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 Post subject: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:50 am 
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Part 1 - Ubi Sunt

Ic to sope wat/ pæt bip in eorle / indryhten peaw / pæt he his ferðlocan / fæste binde, / healde his hordcofan / hycge swa he wille.

Ne mæg werig mod / wyrde wiðstondan / ne se hreo hyge / helpe gefremman.

Forðon domgeorne / dreorigne oft / in hyra breostcofan / bindað fæste; / swa ic modsefan / minne sceolde / oft earmcearig / eðle bidæled / freomægum feor / feterum sælan. (1)


-----------------------

It was dark. Not dark like the absence of light, but dark in the sense that everything seemed heavy, dreary. The shading seemed oppressive, as though it would come off the very walls and surround her. It took her a moment to realize she was no longer being followed and another to understand what was causing the bleak effect. She slowed from a full out run to a trot, then a full stop as she took in the change.

"Why this again?" she asked the empty alley stretching out in front of her. It made no reply, not even with the usual atmosphere of sound that one could generally expect in the middle of the city. Cautiously, she walked down to where the side path connected with the main thoroughfare, where she again stopped and scanned the surroundings.

Nothing.

She felt and resisted the urge to call out. Hello? Is anyone there? It was so quiet here, empty and lonely. It felt like an abandoned house, but instead of decay, the walls were instead diseased with discoloration. Shades of gray replaced the normally festive lights of the colored lanterns that illuminated the city streets. Uneven lines of white showed where the water in the harbor moved, but there was no accompanying sound of waves lapping and jostling. As she hugged her arms to herself, she noticed the theme did not carry through to herself as well - the normal deep blue of her outfit was still as brilliant as ever.

She couldn't say what about this goaded her to hold her tongue. The silence itself was like a sound, ringing bright and keen in her ears. As she walked down the abandoned street, her footsteps made only the quietest, flattest sounds, but when she'd spoken, that sound had carried like a bell.

As far as she could see, there was no one here - no players, no NPCs, no nothing. But there was something.... A feeling. A sense that raised the hairs on her arms and made her shudder once, involuntarily. Something was watching, its gaze like a physical touch tracing up her back.

Of course, it was in her head. It had to be. There was nothing here - hadn't been the last time either. Whatever place this was and however she got here, it was undisguisedly empty. Which was okay, really - hadn't she learned long since the monsters came with people wherever they went?

She could hear her own even now.

Having traveled far enough to see that there was nothing out where the grunty farm usually stood, Senna swung around and headed back toward the heart of the city. There was no logic to her trail. Usually this happened when she was dead and the world returned to normal when someone resurrected her. So either she'd been killed - and somehow missed it - or this was something else entirely and she needed to just wait it out until she was allowed to leave again.

It was as she made the turn along the main road that she finally caught sight of another sign of life.

The woman was garbed all in white, which nearly seemed to glow against its grayscale backdrop. She stood so still that for a few seconds, Senna thought she was looking at a statue. It was only as she approached and the figure turned to look at her that she realized her error.

The clothing was not the only pale thing about the woman. With her cave-white skin and what looked like blonde or silver hair - it was hard to tell without color - it was a little difficult to look at her. As Senna approached, the woman made a graceful curtsey in her direction and said, "Hello. Welcome to Carmina Gadelica. Is there anything I can help you with?"

Her voice was light and lilting, more music than speech, as though she were sing-songing every word. Senna felt the urge to shudder again, but forced it away and instead addressed herself to the woman.

"Who are you?"

She laughed. "It's more polite to introduce yourself first. Who are YOU?"

Senna rubbed one hand over the opposite arm, trying to smooth down the goosebumps that were growing. There shouldn't be anything creepy. This woman was being normal. So why... why did she feel so ill-at-ease?

"I'm-" she paused, considering a smart comeback. Nothing appealed. "Senna," she finished lamely.

The woman in white made another curtsey. "Glad to meet you Senna. I am Sondrig. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Uhhh..." Trying not to wonder why she was getting a sense of déjà vu, Senna asked, "Where are we?"

Instead of an immediate answer, Sondrig chose to first turn left then right, examining the surroundings as though seeing them for the first time. When her attention came back to center, she tilted her head and smiled.

"We're in Carmina Gadelica."

She said it matter-of-factly, not in a way that suggested she was trying to make fun of Senna, or that she thought she was being funny. Somehow, that made it all the more infuriating. Never in her life had Senna found herself wanting so soon after meeting someone to kill said person or-

The line of thought stopped as a sharp pain stabbed across her chest and her breath caught for a moment. As she hunched over, she could dimly hear Sondrig asking, "Is something the matter?" She didn't answer for the moment. She was trying to remember how to force herself to breathe. The air felt thick, tasted stale and slightly metallic.

And then it was gone, leaving only the swirling stars in front of her eyes that came from being bent over at such an odd angle. As she straightened, these intensified for a few seconds, then dispersed as well. Sondrig was peering at her with the sort of detached curiosity one might save for a strangely acting animal.

"I'm... yes."

The woman reached out and put a hand on Senna's shoulder. For a moment, she expected there to be no pressure - that the hand would just pass right through her and prove that she really was a ghost. But it landed, cool and heavy, squeezing slightly as the woman said, "You shouldn't act like that, you'll scare people. Are you certain you don't need help?"

She swatted away the hand. "I don't need help, I need answers," she growled at the woman. Sondrig withdrew her hand and looked momentarily put out, then the smile returned.

"Oh, yes. I am here to answer your questions. Please state them clearly so I can be sure I understand."

Now Senna was definitely suspicious. What was that? No one talked like that. Still, if it got her an answer - a REAL answer...

"Where are all the people?"

Sondrig answered with another vacant smile. "They're not here. Only the dead can be here."

"But I've BEEN in Carmina Gedelica, many times. There were people. They weren't dead, and the walls weren't gray, and there was noise, and movement." Control? What control. "Now tell me what's going on. Why did the city change? This isn't Carmina Gadelica, it just looks like it and I want-"

Sudden awareness that she was yelling caused Senna to cut off there abruptly, truncating the last word into more of a choked sound than an intelligible utterance. Sondrig nodded.

"This is Carmina Gadelica. This is the Shadow side. This is where the dead go. The living are all here, but they're on the Lit side, and you simply can't see them. Do you have any more questions?"

Senna's fingers itched to hold her spear, but she kept it away for the moment - who knew what pulling a weapon here might do. Taking a deep breath, she composed her next question in her head before giving it voice. "And what are you?"

"Do you mean technically, or within The World?"

"Both. Either."

Sondrig tilted her head thoughtfully. "I am Sondrig. I was set here by my creator to answer questions from those who were on the Shadow side for the first time. Do you have a question? I am Sondrig, but some call me the Veil, and some the Lyse. I am bound to the city by contract with the Shadow side."

Senna wanted to smack herself now, for not realizing sooner what she was dealing with. The bot was good, but the preprogrammed speech had probably been what was giving her that odd sense of disquiet. This last had illustrated it better than anything before it - the woman had answered both questions as she was programmed to, despite that the answers did not work well back-to-back.

Well, that made things easier. With an AI she didn't have to worry about feelings, just getting the information she wanted. And one piece of information right now seemed more important than all the rest combined.

"How do I get out of here?"

The answer, delivered in the expected perky style, was "You get resurrected. Unless you run out of SP. Then it's Game Over and you have to restart in town."

That brought another shiver, for an entirely different reason. If there was no death to send her here, then what? But as she still didn't feel ready to simply stop and think, she pressed on with her questions. "Who's your creator?"

"Cassiel." There was noted enthusiasm in Sondrig's voice as she got into this new topic. "He created the Shadow side as well."

"And the Lit side?"

"Others," she said. Her smile faded a little, and her eyes cast down toward the ground as she spoke. "He made only this place. He used to come here often. He was trying to make it perfect. But then he stopped coming. Everyone stopped. I think you may be the first new in a long time."

There was something disquieting about this as well. It was as though beneath her words, something sinister slithered, a sound like a snake on dry leaves. Looking guiltily away, Senna said, "I'm sorry. So... this is the Shadow side because it's in black and white?"

As though a light were switched - or a bit of programming tripped, she imagined - the smile and perky voice were back. "Oh, no. It's because this is the consequence."

Senna wanted to ask, but apparently this Cassiel had decided her next question would be so common that the players need not voice it. "When you spend all your time out fighting monsters, the consequence is death. Just as when something is lit, there is necessarily a shadow. This is the Shadow side because The World requires that there be death."

"But I'm not dead," Senna protested.

"You must be dead, or you would not be here," Sondrig replied reasonably.

"Then, are you dead too?"

The woman in white shook her head again. "No. I am here because of the contract. And I am waiting for Cassiel. All the others he made, he eventually destroyed. But me, he left here. He must be coming back. Perhaps he will null my contract and I may be of further service to him then."

Oh jeeze, Senna thought, and unbidden, lines were dancing through her head. Where is the horse? Where is the rider? For that matter, where were her own? She'd buried enough people in her time. Perhaps this place was her penance for that.

Hugging herself, she looked back toward the harbor. At her back, Sondrig was still talking about something, probably her contract. Odds were good that was jut a remnant from a quest thought up by this Cassiel. From Sondrig's commentary, Senna guessed this was an unimplemented area, created by a perfectly normal coder but ordinarily not accessible to players. But it had a time limit on it. A glance showed her SP was indeed decreasing, slowly but notably. And then what? Game over. What would that mean for her, here, alone, in her state? She didn't know.

"But you should leave."

She only consciously heard the last word, but once she seized on it as important, the part of her mind that had been half-listening dredged up the rest of the line. Looking over her shoulder, Senna asked, "Why? Is there another way out? Or a place where I can meet with other people?"

"No. The only way out is where you came in. And you are the only player in the Shadow side at this time."

"Then why does it matter where I am?"

"There is the time limit. Once your SP runs out-"

"I know." Senna waved her hand dismissively. "Game over. But if the way out is the way I came in, shouldn't I stay here?"

The woman thought about that momentarily, or at least paused to give that illusion, before answering. "I really do think you should leave." This time, as her words faded away into the silence, Senna realized it wasn't silent, not anymore. That slithery sound came again under it, on its heels.

