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Keep Rollin', Rollin'
The land was blanketed in thick fog when I woke. It clung to blades of grass and caressed the trees. The only time I had seen fog this thick was when the barrier had encased the Port. I carefully made my way to the Tavern, praying with every step I didn't go over the cliff. I greeted Salty with another kiss on the cheek when I entered. He was one of the few I really enjoyed dicing with. I wasn't sure if it was because he reminded me of Santa Claus or if it was because he was just one the truly kind people in Midnight Castle. Perhaps it was because he never really got upset when I won all three rounds. Oh, he would pout a bit but he would be all smiles and hearty laughter a split second later. I think it was just because he got a a tidy profit from the dice table whether he won or lost.
"I'm going to have to ban your Rainbow Dragon, Rahia," he joked today, "If you keep winning every time you bring him in."
"Aw, don't be mean, Salty! He loves watching me roll," I laughed and sipped the pear cider that Salty offered.
"Keep rollin', rollin," Brite sang, "Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'. Airship time!"
"See," I winked at Salty, "Plus he is a good luck charm of sorts. I find more of the elusive items when I have him active."
"Ah, I thought perhaps he had a pair of dice hidden under his scales," Salty winked back, teasing the dragon.
"I would never," Brite said, souding slightly outraged at the thought, "I only like turning things rainbow colored. Would you like a rainbow mug?"
"No," Salty flatly said and took off to polish his dearest mug.
"I was only joking," Brite puffed out a plum of smoke.
"I know," I said, giving him a pat.
It was hard to navigate through the fog. I only found the airship tower because of the Wyvern blowing out streams of fire! I sent off the airship and collected the Exclusive food and 2 Unique Stamps that fell out. We arrived at the Fortune Wheel to find nothing of import, again! I used my free spin and won a Unique Stamp. Well, it was something other than a Cannonball at least. The interior of the Castle was free of the fog, thankfully but Ice Rock was completely covered. I called out to Henry but didn't hear or see him. I gave up trying to clean the scenes when the fog became so thick I could barely breath!
"Keep rollin', rollin'! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'! Airship Time," Brite sang at the top of his lungs. He really had some lung power for such a small dragon.
"That's going to get old really fast," I called over his singing.
"Keep Rollin', Rollin'! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'! Airship Time! Dice, Wheel and Crates! Where did the items go? What are they fo'? Keep Rollin', Rollin! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'! Airship Time," Brite sang, completely ignoring me.
I shook my head with a grin, at least some one was having fun. I almost fell off the of the bridge that lead to Flying Boat in Cloud City because of the fog. I saw Squirrel Tales and Harpy Feathers go rolling over the edge. Fortunately, Brite is stronger than he looks and grabbed me by my pants. I was so thankful that they didn't rip! That would just have been embarrassing! It didn't seem like the fog was going to let up. The only good thing that came out of the situation was that the Evil Gnome Trio either couldn't find me or had given up trying. I eventually made my way back to the Tavern after nearly two hours trying to fight the fog. It was just far too thick outside to try to accomplish anything. Honestly, I was grateful. I didn't have to make another excuse to Anabel, Lord Chamberlain or anyone else as to why I wasn't doing their tasks.
I sat down at the dice table and Salty ran over. I guess he thought I wanted another game but I waved him away.
"The fog is too thick," I explained.
"Fog? What fog," Salty asked truly puzzled.
"Look outside! You could cut it with a knife!"
"There isn't any fog out there," Salty said after he took a peek out the door.
"Yes, there is. I haven't even seen the Evil Gnome Trio today," I said, opening the door. My jaw fell open as when I opened the door it was a clear blue day and the birds were singing.
"Keep Rollin', Rollin! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin! Airship Time! Rahia has gone mad. She has been had! Keep Rollin', Rollin! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'! Airship Time," Brite sang with a toothy grin.
"What is the name of Banner of Loyalty is going on?"
"I have no clue," Salty said with a shrug.
