What is AFP?

At one stage, I was so completely fed up with AFP that I left.
For about a month, in fact. I’m not sure anyone noticed. I did this in the thread “[I] I’ve forgotton how I got here – have you?, and even leaving the group took me 1800 words.

Chapter One:

At exactly 10am, the sun hit the precise position in the sky to filter
down though the pen-sized hole in the ceiling and hit the mirror
suspended below it, reflecting the light into the concave mirror
strategically positioned to focus the beam of light though a lense and
onto a thin piece of paper sitting on the desk, which immediately
caught fire.

As the paper burned a spark lit up as the flames touched the trail of
fuse-wire pinned though it, passing the flame down the wire towards
the white object at the far corner while – unnoticed – the thin piece
of paper was hit by a small gust of air and fell, still burning, into
the waste-paper basket far below. As the spark capered joyfully along
the carefully placed line of fuse, the small plume of smoke rising
slowly from the metal bin began to fill outwards and darken as
discarded ideas, fueled by an acclaimed imagination, became in their
turn fuel for a far more natural and scientific study. That of the
combustion of compressed wood-pulp.

As the spark of the fuse hit the white object, a “woomph” noise was
heard in stereo as both the chemicals within it and the paper within
the rubbish bin ignited into orange flame.

At exactly 10:12am, the smoke from the waste-paper bin filtered though
the heavy duvet and into the nose of the figure asleep in his bed.
waking quickly, he threw off the duvet, cast a water spell at the
waste-paper basket, a wind spell at the window, and resolved to go
back to bed until life was on his side again.

At 12:36, a hand reached from under the duvet, explored the contents
of the bedside table, and withdrew back to the safety of it’s cotton
tent clutching a round object. A few seconds later, the hand returned,
placed the clock back in it’s place, collected a pair of glasses, and
once more withdrew into the safety of the cloth dome.

Simon Merlin, mage, elemental, immortal, and late for work, arose,
Staggered into another room, mumbled “Water”, and pointed at the
ceiling. A light cleansing rain fell upon his shoulders. Pure, clean,
natural, and above all cold.
“S S S Stop” stuttered Simon, shivering. he staggered back out of the
shower, though the puddles created by the less-than-watertight
wastepaper basket, removed the clothes he slept in, and went back into
the doorway to the shower.

“Heat” he spoke, and pointed at a point some three feet above his
head. A shimmering haze appeared where he was pointing.
“Water” he repeated, and a brand new shower appeared, filtering though
the warming haze and cascading over his body.

He washed, dressed, found a cup of tea, breakfasted, found a further
cup of tea, realized he had missed all the lectures he had been time
tabled to take today, and resolved to go on a Quest for the great
fountain of knowledge.

It was traditional for a mage out upon his Weekend Quest to go forth
to Mallets the supplier to purchase goods. And for the long and
dangerous trek to the land of All-Father Pedant this was especially
required, so Simon, mindful of this, entered the shop, the bell
signaling to the shopkeeper within that a new customer was there to be
served…

Chapter Two:

Supplies bought, Simon made his way to the Village Tavern, where he
could find some Loveable Compatriots to help him on his Quest. It was
mid-morning, but the inn was already thriving. As he watched, a young
girl who couldn’t be more than thirteen sneaked out from behind a
piller and slit the purse of a merchant, laid out dead drunk on the
table. “Loveable rogue with a Heart Of Gold?” thought Simon, “Nah, not
this trip. Who else?” sitting in the corner, telling tales of wars
long past was a scarred, but still quite young, man. “The superstrong
fighter who can kill a hundred enemies single handed without anything
more than a broken arm?” he considered the man “Oh, and probably some
kind of weapon” he added.

“No.” and his eyes continued to sweep the room. A young woman whose
heavy hessian robe couldn’t quite hide her hourglass figure and thick
raven-black hair tried to catch his attention with her striking green
eyes, but Simon had only just lost the last Rich Daughter Doomed To
Marry Some Bastard he tried to help, and avoided eye-contact. The
closest thing to a companion he could see was a black cat staring at
him from the rafters, but a shimmer in the air around it reminded him
that he was a mage already. Sorceresses would not be required. No, he
decided. This quest would be done alone.

