Part 2: Implement split
It began with a promise. It began long before that. Each twist is prefaced by a choice. Each turn presents something new. You choose how to proceed, and sometimes you choose wrong. Sometimes the turn chooses for you. Sometimes the turn chooses wrong.
On a scale of one to invade Russia in the winter, how bad is your idea?
- This is a children's story.
- Contradictions belie meaning.
- Shaping spells is flashy. The spells themselves need not be.
- The worlds are circular. You may repeat yourself.
- Things will become clearer as you go.
INT. Edifice basement - night
After a few hours, much puttering about by Erry, and a long span in which Nolan does absolutely nothing besides staring at a wall, Kit gets the Gateway working, using the patterns built into it, redirecting the ancient flows so they resume. The magic is different now, not what it expects, but it's still magic, following similar rules. At last the crystal glows, and then the Gateway itself rumbles to life, components twisting against each other, other crystals in its frame lighting up. It settles into its new position, emitting a vague hum.
Okay, I think that it's it.
Erry bursts out from a pile of luggage and runs over, Jora following more sedately.
We could travel to sheep.
It's late. We should be getting back.
No! We must go on!
(leaning over the crystal again)
It has to be able to connect to another Gate, but I'm seeing connections to several possibilities. Two of them even seem to be on Cerris, so...
Nolan takes Jora's arm and steers her back toward the stairs.
As they leave, none of the doors present any difficulty whatsoever in opening, allowing them out without trouble.
Even the main door to the building simply opens at a touch. Jora eyes it in surprise.
EXT. Molstead Market square - night
Coraline wakes up on the ground, a bit sooty, with a headache and drying blood in her hair. She sits up dizzily, touches her head, and frowns at the blood that winds up on her hand. The voices are all around, but distorted. Echoing. She is still quite drunk.
At some point everything had gone horribly wrong.
There is no more singing, no more celebration. People are fled or holed up in buildings, or in some cases, dead in the streets. Gogs are clinging to the undersides of eaves like odd little bumps. The bonfire is small, now, but now other things are on fire - stalls, piles of kegs, some buildings. There are yells and screams, coming from no particular direction or apparent source.
A large group of townsfolk, as well as some soldiers in dark armour, are all standing around her, staring at her. Among them is also another man, far dirtier than the rest.
None of it makes sense.
Agata is sitting next to her, alert.
I might worry about our audience first, if I were you.
I'd suggest you do something before someone sees, but it's a bit late for that.
Coraline rocks her head from side to side, and a few of the Carriers follow with their own heads.
But what... what are they doing?
What are they waiting for?
The Carriers all just stare at Coraline, their eyes dark and hungry. She recognises quite a few of them.
Coraline approaches a nearer, familiar, Carrier uncertainly. It looks like Jess.
It is Jess.
Coraline stops and stares.
Jess falls to her knees in front of her, looking up at Coraline with glassy black eyes.
Around, heads turn to follow, though the Carriers make no other moves.
(in a flat whisper)
The black... it burns...
(almost sobbing in confusion)
Something is drawing Coraline to Jess. A hunger is burning insider her. She wants the girl, wants to join her, to take her, to devour...
Coraline grasps Jess's head in her hands, gently, welcomingly, firmly, not even sure what she's doing.
There is darkness, now. All around, amidst the voices, covering the world. Part of her wants this, needs it.
It would be so easy.
Coraline can feel the pain in Jess, the loss, the fear, the hunger. What she cannot feel is Jess. She tries to push it all away, tries to find Jess amidst the black, the hunger, the voices clamouring louder and louder around her, but there's just nothing. It's like nothing, like pushing on solid nothing, except the nothing is pushing right back.
Coraline panics and twists it about, turning the darkness in on itself.
Jess collapses in front of her, dead.
The darkness subsides, just a little, and the voices quiet more or less back to normal.
The Carriers around Coraline start moving toward her all at once, some shuffling vaguely, others rushing forward. One trips and falls on his face. A couple jump at her, grasping, pulling at her mind, and she knocks the first one aside, spinning away from another in armour.
The dirtiest Carrier reaches for her, wrapping her in his filthy embrace, and Coraline elbows him in the stomach. This has no useful effect whatsoever. Some dirt flakes off.
Do what you did before. Take his life and turn it out.
I don't even know what I did!
There is life and there is death. They are the same things. Turn them in on themselves.
Another Carrier grabs for Coraline again, holding her in place.
Something tears inside of Coraline. The voices shift, louder, duller, as the darkness rises once more, and she does it, she turns the life out, and the dirty Carrier lets go, falling on top of her. And the others, too, are all on her, holding, grasping, reaching, pulling, rending at her mind, at her...
A horrible noise squelches out of the ground, shaking some of the nearby buildings. It squelches further, and tentacles erupt from the ground, long and dark, ripping the Carriers away from Coraline.
The tentacle monster emerges a moment later amidst further squelching like a submarine out of an ice sheet. Dirt showers down around it. Some of the dirt falls right through it. Carriers are thrown aside. The tentacle monster grabs a couple with its tentacles and shoves them into its maw, eyes rippling out around it, devouring them whole.
Coraline scrambles away, grabbing Agata, and dodges another Carrier.
The tentacle monster grabs up a few more, devouring them as well, oozing along, low to the ground, tentacles reaching out far to grab others in the process, and trampling them as it goes. It makes a wide circle around Coraline, grabbing, devouring, smashing, leaving behind a trail of bodies and a bloody smear, until none are left standing.
