I have no idea what this is!
Heap of basically everything that exists
"I sure like TV. And wearing pants."
The guy gave her a weird look. "How nice for you," he said.
Coraline giggled. She was reasonably sure he had no idea what TV was. Even the ordians didn't have TV, though they had plenty of things that were better.
Go as you always have, and you will see what you need to see.
'Go on, then. You will find the keys to the cupboard behind he who reigns king of the sandcastle. Riddle? Sort of. But you'll see what I mean. Pass the gates, find the mongoose, and you shall see.'
Coraline is standing behind you?
What's in the cupboard?
That depends on the gate.
(She considers for a moment)
I hope you don't regret this.
Fragments of Eapherod
INT. Great Temple lobby - day
Rahah is spacing out in front of a particularly large mural depicting some sort of apocalypse, with grand figures scattered about in some sort of epic battle against what seemed to be a mass of darkness. There is a distinct lack of a dragon in it.
An elf in priest's robes and a ridiculously large pair of goggles/binoculars/something bolted to his head, Arsten Dren, approaches behind her. He's holding a rather large book in his arms.
Impressive, isn't it?
It takes her a moment to react - as though she's trying to remember how to react - then she turns around.
(pushing the goggles up on his head)
(He takes a partial bow - an apparent custom around here)
(She looks back to the mural)
So what's the story?
Oh, you know. Apocalypse.
It's said that the gods would come to fight a great darkness that spreads across the land.
They look at it for a bit.
How exactly do you fight a darkness, then?
Supposedly that's for the gods to know.
Be easier if it were a dragon, wouldn't it?
Probably. Does look a bit like a dragon in some of the other ones. Common theory was that they didn't know how to paint a darkness.
He tries to gesture but only succeeds in dropping the binocular-glasses, which shatter on the floor.
The two of them look at the resulting mess for a moment. Then Arsten throws up his arms melodramatically and shouts:
Several passerby give him strange looks.
I'm not sure that was quite the right response.
He sweeps up the binocular bits with his robe.
Results of floor puzzle
INT. Great Temple main hall - day
Arsten Dren and Rahah Okieshu fall through the ceiling, along with a fair bit of the ceiling itself. Rahah immediately jumps up and looks around in the hopes that nobody saw that, but the room has a considerable audience - fortunately none of whom were standing under them.
Arsten gets up more slowly and tests his knee with some concern before looking around in surprise as the folks in the room start moving towards them, including a rather irate HIGH PRIEST ARO.
Are you okay? What happened?
Maaan, and people never believe me when I tell them how exciting archaeology can get!
HIGH PRIEST ARO
What is the meaning of this?
That did not quite go as expected.
(to the random person)
We're fine. Is anyone else hurt?
(She stops and looks around)
Where'd the dealy go?
Aro tries to accost her specifically, but she just runs off and starts going through the rubble without waiting for answers.
Guards run in, presumeably reacting to the commotion.
Aro finally spots Dren and corners him instead.
HIGH PRIEST ARO
Oh, well, according to the histories, the ancient gods once walked this earth, right? And indeed there are still traces of this around, with the local myths and legends speaking of relics and places of great power. But it's all disconnected. There's no real record of any of it and as the legends are retold over time, they change. We don't know what really happened; we don't really know anything at all...
HIGH PRIEST ARO
I mean this.
I was getting to that. As we know it, Kyrule defeated Eapherod in a great battle. So we have reason to believe that this temple dates back to that period. I think this is where it happened.
Rahah comes back around now holding the dealy - a stone disc about .3m across and 5cm thick.
So this is it? What do the myths say? What does it mean? We need to study this at once. Do you have a lab?
(he takes the disk)
Yes, YES! That could be the proof! I mean, it's too early to say anything now, but we need to -
HIGH PRIEST ARO
PRIEST! She is a demon! You cannot possibly think to work with her!
(she looks down at herself and remembers she is, in fact, currently a demon)
Oh, right, so I am.
Arsten looks at her, confused.
I blame Kyrule. And Coraline. Mostly Kyrule, though.
HIGH PRIEST ARO
Do not dare to speak his name! Foul demon, I bind you in the name of our Lord, the Guardian and King, Kyrule of Arling Tor.
He casts a spell down upon her and suddenly she can't move.
Hey, wait a minute -
HIGH PRIEST ARO
Guards! Take this... thing and bind it to the altar.
The guards do so and start to haul Rahah off.
Arsten gets pushed aside and everyone just sort of ignores him.
This really isn't necessary, you know...
Nobody's paying him any attention.
HIGH PRIEST ARO
While I figure out what to do about all this...
Arsten give the high priest and the guards an annoyed look and then wanders off with the disk.
INT. Arsten's lab - temple
Arsten goes and sets the disk down on the table. It's covered in carvings, symbols and scenes, in what look like several different languages spiraling around the thing. He looks it over, takes a couple of rubbings, and writes some notes, before turning it over and repeating the process for the other side.
The other side has only one scene, wrapping around the rim, seeming centred around two figures and their masks. Particularly prominent is a part in which one of the figures seems to turn the other into masks, floating away like butterflies.
In the middle is a small red gem, a luminous sphere half embedded in the disk. He examines it carefully and takes some notes, then has a go at popping it out.
It comes out easily in his hands. The stone is warm, almost glowing. It feels as if alive.
He examines it carefully, holding it to different lights, weighing it, taking notes. He measures its exact ambient magic and frowns. He measures it again, eyes the stone with surprise, then writes this down as well.
He drops the stone in a bowl so it doesn't roll away and goes back to the disk.
INT. Great Temple main hall - day
=== Dottsman Statement ===
Oh. There you are.
Oh, hello, Brother Dren. We were just discussing the Dottsman Statement.
Oh, really? I suppose you'd know about that?
Well, there was that time one of my co-workers blew up three quarters of a solar system due to ignoring it.
Just his ego. Was uninhabited, and we all got out of there in time, though our boss spent the next hour yelling at him. Good times.
Nya gives her an odd look and takes her leave.
Anyway, I've been mulling over the disk. I think I might have an idea what the 'infernal tunnels' reference might mean.
Oh, gods, no.
I don't want to go hunting down Eapherod's panties.
That's... what it said.
He motions for her to go on, but she just shakes her head and shrugs.
Rahah sits and talks to the fragment. Two of the others sit as well and try the cookies, though they can't really follow the conversation. The rest remain standing.
Arsten goes to the cupboard and unlocks it with the key. He opens it; inside is a large, heavy, ornate mask, which he picks up and carries it to the table, turning it over in his hands.
Oh, weird. Kyrule has one of those too.
It's a metaphor. All our power and all our weight as the Dream itself. The essence and the heart.
(suddenly looking very interested)
What happens if I put it on?
Rahah and the fragment exchange glances. The former looks surprised, the latter just tired.
You could try it and find out.
The fragment smiles. Some of the others look much more concerned.
Is that wise?
(he hesitates, then hefts the mask)
He puts it on. The fragment flinches.
Do you feel anything? Anything different?
I... hear them. The dreams? And I can see them, everywhere, so many, so...
(he reaches out slightly with his spare hand)
I could almost touch them.
He takes the mask off, and wobbles slightly.
