Friday, December 19, 2014

Cthulhu's Child Rough Draft

Frogs fell through the soot filled air, splattering against people as they hurried through the cobbled streets to find shelter. Nobel women found themselves ducking in work men’s pubs, and street walkers found themselves in high society clubs. Situations that would have caused a scandal mere moments before, but a sense of unease like nothing anyone had ever felt settled over the town with the falling frogs. Everyone could sense it. They understood in ways that few people well ever understand – they were just a small part of a larger universe, filled with horrors beyond reckoning or understanding.
Everyone was holding their breath, even the crying babies went silent. All at once the world trembled. It wasn’t an earthquake, for even the air shivered. Everything was split in two so that for a moment every person and animal could see an exact copy of themselves and the buildings they were standing in. A mirror universe had been created right beside them. Then they vanished leaving the mirror people behind to carry on as if nothing strange had happened. Only they, the original copies remembered in the pocket dimension they’d been dragged to.

Kthleera was born among those beings which should not exist. She understood fully that she existed outside the natural order of the universe in which she dwelt. Her father, and all the others like her were asleep in a twisted castle under the Pacific Ocean. Their mouths whispering secrets from the far flung reaches of the multiverse, but never a word to her. She was the only one awake in that strange realm. The sleeper’s eyes could see the whole universe in their dreams, but those eyes never focused on her. She doubted that they knew she existed at all.
She wandered the small pocked of the Nether Realm alone. She had visions of the human world, catching glimpses of everything that was happening, and even of the future and the past, her calculating mind pondering a thousand things at once. Because she was a being which existed outside of reality, it’s impossible to say what Kthleera felt or thought during that time. She is something which cannot be truly understood, just as no human tongue could ever pronounce her name.
She saw the mirror world being created by The Legion, during the Era humans came to call Victorian. She watched as millions of kidnapped people and fairies were shoved into a piece of Wonderland. She focused her attention on that world. A hundred thirty years passed away, and she spent the time trying to wrap her mind around what had happened. For she wanted to be able to create her own world of nightmares, to rip apart the earth into a thousand fractured mirror universes, each more terrifying than the last. Her gaze didn’t go unnoticed, however. The Legion saw her. The Legion, so used to being the smartest things in the universe. Who were so capable of summoning and controlling demons, found themselves afraid that there was something they didn’t understand. An intellect far superior to even their own artificial one. So they laid plans to understand this thing that was now watching them
They summoned Kthleera on a night when they could tap into the power of lightning to enhance their magic. Seven times seven of them in a circle ripped Kthleera into pieces, and shoved each of those pieces inside an unwilling host.

Pushed into a human, for the first time ever human emotions slammed into Kthleera, crushing her vast intellect like a Puddy Tat that squeezed itself into a tiny bird cage. She could feel the mind the human she’d possessed, scuttling around like little crabs within the ocean of her thoughts. Fear overcame her. She’d never quite understood the strange urge that drove humans to scream and freeze in terror when they should try to sneak silently away, but now it seemed like all she wanted to do was scream. Unable to think properly she couldn’t really examine the spells that had been used to bind her until they locked her in place.


Alice threw up, and collapsed into her own sick, her head in too much pain to care. Around her the six other human victims of The Legion’s current experiment collapsed as well, but she didn’t notice it herself, for she was in far too much pain to notice anything. Kthleera did, however. Even split into seven pieces, and trapped inside a human, her mind was still aware of so much, and those thoughts entered Alice’s head as well.
Alice’s head struggled to deal with those thoughts and the agony of having a thirty foot tall monster shoved into her. The Legion drug her and each of the six others to separate labs. They dumped Alice in a cold cage, lined with protective spells to try to contain Kthleera. Alice barely noticed any of it. She was in too much agony to be aware that she was groaning in pain. By the time that she became aware of her surroundings without Kthleera’s confusing thoughts the members of The Legion that had been taking notes and running magical tests on her were gone. She was still on the floor of the cell, drenched in sweat and so thirsty her mouth and nose burned. She crawled to the water and food that had been placed in the cell for her and drank weakly.
The creature, Kthleera, was still there, she could feel it in the back of her mind, like an annoying song you just can’t get out of your head no matter what else you’re trying to think of. It didn’t seem to want to be here anymore than she did. She couldn’t have said how she knew that. The creature didn’t seem to be thinking in words as such, yet she felt like she was getting some understanding of what it was thinking. She started coxing it ever so gently with her own thoughts, trying to understand the only other occupant of her cell. Before The Legion returned the two of them had started passing thoughts back and forth, memories, and impressions of their past, and finally plans for their escape. The creature had been seeing this place in visions for years. It knew that there were dozens of other magical beings trapped here. If they could break free long enough to free a few of the other prisoners, those creatures would free a few more and a few more, until they formed a mob too great for The Legion in charge of this facility to control.

