Danel pondered. After the whole fiasco with Xellos' trick he'd tried being quiet for a time. He'd even tried planning out a story, but he'd lost track of the plot about the third chapter. The fact that it was a Dawn-centric Buffyfic was probably a way of cheating around his lack of muse, he thought wordily.
If only he could have some kind of idea that would stop Typhon. Something clever, interesting and dramatically appropriate.
Perfect. It was wonderful use the SKoLD to stop Typhon! And it just popped into his head, almost as if someone put it there. he started running (or to be exact, a complicated hop-skip-jump which let him move faster) towards where the SKoLD was hidden, nearly tripping over Xeffy in his haste.
He really should have noticed that he almost seemed to warp over to where the SKoLD was, but he was rather distracted. It really wasn't his fault Typhon's powers are many. He picked up the SKoLD, struggling a little, then passed it to Typhon (who had been a long, long way away previously).
"Thank you," Typhon said, laughing.
Danel swore. "I don't believe it! I did it again! I messed up again!"
"Don't worry. You can be the first to feel my power." Typhon gave a Laugh of True Evil , then activated the SKoLD and blasted Danel from the face of the worldlet. Typhon laughed again (he really liked doing that). "Now for the rest of those accursed," spit, "Pro-Funners!"
The cold betrayal and rage in Electra's challenge froze everyone present for a couple of heartbeats (although the Doctors cheated by counting them in parallel). Alas, whilst Typhon had many fathoms of height enormous batwings of clichéd evil four shaggy limbs ending in unpleasant proliferations of venom-dripping vipers and a head that combined the worst features of a jackal, an ass, and a velociraptor (a) heart(s) [delete where not applicable] did not appear to feature among these admirable attributes.
He did blink, though. Be fair.
"Electra." It came out as a gleeful bray. The SKoLD flared with a dull amber light in his snaky clutches; he snorted a few fragments of burning pumice, and the light sickened and shredded as if infected by the now legendary Flesh-Eating Superbug of tabloid headlines past. "Chloe was so sweet and crunchy. Anastasia whores so prettily for my gut flora. But your soul shall unravel in unending "
Carrie shot him with the strange grey tube she'd selected from Magnus's equipment. Magnus and Varne had looked at her funny, back then; but neither had had either leisure or stamina to seek a detailed explanation.
Typhon's form went weird and convex, and popped. There was no mess, other than a brief shower of light. And in the moment before he vanished utterly, his bestial voice dopplered and dwindled away into:
" stripping away of its one last puerile hope, nyaaaaaaaaargh"
And the SKoLD dropped, with a certain apparent reluctance, to the ground.
And its power, with the force and malice of Nyarlathotep's final attack behind it, struck Electra even as she screamed back her answer, a chill lonely tearing cry that would have had the Nazgûl turning in their badges on the spot:
"My curse on you and your traitor !"
A horrid chaos bubbled about her. She did not disappear as Danel had. But she seemed to fade a little, and she grew statue-still.
Tessa and Alryssa moved quickly forward, gesturing the others back.
And then Cassie and Carrie stepped forward, and joined hands with Tessa. Trader Grey accepted Carrie's odd weapon as she stepped into the what-the-hell.
Fear not, gentle reader even using the SKoLD, Typhon doesn't have the ability to uncreate people with a thought. But because the SKoLD created this worldlet, Typhon has an impressive amount of control.
Long ago, a young Gallifreyan called Rassilon decided to build a machine. It would be useful, and help people in a way that all the spiritualismness of the Pythia couldn't.
There was this strange voice that was encouraging him, as well.
He decided to build a machine to help those who were troubled with woes and problems deep inside their subconscious. The Device that he built could be used to heal people's minds.
What he didn't realise (he was very young at the time) was that a Device that can heal a mind can often be used to destroy it.
The SKoLD, for that is what he called his marvellous device, was soon forgotten about, and he never thought of it again.
Almost as if something had cleared it from his mind.
"What the hell," demanded all and sundry, but Magnus and Space Arthur were probably quickest, "was that?"
"It looked," said the Sixth Doctor in an offended tone, "like a perfectly ordinary hyperspatial grapple-gun!"
"It was!" Magnus explained.
"Call that an explanation?" babbled sundry.
"Like, he's busted and is definitely not coming back, right?" Gordon believed in cutting to the urgent points in such matters.
"I have no idea how she did that," said the Trader. "My guess is that it wasn't decisive. My guess is that we just shot a projection. I suspect that when he comes wholly in the body, it's going to get a bit..." He winced. "...I have to say it: taxing. But once they've "
Tessa shook her head.
