Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Aretha Tesla: Unbiased Advice

"What is troubling you?" Niccolò asked smoothly as I descended the ladder. He hadn't even looked up from his painting. And we still didn't have a mental link established, so he couldn't have been reading my mind, either.

"Is it that obvious?" I asked, my voice tired and laced with sarcasm.

"Of course," he replied, "We do know each other quite well, do we not?"

I smiled warily. "I guess we do." I walked across the room to sit on the corner of his desk, leaning my back against the wall and closing my eyes. I wanted just one moment to make my mind blank. "I've been thinking for a while, and I need some unbiased advice." He continued his painting as though I wasn't there, but I knew he was listening carefully. "I worked as an assassin before, and I hated it. But I only hated it until I started trying to bring people in alive, and I ended up doing that most of the time. So I wasn't really an assassin anymore, but you get the idea. And... In a way, I did like that kind of work. On the ground, helping people directly. And you know how much I hate politics, and I was hesitant to become an Elder in the first place..." I paused, taking a deep breath. "I just don't know if I can do it. I mean, I think I'm good enough at it- I'm pretty well read in strategy and I think- at least I hope- that I've made a lot of good decisions, and I'm careful to follow all the rules. I do all the necessary paperwork, and write in the journals, and issue orders and hold meetings and organize everything, and I never fight on the front lines. And it's killing me. I can't just sit around in an office sipping tea and reading reports while I send other people to their deaths! I just can't! And as much as I love Zaf, I can't do what she did the first time Mevolent returned, either. I can't lead the battles, or even be part of them- because she was right when she said she couldn't lose me back in the dungeons earlier today. Somebody has to be here to issue the orders, and that person has to stay safe, and I can't live with myself knowing other people have died to protect me, and all I did for them in return was add their name to the list and send for an obituary." I hadn't meant to speak for so long, but once I'd started I couldn't stop, and by the end my breaths became strained and hot tears fell from my eyes. "I just... Can't do it anymore." I took a few deep breaths to calm myself, and continued. "And I know I took the job- I feel like an idiot now for taking it, but I did- so I can't just say no in the middle of a war, can I? I mean, she only asked me because she didn't have any other candidates lined up... At least, that was my impression."

Niccolò made one long, final stroke of his brush, then set it aside and raised his dark eyes to meet mine. He looked so old, sometimes, so tired. I could never really forget who he was, or what he thought he was supposed to be. "What would you like me to tell you?" It was an earnest question. Of course, in the end, I needed to make my own decision. But I needed and what I wanted were two separate things. He  brushed away the few tears still drying on my cheeks.

"I want you to tell me that I don't need to be an Elder anymore- that I shouldn't be one. I want you to tell me that someone else will take the position- someone who's wise, and calm, and not heartless, but not so emotional that some piece of them breaks every time they turn a person into a statistic, and that I don't have to do it anymore. I want you to tell me that it's ok if I just quit, and go back to being a foot soldier." I spoke firmly, as though I was angry at the very nature of the job. Really, I think, I was just angry at war.

He thought for a few moments before answering. "For your sake," he spoke slowly, meticulously, so his dark chocolate voice sounded like it was melting, "You should not be an Elder. For the sake of others... Perhaps you should be. Ask Zafira if she knows anyone else willing and able to take the job. If she does, you may leave. But if not... War takes its toll on everyone, Aretha. You know exactly how much I loathe to see you scarred, but there storms that simply cannot be subdued, storms that even I cannot shelter you from. You have to outlast them. I know that you have the strength." He took my hands in both of his and kissed one of them, ever so lightly, while he dropped the hilt of a black knife into the other. Then, with a last knowing glance and a swirl of his coat, he evaporated from the room like a cloud of smoke. I took a deep breath, tucked the knife away in its rightful home in my pocket, and headed out into the late night. I would finish revising the recon schedule or fall asleep trying.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Reaper's Garden (A Spotter Division Christmas Tale)

I was going to release this on Christmas day, But Civilisation V had other plans. So here it is. Late. I guess. Enjoy!

  The Reaper’s Garden is a very small area in the forest surrounding the Scottish Sanctuary, walled off by old, worn and mossed over bricks. It is surrounded by lush, green grass and beautiful flowers, yet each of them, seems to be sad about something. This makes the average observer very confused. How can flowers seem sad? And yet, they do. There is a small arch in the wall, filled by heavy, mahogany doors. It is silent there, in no other place do you not dare think, because if you do it seems you may shatter the silence forever. Clothes do not ruffle, breaths do not wheeze.

  It is tended to by a cleaver in black robes. He did away with his mask a long time ago, his scythe is bent out of shape, so he can use it to cut the grass. He is it’s gardner, it’s protector, its gardian, if you get the joke. He was injured a long time ago, and so retired here. It was his duty to watch this place, now and forever.

  He finished cutting the grass, every blade the same height, and sat down. Beside him, six feet under the ground lay the first man ever to come to this place. That same man was the reason The Reaper had not died that day, and the reason he would stay here forever more. That man had been so kind, and so selfless, and had held his ideals so close he had given his life for a cleaver. He was so revered every Scottish spotter who had died since had followed him to The Reaper’s Garden.

And every Christmas Day, all spotters who have no one else, spend their Christmas with the reaper, who they know will one day look after them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rhydian Blake: Coming Home To Blogland

((Hello! My First chapter :) this chapter is just Rhydian coming back to Blogland (coz he went temporarily insane) now he's recovered so...yeah. set before Christmas. It's a bit short. Sorry ))

Rhydian Saint was teaching. Well, actually it wasn't teaching. Close enough though. Near enough to teaching. His school had this thing, where a few of the students could go to the primary next door and just have fun with the kids. Rhydian and his friend were helping to little kids make play-dough. It was fun-ish. Got boring after awhile. It was nearly Christmas. All the kids were excited. Of course they were. 

Rhydian left them and went to the kitchen to check on the dinner. Smelt amazing. Then his friend walked up to him. 

"Had a phone call for you at the office" He said

"From who? What for" Rhydian replied.

"Dunno? Something about checking your phone?"

Rhydian turned his phone on and saw the message. 

Go to Blogland -Lewis

His reflection. Rhydian was going to have to go back to Blogland. Oh, how he missed that place. Excitement filled him. 

"I got to go. Cover for me?"

"Yeah sure!" 

Rhydian left the building and got onto his motorbike. He arrived at Blogland. 
He took his helmet off, and pulled a Santa hot on. And he took hid jacket off revealing a Christmas themed jumper.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Mascara Incident

As requested, here it is. The them you know are . . . well, Hunter's a hundred and seventy something, and Ez is a hundred and forty something, but here they're more like seventy something and forty something (or maybe sixty something and thirty something), so yes. :)
And, to quote Hunter, "For future reference, Ez used to be called Emily, and then she changed her name, and then she changed it again, and sometimes I call her Emily to annoy her."
Just background information.
(Plus, it didn't paste any of the indents in.

