Hello there! Before we proceed, a few notes I need to make.
Firstly, you may notice that the "disclaimer" chapter is gone as of uploading this chapter (this might cause an unnoticed notification for E Chapter 4, posted recently, to lead here instead, or nowhere at all; do note that E Chapter 4 IS up now). I should not have posted that, I should have trusted this story to speak for itself. However, there is one point I want recorded for anyone who reads this fic to know: In trying to keep everything in this fic mostly as close to the original game as possible, I am dialogue hunting in the game itself while playing through it and typing out everything on my computer as I play (though I do grammar-check, and occasionally alter certain words to make more sense). I know I could find everything on a website, but for one thing, I have a fear of the internet, and for another, more important thing, I feel like letting someone else do the legwork for me would be disrespectful, both to my own work and to the people who made the original game. I mean, if I'm going to basically rewrite the entire game as-is with one parameter changed, the least I can do is my own fieldwork (and play the hell out out of the actual game). That does make this a bit of a project (especially when my cat pukes on the game disc and I have to buy a new one), which is a large factor in why updates to this fic are usually few and far between. Another factor is needing the game itself fresh in my mind for when I'm retelling the gameplay sections, which I'm not entirely sure why I must include but I feel that I do. And obviously, inspiration comes and goes, and since fanfiction writing is a hobby and not my job, if I don't feel like it, I generally won't do it, but that's severely exacerbated by the situation I've imposed on myself here. I promise, though, it's not because I ever have stopped caring or ever will stop caring. I don't do that.
Secondly, I've put a lot of headers on the past few chapters talking about things and stuff. I'm going to get rid of most if not all of those, and also recombine parts 1 and 2 of Keats's chapter 4 into one chapter now that the site will let me do that again, at some point between now and the posting of the next chapter. I promise to resist any urge I may have to retcon anything. Upon uploading the next chapter, this part of this header will stay for posterity's sake.
Finally, this chapter is going to be a big departure from the game; the next chapter will be back on track. I wanted to include these quests, as they are important to the story, but considering what's coming, I felt like there was nowhere to fit them in except between chapters. It also goes towards fixing what I felt was a huge flaw with the original game: the fact that Keats and Ellen didn't talk to each other extensively about what they experienced in the Netherworld. You may have noticed I've already been working at changing that for this fic, but inventing a whole other chapter to that end was a big step, so I wanted to explain myself. I do also anticipate doing one more of these, either between chapters 6 and 7 or somewhere in the midst of early chapter 7.
For the maybe one person who reads or enjoys this story: Thank you for being here, I appreciate you. I've made this piece a much bigger job than it really needs to be just to satisfy my own conscience and eccentricities, and all I want is for it to be worth it for someone.
Keats returned to the village with O'Connell, nervous about the scholar's proposal but certain he wanted to try it. He had to know why all this was happening - why people died long ago, and were dying now, what happened to him and his family 17 years earlier. Part of him was still hesitant to believe he was actually Herve, as Herve had been sick with an incurable, terminal illness; perhaps, if he recovered his memories, he would discover an answer to that problem.
Once they were in the village, Ellen ran over to him from somewhere up ahead.
"Ellen," he greeted her, unsure what else to say.
The blond young woman sighed. "Keats, we must talk," she began.
"Could it wait?" Keats asked, gesturing to O'Connell. "Mr. O'Connell has offered to help me with my memories…"
"There's no need to rush into things," O'Connell inserted. "If nothing else, there are some preparations I must make - there's certainly time for you to have a conversation. Mind you, it might be best if we not proceed right away; there's no telling what the procedure might reveal, you would do well to rest beforehand."
"Oh, er, okay," Keats stammered.
Ellen looked between the two men, curious but unwilling to pry; it wasn't as pressing as other matters. As O'Connell walked away, Ellen suggested, "Let's…sit down at the pub. There's a lot we need to talk about."
"Where is this coming from?" Keats asked.