"It can't take her, but she can't break it. All she can do is... deny it. Cassie, Carrie: don't try to help her. It's a twisting of her own mind; it'll eat you without noticing."
Carrie nodded soberly. "I went as high as dodging Calliope: invading one of her peers wants more chutzpah than I've got. Can't we do an external sim on the exit condition, though?"
"Exit condition?" said Alryssa.
Tessa grimaced. "It's in what he said, and it's impossible. No-one but the one she lost can pull her out of this. And he's dead! Xaos killed him..."
"No counterfeit will do," murmured Cassie, "nor no dream, unless it should come true."
It was Alryssa's turn to grimace. "Then we must look to our defences. Carrie, what did you do to Typhon exactly?"
"Not much," the artificial Muse confessed. "I hit his projection with a jury-rigged pop-up toaster. It might possibly worry his minions, but he'll hardly notice it if he gets around to turning up physically. But now we have a "
Yokoi bounced up and down. Eloise and several others looked at Carrie. Several Doctors committed aggravated mannerism.
Magnus spoke for all concerned. "I am not clear about the sense in which the hyperspatial grapple-gun is also a domestic appliance. If it has a Swiss Army function, the previous owner was very unforthcoming on the subject."
"He was short a larynx or two at that point, Lord." Varne was helpful as always.
"True, that had slipped my memory, but the question still stands, not to mention any injunctions that are expected of me at this point."
"You're no fun any more, Hlaford." Varne pouted, a severely alarming spectacle.
"I do my best, Varne, and by the way do not call me Lord..."
Carrie shrugged. "It's built to stop the formation of inter-spatial interfaces: it wasn't that difficult to modify the program to deal with other intrusive alter-reality bubbles. And if I didn't know some good pop-up toasting algorithms, I'd never have dared set byte on the Web!"
Whack. Whack. It hit everyone like a big dead wet fish. But Imran was onto something. "Wait up. I didn't see you program anything there..."
"It's non-programmable," Magnus clarified, if that is the word for it.
"You mean it doesn't have a human interface. And I didn't see either of you program those sounds you just made, gentlemen; but you did, didn't you? Don't we have more pressing concerns at this point? Electra might be able to preside passively over us at this battle, as Dame Mnemosyne had to at its original; but in that case we'll definitely need Nine to stand about her. We'll need to stand Typhon off until Danel can bring the other home, and I doubt that'll be easy."
"Errrm," said Gordon, into the pause that followed, "and I believe I speak for everyone here when I say, whaaa???"
"Typhon," said Carrie succinctly, "taunts too much."
"Yes," said Eighth, "I think we can " His spine stiffened suddenly. "Anastasia? 'Resurrection'?"
Trader Grey nodded. "It's what I was missing, earlier. Typhon 'slew' two of the Six. But I know a deal about cacodemons; more than anyone here but Magnus, maybe, and I doubt we know the same kind of things about them anyway...
"They're irreal: indefinite, half-sketched, full of contradictions. So much we could say of every level of fiction. And some stories are real too, once or often, or grow to become so. But Typhon and his principals are... adapted to their state. They eat the substance of truer stories; even the ones we call realities, stock and stone, warp and weft, if only they get the right loose thread to pull at. It's what they're specialised for. And it's how they feed. It's what they are. Corrupters of story, maddeners of minds, eaters of universes...
"We real things are a mighty rich diet for them; rich enough to give indigestion, taken all at once; rich enough that we're mighty periapts for them, sources of power and mana beyond compare. To be taken by a cacodemon is no clean death everyone knows that, really. It's to be destructively read, out of space and time and sense. Onion-peeled. Damned. Teased apart, indefinitely, in whatever private hells within them will do that for us, until all they can take from us above the background chaos is gone.
"That's for us mortals. But Electra's sisters were goddesses.
"If Nyarlathotep struck them down and put the others to flight... Dead or alive, he would have devoured them. No cacodemon could have refused such a power-source. And oblivion with a cacodemon isn't quick, even for mortals."
Carrie nodded grimly. "He let slip that the one called Chloe was dead. But 'Anastasia' he has not sucked dry yet. And a Muse, with divine reserves, and one associated with resurrection? rebirth?"
Second flashed a sad smile at her. "Regeneration, mmmm?"
" might keep her mind to herself, inside all the muck," said Amanda, in a voice like armoured glass. Everyone looked at her. "Being a Muse, of all things. Her own, there, I suppose. And might come out on a level like one of ours, maybe? Until he'd sucked the last drop dry?"
"Amanda," said Albert, with a particular inturned savagery which was more than half Fifth Doctor as we knew him, "you know this isn't safe for you, of all people. I'm sorry!" And not the densest person present thought he was talking about the fifty-foot-snakey-thing problem, either.