She felt a sparkling sensation suddenly crackle into life in the middle of the room.
“Ez?” Hunter asked.
“Go away,” she told him.
The fizzing energy that hovered in her senses like a bad smell moved towards her, and the weight on the bed sifted as Hunter sat on it. “Look,” he said. “I’m pretty crap at this whole cheering-people-up thing, because usually I’m the one sat there crying.”
“Then say what they say to you,” she told him, voice muffled by the pillow.
“Nobody generally cares enough to say anything,” he shrugged.
“You know, Ez,” he began.
“Shut up,” she told him.
“My very best friend died, a few years ago. And it sucked. Really sucked.”
“Tony was slightly more than my best friend,” Ez pointed out, lifting her head up from the pillow slightly so he could hear the edge in her voice.
Hunter raised his voice slightly, ignoring her interruption. “And do you know what sucked the absolute most?” he asked, hatred creeping into his voice, but it wasn’t directed at her. “I was the one who killed him.”
Ez lifted her head up over the pillow further, her eyesight a mad blur. “Well, that’s because you’re a screwed up bastard.”
“I know,” Hunter said, his voice strangely calm.
She wiped her eyes and turned around to look at him, and he was sat there staring at his hands. Water was running through the creases in his gloves.
“And it never really goes away,” he said in a low whisper. “And maybe life sucks and it’s unfair, but at least you’re the victim, Ez.”
She fully sat up now. “Don’t you dare make this about you.”
“Well, who is it about?” he asked, his voice an upset too-loud. “You? It’s not about either of us. We’re alive.”
“If you dare start lecturing me -”
“I’m not -”
“Because you’ve never loved anyone, ever, so don’t you even think you know what it’s like -”
“Who says I’ve never loved anyone, ever?” he asked, and he laughed, but it was a broken kind of laugh. “And Ez . . . three things, and you are going to sit there and listen and not interrupt. First thing, it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Second thing, you shouldn’t be sad he’s gone, you should be glad he was here at all. Third thing, he had a happy life whilst it lasted. Fourth thing -”
“You said three things.”
“And you said you wouldn’t interrupt.”
Ez moved to put her head back on her pillow, but it was all wet and had mascara smudges on it. She curled over and buried it in the duvet. “You’re not helping.”
“See, I told you I couldn’t help,” he sighed.
“Yeah, so go away.”
“Ez -”
“I don’t need you, I need waterproof mascara.”
Hunter lifted her head up, ignoring her hand smacking his, and held some under her nose.
Ez sat up again and grabbed it. “Where’d you get that?”
Hunter pointed to his jacket.
She gave him a look. “You have mascara in your jacket?”
“I have a lot of things in my jacket. Plus, you never know when you might need it.”
“Do you happen to have mascara remover in your jacket?”
“I don’t think it works on pillows.”
“What does work on pillows?”
“Trust pink, forget stains.”
“Thanks.” She put her head back on the duvet.
“I’m not going away,” he told her.
“If you don’t, I will open this mascara and pour it on your head.”
“Well fuck you, I have black hair.”
“Well, I’ll get pink mascara, then.”
“From where?”
“Do you have any?”
He rummaged in his jacket, pulled some pink mascara out, screwed the bottle open and carefully poured it by her ear.
She jerked upright, knocking the bottle out of his hand, which quickly whizzed and caught it before it could move more than a few centimetres.
“Hey!” Ez protested, giving him a glare that could dent walls.
But Hunter could cut holes in walls with his bare hands.
“You wanted some,” he said innocently.
She snatched it out of his hand, then teleported over and she was behind him, and he reached up and grabbed her wrist, and she was falling on the bed, and he had another full bottle of mascara out, and he burnt the outside and BOOM, mascara explosion.
“Hunter, that’s on my clothes!” she gasped, spitting mascara out of her mouth and standing up.
“Well, that’s in my hair!” he said, giving her a wounded look.
She gave him a teasing grin. “Aw, too bad. Guess you’ll have to dye it pink.”
“Guess you’ll have to dye your clothes black,” he retorted.
“That wouldn’t be so bad,” she pointed out.
Hunter snapped his fingers and his hair was pink.
Ez’s eyes widened and she started laughing.
He teleported behind her, but she was swinging to kick him, so he crackled with electricity and she fell over, unprepared, singed.
Hunter put his hand on her, keeping her under, then his hand whizzed over and began writing on her face whilst his hair shifted back to black. He was cut off near the end and the bones in his wrist cracked, Ez’s hand glowing with energy. He pulled the energy out of her – convert – and his wrist was healed before the pain had really begun.
She sat up and glared at him. “How old are you?”
He laughed, and she whizzed over to a mirror.
Her face read, “HELLO, MY NAME IS EMILY”, with the Y doing a funky swirly thing at the end where his wrist had gone.
She looked at him, grinning. “Oh, DAMN you to hell to be eaten by the crows who bear eternal grudges for being scared.”
“Hey, that’s my phrase!”
“Sit down,” she told him.
He sat down.
“Now, hold still,” she said, opening her brand new waterproof mascara.
“Yeah, that’s likely,” he said, and leapt forward onto her. Her mascara jabbed him in the eye.
“OW!” he yelled, leaping back, and started swearing properly, eyes closed.
He felt Ez move towards him and opened his own mascara, and they engaged in some odd form of sword fight, Hunter being more experienced and Ez being able to see. They did blocks and parries and swirling defence movements and destroyed their mascara wands. Hunter ended up fighting with a new breed of sword that he decided to name the kitana wand, and Ez ended up fighting with a really retarded breed of sword that was more like a right-angled wand, and then she realised she could just reach her arm out and move it round away from the battle, so she did that, and jabbed Hunter in the chest.
He sat up. “Dial 23534 357454. Come on, come on! I’m not getting older here!”
She raised her eyebrows and dialled the number.
“Hello?” asked the man on the other end.
“Hunter’s not dying until you get him some bears,” she told him.
“What?” he asked. “Who is this?”
“An unbearable soul,” Ez told him seriously.
His voice hardened. “Is this a prank call?”
“Are you a prank call?”
“Of course I’m not a prank call -”
Hunter snatched the phone off her. “Are you Hades, Lord of the Underworld?”
“Of course not -”
The man hung up.
There was a knock at the door.
Hunter and Ez looked at each other.
“I have mascara on my face,” she said.
“I’m dying,” he said.
She got up and opened the door. “Yes?”
There was a woman standing outside looking not very amused. “Could you possibly keep the noise down? My daughter is trying to get to sleep.”
“WELL, I’M TRYING TO ETERNALLY SLEEP AND THERE AREN’T ANY BEARS!” Hunter pointed out, teleporting in front of Ez. “Then again, I’m sure I can die quietly. Hi. What’s your opinion on erasers?”
Ez poked her head out from behind him. “Sorry, he has mental issues. Like, literal ones. He’s schizophrenic. I have told him he might be better off getting a room in a mental institution, but -”
“Are there bears there?” he asked her.
She shrugged. “Possibly.”
“Ooh,” he said, brightening.
“So, will you be quiet?” asked the woman.
“Unbearably so,” Hunter told her, turning around to walk back into the room, and getting a bottle of mascara exploded in his face.
I’ll fucking murder you, Ez.
He tackled her and she fell over, and he smashed his head into her chin, covering her with mascara and causing them to both sit up rubbing their faces and getting black all over their hands. Which was okay for Hunter, because hey, black gloves.
“Not smart,” she told him.
“You’re ruining my last moments alive,” he moaned.
She slapped him in the face with her black hand in answer, and ending up with it blacker.
“You know, I’m really glad I wear all black,” he smiled.
Ez whizzed away slightly and held up a bottle of blue, a bottle of red and a bottle of purple.
He looked at them.
“Why would you even have that mascara?”
“Why would you even have pink mascara?”
“Oh, for emergencies, you know.”
They stood up.
They looked at each other.
Hunter produced a water gun and poured mascara in it.
Ez didn’t have a water gun, so she was just kind of stood there.
Hunter tossed her a water gun.
She filled it.
They pretended to take the safety catches off and stood there with the guns held to their shoulders like rifles.
“May the best man win,” announced Hunter.
“I’m a woman,” Ez pointed out.
