Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Isle of Wyrms

Dear Emilly,

Its been too long since I wrote to you. Its such shame that you haven't been able to accompany us on our little excursions; your grace and composure under pressure has been greatly missed. But we've managed to come back in one piece every time so far, so we're doing rather well for us. Still, it was a close run thing this time out I can assure you.

I was delighted to receive an invitation from Miss Tamura (the lovely dragon lady who we met at the Elven City the other evening) to visit her in her homeland. You can imagine how excited I was - I've heard of the Isle of Wyrms, but never actually been there. Oolon and Terry seemed quite excited too when I mentioned it and Oolon thought it would be a good run out for the Old Girl. So we got ourselves sorted and the preparation almost took my mind off the fact that Oolon had taken Alfonso back to his explorations. I do hope those jumpers fit him; I'm not the best knitter in the world and Cousin Rumpel was a bit busy. I say cousin, but its a bit of a tortuous family linkage, if you know what I mean. Still, excellent craftsman.

This is a picture of me later in the day, but its the only one I have of me in my kimono. I put it on especially as it has dragons on it and its very smart. Dragons like silk and yellow is a very auspicious colour for Oriental ones.

Anyway, I digress. Oolon set the Old Girl in motion and then got a bit over excited, as he does. He kept babbling on about a wyrmhole, which apparently is a terribly hilarious joke of some sort; I swear that Terry was crying. Apparently it made it all the more easy for us to reach our destination.

It wasn't long before our arrival attracted some attention from the locals, so Oolon thought he'd better lock up, just to be on the safe side. We know we can get at least two dragons in the ETD, but he didn't fancy trying for a world record. I thought it was as bit premature to lock up as Terry really didn't seem dressed for all the snow, but she assured me that she was fine (and she does have her own key after all).

Miss Tamura was there to greet us, in her three headed form. It was about this time that the Brownie in the box started muttering about bleaching out and lack of pigment, but he's a misery some days so I just left him to it. Now dragons are very good at controlling elemental forces, which means that they are excellent builders. Miss Tamura, despite her relative youth in dragon terms, is quite an accomplished artificer. She summoned the very rocks for us (apparently it's a present for the dashing Mr Hawks, a very nice wolf she introduced us to). Of course, Oolon had to climb it.

A very scantily dressed young hatchling called Miss Coronet (and I mean scantily - it would make even you blush, Em; well I suppose most dragons do have the equivalent of central heating) then showed us some of her work. Dragons like to take very good care of their eggs and cosset them somewhat, and she had been in the process of constructing a magnificent chamber for them. I must say that the hatchling bed looked as if it would make an excellent pixie chair, with a few minor adjustments.

Oolon then started shouting something about shops, which really threw me for a moment. Then I realised that it was a cunning distractionary tactic to get me away from the cave and on to the adventure. Either that or he hadn't fully recovered from his encounter with Mr Mesmer; who knows? So, I dutifully toddled after him and Terry, while Miss Tamura tidied up her rock pile.

Oolon had surpassed even my skills in retail opportunity identification and had found a gigantic temple to shopping. It was enormous (and I know most things are to me, but this was truly humungous). But it was good to know that as we trailed around this edifice of consumption, even a dragon appreciates the need for a good cup of tea.

Miss Tamura asked us if we would like to see where the dragons currently hatch and of course we said yes. One doesn't often get the opportunity to visit such a magical place. I did try not to get too excited, but it was very tricky.

It was about this time that I began to realise that all was truly not well with the Brownie. It may well have been the cold, but the lazy little blighter hasn't painted in the back wall of the hatchery. Please excuse the fact that several of the later pictures are also missing bits. He insists it was a technical fault, caused by the onset of the hurricane and the low temperatures. He even argues that they are more impressionistic this way (apparently that means he can charge more money for them). I shall have to ask Mr Burleigh about that next time I see him.

Oolon and Terry became very embroiled in a discussion about the relevant incubatory and conduction properties of gold and silver coinage, with Miss Tamura nodding in agreement (although she might just have been being polite). The eggs were very pretty, although there were only two of them. I do hope they'll be alright in there by themselves.

Miss Tamura then took us up to the Great Hall, a truly magnificent architectural space that took our breath away (and not just because of its altitude). It was smashing, Emilly, and you may wish to study the following plates carefully as you design your pavillion.

