Image

Deal 1064: The Loose Page

The scrape of page was musty, and not made of the usual sort of pulp paper found in books around here. It was crumpled in the gutter among the other debris and detritus that remained as the flood waters receded. Something about it drew the eye. I snatched it up, smoothed it out, and began to read:

TimeScout Handbook

With your transit device in hand, we welcome you to this elite branch of Scouting.

You will learn to be good custodians of Time, balancing the urge to act against the need to know what action is best.

Of course, there are risks involved too. The obvious urge to mess with one’s own Grandparents is obvious, and easy to avoid. But how well do you really know your family tree?

Before embarking on the flow of time, you will take an oath to make only changes that you can justify to authorities.

While traveling you enjoy some perks. You will be harder to injure. You will have an emergency escape

I turned at looked at the scene around me. Somewhere, someone had to be responsible. Now I knew someone had been meddling. It was time to begin to lay my trap.

Image

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.

Image

Deal 1035: Meta dream worlds

In his dream, Sydney watched himself dream.

The dream of the orchard where he lay was clear and intense. The trees were inviting, one in particular seemed to positively glow. On that tree, one apple was glowing. After considering it for five minutes, he picked it, took two bites, and fell into a deep sleep.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming.

He dreamed he was standing in a magical orchard, holding a glowing axe. The head seemed eager for him to walk amongst the trees, and pulled him towards a particularly old tree that glowed faintly like all the rest of the trees. Except for a single limb that was black at its tip, with some sort of creeping sickness working its way up the branch toward the trunk. He understood that chopping off the dying branch to save the healthy tree was necessary.

He swung the axe with all his strength, removing a small chip from the bark at the base of the branch. The blackness moved a little closer. He swung again, the black moved again. He settled into a rhythm, taking chips out of the branch on both sides and from below with each blow. Finally after he had weakened it enough, he began to cut into the top side of the branch. It began to feel like it was going to be a close thing. Could he sever the branch before the black reached where he was cutting?

A final blow brought the now nearly completely blackened branch down.

He knew it needed to be burned to prevent the infection from spreading to the other trees. He also knew he shouldn’t handle the blackened areas himself, and that cutting into the black area with the axe might spread contaminated chips and make containment even more difficult. He surveyed the area and spotted a fire pit nearby with a fire set and ready to light. He lit it with a thought and gesture, and let the blaze become established as he worked out how to drag the branch to the fire without touching the black areas.

Finally, he fed the blackened branch into the fire.

As it burned, the flames changed colors wildly. He could almost see the disease burning up, and fighting for its survival the whole time.

Watching the flames was somewhat hypnotic, and he drifted off into a trance.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming a dream.

He was dressed in typical business day casual, and sitting in a large office, at the desk. In the distance, an old fashioned crank wound gramophone was sitting, and playing The Liberty Bell in vibrant but scratchy tones.

The music was soothing, and soon he drifted off into a nap.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming of dreaming of dreaming….

Sydney is caught in a different and more insidious loop.

Will he escape?

Will he be sane?

Is he actually dreaming the whole thing from an old warehouse in LA?

He has no idea.

Image

Deal 1022: Double Nonnet for Sallis

Man of depths unfathomed, still unplumbed
Optimist, attacks mystery
Rocket or sheepwash, it works
Ever faithful Gromit
Constructed at home
Hotpot and tea
Even space
Extra
Smart
Expert
Gaffer and
Rescuer all
Overcoming odds
Muddling through everything
Indeed, but not as yet love
Totty, Wendy, Piella, gone.
Wensleydale preferred over the moon