Medievia Mudslinger

May 27, 2001

When (unreal) Worlds Collide - By Rapscallion

It was just a rubbish-strewn alleyway that Duncan had never really taken any notice of, especially at this late hour of the evening. That said, a sudden flare of greenish light from the far end was more than enough to attract the attention of a curious adolescent. He peered down the passage between two large department stores and scratched his head - as far as he knew this was a dead end and without any side doors. It certainly hadn't been torchlight or a door opening, but something interesting must have been going on down there. Especially interesting to a fourteen-year-old boy, no doubt. Wrinkling his nose he looked around to see if the coast was clear and moved into the alley, his sneakers making little noise.

He gingerly picked his way over mounds of detritus that the city cleaners had cheerfully ignored over several years and passed by a number of damp cardboard boxes. There seemed to be some sounds of movement at the far end of the alley but no light, although if anyone were there then they'd surely be using some sort of illumination soon, he reasoned. The beam from the streetlight opposite the alley entrance didn't go far into the passage and the twilight was nearly no use at all. He squinted into the darkness and, as if summoned, the greenish light flared for an instant again.

Duncan breathed deeply in sudden panic - perhaps thirty feet ahead of him was the far wall that had illuminated from within its surface. A rippling effect had, during the flare, undulated across its surface and he thought he had seen a human figure emerging before the light dimmed once more.

Duncan started to make his way, as quietly as possible, back towards the alley's entrance in the hope of a speedy exit from the area when the penny dropped. Deserted alley, late at night, rippling effect and figures coming through a strange glowing wall. He'd seen the movies, taped the series, read the books and had most of their ships dangling on cotton threads from his ceiling.

If these weren't advanced visitors from a scientifically enhanced society then he didn't know anything! He turned back towards the darkened end of the alley in time to see it flare once more before another figure swelled into existence. He dove behind a large mound of rubbish so that he could observe the visitors from close range. After all, you never knew if they would be invaders or the good guys come to chase the baddies. Everyone knew that the bad guys had to kill some innocent bystander to make sure everyone knew they were evil. By the same token, everyone knew that there was always some young earth kid bystander who was befriended by benevolent aliens. Some caution would be an idea for now, he reasoned.

He crept closer to the far end of the alley, trying to avoid stepping on the rubbish and in the foul smelling puddles of water. The occasional voice drifted toward him but he could make little sense of it. The light flared again and he flattened himself against the wall. Risking a glance he saw two oddly clothed figures silhouetted against the far wall that undulated in such a way as to make him nauseous. This was a bizarre situation and no mistake!

Another figure 'popped' into existence, the wall only grudgingly giving it up, and it fell to the floor. As the glow died he thought he saw the two figures stand over the latest one and try to raise it to its feet. Invaders? Visitors from the future come to observe us? Whatever it was, if they had chosen a deserted alley for their entry then they didn't want to be seen arriving. He tried to remember what he had seen of the area when the glow had been at its brightest and decided to risk creeping towards a pile of rubbish he had in mind. If he crouched behind there then he should be able to hide and hear their plans - after all, everyone knew that anyone invading would recap their plans where an attentive audience would be able to hear.

He crept forward, flinching silently as he went ankle deep in a pool of slurry, and dove behind his target. Trying to shake his foot dry quietly he strained to hear something, anything. A tingling sensation made him duck in anticipation of another arrival and he ducked out of sight to await the glowing light. He was not disappointed, but the figure that emerged from the wall seemed to be having problems. Carefully peering over the rubbish, Duncan watched as a man, draped in cloth of some kind, pulled and wriggled until the wall finally gave him up with a loud 'pop'.

Thoughts whizzed through Duncan's mind as he peered into the sudden darkness once more - outlandish dress, must be aliens or people from the future. They seemed to be wearing armor and carrying hand weapons so they must be technologically advanced - after all, everyone knew technologically advanced civilizations still used ancient weapons. Some sort of honor thing, usually. Did they have the regulation bizarre haircuts? Well, the last one was certainly scruffy around the scalp so that would have to do. No prosthetics on the foreheads, fortunately - that often meant odd accents to try and understand. He dove face first into the rubbish and held his breath as a sudden burst of white light flared, held aloft in the hand of the last being to exit the wall. What would be the first words of the alien invaders or saviors?

"That was a hell of a misportal and make no mistake," the light bearer announced petulantly.

