Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Descent

JTTTLBTMI Crossover Part 2

Bunzilla’s roar split the air as a fearsome, carrot-crazed eye peered down at us. There was nowehere to go but into the cave, so that’s where we went - at great speed. From the mouth of the cave I watched it snuffling and grunting at the tangle of balloon, trees and tents. Behind me I could here discussions of where we should go next and what we should do.

From what I could gather, it appeared as if Fuschia and myself had indeed appeared just off the coast of Caledon. This new volcanic isle threatened the very safety of that great nation and this small group had been sent to solve the problem. I’m not entirely sure how they were going to achieve that, but any help we could give them, we would.

Most of the discussion seemed to centre around a tattered map that Mr Abel had discovered. Sadly the major problem seemed to lie in the fact that the cave system was represented on the map by a tangle of lines, almost as if they’d started drawing it all out nicely and then just decided it was too complicated and scribbled a pencil round and round for a bit.

Lady Amber stood in the corner surrounded by a gaggle of penguins swigging from a battered hip flask. The light from the cave entrance glittered off her cleavage…No, hang on, I don’t mean cleavage, I meant her…bosoms. Now that’s odd; everytime I looked at her my eyes slid away onto her… attributes. Something at the back of my head was itching – trying to tell me something, trying to show me something… I caught Fuschia’s disapproving look; I think she’d caught me staring – so I hurriedly looked away and pretended I was studying the cave wall instead.

We decided to push on into the darkness. Baron Bardhaven believed that’s where the source of all this trouble was and that’s where we’d find answers. We pressed on because…well…he sounded like he knew what he was doing and we certainly weren’t going back out there with Bunzilla.

The tunnels wound on and round and round. I began to wonder if the strange scribbles on the map weren’t entirely incorrect; the passages seemed to twist onwards and downwards for such a long time. Baron Bardhaven and Lady Darkling took the lead. At times, Bardhaven peered at the map then indicated a particular direction; at others, Darkling drifted down a certain passage following a mysterious glowing orb as if in a trance. All the while, Oolon kept up a running commentary on the fascinating rock stratification and geological formations while Terry rolled her eyes. The Duchesses chatted excitedly about the grand adventure and the balls that would be held in all our honour when we returned home. Miss Kelley’s eyes darted around each cavern we passed through, gently mewing and watching every movement and shadow.

The strange music continued throughout our journey, echoing from the passage walls and fading in and out. The strange thing was, down here it seemed less alien, less unusual. Maybe we were getting closer to the source, or maybe the echoes and harmonics of the tunnels were just right, but I was sure I was beginning to recognise familiar phrases and bars. This was music I’d heard before, music I’d heard in Caledon when wandering through … was it Tanglewood? Or by the Governor’s mansion? Lady Amber slipped into my field of vision and again I found myself … distracted. Even more so as she appeared to be peeling off layers of clothing again - because of the heat she claimed.

And she was right; it was getting a lot warmer. We began passing through chambers filled with lava flows and sparkling embers dancing in the air. Soon we were all removing some of our more bulky clothing.

We finally came to halt in a large chamber. Our path took us across a narrow, crumbling bridge of rock and across a lava flow, all the while fireballs leaping up and exploding over us.

I’m sure this wasn’t marked on the map…

Monday, 17 September 2007

The Poison Belt

JTTTLBTMI Crossover Part 1

The butterfly tunnel swirled around us. It had been a good few weeks away; a nice, relaxing change of pace. Pixie had it’s peculiarities but was certainly a marvellous place to relax.

We were travelling to Caledon rather than the Colony, because Fuschia said that it was much easier to navigate back to somewhere like the Homelands, where the love of it’s people acted as a sort of beacon, making it much easier for Pixie magic to home in on.

I felt the balloon catch on an updraft of wind…we were definitely approaching something…something that smelled like sulphur and smoke… The twisting vortex before us darkened, filling with thick black clouds. This didn’t look good.

I gently shook Fuschia awake and she wrinkled her nose at the smell. “Are you burning breakfast, again?” She mumbled before sitting bolt upright and whispering “Something’s wrong!”

I nodded and was about to explain when the tunnel shattered around us and the balloon leapt violently.

Once onto our feet we could see that we were surrounded on all sides by thick smoke. The butterflies that had formed our passage to and from Pixie were lost in the darkness. It was searingly hot and proving very difficult to breathe.

Where were we? This certainly didn’t look like Caledon. The balloon was twirling and I could see no more than a few feet through the smoke and ash. Fuschia handed me a strip of cloth she’d torn from her petticoats to act as a face mask in order to keep out the choking air.

I tugged on the control ropes of the balloon, trying to gain height and get above whatever we were in. A deep rumble sounded below us and a fireball tore upwards through the sky, alarmingly close. I peered down over the side of the basket and could feel even more heat as well as perceiving a dull orange glow below us through the smoke. Were we above some enormous pyre? Had the alien invaders returned and reduced Caledon to nothing but fire and ash?

I attempted to regain some control over the balloon, but we were caught in an unpredictable updraft and the balloon's control vents were useless in the ash laden, turbulent air.

“Look!” Fuschia shouted. “A funny flying man!” I turned, not sure what to expect. The brief glimpse of him I got before impact was of a young man dressed in a pastel shirt, carrying a spear and wearing a helmet crudely fashioned out of a large coconut, propelled through the air by what appeared to be a battered brass and bamboo steam jet pack. A moment later he’d collided with the canvas above us, punching a hole clean through the balloon’s envelope and sending us on a very fast journey – sideways…

We careered wildy through the air, the balloon letting out a strange high pitched wail as the gas escaped.

The balloon described several crazy loops as we clung desperately to the sides of the basket. We eventually shot out of the bottom of the smoke cloud and I briefly caught a glimpse of a volcanic island (the smoke from which we had just left) surrounded by a huge expanse of water. On the downward swing of one of our circuits the basket skimmed the top of the water, scooping up a good proportion of it along with several penguins, a rather surprised looking Baroness (Lady Amber, to be more precise) and an even more surprised looking hammerhead shark.

The balloon curved upwards again, propelling us up over the island (as the penguins heaved the shark overboard) in what would be our final descent. We swung back down again, this time crashing through some tents that had been erected on the beach, and onwards into the deep jungle trees. Tribesmen scattered in all directions and I’m sure I caught sight of several people tangled in the canopy, rigging, tent, trees and, by the looks of it, cooking pot wreckage that we’d accumulated as we skidded through the undergrowth before sliding to a halt at the mouth of a dark and foreboding cave.

Fuschia helped a rather shaken Lady Amber up out of a pile of penguins and the now ruined basket, while I clambered out to help disengage our unexpected, and no doubt shocked, reluctant passengers from what was left of the rest of the balloon. And what a collection of nobles we’d entangled: A Baron (Bardhaven), A Duke (Greystoke), a Timelord (Sputnik), Sidhe (Lightfoot) and no less than two Duchesses (Carntaigh and Loch Avie) and two Marchionesses (East and West Speirling - or at least one Speirling and one cunning "copy-cat").

As I began hastily disengaging them from the rope, canvas and foliage, eerie music drifted from the cave entrance behind me…