Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
Jen could barely comprehend what had happened. She had been sitting in her wheelchair off to one side of the room as the press conference had unfolded. She wasn’t happy about what the Mayor had been saying, but she understood why these things were necessary. In fact, as much as she hated the idea of the Quarantine, she had made mental note to ask the Spirits to help maintain it on their side of the Wall. At least, until she saw Mansfield’s pissant of a son stand up and make himself known.
Jen’s mind raced as the young man’s words caused so much chaos and distress in the room. Doubly so when she heard the protesters arriving on the scene. Cursing how chaos followed the boy like a shadow, she knew that things would go horribly wrong very very soon. She started wheeling herself towards the door and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And drop it did a minute later when a gunshot from a panicky officer struck one of the protesters. “Dammit…” She muttered under her breath as violent chaos erupted around her. SELF and their Free Council finally had their martyr, hopefully it was someone who deserved it…
It took mere moments before the riot began. From her vantage point in City Hall, Jen couldn’t see who threw the first punch but it hardly mattered. Things were getting out of hand far too quickly. Pulling a small wooden carving, resembling an owl, and setting it alight with a blue zippo Jen begn chanting. Jen spared a quick glance towards the podium where the Mayor was now taking cover while the police cheif stood guad and waited for an opening to retreat. Neva’s eyes grew wide as she saw the flames burn a faint blue color and spread to the empty air before Jen which seemed to burn a hole in reality itself. The flames spread to Jen as wel, Scourging her hands until they were scorched and burned.
Ignoring the pain of her wounds, Jen scanned the boundaries of the Astral Portal she had opened. Confident that it would hold and remain stable, Jen shouted towards the panicked crowd. “This way! We have to get out of here! Follow me!” Then, wincing from the pain, Jen pushed her wheels and moved through the portal into the Astral Realms…
...and into a world enflamed. The Astral reflection of the Valley, looking like forest of buildings and books and carvings and standing stones, everything that represented the Valley in the minds of its people were ablaze. Eyes widening in horror, Jen cried out and searched for the spirits. She spotted them scattered about the place, many were running in panic but the stronger and bolder ones were desperately trying to extinguish the flames.
June had opted to 'stay in' even though she had heard her shithead neighbor talking shit about things going down downtown, no she had been more then a little preoccupied this week...and all this chaos, while not the same as what she was used to, felt just a little bit familiar. Like a faded memory of something close to something she remembered...in a different life.
It was past worries that became present ones that made her step sideways into the astral realm, it was mass hysteria- but not worst state it had ever been in- which was saying something, since the whole bitch was on fire and turnt to fuck. The werewolf cringed, what the hell and who the hell was doing this? Well...that was a mystery and probably a real shitty one at that. She didn't want to say mage related, but it was probably mage related. Most of the best worst stuff that happened in the valley was kinda sorta totally their fault.
She walked with purpose to towards the center of city proper, far and away from where she started at her sketchy apartment, it was like stepping towards ground zero, each stride bringing her closer to where it began, the collective consciousness of all that mojo, and like clockwork, in came a mage from the physical world- as though the powers that be wanted to remind her that she was probably right and everything was terrible.
"What the hell is going on?"
Because 'what the hell did you do?' sounded so accusatory, but the tone was there, June was absolutely exasperated, and her mood didn't pick up when seeing some shaman namer trying to getaway in the umbra. But well...she had to share the space she supposed. Didn't have to like it, and her concern didn't make her any less prickly.
As the gunshot sounded and the riot started Bill jumped to his feet looking for any potential exit that didn't lead to probably dismemberment or certain pain.
A hole in reality seemed like a good way to go. As she wheeled herself into whatever thing she created Bill came behind her and began pushing her wheelchair through the portal.
As they entered to the holocaust that had awakened in this place the young mage had begun ordering a few of the spirits of the area to Bill's displeasure.
"Always thinking they're above other life," he muttered moving towards a small collection of the flames. Onieromancy had never been his strongest suit but he could try to put one of these fires out. He began to slowly manipulate the dreamstuff as this woman came over to the mage barking a question. The tone and anger was almost intoxicating even without this woman. He could push through it... maybe. He grimaced as he activated his Forging the Dream and began to force the fires down as much as possible. If this was the dreamscape, and it sure felt like it, he could do this. Maybe.
To say Jen was shocked and horrified by what she was seeing of the Astral Reache would be a gross understatement. When she had last visited, only a few short weeks ago, things had not been nearly so bad. In fact, beyond the typical chaos of the Collective Unconscious of a place like Columbiana, it had seemed damned near peaceful. Now? Now it was in total disarray and places of psychic stability and calm were ablaze and the native spirits were in total disarray. She had just begun the motions of caling a spirit she knew well to explain what happene when she was interrupted by a voice calling out to her.
