The Little Lost Corker Island - By Rosy Rivitir 

   I should begin by telling you about our spaceship, the All-Vehicle Rivitir. Created by our clan of elves, the Rivitirs, in the wilderness of Elvenstead, it is an all vehicle in every way, meaning it can go anywhere and it has the magical ability to reconfigure itself into any shape to suit the occasion. It's super fast having a Hypergosh Engine with an Ogolly Overdrive and the famous Bradco Artgrav A100 Stabilizer so we don't feel any of the tremendous pressures of its amazing speed and maneuverability while always having gravity, no matter what. Plus we got two new Bradco Boombat batteries, that just keep on ticking long after the others have stopped, for back-up power like when Father Sun is off the grid, so to speak. It's a swell spaceship and we love her.

   We are me, Captain Rosy; Rover, our navigator; Brak, our pilot and Jant our radio and radar specialist. Brak and Jant, brother and sister, are professional heroes who took their training at the Heroes Я Us Collective in Elvenstead. We have an 11:11BS service bot to take care of us called Ellim. The BS stands for ballistic sensory meaning he can read minds so that we have whatever we want or need before we even know that we want or need it. We travel with a magic wand named Zingellawabix who is older than the solar system and we have a brilliant automatic pilot named Clarabelle who takes over when Brak is busy or just taking a break.   

   The AV Rivitir has traveled through many environs and dimensions, even to outer space, but the traveling I like best is the easy meandering along the Great Yudonke River on the alternate earth, Yudonke. The part we're on now is a lake so big it ought to be called an ocean, except its got one input on one end and one output on the other, both being the Great Yudonke River so that technically it is a river. But the locals have agreed that it is more than a river and are okay with calling it a lake. Never an ocean because everyone knows that Yudonke has no oceans. Common knowledge. But lake, well, okay.

   Lake Bigwata is what its called and it's huge, taking a month at least to cross. Way out in the middle are a string of six islands called the Little Lost Corkers, which are not little or lost or cork. They are islands though. The largest is East Cork, then Fobble, which is where Wataspot, the Corker's premier city and capital is located.

   We are again headed to the Little Lost Corker Islands and Wataspot because we've heard wonderful things about it, but I don't recall what all. Good things. Rover says they grow coconuts and pineapples there, on large estates, and that Wataspot's beaches are the best in the universe.  So that's good. Rover, being the navigator would know all about this stuff.

   It has been our intention to visit these Little Lost Corkers Islands, which are, apparently, a tropical paradise, for a good long while now, yet somehow we always seem to get waylaid, distracted or pulled aside. We tend to end up in places where we're needed for something or other so that's okay I guess, but still it's been our goal for a good long while. I hope we make it this time.

   Brak set Clarabelle, our automatic pilot, a course and left her to it while we all lounged on the spacious deck, enjoying the salt air and sipping iced teas that Ellim brought us. It is a beautiful day for sailing, balmy conditions as we are near the equator, and there's a joyful, good to be alive feeling in the air. I know there have been terrible storms in these waters and we keep a watchful eye but in fact, this moment is perfect.     

   Rover tells us we are still four days from the islands but, with our idyllic situation, we were unconcerned. I wanted to do some reading and grabbed a book from the top of my stack, Brak was either watching videos or working on his tan with his sister Jant on the deck with me. I stayed under an umbrella, of course, having no desire to become tanned. Rover was roaming about doing this or that or stretched out on a deck chair, unconcerned with tanning or burning, just enjoying the heat of Father Sun.


   The next morning as dawn's golden rays caressed us we awoke to another fine day on the glorious Bigwata. I was napping lightly after breakfast when Rover came to wake me.

   "Captain!" he yelled from a meter away. "Captain, wake up! You needa see this," now speaking loudly in my face. I was groggy and at first thought I was dreaming. Now he was shaking me, "Captain! Wake up!"

   "Huh?" I said, completely disoriented.

   "Captain, you gotta come see this!" 

   I looked around and it all came back to me. I stood, shakily, and followed Rover to where the others were at the rail looking into the distance at a very dark mass of clouds moving our way. Ellim was already packing the tables and chairs away. You could see lightning flashes below the clouds in what was, even from here, discernible as heavy rain. I was shocked at how quickly it was moving.

   "Brak!" I yelled, although it was calm and sunny here. The sudden drop in barometric pressure had me giddy I think. "Brak, we needa get the sails down and the mast folded and secured pronto. Rover, help him with that would ya? Jant," I called into the Rivitir, "how's the radar look?"

   "It's a big one Captain, and it's coming fast," she yelled from inside. I watched the storm with concern even though we'd always be safe no matter what, being in an All-Vehicle like the Rivitir.

   "The mast is secure Captain," Brak reported.

   "Good job!" I answered. "Put Clarabelle to keeping us pointed into the waves and let's get inside to enjoy this storm!"

   "Aye-aye Captain," he replied, ducking inside with Rover right behind. Taking a quick glance at the approaching storm, now ominous and looming, I followed.

   Already it was windy and the Rivitir rocked back and forth. We all sat in the front by the big window and belted ourselves in. Ellim, who was nearly impossible to topple, brought us drinks in sippy cups that fit snugly in special holders attached to our chairs. He also brought popcorn and other light snacks as we sat transfixed, watching the approaching storm. As Jant said, it was a big one and we were soon engulfed by it. Waves three times higher than the Rivitir's length came at us from several different directions at once, but Clarabelle, using her uncanny abilities and other advanced features, easily rode us through. The storm was a genuine thrill, lasting three whole days, with nearly constant lightning, howling winds and a torrential, unrelenting downpour that thrilled us, each and every one, even while we slept. It also put us millions of kilometers off course.   

   When we had calm again Rover looked at me curiously. "We're in uncharted water," he reported.

   "Huh?" I answered. "What do you mean, uncharted?"

   "Our current coordinates are not on the map, Captain. It just says, uncharted. Apparently no one's ever been here before."

   "Wait, how is that possible?"

   "Everyone keeps to the primary lanes, from the Great Yudonke straight across to the Little Lost Corkers then straight on to the Great Yudonke again and on you go. Usually."

   "No one's ever gotten blown off course before?" I asked, amazed at what I was hearing.

   "Not to my knowledge and certainly never this far, Ma'am," Rover said, scowling at the map.

   "This is unexplored water?" I was having trouble with the concept. 

   "Yes, Ma'am, looks like it. But if we keep going west we should come to the lake shore and we can follow that down and back to the Yudonke."

   "Okay then, let's do it," I commanded, using my Captain's voice. Everyone jumped to comply.


   We were soon sailing westward, again under beautiful weather. After three days we came to an island. I could tell even before we landed it wasn't a Corker. A ne'er-do-well named Gilligan greeted us and took us to see his Captain, called Skipper. There was a movie star, a millionaire, his wife, a professor and a fair maiden on the island, all waiting to be rescued. They were shipwrecked or something. The whole thing sounded pretty implausible to me and I could see the others nodding and saying uh-huh, pretending they believed it, but I perked up when they said they'd been on a three hour tour. This cheered me up because that meant that the mainland wasn't too far away. We left the next morning after wishing them the best of luck. We offered to carry them to the mainland but they declined, saying their contract wasn't up yet, whatever that meant.

   When we got to the mainland we headed south until we got to the Great Yudonke River, then continued our voyage down stream, which meant, of course that we would again miss the Little Lost Corkers. I shrugged despondently. "Maybe next time," I muttered but the others seemed unconcerned.


The Hexlexl Quest - By Rosy 

     There are times when the Great Yudonke River meanders and there are times when it goes in a straight line. It is the meandering course where we land this time, since Rover allows lady luck to choose our landing sights. It is particularly beautiful, lined with trees and meadows and hillocks, while the river is deep and gentle, following its back and forth meander. 