So they’re just computer hackers who stumbled on the secrets of magic? Alice asked Kthleera. At the moment she was sitting in her cell, bouncing her plastic cup off the wall and trying to get it to roll back to her.
Kthleera confirmed that they had been just hackers, but that they’d somehow learned about demons and the Nether Realm, and with that knowledge they’d figured out how to hack reality the way they’d once hacked computer programs.
Did you see how they hacked us?
Kthleera hadn’t. The Legion had books which they protected from her form of dream visions. The fact that demons, dragons, wizards, and things like her could have such visions had been one of the first things they’d learned.
But if we find one of those books, we could hack reality? Alice asked. You could return me home to earth?
Kthleera confirmed that this was probably the case.
The trapdoor at the top of the cage opened and a boy and a girl were dumped into the cage with them. The girl was about the size of toddler, but Kthleera knew she was much older. An elf.
Elves are real? Alice asked, realizing as she asked how silly it was to be surprised by anything anymore.
Kthleera wanted to eat the elf and the human. She sent ravenous emotions pulsing through Alice, who for a brief moment felt a shark like need to thoughtlessly feed.
No! – Come on Kthleera, they could be useful.
Kthleera was laughing at that. At least Alice thought it was laughter, it was hard to understand her mind. Regardless Kthleera couldn’t understand how an elf child, or a teen human could possibly be of any use.
The story of “The Mouse and the Lion,” Alice said. If you’re going to create worlds without end, perhaps it would be a good idea to understand why weaker things move in packs, since so many of us do.
Kthleera wasn’t happy about giving up her meal, but she did. If only out of curiosity.
That’s how they met Kit and Stephen.

Are you sure this is going to work? Alice asked Stephen.
I’ve been pulling off magical heists for a decade, Stephen said. Since I was teeny tiny.
Alice sighed at the thoughts Kthleera fed them. Stephen seemed to be a talented wizard, but – “Kthleera has her doubts about your abilities. If you are so good, how did The Legion catch you stealing from them?”
The Legion has powers I’d never seen before, Stephen shrugged. She should understand that.
I think this is the best plan we have, Alice told Kthleera, who grudgingly agreed. Alice decided not to say that if they failed, Kthleera planned to go back to her original idea, and eat him. Kit, Kthleera would spare, because she found the little elf funny, and oddly enough, cute.
They didn’t have to wait long. The Legion was always coming to study Kthleera, to try to understand her own brand of magic.

The moment the Legion opened the door to their cell, Kthleera took control of Alice, turning her into a thirty foot talk, tentacle faced dragon. Sburst from the pitiful cage in which they’d tried to hold her. She ripped through the demons the Legion had summed like a lion tearing through a swarm of mice. She couldn’t stay in this form for very long. The Legion had already formed together, their spells were pushing against her own magic, rewriting reality to force her back into the human form of the girl they’d trapped her inside.
What the Legion didn’t notice was Stephen and Kit, sneaking behind them, to open the first set of cages. Demons exploded out of those cages, furious at having been held captive they attacked The Legion from behind. The spells they’d cast on Kthleera snapped. Unable to contain her any longer they fled. Kthleera snowballed through their labs, freeing magical creature after magical creature, until her little army was able to burst free like a storm.
See, I told you they’d be helpful, Alice said once they were flying through the sky, Stephen and Kit tucked safely in their hands.
Kthleera had to agree. Apparently even the tiniest thing could be useful.