“Exactly, so I’m the best man,” he grinned, and then dropped to the ground as Ez began firing. Once he had dropped to the ground, she merely stood over him and kept firing, so he made a run from the sofa, leapt over it, knocked it over, sat behind it and began firing from behind the cover. Ez ran for the bed and they fired.
“It’s kind of boring without sound,” she noted.
Hunter chucked her an earpiece.
Ez made a motion like she was turning down the volume on the radio and it quietened, and they fired, Hunter occasionally chucking mascara at Ez for her to reload.
Ez wrote “Ez” on the back of the sofa in mascara.
Hunter wrote “Emily” on the floor in mascara.
Ez teleported over there and began hitting him with her mascara gun.
“Okay, okay, timeout!” he grinned.
She whacked him one last time, then handed the gun to him. “You better have a lot of Vanish in that jacket of yours,” she told him.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” he mentioned casually. “Most of the mascara’s permanent.”
The world seemed to freeze for a moment, probably because Ez’s eyes were too busy widening in horror to process any new information.
There was mascara all over the floor and the furniture and the walls and the ceiling.
“Fuck,” Ez whispered, looking around, taking it all in.
“It’s okay,” Hunter said cheerily. “Unlike Hades, I deal in refunds.”
“Please say you have some form of remover for this,” she whispered.
He hesitated. “Er . . .”
She moaned.
Hunter sighed and produced mops, scrubbing things, buckets of water, and Vanish. He pulled off his jacket before rolled up his sleeves, showing a mass of scars twisting around his arms, and got scrubbing.
Ez looked at the floor.
“That’s not coming off.”
He tried pouring makeup remover onto the carpet and rubbing that in as well.
“IT’S NOT COMING OFF!” Ez whispered madly.
“WE’LL SAY WE REDECORATED,” Hunter whispered back.
“I DON’T THINK I’M ALLOWED TO DO THAT!!!” Ez whisper-screamed.
Hunter shrugged, scrubbing.
Ez picked up the bucket of water, dropped it on his head, and reached inside his jacket, pulling out a fireman’s hose.
“Good idea,” said Hunter, pulling the bucket off his head, going to the water supply and filling the hose with Vanish and makeup remover. Then he switched it on.
It jerked right out of Ez’s hands, the water zooming through it, making an audacious bid for freedom.
They picked it up together and sprayed it everywhere.
Then they switched it off.
And the room looked the same, except very wet.
They looked at each other and said “Oh,” in unison.
“I think someone downstairs might be getting a nice shower around about now,” Hunter grinned.
Ez sighed.
Hunter produced a hairdryer.
“We might need a bit more than that,” she pointed out.
“You dare to insult my hairdryer?” he asked, blasting it in her face. “But you’re correct.”
He paused. “Although, I don’t really have anything bigger.”
“Hairdryers are fine,” she said.
He pulled one out for her, both of them battery-powered, and they walked around blowing the room and having no effect whatsoever.
“Sorry,” Hunter said.
She laughed. “It’s fine. It’s been fun.”
“I’ll speak to your hotel manager for you.”
“God, you’ll just make him mad. I’ll do it.”
“I destroy everything, don’t I?”
“Including bad moods. It’s cool.”
A pause, in which hairdryers could be heard.
“Putting up with me.”
“That’s fine,” she said, turning around so he could see her smiling at him.
He looked at her, and his eyes darkened.
She frowned. “What?”
“You have permanent writing on your face.”
“Oh, fuck!”
When Ez opened her eyes and looked into the mirror in the ensuite, her face was rubbed red and still had letters marching across it, edged by enthusiastic splashes.
He was standing there, his eyes somewhat darker than his pretty rainbow-coloured face. “Yes?”
“I am going to fucking murder you.”
He passed her another brand of makeup remover. “Try this.”
She took it. “Remind me to never, ever let you near mascara again.”
She applied it to her face, and the black stains still remained. “Hunter, this isn’t working.”
He tilted his head thoughtfully, and his eyes went blue. “Maybe, if we took your skin off . . .”
“Do you think if I burnt it with a blowtorch?”
She slapped him in the face. “No.”
“If I scraped it off with a scalpel?”
“Hunter, I like my skin.”
“Aww. What’s the ship name for that?”
“If I were in love with my skin, wouldn’t I technically be in love with myself?”
“Possibly so. If you’re correct, can the ship name be Ezmeraldez?”
She laughed and shook her head.
“I think you just might have to go around with those words on your face.”
“Oh, fuck it!”
“Well, damn you!”
“I have to go around with a rainbow on my face!”
“Well, you’re male!”
“And you wear a helmet half the time!”
“I swear, I’ll blowtorch your face if you don’t get me some permanent mascara, come here, and sit still.”
A blur, and Hunter was there.
She leant over him, mascara wand in hand.
“Don’t write anything too outrageous.”
“Should have thought of that before, shouldn’t you?” she asked with a scary grin.
He held still and felt the cool mascara drifting across his face, felt Ez, leaning her hand on his shoulder as she drew, eyes looking straight at his forehead, tingle like she was radioactive.
“Is it hard drawing on me with the tingling?” he asked, curious.
She shrugged. “You get used to it. I mean, I barely notice myself tingling. Do you?”
“We don’t really tingle, we just kind of feel like we do,” he said. “Although we do sort of tingle.”
“Very specific, that.”
She finished and sat up, grinning at him.
Hunter leant over and looked in the mirror. His face said, “I AM REALLY HOT AND I WANT TO FUCK YOU ALL YEAH.”
He laughed, eyes a playful green. “Could you not have just written ‘I am an idiot’?”
She grinned at her handiwork. “Not as mortifying.”
“At least yours is hard to read now!!”
“At least you knew what you were getting into!! Plus, you wear a helmet! I have to go about like this at work!”
“Well -” Not able to think of any more arguments, he made a frustrated noise. “Hades, with or without bears, you can kill me now!”
She laughed, and he smiled. Apparently, he could cheer people up.
“Maybe we should leave now, before trouble catches us,” he says.
“Guessing you’re not going to notify the hotel manager?”
He shrugged. “With this face? I’ll leave a pile of money in the middle of the floor.”
“It’ll get wet there.”
“I’ll hang it from the ceiling, then.”
Hunter disappeared, and Ez walked back into the sopping wet hotel room to see him stretching onto the tips of his toes, the toes encased in boots that imitated a kaleidoscope, sellotaping some string to the ceiling.
“Tall people should be banned,” she told him.
He dropped his feet back onto the floor with a sodden squelching noise and sellotaped –
Ez put her hand over his, stopping him. “You’ll wreck the money,” she pointed out.
He looked around the room aimlessly.
She reached inside his jacket and pulled an empty wallet out of one of the main portals.
He nodded, checking that it was empty, and stuffed some notes inside it. “Thanks.”
“I think they might need more money than that.”
He glared and pulled more notes out.
“Do I want to know where this money’s coming from?” she asked.
“Probably not,” he admitted. He sellotaped the wallet, then took her hand and started skipping.
Her arm jerked forward and she almost fell over. Seeing she wasn’t moving, Hunter stopped, glaring at her.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked.
He looked at her like she was mad. “Skipping off into the sunset!”
“Sunset? That’s a wall!”
He looked at it. “It’s a rainbow wall. It’ll do.”
He skipped into it and banged his face. “Ow.”
He turned around, and saw out of the window.
“Ooh, look, an actual sunset.”
He skipped over to the window, paused to open it, jumped out – slowly his fall by levitating – and carried on skipping.
Ez jumped out after him. “You are not skipping like a lunatic down the street with your face like that.”
He smiled. “YOLO.”
“You did not just say that.”
He took her hand again and she started skipping with him.
“And this, Ez, is how radioactive milkshakes are invented,” he told her, his voice jerking with the skipping.
He was absolutely mad.
But that was probably why she liked him.
It was strangely liberating.
Passers-by stared at the them, actually stopped what they were doing and turned around and stared, and they stuck their tongues out at them and waved with their free hands.
“Where are we skipping to?” Ez asked.
“It’s not about getting there,” replied Hunter. “It’s about the journey.”
“But, you know, skipping is kind of exhausting.”
“Good point,” he decided. “We shall go and get milkshakes.”
“And one day, we shall get radioactive ones,” she told him.
He smiled. “One day.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Aretha Tesla: Fire

