Like a Dog Who’s Caught a Carriage

Ja’Deir sat up on the musty mattress in his room at the ‘Hobbled Gelding.’ He rubbed the sleep from his eyes that had accumulated during his meditation, and crossed the room to the tarnished wash stand and rippled mirror in the corner next to the dresser. The water was frigid, but he barely noticed through the fur covering his face. He washed away the night, and dried off with the graying towel hanging off the side.

He locked his door, and opened his window. A cool wind greeted him as he put his foot on the sill and lunged forward, spreading his arms. His furry gliding membranes fluttered for a split second before they caught the wind and lifted the squirrelesque hero. The land stretched out before him for miles as he climbed into the clouds.

Before his eyes the land changed from plains, hills, and forests to a patchwork quilt. He looked at his arms and they had feathers, not fur. He flapped his enormous wings and climbed higher than he had ever dreamed. Scanning the bedspread below, his keen eyes caught movement. An exultant shout erupted from his beak and he folded his wings to his body. The wind passed his body as if it did not exist. He was like a spear slicing through the stream toward a juicy cod, but his target was better – his prey was a…

Mouse fir soaked with adrenaline-fueled sweat clung to his rodentine body. His little heart beat faster than perception as he darted between bushes, through grasses, over rocks and under roots. His little rodent nose bobbed along the trail as if it had a mind of its own. His burrow was in sight as bird’s claws encircled his miniature form.

Suddenly he was a dog, fur matted with mud and body screaming to run, to be the first, to follow the alpha. He obeyed the canine instincts and ran with his pack across the town square. A wooden beast, strange to his domain bobbed across his highway. It was pulled by the tall claw-footed beasts used by his masters. So strange were they, so… alien! They needed to leave his domain! “Leave, Leave, Leave, Leeeyeeeeyeeeeave!” His command was followed by a chorus of “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” and “Yep, Yessir, yep yepperooooooooo!”

His precision squad followed behind the wooden monstrocity, their muscles ’oooh’ing in pleasure for the break-neck speed he was setting. “Gohrrrrrr! GOhrrrr! Leave Leave Leave! Yep, Yep, Leave!” Fear stopped the intruder’s heart in its chest, and it lurched to a halt. Finally catching his prey, he pranced around it victoriously. Now that he caught it, he did not know what to do with it. He playfully nipped at its round legs, and was shooed away by his master, “Mister.”

His pack ran after a vole, all thought of intruders out of their minds.

Ja’Deir pulled out of his Trance, and realized the spirits were painting him a picture.

For the past month, Ja’Deir had been emulating a furry friend of his that passed doing what he loved – chasing after things that glitter. CrIsis’ campaign for the Foot of Osiris was colored by his anticipation of the glittering treasures!

The five adventurers were met by the famous Jidian Kulder and the newest CrIsonian, Asher, a Psionic Mystic. They journeyed through the jungles from Rogtilda, much to the Trog-spirit’s dismay, and climbed over the dragon’s corpse to its lair’s entrance.

Tyvernos, his thirst for treasure sated by the deific pedes, stood watch at the entrance. He was joined by Indaris, and they stood against endless waves of greedy Hytril. The rest of them explored the horde. An ingenious flash of inspiration saved them as the mind mage set off a set of wards on a chest with telepathy, instead of blowing them up in their faces. None of the group blinked, since it wasn’t accompanied with copious amounts of finger waggling and pompous verbiage, so it wasn’t a valorous act – apparently.

The rest of the cave was a veritable indoor mountain range of gold, jewels, and magically charged objects. Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the glitter, his lust for treasure was quenched. He unloaded his bags filled with gems on Rogtilda three days later, and he felt strangely drained, and inexplicably dirty. He crossed to his wash stand on the wall of his quarters, and stared at his face in the rippled mirror.

His face was matted and dirty, his eyes bloodshot. A half remembered crust crept across his snout, and he threw a panicked hand to his face, wet washcloth in hand, to scrub the filth away.

His vision faded, and he pictured a box, roughly three palms in height, one and a half in width, made of a sturdy, solid paper substance, the lid of a separate piece. Its occupant in a supine supplicating state, arms outstretched in an optimistic infantile gesture of defense, trying to push the lid off and away from her terrified body, positive that if she could just open the lid, her momom would be there to take the hurt and fear away.

