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The Unseen Veil - {RP Thread}



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Ordeith

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- The Unseen Veil -

It has not always been so, this dying world of men.
Where are Jove and his Olympians?
Whence did the ghoulish Barghest flee?
When did the Selkies retreat from the waters?

Who remembers that it was not always so?


- * -

For the first time in a very long time, there would soon be guests in Nether-Hollow.

The entire house—along with its servants—was bustling as it hadn't been in nearly a century: A legion of angry feather-dusters swept across every flat surface, while the wallpaper twisted itself into an elegant new pattern. Sprites zipped through the air like miniscule comets, arranging decorations and filling the air with a magic that made the floorboards shiver with laughter. Bogles billowed hither and thither, chasing out any unsightly pockets of spirit-air. On the grounds, every last topiary had proudly sculpted itself to perfection.

They were all following orders issued by the head of servants on the prior eve. Mister Annwn had been given a particularly important task from the master of the house, to be carried out on the day of the festivities—so he had issued his orders a day in advance. The Lord of Nether-Hollow would then be left undisturbed in his urgent party-planning business. The approaching date was, after all, a triply important celebration:

Celebration the First was for the ninety-ninth year since embarking on this latest venture—his greatest yet, by any reckoning.

Celebration the Second was for the reawakening of Nether-Hollow; guests from all over Faerie would once again stroll through its halls.

Celebration the Third was for the beginning of something wonderfully new—or, perhaps, the return of something very old.

The invitations for this long-expected party had at last been sent. In his study, the master of the house dismissed his nine quills with a flourish, then looked himself over in the mirror for one last time. By his reckoning, one can never be too neat in one's appearance. His hair had been fluffed to downy perfection, his cravat pin was positively radiant, and he wore a freshly-grown jacket just for the occasion.

Perfect. With a jaunty bell-kick, he marched off towards the Spirit Spire.

The Lord of Nether-Hollow was not always inclined to actually walk, but today he felt need to stride forth triumphantly. The wide double-doors of the Spirit Spire flung themselves open in his wake, and he came to stand in the center of the tower without ever breaking stride. The feather-duster army had just finished the enormous chamber, and it looked more radiant that it had in years*. Light filtered in from the transparent domed roof and glittered across millions of shelved vials for a dazzling effect.

Housed within every one of them was a soul—a Netherworld Denizen just waiting to be loosed. Gwydion Cygfa had captured them all, and knew each one by name. "I know you're all excited, because I certainly am," he chuckled.

"I guarantee that you'll each be given a chance to stretch your limbs . . . starting with nine lucky winners! Be gentle with the guests, now!" He laughed like a gleeful child.


(*In the Netherworld, "nodes" and constructs like Nether-Hollow can become less defined if not visited after a long period of time. The feather-dusters sweeping through Nether-Hollow are sprites whose job is to pay stringent attention to detail, thus keeping the structure in top condition. They take the form of feather-dusters as a visual metaphor, imposed by Cygfa.)
 

Ordeith

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At the forest threshold, Sedgewick Annwn was waiting, alone.
The nine Agents would be arriving at any moment now—at least, by Faerie time.
Time is all too malleable in the Netherworld, and Gwydion Cygfa had bent it in such a way that any discrepancies between the Agents' deaths would be accounted for.

Annwn didn't care to admit it, but he was excited for their arrival. It was plain enough from the lavender tone of his skin that Faerie was affecting him, but for a moment he decided to simply enjoy it. There was little danger for him in this part of the realm—and he had earned the right to a little foolishness.

The past century had flowed slowly for Annwn.

In addition to managing the operation of Nether-Hollow, he had been forced to tramp through every unpleasant tract of the Netherworld that he had on record . . . in addition to some that he hadn't. His travels required that he venture into parts unknown, deal with some unsavory souls, worm his way around patchy alliances, and risk being wiped from existence in a number of horrible ways. Those events ran through Annwn's mind as he waited. Yes, I think I've earned a little foolishness.

He smiled in spite of himself, and kept his eyes alert for the chosen nine.
"Minutes" passed without any change, strong or subtle. As Annwn watched the path, he withdrew a small roll of paper from his waistcoat pocket. It had been given to him by Cygfa, and was marked with a vertical column of nine seals—corresponding with the seals of the nine letters. If a seal had a crack running through it, its sister seal had been broken. The progress of each letter appeared as a scrawl of ever-changing writing beside each seal.

Most of the seals had since been broken, and most of the letters had the words "Purple Oaken Path" as their current location. As Sedgewick scrolled down the list, however, two of the letters had a different location entirely. Their seals had already been broken, and "Crystal Palace" had appeared beside both of them. We may have been compromised. Annwn's smile vanished in an instant, and his better senses rose up against the euphoria of Faerie. Nothing could remain free of problems for so long...

He looked up from the scroll to see movement along the forest path. We'll amend this soon, but not now.
Placing his apprehensions in the back of his mind, the Caretaker of Nether-Hollow awaited his master's guests.
 

Athel

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It's an interesting curiosity as to how gradual death can be.

Although the end of Nathan Apollo's life had been abrupt and forceful, the beginning of his death was a slow process. Like passing to or from sleep, he had only vague recollections of the process. His memories of his life were clear, sharp in his mind, as they were all he was now. He could not recall how he died, nor what kind of metamorphosis he underwent as he undied.

When his consciousness returned to him, he felt oddly disoriented. A passing feeling of wearing another person's skin, of numb limbs that were not his own. For an instance he thought he was simply fading from one dream to the next, but the physical sensation betrayed that assumption.

He felt a hundred small pricks in his back; he smelled the scent of old, crusted earth; he heard a silence that was all too enveloping. He shifted his body and felt that his back was supported upright. He felt clothes on his body and an odd, warm sensation against his chest. He felt as if he were still half asleep, detached from the real world. In truth, he was.

A sharp, undulating, and wholly inhuman noise pierced the air. Nathan awoke as if the sound had shocked his heart into rhythm. He breathed heavily, in a cold sweat, as if awoken from a lucid nightmare.

"What," he muttered aloud, and his mouth felt full of cotton. "What is--"

He was postured against a blackened tree, gnarled into frightening shapes. The earth beneath him was countless small sharp rocks, each one darker than coal, permeating the air with an arid smell. The sky above was dark but still cast a light on the world around him. The noise continued, and Nathan realized that he could hear multiples like it.

"What is this place?" he choked out.

The warmth next to his chest burned on, and he deduced it was coming from inside of his coat. He reached in and pulled out a letter, true parchment, with an unbroken seal. It was addressed to him.
 

Ulti

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Another man's trash could be another's treasure, but Paradise is universal


"Seemingly endless fields of flowers? Check."

Stretched from as far as the eye could see, plants of all colors and sizes covered the landscape. Ruby red roses curled among golden dandelions. Bright yellow sunflowers danced above multicolored tulips. A wizened great oak towered over a lily pond, its leaves slowly but surely falling into the still waters, creating ripples that tipped the lilies to and fro like a boat. The wind carried the scents of a multitude of flowers from vast distances. Quite possibly, every kind of flower was in this field. If she wished it, Jenni could look in any direction, think of a particular species, and it would appear right at her fingertips.

"An endless supply of food? Check."

She tossed an apple, a small chunk of it missing, into the colorful field. Jenni looked back up into the leaves of the tree she was leaning on and watched the small miracle happen once more. On the lowest branch, a bud suddenly appeared. As if time sped up, it began to blossom and bear fruit. Within the blink of an eye, a juicy red apple was hanging on the branch. She tore it off, took a bite, and tossed the fruit into the field as before. Again, the miracle occurred. It was evident that this experiment went on for awhile as a pile of partially eaten apples laid scattered upon the field.