Takes place just before Niccolo starts the forest fire in Blogland. To clarify- this does not take place in Blogland, this takes place in my research cabin, which is in a different forest in Iowa.

I had always been fascinated by fire. It was so beautiful, so fluid and flickering and delicate and undying all at once. And it glowed in the most understated yet awe-inspiring way. Fire was classy. And it was there, but at the same time, it wasn't. I could reach out to touch it, and it would burn me, but aside from that I wouldn't really feel it, as if it wasn't there. Or it could touch me, but I couldn't touch it. Fire captivated me, and I had always been drawn to it. But far stronger than my fascination with fire was my love for books.

If it weren't for the books, things might have been different. I would have been safer, and happier, and I... I didn't think I had anything else to lose, really. At least nothing that only had value to me. My family was gone, any contact with the mortal world and the friends I had there were gone, and now Niccolo was gone again too. I didn't care much about material possessions, so all things considered, there wasn't much left for him to take away. That was what I thought. But I didn't think of the books, and maybe that's why he chose them. He'd never been especially fond of fires.

I might have actually enjoyed, to some degree, watching my cabin burn from the tiny basement up. Nature has some amazing powers, and I like to be reminded every now and then that I can't control everything, that no matter how hard humans try to contain it, nature does what it wants. I like that reassurance. But when I saw the heavy smoke rolling out from the broken windows, all I could think about was the 207 year old book I kept in my room's library, and- my room's library! A clothbound second edition collection of Charles Dickens, countless books on magic and research and fantasy and so many of them old, and- !

I found myself racing straight into the house, using air to try to clear a path to my ladder through the smoke and flames and only partly succeeding. I flew to the shelves and frantically tore through the books, pulling them out into my arms, and quickly realized I couldn't carry them all at once. I coughed, inhaling the thick black smoke that curled upwards in opaque waves, as I turned and frantically glanced through my room. Why did I keep it so organized?! If Niccolo didn't clean all the time... I couldn't find any bags on the floor, so I rummaged through a few cabinets, eventually finding a bag full of training equipment. I dumped the contents carelessly into the drawer- 16 oz gloves, arm and shin pads, and a helmet, all leather- I could replace those anytime, and barely used them anyway.

By then the room was so full of smoke, I could barely see an inch in front of my face, and each time I used a wave of air to push the smoke a way a new tendril filled its place, making the haze even thicker. I coughed and sputtered, torn between desperation for more air and the knowledge that breathing smoke could only hurt me. Stumbling forward, my eyes rendered useless by streaming tears and the cloud that engulfed me, I reached out for where I estimated the books I had dropped would be. I could feel blinding heat creeping up through the floorboards, and stopped to wonder for one precious moment if this was what cremation felt like.

When I tossed a few books into the bag and slung it over my shoulder, and ran blindly to the corner of the room where I knew the ladder was. One careless step sent me falling rather than climbing down to the first floor of the cabin, and I would have screamed if my throat wasn't burning. I was pretty sure I'd just landed in fire, and I wondered if I could even survive something like that. My thoughts wandered in a second of manic helplessness towards the hoard of paintings and research in the basement, but I knew I was already too late for that.

His laughter resounded through the air and seemed to vibrate through the surface I stood on, and I knew I was out of time. Any books I might have saved were probably doomed. But I was already up again and racing for the open door, not even noticing the pain that shot up my right leg as I ran, and I sprawled onto the snow-covered grass outside. The shock of the cool, crisp, wintery air was such that I wasn't even sure whether or not I wanted it. My whole body trembled in spasms as I struggled between gasping for air and coughing up black soot. I could see now, but only in large, distorted blurs, and my eyes stung each time I opened them, but when I closed them the sensation only grew worse.

I barely even noticed him lifting me up by a fistful of my short hair. "Aretha, darling," his voice was just as smooth as always, like a river of melted chocolate, "Look up with those beautiful eyes of yours." I found my eyes open of their own accord, but I could still only see in streaming blurs. "Pity," he said, and dropped me. "Well, I suppose you could borrow mine." I felt his mind enter mine, the sensation so familiar yet so wildly different and invasive at the same time, and I saw the world as he did. I looked at my cabin burning, the smoke flowing out so much that even outside I wasn't safe from it anymore. A second Niccolo strolled into the cabin casually, completely unaffected by the flames, and emerged with a large stack of books.

"What have we here?" he mocked, "It would appear to be Charles Dickens. You're missing a few volumes from that little bag, aren't you? Well, here's volume three," he read off the name and then tossed it back into the growing fire, "Volume nine, ten, eleven. There they go. World War II in pictures is next, it would seem- and you went through such great care to protect those fragile covers." In one final spurt of desperation, I sprang forward, the bag of books sliding off my shoulder to rest in the snow, and ran straight into Niccolo. I should have known I wouldn't be able to move him, but in the moment, I forgot how strong he was.

I breathed out a hoarse "No", quieter than a whisper, that was immediately drowned in another round of coughs. I felt as though someone had reached down my throat into my lungs and was slowly scraping the contents out with their fingernails. The desperation was gone now, and hopelessness took over. I stood no chance against Niccolo to begin with- now there were two of him, and I couldn't even see or breathe. Much to my surprise, the second Niccolo dropped the books anyway, and before I could wonder whether or not he had come to his senses I found myself shoved into a cold, stone cell. I could only hope that whatever books I had saved weren't worth burning anymore.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Zafira Kerias: Fear

I've previously written a simple taste of what Zafira actually experienced when Alastair stole her conscious but I never went into the details of what it was like being trapped and some of the more....gruesome and terrifying things she saw. And felt. 

Zafira looked straight at Javier and Ravel. The boys were watching her as she tried to find words, for months she kept to herself the terrifying time she was in Alastair's mind. 
"I just know....that it is hard to explain. I've been able to keep it hidden to both of you but....Javier I'll show you and Erskine being you can hear my thoughts and see what memory I show you..." Zafira closed her eyes and started from the beginning. 

