sciolist: (Drow4)
[personal profile] sciolist posting in [community profile] lost_in_navir
Day 14 -
So, that's it then. We won. We saved the world. Time to hang up our adventuring hats and be shopkeepers and members of the Watch and people of leisure. Well, no - Not quite.

Teleporting in was no problem and we traipsed off in the right direction through the mountains. After a while, Beth comunes with nature to identify a person and a powerful creature over that way and we decide to bed down for the night in a cave big enough to hold a hut. It's nice. There's a good sort of buzzy tension as we potter about, and sack out and get some rest until daylight.

We think life is an everful flask of experience waiting to happen to us, but it's a chain of discrete events. One more sunrise, one more good breakfast. The last breakfast? Could be! But one of them will be, so it's not worth worrying over. We're hardly going to find different jobs with lower risk. And it is a good breakfast, and it is a necessarily good breakfast because Drenak opens the hut door to see Ulagor's nostrils twitching. He might have grown since last time, it's hard to tell. I'm twice as tall as I was so... hard to judge.

If there's one thing they don't adequately show on cheesecake Drow pinup magazine, it's how to hold onto a dragon in flight. I nearly fell off when Ulagor lifted and Rachael and Jaik had to grab me. Not very dignified, but also not splattering a mountain pass. A few minutes of almost abject terror later, we land at a different cave ledge and find Cutter Drago.

All is actually pretty good. It could be a lot worse, even for a civil war. It seems more like an Autok disagreement and hopefully it'll all blow over now. Ocha Tennesti disagrees with the plan and wants to stop us doing this. Hard to say whether he'd keep the flame in its current form but, whatever. Oh, and he has half an army at his command. Fortunately, Ocha Tennesti has never played Junta. I have. While he may be 2nd Army General, we have probably the 1st and 3rd armies and El Presidente and the Commander of the Air Force. He has tried to assassinate (albeit politically) Cutter Drago, and his forces are now probably trying to secure stuff. We have an advantage in that we only need to secure one building. We have a small tile of paratroops. Not worth much versus an army, I'll admit, but we can probably have surprise and strafing and an insertion plan, and only one objective.

The Regent asks us if we're sure this'll work and I see Rachael start to draw breath to say something honest and I just say 'Yes. We're sure'. I don't think that an honest risk appraisal including the somewhat cagey assurances of a Harbinger are what's needed. But... he doesn't trust us! When I asked if we should have the medallions now in case it gets busy at the other end, he says No. In case we'd chuck him off Ulagor's back in transit. OK, OK. Occasionally I have lied to people since getting to Navir. I've never thought of killing Cutter Drago just to make our job easier. Necromantic Rahshasas, yes. But People? Cutter Drago? No way. I like the Empire. At least as a holiday destination. I might even like running a cafe or something there, the Autok have Chocolate for heaven's sake! Maybe I'm too soft for this adventuring lark. We're not the mad dragon cultists. We're the good people. We don't chuck people off flying things just because it's easier. Not even when we had that doppelganger. Maybe I could settle here after this all blows over. They might like Drow better, here. Then again, maybe we'll be embarassing reminders of the days Pre-Revolution and the People's Information Ministry would have us killed. Hm. Must ask the others.

Drenak tries to rig some sort of rope harness around Ulagor to make the long flight safer, but Ulagor's not happy. We rig up as best we can and Ulagor flies out. I slip as he takes off again despite Drenak's rope handling and I ... I might have screamed a bit. She held my hand for a while. Longer than necessary? How would I know. Long enough, maybe. It was certainly a bit calmer once Ulagor'd got into his cruising rhythm. I am so glad we had that breakfast. I'm not sure I could have coped with dragonfear on top of the perfectly rational fear of flying very fast on a big scaly muscular furnace. We need a howdah, or a saddle. Not that there'll be a next time and not that there'll ever be a time when Ulagor thinks this is a good idea. Returning to Scijaarn by dragon, though? Maybe that'd be fun. A pink dragon, or purple. Got to coordinate.


