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Haley Moonstar's Phantasy Quest - Cancelled (Chapter One)

Author: 
James 'BlackMageJawa' Davis
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
40

It has often been said that, in an infinite universe, anything that can exist, must exist somewhere. This is obviously complete nonsense, as there are far too many mutually exclusive possibilities for them all to exist within one universe. But it's close to the truth. Because in the infinite infinities that make up the Multiverse, anything, possible or otherwise, happens somewhere. Take this place, for instance:

A great roaring jet of flame stabs downwards as the diminutive thief barely rolls out of the way in time, managing to escape with only the tip of her ginger ponytail getting singed. The source of the blast is an ancient Dragon, its scales a burning red colour, made a little more red by the presence of blood. It pauses for a while as it notices this. It isn't used to bleeding. It cranes its neck round so that it can see the figure perched upon its back, brandishing an axe soaked in the dragon's own vital fluids. It becomes even more surprised when that figure leaps up and headbutts it right between the eyes. Dazed, the fearful wyrm collapses, momentarily dead to the world.

The thief darts forwards to where a shining yellow crystal hangs from a collar around the dragon's neck. Prising it out, she lifts it high in celebration. As she does so, a great voice from somewhere outside the world calls;

"Cut! Ok people, get the animatronic dragon back to starting positions, we're going again!"

Indeed, on set, all things are possible.

 

Several hours later, Rachel Wonse and the cast of Phantasy Quest were assembled in the Post-Production room, watching the final edit of the episode they had just shot. As season finales went, it was a spectacular. The party finally recovered the third of the four Orbs of Dragonkind that they needed to destroy the evil draconic menace that threatened the world of Phantasia, but only after a massive battle with forty-two orcs, six dark elves, two giant worms, a small army of kobolds, and of course the red dragon. Finally, Rachel's character (Haley Moonstar the thief) managed to steal the orb (along with anything else that was shiny and not nailed down) and Thogor, the party's barbarian (played by Gordon, who was currently opposite the table from Rachel, thoroughly enthralled by his own performance) cleared a path through the kobolds so that Niala the Cleric (AKA Daisy Freeman, currently having a panic attack about what she was going to do while waiting for filming to begin on series 4) could cast a teleport spell and get them back to central Phantasia in time for Striker (real name Zachary Auron), nominally the leader by virtue of having the best hair, to spout a few lines of meaningless drivel about never giving up hope and always being there to protect others. The episode lasted forty-five minutes, a full thirty-eight of which were one huge fight scene.

The playback drew to a close, and a round of applause went up from the crew. Everyone watching was thoroughly impressed. Everyone. But they weren't all in the room. They weren't all even on Earth.

 

Step back into the Multiverse. One of the theories that often accompanies the "everything must happen somewhere" theory is the Law of Parallel Evolution, which states that certain themes, people, and events will reoccur over and over again throughout worlds, civilisations, and lives. This theory, too, is total rubbish. No matter how hard you look, you're not going to find the Starship Enterprise, there is no Mushroom Kingdom, and no world contains an exact replica of Middle Earth. Likewise, the world of Phantasia exists solely within the studios of Phantasy Quest.

But just because it doesn't exist, doesn't mean there aren't similar places.

 

Three figures watch the images flickering over the surface of the crystal ball. They've seen these people many times before, though they have no idea who or where they are. But they think they have. It's rather an amusing misunderstanding, really, of the sort that inevitably leads to "hilarious results". Certainly worth sticking around for.

 

Rachel knocked on the producer's door. Gordon and Daisy had already been in to see him, and had come out looking happy, so she wasn't too worried. Usually he called them all in together after a show, so she was slightly puzzled that this time he had asked to see them all separately.

"Come in" he called from the other side of the door. Rachel pushed it open and entered.

"Ah, miss Wonse, there you are." Rachel was thrown by this. Never, in three years of working together, had he ever called her "Miss Wonse".

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Yes, sit down will you. Now then, I thought you might like to know that I've been doing a bit of research on the official Phantasy Quest forums, and it seems that your Haley is by far the most popular member of the party."

Rachel smiled.

"Really? Cool."

"Which is why," the producer continued "We've decided to make a few changes to her character. Maximise on her popularity and make her even more appealing."

"Ooookaaay" replied Rachel, warily.

"So, as of next series, she'll be getting more to say, doing more acrobatic stunts, and getting a skimpier costume."