June/July when Alastair took captives

Zafira could see everyone and hear everyone. Nothing seemed totally wrong physically until mentally she heard the screaming. It caused her to want to freak, if she had the ability to even hear her own thoughts. Whatever was happening it seemed odd and...she couldn't control her movements. It was like being the eyes and ears but not the brain, which seemed odd. Zafira didn't even know what she was thinking, it felt like her worst fear had come true: Alastair had stolen her true name. She could see everyone in Blogland and possibly Javier or someone freaking out on Alastair. How strange. 
"What the hell did he do?!" She screamed, no reply came from anyone. Probably unlikely anyone heard her. What seemed like days went by and the noise of the others, a blur really, vanished. Zafira found herself able to hear her own thoughts, hear her own breathing. She couldn't see though. She could feel the pain of when Niccolò had performed his own insane autopsy on her. She cried out for Javier but he didn't come. This wasn't like that fatal day. Her vision suddenly came back and she saw herself as she usually did, but laying in a pool of blood. It was her living room, she could hear Javier's footsteps but then she saw a knife and he died before her, a strangled scream of fear, pain and sadness came from her. She heard that laughter, Niccolò's, but she knew Alastair Cruciatus was behind it. Then she saw something, her own child...Alexis. Alexis was in a field running and Mevolent was attacking the Sceptre pointed at her baby and she turned to dust. Zafira felt the tears sting her eyes as she screamed, and begged for it to stop. To end the torture of her loved ones dying. Then that damned voice, smooth as the day she first heard it in the dungeons, 
"Are you seriously that afraid? I was only just beginning, love. How do you know that I didn't steal your name?" Zafira hissed her answer,
"You stole my name?!" Her fear began to rise, her kid...Javier....how would she be able to tell them what Alastair did? Surely he would gloat, but he has a Necromancer why need another? Alastair's laughter was audible, like he was next to her. Then the screams came again, still sending chills to her. She saw what he saw. Blogland. It was night now and most were asleep though obviously he was not. As he walked, it made her feel off like how disembodied she felt unable to walk on her own. Her thoughts were barely audible and she didn't know if she was screaming, probably was, it was the only thing she could do to hold onto whatever was left of her. Then the world went black and screaming subsided, she was in her treehouse again. Zafira curled up in a ball and willed sleep. 

A sharp pain woke her. And then the moment of torture. 
"Please?" Came Niccolò's mocking voice as the live autopsy began. This time she could see him cut her. See and smell her own blood, if Zafira had any ounce of strength she'd have screamed. It had been this point when she was unconscious. It went on until the blur of torture sessions ended and she lay curled up in a ball, crying. Let me go please. She thought. If I'm part of the names maybe I will get free. If...I can. If...I have the strength to take control. Alastair's laughter was soft, and close. 
"Oh but you will never escape from here. I stole your name." His voice faded and Zafira was left in the darkness. In a pool of blood. Somewhere in the far distance that voice, Justaria. He didn't steal your name, I'm free. I will get you ought somehow, Adra and them...they plan to. He isn't paying attention now, he's preoccupied. I promise...
Zafira banished the thoughts for fear Alastair was listening. And then, the hot knife came down and Zafira screamed, sometimes Alastair would let her have a glimpse of being with the names, no more then a minute or two. All the rest of the time she was secluded in her own private Hell. Hoping. Praying. Freedom. 

Present day Blogland
Ravel's eyes widened. Javier was pale. Nobody spoke. Zafira broke the silence,
"Now you know. I'm sorry you had to see that." She turned and walked into the bedroom. Christopher in her arms, safe. He hadn't stolen her name but he made her believe that was the case. The day he released her was a blur, a canyon they say, and Alexis....it was the past. Niccolò was back and that was that. Nobody would kill her now. Well name wise. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Erskine Ravel: Meeting the Evil and Insane Father

Ravel looked at Zafira slightly in shock. He had always thought she looked like Dreylan Scarab but he had just shrugged it off, Scarab was American born as was Sanguine, he had doubted Zafira was remotely related to him. How wrong that assumption was. 
"Zaf, how do I dare ask, is Scarab your father. You aren't even American-born! You were born in Dublin...." Ravel didn't even know where to begin thoughts. Zafira looked a tad upset but she explained,
"My mother...he dated her. She left him when I was still in the womb. She had been in Dublin and stayed there and had me. She met my step-dad and had my sister and brother. I'm happy with who my step-dad is. But during the second war Scarab told me the truth. I'm not proud or anything but I'm happy that I know the truth. He's somewhat proud of what I did with my life, even if he's in an American prison." Her eyes showed sadness. Ravel took her hand gently. 
"We can visit him." He told her.
"Yeah...Arizona. I'm sure he'd love to meet a Dead Man." 
"Come on you're Grand Mage, you can do that. And plus I would love to see Scarab." With that Zafira took his hand and they journeyed for Arizona. 

The hot Arizona sun beat down on the two. They entered the underground prison and were greeted by the warden, a man named Jayd. Upon seeing the two in his gaol he looked amazed,
"Grand Mages Kerias and Ravel, to what do I owe the pleasure of a visit?" He asked. Zafira spoke,
"We wished to see one of your prisoners, Dreylan Scarab." Her eyes flashed a look and Ravel wondered if the warden knew why they had come. Jayd nodded,
"Yes, right this way." He led them into a room. "Wait here, please." He left the room and a few minutes later he came back with Dreylan Scarab, escorted by a Cleaver. Jayd bowed and left, the Cleaver stayed on guard but allowed Scarab to go over to the two.
"What do you want, Zafira?" He asked. He didn't look happy. Ravel didn't blame him. 
"Scarab." Ravel began, "Zafira and I wished to come, I believe it is protocol to speak to the father of the bride to be." He said. If Scarab wasn't in the prison Ravel had a feeling he'd be the next victim of Dreylan Scarab. Scarab's gaze fixed on Zafira, "So you're engaged? Last time I saw you I was being sent back here. I would congratulate you but I seem to have lost the caring for you." To Zafira's credit she hid her feelings well,
"I'm sorry you feel that way. I, was doing my job whereas you tried to kill eighty thousand mortals on television in Ireland, and did you really expect my idiot of a brother to be much use? Again, you feel what you want to me." Scarab didn't move. His eyes narrowed,
"Just because Sanguine isn't the sharpest tool-"
Zafira cut in, "Enough. Don't defend him, dad." She said. Scarab went silent. Ravel watched the two in silence. Scarab moved closer and hugged Zafira.
"You may be on the side of the angels...at least stay alive." He let go and turned to Ravel,
"And you...if I ever hear you mistreat her you will be the next man I kill, I promise I will end your life, even if it means I die." With that being said the Cleaver motioned for Scarab and escorted him to his cell. Ravel looked confused, 
"Is that his way of approval?"
"To be honest? No idea." 

The two had made it to Blogland by nightfall. Ravel was sitting on the couch with Zafira, Christopher happily in his swinging chair with Olivia playing with him. Alexis drawing by the fireplace. All was calm. But Ravel knew just because Scarab had approved and not killed him, didn't mean others will. Somewhere out beyond the treehouse was Mevolent. And with Mevolent came Niccolò's copy, a slave to him. Only part of their life was safe, a price worth paying to be with Zafira. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Zafira Kerias: Dangers of the Night

Takes place in the war, most of Zaf's past does

The darkness felt comforting almost to the mages with Zafira. It really didn't matter to them anymore what they had done before the war. Nor did they care where they came from. They just knew that Mevolent was the threat. The Dead Men had just come back, to the amazement of everyone. Meritorious was amazed as well. Zafira didn't really know all of them but she knew one very well. Ravel. He had been with her before that mission and she was afraid he'd die. Now here were all seven of them standing in camp alive. Then one of the sentries called, "Mevolent's army! And he's leading the raid himself!" The words sent everyone to their feet prepared to fight. It was dark too, making the whole idea of battle much more difficult. The Dead Men didn't stay together but simply spread among everyone. 

Dawn came with a beautiful color scheme. Ireland was pretty and sometimes Zafira wondered why they left all those years ago. But she kept her focus on now. Neither side had made a move yet. Until Mevolent himself walked forward, then the group attacked.

