Long ago, she had gone to her mother and asked the reasonable question: what is it that you do, exactly?
Her mind’s eye could provide her parent’s canvas. The starched white laboratory smock, her uniform barring those evenings of the little black cocktail dress or the incongruous patched denims in which her mother did her gardening; the lacquered nails, chipped and needing their next manicure. The lingering scent of Chanel and vermouth. In the hand, a novel; something modernist but not too too, a Cather or a worn paperback of Greene. The reading tastes of her materfamilias had seen her contrarily ignore that American brand of subjectivism until the next year’s birthday, whereupon her mother had gifted her Anne Of Green Gables and she in retaliation battled valiantly through Absalom, Absalom!. Rose Lalonde had been nine.
Back then the smooth transition of one stockinged knee sliding over to the other stockinged knee was nylon ballet, and her mother’s lipstick curved in a condescending smile. Rose would always recall.
“I meddle with dark forces, darling,” she said.
“Then so shall I,” said Rose.
“I wouldn’t,” said her mother. “It pays abominably. No, I’m sending you to Gainesville so that you can become a dentist. My hopes for you have always been in the realm of oral hygiene. Could you refresh my glass, Rosebud? Just a gin and tonic, and be judicious about the tonic.”
“Rosebud was a sled,” she said, crossing to the drinks cabinet, “and teeth don’t interest me. Aren’t you invested in your daughter following in your spoke-heeled, slightly intoxicated shuffle?”
“Not in the least,” said her mother agreeably. The afternoon sun made her coiffed hair gleam, threw her clever, lovely face into irritating relief. Her eyes were a deep real violet, less like Elizabeth Taylor and more like Phoenician dye: Rose’s by comparison were a particularly insipid lilac. And there was something about her hands that made one think of knives. “Dark forces are dowdy. Long hours and no payoff, and the deadline was always yesterday. One’s tools are insufficient, the yield’s disappointing. But there is a cold white light deep in the heart of dentistry. You’ll like it.”
“I’ll end up marrying a lawyer and our two-point-five children will live in Maine.” The ice cubes were sticking in their tray, and Rose made sure she added too many for dilution purposes. “Nobody will be here to look after you in your incipient dotage.”
“I’ll call every day from the retirement home. Maybe a kindly nurse will even lift my arthritic claw to the phone.”
“Then I’ll buy only the very best for your decline. Wedgwood emesis basins shall catch your dribble.”
“My, my. Sharper than the plaque-ridden serpent’s tooth is the ungrateful child.” The gin and tonic was deposited between the waiting fingers. Shrewish dipsomaniac. “Go run and play, darling, and forget about dark forces or the meddling thereof. Your sweet golden head should only have dear little thoughts inside it.”
Rose hovered by the doorway. “Before you discount me to fillings and root canals, mother mine, my acquaintance John has labelled me grimdark,” she said. “Surely that counts for something.”
“It counts for your acquaintance John making godawful portmanteaus,” said Mrs. Lalonde. “Order Thai for dinner.”
Of course, the Skaianet Laboratories directory listed her mother as a theoretical computer scientist, her degree from MIT and her laboratory experience from Sydney; her mother never spoke of either, and treated the past as behind a locked door too dull to bother with. She never shook the impression that her mother was something luminous taking refuge, having chosen quiet obscurity in a town with the excruciating name of Rainbow Falls only until the world next needed her to rescue it. She never shook the impression that she herself was an afterthought; a plain changeling daughter of Titania, chasing cryptozoological shadows. She watched her mother’s bored disappointment of her fill every room.
No talk of fathers (we Lalondes are a tragically upper-class Lifetime movie, she’d said once, but the bait wasn’t taken). No talk of pregnancies, even, as though even the circumstances of her birth had been discarded on the side of the road for someone else to pick up and hock on Craigslist. Only once did her mother slip: on a night when she’d imbibed more than usual of her de facto spouse, the dirty martini, sprawled in a chair with her glass glazed in unsteady lipstick smears. Her cheeks were flushed, and the dim light made her eyes as purple as blood.
When I first held you in my arms, you screamed, she said. You screamed like you were at the very mouth of Hell.
-- Mom --
Go to bed, Rose.
The sins of the mothers were visited upon the children. Rose Lalonde was woegothic proof.
TT: I am gone, never to return.
TT: We’ve had a difficult relationship, you and I. Let friendship be a vertical slide rule, and let us be the arrow pointing off haphazardly to the side marked “I Don’t Even Know.”