It rises up like a monolith, drawing its tentacles back into itself, and moves toward Coraline.
Coraline stares at the tentacle monster fearfully, holding Agata close.
Agata puts her ears back.
Go. Your sanctuary is not here.
I... you... thank you?
The tentacle monster reaches out with a tentacle and pushes Coraline away, turning her about.
Coraline runs for it.
EXT. Molstead inn - night
Coraline goes around back, trying to figure the best way in, Agata following at her heels. She starts dismantling one of the windows.
So they know. They know what I am?
Not as such, but once things calm, word'll get around. You were out for awhile. People saw that crowd, knew something was the centre of it all. Some probably saw you walk out of it.
It's time you got on with it. Hiding, not working so well.
(removing the pane)
What hit me?
Probably someone aiming for something else.
Coraline sets the pane of glass down carefully, eyeing the cat.
Coraline tries to hoist herself up through the window, fails, tries again, and topples headfirst into the inn's kitchen.
INT. Molstead inn - night
It is disturbingly quiet, and dark. A small trickle of light trickles back from the main room.
Coraline heads into the store room and packs up some supplies, a couple of kegs and the equivalent of a large liquor cabinet, and enough food and questionable potion bottles to crush a small child, stuffing it all into her really rather small pocket bag, pulling the inner lining out a bit in order to swallow up a few of the larger items. Somehow it all fits, and the bag gets no bigger.
In the corner is a small shrine of pretty things. Keepsakes, memories, books, reminders of home, reminders of who Coraline is and how she had gotten here: an ornate filigree mask wired to a pair of sunglasses; a dried flower woven out of grass; a bright cuddly sea-anemone; a wooden statuette of Ganesha, and with it a smaller one of a wombat in a vest. Argument of Hags is perched nearby.
Coraline tucks the things into her bag, and grabs Argument of Hags. The cat doesn't exactly resist, but clings for dear life, digging in with claws.
I know, I know, you don't like being carried, but it's that or leave you here and you've grown on me entirely too much.
Dors enters, crossbow levelled in front of him, but he lowers it upon seeing Coraline.
You take care of yourself out there. This world, it'll eat you.
Dors grins at her and turns back toward the main room.
Coraline hurries over toward her bedroom, wads up her bedding and clothes and some other supplies, and feeds those and all her books and other stuff into the bag as well. Then she gets out another bag that looks much the same size as the outside and fits that into the inside of the other bag, concealing the seemingly bottomless pit within. She puts a small amount of money and another bottle in this.
Thimble is glaring down at her from a shelf.
I'm leaving. Come with me, you delightful meme.
Thimble continues to glare at her with his perpetually angry face.
Coraline gives him an irate look and reaches up and carries him off, and then grabs her bag and heads back toward the window, which she proceeds to fall out of, breaking the pane of glass on the ground in the process.
EXT. Molstead inn - night
Agata gives Coraline and the spare cat a long blank look, then turns away, padding off in a direction.
Coraline follows after.
EXT. Molstead - night
Nolan and Jora get back into town amidst alarming silence, and even more alarming noise. Isolated yells puncture it yellingly from time to time. Most of the noise is fire, and things on fire.
Dead people are in the streets, some townsfolk, some soldiers. Festival stuff is smashed and scattered about, along with random bits of clothing and other discarded items. Gogs peer at them curiously from under the eaves, leaning down to watch them as their pass.
Through it all are a few folks still standing, wandering aimlessly. They are Carriers.
Jora holds her sword at the ready, giving them a wide berth.
Nolan walks up to a Carrier just sort of standing there and pushes him over.
The Carrier doesn't respond, lying where he fell.
Nolan hands Jora a dagger, which she tosses slightly and then stuffs in her belt.
Use that on them first, then kill them.
We should flee. It would be logical. Mathematical. But then we would not know what it was we fled.
The Death of Souls has returned to the forefront.
They continue on toward the centre of town.
A few of the Carriers start to follow Nolan and Jora as they pass. A few gogs skitter around the buildings, following as well.
They come to a building with two elven tourists standing on the roof, back to back. One of them is holding a broom like a weapon. The other has a sheathed sword and seems totally uncertain whether he should get it out or not.
Several Carriers are standing around the building staring up at the roof.
ELF WITH BROOM
You! You're alive! Help?
Jora slows, looking up at them.
Nolan tugs at Jora's sleeve to keep her going.
Stay put. You should be safe up there.
As they continue on, the Carriers around the building turn to follow them, instead.
EXT. Molstead market square - night
The market square is full of bodies. The bonfire is low. There is a suspicious hole in the ground, and an even more suspicious and splattery large wet streak across the ground through the middle of it all.
A small group of soldiers in dark armour are clustered about, watching the area, weapons at the ready. Nurunn and Doranis are among them, investigating.
Doranis is investigating by staring at the ground in confused horror.
Nurunn is squatting by the hole. He picks up some gloop out of it, sniffs it, and frowns.
Nolan marches into the square and goes right to the soldiers. Jora follows slightly more cautiously, watching them carefully, but staying close to Nolan.
The soldiers watch Nolan and Jora guardedly, but make no move to stop them.
Nurunn gets up and comes over.
Several Carriers amble into the square after them.
A few other Carriers run into the square after them.
Jora sighs and turns about, crouching down, sword in one hand, dagger in the other, ready to jump at the runners, but instead the earth in front of her erupts in tentacles, which reach up and grab the running Carriers before retracting entirely back into the ground, Carriers and all.
Nurunn runs over, sword at the ready. The soldiers shift uneasily.