I'll skip over the hours of long haul flight on the Redeye. We fly. Ulagor cheats with magic stuff doing 'similar terrain portal' or some such. We fly. Cutter Drago tries to explain the difference in kilt-folds between his people and Ocha Tennesti's and I try and produce it out of the Vestments, but... I think his teeth are grating. I'm sure Drenak's maybe dozed off. Jaik and Laura are whatever and I'm playing dress up drow to pass the time. Rachael's watching the scenery as giant wingbeats count down to arrival at Sungiven.

Unsurprisingly, they're not pleased to see us. Arrows, magical stuff and worst of all, Ulagor attempting evasive action with us on his back. Thankfully I stay on but Rachael flails off a rope for a bit. I can't grab her, Drenak's making a go of it and eventually she's back up top. What would I do? We need her. Jump off and help her on the ground was the best I could come up with at short notice. The fate of paratroopers without appropriate relief incoming wails plaintively from the back of my head. It's OK, she was fine, I didn't need to do anything daft. Nice to see that I was fixing to do something daft if required, though. It's actually pretty liberating, having a code. Well, not liberating, but focussing. I can see why Drenak'd choose that, it takes a lot of the bumps and indecision off of things when you might worry about what ifs. There's the code to give you a quick slap and point you right again. Get Rachael to the flame and help her build the gate. Easy.

Ulagor destroys some of the defenders of Sungiven. I never, ever want to be on the wrong side of that breath. The backwash alone was a strain on the orb of comfy surroundings and... there wasn't a lot left of the people attacking us. We get about one circuit of the Temple before landing to notice the Clockwork FalconMan standing patient guard, and an alleyway of small people dressed as the Devastation guild. Then Ulagor lands and my scale reasserts itself and the Devastation Guild are normal-sized but hiding in quite a large street off the plaza. The Clockwork Guard is bigger than I hoped. CD says it's likely summoned by Ocha Tennesti. Him being a cleric of the Spirit of the Empire. Great.

I think I had time to wish Cutter Drago good luck. I hope I did as he passed the medallions off to Rachael. Ulagor lifts to perform CAP. Probably our one and only flight on a dragon, unless the gate opens to Pern as well. Drenak advances on the thing and Jaik negotiates. 'Let us in?' 'No' 'Oh please' 'Your name's not on the list, Go speak to the boss'. [ptink] goes another bolt off its armour. In the meantime I try and sing up something but the Devastation Guild are reforming in the plaza and I'm halfway up the steps of this temple and there's a horde of Autok down there, and if there's ever a location I could belt out 'Go Narrow River' this has to be it. Not the lounge arrangement either, these people look like they'd like a bit of traditional stability. 'Hellooo Sungiven! Are you ready to Rock?'. I need some backing band... I really do. Drenak's assault on the armoured clockwork resumes with greater fervour.

The Clockwork Guard crumples under Drenak's rather anarchic assault. I can see him growling at Rachael and I work out what she likely cast on his axe and why he's looking a little more tense than usual. Nice work, Rachael. There's a flash of gamerly appreciation and love entirely separate to any of the usual cute elf thoughts, something pure and entirely personal and nerdly. But it's really not the time to say anything as we hustle through the doors to the cheering of Cutter Drago's loyal troops outside.

The old elf priest, Markovarinshulbardzuki, lets us in and shuffles us to the room with the flame. It is not a happy flame. Zak was his son. He sits on one of the unbroken benches while we prepare. Doors locked. Doors magic-locked in case any of the troops wanting to disturb us.

Rachael works. Me and Jaik hold stuff where she tells us to when she tells us to. Otherwise, it's pretty amazing. Some of the stones look like they shouldn't stay up, but with some of the... magic goop... (you can tell I'm a professional at this) it kind of grows and starts to hang together around the shape and then the medallions hanging, sometimes off a genuine rock, and sometimes off the wisps of whatever it is that the idea of the gate is coming together to be described by. It seems bigger than I thought. Lucky we did it in this room, not somewhere tiny. I'm very glad Katala picked her to come back. I'm not sure I'd have that sort of attention span. There's a sort of building hum I can feel in the back of my teeth as she has me pass her one of the last few medallions to place and it's got to be pretty close to getting going.