   The Rivitir is configured as a two deck paddle-wheeler, one of our favorite configurations while on the Yudonke. She goes easily in the current as Brak holds the wheel, Jant is watching radars and sonar stuff. I'm Capt. Rosy and as Captain I feel an immense comfort in cruising the Yudonke with my loyal crew. Steddy is our bot crew member and he doesn't have a specific job except to learn everyone's job as a back-up in case anything happens to anybody. Ellim, our service bot keeps us supplied with beverages and anything else that we might need, before we even know ourselves as a rule. This is a tight ship and I am right to be proud. I resist the urge to stand heroically on the prow, head held high with my raised arm holding a sword and pointing the way.

   "Thank heavens for that," Rover commented from the floor where he was looking at the maps he'd unrolled there.

   "Huh?" I said, looking at Rover with wide eyes. "What'd you say?"

   "What?" he replied, looking up at me. I was silent, unsure how to proceed. I think he'd read my mind but as usual I'm not really sure. He shrugged. "Anyway, take a look at this map." He pointed to the map in front of him. It was a map showing the section of the Yudonke that we were on, the meandering, aimless section. "See that bend there?" He pointed to a particular spot. "That's where the zombie god Hexlexl is said to have a branch office."

   I peered at the map. "Why does a god have a branch office?" I asked.

   "Oh, they all do it. Can't be everywhere at once you know."

   I nodded.

   "Well," he continued, "this might be worth checking out. They say he's influencing the vote on the Dinosaur Planet's new name." 

    "Where'd you hear that?"

   "Tonker. You remember Tonker, don't ya?"

   "Yes, heck yes, that young pteranodon fellow. He was with us for awhile."

   "That's right. Well he's some sort of a leader there now and well, we sorta stayed in touch."

   "How'd you do that?" I asked. The Dinosaur Planet was in another dimension and it was quite tricky communicating between dimensions.

   "Jant's come up with a phone that'll communicate with the Dinosaur Planet." He looked modest, "I showed her how to get through, of course, then she put in the system, the wiring, so to speak."

   "Wow, that's impressive," I said, genuinely impressed. Rover, our navigator, has managed to make interdimensional travel easy. For us at least. Thing is, we're not sure how he does it and given the number of times we've landed in places that we had no intention of going to, I don't think he does either. He knows enough to manage but there's still a lot of mystery. The only other interdimensional travel going on right now is through Bradco's Interdimensional Travel Pods (ITP).

   "So you've been talking to Tonker?"

   "Yeah. He wants us to meet him here." He pointed to a spot upstream to Hexlexl's place.

   "What for?"

   "Because we're now part of the Hexlexl Quest."

   "Oh." I don't know how I felt about that. Seems like the Captain should have some say in policy. Then again, the Hexlexl Quest does sound rather exciting. We've never come up against a zombie before, although Rover says he's not really a zombie, just one of those near-death experience people. It seems to have changed him profoundly though; into a god for one but also into one who lusts for power. A power hungry god. This did not sound good. 

   We met Tonker and Philban at the prearranged spot. They'd come in on a Bradco ITP, which is sort of scary since you have to go into a pod where they close the door behind you then you hear some buzzing and the clanking of massive engines until slowly the door in front of you opens and you wheel, or walk or whatever out into a different dimension. I thought they looked a bit frazzled but ready to go. We boarded the Rivitir and made our way downstream, moving slowly past the Hexlexl compound which we studied carefully, somewhat discreetly. We gaped but tried to hide it.

   The compound was a large fortress made of rough hewn rock. A giant arch in the center appeared to be the way in. All the windows were six sided and closed. There were six sided shields above the arch with a symbol like this: Ѝ on them.

   "Dang, that place looked scary," Tonker said when we were safely past the fortress.

   "I'll say," Rover agreed.

   "I couldn't see any entrances except the front door," I said, "probably some around back, but in any case I think we should just arrive as tourists, you know, out in the open, just seeing the sights and spotted this lovely castle."

   "Yeah, I think so too," Tonker said, "but should we all go?"

   We did have a large party; three elves, a dog, two pteranodons, and a robot.

   "Hmmm, I see what you mean," I said, nodding. "If things got ugly we'd want some reserves standing by."

   "Yeah, that makes sense," Rover agreed, "except I sort of think a large group would have more opportunity to poke around."

   "Keep them preoccupied with a large group," I said, pondering. "Well, how about this, we leave Brak and Jant here while the rest of us go and confront this god?"

   "A pilot and a radar specialist back up. Yeah, let's do this," Tonker said with a confidant smile.

   Ten minutes later our group, consisting of Rover, Tonker, Philban, Steddy and myself left the Rivitir, leaving Brak and Jant at the helm, and began walking upstream to the fortress. It was about a twenty minute walk and we used the time to examine every aspect of our surroundings as much as we could. All we knew about Hexlexl is that they are behind the Klaxenglot name rebellion, which is how I came to think of it. A rebellion to render the voters of the Dinosaur Planet irrelevant and force a name that an apparently renegade god has chosen instead.

   The walk along the great Yudonke River was relatively easy. Small water-rounded stones and gravel mostly, only getting muddy down by the water. The river here is narrow, just about a kilometer across, and quite deep. Inland is forest, mostly large deciduous trees with a fairly open floor. Seemed very pleasant. As we neared the fortress I saw a couple ogres and a troll in the forest but they quickly hid. With Rover leading the way we marched boldly up to the front door where Rover pounded out some of his 'THIS IS THE POLICE! OPEN UP!' knocks. Loud and authoritative.   

   Inside an irate voice screamed, "What the hale?" We looked at each other with round eyes. Then there was a rhythmic dragging sound until finally the door creaked open. There appeared a small ogre with an angry demeanor. "What's going on out here?" he screamed. "Who's making all the racket?" We all stepped back in fright. Ogre's are especially scary to us because they come from human stock, like the Grimn-Leapers. He was brandishing a shiny sword that he waved back and forth as he spoke. "Speak up! Or I'll slice you all into a thousand pieces!"

   We saw no reason to doubt him so I stepped up and told our story.

   "Sorry!" I began. "We didn't mean to cause a ruckus, it's just that, well, we're tourists seeing the Great Yudonke River, innocent tourists that mean no harm." I sort of regretted Rover's resounding knocks now. The ogre continued to glare at me. "We uh, we saw your castle here and thought wow, it'd be great to see that, you know?" He continued to glare but he lowered his sword part way.

   Suddenly he spoke in a slow, ultra-bass voice, "Wud yu wont?" I'm sure I felt a vibration in the ground with each word he spoke.

   "We're just sight-seeing," I responded, trying to use my Captain Voice, stalwart and strong. "you know, seeing the sights and, well this castle here is quite a sight . . ." I stopped as the horrid creature had turned and walked away, disappearing into the castle's dark interior. Curiously, he left the giant wooden door open.

   "Well, that looks like an invitation to me," I said, trying to sound chipper.

   "It does?" Philban asked.

   "We want to get in there right?" I pointed out. "And here's an open door with no one blocking it." I gave Rover a slight nudge. I could hear him growling low like he does when he's upset but he began walking into the dark castle. We followed. As we walked we got lighter and lighter until we were floating. We could move by pulling ourselves along on rings that were mounted on the wall in regular intervals which we did, and eventually arrived at what for all the world looked like the control center of a large spaceship. We floated slack-jawed and stupid as the Captain's chair slowly swiveled around toward us. There, grinning wide, sat Brad Puffup, CEO of Bradco Inc and arch-criminal.

   "Well, well, well," he said, "here's my old pal Rover. And aren't you Capt. Rosy? You've brought a lively bunch Rover. What's going on?"

   "That's what we want to know," Rover growled, "and we were never friends, Brad."

   "Oh Rover. That makes me so sad. But I still don't get what you're looking for."

   Tonker stepped forward. "Klaxenglot," was all he said, in a loud, stentorian voice.     

