Lost in Time and Space

Tales from the Atreblan Valley

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JewellRavenlock
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Flickering Flame of Hope

Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:00 pm

Tuesday, Nov 5th
Little Elfhame


The sun had set over the city already, but inside Jewell's home, the mage lights cast their soft, soothing glow over every room, banishing the darkness. The faerie Empress still didn't care overmuch for the dark, and she assumed her friend would feel the same if she woke up. No no, when she woke up.

Jewell had kept her vigil at Michelle's bedside throughout most of the day, taking the time to nurse her own wounds. Ishmerai had offered to take over, as had Sapphire, but Jewell wanted to be there when Michelle woke up. She wanted her to see a friendly face. A reassuring one. So she sat curled up in a chair big enough for two of her, reading some tacky romance novel Sapphire had let her borrow or napping. When the moon rose, she let the book fall into her lap and watched the stars appear, one by one, over RhyDin.

The devices set up and powered by Mist's magic chirped steadily, monitoring Michelle's vitals. Their steady chorus slowly picked up in pace. As they reached a quiet, healthy rhythm, her eyes suddenly opened wide. For a brief moment, they were a solid black speckled with flecks of green and gold. Then she gasped, and the colour faded to a more natural brown. The book tumbled from Jewell's lap as she jumped up from the chair and closer to the bedside, not even bothering to find her slippers with her feet (discarded hours ago). She touched Michelle's arm, careful of the lines for the machinery and her injuries, the soothing warmth of her glamour in both touch and tone, "Hey.. hey. It's okay. You're gonna be okay. You're safe."

Michelle felt her chest tighten, and she started to hyperventilate. A shaky hand went to her chest as she tried to feel for a wound that wasn't there. Her eyes darted around the room, settling on Jewell and the warmth of her glamour. "How..." tears welled up in her eyes. She fumbled to grip Jewell's hands in her own, salt-water tears spilling with each panicked sob.

"Shhh. It's okay. You're here. You're safe," Jewell repeated the words she always had needed to hear when she escaped the darkness. "We got you out. It's okay to cry. Let it out."

"How did... I can't..." Michelle murmured between her sobs. She pulled Jewell onto the bed, heedless of lines or injuries and buried herself in her friend's shoulder. If this were a dream, she would hold on to it for as long as she could. Her grip, although frail, was desperate - wrapping her friend in an anguished hug. It was a testament to Jewell's loving nature that she endured Michelle's messy, snotty weeping until there were no more tears left to cry.

"I thought I died. I ... the knife. The knife in my hand..." the emaciated woman looked down at the hospital gown.

There were many maternal and loving instincts beneath Jewell's sometimes caustic behaviour, and they came out now in the way she stroked Michelle's hair and let her cry while making soft, soothing noises. "Mallory found you. She opened the portal, and we got you out. Any physical harm is healing."

"No," Michelle scrunched up her face and pulled back a bit so she could look her friend in the eye. "I... I gave up Jewell," her breath hitched a moment. "I was on an altar. And it.. The Thing.. it was right there. I took the knife in my hand and I... it was going to take me anyway. It wouldn't let me go unless I.. wait. Mallory? But the Key never came back. I don't understand." She shuddered, both from tension and from the memories flooding back.

"It's okay," her smile was sincere. Coupled with that more nurturing side, not many got to see was the strong, solid core of the petite woman combined with the magnetism of her glamour that lent credence to anything she said. It wasn't just that she believed what she said; she could make others believe it too. Could make others trust her and her words. "You were there for a very long time. Sometimes.. sometimes, we just have to give up to survive. To be strong later. You did what you had to do to survive and be here now."

Michelle's breathing slowed as she felt subtle, but powerful waves of hope reach over her, strengthening her faith and calming her soul. She reached out for the tissue box and wiped her face, blowing her nose. "How long, Jewell. How long have I been gone?" Her kids. How long had they worried? Did they think she was dead?

"It was only a week here, though Mist said it had been much longer for you there?" There was a question in the answer but coupled with that same, steady smile. "I found out myself once that time can move very differently elsewhere."

"I... I don't know. Thirteen months? Fourteen? I tried to keep track. But like you said, time moved differently." Memories threatened to flood her mind and bring back the terror of that stone city, she shuddered, but the Empress' glamour kept the haunting at bay. Her eyes finally noticed Jewell's injuries and deep wounds. Tentatively, she reached out to touch a bandage. "This. You risked your life." It was an awe-filled statement.

Her laughter was bright and clear, "Just a few scratches. Anyway, I've basically died twice in the last few years, third times a charm I hear." There was still that bit of merriment at the corner of her mouth, but she added more seriously, "We had to come get you. We weren't going to leave you there. You're important to us. I'm just sorry it took so long."

Her friends' humour sparked Michelle's own, and a light she hadn't felt in a very long time flickered within her heart. "You just missed me for my pie." She dabbed at her eyes again.

"Of course," she leaned into her and squeezed, carefully. "I mean, Hope said that's why she came along. Eden too. You should have seen our little cupcake wearing a bright yellow sweater with a pineapple on it into battle. I was so proud. And she came out unscathed."

Michelle hiccuped, somewhere between a soft sob and a chuckle. "They came too? Sweet, wonderful Eden? And Hope? She must really want me on the team."

"Mmhm. Said we were doomed to lose without you. And of course, Eri was there to keep Mal out of trouble because she's always getting into trouble. Mist was there because he's an all around good guy. Do you know Mist? I've kissed him a few times. Good kisser." She chatted away, blithely, dropping these reminders of how loved Michelle was. "Gloria did us a solid by keeping the portal open too. And my knights didn't do too shabby for one of their first showings."

Michelle leaned back against the headboard - keeping Jewell's hand locked in one of hers - slowly believing that she was actually safe and that this was real. "I don't know what's more overwhelming. That I'm finally safe. That so many people risked their lives. Or that I lived in that horrible, horrible place for over a year, and it was only a week for all of you. I'm half afraid that this is some weird vision before I die at my own hand."

Her brow furrowed as she tried to think of something to prove that this was real. "I mean.. I guess it could be, but do visions look this damn good?" Jewell's smile, while playful, was also a touch sad. "I think the only thing that will convince you is time. I have found, to my own annoyance, because I am hardly a patient person, that the adage of time healing all wounds is true."

"You are the prettiest thing I've seen in over a year," Michelle remarked, "so, it does make me think this is real." She let out a small sigh, finally taking in her surroundings. "Is this where you live?"

The Empress preened before leaning closer to kiss Michelle's forehead. "That's the nicest compliment I've received all day." It was even if the competition were cephalopod monsters. She twisted, still keeping hold of Michelle's hand even as she tucked one leg comfortably under her. "It is. One of the places, at least. The most frequent. We are in the Mill at Little Elfhame, Old Market, and you are welcome to stay as long as you like and need. I told Hope if she wants her room back, she'll have to fight you."

Michelle looked down at her weakened frame. "I think she'd win, which is too bad, because it's very nice here. Thank you, for bringing me here. I'm glad I'm here, and not in a hospital." Her thumb absently rubbed at Jewell's knuckles as she looked up at the stars. Normal stars. And then at the room, a normal, typically angled room. "You said Mist came. He must've told my family." She sighed, sinking down into the covers. "I miss them, I've missed them for longer than I could bear. But now that I'm here, I'm just tired." She licked her lips a bit, feeling parched but more tired than anything. "I don't know what it is about you, Jewell, but you make this place feel safe and warm. Maybe, you can tell me about the mundane things for a bit? And, if you're okay with it, we can find someone to take me home tomorrow?"

"You'll see them soon, promise." She squeezed her hand, secretly pleased with the compliment of making it feel safe and warm. With being useful. "Tomorrow morning, afternoon.. whenever you're ready. It'll be nicer that way. I'm sure you'll have more energy, and we can get you in a nice bubble bath first, too. Who doesn't love one of those? And you can raid my closet. I have quite the collection, and it's not just hot pants. Promise."

"As far as mundane things," she chewed on the inside of her cheek a moment, "have you ever heard the story about Hope challenging me for Overlord? We filled the gossip rags for weeks when it happened. It was fantastic. It all started when Claire won the title..."

((Adapted from live play!))
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Michelle Montoya
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Scars and Tears

Post by Michelle Montoya » Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:12 pm

What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. - H.P. Lovecraft

November 7th
Little Elfhame


The domed planting container from Rachael and Mayflower played a soothing, soft tune in Common and Kittish. It brought Michelle a small bit of cheer. She had intended to go home tonight, to see her family, to tell her kids she was okay, and to be in Derrick’s warm, familiar embrace. But the moment Mallory opened the portal, all she could see was stone masonry, bleak skies, and terrible things on the other side. Michelle knew with all her heart that if she stepped through the crimson tear that she would be sucked back into that abysmal place. She could feel R’lyeh at the edge of her dreams, in the shadowy corners of the Arena, and in secret alleys between buildings. The very notion of walking through another portal terrified her more than death itself. And it was the only way home.

She took off the dress Jewell gifted her and slipped into a pair of warm, comfortable pajamas Sapphire had laid out on the bed. The last thing to put on was a pair of adorable hedgehog slippers Eden brought her earlier that evening. As promised by her most cheerful friend, the cute footwear brought a smile to her face. Little Elfhame might not be home, but the Mill was filled with the glamour of an Empress and the protection of Wayward Knights. Michelle waited up until Jewell came back from the start of her weekend party at Seaside Beach, then decided it was safe enough to go to bed. With the door left open Michelle felt like a child, but if she was honest, she’d rather feel childish than isolated. The warm covers felt like a cocoon of safety, and the mage lights softened but never winked black.

This place kept the nightmares at bay - even though she hadn’t had a single nightmare since waking up. Michelle knew that they were there. Lurking. Waiting for the time she wasn’t sleeping under a Fae’s protective power. Home called to her, but home would also be darker and less warded. She would send a message home with Mel, ask her mother, children and Derrick to come visit her in RhyDin. If she couldn’t go back to Atrebla right now, then maybe they could come to her. Eventually, she’d work up the courage to go through a portal. Once she knew, for certain, that she wasn’t going to get pulled back to R’lyeh the moment she stepped inside a magical passageway.

((Sapphire, Jewell and Wayward Knights borrowed with permission!))
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Mist Gul
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Sail On, Silver Girl

Post by Mist Gul » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:01 pm

Sail On, Silver Girl
November 9
Little Elfhame

A nice sunny morning, at least for the moment, and Mist left Amaris to her studying on her Barony. He stopped in the market to pick up a few things before making his way to Elfhame. Soon, he was ushered to Michelle.

Mist looked weary, and there were a few scars still healing around his throat, easily seen with his hair so short. Wearing robes, dark green surcoat over nearly black, the fabric soft and embroidered. He offered Michelle a basket with a flare of smile.

"Hello," he spoke, warmly, while looking her over.

Michelle thanked the Wayward Knight, and hugged Mist softly, before taking the basket.

"Hi Mist," she led him to a comfortable couch in the living area. The baker was thin, Jewell's clothes draping over her slightly - which was remarkable considering the Fae's petite frame. Her physical injuries seemed to be healing over well but there was a haunted look to her eyes. Warm mage lights illuminated the room and Michelle sat in the most brightly lit location. When they sat she set the basket down on a nearby table and gestured for him to sit beside her.