Well, Duncan wasn't surprised that he could understand the... man? After all, everyone knew that beings from the future or other galaxies spoke perfect English, complete with the vernacular of the day. He decided on it being a man after risking a few seconds perusal, although he wasn't quite certain as the man was garbed in nearly a floor length dress. Ah - maybe ceremonial robes of office? Could have done with being cleaner, thought Duncan. After all, everyone knew that heroes and aliens would remain perfectly clean even after a vicious fight to the death in an oily swamp. So far he wasn't overly impressed.

"I'm sure I don't know," said a feminine voice. The speaker walked into the circle of light and looked around in disgust. Duncan was impressed - shimmering chain mail covered most of her body and that mace looked as if it had seen some use instead of having just come from the SFX department. The light wielding man looked around again, causing Duncan to duck once more, then again and again.

"I am not getting a zone name on this - odd," he announced. "Someone check listzone will you? Is there a zone you know of with really bad smells?"

"Except where you are?" asked the female. She ignored the man's dirty look and pulled a notebook from a pouch at her waist. After a quick perusal she looked around a time or two and shrugged. "Nothing in there," she said.

"So what happened with the portal?" the man asked. "I feel as if I've just been resurrected." Duncan tried to restrain his gasp - they could defeat death itself? These were advanced beings indeed, and being stranded on earth to hide amongst the population, defeating evil as they went was a pretty good scenario. He felt as if he was on familiar ground now.

"I haven't got a clue," the woman replied. "So what do we do now?" she asked, although she didn't appear to expect a decent answer. Duncan held his breath, awaiting wisdom from another galaxy.

"I don't know about you, but I could do with a drink," the man stated with a grin. "Ouch," he added as the woman slapped the back of his head. "Well, you're more in touch with the gods being a cleric - how about praying?" They had gods they could talk to? This was getting better and better. Surely the gods were some sort of advanced beings that they associated with.

After a moment of standing still the woman shook her head. "No response," she said. Telepathic communication with their own deities? Duncan was rapt. After all, everyone knew that the high priestess of an ancient cult must hold many secrets sacred to her order.

"Not even for a princess? Most odd." Aha - a priestess and a princess to boot! That said, Duncan was somewhat puzzled - after all, everyone knew that princesses wore skimpy chain mail outfits or nearly see-through gowns. Attractive, yes. Chain mail, yes. Skimpy, no. For a fourteen year old this was most distressing.

"Just let me get prepared," the man announced, "Then we'll have a good look around." He waved his hands and spoke some words in an odd language, something that produced no visible results but he certainly seemed to feel better for it when he'd finished. "Shall we?" he asked the woman.

"You think we'd better make sure they're all right back there, Raps?" the woman responded. Aha - a name and not an earthly one at that. He must be the sire of a noble lineage, a descendant of kings and noted warrior. After all, everyone knew that the people who did all the real work in the future were the aristocratic elite.

"Oh yes - forgot that Alt," Raps replied. Duncan smiled to himself - everyone knew that newcomers to a scene would always identify each other sooner or later. "Skottie?" he called out into the darkness, "Are you ready to move yet?" Now that was a name that Duncan could work with - he knew exactly what he would be doing very shortly. It must be an undercover infiltration but they'd slipped up just then with a real name.

"He's fine," another feminine voice called back. Raps nodded to Alt and turned to face the exit to the main street.

"Right - I'll stay behind and everyone stay in front - it's for your own safety. It's a new zone so I'll be mapping carefully. Keep an eye out for an altar and the recall spot," he announced, the words meaning nothing to Duncan, for he was intent on announcing his presence. "Let's get... By Vryce's toenails!" Raps stopped in his tracks as Duncan, liberally covered in (and strongly smelling of) rubbish rose before him like an apparition. Duncan raised a hand that he had made ready earlier - two pairs of two fingers together and his thumb outstretched - and delivered the eternal phrase that worked on every occasion.

"Live long and prosper," he greeted them. Raps looked at Alt and Alt looked at Raps. They both looked at Duncan as if he were some sort of curiosity to be examined carefully.

"Um," Alt said to Raps, "Just what is that? A garbage Elemental?"

"Darned if I know," replied Raps. He peered at Duncan closely, making him feel very nervous indeed. "Well, it's not aggro and I could do it with a needle, so that's enough incentive for me to have you lot kill it and look for keys after. We could use it to check the repop time of this place, I guess."

"You mean you're not from the Federation?" squeaked Duncan hastily. This caused a bit of a stir.

