Miscellaneous greentexts and stories collected pertaining to Erin's adventure. Maybe one day they'll form a coherent story.
Getting hiredEditErin and a few of her friends were trying to hold a seance and summon a demon (because they're bored kids). What they did instead was accidentally launch a member of their group into the demon realms. This either destroyed the portal or happened at about the same time the portal was destroyed.
Hank, incredibly powerful demon though he may be, needs a mage native to a plane with skill to partner him in the creation of a portal, and unfortunately for him, the only accessible people versed in the arts are now gracing bodybags.
Erin has been wandering in the demon world for like a day at this point, and it is the destruction of the portal that prompts Hank to seek her out. By her garb and dress he guesses her a witch, a notion about which he is entirely incorrect, and takes her back to the PO. As he begins to prepare the ritual, she informs him of his mistake, leading the Boss to fly into a rage and begin berating both of them. She doesn't even flinch at this and dismisses him as nothing more than a noisy imp.
There is a tense pause, broken by a thin smile creeping up the imp's face.
- "That moxie," he says, "I could use that. We're going to need to train her to play her part of the ritual. She's going to need a job to pay for training."
Erin asks his name
- "Oh, it's a little hard to pronounce, let me write it out for you."
- "Oh, no, that's ╞Σ═╧·→╤^╔╤≤r╚"
- >She faints
- >He takes her to the breakroom to recover
- >She wakes up
- "Are you okay, Erin?"
- "That was awesome. Do it again."
- "No. So, how did you say it? 'Hank'? Just call me that."
- "So, Hank, what did you do before you worked here?
- >-Pause- (see pic)
- "Oh, it's nothing you'd be interested in."
- "This cloak allows you to traverse the plains safely. It also keeps your shoulders warm. It will protect you from any of the elements: from wind, from rain, from heat, from cao'lais."
- "What's 'cao'lais'?"
- "Oh, you'll find out."
Meeting the Dark HeartsEdit
- "Kid, come over here, I got some humans for you to meet."
- "Yeah, humans, these guys, right here, the big masked face guys. They're human, like you."
- "Yeeeaaah... anyway, they're gonna teach you magic."
- "For what purpose?"
- "The sooner you learn how to shoot beams out of your eyes or hands or whatever the sooner you get to go home."
- "CORRECT, BUT FIRST-"
- "Dammit, not in my office. Last time you blew out my windows."
- "but first we will need an object to infuse with a magical charge as a temporary conduit to power your... new uniform, as you are not yet capable of activating it yourself. given time this will not be necessary."
- "And this is for?"
- "Because giving you private lessons for something everything else alive here has known how to do since they were just malformed little lumps of whatever is expensive and I expect you to compensate me for them."
- "Here, it's money."
- >Erin holds out a franc coin
- "WHAT'D I SAY?!"
- "it is now charged, do well not to lose it."
- "I meant for the screaming imp to take it."
When you separate your mind from your body, volume control is the first thing to go.
- >Exceedingly boisterous Dark Heart keeps shouting
- >One of the other masks switches in
- "Sorry, he's new."
- "I'VE BEEN PART OF THIS CABAL FOR ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY YEARS"
- "Relatively speaking, I mean."
- >A king needs a message delivered
- >Only the couriers and the wizards can cross the planes
- >And fuck the wizards
- >He has lost contact with an ally through a crystal ball
- >The "package" that Erin is delivering is in fact the knight, who must either renew contact, or report on why contact was lost
- "There is a legend in my kingdom. A hundred years ago, a renowned Knight-Captain, Adrianne the Red, led a troop of knights to slay the wizard in the silver tower of the eastern reaches. They say that the Wizard cursed her and her men to wander the colorless fog eternally, and they never returned."
- "Who says?"
- "Excuse me?"
- "If they all got trapped in the mist, who told everyone about it?"
- "Err... That is..."
- "I mean, I'll go look still, but yeah. That's a plot hole."
She finds the knight
- "A sword you don't know how to use isn't 'your sword.' It's nothing but useless metal in your hands and danger in an enemy's."
- "Drop and give me 10."
- [Erin drops and pushes herself up, and counts] "There. 10."
- "You should have done more without my cue." [disappointment intensifies]
- "Why aren't you cowering at my berating? What are you trying to pull?"
- "Oh, sorry, should I? I do not know how criticism is supposed to be taken in your culture."
Since almost anything Erin does causes Adrianne to become disappoint, is she secretly most disappoint of all that she still sees Erin, and that she hasn't found a way home?
- >At an inn
- >Erin asking how to get to a specific kingdom to a foreign inkeeper
- >Innkeeper is playing hard to get
- "Well, maybe I can be convinced to tell you..."
- >Adrianne grabs the scuff of their neck
- "Oh, there's no maybe about it."
- "Gertcha hands of me, ya crazy woman! I just wanted ya ter buy some drinks!"
A Slightly Atypical DayEdit
Imagine, if you will, a realm of boundless magic. A realm where every colour is saturated, where pixies and fairies conduct an endless reverie, where forests are filled with strange and heady fungi and every twist and turn uncovers a new wonder to be admired.
Now imagine at the center of this magical land there lies a gleaming white castle, with ramparts and crenellations to make even Walt Disney himself fall to his knees in tears at its beauty. And, in the great hall, the Elven King, handsome and haughty and noble, holds court for the all troubles of the land, from the smallest of inheritance claims to the urgent matters of brooding war. Right now, though, he was reading a letter.
Finally, imagine that in all this splendorous and wondrous beauty there exists a small splotch of darkness. A patch of apathy and resentment in stark contrast to both the stern countenances of the guards on either side and the shining marble underfoot. The girl (for girl she was) tapped her foot almost petulantly on the solid floor below. Of course, she was no ordinary girl. No, she served a malevolent and black-hearted master known for ensnaring the weak-willed, small-minded or downright unlucky.
- "Can I go now, please?"
The King raised an eyebrow. Now, in most sentients, the act of raising one's eyebrow in a scenario like that one would convey a sense of growing annoyance. In the Elven Kingdom it is the equivalent of hurling expletives in a fit of apoplectic rage. Compounded with the contents of the letter itself, and the fact that in all his time on the throne he had never heard the term "Don`t shoot the messenger, man" or "Hey I only deliver `em, I don`t write `em" before, was it really all that surprising when he ordered her head removed and presented on a platter?
Later on, she would be questioned about the precise manner of her escape. Would the guards be alright? How did the king get that bruise on his face? Was it really necessary to smash that priceless stained glass window inaccurately depicting the second elf-dwarf war?
The answers ran thusly: probably, when she accidentally kicked him in the face clambering up his throne, and yes because it was pivotal to her escape plan to smash cloak first through the window and fall into the sparkling clear water moat twenty feet below.
- "Thank you miss, thank you so much! If there is anything me or my people could do to-"
- "I like those drapes, and that guards cape looks quite alluring."
- "Oh, uhm, certainly. Fabric for our hero, quickly!"
My Kingdom for a Demon HorseEdit
Erin pulled her cloak tighter around herself as she stepped into the usual chill of the Courier’s Guild office. Her cloak was supposedly made out of raven feathers, but no Earth ravens had feathers that huge. Not on her Earth, anyways. There were others. Some of them were even more boring than the Earth she called home.
As seen from the upstairs balcony, the Guild’s main office was a mess of opposing architectural styles, as if each designer had contributed parts of the building without consulting the other members of the team. Halfway down the stairs, concrete gave way to polished marble. Neither the concrete nor the marble matched the railings, which were wooden with elaborate carvings spiraling up and down their length.