Arsten sets the mask on the table. Rahah reaches out to make sure it's steady, though the gesture is unnecessary.
It is yours. This is all yours, dear sister. I am the last.
Rahah looks around the room - at the newspaper on the table, at the decor, at the others she unintentionally dragged along, and finally at the fragment. The last one. The fragment smiles sadly, and Rahah takes her hand across the table.
The fragment smiles sadly, then slowly dissolves into smoke and is gone. Rahah sits for a moment the others wait as well, aside from one of the adventurers, who takes another cookie.
Then Rahah picks up the mask and stands, putting it on. She turns to the others, then says nothing, just sort of standing there, staring.
To Arsten she looks almost afraid.
So what, that's it? It's done?
Nothing's changed. I thought as Eapherod I'd understand, that for all this effort I'd at least get some answers, everything back together, but there's nothing. There's never been anything and I sat here for all these eons lost because I never knew anything at all...
She dissolves into a sort of laughing sobbing, collapses back into the seat, and buries her head in her arms on the table.
Everyone stands around a bit awkwardly.
So do we get a reward for all this, then?
The others look at him in surprise, exasperation, and other random quasi-nouns.
Rahah suddenly sits up, tears streaming down her cheeks, but sounding completely normal again.
What, you want a fruits basket or something?
He looks a little embarassed and a little mortified.
Well, why not. This has been at least a minor inconvenience for you lot, so something for your troubles wouldn't be entirely unwarranted.
INT. Empty Cistern Tavern - Day
The place is empty aside from the barkeep and an old man at a table reading the paper; it's only mid-afternoon. Two women, Coraline and Rahah, enter, arguing amongst themselves, and the barkeep picks up and starts obligatorily wiping it as they approach.
They sit down. Rahah looks to Coraline uncertainly.
Can't you figure? Shalott as appropriate.
(pouring them mugs)
You come through a lot?
Used to. Leave the bottle.
Rahah sniffs her mug suspiciously, then takes a tentative sip.
Welcome to booze.
(she grins, downs her mug, and refills it)
You don't sip this stuff. It's not supposed to taste good, so you drink it as quickly as possible and then get a refill, is what you do.
Rahah looks at her own mug for a moment, then gulps it down and twitches.
The mugs are quickly refilled - in Coraline's case, again.
This goes on for a bit, and not long later they need another bottle. The barkeep seems decidedly surprised by this, but continues to supply them even three bottles later. Now Rahah is starting to get into the swing of things. Coraline is clearly in heaven as far as she is concerned.
Man, it's good to be back.
So this is how some people live?
It's how I always wanted to die.
Is it? Why didn't you?
Life. Always gets in the way.
The barkeep gets them some new bottles, this time of grog. They don't notice.
Do you make funny fiddly drinks? With thingies. And things?"
Puts brollies in the colourful ones. They do.
(waving for emphasis)
They. Them. People.
God any fiddly brolly drinks? Them's what people do, right?
Shalott's what people do here.
They drink a few more mugs, swaying noticeably. Rahah seems to get a few ideas, but then forgets them before she can do anything with them. Finally one sticks.
Whaddabout that shiny god of yours, what'd he say?
'Snot shiny. Dreary-like, more.
Add some glitter, then he'd be shiny.
Be glittery then.
Not shiny, though.
Would be kind of sexy...
She slumps forward onto the bar. Coraline, meanwhile, looks at her mug, taps out some dregs from the last bottle, and then stares at it for a bit.
She sits there for a moment trying to think, stands up in the hopes that that will help, and promptly falls over.
The barkeep sighs, goes through their pockets and relieves them of what seems like an appropriate amount of coinage, and then drags them out onto the street.
EXT. City of Death
Some sort of gathering or something. Vardaman is trying, unsuccessfully, to end a conversation with a particularly clingy acolyte. Upon seeing Coraline, he beseeches her for aid.
Coraline! Rescue me from this life of pain and suffering!
Vardaman! I shall save you!
In a grand, sweeping motion, she pulls a rubber chicken out of her pocket. The acolyte backs away.
(she finally looks at it)
Yay, for I am saved! By the light of the rubber chicken!
With a pulley in the middle!
With a pulley in...
(he can't take it anymore and snorts with laughter)
Wow. I forgot how fucking weird you are.
How've you been, anyhow?
Oh, you know. Been getting around, seeing the sights. And I hooked up with a serial killer.
(appearing from behind them)
Technically he was a spree killer, not a serial killer. Serial killers keep killing over a protracted period of time, often due to some compulsion or other. Whereas if it's all in one go, it's a spree.
Why does that distinction even exist?
Right. So you here for the show?
Of course. Dreams are kind of my thing, after all. And Kyrule thought I might want to see this one up close and all.
Oh, a formal invitation?
You know, normally when gods show up around here, they don't show up quite so... small.
Normally gods aren't me.
That's probably a good thing.
Oh, definitely. Could you even imagine? It'd be awful!
I can imagine. 'Awful' just isn't quite the word that comes to mind.
End of the world show.
No, that comes later.
INT. Priory hallway - night
You want me to what?
It shouldn't kill me. Not really.
Oh, so you just want me to sort of kill you? Well, that makes it all better.
Well, that's just it - I don't really know what will happen. That's why we need to find out.
Right, but this could really kill you. I mean really kill you? Isn't this like what killed Kyrule?
It won't. Have faith. It probably won't work at all, but if it does, I do have experience dealing with this sort of death.
I don't trust faith.
He takes the dagger regardless and eyes her. She nods.
We need a viable weapon. This is the best way to sort it out if I'm even onto something here.
And if this ends badly...
(with absolute certainty)
Vardaman sighs, then suddenly turns Coraline about and pushes her against the wall. She almost resists, and then with the knife in his other hand, he stabs her in the chest with a single hard thrust. She cries out, but then nothing really happens.
They both stare at the knife for a bit. The hilt is sticking out of her chest, with blood spreading around and under it.
Well, this isn't...
Her expression changes dreamily and a smile forms on her lips.
Wash your hands! Amadi?
She collapses; he catches her and checks if she's still alive. She isn't.
He looks around to make sure nobody has seen, slings her over a shoulder, and hurries off down the hall.
INT. Priory morgue
Vardaman sticks the body on a slab, pulls the knife out and pockets it, and tries to clean her up a bit.
He looks at the body for a moment.
Fucking told you so.
Coraline is in the Room, fading. Kyrule appears with her, and Sherandris shortly after.
Do I know you? I should know you, I think.
You do. Stay with me, Nelanor.
Coraline smiles at him and dreamily traces his outline with a finger that is only sort of there.
Yes, I do know you, don't I? This is... interesting. I don't think I've ever been quite here before.
Many times, Coraline. This won't be the last.
No? It's Midnight, isn't it?
Coraline smiles again, but she is still fading.
Kyrule reaches out to hold her, but his hand passes through her form like vapour as she becomes less and less substantial.
Then she fades away entirely, and is gone.
It is Midnight, yes.
Even here... how is this possible?
I could show you. But I don't think you'd like it.
INT. Dreamer's cottage - Day
Rahah is in a cluttered lab/game room (it's unclear which it is really supposed to be, or if it was really something else entirely - perhaps a garage), working on something. She looks up when Vardaman enters.