"What!"

"Oh, don't worry about it. You won't have to do anything you don't want to."

"Good!"

"Because you're fired."

Silence

"I'm sorry." Said Rachel eventually. "Could you just repeat that, it sounded like you said I was fired."

The producer stood up and handed her a piece of pink paper.

"You are fired, Miss Wonse. While you may have a certain cute charm, that isn't going to cut it with the demographic we're after, so we're hiring a replacement. She's a supermodel, definitely a big draw. Not to mention big br-."

"No, look, you can't just sack me like this! I have a contract!"

The producer smiled, in a way that reminded Rachel of a crocodile. Only with worse teeth. "Have you actually read your contract, Rache?"

"Well, I, sort of, not properly, no."

"It times out at the end of the series. As soon as you took a bow to the audience back there, it was null and void. And it's not going to be renewed. I'm very sorry, Rachel."

"No you're not."

"No, you're right, I'm not. Bye."

Rachel stood up and stormed out, pausing at the door to get in one last word.

"Bastard"

 

At least, Rachel thought as she stared into her empty glass, they had let her keep the costume. It wasn't much of a plus, especially since the only reason she'd got to keep it was because the new Haley would require a much larger top, but she was still getting over the shock of being sacked so suddenly, and the familiar costume she'd worn for the last three years felt comforting. Sure, she drew a few awkward glances from the other patrons of the pub, who weren't used to seeing girls in leather armour (well, not outside of certain specialist magazines at least), but she didn't care about that. Right now, she was doing what any self respecting actress in her situation would do. She was getting drunk. Very drunk.

There were four thumps on the bar- three from her fist trying to attract the barman's attention, the other from her head slipping and hitting it.

"Gimme...gimme...nother bear...beer." She managed to say, wondering why the world seemed to have moved through 90 degrees.

The barman took one look at her and said "I think you've had enough, Rachel. You're drunk, look at you!"

Rachel pulled herself up and, swaying only slightly, exclaimed "Drunk!? Rubbish. You wouldn't dare callmedrunk if I wash shober!"

"No, I'm sorry Rache, but I really can't. Look, why don't you go and have a lie down, you can use the spare room. You know the way, OK?"

Rachel nodded gloomily and stood up. She tripped over the barstool. She stood up again. She took two shaky steps. She stood up again. Then she stumbled the rest of the way over to the door, finally collapsing on the guest bed. Seconds later, she was fast asleep.

 

Meanwhile, in the other world.

The three figures are back watching the ball. But this time something's different. The magical energies are stronger, they're behaving differently. They don't know it, but this time they're not watching a recording. They've finally found who they're looking for in the real world. This time, they can accomplish their goal.

The eldest figure smiles. "We've done it! We've found her at last!"

The image wavers as the other two momentarily break their concentration to celebrate, but they almost instantly return to the task at hand.

"Bring her in."

 

Some time later.

The first thing Rachel noticed when she awoke was the pounding headache.

"Oh, god." She moaned to herself. "I didn't drink that much last night, did I?"

She rolled over to face upwards, and only then did she open her eyes.

"Or maybe I did." Instead of the familiar sights of the pub, she found herself in what seemed to be an elegant suite in some kind of mansion- a four-poster bed, luxurious carpets, wall-hangings depicting various scenes. It was all very odd.

Rachel got up, wobbled a bit, and walked over to the door. It led into a corridor every bit as fine as the room. Candelabras were fixed every few paces, with lit candles casting a bright, flickering light over everything. There wasn�t a lightbulb in sight.

"Hello?" she called, still wondering if this was some surreal dream or drink-fuelled hallucination.

"Ah, you're awake at last." Said a voice from behind her. Rachel jumped, startled, before turning round to see who had spoken. He was quite old, wearing a brown robe with a hood that was currently down.

"Er... hello." She replied.

"You must be feeling confused. Allow me to explain. My name is Maynard. This... is the Spaerun Guild of Mage."

"Mages..?"

"That's right. We have brought you here to help us. A great evil threatens our land. You may be the only one who can save us."

Realisation dawned on Rachel's face, as she slipped seamlessly into character.

"Oh, I get it, it's a convention or something. Well, er, never fear, Haley's here!"

Maynard smiled.

"I'm not quite sure I know what you mean, miss Moonstar, but it is good to know you will aid us. Come, let me introduce you to my colleagues."