Looking up towards June, Jen couldn't help but groan inwardy (though fortunately she did not vocalize it at all) when she saw who it was. She had never met the woman, but she needed no aural check to guess what this woman was and why she was here. There were only a small handful of creatures and people in the Valley capable of entering this place with any regularity and it did not take a genius to guess that this was one of the werewolves of the Valley. "Your guess is as good as mine..." She sighed, hearing the tone and catching the implication. "I came looking for respite from some chaos in the physical world and maybe a source of the chaos, but instead I found..." She waved an arm around her at the astral flames. "...this. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them. Otherwise, I certainly wouldn't mind the help in figuring this out..."
As she spoke, she turned to see that at least one figure had followed her through the portal. It was not someone she knew, but she could feel the anger and frustration emanating off him in waves. It may have simply been the way the man was, but between him and the rest of the situation she suspected that there may have been a deeper source. It may even be the same source as what was causing the flames. Wheeling forward slightly as she saw the man begin to weave magics she could not recognize and the shrinking of the flames away from that strange energy. "Not bad, kid. Not bad." She waved a hand and a blast of spiritual energy drowned another nearby flame. "But this is treating symptoms, not the cure..."
Taking a long slow breath and whispered a faint beckoning call and charged it with a bit of quintessence to carry it through the layers of reality. It took mere moments in the subjective time of the Umbra before a woman, ten-foot tall and dressed for war, appeared in the air beside Jen. "Hail, Columbia! I come to stand before you ready for duty? What, may I ask, has happened here?"
The spirit looked over the trio before her. She knew the mage, despite the failings of her kind, was reliable and loyal to the people and spirits of the Valley. She knew the wolf, trustworthy both individually and as a breed. The third was an unknown, a man touched by the Spirits of another Realm. His attempt to quench the flames was enough for the spirit however, at least for now. She nodded and spoke.
"None know from where this conflagration grew. It sprung forth fully formed from the ephemera mere moments ago, sparked by some action in the World of Man. Though its spark is of that world, and the flames are of this one, its suddenness suggests preperation unknown to any under my charge." She looked between the trio, her face an undreadable mask. "I would ask of you to do wht is needed and not that which you desire. Trust the flames themselves to me and mine, we shall contain them as best we can. What is needed of you is to find its source and contain it, for the sake of the Valley!" With that, she dramatically pointed to the West of where they stood, at the looming building that was the spiritual reflection of the hospital, better known as St. Christopher's
That much was for certain (in fact they were trying to fix this), this was something else entirely, but to be absolutely honest she was proud of herself for not calling someone out for taking asylum in a portion of the umbra they had no business in. High umbra? Negotiable to the werewolf, but the astral umbra? Well, sure there was sanctuary on sacred ground, but taking a nap to get here was probably a less destructive path to take, but hey...to each their own.
She was here for a purpose at least, which brought up just a touch of why she thought this was happening. "...It's something else." June sighed, watching as the next one followed suit, and he...didn't smell quite like a namer, so she wasn't too sure what he was, but human he was not.
Though her thoughts and words were quickly silenced as the lady of the valley showed herself, she dipped her head in respect, looking around and side eyeing a shaman for daring to speak to an Incarna so forwardly, though when the time would come, she would run off towards a familiar scent...and the rest could follow
Bill looked at the Godly creature standing before them, obviously some sort of Morphean. He bowed as the creature spoke. This was not his Skien, this was not like the realms he was used to but it seemed to respond to the Wyrd and that's all he needed to be useful.
But a creature that is able to sneak under the watchful eyes of a near godlike being was not something he particularly wanted to deal with. And it was in a hospital. Great. 'From a place of healing springs sickness,' He muttered angrily. Standing up fully he took a breath and sucked all the glamour he could out of the area. It topped him us and he nodded at the being before turning to the wheel-chair bound mage and the other one.
"Hello. My name is Bill. Where exactly are we?" he asked moving behind the mage to assist in pushing her wheel chair.
Jen didn't like this. Not one bit. The idea that Columbiana herself, the very Incarna of the Valley and the embodiment of its soul, didn't know the origin of these flames was a worrisome concept to consider. She had little doubt that the spirit could manage the fire well enough, Gods know that this wasn't the first such crisis. After all, Jen had found all sorts of evidence (though granted little proof) of some terrible cataclysm in the Umbrae around a decade or two ago. Clearly Columbiana and its Umbral Realms had survived whatever that had been and she had little doubt it would survive this too... The idea that she and these two relative unknowns were being directed to investigate its source? Yeah, Jen didn't like that.
