Negasi's TSA'TANCIT Scrapbook
Okay, I’m sure you’ve all heard about that guy Torin of The Lands Above. In fact, chances are you’ve played the entire game if you’re reading this story. But boy, those people at Sierra really left us hanging at the end of the game. Leenah and Torin are separated, Lycentia’s fate is left in doubt, credits roll, what the hey, game over.
But what the Tenebrous happened in the end? Did Torin assume the throne of ruler of Strata? Did he and Leenah ever meet again (remember, she said “You have to.”)? What about all those unanswered questions? Well, I’m no secret keeper, but I know a story waiting to be resolved when I see one. So now, with my drawing pad at one side and my keyboard at the other, I’m going to type you, the reader, a story to tide you over until the eagerly awaited sequel to Torin’s Passage hits the shelves (one hopes...).
I know, I can already hear some of you saying, “Adventure games are dead, forget about it.” Funny. People said the exact same thing when the ivory woodpecker could no longer be found in North America and was presumed to be extinct. Before they discovered it in Cuba.
So here I go with my latest work, following in the pawprints of Xandra and Jack, featuring a new member of Akril’s felinoid friends, entitled TSA’TANCIT, meaning “Torin Step Aside, There’s A New Cat In Town!”
My story begins with that beautiful misfit of Escarpa, Leenah. Anyway, she’s sitting by one of the windows of her castle, looking out at the scenic cliffs and feeling lonely for Torin. This was about a week after Torin returned to The Lands Above, and unfortunately, since he has had his hands full with his parents and Lycentia, he hasn’t been able to contact her. It’s not like these people have cell phones or holographic projectors that span worlds. Not even magic amulets, but that’s another story. Leenah is still looking out her window, meanwhile, when suddenly her mother comes into the room, looking a little confused.
“Leenah, dear,” she says, “A strange creature has arrived in the castle. He wishes to speak with you.”
Well, naturally Leenah is a tad surprised, but she tells her mother to show whoever this creature is in. You can tell what I’m building up to here. Same scenario as in WSSQID and EDDIS, hero/heroine hears about a stranger who wants to see him/her, he/she gets a little nervous, he/she…oh. Sorry about that. I got sidetracked. Crowded mind, you know. Anyway, this creature saunters into the room, tall as Leenah, maybe an inch or two more, except it appears to be half human and half animal. Just like Xandra and Jack, but with one distinct difference: Xandra and her brother are cheetah felinoids. This new character is a leonid felinoid (which is a fancy word for “lion”). If Leenah knew what the lions of Africa looked like, she wouldn’t be nearly as alarmed, but naturally she lets out a screech and backs against the wall. Stereotypical princess attributes, you know?
The creature puts up a paw and looked ashamed at the princess’s reaction.
“Please, don’t get all frightened because of me,” he says. “I’ve come a long way to see you, Leenah.”
“What do you want?” Leenah squeaks (I don’t mean to make Leenah so weak, I am not an anti-feminist, but in the brief time I’ve known her, she has proven to be the typical damsel-in-distress, and probably isn’t as bold and daring as Princess Rosella. I know you’re just dying to see how she will turn out at the end of this story).
“I want nothing from you, Leenah. I have come from another planet to seek you.”
“Are you saying that you want to marry me?”
“No way! I’d never do something like that to someone like you – I don’t mean that negatively, of course – especially when your heart is being shared with another.”
“You…you know about Torin? I’ve never told anyone about him except my parents,” Leenah says, starting to calm down.
“Yep. I know everything about you and that handsome guy from the world above us. Have you heard that his adventures were made into a computer game?”
“Why…yes, I believe I have. I could never understand those stories that my parents told me. I thought they were mere legends.”
“You’re wrong there, Leenah. Al Lowe has blessed my generation with the first chronicle of Strata…but lately, we’ve been having some problems.”
“There have been no plans for a follow-up to Torin’s Passage. And since the output of a writer determines the fate of his creations, I’m afraid that you and Torin will never meet again and things will stay the way they are forever. That’s why I’ve come here. I need to help you and Torin come together once and for all and fix the mess that you’ve fallen into. It may be a long time before Al starts writing again, maybe never, so I’m going to just have to do the work for him.”
“What if he does decide to write a sequel to this game?”
