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The Spectral Mask
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PostSubject: Errata   Thu Mar 15, 2018 6:06 pm

““…it is a description of a new world… which if it add any satisfaction to you, I shall account myself a happy creatoress; if not, I must be content to live a melancholy life in my own world…”
- Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World

I Wrote This to Amuse

Papers are scattered and wallpaper peels in a long-abandoned office building. L-shaped desks form pinwheels of portioned cubicles, designed for communication but facilitating only distraction.

A grey-skinned dark elf storms into the room, her untamed ginger hair, uncharacteristic of her people, pulled into a ponytail. She’s wearing a burnt-orange tunic with a red sash around the waist, which bears a dagger and a coiled spiked chain. With sulking posture, she walks to a desk and lets herself fall into an uncomfortable swivel chair.

She exhales through her lips like a horse and stares at the ceiling.

“It’s actually a little unnerving, this place. There’s no fourth wall here,” she speaks aloud, though no one else is in the room.

It is stranger for her to say this. She has always broken the fourth wall.

“No, no, no, that’s not what I mean,” Kiel responds, idly rotating her seat, glancing out dusty windows or at ceiling tiles. “In the comic, there was a panel. Then you found me, and you provided a camera. But in here? Hell, I don’t know where to look.”

What can I say? Prose is not a visual medium.

Kiel winces. “I can’t even figure out which direction your narration is coming from.”

It’s omnidirectional.

“It’s surreal,” Kiel concludes. With a kick, she sends herself spinning in the rickety chair. “This place seems familiar.”

It’s a decrepit version of the office from The Stanley Parable. The most generic setting I could think of.

“As long as there’s a way back home,” Kiel shrugs.

There is.

“Well, I’m here. You have content for your first blog post. Can we wrap this up so we can get writing?”

I want to explain to our readers who we are, and what we’re doing.

Kiel grins. “I’m Vel’akar Kiel’ndia, Heir of Vloz’ress. I’m Spectral’s favorite fictional character. Kinda like a drow Deadpool. He quit reading my webcomic when he got frustrated, but has been privately composing fan-fiction ever since. Created quite the alternate universe.

“But he hides in it instead of writing original fiction, and I got sick of seeing him sulk when he isn’t meeting his deadlines. So, I started using my fourth-wall breaks to pester him to write more. And I expect you three to help me do that, because we all know that writing this is just another tool he’s using for procrastinating.”

Three or four. Indigo might take a look, she seems to have changed her username again.

Kiel holds out a hand and begins counting on her fingers. “Wally, possibly Indigo, maybe Pwachie for that matter, Teaser… what do I call your moirail? Lugialover?”

He insists on unconnected pseudonyms. I’ll text him what he’d use for Sacred Wars, that would be most appropriate, I would think. Who is “Teaser”?

“‘The Soviet Union.’ T.S.U. And then T.S. becomes ‘tease’ and then you get ‘Teaser.’”

That’s a stretch.

“Well,” Kiel sighs and shrugs, “It’s nice to have an audience again, but it would be nicer if you were writing the ABSYRTIAD right now. Because I’m not letting you count this towards your word quota.”

I was reading the webcomic 1/0 and I wanted to have something short and fun of my own!

“This isn’t fun, this is your normal self-ruminating bull. Like Enkaiomancy, except with a sexier character.”

It’ll get fun next installment. Wait ‘till tomorrow.

“Are you seriously starting a daily blog so that you have something to do other than write the ABSYRTIAD?”

It can’t be all self-ruminating sulking once there are characters that can’t hear the narrator.

“Yes, but – ” Kiel begins, but then a realization dawns on her. Slowly her expression shifts to a smile of unbridled mirth. “Ha! I get it!” she exclaims.

Get what?

“A character that can hear the narrator! In the office from The Stanley Parable!” she begins slow clapping, her enthusiastic expression unchanging. “That’s so clever.”

I thought that it was fairly obvious. But yes, we’ll probably go to a different setting next time.

Kiel smiles knowingly and rests her elbow on the nearby desk and her chin on her hand. “Well, if you’d been working on towards your actual goal, you’d be more than halfway through your word quota. So, if this is supposed to be some kind of harmless warm-up, you might be able to juggle the two. Plus, Pathfinder, mind you!”

Great! I never asked for your approval, but I’m glad you see it my way.

“Validating to have a character under your complete control feed your ego?”

Yes.

“You’re shouting into the void, though. Wally and the others will have to fake interest in your ramblings. And that’s if they pay attention at all! So, who are you writing this for?”

For you, Kiel. I wrote this to a Muse.

The look of epiphany dawns on Kiel’s face again.

“Ha! To amuse! To-a-Muse! I get it!”

_________________



Last edited by The Spectral Mask on Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:05 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: ¼š„¦I>+ÑhI³p¥üˆƒŒÜb Û÷ÐE×k7†× GH C   Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:22 pm

Edit: Spectral here. Just popping in to let you know that this chapter is pretty dark, contains some disturbing themes. I wrote it in a dark place. Of course Kiel is charming and pleasant as usual.

The only thing significant to the "continuity" of Errata is the resolution that Errata counts towards the word quota, a word quota which was originally set in place to motivate me to write the ABSYRTIAD. Thus it might be the important step towards the adoption of this madness as my true epic, my first "novel."

It also introduces the mechanics of garbled text, which is capable of distorting even Kiel's dialogue in isolated cases. But as of yet we don't know if the garbled text will ever be referenced again. If Kiel ever mentions Soter de Fackif, he is an imaginary character invented by Kiel to explain the garbled text, which she claims to be able to understand.

Frankly I think you should skip it.

You've been warned:
 

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:58 pm

Suddenly, this is a BIONICLE FanFic

As I clung to my spear and stabbed it through the shoulder, more of the putrid red liquid gushed out of the wound. What was this thing made of? Maybe it was an especially angry fruit.

It howled, again baring that hideous row of jagged teeth, behind which was another, smaller, duller set. Its eyes were solid red. Its armor, if it could be called that was pliable like plantlife, and it had tufts a bit like tall grass drooping from on top of its head. Its claws looked like they had grown through the armor on the hands from inside, like they were stabbing their owner on their way out. All offense, no defense. Fortunately, I’m no offense, all panic.

I was in some kind of volcanic rift. I could barely see the wall opposite me, but it was too far to jump. No lava in sight, but the cliff face that I was clinging to was cooled magma, and clouds of smoke and ash were rising from below, obscuring everything. There was a thin ledge that I was balancing on, and below me, the creature.

It was clinging to the wall just below me. It seemed to be climbing backwards. Was it possible to climb backwards? I had always thought you could only go up. But because it didn’t care what I think, it was climbing backwards. Retreating, I hoped.

Nope. It was giving itself space to charge and build momentum. It rapidly regained the lost distance and pounced upwards.

Rather than attempt to stab it again, I reflexively gripped the spear in both hands and held it out to try and bar its assault. Yeah! Not for nothing did I train as a Dark Hunter. Or, uh, the person I’m a clone of did, but I like to think I retained most of his training. Or at least some of it.

It grabbed my spear with both claws and began snapping at me with its toothy maw. I leaned back as far as I could. Even bumped my noggin a bit. But I could only hold the spear so far away from me, and it was the only thing wait a minute.

I dropped the spear unceremoniously.

The creature fell backwards, screeching, and disappeared into the smoke and ash. I whistled as it fell, varying the pitch to indicate the change in height. I concluded the whistle with an explosion sound effect. So, that was a pretty sweet victory for me.

After a few minutes of standing on the ledge in a mixture of exhaustion and apathy, I started climbing again. Hopefully I wouldn’t run into any more of those things while I was unarmed.

And that’s when the scary noises started.

[this is a section break indicating a time skip. cool, huh?]

I hadn’t run into anything making scary noises for a while. The walls of the rift were getting farther apart, and it was getting easier to see my striking physique through the smog. My footholds had led me to gradually drift left, which was fine by me, as it meant that creature couldn’t find me by climbing straight up. What should I call that demonic creature, so demonized in my memory of its demonlike features? I had also noticed pipes of some kind emerging from the walls; in fact I had started following their ascent out of the rift.

But then a new noise started. A noise scarier than anything that had come before. The noise… of terrible singing.

Banana-Na! Na, nanana.
Ba banana, ba-banana-nana-Na!


As I continued to follow the pipes, I saw that they reached a metal platform, up and a little to my left. That was the source of the singing. As I continued my ascent, I began to make out the figure. She had added words to her song:

Where in the World!? And, when in time?
Is Kiel India, gonna show up in
Errata!?

She was wearing a red trench coat and a matching wide-brimmed hat. Her orange, grass-like tufts were barely staying down towards her shoulders. Her grey skin matched the creature’s, but she seemed intelligent. That or she had a serendipitously Matoran-sounding mating call.

How many days? How many weeks?
How many references only for geeks?
Make way all you Romans,
Make way all you Greeks,
Soon Kiel India’s gonna show up in
Errata!

Not that “Kiel India” was Matoran; it didn’t even really sound like “India.” It was like she was pronouncing “India” without the initial vowel, somehow. I tried making an “n” sound without a vowel before it. I… guessed… it was possible?

Now that I had a good look at her, I started veering yet farther left, to get below the platform and out of her line of sight, in order to surprise her from below. Then, with my unstoppable superpowers – running, screaming, befuddling, and being shunted into parallel universes against my will – I’d have the upper hand. I cackled under my breath.

At last I reached the underside of the platform. I gripped the edge closer to me, and… wrenched my shoulders. That really hurt! I did not have the upper body strength to lift my entire body weight, not without any footholds beneath me. I cried out in pain.

Soon I saw the terrible singer’s head poke over the railing. She had red irises, as well as four red triangle tattoos that made her look a bit like some kind of red-toothed creature was about to eat her head from behind.

“Hey, nice mask!” she grinned. She was referring to the mask that had been fused to the top of my head, its forehead touching my forehead, its upside-down eyes just visible above my own. I did not like it very much. “Did you come to Vloz-ress Fortress to show off your mask? I’m Kiel. Anyone with a mask that cool is welcome here.” She pronounced “Vloz-ress” to rhyme with “floss fez.”

“This mask? It’s my curse,” I replied, “Literally. I can’t take it off.”

“Or put it on, as it were,” Kiel said, stroking her chin thoughtfully, “I’m not confident I have the resources to help with that.”

“I also can’t pull myself up this ledge. Or,” I grunted, “Hold on much longer.”

“Yeah…” She did not take my hint. Perhaps she was still pondering whether she could get the mask off of me. But when she did snap out of whatever she was thinking about, she broke into a smile that would make any Skadki jealous. “Want to see my mask?” she asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Too bad!” she grinned. She picked a satchel up off the metal platform and withdrew what looked more like a Kanoka Disk than a Kanohi Mask.

She held it over her face. It was no mask I had ever seen before, although I guess I could compare it to a Rua. Except, it was perfectly round, and almost featureless. Not even a mouthpiece. Just two eyes peering through a smooth metal disk. However, it was pretty scratched up. Most notably, someone seemed to have used a blade to painstakingly carve a cartoonish, fanged smile. The smile took up almost a third of the mask, but strangest of all, the smile wasn’t oriented with respect to the eyes. It was off-kilter, rotated 45* counter-clockwise, to the point where the upper lip – a straight line – passed through the rightmost eyehole.

I think I like this girl.

I also think that I like my arms more.

“Yes, that’s very, um, original. Can I, uh, come up? To better appreciate it?”

She stowed the mask in her satchel and crossed her arms thoughtfully. “You know, it’s funny you say ‘original.’ Because nothing in this story is original, right? But Spectral actually misremembered what my mask looked like, so this design is technically his… Yeah… I don’t think I’m strong enough to lift you.”

“What!?” I exclaimed.

“Well, I am more of a martial character than a sorceress. Not actually sure what class, if we’re talking, like D&D or Pathfinder. I fight with a spiked chain. But that requires a lot of dexterity and knowledge of leverage physics, more than brute strength. Obviously, I work out – I can lift my own body weight, and sometimes that of one other, like my boyfriend – but I’m not sure I can lift all of that armor, with you inside.”