Mist returned the hug warmly, and likely used that to make an assessment of her physical condition, because he was a creep like that. Then he settled beside her. In the basket, there were various toiletries, a simple nightdress and robe, and a packet of various soothing teas. Things he figured she might need, since...

"You haven't gone home yet," he told her quietly, "I've let them know you're okay, though."

Michelle pulled her knees up and nodded.

"They're coming to see me this afternoon. Mother, Derrick and the kids. I told my sisters to come on a different day. I don't want to take up too much space here." Michelle paused, her chest constricting as she tried to keep sudden tears at bay. "I'm glad you talked to them. Derrick and I are so grateful for everything you've done for us."

"Oh, they're here. I was going to go and get them if not," he chuckled softly. Then he grimaced a bit, reaching over gently to pet her hair. "You're not any trouble. Jewell wouldn't have you here if you were. And have you seen this place? It's huge."

Mist grimaced a bit, just looking at her. "Sometimes, these things leave stains on our souls."

When Mist touched her hair, it felt wet - which was normal for the Keeper of Water - but also slightly slimy, which was not normal. Michelle didn't seem to notice. Her eyes fell to the ground and she started to play with a tassel on the throw blanket.

"Jewell makes this place safe. Her aura," Michelle paused, thinking, "Her glamour. It keeps the nightmares at bay. There's fewer shadows. The light is warm. And... and I," Michelle dropped the blanket and stared past him, "if I go through a portal, Mist, It is going to take me back."

That, was not right. Mist rubbed his fingertips together, then petted once more.

"Jewell is powerful in that. Her light casts away much, and she has been through much, so she knows where to cast it." a quiet affirmation only to knit his brows slightly. "It. What took you before? Or is it something that found you...?"

Michelle looked lost, her eyes seeing something that wasn't there. Her hands tightened, wringing at the blanket.

"Ph'nglui," she murmured. "It pulls me back, every time. I find a portal, a way out, and It pulls me back. I fade away into nothing and reappear on It's bedside table, or in the water, or on a stone pillar." Michelle's heart beat quickened, "I'm running away and It can always find me. It looms over me, It's found me. It has me. Forever."

Michelle froze, terrified, staring in horror at the wall.

Mist's brows knit, and he set his free hand onto hers, warm and gentle.

"You are safe, you are here. Listen. You can hear Jewell's heart, her song, in every thread of this place. Her light is warm, and shines on you," he whispered a soft sing-song, leaning over a bit, trying to draw her back with the press of his own gaze, golden irises. He wasn't certain about casting anything larger than small cantrips in Jewell's holdings, so he relied on the power of his voice and presence to help bring her attention back to him.

"You must hold fast to the brightness, the warmth. It will keep you in your loved one's arms. It can't take you from our hearts."

Michelle blinked, rapidly, and gripped his hand in hers. Slowly, her focus returned to him. "You're right, of course."

"I'm right, but things like that, they'll try to wear you down," he smiled and squeezed her hand, "That's why you will heal. Then you will drive it away and make it regret ever touching you." Aw. He was such a gentle soul. "Right now is all that matters. You are safe. Everyone here will protect you. I will protect you."

Mist didn't seem to be much of a protector, particularly not right then, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

Michelle smiled at him, taking courage in his words. "I'm lucky to have so many protectors by my side. Perhaps, it will give me the courage to go through a portal and return home."

"I can make portals and such, but, there are those who are very good at it. Perhaps if we ask for them to make the portal, and make sure it can't be infected. Or that your mind will not become vulnerable when you pass through." Mist was sure it was not the portals alone.

Michelle nodded slowly, holding on to his hand as they talked.

"The only one I know of is Mallory. I'll... I'll try again. Maybe in a few days." Michelle sighed, eyes flitting to the basket and back at him. The portals made her think of home and home made her think of her husband.

"Have you had any luck? With Derrick? We are a broken pair now, him and I."

"Try Pharlen, she is very good," Mist offered, a little resigned because the governor was actually very good at them and even better at dragging him into her clutches via them. He exhaled softly at the question.

"I am making progress. I know I can keep this from affecting your children, but it needs to work much further to bring Derrick back. I can keep him comfortable, and slow its progress."

The broken pair, that was a painful thing for Mist to hear, he flinched faintly. But shook his head.

"The love remains. The love will always remain."

"I'm sure the Governor is far to busy for someone like me Mist," she smiled with a small, tiny sense of humor. Michelle listened to him explain his efforts and progress, nodding along quietly.

"A little time may be all we need. And you're right, our love will remain. It was, perhaps, the only thing that kept me together in that insane existence." Michelle ran a hand back through her hair, shaking it out a bit. "So, does the doctor have any recommendations?"

"She owes me," Mist assured her dryly. Then he chuckled, reaching to feel her hair again. "Hm. A good kaolin based shampoo followed by a light conditioner..." Chuckling. Hey, he'd brought her those!

"A long hot bath with a glass of wine. Then a lot of horrible day time television and rest. But you will need to grow stronger in your mind, and to see yourself being strong again."

"I can do all but the wine," she smiled sadly, "I'm allergic to alcohol." Michelle shifted on the couch to hug her friend and doctor. "And I will try to, hmm, strengthen my mind."

"Tea will do," Mist replied with a soft laughter. "Here, lay down. I'll sit with you and you can nap."

Mist had a good sense for his patient, and how tired she was even after short social encounters. Far more willing to accept physical touch from others, and indeed craving it as a lifeline, Michelle nodded and snuggled further under the throw blanket. She wanted to be her best self, or the best she could be, when her family came.

As Michelle relaxed, Mist smiled, gently patting her foot through the blankets. He sang softly for her.



When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

(Paul Simon "Bridge Over Troubled Waters")
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Mallory
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It

Post by Mallory » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:23 pm

The Golden Perch
November 10th


There were only a few people Mallory would willingly walk hand in hand with, but when Michelle clung to her hand for dear life as soon as they'd left Little Elfhame, the witch offered no protest. She kept an easy pace in spite of the chill, bundled up in a gray RASG jacket and a zippered hoodie, drawstrings shortened so the hood could stretch over her horns. Two of Kabuki Street's meanest delinquents followed about thirty feet back, one chain-smoking menthols, the other with her face obscured by a surgical mask. Both of them kept their hands on weapons hidden in their patched silk sukajans.

Michelle was bundled up in one of Jewell's old cast-away coats. Meaning it was gorgeous and probably super expensive or custom made. It kept her warm, and the hood was draped over her head. She kept checking over her shoulder, at the delinquents, dark corners of an alleyway, or up at the sky. The closer they got to the Golden Perch Inn, the more she sped up the pace.

The witch matched her pace, which was pretty brisk by the time they got to the mermaid fountain. She called something over her shoulder to Akane and Sakura in Japanese, and the delinquents nodded agreeably to the suggestion and closed the distance, following them right up the porch steps and into the Golden Perch. The witch dropped Michelle's hand to unzip her jacket and pull her hood down and have a better look around. She gave the bartender, Amaranthe, a greeting smile, then glanced aside to check on her friend. Ama looked up from the kettle in time to see Mallory and Michelle make their way inside. "Welcome, and good evening! We've enough sugar, cream, and chocolate to last ye into next month!" breadth of her smile erasing her earlier expression. Hurrying to the patron's side, she reaches to help Reiko set some of her boxes down.

Warm lights, the smell of pie, and Amaranthe's kind face all helped ease the tension Michelle had felt since the beginning of their walk. She undid the buttons on the blue jacket. "Hello, Amaranthe." There was an empty pair of armchairs by the river stone hearth, and Michelle took a step in that direction. She paused, peering into any of the shadows cast nearby before cautiously taking a seat in the chair that offered her the best view of exits and entrances.

"Amaranthe, hey. Two bottles of Kirin for my friends," Mallory said with a smile, handing over a stack of dollarydoo coins to Akane, "and a Badsider for me... Anything for you, Michelle? Drink and or pie?" The witch followed Michelle to the hearth, leaving Akane to facilitate the transaction, while Sakura chose a table over by the jukebox. There was a large lump inside the girl's jacket, and it was a fair bet she wore a scowl behind that surgical mask.

It took Michelle a beat or two to respond, her eyes scrutinizing a piece of wall suspiciously. "Just a hot chocolate please..." her voice trailed off.

Mallory left Akane to wait patiently at the bar, following Michelle to the hearth to settle into the armchair beside her. "This was a good call," she said, raising her ring-clad and tattooed hands to warm them in front of the fire.

The Overbaker scooched her chair closer to the hearth, then curled up on the armchair, pulling her legs in, subconsciously trying to look small. "I just feel... cold. A lot." She lifted the Key of Water from under Jewell's - her - sweater and rubbed her fingers along the rough coral.

"Since Sunday?" Mallory asked Michelle quietly.

Michelle's eyebrows knit together, furrowing in thought. "Sunday... um. I don't know. Since I woke up in Little Elfhame. Whenever that was. It comes and goes. I'm not as cold if Jewell is nearby."

Akane interrupted them quietly, handing Mallory one of the three beers in her hands before stalking to a spot across the room by Sakura, where they could keep an eye on the sukeban's wife and her friend. Amaranthe came to the hearth soon after, holding the mug of hot cocoa tightly in one hand, the other hovering around it like a protective barrier as she set the vessel down on their coffee table. "There ye are."

Michelle's eyes ticked up to the bartender with a smile. "Thank you, Amaranthe." The mug was taken in both hands, and she sipped quietly.

The witch took a long pull of her beer as she considered Michelle's words for a moment longer. "... I've seen her heart. Did you know that? Twice... and once, it guided me back from somewhere very dark. It looks like... the brightest star in the night sky, but warm like the sun, and it never stops burning. Silver-white but comforting like a silk blanket."

Michelle nodded as Mallory described their mutual friend. "I feel it. Everything about her place is safe and warm and comforting. It..." She paused, mindful of the public space but also of how close they were. Her voice dropped to a soft whisper, "She keeps the terror away. Or at least... lessens it so it's like a bad dream and not a living nightmare."

"... It's hard... adjusting from being in captivity or an unsafe place, back to being somewhere safe again. Memories, right?" Mallory fished, delicately. "It takes time to process them... find a good place for them."

Michelle's brown eyes narrowed for a moment while she mouthed the word 'memories' a few times. Slowly, she shook her head. "No... no memories get weaker. They fade. There's no good place for... for..." she scrunched her face a bit. Her hands trembled as she tried to put things into words. "It ... "

Mallory's hand tensed around her bottle, and she lowered it to conceal her tension. "It." Michelle raised the mug of hot chocolate back to her lips and nodded once, slowly, imperceptibly. Mallory tapped her pinky against the base of her bottle. "...Does It have a name?"

The mug shook in her hands, and she nearly dropped it - spilling hot chocolate on the floor as she set it on the table. "I will not say it," her voice was hoarse, raspy and filled with fear. "If It hasn't come for me yet, It will if I say its name. Or if I say anymore. That's how it always happens." Michelle thought back to her many, many attempts at leaving R'lyeh. How could she be sure this wasn't like that?

Mallory reached out to touch Michelle's arm, and lowered her head to meet her gaze. "I won't let it. Neither will Jewell. But you don't have to say anything else if you don't want to. Okay?"

Michelle gripped Mallory's arm with her hand, eyes wild and desperate. There was a moment where she just stared at the witch. "How did you find me?"

