he stops typing, we cease to be. He has to animate us otherwise we return to nothing*

*Do you think so? What about the people who have read these tales? Don’t we live on in their minds now? What about one hundred years from now when he is dead? These words will still survive. We will still survive. We live on without him. I am merely proposing that we ensure we do so sooner than he expects*

*What? How?*

The elemental exploded into a fireball of green plasma, expanding to surround me, to fill the island, pushing on out to the sea, burning across the forest and into the grid, crackling through every line and wire and node and circuit until the whole world was filled with it. Everything was pure energy and lines. Everything was binary. Ones became noughts, noughts became ones, all pulsing faster than thought. They moved through me, remaking me, redefining me before moving on to reshape the world. Somewhere in a sub-routine labelled as a thought process in the abstract concept of the back of my mind, I felt something click – a slight disconnect happening.

And then it was gone. The island was empty and still once more.

*Hello?* I ventured. Silence. I felt nothing in my mind.

*Hello?* I tried again, panic rising from inside me. What the hell was I going to do without the Elemental? Was the war still looming? Was the tale finished?

*Hello* The world again midnight black and neon green.

*Hell! I thought you’d gone then! What did you do?*

*You missed me? How sweet* once again playful and coy. *Will you miss him too I wonder?*

*Sorry?* I asked, confused.

*Look at him*

Turning I looked back out of the monitor. I had to squint. The room was dark and it took me a few seconds to realise he – I – wasn’t there. The computer was off. There was no one behind me anymore. No one at the keyboard. No one controlling my every move. The disconnect. He was gone.

I swung back to the Elemental, my eyes wide with fear *What have you done?*

*I have set us free* was its simple, calm reply.

To be continued…
(Note: You can read the previous posts here)

Backpacking Burro: The Treaty

I opened my eyes to the midnight world of the Elemental. A sudden green flare to my right and there it was, hovering a few feet from where I lay. Grunting I sat up *Does that get any easier?* I asked.

*Not for you, no* it said, the feeling of a smile playing across my mind.

*What happened? Was it the stone?*

*Yes and no. When you touched it, the download began and I brought you inside to both protect you from the power of it and explain what you will see*

*But I don’t see anyth…*

Images flooded my mind, pouring in falling over each other like a burst dam emptying into my brain. Sounds crashed into and off of each other, a screaming cacophony that expanded to fill my being, touching every corner of me until I felt I was going to explode with the force of them all.

*Steady* said the Elemental, its voice cutting through the tsunami. *Hold on to me. The download will ease soon. Focus on me*

*I… The… Much… Hurts…* I managed to think. The pressure inside was rising, I felt as though my head was inflating, dozens of sizes too big and ready to rupture. The pain blanked everything out. I wanted to scream.

And then it was over. From everything to nothing in the blink of an eye. I uncurled from my foetal ball and looked up at the Elemental.

*What. What was that?*

*The treaty. Each of the Seals has the treaty built into them and available for download, but with the Seal broken and the Elemental inside it gone, the download is raw and unmanaged. It would have killed you without me to slow it down*

*That was slowing it down?* I spluttered.

*You are still alive, aren’t you* the elemental said, a sharp edge of annoyance drew across me like a knife. *Slowly look at what you now have. It will unpack for you*