   Brad looked at him with pleasant surprise. "Klaxenglot? Your planet's new name, is it not, pteranodon?"

   "No it is not," Tonker replied.

   "The magnons liked it," Brad told him with a sneer.

   "The magnons comprise less than one tenth of the planet's population," Steddy said forcefully. "They don't get to choose the name without the other inhabitants agreeing, and we don't!"

   "You all voted for it, bot."

   "Mesmerized Puffup, no one meant to vote for it. We hadn't even heard of it before," Rover barked.

   "Hmm? How could anyone do that?" he asked in mocking tones.

   "That's why we're looking for Hexlexl," I put in.

   "Ah, Captain. So you seek a god?"

    "Whatever he calls himself, Puffup, we are looking for him," I answered.

   He sighed. "Well this is a branch of his church so I can see why you came, but," he paused, "unfortunately he's not here."

   "Where's he at?" Tonker demanded.

   "What's your name, bird?" Brad asked with a scowl.

   "I'm Tonker. Now where's Hexlexl?"

   "Gee, you're in a foul mood, Tonker," Brad replied, with a deeper scowl.

   "We're all in foul moods, Puffup!" Rover growled.

   Brad paused, seeming to speculate. "So, you want Hexlexl do you?" He smiled a sly smile. "Well, let's see what we can do." He picked up a wooden mallet of some sort and swung it around at a small round bronze-colored bell that was in a harness by his chair. It was connected top and bottom so it wouldn't just float away but it could still ring as we quickly found out. Brad gave it a strong wallop and a monstrously loud ringing ensued. Brad smiled at our discomfort as we covered our ears, helpless to move away. Then there were lightning flashes from a cloud that had suddenly appeared and a strange creature emerged. It walked stiffly and its eyes were glowing red.

   "Who dares awaken me?" it said in deadly tones. I looked over and wasn't surprised to see that Brad was gone. This new creature was scary.       

   "Who are you?" Rover asked.

   "Step back, that you aren't blinded by my magnificence," the creature said in rather haughty tones. "For I am the great god Hexlexl of the zombies." Now he was glowing, sort of an orange glow that somehow conveyed great menace. He looked at me. "So, what do you want?"

   Tonker spoke up. "We want no more mesmerizing of anyone on the Dinosaur Planet when next we go to vote." Hexlexl turned his baleful gaze to Tonker.

   "Klaxenglot?" Rover added. Where'd you get that?"

   The god's eyes went round, then he seemed to grow in size until he was the tallest in the control room.

   "You dare question this holy name?" Hexlexl shrieked.

   "Just wondered where it came from is all," Rover answered in a calm voice.

   Hexlexl started spinning and shrieking incoherently, then he started to emit smoke until a greenish cloud enveloped him. The cloud slowly dissipated revealing the ogre who had answered the door.

   "It's what Mama wants," the ogre said in a gravelly voice.

   "Who're you?" Rover barked.

   "Hexlexl. I thought you knew."

   "So who was that last guy?" Rover asked.

   "I am a god, dog . . . I have many forms," Hexlexl snarled.

   "Okay, so who's mama?" I asked.

   He looked at me with solemn yet disbelieving eyes. "Mama is the supreme mother of all. She is the ground, she is the sky, she is the very air we breath. Mama is Klaxenglot."   

   "Gosh. Are you talking about the planet itself?"

   "Yes, Mama whose holy name is Klaxenglot, she is the very planet I'm standing on." He paused. "She chose me because her name was left out of the vote and I, well, I can er, influence people."

   "You can mesmerize everyone on a planet? All of a planet's people?" I asked incredulously.

   "Ma'am, I am a god. This is getting tiring."

   "You talk to her? You talk to Mama?" Tonker asked.

   "Yes, of course. All the gods do, it's sort of our special thing."

   "I see, so what if we held another vote that included Klaxenglot, and all of her information was disseminated like we did for the other names."

   He paused with his eyes shut. Then the green mist around him began to thicken. Just as he was about to disappear into the cloud, he spoke, "Mama says yes." Then he was gone. I was pretty sure that meeting had been a materialization that had been projected from the Dinosaur Planet to us here on Yudonke because he mentioned 'this planet I'm standing on' when talking about Klaxenglot, like that's where he was actually at, which I think he was. Also that's where a god like Hexlexl would have to stay, close to the source, close to Mama, close to Klaxenglot.

   We floated for awhile. We knew we should return immediately to the Rivitir and back to Pteran to establish a new vote, yet we lingered.

   "I've never seen a dashboard like that before," Rover said. "Too bad Brak's not here. He might understand it. How about you Captain?

   "No, I've never seen anything like it," I answered.

   "Nor could you, this is a Bradco original," Brad said as he glided into the room. "This is the all new and ultra advanced Bradco Hyper-All-Vehicle 111 Damfaster." He was quite proud.

   We were all gaping at this point. "You made a Hyper-All-Vehicle?" I asked, shocked and dismayed, for this was the next step in All-Vehicle evolution, the Hyper-All-Vehicle or HAV. I was excited and wanted to know more, but with a wave of his hand he dismissed us. "Out you go now. You got to meet with Hexlexl, a rare privilege, and I believe this meeting has solved a lot of your problem's, yeah? Now, if you'll excuse me I have work to do." An ogre appeared to escort us out, the same ogre, I think, that originally greeted us. I wondered if this was Hexlexl in butler form?

   "No," the ogre said to no one and maybe to everyone when we reached the door. He was silent as we bid him adieu and returned to the Rivitir. It was good to have gravity again. Brak and Jant were really happy to see us. We told them everything as Brak reconfigured the Rivitir into a flying saucer which we then used to take Tonker and Philban back to the Dinosaur Planet. We're going to stay for the next vote, as we're all very curious to see if Hexlexl kept his word or not.

   I am also concerned about Bradco's new HAV. There was sort of a competition between Grandma Hortense and Brad Puffup and we were rooting for Grandma since Brad was a CEO and arch-criminal.

   A few days later a new vote was announced with the names submitted being Holler, Niceplace, Greenwater and Klaxenglot. After learning the details about Mama a lot of people voted for her name, more than we expected and Klaxenglot again won the vote. It appeared to be totally honest this time with Pterans generally going for Greenwater, T-Rexes pretty reliably with Niceplace, and sasquatches with Holler while the magnons, along with all the various members of each nation who felt the planet ought to be able to name herself, were solidly behind Klaxenglot, enough in fact that Klaxenglot was again the winner.

   Philban was depressed. "I think we should have stuck with Pteranodonia," he wailed. Tonker nodded and smiled, staying silent, for he had voted for Klaxenglot too.

Klaxenglot - By Rosy 

   She sat looking north from her tower. Her husband had created a small forest on her building's top, where her tower sits, so she couldn't be sure if he was down there. He's very good at mimicking humans, styling his beard and combing his hair like he does, so he could be out gadding about. Liking the rhyme she began to hum, 'he's gone out, gadding about,' and returned to her word machine.

   She'd been thinking about the Dinosaur Planet and about how it really doesn't have a name, just a description. Like earth would be Elf Planet by that method. Pretty sure. Anyway the dinosaur planet required a proper name. It was such a beautiful place, after all, and Tonker loved the view from his perch in the early mornings.

   He saw the river through the morning mist, magical and haunting in its forest meander. Some fish for breakfast would be nice, he thought as he stretched lazily in his nest. Tendril, his wife, was still asleep as was little Ergrot, his young son, as Father Sun has just now shown his face. They will be up soon, though, and he stretched again.

   There was a fluttering and his neighbor Philban landed nearby.

   "Morning, Tonker," he said joyfully. "Lovely day, eh?"

   "Yes, lovely Philban, but the missus and kid are still asleep."

   Philban lowered his voice. "Sorry. So, uh you going to the big kerfuffle down in lower meadow?"

   "Dunno, what's cookin'?"