You'll be wanting this.
(she hesitates, rethinking)
Well, no, that's not right. This isn't what you want at all. But it's what you need.
She hands Vardaman a syringe. He takes it gingerly and looks at her inquiringly.
Right to the heart. Really jam it in, and it should revive her. Well, sort of.
Coraline's dead. Ain't a thing I or any of the gods in the 'verse can do about that, but we can... work around it. Kyrule's not going to like this - hells, I don't like this. But it's all we've got.
(a look of utter hopelessness crosses her face)
And this is me talking. I'm supposed to be the one who's always got all the answers in situations like this.
Vardaman examines it.
Vampirism in a tin.
You want to turn her into a vampire.
But that won't work. If she's already dead...?
No vampire could turn her at this point, you're right. But this ain't a vampire turning a mortal, this is... a vampire being created.
(she smiles humourlessly)
I'm a hell of an engineer, if nothing else. It will work. And she won't be like any vampire that lives.
That seems like a really terrible idea.
Worse than hers?
(another small smile)
No, you're right. I've taken Veshura's boon and made it perfect, and now I want to use it on the Hand of the Lord of Death? It's madness, utter madness.
Vardaman watches her expressionlessly for a moment, then sighs.
It's all we've got.
INT. Some bar - night
Coraline and Vardaman are at a table, bottle of shalott between them, mugs in front of them. Vardaman is drinking his and periodically refilling his mug; Coraline has yet to touch her own.
This wouldn't make for a good story. It's too stupid.
He drinks his shalott.
The hells was I thinking? It was probably the dumbest thing I've ever done.
He drinks his shalott.
It's even dumber than that time I tried mixing explosives in the bathroom sink at that hotel. Or that incident with the wheat thresher.
He drinks his shalott.
Or that time I tried to get Kyrule's attention by pissing him off as much as possible.
Or even that thing with the sphinxes.
He drinks his shalott.
Or that time me and my brothers went sledding down the stairs and Aarre went flying out the window at the base. Two floor drop to concrete, that. And I dunno why we didn't see that coming.
He drinks his shalott.
And then there was the time Rahah's roomba got out and I chased off after it into the Nightmare lands waving a console gun...
He drinks his shalott.
And that thing with the pineapple. That doesn't even bear mentioning.
He drinks his shalott.
I'm really not so bright.
(she stops and looks at Vardaman)
And I have 15 wild badgers living in my trousers.
He drinks his shalott. Coraline eyes him suspiciously, then stares into her own shalott.
I done fucked up.
(finally looking up)
So come up with a reason why you didn't.
Make this your strength.
That doesn't even make sense.
Vardaman shrugs and considers pouring himself another mug, but then decides not to when his hand misses the bottle.
Drink your damn shalott.
Coraline stares at it for a bit. It is clearly not appealing to her, but finally she drinks it - hunched over, holding it close, and somewhat resembling a chipmunk in doing so.
And everything goes black.
INT. Some other bar...
You ever have anything that would be completely wrong for a professional in your field to do, but you've always wanted to try it?
I had the chance, but I didn't try it. Now I don't even know.
There's probably a reason why it's wrong.
I gave a vampire some shalott.
Er... how did that turn out?
I wish I knew. One moment I was sitting there minding my own shalott as she did hers, the next it was two days later and I was waking up in some city I'd never even heard of with the worst hangover I've had in my life, and half the city guards trying to arrest me.
Dunno. Didn't stick around to find out.
Bad things happen.
EXT. Some city - night
Vardaman hunts down Coraline (it isn't hard; she has basically lost all control), and chases/fights her into the woods, eventually cornering her near the bottom of some cliff. They fight a bit, but everything a deathdealer is is designed specifically to take creatures such as these down, and he fairly quickly downs her. Insert details here, possibly something about a length of silver chain.
He winds up also having to nail her to the ground with his sword through her heart - something that is often done when trying to interrogate vampires because it so very effectively prevents them from moving, or something.
She continues to struggle, but it amounts to nothing.
Vardaman tries to get through to her, but this likewise amounts to nothing.
The sun rises, and though they remain in the shadow of the cliff for now, the ambient light weakens her further. She finally stops struggling.
Vardaman sits down a few feet away and tries to think.
How the fuck did it come to this?
FLASHBACK to something:
Vardaman is doing something and Rahah starts talking in his head because that's what gods do, or something.
Agh! Could you not do that?
I am sorry, but you must hear me. Do not kill Karoliina Hämäläinen.
Coraline. She is still needed.
There isn't any Coraline left! I've tried to get through to her; there's nothing there.
The being she is was born of unimaginable torment. A simulacrum of the same will bring her back. Test her to be sure. Should she offer any recognition, ask her about Acais Vercos. She will have had no interactions with that world, so it will be... appropriate.
And if she answers true?
Then you must leave her to find herself. Sun and sword will remind her what she is.
That's fucking torture. Beyond torture. She won't be able to get out of that.
You're a Deathdealer, Vardaman. Deathdealers bring death. And this is, though of another sort. She'll find the strength.
You'll have to trust me on this. It is... simply what we are.
BACK TO PRESENT:
A passing HUNTER notices them, and also notices how odd it looks. Vardaman doesn't seem to notice him at first, or possibly just doesn't care.
Hail! Are you all right?
Vardaman looks up and waves the hunter away.
Go on your way, hunter. This is deathdealer business.
(now only more interested)
Is that a vampire?
He does a thing involving blood that causes her to both try to drink it and shrink away like it burns.
(intrigued and only slightly judgementally)
You're torturing her.
I have to be sure. I can't just...
There is an awkward pause.
(turning back to the hunter)
Could you please go away?
(kneeling beside her or something)
Hey! Do you know where you are? Can you tell me your name?
(she stares around in confusion, and tries to move)
Where am I? Vardaman, it hurts...
Shh, it's okay. What's your name?
Coraline. Coraline Henderson.
Coraline? Isn't that...?
Coraline, you were running from something. Do you know what it was?
No... what? I can't...
She tries, she really does, but she doesn't know, or can't remember.
It's so hot. So much... hurts...
Focus. Who reigns king of the sandcastle?
Kyrule of Arling Tor.
Who reigns for Acais Vercos?
(sinking back on his heels)
Vardaman rises, clearly not happy about this answer at all.
Why don't you just kill her?
Kyrule would have me do just that.
So why haven't you?
(grumpily and bitterly)
Because your fucking sister has other plans for you. And you're still you. As much as I hate to get between two gods, I do fear she is the one to listen to here.
He drops his skull coin next to her.
What? No! No... you can't...
I am sorry, Coraline. You're still needed.
Vardaman abruptly turns and pulls the hunter away.
(he looks back)
When darkness falls, your strength will return. Go on then, but this time, remember who you are. Remember what's at stake, and get to the bottom of whatever it is you've sensed. And for the gods' sake, stop fucking feeding on everyone you run into.
As he leaves, taking the hunter with him, she starts to sob in utter terror.
Later, when they're further along the path, and the sun is finally high enough to reach into the valleys, they hear the screams begin...
(beckoning to Coraline)
Asta, do you have a moment?
