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...
John T. Carr III ( email@example.com).
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Last modified: November 05, 1998 by Locksley