Return Address


An almost visible dismal cloud descended on the crowd inside the Solar Heart as an aquamarine-coloured Writer nodded to Krissie at the door, and walked slowly to a low table, slumping into a chair. Wisely, the fictives and other Writers gave her a wide berth, staying a good five metres away from the table.

Except one, that is.

A red-haired Muse stood over her, looking down at her. She looked up.

"What?" she demanded tiredly.

"I could ask you the same," said Rachel.

"I beg your pardon?" Chandri made a sour face that said: 'I don't know what the hell you're talking about, and even if I do, I'm not helping you, 'cause I'm not in the damn mood.'

"You always been like this?" Rachel sat down across from Chandri, and the Writer noticed the bandage on her hand.

"Always," she said, "D^Gen?" She gestured to Rachel's hand.

Rachel started, looked down, then nodded.

"Still haven't found him, huh?"

The slightly sympathetic tone in Chandri's voice made Rachel look up, and that was when she saw the super-imposition of form the Writer was almost wearing. There were two people there, in the same space. One was the Chandri known to Subreality - aquamarine skin, violet eyes, short blue hair - the other, inside a little, was pale, with long dark hair and... Green eyes. The other form was flickering in and out over and within the Oriole like an inner shadow.

Rachel wondered if she'd noticed. The other fictives apparently hadn't - though if she could see it... maybe the fictives couldn't see it at all. Maybe it was, Rachel reflected, something only Muses could see - and perhaps other Writers. If so, why the hell was Tris doing nothing? And where was she?

"Do you know where he is?" the Muse asked the Writer.

Chandri studied her for a moment, then looked down at her glass. "Yes."


"I can't tell you."

"Why not?" Rachel's voice raised half an octave.

"I just can't. He doesn't want to see you, Rachel. Haven't you figured that out yet?"

Rachel blinked back tears at the sharp retort.

"I didn't mean it that way. He's withdrawing from Subreality, Rachel. The last thing he needs is a Muse trying to pull him back."

"Then what do you suggest?" Rachel stared the Writer down. Chandri, who was fairly unaccustomed to being confronted by Muses in general, leaned back a bit.

"Someone... Real... so to speak, would have to do it. It's the only chance. But you know, it's all up to him, ultimately."

"I know." Rachel folded her hands. "Will you do it?"

Chandri looked up quickly. "No. You have to... never mind."

"Then who the hell..." Rachel began, her voice rising syllable by syllable, but stopped as she attracted the attention of a few fictives.

"Why not?" she amended.

"Because I don't want to seem any more hypocritical than I already am." Chandri answered. "Everyone has plenty of contempt for me as it is. And I know I hate it when people nose around in my personal business, whether or not it's needed. I somehow doubt D^Knight would appreciate the interference. I won't contradict myself."



Rachel was silent for a minute or two, then pushed her chair away from the table.

"Fine, then," she said. "Don't help. But be sure to hold by your principles when fictives start disappearing more and more. There's a lot of things you don't want to take blame for, aren't there?"

Then she left, not waiting for Chandri's answer. Chandri herself was left sitting at the table, more annoyed than upset at the Muse's accuracy. When she found herself unable to reason herself out of it, she lifted the glass and threw it against the nearby wall.

"Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Bloody Muses." she cursed, standing up, and fading from sight.

It had been the equivalent — probably — of two or so days since Rachel had approached Chandri in the Café — the thing was, no one had seen Chandri since. Not really, anyway.

On a — slightly — more pleasant note, D^Knight had been found. Rachel and he had made their way to the Solar Heart, but had found nothing there, so had decided to head for Crystallis itself. No one had seen Lise or even Kielle in about two days, either.

Actually, that's not technically true. Rachel had seen Chandri, if only briefly. But then she'd vanished again, quick as you please, with little or no explanation as to where.

But when they'd found nothing at Crystallis either, except a half-asleep Lise, complaining about the cold, who'd woken up a bit when they'd told her of the situation, they'd returned to the city. Rachel had gone somewhere — the hospital, probably, as D^Knight realised on reflection. Rachel had suggested something of the kind earlier — said that if Chandri was nowhere to be found, Tris probably knew where she was... probably. D^Knight had remarked that she was probably somewhere - Rachel had only glared in response.

Well, of course she was somewhere. It wasn't as if she were prone to self-imposed guilt-trips such as the one D^Knight had recently indulged in. She was more likely off doing something mysterious, or confusing (as usual), or possibly dangerous. And given the current situation in Subreality, the third option was the most viable.

The main Café was utterly deserted. Well, perhaps utterly was the wrong term. But it certainly wasn't crowded. There were less than half a dozen fictives lounging about the place. And D^Knight hadn't seen the slippers all day.