"I realized…a while ago, actually, that we've never really talked about the Netherworld," Ellen said. "About…Livane. The Faery Lord wants me to fight her and undo what she did, but you support her, and…I need to know everything before doing anything so drastic. And also, we've both talked to spirits in the Netherworld about you, and your past, but I haven't told you what I know since before the Undersea City."
At first, Keats was going to brush her off, but this last caused him to change his mind - with all his own troubles about his past, he didn't really care all that much about the war in the Netherworld, and he was glad Ellen allowed for this.
They went to the pub and sat at one of the tables. From behind the counter, the pub owner gave them a curious look, but didn't ask questions. Despite their audience, Ellen launched into everything she had seen and experienced in the Netherworld, from the Faery Lord, to Cecelia, to Harriet, to Livane. One thing that was interesting to Keats was Ellen's understanding of how Folks shared certain elements - "colors", she called them. He hadn't thought of this, but it explained a great deal. Most surprising, on the other hand, was both Cecelia and Harriet's pleas for Ellen to protect Keats, knowing who he was.
"Your past is more your business than mine," Ellen finished, "but please, tell me what Livane did. That seems to be my purpose in the Netherworld right now, and I don't want to act without all the information I can get."
Easy for you to say, was Keats's first thought, but he kept it to himself. Reluctantly, he told Ellen everything he knew about Livane, and about the Faery Lord too. Ellen's face was grim by the time he was done.
"There seems to be no easy answer to this," she said, frustrated. "I…I can't ask for much more than what you've given me, though; thank you."
"What will you do?" Keats asked curiously.
"I'm not sure yet," Ellen admitted. "What about you? What was it O'Connell wanted to do to help you?"
"He wants to try regression hypnosis, to see if I can access my old memories," Keats explained, and though he tried to hide it, Ellen noticed his discomfort in the way he shifted in his seat.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I don't see how I can be Herve," Keats blurted out. "Herve was so sick! You saw those medical records. That child could not have lived to adulthood."
"Perhaps there's something we missed or didn't understand in those records," Ellen suggested. "After all, he was taken here of all places to be cared for. Why would someone as sick as Herve be in a place like this in the first place? Surely this clinic is too small to give him treatment?"
Suddenly, the pub owner spoke up, having apparently been listening.
"If you're curious about that, look into what happened when the doctor opened the place," said the man behind the counter.
Keats and Ellen looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. The Netherworld. That was always the answer.
"O'Connell's procedure couldn't help us with that," Keats said at last; "even if I am Herve, I wouldn't have known about those circumstances."
"I'll go tonight, then," Ellen decided.
"No, I should go!" Keats protested.
"You have things to do today," Ellen reminded him: "Either undergo O'Connell's procedure, or rest and be ready for it tomorrow. You need to talk to your sister anyway. I can rest now and be ready to go come nightfall."
"I…" Keats hesitated, knowing she was right but unwilling to be left in the dark.
"I promise I'll tell you whatever I find," Ellen assured him. "As I said, it's more your business than mine. I'll be doing it for you."
For a moment longer, Keats resisted, not wanting to be taken care of by someone else, before seeing the wisdom in her words and relenting. "Thank you, Ellen," he sighed, standing up. "I'll rest, as you say, after I talk to my sister."
"Take care of yourself," Ellen said gently, almost tempted to reach out and take his hand as she also stood from her seat. "You mustn't forget to tend to your present well-being while you investigate your past. Whatever happened then, you're alive now, remember that."
"You're right," Keats admitted. "Thank you, Ellen. For…everything."
"Of…of course," she managed, her heart twisting in a way she couldn't explain.
They left, and went their separate ways.
Keats first headed for O'Connell's home. Instead of barging in, he simply knocked, and O'Connell answered.
"Keats," greeted the older man. "Are you ready?"
"I think I'll wait until tomorrow," Keats told him. "There are…things I would like to sort out before we proceed, if that's okay with you."
"Certainly," O'Connell said gently. "Take your time, and make sure you're ready for whatever we might uncover." Though he didn't say it, he was clearly concerned about how traumatic Keats's buried memories must be. Nodding his thanks, Keats turned and left, heading straight for the house where Suzette was staying.