With a light sigh, Jen looked between the other two, sizing them up and considering their task. If it were anyone else asking, Jen would likely have walked away after said assessment. The girl tickled the back of Jen's memory. She recognized the werewolf from somewhere, but had no idea where. Maybe some campus event? Maybe the girl was even a student? There weren't many of her kind on campus, but there were a few and Jen had need to know nor cared to find out what students were what so long as they could keep up with her class. "Clearly, the spirits aren't the source. At least not the native ones..." She though Columbiana had made that clear already, but sure... "I meant things more generally..." She trailed off when she saw the girl was aleady off and moving towards the hospital. "Dammit! Slow down! Not all of us have working legs..." Jen grumbled as she wheeled off after the wolf-girl, annoyance clear in her voice.
Glancing over her shoulder at the young man she nodded. "Good to know you, kid." She grinned as best she could over her grumpiness and the exertion of moving her chair through the ephemera. "And yeah. We should've known. Hospitals are so rarely a good thing. Sure they cure diseases, but they spread them too... Especially in the Astral Reaches, the place of dreams and nightmares..." She lightly berated herself mentally, she could feel herself slipping back into teaching mode. Far too often she was in the Umbra either completely alone or with a class. Companions that were closer to equals than students was new. "You're one of those Changeling guys aren't ya..?" The 'taste' of the guys magic was all wrong and he didn't carry himself like a wolf, so by process of elimination... "Sorry to rope you into this sort of thing. I meant this as an escape route, but now its a mission. If you need out, just say the word and I'll open another portal for you..."
Her words died in her mouth as they approached the hospital. Only a few blocks to go and the flames had grown even taller and angrier, almost seeming alive and full of hateful sentience. With a shrug, Jen supposed they sort of were... being spirits and all. No, the bigger concern were the indistinct humanoid forms shambling around the few block radius around the hospital. They were hazy and undetailed, like half-formed dreams of human beings, and they were shambling around howling in some strange combination of anger and pain. They meandered aimlessly, but every few minutes one of the figures seemed to randomly fly into a rage and tackle another, which caused the figures to blur and merg. Jen didn't know when they had stumbled into an episode of the Walking Dead, but it was just icing on the shit cake that was this Umbral voyage. "Okay, Bill... Wild Child, how're we gonna get past these things and figure what's causing all this?"
Patience hadn't been something that June had quite mastered in her short years - but she was situation blind to the plights of those around her more often then not. Though in her defense...she had never known a namer to step a proverbial real foot in the umbra. The realization that it was a real woman there, and a real man...caused the werewolf to slow her roll so they could quicken their own.
She didn't apologize, but her interest was piqued some...a bold choice to break the gauntlet when you weren't quite welcome here, worse when you considered the turmoil , it must have been hella bad out in the valley if stepping sideways was a sound decision. June vexed her brows and doubled back around, "That's not the worst of what's around here either..." She sighed, giving Jen a long look, she knew her, older, not much wiser in either direction for both of them. "I thought you woulda known." But people had a way of forgetting. Though going to the hospital gave her the wicked jeebies though admittedly it wasn't as negative as say the old high school if you needed to really put things in perspective.Still she kept a weary eye on the valley's collective consciousness like it was ready to snap like a trap, taking them whole.
Or maybe they'd just walk right into it, the sea of teaming horrors that shambled around like Peter Pan's more malevolent shadow. June felt the short hairs on the back of her neck rise nope, nope, nopenopenope..."Nope." A frown firmly planted itself on her face as she folded her arms over her chest. "Just nope." Well, fuck that. This wasn't her not trying to formulate a plan of course, but rather a well educated summation of the situation. Which was a bucket full of nope right there, all framed up with pillars of flaming sulfur and everything.
"Could wait for them to group, have one of us lead it off, while the others sneak in..." She smirked, "And by one of us, I mean...me, because i don't think either of you two are the running type, no offense." A woman in a wheel chair and an old guy, she didn't think she'd be wrong. "Could probably even double back and meet you there...maybe."
Bill smiled at the Mage's deduction and her teaching as he pushed her towards the hospital. It was nice to have someone's calmish voice filling him in. This place felt like the Skien he was used to but he had rarely seen such towering structures and the flames cast wicked light over his wicked smile. "Indeed. I am a member of the Leaden Mirror so I have some experience with these forms of... travel. Although this is not usual, even for experienced Onieronauts..." and then he noticed the shadows.