   "Our name, Tonker, our name, that's what's cooking."

   "Honey, who you talking to?" Tendril asked from inside the nest. He could hear Ergrot's voice but not what he said.

   "It's Philban. He's wondering if we're going to the naming thing today."

   "Oh. I dunno, you decide."   

   "It's a pretty big deal, naming the planet," Philban put in.

   "Yeah, I heard the Sasquatch's got it all sewed up," Tonker replied.

   "You heard wrong," Philban told him. "In fact they's gonna try and get a name candidate from every species that wants to put one up."

   Tonker looked dreamy-eyed. "What would you call our planet, Philban?"

   "Why, I'd call it Pteranodonia!"

   Tonker smiled warmly at his friend. "Yes, I suppose you would. But what of the Sasquatches? This is their planet as well."

   "Hmm, well you know they have all those portals to the human world, right? Why don't they, I mean they could, with the portals and all, well, why don't they all just go there?"

   "And leave Pteranodonia?" Tonker smiled at his friend's confusion. "This is their home. No, Philban, we need a name to suit everyone. There's also the T-Rexes, the fishes and those curious apes, the Magnons. The name needs to include all of these and everything else that is our planet." 

   "Wow," Philban muttered. "What name could hold all that?"

   "It's the name we need."

   Meanwhile, Tyle, the head Sasquatch, was calling his naming contingent together. Curiously Tyle is also her husband's name, but that, of course, is in another world. So far Tyle had Jobob, the hillbilly Sasquatch, Fleetfoot, the mountain man Sasquatch, Melvin, the Mothman Sasquatch and Figgura Ta, the delusional Sasquatch since he was actually a faerie. Now there's a story, but maybe for later. Used to be a lawyer, you know. Worked for the notorious Mad Doctor Snarkey, in fact, along with Sassy Fat before she became the Queen of Police over in Elvenstead. Anyway Figgura Ta, was the fourth Sasquatch that Tyle had called upon to provide the name they'd submit at the today's naming convention.

   "Okay, guys," Tyle started, "today's the day. Today's the day we submit the name that most perfectly represents our planet, heretofore known as the Dinosaur Planet."

   Figgura Ta started clapping and the others uncertainly joined in. Tyle raised is hand to stop them. "So, good then, you're rarin' to go! What name we given 'em?" 

   Figgura Ta stepped back and Jobob was left in front. "Oh! Well, uh, I was thinkin' that perhaps we could just call it Sasquatch!"

   "Take a flight to Sasquatch!" Figgura Ta yelped with a laugh.

   "And what would you call it, Figgura Ta?" Tyle asked.

   "Me?" He looked around to be sure, then looked back at Tyle. "Well, I suppose I'd probably call it Haven. You know, close to heaven as well as being a swell place to hide out." His eyes went round. "Not that I have anything to hide from, I mean we don't, we all of us don't have to hide at all, but it just sort seems cozy and nice, you know, being out of sight." He looked blank, his lawyer mind at work. Tyle often wondered why Figgura Ta was here in Sasquatch country but quit questioning when Figgura Ta became a respected member of the community. Not for me to know, I guess, he thought with a shrug. 

   "Okay, Haven. Sounds good Figgura Ta, thanks! Anyone else? Melvin?"

   "Yessir," Melvin stood. In some sort of way he did resemble a moth but if he shifted, he'd be something else, something . . . ? He cleared his throat. "Well, I was thinkin' of Squatchy. Think of it! This entire place is perfect for Sasquatches, except maybe over around the T-Rex country, but who cares what they think, right?" There were grunts and oomphs but no actual agreement.

  Okay, so now we have Haven and Squatchy. Any others?" Tyle asked.

   Jobob stood. "I got a name, Tyle," he said quietly. The room seemed to hush in order to hear him better. "How about Holler?" he asked.

   "You want to call the planet, our planet, Holler?" Tyle asked.

   "Yessir. That there's where the best stuff happens, up in them hollers. Lotta Squatches vacation there. Why I go ever' year."

   "Yes, I've heard of your hollers," Tyle replied. "Lovely places indeed. So, now we have Holler, Squatchy and Haven. Whatya say guys? One a these sound good?"

   After arguments and some raised voices they finally chose Holler. There were certainly a lot of diverse creatures in a holler so everyone was represented. What finally clinched it was when Figgura Ta pointed out that Holler might have unpleasant connotations to some, which is perfect, a subtle deterrent to would be homesteaders. He seemed to regard newcomers as dangerous, and when Tyle asked, he smiled and told us, "Not at all. It’s the ones we connect with that make the best neighbors, and they'll be the ones who get Holler."   

   It gave us a warm fuzzy feeling and we lolled in the sound and sway of Holler.

   Meanwhile the T-Rexes were having their own conference. No one was in charge and the self-appointed delegates all eagerly joined in the fracas. At the end of their discussion it was the one left standing, Grak'm, who gave them Niceplace, as their choice, hoping to attract more game, er, workers, or, well it was difficult to determine what exactly Grak'm hoped to attract, but it was clear he wanted something. The T-Rexes seem a lean and hungry lot.

   Back with the pteranodons the debate was down to Wing, but it was not yet the final choice for their submission. Philban's choice of Pteranodonia, while appreciated, was quickly voted down. 

   "Wing? But what about the fishes and Sasquatches?" Tonker asked. "None of them fly so I don't think this name includes them." He paused and looking at the lush horizon and hearing the far distant roars of the fighting T-Rexes, he continued, "Maybe Paradise, or better perhaps, Jungle."

   "What about the ocean people?" Hyflier, a prominent pteranodon, asked.

   Tonker stopped and looked blank for a moment. "Well, then how about Greenwater? Jungle and ocean together." That ended being their choice.

   That afternoon, after much debating, fencing and squirreling about, the big 'Name the Planet Conference' had it down to Holler, Niceplace and Greenwater.  When the voting began the choices were clear. When the voting ended nothing was clear except that somehow, without even being on the ballot, Klaxenglot won as the most popular name. In some ineffable way everyone, ninety percent at least, voted for Klaxenglot.

   "What's that even mean?" Tonker asked afterward. He too had voted for it and was now wondering why.

   "It's a really loud horn. Klaxon that is, Glot could mean anything," Philban told him.

   "Why did we vote for that?"

   "Dunno. It's like we all were hypnotized."

   "Yes, it was just like that." Tonker knew something was amiss.

   Everyone was dazed and confused so it was easy for Tonker and Philban to halt the election results from being finalized. Most of the people, confused about what they had done, agreed. There will be a new vote next week. Now Tonker and Philban had to find out what the heck was going on.

   They wondered who on the Dinosaur Planet had the power to mesmerize everyone to vote for a name that no one had even heard of before? They hadn't developed a strong tourist trade on the planet and likely never would. The T-Rexes were the problem and everybody knew it. Everyone also knew that the T-Rexes couldn't have done this mesmerizing. Thankfully there are no wizard T-Rexes. In fact they aren't known for any subtleties at all, just brute force.       

   Tonker wondered about the mysterious ape-like beings called the Magnons. They hadn't submitted a name, at least not openly. They lived a long ways from Pteran, the pteranodon lands, at least a couple days flight.

   "Philban, what do you know about the magnons?"

   "I've never actually seen one, but what I heard at a lecture once was that they are very primitive with limited language skills."

   "Yeah, I've heard that too. I also heard that in a few thousand years they might evolve into human beings."

   "Whoa, that's amazing. Do you think they could do it? The mesmerizing, I mean."

   "I dunno," Tonker said with a worried look. "I heard they have shamans and priests of some sort or the other. I think we need to make a trip to the magnon country."

