02. Slaying the Slayer

The PPC was created by Jay and Acacia, although Tirsaer and Ryni (and Nara, for that matter) were created by me. The Abhorsen series was created by Garth Nix, and any various references belong to their respective owners (this includes swab-swords, which were borrowed from an old children's game). "Nightblade: Tale of a Hunter" (found here) belongs to Pandora of Ithilien. Which is a good thing, since I don't want it.

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"Hey! Hey! What are you doing to my leg? That's my leg! GetoffgetoffGETOFF! Gaah! Help! Somebody! Help! Please!"

In the center of the gray room, surrounded by a mob of small nine-tailed foxes, an agent wearing a red jacket over his uniform and a terrified expression on his face pressed himself against the flimsy table behind him and prayed for rescue. In one hand he clutched an odd weapon that somehow managed to combine the less-dangerous aspects of both a Q-tip and a sword, which he swung wildly at the vulpine creatures snapping at his feet; the other hand held a large silver bell. While the sound of the bell may have rung clearly over the frantic shouting, in this particular universe—or whatever the endless gray hallways known to its residents as "Headquarters" was—it only served to add to the noise.

Agent Tirsaer (assassin, Charter Mage, and necromancer, but only in the sense that he liked to study Free Magic and popped into Death every now and then, since he wasn't, y'know, evil or anything) was not, at the moment, a happy person. His partner had just abandoned him to the mercy of about ten bad-tempered minis—because she needed to pick up a package! She abandoned him! Just left him here! How could she? They were partners, they'd saved each others' lives dozens of times—well, Ryni had thwacked that one really creepy glittery-eyed 'Sue with dragon wings upside the head with a copy of The Last Unicorn before strangling it and doing something nasty involving a pair of sewing scissors—but that wasn't the point. The point was that if Ryni ever needed him to save her, he would leap to her defense without hesitation. As long as doing so wouldn't result in his unpleasant and untimely demise, anyway. He was a necromancer, for crying out loud! Death was something that happened to other people, and Ryni had no right to leave him here like this!

When she came back, Tirsaer decided, she would face the full force of a vengeful necromancer's wrath. And it would involve that urple duct tape he knew was still lying around the RC somewhere.

And then he would run like something large and slimy with too many teeth was after him. Because Ryni was seriously scary, and he rather suspected that she was both much more intelligent and far more creative than he could ever be.

Teeth closed over his leg, and Tirsaer froze, staring down into the cheerfully malevolent eyes of a mini-Kyuubi. Despite the evil gleaming in its burning eyes and the bloodthirsty snarl rumbling up from its throat, the small demon still managed to look ridiculously cute even as it gnawed happily at the bandages already wrapped around the limb, which still ached from a previous attack.

Not moving as his brain attempted to process the situation, Tirsaer stood blinking dumbly for a few moments. Then, at the sudden realization that those jaws hurt, he leaped back with a shriek, shaking his leg vigorously in an attempt to dislodge the mini and dropping both swab and bell in shock.

Unfortunately, he had forgotten that he was already backed up against the table.

The ensuring collision could only be described as "loud", although "painful" and "chaotic" would also not be far from the truth. With a crash, the impact overturned the table and sent its load tumbling to the floor even as the minis gleefully swarmed over the hapless necromancer. Closing his eyes, Tirsaer hoped his end would come swiftly and (for the most part) painlessly.

Then a knock came at the door.

Red fur flew as Tirsaer shot across the room, leaving the startled minis snapping at air. Before the undersized demons had a chance to work out where their newfound chewtoy went, he tugged open the door to find himself facing a tall, smirking agent with disheveled blond hair and a Charter Marked forehead.

If Tirsaer had been the sort of person to question the truth of his own identity, he would have sworn that it was himself standing in the hallway and peering curiously at the chaos inside. As it was, however, the thought that there could be another Tirsaer running around somewhere in Headquarters never crossed his mind, and the possibility of a long-lost twin or an amusing mishap involving time travel were dismissed out of hand. Of course, it didn't hurt that Tirsaer was somewhat familiar with a few of the stranger habits of his fellow agents.

"Nara! Thank the Charter you're here!" Almost sobbing in relief, Tirsaer dragged his doppelganger inside by the arm, slamming the door shut behind them before any of the minis had a chance to escape.

"Hey, don't thank the Charter," Nara protested. "The Charter doesn't even exist here. Thank me."

"That too," Tirsaer agreed, ducking behind Nara to avoid the glares of the minis scattered through the room.

"Good." Hands shoved into pockets, Nara stared around with mild interest. "So. Um. What are you thanking me for?"

"Rescuing me!"

"... But I haven't done anything." Nara's brow creased. "What am I supposed to rescue you from, anyway?"

A mini-Kyuubi answered the question by lunging forward, mouth gaping and claws outstretched. Nara smiled.


