02. The ‘Sorceress’ and the Ninth Gate

(completed 12/03/2008; Abhorsen Trilogy)

The original story, "Sorceress"*), belongs to Bryare-Thorne; she's welcome to it. The PPC was originally envisioned by Jay and Acacia, and I, like so many others, am merely continuing to carry out the Duty. The AbhorsenTrilogy is property of Garth Nix. I believe that's everything for this mission. Agents Katrina and Samuel do belong to me, however.

Thanks are due to Spud, who was gracious enough to beta this for me.

[*) edited to link all three parts rather than only part one]

Agent Katrina, DMS, Freelance Division, newly returned from her first mission and first kill, was having a pleasant dream.

This alone was probably enough to tempt fate, but add that she was currently asleep in her bunk, nestled comfortably under several blankets, happily curled around her favorite pointe shoe, and there was an almost guaranteed interruption by the Laws of Narrative Comedy.

Sure enough, a very loud beep pierced the silence, startling her partner into dropping his book. He’d been sitting right next to the console, perhaps a foolish decision in retrospect. Frowning, Samuel bent to retrieve the book, found his place and marked it, and took a look at the console.

Whatever was on it, it wasn’t pretty. Samuel grimaced, and turned to face the slightly ajar door that lead to their tiny living quarters.

No partner was forthcoming.

He sighed, and went to investigate.

Kat had, miraculously, actually managed to sleep through the console’s alarm, and was still cheerfully slumbering under the covers. Samuel shook her, and received for his troubles a slight smile and a mumbled “Ten minutes, Dad...”

This was going to take some work.

Katrina awoke to a most peculiar sensation, not unlike being dropped into a shallow body of water.

It was extraordinarily cold.

Kat shot upright, screeching unprintable things. Scant seconds later, she encountered a hand over her mouth. She quieted momentarily while she tracked the hand to an arm to a body, and then she attempted shrieking again. She’d been expecting her partner; what she got was a vaguely man-shaped creature, with Samuel’s height and lanky frame, but grey-green and blurry at the edges, dripping with flames and smoke. Its eyes were fiery pits in its grotesque face.

A very small part of her mind said, ‘Hang on, that description sounds familiar. Come on, didn’t we read something like this?

The Assassin ignored the rational part of her mind in favor of attempting to scrabble backward and away from the monster-thing.

It exhaled a thick grey smoke in what might have been an exasperated sigh. “Will you stop that?” Samuel’s voice demanded.

It was enough to give Kat pause. She looked at the creature warily, still trying to get away, and then, on a hunch, looked down at herself. “Oh,” she said in a small voice, the panic slowly receding. The parts of her that she could see resembled a feminine version of the creature with Samuel’s voice, meaning that it was probably a disguise. “Give a girl some warning, will you?”

“I tried,” Samuel said dismissively, swinging his bag off his shoulder and beginning to look through it. He offered Kat a small pad of paper and a miniature mechanical pencil.

She took them, though not without a dubious look at her hands. “Hopefully this’ll work,” she muttered, and watched as Samuel retrieved a CAD before settling the pack again. “So, I take it we got a mission?”

Samuel stared at her blankly, which really wasn’t a difficult thing given his current features. “Why yes,” he said after a moment. “Yes we did.”

“And you chose to drag me in over your shoulder rather than wake me up like a civilized person?” she asked acerbically, still a little annoyed that her nap had been interrupted.

“I tried,” Samuel repeated.

Kat connected the dots and felt her cheeks heat slightly. “Ooh. Sorry. Um. I’ve been told I sleep through earthquakes?” she said helpfully, looking anywhere but at Samuel. Where were they, anyway, that it necessitated such a horrific-looking disguise?

The body of water she’d been dumped in appeared to be a fairly shallow river, which was cold-ish but ignorable now that she’d been standing in it a while. There was a current, and it felt pretty nasty, but she’d been cheerfully ignoring it since Samuel dumped her in it and had no intention of stopping anytime soon, though it could prove dangerous if she got distracted. Even, grayish light... no banks in sight... and a distant wall of mist that made her think of waterfalls...