   It was mid-afternoon when they began the trip. Tonker, Philban and Ace Da'ca, from the Pteran Constabulary. They flew through the night, taking brief breaks and rested for several hours at sunrise. They continued and arrived at the magnon lands, or at least what they believed were the magnon lands, by mid-day. They stopped to reconnoiter and determine their next move. As they moved about they came upon a couple magnons who were beating the ground with large sticks that were recently cut and still had leaves. They were raising dust and tiny debris, creating a cloud around them. They stopped, first one then the other when they became aware of the three Pterans watching them. 

   The one that was nearest to Tonker and Philban asked, "What?"

   "I'm sorry, we didn't mean to interrupt, "Tonker said. "We're new here, looking for the leader or something like that, when we spotted you two smacking the ground with branches, so we stopped."

   "It's a curious thing, hitting the ground like that," Philban added. A moment of silence. "At least where we're from it's curious," he amended.

   "We beatin' in some good sense," the first one answered.

   "Good common sense," the second one added.

   "Good common sense?" Tonker asked. "Beatin' into what?"

   "Why Klaxenglot that's what," the first one replied.

   "Klaxenglot!" Tonker, Philban and Da'ca all exclaimed at the same time.

   "What is Klaxenglot?" Tonker asked.

   "Huh?" the first one said with a perplexed look. "Klaxenglot. You know. It's like everything, the ground, the trees, the waters and just everything, it's all Klaxenglot."

   "You mean the planet?" Tonker asked.

   "Yeah sure, plus the air and the clouds, even the stars, all Klaxenglot."

   "Wow," Tonker said, impressed with the concept. "So why does Klaxenglot need to have common sense beat into it?"

   They looked at each other with a confused look. "So everything can go okay, of course," said the first one.

   "We don't want no stupid things, like storms or quakes or floods or, well there's just a whole lotta stupid that Klaxenglot can do," said the second.

   "It's what the Big-Feathered Wumper sang for us that day, when common sense failed," added the first.

   "No common sense in a big quake and flooding rains. Nossir, none at all," said the second. "It's clearly bad sense to hurt things. So ya gotta smack it in, like the BF Wumper does. Smack! Smack! Smack!" They resumed their thumping.

   "It's called Wumping," the first informed us.

   As we continued our meandering walk, we saw more Wumpers, usually two or three with one large group of a dozen or so, all Wumping away, giving Klaxenglot some good common sense. 

   "So how did Klaxenglot end up winning the name vote?" Tonker asked as they walked.

   "That's the question, isn't it?" Philban replied. "I mean, these magnons don't seem very sophisticated, at least not enough to manage a giant spell like mesmerizing a planet's inhabitants."

   "I agree, I . . ." Tonker stopped. They had just crested a small hillock and there, spread out before them were thousands of magnons, all Wumping sense into Klaxenglot. They stared in shocked disbelief. There was a stand nearby offering fresh sticks to the worshipers so they walked over to that.

   "Needa stick?" the young magnon inside asked as they approached.

   "No thanks," Tonker said with a smile. "We're looking for someone in charge." The magnon looked blank.         

   "We want to find out about you all," Philban added.

   "And about Klaxenglot. We've never heard of it in our country," Tonker explained.

   "Dang, ain't that something?" the magnon replied. "Here, take a stick and do some Wumping. You'll feel better." They each took a stick but just stood there, uncertain what to do. "You are ferriners, no doubt," the magnon snorted. "Here, go over there, to that clear spot." He pointed to a place where no one was currently Wumping and they walked over to it. "Now Wump!"

   They began a rather desultory Wumping but as soon as they started, they began to feel a curious energy and were soon Wumping as enthusiastically as any magnon. It was exhilarating!

   Later things began to slow down and they followed some magnons to a food cart where they ate, then they settled around the communal fire and sang strange, to Tonker, Philban and Da'ca, songs. Despite not knowing the songs they were able to hum along.

   Then a speaker stood and told the assemblage, "Here is some stuff to know. At the bottom of it all, or perhaps the top, is Hexlexl the zombie god. This god is not actually a zombie, he was just sort of dead once so it seemed appropriate. Anyway, Hexlexl did his astonishing magic by Wumping, teaching the Big-Feathered Wumper who just naturally began Wumping, together they taught it to all of Hexlexl's people, the magnons. Most magnons, like Hexlexl, are not actually zombies. This ends tonight's good stuff to know." The speaker sat. Soon everyone went somewhere to sleep.

   When Tonker, Phil and Da'ca had found a good spot to rest Tonker said, "It looks like this Hexlexl fellow is where we need to go to find answers." The other two agreed.

   The next morning as the Wumpers were getting started they left, Da'ca returning to Pteran to share what they had learned, while Tonker and Philban began the Hexlexl Quest.


Next: The Hexlexl Quest

Robots - By Rosy 

   Ellim, our 11:11BS service bot finally brought me my morning coffee. We are a people of tea drinkers but I remain a morning coffee person. And despite popular belief I am not cranky if it's late or not there at all. I'm just not, and irrespective of Rover's belief that I do, in fact, get cranky when I'm coffee deprived, I am not cranky now, having waited half an hour past my coffee time, an unusual thing for Ellim. I knew he was reading me so I remained noncommittal, having pleasant thoughts. The coffee was damn good and that helped.

   The 11:11 series of service bots have various designations appended to their series number to identify their dominant function. Ellim's BS signifies Ballistic Sensory, meaning he has enhanced ESP abilities. He can read minds, which may seem disconcerting until you realize that the entire crew, except me and perhaps Steddy, can read minds. The idea in the service bots was to create machines that knew your every need before you knew them. They have other useful mind things too. I'll have to inquire as to Steddy's abilities.

   Just then Steddy passed by and spoke without stopping, "I don't think I have that ESP thing Captain."

   Steddy is our other robot. From the 11:11007 Adventure/Detective series, pronounced eleven eleven aught aught seven, or when he's being suave, eleven eleven double aught seven. Steddy is also a Herobot, who, since he's brand new, studies the Hero business under Brak and Jant, two professional heroes on our crew.

   Rover comes in and sits at the Navigator's station. "Morning Captain," he calls over to me. Being the Navigator, he keeps quite a lot of maps and scrolls at his station, piled up so he can't really see where we're going. Difficult to even see him sometimes.

   "Hey Rover," I answered, frowning to see Ellim handing him a steaming hot cuppa tea. 

   "Where are we going today?" we both asked simultaneously.

   "Really Captain," Rover continued, "you need to tell me. You're the Captain, right?" I nodded. I am the Captain. "So where are we going?" he repeated.

   I felt inadequate, like I hadn't studied or something.

   "How about them Corkers?" Steddy suggested behind me. I squinted at Rover.

   "Yeah, how about them Corkers?" I demanded.

   Rover's eyes went round. "Didn't expect that," he murmured. Then he turned to Brak. "Brak, find someway to get to the Corkers."

   "Sure Rover. Maybe I'll just . . ."

   "Hold on," Rover interrupted. He checked a couple maps, unrolled a scroll and measured with calipers. Finally he announced, "Here's the coordinates Brak."

    "Hey thanks," Brak chirped. "This'll probably work better than what I was gonna do."

   "I know," Rover growled.

   The Corkers refer to a group of exotic islands in the wide and balmy circumnavigation of the Great Yudonke River at the Equator. Their full name is the Little Lost Corkers and they contain the finest ocean-like resorts on Yudonke and maybe the universe. After a short while we came to a landing. I'm always the most worried at these times when we arrive somewhere because despite having a stated goal, we rarely get there, more usually arriving at some unknown destination. I never really imagined actually going to the Corkers, although I wouldn't have minded, rather I expected the extreme opposite.

   Much to my surprise we landed safely in the Little Lost Corkers and had a wonderful time.

An Octopus Named Kraken - By Rosy 

   She gazed out from atop her tower, her nesting spot that allows a complete three hundred and sixty degree view, if you walked around her spacious room, opening drapes and peering out windows all they way around. She watches and has set comfortable chairs at each of the four directions to help enable her watching although it should be said, watching is not her main work. Not even close. What she does is write. She creates images and episodes that are visible through words. Word art, you could say.

