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 Post subject: Under Hill
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:57 am 
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Seven young women gathered in a clearing in the woods near the center of Perez Park just before dawn. Some of them knew each other and nodded once, grimly. No one spoke, all the words about this terrible trip had already been spoken in the weeks and months before. The End of the World was tonight. There was no stopping it, no bargaining with it, no desperate last minute measures that could be made to save Paragon City or the world they knew. The seven women gathered here had been chosen to try and leave the City and take its frantic call for help to other planes, other dimensions of being. Some of them were leaving behind husbands or lovers, some were leaving beloved family, and some weren’t leaving anything at all.

The first rays of sunlight came up over the horizon and poured through the canopy of trees that covered the park.The small hillside next to the women wavered and thinned like a cloud of mist being blown away by a particularly strong wind. Inside the hill was a cave of greenish gold rock that looked oddly soft. The cave breathed out a hint of chiming bells or possibly far-away laughter.The woman closest to the hill closed her eyes as a coil of the vanishing hillside flickered over her. When she opened them again, she was a rather large grey cat with black stripes. She stretched out her paws in front of her, unsheathing and sheathing her claws as she readjusted to the feel of her own fur.
" We're gettin low on time Moggie, stop showin off." The red head with the large red and black wings scolded the catgirl reproachfully with one eye on the fast-rising sun.
The catgirl flipped her tail in a rude gesture, then moved among the crowd, nudging them into a line. The women shouldered backpacks that had been loaded with food, water and blankets and settled them into place with the minimum of shrugging or noise. They joined hands, and the red head carefully grabbed hold of the catgirls' tail with her left hand. Then, single file, they walked forward into the side of the hill.
As the last woman in line cleared the hillside door, it closed shut as quickly as if it had never been.

The sun cleared the War Walls and shone down into Perez Park on an empty hillside meadow. The birds sang madly and insects started the daily buzz. There was no indication that anything had ever happened to the solid lump of rock, except for the faintest hint of chiming bells on the breeze.

Inside the cave the cat walked forward and the women followed in silence. When everyone was slightly tired and ready to rest, the cat walked directly at a nearby wall. The wall parted like a theater curtain, pulling back in rippling folds to show a small room decorated like a tea shop. A sturdy round wooden table with enough seats for all of them was laid with lace placemats and a delicate cup and saucer at each place. There was a large teapot in a pink knitted teacozy in the middle of the table and a few plates of sandwiches and cookies were placed around it. The women dropped hands and moved to the chairs, pulling off the heavy packs and settling in with a sigh or grunt. There was another bell of far away laughter and the cat changed back into a tall, grey-haired, woman with a young face.

" Remember, don't eat the food here." the Moggie said quietly as she settled into a lotus position on the middle of the tabletop, " Haven't negotiated our passage yet. The Queen is jealous of every scrap."

The raven-haired woman in the far corner muttered and unlaced her high-heeled boots. " You think she'd mind if we drank the water?"

"Ananda, the Moggie said all of it," a younger looking girl with a scattering of freckles across her nose piped up " and I told you those were stupid boots for a real hike."


"Shut it Eris," Ananda said mildly " I always have to be prepared to perform."
The Moggie gave a quiet laugh and nodded at the walls " Don't worry, Majesty sees all in her domain already."

The tough-looking woman sitting next to Ananda pulled a knife from her boot and started to cut up a sausage she had removed from her pack. As she brought a piece of the sausage up to cover her lips, she whispered across the table to the woman with wings who shook her head very slightly. The Moggie watched this with bright eyes and clapped her hands together but all she said was " Joy, do you have more meat?"

Joy nodded towards her pack and the Moggie started to rummage through it, tossing things around until she came to a paper-wrapped parcel. The Moggie held the parcel to her nose and sighed happily, palming a pencil out of the pack as well and keeping it hidden under the meat . She unwrapped the meat and made a show of asking everyone else for bread and toppings to make sandwiches. She jotted something down on the wrapper and pushed the meat towards each woman in turn, keeping up a light chatter about food. Each woman read the note and managed to nod her head in agreement. "Scrying bowl sees and hears from a distance, important talk be sneaky and silent."