The tentacles are already gone. Only broken ground and large clods of dirt remain.
The ambling Carriers continue towards them as though nothing had happened, walking right into the broken ground, but no more tentacles emerge. A few of them trip and fall.
One of the nearer ones, a WOMAN, stops uncertainly a distance from Jora and Nurunn.
Please. Can you help us?
(holding out the dagger guardedly)
What are you? What happened here?
I don't know... please, help. It's so wrong, so wrong...
They are Carriers of the Death of Souls. There is no helping them.
Guäïn adëaka käïkä.
The spell trickles over everyone in the square.
Nurunn unceremoniously cuts the woman down, and moves on to the other amblers and rather efficiently does the same with them.
Jora lowers her weapons uncertainly, and then when the soldiers go to help, joins in, taking out a couple herself.
Nolan wanders over toward another Carrier coming into the square from a different direction, stops in front of him, and does a little dance.
The Carrier stops and stares at Nolan confusedly.
Nolan does another little dance, this time centred on the other foot.
Nurunn throws a sword through the Carrier's face.
Nolan stops dancing, turns around, and nonchalantly walks back toward Nurunn.
Did you learn anything?
Nolan stops and stares up at Nurunn expectantly.
Fragments of the Black seem to temporarily inhibit the symptoms of the Death of Souls through contact.
Nolan continues to stare at Nurunn expectantly.
Nurunn stares right back.
What is 'the Black'?
An ancient relic of unknown power, safely guarded.
It's not safe.
We're done here.
Nolan turns back the way they came, but Nurunn grabs his hand and presses a black soulstone into it.
Nolan holds it up in front of his face, turning it over, staring into its depths, and then pulls another one out of his pocket.
(holding up the first one)
He wants to see how I react to this. If I'm a Carrier.
Nolan puts the black soulstones over his ears.
Nurunn just stares at him.
Nolan hands the soulstones back, looking almost confused.
Jora marches over, pulls another black soulstone out of her pocket, and waves it at Nurunn.
So that's normal?
Jora shudders and hastily drops the soulstone in revulsion.
(fishing out another black soulstone out of her pocket)
He doesn't have a normal setting. If he did, we wouldn't even be here. Or maybe we would be here, and we'd all be dead. I don't...
She glances at the second soulstone uncertainly, and then notices Nolan already heading off back the way they came.
She drops the other soulstone, too, and runs after Nolan to catch up.
Nurunn frowns after her and picks up the black soulstones.
Nolan! Is this what you wanted the Gateway for?
Nolan doesn't answer as they continue on out of town.
You're not going into shock.
You already are in shock.
Jora stares at him incredulously, and then leaps aside to take out another couple of Carriers.
Okay, different question. When did you fill my pockets with soulstones?
Theoretically yes. We'll see if the math holds.
Exit by fortune
EXT. Woods outside Molstead - early morning
Small groups of the soldiers in dark armour are in the woods, holding a perimeter of sorts, and hunting down escaping Carriers.
Coraline nearly runs into a pair of them while trying to find a better way to carry Thimble, stumbling out into their torchlight in surprise. Agata is on her head, and not entirely awake at this point.
Thimble murrs unhappily.
The soldiers point swords at her all very suddenly.
Coraline stops very suddenly, holding up a very angry-looking cat.
The soldiers stare at Coraline in surprise, then lower their weapons. A bit.
You got all your cats, or are you gonna need to go back for another load?
Dudley gives Coraline a dubious look.
Coraline starts to sidle around them.
(grabbing Coraline's arm)
Echrlatl pulls Coraline close, staring at her carefully, watching her eyes, nearly squashing Thimble between them.
Agata falls off Coraline's head, clawing at her hair in surprise.
(struggling, in particular to not squash Thimble)
Let go of me!
The voices rise to a roar around her, clamouring in her head, and she feels the brightness of the Death of Souls, its strange dark pull overwhelming her.
Coraline struggles even harder, trying to get away, to protect her cat, even as she needs to get closer, needs to be the darkness...
Thimble lets out a low yowl.
Echrlatl abruptly lets go, and Coraline jumps away.
Sorry, miss. Had to be sure.
Sure of what?!
There's Carriers of the Death of Souls in the area. Had to be sure you weren't one of them.
Coraline stares at them, confused, and then just turns and runs, holding Thimble close. Agata runs after.
Arrrgh, rude. That was close.
Doesn't matter. He didn't see it.
You're getting better at resisting.
Exit by intent
EXT. Edifice - early morning
Nolan tries the door, only to find it sealed as before.
Jora goes to give the immediate area a lookout while he figures it out.
Nolan grabs another, much less appropriate, stick off the ground and very unhappily scrapes the same shapes into it as Kit had done earlier. He pokes the door.
Nolan frowns at the stick, bugs his eyes out at the runes, and then adjusts one slightly. He pokes the door again.
This time the magic sealing the doorway bursts into oddly lighting-appropriate (or lack thereof) sparkles as the door unlatches.
Jora appears as if out of nowhere, and they head back inside, door sealing again behind them.
INT. Edifice basement - early morning
The basement shows no sign of Kit or Erry when Nolan and Jora get back down. The Gateway is humming vaguely, its lights subdued.
If they went through, they could be anywhere.
Nolan goes to the control crystal, stares at it for a long moment, and then pokes it very deliberately.
The crystals in the Gateway light up, and the hum thrums. A rippling film appears across the opening, like the surface of a bubble.
Nolan walks into the gateway and disappears as he crosses the threshold.