"Beautiful gates that stretch on forever? Check."

Indeed, from any direction, the faint glimmer of gorgeous golden gates caught her eyes now and then. They were sturdy, as it seemed when Jenni tried to shake one down to see what was beyond the gates. Nor could they be scaled, as if they were covered in grease. There was nothing beyond the gates that intrigued her. That was just it. Nothing existed beyond the gates. Either if there was truly nothing there or the gates obscured what laid beyond, Jenni could not figure out. The gates would not allow passage, from inside or outside.

Having grown sick of the taste of apple, Jenni tossed her apple to the ground and rose from her position. She did a few stretches, cracked a few knuckles, then proceeded to walk to the figure that had been watching her the entire time.

"Whatever this place is, I'm sick of it. Take me to this...Gwe? Gwhy? That place you mentioned before."

The figure appeared to be a man, past his prime but not yet bearing the white whiskers of age. It now seemed almost foolish that Jenni first thought that he was just another tree. From a distance, he bore a striking resemblance to the oak tree that laid near the pond, albeit smaller. He wore robes of brown and grey, with streaks that jagged across the length of the cloak. Beneath the cloak were robes of a light brown coloring with rings rolling down to the floor. His hair, just slightly disheveled, was layered and had an oddly tint of green. He stood tall and erect, as if even the mightiest winds could not push him. As Jenni walked past him, he let out a great heavy sigh.

"I wish you would not waste the fruit here. Albeit endless, it is a bad habit one should not develop so quickly here. Should the Denizens take offense.."

"Yeah yeah. I've squirmed out of tighter situations before. Before I forget, I didn't catch your name."

A bit surprised by the lack of wonder or confusion at her current situation, the man took a moment to reply. An odd one, he thought. To awaken in such a paradise and be approached by a strange, at least to her, man and yet to accept it so easily. This one would would accept the offer, no doubt. He had no reason to doubt the strength of her soul now. His scowl twitched into a smile for a second as he watched Jenni walk as if on a tightrope across the flowerbed of tiger lilies.

"Cedric is what you may call me."

"Heh, figures."
 
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Urbane

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When your world ceases to exist, you begin to grasp at anything your hands can still touch.


For miles and miles, nothing but bog. The ground was a lie, but so was the water. All a deception. Were you about to fall, or would your step be saved by a patch of ground you had not seen? An apt description of the whole place, to be honest. Unfortunate.

Among the sparse trees, there was little movement for quite a good ways. What movement there was, however, was to prove key to the future of this place.

A young man opened his eyes, glanced upon his surroundings, and for perhaps the second time that day, died.

His eyes opened wide in a show of horror. His form tensed, despite the state of sopor he was in just moments beforehand. He struggled to his feet immediately, and grabbed at the nearest tree, hoping to steady himself. He succeeded at this, though in his haste his glasses fell from his face. He hardly noticed, and began to ponder things. Many things, in a very short time, or so it seemed to him. He was quite obviously and reasonably frightened. He had no idea where he was, or how he had found his way there. He had taken in his surroundings, and seen only the grey of a world barely existant. On the very fringe of reality. He found this world as his eyes opened, and he was frightened. He could not see a path, and few things to determine his location. He saw no signs of civilisation. No signs of life. And he seemed virtually the same as he last recalled himself being. No wounds, the same clothes he had put on that morning...

He checked his pockets.

There was something different. A letter in his coat pocket. A long one.

He pored over the text.

He fell down, his back resting on the tree. He was being played for a fool. He had to be. There was simply no other possible conclusion he could come to... well, other than...

But! But, but, but. He simply had so much that he still needed to do. He refused to believe this. No god would subject him to this! No god, and perhaps no devil! The only thing he was truly being subjected to was this ridiculous lie, being told to him by a letter placed in his pocket by a "Gwydion Cygfa, Sorcerer of Nether-Hollow". He made a resolution. He was being subjected to a crime, here. An injustice. A direct assault on his own being by some ridiculous kidnapper too afraid to show his face. He knew he was playing into his hands, but he would seek out this man and bring justice unto him.

He was no fool. And he certainly didn't deserve this.

Or, maybe he did.

But he tried! He had always tried! Hard! So very damn hard, every single day! A life devoted to atonement, maybe. Or, maybe the atonement came with his devotion to justice... if that is indeed what you would call it. It was unimportant.

The young man, though really more boy than man, finally came to the realisation that his glasses had fallen from his face. He hoped that they were not broken, as he doubted that he would find another pair any time soon. He looked to the ground, and thought that he saw them. He was quite right in this regard, and returned the glasses to his head. Confident in his goal, now, he took a survey of his surroundings. And a thorough one, at that. His vision no longer impaired, he saw much farther than before. Far enough to see, to his eternal gratitude, a path. He pocketed the letter. He ran for it, and tripped. He then proceeded to get back up, and continued his beeline for it. Upon reaching the path, he decided that the best course of action was to simply... well, follow it. And as quickly as possible.

The boy ran as fast as his feet could carry him.
 

OmniChaos

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A king, forced by his usurpers to sit as but a trophy within the halls of a kingdom built upon the ashes of his own, wept silent tears of rage, sorrow, and hatred; tears that would one day fuel his anger and empower his vengeful ambitions.

Deep within Gwladyr-Hav, inside the halls of the Glass Palace, hung The Reaper; once the most powerful being to walk the lanes of the dead, now reduced to simple wall decoration for the Fae. And though his power may have been gone, his anger and frustration remained, driving him, compelling him, to retain his sanity and conviction that the Fae...

That the Fae must die! A great anger welled up from within the Reaper, causing his mind's voice to scream with the fury of a thousand storms. They will pay for what they have done to me! All of them! I will mow them down without prejudice! Man, woman, child, none shall be spared from the hunger of my scythe!

The Reaper's emotions ran wild, the fire of his anger burning brighter than the brightest of stars. It was overwhelming, consuming, and had, since he had obtained these emotions, nearly driven the retainer completely mad. The once even-handed guardian was now engulfed and driven by an incomprehensible rage that would simply not be quenched until the fields of Gwladyr-Hav lie stained with the blood of each and every Fae. And the fire of his rage only seemed to intensify as his frustration grew. Had the Reaper not be rendered powerless, his emotions, at this point, very well might have overflown, and the Glass Palace of Gwladyr-Hav would have likely been reduced to little more than a molten puddle.

They will pay... They will pay... The words repeated over and over in the Reaper's mind, his emotional outburst having tired his significantly weakened state. Like a lullaby sung by an angel, the words gently cradled the Reaper's mind as it slowly drifted off to sleep. They will pay... They will--

"Well, hello again, my friend."

The Reaper instantly erupted into a savage rage, shattering the momentary piece of mind he had found in sleep. Though his eyes were too weak to see, he knew well enough who this was that spoke to him, the tone in the man's voice as snide and cruel as a serpent. The Fae who, in a prideful bravado, openly admitted to the Reaper that it was he that was ultimately the mastermind behind the Reaper's downfall, as well as the one who extracted the Reaper's Fear of Death and built the Unseen Veil from it. The man who the Reaper's anger toward was so complete, so absolute, that it completely eclipsed the rest of the Fae race combined. He knew not his name, nor did he care, for, as far as the Reaper was concerned, one that would have no afterlife--at least not after the Reaper was done with him--would have no need for a name.

