The Tunnels

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Towers, tunnels…it seems if there is some structural phenomenon that can’t be fully explained, somehow I always end up being the one who investigates it. But, I guess when it says “Explorer” on your business card, that kind of thing is an occupational hazard.

When I got into the exploring business, I knew I’d be dealing with the “unknown” but I thought of that in terms of place – unknown territory, a new land, what have you. I never really thought I’d come in contact with “the unexplained” or “inexplicable.”

But that was before I settled in Winterfell.

Recently I was telling you about when my friend Seamus Gumbo visited me in Winterfell. He discovered a trap door in the floor of Storytellers Pub. Right next to the bar by the back door. Somehow I never noticed it before. He climbed in and came back up with a story of a labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Winterfell. Amazing. Something to explore! And right under my feet…well, under my pub.

But at the time, I was physically unable to investigate these tunnels. I had good reason to be in such condition…I’d been drinking all afternoon. With Seamus. He was in no condition to investigate further himself. We decided to explore these tunnels the next day.

I slept in. Apparently Seamus had too because at three o’clock in the afternoon, I still hadn’t heard from him. Finally, I sent a messenger.

At about 5:30, Seamus walked in to the pub. He was moving slowly.

“I was supposed to meet you for something?” he mumbled as he sat down next to me at the bar and motioned to the bartender for a cup of coffee.

“We are going to investigate the tunnels,” I reminded him.

“Tunnels,” he looked at me, clearly trying to recall the previous day’s events through the haze of the morning after. Or the late afternoon/early evening after.

“Yeah. Don’t you remember? The hole in the floor? Trap door? Tunnels…every direction?”

“I remember a ladder,” he said as he accepted the fresh coffee.

“Yes…” I jogged Seamus’ memory and went over my plan to explore the tunnels.

“You’re the explorer, right?” Seamus asked. “Do you really need me? I have sort of a headache.”

I laughed and patted him on the back. “Take the rest of the day off, old-timer. I’ll let you know what I find.”

He just nodded and sipped his coffee.

Ulysses The Cat was pawing at the trap door as I  pulled on my overcoat to head into the underground of Winterfell. I lit my lantern and opened the trap door and the cat scurried away. “Take it slow, Shay,” I said, smiling as I started down the ladder. “Yeah,” I heard him reply.

***

At the bottom of the ladder, I was in a tunnel that led immediately to a staircase. Down the stair was an intersection of tunnels. To my left and right were more staircases, back up to ground level, I assumed. Straight ahead there was another intersection and beyond that a three-way stop. I followed each direction until coming to an end or another intersection, upon which I would walk back the way I came so as not to get lost. It was dark but the lantern I carried was not actually necessary, there was just enough light to see without it.

I continued to follow the tunnels in this manner and found that they went on and on. In the process, I came across doors to empty rooms. What was this place? A dungeon? Secret storage spot? Was this built for escape or some military advantage? Why have I, as Ambassador, never heard Lady Twilight or Admiral Beaumont speak of these tunnels?

Or do they not know? Maybe I should alert them both immediately!

But how could somebody build this extensive tunnel system without being observed?

When I started following the staircases up to ground level to see where they led…I was astonished to find they took me right to the middle of the street. They were not hidden at all! If you were to walk down the street in Laudanum or Absinthe that day – the right sections of the right streets – you would see trap doors that you could open and follow down to the tunnels. But they weren’t there two days earlier!

***

I returned to Storytellers Pub to make some notes. Later, I went down into the tunnel again and placed a marker at the bottom of the staircase leading to the pub. (Just in case some night I’m coming back through the tunnels after a couple rounds at the Wolf & Raven in Absinthe. Well, it’s easy to get lost down there.)

***

Lady Twilight is in semi-retirement these days, so I take most matters to Princess Selena. I had to bring this to her.

By the time I met with the Princess the following day, Winterfell was abuzz with talk of the sudden appearance of underground tunnels. On the way to Rosehaven, I tried to avoid people so they wouldn’t ask me questions I could not answer. A couple of people called to me, “Good morning, Ambassador!…” and I could tell they wanted to chat but I just waved and walked on.