Warring suspicions fought in her mind. What had Canti said? No, she couldn't think about that now. Not about him, not about Hac. Not about any of them, using them as a crutch would get her nowhere. Here, now, what was going on? Frowning, she asked sharply, "Are you bait?"

A confused look passed briefly over Sondrig's features. "The answer to that question is not within my knowledge, Senna," she said. "Do you have another-"

"Are you alive?" she could hear the rustling again, papery and dead. She turned one way, then another, eyes roving, trying to catch sight of something that wasn't just shades of a shadow.

"I am here because of the contract, not because of my death. I-"

"Are we alone?"

The pause that followed this question made Senna herself stop and turn back.

Sondrig was hunched over, looking for all the world like a child who's broken some rule and knows she's been found out. She didn't answer, nor did she look at Senna.

"Sondrig?"

"Yes?" It was barely a whisper.

Feeling like a bully, Senna grabbed the other woman's shoulder, in a reverse of their earlier contact, but instead of a friendly squeeze, she shook the other woman.

"Look at me. Answer me! Are we alone?"

There was no pause to the intrusive sound now, no source. The ground, the walls, they were rustling and chittering like anxious insects, like fingernails on the bark of a tree, and under it, Sondrig's one-word answer was nearly lost.

"No..."

A shadow swept around her feet, obscuring the road in a carpet of pure black. Sondrig looked as though she was about to cry as Senna pushed her away and turned to see why the noise was growing so loud, so deafeningly loud, and the world was growing darker, shade after shade.

And she saw.

Then, uttering a tremulous sound, she sank to her knees and tried her hardest not to scream.

(1. My apologies for the slight mangling, but my inability to correctly render thorn means it's not entirely accurate, with thorn replaced with p)

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:59 pm 
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Part 2 - Monody

Oft him anhaga / are gebideð, / metudes miltse / peah pe he modcearig / geond lagulade / longe sceolde / hreran mid hondum / hrimcealde sæ / wadan wræclastas. / Wyrd bið ful aræd!

Angel had been right – once she decided to leave the third hub, the way out was easy, without any obstacles to work past. Senna’s general good sense of direction stood her in good stead as she navigated down the stairs, through the first floor and out of the building.

Walking away should have felt light. There was a lot with the Freedom Fighters, a heaviness of responsibility that they shouldered with varying degrees of acknowledgement. Leaving that should make her step lighter, her mind easier. But she was left with a strange sense of dread and sickness that balled up somewhere at the top of her stomach and seemed to stick there. She knew the word for it, but didn’t want to admit it. Guilt. She was abandoning them to their fate.

For the moment. There was that at least. There was always the chance she could return to them. That she could come back and aid them. But that couldn’t happen right now. As she exited the field and found herself back in the Hideout, she reflected that she didn’t even know what would constitute adequate terms for her return.

What she did know was that the terms could not be set by anyone but her. They had not kicked her out. She had removed herself. She was not right for them, not right in being there, and she knew it. The question was, what now?

She had no sooner materialized in the Hideout than she was on the move again, this time sending herself to the city. Canti’s warnings were still haunting her, even now, but she had added a few tricks to her repertoire since that trip to Mac Anu, and this time, she could be a little safer.

Several minutes later and she was viewing the city from an entirely different angle – from the top of one of the buildings. She’d come here… how long ago had it been? She’d had that talk with Phoenix about action and consequence and suspicion. The ghost of that conversation seemed to be looking over her shoulder as she watched the figures of a dozen players moving like dust motes in a sunbeam down the city street.

Action and consequences and suspicion. Like Hamlet, only without the evil poisonous uncle. At least, she hoped so, though had Phoenix been correct – a thing she still doubted – then Zan might fit the mold. Or, depending on what happened after she left, who knew? Maybe she did.

Leaning back until she was stretched out flat on the rooftop with her knees pointing skyward, she stared into the darkness and let her mind wander. She was here. Now what?

It had been an idle thought at the time, but as they’d gone on in that third hub she’d realized how true it was. The Freedom Fighters worked better without her. It wasn’t just her disregard for other people, though she knew that was certainly a part of it. More than that though, she was just too weak to truly add to what they were doing. They all had these strange powers – form shifting, ability shifting, super strength, flight, enhanced magic. Were she a higher level, capable of dealing more damage, perhaps… or perhaps not. She wasn’t much of a gamer. She also wasn’t much of a fighter. Combining the two had not improved her abilities in the least.

She rolled onto her side, aware the roof was probably disgustingly dirty but not truly caring. Such things were fleeting anymore. One of the perks of being digital, she guessed, along with the elimination of that pesky hunger thing.

Asking someone for help might have been a good idea, but there really wasn’t anyone she felt right asking. She got the feeling whatever they had worked out, whatever deal with the devil they’d made, they’d done it on their own. A sort of real-life bildungsroman, if you will.

And if she couldn’t figure it out? If there was no way to be stronger, no way to come up to their level, she would just have to stay out of their hair. That much was a given. How long would she last? Alone, she guessed not very, unless all those proposed dangers out there viewed her as she viewed herself right now – not strong enough to be bothered with. But if that were to happen, maybe her style departure was really for the best. It was akin to removing a Band-Aid. Some things were best done abruptly.

But there were people she’d miss. She rolled over to her other side, back to the lights of the city. There was Hac. They’d known one another since what felt like forever ago – long into the past of her time in The World, at any rate. They’d been a team on more than one occasion, from ridiculous special events the admin held to that terrible moment at the end of the second hub. Not saying something to him hurt.

As did leaving without a word to Canti. They’d shared a clan, but hadn’t really met or known one another until the Freedom Fighters. He was one of the few people she’d come to trust quickly after meeting him, mostly because she trusted him to be honest in his speech and in his assessments of situations but he seemed to keep his head clear of silly notions most of the time. And then, there was Nall, who she didn’t like very much, but at least trusted to be who he seemed to be. Or Zhao. And even Rayo, who she still thought might have sicced his grunty on her, but who at least seemed straightforward.

Senna curled up a little tighter. Though there were some she wouldn’t miss. Or really, maybe just one. The face of judgement hidden behind a curtain. It was like Oz the Great and Powerful. She might act like Ophelia, but she was more Gertrude. An Ophelia was easier to handle. Gertrude wielded some power. She had some control. Whether or not she used it…

Senna made a face at the night. It was stupid, to be so put out by what one person thought. But perhaps it was less about what she thought, and more about the fact that it had been done. The mariner could tell it – there was no rest from the burden of dark guilt. And I had done an hellish thing. And it would work 'em woe.

It did no good to dwell, she told herself as her stomach twisted around the thought, gnawing on it. No good at all. She was behind, and it was time to move forward. Which left her in the same place as before, with the same question that drove her to the rooftop in the first place.

What now?

Training, she decided. That was the first thing. To get stronger would be the best way to get things started. If nothing had happened by now, then she would just have to accept that perhaps her own strength was all she was going to get. And maybe that was for the best. To rely on some outside force, some added ability whose actual basis, you did not truly know… was that really strength, or just an accident of fate?

Her musings were cut off, like the dreams of a child interrupted by the sound of someone creeping into the room. Voices, loud and raucous, spouted up from the street below like an unwelcome geyser. There were several, mixing together to the point she would have had to work to pick out one from another. Frowning at their accidental intrudence on her self-absorbed introspection, she rolled over and moved to the edge of the roof, where she could peer down at those below.

It was a group, maybe eight in all, but one looked like he didn’t belong. The rest were ringed around him in a side alley, and it was their mixed voices she was hearing mostly. Occasionally, his protest would come through, but it was mostly just a subnote. She couldn’t make out fully what was going on, but it didn’t look good.

Well, here was a choice. She wanted to change how things were going in her life? Here came a prime opportunity to see how much she actually meant it. With an audible sigh, she stood up and headed for the stairs.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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14300 (1/23)


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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 3:15 am 
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Part 3 – Sturm und Drang

ðonne sorg ond slæð / somod ætgædre / earmne anhogan / oft gebindað. /.þinceð him on mode / þæt he his mondryhten / clyppe ond cysse, / ond on cneo lecge / honda ond heafod / swa he hwilum ær / ain geardagum / giefstolas breac

It was dark, dark and cold and damp as the basement of a long-abandoned building. A taste hung on the air that lent it more of the same feel, the metal-and-dust taste of rotting wood and mouldering pipes.

With her face pressed to the ground, she could see nothing but the darkness, but for the moment she left it that way, aware she must look abject, prostrate on the street with her face buried in her arms.

Every inch of her body anticipated the cold touch of death – that there would be a single, bright star of pain, or perhaps an overall sensation, an immersion into the final moments of her life and then oblivion. But there was nothing but the cold, frustrating her senses and making the anticipation and frustration build in dread tandem.

But the touch never came, and after a long fifteen or twenty seconds, she looked up.

Nothing changed.

There had been nights, when she still lived in a world of air and food and flesh and blood, when the power would go out in the middle of the night due to some misfortune or another. Almost invariably, and with no discernable cause, she would wake suddenly and sit up, only to find that the world had disappeared. For a few moments, she couldn’t move, afraid that any slight change could send her hurtling into that endless black. Then she would feel the blankets on her bed, sense the natural movement of wind and trees outside the window, and would know that while all was not right, neither was it all gone.

There was no such assurance here. The darkness was absolute, but the ground beneath her shaking hands could have been anything in its unfamiliarity, and could have been pulled away as easily as a magician yanks a tablecloth from beneath a place setting.

"Sondrig?"

There was no answer. Once more, the silence was its own sound, but this time even her own voice fell flat. Hugging herself, Senna rocked back to sit on her heels and strove to hear, see or sense anything in the total night. Seeing and sensing failed, but after a few moments, she thought she could hear something, spidery and distant and faint.

"Hello?" she asked.

The broken reply came in fits and starts, so, so quiet. "…left… never be… … … leave it … … until … and we … … …. –re… …"

In this place, everything was hidden, and yet nothing was. The voice was familiar, but she couldn’t place it yet, quiet as it was. The sense of foreboding, of wrong, welled up in her as a knot in her stomach, a chill on her skin, a shudder that wracked her body.

"Who-"

The other voice didn’t stop for her slight intrusion. It was growing somewhat closer, and now she could catch full parts, phrases, ideas. Fervently, she tried to wish it back into the cornfield.