Abruptly, with an odd motion of unfolding and flowing, Tirsaer's double straightened and uncoiled into a shape quite different from the one previously worn. Winding nine furred tails demurely over oddly shaped claws as long pointed ears scraped the ceiling, Nara snaked a hand forward and snatched the mini-Kyuubi up by the scruff of the neck.

"Kunkuro, I presume?" The snarling growl bore no resemblance to Nara's former voice. Not that Tirsaer really expected—or wanted—it to. Seeing an exact duplicate of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox (scaled down to fit the room, of course) speak with his own voice would probably have been too creepy for even him to handle.

The mini hissed and lashed its own tails in response, and grimacing, Nara dropped it to the floor. Somehow managing to land feet-down, Kunkuro raced across the room to lurk behind the others, sending offended glares back at is former captor.

"Not very friendly," Nara observed, settling back down into an imitation of Tirsaer. "So why do you have these things here, anyway?"

"I don't know," Tirsaer moaned. "They just followed us back from our last mission!"

"What, all of them?" Impressed, Nara stared at the minis. "Some mission."

Despite himself, Tirsaer grinned proudly. "Oh, it was. There was a Vampire!Sue, and misspellings everywhere, and these really annoying songs in every chapter—"

"Oooh! I want to see!" Nara was suddenly standing by the console, reading over the mission report. One of the minis growled.

Clearing his throat nervously, Tirsaer back away from the approaching demons. "Uh, Nara, I'd be glad to tell you everything later, but you do realize that you've just left me at the mercy Chartersavemeitseatingmyleg!"

"Wimp." Sighing, Nara reached over with a suddenly too-long arm and yanked Tirsaer from the claws of the minis. "Look, I really came to borrow your copy of Watership Down, but seeing as you're probably going to become mini food as soon as I leave—"

"Hey! We can't all be indestructible shape shifters like some people I could name!"

"—why don't I just get these things off your hands and come back later?" Blinking, Nara staggered back and attempted to fend off a suddenly weeping necromancer. "Yes, I know I'm awesome and cool and all kinds of amazing, but really, could you let go before you strangle me?"

"Take them, I beg you!" Sniffling, Tirsaer stepped back. "And I can't strangle you, remember? I already tried."

"It's the principle of the thing. Friends don't strangle friends. Unless, you know, they really deserve it." With an oddly smug expression, Nara sauntered over to the door. "By the way, you owe me."

"All right, but don't expect me to hand over my immortal soul or anything," Tirsaer warned. "Anything in particular you want?"

Pausing with a hand on the door, Nara frowned. "... I'll let you know when I think of something." Then, flinging the door open, the imitation necromancer blurred and twisted into a young woman, with soul-searching dark violet eyes that looked right through you. Her crimson-black hair fell in waves to her waist, framing a pale innocent face and a slender yet soft body with curves in all the right places. She was wearing a silvery-blue silk dress with an uneven hem and lots of gold embroidery that was revealing without being indecent—

As one, the minis froze. Then, turning to face the doorway, they stared at the vision of innocence and beauty, who raised a slender hand to her ruby mouth and whispered in a voice like starlight—

The minis went insane.

In a stampede of slashing claws and gleaming fangs, almost a dozen angry fox-demons tore through the doorway and down the hall, seeking the Mary Sue who dared reveal her perfect, glittery face to them.

And once they disappeared, the air in the doorway thickened and brightened, until Nara, laughing hysterically and once again borrowing Tirsaer's shape, stood leaning against the doorframe and shaking in mirth.

"I... don't think that was a good idea," Tirsaer said slowly.

"Eh, I can catch them," came the unconcerned reply, as Nara dismissed the criticism with an airy wave. "And it got them to leave, didn't it?"

"Yes, at the cost of my eyes," Tirsaer grumbled. "Crimson-black? Where did you get that piece of urple description?"

"My last 'Sue," Nara said proudly, hair darkening and tumbling into an imitation of the 'Sue-hair in question. "Annoying little elf-girl, but didn't really taste that bad. A little too sweet, and left glitter all over my teeth, but that's what toothpaste's for."

"You ate a 'Sue?" Tirsaer stared at his friend, trying to ignore the fact that Nara was currently wearing a 'Sue's hair with Tirsaer's body. "Please tell me you at least went to Medical afterwards."

"What for? Plenty of agents eat 'Sues," Nara pointed out reasonably.

"Not the point!" Frustrated, Tirsaer waved his hands in emphasis. "'Sues have, you know, all sorts of toxins in them. You'll get sick!"

"Will not." Arms crossed, Nara stuck out an unnaturally long tongue in a rather childish gesture. "You would, because you're pathetic like that, but I won't."

"What's that supposed to—" Tirsaer began just as a shriek rang through the hallway.