Jora eyes it uncertainly, and then ducks her head and follows.
INT. Blocky structure - gateway floor
The entryway is a room of sorts, large, square, dark, and with no discernible doors, windows, or even light fixtures, nestled in a horrible pressing silence. The only features in it are another Gateway and a strange circle of glyphs on the floor. This Gateway is standing much more elegantly than the other, supporting itself, without cables, but has no control crystal.
Two gogs are clinging to the walls.
A magelight is affixed to the ceiling.
Kit is sitting against a wall. Erry is asleep on his shoulder, the stuffed moose on her head.
The Gateway flickers to life, and Nolan and Jora come through.
Kit jumps up, knocking Erry awake.
Erry sits up, rubbing her eyes. The moose tumbles to the floor.
Jora nods at Kit, looking relieved.
Oh, that's what we forgot. So silly of us, after having packed everything else for this little venture.
Look, I hate to be the one to say this, but I think we're trapped. Vitoi's end. Can't turn on the Gateway from here, and can't seem to find any way out of this... room, either.
(he casts new magelights on Jora and Nolan)
Kit gives Nolan an annoyed look, which slides right off like ducks.
Erry offers Nolan a tin of cookies. Nolan takes it and starts eating them very methodically.
Do we know where we are?
Kit shakes his head.
Erry looks at Nolan.
Nolan stares vaguely at a wall and pulls a leg of mutton out of his pocket.
Nolan pokes the wall. A small trickle of water is trickling down it.
Kit scuffs at the glyphs on the floor with his foot.
Why are we here? Why aren't we home?
I wanted an adventure. I didn't think we'd... er...
Your home is gone. Your parents are dead. This is better.
Erry stares at Nolan incredulously.
There was an outbreak of the Death of Souls. The Quints were killed on the spot. Mrs. Enori was turned as a Carrier and likely eaten.
There's a horrible awkward silence.
It's true. Molstead was a mess. It's good we weren't there when it happened.
Then how can you possibly know...
Probability, previous trajectories, and sheep. Mr. Enori only survived because he would have wound up in the inn, escorting some of the small people. The less erratic ones.
Erry and Kit stare at him.
Jora hugs Erry, and Erry just looks really, really confused.
Kit shakes his head, looking rather freaked out.
(yelling in frustration)
(taking a deep breath and continuing more normally)
We need to find a way out of here.
Nolan nods. Once.
So how do we continue?
Nolan goes and stands in the circle of glyphs.
Kit pushes him out and stands in the circle instead, and tries casting a few random spells.
uëkuëa ido ibao. mon dikaguärami. namön. ikusiabud.
Nothing continues to happen, though a few of the spells make some pretty effects. The last one emits a small boom.
Erry goes and stands in it with him.
All at once, the wall in front of them rumbles outward, swinging on a side, revealing a corridor of featureless darkness, as wide as the room they're in.
You think it. You think 'open open open'. It opened.
(peering out into the darkness)
I don't get it. This isn't Torini, but it's definitely elven...
The Soravian elves were all Torini. Even across the mainland it was mostly Torini. How far...
Nolan marches off into the newly-discovered corridor. More circles of glyphs mark apparent doors on more expanses of wall.
His voice echos strangely.
Kit runs after Nolan.
Nolan doesn't slow down, and just keeps right on going. The others follow after, passing by several circles of glyphs. The corridor turns, and Nolan simply turns with it, continuing.
It's like it's dead. We're inside the body, but it's dead.
They turn another corner and hit a possibly dead end.
Nolan goes and stands in one of the circles of glyphs, and nearly runs into Kit, who nearly fails to get out of his way.
A large wide door of wall swings open in front of them. The room revealed is full of blocks, and a particularly large block that might be a table. Nolan stares at it for a bit.
Whoever these people were, you think maybe they liked blocks?
(peering in as well)
Kit gives her an irritated look, and goes and opens the door wall on the other side of the corridor. This room also contains blocks.
Kit steps back and the wall door closes.
They tiredly open a few more sections. Most reveal rooms with blocks, of varying sizes. One is empty. Another contains a construct of swirling shards of stone, which flies out and tries to smash Erry.
Erry shrieks at it, trying to look as scary as possible.
This has no effect.
Kit throws a fireball at it, destabilising it.
Jora smacks it with the flat of her blade, knocking some of the pieces apart. She smacks it again a few times, and it clatters to the ground in pieces.
(picking up one of the shards)
What is this?
Ugh. I need a wand, or some kind of proper focus.
No! Keller didn't approve. Said a good wizard doesn't need that stuff. Need, my ass! Has he ever even had to deal with these sorts of things?
Even if you are a good wizard, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use the things that can make you better.
Exactly! Why aren't you a wizard?
Erry rubs her eyes.
Kit and Nolan open a few more. One of them is a small square room with a much larger than usual cicle of glyphs going around the entire room, or as much larger as a circle can inside a square.
A gog skitters in behind them.
They all pile in and start thinking random things.
Kit closes his eyes and concentrates, thinking of what purposes such a room could serve, and such a place, and what would be needed. And what they need. They need a lot of things. He doesn't know what they need.
Silently the entire room begins to descend.
INT. Blocky structure - lodgement floor
Several long seconds later, the room stops, and the wall door opens, revealing yet another blocky corridor.
Erry yawns hugely and opens the wall across from them. The room inside contains yet more blocks, dozens laid out evenly, but these are long and low, almost the size and shape of beds.