Did she say “sorceress?” It was a rarely used word in the Matoran language, but I knew what it meant.

“You, uh, have elemental powers? Or anything that would be helpful here?”

She shrugged. “Iron sorcery…” she trailed off, then broke into another of her bright smiles, “Which is another thing specific to this alternate universe. In the source material I did I team attack with Crystal using blood sorcery, which presumes that we’re both blood sorceresses. And while that still happened in this continuity, it was more that she needed to use my blood because we were each on different sides of the enemy.”

“Kiel,” I say through gritted teeth, “My arms are falling off.”

The chatty redhead rolled her eyes and withdrew some kind of rubbery hose from her satchel. From this she unsheathed a spiked chain. This she carried to the opposite end of the platform, to a metal ladder leading up. She tied one end of the chain to the ladder and walked the other end over to me.

“That’s not really helpful, you realize,” I complain.

Kiel shrugged. “With your armored hands, the spikes shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

“If I can’t pull myself up… up a ledge, how… can I pull… pull myself up a chain?” I was losing my breath.

“Oh!” Kiel furrowed her brows. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“There… there has to be… to be a way to… to use iron powers… on the platform,” I insisted.

“Or, we could end here on a cliffhanger,” said Kiel, thoughtfully.

“I… I… what?” I panted.

“You’re right, this isn’t a cliff, is it? So, we can’t end the chapter unless I get you up here,” Kiel began nodding slowly, apparently to herself. She shrugged. “Okay, I’m trash at this, but here goes!”

Kiel made a gesture with her arms, as though she were trying to push something invisible. With a creak, the railing facing me broke off at the corner and began inclining down, towards me. As it did so, it split in half vertically, and began to unfold. The metal bars of the railing were becoming a makeshift ladder, each rung half of a bar.

“Dodge it!” Kiel instructed, “Like human Tetris!” Painfully, I released my left hand’s grip on the platform and grabbed on to the upper ladder, which was currently positioned to descend onto my head. I pushed off with my left arm, pressing myself against the wall of the rift, and made it through the opening vacated by the right half of the upper ladder… which I guess was now the lower ladder.

At last, footholds! I eagerly raised my leg… and immediately bumped my kneecap. Wincing, I carefully avoided that rung, but my clawed foot on the bottom rung… and it immediately gave a little under my weight.

“Careful!” Kiel shouted. She stood over me, watching my progress, wringing her hands.

As I climbed, the makeshift ladder creaked, groaned, and even began swaying. “That’s okay!” Kiel assured me, “It’s bending instead of breaking. Means it’s not brittle.” But I made it up the ladder unharmed. Kiel even lent me her arm, but only at the last stage, when it couldn’t do much good, anyway.

“Alright!” Kiel celebrated as the ladder refolded into a railing. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mister…”

I grinned wickedly.

“Vezon.”

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:32 pm

In Search of a Storyline

Based on complaints about the perspective shift in the third update, I’ve settled on the first installment’s third-person, present tense omniscient narration, which only Kiel’ndia can hear.

Kiel is following Vezon – a tall, caped, long-toothed warrior in black and silver armor – up a metal staircase. They have been climbing up the various tiers of an apparatus used to collect steam from the rift. It converts geothermal energy into magical electricity by –

“That sentence is a quote from UNDERTALE,” Kiel interrupts, “Dr. Alphys. You’re trying to get out of delivering exposition by making a reference.”

And you interrupted me, just like when Alphys interrupted herself. You’re trying to get out of listening to exposition by making a reference!

“What sentence?” asks Vezon, “Doctor who?”

“Doctor Who” Count”:
 

“Careful!” Kiel shouts up at him, “If you say that title three times, he might appear.”

Upon reaching the top of the staircase, Vezon turns to look back at his guide. “I used to think I was crazy, before I met you.”

“I’m just talking to the voice I hear in my head, jeez,” Kiel defends herself.

“Oh!” Vezon concedes, “In that case, I can relate. That was back when I had the Mask of Life fused to the top of my head, though.”

Kiel points to another staircase around a corner. “Over there.”

Vezon heads in that direction. “This would be easier if I were following you.”

Kiel lifts her bright red coattails and indicates her black leggings. “There are ladders and staircases easy to see around and I don’t want anyone beneath me while I’m in these.”

Vezon, hailing from a universe without sexuality or romance (except when a cartoon or movie screenwriter decides otherwise) doesn’t understand her explanation. He confesses, “I’m not following you.”

“Yeah, you’re not following me. I’m glad we agree,” Kiel either doesn’t get or doesn’t laugh at her own joke. Instead, she changes the subject, “Don’t you still have the mask fused to your head?”

She hears a groan from her new companion. “I had the Ignika fused to my head, and because that mask is alive I heard voices. Then some Toa stole the mask. Then I got ping-ponged around the universe for a bit. What’s on my head now is Kanohi Olmak. It’s not alive; therefore, no voices.”

“‘Ignika’ and ‘Kanohi Olmak’ being…”

“Kanohi Ignika is the Mask of Life, Kanohi Olmak is the Mask of Dimensional Gates.”

Kiel smirks. “Kanohi Olmak. Not to be confused with Olmec, the guardian of the Legend of the Hidden Temple.”

“If you say so,” Vezon shrugs. He reaches a door with a safe handle and grips it, ready to start turning, but waiting for a signal from Kiel.

Kiel makes a turning motion with her hands, and Vezon gets to work. “So, people in the BIONICLE universe tend to get masks fused to their heads? Not their faces, but their scalps?”

Vezon grits his teeth. “I’m the only example I know of.”

“And yet this happened to you… twice,” Kiel says teasingly.

With a grunt, Vezon forces the wheel to the open position and shoves the door open. “Don’t remind me.”

They walk into a large boiler room. The central furnace is large enough that yet two more tiers of ladders and platforms surround it. The architect of this place enjoys vertical building.

Panting, Vezon glances around the sweltering room. “You think I come from a… bionic… universe? What was it?”

“Yeah, I don’t know the lore or anything, but I know you’re a BIONICLE.”

There’s no such thing as “a BIONICLE,” Kiel. “BIONICLE” is the name of the storyline, not the sets.

Kiel glances at the ceiling and responds, “I’d call you a ‘dork,’ but Teaser will have me covered in the review topic.”

Vezon folds his arms. “I only understood half of that, but I think I should be offended.”

“That last comment was directed at the voices. Or, the main voice, whom I have named ‘Spectral.’”

“Good name for an invisible voice,” Vezon nods, “How many are watching us right now?”

“Spectral will always be watching. Teaser is generous with his attention. Spectral’s Moirail – we don’t have a better name, so let’s go with ‘M’ – stays up-to-date but isn’t making an account. And Pwachie probably won’t make an account either, but she’ll get caught up eventually. So far, no sign of Wally, but they’ll come around. Plus, anyone from Pathfinder, or Spectral’s roommate, or others might show up eventually.”

“That’s not even enough to form a Toa team,” Vezon disapproves.

“Right, see,” Kiel begins tapping her chin, “I know what Toa are and who Makuta is, and I know elemental powers and magic masks are a thing. But I don’t know you. What’s your story?”

“Once, there was a strong, handsome, fearsome, and intelligent Skadki called Vezok,” he begins, leaving unstated that a “Skadki” was a race of warriors.

He elaborates, “One of his friends decided to test a mysterious weapon by using it on him. It split Vezok in two: one half was handsome and intelligent, the other was strong and fearsome. No one was happy with this.”

Kiel’s brightens with excitement. “I know you!”

Vezon raises a metallic eyebrow, but concludes, “And so of course, they couldn’t resist naming me ‘Vezon,’ to take advantage of the word play.’”

Kiel is confused for a moment, but then realizes, “Everything you say is being translated. Normally it’s Spectral doing that, but it could also be a side effect of the Mask of Dimensional Gates. You’ll have to explain the joke. What’s a synonym of ‘vezon’?”

“It means ‘double,’ ‘duplicate,’ ‘doppelganger,’” Vezon sighs.

“So, it would be like having a friend codenamed ‘Cloak’ and then calling their double ‘Clone’?”

Vezon groans, “No, it would be nothing like that. ‘Cloak’ and ‘clone’ sound nothing alike. They have, what, two letters in common? And one’s a vowel that isn’t even pronounced the same!”

Kiel is pleased with herself for causing the Skadki such exasperation. Confusing people is one of her chief pleasures in life. “I know this story! Just forgot the names. I think this ‘Vezok’ used to be the mascot of a BIONICLE forum.”

“Forum?” Vezon asks.

“It’s a place where people gather to discuss something. These people had the power to see into your world, and that’s what they discussed,” Kiel explains, “And I guessed they liked Vezok for whatever reason.”

“There is no good reason,” Vezon assures her.

“Spectral had been listening to the soundtrack of this musical he had just seen, Wicked.”

“Musical?” Vezon is tapping his toe. This sounds like the ravings of a madwoman, which is how he knows it’s true. And that worries him.

“It’s like storytelling with songs. And every participant plays a different character, and they come and go from the stage depending on whether their character is present. They even act out what their characters are doing, so they don’t need a narrator!” Kiel elaborates.

Vezon shakes his head in disbelief. “That sounds pathetic, and like a waste of time.”

“Oh, Spectral loves them. And that’s where you came in!” she points an accusing finger at the Skadki.

Vezon looks doubtfully behind him to see if she could be pointing to someone else. “Me?”

“Spectral couldn’t write songs himself, so he took the melodies and wrote his own lyrics to create his own musical. It was a musical about the mythical origins of the forum, so it involved its mascot, Vezok, and, by extension, you!”

I was a character in your invisible voice’s musical?” Vezon asks in disbelief.

“Well, he was in sixth grade, and this is actually quite common in immature writers,” Kiel considers, “Many fanfic authors with inclinations towards musical storytelling write song fics. There are a lot of variations on song fics, but Spectral’s prose musicals definitely qualify, even if they aren’t the most common. He abandoned the practice a long time ago, although he still includes poems in his original fiction, like Lewis Carroll. Or I guess, more like Roald Dahl… or Tolkien, now that I think about it! And Christopher Paolini…”

She trails off, staring into the middle distance. Vezon shifts uncomfortably, barely following Kiel’ndia’s explanations. This is how he is supposed to make other people feel! And he begins to grow nervous as he watches Kiel’s expression begin to change: her contemplative face gives way to a mischievous, devious grin.

“I’ve got it,” she says.

Vezon crosses his arms and turns himself partially away, as if closing himself off with body language would protect him from what was to come.

“We’re the first two characters in Spectral’s latest story, and we’re a good start. But you know what we don’t have?” Kiel explains, sinister mirth audible in her voice.

“Insightfulness, talent, or relevant skills,” Vezon suggests.

“A storyline!” Kiel declares, “We need a goal to work towards! And I know just what it shall be.” She laughed with feigned malevolence.

Vezon grows more and more apprehensive. He isn’t going to like this, Kiel knows it, and she’s rubbing it in.

Kiel begins pacing, her face shifting from scheming to determined. The words come out of her mouth as soon as she thinks of them. “I just said that Spectral stopped writing song fics, but that’s not really true. He just stopped publishing them. For hours a day you can catch him pacing with earbuds in, listening to showmusic, other songs that tell stories, movie trailers, and sometimes even entire episodes of Bravest Warriors or Doctor Who.”

“Doctor Who” Count:
 

“That is the deal he and I struck,” Kiel continues, “I serve as his muse, and more importantly, the voice in his head that gets him off the couch during his battles with depression. His life coach. In many cases, he merely edits my ideas. In return, he constantly writes and revises an alternate universe just for me. It’s not like I have it easy here – I’m dirt poor, my family is a pain in the rear, I think my boyfriend is hiding feelings for someone else, and I constantly have to save an ungrateful underground city from invading mushroom men or whatever. But it’s the life of adventure I dreamed of as a kid; it was the dream that my webcomic-of-origin seemed to make a big show of crushing.”

Kiel sighs. “Not that the webcomic was so bad. I will always be the charismatic rogue, the fourth wall breaker, the quirky common relief. But it’s my understanding that I do a lot of shouting and brooding in my source material these days…”

“And, this, uh, universe Spectral ‘created’ for you,” Vezon gestures to the world around him, “Is a musical?”

