It is not altogether clear just when the origins in this story take place. Somethings just can’t be quantified in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even years, but by incantations. The chanting of said incantations might take a lifetime.. or take the life itself, after all..
The part that we can quantify, however,
takes place right after
A Shift in Perspective (18+)..
I am not sure about the total, catastrophic failures,” said the little gnome finally, with the same subdued voice, “..but I think I can help with the big, blooming explosions. Provided, you run faster!”
“And..”, she said, “..that’ll be ‘Tonic’ for you, girl.”
The little gnome felt something shift inside her.
A point in perspective, perhaps?
Whatever it was, it would come to her in due time. But she had this pinching feeling that it seemed like it was high time she got off her high horses and stepped up to her end of the pair.
To that end, she turned and hastily gathered all her tools; her hammer, her wrench, her drivers, pliers, nippers and cutters, the numerous gadgets, spare bolts, and coiled wires and put them to their proper places inside her large, portable toolbox. She sat down and took off her clobbering boots, ignoring the freezing cold biting at the soles of her naked feet as she opened the little hood of the lantern and pinched the life out of the candle in it. Cast in darkness, she skimmed the elegantly made lantern with her slim fingers until she found what she was looking for; a well-concealed runic button hidden at its base. She lightly tapped the button, setting it to MODE B…
..on the other side of the ancient, bitter cold cave, where the curvy form of a very tall, pitch-black figure —her pair— slumbered..
She might not be much of a sneak, nor have many of the quirky talents her pair did, but she was an artificer and that meant compensating what they lacked by way of substituting them with pure ingenuity and dedicated craftsmanship..
There was still time, and she was going to make things right with the only person who had bothered to get to know her, damit!
She reached up and twirled a small knob on her goggles, turning the black darkness into shades of blue and gray as everything became oddly distinct for her..
Arcantonic Palecog quietly faded in the darkness to do some burglarizing of her own; it was going to be a long night and hopefully, an even longer, FAQed and color-coded, read..
✱ ✱ ✱
Arcantonic Palecog scurried back with a manic cackle, nearly waking up the very tall, very dark girl sleeping close to the ancient cave’s entrance.
It was likely the little gnomic girl would never make a good sneak thief, for she hyped too easy.. Much like a sugar overloaded bunny! But she’d certainly enjoyed it, while it lasted.
She slid the last few feet, grabbed her thick, woolen socks and her boots —first things first; the cave was arctic cold, and losing toes was a poor payment for the success of having burglarized her pair. With her socks, her cup-sized boots, and the dossier; the object of her theft, she hid behind the monstrosity she’d grandly named; MECHABER!
She slid her socks on and one boot, but her left got stuck and refused to slip on.
“Damit!”, swore Tonic. “Of all the bloody times, you want to do this to me, now?”
She pulled, pushed and she was sweating profusely by the time the boot finally settled around her crippled ankle —just another memento, a souvenir, per se, from her retarded uncle, Arcanton Mordenon, because, obviously, the emotional dents and traumas weren’t enough.
She took a deep breath, and slowly counted to 1,048,576, by way of 2-bit squaring! Not that it helped, but the alternative was cussing.. out loud.. VERY loud.. and Tonic had a VERY rich and quite an extended repertoire when it came to cussing. But doing that would have made all the skulking and ‘theft’, sort of moot, hence the 2×2=4, 4×2=8, 8×2=16, 16×2=32.. well.. you get the picture..
Her hands trembling slightly, Tonic gazed upon the treasure she’d just liberated;
—and yes, that is exactly what was written on the dossier!
“Hells Bells, girl.. Really?”, frowned at the title on the dossier.
She stared at the dark green cover of the dossier and noted the elegant, or more likely, the pompous symbol of the Academy of Melshieve embossed on it. Carefully, she opened the dossier and saw the first page.
It was blank.
Perhaps it was due to the poor lighting she couldn’t see it at first, which is why Tonic had to look again to see Seressa’s handwriting there.
It was a recursive, delicate script, very tenderly inked, like it reflected the inside, the very soul of the owner of the hand that had written it;
To my bestest and awesomest pair:
Days will always be better because we will have you..
Arcantonic just stared at the beautiful words, and the depth of their meaning.. and..
..her eyes teared.
