Table of Contents
The Hell and Back Archives
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Part III
Character(s): Flicker, Norna
Author: Douglass Barre (geased by Laura Redish)
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: The Myriad
"Well, Messala, I hope you enjoyed your little reunion... however, time is pressing."
"I know that, Norna," Flicker said. "But unlike you're used to, we find that we do better work when we're aware of what's going on around us."
"Pointless," Norna spat. "I tell you everything you need to know."
"Like the deal with Odn? Like the Silver Key?"
Norna turned and slapped Flicker hard across the face. "You've been spying on me!" she cried, affronted.
"Norna, I don't sleep. What do you expect me to do? Ignore strange old men who come around?"
"Well, since you already know, I might as well let you know what I've learned."
"That'd be nice," Flicker said plainly.
"The Myriad is a juncture of possibilities, made solid and real by some forces thousands of years ago on Ataniel."
"I thought you didn't know what the Myriad was."
"I only learned recently," Norna lied.
Flicker let it go. "So what does that have to do with Luthien or the Valkyrie?"
"Luthien the Dead has come to us from a parallel future. The Myriad seems to have been activated somehow by that passage."
"I thought the Myriad was activated by Ragnarok?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps both."
"You don't know, do you?" Flicker asked.
"I'm the only one who knows enough to stop this," Norn avoided the question.
"So what does its activation mean?"
"It means that the many alternate possibilities are becoming more and more... real."
"The alternate future's alternate pasts are our alternate presents?"
"You'd surprise me if I didn't know you were the reincarnation of Janther Moria. There was a man one could trust to do what was necessary."
Flicker frowned. "Don't go there, Norna. I've got more surprises than you can count."
"Now that your mathematician friend is dead, you may be right," Norna sneered. "Regardless, you are essentially right. Once in Riklandir we need to travel into the Myriad using the Silver Key to find the true origin of the Dead One and cease it from becoming our present."
"I thought we needed to find out what was going on here. That, and find the Valkyrie... that seems a lot more sensible than tromping around in parallel time."
"I agree," said Hronmir from behind Norna. The Aesir had just entered the room.
"Silent-Voice," Norna said coldly, "you'll do what I tell you to. I chose you, you work for me."
"I obey, but I can still speak for myself. I would rather stay in this realm to fight real problems."
There was a glimmer of light from Norna's eyes as she whirled around and grabbed Hronmir. "You... listen... to... me!" she snarled, and threw him against a wall.
"Norna, stop it!" Flicker shouted, raising his voice to the Valkyrie for the first time. "If you have proof that this is what we need, then so be it. But you brought us in to help on this, and we're going to offer what we have. Sometimes that might be a dissenting voice. Live with it."
"You want proof?" Norna said. "Get Mageson and his ex-apprentice here in five minutes. I'll give you proof."
In Norna's pocket, the Silver Key grew cold.
Character(s): Garal Tinderhook
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Coming Home
It had been a hard two months. The planeblazer had started his journey home-- through his beloved Trade-- at the first sign of trouble, but it had taken longer than planned. Longer than it should have. Too long.
Many of the paths were blocked. Many nexuses were impassable with cosmic debris. Dangerous routes had to be walked, new paths had to be made.
Finally, it was nearing an end. The familiar yet unfamiliar mists were gathering, but it was wrong. He was nearing Trade, but it was wrong. The energy that radiated from the living places was missing.
More slowly than usual, he let the mist take him. Slowly the mists faded and the blue tint passed. Slowly he saw the desolation.
"It's gone," he thought, "too late to save anyone." He started walking, passing old places. Remembering old haunts. "I wonder who will be the new haunts."
Nothing prepared him for seeing the toy-- a small, wooden horse he had given to little Alex Keegan. Once upon a time the girl had had great potential. He held it as he sat on the ground, carefully avoiding rubble, and quietly cried.
Then Garal, the halfling planewalker, caught sight of something interesting. Something that ameliorated his heartache. In the midst of this destroyed planar nexus was one small piece of planar magic. Lifting his eyes to see it fully, he saw a mansion's gate sitting in a ruined belltower.