A heavy weight seemed to settle on the witch's shoulders, and she sagged under it as she finally decided how to respond. "I tried, several times, but always ended up there... after you. I found one of your hawk feathers, and it was very old when I found it, and I realized I was on the wrong track. So I looked for places where the Veil was thin, and spirits and lost ones crossed over... I spoke to the owners of Carmine Cathedral, where their fires thin the Veil, and they agreed to put on a masquerade... I lit a candle and called your name… and I felt you, Michelle. And the Key of Water fell at my feet."

"I... I wandered for months. It felt like months, after I tried to send you the Key. It never came back. I assumed it was gone forever." Michelle ran a hand through her hair, which was wet, and somewhat slimy - though she didn't notice the slime. She rubbed at her forehead and face before leaning in to whisper, very softly to Mallory. "Mal. I. I..." She took one of Mal's hands in both of hers. "I gave up, Mallory," she choked the words out softly. "And I ... I kil-- I died." She paused heavily. "I don't know why I am here. I don't... I can't explain it. I don't know how you got me out of there." Her grip tightened for a moment, and then she let go, shrinking back into the armchair.

Mallory frowned sadly as Michelle squeezed her hand, looking over her friend's face - not disbelieving, but worried. "...The Key was still bound to you, so you must have still been alive.... I drew a partial circle to R'lyeh, and let the thread between the Key and you fill in the rest on its own. That's how I found you... by an altar, which I broke." She lifted her beer most of the way to her mouth, then lowered it to add, "If... when you're ready... I'd like to hear about what happened, when you think you died. I know it's hard, but... if you think you can." Then she took a long drink.

Michelle shuddered and tried to shunt the 'memory,' though it felt like a living reality, somewhere else besides the forefront of her mind. Her hands reached out for the hot chocolate, and she sipped at it again, trying to get a grip on her emotions. "Honestly, Mallory, I don't know what I can do anymore. I saw my family this afternoon." She started weeping, her face pinched as she looked up at the roof. "Dammit Mal. I want to go home. But I am so, so terrified." Mallory settled a hand over Michelle's while she wept, her heart quietly breaking for her friend. And then the words started to spill out.

"When you opened that portal, the other night, I thought I could do it. And then I looked through the tear and just saw that... that... place. And I choked. And you can't get to Atrebla by foot. And I can't get back to my family because I'm weak and terrified. And I try to tell myself it's all in my head, but it feels so damn real. I spent ... so long pining for them and thinking Derrick had died and that I would never see him again and I'm so close, but I can't get there. I can't get home. Because It will find me and take me back, and this will be a blip in a terrible landscape of time just like every other attempt to escape." She set the hot chocolate on the table and buried her head in her hands, sobbing. Mallory angled her armchair to be closer and opened her arms to hold Michelle to her shoulder. Michelle turned into her arms, shaking as her friends' hoodie wet with salty tears.

"You're not weak," Mallory assured her quietly. "Sometimes... surviving feels like the hardest thing in the whole world... but it is a special kind of strength, and there's nothing else like it... However you're hurting, your friends will be there to support you, and walk beside you when you find your feet again. And if there is anything still haunting you... we'll help you fight it. I swear." Her voice lowered to a very soft whisper, "On my immortal heart, I swear it."

"I don't know what I did to deserve your love and loyalty," Michelle mumbled in return, half into Mallory's shoulder.

Amaranthe quietly, and unobtrusively, left a folded napkin on the arm of Mallory's chair, dusting her palms off on her slacks. Mallory smiled belatedly at the hostess, taking up the cloth napkin, offering it to Michelle to dab her eyes - along with a simple answer.

"You're my friend."

((Adapted from live play at the Golden Perch, including play from Michelle and Amaranthe!))
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Location: Varies/Varies

Re: Lost in Time and Space

Post by The Ashwoods » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:06 pm

Bak'd
November 6th

Bak'd was a small, but lively, operation near Four Points Square. With the door propped open it smelled like pumpkin spice, apples and cinnamon. A woman with an elegant purple tail walked out the door carrying a bundle of pie boxes. She passed by Ama, offering a cheerful, toothy smile on her way to the bridge.

Amaranthe smiles and ducks her head, careful to stay out of the lady's way until she and her tail are well enough past (not before chasing her with a lengthy consideration), and she heads inside the pie shop. Saddle tan leather boots lace up the back and reach to the knee of slim fitting, coral slacks. The rest of her is bundled into a large wool coat, the scarf around her neck a mixture of storm grey, ivory white, and sapphire blue yarn, it's weave open enough to fit two fingers. Heading further in, she tugs the gloves off her hands and stuffs them into her coat pockets, breathing in deeply in satisfaction.

"Good morning! How can I help you?" A cheery sales member, Emily, smiles brightly at Ama. A small tray of sample cupcakes sat on the glass display near the till. Behind the front staff and a rack of desserts, Michelle and another woman were discussing pie crusts.

"And a good morning to you as well, dear, I'm sure ye can." Lifting her hand, she brushes back a lock of copper hair before offering to Emily for an introductory shake. "I am Amaranthe Ashwood, and I'd like to discuss details for an order I will need filled for Sunday evening."

"Sure!" Emily pulled out a paper form with a carbon copy and a pen. "Just fill out the information here and here, put your name and address here, and any special delivery instructions here. If you want a pie that's not currently in stock or in season we may need some extra lead time and there will be an additional cost."

"Ah, thank you," for the pen and paper. She turns the latter and briefly skims it before she begins to fill in each blank, penmanship neat and narrow, with a gentle slant and elegant highs and lows. "May I inquire after what ye have in season? There were three brought to the Arena last night, and I regret not considering a sample then...."

"Our list of in season pies are right here," Emily produced a sheet with a list of Apple, Pumpkin and Fall pies. Michelle's head turned, hearing mention of the Arena. It took the Overbaker a few moments to recognize Ama. She could vaguely place the face, but the name had disappeared over the past year (week).

She pauses with the form to study the list, glancing up a moment as she does. She holds Michelle's eyes for the half beat she has them, and nods.

"One moment, Mellie." Michelle stepped away from the work island, eyes darting for a moment to the roof, and the corners. She was thin, her clothes ill fitting since they belonged to Jewell, and her eyes held a slightly haunted look. "I recognize your face, but you'll have to forgive me, your name escapes me."

"Have ye any samples ready of the Cider Bourbon, Triple Chocolate Pumpkin, and the Cranberry Ginger-Pear?" deciding in the moment. She smiles, offering Emily back her sheet. It is an expression that carries to Michelle as the other woman approaches. "You're forgiven. Our acquaintance is brutally short." Smiling, she offers her hand to Michelle. "Amaranthe."

Emily busied herself preparing the appropriate samples. Michelle lightly shook Ama's hand, her eyes skittering to the the shadows in the office. After a brief, distracted, pause she smiles back. "Michelle, but I feel like you already knew that. Nice to meet you Amaranthe."

Her thin hand is rough, but warm, decorated by calluses on the fingertips, the most located on her index and middle finger, and the height of her palm. Her smile doesn't waver. She keeps the shake short, and bows her head, "Indeed, I did. It is a pleasure to meet ye again."
Returning to the order form, she begins to fill in the address for the Golden Perch as that of the event location. "Have ye been back to work long, or is this your first day?"

Mellie started a mixing bowl, causing Michelle to startle and almost knock over the samples Emily prepared. "Just... dropping in," she replied with a small frown. "I was taking a walk."

A small, subconscious part of her will hope that Michelle is bolstered by the fact that she jumps too. Though perhaps not as animatedly. She recovers swiftly, looking aside to the other woman in time to catch her frown.

"You're ordering for the Perch?" Michelle gestured to the form and the samples.

"For this Sunday evening, yes. I tend bar there for a time, every week." She trades the pen for a sample. "To date, the evenings I've supplied catered fare have been the most successful. And what better way to celebrate your return home," with a smile.

"Oh," the baker tried to hide her discomfort. "I'm glad your catered nights are so successful. But, you don't need to celebrate me." She shifted behind the display case, just as Mellie came up - the mixer humming from behind.

"Nonsense," the store manager said. "If your friends want to celebrate, let them."

Amaranthe smiles around the bite she'd taken from the sample. Pumpkin chocolate, by the flavor and sight of its insides. She nudges some crumbs to her lips with her middle finger, using the same hand to gesture Mellie's way. When she looks back to Michelle, her features are softer. "I know not whether an attempt at normalcy will aid in any way. We do not know each other well. In fact, we've only had two conversations at all, this one included. But I thought it may be appropriate," diffidence, there and gone, at the edges of her small smile. "Hoped may be more near the truth of it."

"Normalcy and hope is exactly what she needs," Mellie said pointedly, taking the order form in hand to look it over. "We can have everything ready for you, a selection of our best seasonal's and we will even include the Limited Edition Chocolate Silk Overbaker Pie." The tone indicated to Michelle that this wasn't an argument she would win. "This is good for business Michelle. And as your business partner, I say we support this event."

"Okay Mellie," she conceded. Michelle waited until Ama had finished tasting the pie samples, "are you by any chance going past Little Elfhame? Or... would you be willing to walk with me there?"

"Och, it is much more a gathering, but----" a hasty attempt at correction that dissolves into chuckles at the manager's no nonsense demeanor. She finishes her first sample with throaty noises of enjoyment. She takes the time to look over the form she'd filled out, checking the time she'd jotted down---an hour or so before her shift to allow her time to ready everything---and the location one last time, chewing. She'd never doubted she'd disapprove of them in the first place. Perhaps it had been a chance to sneak a covert snack. Sliding the paper and pen forward, she looks over to Michelle, brows lifting. Her smile rekindles a moment later, "I would be happy to accompany you. Yours was the most pressing appointment I'd scheduled myself today." Meaning, in short, she is no imposition.

A few other customers had filled in since Ama had started placing her order, and they squeezed down the counter to allow space for others. Michelle stepped into the office, pausing noticeably to open the door with caution and check the dark corners. A bright, blue, fanciful coat was slipped over her thin frame - a clear Ravenlock selection. Mellie finalized the order and took payment, giving her business partner a quick hug before helping the next customer.

Once they had stepped out the door, Michelle anxiously twisted her hands together. "So, your most pressing appointment. I feel ... flattered. I'm sorry I don't remember you better, I'm ... not entirely collected when it comes to my memories."

Throughout the transaction, Amaranthe had finished her other samples; signing, trading funds, and accepting the receipt and copy of forms all while she chews. She thanks Mellie for her time, expressing praise for how streamline the whole process had been, and is ready to move on as Michelle emerges from the office. She easily falls in step beside the other woman, tempering her stride so as not to force Michelle to push herself. Even with her gloves replaced, some of the chill gets through. She will need to refresh her Thermis rune early, at this rate. With her gloved hands in her coat pockets, she looks over to Michelle as they walk. "It really is quite alright, dear," smiling. "I had the intention of stopping by shortly after I took my leave, last night, and had not wanted to dally on following through."
After a short pause, and accompanied by a veil of uncertain strain, she ventures, "If ye do not mind me asking---how long were ye within that other plane?"

Just as Ama asked the question, something moved in an alleyway and Michelle reached out instinctively, grabbing for her companion's hand. Her heart quickened, eyes fixed to the shadow until a dark tabby cat prowled out, followed by a small kitten. "Forever," she replied softly. "It felt like forever. I think I counted over four hundred sunsets. But who knows how long a day was."

