The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin

The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by bobthepen.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by A Killer Cuppa Tea.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by bobthepen.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Once upon a time there was a sweet innocent girl who wanted nothing more in the whole world than to share her stories with others. She found a nice little town full of colourful characters and she wrote them delightful tales which they all thoroughly enjoyed. They were all like 'man your stories are so great I wish we could have storytime all the time and not have to deal with reality at all', and since the girl was so good and kind she obliged them. All was good in the town and it could have and should have ended there, but unfortunately for everyone involved it did not.

One otherwise unremarkable day a group of nine intruding bastards wandered into the town seemingly intent upon ruining the happiness she had brought to the people of this peaceful city. She tried to be kind and include them in her stories, but they just made a mess of things, reducing her finely crafted plots to abject nonsense. Yet others would not be deterred, so determined they were to eradicate her stories that they forced the people of the town back to reality.

The people of the town were all 'hey narrator lady these guys are bothering us, is there anything you can do about it?' and the girl begrudgingly agreed to kill all of the intruders. As the intruders awoke from their sleep they felt something strange, a compulsion guiding them towards the library, and if they stopped and checked themselves somewhere on their body they would find a marking, a red circle with a rose inside.


Slowly the town awoke from their confused sleep. If they had noticed the contestants amongst them, it might very well have caused something of a panic, or at the very least some difficult questions. However most of the population of the town were already panicking, whether it was over the fact that a large chunk of the town was rather unexpectedly on fire, or because of the dragon circling lazily in the skies overhead. The newcomers were by and large unnoticed.

One person who was unable to ignore them was Red, after waking from the longest and deepest sleep a girl should ever go through she found herself on the floor of her bedroom. A weirdo lavender lady and another lady dripping wet with long scraggly hair were in her bed, in the middle of doing something that she instinctively knew she shouldn't be exposed to at such a young age. Her awakening had not gone unnoticed, they had paused and were staring at her.

"Beat it kid." Adelaide snapped.

Red didn't need telling twice, without a word she fled down the stairs to the castle proper, she would do the sensible thing: find a grown up and tell them that there were strangers being inappropriate in her room.


Vera quickly dismissed the crazy dream she had had as nothing more than a crazy dream. She knew she was blessed by fate, the very notion that she could be defeated was preposterous. The town was much busier than it had been. Here and there were people (she guessed they were people, they were the same approximate shape as people) rushing through the town which had previously seemed so empty. Though surprised, Vera was not particuarly interested. They weren't her fated enemies, they weren't her problem. She opted to ignore the strange creatures.

She felt some kind of pull, drawing her inexorably towards some unknown destination. Vera was quick to assume it was the hand of fate, guiding her to where she was supposed to be. So, she happily headed off in that direction, and she would have followed it all the way to the library had she not noticed the majestic beast flying high over the town.

For the first time since being snatched into this battle her attention was diverted from her potential fate. Dragons were an alien concept to a tsote, their literature being so focused around fate and the acceptance or denial thereof that most of their mythical creatures had some tie in to a person's fate. For example in tsote literature vampires drank the fates of their victims, and for this reason were a little more picky in who they attacked.

This... thing, Vera struggled for words to adequately describe the dragon, was something else entirely. To bring down a creature like this would be amazing. Her fate would always be waiting for her, but this might be the one opportunity she had to kill such a creature. She knew instantly that she had to take it. The dangers involved in fighting such a creature never even crossed her mind. Fate wouldn't let her lose, not while she still had her destiny to fulfil.

She drew her pistol, took careful aim and fired upon the creature. The dragon roared, spewing forth an angry plume of flame as it did so, and descended towards the arrogant tsote. Vera slid her gun back into its holster, unsheathed her razorwhip and grinned.


Adelaide and Alice were forced to cut things short as they heard the sound of heavy footsteps echoing up the spiral staircase. There was an awkward moment, mainly on Alice's side, as they disengaged from one another. Alice scrambled around pulling her clothes back on, managing to make herself decent as a pair of royal guards stormed into the room, flanked by Red. The guards (a pair of anthropomorphic ravens) were dressed in polished plate armour and wielded a pair of halberds. They looked somewhat anachronistic standing next to a bulletin board full of crayon drawings.

"Explain yourselves." One guard demanded, swinging his halberd around in what was probably a threatening manner, he hadn't actually had to do this before, he wasn't sure what the correct procedure was. "Who are you and what are you doing in here?"

Adelaide peeled herself from the bed that was now soggy with grimy water and walked over to Alice.
"We were jus' enjoying ourselves, not that it's any of yer goddamned business." She draped one arm over Alice's shoulder and continued: "S'not 'gainst the law las' time I checked." Grimy water dripped down Alice's back, pooling on the cold stone floor at her feet.

The more confident of the two guards strode towards the pair, his halberd raised threateningly. "Nobody likes a smart arse." He retorted. "Cooperate and we'll try and keep the number of 'unfortunate accidents' to a minimum." Adelaide rolled her eyes.

"Fuck you." Alice snapped, or at least started to. Suddenly the ground dropped out beneath her as she and Adelaide plunged into an expanse of murky water stretching out in all directions. She flailed around desperately trying to find which way was up, when Adelaide snatched her hand and pulled her to the surface.

Alice pulled herself out of the water, to find herself back in the streets climbing out of a puddle. In their absence things had become rather a lot more active. People were running around panicking, or those who were more level headed were forming a bucket chain from the river to put out the blazing inferno.

Alice looked down at her clothing, already ragged and stained now also soaking wet and clinging tightly to her skin. "Thanks for that." she muttered.

"Yea well, don' expect it agin." Adelaide responded. She and Alice both found themselves looking towards a nearby building, the library, as though some indefinable force was drawing them towards it.

"I fuckin' knew it." Alice spat. "It's fuckin' fate after all. It always is." She felt a little bit foolish believing that this whole thing was some crazy story and that she'd get to go home for kissing some brat of a princess. It was always fuckin' fate.

She turned to look at Adelaide, whose gaze remained affixed upon the library. It was a little bit awkward now, not that it hadn't been before. It wasn't that it hadn't been good, she just felt embarrassed, letting herself go, being as intimate as it was possible to be with a perfect stranger.

Alice started towards the library, figuring it was about time to give whatever agent of fate had brought her here a piece of her mind. She turned to Adelaide and asked "You coming?" Part of her hoped that the answer was no.

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Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by bobthepen.


Ladies and Gents, I am not using a spoiler here because this is a great announcement.

The lovely and talented Pharmacy has completed a set of GIFTS for all you awesome Wretched Riters.

I have wrapped them all under a lovely spoiler-tag for each of you.

Mr Guy:
A Killer Cuppa Tea:

Make sure to give Pharms a huge "thank you!" for her impeccable work on these! Feel free to display your image proudly wherever you'd like! (I see some of you peeked into your giftbox early and avatar'd it up!).

Now for an "end-of-round" announcement. After talking it over a bit with my grandmaster counterparts, we've decided to let you guys determine when this round will end. Of course we're going to get to work on a round transition post (among other things) and we already have a new round picked out. (though we haven't talked about eliminations yet - everyone is still fair game). Also we would like to see the round end sooner rather than later. Keep in mind to try and build up to that point with your posts. If things start to drag on you may start receiving multiple highly co-ordinated pokes, nudges, and "come-on"'s.

I suppose I should reiterate: Pharmacy is the coolest kid on the block. I could go on about how I now owe her several blood-debts and how tales of her grace and benevolence will be retold for ages to come, but honestly, just taking the time and effort to draw these for us was a really awesome thing to do.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

Stupid stupid stupid, Adelaide thought. Look what you’ve done now.

It should have been simple, because it was. Once they were in her arms it was the easiest thing in the world to lay them down and feel the butterfly pulse of their hearts against her tongue, tasting the warmth she no longer had and taking it away beat by beat. The perfume of their blood was stronger than the hunger and worse than the fear. She caught drifts of it on the few nights she slept, stirring in her dreams until she couldn’t stand it any longer and woke half mad and starving. It was the easiest thing in the world.

But Alice’s skin was unbroken and her heart was beating like a frightened bird in that alien rhythm, pounding from their escape from the tower. Adelaide’s teeth were on her throat- shouldn’t it have been then?- and her wrists and her lips- or then- and her stomach and her heart and everywhere else the rusalka could reach but it never seemed to happen. When they were in the water, that was her chance. A hand around a wrist and patience were all that was needed, but she’d led the girl to the surface without so much as a pause. And here they were.

Adelaide glanced over at the waiting Tsote, her strange face still flushed. It was just a mistake. She wasn’t hungry, that’s all. She was funny in the head from being out of the river so long. The fire had poisoned her with its heat.

The rusalka leaned into the strange girl, resting a ragged nail against the hollow of her neck and feeling her muscles stiffen. “’Coming’, girlie? Now, why on this earth would I be doing that?” She narrowed her eyes at Alice, letting a grin spread across her face. With a twist of her nail she brought a bead of silvery blood to the surface of the alien’s skin and watched it trail down her chest. “I alr’dy got what I wanted from you.

She shoved Alice away with both hands as the Tstote sputtered in anger and embarrassment. Adelaide laughed, her voice falling flat. “What? Oh, were you expectin’ me to stick around fr’ pillow talk there, dearie? Made plans for breakfast, did you?”

“You bitch!” Alice spat. “You fucking bitch!

The rusalka only laughed, forcing into it as much spite as she could manage. She laid a hand on her freckled hip and bared her teeth at the fuming Tsote. “Stupid chit. What’d you expect, then? Look at yourself. Look at me.”


No, not literally, shit. We did that already.

She sat back and wondered what she’d done with her shirt.
The narrator, that is. Not her. The real one. That one. This one.

So let’s say you have a story with no author, or too many of them. Do you? De gustibus non est disputandum. I would never presume to go that far, never mind what they say. Let’s say your narrator is a character and let’s say your characters are narrators, and let’s pretend we’re pretending there’s an order to this. Now say we’re reading the story. Here’s our impasse. Where do we go from here?

Say she leaves her, because she would. That’s who she is. We could all pretend we don’t see it coming, couldn’t we? Suspending your disbelief is an art. But we’ve seen this before. Not here, because this isn’t your story, is it? Is it, now. We all know what’s going to happen to her, but let’s pretend we don’t. Let’s pretend that we’re surprised when Adelaide leaves, and poor lonely Alice goes into the library. The Library. Let’s talk about the Library.

You read the Ring, of course you did, like the good little writer you are. We know what’s there, you and I. We know what’s going to happen. One of us, one of you, leaves the set and we all forget to mention it, as if we were all trauma victims and were trying to repress the shit out of anything that didn’t strictly involve us. Or them. I’ve heard it both ways.

Now that narrator, not her, her, that one, she’s a tricky one. We know she’s a she because we know who she is. I suppose it was a joke at first. It might have been his. There’s not really a lot left here for us to do, is there? She could outline it for you. This is the rising action that leads to the climax that leads to the fall. But we change things, don’t we? When the fall is the climax, where’s the denouement? Where’s the justice? Even tragedies get resolved. These are the sacrifices we make. C’est la vie.

The Narrator. Let’s say she’s writing, because, in theory, she is, in the Ring at least. Is she writing the Ring? We could speculate. Let’s not. She’s writing this down, not this, but this. Our story, you and I. We know that we’ve been branded by the Rose because we were, and this was said, or the other way around. The pen is mightier than everything. She can’t be pleased, our narrator’s Narrator, and she isn’t, because I say so. QED.

She’s writing. I think we can move on.

In comes Alice, because she’s the first of presumably eight. I don’t know where Adelaide is going. Let’s say nowhere, because when you reject your lesbian hookup out of emotional turmoil you can be a little unreasonable. Figuratively nowhere. The rusalka’s in the water, where’ll she be until she isn’t. Alice is in the Library. She’s crying. Why not.

I’m not particularly in the mood to describe it, as I assume you can guess. If you couldn’t I’m not. It doesn’t need explaining. The place that comes to mind when I say “ancient and deteriorating shelves, coated in dust three inches thick” is where she is. Dammit, look, I got started there, this wasn’t my intention at all. Oak shelves, arching ceilings. I don’t rather remember what it was like in the Ring. This isn’t my laptop. I can’t be bothered to check. It’s old. In the middle of it all is the Narrator, writing away. You know which one.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was the other one? It could be anyone if you worded it right. How many narrators can there be? There is a desk with a seated figure, shrouded in shadows that shouldn’t exist, and in their hand is a pen. It moves across the page with a sound like mice claws, if you’ve ever heard it. If you haven’t, it sounds like a pen on paper. You’re throwing me off my stride here, kiddo, calm your tits. Pen on paper.

