The Hell and Back Archives
Down In Jungleland, Part II
Character(s): Jack, Ebreth, and Marty
Author Laura Redish
Title of Post: The Once-Mighty Ego Of Ebreth Tor
"Good night, Ebreth."
"Good night," he said.
Jack grinned. "It's good to hear you answer that again." Marty frowned. He didn't understand why the math guy was trying to lead Master Ebreth astray the way he was. He'd been thinking of him as, like, a disciple. Marty was going to need to rethink his cosmology tonight. "Hey, you, uh, you know, Khyrisse is really glad to have you back too. She's just been under a lot of stress--"
"Jack," he said, softly, "that's really nice of you, right, but it'll be a lot easier if you just give it up."
"I'm serious!" he protested, faintly. "She's been really worried about you."
"She doesn't have to feel guilty," said Ebreth, "and you don't have to humor me. I'll get by."
"I'm not humoring you. She does care, she's just, uh--" Jack fidgeted. "She's very emotionally unstable right now."
"Jack," he said, holding his head, "you don't know the things that happened to me. I'm not the man I once was. I break down over changes in the weather. I'm an embarrassment."
"That's not your fault."
"Fine, but it's not hers either. Why would she ever want to look at me again? I understand, I just--it's easier if I just don't talk about it, okay? I'd rather just concentrate on other things. One step at a time, that's all. Good--night, Jack."
"Good night," sighed Jack. Flark. I suck at these things so bad.
Character(s): Marty Hu
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: Jungle... ngh... land
Title of Post: The Satori Liberation Front
Marty sat in the silence as the math geek left.
Something was very, very wrong.
The evil-and-sometimes-kinda-cute sorceress had been insisting all the time that Master Ebreth wasn't in satori, that he was "mentally damaged." Now that he was out of satori, however, he certainly didn't seem any happier.
Even the math geek, who Marty had thought was firmly on Master Ebreth's side was now opposing the tenets of zen. Heck, the Master himself was showing doubt.
Marty started to piece it all together.
The constant supervision, the endless readings of certain "literatures"... even the strange decision to move the Master from location to location to keep him disoriented...
The Rat Pack was trying to brainwash Master Ebreth.
The sound of the master quietly sobbing in his sleep steeled Marty's resolve.
As soon as he could, he would save Master Ebreth.
It was the right thing to do.
Character(s): Quint Alverado, the Non-Crucified Heroes
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Promises Unkept
Katherine Shienwold was the first one up. She always was... despite everything they had done since the Madness, her sleep was still troubled. She had rebuilt the Tower of Beauty, but she still hadn't even figured out the blueprint for rebuilding her mental defenses. "Morning, Kat," came Quint Alverado's voice from behind her.
Katherine wasn't the first one up, apparently.
"Quint?" she asked, looking around to see the one-time Most Dangerous Assassin in Ataniel packing his bag. "What are you doing?"
"'Got business," he said, averting his eyes.
"I thought we were heading to Tobrinel?" Katherine asked. "You're leaving us?"
Alverado sighed. "Old business calls. I've got to go for a while. I'll... be back," he said, though Katherine could tell it was a lie.
"This isn't... assassin business, is it, Quint?" she asked. "Our promise... the NCH..."
"It's just old business," Quint muttered.
"Then let us help you."
"No!" Quint almost yelled. "I've got to do this alone, Kat." Almost imperceptibly, he added, "I don't want any of you to see it."
"I'm going to get Mason," Kat said, pulling herself out of her sleeping bag. "Talk to him before you go."
"I can't, Kat. I'll see you in Tobrinel."
Quint grasped his satchel and drew his cloak around him, disappearing into the morning air.
"Quint!" Katherine shouted. "Don't go! We can help!"
There was no answer from the ex-assassin.
Katherine raced over to the tent where Mason Dalent slept, sweeping open the flap.
"Mmm?" Mason asked. "Kat? What time..."
"Quint's gone," she said. "I think he's going back to a contract."
"Oh, hell," Mason said, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. "When--?"
