Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 12:26 PM
"We'll be leaving now then. Thanks for the help."
The group as one turned back toward the direction they came in from and began shuffling out. It wasn't until they reached the other side of the wreakage that the FBH's had left of the Red Tape waystation that Mattias dropped his shield. Their hurried pace slowed as they approached the Fifth Circle.
"So... 'Seek for him past the Rivers that mirror this realm,/To there an older land not yet forgotten from time'" Tanith quoted. "Any ideas on what it means?"
Written by FBH 06-19-2003 12:28 PM
"Hades. the Greek afterlife."
Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 02:03 PM
There was a short silence among the others. As they stopped at the banks of the Styx.
"We could ask him," someone suggested as Phlegyas drew near in his boat.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, the boatman of the Styx had no words to offer. It took a bit of convincing to get him to allow the living on his boat again to get back to the other shore.
The group contined on uphill out of the abyss. It was unlikely that Plutus the wolf or Cerberus the hound would have any advice for them. In fact, as it turned out, they weren't in any condition for much else either. When the group reached the border between the Third and Fourth Circles, they found a still-somewhat-intoxicated Cerberus wrestling with the Wolf-demon on the muddy ground. Two great bloody maws snapped at each other in senseless rage.
Not wishing to look this particular gift horse in the mouth, the travelers had the good sense to steer well away from the two Guardians of Hell as they were busy with one another. So it was without much incident that they passed through the Third Circle.
But that still left the small matter of directions.
Written by Yeoman 06-19-2003 02:08 PM
Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 03:19 PM
"Trouble ahead," Mattias interrupted tersely.
They were almost past the Second Circle, not too distant from where Minos held Judgement. But before them was a sight totally unexpected.
"What in the--"
They looked like demons. They looked like angels. It was pretty obvious just what they were. But most importantly, they looked like they wanted to kill something, and the look was directed at the small group of living beings tresspassing upon Hell.
"Y'know, this explains why there weren't any fallen angels guarding the doors to Dis," Tanith muttered thoughtfully. "Now we know where they went."
The demons began to advance.
"I am guessing that diplomacy is not gonna get us pass this one."
Written by FBH 06-20-2003 09:13 AM
Behind them several turrets poped up from the rovers super structure.
Written by Tanith 06-20-2003 06:26 PM
Almost immediately, Mattias raised a protective screen between the charging demons and the group. Unfortunately, that was not enough to stop them. In a series of *bamf*s, the leading demons vanished into puffs of smoke, to appear right next to their quarry.
Tanith jumped out of the way of a obsidian wing that streaked by her as the demon who bore it slashed at CBY with a fiery sword. The next sword that was aimed at her was blocked by an incomplete shield barrier, hastily erected in the midst of confusion. A swish was the only sign that another sword was heading her way from the opposite direction, too fast for her to even turn around to perceive in time--
Bright elven-steel clashed with the demon-blade as Elrohir turned the incoming sword aside. His brother was right beside him as the two threw themselves into the fray, perfectly at home in the mass melee that the scene was devolving to.
By this time, Mattias had finally completed one of his enclosed shield bubbles around himself and Tanith, ensuring that almost nothing could get inside its protective boundary. However, the increasing press of numbers on the shield cut off his line of sight to the other members of the group, preventing him from giving them similar aid. Only the sound of fighting from the surrounding melee told them that their allies were alive and fighting.
Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:14 AM
The buggers are fast, I'll give them that. Getting my shield bubble up was hard when I had to split my concentration blocking all the incoming blades coming at me and the lady I'm supposed to be bodyguard for. But once it was up I could take a slight breather. Maintaining the shield against stronger and stronger attacks was still easier on my nerves than trying to put up multiple shield constructs all at once. Besides, even as powerful as these demons are, they won't be breaking in anytime soon.
But still I wonder how we're all getting out of this mess. The whole thing stinks of a setup to me, and that makes me suspicious. Well, the whole deal about going to Hell before I'm dead reeked of suspicion, but this is a different kind.
While concentrating on keeping my bubble up, I experiment with making shield barriers outside the bubble, and then pushing out to force the demons back. It doesn't work very well, since the further I push, the larger the surface area I have to make the barrier, which weakens the whole thing. Somebody will need to figure out how to deal with this thing permanently, but it won't look like me.
But still... I'll say one thing for this job. It looks like it'll never be boring.
Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:12 AM
Yeoman dodged out of the way of the attack, making his way between the fiery swords being swung in the battle.
"Well, you all seem to be doing well. I'll go stand... over there."
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:18 AM
'This...' thought CBY, '...could be a problem.'
Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:31 AM
"No? Well then I see we..."
After a quick, yet powerful burst of force lightning the demon quickly lost consciousness and fell forward, narrowly missing CBY. He looked down at it. And then he grinned, and the form of a lightsaber formed in his hand.
"Well then. If that is all it takes... Come hosts of hell, face the lord of Terra Mars and meet your doom."
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:36 AM
Quickly scrambling to his feet, CBY whirled around to find himself facing...
No, he realized as he looked closer, it wasn't a chibi. It just looked like one. A demon of particularly small stature, as tiny as the previous one was huge. As... cute... as the previous one was ugly. And crackling with sheer power as the other one exuded sheer presence and size.
Another bolt of power sizzled toward him. CBY was hard pressed to dodge it. The followup bolt nailed him on one shoulder, rippling through his ghostly form like electricity. For perhaps the first time since he died, CBY trully felt pain.
"That was for my brother," squeaked the demon, advancing on the Force Ghost with rage in its eyes.
Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:44 AM
Fuming in anger the demon fired another bolt at Yeoman. Grinning, he raied his lightsaber into the blast. Gathering it's electricity along the bade he whirled it back towards the small deomn, hitting it square in the chest. As it flew backward into the horde, he continued to smile.
"They always fall for that."
Written by FBH 06-21-2003 04:53 AM
But that circle was slowly shrinking.
hit them with the beacon
Not unless you want me to deactivate the Rovers weapons for power.
The FBH who had just thought began to swear into the mental link.
ok I got a plan.
I was being sarcastic and you know it.