Fuck, I forgot about the dragon. There’s a dragon. Vera’s fighting it. Think of Alice with more confidence and probably a bigger cup size, there’s your Vera. The dragon is a stereotype, and also black, which is either hilarious or unfortunate or both. It wasn’t on purpose. They’re fighting. Clothing is probably torn by now, unless Vera’s too competent for that. I expect the dragon is losing. Let’s say he’s lost an eye and one of his wings is torn. I was always fond of dragons as a lass. He’s probably going to live. Spoilers.

But the Rose is in play, we can’t forget that. Let’s say she chases him off and sees the Library in the distance. They all do. All eight. The dragon does as well but we’ll handwave him out. He’ll go back to the tower and our eight in all their disguises will head for the books. Should we take any Not of Particular Concerns? I think not. We’ve had enough trouble getting where we are, I’d hate to overstep my bounds. You should laugh.

Shall we move this along? It’s been a while.

Alice confronts the narrator who does the usual I’ve been waiting speech, or maybe she doesn’t. I don’t really care. Make it up, sunshine. And let’s say the others are running up the hill, and of course the Narrator knows, because it’s her job to, you see. If I don’t see it then no one does, until the next one comes and proves me wrong. The King is dead.

What’s a girl to do when all her plans go wrong? She could summon up figures from all the tales she never got to finish. Here’s the Wicked Queen, here’s the Transformed Prince, here’s the Drunken Dragon, there’s Bluebeard and his wives. As many as you could ever want, in between the Eight and the Library. Maybe it’s got potential. Maybe she sees it as a chance to write her own story for once, or maybe she’s just pissed. I wouldn’t presume to know.

And while we’re at it, let’s say the Narrator has had enough of these intruders, and stabs Alice through the heart with her long black pen. Take that as you will. Blood is mostly water, by the way. It might attract attention.

I concede it all to you. Long live the King.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.


When the ivy brought Olivia back to being conscious, she found her situation to be astoundingly different from what it had been before. She'd experienced some mysterious lapses before, but none quite so extreme.

One minute, she'd been drifting off and having weird dreams about wolves and houses, and the next, she found herself being chased by a witch, two centaurs, and half a dozen dwarves. There was something on her head, something else grasped in her hand, and if she hadn't been a bit preoccupied with (apparently) running for her life, she might've taken the time to figure out what they were.

"What," she repeated. "What, what, what."

"Oh, hey!" The thing on her head could talk, to her surprise. "I hope you don't mind me being up here; I tried asking earlier, but you seemed really focused on running away from things and I didn't want to interrupt you."

"I- sure, whatever. What's going on here?!"

"That's a good question! All these other giants appeared out of nowhere, and most of them don't seem very happy. A great beast nearly swallowed me whole, I saw you, and I thought I'd tag along."

Ivy vaulted over a lion that was either dead or unconscious. She didn't really have any idea where she was going; she just wanted to get away from the small mob behind her.

"So what should we do?! It seems like crazy things are just piling one on top of another here, and I've got even less of an idea of how to get to safety than usual!"

Poran settled into Olivia's tangle of hair and vines a bit more, his confidence not exactly bolstered. "Well, uh... How about one of the houses? Get inside, figure out what's going on, and think about things from there?"

"Sure, alright." She wasn't exactly in a state to be arguing, so she just set a course for the closest houses she could see, hoping that she could make it there in once piece. In one corner of her mind, she wondered what good being in a house would do when there was a veritable mob after her, but the rest of her mind was too busy scrabbling to make any sense of the situation to care.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by bobthepen.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Akumu.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.


Alluvion woke up slowly and felt more than a little disoriented. Fish sleep and some of them even dream, but Gods don't. What had even just been happening? He vaguely remembered something about wolves and attacking his new tree-friend, but surely that wasn't right?
What was more disorienting though was the fact that he didn't appear to be where he had been when he had last been concious in the real world (was this any more real than what he had just been seeing? He wasn't sure). In fact the scenery as he remembered it seemed to have gone entirely.
There were no stone hives, no hills, no distrant trees and no grass. Even the sky seemed to have shrunk to a tiny circle above his head that swayed back and forth to some other rhythm, the ground shaking as it changed direction. Everything else had been replaced by vast walls of wood.
It was also at about this point that the terrible crushing pressure he has been under for the past moments of sluggish comprehension suddenly became apparent.

The wooden bucket exploded as Alluvion rapidly expanded back to his full size, the fairly obvious consequence of trying to contain an essentially infinite puddle of water inside a container of less than infinite size. This was much to the consternation of the dog-headed man who had (up until it transformed itself into a collection of wooden shards and a man-sized sea serpent literally made out of the sea) been doing his best to carry it to the site of a nearby fire. Although it didn't worry him quite so much as the heavy wooden panther that slammed into him and sent him crashing to the ground seconds later, standing on his chest and crushing the breath from his body with its weight.

Alluvion shook himself vigorously, shaking droplets of water everywhere for pretty much no good reason at all other than that it was what he'd seen animals do after being surprised. It seemed to help a bit.

"River friend you are awake, we must return to the hill so we can continue our work."
M. relaxed his position slightly, allowing the dog-man to draw in a gasping and stuttered breath. He immediately started howling and calling for help (rather ungratefully, though M. wasn't really capable of processing much resentment), so the tree-panther placed one gnarled paw back on his captive's neck, wrapping tendrils tightly around his muzzle.
"You took a long time to wake up, this walker-thing gathered you into a cage so I followed him here.
It looks like a beast but thinks like a walker. What is this creature?"

Alluvion didn't have an answer, and in truth he was only half listening. There were other voices trying to catch his attention. Prayers.
"Put out this fire"
"Spare my house"
"Someone find my daughter"
The inhabitants of the small town were by and large not aquatic at all, but they were definitely wishing for water, and Alluvion could hear them. And also, something else...

M. was patient but it was also anxious to get back to what they had been doing before they had all fallen asleep. It was pragmatic and had already dismissed everything that had happened in that other forest as unimportant. Reclaiming this odd stone plain for nature was important, and Alluvion was a valuable asset, he wouldn't have bothered following him otherwise.
And now he was just sitting there staring into space.
"There is nothing to do here. Let us go. We must start work."

"The animals here are burning... I do not like fire."
Rivalry between water and fire is a pretty common recurring theme and there's a bit of truth in that, people tend to turn to water first for their extinguishing needs and in the same way that the dreams of hundreds of fish brought Alluvion to life in the first place, the beliefs of thousands of humans instilled him with the same deep-seated dislike of open flames.
Plus answering prayers was sort of his thing, even if it was usually for fish.

"The walkers put you in a box. Why would you help them? The forest is more important."
"They are calling to me I cannot ignore them."

M. bared its fangs from instinct, why was the river spirit being so obstructive?
Unfortunately the one part of the dream worth remembering told it that assaulting the Water Spirit in order to get its way wouldn't work either. He was made of water. The concept of being able to talk directly to anything else was as new to it as it was to Alluvion and it hadn't had any chance to develop any kind of effective persuasive technique.

"The trees call to you."

"Trees burn too. We should remove the fire first."

This logic didn't seem particularly sound to M. as the fire was currently nowhere near the greenery at all, mostly spreading through the non-stone parts of the town inhabitants' strange dwellings, but Alluvion was already starting off towards the interrupted bucket chain, ready to play the hero.
M. briefly considered just going back and starting work by himself, it seemed such a waste of time to fight fires when they were just going to be collapsing the buildings anyway, but reluctantly released the dog man (who just lay panting on the floor, having now worn himself out) and started off after him.
Maybe he was right about protecting the trees from fire, trees take time to grow and it was better to be safe than sorry.

"You should go to the library first," said the loudest voice. It had whispered at first, but now it seemed to be pushing all the other prayers to the side.
Alluvion couldn't help but feel that this had happened to him before but couldn't remember when, and besides answering prayers was what he was born to do.
"All those books going up in flames, can you imagine what would happen?"
Alluvion didn't even know what books were but it sounded convincing to him. He pointed himself towards the library with new purpose."

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Akumu.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

Wake. Awake. Lucid again.

M. stood and gleaned its surroundings, noting how different they were from the last thing it could remember. A brief moment of recollection immediately categorized those previous events as absurd, even more so the fact that M. did not realize this until apparently now. Although nature neither nature spirit nor tree could sleep or dream, the panther’s vague memories of idle nights, absurdities, and the feeling of waking to a warming sun allowed M. to rather confidently call it a dream. All that was left to answer was why it had fallen asleep in the first place, and what happened prior to falling asleep.

As tantalizing these answers were, the immediate scene demanded more attention. There was an organized line of Walkers—though some reminded M. more of common animals?—passing boxes, collecting water from the nearby river and dumping it on the nearest burning building, hardly making a difference. River.

The River was an ally, and these creatures were throwing it into fire.

With no clear source of cover aside from the sparse trees, M. simply ran towards the chain and tackled the nearest biped animal with a full bucket, spilling its contents of regular river water on the cobble. The chain began to disperse until one bucket further up the chain burst, revealing Alluvion. M. made no hesitation to pin down the creature that had the River in captivity.

River friend, you are awake, we must return to the hill so we can continue our work. You took a long time to wake up, this walker-thing gathered you into a cage so I followed him here.
It looks like a beast but thinks like a walker. What is this creature?

Alluvion made no reply, hesitating from even making a move. Clearly he was disoriented and not as quick to snap alert as M. from an unexpected sleep.

There is nothing to do here. Let us go. We must start work.

The animals here are burning... I do not like fire.

M. looked towards the inferno, seeing nothing but the satisfying destruction of unnatural construction. Animals? Any inhabitant of these dwellings was as fiendish as the ones that cut down the existing trees here in the first place. M. could understand the River’s dislike of fire, but if they kept their distance and corralled it to consume this village and this village only, it would be of no harm except to those that do not belong here. Does the River wish to extinguish all fire from the world?

The walkers put you in a box. Why would you help them? The forest is more important.

They are calling to me I cannot ignore them.

The trees call to you.

Trees burn too. We should remove the fire first.

Corralling the fire would have sufficed. Why slow? Perhaps the River refuses to take risk. True, it is possible that the fire reaches the forest. Unlikely, but possible. It was also true that the sparse, confined trees in midst of the village were in partial danger. It may be best to follow the River in this case, stunting current progress in order to keep a powerful ally and guarantee reclamation with less inherent risk. Yes, after this, the Walker-like creatures would be disorganized and weakened, and the charred remains in the center of the village would provide an excellent site of growth, beginning with the grasses and lichens that will spread and begin the recreation of fertile ground. A plan was underway.

Alluvion abandoned the bucket chain and unexpectedly moved towards a seemingly arbitrary direction. M. stood, confused, as the River contradicted everything he had said and left with apparent disregard of the inferno he had wanted to eliminate. Perhaps the River was indecisive as well.

Follow him.

If the River wishes to abandon both his own and M.’s goals, then so be it. M. would proceed with reclamation on its own.

You can start with that building over there.

The appropriate place to start would be the hill. No…

The Library is the center of the village. Go to it, goddammit.

If the Library falls, the rest of the village would soon follow. This is true because… it was filled with books.

Books are made of trees.

The Library is the core of Walker abomination. Of Walker knowledge, as well. If M. collects this knowledge, it could provide insight to future encounters…

M. found itself surrounded by bookshelves, seething at the sheer quantity of trees it required to construct this site. This was not the time for destruction, however. M. came here to collect knowledge. It weaved through the shelves, arbitrary taking a variety of volumes and fitting them underneath its canopy, stopping only to notice a movement. Movement, as well as a distinct smell of swamp. M. saw Adelaide’s grin for only a moment before she climbed a flight of stairs into the attic.

It had collected enough books. It was time to burn the Library to the ground. But… the friendly swamp creature was in it. M. did not notice whether it had passed by Alluvion on the way, or whether they were even going to the same place, but the sound of activity in the floor above suggested there were more individuals there. Perhaps more M. would recognize as well, or maybe the attic was full of the most important of Walker knowled-
Just go!
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Thanks for that, narrator.

Not that narrator. That narrator.

This really wasn’t what I was intending to do you know; use fate as a tool to place Alice in life threatening situations with the sure and certain knowledge that she will succeed or escape or somehow prevail. You know I love you and this hasn’t been easy on any of us, but look at her. She’s lying in a puddle of her own silver blood. I do have to say nice touch on the silver blood by the way, but still, this kind of thing is just not done. Any minute now she’ll be dead and then I’ll be left with that bitch Vera with no hope of making her a more sympathetic character, why don’t I just bow out now? At least I think Alice’ll die. I have to confess I don’t really know for sure how much of a hold fate has upon the Tsote after they have been removed from their home world, and if you don’t mind I’d rather not find out right at this moment. Now I have to handwave it away; come up with some bullshit reason why this ain’t gonna happen.