The staff was just as idiosyncratic as the building itself. No two employees seemed to be the same species. Some had legs, others had tentacles, and a solid percentage was just blobs of unknown composition. One screaming voice cut through the cacophony of languages and squelching noises to split the eardrums and sensory organs of everyone on the floor.
- “ERIN!” Her boss shouted from his desk in the middle of the floor. The Boss preferred to be in the center of the room so that every employee was within easy shouting distance. To compensate for his diminutive height, his chair and desk were propped up on stilts. “GET DOWN HERE! YOU’RE LATE!”
- “I’m ten minutes early,” Erin said, pointing to the giant clock mounted on the ceiling.
- “Oh, aren’t we precious with our human time measurements,” The Boss sneered. He tapped the Möbius strip around his wrist. “Can’t you even read a proper watch?”
- “So it’s going to be that kind of day, huh?” Erin brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Just get it over with and give me the delivery.”
- “Oh, it’s right behind you,” The Boss snickered.
Erin turned around to see a team of burly employees dragging an enormous horse in through the double doors. The horse had no skin and the muscle on its face was nearly all stripped away to expose the skull underneath. It kicked out and sent one of its handlers back through the door.
- “Do we have any rules at all about what we’ll deliver?” Erin asked. The Boss laughed as another courier was sent flying into a wall by the demonic horse.
- “Nope! This nasty bastard came in with an address and a bag of gold. That’s a fair contract in my book. Here’s the paperwork.” The Boss handed Erin a clipboard. “Try not to get too mangled. I don’t want to fill out any more insurance forms today.”
Erin stuffed the clipboard into her bag and approached the horse. One of the employees holding its reins tried to wave her off, but she ignored the frantic tentacle. Somebody was going to have to make the delivery. If you couldn’t handle one monstrous, murderous horse, what kind of courier were you?
The horse snorted a jet of fire through its nostrils at Erin’s approach, but she didn’t pause for a second. In the Courier’s Guild, you either learned how to handle guard creatures or you died. If you were lucky, it was just a matter of guessing which treats might pacify a specific creature so you could deliver the mail safely. Erin reached into her bag and pulled out a handful of frog guts. She walked right in front of the deadly horse and held up the guts in an outstretched palm. The horse snorted again, but extended a scaly tongue to snatch the frog out of her hand.
- “There’s a good boy,” Erin said. She patted the horse on its bony nose.
- “Oh yippee, you made a friend!” The Boss yelled sarcastically. “What are you waiting around for? Get going and make me some money, dammit!”
Erin rolled her eyes and took the horse’s reins. A mirror on the wall flared with light as it turned into a portal.
- “So where exactly am I going?” Erin asked before stepping through.
- “Oh, didn’t I say? You’re taking Skinless there to France,” The Boss said. Erin smiled and hopped right into the portal. The Boss waited until it had closed behind her to chuckle. “I didn’t say it was your France.”
Erin emerged into the morning sunlight of an immaculately trimmed garden. Behind her, the portal expanded to accommodate the horse’s bulk before collapsing as it exited. The demon horse seemed much more relaxed here than it had been at the Guild’s office. To be fair, Erin felt more at home here as well. The air in other planes of existence always smelled wrong if there were no Earth plants around. Maybe she would find some excuse to stick around for a day or two after making this delivery.
Erin took her time strolling along the garden path with the horse in tow behind her. Presumably, the enormous mansion in front of her was where the recipient lived. The mansion had been designed to give the impression of a fairy-tale castle, with its tall windows and delicate stonework. Erin preferred the kind of castle with more of an emphasis on torches, dungeons, and skeletons.
Before touching the door, Erin spent a minute performing the customary Courier’s Guild inspection for traps, land mines, and large angry dogs. The horse gave her what she imagined to be a scornful look, although animated skulls were always hard to interpret.
- “Don’t give me that look,” Erin told the horse as she knocked on the door. “You know how many couriers have stepped on punji stakes in the last month?”
The door opened to reveal a young man in a crisp butler’s uniform. He eyed Erin up and down, taking in her raven cloak, corseted dress, fishnets, and combat boots with a grim expression.
- “Can I help you, miss?” The butler asked in the coldest tone possible.
- “Yeah, I need to deliver a package to-“ Erin glanced at her paperwork “-a Veronique Sanguinaire? Does she live here?”
- “Mademoiselle Sanguinaire is currently occupied and does not wish to be disturbed. Good day, miss.”
- “Wait wait wait!” Erin jammed her foot in the door before the butler could slam it shut. “Can you just tell her that I have this horse to give her?”
- “Seems like you have a history here, hmm?’ Erin asked the horse. It gave a decidedly sheepish whinny.
- “What’s all this then?” a high, feminine voice asked. Erin turned back to the door to see a girl in a black coat and long black riding boots with gold toecaps. Her red eyes were the same color as her cravat, contrasting nicely with her pale face and golden ringlets.
Erin opened her mouth to explain, but all she saw was a red blur. Veronique was already past her by the time Erin realized that the girl had moved. The horse nuzzled Veronique with what was probably supposed to be affection. For her part, Veronique did not seem particularly perturbed by the appearance of a skinless horse on her front lawn.
- “Alright, your delivery today consists of (1) a giant demon in the form of a horse, (2) accompanying accoutrements, and (3) a letter stuffed inside the left saddlebag,” Erin said, reading from a clipboard. Veronique immediately rooted around inside the saddlebag and snatched out the letter. “Thank you for using the Courier’s Guild™. Please sign for your package on the dotted line.”
- “And just where did you acquire this horse?” Veronique asked when she looked up from the letter. Her red eyes had the same dangerous glint that her horse’s black eyes had back at the Guild.
- “Somebody sent in the standard Guild delivery fee with your name and address. Anyways, could you sign the form?” Erin held out the clipboard, mostly to put something between her and an increasingly angry Veronique, who had a rapier hanging from her belt.
- “This was my father’s warhorse,” Veronique whispered. She walked slowly towards Erin, who began backing up while trying not to trip on garden decorations.
- “That’s... nice?”
- “When Father was murdered, it passed to my older brother Tristan. He also died in battle. I inherited his titles, his responsibilities, and his sword.” Veronique reached out to pet the horse’s bony nose. “We always did wonder what happened to the horse, though.”
- “And now everyone’s reunited, so it all worked out! You know, I also need to reunite my boss and this form, so if you’ll sign here-“
- “We buried Tristan six years ago,” Veronique said. She drew her rapier with practiced ease. “So why are you here, now, delivering a letter with his seal? Is it some kind of trap, or just a cruel joke?”
- “Look, the horse just showed up with the letter and money, alright?” Under the cover of her cloak, Erin dropped her clipboard and put her hand on the hilt of her own sword. “I can’t tell you any more than that, because I don’t know anything. I deliver things all over the place, but I don’t know where they come from.”
- “You think I’m just going to believe that? Who sent you here, the Armands? The Waldsteins?” Veronique brought her rapier up to point at Erin. The tip wavered back and forth as Veronique’s eyes became a brighter and brighter red. “Stop lying!”
Veronique’s sword came dangerously close to Erin’s face. Erin pulled her cloak aside to try and draw her own blade, but Veronique brought the flat of her rapier down on Erin’s knuckles before she could draw it halfway.
- “Ow! That was so unnecessary,” Erin said. She wiped her skinned knuckles off on her cloak, which absorbed the blood like a sponge without leaving a stain. “I’m done here. You’ve probably got a busy day of stabbing delivery people, so I’ll leave you to it.”
