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The food fight is not part of this plot line, but it is a big enough event to deserve a link.
Ismene's Rocky Road Edit
I sat on my rack healing my wounded foot and listening to my music. Beyond the walls of this school were the cold barren bad lands of western North Dakota. Inside, Princess Ariana, had melted the snow and planted grass. Yes, this disgusted me. Didn't she know that ordinary humans had lived in this part of the world for thousands of years. Some lived on buffalo meat. Some ate out of cans, but the land held its ordinary human inhabitants, and therefore it could surely hold us.
Of course I would soon take pleasure in destroying Ariana as well as her supporters. I had come here from New Sparta in the suburbs of Pandemonium to help Queen Jetta make short work of her misbegotten twin sister. Then it would be on to bigger and better things such as pushing American troops further in to harm's way in Iraq. I hoped my valor in battle here would get me a job in Washington working with those politicans.
If not, I could always travel to the battle fields of Sudan and help out the Jan Jaweed. With luck our forces would encourage them to spread discord and bloodshead in to the Republique du Tchad, but first, there was that small matter of Ariana.
No, first there was Jetta. I had come to help her. I had unpacked my things and hurried up the hall to her marble temple to pay my respects and offer my services. She looked me over and her cool green eyes narrowed in disgust. Now, I know I am not much to look at, but who needs to be showy. I am powerful enough without that.
Jetta sniffs and lets me stand around but does nothing else. Her interest is in another girl, a tall blond creature with a faintly animal odor. The girl's name was Thalia, and she was probably some sort of shape changer. Fine, but I was a fellow old one and in the end more powerful and settled. How could I explain. Deeds always screamed louder than words.
Then in to the hallway comes Princess Ariana. It is time to spring in to action, but Jetta wants her for herself and soon the two are dueling up and down the hall until Jetta opens the fire door and.... Let's just say poor Ariana did not think fast enough. It was a pleasure to listen to her moans.
Meanwhile, Jetta took out cigarettes to celebrate her triumph. Of course knocking Ariana down the stairs was only the beginning. She'd be back. I was nearly sure of that. I took one of Jetta's smokes. I was trying to be hospitable and grateful and...I don't smoke. Tobacco is bitter and nasty and the first few puffs made me nauseous and sick. Jetta showing no mercy stepped on my foot and with her heel, broke it.
That was why I was wasting valuable energy healing a foot. No way was I going to limp around. Also healing distracted my mind from a very uncomfortable question: What the fuck was Jetta doing going after a fellow child of the darkness when there was much more important work. True, I serve Lucifer and Jetta serves Beelzebub when she's not busy serving herself.
We needed to take care of Ariana and to do that we'd need to know just where a certain Jude Philippi stood. We'd also need to find Ariana's key allies and neutralize them. Forgive the military euphemisms but I like the way they make rough ideas smooth and polished. There is a reason they are always popular in places like the Kremlin and the Pentagon.
Just then as I was pondering and healing, I heard a strange noise. It was a child's giggle. Now some of us were adults barely disguised as adolescents, but as far as I knew there were no children here.
I jumped up and opened my door for a look. The small girl with nearly white hair glided up and down the hall on some kind of roller skate sneakers. She did look too young for even ninth grade though I suppose she could pass for fourteen somehow. Down at the other end of the hall, Princess Ariana opened her door and let the little blond thing in.
Then I realized I was being watched. My next door neighbor was glancing at me with one of those looks that asked questions. She was a black or Afro-American girl, small sized with hardly any hair on her round brown egg of a head. She had big rheumy brown eyes, and a flat nose and large hands and good size feet. She stood slightly bow legged in a long burgundy colored shirt and avacado green, ochre, and burgundy plaid blouse with a thermal undershirt beneath it. What was she? I could see the green fern wall paper in her room plus old fashioned furniture.
My guess was, revenant. I would have remembered her face from any of my briefings, but I drew a blank. Meanwhile I commented on the little blond thing and the crowd at the other end of the hall. It must have been a rough day for the senstive occupant of the green room. I headed back in to my own quarters for another round of pondering.
There was of course the option of scrubbing the whole mission. My superiors would never assign me anything again. I wouldn't even staff a mail room like that stupid angel downstairs.
