The Hell and Back Archives
Tonight All Is Silence In The World, Part I
NEW CHAPTER (SILENCE)
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes/Jungleland
Title of Post: Self Pity
Keep this crew sane? Does she think I'm a miracle worker? Garal put aside his wine and poured himself some whiskey. He made it a human-sized double. I said the wrong thing again. I am such a fool. She probably came down to talk to Vas, anyway. He got up to to walk and think. By the time he reached the entry hall, he had finished his drink. "Sennett." When the butler materialized Garal handed him the glass. "Please take this for me." The halfling asked in a slurred voice, "Why am I here?"
"Because Lady Khyrisse allowed you in, sir."
"No. I mean more generally."
"I am sorry, sir, existential metaphysics is outside my experience."
"Of course it is," Garal said while attempting to pat him on the back. Instead of explaining that he meant with the Rat Pack, Garal thanked the butler and dismissed him.
He continued his wanderings around the lower floor, thinking nothing productive. Why am I with these people? I can't help them here. I don't know the jungle. I can't fight. I'm not much company, they're having more interesting conversations with Ebreth. When he grew tired he went to the most remote corner of the mansion he could find, sat down, and fell asleep.
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Meditations
Alphred sat in his room meditating on the totem the Gibbon King had given him. It was an ugly thing, but somehow the totem frightened him.
Alphred put the totem down and walked three times around it.
Then he sat down, picked up the totem and stared out into space.
He was deep in the forest. The ground was rumbling and shaking. Animals were running in all directions. They were terrified of something. Alphred ran against the tide of the animals to see what was causing the panic. He quickly found out.
A temple of four obelisks had thrust up out of the ground. One was made of still cooling lava. One was a pillar of water. The third was a standing tornado and the last one was a pillar of coarse rock. At the foot of each obelisk sat a figurine, a totem. Three of which had been smashed open. The only one that remained was the on in front of the column of wind.
As he stood, the ground shook again. An altar rose in the center of the obelisks. Sitting on top of it was another totem. Alphred recognized it. It was the totem he held.
Alphred was back in his room. He understood what had to be done. He got up and ran to Khyrisse.
"Spirit Maiden!" he said, bolting into the room. "We must go. I know what must be done. We need to find the fourth obelisk, and quickly."
Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, Alphred and a cast of thousands
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Title of Post: The Thinning of the Veil
Khyrisse sat up in bed with a sharp gasp as Alphred burst into the room. "We must go, he told her urgently. I know what must be done. We need to find the fourth obelisk, and quickly."
Khyrisse blinked stupidly at him. With the eerie air of plausibility from her dream still fogging her mind, she was unsurprised to see Alphred jump backwards and a small, triangular silver blade sprout from the wall next to him. Blinking again, she looked at the foot of the bed, where Skitch was sitting up with another blade in his hands. He peered owlishly at Alphred for a moment, and then woke up with a rush.
Alphred!! he shouted accusingly. The apprentice put his other throwing knife away and rolled up in the blankets, back stubbornly presented to the door. Go way. Come back in the morning.
Khyrisse blinked at her bedside table, and her eyes flew wide open, dream dispelled. Alphred, its four oclock in the morning!!
Alphred, who had no real concept of what an hour was anyway, waved this aside as unimportant. Yes, and we must leave immediat--
His words were cut off by a silk-covered pillow smacking him indignantly in the face. Im not going anywhere on two hours of sleep unless the world is ending in the next ten minutes! Now get out of my bedroom!
Alphred fled the sleepy wrath of the former goddess, ducking another hurled pillow. She got out of bed, grumbling at the broken lock on her door, and went to close it behind him. Khyrisse stumbled as she put her weight on her right foot. There was a dim flash of pain from her ankle, and it buckled beneath her. She hit the wooden floor with a bruising thud. OW!!
Skitch bolted upright again. Mom! Are you okay?
Khyrisse sat back and untangled herself, muttering crankily. Yes, Im okay, my foot fell asleep.
She reached over to swing the door shut and crawled back into bed with a yawning Skitch. Puzzled, she reached down and felt her right ankle under the covers.
It was freezing cold.
Khyrisse shook her head in tired confusion. I dont know... she grumbled and rolled over, pulling the blankets over her head. Is it too much to ask to have an uninterrupted night of sleep around here...?
I think evil people wait until the heroes are asleep to start destroying the world, just to be mean, Skitch mumbled, and went back to dreaming.
