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.
Fragments of Eapherod
Results of floor puzzle
ARSTENOh. There you are.
Bad things happen.
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...
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
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
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