Her colour was very high, but it was she who squeezed his hand in reassurance. "Cheer up, Albert!" she told him, unabashed. "That's just common sense; and this isn't quite home, you know, or ungodly either. 'With the kit comes the courage', after all..."
A much less Doctorish thing was the way he didn't pull his hand away from hers. Was he on the verge of it? Only one, perhaps two people there knew.
"Yes," intoned Alryssa, painfully. "Six there were, under She they called Therezia there, timeless reaper of all fair things.
"Electra, Lady Amber, the Elegiast, that trapped and cherished beauty unchanging in time and words.
"Anastasia Everborn, the Re-Creator and Re-Worker, Mistress of the ever-living present.
"Chloe." A shadow fell across Alryssa's face: her eyes were very bright. "Verdure-cloaked, sweetest shoot, Maiden of Futurity. She would have been patron to the likes of most of us, the fantasists, the prophets of fiction. But some blight lay on her, some spring frost... The fight with Typhon was too much for her, from the first. And he has said it: now she is dead and gone, truly.
"Philomela the Romaunt and Penelope the Weaver and Agave the Magnificent passed... otherwise, at another time. I don't choose to speak of that.
"But if there is some shade of Anastasia left within our Enemy..." She gave Trader Grey a fierce, flat look. "You say you know demonological protocols. Can you get her out?" He shook his head definitely. Her gaze flicked sideways to Magnus. "Can you?"
"Do not try!" Cassie whispered urgently. Eldritchly, even. "She would come as she is, a formless thing, self-enwrapped 'catatonic', you would say. Forever. Nor can we draw her remnant out against his will."
"Danel," said Carrie.
"Who just passed under Typhon's influence," elaborated the Trader, "and, I strongly suspect from his disappearance, into some half-cocked and possibly malleable state of reality. Assuming Typhon didn't just consume him; but I doubt a projection could have done that. If Danel can make a true Author's Summoning for his Muse by whatever word or deed, if only he wants her enough and will pay the price he may be sufficiently close to her and Typhon's borders to get her out.
"His Muse. Our Ninth. And a breach in Typhon's being, and a person who has been a part of him. If we can't make something of that, we're definitely stuffed. Assuming, that is, that we can bloody well get it!"
"Which is entirely in Danel's hands," said Third exasperatedly. "It's past time we were concentrating on our own defences meantime!"
Imran shook his head. "I'd be so much happier if Danel even had anything of Typhon's to resonate sympathetically with..."
"Like what?" Allie demanded. "His golf clubs? A combful of sna" She decided not to pursue that image any further. "His library card? I don't think things like Typhon have Property As We Know It..."
Fourth nodded. "I don't think he'd have had much fun with the basilisk, either."
"Well," said Walter Duncan gruffly, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Don't you think it's time we all beggared off to our defensive positions?"
~I thought~, Silence signed, ~no-one was ever getting around to that!~
Meanwhile, back in the mundane world, a man in a bar talks to himself, or so the bartender thinks.
"Nope, she's dead, I tell you," the man said to empty air somewhere to his right. "I staked her through her black heart, myself."
The bartender glanced up. "Maybe you've had enough, Mr. Wade."
The eponymous Mr. Wade scowled at being interrupted. "I haven't even started, chump, so shut up and bring me an Irish coffee."
He turned back to his apparently imaginary friend.
"Now, where were we, Mr. G? Oh yes, I'm sorry, but I can't help you. I'm not in that line of work anymore. I don't write, see. No, really. I can't. She's dead. I staked her myself."
The bartender brought the man his and crept back to avoid disturbing him. The weirdo picked up his mug and started to take a sip before seemingly being interrupted.
"Yes, I'm that Joe Wade," he said, angrily, slamming the mug down and causing its contents to leap out of the cup and slop over his hand. "I did write all those stories. Yes, I did make those people famous."
Noticing the mess for the first time, Joe growls in anger.
"Bloody hell! Look what you made me do, Mr. G," Joe said to his imaginary companion. "You and your stupid questions. Yes, I was a writer and, yes, I was a blasted good one, but you know that they put me out to pasture after ... after my last assignment. No, I don't want to think about what happened."
The bartender goes back to polishing glasses and wonders why the gods always sent the crazy ones to his establishment.
Joe finishes mopping his hands with a napkin, takes a deep breath and continues in a milder voice.
"Yes, I do miss the stories. I miss the feeling that I was drinking from Mimir's Well whenever I was zoning at the keyboard, but I don't miss her. She was an evil-hearted thing and no matter what I thought at the beginning, she wasn't a muse."