    Through her windows, when ideas may linger, she watches the world, its changes, its seasons and its people, who, although somewhat distant, her abode being atop a three-story building which she owns and rents through an agent, are still fairly clear to see and curious to watch. She recognizes some as her tenants although they wouldn't know her, just her agent. Still, she recognizes them by their coming and going. She has a private elevator that they're probably unaware of, so they wouldn't place her as a neighbor. She likes this anonymity.

   Besides writing and watching, her passion is to cook. Her weight problem began perhaps as a function of loneliness, a coping tool for imagining that her life would end alone. Now she's sensible about food and exercise and is slowly returning to her ideal weight, because she's not alone. The love of her life appeared a few years back and now he lives on the top floor, just below her nest.

   He's actually a sasquatch and was glad to find not only a comfortable burrow that's well out of sight but a wife to be by his side as he gets older. He spends a lot of time on the lawn-covered deck around her tower that's only visible to someone flying overhead. He lies in the sun without fear of being seen, something he's curiously concerned about.

   She has also hosted a pteranodon with the help of her husband. Curious times in a curious world indeed. She remembers Tonker the pteranodon with affection and their amazing adventures on the Great Yudonke River. Captain Rosy Rivitir commanding the magical All-Vehicle Rivitir.

   Brak Hero, the pilot, brings the Rivitir in for a smooth landing, as always. Jant Hero, Brak's sister, is watching the radar.

   "Something big up ahead," Jant cautioned.

   "Hmm, I don't see anything," Brak replied, peering intently ahead. Then suddenly a big kraken like creature rose up out of the water and blocked their way. "Okay, I see it now," Brak reported. "Uh, Captain?" 

   "I'll see if I can wake her," Steddy said as he walked over to my door.

   Steddy is one of two robots on the crew, the first being our 11:11BS service bot who we call Ellim. The BS is Ballistic Sensory meaning Ellim can read minds. The other is Steddy, or Stedfast Troo, an 11:11007 (pronounced eleven eleven double aught seven) detective robot with a programmable hero function.

   I'm awake, of course. Any disturbance with the Rivitir I'm instantly aware. I opened the door just as Steddy was preparing to knock.

    "Looks like a kraken," I stated, taking in the situation at a glance. "Good work stopping the Rivitir Brak."

   "Uh, yes, ma'am," he replied, staring ahead at the kraken.

   "Why don't you pull us over to shore and we'll camp here," I told him. "Looks like a nice enough spot and I'm not in any mood to mess around with a kraken."

   "Yes, ma'am," he repeated, clearly relieved.

   It was a good spot and we set up a nice camp. I hoped the kraken would move on during the night. We enjoyed camping on the banks of the Great Yudonke, and did so whenever we could.

   The kraken watched us with a petulant look and after a while settled back into the water. Apparently awaiting his next victim. I wondered what he wanted from the people he stopped. He never said anything to us.

   That night we had a big fire and roasted marshmallows. It was a fine evening and we began star gazing as the fire died down. It is curious that Yudonke's sky is very similar to earth's. Exactly the same was how Rover, our navigator, described it. Rover was once a detective who had worked with Inspector Gee and Sgt Goat, well known detectives in Elvenstead. People were quicker to believe Rover and, doubting my own recollection, we all agreed; identical night skies. Steddy, being a robot, had no trouble being awake and on guard at night since he never slept, something we had to take turns doing before, and guard-duty was never a popular post. I didn't think about the kraken until the next morning. I could see he was still lurking in the water, watching and waiting. I walked down to the water's edge.

   "Hey Kraken!" I yelled.

   There were ripples in the water as it rose up to look at me. "What you want, elf?" it asked.

   "No kraken, that's my question. What do you want?"

   "I asked first."

   "Okay. I want passage forward on the river to continue our journey," I stated. I paused as we eyed each other. "So what do you want?" I repeated.

   It looked at me with wary skepticism. "What do you mean, what do I want?" it demanded.

   "You must want something or you'd let us pass," I said, in a stern voice, much like my Captain's voice wherein everyone jumps to obey.       

   "Want?" it asked.

   "Yes, so that we can pass. You know, I give you something and you give me something," I smiled.

   "Nah, that ent right," it snarled, giving me a disbelieving look. "I don want nothing."

   "Then why are you blocking the river?" I asked. Some of the captains from other stalled boats were there and they wanted to know too.

   "'Cause it's fun," the monster murmured, giving us a cursory dismissal.

   Flummoxed, I returned to our camp, as did the other captains to theirs. After reporting everything to the crew we decided to pack up and return to the Rivitir. Unlike the other boats stalled here we could easily fly over the kraken but I was loath to do so. I didn't like flying away and leaving them to their predicament.

   "Crew," I said, "these people here, stalled by the kraken, need our help to continue. I'm sure there's upstream traffic on its other side looking to get through as well. Any ideas?" 

   "We could take turns confronting the kraken near to shore so that someone could slip by on its other side. I don't think it can block the entire river at once," Brak offered. 

   "Hmm, yes, good idea, Brak," I said, nodding encouragement.

   "Those tentacles are awful long," Rover commented. "Looked like it could possibly span the river, but I'm not sure."

   "Does sound risky," Jant agreed. "How about we offer it something more fun?"

   "Hmm, now that's an interesting notion," I said. "But unless any of you do, I have no idea what krakens like."

   "They like blocking things," Rover stated.

   "That's certainly true, but I don't see how we can use that," I answered.

   "I think there might be some negativity in the kraken's thinking," Jant said, "so that means it's not totally happy."

   "Hmm, yeah I think maybe you're right, Jant," I said, nodding agreement. "So what do you think would make it happy?"   

   "A mate," she replied with a smile.

   "Two of them could totally block the river with ease," Rover noted.

   "But I don't think that'd be what they'd opt to do," Jant replied. "They'd have each other. At least to start."

   "Later on they'd totally block the river?" Rover asked.

   "I, uh, well, I guess they could," Jant admitted.

   "Gosh, it looks like we don't have any options," I said, feeling discouraged.

   {You haven't asked me.}

   "Zingellawabix," I said, out loud.

   "You hearing him?" Rover asked.

   I was the only one who could hear him. He's a magic wand that's older than our solar system and somehow we connected in the fight against evil, or what he calls the anti-life. 

   "Yeah," I answered Rover, "he says I should ask him about the kraken." I closed my eyes and concentrated.


   {Yes Rosy, I've been waiting.}

   {What is your idea?}

   {Remember my powers, to bind and to shrink, especially to shrink. I can make the kraken small, as small as an octopus, smaller if need be.}

   "Zingellawabix can make the kraken small," I told the crew.  "But I want to confront the kraken first."

   I returned to the water's edge, followed by the crew. "Hey Kraken!" I yelled. 

   There were ripples and the giant form of the kraken rose from the water. "What you want, elf?"

   "Listen here, kraken. If you don't move out of the way I'll use a magic wand and shrink you down to the size of an octopus," I stood heroically, serving a just cause. Some of the other captain's were watching with the crew.

   The Kraken's eyes went round, then its mouth went round. "Oooooh," it said. "You can do that?"

   I thought it might be mocking me so I stood taller, "Yes, kraken. I can do that." I was firm in my solid Captain's voice.

   For a long moment it looked at me. Then it smiled wide. "You can make me normal? Make me so I'm not a monster anymore but just like any other octopus? Huh? You can do that?"   

   "Yes," I said. I didn't expect this.

   "Well then do it!" it shrieked. "Oh my oh golly yes do it! Make me normal like the others!"