Several people emerged. No telling what their intentions were. But one of them...
"Impossible, all the gods are dead. It seems that either the statue of the goddess of Trade is uncannily accurate, and she survived; or there's an impostor afoot."
The planewalker shifted his phase slightly to the right. He remained close enough to see, hear and touch the world, but just enough away to remain hidden from the unaware.
Character(s): Khyrisse, Valende and Jack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell/Ain't Got No Body
Title of Post: The Secret Magic of Numbers
After a brief pause to eat that afternoon, they all went back out into the ruins, trying to work their way out from the center point of the park. Khyrisse pushed one of the larger, less jagged pieces of rubble up against an intact part of the wall, and sat on it with a heavy sigh. Valende looked at her curiously.
"I'm going to see if this goes any faster or easier with a little application of magic," Khyrisse explained. She sounded tired. She looked it, too, coated in dust and ash, sitting numbly on the broken block of dirty white stone.
Valende nodded without comment. Khyrisse had been moving through the ruins with the increasing air of someone who was silently walking barefoot on broken glass. It was probably best that she rest for a while, whether the spell worked or not.
Khyrisse surprised her by gesturing to the headset with a smudged hand. "Do you think I could talk to Jack? I have a few ideas about how to give him a body again, and I wanted to discuss them with him."
"Jack?" Valende asked.
Jack sighed. "Um, yeah, I guess so."
"Hi, Jack," Khyrisse's voice, sounding sort of flattened out, reached Jack a few seconds later. "How is it in there?"
"Um, not so great, actually. I can't see anything, and it's really getting on my nerves."
"I can imagine." This was followed by a whisper in what sounded like Elven; mostly nonsense syllables, though.
"What was that?" he asked. "I didn't get that."
"Sorry. I'm casting an unseen servant to clean up some of this mess. It seems to be working pretty well, but I'll have to watch it to pick out any magic items-- it won't know the difference..." Her voice trailed off in a musing sort of way. Jack did what would have been clearing his throat, if he still had one.
"Um, Khyrisse? You said--"
"Oh. Right. I had some ideas about getting you back into a body-- for instance, I actually know where there is a soulless body, still alive. I could try to make you a simulacrum to inhabit. I can probably give you a temporary means of movement and sight and stuff, by creating a homunculus to do those things for you. But somehow... I don't think any of these will work very well," she finished with a sigh. The sigh had overtones of patience wearing thin, but it also had overtones of being too tired to really care much about anything.
"Um," Jack said. He was in trouble for sure. "Why not?"
"Because I don't think you're a disembodied spirit, Jack. I see more evidence of a trapped soul in the gem with Lucas inside it than I do in this coronet-thing I'm wearing. Do you want to tell me what's going on, and what you have to do with this stupid set of constants? Please?"
Character(s): The Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Hell in a Handbasket
Title of Post: The Rat Gets Frustrated
The Rat was not a happy camper. He thought the group would have recognized his scribblings for what they were. An attempt at the reconstruction of Jack's mathematical matrix. However, it seemed the only person who could understand what he was working on was stuck in a small box and couldn't see. This made the rat very frustrated.
As he thought about it, some neurons in the Rat's brain connected in a way they had never done before. The Rat felt a strange sensation sweep over him. Then he understood.
The Rat ran over to Khyrisse. He then ran up her leg and onto her shoulder, next to her ear. Khyrisse jumped at what the rat did next. He crawled next to her ear and said "Listen... Quiet... Jack... Body... Fix. Thank you."
Character(s): Jack Paris, Khyrisse
Author: Douglass Barre and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ain't Got No Body
Title of Post: Jack Spills It.
"Hey, is that the Rat? Say hi to him for me," Jack said, perking up.
"I... will..." Khyrisse said, trying to get the Rat off her shoulder. "What did it mean, 'fix Jack'?"
"Well, I guess I can tell you... are we alone?"
"Jack, I can barely hear you myself... you aren't really an evil demon or something, are you?"
"No!" Jack shouted. "I mean, not that that's so bad... Fred was one, and he was okay."
"What do you want to tell me, Jack?"
