The Hell and Back Archives
Putting the Chaos Back Into Chaotic Evil, Part III
Character(s): Rat Pack: Skins, Garal, K'nar
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: The Abyss Needs Lots of Visine
Title of Post: Your Sushi in 30 Minutes or Less, or The Next Order is Free
Garal started the slow walk between Abyssal planes. The aspects of one plane merged into another as he carefully picked his paths. The broiling heat of 219 mixed with the insects of 220. Then he encountered the snow of 218 on the ground, despite the spill-over heat of 219. He continued for several hours, at a slow pace, until he was on plane 213 -- if he'd counted right.
He paused before entering the plane to figure out where the Rat Pack should have landed, and they weren't there. He sat down to do a few calculations, and then re-entered the interplanar region to travel to where they probably were. He stepped out of the nothingness and found who he was looking for... sort of.
Vas, Ebreth, Skitch, a feminine looking Jack (with a comfortable looking rat in her blouse), and their devilish escort were talking to a bear-headed demon. The demon wasn't attacking them, but Garal had learned some caution in his thirty-some years.
He wants their help to regain control of the plane? That sounded wrong to Garal. Henri, the take-out clerk, was clear on this being Ailonwy's place; the one where she had her main residence, at that. Still, it's not good to piss off demons on their own turf -- so he gracefully walked out from behind a tree and came up next to Vas. "Hi guys! You'll never guess where I've been."
Just then, a soaking wet, red-and-black blur emerged from Skitch's pack and made a bee-line for Glasya's arms. The nice ladies! They'll be warm. I hate being wet!
Garal decided not to let the cat-thing distract him. Turning to the demon, he said, "That's a nice offer, but we'll have to talk it over first. May I ask why, exactly, we should help you? And please, none of that 'I'll let you live' stuff. We get a lot of threats, and they just don't mean as much as they used to."
Character(s): Schneider, Khyrisse and Ailonwy
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen, Jonah Cohen and Evan Haag
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Shirts
Title of Post: The Demi-Goddesses Go Shopping
Schneider's voice was suddenly inside Khyrisse's head, which was a strange feeling. Not the voice, itself-- she'd once had hundreds of voices in her head at a time, and not so long ago, either-- but that it was Schneider's. She'd tried very hard not to be inside Schneider's head as a goddess, or Max's... although she hadn't always succeeded.
Khyrisse held her breath, and she tried not to look like anything was wrong. A person's mental voice was far more detailed than their physical one; when undisguised, it revealed more of their inner self. Schneider's voice in her head yanked on her heartstrings terribly-- and not least because of the changes in it.
Keep an eye out, Khyri, this stinks. Team gets separated, some stranger comes along with something we want, asks us to help 'em fight some evil folks. It's just TOO much like what Duke St. A. tried to do to the Tour back in the Rimbor Arena. We'd better watch it-- and bikini chick.
I don't like the idea of fighting Draize's people anyway, she replied; she wondered briefly what her voice would sound like to Schneider. I've bent the god-rules already on this trip, we're not supposed to directly interfere with each other. Cori and Tarrin may have already agreed to help her, though. I think the best we can do is keep our eyes open, and play along for the moment. I won't promise anything.
Khyrisse looked at Ailonwy and grinned suddenly. Anyone who distracts Asinus from me can't be all bad, though.
"If you could get all of us back home," Khyrisse said to Ailonwy, "I think we could help out. I'm Khyrisse, by the way." Her grin took on a slightly wicked and appreciative cast. "I love your boots."
Ailonwy returned the grin, saying, "If you want a pair, I can give you the name of an exclusive boutique. These are... a kind of skin you wouldn't want to wear, but you can get them in a pretty wide range of materials. I think they can even work in dragon, but you have to supply it yourself."
"Not a problem, trust me. Beating something up would feel fantastic right now."
A wickedly amused sparkle appeared in Ailonwy's eyes. "I can help you with that, too," she said.