Character(s): Garal, Kerouac
Author: Jungle Boogie-ing Jonah
Title of Post: It's WAY too early in the morning for this
Garal woke up to find he had been sleeping in a rather uncomfortable position. He tried to flex some sensation back into his shoulder. Then, with a clattering and rustling, someone (?) emerged from a pile beside him with a loud yawn and a louder belch.
"Ahhh. Morning, stump!"
"Good morning, Kerouac," Garal said listlessly.
"Boy, that Sennett guy keeps some fine hooch around here! So, you have any luck with the brunette last night?"
The halfling flushed nine shades of red. "W-w-w-what?"
"You know-- your big woody for future babe. Made it past first base yet?"
Great! If this dullard noticed, probably everyone knows! He thought he might die of embarrassment right on the spot. "No luck? Hey, don't sweat it, little buddy!" The elf gave him an uncomfortably hard slap on the back. "Let the master give you a little advice, guy to guy!"
"I'm not sure--"
"Yes, ole Kerouac has scored more chicks than he could count."
"That wouldn't necessarily be a great number."
"Hmmm, I see your point. But my point is... um, uh... oh yes! Kerouac's point was that if you want to get anywhere with the broads, you've gotta be bolder!"
"Yes! Self-confidence-- that's what they want in a stud. You've gotta be aggressive, assured, direct! Yes, getting a woman into the sack is a lot like disemboweling an ogre."
"What a lovely image."
"Trust Kerouac on this. She wants you to make the first move. You need to go right for her. Say something like: Doctor, gimme the news, I got a bad case of loving you! Or maybe: Hot fire going on, extinguish me! Or Kerouac's personal fave: You've got a pretty face, babe, but it would look even prettier planted right in front of Kerouac's--"
"Come on everyone!" Alphred shouted. "We're losing time! We've got to stop Malat'k, like right now!"
Character(s): "Ember" and Kerouac
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: Enlighten Us, Alphred!
Title of Post: Morning Becomes Electra
Ember came downstairs, brushing out her hair from her morning bath. The Rat Pack was breakfasting. Khyrisse looked pale and tired; Garal and Kerouac both looked a little hung-over. "Good morning," she said to them, and took the coffee pot. Garal muttered something incomprehensible. "Want to fuck?" said Kerouac.
"No, thank you." Ember poured her coffee black.
"We must find the fourth obelisk before it is too late," Alphred was explaining, urgently.
"Where can we find it?" Ember asked, doing her charming best to pretend to be interested.
Kerouac frowned. "Did--Kerouac already ask you if you wanted to fuck?"
"Yes," she said. "No thank you."
"Lady of tomorrows," said the jungle lord solemnly, "we will find the fourth--"
"Wait," interrupted Kerouac, "Kerouac is confused. You said yes and no. Is that yes or no?"
"NO THANK YOU." Ember couldn't believe how stupid this man was.
"We must hurry," chided Alphred. "There will be time for copulation later."
"And where are we hurrying to?" said Khyrisse, quickly, before anyone had a chance to comment on it.
All eyes turned to Alphred.
Character(s): The Heroes, the Psychos, and the Dead
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Lost At Sea
Title of Post: 151 Proof Dark Rumi
Norna looked sharply at the two Mithril Dagger heroes. "Shut up, you two. I've located the next skein, so get your asses over here." She turned to Shilree to bark an order at her as well, but the Diari madwoman was already fingering Rip Hunter's toy. Berryn took a deep breath, and gave Luthien a thumb's up just before the device was triggered.
The group found themselves appearing in a small alleyway, with the sounds of a marketplace nearby. The smells of fish and salt water were evident, and Luthien could hear someone hawking rum by the cask.
They stepped carefully out of the alleyway, into a scene which was familiar to three of them. They were right across the street from the Pudownier Arms, the largest inn in Rumi.
Flicker blinked for a few seconds, then groaned and buried his face in his right hand. I dont believe it. This is where I came in.
Norna glared around, and turned on Shilree. Is this some sort of bad joke?! We started here, you lunatic!
Hronmir tapped her on the shoulder, and didnt flinch when she whirled on him. He pointed somberly at the door to the inn, and all eyes looked as a burly looking man was thrown through it.
Within seconds, a group of four other men followed him out on their own power, and proceeded to beat the living tar out of him right in the middle of the street. To Luthien and Flickers surprise, none of the locals lifted a finger to stop them. In fact, a few of them joined in the abuse, hurling mud, insults, and rocks at the outnumbered man.
Berryn, uncharacteristically, stepped forward in anger. Before Luthien could grab him or Norna could smack him, he stepped out into the middle of the street and bellowed, Leave him alone, or youll be his honor guard to the underworld! As the group turned to deal with this newcomer, he unleashed the fearsome display of the Death Mask, sending all of them running for the hills.