"Well, I'm not... exactly... human."
"What are you?"
"I'm... I'm a mathematical equation. My body is a solid projection of certain variables in that equation."
Khyrisse laughed. "No wonder you can imitate people's voices so well!"
"I hope you'll let me stay on as a member of the Pack," Jack said. "I'd understand if you didn't want to, though."
"What are you, joking? Why should I mind that you're a sentient equation? I'm tired of people that are supposedly human, and act like they're something beyond my comprehension. One of the opposite sort is a welcome change."
"Okay," Jack said with a strange sound of relief that from a mouth might sound like a sigh.
"Still, I'd rather enjoy your company in person, so now that we've established what you need, we'll see if we can figure out how to get it."
"Fair enough," Jack said. "Maybe the Rat knows something. He gave me this piece of paper, and it may have a clue. The Rat is a fairly good mathematician himself..."
Khyrisse looked at the piece of paper. "A lot of this doesn't make sense to me, but it seems like it's very similar to a major creation spell... give me a few hours, I might be able to work something out."
"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
"Did I hear good news?" Val asked, scampering over.
"I'll let Jack tell you," Khyrisse said, handing Valende the headset. She and the rat took the paper and went off to think.
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Vendetta: Defense Side
Title of Post: *ssssssssssst!!!*
Kerouac swung at the tall, gaunt guy again. And again. And again.
Marhault was remembering why he hated Kerouac enough to come back as a revenant the first time he died.
"Kerouac finds you very--ssssst!--impolite!"
Marhault parried the axe again. "Bite me," he said.
"Save me, Significants!" Siann cried.
Marhault realized that this was a dream. He also realized that he was trapped in Siann's manipulations of it. Still, there had to be a way to get out of this nightmare...
Then Marhault realized how.
I haven't seen Silverhammer or Faraker yet, he thought. Let's make this the early Significants. "Kerouac!" Marhault yelled. "You'll never get out of Lianth alive!"
"Kerouac doesn't need to leave Lianth!" Kerouac shouted.
Good, Marhault thought. "We'll bring you to Kala, Kerouac. You, and Rhynwa... and Oethnar..."
Marhault tried to remember who else was with them then. Hotspur had already killed the thief, Terail. But Marhault needed a specific group makeup, and he was sure that Siann was just pulling this from his own subconscious.
"Protect me, Significants!" Siann cried again.
"Sunny, Signet, take the offensive!" Rhynwa cried. "Oethnar, Ariath, you protect the girl!"
Bingo, Marhault thought as he ducked under Kerouac's axe. "It's all over, Siann!" Marhault cried. "Ari, take her!"
For the second time Marhault enjoyed watching Oethnar's surprise as Ariath plunged a dagger in his back. The knife quickly moved to Siann's throat.
The dream faded.
"You did well, Marhault," Siann said from the grey mist that now surrounded them. "Why have you come to my domain?"
"Omeria is calling in her favor."
Siann sighed. "I suspected. I had hoped you would fall to your fears and I wouldn't be honorbound to receive your message. But Omeria did help me against the Reaver. I am at your service."
"We need you to come back with me. One of our friends needs your help."
"And you trust me with your friend's mind?"
"You are a fell spirit," Marhault agreed. "But an honorable one. You'll help."
Siann smiled wanly. "I suppose I will."
Marhault awoke to the cold floor of the Seventh Temple. Siann was nowhere to be seen, but he could sense her, hiding, deep in his mind. "Looks like I'm your ride," he muttered. "Thanks a lot, Omeria."
Marhault began the long walk home.
Character(s): Caimen and Lora
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: The Word and the Remnant
Caimen sat down in the floating tavern owned by his cousin, Kate Paris. The structure was sound, but there was a certain list to the sea that meant that Kate's Cafe Americain had more than its share of nausea. Caimen was used to it. Lora was not.
Caimen's wife was ten times the merchant Caimen himself was, but she had never taken to the sea from her landbound Javinese upbringing. "Caimen, look here," Lora said, from the table she clung to. Caimen strode across the bar.
"What is it?" he asked.
"The Remnant. There's a pattern to their attacks."
