Summer Adventures At Dragonmount: The Dream
The One Known as Jon'atha opens his email at work, unsuspecting of the email that appears on his screen.
"Hmmm… One from Blackthorne… Let's see… What?! She's leaving for the summer?! She can't!! She's too addicted to the 'Net! It would be like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter… Hmmm…"
He pauses, fingering his chin. "Somehow, that doesn't sound right. Then again, this whole situation is so crazy and unrealistic that analogy perhaps does work… Hmmm… I'll have to ask Sera about that." He reaches for the ever-present Post-it notes by the computer and writes down to discuss that, along with a reminder to leave the computer to fix some dinner, maybe some nachos and a Pepsi. Yeah, that sounds good.
A sound of a door opening breaks his careful and uncluttered early morning thinking. Quickly he clicks on his AIM to check who's on first. It's Blackie!!! He sends her greetings and a request for an explanation of why she was leaving for the summer. Was it the expense of a provider or time or her parents or hardware or… Perish the thought, but had she been infected with that virus and had everything on her computer wiped out? He mentally cringed at the loss of all those songs and Final Fantasy video clips. Sitting back in his chair, he awaited a reply and some information from one of his new net friends.
Blackthorne grinned her usual *grin*. It was good to be home. Well, home and online, to be technical. Opening AIM and Icq and her various email programs, she cringed at the amount of messages, especially old and very outdated ones reappearing again.
Click. Another mass messages. Click. Another URL forward. Click. She wished that Icq had a vacation function or maybe a screening system for mass messages and URL forward. Oh, there was one from Jon'atha. Too bad she had just missed him the last time she was online; he sounded a little… frantic. Well, she was sure that he could take care of DM during the summer and still stay sane. After all, DM would surely get slower while the college kids were all away from campus.
Finally done the emails. She looked at her watch. Wow, already time to clock out for the day. With a sigh, she closed down the connection.
Mmmmm…. Hawaii… He suddenly woke up. Oh my gosh! It was 2 o'clock! He had been asleep for 10 minutes! He blushed and rubbed his red-rimmed eyes. He prayed that no one had noticed. Well, maybe not. Some of his co-workers grinned at him as he got up and walked down the hall to get a Mars bar. He shook some hair out of face. He hadn't had much free time lately. All of his spare time was for DM, fixing the message boards and re-working some of the pages.
Pausing, he looked out a window. It seemed ages since he had last seen the sky. Today it was a deep blue, not a cloud drifting on the canopy of the world. He sighed. He had to get away from the computers soon. But there was so much work to do…
Mentally grimacing, he returned to his seat, prize in hand. Somehow, a Pepsi had come along with the chocolate bar. He was beginning to suspect that he was developing a Pepsi addiction. Idly typing as he munched, he checked his Socks email. Oh, email from Yveva. That was nice. He deleted the Xoom emails without opening them. Another email? From Blackthorne? But I thought… He opened it as he opened the can of pop.
He paused after reading the message about three times; his attention span was really short lately. Should he reply to her email here or at home, where he could think more clearly? No, at home would be best. Besides, he was 10 minutes behind on work. He made a Post-it note to write to Blackie.
Stretching, he absently scratched his stomach and forced himself to look at his work. Now, what was the code for that bit again? Was it… ? No, that was… Mmmm…
Yveva Sedai, or rather the One known as Yveva Sedai tried to not get angry. She had sent out the email to Everyone@dragonmount.zzn.com and not a single person had replied yet. Light, it *was* at least an hour ago! Oh wait, Jon'atha had replied! She stifled a giggle and opened it with eager haste. Oh yes! He had sent his biography too! A giggle slipped out as she added his bio to the page. There. That made twenty now. Twenty out of 400+ wasn't that bad and there had to be some other people sending their bios in.
She made a sighing, tisk noise. It was all Phoenix's fault. He *told* her that she could make a biography page for their characters at DM, she *humbled* herself to make one and now she had *deserted* her without doing one promo for the site! It was so… unfair.
What was Jon'atha's bio like anyway? She scanned the page. There were so many spelling errors. She couldn't resist the temptation. She opened the page and starting to proof the bio. She was more than a little Brown in real life.
As she progressed, a frown appeared. How could he misspell 'people'? Yet there it was, peepel. She was certain that he had attended college. He had been under stress lately, but didn't he have Ben to help him at DM? Come to think of it, she hadn't seen him for the longest time. Not since his exams at least.
With that thought, she quickly ran off a quick email to Ben. If he was helping out at DM during the summer, it was only logical that he should have internet access at home. Logical? Light, she was becoming a White! She had to return to Canada soon. America was beginning to taint her with cool and calm reasoning. Soon she would value her computer over her books. Now that was a purely evil thought, she shivered.
At least she would get to visit Toronto later this year and Sam d'ma Shadar/Anakin Cawthon/ Andrew and maybe go to Kingston and visit Blackthorne/ Rose_Crimsonthorne/ What-was-her-name-again? Yeah. She smiled. That would be great.
He listened for the slightest sound. Nope, nothing. Not a sound. He grinned. Still, he tip-toed across the floor and down the stairs to the computer. He really didn't have to tip-toe; he was pretty sure that he was home alone, but he had a reputation as the head of Warders to live up to.
With Mission Impossible/Improbable skills, he carefully started up the computer, crawling onto the chair as well as one of such long leggishness and armishness could. Good. Excellent. The screen flickered as he started up the connection. Wow, so many 'where are you?' emails. Cool. He grinned. He then sighed and made a wish that his parents would let him use the computer more often. He replied with a mass message of 'I am well' and went onto the complaint emails. He made a second wish: for Phoenix to reappear and demand all of his duties back, but Ben had little hope in that wish coming true.
It seemed seconds later when he heard the sound of a car driving up the driveway. With his Warder-enhanced abilities, he closed all programs, connections, ran into the kitchen and swept the floor, all before the door opened. He grinned as he said hello and made a third wish.
Phoenix, the Dragon Reborn and all, cracked his fingers. He hid a smile as a row of people looked up and frowned at him, then returned to their work. It was great working here, but sometimes he wished… Nah, he needed a break. Besides, new custom license plates would be expensive.
He idly wondered how Jon'atha and Ben were doing at DM. Probably quite well, he thought realistically. But there was a part of him that secretly hoped/thought/believed that DM would wither/decay/die without him to carefully tend it. After all, only a Creator could truly understand his creation. He frowned and touched his head. Those two thoughts had seemed to come from two parts of his mind. Like… Oh, never mind. He sensed his boss coming in and quickly took a posture that made it look like he was actually working. They don't make bosses like they used to, he cackled. Shut up Loony Perrin. The other voice laughed harder.
Blackthorne finally found the time to go visit DM and read the boards. Except it looked like the boards were… down again. Going to the Bravenet board (she was irritated by the fact that the Bravenet board was working fine; the reason why DM wasn't using it anymore), she read that instead. Lots of new things once by-passing the usual complaints. New bonds, new people, new silly stories (why didn't no one tell me?!) and spiders. Spiders?! She quickly read that thread. Hmmm… Looks like Moggy was stepping out of line with the Dark One on vacation with the other Incarnies.
She made a couple of replies and made a mental reminder to ask Jon'atha or Ben about all this chaos. There were some errors regarding her email addy as well. She looked at the clock. Almost time for Jon'atha to come online. Hand posed on his name, she waited like a Green in the Warder Yard.
