The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: The Shape of Things, Part 4
Name: Alyssa Gullege Plotline: Shape of Things Character(s): Joe, Rhynwa and the Vax Pack Title of Post: God, it's me Rhynwa
Joe Fish woke up to find himself transformed into a giant cockroach. Well not so giant. But he knew he shouldn't be a bug. He should be a man. He tried looking down, and failed until he realized he needed to swivel hi eye stalks. "Nope. Don't like it. Not one bit," he thought to himself. He saw a cockroach crawling on his lower limb, not sure if it was a limb he started with or not. Joe managed to shiver and twitch enough that the bug fell off. The next thing Joe knew, he was now a nice little hummock of grass. "Well, Gosh-DANG-it!"
Rhynwa turned from where she was sitting watch, sure she heard a rustling in the grass. Her skin had turned black and linen-like; she looked like a doll made from scraps. She got up slowly, so she wouldn't sound like someone throwing old clothes out the window. She walked over to the rustling hummock of grass. Looking around she realized that this must be Joe. Right where he had gone to sleep, resting his head on a hummock of grass, was a second clump of grass. Rustling angrily. At her. "Joe, I don't know. We will try having Heart touch you or something. If you had eyes, I'd be able to show you that I am actually turning into a giant mound of fabric. We will keep going and hope we find the problem. On the other hand, being a hummock of grass might be a nice way to spend some time..."
Aihrglen came over, and snuffled the Joe-grass. It began waving fronds frantically, so Rhynwa scooped up the aurumvorax. "It is not nice to water friends." She walked back to the embers of last nights fire, set down the aurumvorax, and rebuilt the fire until flames were merrily licking up the branches. The rest of the team awoke slowly.
Akron squinted at Rhynwa "Rinnie... uh... you don't look so good. Maybe we need ta find some help?"
"Akron, we ARE the help."
"Oh. Den we might be in some trouble, cuz even though I'm s'posed ta be green, I ain't supposed to be leafy."
Rhynwa looked at him, and indeed, his skin looked like it was starting to separate into grass fronds. Carter had apparently been sleeping amongst some tree roots, because his skin was brown and bark-like. Heart looked like Heart, which is to say strange but not different than usual.
"Heart? Would you be so kind as to touch that clump of grass? No, the other one. Yeah."
As Heart reach her hand down into the grass, it turned pink, and slowly shifted forms. It took about 10 minutes, but finally Joe was restored to a somewhat human form. "Thanks, Miss Heart. I was not enjoying being that much a part of nature."
"Well, I think it is past time we continued upstream. After yesterday, we should get to the town about noon." Rhynwa stood up, and shouldered her bag. She opened it to Aihrglen, who reluctantly crawled in. She would have let him walk, be she was hoping to move a little faster today. She didn't think she had much time left before she was incapable of helping. Joe kept wavering, so Heart put her hand on his arm to keep him stabilized. Carter's stretching power was having some kind of reaction with the shape changing, and his body kept trying to stretch itself into a tree. Akron was getting paranoid as well as grassy, twitching at every sound and whirling around as if someone were following him.
Rhynwa, suddenly overwhelmed, dropped to her knees. She closed her eyes and mentally shouted "Oh Arrawn! I wish You were there to hear me! I am forever in Your service, doing my best. For those not yet ready for Your perfection, I help them live. For those who are ready, I help them die. But now, I am going to be trapped, unable to do Your work, and unable to help these people. I will not even be able to help myself. And now I may not even come to Your side, for how does a piece of cloth die?! " She sagged forward. "I know You are dead, and surely You deserve perfection Yourself, but I miss You."
The rest of the group had moved on to leave Rhynwa to her prayers. The only one left behind to see her begin to glow with a strange black light was Aihrglen. He didn't care.
When Rhynwa caught up with the group, she looked a little more human, and had a less pained look on her face. "Let's get to the village. Either we will be the help they need, or will become part of the helpless. In any case, we will give them our all."
Name: Lora Redish Plotline: The Shape of Things Character(s): Heart Title of Post: The traveling psychologist
Rhynwa's prayer had apparently helped some. Heart wondered if the effect was any different than it would have been back when Arawn was alive, but she wasn't sure that was a polite question to ask.
