This/Survivors song/Part 5

From Zaori


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(heaps: heapheap2heap3)
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Part 5: Extend tertiary function

You want the answer? You want the end? There is no answer; there is no end. There is only now. In every instance, now, now, now, ever-changing now. Nothing else matters. There is nothing else.

Enjoy your purgatory of the now.

Notes:

  1. Let us pretend the whispering is only the desert wind.
  2. Same flavour, different giraffe.
  3. Placeholder languages may be chosen/generated by automated processes.
  4. To say 'kauhistuksen kanahäkki' may apply.
  5. Or not.

Surface

EXT. Lauhen sea - night
The sea is calmish, with just enough waving to break up the brilliance of the sky. It's a huge sky, awash with swirls of colour and light, thousands and thousands and thousands of stars painting the canvas above with more light than dark, and beneath it the water gleams, a broken landscape of dark shadows and half stars and silver edges.
The bubble erupts from the surface suddenly, popping out of the small waves and exploding on immersion into the atmosphere. The four kids, and two gogs, somehow still with them, fall out into the water.
Kit collapses and nearly sinks before Jora grabs him and holds him up.
Nolan treads water, peering vaguely off into the distance.
NOLAN
The stars are wrong.
Erry flops onto her back, floating, staring up at the sky.
ERRY
It's bigger than I remembered.
NOLAN
Thirteen days. Three hours.
We don't have an inflatable boat. There's no shore here.
Kit groans a bit, not opening his eyes.
JORA
Kit, I know it's a lot to ask, but can you do anything?
KIT
Nnnrrrgggh.
I can't summon one. I suck at summoning. Even little things. Like I tried summoning a spoon once? Wound up with a broken nail.
JORA
It doesn't have to be good. Or a summon. What else floats?
KIT
Ducks.
Nolan produces a duck. It flaps away awkwardly. One of the gogs gives chase, swimming after it.
ERRY
Wood.
NOLAN
Ice.
Kit opens his eyes.
KIT
That... could work. Porous elves' ice, ratio of volume to surface area something lots of water...
Kit just hangs in Jora's arms for a bit. Then he raises a hand and shapes out some spell motions very lethargically.
KIT
yaga dalamo yäig gugum.
He ties it all together with a flick and sags into Jora.
The water before them begins to draw together, whitening, solidifying into a mostly flat block of ice rising almost a foot out of the water, big enough to fit the lot of them. A slight wall lines the edges.
The gogs climb on, one of them now dragging a be-webbed duck.
Nolan hoists Erry onto it and climbs in after.
JORA
Nice.
KIT
Nuhh-huh.
Jora tries to lift Kit onto the ice raft, and Nolan pulls him up the rest of the way. Kit doesn't move, just collapses onto the ice, asleep.
Nolan pulls Jora up as well.
They all just lie there for a bit.
ERRY
It's not cold.
NOLAN
State shift via magical energy realignments. Rotations are held according to different frequencies than the natural state. Particularly stable frequencies retain a similar half-life to non-magically-occurring unstable materials.
ERRY
I see.
NOLAN
You do?
ERRY
It'll break down. So do other things. Eventually.
Nolan nods slowly.
ERRY
We'll run out of food first. Even if we eat you. And your duck.
JORA
We're not eating Nolan.
A large fish, several feet long, flies out of the water and bounces onto the raft with a wet plop, winding up half on top of Kit. It has several large holes in it, trickling blood.
The gogs skitter away.
Kit doesn't stir.
ERRY
We could eat that.
The fish flops weakly and then just lies there.
Kit continues to not react in any fashion whatsoever.
A tentacle reaches out of the water and gives them a little wave before disappearing back under the other waves.
NOLAN
Our giant cephalopod companion gives us thanks.