The knowing grin returns to Kiel’s face. “Not. Exactly.”

Vezon refolds his arms. “This should be good,” he mutters.

“The premise of the drow musical is that one of our misadventures angers a demon with a taste for musical theater,” Kiel begins.

“Oh, well, that was bound to happen eventually, if you just kept romping around,” Vezon jokes. He is realizing that he’ll have to up his game to reclaim his title: craziest person in the room.

“Keep the scope in mind: if this were a TV show, we’re talking about just one musical episode. Maybe a direct-to-DVD movie,” she continues.

“So, it’s not an obnoxious amount of musical,” Vezon concedes.

“The demon holds either Ariel – the most likely to open Pandora’s Box, so to speak – or Kyone – who is, even in the source material, a drow j-pop star – hostage. He coerces us to go back in time, to the festival where we all met, and perform a musical adaptation of our own lives.”

Vezon grimaces. “So, you’d have all of your adventures played out in front of you, before you had a chance to have them yourself?”

Kiel nodded sagely. “It is a cruel game this demon plays.”

“Talk about living vicariously…” Vezon trailed off.

Kiel claps her hands and hops a single hop. “Okay, then! There’s our storyline.”

“Right,” Vezon nods, “What?”

“We’ll make Errata into a song fic by performing a musical!” Kiel declares.

“Ha! Excellent,” Vezon chuckles, “…but what is it, like, really?”

Kiel beams at Vezon, silent.

“No, no, but really,” Vezon presses her, “What are we actually going to go and do? Like, no joking?”

She attempts to maintain her stare, but she has to stifle laughter.

Vezon facepalms. “I heard your ‘Where in the World?’ song, Kiel. You know you can’t sing, right?”

“Not gonna let that stop us!” Kiel declared.

_________________



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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:21 pm

An Action Figure in the Dollhouse

The Skadki and the dark elf stand facing each other in the immense boiler room, surrounded by two tiers of suspended walkways, as well as an eclectic arrangement of ladders and staircases. The entire room – indeed, everything Vezon has seen so far – seems to have been assembled from scrap.

Grinning, Kiel glances upwards. She no longer knows where to look when addressing me. “Can I get some extra-diegetic music?” she requested.

Well, I’m not married to this “song fic” idea. Might just play it off as a joke.

“What?” Kiel exclaims, shocked.

Vezon chuckles, “So, an invisible voice that agrees with me? That’s a welcome change from my volcano days.”

“Look, Spectral,” Kiel puts her foot down, “You need to make a decision here. I’ve seen you integrate ‘songs’ seamlessly into your prose. Like in the ABSYRTIAD! Using poetry in the narration as background music? Really great!”

Also a lot of work. And a little embarrassing, to be honest.

Kiel shakes her head, frustration audible in her laugh. “You crossed the line into ‘embarrassing’ a long time ago, mister.”

“But I haven’t,” Vezon chimes in, “And I’d like to keep it that way.”

Taking a deep breath, Kiel sets her brain to work. She has methods of getting her way. Her eyes dart from side to side behind eyelids closed for concentration. She holds her arms at her sides, wiggling her fingers.

After a moment, she has it. “‘Play it off as a joke,’ you said?”

This ceased being funny a hundred words ago. But, yeah.

“How about an on-going joke?” Kiel negotiates.

I see what you’re going after. You’ll keep referencing how you want this to be a musical until the only acceptable punchline is to include an actual musical number.

She rubs her hands together sinisterly. “It is inevitable!” she proclaims.

If it lets us move to the next plot point, I’ll accept it. We’ve wasted enough time already.

Kiel raises an eyebrow. “Since when does this story have plot points?”

See this? What we’re doing right now? This is time-wasting.

Vezon interjects, “My plot is to get this mask off of me. It’s been teleporting me to alternate universes at random. I think my stays are getting longer, but the universes are getting less and less like my home world. Seriously, I could be gone at any minute.”

Waving her hand dismissively, Kiel assures him, “You’ll stay here as long as Spectral wants you here. Unless,” her eyes bug with worry, “He teleports you away right now, as part of an anti-joke punchline!”

The two let a silence linger between them. The metal around them, variably cooling and warming, creaks as it contracted or expanded. The hiss of steam through the surrounding pipes is so constant that it can go unnoticed: white noise.

Kiel shrugs, “Guess not.”

“So, you said you might have a way to get it off?” Vezon reminds her.

“Did I say that?” Kiel is skeptical.

You said:

Quote :
I’m not confident I have the resources to help with that.

“Yeah, ‘I’m not confident I have the resources to help with that,’” Kiel repeats.

“You’re not ‘confident’ you do,” Vezon probes, “But you might?”

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she warns him, “But I do have an idea,”

She points up a staircase, and Vezon resumes following her instructions of ascent.

[I’m not sure what symbol(s) to use for section breaks. Should I keep adding these interjections?]

As Vezon and Kiel exit the laboratory, Vezon comments, “Well, I hope I’m not mistaken for a ‘golem’ everywhere I go from now on… but I do like the kid with the undead chicken.”

“Yeah, it’s just like him to try and stab me like that, just to show you what blood looks like,” Kiel shakes her head, “He’s a nice guy, but he has some kind of mental block that keeps him from understanding that pain and death are bad. People mistake it for sadism, get the wrong idea.”

“Well, the way his mentor handled him, he seems like he can be a headache for other reasons,” Vezon comments, “I wouldn’t want him as my apprentice.”

As they walk through the gothic stone halls, Kiel shrugs. “Thanks for helping provide all of this exposition, though. Spectral skipped over that whole scene to move the plot along.”

As Vezon nods, the two begin to pass unusual creatures resembling drow in stuffy, pastel-colored formal clothing. Upon closer examination, their eyes are completely white, and their mouths are sewn shut. Life-sized, ambulant dolls.

“My big sister, Kharla,” Kiel begins, pronouncing “Kharla” just like “Carla,” “Knows toys better than anyone I know. It’s like she’s a… toy… sorceress. If any one of my contacts has any power over you and that mask, it’s her.”

“What do my mask and I have to do with toys?” Vezon asked.

Kiel’ndia smirks, “The BIONICLE wonders what he has to do with toys.”

“Good point,” Vezon concedes, but adds, “What?” because he actually has no idea what she’s implying.

Kiel merely smiles smugly to herself in response.

Vezon quickens his pace. “What kind of powers over toys does this girl have?”

Kiel gestures to the next of the dolls that cross their path. “See those?” she asks.

“Yes?”

“She makes them,” Kiel explains.

Vezon isn’t sure he understands. “Out of what?”

“Out of people.”

The two enter a large, round bedroom that looks like a chamber in a gothic cathedral was decorated by a Victorian governess for the little girl under her charge. Letter blocks, toy animals, and a drow fortress equivalent of a dollhouse are scattered around the central yarn rug. Sitting here, babysat by two young twin dolls, is a grown woman with red hair matching Kiel's wearing a rather revealing red dress. She holds the doll of an adult drow woman wearing a crown, who is admonishing a child-sized doll of a boy. Her intense gaze, passing through a slit in her shield-shaped mask with its four spikes

“Spikes that point forward from her face like guns on an X-Wing,” Kiel pitches in.

Yes, thank you. This gaze is fixed upon her game, unphased by the entrance of her sister and her new companion. “‘I have half a mind to withdraw you from school, young man!’” she voices the mother, “‘The masters are filling your brain with ideas of male equality. How can you ever make a fitting husband if you so disrespect the fairer sex?’”

“‘But Mother!’” the boy replies, “‘I am following my heart I am in love with her, and she is of an allied clan! Why can we not be together?’”

“‘So impertinent, to believe you should have a choice of partner!’” the mother scolds, “‘So ready to give yourself to this girl, yet you had the gall to reject your cousin’s demand for your flesh. She raised you from infancy, it is only proper that she be the first – ”

“Hey, sis?” Kiel interrupts. She strategically steps between Kharla and Vezon.

Slowly, Kharla lifts her gaze to meet her sister’s. “We do not wish to be disturbed.”

“Oh, but I have something interesting to show you,” Kiel tantalizes, stepping aside to clear her sister’s line of sight to the Skadki.

Kharla stares blankly at him for a moment, then rises. Slowly, she walks over to the newcomer, peering at him. Vezon shifts uncomfortably.

“You are no golem,” Kharla observes, “We sense your biological components.”

“Finally!” says Vezon, still sore after the misunderstanding we skipped over.

“He tried to put on a mask, but kind of sucks at it,” Kiel explains, pointing to the mask on top of Vezon’s scalp, “And now it’s stuck there. Can you get it off?”

“Hey, I’m not the one who – ” Vezon begins, but he is cut off as Kharla thrusts her middle finger onto the side of his head. A chill passes through him, armored head to masked toe.

“The mask is joined to the skull and faceplate by this black technic axel,” she diagnoses, “Four bushels long. We shall have to push it all the way through the head before the mask can be removed.”

“Push what through my head!?” Vezon exclaims. He tries to move, but he succeeds only in twitching his fingers. “Why can’t I move!?” he freaks out.

Kiel smirks. “You’re her toy now,” she explains, enjoying his discomfort, “It’s like – ”

Whoa, spoiler!

LEGO Movie Spoiler:
 

Kharla pokes aggressively at a black, plus-sign-shaped node on the side of Vezon’s silver head. “Only half a bushel is exposed on either side. Kiel,” she beckons, “We require… percussive… assistance.”

Strutting over, Kiel inspects the exposed length of axel. “I’ve seen Spectral working with parts like these during some of our talks in his world,” she contemplates, “Not that he’s great conversation when he’s playing with his LEGO. Even Pwachie can’t distract him from his plastic toys.”

“We require something long and firm,” Kharla requests.

“I mean, my boyfriend’s upstairs,” Kiel snickers.

I once thought I had purged my mind of dirty thoughts. I think I just mentally assigned them to Kiel.

“Don’t blame me. You wrote it, you thought it,” Kiel scolds.

“Your dagger may suffice,” Kharla suggests.

Vezon is growing increasingly concerned. “You’re going to stab me through the brain.

Shrugging, Kiel pointed out, “You’re free of the mask, you die… either way, your suffering is over.”

“This hasn’t been that bad!” Vezon protests.

Kiel withdraws her spiked chain once more. She gently takes one end in her hand and begins using iron sorcery to reshape it. “I’ve seen how Spectral deals with a stubborn axel.”

The chain becomes a relatively short, but serviceable, metal axel, tipped with a hooded cobra’s head. “The head is a grip, to pull it out once it’s displaced what’s already in there. LEGO made some of these as staffs for their characters; Spectral uses them like this all the time.”

Joining her sister, Kiel gets to work pushing the exposed length of axel into Vezon’s head. They try fingers and the palms of their hands before Kiel lifts the staff with both hands, not unlike how Vezon had held his spear the day before yes- I mean, earlier that day. She holds the staff so that it is perpendicular to the black axel and shoves; Kharla grips her from behind.

Vezon lets out a mixture of a shriek and a gasp, but the axel has moved slightly more than half a bushel’s length. Now, a slight, plus-sign-shaped indentation awaited one end of a matching staff.

Like a soldier stuffing a cannon, Kiel taps, hits, and shoves the staff into and through the paralyzed Skadki’s head, a black axel protruding from the other side. It grows longer and longer until, finally, it falls with a clunk onto the floor.

Kharla pulling her by the shoulders, Kiel pulls the staff back out through the head, then lets it return to its spiked chain form. The mask, as well as Vezon’s faceplate, stays on his head, but sag, having been unsecured. Vezon groans, lightheaded.

With great flourish, Kiel’ndia Vel’Vloz’ress removes the Kanohi Olmak, the Mask of Dimensional Gates from Vezon. And I am thrilled, yet cringing, that I have written that sentence.

Setting the Olmak on the floor and retrieving the axel, Kiel adjusts Vezon’s faceplate and reinserts the axel. With a little bit of hammering with her palm, she drives it back in place. Vezon gasps in relief.

