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Jasmine Snippet #98

Notes for The Story of Jasmine continue:

The North and South Wind cards from JASMINE: The Battle for the Mid-Realm Collector Card Game.

Two Wind Special Cards from “The Battle for the Mid-Realm” collector card game.

Jasmine looked down at her hand and inspected the ring. So, it’s not a ring after all, it was a Faery King’s Crown. How strange. Then she looked up at the brilliant luminescence of the sky. It seemed to her there were only deep, saturated colors. There was no blackness in the night sky at all.

“Where am I?” she marveled. A Wind came up from behind and blew her hair forward.

The Wind answered, “Welcome to the Meeting Place of the Winds. Allow me to introduce everyone. I am Ost, the East Wind.” He spun around delightfully as he spoke, “I am the first wind–the breeze of the morning. As herald of the day, I bring hope and brightness.” He stopped and moved closer to her and whispered, “At the moment, I am the strongest here as it is just about to dawn.” Ost landed lightly by Jasmine’s side and took Jasmine’s hand. She clearly felt Ost’s firm grasp and wondered how this could be. Ost introduced her to the other three winds. Each one’s sharp, undulating features refracted in and out of invisibility.

Ost paused. “This is Wein, the West Wind.” he introduced, “He shall be the strongest wind this afternoon.” Next to Ost’s warm feel, Wein was cold. He seemed bluer than the other winds and his voice had an unfriendly edge to it.

“I shall chill you and never leave you in peace.” Wein said.

“Lovely.” Jasmine sighed a bit too loudly.

“Miss, that is my nature.” Wein replied. “I came out of courtesy to meet you, though I’m bidden to do but a single service for the Sorceress of Medrylthorn. Know, oh haughty one, until I have dispatched my obligation, I cannot do you any favors.”

Jasmine nodded her acknowledgment as Ost ushered her quickly away. “This is Noird, the blinding wind of the North. His strength is in the evening and he’s sometimes hot and sometimes cold, but he is always full of energy. Noird has promised a service to the Ice King, Thorgall. So like Wein, Noird is unable to help you at the moment.”

Noird blew a kiss at her. “I sincerely hope you will be around when I am able to serve you…” Jasmine blushed, then acknowledged him with a nod of her head.

Ost took her to meet the last wind, “Sud is the hot wind of the night. Her strength envelopes and protects.” Sud displayed more of a purplish cast. Her vibration seemed faster than the other winds. Strangely, the faster undulations gave Sud’s sharp features more definition. With Sud’s form, she could make out a body beyond her face.

From what Jasmine could tell, Sud had the general shape of a horse with great wings, but also, instead of a horse’s head, there was a woman’s torso. Jasmine thought Sud looked exquisite and stunning.

Ost added, “Oh, deep into the night, you traveled on an excursion with Sud, since she was the strongest at that time.”

“Oh.” Jasmine said, “thank you.” It seemed to Jasmine that Sud winked at her and she chuckled.

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Jasmine Snippet #97

Notes for The Story of Jasmine continue:

The Special Card, “Ring of Emeth” from the JASMINE: The Battle of the Mid-Realm Collector Card game.

Jasmine closed her eyes and kept her eyes shut as she concentrated on blowing into her makeshift flute. It surely felt as if she was suspended in the air but she preferred to believe the feeling was illusory. She felt safe from harm as long as she kept her mind occupied with playing. So she fought the temptation to reach out one of her hands to confirm there was ground beneath her. In case it wasn’t an illusion, she did not want to fall to her death.

After a while, she decided to get bold enough to trust her bodily sensations. She trusted gravity would not claim her. If she was being suspended in the air, she’d make the best of it. But she still kept her eyes shut. Jasmine moved her body in a way that placed less stress on her muscles.

To be aware of her orientation, to know up and down, she had to be aware of her center of gravity. She instinctively did this by imagining herself in the middle of a bubble that would always right itself. Creating her bubble cushion helped make her flute playing easier. The winds picked up and tossed her higher and higher. She could control how fast she tumbled by spreading out her arms and legs. To do this, she had to stop playing.