Tonic couldn’t remember when it was the last time she’d teared up just by reading something. Tonic just didn’t do ‘romance’, nor was she ever into any kind of stupid, sentimentality crap.. Thanks to her uncle, again, she’d had any kind of empathy washed out of her system by the time she was ten!
But here she was, staring at what her pair, Seressa, had written, some two years ago, before they had had a chance to even speak.. While she’d been sulking and cussing darkly as she’d bulldogged around the academy corridors when she’d found out she’d been assigned as someone’s pair, Seressa was struggling for her life, stuck in a ventilation shaft, trying to get to know her!
And because that wasn’t enough, she’d then sat down and prepared this.. silly dossier in the light of everything she’d learned about Tonic..
Tonic suddenly felt.. ‘funked’..
As silly and somewhat giddy as she thought her pair was, Seressa Wraiven had an iron-clad will, and her sense of ‘just’ always pointed north. And, apparently, once she was paired with the little gnomic girl, her ‘north’ had all but become Tonic!
“Damn, girl..”, gulped the little, gnomic girl, wiped her eyes and turned the page.
And, so be noted, the fact that the pages used in the dossier were all first-grade, cotton-silk paper, not parchment. Tonic knew just how expensive first-grade papers were, which is why she never used them.. Yes, she had about a dozen or so in her artificer’s sachel, tightly rolled and inside a protective case, but they were there because, well, an artificer just had to have some of everything in their sachel! It must have cost the girl an arm and a leg to buy all these cotton-silk papers. It was likely she’d blown away all her student’s savings, just so she would hand her pair something ‘worthy’ of Tonic.
“Damn, girl..”, she repeated mutely.
“Seressa: 182,734,659 – Tonic: ZERO.. Good job, girl.. You have the best friend in the world —someone people would kill for, and literally, and this is how you have treated her thus far.. Like an ass!”
Tonic turned to the second page.
It was a neatly prepared, clearly written, easy-to-read list;
A Table of Contents.
Seressa hadn’t used her recursive handwriting here, but a deliberately ‘book classic’, sort of mono-space script. Tonic herself much prepared and used blocky and ‘true’ mono-space fonts in all her notes, diagrams, and schematics. She could just imagine Seressa struggling to comport with Tonic’s style and preference but unable to use those ‘just-too-ugly’ fonts here, hence she’d settled for this one.
Then went for the one thing that she thought defined her pair;
9. Pinks I prefer & their color codes, Page 29
She quickly shuffled to Page 29 and there, she saw, quite a number of pinks, carefully water-colored and coded. Tonic didn’t even know there were this many pinks in the world. When someone said, ‘Pink’, it meant, ‘Pink!’
Not according to Seressa Wraiven!
And noted under each were their hex-codes and ‘grades’. The grading system seemed to comprise of a complex combination of (a) how much she liked that particular shade, (b) how frequently it was found in nature, common cities, and the Academy of Melshieve, and (c) how well they got along with certain other colors and their shades!
- A shade that should be sent back to the abyss whilst it came!
- A total abomination.
- Very much disliked. I could slice myself open just by staring at this!
- I feel.. ill..
- Go away, please!
- Perhaps. Maybe. But only under very special circumstances such as a date that is likely to go wrong!
- Promising. Has some potential.
- Oh. This one makes me giddy.
- I.. WANT! ALL OF IT!
- I will not comment on this one, dear Arcantonic. Some things just can’t be put into writing without constituting highly damning and quite embarrassing evidence against myself should I describe the effects of this grade of pink on me.
And then she’d also put a P.S. at the very bottom of the whole, three-page long water-colored and graded ‘pinks’;
“Okay. Now it may seem like I have some sort of a fetish for pink, dear Arcantonic. I, however, assure you such is not the case, as seen on these pages. I merely am susceptible to ‘certain’ shades of the color and am sort of a fan.. in an obsessive way.”
Tonic stared at the postscript.
“Really, now, girl.. ‘I merely am susceptible to ‘certain’ shades of the color and am.. sort of a fan.. in an obsessive way?’ —that is what a fetish is, in the most practical sense!”, she snickered.
Then, inadvertently, she flipped the page and came to the next topic:
10. About my body and my anatomy, Page 33
“What the..”, Tonic ogled at the tittle.