Lanfir made a face. No one she liked to talk to was online. Sathy was online, but he was the one who had given her advice to cut her hair short. She played with a piece by her ear. Still, the green dye was a good idea, she smiled.
Icq blinked and Nym was online! She quickly typed her greetings, although she wondered why she was online. Nym only ever talked with her and joined mass chats when on icq. Her computer 'oh-oh-ed' and the reply only had two words, but they were such powerful words.
Lannie overpowered the shock and managed with some dignity to ask where, how much and when we are going to buy some. Nym within seconds gave her directions and price estimates. It was a little expensive, but at least it was legit and easier than going into the pub and stealing some bags.
Turning her Icq to 'away', she wrote a simple yet clear message.
'Gone to buy mint tea. Be back tomorrow or whenever. Leave a message and I'll answer you eventually. Love Lanfir. DB, stop laughing at me. You too Darkseid. Good thing Ash is better trained. What? You too? Bah, at least Fremen isn't. Stop tickling me! Argh! DB, stop it! I have work to do! I have a very important mission to undertake with Nym… Oh my… I suppose it can wait an hour or two or three…'
Finally, Jon'atha was online. He was late.
"Hi." She knew that would get his attention.
"Blackie?! Hello!" She could feel the smile from California. She grinned.
"So what's up at DM? The boards especially. Is that your work?" She added a smile so it wouldn't sound like she was criticizing him.
"No. Phoenix wanted to see the new things that I added and the changes. He accidently…" There was no need to finish that sentence. She could hear his weariness.
"Oh no… He didn't…?! I mean, he's got to be smarter than that. He knows which buttons you shouldn't push."
"Yeah, well, people make mistakes. We're working hard to get them back up, but it's hard. I only have so much time." A space. "Am I being a whiner?"
She smiled. "Nope. Just a tired guy. You need a break from computers. Why don't you go out to a fast food place for dinner? You could work on those letters that you owe."
He smiled. "That sounds great. Yes, I think I'll do that. Maybe I'll write a little. I haven't done that in a *very* long time."
"Good. I worry for you. Too much work kills. Take it from an expert." She added a grin.
Laughter. "So how are you and…"
Both were talking like old friends, the problem of DM's boards forgotten. For now.
Phoenix warily went online to check his email, dreading email from Jon'atha. He would kill him. Jon'atha had told him repeatedly that he wasn't going to kill him, but Phoenix knew. He had played enough RPGs to know when someone wanted your blood. Even Loony Perrin agreed with him on that point.
There was no email from Jon'atha. That worried him more; did he not want his opinion regarding how the boards should look like? Was Connor helping him? The evidence seemed to be amounting for Connor being a Darkfriend, a Black Brother to be exact. Or he could be one of the Forsaken. He should ask one of the Incarnies or Jon'atha or Ben about that. Wait a minute! DM was *his* site! He could check it himself! Well, he really didn't have to. He already had all the evidence needed. Connor had once let something slip about a 'duel' in that he should have thought of 'tossing a rock earlier'. That definitely made Connor's true identity as Dem. There was no question.
Without moving his eyes from the screen, he ordered the Aes Sedai at his feet to make a note for him to email Demmy, demanding that he come clean. She didn't answer. Maarin hadn't talked in a long time. He guessed that Aes Sedai yoga took a lot of concentration. He envied how still she could be when meditating.
When had he been last to DM? Ah yes, when he was checking out the secrets that traitor he had once called his friend had been installing on *his* server. Well, one button had fixed all that. Now only he had the magic password to heal DM. He smiled, remembering the Breaking. Now that had been great. All of DM had been forced to kneel and accept him as the Dragon Reborn as they signed up. No one read the little, invisible print at the bottom of the forms.
He yawned. Protecting the world was tiring. Where's the pizza? Loony Perrin asked urgently. I'm hungry. "Not here, Loony Perrin. The battle never ends." You sure? "Yeah, so shut up. I need to think. Right, Maarin?" She nodded, a puppet with strings of saidin. Loony Perrin muttered and ran off to consult with someone who could stop this madness.
"What?! That's crazy. Go away. I'm busy with Mike…er, Lone Wolf. My warder?! Never!!!! I'd go crazy bonded to him! Well, worse then. Mary, tell Loony where he can go. I'm not going to start a mutiny against the Lord Dragon, the Light bless his name."
Mike…er, Lone Wolf looked up from Jen…er, Kathana's feet. His back hurt. He never knew that painting toenails hurt so much. It was silver polish today; last time he had painted them chocolate pudding brown, Copper Moon actually and both Mary and him had caught her trying to lick and bite her toes. It was disgusting, especially when she tried to stick both her feet in her mouth.
Jen noticed his pause and smacked the back of his head. "Get back to work, or I won't…" Mike immediately resumed his bi-weekly duty.
Mary…er, what's-her-name? frowned. "Well, Fire Boy has been acting strangely lately. I mean, breaking all the boards is out of character for him. He would sooner declare himself a non-Star Wars friend than destroy a piece of DM."
Jen nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, I guess you have a point, but go to Serinia's Study when you're finished at work. You spoke out of turn there. Remember," she smiled smugly. "I am the Amyrlin."
Mary made a face and sat down on a nearby chair. "So what do we do? Form a committee or a commando squad?"
"If I may suggest something?" Mike spoke without ceasing, painting the last coat, but he waited for someone to nod before speaking. Luckily, Mary was listening to Loony Perrin and nodded to something Loony was saying. "We should all get together in a chat, all of DM I mean and decide what we should do."
"Yeah." Jen fanned herself. "That sounds good. Icq?"
"Um, that wouldn't be good. That means Jon'atha, Matalina and a lot of other people couldn't take part."
Her eyes flashed. "I am the Amyrlin! Do you think we run a democracy here? What I say, goes!"
"Yes, Mother. May I kiss your ring for forgiveness, Mother?" He said automatically. Naturally, Jen already had her hand thrusted in his face. He kissed it quickly.
"Now, the Spring of Morning can't be used because half of DM can't get in there. So I guess we're stuck with mass messages." She sighed. "The Hall has forced me into this position." Mary giggled, but didn't comment.
Mike gasped. "Mass messages?! Aldazar will kill you! Is the situation dire enough for that?"
Jen nodded and closed her eyes. "Mary, start up the computer. The sooner it's done, the better."
Mary did as commanded and stole one of Jen's socks on the way.
Andrew rubbed his eyes. Finally the computer was fixed. It had at least been… three weeks. All sorts of problems had come up. Episode One was a major one. So little time, so many theatres to see it in. He sighed happily. Then he needed to get a provider and reinstall all the programs and rebuilt his icq list… Oh the struggles of life. At least he could play his fav games now. He grinned. X-Wing fighters, look out!
Ah. A message from Kathana. At least someone had missed him. He grinned; the cute ones always missed him. DM boards down again? Phoenix going insane? Nah, the boards had been doing that since DM began. Kathana was just being crazy again. Still, no boards was a pain. He was in a RP mood and had a great idea for an adventure for Sam d'ma Shadar. He closed the message.
Ben quieted down everyone in the mass chat with a grin. "Okay, now that everyone is here, let's begin. Jon'atha and Matalina will communicate to us all through me. My bondholder, Sera will preside at this meeting to discuss what to do about Phoenix." Sera, Ben, Mary, Mike…er Lone Wolf and Darksmoon were sitting at the front of the audience, with an empty chair beside Darks.