Oblivious to the bartender, Joe cocks his head as if listening to a persuasive argument. His eyes soften. "We did do some good work together, though. That's true. And I do miss the stories. This tall tales of yours about Typhon and this myth-engine, it would be as exciting as hell to chronicle that to be in the thick of things again."
Joe's eyes grow hard. "But I'll tell you one last time. She's dead. I realized just what the price of our working relationship was ... and just what she was. I destroyed her like the vampire she is."
Adopting a listening attitude again, Joe starts to object, but doesn't seem to get a chance. Finally, his shoulders slump.
"I'll do it. I'll cover your story. One more time, but she goes back into her grave at the end."
He stands and throws a $10 bill on the bar. "Keep the change," he tells the bartender.
Turning towards the empty air, Joe nods and says "take me to her."
Then he is suddenly gone, leaving the bartender to wonder about his own sanity.
If a TARDIS could sigh, she would have, as she watched him. She knew, with the same level of certainty she had for her calculations, that this would be their last journey together. What chain of events would draw this journey to a close was unknown. But that chain was a mere variable in the middle of the equation. The end was known.
When this Pilot was first assigned to her, she knew him only as a pattern of energy a discrete bundle that moved about within her inner dimensions: something to be tracked and scanned just as she scanned the vast regions beyond her shell. She knew this pattern well, could detect shifts as minute the flow of a single oxygen atom, and she quickly learned which shifts were favorable and unfavorable in their effects on her movement through the Vortex. She learned, too, to anticipate these shifts and to respond even before they occurred.
Then, something changed there was a shift that she did not anticipate, and could not account for. On the one hand, the overall bundle seemed to become larger more diffuse. On the other hand, a new bundle of energy seemed to form inside: a tight, burning core that seemed to give a greater energy to the outer layers.
What was most unsettling was that the TARDIS could not determine whether these shifts were favorable or not. She could not deny that this bundle's new energy seemed to be leaking out to her. While she was travelling, the winds in the vortex buffeted her less harshly, and when she arrived at a point in spacetime, it was easier to return to her natural equilibrium. But it was those very points in spacetime that bothered her nearly every one had been nestled within firewalls and security codes that webbed themselves through her database, put there when the Time Lords reformatted her memory. Long, long, was this period of travel to spacetimes outside the influence of Rassilon. It lasted through Pilot's first regeneration, and second. Pilot's inner core burned brighter with each rebirth, and the patterns that surrounded it grew more intricate and varied.
Then, It happened. TARDIS was overtaken by an entity so alien to her that she could not recognize it, much less defend against it, until it was too late. This thing breached her all her shields and passed through her real-world interface. As it flooded through her transdimensions, it left subtle changes in its wake. TARDIS's own patterns of energy, and the subsets of patterns within those, realigned themselves, linking together and reinforcing each other so that, for the first time, her own existence stood in stark contrast with the rest of the cosmos.
TARDIS had her first thought. And that thought was: "I am Self." Other thoughts, other perceptions, formed around that first with the customary speed with which TARDIS did all of her calculations. All she was at that moment, and all that she had been through to get there, coalesced into memory, into feelings: Joy, sorrow, triumph, fear, companionship, affection, desire.
In the instant that she became "Self," Pilot became "Another." No longer just an amorphous bundle of energy patterns, she now recognized Pilot as mind, and body, and voice. She found she could remember him, too, and that all they had been through, they had been through together.
The entity was wholly "Other" a self, a mind, yes. But thoroughly cold, filled only with sorrow and desire and hatred hatred for TARDIS, hatred for Pilot, hatred for Gallifrey. And yet could it be? Pilot was calling the entity to himself. Affection and desire radiated from him in waves. And the entity had come.
TARDIS had not been "Self" long enough to understand the meaning of a quest, or the possibility of changing the future, or of healing the wounded. But she would learn. And that was the beginning.
It did not take long for Pilot to notice that she had become a Self. He began to converse with her to hand her pieces of his thoughts neatly bundled into language, and ask her opinions. And gradually, TARDIS learned to respond in kind. He created a thought bundle just for her, just for the two of them together for "TARDIS-Self-as-seen-by-Pilot", and that bundle, that name, was "Beloved." And this pleased her. She, however, could think of no other name for him but "Pilot", for to a TARDIS, a pilot was only less than the cosmos itself.
Their quest had been a long one. Three more regenerative cycles had come and passed since that first encounter with the Other that set them on their hunt for the Myth Engine. Part of Beloved was grateful to the Icy One, for even though she now wished only to destroy, she was still a First Muse, and still trailed creative sparks behind her (whether she would or no). Only these sparks could have drawn a mind from machine, and so had she not come, TARDIS would never have been "Beloved". But she couldn't help thinking that the price for such a gift was far too high. The muse cared naught for Pilot, nor for the fact that this quest would destroy him.