"Oh, there you are," said his little sister when he opened door. "Everything sorted with that O'Connell fellow, then?"
"Yes, he's fine," Keats assured Suzette. "And he's offered to put me under regression hypnosis to help me uncover my buried memories."
"That's brilliant!" Suzette exclaimed, lighting up for the first time since coming to the village. "Much better than all that Netherworld nonsense."
Still uneasy, Keats nodded. "I think…you should be there, when he does it," he told her. "You have as much right to know what happened as I do."
"Do you think he'd be all right with that?" asked Suzette.
"I suppose I'll have to ask," Keats admitted. "Still, I don't see what the harm could be. It affects you, too."
"That it does," Suzette all but grumbled, her mood souring again.
"Are…you all right, Suzette?" Keats asked, concerned. "You've been in quite a mood since we got here, and only getting worse…I know this is all hard on you, and I'm sorry, but…you understand why we have to be here, don't you?"
"Of course I do!" Suzette snapped, startling him. "I just wish it wasn't so bloody hard to get what we're after!"
"I do too!" Keats exclaimed. "It might be a bit easier if there wasn't a murderer on the loose, but we have to do the best we can."
A strange expression twisted Suzette's face, one Keats couldn't interpret - it was like shock and anger and something that could have been fear all rolled into one.
"We have to do the best we can," Keats repeated. "You're staying in the church at night, with everyone else, aren't you?"
"Yes," Suzette growled strangely.
"Then you're safe," Keats told her. "The Hag seems to be attacking people with information anyway, I doubt you're a target, but as long as you're staying in the church with the others, you'll be okay."
"You don't know that," Suzette said, still glowering.
"I do," Keats said, trying to convince himself as much as her but determined to put his baby sister at ease. "Maybe we'll be able to find the Hag and stop her before she strikes again; if we don't, we'll leave soon, okay? If O'Connell's procedure works, there won't be much left to find out when it's done, so there won't be much reason to linger."
This did seem to calm Suzette some, and Keats reached out and put a hand on her shoulder.
"You're my only family, Suzette," he said. "I won't let anything happen to you, I promise."
Suzette nodded, but said nothing. They stood in silence for a long minute; then, Keats left her be and returned to his hut to wait for the next day.
Ellen woke up on her couch that night, having gone directly to her den as soon as her conversation with Keats was done.
Look into what happened when Herve was admitted to the clinic, she thought. Where in the Netherworld would that be? Dr. Lester was…in the Undersea City last I knew; I'll start there.
Without stopping for anything, Ellen ran all the way to the Cliff of Sidhe and jumped into the portal to the Undersea City. Once there, she began walking down the path, and was quickly met with the sight of a number of non-Faery figures in the distance. One Faery like those from the Faery Realm was waiting for her, and it stepped forward as she approached.
"What you are seeing now is a cluster of gathered memories," it informed her. "Someone died somewhat recently, no? Hence the apparition is at its most vivid."
Two people have died, Ellen thought, but as she passed the Faery, it was clear that Dr. Lester was the dead person in question, as the first two figures were of Dr. Lester and Herve's mother, Regine.
"As I'm sure you're aware, your son has a difficult illness," Dr. Lester was saying to the woman. "I cannot care for him here. He belongs in the city hospital. Let me write a letter of referral."
"It's the same story with every hospital I go to," Regine cried angrily. "No one will treat him. The least I can do is let him live out his last days in a place that he likes. Please, doctor! Admit him to your clinic!"
"No, I'm sorry," Dr. Lester insisted. "Our clinic simply cannot assume the responsibility caring for your son entails."
"Don't tell me that…Doctor!" Regine shouted, as though Dr. Lester was walking away, though the apparition didn't move.
The memory apparently spent, Ellen walked on, her heart breaking for Regine, and for Herve. There was no cure, she thought to herself; letting him stay in a place he liked was the most she could have done.
But how is he alive now?
A little past this, Mrs. Lester was standing alone.