This was the first real evidence of malevolence in the Valley Bill had come across their shambling shapes and abrupt confrontations were almost all he needed to get out of there. The glamour they were effectively swimming through was almost intoxicating, the fear... oh the fear made his heart skip beats. It was bliss. It was ecstasy. It was disconcerting. He could even taste the fear on the other with them, it was pouring off her in great wafts and it tasted Wild.
"A mage, a Werewolf and a Changeling walk into a hospital. Sounds like a bad joke." he muttered listening to the werewolf strategise. "Or... we could go underneath them all and save us the hassle. Provided the Hospital has a basement."
He took a deep breath and let the glamour flow as he shifted the Umbra apart, exposing a hole big enough for the three of them with a nice gentle ramp for the wheel chair. "All aboard the road to adventure. Keep your arms and legs inside the tunnel at all times and please don't distract me whilst I'm lengthening it," he said taking hold of the wheel chair and aiming it towards the Hospital. "The biggest issue will be the distance and coming out in a safe location. I won't be able to do that. Would you two be able to provide any assistance in that regard?"
Jen didn't much care for June's attitude, but she knew better than to call the younger woman on the matter. Simply put? She knew that a werewolf, even a young one, could tear someone's arm off as easily as a vindictive child pulls the wings off a fly. 'Meddle not in their affairs for thou art fragile and they are quick to anger,' her old mentor had once told her and she had since seen it to be unoriginal but very very true. "I know." Was all she answered to the reminder that there were horrifically dangerous things to be found in the Umbra. Jen bristled a bit at the reminder, having been flowing between worlds since her early teens, but again she didn't want to push it with a furry beast with super strength and a natural affinity for the spirit realms. She did smile lightly and mimicked the werewolf's response to the situation. "No joke. Just nope."
Jen considered Bill's words. The Leaden Mirror? What was that now? Must be one of the 'Courts' she had heard mentioned through the grapevine, but was it Seelie or Unseelie? She had no idea. Faeries had never been her forte, it was something she had happily left in the hands of the Solificati and Diedne. Still, even if she didn't know what that was, he had still confirmed her suspicion. "Oneironaut, eh? You sound like one of those Society of Ether dudes, what with their 'ethernauts' and stuff..." She shrugged. "But if that means you know your way around the Astral Reaches, that'll be a good thing. Gods know that we'll need all the skills we have to get through this..." Which brought her focus back to the matter before them...
"Joke's on us though..." Jen sighed and looked around at the shambling figures. "I don't even want to think about what would happen if one of us was tagged by those things..." She could definitely guess though, since she had seen the madness and chaos going on both around them and in the real world. It would likely be that, but with a dose of existntial destruction on top of it. She shuddered at the thought and glanced over to June. "I'd rather not risk any one getting too close to one if we can help it..." Doubly so with that one. She didn't want to think about a rage zombie werewolf charging with murder in its eyes. Fortunately, another route was provided.
When Bill used his bizarre magic to open a conduit into the hospital proper, Jen's eyes widened in surprise. Sure, part of it was surprise at the power and ability of a Changeling in the Astral Realms. She had already seen that he was capable of defending himself, but this was another level. The bigger part of her surprise? The waves of ephemera that rolled wildly out of the new hole in the Astral Reaches. On a level deeper than the subconcious, Jen felt the world soul scream in shock at the intrusion. She didn't like the way the tunnel had been created, it disrupted the flow of Essence through the Realm, but what was done is done and she couldn't deny its effectiveness. Saving criticisms for later, she wheeled herself through the gap with a grunt. She didnt say anything about it, but she had noticed Bill preparing to push her chair and hadn't appreciated it. She was capable enough.
A moment later, she wheeled out of the gap and into the hospital's basement. It looked like a blasted out and abandoned building from the inside. "Looks like the morgue," Jen commented as she looked around their point of ingress. "Might be a lucky sort of thing, if our 'source' was a person who died. Their Essence may still be lingering here..." She slowly wheeled in circles to get a better view of things and turned just in time to see another of the rage zombiese leap wildly at her. This one was different, having more distinct features and less haziness, but that was terrible... It was rotting, what little remained of its face literally dripping off as it knocked Jen to the floor. Its hunched back pulsed with red energy that leaked from it like radiation. It took all of Jen's meager fighting ability to hold off its taloned fingers as they scratched wildly for her throat.