"I swear there was fog out there! It took me nearly two hours to do one round! TWO HOURS!," the last part came out as a shrill scream.
"Keep Rollin', Rollin'," Brite started to sing again but I glared at him, "There was a slight mist that was rolling in but it cleared up with in five minutes."
"You didn't think to tell me this," I asked him.
"Well," Brite shrugged, "Keep Rollin', Rollin'! Keep Spinnin', Spinnin'! Airship Time! Elephants go marching, Fishies go swimming! Keep Rollin', Rollin'!"
"Don't even," I ground out through clenched teeth.
"I'm finished," Brite smiled, "I got it out of my system! It's been stuck in my head since I woke up this morning."
I didn't know what to think! What had the fog been about? Why had I been the only person to see it? What had happened to everyone else in the Castle? Was another rumble coming soon? Had I lost my mind? Was it playing tricks on me? Was the Elephant Brotherhood behind this? Why else would Brite's song mention Elephants!?! I shook my head and decided to play another game of dice with Salty. I ended up winning all three rolls, again! That was six in one day!
"Keep Rollin', Rollin'," I sang, "great now it is stuck in my head!"
"Sorry, not sorry," Brite smiled and flew off.
I sighed and started to hum the little tune out loud. It was catchy in a I want to bleach my ears my kind of way. There was something strange going on but once again I didn't know where to start for answers! I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed home.
A Strange Invitation
I had a restless nights sleep. I tossed and turned, waking from nightmare after nightmare. I'm pretty sure it was the gooseberry pie Elle had made for dinner last night but I couldn't be sure. There were strange things happening in the Castle so it could very well be a sign. The fog that I had encountered yesterday was nothing more than a fading memory. There were birds singing and Brite was humming a tune. It sounded like an old sea shanty. Perhaps he had found Skull Pete and the pirate had taught him a new tune. The Ancient Protectors be praised because I was now horrified whenever I heard 'Rollin' or 'Spinnin'! I grabbed a banana but muffin from the table and ran out of the door. Brite followed dragging my backpack behind him. The day was starting off great!
"Rahia! Your backpack," he called, "Am I coming with or should I stay home today?"
"Come along," I grinned and hauled the backpack over my shoulder, "Just no singing today, okay?"
"Got it," he pouted before picking up his humming.
I made my way to the Tavern but stopped at the Airship Tower. It was waiting for me this morning and it was visible! I chatted with the gnome for a bit but he said he was running behind schedule so he took off as soon as I packed the last crate. He once again tossed an Exclusive Food and two Unique Stamps out for me. Well, he wasn't an evil gnome at least. Ha! Speaking of Evil Gnomes, the Trio was once again handing out Helping Hand. I had thought I had seen the last of that task but I guess my luck was off today. I stuffed it in my backpack and decided to burn the parchment later. I could always use kindling for my fireplace! I waved to Salty when I entered the Tavern. He grinned, set down the forever being polished mug and made his way over to the dice table. He leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek this time when I won the three dice rolls. He must be making a killing from other dicing customers if it didn't bother him that I was winning so much. Although, I guess, I would pay for it when it came time to move on to Lord Chamberlain or Henry.
I glanced at the Fortune Wheel on my was passed it and found nothing of interest. I took my free spin and moved along. It was becoming a very dull day. It wasn't until I was searching the Train Cabin in Metro Station for Anabel that I found something unusual. There on the ground was a note. It was an invitation but it didn't have a name attached to it.
You are invited to join the Elephant Brotherhood! You have gone above and beyond the call of duty. You will find in the accompanying package an Elephant Mask and a Black Robe. You must wear these in order to gain access to the meeting. The meeting will take place tomorrow at the Old Tree in the Cemetery. The Elephant Brotherhood needs people like you!