"You're kidding! They've been hitting Parises across the globe... what could they possibly have in common?"
"They were all involved in the Passage."
"What? What would that have to do with the Remnant?"
"I don't know, but Ælwyn's Fall happened long before the Parises even thought of the Passage... there's no way the Remnant could know about it."
"Unless they're getting inside information," Caimen sighed.
"Who would do such a thing? The Word would hear of it."
"That's a question I want answered. Who else was involved in the Passage? Who that's still alive, that is."
Lora looked at her papers. "Asinus and you, of course. Dylton was. Tora and Dar. Lavin, Pruze... Paul, Benedict... Rauvin... and Jack."
"Tell the Word. No Paris who knows about the Passage is to venture alone. No exceptions. This is a family emergency. Trust no one."
"I trust you, Caimen."
"I hope that's a safe decision, Lora," Caimen sighed.
In Rimbor City, Rauvin looked at the Minaret. It had been unfortunate that Orn hadn't gotten an opportunity to kill the ass, but at least the false Minaret would keep the donkey Paris from knowing that the third most valuable possession of the family was in the hands of the traitor who had sold them out to the Remnant. A light shone brightly in the third orb of Kenru. A face materialized within.
"Rauvin," the face said. "How goes our plan?"
"Excellently, Lord Ælwyn. They suspect nothing more than the Remnant."
"See that they don't. I've contacted a... professional... to take care of the ass."
"The Word says that he's joined with the ex-goddess of Trade."
"Is that supposed to scare me, Paris?"
"No, Lord. Just to inform."
"I have no fear of Derek's daughter," Ælwyn said. "should our paths cross at all. I suspect that Asinus' passing will impact little on her kind."
"People with manners."
"Hmm," Rauvin chuckled. "You may be right."
"I'm often right, Paris. You take care of your end, and Asinus will no longer stand in your way."
Character(s): Uncle Asinus
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Even More Important Than A Piece Of Tail
Asinus grinned as he watched Valende squeeze past him. Too bad she was Jack's woman; she looked pretty easy, and Khyrisse was being a pain. But Asinus would no sooner do his nephew's girlfriend than let him go to Hell alone. Family was family, after all. And family was everything.
Character(s): Khyrisse, the Rat, Jack, and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Khyrisse Learns Boolean
A small whirlwind happened near the duck pond as Khyrisse cast another unseen servant and gave it directions. There was shortly a clear, cleaned-up patch of paving stone at the edge of the sludgy mess. “Clean all the gunk out of the pool, but leave the water there,” she instructed it. “Put any non-living solid objects you find in a pile over there, any--” here she had to swallow hard, “any bodies you find should go with the others; put the rest in the trash heap.”
She plunked down crosslegged on the stone and spread out the paper and her spellbook, so the Rat could see it. “Okay, ‘Seeker of Places’, this is what my equations for a Major Creation spell look like,” she told it, scribbling on a new sheet next to the parchment. She was smiling bemusedly as she did so, unable to believe that she was taking math lessons from a rat. “Can you help me figure out how to change it to ‘fix Jack’? What’s this factor do, for instance? Can I insert that here, or will the planar constants cancel it out?”
The Rat peered at the paper and got very agitated. “I understand-- bad-- Jack-- body-- no thank you!” He scrambled around looking for something to write with. Khyrisse finally poured him a small puddle of her less-nasty-smelling ink to dip his paws into. Splashes of purple went everywhere.
“Okay, okay! I get it, that won’t work! Hey, slow down!” Khyrisse complained, whisking the original parchment out of the Rat’s way as he scratched corrections onto her notes. She scrubbed absently at the dots of ink the Rat had spattered on her face and only managed to smear them. Surprised by the heavy feel of the page in her hands, Khyrisse peered beneath the ash-scribbles on the parchment. “Oh, Grendel,” she murmured. “This is infernal writing... Well, it doesn’t look like a contract, at least.” She sighed heavily, set aside for later the task of figuring it out, and got back to work on the problem of reconstituting Jack. “You know,” she told the obliviously scribbling rodent, “my father used to talk to animals, too. This isn’t helping my grip on reality. Admittedly, his were usually the wrong color and didn’t say ‘thank you’-- but still.”
