S e p t e m b e r   2 0 0 4

Guest Writer

A new phase begins ...
To Mel and back
by Jess Gulbranson

Our rumpled yellow-haired hero has been through plenty since he lost his motel – along with everything else but his red hooded sweatshirt – in a poker game. Then, following a harrowing series of misadventures, Mel recently finished up a relatively tranquil thousand-year sabbatical in a tropical paradise. Now he finds himself living in a murky future with a whole new set of otherworldly adventures about to unfold. Here's episode 40:

he sentry started his patrol by ascending the lighthouse. He was used to the climb, but it was a long way regardless. Soon he was breathing hard, pulling the yellow air in his nose and out his mouth the way he had been taught. Then the climb was over, and he scaled a slimy ladder to the upper platform.

He could see the lighthouse keeper leaning against the rail, and in the gloom the old man seemed like a statue, carved to represent an eternal vigil or some such. The sentry was prone to poetic reflections such as those, and he chided himself for it. After all, he had been born to the station he now held. There was no way you could just become a Bard.

The keeper relaxed his watch and turned to be momentarily startled by the sentry. Spitting over the rail seemed to satisfy the old man and he smiled broadly. He was known to be a man of few words, a trait well suited to his solitary occupation. The sentry clapped the old man's bent back and the smile faded. He followed the keeper as he returned to the rail and let his gaze follow a crooked finger into the night.

Spread before him was the delta, stretching its rancid substance to all points. Even on a misty dusk such as this, he could see its nearest band twisting and oozing in what looked like current, but what he knew wasn't.

That wasn't the object of the keeper's pointing, though. Just short of the flimsy wall keeping the delta at bay was a narrow strand, sprinkled with rocks and slime. Though the wall's wards made it so the beach was technically safe, it was still kept vacant by law and habit.

Not tonight, though. Someone had built a bonfire.

Without sparing a farewell to the keeper, the sentry dropped down the slick ladder and took the stairs in great leaps.

Once outside, he forgot all about being out of breath and sprinted around the lighthouse, hurdling over worn heaps of rubble. As he reached the relatively flat space of the strand, he paused for a moment to pull up his hood and draw his twin straight swords. Then he began again to run toward the bonfire.

In his admittedly short time as a sentry, he had never seen anyone on the beach other than an alchemist, once, though even he had been discouraged (at halberd-point) from gathering materials for his phthisics there. What the bonfire meant was something he meant to find out.

As he drew closer, he slowed his lope and began to curve around the edge of the firelight. He could see no one and carefully drew closer. The fire was burning much hotter than might be expected from wood alone, so someone must have poured on pitch to have it hiss the way it did. The sentry took another look around, and then the hand fell on his shoulder.

To his credit, he reacted just as a soldier in the Duke's employ should. He jumped backward with a mighty spring, landing about a dozen feet behind, in a ready crouch with both swords extended.

Where he had stood a moment before, at the edge of the fire, was a man who had not been there before.

Look for Mel's past adventures, check out an interview with our dimensionally challenged hero, and e-mail Jess at j_gulbranson@hotmail.com.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.