Rachel followed the old man through the corridors. All of the people around her must have been big fans of the show, as they were all in traditional fantasy garb- there were even one or two wearing elf ears or a monster costume. They'd obviously gone to a lot of effort. It was just odd that she couldn't remember getting here. Or the appointment. She put it down to drink, and continued to stare at the props all around her.

Finally, Maynard led her into a room where another man waited, similarly garbed in a simple robe. He was much younger than Maynard, with dark brown hair that looked as though it had never seen a comb. When he saw Rachel approaching, he practically jumped, and seemed very nervous and flustered as he talked.

"Miss Moonstar! This is indeed an honour." He said bowing to her. "I am Tassadar, apprentice to Master Mage Maynard. I feel privileged to have aided him in finding you and bringing you here."

"Hmm, probably easier than arranging an appearance through my Agent." Rachel laughed, but she stopped smirking at her own joke when she noticed the blank stares on the others' faces. "Right, well never mind, what's the deal here? Quick fight with a few lizards then grab the treasure and sign autographs?"

Again, Maynard and Tassadar looked at her, not understanding.

"We must apologise, Miss Moonstar. It appears that we have difficulty comprehending your mode of speech. What is an Autograph?"

"Well, it's, you know, when I sign my name a piece of paper. People collect them."

"For use in enchantment?" asked Tassadar, intrigued

"No... just to collect them. Look, could we drop the in-character stuff for now, I'm having trouble concentrating."

"Again, you have lost us." Said Maynard sadly.

"Don't call me 'Miss Moonstar', just use my name."

"Oh, of course. Certainly Haley."

"Rachel."

"Sorry?"

"My name is Rachel. Not Haley."

Maynard looked confused.

"Then we have the wrong person? We were looking for Haley Moonstar."

Rachel rubbed her eyes, exasperated, and then continued in a tone normally reserved for the very stupid and the terminally foreign.

"Yes, that's me, I am Haley, but I'm really..."

Before she could finish, Maynard clapped her on the shoulder so hard that she almost fell down.

"Excellent. Now then, to business. Tassadar, where is Lomax?"

"I believe he went to the Crypt with the party, Master."

"Ah, try to reach him will you. Tell him Haley is ready."

Rachel watched as Tassadar seemed to stare into a small glass ball on his desk. If these people were trying to impress her with how dedicated they were as fans, it wasn't working. They were starting to creep her out a bit.

"Master! There's a problem, look!"

Maynard bent down to look into the ball.

"A battle. They need help. Quick, Miss M... Haley, you must go to their aid or they may not make it out of the Crypt!"

"Ah, my cue. Right then, which way do I need to go?"

"Master, I don't think this is a particularly good idea." Tassadar protested "She's only just woken up, she'll be tired, and in any case it'll take her too long to get there."

"There's no time to waste," said Maynard. "We'll use magic. Stand still."

Maynard raised his hands. Rachel shook her head. They really were taking this over the top. Did they really expect her to... to...

Rachel rubbed her eyes again, not believing what she thought she was seeing. Around Maynard's hands streaks of energy seemed to be collecting, forming a glowing orb. As she stared, he reached out and bolts of white light cascaded over her, bathing her in a bright glow. She tried to scream, but a sudden sensation of movement knocked the breath out of her. She felt as if she was being stretched, ready to snap like an elastic band. She breathed in again and had another go at shouting.

"Holy, shi-." Was as far as she got.

 

The next thing Rachel knew, she was dumped unceremonially into a dark, damp corridor made of stone. Still in shock, she stumbled forwards, whirling around as if trying to prove to herself that her new surroundings weren't real and this was all one big trick. She stumbled backwards and bumped into something. She turned round. An armed skeleton with still rotting flesh hanging from its white bones was standing in front of her, knife raised ready to strike. She screamed. It roared at her and slashed down with the knife. Acting on instinct, Rachel's stunt training took over and she dropped to the ground. The creature raised its foot to tread on her, but she rolled to one side and sprang up to a sprinting position, then ran as fast as she could away from it.

The skeleton warrior gave chase as she ducked and weaved through passages that were grimy and covered with mould, the only illumination coming from the inexplicably lit torches that were propped up every few paces. She screamed a lot as every new turn seemed to bring her face to face with some bizarre monstrosity, from giant rats through walking trees, treasure chests with rows of teeth, and plenty of undead. Finally, she made it to a room that was protected with a big heavy door, and she slammed it shut behind her. She heard the skeleton run straight into it from the other side, followed by a sound that could almost have been a skull falling off and shattering on the ground.