"He just left. Do you have any spells that can track him?"
Mason squinted his eyes in thought. "Not right now."
"Fuck," sighed Katherine. "Why couldn't he trust us? Trust me?"
"Maybe I can help," came the familiar mysterious voice.
Katherine turned to look into the masked face of the unknown warrior/mentor named Paul.
"Paul? Do you know where he's gone?"
"No," the strange voice replied. "But I will next time we meet. Go back to the Tower. I'll find you all there."
"Yes, sir," Katherine nodded.
"Not sir. Just Paul."
Then the masked knight was gone.
"I hate how he does that," Mason muttered.
"You would," sighed Katherine. "Get the others up. We're heading back to the Tower."
Be well, Quint, Katherine thought. We're coming.
Character(s): Garal, Kerouac
Author Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Rat Pack: Another unhappy night in the mansion
Title of Post: Now there's a type A for ya!
He sat in the absolute gloomiest, least hospitable room he could find inside the Mansion. It suited Garal's gloomy mood perfectly. Only an idiot would come here, which was good because the halfling really wanted to be alone.
Then, of course, an idiot did come there.
With a brief warning clatter of armor, Kerouac strode in. "Oh! Uh, hey there, l'il buddy."
Garal hoped that ignoring the berserker would make him go away. It didn't.
"Kerouac's sorry your future babe got killed."
"Thank you. Go away, please."
"Kerouac promises you, next time we find this dead lutheran, we'll kill him and you can devour his entrails if you like." Mmm, Kerouac does like a yummy entrail!
"Disgusting though that sounds, I think I just might."
Author Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: The Long Kiss Goodnight
“So that be a unicorn,” Khyrisse read aloud, pushing her voice down to the bottom of her range, and speaking with a decided purr. “She is very beautiful.”
“How do you know she’s a unicorn?” she replied in a woman’s voice with a rural accent. It was the voice of a woman often irritated. Not all that hard for Khyrisse to manage.
“No cat out of its first fur can ever be deceived by appearances-- unlike human beings, who seems to enjoy it,” the cat’s voice observed in amusement. “Ye have very little time! Soon there’ll be a human woman in that body, and no unicorn at all, ever again. It may be that she’ll marry the good prince, who loves her.”
“No. No, that cannot be. She is the last.”
“Well then, she must do what she came to do. She must take the king’s way, down to the Red Bull.”
“Is there a way?” Molly Grue demanded angrily. “Tell me the way! Tell me where we must go!”
“Avast!” the cat complained. “Hark ye closely, mum. When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time; only then will ye find the tunnel what leads to the Red Bull’s lair. There be a trick to it, of course,” the cat added, sounding amused again.
“Why won’t you help me? Why must you always speak in riddles!?”
“Because I be what I be,” the cat replied, amiably enough. “I would tell ye what ye want to know if I could, mum, but I be a cat... and no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer.”
Khyrisse kissed Ember lightly, her hand resting on the folded ones for a moment. There was a narrow braid of black around Khyrisse’s wrist; a similar bracelet of dark gold glinted from around Ember’s. “Good night, sweetheart.”
The archmage sighed a little and stepped back, studying the results of her spellcraft. A small triangular pavilion stood nestled against the wall of the valley, gleaming in the early morning light. Roses climbed up the three fretwork pillars to the roof, bright greenery against the white stone. The flowers were a shimmering dark grey, the color of ashes-- until sunlight hit them just the right way, and the irridescence on their petals turned them a deep, vibrant indigo. The very center of each bloom burned red as fire; in the darkness, they threw a dim light of their own, like banked coals. Khyrisse picked one of them and breathed in its scent with a little smile. Vas would have recognized the perfume as the one Ember wore.
She tucked the flower into her braided hair, and closed her eyes.