Erry trods over to one and collapses on it, sinking into it a little. This meets with her approval, so she snuggles into it a bit, pulls herself on entirely, and prompty falls asleep.
Jora and the others come in as well, looking about at the really quite featureless blocks.
Jora presses on one with her hand.
Soft. These are beds?
Nolan flops across one crosswise, his legs hanging off the side.
(with his face in the bed, a bit muffled)
(with considerably satisfaction)
Mother of zombies
EXT. River Lenn - afternoon
It's a bright and sunny, if somewhat chilly, day. The river winds through the trees like an aimless jogger, low and muddy, and open. A small boat floats with the current, vaguely south. Agata is perched on the bow, and Coraline is asleep in the bottom of the boat, Thimble hunched tensely beside her.
For a long bit, nothing really happens. The boat drifts downriver under the bright blue sky, under bare branches, under late autumn fire. Agata watches carefully, eyeing hazards, putting an ear back at the odd oddity. Thimble cries unhappily.
Coraline wakes up blearily and hugs him.
Thimble burrows into her coat.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean...
Coraline sits up a bit, rocking the boat entirely too much at first, and then tries again, keeping herself more balanced, wincing at her sore muscles. She drinks some whiskey and looks out over the water, and the sunlight bores into her brain like an augur, drilling out of the sky, bouncing off the river. Even the light rocks at the shore are almost blinding.
She covers her eyes and immediately feels 62% better.
Agata, did we... was there something...?
Coraline gestures vaguely.
Everything is perfect. Utterly, absolutely, perfect.
Coraline slides back down into the bottom of the boat, curling around Thimble protectively, and Dreams.
The snow is falling wetly around you, draping a soggy blanket across the landscape, drooping off of fencelines, hanging over edges of trees and roofs alike. The town looks deserted. The tracks are as snowy as anything.
You wipe some snow off your head and it melts in trickles around your fingers, dripping down your neck and back, slipping beneath your coat.
There are trolls around, but they will be dulled by the cold. They don't like the wet especially. Babies' eyes. Running late. You don't need to hurry. You can afford to stop.
You can afford to stop.
You step onto the station porch and peer about, noting the wetness, the leaves blown into the corners, wet and frozen. The ticketing machines are rusted with disuse. The door is shut, locked.
You try it anyway. It opens with difficulty, hinges resisting, screaking, grating all the way until it sticks, and a cloud of stale air drifts out. It doesn't want to. It doesn't want you here.
"Down here," Agata's voice says, inside, drifting out of corners. "You'll want to see this."
The door is only partially open, only a little. You push through regardless, squeezing past handle and frame, into the darkness full of shapes: boxes stacked in the gloom, leering frames of cabinets, drawers hanging open, spiderwebs gaping, empty. You are neither spider nor fly. It is all already over.
The darkness hangs like a sieve.
"Down here," Agata repeats, driftingly, distant. You follow the voice, twisting through the maze, turning the corners between stacks, deeper and deeper. It is a labyrinth, silent as the grave, stuffy. The door stops you suddenly, looming up around a corner all at once, set into a wall, ordinary, plain. Standard industry handle. Standard frame painted the same as the walls. Walls, barren, unnotable. No windows. You touch it and the surface vibrates. The paint stirs, bubbles, shifts. It is rough, but not, trembling.
The handle turns easily.
Beyond is only darkness, deep, looming, empty. Voices in the shadows. Singing in the depths. Echoes. It goes on and on, but there is only nothing within its depths. It goes down, but the light stops at the threshold. Darkness, darkness, darkness.
"You'll want to see this," Agata repeats, the same words, the same voice, suddenly loud, right in front of you, all around.
The doorway, hanging open, beckons, inviting. The darkness beyond hints at shapes, ordered columns, singing against the black, and beyond it, more.
You almost try to step forward, but then you can't. You can't move, instead finding yourself frozen in uncertainty and fear, paralysing, pulling you down as the dream dissolves around you, pulling, pulling, pulling, reaching, grasping.
Coraline is underwater. Something is holding her, pulling her down. Hands reach for her, grasping at her arms and legs. Undead faces leer, grinning at her out of the murk. They're not all there.
It's cold. It's suffocating. She's drowning, and yet she isn't struggling.
Milky eyes peer at her curiously out of a sagging, bloated head.
Coraline pulls away and breaks the surface, coughing. The air hits like ice. Bright sunlight streams down. The river is much rockier here.
Decomposing hands pull her back down into cocooning silence. The voices trickle mutely.
You could just let yourself die. It would be easier.
(mind voice; vaguely)
I don't want to...
Coraline twists away, thrashing at the hands, struggling back for the surface, for the bottom, anything. She steps on a head and it smashes like a melon. She grabs at some rocks and pulls her way up them, scrabbling for holds, scraping her fingers, and then she's on the surface again. She kicks at the dead people, but they hold on, so she kicks some more, knocking off fingers and limbs, and pulls herself out of the water, onto a rock, coughing and shivering.
Bloated faces and bare skulls stare up at her from out of the water.
The boat is sideways, caught on some rocks nearby, with Agata and Thimble on them. Agata is dry. Thimble isn't, and is shivering violently, quickly grooming himself to dry off.
Coraline finally manages to catch her breath a bit and stares toward Agata uncertainly.
Why are there dead people in the river?
They're called drowners. They drown people. And then you get more drowners.
Coraline shivers violently herself, and bursts into flame. She flails a bit in a panic, almost falls back into the river, and then the flames go out all at once, leaving her mostly dry and unharmed.
One of the drowners reaches a hand up out of the water toward her.