TT: But of all the things I owe people - and I owe a great many people so many things - what I owed you is and was nothing less or more than peace of mind. That pittance is yours and yours alone.
TT: I’ll even permit: I underestimated you. You frustrated me. You were overly literal, sardonic, alternatively too earnest and cynical. You’re wedded to archaic and interminably short-sighted ideas about duty. You are a breathtakingly irritating nag.
TT: Your intelligence was a breath of fresh air in what was, to me, a small cubicle fogged thick with the saccharin Glade-dispensed fug of other people’s shortsightedness.
TT: So was your humor.
TT: So was, ironically, your humanity.
GA: Okay It Is With No Sense Of Dismayed Personal Satisfaction I Point Out You Are Rambling
GA: I Will Not Even Touch The Statements Made Up There Due To The Fact That They Are Making Me Feel Simultaneously Awkward And Apprehensive For Different Reasons
GA: What Im Trying To Say Is
GA: What Is Your Location What Are You Doing Of All The Things I Thought Id Understood Regarding Your Inevitable Grimdark Death I Am At A Complete Goddamned Loss
GA: Yes Unbelievably Emphatic Take That Shout Pole Of Yours And Emphatically Ram It Down Your Protein Chute
TT: Uncharacteristically, aggressively emphatic.
GA: I Have Experienced A Number Of Changes And One Of Them Is A Significantly Lessened Ability To Cope With What You Are Doing In A Calm And Rational Manner
GA: Answer Me Please Where Are You
TT: Bzzt. Wrong question. Try another.
TT: Oh, I understand why he did that now. The feeling of vaguing it up is an intoxicating one.
TT: In any case, I will allow you the coup of an I Told You So. Insert a penitent statement here regarding my association with grimdark magics, and how I never should have been involved with them.
TT: In short: you warned me about the horrorterrors, sister.
TT: You told me, dog.
GA: I Dont Understand Not Even A Little Bit
GA: Is This Some Sarcastic Magnum Opus Youre Setting Up Here
TT: Or perhaps it was always a done deal. I was their creature even before the start, as I understand the start.
GA: Who Are You
TT: I am Rose Lalonde and I dwell with my masters in the Furthest Ring. One day I shall speak for those without tongues and open doors for those without hands. I am the bridge. I will sing in their voices. I shall make the holes through which not even light shall escape, Rainbow Drinker.
GA: Oh God Oh God Oh God
GA: What Have You Done
TT: I am gone, never to return.
TT: The next time you see me, don’t trust my face. In fact, don’t trust a word I say. Every word of it will be a lie. I am lying even now, but it is a tactical torpedo of lie created to slip under a radar of those who watch me even in their unwaking sleep. Tell John and Jade and Dave I owe them everything. Tell them not to stay their hands.
GA: Oh God
GA: I Will Tell Them No Such Thing I Will Tell Them Youre Delusional And Need Their Help Ill Tell Them Youre Lost And Should Immediately Be Found
GA: Let Me Be Clear I Consider Myself A Newly Minted Expert Regarding Death Being No Final Word On Anything So I Am Less Than Impressed At Anything Ranked Below That
GA: Are You Dead
GA: Well There You Go
TT: I came only to apologise.
TT: With not a breath of insincerity: Kanaya, I am sorry.
TT: The mantle of Snarky Broad falls on your respectably ready shoulders, as does the weighty crown of being one of the only really sensible people around. The pupil will outstrip the mentor in this case. Be good, be kind, be measured, be happy. Be righteous and brave. Be the inverse of myself and you’ll succeed on that rubric alone.
GA: Oh God Oh God
GA: Rose I Refuse Every Single Order You Have Given And As A Bonus I Demand You Stop Being So Melodramatic This Will Not Be The End This Cannot Be The End
GA: We Have Come Too Far And Lost Too Much For This Kind Of Pedestrian Human Horseshit You Would Have Told Me That Once You Would Have Denied Everything You Would Have Looked Into The Face Of Failure And Been Nothing Less Than Unimpressed
GA: Everything You Do You Make Resonant
GA: This Is No Type Of Ending Youd Settle For Its Inelegant Its Tawdry This Cannot Happen
GA: Rose Permit Me A Hysterical Tangent But How Are You Even Typing
TT: I’m not.
TT: You’re dreaming in a particularly strange medium, Ms. Maryam.
TT: Wake up.