“He’ll just get inspired by what’s already happened here, of course. No problem. Oh, by the way: my name is Negasi, son of Stuart and Elfleda, and I come from Earth. Glad to meet you, Leenah.”
Negasi extends a long, furry arm, and Leenah shakes it. Now I think I’d better start describing him for you, in case the pictures aren’t detailed enough or something. He has tawny fur, typical of a lion, his eyes are an ugly green-brown, but handsome. He is skinny and lank, nothing like that muscular Torin. In fact, he looks like he’s just entering his preteen years, but he doesn’t look it. He has no shirt – that’s right, no shirt – but he is wearing a pair of aqua-colored, baggy pants. Around his waist is a belt, fastened with a gold clasp (or something that looks like gold), with an imprint of a pawprint in the center. He is barefoot, with a long tail with an orange tuft. He has a small tuft of orange hair that looks unkempt and scruffy, but still beautiful and shiny. He looks like a shy boy, but still brave if the occasion calls for it, and now, it doesn’t look like he’s in that mood at the moment. Leenah thinks he’s handsome – not nearly as handsome as Torin, and quite incomplete, especially in the muscles department – but other than that, she doesn’t know what to make of him.
“So you’ve come here to set things right,” says Leenah. “But where are you going to start?”
“Where do we start,” says Negasi, “Is the question.”
“What do you mean, ‘we?’”
“I mean what I said. You’re coming with me,” says Negasi.
“What? Listen, Negasi, I have had enough adventuring since that last scrape I got into with the Pergolans. I have no intention of risking my life again.” Leenah turns away from Negasi with her arms crossed, chin held high, looking quite peeved.
“So you don’t want to be like Torin? You don’t want to explore new worlds and experience things you’ve never thought could happen?”
“What are you trying to do?” Leenah snaps, whirling around and giving Negasi a great view of her fiery mane of hair. “Twist my beliefs so that I do what you say? Change the truth so this story goes the way you want it?”
“Well…in a sense, yes…”
“Sorry, but I’m not going.”
“Even if I showed you…this?” Negasi asks, drawing considerably closer to Leenah, who starts to say something but stops when she sees something on the lion’s right shoulder. It’s a symbol, burned into his flesh, almost hidden by the thick fur, which almost hides it, but close up, it is quite visible. The symbol is four nested circles, joined by a ring-like object that unites the circles. Leenah looks at Negasi, with surprise in her green eyes.
“What is it?”
“It’s the same mark that Torin has on his shoulder,” says the lion. “I’ve had this for as long as I can remember, and it wasn’t until I played Torin’s Passage that I discovered its significance.”
“What does it mean?”
“Frankly, I dunno. That’s one of the reasons I’ve come here. I need to find out so that I can tell Torin what his mark means as well.”
“So do you think you’re aligned with Torin somehow?”
“That I do. And that’s one of the reasons I need you to come with me. I can’t reunite you without both of you being in the same place.”
“Well, in that case, I accept your invitation, Negasi of Earth.”
“It’s no invitation, princess. It’s an urgent request.”
“I still consent. I’d better tell my parents everything you told me, how you came from another planet and how those stories about Torin’s adventures being made into a game and…uh…I…I’m afraid I forgot, Neg.”
“I was afraid you would. Fortunately, I came prepared.” And with that, Negasi pulls a rolled up note out of his pocket. “This note tells all that I’ve told you, Leenah. I’m sure your parents will not be worried about your absence…like last time.”
“You don’t have to remind me,” snarls Leenah, her teeth clenched.
“Sorry, Leenah. Couldn’t resist,” says Negasi. He struts out of the room, with the princess following him. He tosses the note at the foot of the two occupied thrones and before King Rupert and Queen Di can speak, Negasi and Leenah are out the door, into the bright sunlight of Escarpa.
Negasi and Leenah descend down the winding stairways to the lowest point, by the nest occupied by Tripe and Viscera, the two-headed vulture. Unfortunately, the vulture(s) is(are) home. Tripe spreads out his wing and blocks the lion and the lady from passing.
“Hold it right there, you tall, ugly…why Princess!” Tripe squawks. “I haven’t seen your tall, imposing presence around this crag for weeks!”
“Three weeks, two days,” says Leenah. “Could you please let us by, vulture?”
“In spite of your ranking, princess, the answer is ‘no,’” says Tripe.