   Zingellawabix heard, through me, and began the shrinking. For dramatic effect I raised my arms and made magical gestures. In just a flash a regular sized octopus sat in the water where the kraken had been. It smiled a huge smile at me. "Oh thank you, thank you! I am so thrilled to finally fit in. Now I can go to octopus school and become important!" It blew a kiss at me and yelled, "I will love you forever!" then it swam away. The crew and the other captains began applauding. Then the captains ran off to their various ships and boats.

   I was really glad it ended well for the kraken and smiled, gazing at the now unobstructed river. Already boats were resuming their journeys. Several of the captains saluted me as they passed. I smiled and waved, before returning to the Rivitir with the crew.

   Later I sat in the bridge with Brak watching the sunset. We each have incredibly comfortable chairs here, chairs that will turn and tilt and lean back and on and on, so we're comfortably watching. Ellim keeps us supplied with whatever we think of before we can think of it, but, despite the amazing panorama of a Yudonke sunset,  I am dozing . . .

   She gazed out her window at the darkening skies, imagining them to be Yudonke skies. Her sasquatch husband who'd been gardening in the grassy area around the tower, came in and sat on the sofa. He smiled at her and asked, "A story?"

   She grinned and nodded. "Yes, it's about a kraken."

  "Tell me," he said. 

Fringe Walker - Rosy 

I walk the fringes, the edges where few others will go.

It's because they're poorly paved, crumbling in spots, and rarely well lit.

The fringes and edges that is, because we know

the others are usually well lit, like candles in the dark of space;

I am, I am, I am, over and over again, stumbling in a darkling race,

with fierce determination, amazing grace and a fire that singes, 

and burns without leaving a trace.

Which is why I walk the fringes.

While you were sleeping - By Rosy 

In the time of golden glows and peaceful repose,

when the nights grow ever longer

there's a joyful song that flows and goes

to the heart of gladness, gratitude and wonder. 


There we perceive and ponder our fates

good begets good and bad begets bad.

All to remember; energy pulses and radiates,

expanding, rebounding, three times it draws back.

Does goodness then arrive or is there lack?

Upward - By Rosy 

Time is an essence, space a conclusion that something, there's something that we've waited for.

Imagine a world as you already have, then dwell there in person, becoming a new way of loving and being.

See there, the world you've made, feel the way you fit in.

The way that you dream it, the way that you fill it, this is what gives it its form.

The hunter has gathered enough factory made mass, and the great river flows to the sea,

past the shore.

Imagine the difference from here to there, a morning song yearning,

perhaps something more.

The Most Wonderful Thing - By Rosy 

   It's a cloudy day and there's been some house cleaning going on. Gee, but it's swell to be done! Whew! So, what's left? The Most Wonderful Thing is what's left. Uh-huh, and what would that be? A place, person, animal, plant, thing?

   This, then, is our quest and our vehicle is the AV Rivitir. I'm Captain Rosy and my crew is, Rover, Brak and Jant. Mission: Find the Most Wonderful Thing.

   Captain's log, Alfendate: Saturn's Day, October 21, 2023; 2:10 pm.

   I must report that what is going on in the human world today is not at all wonderful. Difficult to find even some good, with two wars going on, both pointing their fingers accusingly at all westerners, whose veracity in doing so is somewhat iffy given the honest histories of all involved, which are usually little known, sometimes a state secret, and always favoring the conquerors, the survivors, which means there are no innocents, none at all. Pointing a finger always leaves the others pointed back at the accuser. Why accuse at all? Is live and let live really so awful?   

   How about nationally? Well, the humans around here have a documented liar, con-man, insurrectionist, traitor, cheater and worse, currently on trial facing numerous very serious indictments, who is also running for president, yet who, inexplicably, remains that party's favorite candidate, while the relatively sane other party can only find an old, albeit capable, man. Many of the voters avoid interaction on every level due to the increasingly volatile and depressing polity presented to them.

   A Russian lady, Elena Gold, described the mentality of a lost nation, her nation, and in doing so she described many, many Americans whose minds are lost to the enormity of the evil they face, which is quite similar to what Russians face today, vis-a-vis their war. I quote, "Simply because of money and the desire to live problem free "outside of politics," people cease to be humane."

   A lot of people in this country share this mindset, enough to make a difference. Naked aggression, fear, greed and loathing have all been unleashed and are bent on taking over, forcibly, if need be, just to achieve some sort of pyrrhic victory over their own failures, mindlessly destroying everything in the process. Okay then, what is The Most Wonderful Thing in this setting?


   Pain free? Guaranteed security? Long life?

   Perhaps all three with one or the other dominant at any given time. Close to impossible to achieve in the human world of course, unless you're evil rich which may in fact be the worst fate of all. In any case, for us, that leaves just the Fae, or the realms of inter-dimensional magic unleashed by imagination. What do I think of then as the most wonderful thing? Who has all three plus location? Why it's Spike, of course. Rover's mentor and the seemingly immortal bulldog caretaker of Lillow's Farm, itself an ancient site of many harrowing and heroic adventures and probably the most magical place in all of Elvenstead. Spike was there through it all and none the worse for wear, probably better.

   It has been rumored that the secret of Spike's immortality may lie in his relationship to the farm. Both he and the farm are intricately connected and both are, for us mortals anyway, immortal. Could one be so, without the other? At this time it's mere conjecture, as Spike rarely leaves the farm and then only for short trips, but this connection, this mutual need of one for the other, remains a commonly held belief. So, I guess this bulldog is the most wonderful thing, right now.   

   I've heard that back in the day Spike loved a sophisticated French dog, a well-trimmed poodle named Sweet Loretta. At that time Spike pretty much ran the domestic scene at Glad Manor, the farm's center and home to the four founding witches. He especially kept charge of the grounds around the manor. 

   On the southwest corner of the manor's grounds is a place called Ishmael's Wall. It's a short but stout wall that made a perfect backdrop for Spike and his friends to howl at the moon, and especially the full moon. While offering some noise protection for the manor behind, the howl could be heard for kilometers downstream of that wall, so to speak.

   Spike liked to bring Sweet Loretta to the howl to show off his howling prowess, and it is this very scene that Rover remembered as among his first, if not his actual first, remembrance of puppyhood. He remembers standing there staring at the full moon and hearing the howls of the other more experienced dogs around him, beginning low, one or two, growling before letting loose a howl then slowly building until the entire pack is reared back and howling full on. He remembers his surprise at hearing his own voice joining them, stretching to the moon, a young puppy howl surrounded by his own people, his pack, Spike and Sweet Loretta, all howling at the moon.   

Monsters - By Rosy 

- 1 -

   When Rover and Spike get together, they run like dogs, like they used to run when they were puppies, hundreds of years ago. Bounding and leaping, having a barking, tail-waggin' good time. They'll run back and forth across the meadow or into the woods or into Probable Creek or wherever the winds may take them, loving every moment. Their joy is palpable and everyone moves about wearing a silly smile.

   The Rivitir is here for her maintenance call, keeping updated and charged, while we, the crew, take a couple days off. Brak and Jant catch a waggal to Elvenstead to visit their family home and of course the Heroes Я Us Collective where they learned their amazing hero stuff. Rover and Spike have goings on of their own, no doubt, and I am off to see the witches at Witchhaven in Shady Glen, not too far from the meadow where the Rivitir's docking station is at. The meadow is the old heart of Lillow's Farm and Witchhaven is the new.

   The witches know I always stop in when the Rivitir's docked and Jant sent them a message on one of her devices so they'll be expecting me. I set out with happiness and joy, taking the trail past Holly's Altar in the ancient old-growth Thagwood Forest, going up a long gradual incline then spiraling down into Shady Glen, an ancient faerie settlement that has since become an important elvish center. Witchhaven is just to the north of Shady Glen. As I approached, Nelly came running out to meet me.

   "Rosy! So glad to see you!" she chirped, holding her arms out. We hugged as I told her how great it was to see her and how great it was to be here at Witchhaven.