"Such a lovely day, isn't it? Not that you would be able to enjoy it."

The Reaper's left hand twitched.

The man let out a muffled yelp. His breath became labored, and the man quickly became unable to hide the fear that sounded off with each, shaky breath he took. His heart beat like a timpani, ringing out loud across the empty room and filling the Reaper's ears with such joy and amusement. The smell of fear that poured from the man like a thick molasses pleasured the Reaper's senses like a great flood of ecstasy. To know that the man was scared pleased the Reaper, but it was nothing compared to what he had in store for the man. No, the scent of fear that would pour from the man when the Reaper was done with him would be richer and sweeter than anything one could smell. It would truly be a moment the Reaper would always remember.

"Y-Yes, well, I'm afraid that I will have to be going now. Duty calls and all."

The Reaper followed the ever-fainter growing sounds of the man's echoed footsteps, listening intently until the last echo faded back into silence. Once again alone within the Glass Palace of Gwladyr-Hav, the mind's voice of the Reaper let out a heavy sigh and the Reaper drifted off to a peaceful slumber.
 

Ordeith

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The world was a little grayer than Alex remembered it being.

He blinked. Sometimes it was difficult to see where the ground ended and where the sky began—strange as it sounds. Everything above looked just like the things below: Colorless, sluggish, and tired.

Gray.

His new companion was gray, too. The little bald man just squatted on his tree-stump, not saying a word. Alex had made a few attempts at conversation, with no luck; the man simply sat with his head in his hands. Whatever he was thinking about, he was completely absorbed in it. Alex stared at him, uncertain. If I stay here, there isn't really anything to . . . well, do. But there isn't anything out there, except more . . . gray. Blargh. It was an impasse.

In fact, the entire world seemed to be just that—an impasse.
The limp trees, the stagnant air . . . they were waiting for something. The world around him had been turned into a gigantic waiting room, sans magazines. Alex wondered if it wasn't all just a dream. He had read somewhere in college that certain dreams represented certain things. As for what this one means . . .

"I have no idea," he thought aloud. Even then, he risked sneaking a peek at the bald man on the stump.
He squatted there like a piece of scenery.

Alex didn't want to interrupt him—he honestly didn't—but this was simply ridiculous. Dragging himself off of the ground, he positioned himself directly in front of the Gray Man, squatting to meet his eye level. "Hey, excuse me," he said. "I, um, hate to butt in . . . but I'd really like some directions. Could you please tell me where I am, at least?"

No response. He might as well have been part of the scenery, too.

"Look," Alex said, "I don't want to be pushy, but it would be nice if you could—"

"You vibrate too much." The man's voice was hoarse, as though it hadn't been used in a long time. He didn't even make eye contact when he spoke; it didn't seem to be worth the effort.

"I do what?" The college drop-out was pleased, but somewhat confused.

"You vibrate too much," the Gray Man repeated. "You make big vibrations with your arms and mouth, and little ones with your throat. It makes for quite a disturbance. Please stop."

"Hey, hey. I'm sorry." As strange as it was, Alex still didn't want to upset the little gray man. He was, after all, the only other person he had seen yet. Still . . .

"Well," he began again, "if you could just tell me where I am—"

"No more vibrations." The Gray Man sounded slightly agitated.
"You'll ruin all of our work. We strive for a world with few vibrations, save for lounging, loafing, and meandering. Sighs are also exempt. We've taken pains to do so. Please don't undo all of our work, you noisy visitor." He made Alex's very presence sound like an offense.

Alex didn't want to stress the point any further. Folding his arms over his chest, he let the Gray Man be. Looking out across the scenery, he tried to find some variance, some notable landmark across the gray mire. Jesus, nothing! I— For the first time, Alex felt something stiff inside his shirt pocket. It felt like a business card or an index card. He hastily pulled the little card out, clinging to the hope of it being something interesting.

It wasn't anything he'd expected: It was a tiny envelope, but thickly packed.
There was a tiny scrawl of writing on the front, but it was too small to read—until it suddenly sprung to life! The envelope stretched and grew in his hand, and in spite of the Gray Man behind him Alex shouted in surprise. He could feel the contents shifting around inside—reorganizing themselves, it seemed.

Alex Schindler was apprehensive, but saw no other option. He broke the seal and read.
Then he read it a second time, along with a third. The text was written in rich black ink (not gray), and the stationary shimmered with more life than anything else in the world. It was a window of not gray.

Meanwhile, the Gray Man fidgeted on his stump, then finally drew himself to his feet. Alex didn't even hear him shuffle to his feet, but could feel his footfalls when he was within a few steps. "That . . . thing of yours," the man whispered. "What is it?

"It's different than anything else here . . . but not a vibration. A not-gray-thing. Where did such a thing come from? It's horrible! It's . . . beautiful." The Gray Man seemed entranced by something that was not gray. He no longer cared about keeping quiet, but splashed in the gray mud as he stumbled forward. For every step that Alex took backward, the Gray Man took another step forward.

"L-look," Alex stuttered. "I don't know how I got it, but I'd really like to look it over one more time. You . . . You can take a look at it soon, but I . . ." The young man was in a great deal of discomfort as his gray companion shuffled ever closer.

Suddenly, the letter tore itself from Alex's hand so quickly that he thought it had been snatched away by the Gray Man. Instead, it hovered in the air just above them, just out of reach. The Gray Man was entranced, not moving. Alex's eyes were fixed upon the letter, but he was still aware and ready to move if need be. The paper (or was it parchment?) fluttered in place for a moment—then shot off, leaving a streak of color in its wake.

Alex Schindler was a very passive young man; some would call him uncertain.
He knew, though, that he needed to follow that letter—crazy as it all was.

Somehow, he suspected that the Gray Man wouldn't tolerate his presence if he stayed around.
 

Athel

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Gwladyr-Hav could not have been in better spirits.

The city was lively -- that is, as much as lively applies to the immortal and timeless inhabitants of the world beyond death. Perhaps it would be better to call it invigorated. Yes, that works. The city was invigorated, with a kind of vitality that was uncommon in the demense of cold glass. Stirring beneath the surface was an energy that its inhabitants felt on a very subliminal scale. It was as if the excitement in the air was a hum in the air, too minute to hear, but still present on an unconscious level.

It was exactly this, and Lady Rioghan thanked herself on behalf of her fellows for this.

On anyone else, words such as giddy or ecstatic would apply to her demeanor, but on such a person as herself it was simply improper. With a being who expressed in the form of outward emotion the equivalent of the bite of winter, the feelings of fabulous joy had no place. But even so, she was indulging somewhat in a feeling of gayety at her triumph.

Due to the Lady's upbringing, she was inherently tuned to all of Gwladyr-Hav in the form of the crystal that it nested in. She had forsaken the ordeal of learning to shape it to her will, but she still had the unconscious capability to impose herself upon it. It was in this manner that, through the quartz that the Fae had made their home of, the entire palace had come alive.

But like all things involving Badb Rioghan, even the feeling of vitality sweeping through the city had sinister origins and intents.

She was weaving a plan that encompassed the whole of the Nine Worlds, and even those beyond it. Taking on the responsibility of dealing with these trespassers in their realm was only the first part. She had sent out couriers to intercept them--individuals whose loyalty she had tested but did not trust enough to reveal the true purpose of their mission. None knew of her true intentions, which heightened the experience with an even greater degree of suspense, making the whole thing barely short of a young child hiding a precious secret from its peers.