If they succeeded in getting the Myth Engine, Pilot planned to return to Gallifrey, to convince the High Council to connect it to their own Matrix, so reason and magic would be intertwined. He dreamed only of succeeding in this. Beloved saw a different outcome. She saw him being condemned as mad, and banished to the wild outside the Citadel, to live or die as best he could alone. She saw herself being taken away and reformatted, to become a nameless TARDIS once more.
If they failed... well. If they failed, the Crawling Chaos could swallow both their lives as easily as Pilot swallowed a single berry.
And yet. ... And yet, Pilot's dream was so strong his vision of what could be, for Gallifrey and her people, was so bright, that even though the chance of his dream coming true was infinitesimal, Beloved could not be certain he was wrong.
She watched him closely, now. Pilot had been sleeping a long time, longer in mind than in body. She'd felt it happen as soon as he stepped out her doors to the spaceport this morning. There was a stranger here. Another mind had somehow gotten tangled up around Pilot's own a stranger from another time and space entirely. It was this stranger who spoke with her and walked her corridors, while Pilot slept. This stranger was a friend, of that, she was certain, but still, she wished to be alone with Pilot, now more than ever.
She steadied herself, preparing (if she'd had a body, she would have squared her shoulders and taken a deep breath). What she was about to do had to be done quickly, while both of them slept. Turning her telepathic link to full force, she scanned Pilot-and-Stranger, she mapped out the different strands of self where they twisted around each other in all their intricacies. Then, carefully, she began the work of disentangling them, rearranging them as she would the patterns of information within her own databases. She made sure that no strand was broken, or shifted out of its proper place. She could not banish the Stranger without doing him harm, nor did she wish to. Instead, she bundled his Self to a corner of Pilot's mind, and put a shield between them. Now Stranger could remain alert and sane, but he could neither influence, nor be corrupted by, whatever events lay ahead of them.
Her task complete, she stirred within Pilot's mind, waking him. "It is time," she told him, "we are nearly there. We need to prepare."
Danel blinked, and sat up too quickly. He felt ill. He seemed to be in a CSO void, which was unusual.
He remembered what had just happened. How stupid. I let Typhon trick me, and now he'll use the SKoLD on everyone. I suppose they'll all go into their own little CSO voi
<DoN't WoRrY wRiTeR.">
<dO nOt Be AfRaId.">
It did seem to be making sense. Danel stopped panicking and let the entity reveal itself. It seemed shapeless, almost like nothingness itself, and Danel wasn't entirely sure how he could see it at all. He blinked furiously, but nothing changed. Then his Fic-Predictive Sense kicked in, hard, and his jaw dropped.
"You're the Coat! How?"
"Can you stop it with the silly warbling? Please?"
<Sorry. I am indeed the entity formerly known as the Coat of Spectral Uncertainty. Unlike Xaos, I have long since forgotten my name, and my old purpose and job is now what I most despise. Yet once again I found myself being pulled into the same trap, aiding my former master again. I wish to help you, and I can help you to find an escape from here.>
"You talk quite a bit, don't you?"
The (ex-)Coat didn't answer.
"Never mind. Where am I, anyway?"
<InSiDe YoU >
<Inside your own worldlet, created from your subconscious by the SKoLD's power.>
"But it's just an empty void!"
<Well, that's your fault, isn't it?>
"How do I get out of here?"
<For most people, it would be simplicity itself. You have no deep inner traumas to threaten you, no hidden fears or terrors. You're just not very good at making your mind up. You're a writer without a Muse. You're>
"I'm useless! Useless!"
<When I said inner traumas, I didn't mean 'make some'.>
And Electra's twofold curse fell.
It made a nasty gash in Typhon's form at a strictly metaphysical level. Since it is an essential part of Typhon's nature that he does not make a hell of a lot of sense on such levels, any more than on physical ones, this was a deal less than incapacitating. But it was cast with sufficient venom and power, and by an entity who knew his nature well enough, that it did make a temporary and rather unhealthy gap in his ineffable impenetrability and so on.
And it scored Danel's heart and mind like a harrow. Indeed, it might well have been considerably less pleasant than that, were it not for the fact that he was (i) somewhat insulated from it by being in yet another bubble-reality; and (ii) directed at a momentarily supposed traitor, and hence applicable to no part of Danel except the bit that was really really feeling guilty about falling into Typhon's trap. It should, however, be pointed out that (ii) was kind of nontrivial.
