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Chapter Three - Listening Without Ears
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Posted: Sun May 13, 2007 8:37 pm    Post subject:  

Once again, I return from the depths of...well, do you REALLY wanna know?

Chapter three - Listening without ears

Harold decided that if the demon could wait, it would. If a lax Key-Bearer was almost the cause of Earth's destruction last time, he would ensure it wouldn't happen again. "I'm sorry to say that the demon is not currently my top priority," Harold said with a bit more authority than he felt. "If a key has gone missing, then it is my duty to find it and reattach it to the keyring. Once that is accomplished, I will return to aid you against this demon as best as I can."

The elf maiden sighed. "I feared that. But you will come back?"

Harold nodded. "I promise. Now, this may seem rather silly, but how do I find a missing key?"

The maiden sighed again. "We know little of that. All that we could get from previous Key-Bearers was that it was like 'listening without ears.'"

Harold gripped onto his ears as though he were afraid someone would cut them off with a carving-knife. He then sighed and turned his attention back to the keyring, which glimmered slightly in the setting sun's light. He picked up the ring tentatively, and focused his mind upon it. He lost all awareness of the world around him, as his mind fell down into darkness...

Down...

Down...

Down...

Until finally, with a thumping noise, he found himself seated in a small room. A square table separated him from a seated, grizzled old man. There were hooks on the walls holding what looked to be keys. Thousands of hooks there must have been, each one holding a key.

Then the old man got his attention. "Boy! Look over here! That's right, look at me, thank you."

Harold obeyed, and the old man picked up a staff from the ground. "Now, you're a new fella, ain'tcha'?"

Harold nodded, not yet completely buying into this.

"You're not the same one that lost T'shang, are ya'?"

Harold shook his head, not knowing who or what T'shang was or how to even pronounce the word.

"And you're gonna do all you can to get 'im back, ain'tcha?"

Harold finally regained his speech. "Pardon me, but just who the hell are you?"

The old man rapped Harold with his staff. "Impudent boy, though you are right to ask me that. I am the first Key-Bearer, and I will live as this keyring for all eternity. For my crimes, I was punished to become the keyring and be passed from one Key-Bearer to another, always easing their passing and their looking after of the keys, but only to journey when they did, and not to have free will myself."

Harold rubbed his head, it felt like there would be a lump there later. "And just who or what is T'shang?"

"Oh, all the keys have names, boy! Their names are the names of their realms that they open. I always know when one is gone, because it suddenly vanishes off it's hook. See?"

The old man pointed a gnarled finger at one hook in particular. A small bit of ticker-tape above the hook did indeed say 'T'shang,' but the key for that hook was missing.

"I see...any idea where the key for T'shang is?"

The old man stroked his beard and hmmed. "Well, rightfully, I don't actually know. See, I'm not allowed to anymore. But, if you put your hand on that there hook, you'll find out which realm it's in, and which key you should use."

Harold looked around, having just then taken in the sheer amount of keys there were in this room. "How can all these keys be here...or even on the keyring for that matter?!"

"It's called 'magic,' boy, get used to it. The ones you're not using are put away 'till you need em. Now touch that hook."

Harold obediently touched the hook. Another key started to glow from across the room. "Ah, see, that's the one you need. Best get it off the hook, boy."

Harold let go of the hook, and the key stopped glowing. Before he got halfway across the room, he'd forgotten which one was glowing.

"Not like that, boy. Don't you know any magic? You'll have to get it off it's hook the moment it starts glowing, otherwise it'll hide again. Try it again, and see if you can do a better job this time."

Harold touched the hook and held his hand out to the newly-glowing key on the other side of the room. "How do I do it?"

"Will, boy! Will it to happen!"

Harold looked at the key again. Jump. Jump to my hand.

The key wiggled a bit. Harold tried again. Leap into my hand!

The key wiggled more violently. LEAP!

The key jumped across the room and...

Landed in front of Harold's shoes.

"Not bad for a first try, boy...so long as it was your first try, and I'm pretty sure it was."

Harold picked the key up and smiled. "Yeah...but how do I get out of here?"

"You fell down, you'll get pushed up. Happy trails, boy, and bring back T'shang!"

