The Hell and Back Archives
Tonight All Is Silence In The World, Part V
Character(s): Alphred, the Rat, Ember, Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland/Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Why To Have Children, Chapter Four
Khyrisse chuckled her way to a shaky halt, eyes twinkling in spite of the dark hollows beneath them. Meeting her daughters eyes, she gestured towards Alphred. Look at this, I couldnt leave if I tried!
No, Alphred, she explained. Im not going to go. I was thinking about it, she said, grinning a bit at Seeker, twitching his whiskers at her from Alphreds shoulder. But I decided not to. Ember, ah, reminded me of my responsibilities.
More or less, Ember murmured.
You are very wise, lady of tomorrows, Alphred said to Ember. I will tell Nurur and the others that we will be going to the fourth obelisk.
Nurur knows, but yes, go ahead, Khyrisse said. Jack is going to be helping me take care of things until... Khyrisses face flushed a bit. Until Im better.
Alphred hurried out, and Khyrisse sank back onto the bed, exhaling slowly. She looked down at her lap for a second. I hate being like this. I know Im a wreck, she murmured in a tired voice, I just cant seem to help it. It drives me crazy. She looked up at Ember with a wry little smile. I mellow out, huh?
Embers eyes crinkled up with laughter. Amazingly so.
Khyrisse fell back onto the bed, puffing out air as her back hit the mattress. Well, thats a relief. Id hate to be like this for the rest of my life. I havent been this bad since I left Eric. She sighed a bit and closed her eyes. Im going to finish my bath and have some tea and try to pull myself together, Ember, Khyrisse said, sounding more than a bit embarrassed. Im dreading going back out there. If you can get them thinking about something else other than what happened this morning, Id greatly appreciate it.
Oh, I think I can do that, Ember said, with a demure little smile.
Khyrisse sat in her second tub of hazelnut bubblebath that morning, an oversized blue mug of spiked* herbal tea cupped in both hands, trying to get her shit together. I am not going to embarrass myself any further in front of my daughter... particularly since I may never have her in this timeline. And shes so brave... I wasnt nearly as together as she is, and we werent wiping out our entire timeline, during the Madness. I can hold on for a little bit longer. Grendel, please, help me hold on for just a little bit longer. In the corner, the music box was playing something slow and wistful on a spectral piano, bringing a wry smile to the archmages face.
Yeah, baby, yeah I been drinkin,
And I shouldnt come by, I know...
But I found myself troubled, darlin,
And I had nowhere else to go.
Got some whiskey from a barman,
Got some cocaine from my friends...
I gotta keep on moving, baby,
Til Im back in your arms again.
Khyrisse joined in for the chorus, softly. Her voice, she'd discovered years ago, lent itself well to the blues when she forced it down into its lower register.
Feel so guilty...
And Ill be guilty for the rest of my life.
How come, baby, how come I never do
What Im supposed to do?
How come everything I try
Never turns out right...?
The music kept playing, but she smiled a bit and shook herself out of the blue funk. Yeah, well, apparently something I try turns out right! She finished off her tea and set it on the table next to the tub. A sudden thought made her puff out a sigh.
Oh, man, an illusionist!! she moaned, with a rueful little grin, and slid right down under the bubbles.
(* with a shot of Barenjager, Doug; thats honey liqueur. *grin*)
Character(s): Shilree B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Lost at Sea
Title of Post: Watch your Back
Shilree watched the unfolding battle from the shadows. She licked her lips with anticipation as the blood flowed from friend and foe alike. In her eyes Luthien the Slave Lord was transformed to Luthien the Dead. Her insane mind was ablaze with fear, hatred and excitement. She drew a magical dagger from her boot and leapt forward.
Luthien the Slave Lord spat forth a spell which the other Luthien countered. The two were closely matched, but Luthien the Slaver was getting the upper hand. Unnoticed to both of them, Shilree had gotten herself into the shadows behind the slaver.
Shilree tensed, then pounced like a mad cat thing.