He looked around slowly, daring any other onlookers to try anything. As they slunk away, he moved forward to retrieve the groaning man in the street. Pulling him to his feet, he got him over to the alley with no trouble.
As he got under cover, Norna swatted him on the back of the head. Idiot! We have a mission. Your altruism is pointless. This timeline doesnt matter. Remember that, thrall.
Berryn looked back at her with defiance, for once. I wont see a man get beaten like that. No matter what you tell me.
Luthien and Flicker exchanged glances, impressed with his sudden show of pluck. Even Hronmir looked vaguely proud of the young priest. Only Shilree didnt seem to care.
Flicker spoke up before Norna got a chance to really start yelling. Hes a local, Norna. Maybe he can tell us a thing or two about whats going on around here. We need our bearings, after all.
With that, the Viking elf turned back to their guest. He was still coughing and trying to get his breath, but he was standing on his own. Sure thing, buddy. Anybody wholl stick their neck out in this town is okay by me.
Luthien and Flicker exchanged glances again, this time in surprise. They both recognized that scratchy voice...Noyarc!
Noyarc, is that you? asked Luthien.
Yeah, do I know... said Noyarc, looking up into the necromancers face. Before he could finish his sentence, however, his small smile was replaced by a mouth of snarling fangs, and he lunged at Luthien, spitting and snarling as he tried to rip out his throat.
Luckily for Luthien, his stoneskin was still strong enough to hold off the werewolfs attack, and Hronmir managed to get a solid grip on Noyarc and haul him off before he could sink his teeth into his victim. The Aesir didnt seem to really notice Noyarcs struggles, although he was getting really torn up.
Shilree just stood in the corner, giggling a bit, then she pulled out a small egg-shaped object. She threw it hard at the two combatants, and it expanded into a mesh of iron bands that encircled the two of them. As the two of them were pressed uncomfortably into each other, she went back to her giggling, this time punctuating it with the sound of her knife thudding into her thigh.
The rest of the group ignored her. Luthien checked himself for scratches, and was relieved to find none. He then turned to Noyarc, mumbled the words to a force shapechange spell, then held up his hands in a gesture of peace as the captive werewolf resumed his human form.
Peace, Noyarc. Im not who you think I am.
You sure as hell smell like him, you son of a bitch.
Luthien bit his lip, then turned to Flicker, Can you help me here? Negotiation was never my strong suit.
Author: Laura Redish (with input from Evan)
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Lost at sea
Title of Post: Concord At Last
Luthien bit his lip, then turned to Flicker, "Can you help me here? Negotiation was never my strong suit."
Flicker touched the bridge of his nose. In case you hadn't noticed-- He didn't finish the thought. It was Threnody's anyway. "We're undercover," he said.
"As the Slaver King?" Noyarc demanded, pointing at Luthien.
Luthien reacted hard. Flicker didn't. "Well, since we're trying to kill him, there's a certain amount of sense to that, isn't there."
"You're trying to kill Luthien the Slave Lord."
"That's right," said Flicker.
"Oh, we're going to kill him all right," muttered Luthien, tightening his glove.
"And you walk around telling this to every guy you rescue from a mob? You are either the worst liars in Rumi or you're insane."
Shilree stuck her knife into her thigh. Schick.
"No, we're just bringing you with us," said Flicker, quietly.
"To kill the Slave Lord," repeated Noyarc, incredulously. "Just like that?"
"Just like that," said Luthien, grim as death indeed.
"Nice to see we're all in agreement in this timeline," said Norna.
Character(s): Alphred and the Rat Pack
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Directions and Passing the Buck
Alphred looked at all the faces staring at him. Dramatically, he placed the totem of the Gibbon King on the table.
"This is the totem the Gibbon King gave me. From what I understand it is the totem of Ta'al. The totem of destruction."
"Ta'al is imprisoned, the four obelisks and their guardians keep him there. From what Tarrin had told me of his encounter with the fire demon, Sz'aal. If what my vision told me is true, Malak't has two of the other guardians, Gh'ran the Earth Demon and Sss'ath the Tidal Demon, on his side as well. The only one keeping Ta'al in check is Whas'sha the Wind Spirit."
Alphred looked around the table to let his words sink in.
"We need to go to the obelisk of Whas'sha and defend it from Malak't's minions. If it was to fall, Malak't would only have to wait until the opposition to release Ta'al."
"So where is this fourth obelisk?" asked Khyrisse.