Before Harold could inquire further, he was pushed up by an invisible force. He went up...

Up...

Up...

Until he finally came to in his body. He looked around and noticed it was dusk, and, more importantly, there was a key in his hand, the one he had picked out in the keyring. Lucy and the elf woman were nowhere in sight. Harold shook his head to clear it, and a servant walked in, obviously prepared for this moment. "Ladies Lucy and Xandra send their congratulations at learning how to listen to the keyring. I have been told to lead you to your room now, the one Key-Bearers have used ever since they started coming here."

Harold got up a little woozily and stumbled a bit. "Thank you, but let me get my bearings before I walk anywhere."

Harold held onto the wall until the room stopped spinning, then turned back to the elf. "Thanks for waiting. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to lie down, I'm still a little groggy."

"This way, sir." The elf led Harold down a stairway and past a few doors until they came to one with a blue glowing rune etched on it.

"What's this rune mean?"

The elf turned to Harold. "All we know of the rune itself came from the First One. He said it would glow for as long as there was a Key-Bearer, and that to touch it if it glowed red."

Harold went inside and noticed a bathroom off to the side, a bedroom in another, a kitchen, a parlor room, a bedroom...basically, the furnishings for a small house. He found a door with another rune etched in it and opened it to find a blank wall staring back at him. "What's this door?"

The elf walked up next to him. "That is a door he installed to make the Key-Bearer's life much easier."

"Of course, I can't find out about it until now, can I?" Harold muttered to himself. "Thank you for helping me, I think I can manage now."

The elf bowed and quickly went outside Harold's rooms, shutting the door behind him. Harold turned towards the bed and noted briefly that it appeared to be a warm feather bed before landing on it and sinking into unconsciousness.

-----

Harold woke up to sunlight glaring on his eyelids. He groaned and noted that it appeared to be dawn if not somehow sooner. He wasn't sure how it could be sooner than dawn, but he intended to find out...or at least turn the sun down. He then noted the large tray near his bed set with what he could only assume to be breakfast dishes...and breakfast. Oh, was there breakfast. Pancakes with syrup were stacked over a foot high, while muffins filled plates bigger than his arms could span. Jugs of milk and orange juice were placed near bowls of strawberries and whipped cream. It was...the breakfast from heaven.

Shortly after gorging himself on the breakfast, Harold noted a rope near his bed. He cleaned himself up and pulled on it, hearing a bell echo far away. The same elf from last night showed up. "Yes?"

Harold gestured to the tray. "I'm done with breakfast. Who taught you how to make all that, anyways?"

"The last Bearer managed to educate us in your ways of cooking. Anything else?"

"Yes. Where are Lucy and...who was it...Xandra?"

"They are at the sparring grounds. The past three days have shown marked improvement in Lady Lucy's barehanded fighting skills."

"Three DAYS?! I was out for three DAYS?!"

"Yes, and it gave us all the time we needed to examine you and her, along with the articles you carried through the doorway. Your clothes seem to be impenetrable to most forms of magic, and your packs seem to be able to hold much more than their physical limitations would normally allow. Your books seem to react to thoughts, bringing up a wide variety of information pertaining to their subjects, though we can't understand it all. We did manage to get the 'history' book to relate to other people's and thing's history, though."

Harold sighed. "And I suppose my lunch shoots laser beams."

"No, your lunch is just food, and your binders and currency seems unchanged as well. Lady Lucy's bag of 'feminine products' may or may not have changed; we weren't allowed to look in it. Are you ready to proceed on your quest to retrieve the key?"

Harold nodded, and then stopped. "Wait...what about that demon? Has he been summoned yet?"

"No, the evil ones require two more days for the dark of the moon to complete their ritual. Shall I tell Lady Lucy to come up here?"

Harold nodded again, and the elf picked up the tray and left with it. Harold walked over to the door that went to nowhere and traced the rune with his right index finger. "What does that really mean, I wonder?" He muttered to himself.

Lucy came up a few minutes later holding both backpacks. "Harold! There you are. Can we please go home now?"

Harold prayed silently for Lucy's understanding. "I'm not sure we can just yet. You see, we still have to get that key back, otherwise who knows what may happen? And we have a demon to stop as well. After that...well, I'll try to get you home, you obviously don't want this for yourself."