Luthien the Slaver was in the middle of a spell when the dagger slid across his throat. He twisted and threw Shilree off his shoulders. He turned to face his surprise attacker.
"You!" he yelled as he healed the wound.
"Time to die, Luthien the Dead," Shilree spat as she leapt up to attack again.
That was when the main sail and the bow of the ship exploded from incoming cannon fire.
"The Diari patrols. That is all I need." said the slaver.
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Lost at sea
Title of Post: The Diari Patrol, way out of its league
"Hands!" shouted Luthien the Slave Lord, his voice carrying surprisingly loud. The ship rocked as she turned about, taking some more cannon shot. The whole deck was swarming with pirates by now, and Flicker could tell these were no riffraff, either. Small wonder, with both the head of their guild and Tor on board. Noyarc scrambled across the listing deck to help Berryn, trapped by two of them; a fireball arced from somewhere below, and the rigs of the graceful Diari schooner went up in flames. Flicker twisted his leg around the stanchion and kept firing, his bloody hand numb on the bowstring. He saw his Luthien's head snap back as Palmer got his lasso around it and shot right into Palmer's face. The slaver Luthien ignored them and leaned out over the rail to cast a death spell on the crew of the schooner. As its sailors keeled over en masse, a second fireball from below put the naval battle away.
"Time to die," giggled Shilree, and shot Luthien in the back.
"Time to shut the fuck up," retorted the Slaver King, and disintegrated her.
Flicker couldn't see Tor and Norna anymore. Tor was no match for her in a straight fight, he knew, but she was already badly wounded, and he feared the two of them were more likely to run into reinforcements for the pirate than for the Valkyrie. He shook it off and did what always seemed to piss Luthien off more than anything else in a fight: put an arrow straight through the back of his hand.
Shilree's form was already starting to gather together, naked, on the deck. "Nice try," she said, in a Leo Johnson singsong. "Nice try."
Luthien the master slaver stepped over her, death in both his eyes.
Character(s): Jack Paris, the Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Not The Easy Way
Jack stepped out of the mansion and into the morning jungle air. Portobello of the Fungus People sat, immobile, right outside.
"Portobello?" Jack asked.
The fungus man looked up.
"We've decided to trust you to lead us to the obelisk safely."
"It is only the next step in the path that will eventually take us to the Lost Valley, Nur'ur," the fungus man said.
Jack was momentarily taken aback by the use of the god-name that Alphred called him. He guessed that mushroom people must be perceptive along the same lines.
"I thought that if we stopped Malat'k from getting the obelisk it would stop his plan."
"There is a piece of Ta'al that is already free," Portobello said. "Left to it's own devices, it will eventually spread over the world. There is more to the spirit gods than your Jungle Lord knows. There are also... the Great Fiends."
Oh, man, Jack thought, why does everything have to get complicated now that I'm supposed to be in charge?
"Well, whatever we have to do, the Rat Pack will do it," Jack said with false bravado.
The Great Fiend that was Portobello showed no sign of his inner laughter.
"Look, Kit," Val said, "Khyrisse is really in a bad way, and we're trying to take it easy on her. I need to trust you not to get into any more trouble."
"Why are you telling me this?" Kit asked innocently. "I'm not in trouble!"
"Not yet," Val smiled wanly. "And I just wanted to make sure you knew that we needed it that way."
The two women eyed each other with suspicion, but neither voiced any.
"I'm sorry I had to attack Master Ebreth," Marty apologized.
"I understand, Marty."
"I mean, I hope I did the right thing... he was, like, trying to kill himself and all."
"You did, Marty."
"I hope that I haven't really pissed off the mean sorceress--I mean, the, uh, elfin magic lady."
"I don't think she's mad at you, Marty."
"I mean, she hated the future chick, and now they're best friends... but she hasn't even looked at me since the whole thing went down. I think she's planning to kill me."
"She's not planning to kill you! Don't be a big dork!"
"You're, like, way wise, little dude," Marty said, grinning meekly at Skitch.
"Yeah, well, you have to be to survive around here," Skitch sighed, looking at the closed door Khyrisse was still behind.