Character(s): Rat Pack: Shirts
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also
Title of Post: Too Many Smart Party Members
Jack twirled a finger through her hair. "Actually, he was telling us how Ansakir had been trying to make inroads into liberating this level before Ailonwy's minions started making trouble."
"Uh-huh," Garal sighed with a planeblazer's cynicism, "tell me another one."
"The prime tenet of chaos is ultimate freedom, mortal," the bear-headed demon sighed. "If you don't understand that, get back to Hell, where you can follow rules to your hearts content. We may be evil here, but we just want self-determination."
"Look, we don't trust demons any more than you do, but you can't say that they aren't selfish," Vas added. Jack noticed that Vas had been agreeing with her much more since she got breasts.
"Of course we're selfish!" the demon cried. "We want what's best for us! And right now that's getting rid of the bitch in the boots!"
"He says that Ansakir would be more than happy to get us out of here," Skitch added. "And help us find Khyrisse, too!"
"I think we should at least talk to him," Jack added.
Garal shrugged. "It can't be worse than listening to those three," he sighed.
"Bite me, shorty," Nasty glared.
"You know what they say about halflings," Belfry whispered, and the two succubi busted into a fit of giggles.
"Come on, Ebreth," Jack said, putting one arm around his friend. "We've got to go get ourselves embroiled in someone else's business again."
Ebreth didn't answer, but he seemed to follow Jack just a little more readily.
Author: Laura Redish
Title of Post: What To Do With Siann
"She hasn't called me in a long time, Merry."
"Maybe she got a life," said Omeria.
"Maybe she's dead." Ariath twisted her thumb. "Maybe she's going to come back as a revenant and kill me."
"Oh, like that's as dangerous as it's cracked up to be," muttered Marhault.
"Maybe she got laid," suggested K'Mar.
"Maybe she just got a grip and got on with her life," said Omeria. "Don't grow a conscience on me, Ari."
"I'm not. I'm just wondering, well, do we really need to go through with this Siann thing?"
"Better safe than sorry, little blade."
Title of Post: Oh Wee Oh
The horde of two-foot-high kobold things kept prodding Alphred forward. Every so often they made their prods more insistent by the use of a short spear in his back.
Alphred felt like an idiot. He should have seen the ambush coming. Still, he was still alive and his captors were leading him forward towards the white city on the horizon. Over all it could have been worse. That is when it did.
Character(s): Alphred and the horde
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: The bridge of DEATH!!!
Alphred's captors lead him to a old rope bridge crossing a deep ravine. It reminded Alphred of the bridge over the Canyon of Mists near the base of the Plateau. He had had to cross that bridge once, while on a quest to stop the Lizard King from over-running the Hill Lands.
One by one the hordlings stepped onto the bridge. After a moment they pushed Alphred on to the rickety structure. That was when the ropes supporting the bridge snapped, sending a good portion of the hordling creatures and Alphred falling to the canyon floor.
Character(s): The Rat Pack (Skins), Mezzadoun, and Callani
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (with kibitzing from Evan)
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Skins
Title of Post: The World's Storm-Troubled Sphere
Mezzadoun's reply was interrupted by Vas.
"We seem to have more incoming," he remarked, pointing upwards. The bear-headed demon looked, and gulped. "One of yours?" the elven archer inquired.
"Um, yeah, you could say that," Mezzadoun muttered.
Vas took a closer look at the swooping figure, and his eyes widened. The elf shook his head a little, as if he didn't believe what he was seeing, and looked again.
The figure cupped large, midnight-blue wings and braked hard, directly above the Rat Pack, stirring up the air around them with a cooler breeze. The faintly metallic scent of an approaching snowstorm wafted down to Vas, mixed with a woodsy, feathery perfume.