The room was empty. There was a fountain at one side, atop which stood a statue encrusted with gems that gave off a soft glow that lit the small chamber. She was safe for now.

Now she had time to panic.

No sooner had she got her breathing under control after the rush of adrenaline from the chase died down than reason kicked in and she realised exactly what was going on.

"Ohshitohshitooshit!" she repeated to herself over and over. "It's real. It's all bloody real and they think I'm really Haley! Oh, what am I gonna do?" She collapsed to the ground and curled up, hugging her knees. Perhaps if she just lay there for long enough everything would go away and she would wake up back in the pub with a massive hangover and no job.

Gradually, she became aware of several voices coming closer. They were accompanied by sounds of battle, steel clanging against steel, bone, and several less identifiable surfaces, including something that sounded worryingly like jelly.

The voices reached the door. Rachel could identify four different ones by now.

"Wahey, eat Magic Missile boney!" called the first voice- it was high pitched and obviously female, probably quite young by the sound of it.

"According to the map, there should be a magic pool in this room" said the second. This voice was older, but still young. Every syllable rang with an unidentifiable quality that screamed 'leader'.

"So, we bash the door in." said a third voice. This one sounded dark and moody, as if the speaker was more inclined to attack than talk.

"Whatever you do, just hurry!" urged the fourth voice. The final voice seemed a bit nervous, as if it wasn't used to being in this situation.

A serious of thumps echoed through the room. They were trying to break open the door.

This is it, thought Rachel. They're going to bust in here and kill me. She started backing away and tripped over something she hadn't noticed before. It was a small dagger. She picked it up, and felt Haley Moonstar's personality pressing forwards. If life was a stage, she was damn well going to go out acting.

The door collapsed and four people ran in. Rachel charged forwards screaming an incomprehensible battle cry. The person in front, who Rachel assumed must have been the moody voice, looked puzzled for a moment and raised his shield. His big, heavy, sturdy shield. Rachel's dagger struck it and stuck fast. Her momentum propelled her forwards a few extra steps so that she ended up flattened against the shield, then keeled over backwards.

 

When she came to (again), the first thing Rachel noticed this time was that she was alive. This was a good start. The next thing she noticed was that the four voices/people from earlier were now in the room with her around a large fire. They were eating something. It smelled like bacon.

She sat up, glad that for once she didn't have a throbbing headache or overwhelming sense of panic. Fear, yes, but not panic. Not yet.

"Hey, she's awake!"said high-pitched-girl excitedly. Now that she had a chance to look at her, Rachel could see that she was actually very young- probably no older than about fifteen. She wore a red dress, had long blonde hair, and carried a long ornamental stick that was almost as tall as she was, and was topped with a fiery red orb.

"My name's Lilith." She continued in her almost sing-song way. "It's OK, we're not going to hurt you. We were sent by Maynard from the Guild. Of course, we know who you are, Haley. It's nice to finally get to meet you. We've all watched you through the crystal ball, but it's always much better to actually meet people in person, rather than just hearing about them. I mean, if you only hear about someone then you can't be sure whether they're real or not, can you? Not that we would have doubted you, Haley, we've all seen you, but... it's still good to see you. Really see you."

Must-be-leader glanced over to Rachel and gave her a knowing look, as if to say 'she's always like this, just humour her'

Rachel smiled nervously and nodded. "Yes," she said "It's always nice to know when things are real."

Must-be-leader put down what he was eating and strode over to where Rachel was lying. He offered her his hand and helped pull her up to a standing position. He wore what seemed to be fairly normal clothing, but she could see that it was being worn over chain-mail armour. His light-brown hair was formed into rows of spikes pointing upwards, and circled by a bandana.

"Lilith is our Sorceress," he told her. "she's a bit of a pyromaniac and unhealthily fond of hurting things, but she's nice enough deep down. Even if she does deny it."

"My name is Yvan, I'm the leader of this group. The guy in the robe is Lomax, he's one of Maynard's pupils. We're protecting him while he searches the crypts for clues to some artefact. And lastly we have our barbarian, Clive."

"Clive?" asked Rachel. "That doesn't sound like a particularly barbaric name."