But hey there doesn’t seem to be any rush. As the flames burn higher and the end approaches we all just kind of sit around complaining. There’s accusations and acrimony and a regime change and while a couple of narrators offer narration on their character’s exploits, nobody seems very keen to do so. To be expected I suppose. It seems like we’re all waiting for the flames to finally burn the library to ashes and a conclusion to appear of its own volition. It’s as though we’re entrusting it to fate to plot our paths as well. Eventually I bite the bullet. I bullshit some narration about myself, make my feelings clear and then it’s all about the ink.


For a fleeting moment as she awakes, Alice thinks she can see a circle of eight figures, but they are gone in an instant, perhaps never were there at all. She has more pressing things on her mind at any rate. The narrator stands there, her mouth agape as the woman who should be dead climbs to her feet and pulls the long black fountain pen from her heart.

“What?!” The narrator’s voice rang with incredulity. “How are you still alive?”

“You,” Alice replied. “You are fucking pathetic. Sat up here on your own, playing with people’s lives as though they’re yer fucking toys. You don’t even really understand people. I bet that’s why you made me get into bed with that fucking mermaid yer sick fuckin’ pervert.”

“I…” The narrator wanted to say that she did no such thing, but Alice cut her off again.

“Yer have no idea who I am, what I am.” Alice replied. “I’m a fucking Tsote, and I’m not about to get killed by some fuckin’ ten year old. I know who kills me, and it ain’t you girly. You might have some cool powers over the rest of these fuckers, but you can’t do shit to me.”

“Just…” The narrator struggled for words. “Just get out. Just leave me alone. Let me play with my town in peace.” Moment by moment, second by fuckin’ second, the stringy black shadows that had long ago enveloped the narrator seemed to ebb away. They receded or they vanished or whatever the fuck terminology you want to use, the point is that each second that passed her features were clearer and clearer. Her hair was long and black and done up in pigtails, her skin was pale as ash and she wore a ragged as fuck old cape.

“You think I fuckin’ want to be here?” Alice asked. “I got dragged here, I did think it was you who had brought me here, but it’s kind of become apparent that that ain’t what happened.” There was an awkward pause as the pair looked at one another. The narrator stared at Alice, before incredulously staring at her own hands. “If it were up to me I’d be all about leaving you to your own devices. Kill people; make them kill one another or fuck or whatever the fuck you want, but you don’t get to fuck around with me. I’m not your fuckin’ toy. I choose my own fate.”

The narrator wasn’t paying any fuckin’ attention. What the fuck was she staring at anyway? Was there something on her shirt or something? Alice looked down and was somewhat surprised to find her hand moving busily, scrawling words onto a battered old notebook which she couldn’t even remember picking up. She wrote about how she looked down and how she was surprised to find her hand moving busily, scrawling words onto a battered old notebook which she couldn’t even remember picking up and then she wrote it again. This was fuckin’ ridiculous.

“Give it back!” yelled the narrator. “That’s not yours! Give it me back!”

“What the fuck?” Alice said. “What the fuck, how am I doing this?”

“It’s the pen.” The narrator explained. “Give it me back and you can just leave. I’ll write you a way home, I promise.”

There was a long moment of silence. A moment of nothing more than contemplation and the burning of a town; so dim and distant as to be taking place in another world altogether.

“I wonder if I can...” The narrator said, her mouth moving involuntarily as Alice wrote her dialogue for her. “Oh fuck yes. Fuck you I am never giving this back.
Stop! Stop that please… just please give it back to me. You don’t want to be stuck here forever do you?”

“I can do what I want.” Alice said. “I could write my own way home if I wanted…” she trailed off for a second. “I… I can write my own fate. I can finally do what I want to do, choose my own path in life.” She stared back at the former narrator with her tear stained eyes. “I’ll never give this back.” The shadows crept along her body, engulfing every last part of the Tsote, the last part being her dim bronze eyes.

Suddenly out of nowhere there was a blast of lightning striking down from the clear skies, smashing through the old wooden roof of the library and finally striking the former narrator. She was dead before the debris from the broken roof had even hit the floor. Her charred body slumped to the floor. It was okay Alice reasoned. She was evil. She’d done awful things to the people of this town. She deserved to die. It did not make her a bad person, and if it did, maybe that was fine because for once in her life she was her own bad person, free to choose her own fate and with no worries that some well-fated bitch was going to stroll in and take it all away from her. Alice walked across to the window and looked out across the town. It’s previous owner had left it in a dreadful mess… It was time to clean it up.

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Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Okay. So I guess now it's Break The Fourth Wall Fest 2011/2012 or something.

The problem being, of course, that when you break the fourth wall in a setting that's all about stories and such and then the next guy to write loves poetic insanity that's really no more than nonsense almost as much as he loves metafiction, you're asking for it.

There were many things Poran could have done to distract the dragon, the most obvious being something involving gold or similar treasures (the old dragon knowing quite well that he, being what he was, was obligated to love treasure in any good story). However, fuck that piece of shit dragon and all his stupid bullshit. He had a fuckin' heart attack and died and nobody cared.

Amazingly, the damage done to the town began to reverse. Buildings pieced themselves together, ashes forming boards, bricks un-shattering, every piece floating back into its place. Dead men and women stood again, looking around quizzically, obviously not knowing what the fuck just happened at all.

The third or so narrator that isn't a character in the story, or at least wasn't until these ridiculous shenanigans got underway, frowned at the page. Perhaps it wasn't quite a deus ex machina he'd written in, but something wasn't quite right about it. It was too clean, too neat. The town would be fixed, of course, but not so quickly.

For now, it ought to break. And so:
A proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. So wrote Cide Hamete Benengeli (check this) in a treatise on the common isotopes of narrativium. This man was also known to have said "one can have an infinity of apples without having a single orange", which is to say that not all fictional or otherwise hypothetical universes can exist. This can be good or bad, with regards to the metaphysical converse aspects quaquaqua of fanfiction versus initial fiction and the extended degrees of unreality quaquaqua vis-a-vis nested stories and the little yellow boxes containing my heart and soul and thoughts, and the screen shattering from a dart, ipso facto quaquaqua the dart being God and the viewer or player Satan and all an ulterior examination of the morality of sending a simulated individual to their repeated deaths quaquaqua and simultaneously and subsequently on the Walrus and me, who are as close as can be both one and two. Is that to say, QED, that I am the carpenter?

Persons attempting to find a meaning in this narrative will be prosecuted. Persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished. Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

All is fractured under the weight of a metric fuckton of total bullshit and gratuitous references masquerading as prose. The players were never here, in this quiet town, yet so they were always; the narrator dealt in murder, not sleep and dragons, and yet she did the other as well. Is either of these realities more or less real than the other?

Who cares.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Vera was not one to question fate. The fight against the dragon had been remarkable only in its unremarkableness, when it had taken flight she had not been inclined to follow it and finish it off. At roughly the same time she had felt a compulsion to head towards the centre of town and without a second thought she had obliged. Her pace was measured and methodical; whatever it was that fate had in mind for her this time she knew she would arrive at the most opportune moment. The little attention she paid to the half human, half animal creatures that filled the once empty streets and the rush and panic evident in their hurry here and there left her mildly bemused. However, it was, of course, none of her concern. Even as the town began to rebuild itself she did little more than raise an eyebrow curiously.


Putting together the pieces that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put back together again took little more than the flick of a pen. Alice stood at the cobwebbed old window looking out upon the town as it reconstructed itself. This was not really necessary. She was not exactly omniscient in the same way that could be said of a god looking down upon their domain, but she could feel somewhere on the periphery of her senses, more information than she could comfortably comprehend at any one time, vying for her attention. Ultimately it was not this semi-omniscience that would alert her to what she didn’t even realize she was looking for yet, but the simple sound of a polite cough behind her.

Standing in the doorway was Adelaide, a small pool of murky water having formed around the rusalka’s feet. Her gaze was affixed upon Alice herself, but there was no way she had not noticed the charred body of the former narrator laying in the middle of the room amidst the dust and the cobwebs and the stain of silvery blood. Her arms were folded across her chest, her dead lips set into a vague frown. She had no idea what was going on here, the sight of Alice, now enveloped in shadows, and of the body of some girl, was not enough to work out what the hell was going on, and moreover she wasn’t really sure what the was doing here after she had decided to go elsewhere. She told herself she was not here for the girl because fuck that, she was just some girl, but at the same time what else would have brought her here?

“What happened t’yer?” she asked, her voice more confused than concerned as she stepped out into the room proper.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Alice demanded furiously. “You made it pretty fucking clear that you didn’t give a fuck.”

“Yea yea, don’ flatter yerself. I’m not here fer you.” Adelaide replied dismissively. “But if yer could clear up what’s the deal with all of this…” She gestured to the shadows, and to Alice’s constant writing, to which her eyes could not help but be drawn. Adelaide might as well not have bothered saying anything at all.

Alice had been upset before, but being upset was just being angry for those who are weak. Alice had spent her youth building barriers, becoming bitter and profane as a way of shielding herself from a world that wanted nothing to do with her. To say that those with ill fates were not popular is something of an understatement. They were practically outcasts. Aside from her parents and teachers and others who were socially obliged to nobody had ever voluntarily engaged her in conversation. Even the other ill fated did not want to be her friend and after a while she became of the opinion that this suited her just fine. Nobody had ever wanted to be intimate with her, before today the thought of someone wanting to be with her had been laughable. In this kind of environment it is easy to build your defences up. It is a natural thing to become tough in opposition to the hostility that greeted you at every turn. But then she had met Adelaide, someone who wanted to talk to her, who wanted to be around her, who wanted… her. It hadn’t taken much for her to drop her guard. It had taken this pain, this hurt for her to realize that this world was every bit as hostile as her own.

They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This is more than usually true in this particular case. Around town the reconstruction that had begun, began to undo itself as Alice’s mood soured. The earth trembled, the skies were obscured by sudden roiling dark clouds; torrential rain poured into the open roofs of crumbling and collapsing houses. Thunder boomed overhead.

“What the fuck do you care?!” Alice demanded, stomping towards Adelaide. “You bitch, you lying deceitful manipulative whore!” It was too little, the words were just words and as much anger as she could put into them, it wasn’t enough. It couldn’t express the hate and the hurt she felt and how stupid she felt for letting her guard down in the first place, for putting her trust in the rusalka. She was blind fury, primal rage, pure untempered anger unleashed upon an entire town. The walls behind the Tsote buckled against sudden gale force winds. For a moment they held, but they could not last against the persistent battering. Glass shattered and wood snapped and piece by piece the wall was ripped away, letting the rain and the wind and the cries of the terrified townsfolk into the dusty attic.


As Vera reached the library the town was all but in ruins. Though minutes ago the town had been repairing itself; almost as good as new in fact, it was clear that fate had had a change of mind. To Vera’s mind this town was perhaps the most fate-damned place she had ever been and she didn’t need any special senses to tell her such. The earth beneath her feet quaked and above her, hurricane force winds ripped away one of the walls of the library. She was prepared to admit that maybe just this once she was a little late. Quickening her pace a little she stepped through the doorway. The spacious hall was occupied by a group of animal people gathered around a woman in a fashionable fur coat.

“Lizzen, I ‘av told you all ‘zat I know.” Fiorella implored the unsympathetic crowd. “I don’t know anyfink about…” she failed to find the correct word to summarize exactly what it was she didn’t know anything about, and so just waved her arms around vaguely and finished: “…zis.” There was a general murmuring of disbelief from the gathered animal people. Vera smiled; she was right on time after all.


It was at that point that a lot of things happened very fast. M. who had been lurking in the stairwell, hesitant to get involved in what it had deemed ‘walker stuff’, chose this moment to shoot out to protect his swamp friend from the perceived threat of the shadowy walker. While at approximately the same time due to some strange quirk of fate, or perhaps simply unlucky timing, a nagging feeling that Alice had been vaguely aware of for some time was brought into sharp relief as Vera stepped into the building. Those senses that she hadn’t been paying any attention to were suddenly screaming at her, letting her know that one of her species was downstairs. It did not take a massive leap of logic for Alice to figure out who this person was, at least who she was in relation to her. She was momentarily shocked and unprepared for M. to pounce on her. As she tumbled to the floor under the weight of the plant the pen and notebook fell out of her reach. Adelaide, who was surprised by M’s sudden appearance but not as much as Alice, took the opportunity to grab the pen and clutching it tightly in her hand she dove into the puddle of murky water. M. quickly scrabbled off the fallen walker, its claws didn’t make much of an impact upon the shadows that clung, and quickly pounced into the puddle after Adelaide, just making it through before the puddle became just a puddle again.