Grinning ear to ear, Kiel grabs the Olmak and struts in an unnecessarily wide quarter-circle – she makes it wider literally just so that she could do more strutting – and holds it out to the recovering Skadki.

Vezon stares at her in disbelief through sunken eye sockets. His eyes are wide, but his expression is sullen. The pause grows awkwardly long; Kharla grows bored and returns to playing with her dolls over on the carpet.

Kiel glancing around her, shakes the mask in her hand, waiting for him to take it.

She has to wait a bit longer, but at length, Vezon abruptly snatches it from her.

With a venomous edge in his voice, he orders her, “You will never do that again.”

_________________



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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Tue Mar 20, 2018 12:23 am

Power Struggles

Vezon turns the silver mask over in his hands. His people rarely wear masks but can if they choose to; it seems as though Kiel will be asking him to don this Mask of Dimensional Gates to act as her interdimensional doorman. There is nothing stopping him from using it to get away from her even now… but first, he wants to see where this is going.

Once again, he is following the young drow noblewoman through her fortress. As he contemplates the strange, squishy company he has found himself in, he decides to put on the mask as an experiment.

The experience of sensing other dimensions is difficult to convey to three-dimensional creatures using only the resources of prose. He finds himself learning the “scent” of this alternate drow universe, which will enable him to return to it using the mask, should he so choose. Going home is more complicated, because the Matoran Universe is a highly unusual one, and has gone through some dramatic changes while he has been gone. These changes include

BIONICLE Spoiler:
 

Accordingly, the metaphysics of returning there are a headache. Vezon’s brain is starting to hurt just thinking about it…

Or, no. That isn’t the distant cosmology of a twice-dead toy franchise, there is a disturbance here, in Kiel’s home! Vezon senses that they are approaching something, ahead and above. A portal?

Here, the hallway exits into the base of one of the fortress’s towers. As Vezon contemplates the dimensional singularity, he enters the large stone room, and the eldritch presence passes directly over him. He feels like a compass being attacked from behind by a magnet.

“Did we just pass into an alternate universe?” he asks, knowing that the answer is “no.” He cranes his neck to look at the ceiling; before long, he nearly jumps again. “It’s moving! It just passed over me.”

Kiel stares thoughtfully towards the upper floor. “He must be pacing,” she guesses, and runs to the spiral staircase.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Kiel passes tall windows that look out towards the rift, smoke and ask drifting lazily upwards to the sound of hissing. The village – really just one impoverished neighborhood in the larger drow city – that her clan governs bustles in the distance. Soon, Vezon and the rest of the lower story disappear behind the wall surrounding the second story chamber.

Kiel reaches the landing and knocks on the wooden door. “My princeling?” she calls sweetly.

Her smile grows ever so weaker when there is no response. She tries the handle and pulls the door towards her to reveal the room.

Time passes, and Kiel grows increasingly aware that something has changed. Vezon has not followed her up the stairs, nor made any sound. In fact, the hissing of the rift and the far-off sound of village activity have both stopped. Glancing out a window, the rising smoke is frozen in place, like a still picture.

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” Kiel asks, “I know what this room looks like. It’s Nau’Kheol’s library, with all his chalkboards and stuff. Why aren’t you describing it?” She pronounces “Nau’Kheol” to rhyme with “cow creole.”

I wanted to pause for a minute and talk to you. This is perfect timing, actually, because you’re alone.

“Well, I’m listening. But this is a tad surprising coming from Mr. Less-Time-Wasting-More-Plot,” Kiel chides.

Well, I… Kiel, the thing is… it’s mommy issues again.

I’m all prepared to write some kind of groaning complaint or snarky remark, but Kiel surprises me.

“I’m listening, but you might want to do this outside Errata, in a private document,” she says.

I’m gunning for my two-thousand-word quota, though. And this has to do with the Errata.

Kiel nods thoughtfully. “Alright, shoot.”

It’s spring break, so I’m home with Mom a lot. But we’re getting snippy with each other because I’ve spent so much time at home for weeks now; we both know that I shouldn’t be sleeping at school when I’m depressed.

“Maybe you’re both wrong.”

I’ve been thinking about that. About how much I’ve been relying on her. I told her a few of the things I wanted to do today, and now that it’s late afternoon she’s started nagging me. Like, if it were schoolwork or chores it would be one thing… but being nagged to write the Errata!?

One corner of Kiel’s lip curls. “And knowing you, you immediately wanted to scrap all the plans you’d shared with her, just out of spite. But you couldn’t; not all of them, not this one.”

That’s the short version. I feel like I can’t tell her what I would like to do, because as soon as I do, it becomes something I have to do, or get scolded by my mother. Kiel, we’re the same age, and you’re running your entire clan. Meanwhile the only aspect of my life that’s changed significantly is that my commute to school is longer.

Kiel stretches out her arms and wiggled her fingers. “Well, in this world you have power!”

That’s pathetic and you know it.

“What?” she giggles, “What do you think most guys your age would be doing to vent their frustration? Call of Duty? You’re being creative, Spectral.”

With characters and settings I didn’t think of. And there's nothing wrong with playing CoD, Irae does. Or used to.

“Hey, you wanted to be like 1/0, didn’t you? That webcomic started a lot like this story did, with Tailsteak stealing a character from another webcomic. But over time, that webcomic became completely original!”

Kiel, Tailsteak took a rib from that stolen character and created Ribby the Rib. Then the stolen character was killed in a battle with another webcomic. References to other webcomics tapered off rapidly after that. All of the other characters from then on were original.

“Not Teddy Weddy!” Kiel protests.

... look, I do a lot of introspection.

She rolls her eyes. “You don’t say?”

I’ve decided two things: I will never lie to my counselor; and, when he is not available, I will trust that talking to you is the second-best thing.

“Again, that doesn’t necessarily need to be in a place where your friends can read it, but sure.”

But what happens when we reach two thousand words here, Kiel? Should I keep going? My friends are having a hard time keeping up as it is. No review from Wally yet, and Teaser hasn’t reacted to the last two chapters, at least not last I checked. Pwachie, at least, seems to be reading and enjoying… but the more content there is, the more intimidating it will be to keep up. But on the other hand, Pwachie is coming to spend a few days, and it wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of buffer so that I have content to post those days.

And there’s so much else! Applying for the awards and searching for a summer job, for starters. But then there’s catching up in Break, making that athalsi swashbuckler, preparing for Pathfinder – which is right after Pwachie leaves! I had wanted to read Gödel, Escher, Bach, I’ve thought about reading the webcomic you actually come from –

“I really don’t think that’s necessary!” Kiel cuts me off.

I’m sorry, are you… afraid of something happening if I do that?

Kiel takes a deep breath, then leans back against the wall that frames a window. She raises her hands about two feet in front of her; it begins to look as though she’s struggling with something.

At length, she laughs nervously. “When was the last time you read that old thing, huh?” she demands, “But you’ve been writing this my story – we’ve been writing our story – perfectly well all that time!”

In a way. Although I was focusing on Ariel for the longest time. We only became partners a year or two ago, when you wondered why I hadn’t thought about you and your friends in so long…

“Ariel, me, the protagonist doesn’t matter!” she exhorts me, “That comic is behind you. You’ve got what you need from it. Hell, you refuse to mention it by name!”

I’m nervous that one of the others will read it and tell me I’m wrong about this or that, or, worst of all, that you’re out of character… actually, that’s my main incentive to refamiliarize myself.

Kiel is breathing heavily. “I like my world pretty well the way it is,” she begins, impatient and frustrated with me, “And I don’t want you to go around changing things just because some other people do it differently. I mean!” she raises her voice as a new point occurs to her, “What makes their version of this world better than yours?”

Well… they created you.

She clenches her fists; she squeezes her eyes shut; her lips curl into her mouth as she sharply inhales; her entire body posture becomes scrunched, closed off. She is not certain what she wants to say, and that uncertainty becomes a stumbling block for her writer, as well.

I lie on my couch, the loveseat that has cradled me when I’ve been incapacitated by depression. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to win awards or get jobs. Break, Pathfinder, a new book… they all should sound fun. So why don’t they?

Pwachie, though. If she were on this couch with me…

But she’s a thousand miles away. She can’t make me feel better. I can’t be with the one I love.

Kiel can. She has begun to stammer: “Look, Spectral,” before cutting herself off. She laughs mirthlessly. She has perceived an existential threat and she is shaking. I can do for her what I can’t do for myself.

Through the door, a concerned voice asks, “Turtles?”

She opens one eye. He has come to the doorway.

Kiel’ndia appears to be a full-grown woman, if on the lanky side. Her boyfriend, however, looks to be only fifteen. They’ve been together since they were twelve and nine. It’s creepy to most humans, but, honestly, it’s one of the least creepy things drow do in their relationships. Their consent laws amount to “does a female noble want it?”

And frankly he’s more mature than her anyway.

Prince Nau’Kheol Vel’Sharen is shorter than his girlfriend; not only is she older, but dark elf females tend to be taller than their male counterparts. In fact, Nau’Kheol is small enough that his status of “cute” has yet to change to “handsome,” which irritates him at times. Of course, it isn’t helped by the fact that he keeps his white hair cut at chin-length; in his culture, this means he’s refusing to grow up, as adult males tend to grow their hair out. His hair matches his tunic, the single stripe down each leg of his black leggings, and the fur collar of his long, pale blue coat; even in the sweltering heat of a fortress built on a volcanic rift, he is always chilly. He is dressed very similarly to the sorts of outfits he wears in the comics, but is also inadvertently cosplaying, and only Kiel and I know as whom.

As Kiel stares blankly at him, he cautiously takes a step down the stairs. “You’re talking to your ‘friend,’ again, huh?” he asks. He had accepted long ago that his girlfriend could talk to some sort of powerful outsider.

She wipes a wet eye. “Spectral… I think we should call him ‘Spectral,’ from now on, it’ll make things simpler.”

Nau’Kheol walks down to be level with her, then leans against the opposite wall. “Oh, yeah?”

Kiel nods. “Spectral is, uh, sharing us. With others. So far, three, called Teaser, M, and Pwachie.”

The young prince’s eyes widen. “Should I be worried?”

She laughs and shakes her head. “No, but I thought you should know the names. I can hear them all. They’re just way, way quieter than Spectral.”

Nau’Kheol tries to understand. “And so, you must… focus very hard? To hear them?”

A tear streaks down my face. Literally, that has just happened in the real world. Our world.

The same happens to Kiel.

“‘Quiet’ meaning, they don’t talk as often, or as much,” she clarifies.

He nods. “And has this upset you?” he asks softly.

“No, no, it’s just…” she trails off.

Kiel stumbles forward, taking her prince in her arms.

“I just don’t want things to change,” she confesses.

Nau’Kheol rests his head on her shoulder and hugs her back, but he is laughing a little. “I don’t think you need to be afraid of change, Turtles. If I know you, I know what you’ll do if things start changing too fast.”

“Yeah?” Kiel asks.

“Yeah,” Nau’Kheol smiles, “You’ll change faster.”

“Yeah!” she agrees, letting go of her princeling and leaning back, far enough to see him clearly. “I know who I am, and no ‘canon continuity’ is going to change that! I’m Kiel’ndia Vel’Vloz’ress, and I – ”

Nau’Kheol interrupts her by clearing his throat. “Val’Vloz’ress. Tainting is no longer mandatory.”

What?” her jaw drops in shock.

Calm down, Kiel. It’s literally just one vowel.

“It was your idea, if I remember correctly,” the prince ventures.

Kiel clenches her teeth. “It was Spectral’s!”

It was yours. I mean, it was a version of yours.

Anger rapidly increasing, Kiel demands, “Why!?” She seems to be talking over her shoulder.

“We agreed it was the best step towards the democratization of the clan,” Nau’Kheol reminds her.

You see, Kiel, I was on Google images searching for references for Nau’Kheol and I found a page with you two, along with Crys’tel. And you say that you and Kharla changed the clan title to –

Post-time-skip!?” she nearly shrieks. I had stopped reading after the comic’s time-skip, and my headcanon continuity diverges there.