When she stopped playing, she opened her eyes. Darn, she knew this would happen.She was in free fall. “This is not my imagination.” Jasmine said to herself. There was nothing for her to do but to accept her situation. She was falling. How could she fight gravity? Sooner or later, she will hit the ground. So she decided to relax her muscles and welcome every sensation she felt during her last moments alive. Indeed, as she fell, she noticed the customary colors of the night had changed into an intense blue purple.

She did not hit the ground. Instead, she was buoyed up, suspended, and gently placed on a circular bowl etched in a rock near the edge of a cliff. As soon as her feet touched rock, she stumbled as if she had forgotten how gravity worked. The Winds immediately manifested before her. There was much mirth between them. Their laughter sounded like high whistling. “See!” one was saying to another, “didn’t I tell you? Aria’s daughter could not help but to succeed, and brilliantly!”

“W-What?” Jasmine asked, as she got up, “who is Aria?”

“Oh, you can hear us speak?” asked one who appeared directly in front of her. He was see-thorough, but his features were sharp and piercing. His image kept distorting as it flickered between invisibility and shades of blue and white.

“Yes, I understand you.” Jasmine answered. The winds quickly ushered themselves away to confer among themselves. Jasmine felt nothing but an abysmal stillness during their absence. But it gave her time to consider her situation. She was here basically because the ghostly voices connected with the ring had brought her to this spot.

“This spot.” That phrase kept echoing in her head. “This spot. This spot. This-s-s-p… Of course! This very spot is where the Winds meet. I’m here!” Jasmine felt elated. She spun and danced within the circular depression in the rock. Somehow, she arrived at the place the ring voices advised her to find.

When she thought about it, she became puzzled that she had not encountered the voices emanating from the ring for a long while. They were silent still. Then Jasmine heard the word  “Doorway” in her head. She reasoned that this was why the colors were so deep and marvelous! Jasmine smiled. She was on the doorstep of elementals who could take her precisely where she wanted to go.

One of the winds returned.

This one also had sharp features and was almost indistinguishable from the first, except the voice differed, “Winds are able to converse quite freely with the denizens of the faery realm. We think you can understand us because you wear the Crown of the Faery King Emeth on your finger.”

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Jasmine Snippet #96

Notes for The Story of Jasmine continue:

Special card in the deck of JASMINE: The Battle for the Mid-Realm collector card game

Jasmine awakened. She was by a mountain stream in an area where some tall reeds grew. She heard them rustling as they shimmered in the breeze. Her muscles felt stiff and ached. She stretched, and wondered how she got there. It was still dark. She could not tell how long she slept or dreamt. Absently, she reached for one of the dried golden reeds, pulled it to her, broke off the stem and fidgeted with it as she thought about her visionary excursions.

As with her experience with her sisters at the ancient temple on White Throne Mountain, she could not tell if she actually traveled to these majestic places, or if she just had one fantastic dream. She had dreamt of flying before, so the sensation of moving through the air high above the ground was somewhat familiar. And flying would explain how she arrived at this spot.

She became aware of the golden reed she was turning in her hands and inspected it. There was some fibrous material on the inside. So she started the process of hollowing the reed using whatever sharp sticks or natural tools presented themselves.

After she hollowed the dried reed, she found a rock just the right shape and sharpness to fashion little holes in the stem. She found a way to produce a nice round hole, if she twisted the rock back and forth the right way. The next time she blew into the reed, she produced a sound. After a little more work, she was able to improve the tone. Using the same technique, she worked on other holes, until at last, she’d fashioned a flute.

It took considerable effort to produce even a raspy and barely audible sound when she tried to play it. She found another rock with a sharper edge she could use to better define the holes and further refine the inside. It was hard because it was still dark and she did these tasks more with feel than sight. Jasmine worked on it single-mindedly until the sound produced became cleaner. As she improved the sound, she hummed a melody that got stuck in her brain. And as she hummed, the winds picked up.

So focused was Jasmine on finishing her task, she did not immediately notice when the winds picked her up. Still seated, her body hovered three inches off the ground. At last, when she blew into the finished reed, and made a strong pure note, the winds lifted her higher into the air.

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Jasmine Snippet #95

The Story of Jasmine Notes continue:

After Jasmine calmed herself down, she did as suggested and strained to listen. She heard the tweeting of the night birds, the rustle of the leaves, distant shouting. She heard the effects of the wind, but not the wind itself. She tried even harder to focus on the sounds, but to no avail. She was merely hearing the sounds of the night.