Both FBHs switched from the long but fairly low power (in order not to run out of ammo) bursts to clip emptying sprays of high powered shots.
For a second the fallen fell back from this furious attack. The rovers weapons deactivated and the beacon deployed from the front.
Both FBHs guns ran out of energy at almost the same time. The fallen sensing there chance surged forward.
The beacon activated as the first hacked at the FBH on the right the sword blasted across his armoured side sending him reeling back into the side of the rover. The smirking fallen advanced on him to deliver the death blow... then clasped as the beacon lashed out with pulse of the demonic equivalent of hard radiation. It gritted its teeth and pulled its self to its feet, determined to kill this impudent mortal. And found its self looking down the barrel of the FBHs pistol. He pulled the trigger. the shell blasted through the fallens left eye...
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 11:48 AM
Then, suddenly, the two of them felt themselves lifted into the air, and enveloped by a glowing shield.
"Got 'em," Tanith said as she concentrated on using her sorcery to keep everyone aloft. She was frowning as she stared at the hovering rover. "Let's get outta here."
Written by FBH 06-21-2003 11:52 AM
The Rovers D drives engaged and it and the group around it jumped into another dimension.
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 11:57 AM
The others looked around, they were still in Hell. And there were still demons knocking outside of the shield that enveloped them.
"Something must be blocking it," one of the clones muttered.
Written by Methos 06-21-2003 11:55 AM
"Save your strength for the car," I tell her. "I can carry these two, and ghost boy can probably float himself."
She didn't argue with me, which is good. Or maybe she was too busy concentrating. Anyways, we start flying outta there, me taking the shield along with us as we go.
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:01 PM
But it wasn't long before they realized something. While the demons could fly, their featherless wings weren't very good at it. They couldn't fly well... meaning fast.
Clearly, some speed would be needed - just enough to get clear of the Circle and out of their area of influence.
Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:07 PM
"Just concentrate on holding everyone up relative to yourself," I tell her. It's usually easier to do that than to have to worry about accelerating everything you're holding. Or, at least, that's what my telekinetic buddies have always told me.
Giving her some time to adjust, I start speeding up. My pseudo-vampiric stats come with some amount of superspeed. Not quite supersonic, but fast enough to leave those demons eating our dust. Before we know it, the brimstone gang were nowhere to be seen, an we were rapidly approaching the edge of the second circle.
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:16 PM
"Should it not be wise to make haste away from this place of danger?" Elladan asked. "Our quarry is not here."
"Maybe, but there's something I need to ask our esteemed judge of the dead," Tanith replied. "Something's been nagging at me for a while now. I'm going to see if we can't get some answers out of Minos. Besides... he might solve our directions problem too."
Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:20 PM
Written by FBH 06-21-2003 01:41 PM
Who knows. scanners aren't giving a clear answer. Not that it really maters we aren't D-shifting
not that that maters, we should fly out of here soon.
Hell is a lot smaller than it seemed in the Briefings.
Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 02:22 PM
"We're here," said Mattias unneccessarily as they approached the Judge of the Dead once more.
"Minos," Tanith greeted.
"You again," Minos replied. One of his eyes twitched.
"You seem surprised to see us."
"I must admit that I didn't expect to see you back again."
"So you knew about that horde of Fallen that waylaid us? Or perhaps you were the one who sent them..."
"Perhaps." A cool detached mask had fallen over Minos' features. There was no telling what the demon was thinking.
"So is it your job to make things hard for living beings who have legitimate business here? Or is this something personal?"
A great shrug. "This is Hell."
"That doesn't answer my question."
Minos leaned in, his towering form shadowing over the travellers as he growled his words. "Don't push your luck, little girl. You'll find far more dangerous things than just me on your little quest." The last word was spoken as if an epithet. "Were I you I'd stop complaining about the dangers of searching after... danger."
There was a small pause as Tanith mulled over his words. Minos leaned back in apparent satisfaction.
"So... you're saying that Locke may be in danger?" she finally asked again.
"Don't ask things you already know the answer to." Minos seemed amused for a moment.
"But you're saying that the danger will be aimed at us too," Tanith insisted. "Is that a threat? Or a warning?"
Minos signed dramatically. "My, the heroes these days are more and more dimwitted. And that's saying a lot. You're lucky to have gotten this far at all."
"Well, if you're not going to answer any of my question about our journey, do you at least have any answers about how you get to Hades?"
Minos grinned mysteriously. "Why should I? I'm already there as I am here. Haven't you read the books?"
"I'm speaking of how *we*, or even misplaced souls, get from one place to another."
"Then you're asking the wrong person. I'm no psychopomp. Mine's the job to judge, not ferry the dead about." He suddenly grinned nastily. "Why don't you go ask the nice Fallen Angels that are headed this way? They might know something."
"Thank you, but no. We'll be on our way now." So saying, Tanith turned and started to walk away from the Second Circle.
"Don't bother trying to go back out through the Gate," Minos called to them. "You should have paid attention to the inscriptions. 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter in!'"
"No worries about that, milord Minos," Tanith tossed back flippantly. "You've been a greater help than you thought in helping us on our way."
Written by Locke 06-22-2003 10:23 AM
|But there is One Other, whose Name is never spoken, for he is an Outcast both from Heaven and from Helle; a Being Shunn'd in every Realm spirituale or temporale. His Name was excis'd from evry Boke and evry Tablette, and His Image was banish' from evry place where People sought to worship him. He is a Pariah and he is terribly to be Fear'd, for at his Bidding the dead arise, and the Sonne itself is extinquish'd from the Skie.
-The so-called ''forbidden last paragraph'' from the Codex Daemonicus, 1516, itself a ''forbidden book'' until reprinted (without the last paragraph) by the Ibis Press in 1926. The only known copy of the Codex is now in the Vatican Library's secret case.
Gods, how he had always loved running about in the storm as a child, the crash and boom of the thunder, the feel of the chill waters sluicing down upon him, the serrated, jagged flash of the lightning. A thrilling experience that, the attraction of which he had always lacked words to properly describe to those, like his mother, who most decidely did not approve of this particular choice of recreation. Well, of course he couldn't explain why he loved the rain and the storm; he knew, the child from decades ago, only that he did, and that ought to have been explanation enough, right?