"-maybe there isn’t a forgiveness for you. … … A single strike, and you- …"

It was the voice, HER voice. A voice Senna hadn’t heard often, and even more rarely speaking like that, with strength and confidence. Was she here? Could she know what was going on? Or was this just an echo from her, wherever she was?

"We were willing to offer forgiveness, but you could not. What sin was so great, that you would kill someone when your life was no longer even in danger?"

She could remember the look on the other woman’s face, horrified, shocked, seeing not another person but some… some THING, some animal…

"It begged for its life, and you went against all of us, and you killed. You murdered another living thing. Not some creature in a game, but a living soul. Someone’s child now cools in the ground, thanks to your actions. There are some monsters we cannot help. We could have helped it. We would have helped it. But since you killed it, we can not help you."

She’d gone about life as though nothing happened, but Senna had know, KNOWN that the judgement of their eyes would not be forgotten as quickly as their words of solidarity had suggested. And now it was here in fact – whatever this creature was, it fed off these nightmares that she’d fought so desperately to bury and forget until later, until there was TIME.

"It’s better that you left us. We could not openly turn our back on a person in need, but we are better for losing you. The only blood that truly stains your hands is the blood that you did not have to spill. Goodbye."

And then it was gone, and the silence fell again like a lead-weighted blanket. The words had seemed strange to her ears, but their message was unmistakable and the strangeness was not enough that she could grab onto a reason. She felt like when she’d been frozen by Marionette’s minion, when she and half the group were trapped in a reverse field, any of the other times when that moment of hopelessness descended before the Freedom Fighters again began trying to batter their way back to unity and victory. But this time, there was no actual monster to face, no puzzle, no path, only darkness that extended to the edge of reality in every direction.

"Hey. You’re running out of time."

The voice, both familiar and unexpected, brought Senna bolt upright. "Ha…. Nnnnn. Who’s there?"

"No one, which is really the problem right now, isn’t it?"

She turned to the left then the right, craning her neck and trying in vain to penetrate the complete darkness. There was nothing, no change. But that voice was close, right next to her.

"Where are you?"

"Where do you think I am?"

"You sound like…" she trailed off, letting her head drop to one side as she tried to pinpoint where that voice had come from. "To my left. How can you be here?"

"Wrong on the first, and you should know the answer to the second, but for the moment, I guess I’ll play along." She looked again, and a form stood in the darkness to the left, his form indistinct, like something caught out of the corner of her eye. When she tried to focus on him, he disappeared, but when she looked just to the side, she could see him well enough. Standing on the fathomless black landscape, he looked to be poised over a deep chasm.

Hac. What was he doing in this place? Had he been trapped by this thing too? Oh God, if so, then could this actually be hunting? She felt her throat tighten up as she fought off the urge to cry again. It wasn’t a mistake, it was a trap, and-

"Don’t you dare start crying," Hac ordered. "Like I said, you’re running out of time. You need to get out of here, pronto."

"But how can I?" She was trying to sound angry, but her wavering voice made the attempt laughable. There was something odd about Hac too, something about how he was talking, but like with Sekai’s voice before, she didn’t have enough to pursue. There was only hopelessness, and now that she’d arrived there, she clung to it like a child to a security blanket. "How do I get away from something like this?"

"Something like… Listen, if I know the answer, then so do you. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself for a couple minutes, maybe you can even work it out in your waking mind, huh?"

"Huh?"

Hac shook his head, looking amused. "Come on. Think, Descartes. What do you know, and therefore, what is going on?"

Senna blinked and looked directly at the spot where Hac stood, relegating him once more to a state of invisibility. "There is nothing in our own power…" she began haltingly. There was more to that line, but trying to grab those bits and bobs from philosophy class and many readings of "Sophie’s World" was proving difficult. Descartes. He was an idealist. THE idealist. So that meant this had something to do with the mind.

"You’re me, aren’t you?" she asked the spot where Hac had been. His voice once more sounded from the darkness, his time laughing, and as she turned again, he reappeared.

"Finally! I was getting worried about you. Of course, anyone who has to make up figures in her head to argue with rather than just doing it all in her mind probably need to be worried about anyway. That and medicated. But great. What gave me away?"

She half-smiled. This was getting weird, but the weirdness was certainly far better than the nothingness. "Descartes. The mind creates the world. And you said that if you knew something, I knew it too. So you’re, what, the voice in my head?"

"Beats being a shoulder angel," he replied. "But that’s only half of the answer. You know what I’m doing here, but you gotta figure out how to get yourself free of this thing."

"And you know the answer."

He nodded. Which meant she knew, if she could work it out. Even if not, though, she had one thing to thank him for – and the real Hac if she ever got the chance. At least she was feeling calmer.

"Can’t you just tell me?"

"No. Come on, you know better than that. You know why."

She didn’t, but it seemed that arguing the point would get her nowhere. So, if Hac, the voice of reason, was just something her mind created, then it stood to reason the others were too. The voices that had been ridiculing her, the reason they knew what buttons to press, it was because they were already in her mind. Which meant she’d been torturing herself.

"This isn’t a fit place for real people," she murmured.

"No, but real people were never intended to be here at all," Hac offered.

"Real… people…" For some reason, that phrase struck the puzzle-solving level of her brain. It was like she could feel the wheels go into motion again. Real people weren’t supposed to be here. Sondrig was here. But Sodrig was a coded person, not a real one. She'd been created by Cassiel. This whole mirror of The World had been created by Cassiel, cribbed off the main code by some secrets a non-technical person like her would probably never understand. Sondrig knew about the shadow before it reached them, and hadn’t been pulled into here with Senna. So, whatever it was, it knew the difference. It knew her from a piece of static game code. It knew a PC. It was in Cassiel’s world, known to Cassiel’s creations, so this, too… this, too…

"It’s just a mob, isn’t it?" she asked. For once, the term garnered her no confused looks. Instead, Hac’s smile broadened and he gave her a jaunty salute. "It’s just a creature coded into the game to attack PCs who came over to the Shadow side, like any monster."

The realization was both gratifying and mortifying. Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power. That was the phrase she’d been trying to think of. She wasn’t sure if this experience was denying or supporting that stance.

Getting to her feet, Senna took a shaky step forward. She wasn’t sure of the exact direction – a complete lack of anything visible tended to play game with a person’s perception. But when the ground stayed solid beneath her foot, she took another step. Then another. One of her spears, a lower-level one, materialized in her hands thanks to the omnipresent mechanics of the game. Its weight was comforting. She remembered how light this thing could seem when she was moving, spinning it, sending its deadly arc toward the enemy. She’d acted as she thought was right.

And she intended to do the same now. Whether or not it meant to, this thing had made a fool out of her, dredging up things by its nature that she would rather have not thought about. And if she was going to be a murderer anyway, may as well carry through with it. There was nothing worse in a good book than a waffling hero.

Besides, she might not be a Freedom Fighter anymore, but their modus operandi was still with her. And what would the Freedom Fighters do, faced with no apparent puzzle and no way out? They’d swing until something came loose. In her experience, it was what they were best at. And that was what was right, at least for her, at this moment.

"I hope this hurts," she muttered. Then she brought the spear up and around her head in a wide arc before swinging it down to chop into the ground.

Everything roiled and pulsed unexpectedly as soon as blade hit floor. Senna nearly lost her footing and saved herself from pitching over by stabbing the point of her spear blade into the ground and using that for support. The fresh attack set off another wave of movement, in what she assumed were pained thrashings.

"Let me out!" she screamed at the darkness, at the creature, at the whole Gods-damned World. Using both hands, she ripped her weapon free and plunged it down again. "You ridiculous excuse for a monster, let me out of here before I cut a hole right through you!" Again the weapon came free, and this time she lunged forward, using her weight and all the strength she could muster to drag the cutting end of her weapon through the solid darkness she stood on. "You can’t keep me in here, and if you-"

The ground moved again, this time violently. Senna, prepared as she thought she was, had no time to react and was thrown to the ground. Her spear left her hands, lost somewhere in the darkness as she landed heavily on her side.

Then abruptly, there was light. Senna’s first reaction was to shield her eyes with one arm. Even though the gray-washed lanterns of the city were not giving off too much brilliance, after the insane darkness within the beast, it was more than her dilated pupils could immediately handle. The sound of rustling leaves was all around her, if possible more layered and insistent than it had been the moment before the shadow had swallowed her.

As her eyes adjusted to being able to see again, she looked up to see the same terrifying form towering over her. Scrambling to her feet, she leveled her spear at the monster in challenge. Come on, she wanted to say. Just try me again, you’ll find I can do exactly the same thing, and you can’t hold me anymore.

A second rattling, lower and hollower than the first, added to the noise, and a second shadow came up. Then a third dragged itself from the harbor. And then another sound joined them.

Senna’s challenges died on her lips.

With a groaning wait, a fifth monster came up on the group, but this one seemed different. It wasn’t just the odd noise, reminiscent of a rusted gate being forced open. Instead of being a solid mass, this one seemed to drip, fall apart, reform. Its face was grotesque, the darkness sometimes moving so much its red eyes would be cut into two or three parts which moved unnervingly on their own briefly before reforming again. This one moved forward, heedless of its smaller brethren in its way. When it reached one of them, the darkness of the two melded into one. The yellow eyes of the smaller creature widened for a second. Then the black dripped down over them and they were completely extinguished.

"You. Come on."

She tore her eyes away from that death to see a lanky Wavemaster staring not at her, but at the thing over her shoulder. That view didn’t seem to hinder him much though. Before she could form a sufficient understanding of who HE might be to begin to form a protest, he had reached forward and seized her by the off-hand.

"Wait, where…"

But he was already running toward where the Chaos Gate stood on the Lit side, her hand clenched in his, leaving her little current choice but to trip along behind him.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:14 pm 
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Part 4 – Chiasmus

Woriað þa winsalo / waldend licgað / dreame bidrorene / duguþ eal gecrong / wlonc bi wealle.

Weekends at college consisted of alternating flurries of activity and periods of complete lethargy. It was during these lethargic moments that most of the “hanging out” that college students did took place, shared moments playing games or watching TV while flopped on some discount couch in someone’s dorm room or apartment.

Conroy had always been one of those comfortable friends who Liss and Amber could see a dozen times in a week and not get tired of, then not see for weeks at a time without fearing that some issue had come between their friendship. He was an upbeat guy, talkative but observant, and prone to coming out with odd observations at unexpected times.