After she was done casting her permanent illusion, Khyrisse opened them, holding her breath. It puffed out again in a relieved sigh. Inside the pavilion was an elven girl with artistically arranged black curls, creamy cafe-au-lait skin, flirtacious indigo eyes. Her cape swirled around her as if she were floating in midair... and in fact, her daintily shod feet didn’t touch the ground. Her mother circled around the pavilion. From another direction, the image inside the pavilion was that of a rampant unicorn, its coat an irridescent black. It balanced delicately in the air, slender neck curved gracefully, indigo eyes glancing sideways at the viewer with a decidedly amused twinkle.
Khyrisse moved to the third vantage point. A fawn-colored cat with black “points” curled with hedonistic grace on a green silk cushion, her delicate face dominated by a pair of large indigo eyes. She looked a little more amused than most cats manage, and as knowing and secretive as any cat anywhere.
She circled back to Ember’s image and looked impishly up at her, eyes dancing. For a brief moment, the resemblance between mother and daughter was blatantly visible. “I’ll bet that damned cat was your favorite character,” Khyrisse said, blew her a kiss, and headed back to the mansion.
Character(s): Alphred, Portobello
Author Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Alphred Acts
Alphred sat outside the mansion trying, but failing to meditate. Alphred knew things were especially grim but everyone else seemed not to care.
"They just don't undersatnd," said Portobello who had silently walked up behing the Jungle Lord.
"You are right Fungus Man," said Alphred not even looking around. "I fear that Ta'al has a good chance of walking the earth again."
"My allies can help. They have been wanting to meet you."
Alphred got up and faced the Mushroom Man.
"I am still warry of allies of your folk Portbello. Your folk and I have been enemies for a long time."
"True but Ta'al is the enemy of us all. Come, my allies are near. Let me introduce them to you."
Alphred followed Portbello into the jungle.
Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author Laura Redish
Title of Post: Run Away Once Too Often
"Mom!" Skitch banged the door of the mansion. "Alphred left. He went off into the jungle with the mushroom man."
"Oh, fuck," said Khyrisse, crossly.
"Can you send him a message?" tried Jack.
Khyrisse shook her head. "I didn't learn any message spells today. I didn't think we had anyone we needed to contact, and I needed the spell slot for--I needed the spell slot for something." She twisted her hands.
"Oh, flark," sighed Jack. "I've lost another one, haven't I?"
"Well, it's his jungle," said Skitch. "I'm sure he'll be okay."
"That's true," said Khyrisse. "Scrambling around worrying about him is probably like sending a search party out after me in Southern Dyved. He's not going to get lost, or starve to death. Let's just go on ahead. He'll find us if he needs to."
"Go on ahead and do what, though?" said Val.
"Well," hedged Jack, "I don't really see why we needed to go through all this with Portobello anyway. Why don't we just find Malat'k, er, beat him up, and stop him from summoning Ta'al at the convergence?"
"Kerouac likes that idea!" yelled the berserker.
"Kerouac, take your spoon out of your nose," said Val, grossed out.
"That sounds great," said Khyrisse, thankfully. "Can it wait till after breakfast?"
"Then it sounds even better. Sennett, please start some pancakes and eggs."
Character(s): The Great Fiends
Author Douglass Barre
Title of Post: A Moment With The Fiends
Alim'Kbiil lilted her head to the side. "I hear them coming," she smiled.
The Slayer, B'fii, nodded. "Portobello has found the Jungle King. All goes according to plan."
"I told you it would," Alim'Kbiil said. "The Trickster's presence in the jungle has given us the
opportunity we needed..."
"To feed?" S'Park asked.
"Nothing so pedestrian," Alim'Kbiil corrected.
"To be free!" B'fii offered.
A dark figure had moved into the circle.
"Both," Krak'r, evillest of the Fiends said. "Tomorrow, we shall be the kings of the jungle."
"Sweet," S'Park cooed.
Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author Kristin L'Kar Andersen and Laura Redish
Title of Post: And Things Were Morningful... Sorta
Khyrisse slipped back into the mansion a little while later. She was a little pale, and her smile was a sad one. Tucked into the loose braid curving around her head was a rose, one that seemed almost black against her hair.