Of course, that had been then, and this was now, and no matter what the child had so mysteriously adored, the tired, wearied to the bone man knew how *he* felt about the matter.
The unending cold, wet rain sucks, especially when there is no shelter to be conveniently ducked under, or warm dry clothes to change into, and sucks even moreso when there appears to be absolutely no end in sight to the torrential downpowers which rendered him all but deaf and blind in the uproar, and which made every footstep a potential plunge into the muck and mud the once firm plain had become.
He just knew he had to be wandering in circles. Not that there was anything he could do anything about it of course. And make his disaster complete, any hope of tracking his target, the big gray monster of a coyote, had long since vanished into the deluge.
Wanderin' in circles with absolutely no idea of what to do next. The story of my life. All the way back to square one. Well, forget that nonsense. No point in movin' about, if it ain't gettin' me anywhere. Might as well sit it out, wet or not, freezin' or not, until the time and tides change for the better.
Since the particular hummock he had just stepped on seemed unlikely to descend into the depths of the earth without warning, Locke sank to the ground, assumed a cross-legged pose, and at once cleared his mind, bound and determined to pay no furthur heed to the raw elements breaking upon his head.
Let the sluices of heaven do their damndest I'm goin' home, if for just a little while.
Drawing upon the many disciplines he had learned, both from the very best senseis money could buy-when you are the head of government for a prosperous nation, very little indeed is denied you-and from one or two other instructors of talent, Locke shoved the cold and wet and the misery aside with his first step into that which the ancients had dubbed the Memory Palace.
When events have blessed you with an eidetic memory (a rather marvellous irony, he had thought many times since), one might as well make the best of it, and he thought he had done so, though he would have readily conceded some might find his choices lacking from an artistic perspective.
Little matter, for this was his refugee and domain, to be arranged as he wished.
The storm continued to break upon him, but that was of no furthur consequence for what counted in the man was now quite far removed from this troublesome place.
In his mindseye, in the vista of the memories so carefully sculputured, Locke stood dry and composed and comfortable before that which he had labouriously constructed with the aid of his now nearly infallible recall and quick-learned skills, the Palace of Memory tidily arranged with all that he found amusing and entertaining, and useful, to be called forth as required, both a repository of information he would have need of, and as a place of refugee from the enraged heavens.
A place of refugee into which none other could intrude or penetrate when the need for solitude arose, a stronghold and safe room where the univited could never come calling, for there were none who knew of this place. Well, no one who was mortal anyhow, and of those few, nary a one who could possiblely wish him harm.
A man's home really* is* his Castle, he had always thought, as he took his first step upon the drawbridge which spanned a chasm into which he, by design, did not care to look. And once I'm behind those sky towering walls the Cyclopes might have erected, and squared away in the Donjon, I'll be as happy and comfortable and safe as any man can be.
Well, as completely safe and sound as ever you could hope to be in this life anyhow.
Written by Tanith 06-22-2003 11:47 PM
"You sure you know where to go?" asked one of the FBH clones.
"I think so," Tanith replied. She turned to her guard. "Mattias, did you see any shades that appeared to be Ancient Greek in origin in Limbo?"
Mattias paused for a moment and ran through his memories. "No. None at all. There were a few who looked like they might have, but I think they were Romans..."
"Hm... as I suspected," Tanith murmured to herself as Charon's small boat drifted near them.
Charon the ferryman glared at the travelers sullenly. "I suppose you'll want me to take you back to the other bank?" he asked disinterestedly.
"Well, yes and no" Tanith said as she stepped aboard and motioned for the others to do the same. "We'll be going across to a bank, but not *that* one. We wish to cross over to the banks of the Styx... in Hades... your other job."
Charon's eyes bulged in shock and he sputtered at her request. "I... I... What makes you think I can take you to Hades?" He finally demanded.
"Minos let it slip that he existed both there and here, in the afterlives of two pantheons because both pantheons concieved of the same Judge," Tanith explained. "You're much in the same plight, Charon, and your reaction to my request merely confirmed my suspicion. The only difference is, Minos is a Judge, while *you* are a ferrier of souls."
"Of dead souls," Charon said stubbornly, no longer attempting to protest his access to Hades. "Why should I take you lot there?"
"I have more than enough gold to pay for our passage," Tanith said mildly.
"And if I refuse it?"
"Well, I'd rather not resort to threats..."
Written by Yeoman 06-23-2003 12:14 AM
"Think of them as just... being along for the ride, eh?"
Written by FBH 06-23-2003 02:32 PM
well if he doesn't go for yeoman's offer we remind him of what happened the last time some one tried to stop us using a gate way.
Written by Tanith 06-23-2003 11:07 PM
"Fine," he forced out between clenched teeth. "Get on." And with that, turned his back on them.
"Just try not to tip us into the water or anything creative like that," Tanith added cheerfully as everyone squeezed onto the boat and the rover hovered behind it.
Charon just grunted noncommittally as he pushed off the bank. The boat gliding soundlessly into the water. Instead of aiming it back to the other shore, Charon made a few quick strokes with his long oar, and the boat started floating slowly down the river.
Groans and wails of protest rang out all along the shore as the shades still awaiting transport watched the ferryman leave. But they were ignored as the boat slowly floated in and out of sight among the dim mist of the Underworld, followed by a hovering Rover.
And then they were gone.
Written by Locke 06-24-2003 07:52 AM
"''Just a thought....''"
"''If all goes well, he'll be in the Crossroads between the realms of Otherworld, if I understand matters properly.'' "
''Yes. A very dangerous place for him to be. A single misstep could consign him to a realm where we have no hope whatsoever of intervention.''
"''I grasp that. However, I see opportunity there as well, I think.'' "
''Opportunity? I don't follow.''
"''*Sigh* Within the realms of the dead theselves, we have no hopes of communication with him. The Trumps reach beyond Time and Space, but they cannot truly penetrate into the afterlife...even Grandfather's Art had limits after all. You on the other hand...''"