"Wonder if I can find an Elephant Mask," I mused. I admit to being curious but as I didn't know what the elephant mask looked like I was up a creek without a paddle. I could, of course, just crash the gathering. Well, I had until tomorrow to figure something out. I wonder who they sent the invitation too! What did it take to get an invitation anyway? What exactly does the Elephant Brotherhood do? I folded the invitation and placed it in my pocket. It was funny that it didn't state a time. I would have to stake out the old tree in the Cemetery tomorrow. Ah well, I bet I would get Helping Hand again anyway and the other tasks could wait a day or a week. Hopefully, I could get some answers! I skipped off and continued my rounds.
I found another note near the Dark Tower Gates. It was the same as the first. It seems they were recruiting but recruiting who? Why were they recruiting and for what purpose? Were they running out of people? Had the Elephant Statue talked some of their members to an early grave? Would this be another futile quest that left me with more questions than answers? Well, I was a curious sort! I walked back home whistling and carrying a sleeping Brite. He had brought back a lovely Crystal Chest filled with gold and diamonds! I wouldn't be able to use him tomorrow but perhaps Sulfur, my fire dragon would be just as lucky.
The Stake Out
I was still groggy and stifled a yawn as I made my way to the Tavern. I had went to bed late last night preparing for the stake out and found I couldn't sleep. I finally got to sleep close to 2am and was up at six. It wasn't nearly enough sleep to be alert! I tried to pump myself up but all I wanted was to crawl back in bed. I entered the Tavern, gave Salty a kiss on the cheek and sat down at the dice table. Salty came over and grinned. He patted me on the back and told me he was sorry. He didn't reply when I asked why but I figured it out moments later. He offered up a Shard of Soul as his wager and I only needed one more to get them up to 50. I licked my lips and agreed. I rolled two consecutive three's and I knew I wouldn't get that Shard of Soul. My last roll was snake eyes and I cursed. Salty offered up another apology and I waved him off. This is what I get for dicing without Brite! I could have really used that Shard of Soul. I ordered up a cup of Salty's strongest coffee and gulped it down. I didn't even care that the hot liquid scorched my throat! I felt the heat spread in my stomach and I grinned. I may not be completely alert but I was halfway there.
The Evil Gnome Trio greeted me at the Airship Tower. I glared, they smiled. They even skipped away as I yelled that I wouldn't do Helping Hand ever again! The gnome that drove the airship tsked me under his breath and tossed out an Exclusive Food and two Unique Stamps when I finished packing the crates. I glanced up at the rising sun and shielded my eyes. It was going to be a very bright day. I had to hurry if I was going to hide myself at the Cemetery in Town. I snapped up the food and stamps and dashed off. I hope the meeting hadn't already happened!
I watched as Just John and Nimie made their way in to the City Cemetery. They placed their Elephant Masks on their faces and Just John took Dal's hand.
"It's great that you are joining us," I heard the smile that was surely on his lips.
"I was honored to get the invitation," Dal said, "but why me?"
"Why else, dearest," John patted her shoulder, "You like your eggs and we need a supplier."
"Ah, I see," Dal nodded, "Why is she here?"
"Ah, Nimie is joining because she has been a tremendous help to me!"
"The Elephants go marching and we remember," Nimie said. Her voice sounded far away as if she was being controlled.
"What about Rahia," Dall asked. I blinked in confusion. Why would Dal ask about me?
"In due time. She isn't ready, yet. She is fighting the changes in Midnight Castle," John explained, "Plus, she stole the sacred Elephant!"
"Ah! Let's go," Dal said and the Trio walked off towards the tree.
I watched as they vanished as well. How was this possible? I finally stepped out from behind the Tomb and ran over the rope bridge before it could fade. I touched the old tree but nothing happened. I called the little bit of power I still held as a Protector but that did nothing more than whip my hair into tangles. I sighed and backed away. If only I had had a better vantage point. I sighed and climbed on to the roof of the Warden's Hut. I couldn't see anything special about the tree from here. I grimaced and sat down hard. Would I want to join the Elephant Brotherhood? I didn't really know. If they were behind the horrid things that had happened to the Castle in the last rumble, the answer was no! If they helped people, the answer was yes. I didn't have a clue what they did or what they stood for. I knew Just John wasn't all bad but he wasn't all good either. He hung somewhere in the grey. I couldn't follow them but I could watch them. The stake out hadn't given me many answers but I did know who the invitations belonged to and that was a start. I would somehow have to keep an eye on Nimie and Dal! How I was going to manage this, I didn't know. I couldn't be in two places at once but perhaps I could. I smiled and a plan started to form in my head.
