The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]

The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]
RE: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]
Reserved. No one else post please
RE: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]
And then

And then

And then

"At last!" cried Eselt. "I, Karlak Bronzehammer, with whale and sword, have become Anime God Ascendant!"

The crowd roared. Not a dry eye in the house, counting those who were crying, allergic to the pyrotechnics, otherwise diseased, watching from the underwater section, bleeding, had had exotic liquors or ejaculations thrown in their faces, and, anyway, the eye is mostly made of water--a "dry eye" is not something you want.

Koule had cried on-and-off, but the main source of his watery eyes was repeated, guilty yawning. This play was getting the best of him. The gist, as he understood it, was that a one-eyed sadistic aristocrat had kidnapped a princess, a blacksmith, a seer, and a paraplegic general (among others who were either too minor or too complicated for Koule to bother with their deals) to fight each other to the death in seven strange lands. Around two acts in, it had gotten kind of abstract. The structure was cryptically nonlinear and complicated by the presence of the oracle (who was still showing up even though he had died in Act 3, as Koule recalled) and everything was increasingly falling into the maximalist style that Koule believed was called "incredibly anime" among theater types.

The main pathos of the piece had two stems: one of them was the the old canard about knowing your future but being powerless to prevent it, vis-a-vis the oracle, and the other one involved the princess dealing with some past childhood trauma and resultant stunted emotional growth. The actress playing the princess was very familiar in a way that Koule couldn't place, but, more importantly, she was very good. He had to admire the artistic choice to depict the traumatized sixteen-year-old girl as completely nude and drippingly sexual. Presumably to mollify the censors, the actress had no breasts--but in a way that suggested breasts, if that made sense.

But once Eselt came on stage, not even the constant presence of a hairless, quivering, watermelon-pink vulva could distract him from the real reason Koule was here, which was to support his brother. He wondered whether the decision to play the Blacksmith as an impression of their father had been a last-minute change--in light of recent events, natch--or something he'd been working on throughout the rehearsal process. But the character of Karlak felt like his door into the play, for all its pretensions and idiosyncrasies and intra-theatrical references; Karlak was just a man, a man like his own father, trying to get through the day and get a hard day's work out of it. 

"I grow weak," choked Eselt. "My role in this tale is nearly finished. I must return now to the grandest battle of all--raising my two sons, Soule and Ekelt." He teleported away in a yellow-green-purple-silver burst of glittery pyrogenics.

Koule was finally beginning to see how acting could be just as much an act of love and self-expression as cryptolinguistics. Still, he was glad that it would all be over soon.


Imagine, if you dare, a fire that burns even space into ash! 

Nine planets bursting like popcorn--cleansed, in the inferno, first of life, then of minerals, and, at last, even of memory! A holocaust so complete that we can not even learn a lesson from it!

A heat to make even the stars strip to their boxers and switch on the A/C--before they, too, succumb to the flames!

World-trees going up like overcooked broccoli stalks, leaving a brown stain as of burnt olive oil on the so-called "non-stick" baking pan that is the multiverse!

Now imagine--if, indeed, your mortal mind can handle the strain--a being so evil that it would deploy this weapon across the cosmos, all to destroy a buxom feelsmith and a worm sticking out of a Granny Smith apple!

But no matter the motives of Double-Hoss, the Cannibal God, for--behold!--our heroes have activated the Faster-Than-Fash drive, and are well on their way to the final leg of their adventure.

But wait!

"The heat shields aren't holding!" cried Fanthalion* (*Queen Bitch and Archivist of All Creation, last seen last post ~ed.) through Sen's mouth. "Good gods, Holly--even time is boiling!"

"I noticed." Holly played a little solo on the zipper of her Space Tracksuit. Outside the viewport of the H.O.S.S. Girls Just Wanna Have Gun, explosions burned white and then faded to leave no color whatsoever, an absence that was not even black. "Fantha, if you stay hunched over that console, your Sen-body's gonna go up like a baked yam. I have cold--I'll cover you."

"Oh, fuck this body. It's so starchy. We're going to need coolant down in the engine room. I'll stay up here."

"You're sure?"

"When have I ever not been sure? Anyway, you get colder when you're alone--"

"Fine. But--"

"--And when there hasn't been time to say last words. Now go!"

Holly took the E-Levator down to the engine deck and pulled Algernon's worm out of the pocket of her tracksuit. The primary engine column was red-hot and starting to go gloopy in bits. "Okay," said Holly. "Cold."