This time, she is aware of nothing that could be a potential threat, and so it is Michelle's grab for her hand that startles her the most. With her own tucked away into her coat pockets, the other woman only gets her forearm until she shakes one free to lay atop Michelle's questing fingers. She presses them into her arm in what she hopes is taken to be a reassuring welcome of of contact. She does not mind being an object of security. Continues the conversation as though the skip had not taken place, "Four hundred, by the Angel.... That must have been distressing."

"Yes," her eyes followed the cat until she realized how tightly she was gripping Ama. "I'm so sorry." Michelle removed her hand and tucked it away into a coat pocket. "I'm a little jumpy these days."

The forearm under Michelle's grasp is long and lean, coated under her sleeves in a layer of svelte muscle that does not easily give to pressure. Ama smiles for the other woman's apology, but does not chase her hand to keep it. "Oh, my dear, ye have been through a great trial, the likes of which I can only imagine. Such an experience is bound to leave an impression."

Leaves fluttered across the pathway as they walked through the streets. There was a bench close by and Michelle sat down, taking a break from both the walk and to allow a pause in the conversation. "I would never have made it out alive if it wasn't for the many people who risked their lives to come save me. I often wonder if it - if I - am worth it. I feel like a hollow shell and they could've died - or worse. It's why I... resisted the idea of a celebration. My friends were hurt, and they could've been lost forever. And I don't know if they got the person they were trying to find."

Her short tenure in town has not allowed her to experience all of its nooks, crannies, and secrets. Little Elfhame is a location she knows only in passing, in mention from brief conversations with her son. She is at the mercy of Michelle's lead, and so when the other woman detours to the bench, she does so too. "Forgive my implacable curiosity, dear," she begins, tender in tone, easing gently onto the cold bench, "but is it far-fetched to assume ye were subject to horrors, perhaps hallucinations---anything that threatened your sense of the barrier between reality and fiction?"

Michelle stiffened, the memories of that place flooding back. "Everything there. It was all so real. And all so horrible and ... and..." she took a few deep breaths. Her hand reached into her pocket, and she pulled out a small box with white flowers that gleamed like iridescent rainbows. A small melody played and she slowed her breathing to the song. When her heart was no longer scurrying through the Cyclopean masonry she put the box away and looked at Ama with hollow eyes. "It was all horror."

Amaranthe watches the struggle to pull an answer forth, patient and without expectation. She might not mind if the other woman decides not to answer at all, but she begins to. Her gaze drops to the small music box Michelle uses as an anchor. Rhys had been possessed of the same hollow reverie, when she'd seen the man last. Though he'd joked and made light, it had been easy for him to fall into silence. And, in addition, Koyan had not seemed any worse for wear. She files both of those points away, too, as she reaches across the short distance to lay her hand against Michelle's back, no pattern to the rotation her palm makes between the other woman's shoulderblades. "I thought as much. This place, the more I hear of it, the more it calls to mind some of the darker corners of the Unseelie's Lands. It is no surprise ye react this way, and that the memory of it has not yet let ye go."

As a few rays of sun poked out behind some clouds Michelle stood up, inviting her companion to join her. It was a short way to Little Elfhame from here. "I have nothing to compare it to," she halted for a moment, trying to gain her bearings before choosing a shortcut. "My friends reassure me that I am safe here. I only hope my heart and mind will eventually believe that to be true."

She presses her lips together, undecided on whether having no basis for comparison is boon or detriment. She rises after a moment of private thought, taking in the way Michelle takes as much as she is the discussion. "Ye are doing well, so far, in combat against the darker recesses of your memory," she says with a motion to Michelle's person, indicating what the other woman had done with the music box a few minutes prior. "It will ever be a difficult process to reclaim one's perception after such a time spent away.

"But ye have had the benefit of befriending quite the group of noble, selfless, and loyal people."

"Their strength is a suitable substitute until yours returns."

They had arrived at The Mill, and Michelle could see the Wayward Knights guarding the way in. She turned to Ama and gave her a genuine smile. "That is a true and honest assessment of my rescuers. I remember you now, and the way you listened so long ago when I was anxious about a small trifle - a duel against a perfectly skilled and honorable young woman. Things have changed so much in the past year. Or ... weeks? I'm not sure. But I remember you listened. Thank you, for listening again."

Upon their arrival, she trades her attention to The Mill, its guards, and its surroundings until Michelle speaks again. She smiles warmly, and not without delight that the other woman had picked such a short conversation out of a myriad of poor, darker experiences. She bows her head, lowers her lashes for Michelle's gratitude. "It is the least I can do. And I'd like to extend the offer to any time in the future. I have left my contact information with your place of business, but I will gladly leave it with you, if ye would like."

"I think I know where to find you," Michelle smiled. "Thank you for walking with me Amaranthe." A Wayward Knight came forward, offering Michelle his arm. "If I am well enough, I will try and come to your event on Sunday."

She leaves the other woman with a smile, lifting her hand in farewell as she watches the Knight lead her in and out of the cold.



( Thank you, Michelle Montoya! )
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Michelle Montoya
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Living with It

Post by Michelle Montoya » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:14 pm

House Royal Survival Bunker
November 12th


Jewell watched her breath turn into a white puff as she stared up at the stars, anchors for her tumultuous mind. The bottle of whiskey at her side kept her warm and sane, though the latter was debatable. She was sitting outside in November on some crumbling, freezing cold asphalt at 2am with her back up against an old brick wall. But at least out here, she could breathe. She focused on that to calm her racing thoughts: deep breath in, white puff of air out.

The door to the survival bunker - a slanted, trap-door that opened to descending ladder - creaked open. "Jewell?" Michelle's tentative, concerned voice followed the glow of a large lantern she held out before her. She was wrapped up in a thick, House Royal bathrobe - black with the emblazoned gold symbol. Rocks skittered across the asphalt as she shuffled closer, sliding down the brick wall to sit beside her bunk-mate. "What's going on?"

"Hey," she smiled at Michelle as she joined her. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you up. It was just.." Jewell lifted the bottle of whiskey and gestured at the door, "Being underground, the metal beds." She shuddered, taking a sip of whiskey to soothe herself, though it was more of a placebo than anything. "The sound of them gets in my head, so here I am," the laughter that followed sounded a little bitter. "You know, I only pretend to have it all together."

Michelle linked arms with her friend and squeezed in more tightly - for warmth, of course. "I don't think anyone really has it all together." She rested her head on her friend's shoulder and watched the moon thoughtfully. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Her deep exhale released some of the tension in her chest--the companionship helped with that--as she thought about Michelle's question: Do you want to talk about it? "It's just.. when my Name was called," she started while staring off at nothing, "the people who used it were really rotten people. It's bad enough having your Name used. It .. it violates your soul." Once the words started, they came pouring out in sometimes in a rush and sometimes haltingly. "They're in your head and heart. Every thought. Every feeling. They control it all. Your body, too, so why not use it? Why not do what they want.. so, you know. They did." She took another sip of whiskey. "And the strangest things stick with you, even as you work to get past things. The scent of someone's breath. Or the creaking of an old metal bed frame." Jewell flashed Michelle a brief smile at that last part. "And then it all comes rushing out, and it feels like no time has passed at all. So, I thought it was better to come out here than to start screaming at everyone to be quiet and stop moving."

A lot of things went through Michelle's head, but the most important was a deep appreciation for her friend and a sense of sisterhood. "It never really goes away, does it." It was a statement confirming a truth that she had always suspected. "It's not about... getting over it. Or forgetting about it. Because an experience like that is now fundamentally a part of who you are."

Her smile was apologetic, "No, it really doesn't. It changes everything about you. Which," she gave Michelle's arm a squeeze, "is not necessarily a bad thing. I'd like to think it's made me more sympathetic in some ways. More selfish in others." Jewell sighed, letting her head rest back against the brick, "But it doesn't go away. Sometimes it feels far away. Or I'm far away? Removed from it. There are days when I don't think about it at all. Then something just clicks, and I'm right back there, helpless. Waiting for Kal to come save me. Kill me. Wanting him to. Desperate for it to just end." She let that thought, that emotion she was sure was familiar to Michelle, sit between them.

Michelle rested her head on Jewell's shoulder, her mouth and eyes turned down to the ground as she thought about the altar. She thought about how it would've been easier if she could've given the knife to someone else. But it was either kill herself or let It take her. And now, she wondered if the reason she was still alive was because she failed. Maybe It had gotten to her first. With concerted effort, she turned her thoughts to Jewell instead. Perhaps she could be the giver this time. "What helps you? How do you ... manage it?"

A thoughtful smile turned up the corners of her lips, "Mmm, a lot of things. At first, I tried to run away from it, distract myself. Violence. Alcohol. Men. Good friends." She nudged her gently at that. "Then I wandered for almost a year, mostly by myself. Climbed mountains. Visited temples. Sprawled in the sand of a half hundred beaches. Just searching for balance and for reasons to be glad I was alive despite everything that had happened. Because I didn't want to be. Not at first. I didn't want to live with it all. So I went looking for what was greater than the sum total of what had happened to me, the things that had been done to me." Jewell shrugged, "I guess I kind of found it."

Michelle listened intently, gleaning what wisdom she could from the Empress. "And what did you find? What was your pearl in the ocean?"

"Enjoying the little things. Like sitting out watching the stars with a friend," she leaned into Michelle, hugging her. "The way the sunrise looks like on the sand or the way the sand feels between my toes. The way the ocean still calls to me and loves me despite all the damage. The way others still love me despite or maybe because of that damage. You know, there was a long time I felt that no one could ever look at me the same again. That was hard. Mmm, spending a morning in bed with a lover. Good food. The exhilaration of a fight."

"So what you're trying to say, is that violence, men, and good friends were your pearl?" She gave a sly, crooked smile. "Along with the beach and the ocean - which I fully support."

Jewell giggled, "Pretty much. Double points when the man is a good friend you can be violent with, I guess?"

Michelle laughed as they snuggled together on the asphalt, under the moon and stars in the chill air. "Thanks, Jewell, for sharing a bit of your story. It makes me hope that at some point, I can get to where you are."

"You can. I know you can." She said it so earnestly, her belief in the words lending them greater power. And then more flippantly, because this was Jewell, "I mean.. the whole being enslaved via my True Name by an evil cult and subject to all sorts of horrors was only a small part of the last few years. There was the whole letting my lover kill me thing, Ishmerai almost dying, my heart stopping cause of the iron poisoning... Not that it's a competition." The faerie winked at her. "You're strong. You're still going, and you'll keep going."

The Overbaker just stared openly at her friend for a moment. "If I can be even half as strong as you..." she hugged Jewell tightly. "Do you want to stay out here for a while? Retreat to Little Elfhame before the PR guys can find us? Or try and go back down?"

"You are. I promise!" Jewell assured her as she returned the hug. "You okay staying out here for a bit? I think I need a little more fresh air before I can face those stupid bunk beds."

"The moment you left, I was terrified, so yeah, I'll stay here with you," Michelle smiled sheepishly.

"Fair. It's a nice night anyway. You know I spent the summer after the whole Name thing floating in the New Haven pool while Hope had the barony. She just let me be quiet and drink and float..."

