Chapter 2: The Bouncer at the Noplace Room
by Jeff Grubb
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Origins of the Gods: A number of theories attempt to explain the origin of the gods. The sage Ellasmius of Torgapella has stated that the gods are the perfect forms of the universe, of which all the nature of reality is merely the slightest shadow. Trianna Golston of the University of Blint, on the other hand, believes the gods to be ancient mortal creatures that have attained total enlightenment and with that enlightenment total power. And Kirrixar the Library Wyrm has declared that the gods are really only conceptual manifestations brought into reality through the force of mortal thought, as protection from a random and uncaring universe.

Such difference would make for interesting theological discussion, but Ellasmius thinks Trianna is a wingnut, Trianna thinks Ellasmius is a moonbat, and neither one is willing to answer Kirrixar's calls.

-- Amandar's Great Big Book of Divine Power

"I am SO busted," said Rust, the Minor Lordling of Oxidation, Child of Decay (House of Fire), and Demigod of Weakness in Metals. He looked forlornly into the great hole in the side of the mountain.

"No panic," said Jest, stepping over the threshold and into the darkness. He tipped his hat back on his head. "Just a little cosmetic damage."

"Cosmetic?" sputtered the taller deity. "I broke the door I was supposed to be fixing!"

"A little atomic reconstructing, a bit of paint, it'll be as good as new," said Jest. The area beyond the doors was a dark, rune-covered floor. "That's odd."

"Come out of there," said Rust.

"Where's the harm?" said Jest. "This just feels odd. Like I stepped into a cool shadow."

"Exactly. Now come out of there."

"Well, it's not like cool, and not like shadow," mused the lanky godling. "And there's no echo. So what is it?"

"It's the orichalcum." Rust followed Jest into the darkness. "We should get out of here and tell one of the elders. Crap. I am SO busted."

Jest looked around. "Orky-what?"

"Ore-eh-KALL-kum," Rust enunciated the word slowly. "It's a magical metal, created by the Atlanteans. Pretty damned impervious, except to more orichalcum. The stuff also limits all detection, including godly senses."

Jest's brow furrowed. "You're right. Usually I can feel the presence of the rest of my house, all of them out there, somewhere, being creative. But now, it's like a door's been closed on them." His lean face brightened. "This is so cool!"

Rust glowered. "I am glad that you're pleased."

Jest smiled. "You don't know the half of it. The Artistic House has to be the biggest bunch of stuffed shirts in the megaverse." The young godling looked around, as if expecting to be smacked by a godly bolt from the blue. When nothing happened, he chuckled. "You don't know what it's like having people looking over your shoulder all the time."

"You'd be surprised," said Rust, kneeling. He ran his fingertips along the rune-carved interior wall. The inscribed surface curved inward as it gained height. "This chamber may be a hemisphere."

"No echo," said Jest.

"That's the orichalcum as well," said Rust.

"Cool beans," muttered Jest. "You seem to know a lot about this stuff."

"I've been on a first-name basis with its molecular bonds for the past two hours," sighed Rust. "But I don't think I can put this back together again by myself."

"Yeah. Great acoustics, though," said Jest, ignoring him. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted. "HELLO! ANYBODY HOME?"

"Stop that!" snapped Rust. He ran his hands along the crumbling edge of the opening, and streams of metallic dust cascaded down at his slightest touch. "Crap. How am I going to explain this?"

"What's to explain?" said Jest, smiling into the darkness. "We broke it. We fix it. No one's the wiser."

"Orichalcum's hard to work with, even for gods," said Rust." That's why I was having such a hard time pulling the rust from it in the first place. Most of the house wouldn't even want to deal with it. The elders are so going to bust a vein about this. I'm going to be demoted. Put in charge of Verdigris or something."

"I could create an illusion for the moment," said Jest, tapping his chin. "Just to cover it up and keep out the curious. It would look just like the opening. Or better yet -- police tape! No one ever messes with police tape. Hang on, what's that?" He looked out into the darkness.

"What's what?' said Rust, but he felt it too, in the balls of his feet. A heavy vibration. Then a second, and a third, each stronger and closer.

"It's coming from --" Jest started to say, but the creature burst into view.

It charged the both of them, a giant made of the same dark metal as the now-destroyed door. It towered over the smaller gods and was as wide as it was tall. Plates and girders of orichalcum, each inscribed deeply with runes, covered its body. Its head was that of Duocorn, twin spikes rising out from a savage, bestial snout. Beneath the snout a heavy underslung jaw bristled with fangs.

"Look ou --" managed Jest, before the beast grabbed the young god with a rune-covered mitt and casually tossed him over its shoulder, into the darkness beyond. The prank-god managed a brief scream before disappearing.

The creature did not slow down in the slightest, but barreled into Rust. The young godling stood his ground and braced for impact. For his trouble he was dragged ten feet by the beast, before it shrugged him to one side and charged off into the darkness again.

The tremors in the ground grew fainter, and the charging creature's back disappeared into the darkness.

"Okay," muttered Rust. "He got the drop on you. No biggie. But he's got to come back."

