Rory’s Story Cubes, where a hermit’s dream alters reality.
Once upon a time…
It was a night just like tonight. The fog was as thick. An eerie silence pervaded the blackness, as if the entire world was waiting in anticipation of…something.
Inside her hut, the hermit Baba Doku lay, dreaming. Hers was the sleep of the mystics of Jonshu, an ancient ritual wherein cryptic visions would illuminate those who slumbered. Some would merely awaken confused, unsure of the rituals efficacy. Others, however, would be so affected by the phantoms that plagued them in the Betweener’s Realm of Jonshu, that their lives would never be the same. Some would never awaken, their souls drawn into the Betweener’s Realm forever.
It was in this Betweener’s Realm that Baba Doku now wandered in a hilly landscape, with a frothing crimson ocean to her left, and a stark shrivelled forest to her right. Eyeless, featherless birds flew overhead, their reptilian tails wavering behind them. They would call out an alien, warbling cry as they pursued the cloudless horizon.
Almost too suddenly, Baba Doku discovered a featureles orb of the clearest crystal. She crouched low to examine it, then tapped it lightly with her sandaled toe. Seeing no harm in it, she hefted the glassy sphere in one leathery hand, then continued on her way.
An aged, stooped man clucked at Baba Doku from atop a carved wooden stool. One hand supported a silvery, metallic wand the shape of a tree limb, while the other shook as if he was in a frenzy or seizure. But his features were kind, and Baba Doku felt no fear, so she approached him.
“Brother Jonshu sends you his regards,” crowed the man in a reedy, lilting tone. His one hand ceased its shaking and then opened, releasing a pair of bone dice.
“Fourteen!” cawed the man. “Not bad. You may go now.”
Baba Doku realized that not only had she acquired a crystal orb, but she was now holding the silvery wand with the shape of a tree limb. Sensing more purpose, she bid the man farewell and turned to the forest to continue.
The forest was blasted and barren, as in the aftermath of a great fire. Wiry, charred tree trunks pointed accusingly to the sky above. The ground below was rocky and cracked like an acient porcelain bowl.
It was while navigating this forlorn landscape that Baba Doku discovered a lamb, obviously too weak to carry on. Her heart instantly open, Baba Doku knelt by the lamb, laying the crystal orb on the ground so that her freed hand could pet and gently stroke the weakened animal.
The animal stirred, but its weakness prevented it from acting on its typical fear of unfamiliar creatures. Instead, its eyes called out to Baba Doku, begging for respite.
Turning away from the prone animal for a moment, Baba Doku gently arced the silver wand with the shape of a tree limb, so that it touched the orb. Instantly the orb opened, making the sound of a shell dashed on rocks. Its watery contents spilled across the parched forest floor.
The water was quickly drunken by the cracked earth, and emerald grass instantly sprang forth. Baba Doku snagged a handful of the luscious new growth and eased it to the lamb’s mouth. With a twitch of its nostrils, the animal ate: first timidly, then with eagerness as its strength and courage returned.
“You are a wise one, Baba Doku,” keened the old man, who appeared from behind a shriveled tree. “Take that key, and your companion will follow you always.”
With a start, Baba Doku awoke from her slumber. It had lasted for three days.
Baba Doku became aware of her immense hunger and thirst almost instantly. she resolved to fetch herself some fruits from the forest surrounding her secluded woodland home. Wrapping her woolly cloak about her shoulders for warmth, she drew her hair from her face with an outstretched hand.
She gasped, noticing for the first time the silver markings – like the twigs from a tree – encircling her wrist.
Mystified, she emerged from her hut. As if for the first time, Baba Doku gingerly walked along the woodland trail she had worn down over countless years, seeking the apple orchard she knew to be there.
Resting beneath the largest apple tree of the grove, its head bowed, lay a magnificent, sandy-brown stallion.
Baba Doku knew. “Hello, Brother Jonshu,” she said. The stallion opened its beautiful, beautiful almond eyes.