Then there was revenge. Jetta had to learn not to attack her comrades. She needed all of us to take out Ariana and her associates. Was I strong enough to take on Jetta? Not after wasting a ton of energy to heal my foot which was broken in several places.
That left reconnaisance and intelligence. Neither of these was glamorous but they were necessary. I needed to learn as much about those on each side as possible and then use that knowledge to help Jetta. Once Queen Jetta realized I was useful, she would not bother breaking my feet. In fact, she'd give me a high promotion, and good rank was hard to come by.
I climbed to my feet and switched off the stereo. I sensed around myself and picked up at least one person listening. Probably my touchy neighbor who thought I was commenting on her skin color.
I opened the dormitory room door and glanced out in to the hallway. The place was still vacant. Just then the little blond thing went wizzing down the hall. "Wheeeeee!" she cried out. I saw the door next to mine open to watch the child skate down to our end of the hall and glance at both of us. The brown skinned revanent who was my neighbor looked none too pleased. I wasn't exactly happy either.
I could see fear pass over the small and impish face. The brown skinned girl glanced at the little blond one and then asked: "Are you wearing those to dinner?"
"Sure, why not?" the child replied.
"Because you could crash in to something or someone. Also a dining hall is a place of decorum."
"And you are a lady," I thought of my neighbor.
"What's decorum?" asked the child leaning back on her heels and executing a pirouette.
"It means not disturbing others," I snapped. For the first time the child's eyes and my own met and she was back down the hall in a flash. I wanted to laugh. I just smiled, a nice broad snaggle toothed smile. My neighbor's teeth were small and regular as little pearls. I watched her lock the dormitory door.
"Where are you going?" I asked her.
"The library to get my class schedule."
"It will probably beat this place," I commented and decided to follow. I'd get this neighbor of mine figured out sooner or later. We walked down the fire stairs in silence and out in to the quad and toward the academic buildings. The smell of young grass and flowers filled the air.
"You like this," I waved my hands around at the fake spring.
"No," my neighbor answered.
"How come?" I asked.
"There's supposed to be four seasons here."
"So," I changed the subject. "Where are you from?"
"Kokorobelli," answered my neighbor. "Ever hear of it?"
I couldn't say I had but there were many places I did not know. "Help me out," I asked. "Where is it?"
"The Open Valley," the neighbor answered.
Well that helped, A LOT. "So you're a revanent," I began.
"Yes," said my neighbor. "So where are you from?"
"Where is that?"
"Just outside Pandemonium."
"There are several Pandemoniums."
"There's only one Pandemonium that counts and I mean the original, so what's your name revenant?"
"Urielle, Urielle Swanson."
"I'm Ismene Barbari."
"Yeah....I kind of like it too."
We were getting close to the library. "So what do you think of Queen Jetta?" I asked.
Urielle refused to answer.
"OK," I changed topics. "What do you think of Princess Ariana."
"I'm eating dinner with her tonight," Urielle answered.
"Ah so we're working for opposite twins," I deduced. "Don't worry," I assured the revenant. "I have no reason to take you out tonight. I am curious though, why would a revenant get mixed up in all this?"
"Why do you think?" asked Urielle.
"You really think Ariana's goodness and light will make the world a better place?" I asked.
"Better than what we'd get with Jetta," quipped Urielle.
We entered the library and found empty computer stations. A small weasel like librarian with fairly dark light brown skin stood watching us from behind a huge counter. He looked bored and also seemed vaguely fuzzy. Urielle kept giving the librarian second looks.
"You'd better get used to the shape changers," I told her on the way back. Then it hit. I remembered the open dislike that Urielle had shown for the child. It had been more than the heelies. "You're a grey bead aren't you...or were before you returned?"
"Yes," said Urielle.
"Well, now we know....You're caught up in your own people's politics and you're going to pay dearly. I may not be the one to do it, but go bck to your own cities and universities and stores and what not. This is not your battle, grey bead."
"Is it your battle?" Urielle asked me.
"The Morning Star commanded me to assist here and I go where I'm ordered," I replied.
"You have...." Urielle forgot for a moment I was not human. I only look that way. "You don't..." she groped for the words...."look at all like their type."
"Are you Princess Ariana's type?" I asked Urielle. She did not answer. We walked back to the dormitory in silence. I decided to invite Urielle in to my room. She glanced at my wall posters which include a recruitment poster for the Janjaweed and another composite of pictures culled from gross.com "I love the battle field," I told Urielle. "War is my specialty."