Veronique lunged before Erin could even think to open an emergency portal. Erin winced in anticipation as the rapier came straight at her chest. Instead of piercing her heart, the rapier seemed to vanish within the inky depths of her cloak. Veronique withdrew it and stabbed again, only to have just as little effect against the cloak as the first time.
- “Damn it!” Veronique yelled. She threw her sword point-first into the ground. Erin turned to leave.
- “You’re kind of cute when you’re mad,” Erin said. She flipped a coin up into the air, where it expanded into a portal. “But maybe trying smiling sometime. Or not stabbing people.”
Before Erin could step through, something hit her hard from behind and knocked her to the ground. For such a petite girl, Veronique had a solid tackle. The two girls rolled around in the grass, but Erin soon found herself pinned. A shadow fell over both of them. The demon horse put its enormous head down and bumped Veronique with its nose. She shrugged it off, but the horse snorted a little gout of flame and stomped with its front hoof.
- “I think it wants you to stop,” Erin advised. Veronique frowned and the horse bumped her more forcefully. She finally let go of Erin’s wrist. Erin pushed herself up and brushed the grass out of her hair. “See? He knew I was telling the truth. Who’s a good skinless demon horse? Yes you are!”
- “I should have realized that no one as weak as you would be sent to try and kill me,” Veronique muttered. Erin gave her a withering look. At least Veronique had the courtesy to look properly ashamed. Her eyes’ hellish glow diminished back to their normal ruby red. “I mean…I’m sorry. For hurting you.”
- “It’s a bit late for that, but at this point, I’m really just happy to not be stabbed,” Erin said. “You’re not the first person to react badly to a letter.”
- “And there’s no way to tell who sent it?” Veronique asked desperately. She pressed the letter into Erin’s hands. “Please!”
Erin took the torn scrap of paper and held it up to the light. It appeared to be written in blood, which was at least a step up from some of the fluids Erin had seen staining letters. On one side, Veronique’ name and the address of her mansion had been written in a shaky hand above the initials T.S. The other side featured a crude sigil of a bird. Erin’s jaw clenched involuntarily at the sight of it.
- “I can’t tell you who sent this,” Erin said. “But I can tell you where it came from. I’ve made deliveries to the dimension that crest comes from. It’s…not a fun place.”
- “Can you take me there?” Veronique asked.
- “Well, maybe, if you had started with that. But now? Definitely a no.”
- “What if I paid you to deliver me there?” Veronique grabbed Erin’s hand. “Please? I can pay anything.”
- “Uh...” Erin had been hoping that it wouldn’t come to this. Technically, by Guild law, she had to offer Veronique a price for her services. But nothing in the rules said that the price had to be fair or reasonable. “How about two perfect diamonds and the tears of a virgin?”
Veronique pushed her ringlets aside to reveal diamond studs on her ears. She took removed her earrings, then poked herself in the thumb with one of the pins. Her small, round face screwed up and her eyelashes fluttered.
- “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Erin said. Despite her tears, Veronique smiled.
- “Surprised?” she asked, wiping tears off her face. Somehow she managed to avoid smearing her mascara. Erin shook her head.
- “In retrospect, this explains so much about you.” Erin held out her hand to prevent Veronique from handing over a pair of tear-soaked earrings. “No, just... you can keep them. Please.”
- “So where are we going?” Veronique asked. She jumped to her feet and dusted off her black jacket. Erin snapped her fingers. The portal hanging in the air shimmered and gave off a light silver glow.
- “We’re going to see someone who will know what that symbol means. I think you two will get along. You and Adrienne have so much in common.”
- “Like what?” Veronique hesitated in front of the portal. For some reason, she seemed reluctant to step through a rift in space/time. Erin snatched Veronique’s hand and pulled her in.
- “Let’s find out!”
The two girls stepped out of the portal onto a road paved with crumbling white stone. Once, the road had been well cared for, but the foliage on either side of the road now threatened to overrun it completely. A headless statue of a barrel-chested man had markings carved on his bare arms, presumably pointing the way to places that were long since abandoned.
- “Ugh, this is primeval,” Veronique complained. The click of her bootheels on the road sent the local wildlife scurrying in all directions. “And you said people live here?”
- “They scrape by.” Erin kicked a rusty helmet that had nearly been cut in half. “Well, some do. Sometimes they aren’t so lucky.”
- “Disgusting.” Veronique grabbed her horse’s bridle. “So where is this friend of yours?”
- “I said I knew her, not that she was my friend,” Erin said. She snatched her coin out from the portal behind her and set off down the road. “But that bird sign’s from this plane. They’re more interested in symbols than words here.”
- “And your acquaintance will know what it means?” Veronique fell into step alongside Erin. She kept up pretty well despite her shorter legs. Not too many humans could manage the pace of a Courier, but Erin wasn’t entirely sure how human Veronique was.
- “If anyone would, it’s Adrienne. She’s the only person I’ve met here who’s even literate.”
- “And yet they still need a courier?” Veronique asked.
- “Hey, everybody needs the mail delivered. In some places, the mail is someone’s head. Different strokes for different folks.” Erin dragged a finger across her throat. “Usually one about neck height.”
- “Did you spend much time coming up with that?” Veronique asked with a roll of her eyes.
- “Hey, I spend a lot of time by myself in this job.” Erin shrugged. “You have to keep yourself entertained somehow.”
The two girls (and a demon horse) walked on in silence for what felt like several miles before encountering another statue. This one had his head intact and his hands pointed out a fork in the road. A stone tower poked defiantly through the forest canopy farther down the right hand path.
- “That’s where Adrienne lives,” Erin said. “Word of advice: don’t offend her or we’ll both regret it.”
- “What offends her?” Veronique asked in a whisper. The base of the tower could now be seen through the trees.
- “Basically everything,” Erin sighed. “Oh heyyyyy Adrienne...”
A woman sat on the front step of the tower, but gave no indication that she had heard Erin or noticed the visitors. Her attention was fully occupied by the armored breastplate she was polishing in her lap. The armor was made out of overlapping steel plates, but the fittings were all made out of a reddish bronze. Adrienne’s tunic was dyed to imitate the dull red of the bronze.
- “Are you getting ready for a fight?” Erin asked. Behind her, Veronique inspected Adrienne’s gear, which had all been laid out on a sheet of canvas.
- “I am always ready for battle,” Adrienne said. She finished polishing the breastplate and nodded to herself while checking over her work. “That is my function, as yours is to deliver the words of diplomats and other such worthless things.”
- “That’s not always true. Look, I brought Veronique today! She’s not entirely useless.”
- “Thanks for the introduction,” Veronique said flatly. Adrienne finally looked up. Her eyes were bloodshot and had bags underneath them. She squinted at the two girls in front of her.
- “In your homeland, do humans usually live underground? Or is anemia simply natural to your people? Everyone from your world is so pallid.”
- “How many times have we been over this?” Erin rolled her eyes. “We need your help with something.”
- “You asked for my assistance in learning the arts of combat once too,” Adrienne said in an admonishing tone. “Yet I see by the injury to your knuckles and the slightness of your frame that you have not kept up with my training regimen.”
- “Enough!” Veronqiue shouted. She shoved her letter under Adrienne’s nose. “Do you know what this symbol is or not?”
- “I know of it,” Adrienne said. She took the letter from Veronique and ran her finger all across the symbol. “But you should not have need of it.”
- “I have to know if it’s from my brother,” Veronique pleaded.
- “He might be dead,” Erin helpfully added. Veronique glared at her. Adrienne shook her head and passed the letter back to Veronique.
- “This is the mark of a place of sanctuary. It appears to those in dire need, but hides from those who seek it. Its sacred walls cannot be violated by the eyes of the uninitiated.”