Character(s): Garal and Ember
Author: Eric Gasior (with input from Laura Redish)
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Don't Panic! or Don't Forget Your Towel
Garal enjoyed his bath. When he got in all his muscles ached from the trick with the sundew, now only half of them did. The glue on his hands made washing his hair tricky, but the soap and shampoo helped scrub it off. When he had thoroughly washed the jungle off himself, he rested in the tub a little longer. After he finished his bath he dried himself off, combed out the knots in his hair, and realized his clothes were too filthy to put back on. He wrapped himself in an elf-sized body towel-- it was big enough to completely cover him-- and set out to find some clothes. Before he found Khyrisse, he ran into Ember. "My pardon, monsieur. I hadn't realized this was the gentleman's restroom." The corner of her lip perked up in a little smile.
Instead of shrinking back in embarrassment-- as he would have done a few hours before--Garal replied in a mock uptight, upper class accent, "They don't separate them here. Lady Starshadow runs a very egalitarian household."
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Flirting Lessons
Ember smiled gently at the halfling's sendup of Sennett. "A very informal one, too, it seems," she said softly, indicating the towel he was wearing.
"I'm, uh, looking for some clean clothes," he said, a little lamely, and then with more boldness, "Maybe you could help me?"
"Oh, I don't think you would fit in any of my clothing, Garal," said the time-traveler, her indigo eyes dancing.
"Well," he said, "do you think Khyrisse might have anything my size, somewhere in here?"
"That is possible." She tilted her head at him, smiling a bit with her eyes. "Maybe you should ask her."
"I was going to." Garal was mesmerized by the spilling of her rich hair across her creamy cafe au lait shoulder where her sleeveless dress left off. "But I, uh, what do you think would look good on me?"
"White and gold," she whispered, gave him a little wink, and moved on down the hallway.
Character(s): Jack Paris, Reena
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle, Leading Sucks
Title of Post: Everyone's Flirting and My Girlfriend's Glued to Kerouac
Jack watched as Khyrisse folded up the mansion and they were once again in the humid air of Salagia.
The sorceress had expressed an interest in walking with Kerouac, and Jack thought that sounded like a good idea. To keep Marty "safe", he had asked Vas to teach Marty... something. Jack dreaded knowing what that would turn out to be.
Jack had convened a small gathering with Alphred and Portobello to discuss their plans. What was becoming abundantly clear was that neither of them really knew what needed to be done once the obelisk was found.
"Okay, let me be sure I've got this straight," Jack sighed. "We need to get to the obelisk of the winds."
"Right," Alphred agreed.
"Correct," Portobello added.
"Good," said Jack. "We're agreed on that. Then what. Should we... hide the obelisk?"
"The obelisk is made of wind, Nur'ur!" Portobello offered.
"It would insult the spirit gods to obscure their work," Alphred said.
Jack rubbed his temples. "Okay. No hiding. I'll also assume destroying the obelisk is right out?"
Both Salagians looked at Jack, shocked and appalled.
"Right, no destruction. We aren't expected to just sit by it until someone comes along, are we? That doesn't sound like much of a quest."
"The totems will show the way," Alphred offered.
"Perhaps Ta'al will come, and we can use the obelisk against him," Portobello said.
"How?" Jack asked.
Alphred and Portobello shrugged.
"Oh, this is just great," sighed Jack. "Maybe we'll be lucky and there'll be a horde of evil villains there we can fight or something."
Kong looked down from his perch at the Rat Pack. This time, he would be smart enough not to attack them directly. This time, he would just bring what he had learned back to his master and his new allies.
Kong grabbed a vine and swung from the tree. He never made it to the next one.
A black panther with a white streak along its head leapt at him in the air.
It crashed into Kong, claws drawing blood and rending gorilla flesh. The two creatures fell to the jungle floor. Kong pressed forward with all his might, and threw the panther off of him and into a tree. He looked around for a stick or stone to use as a weapon. Gorillas were tool using mammals, much superior to panthers.