They were sitting in Liss’ living room watching some cooking show (Now, the trick is to not leave it in the water too long – just long enough to get the stiffness out. See how that bends? Don’t worry if it feels a little tough, the sauce is going to take care of that, just you wait.) when he stretched one arm, then the other, then asked, “Why do you think it’s wrong to kill people?”

Liss couldn’t see her own face, but if the face she was making matched the one she was trying to make, she was looking at Conroy as though he’d grown an extra head or two. From the kitchen, the sounds of Amber putting away groceries paused for several long seconds.

It took a bit for him to realize his comment had stopped the conversation cold, but once he did realize it, he seemed nonplussed. Leaning his head back until he was looking kitchenward over the back of the couch, he said, “Sorry, it was on a cartoon one of my friends was watching the other day. This one girl asked another that question.” he paused, closed his eyes, then added, “When she couldn’t answer, the girl killed her dog. It was kinda sad.”

Liss nearly coughed on her words. “Conroy, that’s awful! What would even make you ask people? A cartoon…”

He nodded. “I know, but seriously. If you think about it, why IS it wrong? We don’t care so much if you kill a cow, or a dog or a bird. We’re all alive in the same way, so why is the death of one different from the death of another. Biologically, I mean, it’s really not, is it?”

From the kitchen, Amber’s voice floated out. “You know, you’re right. I mean, I still think it’s wrong, you know? Killing people. But if you mean from a science standpoint, yeah, then I guess it’s the same sort of thing. Eh. I wonder what my philosophy prof would say about it.”

Liss ran the fingers of one hand into her hair, twining them there and pulling. It hurt, and it served to prove to her that she was indeed hearing this conversation, that it was not a figment of her imagination. As she allowed her fingers to go slack and her hand to fall to her side again, she wondered if it might not be a good idea to just leave before she caught whatever they had. But some part of her refused to give up like that.

“It’s not the same,” she said. “People are thinking beings. They’re sentient on a different level than other animals. They create and convert and expand beyond what their instincts order them to do. T’s just… it’s not the same.”

“But death is death,” Conroy pressed, his tone as blasé as if they were discussing the weather or the terrible performance of their school basketball team that weekend. “Your heart stops, your body stops and you rot. Why is one more important? Just because a human might have done a greater variety of things if allowed to live longer?”

That felt like a logic trap, and Liss backed off rather than take the bait headlong. “No,” she said. “But it’s like… like if you cut down a tree or if you uproot a weed. They’re both dying, but you think they both deserve the same consideration when you’re thinking about doing one or the other?”

“Why not?”

“Because the tree has so much more to offer the world. Its shade, its oxygen, not to mention whatever can be made of it when it finally is felled. You think that’s worth the same as a weed?”

“So you ARE saying a human is more important just because it might have done a greater variety of things if allowed to live longer.”

“No!”

Conroy’s smile was decidedly amused as he snuggled down into the couch cushions. Again, Liss could not see her own face, but she could feel it, and knew that a blush of anger and indignation was making her reaction to this argument visible to anyone who cared to glance her way. She wanted to calm down, but she couldn’t. The argument he was making made SENSE, dammit. But it wasn’t right. It couldn’t be right.

“You know,” he said, “you’re funny when you get worked up. I didn’t think you got emotional over things outside Bronte and Shakespeare.”

“What did you expect? You’re saying it’s okay to kill people because we’re no different from animals. It makes sense from the way you’re arguing, but I don’t think you’re arguing right. I just can’t figure out what the right way to do it is.”

She was shaking, a phrase she’d heard and seen bandied about in literature like a flag you planted on your character to say “look! He’s angry! Or scared! Or both!” She’d never encountered it before, and it was silly, so goddamn silly. They were arguing about a theoretical premise he’d seen in a cartoon. A thought exercise, a what-if, a possibility. It wasn’t as though he were suggesting going out with a shotgun in hand or painting the walls with the blood of his classmates – a far-too-common scenario in the first place.

But she was shaking no less, something she sensed along her back more than feeling in her hands or arms. It was murder he was talking about. The logic aside, something about this… it was the way he was saying it, the bland acceptance of the premise. It was the thought that the worth of a human life had to be quantifiable. What was the point, her mind wanted her to ask even though it had no bearing on the current issue. What in God’s name was the point of even being alive if the worth of your existence was bartered down to the level of basic life and death, of whether you breathed or not.

And abruptly, she was crying.

It wasn’t tears streaming down her face, not the sort one cried when the world broke beneath your feet, but everything went swimmy and indistinct, and then she had her face pressed to her lap, arms hiding her face, heedless of the pain this caused along her none-too-flexible back. To the left, she could hear Conroy make a surprised and sort of helpless sound, not knowing what to do about this sudden shift in mood. Amber’s voice, close and concerned, was more direct. “Are you okay?”

She took a long, shuddering breath and willed hr face to cool, her eyes to stop tearing up. It worked minimally, but she had no intention of hunching over and crying like a little kid, so she straightened up and looked at Conroy. And suddenly, in the concern and worry she saw there, she knew exactly what was wrong.

“People live together,” she said, hating the way she could feel words pressing forward out of her mind, too many, rambling on and on, but she couldn’t stop it, could never stop it when things got like this. “They don’t just choose to but they have to, they need other people to care about them and to… to see them. They need other people to react to them because that’s the only way we really know that yes, I’m alive and I’m here and however small, some part of the world notices me. Someone sees what I’ve done, and someone would notice if what I do was taken away. They give their hearts to one another, they laugh together, they fear one another, or join together to try to shut out the fear, and it’s all woven together, it’s knotted and twisted and grotesque, there’s no art to relationships, they just are. It’s not like with animals, because we could live without dogs, or without cows or without a million other things, but we have to have people. It’s not life without others, at least sometimes. When you kill a person, you hurt all those others, you pull apart the knots. How can that even compare? How can one say that just because the biology of our deaths are the same, then that’s all that matters? I don’t know what the answer was in your show, but I think if there wasn’t one, then whoever wrote it is missing the entire point of being a person in the first place.”

She was panting by the end of the diatribe, gulping in air between overlong sentences, and Amber and Conroy just watched and listened in silence until she finished. And then it was he who spoke first, smiling familiarly at her.

“To be honest, I don’t remember the answer,” he said. “There was one though. And I think it was something like that. Only shorter.”

Her face flushed hotter. “You try having to constantly extent 7500 words worth of premises into a 10,000-word essays and see how terse you are at rebutting ridiculous arguments,” she retorted.

“Touche. And for the record, I swear I didn’t mean to get you upset. I’m sorry about that. Okay?”

“Okay.” The one word saying many meant more than the many she’d just used to get across the lone idea. It was okay. They were okay. She felt okay. He accepted her answer, and she accepted it too. They turned back to the television. The atmosphere eased, the debate faded, the tenseness gave way to typical Saturday chatter.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:06 pm 
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Part 5 - Eiron

Beorn sceal gebidan / þonne he beot spriceð / oþþæt collenferð / cunne gearwe / ahwider hreþra gehygd / hweorfan wille.

The Chaos Gate was no longer there, but apparently the ability to use it remained. The transportation system warped them out of the city and onto a field which looked like it might have been sunny and pleasant as a spring day, were the colors not completely gone, replaced with shades of gray.

As they materialized, Senna recovered from her shock enough to brace her legs and wrench her arm back, twisting as she'd been taught to put all the force of her pull on that place where the strangers fingertips and thumb touched. As she pulled free, he seemed surprised by the move, though in all likelihood it would have worked anyway. It didn't help that his grip was weak. He probably needed to invest more in child-grabbing classes.

As she backed away from him, trying to decide whether attacking or simply gating the hell out of there was a better idea, he flexed his hand and said, "Eh... sorry." He didn't sound sorry. He sounded, to Senna at least, apathetic and disinterested. "Did I hurt your wrist?"

"What was... what are you doing?" she asked, realizing as soon as the words left her mouth that they didn't *technically* make sense in the context of their stilted conversation. Still, she didn't back down off them. Her spear was in a relaxed ready position.

He took a seat on the ground, then stretched his arms and lay back on the ground with them folded beneath his head. "I suppose if you're not hurt then I'll take a nap."

"The only way I'd have gotten hurt was you wrenching on my arm," she muttered at him. "Why did you DO that?"

He'd closed his eyes, but as she finished this brief, violent complaint, he opened one and stared at her. "There was a monster about to attack you, I thought. I'm sorry if I acted wrongly. I don't have a lot of practice at this sort of thing."

"I had that well in hand."

"Oh? Perhaps you were lulling it into a false sense of security?"

His lackadaisical attitude and calm speech had nearly lulled her into forgetting that sense of rising panic as, not too long ago, there had been a group of massive monsters converging on her in the city. Now, mentally she saw them again, looking up, blotting out and running together with the night sky. Red eyes...

"I told you, I was about to take care of it," she said.

"It. The biggest one?"

She nodded, letting the point of her spear drop to the ground. Now that she thought about it, what was he doing here? Hadn't Sondrig said there were no other players on the Shadow side? He must have appeared while she was... otherwise occupied. Her cheeks burned at the thought of how she'd broken down just from being sensory-deprived for a few minutes.

The guy opposite her rocked up to a sitting position and looked at her weapon thoughtfully. "I don't pretend to know much about you, or people in general," he said. "But it seems like, if it were me, I'd have done something other than just stare at it. That didn't look like a normal monster you were seeing."

"And what would you know about it?"

He smiled, though his expression looked lost in thought, and when he spoke, she wasn't entirely sure it was her he was addressing. "Not much. Don't play a whole lot now." He closed his eyes and lay back down. "I assume you do? It was probably foolish of me to drag you away from the fight. I probably pulled you away from your extraction point too, huh? Please accept my apology."

His comments would have sounded condescending were he using any other tone, but as it was, he sounded more or less sincere, which just made it difficult to get mad at him. Since it also did nothing to endear him to her, she decided the best course of action was to go back to the city. Storing her spear, she considered going to another field vs. just returning to the city, and decided on the latter course. She had to go to the point she'd been at when she disappeared. Sondrig seemed clear on that point - where you came in was were you left. And this guy's comment about extraction point seemed to echo that.

Extraction point? Wait...

Looking back over her shoulder at his prone form, she said, "Alright, who are you? Why are you on the Shadow side?"

