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Page history last edited by rsb 6 years, 7 months ago

The fire pit glowed red.  Golden flames rose and waved in the air.  It was a good fire - warming the ten elders around it, without blowing too much damn smoke in their faces.

The edlers sat on cylindrical sections of trees arranged around the fire as seating.  One ring of rocks seperated them from the flames, a larger ring marked the edge of the clearing. 

In the fading light of sunset, the path down the wooded hill could still be seen, but the house had faded from view, as the fire began to light the faces of those surrounding it.  Many years of familiarity and friendship brought out endearing smiles on their faces, which rarely faded in one anothers presence.

Robert, the Shaman of the group, had made it up the hill with effort, two oxygen bottles on his back, a staff supporting whichever knee was worse at the time.  Whispy gray hair framed the kind, round face of an ancient traveller.  The red glow of the fire playing upon him, it almost seemed Robert was the source of illumination in the clearing.

Robert spoke as a friend, with slow, kind, golden tones of completely calm assurance.

"It's good to see everyone in such fine spirits...Welcome everybody...I'm certainly glad you could all make it." 

 

Robert paused frequently, partly to breath deeply from an oxygen tube, and partly for effect. 

"Ten smiling friends by the fire...It was wonderful to see you all for Mayday last month...and I think I speak for all of us when I say I'm looking forward to our most ambitious annual trip yet...It seems like we've got it all planned out...To Alaska...Which took a while...And I think we have a very good price on the RVs, and I'm excited...This promises to be a very exciting trip...So...talk about whatever you like - trying to stop you never works anyway - but I would like each of you to express any questions or concerns you have about this years trip to Alaska...Brad, I'll pick on you first since you're closest."

-----

Brad, sitting to Roberts left, looked across Dan to his right to give his wife Danelle a quick look.  He scrubbed his beard with one large hand and said, "I'm a little concerned about the supply of gas."

"Yeah, Dan here has been supplying a little too much.", said Danelle.
"What *have* you been eating.", Natoma said to Dan.
"I noticed the fire was a little brighter on that side.", Leslie said.
"I've been eating her beans.  It's not me.  I've got a clear conscience.", Dan said, pointing at Leslie.

Brad chuckled with the others, then tried to bring his point back up.
"If we're lucky, we'll average 10 miles per gallon.  We might go with one less RV.", Brad said.

Sharon-Rose, opposite the fire from Brad, spoke up.  "I think we should go to Florida."

Nancy, on Sharon-Rose's left, cocked her head toward Sharon-Rose in bemused surprise, "Still?", she said.

"Well, this might be my last road trip, and if I'm going to be away from my grandkids...well, I think we should really see something new." 

Leslie, on Sharon-Rose's right, had been smiling but somewhat resigned so far, her head leaned on one hand.  At Sharon-Roses comment, she came to life, "I agree with Sharon-Rose.  I would love to consider Florida again.  Alaska is a very mystical place, but we can stop so many places if we go to Florida." 

Danelle lowered her head to her hands and had to laugh, "Are we here again?" she said.

Robert moved his staff to his left hand and raised his right, "Now...o.k. then...we had decided on Alaska...but if Sharon-Rose wants to talk about it...well, I don't see how we can change our plans at this hour...but we should each have our turn...so, lets each have a say...Just go around the circle...Sound reasonable?"

Dan raised his hand and spoke making a little circular gesture with the other hand, "If Brads done, I'm just going...", He looked at Brad to his left, "in clockwise order..."
"Sure.", Brad said.

Dan gestured as if offering his ideas with both hands.  "I was just thinking.  Florida doesn't have to be that much longer of a trip.  I mean...it might not be easy to convince Nancy, but, it's also a whole lot *warmer*."  Dan put special emphasis on the word warmer.  Dans ancestry was partly from an American Indian tribe in the southwest, and he looked the part, his long black hair drawn back with a silver clasp.  Tolerance for cold was not in his blood.