Coraline follows Victoria, and beckons Vardaman to come with, but he's not paying attention.
He grumbles and comes over, and they follow Victoria out onto the patio, and wind up around the corner in the gardens, in a secluded alcove well away from everyone else.
Victoria turns to Coraline. She's clearly nervous, though also hiding it very well.
Vardaman looms helpfully.
Thank you. I didn't want to create a scene inside, but I must ask. What is your relation to Stanis?
We were old friends. Travelled together when we were younger.
Why? What was your interest in him?
My... interest? What are you talking about?
I know what you are. And a vampire, no less a vampire ancient, for you to be out here so seemingly unaffected... you would not come out for just anyone.
So why? Why are you here, really?
That's all. He was my friend.
Vampires don't have friends. Not mortal.
She does. They're all dying on her, but that-
And I suppose her pet deathdealer would know all about that.
I am nobody's pet.
Coraline puts a hand on Vardaman's arm and gives him a look that seems to mean something along the lines of 'not now'. Because looks can totally do that.
Do you have some sort of deathwish, then, confronting me like this?
Not at all. But is is my job to protect this family, and I will do my job. If anything should happen to me, know that my people are on this, and they will make your existence very unpleasant.
Perhaps you should protect them by not antagonising me. I came in peace for the memory of Stanis, and I expect to leave in one.
I want you to leave now. Leave this family alone, or I will have you outed, even killed, should you persist. Leave, and do not contact them again.
There's a long pause as Victoria and Coraline regard each other ominously.
You really are Kyrule's cat. This is exactly the sort of crap a cat would do.
Coraline gives him an annoyed look, then turns back to Victoria.
I rather think that should be up to the family.
They don't know what you are.
And would you like to tell them, when they have already gone through so much? When they already have the loss of their son, would you put them in fear for their own lives too?
Victoria doesn't answer.
We are all here to mourn. Allow us that.
How far we've come, Vardaman. Would you move on, yet, slip into the sweet embrace we guard so dearly?
Not yet. Not yet. But it will be a welcome boon.
I am glad, then. I would not want to go this alone, even now.
Alone? But you are never alone.
Memories and dreams, Vardaman. You are real. You have walked with me, fought with me, exchanged words with me... these are real. These are more than anyone else has given me.
We look to the gods to make things better, but they do not make things real. Or we look to words. For me it was always words, but the end is still the same.
They stand around in silence for a time, mulling over the moment.
Same as ever. We've still got a mystery to save, you know.
But what had changed? What was the same? He was lost, and not knowing what else to do, he prayed for help, for guidance.
There was a vague whispering. It rose to a roar before Coraline's voice answered in his head. Just do what you always have. The rituals are the same, and the words don't matter. It's only what they need to hear that matters. There was a pause. Also hi. This is weird.
He almost laughed, but caught himself at the last moment. That would not have helped anything.
And Coraline, answering prayers? Strange world it had become, but there were more pressing matters. Services to perform, rituals to carry out. Goodbyes for the departed, but even more so for those they had left behind. And she was right. These motions he knew.
Rahah held up the silvery key, examining the intricate detail of the curled twist. "Vardaman," she said gravely, "You do realise how much trouble your god went to to get this away from me in the first place, right?"
"Of course not," he said sarcastically. "Why would I know anything about that?"
More fragments of Eapherod stuff
- Jayna Arisdar - rogue (planeborn)
- Andrew Lells - warrior
- T'call - healer (Erdra elf)
- Jamester Kershaw - mage
everyone standing around confused, then huge thing comes bearing down on them out of nowhere...
Dave. Not Dawn.
Dawn. Not Dave.
Room like the lab where she had awoken, constructed of shadows. She sits on a desk, empty of its busy junk, holding a wordless book in her hands...
"You're not real," she says when they enter. "Just figments."
"Of course we're not real," Rahah says. "We're dreaming. You're dreaming too."
"I can't dream. If only I could, I could leave this place. If only I could leave." She emphasises 'leave' as though it means something more, something else entirely.
Rahah holds out a hand. "You can, Dave. Come home."
"I'm not Dave."
"It's a name given and taken. The name is yours. You are Dave, and I am also Dave."
Dave says nothing, just stares at the empty book in her hands, tracing words that aren't there.
"Come home and sleep, Dave. Sleep, and dream, and be free."
Finally she looks up. "And end this?"
"Yes. It's over."
She smiles and nods tiredly, then asks, "Did it work? Did they get home? And what of Amadi, and Elia, and the others?"
"Shh, dear one. It doesn't matter. They're coming home too."
Dave smiles and fades away, and the room fades with her into the black canvas of the no-space dream, leaving only the silence behind.
"Her friends?" Andrew asks. "They never made it home, did they?"
She stands slowly. "No. But they made their decisions." The no-space fades into light. "It's funny, though. Dave never thought she could dream. But when she had nothing, she dreamed up that room, and she dreamed up hope. It's what kept her going. Poor thing."
It was a cottage. White stucco walls, window boxes, a tile roof. A cobble path led to the porch door. A goat, tied to an old tire, grazed the lawn.
"What's this?" one of them asked.
"A cottage," another said.
The asker nodded sagely. "Oh, I see now. Yes. It's all clear."
"The heart," Rahah said, ignoring them. "My heart."
They found her sitting at the kitchen table, bathed in light, a half-eaten brunch and newspaper full of funnies laid out before her. She looked up as they entered, and smiled, and said, "Hello. I've been waiting for you."
"Me?" Arsten asked. It was unclear if even he knew if he was joking.
"For all of you. For now. This," she said, now staring at Rahah. "I so, so want to be angry. But I just cannot do it. You even took my rage from me. You took everything, and you left me here to wait."
Rahah shook her head. "It wasn't me."
"I have wanted it for so very long, but instead I sit here and I bask in the cheer and all the waiting means nothing."
"It wasn't me," Rahah repeated.
"So very long..."
Silence fell on the summery room. One of the others fidgetted, then, finally, to break the silence, asked, "Who was it, then?"
Rahah shook her head slowly. "I... I don't remember."
The woman at the table started laughing, a slow chuckle, rising almost to a cackle, before falling off completely. "It was me," she said in a dead tone. "All of this? My doing. Yours too. You will see." She smiled again, with both welcome and menace. "You're home now. You will meet no more resistance here."
After 200-some years, Abearanoth was different. It still had the general vibes of myth and legend, and the strange, strange sensations of perfect normalcy, but it was, all in all, a different world. Technology and Progress had passed by, though as far as Coraline was concerned they were still well behind anything she was comfortable with, even outside of the Angler's Internet realm of stolen Star Wars monikers and impossible science. This, she supposed, was more... Victorian, perhaps? She wasn't sure, something about having spent her recent History courses reading Discworld instead of actually paying attention to the lectures, but it was probably something along those lines. Not that the Victorians of her world had ever done much by way of blimps, she thought as one drifted overhead.
Whatever the case, the world of Abearanoth had passed her by without actually catching up in the slightest. They had phones and such and magic and such and some semblance of industrialisation, but now it just looked like it was waiting for Cthulhu as opposed to the return of the king.
"You have a badger on your head."
He looked up. "Hmm?"
