Chapter Eighteen

In the Blue Limbo

I was almost nose-to-nose with an X-rated cartoon come to life. A hot - literally - demon babe who was way too cheerful for my peace of mind. I kept the sword raised between us.

She looked it up and down and flicked that long blue tongue over her full blue lips. On her they worked. "Well, honey, is that a sword in your hand or are you just happy to see me?"

"It's a sword," I said, trying to sound neutral, but my voice broke halfway through. I coughed to clear out the knot. "Who are you?"

She made a little yummy noise deep in her throat. Real deep. "Mmm. I am the stuff of dreams. The real fun ones, that is."

"Whose dreams?" I'd never had anything like her surface in my subconscious. More's the pity.

"Anybody's."

"Lemme put it this way: what are you?"

An amused pout. Damn, but it was cute. "Honey, what you have here is a Grade-A, ultra-terrific, low-down, get-down, let's-make-hay-in-the-howdee-do-me-now-baby-in-the-moonshine" - she took a breath - "succubus!"

Uh-oh. Not that I hadn't had a suspicion or three, but it was hard to think with her breathing all over like that. What an amazing set. Of lungs.

"I'm one of the red hot mamas who first taught men the necessity of washing their underwear." She sashayed - I'd never seen it done right before - in a slow circle. I got a heart-stopping view of everything, including her long blue tail. It had a little arrow-shaped point at the end, and she ran the tip up the inside of one of my legs.

Ohhh, man, that tickled. "I've - ah - ha-ha - heard of you. But don't you, like, have incubuses, too?" Or was that incubi?

She sniffed and whipped her tail back, lashing it restlessly around. "Losers, every one of them."

"Losers?"

"Only time they can get a date is when the woman's unconscious. You ever see one of those un-joy boys, you'll know why. Uhh-gaa-lee. But we succubae like a man up and ready and rarin' to go-go-go till the dawn-done-done-does us." She raised her hands high overhead and stretched.

Gawd have mercy. Now I was happy to see her. I coughed again, shifted in place, and casually held the sword a little lower. Okay, a lot lower.

She winked. "And honey, this is your lucky night. I haven't had any in aaages!"

"Any what?" I knew, but wanted confirmation. Hell is not a place where you wanna take chances on the wording.

She broke into a wide grin. Real white teeth. Lots of them, but I could get used to that. "Oh, my, sweetie-tweetie-piddie-pie, are you a virgin?"

Like when I had that lunch with Filima, it seemed best not to commit myself to any specific direction until I had all the facts. "What if I was?"

"Ooohhh!" She screamed, throwing her head back.

Holy moley, if she made a noise like that just from anticipation, what else could she come up with if things got serious?

She slipped a very warm arm around my arm and snuggled close. "You are going with me, honey, as of now, now, now, and how."

Under any other circumstances and in any other place I'd have been more than happy to oblige. Terrin never had told me where he'd gotten that T-shirt, but I had my suspicions. "I'd like to, but I'm just passing through . . ."

"Aw, they all say that, but you can put your feet up for a little bit, can't you? Why else would you come here?"

"Actually, I'm looking for someone - "

"And you've found her! You just come along and I'll show you what it is allll about."

She looked like she could write encyclopedias about it, but that crystal was weighing way too much for me to shove aside. And no way was I gonna spend time with any cartoon-based lesbian demon babe while Terrin and who knows how many others were inside my head. Not that I had anything against a good healthy orgy, but those work better when everyone participates using their own body.

I tried to loose her grip. "It's real generous of you, but I just came here to get away from those big guys on the other side of the Gate, find someone, then get out."

"You came through the Gate?" She had night-black eyes, and they got real wide.

"More like dived under it. Those guys can't follow me, can they?"

"But you can't come here by that way. It's not allowed."

The pissed-off demon had said something similar. "Why not?"

"It just isn't. They have their side, we have ours. You go in by the Gate. You never go out. It's The Way Things Are." She stepped away from me, looking alarmed.

Hmm. Maybe Dante had a clue about different levels, but I couldn't recall if he had mentioned one-way streets. I wondered if he'd ever seen this world's Hell. Probably not or his Inferno would be a lot more popular with literature students; that, or he kept the high points about this section to himself.

"Okay," I said. "Probably better if I leave, so if you don't mind I'll take a rain check on you showing me the ropes and - "

Myhr! Terrin had been quiet for so long I figured he'd been laughing his ass off the whole time. His interruption was faint, though, his voice fading in and out like a bad radio. Myhr . . . Botello's . . .