The only threat to this plan? The diplomats. "They could give an attempt to be something other than bothersome," she mused, "yet they would surely fail. And it actually provides a greater challenge." The smile she had in private could have frozen the white buds on a spring tree.

"Though I have to wonder," she thought. "How does Cygfa play into all this? That loose-minded warlock is impossible to make sense of. Nonetheless, he is a problem. These mortals are no challenge to manipulate, but he is another matter."

She felt the furrow in her brow, and composed herself. She would not be dissuaded by wandering thoughts. Everything was playing into her hands. They were on their way.
 

Solar

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It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to it. But every single time it happened, he was still surprised. Cosmic nine-year old and all that. Because even after centuries, the hearts wanted what the hearts wanted and logic could screw it when it came to madness. And the Gallifryan wanted surf and sand.

A strange sound, one quite indescribable though akin to the universe itself roaring, vibrated in the air. A soft, yet sharply bright incandescent gold light thrummed to the noise, barely highlighting the vague, humanoid shape of a man. It subsided and lo and behold, there appeared a man. He shook of the little motes of what appeared to be stardust that floated around him, always accompanying transportation and his wild eyes snapped open. He clasped his hands manically and began marching and chattering at once gleefully,

“Alright, dark green trees, darker than usual, may indicate rain --yes, it’s definitely been raining—oh! I’m in a forest! Nice type of forest, isn’t it? Oh hold on, herm, this paths don’t look natural; Marble-stoned pathways, gigantic (and dark) trees, widely spaced lawns, this means...”

He’d been walking without much attention to where he’d been going, or it would seem evidently (because the man had a knack for taking in everything though it wouldn’t occur to him instinctively) so. He stopped atop a nearby hill which led down to another large oak, providing shade to a man in attire known formally to the Greeks (though such fashion was common around various parts of empires that came before and (long) after—in fact, some humans and aliens liked to adopt such garb in centuries after. If you asked the man, he could ramble on about this). He smacked a hand loudly over his face and softly groaned,

“This means I’m definitely not at the beach.” He slid down the pale prehensile down his face, quietly standing on the spot plainly for a few seconds, boredom apparent on his face. He livened up as his eyes caught the stranger who eyed him oddly (which he was used to by now, didn’t bother him in the least, nope, but first impressions often came from the eyes, valuable information for latter storage) and chirped at him, slightly raising himself on the balls of his feet.

“Hello! I’m The Doctor.”
 

OmniChaos

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"Why must I be saddled with these trivialities?"

Ye'tard stepped quickly along the crystal streets of Gwladyr-Hav, his pace, while not running, was quick enough that the other Fae would infer the councilman's more pressing matters. That or be driven away by the negative energy currently flowing from the less-than-cheerful Fae. Suffice to say, Ye'tard was not at all pleased about being pulled from his important work for silly nonsense such as this and was making no effort in hiding the fact.

"How dare they pull me from my work to stand on ceremony with these low-lives? And worse yet, with humans?" The Fae Councilman's tone lowered for but a moment, a string of incomprehensible curses pouring from his mouth. Ye'tard then fell silent, the rhythmic clicking of his cane against the crystal street of Gwladyr-Hav rushing in to fill the silence. "There are more than enough councilpersons to deal with meaningless matters such as this, so I fail to see why my presence is also required. Is there something happening that I am currently unaware of? Is there going to be an item up for vote that is of high importance? Or will this simply be me playing the role of a councilperson for pomp and circumstance?" The very thought of having to act kind to a human left a foul taste in Ye'tard's mouth. So much so, that the councilman felt forced to spit it out. "How distasteful. I, for one, shall not be breaking bread, be it literal or metaphorical, with vermin."

No, Ye'tard's arrogance and pride would simply not allow it. He may be obligated as a councilperson to put on the occasional show, considering that these humans, while vermin none the less, will be acting in accordance to the Fae Council's wishes, however, as a Fae, that obligation does not extend past the thinly-veiled mask of a councilman. If it were up to him, Ye'tard would simply kill the vermin the second they tread paw upon the Fae's world, but, alas, Badb and other members of the Fae had a use for them.

Ye'tard soon found himself just outside the Fae council room, where most, if not all, of the other council members had already gathered. Even from outside, Ye'tard could hear the dull roar of their chattering and mumbling among themselves. The Fae didn't know which he liked less: the vermin or the politicians. Probably the latter. They were only made bearable due to Ye'tard's seniority as a councilman over the lot. Had it not been for that, Ye'tard very well might have killed them all centuries ago.

"Very well, then," Ye'tard said to himself as he pushed the council room doors open. "Let's get this over with."
 

Orion

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Oh, the joys of the simplest stroll in a physical body.

Markus - a modernised contraction of his full name - sauntered between the dark, craggy bark columns that rose from the thick organic detritus that carpeted the ground, so dense his sandalled footfalls were silent. The only sounds that betrayed his presence was his light breathing and the sound of the folds in his robe sliding over one another. Outside himself, the only noise Markus could identify was the monotonous whistle of wind through the treetops dozens of metres above him. Here, beneath the canopy, he felt no signs of wind, nor saw indications of animals natural or otherwise.

As Markus moved he felt he strode through frozen time, a sensation almost accurately mirrored as he sat observant vigil of the world, from times ancient to modern. Though human at his core, his appearance gave no indication of his twenty-four century lifespan, the healthy figure of a tall, olive-skinned man with platinum hair on his face and crown, not the image of a decrepit or bed-ridden ancient man, as some had wound up as. Polemarchus eyes swept lazily about him, awaiting a sign of the density of trees abating, be it a sudden clearing or gradual thinning he cared not. Finally freed from the intellectual haven that was part prison he shared with other ancient wisdoms, he was eager to explore and move about, though felt calm was necessarily as he oriented himself in this strange realm.

Neither in appearance nor sensation was this forest anything like on Earth. The brown trunks of the towering trees were no wider than three quarters of a foot, yet they swayed not at all from the wind felt in their leaves and upper branches. Further, the canopy remained solid, stationary with leaves affixed and unmoving from how they were attached to the parent branch. Markus knew not how long he walked for, found himself almost hypnotised by the merest notion and sensation that he was once more moving about in something that resembled corporeal form.

When the distinction between seconds, hours and days was blurred into utter meaninglessness Markus found himself abruptly on a path of cobbled marble, one that defined the border of the dense forest, demarcating the end of it and the beginning of mildly-rounded hills and fields, dotted with thick, tall oaks, that here did move with the wind and rustle as they ought to. Markus moved himself to one that sat near the base of a hill, and as he arrived at it he found a figure emerging at the top of the incline, dressed in clothing much more complex than Markus' - his garments were a result of the environmentally unchanging nature of where the Eternal Council conferenced, providing for only one type of wear.

The man in his suit reminded the ancient Polemarchus of how much he wished for one as the art of their tailoring evolved, ruing trivially that Athena's powers had waned so far that she found herself unable to change even the wardrobes accessible to the Eternal Council. By the time suits had come to be nearly perfected in their modern day form, the Eternal Council would be lucky to have the stitching in their sandals altered. Markus disengaged himself from the man's (mostly) formal attire and instead upon his greeting, to which he responded:

"Doctor, a learned man? Do you teach as well? I'd be grateful for you to share any knowledge of this place you have, because I recognise it as most definitely not of Earth. Ah! My manners - an introduction before your answer: I am Polemarchus of Syracuse, son of Cephalus; though the former passed away in times so ancient, and the latter changed much from so long ago, that now it hardly matters from where I came."
 
