Chapter IX

     The deity sat among the clouds, watching over the people who lived their lives below. There was a stillness in the air, and he couldn't quite figure out why. He watched then, as everything below stopped, and all the faces of the world below looked up and straight at him. But how could they see him? Although he had been miles above, he now found that he was within arm's reach of the people, who reached up and tore him down from his perch. They began to tear at his clothing, and he could now see that they weren't all people, but multi-limbed creatures with hair and scales and weapons. He shouted up to the sky. He could see other gods above, now turning their backs to him and leaving. The other Recent, his companion, stood... laughing... He began to writhe in fear and pain as the creatures tore into his skin with their claws.
     "Oof! Wha...?" The boy awoke in a cold sweat beside his bed on the floor of the guest room. He could feel pain in the back of his head where he had landed on the cold stone. For a moment he felt relaxed to return to reality, but then panicked once more with the realization of his situation in this reality. He was still mortal, and still doomed to the World of Affliction.
     He climbed back into the bed, but unable to fall back asleep, the boy emerged once more and left the room. He began to traverse the halls of the castle, and hearing noises from a particular direction, began to follow.
     The boy found the brothers Psycho sparring in the main hall. Jester stood to the side, half observing as he polished his dagger. The boy too began to watch the two battle each other.
     "Come on, Ex, you can put more into it than that!"
     "You don't get tired, do you?" panted the younger Psycho." Taking a swift overhead swing, his sickle was blocked by the shaft of the battleaxe.
     "Haven't had any reason to yet, actually," teased the elder. Noticing the boy's presence, Dangerously vaulted over his brother to greet him. "Slept well, I hope?"
     "Yeah," lied the boy. "Are you expecting somebody?"
     "No," responded the uninterested Jester without looking up. "This routine starts off each day. Feel like some exercise yourself?" he added with a grin.
     "Um... no thanks."
     "What is your weapon of choice, anyway?" asked Extremely. "You weren't very good with that crossbow to begin with, and.. OUCH!" His older brother had elbowed him in the side.
     "What he means is, what are you most proficient with? You didn't even have a blade in the market, which I assume is why you were fleeing that regenerative."
     The boy knew very well that he had never touched a weapon before the crossbow of the previous day. Never having had a use for such things within the society of the gods, this experience was introducing him to many unforseen facets of life and imposing new requirements upon him. "I'm... not very experienced with much of anything."
     "Hmm..." Lord Psycho seemed displeased with this response. "This is going to have to change if you plan to travel far within the Bane World."
     "Yeah, well, I'm not quite used to all of this."
     "So where in this new land do you plan to travel next?"
     "I don't really know enough about this place yet to..."
     The boy immediately froze. What in the hell am I saying???
     "It's ok," stated the grinning Lord Psycho. Jester and Extremely glanced at each other in the sudden tension and confusion. "It's not something you'll be able to hide easily. You have nothing to fear from us, however. We are curious as to how you were able to arrive here, in the World of Affliction that is. You don't have to speak now if you're uncomfortable, though."
     "Um..." Being put on the spot like that was, nonetheless, very uncomfortable for the boy, who stood in an uneasy silence.
     "We are just curious, you must understand," reaffirmed the elder as he turned to his brother. "Shall we continue, Ex?"
     "By all means," responded the brother, glancing over toward the boy. "Go and have some breakfast, if you wish. Jester, bring him to the banquet hall."
     "Yessir!" The harlequin bounded to the doorway. The boy hastily followed him.

     "Never did catch your name, you know."
     "Huh?" This statement caught the nervous boy off guard.
     "Are you at all ready to trust us here yet?" queried Jester.
     "Um, I honestly don't know what I should be called," responded the boy.
     "Well, then, it looks as though we have to make one up for you!" decided Jester. "Anything in mind?"
     "Make up a name for me?" The boy realized that wherever he went from thereafter, having a name would simplify things incredibly.
     "How about something simple?" suggested Jester. "How about I or Confused or, dare I suggest, Normal?"
     "Is everyone here named as an adjective?" wondered the boy aloud.
     "Well, no. My name's an occupation. Then there're those Interrogatives. And one shouldn't forget Mad Adam."
     "Mad Adam?" queried the boy.
     "Of course. Mad Adam is a palindrome."
     "Can't I have a more inconspicuous name?"
     "Anything less would probably stand out, but there have been those who adopt names frequent of human Earth. Would you like something like Arthur, or Robin, Bedevere, Tim, or Galahad? How about Zoot?
     "No, Who is taken, last I've heard."
     "No, I meant... oh, never mind. You said Tim?"
     "Well, maybe you'd like something along the lines of..."
     "No, no," interrupted the boy. "I think I'll just go by Tim."
     "Really? Well, I'm sure I could come up with a few better..."
     "Trust me, just Tim is fine," affirmed the boy. "How far are we from the banquet hall anyway?"
     "Oh, we've gone past it twice already. I just wanted to keep talking." Jester threw open the double doors to the room with the long table and stained glass. Due to the morning hour, little light came in through the west-facing windows, and the room now contained numerous dark shadows.
     "Why's it so dark in here?" questioned Tim.
     "Lord Psycho never was much of a morning person. They rarely use this room for breakfast anyway. In fact, the Lord used to go out and catch his own lunch every day before noon. Would you like anything in particular?"
     Recalling the various meats he'd experienced previously, he replied, "Do you have any bread?"
     "Yeah, I think..."
     The conversation was brought to a sudden halt as a fireball screamed past the two and destroyed a chair in a massive explosion.
     "Get down, boy!" shouted Jester. "The Castle Psycho has another challenger, or so it would appear!" Jester pulled out his dagger and flipped up onto the table. The boy, after a half a moment of surprise, scrambled underneath it.
     "Ok, who's there?" shouted the harlequin. "Who dares invade the domain of the Psycho brothers?"
     His question was responded with another blast which opened a crater in the table where he had been standing. Jester's forward flip landed him within clear view of the antagonist. Clinging to the far wall was a shadowy figure with two gemlike eyes peering over the room. With his discovery, the creature spoke with a low, rasping voice.
     "My quarrel here is not with you, or with your psychotic allies, joker. The Prophets seek the death of the transgressor you have been harboring, and I will deliver him to them, even if I must tear a path through you to do so."
     "I warn you not to underestimate my abilities," replied Jester. Avoiding a third fiery projectile, he leapt to the side wall and launched himself, dagger forward, into the demon. But like a shadow, the creature moved along the wall, inhabiting another dark region past the corner. Jester's blade lodged itself within the wall where the beast had been.
     "Well, you're a fast one!" shouted Jester.
     "My power lies not in my speed," retorted the creature as he threw another stream of fire at the harlequin. Jester bounded away as the wall around his dagger was scorched and became soft with the heat. The room had become darker than it was a few moments before, and preparing for another attack, Jester noticed Tim emerge on the other side of the room.
     "Ah, there's the one I seek! Enough toying with you, joker."
     "Tim! What are you doing?!" The boy was walking toward the creature with a stern look on his face. The creature moved quickly to envelop the boy, who disappeared on contact.
     "What the...?" rasped the demon. Suddenly, a portion of the wall vanished as well, revealing the stained glass window which had always been there. "No! This is a trick!" The creature seemed stunned by the little light which cascaded onto him through the glass. Then, confidently, the Drum Boy entered the room. Walking to the ornate window and pulling out a large mallet, the man shattered the glass, allowing light to pour in onto the beast. "Aaaaarrgh! The light! You... this cannot be!" The creature, like a shadow, faded in the morning light.

[Chapter VIII] [Chapter X]
Last page update: 10-10-98