She walked with Joe Fish, keeping herself in contact with him. It was kind of interesting the way he kept shifting to resemble her. He didn't have to see her to do it, either; she'd surreptitiously tested it by touching him from behind. Chameleons, she supposed, did as much. "So," she finally broke the silence, looking over at the brown and knubbly Carter. "Your superpowers--do you feel... guilty about them, somehow?"
"I beg your pardon?" said Carter, in a raspy voice.
"Don't mind me if I'm being too intrusive or anything... but it seems like you're manifesting these things practically at will. You think 'I need to be stronger' and you are, think 'I need to have longer arms' and you do. That's incredibly powerful, more so than even the strongest mage I've read about. And yet you cripple yourself with undesirable personal drawbacks of each power you manifest. If the positives are being selected and granted by your own mind, the negatives must be too. And so I couldn't help wondering what it was about the idea of superpowers that made you want to punish yourself for having them."
"I, uh--never thought about it that way."
"Maybe you should," Heart suggested. "If you could work through it, you'd be more powerful than most of the old gods. Just think of all the good you could do."
"Gods, schmods," muttered Akron. "Fat lotta good they did us all during the Madness. I say good riddance to 'em!"
Rhynwa smacked him in the back of the head, leaving a Rhynwa-colored stain in his matted hair.
"This is--was--my village," whispered Joe Fish, pointing up ahead with an indistinct hand. Buildings and crops still stood, but it wasn't readily apparent which of them, if any, had once been people. "Follow me and I'll--show you--where I first saw that critter."
Name: Alyssa Gulledge Plotline: Shape of Things Character(s): V'ax Pack Title of Post: Home Sweet Home
Joe Fish led them through the middle of his village. As the group moved through, they saw flickering shapes but no real movement. As wind ruffled grass against a panel of wood, it flickered into being a hummock of grass. An insect landed on a pile of laundry left in the sun. A shirt flickered into a large insect, but changed back as the frightened bug flew off. Joe hung his head to see his town laid low. They group as a whole were fighting off despair. If the town had gone this far, what could they do.
"Well, my home is north of town aways. Let's head there, so's I can at least offer you some hospitality."
The party trudged on, in various states of shape change. As the group trudged through the unkempt fields, they all began to take on aspects of the of wheat and grain the brushed past. Carter actually began sprouting wheat ears. Akron's skin began to feel like leaves. Rhynwa fluctuated between the black linen of her robe and the green grassy grain. Finally, her body settled on dead grass, just as winter begins. She kept muttering under her breath that Arawn had a very bad sense of humor. Heart and Aihrglen were untouched, and Joe Fish was doing better than most with Hearts hand on him.
They left the river behind as they moved out of town. About a mile further along, they were all startled by the sound of a calf lowing. They all picked up their heads and began to run. Carter got there first.
"It's a cow-shaped cow, with a calf-shaped calf!"
Rhynwa stopped and picked up a handful of grass. She stared at her hand holding the grass, hoping not to see it begin to go green. She was disappointed.
"We are still affected."
Heart looked around.
"Joe, where is the river from here?"
"Well, Ma'am, the river is over yonder about half a mile. The crash site is over that way too. Actually closer to town to think about it. An over that hill is my house."
They all turned towards the hill as they heard women's voices shouting.
"Daddy, Daddy!" Joe's little girl came running down the slope followed by her mother.
"Joe! It is just terrible. You brought help? Thank Goodness!" She hugged him hard and then looked into his face. "Joe? Oh Gods! It got you too, didn't it?"
"Relax, woman! I brought help. Give 'em a chance to help!"
Rhynwa turned to Joe's wife. "Ma'am ?"
"Molly. Molly Fish."
"Molly, where do you get your water?"
"We get it from the well out back."
"And you and your daughter have not been experiencing any changes, have you?"
"No, not a one after the day she was playin' down in the stream with the other kids."
"Molly, I think we all need a really big drink of water from your well, and a little bit of a rest before we tackle this problem."
"What was I thinking! Of course! Please come to the house. I will prepare a big meal and give you anything you'd like to drink!" She snagged her daughter as she ran back up the hill to prepare for the guests.