Arik tossed a chicken off his lap and raised his hand. "So what exactly did Phoenix do? I think I missed that part."
"That and other questions will be answered soon, Arik." Sera replied. "We will tell you only what you need to know." The audience gave her blank looks. "It is manditory in the 'Aes Sedai Guide to Town Hall Meetings' and you all know very well that I am not one for breaking the rules." There was general muttering among the SG, Asha'man and WolfBrothers' sections, but no individual issued a vocal complaint.
"Right then, shall we get to business? Ben, get Jon'atha to tell us in his words exactly what happened to the DM boards."
"Sure." He grinned and cut and pasted pages as they appeared on his table in front of him. His grin began to slip as the pages went on and on and on. "Jon'atha, we really don't need the technical information. Just plain talk." The pages stopped and some of them actually began to disappear.
Darksmoon stretched and smiled his devilish grin. "While we're waiting for Ben and Jon'atha, why don't some of our lovely ladies present as a sign of their affection…" Glares around the room stopped him. "Well, it was *only* a suggestion." he muttered, disappointed.
Suddenly the door opened and three figures marched in.
"Sorry I'm late everyone," Lanfir puffed. "I got caught up in… traffic. Yes, in traffic." She sat down beside Darksmoon as Dark Blight and Darkseid took up positions behind her, one on each side. Nym Sedai shook her head from her seat near the front. Darksmoon perked up visibly as his former bondholder smiled a greeting at him.
Sera gave her a frosty look. "Just as long as you are here now." Lanfir glared and looked ready to correct this Brown sister talking down to the Head of the Green Ajah and a living Oldie Legend, one of the very first Aes Sedai at DM. She was in charge at the moment but that did not make her the superior. In fact… She noticed her arm shaking. "Is Morgan Sedai present?"
"Of course not. She's away this summer working in real life."
"Oh." Lanfir managed to avoid swearing. It would be bad for her image.
Darkseid whispered in her ear. "Morgan's sister, Silver might know how to make tea." Smiling gratefully at her gaidin, she turned to speak to the crowd, but then Dark Blight whispered in her other ear. "Silver is a Blue sister. Morgan wouldn't break the code and give her the recipe. Besides," he snorted with contempt, "Would you trust a woman who thinks she can fly?"
Lanfir nodded. What would she do without her warders? she thought fondly to herself.
Suddenly Dalinarious appeared. "I hope you aren't insulting my Silver?" He looked at DB menancingly, hand on hip.
Dark Blight drew himself up sternly. "Are you accusing me, Solider?"
Lanfir sighed. This was one of the problems with Asha'man warders; where did the line between Asha'man and Warder lie?
Happily, Dalinarious backed down. Somewhat. "No, just warning you. Good night, Asha'man." He nodded his head and went back into the audience. DB frowned, but said nothing. He was concentrating on a shooter on the table in front of him, determined to beat Blackthorne's record.
Nym suddenly appeared beside Darkseid, holding a large mug. "Hey Lannie, I've got a cup of Morgan's tea for you. I forgot she left in the kitchen prepared packets of tea for all of the Green sisters."
"Oh, thank god." Lanfir muttered passionately, reaching for the mug.
Ben grinned. "Okay, has everyone a copy of what Jon'atha said? Does everyone understand it? If not, we can all go through it line by line."
Aldiran raised a hand. "How come there are no representatives of the Band on your head committee?"
Thom piped up. "Yes, where are the Freelanders?"
"Asha'man?" Shadowkiller looked up from his brewski.
"Aiel as well." Slaughterville rattled his spears.
Sera coughed. "We had a hard time finding members of your orgs at the time we were preparing this brief meeting. But we are all DM members first and orgs should not matter in this affair."
Aldiran frowned, but since he wanted to get out of this chat room as soon as possible, he didn't argue.
Ben whispered in Sera's ear. "The testamony…"
Sera brightened quickly. "Ah yes, so you have all read or looked at Jon'atha's testamony. There is no doubt. Phoenix is guilty of deliberately destroying the boards at DM. Unlike the Breaking, which was a systematic updating of the whole site, this was willful damage."
She stood up and began to pace.
"The question I ask you, fellow DM members is this: is Phoenix responsible for his actions? Was he insane? Is he still insane? Loony Perrin would have us believe that Phoenix is a very dangerous man. To us all." She cut those last words off like grapes on a vine into an Asha'man's mouth.
Therva stood up. "May I make a suggestion? Phoenix is obviously a sick man. Someone, maybe some people have to go and see how sick he is and cure him. He is rarely online, so the people have to be the best of the best at DM, our home-grown specialists." There was much humming and hawing at her suggestion.
Sera nodded. "Any other ideas?"
Mike…er, Lone Wolf raised a hand. "Jen, I mean the Mother told me to tell you that we should trick Phoenix with something he likes and make him fix the boards. Er, is that okay?" He looked around. "Everyone?" Mary got up and smacked him on the back of the head, then resumed her seat.
"Phoenix likes Green sisters, doesn't he?" Alanna fluttered her eyelashes, innocently breaking twelve warder bonds, twenty-six hearts and setting Sera's hair on fire. "I could, well, you know, do a book Alanna thing with him. I'm willing to sacrifice myself for the DM community."
There was an absolute uproar among the male population, telling her that she should *never* put herself in danger, that they were quite willing to die before that happened. Luckily, no one saw Sera's sudden smile or heard her say: "That is such a lovely suggestion, Alanna dear."
When everyone calmed down, Arik spoke. "What about a cookie? Kath…the Mother feeds Phoenix those in her silly stories and they seem to work."
Connor scratched his chin. "Dragonmount does work on cookies."
Ben turned to Lone Wolf. "Got any cookies? Or can Katha…the Mother make some?"
"Nope and maybe. I'll ask her." He tilted his head and muttered quietly for a minute, then turned to Ben. "Okay, the Mother is willing to, provided that all Asha'man sign a treaty of non-bondage unless the girls want it." Lanfir brightened visibly.
Ben paused. "Okay. That may help in the attack we all seem to be pushing for. Let's vote. All for Alanna's plan?" No hands, though Sera's arm was raised as she scratched her elbow. "For Therva's plan, augmented by Kathana… the Mother's plan?" All hands were raised.
"Okay, we're decided then." Sera templed her fingers. "I suggest that the party include the two best of each of the orgs. I recommend Therva Sedai as one of the Aes Sedai."
Lanfir smiled. "I nominate myself for the second position. I have four warders and I am not unskilled in Healing. Plus," she smiled sweetly. "Phoenix knows me well. We go back."
Sera glared at her, but nodded agreement. "Very well. Unfortunately, Therva and Lanfir's warders fill the Warder positions." Sympathy touched her eyes as she patted Ben's arm. Ben grinned and shrugged.
Aldiran stood up. "I nominate myself and Assatur."
Darksmoon smiled in a canine manner. "Myself and Aldazar will come."
Thom piped in. "Me and Uno."
"Julia and Slaughterville."
Suddenly, all the lights were out, except those shining on Demandred. "Ishy and myself will accompany you. Of course, we merely have common interests as you in this affair. Don't count on us to help you if you get into a little trouble."
Incognito smiled. "Can I represent the non-org people?"
Demandred's eyes widened. Ben spoke. "I'm afraid that you can't. Since you haven't been around lately and you weren't here in the beginning, plus you're now one of the Band, we really can't…" He put on a sad grin. "Sorry."