Failure case

EXT. Soravian wilderness - morning
Coraline awakens in the tall dry grass, tied to a tree much as before, but now also gagged, her mouth covered, a cloth shoved in so that she cannot close it or move her tongue at all. She gags on the gag, trying to vomit, but it doesn't work. Instead she chokes, the vomit going up her nose, painfully, drowningly. She struggles futilely.
Agata and Argument of Hags are around.
Vardaman hurries over and casts a quick spell over Coraline. Her staff is slung across his back. Her bag is on his belt.
VARDAMAN
bury thunder always.
Vardaman pulls out the gag and cloth and Coraline pukes on her lap, instead, straining against the burning in her nose.
VARDAMAN
You'll need to control your breathing, or you will die.
CORALINE
(coughing)
What?
Vardaman stuffs the cloth back into Coraline's mouth, replacing the gag.
Coraline nearly chokes again.
AGATA
(mind voice)
I won't even be Captain Obvious today.
VARDAMAN
That was clever, your zombie. If you'd killed it, that might have worked.
And your magic. If you could have done that all along, why didn't you?
CORALINE
(mind voice)
He just... he doesn't seriously expect me to be able to answer that...?
AGATA
(mind voice)
No. But he wants to see if you'll find a way. You've surprised him, multiple times over.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
What? I'm not that stupid...
Why? Why all of this? This is crazy.
Coraline chokes and struggles a bit, trying to cough, pulling on the ropes.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Breathe. Just breathe.
Coraline does, focusing.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I have to kill him, don't I? There's no other way out of this...
Vardaman pulls the gag down off Coraline's mouth again, and she spits out the cloth in.
CORALINE
Haista vittu.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Even if there is, it's not worth the bother.
VARDAMAN
That's all? You're not going to try anything?
CORALINE
Nej! Nyt sä vittu kuolet! I'll kill you. I'll fucking kill you. Fuck you. Fuck Kyrule.
I'll take you...
Vardaman claps a hand over Coraline's mouth, but then nothing happens anyway.
Darkness swirls at the edge of Coraline's vision. Voices whisper, though they are not of the Death of Souls. They seem older, deadlier.
Coraline angrily pushes it away.
VARDAMAN
(lowering his hand)
I don't seem to be dead.
AGATA
You're being ironic, Names.
CORALINE
(pulling against the ropes)
I'm not ironic! Touch me again and I'll kill you!
AGATA
Heh.
VARDAMAN
Why the cats?
Coraline glares at him.
VARDAMAN
Why not use your magic before?
Why cover yourself in so many lies, even now?
Who are you?
CORALINE
Your mother.
VARDAMAN
Well, shit. I'm fucked.
Whispers protrude. Nelanor. Nelanor...
CORALINE
(mind voice)
He didn't find the fragment.
AGATA
(mind voice)
You got lucky. He's probably not terribly familiar with the concept of a padded bra. Or not a good one.
He still hasn't gotten into your bag, though he's obviously wizened up that there's something there.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I'm seeing things.
Vardaman picks up the cloth and stuffs it back in Coraline's mouth. She tries to bite him, but also reaches out with her healing senses, finding him there in front of her, his life, strong, vibrant.
He pulls the outer gag back up over her mouth, tightening it, and steps away.
Coraline rises up after him a bit, straining her arms, snapping the ropes taut.
CORALINE
HNNGNNN!
Vardaman regards Coraline flatly for a moment.
Coraline sinks back down into the grass.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Like something moving behind the fabric of the universe. I'm seeing it too. Interesting.
Also you maybe shouldn't have told him your intentions. Or be so obvious. Sure, you're angry, but how is this helping, exactly?
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Aaaaaagh.
AGATA
(mind voice)
I know. It sucks. Deal with it.
Coraline whimpers unhappily.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I was so close. I was free... for a little bit. And now it's just this all over again, but worse.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Yes.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Thank you.
Thank you for sticking around...
Agata plonks down next to Coraline and purrs.
AGATA
(mind voice)
You may be miserable, but you're fun. Telling a Deathdealer fuck him and his god? That you're going to kill him? Stupid, but very fun, especially the things his face does. And I'm rather enjoying this whole side plot with Kyrule's Voice. Getting to watch that... well, you, of all people, as one of his Keepers is bound to get interesting.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
That assumes I don't die first.
AGATA
(mind voice)
So don't.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Voi paska! That's what I'm doing wrong. I'm dying!
AGATA
(mind voice)
Mmm, butter shit. I bet all the dogs go for that one.



Vardaman sits down by the horses, watching Coraline, or as he knows her, Amadi. Maybe. He is beginning to doubt much of her story, and yet there are also things he cannot quite shake.
Vardaman opens his fist on his lap, revealing a large golden coin. On its face is the mask and skull of Kyrule.
He opens his other, and in it is another matching coin. This one has on it a figure of scales. He turns it over, revealing the mask and skull.
He gives Coraline an appraising look, but she's simply hanging limply, staring at the grass. Agata is curled up by her leg, doing apparently nothing either.
VARDAMAN
(quietly)
Keepers, what am I doing? Who are you?
Agata raises her head slightly and stares at him, and then slowly closes her eyes and opens them again.