"''Yes. For you who are a goddess born, a slightly different set of rules applies. Even if you fear to tread the Paths that lead to and between all the Marches of the Dead, even if that Pathway, the Crossroads, frightens you, still, you are not without a measure of power in a place which is open to all the gods of all the worlds.'' "
''To those deities who are properly appointed as messengers and escorts of the dead, yes, of course. Those tasks are not mine, however. There would be...repurcussions if I set foot upon the Crossroads without leave. Arranging for my agent to operate in the Amerindian afterlife dented the rules quite thoroughly enough as it is. Even for our..friend....there are risks we should not run.''
"''I do not suggest that you go there yourself, if you're so unwilling. I do suggest that an effort be made to communicate with him once he is upon the Crossroad. And that much, my dear, should lie within your powers.''"
''Perhaps....perhaps! That had not occurred to me, frankly. Yes, it may be possible to arrange a conversation or two.''
"''How fortunate the possibility occurred to me, at least. Will you employ a dream-sending?'' "
''Do the Dead dream? Frankly, I'm not really sure. I shall try, however. Should this approach fail, we might have to seek out a suitablely..equipped messenger who can serve our purposes.''
"''An expendable messenger, you mean.''"
''This little enterprise of ours is not without cost. We really have scant choice in the matter, as well you know, if he is to be retrieved. Now, if you'll leave me in peace for a few moments, I shall prepare myself for the task.''
"''Good luck, then. Do try to keep me informed of your progress in a timely fashion.''"
Written by FBH 06-25-2003 05:28 AM
"you know. Its places like the inferno that have prevented us from ever making a deal with any powers.... well at least, stopped us from trying to make such a deal. How can a benevolent beings possible create somewhere were people are tortured for ever?"
Written by Yeoman 06-25-2003 07:33 PM
Written by FBH 06-26-2003 03:33 AM
Written by Tanith 06-25-2003 04:53 PM
"You guys should read some Vertigo comics. It's not so much as the Higher Powers who are forcing us to go to various punishments or afterlives as it is ourselves who create determine what happens to us in after death. I mean, why else would the lot of us be here?"
Written by FBH 06-26-2003 03:33 AM
Written by Tanith 06-26-2003 11:09 AM
Written by FBH 06-26-2003 11:12 AM
Written by Tanith 06-26-2003 11:37 AM
Written by FBH 06-26-2003 11:51 AM
Written by Tanith 06-25-2003 09:17 PM
The rift-portal snapped shut with a wavering ripple.
"Done. You can put the shields back up now, Rommie," Rune said cheerfully to the droid avatar of the Andromeda Ascendant as she lowered her gloved hand.
Rommie looked doubtfully at where the portal had sat. "Are you sure it was a good idea to send Boromir over to the PITS?"
Rune shrugged. "He did okay with Merry and Pippin in the canon LOTR, so he can't be bad with kids."
"But wouldn't he be underpowered in comparison to the students?" asked Rommie.
"It's not like I'm sending him over to the main branch of the school at Khazan," explained Rune. "Just to one of the offworld branches geared more toward fostering street-level powers. He should be alright."
"If you think so..." Rommie still sounded doubtful.
"Well, he did ask to leave this dimension, so his dad couldn't keep using him as a political pawn. Since we don't plan on leaving yet, sending him over seemed like a good idea."
Rune shrugged sheepishly. "I'm not as good a pilot as sis. If we're leaving, it'd be either by rifting or by preprogrammed teleportation... and sis did ask me to look into expanding the PaDT tourism options to Middle Earth..."
"Ah," Rommie nodded sagely, "so you will need to do further negotiation with King Elessar."
"Also Eomer and the Men around Lake Town." Rune counted off two fingers and stopped on the third. "...And I suppose we could also include Lothlorien after the Elves leave... though I doubt Thranduil and Celeborn would agree to open up Mirk--Eryn Lasgalen."
"It sounds like you have a lot of work to do," Rommie informed her. "This will take a lot of meetings and talking."
"Yep," Rune agreed, not at all intimidated by the sheer scope of what PaDT plans involved. "Hopefully, sis will get back relatively soon. She's got more of an 'in' with the locals."
Rommie raised an eyebrow at that. "You can't see when she's coming back?"
"No," Rune admitted. "Whatever Llewella gave them when they got to Tir-Na Nog'th a couple of hours ago is preventing me from seeing them with my clairsentience, temporally as well as dimensionally." She shrugged once more. "Ah well, I'm sure they're fine. How much trouble can they find in just a few hours time, after all."
With that, she turned her attention to the consoles in the office, ready to tackle the task of forming commercial relations with the governments of Middle Earth.
(OOC: Yes, time goes faster in the underworld... or at least, in some of them. The actual events from Tir-Na Nog'th to Dante's Inferno and out took like a few days.)
Written by Methos 06-26-2003 11:01 PM 06-26-2003 11:09 PM
To me, the Inferno section of the Underworld had been a vast, vast place, stretching far beyond my senses. Even now, Charon's boat is moving at speeds beyond even the fastest of Earth Prime speedsters through the river mist.
However, I'm also aware that my fellow travelers don't perceive that. To them, it seems as if we're only liesurely drifting down a slow-flowing river...
It occurs to me that this may be another hint of the so-called belief-oriented nature of the Underworld. My perceptions themselves make the entirety of the place seem more than the others do, and that in turn makes it true for me.
Good thing I don't plan on staying here. Subjective reality is a nice thing to visit and theorize about, but it would be a pain to be around for the long term.
After an indeterminate amount of time (Much Later):
The transition between the Inferno and Hades can as a quick jolt to my perceptions.
I looked around. No one else seems to have noticed. The river directly around us hasn't changed much, except maybe gotten a little faster and deeper. The fog still closed in from all directions, preventing the unaided eye from seeing far.
"We're in Hades," I felt obliged to inform them.
"Hnh," Charon grunted, "we draw near the Styx."
I'm reminded of the fact that Charon was the ferryman for the Acheron in Hell, and the ferryman for the Styx in Hades.
True enough, soon the narrow river opens up to a largish marsh-like lake.