- “But what if we did know someone who was initiated?’ Erin asked. She picked up a shield from Adrienne’s pile of gear which was embossed with dozens of tiny signs. “Like, maybe, a knight devoted to the old ways?”
- “Your perception is only matched by your lack of respect, little messenger raven,” Adrienne said. “I am bound by oath to never reveal its location.”
- “I’m a knight in my world too,” Veronique said. “But my oaths are to my family. I won’t leave until I’ve found my brother, even if I have to burn this forest to the ground.”
Adrienne and Veronique met each other with a flat look and an intense stare. Erin waited a few seconds before coughing into her hand.
- "So...," Erin said, looking around with a forced smile, "Has anyone heard the new Unending Torment album? I heard it's not as good as their first."
Adrienne and Veronique ignored her. Finally, Adrienne nodded.
- “I believe you. We are both determined to fulfill our vows.” Adrienne rose and picked up her sword from the canvas. It made a quiet slithering noise as it was drawn from the leather scabbard. “We are fortunate that our knighthood has supplied us with the means to resolve such disputes.”
- “Agreed.” Veronique’s rapier appeared in her hand too fast for Erin to see her draw it. Erin stepped between the two blades and held out her hands.
- “This is not what I had in mind when I asked for your help, Adrienne. All we needed were some directions.”
- “And you may get them yet.” Adrienne pulled a folded piece of paper from her tunic to show the other two. “Giving you a map to the sanctuary would violate my oaths just as much as taking you there. However, if I were to be defeated in battle- and the map taken from me by force- then neither of us will have broken our oaths.”
- “And of course, you’d say it was dishonorable to lose on purpose just to get it over with?” Erin asked in exasperation. Adrienne smiled for the first time since the conversation began. Erin threw her hands up and walked away from the pair of idiots with swords. “Of course you would.”
The moment Erin had stepped out of the way, Veronique lunged with her rapier extended in front of her. Adrienne didn’t try to parry, but leaned backwards at the last second so that the rapier passed harmlessly through the air. Adrienne jabbed out with the rounded pommel of her sword to catch Veronique on the temple. Veronique staggered backwards, but Adrienne did not press her advantage.
Veronique’s horse pawed anxiously at the ground with its front hoof. Its black eyes bulged as its master attacked Adrienne over and over without any apparent effect. Veronique was almost too fast to be seen, attacking from every direction and angle possible. Adrienne simply stood and waited until the perfect moment to dodge or block. Though she couldn’t match her opponent’s blinding speed, she was so strong that even a glancing parry would disrupt Veronique’s attacks. The horse snorted a puff of smoke and looked over at Erin.
- “Don’t give me that,” Erin said. “I tried to get them to stop. You know what these types are like, completely ridicule-“
A yelp of pain from Veronique interrupted Erin’s train of thought. Adrienne had come out of her defensive posture and nicked Veronique’s sword-arm. The bloodstain quickly soaked through the sleeve of her black jacket. Veronique swapped her sword to her left hand and continued to press on. She paid for her aggression when Adrienne kicked her feet out from under her, knocking Veronique flat on her back and sending her rapier flying out of her hand.
- “Time to yield,” Adrienne announced flatly. Veronique snatched her sword in her injured and tried to swing, but Adrienne stomped down on her injured wrist. “You shouldn’t test the limits of an opponent’s mercy. Foolhardiness is not a lesser vice to cowardice.”
Veronique twisted and punched Adrienne in the kneecap and rolled away as the knight stepped off of Veronique’s wrist. She climbed to her feet, but her rapier was on the ground a yard away from her. Adrienne kicked it backwards.
- “You are clearly in need of a lesson on when to yield. Allow me to instruct you.” Adrienne carefully laid her own sword to the ground and walked slowly towards Veronique. Erin grimaced and slid her bag off of her shoulder. No matter what, this wouldn’t end well for her.
- “Sorry, Adrienne.” Erin swung her bag by its shoulder strap. It connected with the back of Adrienne’s head with a nasty crack. The knight fell face-forward to the grass. Veronique gave Erin a wide-eyed look. Erin could only shrug in response. “Hey, I was paid to deliver you somewhere. I couldn’t let you get beaten to death before then.”
- “Do you think she would have actually killed me?” Veronique asked. She knelt to retrieve her sword and cautiously reached out to feel Adrienne’s neck for a pulse.
- “I don’t know that she would have, but I also don’t know that she wouldn’t.” Erin sheepishly slung her bag over her shoulder again. “Is she, uh, still alive?”
- “Yes, but we should be a long way from here when she wakes up.” Veronique snatched the map from Adrienne’s tunic and held it up in a triumphant, bloody fist. “Let’s go!”
- “Shouldn’t we take a break? You need to put something on that cut,” Erin pointed out. Veronique shook her head. She stuck her foot into the stirrups of her horse’s saddle and yanked herself up with her good hand. The skinless horse tossed its head and pranced back and forth in delight.
- “How am I going to ride?” Erin asked. Veronique extended her hand.
- “On Veillantif with me, of course. He’s a warhorse; he can carry the two of us,” Veronique said. “Of course, if you want to continue tramping about on foot like some kind of peasant, be my guest.”
Erin had been fine with being near the skinless horse, but wasn’t sure how she felt about actually riding the thing. In the end, she decided that you couldn’t honestly call yourself a goth if you weren’t going to take the chance to ride a horse with a skeleton for a head. Pass up an opportunity like that and you might as well get your fishnets at Hot Topic. She grabbed Veronique’s hand and hoisted herself up, sitting sidesaddle in order to accommodate her dress.
- “Hold on tight.” Veronique took up the reins in a firm grip. Erin reached around Veronique’s waist in a firm grip as well.
- “Do you do a lot of sit-ups? It feels like you do a lot of sit-ups,” Erin said.
- “Ugh, don’t make this weird.” Veronique flicked the reins. Veillantif shot forwards in a full gallop that took the breath right out of Erin. His hooves clattered on the broken stone road. Soon enough, they were out of the woods and onto a rolling plain.
Even though Erin was sitting on the back of the saddle, she was nearly a head taller than Veronique, so her view of the open countryside was spectacular. Small grey clouds of smoke marked cooking fires from distant settlements. Seeing the place from this height made her realize how little of it she had seen on previous visits.
Veronique leaned forward to look at the map and tugged Veillantif’s reins. The road passed nearby an apple orchard. The people tending the trees pointed and shouted as the demonic horse galloped by, but the strange trio was past them too quickly to make out what they were saying.
The gentle incline of the plains eventually gave way to craggy hills, where bare rock poked through the grass. Veronique tugged on the reins to pull Veillantif out of his mad gallop to navigate the broken terrain. The gallop slowed to a trot, which halted altogether when they arrived in front of a smooth wall of stone set into the side of a hill. There were no marks from explosives or tools except for a small round circle carved in the middle of the wall. The circle contained the same bird symbol that had been scrawled on the letter.
Veronique hopped out of the saddle and hit the ground running. She began examining the wall inch by inch while Erin slowly climbed down from the tall saddle. Veronique was rapping on the wall with the hilt of a dagger, but hadn’t found any hollow part yet. Erin ran her fingers across the stone. This place had obviously been constructed with magic at great effort and expense. No one trying to hide a place this well would leave an obvious point of entry.
Erin sat back against the wall to rest as Veronique continued to try and breach it. She had given up on listening for hollow spaces and was currently trying to pry at the corners and edges with her sword. The rapier did not break or chip, despite the abuse it was taking. Veronique let out a cry of fury and bashed the basket hilt of her sword into the wall. She did nothing but reopen her own wound.
