Rallying Light


In the middle of a very, very dark place, there is a light. The light is a light-dragon, as a matter of fact. He's a tiny critter, but strong when he wants to be.

That little point of light moved slowly but surely towards another beckoning light in the cloaking night. The light was a building, one with the words "Solar Heart" attached above the front door.

Fred, extremely tired and very focused on getting to that door, barely noticed when his path was suddenly blocked by a mass that looked, at the last moment, like a Writer...


"What the..." muttered a voice, and the Writer looked down, to see that a small, vaguely dragon-shaped something was sliding down her leg in exhaustion, to finally slump on the damp concrete with a sad little chirp.

Hutch, being less than accustomed to having pseudo-amorphous, vaguely dragon-shaped Muses collide with her leg in the middle of dark streets, was, to put it simply, flummoxed.

"And what are you, little fellow?" she murmured, earning a chirp in response. She rather roughly translated the series of high-pitched sounds as: "Trouble. Must get... there."

Hutch lifted her head, and immediately decided that the only 'there' the dragon could be referring to was the comparatively prominent sight of the Solar Heart Café.

"Well, then... I was going there anyway," she said, scooping up the light-dragon and heading for the door.

The place was deserted when Hutch reached it, with the exception of a tall, green-haired fictive that hurried over to her when she entered.

"Who the hell're you?" she demanded of the Writer, and then saw what was in her hands.

"Fred!" she exclaimed, whisking him out of Hutch's hands and inspecting him carefully. "What happened? What'd you do to him?" she demanded again, narrowing her eyes.

"I'm Hutch," Hutch informed her, answering her first question, and then, "I found him on the road. Out there." She pointed vaguely down the street, answering her second. "I'm looking for Chandri. And Lise. And D^Knight," she said, her eyes on the fictive's face.

"They're not here," Krissie said, not looking up. "Point of fact, I don't know where they are. Lise was at the hospital with Tris, and D^Knight went with Isis to look for all the Writer-less fictives. And I don't have a clue where Chandri is. Nobody's seen any of them for hours."

"And him?" Hutch gestured to the little slumped dragon.

"Fred is Isis's Muse. He was with her. Fred?" she looked down at the Muse, who chirped weakly.

Though the sound was too muted for Hutch to understand, Krissie paled when he said it.

She looked up: "Can you take him to the hospital?"

"Why not you?" Hutch asked, a little confused.

"I can't leave the Café unguarded. Not for as long as it would take. 'Sides..." she looked Hutch over from head to toe. "You're a good Writer. That means he won't mind." She handed Fred back to the astonished Hutch, who started to say something, but was cut off by being pushed rather rudely out into the street.

Hutch paused a moment, looked from the door of the Café, to the dragon, and back to the door, and swore.

She started walking, heading in the general direction of the hospital. However, before long, she heard footsteps coming towards her. She looked up from the huddled form in her hands at the last moment, just in time to collide with a figure that was rushing in the opposite direction. Both of them were tumbled to their behinds, and Hutch held the little dragon to her chest as she was thrown head-over-heel. She managed to keep him from any further injury, and only after her head stopped spinning did she look up to see who/what she'd collided with.

At first, Hutch had no idea who it was. Sitting across from her — or rather, lying across from her on her side — was a Writer. Her form was, at the moment, partially covered by a mud-spattered brown cloak that reached her knees. Underneath, she was clad in blue jeans, knee-high brown boots, and what looked like a worn brown sweater. She was pale-skinned and dark-haired; when she lifted her face from the concrete, the other Writer touched fingers gingerly to her forehead where several scratches had appeared.

"Bloody hell..." the stranger cursed, throwing her waist-length braid over her shoulder and pushing stray hairs out of her eyes. Green eyes. With purple flecks in them.

::No, not purple...:: Hutch thought. The stranger's voice was familiar. Something came to mind about a midnight visit to the House, and Hutch and Epona's surprise discovery of finding Chandri crouched before the Tim Tam cupboard. ::...violet. Hey!::

"Chandri?" she inquired suddenly, trying the first name that came to her mind.

