The Twice-Burning Flame, Part Three

Having found themself separated from their companions, Dovetail was in something of a hurried panic through the misty dark in which they presently wandered. Half a minute ago, they had been in a large room that was very much not a dark void. Now the room was nowhere to be seen.

When they walked back to where it had been, there was nothing. Just to be sure, they took a few extra steps forward, only to wind up walking directly into a wall. They shook their head as the mist cleared, rattling a loose bolt in their jaw and revealing a large glass screen before them in an otherwise empty chamber made of slate.

On the other side of the glass was a lengthy obstacle course of ice and steel. On one end of the course was a modest stone door, and on the other end was a comfortable cage containing Elma del Ennington. In the center, hanging from a rope, was some kind of tube.

“Hello?” came Elma’s voice. “Is anyone there?” Dovetail could hear her as though they were in the same room.

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The Twice-Burning Flame, Part Two

With practiced precision, Kyund released a narrow stream of flame in through the small hole in the side of the massive eternice sphere. It spread like a fluid, growing brighter and louder as it steadily filled its container. When it finished, the festival ground was illuminated by the great orange and yellow globe, as beautiful and warm as Sol Himself. Then after only a moment, the fire snuffed out, leaving only grey smoke in its wake.

“Blast!” Kyund swore, stomping his foot. “I don’t understand why this keeps happening.”

“Does this not typically happen?” asked Dovetail.

“No, this doesn’t happen!” the kamenclo snapped. He took a long breath. “The pyromancer before me passed only recently. While I’ve never attempted to fill a vessel of this size before, my flames have never had a problem with eternice in the past.”

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The Twice-Burning Flame, Part One

“Did you know that Yulip’s Guide is named in reference to an angel who helped Yulip Howkirk found Openhearth when he was lost in the Frostlands hundreds of years ago?” asked Dovetail, who was assisting their new friend and boss, Ewevan, chisel away at the massive block of ice that surrounded Sunwood Cottage, which sat at the center of a frozen lake. Today Ewevan was doing most of the chiseling, while Dovetail turned the ice into sellable ice blocks and chattered away.

“I think you told me this one before,” Ewevan replied gruffly as he forced his pick into the thick eternice, “but I ignored you ‘cause it’s nonsense.”  Ewevan was a forest giant with dark grey skin and foliage for a beard, but was otherwise hairless. He and Dovetail wore similar large coats and stone hats.

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Housesitting with Nestor, Epilogue

“It’s the darndest thing, Ms. Bottlehelm!” said Mayor Gendry Dew, several days after the Parazoa incident. “I just woke up like this the other day! Do you think this just happens to potted plant people when they turn 189 and twenty-seven days? I’ve never met another one!” He was positively pleased with his new legs, so pleased that he was hand delivering all the mail in Skymoore this week.

“You know, I really couldn’t say,” said Gwendolyn, doing her best to be patient as the mayor went on for the fifteenth consecutive minute about his legs. She was happy, at least, that he was happy, but her empathy only went so far. “I’m just wondering about the letter?”

“Right, of course!” said the mayor, “your letter! I had almost forgotten if I’m being honest. Now I do feel obligated to share that the letter has been opened by yours truly, as is policy for all incoming letters from outside Skymoore, and this one is positively sweet as pie.”

“Then you won’t mind if I hurry on to reading it, would you? Just one more question: how did you know I would be at Linda’s house?”

The mayor tipped his tiny hat. “Now that information I don’t feel obligated to share, madam. You have yourself a great one, now!” And he was off, pursued by his floating, spherical attendant who carried a Bottomless Baggie containing a city’s worth of mail.

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Housesitting with Nestor, Part Five

Nestor Pinkly, Gwendolyn Bottlehelm, Mayor Gendry Dew, and the elf hiding under his desk were all very upset about the door being open. None of them really knew what to do about the door being open, nor did they feel qualified to do any of the things they guessed might be the correct course of action. The elf had been thinking about it the longest and was the most qualified to think about these things, so he got up and started walking toward it.

“Wait!” Nestor cried. “We should all go together!”

The elf, who had a nametag labeling him “Intern 47B,” did not wait. “Cease your shrill demands, gnome. I’m only going to close the door.”

“Er, is that a good idea,” asked Gwendolyn. “Shouldn’t we try to stop them?”

“Oh, are you going to do that, miss? What are you going to do, yell at some teenagers until they fight the devil for you? They and their bird friend just stormed in here and had everyone accusing each other of betrayal and blasting spells at each other within about three minutes.”

“Don’t call me ‘miss,’” said Gwendolyn, folding her arms defensively. “Why’d they leave you alone.”

Intern 47BB stiffened. “Probably because of my status as an intern.”

“Can we stop having a wounded-pride-off and worry about what’s going on here?” suggested Mayor Dew.

“Right!” said Nestor. “What is going on here, anyway? What’s back there?”