Later, when Vardaman hoists Coraline back up, he doesn't untie her from the tree. Instead, he pulls the gag back out and holds a bottle of vodka near Coraline's mouth, still holding her arms up over her head.
Coraline tries to move her head to the bottle, but Vardaman pulls it back.
VARDAMAN
You're no Deathdealer.
CORALINE
Oh, now you're Captain Obvious too? Am I just stuck on a whole planet of Captain Obviouses?!
VARDAMAN
Are you... Ordian?
CORALINE
No.
VARDAMAN
You're lying.
CORALINE
What's your point?
VARDAMAN
Speak to me. You're dying, but your life need not be so miserable before the end.
Do you think I want to do this to you? If I knew what your capabilities were, if I could trust you in any way...
CORALINE
Even if I told you the truth you wouldn't believe me, and I can't... I can't do that.
VARDAMAN
What is the truth?
Coraline meets his gaze, but doesn't answer.
VARDAMAN
I know you have means to communicate with your cat, even with your magic bound. I know you have mage training, and martial too, though you present as a witch. I know you serve Kyrule.
You're clearly no stranger to suffering. You're well-spoken across several languages, so you're no commoner. And yet you also know your way around animals, and wilderness, well enough even to throw me off, through non-magical means.
CORALINE
So?
VARDAMAN
And you keep secrets. You play a better game than most agents.
CORALINE
Take this one to the grave.
VARDAMAN
There is nothing for you in death!
CORALINE
It's still my death. Doesn't that count for anything?
VARDAMAN
Normally it would.
He puts the bottle to Coraline's mouth, and she warily takes a drink.
Vardaman takes back the bottle, gives her some food and water in much the same fashion, and replaces her gag. Only afterwards does he untie the ropes from the tree.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I've played too many cards already. If this doesn't work...
Also, my magic is bound? What does that mean?
AGATA
(mind voice)
Suppression spell. Ignore it. Doesn't seem to affect you anyway. This will work, don't worry.
When they return to the horses, the one Coraline had stolen before nickers softly, turning toward Coraline. Coraline pulls a bit toward it as well, but Vardaman directs her instead to a different one, lifts her up, and mounts quickly behind her.
Vardaman holds her tightly as they head out once more.
For a few minutes, Coraline simply waits, looking out over the brown landscape and barren trees, trying to compose herself, focusing on breathing. Then she closes her eyes, and looks out at the world without them.
Everything is dark, thin. The landscape shows itself as edges, smears, ghosts of trees and rocks. The sky is a void, hungering, lingering. Behind it all, stars poke through, ancient and terrible, singing. Sand trickles, hinting, whispering. Points of light distort the edges, trailing their essence behind them. A bird in the sky becomes a strange smear. Larger animals, huddled down, give off distorted glows. Sprites glimmer with tenuous light.
Her own self is a darkness to rival the sky, a shape she can't make out. Vardaman is a brightness to rival the sun. The horses and cats are far more normal, simply shapes of horses and cats, glowing beneath her and behind.
Coraline reaches into Vardaman's brightness, feeling it all around her, almost a part of her. His arms are the conduit, his chest the core. She can feel his life, his strangeness, his simple fragility, and takes it all into her mind. For a moment she simply holds it there. Somewhere, she thinks, I'm sorry.
Vardaman moves behind her, almost as if he heard.
And then Coraline flips it, twisting it in on itself, turning it out.
Except nothing happens. The brightness remains. Vardaman... remains.
CORALINE
Nnngh?
Desperately Coraline opens her eyes, the brightness of the world flooding back as light, a thin layer over the darkness behind the world, even as she finds the horse underneath her instead with her mind, finding its essence, its life, and turns that out instead.
The horse crumples beneath them, falling over, dead, its life suddenly just gone. Vardaman pulls Coraline off as it falls, losing hold of her momentarily as he rolls away, and quickly gets up. Coraline yells in surprise, but gets up quickly and starts running in a random direction.
Vardaman runs after her and tackles her to the ground, hauling her back up a moment later. He draws his sword, turning, pulling Coraline back even further as he looks around for the source.
The other two horses shy away from the dead one, straining back. One of them stomps a bit.
VARDAMAN
(casting overhead with his sword)
See call come!
Agata peers at them curiously from the packhorse.
Coraline tries again, twisting at Vardaman's life, trying to put it out as she had with the horse, and the Carriers before. But nothing happens. Nothing continues to happen.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I can't... it doesn't work on him.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Worked on the horse.
Vardaman looks around briefly, then spins Coraline around by the shoulder. He grabs her by the arm, putting his sword to her throat.
VARDAMAN
You. What did you do? How did you do that?
CORALINE
(trying to put on an appropriately blank look)
Nnn? Hnnnugh?
Vardaman frowns at her.
VARDAMAN
How?
Coraline desperately shakes her head, leaning away from the sword.
AGATA
The way you've got her bound up? How could she have?
VARDAMAN
And what about you, cat? What is your part in all this?
CORALINE
Hnnnugh hnngnnn nnn!
Vardaman shoves Coraline aside and grabs Agata instead.
VARDAMAN
Give me one good reason why I shouldn't end you, cat.
CORALINE
NNRRNGH!
Coraline charges Vardaman, headbutting him. She bounces off harmlessly, falling in a heap off to the side.
AGATA
Because my life sustains hers. Take mine away, and she will become that much weaker, that much closer to the turning.
You want her alive? Then you need me alive too.
Vardaman frowns, but lets Agata go. Agata hops away and jumps up onto some rocks a few metres away.
Vardaman picks up Coraline again, gripping her in one arm, and then holds out his other hand, palm up.
VARDAMAN
Come.
A black soulstone appears in his hand.
To Coraline, there is something wrong about it, more so than with any of the others before, and she tries to shy away from it, but Vardaman's grip doesn't let her.
He places the soulstone to her chest.
Coraline screams, a muffled wail of all consonants. Something inside her breaks. The voices rise to a thunder in her head. The starsong hurtles into her mind. The blackness is everywhere, everything too bright to see, crushing.
Coraline struggles violently, kicking, twisting, trying to get away, needing to, more than anything.
Vardaman draws the soulstone back away from her.
Coraline stops struggling, but remains very tense, hyperventilating, staring at the soulstone in horror.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Names? Names!
VARDAMAN
What the fuck?
Go.
The soulstone vanishes. Coraline immediately relaxes, collapsing in his arm.
Vardaman lowers her to the ground, pulling down her gag.
VARDAMAN
Speak.
CORALINE
(mumbling)
They need to stop their experiments.
VARDAMAN
What experiments?
CORALINE
(mumbling)
The Eternal was right. They need to...
VARDAMAN
The Eternal?
Coraline passes out.
Vardaman glances at Agata.
AGATA
Don't do that again.
VARDAMAN
Who experimented on her?
AGATA
No one.
VARDAMAN
She just said...
Agata sticks a leg up and starts licking her butt.
VARDAMAN
I'm talking to a fucking cat.