"What? I can't hear you!"

Link . . . anchor . . . breaking the circle . . . back . . . pull you . . .

The succubus looked at me quizzically. "I never struck anyone deaf before. Blind, maybe, but not deaf. Are you all right?"

Opening . . . disrupt . . .

I checked behind me. That thin silver thread connecting my astral self with my body still extended long and strong so far as I could tell within my area, but it was whipping up and down like a phone line in a storm. That couldn't be good.

Let go . . . reel you in.

Let go of what? The sword? The crystal? Let go how?

I felt a powerful tug on my back. What was he doing? It lifted me from my feet, pulling me, gliding, over the spongy blue ground as though I was weightless. The succubus ran after, easily catching up despite her heels.

"Honey, you can't go now, we haven't even started!"

"Can't help it. Don't worry, I'll call you. Terrin, what's going on? Terrin?"

No reply. Maybe he was focused on bringing me out.

I hit stairs with my butt, a very unpleasant shock. "Ow! Watch what you're doing! Terrin?"

The astral thread hauled me up a couple more painful steps. I did my best to stand, to speed things along, unsure whether I was helping or hindering. He hadn't exactly briefed me about how to make an exit.

Then sharp, hot agony flared in my back, and I suddenly pitched forward as though shot. A blast of heat and light exploded behind me. I caught myself at the last instant so the fall wasn't too bad, but that didn't register in my brain for all the other stuff crowding in. Wind, the hurricane-force kind, knocked me flat on my face and tore both sword and crystal from my grasp. They went spinning off, vanishing into pale blue depths like feathers in a storm.

Oh, shit.

It roared and rolled over me like a mile-long freight train. I ducked and covered and hoped not to get crushed.

Another hot flare, then . . . nothing. Total silence. Total nothing and then some, with more piled on top. Ominous nothing.

I cautiously pushed up. No pain. Twisted to look behind me. The cord was gone.

Maybe it was just slack. I got to my feet and turned all around. It was still gone. Once that fact sank in, I sat down again, feeling sick, shaken, and more scared than I'd ever been before in my short but very full life.

"Terrin?" I called. My voice was flat, no echoes. "You there? Terrin? Filima? Cadmus? Velma? Anyone??? Knock three times if you can hear me!"

No dice. Not one little whisper in my head.

The succubus came close, put a warm hand on my shoulder. "What's the matter, honey?"

Jeez, I felt like crying.

"Hey, you can talk to me." She did look sympathetic.

My hands twitched. "I - uh - I don't wanna jump to any conclusions, but I think . . . I think I'm dead."

She gave me a reassuring smile and squeeze. "Oh, honey, don't take on so! There's lots worse things!"

"I can't think of any."

"Well, let's get your mind off it for a while. You need a break."

Short attention span. We had that in common. I couldn't lose hope just yet, though. "But if my friends should try to contact me - "

"They'll get hold of you. That's the problem with this place, if anyone tries even a little bit to get in they can do it. Most don't bother. Keeps out the riff-raff."

"I thought Hell was full of riff-raff."

"Some parts. You'll like my place, though."

I thought I would, too. "Okay, but I gotta find that sword and the crystal I brought in with me."

"If they're still here. That was quite a big blast."

"Do you know what it was?"

She shrugged, not too concerned. "Probably another spat between the Inner Overlords and the Outer Guardians. They're always at it. Why can't beings just get along?"

That was a spat? I didn't want to know what a real war was like. "Outer Guardians? What are those?"

"No one you'll be seeing anytime soon. They see you, not the other way around. You come along and wait with me. Things have been so slow around here lately. For the longest time no one's been by, waking or sleeping. I shouldn't be out, but when I heard you I just couldn't resist taking a peek."

Well, I didn't have anything else to do. Something had gone badly wrong in the Blue Room, but Terrin would find a way to fix it. I hoped. If not, then there wasn't anything I could do, being dead. And in Hell. Though looking at the succubus, the situation wasn't as horrible as it might be. Keeping company with a horny - nice blue ones - babe was better than being on the menu of those big ugly guys on the other side of the Gate.

She urged me along, bumping a hip playfully against mine. We sort of halfheartedly looked for the things I'd lost, but the longer it took, the less important they seemed. I was dead. Didn't need stuff like that anymore.