The Doom That Came To Rose Lalonde
In the Furthest Ring her cell was wide and her windows filled with water. The damp got in everywhere. The stone walls were wet, the air was clammy and chill, and the strange bioluminescent ripples in the ceiling gave the darkness texture rather than illumination. In the center there was a raised dais for her to sleep on, the only mattress a bolt of mouldering black velvet, and otherwise nothing. She always slept cold.
The windows were simply open frames looking out on a great, terrible ocean of blue and black, held back by an invisible skin permeable to her fingers. Out in the water things would drift: large things, with many bladders and tentacles, with a thousand stingers hanging down in serried angel-hair rows, wobbly things with eyes. Enormous shadowy silhouettes. Despite everything that had passed her brain didn’t want to look at them, trying to place her eyes anywhere but at the denizens of her prison’s sea.
But her eyes were no longer her own. They had put her in the water and the tendrils -- there had been tendrils and the water had been salty and dark -- they -- the memory was piecemeal, eaten away. They had pressed at her eyes. Her heart had struggled like a caged bird. Pressed up against her cornea, penetrating and struggling through to the anterior chamber and then inside where each tendril was heavy with a thousand skittering secrets, bleeding black jelly --
Rose had screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. When she woke up her gaze sometimes danced independently of where she put it, something else twitching her medial muscles, focusing on the abyssal currents outside her room. It nestled in her mind and was a pressure on her soul. Her eyes were no longer her own, and neither was she.
When she lay on that dais she tangled her fingers up in front of her face, watching the black-pearl shimmer of her skin, squeezing her eyes shut until the thing inside her head propped them open. Neither did it let her weep.
There was a horrorterror who worked as her attaché, and it wore her mother’s face.
In fact, it might have been many horrors in unison, or just the one, or a mix; it was hard working out what was independent and what was part of a general hivemind in the Furthest Ring. Gods brushed up against her, bumping blindly in the manner of worms in the earth, sniffing and drifting away again. They drifted alike, Smaller to Middling, and within them all the terrible promise of the Noble Circle who whispered unwoken in the deeps. An invisible umbilical cord attached them all to each other and she couldn’t identify a center, not remotely. It was probably pandering to her human conceits that they gave her an attaché at all.
Now it stood in her doorway. “Hello to You, Rose,” it said.
They were unable to fully recreate her. None of the colours were correct. They were subdued, off, the scent of Chanel mixing with sweet putrefaction and the everpresent ocean salt, the hinges on the arms not moving quite correctly and the bones too sinuous to let it walk right. Too inept. Too ineptly done to hurt. “I wish you wouldn’t,” she said.
It ignored her. “You have been looking into the dream bubbles,” it said. “You were concerned with the voided spittle of the Unwaking Blower. You saw into a dream. You were watched.”
“I’m to be your prophet,” she said, and swung her legs down over the dais. There was an unpleasant sodden feeling to her clothing now, all the time, and she was never warm. “There’s not even a little leeway? I knew you were watching, I told her nothing of interest. And for the record, this eldritch voyeurism is annoying.”
“You gave the Sylph warnings. You roused her.”
“I misled,” said Rose. “Look at me. Look at my contempt for her. She doesn’t know I came willingly.”
The horrorterror slowly swirled its tongue around her mother’s mouth, as though curious about the shape of her teeth. Its eyes were unblinking, and it took a while to pick over her naked mind and register what it thought was contempt; Rose had discovered they found it difficult to distinguish between the finer points of emotion, the little spectrums of anger or despair, the lines between hate and guilt. “No,” it eventually agreed. “You could not do anything of consequence. You did not try. You were contemptuous. You left.”
All of this bored her. “I want to go for a walk,” she said.
“You will walk and I will accompany You.”
The passages in this place were narrow and dark, angling up and down like shafts in an Egyptian pyramid. One had to ignore the insistent pangs of claustrophobia -- the thing behind her eyes let her see in the dark, or at least translated the darkness for her -- and hurry, not wanting the guide behind her to touch her even in accident, picking paths at random until they came to an open space. Today that open space was the Pit.
The Pit was an enormous basin filled a little with brackish water. Gloppy things with long, bony arms shambled there, in and over each other packed tight as sardines, opening their mouths to display blue teeth. Often you would see one idly devouring another, mouth oozing, without much alarm to either its victim or the rest of the shamblers around it. They made no sound except ragged, wet-lunged breathing, and sometimes a crunch.
“As armies go, I’m beginning to find this one a little less than terrifying,” said Rose. “They look like Halloween brine shrimp.”