EXT. Soravian wilderness - noonish
Vardaman continues on, hauling Coraline along bound and gagged, leaving the dead horse behind. He goes slower now, resting the remaining horses longer, and stops by a small stand of tall trees, tying Coraline to another tree, Coraline almost hanging from her arms held above her head as she drifts in and out of consciousness.
Vardaman squats next to her and pulls the gag out again. She doesn't respond, so he follows up by slapping her a bit in the face.
Coraline very calmly vomits a bit in response.
CORALINE
(quietly)
Ense Vardaman.
Vardaman startles and stares at her.
CORALINE
Let me go.
VARDAMAN
What?
CORALINE
Ense Vardaman, as I give your name as proof, in the name of the Eternal I command you to let me go.
VARDAMAN
You're a Voice.
CORALINE
I wasn't supposed to tell you. I wasn't supposed to reveal myself. But nothing else worked. You wouldn't even die. I couldn't even do that...
Vardaman stares at her in considerable confusion.
CORALINE
Let me go.
VARDAMAN
No.
CORALINE
What? But... you... you're...
VARDAMAN
As a Voice, I disagree. The choice remains my own.
Coraline stares at him for a bit.
CORALINE
But... why?
VARDAMAN
I can't trust you. No matter who you are, you are too important to let go.
Coraline stares at Vardaman desperately.
VARDAMAN
I cannot.
CORALINE
At least untie me? Let me come on my own? Let me breathe?
VARDAMAN
Would you?
CORALINE
(she takes a deep breath)
If you are determined that I must, then yes. I'll go with you.
Vardaman gives her a long look.
VARDAMAN
I wish I could believe you.
CORALINE
Whaa...?!
Vardaman stuffs the cloth back in her mouth, replacing the gag.
CORALINE
Nnn gnnnngh!
Vardaman turns away wearily, heading back toward the horses.
Coraline starts sobbing hopelessly, choking on the gag, vomiting a bit more, and then choking on that too when it goes up her nose.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Have you considered jumping off a cliff?
Coraline stares at Agata, trying to breathe and get all the vomit back out of her nose.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Because you should totally jump off a cliff.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I... just... are you... what?
VOICE OF KYRULE
(mind voice)
Listen to your cat. Options remain.


INT. Grey Lobby
Coraline and Agata appear in the Lobby very suddenly, Coraline for some reason holding Agata like a sack of flour. A small group of Keepers are arguing nearby. The boy in green is a bit off to the side, glaring at them disappointedly, though he brightens up at seeing Coraline appear.
The Voice of Kyrule strolls over.
VOICE OF KYRULE
Keeper.
CORALINE
(incredulously)
Jumping off a cliff?
The other Keepers turn, surprised.
The boy in green breaks into a grin.
AGATA
For the record, I was joking.
CORALINE
Arrrrgh.
Coraline sits down heavily and flops back onto the floor.
CORALINE
See, this is the point where I would totally just fuck everything and kill myself with a shovel. If I could. Which I can't. Yeeeeah.
The other Keepers come over, concerned.
WOMAN IN BROWN
(touching Coraline's arm)
Whatever you're going through, the Eternal is with you. It can't possibly be so bad...
CORALINE
Oh, you have no idea. I'm eight different colours of 'fucked' right now. I didn't even know 'fucked' came in eight colours. Thought it was only three.
VOICE OF KYRULE
There are nine. You're not quite there yet.
Coraline stares up at the Voice blankly.
CORALINE
Did you... just make a joke?
BOY IN GREEN
See, if you really do want to jump off a cliff, I think it's doable. We just need... hmm. I'ma have to go give it a look.
The boy disappears.
The Voice leans down and hauls Coraline up by an arm, and the Lobby shifts around them, fading, darkening, into a room almost, but not entirely, exactly identical. The architecture is a little different. The furniture is against the walls. The light is dimmer. Dull windows look out over a grey city.
They're alone, now. The other Keepers are just gone.
The darkness at the edges of everything creeps in tendrils, sparkling. Coraline pointedly ignores it, and gives the Voice a confused look. Agata jumps up onto her head.
VOICE OF KYRULE
This has gone far enough. You need to win this fight.
CORALINE
This fight?
VOICE OF KYRULE
With Ense Vardaman. With your predicament. With the Death of Souls. All of these, it is up to you, your task, your challenge.
CORALINE
Right. So with Ense... with Vardaman, just so we're entirely clear here, what happened was... I tried to tell him what to do as a Voice. He decided not to. As a Voice.
Stalemate?
VOICE OF KYRULE
Not exactly.
CORALINE
Well we've basically got Voice on Voice where one has the other trussed up like a piece of livestock, so who exactly wins, here?
VOICE OF KYRULE
That is up to you.
CORALINE
Oh?
VOICE OF KYRULE
The Voices speak for the Eternal. In light of a disagreement, arbitration is determined by rank, and failing that, who is correct in practice. Should you escape, it becomes our will that you go free. Should you fail...
CORALINE
I did! I already escaped, he just hunted me down again!
VOICE OF KYRULE
That was before you invoked your right as Voice.
CORALINE
What... so I could have done that in the first place, and it would have been good enough?!
Why in the hells did you tell me to not tell him then?
VOICE OF KYRULE
That decision may have been in error.
Coraline stares at him, and sputters a bit.
AGATA
A god, admitting an error? Whatever next? Dogs meowing? Cats? Barking?
VOICE OF KYRULE
This error must be amended.
AGATA
Woof?
CORALINE
What... can't Kyrule just make some miracle? Send someone to go say 'Oi this matter is settled sod off'?
VOICE OF KYRULE
That would be you. That is what the Voices are.
CORALINE
(pumping her arms up like a cheer)
Whooo! I failed!
The Voice gives Coraline a flat look.
CORALINE
Sorry.
VOICE OF KYRULE
Will you continue? See this out to the end?
CORALINE
Sure, why not?
VOICE OF KYRULE
How far are you willing to go?
CORALINE
How far do I need to? I tried your way. I tried mine! Nothing's worked. Nothing.
VOICE OF KYRULE
How certain are you of your will?
CORALINE
I don't... what?
VOICE OF KYRULE
What are you willing to risk?
CORALINE
Everything.
VOICE OF KYRULE
And should you fail, who will mourn your passing?
CORALINE
Uh...
There's an awkward silence, and then Coraline uncertainly raises a hand and points toward the cat on her head, looking a bit skeptical.
Agata purrs loudly.
VOICE OF KYRULE
Do you regret the choices that brought you here? Will you regret one more?
CORALINE
Probably, but that's hardly a reason to stop.
VOICE OF KYRULE
Then we shall see who you are, Coraline Henderson.