Clive glared at her and slowly said "In my native dialect, it translates as 'He who removes internal organs."

"Right." Said Rachel. "I'll try and bear that in mind."

"He's not really too bad once he gets to know you," Yvan explained, "he just hates new people. Try not to upset him, he does have rather a short fuse."

"So, now you know all of us. Obviously we all know you, Haley. So, are you ready to get moving? There's still a lot of ground to cover."

"I guess. What are we looking for?"

"Four artefacts left behind by a great Draconic craftsman. Each is said to hold great power, but when the four are brought together at a certain place, they can be used to reveal the path to the ultimate weapon."

"And then we wipe out the evil dragons, right?" asked Rachel, surprised at how similar this all seemed to her own show. Then she noticed the expressions of horror on the others' faces. "Or...not?"

"Dragons are not evil!" Yvan exclaimed eventually. "They protect us from harm! They are our friends! To kill a dragon is a monstrous thing!"

"Oh. Sorry. Wrong plot. So what do we need this weapon for?"

"To kill the Dragon God."

"WHAT!?"

"Tiamat, God of Dragons, used to be a kind god. He aided the dragons much s they aided us. But several months ago, Tiamat turned against the dragons. He began to destroy them one by one. Only with the ancient weapon, Wyrmblade, can we destroy Tiamat and allow the dragons to find peace."

"Right. OK. Take on a god, why not? So what exactly are we doing in this crypt then?"

Lomax stepped forwards to explain.

"Tassadar believes that there may be a map detailing the location of the artefacts hidden somewhere in the tombs beneath us. We need to find that map so that we can speed up our search."

"Well then." Said Rachel, resigning herself to fate. "Let's get moving."

 

Rachel was finding it hard to keep up with the group. On the studio set everything had been so easy, but doing it for real was a completely different matter. She was quite good at spotting traps, since all of the ones in the crypt seemed similar to the kinds created by Phantasy Quest's props department, and disabling them was fairly easy. Likewise the lockpicking course she had been sent on during the first season was proving very useful when it came to treasure chests, though Clive was more than a match for most of the locked doors they came across.

As well as the dagger she'd found in the fountain room, Rachel was now armed with a small bow Lilith had lent her. Her archery skills were adequate for TV, but she was afraid she would be nowhere near good enough in a real fight. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before she had a chance to test that theory.

A small group of kobolds emerged from a side passage ahead of the party, and Clive and Yvan rushed forwards to engage them. Lomax panicked even worse than Rachel, and tried to hide in a corner, while Lilith cast a spell to turn herself invisible, and Rachel could only hear her rushing into the fray.

Rachel was left alone to bring up the rear. Raising the bow, she nocked an arrow, took aim, and released it. It arced into the air, soared majestically over the distance, and clattered harmlessly at the feet of a kobold. The scaly creature looked over to where Rachel was standing and made as if to charge her, but it was cut down by Yvan a second later.

A second, third and fourth arrow quickly followed it, all doing more damage to the tiled floor than to any opponent.

Fed up, Rachel threw the bow to the ground and kicked the wall in anger. The impact dislodged something in one of the inset tombs, and for a horrible moment Rachel thought the skeleton was going to get up and fight her, but it remained thankfully still. When her heart had slowed back to a normal pace, she looked more closely at what had moved. She gasped with awe. Lying in the clutches of a skeletal hand was the most beautiful ring Rachel had ever seen. It was made from gold, still untarnished after all the years spent down in this damp crypt, and had a large, perfectly cut diamond set into it, with bands of gold running over the jewel to form a complex pattern or symbol of some kind. As soon as she saw it, Rachel knew she wanted it. It seemed to call to her, begging her to put it on.

"Oh, what the hell?" she said to herself. "I am supposed to be a thief after all."

She scooped up the ring and slipped it on her finger. It fit perfectly. She felt a strange, pleasant tingling sensation as it went on, and she started to feel subtly different. She wasn't exactly sure had changed, but she felt a bit more confident. Even her hair seemed to move and change its style- from her current bedraggled lack-of-style to the knotted ponytail and two bangs stretching backwards over her head that she always wore when she was playing Haley.

She picked up the bow again, and took aim once more.

"Hey lizard!" she called. "Heads up!"