“There is nothing to listen to!” Jasmine cried out in frustration.

“Precisely” was the response she heard.

“What?” Then it occurred to her that she was meant to focus on the space between the sounds. She needed to hear the silence.

As she focused deeper into the silence, she found its space could expand and open up. But with the next sound, her expansion collapsed. What did she have to do, stop time? It was difficult to sustain her focus, but she kept at it until she became aware of a faint melody. When she concentrated on the melody, it disappeared. Then she would have to start all over again. She could not trap the melody in her mind. Finally, Jasmine understood she needed to completely surrender to the silence. To allow this, she needed to relinquish her mind’s search for meaning.

When she allowed her experience to wash over her. Without her mind’s interference, Jasmine was finally able to follow the alluring sound with her heart. Her heart followed the faint hollow melody of silence to a stream where some golden reeds grew. The haunting song of silence came from these reeds that stirred in the faint breeze.

Jasmine felt the breeze. She felt it whirling around her, inside and out, like a slow motion tornado. She was a reed moving in the wind. Like every other individual reed, she too, had her own sound. Like the reed, she was a hollow vessel for the wind to play. She never felt so alive and good, a reed yearning to be moved with living breath of the wind. She became the instrument and the song. There was no place where her song was not playing. Inside and outside of herself, she played the song of her soul. The energy increased in waves. She felt sound vibrations all over her body. She was already on sensory overload when there was an increase in tempo and amplitude until, in one great burst, she released herself to the wind and experienced time out of time.

She travelled on the wings of the wind. Together, they journeyed freely throughout the Mid-Realm. She saw wonders and sights she never knew existed. The wind told her about the history of the different lands they visited. With stars flashing before her eyes, her heart perceived everything around her all at once: her relationship to the cosmos, her true connections to the people around her and she saw the face of her true mother. What was revealed in a couple moments would take life times to explain.

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Jasmine Snippet #94

More notes for The Story of Jasmine:

Lt. Adrian Cartwell rode at top speed with his injured prize and did not slow his pace until his horse desperately needed rest. Galloping so hard for so long, exhausted the poor beast. He was exhausted too. Although they had not yet made it out of the forest, he felt he was far enough along that he would be safe from attack.

The lizard-dragon Gryth had long since given up squirming. The Lieutenant hoped the creature was still alive. He dismounted and carefully laid Gryth limply on the ground. It seemed weak and made disturbing chortling sounds. It must be hungry but the Lieutenant did not know what it ate. However, he did have a water canteen and dripped water into its mouth. That helped. The water revived Gryth enough to demand more. A good sign.

The Lieutenant wetted a handkerchief and washed Gryth’s wounds. Some were nasty but most were superficial. It hurt Gryth so much to move, Lt. Cartwell concluded it must be because of that awful kick he received from the woman. He realized how painful the horse ride probably had been for it and felt it best for the patient not to be jostled anymore on horseback. Lt. Cartwell risked a fire, deciding that warmth along with peaceful ground rest would help the dragon mend his internal injuries.

When the fire was crackling, they rested near its warmth. “Little Gryth boy…” he kept repeating as he tended to its torn body, “poor little one… you will be alright.” He urged the creature to rest. He soothed the animal by speaking to it in the same tone and repeating the same words that his own mother said to him when he was little and in need of comfort.

He placed his entire focus on Gryth. He did not want to leave room in his mind to think about how he abruptly abandoned the men under his charge. But saving Gryth was important. First and foremost, it was Bardulf’s pet. To lose Gryth was to lose his life. But also, there was another amazing reason. He had heard the little dragon speak to him.

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Jasmine Snippet #93

The Story of Jasmine notes continue:

From her perch on a lonely mountain rock, Jasmine watched the outcome of the day’s battle. She desperately wanted to help and paced morosely back and forth from her horse to her vantage point. Oh, how she wanted to turn all those hideous creatures into stone! But without her staff, she felt she did not have the power, or the means. And she faced the truth. Even if she did have her staff, she did not know how to wield it for such a purpose. She felt stupid and ineffective.

