The Quest …..or ….. You’ve been Daleked

The Tardis arrived at my place in The Land of Peaks and even with three lots of gear there still appeared to be plenty of room for more life forms to be collected en-route. I wished I’d packed a Babel fish as soon as we set off because the loudspeaker next to my ear almost drowned out any communication with Mike at the navigation consul, which meant that The Dalek, a hunched Uncle Festas character at the flight controls, got the messages about left and right very late. This caused us to make several quick changes in direction in the first part of our voyage. The inane babble from the front-right of the Tardis and the rocking motion of the flight through the interstellar traffic soon lulled me into the arms of Morpheus, Thank God!
In no time at all the demonic pilot of our transdimensional travel machine landed at Ben’s’ abode in the Burrow of Shrews where we took a few items aboard and headed South on another mind-bending journey. Traversing the galaxy at 2 x c ,vaporising cyclists, dogs, cats and large haulage vehicles with our afterburners, we eventually rematerialised at lair of the Guardian of the Hole of Otters near Chips Toe. He gave us The Key, which allowed us to begin our mission to take a facsimile of The 30, as legend has it, he who captures The 30 wins the prize at the B.C.R.A. conference.
So armed with The Key we headed for a house wherein sustenance could be taken in readiness for the arduous and dangerous challenge ahead, also a place to set up our flimsy shelters as an advanced base from which to make our leap, at least for three of our company, into the unknown. Such speeds with which we had traveled and their manner, make dehydration inevitable, so having quaffed many cool glasses of amber liquid the four members of our crew were even more unsteady as we lay down to take rest.

The loud bleep of Ben’s’ chronometrical communicator roused me from my dream of galloping horses to the sound of large drops of colourless liquid hammering on the shelter. Strange sounds of gurgling and small gaseous explosion emanated from the shelter of the shiny-domed pair but there was little to worry about, apparently the amber fluid of these parts seem to have a fermenting effect on some of the crew. A small stone structure near the shelters had to be visited for it seemed to give some soothing affect to the afflicted, some visited more than once. Having relieved themselves so, the four were ready to set out again on their Quest. We skimmed over a shiny black surface following the white way marks, round sharp bends which threw the company hither and thither until we entered the Forest of the Damned, an eerie, dripping and dank place where we donned our Slime-repellant armour for The 30 are protected by numerous devices. The Dalek launched into the labyrinth of gnarled firs, plunging downward, casting about with strange swaying motion, he led our band deeper and steeper into the thickest of the defences. It became clear that the guardians of The 30 had tricked our scout by laying a false trail down to the River of Slime and after much hunting The Four returned to the Tardis having lost much time and body fluid so that their Slime suits shone both inside and out. Gasping and downhearted we gathered for a council to ask for guidance of the Commissioner of the Forests and Lo! within seconds our prayers were answered and before us shone a bright, yellow sign pointing The Way. Unfortunately, the Guardian of the Key had warned us that The Great Table must be read very carefully and only then good judgment must be used so as to arrive at THE EYE before The Slime returned and engulfed all within the Hole of Otters. Having held a council of war, the decision was made to repair to our shelters and await a more
favourable time. Our return journey was lightened by The Dalek wishing to take on more amber liquid, it was pointed out that the custodians of the pumps did not dispense it at 8.20 In the morning. Rested and revived we took good omen from the brightening sky and were soon back at The Forest but because of The Great Table our means of capturing The 30 forever had to be left behind, we could then only rely on ‘seeing’ them, ‘looking-on’ being deemed to endow the viewer with strange powers. The Forest felt less ominous, probably as our mission had altered, and The Dalek again led off down a clear path to the descent of The Logs to the Hidden Path. Care had to be taken from here on for the Tendrils of the Forest stretched out to tear at skin and pierce our slime-armour. On the valley floor the path eased until eventually, in a grotto, there it was. The Door!!

Our leader, The Dalek, was almost frenzied when he thought The Guardian of the Key had duped him, but having remembered the few magic words” lsht, lsht, lsht”, The Door creaked open, issuing forth the cold, swamp-breath of The 30, chilling us to the bone. Quickly donning our gloom -expellers we entered their world, crawling at first through thin beddings along which The Slime had crept, passing beside the remains of a huge, hollowed-out, black snake. Aiw ups and downs followed until the pools were passed, we could then stand warily on a coated floor of rocks. The smell of rotting prevaded the air and the cold was only fought off by the strenuousness of our movements in The Glaup. After half an hours progress we came at last to The Keep. The keepers of The 30 had put another obstacle in our path, but others had been before and had tried to reach through The Eye with a line stretched across The Keep. Too Early!! We sat down and listened to The 30 breathing their foul gasps until we could see clearly into The Eye through which we must squeeze to get to the Rungs of Iron. The Dalek was the first to go and he reached The Eye with slime almost over his head. I followed quickly, fearing time would sap my bravery, only to find The Eye almost too small. Ben nearly got swallowed, trying to keep his wellies from being eating. Mike was quick because as The Keep emptied it gets harder to climb into The Eye. Beyond lay the passage to the Rungs of Iron, once up these and over a few boulder climbs the passage led to a drop to The Clear Waters. Stomping up the stream with hearts beating stronger we were forced over boulder obstacles onto the Traverse of the Gods. Others had reached this far and had left behind food as an offering to The 30. More easy passage led toward a Sump Monster but we avoided this by climbing up over the top of it, here I was nearly trapped in the jaws of a Choke, only just managing to wriggle free in time to follow the others through squeezes and crawls into, The Extensions. Passing over large boulders, forced to stoop and crawl through ever larger passages we entered the hallowed hall and there they were, THE 30!!!! Shining in the light of our gloom-expeller, like huge white trolls, their shadows danced we moved amongst them with bated breath. Awe!!! Splendour!!!! It wasn’t over yet, pushing our luck we crawled and climbed until we were stopped speechless by the remnants of others who’d not made it out, bedding, food and drinks but no bodies. What happened to them?

We dared not think and pressed on, hearing ghostly tinklings of music keeping The 30 company in the dark days and nights. The Forests tendrils stretched down through the ground even here to get us, turned white by lack of light and hanging down fifteen feet from the ceiling all along the chamber. A final temptation, Pearls! Dared we take some and then try and run the gauntlet of The 30. NO!!! It was too much, The Great Table told us to return, fat before The Keep filled once more with The Slime. 

We’d got to the Keep before we knew it and snook out of its mouth then into the crawls to the entrance. Almost out and then DISASTER!!! As I slid head-first down a squeeze my arm got caught between the rock and my gloom-expeller. Help!!! Help!!!! With my body upside-down I needed the others to prize the gloom-expeller free and to push me back up the slope. Phew!! A narrow escape and off we went, bursting into daylight with huge sighs of relief. Rushing through The Forest, gleefully, back to the Tardis, we shot to the Guardians’ abode, returned The Key and quickly sped to avail ourselves of the services of the Dispensers of the amber fluid. The Quest had been a success, we all had in our minds-eye a vision of The 30, all that remained the next day was to travel back in time, dropping off Ben at his spawning ground of Shrews Burrow and me in the Land of Peaks. Waving good-bye to the shiny-domed pair, I knew we’d reform our group another day to try once more to get more concrete evidence of the existence of The 30. Now all that remained was to remove the all-pervading slime traces before it turned to stone.


Ray Duffy


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