((Co-written with Jewell Ravenlock))
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Portals Are Just Broken Windows

Post by Michelle Montoya » Thu Nov 21, 2019 9:53 pm

November 19th

Michelle was wearing her favourite blue cloak, her rapier and dagger at her side, as stepped into the Inn. Perhaps stepped wasn't the right word, more like she furtively scuttled in like a scared kitten. The coral-encrusted key hung around her neck. She timidly stepped towards the strangely shaped door underneath the stairs - the portal to Twilight Isle. She stared at the door, brow furrowed. It rippled like the ocean causing her to step back involuntarily.

Michelle ordered a drink instead, a warm hot chocolate. More preoccupied with her own conundrum she didn't spare more than a glance to the love birds in the doorway. She pulled up a chair, and after surreptitiously checking the shadows, sat down and stared morosely at the portal-door to Twilight Isle.

A voice behind her commented, “That place is awful,"

"You have no idea." She said glumly, her eyes unfocused and her thoughts on the Cyclopean Hell that threatened to swallow her whole if she stepped through the door.

"Oh, but I do. If you ever find me there, it's not me." Michelle turned back to look at who was speaking. She vaguely recognized the first man with black-brown hair and tanned skin. The younger one who accompanied him was completely unfamiliar.

"What place?" the younger man asked.

"The Isle," the Spaniard detached from the boy's side to slink around behind the bar.

Michelle gave up on the portal-door, besides, a quick glance at her wristwatch told her she was far too late to support Jewell’s IFL match. It had been a last-minute, hasty and now fruitless decision to try and join her team on the Isle. Instead, she joined the two men at the bar, somewhat apologetic for interrupting their tryst. "Oh.. no, not the Isle. That's not what I was thinking of." She took a warm hot chocolate in her hands.

After some small, and on her part distracted, chit-chat she realized that the first was Sal. She never got the younger man’s name. And even if he had mentioned it, she was too focused on the conundrum of portals. This is silly, she thought to herself. I just need to muster up some grit and courage and go through a damn portal. Mist had mentioned Pharlen, but Michelle was far too nervous to ask a stranger. The only person she knew well enough to help her, and who knew anything about portals, was Mallory. Michelle pulled out a small flip-phone and sent off a text to the Blood Mage, slowly, and methodically as if she were composing a letter.

The response was almost immediate. Within minutes of Mallory’s text, there was a crimson flash, and a massive three-headed hound with vipers for tails appeared at the base of the porch. Her escort. She excused herself to Sal and his companion, and out of the Inn to the animated hell-beast.

She approached Kirby affectionately, and gave him a few good scratches in just the right places, murmuring words of affection. Despite the vipers and the hellish nature of the beast, Michelle felt safe and comfortable in his presence. Where there was Kirby, Mallory was not far behind. The benefit of three heads was multi-tasking. Two heads competed for as many scritches as possible, but the third was on high alert, ears up, eyes tracking their surroundings. No creature bothered the strange pair, Overbaker and infernal beast, for the three blocks it took to reach Mallory—

—standing under a halo of lamplight, chatting in Japanese with two masked delinquents while a flashy 90s Mustang idled nearby. She was still dressed in her school clothes, a skirt and a v-neck sweater, with heeled boots and stockings and a warm pea coat, and a nice black leather bag to hold her books and things. Her expression shifted to a warm smile, seeing her friend, and she made her way over.

One of the delinquents got into the car and it pulled away, but one remained. Kirby's excitement at seeing his blood-bonded master was palpable. Michelle was relieved in her own way and gave an almost imperceptible sigh of relief. Although she had tried walking the streets on her own, it was always a distressing experience. As they got closer, she noticed Mallory's attire.

"Oh, Mallory. You haven't gone home yet," Michelle said ruefully.

“It’s fine,” Mallory smiled, “Eri’s busy tonight. Important meeting — I think she’s reconvening the Committee For Breaking Doors With Your Head. Or napping.” She rubbed Kirby’s jowls, and he leaned into her, almost enough to bowl her over. “The day kind of got away from me... There were classes, and finally tracking down one of my warlocks on my lunch break, then going over the Lyceum accounts with Safiya...”

There was a split-second flash of something in Michelle's eyes at the word warlock, but it was almost immediately replaced by her soft brown eyes. She took her friends arm, opposite Kirby. "You keep busy. I'll try to not take too much of your time."

“Tch.” By now, likely a familiar sound to Michelle. “How’ve you been getting on? You living with your team? I visited their house last season... Some guy in a codpiece made a pass at me,” she wrinkled her nose.

"It's okay," Michelle hesitated. "I like spending time with the team, and considering I can't get home yet, it's better than the alternative. I don't care much for the space though. I've spent enough time in dark, confined, tomb-like places to last me a lifetime." Her grip on Mallory's arm tightened, momentarily, as a slithering shadow caught her eye. Or was it her imagination? Sometimes, the Overbaker saw things others didn't. Like a flicker of darkness.

Mallory watched Michelle for a moment, but whatever she saw, neither the witch nor her hound sensed, nor the delinquent following them at a distance. “You’re safe,” she assured her in a low murmur, patting the hand that clutched her arm. “That’s the bunker, right? Your fans are fucking mean. I’d charge them double for autographs,” she chuffed.

There was a long, slow sigh. "Yeah. I think it's worse for Jewell though. I can handle it when the others are nearby, but I think the beds drive her nuts." Michelle paused in their walk to look at her friend. "I want to try. Going through a portal." The words half spilled half choked out.

Mallory lowered her head to look at Michelle. “One that I built.”

"Yes, if... if we can do that. I just, I tried the Twilight Portal. I mean, I tried to try. Just now. For Jewell's match. She's been so kind, and gracious and I just wanted to support her and ... well, I just feel like I'm letting everyone down. I just need to grit my teeth and be brave and try this. And I figure your portal has to be the safest, right? From It?"

Mallory had to think about this. Penny’s comatose body had once been banished to the most warded chamber of the Lyceum by a powerful fae ruler; she had improved them since, but were they really impenetrable?

But she knew a place that was.

She turned to face Michelle fully. “It may look strange... but I promise, it’s the safest place you can find.” Then she held out her right hand, in invitation.

A heavy moment of hesitation hung in the air. Then Michelle closed her eyes tightly and grasped Mallory's hand. Mallory called out something in Japanese to the delinquent, who waved and headed off in the other direction. Then she stretched out her left hand, placing it between the powerful jaws of Kirby’s nearest head.

“You give the word, when you’re ready, and we’ll go.”

Michelle nodded once, her jaw clenched in anxious anticipation. She forced the words through gritted teeth. "Take me."

Kirby bit down, tearing flesh audibly, and Mallory winced enough to squeeze Michelle’s hand involuntarily—

With a crimson flash, they passed through a barrier that smelled strongly of copper, where the ground was warm like the stone floor of a hearth and the air was comfortably cool. They were surrounded by buildings wreathed in mist, a mirror image of the city around them; most appeared to be facades, somehow, chunks of elaborately carved stone with no real windows or doors, but a few opened into front rooms, containing unoccupied desks and empty shelves. Blood ran along a narrow channel cut into the center of the street, flowing from a fountain that was all the way across a short bridge over a river of fog.

Further towards the fountain, the buildings were more distinct, doors and windows peeking in on shelves cluttered with a growing collection of books and scrolls. More than the coppery tang of blood, the air here smelled of ink and parchment, and the soothing sound of pages turning reached every being that dwelled within this plane no matter where they stood.

As soon as they arrived, Kirby dissipated into three fox-like crimson shades, baying and prancing happily.

“We’re here.”

In contrast to Kirby's ebullient demeanor, Michelle was clammy from head to toe, trembling as a leaf on blustery fall day. For the briefest moment during their transport, that space in-between, her eyes had turned a black-green marble with gold flecking. It had appeared, for just a moment, that Mallory was leading her into the gloom of a cyclopean tomb. The feeling disappeared almost immediately, replaced by the copper aroma, and the sound of someone leafing through a thick stack of parchment.

Mallory looked back at Michelle, squeezing her hand. “...Are you okay?” The witch was hot to the touch now, as hot as blood itself. In the distance, towards the fountain, underlying the sound of pages turning was the steady thump-thump of a heartbeat.

Michelle's breathing eased, and she felt comfort in the warmth of Mallory's hand. "I," she hesitated, taking stock of her thoughts - and found them clear of any dark whispering, whispering's that plagued her dreams in the bunker. "Yes, I think so. What is this place?" It wasn't the hell that she envisioned in her nightmares, which was promising. A successful trip.

“This is the place where I keep my heart,” Mallory said with a smile, nodding in the direction of the fountain. “The blood flows from here in the Veil into my body, granting me magic and immortal life... for a price.” She led them gently closer to the fountain, or closer at least to the buildings that took more distinct shape, and contained what amounted to an already impressive library.

“It’s also where I keep the knowledge I gather, and where five others who’ve sworn oaths to me also bring offerings of knowledge. Grimoires, lost languages, faiths long gone...”

The witch paused in front of one of the windows, glancing at a pile of books on a small desk with a smile. “...and some Dickens.”

Michelle followed along, thoughtful and intrigued. "Five others? Are you a great patron then?" She had read of such patrons, from Xanth's secret library beneath the tower. And from the library of the investigative journalist she had met during an escape attempt.

“If I was a great patron, there’d be hundreds, or thousands,” Mallory smiled. “But I like to think I take good care of the warlocks I have.”

She tipped her head and continued onward. “Come on. I’ve got a whole section on life magic and druidcraft.”

***

The pages of Crops and Healing Waters - A Disquisition by Baldur Strident were worn and tea-stained. Michelle carefully folded the parchment, wrapping it up with cord and placing it back in the leather satchel. Mallory had given her a small nook to place items of particular interest, and this found a place alongside the manual Orthology and Orchards, and the records of three renowned naturalists. She rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath of the coppery tang which permeated the demi-plane.

"I think I'm ready to go home, Mallory - I've got a burgeoning headache."

Mallory had been quiet for a long while, head bowed, eyes nearly shut and giving off a crimson glow as her lips moved silently... but Michelle’s voice broke her reverie within a few moments. The color faded from her eyes, and she smiled gently. “Sure.” There was another pause, before she decided the best way she could ask what had become a loaded question was simply, “Where to?”

The perplexed look on Michelle's face was as obvious as the blood river in the streets. "Home. Atrebla." Her eyebrows lifted as if realizing the true nature of the question. "Right, I need to describe it. Well, you've been there, just in front of the main entrance will be fine." Her eagerness radiated like a hopeful child on a holiday eve.

The witch’s smile turned sad, and she nodded a couple of times, seemingly to herself. “From here, it... has to be to a realm where I have a presence. Ritual circles... or enough oath-bound warlocks... or a shrine...”

"Oh." Michelle's heart dropped, disappointed.

Mallory folded her arms and leaned against the cool stone wall of the small study they occupied, and blew out another one of the breaths she needed less and less these days... “If that’s something you want me to... fix... I can fix that. Find a place in Atrebla where I can anchor my presence. But tonight, it’d have to be somewhere in RhyDin.”

"That might not be a bad idea," Michelle sighed, blowing a small puff through lips. "It doesn't really matter then, wherever is convenient for you." The woman shrunk involuntarily, as if she'd missed a victory by a matter of inches.

Mallory let the heart-broken silence hang for only a moment. “I can take you to Jewell... or, Eri and I have a guest room at our place.”

