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Deal 1042: Gwen doesn’t have cats?

I’m hopeful for the first time in many years. Sydney is turning out to be an apt pupil, often needing little more than a hint that something might be possible for him to do for him to go off on his own and discover how to do it. This is much better than my last two pupils, both of which died messily after running off too soon.

He still needs to work on his focus. He is rather apt to be distracted by irrelevant details.

Of course, sometimes those details show him an unexpected solution to a problem. The unsolvable hedge maze he was in yesterday was supposed to teach him that humility is not always a weakness by forcing him to acknowledge that he had no solution and was actually trapped. Then he found a way out that wasn’t there.

He claimed he followed a cat that had wandered in for a drink. But as far as I know, there are no cats in my estate. The pesky things seem to find me hard to deal with. I may need to revise that, however, and wonder if there are cats that are simply better at avoiding me than I realized was possible.

That makes the third time that Sydney has found an impossible solution to a problem. He may simply be lucky beyond reason. Or maybe he really is smarter, and can see the weakness in situations that I had thought were unassailable. When prodded about that he tends to go off on long discussions of why you shouldn’t trust your own failure to break your own code or solve your own puzzles.

Raven has been by. We are running out of time. I hope Sydney will be ready in time. I didn’t let Sydney and Raven meet this time. There will be time enough for that after he’s done here. I can only tolerate the trickster in small doses as it is. I don’t need him poaching my student as an acolyte.

So, tomorrow we will see what he does with the golden apple, and then it is on to the real quest. If he lives, that is.

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Deal 1027: The Tower

Distraction is always lying in wait around the next bend.

Sydney set out for the town clearly visible in the distance. His old life was seeming less real by the hour, and a chance of meeting something not out to kill him seemed like a good idea. The road was paved, and must go somewhere to be worth the effort. So that much of the plan seemed reasonable.

A few miles later, Sydney was no longer quite so sure. He hadn’t walked that far in a long time. Sure, he used to get around LA on his bike, but that was really just his immediate neighborhood. Real travel in LA required borrowing a car, or taking the metro, and both options had costs attached. So he usually just stayed near home.

About four miles, when his feet were going to give out, he noticed a narrow track leading off the main road, through a pleasant glade and around behind a hill.

He took it.

It led to the base of a four story tower, atop of where there was a woman leaning on a parapet, and bemoaning her fate.

Her name, it developed, was Raven, clearly for her long black hair. She had wandered into the tower, then found her way to the top, after which the stairs vanished.

Sydney circled the tower. There was no door, and no exterior stairs. Something was definitely amiss here.

What he was facing was yet another manifestation of the “magic” of this place, and it made him uncomfortable. As far as he knew, he had no magic of his own. He might as well wish for an infinite number of saws…

Oh. Wait.

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Deal 1026: Sydney takes stock

After the encounter with the cockatrice, Sydney was a still a little nervous. This was not turning out to be his usual Saturday off. Accidentally falling into a swimming pool filled with burn gel was a lucky break, but he couldn’t help but wonder what else could go wrong.

He also wondered seriously what had already gone wrong. Had he been killed in that musty warehouse in Los Angeles this morning? His memory of his previous life was growing hazy as time passed here in this absurd place. It didn’t matter much however. He was here now, and had little choice but to press forwards. And wherever “here” is, it clearly is no longer in Los Angeles.

Since he clearly had a moment of calm, he took inventory to see what he had managed to carry away. His sword, of course. Despite his injuries in the encounter, his sword did feel more substantial, almost as if it had gone up a level as a result of the cockatrice. He too felt stronger than he had this morning, but the dip in the pool of balm might explain that. His belt bag still had his usual supplies, asthma inhaler, gaming dice, cell phone, notepad and pencil. It used to also have an emergency Snickers bar, but was already gone. But in its place was a leaf wrapping a bar of a similar size and shape. He unwrapped the leaf cautiously, and sniffed the bar it contained. It smelled faintly of sawdust, old socks, and desperation, so he wrapped it back up and put it back in his pouch.

Not for the first time, he wished his new place in life had come with an instruction booklet.

Or at least a hint about the rules.

The maze had let him out onto a grassy knoll, with a building nearby and a village in the distance down the road. Nothing Sydney could see in any direction looked the least bit like California.

He sat down on the grass to take think, and decide on a goal.

The town in the distance was the obvious choice. The road did go on as far as he could see in the other direction, but he couldn’t see anything to temp him.

So that settled his goal. He would walk to the town and hope he still had feet when he got there.