In the distance, from one of the banks, I hear low moaning sounds. Cries of the dead, I realize, and inform the others.
"There dwell the unburied souls," Charon tells us upon being interrogated. "If you think that your friend is among them, then you're welcome to go ashore there."
Without even waiting for us to reply, he ferries the boat toward the moaning sounds. I guess he really didn't like our company. Soon we could see the shoreline, with teeming masses of dead shades near it, howling in anger and demand at the boat.
Written by Tanith 06-27-2003 09:58 AM
"If we don't find our friends here," she asked the ferryman, "will we need your further services to reach the other areas of Hades?"
Charon looked like he had swallowed something bitter. "Yes," he bit out, "but you can't expect me to wait for you here. I've got a job to do."
"But you'll be here when we finish searching and return to the riverbank?"
There was a small pause as Charon's expression became even more sullen. Finally he heaved a great sigh. "Yes. My duty still binds me to any who seek the other shores."
And with that, he pushed off from the shore. The boat shot away quickly with the water, as if in a hurry to leave.
The travelers looked at one another, then at the gray and listless landscape before them, and at the many shades that were drifting their way...
"Well, I guess we ought to get started."
Written by FBH 06-27-2003 10:19 AM
one of the FBHs looked over the bleak landscape. "It would help if you told us exactly who you are looking for. Our scanners can help us find our own missing soul. But cannot really help you much if we don't know who your looking for exactly."
This point is as far as I have transcribed from the actual YvtW threads before the catastrophic board crash which deleted them all. In those lost posts, our story had progressed from Hades to Hellheim to Asgard (both the MU and OMGU versions) to Egypt. The following are those segments, retold entirely from a single narrative.
"But your scanners probably won't find him," she added. "We were told that he's well hidden, whether intentionally or not."
The FBH shrugged. "Still better than nothing."
"Here we are!" CBY exclaimed as they neared a large outcropping from the ground. They all stopped to stare blankly at him.
"This," CBY swept his hands in a wide circle, forcing the FBH clone next to him to duck, "is the rock located at the crossing of Phlegethon and Cocytus, where Odysseus summoned the dead in order to get advice from Tiresias."
"I didn't know you're well read in Greek classics," Tanith said, impressed.
"Nah. I just had a tour of this place before I met you guys."
"Like the Stone of Erech," murmured Elladan as he stared at the outcopping curiously. "How does one summon these dead?"
They all looked at CBY. He shrugged. "Beats me. I tuned out right about then. We could try yelling real loud."
"Perhaps we should consult the classical sources?" Mattias suggested dryly.
Tanith pulled up the text of the Odyssey and skimmed through the relevant verses.
"We'll need a pit to pour a libation. First with honey and milk, then with wine, then water. Then we have to sprinkle barley over it and invoke the spirits. Then we have to sacrifice a ram and an ewe." She winced. "The first couple of parts I think we can manage, but there's no way we can get our hands on living animal sacrifices down here."
"Let's try what we can and see," said one of the FBH clones as he rummaged through their packs for the ingredients.
"I have a cask of miruvir," offered Elrohir. "Perhaps its potency will make up for the lack of a sacrifice."
Whether it was because of the potency of the wine or not, it was a relief to all when they first felt the silent creeping tingle of the presence of the dead. The spirits seemed to ignore the travellers for the most part, as if they weren't there. After a few moments of this, Tanith pulled out the trump of Locke and interposed herself in front of the next shade she saw, holding up the picture.
"Excuse me, but have you seen this pers--um--spirit around here?"
For a while, the shade stared blankly through her. But slowly, its eyes focused and it stared first at the picture, then at her.
"Away woman! Address not your better."
There was a moment of utter silence. The FBH's and CBY began to inch away from Tanith, whose eyes narrowed and hands clenched tightly.
"Betcha she mallets him into LEO," CBY muttered softly to the nearest clone.
"No bets," replied the clone.
"Is there such a thing as LEO in the Underworld?" asked another.
"Unless that guy is gonna start grovelling real fast, I think we're about to find out."
But before the question of the existence of a lower earth orbit in the underworld could be determined, the intervention of an unknowning soul saved the dead spirit from an imminent malleting.
"Hold!" Elrohir grabbed the shade and spun him around to face him. "How dare you to speak so to the Lady Tanith?"
The shade gaped for a moment at the half-elf, before bowing low as if in genuflection. "Forgive me, my lord. I did not mean to insult the wife of a lord such as you."
Elladan burst into hastily muffled laughter at that. Tanith made a choking sound, caught somewhere between fury and embarrassment. CBY and the FBH's inched further away from the imminent nuking zone.
Elrohir, with some difficulty, found his voice. "She is not my wife," he corrected, "but you shall address her with the same respect as you do me."
The shade now looked confused. "But... but she is a mere woman, and you are a demigod!" In its mouth the word "woman" sounded like an epithet.
Tanith growled something under her breath. Elrohir caught something about "antiquated misogynists" and was about to question the shade further on whatever this "demigod" title it was referring to, when he was himself interrupted.
"You waste your time speaking to these common rabble," announced the newcomer. "They have not the eyes to see that the woman is a sorceress touched by the favor of the gods." Imperiously, he waved the confused shade away.
Tanith opened her mouth, then closed it. Technically, she supposed, he was right on the last part, even if Lewella didn't count as a "god".
"Who are you, pray tell, who can see so keenly?" Elrohir asked the newcomer.
Golden locks, tall and broad of stature, yet clean shaven in the sign of youth. "I am Achilleus, son of Peleus and Thetis of the Nereids."
"Achilles?" CBY murmured as an aside to the FBH clones. "He doesn't look anything like Brad Pitt."
"Isn't that a good thing?" whispered back the clone.
Elrohir ignored the byplay behind him and directed Achilles to the picture that Tanith was still holding. After but a cursory glance, Achilles shook his head.
"I do not recall him in the Elysian Fields," he said, "and I pay little heed to the shades outside of that bright land; they all seem the same to me."
"Wait a minute," CBY now spoke up. "If you can get into the Elysian Fields, why are you still here?"
Achilles scowled. "I refuse to enter the Isle of the Blessed unless my beloved companion Patroklos is given leave to accompany me."
