It’s been a while since we published anything because as you’re all aware, this time of year my job tends to be super demanding and I typically have a few months where writing just isn’t something I can do reliably. However, I also caught a really nasty cold which laid me out for quite a bit, but now that I’m feeling better and have the time, it’s time to start writing again!
So, as you might all remember, there were some previous adventures where we encountered a race of driders all patterned after Circe in a way. A lot of things happened and in the end, we left Desenda behind, because she was crazed with anger and refused to listen to us. That said, her anger was justified since her mother, named Queen Kat, had treated her like less than a slave during the short time she’d been alive.
The environment we’d been forced to leave Desenda in was a hostile arctic climate, but there were also the military bases to consider along with the natural wildlife. As months passed IRL, I often thought about her, but never did anything since my real-world life kept getting in the way. Until of course late last year when meeting Maria served as a stark reminder to us that Desenda was still out there.
Long-time readers of this blog know though that sometimes in our worlds, things don’t always work out for the best. Sometimes no matter how much I want it, there’s just no reaching some people. And while Desenda was “only” an NPC with a name, I still felt that we owed it to her to go find her and at least make an attempt to talk again now that several months had gone by. I was hoping that she’d had enough time to reflect on the state of things now that she’d been alone all this time.
So one evening, the topic came up in the chat between me and my SO Niky and some of our tulpas were “present” as well. Chat presence is always a strange thing with tulpas because technically we hosts act as secretaries, which means that the tulpas can be anywhere in the inner world or be doing anything while they’re following the conversation.
Anyways, I started by asking the obvious question, “Sarah, please locate Desenda.”
The answer came in her usual disembodied ethereal voice. “Actor name Desenda is not located anywhere in the worlds.”
I felt my heart sink, “Has she died?”
“Affirmative,” Sarah stated with her flat voice and a tone of finality to it.
“What…. uh… what got her? ” I asked while feeling stunned. I refused to believe such a thing had happened.
“A pack of wolves,” Sarah replied, then after a moment she added, “do you wish to know the specific details of the encounter?”
I felt a deep sadness as I replied,” no, it’s … irrelevant.” And then I got another idea, “is her body still around?”
“There are minuscule bone fragments remaining. The rest has been devoured by the wolves” she replied.
I shrugged my shoulders IRL, “well.. I guess that means it’s a dead-dead then,” as I leaned back in my chair, wondering about my options.
Circe, having lazily followed the conversation from the ballroom sofa, stood up in shock, her blanket falling off as she yelled, “NO FUCKING WAY, THAT’S BULLSHIT!”
Meanwhile, Andrei added in chat, “waitaminute, don’t driders have thick exoskeletons?”
Again, I shrugged IRL as I responded, “we left her in a frozen tundra.” Then I added, “also Andrei, you forgot that she could change between two shapes. Her drider form and her more squishy human form.”
A moment passed before he replied, “da, however, for someone that can teleport around… it seems… hard to accept.”
Circe had sat down again on the sofa, she was staring into the table as she half murmured to herself, “no, I left her,” she looked up and I recognized the grim look of determination on her face as she added, “Sarah, teleport me to her place, right now.”
Andrei interjected, “well, it’s called free will. She made the decision. You didn’t force her to leave that place against her will. So is … respecting her fate… a bad thing, or a good one? Food for thought.”
“Unable to comply with request. Administrator approval required,” Sarah responded almost immediately. Circe grunted something under her breath and made a face.
I sighed, “do it.”
And on the unforgiving arctic tundra, under sharp stars and an even sharper moon, Circe suddenly found herself struggling against a cold wind that had sharp ice crystals peppering her face. She slowly knelt down as she saw it and brushed some snow off the skull buried in the ground. She sighed, “I never wanted this for you my granddaughter,” then she paused and blurted out, “Fairy… can you… can we fix this?”
I slowly shook my head, “technically speaking, we could, but this version of her is dead.”
“You can’t… save everyone,” Andrei said.