"Drat." Incoggy smiled at Demmy's discomfort. "I guess I will leave now." He faded out.
"Will someone turn on the lights? Someone is kissing my… Oh my!" The lights came back to expose Chissa's hand being kissed passionately by Ender Wiggin.
Ender's eyes widened. "Oh… I never meant… Oh my… I have to go… Must…" He wailed as he made a Gateway to an undisclosed beachfront location with women wearing various types of sparse body clothing. One of the new Reds gasped as Francesca shook her head. "How does he do that? If I did that, I'd even up somewhere cold in Norway or Sweden. Wait a moment, they have nice guys and isolated cabins." A grin spread on her face as she made a Gateway and left for an undisclosed mountainous location somewhere in the northern latitudes.
Ben looked down on his papers. "Is there any Seanchan members here? No? Okay, Blackie and Sam are the non-org reps of the team." He tilted his head. "Oh, so the meeting's finished? Matalina's computer is on the verge of crashing again."
Lanfir and Sera nodded at him. Ben grinned. "So the members of Mission Desert Radish will meet here at 2 pm EST and then proceed to Phoenix's remote lair in Real Life."
Mary raised an eyebrow. "Mission Desert Radish? I haven't read that far in the books, I know, but…"
Lanfir grinned, her smile slightly askew due to Mint Tea. "It would take too long to explain about Radish."
"Oh, okay. I'll just bug Mike and Jen later then. So everyone! Dismissed!" She grinned. "I've always wanted to say that."
Everyone got up and left the chat room, leaving DM's bravest of the online brave to prepare for the assault on the Dragon's Lair.
"It's two thirty. Where are they?"
Sam lounged on a chat room sofa. "I don't know. We wait ten minutes, then go home."
Blackthorne muttered something under her breath about Lightfriends and played with her knives for a little bit. Finally some of the others arrived.
"Pourquoi tu es tard, Therva?"
Therva aranged her skirts. "Je veux avoir tous de mes medicins avec moi." She patted the many pockets on her long coat. "Je n'avais jamais l'opportunite d'etudier un homme qui est… malade." She smiled gracefully.
Blackthorne shivered, not only because of the lack of accents in her French and the fact it was written 'sans dictionnaire', but also because of the fact that no one had a clue of what they were running up against. She also had a sneaky suspicion that 'medicins' meant 'doctors' and not 'medicines'.
Lanfir walked stately in, surrounded by the meanest of mean warders. Mean hungover warders in particular.
"Hi everyone," she waved. "I woke up late. Sorry." Walking towards Therva, she whispered to her. "Can you Heal my headache and my warders' too?" Therva frowned at her, but placed her hands on Lanfir's head anyway. Lanfir shivered and then gestured to Dark Blight, who seemed to be the worst of the warders.
"Hi Blackie. Kisses?" Darksmoon snuck up behind her.
"No, not today. Where's Aldazar?"
"Uh oh." He grimaced. "I knew there was something I was missing."
Aldiran and Assatur strode in business-like. "Are we in time?"
Sam eyed him. "Yeah, just in time. At least you got your partner with you. Unlike some Org Leaders." Blackthorne sniffed at him as Darks looked at his feet and whistled.
"I see you, Lanfir Sedai and Therva Sedai." Slaughterville walked in with a wildcat's grace. "You have no warder, Therva Sedai?"
"No, SV. Not since Nordan died before the Breaking." Her face tightened at the memory.
"Not to worry, Therva Sedai. My spears will protect you."
Therva smiled. "Thank you, SV. I am honoured. But where is Julia?"
Slaughterville frowned. "I told Corindha, who told Stone Dog who told… I don't know, Therva Sedai. She should have gotten the message by now."
"I see, SV. No problem. I am certain that you will represent DM Aiel well." She patted his arm encouragingly. Slaughterville suddenly looked like a man about to swim naked across Ama'zon River. Particularly strange for an Aielman.
"Okay, enough of the cute stuff!" Ishy spoke as he and Demmy slowly materialized in front of the group. Dem merely posed dramatically in his black trench coat.
"Ah, good. We were counting on you two to get us to Phoenix's hideout. After all, you are the only West Coast people, so I believe." Therva scanned the group for confirmation.
"Of course. You Lightfools would be absolutely useless without us." Ishy stated that plainly as a fact of nature. "Shall be begin?"
"Okay." Sam looked at his watch. "Although we're missing Thom and Uno. I guess Thom got caught up in a conversation with that daisychick chick again."
"It is of no importance." Dem waved his hand dismissively. "Do we have Kathana's cookies?"
"Right here." Darksmoon reverently held the bag of Chips Ahoy! Cookies in front of himself, awed by the power of chocolate.
Blackthorne suddenly spoke up. "Wait a minute! Something's wrong! Sathy hasn't appeared in this story yet! Oh, this doesn't look good."
Everyone else looked at her strangely.
"Why?" Lanfir wanted to know.
"Lannie, Sathinar is insane." Lanfir nodded. "Phoenix is insane. See a pattern?" Lanfir frowned. "Maybe Sath is our real enemy, not the Taint or Phoenix's mind. Sath's insanity is infectious, so..."
"That's just nutso, Jan…er, Blackie." Sam broke in. "Let's go."
Blackthorne sighed and concluded that the blindness of the books' characters was beginning to affect DM's characters.
"Lock and load, ladies and gents." Aldiran readied his crossbow before the Gateway to Travel to Phoenix's world. "It's going to be a crazy ride."
Phoenix giggled a little as the figure on the screen rotated. How long had it been since he had last had the time and energy? He frowned. What was I doing? He looked at the picture closely. Ah yes, designing a toliet for Maarin. She would be so pleased.
Suddenly, there was a loud noise of someone knocking on the door. No one ever knocked on his door; only telemarketers did. Rising to shoo them away using Fire and Air, he was amazed to find a group of various people in his living room. As he paused to ask them for dinner (Maarin was making spaghetti tonight), one of the women channeled. The last thing he remembered was thinking: "Hmm, Chips Ahoy!"
"So what's wrong with him? Is Maarin dead-dead?"
Therva shook her head and continued to hum with her eyes closed, hands on Phoenix's temples. Phoenix himself seemed to be in a deep sleep.
"Lannie?" Darksmoon turned to Lanfir, who was hovering over Maarin's slumped body.
"She seems to be in some sort of suspended animation. She sleeps deeply and her heart and breathing is very slow. I think she's trapped in T'A'R'." Lanfir sighed. "That is the fate of many Dreamers. To think that we blamed the Shadow for her disappearance. We should have considered who her warder was."
Dem bowed with a smile. "We were quite honoured to be blamed for such a dark deed without lifting a finger."
"Therva?" Blackthorne stood by Therva. "How is he?"
"Hmmm? Oh, him." She stood up, wiping her hands on her manditory skirts. "Well, it's a combination of things really."
Blackthorne gestured for her to continue, but Therva shook her head. "It is best for us all to hear it together."
Lanfir caught the unspoken clue and walked with her warders to Therva, the others trailing her.
"Well, as I said, it is many things. Many mental and physical pressures. A real list. Now, how should I begin? Well, young Blackthorne was right about Sathinar; Saths is influencing him from afar."
"I knew it!" She shouted, indulging in a couple of grins.
"Um, Blackthorne…" Aldiran whispered in her ear. "Aren't you dead? You know, you killing yourself…"
"Well, I'm technically Rose Crimsonthorne, Warder student now. But I shall always remain Blackthorne on email and icq and AIM."