Joe was sighing in relief. "At least they were spared!"
Name: Lora Redish Plotline: The Shape of Things Character(s): Team Vorax Title of Post: Alyssa started this Oz thing, not me... (-:
"So the well water seems to cure the effects of the disease," Heart summarized, less because she felt anyone was in need of a summary than because she'd noticed cures of any sort seemed to work better when you reminded people over and over of their effectiveness.
"Ya look a little bored there, Forehead."
"What?" said Heart. "No... no, this is all quite interesting, really. I've never heard of anything like this before, and I wonder what caused it." She paused a moment to let the goblin catch up. His skin was still a little knubbly, but returning to its normal shade of green. "It's just that I came here to study magic... and whatever this plague is, it doesn't seem to be magically driven. The closest I've come to observing a magic reaction so far is the question of who has Rhynwa's hat."
"And I, uh, I figured the catch on that one out a few days ago."
"Maybe the group could stay together and take on another adventure when this one is over," Carter suggested. "I mean... they can't all be about lich lords and alternate universes and weird plots about ensorcelling hundreds of dead rats."
"I guess you're right--"
Just then Airhglen, who had been waddling cheerfully along at her mistress' feet, made a lunge for the creek. "No!" yelled Rhynwa, and caught the little aurumvorax in her arms. He growled and pumped his legs in a comic attempt to run through the air. "I'm sorry Airhglen, but we are only just beginning to recover from the effects of touching the contaminated water the first time. Until we've found the source-- OW!!!!!"
Airghlen flopped out of Rhynwa's arms as she jerked back from the sharp nip he'd given her. He rolled on the ground and came up scurrying at full speed. "Airhglen, what's gotten into you--" she started.
There was a little streak of silver and something long, low and fluid shot out from the lilypads as the little aurumvorax charged into them. "Hey!" cried Joe Fish. "It's that varmint from the crash site! I told Molly I weren't crazy..."
"Lemme at the little sucker!" yelled Akron, hopping up and down. "Mess with my beer, willya!"
"No!" Heart cast around desperately for a container. "We need to catch it to learn what it is... it could be important!"
She heard the priestess' chanting too late. The first combat spell of the mission, and Heart had missed it. Damn it all. The little creature didn't appear to be held, though. It zipped away for the reeds in a strange little zigzag, Airhglen hot in pursuit. What none of them noticed in the chaos, was the roseate glow starting to break through the yellow grass of the creek bank.
"Incoming!" yelled Carter Edison. Suddenly endowed with super speed, he streaked around his compatriots in a red blur he hoped would shield them from attack. Though a noble effort, it was in vain, as the whole meadow area they were standing on collapsed into some kind of dimensional rift.
Heart heard Akron yelling, and saw nothing.
There was no telling how long she was out for, but when she made her way woozily back up to her hands and knees she found herself on some dry, foreign landscape with an oddly large red sun beating down on her. Rhynwa, Akron, and Joe Fish were groggily standing as well. Carter seemed to have unfortunately run into a rock formation at super speed. That had to hurt.
"Where the hell are we?" groaned Akron.
"Airhglen," sighed Rhynwa, "I don't think we're on Ataniel anymore."
The little silver creature made a frustrated, plaintive cry and streaked off across the alien landscape.
Name: Alyssa GUlledge Plotline: Shape of Things to Come Character(s): 8T (the alien) Title of Post: Explorer Blues
8$R#WO*&^adOI&YBo8t stared at the open desert-plain. Where in the 5 Galaxies was he?! Sure his flight-rock was pretty much destroyed in the other place, but at least Command knew where he was. Now, he was well and truly lost. How did they translocate to this place, anyway? There had to be a summoning circle nearby!
Then he turned around to look at the strange creatures that had journeyed with him. Well, they *had* been the local representatives until the translocation. Now they were travelers just like him. They began talking amongst themselves, gesturing at him or the landscape, he couldn't tell. Decisions, decisions. Should he look for the sum-circ, or transmogrify into one of them?