"Oh. Right. The minis." Turning abruptly, Nara sighed and started out the door. "Better catch them before they cause too much damage. Don't blow anything up while I'm gone."

"Blow anything up?" Tirsaer sputtered. "You're the one that mistook your partner for a 'Sue—"

But the door had already swung shut, and Tirsaer was left alone in the room.

For an instant he remained frozen where he stood. Then his knees crumbled, and he sat down heavily on the floor. Groaning, he dug into his pocket and pulled out a candy bar, which he tore open and bit into with all the ferocity a Mordicant might apply against pretty much anything unlucky enough to cross its path.

"Thank the Charter for shape-shifting friends," he mumbled to the ceiling around a mouthful of chocolate and caramel.

Within a few bites the candy had disappeared, and Tirsaer forced himself from the ground. A quick glance around the room revealed that the damage caused by the minis was mostly superficial, with much in the way of overturned furniture and little in the way of broken equipment—a shame, since then he could've replaced it, and the console had recently been making odd burping noises at random moments, not to mention the one time it starting playing the Imperial March when Ryni entered the room. Which Tirsaer was positive had nothing to do with the large burnt area near the speakers.

But since there was really nothing he could do—except destroy the console himself, and the Flowers tended to frown on that sort of thing and assign really horrible missions to those who tried—Tirsaer began to clean up the mess. And vowed undying vengeance on any writers who didn't bother to look up the canonical spellings of names.

Minutes later, as he struggled to set up the folding table—which refused to unfold—the door once again slammed open. This time, however, it was his partner rather than a shape-shifter who entered.

Almost, but not quite, Tirsaer wished for Nara's comparative normality back.

"Triumph and success!" Face flushed with excitement, Ryni brandished a small, gleaming packet in his general direction. "Though the way be long, and the journey harsh, and I scarce arrive before I must leave, I have with courage and valor traversed through these desolate halls to retrieve that which is rightly mine!"

"Oh. Good." At last the table clicked into place, and Tirsaer straightened with a sigh. "Anything good?"

A bark of laughter erupted from Ryni's throat. "Oh, beloved partner of mine, you never cease to entertain and amuse with your innocent queries. For yes, yes! Yes indeed were the rewards great, and I was led astray not by the message sent from Postal to tell of the coming of that which I so long ago desired and craved."

"Which was?" Tirsaer asked warily, sitting down in one of the folding chairs.

The answer came in the form of another package, striking his forehead with an audible smack. Holding it up in front of his face, Tirsaer squinted at the obnoxiously colored letters written on the silvery foil.

"'Now you, too, may experience the thrill of the hunt and the terror of the chase—all from the safety of your home'," he read. "'Take the role of a bold Agent or sly Mary Sue, protect or ensnare Canons—it's all up to you! Presenting the one and only—'"

He broke off, eyes widening in horror. "Oh, no. Oh no no. I don't do card games. Especially not collectible PPC-style card games."

"But you will. You surely will." Settling down in the other chair, she smirked at him while tearing open her own packet. "Fear not your lack of knowing, for together shall we learn."

"But we're agents! We're assassins!" Tirsaer protested, reluctantly opening his own deck. "Why play this, of all things?"

"Why not?" she returned, swiftly shuffling and counting out five cards. "We do as we can, and attempt what we cannot. I will start the game."

Five minutes later, Tirsaer still didn't do card games.

"Look, this makes no sense. I mean, I should have demolished you. My 'Sue has a Necklace, and a +4 attack, and six Canons, and your Agent has a Knife. And a +2 attack."

"Observe with those eyes you neglect that we stand in a City, where your pathetic Necklace is but so much metal. And in your foolishness you took captive the Lust Object of my Agent, who has increased her attack in her mad insanity. Such small details must, with time, come together."

"... I don't think I like this game."

"Do not allow your injured arrogance take hold of your mind. Surely with time and practice, you will grow to appreciate this exercise in strategy and intellect."

"Are you implying something?"

"And thus you begin to see slight where none exists. So. And I lay down this Monster, snarling and slashing your Agent to dust."

"Ryni, that's Peter Jackson. He doesn't snarl."

"So speaks the one who watches as his Agent perishes a gruesome and terrible death."

"What? Now hold on here—"

Fortunately—or perhaps not, as the case may be—the console chose this moment to interrupt with a particularly loud wail.


"Such a pity and shame, that our game must be so cruelly delayed," Ryni sighed, withdrawing her sewing scissors from the speaker.

"Yeah, how terrible." Standing up from his chair with more haste than could be considered usual, Tirsaer made his way over to the console and glanced over the screen. "Let's see what we have here—"

The words clogged up in his throat, and his vision blurred.

"Tell me, then," Ryni said, pulling out the green backpacks they carried with them during missions, "is this 'Sue worthy and deserving of a particularly painful demise?"

The words broke Tirsaer from his trance.