Cold was easy. Holly considered Algernon's worm. Bits of hair and skull were still sticking out of it, and it wrapped itself around her palm as if desperate for companionship. Holly thought about how easy it would be to plug the thing into her head and forget her problems away--the Purple House, Tor, Jeremy, Algernon, and now Fantha, cooking upstairs. High school. The knowledge that she was a copy, and the desperate importance of the mission bestowed upon her and her companions by the High Librarians of Biowyrmia. To purge all the painful memories of puberty, orthodonture, painful heels, anti-elf microaggressions, miscellaneous drama, and, of course, guilt.

It was a cold impulse, and, instead of doing it, she sent it out into the world, caking the Girls Just Wanna Have Gun’s engine in ice. The ice melted and then evaporated to steam, which, rising, crystallized and fell again in little plinks of hail. One note faded away from the trip-hop beat of competing alarm bells aboard the ship. Holly pocketed the worm, zipped up her tracksuit, and headed back up the E-Levator.

Sen was, predictably, dead—but before the body had given it up, it had charted a safe course out of the double-H.O.S.S.’s territory. It wouldn’t do any good. There was no heading back, nothing to go forward to, and not nearly enough metafuel to track them altways back into the current round of the Battle.

Fantha’s biowyrm pooped itself out of Sen and squinched its way towards Holly, making a little mewl-hiss noise that a more open-minded elf might have found cute. The worm was asking a question. “No,” Holly answered. “You’re out of bodies until we find somewhere safe to land, Fantha.”

This was a weak excuse. There was nowhere safe to land unless Holly pulled something out of her ass that would get them there. Not only couldn’t they rely on Fantha’s powers, Holly couldn’t even ask her for advice—not without letting Fantha eat her. What could she do? Accelerate the ship using urgency? But she didn’t have enough urgency to spare. She was pretty feeled out (felt out?) for the moment.

Fantha nudged Holly’s shoe. “Quit it,” Holly said, staring out the Space Windshield at the abyss of nothingness that awaited them. She made a petulant whine-growl sound and picked Fantha up. “Okay,” she said. “I’m thinking about it. But you have to do it like you did it with Jen, okay? No annihilating and assimilating my personality. We got this far as partners.”

The biowyrm nodded. “And another thing,” said Holly. “You don’t get to psychically or biochemically manipulate me. Just because I’m still technically alive doesn’t mean you get to turn me into—well, for instance, some sort of performatively-sexed-up MC for a sentient counterculture. Been there, done that, it sucked. Well, at the end there it sucked. The point is, you have no right.”

The wyrm nodded again. Holly chewed her hair. “I’m going to have to start eating people, right?” Fantha nodded. “But I’ll get, like, shapeshifting powers?” Fantha shook her head. “You’ll have shapeshifting powers, with my body.” Fantha nodded. “Which you won’t abuse. I’ll still look like me, except in emergencies.” Fantha made an ambiguously wiggly gesture, paused, and then nodded.

Holly wasn’t so sure that she believed any of this. “Why worms?” she asked. “Is it a Freudian thing, or just a convergent evolution thing? If you live inside other things that are full of tubes, I guess it makes sense to be a tube.”

Fantha had no way of answering this. Holly sighed. “Fine,” she said. “Be gentle.”

She cocked her head to one side and raised the worm to her neck, working on an assumption that it worked basically like vamp—


—It’s a no zone
You gon’ be floatin’ in them rivers like you know Joan
Island girl, Donald Trump want me to go home
Still pull up with my wrist lookin’ like a—

What?” demanded Kathy, tearing out her earbuds. The perisoner had snapped out of another set of handcuffs and was reaching a hand out between the bars of her cell, snapping her fingers in Kathy’s face.

“Don’t,” sighed Kath. “Don’t engage it.”

“Yeah, Street Goth Kath,” said the girl. “Don’t engage me. I’m on that Hannibal Lecter shit. Gonna talk my way to freedom.” She did a middling take on a Anthony Hopkins tongue flip. “You got that reference, didn’t you?”

This is your best? asked Telekath. You would to turn us against each other because your home uniseas have the same political figures?

“Movies,” corrected Kathy. “Well, books. And there’s a show, now, that’s supposed to be good.”

“My Earth didn’t have the show,” said the girl, “I don’t think. Silence of the Lambs. I was thinking about it that whole time I was in your prime’s world and I kept eating people, ‘cause of this other thing—”

She’s not the prime, said Telekath. There’s no ‘prime Kath.’ Is your ken of deeper geometry so simple, or are you ‘doing a bit?’