"Really?" Tanith mused curiously.
Mattias coughed to get everyone's attention. "I do believe that's Tiresias coming this way," he announced, pointing.
"That is Tiresias," Achilles confirmed. "He could tell you more of what you seek." With that the demigod departed.
The travellers all looked at each other.
"Well, third time's the charm?" CBY quipped, as they all went to meet the shade of the old blind seer.
Indeed, the seer did have answers for them, in a sense, though his words were cryptic and seemed to speak more of prophecy than advice.
"Hidden and pursued is the quarry you seek
Untangling the knot cannot untangle the web
In some distant future in some distant land
Look eastward where the demon-gods dwell
But for Doom and a glance of the puppet's strings
Seek the paths through nine worlds, nine roots"
To the half-elves:
"Children of three bloodlines, two kindreds, one choice,
Limit yourselves not by rules unset, futures unseen
Let not fear blind you from choosing the unpaved path
Remember above all, your Creator desires your joy"
"In hatred lies your power and curse
In anger, Void beckons
To the world departed you are bound
Child bereft binding
The past must your heart's grip loosen
To the FBH clones:
"Seek not what is not here, god cursed. Beware!
On your greatest victory, is your greatest Trial!
The house of worlds, flawed mortal-built, shall fall upon you!"
"Mother to child the lightning blest,
Salvation reward for loyalty test."
They all looked at one another after the seer departed, many surprised by the answers they had personally received.
"Well," Elrohir finally ventured, "that was more than we had asked for, was it not?"
"Yeah, but it's not like he was clear on what we did ask," said CBY. "Anyone got any ideas where to next?"
"Hm... well, the nine roots part is definitely talking about Norse mythology," Tanith mused, "though I'm not sure I like that Doom part, or the puppet part. Otherwise the only hint I have is east, which can be anywhere from Egypt to Japan, and some time in the future..."
"Better than what we got," groused a FBH clone.
As they spoke, the group made their way to the banks of the marsh of the Styx. Charon the boatman was nowhere in sight.
"Then again, he never said if either of the spirits we're looking for is in Hades or not," said another FBH clone.
"So we search this place first?"
"We still have to cross the river to get to the Asphodel Fields. Charon seems to have ditched us."
"We can always Door over. It's not that far."
"Will that work here? It didn't in Hell."
"Let's try and find out."
The portal did seem to work, after something of a shaky start. A golden sheet of light swirled in front of the party, and one by one, they stepped into it.
They stepped out into a barren land covered by a dark, thick mist. The first inkling that Mattias had that something was rong was the rushing of water that was the only sound in the silence - rushing, free running water that was nothing like the sluggish stagnation of the marsh of the Styx. The next thing he noticed was that he could not see land as he look out the dark waters, the land that they had easily seen this supposed place they were standing on.
"This place feels different than the other shore," Elladan muttered.
"Colder in spirit," added Elrohir.
"I don't think we're in Hades anymore," confirmed Mattias, whirling around to face the swirling Door just as the last member of their party came through. "We should go back."
Before anyone could move, though, the Door suddenly flickered, seams of black void crossing it like a spiderweb of cracks on glass. With a great shudder, the golden swirls were rent asunder, disappearing as it broke.
"That's... not a good sign, is it?" muttered CBY.
His answer was a loud howl from somewhere in the mist. Somewhere uncomfortable not far off.
"Nope, definitely not a good sign."
"It's coming this way, fast!" Mattias called out as he raised a shield around them all.
Scarcely had the glowing wall of light come into being than a great hulking form hurtled out from the mists and crashed against it. The creature fell back, undaunted, and the travellers could see that it was a huge monstrous wolf, with fur that was dripping with blood and four glowing eyes atop its head.
"That is not Cerberus," Mattias deadpanned as the creature rushed the shield again.
"What is it then?" muttered one of the FBH's as he and his clones readied their weapons.
Tanith, who had been flipping through her references in search of a match, answered, reciting the text. "Garm - The monstrous hound Garm guards the entrance to Helheim, the Norse realm of the dead. It has four eyes and a chest drenched with blood, and lives in Gnipa-cave. Anyone who had given bread to the poor could appease him with Hel cake." She paused then, and looked around. "What the heck is Hel cake?"
"Ooh, we got this one covered," volunteered one of the FBH clones. He rummaged through the packs in the rover and retrieved a large loaf of something. "We came prepared for all the popular Afterlives."
Cautiously, the FBH clone sidled toward the great hound, hand outstretched and holding the loaf of bread. Garm's bloody jaw drooped closer, monstrously oversized in comparison. With a sudden lunge and a gulp, it gobbled up the cake in one smooth move, nearly taking the FBH's hand off in the process. For a moment, they all waited. Finally the growling in the back of Garm's throat abated, and without further ado, it turned and wandered back off into the mists. The FBH clone stumbled back into his buddies, hand held tightly to his chest as if making sure that it was actually still there.
"Next time somebody else play bait," he declared nervously.
"Well, at least we know where we are right now," said Tanith, "though if the stories about Helheim and its ruler are true, this might be a worse place to be than the Inferno."
"Don't you think it's suspicious that we get dropped here right after getting a prophecy about it?" asked CBY.
"Well, Tiresias might not have been talking about Hel. Some of the dead go to Asgard. Though... I don't know where they file people who get assassinated."
"Then why don't we go to Asgard first? This place is giving me the creeps."
"We'd have to get there first. Getting out of Helheim is going to be a problem. First thing first though, which way do we go?"
Mattias spoke up then, having been scanning the landscape around them. "Something in the mists is muffling my Awareness, but I'm getting a vague feeling that the only significant structure in this place is thataway." He pointed out directly inland.
"Well, in absense of any other choices, let's go."
On and on the travelled, though the darkened mist and the unchanging barren landscape. It sseemed as though they were travelling for an eternity, and that Time itself stood still as they went.
More strangely, they encountered nothing on their journey. No shade or damned soul crossed their path, though Mattias felt their ghostly presences occassionally brush by the edge of his senses. It was as if they were avoiding them. No summons came to them either, nor any herald of the goddess that ruled this realm come to confront them. It was an anxious burden, to wait constantly for the other shoe to drop.
