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TBOS: Round 2, Part 7iii. Anna
It was feeling really fucking crowded in here.
It had been bad enough with one presence in her head, especially when she barely knew what had been going on outside of it. There had been the vague glimpses of action, a few flashes of things happening that she'd been too slow to prevent. Shooting Todorov, for example. At least the Archetype, or the form of the revenge-seeking farmgirl or whatever the hell she was supposed to be, had been a decidedly worse shot than Anna herself was. She hadn't been able to see what had happened him, but he wasn't dead, which was something she felt oddly relieved about.
And now there was something else trying to enter her mind, although this one felt less like an invasion and more like someone knocking and pushing the door open. It didn't matter, anyway; she didn't have the mental strength to resist, and it came flooding in.
That wasn't the strange part. The strange part was that it felt--comforting, maybe, or warm, a sh
TBOS: Round 2, Part 6i. Hazel
She had thought that perhaps the scenery would change after a while--replaced with what, precisely, she didn't know. Certainly not more sagebrush and tumbleweed, and yet more clear blue sky as far as the eye could see.
But she had no real complaints. Even if some subconscious part of her knew the desert they were riding through was only made up of words, subject to change at the whim of the Book, she found herself not caring. If this was a prison, it was a far better one than the one she'd been trapped in for three years--and even then it wasn't a prison, not really, not when she'd chosen to be here. Not when she'd chosen to help, and not when the fresh air and the open landscape and even the rough bouncing she endured in the saddle were, as far as she was concerned, the best kind of freedom there was.
She snuck a glance at Reinald, who had edged slightly in front of her on the path out of Noatak. He, too, was clearly unused to riding a horse, and his posture was stiff
TBOS: Round 2, Part 5Because it was quite clear to the two Champions that they would not be getting through the desert on foot, their next stop was the stables. Hazel didn't ask how her newfound companion was going to afford horses, or where he'd gotten the money he used to purchase the supplies at the general store. She knew she wouldn't like the answer. Although a small part of her insisted that the citizens of the town were projections of the Book, the rest of her couldn't help but think of them as people.
She kept a close eye out for him the entire walk to the stables, oblivious to Reinald's questioning looks. Only when they'd reached the place, with no one but the stablehands in sight, did she allow herself to relax--and only a fraction. Her mind would be at ease only after they left the town far behind.
Hazel left the bartering to Reinald--whom, she discovered, drove quite a vicious bargain--and before long they were leading their new horses to the edge of town. It was time to figure out where
TBOS: Round 2, Part 4The space in her head was pitch-black and smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. She tried to move her arms--her legs--and found she couldn't, though whether it was because she had been somehow restrained or because she didn't have arms or legs to move was anyone's guess. Probably both.
"Fucking typical," she said aloud. At least her mouth was cooperating today. There was no response.
Something had gone wrong here. Last time, she'd at least been able to see out of her own eyes, even if she hadn't been able to control herself. Now it seemed even that was out of the question. She sneered into the darkness, doing her level best to hide her unease.
Where was she? What had happened back there? Everything had gone dark after she'd successfully redirected that second shot. She was surprised she'd gotten away with it. But the shot after that...
Some long-disused part of her mind wondered what had happened to Todorov. If he was all right, or if he was lying out there in the desert somewhere with a
TBOS: Round 2, Part 3It had been half an hour since Hazel had lost sight of the bird. Though her new body coursed with a strength she hadn't felt in years, she couldn't quite keep up with the creature's desperate flight. Lacking the endurance to continue at a run, she had long since slowed down to a brisk walk. At least that infernal itching had stopped. It had subsided when she'd arrived in this world, much to her relief.
The cool air of the desert morning was rapidly giving way to the rays of the rising sun. She hoped she would reach her destination--wherever that might be--before the heat became too oppressive. She had no compass, no map, no guide to point her in the right direction, but she had a feeling she'd get to where she needed to be. Crossing paths with Sara and Marx so soon after she'd entered the Book, as well as finding two more Champions immediately after they landed in this world, couldn't have been mere coincidence. It seemed as if the Book had its way of getting people to the right place
TBOS: Round 2, Part 2Six Hours Earlier
Being sucked into the whirlpool felt different this time. Before, there had been the sense of parchment brushing against exposed skin, and the black tendrils pulling at Reinald's limbs had felt like watercolors slapped on paper. Now, as the darkness overtook him once more, the world suddenly turned drier, and the tendrils crumbled and broke like lines of charcoal as they wrapped themselves around him and pulled him into the deep.
An eternity seemed to pass, and then suddenly there was ground underneath his feet as if it had always been there. He half-stumbled as the floodwaters receded. Anna was crouched a short distance away, looking as shaken as he felt.
Slowly, as the waves pulled further away, the world began to resolve itself into thin black lines. Last time, Reinald had been too preoccupied with the utter incomprehensibility of falling into a book to notice the process. Now he watched in quiet fascination as the ground came into focus--grey, as
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