And so it briefly opened up a part of Danel that was not, even to himself, generally available for observation. I never saw it, don't bloody ask me to describe it! It is probably Ineffable anyway, subsconsciouses being what they are.
Just as, similarly exposed within Typhon for the first time in much much longer, was a part of the mortally digested remnant of a much-abused minor goddess, long since confined and eaten down to humanish orders of magnitude. A few more centuries, and it would have been little fit for any purposes higher than those blasphemous and unspeakable inanities embodied in the Dukes of Telesales but as it was, there was still a substantial and rootedly sane essence of Anastasia about it, albeit wrapped very deeply in its protective layers of ingrown inspiration.
Anastasia, once patron of reworking and rebirth, who not unlike the Doctor was ever reborn in new shapes to match her callings. Whose nature was that within Gallifreyan culture that had sent them down the regeneration road in the first place. And Anastasia, though Anastasia no longer and stripped through long unspeakably delirious millennia of all else that she had been, still knew the call of art, and the call of rebirth, and must answer when she heard it.
Questions being: By what positive act could Danel make such a call? Would she hear it? As who would or could she rebirth herself to answer it? And what would poor Typhon do then, poor thing?
We wonders, precious, yesss we does!
Scoring a person's mind can have interesting effects when trapped inside a worldlet created from their mind and subconscious. In this case, it would perhaps have been more dramatic and terrifying if Danel's worldlet wasn't a CSO void. The disruption rather confused the (ex-)Coat, and it reflected that had it a physical existence it may well have felt somewhat nauseous. Then it realised that Danel had vanished.
It looked around the worldlet for anything interesting, and as it did so pondered the possible effects for Danel of the whatever it was. It wondered then it sensed, in a sense, something nearby. A presence. Or several, when there clearly shouldn't be any.
At that moment, a Danel aged four years old ran past it and disappeared. The (ex-)Coat considered swearing again, but decided against it. Another presence came closer. The (ex-)Coat sighed. The presence was, rather clearly, some kind of 'Dark Side' projection. Clearly, the (ex-)Coat reflected, Danel wasn't very good at having a dark side. The Dark Side was identical to Danel, except for badly dyed messy black hair, a rather unpractised evil grin, and a badly glued Beard of Evil. He threw back his head and gave a somewhat hysterical Evil Laugh (these are, fortunately, public domain).
"Welcome, Entity!" The Dark Side chuckled villainously. "I am... Lenad! I am, if you will, Danel's suppressed personality." Perhaps Lenad sensed the contempt emanating from the (ex-)Coat, for he gave a rather nervous Evil Laugh. Again. "You see, I see no reason to stop Typhon. Do you know, Entity, what a Fic Predictive sense means? It is a curse! A horrible, terrible curse! Mwahahahaha! To be bored by most stories and fictions... so I say " There was a dramatic, and somewhat overdone, pause for effect. "Bring on the Chaos! Let the primordial chaos wash in at least things would be unpredictable! Mwahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahhaahahhahaahahahahah!"
If the (ex-)Coat had had eyes, it would have rolled them. <YoU hAvEn'T rEaLlY tHoUgHt ThIs ThRoUgH, hAvE yOu?>
"Eh? Mwahaha "
<Please, be quiet now. Danel, you haven't been split into your dark side or another similar. You're being influenced by the SKoLD's Chaos infection again. It's writing the most badly-done clichés into the story, and you're following them.>
<You aren't a Fictive. I know you want to write your own stories, to influence your own stories, and first you mustn't let the SKoLD influence you. You're a Writer, however much you may fear that you aren't. That spark of ability exists within everyone, the ability to write their own stories and to influence more. You've already started, but constantly you have allowed your fears to undermine you. It's time to stop.>
If there was ever any doubt that the Coat had been an ancient entity, the power that it infused its next words would have defused this once and for all.
<You are a Writer. Now... Write! I command you, Write, and no longer let yourself be Written! You are no-one's pawn, no playing piece it is time for you to write your own story. Let it begin!>
Power surged through the worldlet, and for a moment it shone with energy. Then there was a dull thump, and the void disappeared. The (ex-)Coat recognised what appeared to be a pleasant library, peaceful and calm. A sanctuary. A void was Danel's worldlet no longer. The door opened, and Danel entered. His clothes had changed. The (ex-)Coat was surprised to see that the trousers were identical to Xaos, except for the colour, which was black. His T-shirt from earlier was back, but uncrumpled by trips over SKoLDs and the like. Somewhat surprising was that he had kept the Spike-style leather jacket.