Eventually, the keen vision of the half-elves could also see the distant quarry that Mattias was leading them toward. It felt like another Age had passed before the more normal sight of the rest of the group could see the distant speck rising above the mist.
It took another eternity to actually reach it -- a great wooden mast that rose out of beneath the ground they stood on, twisting and gnarled, and jutted upwards into the darkened skies until it faded away from view.
"It is a great tree-nay, a tree trunk!" Elladan marvelled.
"A giant root, actually," Mattias corrected. "Probably the root of Yggdrasil which holds this plane in place."
"Hm... Yggdrasil connects to all the nine planes of the Norse cosmology," Tanith mused. "Maybe we can climb it to get to Asgard."
However, actually climbing the great trunk of Yggdrasil was not as easy as it sounded. No matter what the party tried, be it levitation using their native powers, or flight using the FBH clones' transport, or even physically grappling with the wooden breadth, they found their way upwards mysteriously barred. It was as if some barrier stood in their way, corralling them inside the land of the dead.
Unbeknownst to them, there had been one who had tread their path once before. One living and empowered who had used the same path upwards to escape the realm of Hel. (See: Mr. Grimm during in the beginnings of the Asgard/Meddler arc.) Since then, the ruler of that land had ensured that no other would escape her domain by that path.
After an indeterminably long time, the group had resigned itself to periodic half-hearted glares at the World Tree, having given up on their original plan to ascend it. Suddenly, Mattias jerked his head upwards, sensing something beyond the others' ken. Soon, the others noticed something amiss as well, for the thin root-strings that forked out from the main root began to shiver ever the more strongly, as if agitated by some approaching force.
It was the sharp sight of the half-elven that first spotted and gave name to the disturbance.
"'Tis a squirrel!" Elladan exclaimed, his Silmaril-bright eyes piercing throught the gloom.
"Aye. A giant of a squirrel!" exclaimed his twin, "As large as an oliphaunt if I do not misjudge our distance."
They all backed away from Yggdrasil as the large furry form stormed downwards toward them. As the creature came even with the plane of Helheim, however, it suddenly stopped. Two beady eyes stared out at the people gathered nearby, and it shrieked in a high and grating voice.
Mattias raised his energy shield, and the FBH's readied their weapons as they regarded the threatening form before them nervously. But Elrohir raised a hand to stop them.
"Wait!" he cried. "It doesn't not mean us harm!" At the incredulous looks sent his way, he explained. "It is only curious of our presence."
"You can understand it?" Tanith asked.
"Aye. For our part," replied Elladan. "'Tis not too unlike some of the more obscure Quenya dialect of Elvish," he mused.
"And it's... friendly?" CBY asked dubiously, still staring at the giant squirrel.
"Enough to converse."
Tanith took her eyes off the squirrel and grinned at the two half-elves. "Then you two get to ask it for directions. It seems to be able to go to and from this plane. Maybe it will share its secret."
The twins looked at each other dubiously. But as it was still a better idea than nothing, they turned and approached the giant squirrel cautiously.
//Do you have a name, master squirrel?//
//Ratatosk I am known. I have heard every worthy gossip along the great tree, from the eagle at its height to the dragon at the roots. But the likes of you I have not seen for quite a while, not since the dread Lady's guest was sent here by one who tried and failed to usurp Skyfather Thor. You are neither gods nor dead, yet you walk the lands of Helheim. What, then, are you?//
//We are travellers, searching for one who is lost. We do not know how we came by this land, but we wish to depart it for higher ground. Can you help us?//
//None of human blood may ascend Yggdrasil from Hela's realms. The dread lady has commanded it after the last empowered human escape that way, or so it is whispered by the wind and the roots. But I am not human nor of human blood. Her ban does not stop me as it stops thee.//
//But... know you of another way to depart this realm?//
//Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. If upwards is barred from your path, then the only way that remains is down. Down to Niflhiem where reside the dishonored dead, where old Nidhoggr gnaws at Yggdrasil's roots, old Nidhoggr who tells me such secret things and such raging insults for the eagle--//
//--but of what little we know of this realm, Master Ratatosk, Niflheim would be just another layer upon this cage that holds us. Is there no way to leave this realm entire?//
//Well, well, well, well, well. Perhaps I have heard of some thing that might show your way. Perhaps I have heard some secret thing from the old dragon Nidhoggr. But why should Ratatosk tell his secret? Why should I risk Hela's wrath should she ever find out? You are lucky indeed that *She* is not in Helheim for the moment, lucky indeed. Whatever plots that lured her up to Asgard has surely saved your lives.//
//Surely if we do not reveal that you are the one who aided us, she will not learn.//
//Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps I will give you some hints if you give me fair trade.//
//What do you wish of us in return for your aid?//
//Gossip is my trade and my life. Tell me a tale from your land. A good tale. A long tale. Something worthy of being sung in the Halls of Vahalla. And I am hungry and thirsty. I smell some tasty morsels in those packs you carry. Share with me your repast and tell me a grand tale, and I shall help you.//
Noneplussed, but with no other choice, Elladan and Elrohir agreed to Ratatosk's deal. From their packs they withdrew several loafs of lembas, and a flask of miruvor. Elrohir gave a hurried explanation to the others who were waiting upon their conversation, before he and Elladan turned their attention to weaving their story.
"Skyfather Thor?" muttered CBY. "This must be the Marvel U."
Tanith recalled her allegiance to the MU Avengers. "No wonder we're lucky Hela wasn't home."
Not for nothing were the sons of Elrond the children of one of Middle-earth's greatest loremasters. When at last they were done, Ratatosk was well pleased with their end of the bargain. As well, a full belly of lembas and the flask of spirits also served to loosen its tongue in satisfaction.