Just as his fingers clenched around a long, pointy stone, he felt the panther upon him again. It moved faster than a panther should, and there was an eerie intelligence to its eyes.
"Leavvvvve themmmmm alonnnnnne," it purred, barely shaping the words, but unmistakable nonetheless.
Kong froze. This couldn't be a normal panther.
That bit of logical thought cost him, though, for he felt the long fangs of the panther tear into his chest, and after that, he felt no more.
The panther, her opponent defeated, took a quick look back at the humans she was protecting and retreated deeper into the jungle.
Character(s): Khyrisse, Val, Vas, Marty, Kerouac
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle, Leading Sucks
Title of Post: Following Has Its Own Problems
"I'll stick with Kerouac, I think," Khyrisse said, quietly. She looked a lot better now-- hair pulled back from her thin face in a loose braid, wearing a stylish crimson tunic that turned her eyes the color of claret. But the faint, frightened look in them hadn't gone away. "Mabye I can keep him from driving Valende crazy."
"Um, Id appreciate that, actually," Jack said. Shes been a little stressed lately.
Khyrisse smiled at him, a slightly impish look momentarily replacing the fear. "Poor Jack." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, surprising him. "Thanks, Jack. You don't know how much I appreciate this. I'll try to get myself together."
At a vantage point ahead of the Rat Pack, Vas sat cross-legged and serenely motionless in midair, Marty striving to imitate him under the levitation spell Vas had kindly bestowed. Vas tilted his head back, ever so slightly, concentrating on the sounds of the jungle around him. After a long, long while, during which Vas did nothing but listen with half-closed eyes, a bright-winged bird flitted carefully along the tree-cover towards the two. Marty watched, hardly daring to blink, as it finally fluttered over and landed on Vas shoulder. It jittered nervously on its perch for a few moments, wings flapping briefly, but Vas stayed still. Once the bird had settled, the elven bodyguard turned his head, ever so slowly, to meet the birds gaze. The bird, a gorgeous creature in scarlet and green with splashes of gold, cocked its head at Vas curiously and kissed him, nibbling at his lower lip. Vas smiled with his eyes alone, and tilted his head a bit to look at the wide-eyed Marty. Wow, Marty breathed. That is, like, amazing. At one with the world.
The bird cocked its head at Marty and trilled, a brief sound of what might have been amusement, and began preening Vas hair.
Khyrisse rolled her eyes and sighed. Okay, Kerouac, your turn.
Kerouac spies... something green!
Valende rolled her eyes and did likewise. Is it a vegetable?
That means leafy stuff, right? Kerouac doesnt eat much, green stuff is for sissies. Give Kerouac raw meat any day.
Yes, vegetables are leafy stuff, Khyrisse said loudly.
Oh. Then yes!
Is it a Plant That Eats You?
Is it a big Plant That Eats You?
Yes! No. Um-- wait, Kerouac forgets which green thing he picked.
I dont believe this... Khyrisse said, covering her eyes.
Does the cleric babe want to fuck yet?
No! both women shouted.
Character(s): "Ember", Kerouac
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Down In Jungleland
Title of Post: Just A Little Too Manly
"Little Retty! Ixhriy is so happy to see Little Retty!"
"Shut up, Ix."
"Little Retty look very busy! What am Little Retty doing?"
"Shut up, Ix."
"Little Retty not have little smile for poor Ixhriy?"
"Shut up, Ix. This is very important."
The imp pouted. "Little Retty hate poor Ixhriy."
"I don't hate you, Ix."
"Little Retty not like poor Ixhriy," he charged.
Ember turned the screwdriver. "Not especially."
"Ixhriy is sorry he was mean! That were twelve years ago!"
"Ix, can't you see I'm busy?"
"Yes!" shrilled the imp. "Ixhriy can see that! Ixhriy think Little Retty getting prepare kill big mean big Dead Jerk dead! Ixhriy wants to help!"
"Now how could you help me with that, Ix."
"Imps am invisible to undead!"
"I'm not taking you with me, Ix." Ember tested the healing device.