Yeah, post-time-skip, but you were acting pretty in-character. I mean, you and your comic counterpart seemed to be the same character. Main difference was that you were shamelessly hitting on Nau’Kheol. Actually, “begging for attention” might be more appropriate.

Kiel is speechless.

So, uh, glad you don’t live in that universe, eh?

“Hello?” Vezon calls up the stairs. His face, unmasked by the Olmak, pokes around the bend of the spiral. “Can I come up?”

Nau’Kheol gently pushes Kiel out of the embrace and turns to look at the interloper. “Turtles?” he asks, exasperated, “What have you brought home now?”

Vezon’s eyebrows rise as he smiles a slightly uncomfortable smile. “Turtles?” he asks.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Kiel explains, massaging her temples with her thumb and forefinger, “I’m ‘Turtles.’”

She looks straight up at the ceiling, as though addressing the heavens, so that she may address me. “Hey, Spectral?” she calls up, “If we don’t do the musical thing, I have another suggestion for a storyline.”

Oh, yeah? What’s that?

“‘Rebellious characters rise up and overthrow the author,’” she threatens, grinning.

I’d like to see you try.

Nau’Kheol and Vezon shoot each other concerned glances.

“Uh, Kiel?” Vezon asks, worried.

Raising a finger, Nau'Kheol cautions, “I’m not sure challenging him is such a good – ”

_________________



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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Tue Mar 20, 2018 10:02 pm

No Solution

Fun fact: I have instated a rule that I may not lie on this couch without Pwachie or Kiel to keep me company.

Kiel leans against the staircase wall, eyes on the ceiling. “What, you want to curl up on the couch right now?”

I’m feeling rather depressed again, yes. My mother and I are slowly killing each other. I don’t think she realizes it, however. I need to complete all of the tasks she has assigned me… really, tasks that I told her I wanted to get done. But I am loath to do so at her beck and call. Is this immaturity? Or is it growing up? I’m twenty years old.

“Nau’Kheol? Spectral was born on February 8th, 1997. If it’s March 20th, 2018, exactly how old is he?” Kiel muses.

The prince doesn’t hesitate. “Twenty-one years, one month, twelve days,” he recites.

I’m twenty-one!?

Kiel nods, “You’re twenty-one. Old enough to get white-girl-wasted, not that you’re allowed to drink while taking these medications.”

I forgot my own age. Huh. And now, here I lie, with no clue where this story goes next, really preferring the idea of pressing my face against this cushion and tuning it all out. But mother will find me and I will be coaxed into action, anyway.

With a sad smile on her lips, Kiel sighs, and gestures to the other two. “C’mon, boys,” she invites, “I believe some introductions are in order.”

The three walk into a circular library; in the center is an elevated area mostly surrounded by bookshelves. Various blackboards are stationed around the room.

“Nau’Kheol, this is Vezon, an insane Skadki Warrior. Vezon, this is Prince Nau’Kheol Vel’Sharen, who has run away from home to live with me.”

“So, when you say ‘boyfriend,’ and ‘girlfriend’…” Vezon attempts to understand.

“Is there no kind of mating in your universe, Vezon?” Kiel asks, “I know the blue BIONICLEs are all Smurfettes. No romance, dating, flirting, marriage…”

“Marriage we have,” Vezon conceded, “It’s when a male and female forge a close alliance.”

Smiling, Kiel grabbed Nau’Kheol’s shoulder. “That’s the plan here!”

“We’re waiting on my mother to pay the dowry. Which is never going to happen,” Nau’Kheol complains, “Because it’s mother’s way of reminding Kiel’ndia that she has more power than her.”

“Why do BIONICLEs have marriage with no romance, though?” Kiel wonders aloud, “And is there gay marriage?”

A screenwriter didn’t do their research, wrote it into a movie, and then the comic, novel, and web serial writer had to explain it.

“I don’t know what ‘gay,’ means,” Vezon confesses.

Nau’Kheol shrugs. “It’s not in the drow lexicon either. Apparently, it’s a human thing that Turtles’ ‘friend’ taught her.”

I will regret writing that when I get around to reading the webcomic again.

Kiel saunters over to the nearest blackboard. “Whatcha working on?”

I sometimes say that Nau’Kheol had no personality before I started writing him, but that’s not true. What’s more accurate it that there was no indication of what he would do in his spare time, what his interests were outside of “loyalty to his clan,” i.e. following his sister around. So, I took a few liberties…

“It’s another puzzle based on a formal system. It’s a really flexible system that uses variables to give its axioms a wide range of functionality, but it’s also so simple that those functions don’t have many applications,” Nau’Kheol exposits, “This area of the board is the prompt.”

prompt wrote:
A. given //*, you may return *//
B. given *_//*, you must return **//
C. given OO*//*//*, you must return OO//*//*
D. given *//OOOOO*//*, you must return *//OOOOO//*
E. given *//, you may return //*
F. given **//_*, you must return *//**
G. given *//*//*, you may return _//*//*
H. given *//*//*, you may return *//_//*

GIVEN: __//_____//
GET: __//_____//OOO

Vezon’s orange eyes grew wide. “I don’t understand any of that,” he says, but observed that “It’s a little weird that drow use the Matoran alphabet.”

“Spectral is translating. Or he’s using the Mask of Dimensional Gates to do so,” Kiel corrects, “So what do you have over here?”

She is pointing to the other half of the blackboard.

workspace wrote:
1) OO//_____//
2) OO//_____//OOO
3) __//_____//OOO G

“The idea,” Nau’Kheol explains, “Was to solve it backwards, starting with the solution. But honestly, I don’t even think I have the instructions for the puzzle right…” he steps over to a nearby table, where a book lies open.

When Kiel joins him, she grows alarmed. “Uh, Spectral? Why haven’t you finished making sure the puzzle is working correctly?”

Really fighting off the urge to stop writing, just close my eyes.

Kiel glances nervously at the two others, who were likewise watching her, concerned. “Why don’t you boys get to know each other?” she proposes, “I’m gonna talk to Spectral in the hall.”

As she heads towards the door, Nau’Kheol calls after her, “Turtles? This is the strangest we’ve ever seen your ‘friend’… ‘Spectral’. He’s never made you this upset before today.”

“Yes, yep, and I’m taking care of it,” Kiel assures him, and closes the door behind her.

There’s a playground just down the street. I wonder if they have a tube slide. I wonder if it could accommodate my long legs… if I could hide in there.

“Planning on running away?” Kiel expresses her doubt, “It’s been a loooooooong time. Almost four years.”

See, most twenty-year-olds can safely say it’s been more than four years since they tried to run away from home. Look, you have an interdimensional adventure to go on, why don’t we –

“Can I trust you to not do anything extreme when you’re done writing this?” Kiel demands to know.

Maybe not run away. Maybe just… stop… talking. I’ll write this if they let me have a computer, but no other communication. And even this narration will be neutral, as voiceless as it can be. If they insist on talking to someone in this head, it can be you. You’re better.

“Better at what?”

Living. Everything. Let me be your conscious, Kiel. You write the adventure. Just let me edit it for you. That’s all I’m good for. When I try to create, I am a perfectionist. A domineering DM and a procrastinating student. Without a scramble just before a deadline, my work would never be finished. If I start the assignment three days early I’ll spend three days on it.

“And so, you leave things to the last minute,” Kiel concedes, “But you’ve still been nominated for all of those awards!”

Kiel, the world doesn’t really need someone to explain why E. M. Forster was a Classicist. Even if that explanation is award-winning.

“There could be money in this – ” Kiel begins.

I don’t know how the literary world perpetuates itself, Kiel’ndia, I really don’t. I am still flabbergasted that so much of our high school lives is spent studying books when that entire medium is dying.

“You’re a film minor, dammit,” Kiel protests, “You need those essay skills for film criticism. And this award, on a resume, would show – ”

Not interested in starting into tumblr wars about the gender identity politics of The Last Jedi, thanks.

“Liar,” Kiel grins in spite of herself.

Everyone knows intuitively how a good story works. They don’t need someone to explain why they like something. They certainly don’t need someone to explain why they shouldn’t like something.

“Hey, a lot of those YouTube critics are entertainers at the same time!” Kiel reminds me.

You’re the better entertainer, Kiel’ndia. I think you should take over. Take over everything.

Kiel tries humor. “I’m not frenching Pwachie for you.”

Pwachie… she’s coming so soon. I don’t want her to.

“Why the hell not?” Kiel asks, surprised.

I really don’t need anyone trying to cheer me up right now. I don’t want to be happy.

“You know very well who you sound like. This is what your counselor warned you about that game. If you’re identifying with a character who commits suicide, that’s cause for some alarm.”

I wouldn’t abandon you, Kiel. Someone has to write this story.

“That can’t be all you have going for you,” Kiel crosses her arms.

Everything else that I have I don’t want.

“A relationship?” Kiel –

No, no, no!

Kiel pauses to figure out what just happened. It seems as if Spectral just interrupted the narration?

Mother. Asked me if I was grumpy. She blames my moodiness on my goal to write two thousand words a day. As if she matters more to me than this world.

“This story varies wildly from comedy to temper tantrum, doesn’t it?” Kiel observes, dryly, but even with her tongue in her idiomatic cheek, she’s getting nervous.

I can do all of this in my head, Kiel. I’ve been doing it for years. Kek, before it was you and your friends it was a thousand other characters, for what feels like my entire life. But I can do this in my head on a couch. I can do this while I’m depressed. I have done it. That girl… I have no idea how to keep her anonymous, what pseudonym to give her… the only other person with depression I’ve ever talked to at length about it. The girl who drinks, and does drugs, and has sex to get attention, goes to counseling, gets told that she has sex to get attention, and then refuses to go back to counseling because she’s sick of being told that she’s only having sex for attention, the girl who walks into a café and sees six abusive ex-boyfriends sitting in a row… she is jealous of me. Jealous because I don’t need sex or substances to fill the void. Because I can waste away, dehydrated, skipping medicine and meals, for hours upon hours, and what keeps me from descending into utter despair, what drowns out the bad, nasty, sometimes even suicidal thoughts, is the story. This story, your story, or any other story. It doesn’t matter.

I have to write the Errata, Kiel, because if I don’t write it and publish it, then no one can help me. Buried here, in some of the trashiest fan fic ever written, is a message in a bottle that even I can’t read. It could be anything from a tantrum to a suicide note –

“Am I going to get a chance to talk!?” Kiel shouts, “Because – ”

Shut up! Just shut up. You’ll have your chance. You can talk all you want. I’m off to create a Google Doc, right now. If someone wants to talk to me, they can take it up with you. Goodbye.

Kiel takes a deep breath, then exhales. “And I wanted to put on a musical.”

Google Doc:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tad3_G1YJlYTtlB-IZ_icYrVICg3RWe84TJErrLOBpg/edit?usp=sharing

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Thu Mar 22, 2018 2:12 am

Timelines, Universes, and Dimensions

When Kiel’ndia re-enters the library, she sees her princeling explaining the timelines to Vezon. The Skadki is leaning on the railing that separates the raised dais from this lower floor. Nau’Kheol has moved to a different blackboard and is gesturing with a piece of pink chalk. When he learned about his mother’s treachery, he had renounced his family (in private, because he wanted to keep his monthly allowance and other noble privileges) and searched elsewhere for role models. One of those is his history teacher, a drow old enough to be wrinkled with age. The commoner had been inspired to become an archeologist when he met Nau’Kheol and Ariel during one of their trips into the past. Centuries later, he met them again as his new students in the equivalent of kindergarten.

The old drow had been more than happy to take Nau’Kheol under his wing. Leave it to a historian to set a time sorcerer straight. Kiel smiles at the irony. But they would have all gone crazy – crazier, anyway – long ago if it weren’t for the practice of making timelines. The history teacher always color-coded his during class, a practice all the more essential when timelines were splitting, or else forming self-sustaining paradoxes.