She sat down at the dining room table and poured herself some coffee. Oh, I'm tired. Half a dozen spells before breakfast, on not enough sleep, the which I got in an armchair... I think I'm going to inhale half of this pot of coffee this morning. She heard footsteps and looked up to see Jack enter the room. Ebreth was with him.
Khyrisse's face lit up in a smile so bright that Jack actually noticed it. Not that Khyrisse was looking at him. Tired? Who's tired? she thought, eyes on Ebreth.
Who wasn't looking at her. Or anyone, really. Khyrisse's smile went a little wistful, but she kept her hold on the smile at least.
"Good morning, Jack," she said quietly. "Good morning, Ebreth." She reached for another mug and poured a cup of coffee for Ebreth. Oh, he looks tired... she thought, sadly. I've never seen him move like that before.
"Thank you," Ebreth said, taking it from her outstretched hand. He still wouldn't look at her. I think you're going to have to get used to that for a little while, Khyrisse told herself, with an internal sigh.
"You look like you got even less sleep than I did," she said gently, trying to put her smile in her voice.
"I'll be all right."
Khyrisse lowered her eyes and hid her face in her coffee cup for a moment. Stubbornly, she kept going. Even though I'm probably digging myself deeper. "Ebreth, Tarrin said..." She swallowed hard and continued. "Tarrin said that you'd remember everything, but that it would probably take time. How much do you remember of where we are, and why? Shall I give you an update?" she asked.
"In the jungle, trying to stop a dinosaur from summoning a demon, but we don't know how?" Ebreth replied.
"Uh, that's about the long and short of it, yes," Jack admitted.
"Oh. I'd kind of been hoping I'd missed something there."
Khyrisse had a sudden fit of the giggles.
"It all has to do with the prophecy Alphred told us about," Jack began.
"Um. More or less. So we'll have to figure out something on our own," Jack finished with a sigh.
Character(s): Jack Paris, the Rat Pack
Author Douglass Barre
Title of Post: Shadows Over Breakfast
The Rat Pack ate breakfast in silence.
Jack figured it was either that everyone was still upset about last night's chaos, worried about the missing Alphred, annoyed at his attrition-style leadership, or just plain tired.
He hoped it was the last one.
"Um, anyway," he started finally, interrupting the silence, "since we don't have either Portobello or Alphred around anymore, we really need some way of finding out where Malat'k is..."
"We could get attacked by dinosaurs outside the mansion and trick them into taking us to them!" Skitch offered.
"Statistically, that's not very likely, Skitch," Jack said. "But, of course, statistics can be a very fickle mistress..."
"Not yours, she better not," Val giggled into her napkin.
"Um. Anyway..." Jack said, off-balance again. "Khyrisse, I hate to put upon you, but do you have any spells that could help?"
"Not that fragile, Jack," Khyrisse smiled wanly, and waved her hand. A mirror appeared in the air over the table.
"Can it show us where Malat'k is?" Jack asked.
Khyrisse pouted a bit, and the image cleared to show a huge cliff, still in the shadows despite the sunrise, so immense that it filled the entire mirror. On the cliff was a large outcropping ledge. Tents and crude huts had been set up on it, and Jack coul see saurians running to and fro across its surface.
In the center of them was the artificial body with the tiny head of Malat'k sticking out. He seemed to be shouting orders of some sort.
"That is one heck of a big cliff," Cori muttered in awe.
"Look!" Skitch yelled. "You can see the Valley of Bones!"
Khyrisse focused and the image rotated, turning out to the jungle. There, miles away, was the valley they were camped near. The shadow of the cliff in the early morning sun reached all the way to the other end of the valley.
"Oh, shit," Ebreth said.
"What?" Khyrisse asked, quickly taking his hand.
"That shadow..." Ebreth said.
"Oh, flark," Jack said. "The only thing that tall anywhere near Salagia..."
"Oh, no," Val said, her mouth falling open.
"What? What is it?" Skitch demanded.
"They're on the side of the Plateau," Khyrisse said.
"Oh, f--" Skitch started, but Khyrisse was faster than him and covered his ten-year-old mouth.