Coraline kicks it away.
Others reach for her too, grasping at the rocks, trying to climb up after her. One hand pokes a detached foot out of the water and waves it a bit. Faces stare, some little more than rounded bone.
Coraline kicks at these, too, stomping on some of the ones that get too high. She opens her bag, still secured to her belt, and pulls out the inner bag a bit, trying to find her staff.
Another drowner pulls its way up onto the rocks in front of her, and its hips and the remains of organs fall back into the river with a horrible sloughing. Coraline kicks the rest of it away.
(yelling in frustration)
What do you all want? Are you just trying to drown me? Is that it?
Thimble jumps away, running over the rocks to the shore.
The drowners in the water all sort of stop and stare at her. A few partially out let go and slide back in, also staring at her.
Hi. Do you... understand me?
The drowners continue to stare at her. A couple of them nod.
You don't actually know what you want, do you?
Some of the drowners shake their heads. Others just stare.
They don't normally try to follow people out of the water, either. But you're different. You even speak like Dead. They probably like you.
You're their mother.
What? No I'm not.
(aloud, to the drowners)
I'm not your mother.
Voi paska, unohdin kissani!
The drowners stare at her expectantly.
Or... did I? Did I accidentally pack her with my bedding? I didn't kill her, did I? Can cats breathe? Is there air? Agata?
I don't know. Breathe.
You need to breathe too. You should do that.
I can't breathe, I need to get my cat!
Coraline stops and stares at Agata.
Behind them and around, river sprites dart in and out of the waves.
A drowner climbs up onto the rocks by Coraline's feet and hugs her legs. A couple of others start climbing up as well again.
Coraline stares at the drowners.
I... I'm calm. I'm sorry. I'm calm, and I'm breathing, and the cat can wait and I'm calm and there are drowners hugging my legs.
Coraline stares at the drowners a bit more.
There are drowners hugging my legs.
The drowners snuggle her legs and crawl up around her.
Coraline addresses the drowners, and this time notices as her voice changes, becoming looser, huskier. Alien.
You all... should really go back into the water.
The drowners peer up at her with dead, rotting, and missing eyes. The ones out of the water slip back in, letting go of her, dropping off the rocks.
Coraline kneels down on the wet rocks, peering at the drowners.
Go back to sleep. Okay? Just go back to sleep. I can't help you.
The drowners continue to stare up at her out of the water, then slowly, first only a couple, then more and more of them all at once, sink down into the water. Mostly they just disappear into the murk, but a few fall apart entirely, drifting away with the current in pieces.
Good. Now how about getting your boat out and making some sort of camp?
You need to sleep. Properly. Also eat. This part of the river is going to take navigating.
EXT. River Lenn shore - evening
Coraline has made a camp of sorts, half in the trees, half on the rocks. A primitive tent is set up in the trees and full of bedding. A small, mostly smokeless fire is on the rocks by the tent opening, with a pot with soup on. Coraline is lying half-out of the tent, poking the fire with a stick, and sometimes the pot. Her bag is lying open next to the tent.
The boat is pulled up nearby.
A drowner crawls out of the river, gets up awkwardly, and stumbles over toward the camp, before tripping on a rock and falling on its face.
Coraline glares at it.
The drowner just lies there.
Later, Coraline is eating the soup, giving some of the chunks to Agata. The drowner is still lying where it fell.
Thimble pads over out of the trees and plops down next to Coraline, and she gives him some chunks too.
Sorry about earlier.
Argument of Hags noses her way out of Coraline's bag and sits nearby, not really paying any attention to Coraline or the tent.
A moment later, Onpahanvaanlampi also emerges, and comes over and sits on Thimble.
So... it is liveable.
It's a magic bag, so it's magic. Sometimes entire families live out of them. Though some bags'll just kill anything that enters.
You got lucky.
Another drowner crawls out of the water and stares vaguely at Coraline from the shoreline.
Are they just going to keep doing that all night?
(collapsing into the tent)
Wake me if they seem hostile again.
EXT. River Lenn shore - morning
Coraline wakes up to find two drowners standing right at the tent opening, staring at her disturbingly closely. Agata is lying on her; Onpahanvaanlampi is sitting on Agata, hissing and growling at the drowners; and another, entirely white, cat she's never even seen before is curled up right next to her face.
Coraline nudges the white cat with her nose, and it gets up and walks awkwardly away on three legs. The other leg is just missing.
Onpahanvaanlampi stops growling and stares at Coraline, looking affronted.
Don't look at me. You have me pinned down. You'll have to deal with this yourself.
The drowners drip a bit, staring. A piece of flesh falls off one of them.
They're not hostile.
Thank you, Agata.
(to the drowners, in the strange Dead voice)
You know, you'd probably be in better shape if you stayed out of the water. Just a thought.
One of them cocks its head at her curiously.
Also you smell.
Argument of Hags yowls a bit outside.
Coraline pries herself out of the bedding and tent, dislodging Onpahanvaanlampi off Agata, and pushes past the two drowners. A bottle of shalott mysteriously appears in her hand.
Argument of Hags is staring down an entire crowd of drowners assembled before the tent, loitering on the shore, standing in the river, all hanging around watching the tent very, very closely. They turn to stare at Coraline instead as she emerges.
Coraline stares at them.
They stare at Coraline.
Coraline turns back toward the tent.
The two drowners that had been hanging over her stare at her.
Coraline turns back to the assembled crowd of drowners.
No! I'm not interested! Go away!
Not interested in what?
I don't know! I don't care!