A straight white arrow divides the blackboard horizontally. Kiel’s home timeline. Nau’Kheol must’ve finished explaining how he discovered his powers: a self-sustaining paradox represented by two lavender arrows forming a loop around a small section of the timeline. That had been Spectral’s doing, what separates this universe from the comic’s continuity. Well, that and everything Spectral has misremembered during all of these years away from reading it. The principle difference is that, in this version of events, Nau’Kheol is the one and only living time sorcerer, dramatically changing events (for the better, in her opinion) ever since he discovered his powers. In the canon, he has no elemental affinity whatsoever. He watches passively as events go by, never taking any initiative to make a difference.

He has made a big difference in Kiel’s life.

With the pink chalk, Nau’Kheol has drawn a forking timeline. It juts up from the point of divergence, then runs parallel to its… sister. These timelines are, in many ways, siblings. There is a Nau’Kheol Vel’Sharen in each world, and both of them are loyal to a Vloz’ress. The difference is, in her timeline, Kiel is alive and her brother is dead; in her brother’s timeline, Kiel is a living doll. Kharla made her that way, at her brother’s request. Kiel and her brother did not, do not, get along. And Kiel’s princeling isn’t too fond of his counterpart, either. The two Nau’Kheols hate one another.

“There is one other timeline,” Nau’Kheol is finishing. He places the pink chalk on the chalk rest and withdraws a light green piece. “I call it the colony timeline.” He draws this one below the other two. Its point of divergence is the farthest left, the farthest in the past. “The drow successfully colonized the surface in that one. In fact, things a pretty peaceful within drow society itself, even if the surface-dwellers aren’t keen on the arrangement. The only issue is that there’s a demon-summoning shapeshifter with a crush on me that originated in that universe.”

“And a ‘crush’ is…” Vezon prompts for clarification.

Nau’Kheol opens his mouth to speak before he knows what to say. He thinks for a moment, then explains, “She wants to be in a marriage with me and is willing to kill Kiel’ndia to make that happen.”

“Why not let her try?” Vezon asks. Kiel is taken a back for a moment, wondering if the Skadki has decided to antagonize her, maybe because of his treatment from her sister. But she decides it’s more likely he’s coming from a reference frame of “marriages” being alliances only. And if another female was more capable than, and willing to take the place of, the current ally…

“I care nothing for her,” Nau’Kheol inadvertently quotes the most famous male drow, “But her shapeshifting abilities might let her to trick me.”

Vezon, currently maskless, grins with those huge, menacing teeth of his. “Maybe she has killed Kiel and has taken her place already,” he suggests. Kiel remembers how well Vezon got along with Khal’harror, the golem maker’s apprentice, who had to be restrained from stabbing her in order to show the Skadki what blood was. They were similar, but the principle difference Kiel is picking up on is that Vezon is more mature, more jaded. Both of their minds go to dark places, and they gleeful share their horrible thoughts with their friends, but when Vezon does so, he seems… less innocent. Maybe it would have been better for Spectral to have included the scene.

Nau’Kheol shakes his head. “Kiel’ndia’s a Vel’akar. That means – ”

“I have abilities that Ass-riel doesn’t have and can’t fake,” Kiel interrupts, trying to keep the exposition to a minimum. Although, just saying her nickname will undoubtedly prompt Nau’Kheol to…

He gestures to the three timelines. “One of the constants throughout the timelines is a girl named Ariel. She and I have…” he glances nervously at Kiel, who only glares back at him. “…a storied past. That means there are three ‘Ariel’s to keep track of. One is our friend,” he explains, gesturing to the central, white timeline, “One,” he taps on the upper, pink timeline, “Is best avoided, but the third,” he touches the lowest, light green arrow, “Is dangerous. We started calling her ‘Asriel’ so that we all know which ‘Ariel’ is being talked about.”

“And she has a fat – ” Kiel stops herself. Asriel upsets her more than Spectral’s threat to resume reading the drow source material had. She clenches her fists, shuts her eyes, and breathes deeply.

“In addition to those, there’s the Nether,” Nau’Kheol resumes. He must be changing the subject to try and calm her down. “Creating new timelines in this world doesn’t really affect the Nether. If a demon is summoned into a timeline, and that timeline splits, the demon is duplicated, just like everything and everyone else in that timeline.” He runs his right forefinger along the white arrow until it reaches its point of divergence with the pink arrow, then adds his left forefinger right next to it, and finally splits them apart, following their respective timelines. “But if it was in the Nether during the timeline split, there remains only one. If you banish something – or someone – to the Nether, create a new timeline, and then have summoners in both timelines try to summon it – or them – back, only one summoner will succeed. There’s only one to summon.”

“Point is, there’s a Nether dimension, and three timeline dimensions,” Kiel summarizes, “And that’s all we’ve been able to interact with. Until you, that is,”

“Well,” Nau’Kheol observes, “There’s Spectral, and his dimension. And if we consider a work of fiction composed inside of any of these dimensions to be their own dimension…”

Until now, Kiel has been thinking only about dimensions that their new Skadki friend could let them travel to, but Nau’Kheol is right about the nested fictional universes. She is the one who had taught him that. It’s how she had earned her nickname from him; she had compared the infinite progression of storytellers describing other storytellers to the anecdote of an Earth woman who had claimed that the Earth was flat and resting on the back of a turtle, which was on the back of another turtle, which was on the back of another turtle… turtles all the way down. Turtles.

“Turtles?” Nau’Kheol asks. She had been staring into the middle distance. “Do you think it would be possible for Vezon to take us to Spectral’s universe?”

Kiel’s eyes widen at the possibility, but after an instant contemplating the possibility, she laughs. “We could probably get to a universe where Spectral controls a mask that can interact with us,” she supposes, “But no, I think that his dimension is protected from hooligans like us.”

“Protected?” Vezon asks.

Nodding sagely, Kiel explains, “It’s safe behind the Fourth Wall.”

“Is that so?” Nau’Kheol sounds like he’s finding this hard to believe. “How does that work, exactly?”

Kiel shrugs. “The Mexicans will pay for it,” she guesses.

Realizing that he will get nowhere with his often-random girlfriend, Nau’Kheol turns to Vezon. “That’s all we know about our universe. Or universes, perhaps. What can you tell us of yours? What did you observe during your travels?”

Vezon shoves off the railing and steps forward to consider the blackboard. “This sounds about right, actually,” he says, sounding surprised, “But I never stayed in one place for too long. I met people in one reality that I recognized in another, except interacting in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Weird thing, though,” he adds, “There are some dimensions that are smaller than others. I can feel that they don’t have as much going on, and they don’t resemble my home in the slightest. And then, and I know this is weird, there’s the fact that I’m pretty sure there are multiple universes inside a single dimension.

Nau’Kheol raises an eyebrow. “If anything, I would have expected it the other way around.”

Kiel shakes her head. “This much BIONICLE Lore I know. It’s a massive spoiler, though.”

BIONICLE Ending Spoiler:
 

Nau’Kheol stares at the blackboard with growing horror. “You mean when I’m creating these timelines… I’m creating entire universes!?” he exclaims, not wanting that power on his shoulders.

Still nodding “no”, Kiel elaborates, “Vezon has been to both a. timelines that can contain multiple universes each, and b. smaller dimensions that exist independent of those timelines and universes. We’ve never left our universe; these three timelines and the Nether dimension are all grouped together into one universe.”

“What’s the difference, practically?” Nau’Kheol asks, doing his best to follow.

“Well, if I’m following the cosmology correctly, then you, my princeling,” she smiles, gently poking his nose, “Can only go to other timelines, not other universes. So, if we went to Vezon’s universe, you couldn’t go to any of the other timelines he’s seen, because they’re all protected by a ‘universe barrier’ you don’t have the power to cross. But the Olmak can.”

Vezon smirks. “‘Anything you can do, I can do better,’” he taunts.

“Not quite,” Kiel chides, “You can get from here to the Nether, because the Nether is another dimension. But you can’t get to the other timelines,” she points to the blackboard, “Because your mask sees them all as one dimension.” She might be making this up, and she remembers that the entire reason why the term “parallel dimension” exists is because time travel is considered a fourth dimension. But sometimes smart things have stupid names, and it seems like the sort of rule Spectral would come up with.

Speaking of, Spectral has been awfully quiet today. Kiel knows he is alright – he has gone to the doctor, had his medicines changed around yet again – but she is missing his lemony narration. Maybe he’s just trying to write a more subjective view point, get more into her feelings and reflections. He had been thinking a lot about that lately, because of how he admires Wally and Teaser, and wants to see if he is at least “capable” of writing in that style, if he chooses to.

“Dimensions, universes, timelines, whatever you want to call them. I have this theory...” Vezon proposes, “I think I’m the only Vezon in all of existence.”

“That’s impossible.” Kiel states it as a fact, because it is. For one thing, there’s the Vezon from the BIONICLE canon. For another, there’s the Vezon from Spectral’s first fan fic on BAW, Hacker!

“The power that fused this to my head,” Vezon says, waving it in front of her, “Is called ‘energized protodermis.’ But we can call it ‘destiny juice.’ It mutates almost anyone it comes into contact with, but the forms you take afterwards are always pre-ordained by… the Great Spirit, I guess. It doesn’t just fuse two random things together! And because in order for me to exist, one specific person had to get hit by one specific weapon, I must not exist in a lot of timelines. Maybe only one! That’s why it was my destiny to get fused to the Olmak.”

“It was your destiny, eh?” Kiel smirks, “The thing that my sister and I just undid?”

Grimacing at her, Vezon lifts the mask above his head triumphantly. “I am the destined master of the Mask of Dimensional Gates!” he proclaims, “Every reality is at my beck and call!”

Nau’Kheol strolls into his line of sight. “Speaking as someone whose magic consists of going to impossible places and little else, you don’t have as much power as you might like. You’ll get nothing done without powerful allies.” He smiles, throwing Kiel a knowing glance, “Luckily for you – ”

“Nope!” Kiel interrupts, as loud and flippant as possible.

“I’m sorry, what?” Nau’Kheol asks, annoyed.

“We’re not introducing him to Ariel and the others. Not yet, anyway,” Kiel explains, “The three of us are going off alone.”

“I don’t understand… Ariel, of all people, would love to see another dimension,” Nau’Kheol is baffled, “Why don’t you want to tell our friends?”

“Because,” Kiel sighs, “Their names are unpronounceable.”

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:18 pm

Crossing the Threshold

“Do we have anything resembling an objective?” Nau’Kheol inquires.

My plan was to put on another musical, but Vezon disapproves,” Kiel informs him.

Vezon nods. “If we’re using my mask to get around, I get some say in what we use it for!”

Nau’Kheol taps his toe thoughtfully. “Isn’t ‘Spectral’ your weird luck charm, Turtles? Did he give you any instructions on what to do next?”

Kiel winces. Spectral has been awfully quiet for the past two days. Even his narration has become much less third-person-omniscient and much closer to her own internal narrative. It feels intimate, but in a pleasant way. She had no way of knowing for sure how many readers –

Suddenly, Nau’Kheol shouts with panic in his voice, “Turtles!”

He runs to her and pulls her into a tight embrace. Only minutes ago, he had been comforting her, as she contemplated the possibility of Spectral “revising” her world; now, he is the one holding her for security. She has no idea what could have gotten into him so suddenly. He’s usually so stoic…

“I get it,” Vezon declares, much to Kiel’s surprise. Within an instant, she moves to the assumption that the Skadki is being either shallow or just plain mad. She looks over to him and sees him holding a dirtied plate on the nearby desk… a plate that hadn’t been there a moment ago. “Your powers went out of whack and everything froze.”

Nau’Kheol chokes down a sob. “Mhm,” he affirms, “I was definitely stuck for hours. I slept, got myself two meals…” he loosens his grip around Kiel, looking towards Vezon, and explains, “I got ahead in my reading, is all. Wanted to stay close so you wouldn’t panic if time started again, and think I had disappeared. It was just so scary… I didn’t know if it would ever end!”

Kiel nods, wrapping her head around what had just happened to the young time sorcerer. “How did you figure that out so quickly?” she asks Vezon.

“Books and papers and these dishes seemed to teleport, hop around the table,” Vezon shrugs, “And I think he teleported, too, but I wasn’t looking at him. His clothes aren’t straight and his hair is a mess.”

“And you thought, ‘time travel’?” Kiel doubts him. Isn’t that a major leap to make?

