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Run, Akira, Run! - Part 3: Through The Mist, Darkly...

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	Akira burst through the mist to enter a large meadow.  Compared 
to the oppressive darkness of the Kindred Lands, this place was 
extremely airy and light. A sweet smell of flowers wafted on the 
breeze. Birds twittered and gamboled about with other winged 
creatures, the likes of which Akira had never before seen. In short, 
the Gods were in their celebration halls and all was right with the 
world.
	Which thoroughly confused Akira.
	What he had expected to see was a pitched battle between raiding 
Vikings, creatures of the night (whatever _they_ were) and the 
legendary Brave Knights of Cuddleland.  He'd half hoped to have landed 
inside the floating tower where Princess KaCee was being held. Once 
the first two phases of a quest - gathering the tools and learning the 
enemy - were completed, the next jump should land you in the middle of 
the battle. Landing in the middle of a peaceful field did nothing to 
calm Akira's unease.
	Thinking on it, he hadn't felt all that secure after seeing the 
visions in Romana's orb. It isn't exactly a settling thing to see your 
own death. Romana's words afterwards weren't all that reassuring 
either:
	"_Time is not always a straight path, nor does prophecy always 
give a straight answer..._"
	<Gee, thanks for making that clear>, Akira thought.
	Still, there _had_ to be a reason why he was gated _here_. Maybe 
this was the last spot the tower was seen.  Maybe this meadow would be 
the site of a fierce battle in the near future. Maybe this spot was 
where the first clue to Princess KaCee's whereabouts could be found.
	Or maybe... no, Akira was not even going to _consider_ the 
possibility of the invasion having already occurred and Cuddleland 
being occupied by enemy forces.
	<At any rate, I'd better try and find Princess KaCee. That forest 
over there looks like a good place to start...> And Akira struck out 
for the forest, hoping that running might clear the cobwebs filling 
his head.
	Actually, at this point in the narrative it should be pointed out 
that Akira's instincts were correct: yes, there was a reason Akira 
landed at that particular spot; yes, this was the spot where the tower 
disappeared, it's purpose completed with the rescuing of the Tower 
Dweller.
	And yes, the meadow _did_ hold the first clue to Princess KaCee's 
whereabouts, and if Akira had only turned around he would have seen a 
rock holding a plaque and an oddly faceted stone...
*****
	As Akira ran through the forest, he noticed several strange (and 
to his mind contradictory) things: Knights in red hunting caps, 
streaks of red fur flying by, and a (strangely familiar) human female 
running around shouting BANZAI! and then jumping on people. Then he 
saw a tent... and smelled coffee. His ears perked up!
	<A HUMAN WARRIOR!!> Akira cried, and headed towards the tent.
	Rick Rettinger, Big Brother of Cuddleland, put the pot of coffee 
on the camp stove and smiled. What a beautiful spring morning! Now all 
he needed was someone to cuddle with and it would be perfect. "There 
we go; the coffee is on. Now, what to have for breakfast... Oh NO!! I'm 
out of brownies!" Rummaging around in his tent, Rick pulled out a metal 
box-like contraption: a solar brownie cooker!
	Soon, the aroma of fresh-baked brownies mingled with that of the 
coffee. "I guess this will wake up my cuddle buddies. I better set up a 
table... er, a stump..."
	He turned and saw Akira, sitting by the camp stove, obviously 
enjoying the smell of the coffee. "Well, well, well! What do we have 
here?"
	The sound of Rick's voice snapped Akira out of his reverie. "Please 
sir," he cried "can you tell me where to find Princess KaCee? I must 
warn her of the coming invasion- -"
	"Hey, slow down!" cried Rick. "Princess KaCee's probably heading 
over to the meadow on the other side of Cuddleland for a party. You'll 
find her there."
	"Thanks!" Akira said, and ran off. "Hey!" Rick cried. "Stay and 