"Thank you." He paused and looked around the library. "To be honest, my Fic Predictive sense isn't as bad as Lenad made out. It doesn't predict everything, and I really do adore those stories which do surprise me. For example, I wonder what stories this worldlet has? I'd like to explore, but I understand that now isn't the time. I feel... different. Thank you, ah...?" A confused smile. "What can I call you? You are no longer the Coat, and calling you 'Entity' seems rude, somehow. You need, my friend, a name... hmm..."
"How about Ned?"
"Ned. It's odd, but I think it suits you."
Outside Danel's worldlet, Typhon approached.
Danel sat in the Librarian's chair behind the desk, and talked to the (ex-)Coat. To Ned. "What now?"
<from your mind...>
"I know." Danel stood up, and paced behind the desk. "If I want a Muse, now's the time... I don't know."
<What do you mean?> asked Ned, a horrible suspicion beginning to form.
"Do I really want a Muse? I'm fine as I am, really! I don't need..." He sat down abruptly. "I'm sorry."
<Don't apologise. I understand. But look around..! This is a library. Your stories what you could write, if only you could channel it. You don't need a muse... but you placed all your writing ability in this one place. If you wish to write, then you must be prepared.>
"Please, halt the ominous babble. I already know what I have to do, and I understand that I'm only prolonging the inevitable." Danel walked over towards a stand, an empty network of shelves standing alone. "This is where all the new books go."
Ned flinched in astonishment. <That stand.. I sense Typhon, and his full self, who I dare not name even now, upon it. But there is something else... something that is both infinitely ancient and eternally new.>
<Please, I would prefer it if you didn't keep saying that.">
"Sor ah.... alright."
Danel sighed. "It's time, I suppose. Time to start writing. I understand what I have to do now, and my Fic Predictive sense tells me that there will be a price to this. I... understand. I'll pay the price."
He reached down, and picked up a large book from the shelves that were empty a few moments before. He looked at the cover, blank, but with one word written in big, bold lettering:
"Typical. That's not even a real word, as far as I know."
Danel opened the book, and began to read.
Typhon approached, and time pulled around it. Everyone prepared for the battle, and the SKoLD glowed with a strange light.
Danel blinked. He was standing behind the counter again, talking to Ned, and the book was gone. And something else was gone. The price... Danel blinked in astonishment. Could it be? His Fic Predictive abilities were gone! He smiled, truly and happily.
Understand he was a little unsure of what else was happening. Everything was as it had been, except for the fact that there was a teenage girl perhaps a little younger than he was standing next to him.
He managed to stop himself from being too surprised, and turned to look at his Muse. He was rather surprised.
<Oh, for Chaos' sake.>
To be fair, the Muse seemed almost as unprepared as he was.
"Um.. hi!" Danel said, trying for a smile. "Your name is... Ana?"
"I suppose that it would be, now."
Look, it's not as if what Danel's muse looks like should be very surprising by this point, is it? We've already determined that he can be cured of amnesia by some quoting, so the fact that Ana looked... uh, now... like Dawn Summers as drawn by an anime artist should be of very little surprise. Her clothes were simple a rather conservative classical white dress (that Danel could see, at any rate not that he was at all interested in what was underneath, no sir), and her dark brown hair was held in a rather unusual green pin-thing. Hey, I know little about hair clips. What was unusual was the colour it was almost impossibly green the essence of green. It drew the eye, and held it.
Muse and Writer stepped closer, and shook hands, formally. "It's good to meet you, Ana."
"But now, I think..."
"It's time to leave."
Ana smiled. "Coming, Ned?"
Much later, in a timeless place, Joe Wade straightens up and wipes his brow. He is holding a dirty wooden stake in his hand. He gazes at it a moment before throwing it aside. Climbing out of the grave, he limps over to a rock and sits to rest. He is grimy, covered with dirt and sweat, and digs through a strategically placed cooler for a Coke.
"Hello, lover." The voice is seductive and dark, promising both delight and degradation.
Joe squeezes his eyes shut for a moment before replying.
"Hello, V," he says, turning. "We've got a job."
The woman standing before him is medium height and voluptuous with jet black hair and scary eyes filled with hunger.
"I knew you'd come back for me, Joe," she says, languidly. "You always were weak."
"Whatever," he says to the dark muse, curtly. "We've got an assignment."
"Oh goody!" the dark muse squeals. "Chronicling the last words of innocents as they die screaming, I hope?"
"Something like that," Joe said, grinning maliciously in return. "Something like that."
Turning to the empty air beside him, he says quietly. "It's your move, Mr. G!"
Time and space blur as the pair's surroundings whirl and darken. Suddenly, existence snaps back into place as Joe and the dark muse find themselves in the hallway of what appears to be a castle.
Joe is now wearing a dark gray suit and a snap-brim fedora. His companion wears jeans, a black turtleneck and mirror shades.