A woman hovered in the air above Mezzadoun, tall and lithe, with a dusky golden shimmer to her skin. Her eyes were the same midnight-blue as her wings; her intricately braided hair was the blue-white of a lightning bolt. She returned Vas' astonished stare with amusement, an expression that sat oddly on her strong and sharply featured face. Eyebrows, cheekbones, the corners of her eyes and mouth, all swept upwards towards the sky... as did the points of her ears, sharp and subtly curved like the blades she wielded.
"Mezzadoun," she said, her words soft with a faint rumble like thunder behind them. "Where are you taking these mortals?"
"Um..." Mezzadoun thought fast, cringing a little and trying to hide it from the mortals. "To see you?"
The woman smiled, an expression that was slightly frightening on a face so alien and still so beautiful. She did not remove her eyes from Vas'. "Not a bad answer... and why?"
"They're lost. They need to find a way off the plane, after they locate the rest of their group. I thought maybe if they helped us free the plane from Ailonwy..."
The woman thought about this for a few moments, eyes half-closed. "That seems fair enough, and probably a good idea, as well," she said, finally, her mouth still slightly curved in amiable amusement. "You might well be caught in the crossfire," she said, to the Rat Pack this time. "The fighting is getting worse... most of this plane will be involved before long. Certainly all of the crossing-points will be. You couldn't leave on your own, even if you had the means to do so. Are you willing? Defending a strategic point would be of considerable help at the moment," she said.
"Igura?" the bear-headed demon inquired.
"Fallen, lazy lout. They are approaching Morinfen," she replied shortly. "There is a town, of sorts, with..." she hesitated, glancing at the Rat Pack as a whole. "Well, they are not quite innocent," she said, with a rueful look, spying the cynicism on several faces. "Nor are they non-combatants. The peaceable do not exist here-- or not for long. But they are defending their homes, and they are badly outnumbered."
Vas shook his head suddenly, blinking. A look of disappointment flashed through the woman's eyes and was gone.
"It's also of strategic importance, isn't it?" Garal said. "There are other people being slaughtered, but this town's important."
She nodded, the first flickers of anger appearing in her face, like flashes of light in a faraway bank of clouds. "Will you help or not?" she demanded. "Help and we will find your missing and send you to your own plane and away from ours. I have no more time to waste."
"She may be the best offer we've got," Vas murmured to Jack, fingers rubbing his temple in bemusement.
"I'm sure you don't mind that a bit," Nasty said venomously.
The storm-woman gave her an amused look. "It's rare to find a group traveling with the sluts of Hell, and not a single one in thrall," she said, laughter crackling in the background of her voice.
"Can you take us to Ansakir?" Skitch said, leaping up before a cat-fight could distract everyone from the business at hand. "Will he find the rest of the Rat Pack and send us home?"
"I may be able send you home, little one; and if I cannot, I can ask Ansakir to do so. I am Callani, Ansakir's War-Mage." She backwinged, surrounding them all in a cloud of white dust, for a moment. "Mezzadoun!"
Mezzadoun gestured to the Rat Pack and took to the air after her. "This way to Morinfen, mortals..."
Character(s): Vas, Callani, Mezzadoun
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Skins
Title of Post: Watch Out For The First Step
Vas, Jack, Skitch, Garal, their companion devils, and the pliant Ebreth followed Callani and Mezzadoun to Morinfen. First they saw the battlefield. Large and strewn with dead of many races, the air and ground was full of scavengers moving toward their feast. They approached it from higher ground, looking at the place from the edge of a cliff. In the distance they could see an encampment.
"Igura." Mezzadoun seemed to be indicating a large, bipedal reptilian creature laying in the center of the field. Crows picked at its flesh.
"Where is the town?" Vas asked.
"Below you." Callani answered. "Literally."
Vas followed her down the cliff face. He saw many openings, some near ground level, many higher. Not all of them had paths leading to the ground.
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back: Shirts
Title of Post: Coincidences Revealed
Kit looked skeptically at Ailonwy. "Aren't you a demon? Why should we trust you?"