"Ixhriy not want to go! Ixhriy want to help!" His little eyes burned pale blue. "Big mean big Dead Jerk kill my Retty. Ixhriy help."
"You going to tell me what you want, Ix?" Ember put the little healing device in her backpack next to Kit's artifact. "Because I'm leaving in half an hour."
"Ixhriy want Little Retty take Ixhriy eye!" shrieked the little creature, hopping up and down.
Ember stopped, and looked at him. "You want me to do what?"
"Take Ixhriy eye! Imps am invisible to undead. Little Retty wears Ixhriy eye, big mean big Dead Jerk not see Little Retty coming until too late for him, ha!"
"You want me to take your eye."
"Yes! Yes! Hurry!" The imp looked at her sorrowfully. "Please don't hurt Ixhriy much. Ixhriy am sorry he was mean."
"What, you just want me to pop it out? Ix--"
"Ixhriy wants a second chance!" screamed the little devil.
Ember sighed and swept her hair back. "Oh, don't we all."
"Kerouac sees a pretty woman!" roared the berserker, startling Ember back to the present. There was, indeed, a scantily clad nymphet perched provocatively on top of a large mushroom. Ember's enhanced saving throw came through for her. "Kerouac, that's an illusion."
"Ow!" yelled Val, as he pulled her across to the mushroom.
"Kerouac, no!" yelled Khyrisse.
"Uh oh," said Kerouac, as the woman disappeared under his hand and the mouth on top of the mushroom engulfed him up to his shoulder.
"If this idiot sticks himself to me again tomorrow, I'm not responsible for what I do, Jack!" shouted Val, as the mushroom started dragging them in.
Character(s): The Rat Pack, The Monster society of Evil, Reena
Author: Jungle Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Bungling the Jungle, big-time
Title of Post: Crescendos
The group could not have been more blatant evil-doers if they had been wearing t-shirts reading "We went to Signetland-- and all we got were these lousy t-shirts, 'cause we're evil."
Reena watched them as they ascended towards a clearing that certainly contained some manner of structure. She wasn't certain what the significance of this obelisk, but she intended to find out. These scums were a potential threat to Jack.
Silently, she slunk through the trees, keeping them in sight, wondering at the ugliness of the giant worm one, the tininess of the dinosaur (here she'd at least expected a deinonychus, if not an actual T-Rex!) Then someone spoke.
"Where ya headed, Kittycat?"
As soon as she saw him, she knew. This was the one, the true mastermind behind the Ta'al scheme. He was the arch scumbag she had to stop.
She sprang upon him, her claws and fangs rending his flesh. When he lay motionless on the ground, she licked her paws, then prepared to leave.
"Geez," Scapegoat said, sitting up. "I just asked where you were going."
"Thisss isss all your fault!" she hissed and leapt at him again.
With one mighty swing of the Axe of Vengeance, he chopped the fungus off, shouting "That does it! Kerouac is using you as topping on a very large pizza! And you'd better watch it too!" he added to Portobello.
"I hate the jungle," Skitch said, to no one really, sitting down on a rock. "Ouch, that's uncomfortable. Hey!" The stone had left a stain on the seat of his pants.
"This stone is rather dense," Cori said, testing it. "But it feels like clay." She noted the stain on her hands.
"Have I mentioned that I hate the jungle?"
"That is elf'ellium," Alphred pronounced. "An incredibly strong and indestructable stone, which may only be worked by legendary elves. It is said that nothing else can master it."
"Just feels like a rock," Vas said after a try.
"It's not that tough!" Kerouac replied. The stone flowed like play-dough in his hands.
"What is that thing?" Mister Adam asked.
"My bio-genetic matrix polarity inverter," answered Dr. Thaedeus Bodog Swank.
"I knew that!" screamed the caterpillar.
"Shut up," Malat'k said. "We have finally reached the fourth obelisk!"
"Yes," Dr. Swank replied, stroking his goatee. "It is rather impressive. Your future avian descendants would be proud."
Suddenly, a blond-haired figure swooped out of the sky. "Who the hell are you?" shouted Bud.