“Samuel,” she said sweetly. “What are we?”

“Mordicants,” he said bluntly. “It’s an Abhorsen Trilogy fic.”

“We’re in Death.”

“Yes. Watch, and remain still. With luck, we’ll be overlooked.”

“I don’t like trusting to luck,” Kat grumbled, shuffling her feet, but she set pencil to paper and waited.

Time passed, and Kat was getting restless when a woman finally appeared in front of them. Samuel carefully muted the CAD and aimed it at her, showing Kat the display when it came up. [Levaberial. Necromancer. Non-canon. Mary-Sue.]

The woman had red hair with blue streaks in it. Kat tipped her head to one side, studying the strange combination. She thought to comment on it – it looked better than it sounded, for once – but remembered something about sound carrying in Death. It had been a while since she’d read the Abhorsen Trilogy, but it was better to be safe than noticed by the enemy.

The ‘Sue brushed her fingers over the bandolier slung across her chest, then opened the sixth largest pouch, producing a large bell. She held it carefully, wary that it did not sound, and took a cautious step forward, further into Death.

This was, of course, the cue for the other participant in the scene to appear out of nowhere. “Hello Levy. How goes the necromancy?”

The ‘Sue managed to gracefully twirl around without being swept under by the current, which netted her a nasty look from Kat.

Nasty looks from Mordicants are Serious Business. That is, if the person at whom the look is directed has actually noticed the Mordicant in question, which Levaberial had not, much to Kat’s disappointment. Two paragraphs in, according to the Words, and she already disliked the ‘Sue.

At least the Suethor had got the newcomer’s description vaguely right. As Levaberial turned, a tall, thin pale woman with black hair and eyes and a blue surcoat with silver keys on it stared back at her. Kat wasn’t sure if she should be shocked at the accuracy or not.

‘Definitely shocked,’ she thought a few moments later, as the woman identified only as Abhorsen proclaimed, "Lay down your sword and hand over your bells. Even still, I can forgive you, as no one has come to serious harm yet.”

It was begging for pithy commentary. However, Samuel’s eyes were trained on the ‘Sue and her companion, and Kat still wasn’t sure just how well sound carried in Death. She wasn’t anxious to find out right this moment, so she settled for growling quietly and applying unnecessary force to the pad of paper as she marked down a charge.

She continued to watch, anger mounting, as Levaberial’s eyes became emeralds, the sockets rimmed with amethyst, and the Abhorsen demanded that Levaberial let go the poor souls she held captive.

Shortly after, everything began to happen very quickly indeed.

Levaberial raised ‘saraneth’ in one hand. Kat focused on the bell intently; it didn’t look like the Binder she’d seen earlier. For one, the handle was lime green. There were other things subtly wrong with it, too, but the green stood out the most. She supposed that was what happened when a proper noun was forcefully transformed into a common noun.

Kat made a mental note to snatch the bell if it was at all possible. It could be useful if they ever had to do an exorcism.

Calmly, coolly, the ‘Sue replaced the saraneth in its pouch and drew an extra sword from out of nowhere. She proceeded to stab the Abhorsen in the ‘stomache’, whatever that was, with a snide, “Forgot to wear your armor today? Oh too bad.”

Kat noted the charge almost automatically before she realized that she didn’t know if the Abhorsen that had just been stabbed was a canon character or not, stomach wounds were generally fatal if not treated soon-ish, and the ‘Sue had just picked up the Abhorsen, kissed her, and tossed her, bells and all, back into Life.

As the ‘Sue turned away, ostensibly to deal with something else, Kat lifted a finger and pointed, mouthing, ‘What the hell?’

Samuel looked down at her and nodded in agreement, before shoving the younger Assassin toward Life, in almost precisely the same place the Abhorsen had been tossed. Kat, understandably, balked. Samuel scowled at her, and made a few abortive motions toward the CAD and Kat’s abdominal area.