Roughy two years after the battle

Zafira found herself with the Dead Men. How? She couldn't remember. Vex had found her almost dead and that's all she remembered. She was fine now after resting. That dagger she had was gone but nobody could know about that. Ravel had volunteered to stay with her while the others went looking for the camp. Zafira felt fine but it was Ghastly who told her not to risk it. It was rainy and cold but it didn't bother her. Ravel sat beside her. 
"Zaf where have you been? Bisahalani thought you dead as did I." He said keeping his eyes on her. Zafira didn't respond. 
"Zaf, show me." He said. She held out her hand and that's where the scar of the Faceless Ones symbol was. 
"Don't repeat." She muttered. "I know my true name and when she took control she joined Mevolent. A few days ago I regained control and tried to kill him. He easily overpowered me and that symbol he cut so when and if I was found you'd think I was a prisoner. The reason some of my wounds are not healing is because my dagger was poisoned and he used it on me." She didn't continue. Ravel listened and didn't question it, "You are Justaria?"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fabi S: Final Countdown

 (If you read this before, it hasn't really changed. I edited it a little bit and then got bored, so...)

Eleven Fabis sat at the same table.
o   This dimension Fabi
o   The first ParaFabi
o   Zombie-fighting AltaFabi
o   The Fabi that liked to call herself Alia
o   Seven-year-old Mireille
o   Fabi who didn't really talk much and looked forty but was probably older ((Forty))
o   Teenager Mireille who hadn't discovered magic, but was good with computers and (unfortunately) lying and thievery ((Trouble))
o   Fabi who couldn't stand the thought of anything illegal and was very emotionally torn between her values and her loyalty to the other versions of herself ((Heart))
o   Fabi who got really upset when any of the other Fabi's assumed something about her, especially when they were right ((Unique))
o   Fabi who didn't care, or at the very least, was good at hiding it ((Stone))
o   Fabian who was a guy and not really the same person at all, but he'd been brought across from a different dimension the same way, and he'd solved the code, so he was part of the conversation. ((Fabian))
Out of all of them, Fabi knew that she wasn't the murderer, and ParaFabi had been in jail for the most recent crimes. Mireille, Forty and Fabian would look very different in the picture if it had been one of them. That left AltaFabi, Alia, Trouble (if she was faking having never discovered magic), Heart (if she was faking her emotions), Unique and Stone. Assuming the killer had shown up.
They'd talked for a while and shared stories, most of them the same. The other Fabis had been living their lives (some had more interesting lives than others) when they'd felt something calling them. They all agreed it had been their own voice, except Fabian, who said it had sounded like one of his cousins.
Fabi was beginning to wonder what they should do next, when ParaFabi suddenly stood.
The other Fabis turned to look at her, and then there was a ringing/vibrating that Fabi recognized as Martin’s power, the one he’d used back when the dimensions first clashed, when ParaFabi had tried to kidnap her. She’d thought everything was better between them; they’d worked together on a lot of things, but it had been a little odd. She realized this now. How ParaFabi had wanted to keep a lot of things secret, how she hadn’t really wanted to interact with Fabi’s other friends, how she’d been so…bitter. At the same time, though, she’d been the one who cared for Fabi when she’d been stuck in a trance below the earth. And when she’d stayed behind instead of going back to her own dimension, Fabi had been so happy to have a friend… Apparently she really hadn’t. The thought made her stomach twist.
Fabi blinked and realized she was waking up. A few feet away, seven-year-old Mireille jumped to her feet. Fabi stood, looking around. AltaFabi, Fabian, Forty, Trouble, Heart, Stone and Unique all seemed to be unconscious still. ParaFabi and her lackeys were nowhere to be seen.
The room was small, with a chair and a table and a reading lamp and not much else. Fabi tested the door. It wasn’t locked.
“That’s a little too convenient. Unlocked doors are traps a lot of the time.” Mireille muttered. She was getting this information from purely fictional sources, but it seemed logical.
Fabi nodded. “Um, it seems like our best option. Sorry.” She ducked out the door before anyone could stop her. The hallway had chocolate-colored walls and a burgundy carpet, and slanted and curved like a spiral staircase minus the stairs and not very steep.
Mireille appeared behind her. “It’s alright. Traps usually have stupid weaknesses. Up or down?”
“Depends...” Fabi tilted her head. “There are people arguing loudly somewhere above us. Do you want to find the action or find an escape route?”
Mireille didn’t hesitate. “Action,” she said. “If it’s a trap, they’ll expect us to escape.”
Fabi was considerably less certain than her seven-year-old self, but she went along with it.
They walked up the hallway, stopping to listen at each door. Each room was silent, so the only sound Fabi could hear was the song "Little Me" echoing in her head. It occurred to her that she was speaking to a younger version of herself, and she wondered if she could do anything to make Mireille's life better than her own had been. At the very least, she could try.
"Yes?" Her younger self checked the next door, shaking her head. "This room's empty."
"I guess I should warn you... You're going to have some tough times ahead of you. Just remember you're never alone, okay?"
Mireille walked over to Fabi and gave her a hug. "Don’t worry. I’ll be okay and grow up to be somebody interesting. Like you are.”
Fabi smiled and hugged her back, swallowing away the tears.
The staircase ended, and the two of them stopped at the final door. They glanced at each other, neither certain of what to do next. The footsteps from behind them settled it. Chances are, it was the other Fabis. Reinforcements. If you were walking into a potential trap, reinforcements were always a good thing to have. And if it wasn't reinforcements, it was trouble, and a lot of it. Hopefully that wasn't the case.
The door led to the roof. The floor was concrete, potted plants were everywhere, and there was a railing around the edge to prevent people from falling off.
ParaFabi was on her knees, and the Fabi known as Alia was holding her by the hair.
Alia turned, making ParaFabi grunt in pain. "Good. I was wondering when you'd wake up. Shall I kill her or send her to jail?"
Fabi gulped, not liking the fact that she was being put on the spot.
"Keep in mind that the jail couldn't hold her before. And she still has lackeys. An example needs to be made."
"If she did it, I want to hear how." Mireille said. “You’re the one who is currently threatening her.”
ParaFabi grunted. "There was another version of Martin, not the one who works for me. I'm guessing that whoever called all of us here used the instability caused when I didn't return to my own dimension. There must be a Martin from around here, and I suppose a similar effect."
"Clever." Alia grinned. "But lies will get you nowhere."
"Alia Renee Simone!" Mireille exclaimed.
"Yeah?" Alia asked.
"Alia Simone. Alia S. Alias."
Fabi nodded. She'd noticed earlier. In fact, she’d thought of the name as an alias quite a while ago, before deciding that it would be too obvious.
"Yeah," said Alia, "It's an alias. My actual taken name is Fabienne." She said it as though she were explaining it to a seven-year-old. Technically, she was, but Fabi remembered hating it when people talked to her like that, which they did a lot.
"Alia Renee, though..."
"A liar," Fabi said. "You're a liar."  She wasn't certain if that was it, until she saw Alia's expression.
"Fine. Don't play this the easy way." She threw ParaFabi to the ground with a sickening thud and walked over to Fabi and Mireille. "Someday you'll have to make a choice. A terrible choice, and you'll mess up." She spat bitterly. "My world was destroyed, and I was sent hurtling between dimensions. If not for you, my very essence would have been scattered. As it was, there was enough imbalance for me to end up here. So of course I had to stop you from making the same mistakes. I started by picking off some of the people who would later make your life miserable. Then I realized that running from the law could make you just as bitter, just as twisted. So I decided I had to kill you."
Fabi said nothing, her eyes dark, her hand reaching towards her sword. "I can't believe I'd turn out to be as twisted as you."
Alia smiled grimly. "You say that now, but I was once I nice person. I had friends, family. I'd do anything for them."  She paused. "They're dead now. So I'm saving their alternate versions. From myself. I have to." Her eyes danced angrily, and in that moment, Fabi realized that Alia wasn't sane.
"Wouldn't it be better to talk? To make sure we would make the right decision when the time came?"
Alia didn't answer, focused on something over Fabi's shoulder. Fabi turned.
Mireille was holding the door open for Heart, Trouble and Fabian.
"How could you...say something like...like that?" Heart asked, teary-eyed. She lifted the dagger, but her hand was shaking and Fabi knew she wouldn't be able to use it. Not on herself. Or her other self. Or however you wanted to look at it.
"Someday you will, too. That's why I have to stop you."  Alia twisted the dagger out of Heart's hands easily and kicked her to the ground. Trouble and Fabian both darted in to help, but the river of scarlet blood gushing from Heart's neck showed them they were too late.
AltaFabi frowned. Forty, Stone and Unique were waking up slowly, and the rest of them were gone. “It’s a trap,” she decided. “The others escaped, or maybe they are escaping, or trying to escape, or dead.”
“That’s…cheerful,” Stone muttered, standing slowly.
“Do you have a problem with cheerful?”
“Not at all,” Forty interrupted whatever Stone was going to say.  “I do have a problem with staying here, though.”
“Fair enough,” Stone and Alia said in unison. Unique winced. She’d probably been about to say the same thing.
The corridor was slanted and curved upward, like a spiral staircase without the stairs bit.
“Up or down?” The clatter of lots of running footsteps from below decided it.
“Uphill both ways, through the snow,” Forty muttered under her breath.
AltaFabi laughed at the inside joke. Unique and Stone didn’t.
They stopped at the final door and listened. There were voices, upset, and a gasp. The people behind them were gaining ground, their boots still thudding loudly.
“We go in, but quietly,” Unique decided, and the others went along with it.
They stopped short as they saw the blood. Alia turned, wiping the dagger clean on her shirt, looking for her next target.
"Fabian.” She frowned thoughtfully. “You're different. You might have to make the same choice, though. And I can't take that chance."
"I know what choice you're talking about." Everyone turned to look at Forty. Fabi hadn’t seen her come in. She was getting sloppy. Forty continued. "Every choice is a crossroads, Fabienne. Things turned out...okay in my dimension. You don't have to do this."
"You're lying," Alia said with certainty. The way Forty's eyes darkened made Fabi think that she wasn't, and she was about to say so when Alia pulled a small glass vial from her pocket and threw it to the ground.
Forty disappeared.
Fabi, Fabian, Mireille, Stone, Trouble, Unique and AltaFabi jumped back. The unison was...creepy. Alia brushed a stray bit of glass off her shoe ParaFabi was still unconscious.
There was a loud crash as something heavy slammed into the door. Stone pressed her back against it, fusing the lock closed and reaching out for other metal to reinforce it. Trouble frowned. She didn’t do magic, but maybe now was the time to try. At the same time, though, she didn’t want to end up like the others. Their eyes were so much...darker.
She deliberated for a while, and then her shoulders sagged. She went over to join Stone.