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Housesitting with Nestor, Part Four

Parazoa wasn’t all that bad, the more Nestor got to know them. Their form was scary, but some people said that about Dovetail, and they wouldn’t hurt a fly! As they passed the evenings talking about their lives, Nestor realized that the pair of them had much in common. They both grew up in Barlagtelen, for example, and they both spent a lot of their time on the road.

But while Nestor had the pleasure of dedicating his life to entertainment, Parazoa’s family committed themselves to the art of carpentry, traveling Penscarop and making coin where they could. When Parazoa was about forty, still quite young for a gnome, they had made a favorable reputation for themselves, and were tasked with building a firewatch tower in the woods to the east of Castle Belmov. It was a matter of great importance, because fire season was just starting, and the old tower had been destroyed by brigands. Parazoa thought the job was too risky, as they were already tired from a long time on the road, and they might get caught in a fire themselves if they weren’t careful.

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Housesitting with Nestor, Part Three

For the next week, Nestor and Gwendolyn watched Parazoa in shifts. Gwendolyn took the mornings, because Luminous met in the evening and Odd & Ends closed around the same time. Because of the devil’s proclivity for manipulation, they agreed that the fewer people who knew about this, the better. At the same time, seven days in, Gwendolyn expressed her frustrations about the fact that she didn’t know when Linda was returning.

“It’s bad enough my girlfriend walked out on me,” she grumbled, “but now I’ve got to waste all my bloody days watching this cretin for who knows how long!”

“Cretin?” Parazoa had asked. “I thought we were having a lovely conversation!”

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House Sitting with Nestor, Part Two

When Nestor Pinkly woke up most mornings, there were a number of things he made sure to do.

First, of course, he would get out of bed, for the rest of these things were difficult or impossible to do while in bed. Besides, everyone knows all the best things in life are outside of one’s bed.

Second, he would say “good morning, Dovetail!” to Dovetail and make some kind of improvement or test her mental faculties, but because Dovetail was quite capable now and also several hundred miles from Skymoore, Nestor instead said “good morning, Regibald!” to Regibald and made improvements to the unicamelcorn body into which Regibald’s consciousness would be transferred any day now.

Thirdly, he would make breakfast with Regibald, ideally something with banana, like an omelet. He made enough for two even though Regibald could not eat.

This brought him to the fourth thing, which was to bring the extra food to the Church of Sol on the way to work so that they could feed their less fortunate visitors (he did this even when he did not work in the morning or at all, because Nestor just liked to make sure Odd & Ends was still there and not just a wonderful dream he had every day).

Fifth, and this actually usually took place somewhere between things one and four, he would say hello to the essence of the late Mrs. Grantham, and ask how she’s doing, and thank her for making Skymoore into the wonderful place that it is.

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Housesitting with Nestor, Part One

When hunting ghosts, there were a few things Nestor Pinkly liked to keep in mind.

First of all, ghosts were people, too, you know, and ‘hunting’ was a rather distasteful term, which is why he preferred to use the phrase ‘removing.’ Though make no mistake, the process did very much kill the ghost and rid the universe of its presence for all of time. No joining Sol, no going to the Infinite Hells, just gone. It was very brutal stuff.

Secondly, most ghosts were nice and just trying to have a conversation. Unfortunately, the ghost word for “hello” was similar to the corporeal action of throwing a vase or a valuable plate across the room, and it was easy to confuse the two. One time a ghost sank one of the great waterborne cities of the ancient minotaur empire of Grothal because it couldn’t remember the ethereal words for “excuse me, sir, which way to the nearest library?”

(Sometimes Nestor worried he may have confused the book “Clearly Communicating” with the book “Ethereally Communicating” since he read them on the same day, but he was pretty sure he had it right.)

Lastly, ghosts were just as afraid of you as you were of them – or did ghosts not know fear? As he stood outside of Linda Arterford’s house, preparing to remove a ghost, Nestor realized he knew very little about ghosts and was almost certainly the wrong man for the job. But he liked trying new things, so when Linda stood in the doorway, looking down at his ghost removal gear skeptically, Nestor flashed her a smile of confident reassurance.

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Housesitting with Nestor, Prologue

Author’s Note: In the city of Skymoore, as you are likely aware, there is a neighborhood or perhaps a sub-city called The Mish Mash. In the neighborhood or perhaps the sub-city called The Mish Mash, as you likely are not aware, there is a sub-neighborhood or perhaps a regular neighborhood called Easel Street. As you are likely aware at least in part if not in entirety, there is a once-abandoned art museum in the sub-neighborhood or perhaps regular neighborhood called Easel Street. This once-abandoned museum is now occupied by Teyla Eastwind, and as you likely do not know, there is a secret basement in this museum which contains a portal to the Infinite Hells. Specifically the slice of those Infinite Hells reserved for Teyla.

This is all to say, when in the ensuing scene Teyla walks into the basement and something strange happens to the geometry of the museum, that the strange geometry is not the work of the museum’s builder or previous tenants, who are all perfectly fine people who have never created portals to the Infinite Hells. (Not that no perfectly fine person has ever made a portal to the Infinite Hells. Things happen, and life takes all of us to unexpected places.)

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