See sometimes, it should have been enough to see things on face value. June's attitude was just her rangy, undisciplined self tempered with the sense and sensibilities of age. Now if only anyone could look past her sometimes hairy exterior. June sighed, Jen knew, but she didn't remember, which wasn't surprising in the least, but spirits willing all this ruckus in the astral realm wouldn't have her trying to do a refresher course on no so past current events.
June was vexed and it didn't get much better as the man started...speaking in tongues? Because it was the only explanation she could figure as his English broke down into sounds that weren't words that made any sense to her. "...What now?" If her accent was any indication, it might have been fair to assume she didn't get it, or might have had to take some time to work it out. But that was all too much work right now, she shook her head and waved off the trouble with a scoff. "If that doesn't have a punchline like...the Sophisticates...I'd be disappointed." Or the Aristocrats if you were a touch less international, but either way, not with this crew, not for all the money in the world.
"Well, I've dealt with worse."
Got grazed by worse and had the scars to prove it, but that didn't necessarily mean she relished the idea of getting touched by a hot poker if she could avoid it. So she was all ears for a better alternative. Which apparently was some sort of Bill hole, "...see now, this is where there's a joke somewhere." June held up her hands and snickered, only growing silent as they entered the scene from Saw. "Sick."
Bill pushed the Umbra aside without knowing of its true nature. If it could be manipulated like dream stuff it was probably okay. He pulled them out into a grim looking room. The shadows on the walls flickering unnaturally, the glamour he was tasting was fast becoming stagnant and twisted. This was a place of death, the death of minds and souls rather than bodies. What the Autumn court wouldn't give to get into here.
"I think this is the joke you were looking for: A fae, a wolf, and a wizard walk into a morgue to pick up a body and the body comes back to life to eat them." He grinned blankly. "That sounds twisted enough for Faerie..." he muttered as the mage clattered to the ground, a horrid shape pulsating with red light attempting to rip into her.
Flicking his wrists again and letting glamour flow he projected part of this unreal estate into the creature as well as he could. The log of ephemera slamming into the creature and knocking into Jennifer's wheelchair slightly, forcing her onto her side.
Now he could see it. Its zombie like appearance hinted disease as parts of it slumped to the floor but a place in the dreamscape couldn't be diseased could it? Could... it?
It looked hungrily at them both as Bill helped his counterpart up before lunging at them.
With a bit of help, Jen managed to get herself out from underneath the ravenous creature but not without some nasty gashes on her neck. She could feel from the throbbing senstion around the scratches that it they were likely to become infected, but that wouldn't be exacty surprising considering they were caused by a rotting corpse! Crawling back into her chair, Jen muttered a brief call for aid from the spiritual realms of vitality and growth. It wasn't an instant cure of course, especially not in a place inundated with death and sickness like a hospital morgue, but it would hold off the worst until she could give it a proper treatment.
Besides, it wasn't over. She saw the others preparing to engage the ghoulish creature and she took the moment's reprieve as it try to pull itself upright with half-rotten muscles to do the same. She called out to the spirits of wisdom and requested her totem to act as intermediary from its place within her soul. She coulld see flashes of some poor old man coming into a hospital with a nasty cough and aching limbs. He didn't survive long before sucumbing to his illness even with the aid of doctors. He did manage to spread the disease before passing however, a disease that spread quickly through the Valley. "This thing is the source! This guy was the first to get sick... Maybe if we..."
Jen's eyes widened when a moment later the corpse seemed to collapse like a marionette who's strings were cut. It crumpled to the ground and after only a minute seemed to dissolve into a greenish-black goo. "What...?" Was this some sort of divine luck? Was it really that simple? What caused this fortunate turn of events? A moment later, her question was answered.
[url=https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Paul_F%C3%BCrst%2C_Der_Doctor_Schnabel_von_Rom_%28Holl%C3%A4nder_version%29.png]A dark, cloaked figure[url] entered through the door opposite the trio. It made no sound. It had no footstep and its cloak disguised if it even had feet. A wide brimmed hat and a mask with a large beak-like nose covered anything the cloak would not. Even the glass eye covers were tinted black to prevent any features from showing. It floated into the room and stopping immediately next to the liquified corpse.
The creture paused for a long moment before its silence was broken by a high-pitched, keening laugh. "My my my..." Its sightless eyes traced from one face to another. "It would appear that the gig is up, is it not?" Its gaze swept visibly down to what was left of the corpse. "You have found the trojan horse... But what has happened to the Greeks?" Another keening laugh echoed through the empty chamber. "Troy stands weakened but undefeated, but the tide is turning. Now what should I do about you guards that have come too late...?"