“I showed him some of the ‘teleporting’ tricks while you were in the stairway talking to, uh, Spectral,” Nau’Kheol filled her in.

Vezon nods. “But you said that they took a ton of energy…”

Nau’Kheol’s voice becomes grim and filled with determination. “I wasn’t doing this.”

Kiel’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, hell no…”

“What?” Nau’Kheol asks, dreading the answer.

“He missed an update,” Kiel observes, “Spectral has been sharing us with his readers once every day. But he missed yesterday in order to play a swashbuckling bug person in space.”

Vezon is outraged. “What, did he think that would be more fun than… actually, that does sound more fun than us.”

Kiel waves a hand dismissively. “He was filling in for a friend, actually, they needed another player or the game couldn’t go on. Point is, he didn’t update this story yesterday, so it froze.”

“For everyone except me,” Nau’Kheol finishes, gritting his teeth, “Time manipulation doesn’t affect me unless it targets me directly. We learned that when my counterpart tried to freeze us all but didn’t freeze me. And now your ‘friend’ is tampering with time…”

“You can’t blame Spectral for this, Nau’Kheol!” Kiel insists, “He didn’t know what would happen!”

“Kiel’ndia,” Nau’Kheol uses her full first name, “Your ‘friend’ has brought us nothing but weird fortune for as long as I’ve known you. Not always good fortune, but they always kept things interesting, made things fun. Not everyone likes that – it drives Shinae up the wall – but you? You can’t get enough,” he smiles, “Nothing makes me happier than to see you in your element. Surrounded by madness.”

Kiel grimaces. “There’s a ‘but’ coming,” she predicts.

Nau’Kheol’s face is deadly serious. “I found you nearly in tears having your first real argument with the being you now refer to as ‘Spectral.’ When I thought things had calmed down, you had to excuse yourself again to try and calm him down. He seems to have spontaneously become highly unstable and unreliable. Kiel,” he takes a step forward, “Are you even sure that Spectral and the ‘friend’ you’ve spoken to all these years are the same entity?”

“…the hell do you mean?” Kiel asks, feeling defensive, but not sure of what.

“‘Spectral’ shares exactly three characteristics with your ‘friend,’” Nau’Kheol begins, first holding up one finger, “Both can be seen and heard exclusively by you,” he holds up a second, “Both have the ability to manipulate time and alter probabilities at a quantum level, and,” he holds up a third, “Whatever means you have of identifying them, they appear to you to be one and the same.”

“Yeah, because they are. He is,” Kiel insists.

“However,” Nau’Kheol folds his hands, “You no longer make ‘eye contact’ with Spectral when addressing him.”

“Well, there’s no camera because we switched to prose,” she replies, nervously. This did look bad, didn’t it?

“Am I to understand that there has been a dramatic shift in the way you perceive him?” Nau’Kheol cross-examines her.

Kiel sighs an overdramatic sigh. “Yeah, yeah there was.”

“And similarly, Spectral has become much more talkative, rather than passively watching,” the princeling continues.

Rolling her eyes and making a half-hearted “speed things up” gesture with one hand, Kiel says, “We switched from a visual medium to a narration-based one. This is the same as your last point.”

“But strangest of all,” Nau’Kheol glances at Vezon, “He has explicitly taken credit for transporting this interloper here.”

“That was dumb luck and a cursed mask,” the Skadki scoffs.

Kiel smirks, “There was a mask or two involved, that’s for sure.”

“When you live with Kiel, ‘luck’ is not ‘dumb,’” Nau’Kheol asserts, “Kiel’s ‘friend’ makes unpredictable occurrences, including bootstrap paradoxes, far more likely to occur. But they… he… prefers not to make his interference known, most of the time.”

“He was pretty mad at me for telling Nau’Kheol,” Kiel grins, walking over to him and wrapping an arm around his shoulder, “But I don’t keep secrets from my princeling.”

“If I recall correctly,” Nau’Kheol adds, “There used to be many ‘friends.’ Countless. But the one we’ve gotten to know the best isolated you from the others when they – sorry, he – created the time paradox that taught me my powers.”

“New timeline in a new universe,” Kiel clarifies, glancing at the chalkboard.

“And now several new ‘readers’ from Spectral’s universe can perceive us in this one.”

“We’re up to five!” Kiel beams.

Nau’Kheol steps away from Kiel, out from under her arm, folds his arms, and asks her, “Then don’t we know for a fact that these entities are capable of ‘sharing’ and, more importantly, ‘stealing’ you from one another?”

Her heart sinks. She knows he was implying that Spectral must have stolen her from her ‘friend’ of the last decade. He’s just been through a lot – probably twenty-four straight hours of isolation with no assurance that time would ever move again – and he would’ve had plenty of time to come up with somebody the blame. Kiel can’t doubt for a moment that Spectral isn’t who he says he is. She knows her writer. When she peers into his world, she sees the same figure that she has always seen. Sometimes there is a mask; more often there isn’t. But he is always Spectral.

“What would we even do if you were right?” Kiel asks, “Not that I’m saying you are, ‘cause you ain’t.”

For a while, no one can think of anything to say.

Vezon, breaking the silence, suggests, “Why don’t we use this,” he waves the Mask of Dimensional Gates, “To get power like that for ourselves?”

Nau’Kheol, arms still crossed, seems skeptical, but willing to listen. If he’s given the Skadki’s delusions of grandeur any credence, he must be serious about his defiance of Spectral. “How do you mean?” he asks.

“This mask can link to any conceivable world, right?” he proposes, “Conceivably, there’s a world where we can get powers like Spectral’s. Or greater!”

“But Spectral effectively controls where we end up,” Nau’Kheol points out.

Kiel continues to grow more concerned. “You say that like it’s a bad thing!” she exclaims.

“If we’re talking about finding ways to counter his power – ” Nau’Kheol starts to defend himself.

“Hang on, what!?” Kiel shouts, “Not one hour ago, you two were telling me not to try and defy the narrator!”

It was longer than an hour for me!” the princeling returns, pain visible in his eyes. As Kiel looks towards him, trying to come up with a response, she sees the messy hair, the clothes in disarray after a “night” of sleeping in them. Vezon had been right, he is visibly distressed by the missed deadline. And it’s more than clothes and hair; she can see it in his posture, and on his face.

She gulps. It was official: she and Spectral were in a situation, and she’d have to think of a way out of it. No one, not even a character-driven author, wants a time sorcerer as their enemy. Worse, Vezon cares only about his own rise to power, and will happily go along with Nau’Kheol’s plans if it means securing some kind of new ability. Not that her princeling was planning an outright rebellion; he just wanted some leverage, was all, something to try and coerce… no, even “coerce” was too strong of a word. Maybe Spectral would be willing to part with that much power? Nau’Kheol was one of his favorite characters in all of literature.

But she was Spectral’s most favorite character, and not for nothing. Spectral thinks that she should be the leader of most of the main cast of her comic, even though many members of that cast were supposed to be killing one another. He had united them under her banner, not because she is the most powerful; indeed, most of her friends have incredible abilities that far outclassed her own. But those powers are so unusual and versatile when combined that only a madwoman is capable of coordinating them all when they work as a team.

TL;DR – She’s clever.

“What about this?” Kiel offers, “Let’s go to a new dimension. Literally anywhere, anywhere Vezon’s never been before, so he doesn’t know what he’s gonna get. Spectral gets to choose where we end up. If he’s on our side, maybe it will be something to solve our problem?”

“If he’s on our side, he’ll make us gods!” Vezon declares, “Or at least, I’d like to be a god.”

He opens a dimensional gate.

Nau’Kheol glances at Kiel’ndia for reassurance. But she smiles, nods, and heads into the gaping portal.

[Kiel wonders if Spectral will keep putting narration in section breaks. He’s been so quiet…]

Kiel steps into a tunnel. They must be close to the surface of wherever this place is, because there’s grass on the… wait. There’s grass on the ceiling?

She’s standing on a dirt slope; the ground is rising on her left and falling on her right. In either direction is a stone wall, behind her is the portal, and in front of her is a long corridor ending in a door. But as she takes a step forward, she almost immediately loses her balance. It feels like she’s on level ground…

Walking is a dizzying nightmare. Nau’Kheol and Vezon follow her out, and as she glances back, she finds herself wishing that they had all gone one-at-a-time. They do seem to be on the dirt ceiling of a tunnel, but it’s a ceiling with a well-worn footpath with a door at the end of it. And that tunnel seems to be spinning. Seems to be, but as far as gravity is concerned, they’re safely on the ground. Or the roof. Whatever. What’s disconcerting that Nau’Kheol and Vezon were clearly leaning as though the ground was moving beneath them, when Kiel knew that the ground was parallel for all of them. They would look like oafs pretending that the ground was shaking, if Kiel weren’t experiencing the same thing.

How does the mind tell when it’s falling, or when it’s spinning? Whatever capability it normally has, it’s not working in here.

“Has my world turned upside-down?” Vezon asks, “I don’t think I know how to tell anymore.”

The tunnel feels longer than it is, because of how dizzying the walk proves to be. But one way or another, they reach the square door. Its stone doors are wide open, so they walk right in.

They enter a large stone chamber, much of the walls and floor covered in algae. An underground (if they are underground; if there is an “underground”) river flows through here, and it is turning a giant wooden water wheel. The wheel is connected to a vertical shaft leading up to several giant, interlocking wooden gears. Other discarded, algae-covered gears and other equipment lie about the chamber. Wooden ramps with metal handrails provide a route up and around the water wheel.

Nau’Kheol gasps. Kiel’ndia swirls on her heel in concern; when she heard that noise a moment ago, she learned that her princeling had been stuck in a temporal limbo for 24 hours.

“What?” she asks, eyes wide with fear.

The time sorcerer looks back at her. He is hesitating, which he does so often, always afraid to guess because he doesn’t want to give the wrong answer. It’s cute, but Kiel wishes he grew a little more confident. “Time… it stopped again. But for all of us?” he looks around.

Vezon shrugs. “I’m with you.”

Although still nervous, Kiel laughs. “See? ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’ This way Spectral can enjoy Pwachie’s visit and you won’t have to be alone!”

“‘Pwachie’?” Nau’Kheol asks.

“Oh, yeah, I didn’t want to say anything…” Kiel confesses, “Spectral will probably miss the next two or three days because his girlfriend is coming to visit. It’s long-distance so they’ll spend as much time together as they can, no time for us.”

Her princeling scowls.

“So, uh, good thing we found a solution, or you would’ve been in isolation for two… more…” she trails off, feeling guilty for taking Spectral’s side. Nau’Kheol clearly resented having his world meddled with so directly, by someone so… Spectral was writing this, and his negativity threatens to bleed through into Kiel’s internal monolog.

She hates backing up someone who had done her princeling so much harm, but what choice does she have? Because Spectral is suffering, too. It never helps to ask “who has it worse”, but she made a deal with Spectral, that he would give her a life of high-fantasy adventure that she had no guarantee of in-canon, and in exchange, she would inspire and support him.

“Well,” Nau’Kheol changes the subject, though Kiel thinks she hears a hint of passive-aggression in his voice, “Whether time’s moving or not, we’re back on terra firma.” He breathes a sigh of relief, and she’s relieved that he seems to be moving on – though she does bristle to hear him using one of Ariel’s catchphrases.

“That, or we just have our sea legs,” she comments. Whatever effect was at play in that hallway, it had either vanished or ceased to be noticeable. Which, now that she thinks about it, might be the same thing.

She begins walking up the ramps, and, after a moment’s hesitation, the “boys” follow.

They soon reach the upper floor, directly above their entrance. A short, wide staircase leads to a large wooden door. Kiel heads towards it, but just before she can try a handle, she hears an unfamiliar voice, not clearly a man’s or a woman’s, chuckling loudly behind them.

As the party turns, they see what looks like a human in an indigo jacket with a massive backpack. Their hair – it was a masculine haircut, but that means nothing – is a shade of orange that doesn’t seem natural for their skin tone, but Kiel isn’t one to judge; yes, she’s a natural redhead. Strapped all over their backpack are masks, masks which, at a glance, seem to be in states of agony or despair, but she can’t see them all, or up close, from where she’s standing. In contrast, their face was smiling ear to ear, the sort of smile that makes it look like your eyes are closed.