I replied to him, “Sarah has a full record of these events because it happened in-universe, in this timeline that has existed, we can definitely save her.”
“So we go back then,” Circe said with a grim tone of voice as she got back up, dropped the skull, and brushed the snow off her dress.
I exhaled through my nose in frustration, “I’ve never done this before. There may be-“
Circe clenched her left hand, “screw your consequences, She died ALONE!”
Andrei warned her, “don’t mess with the timeline. Who knows what else it’s gonna change.”
I shrugged, “technically speaking, I don’t think she was all that important to the timeline.”
“Eh, you want her, you spawn a copy. Or… her old self. or whatever,” Andrei said.
But I was only half paying attention to chat as I mused, “we’d have to yank her out of the past. Sarah, had everybody left the continent by the time this happened?”
“So basically this won’t affect the events happening after that. The only thing this would do would mean that some wolves go a bit hungry,” I paused a bit, “Circe, I don’t like this one bit. I’ve never done time travel,” I said with a bit of concern in my voice.
Circe stared into the whirling wind, “you’re saying this like it’s a choice. I’ll call a summit meeting if I have to.”
Andrei shook his head,. “you can’t save everyone, Circe.”
I sighed, “don’t worry Circe, in this instance you won’t need to call a meeting, she’s family to you, that’s important enough.”
Andrei kept pushing, “she made her decision, and you respected her.”
“ANDREI!” Niky screamed at him, clearly upset that he wouldn’t let it go.
I grit my teeth and restrained myself, “Andrei, you, if anyone, need to shut the fuck up right now. Basically, this is all because of what you did. So you’re not one to talk about fucking honesty and good behavior.”
“Fine, I’ll leave you be. I’m out,” he said as he left.
I took a moment to compose myself, before I laid out the plan, “Circe, I’m not going to stop you from doing this. But I’m strongly advising against it. We have no idea if we’re going to get away with it. And mind you, you’re going to see her just before they jump her. We have no info on how her mental state is, worst-case scenario, you’ll be fighting her and the wolves. You get that?”
“I don’t care. I’ll die a million times over if it’ll help her. I’m a matron of my clan, I can’t give up on any of them. I won’t,” she replied.
I groaned internally, I knew there was no sense arguing with her when she pulled the Matron card. Ever since the driders had appeared, she’d gone off periodically to be with them, citing that they needed her leadership. And in a way, she was right because of how tribalistic most of them were in terms of mentality. The closest comparison you could have was something akin to an instinctive insect society that was tempered with the sapience of a female tribe, like say the Amazons of old.
I sighed and said with a defeated tone of voice, “alright, Circe, get your gear, we’re going to get Desenda before it’s dark outside.”
She nodded towards the pitch-black patio outside the ballroom, “Fairy.. have you looked out the windows? It’s already dark as fuck out there!”
“Right, I keep forgetting that our day and night cycles aren’t the same sometimes. With our luck, it’ll probably be really dark by the time we get there,” I replied while waiting for her to get ready.
A while later, when she was up in her bedroom, she was trying on the dress, moving her arm around a bit, “this dress feels so weird now. When I put it on, it doesn’t feel heavier than before,” she said.
(Writers note: As some of you might remember, Circe’s dress recently had something creepy happen to it after it got doused in demon blood after a particularly nasty fight she went through.)
I laughed and interjected, “if it hasn’t tried to eat you by now, I’m fairly sure that you’ll be fine. Come on, meet me at the patio already.”
“Maybe we should ask Mech to join us too,” Circe said while strapping the greatswords to her back.
“You know, considering what a danger she’s been in the past, that’s not a bad idea,” I replied, and then a moment later, I addressed Mech, “hey, got some free time to spare? We could use an extra hand here for a delicate, but potentially dangerous mission.”
Inside Mech’s tower, his limp body suddenly inhaled sharply as he sat up in the darkness, “I am awake now, but yes,” he added with a tone of disorientation to his voice. No doubt he’d disassociated with his body again, probably too busy to crunch data on some new project of his.