Kat could have spent a while playing charades, but she had a feeling she knew what Samuel was getting at. If she was right, he hadn’t gotten around to checking the Abhorsen either, so that could very well be a canon dying in Life, without aid. Of course, she might have gotten help, but there was absolutely no way to tell.

Meanwhile, a female spirit had appeared out of nowhere, facing off with Levaberial, and the ‘Sue was drawing that strangely corrupted Binder again, along with Kibeth. Kat cast one longing look toward the saraneth, handed Samuel her notepad, and, obediently, headed for Life.

It wasn’t as hard as she thought it might have been to cross over; it seemed she was not physically crossing the border, but rather stepping through a plot hole, possibly into a non-canonical location. That suited her just fine.

What did not suit her just fine was the sword pointed at her nose by a bloody Abhorsen who looked pale even for one of her line. Kat was suddenly very, very still.

Not looking away from the Mordicant in front of her, the Abhorsen moved the hand that had previously been clutching at her ‘stomache’ to fumble for her bells, which had, somewhere in the interim, regained their rightful place across her chest. Kat didn’t know how, she didn’t need to know how. “Ah, could we not...?” she squeaked, and flinched as the sword waved a bit and the Abhorsen freed Kibeth.

“Only, I’m not Dead really, I’m alive, I’m a human, I’m wearing an illusion, please don’t make me walk ‘cause really, I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you,” Kat babbled nervously, eying the Charter-marked bell with some concern even as she mentally cursed Samuel for bringing her without a weapon.

The Abhorsen frowned at her. “How is that possible?” she asked warily, Kibeth uncomfortably close to ringing.

“Sweet Mew, I don’t even know, I didn’t design it,” Kat muttered. “Look, it doesn’t matter, but I promise I’m not here for you. Me and my partner are part of a group that hunts down creatures we call Mary Sues; your friend Levaberial in there is one of them.”

“Levaberial?” The Abhorsen made a face, looking distinctly nauseated. “I remember... I’d gone there to stop her, by any means necessary... and she...”

The Abhorsen shuddered, fingers clenching convulsively on Kibeth’s handle. Kat watched the bell carefully, ready to catch it should it drop. “I suppose we’re lucky she stabbed you in the stomache, not the stomach,” she said after a moment, forcing cheer into her tone. “Whatever the stomache is, it hardly seems vital.”

The pale woman laughed then, a short, hoarse bark, and carefully secured Kibeth, lowering her sword. “You’ll understand if I don’t disarm myself completely. Whomever or whatever you may be in truth, you still seem to me as a Mordicant.”

“No problem,” Kat said cheerfully, much happier now that there wasn’t a sword pointed at her.

“So what now, then?” the Abhorsen prompted. “Do we return to Death, to aid your partner in his fight? I do not know how useful I might be, though; there is something about that necromancer that weakens me. Do you know, I could swear I had my armor on when I confronted her? It is folly for an Abhorsen to enter Death with no protection save a surcoat.”

Kat sighed. “I’ve gotta figure you out first,” she said, a little glumly. “But Samuel has the CAD... oh, I know! What year is it?”

The Abhorsen gave her a strange look. “An odd question. It is the year—“

And there she stopped, confused. “I have no idea,” she confessed after a moment.

“I thought so,” Kat sighed. “No set time which means no idea which Abhorsen you ought to be which means you are probably technically a bit.” She decided not to mention the options for bits: recruitment or death. There was the possibility that the Abhorsen might not take kindly to recruitment, and Kat was weaponless. “Well, Samuel will know what to do. Can you get back into Death? I should be able to hitch a plothole back...”

“I could,” the Abhorsen allowed, “but I believe I’d prefer to see your method of travel. It would set my mind at ease, to see that you do not walk as the Dead do.”

Kat gave her an odd look. “Um... if you say so. Hold on to me.”

The dark-haired woman set her free hand gingerly on Kat’s shoulder, and Kat took a moment to scan the words. There was a nice plothole coming up, as Levaberial thrust herself into Life just before stepping through one of the Gates. “Okay... there it is. Let’s go!” Kat crowed, leaping forward and into Death.