"You have a badger on your head," the waitress repeated. "You do realise this, right?"
"Oh, sure," he said. "Nothing terribly unusual there."
She frowned. "Er, okay. Need anything, or...?"
"Naw, I'm good for now." He turned back to the paper; meanwhile the waitress shrugged and went back to her rounds.
"That's him," she said, pointing. "Right there. With a badger on his head."
Pirates and Saint Cloud
"Huh?" Coraline looked up.
"You mind is elsewhere - what were you thinking about?" he said.
"Pirates!" Coraline said. Might as well tell the truth. He just looked blank, however, so she waved an imaginary cutlass and continued, "Arr! Avast, ye landlubber!"
"Pirates," the old elf repeated.
"Like in the moving pictures?"
"Erm... sure." Coraline hadn't even realised they had moving pictures already, but if they did of course there would be pirates. There were always pirates.
The elf nodded, sipping his tea. "All the rage amongst the youngsters these days. I understand it, Saint Cloud has another one in the making, too, but it won't be out for awhile yet."
"What, a travelogue by Edward Teller? Short film on the kingdom of death?"
"No..." he said, looking at her. "Why would you ask that?"
"Well..." She didn't quite know how to ask. "It's not... Emily Saint Cloud, is it?"
He nodded. "This one's Wasteland, they called it. Supposed to be something special, something new, the likes of which nobody has ever seen. Like anyone has ever seen any of these before." He snorted. "Moving pictures... like anyone's seen anything like these at all."
"Fern was right," Coraline whispered. "Same names. Same things. Mirrors." The old elf was watching her over his tea, but she didn't even care. "I could have sworn Ypheirod was a cat, Kyrule a writer... and Vardaman was dead. The entire point of Vardaman was that he was dead, and dead mum never even knew the difference. But it's all different."
"Life," he said. "Always is."
Somehow Coraline resisted the urge to do a Marvin impression in response.
Three deathgods lost in space
The three of them sat down by the fire and stared at various things in the room that weren't each other. Finally they agreed that the entire thing had probably been a horrible idea. Technically they had all died. They were in another universe, in the middle of a fight that had nothing to do with them and that next to nobody else even knew about. They had each, on various occasions, utterly betrayed each other. They were also the closest thing to family any of them really had anymore.
What they didn't agree on was what the entire thing had been, or if it was even over.
It helps to stay in motion. It helps to have a center, a place to return to, a family to turn to, a dream to cling to...
Vardaman in cottage kitchen
It was a kitchen, but unlike any he had ever seen before. Counters with built-in sinks lined two walls, and cupboards flanked them as was common custom, but it was also full of several appliances that he did not recognise, one of which had a large note taped to it in a script he couldn't read. White was the predominant colour, with deep brown and grey accents giving it all a distinct aesthetic that might have been quite nice were it not so cluttered. The counters themselves were littered with odds and ends, including several frying pans, a few bags of snacks, an ornate recurve bow that he knew all too well, and about fifty small seedling pots. There were also several large pots and pans sitting around the floor.
Of all the things he might have been expecting, this was not it.
"Hello?" he called. There was no response, then one of the pots started whirring and rose a bit off the ground, and he realised it wasn't a pot. In fact he had no idea what it was. It hovered in place for a moment, then whirred toward one of the doorways.
Hoping it might lead somewhere, he followed it.
Coraline and knife
"What's the worst that could happen?"
"Oh, just the end of the universe," Coraline said glumly. "More likely the city'll get levelled and we'll just wind up with another rift here, though."
"Like the one in Sannesee?" The entire party had seen the beginnings, so long ago. A strange darkness to the air, dead plants all around in an expanding circle, and just this... hole in space, whispering to them over the distance.
"Yeah. Bigger, though."
Coraline yelped and rubbed her head.
"Are you okay?" Tessa asked.
"Yeah," she said. She opened her hand and found the key, once again accounted for. Bloody gods, she though to herself, but even so, she smiled. "Kyrule pulled his head out of his arse."
"Oh?" Zaeres look intrigued, and also amused at the wording. "How do you know that?"
She twirled the key. "He told me so, and restored his blessing." It was somewhat amusing because as an undead, she had found his touch quite painful, but for some reason she also didn't expect he had regretted that at all. "Bit painful, actually."
Tessa frowned and exchanged glances with Lorelei, who looked downright worried.
Zaeres smiled thinly. "I can only imagine."
"Nevermind that, though. You were saying what happened on Dresore?"
"Hold a moment," Lorelei said. "You serve Kyrule?"
Coraline cocked her head. "Mmm, aye. Not that he and I necessarily see eye-to-eye on some topics. I'm very opinionated, see. Very opinionated."
"Such as the one you're worried about, perhaps?" She smiled. "I have no problem with the undead, as a general rule. So long as they don't bother me or mine, I ain't going to go bother them or theirs. It's just another way to live, really, and to come at it otherwise just seems... bigoted to me."
"But we're not alive."
Coraline laughed out loud. "By whose definition? Life is what you make it, and anything that manages to move about and generate energy, especially if it happens to have some sort of consciousness, seems pretty damn alive to me. After that it just comes down to the same things as it does for anyone."
"Something about disruption and a base level of equilibrium." She chewed her lip. "Something. It can reproduce, make more of itself, that's that thing what classifies lifeforms."
Zaeres smiled over his wine. "You always did have all the answers, Denereise."
"Well, I am a librarian," Coraline said haughtily, though she was somewhat worried about the fact that currently she didn't even have her usual answers.
Return to the great temple
The gate guards watched as the cloaked and hooded figure passed through, but did nothing to stop her. Those who meant ill rarely dressed so tackily or moved so silkily, and it was well known that no demon or undead could pass upon these holy grounds. Well, with perhaps one exception, but that woman hadn't really been a demon, strictly speaking.
Coraline headed for the main temple. In the darkness everything was still; though it was not yet late, most of the temple was asleep. Those who watched over the dead tended to prefer daylight.
She moved to continue on, but Arsten poked her elbow. "You're not in a hurry, are you?"
"No, not really," Coraline said. She waited for him to elaborate, but he just stood there watching her instead. "Do you need something?" she finally asked.
"Oh, could you take a look at this? I could use an outside opinion." He gestured for her to follow and turned around and set off without giving her room to respond. Bemused, she followed.
He led her to what was probably some kind of lab. Several large tables took up most of the floor, littered with artefacts and experiments, and larger objects lined the walls and were shoved into corners. Several chairs were scattered about as well; it seemed Arsten shared this lab, but the others had slightly more typical sleeping patterns.
One of the tables had a large Book of Dreams open on it, but before she could investigate, Arsten activated a small blocky thing and suddenly a huge hologram of what appeared to be a giant piece of cheese filled the room. It seemed to be wavering slightly, and made her eyes hurt.
"I can't seem to figure what's wrong with it. It's finally showing, but it's wrong." He looked at her and shook his head in confusion. "Does that look right to you?"
She pulled her eyes away and immediately felt better; it seemed the thing had managed to make her mildly ill as well. "What's the refresh rate?"
"Re... oh!" He excitedly started fiddling with something on the contraption. "That's brilliant! Of course the light decays quite quickly, so it needs to refresh it whenever something changes, but it also needs to maintain it, so... yes, here."
