The Hell and Back Archives
Down In Jungleland, Part IV
Character(s): Caimen, Rauvin, ∆lwyn
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: The Circle Tightens
Caimen looked over the wreckage that used to be the pirate hideout of St. Xavier's. The town was completely destroyed.
"Flarking hell," he muttered, bending over and lifting the gutted body of a one-eyed stray cat.
"It's just what we feared," Rauvin said. "The Remnant did get them."
"We don't know that for sure," Caimen held out.
"I've checked. There's no life force left anywhere in the city."
"None?" Caimen sighed, defeated.
"The Remnant didn't used to be this... this thorough. It's like there's someone controlling it."
"I..." Rauvin started, "I know my memory is clouded... perhaps by the trauma of being their prisoner... but I do remember... someone else."
"None. And it is beyond my weakened mental magics to recover."
"Flark. And Paul and Benedict were sunk in yesterday's attack on the Cynystran Fleet. Who does that leave?"
"Ourselves, of course," Rauvin said, considering. "Asinus, Lora, Dylton... Jack, Tora, Dar... and that's it."
"Well, Dylton is safe on the other side," Caimen said. "I'm going to recall Tora and Dar immediately."
"What about Jack?" Rauvin asked.
"He's on his way." I hope, Caimen added to himself.
"I think we should leave now," Rauvin said. "This is not a place for the living. Not any longer."
"Fine," Caimen said sadly. He turned his back to the ruins of the buccaneer's city and strode back towards the Bonny Reed.
Rauvin took one last look at the wreckage and smiled darkly before turning and following Caimen.
∆lwyn stood looking over the dead body of Pruze Paris, chained to the Obelisk of Xynthoth.
"He knew nothing," ∆lwyn sighed. "He was merely a procurer for the inner circle."
"I thought that Parises shared all knowledge," ∆lwyn's familiar, the demon Nochra asked.
"Not this, it seems," ∆lwyn said. "As it was in my day, the deepest secrets of the family are kept by the family head and his elite circle."
"Then why to kill the donkey are you? Is he not in high esteem held?"
"The Minaret was all I needed from that ass," ∆lwyn said. "I can get the location of X Isle from one of the others."
"What to do with the other prisoner should I?"
"Lavin? He's yours."
"Oh, thank you, master ∆lwyn."
"Don't mention it," ∆lwyn muttered. "I have other business to tend to."
He turned to the Orbs of Kenru. He already had the key to the Paris family inner circle. It was just the matter of turning it...
Character(s): Skitch and Kerouac
Author Laura Redish
Title of Post: Differently Motivated
Skitch shifted from one foot to the other. "Hurry up and finish lunch!" he demanded. "Let's kill the dinosaur and get out of here!"
Kerouac roared his approval. "Khyrisse's son is a warrior!" he yelled, throwing his arm around the boy's shoulders. Getting barbecue sauce all over them. "I hate this," moaned Skitch.
Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author Douglass Barre
Title of Post: In the Shadow of the Plateau
"Are we there yet?" Skitch whined.
"Not quite yet, my little Skitch," Tarrin said.
"You know, she asked me about it. I didn't even hear it," Jack moped to Val.
"I know, dear," Val consoled. "But she has other business right now." Val nodded to where Khyrisse and Ebreth were walking, holding hands.
Marty decided that Cori must be suspicious of him. She just kept talking to him. Classic brainwashing technique.
"So, how's it been apprenticing Ebreth?" she asked.
"Um, cool, I guess," he said guardedly.
"I can show you some Shikinti meditations sometime, if you want."
"So, you're his apprentice... what's with him and Khyrisse all of a sudden?"
"I dunno," Marty said. "But I don't think it'll last." Not after Master Ebreth is free, he added to himself.
"Huh," Cori said, looking oddly at Marty.
The Plateau loomed more and more above them.
"Are we there yet?" Skitch whined.
"I'm... afraid we are, little Skitch."
Character(s): Alphred, Portbello, Fiends and Spirits
Author Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Fiend, Fi, Fo, Fum
Portobello led Alphred deep into the Valley of Bones. A deathly silence surrounded them as they walked. It was as if sound itself was afraid to manifest itself here.
"I do not like this mushroom man," said Alphred.