"Oh, but that is confusing. You know, newbies won't understand."
"Well, they'll just have to learn."
"If I may continue?" Therva glared at the both of them. "Now, that is only one factor. There is also the Taint-induced madness, which is only natural. I mean, he *did* use a lot of saidin to Break DM a couple of times, not counting Bravenet episodes." Everyone nodded at that; it was expected.
"Then there is Real Life pressures. Work I feel is the main one. If temporarily relieved of such pressures, he will recover. That is Phoenix's problem."
Everyone looked around at each other.
"So that's it. Okay, let's go home." Sam turned around to face the door.
"No way!" Lanfir showed her usual fiery Green temperament. "We came here to help him! We have to do something!"
"Okay, so let's divide up. One group will find Sathinar and make him stop, another talk with the Dark One or prolly any one of the Incarnies and someone talk to Phoenix's Real Life boss and get him a paid vacation."
Therva pursed her lips. "Someone needs to stay here and tend Phoenix as well."
"Well, that makes it simple then. Therva will stay here and I will go with my warders to deal with Sathinar." Lanfir smiled tightly. "I haven't visited him in a long time."
Therva sighed. Dem turned to Lanfir. "There is no way that I am going to ask the Great Lord to release Phoenix from the Taint. I'm not that stupid!"
Lanfir smiled a Green smile. "Then what will you do?"
He looked at her straight in the eyes. "I will stay here and keep Phoenix sane. Ishamael knows the weaves to temporarily Heal him. I will supervise."
Lanfir rolled her eyes. "Very well. The boss?"
Aldiran raised a hand. "My man Assatur and myself will speak with him. I found the number and address in the Lord Dragon's wallet and on his fridge."
"Okay. Guess that leaves Sam, Blackie and Slaughterville to deal with the Dark One or the first Incarnation you find." Lanfir patted Blackie's shoulder and hugged Sam. "Good luck! You have the most important job of us all. Bye!" Lanfir waved the group of three out the door. The other groups vanished quickly.
Ishamael eyed Phoenix warily. "What do we do when he awaken?"
"Feed him Kathana's cookies. If he doesn't choke and die, keep feeding him."
Darksmoon walked up to Lanfir. "Hey, what's up? I went to the bathroom and…"
Lanfir glared at him. "Not now, Darks! If you need a job, stuff cookies down Phoenix's throat!" She stalked off, warders following her.
"Well, if that's the way it is, I will!" He stomped off and grabbed the cookie bag and sniffed him. "Hmmm… That smells good!" He popped a cookie into his mouth and immediately fell into a Cookie High, making him utterly useless in the case of an emergency. (Public Warning: Cookies can be hazardous to your health. Use with caution! Know where your cookies have been! Know the symptoms of chocolate poisoning! Only you can stop Mama from baking!)
Therva sighed. "Now I know why he has been bonded twice and let go of that bond both times!"
"Here Sathy, Sathy. Lannie has a gift for you." Lanfir stalked with an eager smile, her slim hands around the necks of a couple of chickens. They didn't have pigeons here in the supermarkets, but chicken would do.
"What is it?" Sathinar ran up to her. "Is it something I can wear? You're not still angry with me? Is Ciara with you?"
Lanfir forced a pleasant smile on her face. "No, I am not and Ciara is in the White Tower. Here. It's a gift from a friend to a friend."
He eyed her suspiciously and took a chicken, promptly tossing it over his shoulder. "It's not pigeon." He walked off.
"No, stop! It is pigeon, a special type of pigeon. They're… um, genetically altered pigeons that taste better than ordinary ones."
"So? I like them alive so I can hunt them down. You know, the thrill of the chase. Sorry, Lannie."
She stamped her feet. "Sathinar, you have to take these chickens! If you don't," she gulped, "Mother will kill me!"
"Oh, if that's the way it is… Okay." He took the other chicken and sniffed it. "Smells good. Tastes good too." He bent down on the ground for the other bird.
Lanfir whinced. "Sathinar, I need your help."
"I knew there was a reason! Why?"
"Because you are an expert on insanity."
He smiled smugly, mouth full of meat. "I know. Took me a long time to get my degree."
"Well, Phoenix has contracted your madness. You need to fix Phoenix."
"Why? There's nothing wrong with insanity. That's a common misconception."
"It is wrong in this case. Phoenix is… you know, Phoenix. If he falls, DM falls. Please," Lanfir attempted the Moiraine pose on her knees, "you must… I ask you…humbly…" All her warders looked stunned at her.
Sathinar smiled. "I always wanted to see one of you guys do that. Okay, I'll stop influencing Phoenix, but," he raised his hand, "I have my price. Two thousand pigeons!"
Lanfir gasped. Dark Blight was the first to speak. "No, you cannot have that many! You'll wiped out the entire White Tower pigeon species!" Ash nodded and whipped out a visual prop, showing the White Tower species of pigeons to be estimated at exactly two thousand.
Fremen grabbed Sathinar by the lapels. "You don't understand what you're asking! There will be no more pigeons in stories at all in DM!"
Sath grinned. "I don't care. I just want easy tv dinners."
Darkseid just glared at him and muttered, "Eco-terrorist!" under his breath.
Lanfir stood up slowly, clearly thinking carefully. "Very well, you'll get your two thousand pigeons. Are we agreed?" She held out her hand.
"Yes, we are." They shook hands. The warders stared at the both of them, appalled.
"Of course, you do realize that you didn't specify what condition the pigeons arrive to you as. They will all be pluck and headless." Sathinar's look turned to one of anger, but he knew that she was telling the truth and there was nothing he could do. She was Aes Sedai after all.
"We will deliver them to you over a week period, starting Monday."
He nodded. "Not what I wanted exactly, but it will do. For now. Bye bye Lannie and thanks for lunch!" He giggled and ran off, feeling very happy with his trading. She was Aes Sedai, but he *was* a peddler.
"Commander, are you sure about this place?"
"Yep. 152 East Sunrise Street, number 401."
They stood in front of a run down building, cracks winding through the walls. Assatur looked at Aldiran worriedly, but said nothing.
"Come. Let's go in and find Phoenix's boss."
They entered the squeaky door and slowly climbed to the fourth floor, both reluctant yet eager to leave this place, especially after seeing the cockroaches on the walls.
"Fourth floor, sir."
They stood in front of the door in the stairway. Assatur pushed it open with a shoulder and both rushed in, then stopped, amazed.
Clean white desks filled the room, tastefully decorated. A woman in a skirt greeted them.
Aldiran closed his mouth. "I was told that a man named…" he checked the name, "Joe Trimarchi works here."
The lady nodded. "Oh yes, he does. Do you have a meeting with Mr. Trimarchi?"
"Um, no. Can I speak with him for a couple of minutes? I won't be long."
"Well, I'll see. Stay here." She gestured and went back into the office to talk with a man in an office of his own. Aldiran couldn't see much of him because of the blinds on his office door. Finally, the lady returned.
"Mr. Trimarchi will see you now. Follow me."
She immediately took off, leaving them no choice. She led them into the office and quickly left them alone with Mr. Trimarchi. He was on the phone, back to them. There was a sign on his desk: 'Asha'man rules.' Aldiran had a Brown temptation to cross out the 's' and change 'man' to 'men', but he crossed his arms and took a deep breath instead. Then Assatur gasped and pointed to the monitor. Aldiran looked and did a double take. That was the first nude of Min he had ever seen. No wonder Rand liked her best in the books if she looked like that. Mr. Trimarchi had finished his call and was now watching. Suddenly he figured out the rest behind his guests' blushes.