"Do you think the Queen would mind if I pulled in a cup of coffee?" the brown-haired woman in a military combat uniform asked.

The Moggie considered this and nodded hesitantly " Not sure you can touch other magic here. Majesty might see it as a challenge to her power. Better not."

Eris laughed softly and pulled a glass bottle out of her own pack, pushing it across the table," Here you go Val, time to develop a taste for iced pre-made coffee."

Val grimaced but took the bottle anyway, sipping at the room temperature stuff. She looked at the winged woman who was thoughtfully chewing her way through a flaky croissant. "What to you think we need to do next, Grace?"

Grace started to count think, ticking off ideas on her fingers "Get my notepad out of my bag, would you please, Charity?" She asked the last member of the group, whose carrot-red hair was tied up on her head in cute little buns. Charity shrugged and pulled a large day-planner from a fancy leather hand bag that had been stuffed to overflowing. The book itself was filled with sticky-notes, fliers, and reminders of important tasks. Grace flipped through the book until she reached the day outlined in red and marked 'DEADLINE'.

"We have an appointment with Queen Mab later today in the Grey Groves. Then, if we get permission, we continue to cross UnderHill to Yggdrasil, the World Tree and try to move along the branches into different worlds. Assuming we can reach 'em, there are Portal Corp scientists who have reached other dimensions that way. We can use their equipment to try and call for some help for Paragon." Grace made a tiny pen mark next to each point on her short list, "It's not really much of a plan, but it's all we have right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Under Hill
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:39 am 
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A light breeze seemed to float from nowhere, picking up one of the napkins on the table and twirling it to the floor. The Moggie tracked the napkin with her gaze, tilting her head to follow as it slipped under a chair. She whispered urgently that it was time to pack up and leave. " It's just an napkin caught in the wind Moggie, " said Eris " Nothing to worry about."
Grace glanced over from where she was stuffing her dayplanner back into the over-sized purse. " Not much wind in a cave most of the time." she noted mildly
The napkin strolled out from under the table, pulled into the shape of a tiny humanoid figure with knots in each corner for hands and feet and a larger knot forming a head. The Moggie leapt down from the table and bowed her head politely to the little man-shape.The napkin man returned the nod, then waved its tiny knot-hands for the attention of the entire group. They circled around the linen and watched it bow politely to each one of them. Then the napkin strolled to where mouth of the cave swirled with the grey fog they had trekked through earlier and signaled them to follow. As the mannikin moved out into the fog, it vanished leaving a dry brown sandy tunnel that appeared to be lit with glowing fungi growing in patches on the walls. The group exchanged collective shrugs and followed the fast-moving table linen down the tunnel, keeping their eyes open for traps, tricks, and in Charity's case, spiders.
Eventually they became aware of a brighter light growing from around a curve in the tunnel ahead. The Moggie trotted out in front of the little group and stopped, turning sideways so the rest of the women had to stop as well. She concentrated and her form changed again to that of a young woman with a very serious expression on her usually merry face.
" Will not be able to help you against Majesty, no talking, no thumbs" She waved her hands to emphasize her point, " Make bargains for food, water, safe paths. No holes in loops or loops will strangle use all!"
Then her face grew furry and she shrank down again to the size and shape of a large housecat. The Moggie threw a bright glace over her shoulder and walked after the napkin-man as if she had never stopped.
" Hey, Joy?" Grace muttered softly " You ever met Queen Mab before?"
Joy paced along just behind Grace's left shoulder, checking the placement of her throwing knives by touch, " I never dealt with any of the Fae. My threats were a lot more...solid." She rolled her neck and loosened her shoulders, relaxing herself on purpose.
"Yeah, me neither, but figured I ought ta ask." Grace put on her best meeting-the-CEO smile and stepped out of the tunnel mouth into the edge of a beautiful woodland.