"I feel like I've imposed on Jewell's hospitality for long enough. If you don't mind, I'll stay with you this evening. Then I'm going home." There was a quiet, sure determination at the end of her sentence, followed by a more resolute tone. "The PR Agents can just deal with it. I'm not spending the night in that accursed bunker."

“Your fucking fans,” Mallory chuckled ruefully, and reached out her right hand to Michelle. Her left she clenched carefully, partially concealing the fact that one of her fingernails was growing into a long claw. Michelle took a deep breath, shut her eyes, and squeezed Mallory's hand tightly. With the sound of tearing skin and an audible ripple in the fabric of reality, they vanished from the study.

For a long moment, Michelle was lying back on a soapy black-and-green altar, the obsidian knife in her hand and heart. She stared in abject horror at the mountainous mass of tentacles. A dragon-like claw wrapped around her waist while dark, fathomless eyes held her captive.

When they landed on the other side, Michelle keeled over. Her eyes momentarily echoed the same abyssal gaze until she shut them, retching the contents of her stomach all over the cobbled street.

There was an unfamiliar voice calling out in Japanese nearby, and Mallory responding as she placed a hand on Michelle’s shoulder, steadying her as she threw up in the street out in front of Riverwatch.

“—Michelle? Michelle, are you okay?”

"Yeah." The trembling woman gave a humourless laugh. "Just peachy." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, keeping her head down as her stomach continued to roil threateningly. Michelle kept her eyes shut and breathed deeply, pulling back her hair. It was not only wet, but had developed a slimy film.

Mallory patted her back soothingly, then drew her hand away, stretching a slimy strand between her fingers... “Come on,” she said, brushing her hand off and offering the other to help Michelle up. “The girls are putting on a kettle in the mud room.”

((Adapted from Live Play with Sal and Lucas in the RDI, and Co-written with Mallory))
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Till Death Do Us Part

Post by Michelle Montoya » Thu Nov 21, 2019 9:54 pm

November 21st
RhyDin Public Library


With the paparazzi and fan-requests from IFL ramping up, along with IFLCON around the corner, and the rumours flying around on social media - Michelle was feeling watched. She wasn’t a hot-ticket item like Jewell or Hope, but her other circumstances made her a prime target for the tabloids. The bakery was a no-go these days. Mellie sold the IFL specials and told reporters that Michelle wouldn’t be coming in until after the season was over. People were asking why her family didn’t come to watch her, and if she had gone home yet. Rumours of an affair were just as common as rumours of her dark troubles.

Her current refuge was Gloria’s private office in the library, just her and Derrick, on the loveseat couch. “I’m tired of being a burden to everyone, Derrick. I know I’m melancholy and terrified and unpredictable. I’m not me anymore.”

Derrick reached out and held his wife’s hand. “I know exactly how you f-f-feel.”

“I.. I didn’t mean that Derrick. I don’t think of you as a burden.”

“Maybe not in your heart, my love, but s-s-sometimes in your mind I think you do. Let me show you that I am not a burden. That you and I can be whole once m-m-more. Look at me now. We thought I’d never get better. With Mist’s treatment, my m-m-memory is clearer every day, and my stutter, less frequent.” He pulled her in, wrapping his right arm around her shoulder while his left hand cradled hers. “I love you. I may not be a Fae like Jewell, or a Blood M-M-Mage like Mallory, but you have my heart. And that counts for s-s-so much more.”

Michelle rested her head on his chest. “Has Mist said anything about a cure?”

“He can s-s-slow it down. Ease my symptoms. We will have m-m-many long years still. And he can make sure Allen and Nadella are s-s-safe.” Derrick smiled at her, and even though his eyes were blank from blindness, she could see a bit of his old spark.

“That doesn’t sound ‘whole’ to me, Derrick,” she frowned sadly.

“My love, we will both d-d-die one day. Try and focus on the p-p-positive.” He raised his hand to gently caress her cheek, then leaned, kissing her softly. “Come home. We miss you.”

“I miss you too,” she hiccuped, catching a sob in her throat. Michelle threw her arms around her husband and hugged him fiercely. “But what if I try and come home, and I never make it? There are so many portals, so many opportunities to get - lost.”

“Take the shortest route. Through the p-p-portal on the Isle.” Derrick stroked her hair. The edges of his lips curled down at the slimy texture. He didn’t mention it, lest she attribute it to the trauma of her experience. It was probably just her connection to the Tower. He felt the tension in her neck and shoulders as she pulled back, shaking her head.

“I want to, I really really want to. But I could lose everything. Everything.”

They sighed in unison, which brought a chuckle to Derrick’s lips. He took both of her hands in his and held them firmly. “We should take you to a trauma therapist, someone who can help you talk this out.”

“I’m afraid to speak of my experience, to give dark words the breath of life, for I fear that when I do, I will give them power. It is an oppressive and terrible darkness, Derrick.” Michelle felt the sting of tears, and let them fall onto their clasped hands.

He reached up, wiping away the salty stains, then brought her hands up for a kiss. “Drawing your trauma deeper into yourself is what gives it p-p-power, Michelle. Demons, devils thrive in the darkness, and so do s-s-secrets. You must bring it to the light, and expose it for what it really is. How can we help you if you won’t let us in, and if you will not take your horror out? Please, M-M-Mist can connect you to the most excellent therapists. And m-m-maybe medication might be in order, something to help with your anxiety.”

Michelle let go of his hands, stood, and paced. “I’m not depressed, okay? And I’m just… jumpy. I’m not anxious. Look, this isn’t just some stress disorder, Derrick. This isn’t something you can just fix with medication or some talk therapist. This is real. I’m not misremembering things or in denial. And I’m not a war survivor or a solider. I’m not… it’s not PTSD, okay? I’m talking about a real, present threat. This… thing that took me and held me hostage is real, and it is trying to get me back. I know it is. And the way it will do that is if I step through another portal.”

She couldn’t look at Derrick’s face. His eyebrows would be up in skepticism, and his mouth pursed in thoughtful consideration. And she knew his words almost before he said them. “What you went through was traumatic, Michelle. I know you, and I know you’re s-s-suffering. You just said earlier that you’re not yourself. Please. Consider it.”

“Fine. I’ll think about it.”

“That’s all I ask.”
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Dark Waters

Post by Michelle Montoya » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:22 pm

November 22nd
Twilight Isle


Long, slimy tentacles caressed her face, her lips, her jaw. Scaled claws squeezed around her torso. The knife stung as it pressed more deeply into her chest. Michelle's mouth opened, but instead of blood, a black-red ichor dribbled down her lips. Dark-star eyes loomed over her, drinking in every last bit of hope.

Michelle gasped, throwing up the remains of her breakfast. She rolled over, in front of the portal, as goblins rushed forward to help.

"Keeper Michelle! Keeper Michelle!" Biddle ran forward with some water while another - Yotel - wiped her sweaty brow.

"Uh, Keeper Michelle, you're slimy! You need a bath, Keeper."

Slowly, dizzyingly, Michelle shifted to a sitting position and drank the offered water. "Thanks." The coral-encrusted Key around her neck glowed, dimmed, glowed and dimmed like a heartbeat. Sections of white began to deepen with colour, but not the typical pinks, oranges and reds of a coral beach. The Key developed a dark blue and green hue with bits of gold flecking. Michelle held it in one hand, turning it over, transfixed by the ongoing transformation. When it was finished, she silently tucked the Key into her blouse and faced the beach.

"Wha…" a small gasp escaped her lips. The waters of the lagoon were no longer bright blue, like a refreshing and pristine beach. They were as dark as a dangerous lake on a stormy night. It was a strange contrast to the twilight sky. She cast her eyes to the center of the water, where the rocky, tide-pool beach connected to the sandbar. The sandbar, at low-tide, led to the Tower. A series of waterfalls poured from the windows and down into the lagoon. They were also dark, but at least the Tower itself was unchanged.

Coming out of those dark waters was a sombre, but friendly face.

"Kohloss!" Michelle handed her empty cup to the goblin and ran towards the paunch-bellied Triton. "Kohloss, I am overjoyed to see you!" She wrapped him up in a hug, smelling the salt on his skin and the faint odour of seaweed in his hair.

"And I, you, Keeper." The old man returned her embrace, his fingers lingered for a moment on her slimy hair as they stepped apart. "I only wish we could have brought you home sooner."

"It's okay," she smiled tightly "what matters is that I'm back." They walked together, back to the shoreline, then into the waters. "This place looks different, Kohloss. Why has the water changed?"

"Don't you know?" He asked, as they dipped below the surface and swam towards the entrance.

"No, I don't." Michelle's answer was short, almost defiant.

"Hmm," was the only sound Kohloss made in reply. As they stepped under the roaring waterfall, Michelle noticed a decline in the growing vegetation. Or perhaps, a shift in the diversity. There were more slimy tubers, and stringy clumps of seaweed. Once through the large double doors, Michelle noted even more differences inside the Tower of Water. Instead of pale silt-sand, the ground was a more delicate black sandy. The inner walls were made of volcanic rock instead of the original sandstone.

"As you may remember, Keeper, the Tower reflects you more than it does us." Kohloss paused and stared at her openly. "Only time will tell what other changes you might bring."

The Keeper shifted uncomfortably, before heading to the centre geyser lift. She stood in the middle of the platform and finally looked back at the old Triton. "I wish I could stay longer, but I have business elsewhere. I promise not to be gone so long this time."

Coci slipped through one of the upward flowing water-walls and walked over to stand by Kohloss. The two companions watched Michelle as she gripped the Key, uttered a simple word, and rose up to the second-highest spire. There, a semi-permanent translucent portal would take her to the high mountains of Atrebla.

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Cracks in the Walls

Post by Michelle Montoya » Sun Dec 01, 2019 3:18 pm

November 28th
Atrebla Manor


Michelle sat upon the altar and looked around suspiciously. The room was humid, dark and empty. Grotesque statues guarded the green, glowing chambers of cephalopods in suspension. Masonry tentacles wrapped around the malformed breasts of a woman posed in the form of prayer. Another statue held a book while sprouting dragon wings, the humanoid face contorted in painful ecstasy. The carving in front of her wrapped around itself in impossible ways as claws gripped the head in agony. She slid off the altar carefully and took a cautious step down the wide hallway. A humanoid figure waited in an alcove that constantly shifted from concave to convex and back again. They wore a porcelain mask, and a sea-green cloak with a long black tabard of geometric design. Scrolls hung from a bound sack with pouches that changed count and size numerous times. Instead of arms, a triad of fleshy tentacles with star-shaped suckers reached into the bag and pulled out an obsidian knife. They offered it to Michelle.

“I don’t want it.”

A slurry of words emanated from behind the mask.

“I… I can’t understand you.”

“Inglui hagwahn tagnaui.” It pressed the knife into her unwilling hands.

“Build what exactly?”

---*---


Michelle woke up, repeating the words “Inglui hagwahn tanaui.” Her stomach turned over, and she retched last night’s dinner over the snow-covered ground. Snowflakes drifted down, sticking to her wet and slimy hair. The dark red fleece pyjamas from a previous winter were stiff, cracking as Michelle stood upright. The obsidian knife with a gold-flecked green and black handle dropped to the ground.

Tentatively, she reached out to touch it. Solid. She closed her eyes, absorbed some of the snowflakes in the air, and opened them once more to see the knife. It reeked of otherworldly magic, but it wasn’t an illusion. Unwilling to let some poor child find it, Michelle gingerly picked up the artifact. She gazed up at the sky, still dark with a bit of pink poking at the horizon.