"Er… It's a study for my 'Far Snows: The Sun Throne Room' scene." He blushed. "No, it's purely artistic! You know, to get the female bodies right." The other men grinned. Mr. Trimarchi threw up his hands. "I give up! So who are you people?"
Aldiran explained quickly, aided greatly by the fact that Mr. Trimarchi was an avid WoT fan and artiste.
"Hmmm… Well, I was just about to fire Phoenix. He hasn't showed up in three weeks. But I'll give him a break. Holiday pay until he returns. Which I trust will be soon?" He questioned them.
"Oh yes. Therva Sedai, a Yellow is working on it. He should be back in a week. Just make sure that he doesn't work too hard. Therva ordered little stress for him."
Mr. Trimarchi muttered something under his breath, but nodded. "Okay. He can supervise for a month."
"Well Mr. Trimarchi, I think that is everything. Thank you very much." Aldiran shook his hand.
"No problem. Later!" The phone rang and Aldiran and Assatur escorted themselves out of the office. They hurried back to Phoenix's hideout with their great news. The lady at the desk muttered something after them as they left, something about 'crazy WoT kids.'
"So where do we start?" Sam said as they walked.
"Well, where are the Incarnies usually?"
"I don't know… I guess the RPG board at DM."
Slaughtville shook his head. "The Incarnations are on vacation. They could be anywhere."
Blackthorne pursed her lips. "Let me think. When we usually need them, we email them."
"Yeah, except we haven't got time to do that." Sam spoke to her, more than a little exasperated.
"Be quiet. I'm thinking." She placed a finger on her lips. "Can we find out where they pick up their email, thus learning their location?"
"That is very hard to track. Even for someone like me." Slaughterville admitted.
"Jan… Blackthorne, you're thinking too sanely and logically. This is a silly story, silly." She glared at him and resumed her brain-storming.
"Sam? You feel saidin right? Can you talk to him while holding the One Power?"
"I can try." He suddenly concentrated. "I think I've got it… Wait, no. Just a vacation answering machine system."
Blackthorne frowned. "I wish I could channel saidar." Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Hey! What's this light thing? Saidar, can you hear me? I need… Damn, another messaging thingy! Sorry guys."
Slaughterville tried to stop fingering his spears, directed at Blackthorne.
"Well, there's only one place for us to go to. It's our last chance. Go to Shayol Ghul and talk to Sightblinder."
Both Blackthorne and Sam nodded.
"Yet both Saidar and Saidin have to have similar places in the world where people can commune with them like they do with the Dark One." Blackthorne mused. "Somewhere where living things grow in abundance and there is no death and darkness. Somewhere that the Shadow fears to enter."
"Sounds like a stedding." Slaughterville suggested. "We could go to one and ask the Ogier to help us talk with the Powers That Be."
Sam nodded. "Yeppers. Sounds good."
"I don't know guys; it sounds risky. I mean, you can't channel in a stedding and both of them have their vacation messages on. They might not be there at all. At least we know that the Dark One is really there."
They all stood around for a minute. Finally Sam spoke. "Fine. You go to Shayol Ghul and deal with the Dark One and we'll go to Stedding Oreo. Deal?"
Slaughterville sputtered wordlessly.
"Deal. See you later."
He nodded. "Later." He turned and gestured for Slaughterville to follow him.
"Oh, could one of you guys open a Gateway for me to go to Shayol Ghul?"
"Certainly, Celeste Blackthorne." Slaughterville gestured and a saidin-induced Gateway appeared into existence.
"Thanks." She disappeared through it without a good-bye.
"Come on, SV. We have a long trip to make to Stedding Oreo." He opened a Gateway as he spoke.
"Not long for me, Sam d'ma Shadar." Slaughterville grinned and ran through the Gateway. Sam sighed and the Gateway closed after him.
"Any change, Therva?" Ishamael yelled from the other room. Dem and him were playing Grand Auto Theft on Phoenix's computer.
"Well, I think he'll wake up soon and the madness seems a little weaker. I guess Lanfir convinced Sathinar to stop. Darksmoon is still looking in the mirror." Darks was posed motionless in front of the bathroom mirror, his face amazed.
Suddenly, Phoenix's eyelids fluttered and opened.
"Maarin? Where am I? You!! ARGH!!!" He stood up and faced the two Forsaken, his face a mixture of steel and sponge. "Don't worry, ma'am. I'll protect you." He patted Therva's shoulder.
"The cookies!" Therva hissed. Dem dashed for them as Ishy slowly walked forward, hands raised in front of himself. "Now Phoenix, we don't want anyone to get hurt…"
"Yeah right!" Phoenix half-laughed, half-snarled. "Oh, I *know* you, Betrayer of Hope. I know your tricks and half-lies. Don't think you can fool me!" Ishamael eyed Dem quickly; he had a cookie in his hand.
"Now Phoenix," he advanced. "Every man has the right to defend himself. Even one like me. Would you like a cookie? Kathana made them for you."
"Cookie…" Phoenix licked his lips. "Okay."
Dem gave him the cookie and watched him eat it intently. So did Therva and Ishamael. Suddenly, Phoenix sat down on the couch and stayed there, silent and motionless.
Therva drew a relieved breath. "Good. May the Light make that the last time he is so awake and alert."
"Yeah," Ishy looked worriedly. "For a second there, I wasn't sure."
"How long do those things act for?" Dem asked.
As if in answer, Darksmoon walked out of the bathroom leaning on the wall.
"Oh, you will not believe what happened to me! I ate one of those cookies and…"
"An hour, Dem."
Darks looked at Therva. "Can't I tell my story?" He whined plantitively.
"Sure, Darksmoon." She patted his arm.
"Okay." He brightened. "So I ate the cookie and suddenly…"
A crash announced Lanfir's arrival and her warders.
"Oh Therva, you will not believe it! I solved Phoenix and the Black Tower's problems at the same time!" Dark Blight looked proudly at her, he just a little more than his brother warders.
Darksmoon made a face in frustration.
"In exchange for Phoenix's sanity, two thousand pigeons." Lanfir grinned.
Therva was confused. "I don't understand. How do pigeons? Oh." Understanding bloomed. She smiled as pleased as Lanfir. "Good job, Lanfir."
Dem tapped a foot. "Explain."
"Oh, Sathinar thinks chickens are special pigeons. Sathinar will eat up the Black Tower's surplus of chickens created by Arik's silly stories." Therva frowned. "The only problem I see is that no chickens means that the spiders will be free to reproduce and possibly rule DM in a couple of months. Oh well, that's someone else's problem, not ours." Lanfir nodded in agreement.
Aldiran and his man Assatur ran into the room. "We've got Phoenix vacation pay while he was insane and supervising people for a month when he returns to work." Both men were pleased with their bargaining.
"That's great! Now all we need is for Blackthorne, Sam and SV to do their stuff and Phoenix will recover!"
Lanfir indulged in a little pre-celebratory dance. They had to succeed. Only a sane Phoenix was worth two thousand chickens and a future spider cult problem. He had to get better. Wot.com had fallen; something had to stand and hold. Something. She stopped to think a little prayer for Blackie and the boyz. Everything was in their hands now.
"Did that sign back there say left or right? I forgot." Sam mopped the sweat of his forehead with his sleeve. Slaughterville did not sweat at all.
