Aha, I have found it! Here is my photographe of the Pixie and the Strongman, and Oolon as well… taken after we extricated ourselves from the wreckage of their balloon, and before we fled into, er, decided to explore the caves. As I suspected, the photo is bloodied and singed… well, I should be thankful we escaped at all, and moreso with photographic evidence intact.
Again, I apologize for displaying so much old man skin… really, he’s got a lovely personality and a great fine mind, a splendid dry sense of humour… in there, underneath.*
Even after all of these trials, we were still determined to continue our exploration of the volcanic island we had named Phillip, to protect Caledon, and to find the secrets within. Miss Kiralette told us we shouldn’t go into the caves, and having gone, should go back out as soon as the lepus giganticus, or Bunnzilla, stopped snuffling at the cave mouth. I think she’d had her fill of adventure and just wanted to go home to her ball of yarn and catnip garden. While she made grand gestures with her machete, Lord Zealot and I conferred quietly about the idol of my visions. I could see by the interested gazes of our friends we would have to tell them something soon.
The brave Mister Abel had managed to acquire a native map, but it was so primitive, and the tunnels so labyrinthine, that we might wander for days or weeks before finally stumbling into someplace terribly unhelpful, such as the Inchysporkchowchow’s main barracks of warriors. We needed a guide, and lacking any natives to Dominate, er, influence, the only option I could see was a spell I learned a long time ago, and haven’t used in at least a century. I was nervous about casting it, I can tell you; it was dark and sunless down here, and that helped, but it would take a lot of blood out of me. I warned Lord Zealot that I might grow so weak I would lose control: faint, or worse. I didn’t want to frighten the others, or frankly, reveal so much of my weakness to them all. I treasure Caledon and the warm acceptance I’ve enjoyed here. But if they knew all of my dark history, all of who I was and am…
Torch-waving mobs are no fun unless there is, at the very least, a good dance beat.
The strange maudlin organ music (sans a good dance beat) again wafted up to us from the tunnels below as I began to sing, to cast… weaving my song into it, my heart and soul and blood… my spirit soaring with the high notes, my thoughts lofty with love of Caledon and my companions… my body thrumming with the low notes, blood shivering, burning, as I felt, became, the great island around and above and below… felt its’ strangeness, its’ longing, its’ flatulence, the restlessness of its’ flames… and then I could feel it, within Our womb, growing… coalescing slowly… what was this, what is this, this strange thing being created…?
I lost myself for a time, as I knew I would. The dark, sparkling orb that coalesced before me was Us, the island and I, the manifestation of our union of selves. It wanted to lead me to its’ greatest treasure, so that we might reunite completely…
And so we followed it down, leagues and leagues down, deep into the hot steaming stinking bowels of Phillip. I following Our spirit, they following me…
We are too high, We must go deeper… drifting through the passages, hewn from rock by ancients ancient to the ancients, living rock, Our veins, Our lungs, the passages of Our breath… down deeper, towards the hot flaming gooey center, along and around it, oh so bubbling the burning blood, oh so fragile the creatures within, oh the desire to care for them, Our little parasites within, feed them, Our babes, take them where they wish, for We are restless, We need not remain, We travel where He says, with Its great power, oh how We hunger, deeper still, nearer the boiling blood and cooling waves, no not that way, they will scream and throw sharpened spanners if they see Us, yes this way, watch your step, mind the gap, now we’re almost to My Heart but first must pass over the river of …
I froze when I saw it, terror gripping my, ehm, tender bits, like an overzealous and rather clumsy lover. Casting bright flickering orange light onto our fearful faces, pressing down on us with suffocating heat, a river of molten fire… the Beast in me knew it could burn me, end me, and screamed into my brain to run far and fast away and shred anyone or anything that got in my way. I fell back against the rough stone wall, my body and the guide orb trembling in fear. But the guide told me the only way to the depths we sought was over the narrow stone bridge over the lava flow.
My companions were sweating with the heat, and some were already removing what sparse clothing was left to us. Lady Amber was already down to a few triangles of fabric.
Still I could not move, for fear that if I did, I would simply flee, howling. I looked down at my hand, gripping my small beaded purse, and saw a thin line of blood-tinged sweat flow down my arm and between two white-knuckled fingers. Why did it have to be fire? There is not very much that can kill me at this point… but that, oh that could do it.
Perhaps I should not tell you that. You won’t tell anyone, will you?
* If I go missing after this publication, then you shall know that posting this image has finally crested his annoyance level at all my previous prune jokes, and Oolon has decided to whisk me off in his space machine and drop me into a supernova. Remember me, Caledon!