EXT. Soravian wilderness - early afternoon
Coraline awakens suddenly, just in time to catch her bindings digging in particularly painfully as Vardaman hoists her up against the tree.
CORALINE
Nrrggaaagh!
Her nose, at least, is mostly clear again. Her head, not so much.
VARDAMAN
I'm sorry. I am not trying to hurt you.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Ow. Also what the crap?
Vardaman ungags Coraline, gives her some vodka and water, and then regags her, patting her down. His search is quite thorough, feeling her exactingly, but Coraline just ignores it as always.
AGATA
(mind voice)
I'll admit that was somewhat odd.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I've read Kyrule's secret book back to front, cat, and tried to make sense of even some of it, and frankly that exchange made even the least sensical bits of that book seem bloody purposeful. Possibly because they tended to have context, admittedly. Or notes complaining about the lack of context.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Well, at least you're not feeling quite so hopeless anymore.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
How can I possibly feel hopeless when I'm this bloody confused?!
AGATA
(mind voice)
Heh. It did remind you of one thing, though...
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Well, sure, there's the nonsense hopefuls apparently go through to become Deathdealers, but that's some actual trials. Tests. Things. And names.
They, like, fight things. Or stuff.
AGATA
Oy Deathdealer. When you lot go through your trials, what's that like?
VARDAMAN
What?
AGATA
We were wondering. My human thinks it's all about fighting stuff. I think it's more about... questions. Out with it, will you?
Vardaman stops mid-search, turns to stare at Agata, sitting serenely on the ground behind him.
Coraline just stands there, unable to really do much else. One of Vardaman's hands is on her arms, holding them up. His other is on her boob. She gives it an annoyed look.
VARDAMAN
What questions, exactly, do you think they are?
AGATA
(mind voice)
Names? Throw me something here.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Will. Questioning. Regrets. Not sure about the other. Where the hells are you going with this?
AGATA
Your will.
Vardaman frowns.
AGATA
What you will question. What you will give up.
VARDAMAN
No.
AGATA
Whether you regret the choices that brought you here. Whether you might regret one more.
There's a long, awful silence.
VARDAMAN
How can you possibly know that?
Who are you?
AGATA
I'm a cat. Duh.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Have I ever mentioned how much I adore you?
Also I don't think I've ever felt more like a stage prop in my life. Including that time I literally was a stage prop in comp school.
AGATA
I note that you still haven't answered my question.
Vardaman ignores her and goes back to checking Coraline, checking both boobs, feeling around the edges of her bra, and then pausing at her cleavage. He nudges at it more, and then stops at the fragment, holding it through her coat and shirt.
CORALIN
(mind voice)
Voi vittu.
VARDAMAN
What's this?
Coraline just gives him an annoyed look.
Vardaman reaches up under Coraline's shirt and fetches the fragment.
Coraline makes an indignant noise.
As soon as Vardaman takes the fragment away, the voices clatter out of the cracks in reality around Coraline, jarring, bright, strange, pushing down on her like a horrible weight. A whole lot of other strangeness fades away almost as immediately.
Coraline tenses up awkwardly, blinking in confusion, trying not to... anything. She doesn't even know herself.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Names?
CORALINE
(mind voice)
I'm fine, probably. It was just surprising, and annoying. And I guess it was helping even more than I realised. Perkele.
Vardaman gives the shard a worried look, clearly recognising it, and turns back to Coraline with some concern before pulling the gag out and pushing Coraline's arms back up against the tree above her head.
AGATA
(mind voice)
You're not fine. Get it back.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
How?
VARDAMAN
(holding up the fragment in his other hand)
How did you get this?
CORALINE
(rather loudly)
I am the Baron of Fartswetly, bearer of the legendary blade of Con Cebolla, worn at the battle of the Great Fortress of Bleugh! All things come to me!
VARDAMAN
I had this in my things. You're a thief, too?
CORALINE
The Baron of Fartswetly has many means. Means and ways. Ways and means.
VARDAMAN
Why this? Why is it important?
CORALINE
Your friends in the woods wondered that too. They tested it against the Death of Souls, and it exploded. The Eternal felt that dearly, you know. So many souls snuffed out. So many of the faithful denied their endings.
VARDAMAN
What?
CORALINE
The shard should be with me. That is why you had it, Ense Vardaman. Just in case.
VARDAMAN
In case of what?
CORALINE
In case it could help, of course. Now give the Baron of Fartswetly her due.
Coraline beckons with her head.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Why are you antagonising him?
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Why not? How much worse could this possibly get?
Vardaman sighs and regags Coraline, stuffing the cloth back in her mouth and pocketing the fragment. Coraline bites at his fingers around it, but he ignores this and pulls up and tightens the outer gag holding it in.
AGATA
(mind voice)
He may yet kill you. For real.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Okay, yes. That would be... bad.