We didn't go very far, that, or she was manipulating my perception. The brassy blue clouds retreated and changed color until we were in a kind of fluffy red chamber, all pillows and smooth curves. The place looked like one big bed. Even the floor was soft and squashy.

"This has possibilities," I said, my mood brightening considerably.

She was pleased. "Ooo, honey, I'm so glad you feel that way!"

"Ah, one thing: this isn't one of those bait-and-switch kind of things, is it? Me thinking one thing and getting another that's really bad for me?" I was still very much aware of my location.

"Sweetie-tweetie-piddie-pie . . . when I'm bad, it's better!"

"I just want to ask. Succubae have a reputation, you know. Not all the press has been favorable."

"And where did it come from? A bunch of pinch-faced prudes who couldn't get a date if they picked it off a tree. I'll let you know right off that their guilt trips bore me. You start talking a downer like them, and I'll just have to leave."

"Where would you go?"

"Who knows. Any lonely guy with a need for fun. It's What I Do."

That I could believe. "Here, there or where?"

"Any place, any position, big boy." Her whiplike tail came up and tickled me under the chin. "Oooo! You're so soo-oooft!"

"Not all of me." Being dead was looking better and better every minute. Maybe this was it for eternity, hanging with this babe. I could deal with it. And her. Several times.

"Mmmm, you're not kidding," she murmured.

Somehow my pants were down around my boots. I didn't mind the warm draft. Neither did she. We ended up on the squashy floor. Woo boy, this was the life. Or death.

Then we rolled into something that gave a bit more than usual and voiced a protest.

"Hey! What's going on?"

One of the curvy, pillowy features of the place moved on its own, changing from red to fluorescent orange. It stretched itself out into another succubus. She was identical to the babe who had me pinned down.

"We got us a virgin!" she said to the newcomer.

"No! Really?" A huge grin blossomed on her face.

"Well . . ." I began, thinking it only gentlemanly to inform them of the misunderstanding. But they were not interested. My blessings had just doubled and gotten a lot noisier. I'd be busy here for hours on end, just whose end we had yet to work out. It could take years.

Then another orange succubus emerged from a soft wall, and another surfaced from the floor. "Heey!! We got companyyy!"

Oh, my goodness.

The rest of my clothes went away real quick after they lent a hand, or hands. Tails too. Those things got everywhere. I was at the bottom of a wonderfully, wiggly, squirming pile of happy, hot, eager flesh and feeling pretty damn good about it. No way to keep count of them all. I couldn't tell if the first one was still with me or not; we were all over each other.

"Save some for us!" more gleeful female voices chorused as they dove in.

I thanked gawd for my cat DNA. Lot of endurance in cats. These gals were having a Myhr-fest for sure. I never saw - or felt - so many tails, tongues, and hands at once, all of them on me. Delirious things were happening everywhere on my body. Complete and total turn-on. It was great.

As I looked to see how things were going for one of them, I recalled Terrin's warning that I might get eaten by demons. He never said it would be this kind of a chow-down.

Ohhh, mama!

* * *

In Another Part of Hell

Cadmus regretted not losing consciousness during that long and truly horrid drop. It recalled to him his occasional nightmares about falling, only those were tolerable since he always woke up before hitting the ground. Not so lucky this time. He struck hard enough to knock his breath out, but apparently not from as great a height as he thought, since he still lived.

He was fairly certain he was alive, anyway. He had to fight to get air back into his lungs, was frightened and angry at the same time, and by gawd once he was back on his feet he was going to kill Botello no matter whose body he was using.

Filima . . . where was she? Over there, just a few yards. He crawled toward her. She also seemed out of breath, confused. She opened her eyes, stared about and called his name when she saw him. "Cadmus!"

Oh, wonder of wonders, she was glad to see him. She looked almighty anxious, too. Understandable, if they were where he thought they -

It hadn't been a greeting, but a warning.

Hard, strong hands clamped around his skull from behind. At the same time something else pressed heavy on the middle of his back, pushing him down. He could neither turn, nor get enough leverage to break away. His head was pulled up, there was a painful twist, and he heard and felt his neck snap.

It was that quick.

He collapsed in the dust, boneless.

Now that's just bloody unfair, he thought.

Filima screamed his name in anguish. He could just see her standing, then launching herself toward him . . . no at someone behind him. He heard scuffling noises and Overduke Anton laughing and cursing at once.

"You bloody bitch! You won't - ah!" The last was full of pain.