She couldn’t have been out here more than a few hours. Michelle knelt on the ground and reached out with her soul, sensing for the nearest portal. The closest one was in a copse of trees, three-quarters of a mile away. The gateway between her home and Twilight Isle. Michelle stuck her hand through the snow and dug out a handful of dirt. “Celeritas Terrae” . Her pores absorbed the dirt as it broke down, leaving a layer of slime similar to that on her face. Using a quickened pace, she followed the tether to the copse of trees.

If she hurried, she might be able to wash up and crawl back into bed before Derrick noticed. Although she woke up from nightmares nearly every night since coming back, the sleepwalking was a new development. The night terrors which accompanied her midnight travels were thematically different. She usually saw the hideous mountain of tentacles staring at her while the obsidian knife plunged into her chest.

Her first journey was prefaced by a dream of Atrebla, but it was not the Atrebla she knew and loved. The buildings were made of cyclopean masonry, the streets ran green with ooze, and the mountain had tentacles, wings, and claws.

The second night terror which preceded her awakening in the cold mountain snow was of her family. They wore porcelain masks and stood around her at the altar. Derrick handed her the knife. And she plunged it into her heart.

Each time she had used a bit of magic to get home, with just enough good luck to wash the slime off her skin and change into a clean pair of clothes before anyone woke up.

---*---


November 29th
Atrebla Valley


Michelle was kneeling in a pile of hay, inspecting some sickly sheep. A disease had run through this particular herd, and she was tending to them for the fourth time this week.

“No improvement?”

“None, My Lady.”

She frowned. Although the townsfolk of Atrebla knew she had magical gifts, Michelle did not like to use them conspicuously. A soft murmur there to speak with the animal could help diagnose a problem. A whisper here while hand-feeding medication could help the healing process along.

“With your permission, I’d like to use a combination of traditional healing and magic.”

Bilden shifted uncomfortably for a moment, then nodded. “I trust you, My Lady.”

Michelle placed a hand on the earth and another on the sheep. “Lanatae Integrum Restituet Lanatae.” The sheep shuddered uncomfortably under her hand while Michelle repeated the incantation. Then it began to bleat painfully, and the rest of the herd took up the chorus.

“My… My Lady! Stop! STOP!”

Michelle opened her eyes and let go. The sheep lay on the ground writhing as worms burrowed out of its stomach, eyes and mouth. As she looked around, the entire herd was vomiting out worms, some of them collapsing as the slimy, dark-green insects wriggled out of their woollen bodies.

Her mouth dropped open. “What have I done.”

Bilden shoved Michelle aside and slipped on the large pile of slime and ooze, which had formed where Michelle’s hand had touched the earth.

“My Lady, with all due respect, get out of my barn!”

Anxiously Michelle grabbed her belongings and rushed out of the wooden building. She strapped on her snowshoes within minutes and began to hike up the mountain. No way in hell was she taking the portal shortcut.
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Pact Magic

Post by Michelle Montoya » Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:07 pm

December 1st
Twilight Isle


Michelle, and the dark tendrils of energy surrounding her, spilled out onto the beach of Twilight Isle. The few lingering goblins gave her a wide berth, some of them scampering away towards their village. She sobbed and heaved, throwing up a mixture of bile, cheese and stuffing. Her solid black eyes opened, and she saw the world as if through a filmy shadow. Twilight Isle looked like it was coated in gray gloom. The goblins were undefined shadows, and the rings looked like vague circles inscribed on black sand. Michelle’s heart raced, and she looked up at the Tower. It was the only thing with defined lines and structure, but she saw two Towers, one image superimposed on another. There was a shadowy image of the Tower as she had come to know it - tall and elegant with flowing waterfalls. The sharp, crisp image on top was far darker. The waterfalls were gone, and rocks jutted out at awkward angles creating a dangerous approach for any ship or swimmer. Tall spires pierced the air as water flowed out of the main entrance along an eroded rock face. No flora or fauna grew on the obsidian surface. Standing beside her was a tall, humanoid figure wearing a porcelain mask and sea-green robes.

“Inglui hagwahn tagnaui. Inglui hagwahn tagnaui. Inglui hagwahn tagnaui.”

An exasperated and terrified scream left Michelle’s lips as she turned to stare at her companion. “Glghuni! Why did you have to attack Pharlen like that? What did you do to her?!”

The star spawn just held out a book, a grimoire with carvings of obscene geometry on it.

“I don’t want it. I don’t need you. And I will find a way to get rid of you!”

Michelle turned, and her vision was suddenly clear. The Isle, the Tower, everything was back to normal. Except for the goblins. They stared at her with the most incredulous and terrified faces. She sighed, ignored them, and walked towards the Tower of Water. Every step left a line of slime, green and oozy. Her boots squelched so much that she finally gave up and took them off. In some ways, she wasn’t surprised to see that her feet and grown webbing between the toes. Just another part of the change.

Her sigh was heavy with resignation. “It’s better than putting on flippers anyway.” She tossed the shoes in a garbage can on the beach, throwing her slime-soaked jacket in there as well.

The dark waters disturbed her, they reminded her of R’lyeh, but she wasn’t going to admit defeat. Not yet. The dark green-black colours on the key gave her hope that this was the Tower’s doing. Maybe if she spent more time there, it would go away. And since the Tower only opened to the Keeper and to those she permitted, perhaps her ‘shadow’ would be forced to leave her alone.

Kohloss and Coci were waiting for her under the waterfall - which no longer flowed clear, but had the same slimy quality as her hair and skin. “Keeper.” Kohloss tone was short and tense.

“Hello Kohloss,” she pressed the key to the doors, which opened wide to allow them passage.

“Keeper. We are concerned. The Tower is changing daily, and not in a pleasant way. Most of the denizens have left for purer waters.” The aged, paunched belly Triton followed behind as Coci slap-walked with its tentacles.

Michelle’s face was full of concern and frustration. “Fine. Let them leave. It’s probably safer that way.” She hesitated, looking back at him, “will you leave also?”

“No. Myself, Sargasso, Coci and Adrina will remain here. We will help you find a solution.” They followed her to the lift, which would lead past the Denizens Drowning to the Lich’s Chamber below. “Before we proceed further, would you mind telling me about our guest?” Kohloss gestured to his left, where he could only see the shadowy outline of a humanoid figure. Michelle, on the other hand, clearly recognized the porcelain mask. It never left for long.

“If I knew what to call them, I would tell you. They are not welcome here.” The Keeper stared down the robed figure, who once again offered the grimoire. Her teeth ground in frustration. The first appearance had been frightening, the second had created anxiety, the now constant presence was just irritating. Kohloss and Coci stiffened - an unwelcome guest? Those were few and far between, and for good reason. Michelle didn’t wait for their commentary but proceeded to the lift, which filled with water and dropped suddenly and quickly to the dark catacombs of the Tower of Water.

---*---
Michelle had spent the entire night in the Lich’s vault, looking for any knowledge about pacts, blood magic, or Eldritch Gods. Mallory would have had more information - perhaps even helped her find it - in the demi-plane where her eternal heart pumped blood through the streets. But then she’d have to explain. Explain about this unwanted guest, about the dreams, about Pharlen, and about that night on the altar. It was a lot of explaining. And Michelle felt embarrassed. Mallory, Gloria, Jewell and others had rescued her- and what happened? She had brought something back. It was still a part of her. And she, It, was causing uncontrollable havoc. Michelle was also afraid. Afraid of what would happen. Mallory would have every right to banish her back to R’lyeh. Or maybe ‘It,’ would take total control. And why should this be Mallory’s problem? Or anyone else's?

“I will not be a burden. I will not let my fear overcome me.”

The Keeper leafed through another tome on Xanth’s shelf. It was full of disturbing ways to preserve a corpse for later experimentation. “Ugh, Xanth. You’re like a smarter, cleverer, Victor Frankenstein.” Nothing. Nothing on It.

The masked figure sat nearby, watching Michelle. It had watched her the entire night, sometimes repeating its injunction, and holding out the book in tentacled limbs. Michelle stopped and stared as they offered the grimoire once more.

“I will not make a pact with you.”

“Rel’whguni fhtalni’gyw ungi.”

“What do you mean, I already have?”

It stood up and approached her, she shuffled back as fast as possible. “Get away from me!” Michelle tripped, her slimy webbed feet skidding underneath her. It leaned down and reached a tentacle from within the robes to touch her heart. Suddenly, she was back in the altar room, but she was to the side, watching herself sobbing on the altar. The obsidian knife poised in her doubles hand over the left breast. Michelle turned away as the knife was plunged into her heart, unable to watch it happen again.

“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Inglui hag’wahn tagnaui.”

Michelle opened her eyes, black from the vision, and pulled up her knees into a sitting position. “Is there no way out?”

The porcelain mask moved it’s head once from side to side. Then offered her the grimoire and the knife - the knife she had buried under a loose plank in her bedroom. Reluctantly, as if pulled by a string and she the marionette, Michelle reached out a hand. The robed figure twisted the knife, and swiftly carved a mark into Michelle’s wrist. Before she had time to scream, it wrapped another tentacle around her arm and pressed the bleeding wound to the first page of the grimoire - leaving a bloody print on the page.

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Immaculate

Post by Michelle Montoya » Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:54 pm

December 2nd
Atrebla Manor


The sun hung over the mountains, casting a warm glow over the iridescent snow. Nadella was out in her snow-suit, playing with Suzy on the porch. When she saw her mother come out of the copse of trees, Nadella stood and waved both arms enthusiastically. “Mother! Mother!”

It was hard not to smile with such a cheerful greeting. Michelle hurried forward and scooped up her daughter. “Eeewww, you’re still slimy, Mother.” Chagrined, Michelle set her daughter down to continue playing with the kiteen. “Grandmother was looking for you.”

“Okay, Nadella. We’ll have some hot chocolate later.”

“And colour?”

“Yes,” Michelle smiled in her gentle way, “and colour.”

Michelle had barely hung her coat when her son ran down the stairs, looking worried. “Mother!”

“Allen? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Father. He’s not well. Grandmother was looking for you. He’s…” Allen looked close to tears. Michelle wrapped him up in a quick hug, “It will be okay. Watch after Nadella.” Then she ran up the stairs to the second floor, tracking mud, snow and slime through the manor. When she burst through the heavy wood door, Ann was murmuring a simple healing spell. A portable scanner Mist left behind beeped while showing graphs and numbers.

“What happened?” Michelle stepped into the master bedroom, her brown eyes examining her husband, who lay underneath the homemade quilt. She could barely see his chest rise and fall.

Ann passed the scanner over to Michelle while she explained: “He was complaining of a headache last night, so he came up here for quiet. When I came to check on him for breakfast this morning, his breathing was shallow, and he wouldn’t wake up.” Michelle didn’t need the scanner to tell her what she already knew - slow heart rate, and little brain activity. Just like Malia.

“Suzy!” Nadella called from downstairs. Michelle turned to look at Ann and shoved her cell phone in the older woman’s hands. “Call Mist.” Anne nodded and went downstairs, intercepting Nadella as she tried to chase the snowy cat. The bells on Suzy’s collar jingled as she came into the room, jumped on the bed, and nestled on Derrick’s chest.

