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Ahmose in Worm
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Ahmose sits in his parents' old bedroom, tinkering with his spell.

He has enough money for almost two more years before he has to sell the house and go back to the city to work doing laundry. He probably doesn't have enough patience for that, though. Even here in this little village in the middle of nowhere, he can't bear to look half his neighbors in the face. This one has trouble feeding her children; this family had to sell their field to get through the drought. This man is marrying his daughter to a man she hates; this one doesn't care if his pretty new wife hates him, if their neighbors and future children hear her cry every night. An extra son goes to seek his fortune in the city, and doesn't come back; another has his leg bitten off by a lizard and gives up on starting a family.

Ahmose is aware, abstractly, that somewhere out there are good and happy people. He just can't bear to spend his time with them, because they keep reminding him of everyone else. So he sits in the empty house his parents left him when they died of the plague, and he tinkers.

 

He went to Sothis, after his parents died. It was alien, overwhelming, almost incomprehensible.

But he made it to Nethys' temple, and paid what little he could afford to read their books. Nothing they said made any sense. He didn't have a spellbook or a "scaffold"; he couldn't read scrolls. He could make lights and do the laundry, but he wasn't a sorcerer because he frankly wasn't splendid enough, and because - he could also do this, poke holes in the world, something every book and every mage he talked to insisted was impossible - a lie - something no spell could do, let alone a cantrip, and he didn't dare show them what he had then, because he had no idea what they'd do with it, or with him.

His time in Sothis did teach him one thing: selling his work to Abadar's wasn't enough. They were supposed to work to make everyone richer, because a rising tide lifts all boats. And Sothis was rich - unimaginably rich in places, palaces and gardens that must have taken thousands of men years to build. But there were still starving beggars in the streets, crime after dark, slaves lashed, women married off like chattel. The rich didn't use their wealth to help others. Why should Axis be any better, just because some of its people were richer yet? 

The church might pay him a lot of money, which he could use to help a lot of people. He's probably an evil man for not doing that already. But the minute he does, it'll be out of his hands. They'll give his work to a better wizard, and that will be the end of it, for him at least. This is the only thing he'll ever have that matters and he's terrified of getting it wrong. So he went back to this empty house where he can always hear his mother's voice around the corner, and swore to do better. He has to focus and work on this damn spell until he can't think straight, day after day, until he has something to show for it.

For today, the plan is to figure out why his spell refuses to behave like a "gate" is supposed to and go to other planes.

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Elsewhere:

 

"Everyone leaving the bank!  Get down on the ground now!" he calls, trying not to let his nervousness show through. Grue's darkness is unnerving to watch -- billowing like smoke one moment, and then flowing like liquid the next. He tenses, ready to react.

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She starts pulling on the space around them, widening the street and pinching off the sidewalks. The tension of holding a bubble around the back of the bank sits in her head, but she can manage it. The Undersiders would not be getting away this time. The villains were slippery, but this time her team had a plan. As long as she could keep them tied up here long enough, Clockblocker could freeze the dogs, and then they could finally take them in.

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See, if he pokes the spell like this and tells it to go not a mile in space but a "mile" somewhere else, and spends all his power to open a much smaller portal than that would usually get him -

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Absolutely not. Portals without using any diamonds or powdered pit fiends or anything? Not on My watch.

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No, wait! Don't squish him just for trying to go places!

...how about We let him go out of Creation? Then it won't be Your problem that he has cool cheap magic.

 

Go, little butterfly flying squirrel! Fly, be free!

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He has to use all his power, and squint in the right metaphorical direction, before the portal finally opens. On the other side is a calm river, under a dark blue sky with piercingly bright stars. 

A sudden blast of air strikes his back and lifts him up and through the portal. Ahmose barely has time to fold into a ball to avoid touching the portal's sides. 

 

No no no, go back, he didn't mean to step through -

But the wind is still blowing out of the portal, and it's hanging a foot above the waterline. There's no way for him to climb back into it, he'd lose his hand if he tried.

He treads water and screams for help, but no-one comes, and he's growing tired. This river is as large as the Sphinx at Sothis, and very salty; he can't see the shores, and doesn't want to swim for his life in strange waters.

He can't open another portal back without closing this one first; it took all his power.

He can't use this portal. He might as well close it. And then he'll do his best to focus while swimming (badly) and also in fear for his life, and open a portal right beneath himself, in the only orientation he safely go through.

Doing this means he falls through it once it opens, and water starts pouring furiously on his head until he closes it.

Unfortunately, he isn't back home.

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He falls into darkness, hitting something hard. Rough stone, perhaps.

The place is strangely quiet -- the rush of water seeming distant even as it pours over his head.