The lead Kobold lifted its head to look at where the noise came from. Rachel released the bowstring, and the last thing the Kobold saw was the arrow flying straight at him before it struck him right between the eyes. It landed, arrow still embedded in his skull, atop a heap of his fallen buddies.

The last of the kobolds dispatched, the others turned to check on Rachel, who was celebrating and jumping up and down. But then she noticed that they seemed to be looking behind her. She turned round, and at ninety degrees she noticed that the wall cavity where she'd found the ring was empty. And one hundred and eighty, she saw its occupant looking very angry. It raised what was left of its hand and took a swipe and Rachel's finger as if it was trying to get the ring back. It continued to wave its limbs pathetically at her for several seconds, until it noticed that she wasn't actually responding at all. Normally people turned and ran, or at least fought back. This one was just standing there with a rather patronising look on her face.

It stopped its attack and cocked its head to one side as it studied the girl, confused.

Finally, she reacted to him. In a way.

"Go! Away!" she shouted, and punched the skeleton right in its grinning jaw. The skull flew off into the distance, and they could hear it bouncing along the corridor far away. The body raised its hands to where the head should be, as if it hadn't quite noticed what had happened, before it collapsed pathetically to the ground.

Rachel shook her hand to try and get some feeling back into it, then walked back to join the others.

"Come on," she said, starting to enjoy herself at last, "Let's get moving."

 

As they walked, Rachel talked to the rest of the party, trying to find out a bit more about what was really going on. Clive didn't seem all that eager to talk, and she didn't press the matter too much. Lilith, she learned, was actually an elf, and while she looked roughly fifteen she was actually eighty-nine years old. Rachel couldn't escape the feeling that Lilith had a bit of an evil streak to her- while she was definitely on the side of good, she seemed to take just a bit too much pleasure in the whole killing and destruction of the forces of darkness.

Next, Rachel sidled up to Lomax, who was brining up the rear and glancing nervously behind.

"Greetings, miss Moonstar." He said. "What's on your mind?"

"Listen, Lomax, what exactly am I doing here?" she asked

"Well, we're after a map that..."

"No, not here, I mean, why have I been brought to this world, why am I here?"

"Oh! Well, Maynard, Tassadar and I brought you to Spaerun to help recover the artefacts. We've seen your adventures through the crystal ball, and we thought you could be of great assistance. To be honest, it was mostly Tassadar's idea. He worked out how to do it."

"But why not Daisy or Gordon or.." Lomax was looking at her as if he didn't understand. "I mean, Niala or Thogor or Striker."

"Well, we liked you best. We thought that the great thief Haley would be a great asset to the party of adventurers working with the guild."

"Is the guild big?"

"Not very. Maynard is the Master Mage, and Tassadar and I are his apprentices. There are a few other mages, and Yvan, Lilith and Clive work for us. Our main task is to watch over the affairs of Spaerun and guard the Library."

"Library?"

"It contains all the collected knowledge of generations of Spaerunian Mages. There's all kinds of ancient and forgotten magic in there, and it's our job to research is and make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."

Rachel nodded as she took all of this in.

"But why did you actually bring me here?" she asked again.

 

When they finally found the central chamber of the crypt, they sent Rachel in first. She scanned the floor and walls and noticed a series of pressure plates surrounding an altar in the middle. She alerted the others to stay back, and went to work on dismantling them. They were nothing like the ones she'd worked with on Phantasy Quest, but she felt like she knew what she was doing anyway. Once she was satisfied they were safe, she threw a heavy stone that had fallen from the wall onto the plate- nothing happened..

"It's safe guys, come on." She called, and her companions ran up to the altar.

Lomax ran his hand along the underside edge of the polished marble, saying "According to Tassadar, there should be a secret compartment under here containing the map we're looking for. Ah, here we go!"

There was a clicking from the ancient mechanism as Lomax found a catch concealed in the stone, and a small wooden box fell into his waiting hand. The mage dusted it off and inspected it carefully.

"Locked." He said. "Haley, perhaps you could do the honours?"

Rachel took the box. There was no readily apparent lock on the surface, so she wasn't exactly sure where to start. As she turned it over and over, she noticed that it felt oddly heavy, as if...

She tapped the top of it a few times.

"Lomax," she asked "This map, it's just paper, right?"

The mage looked at her oddly, but replied "Yes, I believe so."

Rachel tapped the box again, listening to the sound it made.