-----

Danelle, a blonde with a huge smile, to Dans right, laughed and raised her hand, "O.k. me next.  I'm just worried about mosquitos."
"Well, we should have plenty of those in either place.  Honestly, I'm still not hot on either of these choices.", Ginger said.
"You don't have to worry about mosquitos, as long as Natoma is around, they'll always eat him.  That's why I'm sure to bring him along on trips like this.", Leslie said.
"Natoma can walk point, then.", Dan said.

Natoma, to Danelles right, stopped rubbing the arthritis out of his hand and raised it, "As I'm the sacrificial lamb here.  I think I should have some last words.  You know, it's reasonable to bring Florida back to the discussion - we haven't *bought* anything specific to Alaska."


Leslie, to Natomas right, was leaning her head one hand again, and just flopped the other hand in the air. "I think I already went.  I know we can get good vegetarian food in Florida."

Sharon-Rose, a former school teacher, adjusted her glasses, raised her hand and said, "By my count, we're already 50% for Florida.  We should vote, and if we split it, we'll decide the old-fashioned way."

 

---------


Nancy, to Sharon-Roses left, dropped her forehead to one hand and raised the other.  "I can't believe we're still deciding this.  I can cook us vegetarian!" She chuckled.  Nancy was a renown chef.

Ginger, to Nancys left, raised her hand, "O.k. Florida it is."  Ginger was a matter-of-fact realist.  When it came time to make decisions, she was the first to volunteer.

Sharon, to Gingers left, raised her hand, "Now wait a minute.  I'm not sure we really have a plurality here.  Lets see the show of hands for Florida again?  And keep in mind we've already budgeted and scheduled time for Alaska."

Dan, Natoma, Leslie, Sharon-Rose, and Ginger raised their hands.  The Florida group.

Nancy gave the "What the hell?" expression to Dan, from directly across the fire.  Dan scrunched his shoulders and replied with his best "Well, I didn't know it was wrong?" expression.

Sharon looked over at her husband Robert.  Robert gave Sharon a very deadpan "Here we go again." expression.

"Lets take a moment of silence to reflect on this.", Robert closed his eyes, and for a few moments, all was silent.

------

Dan picked up something small but heavy from the ground by his feet.
"What you got there, Dan?", Brad said.
"An old rail spike, looks like.  Kinda strange that it found it's way up here from the rail line."
"Yeah, said Brad, leaning over to take a look.  Nice one, though."
"Yeah, it's got some heft."
Dan rolled it around in his hand and made a fist around the rusty old spike, wrapping his thumb over it's head. "You could do some damage with this thing."
"Well, that's why I brought my old buck knife here.  Don't try anything."  Brad chuckled as he put his hand on a buck knife on his side.
Dan laughed.

Sharon reached behind Robert and communicated non-verbally to him via back-scratch.

"Well, now, it seems we have a decision to make...", Robert said.  "And I think we pretty much know what side we stand on.  And Sharon-Rose has proposed that we solve this...the old-fashioned way."

Robert paused to look at Sharon-Rose to make sure that was clear.

Sharon-Rose nodded.

At that, everyone sat up a little straighter.  The smiles they had been wearing throughout the fireside chat now became wary glances.

"Well, O.k." Robert said, looking around the circle.  So everyone needs to relax a minute, and calm down, before we act on this challenge, wait until I say..."

Robert picked up his staff with both hands raised it above his head, and stabbed it violently into the dirt.  A clap of thunder and a blinding flash of light blew the hair back on all in the circle, stunning all but Robert and Sharon. 

"Fiiiiight!!!!", Robert yelled.

Sharon, with eyes closed, had stood up and was furiously making incantations, bringing to life the creatures of the forest.  From skies and the trees near and far - snakes, squirrels, and birds flew to the fire circle, growing in size and ferocity as they traveled - reaching human proportions.

The first squirrel to arrive attacked Brad from behind, clawing at his shoulders and calves and snapping at his neck.  Much larger and stronger than the average man, Brad was able to get both hands on the squirrels front right leg, and using all his weight, throw it over his shoulder and onto the fire.  The squirrels scream joined the shrieks of the rest of the incoming beasts as they descended on the group of ten elders.