His mind’s eye glided out of his forehead to the bottom of the box, looking through the opening. The ship’s lantern light vanished, like someone blew out the flame of a candle. Above the box loomed a dark-skinned demon. Its long, wicked claws stroked the box, and its hellish rasping voice cooed mockingly to the poor innocent. Ja’Deir instantly felt glad that he was channeling the box, and not the child.

Ja’Deir took a deep breath, like someone coming up for air after swimming. His hand didn’t stop scrubbing, but it slowed as he retched into the basin and dove back into the vision.

Again, Ja’Deir’s mind’s eye glided from the top of his head to the box, but this time they rested six inches above the bottom of the box, to where the bloodied buttons rested atop the poor girl’s face. He heard a high-pitched scream, distant yet still close. It was almost inhuman in its intensity; a feral, airless scream from an age where the dark things still ruled the world, and man had to eke out their living scraping on rocks and conquering fire.

He felt the needle entering the button’s eyes, the thread pulling against its carved bone sides, and the blood welling up and splashing across the bottom of it. As the sewer’s gnarled fingers bobbed, attatching the buttons, the screaming got louder, and he realized that the screaming wasn’t the child’s, but it was his own. The blood crusted layer after layer, and the lid came down like a giant’s foot, crushing all in its path. Pudgy, blood- and snot-stained hands lifted to the top, and defied the oppressing coffin’s lid.

Ja’Deir’s chest started to burn, and his arms felt as heavy as a minotaur’s droppings wrapped in soaked wool sheets. He realized his body had stopped breathing, and hadn’t during the entire vision. His body couldn’t take in a breath, forced to imitate the terrorized screams of an impossibly confused little innocent girl. The world melted slowly into darkness, edges first. Just before the last vestiges of the waking world sank into eternal night his chest finally heaved a painfully ragged breath. His throat burned as he coughed air back into his lungs.

An urgent knocking of the door brought him out of his memory relapse, and pulled him back into reality. He looked at his dirty room, his dirt-and-piss-and-snot-stained body, and his vomit-filled wash basin. His hands started to shake anxiously, and for the next week he did not stop scrubbing everything in his room, making frequent trips topside to empty filth-filled basins and bring back salty-but-clean oceanwater.

He scrubbed his face so much during that time that his scar is permanently visible through a bald line.

He spent a peaceful and relaxing week before they reached Mishala in his sterile room, not touching anything, or letting anyone enter. For a heart-wrenching minute he was thankful that Bonnie had died, leaving his room orderly and unmussed. They reached the city off Mishala, where Ja’Deir joined CrIsis, and he felt that he’d come full circle.

The weeks through the Jungle crawled by, sloshing through rank marshes, clearing pathways through the dead, and camping in sour-smelling mud covered by slime. The only thing that prevented a descent into utter madness from the uncleanliness was regular prayers to Apis for protection and support. He prayed before every meal, and during every rest.

The slaughter through hordes of zombies, animated skeletons, mummies, and necromancers blurred together into a pain-blinded haze.

CrIsis rounded a corner, and came upon a pond of crystal-clear water. His need for cleanliness overrode every other desire, and he hacked his way through the monsters storming them from behind. Scared by the intensity of the Light’s Vengeance, the faceless Elvin Necromancer on the lake fled. Ja’Deir’s eyes didn’t leave the pool, even as he disarmed the chest full of glittering Dragon’s Coins.

He realized his subconscious foretold this. He was as a dog chasing a carriage. He had no idea what to do with it when he caught it, and realized that the carriage wasn’t his real goal. He still doesn’t know what truly drives him, but he knows that treasure won’t buy it for him.

>>Letter written in a cave on Grekar 12th, in the 3rd year of CrIsis. Events spanning several days in the Dragon’s Roost and the Yin Sloth Jungles. Entry by Ja’Deir, Ashada Mind Mage, disciple of Apis.<<

Pictures 1&2: Wikipedia
Picture 3: BBC
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Picture 6: Flickr
Picture 7: Gaitkeeper
Picture 8: Panoramio

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