Fire to Ashes

Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 12:26 PM

Written by FBH 06-19-2003 12:28 PM

Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 02:03 PM

Written by Yeoman 06-19-2003 02:08 PM

Written by Tanith 06-19-2003 03:19 PM

Written by FBH 06-20-2003 09:13 AM

Written by Tanith 06-20-2003 06:26 PM

Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:14 AM

Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:12 AM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:18 AM

Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:31 AM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:36 AM

Written by Yeoman 06-21-2003 12:44 AM

Written by FBH 06-21-2003 04:53 AM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 11:48 AM

Written by FBH 06-21-2003 11:52 AM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 11:57 AM

Written by Methos 06-21-2003 11:55 AM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:01 PM

Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:07 PM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 12:16 PM

Written by Methos 06-21-2003 12:20 PM

Written by FBH 06-21-2003 01:41 PM

Written by Tanith 06-21-2003 02:22 PM

Written by Locke 06-22-2003 10:23 AM

Written by Tanith 06-22-2003 11:47 PM

Written by Yeoman 06-23-2003 12:14 AM

Written by FBH 06-23-2003 02:32 PM

Written by Tanith 06-23-2003 11:07 PM

Written by Locke 06-24-2003 07:52 AM

Written by FBH 06-25-2003 05:28 AM

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

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

Written by Methos 06-26-2003 11:01 PM 06-26-2003 11:09 PM

Written by Tanith 06-27-2003 09:58 AM

Written by FBH 06-27-2003 10:19 AM

Compiler's Note:

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.

After some hesitation, Tanith told them about who they were looking for, only giving them the basic details of their quest.

"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.

To Tanith:
"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
Move on"

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!"

To Mattias:
"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."

"'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.