Without opening his eyes or stirring more than he had to in order to speak, he said, "Closed-off areas are the best place to find some quiet. Not to mention, it'll automatically log me out if I forget I'm logged in and wander off. SP timer you know."

Which reminded her. A glance at her stat bar showed an alarmingly low SP level. As she pulled out a Mage Soul and downed it, she cursed the game for only alerting players to low HP, not low SP. As she did this, she also asked, "Sure, but how do you get here? Do you... are you as hacker?"

He grinned. "Not in this instance. I'm just one of the game coders."

She froze. "Coder?" Just her luck, she thought. Bus-ted. The only real question was, what was gonna happen now? He knew she shouldn't be here, he'd probably already seen that her character data was screwed nine ways to Sunday, oh God, she was in SO much trouble.

And he just lay there. She thought about it. She winced.

You’re Sondrig’s Cassiel, aren’t you?

There was a bit of a break before the answer came, as though he were pondering the best thing to say, or perhaps just messing with her intentionally. “Sondrig’s Cassiel,” he mused after an interval. “You know, Shouldn’t she be Cassiel’s Sondrig? It’s not like she created me.

Sorry,” she replied. “It’s just that I met her first.

Finally seeming to warm up to the conversation, Cassiel leaned his elbows on his legs. “Great, isn’t she?” The pride in his voice was so obvious, she thought even the dullest of people would have been hit squarely by it. “Even now when I look at the conversation cues I built into her… and you know, there wasn’t a writer working with me on this. That’s all the work of a coder. What did you think?

Senna scratched her forehead with one hand to hide her face. “I… er… thought it was a real person at first.

The news apparently delighted Cassiel, who let out a brief laugh and pumped his fist in the air. Senna, however, had had enough of this awkward bonding moment with a stranger and offered a brief wave.

I’m going to get going.

I finally scared you off huh? Sorry. Prolly shouldn’t have told you who I am

She glanced around the bleak landscape and had to admit that, for a few minutes, it was good to talk to a real person about things unrelated to hubs and Freedom Fighters and great evils and whatever else. And he seemed like a decent enough person, despite that his attention wandered willy-nilly sometimes. But there was one basic fact in the way of chatting. He was a coder, which meant he worked for the game. And in Senna’s experience bothering him was a good way for others to find her. She was sure there were illegalities in her character data anymore, even though she looked no different on the outside. Heck, even being here was an abnormality. Staying was likely to do her harm.

No,” was all she answered him.

He laughed again, not the excited sound of before, but a normal, amused chuckle. “You know, I don’t care if you’re here. It’s good to have someone actually see the place, since they decided not to include it in the actual game.

But can you just let people waltz into closed areas?

"Hey, it's none of my business *what* you do," he said. "I'm just a coder. I don't understand really all the rules they've got. That's what admin are for. They enforce the rules. Coders just give them a place to do their enforcing."

Settling to the ground, Senna said, "Not that I'm complaining, but that doesn't seem very team-player."

"I'm not a team player," he said. "I figure, you wanna break into a closed-off area that'll never see the light of day, literally, and you're not screwing things up here, it's none of my concern. I thought you might have done something to that monster - that's what drew me here, actually, that Sondrig noticed something odd and sent me a message. But whatever meddled with it wasn't coming from your character unless you're really trying to hide it, so...[b]" Another shrug. "[b]Not my problem."

Chuckling, Senna said, "I wish I could have that attitude.[b]" It's not so hard," he said. "Just remember that no one can impose duty on you, and you're set."

"But they can-"

"No." He seemed adamant about this. "They can impose consequences. My bosses can ask me to do things, they can punish me if I don’t do them, but they can’t MAKE me do them.

He chuckled and put one hand to his left chest, for a moment looking as though he intendeds to start reciting the pledge of allegiance. His fingers closed around the spot, but whatever he was hoping to find apparently wasn’t there. His fingers caught only the fabric of his own shirt, which he left go of after a few seconds with a vaguely defeated look.

Senna sighed and turned to leave again. “I suppose,” she said.

Uh… you’re going back to the city I guess?

I intended to. Why?

He was standing up now, stretching his arms in the long, slow way a cat who’s just woken up stretches its legs. “Well, you met Sondrig, so you probably guessed she has some uses other than window dressing. One of them is virus scanning, and she found an anomaly. I thought it was you, at first, but then I saw that something’s been messing with the alley-dwellers-

Alley-dwellers?

He rubbed at his eyes with one hand, looking a bit tired. “Yeah. Those shadow-things. They’re the main enemy in root towns on the Shadow Side. Or would’ve been. But there’ve probably been one too many copyovers without maintenance, since it doesn’t seem to be intentional. Just color-messed and a bit big. Still, I haven’t had a chance to really take a look at it, and you never know when a little anomaly will decide to bug out. Not to mention, Sondrig herself is starting to show signs of code corruption.

He was sinking more and more into a contemplative tone, a direction in which he did not seem to be inviting her, as he seemed to be more voicing thoughts than actually talking to someone else. Senna tried to smile at that, but if the way the expression felt was any indication, it was more of a broken, humorless smirk than a smile. She didn’t answer. Yeah. She figured she could agree with that one well enough.

So if you’ve gotta wait to be rezzed, you might want to have someone take care of that quick,” he was saying, interpreting the look and the silence in God alone knew what way. “And if you really feel an urge to try fighting them instead of, well, instead of staring at them like you seemed to enjoy doing, be careful, alright, I don’t need anyone screwing up things any more than they already are. And if you do turn out to be a hacker and mess with this place, I’ll have to hunt you down, you know that right?” This was all said in such a nonchalantly matter-of-fact tone that it was difficult to tell if he was kidding or not.

Deciding to avoid having to work it out, she stuck with the simplest possible answer. “Got it.” And this seemed to suffice, because having completed his stretches, Cassiel, the apparently poorly named coder was away on his new mission to eradicate whatever anomaly was causing his alley-dwellers to behave like Monster-Point Chopper and his coded girl-toy to start exhibiting signs of multiple personalities or whatever passed for “code corruption” in that particular incidence.

All that said, his advice seemed sound. Tangling with things which were not, strictly speaking, part of the intended gameplay experience had never turned out very well for the Long Arm. However, there was the sticky situation of having to get back to the place she’d arrived here in in order to go home – at least if the malfunctioning fake-AI was to be believed. What a lovely choice to be made.

Well not much of a choice. She’d certainly gotten herself into the situation, and if there was one thing she tried to actually live by, it was get yourself out of your own gods-cursed messes. And if that meant facing malfunctioning monsters, well then could she really say no?

With a heavy sigh that bordered on the ludicrous, she warped back to the city.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
Click for full equipment and items
14300 (1/23)


Last edited by Senna on Mon Mar 03, 2008 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 3:00 am 
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Part 6 – Synaethesia

Yþde swa þisne eardgeard / ælda scyppend / oþþæt burgwara / breahtma lease / eald enta geweorc / idlu stodon.

Getting to the street from the roof of the building was the work of maybe five minutes, mostly because once you actually got into them, the buildings contained a surprising number of hallways and staircases – though she noticed a significant lack of actual rooms, or doors that might lead to rooms. Perhaps there was a hope of keeping too many of the players from hiding alone in dark corners, fingers sliding a scale up and down other players’ digital bodies. God, what a horrid mental image.

Carmina Gatelica had been created as a sort of hub for higher-level gamers, and as such, there weren’t always that many people hanging around. Perhaps that’s what made the initial commotion in the street so attention-grabbing, and was certainly what made the perpetrators easy to find. They hadn’t moved far from their initial contact point, though from a ground-level view, they certainly looked a bit more threatening than they had from several stories up. It was also a lot more difficult to count them, as they all seemed to favor the same garish costume design in screechingly bright shades of green and pink and blue. This aspect had also thankfully been absent from the top of the building, but hit in full force now, and the lack of a way to adjust brightness being one of the minor side-effects of having a game-as-reality lifestyle, the result was nearly blinding.

It seemed that in her sojourn through the building, the group had lost or given up their original quarry, but no need to fear, it seemed they had acquired another during her meandering journey. Be it a latent voyeurism speaking or just a sincere concern about whether or not to REALLY get involved now that the original person she’d come to help out was gone, Senna hung back at first, observing from a short distance away in the lee of a lantern support.

The new target seemed to be a young woman, though given the fantasy-based skins system, it could in reality be some fourty-year-old living in his mother’s basement and getting off by pretending he had the sort of tits he’d likely never see outside internet porn. The woman in question was certainly well-endowed – perhaps too much so for the skimpy clothing she was wearing to ostensibly go monster-hunting later. However, she was displaying a level of shrewishness most of those shut-in social misfits tended to lack in their female forms.

F&@k off,” was the current comment of choice, being hurled at the character who, based on the way everyone kept looking to him for cues, was apparently the leader of a group of herd-following idiots. Senna, who was sensing in herself an uncharacteristic urge to just wade in and smack them all upside the head for their sheer idiocy and bad taste, decided she’d take the one chick over the entire posse no matter who was playing her – a position reinforced as the chick continued her verbal assault.

Parasites with nothing better to do than get in pissing contests with people, and without even being able to do s&#t yourself,” she said, an apparent computer-based language filter overwriting the center of her curse words with a green tone. “I dunno if you’ve managed to scare some kids into pissing themselves but I think things will be cleared up a bit faster with a-

She cut into a pause when the leader’s sword came out of its sheath and up to her neck with fairly impressive speed. A moment’s wide-eyed expression took its place on her face, then faded back to the previous sneer.

Aww, you don’t like us?” the leader asked, ridiculous sarcasm dripping from the words.

Their victim rolled her eyes. “Like I said. I’m just gonna contact admin and see if they can’t dig you out.” And then she was gone, abruptly and surprisingly – to Senna at least. She’d probably cut her connection. Judging by the simian laughter and hand-slapping that it caused, not only was her disappearance the desired effect, but also the height of some abstract hilarity.

It then occurred to her, belatedly, that instead of standing around and observing, indulging that part of her which was undeniably a social voyeur, she might have wanted to find someplace a little more truly hidden. This thought was reinforced as the group’s attention came around to center on her.

Being the center of attention wasn’t something Senna had copious amounts of experience with, and most of the times it had happened, she’d come out of the experience the worse for wear. Such seemed to be a likely consequence this time as well, as the group moved to cut off retreat routes and more or less pin her up against the dropoff into the water.