At the Castle, I waited for Princess Selena to arrive. She is not a big fan of mornings.

***

When we met, I reported my findings to the Princess, leaving out the part about Seamus, the trap door, Ulysses the Cat and the six ales, one stout and stray whiskey or two.

When I was done, the Princess had a strange smile on her face. “I had a dream about tunnels,” she said.

“A dream?”

“It was sooo vivid.”

“I see,” I said. I wondered what this dream had to do with the actual tunnels under Winterfell.

“That was three nights ago. In the morning, when I woke, I went out…and there they were.” She smiled.

“The tunnels?”

“Yes.” She continued smiling.

“Oh.”

The Princess laughed. “I haven’t told Mum yet. Would you like to tell her?”

“You’re trying to make me laugh, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. We both laughed.

“No, if this is connected to your dream, I would most definitely not like to be the one to tell the Seneschelf,” I said, “…unless, of course, you want me to.”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t really ask you. I’m going to tell her, of course. Just waiting for the right moment.”

“Well, people are definitely talking about it in the southern towns,” I said.

“Yes, I’m sure. I guess now is the right moment.” She smiled and stood. I thanked the Princess for her time and wished her good luck.

And then left as quickly as I could before she could have second thoughts about who should tell her Mother.

***

On my way back to Laudanum, I decided rather than do my usual and take the ferry to cross the canal, I would use the tunnels instead.

It took longer as I was careful not to get lost. And I did stop a couple of times to open doors and look inside empty rooms.

The thought then occurred to me that walking through these tunnels that were the apparent result of a dream, was like walking through the mind of the Princess.

That was a bit too weird.

I immediately stopped exploring and headed straight for the staircase that led up to the Storytellers Pub and ordered an ale. And a stray whiskey.

***

One last thing… If you should find yourself wandering about the tunnels of Winterfell and should become lost…or simply thirsty, keep a watch for my marker – a large ‘S’ – and follow that staircase up to Storytellers Pub.


Visit Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life and see if you can locate the trap door to The Tunnels. 🙂

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/210/210/23/

Pizza Wars

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Last October we had a big bash at The Evergreen Pub in Dankoville. We had a lot to celebrate. I had just take over ownership of the pub (it used to be the Town Tavern), Uncle Manuel was retiring, I was replacing him as the president of Whitfield Farms, The Evergreen had just signed a deal with The Pheasant’s Roost Tavern of Ireland to carry their beer and Jamie Wright of The Pheasant had come over to be Guest Bartender at The Evergreen. We threw a big pizza and beer party and had a great time. The place was packed!

I had no idea I had started a war.

“The Great Pizza War,” as Dave, one of my bartenders at The Evergreen, calls it.

It started innocently enough. The local paper ran a story about the event – mainly because it was the first public announcement of Uncle Manuel retiring. The article was mostly about Manuel and Whitfield Farms but they gave the pub a really nice mention too. The only problem was the quote of Rusty Piersen, a local farmer, who said we had the “best pizza in the Tri-County area.”

Problem being we’re just down the street from Mario’s Villa, the pizza restaurant. Their slogan? “Best Pizza in the Tri-County Area!!!!!” With five exclamation points.

About a week later, I was having lunch at The Evergreen, sitting at my usual table by the front window. As I gazed across the street at the park, a man suddenly appeared on the street side of the window. He pointed at me and smiled and walked the in through the door of the pub.

It was the owner of Mario’s Villa.

“Ah, Mr. Whitfield, Mario Barstardi. Sorry to interrupt your lunch. Might I have a word?” he said as he sat down across from me.

“Yes, certainly. Can I order you some lunch?”

“Oh no, thank you. I’ll just be a minute,” he said.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bastardi?”

“You had a pizza party here last week,” he said.

“Yes, we did. It was quite a success.”

“Mr. Whitfield, I’m glad your party was a success,” he said, “good for you. That is fine. But I know you are new here. I mean…Dankoville…you are and you aren’t,” he smiled. “The town is named after you but you’ve never really lived here. Summers as a boy, I believe. But you were here to stay with your relatives, this is not your hometown. Not even now, if I understand?” He smiled again.