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1Gannon1

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Death is an odd thing, really. One moment your being crushed by a flaming beam, the next you've woken up in a strange place you've never seen before. (No video, sorry.)

Not that Michael Blue would know this, of course. He woke up as if his life had been a dream, a cruel illusion keeping him from the truth. But how cruel was it, really? Michael only vaguely recalled his name, most of his memories were mere blurs, especially of his latter moments. Every movement seemed fresh, like he had never done them before yet was destined to do so. Almost instinctively he checked his jacket pocket and found a letter, perhaps more defined then what else was here. He opened it immediately, drawn to look for answers. Scanning the letter, he felt only a hint of surprise at his death; Nor did he feel any great disbelief that he had been chosen. No, he rather felt a great sense of purpose. The world around him was not clearly defined, rather it was a place of whimsy perhaps. Sprites flew about with little direction or meaning, happily existing in such a way. Looking around he saw that not all was such, behind him he saw a place of great variance, distorted much like the way ahead of him but perhaps darker and with more mystery surrounding it. Further ahead lay the outline of a great mansion, his destination maybe?

Taking what were as far as he was concerned his first steps, he walked onward towards the house. "Nether-Hollow" seemed a grand place indeed, though one of little sense. Within the land he could see what may have been a man, save for the fact that his skin was a whimsical lavender color much as described in the letter. Finally reaching something of a very tangible sort, he quickened his step and reached the man within minutes. The area around him caught his eye as he passed, things seemed much as a forest may, but with variations of a fantastic sort. From pink ferns to animated trees, the variety he encountered on his path really was a biologist's wet dream. But that mattered little to Michael, and though it was beautiful he tarried not to stare upon it. Very soon he reached the man.

If he had reached the house he would have noted the following: The house was more beautiful than one could hope, and it was becoming greater by the minute as sprites set about refurbishing the halls. The room was oaken with a grand amount of fanciful carvings upon it. The floor was cobblestoned with each stone seeming to be of a shape decided purposefully for the greatest awe. Besides the oak, the walls were covered in gold leaf as far as Michael could have guessed, really though it would not surprise him if they were solid gold. Beams rose up from the floor supporting the house, they were wrought from a shimmering white wood and seemed to be a work of art of their own while not detracting from the room's serene beauty. Beings of all form scurried about the halls, cleaning it joyfully and with little work. Upon the floor covering either side of the room were long hand woven rugs of many colors. Hanging upon the wall above a fireplace on the far end of the room was the head of a strange and magnificent beast that seemed like it would be terrifying if it had been seen anywhere else, yet simply seemed gentle here. But as it was he had not seen it yet, and the lavender man was the focus of his attention.

Walking up to the anomaly, Michael tapped on the man's shoulder. He imagined in his mind the man perhaps welcoming him and offering him a meal, as well as him promptly killing him in a myriad of horrible fashions. Then he remembered, he was dead. So yeah, that didn't really matter. The man certainly did not seem predictable, but nor did he seem insane or evil. The letter had offered tea and scones, perhaps mockingly, but right now Michael really could use some food as well as an explanation. "Hello, I believe you sent me this letter? My name is Michael Blue." he said nervously to the preoccupied man. Then it began to sink in: He was dead. Nothing he knew would ever be the same again. He looked upon the halls of the forest with new eyes, still seeing a grand place, but also looking upon his grim fate. What would become of him now? The man in the lavender skin knew the answer.

(I rather sloppily removed the semblance that he had seen the house upon the owner's request.)
 
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Ordeith

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Annwn had seen the young man approaching, but didn't wish to startle him by speaking too soon; the newly-dead are often unstable, to say the least. When the fellow introduced himself, Annwn met him with a polite smile.

"A pleasure, Michael Blue. I wish that I could call myself Mr. Lavender, but I'm afraid that's just not the case." Even with the pressing problem of the other two letters, he couldn't help smirking at his own quip. "My name is Sedgewick Annwn," he said, "Head of Servants at Nether-Hollow. First of all, let me assure you that you're in safe hands. True . . . you are dead, but that isn't any cause for alarm. Several others have received letters like yours—and when we've all assembled here, I'll direct you to the manor at Nether-Hollow.

"To answer some questions in the meantime, this is the afterlife, called the Netherworld by—" Abruptly, he was interrupted by a loud rustling in the trees. "Keep that thought in mind," he said.

Annwn stepped down the forest path, to the source of the disturbance. He stood there in silence for a moment or two—and soon after, another one of Cygfa's envelopes darted out from between the trees. Following in suit was a young man, somewhat bedraggled-looking, who tumbled out of the brush in a messy heap. Annwn chuckled a bit, despite the young man's obvious panic. I can only imagine Gwydion placed an extra flourish on that one.

"Ah," he exclaimed. "I'm glad to see you arrive mostly unscathed, Master . . ." Annwn paused to check his mailing list. "Alex Schindler, I see." He hoisted the young man to his feet, and politely dusted some of the debris from his person. The rest simply fell off and faded away, as the assaulted trees restored themselves.

Annwn discreetly studied the newcomer: Hardly intimidating, Schindler seemed more bewildered and foolhardy than anything else—but Sedgewick had learned never to judge by appearances. The strength of a soul may be overt, and it may be dormant. In the latter case, only time and trial can awaken it . . .
_______________________________________________________​

Alex pushed onward, after the letter. Every last ounce of sanity—of life, of color—was anchored to that envelope. He would only let it escape if his legs buckled underneath him, which surprisingly hadn't happened yet.

The growing color eventually gave way to a greater change: The formerly gray, drooping wilderness had risen up with a life that was equally unnatural—or rather, more natural than possible. Some trees were thin and impossibly tall, yet lush with new growth; others gripped the earth like giants' hands, trunks gnarled with imperceptible patterns. It was a forest unlike anything Alex had ever seen.

To think of anything other than catching the letter was difficult—but even as he stumbled over roots and stones, Alex thought of what the letter had said. Dead . . ! Can this all be death? Some . . . last brain function, or something? What happened before this!? He couldn't say anything for certain. His entire world was caught up in the fate of an envelope, whizzing through the air.

It abruptly took a sharp turn to the left, weaving through the trees and brush.
Alex strained to keep pace with it, but ended up falling flat on his face as he tried to turn. No! No, no, nonononono . . . He ignored the debris in his hair and scrambled to his feet; at that point, the letter was out of sight—but he wasn't about to just let it fly away. Alex tore himself from the trees' clutches—and fell (again, nearly on his face) into a cobblestone pathway.

"Ah," chuckled a voice in front of him, "I'm glad to see you arrive mostly unscathed, Master . . . Alex Schindler, I see." Before Alex could fully gather his senses, he felt himself being hoisted up by an unseen hand. Now face-to-face with a very . . . lavender gentleman, he finally breathed a sigh of relief in finding at least someone else—someone who seemed to at least make some sense.
_______________________________________________________​

"As I was just saying," Annwn continued, after having greeted Alex Schindler in a similar fashion, "this is the Netherworld, where soul and 'body' are one in the same. It abides by its own laws, different from the laws of the Living World—and not doing the same will often have a messy outcome. Once all of the guests have been escorted to Nether-Hollow, the lord of the manor will explain these basics to you.