Kath said: “I ken the thought is we’re to get envious of the Prime Kath—I’ve no problem with the term, Telekath, we need a referent if we we’re to talk about these things—and, so envious, we feel we must kill that same Prime to feel real.”

Kathy snortled. “‘Oh no, guys, our reality isn’t really real. Let’s all sit down and let our prisoners out and write some poetry about it, ‘cause we didn’t cover this shit in Philosophy 201.’ You’re the worst Hannibal ever, princess.”

“I just find it weird,” said the prisoner, “that you haven’t all been betraying one another. I mean, that’s your natures, right? It’s the prime one’s nature. First time we met, she betrayed me.”

Kaths have betrayed Kaths in plenty, said Telekath. It’s measured into the normal turnover rate along with rewarded Kaths, punished Kaths, and Kaths felled by the one-eye or by locals. ‘Twill yet be decades before we’ve stagnated the Amoral-Rational-Stronger-Than-Jen Kath probability reef.

“What we don’t do,” added Kathy, “is betray Queen Kath. ‘Cause only she has the Place, the Place is singular, and the plan doesn’t work without her. ‘Rational amoral.’ Got it?”

“Personally,” said Kath, “I’d flow with a tad less Kath attrition. Each companion rotation, I drain up with less Kathlike Kaths. I’d accustomed myself to the boutique mirror view.”

Oh, Sea forbid, mocked Telekath, We drain up with some diversity of expertise.

“Or some clothes,” mumbled Kathy.

The prisoner addressed Kathy now. “You’re my favorite one, Street Goth Kath. But are you even a mermaid, or is it just like an Aquaman thing or what?”

“She means to get information on us,” warned Kath.

“Oh, it’s fine,” said Kathy. “Guard rotation’s in an hour. Here.” Kathy jumped from a standing position and attached to the ceiling with the adhesiveform on her fingertips. Then she swapped out her legs. A glittering, green, scaly tail unfolded from under her skirt, whipping around the room.

Behold, Jen said Telekath, ‘tis your color.

“You want I should shake it a little while I’m up here,” said Kathy, effecting an abstractly poledancey maneuver against the ceiling, “or nah?”

Jen exchanged an ironic thoughtpattern with Telekath. “Okay,” she said, resting back against the back end of her cell. “So as Kaths get more different from each other, do you think you’re gonna get more Kaths having sex with one another, or less? Is it that it stops being masturbation and starts being incest, or it stops being incest and it starts being—”

“Platonic homoerotic performance,” interrupted Kathy, landing gracefully on her feet back on the floor. “You really didn’t make it into college, did you? Check your thinly-disguised lesbophobia, miss, ‘I’m not really just sixteen but I act like I’m twelve.’”

“Most Kaths in my spread don’t really get heated for the act,” added Kath, “save sometimes when we can incorporate murder.”

And Telekath: I heard there’s one who the Queen had to send home. She was being weird about—

Kathy’s phone buzzed. “That’s the alarm,” she said, sliding to dismiss. “Time for the beating, Jen.”

“Try it,” growled Jen. According to the guard that Kathy had rotated in for, she always said “try it”—and they always did, and they always succeeded.

Kathy popped her earbuds back in and brought her tail back as she opened the cell door and moved in to deliver some regularly scheduled pain:

—the baddest, usually I'm the cutest
Usually I'm the flyest, usually you're the stewardess
And we ain't playin' ball but usually its some shooters
Are these bitches drunk? These bitches ain't lucid
Go against the queen your career will be elusive
Where your plaques? Where them stocks? Word to—

Something smelled like pine.

Kathy wiped her portion of Jen blood off on her skirt and turned. There was a shaft of root sticking out of the floor on one end and the ceiling on another end, and a woman, stepping out of the bark. The tree had appeared consubstantive with Telekath, reducing her to a spatially tangled mess of a corpse.

“Shit,” said Kathy. “Kath, swor—”

But Kath was frozen in a block of ice that now filled half the room. Kathy lunged for her sword, and caught an empathic whiff of a very heavy feeling, and then her lungs were full of lead.

Jen picked herself up off the floor and watched Street Goth Kath breathe her last. She checked to see if anything was broken—but no, as always, the Kaths had done their bullywork with precision. Just enough to reduce her to only the most conservative, the most cowardly escape plans. She could never have Hannibal’d herself out of there.

“Jen,” said the woman in the room.

Jen grinned. “H-Bomb!” She gave the other woman, who she only vaguely remembered hating, a hug. “You have no idea how glad I am to see someone with tits.” Then she groaned. “Okay, that one Kath was right—I need to stop making jokes like that.”