Alice lay on the ground and felt the shadows receding, the power she had had ebbing away, wasted.

“I’m doomed.”

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Re: The Wretched Rite - Round One - The Rose Ring
Originally posted on MSPA by A Killer Cuppa Tea.

Adelaide mentally shook herself as the impact of the last few moments sunk in. she stared down at the pen in her hand… she hadn’t planned to take it. Indeed, she hadn’t thought that the opportunity would arise. But her sharp mind was quick to summarise that she held within her hands a weapon of considerable power. Would it work under water? She didn’t see why not – all she needed was something to write on.

Before she could contemplate any further, she realised that she was not alone in her domain. M. had followed her again like a creature too foolish to learn from its mistakes. Unlike last time, however, the creature did not thrash around in panic to try to escape the water. It had discovered some strange semblance of swimming, pushing all its roots in one direction to provide thrust. Its progress was slow, but it floated towards her like an ever prominent threat.

She knew from previous experience that it would not be wise to fight it - there were no organs to rip out, no veins to cut. It would tire and drown eventually if she stayed away from it long enough, but she didn’t have the time – or the patience – to wait that long. She searched her mind for a pool of water in the above world that she could eject it from… and her mind returned to the pen in her hand.

She smiled evilly as a new idea began to form in her mind…


Who was she to ever think that she could ever control fate? She realised now that she had only been deluding herself – delaying the inevitable. Had she ever been in control of the hand of fate? Or had her exploits with the pen been part of Fate’s plan all along, a ruse to give her a taste of what being in control of one’s own destiny was like before cruelly snatching that experience from her.

She was overcome by a sudden sense of bitterness – a feeling she was much used to. But accompanying it was the desolate loss of hope. Perhaps fate’s cruel hand had had a part to play in today’s happenings…she recounted what had happened and realised that she had been finally allowed to enjoy some of the pleasures she had always missed out on. She had visited a strange and distant place, not altogether unbecoming. She had met people there who had done more than just shun her… had pretended to care for her, had given her a taste of love and companionship that she had long since desired, even if she had refused to admit it to herself. Even the fact that someone had cared enough to purposefully hurt her was more than she was used to.

Finally, she had been granted the chance to be in control of her own fate. And not only hers! But others too. She’d tasted that forbidden fruit that had so long been denied to her… perhaps it was a final mockery of fate, showing her the life that it had denied her before snatching it away from her forever.

A feeling of futility rose within her. Perhaps it was her time. Perhaps her fate-bound had finally come to claim her. In an almost trance-like state she stood and began to head down the stairs…


Just as she exited the room, the puddle from which Adelaide and M. had just vanished erupted again, and Adelaide stepped out of it. She scanned quickly for a scrap of paper to write on, grabbed a few pages, and jumped with them back into the puddle.

M. was still there, stubbornly still floating towards her. She had never been much of a writer, but she narrowed her eyes and bought pen to paper…

Suddenly M.’s roots bended strangely. They would no longer follow his commands, and began to thrash in random directions. Suddenly, they began to dance to and fro, waving in the water and spinning and bending and curling and

Adelaide laughed in delight at the private show. She wrote quicker and quicker, her eyes almost as wide as her grin, and she made M. twist and bend in ever stranger ways.

The roots began to whip M.’s body, (“Why you hitting yourself?”) wrapping around it in a strange semblance of a hug. M. tried to launch another one of those damned poisonous apples, but it wouldn’t happen.

Adelaide continued torturing M. for a little while, muttering things like “teach you to jump into my puddle” and “this is for that acid earlier!”, but after a while, she began to get bored – what fun was prey that didn’t scream and cry or try to fight back? She opened up another puddle of water in the above world and jettisoned M. rudely out of it. She returned back to the top floor of the library – what better place? - And looked out of what had, until recently, been a wall.

It was a perfect vantage point. She saw, off in the distance, what looked like the fallen corpse of the dragon, with Poran posing on top of it, strumming his instrument and declaring to the world how he had defeated the dragon.

The villagers stood, scratching their heads at their buildings, hoping that they would finally decide whether they wanted to stay broken or fixed, wanting them just to stay still so they could assess the situation.

Taelia walked strangely, almost as though drunk, or fighting with herself, her sword drawn, heading towards the library.

Abruptly, it began to rain. Lots and lots of rain. Torrential, even. Before long, puddles had begun to form and collect, getting bigger and bigger until the whole town was under the Ruskala’s domain.

Wait…since when did I start calling myself “the ruskala”?


Downstairs, Vera pompously strode into the crowd, and tried to make sense of the situation. She had almost managed to calm the animal people, when she was suddenly overcome by a sense of fate. She suddenly felt the presence of another Tsote... in very close proximity.

She drew her razorwhip. She didn’t feel much emotion – she would merely be conducting an affair which she had known she would have to for her whole life.

Upstairs, Alice wasn’t sure what she was been expecting. What she expected to do. But – faced with the certainty of death, her innate determination began to well up inside her, and she decided that she’d be damned if she lay down and let fate take her. At the very least, I can hurt the bitch before she kills me. The thought filled her with a sense of satisfaction, and she resolved to fight it out.

Meanwhile, Fiorella looked at Vera (who had stopped mid-sentance and turned around almost as though in a trance) with wide eyes and an ajar mouth. “But…zis is just zilly! Why vould you just barge in like zis only to turn away? Look at her--! She’s mad!” she tried to explain the sheer nerve of the woman to the animal-people who were hounding her, but she stopped mid-sentence as she realised that they were all looking at her rather unfriendily. She took an unconscious step backwards.

“Is that fur you’re wearing?” one of them asked.

“Why…yes! Zis is the finest fur in the land, from ze rarest of animals too, I’ll have you know! Why, I’m a little relieved, I didn’t realise zat there were fellow appreciators of fashion in zis backwards town!” she beamed at them, but her smile faltered and she realised that she was talking to creatures who were furry themselves. “Err…I mean…”

She could think of nothing to say. She turned tail and ran out of the building, almost colliding with Taelia on the way out.


Fiorella grabbed Taelia’s shoulders and begged her for help. She had to reason to expect help from the little girl, who would probably not be of much help anyway. Indeed, Taelia raised her sword and pointed the tip at Fiorella’s chin.

(Fiorella’s cry of “What on earth is wrong with zis town!” was loud enough to be heard by Adelaide on the top floor of the library.)

Taelia smiled a grim smile, and made to slash gogerjgo at gerogeiojg



Adelaide stared at her hand. It refused to write the next few words. Try as she might, her hand would begin to shake and spout gobbledegook. She knew that any word she wrote would become reality, but she couldn’t do it.

Taelia foeirjfioer the little girl feoirjgiorejg why won’t this stupid pen work gorejgiojreg she grpeokgoer the little girl is mine don’t presume to control my vessel I won’t let you I will find you and make her kill you your hand is no longer your own and it is no longer your will which is being used to write these words back off Ruskala before I make you do something you’ll regret for the rest of your pitifully short life stop stop oh my god stop

Adelaide shuddered and her skin crawled as her hand began to write words that were not her own. She dived into the puddle of water, her hand still clutching the pen. She sulked for a few moments, wondering what on earth had just happened, before throwing the pen out of her domain.


The Omen returned his tendril of influence back to Taelia. His control over the ruskala had been incredibly slight, and his threat somewhat empty. Though incredibly powerful, his power was contained in this…this shell. His power was trapped and he could not use more than a little of it. Luckily for him, the container was weak and he was beginning to be able to – with a little exertion – extend a little of his control beyond the little girl. Given time, he was sure he would be able to break free, but the damned enchantress who had trapped him in the first place had been keen and thorough, and the charms were difficult to break.

It was not a big deal – he would have to use what little influence he had to gently nudge things along to his benefit. It was not his style, but he had to admit that the concept intrigued him. And besides, his control over this poor girl’s mind was complete enough that he could nudge her thoughts and actions into whatever he wanted.

He had always been an excellent manipulator.

He realised that the Ruskala had wanted to kill the well-dressed woman anyway. He just wanted to do it in his own terms.


Fiorella stared, wide eyed, as the little girl withdrew the sword point from her throat. She breathed a sigh of relief and made to turn back to her pursuers, but a gleam in the little girl’s eye made her stop.

With a smile much too evil to come from a girl her age, Taelia stabbed the sword neatly into Fiorella’s chest. Fiorella gasped soundlessly as she watched her pink chemise slowly turn red…


Meanwhile, the pen landed at the feet of a shadowy figure…
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Akumu.

Taelia withdrew her blade with a flourish, spattering the Library’s threshold with the lifeblood of Fiorella Gucci. The goddess crumpled to the ground as her attire flickered through an entire catalog of haute couture. It settled on a tasteful black dress with a wide-brimmed, veiled hat as Fiorella gave a last shuddering breath. The Omen watched through Taelia’s eyes with great satisfaction, putting a smirk onto her youthful face. When the last life drained out of his victim, Taelia turned to leave.

From all around, tendrils of silvery energy erupted out of space and wrapped around the young swordswoman. They pulled, and Taelia was ripped outwards to the void between universes. Across the village, the other remaining competitors were also reclaimed, and all seven of them found themselves once again in the presence of The Unborn.

Things had changed. What had previously been a realm of order and light had fragmented and grown back together in grotesque forms. Rings were twisted into knots; pillars pierced into each other, or were consumed by each other, the distinction being hard to draw. They still caught the unearthly light of The Unborn and refracted it back to illuminate its realm, but in shifting and chaotic ways. Splashes of color and darkness strobed across the faces of the remaining seven. Those closer to human thought to wince and look away, but found their bodies once again bound by the rule of Restraint. They were all forced to look perpetually inward as they orbited the gestating god. The perfect maelstrom of power and potential had coalesced into a sort of sac, with a membrane separating self from other, showing the first inklings of identity. Within the sac of light, dark shapes swam, occasionally pressing up against the membrane in the shapes of faces, howling in agony or ecstasy.

“Sex and death! Hunger and pain! Is this what life is, sacrifices of the rite?”

Barabbas Poe clung to one of outlying protuberances, his attempts to maintain the Structure of this place crumbling before the onslaught of base emotion from The Unborn. Barabbas's ragged suit jacket whipped around with the force of the power pouring out of The Unborn, trying to flap off of his wiry body like a wounded bird. Barabbas scrambled out to the edge of his tower and his stare pierced into the competitors as they swung by, mere feet away at their closest approach.

“That is what you are showing this new being, this is what you are teaching it, with your strongest actions. What will it become, drowned in a sea of id? Memento mori, sacrifices! Remember that you will die. That, you can not change. But what you can change is how your lives echo into eternity. You, far more than most, must remember that.”

He made a sharp chopping motion back towards The Unborn, as if severing a rope. The light pouring out from it increased to a gale force, crushing Barabbas down against his perch and sending the rest spiraling out into the void. As their trajectories took them into the deep blackness, consciousness became impossible and they slept the sleep of the dead.

They awoke, each in their own time, to their own individualized hellscape. Their guide’s voice filled their minds once again.

“Welcome to Inferno Alpha, the first completed Hell World. The makers of this place had an overwhelming preoccupation with eternity. So much so, that in the fear it did not exist they created it themselves. All those judged as sinners are recreated here upon death and shuttled to the level befitting their sins, and when their bodies cannot take further torment and give out, they are recreated again and again for torture everlasting.”

Deep in the weightless center of the world, a little used subroutine of the Satan System pinged on. Intruders.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

She had no time to think before the screaming winds of Hell tore her away like a leaf in a storm, flinging her into the maw of a monster whose hands dragged her down, down, down into its belly to drown in the swell of bodies that twisted within it. Her hair, her hands were tangled into the battered limbs of the sinners tangled in a knot of heaving flesh, the droning of their screams and sighs crushing into her mind. In every direction was a face: windburnt and teeth bared in a welcoming smile as they clustered around her, choking her with the scent of sin and lust. She pressed her hands to her temples, trying to drown out the din of the storm, but hands pawed at her body and she felt someone take her shoulder and press their mouth against her ear. Panicked, she tried to shove them away, but it might have been iron manacles holding her for all she managed to escape.

“Hey, hey, relax,” a voice shouted soothingly. “You’re fine. You’re okay here.”

“Th’fuck are you doing?” Adelaide cried, trying to claw her way free of her assailant. Through the flying mess of her hair she could just make out the pale form of someone clinging to her side, a bright spot amidst the shadowy crowd.
The wind howled and shifted direction abruptly, twisting her and her makeshift anchor upside-down as they bounced clumsily against the bodies surrounding them. Adelaide’s view of the world tilted sickeningly and she stopped fighting for a moment as she forced back the urge to be sick.