"Hello?" Ellen asked, alarmed at the sight of the old woman who was not yet dead.
"She's like a daughter to us all," Mrs. Lester said. "With her mother working in the city, she's always by herself."
"Who?" Ellen asked, confused.
"Yes, I know," Mrs. Lester said. "She does seem lonely. I wish there were something we could do for her. But that's life, I suppose. Her mother can't find work here."
Suddenly, Ellen realized that this was also a memory, and Mrs. Lester was talking to someone about Cecelia, with Ellen standing in for whomever the conversation was originally with, most likely Dr. Lester. She started to walk on.
"Wait!" Mrs. Lester called to her.
Quickly, Ellen turned and ran back.
"Cecelia…She's gone," Mrs. Lester told her, almost frantically. "Will you search for her with me? I have reason to believe she left Doolin to find her mother. It's dangerous outside the village. We have to hurry!"
Though it was only a memory, Ellen felt spurred to move quickly, and took the short way around to the place where the path forked between the Palace and the Swamp of Oblivion. None of the Folks seemed different, and she was able to ignore Fraxinus, having already absorbed one, so she ran without fighting anything.
At the next portal, Ellen caught sight of two children, and immediately recognized them: Cecelia and Herve. Ignoring the ringing flower, Ellen approached them to see what they were doing.
"Here, have a look at this book," Herve said to Cecelia, holding out a picture book. "I'll read it to you."
"Okay," Cecelia said slowly, though she seemed a bit unhappy.
Herve opened the book, and Cecelia's expression lightened.
"This scarecrow," she said, "it's really cute!"
"You like it?" Herve asked brightly, smiling at her.
"Yeah!" the little girl exclaimed, smiling back. "I wish the scarecrow was real, though!"
"Yeah," Herve said.
Ellen smiled herself; though it was a memory that just preceded a tragic event, the sight of the two children enjoying themselves over a picture book was one of the sweetest things she'd ever seen in her life.
Cecelia looked up, and saw Ellen. "Hmm? It looks like Dr. Lester's come for us," she told Herve.
"Come on, let's go back," Herve told her, holding out his hand. "Everyone must be worried."
"Okay, Herve!" Cecelia chirped, following him. "Whatever you say!"
And then they were gone. Tears stung the corners of Ellen's eyes as she turned away, back to the portal flower, knowing what that event would eventually lead to. As she did, she noticed Dr. Lester and Mrs. Lester standing together, talking, and she hurried over to catch the last of this memory.
"I see," Dr. Lester was saying, "He left so that he could be there for Cecelia."
"The poor girl," Mrs. Lester said, nodding. "She's been so sad since her mother left the village. Herve saw that right away and wanted to cheer her up. He's such a good boy. Thanks to him, Cecelia has brightened up considerably."
Dr. Lester straightened his back. "Theresa, there is much that needs to be done," he said gruffly. "You and I may need to reconsider our future plans, I'm afraid."
"You mean…?" Mrs. Lester gasped.
"Yes," said the doctor, "I think we should admit Herve to the clinic. Of course, if you're against it, my dear, your wishes come first."
"You hesitated because you were worried about what I would say?" his wife exclaimed. "Honestly. Sometimes I don't think you understand me at all. I've been waiting for you to admit the boy. I've actually done all of the preparations."
The man gave a smile that was half-sheepishness, half-fondness. Then, at last, the memory faded, and Ellen took the portal back to Doolin.
After tossing and turning for a good part of the day before falling asleep, Keats woke in the middle of the night. He was restless, nervous about what the next day would bring. Realizing quickly that he wouldn't be getting any more sleep easily, he went outside to get some air.
No Netherworld trips, he told himself. Ellen's looking into that. But…I might as well go to the pub. Maybe Ganconer would let me buy a drink. Do Halflives drink, I wonder?
As always, the pub was well-lit, and Halflives were gathered, doing their various things that they did, whatever those might be. Ignoring them, too wound up to think about even their existence, Keats sat at the counter and greeted Ganconer.