Hey, another one,” commented a Long Arm with a similar character design to Senna’s own, adding to the surreality of the moment. Their leader, with all the intelligence in his eyes of a scavenging hyena, stalked over to come face-to-face with her.

And what are you-

It was the limit, the absolute limit. He sounded like a thug from some black-and-white sitcom that should end with everyone learning a valuable lesson. It was somewhat in his accent, but more in the way he hunched forward, as though he could intimidate her with his size despite the fact that he was the same size as she was. The whole thing was ridiculous, so ridiculous that Senna felt herself make the transition from “worried” to “confused” to “annoyed” in the space of about three breaths.

Now, as annoyed as she was now feeling, and as itchy as she was to just leave this gaggle of idiots behind and go do something… she didn’t know, something ELSE with her time, there was the little matter of her not being able to just log out, as well as the whole no-backup and real-pain aspects to consider. That said, it was decided that diplomacy might be the best course of action for her.

Fuck off,” she suggested, somewhat irritated with herself for having to resort to such crude words but feeling nonetheless that they might be the only way to get through to this bunch..

Leader McWimpy sighed. “Why do these people always treat us like we’re doing something wrong?” he asked, appealing to the rest of his horde of cronies in an attempt to get, she could only assume, the rest of them whipped up into a listening-to-orders sort of frenzy.

This was not precisely what happened, but he did get a couple “Yeah!”s, which seemed to be good enough for him. Grinning, he raised his fist in salute to these more obedient apes, and then brought his sword to level at her.

She was getting tired of this, oh yes, MIGHTILY tired. It was bad enough when you were constantly belittling yourself in your own head, the words and sounds as rotten and cancerous as a festering sore. But by the same token, she knew she was outclassed here, if not by a single one of them, then definitely by the group. She was still not as well versed on The World as a lot of people, but she recognized a few of the weapons as being upward of her level.

So she did what any sane person would do. She shoved her way between two of them and ran.

It wasn’t clear if the group’s leader had been expecting this, but he should have been. But then, she assumed that if most people felt backed into a corner, they’d do like that woman earlier had and just log out. Perhaps running was just encouraging them to give chase. It was not a comfortable feeling – that she was making things worse, possibly, simply because of her instincts to get out of the situation.

She heard footsteps other than her own almost immediately, and a glance backward showed it was indeed her friend the Blademaster or Heavy Blade or whatever compensation-rich class he’d invested in to get that weapon.

This glance also told her something interesting. Despite being a heavy class, the guy was most certainly gaining on her. Ap Do, she guessed. Were she feeling like making herself a complete target, she could have stopped and cast the spell herself, but as that seemed vaguely suicidal. She was surprised to find she wasn’t actually scared of these people, perhaps-s because of the glaring stupidity they had thus far offered up in place of personality, but just because you weren’t scared of something didn’t mean it couldn’t screw you over royally

Of course, as Senna had learned the hard way time and time again, it didn’t always have to be outside forces that screwed you over, and in fact sometimes they actually kept you from doing exactly that to yourself. And such came to the forefront shortly thereafter, as she tripped over her own feet and made a graceless tumble to the ground.

Perhaps making the guy run after her in order to spout his nonsense was not a good idea though in theory, if someone decides to chase after you with no conceivable concrete result in mind, it should technically be their problem, not yours. Be that as it may, she hit the ground rolling and came around to see that the sword-wielder now had said weapon in the air and swinging downward.

At this point, her reflexes kicked in in the most embarrassing way, at the moment – she threw her arm up as though flesh were going to make an effective shield from a sword. She’d used this maneuver before, and it never worked out very well for the arm.

This time however, the arm didn’t seem to mind. Senna had flinched away from the contact, but when nothing hit, nothing cut a line in her arm, she looked back.

The blade-wielder was staring at her with an expression that suggested something more than simple stupidity in his mind. In fact, he looked rather frightened.

How… how’d you do that?” he asked.

Wha…

It went right through you… oh jeeze. We gonna get in trouble for just being…

Some of his groupies were catching up with them now. As the first pulled up and stopped, their leader turned to them and gestured them away. “Crap, she’s a hacker or an admin. Either way… back! Back!

But how do you-

The blade went through her arm, idiot! Didn’t hit at all.” he was so close to the person he was yelling at that he looked as though he was about to try and take a bite out of him. At his shouts, The rest of the group came to a halt and then, in singles or pairs, they started going back the way they’d come – apparently afraid to even be around someone who might either be or draw the game’s ruling elite

He was backing away as well now, the one who started the whole mess, and Senna was wishing to God she’d never set foot off the roof. If only because he was right. When she thought back, she could feel something – a tingle, a feeling of white and blue. Something. Had she really caused it to miss? To… to go through, perhaps? She’d been wondering about something unusual that she might be able to do? It seemed that she might have one, and it was as rotten and cowardly as the rest of her. The power to run away from a fight. Was that what she was? No wonder she’d left the house. No wonder she’d left all of it. Even the game was trying to help her escape. Even the came, or the code or the corruption, whatever it was…

She stared at her arms, whole and perfect beneath the sleeves. The gang was running off, looking for some less intimidating prey. She sat where she’d landed. Staring. She was a coward to the core. Even her flesh. Everything. How could she go back now? How could she go back, knowing that’s all she was worth? A shadow, turning her back. How could she face Canti, face Hac?

Her mind spiraled, and she felt cold all over. How. How? There was no use in training, no use in searching, she should just disappear. Disappear. Disappear!

The world rushed in her ears, and then it all went dark.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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14300 (1/23)


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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:58 pm 
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Part 7 – Negative Capability

Se þonne þisne wealsteal / wise geþohte / ond þis deorce lif / deope geondþenceð / frod in ferðe / feor oft gemon / wælsleahta worn

Shadow side Carmina Gatelica remained as cold and silent as the first time she’d arrived. The streets were clear of movement, and the buildings watched with dark eyes over the hollow dearth of civilization. Fingers twitched and then tightened on her spear. There were two things to do, and a lot to think about.

Step. Step. The sound of it, soft sandals on cobblestones, reminded her of earlier times, hesitant walks through the throngs at Mac Anu, the search for people to quest with. At the time it seemed like – it was – a game. Had it been so long ago? Had she been so different? At the time she didn’t really know what she was.

What was she?

A Long Arm. A poor friend. A coward. An accepter of consequences. A creator of consequences. A fighter. A monster. A murderer.

There it was, the part she wanted desperately not to think about. The part she had to think about. The base, the foundation, the root. That was the place from which everything else in this accursed past two days came. She kept walking, now able to see Sondrig standing at the furthest end of the city like a gothic ghost in negative. It was all working together, each moment part of the whole. Her mind was clicking along, over the experiences, over the people, over the realities. Descartes. Obscure understanding. It was monumental, and her heart fluttered a little as she could, in only abstract and far-too-fleeting ways, see the whole of it.

Shadows. It had to do with shadows. Shadows and murder and cowardice. Without the blank slate on which to project itself, her thoughts were staying within her mind, going back and forth like normal people’s do when they’re trying to figure something out.

It had to go back to the beginning. Not the very beginning, but the beginning of the spiral, the mooring at the top of the stair. It had to start with Devil. The understanding couldn’t come from any other point. So she thought. So she walked.

Whatever she might have been trying to tell herself for so long, there was one inescapable fact, and that was that Sekai was right. Whatever she might think of the reaction, Sekai was right in that Senna was a murderer, that she and Hac had ended someone’s life. Wasn’t it the formula, to accept the consequences of ones actions? Didn’t she try? Didn’t she usually try?

Had she tried this time?

The answer, inescapably and undeniably, was no. The reaction Sekai had to her action should have been wholly predictable. It should have been something she just took, part of the penance of life, the burden each person should take on simply by BEING. She could not hold the archer in anger for that reaction. It was at the very simplest a betrayal of Senna’s personal beliefs. It made her a hypocrite.

This did not mean she had to like it, or like the woman. She seemed untrustworthy to Senna, though that was probably more a judgment on what Senna looked for in those she trusted than on whether or not the woman could actually be trusted when the chips were down.

All this was being considered now because of where she was going, what she was fighting. If need be, she was going to take on one or more of those shadows. And if one of them caught her, she had an idea what might happen. And if working out this ridiculous crap in her head meant avoiding that, then it would be more than worth it.

And oddly enough, it was already helping. The anger, when she forced herself to think about things from the Archer’s point of view, was lessening, dulling. It didn’t disappear, but it helped.

So then. She was… she had… the thought was still hard to think, much less accept. She had killed. A living person was no longer living, most likely, thanks to her. But had it been the wrong thing to do?

Even now, in her heard of hearts, she thought not. And that was the worst part. She’d once proclaimed that nothing could justify the taking of another life. And now, she’d done so. Without knowing what she was doing at the time, true enough, but that didn’t mitigate or excuse her guilt. It merely added to it, added the aspect of anger, of further distrust of Marionette.

This one, she thought, could not be fixed now. And looking at it from both sides, she had to admit something disturbing.

It might never be fixed. There was a real possibility that some people might never forgive her. There was a possibility it was screwing her up in ways she hadn’t realized. And that, too, would require its own time – the healing or the realization.

But what the others thought, while it mattered, it didn’t MATTER. Not in the biggest sense of things. She reached the turn and walked around it, now heading straight for Sondrig. The bot looked up at her approach and waved tentatively.

She had to make her own decisions. While she hadn’t been actually looking for a philosophy in this forsaken part of The World, she’d found one. She had to thank Cassiel for it if they met again. It was a warping of what he’d told her, perhaps, but one didn’t get personal philosophy by rote. One got it by work and thought.

She was a person who had killed, in game and out, now. And she thought that in the same circumstance, she might well do it again. She looked at the rest of the Freedom Fighters as a crude, makeshift family - more screwed up than her normal one, sure, but family no less. And if there was something she’d learned from her parents, it was that the right action wasn’t always the popular one.

She was going to do what she thought was best, going forward. And if the group didn’t like it, they could kick her out. She was fully prepared for that eventuality.

Senna, you escaped,” Sondrig said, sounding astonishingly relieved, as Senna approached. “I was concerned when the enemies all attacked.