Alphred looked at Khyrisse, then Tarrin, then Jack, then finally at the Rat.
"I do not know. The four obelisks had been lost since Ta'al last appeared. I think this is why the spirits chose you to come with me. It is up to you to find the fourth obelisk so I can do what needs to be done."
Character(s): Rat Pack, as prophecied
Author: Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Title of Post: Answers, Solution, and Understanding
"Would this obelisk be visible from the air?" Ember asked, pouring herself another cup of coffee.
"I would think it must be," Valende said. "The obelisk of a wind-spirit would surely be in a place touched by the winds."
"But then its either got to be in an open space-- and I havent seen any open space since we got here-- or it must be the tallest thing in the immediate area," Khyrisse reasoned, sighing. "Either way, Malatk would have found the air obelisk early on."
"What if it were just someplace inaccessible from the ground? Like on top of a steep cliff or something?"
"There are many winged creatures," Alphred said gravely, shaking his head. "Malatk has spies of the air that could find such a thing."
"What if its invisible?" Skitch said.
"Why make an obelisk invisible?"
Vas, leaning against the mantlepiece, chuckled a bit. "What if it were naturally invisible?"
Instead of replying, Vas knelt before the fire with the poker in his hand, and stirred the point of it in the ashes. He whispered a spell under his breath. After a moments concentration, he stood up and stepped carefully towards the others, right hand palm-up, left cupped around the air above it. He extended his right hand over the table gently.
Hovering in the air above it was a slowly swirling cloud of fine ash, with a tiny, flickering ember at the heart of it. The air currents whispering upwards from Vas hand shaped it into a rose with ever-changing petals. "What," he said, with a little smile for Ember over the air-sculpture, "if the obelisk is made of air?"
There was little doubt as to the inspiration for his subject matter. Valende rolled her eyes and sighed.
"Oh! If the obelisks were the demons, before they deserted? You could do that with elementals,
actually." Khyrisse blinked. "Oh, Grendel, well never find it, then. Not with all of Salagia to look in."
Tarrin frowned thoughtfully. "These four structures, they are for the holding of the greater demon-creature Taal, yes? It would be needful for the structures, the obelisks, to be placed properly around Taal to restrain him. And I witnessed the lesser, fire demon, Sz'aal, laying waste as it went." Tarrin began picking up items from the table and arranging them. The coffee pot went in the center; and then around it he placed, at varying distances, his water glass... then one of the candlesticks...
The Rat leaped onto the table and pushed the pepper-shaker forward with its nose. "I understand!" it squeaked excitedly, glanced up at Tarrin, and then tipped the shaker over.
"Hey!" Khyrisse protested, as pepper spilled all over the tablecloth.
Tarrin smiled and nodded at the rodent. It raced over to the water glass and tipped it over, too, sending an inch or so of water splashing over the tablecloth. Khyrisse lunged and caught the candle as the Rat shoved it over, splashing red wax over the linen. "No! We are not actually setting the tablecloth on fire!" She hissed a bit as more wax ran down onto her fingers, and blew out the candleflame.
The Rat pulled the candleholder away with its teeth. Tarrin removed his glass and the shaker. "This is all that winged creatures would see now," he said. "The destruction. And it is sure to look..."
"Messy," opined Skitch, grinning at the three randomly shaped splotches on the tablecloth, all
vaguely extending inwards towards the coffeepot.
"Yes, messy, without sense." Tarrin nodded firmly. "But if one could fly far above, one could determine where the destruction might have begun with each, and guess at where the fourth obelisk is needful to be. If," he said, smiling at Jack, "one is a scholar of mathematics."
Khyrisse grinned impishly at Jack and rummaged around in her belt pouch, pulling out a slightly battered rectangle of parchment. " Topologist, statistician, and certified public accountant, " she read. Accountant: one who delivers a reckoning, she thought, and grinned harder. "Damn, I can make all three fit... Jack, youre hired."
Character(s): "Ember", Kerouac, Vas
Author: Laura Redish
Title of Post: As Far As I Can Throw You
"Oh, let me see, monsieur." The time-traveler touched Vastarin's hand as lightly as a whisper, turning the swirling rose of ash towards herself. "How lovely. But quite visible. And not an especially useful analogy. The good Diari's model was more illustrative." Her eyes crinkled at him. "But yours is more beautiful. I will have to remember that about you." She released his hand and turned back to the breakfast table, taking a croissant. "I can fly far above, zheyrin." Tarrin looked a little surprised at the Diari honorific, but didn't comment. "Perhaps if I brought Jack with me, he could analyze the pattern from the air and tell us all where to go." She still wasn't looking at the mathematician. "In the mean time, maybe the rest of you can work on getting down from this cliff face."