She must have landed a good one on him. Served him right.

Cadmus tried to move, but was having a hard time of it. He could blink and that was the limit. Very odd. If his neck had been broken he should be dead. But if he was in Hell, he was likely dead already. It was all too much to take in, and Filima needed his help.

She and Botello danced into view. In Anton's body Botello towered over her. His hands were on her throat, but she raised her arms inside his reach and bodily turned, breaking his grip. Then she drove a sharp elbow into his belly. He doubled over, but too quickly recovered. Using a will he'd never called on before, Cadmus tried to grab at Botello's feet, anything to slow him, to give her a chance to escape.

But he couldn't move.

Botello caught her, pulled her toward him. She got her hands up to his face, then there was a flash. He roared out with real pain, let her go, and staggered away.

She's used magic on him. Good show!

Filima grabbed up a rock and threw it. Botello yelled when it bounced off his head. She found another and another, and was extraordinarily accurate in her targeting. Cowering, he fell back out of view. She kept throwing. Tears streaked her face, which had gone dark from exertion and emotion, her hair was tangled every which way, her gown torn and coated with red dust. If Cadmus hadn't already been smitten with her he'd have fallen in love in that moment. Gawds, she's magnificent!

Then she stopped and stood, panting, a rock still in hand, but apparently Botello had taken himself from range. She looked at Cadmus. She came to him and knelt.

"I'm sorry, Cadmus, my gawds, I'm so sorry." More tears.

If ever a woman needed to be held, this was the one, and this was the time for it. He wanted to be held as well. If he could just unbreak his neck everything would be perfect.

Then Terrin came into view. He looked shrunken, and he'd not been all that tall to begin with; his hair had gone white, and there was some problem with his face, which was deathly pale and drawn.

"Gawdammit," he muttered, scowling. "Just take a broomstick to my ass and get it over with, why don't you?"

Cadmus had no idea what he was on about, but reasonably certain the suggestion was not directed at himself or Filima. Cadmus felt Terrin's hands on his temples.

"You'll kill him!" Filima cried.

"Dearest," he snarled, "back off. I know what I'm doing."

Terrin straightened Cadmus's head out. Rather civilized of him, but he really should get himself and Filima clear of this wherever-it-is place. Botello might have friends here - unlikely, but possible - and could return any moment.

Then Cadmus heard a crack in his neck almost as sickening as the first and feeling flooded over him. Agonizing feeling. "Ow! Ahh!"

"Hang on," Terrin said. He shut his eyes.

A flash of heat and the pain went away.

It was that quick.

Cadmus cautiously checked things out. Arms, legs, they seemed to be working now . . . he didn't even feel bruised from the long fall. He slowly sat up. Filima had a hand to her mouth, staring wide-eyed.

"Are you . . . ? Oh, Cadmus!" She threw herself at him. He gladly caught her. Well, it was worth getting killed if this was the result. She was sobbing and trying to talk and apologize all at once. So this was what elation was about. It was quite rippingly nice. He held her and murmured manly endearments and before he knew what either of them was about he was kissing her, really kissing her. And she was kissing back. Perhaps it was only the product of a ghastly situation, but he took what she cared to give and was grateful.

"For crying out loud," snapped Terrin. "You two get a room!"

This was followed by a soft thud. Cadmus remembered where they were and pulled away for a look. Terrin lay very still on the ground, a pile of rags with white hair.

"Oh, no," said Filima. She and Cadmus broke off at once and went to him. Cadmus felt Terrin's chest for a heartbeat.

"He's alive, but it's going very fast," he said. "That's not good, is it? What's wrong with him? Why is he so old?"

She shook her head. "He may have had an illusion on himself or . . . I - I think he used up the last of his magic to heal you."

Cadmus didn't know what to say. No one had ever been that nice to him before. "Do you think magic might restore him?"

"It couldn't hurt. I've exhausted mine from fighting off Botello."

"And a smashing job you did of it, too." He was all admiration. "The problem is, we're in Hell, I think. Can't expect to find the stuff lying about like windfalls in an orchard."

Terrin moved his lips; they leaned close to hear him whisper, "River."

"The Hell-river?" asked Filima. "He must want its magical energy."

Cadmus shook his head. "But it drains away magic."

"Maybe it's different on this plane. We have to find it, get him there."