::Thank heaven for small favours...:: he thought, staring morosely at the near-empty room. He felt quite useless at the moment. He couldn't — or at the very least, didn't much want to — teleport like Rachel could, not alone, anyway. He really quite hated teleporting - he had a tendency to become ill from the experience. And Rachel was in too much of a hurry right now. He doubted very much as well that any of the Orioles were interested in giving him a lift to search for their comrade. In fact, he was fairly sure of it.

::Well, Lise might do it, but... some things just aren't worth the risk...::

So he sat, and he waited for Rachel. Or at least, that was the plan.

"'Re you Dark Knight?" asked a breathless voice. He looked up. An Oriole stood in front of him, one he'd never seen before. She was tall, and had pale blue skin, forest-green hair, and silver eyes that currently looked a little frantic.

"That's me," he said, looking up at her.

"I'm Isis. Come with me," she said, holding out one hand.

"Where?" D^Knight inquired innocently.

She responded with a glare that, under other circumstances, probably could have cut stone.

"Right. Don't ask Orioles questions. Noted. I guess I really should have gotten that by now, shouldn't I?" he said, standing up and placing his hand in hers.

They were almost immediately placed in somewhere D^Knight couldn't place. In fact, he couldn't place anything. D^Knight had expected something like this, but not precisely - and he, as previously mentioned, hated teleporting. He swayed for a moment, fighting the urge to hurl, mostly since he could feel about two dozen sets of eyes on them, and didn't want to think about their reaction to his messing up their nice, shiny black floor.

It was completely dark. Not a single spot of light could be seen, anywhere. It was a blanketing darkness, but not a stifling one. Almost as if they were standing in a very high ceilinged, wide, long room... a very dark, high-ceilinged, wide, long room.

"Where are we?" D^Knight asked, the loudness of his voice surprising him as it echoed multiple times. Isis tugged on his arm to quiet him. She was waiting for something. What, he couldn't imagine.

Actually, he could imagine — which was why he was becoming progressively less certain about the situation.

Suddenly, a bright light came on above their heads. It was a sort of spotlight, one of the kind that made you totally visible to the person shining it, but made you totally unable to see anything outside it. D^Knight shaded his eyes with one hand and strived to see anything in any direction — and failed miserably. Isis seemed to have no problem with it, he realised as he looked over at her. She stood straight and calm, as if this were a common occurrence.

::Maybe it is,:: D^Knight thought, then wondered why he had thought that. Oddly enough, he couldn't come up with an answer.

She was obviously having just as much trouble seeing as he was, though. She just wasn't squinting.

::Although, not having pupils might give you that advantage from time to time...:: D^Knight thought idly.

"Dark Knight," a voice suddenly boomed from somewhere ahead of him. He started a little and tried to see the speaker, but again, failed miserably.

"Yes?" he answered, and the light flickered abruptly off. He muttered a muted oath as a chorus of voices began to whisper amongst themselves. Then, to his relief, another set of lights came on, along the length of the ceiling. He looked around, and saw, as he'd thought, a room lined completely with some material like obsidian. The room was very high-ceilinged, long, and wide. And only a very small portion of the room had anything in it.

They stood in the far end of the room. At the other end was a hairline crack in the wall that he could only assume was a set of doors. Where they were, directly in front of Isis and D^Knight, stood a curved black table, about two metres high, and set on a platform off the floor. Behind the table, staring disapprovingly at him, was a motley collection of vague, mostly uni-coloured figures. Orioles. They were whispering among themselves still, and all of them glanced from time to time over their shoulders to glare and then go back to discussing his Fate - or at least, that's what he assumed - with the others.

Finally, they all returned to their seats, and as they did, D^Knight noticed that two seats were vacant. Both chairs were covered with cloths, and before each was a bowl of M&M's - one of them was filled with only orange ones.

::The Writer's Council!:: Something suddenly popped into place inside D^Knight's head. ::That's where I am! But what in hell would they want with me?::

Chandri had, in passing, warned him about the Writer's Council. She'd told him they were devious - sometimes - and that they twisted words. She said they served Fate. She'd impressed upon him one thing, at least - he shouldn't trust them.

As he turned to look at his "abductor", he saw her studying him, and she nodded when he met her eyes. She was thinking the same thing. And he suddenly fervently wished that she wasn't. According to Chandri, the Writer's Council rarely involved themselves in the affairs of the SubRealizens anymore — and when they did, it wasn't usually a good thing. He suddenly felt extremely nervous, and found himself wishing that those two vacant seats weren't so vacant.