"I WILL KILL HER!" he screamed, spinning around and snatching at his bandolier, breath coming harsh and heavy as he glared unseeing into nothing. "I will hunt her and find her and kill her, and I will pull her bones from her flesh and burn her heart with acid and grind her fingers to dust and pour molten lead in her veins and I will drag her to the Ninth Gate and force her beyond and laugh over her broken remains, and when I am through, she will know pain."

His partner blinked at him. Straightened. "By those words you speak, so full of pain and rage, shall I assume that you desire the kill for yourself?"

"Oh, yes. That is a definite Glaurung yes." Still growling under his breath, Tirsaer set the disguise generator and accepted his pack from Ryni. "This isn't just a run-of-the-mill LotR or Harry Potter 'Sue. This is an Abhorsenverse 'Sue." He stepped through the portal that opened, not checking to see if Ryni followed. "As a devoted servant of the Charter and former resident of the Old Kingdom, this can not be permitted."

Softly, so the fuming necromancer couldn't hear, Ryni snorted as she followed him through the portal. "Yet last I checked, your Free Magic tainted pastime is held to be an abomination and outrage by all Charter-loving beings, a menace to be hunted and destroyed."

The portal snapped shut. Shortly after, a mini-Kyuubi crawled out from beneath Tirsaer's bed. Garra brushed its fur back into place, then set off to explore its new home.

The agents arrived in a short paragraph of a scene, undescribed beyond the presence of a bed and multiple characters. Lirael was on the bed, shrieking, as other characters rushed around her.

"So the Suethor burns our eyes and cracks our brains with the sight of the birth of the 'Sue," Ryni muttered, pulling out her notebook and jotting down a charge. Next to her, Tirsaer closed his eyes and inhaled sharply.

"How dare they?" he suddenly burst out. "Three sentences in, and already it feels off. My poor 'verse... What have they done to you?"

"I assume and suspect that you are merely oversensitive to the burning agony of your home universe's torment," Ryni suggested wryly. "For this fic, clumsy and stumbling as it is, hardly approaches the sheer level of horror found in prior missions of ours."

"I. Don't. Care," Tirsaer bit out. "This is personal."

Suddenly, Lirael's screams got much louder as her first child, a daughter, was born. Soon after, another girl followed. They thought that was it, but then, as Lirael shrieked once more, a third baby girl came into the world.

"How undramatic," Tirsaer muttered, pulling a bottle of Bleeprin from his pocket and taking two tablets. He then offered the bottle to Ryni, who recoiled, clutching her notebook protectively.

"Remove it from my sight, hide it away from my eyes!" she hissed. "My intellect must remain pure and unclouded, and not grow hazy with the numbing influence of your memory-burning remedy!"

"Suit yourself." Tirsaer tucked the Bleeprin away, unable to look away from the unfolding Words. "Let me know if you change your mind."

"You are deluded and mistaken if you believe my will weak as that," Ryni scoffed. "Nay, I will remain vigilant and alert, unwavering in the face of despair."

As this final daughter left her mother, three stars, one silver, one blue, and one blood-red aligned in the sky. No one in the birthing room saw, but those elsewhere who did wondered what the omen foretold. Only those lurking in the shadows understood, and they feared the child who squalled in her mother's arms.

"Fear? I?" Ryni snorted. "Flatter yourself not."

"What?" Tirsaer yelped, staring in horror at the Words. "Random astronomical occurrences don't happen just like that! Maybe in a different continuum, but not here!"

"We can only assume she intended to attain the aspect of a hero," Ryni guessed, "heralded by prophecy and mysticism. Therein lies the beginning of her folly, however—legends such as these truly only arise once the events they proclaim have faded into time."

"That's not the only thing she gets wrong," Tirsaer muttered. "Charter save me—time-and-scene change coming up."

In a swirl of nausea and bolding, the ground jerked away from under the agents' feet, then slammed back again as the floor of the 'Sue's room. Tirsaer stumbled, swearing, while Ryni made a note.

"So," Tirsaer managed after the Words stabilized, "is that our target?" He squinted at the girl in front of them.

Fourteen-year-old Ileana Sayre lay on her bed at Wyverley College, feeling the old bitterness cloud her heart. It was holidays again, and as usual, Ileana remained at school. It was her choice, but she hated it. She only stayed because...she hated home more.

"Certainly it appears to be such," Ryni confirmed as the 'Sue continued to angst.

There, she was the misfit of her powerful family. Daughter of the Remembrancer and Abhorsen–in–Waiting, sister to the Remembrancer–in–Training (her brother Liam), the Junior Abhorsen–in–Waiting (her sister Arielle), and a Daughter of the Clayr (her sister Kristiana), niece of the King of the Old Kingdom and his Abhorsen Queen, cousin to the first Wallmaker in centuries and the Princess Royale, Ileana stuck out like a sore thumb.