Dark winged moths blended into the thick smog of coal soot that hung in the air around the orange gas lamps lining the streets. A single white winged moth joined them, reflecting light before a passing screech owl scooped it up first, showing that Darwin’s voyage had been unnecessary. The moths of London were evolving to blend into the smog, or dying off right before everyone’s eyes. Besides the oldest fairies could have told scientists about how they’d watched animals evolve over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, if the scientists had wanted to hear it. Of course one can never be certain when one of those older fairies was joking or not. It had been a hundred and fifty years since London had been pulled into Wonderland and the fairy realm, yet humans still didn’t completely understand their more magical neighbors.  The fairies were often so childish that many of them had taken the form of little babies and were hiring nursemaids or peasant families to raise them. A system that worked far better than becoming changelings and swapping themselves with someone’s baby, the way the poor fairies did. It was hard to take someone seriously who wanted to live in a crib, and have their dippers changed.
Crowds of workers were bustling past, anxious to get home for what little time off they had from the factories. Alice and Kthleera might have escaped The Legion’s lab, but until they came to understand the Legion’s magic there was no way to escape this world they had made. Which was why they needed to get a hold of The Legion’s books. Still, trapped as she was, Alice might have found the place beautiful if not for the fact that she was being hunted by the members of The Legion and demons who wanted to dissect her to learn what made Kthleera tick.
Alice was crouched in a back alley, Stephen and Kit on either side of her, a squirrel resting on her hand. “You chewed a hole through their wall and you can’t understand why they got so mad?” Alice asked the little animal whose claws felt uncomfortable on her palm. She could feel Kthleera squirming in discomfort in the back of her mind, even though the claws weren’t painful, the eldritch creature still hated almost all the sensations associated with this body. It had been a long miserable month for her since they’d escaped The Legion’s cells.
The squirrel looked up at Alice with big innocent eyes, flicking his bushy tale in an attempt to look as cute as possible. Alice smiled and Kthleera sighed. She was a thousand years old, the Princess of the ones who would destroy the world, yet she was reduced to talking to a squirrel in a dank alley. Her stomach growled. She wanted to eat the squirrel, feel it struggling for life inside her mouth, but Alice wasn’t letting her.
Stephen gave the squirrel a stern look. “Imagine if someone had broken a hole in your nest or stolen your stash of nuts how would you feel?
The squirrel bowed his head and gave his best attempt to look ashamed, though his tail was still twitching happily.
Yeah, that’s not fooling anyone Alice shook her head, sternly.
I think he’s cute, Kit laughed at the little animal who perked up and wiggled its nose at the little elf.
Stephen and Alice sighed almost in perfect unison. The presence of pieces of “Wonderland” in England had been turning some of the animals smarter, but also crazier. “You know he’s just going to cause trouble?” Alice asked.
Kit patted the squirrel on the head with a smile. Jared’s just lonely.
You’ve already given him a name? We just barely met him.
He’s a vagabond like we are, Kit pointed out. No home, traveling from place to place. We have to stick together.
No, vagabonds don’t stick together Stephen shook his head. If we did we might have a village of our own.
So maybe we should, Kit smiled dreamily. Have a village of our own.
Alice almost laughed at the thought, almost pointed out how ridiculous a village all the vagabond magical creatures would make, but didn’t. Kit felt sensitive enough about being homeless, so she was always careful to avoid saying anything that would make her feel worse. Alice glanced at Stephen who nodded and shrugged at the same time, leaving it up to her on whether to accept a squirrel as part of their little group.
Kit continued, “besides, he’s already broken into people’s homes, he might be able to help us get some of the Legion’s books.”
Fine, Alice sighed. I suppose you’d better come with us, he told Jared. It should keep you out of trouble at least.
Jared chittered with delight while he clambered up onto Alice’s shoulder. No, she told the squirrel as she picked it up. You should travel with her. He handed the little creature over to Kit’s waiting hands. I’ve reached my cute quota for the day. She started walking again in search for food.
She’s just not used to having human feelings, so she likes to pretend she wants to be alone, Kit explained to the squirrel, who chittered something back at her.
I know right, Kit laughed with delight before skipping off after Alice and Stephen.
I’m still mostly human you know, Alice told Kit.
Humans don’t eat squirrels alive, Kit told her.
What, I didn’t… Alice said sheepishly as the desire to do just that grew even stronger. I don’t…
You mumble most of your thoughts, Kit told her.
Kit! Stephen said sharply.
What? Kit asked sweetly. Her eyes grow wide and she snapped her fingers and clicking her tongue. Right, you didn’t want me to say anything.
Alice had stopped walking and was looking between Stephen and Kit, her heart racing. Was she really talking to herself like one of the people driven insane by Kthleera’s presence? And why had they been keeping it a secret? Were they afraid of her, would she wake up one day and find that they’d snuck off? She shuddered and kept walking, this wasn’t a conversation she was ready to have. Not with Kthleera crawling around her mind, the eldritch creature lost its temper far too easily, better to avoid anything unpleasant.
That’s why we didn’t want to tell you, Stephen said as he hurried to catch up to her.
Alice looked at him.
Did I just say all of that out loud?
He nodded. Kthleera’s just not used to trying to keep her thoughts to herself, but you’re doing fine – mostly. We’re not going anywhere.
Alice felt Kit take her hand and give it a squeeze. “We’re not scared of you. If anything you should be scared of me.”
Alice smiled. Kit might be half her size, but she was an elf. Elves like Kit were apparently very similar to vampires, they drank blood and ate brains, and didn’t like the sunlight. So yeah, maybe Alice should have been a little more leery of Kit, but it was hard to be afraid of someone so playful and cute. At the moment Kit was swinging their clasped hands back and forth, so much like a little kid.
They turned a corner into a darker alley. Old medieval homes loomed tightly together on either side, the upper floors jutting out two or three feet. With no street lamps, the place was pitch black. The people who lived back here had all been driven crazy by the seven pieces of Kthleera or the other demons that haunted the streets. Many had filled themselves with opium and whiskey in hopes of escaping the terrors that had come into their world, only to have the drugs drive them right into the nightmares web. They shuffled after Alice, chanting, sensing the presence of one of their masters` inside of her.  A few of them bowed, and they all started to sing the praises of Kthleera. The ancient one reveled in the admiration, and memories of her having driven people insane in the past to control them like some sort of sick video game crept into Alice’s head.
Alice groaned and put her head into her hands. She felt bile rising in her throat as her stomach threatened to expel its contents. The thing that was still worming around in her brain was more evil than she would have been able to imagine before she’d been drug into this world. Guilt gnawed at her, for she was about to use those crazy people to try to find out where The Legion had hidden their books. It seemed wrong, to take advantage of people whose lives she was partially responsible for ruining. Still, if one of the other six pieces of Kthleera found the book first, they could use it to dominate the relationship when Kthleera became one again. They would then eat her friends, and destroy this world and earth. Only Alice had formed a relationship with the Kthleera inside of her. The other Kthleera’s had destroyed their human hosts minds completely, and devoured the people who’d been dumped into their cages.
Alice closed her eyes and began searching through the people’s minds. Just like Kthleera could control those who she’d driven insane, she could see their thoughts, and now Alice could as well. Alice searched through their memories from before the time when they’d been driven mad. Most of them had been fairly ordinary in life and so knew nothing about The Legion in this world. It had been long enough that some people thought the time before, when they’d lived in a world where they didn’t know about fairies and demons, was a myth.
Alice continued to walk through the horde of people, searching their thoughts. The air grew warm as she and her friends stepped into a pocket of Wonderland. Crews of lizards were attempting to paint warped houses with an array of colors, each competing to cover up the others paint with the color they wanted to make the house. Here, where the mad nonsensical world of Wonderland had torn into London, the number of mad people increased, swarming around them like mosquitoes to a warm body.
Alice was overwhelmed by their thoughts, even with the addition of the part of Kthleera she’d been left with wasn’t equipped to handle so many memories swarming into her all at once. She nearly passed out, and was only barely aware of the fact that Stephen and Kit were physically dragging her through mass of cultists. Somewhere in that sea of thoughts she found someone who’d been a prostitute before being driven mad. A prostitute who’d done a job for a member of The Legion.
Alice collapsed. Sorting through so many people’s minds was exhausting for her and Kthleera, now that she was just a seventh of what she’d been before. Alice’s heart was still racing, her stomach felt like it had been tossed out of dirigible and bounced across the street. Stephen and Kit helped her find a place to sleep in an alcove between two buildings, well outside the madness of Wonderland, and the swarms of mad people there.