“You will change your mind when You see them in battle,” said her attaché, hair bone yellow and matte in the dim light. “You will see they do not know fear or pain. You will see their intent when they smell living flesh. You will see they move as quickly in water as they move on land. You must realise they are a mere distraction for the Emerald Cohort, and that all the Noble Circle must prepare for is their Lord. Rose, You are apprehensive.”
“As I’m nigh-memetically told, he’s already here,” she said.
“You and We will flood him. You will make way for Our waters. We will cleanse the Game and close the Ring around it.”
“And feed on everything left in the unguarded universes.”
“You understand the payoff.”
She did. There was a great deal to understand now about what she had done and what she had not done, and despite this newly-found clarity hindsight was still an awful Disney Viewmaster kicking her in the pants with every assumption she’d made. As she stared at the writhing mass of her army before her, her desire to vomit grew. Rose carefully blanked out her mind by building up John’s house inside her head: duplicating each unsteady layer, stacking it up like one of his hated batterwitch cakes.
John. Jade. Dave --
“I’ve seen enough,” she said, and forced imperiousness. “Take me back.”
The thing inside her eyes wanted to swim. Sometimes she stripped down to her petticoat (one could not be a successful adolescent goth sans petticoat) and eased herself out of her window, pushing hard off the side and into the freezing water, and from there she could see the great grey rocks that housed the prison: an enormous underwater pillar that stretched as far as the eye could see. There was no surface to swim to. There was no bottom, either.
When Rose floundered out into the dark, it never took long for a black shadow to follow along silently behind her. It trailed at a discreet distance, a far-off glob in her peripheral vision. When she stopped, it stopped. Her bodyguard -- bodyguard or jailer? -- appeared to be a gigantic, smoothly-rounded jellyfish with lappets undulating, unconcerned. Its indifference matched her own at first, and nowadays filled her with a strange kind of dread.
The ocean was a fishless, featureless plain. Swim out far enough and there was only darkness, though she swore she saw stars twinkling off in the far distance; look in the windows of the carved pillar and they were empty. There was nothing to look at and nowhere to be. The Horrorterrors were silent now, and didn’t even whisper to her of the future the way they had on Derse: just her name as she passed, Seer, Seer, Seer, Seer, Seer.
When she lay on her dais and closed her eyes, it was less because she wanted to sleep and more because she no longer wanted her rider to flicker through her irises. In the privacy of her head she thought of the other three, because those thoughts were her own and could not be taken away: how much she would have desperately wanted Jade, who would have been buoyant and furious by now. im not sitting around in this lamesauce tower, fuckasses!!! rose. lets go! Dave. holy shit we could rent this place out to bauhaus fans for megabucks. lalonde i gotta get you out of here before you start swishing around in a fucking cape or whatever John. well this place is demented and gothy and also it is making you bugfuck crazy. let’s skidaddle, rose!
She had betrayed them all, and paid thirty pieces of silver for the privilege. She was a fool.
Back then her imagination also conjured up: Okay Not To Interrupt Your Self-Obsessive Gloom But The Decor In Here Is Terrible And You Can Still Mope In The Light To Your Hearts Content I Am The Sylph Of Space And There Is No Path We Cannot Travel Rose Lalonde
-- which was self-indulgent, saccharine, more than a little lame. Kanaya Maryam was chill and elegant and steadfast and she had betrayed her too. All sentiment was misplaced. The first time she had asked her questions of the Furthest Ring underdeeps to watch the others, to see Jade gnawing her lip to shreds and John unworriedly traipsing Skaia and Dave with his head in his hands, out of more than idle curiosity she had scryed Kanaya. She was her troll oracle, as it were. Rose couldn’t deny the urge to see what they looked like.
Scrying was an inexact art. The first time she saw her she was a dead girl. A dead grey girl with a hole through her abdomen, leaking copious quantities of what looked to be Spirulina on to a dusty metal floor. A dead grey alien girl -- behorned, sharp-toothed, her short hair lacquer-black and in slight disarray; well-dressed, she’d thought inanely, Kanaya was always talking clothes -- less dissimilar than she’d ever guessed, more strange than she’d assumed. And she was very dead.
“No,” she’d said, and stirred the vision in her window with one of her needles. “No, I was talking to her just a little while ago. This is stupid.”
The vision boiled over and reformed. The same dead girl with a swath of fabric tied around her abdomen to keep her insides chaste and private, epidermally glowing like a fistful of white Christmas lights. Kanaya walked as though each step were a precision knife thrust. This all made about as much sense as John’s psychological aversion to good cinema, and parts of her brain shut down. Other parts said: thank God, before she had much of a chance to silence them.