Building

EXT. Lauhen sea - day
The raft floats vaguely, bobbing and turning occasionally, often simply sitting on the surface of the ocean. It's stable. It works. It is an absolute dead end.
The sky above them is utterly, utterly empty, and very blue.
The sea below is dark and very blue.
Kit wakes up suddenly, looks around, and immediately regrets it.
The others barely react, either.
Kit sits there for a bit, staring dejectedly out over the sea.
KIT
So correct me if I'm wrong, but... we seem to be lost at sea?
NOLAN
No.
KIT
No?
NOLAN
No.
ERRY
No.
KIT
Oh.
JORA
We need shelter and water. Bearings would be good if we had anywhere to go, but we don't know where we are. The fish appears to be edible raw, but then it started going bad and the gogs ate the rest, so now we're back down to what we brought with us for food.
KIT
Right.
What fish?
JORA
The squid gave us a present. Apparently as thanks.
KIT
Squid. That... was a squid.
(he peers around)
And we really have no idea where shore is?
NOLAN
No.
ERRY
So whose fault is all this?
Kit and Jora glance toward Nolan.
Nolan looks at Jora.
JORA
It doesn't matter. We're here, and we need to handle it.
ERRY
It's awfully warm.
KIT
Oh, and I suppose you expect me to fix it. Fix everything!
(he waves his hand above them)
yat yoliaig gugum!
A cloud forms over them, blocking out the sunlight, and promptly starts raining on them. The ambient temperature drops significantly.
Erry flops back happily, smiling contentedly, even as she's pelted with raindrops.
Nolan blinks blankly as his hair plasters to his head.
JORA
Oh, wow.
KIT
Oh. Actually that does help a lot. Okay.
Stars, I'm hungry.
Nolan hands Kit a soggy ration block.
Kit stares at it blankly for a moment.
KIT
Yeah, okay.
Kit takes the block and starts gnawing on it.
JORA
We probably need to start with shelter. Some sort of covering or awning. A tensile structure?
KIT
(dubiously)
'Tensile structure'?
ERRY
We've been Nolaned. Save us.
KIT
I... what. Okay. How?
ERRY
Save us.
Kit turns to Jora.
JORA
Can you make a thin, coarse fabric out of the same material as the raft?
ERRY
And barrels.
NOLAN
Weapons.
KIT
Sure, I'll just make all the things!


EXT. Lauhen sea - day
It's later. The raft now has an assortment of all the things on it. Poles are grown up out of the corners, arching up into a pointed roof, covered in an awning which hangs down like curtains and blocks out the sun, though it's pulled open on two sides so they can still see out over the water. Barrel-like tubs of desalinated water are shoved into a corner. Some weapons and various tools are piled up on the floor. A wad of fabric attempts is piled up next to them.
Erry is half-hanging off the side of the raft, trailing a hand in the water. Shoved into the far corner in the shade, Kit is very irritably making arrows, handing each one off to Nolan, who nods and then adds them to a pile. Jora has a glass of water, calmly sipping it.
All the things are the same strange sparkling matte white as the raft itself.
Erry falls out of the raft.
ERRY
Agh!
There's a bit of a splash.
Nobody really responds right away.
Kit finishes an arrow and stabs it at Nolan. Nolan evades the stab and takes it and puts it with the others.
There's some more splashing off the side of the raft.
ERRY
Guys, guys? I can't get up.
Jora puts down her glass and hauls Erry back onto the raft.
KIT
So this is fun, and all.
Erry clomps over to the fabric attempts and plonks down on them with a loud crunching noise, making a makeshift nest for herself.
KIT
Also we seem to be lost at sea.