He winced, as pain shot up his limb-pod. The wound he got from the crash had STILL not healed. He was bleeding slowly, a thin thread of silver, so he wasn't impaired, but it still hurt like a reflected fire spell. A BIG reflected fire spell. With the blood loss and the open wound, a T-mog would hurt like hell.
He decided to look for the sum-circ. Once he found it, he could come back and explain to this strange group. Another spear of pain shot up his limb-pod. Perhaps they could do some healing magic before doing a T-mog. On the other hand, they might not understand him without the T-mog. He sighed.
He headed off onto the plain, listening for the odd dimension-twang of a sum-circ. They could all reverse-summon back to the first world when he found it. Perhaps the odd group would even help get a call spell set up.
Name: Jonah "Not Dead Yet" Cohen Plotline: The Shape of Things to Come Character(s): Carter, 8T, the Vorax Pack Title of Post: I Bet Doug Knows the Formula
He had noticed the spreading illumination before any of the others, and had thought Gotta shield everyone from whatever that is - fast! The next thing Carter knew, a series of numbers was streaking through his mind --- 3(x)-something... he'd missed the last few, because then everything started moving in slow motion.
No, wait, it was him that was moving fast. Really fast. Get around everyone, somehow he thought, deciding maybe if he did so fast enough, he could be one continuous blocker, sorta. It was tricky, going around in circles at that speed. Everything was standing still, except the light, which kept on coming. And then the Vorax pack was... somewhere else.
It was also then that centripetal force tossed Carter's trajectory outward. It wasn't that he didn't see the rock wall coming. He had all the time in the world to see it coming. All the time in the world to think about Heart's words to him before - and to doubt that many of the gods of old ever bumped into walls often. All the time to marvel at how easy those Enigma people had made it look. All the time to try to stop. Just not enough to quite stop his forward motion.
"Ouch!" Carter said, hauling himself up off the ground unsteadily.
"You ok?" Heart asked.
"I think so. Stupid inertia!"
"It's not just a good idea," Rhynwa informed him, "it's the law."
"Nice power there, speedy," Akron said. "Can't say it does much for yer hair though."
"Uh, not to ask a dumb question, but where are we?"
"There are no dumb questions," Rhynwa answered, "though I've met more than a few dumb people who ask questions. And it appears we're no longer on Ataniel, which is bad. But it appears we're not in Gila, so count that as a plus."
"Look!" Joe shouted, pointing to a silvery form skulking away from them. "It's that there alien varmit what got us here!"
"I'm on it," Carter said, taking off his coat. "3x - oh, screw that." He took off, trying not to go quite as fast as the last time.
8T looked up with alarm to see one of the strange beings from that other world coming at him like it was about to go to warp speed. 8T would have felt a little bit of awe at what these beings were capable of, had fear not been the understandably dominant emotion. But less than a second later, the alien had streaked right on by, kicking up one impressive amount of wind. Now that had been---
---he missed the strange-looking creature tthe first time. This time, Carter wisely eschewed trying to decelerate or turn too quickly,. He made a wide circle and on his return pass, was able to snatch the alien in his coat. As he motored back towards the Vorax pack, he immediately tried to slow down. He was apparently getting the hang of things, because he only overshot his teamates by 30 feet.
"Nice grab, Curt," Akron said, running towards him with the rest of the Pack.
"Meep," said the alien, looking, so far as Carter could tell, scared and a little disoriented.
"Sorry about that," Carter said to him. "I'm still trying to get the hang of these superspeed powers. Oh, uh, don't mind him," he pointed to Airghlen, who was growling at 8T. "He only eats gold, not silver." Then, looking at Rhynwa, he mouthed "Right?"
The priestess nodded. "Hang on." She cast tongues and said to 8T "My name is Rhynwa. Can you understand me?"
Name: Alyssa Gulledge Plotline: The Shape of Things to Come Character(s): A field of flowers, 8T and Rhynwa Title of Post: Exposition is your friend
Carter stood there, breathing lightly despite his run, holding up the alien in the jacket. Rhynwa cast her spell and turned to them both. "My name is Rhynwa. Can you understand me?"
As the last word came from Rhynwa, a fat droplet of silver leaked through the jacket. It splashed onto Carter's foot, and as everyone watched, his form collapsed. Suddenly there was a new growth of the little ground-hugging plants covering the plains. There was also a wailing alien lying tangled in the jacket.