“There we go, love. See, it’s just what you signed up for,” her rescuer said, patting her shoulder comfortingly. “The first few days are a bit rough, I’m afraid. It’ll take some getting used to.”

“Wh- th- this is not fuckin’ what I signed up for!” The rusalka snarled. A swipe of her claws parted her hair long enough to catch a glimpse of a rather pudgy young woman cuddled up to her. She reeled back only to collide with the sweaty form of some unseen person, who grumbled something she couldn’t hear and twisted away. Retching, Adelaide reluctantly turned back to the woman, who smiled encouragingly. “An’ who-”

“I’m Amy,” she said, seizing Adelaide’s hand and shaking it heartily. “I’ve been here nearly three incarnations now, so I’ll show you the ropes. It’s all pretty simple, really, see we’ve got the worst sinners below- whoops!- above us, now, and the lesser offenders are closer to the top, and we’re somewhere near the middle right now, so you can’t have been that bad in life. Were you a prostitute?”


“You know, a call girl, a scarlet woman, a courtsysan, whatever you wanted to be called,” Amy said happily. She leaned in closer and gave Adelaide a gentle hug, ignoring the bared fangs the rusalka greeted her with. “It’s alright to be just a bit embarrassed, you know, I always was and most of the girls here like us feel at least a little guilty, and they should, I mean, this is Hell after all!” Amy gave a laugh that most people would have recognized better coming from a horse and pointed downward towards the thick of the storm.

Dazed, Adelaide followed her gesture and flinched. Thousands upon thousands of sinners twirled and spun like berserk dancers below her, growing ever more dense as they fell towards the bottom of what seemed to be a cavern, miles deep and shrouded in shadow. The swell of bodies grew tighter and tighter until she could no longer see past them, only a dark calico of all the shades of flesh the rusalka had ever seen and more locked in a constant tangle. Even the tearing winds did little more than nudge the thicket of their bodies.

She turned back to the happily grinning Amy. “What the fuck?”

Amy’s face fell slightly. “It’s Lust. You belong here. Don’t you like it?”

No,” Adelaide snarled, “I don’t. I don’t fuckin’ like any of this. Fuckin’- Unborn, don’t even know what that is, fuckin’ old idiot tellin’ us what to do-” She shoved Amy, who wriggled back a pace, looking hurt. “I was,” Adelaide said, punching a stray leg, “a perfectly fine fuckin’ person, mindin’ my own god-son-of-a-damn business in my river and now I’m in Hell of all places, what did I even do, huh? Not like I fuckin’ deserve it.” She began to climb her way upwards through the swell of bodies, stepping on faces, arms, hands, and mouths, eliciting a trail of indignant shouts. “How do I get out of this shithole?” she yelled down at Amy.

“You can’t- you just- there’s a maintenance bridge over there…”

“’Bout fuckin’ time.”

“But where are you going?” Amy cried.

“I’m gotta find my fuckin’ girlfriend,” Adelaide grumbled, and shoved an unfortunate sinner aside by the face. “Dumb bitch is mad at me.”

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

“A rather disdainful-looking mechanical man is slouched in a wicker chair, clutching a fistful of syringes and seriously considering stabbing himself through the central processing unit simply so someone else can take over the horrid monotony of his job. Then a flying mouse shows up—sorry, sorry, tell me if you’ve heard this one before.”

Poran slowly opened his eyes, and upon seeing the person who’d just delivered this little soliloquy—not only as large as everyone else in this strange little contest, he noted, but almost certainly even more so; coated in a shimmering silver skin, as if it were reflecting the light of Yamara, the third moon; and gently flexing his five-jointed index finger back and forth by his piercingly red eye, the sort of eye that tells you that your life and everything you’ve accomplished during it is nothing at all, and… hmm, I had best write this down before I forget it. Withdrawing the pen from his pouch, he began frantically writing down a description of the strange creature on a nearby stack of scrap, only for his path to suddenly be blocked by a very large syringe thrust into the paper.

“Sorry, mousey-boy, but there’ll be no writing. That might be a respite, and if you get to do nice things down here, we might as well put you up with the virtuous pagans! Though confidentially, most of them probably belong in the Seventh Circle, Sub-Section Three. You know pagans!” He paused for a moment, waiting for his joke to register; upon realizing it had fallen flat, the red glow of his eyes dulled slightly, and he closed them halfway. “Look, just sit still and let me stab you with one of these things, alright? Don’t worry; it’ll hurt me more than it hurts you. I tell you, this job is torture!”

Poran, at least, had enough context for this joke to laugh briefly before realizing that the man was searching through a very expansive portfolio of very large needles, which he had made it rather clear the Leskrin would be stabbed with in short order. A quick glance through a window of the little office they were in revealed quite a host of people with rotting or missing limbs, large boils, horrible scarring and rashes, the occasional open sore, and a multitude of swollen eyes and lips. I do wish I had noticed that earlier, he thought.

“Hmm… black plague, no, pretty sure rats can’t contact that. Leprosy? Well, as far as I know that’ll do, but I like to save that one for later… ooh! What’s this here?” He looked very closely at the label for a particular syringe; Poran took the opportunity to flit over to an air vent as quietly as he could, gently mumbling the words to an autobiographical ode he’d written so as to conjure up an image of himself. “Typhoid-like disease in mice, ah, that will be a great start!” In a flash, the robot whipped the syringe out, plunged it into the illusion, and began pumping out the contents. Within seconds, the pooling fluid on his desk made it clear that something was off, but by this point Poran was already off into the air vent.

He quickly realized that perhaps a better escape route was available, as the vents were—above all else—extremely hot. He managed to get about five meters across and two meters up (after a vertical junction) before his wings burst suddenly into flame, at which point he began frantically blowing on them in an attempt to extinguish them. This did little to help the situation, and in fact worsened it as he had a great deal of trouble continuing to maintain a proper trajectory. He managed to escape through another vent quickly enough that, after rolling around in the dirt, he was able to put out his wings before substantial damage could occur to them. Relieved, he flitted back into the air (if somewhat unsteadily), only to swoop down again to avoid a sword that promptly embedded itself in the wall behind him.

The creature who had swung it at him, and who almost immediately removed it from the wall and readied it for another slash, reminded Poran a bit of the syringe fellow. This one, however, was even larger, carried (in addition to the sword) a very large gun (which Poran did not recognize as such, due to his society not possessing them, but which he certainly recognized as a Very Dangerous Thing if only by instinct), sported a very large pair of horns, and stared him down with not two but six bright red eyes. Poran smiled uncomfortably at him, and at the five identical robots who soon joined him.

“I don’t suppose you gentlemen would be interested in a song?”

The answer was—rather predictably, Poran supposed—several more sword thrusts, one of which hacked off the tip of the Leskrin’s tail. Annoyed and terrified in equal parts, he quickly began playing his harp as quickly as he could, surrounding the area around him with various lights and patterns; the robots, confused at the sudden burst of visual input, were stalled long enough for him to dart off.

What he saw was, as one might expect, rather disgusting. Various piles of corpses were being methodically hacked to bits; if one had looked inside the robots’ programming, one would have seen an intricate partially-randomized subroutine determining the order of separation. As soon as the head was removed from the torso—consistently the final part—a new, identical copy of the body would slowly materialize that the process would begin a new. The result of this was that the floor was carpeted in flesh, blood and the occasional bone, and Poran—caught between finding the most poetic way to describe the carnage and simply preventing himself from fainting or vomiting at the sheer sight—nearly slammed into one of the tormenters before catching himself and swerving away.

At this point, the robots chasing him, while used to prey that was often more complacent, generally slower, and universally a larger target, decided that the best tool for this particular job was their sidearms, usually used to give a bit of variety to the torture so that it would stay fresh, exhausting and excruciating. They pulled them out and began to fire in the bard’s direction; his continued illusions allowed him to keep avoiding the shots, but he realized it wouldn’t be long before they either got lucky or he ran out of steam. Realizing this, he briefly considered escaping through the vents again, before the singed wings returned to his mind with a flash of pain as he made a particularly sharp turn.

I’m going to die if I keep this up, he thought to himself, and if, as surely as I will, I do die, I’d rather it at least be a quick event and spare my fellow combatants the pain, but then again that would be setting a terrible example for The Unborn and I do feel like I was no help in preventing the state it’s in at the moment—such a terrible thing, it truly must be avoided—but on the other hand, oh dear, what is there for me to do? I suppose I could attempt to shoot them, as large as they are, and briefly putting away his harp while shouting an ancient ballad at the top of his lungs, he fired several shots in the androids’ direction, only to see every one of them rebound harmlessly with a ping, at which point he promptly replaced his bow and went back to playing music. So that won’t work, his train of thought continued, and with that in mind I suppose I could simply sequester myself in some corner of those metal corridors and frantically compose poetry until I burn to ashes. If nothing else, that would be a spectacular death, and hopefully The Unborn would learn something from my dedication to the art, and oh dear I’m about to run into one of them again. With this, he swooped beneath a tormenter’s legs, and this is when something lucky (but also likely, given what he was doing) occurred:

The robots chasing him fired several more blasts from their shotguns, which tore into the otherwise-occupied tormenter; his circuitry sufficiently damaged, he quickly slammed to the ground.

At this, Poran suddenly smiled, for now he realized that he could survive, if lucky. Just like the ballad of Drefi, he thought to himself, the key to victory will be in using the enemy’s arms. After a few more moments of fleeing, he nodded, and then did a sudden U-turn, swooped downward beneath his pursuers, then swooped up above them, and then began swerving around in circles at every angle he could manage. Playing his harp as rapidly and energetically as possible, to further confuse them with image after image, he breathed a sigh of relief as they quickly began shooting and slashing in such a frantic and disorganized manner that they managed to make short work of each other. Eventually, only two of the robots chasing him remained, and both of them were in such sorry shape that he was quite confident they would not be much of a threat. Satisfied, he flitted to the ground, quickly scribbled out a rather clumsy sonnet praising himself, and squirmed into one of the fallen androids’ empty eye sockets for a rest.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Alice reached the bottom of the stairs; her hands balled up into fists, her shirt damp and caked with congealing ink crusted around her heart. Her face was not angry, not sad, not anything. Her expression was serene, almost as though something else was doing the thinking for her for a moment. Something that had its heart set on a climactic confrontation. Alice’s hands pressed against the heavy oak doors. Her feet strode one in front of the other into the dishevelled library. The atmosphere seemed to change as she walked in, trailing a breeze that idly flicked over the leaves of fallen books as she passed them. Heads turned to look at her; the heads of the humanistic animals that populated the now devastated town. Her eyes scan the room, looking for the telltale lavender skin of the tsote that she is here to be killed by. Vera’s fate still lingers in the room, but she is gone. Alice’s body seems to droop when it comes to the realisation that the other Tsote is not there. Sure she had no weapon, sure she was doomed to be killed by the woman that was supposed to be standing in front of her, but this would have made an awesome locale for a climactic showdown. Narrative imperative all but demanded that their story be brought to a close. Alice was deep down in there somewhere, she fought her way to the surface for a moment under the perplexed gaze of the watching creatures.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” she asked, and then before their very eyes she was gone.


The next thing Alice knew she was kneeling on the warm stony floor of another world. The skyline, such as it was, was all rocky ridges and geysers and plumes of smoke rising from outcrops of rock. Above her a night sky; starless and almost completely clear. The landscape was very evocative, a clear hellscape if ever one had been sighted. The rocks had a dark red tint that the makers had probably worked hard to get exactly right. The only problem was that the Tsote had never really had a concept of heaven or hell. The moral imperative of their species was to do as they were fated to do, and whether they accepted it or not this was what would ultimately happen. There was no need to reward those who had righteously accepted their fate and no need to punish those who tried to run from theirs. They could not run forever. When they made contact with humans they did learn of their concepts of heaven and hell, but to them it did not make sense. Their morality was by and large removed from a concept of right or wrong, only what you would do and what you would not. That is not to say that some Tsote did not take up the religion, some did, though by and large it was probably because they had been fated to do so.

Alice climbed to her feet and glanced down at her chest to discover that the ink that had clung to it, clouding her mind, making awful decisions for the sake of an exciting finale, had gone. The memory of what she had done made her feel nauseous; heading downstairs to confront the Tsote who would kill her. Attempting to console herself with such a pitiful boast that she would not make it easy upon her opponent. To truly make it difficult for her it was best to turn and run the other way, she knew that. Luckily it had all turned out for the best. More or less. If you could call being here, wherever here was, the best.

“I will give you a moment to make peace with your fate.” A voice said from behind her.