Then Urielle saw the calculus book. "Are you taking differential equations?" she asked me.
"No," I told her. "Just the integral calculus refresher. How about you?"
"Same here. It's been a while since I've had calc." Urielle smiled.
"Shhh....." I said. Somewhere on our hall a door opened. I cracked my door in time enough to see Ariana exit her room with the little blond girl in tow and one or two other doors open up at various intervals along the hall. Uriell sat stock still.
"I better let them get a head start," she said.
"Where are you going?"
"Dinner. Remember, I'm eating with Ariana."
I snorted. "I have to start somewhere," Urielle told me.
We waited five uneasy minutes until Urielle could safely leave my presence. "Enjoy your dinner with Jetta," were her parting words.
Ismene's Winter Prairie Sojourn Edit
I did not eat dinner with Jetta. I avoided the whole food fight which was good since there is no guarantee Queen Jetta with whom I had not yet found favor was going to cover my weak magic with her strong magic. When you break someone's foot and leave them to do their own healing, you kind of put them out of action.
Forget kind of, so I was getting ready to go to the dining hall when out of her room pops Urielle in her longjohns, heavy boots, and winter coat and hat. It was after sundown by now and why would Urielle go over the walls. Actually, all she had to do was walk out the gate. I mused on this and then said.....
"Hey Urielle, wait up!" I did not care who heard.
Urielle turned to me and mouthed the words: "See you in the library in ten minutes."
Fine, Urielle had more to lose than I did. I could live with that. I suited up for subzero cold and raced through the balmy campus evening to the library computers where Urielle sat pretending to read email.
Soon we were heading for the gate and then out in to the frigid prairie night. "I didn't get much dinner so I'm going to eat in town," Urielle explained. I could believe this I had heard through my door Jetta and her "best friend," of the moment, the shape changer, Thalia whooping it up about how they kicked rear ends in the dining hall. There was just one problem, and a quick look out my door confirmed it as did a good look at Urielle, no injuries.
"Jude Philippi stopped the food fight didn't he?" I asked Urielle.
She nodded. She was not impressed. "You know Jude is the fourth most powerful being in the universe," I reminded her.
Urielle kept her own counsel. I thought of a way a good torturer might get all kinds of secrets out of the little black revanent. I was going to have to recommend to Jetta that she or I attempt some serious torture should Urielle prove too much trouble. Poor grey bead. She really had chosen the wrong side in this little dispute.
Actually, our side rarely engages in torture. We simply use stringent methods of interrogation. I mused on all this as we made our way up the state highway with its piles of dirty snow pushed to the side by diligent ploughs.
"If the world ever runs out of petrolium and they don't have biofuels or coal gassification down pat, this part of the world dead meat," I thought. I pictured the civil war and strife that a good energy crisis could bring. Now there is a good job for a follower of Morning Star.
Of course Medora is half way to being a ghost town. Its few sickly yellowish sulfur and pale blue mercury lights barely illuminated the darkness. There was a Wal-Mart on the edge of town. I suggested we get McDonalds there. Urielle refused. We came in to what was left of downtown Medora. There is not much left. Main street is half boarded up and what wasn't boarded up was closed. That was how we found the truck stop out near I-90.
We went in to the convenience store to load up on snacks and sandwiches. I bought three taquitos and sat in the plastic booth eating them while Urielle munched pistachio nuts and ate an apple and drank a root beer. She had extra apples and packages of nuts to eat later.
Our food done, Urielle went back outside and headed toward the service station. She talked to the gentleman staffing the place and a short while later had a gallon jug of gasoline. I smiled.
It shouldn't have surprised me, I told myself, that the grey beads would send a professional. "You don't mind my asking what you plan to use this for?" I inquired as we walked back toward the school.
"Organic chemistry," said Urielle without flinching.
I also did not flinch. We talked about our schedules and I talked about military science and guerilla techniques I had learned at one of Pandemonium's finest Training Centers. Urielle, too had had some excellent schooling at the heart of the grey bead spirit world empire. Too bad very little of it had to do with fighting the forces of creative change. Urielle, I decided was not really a pro after all. I would not need to have her stringently interrogated or better yet do the job myself. Natural consequences would take care of Urielle.