“That’s true,” I acknowledged, nodding my head.

“And so, I don’t expect you to know the customs here, among the business community. We…cooperate rather than compete, you see?” He smiled.

“I’m all for cooperation among the local businesses,” I said.

“That is good to hear. Of course, I am not surprised, knowing your family here. Your Uncle Manuel – very good man, very good. Mushroom, pepper and onion. Of course now he takes the gluten free but back in the day…oh well. Twenty years ago, Manuel would have his pepper and onion but it would be sausage instead of mushroom. Oh yes. And your Uncle Chester, a crazy man yes but always very pleasant, anchovy, onion and extra cheese.” He smiled still again.

I smiled as I recognized my uncles’ taste buds. Mr. Bastardi knew his customers.

“Well, we obviously can’t compete with you in the pizza business, Mr. Bastardi,” I offered.

“There, you see!” he said. “But your pizza party, maybe you didn’t realize…that is direct competition for me now. The newspaper called your pizza the best in the Tri-County area.”

“They were quoting a customer –”

“Yes, I know. But THAT is MY slogan!” he shouted. The patrons at the other tables and at the bar looked over at us. Irv, the day bartender, looked over and pointed to Mr. Bastardi with a “Do you want me to throw him out?” look on his face. He seemed rather eager to do so. I shook my head no, trying to avoid Bastardi’s notice.

But he was too lost in what he was saying to notice. “That is DIRECT competition! THAT is what I am talking about,” he said with his voice still raised above normal level.

“Well yes, I understand,” I said quietly, “but there is nothing about our having pizza on the menu here that is an attack on your business. We do pub food here. Pizza is pub food.”

“Of course. But you are in the bar business. I am in the pizza business,” Bastardi replied. “I sell beer and wine but I don’t go out and say I have the best wine selection in town – even though I do – because that is not my business. Pizza is my business. I promote pizza. I make money on the beer and wine, sure but I don’t go out and compete with you who are in that business. I don’t market that. I market pizza. You sell beer, wine, the hard liquor and the rest. You market that. But you don’t market pizza. That is my area. That is how we do it here. You see?” He smiled again. I got the feeling Bastardi’s smiles do not necessarily denote happiness.

I hadn’t thought about anything like this at all when I bought the pub, so I was completely taken by surprise and really had to give this matter some thought before replying. So that’s what I told him. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

“What is there to consider? You market beer, I market pizza. Simple. You can sell pizza, I can sell beer. But we don’t market that. We don’t step on each other’s toes. You see?” He smiled. Of course.

It would have been nice to just say yes. But this was a business decision about my pub and Bastardi was right, I was new to this market. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers but I wasn’t going to make a decision to not market a popular item just because another business wanted me to. I had to look into this.

“I will give it some thought and be in touch,” I said.

“You do that, Mr. Whitfield.”

He smiled. And got up and left.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have initiated a pre-emptive strike in The Great Pizza War. But I was new in town, I was naive about people.

And so I didn’t realize then that Mario Bastardi had just fired a warning shot.

***

Editor’s note: You may visit the OpenSim virtual world Dankoville via the hypergrid: 198.255.235.132:9000:Dankoville

Mario's Villa in Dankoville

Mario’s Villa in Dankoville

 

Acquiring Aquaetas

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A week later, back home in Winterfell, I received the documents regarding ownership of Aquaetas. Quin included a letter which thanked me again but was otherwise simply a description of the enclosed documents which I was to sign and return. There were no surprises here until the last sentence above his signature…

“I should also inform you of the news that Miss Dot has resigned her post with The Trust.”

Oy. I guess that didn’t go well. It’s really a shame to see Dot Macchi depart The Trust. I will miss her, she is the reason I am here! Well, who knows, maybe some time away from things…or persons… Of course, she did go on that sabbatical once before. Hmmm. Oh dear, maybe this is final.

I first met Dot and Quin here in Winterfell four years ago. Seems I have known them both much longer than that. That’s the way it is with Time in these worlds I travel.