"In the meantime, we simply wait. Just relax, ease your nerves, and know that you're safe for the present time. Regrettably, I don't have any seating for you . . ." Sedgewick smiled (half-formally, half-jokingly), then returned to watching the Purple Oaken Path. The remaining Agents were just nearby . . .
_______________________________________________________​

Meanwhile, the gathering of the Fae Council had been called to order.

In the auditorium-style seats of the council chamber, located in the very heart of the Glass Palace, the venerable Council had seated itself. Earthen Fae, with hard masculine features, sat alongside light and ethereal Fae of air. Flora and Fauna; Earth and Sea; Fire and Air; every member of the Fae race embodied one small aspect of nature—and the Council epitomized this unity with nature.

Striding towards the center of the crystalline, bowl-like chamber was Councilman Havel, accompanied by the clerk Cedric, one of many who assisted the Council in its proceedings. "I, Councilman Havel, call this meeting of the Fae Council to order," rumbled the ancient councilman. "It has been called in regard to a matter of the gravest urgency, so I ask that my fellow council-folk excuse this breach in the usual protocol. I call forth Second Clerk Cedric: Cedric, present the missives, and read them aloud to the Council!"

At this, the clerk in question moved to the crystalline table, removing from two envelopes from the sleeve of his robes. He read the contents aloud, in the steady voice of a formal speaker. "Salutations, Recipient . . ."

When Cedric had finished, Councilman Havel addressed the assembly once more: "You are all familiar with the content of these letters—evidence that the abominable sorcerer Cygfa is stirring up trouble once again. However, we have succeeded in locating the recipients of these two missives, whom Cedric shall soon present to the Council.

"My proposal is thus: Two, chosen from among our finest warriors and sorcerers . . . should train these two humans in the art of manipulating souls—to combat Cygfa's movement. Better that we use this unexpected gift to our advantage, than allow Cygfa to track them down and ensnare them. I leave this proposal open to discussion."

The craggy Fae's voice was flat and even as the sound of thudding stone—but everyone present knew that Havel had a penchant for controversial proposals; he thoroughly enjoyed watching the debate. Now the pebble has been thrown, so let the avalanche begin!
 

Ulti

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As quick as a bolt of lightning, Jenni found herself and Cedric among vast columns of crystal. In fact, from the floor to the walls to the ceilings high above, everything seemed to have a lucid quality. To her, she felt like she should be very cold. But perhaps it was a trick of the mind for Jenni did not find herself to be cold nor warm. She didn't realize she didn't feel anything at all until now. The crystalline flooring vibrated with the sounds of their passing, alerting any nearbyers to their presence. In the far distance, there seemed to be some sort of structure, a faint glow of light emitting from it stating there was some sort of life within it.

Suddenly one of the rocks that was laying beside the road stood up. Rather peculiar for a rock to gain sentience. Jenni stopped momentarily to look as the rock shrugged off a sleepy daze before being gently shoved forward by Cedric.

"Merely a Denizen. Pay him no heed. We have to hurry now."

Still, Jenni's curiosity was not sated. She turned her head to watch as the rock was doing morning stretches. Well, not a true rock. Now that she looked closer, Jenni saw typical features of a living creatures covered in a glossy coat. It looked like it gave a wave at their passing. She returned the motion and returned her attention back to the structure. She was slightly surprised that the structure was a lot closer than before, like they had trekked miles already. A giant castle, also made of crystal, towered above all else in the area. She could make out figures passing by the openings. Before she could gaze at the beautiful building anymore, Cedric hurried her inside. She could only glance at the inside before being rushed into an empty room, only lit by a few candles here and there.

"You shall wait here until I come back for you. It is wise to know who your comrade is before I call you."

With that, the grizzled man shut the door, the clicking of his heels disappearing further into the castle. Jenni pondered his requests. Why exactly was she brought here? What is here? And who, by the way, was her comrade? The room was barely lit, darkness protruding from every corner. She couldn't see anyone in the room with her. Maybe they were coming later. Tsk, a shame. Jenni was starting to wonder if there were any normal people in this weird world.

"What does that old tree expect me to do? Not even a radio in this place. My apartment was better furnished and it was just one room."
 

1Gannon1

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Comforted slightly by the promise of safety (though not hardly at the point where he could accept his death), Michael made due with sitting on the grass in lack of any sort of formal seating. About him flew a number of sprites, seeming innocent in their way but also seeming vividly foreign, and that scared him. This was nothing like his home, and as Sedgewick had said, not all of the laws of his world applied. A beautiful winged baby soaring on the breeze could easily be the most deadly predator in the forest, or it could be a magical fairy of some sort that would bless him with unimaginable power. Any number of things that he believed could soon be proved wrong (though the belief that a Lavender colored man was abnormal was unlikely to dissipate anytime soon as an example). He probably looked quite amusing as he uncertainly inched away from a green butterfly that had ventured to perch next to him. Though the way the emerald wings gleamed in the light would have dazzled most, at that moment it simply made Michael feel like a man abandoned in an empty forest.

Taking out the letter again, it seemed that he was looking at a totally different letter. When at first it was no more than a goal, now it was his death certificate, spelling out not only the fact that he was dead, but a certain deeper doom to come. How was he supposed to defeat these wizard things and tear this veil? He had not power nor enough help. A small group of soldiers without so much as guns was about as bad of a predicament as no soldiers at all! But he needed to stay strong, this man was no fool and would not risk lives (his own life at least) on a plan with no hope. For all he knew they WOULD be blessed with some kind of unimaginable power! Perhaps he would be the ultimate warrior, capable of destroying worlds with a thought. That or the man had some kind of fetish for seeing people die for no reason (though he chose not to think about that option). But would even that (unimaginable power, not necrophilia) be enough?

He sat there for quite a while yet with little to do but contemplate his death as memories fluttered back to him (though none even within a week of his untimely death were seen). He had been a doctor, or training to become one. He hoped that these other guests would arrive soon, he was eager to learn mere about what was to come. Opting to do something productive, Michael decided to start a conversation with the most recent guest. "Alex, was it? My name is Michael, and I was wondering, are you like me? Dead, I mean? This whole being dead thing is kind of new to me (as you could imagine), so I really don't know much about it." he said to the guest. He hoped for the man's sake that he was wrong, but something told him that he would be disappointed. So he stood up, waiting for an answer he knew he wouldn't get for a reason that didn't matter. He figured he would wait to question Anwn until the others were here, save him some work perhaps. He just hoped that the answers would come soon.
 

Orion

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The words and manner of the whimsical, somewhat erratic Doctor came like a fresh, cooling wind to Polemarchus and his formerly stifled 'life'-style, filled with brilliant worldviews that remained strangely indifferent to the shifting world around them. Philosophical marvels turned to ancient and novel outlooks, experienced singly and powerfully for the first time by students who would quickly enough move on to other perspectives of the world, justice and goodness.

The Doctor seemed eager to weave a ten dozen great stories - be they inspired by, taken from, or entirely devoid of reality - of his adventures after he had spoken further of his character and important past, when the gentle winds of the field change direction, and a fold in Polemarchus' clothes flapped aside to reveal a letter of rich, textured and brown paper. A single page, scrawled with black ink solid in its intensity but fluid in the subtle ways the text seemed to shift and transmute as his eyes scrolled over the characters.

Polemarchus, upon reaching the letter's conclusion, formed two possible interpretations in his mind, which he considered with equal weight as The Doctor continued to recite a tale spanning time, space and planes that had begun as soon as the letter was discovered. Both possibilities filled Polemarchus with hope, but one was totally incongruent with the author's intention, though this particular reader could not have known it yet.