While we were admiring the sheer grandeur of the Hall, Mr Hawks arrived with his friend Mr Burton (I can't remember his surname, isn't that awful of me?), who is a fox. Mr Hawks is very cute and I can see why Miss Tamura and Miss Andalso are fond of him. Being a wolf, the approaching storm was affecting him already and he was struggling to maintain his composure and his human form.

Miss Tamura contiued to be an excellent guide, taking us next to the drum circle. I now understand why she and Miss Andalso were drawn to our music making at Svarga - they are very fond of elven drums and have their own set here. The dance area was large, as you would expect, and brightly decorated. There were magnificent views back up to the Great Hall (please excuse the missing bits).

The building hurricane began to affect Miss Tamura as we danced and she begged our forgiveness as she took her leave. It was beginning to affect us in little ways; my balance was becoming unsteady and my sense of direction wasn't quite what it should be, which resulted in me getting lost a few times during the following wanderings. And banging my head. But not until after Oolon found something else to pose heroically on.

I then proceeded to fall off the edge of the precipice imediately after instructing the Brownie to paint this shot (he's obviously more afraid of Oolon than me because he actually finished this one). And that's when I banged my head and found this scary thing lurking in a cave near a locked treasure chest.

Well, I think I found it. Maybe I was hallucinating. I did manage to get out of the caves on my own eventually, but I couldn't find Oolon or Terry anywhere and I didn't want to shout in case I started an avalanche. Fortunately that pretty bracelet that Oolon gave me at Svarga came to the rescue. Somehow it lets him find out where I am and call me to him. And I haven't managed to break it yet, so maybe its more magic than science. It has a sciencey name, but I forget what it is. Still he managed to blot his copy book within seconds by prodding the bump on my head. I asked him why and he said so that he knew where it hurt. I told him that I already knew that and he smiled. He can be very dim sometimes for a very bright man, don't you find?

Our time was getting short, so we headed off again, despite the worsening storm. Movement was slow and difficult, but eventually we did come to a narrow ravine with some very impressive buildings in it. Oolon insisted on posing next to this sign. Terry refers to this as a "tourist shot"; I gather from the tone of her voice that this isn't necessarily a good thing. I think Oolon got a bit over excited, because he was crackling again.

I found what looked to be some very pretty houses up on a bluff over looking the ravine, but although Terry and Oolon could enter, I was forbidden by these big glowy red letters. I even tried to use my human glamour to get in just in case the owner had a thing against Pixies, but it didn't work. I got stuck in allsorts of horrible places trying to get in, but I gave up in the end. And to make matters worse, when I tried to go back to being me my wings wouldn't come back.

It must be said that I got a bit over emotional at that point and Oolon decided that the Linden Storm was getting too bad for adventuring and took us back to the ETD. Terry assured me that she could still see my wings, but they were in the fourth dimension and the storm was stopping me from seeing them properly. Oolon kept winking at her, so I think the storm must have blown something into his eye. But she was right, they did come back. I was very heartily relieved, I can tell you. Pixies are practically naked without their wings.

Oh, better go. I have to clean up the Colony and someone is sitting on top of my clock.....

Your affectionate friend


Here Be Crocodiles

Oolon’s cabinet deposited me only a few hundred metres from where it had abducted me a few days previously, which is pretty good accuracy for such a device I’m told. He had done nothing but apologise the whole trip for the unceremonious manner in which it had dislocated me across the Grid on the resupply attempt and kept muttering about it being a problem with the “Fluid Links” drying out. To be honest, it was a blessed relief: The chance to spend a little time with Fuschia (and of course Terry, himself and the good folks of Caledon) for a few days was just what I needed.

It had been fascinating to find that Caledon was keeping up with the reports of all the expeditions so far and I had plenty of offers from people wishing to join me or assist in my explorations. It will certainly be nice to have the company and Oolon has once more offered his services to ferry people to and from the mainland via the ether, as required. Such a nice chap!

Thankfully no wayward mainlander had made off with the balloon and it was still nestled in the shadow of the tree, although looking a little deflated. I recharged the burner and repacked extra supplies into the basket. Fuschia insisted that I take plenty more food (as I apparently hadn’t been eating properly) and several more jumpers to keep the chill off. The area was deserted as usual and there was no sign of Mr Tuck, so after making my final checks I took to the skies once more.