She sighs a little and steps back. We watch as the gate hums with inaudible power and lifts slightly. The space inside shimmers and the raging discord of the Divine Flame disappears, sucked inside with a slightly anticlimactic 'fup!'. The gate lifts further and spins, silvery flame-y light washing out of it around the walls and ceiling of the chamber. I'm not sure it's big enough for a big dragon to come through and then the ripples of light over the walls start to coalesce into shapes, defined images, like it's some sort of zoetrope of the dimensions. Thirteen images of thirteen gates. Twelve medallions. They're scrying images of where the real gates are popping up out of manifest zones and other weak bits of the plane boundaries, I guess.

The gates open and I'm very very glad that the spinning thing in here isn't about to disgorge a dragon. Ulagor said that 'all' of them would hear the call to return. A bunch of Blues somewhere I've not seen before near a volcano, a couple of Reds pop out of the gate above us and a Green. No sign of Tess, but some vaguely modern people look to stumble out into an elven village. Scijaarn's in trouble from the Big Daddy Thoon. At least, I guess it is. Giant armored space brain is unlikely to be the Once and Future Empress. Oh! And there she is, too, Renaba Shahan - out on a glacier somewhere snowy. Markovarinshulbardzuki has a religious moment at the sight of her. I guess a few hundred years could make you wonder if they really were coming back. I hope Cutter Drago won't mind.

We watch in mild horror as some more things show up in vile and odd ways. Maybe this is enough but the gate's not closing itself. Rachael hits the books and Katanic's notes to see what can be done while one of Ulagor's errant offspring fails to explain to his Dad sufficiently well to avoid a vicious neck-bite. His kids aren't small and he's worrying one like a terrier with a rat. A giant red scaly fire-breathing terrier. I rode that dragon. Quite badly, I'll admit, but there's not many can say they rode a dragon at all, even in Navir. Maybe that'll change. I think a lot of stuff may change. The ziggurat shudders as something big thumps into it but Drenak reckons it'll take far too long for a dragon to rip their way in.

Rachael looks up from a final bit of cross-referencing and thinks she's got a plan. Stop the spinning gate from spinning too fast and then start whipping medallions off. I swear if I'd come up with it they'd laugh at me, but she seems to think it's the right thing to do and advances on the gate. She focuses and does... stuff and it slows.

She starts to remove the medallions and the shimmery gatepower blinks out.

The Flame returns with a zinging sort of angelic chord, clear and pure and a load more ordered.

Everything goes black.

The worst two minutes of my life.
The clanging of a fire alarm hauls me back to consciousness. A clapper hitting a bell as a result of an electric current alternating through a coil to make some... solenoid? reciprocate the hammer. I feel heavy. I've got the oddest fading feeling that I ought to be smarter than this but the reason why's lost amongst the rest of the higher brain stuff that's missing. Eyes open to painted walls, fluorescent lighting. I prop myself up to half-sitting on arms that feel a bit too short.

'Well, Fuck.'

I haven't been in this body for years. Even once I could do the alter self thing I'd deliberately not tried to recreate me because there didn't seem much point for 90 minutes of false hope. I was short and that didn't seem that bad once I got used to people looking up to me (metaphorically) and elves not being Pretty! and just being pretty. Except for the last couple of weeks. Back to medium-sized again and... well, in a pretty good body, once I got used to it. Except it could be dispelled and I'd be Gervais again, which would be quite unsettling. So, I'd practiced a bit, using Alter Self to make me look like That Drow. Making a couple of tiny changes and back again so I could feel when it was right, like she'd made me. Ok, that's not 'right' right, but... correct, accurate right. Just in case it got dispelled, and I ever needed to show someone what to get back to. Yeah, it's weird planning for something that might not happen, but... she wanted me to look like this, and it's not like I had a strong enough preference voiced, and... yeah, you do get used to it. Anyway.

I sit up. Beth's still out, Laura's Laura again and talking to some security guard. She's darker, not silvered, wrong. Duncan's Duncan, though he looks like he wants to hit something which is a bit new on that face without a beard. Rachael's looking around as Rachael, but I've seen a lot of her ever since she came back with the chameleon ring.

We're back on earth.

We saved the world that mattered and now we're back here.