And there, right under the title was an impossibly slim girl’s stretch.
Written under the sketch was her sentiments about herself, in her recursive handwriting.
“I will be the first to admit; this is not me! I saw this in a book when I was doing research in my freshman year about various cultures and their relative daily lives. But I was enthralled by the whole subject and this sketch in particular. This is supposed to be some sort of exotic princess named Yasmine who meets a street urchin named Valaddin. According to the story, the kid finds a genie trapped in a rum bottle —if you could believe that, which I don’t, who uses the genie to gain the favor of the princess and eventually marries her. The story is logically faulty and incommensurate in it’s accuracy to facts. First of all, rum is commonly consumed by sailors and Drashan pirates in our kingdom. It is not the choice beverage for the average consumer and deemed ‘lowly’ even by the middle-class, let alone the aristocracy, and the story does not take place in a sea-port city. I would also like to point out that a genie’s ‘home’ tends to be extremely illustrious and rich. Again, not a rum bottle. And lastly, I can’t imagine a genie getting trapped in a bottle and be unable to free itself. That’s just silly!”
“What’s silly is, you making an ‘anthropologistic’ case against a kid’s story, girl!”, she snorted.
“Aside from the unlikeliness of the story, however, I did appreciate their clothes. They were not meant to be only revealing, but gave a certain amount of freedom of movement, which I am sure is essential to both attract the attention of boys, and should the occasion arise, fight better in close-quarters without any restraints, though I must admit, it does not provide much in the way of protection. Comporting one’s self in the said way is a fact I know to be true because, in many cultures, men have been known to go to war clad in only lion-cloth or nothing at all.”
“Yea. I am sure those wars were quite short and bloody. Must explain why said cultures aren’t running around wearing ‘nothing at all’, anymore!”, snickered Tonic.
“To the reason why I inked the stretch here, then; I am fully aware my waste isn’t this slim and I am not even sure it is anatomically possible to have a waste as thin as this and still be able digest any food, but that’s another matter. I am also aware that my hips aren’t this narrow, though I believe mine are relatively proportionate to the rest of my body. I do wish they stay at their current dimensions, though, as I do not like wide hips. My the breast line, shape and cup-size seems about right, when compared to this illustration, and I have a similar length of hair.
I require air to breath, water to stay hydrated, and some form of vitamin, protein and carb-based foods to function, though I prefer a high protein diet with some vegetables and lower carbs and coffee makes me loose all my inhibitions —id est, I get drunk! Human beverages have little to no effect on me, though I must admit, I can’t stand the smell of beer, ale, ‘rum’, and any number of ‘rotten fruit’ based wines, explaining the reason I would rather not go into ratty inns or taverns —they smell horrible!
I have very good eye vision, hearing, taste and a nose acutely sensitive to smells. I wash regularly to keep my personal hygiene and very much dislike dirty environments, even though I won’t make a fuss should we require to go and stay in such places, provided we do get a bath at the end, much like any decent and self-respecting human ought to.
Should the day come and I conceive, I will be delivering exactly the way any human would. And breastfeed my child using my own breasts.
Whether my sensual senses are exactly the same as humans, I do not know. I do suspect, that they are much more heightened in regard to ‘touch’ and appears not to erode by the passage of time as it would in a common human female, though, again I am not absolutely sure of this, as I have never had any friends, back in the Academy, and hence, never really had the opportunity to compare.
My skin color is the result of, very much natural pigments, and not due to any artificial applications, nor to any ‘infernal’ reasons.
My horns are also a natural growth and my tail functions similar to that of a feline and neither are they in any way ‘demonic’..”
“Why are you telling me these, girl?”, mused Tonic quietly. “Yes, I have never really said a nice word to your face, not that I said any good ones behind your back either, but, again, why would you write these?”
Then it hit her.
This dossier was meant to be given to her shortly after they were paired. Not ‘burglarized’ some two years later. She had thought, as her pair, Tonic would be afraid of her appearance and was trying to assure her that she was ‘normal’.
Just like humans!
“Hells Bells, girl. I am happy you aren’t some stupid human. Yes, I am happier you are not a gnome, either but you are fine exactly the way you are. I might have called you, ‘dump’, ‘idiot’, ‘foolish’, and ‘silly’, among many, many other things, especially about your pinks and those silly and frilly dresses that reveal more than they conceal, but never have I made any remarks about your ‘being’. That is just.. EVIL!”
