Healer's Errand


...And so it came to pass that the wheel came into being, and the Spokes of Concept reached out, without end, into eternity in that place between places, and in the centre was a light at the centre of a void, that had a name. Subreality.

And in that place, everything existed at all times, or perhaps none of the time, but all at the same time. And it was illogical, and non-sensical, and wonderful. And it grew.

More Writers came, and added, and created new life and new location, and as the place grew, its people were more amazing, and more complex.

And Time, though not seen as the same there as outside, went on, and progressed, and changed in its very essence.

It was, at times, seen as a city, or sometimes as a lonely pittstop. Others see it as a dark city, some as a different place entirely.

To be specific, I must explain the thing that draws them all there, at least initially.

The Subreality Café was the beginning, and everything else was created around it. While in the grand hierarchy of things it may not be so high up, it is still the thing that started it all.

At least, that's what I always thought.

It was shaped by the imaginations of its creators, and eventually its visitors. Even those who never went there changed it a little. Those who denied its existence and forgot all about it did more still — though those things were rarely beneficial.

At one time, these things were brought to a peak, in a Great War... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Subreality War was caused... or perhaps discovered... when bad things attacked the good. That is, after all, one of the two ways of starting a war. The other is for gain.

This one, though, had no real reason.

But as things change, they go for the worse as well as for the better. It was gradual, at first, I think, though I wasn't there; not really. I missed it. I ran away at some point. Before it even started. Can't remember the specifics. What I remember of the End and the War that followed is sketchy at best, and all old dreams. I remember the breaking of the Council now, more than I did before. Not a lot of it, though. Just bits and pieces. I wish... no. I won't say that. In Subreality, after all, who knows what might show up? I know what the last wish made caused. What it saved, and what it sacrificed. And I know what led to the need for the wish. I'm just afraid to tell... what if they realise? What if they... no. I don't think they do know. I don't want them to know. But if I know, they'll know. One way or the other.

It was all just a story, at first...

As always, it was raining in Crystallis.

Chandri actually rather liked it. It felt... comfortable. Homey. If that was the word, at all. She watched her cousin, now a mere red dot, disappear into the distance of snow and slush and black rock, and turned away from the window. She sank down into Lise's armchair and sighed.

She liked the chair, but couldn't bring herself to bring her own ratty chair in here... she liked her elegant, ancient furniture here... but still...

She shrugged. This would do.

She awoke suddenly, not even remembering having fallen asleep, to see Kielle's face hovering in front of her, and started. Kielle grinned.

"Please don't do that," Chandri said, relaxing into the chair.

Kielle shrugged. "What's wrong?"

Chandri shook her head. "Nothing. I mean... nothing I'm sure of."

Kielle suddenly hated the tone of voice. "Chandri..."

"Well, what?" the Oriole answered defensively. "I'm just worried, that's all."

"About what?"

Chandri shook her head again.

"Chandri, I could feel you angsting over something all the way from THOSD. Spill."

Chandri bit her lip and stared at her hands, mildly surprised that the Scribe had cared enough to come, at all. "I'm worried about Dark Knight. Everyone, actually."

"Why's that?" Kielle inquired.

"Well... you know how you can feel everything... here... right?"

Kielle nodded.

"It's... colder than usual, isn't it?" It wasn't really a question. Just a statement, to see how the Scribe would react. And she did.

"I've noticed that," Kielle said, a wary tone entering her voice.

"It's just... something I remember, almost. I'm not sure where from." That was an outright lie. Chandri was pretty sure that she knew exactly where she knew the feeling from. But she wanted confirmation from Kielle herself before she was going to start panicking about it.

"Funny. I do." Kielle said, sitting down on the chair opposite Chandri.

"That's what I was afraid of." Chandri's face took on a pained expression. "I have to tell you something."

Kielle had a feeling she wasn't going to like it. "Do tell," she said.

"All the things... lately. The sudden re-awakening of dark-sides controlling other-sides... it made me remember something I'd forgotten. The coldness."

"What about it?"

"It's like... when we lost control."

"Of what?" Kielle's tone was sharp. She'd just seen where Chandri was going.

"The Council. The Writer's Council." Chandri stood up then, turning her back to the Scribe, not wanting to see the anger and the confusion there.

"I thought so. You two were just too convenient to have been a coincidence."

"There is no coincidence here," Chandri reminded her meekly.

"Precisely. Tell me," Kielle said.

"I don't even know, exactly, how I know... It's fuzzy. Like trying to remember a dream. I just... do. I think... I think they're coming back," the Oriole said.


"They," Chandri repeated, and a chill ran down Kielle's spine.