Unique glanced quickly between Alia, the bits of glass, and the spot where Forty had been.
"What did you do to her? Did you kill her, too? What kind of person are you?" She felt the Fabi from this dimension try to pull her back and kicked out, breaking free. "I don't know who you think you are, but..."
"I'm you." Alia’s mouth formed a thin line, as if watching the other versions of her hurt, and she wanted it to.
Unique seethed. "I'm the only me. You're someone else. Different dimensions run differently. I'd never kill someone!"
"I thought like that, and look where I am now."
Don’t end up like Heart. Don’t end up like Heart, please.
“Hey!” AltaFabi pulled a long, odd-looking gun-like thing that appeared to be made out of recycled materials.
Alia wrinkled her nose. “Maybe you aren’t me, then. I loathe Styrofoam.”
“So do I, but it has its uses.” AltaFabi popped what looked like a cork into her weapon and pointed it at Alia’s face. “Olive oil-soaked cork. Really useful against the twice-dead. Fired point-blank like this, it might work against you, too. At the very least, you can’t stop it. It’s not metal.”
Alia smirked. “You’re bluffing. There’s nothing to fuel it, and no barrel.”
“Glass. The barrel’s made of glass, and it has fuel.”
“Go ahead then. Shoot me with it.”
AltaFabi smashed the Styrofoam gun (which actually did have a glass barrel) over Alia’s head. “Okay, fine. I was bluffing. It’d be the strength of a paintball at best. Probably less than that."
The weapon shattered into a million pieces, but Alia seemed unaffected. Fabi blinked in shock as she realized that Alia's skin was coated in a thin layer of metal. It was acting as armor, but at the same time, it moved with her, as if connected to her consciousness, and when Fabi tried to influence it, it fought back.
"Well that's just glorious," Trouble muttered.
Alia grabbed AltaFabi's wrist and pulled her closer. "You seem so carefree now. Wait until the fate of everyone you know and love is in your hands. Wait until you slip up. I'm doing you a favor, really."
She picked AltaFabi up as if her other self weighed nothing, the kicks and punches deflecting harmlessly off her metal skin. The guy, Fabian was in her way. Too bad for him. She kicked him in the knee and he crumpled to the ground. She would deal with him in a minute.
She had a moment, though. A moment of doubt. Did AltaFabi's friends need her to help fight the twice-dead she'd mentioned? Was that maybe enough to make things different? Alia couldn't take the chance. Her friends would be better off without her, anyway. No matter which her. No matter which world.
Fabi watched helplessly as AltaFabi tumbled off the side of the tower. She ran over to the railing and looked down, watching helplessly as the other her grabbed at a window ledge. AltaFabi got a grip, but it sent her hurtling into the side of the building, the impact making her scream and let go. She looked back up at Fabi, her eyes sparkling with anguish, betrayal... Fabi backed away so she wouldn't have to see AltaFabi hit the ground.
ParaFabi still hadn't moved. Fabian, too, was on the ground, but he was conscious and trying not to cry out in pain. Mireille was hiding behind a potted plant, connecting some sort of circuit. Fabi looked over at Stone, Unique and Trouble. They were all looking at her like she'd failed them. She felt sick inside, and she still didn't know what to do.
Alia looked around, deciding who to kill next. She focused on Mireille, and Fabi snapped out of her moaning and groaning about how helpless she was.  
"She's seven. Do you really think she's doomed to have the same fate as you? There have to be, like, a million crossroads between then and whenever you are." She sounded reasonable to herself, but was it reasonable to her other self?
"If she doesn't have to meet them, they'll be better off." Alia's eyes were cold.
"Your friends let you think that?" Fabi asked softly.
"None of them even knew until it was too late. They thought I was a good friend, and I tried. I really tried. In the end, though, I failed them. I have to make sure it doesn't happen again. In any dimension."
Several things happened at once. ParaFabi sat up slowly, pulling out her phone. Someone hammered loudly on the door, making several Fabis jump. Mireille turned to Alia and gave her a big hug.
Alia looked shocked for a moment, and Fabi wondered if she was still human enough to care about a little girl. She hadn't been before.
Mireille pulled away from the hug with something in her hand. Alia let her back away.
She looked at her wrist for a moment, then opened her hand and let the glass vial she'd pickpocketed fall to the ground. Stone flickered and disappeared.
ParaFabi staggered slightly as she tried to help Fabian up. Unique started to freak out, but Trouble whispered something to and her eyes widened. Mireille darted towards Alia aiming to grab another vial from her pocket. Fabi, finally realizing what the vials were, circled around to Alia's other side. Unique and Trouble joined the circle.
“We’re going to get out of here. If that blue liquid is all that’s keeping us in this dimension…”
Fabi thought it might be more complicated than that, but she didn’t say so. She didn’t want them to hate her even more.
Alia’s eyes danced. “You’re here so I can kill you all at once, not so you can go home. I can’t let there be a repeat of my story.”
“You obviously haven’t learned your lesson, then. How are you going to make up for killing people by killing more?” ParaFabi wobbled and careened sideways. Alia sidestepped, but ParaFabi grabbed her ankle, making her stumble.
Alia stomped on ParaFabi’s fingers, then pulled away.“Given the choice between yourself and everyone you care about, which would you choose?”
After a pause, all seven Fabis spoke in unison.“Everyone else.”
Unique’s face went red and she muttered under her breath, “Myself,” just so she could differ from the others. It was the wrong move to make, though. Alia had pulled out a small dart-gun, and she had deadly aim. The feathered needle was moving too fast for any of the Fabis to focus on it and melt it. It hit Unique in the throat and she collapsed.
Fabian knelt over Unique, glad for the excuse to sit down. ParaFabi had given him a stick to use as a cane, but it was so awkward, and he knew he couldn’t run fast enough.
Fabi stared mutely at the dead body. It looked so much like her. Maybe it should have been her. The Sanctuary thought she was a criminal already.
ParaFabi was lying on the ground, the three middle fingers on her right hand bent at gruesome angles. She reached out with her left, trying to pull Alia down with her, but she’d hit her already damaged head on the way down, and it was hard to see properly, hard to judge distances.
Mireille took advantage of the fact that Alia was busy. She was pretty sure that’s what ParaFabi wanted her to do. She climbed on a flower pot, then jumped off, tackling Alia to the ground. None of the vials shattered.