"You know," the giant hairy creature said, "O'Connell came round this evening. It looks like he can't forget his dead girlfriend. He wanted to know what she saw when she put on that Cloak. Do you know what that means?"
Keats perked up. "Yes," he said, standing before he realized what he was doing. "I'll look into it." Only now did it occur to him that, in all his thoughts and worries about his past, he'd overlooked one thing: Lulu was dead, but he'd never found her in the Netherworld. Though tempted to chalk it up to the Netherworld not being real and let it go, his conversation with Ellen - and his desperation for a distraction - drove him outside in pursuit of answers, and he plunged into the first portal he saw: the portal to the Endless Corridor.
When he arrived, there were three Rebel Denizens standing around, and also Damona of all beings. Curious about her presence, he approached her.
"The scholar's lover Lulu was here, I'm certain of it!" exclaimed the Halflive. "She came to the Henge before you and Ellen did, and took the Cloak! But she wasn't as strong as you or Ellen are!"
"She was here?" Keats asked. "But I couldn't find her!"
Damona sighed. "Follow Lulu and you'll only end up learning the fate of a Messenger," she told him. "There's no such thing as dying in the Netherworld. We simply…cease to exist."
So she died here…? Keats thought, horrified. The Rebel Denizens standing around drew his attention, and he walked to the nearest one.
"I saw Lulu," it told Keats. "First Messenger I've seen in a while. She was better suited for the job than most, if you ask me. But she was an archaeologist…Her curiosity spelled her doom."
"She died here," the bald denizen confirmed, and said nothing more.
His gut twisting, Keats turned to the next in the row.
"Only the ancient Forebears can unlock the Cloak's true powers and meet the dead," the little person told him. "The humans that followed them tried to do the same, but had disappointing results. A few mediums and priestesses live on in the world today."
Forebears…Is that Livane's people? Keats wondered. And Ellen seems to be using the Cloak just fine…isn't she? Although, I don't even need one at all, and I can do basically what she does…
Deciding not to question the specifics of Netherworld travel, Keats approached the final Rebel Denizen.
"That woman was a danger," it stated. "She was ready to reveal the Netherworld's deepest mysteries. She was too smart for her own good. And so an assassin took her life, somewhere up ahead."
"An assassin?" Keats asked. "Not…not a Faery, or one of you?"
But the denizen shook its head. "No, though the Faery Realm made no attempt to stop Hellrealm's assassin. We tried to send Lulu home, but…she would not go."
There was nothing else to gain from these interrogations, so Keats walked into the Realm's maze of illusions. There were a bunch of Padfoot in the first room, strangely, but the rest of the place was normal; all the Habetrot were in their places doing their various tricks, at any rate, and Keats followed them through without fighting anything on the way. When he reached Habetrot's lair, the Folk was absent and only one door was open. Past the portal this led to was Frizzie, whom Keats approached.
"Lulu stumbled upon the deeper workings of the Netherworld," Frizzie told him. "But unlike you, she thought in terms of logic. What is the Netherworld? She couldn't resist digging…" The blue woman sighed heavily. "She died here. Was murdered, to be precise."
But Keats could hear the chittering of Mnemosynes, and he walked on to meet them. Like the ones in Livane's home, these didn't swell up to burst and show memories, instead simply speaking with the voices of the long-dead.
"The villagers know death's secrets, but value life too much to delve into those mysteries," said the first one in a female voice. "For Doolin, the festival of Samhain was fast approaching: an eve of evil spirits; 9 days of prayers for primordial chaos. Strange how their warm reception towards an outsider like me quickly faded with the setting of the sun; for this night leads to the Netherworld."
I don't recognize this voice, Keats thought as the bug vanished in front of him. Could it be Lulu?
"I broke my promise to the villagers and opened the door," the second Mnemosyne along the path said, also in Lulu's voice. "The air around the Henge was stifling and my breath froze in the twilight. But I kept walking towards the Henge. What was that faint light escaping from within? The thought occurred to me that I should halt my procession. But then I saw it. A Netherworld wayfarer en route to the Land of the Dead. A being not of our world."