"How many OCs do we have to take care of?" Tirsaer demanded, aghast.

"Only the 'Sue, barring the appearance of the others," Ryni assured him. "As names and no more, they fade away into the emptiness of the Words once the source of their creation is removed."

"But we saw her sisters get born, too," Tirsaer pointed out. "We know they exist."

"Then after we have ripped this 'Sue away from this world, we shall journey to discover if her sisters may be saved," Ryni decided.

"Oh. Good." He scowled. "Since when's Remembrancer an official position, anyway? I always thought it was a genetic trait resulting from mixed Clayr and Abhorsen blood."

She was none of these things; she wasn't even the best Charter Mage. Oh, she had power, but she wasn't nearly as strong as her family members were. Even her father was an important man. He was the main ambassador between Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom, but his magic was average. Obviously, she took after him. She did, really. Ileana's academics were the best of her parents' four children, not that anyone cared. But her father had been the same, and he at least was proud of her.

"She's still whining?" Tirsaer groaned, shaking his head. "And with that comment about Nick and average, I'm assuming she hasn't read 'Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case.' Or even the end of Abhorsen."

"Doubt arises at the thought of Lirael ignoring a less-than-powerful daughter, for with a past such as hers, surely she would treasure and cherish all her children, regardless of talent or lack thereof," Ryni added.

"Oh yeah. And Sabriel was proud of her own good grades. There is so much wrong with this...."

Still the 'Sue continued her rant, and revealed her intention to stay in Ancelstierre instead of returning to the Old Kingdom. She was so misunderstood, and isolated, and sad, and the agents had absolutely no sympathy.

Eventually the 'Sue was informed of a visitor, and the agents finally learned what she looked like.

Ileana's green-hazel eyes darkened in confusion as she quickly ran a brush through her straight, gold-brown hair.

"Could be worse," Tirsaer decided. "The delivery is kind of clunky, though."

They followed her as she met with visitor, who, unsurprisingly, turned out to be Sabriel.

Hearing Tirsaer's gleeful giggle, Ryni glanced at her partner. "So is this, then, your Lust Object, she of whom the merest glimpse brings joy?"

"Nah. If anyone in this 'verse, it'd be Lirael." The grin remained on Tirsaer's face as he stared at the Abhorsen. "It just, you know, she's something of an idol to me. Single-handedly restoring the Old Kingdom, while just out of a Ancelstierran boarding school, and she's so practical... I can't wait to see her reaction to this annoying little 'Sue."

Sabriel turned to face her niece, a scowl on her face. Her eyes snapped with barely contained anger. "Well?" she demanded. Ileana blinked, confused. "Well what?" she replied. Sabriel's eyes blazed with fury. "What are you planning, young lady? Why haven't you come home? You hardly write, you ignore your sisters, and you're breaking your mother's heart. How dare you? What is your problem?"

Tirsaer froze. Then slowly, he raised the CAD and aimed it at Sabriel.

[Breeep. Sabriel. Human female. Caaaa... BzzzzzztOUTOFCHARACTERLALALAICAN'THEEEEEEARYOUUUU!]

"No," he whispered, staring at the smoke pouring from the CAD. "Not Sabriel, too?"

He missed the 'Sue's response—"Do you really want to know? Fine. I hate you! I hate all of you! You're all so wonderful and perfect and I'm just a worthless piece of trash! You want to know my plans? All right. In 4 years, I'm going to university and I'm never coming back! I'll be Ancelstierran through and through. Once I'm gone, you'll forget I even exist, 'cause you'll have the perfect people without the family freak to screw it all up! Now please go away and leave me alone!"—and as she ran back to her room, Ryni had to drag him along by the arm in order to keep up.

A timeskip and chapter change later, Tirsaer hadn't as much as twitched. Glancing worriedly at the 'Sue and the continuing story, Ryni decided to resort to desperate measures.

"Filthy necromancer."

The CAD hit the floor, and Tirsaer snapped upright. "What did you call me? All right, that's it—" He stopped as he suddenly recalled the reason for his distress, then with a strangled whimper reached for the Bleeprin.

"Calm yourself," Ryni muttered, watching as the 'Sue made plans to become a doctor.

"But—but why Sabriel! She's awesome! Sabriel-basing is bad!" Tirsaer wailed.

At this point, a silver leopard the size of a normal cat named Artemis appeared from nowhere in a burst of light. It proceeded to greet the 'Sue as a "Slayer" and demand that she go with it, or else everyone would die.

"And of course she does." Tirsaer glared at the new arrival. "And of course we have no idea where that little plot device comes from—"

The next change of scenery was relatively smooth, all things considered. Not that this served to endear the 'Sue to the agents any. Especially not considering the method of arrival.

"More random light. Figures."

They followed the 'Sue into a cave, only to learn that the job of the Slayer was to kill demons.