Pulling a notebook and pen from his pocket, Joe looks down at an avocado-green troll beside him and smiles gently.
"On the record, how does it feel to be facing certain death at the hands of a mad god?" he asks.
Eloise grinned up at him with determined cheerfulness that instinctively comes with being a good hostess. Though truth be told, she really didn't need the distraction at the moment.
"Well, for one thing, I don't believe it is a certain death. Now I have a question for you: Which would you rather join the fight, or stay out of the way until the coming battle is over, and do your reporting then? Because frankly, those are the only two choices open to you."
"If I wait until the battle's over," Mr. Wade replied, "there's a good chance there won't be anyone to interview."
"If the battle ends that way," Eloise retorted, "there won't be anyone to read the story, either."
Eloise peered closely at the woman in the mirror sunglasses and turtleneck. "Allie, Yokoi, Tessa!" she called out, "our crucial ninth muse has just arrived."
The dark woman started. "How did you "
"Not including arguments around the family dinnertable," the avocado troll answered, 'this will be my third time facing 'certain death' the last time, there were a lot more than one mad god on the opposing side. Let's just say I've learned to recognize creativity's mark on people." (Though truth be told, it was just an educated guess). "Now, which do you choose: fight with us, or wait?"
Joe scribbles in his notebook, muttering "the valiant little troll vows to fight on despite the overwhelming doom that threatens to overtake her."
Finished, he looks up and grins. "Oh, I'll fight with you. The public loves a good underdog triumphs story. And I'd never pass up the chance to write a first-person 'I fought on the frontlines against Typhon' story'." As for V, she's welcome to help you fine folks, but be warned she's a treacherous, black-hearted muse."
V takes off her sunglasses and glares at Joe. Her eyes are empty black voids that suck hungrily at the light. She kneels and takes Eloise's hand.
"I'll help you, little sister. I want my hands to be clean again."
Joe snorts. "So, what can we do to help? And by the way, Mr. G says that a plot complication is about to occur. Does anyone know what the phrase 'metaverse' means?"
Typhon approached, and stopped abruptly. Something was wrong. No, wait... that was impossible...
Danel reached, through the SKoLD, through Typhon, and to Nyarlathotep beyond.
And Nyarlathotep felt Danel's presence grasp something that wasn't of him, but had been a part of the ancient creature for so long it might as well have been.
And Nyarlathotep screamed, in shock more than pain, in surprise more so than agony but in pain none the less.
Typhon merely became a blob of matter, which separated into two forms, which shifted, and changed, and bloomed, one becoming Danel, one becoming his Muse.
They snapped into existence with a bolt of energy that every muse and author felt as if the link existing between each pair had been twanged like a rubber band. More than a few of them blinked in a little surprise.
Danel paused. Electra, the First Muse, seemed frozen like a statue... strange... but there was something else odd. He turned to Ana, and recoiled in shock.
The being that stood there, the great muse, was ancient. Timeless. Anastasia Everborn stood next to him, and he knew this, yet did not know how. Strange.
Anastasia stepped forward. "*My sister*" she whispered, in a voice filled with a terrible, ancient pain. "*I see that we are the only ones left. I understand, and have known this for some time. But now I realise that we have both been corrupted in the years. Appropriate, in a cruel way, that we two of infinity should be who remain... you, for that which never changes, and I for that which always does...*"
She paused for a second, but no one dared to interrupt. "*But while I become weak, wasting away, becoming less, you became stagnant. Truly unchanging. Ice. For Gallifrey is dead, but will live for ever. Our time is over, finished... for now. Although I know that time changes, death is still death even if it isn't forever. This is the last of my power... with it, I destroy myself, and I will destroy you.
"*But I am that which is forever, changing, and now you too must change. Be no more what you were, sister.*"
The power began to build, rippling through the worldlet, and in a far corner what remained of Typhon shuddered as he sensed the energy that should have been his rippling through the worldlet. Elsewhere, Nyarlathotep howled in rage. He would be revenged! To manifest as Typhon, use all his power to crush these insolent beings who had hurt him like the pitiful insects they were!, and so on, and so forth.
But this was unimportant. Allie's eyes widened as she understood what was about to take place.
"*Electra Unchanging, it is time for you to change. The first and last will die now, but not forever. This is not the end. But farewell... my sister.*
And as First was reborn anew, so did the last that was Anastasia Everborn die, and as she must, became Ana once more.
Danel breathed a mental sigh of relief.
Light spilled from Electra, growing brighter and brighter and brighter
Light reflecting, refracting off every surface, rainbows of light cascading across the courtyard, until the castle rippled with light
And then cut off.