“Sleeping huh? Can you get into your warmonger body and meet us on the patio? We’re going to need your help, we’re going to get Desenda out of some hot water,” I replied.
Mech grunted as he got up from the bed, “yes, it will be a moment though.”
I materialized myself on the patio and felt the sting of the same wind Circe had felt earlier. I nodded grimly to myself, the castle had anticipated this and its position wasn’t far off from the place where Desenda had died. The subtle encouragement wasn’t lost on me.
While I was staring into the wind howling around me, I heard a noise behind me as the kitchen door opened and Circe stepped out onto the patio. When I turned around towards her, she smiled and nodded and shouted against the wind, “so… is Mech going to help out?”
“Yeah! He’s changing his body, he’ll be down soon!” I shouted back while making gestures towards the tower and the flooring underneath us. And it was a good thing I did because the wind picked up and drowned out about half of what I said. But she still got the message. I turned around and walked over to the patio table with its fire pit which had gone out in the storm. I grasped the railing and looked down at the frozen tundra that was several hundred meters below us. My gaze went further upwards towards the horizon and I could see the pale moon illuminating the nearby mountains and some wisps of icy clouds. It was a beautifully captivating vista, but I reminded myself that a night here without protection would definitely mean certain death.
A hand on my shoulder pulled me out of my reverie as I turned back to see Mech in his Warmonger body, brandishing his fairly new Turfo 101 shotgun that he’d obtained a few months earlier.
“Alright, we’re all set here?” I shouted towards both of them.
Mech’s reply came out in a loud and robotic sounding voice, “[YES]”
As the storm was picking up, I motioned for the kitchen and we all went inside and closed the door behind us which turned the howl of the storm into faint background noise.
“Ah… fuck it’s cold out there. I figured we’d go over the battle plan here before we head into it. It’s almost impossible to hear anything out there,” I said while rubbing my hands together.
“Yeah, it’s even biting through my dress a bit,” Circe said, and then added, “it’s really fucking raw out there, I wonder how anything could survive in a climate like that.”
“[I DO NOT FEEL THE COLD IN THIS BODY],” Mech said, his warmonger body towering above us.
“Mech, anyone ever tell you that this body of yours is creepy as fuck?” Circe said with a smile.
“[IT IS INTENTIONAL. I HAVE PULLED INFLUENCES FROM A NUMBER OF IMPOSING FIGURES FROM SCIENCE FICTION]” he replied to her.
Circe giggled as she shook her head a bit in amusement and replied, can you say some like… say ‘destroy the doctor’?“
Mech waited a bit before answering, “[WE HAVE MORE PRESSING MATTERS AT HAND. PLEASE FOCUS ON THE MISSION]”
Circe made a mock salute towards him, “yessir mister Tincan Sir!”
“So, Mech, you do realize what the mission is right?” I asked him.
“[YES, I HAVE BEEN MONITORING YOUR ACTIVITIES DURING THE EVENING.]” he answered back.
I turned to Circe, “well, this is your play, so you decide how we approach this. I’d suggest we just open a portal underneath Desenda, pull her through and then close it before anything else comes through. Sound good?”
Circe sighed a bit, “I’m not a tactical genius here, but should we really be opening a time portal directly onto the patio? That sounds dangerous. Since the castle moved us here, how about we do it down there, in the same place she died?”
“[THAT IS A SOUND EXTRAPOLATION. I CONCUR,]” Mech replied, his loud voice slightly echoing in the room, he then added, [HOWEVER, WE SHOULD ALSO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE SEVERITY OF THE STORM OUTSIDE WHICH WILL MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR US TO COMMUNICATE ONCE THE MISSION IS UNDERWAY.]”
I thought about it for a bit, then spoke up towards the ceiling, “Sarah, after you’ve closed the portal, can you create a temporary quieting buffer around all of us for a while?”
“Yes,” her voice rang out in the room.