"Why don't we just fight those dinosaurs outside the mansion instead," Marty asked.
"That was just in Skitch's imagination, Marty," Ebreth said.
"No, they're right there, outside," Marty said, pointing at the mirror.
Khyrisse frowned and the image zoomed in.
There was, in fact, a band of saurians closing in on the mansion.
"Good eyes," Cori said.
"Khyrisse, can you get some defensive spells up?" Jack asked. "And Ebreth... are you okay with this, or do you want to stay safe here with Marty?"
"Give me a weapon, I'll see what I can do," Ebreth sighed.
Jack gave him a "thumbs up."
"Well," Jack said, trying to figure out how to raise morale, "that seems like a good way to get this started... let's go kick some dinosaur bottom!"
"Tail," Skitch said. "Dinosaurs have tails."
Jack decided not to mention that after the exercise session, they'd be taking off to the Plateau. He knew that would shoot morale to hell.
Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: Breakfast
Title of Post: The Simplest Things
Ebreth's hand shook very suddenly, once, and his cup flew from his grip and onto the table, splashing coffee up like blood from its breaking body. "Hey!" shouted Skitch, furiously. Ebreth Tor looked at his hand. "I'm sorry," he whispered, and got up, and walked away.
Character(s): Rat Pack and some T-Rexes
Author Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Ambush
After breakfast was finsihed everyone gathered their things. They walked out of the mansion and Khyrisse dispelled the structure.
"Where are those lizards!" growled Kerouac.
The ground trembled in response.
"Uh oh," said Jack.
"What is it?" asked Khyrisse.
"That was a harmonic made by four large creatures bearing down on us from all sides."
Just then four large T-Rexes burst onto the party. They were indeed surrounded.
Character(s): Four Territorial Dinos In The Same Clearing
Author Laura Redish
Title of Post: T. Rexes Were Not Pack Animals
"Hey, X-Man!" roared one of the rexes. "I thought I told you never to show your scaly ass around here again!"
"Yo, you don't own this jungle, Cutter."
"Yeah," said the biggest dinosaur, "and you're all on Grandmaster T's turf now. Come on, Stompie, let's teach them a little lesson."
"Hey, Stompie don't look out for nobody but Stompie."
"Oh yeah! Yeah, well I'd sock you one good if my arms reached past my own head."
"I'd like to see you try!"
"This clearing ain't big enough for the four of us."
The Rat Pack slowly backed away as the four Tyrannosaurus Rexes began to rumble. Jack calculated that their brain to body mass ratio was somewhere around 1-200.
"Shall we head on to the, er, Plateau?" said Jack.
"I'd follow you anywhere, Jack," said Val.
Character(s): Some Velociraptors
Author Laura Redish, S.E. Hinton, and Bob Bakker
Storyline: Rumble In The Jungle
Title of Post: Psychodrama Among The Raptors
"What are you doing still sitting there?" Two little velociraptors nudged a third one, who was sitting, despondently, under a big fern. "The rexes are rumbling, man! Let's move!"
"I don't want to rumble," he said, sadly. "I just want to go out with Raptor Red."
"Are you nuts? She's a rich girl!"
"I know. I just want to curl up and lithify."
"Life's rough all over, Ponyboy. Let's go."
Character(s): Shilree B, Luthien etc.
Author Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Cut to Trade Wars
Title of Post: In the basement...
They appeared in a dark room. From the smell of it, Flicker guessed it was a cellar.
"Everyone here?" asked Flicker.
"Hold it right there," yelled a voice from the dark. It was followed by the distinctive sound of weapons being unsheathed. They were surrounded. Shilree smiled with mad excitement at the thought of more blood to be spilled. Flicker held her back with a simple hand on her shoulder.
"You have a lot of explaining to do," said the voice, which was oddly familiar.
Candles around the room were lit. They were indeed surrounded, surrounded by about twenty people in ninja garb. Their leader, a woman, came forward brandishing a blade of Diari craft.
"How did you get here?" she asked. "Explain quick or die."