Aquaetas

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I took the boat from the house in Kamar down to Selenitica in the morning, just as I always do when I stay here. As I began to climb the hill to make my way to the castle and my makeshift office, I could smell wood burning. Quin! He’s here!!

When I reached the top of the hill on Arrival Island, I could see the smoke coming from the chimney of Quin’s retreat. Finally!!

Instead of turning right toward the castle, I headed left to cross the bridge to Garden Island and walked to the bridge to Quin’s Island. As I passed through the gardens, I heard a voice calling.

“Mr. Whitfield — good morning!”

“Hello Quin!” I shouted back.

He met me halfway along the bridge and we shook hands and exchanged further greetings and went inside where Quin had prepared coffee for the two of us. Apparently, he had expected me.

“I hope you won’t mind, Mr. Whitfield, if I get straight to business? It is rather urgent,” he said as we took seats in the observatory and looked out at the rock islands of Selenitica and beyond to the Sky Tree towering over the waters and swamps of Tao.

“Please do.”

“Selenitica will return,” he said.

I admit, I almost did a double take…as we were sitting right there in Selenitica when he said it. Once in awhile even a veteran time traveller like myself can lose track of time and forget when he is and have to take a moment to get his bearings but this was not one of those times. So I didn’t do a double take. In fact, I didn’t even do a single take. I just sat there, blankly listening…as if nothing odd had been said…and hoped I would be able to decipher what he was talking about.

“While some questions remain and our efforts must be accelerated,” Quin went on, “there has been substantial progress.”

“Excellent,” I responded, figuring that was an appropriate response, substantial progress and all.

Quin went on to explain what he was referring to. In great detail. I know others complain he is usually rather light on the details, making it hard to figure out just what he is doing most of the time and why. But sometimes I’d like to change places with those people. It’s hard to get Quin to stay put for very long but when I have had the pleasure, he certainly has not been shy about giving me the details of whatever he is working on at the time. We seem to have a special bond, always have. So – when I can get Quin’s attention – I get more than my share of details.

But with Quin, the devil is in understanding the details.

A lot of it went right over my head. I’m just a simple explorer and time traveller, not a scientist nor a genius. But I listened closely, just the same. Anyway, Quin knew what he was talking about and that is all that really matters.

“…..So of course, you can clearly see our only option is to make some changes in this instance of Selenitica,” he concluded.

I nodded in agreement. I didn’t grasp what he meant but it didn’t really seem like there was a choice, so I just nodded. He kept talking and I kept nodding.

He kept referring to this instance of Selenitica and some other instance of it and — in what I hoped would be taken for the little joke that it was — the next time he referred to changes “in this instance of Selenitica,” I responded by saying, “For instance?”

Well, I thought it was funny. Not fall over and die funny, just lightly funny. Something to bring a little smile at approximately 7:30 in the morning while still on the first coffee. (Not to imply that I ever know what time it is here, just a guess.) But Quin took it as a straight question and went right on to answer it, “Well, the name for one,” he said.

“The name?”

“We certainly can’t have two Seleniticas at the same time, Mr. Whitfield!” he laughed as if I had made a joke. (I had but he was laughing at my second question rather than the first.)

“No,” I said, “we certainly can’t have that.”

“So you can see the problem?” he said.

Well no, not exactly. Actually I have no idea what we’re talking about. But I wasn’t going to say that.

“Yes,” I said. He smiled. I could see he was relieved.

I had to think fast to come up with something to say that would not only make sense to Quin but also help me find out what was going on here.

“What would you have me do?” I ventured.

“Oh, sir, it would not be appropriate for me to decide. It is really up to you.”

Great.

“But may I suggest?…”

“Oh, please do,” I interrupted, “feel free. I would be grateful for your advice on this matter.”

He smiled. “You might consider not only renaming Selenitica itself but this entire world, Evergreen, as a whole.” He paused. I nodded. “And use the new name for both.”

I nodded still again. It was becoming clearer now. If I have the gist of it, Quin has figured a way to “reconstitute” a previous incarnation of Selenitica…or some facsimile thereof, I think. Something truer to the original Selenitica – after which this one was named – or maybe it is the original…or a derivative…or…

Look, it doesn’t really matter whether I “get it” or not. There is going to be another place known as Selenitica and Quin apparently wants me to select a new name for this one. Okay, I can do that.