- “Come here and sit down for a minute,” Erin suggested. Veronique threw herself to the ground in a huff. She put her head in her hands and started to sob.
- “I-I thought I was going to find my brother, but all I’ve done is attack people and lose him all over again,” she said. “I came all this way and I can’t even get past a damn rock.”
- “Hey, don’t talk like that. I can go back to the Guild and get someone who can help. Or dynamite. That would help too.” Erin put her arm around Veronique’s shoulders. “But first, take off your jacket.”
- “What are you doing?” Veronique asked suspiciously, but allowed Erin to take the coat. Erin reached into her bag and pulled out a first aid kit.
- “We need to take care of that cut before you bleed to death,” Erin said. She tore open a package and took out an antiseptic wipe. “This will sting a little bit…”
To her credit, Veronique didn’t make a sound through her clenched jaw as Erin cleaned up the cut. Veronqiue only breathed out again after Erin had tied off the bandage.
- “I have an ulterior motive, you know,” Erin said in a teasing voice. “I can’t let a package get ruined before I deliver it. They kick you out of the Guild if you mess up deliveries.”
- “Haha, very funny,” Veronique said with a roll of her eyes. She settled back against the cool stone and closed her eyes. “Really, though, you’ve been nicer to me than I deserve. My brother was like you, always helping people. One time, Tristan-“
At the sound of Veronique’s brother’s name, a door-shaped opening in the wall appeared directly beneath the bird symbol. Erin peered around the corner into the darkness.
- “Looks like we’re in business.” She rummaged around in her bag for a flashlight, but there was no need. As soon as Veronique had stepped inside, a soft blue light appeared in the tunnel’s ceiling. The light revealed a trail of dried blood leading further inside. Veronique took one look at the blood and ran headlong into the tunnel.
- “Wait up!” Erin called, but the sound of Veronique’s boots was already far ahead. Erin looked back at Veillantif, who gave her as mournful an expression as its skeleton face could muster. “Sorry, Skully. Just wait out here for us, okay?”
Erin followed the blood trail deeper and deeper into the hillside. Although the walls seemed slightly cramped, the tunnel’s ethereal blue lights and faint scent of flowers made it seem relaxing. The tunnel ended in a wide room with a high, domed ceiling. The blue lights were gone in favor of a skylight that had not been visible on the hilltop.
The skylight shone down on where the blood stains ended: the center of the room, where Veronique knelt crouched over the body of a young man. His uniform, a scarlet tunic with a black fur pelisse thrown over one shoulder, made it difficult to see the blood soaking his clothes until you got up close.
- “Tristan!” Veronique said quietly. “Tristan! Can you hear me?”
- “V-Veronique? That can’t be you... only been a day...” Tristan opened his eyes, which were the same shade of red as his sister’s. “Did that woman bring Veillantif to you? Told me she’d find you...”
- “We all thought you were dead! They gave us your body!” Veronique cried. “Is this really you?”
- “Think I might be dead... hard to think straight here.” Tristan’s head fell back, but Veronique caught him. “My unit got ambushed outside Salzburg. Hussites were all over us. Did you get the sword?”
- “They found it on a body too mangled to identify. That’s why we thought it was you.” Veronique wiped a smear of dried blood from her brother’s forehead. “Tristan, how bad are your wounds? Erin’s got a first aid kit, we could-“
- “Too bad to fix,” Tristan said. Veronique tried to shift his pelisse to look at his injuries, but he held up a shaking hand to stop her. “Ronnie... you can’t do anything for me. The red lady said... she said this place would keep me alive long enough to see you again. But I’m as good as dead.”
Veronique burst into tears again. Erin turned around to go back to the tunnel entrance and give the siblings some privacy. This was not a place to intrude on someone else’s grief. Erin emerged into the sunlight only to find Adrienne leaning against the sanctuary’s wall. She was sharpening her sword with the same careful deliberation that she did everything.
- “It was you who brought him here, wasn’t it?” Erin said. “The red lady. I should have realized that he couldn’t have found this place by himself.”
- “That horse brought him here from his home dimension,” Adrienne said. “He was beyond the reach of a healer when the beast brought him to my tower. So I put him in the sanctuary to buy him time.”
- “And you were the one who sent the horse and the money into the Guild’s office.”
- “I knew that if anyone could find his home realm and contact his family, it would be the Courier’s Guild.” Adrienne looked up from her sword. “I requested you specifically. I didn’t want to take the risk of someone even less competent than you being involved.”
- “Competent enough to take you out,” Erin muttered. Adrienne laughed, the first time Erin had ever heard her do so.
- “Oh my. Erin, child, do you imagine for a second that a warrior of my experience would be blind to someone sneaking up on them?” Adrienne sheathed her sword. “I was not lying when I spoke to you before. I am only allowed to bring people to the sanctuary if they truly are in need. Others have to prove that they are worthy.”
- “And if Veronique hadn’t won, you wouldn’t have let her see her brother before he died?” Erin asked.
- Adrienne shook her head. “The sister had to prove that she would not give up. She showed that she would not yield. And you showed that you would let nothing get between you and helping a friend who desperately needed it. Even at the cost of incurring my wrath.”
- “So I passed?” Erin said hopefully.
- “You did the right thing, if not the entirely honorable one.” Adrienne scowled. “In fact, it was base, vile, utterly wretched, cowardly-“
- “I’ve had enough compliments from you for one day,” Erin said. “I think I’ll stick to getting yelled at in the future.”
- “There is plenty of yelling left in your future, Erin de Gaulle. For today, you should be proud of yourself.” Adrienne clapped her on the shoulder. Presumably it was meant to be a friendly gesture, but Erin could already feel the bruise forming.
Footsteps echoed in the tunnel. Veronique emerged with Tristan leaning heavily on her shoulders. Her face was smudged from tears. Tristan grimaced with every step. His sister’s support was the only thing keeping him upright.
- “Tell Mother I died on…died on my feet. Sword?” Tristan held out his right hand. Now that he was standing, Erin could see that his left arm had nearly been severed above the elbow. Veronique handed him her rapier. In Tristan’s grip, the sword twisted and morphed into the shape of a cavalry saber. “Wouldn’t be right... without it.”
Tristan slowly straightened himself up and, with an extreme effort visible on his face, stepped off from Veronique under his own strength. He turned to the three women, made an attempt at a salute with his saber, and fell. Despite the pain of his final moments, his expression in death was a smile.
- "Look, E. Can I call you E.? I'm a guide, OK? I guide. I scout; I'm the one that says 'Woah, don't go that way, it's dangerous!' You? You carry the parcel."
- 'But eets too eavy!'
- "So, I don't even have hands. So suck it up, sister."
It's a case of them meeting up, and him seeing how much she gets paid, and realizing this is a quick way to get some cash together to pay of his debt, so he joins her during a delivery.
- "Hey, you woulda been lost without me. Give me some dough."
- "Awww... Can I have a job?"
- "Sure. OK. I guess so."
- "Great! Let's go partner."
- "Do you make pretty music pretty bird? You look like it, and your name implies."
And it turns out he has a really nice singing voice, but covers it up because fuck you I'm a beast on the inside.
- >Hank just stares at him when he comes in.
- >Erin explains.
- >He rummages around, gets another job application, stapled to a faded IOU.
- "Is there anyone you don't owe money to?"
- "Um... You?"
- "Five gold, back at the-"
- "Fine... Fine..."
- "I used ta be the biggest fooken bird in the dimension, I'm tellin ya I was!"