"No. No no no." Tirsaer growled angrily. "This is the Abhorsenverse. We don't have—or need—demons. We have two types of magic, one of which is radioactive. We have Death as a location. We have to burn corpses to keep them from coming alive. We have shape-shifting beings made of pure corrosive magic. And she wants to add demons?"

"Likely she finds them to be dramatic and impressive in a way the canonical dangers cannot match," Ryni said.

"Why does she even like the books, then?" Tirsaer demanded. "The best thing about them is that they aren't just another kill-vampires-with-stakes adventure. The rules are so different from anything else. She's making the canonical strengths weaknesses!"

"Sad and terrible as it may be, that is hardly an uncommon occurrence among those worlds tainted and corrupted by the invasive presence of a 'Sue," Ryni pointed out. "But take comfort, dear friend, for soon we shall rid this anguished land of her foul touch."

"Something to look forward to, at least," Tirsaer sighed.

Next the 'Sue found her weapons by the dramatic means of opening a door. In a scene that blatantly ripped off Lirael's discovery of her heritage, she read a book that magically explained what she needed to know for her new job, then examined her weapons.

"Hmmm...." Tirsaer peered at the 'Sue's arsenal. "Actually kind of interesting. Think we should save anything?"

"Aye." Ryni pointed at the stake the 'Sue currently held. "Such an object, crafted with such care to destroy and exterminate many of those beings which are otherwise nigh-on indestructible, would surely find use in our hands. Likewise her dagger of shining blue crystal would find a far better home in the heart of a 'Sue than it could ever find in clutch of yonder uncanon fiend. Would assumption that desire for the enchanted sword lies in your heart lead me astray?"

"Now that you mention it, I think I will take it. What are we going to do about the book, though? Not to mention the wand."

Frowning, Ryni thought about this. "It would seem wise and prudent to bring them along with us as we return to the gray corridors we call home. Surely they will find a purpose and use, be it only the satisfaction of a constant reminder of the previous owner's fortunate demise."

"Sounds good to me." Tirsaer suddenly blinked and stared hard at the Words. "Wait—Shadowmagic? She created a new type of magic?" His voice rose. "We don't need more magic! We already have two separate types! And they're cool! You haven't even explained what makes your precious Shadowmagic so special and awesome that everyone needs to worry about it more than Dead people randomly coming back to life—"

"You will be still!" As the 'Sue glanced up, Ryni slapped a hand over her partner's mouth and dragged him into the shadows. Fortunately, the Suethor's sense of the dramatic involved candlelight, which combined with the general lack of description led to numerous hiding places. "Her death will come swiftly and sharp, guided by our own vengeful hands. But for now, until that glorious time arrives, you will not give us away."

Muffled by Ryni's hands, Tirsaer's indignant response remained unheard by the 'Sue, who finished trying on her weapons. Examination complete, she left the room and went to bed at the advice of her cat.

Releasing Tirsaer, Ryni looked up at him with a stern expression. "The peril has passed, for the moment, but still you must remain in firm control of your burning temper. To do otherwise would endanger both ourselves and, far more importantly, our mission."

"I know, I know." Tirsaer clutched the hilt of his swab, almost ready to cry. "But this is my home. And she's ruining it! It's just not fair."

"From the moment you first set foot in the endless hallways of Headquarters to the time when you went on your first mission, you knew this job was harsh, demanding, unfair," Ryni reminded him. "Yet still we must go on, boldly and with courage, clutching the tattered remnants of our sanity to our hearts. To do otherwise would be to admit defeat. Clear your mind, dry your eyes, comfort yourself with the thought of bloody death. We will continue at your word."

He opened his mouth, then closed it again and nodded. Then, breathing in deeply, he shut his eyes and forced himself to relax. His lips moved, and Ryni realized that he was reciting the opening prologue of Sabriel to himself.

"Looks like she spends the next few weeks reading," he finally said aloud. "Oh, and building a Paperwing. Which really isn't that easy. Can we skip ahead? I want to kill her."

Nodding assent, Ryni opened a portal, and they stepped through.

They arrived just in time to see the 'Sue head off for a Random Town in her Paperwing to fight vampires before a scene change hit them, transporting them to Belisaere. Where in Belisaere was not mentioned, so they found themselves floating high above the city as they watched Sabriel fly off in her own Paperwing. Fortunately, a second scene change swept through before they could fall, and the agents landed safely on the ground of a Generic Village.

Biting back nausea, Tirsaer reached for the Bleeprin again.

In front of them, Sabriel was engaged in a rather dull fight scene. It mostly consisted of the Abhorsen ringing her bells and casting random spells with a confused look on her face, while several out-of-place vampires sneered and bared their fangs.