"Huh?" the other Writer looked at her, finally. "Hutch?" she said, as if just noticing her. "How did you... yes," she said, and then: "Bloody hell!" again, scrambling hastily to her knees, flinging the now-rather-ragged brown cloak off one shoulder and pulling a leather pouch out from under her sweater. She opened it, peeked inside, and then sighed with relief as the frantic expression faded from her face, to be replaced with mild confusion.

Hutch had only met Chandri once before, and in passing, at that. As a result, she didn't know her very well at all. Added to this was the fact that the last time she'd seen her, she'd looked a great deal different — in an avatar of sorts, the Oriole-form — which, needless to say, was a far cry from how she looked just at the moment. Hutch did, however, know very well (or at the very least was sure enough of it to risk being wrong) that Chandri was quite firmly entrenched in whatever the hell was going on in Subreality.

Suddenly, Chandri noticed Fred in Hutch's hands, and paled. This had the result of temporarily cutting off any trains of thought belonging to Hutch as Chandri stared at the huddled little light-dragon — whose glowing was becoming steadily dimmer — and then at Hutch.

"Where... did you find him?" she asked.

"He sort of ran into me, actually. Out of nowhere. I took him in there, since that's where he was headed, but the girl inside told me to..."

"Krissie?" Chandri sighed. She then held out her hands for Hutch to place Fred in. Hutch obliged, and watched, feeling rather useless, as Chandri murmured softly to the little dragon, listening to the answering chirps and questioning him.

Chandri bit her lip when Fred responded to her last question, her eyebrows drawn together in worry, and gulped.

She looked to Hutch. "Do you know where Kielle is?" she asked.

Hutch shook her head. "I was trying to find her — and you, by the way — when Fred 'found' me. And while on that subject, where the hell is everybody?"

Chandri compressed her lips together: "Do you want me to tell you now, or get the actual story when I have it?"

Hutch sighed. "Tell me what you know," she said.

"I'm afraid that isn't much," Chandri admonished. There was a pause, and then: "All right. I'll tell you."

She looked over her shoulder at the Café, and said: "Hold on a minute... I'll be right back."

She ran into the Café, and after a few minutes, came back out with a small blanket in her hand. She wrapped this around the small dragon-Muse and handed him back to Hutch. Then she started walking in the direction Hutch had been going in when she'd collided with Chandri in the first place.

"Well..." Chandri finally said, shoving her hands into her jeans pockets, "...it's kind of complicated."

"I have time," said Hutch, "Or rather, I don't but... hmph," she said as the logical line of that thought petered off into nothing. "Damn. That keeps happening."

"Does it?" Chandri said, looking at her. "That's funny. Every Writer I've come across today has said that."

"Said what?"

"That their thoughts are sort of... drifting. That they lose track of them before they can voice them. It's strange. Did you feel that... thing? A few hours ago?"

Hutch cocked her head to one side; "The... snap?"

Chandri nodded, "Have you seen Shantytown recently?" she asked.

"I've heard things," Hutch said.

"Really?" Chandri raised an eyebrow. "Well, it's getting bigger. And I don't know what it is at all. Nobody really does, still. But Tris... she was flying over it. She says something, shaped like a person, came out of it... and tried to pull her in."

A chill ran down Hutch's spine. "And?"

Chandri shrugged. "And nothing. She got free of it... and when she looked back, it was gone. I don't know what's happening... but it all feels wrong. And I still don't know what that bloody tree meant!"

"Tree?" Hutch did a very convincing impression of a confused rock. "What tree?"

"Oh." Chandri looked speculative for a moment. "You know about Burnout?"

"The epidemic?"

"Yah... well, me and Robin... Darking? Went to see the Tree of Life, since nobody had any other solutions... she... it... gave us this." Chandri paused and pulled a vial of luminous liquid from the pouch around her neck.

"What is that?" Hutch stared, transfixed, at the glowing vial.