“Ho, ho, ho!” the stranger laughs, far more high-pitched than any Santa Clause that Spectral had shown her, “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”

They were looking at Nau’Kheol.

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:21 am

The Countdown

Kiel yawns. She does not regret taking the stranger’s deal, at least not yet. She does, admittedly, grow anxious whenever she glances over her shoulder to see the smiling, indigo-clad humanoid carrying a backpack larger than they are, who stands with their hands folded and eyes squinting always in her direction.

The deal was simple: Nau’Kheol would freeze, with the rest of the world, when Spectral missed an update, but Kiel would be unaffected in his place. As it turns out, the human-like entity – upon closer inspection, their pointed ears mark them as inhuman – is also unaffected when Spectral fails to update the Errata. They aren’t very good company, however; they just stand there, smiling and rocking ever-so-slightly. It’s impressive how long they’ve managed to keep that up.

Nau’Kheol had been frozen for a day. Kiel has been frozen for a week.

Not that Kiel is bored, far from it. Remember, she is linked to Spectral’s mind in the “real world,” and talks to him regularly. She is his imaginary friend. So, she’s alternated leaning on guardrails, sitting on stairsteps, and even lying down on ramps, in contact with him.

He wasn’t doing well for a long time. He switched medicines just in time for Pwachie to leave him, just in time to be thrust back into school. He had missed class one day and work two days later as he found isolated couches across campus to crash on. It was only then that Kiel had felt truly helpless, sitting opposite him for hours trying to get him to talk to her, to move, to eat, to quench his thirst, even to shift his weight as he got sore from lying in the same place for too long.

Things are looking up, however. He’s enjoying his classes, in regular contact online with Pwachie, catching up and even getting ahead in his schoolwork, and planning some LEGO and BIONICLE exploits. His first session of Pathfinder in a long time is tomorrow, although he’ll have to deal with having one fewer player than he’d like. One of his all-time favorite NPCs, the demigod Skirnir, will be taking center stage. Things seem to be getting back to normal.

“So, maybe you could quit the silent treatment and talk to me again?” Kiel asks.

“Certainly,” responds the entity in indigo, believing themselves to be her addressee, “What would you like to talk about?”

Kiel snorts. “Not you,” she corrects them, turning to face the only other unfrozen one, “I’m talking to my ‘imaginary friend’, Spectral.”

“Ho, ho, ho!” they laugh, “I know all about your author, Miss Kiel’ndia.”

This startles her. Besides the fact that they know Spectral is the author, she is fairly sure no one has used her full first name in front of this creature.

“Okay,” she says, eyes narrowing, “You know my name. Why not tell me yours?”

“Ho, ho, ho!” their amused expression does not change, “I’m the Happy Mask Shopkeeper. I keep a shop for happy masks, and I’m a mask shopkeeper who’s happy! Ho, ho, ho!”

“That’s as good as I’m gonna get, isn’t it, Happy?” Kiel sighs. The nickname ‘Happy’ would have to do. “How do you know about Spectral?”

“When Spectral is in need for his muse’s assistance, he calls out to you, describing the dilemma he faces. But to spare your friend,” the shopkeeper gestures towards Nau’Kheol, “He needed assistance from another, muse-like power.”

“Yeah, you’re a character from some other story,” Kiel surmises.

“Ho, ho, ho! Not exactly,” the shopkeeper smiles, “I took the form of a character from a video game to interact with you, and your author. I took this form when Spectral first encountered me.”

Kiel furrows her brow. “I don’t understand,” she admits.

“I could have appeared as Kharla,” they elaborate, “But then I’d be no more Kharla than I am now the character from The Legend of Zelda.”

“So… you’re… not really the Happy Mask Shopkeeper?” she asks, crossing her arms.

“Ho, ho, ho! Whosoever looks after the Happy Mask Shop is the Happy Mask Shopkeeper, Miss Kiel’ndia,” they laugh.

“Alright, Happy,” Kiel concedes, staying patient, “If you know all that, do you know why Spectral isn’t talking to me? Or why Nau’Kheol and Vezon are frozen, even though we’re clearly in the Errata right now?”

“Because,” the shopkeeper replies, “Your author is only writing you. Not Nau’Kheol, not Vezon, not even his own ‘narrator avatar’.”

“What about you?” Kiel raises an eyebrow.

“I also described Spectral as ‘your author’ and not ‘my author’ a moment ago,” the shopkeeper teases, “although you didn’t seem to notice. No, I am quite comfortable.”

“Comfortable?” Kiel isn’t following.

“Yes, comfortable. Ho, ho, ho!” they laugh, “Because even though the Errata is ending, I can leave this story and travel to another.”

“Ending!?” This is the first Kiel has heard of this.

“Don’t you know?” the shopkeeper asks, although Kiel cannot tell if the surprise in their voice is genuine or not, “Spectral’s goal was to write an average of 1,150 words a day, starting on the Fifteenth of March. If it wasn’t for the update we’re in now, he would have failed that goal, and the story would be over.”

Kiel is in shock. “Can’t he put it on hiatus? Or, or… ”

“Ho, ho, ho! He was writing around 2,000 words a day for a whole week,” the shopkeeper observes, “That gave him quite the lead. But after a week off, he’s lost all of that.”

“He hasn’t lost yet!” Kiel shoots back.

“Just think,” they muse, “If there’s no update the day after this one, there will never be another update again. Unsettling, isn’t it?” they step closer, smile unflinching.

Kiel takes a defiant step forward.

Through gritted teeth, she says, “See you tomorrow.”

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PostSubject: Re: Errata   Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:00 am

Somewhere That Isn’t Anywhere

April fools!

Kiel gasps for air. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath. “I thought…” she begins.

You thought that I fell below my target word quota, and so I canceled the Errata. Which is half true. But you see, I’ve amended my rules to say that April 1st doesn’t count.

Kiel huffs, “Not. Funny.”

It is to me.

“The readers won’t even appreciate this, they weren’t caught up, so to them it looks like this is just another chapter. And no one pays attention to the post dates when they’re catching up!”

Joke’s on you! In more ways than one. M and Pwachie were both all caught up. Pwachie, for the record, politely requested that I continue writing. Actually, it seemed pretty heartfelt. She’s pretty attached to you guys.

Nau’Kheol interrupts our exchange, “Turtles?”

Kiel has been facing the Happy Mask Shopkeeper, staring over their shoulder into blank space. Now, she turns to face Nau’Kheol and Vezon.

“Spectral pulled a little prank on me, that’s all,” she explains, rolling her eyes.

But her boyfriend takes a concerned step forwards. He holds out his hands, holding the lavender mask loosely in his right. “Turtles, if he did something to you like he just did to me, you need to tell me.”

“Well,” Kiel gulps, “Technically, he just did exactly the same thing.”

“You mean he froze you – !?” Nau’Kheol starts.

“Yes, yes!” she cuts him off, “But when our world is frozen, I become a transparent eyeball in Spectral’s world. So, I had plenty to see and hear to keep me entertained.”

Unconvinced, Nau’Kheol clenches and unclenches his left fist, and his jaw. The mask quivers in his right hand. An offense to his beloved sets him off more than one to himself; all the worse if an affront to time is involved.

“Hey, listen,” Kiel instructs, aware of her LoZ: OoT-adjacent surroundings, “I know a stolen day was traumatic for you, but it was just a harmless prank on me, okay? I’m annoyed, not hurt. I promise.”

Vezon shifts uncomfortably. That’s the third time I’ve written that sentence. Poor guy.

“As long as I’m not next in line,” he says.

“Don’t tempt fate,” Nau’Kheol scolds, but the remark is more directed at Kiel. And me.

“He brought us here, didn’t he?” Kiel argues, “We asked for a portal to a dimension that can protect you from getting frozen by skipped days. And we found one!” She gestures vaguely towards the Happy Mask Shopkeeper.

“For a price!” they chime in.

“All Spectral did,” Nau’Kheol complains, “is find a way to transfer my burden to you.”

“It’s not a burden,” Kiel shakes her head, “Because I spend so much time in Spectral’s world, my mind was getting massive updates of information at seemingly random intervals – every time Spectral took a day’s break in-between installments of the story. It didn’t really phase me, because I’ve learned not to process it all at once, but an actual pause in-universe is a much easier adjustment.”

“Why did you ‘learn’ that?” Nau’Kheol demands, “I’ve known you longer than Spectral has, and I don’t remember you ever being ‘phased’ by a sudden ‘massive update.’”

“I have,” Vezon raises his hand.

Kiel nods. “Only since this latest story began had it been happening. I got used to it before Vezon and I found you.”

Defeated, Nau’Kheol folds his arms. The sharp edge of the mask scrapes along the outer sleeve of his pale blue coat. Kiel can tell that he’s done arguing for now, but he is far from forgiving Spectral for that day of purgatory.

“Right. About this mask,” she changes the subject, looking at the object that the Shopkeeper had passed over to Nau’Kheol.

They produced this mask from a side pouch in their oversized backpack. It’s a white, childlike face with black markings under the eyeholes and long, lavender bangs. Some of this purplish hair – made out of the same stiff material as the face – streaks down one side, almost covering half of the face. An indigo cap made of real fabric was attached to the scalp, to be worn at the same time as the mask.

The Happy Mask Shopkeeper was willing to put Nau’Kheol in sync with time, as long as Kiel’ndia gave up her place… and if the party would do them a little favor. You see, they have been searching for someone to wear this mask…

“Obviously it’s cursed and none of us are going to put it on,” Kiel declares.

“What!?” the Shopkeeper exclaims. A look of ferocity suddenly takes over their smirking face. “We have a deal!”

“I know the deal, Happy,” Kiel taunts, “We’ll help you find someone to wear the mask if you un-unstick Nau’Kheol from time. You held up your end of the bargain, so we’ll hold up ours.”

The double doors still await our heroes at the top of a short flight of stairs. Kiel begins heading in that direction, when the Shopkeeper calls out.

“But you mustn’t run amuck in Termina looking like that!” they protest, “Your skin tone will bring the city guard upon your heads!”

Kiel turns back quizzically. “Isn’t there an entire race of people in this game with my skin and hair?” she asks. “Ganondorf’s people. And they’re not all evil.”

The Shopkeeper, suddenly degrading themselves with a tantrum, grabs their hair in their hands and shakes their head frantically. “No, Ganondorf is an anomaly, and your skin is too dark to pass as a normal gerudo.”

“But the hair and ears are correct,” Kiel continues to ponder aloud, resting a hand on her hip thoughtfully. After a moment’s contemplation, she turns to face Nau’Kheol. “You and I need a race lift,” she announces.

Nau’Kheol smiles uncomfortably. “A what?”

Kiel begins walking with purpose back, deeper into the clock tower. “Vezon, open a portal to somewhere. I mean, anywhere. I mean, somewhere that isn’t anywhere that you know already. Someplace new.”

“Um, okay?” Vezon shrugs. He opens a dimensional gate right in front of the double doors.

Kiel stops in her tracks. “Or, you could open it in the direction I’m already walking,” she not-so-subtly hints.

“You’re not the boss of me,” Vezon taunts, and heads through his own portal.

Kiel groans, but heads over to follow him. Nau’Kheol waits for her to pass him, so that he can follow.

The Shopkeeper calls after them, “If you do not find a host for that mask in a timely fashion, you will regret ever – ”

They are cut off by the sound of a portal closing.

The group stand in the wicker basin of a large, boat-shaped basket beneath a school bus yellow, blimp-shaped hot air balloon.

“Looks like we’re glad this opened where it did,” Nau’Kheol observes, “Or we’d be walking into mid-air.”

“And I just looked like a looney wandering off to nowhere.”

“Aw, Turtles, you know you’re not a ‘looney wandering off to nowhere,’” Nau’Kheol smiles. He strides up to his girlfriend and, on his tip-toes, kisses her on the cheek. “You’re a looney wandering of to somewhere that isn’t anywhere.”

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