The cheese shuddered violently, and then became still. Coraline hesitated, then looked directly at it again. It was no longer wavering, and now for all the world looked exactly like a giant glowing block of cheese hovering in the air, with no ill effects.
"At last!" he shouted. "And everyone thought it was impossible!"
Coraline eyed him suspiciously. "Who are you, Ponder Stibbons?"
Arsten looked confused, but picked up a notebook. "Who? No. What's your name?"
"Coraline." She poked at the cheese, but her hand passed right through it. There was nothing to touch or feel, simply the illusion to see, a matrix of light.
"Right," he said, and started scribbling. "Date, is it still... help of Coraline... works now... reasonably stable, hasn't puked..."
She looked closer. She could see the threads, the mesh that defined the shape and guided the light, but they were faint, behind the image itself. She wondered if this was how holograms normally worked.
"To have faith so strong that even when your god abandoned you, you remained resolute..." He shook his head. "I cannot comprehend it."
"Neither can I."
"But..." The high priest looked confused.
"I just said 'fuck 'im' and then focussed on more pressing problems."
"It is not your place to question," Daru said flatly.
"You do not even see it at the worlds fall to pieces, and you would have us sit idly by?" Kyrule persisted. "On what?"
"Oh, he sees it," Coraline said. "He just welcomes it."
"A petty insect thinks to presume it knows the truth?"
She smiled up at him. "If I am wrong, then call me wrong by name. If it is not so, then tell the truth."
She had nothing, and yet here she was, standing up to the god of all gods. But it occurred to her nothing was all she needed. It was all she had ever needed.
Daru moved, but Coraline was already gone.
"Don't mess with this hair. It already ate my brush."
There was a somewhat sparkly sound and a puff of smoke, then Sherandris appeared before them with a giant block of tofu on his head, or perhaps over; it appeared as though he had simply taken the biggest piece he could find and stuffed his head into it, though the possibility of doing such a thing made no practical sense.
He was immediately followed by a loud discordant scrawing noise as several fanged hams appeared around him and started sqlorshing away in all directions.
"Whngh," he said, wobbling slightly and reaching around in case there was anything nearby, although there wasn't. It was clear he couldn't see for the tofu which covered his entire face.
Rahah and Coraline exchanged looks, and then Rahah grinned and ran after the hams.
"Oh, Sherandris, my love," Coraline called out in what she hoped was a sweet voice.
The tofu swivelled toward her. "Mrrnk?"
She walked slowly toward him. "Oh, my love, how I've missed you."
Off to the side, Rahah managed to grab and immediately lose control of a particularly large ham. It almost squorched away, then suddenly leapt at her, as though it had decided it would rather try to eat her hair.
"Nnng nnk," the tofu said.
"Let us never be apart again, my love." Reaching Sherandris, Coraline pushed the tofu up with a horrible squelch, thought it only moved a few centimetres. One of the hams made a similar squelch in sympathy as Rahah's foot came down on its tail.
"It's like none of you've ever gotten a bunch of fanged hams tangled in your hair."
There was a long pause, and then Kyrule said, "Yes, that's it. That's it exactly. It has nothing to do with anything else that just happened, of course; it's merely a matter of the hams tangled in your hair right now."
"You said it," Rahah said.
"See," Coraline said to Sherandris, "This is why I like him. There's just something about a god that isn't afraid to sass..."
"Oh, I could sass you like nobody's business," Sherandris said.
Coraline grinned. "Oh, I know it."
"Ey!" Rahah called. "Will you two knock it off and stop flirting over there? He's mine!" She looked straight at Coraline.
"Is he?" Coraline yelled back. "You come and get him!"
Rahah frowned at them, then turned back to the others. "Meh, too much effort."
"Ah, the perks of falling in love with a lunatic?" Coraline wondered.
"Lunatic, or lazy bum. Call her what you will."
Given the world...
Given the world, what would you do with it?
Put it in a shiny little box and guard it like nothing else.
That is what you did, wasn't it?
The return of the Hand
She sat down in the middle of the road, defiantly ignoring any and all who passed her by. This was, after all, her right. This was her city. It had always been her city, but now it knew her, and she knew it, and anything about it that might come to pass would submit to her will. To it, her will was as Kyrule's, and indeed, their wills were very much the same these days...
She grinned to herself. Everything was set. It was time to leave. Absently she batted a fluffy tail out of her eyes, only to find it shortly replaced by a very fluffy feline face.
"Yes, Fluffy?" Coraline said.
The sphinx grinned, but narrowed its eyes contentedly, and Coraline heard its whisper in her mind. "Where now, my lady?"
"Forward," Coraline said, throwing out her arm in gesture. "And on."
Fluffy purred, a rising rhythmic rumble. "Such stories we shall make," it said, in time to the purrs. "Such stories we shall be." The voice was hungry but distant.
Coraline nodded and checked her bag, more a habit now than anything else. Her weapons were stowed. She had everything. She even still had the empty key from the ritual, the fragment of the Goddess her sister had apparently become. It was strange, except it fit. Everything fit. Everything they did fit into place like the pieces of an ancient puzzle, all plotted out in advance, no loose ends. Before, this would have alarmed her, but now... now it comforted her, even as she went all out to test it, twisting the nature of the future into new and impossible shapes, and likewise reshaping the past.
But now she had a sphinx. That was different. This time she would step through into the world of the living with a hat that was likewise living. This time, maybe, it would work?
She stood suddenly, the sphinx rearranging itself on her head as she did. "This is it," she said. "This is the future."
Then she lifted the silver key, twisted the boundaries of the planes, and stepped once more into the world of Cerris, the world as we know it and see it. The world of life.
She was on a sidewalk. It was a busy city. Fairly technologically-advanced, too. Even Cerris was catching up with Earth standards, it would seem. But then, she already knew that.
Folks passed her by. Rugged cars and trucks rolled down the street. They were stinky and slow, but also familiar. Always so familiar.
She smiled slightly to herself and pushed Fluffy's tail out of her face. She was normal. That's all it took. Act normal, be normal, and the world will treat you as normal, even if you're the ruddy Hand of the God of Death and dressed like it too, and you have a sphinx on your head. People don't notice all manner of things if you just act normal. Comfortable. At ease with where you are and where you are going.
And so she walked. Picked a direction and moved forward, normal speed, paying little heed to those she passed. A few smiled at her, others remarked at her hat, and she smiled back, made funnies, moved with the flow. She didn't know where she was going, but she also didn't show it, and she looked to all the world as though she were not lost.
It was strange, she supposed, but useful. People treat you exactly as you act. Especially if you look the part, and say the right things, you can walk in or out of anything. But even if you don't...
A leaf settled in the air in front of her, and she startled and stopped. Fluffy likewise stirred, reaching forward and snatching the leaf out of the air with an improbable bite.
They had come to a park, but around them everything had stopped, taking on an almost reddish hue, only the memory of light. She wasn't seeing at all, she supposed. You need light to see, after all. And light doesn't move when no time is passing.
"So why have we stopped?" Fluffy whispered in her mind. Fragments of leaf drifted lazily outward from the bite; it seemed even gravity were turned off for the moment.