EXT. Lauhen sea - dusk
Night falls. The kids stare at it blankly. Jora ties up the side curtains as the sunset glints off the waves, and glows off clouds near the horizon. Stars poke out through the sky like weevils.
Erry totally accidentally smacks Nolan in the head with a fishing pole.
A gog slides Nolan a piece of paper.

External threats

INT. Grey Lobby
Coraline and the boy in green meet up, perching on the backs of sofas. The boy has a spellbook. Somehow, Coraline also has a version of hers, the introductory trainer Kit had lent her months back, though this one is much bigger. Agata is sitting on Coraline's head.
BOY IN GREEN
Okay, so what we want to do is jump off a cliff.
CORALINE
That's the... short of it.
BOY IN GREEN
What's the long of it?
Coraline takes a deep breath, mostly just to stall. They don't seem to really need to breathe at all, here.
CORALINE
I'm bound and gagged. I don't have access to any tools, can't secret any knives or anything to try to free myself. My bindings are secure, and checked regularly. I am watched at all hours.
What I need to do is free myself, incapacitate a Deathdealer, and then jump off a cliff.
The boy in green stops and stares at her.
BOY IN GREEN
Did you say 'Deathdealer'?
CORALINE
Yeeeeah. I can't command him to let me go because he is also a Keeper and... disagreed. I could potentially kill him using conventional means, but my usual magic for that sort of thing appears to have no effect on him. And that wouldn't exactly be proper.
BOY IN GREEN
Why, though? Why would a Deathdealer...
CORALINE
Let's just say we had a... difference of opinions as to which course of action is ultimately the more dangerous. He's very convinced he's right, and I'm reasonably sure he really isn't. And I can't exactly tell him the answer is necromancy.
BOY IN GREEN
Is it?
CORALINE
Gods, I hope not. But I sure as hell won't be able to find out if he actually achieves his mission and tells the world what I am.
BOY IN GREEN
(leaning back, tapping his foot)
Well, that makes it more interesting. Deathdealers are immune to certain kinds of magic, right? Death magic, mind-affecting stuff, most curses, a lot of alchemy straight up. Sleep effects don't really work either.
CORALINE
What about dropping a log on his head?
BOY IN GREEN
That would do it. Might see that coming.
You probably want some sort of paralysis for this. How fast can you cast?
CORALINE
I'll be honest. I'm really new to this. You've taught me most of the actual spells I know.
BOY IN GREEN
Your bindings?
CORALINE
I was able to cut them off with flame before, but that took a bit, too. Also hurt like hell.
BOY IN GREEN
Hmm. If you free yourself first, you'll be able to cast normally to incapacitate him. But if you incapacitate him first, you'll be more likely to succeed at actually freeing yourself.
CORALINE
What if I just do something iffy first to stun him, and then follow up with something better once I have my hands and voice back?
BOY IN GREEN
Could work. Let's see...
The boy flips through a few pages of spells.
Agata yawns hugely.
BOY IN GREEN
A freeze spell might work. But it looks like the spells that would help get a lot more complicated rather quickly... fear, maybe? No, Deathdealers wouldn't be susceptible to that...
Paralysis is a higher level spell. Entangle? Hold? He could probably cast his way through those...
Think he'd untie you if he thought you were dead?
CORALINE
Actually... yeah, he might.
I mean, he'd almost certainly continue lugging me with as a corpse, but dignity for the dead is kind of a big thing for Kyrule's followers.
BOY IN GREEN
There's a spell. Wanna hear it?
Coraline shrugs.
BOY IN GREEN
(squinting over the spellbook, and then casting with one hand)
Black heart dream...
He recoils and falls over backwards.
BOY IN GREEN
(getting up quickly)
I messed that up.
(casting again, using both hands, still looking at the book for reference)
Die heart dream.
The boy collapses, folding up onto the floor and just lying, unmoving. Coraline checks him out, and he does very much seem to be dead, to all her senses. Agata slides around on her head, reaching out vaguely to hold onto her hair.
CORALINE
Huh.
BOY IN GREEN
(opening one eye)
Convincing?
CORALINE
Far as I could tell. How did you tell when to come out of it?
BOY IN GREEN
Uh... I guessed. I couldn't actually see or hear anything, see.
CORALINE
Okay, that might be a problem.
BOY IN GREEN
Hmm... right. Let's find something better.
He flips through a few more pages of spells, reading through some, skipping over others entirely.
Coraline goes through her book as well, looking for anything remotely promising. Instead she winds up reading about a spell for conjuring up a fancy hut in a bubble.
Agata snores vaguely, hanging floppily.
BOY IN GREEN
You might be able to distract him with a conjuration. Or if you could vanish yourself...
CORALINE
He has an annoying tendency to tie me to trees, so I'd also need a way to teleport for that to work.
And when I'm not tied to a tree, he makes a point to always have a good grip on me.
BOY IN GREEN
(a bit impressed)
Gotta love our Deathdealers.
CORALINE
Yeah. Great when they're on your side. Otherwise...
(she sighs exasperatedly)
He's also annoyingly good at resisting and blocking random spells, so there's that, too.
BOY IN GREEN
Empower your spells, then. A longer incantation makes them more stable, so people use more related words, and you can add addwords like 'full' and 'all' and 'always' to buff them too.
CORALINE
All of the above?
BOY IN GREEN
Potentially. Try it!
CORALINE
Er... Full green light all always?
She holds out her hand and a brilliant green light appears in it, spreading vaguely out, filling the Lobby with colour. It wants to spread, become many lights, so she lets it, and a sea of green lights rise slowly from the floor and stop to hover at random heights below the ceiling.
BOY IN GREEN
Coooool.
So spells. Paralyse Deathdealer, free yourself...
CORALINE
Drop tree on him, rob him, run away.
BOY IN GREEN
There's always release spells, but those are a bit more powerful than we need, exactly.
CORALINE
How so?
BOY IN GREEN
Well, see, they kind of release everything. Restraints, sure. Imprisonment. Spell effects. Curses, even. Your old catch all can't catch me! Thing.
(he shapes out a spell and casts it in a random direction)
Hold.
Which is why there's also entire schools of counters for them - you get ropes made specifically to not be affected, so then you get release addwords built around working against anti-release stuff...
The spell distorts the space around it as it drifts away and fizzles out. It hits a few of the lights on the way, causing them to disappear.
CORALINE
Er.
BOY IN GREEN
That's fine. There's options there. Paralyse, entangle maybe...
CORALINE
Fly definitely.
BOY IN GREEN
Yes. Good one, that.
Agata lets out a particularly broken snore, tries to turn over a bit, curling her head around, and slides off Coraline's head, only then waking up very suddenly and clawing down Coraline's face trying to regain her footing.
Agata flops onto the floor, looking around in surprise.
The boy in green looks up in surprise.
CORALINE
(wiping at the claw marks on her face with her hand)
Well, you're really a cat, cat.
AGATA
What? Buh? No.
Coraline's hand comes away with streaks of ash on, and she eyes it confusedly.
CORALINE
I'm bleeding...?
BOY IN GREEN
It's ash. We don't have blood here.
AGATA
(sitting up)
You were. It looks like it's already healed.
How's your plan coming along?
CORALINE
Um. I'd be a lot more confident if I weren't on a bit of a deadline.
AGATA
Deadline. As in you'll be dead.
CORALINE
Yes, that's real helpful. Thank you.
AGATA
Well don't let me get in your way.
The boy laughs.