A slap from Kit shocked Alice awake. She was laying on the ground in the drearier part of London. Get up! Kit told her in a sharp whisper.
Alice bolted up. How many demons? She mouthed Sounlessly.
Kit held up four fingers in response, but wavered them to show that she wasn’t certain.
There were still a few people who’d been driven mad in the ally, but they were no longer paying attention to her. Instead they’d found what little shelter they could, behind piles of garbage, and in the clefts between the tightly packed buildings. They could sense the approaching evil.
Alice nodded. The demons had been hunting her ever since she’d escaped from The Legion. They wanted to understand Kthleera, just as much as The Legion did. Thus far, she and Stephen had killed over a dozen of the foul creatures, but the demons kept coming. Demons were not afraid of dying, for they always respawned. It might take decades, but the knowledge that they would come back if they failed, mixed with the potential for gaining the secret to Cthulhu’s power meant that they were veracious hunters.
I know where a member of The Legion lives, Alice whispered.
Stephen nodded. Translation. They shouldn’t have let her sleep so long, and Alice didn’t have time to play with the demons right now. Anything Alice could get from the mad people, the other Kthleeras could as well. They might already be moving towards the mansion where the member of The Legion lived. She couldn’t let the other’s get there first.
Stephen pulled a needle out of a pouch he had strapped to his waist, and Alice held out her arm.
Kthleera mentally winched away from the needle.
It’s never that bad, Alice whispered soothingly.
With the drop of blood, Stephen would switch their bodies, like a terrifying version of “Freaky Friday.” That way she could race the other Kthleeras to the book, while he, hopefully got the demons to chase him. It was a trick that had worked well, all be it awkwardly, a number of times before. Even if Alice hadn’t managed to get the book the last time.
Alice stumbled out of the alley in Stephen’s body, Kit at her side. Kthleera was ‘laughing’ at her.
Not really laughter, Alice said to herself. Though amusement was the best way to describe what Kthleera was feeling. Kthleera thought it was hilarious how uncomfortable Alice felt in the body of a boy she knew. Bodies have uncomfortable itches that she didn’t know whether she should scratch or endure. Regardless of what she decided she was always so very self-aware of the differences within this new body.
Alice started running. The mansion she was headed towards was just twenty minutes away if she hurried.

Stephen leapt from the street onto the roof thirty feet up. Wizard or not, he never could have leapt so high in his own body. Alice was so light that gravity hardly seemed to notice her. He had to hurry. There was no way the demons hadn’t spotted him now that he was up high. That was the risk of being on the rooftops. The advantage was that it was a lot harder for them to corner him.
He started leaping rooftop to rooftop in quick succession. The only way the demons would be able to keep up with him was to join him up high, in which case he would see them as well, which would make it far easier for him to figure out a way to hide from them. Perhaps down someone’s chimney? That trick had worked many times before.
He’d traveled nearly a quarter mile, and the demons still hadn’t started chasing him. That made him feel exceedingly uncomfortable. It wasn’t that he liked being chased – well maybe a little. Rather, it was that he worried that the demons had something else planned. He stopped. Could they have known which way he was going to run? Was a trap or ambush waiting for him?
A drop of blood spattered against his face, followed by another and another. The red liquid was raining from the sky.
That explained it. The demons hadn’t been stalking them. They’d been getting ready for a much larger fight. All the Kthleera’s were coming. Stephen turned towards the mansion where Alice was headed. She was going to need as much help as she could get.