“If it helps I will not enjoy what I am about to do.” Vera lied. “I am merely an agent of fate.” Alice turned around slowly to face her fated opponent. In the air around them their fates intertwined. It was almost beautiful, if you had the requisite senses to perceive that kind of thing and were not about to be killed that is. Vera had a smug smirk on her face and her razorwhip uncoiled in her hand, it trailed in the dirt by her feet. Her other hand was on the butt of her pistol at her waist, it quite clearly said, I could use this… but I’d rather not. Vera had waited a long time for this, she’d rather wait a little longer than have the whole thing be over in one momentary spurt of action.

“Fuck you.” Alice spat at her. Vera’s brow furrowed and her smirk cracked into a disappointed frown.

“Really?” Vera asked incredulously. “I’m really fated to battle one of those fucking bitches who can’t accept her own destiny?” She looked as though she had swallowed something distasteful. “This is…” she struggled for the right words. “This is so… embarrassing.” Alice scowled.

“You’re embarrassed?” Her voice was hard. Vera was too close, if Alice turned to run one slash from that razorwhip would, if not kill her, then certainly make fleeing the scene an issue. “What, you’re going to be ashamed to tell your stuck up fate blessed spoilt bitch friends that you killed me?” There was a long pause as Vera regarded her opponent.

“Yes.” She said eventually.

“How truly awful.” Alice retorted snidely. “My heart goes out to you. However will you cope with such a monumental fucking hardship?”

“I’ll lie.” Vera said simply, disregarding the sarcasm of the question. “Tell them that my opponent was noble. Not some fate denying street trash.” For a minute nothing was said, the conversation seemed to have come to a natural conclusion and there seemed only one thing left for the two of them to do. Maybe it was time to give up, Alice thought, accept fate and lie down and die. No that was the lingering after effects of the narrator’s ink talking. She was not going to die. Not here in some bizarre world she didn’t understand, and not to her. Not to Vera. Alice screamed and leapt forwards.

It was the last thing Vera had been expecting. Alice crashed into her before she had time to react, wrestling her to the ground. They landed heavily against the hard rock floor, Vera bearing the brunt of the blow. Her razorwhip knocked from her hand landed a couple of feet away in the dark red dirt. They struggled against one another, Vera clearly on the back foot as Alice attempted to force her pistol from its holster. Vera had been caught unprepared and knocked off balance, but it did not take her long to recover. Alice’s limbs were thin and stick like. She’d been living rough and hadn’t had a good hearty meal in a long time. It took its toll on her strength; she simply could not overpower the fate-blessed tsote. She was thrown off, and for a moment she didn’t know how to respond. Her eyes met the razorwhip discarded a couple of feet in front of her and she scurried forwards, snatching it up and climbing to her feet in one swift motion. She spun around to find Vera standing there, her pistol unsheathed and pointing directly at her.

“Fuck.” Alice muttered breathlessly. “I don’t suppose you’d respond well to encouragement to think for yourself for once in your life would you?”

“If it helps,” Vera said emotionlessly, the way this ritual was supposed to be said “I will not enjoy what I am about to do. I am merely an agent of fate.” Alice refused to look away, she stared her opponent in the eyes, unflinching. Neither Tsote seemed particularly pleased with what was happening, but Vera would not back down and Alice could not.“And this is your-”

“Hello!” Vera was cut off by a friendly mechanical voice. Approaching the pair was a robot, tall and silver with numerous red eyes and horns, a mechanical trident in its mechanical grip, hooves and a pointed tail. Even Alice who had had minimal contact with human culture could tell what this was supposed to be. “Hi there and welcome to Inferno Alpha.” It said as it got close to the pair. “We here at Inferno Alpha apologise for the delay in our services. Let’s see about getting you two assigned to your eternal punishments.”

“What are you?” Vera asked. Her attention had wandered; the pistol drooped between her and Alice.

“I am an assignment officer.” The robot said, its voice not discourteous, after all those who it greeted were customers and it did not do to upset a customer, but it was clear that this was information she should already have known. Alice slowly, so as not to draw Vera's attention, lowered herself towards the ground in a move that resembled a deep curtsey, and dropped the razorwhip careful to make as little noise as possible. It was such a clumsy weapon, Alice was pretty sure if she tried to use it she’d end up chopping her own ear off or something.

“You have no fate.” Vera said curiously. The machine did not have a good response for that.

“If you will let me process you I will see to it that you are sent to your eternal fate as quickly as possible.” It replied.

Alice pounced. She jumped forwards gripped both hands around the pistol, careful to tilt it towards the floor as much as she could, and pulled back in one swift motion. The unexpected twisting of the gun meant Vera lost her grip easily and she stumbled forwards to land in a heap at Alice’s feet. Alice was fumbling with the weapon for a second, twisting it the right way around. It took her a moment to get it right. She aimed down and without hesitation she pulled the trigger. The whole thing took a couple of seconds. It was over by the time that the robot was able to process what had just happened. Alice screamed and Vera smirked. The gun had jammed.

“Fine.” The robot demon assignment officer said rather huffily. There were protocols for when someone decided they did not like the sound of eternal damnation once they were there in person.

Alice fumbled with the pistol, attempting to clear the jam but having no real idea how to do so. Vera stopped this short when she kicked Alice’s legs out from underneath her. As they struggled on the floor, cursing one another angrily, they each felt a sharp pain as something small and metallic punctured their bodies and everything faded to black.


The assignment officer proceeded with his scans (non invasive brain scans designed to determine the sins of newcomers to Inferno Alpha so as to best allocate them to a suitable circle) on the unconscious Tsotes, he ran the scan on Vera twice just to be certain, and with a shrug (or as much as a shrug as a mostly emotionless robot can manage) hauled both of them, and their possessions to processing. Alice was the easiest of the pair to deal with. She, along with what the processing offer had assumed was her pistol, had been placed in a pod to be sent down to the seventh circle, to the inner ring. He was quite pleased about that. It had been a while since he had processed anyone so high profile, so to speak, and he felt he could use the commendation that such a processing would receive.

Vera on the other hand, well, let’s just talk about Vera. Though she’d been flirtatious back in her former life, she’d never really been what you could call lustful. She hadn’t been a glutton, her slim waistline was testament to that. In terms of greed perhaps she had more than most people, but her fate had conferred that upon her. She’d never asked for it. She was not greedy. Though she knew she would kill someone very soon she had never done so up till this point in her life. She had in fact before the confrontation with Alice never raised a blade in anger. She was always honest about herself. She had never committed fraud and she had never betrayed anyone. While you could have made a very good argument she was to be assigned for being a heretic, for not believing what the Bible taught, there was a flaw in that argument. The scanners saw her devotion to fate. The two concepts; faith and fate, to the Tsote they were the same thing.

The scanner had been forced to conclude that she had been misplaced. And so the processing officer prepared a short range shuttle for her. She was being sent to where she belonged, her rightful sphere of Paradiso Alpha.
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Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

They pulled. Olivia screamed.

She didn't much care why they were pulling. All she wanted was for the blackness to sweep over her, for the plant to do whatever it was it always did, for it to carry her away to wake up cowering in some corner of the Amazon again, safe in some semblance of sanity.

Nothing made any sense. Reality was coming in bits and pieces, and the bits didn't have any connection to one another. There was an office, a street, a cottage, and some whirling mass that kept showing up.

And now there were demons trying to pull the plant out of her body and failing. All they got for their efforts were Olivia's screams, but they kept at it for what seemed, to her, like an eternity.


The office was a cold, impersonal sort of white, the kind of white you'd find in the waiting room of a hospital. It wasn't the comforting, generic semi-off-white that seems to be the default wall colour for an office or government building; it was that very distinct hospital-white that only ever appears there.

The office was also rather cramped, and when Olivia was escorted in five minutes after arriving on the Hell World, she found herself standing behind the robot sitting at the desk. It turned around, giving her an expectant look, then rolled its eyes and pointed to the chair on the opposite side of the tiny room. There wasn't much room to get by, but Olivia squeezed through, her burlap cloak catching on one corner of the desk and tearing a bit.

As soon as she sat down, the robot started talking, quick and impatient. "You shouldn't be here," it said, glaring at her. "We have reports of multiple anomalous entities across the station, and we're having to process them all ourselves."

Olivia mumbled something, and her host leaned forward.

"What was that?"

"I was just-"

The robot cut her off. "Stop talking. Let me finish." It paused to glare at her for a few seconds to make sure she was done, then continued. "We're having to process all of the anomalous entities ourselves, and that means making determinations about sins that we really don't have the resources to be making all of the time. This is quite inconvenient for us."

Olivia said nothing, but the robot eyed her as though it expected she would. After a moment, it continued.

"You, unfortunately, are making this even more difficult than some of the others." Sliding open a drawer, the robot produced several pieces of paper and a pair of glasses. "You see, you belong quite solidly in C.7-1, as demonstrated by this form here." It gestured with one of the pieces of paper but didn't offer to actually show it to her. "On the other hand, the scans show that your host ought to be in C.7-3, and as you may have noticed, our efforts to detach you haven't exactly been successful."

The robot gave another pause, and Olivia started to open her mouth to speak, but the robot just interrupted her again.

"For the moment, protocol dictates that we attempt to find a solution, but it's going to leave you as an exception case for the duration of your stay."

Again, the insincere comment-inviting pause.

"This means you'll likely get a less typical sentence, which usually means a lighter one. To accommodate that, you're being assigned tier two inconveniences and impoliteness on top of whatever you're assigned. Do you understand?"


"Sign here." The robot slid one of the pages toward her.

Glancing around, Olivia couldn't see a pen anywhere. She gave the robot a questioning look, and it just raised a metal eyebrow at her.

"Can I have a pen?"

The robot rolled its eyes again and pointed to the corner of the desk. When Olivia just responded with a blank look, it mimed pricking its finger and writing on the page with that.

Olivia's blood smeared a bit as she signed the page. She hadn't signed anything in a long time, and signing in blood stung.

The robot snatched the page away from her as soon as she was done. "Now," it said, its voice a bit slower, calmer, "do you have any questions?"

Olivia wasn't sure if it was actually going to let her speak, but it didn't start talking again after a few seconds, so she started, "You said, uh..."

The robot just kept looking at her.

"You, uh... you said my 'host' couldn't be detached? What did you mean there?"

"Oh, that." The robot opened another drawer and pulled out another piece of paper. "Her mind's down to twenty to twenty-five percent stability, which is still above the margin for being considered sentient, so we need to consider her as well." Again, the robot gestured with the page but didn't let her see it. "Until she goes below ten percent, she's technically still a person, so her sins are also taken into account. You can ask for a re-test later; until she drops below that line, though, you're stuck with the exception case punishments."

"But I'm-"

"You signed the form, reindanis, no buts. Your warden is waiting outside, he'll assign you your first job. Goodbye."

With a sudden pair of loud clacking noises, the robot froze in place, and Olivia got the feeling that the robot had shut down, leaving her alone in the office with nothing but her oddly-inert plant parasite.


Once Olivia had squirmed her way past the desk again and figured out how to open the door, she found herself face-to-face with another robot, this one one that looked like a stainless-steel life-sized gorilla action figure.

"I'm to be your warden," it said, waiting about as long as the other robot had and providing just as much of a name. "The others that showed up with you are to be your first assignment." Clumsily, it passed her a tiny computer-like device. "Here's a map of the station. The blacked-out parts are places you can't go, the red dots are the places your rude friends were first located. Get them contained and into their appropriate circles and get back to me. If you fail, you'll spend a few months out in vacuum before we put you to work again. We clear?"

Olivia began to mumble something affirmative in response, but the gorilla-like robot had already turned and started stomping away.

For a moment, she just stood there with the map in her hand, waiting for the next wave of whatever insanity was going on to wash over her. When it didn't come, her brain started to kick into gear.

So. She was in some sort of space station with some assortment of strange beings, everything was hell-styled, and even though the staff of the place seemed to think it was the one worth addressing, the ivy that had made her life a different sort of hell for the past two years was as dormant as it had ever been. With one hand, she reached up to check, and to her disappointment (though she was more than a little disturbed to feel a bit of relief as well), it was still there. She just... couldn't hear it whispering to her. For the moment, her head was completely, 100% hers... assuming she was still even all there. What had that robot said, twenty to twenty-five percent stability? Could she really be that close to losing it?

It didn't matter, she decided, pushing it from her mind. She wasn't going to let some scientifically-baseless number some robot had cited get to her. She was as sane as she'd ever been- well, okay, maybe a bit worse for wear considering her time in the jungle. That wouldn't bring her down to twenty percent, though. She was fine, of course. She wasn't going to let the thought worry her. Not at all.

Sighing, she started off down one hall, glancing at the map in her hand and wondering if there was much in the way of transportation on the massive, planet-sized station. The dots were scattered around, after all, and she'd apparently been enlisted to corral them all.