I'd managed to psyche myself up to the idea that I could die and it would all be worth it, if we succeeded and now this. There is a fate worse than death. There are call centres. There is the crushing uselessness of who I am here, who I would be. It doesn't matter that Autok Fatty changed his life around, I'm me. A thousand hopeless visions of the future bloom in my mind to be discarded as unfulfilling. I could try and get a job in an office? Or noodle my life away trying to be a musician, except that here I'm not actually that good. I remember being great back there, but that's not something this Carl can do. It's not something this world is likely to let Carl do. I could get sectioned, when the raving about who I was starts to seem dangerous to other people. I could get therapy to try and make me see that it was all a delusion, except that I know it was true. Was it true? I could claw my way through various sorts of criminality and buy the drugs so that when I close my eyes the world is how I'd want it to be again. How did they cope when they came back from Narnia? Never really covered, because you don't go from being High King back to a schoolboy without a massive sense of fucked-up-ness that I doubt CS Lewis really wanted to get into. Shit. If Navir is our heaven, and death is a way back, you could sign me up. I'm a believer.

I don't want to be here. Anywhere's better. Nowhere's better.

Rachel points towards the car park and says that the Gate's still open. I think my body's moving before she finished talking. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be stuck in this leaden unfamiliar body, I don't want any of this. I want the old me back. I want to be a hero in a world where heroism commands some respect. I don't want to be Carl the wastrel, the useless, the benefit cheat, the phonedrone. It really would be easier to die with some of our choices than to live with them. I never thought I'd think like that about anything. While there's life there's hope, yeah? Unless there isn't hope. Despite the poverty and undead and slavery and countless bad things in Navir, we helped. We were people that others could admire and hope to emulate. We could hope that we were making some things a bit better. We made a difference there. I've done fuck all here.

I don't want to be me, I want it back the way it was.

We charge back through and earth fades away. That could be our happy ending right there, as far as I'm concerned. There's more though, a handful of dust and a vague sense of benediction and we're back in Navir. The air is right, the sky is right. My brain is right, firing on all cylinders again. That elven village the humans swarmed over nestles in the trees. Some woman who used to work at Specsavers is lying on the ground with an arrow in her throat. I look around at the others and check my face. Feels okay but I need to be sure and I look to Rachael.

"Am I still your drow?" What? You fucking idiot, Carl. That's not the right way to phrase that! Rachael looks slightly embarrassed and pretty and blushes kind of purpley and says she doesn't own me, that I'm 'my drow'. I know... I didn't mean it like ownership, I meant... Oh Harbingers... shut up, Carl, you epic tool. OK. Katala rebuilt us as we came through. Holy crap, we could have come through as muggles?!? I'd never considered that. But Katala fixed it, made it right. It's us and our gear, like before. The Will of the Harbingers? I'd just managed to get my head around Rachael making me into a drow pin-up and now Katala's done it properly. I'd bet this can't be dispelled off me. Not that I'd try. Katala made me this way. It's not my fault. If I hadn't already signed on with Irrasha, I'd become some horrific Katalavangelist and tell people how Good she is. As it is, I stop for a little while and resist the urge to kiss the tarmac like the Pope and breathe.

The waves of gratitude and thankfulness and general adrenaline comedown radiate towards the Harbingers for a while. I doubt they may notice with my kind of wisdom score, but it doesn't matter if they hear. I know I'm so glad to be back here as me. Jaik suggests I ought to feel more comfortable now than I did before, and I do, I think. I can't say that to him just yet, because there's still big bits of me that think in a vaguely abstract sense that this is all weird as hell. Not to mention the whole 'lesbian trapped in a man's body' line that Fatty had tried to pull at the Pride march. He'd rip the piss out of me something chronic. And stare at my tits. ... OK. I can try and work out if that's uncomfortable for its imagery, or that I managed to construct some sexist objectification scenario with me as its target, or whatever. Things not entirely unweird, then. Good. I'd worry if there wasn't lingering weirdness. I'll ask Laura about it, sometime.

If Tess came through, she came through here. We may as well try and find the survivors.

Heroes again.
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Lost In Navir

November 2011

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