The first possibility was the letter, once written, was replicated in content (and possibly in exact substance) and sent out to the intended recipients, of which Polemarchus was in some way a minority. After all, Polemarchus' death had been thousands of years ago, but his passing into the Netherworld was ten million times more recent.

The other possibility - which Polemarchus was not sure if he was more or less excited by - was that Polemarchus was part of the intended demographic that would receive the letters: Those who had only recently passed into the Netherworld, but had died a fair time before that passing. This could mean a reunion of sorts with the Eternal Council, an event that could bring about enjoyment or melancholy - after all, all of them would be moving into a new world with new possibilities and philosophies; at the same time, that new world was the world of the dead.

Polemarchus would have further resolved his thoughts on the two possibilities, but was left unable to when the letter began transmogrifying in his hand. Startled, his hand opened by reflex, and the letter morphed into the form of a small deer, clothed in the paper flesh of the letter and with skin mottled by the dense ink that had provided its contents. As Polemarchus reached forward to gently grasp the creature, it jumped back several inches out of reach, its paper body betraying not fear nor agitation, but a playful manner.

The small deer executed an excited leap up when both Polemarchus and The Doctor reached forward to better observe it, and darted away a couple of metres as they hastened to stand, alerted that it might run off and disappear. "What does our little friend want?" The Doctor inquired, strolling forward with hands in pockets, before squatting closer to the little foal and extracting a milky-coloured wand, which was promptly waved, then pointed, towards the subject miniature animal, which grew immediately still as the object was revealed.

When The Doctor made to activate the artefact in some form - signified by the glowing of the emerald gripped by carved claws at the end of the wand - the little deer lowered its front two legs and arched its back and began to tremble slightly, as though growling at The Doctor but in complete silence. Polemarchus walked forward amused, and with the sound of a calm smile in his voice brushed aside The Doctor's wand, saying "Leave the beast be for now, perhaps it wishes us to simply follow it?"

That it indeed did want, for no sooner were those words spoken that the deer's attitude returned to one of happy vitality and it pranced between The Doctor and Polemarchus and continued straight on the path it set. Immediately the two began to follow it, and felt themselves immediately caught up in its friendly chase.

After having faded into seconds, the passage of hours became meaningless, likewise the longevity of miles compacted into insignificance in pursuit of that little creature, that stayed ever ahead of its two followers, regardless of the pace they set.

Though they would never be sure - for the passage across Netherworld Realms not by distinct gates is a hazy and confusing journey - Polemarchus and The Doctor felt (and saw, heard, smelled and tasted) the ephemeral environs they passed through on the way to their destination.

Forests of fire blossomed in a deadly beauty that choked the lungs and stung the eyes before extinguishing behind them. Deserts of ice wiped the beading sweat from their brows and brought frozen numbness where burning pain had persisted. Glacial pinnacles gave way to valleys filled and formed of mist, that were born and destroyed by the very passage the three forged through their intertwining incisions in an ethereal realm.

They screamed down the side of cliffs that were hardly there, and when it felt as though the bottom should have been passed hundreds of kilometres and hours ago, a towering manor pierced the grey gloom and they fell alongside its windows and walls and spires, Polemarchus' absentmindedly outreached hand passing through whatever obstruction should have been there.

As they neared the ground and the two people felt they might pass through it onto further and stranger realms, they hardly registered that they had halted their fall and were now standing firmly outside the towering house presented before them. Standing at the entrance to the abode was a lavender-skinned attendant to the front door, who stood impassive until Polemarchus' letter-deer pranced forth to his feet.

The doorman turned what must have been a habitual bow into a crouch, reaching an open palm down onto which the paper foal walked and morphed itself back into its more conventional form. A smile crept across his face while The Doctor and Polemarchus walked forward cautiously, still disoriented from their bewildering journey, the length, duration and path of which even now they were uncertain of.
 

Athel

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As if compelled by some otherworldly force, Nathan went. His legs, which weakly shuffled under his command, still felt numb, disconnected, as if, instead of being his, they had been borrowed from someone else. While he slowly remembered how to move his body, it still felt like an odd, forced sensation. He wondered why he did it so much while he was alive.

His course was only marked by the letter in his hand, which gentle pulled him away, but he only registered this subconsciously; his mind told him it was completely ridiculous for a slip of parchment to move him.

Nathan stumbled from the place he had awakened, under the bough of that gnarled tree and the sky-that-was-not, and walked in no discernible direction. At first, the ground beneath him was nothing more than bare earth and black stone, but soon it had the first streaks of brown in it, and then green, and then a multitude of other colors that seemed very unfitting for ground. Flora began to appear, tall trees and stout brushes, in every imaginable shade of the rainbow, and some that were even off of it. Nathan was amazed by the land around him, but was incapable of enjoying it due to the heavy thoughts in his mind.

"This can't all be real..." he thought, not believing the letter's assurances that he was deceased. "There's no place on Earth like this. It's some dream, or hallucination. I must have fallen asleep at my desk, or..." He stopped, and found himself wondering, what is a desk? And how did he know what these trees were? Or that it was even possible to dream? And when his entire self felt like he had just waken up from a long slumber, what were dreams then?

Everything he recalled, he reached back for in his memory, but they seemed to glide away as soon as he reached for them. When he thought of these things, they passed over his mind like leaves on the water's surface, but when he reached for them, the ripples carried them away.

"What is this? What is happening to me?" he would frequently think. "What am I?"

"And what does this Gridion Whatever, want with me?" Nathan said aloud, harsher than he realized. When he thought about it, he was furious in a way, but like all other things his emotions seemed distant. With so many things overpowering his body and mind, the only thing he felt was tired. He was as tired of his death as he was of his life.

The letter suddenly stopped pulling in his hands, and Nathan looked down at it with surprise. Then, it did something just as unusual; it fluttered out of his grasp, hovered in the air, and then flew forward. Nathan watched it go, following its course, and only then he noticed the colossal mansion standing stark against the horizon. And, at the narrow path through the woods he was following, he saw that there were others. The very first other people he had seen. He was touched with a faint feeling of nostalgia, and only now realized that he had been lonely.

Nathan went forward, cross what was left of the road, and soon came to terrace of the Nether-Hollow.
 

Ordeith

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Cradling the little paper creature in his hand, Annwn watched it unfold into the original letter, which he then pocketed. He had been waiting for this guest in particular—and the man's choice of company, while strange, could serve to help them.

"A pleasure to see you, Master Polemarchus," Sedgewick greeted. "I am Sedgewick Annwn, Head of Servants at Nether-Hollow. You can rest assured that these are safe grounds. Once the other guests arrive, we can move on to the manor, as per the letter's instructions. Because time and space are more flexible here, the wait shouldn't be long. In the meantime, you can rest easy . . ." He paused, then stepped further down the path, to a more personal distance between himself and the Greek.

"I hope this doesn't come across as too forward," he said, "but my master wanted to send for Socrates. However, I was able to convince him that you would be better suited for the task at hand." Annwn grinned despite himself, increasing the breach in formality. "Your definition of justice . . . I have come to know the truth in it, firsthand."

Not forgetting the other man—or, at least, what appeared to be one—Annwn turned to address him as well. "Sedgewick Annwn. I'm not sure how well a Mnemophyte would be received at Nether-Hollow, but I think you've come at just the perfect time. Welcome!"