But how, this can’t be how all trolls --
And she touched her mind to the water, and the Circle responded. They were well-versed in subjects regarding undeath, a sort of eldritch Wikipedia, and although she no longer had the same cavalier attitude to letting them slither around her brain she was still resigned to it. They spoke in guttural languages. They showed, rather than explained, the invisible blood hunger settling over Kanaya’s skin like glitter. She was not their creature and never had been, even if she’d no longer ever dream Prospit, but undead would always be something they implicitly understood.
Vampire was one word she recognised. Another voice said, rainbow-drinker, and she thought it was perhaps the low atonal melodies of Gl’Bgloyb. Rainbow drinker, filled with hues. It shines! It moves flirtively. It gorges on the living. It too will survive. ‘Rainbow drinker’ sounded more like something a six-year-old girl would name a unicorn, but what would she know, she was a thirteen-year-old girl corrupted and swollen with unfathomable evil who lived in a pillartop under the sea.
The thing inside her eyes was interested in John, in Jade and Dave, and it was interested in Kanaya. When she had watched them shimmer inside the dark panel of her window it had not let her blink, and she could feel its pressure against her retinas as though it wished to burst through those white bubbles and reach out to touch --
Rose had jerked her head away, clapped her hands over her face. The rage within her was part-grimdark, part-panic. “Touch them,” she said, “touch them ever, and I will end you. I will end us both. Are you clear on this point? Must I elaborate?”
It gave no assent. For a while back then she did not watch John or Jade or Dave, nor Kanaya. Rose lay in her afterthought of a bed and simply practiced staring at her eyelids. She thought of nothing, just in case; these days she only craved privacy, and silence.
The horrorterror who worked as her attaché never knocked on her door. It would just appear, silent and sudden, though at least now the crackle of magic along her skin never let her be surprised by anything: “You are desired by Your patron,” it said. “Oglogoth and the Circle must speak to You.”
That had been different. The Lesser Circle as well as the monster whose thorns she bore talked to her whenever they wanted to, a Grecian chorus of unearthly mutters inside her head. Something was wrong. Before she could think up a snappy answer the thing wearing her mother’s face crossed to the window, pulled its long legs over the sill, and it gestured to her with a hand in need of a manicure. “You will be swift,” it said. “We are not patient in this matter.”
Rose would rather have swallowed razorblades than take that hand; but she schooled her face into blank condescension, as much as she could muster, and laid her fingers in its own. It was clammy as death. The attaché pulled her out into the water before she could say but my clothes and cut through the currents, swift and sure, churning up black bubbles as they went. She was rocketed deep into the abyssal oceans, further than she had ever been able to swim by herself, further towards those twinkling points she’d identified as starlight until she was able to see that they were not stars at all.
Dream bubbles, she thought. Those are the dream bubbles.
And indeed this far out she was able to see their Unwaking Blower. An unfathomably huge crab was arrayed in the darkness, a mandala of claws, chained between two equally unfathomably big pillars. A multitude of little squiddly things scampered up the sides of those pillars, her eye drawn to them until just the sight hurt her mind -- distracted only when the Blower began to make a perfect, rainbow-hued sphere, launching it with a pchooo out of sight as it was tossed far away into the distance. The dream bubbles were clustered on the horizon like little pearls. Rose could not breathe.
“You behold Oglogoth,” said her attaché.
Some of the Horrorterrors clustered into view, blocking out all else. It was dark. Oglogoth had teeth. Even then her sanity had been a tongue scalded by hot coffee, knowing it had been burnt but unable to taste the pain, inured to everything else but that sandpaper blankness. “I behold,” said Rose.
She had walked in on an argument. The Lesser Circle did not stop for her. destroy it, shrilled the earsplitting song she recognised as Gl’Bgloyb’s, though the presence of a Noble Speaker was a worrisome one. rend it kill it consume it encircle it end it
“Stop, I can’t understand -- “
bleed it deafen it remove it drown it
T H I S I S A N O T H E R M A T T E R S E E R
choke it split it maim it rip it
T H E R E I S A N O T H E R E M I S S A R Y
Their voices broke over her, each voice its own innumerable number of voices. Even now, even who she was and the magic she carried, she could feel the pressure build inside her skull until her nose started to bleed -- the icy water carried the hot trickles away as nothing more than wet red smoke, but it still made her attaché hold up her mother’s hand and say something. The din quietened.