"Don't worry we are almost there."
They rounded the base of a giant rib and stood before an evil looking maw like hole in the ground.
Portobello jumped into the hole and Alphred followed.
On another plane of existance ther Great Spirits of the Ancestors watched the Jungle Lord's progress.
"Are you sure this is wise?" asked one of the spirits.
"I thought we agreed on this already. He must be made aware of the full truth."
"But the Banished Ones are unpredictable."
"That is irrelevant. We have no choice."
The hold led to a mossy tunnel. Webs of amber wrought their way through the walls. It was as if great spiders had made these tunnels out of amber instead of silk.
"How much further Portobello?"
"Not far," said the mushroom man.
The two of them cam to a fork in the tunnel. The webbing gave way to great nodules of amber and a sappy material. Alphred felt as if he was in the digestive system of some great beast.
"Down that way," said Portbello pointing ot the left fork.
Alphred nodded and followed the fungus man down the corridor.
They walked for hours, or what seemed like hours. They then entered a small dank cul-de-sac made entirely of amber. The entire place sang with an eerie and incomplete music.
"We are here."
Alphred looked around. There was nobody there.
"Be patient Jungle Lord. Be patient."
Portobello sat in the center of the room, his arms and legs crossed. Alphred followed his lead. Portobello started to chant and the vision hit Alphred like a tidal wave.
Alphred was standing, no floating, over the Valley of Mists. Something deep in the valley was turning and growling. Every so often a spiked tenticle or a claw would show itself.
"Looks like the Destroyer is getting restless," said a cool voice from beside him.
Alphred turned and saw Jack.
"No silly," said anopther voice.
Alphred turned and saw Khyrisse.
"And no I am not the Spirit Maiden. We are all archetypes here."
"I don't understand."
"Told you," said the Rat.
"Quiet!" said Tarrin.
"Pay attention Jungle Lord. Learn." said the thing that was not Jack.
The surrodings changed. The whole of Salagia was below him. He could see the four elemental demons ravashing the land. Then the scene changed. Out of the destrution the jungle was returning. New creatures were appearing.
"Now do you understand?" said Khyrisse.
Alphred's face showed that his didn't.
"Let me put it this way," said the Rat who was rather annoyed. "Salagia lives on a cycle. Ta'al is destruction incarnate. But he is the father to us all. He must never be free, but we must, every once in a while, try to set him free. Understand?"
Alphred shook his head.
"This is useless!" said the Rat throwing up his paws.
"Alphred," said Tarrin. "The world is cyclic. Destrution brings creation which brings destruction. To keep a garden healthy one must till the soil."
"To keep things alive there must be death," said Jack.
"You must stop Malak't from completing the ritual but he must not die. He fills an important role for Salagia," said Khyrisse.
Khyrisse put her hand up to her face and pulled out her left eye. The eye turned to a perfect blue ruby.
"This is your new totem. The Totem of Truth. The Totem of Life and Death. You will know when to use it."
Alphred took the totem and the world rushed back into view.
Alphred awoke sitting in the cavern. Portobello, or what was left of him, was sitting there. Alphred touched the corpse and it cracked open. Empty. The body was empty like a shell. Alphred was just beginning to understand when the entire cavern shook with a loud chord. The amber nodules shattered, the the ground lurched.
Alphred got to his feet and started to run. One of the nodules exploded to his right. Inside was an exact copy of Alphred.
"Great Trickster!" he whispered.
Alphred didn't waste any time. He pulled Nick out of the nodule, slung him over his shoulder, and
ran for the surface.
The entire ground seethed as if it was alive. Alphred rached the hole he first entered and jumped back out to the surface. Once he landed he ran as fast as he could. The entire valley was becoming alive. Bones knitted together. Plants joined into sinew and muscle. Rocks became teeth and the ground became flesh.
Alphred ran, carring Nick, leaps and bounds until he reached the rim of the Valley of Bones. He turned to look as what was happening.
The entire valley took the form of a giant tentacled beast. If Alphred had ever been in the ocean he would have said it looked like a giant sea anemone. It shuddered with life then roared. Alphred held his ears in response.