- "Oiseau godiche."
- "I was! They calls me Gutter in the hollows. Tore through mole and beast like pyroclast."
- "Guitar is very fitting, your twitter is very charming. Tell me more."
- "Really, wait no its GUTTER."
- "As I said, Guitar."
And then he's the bearded vulture of indignation.
- "So, how did you end up working here?"
- "Eh, I got into debt."
- "Birds have debt?"
- "They do if they lose at cards, Miss."
- "You're all out, bird. Pay up."
- "Um... Squawk squawk?"
- "Nice try."
- "Ya' know what, birdbrain, I'm going to make this one poetic. I kept winnin cuz you wore your emotions all over yer face."
- "Now your gonna wear your emotions all over, say hello to the pretty bird in the mirror. I'm expectin' my due by the end of the century, or it's more than ya appearances you'll be lamentin'."
- "Oi, you, toots. You better not try anything funny with Erin, or you'll be having me to deal with."
- "I'm so terrified. What will you do? Flap at me?"
- "Let's just say I wasn't always so little, and if you try anything you wont always be so alive? Capiche? (Don't let her know I said this. I don't want her thinking I care, which I don't.)"
- >Erin has to slowly earn magic.
- >re-meets Adrianne
- "Ah, my friend, how has your swordplay been progressing?"
- "Okay, I guess. But check out what I can do. Pew pew."
- "Magic? Absolutely disgusting. You realize I was trapped in that fog because of your beloved 'maajicks'?
- In the old kingdom a sorcerer produced thunder tubes. That is to say he made a business of bottling lightning, selling them from discreet vendors in the rough parts of cities. Across the kingdom a wave of indiscriminate carnage rose. Where a knife or an arrow picks a target, these electric rods would burn anything in front of them. Anything. I was tasked with ending his production. When I finally did find him, told him of what his 'business' had done to families, he simply turn one towards himself. He did not suffer a second. No trial, no imprisonment, no hanging, he escaped all that. I often make my disdain for your choices known, for your benefit, but if you use such a careless and misanthropic device you will be dead to me."
- "A sword you can't use? How disappointing. An animal sidekick? How immature. Magic? I expected better of you, Erin."
- "I've had this coin with me for 10 years."
- "Really now? Well, I am impressed."
- "You are?"
- "Yes. Impressed that you still find ways to disappoint me."
Adrianne joins Erin on a normal adventure.
- "That is an awful shade of blue. Erin, how much longer will this guest be with us? Now you're an awful shade of red, why can't you just stay one color like a proper bird?"
- "CAW YOU, YOU DON'T KNOW ME!"
- "Shush petite feathers. Adrianne, please let me explain-"
- "I like that red much more, how do we get it to stay that shade?"
- "KEEP TALKING YOU-"
- "Very well."
She sees Erin dancing or something while using a sword. It's surprisingly effective.
- "You should be ashamed of yourself."
- "I saved our lives."
- "Better to die in honorable combat than live with such a barbaric victory."
- >[INDIFFERENCE INTENSIFIES]
- "How is that even possible?"
Erin goes to visit Adrianne when she has a few days off, and Gutter is flopping around bored during a training session.
- Addriene: "If you want, you can join in. I'll get you a toothpick."
Boss Imp had to go through great lengths to retrieve his "family tree" which is an actual tree monster who has the history carved into both its body and memory.
This was one of Erin's first, more serious missions.
- "Oh, are you the little prince's betrothed?"
- "Odd. Nobody ever comes to me unless they have a litter to carve on me."
- "He requires your presence. It is a... legal matter."
- "I can tell no lie, let my bark show the truth. Tell him I'll be right there."
Creaks, imperceptibly tilts.
- "Je vais penser à quelque chose, arbre ridicule."
- "Excuse me?"
- "I said it is a matter of no urgence, but I am payed by the delivery, not hour."
An elephant demon and a wooden crate of holding. Can't use the veil, they aren't moving between dimensions. Just hang a company banner on the side. Demon delivery vehicle.
The demon tree would either be elated to finally know what it's like to be on the move, or terrified by the very idea of moving.
- "Kid, get in my office. No you're not fired. Shut up and listen. You might have noticed I've sent you and bipolar bird on a lot of personal 'errands' lately. Hank says it's not nice to keep ya in the dark, so I'm gonna give you the story and your options. Ms. Ezebel, if you could get the memory projector, then have the rest of the day to yourself."
In the Court of the Crimson King plays.
- "Now I'm sure a lot of that made little sense. The papers, tomes, scrolls and such you've been retrieving let me piece together a story of sorts. I'm the firstborn son of the Crimson King, lord of the black flame and sovereign of the Nexus. Us demons arise from all over, and a certain king in yellow infiltrated our kingdom from one of the 'corrupted' realms. What the court took for a jest was the pale mask of madness."
- "I could see the life strings he pulled and tugged. Thought I could warn everyone about his influence. He turned my family against me, cast me out as a pretender to throne. 'No son of the Crimson King could be so puny' said the jester."
And for once the imp wasn't angry, he simply stared at the projection as his black clad mother shut the gates in his face.
- "So what's it gonna be? Help a prince reclaim his kingdom, or back to delivering letters?"
- "Hey Erin"
- "Yes Guitar?"
- "I just noticed, you look almost cheerful. Can't put my beak on it though. Same colors, same marble face, oh."
- "You're not hiding behind your clothes, you're wearing them."
Going on a plane rideEditNot all the workers of the Demon Post Office are wanderers carrying stuff in bags, even if the bag is magic, that's massively inefficient. Some carry packages in very large amounts (if Erin's bag can fit the year's order of the alchemist's guild, imagine how much could fit in a chest).
A pilot of some kind of air craft regularly takes large amounts of packages to worlds that have multiple, large orders. Sort of the UPS to Erin's courier. She's semi-needed since not all planes have ground ("Careful not to fall out, there's nothing down there - I've checked").
She's slightly more adventurous than Erin, but this often takes a back-seat to something more important: the masses of paperwork she must manage for such a large quantity of packages.
- Erin: "I've been told I'm riding with you on this delivery."
- Pilot: "No. Do you have any idea what an extra passenger and your parcels does to my paperwork?"
- Gutter: "Another TWO passengers, lady."
- Pilot: "Great. Let me get a H12."
- Erin: "H12?"
- Pilot: "H12. A form to go on the front of re-completed paperwork. You've never filled out a H12."
- Gutter: "We don't get any of that. Guess we're just too good. Move over lady, we got a job to do."
Meeting The Fire WitchEditThe Fire Witch pays the post office a visit in person.
- "I demand to see the Guild Master."
- "Do you have an appointment?"
- "There are no means by which to make an appointment with the Guild Master. I've checked."
- "You're free to wait in the lobby until the boss has an opening."
- "Maybe I will this time."
- "Your hat is on fire."
- "Fire Witch: My hat IS fire."
- "How does it keep your head dry in the rain then?"
- "The only thing it rains in my realm is fire."
- "Are the plants made of fire too?"
- "Erin, who are you talking to- oh. Oh. And what do we owe the pleasure of a visit from The Fire Witch?"
- "I want to see the Guild Master."
- "I'm the Post Master."
- "No, the GUILD Master."
- "But I am the Post Master."
- "The one in charge!"
- "All guild establishments are kept charged by portals to the outer Nexus which cause a separation of-"
The Fire Witch starts flaring up.
- "I'm leaving... before I burn this place to ashes."
Exit The Fire Witch.
- "Not that you could burn it if you tried with how deeply into the Nexus we are."
Enter Gutter with some singed tail feathers.