"Not all demons are untrustworthy," said Ailonwy, as if she was hurt by the accusation. "We get a bad rep."
"That's true, actually," murmured Khyrisse, thinking of Janther.
"Do you have a friend down here?" said Ailonwy, innocently.
Khyrisse shook her head. "Not anymore. You wouldn't have heard of him. He doesn't live here any more. His demon name was, uh, Tjekanefir."
Ailonwy blinked at her. "You're kidding me."
"You've heard of him?"
"He's my big brother."
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Falling towards Infinity
Alphred was falling. More correctly, he was still falling, as had been the case for the last few hours. While he could see the canyon floor below him, it seemed that he was not actually approaching it. At least he was better off than the hordlings that had captured him. They all were presumably dead on the floor of the canyon.
"Stranger and stranger," he said to himself. "I guess I should I do something about this."
With the grace of a sky diver, Alphred pulled the Totem of the Swallow out from his belt. He invoked its power and gained the power of flight.
Looping around a few times to get a survey of the land, Alphred could still see the white city on the horizon. Focusing his will, he flew off towards it.
Character(s): The Greatest Thief On Ataniel
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back: Shirts Get It On
Title of Post: In Khyrisse's Pocketses
"Wow, you're really friends of Tjeksa's? He's my hero," Ailonwy lied.
I could have been a milkmaid, Khyrisse was thinking. I bet milkmaids don't have to deal with losing half their cows in some ill-thought attempt to rescue half of their first herd of cows. I bet milkmaids very rarely get caught up in wars between demon lords, and if they do, I bet they never turn out to be related to their friends. I bet most milkmaids don't have multiple lovers they've driven insane. "Come on in," she sighed. "We should be safe from Ansakir's forces in here while we decide what we're going to do." Sennett had a barbed tail. Khyrisse barely registered it.
Khyrisse was talking to the weird masked guy in her study and didn't even notice the Greatest Thief On Ataniel sneaking up behind her. Kit wouldn't dream of stealing from her, of course. But a thief who didn't practice was doomed to failure, Kit's master had taught him. And what better way to gain experience than picking a goddess' pocket? Especially such an invitingly open one. Kit would give it back. The child's hand slipped into Khyrisse's tunic. "Gotcha, Miss Starshadow!" he shouted triumphantly, holding his success aloft.
Khyrisse started and whirled around, sagged in relief when she saw it was only Kit. "Don't sneak up behind--" she began. Khyrisse blinked uncomprehendingly at the shell in the child's hand for a moment, as it flared to life. "Oh, no!" she shouted.
Tarrin and Kristin were having no luck thus far in their psionic search for Skitch. Tarrin was worried about him, lost in the Abyss without his mother. He looked at his fingertips against Kristin's, on the library table, and then up at the princess with a start. She looked back at him, her eyes large behind her strange spectacles. Tarrin had never been so attracted to a kiljhac. -Kristini-, he started. She put her index finger against his lips.
Tarrin reached out and touched his mind to hers.
"You brought Jack to Hell?" snapped Cori. "Don't you know what that could do to him?"
"He wanted to come," protested Val, faintly. "He was worried about you."
"Well, I--" Cori blinked at the elf. You know, she really was being much too hard on her. "I guess you were just trying to help him," she said, with unaccustomed softness.
"Any friend of Jack's is a friend of mine," whispered Val, and leaned in for a kiss.
Ailonwy frowned and turned around. "You know, Asinus," she said, "I've changed my mind. I think I would like some long, hard donkey--"
Kit looked down at the oyster and blushed, tracing the floor of Khyrisse's study with one foot. "Know who I think's dreamy?" the eleven-year-old confessed to Schneider and Khyrisse, grinning shyly. "Maxwell Silverhammer."
Schneider and Khyrisse paid no attention whatsoever.
The Greatest Thief On Ataniel sidled out of the room with a dopey smile in search of someone else to share that confidence with.