Who or what did she see? Keats wondered as this Mnemosyne disappeared and he walked to the third one. Belgae, or Scarecrow?
"I continued my hunt for the Faery beneath the Henge," the third Mnemosyne said. "Could it lead mankind to happiness? A Faery that grants eternal life…or something more…"
Naive for someone so logical, Keats couldn't help thinking as this bug also vanished, but he approached the final Mnemosyne on the path all the same.
"Somehow I made it back," said the fourth in a faint, out-of-breath voice, surprising Keats. "But my body is melting into the darkness, fading from sight…I should not have donned that Cloak. It will destroy me…I was alive. Why did I chase death so doggedly?"
Did she die here or not? Keats wondered.
There had been no more Mnemosynes on the path, but when the fourth one vanished, a fifth one appeared beneath the squared stone archway that ended the path. Nearly bursting with questions, Keats approached it.
"Keats…" it said.
"Hm?" Keats grunted aloud, surprised.
"To you, my successor, I leave this message: When you called, I did not answer, and for that I am sorry. Because of me you perceive the Netherworld as a world within your head. But what if it does exist? None have proven otherwise. You need to see for yourself one way or the other."
But…I'm not the one using the Cloak! Keats thought. How am I her successor?
"I pondered it a long time," the Mnemosyne went on. "All modern thinking points away from an afterlife. After we die, we decompose into particles and cease to be. So what does that mean? Do we leave no mark? No proof that we have lived? I think we do…and that is the Netherworld. So I tried to find answers. Is there a Netherworld? Where is it? What form does it take? I would have given anything to prove it was real."
Shaking his head, Keats turned away. There were so many questions - questions he could not answer for O'Connell, and questions he could not answer for himself. One thing seemed clear, though: Lulu had desperately wanted to prove that the Netherworld was real. Perhaps that made some Faerys uneasy, and so they put an end to her investigation.
And it was true that his inability to find Lulu when he first asked the deer head in the Audience Hall to find her had fed his doubts about the Netherworld significantly. If it was all in his head, and he was just reliving past memories, he wouldn't be able to know anything about Lulu. But I've heard her now! he thought, almost desperately. And Ellen has been taking these trips, too! So…so it must…be real…
As he returned to the village, he found he still couldn't convince himself of this.
Surprisingly, it was still night when Ellen returned to the Cliff of Sidhe. Not being able to even ask Mrs. Lester about some details until morning anyway, she headed straight back to her den, but on the way, she ran into Keats, who was walking down the path from the pub to his hut with a troubled look on his face.
"Keats!" she exclaimed. "I thought you were going to rest?"
"I couldn't sleep," he told her. "I went to the pub, and…Ganconer mentioned O'Connell's troubled state of mind about Lulu, so I went back into the Endless Corridor looking for her."
"You should be resting," Ellen chastised.
For a moment, Keats said nothing, his head turned away from her. Then he said, "I assume you found out why Herve was living here in his final days?"
"I did," Ellen replied, deciding now was not the time to argue about Herve's fate.
"Might as well tell me now, then," he said, turning back towards the pub. "Come on."
"I…oh, okay," Ellen stammered, and they returned to the brightly lit pub with music playing on a radio in the background.
"Right," Keats said as they sat. "Tell me what you found."
Ellen explained the memories she'd seen in the Undersea City. When she was done, Keats just shook his head sadly.
"Herve was almost too sick to be treated; he was only here because he liked the place and nothing could be done," he said. "No, I don't think we misunderstood those medical records. Ellen, I can't be Herve. Herve must be dead."
"It seems that way," Ellen said slowly, "but then, who else could you be? Your family was here 17 years ago, we know this for a fact, and no one else lived here back then."
"How much do we really know?" Keats asked softly.
There was no answer to this.
"Did you…find Lulu?" Ellen eventually asked.
"Yeah, I found…well, some Mnemosynes," Keats replied. "And a couple of Halflives and Rebel Denizens who knew about her. I'll be able to…maybe give O'Connell a couple more answers before our session tomorrow."