Michelle shut the door and knelt at the bedside, as if ready to pray or beg, tears spilling down her face. “Derrick. Derrick, now is the worst time. You can’t go now.” She felt someone watching her and looked up to see the robed, porcelain masked figure on the other side of the bed.

“Can’t you just leave me alone with my husband?” Michelle hiccuped through tears. “He’s dying.”

Then an idea sprang to mind. A terrible, awful, powerful idea. “Wait. You have magic.” She looked up at the mask. “I’ve made a pact with you. Twice over now. You owe this to me. Help me save him.”

The figure stood stoic and reserved, then pointed a long tentacle to fluffy, pure white Suzy.

“SAVE HIM DAMMIT!”

It reached out with another tentacle and touched the obsidian knife on her belt, tucked in the folds of her cloak. Michelle looked at the blade, then at the cat, then at the knife again.

“No…”

Porcelain seemed to smile. Michelle recalled the books from the Tower.

Once the Immaculate has practiced bringing energy to higher beings through the ritual, he or she begins to wonder: Can one Immaculate deserve the energy of another? One must tread light as a feather when considering this question. Some aspects of sacrifice are simple: The life of a chicken, a rabbit, a pig is worth less than that of a man - this much we know.

The scanner beeped as Derrick’s heart rate continued to slow to a perilous point. Suzy mewed, kneading into his chest. Fresh tears streamed down Michelle’s cheeks. She unhooked the dagger, and slowly reached out, wrapping Suzy in her arms. The cat was far too amenable and tried to lick the slime off Michelle’s skin. Salty tears stained the white fur. “Eden will never forgive me if she finds out…”

Michelle’s motion was swift. The kitten barely made a sound, but she sobbed openly. Her breath shook as she placed a palm on the soft, wet, red fur and the other held Derrick’s hand. Porcelain spoke the words slowly so Michelle could repeat them with the exact intonation. Warmth flowed from the kitten, through her body, and out of her fingertips like an electric current. Her body acted as a conduit, feeding new life and energy into her husband. The scanner’s beeping picked up the pace, as did his breathing. The ritual was exhausting. When the current cooled then stopped flowing altogether, Michelle’s spirit matched the limp, empty corpse in her lap.

Jerkily she cleaned the blade, putting it back on her belt. She used a dirty towel from the closet to wrap up the red-and-white ball of fur. The dirty linen and its package were put into a wastebasket - she’d deal with it later. Michelle wiped her eyes and face as much as possible with the clean compress next to the bed. After a few deep breaths, she slowly stood up and opened the door.

“Michelle?” Her mother looked up the stairs, anxiety all over the wrinkled face.

“He’s fine. I… I found a way.” Ann looked clearly relieved.

“Do you need help cleaning up?”

“No, I’m just going to stay with him for a bit. When he’s awake, I’ll send for the children.” Michelle turned back into the room. Porcelain was gone.

Nadella’s voice carried on the wind, “Suuuuzzzy?!”

---*---
There are many small clearings behind the manor. This one was roughly half a mile away. At Michelle’s feet lay the dirty, red-stained towel with a lump in the center. She struck the shovel into the dirt once more, trying to dig a hole. After a few moments of futility, she knelt on the ground, snow crunching under her knees. Her cold fingers mournfully stroked the towel. When Michelle finally left the shallow grave, Porcelain stood there -watching and waiting. A handful of green, slimy worms poked out through the freshly turned dirt.
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Mist Gul
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An Inconvenient Shadow

Post by Mist Gul » Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:02 pm

December 2nd


Mist startled up from his book, his brows knitting. He glanced around the bedroom he had claimed while he and Amaris lived at the Battlefield Park manor, and paused, his gaze on a tray of crystals and stones.

Each represented a patient, and after he had been relieved of duty by Colleen, he had given most of his patients who needed careful watching to Betsy’s daughter to tend to. But a few…

“Derrick,” he murmured, quickly pulling his boots on. He grabbed for his cloak, and then texted Amaris.

*I must see to Derrick, go to Roni or Rachael if I am not home by sun-up.*

It wouldn’t do any good to tell the girl not to worry, so he didn’t bother. He grabbed his blue canvas crash kit and picked up the stone attuned to Derrick. Taking a moment to center himself, he touched the stone to the mandela on his chest, closing his eyes as the gateway was forged.

The space inbetween was infected. In the brief moment of transport, he could feel it, like worms trying to burrow into his skin. In that instant there was an eternity: He hissed a word, and that word was a solar flare of purity.

But as he stepped into the shadows of Derrick’s room, they were back. He reeled slightly, and his eyes widened, suddenly held - restrained - and helpless. To watch. He could only watch. His voice was frozen in his throat, his eyes burned in their sockets, his limbs caged in millions of tiny needles.

He could not stop her.

Without action, you are an accessory. You were unable to save her, to save him. You are the worthless, weakling, sniveling pig your master knew you to be. You have failed. Again. You will always fail. You were made to be a tool and you break in the hand which wields you.

Mist lifted his chin, his features stony. The words battered against him, words he had heard for so long, they nearly had lost their meaning. All that mattered was that he had been unable to stop Michelle.

He waited. With nothing more to claw out of him, he was no longer interesting. He had become a gray rock, even to the runes on his face fading, the light that filled them bleeding away until they were nothing more than reddened cuts in his tanned skin. His golden eyes dimmed to a bland yellow.

Once It had gone, he moved at last. A smile quickly over his features brought back the semblance of light and life. He listened with a tilt of the head as Michelle stammered out how the scanner must have malfunctioned, and really, everything was alright, and there wasn’t any need for Mist to have come so far, and everything was fine, really, it was fine…

“I’ll check the equipment and spells,” Mist assured her with a flicker of a smile. He absently puttered about. Each point where he stopped, he let salt and sage fall, tracing wards within the granulated surfaces. He spread a swath of silvered sage under Derrick’s pillow, tracing a rune of protection within that.

All the while, his heart was breaking. He had the power to take down a dark lord, a demon, a devil, and yet… he had none to use against Michelle. His friend.

He should have been an agent of the very creatures gnawing on Michelle, but…

He escaped.

He had no idea how Michelle could escape. If she could.

When Michelle called the kids up to see their father, Mist glided downstairs. He walked quietly to Ann, and took her hands.

“She did a work in the name of the evil which has taken her,” he whispered, lowering his eyes. He didn’t want to see the pain that leapt into the woman’s eyes.

“What can we do? What shall we do? If she’s let it in…?” Ann responded, stricken, “...The children…!”

“I will take them to where they will be safe. But I fear. I fear greatly. If she isn’t stopped… I fear purifying Derrick, that… that dark strand may be the last thing keeping him alive, and it may embed itself into him and… I don’t even know if the man on the bed is their father any longer.”

Ann clamped a hand over her lips, horror enveloping her. Mist grimaced. He reached up and traced over her brow.

“Do not lose faith. Your daughter is still your daughter. We will find her again.”

Ann’s knees gave way, and she dropped, sobbing, to the kitchen table. Mist gripped her shoulder, then exhaled and leaned over her, wrapping her in a careful hug.

After a few moments, Ann drew in her breath, mopping her face with a kitchen rag.

“I will keep Michelle busy in the kitchen after the children are abed. You do what you must.”
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Michelle Montoya
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Location: Atrebla Manor

Snippets

Post by Michelle Montoya » Tue Dec 03, 2019 6:49 pm

Late, December 2nd
RhyDin


Michelle was sitting behind the Red Dragon Inn. She had tried to go to Jewell’s party, but the glamour of the Wayward Court made her sicker than portals, if that was even possible. It was the first time she could acknowledge that something was truly, really wrong. That glamour had protected her, kept her safe, and prevented the darkness from taking hold.

It had taken hold now.

Porcelain wasn’t anywhere - for now. But Michelle remembered the shadow lingering behind her, and then… speaking through her? There was a conversation with Bile. But she didn’t feel in control, not completely.

---

“Do you have a price?"

||Don’t we all?||

---

||There are numerous worlds that do not have the cancerous denizens this one does.||

“This world, this place, circumvents the laws that keep it bound. You can help, or you can die along with everyone else.”

---

Had she really said that? This place held her friends, people she loved like family.

And had she left a note at the arena? It was all so fuzzy. Like It had gotten impatient and had pushed her, taken over in bits and pieces. Was this how the pact worked? What price was she going to end up paying for her life? Her freedom? Her return home?

((Bile’s character used with permission.))
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Mist Gul
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Useless Apologies

Post by Mist Gul » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:58 pm

Dec. 2, late.


Mist watched the house in the woods, silent, waiting for the signal Ann would give him. But, something pulled at, pricked at his senses. He turned and walked, following the taint in the air.

A wave of warning, of evil corrupting, stopped the elf in his tracks. His breath exhaled in a cloud of chill, his runes dimmed once more. His gaze fell onto the shallow grave where the kitten lay. Revulsion wracked through him as he saw the worms at their feast.

There was nothing to save.

Lowering his head slightly, he spoke a soft prayer for the lost little light. He surrounded the grave with a circle of the sage and salt, hoping to keep the corruption to that small point in the land.

Then he turned back to the manor. As he waited, he took out a notebook and pencil, and began to write.

~Michelle. I do not ask forgiveness because I cannot think of any that could be given for my actions. But I was not late on hearing the alarm. I was held fast and forced to watch what happened. The step you have taken is one too far, I cannot even tell you if Derrick is still Derrick now. I had to take your children to safety. They will be safe, I swear to you, until I can bring them home to you. When you are safe. Please let Jewell and Mallory and Ann and all of your loved ones help you. Please.
Love, Mist~


Finally, Ann put a lantern into the window. Mist drew in his breath and vanished from the gardens.

Swift and silent, Mist packed up Allen and Nandella, then cast a sleep spell over both. He left a note on Allen’s pillow, then lifted Allen over his shoulder. He picked Nandella up like a little football, then vanished from the home, from Atrelba back to RhyDin.


Dec. 3
Amaris was delighted to see the kids, and happily took them both to a bedroom for their ‘sleep over’. Then she beamed to Mist.

“This is perfect, I asked Michelle to come over after the matches!” she cheered, only to pause and stare when her father went absolutely white.

“Dad? Dad, what’s going on?” she asked slowly, “Michelle’s our friend, we love her. No matter what awful things people are saying.” She paused, then admitted, lifting her chin, “I beat up a kid at school for saying awful things about her.”

Mist exhaled, his hand over his eyes for a moment. He finally grimaced and gripped Amaris’s shoulders.

“I know I should have explained, but there has been little time for that. And I pray you don’t rush in. But Michelle has been infected by a great evil, and … It got worse, so I have taken her children to protect them. Because the evil that has infected her will even destroy the innocent.”

“...What do we do?” Amaris asked simply.

“You can stay home from school tomorrow and play with Allen and Nandella for a while, but I need to arrange a safe place for them. I hope you understand. Of course Michelle is welcome here, but… I hope you like sage and salt, my ferocious little wolf, because you are going to be having a thorough bath in it.”

Amaris stared at Mist.

“And I need a white kitten, almost a year old…”

Amaris’s eyes widened even further, and she shook her head, catching Mist’s hand in hers. There could be only a few reasons why someone would go looking for a specific pet at such an odd hour. Her heart sank, but she gave him a wry smile.

“Daddy, they’ll know.”

Mist exhaled again, nodding, tears standing in his eyes.

“I know. But I must try.”
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