"This block of wood is solid." She said at last. "It's not a box. There's nothing in it."

She dropped it on the floor and Clive, as if to make sure, hefted his axe and cleaved it neatly in two. There was no sign of any hollow that might have contained a map.

"But... Tassadar was so sure!" said Lomax, seemingly in shock. "He told me he'd scryed for it, it was definitely here."

Yvan knelt down to have a look beneath the altar.

"Lilith," he said "Try seeing if there's anything magical here, maybe the map is hidden somehow."

The young sorceress waved her staff around and chanted some mystical mumbo-jumbo, after which the two halves of the block started glowing faintly.

Yvan picked up the two halves.

"The glowing bits spell something" he said "Ha ha ha, heroes, you fell right into the trap... What does that mean?"

"It means I've got you out of the way long enough for me to accomplish my plan!" said a voice behind them. They turned round and saw the transparent, shadowy image of Tassadar standing there.

"Tassadar! What's going on?" demanded Lomax.

"I'm taking over, that's what's going on!" replied Tassadar's projected form. "If you want to see Master Maynard again, then I suggest you and the lovely miss Moonstar get back here right away." With that, he disappeared.

Lomax immediately began weaving a spell, and a few seconds later the five of them also vanished.

 

The Guild hall was in uproar, as servants ran all over the place trying to save precious texts and magical items from the fires that had been started all over. Monsters roamed the corridors as maids fled. The party appeared in the middle of all this confusion, narrowly missing a hail of arrows from a party of gnolls.

"According to my detection spells" said Lilith "Tassadar and Maynard are in the Library. Restricted section."

"The Restricted Section!" gasped Lomax. �What does he think he's doing there!?"

"What's the Restricted Section?" asked Yvan.

"That's where we keep all the really dangerous texts. Books and scrolls about powerful dark magic that we wanted to keep anyone from ever using."

Rachel shook her head sadly.

"Standard fantasy cliche number 169." She sighed "Why didn't you just destroy these things if they're so dangerous! But no, you leave them within easy reach of the psychopathic traitor and it comes back to haunt you. Pillocks."

Rachel noticed that the others were staring at her.

"Oh, let's just go get the bastard."

They fought their way through the halls until they came to the Library, where Tassadar had Maynard tied up against a row of large black books that were glowing with, against all probablility, a dark light.

"I'm glad you made it." Said Tassadar. "Now hand over Haley and get lost."

"Me?" said Rachel. "Why do you want me?"

"Don't ask questions, just get over here!" the renegade Mage screamed. Rachel got the impression that he was very stressed.

"Something's gone wrong, hasn't it?" she asked, smirking. "You had a brilliant plan all laid out and somehow it's all got fouled up. So what's the matter, Tassadar?"

"Nothing is wrong!" Tassadar shouted again, but Rachel didn't believe him. "Now shut up and come HERE!"

"Make me!" Rachel taunted him, and she ran off in the opposite direction. She didn't get far before she felt a bolt of energy slam into her back and start tugging her backwards.

"OK," she said, "So you can make me."

"Indeed I can. And soon I'll be able to do much more besides. With the help of this!" He produced a book from beneath his robes. It was back, with thick black metal bindings, raised black carvings forming strange black symbols, and words picked out in dark black ink. It was, without doubt, the most evil looking book Rachel had ever seen. Lomax and Maynard gasped when they saw it.

"The Kormahnshooth!" the Master Mage exclaimed.

"Exactly." Replied Tassadar. "I'm sure you all know what it does."

Lomax, Maynard, Yvan, Lilith and Clive all nodded sombrely. Rachel shook her head and looked at their faces to see if anyone was going to explain it to her. Apparently they were not.

Struggling against the invisible bonds that held her, Rachel tried desperately to stall Tassadar, to keep him talking in the hope that the others would come up with a plan. But how? Of course! She knew exactly how to keep the bad guy hanging around.

"So," she said. "You've got the book, whatever it is. What are you going to do with it?"

"Trying to get me to explain my plan are you, Haley?" said Tassadar mockingly. "That might work against the pathetic saps of bad guys in your world, but you won't get me that easily."

"Oh. Well, never mind. They didn't need long anyway."

"What?"

Clive finished cutting through the ropes that bound Maynard and the Master Mage stood up and began weaving a spell. Tassadar turned to strike at Maynard, but Yvan leapt to assault him, his sword slashing away. The deep wounds he left healed almost instantly, but they were distracting enough to attract Tassadar's attention.