Andrei added a quiet “Cheaters” in the chat, only to be summarily ignored by everyone.
“Good, then do so and set the duration for… ten minutes and then disable it,” I instructed her. I then turned my attention to Andrei, “Listen, we’re literally going to rip someone out of time. That’s about as fucking cheaty as you can get! But yes, maybe for future missions we should give Niky a spell that mimics the silencing tech they have in City 08.”
“[WOULD IT NOT BE BETTER TO SIMPLY ASK JANE IF THERE IS A PORTABLE VERSION WE COULD ADAPT FOR OUR OWN USES?]” Mech suggested.
“Yeah, but that’s not as cool as magic. Besides, you can still read lips. The magic I’m thinking of would make it impossible to glean any useful information from us as long as we’re inside the field,” I replied.
“[THAT IS AN INTERESTING ASPECT I HAD NOT CONSIDERED.]” Mech said.
At this point, I asked Niky if she wanted to join, but as she was busy with other things, I settled on creating a one-time use gem to cast the spell with. We’d figure out the other specifics later.
“[WE SHOULD NOT WAIT FOR TOO LONG. THE STORM IS INTENSIFYING,]” Mech said with an urgency to his otherwise flat voice.
We all went back out onto the patio. I made a big show out of miming that I was pushing my rune recall button before I did it. A second later, I looked up behind me and saw the castle towering above us and peeking over the railing were two small figures that were Mech and Circe. A few moments later, they both joined me down on the ground.
“Sarah, please mark out the exact location on the ground,” I said, my words almost drowning out instantly.
Sarah’s voice echoed around us in perfect clarity despite the raging storm,” location marked.”
A bit further we saw a red pulsating light. As we got closer, struggling against the wind, we saw the familiar bones from before. I motioned to the others and they spread out in a loose triangle.
I drew a shaky breath, this was it, sink or swim, I nodded to myself and said, “Sarah, open the portal please.”
Some distance above us, what looked like a roughly circular and jagged tear opened in the sky and the body of a drider tumbled down through it. As the hole started closing up again, a dark shape loomed through the gap and got caught in the aperture. The wolf’s forward part of the body was gigantic, far bigger than any wolf we’d ever encountered, it snarled as its fangs were dripping blood, no doubt due to it having been in a fight with Desenda.
I stared at it for a few seconds, in pure shock before I yelled “CLOSE IT!” at Sarah.
The portal closed off immediately and cut the wolf in half, the forward section of it tumbled onto the snow and dark blood started seeping out everywhere, it attempted to crawl forward towards Desenda, who’d just gotten up. She jumped backward and knocked me over, then panicking she kicked me with one leg, sending me flying through the air. The world around me tumbled for a bit before I hit the ground hard, pain was spreading through my entire body even though my coat had some armor to account for hits like that. As I laboriously got back up, I heard the noises of gunshots and a splattering sound, but it was hard to make sense of the world as I was dizzy and my face was starting to hurt real bad.
Some distance away Mech was just lowering his shotgun, having pumped a few rounds into the head, while Circe also held out her greatswords which were bloodied. In a crumpled heap of mostly legs and arms, Desenda was staring at them with disbelief in her eyes – she wasn’t really sure what had just happened to her. I made my way over to them again and shouted to Desenda, “don’t worry, we’re here to get you out!”
I noticed that her clothing which had been fairly basic in the past was now nothing more than a collection of rags and furs that had been haphazardly cobbled together. In one of her hands was a spear, as she got up and steadied herself on it, the small clink noise it made against the hard ground revealed that it was in fact made out of metal. Meanwhile, Circe wiped her bloodied greatswords off on the snow and left them there, walking towards Desenda with her arms to her sides.
I nodded and pulled out the small gem and threw it against the ground where it shattered, the spell took effect and the sound of the sound raging around us suddenly quieted to a whisper. The resulting silence was very loud as we all just stared at each other for a bit.
“Desenda, we’re not here to fight,” I said as she twirled her metal staff and kept it trained on us.