“I will begin thinking about a name today,” I said. He smiled. “How long are you here?” I asked.

“I must leave tomorrow,” he said

“Well, due to the urgent nature of this matter, I will have a new name for you by the end of the day,” I said, smiling and thinking our discussion had ended successfully.

But Quin’s smile was replaced by a more serious face. “Proper naming is quite important, Mr. Whitfield but the urgency in this case is in regard to something else,” he said.

“Oh.” This had the feeling of one of those “good news/bad news” conversations. Apparently, the name changing was the good news.

“There is the financial aspect, of course,” he said, trying to smile.

“Of course,” I said as I remembered the phrase from his telegram: ‘…SHOULD RESTRUCTURE OUR AGREEMENT RE AGES IN YOUR CARE…”

“In order to pursue my efforts to return Selenitica fully,” he went on, “I find myself, sadly, once again in need of funds. Substantial funds, I’m afraid.”

Uh-huh.

“And that is where I come in?” I asked.

“I do hate to ask for a…handout…especially when you have been so generous to The Trust all this time…” Quin said, “and so I will not ask.”

I looked at him, again blankly. I had no idea where he was going with this.

“Rather than asking you to sponsor these Ages, as you have been so kind to do for these past eighteen months….I was wondering…” he paused for the longest time,”…if you would like to…purchase them?”

“The Ages?”

“Yes.” He nodded.

Okay then, this wasn’t the bad news part. It was certainly from out of left field. Buy the Ages? Really? There’s a lot to consider there, for sure…but it’s not the bad news. Not by a long shot. Noooooo. The bad news part wouldn’t involve me at all, fortunately.

“What does Ms. Macchi think of this proposal?” I asked.

“I have not yet shared this with Miss Dot,” he answered quietly.

Yeah, I’ll bet. There’s your bad news right there, folks. And that is Quin’s problem.

Unless, of course, I see Dot first. Then it’ll be my problem. Or more correctly, it’ll be Quin’s problem that I will have to deal with.

Uh-uh. No way.

“Well, Quin, there is quite a bit to think about here,” I said as he nodded and sat quietly, waiting for me to continue, “but I will think on it – all of it – over the course of the day. And if you meet with me for supper tonight, I will have your answer ready by then.”

“Shouldn’t we discuss the financial aspect now?” he asked, a bit nervously.

“I don’t think that is necessary,” I said. “I’m sure we can work that out. My decision will not be based on that aspect but on the question of what is right for these Ages and whether I can fit that into my life at this time. That is what I must seriously consider.”

“Certainly sir, I understand. Six-thirty for supper? I shall make us a very nice stew.”

***

That evening over supper, I agreed to take ownership of the grouping of Ages that up to now was known as Evergreen — not ownership of the Ages themselves, I made this clear to Quin, for I would not be comfortable with that concept, but of the grouping, the collection. He understood and welcomed this approach.

I further agreed to rename the grouping and it’s prime region under one shared title. I submitted to Quin the name, Aquaetas.

When I said it aloud, Quin’s reaction was to look to his left and down for a moment as he thought it over. Then he nodded his head slightly as he stated, “From the Latin words for water and time…as in period of time or Age.” He smiled.

I had spent the day in my office in the castle and later at my house in Kamar, going through the small collection of reference books I have in each place. I wanted to find a name that I liked but that would have meaning for Quin as well, as his study-retreat will still be here – I insisted – even if he does not visit as often.

“I hoped you would like it,” I smiled as well. “I guess there must be some paperwork involved?” I said as I wanted to wrap up our evening and catch some sleep before timejumping back home in the morning.

“Nothing can be finalized until we speak with Miss Dot,” Quin said.

I looked at him with raised eyebrows. “I’ll be off to Winterfell in the morning,” I said.

He just nodded. I smiled. “Good luck with that,” I said.

***

Visit Aquaetas on Kitely

http://www.kitely.com/virtual-world/Danko-Whitfield/Aquaetas

Selenitica