Character(s): Rat Pack: Skins
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Peeps Also
Title of Post: A Demon By Any Other Name
Jack floated down, paralleling the cliff face. The makeshift parachutes worked about as well as she expected. Being the mathematician in the party, it was up to her to make sure that they alighted on the right ledge. The wind was stronger than she had anticipated, but by shifting her weight, she finally brought herself in to rest on what Mezzadoun had indicated was the city's main plaza.
It must have been, because Jack was suddenly surrounded by demon guards.
"Um, take me to your leader?" she asked.
"I'm getting worried," Vas said to Garal. "Jack's been down there for a while now, and we haven't gotten his, uh, her... signal."
"I understood Morinfen to be under a great deal of unrest lately... but still, the city should be safe."
"Um, guys?" Skitch said, sneaking up behind the two demihumans. "The girls are gone."
"What?" Vas cried, looking around. The three demons were nowhere to be seen. Even Callani was missing.
"Is Mezzadoun around?" Garal asked.
"Um, I wasn't watching... Jack had me reading this to Ebreth." He waggled a copy of Pillars of the Earth with his finger holding his place.
"Great," Vas cried. "We're stranded in the abyss without any of the people who actually know their way around!"
"Ahem," coughed Garal.
"Without any demonkind, I mean."
"I wouldn't say that," a loud voice cried from the top of the nearby hillock.
The three mortals looked up at the battalion of demons that surrounded them.
"How do you say 'I surrender' in demonish?" Vas sighed.
Glasya whistled a merry tune as she paced around the prison-hostel that the three devils had been placed in.
"Will you shut the Ataniel up?" Belfry moped at her. "It's your fault we're in this mess. 'Let's follow them out of Hell. Let's let Callani do what she wants...' Why do we listen to you?"
"Because I'm the sexiest."
"You are not!"
"I am too. We took the test in that magazine, remember... I was ten points sexier, Nasty was five points... what?"
"No, no," Nasty sighed. "You were five points sexier, and I was ten points bitchier. Belfry was five points sluttier."
"I want a recount," Belfry said.
There was a knock on the door.
"Go away!" Glasya yelled.
"I've been appointed your case worker," a voice shouted through the door. "Let me in or I'll turn on the air conditioner."
Belfry glared at Glasya and stomped across to the door, swinging it open. The demon standing in the doorway was a thin, short male, with a terrible sense of fashion, a giant zit on his nose, and a pocket protector. "Hi," he said. "My name's Elmo. Elmo Christ. I'm here to discuss your extradition."
Jack was led into a huge chamber in the center of the plaza cavern. She was only half-pleased to see that the demons had also brought Ebreth, Vas, Skitch, Alphred and Garal to whatever audience it was she had been summoned to.
Mezzadoun and Callani stood to the two sides of a grand throne. "Can you believe they listened to us?" Mezzadoun asked Callani, chucking. "What a bunch of maroons."
"Maroon is an adjective, you idiot," Callani said. She looked momentarily at Vas with a look of... regret? Before Vas could really tell, it was gone.
"I bet we're wondering why you've called us here today," Jack shouted.
"You're here to get your instructions from Ansakir's second-in-command. You're on our payroll now, Jackie," Mezzadoun grinned.
Jack frowned. Why did everyone insist on calling her that?
"Jack," Vas whispered, "I've got a plan... can you find someplace here where a good hard shot will bring the cavern down?"
Jack looked around. "Um, well, the entrances are the strongest, so I'd try for that outcropping over the throne."
"Perfect," Vas grinned. "We'll bring it down on Ansakir's general!"
Callani stood forward. "All rise for the Lord of Fiends, Thane of Despoil!"
"Isn't that Signet the Significant?" Skitch asked digressively.
The demons standing behind the remnants of the Rat Pack prodded them to their feet.
Then Fred walked in. "Hey guys! Fancy meeting you here! Look, I made pit fiend! Top o' the world, Ma!"