The air was choppy today and the grid winds tossed the balloon around the sky. Careful navigation was required around certain regions where a booming voice announced that I was not allowed to enter or that the land was full, although full of what precisely I have yet to ascertain. I take it that these are similar defence systems or engines of privacy created by the mainlanders to keep out trespassers or to stop overcrowding, as the electrical red “fences” I had encountered earlier. However, the sheer number I ran into led me to name this stretch of the coast the “Vale of Privacy”.

Dotted here and there, though, were little refuges and safe passages. The one pictured below reminded me of Miss Ladybird’s dream of building a pavilion in Mayfair and I include this plate for her. I did land and attempt to talk to the owner, however knocking on the door gained no answer and although the door was open, it didn’t seem quite right to walk into what appeared to be a private home unannounced.

Leaving the “Vale” I found a wonder of engineering. Below me stood a lift bridge, ready to be hoisted should any boats require passage further up the river. I tried to land so that I could inspect the mechanism, but the balloon and winds had different ideas… No matter how much I tugged on the control lines or adjusted the burner, the balloon continued on its path.

Glancing up into the sky something didn’t seem quite right with the sun’s position and my orientation with the land. I peered down at the balloon's compass (something I had neglected to do for a while, as I had been confident in simply following the coastline) and discovered I was right: I was now on a due South heading. The coastline had curved back on itself. Had I hit the East coast already? Scribbling down a few distance calculations it seemed unlikely; I was probably simply following an inlet. I tried to pull the balloon out on an Eastward course but straying too far from the land the weather conditions were so bad I had to turn back.
Heading South was bad news. It was taking me farther from my goal, but should (I hoped) turn East again. I decided to continue heading South for now; however if there was no sign of the land turning in a few days, I would head back to the Colony and strike out West from there in the search for a passage to the North. Afterall, I was only assuming that this wasn’t the East Coast from the rough measurements taken from the sketched charts I had seen, but perhaps the mainland wasn’t as large as we thought, or maybe our Colony was much further East than we previously assumed…?

Bump! My thoughts were interrupted as the basket clipped the side of a huge warehouse. The pencil and paper dropped away over the side forgotten as I grabbed for the venting ropes, trying to ensure the canvas did not scrape along the wall. I fought against the winds and managed to lift the balloon away, but venting the air had forced me down onto the wooden pier alongside it.

I clambered out to inspect the basket for damage and thankfully found little. However, the incident had been a little close and showed I needed a little walk to clear my head. The warehouse, which would not have looked out of place in New Babbage, proved to be a retail outlet in the usual mainland style; however the floor was constructed of glass with various sea creatures swimming beneath it. There were also people here! I tried engaging them in pleasant conversation, but received none back, so I left them to their standing and staring at the walls.

Over the bay stood a shop of the most shocking sort, displaying all manner of female nakedness and I include a picture here only for completeness. I have however removed the portions of the image that may prove offensive.

The peculiar juxtaposition of buildings on the mainland showed itself once more, for only metres away from this disgraceful structure stood a beautiful greenhouse and plant nursery. It is amazing that the mainland supports such beauty and crassness all crammed together. Even more amazing were the creatures that could be spied from the nurseries balcony…crocodiles! I had only read of such things in books and it was wonderful to see them in the flesh..er…scales..er..hide…whatever…

I was aware that time was pressing on and I would soon be losing the daylight and I was keen to find the Eastward turn in the coastline. As the balloon climbed, the sun glinted off another fabulous floating mainland construction that I was able to quickly catch with the camera before I was pulled onwards by the strengthening winds.

The speed of the wind was becoming a little alarming and my control over the balloon seemed to be waining. I could just about keep her to a steady pace but manoeuvring was becoming more and more difficult.

Ahead of me loomed a lighthouse, with what appeared to be an incredible silver statue of a horse atop it, but sadly I could not land and investigate further. The grid winds tugged me on and only by heaving on the ropes with all my might was I able to avoid collision with it.

I only just managed to grab a picture of a bell shaped monument bearing the name of the region before I was beyond it: “Harbinger's Haven”. An omen of a name, if ever I saw one…

I flared the burner, trying to climb up over the winds, and soon I was above the clouds and in the airspace of a giant building. The winds had calmed and the balloon now responded well. Climbing over the weather had been a good choice.