The muscles in her face motioned as she struggled and swallowed before replying, “you… you’re not real. I’m hallucinating again…” She brought her hand to her face and covered her eyes and groaned to herself, “I’m dying, aren’t I? I have to be hallucinating this…”
Circe smiled at her while slowly approaching, her hands still held in a non-threatening pose, “Desenda… we’re actually here. Will you come back with us to the castle?”
Desenda’s hand fell down to her side as she just stared at us, she was finally starting to grasp the situation, “you’re… this… this isn’t another fever dream?” Her remaining strength abandoned her as her back legs collapsed, leaving her fighting to stay upright on her front legs.
As I inched closer to her, she struggled in a panic and blurted out, “no… you! You! You stay away…” She studied my face with a stare that told me she was trying to work something out, “I’m not sure who you are anymore. Is it Fairy or Sasha or Andrei? Were you ever the same person or was I just dreaming that?” She turned her head towards Mech and studied him as her expression of disbelief deepened on her face, “what’s… that?”
Circe now having come closer, reached out and touched her face and said with a motherly tone of voice, “that’s Mech dear. He’s got a new body. A lot has happened while you were away.”
Desenda’s face scrunched up as she struggled with the concept, then she nodded, “Mech, yes.. I remember that name,” as she suddenly collapsed onto the ground,barely able to support her upper body.
Circe quickly crouched down next to her and put her hand on her shoulder, “will you allow us to get you back home? You’ll be safe, you can stay the night, have a meal and then we can figure out what to do in the morning, alright?”
Desenda laughed for a bit before her laughter turned into a sobbing mess, “a meal? A hot bath? oh… I must be hallucinating,” her voice was sounding borderline delerious.
Circe looked back towards me and Mech and nodded towards her swords, “Fairy, you get those, Mech and you can go up ahead, please try and stay out of sight for the time being.”
I nodded at her, “alright” I said as I picked up her really heavy swords, I handed one of them over to Mech who accepted it, then we pushed our recall runes which returned us both to the patio in the castle above us.
As we materialized, the roar of the storm was back in full force since we were no longer inside the field of the silencing spell. The storm was now leagues worse, and the snow was starting to form into piles around the patio and against the side of the castle. Mech and I wasted no time getting into the kitchen where we deposited the swords on the bench closest to the door. Mech nodded at me as he headed off towards his tower, no doubt aiming to switch out his Warmonger body as it was no longer required.
The kitchen door closed and cut off the sound of the storm as I sat down and stared at the kitchen floor where some snow was slowly melting. I don’t know how long I sat there just staring at just that before I blinked and said to myself, “Fuck that was rough.” The relative silence in the room was almost as deafening as the spell had been minutes earlier. My body was aching, my face had swelled up where the ground had ungraciously hit me and my skin was feeling prickly after having been out in the cold.
After another moment of reflection, I addressed Circe, “just so you know, I’m starting the soup for dinner now. Once you get Desenda inside, tell the castle to move, this isn’t really good weather to stay stationary in. Oh and yeah, if she has any trouble shifting forms, let me know and I’ll have Sarah help her out.”
A moment later, Circe responded, “alright, I think… she’s starting to get that this is real, I’ll get her inside ASAP.”
“Good, if she’s hurt, get her up to the infirmary for a scan… hell, it might be a good idea anyway considering she’s been out in this craziness for so long.”
“One thing at a time. She’s really cold,” Circe replied as they both appeared on the patio. She helped Desenda get up to the kitchen door, then shouted to her over the storm while miming to her, “you need to transform to two legs. Do you understand? Two legs or else you won’t fit!”
Desenda nodded and transformed into her human two-legged appearance. She looked mostly like just a woman with some insectile qualities to her. She sank to the ground immediately after, the transformation no doubt having taken too big of a toll on her body.
Andrei chimed in, “Rush her to the infirmary to treat the possible hypothermia.”