Isis had never much liked coming to this room. The chamber which housed the Writer's Council was through a door in one of the Café's... actually, all of them, if you looked at it from a linear perspective. The room they were in was deceptively large, and totally out of proportion with the building it was in. But then, Isis had quickly learned that nothing in Subreality — especially the laws of Time, Space, and physics, were at all the same as they were outside it.

She remembered walking along the long table, her hand sliding along the obsidian surface. She laughed softly, her eyes alighting on the bowl of completely orange M&M's. Her mind flashed back to when she and Lise had left. It had been shortly before the War and at the time she had thought that it was the best thing. But now she wasn't sure. Lately she hadn't been sure of much. At first she had just thought that it was just that she had been afraid — not that that wasn't a part of it — but she realised now that maybe, just maybe, she'd seen something the others hadn't.

::Damned if I know what, though,:: she thought, as she felt the eyes of the Council drilling into her and the Writer.

The place had changed since she'd last been in it. It was no longer what she had watched Lise and Chandri build. Now, she no longer wanted to be here — in fact, very much the opposite.

But the Council didn't seem terribly interested in her opinions at all. They were sitting now, waiting for the other "guests" to arrive.

"Static?" Chandri's appearance had surprised him enough to startle him off of his chair and onto the floor.

"Damn you teleporters. None of you ever knock."

"Sorry," she said, shrugging and offering him a hand up. He took it, and stared at her for a moment.

"What's wrong?" he asked finally, noticing her uneasy stance.

"I need your help with something. I'd ask Lise, but she'd just yell at me for being paranoid. 'Sides, I need someone who has nothing better to do. And do you?" she asked, tilting her head to one side.

"Uhh... well... I don't think so."

"Good then. Let's go." She said, holding out one hand in an invitation to teleport.

"Can't we go some other way? And where are we going?"

"Well..." she looked uncertain. "Crystallis, or near to it. There are... troops... or something, keeping watch on the Island, and I don't know whose they are, but I don't like it. I can't keep watch on them myself; I need someone to watch my back. And as I said, everyone else is otherwise occupied, doesn't know who I am, or doesn't care. So do you want to teleport? Or would you rather walk?"

He sighed in resignation. "Not really," he said, to both questions. "Just let me get something to eat..."

"Chandri?" Static's face was next to hers in the dark, whispering in her ear.

"What?" she replied, not taking her eyes off the troops they were supposed to be watching.

"It's cold. And they haven't moved in hours."

"I'm aware of that," Chandri answered, pushing him away.

"You're obsessing," he said, moving to sit beside her.

"I am not," she replied. "I'm doing what has to be done."

"Which is?"

She sighed, turning back to the line of indistinguishable "troops", but started as she suddenly saw that they were gone. Both Writers then gasped as a trio of dark, shapeless fictives appeared before them.

::The troops were a diversion --:: she thought rather uselessly as she and Static moved slowly to their feet, ::-- to get me away from the Island...::

The fictives were eight, nine, and seven feet tall respectively, and a great deal physically stronger than either of the Writers.

"I think we're in trouble, shadow," Static murmured to Chandri.

"Y'think?" she answered, those being her last words before the two realised the sudden multiplication of the fictives around them. They were surrounded.

"Damnit," Chandri cursed, before the fictives advanced, and the world went black.

The two Writers awoke in a dark room. A room that, to Chandri, was hauntingly familiar. Except that the last time she'd been here, she'd been kicked out of it.

Her head was thrown into a dizzying ache by the sudden light above their heads. She mentally cursed herself for ever having those bloody spotlights installed, but was brought abruptly back to consciousness when she saw two other familiar faces looking down at her.

"Isis? D^Knight? What're you doing here?" she mumbled, turning to poke Static into wakefulness. He came to slowly, grumbling something mostly incoherent about irritating shadows and shapeless blobs jumping him in the middle of snowstorms. He opened his eyes, then immediately seemed to regret the action as he was temporarily blinded by the spotlight. He searched through the pockets of his coat for his sunglasses, and found them, putting them on. He blinked up at the other three Writers, and groaned.

"Does this have to do with that little indiscretion on the last Writer's Night? Because if it does, I have an explanation for all of that..."

Chandri hushed him: "Keep your indiscretions to yourself, Static," she advised him. "I don't think they care much about them one way or the other." She gestured to the imposing stone table that dominated their end of the room.

"You are quite correct, First Oriole," Said a booming voice from the approximate centre of the table. Chandri couldn't see the speaker, but recognised the voice.

"Are you afraid to let me see you, Jareth?" she said, speaking clearly and loudly into the gloom that separated the little circle of light from the table.

"Not at all." Said the voice, "But there are others here who are not authorised to do so. Your companions, for instance," he said, gesturing to D^Knight and Static.