This giant structure appeared to be a race track of some kind, yet instead of horses the competitors rode small metal carriages (or “Karts” I believe one of the signs called them; probably a corruption of the Caledonian word “Carriage”). As I watched, an ominous figure in a cloak approached. He asked me if I was “Racing with anyone”? I wondered if he meant was I in some kind of balloon race? I said no and explained I was just trying to find out what was happening here; I received no response other than his unflinching gaze. Perhaps I had wandered somewhere I was not meant to be? I decided to withdraw back to ground level and just hoped the winds had died down.

The winds had abaited and would at least allow a safe landing. On the ground below the race track I found a decorated jetty, a huge fish, a wonderful house, a beautiful kite, and an open air room that reminded me a lot of the Colony. Standing at one end of this area were huge canvases explaining the secrets of something called the “Linden Scripting Language”. These were amazing to read and seemed to be some mainland treaties on the nature of the Grid and Avatars. It was difficult to tell if these were scientific or ritual in nature or a combination of the two. I have taken photographic plates of both sides of these objects for further study. Who knows what they may reveal of the mainland, the Grid or even ourselves…?

Note from the Colonial Office of Caledon:
Word has reached us that an uncensored version of the “shocking display of nakedness” picture is currently in circulation within the State of Caledon. The Colonial Office of Caledon wishes to make it clear that it is by no means responsible for this and does not, as one young man was heard to remark, “offer it for sale to discerning gentlemen”. We would request that citizens should please stop visiting us and asking for it; we do not have it. However, if anyone is in possession of such an item, please can you send a copy to our office in a plain brown packet. We require it purely for the sake of archive completeness.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

City of Elves and Dragons

Dear Governor Shang,

It would appear that Oolon and Miss Lightfoot have no intention of letting me brood on Alfonso’s absence, because they took me out for another jaunt last night. It’s just as well that pixies are renowned for their stamina and determination, or I’d have to admit I was feeling a bit pooped after the Isle of Nightmares episode.

Terry must have really liked my outfit last night, because this evening found us attired identically. We have very similar taste in clothes, despite being from such different worlds (it’s another reason I like her). Oolon despairs of us both sometimes, but that’s just because he has no eye for fashion, poor man.

Tonight our destination was to be where Oolon tried to take us last night. At first, things appeared to be going smoothly, but it didn’t last for long (it never does). No sooner had Oolon declared that we had arrived and walked out of the door than both myself and Terry found ourselves unable to leave the ETD. A powerful force appeared to hold us within it’s confines and forbade us to enter the land of Svarga. Something began to tell me that I might never get to see this place that had Oolon so excited.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, our enforced exile was ended and we both found ourselves on a small island before a gigantic stone doorway. Oolon was waiting for us, with the charming mix of impatience and concern he always has when things don’t quite work how he expects them to. You’d think with all the travelling he does, he’d be used to the occasional delay at his age.

We made our way through the carved doors and into what could easily be mistaken for Paradise. Oolon explained that Svarga had been a city of the Elves, before they left this reality. Terry was most interested in the relationships between elves and pixies, so I explained that as long as they don’t pat us on the head, we don’t kick them in the shins. Apparently, this counts as “getting along”. Still they know how to build, you have to give them credit for that. But why would they want to leave here? Typical of them, makes absolutely no sense; but I suppose that’s the sort of thing you have to do if you want everyone to remember you for being mysterious and ancient and wise and inscrutable.

A native was resting beside a fountain, so we approached and spoke to him (loudly and slowly, just to be on the safe side), but he didn’t seem to be aware of our presence. Oolon became convinced that either they or we appear as ghosts, which would go a little way to explaining why no-one ever talks to us on these expeditions.

Not long after that, I found a shop. Needless to say, Oolon was very impressed by my ability to locate retail opportunities no matter where in the world I appear (especially after I found a sale on at the retail temple in Bora Bora last night). I told him pixies can smell a good deal - it’s a gift (and Terry agrees with me).

We wandered a little until we came upon a wonderful polygonal building (I’ve been hanging around with Oolon for too long, because that’s a science word not a pixie one). Inside there were many musical instruments, so we picked them up and began to play. It was a great deal of fun, even if we did occasionally hit the wrong notes.

An odd side effect of our harmonic exertions was the attraction of more “native ghosts”. Despite their inability to speak to us they picked up the spare instruments and began to play along, which lead Terry and Oolon to postulate (see, that’s another big word) that the vibrations from the music where bringing our resonances in line with each other. I have no idea what that means either, but it sounds good.