"The necromantic bells are not designed for the Dead only and only for the Dead," Ryni remembered. "Countless times are they used on the living, and creatures of Free Magic are also find themselves troubled. Certainly one who has faced burning spirits in the endless river of Death would laugh at creatures that need only the application of wood to fade into dust."

"But then the 'Sue couldn't come flying in and save the day." He grimaced as said 'Sue arrived in her Paperwing and proceeded to defeat the vampires, ordering Sabriel to leave as she did so. "Thought so. Wait—why is Sabriel listening? She has no idea who the 'Sue is, thanks to our dear Slayer's cunning disguise of a cloth mask. She wouldn't just waltz off without at least finding out how these indestructible new enemies were defeated!" A badly formatted paragraph change hit, knocking him to the ground. He shot up again, brushing the dust from his uniform.

Eventually all the vampires were gone, and the 'Sue prepared to leave.

"This looks like as good a place as any," Tirsaer grimly decided. He adjusted his bandolier. "Give me the notebook; you circle around behind her. The kill's mine, though."

"Aye." Ryni slipped off into the gray lack of description.

As she turned to go, someone ran up to her. "Please, who are you?" Ileana paused, and then gave the only answer she could. "I'm the Slayer."

"Uh, actually, not to burst your bubble or anything, but you're a Mary Sue. Not a Slayer. Which, by the way, doesn't really exist in this world."

At the cold words, Ileana spun around to find a strange man standing behind her. She somehow had the impression that he wasn't there to thank her for saving him. On the contrary, the expression on his face indicated open hostility rather than gratitude.

Then she noticed the bells, just visible under the red leather jacket he wore hanging loose in the front. "You're a necromancer!" she gasped, pointing her wand at him.

"No, really?" He rolled his eyes and held up a notebook. "I'm off duty at the moment, though. Or on, rather. So stay still and let me get this out of the way, will you?"

"Just because I'm not the Abhorsen doesn't mean I can't hurt you," the 'Sue warned. "I'm the Slayer, and it is my destiny to destroy demons."

"Nice alliteration. Now shut up." He cleared his throat. "Ileana Sayre, you are charged with being the daughter of Lirael and Nick, forcing agents to observe Lirael giving birth, causing prophetic stars to appear, pointless angst, gratuitous name-dropping, making Nick have 'average magic', making Sabriel out of character, possessing a Mogget-ripoff with rather obvious inspiration, inserting unnecessary demons, ripping off canonical scenes, possessing random weaponry of a bizarre nature, creating a new and unnecessary form of magic, making Sabriel stupid, weakening canonical magic, destroying an agent's home continuum, and being a really annoying Mary Sue. Who needs to die. If you have some sort of dramatic defense prepared, I'm more than willing to listen. But don't expect sympathy. After all, you did just utterly destroy the whole concept of the books."

"What are you talking about? Demons aren't the Dead!" the 'Sue protested. "The Old Kingdom needs me. Only the Slayer has the power to defeat demons and Shadowmages."

An odd look crossed over the necromancer's face. "What exactly do you think the Abhorsen does?"

"Kill the Dead, of course! But vampires aren't Dead."

"... Right." He made a small gesture. "Sic 'em, Ryni."

Something soft and silky slipped over her throat, then suddenly tightened. Painfully.

Gasping, the 'Sue clutched at her throat, snatching at the smooth rope looped around her neck. Behind her, Ryni smiled.

"Hey, don't kill her!" Tirsaer drew out his swab. "That's my job."

"My control is not so lacking as you seem to believe!" Ryni snapped, affronted.

"I never said that!" Tirsaer protested, drawing back the swab to strike.

"Implication laces every word, every phrase to fall from your lips," Ryni sulked.

The swab came forward, trailing along the 'Sue's cheek. It left in its wake a trail of blackened skin and a sickening smell, something reminiscent of burned cotton candy dipped in vinegar. The 'Sue flinched and whimpered, releasing her hold on the garrote to grab for her sword. This turned out to be a mistake, as that not only allowed Ryni to tighten the rope even further, but resulted in Tirsaer absently slapping her hands away with the swab. The 'Sue screamed, the back of her hands smoldering. Unfortunately for her, the nonexistent characterization of anyone in the Random Town prevented rescue.

"Definitely 'Sue," Tirsaer muttered, examining glittery residue coating the end of the swab. "Nothing else stinks quite like 'em," He grinned, hefting the weapon. "So, how 'bout we finish this?"

Without waiting for a response, he thrust the swab forward. The 'Sue jerked as it entered her chest, then fell limp.

As Ryni released the garrote from around the 'Sue's neck, Tirsaer pulled the swab free. The 'Sue landed with a thud on the ground, the wound in her chest smoking.

"One thing left," Tirsaer muttered. He replaced the swab on his belt, then drew two bells from his bandolier. "The problem with canonical resurrection is that you have to be absolutely certain the 'Sue is as dead as possible."