“Valende?” Khyrisse interrupted Val's animated conversation with Jack a little while later. Valende blushed a little, and Khyrisse wondered what on Ataniel they had been talking about.
Sure sign of embarrassment-- she’d reverted to “milady” again. Khyrisse was fairly certain that her appearance didn’t warrant formality. “I need to check something with you. I know you use energy from the positive material plane in fighting the undead, on occasion, and I want to make sure that the body I... summon, for lack of a better word... won’t be affected by it.” Khyrisse took a deep breath and cast a minor creation, pulling wisps of gauzy material from nowhere. They billowed in the air like the finest spidersilk, spiraling lazily near Valende. “Activate a little of that energy, would you?”
Valende lifted her hand to the wisps of fabric, and it was suddenly surrounded in a golden glow, much like very strong sunlight. The material shrank back from her hand a little, but did not dissolve. Khyrisse nodded and whisked her hands together. The fabric disappeared. “That’s what I thought,” Khyrisse said. “Shouldn’t be a problem.” She went back to the Rat, rubbing her ink-stained hands on her ash-covered breeches, as if in helpless distaste.
“Um, Val.. you don’t think she heard any of--” Jack said from the headset in tones of extreme embarrassment.
Valende chuckled a little, and her face pinkened again. “I don’t think so.”
“You can’t do that!” Khyrisse shouted from the rapidly-clearing duck pond. “That kind of construct will collapse on the Prime Material in less than a week, you’re forgetting the time divisor! --What do you mean, self-generating? That doesn’t make any sense...!”
Character(s): Khyrisse, the Rat and Garal
Author: Eric Gasior and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Cities and Their Civilities
Garal watched from his extraplanar hiding place as the Rat scrabbled in the papers before the image of the goddess. Eavesdropping always made him feel uneasy -- his dear mother would be rolling in her grave if she knew how often it was necessary.
The woman -- apparently an elf -- had alabaster skin, much like the statue, and golden-brown hair. Quite attractive despite the ash and ink stains. But that wasn't why he was here. The rat was a rat -- except, he noticed, for the missing tail.
He had waited long enough. Judging from the discussion with the rat, they needed help with their math anyway -- if the woman was who she seemed. Garal stepped left, out of the planar shadows, to a point just out of the woman's reach.
"Excuse me. If you are traveling in disguise, you have extremely bad taste." Risky, but if she was an impostor she should be caught off guard. The Rat squeaked and scurried to hide behind her. Khyrisse looked up from the papers with a muffled sound of surprise and stared at the halfling. Brown hair, unusually patterned green eyes, neutral colored clothes, walking stick. A nagging sense of familiarity hovered at the edge of her mind.
She laughed shakily and leaned back on her heels, trying to place him and readying her available spells. "This is not the disguise I would pick, if I were. Care to explain why you're sneaking up on people invisibly?" She saw Skitch creeping up behind the halfling and shook her head a little.
The halfling looked over his shoulder at the child she warned off. "People can't be too careful these days." He continued, as he turned back, "Are you the goddess of this city, or am I going to have to take this to the authorities?"
Khyrisse suppressed the urge to laugh at this, and looked at him closely. She closed her eyes, thinking hard. When she opened them again, their color had dimmed to a dark, misty sort of grey that nagged at Garal's extraplanar senses... like something seen out of the corner of his eye. "Garal," she said quietly. "Garal Tinderhook, planeblazer. I remember you now-- you lived in a little apartment, about ten blocks," she turned, eyes half-closed in a meditative way, and gestured, "...that way." She turned back to him, and her face was very sad. "I actually am Khyrisse Starshadow," she added, with a wry little smile. "And I'm about the only authority left in the city. Be glad you missed it."
He gazed more closely at her eyes. For a moment, the signs were there, showing her connection to this place. "I am glad to see someone survived. Is it all gone?" he asked timidly as he sank to the ground.
"All of Trade? ...Yes. Most of the rest of the continent didn't get hit quite so badly."