"Right. We are going the right way, Sam d'ma Shadar." SV scanned ahead.
"I hope we find this stedding soon. The sun is baking! Wheh!"
Slaughterville didn't answer; he was looking at a spot in the hills.
"Sam d'ma Shadar, would that be the stedding in the wetlands? It resembles one in the Three-fold Land." He pointed to the point that seemed carved into the hillside.
"Hmmm, could be, could be. Only one way to find out. Let's go."
They walked at a faster pace towards the possible stedding and possible answer to their prayers.
"Alrighty then. Almost there."
Blackthorne crawled across the black marble floor. Those Light-blinded men had made a Gateway straight into Rahvin's rooms. It had not been pleasant. Now all of the Forsaken wanted to play Hide and Seek and Tag with her. Still, it did give her access to the Forsaken's secret private entrance into the Pit. Funny that, she touched her head. Now how did she know that?
"Never mind that now. Just through that doorway and I'm there." She muttered, listening for footsteps, breathing, anything that showed her to be in company. The doorway in question was just a plain ordinary door. All the reason why it was so hush-hush and unknown. It had been added when the Elder Forsaken had been sealed for about a thousand years, much more convienant and stylish for the elite of the elite. Shaking her head, she quickly ran to the door, opened it and ran through, closing it on her heels. They mustn't suspect her true intentions. All the Forsaken were positive that all Blackie wanted was their autographs, especially Slayer and Mor'dib.
The Pit was… a pit, a cavern of rock at the bottom of a volcano. Not that impressive if you had seen the bottom of a volcano before; all bottoms of volcanoes tended to be similar. The heat was nice. Blackthorne stretched and untucked her shirt before going on; why hurry now when she was almost done?
She walked towards the fiery magma and the Bore fearless. It was not like she hadn't taken this trip before. Deciding that her memory was quite corrupt, Blackthorne gave up trying to understand what her mind was conjuring up. Must be a mind trick by the Dark One to make her join the Dark Side.
So finally she was there. Time to save Phoenix from getting his feathers too burnt.
"Um… Hi Dark One. How are you today?"
VERY WELL. MY CHOSEN DRAW EVER CLOSER TO GETTING ME FREE. I TAKE IT THAT THIS IS NO PLEASURE VISIT. YOU NEVER VISIT ME SINCE YOU LEFT THE SHADOW.
Was that a sulking tone?! By the Dark One?
"Um… No, sir." She drew a deep breath. "Lord Phoenix, the Dragon, your enemy has been taken by the taint on saidin and has fallen into insanity. I have come to ask you to free him of his insanity and stop the taint from affecting him again."
There was a long pause.
SO? THAT IS GREAT NEWS YOU BEAR. WHY SHOULD I HEAL HIM AND REMOVE THE TAINT?
She swallowed. "Um… Because you want to play fair?"
A long pause. Blackthorne searched franticly for additional reasons.
WHAT IS IN YOUR POCKET?
"Er, this?" She removed a chocolate bar.
GIVE IT TO ME.
She threw the bar out into the Pit, where it suddenly lifted into the Bore and disappeared in the sound of great devouring.
YOU HAVE MORE. GIVE IT TO ME.
She suddenly was angry. "No way! That's my last Oh Henry! Bar! Go to Hell!"
I WANT IT. GIVE IT TO ME. He stubbornly repeated.
Blackthorne suddenly grinned. The Dark One should have given up there, but the Dark One had a character flaw. He couldn't say no and look bad in front of a mortal.
"Okay, I will. But I have my conditions…"
WHAT CONDITIONS, MORTAL?
"You heal Phoenix and remove the taint on saidin for it."
NO. GIVE IT TO ME.
"I will throw in a whole box of pure Swiss chocolate bars." Her voice took on a sly tone. "Just think of that much chocolate, free for the consumption."
She crossed her arms. "You first and show me proof."
A bubble rose from the magma and slowly rotated in the air, showing a scene of the Black Tower, men running around laughing and crying, kissing Aes Sedai and just holding the Source.
THE DRAGON WILL RECOVER SOON. KATHANA'S COOKIES ARE STILL AFFECTING HIS BODY.
Blackthorne didn't want to trust the Dark One, but she had no choice. "Okay, here's your reward as promised!"
She tossed the box and it rose more quickly this time, sounds of great joy and gluttonous happiness emitting from the Bore. She swore she heard the squeal of a child as she left the Pit, but maybe it was her imagination. After all, why would Phoenix choose a child under 12 to be an Incarnation? She shivered; thoughts like that were dangerous. Time to go home, back to Phoenix to be exact and see if trusting the Dark One was a wise thing to do and not a waste of Swiss chocolate.
The Ogier were a race of thinkers, not doers, Sam reminded himself. Yet they had to hurry. Kathana's cookies wouldn't last *that* long. At least, SV and him had learned where the Incarnation contact places were. The Ogier trusted that they would wait until the Council gave them permission to use them. Fat chance of that.
"Slaughterville, you take the pond. I'll run to the glade." He nodded and disappeared. Sam took off into the trees to have a talk with Saidin.
Happily, Saidin was home. Funny, he had never imagined Saidin to be a withered, bent-with-the-cares-of-the-world man.
"Hi Sam." Saidin grimaced as he stood, scars mapping his bare arms.
"Hi Saidin. Let's keep this quick. Can you fix up Phoenix?"
"Nope, sorry boy. Only young Shay Tan can do that and he'll prolly not help you there."
"Damn. Not even if you and Saidar worked together?"
He shook his head. "I hope for DM's sake that Blackthorne is successful, 'though I doubt it. Nothing else to say. See you later, Sam."
Saidin picked up a hoe and starting weeding and planting in his garden, obviously a dismissal. Sam sighed worriedly and took off to find Slaughterville. He found Sam first.
"Sam, you would not believe what Saidar looks like! She's so beautiful and…" He made a cupping gesture with his hands in front of his breasts.
"Really? Saidin is this really old man. He said that the only one who can help us is the Dark One."
Slaughterville nodded. "I know. Let us return to Phoenix's roof. Celeste Blackthorne has either failed or succeeded by now."
Sam nodded and eyed the glade mournfully. Why had she demanded to take a box of Swiss chocolate bars with her, the full box, leaving him without a chocolate bar? His stomach grumbled in agreement. Phoenix should have some food at home. SV waved at him and Sam ran to catch up. Funny, he felt strange all of a sudden. Also, he could have sworn that he had heard a yell from the glade, or was it the pond, or both? Ah, never mind. She was a strange one, that Blackthorne woman and he would never understand her, not for anything at all. Darksmoon seemed to understand women; maybe he would ask him. Yeah, that sounded good. Resolved, he ran with the Aiel California-bound.
"Hey, he's waking up! Lanfir, get the cookies ready and feed him quickly if I tell you!"
Phoenix flickered his eyes opened as a cool wave of saidar washed over him.
"Hey Therva! Stop that!"
The coldness stopped suddenly as he rubbed his eyes. How long had he been asleep?
"Phoenix?! You're okay!" Lanfir tackled him in a hug. He was afraid of her bonding him, so he gently set her aside. "So what has been happening lately to everyone? Why are you all here in my living room? And when was I not okay?"
Aldiran and Assatur walked into the room. "Good news everyone! I talked with his boss and…" Aldiran's eyes brightened. "Lord Dragon! You're back!" He shook Phoenix's hand hard.