The drowners stare at Coraline disappointedly. A few of the ones in the river sag back into the water.
The drowners stare at her a bit, not really doing much. One of the nearer ones kneels before her, and then others, too, rippling outward, until all of the drowners are kneeling before Coraline subserviently, aside from the ones with no knees. And the ones that fall over, instead.
Sure you're not interested? You could have an army.
What the buckets would I do with an army? Especially of these. Look at them. They can't even kneel properly.
Sheer numbers can make up for a lot.
Right up until someone with the slightest magical know-how just up and blasts the sheer numbers in one hit.
Go away! I don't want an army! I'm sorry, but I just don't!
The drowners look up at Coraline in confusion. A few get up, also in confusion.
Coraline pulls a random nearer drowner to its feet and turns it back toward the river. It oozes a bit in her hands.
Just go back into the water and pretend I was never here, okay? Just go back and be drowners. In the water. And drown people. Like normal. Ignore me.
Some of the drowners start shuffling dejectedly back toward the water. Others just stare at Coraline.
It... would please me greatly if you all went back into the water and acted like normal?
This has an effect. The rest of the drowners get up. Several of them bow, and they all head back for the water, some of them rather rushing for it. Quite a few of them run into each other. A few of them trip and fall and just crawl into the river like thirsting men at an oasis.
A moment later, the shore is clear.
You could have handled that better.
Thanks for the feedback. Do you have anything useful to suggest, or is that it?
Well, Kyrule certainly wouldn't approve.
He can go suck on a cactus.
(she takes a swig of shalott)
Or maybe have some non-conversations with a pile of rotting lost puppies himself, if he really wants to.
Tell him that sometime.
Coraline packs away the camp, and the cats.
When she continues downriver, using a stick for a paddle, pushing her way around rocks, only Agata is out in the boat with her.
The drowners remain under the water, almost as if they were not there, but sometimes the rocks around the boat unexpectedly move, suggesting otherwise. The river sprites avoid them, sticking to the shallows.
EXT. River Lenn, outside Somn's Post - afternoon
The sky is overcast, the water choppy from a brisk wind coming low under the trees. The boat passes a few farms along the river, and mill things, and other things people build along rivers, but few people are out today.
A path comes up, heading off the shore into a stand of trees ahead, and Coraline prods the boat toward the rocks at the shore with her stick. She winds up crashing into a particularly large rock at a particularly slow speed, and glares at the rock.
Agata jumps out onto the rock.
The boat slowly turns around in current, and then wedges itself against another rock.
It would help if you got out.
Coraline gets up and tries to climb out onto the rocks and nearly falls out into the river instead, and then gets out for real slightly more carefully onto some slightly lower rocks right next to the other rocks.
She leaves the boat behind and heads over to the path, Agata bounding after.
EXT. Somn's Post - afternoon
It's a small crossing town nestled on one of the river's bends. Some folks are out and about. Some are gossipping on porches. One guy is leaning on a post, smoking something. Horses are tied up at buildings.
People greet Coraline as she passes, and she nods and waves back, pretending to be friendly.
The pub is marked by a sign outside: 'free ale, sexy bartenders, and false advertising'. It has an arrow pointing toward the door.
INT. Pub at Somn's Post - late afternoon
It's a tired old pub, with more folks in. A sign that says 'no cats on the bar' is on the wall behind the bar, along with several other signs all over the walls, such as 'no spitting', 'food with flavour sold here' and 'your mom wants you to do the dishes', as well as a few much, much longer ones that make even less sense. Many of them feature something about alcohol, or at least food, but not all.
A Deathdealer, VARDAMAN, is at the bar. He has swords and armour and all the usual things, and long silver hair tied back in a ponytail. He also has a drink, which at the moment seems to be the single most important thing in his life.
Ash demons float lethargically by some of the walls, and over a few particular tables and stools.
Nobody looks up as Coraline clomps in and drops her bag on the bar, taking a seat nearby, leaving an empty seat between them.
Vardaman ignores her. Coraline ignores him. A cat crawls out of her bag. It's Thimble.
The bartender ignores all this for a bit before finally trudging over and stopping standoffishly in front of Coraline. He looks at the cat. The cat ignores him.
He looks at Coraline.
Get ya anything?
Not after the incident with the Jenners.
This look like mageland to you?
Oh, come on. Even we stocked vodka.
You have a sign that says 'Alcohol!'. Just get me something that's stronger than ale.
Vardaman glances over briefly.
A shalott. She likes those.
Agata hops up onto the seat between them.
(leaning on Thimble)
I'd argue, but it's true.
Thimble licks her hair.
The bartender grunts and goes to get a new bottle.
So you're still alive.
I am? I hadn't noticed.
No? I could check for you.
The bartender plonks a shalott in front of Coraline.
(grabbing the bottle out of his hand as well, and passing him some coin in the same motion)
Thimble leans over to sniff the shalott, and Coraline confiscates and downs it, then refills the mug, eyes Thimble, and sets it down by his tail.
So where are you headed?
Uh... I hadn't actually figured that out yet. Why do I know your name?
We've met before, haven't we? Telegrin. Four years ago. Girls.
INT. Some other pub entirely, four years ago - night
The barkeep comes over and looks at them flatly.
The barkeep refills their drinks.
They drink their drinks.
Vardaman stares at his empty drink disappointedly.
Coraline peers over at his drink, then at her own.
The barkeep refills their drinks.
Coraline drinks and throws her cup over her shoulder.