"It took too long to get here. Many astral pathways are blocked. Otherwise I could have saved someone." One hand drifted to his pocket and held the ownerless toy.
Character(s): The Yentas of Bloodscar
Author: Laura Redish, trapped in Tucson
Storyline: BFYR (why can't I take these guys seriously?)
Title of Post: Matches Made In Heaven
Marhault still hadn't returned. "Oh, brother," said Hotspur. "Why don't you just find her a new boyfriend, Ari? Bloodscar, are you seeing anyone?"
"That elf must have weighed a hundred pounds," said the ancient warrior, disparagingly. "I like women who don't break when you push on them."
"Bloodscar likes that Valkyrie," teased K'mar. "Don't you, Bloodscar?"
"Shut up while you can still breathe through your nose, ninja."
"I'll go out with her, Ari. Does she like Kyokota food?"
Author: Laura Redish, trapped in Tucson
Storyline: Lilith Quests
Title of Post: BFHFTYR
"Stop!" intoned the statues. "None may enter the temple of the Weird Sisters!"
"Cute sound effects," said Lilith. "Cunts."
Character(s): Skitch, Kit Branagh
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Rat K... oops, uh... Hell in a Handbasket
Title of Post: The Greatest Thief In Ataniel
Later that day, inside the mansion, Skitch watched as Khyrisse worked with the Rat to return Jack to life. It was an awful lot of math, and while the idea of blowing things up and flying around appealed to Skitch as an apprentice, the higher arcana that required math didn't hold much interest.
Skitch wandered downstairs. Sennett stood by the door. "Hey, Sennett," Skitch said. "Where's Asinus?"
"Master Paris is... indisposed. In the stable."
Skitch wrinkled his nose. "How about Alphred?"
"Master Alphred is currently communing with his chigger totem in the arboretum."
Skitch wasn't about to go near a chigger totem. He sighed.
"This place just isn't the same since Fred left. Let me out, I want to look around a bit."
"Mistress Khyrisse has requested that no one leave or enter the manse," Sennett informed him.
Skitch rummaged in his pocket for the piece of invocation he had borrowed. "Um, 'eeber eeber, yabble yabble, icky icky ooky doo,'" Skitch read.
"Carry on," Sennett said, opening the door.
Garal was still outside of the mansion, getting his bearings and, Skitch thought, waiting for Khyrisse to trust him enough to let him into the mansion. He wished Ariath was here, either to kill or to make up with Khyrisse. "Hey, Garal," Skitch said, passing by the halfling's small encampment. The planeblazer nodded briefly. Skitch continued around the city that he once thought of as his own private playground.
It was a mess. Not a stone stood on a stone most places, and there was something about the aura of the place that was... missing. It was no longer the magical City on the Edge of Forever... it was now just another ruin.
Then he heard the clatter of pebbles from behind him. He whirled around just in time to see... nothing.
"Got you!" a child's voice suddenly screamed from behind him, and Skitch felt someone leap on his back, knocking him over. "The winner and still champeeen!" the voice called.
"Kit!" Skitch cried, his face in the dirt. "You big jerk!"
Skitch felt the weight removed from his back, and a dirty hand reached down to help him up.
"Skitch, as I live and breathe," the young boy smiled past his grimy face.
"What're you still doing here?" Skitch demanded of the blonde-haired boy.
"Where else for the Greatest Thief in Ataniel to pick up some easy loot!" Kit grinned. His smile was light and cheery, but had lines of experience that belied his eleven years.
"How'd you survive the fall of the city?" Skitch asked. "I barely made it out myself!"
Kit smiled and looked at the sky. "A great Thief never reveals his secrets... let's just say that I had a really cool hiding place."
"So did any others of the old gang...?" Skitch couldn't quite finish the question.
"No," Kit sighed. "I know that Jort and Lelan didn't make it... Yarrow might have, but I hadn't seen him around in the few days before."
"Man, it's good to see you, Kit!" Skitch said, hugging his old mate.
"You too! So what're you up to these days?" Kit asked, curious.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Come with me."
Skitch took off towards the belltower, and Kit followed.
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