Witnessing the Wichtleins’ eventual victory was devastating. She watched in horror as those large menacing men slowly surrounded her protectors. There was a pause in the fighting that opened into a space. They were completely surrounded but instead of killing them, they took their weapons. They captured everything but the staff, which Ahearn held on to tightly.

“What can I do?” she asked out loud, as if she was appealing to the sky. And to her surprise, her plaintive call was answered.

“Listen to the wind” was the response.

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Jasmine Snippet #92

The Story of Jasmine notes continue:

The ensuing battle temporarily united Bardulf’s soldiers with Jasmine’s protectors against their non-human foe. The Wichtleins, still uncertain about the magical staff Ahearn held aloft, concentrated their efforts on eliminating the second group of men who’d arrived on horseback.

In the fighting, the Wichtleins slowly closed in on them, noting how the staff held by Ahearn glowed ominously. In the end, superior numbers won the day. By twilight, only Jasmine’s protectors remained alive. Because of their deep superstitions regarding magic, few Wichtleins were willing to engage them.

The day ended with Glynn, Thorne, Ahearn and Rogan completely surrounded, their weapons taken from them. “Guard them.” ordered the Chieftain, who seemed to have something in mind. The Wichtleins began clearing the battleground of all the fallen. Although they had won, three times as many Wichtleins were dead. Cleaning up was a grim affair.

Many Wichtleins were relieved they did not have to deal with the lady in white who had ridden off at the onset of the battle. None would go after her. The land across the bridge was taboo. All Wichtleins who ventured there, never came back. All agreed she would probably share the same fate.

As the dead men were being picked up and all their horses lead away, Glynn praised the valiant efforts of the fallen men, who arrived with the dragon lizard. They were good fighters. Glynn was unsure, but he seemed to recognize one of them. “It was in another place, at another time,” he sighed, “I think we had a drink together. I’d raise one in honor now, if I could…”

Thorne reacted violently when the body of her hawk was picked up. “Don’t touch him!”  she cried, only to be ignored. Then she cursed Jasmine again, under her breath, for the death of Gavin, her sweet, great bird.

Glynn addressed her, “Curse her all you like, but we are alive now because of her.”

Thorne snorted, “How do you figure?”

“Her staff saved us.” Glynn replied as he watched Ahearn whorl the staff around as if it was a fighting stick.  “It’s clearly a weapon, but it’s the only thing they clearly would not touch. They are afraid of it more than they are afraid of us.”

They all looked at Ahearn, who remained focused on looking menacing. Rogan had nothing to say.

At length, they heard the sound of drums in the distance. Ahearn then started talking gibberish. To the accompaniment of drums, he spoke non-words in a commanding way and would keep up the act throughout the night.

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Jasmine Snippet #91

“The Story of Jasmine” notes continue:

When their commander’s massive head was split in two with one cleave of that dwarf’s battle-axe, none of the Witchleins knew what to do. Was this magic, or a mighty warrior? Their second thought was of eating a warrior as mighty as this. They would feast on his strength and fortitude. What a great and honored feast he would make. But until that time, the dwarf still dangerously possessed his warrior’s spirit.

Most Witchleins were only familiar with raids carried out at night, when their victims were asleep. Subduing awake victims during the day seemed to be ill-advised. Most were reassured that as long as Ikvokeg was there to lead and guide the attack, everything would go as smoothly as planned. But Ikvokeg can no longer give them a signal. How do they know when it is the right time to strike?

How did that dwarf warrior know to attack lkvokeg’s spot? Suspicious and overanxious, once they saw and recognized Ahearn as he rode in, one of them cried, “Dock-far person meat!” They all then prematurely left their hiding places in the rocks above. They were not in any hurry but by the time they reached level ground, there was another group to fight.

*  *  *

Jasmine remained on her horse, still stunned by her encounter with the dragon-lizard. Ahearn quickly rode up from behind, and grabbed Jasmine’s arm to pull her attention back to the here and now. His touch shook her out of her dazed state and Jasmine realized the danger all around them. She realized Thorne was cursing her.

“Ride ahead, princess…” Ahearn said with an air of authrity, “ride until you see a bridge to the right and take it!”

“What?” was all Jasmine could muster as a reply.

Ahearn grabbed the Staff of Erlkyng,”Trust me!” he said, “I’ll, ah … we’ll join you later. Now GO!”