"Dunno," Coraline said. "I should know this, shouldn't I?"
"I don't know," Fluffy said. "Should you?"
She looked around. The scene looked delightfully ordinary. Couples walking down the paths, a guy with his dog, a group of kids playing tag on the grass. Young parents with their toddlers by the playset. A little girl with a toy piggy apparently running toward her?
The girl looked to be about four, a wee bit muddy, with brown pigtails and a pink frock. She held the plastic piggy out in front of her like some kind of plane, as though flying it ahead of her, and on it was a hat of mud.
Why was she seeing this? Why had she stopped here? What was so important about a little girl with a piggy?
Fluffy crunched on the leaf some more, content to wait out the situation, not that waiting would do much good with them outside of time the way they were.
"Um," Coraline finally said. "Okay?"
"Yes," the sphinx said, possibly in response.
Then everything resumed. The leaf bits fell. The girl ran up to them, holding up her piggy proudly.
"Piggy!" the girl exclaimed, bouncing about at Coraline's waist, piggy hoisted over her head. "Piggy! Piggy!"
"Yes, I can see that," Coraline said, kneeling down. "It's a nice piggy. Is this a hat it's got?"
"Hat of mud! Mud hat!" the girl said, pushing the piggy into Coraline's hands. Her name was Tabitha, and she was four, and she liked mud, piggies, and airships. And friends.
Coraline smiled and took the piggy, turning it over. "So what kind of airship is your piggy? I didn't know any wore hats."
Tabitha absolutely beamed. "It's new!" she said. "Come play?"
Roof and travellers
EXT. Roof - dusk
Coraline comes out onto the roof, which turns out to function as a large patio of sorts. There's another fellow, STANIS, there, too, but Coraline makes a beeline for the far end of the roof, chasing the sun before it sets completely.
She leans over the balcony. From here, the roof overlooks much of the city, with skyline and mountains silhouetted against the brilliant blobs of cloud.
Stanis comes up behind her and winds up next to her.
They watch the sun set. Coraline stares in fascination while trying to hide just how utterly fascinating all the colours really are. The rays stand out in brilliant shafts, the edges of things sparkle. The night rises like a seeping cloak of possibility, whose possibilities she can almost see straining against the fabric of the sky...
Then there's a dark flare and the phoenix of night ascends the sky, marking the paths of the stars.
Coraline continues staring at the sky, only sort of hiding her fascination. It's not that she's never seen a sky before, of course, but she's never really seen the sky like this. In the Book it had always been so muted...
What's the symbol on your coat?
(snapping out of it)
Oh, it's the sigil of the defenders of the City of Death. What's your pin?
Emblem of the Watch in Morekeep.
Ah? You mean Keepers' Light? Been meaning to read that.
You from Tremont?
Naw, just passing through.
Same. Where you headed?
Well, where are you staying?
Dunno that either.
What's your name, then?
I'm Stanis. You're a real oddity, Asta, you know?
Stanis Mercaeren. One name, simple, straight-forward. He was running, though not to anywhere, nor even from anywhere in particular, just running. Moving. Afraid to settle down. Reasonable fellow, with secrets. Everyone has secrets. She shouldn't pry.
Coraline pushed the aura away. Why did they do that? Even among the living, all she had to do was look at them and if she wasn't careful, she knew everything about them...
Come on, there's rooms at the hostel.
He motions back toward the stairs, and Coraline follows.
We've got a whole group travelling the world, you know. Seeing the sites, sampling the beer. All the good stuff.
You know, I always wanted to do that... never could quite afford it.
Yeah? So what are you doing now?
Discovering all the things I can afford.
She could have gotten a new outfit in the city. There had been plenty of folks selling stuff, especially in the Patchwork, and she had coin. For all their holy calling and great afterlife blather, the Defenders did get paid if they just asked. But she hadn't, so instead she'd come out into the world looking exactly like what she was. How stupid!
Particularly stupid because she'd been through this so many times already.
- Stanis Mercaeren - leaderish
- John Wagner
- Percy Stiles
- Amaranth Haerenien
- Quite Sudden
- Asta Gemini - Coraline
Vardaman is passed out on the sofa. He awakens and realises someone is looming over him.
Oy, don't call me that.
I gave up that name.
And to whom did you think you were giving it?
Not my mother.
(he blinks and then actually looks at Bertram)
Oh, you're not my mother. Even if you are wearing a funny black dress.
I need to see the Hand.
Then why are you bothering me?
Coraline pokes her head out of the bedroom as if on cue. She isn't wearing any pants, for whatever reason.
A trait not shared here, I see.
What can you tell me about this?
He hands a blue butterfly pendant to Coraline. She looks it over.
Stanis comes in out of the second bedroom carrying a basket of shower gear, and obviously sees Bertram.
Hey, you're up early.
(holding up a finger over the top of the sofa)
Relatively speaking on the 'up', too.
So who's Mr. Dour?
Oh, this is Bertram. He's...
(she looks at Bertram for a moment before turning back to Stanis)
Oh, hi. Nice to meet you.
(he hefts the basket of gear)
I'ma go shower.
Coraline nods at him and he heads out the main door.
Well, it was made in China. See how it says 'China' in tiny print on the back? Dead giveaway.
It's country in eastern Asia. South of Russia. With Mongolia all squished-like between them.
They stare at her blankly.
Then there's an explosion from the kitchen, and Quite runs out, partially on fire. He runs around screaming and flapping his arms around.
Help! Put it out! Someone help!
Coraline, Bertram, and Vardaman just sort of stare at him for a moment.
Coraline grabs him as he runs past and blasts some ice magic at him, putting out the flames, but also giving him frostbite in the process.
(looking rather pained)
Agh! Oh. Thank you. I... um. The fire... Fire!
Quite points toward the kitchen frantically. Smoke is starting to come out of the doorway.
(just sort of standing there)
Someone should do something.
(just sort of lying on the sofa)
Coraline, do something.
Oh, yeah, dump everything on the girl with no pants. I see how it is.
Coraline heads toward the kitchen regardless.
(finally sitting up)
Oy, burnt guy. C'mere.
Quite comes over to him, and Vardaman does some magic and heals his burns, then flops over again.
(clutching his head)
Something in the kitchen explodes and a ball of flame rolls out and dissipates against the ceiling.
Well, that would be ironic. The Hand, vanquished at last. By terrible cooking.
They hear some yelling from the kitchen.
I'm sure she's fine.
Oh, don't be so reasonable about this. Panic a bit. Live in the moment.
Coming from a guy lying on a couch, I'm not sure what to make of that suggestion.
Percy pokes his head out of the bedroom, looking rather dishevelled and hungover, then pushes his way through the door. He is followed shortly by John, who looks even worse.
What is all the commotion?
Quite, did you do this? Wait, you're not Quite.
John looks around, bleary-eyed, and tries to locate Quite.
Oh gods, it's finally happened. Quite's killed himself.
He trips over a chair or something and falls over.
Dude, I'm standing right here.
Amaranth comes out as well and eyes the smoke.
Shouldn't someone maybe be doing something?
(looking around worriedly)
Where's the fire extinguisher?