Alice cursed. It sounded so much more aggressive, and satisfying coming from Stephen’s throat. Though she didn’t enjoy it at the moment. It was raining blood. The other Kthleeras were coming, and she didn’t want to think about they might be getting so much warm blood that she could make it rain for miles.
Odds were Big Kthleera would be there soon. The largest of the seven pieces, Alice had nearly died the last time she’d encountered her. She started running faster. Stephen’s long, strong legs, carrying her quickly over the cobblestones.
Stop that she snapped at Kit, who was running beside, her, mouth open as she tried to catch drops of blood.
You have no idea where Big Kthleera’s getting that from, or what she might have done to it. It might make you as crazy as the other mad ones.
Kit’s mouth snapped shut. She even managed to look ashamed, even as she kept pace with Alice.
Alice slid to a stop, nearly toppling over on the blood slicked cobblestone as a horseless carriage rumbled past, its steam powered engine whirring the intricately carved gears that it used to manipulate magic, so that it could drive on its own. The curtains were drawn, but given its ornate nature, and the fact that it was heading towards a fancy ball, Alice presumed it was filled with giggling and gossiping nobles, who didn’t even want to look at the poverty their lifestyle created. How Alice loathed those people. Kthleera expanded upon her hatred, making her want to rush out and devour the carriages occupants.
We agreed not to eat people, Alice Reminded Kthleera. The being inside her sulked, but went still for a moment.
The carriage passed and Alice was running again.
I would have enjoyed devouring those people with you, Kit said. All this blood is making me hungry.
The ground rumbled, cobblestones started dancing, breaking away from the street. Alice’s heart dropped into her otherwise empty stomach. Big Kthleera was here. There was no longer any point for her to hide.
Even after all this time it was impossible for her, for any human really, to comprehend the vastness and strangeness of Kthleera’s thoughts. Alice and the Kthleera within her grew to the size of a semi-truck, bursting through the walls of the buildings on either side of her. The people who’d taken shelter form the rain of blood inside started screaming, and running, trampling over each other in an attempt to get away. Kthleera reveled in their madness. She could see her larger selves coming now, less than a mile away, Big Kthleera could cover that distance in seconds.
She rushed towards the building with the book. Hoping that she would reach it first. More Kthleera’s came, all of them racing towards the same goal. Crashing through the city like an army of Godzilla’s.
The Legion members’ mansion was less than a hundred yards away. Alice felt her heart thrum with excitement, she would actually manage to get there first. Big Kthleera was still half a mile away. Plenty of time to rip the mansion apart and get a hold of the book.
Alice could see a glimmer of powerful magic through the mansions windows. She tried sliding to a stop, but it’s difficult to put on the breaks when you’re as big as she even the Kthleera inside of her could get. The street broke and churned like sand beneath her feet, causing her to tumble forward.
An army of demons chose that moment to come swarming out of the mansion’s windows.
Shit, Alice cursed. There was no way that the Legion had summoned so many demons in the short time. They had to have been waiting for them, which meant the prostitute had been bait for their trap.
The demons were massive, twelve foot tall, and nearly as wide thanks to their muscle, but they looked like toddlers next to Kthleera. She tossed them around, through brick walls with her tentacles. She smashed one through the street and into the sewers below, but demons were tough, it would take a lot more than physical punishment to kill them. They attacked again and again, clawing and biting at her. Kthleera began tearing through people’s minds, searching for the member of The Legion that had summoned the demons, even as she fought the demons. What little of Alice’s thoughts remained in that storm tossed ocean of Kthleera’s thoughts, hoped that Kit might somehow manage to take advantage of the fact that there were four Kthleeras fighting The Legion’s army of demons, to find the book.
Big Kthleera ripped through the demons and then into the mansion, like a nearly unstoppable force of nature. For a moment Alice feared that the Kthleera she was a part of was going to stand aside for Big Kthleera, allowing the monster to get a hold of the books necessary to reunite them and destroy the world. Just for a moment, however, before her Kthleera attacked Big Kthleera. Little Kthleera was no match for her bigger self, so the attack was meant to be quick, just to buy, Kit a few more seconds to get a hold of the books. The other Kthleera’s joined the brawl moments later.
Alice lost track of the fight, Kthleera was running things now, which meant that she could hardly comprehend what was happening any longer. Until the Legion showed up. A circle of zeros and ones formed around one of the Kthleeras, trapping her and pulling her away to whatever new lab the members of The Legion had constructed to study them.
Alice might not understand much about Kthleera’s emotions and thoughts, but she could still feel the rage at the sight of those who’d kidnapped her. Or maybe those were her own feelings projected onto the Kthleera she shared a body with. Either way, the pieces of Kthleera gave up fighting each other in favor of attacking The Legion.
Alice’s Kthleera saw the one who’d been in charge of researching her. Strange as Kthleera was, Alice could still feel her rage and hatred. An overwhelming desire for revenge. Kthleera/Alice rushed the The Legion member.
There was a sudden flash of light, and then everything went dark.