Then it hit her, again!
She, Seressa, had been treated thus, for as long as she’d been in the Academy. Tonic knew absolutely nothing about her pair’s origin, nor her parents, but she had seen the very tall, very dark girl many times, and always alone, back in the Academy.
Tonic was certainly not a good person. She had flaws.. No.. She had deliberate flaws you could fit a Drashan armada! But she’d never made any remarks nor questioned anyone due to their race.
Apparently, someone had.
Enough to leave a deep-seated need to have to explain herself about things that didn’t need to, and certainly shouldn’t have to need to!
Yes, she, Tonic, had called people, “You stupid dwarf!”, or “You stupid elf!”, or “You stupid human!”, certainly. But that was a pointer to the fact that the said person was being accused for their stupidity, not their race.
The race was basically interchangeable in her ‘accusations’.
‘Stupidity’ was the constant!
For some reason, the whole idea of her pair even having to need to explain that she was ‘normal’ pissed Tonic something vicious!
Then she felt shame.
What right had she to feel anger to anyone.
Hells Bells! The girl was her pair and she’d treated her worse than a tyrant would treat his subjects!
Then her eyes read the next few lines..
“And of course, I love to dance. I mean, The Great Heavens must have given us girls a lithe belly and a spine built for grace for a reason, now, right?
I am afraid, however, I never had the opportunity to go to any parties at the Academy —no dates!
Still, though, I sometimes danced. Many times, actually. When I was alone with my phloxes in my ‘Pink Garden’, which was pretty much all the time, really. Or in this secret cave I had discovered in the woods behind the Academy. That cave had nice, soft aucustics and singing there was awesome. It always made me feel like there were two others there, singing along with me.. Remind me to show you that cave, when we get back to the Academy with our findings of the real world. Ow.. this is going to be AWESOME. We are going to have so much fun together!”
“Well. I certainly must have deflated that ‘awesome’ hope out of her system!”, said the little gnomic girl and she truly felt awful about everything she’d done to her pair.
“I feel like a bastard!”, she blurted.
And something.. sort of irked her..
She wasn’t sure if ‘irk’ was the right word for it, but she didn’t dwell on the choice of word, either. She quickly flipped back to the Table of Contents page ran her tiny, pink finger—
And stared at her finger.
Then she did an even quicker, double-speed, rewind to page 27, 28, and yes.. 29..
..and carefully ran her finger across the three-page-long shades of pinks..
..and there it was.
#F8CDD2 — Arcantonic Pink — Grade 9
“Ow. My. Gosh! I am like.. her best candy color!”, blushed Tonic. “She even named the bloody shade after me! Damit. I really wonder what Grade 10 is, now!”
✱ ✱ ✱
Tonic returned to the Table of Contents and ran down the list —without using her finger! It was as if her fingers had been made the butt of a particularly memorable joke and now, whenever she saw her own small, pink fingers, or even have them mentioned, they would relate, and subsequently, remind her of the joke, making it impossible for her to un-relate the two!
“Hells Bells, girl!”, she growled.
Then she found what she was looking for.
18. My origins, Page 62
To her surprise, the page was mostly empty and only had a short few sentences inked in her recursive handwriting, but it seemed as if there was the faintest.. ‘tremor?’, in the letters.. as if her pair had written it on a slow-paced camel. Not totally jumbled, but inadvertently missed spacing or the right amount of curves per letter..
I was planning on not writing anything down on this particular subject. I was looking forward to talking this with you face to face, but since I had read pretty much everything about you that was written, reported, and/or noted, it only seemed fair that I should say at least a few words about myself —and my origins, in particular.
Who or what my parents were, I do not know. I was born quite far away from the Academy of Melshieve and received an anonymous sponsorship and was called upon to study and learn. When I first arrived at the Academy with my sponsorship papers and my invitation, I was summoned to the dean’s room and, although he didn’t say much, he did seem.. I am not sure what the correct word here is.. Scared? Cautious? Equanimitic?.. Or perhaps all three.. Suffice to say, he told me to attend my classes most diligently and stay out of trouble.. You know, the way he spoke in his low, raspy voice; ‘Stay straight and narrow, young lady!’. I know you know because you were sent to his office at least 48 times! The way he said it to me was a tad.. ‘funny’, though, and altogether something I found to be sort of ironic, really, since I am straight, and was certainly quite narrow, especially when I had first arrived, back then.
