A/N: I know, I know. I know it's been absolutely ages since my last update. I know I'm a terrible person. I know. But things have been getting kinda crazy around here lately :P Anyways, here's a new chapter for you! Wherein we meet some new characters, questions are asked, and answers are found – but do any of them matter?
Dreams and Questions and Gravity, Oh My!
The girl stood alone, in a white expanse which could have been a too-well-lit room or the depths of someone's mind. Not her own, she mused as the thought came to her, as her own mind was surely too dark and twisted to house such a pure and glorious place. Although, if she was in someone else's mind – here an evil grin came over her face – then who knew what she could find if she looked? Now, if the light would just-
You, came a voice, from everywhere and nowhere, interrupting her thoughts.
"Me," she drawled in the same tone. She grinned cheekily. "Didja miss me?"
Impertinent child, a different voice hissed. Do you know with whom you speak?
The girl snorted. "Of course I do," she said dismissively. "I mean, how many people – or, let's be honest here, beings – have the power to drag me out of a story and into a place that's nothing but a white glow? Hmm?" She smirked.
There was a sigh, and the first speaker said something in an indecipherable tongue. The second voice replied with some heat, and the unseen beings seemed to enter into a spirited debate. Finally, the second voice said something in a tone cold as ice, and was silent, its owner presumably having left. The first speaker sighed again and said, I hope you're happy, girl.
"I'm never happy," she said cheerily. "Why, what'd ol' Stick-up-the-butt say?"
A chorus of snakes seemed to hiss around her, and the girl gulped. You would do well to show respect, the voice said ominously. I could simply do away with you and-
"No!" the girl cried, eyes wide. "I-I mean...you wouldn't!" Silence. "W...would you?"
Perhaps, the voice said, and the girl swore she could hear the smile the speaker wore. But that is not why you were called here, it continued, growing serious.
The girl snorted again, any trace of fear gone. "So you mean you didn't pluck me from my story to berate me, try to scare me-"
Succeed in scaring you, the voice interrupted, amused once more.
"-and bicker with your fellow disembodied voice? I'm surprised," the girl continued without missing a beat. "And for the record, you so did not succeed in scaring me."
Mmmh, the voice said, obviously unconvinced and still quite tickled.
"You can 'mmmh' me all you want, you didn't scare me," the girl said.
Mmmh, the voice repeated. Whatever you say, pet.
"I am not your pet," the girl snarled.
Whatever you say.
She growled – literally. "Why am I here?"
The voice became serious again. The question, pet, is not why you are here, but why Halt is not here.
"What do you mean?" the girl said, still mutinous but growing wary.
You know precisely what I mean, the voice snapped, obviously losing patience. We had an arrangement which is not being kept. Amnesty for a sacrifice. You thus far have your amnesty, but I still have yet to see sacrifice.
"Yes, well..." It could almost be said that the girl was stammering. "There's a reason for that..."
The girl took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "I think it boils down to his shielding."
The voice was silent for a while, more heartbeats than the girl would have liked – hers was pounding, though she would never admit it. Explain, the voice finally said, cold as an ice cap.
"I employed the new agents, as you suggested," the girl said in the manner of a soldier giving a report. "They have repeatedly attempted to capture and/or kill the intended target, but have failed each time. Invisibility, forestry, magery – all their top methods have been too-easily foiled."
What of the Shadows? hissed the voice. Surely they have taken over the operation by now.
The girl hesitated. "Well, you see...the Sensei kinda...well, he doesn't like taking orders from a girl, let's just put it that way," she said with an uneasy chuckle. "You know, I didn't think you knew about-"
Her mouth snapped shut.
Of course I knew of the Shadows, said the voice. I am not called Supreme for nothing. After all, from where do you think fan fiction comes? But this is beside the point. What do you mean, it boils down to his shielding?
The girl abandoned her attempts to wrap her head around what the voice had said about fan fiction and snapped back to attention. "His MC shielding," she said. "And, of course, his Ranger shield, but I could easily break that."
An option you refuse, the voice put in.
The girl inclined her head in acknowledgment. "I didn't anticipate him being so difficult to get to with it," she said coolly. "But as I said, that can – and, when I return, will – be easily broken. His main character shield, however..." Here she hesitated. "Well, that poses more of a problem."
Main characters die all the time, the voice said dismissively. You yourself have killed a few, if memory serves.
"Yes," the girl admitted. "But you see, Halt...well..."
Spit it out. The voice was very obviously losing patience fast.
"I don't know what it is about him," the girl blurted, "but for some reason, his shield is stronger. I've never been able to touch him. It may be a shield of epicness, but those things are legendary – heck, do they even exist?"
The voice was silent for a long while. They exist, it finally said, oh so slowly, but none has been bestowed in so long...and I am not as young as I once was. He may indeed have a shield of epicness protecting him...and I may not remember.
"I thought you were supreme overlord?" the girl asked, not bitingly but genuinely curious. "Surely you'd remember if you gave someone a shield of epicness – for one thing, I'd think they'd be kinda hard to weave..." She trailed off, playing uncertainly with a strand of her long black hair.
I am overlord, the voice said, still slow and heavy, and I am supreme. But fiction is dying, pet. Fan fiction is dying. You mortals, you authors and even the characters, you cannot see it. You have short memories; all looks to you to be as it should. But I...I am old. And as fan fiction dies, so do I. So it is not only plausible, but probable, that I bestowed a shield of epicness and cannot remember.
The girl was quiet for the first time since she appeared in the whiteness. "I'm sorry," she finally whispered. "I didn't know."
No, said the voice, brisk business once more. Nor should anyone else, it added, the warning clear in its words.
The girl bowed. "Of course," she said, a soldier once more. Shaking her hair back as she straightened, she said, "So, if Halt does have a shield of epicness – and all the evidence says he does – what can be done? Can-" She stopped, biting her lip.