Alice awoke so hungry it felt like someone had cut out a chunk of her stomach. Kthleera began throwing a tantrum inside of her mind. Perhaps she should have eaten those people in the carriage.
How did we get here? Alice asked Stephen who was standing over her again with the umbrella.
After The Legion knocked you unconscious with one of their spells, you turned back into your original form and I had to carry you back.
The ground rumbled. The other Kthleera’s were still rampaging around the city, fighting with each other, wizards, and demons.
Did we get the book? Alice asked, hopeful that Big Kthleera’s current rage was fueled by their success.
Almost, but one of the Big Kthleera’s snatched it away from us, but The Legion captured her. It was pretty chaotic.
So they captured two of the other Kthleera’s Alice asked.
Three, Stephen said.
Alice could feel gratitude, or something similar to it, welling up inside of her Kthleera. Stephen and Kit had saved her, again. She was starting to rethink everything she’d presumed about lesser beings.
It was a trap, Alice said. Using the mad people to gain information isn’t working. The Legion has figured that little trick out.
How else are we supposed to find the members of The Legion? It’s not like we can just go around asking people what they know.
I might be able to think a little clearer once I get some food, Alice said.
Kit looked up and down the alley way. I sent Jared out to find some food, he should be back soon.
Kthleera didn’t like the idea of relying so heavily on something so weak and tiny. She couldn’t even really understand how something so small could be so helpful.
We’ve been through this, Alice said. You thought the same thing about Kit and Stephen, and we were the ones who broke free from the Legion’s control. None of the Kthleera’s would have been able to if they hadn’t helped you.
Alice looked out from under the umbrella. It was still raining blood, though she couldn’t imagine for the life of her how. Past her would have squirmed at the touch of the foul liquid, she wondered if she should be disturbed by how calm she was? The blood had mixed with horse crap to make for foul smelling mud. Before coming here, Alice had dreamed of the Christmas Card Victorian world. The reality was soot covered, and stank of horse crap. Horses were decidedly less romantic when there were thousands of them in a tight space, as was the lack of good places for people to put their sewage. Her first week here she’d thought she was going to die of dysentery. Kthleera, however, seemed to revel in the filth. Kthleera would be happy tomorrow the stench of old blood would mix with the other foul smells of the city making the air sickening.
In the distance the swarm of demons around the Big Kthleera’s had grown so large now Alice couldn’t even see them She could smell Big Kthleera tearing into them, however, their ripped open bodies giving off the stench of toxic volcanic gasses. There were just too many of them for even the Big Kthleera’s to handle. One by one each of them vanished. The blood falling from the sky was replaced by rain. Hopefully a lot of rain, otherwise the city would smell of rotting blood for weeks. Alice shifted towards the most covered spot in the alley, the rain still falling on her wet feet, and fell back to sleep.

Alice’s head was foggy when she finally woke to the smell of rotting blood. The were swarming, taking advantage of so much food. They’d covered nearly every inch of surface, including her face. She sat up quickly, batting them away, while Kthleera grumbled about wanting to eat them. Alice might have given in and eaten the bugs, bugs were supposed to be healthy right? Except they’d been eating the blood from Big Kthleera.
Alice stretched, and for a moment, was tempted to go back to sleep despite the flies. Her hunger, however, forced her up.
So did Jared find anything worthwhile?
Kit nodded adamantly. Of course, Jared wouldn’t let us down.
There’s a bakery that’s tossed out a ton of bread and cakes recently.
Sound’s perfect, Alice agreed. Even moldy bread would be heavenly at this point.
They changed out of their now blood drenched clothes into the garb worn by typical factory workers to blend in.
Jared led them through the winding back alleys, and a surprising number of little parks and gardens that Alice had somehow always missed in wandering through the city. Apparently as a squirrel he knew every patch of flowers and trees in the city.

Alice grew nervous when she realized they’d entered one of the wealthy districts of the city. This was where the spies for The Legion would most likely live, and here, their factory garb would stand out like a turd on a wedding cake.
It did make sense that the good food would be here. The trash in the poor districts was mostly actual trash. Starving people didn’t throw away something they could eat or use.
Jared led them to a large dumpster behind a building that looked more like a mansion than a bakery, peaking Alice’s suspicions almost immediately.
Ha, ha, we’ve got cake! Stephen exclaimed as he pulled a nearly flattened box out of the garbage.
Really!? Kit asked her voice rising happily as she stood on her toes to get a better look at the still pristine looking butterscotch cake.
It still seems perfectly good, Stephen said as he handed some to Kit, and a little to the squirrel.
Kit was grinning wildly, her eyes closed as she savored the unexpected treat. Like everything else, food had a spirit, and that’s what she ate, leaving behind a stale husk.
Alice tore ravenously into a chocolate cake, followed shortly by a lemon one. Besides her shark like sounds as she attacked pastry after pastry, and Kit’s happy humming to her food they ate mostly in silence.
Stephen and Kit had long since finished eating, while Kthleera drove Alice to continue to stuff herself.
Stop, stop, Alice groaned after downing her fourth cake. Her stomach ached. She collapsed against the wall of the Alley. Kthleera was raging against the inside of her mind like a caged animal being given electric shocks now.
We can’t eat that much all at once, Alice told Kthleera, still laying in the alley way. That’s why our stomach hurts so much.
Kthleera grumbled something about trying to starve her to death and Alice shook her head. “Your bigger self is half our problem,” Alice pointed out. Alice sat up, doing her best to keep her hands on her still aching stomach while she did it.
Jared was still sorting through the piles of uneaten cakes they’d found in the trash. There were dozens of them, all pretty much perfect.
Only a member of The Legion could afford to bake so many cakes only to throw them out, Alice realized. Even the nobility of this world wouldn’t be able to afford such extravagance.
Kit, can you have Jared steal the baker’s receipts, Alice asked.
Kit cocked her head, and chittered at the squirrel, whose tail flipped back and forth.
Don’t worry, Alice told Jared. We’ll cover for you. Plus, since it’s a bakery, I bet they have a lot of nuts in there.
The squirrel almost managed to look thoughtful for about three seconds before it let out an excited giggle.
Alice worried at her lip. The giggle could only mean one thing. Spending so much time near Wonderland was changing Jared. Who knew what type of trouble he might get into once he was inside the building?
Don’t worry, Stephen told her. If Jared’s caught they’ll just think a crazy Wonderland Squirrel is causing trouble.
Jared returned a number of times, receipts clutched in his mouth. Over a hundred cakes had been ordered for a party at one of the massive city estates on the East End.
That’s the perfect cover for a heist, Stephen said. There’ll be so many guests there anyways, no one will notice three more.