"According to the Tree, it's an Elixir of Hope. The pure stuff. It's the cure to Burnout... well, half of it. Bloody Immortalised Metaphors. Riddles and more riddles. She said it needs Faith. But where the hell do I find that?"

Chandri put the vial back into her pouch, and shoved her hands back into her pockets.

Hutch shrugged. The sound of sirens were predominant now, and flashing red and blue lights could be seen ahead. They'd reached the hospital. This is when Chandri stopped, and turned to Hutch with an apologetic look on her face.

"I've got some stuff to do. Could you take him inside?"

"What? Why not you?"

"Um... I've got something to take care of that I was supposed to do a while ago. I'm really sorry about this. Is it okay?"

Hutch rolled her eyes, "Yeah, all right. But after that, I'm going back to HOSD, and going to bed. I'm exhausted."

Chandri got an odd look on her face when she said that, and Hutch peered at her.

"What is it?"

Chandri shook her head, "I don't know. I just... a bad feeling, you know?" She shook her head again, apparently trying to rid herself of the thought. "I've got to go. Thanks a lot for doing this... and would you tell them to tell him... that she's all right? He'll know what I mean."

"Sure." Hutch sounded confused.

"Thanks," Chandri said, and turned and took off at a run down the street.

She'd been sitting in one place for too long; she knew that much.

She also knew, at an instinctual level, that had she been warned beforehand of all the things that would transpire in this place once she entered it, she probably never would have come.

Fully aware of these two facts, Chandri sat looking down into the rock-pool in Willow Glen. It was raining, or rather, drizzling, and the sound of sporadic rainfall mixed with the sound of birdsong and the calls of small animals made the whole picture rather poetic. She felt as if she could simply put the whole thing into a box and keep it the same forever; the other thing she knew, though, was that this was not really the case. The quiet, detached feeling of the place would soon trickle away along with the rest of the places, into that great darkness that was spreading out at an alarming rate.

She worried a lot lately. Not for one thing, or another, but for everything, in one huge, tangled, twisted knot that settled at the pit of her stomach and made her feel as if nothing she did could ever fix it. It was just too much to consider at once.

The situation here had begun to affect her elsewhere, or perhaps it was the other way around. In any case, it was all connected. It was simply up to her to either figure out how, or give up and fall asleep like those who had already done so, and never wake up.

::Tris...:: she thought idly, suddenly remembering the panic she'd felt at the Muse's not appearing the previous night, when her computer's hard drive had crashed. Chandri had thought it to be revenge, on someone's part; for why else would her computer be taken away from her, the object that guarded everything worthwhile she'd ever done? That was how she saw it, anyway. It had been a truly frightening experience, the thought that maybe someone had decided that cutting her off, pushing her away from this world and letting her Fictives fade away was better than letting her waste anyone else's time with reading about them, hurting anyone else. She had even asked for a "why", even called for the Muse she'd originally rejected, and had gotten no answer, no explanation. Nightmares had followed her all throughout the night.

Suddenly, something cold and wet hit her on the back of the neck. She reached up a hand and found that the tree directly above her was dripping water down her shirt. She wriggled closer to the edge of the pond into a closer position, her hair hanging down over her eyes and just barely touching the surface of the water. It was long and dark now, bound back in a long braid, though bits of it were escaping and obscuring her eyes. She hadn't worn her other form in days, now. Mostly because she simply hadn't the energy to do it anymore, but also because she didn't feel she had the right to it anymore; not to mention that many of the others who wore that form were now nothing she wanted to be associated with.

As she stared at her reflection in the water, she found herself beginning to shiver. Her clothes were damp from sitting in the grass, in the rain; one problem with going about Subreality in human form was that she could now feel cold and other discomfort as much more pronounced way than before.

She thought briefly about Writing herself some warmer, possibly waterproof clothing, but dismissed the thought when she realised that she had no paper or Writing implements. While she knew it was possible for a Writer to create such things without the aid of pen and paper, she didn't really trust herself not to accidentally give herself a coat of blue fur or something with a stray thought. Her mind was not, nor had it ever been that organised. Especially now.