Back in the very white office, the robot was straightening its things up and putting papers back in drawers. They never check, it mused. I keep the papers in my hand when I freeze, and yet they never bother to check. It glanced one last time at the relevant sheet ("Olivia Reindana," it read, "Cognitive Stability: 85-90%") before sliding it away into a drawer and standing up. It had a report to deliver, after all.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.

Staring out at the vast weirdness that was The Unborn instilled in Alluvion a peculiar sense of responsibility. Barabbas had already informed them of their role in its development of course but there is a big difference between hearing something and understanding it, and besides that when he'd heard the speech the first time he was still getting over the fact that he suddenly wasn't a whole river.
He didn't know what actions had stirred the gestating god before him to take on its current form, or in fact what most of his fellow “sacrifices” had actually spent the last round doing, and suddenly realised that he'd been both wasting his time and shirking in his responsibilities. Whether this was true or not, he saw himself as being in a unique position of insight with regards to the godling's development, was it not the same way he'd been formed?
Well, he was made of the dreams of fish rather than the deeds of a group of strangers, but there were some similarities there anyway. Or, he'd like to think that there were.
The problem then was figuring out what kind of actions would ring loud enough to speak to The Unborn's budding consciousness, and then which of those would actually be desirable. While he was generally well-meaning he also wasn't really familiar with the company of anyone who didn't have gills, but he had already caught on to the fact that what fish would be happy with probably wouldn't be quite enough to satisfy everyone else.

Perhaps, considering that he knew about as much about the civilisation of other sapient species as the Unborn did, he wasn't actually in any kind of privileged, enlightened position at all! Unfortunately this did not occur to him, and before he could stop and think long enough to realise it he had been yanked away again and deposited somewhere within the bowels of the Inferno Alpha complex. What better place than hell to give him a good moral compass?

Alluvion's reception to the hell-world turned out to be a fair bit warmer than the one Poran received, though this wasn't really immediately apparent. The first thing he noticed was that it was dark, darker even than it had been in the empty place where the Unborn lived, and also fairly cramped. It wasn't dissimilar to the short period of time he'd spent in a bucket, in fact, except this time the space was slightly more generous and the walls (what with being made of stone) were a lot more resistant to shoving. Another difference between this place and the bucket was that there wasn't a convenient exit hole in the top, a fact that he found not only notable but actually very worryingly important considering that none of the walls were responding to his frantic attempts to push them away. Lastly, he noticed the warmth, although really “warm” very quickly became an understatement. It felt like he was being boiled, which... meant that he probably was. Fortunately, help was close at hand.

“Oi lads! There's another new arrival over here!
Not really sure how we could have missed this one to be honest... oh well, better crack her open then.
Hope this isn't another whiner, we're on a schedule.”

The lid of the sarcophagus had barely been shifted far enough to admit air before Alluvion burst through the tiny hole. Evaporated steam had built up a lot of pressure to help him on his way, but it wasn't like he really needed all that much encouragement to get out of there.

“What the hell? Is one of you playing some kind of practical joke? Because I ain't laughing.”
“Wasn't me, boss.”

Now that he was outside, Alluvion could see his former prison (a stone coffin lying in a hole filled with burning tar, not that he knew what a coffin was), the surrounding landscape (fairly uninteresting, a barren plain interspersed with identical tombs and ringed by a tall, barbed iron fence) and of course his rescuers and the source of the muffled voices he'd been able to hear during his mercifully short confinement, a loose assortment of odd-looking machines.

The bulk of the admittedly fairly small group was a gaggle of steel imps; sharp-faced, pointy-nosed children hovering in the air and carrying little tridents. The fact that some of them weren't even bothering to flap their impractically tiny wings implied that this wasn't their actual method of propulsion, though one of them wasn't flying quite steady and had to keep adjusting himself to prevent an aimless list to the left. It looked like they could once have been coated in some form of artificial skin, it was still visible in places, but most of it had worn away by now leaving their mechanical skeletons in full view.
One of them was smoking a cigar (which was probably a fairly pointless endeavour as it didn't have any lungs and the air was filled with smoke anyway, but he felt like it gave him an air of sophistication), and all of them were staring at the river spirit, or a space just underneath him.

“Well”, said the cigar-smoker, sardonically, “that was certainly interesting.Not every day I see a living fountain in hell I have to say.
Would you mind getting off my subordinate? That is assuming you even understand what I am telling you, they certainly shouldn't be shunting mindless animals down here but with the current administration I wouldn't put it past them.”

Alluvion looked down and, sure enough, another imp was lying under his translucent coils, completely motionless with its yellow eye-lights dead. Evidently it had been caught in his torrential escape from the burning tomb and subsequently bathed in water as he reconstituted himself on top of it. He sheepishly washed himself out of the way.
“I am most sorry! Your friend, is he alright?”
Usually he wouldn't even have to ask but to his god senses they weren't even there, which was somewhat disconcerting. Things that moved and spoke but weren't alive in the strictest sense of the word were still an entirely new experience to him.

“Eh, probably”, the imp replied, “Not very well insulated you see, you may not have guessed this but water isn't really a regular hazard down on this ring.
Most likely someone'll just drain him out replace a couple of fuses and he'll be up and about again, though I suppose if he's lucky there's always a chance he's melted something vital and he's gone for good.
Either way it'll be more maintenance than any of us have gotten in months. Aamon! You carry him, it's not like I could even if I wanted to.”

This shout stirred the final and only non-imp member of the group from where he'd been standing on the other side of the tomb, being the only one with the upper body strength necessary to shift the coffin's heavy lid. His six-eyed, horned face would have been familiar to Poran although this specimen was considerably more run-down than the ones that had chased the poor bard, several floors down. It clanked over to Alluvion and picked up the fallen imp by one leg, not even showing the any interest in the river elemental or even acknowledging his presence past that required to keep from getting wet himself. Alluvion was still trying to sort out what that last exchange had meant.

“I am sorry, lucky? Why would this be a desirable event? Nobody wants to die, and I am not even going to eat him.”

“Nobody wants to... ha! You do know where you are don't you? Aren't they still giving their introductory talk? Though I suppose unfamiliarity with the material is probably what got you down on this ring in the first place. We get all the oddballs down here, I mean who signs up for a voluntary hell that they don't believe actually exists? Though at least we're busier than level one. Heard they've just started using that one as a staff room.

...sorry I shouldn't really be sharing this with the clients should I? Even in the sorry state I'm in now. That bastard's changes must be getting to me.”

Alluvion had understood about one word in five of that last outburst but the strange creature seemed to enjoy talking about itself and he needed time to get himself acclimatised. It was far cooler here than it had been mere seconds ago when he was trapped in an enclosed space but still warmer than made him feel comfortable, he'd even shrunk a couple of inches as the inward flow of water from his base struggled to keep up with the heat's gradual theft of his body mass (though the evaporated particles simply winked out of existence a few feet away from his body).
“I must make more apologies, I have only recently arrived here and I'm not entirely sure what is going on.
Please, who is “Bastard”? Who are you? What is a “hell”? And what is the purpose of all these boxes?”

The demon just stared at him for a couple of seconds in disbelief and then shook his head.
“While this makes my job a whole lot easier, I am honestly shocked at how far standards have fallen. Wouldn't be like this if I was still on the job you know, people always knew where they stood when this was my gig.
I'm a demon, right? You know what that is? No, evidently not. Robots? You know what they are?” As Alluvion shook his head again, the imp sighed and scratched at his faceplate,
“Right this is clearly going to take a long time and we really don't have all that much left, should be a fury patrol in a few minutes. It is technically still my job to make sure you sit there in that stone box for the rest of time however since some lunatic rewired my brain for me, I am going to have to do the best I can to see that the opposite happens.
Would you enjoy being back in that little stone tomb?”
”Of course not!”, this was finally a question Alluvion understood.
“Right then.
Good, I suppose.
Did you know you're the first person who's answered yes to that? Follow me and we'll get you backstage before some flying cat lady tries to shove you back in, maybe my new master will have time to answer your numerous obvious questions before sending me off on another utterly pointless errand. You can be clueless buddies together, won't that be lovely?”

One of the other imps was already holding open a rectangular trapdoor that had previously been a seamless part of the floor. The metal-walled tunnel it led into seemed dark and unwelcoming but it was still probably better than being boiled alive, and there was the possibility of information at the end of it. He hadn't quite figured out that the imp was insulting him yet, his command of the language still wasn't absolute, but there was still something about his attitude that the river spirit felt that he couldn't trust. Perhaps it was just the fact that he couldn't read the robot's mood like a book.
That said, with the lack of any other real options and despite the fact that he still didn't have much of an idea what was going on, Alluvion followed the grumpy imp and the rest of his posse into the darkness.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

None of Barabbas’ words rang with any meaning. The Walker could talk and lament, but M. in its judgment absorbed no responsibility or knowledge of its actions. The Unborn, however, was a more familiar sight. It was the second time M. had seen that chaotic dance of shapes—a second experience warrants new consideration. There was a difference: the Unborn was this time ever so slightly less of a mass of undirected chaos. It conveyed anger, most obviously, but of a different sort than that which drives M. to its natural duty—a personal anger, not towards an encompassing group but towards maybe one specific individual.

Before M. could make any sense of this information, however, it was met with a sudden sensation of falling. This was accompanied an instant later with an immense brightness, searing M.’s infrared sense to the extent that it hardly made an effort to land on its feet. For several moments M. was incapacitated simply by the amount of heat that surrounded it, as if it were being consumed by fire.

There was no fire, though, as M. eventually realized. The sky—the lack thereof—consisted of angular and mechanical shapes that twisted and emanated heat in a nauseating pattern, interrupted only by a series of funnels that led to furnaces. One such funnel was directly above M., and as its sight recuperated, it saw the figures falling from them by the thousands. Walkers.

Everywhere. The cavern floor was covered in Walkers, each clawing at each other with aimless anger. Many began to pull at M.’s branches, tearing off leaves and fruit by the handfuls. M. tightened its canopy, covering the fragile leaves with a thick web of vines, which quickly hardened into spiny wood. M. began to push away and down the Walkers, attempting to garner a better look for a means of escape.

There was one large figure in midst of the crowd. Like the sky, it consisted of cuboids and angular shapes that emanated intense heat, but its form was vaguely similar to that of a Walker—bipedal, but with thick legs and a head that resembled a bull. It carried a machine on its back, where several Walkers hung limp by their heads. The bull machine seemed surveyed the mass of bodies, kicking away whoever it was not looking for, stopping occasionally to pick up one squirming Walker and add it to its apparent collection.

The machine suddenly turned towards M. and paused for a moment before moving swiftly towards it. M. had no means of outrunning it—the crowd simply moved too much to push aside or walk on top. M. thrashed as metallic hand hotter than fire wrapped around it and carried it away.

M. awoke again in a cage. It circled around in the grated box, finding it unable to be forced open. It could, theoretically, shift into a tangle of vines and escape that way, but the small size of the grating would mean leaving behind all of its fruit and the books it had collected from the previous round. It noticed the figures—again metallic—apparently holding a Walker-like conversation, and chose to wait until one of them approaches and possibly opens the cage instead.

“This is the second plant I’ve had submitted in the last two hours. I’ve received a report of a—and I quote—“living fountain” submitted in C.6. How do you expect us to operate when we are categorizing buckets of water and malignant gardening phenomena in the same ring as the most violent of humans?”

“They’re more like living idols and witchcraft, but regardless, these oddities all seem to be correlated, one of which we’ve sent to investigate the others. You’ve got an eternity here, be patient.”

“And this one?”

“Excessive violence against all things human, in the name of a supposed natural order. Should be easy to categorize.”

The figures exited the room and M.’s cage sunk into the floor.

There was once again the sensation of falling, and this time M. was prepared to meet the searing heat and land alert. It thus came as a surprise when M. fell into a body of liquid, still boiling hot. The waters churned, continuously pulling M. deeper. Submerged, it could see the hundreds of Walker bodies tumbling alongside an even greater number of strange, short rods. M. thickened its bark and began to form a layer of resin to protect against the boil and struggled to swim to the surface.

As soon as M.’s head penetrated the surface of the water, a serration-tipped metal rod jammed itself into it. Startled, but not particularly sensitive to this pain, M. tumbled down again into a particularly powerful eddy. More attempts at resurfacing and yet more rods striking M.’s body and M. stayed submerged for a moment more, trying to come up with a more feasible way to get out of this whirlpool.

The pool was circular, and the rods seemed to come from several figures posted along the edges, on a ledge. M. waited until the current carried it closer to the edge and kicked itself upwards, grabbing hold of the ledge and pulling itself on top. M. could see now that the rods came from more machines, things that resembled the headless torso of a Walker on the body of a horse, with devices—anyone else would recognize them as crossbows—strapped to their arms, which launched a flurry of bolts at the potential escapee. M. ran along the ledge, getting underneath and pushing into the whirlpool several mechanized centaurs before escaping through a corridor.