"We stopped watching," Chandri said simply. She waved to the window and a picture appeared in it. Fighting in the streets of Subreality. Kielle shuddered.

"How did you get that?" she demanded. "No one is supposed to remember--"

"Except you and a few others. I know." Chandri said. "It's out of my head. Not from reading it, but... It's all I remember. Not all of it. Just some."

"How much do you know?"

"About it all? Very little," Chandri said. "But about the cause... more than anyone except Lise."

Kielle gazed levelly at the Oriole, who turned back to the window.

"I can't tell you anything more right now, Kielle. I promise I will, but not now. There are more immediate concerns."

"Such as?"

"Some of my fictives have been worried lately. Andri Kiln. You know him?"

"He works at Subreality General, doesn't he?"

Chandri nodded. "In the ER. He specialises in burnouts."

Kielle frowned. "Can't be a very lucrative practice."

"That's the problem," Chandri said, "He says it has been, lately."

Kielle's head snapped up: "How many?"

"Five in the last month," Chandri said, no emotion to her voice.

"Five?" Kielle's voice had disbelief in it.

Chandri nodded. "He's worried. He says it's getting worse."

"I hope he's wrong," The Scribe answered.

"You and me both."

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to both the Writers, their hopes had just been collectively dashed. Andri gave hasty instructions to a couple of terrified interns and hurried on to the next patient.

"This makes eleven," he said to the supervising physician, Dr. Hamilton. Matt himself shook his head worriedly.

"And maybe more," he replied. "It looks like you were right. It is spreading. I talked to Tadgh. He says that he's been seeing more cases of coma on Epona's rounds, too. Unexplainable comas. Just unconscious, unresponsive. They've got no explanation."

"Well, neither do we!" He saw the surprised look on Matt's face, and closed his eyes, running a hand through his messy black hair. "I'm sorry, Matt. It's just this... thing. Whatever the hell it is, it's very steadily tearing Subreality apart."

"I know. It's all right," the older man told Andri. He was having trouble keeping himself from panicking, anyway. Telling someone else to calm down actually made him feel marginally better.

"I have a question," Tris piped up from behind Matt. She'd been walking around the hospital for most of the day, lending a hand here and there, since Chandri had seemed busy and the hospital was, as always, chronically understaffed.

"What if we can't stop it?"

"What are you talking about?" Andri demanded of his Writer's Muse.

"Well, I'm a little rusty in mathematics, but if this thing is now affecting about five a day, and not going away, that counts the entire population of Writers within a few months. Doesn't it?"

Matt's face became grave. "She's right," he muttered.

"Wouldn't someone just write it away before that happened?" Andri asked the other two.

"Not if there's no one left to write. If they don't know about it, why should they stop it?" Tris answered sternly, surprising them both. The two doctors turned to stare at the Muse in surprise.

"Well?" Tris said, her eyes wide, her posture and expression totally uncharacteristic for the timid Muse.

"I... don't know," Matt said finally, looking back to Andri.

"All of Subreality would become a Shantytown. The Writers... would all..." he trailed off, his voice strangled.

"Die," Tris finished. "They'd all die. And so would we."

"That's exactly what's going to happen if we don't stop this. And right now," Matt answered.

"I'm going to Crystallis. We have to tell Chandri. She can tell Kielle, the others."

"You do that," Matt agreed. "I'm going to track down the other staff. Andri, you find the medical Muses. Meeting in ten minutes." He turned to Tris.

"Hurry back, Healer," he whispered as Andri hurried off, then moved down the hallway himself.

Tris stood still briefly then turned to manoeuvre her way through the gathering mass of fictives at the main door. As soon as she was outside, she broke into a run, reaching top speed quickly, then reluctantly closed her eyes and concentrated.

A few of the fictives outside looked up and commented to each other when Tris's wings snapped open over her shoulders like a cloak of starlight — but most of them ignored her, more concerned with finding out about their Writers.

Tris found a wind, and turned towards the North, hoping only that she wouldn't crash before she got there.

Subreality concept discovered by Kielle, all hail. Kielle gets auto-posting-permission, anyone else, ask.
Kielle, Epona, Lise and any others who may now be in comas are Writers, mentioned and used without permission, and belong to themselves.
Tris and Tadgh are Muses and belong to their respective Writers.
The idea for Inspiration Overdose came from a poem, A Wonderful Drug, by Seraph.
Andri Kiln and Matt Hamilton are original characters and belong to me, but their Subreality versions are public domain.
Crystallis, or Subreality North, was created/discovered by me and is public domain. Go write in it!
If Subreality General existed previous to this arc, I didn't know about it, I don't know who created it, and please don't beat me.
I think that's it. If I forgot anything/anyone/anywhere, please don't sue me. I have no money.