A mist of rain had started falling onto the cobbled street, reflecting the faint glow from the brightly lit windows in this part of town.
Thank Cthulu it started raining, Stephen said, as he shifted the umbrella so that more rain would splatter on Alice’s hair. “It’ll help make them feel sorry for you.”
Alice pulled up the hem of the extravagantly lacy dress they’d stolen, to keep it from tracking in the mud. The thing felt uncomfortable, tight and heavy. Kthleera was already complaining about having to wear it. Yet as bad as the dress was, somehow Stephen made his wool suit look far and away worse. Wool was a scratchy fabric at the best of times, and it wasn’t quite big enough for him, so it looked like it had to be scratching at his skin.
Focus on the positive, Alice told herself. In a little while we’ll have a copy of the book we’ve been seeking. She felt a cackle coming on but fought it down. Cackling’s something that witches do in bad cartoons, she whispered to Kthleera. The otherworldly entity was already planning how she might use the knowledge in this book to begin creating her own mad world.
Your making me question my judgement in trusting you,” Alice thought. Though it wasn’t as if she could stop at this point, either she or one of the other Kthleera was going to get that book. Besides, a part of her was enjoying the daydream of ripping this world apart and rebuilding to be reflect her mad desires.
No, she realized, not a part of her. Those were Kthleera’s desires.
You know if you destroy everything Kit and Stephen are going to get hurt too, Alice reminded Kthleera who shifted uncomfortably inside her mind. Just as Kthleera’s feelings were beginning to infect Alice, Alice’s thoughts were beginning to infect her as well. She loved Kit and Stephen, sort of. In truth Alice couldn’t be entirely certain what to call Kthleera’s feelings, they were too alien. Regardless, she didn’t want to see harm come to them.
I probably won’t survive either, Alice continued, hoping to help Kthleera understand the consequences of actually destroying a world. It seemed to work for the moment, for Kthleera was now pondering how much she would miss the three of them. After all, they’d proven that they could be useful, despite being tiny. Alice sighed with relief.
Kit seemed to enjoy wearing her own fancy dress. She was twirling about, her umbrella spinning with her, so that it only occasionally kept the rain off her now soaking wet hair.