But something distracted me, something I hadn’t felt for a little while, something ancient and venerable touching my heart. It’s the same feeling I get in the presence of the Lady Fledhyris and Mr Webb, so I knew what was waiting for us outside the building: Dragons!

Pixies like dragons, simple fact. Dragons are wise and venerable without being smug (like elves), have generous natures and are very good at looking after smaller, younger, less wise creatures. Or at least, all the ones I have ever known have been. But they don’t tolerate bad manners, so always be polite. And they like having their chins tickled, but don’t kiss their noses unless they’re in their true form and you feel that it wouldn’t be too presumptious.
And that was how we met Miss Tamura and Miss Andalso, two wonderful ladies of dragonkind. They were taking the air and had heard our music, so they came to investigate, luckily for us. Did I say how much I like dragons? Miss Tamura has three heads called Order, Balance and Chaos (they all like their chins tickling). Miss Andalso appeared first as a beautiful red and black dragon, before showing us her magnificent rainbow incarnation. She has sparkly green breath, which pixies are very ticklish to and I’m afraid I got a fit of the giggles when she exhaled in my direction.

Sadly it was at this moment that one of the natives decided to speak to us. He was very rude and particularly insulting to the lovely ladies, which made Oolon very mad (he can’t abide bad manners, either). Despite our best efforts to warn this fool of the precariousness of his situation he continued to be irksome, causing Oolon to produce his cricket bat (I still haven’t worked out where from) and shout a lot. And the Misses Tamura and Andalso became most distressed and even began considering chomping the silly creature (which means that they were really, really, upset). He even threatened to put them in a zoo!

Part of me would dearly have loved to see him try, but I have promised to be a good pixie so I attempted to restore order by pointing out that humans are like little children next to dragons and are apt to be foolish when confronting the unknown or when frightened (and he wouldn’t taste very nice and would probably get stuck in their teeth and give them indigestion). It seemed to work, for the most part.

It was about this time that Alfonso appeared, so we had to leave the lovely ladies behind. I don’t know if they did eat that man. I was quite surprised to see Alfonso, I must admit. Oolon had promised to be the baggage train for my brave husband’s foray into the wild and said he'd given him a way to let us know when we were needed, but I hadn't received a butterfly or anything (and I was expecting us to return to the ETD and go and find Alfonso, so I can only assume that something went a little wrong again and he ended up standing in front of us instead). It was lovely to see him again, even if he did look like he hadn’t been eating properly. I should have packed him extra cake.

Oolon’s hujamafercals started beeping then and he shot off into some catacombs (never a wise thing to do; things that eat people like to live in catacombs). Despite my protestations, Terry shot off too hotly pursued by Alfonso. I could hear Oolon getting all excited (rather than all in pain), so I thought it was probably safe to follow.

The reason for his excitement soon became clear – a pool of glowing energy, which he referred to as “galvanic”. Terry got all excited too and they began to make plans about refining it so that they could power the ETD. I got bored and wandered off.

They caught up with me eventually in the sky citadel at the centre of the city. I had found a sparkly thing that Oolon identified as an energy being and everyone started sampling the poor thing. Our time was running out again and we had a quick dash about to see if there was anything else worth seeing. There were mushrooms, perfect for Pixies to sit on (I've given a copy of this dageurotype to Alfonso for his journal).

Oolon ushered us all back to the ETD, just in the nick of time and we took off without any cowbells or clonks this time. But Oolon wasn’t happy, insisting that there was something, or someone, else in there with us. Oolon scared me, but Alfonso went to look and I knew he’d protect me if there was something odd in our little Cabinet.

Then I began to get that feeling again; ancient, warm, safe. Oolon started jumping up and down and shouting Miss Tamura’s name. Apparently she had followed us in one of her less conspicuous guises and had unfortunately become entangled in some sort of rotor when we took off. Still, she managed to extricate herself and was none the worse for wear.

Do you know that she has a glamour very like Terry’s fish lady? And apparently Terry is something called a Changeling. Now I know a few changelings and she’s not like our sort of changeling, so wherever she’s from they must have their own kind. And then we had a party (Lady Fledhyris and her friend Mr Darracq and Miss Rothschild all came along) and there was more dancing. I know I told you that Oolon likes dancing. And I have my Alfonso back, at least for a short while. I really must speak to him about that plank, but for now I’d rather give him a big cuddle.

