Lane’s End Tavern

Casteylan could sense the energy emanating from the stone as he approached it. The air felt crisp and electric, as though after a lightning strike. He reached out to touch the stone’s surface and the spiral carvings on it sparked to life, glowing brightly blue.

There was a shimmer and a brief feeling of falling; when it ended, Casteylan was not in the place where he began. He was standing on a path through heavy forest; it was night and no moon shone but ahead of him he could see lights glimmering between the trees. He followed the path towards them until the building came into view.

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It was homely-looking, nestling in a small clearing amongst the trees, with lights flickering at the windows and the door standing open in welcome. At the gate hung a sign, creaking softly in a barely perceptible breeze. “Lane’s End”, it said.

Casteylan stepped through the door into what was clearly a tavern. There were tables and chairs, to his left a wooden bar and a fireplace with comfortable-looking armchairs. But there was no-one there, save for a stooped old man behind the bar. He looked up as Casteylan entered, and smiled.

“Ah, you’re here at last,” he said. “I have been waiting for you. Come in, traveller, and rest.”

Casteylan frowned but did so and took a seat on one of the stools at the bar. “Waiting for me?”

The old man nodded and filled a mug with ale from one of the barrels behind the bar, handing it to Casteylan. “You are rather later than I was expecting,” he added. “But never mind, you’re here now, that’s what matters.”

Casteylan took the mug and sipped the ale. It was cool and sweet with a hint of honey. “I don’t even know where I am, or how I got here. I just touched a stone and… appeared… just down the path a little way.”

“They always say that,” the old man chuckled. “It’s not always a stone, sometimes it’s a pool, or a mirror, a wardrobe, a ring, sometimes it’s nothing more than a dream. One thing is certain though, you are here because you are meant to be here.”

“But where is here?”

“Why, this is the Lane’s End Tavern, of course!” the old man laughed. “Can you not read, boy? There’s a sign right outside.”

“Of course I can,” Casteylan replied. “But I have heard of no such place before.”

“The paths that lead here are the Paths Between,” the old man said. “We are in a place between worlds. There is just the tavern, a few trees, nothing else.”

Casteylan glanced out of the window, suddenly afraid. “Am I stuck here? How will I get back?”

“As easily as you arrived. Just walk down the path a little way and you’ll find yourself where you need to be. And because now you know the Way, you can come back here whenever you want.” The old man shuffled through a door behind the bar and returned with plates of food; meat and vegetables, warm crusty bread, fruits that Casteylan didn’t even recognise. He offered some coins for the meal but the old man refused. “No need to pay, it’s always free here. The pantry is always well stocked, the barrels never run dry.”

Casteylan ate his dinner while the old man settled in one of the armchairs by the fireplace to doze a while. After his meal and the ale Casteylan was feeling a little sleepy himself so he did the same. When he awoke, he was back at home.

“I’ll be disappointed if that was just a dream,” he muttered to himself. But on the table beside the bed was his mug from the Lane’s End Tavern.

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Bumfuzzled

As I’m a writer, I’ve lurked on and off in the “Virtual Writers Inc” inworld group on and off for a while.  They run a twice-daily challenge at 6am and 6pm called “Writers Dash” which involves writing for 15 minutes (and no longer) on the word-prompt provided.  This week’s prompts can be found here.  I am rarely (never, it seems) online at the right time but no-one said I can’t do the challenge at some other time.  And it might be a fun thing to post the results here, now and again, especially if they’re SL-related.

So here’s this morning’s prompt; Bumfuzzled featuring yours truly, and Casteylan who is an alt (and an account that actually pre-dates my main one).

“Bumfuzzled? What the hell kind of a word is that?” I asked, looking at Casteylan incredulously.

He gave me a sheepish kind of lopsided grin and shrugged.  “Actually I don’t know, I just heard someone use it while I was hanging round at some Zindra infohub and I liked it. Like gobsmacked. I like that one too. You know me and words.”

I lay back on the cushions in his hollow tree-house somewhere in the middle of Elderglen, drained the wine from my cup; Cas reached over and filled it again.  He certainly did have a love of words and languages; he was fluent in half a dozen, knew a few phrases in twenty more and he collected unusual words like other people collect stamps.

“But you’re an elf,” I pointed out. “You’re supposed to be all regal and refined. You’re not supposed to use words like gobsmacked and bumfuzzled.  Besides, your bum doesn’t have any fuzz on it.”

“Yours does.”

“Thank you for pointing that out.” I stretched a leg across the cushoins and gave him a kick. “Remind me why I’m your friend again, I forgot.”

“Because you love me, Ginger. You know that.”

I opened my mouth to utter another witty put-down but I stopped. He was right. We’ve been best friends for seventeen years and I love him like I’d love a twin.  I know him almost as well as I know myself.

But sometimes, you know, he just completely bumfuzzles me.

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There’s a story behind Casteylan.  He started off as a role-playing character and a character in some of my early stories, as far back as 1986.  I have his entire life-story (all 800-odd years of it) mapped out in my head, though I’ve never successfully managed to turn it into a full-length novel despite several attempts. Over the years, Cas  developed into a separate personality sharing my head. This has happened since with other characters I’ve written but never so strongly or so persistently.

When I joined SL with my original first account in 2006 the avatar was based very heavily on Casteylan but I lost interest with that one and didn’t come back until a year later when the perfect last name “Hawker” appeared on the list, so Cas got an account of his own. (his name Casteylan means Red Hawk in his native language).  I don’t log him in in very often these days but I notice when I do that he is distinctly separate from me. We have similarities and we are essentially the same person but he is also separate from me and has his own “voice”. Logging in with him is most definitely not the same as logging in with my main avatar.  I have made other alts since then, but none of them really have such a strong internal presence as Cas does.