- Erin: "Did you owe the flaming lady money?"
- "No! I make a point NOT to make deals with any of the 12 Demon "Kings". Especially not the one who'd turn me into a roasted turkey or fried chicken."
- "Did you just do air quotes with your feathers?"
- "Well not all of them are guys, or even kings."
The Cryptic SkeinEdit
- "Kid, I got another job for you. Get in here. OK, good, so our Dark Heart associates are telling me that you've basically got a handle on the basics of using magic now, right?"
- Erin just waves her hand around sending sparkles everywhere.
- "Yeah, real cute. Now they're telling me that if you're ever gonna learn anything even remotely useful, you gotta go retrieve a different golem for them, and before you start with the questions, no it can't just walk here itself because they have no idea where it is. How they lost it, I don't know. Apparently it was being used at The Cryptic Skein as a teacher or something."
- "It's what you call a school."
- "Go there, find whatever closet they stuffed the golem in, then come back. And also try not to annoy The Rune Keeper like you did The Fire Witch. I don't like taking calls from any of those guys."
On the plane wherein the The Cryptic Skein is found, there exists a large collection of imps of all kinds. These imps hold a belief that they have been protected by their matron goddess since long before anyone in living memory was born. In recent decades, each new generation of imps has shown more intelligence than the last, this is in no small part to the immense magic radiating out from The Cryptic Skein. They have begun to undergo a massive culture shift with their own written language and religion at the epicenter of it all.
With the completion of their civilization's first library approaching, it is at this time that a certain scribe among them has requested the services of the Courier's Guild to deliver the newly completed holy book of the imps to what they see as their benefactor, The Cryptic Skein.
As Erin strode down the twisting halls of The Cryptic Skein one thing was becoming evidently clear: she had become completely and without question, lost. Her usual guide had excused himself form this job, something about an overdue book fine. Many of the rooms themselves were positively alien to her human eyes, of the ones that she was able to comprehend with her narrow perception of reality, they were filled with creatures of all shapes and sizes, demons of all classes busying themselves learning. Of note, she found that many of the rooms shared a common figure, a book hovering over some manner of cloaks, robes, or other such garments, aided by no less than five but no more than nine floating hands made of stone parts.
In one such room she happened to peer into, Erin could hear parts of the lecture the book was reciting
- "...demon, Prim Nocusly, was successful in taming a void beast beginning the era of expansion. With the ability to traverse the infinite yet non-existent space between linear planes, demon kind began..."
It seemed to be a history course of some sort. Her time listening in was interrupted almost as soon as it began with an echoing whispering voice in her ear
- "Ho there, I do not recall seeing your face before. Are you a new arrival seeking greater wisdom?"
The voice, coming from a demon resembling a localized snake-like tornado with a carved stone for a head, was not unfamiliar to Erin as she had seen them in the guild before, so she remained nonplussed.
- "I was sent from the Courier's Guild to deliver this parcel. Might you direct me to the editorial offices?"
- "But of course guild friend. I am Eumestus, propel yourself this way and I shall be your guide."
- "Erin de Gaulle. Thank you."
And so they were off, Erin's guide led her up walls and onto ceilings, down pathways which seemed to loop back on themselves only to lead somewhere different, past entirely different wings of the ever changing structure, overhearing bits of the general lecture of the day on what Erin thought she heard as 17th dimensional mathematics. Until they had arrived at a rather dimly lit corner that expanded into something resembling a vast library where they parted ways.
While there, she peered into yet another room and found many of the book headed beings in it with their pages open while one at the front spoke
- "...bound to the planes they developed within, and as magic was finite and with little sources available other than their own company, several more successful demons found themselves in complete isolation. Demons of specific species can be traced back to these hyper successful individuals who then committed division of self..."
As the book spoke, visible words poured from its head and filled the pages of the other books heads in attendance, which appeared to be less grand in appearance, lacking any fancy inscriptions, jewel encrustations, and their robes were more plane with some looking worn or torn.
Deciding not to interrupt whatever this process is, Erin continued until she came across the head editorial office. What she found inside was another book head, busy writing in four books at once; the thought that this could probably be considered obscene in some way briefly crossed Erin's mind, but did nothing to discourage her from approaching its desk.
- "Delivery, sign here please."
And without so much as a pause another floating stone hand came forth, signed the form, and unwrapped the parcel, which was another book. Before Erin could even turn to leave, the most important looking book head spoke:
- "A moment."
And the freshly delivered book's pages were quickly flipped through as another hand began writing a letter. True to its word, it took but a moment for the book to have been unwrapped, presumably read, a response written, and the book re-wrapped with full payment for a return delivery. As official guild business took precedence over any personal business Erin had at The Cryptic Skein, she had to comply and backtrack. Something about books flipping through other books still felt slightly perverse to her though.
Leaving The Cryptic Skein was far easier than finding any specific room within it, though coming up with an excuse to return to conduct the personal assignment she had been given without any official business to take care of might become troublesome. For now, Erin returned to the nearby imp village where the imp scribe who wrote the book could be found.
- "They sent it back."
- "What? Why?"
- "Lack of citations? There's a letter that came with it."
The imp quickly opens and scans the letter, then falls back into a slump.
- "The head editor has refused my book on the grounds that our written word is too barbaric..."
The scribe hands the letter to Erin for her to see.
- "It doesn't seem that bad, look, he sent translation suggestions."
- "The suggestions omit most of the meaning and intent behind the words. Our native tongue has many... differences with the common language of the planes it seems."
Erin thought on this for a moment as the concept was not foreign to her.
- "You could send a response explaining this."
- "A correspondence like that has no guarantee of a quick resolution and we cannot afford to keep paying the guild for it."
- "I could just deliver you to the offices so you can make your case in person."
The scribe looked at Erin with a puzzled expression, like it was something that had never been considered.
- "I'll even give you a special discount since you're small and it's on the same plane."
As Erin entered The Cryptic Skein once more, she couldn't help but notice she was getting a number of looks. Though she paid them no mind, she considered they might be because of a certain imp poking its head out of her courier pouch like some kind of living fashion accessory, or over excited dog on a car ride.
The moving topography of the Skein was still as confusing as before to navigate, but now she had landmarks to guide her back to the editorial department.
- "You have another delivery." Said Erin rather flatly as she placed the imp upon the chief book head's desk.
This time its scribblings ceased as it directed what Erin assumed to be its full attention upon the now even smaller looking imp. As if awestruck that such things could exist, the imp remained speechless until Erin gave him a nudge.
- "Ah, yes, I'm- I am the scribe responsible for the book delivered to you earlier today." The book head's expression was impossible to read, but it seemed to be giving the imp the equivalent of a blank stare. "I believe there are some... linguistic issues that you are not completely aware of."
Though beholden to her client, Erin found ways of passing the time by observing the shifting titles of the shelved books in the room, some patterns emerged, and even some sentences started forming across them the more she stared. Other than that, it seemed like an effect solely meant to entice people into opening books, which came off as flirtatious at best.
After a particularly boresome and lengthy discussion about the particulars of the scribe's spoken language and the difficulties in weaving it into the written words, it was agreed that a side-by-side version of the original and a translation would be acceptable on the grounds of being a representation of the imps' budding culture.
Once out of hearing range of the offices, Erin had a proposition for her client:
- "If you would indulge me, I'll waver the return fee."
The scribe, now looking much more confident, gave Erin an inquisitive look.
- "I'm going to take a much more scenic route back. I can tell you want to see more of this place, and so do I." And that was all that needed to be said between them.