"Uh, belay that plan," Vas whispered.
"So, finally, after Jan here poisoned the Thane of Charnel, I was able to seize 621 and offer the Trinity to Ansakir. He was so impressed, he booted Mezzy here and made me second-in-command!"
"We've been gone six months?" Jack asked in shock.
"Give or take. Time moves different down here," Fred grinned. "Hey, if I'd have know it was you guys, I would have baked a cake."
"Tell them about Ailonwy, dear," Janice said.
"Oh, right! Anyway, Ansakir's been getting bit hard by this leather mama named Ailonwy... the two have been fighting over 213 ever since the Culling. I was supposed to offer the mortals we captured-- that's you, you know?"
"We know," Vas sighed.
"Right, uh, so we were going to offer you to her in return for arbitration... but I can't just give you guys to her. You're like family, man. I mean, you killed the Kiiiiing of Kiiiiings!"
"Stop that, honey," Janice said.
"So you'll let us go, Fred?" Skitch asked hopefully.
"No can do, Wilbur," Fred sighed. "But you have given me a great idea..."
Jack looked down at the tight leather outfit that she now wore. The thong was riding up her butt like nothing she'd ever felt. "I hate this," she said.
"It's perfect," Fred said. "You look just like her!"
Vas couldn't keep from giggling.
"Ailonwy doesn't show up to magical detection... she's got some sort of enchantment that keeps her undetectable. And the word is, she's been palling around with some mortals. Since Jack is magically invisible, and you guys are mortals, well..."
"I understand the plan," Jack grumbled. "I just don't see why I can't wear something... uh, comfortable."
"Ailonwy always wears that stuff," Fred said. "Her face may change, but the leather remains the same."
"So you know what to do?" Janice said. "We can't go with you on this one... we're too well known around here."
"I know what to do," Jack sighed.
Vas continued to giggle.
Why couldn't I have gotten stuck with the other team? Nothing they end up involved in can be as embarrassing as this...
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Wishes It Had Vid-Cams Installed
Title of Post: Deja Vu To The Max
Khyrisse was telling Schneider all the info that she and the Rat Pack had picked up along the way. She was in the middle of describing the odd prophecy Tarrin had broadcast to all of them in Rumi, when she was startled by a voice behind her.
"Gotcha, Miss Starshadow!"
Khyrisse nearly had a heart attack. She whirled around in her chair, and sagged in relief when she saw it was only Kit. "Don't sneak up behind--" she began. Khyrisse blinked for a moment at the shell Kit held triumphantly aloft, as it flickered around the edges with a light of its own. "Oh, no!" she shouted.
Grendel-- tell me it won't work off of the Prime Material! she thought frantically, looked at Schneider-- and her breath caught in her throat with an audible gasp. The sudden tension in the grey-clad body across from her set her blood singing in her ears. Not working. J.R.A.I. Her hands reached across of their own volition and removed the mask gently from Schneider's face.
"I keep telling you, fool, but you never listen," she whispered shakily, setting it aside with her coffee cup. "There are some times when masks are simply not appropriate." Khyrisse knelt on the low table that separated their chairs, and rested her hands on his shoulders. "Now... how can I get you to take the rest of them off?"
"Know who I think's dreamy?" she could-- dimly-- hear Kit saying. "Maxwell Silverhammer."
Oh yeah, Khyrisse thought, with a sigh of mingled regret and nostalgia, I've been here before.
Character(s): Cori, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Voyeurs Also
Title of Post: Ditty About Cori and Valende
"Your move," Val cooed.
Cori reached over and seized Val's Chest.
"You've--mm--left yourself wide open," Val sighed.
"Where?" Cori asked, biting her lip.
"There," Val said, reaching over to Cori's Queen.
"Oh," Cori breathed, smiling uncontrollably.
"Check," Val said, "and mate."
Jack's set of Draughts sat across the room on the table, unopened.