The woods were planted so that no matter where you stood in them it seemed you were in an avenue of trees. The smooth grey tree trunks rose above their heads and then produced perfectly shaped branches that met in an elegant pointed arch. The leaves were a soft green on top but a slightly furry grey on the bottom and they stirred constantly in a restless breeze. There was a drowsy hush over the entire wood like the hot part of late afternoon in mid-summer, and the breeze did not come down below the leaves to cool the travelers. The silence was so heavy they were afraid to speak and break it. The napkin was waiting for them, beckoning them along but the air seemed to drag at their every movement.There were no birds or squirrels, no indications of life aside from the noises they made, and those seemed muffled and far away. Slower and slower they walked, until the group slowed to leaning on trees and staring at the forest floor. Only the Moggie kept moving about, pulling on shoelaces with her teeth and pushing her head into the backs of knees, dragging the whole group forward.

Then the trees opened up to a meadow bright with tiny blue and purple flowers. The travelers walked out into that meadow as if they were coming up from the bottom of a deep pool, gasping for air and sunlight. Here, the breezes tossed the flowers about and for the first time there was a sound of life, bees working around the blooms. There were also voices ahead, high laughter and the sound of a party. As the travelers came up the slight hill, they discovered a circle of red and white checked tablecloths on the ground. Picnic baskets were set out and plates, bowls, and cups of delightful food and drinks sprawled everywhere as if the eaters had just been called away for some reason. There were flashes of color at the edge of the woods and voices called out in an unknown language that tickled the ears.
"Who are you that come unbidden to the Grey Groves?" a voice rang out in English from behind them but the travelers kept their eyes on the Moggie and continued to move forward.
Another voice floated up next to their ears, whispering that they all looked tasty enough to enjoy at a picnic, but the Moggie only flipped an ear in annoyance and kept moving forward towards a particular cloth which was set with particularly nice looking china and crystal.
When she reached the edge of the cloth, she stopped and sat down, wrapping her tail around her front paws and waited.
Grace looked back at Joy who shrugged and motioned for the rest of the company to sit down as well. They made themselves comfortable in the thick grass but didn't speak to each other. They weren't quite out from until the spell of silence the woods cast on them yet. Charity took out a piece of string and went back to teaching herself to play cats cradle which caused the Moggie to lift her fuzzy eyebrows.
A small blond woman in a green 50's style dress wandered out of the woods and stood on the picnic cloth they were sitting near.
"Well, hi!" she bubbled brightly " Did you guys want some pop or a slice of pie?" She rummaged around in the nearest picnic basket and pulled a pie much larger than the basket itself out. Then she pulled out a selection of glass mugs that had condensation frozen on the sides and were filled with fizzing drinks that looked and sounded wonderful. All of the travelers swallowed as the scent of the pie reached them and Ananda reached out for the nearest mug. Eris smacked her on the back of the hand and she jumped and looked ashamed for a moment.
" Not here for the food, huh?" the smiling blonde set the food close to them and settled onto a pile of pillows that hadn't been there when she started to sit down.
" We would prefer to do business first, Your Majesty," Grace said "and then of course we'd love to have a bite with you."
"And what business might that be?" the Queen seemed distracted, fluffing her hair and making faces in a hand mirror that she pulled from under the pillows. She absently stroked the Moggie, tapping a polished nail on the collar around the cat's neck.
"We request safe passage through your realm to the World Tree, and also the right to eat and drink what we find on our trip." Grace kept an eye on the Moggie as she spoke but the cat simply settled into a loaf and started to purr.
"Oh I don't think that's what you want at all," the Queen said in an airy fashion, " I'm quite sure you brought all these strange magics and powerful warriors to my realm for something more complicated than just a little sight-seeing trip." She had turned away from the group but tilted the hand mirror so they should have been able to see her face. A skull, blackened and hairless, leered at them from the mirror for a moment. " In fact, I'm just as sure as I can be that you came here for a little old fashioned coup. And I'm just not up to hosting a bloodbath right now."
The Fae Queen stood up, grasping the Moggie by the scruff of her neck. With her left hand she made a sweeping gesture and the grey fog rolled over the meadow, thick enough to hide everything. All the sounds were damped down as well, eaten by the fog.
"Seek me when you wish to tell the truth. And do beware the Jabberwock." The Queen's voice echoed eerily in the fog and then they were alone.