The others knew what to expect from her now. She knew sort of what to expect from them. She trusted a few. She felt she could take all their opinions into consideration. But the only one that could be allowed to matter was hers. And she could only allow that if she were willing to keep this mindset – to look even at that which she did not agree with. But still… still…

Yeah.” The reply sounded curt even to Senna’s ears, but it was hard to worry too much about it when the other person in the conversation was a faulty AI. “I figured I had to get back to the place I came through to here from, right? That’s how I get back?

That left only one thing in two parts – one of which she’d been thinking about quite a lot, even accepted as part of her character, and the other which she did not even want to dignify with name. But all had to be looked at. ALL had to be considered. Otherwise, what was this whole trip? It was a waste. Better to spam spells, run her SP out and die here and now, if that was indeed the consequence of Game Over.

What a horrid thought. A month ago, could she have thought such a thing seriously? That the answer was definitely “no” told her more than anything about what this place was doing.

That is how it works, though I believe you get pulled through from the other side, so maybe it doesn’t matter,” Sondrig said. “It may only matter where you died.

Senna laughed, inappropriate as that was. That was half the fun. She didn’t die, she ran away. And now her very body was attempting to aid her in that. There was no denying that the sword should have hit her. There was likewise no denying that all she’d felt was that cold, that blue. Her body was afraid-

No. Don’t look at it like that, she told herself. If you can look at both sides of the rest. You can look at both sides of this. Perhaps it was cowardice, but did it have to be? Was that all the ability to allow a sword blade to clip through her could mean? Could accomplish?

Sondrig, did you see who pulled me out of here earlier?

It seemed to be a fairly small thing, so she didn’t have to worry about falling through the floor or anything. And the cold had left, as frostbite might, a heaviness and a coldness in the area. Even now, with almost an hour between her current state and that incident, there was a heaviness to that arm if she thought about it. It was little enough, as abnormalities went. There were ways it would be more useful in a fight than out of it, than running away from it. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad.

It was that moment she realized why it had bothered her so much and she nearly laughed again. What sense did that make? Who would want to be normal?

It… It was Cassiel, wasn’t it?” Again, the range of emotion he’d worked into the AI’s personality surprised Senna. “I didn’t want to think so, but… was it?

Perhaps… perhaps it didn’t have to be bad. Perhaps she could make this work. If there was nothing else, she would miss those who’d meant something to her, whatever the ending, if she didn’t go back.

It was,” she told Sondrig. “And he said something’s wrong with you, in your code. Have you noticed anything?

She wasn’t sure why exactly she felt the need to ask this, except that if her malfunction and the warping of the red-eyed shadow had happened about the same time, they might have the same cause. And since Sondrig had bug-detection software, maybe she could turn it on herself and give some clue as to how to defeat that shadow.

The woman fell silent for several seconds, processing this request, then looked at the Long arm. “I see some abnormalities, but nothing outside acceptable parameters. Is there a problem?

Oh, no I-” But she cut off as Sondrig leaned to one side, peering around Senna. Her eyes widened a little, and Senna knew what she was going to say before she got a word out. Senna pivoted to face the other way, toward the alley she needed to get to, where she might be able to get back through to the Lit side, to the others.

As expected, there was a shadow. Yellow eyes. It moved like falling water. Senna flipped through her weapons, picking the one that seemed most likely to oppose what she saw. Her regular Glaive had done damage on its own, but perhaps an element would lend its attacks a little more potency. Thunder seemed like a prime place to start. She could hear Sondrig shout to her to be careful, and to that end, Senna did activate another Mage Soul as she charged forward.

Unlike the last battle against one of these, she did no shouting. The whole thing took on a quiet intensity for her as the distance between them closed and its size in her perception grew, cutting off the view of the buildings. How could its eyes be yellow in this world of colorlessness? Why was she even worried about it?

Launching herself forward, she made a sweeping swing at the creature.

It separated in the middle, the lower part dropping to the ground heavily while the upper part stared aloft momentarily, held up by an arch of inkiness where its spine should be. Senna allowed her momentum to turn her partway around before she landed, with her side to the beast, then used the angle to put in another sharp cut. The creature made another move along the same vein, only instead of part of it dropping to the ground, the whole thing did, falling so flat it looked nearly like an actual shadow.

Senna blew a strand of hair out of her face and stared at her enemy. What was this thing, standing in the way of her epiphanies? She’d known there might be a fight, but it wasn’t supposed to be difficult. She didn’t feel like a long battle dance right now.

Right now, all she wanted to do was to get back.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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14300 (1/23)


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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 9:32 pm 
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Part 8 – Vignette

Wyrd bið ful aræd!

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

She wished there were stars. Lying on her back on top of one of the buildings in Carmina Gatelica, she thought it would round out the experience. Of course, given the situation, she probably should have been more hesitant about wishing for more realism. She could have used her spear’s blade to draw blood. Wasn’t that real enough?

But be that as it may, she couldn’t help wishing for stars. They made a warm, dark night feel familiar, like the days in her own youth when her parents took her out into the country to watch shooting stars. They were dreams and wishes, and a way to forget, and a way to remember.

Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Since she could remember, the city was always warm, always friendly, even when it was bustling and you didn’t want to see anyone. That was the why of it – the normalcy was why she had come here, to the bridge, to the water. And while part of her hadn’t wanted to be found by anyone, a part of her obviously did want company, because she’d answered the Flashmail. She’d allowed herself to be found.

Senna, what’re you doing here?

The twenty million dollar question. Not just here, not just in Mac Anu, but maybe in The World at all. But the better question to her, at the time, had been what was HE doing here. The danger Canti was running, the risk in being in the open had to be so much more than anything she had to worry about. But there he was, talking her into leaving behind her self-pity and coming back to help the group.

They walked beneath the perpetual orange daylight of the city, and they talked. And most of the time, she wondered if anyone overhearing them would think they were just talking about something completely in-game and normal, not outlandish and unbelievable. She thought they might, She didn’t particularly care.

Really, the talk was important, but not as much for the words. It was for the talk itself. And she’d forever remember him for it, no matter what happened. Because sometimes, it was just nice to know that someone cared about the crap life threw at you, and whatever followed.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Unless one counted things intended to be odd, of all the things people had asker her for during her time in The World, the oddest request had to come from Silk.

Senna, can I get those Snickers that you have? I'll pay you back for it.

At the time, she couldn’t fathom what use food would have in the game, and had turned the minor healing items over without a fuss. She should have known by that time that if Silk were involved, the results would be worth watching and she ought to just sit back and enjoy it.

They had been fighting a giant monkey-god-thing at the time, during a trial which she’d as soon forget sometimes and had featured, among other things, Jenovra kissing Darkstar and herself being named the wife of one Ocara.

But this had happened before those, and had been its own brand of special. As Silk had burst out with his rendition of a Greenday song, she had been somewhat flabbergasted. As the plan began to come together though, she had to admire both the ingenuity and the bravery it took to put it all together.

And then, just as it was all culminating in fantastic success…. Death from below. She’d never before been sad at the death of an NPC, really, but she was. And from that point forward, she also maintained a certainty about Silk. His plans might be outrageous, but they also were always worth seeing. Long live the Knights of Destiny.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Necesity aside, Senna had never been much of a group fighter. Games that required people to team up and take roles would never be her forte, and she accepted this. She would rather grind a hundred smaller monsters to get the level than to join with people she didn’t know and perhaps cut the number of needed kills to twenty.

But the blades were humming through the air, singing a dirge for the players, and there was no choice. She could follow orders fairly well, and when the idea came in from the Wavemaster, she’d simply followed it. Not surprisingly, it had worked. His grasp of tactics astounded her. But also – and this should not have surprised her either – some of the blades came buzzing after her.

And so, the group tactics took over, in a way she would never have predicted or planned. First there was the shout from overhead, then a spell enveloping her. The magic threw the little metal buzzards off their course, and she was sure he’d done for them, and grateful. And then-

Then a hurt, a push. A certainty she was about to die. It wasn’t like the attacks from the others, little paint-lines of razor-pain. She turned, but there was no enemy, only Dien, casting a healing spell, and then apologizing for whatever he’d done. It had hurt, but it had stopped the enemy attack as well. “Thanks” was all she said, but if it weren’t the middle of battle, if she were at all demonstrative, she might have hugged him.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

During later times, she would hate him. There would come a time when he would become the enemy. She would look at Zan and see only the internal roiling that seemed to make him as much like the wolf that was supposed to be part of him as a normal human being. She would not care much what he had to say, and although she trusted him as a Freedom Fighter, she cared nothing for his thoughts on any but the most immediate of fights.

This was earlier, however, when she was new enough not to really understand what being trapped inside a game really meant. Her first encounter with Zan that suggested something was wrong was that spiral staircase – around and around.

She hadn’t realized what it was at first. He wasn’t all one, and he wasn’t all the other, but some hybrid. Nonetheless, he was flying, his movements free of the binding earth, and for that, in that moment, there was nothing but happiness and a certain longing in her. It was strange, but watching someone else fly gave the thought that maybe, possibly, other people could do the same, and maybe all the burdens of life could truly be thrown off. It was a hard thought to shake, even as other events overshadowed it – that one look at someone who could soar.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Examining that period of time in retrospect, it was “the ump shuns us” that had done it. There was no denying that things had gone exactly as she expected them to, though to a lesser degree than she’d thought. And when Zhao had asked her to talk, she knew exactly where it was going. This wasn’t a knock against the Twin Blade. If anything, she really appreciated that he was willing to come to her and ask for her reasons before making his judgment.

And for a while, the talk had been serious, almost clinical. A question and answer as much about personal morals as it was about tactical ones. But as much as she appreciated his calm handling of the situation, she really just wanted to let the moment rest – to give people time to stew over it. Once they stewed, then they’d say all that garbage that normal political correctness filters drew out when one dealt with things in too calm a manner.

She’d tried to keep it light, but when dealing with apparent betrayal, she supposed there wasn’t a whole lot of light to go around. The talk was tiring, so tiring, So it wound up, and she thanked him for talking to her, and he’d answered.

"You know what happens when you make an assumption. It makes an ass out of you... and the ump shuns us."

There it was. It was so ridiculous. So flat-out stupid that no one would-

She laughed. She truly laughed. And that was worth almost anything at that moment.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Really, at their levels, there was no way they could have expected a Cadet Valkyrie to hop out of the portal and assault them. They were level 2, the field was level 2, it just didn’t make sense when you did the math.