Simon stalked towards the Dynkwood. Spotting a useful tree, he pointed
to it, and commanded “Fire”. A tiny beam of pure heat nearly sliced
the sapling down, and with the powers of the elements at his disposal,
it wasn’t long before Simon had made himself a serviceable staff. Deep
orange in colour, it was, and criss-crossed with designs that looked
almost like mystical symbols, but were more likely places where Simon
had been less than careful with the beams of heat. He passed though
the Dynkwoods quickly, never once straying from the path. At one stage
he heard the sounds of an elven party somewhere in the woods, but
convinced of the safety of his route, he kept to his path. Away from
the giant woodlice that roamed this part of the world.

Before long, Simon reached the Mountains of Oblique, and he knew his
quest was nearly at an end.

The mountains of Oblique loomed over Simon as he camped in the
foothills. he had only been here once seeking knowledge before, and
that had involved the relatively easy cave system under the Seven
Peeks. He doubted the quest would be that easy this time.
“I’m going to have to go the Other way, aren’t I?” he spoke,
apparently, to a raven perched on a branch high above him.
“Nevermore” quoth the raven.
Simon glared at it, and the bird swooped down behind the tent.
“The problem with you, ‘Simon'” it said, the raven’s rough squawking
being slowly replaced by a female, and slightly superior, tone “is
that you only appreciate your own jokes”.
“Hello Violet.” said the Mage “What are you doing here?”
“Aha, direct to the point as always. And I answer your question with
another: How did you know it was me?”
“Vanity” said Simon, shortly.
“That wasn’t an answer” replied Violet.
“Yours wasn’t exactly high rated either. You’re transformations tend
to the Ravenous”
“I like ravens. Noble birds”
“With deep purple feathers? Ravens are black”
“You aren’t supposed to analyse every animal you meet”
“I’ve been working with you too long. Now, would you mind giving an
answer?”
“Forty-” began Violet
“Ravens don’t fly with all their feathers burnt off. Not even pretty
purple ones”
“I’m not a raven now”
“Nor ever shall be?”
“You wouldn’t dare”
“Oh, please.” said Simon “Just give me an answer, if you have one”
“If you insist” replied the seer “Your quest will take you into the
mountains of Other, though the land of the powered wind, and into a
place where all are welcome, Mostly.” And then, prophesy proclaimed,
she transformed back into a raven, and took off in the direction of
the Guild Hall. Simon fired a wind spell after her, partly to assist
her on her journey, but mostly to dissuade her from following as he
packed up his belongings and started up the long trail into the
mountains of Oblique.

His quest reached on for days, and he was thankful for the stores he
had bought back in the town. Soon the trails he was covering were
waist deep in snow, and without his fire-spells to keep him warm and
the snow molten around him, he would surely have perished. He
survived, though, and as the days stretched slowly into weeks he felt
his goal was nearer with every step. Soon he had passed into the area
of the Otherplace known as the Powered Winds, and one day, wearied by
constant travel, he stumbled upon his goal.

The snow and wind were constant upon him now, and his once great
powers were fading under the barrage of constant use he put them
though. As he climbed the dirt track, he thought he heard the faintest
sound of a tune on the wind. He almost tripped over the sign before he
saw it, blown down by the storm.

“AFP” it said. “Please post carefully”.

He trudged on up the road, both sides filled with houses for people
who were in AFP, yet not part of the main party. But where was this
main party? the further he climbed, the more snatches of music on the
wind he heard, and soon he could see it before him.

The building was large, and obviously older than it’s current
incarnation. The Tudor stylings of the lower walls betrayed it’s age,
but by the size and mismatched extensions and revisions, this was
obviously a building that had seen much use. From the windows golden
light spilt out and brilliantly lit roughly rectangular patches of
snow outside. As he watched, the front door was flung open and a
creature was flung out of it, with many cries of “Find a new bridge to
lurk under” as it scampered away into the darkness. This was the place
he had been searching for. The legendary lost land of AFP.

Simon entered the building.

Chapter Three:

The building was big. Far bigger than it had looked from the outside.
This was partly because the floor level was some six feet below the
door. Fortunately the management had provided stairs for this purpose,
and Simon descended them slowly.
The first thing that hit him was the heat. After the freezing snow and
sleet from the world outside, the warmth in here was almost
unbearable. The second was the light. From hundreds of candles
scattered around the room, and a blazing fireplace set in the wall to
his left, the varnished floorboards looked golden in the soft, dancing
light. The hall was filled with tables. Literally, filled. To the
point where it was not easy to make your way across the room without
asking people to move chairs, or tails, or selves.