"Oh, stuff it," she said. "They're here because they were trying to help me, and that's all there is to it. All this cloak-and-dagger stuff is getting a bit old. The Council was never meant to—"

"The policies of the Council are no longer your concern, Chandri," said the voice.

"The hell they're not!" she answered indignantly. "Sending spies to observe the Island? Ambushing unsuspecting Writers? If this isn't Interfering, Jareth, then tell me what is!"

There was a terse silence that, had the location been at all different, would have been visible. Instead, it was only tangible, but ended similarly to what had happened earlier with the arrival of Isis and D^Knight. The blinding spotlight shut off, and the overhead lights came on.

"You overstep your boundaries, Chandri," said the bluish figure that stood at the centre of the table.

"Do I? Really?" she inquired. "It seems to me that you yourselves have widened my "boundaries". That's quite a feat, considering why we were given limitations in the first place. I thought you hated irony, Jareth."

The bluish figure pulled his shoulders up haughtily: "That is hardly the issue at hand, Chandri."

"I'd beg to differ, if I had time. I suppose you felt Lise wasn't worth your effort?"

"Hardly," the figure answered. "I would warn you... and your companions... and others... against interfering with things you cannot change. It is not your authority anymore."

"Others? As in who? Kielle?"

When he didn't answer, Chandri shook her head incredulously; "You would dare to dictate the laws of Subreality to the Scribe herself? Who do you think you are? The Council hasn't that power, Jareth. Or that right. It was never meant to."

Isis looked pleadingly at her, and gestured to the two other Writers who were both sitting and standing on the featureless floor with identical expressions of extreme confusion. Chandri sighed.

"So? Would the great leader of the Writer's Council care to tell me why I've been 'summoned' into your presence?" Chandri glared in the figure's general direction. He cleared his throat and stepped back a step or two before continuing.

"There have been... phenomenon," he said slowly, studying Chandri carefully as he did. "They hearken to mind the events of our past — and your removal from our midst. You, and your fellow creator."

"You mean Lise? What phenomenon?" Chandri was getting extremely tired of being discussed in the third person.

"The same type of phenomenon that required it in the first place," 'Jareth' said gravely. Chandri's eyes widened, and she paled to a lighter shade of aquamarine.

"I thought maybe it was just me, being paranoid," she said quietly, glancing at Isis.

"I am afraid not," Jareth answered. "And since you were and are firmly enmeshed in the events... we were hoping that you could... enlighten us."

Chandri's eyes narrowed even as Jareth fell back yet another step.

"You? You want me to help you? Give me one good reason."

"'For the sake of the greater good' comes to mind," Jareth said, sounding a great deal less sure than he had initially.

Chandri made a derisive noise, then shook her head. "You know what comes to my mind? A character created by Sophocles. Her name was Ismene."

There was a great deal of insulted whispering among the members of the Council who recognised the reference.

"If you are implying..." Jareth, who was one of them, began, but was interrupted.

"I most certainly am," Chandri said. "You ignored my warnings. You ignored me, until it was too late. You ran when the rest of Subreality was going down in flames. And when it was over, you exiled us. You denied us any say in the matter. You passed judgement on us without even trying to find out why I did what I did. You didn't even ask. And now, this is your idea of redemption. To fall with us. You were afraid to do it before. Weren't you?"

The Council simply stared imposingly.

"Well, to hell with all of you. Ismene wasn't allowed the salvation of her honour, and neither will you be. I'll be damned if I'm going to let you take the guilt without the action. Damned glory-mongers. You don't even know what you're doing anymore. There's no honour here. No martyrdom. No nobility. Just barefaced truth. I won't let you glorify it into something it's not. I won't let you shame all those who died for your sake. You want enlightenment? Go to hell. You wouldn't help me before. And I won't let you fly out of the flames looking like the hero again. Not when you did nothing. Not when you..." she took a deep breath, straightening.

"You missed your chance, Jareth. All of you did. I hope you enjoy your status, Councillors. I hope you enjoy this chamber of yours. It's about to become your tomb."

Chandri made a nearly imperceptible hand motion, and the four kidnapped Writers disappeared, to reappear inside the Solar Heart.

"Uh, can I ask a question?" D^Knight asked. When the question was rewarded by two identical, glares, he cringed.

"Maybe it can wait." He amended, gesturing over to Mike for some sort of drink.

Subreality is Kielle's, all hail.
Chandri is me and myself. All other Writers mentioned herein belong to themselves and were used without permission.
The Writer's Council is... don't wanna know, don't wanna ask.
Ismene belongs to Sophocles; is from Antigone.
M&M's belong to Effem Foods.
Crystallis is mine but is pretty much public domain.
I think that's it.