Circe picked up Desenda’s limp body and managed to get her inside the door while yelling at me, ” Fairryyy! For fucks sake get back in here, I need your help, she’s out!”
I appeared next to her and replied, “guess that was a bit too much, I think Andrei is right, we should have her checked out for hypothermia as soon as possible, can you change into your bigger shape?”
Circe rolled her eyes at me, “sure, but then I can’t fucking fit through the damn doors can I?”
I nodded at her, “alright, you take one arm and I’ll take the other. Oh and yeah, tell the damn castle to move already.”
As we carried her through the kitchen and down the long hallway towards the stairs, Circe sighed in frustration and growled, “castle, we’ve gotten what we came for, get us the fuck out of here please.” A brief rumble shook the castle as it started to move.
Since the stairwell was big enough to support her natural body size, Circe enlarged herself and started carrying Desenda up the stairs at a breakneck speed. She tried to push the door to the infirmary level open with her body but it of course wouldn’t cooperate, so with a grunt, she shook off her fancy shoes and simply kicked the door clean off its hinges. The door hit the stone wall inside with a loud crash as she made herself smaller to fit into the corridor, then she carried her with an almost Herculean effort into the infirmary where she placed her on the bed.
“Uh… the door?” I said, having just caught up with her.
“No time,” she breathed, “for… fucking… ” She drew another breath, “bullshit,” she motioned to me and the biobed as she sat down in exhaustion. “Do the thing. “
Sarah’s ethereal voice rang out in the small white room “Initiating infirmary diagnostic.”
The canopy moved down and covered the bed, a bit of time passed as there was a hissing sound from inside. As it rose again, green steam came wafting off the table in all directions, covering the floor with a mist. Desenda’s furs and rags materialized as per usual next to the biobed and when I saw that, I immediately turned around, facing the doors leading out into the corridor.
Desenda got up and blinked a bit as she surveyed the room, “where… are we?”
“The infirmary, you’re safe now,” Circe said, smiling at her.
Desenda yawned as she tried to get off the bed, but slipped and fell, only to be caught by Circe halfway, “so.. weak… …so tired,” she said meekly as she clung to her.
“You’ve been through a lot, the bed can cure almost anything, but it takes a lot out of you. Are you feeling better now?” Circe said to her with concern in her voice. Desenda nodded against her chest in silence. Steadying her, Circe turned around to face me with my back turned to her. I was still giving Desenda some privacy by staring into the hallway through the infirmary windows. “I’m gonna take her down to the ballroom and get her wrapped up in a blanket or two, can you arrange for dinner?” Circe asked me.
“Uh, Sure thing, why not get her a change of clothes first though?” I suggested back.
Circe nodded, “alright, we’ll do that first. But you get started on dinner OK?”
“Mmmmmm food… so hungry…,” Desenda intoned, no doubt having lived on a very sparse diet of… something through all this time.
Circe nodded, “clothes first, then food, and then some rest.”
“I’ll get the soup going then, talk to you two later…” I said as I despawned from the room, definitely feeling hungry myself after that ordeal.
Then for the next hour, I made my simple winter soup, which is basically just some diced beef cubes, root vegetables, a cube of beef stock, and a LOT of garlic, onions, and herbs and spices. Later on, as we sat down at the table, we discussed at length all the events that had happened lately.
In the end, Desenda stayed with us for a few days as a guest as she recovered. However, she’d changed quite a bit, having gotten another perspective in her self-imposed exile. Then one morning, we simply found a note from her saying that she was thankful for our help, but that she wasn’t quite ready to rejoin her kin in their world. As I’d given her full access rights a few nights prior, there was no telling what world she’d headed off to, but I felt that this was as good of a time as any to leave her be.
And that wraps up our adventures this time around. As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of this, please let us know, we love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
Thanks! And yes, me and my tulpas discovered long ago that creating a framework with rules like these was essential…
This was quite the strange tale. I definitely find it fascinating how your inner world is hard-coded with limiters and…