“What?” asked her rescuer, and then: “Jen, I’m not H-Bomb.”

“Right. ‘Holly.’ Sorry.” Jen stepped back to look the woman up and down. Something in Holly’s face, or something in her hair… “Oh. F-Bomb.” Fanthalion. Her “best friend.” Holly, at least, would have been a simpler rival and a much simpler ally. “Is Holly—”

“Gone,” said F-Bomb. “Deconstructed and recorded in”—she tapped the wyrm sticking out of her neck—”the archive. I’m the only one who made it back to you. Jen, why are you being held prisoner by an army of identical mermaids? What round of the battle is this?”

“The final,” said Jen. “Or, well, I don’t know if we’re in the Battle anymore. This city had some sort of defense system—I think Arkal must have set it up on purpose or subconsciously on purpose. The Observer’s trapped in here with us.”

“Good,” said F-Bomb. “I was trapping the Observer, not you. But his location’s scrambled out to a couple lightyears, and you’re, well, I can always find you, Jen. You’re a part of me.”

Jen smiled, hoping she still had all her teeth. “You’re sweet,” she said. Her eyes twitched to the three Kath-swords sitting in the corner of the room, always out of her reach. “Are you going to kill me?” she asked.

“Relax,” said F-Bomb. “I’m on instructions from the homeworld to parasitize the Grandmaster for the archive. If you die, it’ll give him a chance to weasel out, right? Is that why the mer haven’t been killing you?”

Jen nodded. “They’ve taken the city and they’re hunting him. He’s hurt but he’s still, uh, let’s say ‘ultrapotent’ and ‘lotsaniscient.’ I think Xadrez is coordinating their movements on orders from the O.G. Kath, who owns his soul now. And she probably has that sword, too… Once she gets him, she will kill me. I don’t know if I can stop it.”

“So your best move,” said F-Bomb, “since you can’t beat Kath and you’re in no position to kill the Grandmaster, would be to kill Xadrez and escape this world by ending the battle.”

Jen scrunched up her face. “I don’t wanna kill Xadrez,” she admitted. “I mean, that’s the, like, ‘do the assignment, get good grades, go to a nice out-of-state college’ scenario of this whole Battle. What’s even the point of surviving if I don’t get to kill God and also my fish-nemesis?” She kicked the frozen Kath. “But yeah. I would do that, but you wouldn’t let me.”

“That’s right.”

“I can kill your Holly body. I mean, her whole emotion-magic thing is cool, but not me cool.”

“Honey.” F-Bomb smoothed out Jen’s hair. “The Holly you know had all the emotional range of a psychology major with unexplored repressed trauma. This is me. I have the archive. I can access memories for people who have experienced infinity. Who have existed in complete voids between universes. Who have felt loves and and emnities that have shattered empires. How do you think I world-tree’d my way here? I felt ‘world-tree.’”

“Huh,” said Jen. “So you might be able to take on the Observer all by your lonesome now—and then do you kill me?”

“Why would I do that?” F-Bomb sprouted a third eye on Holly’s forehead, which winked and then vanished.

“You’re my best friend and all,” said Jen, sidestepping around F-Bomb and picking up a sword, “but if you try anything, I’ll kill you.”

“Oh yeah? Let’s test that theory.” F-Bomb closed her eyes and took a deep breath—and a second Jen, with a big “2” on her shirt, appeared in the room. “Hi, Jen,” said F-Bomb. “Remember how we were just talking about me killing you? I’m gonna do it right now.”

Jen-2 drew her sword, and then F-Bomb felt something, and Jen-2’s head exploded into white light.

F-Bomb turned back to the real Jen and affected a nasal voice: “‘Congratulations, Xadrez!’ Oh, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not the real you! Even if she was perfectly identical, she lacked that special web of destiny that you used to have before you lost it to a fish! So if you—”

Jen rolled her eyes. “I get it, Fantha,” she said. “I was just talking about this with Kaths. Jen is Jen is Jen.”

“Well put. Come on.” F-Bomb threw open the door up out of the dungeon. There was something in her eyes that gave Jen pause—some slight emotional distance. For all that the wyrm was enjoying her telegenic new body and her seemingly-limitless powers, all those big feelings were taking something out of her that she wouldn’t admit.

Classic Fanthalion.

“You want to know what 'Jen’ feels like?” F-Bomb asked as they walked upstairs. “What emotion I feel deep inside that the universe reads as ‘oh, it’s that girl’? I can describe it to you in similes.”

“I think I’m good,” said Jen.