She'd lived through the last few weeks in a state of constant anxious worry. Her mind, characteristically refusing to slow down for even a nanosecond, kept turning the events and possible consequences over and over and over, with the end result of making everything seem a great deal worse than it was - or at least, seem would have been the right term on a normal day, but this was, after all, Subreality. And she was a Writer. Seem to her could quite possibly end up being Is.

"Damnit." she cursed quietly to herself as she ripped up a fistful of grass and threw it fitfully forward. The blades of grass spread out over the surface of the pool, making tiny ripples as they touched the water.

Finally, the worry and anxiety had led her to seek out some of those who knew more than her, or at least, she'd hoped so. She'd made the attempt, at least; but the realisation that she'd never been invited to the House had stopped her short. Not only that, but she'd felt something from that direction that she somehow knew that she most definitely did not want to approach.

And then, being unable to find any of the others; Kielle, Seraph, Hutch, Farli, Rossi... they were nowhere to be found. A short visit to Subreality General had won her no new information. No one had seen Hutch since she'd brought Fred in, and Kielle had left the day before. That was now almost a full day ago.

In fact, it seemed that all of the more established Writers were missing. Chandri realised rather detachedly that she might be over-exaggerating the passage of time, but she couldn't be certain. All she knew was that something was horribly wrong; a feeling she'd been carrying around for several weeks, at least.

And her closer friends; D^Knight and Rachel had been with Isis, and Fred's return, alone, did little to bolster Chandri's confidence in their well-being. Fred's scant information on their abductors helped even less.

Robin and Chandri had parted after returning from their visit to the Tree, and Chandri hadn't seen her since. She assumed that the other Writer had returned to Reality, but she couldn't be sure.

Finally, Lise was also gone. Andri, Matt and several others had seen her teleport out of the board room at the hospital, but no one had seen her return.

It all left Chandri feeling very helpless, alone, and small.

"What's the matter?" asked the small form crouched on the opposite side of the pool. Chandri looked up into Hailen's face.

"I wish I knew," Chandri told the Dryad. "Everything's falling apart, Hailen. I don't know how to fix it. Or if I even can."

"Can't you just..." Hailen wrinkled her nose, "Write it away? Isn't that what this place is for? Why you brought us all here?"

"No, I can't." Chandri said, studying Hailen. The Dryad's shape and appearance hadn't changed since the Writer herself was a child. In Reality, at least ten years. Maybe more.

Hailen had been her first character, her first fictive, though at the time she'd had no idea for the meaning of the word. Later, she'd decided Hailen was a Dryad, though her appearance remained the same. The word, she'd gotten from "Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold!" when she'd read it at the age of twelve. It had seemed like the perfect word. And then the name. That had come later. She'd been Oak, before that, and even before that, Willow; named after different trees at the houses she lived in. Trees she'd sat under, and spoken to, and told stories to as she wrote them down. Friends. Hailen had been her friend, albeit an imaginary one.

And yet, she'd only recently put her face down on paper. The tiny girl that could be a tree, the tree that she spoke to and imagined hearing an answer from, now had form in the minds of others, too. But she never aged. She remained ever eight years old; a year older than the Writer had been when she created her. And while her age never changed, her wisdom grew with her creator's.

"I brought you here because I thought you'd be happier. It's certainly more comfortable here than inside my head."

"Tidier," Hailen said, dipping her fingers in the water.

"Indubitably," Chandri agreed. "But Hailen... It might not be so tidy for long."

"Whaddya mean?" Hailen's nose was wrinkled again.

"It might get ugly. Frightening. There's something out there, in the City, that could hurt you. That's why I want you to stay here."

"The City?" Hailen's eyebrows were scrunched together in childish worry. "What is it?"

"I don't know. And that's why it frightens me. It's dangerous. It could destroy... everything."