EXT. Soravian wilderness - evening
Coraline returns to herself as Vardaman is tying her to another tree. He says nothing as he moves to tend to the horses, and as she sinks to the ground, she doesn't really acknowledge him either.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Promising.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Agata? Where are you?
AGATA
(mind voice)
He doesn't seem to like me much, so I made myself scarce. Broke into the bag where he shoved the other cats. There used to be a vampire in here. And a sizeable liquor cabinet.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
'Used to be'?
AGATA
(mind voice)
Let's just say Argument of Hags seems to really like chewing on the living dead. Now it's more like part of a vampire. A former vampire. An ex.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
What, it didn't fight back?
AGATA
(mind voice)
Naw, it's bound up something awful. It's just sort of gibbering a bit. While a cat chews on it. Now that is a sight to see.
Agata passes Coraline some memories, including a few particularly choice scenes of gruesome chewing.
Coraline recoils a bit in horror. Vardaman pauses, watching her, but then resumes his stuff when she doesn't do anything further.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Dammit, cat, I did not need that!
AGATA
(mind voice)
Didn't you, though?
CORALINE
(mind voice)
No.
AGATA
(mind voice)
Well, one thing you will need is time. Those are some ambitious spells. And your boy does seem to have an actual life of his own, besides your little hobby here.
CORALINE
(mind voice)
Perkele.


EXt. Soravian wilderness - night
Evening gives way to night. Vardaman gives Coraline some vodka and food, and bundles her up, before sitting by the horses. As always, he watches her carefully. He does not sleep himself.
Coraline ignores him, focusing instead on her breathing. She maintains regular breaths, in and out, in and out, not letting her itching throat try to cough, not gagging on the gag, not struggling against her painful bindings.
Idly, she listens to the voices, clamouring in the back of her mind, whispering, chattering, screaming. There's no pattern to it, just a steady stream, some louder, some softer, some stranger than others. None particularly stand out. None seem to repeat. But she listens regardless, focusing at random, like trying to catch a glimpse of a single blade of grass as it passes by while flying through a field...
VOICE 498862723
...Helena sa...
VOICE 1757467282
Mother...
VOICE 996514
It's so cold.
VOICE 666002
...okay to be afraid. It's okay to be afraid. It's okay...
They're all snippets. They all sound... there is something about them that she cannot place. Something off, changing them.
They all sound familiar, like she's heard them all before.
Another voice intrudes, almost as if right in front of her, but with the same quality as the others, still distant, off, not quite real.
VOICE 132434088
Hello? Please, can you hear me? Can you see me? Please, anyone, why can't anyone...
It sounds like a little girl, lost and alone.
And then it's gone.


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(heaps: heapheap2heap3)
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