That thought should have pleased me. I'm not sure why it didn't. The school gate was closed when we returned and an angel with brown wings stood guard. If I had been Jetta, Thalia, or any of the hot tempered entities from my floor, I would not have hesitated to beat the feathers out of that creature. As things were though, I'm not like that. Think about your captains of business, industry, politics, and the armed forces. Think of even the most venal and self-aggrandizing dictator. Most of the time they keep it cool. Well so do I. I let Urielle do all the talking and the angel let us in. She did not even look at the plastic jug of gasoline that Urielle brazenly carried in to the dormitory and up the fire stairs and in to her room.
That was all. Urielle wasn't going to set any fires while I was awake and I had no intention of sleeping that night. Some time, at least an hour or two after we got back from Medora, I heard Urielle's door open. I peered out and saw her down the hall near Ariana and Jetta's room. I saw her on tip toes standing on a chair messing with a device that was attached to the ceiling. "Oh, she's going to disable the fire alarm?" I thought. All right, I'll give Urielle credit for having good instincts. Too bad, she did not know thing one about how to fight.
I went back in to my room and made sure I still had my shoes on and a warm jacket. This was going to be a very long night. I played my music softly and lay on my rack and waited.
After a time Urielle emerged again, this time with the container of gasoline. I watched her walk down to the fire door, open it, and disappear.
I sensed as hard as I knew how but no matter how I sensed I could not smell fire. I even got up and checked the other floors just in time to meet Urielle heading up the stairs. She no longer had the big jug of gasoline. I did not ask what she had done with it. She wouldn't have told me and as I believed that night, one did not need to stringently interrogate Urielle.
One had only to wait.
Ismene Wounded Edit
"Urielle! Urielle!" I cried as I made my way to the end of the second floor hallway. I did not care who heard. I was mortally wounded. Something in Jetta's claws had been poisoned. I could feel my insides dissovling. It was past the point of pain. I like a little pain on a good day. This was a veritable orgy of pain though. Inflicted on a victim, it would have been fascinating to watch. This morning, though, I was the victm.
Uriell was looking at some paperwork. She gasped when she saw the trail of blood I had left in the hall and my blood soaked clothes.
"Heal me please..." I begged. I sank to my knees. Urielle blinked. She then got out her cell phone and dialed a number. I had forgotten, Grey Beads and their revenant equivalent have very few magical skills. It's all strength and wits for them. I lay on the floor on the edge of consciousness. I rembered Urielle propping feet up under a pillow. "Come on..." she coaxed me. "Hang in there."
"I'm going to find out what it's like to die for real," I said.
"My superiors will say I failed my mission."
"No, you're going to make it."
"What do you care. You're on the side of the angels."
"I'm on my own side. Hang in there..."
I watched Urielle escape down the hall. I really decided I was better off dying alone anyway. It was less humiliating. Urielle returned a moment later. She said nothing. She squatted on the ground and took both my hands in both of hers.
"You can't heal me," I told her.
"Save your energy. The ambulance is coming. You're strong. You're going to make it." She kept saying those words like an incantation. I only wished they were a real spell.
I was only half there, when the two men and a woman in orange jumpsuits with a huge stretcher and all kinds of equipment came through the service elevator and down the hall. From Jetta's end of the hall I heard the woops and screams. Somewhere a small child screamed in terror. That still pleased me.
The medics lifted me on to a stretcher. This was just like on a human battle field, only now I was one of the injured humans. This might have been fun to play as a simulation game, except it wasn't a game. I remember the medics poking and prodding me and taking my blood pressure and giving me a needle of something I hoped would put me out of my misery but it only made the pain worse. Everything hurt on the way over the prairies that were covered with snow.
Somehow Urielle had talked the medics in to giving her a ride. I remember we rode for a long time and when we did arrive it was at a shiney white hospital that smelled of antiseptic and where gloved hands did more poking and prodding. They talked about taking me in to surgery. I would have liked to watch them operate and been conscious, being that I am fond of blood and guts, but I didn't get that choice. They stuck a needle in my arm and asked me to start counting backwards. I made it all the way to fifty and felt very proud of myself before I realized I had been tricked. By then it was too late and I lost consciousness. Ave Satanis, how humiliating!