For the first time Cadmus paid attention to the landscape. Not terribly enthralling: flat, lots of sere red dust, rocks, lowering dark sky, very close to the bits he'd seen through Myhr's eyes when they'd been psychically linked. That had been an interesting experience. Cadmus concentrated, tried to find some hint of energy with his other senses, but nothing surfaced. He gave up with a shrug.

"Where's Velma?" he asked.

"She got pulled clear of the vortex by your man."

"Hope she's all right. That was very above and beyond of him. I shall have to give him a promotion or something when we get back."

Filima's mouth twisted, and a touch of her old manner with him returned. "Cadmus! We're in Hell! No one gets out of Hell!"

He waved the notion away. Must keep up her spirits. "Nonsense. We'll just have a look around, find someone in charge, and explain it all. I'm sure we can sort it out. We don't belong here. Even if we are dead, we don't belong."

"But I don't want to talk to anyone in charge! Not of this place!"

"You've an excellent point, well-taken. They're likely to be a very rum lot. We'll just consult some other personage. Perhaps if we find the Gate Myhr went under we can turn up an Outer Guardian or two who might lend us a hand. We can look that river up while we're at it."

At the mention of Otherside help of a benevolent type, Filima calmed down considerably. "Did you see what Myhr saw?"

"A little of it, in flashes. Sort of like that parlor game where you look at a drawing for an instant, then have to describe as much of it as you can. We'll keep an eye out for demons and scout for the gully. They seemed reluctant to follow him there. Let's go, then!" He stood tall, relishing his renewed strength, and picked up Terrin, settling him over one shoulder like a bag of grain. One thing about him being so wasted away, he was very light.

Filima paused and found a couple of hefty rocks. "In case Botello comes back," she explained.

"Good thinking. I must say you dealt with him very roundly."

"You played picture parlor games growing up. I practiced 'bird-through-the-window' at the circus."

"Really? You must tell me all about it. . . ."

His head and arms hanging down Cadmus's broad back, Terrin emitted a heartfelt groan of pain.

* * *

Back in the Succubus Chamber

I surprised me, myself, and I in a major way. I would never have thought anyone capable of doing it with so many women, so many times, so close together, but it happened: I actually lost count. This was way beyond what I expected even with the advantage of cat genes floating around my cells.

Of course, being dead might have had an influence on things. It's very freeing. Alive, I might not have been too eager to jump the bones of a bunch of succubae, but dead, the horns and tails and eye-straining color and all the rest just made them that much cuter to me. I honestly couldn't tell one from another, but that didn't seem to bother them.

But there came a point, finally, and I don't know how many hours later, when I had enough and wanted a break. They then insisted on making absolutely sure that I was completely tired out, which was very fun, but afterwards I dozed for real and nothing they could do would wake me. They eventually gave up and followed suit. We lay sprawled over each other like a pile of gerbils.

The last time I'd slept had been the upper room at Clem's Place, which seemed ages ago. I slipped off easily now, into the best, most restful snooze I'd ever enjoyed. I was aware of it, strangely conscious of being asleep and relishing every moment. It came to an end much too soon. There was some annoying dude snoring away like a slow buzz saw, and he woke me up.

Squinting and grumpy, I looked around for him, but the chamber was empty, as in being completely gone. No glowing orange demon lesbian babes looking to be converted to the straight life for a little while, no soft, squashy bed for a floor. The brassy blue limbo was back, my sight limited to a couple yards in any direction, all of them the same.

"Not again." I said aloud, feeling disappointed. My voice still sounded flat, kind of like the snoring. I began to realize I'd wakened myself. I was on featureless blue ground surrounded by my discarded clothes. "Yo! Girls! Wanna go for seconds? Come and get me, ready or not!"

No reply. I wondered if they'd run true to the rumors I'd heard, and instead of spending hours with them my whole experience had been just minutes in duration, like a dream. Maybe only seconds. Dream encounters were tricky things when it came to time.

"Hallo? I say, anyone there?"

Shock time. It was a man's voice calling out from not too far away. I hoped he wasn't an incubus. I scrambled to my feet and hastily grabbed for clothes.

"Hallo?" he said. "Speak again please. It's rather hard to navigate in this fog."

He sounded closer. I had my pants on, though, and made a start on my socks and boots. "I'm over here. Who are you?"

A man's form emerged out of the blueness. He was a little taller than me, even features, dark hair, wearing an old brown tunic and a long, heavy robe. His eyes were closed.

"It's okay, I'm decent," I told him.

"Eh?"

"You can open your eyes."