Two or three of the centaurs followed, their bulk significantly slowing them down in the narrow hallway. Noticing a draft entering a grating in the wall, M. kicked it in and crawled through the shaft, elongating its body to fit its canopy. After several twists and turns, M. decided to rest in a small chamber on an intersection.

Chaotic, madness, the extent to which this new environment joked on all of M.’s experience was astonishing. These new experiences were worthy of being addressed—necessary even, in order to survive. M. removed the bolts covering its body and washed itself over with some juices—necessary, as M. realized it was soaked not with water, but Walker blood.

M. laid out its books—miraculously dry due to its tightened canopy—and began to ponder.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

The shuttle was in direct contrast to the heavy handed theme of Inferno Alpha. It was functional, not aesthetic, essentially a small metal box designed to transport anyone who was accidentally miscategorised between the afterlife worlds. Inside the shuttle there were three or four rows of uncomfortable seats bisected by an aisle down the centre of the shuttle. There were no windows in the thick metal walls and if you weren’t already aware you were in space it would be difficult to tell from the interior of the shuttle, which as the focus of the room was a massive widescreen monitor mounted upon the wall resembled more a small badly lit movie theatre than any mode of planetary transport. As Vera slowly awoke the first thing she was aware of, besides the uncomfortable seats, was a voice.

“We at the Church of Certro-Christechnianism apologise most profusely for your accidental miscategorisation. As compensation for the inconvenience and any trauma you might have suffered during your brief stay on Inferno Alpha we are prepared to provide you with a complimentary upgrade to the next highest sphere of heaven after you have been processed…” The message was delivered in a calm measured tone by a friendly youthful voice; it was very clearly intended to be as inoffensive and reassuring as possible. Vera was not reassured, she was pissed off. In fact furious might have been a more appropriate word. That she had been pulled from her fateful confrontation and dumped into some drab metal box…

She tried to get to her feet, but found her progress hampered by some kind of restraining harness; a black strap that would stretch so far and no further. Irritably she snatched up her razorwhip up from where it lay coiled on the seat next to her and began hacking away at the harness. In the background the reassuring message described the various things that one could look forward to in Paradiso; an omnipresent feeling of eternal enveloping happiness, the opportunity to reunite with lost loved ones and karaoke ever Thursday night in the Alfheim bar. It did not take long for the message to loop back to the beginning, where the voice introduced himself as Grand High Pope Honorope (carefully pronounced Honor-o-pay) the First.

After a minute or so frustratedly sawing through the harness with the blade of her razorwhip Vera was free. She stomped her way to the front of the shuttle, to the only visible exit, a pair of heavy metal doors that had sealed air-tight, and attempted to force them open. When this proved not to work she resorted to pounding upon the doors, to screaming at anyone who might have been on the other side to let her the fuck out. Of course she did not receive any response, and eventually breathlessly she was forced to admit temporary defeat. Physically exhausted she slid down the wall, coming to rest upon the cold metal floor of the shuttle. It had become clear that for the moment, fate wanted her to remain in here, and begrudgingly she accepted it.

It was unlike her to get so worked up at something that she had clearly no ability to change, Vera had always done her best to accept whatever situation her fate had delivered her into. It was, she reasoned, the tantalizing taste of a fate almost fulfilled that was causing her to get so frustrated. That she was not realizing her fate at this moment was irksome, but that she would eventually put an end to that fate-denier was an inevitability; it could wait for now. After an uncomfortable couple of minutes half-sat upon the metal floor Vera opted to take a seat instead.

She scrutinised the screen with its still repeating message from the Grand High Pope Honorope the First. The youthful pope was dressed in a white and gold suit and tie. He had blonde hair which it appeared had been painstakingly gelled into the ‘just got out of bed look’, azure blue eyes and killer cheekbones. Though Vera sometimes had difficulty distinguishing between humans, even she was able to recognise that Honorope would have been considered to be attractive; not the traditional quality one would look for in a religious leader. Even more incongrously he was seated upon the edge of a hot tub with scantily clad human females frolicking in the water behind him. Whatever, she thought, this human and his less than reputable religion were of no relevance to her. She tuned out the message and happily thought about the confrontation that was still to come.

It was only now, an entire round of the battle having already passed, that the truth began to dawn on her. A tsote’s fate-sense was always accurate, but seldom comprehensive enough to get more than a rough sense of the life someone was going to live. Vera had known that one day she was to fight someone and defeat them. When she had been taken to be part of this battle she had been happy to assume that this grand and elaborate battle was her fate finally manifesting itself, but then she had seen the Tsote in the library at the end of the previous round. She was her fated enemy, Vera was sure of it this time. At the time she had been so eager to fulfil that fate she hadn’t considered what light that threw upon the battle itself, but now that she had a moment of quiet contemplation she saw it for what it was; an unknown quantity. Nobody she had met had ever been able to read her fate past the confrontation she would win; a fact that gave her pause now. Up until now she had never really considered how up in the air her fate was once she had finally killed her fated opponent. The idea of not having a clearly mapped out future to follow unnerved her more than she would have thought possible.

A sudden change in the recording of the Grand High Pope cut her contemplation short.

“You are now arriving at Paradiso Alpha. To avoid any unnecessary physical reconstructions please fasten your seatbelts during atmospheric entry.”


The transport pod into which Alice had been bundled made the interplanetary shuttle look positively luxurious. It was a roughly ovular capsule large enough to contain a person, should that person be curled up into a ball. The inside was well padded but more to save on unnecessary physical reconstructions than to provide any level of comfort. There was a separate hollow for personal belongings, in which Vera’s pistol was rattling around. It might not be the most dignified way of moving people from one level to another, but it doesn’t require them to be guarded and, well it’s hell; it’s not like they deserve any better, right? The pod plummeted down an enormous transparent tube that snaked through multiple layers of Hell, occasionally banging against the side and slamming Alice around inside the confined space. It was a nightmarish situation to wake up in.

In the fifth circle, high above the stygian waters, there was a slight curve in the transportation tubing, a spot which meant that the transportation pods had always slammed into it especially hard. Tiny cracks had slowly spread across the glass, and as Alice’s pod slammed into this segment it finally gave in, shattering under the transportation pod’s weight. The pod erupted from the broken tube in a cascade of glass and plunged into the murky waters below with an enormous splash. Alice could do little more than bang ineffectually upon the sides of the pod and anxiously mutter profanities as the black waters started to seep into the already claustrophobic confines of the pod.

The dark waterline crept higher and Alice scrambled to try and rearrange herself in the limited space, so that her head was not in the lowest part of the pod with limited success. After a minute the pod clicked open and turgid water poured in. As Alice sputtered and thrashed in the blackness a hand reached in and grabbed hers. For just a moment the struggle to stay alive was sidelined by surprise; that after all that she had said and done back in that town Addy had saved her. Then there was a tug on her hand and she snapped back to reality. She swam after Adelaide and within a minute they burst through the once again placid surface of the tenebrous water, leaving the pod and Vera’s gun behind them. Alice coughed and sputtered and eventually managed to get her breath, when she did: “Oh.” she said disappointedly.

“Hi, I’m Rain.” Alice scowled at this girl who was not the girl she had been hoping to see and felt a little silly for letting her imagination run away with her. She had short black hair, large black bags around her eyes and the wrinkled skin of someone who had spent rather a long time underwater. But despite all this she seemed relatively upbeat; the smile upon her face was warm and genuine and there was no pain in her eyes.

“Rain is a fuckin’ stupid name.” Alice spat. “Where the fuck am I supposed to be now?”

“This is the fifth circle.” Rain replied a little hesitantly. “Specifically the river Styx, where the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, ‘withdrawn into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.’” It sounded like she was reciting it out of a book. Alice took a moment to glance around, the river stretched off in every direction, here and there it was possible to see people thrashing in the water, tearing at one another in a feral rage, and blood seeping into the Cimmerian river. She looked back to chirpy cheerful Rain and scowled deeper.

“You don’t seem particularly miserable.” Alice observed.

“Well…” Rain looked thoughtful. “Who could be miserable here? This is what I always wanted.” Alice’s eyebrows shot up.

“You wanted to drown in a dismal black river?” she asked.

“Well, you don’t drown exactly.” Rain replied. “They have this special process to infuse the water with oxygen, so it just feels like you are perpetually drowning.” There was a long moment of silence between the two, which Alice broke.

“Yeah, well, you make that sound really fuckin’ appealing and all but I think I’m going to go and do something else instead.”

“Oh!” Rain began, “I saw the designation on your pod, you were heading down to the seventh circle right? The best way to get down there is to follow the river that way,” she pointed, “all the way to Dis. There’s a bank of elevators in there that’ll take you right down.”

Alice rolled her eyes and without another word to the girl she swam off in that general direction, not because she was keen to get down to the seventh circle of hell but simply because she would have sort of liked some dry land to stand on. She was here, Alice ruminated, that well-fated bitch. She’d actually been stood face to face with the woman who would kill her if fate had its way. Of course she’d suspected that something as outlandish as this could only be the work of fate, but still, to come face to face with her ‘fated enemy’… For a moment there she’d really thought she was going to die, then again for a moment there she had also thought she was going to win. It was pretty much the worst fuckin’ moment of her life so far, and her life had had some pretty shitty moments. Being thrown in a box and dumped into this caliginous river immediately afterwards had not helped improve her mood any. There was shouting coming from behind her.

“Vera!” Adelaide yelled. It had taken some serious effort to dredge up her name from back when they were introduced to one another; Adelaide didn’t think it suited her.

Alice recognised the rusalka’s voice and turned around, just as Adelaide emerged from the water behind her. For a moment there was an awkward silence between the two, their last meeting had not been all that pleasant for either party and they were each waiting for the other to say something first, to test the water so to speak.

“What do you want now?” Alice asked. “And who the fuck is Vera?”

Adelaide thought for a moment; even if she hadn’t really thought about it all that much at the time, it quickly became apparent that the tsote she had been introduced to by the old man was not the same as the one who bobbed angrily in front of her now. “There’s two of yeh ain’t there?”

“Oh.” Alice replied. “Vera is it? What a fucking ridiculous name.” she paused. “Looking for that bitch then? Fine. I won’t keep you.”

Adelaide dithered for a moment, unsure of exactly how to respond. “Naw, y’ fucker I was lookin’ for you.” She admitted.

“Well…” Alice began. As much as she wanted to stay mad at the rusalka, she didn’t have it in her right now, not when she was lucky to have her life after facing off with… Vera. She sighed wearily. “The name’s Alice.” She said, the vitriol gone from her voice, for the moment at least.

“m’Adelaide.” Addy responded. There was another moment of awkward silence.

“How about you tell me what the fuck is going on?” Alice said. “And this time without the assumption that I already know.”


Vera had quickly figured out what was going on as soon as the recording had started using terms she associated with space travel. Probably the only reason she hadn’t worked it out sooner was because she’d been more focused on her own issues and tsote spaceships were a lot more aesthetically pleasing than this flying box. She’d even managed to work out the ‘seat belts’ which had made her feel a bit silly about cutting herself out of the other one. The descent was incredibly turbulent but not unbearable. Grand High Pope Honorope the First’s final words to her as the shuttle doors opened were: “Have a delightful afterlife.”

The doors opened up on a mostly white landscape. She had no doubt that it had taken a lot of time and energy to terraform an entire planet to resemble clouds. Underfoot they felt slightly spongy but they were sturdy enough to support her weight. Standing in front of the shuttle there was a host of angelic robots. They had glowing blue eyes, pure white chassis and wings covered in what upon closer inspection would prove to be white felt. Some of them clutched golden harps with mechanical hands that could not hope to play such a delicate instrument. The manufacturers of these machines had clearly tried to portray the angelic heirachy from tiny cherubim to imposing six-winged seraphim that stood over ten feet tall. Of course such classifications meant nothing to Vera who would have described them as 'little angels' and 'big angels'.

She felt very self-conscious under the glowing glare of hundreds of robotic eyes and thought back to the scraps of information she knew about human religions (most of which besides gossip or hearsay, was what she'd heard from Pope Honorope on the ride over).

“What’s going on?” she asked warily. “Don’t you have people to be looking after?”

“No.” An angel standing at the head of the group (a seraphim) said.

“No,” Vera replied. “I know this one; this is heaven, right? This is where good people go when they die.”

“Correct.” The angel said.

“Then where is everyone?” Vera asked. Her realisation about the nature of the battle had left her shook up, and combined with the gaze of these machines she felt more nervous than she ever had before. It was distressing.

“You are the first.” The angel said bluntly.

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Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

ho hum