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 Post subject: Re: Under Hill
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:11 pm 
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The thick fog swirled around them, muffling all sounds except the drip of mist off far-away trees. For a moment it seemed that the fog was all the Queen had left for them, but then there was a snuffling and a low growl that sounded like it was moving closer.
"Everyone, back to back!" Joy's voice snapped out of the stifling grey "Eris, get us some light, we don't want to hurt each other. Scrappers on the outside, support staff on the inside."
Eris created a ring of tiny sparks dancing overhead, but they couldn't produce enough light to burn back the mist. The growling was getting louder and seemed to come from all around them. They had never worked as a team before, but they were all used to the way combat could amplify and distort sound. None of them moved out of the tight circle.

"Moggie," Joy's voice was casual, " We need the best way out of here and to the World Tree. Any ideas?"

The catgirl started to walk forward, carefully placing her paws with each step as if she were afraid that the ground they couldn't see was no longer there anymore. Inch by painful inch the group moved forward across the meadow. As the shadows of trees began to loom around them, the growling and movement noises increased and dark shapes started to appear in the mist. The growling shapes began to make darting runs into the light and fire flashing on gleaming teeth and rolling eyes.

Grace spoke up very calmly, keeping herself under tight control "Whatever ya'll do, do not run. These things look like they'll follow us to Doomsday, but they haven't charged yet."

Joy agreed, " We can't afford to get lost in this. Eris, can you give us more light?"

" Sorry" Eris sounded like she was in pain "This place is really cutting my fire off. It feels like it's sucking it out of me."
The firelight dancing around them flickered as she spoke and the dark shapes in the mist came closer. Eris gave a small grunt of effort and was able to release a few more globes of fire from the tips of her fingers. The usually bright orange glow seemed dimmer and somehow flat as the globes encircled the travelers.

Val drew had her sword and pistol out, but the flames that often shot from the blade were missing. Still, she felt better with a length of steel between her and those sharp teeth than with nothing at all. Ananda's sword was out as well and Charity had found a pair of leather gloves studded with steel across the knuckles in her pocket. The mist seemed to avoid the steel, putting a tendril towards it, then pulling away like a living thing that had been burned. Clearly the land of the Fae still had no fondness for iron or its children.Grace chuckled grimly at the thought.

The Moggie sniffed the air delicately, tasting the shifting currents and nudging her head against Joy's knee to direct them through the grey sameness. They walked past faint shapes, like trees or possibly gallows that loomed out of the dark suddenly and just as suddenly receded again. Most of them had nothing to say but Ananda and Charity kept up a steady low-toned mockery of everything around them to steady their nerves. Even the Moggie snorted at a few of the acid comments the two traded back and forth. The dark beasts tried to growl louder, but the travelers refused to be hurried or intimidated.

After what seemed like an hour of this careful choreographed movement, the Moggie darted away from Joy's left knee. Joy called a halt and the women stood carefully back to back, eyeing the boring billows and passing a little food around. Water was sipped from canteens and the level of liquid left was carefully noted. Then the catgirl shot out of the mist and grabbed a mouthful of Val's pants leg, tugging her forward. "Time to go I guess." Val stumbled along after the bouncing cat.

The mist seemed to thin and brighten ahead of them and they moved forward at a much more rapid pace. Soon they saw the mouth of a huge cavern that seemed screened in heavy vines. They were just a few long strides from the cavern when the mist swirled up and thickened in front of them . A solid grey wall hung there for a moment, then shattered with the sound of falling crystal and Queen Mab stood in front of them. Her skin which had previously been so pale was now as black as darkness and her blond hair was now a glowing white. Her green dress was replaced with a few scraps of carefully tooled leather the carmine of fresh blood and her eyes were the same color.

"Going so soon?" Mab purred at them "Good, you wore out your welcome before you showed up." She drew the mist through her hands and started to twine it together like coils of sheep's wool, pulling the end between her fingertips. Casually she moved her hands apart and a black whip appeared between her hands. The black leather was studded with thorns, glass, and what might have been shards of bone all coated with a sticky looking fluid. The Queen smiled and her teeth had the same sticky sheen to them. "But you shouldn't go without a a going-away present. I'll give you a lovely set of scars!"

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