Phoenix nodded and muttered under his breath. "I should have stamped that Lord Dragon stuff out earlier."
Therva straightened her skirts and quickly wiped a tear from her eye. "You were ill. Insane for about a week. But you have fully recovered. You have given so many hope for the future." She trailed off and blew her nose.
"Did I hurt anyone?" Phoenix asked quietly.
"Oh my! Where's Maarin?" Lanfir ran out into the kitchen, just as Maarin walked into the doorway.
"Maarin!!! You're okay too!" Lanfir hugged her tightly. "You're out of your coma!"
"Yes… Hi Lanfir." Maarin hugged her back weakly, obviously confused.
Phoenix shook his head and demanded a full explanation, which they were only willing to give.
"…So that's what we did." Aldiran finished his part of their adventures.
Phoenix frowned and rubbed his chin. "Hmmm… A month of supervising. Not bad at all." He suddenly smiled. "Thanks."
"Er… No problem, Lord Dragon."
"So what about Sam, Blackthorne and Slaughterville? Where are they?"
"That's what we are wondering too." Therva touched his shoulder. "I only hope that they didn't do anything foolish. Still, they must have succeeded, because you are well." Maarin made a growling noise. Therva immediately stepped away from Phoenix.
"Hi sisters and brothers! We're home!" Sam slammed the door open, followed by a worried-looking Slaughterville. "How's Fire Boy? Oh." He caught Phoenix's glare. "Well, we went to Stedding Oreo, and…"
Lanfir looked at him strangely. "Where's Blackie?"
"Oh, she went to Shayol Ghul to talk with Dark One. We told her that it was a stupid idea, but you know her. She insisted. She even won't let us have some of her Swiss chocolate. But I guess that was good that she went there, because at Stedding Oreo we learned that He's the only one who can fix Phoenix up. I mean going to see the Dark One, not the chocolates." He looked around. "Why are you all looking at me strangely?"
Darksmoon bowed his head. "Blackthorne made the ultimate sacrifice for DM. Let us honour her memory." The others all bowed their heads. Sam was still trying to figure it out.
There was a squeak on the stairs.
"Hello everyone. I got back early; Lanfear send me straight here from Shayol Ghul. So I took a shower to freshen up." Blackthorne ran a hand through her damp hair. "Phoenix, can I borrow a comb?"
Dem shook his head. "Unauthorized channeling… I'll have to talk to Lanfear about that." Ishamael smiled (slightly) at the thought of Lanfear being in Dem's bad books.
Lanfir immediately hugged Blackie, ignoring the wet hair. "Oh, everyone is alright and safe! This requires a drink! Dark Blight, get the bottles out of my baggage and Darkseid, make us some Green Tea! You know, the good stuff!" Both warders ran off smiling like boys in a candy store holding an all-you-can-eat sale.
Everyone drank. Everyone ate the burgers, little egg roll thingies and the shrimp rings. Everyone had a good time. The next afternoon, Phoenix's guests had to leave and return to their offline duties, because it was Sunday, technically Monday in some locations. First the non-North Americans left.
"Are you sure you're going to be okay, Lanfir?" Ash, one of her warders, asked concerned.
Lanfir nodded. She was being held up by Darkseid and Fremen. Dark Blight was talking with the pilot, getting a deal for him to be dropped off in Australia.
Blackthorne walked up to Dark Blight and asked the same question to him.
"Are you sure you're going to be okay, Dust Beastie?"
The reason why she asked him that was because he had to get back home as soon as possible. He had a final exam on Tuesday.
"Oh, sure. Bobbing Tigress, I'm used to no-studying now. I'll do fine! All I need are a couple of shooters and I'm fine! Later, Back Tipper." He kissed her on the cheek and hurried off while he was still winning in the name-calling contest that they had going perpetually on icq. Lannie eyed Blackthorne strangely, but said nothing as they went onboard, warders and all.
"Later, Diving Boat, Lannie and all the rest of you guys!"
Blackthorne swore she heard DB curse as the plane door closed and she giggled.
Darksmoon smiled and leaned over to her. "How 'bout a kiss now? Wasn't I a hero back there?"
She blinked. "Back where? I beat the Dark One with my own brains."
"Oh. No, I meant somewhere else. Let's see…" He scratched his head. "Last week? No? Oh, was it the week before that?"
Blackthorne figured that it was about time someone took pity on Darksmoon's character flaw, so she immediately wrote in Darksmoon being taken home by a pack of beautiful Wolfsisters eager for their leader to return. The Wolfsisters appeared on cue and stole Darks away into the forests of Virginia. He didn't even look back. What an ungrateful guy! she smiled.
Ash left for wherever he lived. Michigan, Blackthorne believed. Slaughterville ran off into the west to his home, Mi'souri Hold. Was he one of the Jenn Aiel? No, they lived in Georgia. Ah well.
Maarin had decided to stay with her warder to make sure he was completely well. She didn't blame her for wanting to keep an eye on someone who had made her into a living sock puppet.
Sam had just left for his home in the Great North, escorting Therva Sedai. Phoenix had shown rare wisdom; he had not asking the obvious question. Now that only left Ishy and Demmy, Aldiran and Assatur and herself.
"Well, my honourable opponent, I fear we must return to Washington, as terrible as that sounds. Fare well, until I get to toss a boulder at you on IRC again." Demandred shook hands civilly with Phoenix and Ishamael joined him as they left through a Gateway. Aldiran made a small whining sound.
"Yes, Aldiran?" Phoenix turned to him, one arm around Maarin's waist.
"Um, sir. I need a Gateway back to my home and one to my man's. Assatur is from New Mexico."
Phoenix sighed elaborately. "All you people need to do is ask! Very well." He pointed and two Gateways appeared. "Right is to New Mexico, left is to Missouri."
"Thanks, Lord Dragon." The two men hurried to their destinations.
"Hey Aldiran," Blackie asked. "Why didn't you go with Slaughterville?"
He snorted. "Do I look like an Aiel? There's no way I'm walking home when I can get a free ride!"
Blackthorne shook her head. Men could be so strange sometimes.
Now there was only her left of the rescue squad.
"Blackthorne," Maarin asked. "Do you require transportation as well?"
"Nope, I'm waiting for my ride out of here. Why don't you two go home now? I'll be fine." She forced a grin on her face and tried to not look at the phone booth.
"Of course not! There's no way that I'm going to let you stay here alone. You might get hurt or kidnapped by someone." Phoenix crossed his arms. "And that's that."
Blackthorne sighed. "Well, if that's how you feel, then you leave me no choice." She wiggled her fingers and Phoenix and Maarin immediately appeared at Phoenix's Lair, forgetting all about Blackthorne.
Blackthorne giggled. Suddenly the phone in the phone booth rang. With no hurry, she walked up to the phone booth and picked up the phone. Within seconds, she had simply disappeared from the Real World.
With a shout, Jonathan Jackson woke up. Wildly, he looked around the room. Drats, he had fallen asleep at the computer again. Good thing he had unlimited access. He rubbed the crink in his neck. Light, so many people had sent him messages while he was asleep.
What a dream, he thought as he clicked through the streams of messages for Jon'atha Sarcorhein. It had seemed so real. Absently, he read 'boards down…simply missing the page…bad links…' but it didn't really register. Not until Phoenix's 'I am sooo sorry; you're going to kill me' email came in his box. Then it hit him.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Or is it? *wicked grin*)