The ground beneath the godling's feet gave a small shudder, then a second and third. The thundering creature was returning.

Rust growled and his hands glowed a flickering umber. If the creature was made of orichalcum, then he could take it apart the same way he has destroyed the door.

Only this time it was on purpose.

Now Rust heard something else. Jest's shouts were coming from the same direction as the heavy footfalls.

"The little fool," spat the rusting god. "Hope he knows enough to get out of the way."

But when the creature appeared again, Jest was straddled on the metal giant's shoulders, furiously beating the sides of its head with his hat. The creature's head swiveled around to snap at him, but he managed to keep clear of the fangs.

The beast was bearing down on Rust again. The godling braced himself for the impact and raised his hands, brownish red oxidation dripping from his fingers.

Jest saw what was about to happen, shoved his hat over the creature's eyes, and jumped free.

God and creature collided, and for a just a moment, Rust held him, the radiance of his fingers pressed into the beast's metallic flesh.

The creature screamed, but its metallic flesh did not rust. Instead the runes gave off a bluish radiance and the metal held.

Rust managed a curse as the creature plowed him backward. The young godling rolled out of the way as the creature thudded by and disappeared once more into the darkness.

Jest ran up and pulled him to his feet. "What is that thing?" he said.

"Guardian golem," snarled Rust. "Made of Orichalcum, like the doors."

"So why didn't you work your hoo-doo on it and turn it into a pile of frosted rust flakes?"

Rust sighed. "Additional magics. That's the runes at work, making it more resistant. Makes sense, since anyone who could get through the doors would then have to deal with the guardian."

Jest looked into the darkness. "Well, the room is like a big circular racetrack, a doughnut with a big fat column at the center. The hornhead golem is running around counterclockwise."

"We'll have a minute before he comes back. We should go."

Jest looked around for his hat. "Hang on, why?"

"Because I can't stop it, and you can't stop it. We go for help."

"And let it get out? We can do better than that." Jest scowled at the darkness. "Cut me a piece of the door and I'll explain."

Half a minute later the ground thundered again with the sound of the approaching golem. As it charged toward the opening, it saw the tall, strong godling framed in the sunlight.

The beast let out a bellow, lowered its head, and descended on Rust.

Rust stood his ground until almost the last moment. Then his image flickered and changed to that of Jest, armed with a jagged shard of the door.

The great beast tried to correct for the smaller target, but stumbled.

Jest brought the shard of orichalcum up and cut deeply into the beast's side. The blue light blossomed but the incision the godling made remained, revealing a hollow interior.

"Now, Rust!" shouted Jest. The beast caught him with a rune-covered fist and the thinner god danced into the darkness.

Rust stepped up from the shadows of the doorway. He sank his hands into the blue-limned gap Jest had carved -- into the heart of the golem.

And he began to pull it apart at the atomic level.

The creature roared and raised a fist to smash his assailant. But Rust was now rotting the creature from within. Even as it raised its fist, it was beginning to fall apart -- its arm, head, and shoulders collapsing into a pile. Finally its double-horned head evaporated in a cloud of red ash.

In a moment, it was over. The creature was nothing but a pool of reddish dust, mixed with bits of blue crystal.

"Great," said Rust. "More damage."

"Think of it as an opportunity for greater repair," said Jest, walking out of the darkness, dusting off his hat. The crown had been pierced by one of the creature's horns. "Pity, I just got this hat the way I like it."

"We have to go for help. Who knows what else is in here."

"We nailed the watchdog," said Jest. "And I don't think there is anything else present. Just a big empty room that is protected from other gods eavesdropping on us."

Rust looked at him. "What are you thinking?"

"I think we can repair this," said Jest. "And not tell the elders."

"Us? No way, maybe Hammer could, or Storm."

"So we get them. Get a whole bunch of the young folks. We'll make it a repair party. And if we leave the door open a bit so we can come back later . . ."

Rust stroked his chin. "It would be a safe crash pad."

"No elders checking up on us."

"I don't know . . ."

"You can go to the elders, then. Should I start calling you the Demigod of Verdigris? Or maybe Tarnish?"

Rust grimaced. "I don't think you can get the others."

"Leave everything to me," said Jest. "I'll tell them it's a party, but the price tag is a little godly miracle working. And what we need right now is a miracle."

Rust was quiet for a moment, and then said, "You'll invite Sand?"

Jest laughed. "I will round up the usual suspects. I'll tell her you asked for her. Okay, here's the deal. You stay here and make sure there's nothing else here. I'm going to spread the word. Repair Party at the Noplace Room! Okay?"

"You think this will work?"

"Trust me," said Jest, stepping back out of the opening. Immediately, he could feel the distant powers of his native pantheon, faint voices across the interdimensional void, familial voices in other rooms.

"Be careful," scowled Rust. "And don't let the elders find out."

"No worry. Just think 'Party, Party', and everything will work out," said the godling of pranks.

"Just be careful," repeated Rust.

"Party, party," Jest whispered to himself, smiled, and winked into another dimension.

To be continued...


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