As Brad drew his buck knife, it grew magically into a six-foot long two-handed sword.  "What the hell was that!", he cried, glaring at Sharon.

Roberts staff, now flaming, swatted at the first bird to arrive, a bluebird with a ten foot wingspan.  "You need to tell them...*who* to attack."

"Oops.  I knew I forgot something."  Sharon said.  She quickly began chanting again, while kicking at a giant garter snake.

Dan appeared at Brads side, stabbing him in-between the ribs with the rail spike.  "This is going to be too easy.", Dan said.

Brad swung his great sword at Dan, but where his head was, only a wisp of smoke caught the sweep of the great weapon.

Dan reappeared behind Brad, kicking the back of his right leg, and pushing him toward the fire.  Brad stumbled but caught himself, spinning only in time to see Dan dissapear on him again, and a squirrel of gigantic proportions leaping toward him through the dark forest sky where Dan had been.  Brad raised the great sword and sliced through the beast, it's insides flying in all directions, but particularly onto the then invisible monk, Dan, turning him into a foul apparition of intestines and blood.  Some part of this mess had made it into Dans eyes and knocked his glasses off.

A pair of giant hummingbirds had just lifted off with Danelle, who had produced a ukulele with which to fight them off.  "Wrong team!" Danelle screamed.

Nancy, who had produced a flaming bow and quiver, was furiously keeping the local wildlife at bay, firing with a rapidity that shocked animal and man alike.  "Alaskaaaa!!!!" she cried.

Sharon stopped her incantation and shouted, "I think I fixed it!", just as a flaming arrow struck her in the shoulder.

"Oh, sorry, Sharon.", Nancy said, putting a hand to her mouth.  "I should have taken that blood pressure medication."

The hummingbirds, now changing targets, unceremoniously dropped the Bard, Danelle, into the woods, and uneasily approached the guts-covered Dan, a creature of random movement and slippery hide.

Ginger had almost completely transformed into a boulder.

Natoma, dressed in black, had dissappeared and reappeared behind Robert, who was taking a breathing pause from his incantation.  Without notice, Natoma removed Roberts staff from his hand, replacing it with a small, leafy tree branch. 

Leslie had then completed her incantations, reanimating many once-dead giant squirrels and birds, just as four flaming arrows thumped into her, knocking her down.  Squirrels and birds in various states of undead disrepair moaned to life, eyes rolled back, and slowly attacked the Alaska group.

"Florida!" shouted Sharon-Rose with a flourish of her hands, and there were suddenly three of Sharon-Rose with her hands in the air.  There were also three of each of the rest of the Florida group, including Leslie, who appeared to be laying dead everywhere, flaming arrows sticking straight up, causing undead animals to re-route themselves confusingly.

Natoma looked up in surprise.  A moment before he was about to pilfer Danelles ukulele.  Natoma now appeard in front of her and to her side as well.  Danelle smashed her ukulele into the face of surprise that was directly behind her and which had it's hands nearly upon the ukuele.  Three of Natoma fell backward.

Three of Sharon-Rose charged Nancy.  Arrows flew right through one of her while the real Sharon-Rose gently kicked Nancys knee.  "Auugghh!", Nancy cried, dropping her bow.  "Bad knees are a bitch, aren't they.", Sharon-Rose gloated, and then knocked Nancy out with her cane.

Ginger, who had transformed into a Ginger-sized Boulder, now began to stir.  Arms and legs of rock shuddered and grew, throwing off dirt and stones.  A ten-foot stone golem uncurled itself and raised it's arms to the sky with a roar that shook the creatures in the fire circle.

The hummingbirds, not the brightest birds to begin with, and now completely confused by the three of Dan, attacked the nearest shrubbery, clawing and pecking at it viciously.

Sharon had laboriously completed her second incantation when the golem swung at her and connected, knocking her downhill and away from the house, toward the maypole.  The golem smashed through the woods after her.

"Shazam!" Robert shouted, raising the leafy branch to the air. "God dammit!  Thief!!" Robert threw the branch down, dodged an undead headless squirrel, and grabbed a small lit log that stuck out from the fire. 