//Take the root downwards, my friends, down where no ban is set. Under this root before thee is Hvergelmir, the Great Well, from where all rivers spring. Go through the water, through the well. It will take you as you wish from the lands of the dead to some higher plane upon the World Tree. Perhaps even Asgard proper, if luck and fate be with thee.//
//Many thanks, Master Ratatosk, for your aid.//
//Have care as you go, young storytellers. The Great Well is not unguarded, and yet you need to hasten. It will go ill with all of you should the mistress of these lands return with you in it. It is whispered in the wind and the leaves that you did not come here by chance. Whatever it is you seek, the matter touches on more than you think. With that warning I must depart. Old Nidhoggr still awaits the eagle's latest taunt!//
And with that, Ratatosk disappeared down the root into the gloom of Niflhiem.
"A giant, frelling squirrel," mutter CBY after Ratatosk left. "What is it with these afterlives and giant animals? What's next, a giant penguin?"
The others ignored him as they stared down into darkness where the truck of Yggdrasil arched off from the root and led downwards into Niflheim. At length one of the FBH clones spoke up.
"I suggest we be cautious this time. Let's send down a probe first."
It seemed like a good idea, so the FBH's turned to their rover and activated one of the sensor probes it was equipped with. They sent the silvery piece of machinery into the darkness and turned on their transmission monitor. The three clones then huddled together with the monitor and instruments, muttering to each other as they remote operated the probe.
"I'm getting lots of static. Somebody adjust the signal frequency."
"Got it. Is that better?"
"No, not y-Wait! I got something. It's vague..."
"Let it down further, maybe?"
"--Got it! I'm picking up a large landform directly below. Let's see... there's a lot of localized static signals--"
"--Must be the dead souls--"
"--and one distinct lifeform signal. Very large. Very powerful..."
"Must be the guardian the squirrel mentioned."
"...it's humanoid. But taller than your average building--"
"--a troll? Giant? What did they have in Norse mythology?"
"--Hold on! I'm picking up signs of water. I think that might be the pool thing we're looking for. Moving the probe towards it..."
"Wait for it. It's a long way down, even if it's directly below the root."
"I said, wai--whoa! I'm getting some weird signals here. I think it's getting close. ETA, contact with the water in 5 seconds... 3... 2... 1..."
"Well? What happened?"
"Not sure. It just-disappeared. I've lost contact."
"Well that's to be expected if it jumped planes, right?"
"Yeah. I got a burst of dimensional activity just before I lost it. The path down looks safe enough though."
"--Except for the guardian giant thing."
"It didn't react to the probe. Maybe we're too small for it notice too?"
"Let's hope so--"
"--but prepare for the worst?"
The trio finished their discussion and reported their findings to the rest of the group. Fortunately, the great breadth of Yggdrasil's root and trunk was more than wide enough to comfortably accomadate the FBHs' rover. So without further ado, they began the long and tortuous descent into Niflheim.
They had only just entered the plane of Niflheim when the attack came. Mattias had only the time to shout a warning when the first rocky projectile arrived. It just barely sailed over the heads of the two half elves and crashed into where Tanith had stood a mere moment ago before Mattias whisked her out of the way. The second one that immediately followed sent CBY ducking and rolling, avoiding the impact and debris only by the virtue of his Force-enhance danger sense and reflexes.
By this time, the FBH's had already activated their weapons and armors, as well as taken a dose of battle-oriented perception speed-enhancing drugs. With bright flares and sizzling energy blasts, they began to return fire to where their sensors told them the attacks were coming from -- the guardian of the well.
For a moment, things seemed to be at an impasse, with both sides doing more damage to their surroundings than each other.
Then the next giant hunk of rock struck the front of the rover. While it did not damage the well-armored vehicle, it gouged out a flat strip of Yggdrasil's bark in front of it. The rover slid, teetered, then careened down the trunk. The FBHs scrambled to get out of the way, but one of them was clipped on the shoulder as it passed by. He staggered and fell off the root just as one of his fellow clones grabbed his ankle, now himself teetering at the edge. Elladan, who was close by, jumped over and gave a hand to assist them.
*CRASH* Another enormous rock hit the root, sending shockwaves througout the wood. The second FBH lost his balance and fell over the side of the trunk along with his fellow, the weight of both of them dragging Elladan with them. Meanwhile, the rover teetered again and this time fell over sideways, crashing right into CBY and sending both ghost and vehicle over the side of the trunk as well.
Another rock crashed into the root, sending debris scattering everywhere. By the time the dust settled, there was only four left on Yggdrasil's trunk.
The remaining FBH clone felt the exact instant when he lost touch with his fellow clones, either to death or to the Well. Having spent most of a lifetime in constant mental contact with his fellows, he snapped under the sudden shock of aloneness. A red haze descended over his vision. Giving a scream that was pure pain and pure loss, the FBH opened fire to the fullest extent of his equipment's capacity, all aimed at the guardian who had caused all this to happen.
However, the sheer force and power of the weapons were also causing great swathes of collateral damage along the trunk, where the other three only withstood the damage from within Mattias' hastily reinforced shields.
"He's lost it!" Tanith cried over the explosions while trying to see through the firestorm of energy blasts.
"Master Mattias," Elrohir called, "drop me behind him!"
Mattias looked to Tanith, who nodded. Grabbing the both of them, Mattias quickly flew behind the rampaging FBH clone and landed on the scorched wooden bark. Elrohir slipped out from within the shields and ran up right behind the FBH, who was oblivious to all except his singleminded goal.
Whipping out the sword sheathed at his side, Elrohir slammed the pommel of the blade into the FBH's head with all of his strength. It was a testament to the clone's insanity that he had completely neglected to uphold his defenses, so focused he had been on the offensive. It was a testament to half elven strength that the FBH was rendered unconscious, even through the thin though strong layer of armor that was his helmet.
Elrohir grabbed the fallen FBH and dragged him back under Mattias' shields just as another rock impacted the trunk.
"Let's go," he said shortly, "we have to catch up with the others."
Tanith nodded in agreement. "Straight down, Mattias," she told her bodyguard.
Mattias grabbed the two of them. With shields still erected, he zoomed downwards as fast as was safe for them, unerringly zeroing on the source of the water that he sensed with his environmental awareness.
For one moment the cold, dark waters of Hvergelmir flash before them, and then they were through. The world tilted and disappeared into blackness.