I sent Bolly to watch Dal and Wat to watch Nimie. I figured those were my two best bets. I couldn't stand to let my lucky charm, Brite, out of my sight. They reported in daily for the a week and a half. They were detailed but something felt off. Bolly reported Dal just went round to select places. She cleaned and reported back to one of the inhabitants in the Castle. She also visited several zoom zones and crafted a lot. She seemed determined from what Bolly reported. Perhaps, she had finally gotten tired of just doing rounds to wait for an egg to pop up on her wheel. She was moving along fairly well with her quests in the Castle but nothing was out of the ordinary. Bolly told me that she had camped out near the Mosaic Panel and the Castle Armory several times. She had cursed the Binding Egg endlessly. I thought that being in the Elephant Brotherhood would help move along faster but she seemed to be moving at the normal pace. Well, the new current normal pace for the Castle.
Wat reported that Nimie only came out of her house occasionally. He said she seemed paler and more drawn. She didn't look like the Nimie he had seen before. She would mumble to herself and swat things away that weren't there. Wat's reports left me more and more alarmed as the days turned into a week. Nimie was growing thinner and he couldn't explain why. She didn't go anywhere unusual nor did she seem to have the focus that she used to have. I had to wonder what was causing this change in Nimie.
A new day arrived announcing a tournament and I made it to the first one with ten minutes left. I scored enough to make it in to the top 100 but noticed that Dal and Nimie were both absent from the action! I decided to bide time and hope they would enter the next one. So off I went to waste time. I played Salty, who had started to cheat. I was barely winning there. The Fortune Wheel was being stingy and the Evil Gnome Trio was still giving me Helping Hand. So, I chased flowers while waiting. It is a really good way to waste time!
The tournament hall was packed when I showed up for the next one. I saw most of the usual entries. I waved to a few of my friends that corresponded with me and even a few I knew from the message boards around Midnight Castle. I searched for Dal and Nimie but couldn't find them. The whistle blew and I set off. I waited impatiently as the doors opened to the rooms. I searched and made a right mess of all five rooms. I had to find those tournament tokens. I glared at the time the first run through. I was rusty, I knew it. I was pleased with my second run through that gave me a score a little above 197k. I thought that would work and went back to the main to search once again for Nimie and Dal. I smiled as I saw the leader boards. Yes, I thought 197k would do just fine for now.
I found Dal in the 200 ranks. She was smiling and chatting with a girl next to her but when she saw me, she took off. The girl she was chatting to told me that it was Dal's turn. I nodded and gave her my thanks. I would have to catch her after the tournaments. I passed the time cleaning up scenes and was surprised at the item drops. I was getting Polestars, Murder's Eye and Banner of Loyalties! Well, this is different, I thought to myself with a chuckle. After twenty minutes had passed I made my way back to the tournament hall and my heart sank. I was moving lower and lower in the ranks. I didn't have a choice, I headed back in the rooms. My next score was horrible getting all 10% on the spins. I wanted to hurry and get that orange cat. I only needed two more placements in the top 100. I paid in to play again and managed to get just above 202k. I hoped that would keep in the top 100. I set off once again to find Dal, however, I was informed that she had just entered the rooms. My timing was off today!
I made my way back to where I had left in my rounds of the Castle and counted my lucky stars when I got an Immortal Treasure and a Wreath of Justice. I continued on until I heard the whistle blow once again announcing I could play in the tournament again. I headed towards the tournament hall and patiently waited for the doors to open.