"Are we going to die?" Hailen's normally dark face was pale and ashen.

Chandri bit her lip, shook her head. "No, Ashke. Nothing like that. I just might not... be here... for a while."

"We'll disappear, though! We'll go to Shantytown and fade away!"

"No, you won't. You're in three heads now, Hailen. Mine, Lise's, Isis's. Not to mention Static, Threnody, a few others, and Kielle herself. I'd never forget you, anyway. Never. You won't fade. Even if I never come back."

"What do you mean? You are coming back, aren't you?"

"I don't know. I hope so. I just don't know." Chandri leaned down and kissed the girl on her forehead, then turned away.

"I'll think about you," She said, and then vanished. Hailen started to cry.

Unlike the other times, she didn't knock, didn't appear shockingly out of nowhere, but rather walked into the Café, went to the door beside the bar, pulled it open, and stormed into the Council Chamber with no heed for what the Council thought.

The motley collection of multi-coloured avatars at the table were silent, huddled, and shocked at the sight of one of their own — or one who had once been — appearing here in her true form. Chandri ignored the gasps and the whispers, and walked right up to the table.

"Who the hell do you think you are, Jareth?" she said into the melee of voices, and they stilled. She stared up at the green-blue shadow facing her, and reached up and seized an indistinct collar when he didn't answer. Jareth's mouth opened and closed soundlessly as he took in the fact that he was being manhandled by an outcast.

"How dare you..."

"How dare I what? Speak? Think? Do what you lot should have done in the first place? What I should have done? What?" Chandri glared into his glimmering eyes, her own flashing violet reminiscent of her Oriole-form.

With a grunt, Jareth jerked out of her grasp, and straightened. "I do not have to justify myself to you," he said, starting to turn away, to dismiss her again.

"The hell you don't!" Chandri shouted, her hands balled into fists at her sides. "You send troops to ambush me in my own home... you send spies after my Muse. You kidnap my friends... don't think I didn't know, Jareth," she said as his eyes widened.

"I spoke to Fred. He told me what happened. You can't just sit here anymore, Jareth. Any of you!" she looked around the table, trying to hold the gaze of each of those assembled.

"This world is crumbling around you. You're supposed to protect it! That's why we brought you here in the first place! Damnit! This isn't a damn arc! This isn't Mainframe! You can't just make it go away with a click of the mouse! It sticks, here!" her fist collided with the table-top, and mugs of coffee and tea rattled along its length.

"It's all here! All together! It matters! You can't just sit here and watch as it falls apart!"

Chandri went silent then, looking around the table again, waiting for a reaction. None came.

"Damn all of you, then. Be as complacent and uncaring as you please. But let them go." She pointed a finger warningly at Jareth, "Or I promise you, you'll regret it."

"It will be done," said a red shadow, two seats down from Jareth. "But it will do you no good."

"Why not?"

"Because you are all alone. And you have not the time to help them."

"What about the others? Kielle? Rossi? Seraph? Anyone?"

"They will be no help to you. That is all we can say."

Chandri pressed her lips together, seeming abnormally calm, and looked around the table one last time.

"I don't know why I ever liked this place." She said, and left.

Disclaimers: Subreality concept discovered by Kielle, all hail. She gets auto-posting-permission. Anybody else, ask.
Ummm... lessee... Hailen is my first-ever fictive, but is mostly now public domain.
Tris is my Muse. 'Nuff said.
All Writers mentioned in this story are the property of themselves, as far as I know (and hope).
All Muses are Muses, and therefore not mine.
Krissie is the Bouncer at the Solar Heart, and a fictive of D^Knight's. The Solar Heart was conceived of by D^Knight, and we helped him build it.
Jareth and the Council? It's better not to ask. Yeek.
"Magic Kingdom For Sale: Sold!" and all the books after it are by Terry Brooks.
If I forgot anything, please don't beat me, or sue me... I have no money anywyay... it's two in the morning, and I'm tired... any mistakes can be blamed on fatigue and a lack of tea.