“Now, Tripe,” says Viscera in his aloof, gentler voice. “We haven’t been disturbed since that Torin boy came by, and that was several weeks ago. And this is Leenah, our liege and…”
“Shaddup, Viscera,” says Tripe. “I ain’t moving my half an inch. This is my nest!”
“Please move,” says Leenah, wringing her hands. “We are on an urgent mission!”
“Urgent or otherwise, no dice,” says Tripe, and Viscera naturally says something in return and they begin their usual arguing back and forth, and Leenah keeps asking them to move, trying to think of what to do, and finally Negasi lowers himself until he is flat on his belly. The vultures stop jabbering and look at him. Before either of them can say anything, the cat lets out a snarl and springs for them, claws out. The vulture’s heads screech in terror and it takes off, flapping its filthy wings like crazy. But Negasi has apparently miscalculated his leap and is now hanging from the edge of the cliff. Leenah sees him dangling and tries to help him up, but too late. His paws disappear from view. Leenah looks over the edge and realizes that a tree reaches up and nearly touches the underside of the ledge. And just as she is looking, Negasi pokes his head up and grins.
“Negasi, what kind of joke was that? I thought you had fallen to your death!”
“This ledge is very near to the ground, and besides, there is this conveniently placed tree. Torin himself was responsible for it.”
“Is that so? Well, no more stunts like that, Neg. I scare easily.”
“Not enough to survive capture by Pergolans, that’s for sure.”
“Shut up, Neg.”
So it came to pass that Negasi and the princess descended the large tree and reached the ground. As they walked up the stairs together, Leenah asks,
“Do these stairs lead to a phenocryst chamber?”
“Yes. Didn’t Torin tell you about how he came to Pergola?”
“How will we get to the lands above from here? I thought these phenocrysts lead only to the center of the planet, not up.”
“Maybe. Maybe, but we’ll see if we can get around that.”
The two walk through the mouthlike tunnel to the phenocryst chamber. It’s illuminated by the crystals that stand by the walls. In the center of the room is a tall, greenish column. The phenocryst. Obviously.
“Did you bring any of that powder?”
“The Erresdy powder?”
“You seem prepared. I assume you brought some with you.”
“You didn’t. Great, just great. So much for our little voyage.”“Wait a minute,” says Negasi. “ Look over there. There’s something that I don’t remember seeing before.”
He is pointing to a white structure behind the phenocryst. It resembles a Greek column, even though this is Strata we’re talking about here, and it is hollowed out with a hole in it. The column is filled with fine, white powder that shimmers and glows with a lifelike quality.
“Bingo! Erresdy ho! I wonder where this came from, though,” says Negasi.
“Perhaps someone who monitors this chamber placed it here when Torin opened it,” Leenah suggests.
“Well, let’s get a bagful of this powder to take with us, Negasi.”
“Well, I would, except…I didn’t bring a bag.”
“You didn’t? You’re even worse prepared than Torin was, but a knife and a simple bag are two different things! I don’t believe it!”
“Don’t worry, Leenah! I’ll just fill one of my pockets with this stuff. That’ll tide us over.”
Negasi carefully fills his right pocket with the powder, then beckons for Leenah to come closer.
“Do you remember how this works?”
“Why? Have you forgotten?”
“No, no. I’m not that stupid. I’m just checking to see that you know what I’m doing.”
“What you’re doing now is plainly obvious, Neg.”
“I probably shouldn’t ask what.”
“That is correct. Now let’s go. Hopefully we’ll end up in The Lands Above."
“I wish I knew if these things are two-way crystals. But I guess there’s only one way to find out,” says Negasi, stepping in front of the huge phenocryst. “Stand over there, Leenah.”
Leenah obeys him and stands beside him, also in front of the phenocryst. Negasi lifts a pawful of powder into the air and is just about to throw it when a thought crosses his mind.
“My hands aren’t as big as yours, Leenah?”
“No, my fingers are thicker and they make my handful smaller than a standard handful would be – that is, a human handful…”
“Do you want me to toss the erresdy powder?”
“No, no…I can handle it…but I’d better take two handfuls, just in case.”
“I sure hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I think I do. Now get ready…”
Negasi raises two handfuls of erresdy powder into the air. He flings both of them into the air at once, where it hovers for a moment, then swooshes down and reduces the bodies of him and Leenah to a fine dust. One after another, they vanish…down the column. That’s right. Down.