She and the Abhorsen wound up standing beside Samuel, ankle-deep in warm water. Kat blinked. “Ninth Precinct?” she asked curiously.

Samuel nodded, a small chuckle escaping him. “Our ‘Sue is about to step through the Ninth Gate. Don’t look up.”

Kat checked the Words, and cracked up. The ‘Sue had, from the context, meant to step through the Eighth Gate and into the Ninth Precinct, to gaze upon the Ninth Gate, but instead, the Words had her stepping through the Ninth Gate. Despite the description after that sentence, it seemed the river would not be swayed on this count. The Ninth Gate she had specified, and the Ninth Gate she would get. “Did you read the charge list?” she asked curiously, as the ‘Sue began to walk up and into the sky.

“Not yet.” Samuel handed her the notepad.

She glared at him briefly before clearing her throat. “Attention, Levaberial!” she called.

The necromancer barely twitched, but continued walking in the air. Kat shrugged, and began to read. “You are charged with having anachronistic hair and a very stupid name with stupider nicknames, an apparent love-hate relationship with the Abhorsen, inflicting great stupidity upon said Abhorsen, completely forgetting your capitals on the subjects of Death and Life, creating ‘saraneth,’ whatever the heck that was, Saraneth is a proper noun thank you very much, badly defined flashbacks – I think – reading the Book of the Dead when you’re a necromancer and should have no access to it, general cruelty to the English language, and intending to gaze upon the Ninth Gate unscathed. In the words of the Disreputable Dog, ‘Few necromancers risk seeing the Ninth Gate, for their very nature is to deny its call.’ You are also charged with creating a speshul post for yourself; the Dead don’t need their ‘broken and shattered lives’ resolved. Above all, you are charged with being a Mary-Sue, and are sentenced to death by stupidity in 3...2...1...”

Kat watched with some satisfaction as Levaberial disappeared from her field of view, ostensibly headed through the Ninth, and final, Gate. She then realized she was perilously close to getting an eyeful of stars, and hastily glanced down and away.

Samuel and the Abhorsen were looking at each other with some trepidation. “You seem well,” Samuel observed.

“Apparently the stomache and the stomach are two different organs.” The Abhorsen shrugged. “So, what is to become of me? Your partner made mention of me being a ‘bit,’ whatever that means...”

“It means that, however unintentionally, you are of the same ilk of that woman,” Samuel said, with some disdain. He flashed the CAD at her, and the reading seemed to confirm his suspicions. “Your choices: return with us to aid the Canon Protection Initiative, or die here.”

The Abhorsen scowled at him. “Not much of a choice, is it?”

Samuel shrugged, and fished out the Remote Activator, setting it. A portal flicked into being, their RC visible just beyond it.

“I’d suggest coming with,” Kat said after a moment. “Might be useful to have an Abhorsen around the DMS. Or the DBS, even. I bet you’d be killer at exorcisms, no pun intended. And death doesn’t sound very fun. Please?”

With a sigh, the Abhorsen sheathed her sword. “Very well.”

Kat bounced with glee, heading for the portal. “Yay!” she chirped, half-tripping through the portal and back into HQ. The disguise melted around her, leaving her once again as a human girl with far too much energy for her own good. “Come on, come on!”

Slowly, the Abhorsen came through, followed closely by Samuel, who shut the portal behind them. “Now what?” the Abhorsen wanted to know.

“Um... I have no idea.” Kat grinned sheepishly, looking to her partner.

Samuel was kind enough to help out the clueless Kat. “A visit to Medical and a visit to the Marquis de Sod are in order, I believe.”

“Right!” Kat grabbed the pale woman and dragged her out the door, into the depths of HQ, babbling cheerfully all the way. Samuel watched them go before setting his pack down and retrieving his book. It’d be some time before his partner returned; with any luck, he’d be able to finish a few more chapters.

He wondered how long it would be before Kat realized that the bit character didn’t have an actual name.

Nameless Abhorsen has found a home. Izel is now being written by five_redclawed, and I wish both of them the best of luck.