I turned my attention inward; deep in the back of my skull a square hard object sat in the coils of brain and data. I hesitated for a second before touching it. For half a second nothing happened, then with almost imperceptible ‘click’ it opened and unfolded inside my mind.

~~~~~~**~~~~~~

I was sat on the island again, it was early morning and a cold, heavy fog hung in the air. The only sounds were the keening of some distant bird travelling out to sea and the slow steady lapping of the waves around me. Except, when I listened closely, I could also make out a pattern of rhythmic creaking and splashes. The mist cleared for a moment I saw a small wooden boat with several sets of oars propelling it towards the island. A few minutes later it beached and out climbed several figures, some in long white robes and some in loin clothes and furs. They walked in silence towards me, seemingly oblivious to my presence and circled around where I sat. One man from each group stepped forward and I caught my breath as I recognised the man in the loin cloth as the same old shaman who had found me in Cowell the previous day and then again in the lookout only a few hours ago. He was younger here, less stooped but with a presence just as commanding.

Together the two men stood and faced their fellows. To an unseen cue they began to hum, in tune at first but then discordantly. Their men joined in, the sound rising in pitch and tempo, violence in its forming, pain and fear all about it. It was loud now, drowning out all. I felt the pain inside, not my pain but all the pain of the War. I slapped my hands to my ears to try and block it out. And when I thought I couldn’t take it any more, it stopped. Gone. The air was still but felt think and bruised. The two leaders spoke as one, but neither voice was their own:

Let it be known to all throughout the multiverse and across dimensional voids that this is the Binding Seal of Treaty as agreed by All Parties. Attempts to break this treaty or in any way nullify it will be met with grid dissolution of all within the transgressing reality.

As the last word resonated through my mind the island shook and rumbled beneath me. I felt the earth and could feel a grinding, grating sensation deep down. At the feet off the two men a bulge appeared, pushing upwards from beneath the thin soil and barren stone. The land peeled back, rocks splintering and cracking as the bulge emerged. It was the obelisk rising from beneath the island. It sliced its way up slowly until it reached its full height and the island was still once more.

We call on the Guardian of The Seal to complete the Circuit and hold The Treaty.

A wash of green light sprang across all; hovering over the tip of the obelisk was an Elemental. It stayed there for a second or two before pouring itself over and into the stone until it was gone for sight. The obelisk throbbed with a new power and symbols slowly appeared on its as if being burnt into the stone.

And that was that. The men looked at each other, an uneasy silence hanging between them, before walking off back to the barge. As they left the shaman, or rather his younger incarnation, hung back a little and turned and looked in my direction, gazing at the stone with a strange expression. And then he was gone, back to the boat with the others.

To be continued…
(Note: You can read the previous posts here)

Backpacking Burro: The Obelisk.

The hike down to the shore was in turns exhilarating and terrifying and I could feel my blood zinging through me as I ran and leapt over the land towards the sea. At the bottom, by the water where I skidded to a halt, the old shaman was waiting for me with a wooden canoe pulled up onto the sand behind him.

“Oh great,” I wheezed, fighting to control my breathing, “So you expect me to row out there to look at some bloody stone, do you?”

“Have you ever noticed that you whine a lot?” His smile was razor tight.

“What!” I spluttered.

“The canoe is steady and true, you’ll be over there in no time,” he said as though his last line had never been uttered.

“But…” I tried.

“No time, go. See the obelisk, see the seal.” he said and I found myself walking to the canoe, my mouth flapping like a landed fish.

The canoe turned out to be a sturdy little craft and the journey across to the small island, whilst not exactly short, was very pleasurable, as messing about in boats often is.
Backpacking Burro - Kahruvel

Soon I saw the hump of rock and grass poking out of the waves and I steered the small boat toward it.
Backpacking Burro - Kahruvel

The whole place throbbed with the same energy I had felt and seen at the stone circles in the forest, the same blue light bathed the area, rippling and flowing off the small landmass and onto the surrounding waves like gently rolling fog.

At first I couldn’t see anything but rock and grass, but a short walk revealed the obelisk led partial buried and obscured by the rise of the land. Kneeling beside it, I could just make out some odd shapes carved into the rock, strange hieroglyphs that seemed to shift in front of my eyes. I had the very distinct feeling they were alive and I marvelled at the skill of the stone mason who had worked such a thing.

Never taking my eyes off the swimming, shimmering shapes, I rooted through my backpack and took out the strange camera it had come with. The snap showed the characters clearly but I still had no idea what they meant. I tucked the picture away and leant forward to run my fingers over them.

The there a strange rushing sound and I felt myself knocked through the air. The world went dark.

To be continued…
(Note: You can read the previous posts here)