"Look, Carter is obviously going nowhere at the moment, but that is no reason to leave him as a carpet of flowers."
"I'm sorry. I am just in a huge amount of pain. I got hurt in the crash, I have been bleeding for days, and the big lugnut just dropped me on my wounded leg. HEY! *You* cast a translation spell! And the lugnut, was using some kind of ability enhancement spell, right? You are a magic capable group, huh?"
"Uh, as far as I can tell, I do magic given to me by my god. Carter has some other force helping him. And speaking of Carter..."
"Yeah, well I've never seen it this bad before, but I can guess. My species are natural shapeshifters. Usually we go into a situation, secretly touch one of the inhabitants to get an appropriate shape, and then cast the translation magic. Then we can move through their culture learning about them while blending in and not causing a ruckus. However, when my flight-rock crashed, I got hurt. Transmogrification when we are wounded is agonizing, so I decided to leave the crash and hide until I healed. However, I was seen and chased by that creature over there and another like him. I hid in the stream, where my natural color allowed me to blend in. By the way, I must admit to being surprised that water is the predominant liquid on your planet - I though for sure it would be quicksilver. Anyway, I still hadn't healed up when your group surprised the" Rhynwa had no idea what the next few words meant "out of me, so I ran. Then whoever it was set off the summoning circle, and we landed here. I was going to find the sum-circ so we could get back, but then lugnut snatched me up, and dumped me here. He probably got my blood on himself - but I have never seen a species have more than a very minor reaction to direct contact with my blood."
"That explains a lot. So how do we fix it?"
"It usually wears off. Although if you want to clear the ground where my blood is still dripping on him, that might help too."
"Oh. How about I heal that up, so we don't have anymore incidents?"
"You can heal?"
Rhynwa approached and very carefully put her hands around the wound. She closed her eyes and cast a healing spell. 8T seemed to sigh. As soon as the healing glow faded, but before Rhynwa could remove her hands, 8T popped into a human form, resembling but not identical to Rhynwa.
He chanted some very odd sounds, and then turned to the group at large.
"Greetings. My name is difficult for you to pronounce, but you can call me 8T. I am sorry for any trouble I have caused on your home planet. I would love to make amends for any difficulties involving the crash sit or my presence-"
"You mean like all the transformed people and animals and everything?" growled Joe Fish
"Oh. I had no idea it had gotten to be like that. I am very sorry, but it should resolve itself. Nonetheless, I will be happy to help in any way I can, however as we are all unexpectedly in this place, where ever it may be, I suggest we all find the summoning circle which brought us here, and go home."
"What summoning circle?"
Name: Lora Redish Plotline: The Shape Of Things Character(s): Heart and Team Vorax Title of Post: The Away Team
Heart scribbled in her notebook at a furious pace. She had heard of aliens before, of course. There were the Gilans and the Argos, and even in Kaltur they told the story of Maxwell Silverhammer's epic fight with his alien father. So being stranded on an alien planet with a weird shapeshifting thing wasn't usual, exactly, but it wasn't that beyond the pale. What really had Heart excited was that Rhynwa had just cast a spell on the creature! Two, in fact, but the first one was the interesting one. After casting it, Rhynwa was able to understand the alien's burbles and squeals. More importantly, it was able to understand her.
Then she healed it, and it shapeshifted into a humanoid shape with vocal cords, resolving the communication problem. Still, Heart now had enough notes to get started. This put her in a good enough mood that she was willing to forgive the thing for dragging her off onto some who-knows-where planet. "The summoning circle that transported us here, of course," said 8T. An anxious look passed over its shapeshifted features. "One of you did get the coordinates on it, right?"
Akron looked at Joe. Rhynwa looked at Heart. Airhglen showed all his golden teeth in a glittering yawn.
"We may have a problem."
"Well, why don't we start by exploring the area," Rhynwa suggested. "Perhaps the inhabitants will be able to tell us where we are, and from there, we may be able to find a way back home."
"Sounds like a plan," mumbled the pile of flowers.
None of them noticed the many tiny eyes watching them as they left from the shadow of the alien brambles.