The thing waved its tentacles then did the most unexpected thing. It stopped moving then collasped in on itself. Smoke and dust bellowed out of the Valley of Bones. When it all cleared the valley was back to how it was before, mostly. It still looked like the Valley of Bones, but it had a different feel to it. A feeling like evil renewed.
Alphred decided to get out of here. He ran off towards the entrace to the Valley of Mists which so happened to be at the northern edge of the Plateau.
On a different plane of existance the Great Fiends were gleeful.
"See it worked," said one of them.
"Too bad we had to kill Portobello. He was such a nice vessel."
"Well there will be lots more once the Jungle Lord uses my present."
"Have I ever told you that you are downright devious."
"Many times... Many times."
Character(s): Jack Paris and the Rat Pack
Author Douglass Barre
Title of Post: Who Killed The Dinosaurs?
"I wish Ember..." Garal muttered, but choked up too much to allow the thought to complete.
The climb up the side of the cliff had been arduous. Fortunately, Cori and Tarrin were both practised in mountain climbing, and could blaze a trail for the rest to follow. Still, most of the Rat Pack was worn and tired when they finally crested the ledge. Fortunately, the area was surrounded by a low viny growth, so not only was the last leg of the climb easier, but the Pack had some cover when they finally made it.
"I... wish Kit... was here..." Skitch gasped, rolling onto the flat ground. "She could... climb... like no one's... business."
Val was crawling from person to person, giving them water and succor. The sound of growling saurians could be heard all too near.
"Um, this is going to be a big battle," Jack started, once everyone was huddled together behind a small copse of trees. "I think we should probably work out a tactical plan... we've got a whole lot of dinosaurs and four evil elementals to take down."
"Kerouac hates elementals," Kerouac growled. "Kerouac has a good plan."
"It better not involve glue," Val said.
"Um, okay, let's hear it, uh, Kerouac," Jack said.
"Attack!" cried Kerouac, leaping from the shelter and racing into the clearing.
"Even I saw that coming," sighed Khyrisse, who was already casting one of her stoneskins on Skitch.
"Finish them!" came a cry from a raised dais in the center of the saurian camp. Kerouac's little gaffe had not escaped Malat'k.
"Now or never," Ebreth muttered to no one but himself, took a deep breath, and headed slowly out to face the rushing dinosaurs.
"At least he didn't glue himself to me," Val sighed.
"I had a good plan, too," moped Jack.
"Whoa," Marty muttered. "Much evil is very bad."
Within moments, the Rat Pack was deeply enmeshed in battle with the tribe of primitive saurians. "Kerouac wants to fight elementals!" Kerouac yelled as he cut a swath through the guards protecting Malat'k.
"Hey, yeah," Jack muttered. "Where are they, anyway?"
Marty was swinging a rusty old sword with an uncanny skill. This could be it, he thought. If I can only get to Master Ebreth... I can put my cunning plan into effect!
"I wish Alphred were here," Jack shouted to Val as he ducked under a dinosaur swing. The saurian's blow landed on the tribeslizard who was attacking the cleric. "He might be able to find some way of using a totem to end this without so much bloodshed!"
Val was pointing at Malat'k, still shouting orders to the reptilian warriors who served him.
On his belt was a familiar looking pouch.
Meanwhile, Cori had methodically maneuvered herself closer to the large idols that bounded the site. They've got to be in here, she thought. If the elementals were in their incarnate forms, we'd see them... they must be resting, waiting for whatever convergence Malat'k has in mind. She stepped forward and touched an idol that depicted a saurian aflame and raised her sword in her other hand. "Get ready to cool off, demon," she said.
She didn't see the dinosaur bearing down on her with the knife until it was too late.
"Kerouac!" Jack shouted in a voice that boomed out across the battlefield. "Malat'k has the totems! Get them!"
Fortunately, Ebreth hadn't missed it.
As Cori plunged her demonbane blade into the wooden idol, Ebreth winced and stabbed the approaching dinosaur between the shoulderblades. The saurian dropped to the ground.
Cori whirled about.
"He was about to kill you," Ebreth apologized.
"Th... thanks," Cori said.
"Whoa!" Marty said, racing up behind Ebreth. "You, like, totally killed that statue,"
Cori turned and looked at the idol, cleaved in twain. Nothing happened.
"Huh," she said.