"You want to play like that, fine."  He cranked his oxegyn bottle to full, ripped his tube out, and with one hand on the bottle, the other hand holding the flaming stick, fired his improvised flamethrower at the undead monsters, the Florida-loving elders, and everything else in his sight.

Danelle hid behind a log, escaping immolation, while singing a ditty about great strength and enchanted maypoles for Sharon, who ripped the twenty-foot-high maypole out of the ground just before the Stone Golem was upon her. 

Danelles song reached a creschendo as Sharon thrust the maypole into the charging golems stomach and out the other side, it's colorful ribbons flowing as the golem roared in pain and fell backwards. 

As the golem got back up, Danelle switched tunes to a song about being fleet of foot, and Sharon ran back to the fire circle - angry, impaled golem in tow. 

Danelle, on their approach, scrambled over the log she was hiding behind and was hit by the tail end of Roberts oxegyn supply, a last blast of flame lighting her ukulele and clothing on fire, sending her rolling to the ground to put herself out.

Nearly weaponless, Robert, flaming stick in hand, and Brad, fought back to back.  Sharon-Rose and Natoma, only badly burned, stabbed at them with cane and knife.  Brad had thrown his back out with that two-handed sword, which lay against the ground, but was effectively slap-fighting the badly burned Natoma, when Sharon and the colorful, impaled golem came crashing through the fire circle, scattering humming birds and flaming undead animals in their wake.

Danelle, sans ukulele, searched for a weapon.  A shiny axe presented itself next to the woodpile.  No, she thought.  No axes.  Wait...her purse.

The golem clobbered Sharon with a fist as she stopped to incant and Sharon collapsed in a heap.  Now straddling the fire, the golem shouted "Fraaaghridaaaahh!" and beat it's chest.  Danelle appeared before it, holding a tiny vial to it's face.  As the golem strained to focus on the tiny creature and it's weapon, a spray of capsicum shot out into it's eyes.

"Can't handle spice, can you, Ginger!  Eyes aren't so good these days, are they, Ginger!", Danelle yelled as she continued to spray.

Sharon-Rose disengaged with Robert long enough to clock Danelle with her cane in a double-handed swing, knocking her down.  "Hahahaha!!", she said.

Robert, seizing the moment, took his second oxegyn bottle from his bag, cranked the valve, and threw it into the fire pit, below the golem.  "I'll teach you youngsters to play dirty!", he said.

With Robert no longer supporting his back, Brad fell down and Natoma hefted a heavy, sizzling undead bluebird on top of him with a splat.  "Ooooh, damn!" Natoma said, and grabbed his back, which had also given out with the strain of that effort. 

Sizzling feathers and blood squirted into the air as the flailing rock golem knocked Natoma onto the Brad-bird-guts-pile.

Robert, knees no longer able to support him, dropped to the ground and crawled behind the Brad-bird-Natoma-guts-pile, just as the entire fire pit exploded in a fifty foot wide fireball, engulfing all combatants in thousand-degree flames, golem-schrapnel, and firey colorful ribbon.


-------

"Well...I think we've all had some input...", Robert said, in his slow, calm manner, noticing and wiping some sticky black squirrel fur from his chest.  "And hopefully we've gotten some of that bad JuJu out of our systems now...because I'm almost out of scrolls of resurrection, at last count...I don't think anyone is really interested in...settling another disagreement...right now?..."

Moans of concurrence came from the group of elders, arrayed about the fire pit, propped against logs and boulders.  The sun was rising.

"Well...Leslie is more or less healed...and she's going to come around and finish healing everyone else, but...while she does that...I guess I'm going to say...as the last one standing...well...sitting...that everyone had excellent input last night...and it's easy to see the strengths of both sides of that discussion..."

Moans and slight nods of approval came from the charred group.

"So...I've decided to make the final call...and we're going to Portland...where we can catch a cruise ship...to Mexico...which is warm...and where we know we can get food we like...and no one has to worry about the cost of gas or breaking a hip...getting in and out of those dang RVs..."

Moans of resignation resounded through the clearing.

"Well...it's good to see everyone in such fine spirits..."

 

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