"Um, Raps? Either it's very well procced and spammy, or this isn't a mob."

"Come on - with a description like that? Can't be a player - he'd get frozen for stinking the place out. I reckon it's a refugee Janitor - there's rumors about one that went rogue some months ago. I bet this is where he's been hiding," Raps stated triumphantly.

"Well, I'll admit that 'Duncan' would be badnamed immediately as being too common, so..." Alt told him.

"Hey - wait a minute. What are you on about?" Duncan was starting to panic. A small part of his mind wondered how they knew his name from just looking at him but he had rather more urgent things to consider just now.

"That said, he certainly sounds like a newbie," Raps admitted, peering at the youth closely. "Maybe the rogue Janitor has been listening to clan fifty around castle square and been learning the style. I'm wondering what he's done with his mop."

"What's this clan thing? I'm not a janitor - I'm just a fourteen old kid!" Raps and Alt did the looking at each other thing again.

"Skottie? Ysabell? Can you come over here please?" called Alt. The two figures came from the gloom towards the light, a young lady in well-kept robes and a young man who glided through the dusk in his leather armor. The lady - Ysabell presumably - held a staff ready for use and the man's hand was held close to his sheathed daggers.

"What is it?" Skottie asked as he peered closely at Duncan. "Hmm - I think I have a needle here somewhere..."

"It's a boy," Ysabell announced with certainty. Duncan nodded enthusiastically in relief. "Smelly, there's a lot of spots on his face and he's on the gangly side, but it's a boy." Duncan glared, his small spark of pride overcoming his panic.

APOLOGIES FOR THE DELAY - WE HAVE ALMOST RECTIFIED MATTERS

"What was that?" Duncan asked with renewed alarm. The yellow letters had flashed through the air and imprinted themselves on his brain.

"Explains it," muttered Raps. "One of the coders found a bug *after* we got caught in it." Duncan tried the word out in his head - did he mean that the 'Kohdass' that he referred to were his gods?

"Rapscallion!" Alt shouted at him, "You know what happened the last time you started criticizing the coders." Duncan stared - that wasn't a very noble full name, though he'd certainly heard worse in his time.

"Come on Altisa, if you don't tell I won't." For a lord of a noble lineage he certainly seemed to be shamefaced, though Duncan expected high priestesses would be really good at instilling guilt in a person. He looked at the visitors from beyond and realized they had stopped talking. Instead, they were staring at a point well behind him. He turned slowly to see a number of figures silhouetted in the streetlight that stood on the other side of the street from the alley entrance. Several of them were obviously armed with chains or lengths of wood for makeshift clubs.

"You're on our turf," the central figure stated. It was the sort of voice that Duncan would remember for the rest of his life, the sort of voice that didn't bother to tell you that you were in trouble. If you heard that voice then you just *knew*.

"I don't see any grass around," Rapscallion said to Altisa. She spared him a brief look that said enough in itself and turned to face the gang.

"We didn't mean to intrude. We'll be leaving peaceably now," she called out.

"Hold on Alt - I've been learning local customs. I'm really cosmopolitan these days, you know." He raised a hand in the manner Duncan had used and shouted out, "Live long and prosper!"

"Shut it, beardie. I see two attractive... ladies," the leader announced. "I don't see that anyone will be leaving anytime soon, right lads?" A number of guttural grunts came from his friends and Duncan nearly wet himself.

"I think I'll just check the back of the alley for secret doors," announced Rapscallion brightly. "I'm sure you can deal with these chaps by yourselves," he added, edging towards the darker areas of the passage. Duncan smiled as he realized he was in the presence of a true and experienced leader - everyone knew that there was a secret escape route in every alley in every town, just where the heroes could find it in time. He was obviously just getting that part out of the way.

"Alt? Ever heard of an Idiot Mob Faction before?" asked Ysabell, looking at the gang curiously as they approached.

"Not until now," Alt replied and smiled. "I wonder how you trigger them?"

"Reckon I might need two needles for these," Skottie mused aloud, peering down the alley with interest. Duncan was amazed - there was a gang preparing to fight to the death to defend their territory and these people were just... watching them.

Something sparked between Duncan's ears and he moved quickly out of the direct line between the strangely clothed people and the gang. After all, everyone knew that when a strange person from another world was confident in the face of adversity, they would have more than just a trick up their sleeves.