Fabi wondered if Alia had a pocket dimension in her pocket. She thought that would be sort of weird, but it seemed likely enough. It was either that or really sturdy glass vials. She went over to help Mireille, pinning Alia down while the seven-year-old extracted the remaining six vials. Alia thrashed and kicked and swore a bit. Fabi wondered when she’d started swearing. She didn’t really see the point.
“My mom would kill you if she knew you said that in front of a seven-year-old,” Mireille said. “So would yours, ‘cause technically they’re the same person.”
“My mom’s been dead for four hundred and thirty-five years,” Alia snapped.
“If you’re that old, you really should know better.” Mireille looked at the vials. “So, I just drop them?”
Alia smiled. “Be my guest.”
Trouble snuck around the edge of things, not really sure what to do. She frowned at the debate about swearing. She didn’t really see the point in swearing. She’d had enough acting classes to make ‘pizza’ sound like a swear word if she wanted to.
ParaFabi was trying to bandage her fingers, but it didn’t work very well with her left hand. She did the best she could in a hurry.
Alia lashed out, breaking free of Fabi’s grip and smacking her in the nose. Fabi fell awkwardly and rolled to her feet. Assuming she survived, she’d be covered in bruises.
Mireille jumped backward, clutching the vials protectively.
Fabian lurched forward, using one foot and one sword/makeshift cane. He shifted his weight to the foot and swung the sword at Alia. It stuck to her layer of metal skin, making him lose his balance and fall on his bad knee. Alia let go, so the sword came right behind him.
Fabi tried to melt it to a harmless puddle, but Alia counteracted it, and then she didn’t.
You know how in tug of war, you can loosen your grip just a bit and make the other person fall off balance? Well, it was sort of like that, only with a mental-based magic, and Alia didn’t let go. She pushed from the other direction. The sword melted into a metal puddle, which went straight through Fabian’s face, and to the floor. Fabian’s entire head turned red and he was still.
Alia shrugged, as if to say ‘And whose fault was that?’ She turned back to Mireille without a word and took a step forward, waiting to see if the little girl would run.
Mireille squeaked, but stayed still. She even managed not to cry.
“What is this place?” Fabi asked, doing her best to divert Alia again. She wasn’t sure how long it would work, but she had to try.
Alia shrugged. “You can ask her. She brought us here. The Martin from my dimension is dead; that whole idea of making us fall asleep and bringing us here was hers. You really shouldn’t trust her.”
“I trust her more than I trust you.”
“You shouldn’t.” ParaFabi frowned at her newly bandaged fingers. “I’m a liar and a criminal and a murderer, though not in this dimension. Above all that, I’m a spy. At least you know that Alia hates you.” She turned to Mireille and held out her good hand. “Mine should be slightly greener than the others. Catch?”
Mireille looked at the vials closely, then tossed one. It fell a bit short, and for a minute it looked like ParaFabi would drop it. She didn’t.
“You knew which vial was yours.” Alia sounded impressed.
“‘Course I did. I hang around intelligent people.” ParaFabi narrowed her eyes. “These things are what offsets the balance of pretty much everything and keeps us all here. So if they break, and you’re lucky, you return you to your home dimension. But…” She turned to Alia, “your home dimension is gone.”
“Who am I without it?” Alia walked towards ParaFabi slowly, a tear trickling down her cheek.
Fabi felt a lump in her throat as she watched them.
“Which vial is mine?” Trouble asked.
“The grayish one,” Alia and ParaFabi answered in unison.
Mireille looked through the vials and found the right one. “Do you want me to break it?”
“Yeah,” Trouble said. “No offence, but I’m not interested in answers. Until you all showed me, I had no idea magic even existed or that I could do it.” She looked down at her hands. “I’m not really part of this world, and I don’t want to be a victim of it. You have a problem with that?”
Mireille looked at Fabi for a second, then set Trouble’s vial on the ground and stomped on it.
“You really should have warned her,” ParaFabi said.
“If it’s that important, why didn’t you?” Alia countered.
“You think after that whole reveal thing about this place, she’d have believed me?”
“You think that after I killed a lot of people, she’d have believed me?”
ParaFabi and Alia circled each other, and Fabi suddenly realized that it was a diversion.
“Mireille, that smaller vial is probably yours. Drop it and give me the rest. I want to find out what happens, but you can go back home.”
Mireille shook her head. “Didn’t you hear them? There’s something bad about the vials. Like maybe they return you home, but not necessarily in one piece. And anyway, it can’t be my vial, that’s too obvious. Besides, it’s much too late.”
“What do you mean?”
Mireille held up her arm for Fabi to see. There was a small puncture in her wrist, and the skin near it was turning a light purplish-blue. “It’s okay,” she said, trying to comfort Fabi, but it really didn’t. She remembered when she was a little girl having to say those same words to the adults even when it really wasn’t okay at all.
“Why didn’t you tell me? What kind of poison is it?
“I don’t know. Whatever it is, I think it’s diluted. And I’m not dead.” She staggered slightly, but managed not to drop any vials. “My vision is getting fuzzy, though…” She quickly handed the vials to Fabi. “It’s getting dark…”
Fabi caught the vials and Mireille, setting her down gently. She mumbled something about roofs not having ceilings, and then she was still. Fabi took a deep breath and smashed the small vial. Mireille vanished.
Fabi knew she should smash the rest of the vials now, but she couldn’t help it. ParaFabi backed Alia against a wall and threw a punch at her face, but it didn’t do more than break the fingers on the other hand, too. She glanced back at Fabi and mouthed ‘what are you still doing here?’
Abandoning Alia, she ran over and grabbed the final three vials, studying them closely.
“There.” She selected one that was almost indigo. “Don’t worry about Alia. She can’t leave unless she uses her vial, and that’ll scatter her into atoms.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” The look in her parallel self’s eyes let Fabi know she was lying. As she dropped the indigo vial, Alia whipped out her dart gun again, letting two of the little projectiles fly. Both Fabis sensed them, but they couldn’t gain enough mental control to stop them. ParaFabi calculated and jumped to the left, and in the instant Fabi disappeared, she saw them hit her. ParaFabi collapsed, and the last two vials fell to the floor.