He slapped the rear of Jasmine’s horse and the animal gladly distanced itself from the fray. Having witnessed Jasmine heal the winged creature, the Wichtleins allowed her to ride past unharmed. She was magical. But Ahearn was another matter. They closed in on him.

Knowing he’d be caught up in the fighting, Ahearn held Jasmine’s staff aloft for all to see. “Magic! Magic!” he kept repeating.

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Jasmine Snippet #88

Another snippet for “The Story of Jasmine,”

Bardulf’s men, lead by Lt. Cartwell, were stirred by the sounds of aerial combat. At first, they were only focused on the sky upward. Then the Lieutenant was the first to notice some commotion further up ahead. After calling upon his men to be keen, he shouted, “target ahead, Prepare to engage.” He thought victory was easily within their grasp. They picked up speed and quickly closed in on the five. It was only a matter of minutes.

*  *  *

In the meanwhile, Glynn quickly dismounted and got his horse off to the side. If the others could follow his example, in the minutes before they’d be overtaken, they might gain a slight advantage against their pursuers.  If they could but take the offensive… Glynn was barking orders to that effect as he headed towards an outcropping of boulders to conceal himself. Glynn heard a noise and instantly readied his weapon.

With adrenaline coursing through the dwarf’s system, he charged whatever was behind that rock. Turned out, a large man-like thing with a nasty-looking club glared back at him menacingly, ready to strike him dead with a foul blow. For being so large, this warrior was amazingly capable of blending into his surroundings. Glynn finished off his enemy with one, well aimed cleave. As he noticed more of these hideous people peeking from their hiding places, Glynn instantly realized their grim situation, “Aho,” he cried, “A trap!”

*  *  *

Two flying creatures were locked in mortal combat, clawing and biting each other mid-air. When Jasmine appeared out in the open, the leathery creature flew to her, and rasped out a piteous call. It seemed to bow to her.Jasmine was startled. The poor creature was clawed, bitten up, very bloody and badly scratched. Was this his appeal to seek her protection?  This was not what she expected. He’s a loving creature. In an act of compassion, Jasmine stroked the bloodied beast with her ringed hand, getting its blood on her. She forgot she had her staff in the other hand. Jasmine’s grace offered the creature solace. This momentary interaction had the effect of reinvigorating Gryth.

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Jasmine Snippet #87

Notes for The Story of Jasmine continue:

Ahearn was uneasy. All morning Rogan had monopolized Jasmine’s attention, thwarting his intentions on several counts. First, he wanted to ride closer to Jasmine, more towards the front of the caravan. He had not expected the group to act so jovial. It made it harder on his conscience to carry out his devious plan. Jasmine was usually walled up inside that cloak of hers. It was going to be so easy. Just grab the reins of her horse and they’d be out of there before the ambush commenced. He smirked at the thought that their last memories of him would be in gratitude that he successfully rescued Jasmine from their fate.

The hawk spotted something. They had not yet arrived at the ambush site, which was nearby. Ahearn felt excitement. The trap was nearly ready to be sprung, but for that damned bird.

The hawk’s piercing screams were answered by another more disturbing call, which sounded like a cross between a crocodile and a lion’s roar. Everyone surged ahead to try to see what was happening.

When he caught a glimpse of it, Glynn shouted an alarm. It was Gryth, the creature Jasmine spoke about only last night. “Beware!” He shouted, “Bardulf’s soldiers are nearby! Ride ahead to the opening in the trees. Well make our stand there.” At Glynn’s urging, everyone charged ahead.

Ahearn was stunned. This was a possibility he had not planned for. They were riding at top speed towards the ambush site. This was all wrong. The cannibals are apt to believe he double-crossed them. At first, he just intended to slow things down by getting in front of everyone. Then, damned if he didn’t sense the vibration of earth being pounded by hooves behind them! He charged past Rogan, almost knocking Rogan and his horse into the brush.

Glynn arrived at the point where the road opened up into an incredible vista with a blue sky. The sun nearly blinded everyone who emerged from the thicket. When Glynn reached this place, he was dismounting to find a place among the rocks and shouted instructions for Jasmine to find a hiding place as well.

Before Jasmine could respond, they heard the blood-curdling cries of two creatures locked in mortal combat and Thorne screaming from behind, the name of her pet.

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