Ysabell (Duncan made the name to face connection easily) watched as the leading gang members came closer, swinging lengths of chain and grinning widely. She waved her hands, muttered a phrase and a spark of actinic blue flew from her fingers to earth in the chain of the nearest attacker. The man dropped his weapon with the shock, clutching at his arm with his good hand, but the spark flashed across the air to his fellow thug - and then flew to another and another. It danced around the gang members, earthing itself in their weapons, jewelry and, in one unfortunate case, a set of fillings.

The gang slowed their advance but they had the advantage of numbers. Fists would suffice. Altisa murmured a brief phrase and the ground rippled violently, sending the gang members to the ground with loud curses. Duncan watched fascinated as the gang started to look nervously around. "Shall we report them for cursing? I think that may be worth a lightning or even a freeze," suggested Ysabell.

"No secret passages down there, but I managed to remember how to cast mana shield," said Raps as he came back. "Only took seven fumbles as well. I assume you dealt with them quite easily?" he inquired with a hopeful look.

"I don't know what you did or how you did it, but you're mine," the leader spat, dragging something from his belt.

"Look out - he's got a gun!" Duncan screamed.

"What's that, then?" asked Rapscallion with interest. The closer gang members got to their feet and staggered out of the way to regroup and watch. Duncan watched helplessly as the leader aimed his weapon and shot Rapscallion without hesitating.

An emerald light flared briefly around Rapscallion's chest and the bullet ricocheted around the alley. Duncan breathed a sigh of relief but he shouldn't have needed to - after all, everyone knew that omnipotent beings had some nifty energy based protective devices. Whatever mana was, of course. Must have been some sort of futuristic energy source. "Hey," squealed Rapscallion, "He's got a wand!" The leader frowned and cursed again before firing again and again. Rapscallion curled up into a little ball and waved his hands around in seeming random patterns around his head, although Duncan knew that such gestures were essential to maintaining the protective energy flow. Or something. Ricochets sped around the alley and Duncan ducked too late - a burning pain flared as a nearly spent bullet went through his thigh. He fell to the ground with a scream.

"Oh no - he's used all the charges," Altisa complained as the empty gun clicked uselessly - the wild eyed leader desperately continued pulling the trigger in panic. "I wanted to loot that!" Duncan just clutched at his leg and groaned to himself as the gang leader shouted for a retreat.

RESTART IN TWO MINUTES

"At last, they've sorted that out," Skottie announced cheerfully, walking out of the shadows where he had been lurking. Duncan groaned - strange yellow letters floating through the air were the least of his worries right now. Someone grabbed his leg to inspect it, causing him to squeal, and he looked up to see Ysabell frowning at him.

"Altisa? I think this boy needs a heal," she called. The woman came over and glanced at him before wrinkling her nose and laying her hands on him. A few muttered words later, Duncan felt warmth spread throughout his leg and a rather unpleasant tingling as his flesh knitted together. He looked down to see his leg whole again and gasped loudly. Then again, everyone knew futuristic beings had many miraculous restorative techniques - they always managed to turn up fully recovered for the next episode.

He heard whispering and looked up to see the two ladies talking quietly to each other, glancing at him furtively and giggling merrily. The priestess put out both her hands and rested them briefly on either side of his face - they felt icy cold for a moment and then the feeling passed. He looked at her with bewilderment but before he could say anything a voice came down the alley.

"Aw come on - these loads are lame! There's no procs or any bonuses on these chains and really low tweaks - I've aye-deed them all!" Rapscallion paused to grab one of the discarded clubs and sneered at it. "Wouldn't even get fifty gold at a weapon smith's. May be worth entertainment value on imm, though. Oh well," he sighed, "It's about time. Get ready to recall for Marious - I'll watch while you go combing."

RESTART IN TEN...

"What the..." was all Duncan managed to say before everything went black. Limbo surrounded him for an indiscernible time and then light flooded back into his life. His parent's house stood before him, bathed in the glow from the streetlights and he looked around wildly. How he'd gotten there was a mystery but he didn't complain - instead he rushed straight in locked the door.

As he passed the hall mirror, something caught his eye and he stood still, staring at his reflection. The priestess had done something to his face - he could still feel the tingling sensation rippling around his skin. Maybe it was a mystic tattoo, binding him to a kinship beyond all human understanding? He peered closely and saw what had happened before smiling broadly. After all, everyone knew that people from far off galaxies never suffered from acne.

Author's note: This story was conceived and started recently, although it must be pointed out that since this was mostly completed both Ysabell and Skottie have multiclassed. Woo! :)

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