The ground under him is smooth and level, suggesting that he's probably indoors. It is too even to be a natural cave.

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"That should give them a reason to think twice before blindly opening fire where they can’t see," Grue remarks, starting to turn back to his teammates. He pauses, and stares into his darkness. "What the fuck?"

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"One of the heroes?" Tattletale asks. "No. A hostage?"

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"Some guy dressed in robes and drenched," Grue tells her. "Skitter, try and get a bug on him. Bitch, we don't know what he's capable of, so be careful. But it doesn't look like he's doing much right now."

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Tattletale thinks for a moment, while Bitch whistles for her dogs, and then they charge into the darkness. Tattletale snaps out of her stupor.

"No, wait!" she calls. "Damn it. They're going to get slaughtered. We'll just have to be fast"

"Grue!" she shouts. "Aegis and Clockblocker switched!"

She turns and runs deeper into the bank.

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Aaagh scary magical darkness?

He'll try to... carefully crawl out of it, in an essentially random direction, and hope he's not going in circles.

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He sets his hand on somebody's clothed leg, which spasms in surprise, nearly kicking him in the face. 

The darkness pulls back, leaving wisps and tatters curling around his hands. There is no sudden brightness, because the world outside the darkness reveals itself as cloudy and overcast. He is surrounded by impossibly tall buildings. He is on the edge of a large flat area, paved with even black stone, although the edges of it shimmer and move like a soapbubble.

Several brightly and strangely dressed people stand on the opposite end of the flat area. One of them shouts something in a language he doesn't speak.

The woman whose leg he touched looks at him in fear, but stays huddled to the ground, her hands behind her head.

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"...blocker," he tells Bitch. He throws a hand in Vista's direction, covering her in a fresh blast of darkness.

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"Sorry! Sorry!" He snatches his hand back, and then backs up a few steps to be sure. "I didn't mean to touch you! I was just trying to get out of the darkness!"

Is anyone else looking at him? Do they seem to be shouting at him?

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It's hard to tell! There is certainly a lot of shouting going on, but it seems like it is mostly pretty general.

Of the brightly dressed people, one in a red-and-white skintight suit appears to be trying to tackle a monster. The monster is being directed by a woman with her hair cut short who sits astride it. The man in the white costume covered with arrows is being mauled by another monster, while a man in blue tries to assist.

A man in full plate is pointing vaguely in his direction and shouting, but it's hard to tell where he's looking because of the face mask. Actually, he might notice that everyone who is fighting has their face covered in some way.

Another man in full plate goes tumbling off some kind of flying shield, smacking into the smooth black surface of the road, but not before knocking a man in well made black leather armor to the ground with some kind of spell.

The other men and women cowering on the ground around him are mostly too busy looking at the fight to be looking at him, and too busy being terrified to do much shouting.

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Monsters!! ...but also, people fighting on their side? Bandits? Evil adventurers?

He's practiced for this. Well, "practiced", in his head and on probably-innocent not-quite-monstrous crocs on the riverbank who weren't savaging anyone just at the moment.

They're moving too quickly for him to cut their heads off, and he doesn't know anything that's a mile from here that he can use, but he can - spend three seconds opening a portal under the one mauling that man? And if its leg falls into the sudden hole, he'll close it and the monster will have one less leg to stand on, and hopefully that'll be enough for the man on the ground to get away.

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Judas is entirely too focused on his task to be distracted, because he is a Good Dog. And good dogs maul when the Alpha says maul.

Which means he is taken entirely by surprise when his left forepaw sinks into the ground. He tries to pull back, but it's too late.

He totters on three legs and lets out a pained, panicked bark as the Biteable Man pulls away, and then wheels to regroup with his pack.

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Aegis sees the dog go down, and quickly takes advantage, but he didn't see who put the portal in place.

"There's an unknown," he tells his team. "They took off a dog's leg with a portal."

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"I think I see him!" Gallant responds, loosing a blast of apathy at Regent. He thinks his aim was on this time, but Regent doesn't seem to react. "He's with the hostages."

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Oh good, that worked! He'll try to get all the other monsters' legs. It's quicker than trying to swallow up a whole monster; big portals take longer to open.

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She lets out a sharp whistle, and Angelica pivots under her, incidentally dodging another tackle.

She takes in Judas's injured state, and growls deep in her throat.

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Grue fills the area with another wave of darkness, getting away from Kid Win, who pivots wildly, looking for someone he can target. He releases a shot at Regent, but the shot goes wide and hits the bank's facade.

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Ahmose manages to get Angelica's back right leg, prompting Bitch to roll off of her and come up cursing.

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Which is when Ahmose find himself covered in a swarm of bugs. They aren't stinging, but they are trying to climb inside his nose.

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