INT. Pub at Somn's Post - late afternoon
...oh. Right. En...
(mind voice; interrupting)
Don't! Don't say his name.
What? Why not?
I don't know. Deathdealers... they give up your names. Why do you know his name?
Because he told me?
Not this one, he didn't.
Coraline gives Agata a confused look.
The name's Vardaman.
So what exactly did happen after all that?
Uh, you... uh... you told me how to kill zombies, and later I guess... I don't know.
Sorry about just leaving you in the alley. You seemed fine, but was that wrong?
Well, that sounds very interesting.
Not really. We drank too much and wound up passed out in an alley. And then I just sort of left.
You do that with all the men?
No. You're special.
Either of you lovebirds wanna see a magic trick?
Coraline and Vardaman look at Agata.
Agata belches loudly.
I got a magic trick.
Vardaman grabs his bottle of shalott and chugs it, emptying it.
He disappears the bottle in a small flash of light.
Well, I've got one too.
Coraline mimics Vardaman's hand gestures with the bottle, and makes a ball of fire in hers, which promptly explodes all over her, Agata, and Vardaman, and a little bit over the bar, setting her drink on fire. Thimble runs away in surprise.
Agata puts an ear back.
Ow, my pretty face.
The bartender grumps over and angrily thumbs at a sign behind him. It seems to say, 'Special offer: two drinks for the price of two drinks', but underneath is one that says 'You burn it, you buy it'.
I already bought it. Perkele.
And we'll buy some more, since you're here.
The bartender glares at Coraline.
Coraline glares right back, and downs her flaming mug of shalott.
Fine. But don't do that again.
The bartender procures some more bottles.
Later, a bar fight half-heartedly breaks out behind them. It's mostly non-violent, but involves a lot of yelling and an alarming amount of drink spills. Coraline and Vardaman are still talking, and scooted over toward the far end of the bar to get away from it. Over here, signs on the walls seem to predominantly say things along the lines of 'I swear to drunk I am not the gods' and 'I'm not as think as you drunk I am.'
Coraline and Vardaman are also rather more drunk now, having collectively gone enough alcohol to elicit some very strange looks from the bartender, and are yelling over the noise of the fight.
The bartender is standing nearby, holding a shovel very prominently, blade up, watching the fight.
So it's this entire town, right? They rename the entire town after him because they're so grateful. They even have a damn song about him, and threw this massive party when he came back.
And he just dropped some money on them?
Well, it wasn't some. It was a whole lot of money, by their standards. And the Magistrate couldn't just take it back the way it'd fallen out of the sky like that, since that'd just give them all the idea to go stealing from him too...
Hah. Most would call that an act of the gods.
SOMEONE BEHIND THEM
IT WAS TED!
This apparently pisses everyone off, and the fight breaks out in full. People punch each other, pick up chairs, and push and shove. Ash demons dart in and out of it, playfully, dancingly.
Coraline and Vardaman turn to watch, and Coraline slips off her stool, getting up entirely.
The bartender runs forward with the shovel and hits a bunch of the folks with it, swinging it around, and smacks several more. The fight starts to properly break up, and the bartender runs back after a guy still holding a chair, swinging.
He and catches Coraline in the side of the head with one of the swings.
Coraline starts to crumple, but then suddenly stops, catching herself part-way down. A moment later she's rising slowly back to a standing position, deliberately, unconcerned. Blood trickles down her face.
Vardaman pulls her back, turning her face toward his to get a proper look.
He stops upon seeing her eyes. They have gone completely black.
Coraline hisses and reaches out a hand with fingers like claws, and tears at his soul, trying to devour it.
Vardaman shoves her away in surprise, backing into the bar, and grabs a knife out of his boot.
Coraline turns into the chaos of the dying barfight that's suddenly all around her, sucks something right out of the air, and then grabs a random guy and devours his soul as well, tearing it away in faint swathes of glimmering light. It holds him up even as his legs give out under him, and then it's gone, and he collapses before her like a sack of joints.
Around her, some, but not all, of the chaos dies down all too abruptly as a few folks stop and stare, and others run away. A few jostle. The barkeeper runs after someone else, not paying attention.
(casting a soulbinding on Coraline)
He runs after her.
Agata jumps on Coraline's head, perching for balance, and hisses.
Coraline suddenly stops, reaching up to touch her head, looking confused. Her eyes clear again.
Coraline whimpers and then crumples. Agata jumps aside.
Vardaman stops over Coraline, and elbows aside a guy who gets too close.
Agata hops back onto Coraline, standing protectively over her.
(her ears back)
Do not kill her! Help us, and I will explain.
Are you joking, cat?! She's a Carrier!
We are in a populated area, with a hundred ways for even one Carrier to decimate the land.
Check her eyes! Tell me this is normal.
Vardaman frowns, but then kneels down and pulls back Coraline's eyelid with a thumb, putting his knife to her throat with his other hand. Her eye is indeed clear, the iris a deep dark brown.
Carriers do not revert.
She is not a normal Carrier. She is fighting this, and she is almost winning.
Do you call that 'winning'?
I call that getting hit in the head with a shovel. What do you fucking expect? Just get her out of here!
Vardaman gets up in time to tackle another guy with a chair, disarming him of his chair and shoving him to the floor, and then wrestles the shovel away from the bartender a moment later.
You hit a bystander, you fool.
Vardaman clonks the bartender on the head with the handle, then drops the shovel and grabs Coraline, hoisting her under an arm, and hurries out. Agata follows closely.
Folks back away quickly as he passes, getting well out of his way.