"I am... Captain Tres!"
"Actually, in that get-up, you look more like Matter Eater Lad."
"No, he's the worm," Spike replied, indicating Slug. "I'm more of a pufferfish."
"That will be enough, boys," Dr. Swank mercifully broke in. "Just what do you want here, Tres?"
"I come for zose who are called Ze Rat Pack, zo zat I may crush zeir genetically inferior zkullz like rotting fruit."
"Sounds good to me. You're in."
"Hey! I get to approve any new members!" the worm shouted.
"No, I do!" Malat'k shouted back.
"Oh, would you both just chill? Look, Tres, since you're the only one not to say anything idiotic in the past five minutes, let me ask you a question. Do you know anything about non-linear differential equations?"
"No. But only because the zkool zyztem haz gone to hell because of integration of inferior minoritiez."
"Whatever. Fear not, though. I practically invented that field of math, and let's just say I've got a rude surprise waiting for one of the key members of the Rat Pack."
Character(s): The Cantrip Cottage Crew/the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Home Remedies for Stupid Boy Ideas
Khyri, hold still--
Well how can I get these stupid things out if you--
This was your idea, Karel!
It worked, didnt it?
Yeah, but now theyre stuck!
Well if youd let me--
What on Ataniel is going on up here?
Khyri looked up at her mother miserably. Her tiny face was streaked with dirt, tangled blonde hair covered in handfuls of battered green leaves. Karel stood behind her with a comb in his hands, looking sheepish and aggravated. Laelissa chuckled and reached out to pluck one of the leaves from her daughters hair. You have to get these out first, Karel, she said. She was considerably startled when part of the leaf tore away in her strong, slender fingers, leaving the majority of it still fastened to Khyrisses curls.
Theyre stuck, Karel said in a small voice. They wouldnt stay in, so we took some sap from a tree and...
...glued them on... Laelissa finished faintly, golden hawk eyes wide in her tanned face. Why in Solonors name--
Its a disguise, Khyri supplied helpfully. Im a shrubbery!
Laelissa burst out laughing.
Hold still, Khyrisse instructed.
Khyrisse aimed her cantrip at the intersection between Kerouac and Valende, drying out the sundew sap as much as she could.
Oh, stop. Its just a little heat.
Kerouac wishes the cleric babe would stop pulling.
The cleric babe wishes that Kerouac hadnt stuck himself to her.
Khyrisse got out a lavendar and purple jar, and dabbed the tips of both forefingers in it. Clamping a hand on both of their arms, she cast grease.
The magical lubricant worked its way under the sap. Valende and Kerouac tumbled apart as the sticky stuff between them lost its purchase and crumbled away.
There. Khyrisse recapped her jar of scented lotion and put it away. I cant believe I didnt remember that earlier.
Kerouac smells like a girl now!! the berserker shouted in outrage, sniffing at his arm.
I guess youll just have to take a bath.
Kerouac hates baths!
Thatll teach you to stick yourself to people, wont it? Khyrisse said, grinning.
Character(s): Sz'aal, Gh'ran, Sss'ath and Whas'sha
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: In Another Part of the Jungle
Sz'aal wandered the lands of Salagia, consuming as he went. Anything he touched fed his hunger. Everything he consumed he gave to Ta'al.
Gh'ran wandered the lands of Salagia. Everything he touched turned to unchanging stone. Quiet stone. In his realm there was no noise. The quiet he gave as a gift to Ta'al.
Sss'ath moved along the mighty rivers and streams of Salagia. As he moved, rivers broke their banks, drowning all. Currents flowed and carved out a new pattern to the land. The pattern he gave as a sacrifice to Ta'al.
Locked in the obelisk of air Whas'sha, both demon and spirit, waited. He knew he would be free soon. However, he did not know if he would be the demon or the spirit. If he was the demon, he would destroy all with his winds in the name of Ta'al. If he was the spirit, he would help those who wished to destroy Ta'al. Whatever he was, it didn't matter. Whas'sha was patient.