"What did happen to her?" Ellen asked, curious.
Keats sighed. "It sounds like she was trying to scientifically prove that the Netherworld is real," he answered. "Which…I don't know, bothered some natives of the Netherworld, or something." Realizing this took some clarification, he recounted what she'd said to him, and what the Halflives and Rebel Denizens had said.
"Prove the Netherworld is real," Ellen mused when he was done. "Now that's an undertaking I wouldn't envy."
"Do you think it's real?" Keats asked.
"I do," Ellen replied readily.
"Why? How? What is the Netherworld, if it exists?" Keats challenged.
For several long minutes, Ellen pondered this.
"I suppose," she finally said carefully, "that…Well, as she said, modern thinking holds that when we die, there's nothing left - our bodies decay, and leave nothing behind. But…surely, our thoughts and feelings and memories are…too strong, to just evaporate as though they never happened the moment we aren't there to hold them. They must go somewhere. Or maybe they don't, maybe they stay where they are; maybe the particles our bodies decay into hold onto them, some imprint of what they once meant. If they're here, then there's some way we can access them somehow, perhaps…maybe that's what the Netherworld is…"
"I used to read a lot," Keats mused. "Before I had to focus on taking care of Suzette, while we were both too young to live on our own and stayed in the orphanage, I read any books I could get my hands on. It's interesting how many stories of traveling to other realms there are - books about completely different things by completely different people - and most of them seem to agree that any alternative plane of existence is connected to this one somehow. Once or twice I got to read things about particles, too…You might be on to something. Maybe someday we'll find that science and myth overlap. Humans might develop their own means of accessing the Netherworld." If it is real, he couldn't help adding to himself.
Shaking her head, Ellen stood, and Keats followed suit. "Well, you have a big day tomorrow," she said; "you really should get some rest. I'll be waiting to hear what you find out - if you don't mind sharing, of course."
"I don't mind at all," Keats assured her. "You've helped me so much with all this…It would be rude to not tell you the final answers once we have them."
"Thank you, Keats," Ellen said, smiling at him. "Good night."
"Good night, Ellen," he said to her, and he left.
Ellen moved to follow, when Ganconer called her over.
"One of the Halflives found this in the Endless Corridor," the hairy Halflive told her, holding out a piece of paper. "Thought yer might find it useful."
Taking it, Ellen realized it was a page from the Netherworld picture book. She unfolded it and looked at it, and saw Peg Powler spitting water at a strange Folk with a fuse on its bulbous back and a needle-like nose. The Endless Corridor, she thought. There were…those odd, tiny Folks I never managed to get because of the Mabinogion puzzle. Is this how to get them? Interesting. I'm almost tempted to go back and grab some, just to see if they're useful…
In the end, Ellen resisted the urge, and she returned to her den to sleep.
When morning came, Keats rose from his bed, where he'd managed a somewhat more successful attempt at sleep than he had had the previous afternoon, then went and got Suzette to meet O'Connell with him. O'Connell agreed that Suzette could be present without protest. Before they started, Keats took him aside, and told him what he'd found out about Lulu the previous night.
"You say Lulu died trying to prove the Netherworld exists?" O'Connell asked when he was done.
"Yes," Keats answered.
He half expected the older man to tell him that that was unlikely, but O'Connell nodded. "I believe it," he said. "That's all she talked about when she was alive. She and I distanced ourselves from the reality of death. Modern thinkers always do. We have no qualms about denying the afterlife, only because we refuse to see death for what it is. But losing the one I love shattered the ideals I was born with. Now I pray for a Netherworld, so my Lulu's soul lives forever."
It's not exactly living, Keats thought.
"But the conclusions can wait," O'Connell said, cutting the moment short. "I will keep living, and studying. And I would very much appreciate your help. In the meantime…let me help you."
Swallowing his fear, Keats nodded, and sat in the chair O'Connell had prepared for him, with Suzette in a corner looking on.