have some brown- waitaminit, did he say INVASION??"
	Diving into his tent, Rick pulled out his dented armor and trumpet 
ready to sound the alarm. As he dove out again, fully clothed and armed, 
he stopped short - His campsite was completely surrounded with bugs and 
buggles, and behind them a group of Viking pirates stood, laughing and 
fingering their cutlasses.
	"Avast, ye swab!" Eric the pirate called to Rick! "Prepare to meet 
yer doom!!"
*****
	Sir Pooky, KiTA, Keeper of the FAQ, Cuddle Cartographer, and, not 
inconsequently, a teddy bear, looked over his message to the invaders as 
well as the general Cuddleland populace. "This will take care of the 
Goths," he thought, as he posted his missive to those responsible for 
this mess.
	Pooky sighed. No sooner had he and all the other cuddlers rescued 
Princess KaCee and Heidi from the Tuaturas than they had to deal with 
invading Goths. And the Church of Cuddle debate on top of that! 
Hopefully everyone listened to Sir Mark and the African Lion. "It'll be 
nice to go to KaCee's party and unwind," he thought. "Maybe there'll be 
some red licorice..." As he posted the messages, he looked left down the 
road, and then right (like a good little bear) and then started to cross 
the street.
	** W H A M !!!!!!! **
	Dazed, Pooky slowly got up, and saw a black Husky sprawled out on 
the road. He quietly moved towards the fallen dog and tried to wake him. 
Eventually, Akira's head cleared, and he looked into Pooky's beady 
little black eyes.
	<Ohh, my head...> 	"Steady boy, it's all right. How are we 
feeling, hm?" 	Akira looked at his rescuer, and saw a doll-like replica 
of what is probably a husky's natural enemy. 	"We're not sure" Akira 
said unsteadily. "Are we... a _bear_?" 	Pooky smiled. "Kind of." 	"T
hen we're awake," Akira said, "but we're very confused..." 	"Come on. 
I've got milk and Pooky Snacks (tm) inside; they'll fix you right up." 	
"No!" Akira said, shaking himself loose. "Gotta... go. Must warn... 
Princess..." Akira trotted off down the road.
	"What a strange dog" thought Pooky. "Who would turn down some Pooky 
Snacks (tm) and milk? Unless...
	"***** THAT WAS A NEWBIE!!!*****"
	Pooky turned around to race after Akira, only to find his way 
blocked by a tall, thin, pale humanoid wearing a black cloak and 
sprouting fangs!
	"omigoditsavampire...."
*****
	Akira's head cleared as he ran through the veldt (<What's an 
African veldt doing _here_??>) into the woods on the other side of 
Cuddleland. <A few more steps>, he thought, <and I'll find Princess 
KaCee, and then we can rally this land to arms against the invaders!>
	"My, what large ambitions for such a _small_ puppy!"
	Akira stopped and turned towards the voice - and immediately went 
into a low, feral growl. Although they were more likely to run into 
wendigo, ice demons, and werebears than vampires in the Northern 
countries, that did not mean that the Akita, well- traveled that they 
were, were ignorant of their existence. <And if that 6 ft. tall bemused 
tower of black-cloaked evil _isn't_ a vampire,> Akira thought, <I'll eat 
ice cakes for a month!>
	"My name is Rayne," smiled the vampire, "and I've been looking for 
you, puppy. We can't have you running about warning everybody - why, 
then we wouldn't get any hugs at all! HA HA HA HA HA!!"
	<Don't listen to his voice> Akira growled to himself. <Don't look 
at his eyes; just knock the bastard over AND RIP HIS THROAT OUT!!> 
Matching thought to action, Akira sprang at Rayne, snarling. He didn't 
even _see_ Rayne's hand move as the vampire viciously backhanded Akira 
into a tree. His back hit the tree with a sickening *THUD* as he fell to 
the ground at its base.
	Struggling to maintain consciousness, Akira saw the vampire walk 
towards him, saying "I wonder what the vaunted 'Blood of the Akita-ken' 
tastes like?"
	And then Akira couldn't see or hear anything at all...

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(C) John T. Carr III ( jtc11@columbia.edu).

Please see the copyright notice.

Last modified: November 05, 1998 by Locksley