Can I revoke it? completed the voice. She nodded. The voice sighed and said, No. Not that I can recall. Once given, a shield of epicness cannot be taken back.
The girl heaved a sigh of her own. "I was afraid of that," she muttered. "Great. So what can I do?" she asked the voice.
Oh, you'll find a way to get what you want, the voice said, a note of amusement evident once again. You always do.
"Now, that's not fair," the girl said, though she blushed. The whiteness grew foggy, and her blush faded as panic widened her eyes. "Wait!" she cried. "Why'd you say all that if you're not gonna help me?"
You need no help, the voice said as it grew distant. You have the resources to do what needs done – use them.
The girl pouted as the pearlescent fog thickened. "You suck," she mumbled. "Some Supreme Fan Fiction Overlord you are."
I love you too, pet, were the last, smiling words she heard.
"That's not creepy," were the last ones she muttered.
Halt stirred, then abruptly jolted upright. He realized he had fallen asleep sitting up in his chair – most unlike him. And he'd had the strangest dream...
The wild cry pulled him from his musings of disembodied voices ringing through glowing-white rooms and back to the present reality of his cabin – a reality where Will was, for whatever reason, yelling his name. "What?" Halt grouched, rolling his head and wincing as he stretched a cramp.
Will was crouched in front of his master, brown eyes wide. "You were sleeping," he said in a tone of wonder. "You don't sleep at the day."
Ignoring his apprentice's grammatical shortcomings, Halt snapped, "So? Isn't a man entitled to a nap, particularly-" here he shot a glare Will's way- "if his apprentice had kept said man awake all night searching for the runaway apprentice?"
Will grinned, Halt's grumpiness utterly lost on him. "Nope!" he chirped. "Not when it's you!" He giggled – actually giggled, like a schoolgirl – and said, "I dunno what that girl gave me, but it was goooooood..." He sighed and tailed off into a daydream, presumably fueled by and regarding sugary delights.
The boy's mention of the strange girl sparked something in Halt's mind. It may have been nothing, but in this kind of story, anything was possible..."Will," Halt began, speaking over the dangerous creaking sound made by the fourth wall.
Will snapped out of his reverie. "Yeah?" he said, bouncing on his heels.
"The girl who gave you the candy yesterday," Halt said slowly, "what did she look like?"
Will frowned, stopped bouncing, and rested his chin on one fist. "Well," he said, "she was, um, girl-shaped..."
I got that much, Halt thought but refrained from saying.
"...an' she had this really really dark hair," Will continued. "At least, I think she did, but it was mostly in shadow...or maybe it was shadow? I dunno, she was creepy an' weird, I wouldn't put much past her."
And yet you took candy from her?
"An' she was really pale, like unhealthy pale, but she didn't exactly look sick...I dunno. Maybe she just doesn't get out much. An' she was wearin' all black, an' a cloak, an' it was weird cuz it was almost like she wore the night itself..." He spaced out at this point, eyes big as Morgarath's ego.
Halt waited for Will to say something else, and was just about to give up (approximately twenty seconds after Will stopped talking) when Will burst out with an "Oh! And she had black eyes! Like, really creepy black eyes – I swear they were what really made her so creepy." With that final exclamation, he shuddered and started rocking back and forth – though whether from actual fear or magic candy withdrawal, Halt couldn't tell.
Ignoring his possibly-insane apprentice for the moment, Halt sat back in his chair and pondered. He had known it was a long shot, but really, what's a long shot to a Ranger? The girl Will had described was a dead ringer for the strange girl in his dream – if, indeed, he had even been dreaming. Was it possible, he thought, that the author was giving him a glimpse of the forces behind this particular piece of torment called a story? Once again completely disregarding the alarming groans of the fourth wall, Halt thought. Perhaps it was just for the readers' sakes, but in any event, Halt knew a bit more now than he had before – though he had even more questions. For instance, if the candy girl and the girl in his possibly-a-dream (he still shuddered a bit at the utter weirdness of the whole thing) were one and the same, then why had the girl given Will candy – and why had she and the voice spoken of a sacrifice? The voice, he supposed, was the Supreme Fan Fiction Overlord, whatever that was. But what was that business about shields and sacrifices and – this part actually came close to unsettling him – fiction itself dying? What did it all mean? Obviously the cookie-shaped bunny rabbits were the "agents" the girl had spoken of, but what were the Shadows? And did they have anything to do with the circle of chanters earlier that day? None of it made sense. If only-
A crash interrupted his musings. Halt snapped back to reality with a jerk and whirled around, only to find Will standing over a loose pile of broken glass, looking very sheepish.
"Jar fall down," Will said in the manner of a toddler testing gravity.
Halt sighed. "Clean it up," he said wearily.
The illusion of normality would have been perfect if Will had walked to get the broom rather than bounced.
A/N: Ooh, mystery! If the candy girl and the girl in the dream-which-may-not-have-been-a-dream (can anyone say The Matrix?) are one and the same, as Halt seems to think they are, then what does that mean for a certain Ranger and his apprentice? Or are they even the same person at all? Who is this Supreme Fan Fiction Overlord anyway, and why was he/she/it talking about amnesty and a sacrifice? Amnesty from what, and what sort of sacrifice? All shall be explained in time, but will Halt and Will survive until then?
Please review! I really love it when you guys review – it gives me warmfuzzies ^&^ Also, I like to hear what you think, whether it's just a "Hey, I like your story" or you have theoretical answers to the questions that are piling up faster than ever. I welcome all! :) Concrit is also welcome, and please don't be afraid to give it. I want to give you guys quality material (at least, as quality as a parody can be XD) and I can't do that if there's something wrong with my writing.