Erin found that she could better navigate the Skein now, though not confidently enough to be able to find what she sought. She knew all too well she would need another guide.
Seeing how the book heads were now dispersing from whatever recital had been going on, she decided to see if talking was a feature limited to only the fancy looking ones.
- "The truth is just a lie which is easier to maintain, since all are already intimately familiar with its details."
- "Sorry, I'm from the fiction section. Were you about to ask me something?"
- "I'm looking for a friend of mine."
- "A friend? If you tell me their name, I may know where to find them."
- "I don't know their name."
- "A friend whose name you do not know? How curious."
- "Perhaps acquaintance is the more appropriate word."
- "Words, yes, what fun they are. Tell me more of them."
Erin was getting the impression that this book head's pages must not be completely filled.
While settling for a tour of the Skein, Erin couldn't help be feel she was just being lead in circles, circles that changed distances and appearance with each lap, but still circles. Her current guide only seemed interesting in keeping Erin talking while it flipped through its pages with each word she spoke. Erin quickly realized this was pointless and would've asked the next moving thing she saw for directions if there were any other individuals on their current course. Her only real concern over her current predicament was the onset of boredom, which she looked to the many books lining the walls to remedy. She quickly noticed that letters from the titles were jumping from spine to spine, trying to keep pace with her gaze, forming words such as "stop", "desist", "wrong way, harlot", and "empty-eyed whoreson, waken think sphere tha" before Erin finally stopped to pick up the insulting book.
A new path formed for Erin out of the bookshelves, it lead downwards and occasionally upwards to the side, that is to say still downwards, but with wall walking. While Erin was confident this wasn't a circle, though she still saw no alternate branching paths, and the words that followed her now were mostly forming into arrows pointing forward. This finally let out into a place of dubious hygiene as various unfamiliar smells filled the air and tubes once presumably filled with odd liquids lay smashed on the floor filling the corners with small mounds of glass shards. The path Erin took to get to this room closed behind her and now she had a choice of two doors: a heavy wooden one with scorch marks, and a metal one that had seen its fair share of abuse from the other side based on the dents protruding into the room.
The metal door stood out to Erin, it didn't look like it matched the overall aesthetic she'd come to expect from the massive school. What she saw when she opened the door was a collection of medium to small sized demons surrounded by floating crystal-like spheres. They were crowded around a twisted dark purple crystal, like a warped gnarly tree whose branches seemed to float around its trunk, as if it were struggling to shift into another form. There was also a small demon half-way transformed into a book who had lodged itself in an opening at the top where a head might've been found. Erin tapped on the door to make them take notice of her presence.
Every head in the room turned, then after a moment of stunned silence, began panicking simultaneously. Some of them dashed around the room trying to hide various scrolls, others began trying to cover up the project, and when Erin took a step forward, some grabbed whatever was in reach and moved as if to attack. Any who got too close received a swift boot to the head, the rest had magic sparkles sent into their eyes to blind them. Erin drew her sword in one motion (like she had practiced) and points it right up against where the demon is lodged into the golem.
No one in the room moved after that until the scholar imp walk across Erin's sword and extended a hand to the stuck demon, as if to help someone up who had fallen.
- "It looks like we can either do this the peaceful way, or the stabby way."
The demon decides he would rather not be carved out of his perch and takes the imp's hand.
As soon as he was dislodged, a mask materialized above the golem, a distinctly female voice echoing through it.
- "Mmmmm, it's been a long time since I've piloted this one."
As the golem begins to crack and reshape, limbs reconnecting, its form being sculpted to the Dark Hearts' whims.
- "Of all our golems, this one feels the most like having a body again. I don't know why the others have such an advertence to it."
The lady Dark Heart says while turning to examine the craftsmanship of the golem's rear. The way she walks is almost like that of a fashion model on the runway, or a beauty pageant contestant, as if every move is meant to show off its figure. Erin just stares before rummaging through her travel bag.
- "It's about time the Rune Keeper sent someone down here to give us back our golem." as she magics a hand mirror into existence to look at her mask face, examining how well its features match up with the slender body it now floats above. "Now who are the naughty students responsible for this prank?"
She turns the mirror to reflect all of their faces before they are enveloped in green light and vanish. The scribe imp, rather timidly, speaks up
- "What's become of them?"
- "Oh, nothing serious, looks like they'll be spending some time in detention is all. I wanted to at least do it myself, but the Rune Keeper prefers to keep his affairs internal."
Erin produces a document and hands it to the lady Dark Heart.
- "Erin de Gaulle, yes, we've met before, briefly, looks like I'm taking over your training from here."
After stamping the document, it too disappears in green light.
- "And now I'm free to take this body back to the guild with you. Shall we be off?"
- "Just one more delivery to make." helping the imp back into her bag.
Erin visits the still-being constructed and empty imp library, she places the scribe's original book on the shelf before opening a portal back to the guild.
An Excerpt from a Demon Book's LectureEdit
In brief, demonic history can be divided into four distinct eras: the age of beginnings, the age of isolation, the age of expansion, and the age of kings.
In the beginning era, demons were still little more than magic given physical form. With the subsequent complexities of the Nexus taking hold, magic began moving in ever changing ways causing these forms to adapt so as to maintain themselves. In doing so, many of the core aspects of early demon society began to take shape, such as the taking and bending of form. This long process led to more complex behaviors developing such as the formation of intelligence and intent which leads us to the era of isolation.
During this era, demons were still bound to the planes they developed within, and as magic was finite and with little sources available other than their own company, several more successful demons found themselves in complete isolation. Demons of specific species can be traced back to these hyper successful individuals who then committed division of self to repopulate their environments. This process could repeat several times or not have occurred at all depending on the circumstances of their plane. Demons who were able to successfully devour all sources of magic on their planes passed on their resilience to their divisions, and as the process repeated itself they became more robust with each cycle. With differences in environment, some of these early species began to benefit more from cleverness than brute force tactics and primitive societies took hold. The ones who came from planes were cleverness reined supreme formed the thinking class of demons, whereas the ones where brute strength prevailed form the more bestial classes. This is not the say each plane produced only one species of demon over time, only the process in which primitive demons in isolation came to be of similar nature.
The era of isolation ended when the demon, Prim Nocusly, was successful in taming a void beast beginning the era of expansion. With the ability to traverse the infinite yet non-existent space between linear planes, demon kind began to inter mingle and form new varieties. New sources of magic were discovered and though still finite, were vital in the emergence of the first greater demons. The greater demons of this era were able for the first time to harness their own magical energies without risk of loss of life. In doing so they were able to peer into the non linear planes and for the first time make contracts with beings who could provide them with a replenishable supply of magic. These contracts were vital for greater demons to continue their experimentation and supremacy. It became common practice to gain power and stature by way of binding oneself to a human, gaining power at the cost of freedom. This practice is still in use to this day, though less wide spread and only popular among lower demons who wish to remain independent of the kings.
The era of expansion ended with the rise of the greatest of all blue devils, The Lonely King, who had discovered and bonded himself to a plane of elemental magic. In doing so he was able to attain power far beyond that of any demon before him and caused havoc across all demon planes. Through his greed, many of the isolated planes were suddenly and forcefully fused to make them easier to convert, while others were fragmented when he had finished with them. After many years of war, The Crimson King, allied with The King in Yellow and using the same methods that The Lonely King had used to gain power, were able to seal him within the elemental plane of magic he had bonded himself to. This marked a turning point in demon society as eleven more elemental planes of magic were now available to demon kind as a whole. Through the use of these planes, demon society has evolved into its current state where demons wanting more magical power need only pledge themselves to one of the kings.