Do you know, that city was so beautiful, but so full of sorrow. The flora are broken and twisted, cowering away from the world outside; the waterfalls weep for their lost civilisation. I don’t think Oolon is deliberately taking me to places that make me long for my glen, but he does seem to have a knack for finding them. I know he doesn’t mean to upset me, but it makes me very sad when such wondrous places are no longer loved by those who created them. Places need to be loved, just as much as people. That’s why Caledon is special, because it is loved. Don’t let it stop being loved, Governor Shang.

Your obedient (and sleepy) servant,

Fuschia Begonia


Dear Sir / Madam

I am hand delivering this report as I unexpectedly find myself in Caledon. Please do not fret that I have given up on my mission of exploration or on the Colony, it is just that things took a slightly unexpected turn on the last leg of my journey and it seemed that by hand was the most expedient form of delivery before I return to the mainland.

Hopefully my report and that of Miss Begonia will explain everything.

Your Faithful Servant,

Professor Alfonso Avalanche

It may be a terrible thing to admit, but sitting here with a nice hot cup of tea inside Mr Sputnik’s Cabinet, I realise quite how much I missed the comforts of Caledon and the Colony. The simple pleasure of being able to reach out and fill a cup from a teapot, sit in front of a warm fire or hear a cheery “Good Morning” from a neighbour all seems so far away from being buffeted by the grid winds and sea spray. Not that I dislike the adventuring life; I just find that I enjoy life’s little comforts just as much. Oolon is recharging the “Old Girl”, has set the controls and should have me back to where I left in no time, so it’s probably best I complete this report and deliver it before I set off again. Fuschia says she wants to write about what happened at the end, so in the interests of an exciting read, I’ll let her take over when the appropriate cliffhanger arrives. She seems to be much more accomplished on the writing front than myself. All the notes and amendments that you see scattered throughout the margins of my reports are the corrections she kindly makes before they are forwarded back to Caledon.

Travelling on from the village of the “Gorean Protocols” I came upon a huge tree reaching up into the clouds. Curious to see it’s base, I dropped my altitude and found a port area, complete with tall masted ships, wooden piers and jetties. The area was littered with statues, big and small and was dominated by the huge tree, a tall castle and, strangest of all, a giant running water tap. Again the area appeared empty of people. Bringing the balloon into land I noticed the fuel level on the burner was starting to get a little low.

Pushing against the grid winds was burning the oil faster than I had anticipated. Thankfully, I’d made arrangements with Mr Sputnik before I left for just such eventualities. He had given me a small device on a chain to wear around my neck. He said it was a key to his Cabinet (but it did not look like any key I was familiar with), and could also be used to contact him, should I run into trouble or require re-supplying. All I had to do was tap out a message using a pre-arranged code and he would arrive in the “Old Girl” and assist however he could. I hadn’t tried it before, and thought this may be as good a time as any to give it a go. After sending the message I waited. Would it work? Oolon kept talking about it operating through the Cabinet’s empathic capabilities, but that explanation sounded like mumbo jumbo rather than real science. Then again, Oolon talks a lot of mumbo jumbo about his Cabinet, most of which has subsequently proved to be true.

As I waited for him to arrive and wandered between the statues, a voice called out a greeting. It was a very pleasant and polite young man called Robsub Tuck. He asked me how I was finding the “Sim” which is apparently the unit of measure they use to divide up the mainland. 1 Sim equals 65,536 square metres, very similar to the standard “Region” measurement we use in our own cartography. Apparently it was suffering a lot of “lag” – where the grid winds blow so hard it is very difficult to move and makes your eyes water so much your vision becomes hazy and it proves difficult to see. I have to admit I had suffered some of this even in Caledon but had attributed it to a late night at the Anvil.

I told him I had not had much trouble with it since arriving. He seemed pleased about this and made a reference to the mysterious mainland gods the “El El”, not the first time I have heard mention of these curious deities. He was more than happy to show me around and invited me into his “small home” as he called it. He lived within the walls of the huge castle and had a special travel disc that lifted visitors up into his study.

It turned out that Mr Tuck was an artist and had just opened a gallery. I complimented him on his hospitality and suddenly felt a strange tugging sensation, as if I was being pulled from a great distance. A pounding noise filled my ears and suddenly the room around me vanished in a cascading blue vortex and then… I was elsewhere.