Sousuke could feel his head pounding as he woke up. He could also feel waves of water lapping gently against his head. He staggered to his feet, discovering that he was covered with wet sand and seemed to have been lying down on a beach; the tide was starting to come in and had woken him up.
His shirt was gone, but he still had his pants, at least. He concentrated, trying to remember why exactly he was lying around on the beach. Looking around, he could see Melissa, Munchausen, Kaname, and Kurz, all lying face down in the sand, all missing their shirts, but still possessing pants. Each of them had an elaborate tattoo on their backs, much to his surprise. A little closer examination showed that the tattoo, in each case, appeared to be a map. It wasn't clear what it was a map of.
Further examination revealed the ruined wreckage of a great stone tower nearby, rising from the crest of the ridge which rose inland, paralleling the beach. A river cut through the ridge and flowed into the sea to the south of him. Further north, the ridge became heavily wooded, but only grass covered it near where he and his friends were.
He frowned and tried to remember why they had come here, and why everyone suddenly had maps on their backs, but he couldn't. As he thought, he heard the buzz of a distant engine, and looked out across the ocean. A great blimp was approaching; he called up the Logrus and studied the blimp through it. The power of the Pattern was upon it strongly, and it seemed to be highly enchanted. He extended a tendril for a closer look and recognized the sigil on it; it was Prince Beowulf of Amber, Kaname's cousin.
Concluding Beowulf was probably not a threat, he began yanking shirts out of shadow, as he didn't want to be half-naked when Beowulf arrived, and he assumed the others wouldn't either. In the inevitable nature of such things, he was just pulling shirts to himself when Kaname woke up, found herself topless, and saw Sousuke with a bunch of shirts held in Logrus tendrils near him.
As the rock collided with his head, he wondered again why Kaname was so particulary good at hitting him with things, more than her ability to hit anyone else. The shirts flew into the air, then fell into the water. Sousuke's yelp woke up Kurz, who sat up, rubbing his head. "Ugh. Next time, someone else gets to open the ancient book."
"There was a book?" Sousuke asked.
"I think we opened a book."
Melissa sat up and covered her chest with one arm, while calling up the Logrus. "Can we make it a rule to not let Munchausen talk us into anything, ever again?" She stared at Kurz's back. "Hey, you've got a map on your back." Securing a shirt, she tossed a second one to Kaname, who put it on quickly.
Kurz said, "I think we all have a map on our backs."
Kaname looked up the ridge at the shattered tower as Munchausen finally sat up. "That map in the book must have somehow imprinted itself on us when it blew up." She paused. "Although I can't remember why the book blew up."
"I expect the ancient magics had somewhat decayed," Munchausen said, yawning. He looked around. "Why has everyone but me changed shirts? And where is mine?"
Kaname tossed him one of the wet shirts. "The book seems to have blown our shirts off when it blew the tower up."
"Just our shirts?"
"And tattooed maps on our backs," Melissa said.
"Ahh, perfect," he said. "I was afraid it wouldn't work after all this time."
Kaname turned and stared at him. "You KNEW this would happen?"
"I thought everyone knew about the Self-Applying Map Tattoos of the Bedrakeen," Munchausen said.
"NO," Kaname said. "I wouldn't have come if I knew I'd get a map on my back!"
"That explains why none of you said no," Munchausen said bemusedly.
"This isn't permanent, is it?" Kurz asked. "It wouldn't be so bad if it was something nice looking, but..."
Munchausen looked up at the sky. "I see Prince Beowulf must have read a copy of the same book I did. Perhaps his copy wasn't missing the second half, which would have answered that question, I'm sure."
"You don't know if these will ever come off?" Melissa asked in disbelief.
"Traditionally, the Self-Applying Map Tattoos of the Bedrakeen fade once you locate what you have a map of. However, normally, the Tattoo-Dispensing Map Books of the Bedrakeen don't explode, destroying entire buildings, so perhaps this is a special case," Munchausen said.
Kaname turned to Melissa. "Next time, I'm picking where we go for vacation."
"Will it have beer?" Kurz asked. "And scantily clad women?"
"It certainly won't have any stupid mystic tattoos!" Kaname began plucking trumps out of the sand, from behind rocks, and out of the water.
The approaching blimp now descended to hover just a little above the surface of the water, and lowered a small sailboat, which began to cruise over to the shore. Beowulf could be seen steering the ship; he was accompanied by his wife, Lily, who was wearing a safari style outfit today.
As they approached, Lily pulled a dock out of Shadow for them to pull up to, and secured the boat to it with a Logrus tendril. Beowulf hopped out of the boat, followed by her. "Good day, everyone. I see I'm not the only person interested in the Map Tower of Bendari."
Sousuke rubbed his head and tried to remember why they'd gone to the tower in the first place. He was pretty sure they'd intended to go on a vacation or something...
Jump to Reel 2: Flying Munchausen Airlines