"Master Ebreth," Marty said. "There's, uh, danger over here... I, like, need your help!"
Grabbing Ebreth by the hand, he started off, dragging a shrugging Ebreth behind him.
"But if they're not in there..." Cori mused.
"What?" Kerouac shouted, leaping up on the dais.
"He has the totems! Get them!" Jack repeated.
"Get him? Okay!" Kerouac hissed and swung his axe at Malat'k's head.
"Then they must be..." Cori said, turning back to the battle.
"Wait! No!" Alphred cried, swinging out of nowhere on a vine.
Malat'k's head was cleaved in two like a grapefruit. The aritificial body twitched and fell to the ground. Four dark mists escaped from the bloody hole that had once been Malat'k the velociraptor. "WE WAIT NO LONGER!" four voices boomed. "SALAGIA WILL BE OURS!"
Jack looked nervously to Val. "I think we found the elementals," he said.
"Next time I glue him to a wall," Val agreed.
Character(s): Ebreth and Marty
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: A Cunning Plan
Title of Post: Deprogramming
"Well, we defeated Malat'k," summarized Jack, quickly counting heads. "But where--where are Marty and Ebreth?"
Ebreth staggered back into the present with a hollow gasp. Someone was dragging him through the undergrowth, and he lashed out violently before he quite knew what he was doing. Marty yelped. "It's okay, Master! You're safe here! You can return to satori now!"
"Marty," said Ebreth, trying to keep his voice from cracking, "what is going on here? Where's Jack?"
"Those people aren't, like, good for you, Master Ebreth. I know you think they are right now, but that's just because of that syndrome where you start to like the people who kidnap you and stuff. I read about that in a magazine."
"What are you--" Ebreth shook his head. "Never mind. Where are we?"
"Um," said Marty, "I don't know, really. You sort of had some bad karma or something before I could explain my cunning plan, so I just kind of went off into the jungle for a while so, like, the mean sorceress wouldn't be able to find us or anything."
"I am lost," sighed Ebreth, "in the jungle, with you."
"So now we can, you know, meditate together and stuff."
Ebreth almost wished a plant would eat the kid.
Character(s): Jack Paris, Khyrisse Paris
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Title of Post: The Mathematics of Betrayal
"They're here," Khyrisse said. "Right where you calculated, dear."
"Wow. I mean, of course. Is Max with them yet?"
"He should be arriving momentarily. You did good on this one, Jack."
"Well, it's all in the numbers," Jack grinned. "With Max as their first contact with the Paris Cynystra, they'll have a seventy-eight percent chance of falling on our side of the fence on this battle."
"And did you factor in Wyvern? Their connection to Luthien? The Sunfighter?"
"As much as I could. Wyvern's still better at figuring people than I'll ever be... I wish Asinus was still here."
"That makes one of us," Khyrisse said.
"Look, you go to make the rendezvous with Max, I'll let our allies know what's going on."
"Take care, dear," Khyrisse said, kissing him. "I worry."
"What's going to happen," Jack forced a grin. "I'm only numbers."
"Never to me," she said, and slipped into the godstream.
Jack Paris crossed the room and activated the device attached to the Mind Gem.
"Jack Paris," came the cold voice from the electro-psionic link. "We were wondering when we would hear from you."
"I just wanted to let you know that our end was on schedule. Will you be ready with your attack on Trade?"
"Of course we will," the voice said.
"Remember to leave Wyvern for me," Jack said. "I owe him for Lita."
"We know the plan. Do not try our patience."
"Of course not, Lord Forix," Jack said. "Tomorrow this will all be in the past. You'll have Trade, we'll have Ataniel."
"And everyone will be happy," the voice said with an odd humor.
Character(s): Ebreth Tor, just too well-spoken for Marty Hu
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: A Cunning Plan
Title of Post: Zen And The Art Of Rat Following
"Okay," said Ebreth, carefully, "so now we have a problem, kid, because we're lost."
"Oh, no, master," he said cheerfully, "on the true tao we are never lost."
"Right," he said, "but we don't know where we are, and that's just as bad. Now we have to find the others."
"No!" said Marty. "They are, like, such bad karma, man! You can feel their psychodrama coming from like miles away."