Which was another point. Although mostly human, the people within
ranged from a dragon in the corner, to cats, mice, hamsters, moles,
beings of every size and shape. And above were the balconies, packed
with more people, looking down and observing the crowds below without
ever making a contribution. The room was bright, and it was warm, and
it looked friendly, so long as you didn’t look too close.

But the noise was almost unbearable. The noise of half a thousand
people and animals talking, some loudly so they could be heard, some
softly and at length, letting the power of the words carry the
argument. At one side was a notice board, advertising forthcoming
events and attractions. Somewhere to the right a merchant who appeared
to be trying to give people tin cans was being jumped up and down upon
by a hamster wearing chain mail, to quite noticeable effect, in fact.

Bewildered, Simon made his way to the bar running along the nearest
side.
“Welcome to The Buggered Hedgehog” said the barman. “My name is
William Fitzsackett, what can I get you?”
“You work here?” said Simon.
“No” said William. “I just run the bar.”
Simon asked for a pint of ale, and was rewarded with one of the best
pints he had ever tasted. He turn to thank Fitzsackett, but he was
already arguing with another inhabitant over the definition of a Girly
Drink. Mentally preparing himself for an attempt at his quest, Simon
turned to the crowd, and said, quite softly
“Hello, my name is Simon”
The reaction was immediate. Whilst most of the people continued with
whatever discussions they were involved in, a fairly large number
decended upon the mage, giving him hugs, chocolate, and small black
balls which he assumed he was supposed to eat. At one point someone
threw a stuffed alligator at him, bit somewhere between the thrower
and Simon, the animal was deflected onto the fire.
Buoyed by this positive reaction, Simon asked a question.
To say there was silence would be incorrect, since the noise inside
was enough to deafen most people, but to Simon, who was listening only
for a response to his query, there was silence none the less.
Slightly bewildered, Simon asked his question again, slightly louder.
Again, no answer was the only reply.

Slightly dis hearted, Simon wandered around the hall, catching
snatches of conversation as he went. At a couple of tables, he sat for
a moment, and joined in for a bit. After a while, overwhelmed by the
noise, and the heat, and the light, and the inability to make a single
tiny dent in the group dynamic, Simon Merlin climbed the stairs and
went outside.

It had stopped snowing. So he went home.

Epilogue

Simon came back, eventually, and stayed for long enough to be
recognized as a regular in the bar on the oft-times he wandered afar.
Eventually the heat didn’t seem quite so intense, and the
conversations not quite so friendly. So he left the bar for a while,
hoping to return one day and see the place as new again.

The End

I left. Nothing changed, I was still depressed, I was still not getting anything done. So I looked back, to see if anyone had replied to the story (Nobody ever replys to creative things, this is one of the major reasons I left, because I was throwing stuff into an abyss)

They had. I didn’t last long after that, and returned. This is the post that brought me back.

Mary Messall writes:
Mar^W Um, Penelope, watched sadly. The daughter of a local tanner, she
had discovered the tavern when she was still quite young, and retreated
there often to escape the smells of home. She took the extraordinary
place itself for granted, having more or less grown up in it, and was
less aware of its now familiar colour and noise and atmosphere, than of
the individual people (or creatures) who frequented it, and their
stories. She had come to look forward to Simon’s visits, and thought the
evenings would be less pleasant without his voice. She took a sip of her
half-pint, and watched two brightly coloured birds in the corner peck
and squawk at one another. The noise, to which she was well accustomed,
did not bother her, but the laughter and song and dull roar of
enthusiastic conversation which normally swelled above it were quieter
just then, and that semi-silence, and the *absense* of a few specific
voices, she did notice, and regret. In her experience, however, this
relative quietude never lasted long, so she curled her sandalled feet
(she wore sandals year round, even in the snow) round the legs of her
bar stool, peered through the amber liquid in her glass at her
companions and tried again to learn to flip beermats off the edge of the
table. Which is to say, she waited.

At some point, I’ll either tell Mary this, or she will read it. Either is possible, I suppose.

Aquarion Of AFP. 8th August 2002, Cambridge.