The row houses of London gave way to giant mushrooms, flower gardens, and strange pink homes that looked like lopsided doll houses. Alice groaned.
Don’t tell me we’re going to a nonsense party, Alice said.
We’re just passing through, Stephen told her. It’s a good idea to figure out our route to and through this bit of Wonderland for our escape. They’re filled with dozens of magical doors that lead all over London, and people are afraid to follow us into them, publically anyways.
Alice said. unless they’re wearing masks to hide their identity. Though I don’t see how they can stand going crazy.
Kit laughed. I would have thought you would have loved Wonderland, aren’t you half of the Princess of Madness?
Even crazy people make sense to themselves Alice said. This place goes out of its way to be pointlessly stupid.
They stepped out of Wonderland and back into one of the wealthiest districts in London. Alice hated visiting these places. The Legion and their demons were too likely to spot them here. A danger made worse by the fact that they were now climbing the steps up towards one of The Legion’s marble mansions to attend a party.
You’re certain that your plan will work? Alice asked as she looked up at the pair of mean looking men whose muscles seemed ready to burst out their suits. They weren’t really that much of a danger by themselves. Not to Kthleera. Still, there was probably a few members of The Legion inside that mansion, with their armies of demons.
As sure as I can be, Stephen whispered back.
Although the two men stood stone faced and stoic Alice could swear one of them had raised an eyebrow at the sight of three, well-dressed people walking through the rain, rather than arriving via wagon.
I told you we’d get soaked, Alice said to Stephen, her voice a little over the top with accusation. They’d rehearsed this a dozen times. Stephen’s plan seemed a bit nuts, but he had been successfully stealing artifacts for years, and only been caught once. Can you believe it? She asked the doormen. My brother just got back from the War in North Africa. He said he missed the rain will he was gone and wanted to stroll through it. I tried to talk him out of it. Alice sighed and whimpered a little, and felt an eye roll coming on as she did it. This seemed to be over doing the sad little noble girl a little too much, but the sympathetic looking guards seemed to be buying it.
Alice shook off her dress. Now I’m soaking. You can see the rain out the window of a wagon just fine Charles, I told him, but no.
Do you have an invitation? One of the door men asked her.
Oh right, she went fishing around in a purse she was carrying, her tongue sticking just a little out of the side of her mouth like she was concentrating really hard on something. It was also meant to look adorable.
Alice hid a smile. Stephen’s plan seemed to be working. The two doormen looked suitably sorry for her. Men were so easy to manipulate. That was something even Kthleera had learned very clearly while dreaming about the world. Ah-ha! She declared as she pulled out a pair of fancy looking papers and handed them to the door man.
The guard looked over the invitations for a moment before handing them back. I’m sorry mam, these are for Count Lawson’s party. Alice of course knew that they were for the wrong party. They’d been stealing invitations out of the trash for a while now. At first it had been in hopes of forging them, but there hadn’t been enough of a common pattern for them to figure out what any given invitation would look like. Now, however, they’d finally figured out a use for them.
Oh dear, Alice said as she began fishing around in her purse again. She pulled out another piece of paper which she looked at accusingly. “No, these were to the Queen’s party.” She clicked her tongue, I guess you’re right she said to Stephen, I’m such a pack rat. I need to clear out my purse. She began pulling things out, while a line of anxious looking nobles began to form behind them in the rain. Well, there are so many parties, you know how it is, Stephen said to the guard as she began piling stuff from her purse into their hands, including more than a dozen invitations, while pretending to search for the right one.
It is okay mam, one of the guards said at last. It’s obvious you’re invited to a lot of these, so I’m sure the master would have no objection to me just letting you in.
Really? Alice said as she bounced up on her toes, her voice going extremely bubbly.
Yes, I’m quite sure, he nodded, as he dumped the stuff back into her purse.
Thank you my good man, Stephen said, her voice verging on the serious. Come on Charles she said as she took his arm and lead him and Kit inside.
It was warm, verging on hot inside the house despite the open doors. Here and there a few marble and gold inlaid gears turned, sucking up magic, and using it to heat the house. A few gears turned inside the crystal chandeliers to light the room in a gentle rainbow colors. Marble Romanticist Statues and paintings lined the walls. Perhaps the most colorful thing in the room, however, were the hundreds of people dressed in ridiculously foofooy outfits, gossiping together, dancing, and occasionally eating.
I can’t believe that actually worked, Alice whispered when they’d gotten some distance from the door.
Please. Look at these people, they can barely tie their shoes, invitations get forgotten all the time, Stephen smirked. We look like just any other idiot.
You are brilliant, Alice told him. Kthleera is very impressed.
No, I’m not going to tell him you want us to try having a child with… Alice froze as she realized that once more she’d been talking out loud by accident. Stephen, and Kit said nothing about her latest, and perhaps one of her most embarrassing lapses. But the thought was out there.
You have any idea how much it hurts to have a child? Alice whispered to herself as quietly as she could.
It wasn’t hard to spot the solid iron door, guarded by a burly looking man with a gun.
That has to be it, Alice said.
The armed man wasn’t really dangerous. A simple spell could jinx a gun, making it completely useless. Still, like the guards outside he could raise the alarm. “I was thinking of having a hysterical episode to distract everyone, but that means only you’d be able to slip in.”
Don’t worry, I came prepared, Kit said as she pulled the squirrel out of one of the hidden pockets in her dress. Well Jared. Are you ready to scare some old shrew?
The squirrel twitched its nose like it thought that that sounded like the funniest thing he could possibly do.
Kit put the squirrel down on the table where the little animal hid behind the punch bowl. A moment later Alice was standing in front of the guard, asking where she might go to relieve herself. The guard looked down at her with a perplexed expression on his face. Women didn’t ask such things, that’s what their escorts were for.
Behind them a woman screamed, which was followed by more screams, intermingled with words like rat. The guard looked up to see what was happening. Alice hit him in the side of the head, pouring as much of Kthleera’s magic as he could into that one punch. The guard collapsed unconscious to the floor.
Stephen quickly picked the lock, while Alice and Kthleera worked on the spells, a smile on his face. The Legion had created their own doom when they’d put the two of them together. After she was inside he drug the guard in as well. He didn’t know what the squirrel was doing, but the whole room had erupted into chaos. He shut the door, half smiling at the vision of the nobles running about and screaming in panic.
The hall on the other side of the door was perhaps even more ornate than the ballroom had been. Stephen was tempted to start gouging up the gold inlay. But he presumed there was some curse on it, and he wasn’t ready to try to counter that.
This is going a little too well don’t you think? Alice asked.
No, it’s about how I planned –
A growling demon interrupted him. The nine foot tall demon had two bulbous heads connected to long spindly necks. He stood poised to attack, his claws and teeth bared like a cat eyeing a mouse.
Kit and I will get the book, Stephen said as she ripped away the dress, leaving her wearing the factory worker’s clothes she’d had underneath.
Kit moved first, drawing the attention of one head. Stephen leapt over the other, and Alice attacked. Kthleera’s head burst through the ceiling of the building. Kthleera tossed the first demon aside like it was a ragdoll.
Dozens more burst out of every corner, and Alice lost control to the chaotic destruction of Kthleera’s mind.

She caught a brief snippet of Stephen handing Kthleera the book, and felt Kthleera’s emotional conflict.

She could undo what The Legion had done to her, but she wasn’t the original Kthleera. She was Kthleera’s child. If she went back, she, as her own being would essentially die.
She warped and twisted reality to make it almost impossible for the other Kthleera’s to reunite them into a single being, ever again.

Kthleera’s still inside of you? Stephen asked Alice who still had the book still tucked tightly under her arm.
Apparently she likes hanging out with us, Alice said. I think she’s realized that it’s more interesting to have an army of allies, no matter how small.
Jared flicked his tail and chittered at them.
She thinks she can build an army of vagabonds, take over this world, and reshape it. Succeed in ways her father never managed to. Alice answered Jared’s question.