“A dream bubble has drifted too close and is causing a disturbance,” it said. “You will go inside the dream bubble. You will see if its inhabitant has a message. You will take the message. You will get rid of the disturbance.”
“But why can’t you -- “
“We cannot touch it,” said the attaché, and would not say any more.
What option was there, refusal? The Rose Lalonde of before might have created a refusal option when not given one, but the Rose Lalonde of before had broken down all the walls of this maze as some kind of trumpeting that the only rules she played by were her own. It had won her a great deal of rubble. Now she was the Rose of the Festering Tongues, and this Rose was curious. “I’ll go,” she said.
The attaché’s fingers on her wrist still made her bones feel like they were doused with liquid hydrogen, but she knew better than to flinch. The further they went the thinner the water became until it was more flying than swimming, until she was breathing more air than water, the darkness not receding so much as getting -- less dim. The dream bubble they went to had broken off from the far-off pack and sat at the border, shimmering like an oil slick in the sun, bits of its morphoeic eggshell broken and hanging next to it in burned-out pieces.
“You will move softly here,” said her attaché, “lest You attract attention of a passing time dancer.”
Nothing it could have said made her want to cause a ruckus more, but she filed that fact away for a rainless day. There could be no rescue of her by the Knight of Time. There was no map. There was no movement. If the Noble Circle got its writhing tentacles on Dave Strider there would be nothing left, nothing left at all, and she hoped to God he knew that. Inevitably he would: he was her brother.
Both settled down at the dream bubble’s membrane. It fizzled with white static, and when she reached out to touch it the attaché dashed her hand away. “You would not die,” it said, “You would however feel pain. You would be incapacitated. You will take comfort in shadow. You must be wily when You face this emissary, for Their power is unkind to us.”
“And what faction does this diplomat serve?”
It told her. She blinked. “Repeat that,” said Rose. It complied; she said merely, “I see. More things in heaven and earth than are understood in my philosophy. They are diametrically opposed to us, then?”
“You understand They are an ancient splinter of Us and form a concentric Circle,” said her attaché. “You must know They still bear Us nothing but ill will, though it would be unwise to not listen if They want to parley. You will protect Our plans and retrieve any message. You will be doing Our work. You will now go.”
“Gl’Bgloyb was opposed.”
“Immaterial. Gl’Bgloyb is being over-passionate. You will now go.”
It was a particularly tense game of Operation to slide herself through the crack in the dream bubble without touching its sparkling white edge. She had to tuck herself in like a piece of origami, until all of her would fit -- albeit awkwardly -- at which point she took a breath and jumped. Reality warped and curdled the moment she did, like overbeaten cream, and then Rose was standing in the burnt-out shell of some old house.
The roof had been ripped off, and the sky overhead swam a sickly cerise without clouds or sun. Glass and bits of paper crunched underneath her wet feet, and though the walls were made of stone they were charred black from some long-gone fire. Everything was black or white, or where the two had intermingled, a smeared charcoal grey: untidy heaps of bone were scattered on the floor, clean white vertebrae tangled up with long cracked shins. On the wall had been daubed a grubby white symbol representing something like a wolf’s head. She knew that symbol well.
Something else clattered inside the house. Rose drew the Thorns from her sodden skirtwaist and went on silent feet to the doorway, elbowing aside the rotten wood of the door to step out into the hall. Here was the same debris: bones, glass, torn-up textbooks, stone, char, the wind whipping through the broken walls and rattling its strewn contents. She went on tiptoe down a broken flight of stairs; here were the same spots of white, as though someone had trailed paint as they went down. She followed.
It did not take her long to locate her quarry. The clattering continued: the sounds of someone throwing things against the wall, showers of splinters interrupted by the less impressive fwumps and clangs of detritus getting kicked about. The noise had ceased when she crossed the broken threshold and into an atrium filled ankle-deep with mess, the air raining down little bits of burned book like confetti. Her emissarius was standing in the center.
As all ghosts did he had empty eyes: just milky white all the way across without iris or pupil, though that white stare was sunburn to her own. The pressure on her sciatic nerve as her passenger panicked was terrible. A cross of similar whiteness had been painted on his forehead, dipping down to the bridge of his nose, smeared a little like blood at his hairline. The white was terribly stark on all that grey. His middle was bandaged round about with a stained scarf, and though the snapped stick he was aiming her way looked benign she knew better: Rose had already raised a needle in response.
“I hear you serve angels,” she told Eridan.
GA: Okay I Know Youre There And So
GA: I Request Your Assistance