"Cliff face?" said Kerouac, confused. "Kerouac is in a mansion!"
"The mansion is portable," Ember explained, as patiently as she could. "We set it up in the cliff face."
"Kerouac doesn't remember that."
"Isn't he dead?"
"Kerouac doesn't think so."
She shook her head. "Never mind. Khyrisse, if you need someone to fly Jack up for a bird's-eye, I'm your woman."
"I don't know," hedged Khyrisse. Do I trust her up there with Jack? We know nothing about her. "Maybe Vas should go with you."
Vas made an immediate flourish. "I would be del--"
"We need Vas here to help us down the cliff," said Val, her teeth together. "Maybe I should go with them."
"I can't carry both of you," said Ember.
"I wouldn't need to be carried," said Vas.
"That's why we need you here," said Val, daggers in her eyes.
"Maybe Vas can go with Jack and Ember can stay here with us," suggested Khyrisse.
"It's no skin off my nose," shrugged Ember, gracefully. "I'm not part of this, really. Whatever you decide. What does the rat say?"
Character(s): Kerouac, the Rat
Author: Jungle-bound Jonah
Storyline: Jungleand, oh yeah
Title of Post: Mismatched Minds
The others were talking about how to see something invisible (duh-- how could you see something if it was invisible?) and reaching about the table for the jam, so Kerouac leaned over to the Rat.
"Psst, you seem like the smart one, furry guy. Which of the chicks is single again? Kerouac tends to forget things."
"What's it worth to you?" squeaked the rodent. He wondered if the big dumb one had any cheese.
Character(s): Khyrisse, pressed into diplomatic service once more
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Title of Post: Why Does No One Remember That It Flies...?
Khyrisse blinked at Valende in astonishment. What on Ataniel is wrong with her? I hope she doesn't know something I don't about Ember that she isn't telling me... Mabye I should talk to her about it. She checked out the Rat. The Rat was oblivious, talking in quiet tones with-- she blinked again --Kerouac. The world got a lot stranger when I wasn't looking, she decided. She turned back to the arguing twins. "I can get everyone down the cliff face," she reminded Valende. "The Trade Carriage is more than capable of that; I can set it up right outside the cave mouth, it doesn't need anything to stand on. I was going to suggest that we take it up to get Jack a look at the landscape, but I think that Ember's idea is better. There's fewer targets that way."
"Not to mention," Vas said, carefully studying the air-sculpture above his hand instead of looking at Valende, "that I can make us invisible... as I'm sure our lovely time-traveller can. Three invisible people versus a very visable vehicle containing the entire group."
Valende bit her lip and sighed. "True enough," she admitted.
"Good," Khyrisse said firmly. "Then why don't Ember and Vas take Jack up-- both of them, just in case something happens-- while the rest of us get ourselves ready to go? Alphred says we should hurry."
Character(s): "Ember", the Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Title of Post: Anxieties
Val ground her teeth as Khyrisse blithely deconstructed her excuse to keep Vas from going flying with the time-traveler. Thanks, boss. "All right," she said, grudgingly. "You'll be very careful up there, wont you, Vas?"
"I'll be careful too," Jack assured her, trying not to sound too anxious.
"I trust YOU."
"Oh, now Valende..."
Jack was wracking his brain for a way to get out of Vas or Ember casting invisibility on him. A little help, Val? he pleaded silently, but she was glaring at Vas and didn't notice. "I think it might be better if I cast an area illusion around us," suggested Ember. Crap in a bucket, she did know. Jack shifted nervously from one foot to the other, but that was all she offered. Vas bowed to her and said "I would be honored to be shielded by your illusion, mademoiselle."
"Why would an illusion be better?" said Khyrisse suspiciously.
"Bye!" said Jack, hurriedly.
Khyrisse held her forehead. "I don't understand these--"
"No, Ebreth, you wait here." Skitch pulled at the pirate's arm as he started to follow listlessly after Jack. He obeyed the boy docilely as a farm animal, no expression on his face.
"Want to fuck?" Kerouac offered Val.
"NO!" She crossed her arms.
Author: Eric Gasior
Title of Post: Hangover
Garal had a pounding headache. He sipped his tomato juice and tried to ignore it. No luck. He was aware that the Rat Pack was planning its next move, but he couldn't pay attention. He'd ask about it later. I'm a fool. She blew me a kiss, she didn't blow me off. Things seemed brighter to him; but since that made his eyes hurt, he closed them and reached into his pouch for some aspirin.