"Oh, I forgot." He blinked benignly. "I see more with them shut, you know."

No, I didn't. I flared my lip whiskers and wondered if he'd cracked under pressure. "Are you Overduke Anton?"

"I used to be."

Fair enough, considering what he'd been through, being body-napped and all. He gave me a thorough study as I finished dressing. Most people do the curious stare routine and ask questions. Not this dude.

"I had a vision about you," he said, as though commenting about the weather. "Lord Cadmus was in it. And Lord Botello. You wouldn't happen to know where either of them might be, do you?"

"Left Cadmus in the Blue Room at Darmo House. Don't know about Botello. Your girlfriend's looking for you."

His face eased into a relieved smile. "Velma's all right?"

"Last I saw, she was." Gawd knows what had happened since. "We were trying to find you. They sent me to Hell, but my astral thread got cut, so I'm kind of dead . . . is this making any sense to you?"

"Oh, bags of it, my dear fellow. I should inform you that you're not dead, just bodily displaced."

"I'm. Not. Dead?"

"You're disappointed?"

"Well, I was just getting used to the idea."

"You may have to again if we can't take ourselves back to the Reality plane. If you stay here too much longer death could become a permanent condition for you."

Bummer. I'd have to find a way home. Quick. "Can you get me back?"

"I don't know."

Double bummer. "What about the Hell-river? Any way you can fix that mess? I got a friend who really needs you to do that for him."

"As a matter of fact, I've an idea to try, but we must locate Cadmus and Botello."

"They're in the Reality plane."

He closed his eyes a moment. "No, they aren't. Not any more."

"Where are they?" Was he telepathic?

"Damn, but they have put a wedge in the works. Unless it was meant to happen. There's so many variables, and they're all open to interpretation . . . or misinterpretation."

"Hah?"

Eyes open. "Not to worry. What's your name, sir?"

"Myhr. Rhymes with purr - "

He chuckled. "How fitting. Well, Myhr, would you mind very much lending me a hand before the world ends? There's a good fellow."

He walked off. Eyes shut again.

He had cracked. And I was catching it. I went after him.

* * *

Darmo House

Debreban looked down at Myhr's body, mourning with vast regret. What a rotten waste. What a rotten situation. If he'd only been able to stop Botello or even delayed him for a few seconds, it would have made a world of difference.

Literally.

Shankey, who had taken the catastrophic news rather well, shook his head. "Wonder why he didn't get dragged in with the others?"

Velma shrugged, looking very miserable. "Maybe because his astral self was already there? I dunno. But the rest went in, whoosh. If Drebbie here hadn't grabbed me I'd have gone too."

Debreban winced at the inaccurate diminutive, but kept quiet. It was better than being called "Debbrie."

"Metaphysical things," she continued. "Who can understand that kind of stuff? Poor Anton's got some company at least. Maybe they can all hook up together on the Otherside and figure something out."

"If Lord Botello doesn't kill them," Debreban added cheerlessly. Or if they're not all dead from the storm. "What do we do now?"

Shankey went over to the discarded pavilion and pulled a length of black velvet from the pile. They caught onto his intent and helped him straighten the fabric, then solemnly draped it over the body.

"We say a prayer for the dead," he announced. "Then we find Lord Perdle and tell him what's going on."

"Maybe . . ." said Velma, "maybe we could try a seance ourselves. Just to see if anyone's there."

"Won't that be dangerous?" Debreban didn't care to further involve himself with such dark doings.

Shankey nodded, but seemed thoughtful. "Yeah. But if the world's gonna end soon like Terrin told me, what have we got to lose?"

"No, I don't think we should. We need to go to Lord Perdle, and then help with the fire." Debreban went to one of the narrow windows. The glow in the distance hadn't grown, but neither had it shrunk. Perhaps they'd gotten it under control and confined. Few places in Rumpock were far from the river, and if the Watch had the pumps going in time . . . and, "What the hell is that?"

"What's wrong?" Shankey came up.

Debreban pointed. "Do you see anything?"

Velma joined them. "Uh-oh. That's bad, right?"

The city appeared to be flooded with an undulating black fog through all her streets and ways. It bumped and washed against the gates of Darmo House like an impatient tide.

"Oh, yeah, that's bad," said Shankey. "That's what all the Talents have been in a twist over. We don't have Talent, so we should not be able to see it. I think something really awful has happened on the Otherside."

"Seance anyone?" suggested Velma.

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