"We can't hurt him!" Yvan shouted.

"He must have already used the book to make himself invincible." Explained Lomax. "We can't beat him in combat."

"Then we'll just have to try something else" said Maynard as he finished his spell and sent two bolts of magical energy spinning towards Tassadar. When they hit, he was surrounded by a yellow light that seemed to cling to him and hold him down.

"What was that?" Rachel asked Lilith.

"A binding spell." The elf replied. "It should stop Tassadar using any magic for a while."

"Yes, that is a pity." Said the renegade Mage. "Of course, it only affects me, so my magical amulet will still work. Villain's rule number 1- always have an escape route!"

Tassadar raised a charm from around his neck, which flashed and caused a portal of swirling energy to appear.

"You can run," Yvan said "But you won't get away with this. We'll hunt you down and we'll stop you. After all- we've got the legendary hero Haley Moonstar on our side."

Tassadar laughed, a hysterical laugh so strong that even the binding light couldn't prevent him throwing his head back as he roared.

"Hero? Her? Ha! No, I want to see this before I go. Come on then, Haley Moonstar. Tell them the truth. Tell them who you really are!"

Rachel felt a sudden surge of shame and embarrassment as the others all turned to look at her. Whatever magical confidence the ring had instilled in her earlier seemed to fade in that instant.

"What's he talking about Haley?" asked Lilith, sounding disappointed.

Rachel hung her head. "My name is Rachel Wonse. I'm an actress. There is no Haley Moonstar, I just played her in a... a kind of theatre. She doesn't exist. I'm not a hero."

Tassadar grinned triumphantly.

"That is your legendary adventurer! A mere story played out by fools. She won't help you! And this is only a minor delay to my plans. We'll meet again, you can count on it!"

With that he summoned up all his remaining strength and ran through the portal. Yvan made to stop him, but was too slow, and the vortex snapped shut before he could get there. The six of them were left alone in the silence.

 

Some time later, when everyone had recovered from the wounds and stresses of the battle, they all met up in the great hall of the Guild of Mages.

It was Maynard who spoke first.

"We are very sorry for our error, miss Mï...Miss Wonse." He said. "We had no way of knowing that the images we saw were from this... television you spoke of. I can only imagine what it must have been like to find yourself pulled out of your own world and brought somewhere so very different."

"It was a bit of a shock." Said Rachel, smiling.

"But, I am afraid, it seems we must apologise once more. It was Tassadar who did most of the actual work on the summoning spells, although in light of his treachery I am unsure exactly why he did so. It appears he wants something from you, but exactly what I could not say. In any case, he destroyed much of the vital research in the attack, and without his knowledge it may be quite some time before we find a way to send you back. For the time being you are, I'm sorry to say, stuck here."

"I thought as much." She replied. "I understand. It's not your fault Tassadar tricked you."

"What do you want us to do?" asked Yvan "Don't forget we're still going after Tiamat, do we have to worry about Tassadar as well?"

"I'm afraid you probably do." Said Lomax. "He did say he'd be back, and I believe he will probably make another attempt to capture Rachel."

"But we simply don't have the resources to locate the artefacts and defend her." Said Lilith. "We can't afford to compromise. How are we going to search Spaerun and keep her safe?"

 

Haley Moonstar's Phantasy Quest - Chapter 1 - Cancelled © James 'BlackMageJawa' Davis

Migrate Wizard: 
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Tarot Redhand

This is seriously corrupted. There must be over a hundred of the mysterious triplet of characters "�" in it. These replace certain punctuation characters such as ", ', ..., etc.

TR

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Turkeys (not verified)

Yeah, a lot of them have this to varying degrees for some reason. It's the same on the Rolovault copies. It's usually the ones that are dialogue-heavy, but I can't understand how they would get corrupted, unless they tried some sort of unique formatting. There's also some of them with dialogue that don't display the corruption which is odd.

A quick Google search of the characters brought up a ton of results, so it's a common issue. It's apparently related to character encoding so I tried opening up the page source and just testing different types. It only changes what the corrupted characters look like instead of fixing it. The characters appear to be related to something called Latin-1 for character encoding. I tried running portions of it through a UTF-8 to Latin converter back and forth and it cleaned it up a bit, but there was still some errors. I've fixed it manually instead.

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