Even for someone well-versed in courtesy and diplomacy, it was difficult for Sedgewick to treat a Mnemophyte, knowingly, as a guest. In his travels, he had seen Mnemophytes drown in a stream of memories, decaying into mere mimics—playing through the same events again and again, oblivious to the Netherworld around them. This one appears lucid enough, though. He discreetly studied the dapper young man. A powerful Mnemophyte can be a helpful resource, and a good ally. Cygfa, with that . . . strange recruit of his, will hopefully see the benefit as well . . .
____________________________________________________​

Meanwhile, Alex sat on the gentle slope of the cobblestone, dazed.

He was comforted by the knowledge that he was safe—wherever he was—and that things seemed to make some sense again. Up was up, down was down, rock was rock, and trees were . . . for the most part, trees. Even still, Alex was just coming to realize that he truly was dead. The last thing I remember, I was just walking out of my flat to get lunch . . . Geez.

The other man, who seemed relatively normal, asked a similar question.
"Yup, I'm Alex," he replied. "Nice to meet you, Michael." It was strange to hear such . . . ordinary conversation in a place like this. "And, well . . . yeah, I suppose I am dead! If everything around us is real, it's the best explanation we have for all of this. The best thing to do, I think, is just stick together, sit back, and absorb everything. Let's just see what all of this comes to—because I'm just as confused as you are."

Alex was pleased to find somebody in the same predicament that he was, or just about so. Despite that, Michael seemed to be a little more in-control than he was. Perhaps being dead just didn't frighten him as much—or perhaps he was just better at disguising it. Alex mulled over these things as he sat, never pondering one question for too long before another one popped into his head.

Suddenly, after the two men who had just arrived, another letter tore down the path, followed by a haggard-looking man. He was definitely older than Alex, but the drained expression on his face added to that age. The letter was swiftly caught out of the air by the purple-skinned man—Sedgewick Annwn—who excused himself from the two men with whom he was conversing, and left to greet the new arrival.

Alex suddenly smiled, despite his nagging questions and aching head.
Funny, it's almost becoming a normal thing to see.
____________________________________________________​

Treading down the path, Annwn quickly scanned over his mailing list, to identify the newcomer.
Master Nathan Apollo, I see . . . Heavens, you seem to have made quite the journey. It's a feeling I'm familiar with, haha.

"You can rest here, Master Apollo; it's perfectly safe," he said. "My name is Sedgewick Annwn, as mentioned in the letter. I am Head of Servants at Nether-Hollow, and will be taking care you and the other guests. Once every letter recipient has arrived, we will all proceed to the manor—and it shouldn't be long now.

"Prior to then, feel free to relax and converse with the other guests. You should all become acquainted with one another in time . . ." He paused, contemplating the young businessman. "I'm sure that you have questions, Master Apollo. Most will be answered by the lord of the manor, but if you have a pressing need, I shall be glad to answer a few for you now."
 

Urbane

Who in face are you?!
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The young man was as a pawn, being manouvred into place with no knowledge of his own position. He had walked for a good, long time. He knew not how long, nor how far. He supposed he was tired, but he could not be bothered to notice if he was. Although he would never notice it, the letter he posessed was tugging him, pulling him. He would not find himself lost.

He had not noticed while walking, being nearly in a trance the entirety of the time, but the terrain around him had changed. He was no longer surrounded by the grey mess of a world he had initially encountered, but a bright and colourful wood which felt more alive than any place the boy had been... in a sense of the word. He had not truly noticed, though. His mind was preoccupied, and filled with doubt.

What if the letter had not lied, what if he was truly dead? What if he was truly gone from the world of the living, with no chance to return? He could not stomach the thought... Still, the concept was ridiculous, and he would not believe it! Not without absolute, undeniable proof!

Of course, good proof would present itself soon enough. It always did. And in this case, the first proof he was to recieve was the presence of a certain man a ways along the path. This man knew far more than the boy, and would no doubt be willing to explain things. Not that the boy knew this, at the moment. Also, the man was posessed of a most peculiar skin tone, which the boy was eventually bound to notice.

Eventually, the boy did encounter said man. It was only the man's presence that snapped him out of his dreamlike state. He had no recollection of what he had just done, as the entirety of his walk was a vague haze in the back of his mind.

Finally faced with humanity yet again, the boy knew not what to do at first. Having taken in his surroundings at last, the boy found himself amazed at what he found, and yet also afraid. He had barely noticed the various people around the man, and only found himself particularly drawn to the strange, purple man. He was left dumbstruck, and his lips remained tightly sealed, waiting to see what the man would do.
 

OmniChaos

The Smiling Man
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"You are a fool!"

Ye'tard rose to his feet and brought his closed fists down upon the crystalline wall that encircled the chamber's center floor, which separated the speaking floor from the elevated seats. The councilman's abrupt outcry still rung freshly in the council room, having quieted away any conversations between other council members. A spark of amusement ran through his mind, though for but a second. He simply couldn't help but be amused every time he brought the council room to halt with his words. That spark, however, quickly died out when the councilman focused back Havel and was soon refilled with the anger and contempt Ye'tard had for the Fae.

Ah, Havel--the only Fae council person, apart from himself, that did not participate in the ritual preformed all those many years ago to stop the Reaper; the Fae that had prevented Ye'tard from rising to his deserved place as the sole ruler of the Fae--no, as the ruler of all the Netherworld! It was because of him that Ye'tard was bothered with these trivialities! It was because of him that Ye'tard had to deal with these lesser beings! Him! It was him! And for that, Ye'tard hated that Fae! And now, this ancient relic dare suggest their warriors teach these vermin the art of manipulating souls!?

"Have you gone mad in your aged body?" Ye'tard shouted, his eyes locked directly with the councilman's. "You actually come here and stand before us, suggesting we, the Fae, work with...with humans!?" The word came out harsh and bitter, a tone perfectly suited for the Fae's views of mankind. "You propose we saddle two of our finest warriors with these walking sacks of dead weight, instead of allowing them to preform their duties? To what end?" Ye'tard turned and faced the seated council, his arms thrown out to his side. He slowly turned in a circle, so that he faced each council-folk at one point. "Are we to believe these humans can be trusted? Once they have been taught the manipulation of souls, are we to really believe that they will not betray us?"

It was common knowledge that the Fae race looked down upon mankind, some of them, such as Ye'tard, showing out-right hate for them. The human-Fae relationship had been one of tension, as far back as when humans first began abusing the ability to manipulate souls. This relationship was only torn further apart during the Fae's conflict with human sorcerers. As such, a great number of Fae were untrusting of the human kind, as it was a race of beings easily corrupted by power. This was something Ye'tard could, and planned to, play on.

"Did the Fae not once teach the art of manipulating souls to humans?" Ye'tard asked, glancing around the chamber at various council-folk. None answered. "Of course we did. The Fae did teach humans how to manipulate souls. And what happened?" Ye'tard paused once again, as if waiting for someone to speak up. But of course, none did. "That's right. They abused the power. It corrupted them, consumed them. They would have torn themselves apart. So, we, the Fae, stepped in to save them. And what did they do?" Ye'tard stopped, a slight, crazed chuckle interrupting his words. "They turned against us! Their sorcerers took arms up against us! And... and..." The councilman paused yet again, squeezing the bridge of his nose with his right hand. "And now you want to bestow that knowledge upon them once again? So that, what? They may again betray us? Think, Havel! Think!"

The council room fell silent, his last words slowly fading away into oblivion. After a moment of silence, Ye'tard took his seat, resting his cheek on the knuckles of his right hand. He had said all that needed saying, and now, he simply awaited Havel's response.
 
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