Lucy surprised Harold by hugging him suddenly. "I know, silly! I was just testing you! And I'll help out as much as I can with your new job...for as long as you want me to."

Lucy pulled herself away and smoothed her clothes out. "Now, let's go get that key back!"

Harold nodded, his mind still hazy. He'd just been hugged by a girl! He shook himself briefly and stuck the key he needed into the doorway. He tapped the doorknob three times and opened it up to a new landscape.

It was black, dismal, and dreary in this new world. Twisted trees made some sort of forest, while noxious fumes emitted from a nearby marsh. Jagged mountains made the area all the more foreboding, and a tower loomed in the distance. Harold held up the keyring and concentrated. T'shang, wherever you may be, let out a flash to let me know!

From the tower's highest room there came a bright flash. Harold nodded to himself and turned to Lucy. "How do you propose we get to that tower?"

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Whew. That was certainly long! But it got the job done.
So. How O how do we get to the tower?
Any and all suggestions taken...you don't have to stick to the 'marsh' 'mountain' and 'forest' theme, there could be something entierly different that I missed! All the GOOD suggestions will make it to the poll. Then again, most of your suggestions are good anyways. So let's hear 'em!
F12
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Posted: Sun May 13, 2007 9:01 pm    Post subject:  

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Chinaren
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Posted: Sun May 13, 2007 9:23 pm    Post subject:  

I'm loving this little tale of yours IM! Definately going to nom it for SGotM next time round.

Anyway, there's bound to be a door in one of the large trees in the forest, so let's take a stroll through the woods! :D
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Mastermind
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Posted: Mon May 14, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject:  

Well, they could be lucky enough to stumble upon one of Argonaut's flying machines, which happens to fall apart when they're above the middle of the swamp... :grin:
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Crunchyfrog
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Posted: Wed May 16, 2007 1:48 pm    Post subject:  

A gondola, to get through the marsh. Or maybe they meet up with an inhabitant of the forboding environment, who can show them part of the way, or warn them of unseen perils that lay in their path. o-)
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Pattern
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Posted: Wed May 16, 2007 4:04 pm    Post subject:  

Ooo, neat story. I like it.

He could try to ask some inhabitants of the marsh as Crunchyfrog had said, and see what they shall say. Maybe there's a creature living in the tower he has to get past by outwitting him or something? :P
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Posted: Fri May 18, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject:  

Two more days, and then the poll shall be set loose once more.
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Crossfire
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Location: Somewhere between here and not-here, now and not-now... in the half-light, the borderlands, between.

Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 8:51 pm    Post subject:  

You have mentioned that Keybearer magic works at a 1:1 ratio of energy, but you have a nearly unlimited source. You have a few other options besides the ones cited above: Call into existence by concentrating very, very hard a propulsive powder that has the following properties:

1. It detonates instantly upon summoning.

2. Its power from the distance it is away from the Keybearer is always precisely equal to the amount required to propel the Keybearer inside of the window on the west side of the highest tower within his/her sight.

3. It counts as an inert substance to anything and anyone that is not the Keybearer.

4. It will not have a negative effect to the Keybearer or anyone within ten feet of the Keybearer.

Alternatively, you could simply concentrate on the tower window and teleport yourself there, or fly across the swamps to the top of the tower and go through the window. Assuming that there isn't a window (Why not have a window?), simply make yourself insubstantial for the duration.
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Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 9:08 pm    Post subject:  

For clarification purposes, yes, the tower is beyond the terrain.

Abandoned machines, I can see happening. Friendly locals...well, that's up to my sadistic mindset.

And Harold still has to get used to his magic. If he tried to summon something that defined and powerful, he'd most likely wear himself out. While the keys provide magic and energy, he's still the channel it flows through. He'd most likely burn himself out if he tried anything too complex, like insubstantial spells or telportation spells. And you failed to mention the invisibility spell, which he might be able to hold for a few seconds. However, 'magic' will be on the poll. If it wins, I foresee much trouble.

And on that note...

The poll has been mixed, poured, baked, and left on the windowsill to cool, so slice your pie of voting.
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