   She pulled back, holding my upper arms, and with a sympathetic look told me, "Hey, yeah about that. Well, we're all set up to have an adventure in the west, lots to explore there you know, but we especially need to check out the reports we've been getting of a new portal forming there."     

   "It'll be the biggest portal we've ever faced," Aggy said as she walked out to greet me. "And we thought, well, . . ."

   "We thought," Nelly finished, "being how you're an adventurer and all, that rather than leave you in an empty manor house for your stay, we'd invite you along."

   "Gosh yes!" I replied. I was delighted, as I do seem to crave adventure.

   "Good then, let's be on our way," Aggy said, leading us west. Nelly and I were joined by Lagretta and Tenner who'd come running out of the manor as soon as we'd begun. They wore big smiles and greeted me with joy.

   "You know what's going on, don'tcha?" Lagretta asked as we entered Thagwood, continuing west.

   "No, just that there's a portal and a likely adventure," I answered with a smile.

   She nodded. "Well, it's got to do with a portal alright, only this portal is huge."

   "It's the biggest and most dangerous portal we've ever faced," Aggy repeated over her shoulder.

   "That's right," Tenner agreed behind us. We proceeded silently as the forest grew thicker, darker, with shadows, long shadows that writhed and snapped. We were at the back side of the Glamoury Wall and walked easily through.

   The Glamoury Wall shows terrifying images of dinosaurs, dragons, snakes and crocodiles that once infested the Swamp of Doom to the south of us. No one knows for sure what all lives there now, but these old images remain terrifying and still serves to keep unwary travelers going around rather than through the farm. Faeries particularly like the isolation but the elves here like it too, so the wall is maintained. That's one of the duties of the witches, as maintainers and caretakers. We stopped when we were well away from the spectacle and looked back. Wow. The images are truly terrifying. We continued west into the wilderness.

   "So this here portal," Lagretta continued, " is the biggest portal any of us have ever seen."

   "And we don't know what to do about it," Nelly said.

   "It could be, probably is, extremely dangerous," Aggy put in.

   "So we're uh, we're going to have look at it. See what needs doing," Lagretta said with a smile. 

   It wasn't long before we got a look at it. First there was a glow, like a warm cover over the event. Then came the piercing blue and silver sparks of a breached event horizon and finally the portal itself. Looming higher as we neared, it seemed ominous and portentous. Easily twenty meters high and fifteen wide. Its innards looked like an endless brown tunnel that seemed to writhe rhythmically, like a slow wave in the ocean, big and momentous, yet seeming so gentle when unopposed. A lolling rhythm that was compelling. Commanding . . .

   "Don't stare at it," Aggy yelped, breaking my concentration. I blinked and looked around. The portal had nearly hypnotized me. Now it looked like the gaping maw of a long, long snake, poisonous and hypnotic. I backed up.

   We stood looking at this monster portal for a long moment. "Well, we gotta see what's in there if we ever hope to shut this thing down," Aggy said as she began walking toward the portal's wide open mouth.

   I gaped in wide-eyed horror and took another step back. Then I gaped again as Nelly, Tenner and Lagretta followed her in. With a sense of dread, I followed too.


 - 2 -

   Once across the threshold everything was the same as we'd seen from outside except it was much smaller and the fluidity was gone. We were in a long brown, solid and firm hallway that was still pretty large. Then I noticed a door, quite a ways along, that was new.  Aggy and the witches were already going toward it. I ran to catch up and was the last to step through the door into the meadow.

   I could see Rover and Spike watching us with fierce, determined expressions, then I noticed that some of the goats had gone into attack mode with their heads down, all aimed at us. Some of the birds were flying overhead dropping things, like we were . . .

   "Somehow they see us as an enemy!" Aggy yelled.

   "How can this be?" Tenner demanded. "We are at the heart of the farm; how can we be the enemy?"

   I could see defensive strategies, some of which I helped to devise, going into play. "We needa get outta here fast!" I yelped, running toward the forest. Understanding my urgency the witches quickly followed. 

   We ran until we were out of sight then we hid. After a time, when we felt for sure that we weren't being followed, I led them to a place I knew up in Thagwood Forest where, on a rocky hillside and at a particular spot, you could see the meadow. It was a distant view that Rover and I had discovered years ago while hiking these woods, something we both loved to do.

   Looking down at the meadow I could see more defensive strategies being employed. Rover was overseeing the work when Spike came rushing over and told him something. Then they both turned and looked right at us. We ducked but I suspect they saw us. What made them look up here?     

   "Something's happening," I said, unsure of what I was trying to say, "and I'm not sure what exactly but well . . . do you think the portal's still here? You know, where we found it over in the western wilderness?"

   "Hmmm, I think I see what you're saying," Aggy said, nodding.

   Tenner and Nelly looked at us curiously but Lagretta nodded too. "Go through in a reverse direction and maybe undo what going through did to us," she said, looking at Aggy.

   "Yeah, that's it, Lagretta," Aggy responded. She looked at me. "Is that what you were thinking?"

   "Yeah, I mean I didn't have it as clearly as I you put it, but yeah, I agree. We needa go back through the portal."

   We immediately began the trek to the portal. We all seemed to feel a sense of urgency although none of us could say why. When we got there, we could see Rover standing out front, but as soon as he saw us, he took off running in the other direction. I wanted to give chase and box his ears, the cheeky mutt and for a brief moment I felt enraged.

   "C'mon, let's go," Aggy said, pulling me along. "we needa get through this thing before those double dratted defenders come after us." She seemed pretty angry and the others cast angry gazes at where Rover had run off to. 

   We re-entered the portal and found another door on the opposite side of where the first had been and stepped into the meadow just as Rover returned with Spike.

   Rover ran up to me. "Oh, here you are at last! Am I ever glad to see you, Ma'am!" he barked.

   "I'm glad to see you too Rover! And Spike!"

   "Yes, Captain, Aggy, you all," Spike said, with a serious expression. "You're just in time, in fact, because we just saw some trolls a little while ago."

   "There was orcs, too," Rover added.

   "Trolls and orcs, so we been preparing without you guys," Spike said, looking important.

   "From what I've seen," Aggy said with a smile, "you guys have done a first rate job."

   "I agree, " I said, smiling at Rover.

   "So where do you figure the attack's going to come from?" Rover asked, looking anxiously toward the west where the portal lay.

   "Oh, you don't have to worry about that," Aggy said with a smile. "We just got back from a secret mission that has completely resolved your, er, our troll problem."

   Rover and Spike both gave her looks of doubt.

   "We wondered where you was at," Spike said, "but I don't think you understand, you didn't see these guys. They were monsters!"

   "Yeah!" Rover added.

   "And monsters don't just go away," Spike finished.

      With a resigned shrug I explained to them what had happened, how the portal had made us look like monsters, until we backtracked through the portal. "So I think we'll be okay as long as we guard that portal and keep other people from doing what we did," I finished.

   "And that's just what we'll do," Lagretta said with a look of determination.

   "Meanwhile we'll be looking for ways to block it permanently," Aggy added.

   Rover and I returned to the Rivitir which was ready to go and found Brak and Jant already back. They'd had a great time at the Heroes Я Us get-together and they were both recharged and rarin' to go. When we told them of our adventure Jant looked at me with wide eyes.

   "Jeez Captain, I just can't imagine you or any of the witches somehow becoming the enemy."

   "Yeah, that must have been awful," Brak said.

   "We didn't recognize them at all," Rover said, "not even a hint that I could tell."

   They looked at me with a mildly sad awe that I found unnerving.

  "Well, things will be fine now," I said, assuming my Captain position. "Take us somewhere, Rover," I ordered before averting my gaze. I was nonplussed, remembering that while I was a monster I had relished, for the smallest moment, just before re-entering the portal, the thought of springing on those weak meadow defenders in full warrior regalia. Rover, Spike and all. It had been a thankfully small but intense rush of berserker rage, that in remembrance scared me.