(yelling from the kitchen)
THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER IS ON FIRE!
See, it's all right. Coraline's in there.
That girl's got more fucking names than a sphinx has sphinxlets.
Sphinxes don't have sphinxlets.
And who are you?
Coraline stomps out of the kitchen holding a charred cylinder, then slams it down on the floor in front of Quite.
The hells is going on?
Wait, so is the fire out?
(from the floor)
Agh stop shouting.
(raising the cylinder)
TO THE FUCKING
John flinches away.
Coraline slams the cylinder down on the floor in front of Quite.
Everyone just sort of stares at it for a bit.
Yes, these are the questions that concern us above all others.
Dealing with burntness and some miracles
Later, the usual party has settled around the table:
- Quite still looks a bit freaked out and sooty
- Amaranth is very bedheady
- John looks just plain hungover, though he's finally made it to a chair at this point
- Percy still looks like a better-off version of John
- Stanis is all dressed and clean and stuff at this point, back from his shower
- Coraline is still wearing the same clothes from the previous night but looks relatively tidy, though unlike the others she's flopped over with her arms sprawled across the table
Vardaman and Bertram are standing a bit behind Coraline arguing quietly.
Okay, so how much is this going to cost us?
Quite turns even whiter than he already was.
Hold on a moment - is this even our fault? I mean, why didn't the fire alarm go off?
BECAUSE SOMEONE SET FIRE TO THE FIRE ALARM.
(in a very small voice)
So we can't even eat. That's great. That's just great.
Just grab a muffin from the commons.
But I like Quite's fried porridge.
Stanis gives John a look normally reserved for the criminally insane.
Seriously. How did you set fire to the fire alarm?
No, that makes sense. The fire extinguisher doesn't.
Stanis sighs. Amaranth looks at the others uneasily.
Vardaman trudges up to the table and Bertram watches him disapprovingly.
Guys. Pass me that bowl.
Amaranth passes Vardaman a large bowl off the table. It has a large spider in it. Vardaman shakes the spider out and flings it at Bertram.
He made it out so easy-like, but you were right. It wasn't easy. It was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. I stood up to a friend, and I tried to hurt him. I used everything I could, and even when I saw his hurt, I just kept going, and he never forgave me for that. I don't think he ever will.
I was so scared, too. I knew it was wrong. I knew he would hurt me. I knew there would be no going back, not then, not ever. But I did it anyway, because I didn't know what else to do.
I... knew what he'd done to Eapherod. I knew what he did to the False. I knew all the stories, so I knew there would be no mercy, but none of it could have prepared me for the reality of it. He was so angry. I was powerless. The agony... even as I bared myself before him he just wouldn't... he took away everything. Broke my mind along all its seams even as the chains held me down, burning.
Silence settles over the room as nobody really responds.
I still have the scars, it still fucking hurts. It never stopped hurting. And even though I could probably get rid of it all if I really wanted to, I don't. I don't deserve that. I deserve to remember. I need to remember. If I don't, I might forget what it is to betray a friend. I might do it again. I might do it worse. There's no redemption from that.
Well, I think you're all right.
Coraline looks at him, surprised.
You were afraid we'd reject you. So you didn't tell us who you were. Is that it?
You all were so happy, so free. I wanted that, I didn't want to ruin it. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
Amaranth comes over and sits next to Coraline, and hugs her.
You didn't ruin it. You didn't ruin anything.
Silence settles once more as Amaranth comforts Coraline.
We're in a jail cell.
Usual drunk tank. They've got nothing to hold us on.
Yeah, last I checked mishandling a holy relic isn't exactly a crime so much as just really rude. Although if you're... her, and you did that, I'm not really sure what that is at that point.
She's two. Obviously.
She's the Hand of Kyrule.
There's an awkward silence.
Seriously, that was your book. Why would you... I mean...
He didn't understand, he didn't get it at all. I just... got angry, except I didn't... I had to take the book away, because he wasn't worthy of it. He didn't deserve it. So I threw it on the ground, because that totally made it better.
Honestly I half expected it to just get up and float away at that point, having been rejected. I got so used to the books up and gliding back to the nearest library when people abandoned them I guess I sort of forgot how the real world works.
Like gravity, sometimes I forget gravity, too.
How does that work?
Sometimes I'm just not standing on anything.
A book, by itself, shouldn't be that important, though. Nothing is above mishandling. Books are important, but that's because they're books, not as relics. You're supposed to read what's in them. Prop up your plants with them later, keep them around, lend them out. But they're not sacred, no matter what's in them. They shouldn't be censored, either.
Mopey restored Rahah
I loved you, you know.
I know. I was messed up.
Maybe now you can do better.
I didn't, though. All these opportunities, and I never did. I just took and destroyed another soul and used him same as I used Sherandris-
Past is past.
Rahah frowns, surprised.
That's what he said. Sherandris. Past is past, and it is.
(raising her voice)
Pull your head out of your arse, why don't you? You done fucked up? Sure, that's fine, everyone does that sometimes. But you know it, so you actually can do better, and what do you fucking do? You just sit around moping?
I still love you, you know. You're still my sister. But as long as you keep sitting here thinking about everything you've done wrong, you're not going to get any happier, and I do, despite everything, I do want you to maybe be happy.
Rahah just sits there. Coraline glares at her.
And it's not even true. You have gotten better. You brought Sherandris back.
So I understand you're under house arrest.
Rahah gives her an annoyed look.
Well, I don't care.
Coraline goes over and picks up Rahah, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman's ribs and then just lifting straight up.
Shut up. We're getting ice cream.
The world shifts and they appear in a swirl of shifty smoke at the counter of an ice cream place. There's a bored-looking elf girl on the other side.
(still holding Rahah)
Yo. Ice cream slave.
(she jumps in surprise)
Where did you come from?
The moon, obviously.
Coraline, please, this is a really bad idea and you really shouldn't be doing this.
Nonsense. We're getting ice cream.
(shifting into selling mode)
What can I get you? Any flavours you'd like to sample?
I don't need ice cream! Dammit, put me down! You're just going to get Kyrule in trouble.
Actually if I do put you down, that would get him in trouble.
(to the elf girl)
I'ma go out on a limb and guess you guys don't do tar-flavoured.
The girl shakes her head.
Are you seriously still on that?
One day, Rahah. One day, you will eat tar-flavoured ice cream and you will like it.
Rahah rolls her eyes. Violently.
How about a shake?
Wait, we do have root syrup. That might be a bit like tar?
Ooo, show me that!
The elf girl goes to get a sample, but then it turns out Coraline can't take it because all her arms are currently employed holding Rahah up.
Um, Rahah, could you...
Rahah takes the sample instead and very helpfully smears it on Coraline's head.
So... you're the Founder, right?
When was that, exactly?
It hasn't even happened yet, has it?
I suppose... something about inconsistently retroactive changes. Only way to work around it is to do the exact same thing, which begs the question if that was why I did that in the first place, perhaps...
Because all the other changes would have been messing things up, too. It would only work if it'd go back and apply before all of them, forcing all of them to do the exact same thing...
See, this sort of thing is exactly why I never went into programming.
It's like the internet. You can't escape it. That's the problem. You can't ever escape it.