"And while you are thus engaged with the 'Sue's wraith, shall I collect and gather that which should be salvaged?" Ryni suggested.

"Good idea." The necromancer crouched down by the 'Sue's body. "I'll be back soon."

As Ryni watched, he stiffened, and frost suddenly crept over his body and the ground below him. Sighing, she turned to the body, trusting her partner to finish off what was left of the 'Sue.

* * *

Standing in the river of Death, the current tugging at his feet and the roar of the First Gate in his ears, Tirsaer shivered and looked around for the 'Sue's spirit. The gray light blurred his vision, and the cold seeped deep into his body.

He stepped forward cautiously, bells held ready to ring. The 'Sue might technically be dead, but here that really didn't count for much.

A movement to the side caught his eye, and he spun, raising the bells. Suddenly he froze.

Somehow, it didn't really surprise him that the 'Sue's spirit took the form of a stunningly beautiful woman, seemingly made from pink mist and silver glitter, and in some way warped and just a little off.

The 'Sue-wraith shrieked, leaping at him with claws outstretched and fangs bared. Cursing, Tirsaer leapt to the side, dodging the blow and struggling to keep his balance in the current. The 'Sue turned to face him again, but now he was ready.

The first bell rang out—Saraneth, the Binder, the sixth bell of the deep, powerful tone, the sound of which caught the listener and held them trapped to the will of the ringer. The 'Sue froze as the notes wrapped around her, glaring furiously at her captor.

Now the other bell—Kibeth, the Walker, which picked up the listener's feet and sent them down paths they perhaps would rather not take. And together, the Binder and Walker sent the 'Sue down the path to her ultimate fate. She would walk, struggling every step of the way, deeper and deeper into Death until she passed beyond the Ninth Gate, from where she could never return.

Now the 'Sue moved, twisting and flailing as her treacherous feet walked her further into the river. Before she vanished into the dim gray distance, she managed to take on a semblance of her former body just long enough to wail, "But—but I'm the Slayer!" And then she was gone.

Grinning, Tirsaer replaced the bells in his bandolier and turned back towards Life.

* * *

Frost crackled and dropped to the ground as Tirsaer stretched his body. "That felt good," he announced, standing up.

"Such I am glad and joyful to learn," Ryni replied, picking up a small pile of weaponry collected from the 'Sue's body. "Shall we burn her and be off? All that which we desired for ourselves—stake, sword, dagger, wand, and book—is here by my feet, safely away from their unworthy previous owner."

"How about you take care of her pet, and I dispose of the 'Sue?" Tirsaer suggested.

"Aye." As Tirsaer carefully set the 'Sue on fire, Ryni marched off to find the cat. She eventually discovered it cowering inside the 'Sue's Paperwing.

Lifting it by the scruff of its neck, she stared at it while it hissed and clawed at her arm. "Shall I destroy you?" she whispered. "Shall I snap your neck, burn your body? Or shall I spare you, bring you into Headquarters for rehabilitation and redemption, leaving only your creator to suffer?"

The cat stopped struggling and hissed. "Don't mock me! You have doomed the world!"

Ryni considered this. Then she twisted the cat's neck, and with a spasm, it fell limp.

A slight smile on her face, she carried it over to Tirsaer and tossed it at his feet. "And so we triumph, with 'Sue and creature dead and gone."

"Yeah." Casting the appropriate signs for burning, Tirsaer stared down thoughtfully at the dead cat. "Don't think I need to go after this one. It was more a plot device than a character."

"And now is the moment when we return to that from whence we came." Gathering up the recovered weaponry, Ryni pulled out the remote activator.

"Wait." Tirsaer grabbed her arm. "That's an unclaimed Paperwing over there, isn't it? The one the 'Sue came in."


"So no one's going to complain if we, uh, borrow it for a bit, right?" He was staring at her hopefully, a pleading grin on his face.

"Such an occurrence is doubtful...."

"And you've never actually seen the Abhorsenverse, right? In person, I mean, not from the books. At least not for any length of time, anyway." Now Tirsaer started to bounce a bit on the balls of his feet.

"I fail to comprehend where you could possibly arrive from these observances."

"We're going flying, obviously!" He dragged her over to the Paperwing before she could protest. "Please? It'll be fun!"

"At what time was this decision made, pray tell?" Ryni questioned, blinking as he pulled the items from her arms and deposited them it the Paperwing.

"Just now. But it'll be great! You'll love the library in the Clayr's Glacier. It's enormous! Besides, don't we have to check up on those sisters? See if they still exist and all?"

"Tirsaer—" Ryni tried, but her partner had already clambered inside.

"Hurry up! First stop, Belisaere!"

Several minutes later, a Paperwing lifted away from a rapidly fading town, and a voice could be heard to say, "I observe that you never made query into whether or not I truly desired a tour of your Dead-infested home...."