To this day, I haven’t been able to find out two things; my parents, and who my sponsor was..
“Damit.”, she fumed.
She’d really wanted to know about her pair’s background. For it was likely the most important piece of information she would need in understanding her.
She felt she was sorely cheated.
As if she was handed a machine and expected to reverse engineer it without any schematics, any plans, not even some bloody sketches!
Then she saw the fine print at the bottom of the page.
“Hells Bells, girl. How in the blazes could you even write that small? I can barely see it, let alone read—”
Tonic held her breath.
This dossier was specifically prepared for her. But it did have the remote possibility of falling into wrong, or merely unwanted hands. No one would want everything about themselves found and divulged for just about anyone to read, after all..
She smiled and dug her hand into her artificer’s satchel and rummaged for a bit until she found what she was looking for;
A palm-sized magnifying glass.
She moved the page closer to her diminutive face and read the minute fine print with the help of the magnifying glass;
Pls. see Index: “Ritual Summoning.”
My dear Arcantonic, if you can read this, you now know that you will have to find the index page. To find the index, however, you must solemnly note that you have my highest confidence. Beyond this, there is nothing more I can trust you with that really matters for me. Should you still want to see the said index, please recite the words;
“Remember me..” —trice!
These words have been keyed to you, as my awesome pair and as my ‘partner in crime’, per se.
“Holy Crap!”, spluttered the gnomic girl, horrified. “She even embedded a bloody security system into the dossier!”
And that was when she was tested;
The curiosity of an artificer —a gnomic artificer, no less, and wondering if she truly did deserve Seressa Wraiven’s confidence, honestly given to her..
This made Tonic particularly guilty since the dossier was.. well.. stolen, really, even though she was the sole recipient of it..
..Aaaand her gnomic curiosity won!
She squinted around and into the darkness where the very tall, very dark girl slept restfully, with furtive eyes and hissed;
“Remember me..” —trice!
✱ ✱ ✱
Page 62 split!
Not horizontally nor vertically, but ‘facially!’ It was the oddest thing to behold. One moment there was just the Page 62, and the next, there were two, separate pages; 62 itself, and 62 index, bound to the same spine, and yet..
..it unfolded out and down once, twice, thrice, and done!
“Damn, that’s some fine and elegant magic there, girl. You spared no expense. I am truly funked and very much impressed.. This is seriously delicate and awesome work. I have GOT TO learn me how to do this!”
And then she looked at the unfolded Page 62 index..
Near dusk and out of the mo’rs,
Doth arriveth in threes
Parting mists, their silent steps,
Dareful in the woods
One lady fair
One maiden fine
And one damsel doth sway
T is yet to be seen
Which is which
Is the witch
In the darkness of the woods
Three wolves howl
Three ghouls gnarl
Three will-o’s gloweth
Dash and hideth, spook’d, f’r
Cometh they, the Three Sist’rs
Which doth lust, charm, and harvest the
Souls of fools, lost in the woods
One lady, white
One lady, not
And one lady, foxy red
Witches of a coven
Doth they reveal the fare hideth
Deep in the hoods, whilst they step
Bold and brazen in the depths of the woods
Three aflame and
Three quite quaint
They were, and woe
To any man or beast who
Doth standeth in their way, whilst
They gage their lot in the dires of the woods
One lady wise
One maiden fi’rce
And one damsel she doth lust’r
Thus was their wont
Yet their wont was what was
Putteth to task, yond f’rsaken night
Hath shown them the p’rtents in the woods
Three stars in
Three circles and
Three runes each
They didst lay with chalk and twig
Didst they marketh, the hour
Whilst the night, did turn
Dreary and haze, in quiets of the woods
And one sickle sharp
F’r each they hath brought, for
The p’rtents doth not forswear, even
Bethought those did wish, as they mourn’d
Their wonts, in the darkness of the woods
Three beauts doth setteth
Three cauldrons upon
Three fires burneth
To boileth, and