But nonetheless, there it was, a level five monster backlit in memory by the deep red glow of embers and lava. She with her spear, Reinier with his sword… it had occurred to her as soon as the thing emerged from its portal that they were officially screwed.

But giving up had nothing to do with knowing the battle was futile. If anything, it made it more fun. Not fun in the traditional sense, perhaps, but there was a freedom in knowing you weren’t expected to win. You could try anything. You could dance through the battle, make faces at the enemy, or just perform an all-out frontal assault.

And he had done the same, both of them darting in and out, attacking, blocking, giving their all. The final blow had been a joint effort, she pinning it so they had a moment’s reprieve while he finished it off with a deft blade strike. There had been a moment’s pause as the pair assessed the situation. HAD they done it?

It turned out they had. It was an interesting way to make a first friend in The World, that she would always admit.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

In the end, it didn’t really count. She and Hac had faced one another across the battlefield, each trying their best, but the point hadn’t been for one to win. It was for the two of them to put on the best show – and they had.

He’d managed to get sparkles. She remembered that even after other aspects of the duel and who used what were faded. Franklin always had sparkles, apparently the outward sign of how utterly fantastic he looked to members of the opposite sex. And Senna… well, she’d dressed as Felix, who was a guy but who looked like a girl, so all good there.

Was that the first time they’d teamed up? That memory was getting hazy now, but she knew they’d known one another before – that they’d been friends before. You didn’t just up and decide to do an event with someone you didn’t know at all. But it’d been an astoundingly long friendship, for something born and fostered within a game.

Amazing, how things could work out.

~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~ ~*+-+*~

Senna blinked. Still no stars. But whatever. Flights of fancy… no, that was a ridiculous phrase. Meandering thoughts had their own place on an evening.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
Click for full equipment and items
14300 (1/23)


Last edited by Senna on Tue Mar 04, 2008 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:44 pm 
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Part 9 – Memento Mori

Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg / geond þas woruld / for hwan modsefa / min ne gesweorce / þonne ic eorla lif

Senna pressed the attack on the shadowy stalker, using her longer reach and greater speed to good effect. However, what did you do with a creature built of shadows? There was no blood when her spear finally scored a deep cut across the thing’s side. There was no sound of pain or fear. The only nod it gave to the fact that anything happened at all was flattening out again on the ground, a position from which she soon realized she could not attack it, but neither could it attack her.

It was strange. The first time they’d tangled, she and one of these monsters, the encounter had been passive. It just ate her, and then she fought her way out. Apparently, she now registered as too much of a threat for passive attacks. Instead, the creature’s mass warped into points, rough approximations of the weapon Senna used, which could protract or draw in depending on need. As Senna hopped out of the reach of one and batted aside another with a deft sweep of her spear, she began considering and rejecting several ideas which could follow up the basic Freedom Fighters tactic of bashing away at something until it gave up.

She wished she hadn’t felt the need to go back to Sondrig and verify the means of getting out of here. She wasn’t even sure the suggestion was sound. Sondrig’s knowledge was coded in based on the normal means of getting here. Still, there was really nothing else to go on.

To her left, she saw a second shadow begin to emerge.

It seemed they let the first have its chance at the prey, but if that first did not make a quick end of things, then the others considered the whole thing fair game. Senna made an irritated sound and worked her way around the one she was currently fighting, fending off its attacks as best she could without wasting energy on trying to get attacks of her own in. There was one choice from here, distasteful but the only one she could see. It was well within character, at any rate, and she supposed there was little enough to make fun of her for if she ran from creatures like these, who outnumbered and for all she knew outclassed her.

The trick was, these creatures were of the Shadow side. They couldn’t go back to the world where the players roamed, but, God willing, she could. She’d done it before, somehow (though never quite like this) and if she got out, they couldn’t follow her. Maybe someday, stronger and better prepared, she could come back and teach the shadows the real fear of a powerful player.

So thinking, she maneuvered herself until she stood between the monster and the alley from which she’d first emerged in this monochromatic wonderland. And then, resisting the urge to wave toodle-oo to the thing, she turned and made a mad dash for the narrower space.

A good plan, but perhaps not the best. Senna sprinted between the buildings at top speed, then nearly sent herself tumbling as she came to a halt at the spot she’d first come through at, across from one of the many blank windows on these monotonous buildings.

So she was here, at the place she’d originally come through. Now what?

Uhhh… portal appear,” she said, her face becoming instantly hot at how ridiculous she sounded. It didn’t help that the alley reacted as though nothing had happened. “Way open. Let me out. Oh, come ON.

Apparently, none of these were the magic words to open the door between this world and the real one. She remained firmly here in an alley that seemed to be growing increasingly darker and more ominous…

While the second part of that could be attributed firmly to the Long Arm’s imagination, the first part was most certainly happening, thanks to the advance of the shadow she’d been fighting. At least, she thought it was that one. It could have been another. It could have been two, even. It was kind of hard to tell, when your enemy was a formless blob of black ink that showed no signs of the damage inflicted.

Backing against the wall, Senna narrowed her eyes at the advancing enemy. Another thing being a Freedom Fighter had taught her was that when physical attacks didn’t work, there was still a whole second palette to pick from.

Rai Rom.

It should not have been a surprise when that worked. Given its ability to avoid external physical attacks most of the time, she probably should have tried using a spell straight away, but at the time she hadn’t been thinking clearly. Truth be told, she probably still wasn’t.

The lightning forked from a vortex of wind, little spears of gold that danced across the shadow and where they touched, obliterated it. When the spell dropped and disappeared, the shadow was barely a third its original size and the yellow eyes looked huge, far too large for its diminished body. With a rustling like tissue paper underfoot. It scurried out of the alley and away from the attacker.

Given that root towns were supposed to be hubs, maybe it made sense for the monsters here to be so easily vanquished, she thought as she watched it go. Though, if the point were to actually destroy it, that speedy retreat could prove just as troublesome as a formidable magical defense.

Well, whatever. She turned her attention again to the problem of getting out of here. But no matter how she looked at it, the alley looked the same. There was no sign of what to do, where to stand, any of it. Sondrig’s words might have been helpful except that they pertained to normal entry. Senna was beginning to feel that whatever else she might have worked out in this epiphany-laden trip, she might lose to something as simple as a wall. And there was the worst part. Losing meant never leaving. And for many, many reasons, that could not happen.

All this was getting her no closer to escape. However, her actions seemed to have garnered her some interest. The dullness of the atmosphere suddenly came alive with crackling, and again what light was making it into the alley dimmed and cut off. This time though, it was faster. How entertaining. She figured she’d have a good while yet before this particular thing showed up.

The red eyes, all the more bright because of the lack of color in just about everything else, stared down at her from an angle of dominance as the shadow they belonged to reared up like a snake – like the snake she’d wanted to forget, but no mere diversion this time. This was like the others, but broken, bigger, louder. Who knew what other changes that might have wrought within the creature?

Come on, come on, portal. Or whatever. Open!!

But it didn’t open, and the shadow was approaching, engulfing. Everything around it seemed to disappear, drawn into the depths of its being. She brought her weapon up in a defensive stance, completely certain that doing so would do her no good.

She was right, unsurprisingly enough. It lashed out and connected with a surprisingly solid attack, the equivalent of a backhand that sent her in a complete, stumbling circle before she hit the wall and landed in an awkward heap on the ground.

The shadow didn’t react to this one way or the other, simply kept advancing. Wincing at the pain in her tailbone, she cast another Rai Rom, this one centered around the place where she thought she’d arrived.

It didn’t do the same damage as it had to the smaller one, but it cleared the shadows out of the area. Tasting blood at the corner of her mouth and thankful she wasn’t hurting more, she scrambled back. Frustrated, she kicked at the wall backward, as a horse would, but with far less result. “Dammit, come ON” One fist struck backward

It didn’t open. The shadows closed. The sky was gone. The ground was disappearing. The darkness washed over her feet, over one hand, the hand that was against the wall. Cold. Very cold. Just like real life. It was… it was…

She had a sudden, sure feeling that this was it. Cold as the parts of her now obscured by the shadow. Her hands came up, her eyes closed. This was what was deserved. And just after she’d finally figured something out, found it out, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, it couldn’t-

And abruptly, the light shining on her eyes took on a red hue. The crackling was gone, replaced with the hissing sound of water washing against the ocean-walls.

She didn’t even open her eyes. She just slumped against the wall, slid down it until she was sitting on the ground, and then began to laugh.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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14300 (1/23)


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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 3:27 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:28 pm
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Part 10 -Denouement

Wyn eal gedreas!

The Hideout. She’d been away a short time, right? Why did it feel as though things should have changed within when she got there?

She didn’t enter. She sat against the side of a nearby building, watching the people who walked, considering her next action, trying to ignore the flashing of the Flashmail indicator.

Well, actually… if she was planning on going back, perhaps examining that might not be amiss. Wearily (when had she gotten so tired?) she flipped over to the list of missives. Scanning the names, she smiled at a couple. Frowned at one. Deleted one. Read through the rest.

Zan’s got an eyebrow raise. She wanted to be angry, but she was too tired. There was a word that was coming to mind regarding it. She’d remember it later. The rest were good to read, and she supposed she should answer, but there was one that was important at the moment.

If there was going to be an answer, first there was one thing that had to be taken care of. She thought the Freedom Fighters could do it. She probably wasn’t enough to help, but she’d try. And either way, she wanted to be there.

Standing, she stretched once, then headed for the portal, and from there, to the keywords as sent out by Nighthand. One more time. This time, there was something new on her side, she supposed. Who knew. Perhaps it was the way to move up. To become better. Perhaps it was just a need to…

Well, being near friends could never be a bad motive.

Thought she found herself wondering how Sondrig was doing. Silly, the girl was just a construct. She hadn’t even helped that much. If anything, she made things worse. But still…

She stepped up to the portal and disappeared within the golden rings.

((Yay, fin, sorry it sucked, for any who read it. It got sorta spliced together out of the idea I was originally going to do but which woulda taken waaaaay too long))

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
Click for full equipment and items
14300 (1/23)


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 Post subject: Re: A Poetic Inversion
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:13 pm 
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Location: ...Tracking...please wait...
Senna: -> +4 Levels, + Air Bracer, + Thunder Anklet

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