"R-ight," said Ebreth, "but they've got my rat, okay? He's kind of like my spirit guide or something. I have to follow him. It's my destiny."
"Oh, no! I hate that rat!"
"You hate the rat? Kid, letting a rat make decisions for me is the one zen thing I've done in my life!"
"I'm sorry!" wailed Marty. "I want to like the Rat, but he's so little and ratly! Please don't like expel me from your tutelage for my lack of harmony with nature or anything!"
Ebreth was so tempted. "Look," he said, "maybe you'll find your own spirit guide someday. It doesn't have to be a rat. Maybe it can be a bird or something."
"Oh, man, I'm so scared of birds. What if they got their claws tangled up in my hair?"
"Why would they--" Ebreth shook his head. "Forget it. We'll find something you're not scared of. But first I've got to get back on my spiritual path, and that means going where the rat wants me to go."
"But why would he want you to go with these people who freak out all the time and try to disturb your satori?" demanded Marty.
"I don't know, kid, but that's where I need to be."
"But the math guy--"
"He's my friend."
"And the mean sorceress!"
"It's my destiny," sighed Ebreth. "The rat doesn't lie, Marty."
Character(s): Alphred and the Rat Pack
Author Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: Never Piss Off the Lord of the Jungle
Alphred looked stunned as Malak't broken body fell to the jungle floor. The saurians, sensing their leader had fallen fled down the side of the plateau. Deep in the Valley of Mists something stirred.
Khyrisse looked at Alphred and immediately recognized the emotions. Rage. Grendel intensity. Pure rage.
Alphred calmly walked over to the dais and collected his totems. He turn turned to Kerouac who was grinning like a buffoon. Viscera dripped from his axe. Alphred looked again at Malak't then at Kerouac. The Jungle Lord walked up to the berserker elf and looked him straight int he eye.
"You have violated the wishes of the Great Spirits. You have freed that which was never to be. You have disrupted the circle of Salagia. You must now pay the price."
"I don't like the sound of this," thought Jack.
Kerouac looked confused.
Alphred took out his most feared totem, the Totem of Nul. It was a small black pearl. He quickly thrust the
pearl against Kerouac's forehead. The pearl bored its way into the elf's skull.
"By all that is unholy!" exclaimed Cori.
Kerouac moved to attack Alphred but his axe fell short. The rest of the Rat Pack moved to intervene but it was like they were walking in taffy.
The pearl completely worked its way into Kerouac's brain. The elf screamed once then slumped over.
"You killed him," whispered Skitch.
Alphred didn't hear them. He picked up Kerouac's body and intoned the True Name of the Great Spirits. Kerouac's body crumbled to dust.
The Rat Pack found they could move once more. The jungle was silent but for their breathing.
"Alphred we.." said Val. The Jungle Lord put up his hand to silence her. He was looking down into the Valley of Mists.
"Ta'al comes," he whispered as the mists parted.
Author Laura Redish
Title of Post: Skitch's Rules Also Apply To Men
"I knew we shouldn't trust him," said Skitch, looking suspiciously at Alphred. "He wears too little clothing."
Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch
Author Kristin L.K. Andersen
Title of Post: The Lord of the Jungle Can Take a Running JUMP!
Khyrisse pushed Skitch gently behind her with trembling hands and walked up to Alphred. She then slapped Alphred, hard, putting her whole body behind it. "Kerouac didn't know anything about the wishes of your fucking Great Spirits!" she shouted at him. "And that's because you abandoned us in the middle of your goddamned jungle without so much as a goodbye! How dare you kill him for your mistake?!"
Khyrisse whirled and stomped away from the flabbergasted Alphred. With a glare for the jungle lord, Skitch grabbed their stuff and ran after her.
"Get your precious Great Spirits and your mind-controlling totems to save Salagia, Alphred," Khyrisse threw over her shoulder. "The Rat Pack has lost enough members to your crusade. I'm going to find Marty and Ebreth and Kit and Vas, and then I'm getting the hell out of here!!"
"Really?" Skitch said, excitedly. He grabbed Khyrisse's hand. "We can find Kit now?"
"Yes," she said firmly. "I'm sorry I didn't earlier. Val... stay behind if you need to; I understand, trust me."
Khyrisse and Skitch vanished down the slope of the Plateau.