Bubbleth in mindless heat
Doth their cackles heard and
Spread, in the farthest end of the woods
One she doth screams, afear’d
One she doth laughs in manic
And one she doth moans in bliss
Ov’r the cauldrons
Boiling there, f’r the time to
Thus face their lot hast cometh
Upon them in the wilds of the woods
Three daz’d ov’r
Three cauldrons holdeth
Three sickles sharp
Stareth and down at
The ragg’d dram doll, brewing thus lifeless
In the cent’r of it all, unmoving
And still in the silence of the woods
One she doth laments
One she doth hums
And one she doth weeps
Ov’r the cauldrons three
Yond smoketh and slusheth
And bubbleth f’r what they must
Gift in grief, in the silence of the woods
Three witches with
Three sickles liketh
Three Grims and riseth
To bringeth those cruely
Down, harsh and ghastly
And with pain and hath paid, their
Screams doth shed farthest in the woods
One, the hazel of h’r eye
One, the plush of h’r breast
And one, doth untouch’d of h’r womb
Rake’d, slash’d, and spill’d
With the bloody sickles done
Their wonts task’d and won, thrown
Into the cauldrons in the dreary of the woods
Three witches f’r
Three nights ov’r
They chanteth and doth calleth
Upon the one yond deems
The moth’r of all the witches doth the
Raven’s Eye in the endless of the woods
One laments, blindeth
One hums, madden’d
One moans, f’rfeit
Ov’r the bloody soup
The deed is not thus done and neither
Art the gifts, one from each is not
Enough in the witching hours of the woods
Three witches, crippl’d
Thee days, gone
Three nights, desp’rate
Doth they didst cast, incant and off’r,
Much liketh moths art daz’d
’round the fires burning m’rry, and dancing
Shadows longeth in the middle of the woods
One cat slinks, black as the night
One raven caws, fi’rce as the light
And one goat bawls, cuss’d as a mite
Arriveth upon the summons
And doth the witches toss ’em,
Into to the cauldrons three to broil, thus
Satisfyeth the wonts of the hunger of the woods
Three witches, one, blindeth and daft
Three maidens fair, one, only half
Three hath lost and one, she shalt nev’r has’t
Spineth and danceth and swayeth
And doth stomp quite unending
’round the fires burning alive
And high, in the dimness of the woods
One white, and dim
One not, and sickly
And one red, slump’d ov’r
Droop, with’r and vade
Doth those yet begeth, pleadeth and craveth
F’r the die hast thus been cast to rolleth
And tumbleth, in the silence of the woods
Three nights, f’r
Three maidens, stout
Three cauldrons, ov’r
Thus doth they giveth
Not only their wonts and vains
But also yond which is which maketh
Them a witch, in the serenity of the woods
One, h’r sight and mind
One, h’r heart and love
And one, h’r pash and future
To season their soup in the cauldrons
Doth boileth, and doth watcheth The Eye
Shouldst they faileth, still they chanteth and doth
They danceth, in the oppress of the woods
Three dawns wend
Three dusks cede
Three et’rnals ov’r and done
Doth they topple, turneth and tumbleth
Their stew’d cauldrons ov’r
To seeth what they doth wrought, the fires
Cracketh and hisseth, in the stillness of the woods
One she doth taketh the h’rns
One she doth taketh the tail
And one doth taketh the spirit of the raven borne
And doth they infuse
The ragg’d dram doll, brewing thus lifeless
In the middle of it all, opens h’r eyes to seeth
The witches dieth, in the middle of the woods
“What the f—”, spluttered Arcantonic Palecog in utter incomprehension, riddled with total confusion and spook..
For a long, long time did she stare at the ‘Ritual Summoning’ thing, and at the silhouette of the very tall, very dark girl, sleeping in her restful slumber at the far side of the arctic cave —a restfulness composed, perhaps, of having achieved a small perchance that for the first time in the two years she had been paired to a certain little gnomic girl with Grade 9-Class ‘Arcantonic Pink’ fingers, there appeared an ickle glimmer of hope that they might actually be friends..
If Tonic thought she hadn’t been concussed earlier by the things her pair had said and done to get to know her, she certainly knew she was concussed now.
She felt her mind swirl, dance, and tumble, not unlike a cauldron, in the vast and creepy implications of what she’d just read..