Disclaimer: Jean M Auel is a wonderful author, with a talent for description that many can only pray to emulate. I am most definitely not her, and therefore nothing in this fanfiction is owned by me, except the Society and my own agent.
A/N: Y'know I'm getting rather tired of repeating myself over and over again. But this is a fanfiction for the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. If you are not familiar with us, this fic won't make a lot of sense. Sorry if I got your hopes up for nothing.
Not sure how happy I am with this fic...I like bits of it, but I really don't like others...eh. I'll say its average overall.
This takes place about two years after Shelters of Stone.
And now, on with the show.
Insert Ancient Cro-Magnon Civilization Here
The two healers of the Ninth Cave lifted their heads to see the tall blonde form of Jondalar enter the dwelling. The drape allowed them both a glimpse of the crowd gathering outside the entrance to the cave, and both of them were immediately intrigued. Something was definitely going on.
Ayla placed the plants she had been preparing to one side, and picked up Jonayla from where she was crawling across the floor. Zelandoni got up slowly from her stool, observing the young man in the doorway.
"Jondalar. What has happened?"
Not wasting a breath, Jondalar explained. "Willamar and Tivonan found a woman unconscious, not too far from Down River. They're bringing her in now."
The donier moved quickly, in spite of her size, pushing aside the red ochre she had been grinding, and clearing a space for the incoming patient. Ayla seized her medicine bag in readiness, and handed a squirming Jonayla to her mate. Jondalar understood he was to watch her while Ayla helped Zelandoni with the stranger.
Willamar appeared in the doorway, smiling warmly at Jondalar and Ayla, before pushing the drape open all the way, to allow Tivonan to enter. In his arms, he cradled a pale, incredibly delicate looking young woman. Her hair was a fair blonde which seemed to shine even in the dim light of the dwelling, and her face had a distinctly foreign look about it. She wore strange clothing, the likes of which none of them had ever seen before, but that did not disguise the body beneath – she was very thin, and it was easy to see from her frame that she lacked physical strength.
Ayla wondered who her people were, and how she had come to be alone. Surely someone this frail looking could not have been living by herself – there was no way she would have survived. Was she ill? If she was, it would be important to find out, if they were to treat her effectively. Her thoughts settled there, and she pushed everything else out of her mind, and began assisting Zelandoni in assessing if she had any injuries.
Jondalar was also staring, but for another reason. The mysterious woman was breathtakingly beautiful. Despite her strange clothing and apparent vulnerability as she was settled down, no one could deny that she was completely, and unbelievably...
The daughter of his hearth squirmed in his arms, still uncomfortable at being picked off the floor and held, when all she wanted to do was play and explore. Jondalar's attention returned to her, and he felt an unexpected flush of guilt for standing and staring like a fool. Tivonan was explaining to Zelandoni just what had happened, and Jondalar felt Willamar's hand on his arm. His mother's mate gave him a reassuring smile, and guided a confused, and anxious Jondalar out of the dwelling.
"Gang way! Coming through!"
The tall blonde Society leader barrelled into the main reading room, not bothering to shut the door behind her. Too impatient to go around the sofa, like a normal person, she proceeded to clamber over the back of the furniture, between Jess and Harriet. It was a surprise to no one that she appeared to have run all the way from Real Life to get here on time.
"You're just in time," Ossa assured her, passing the bucket of popcorn over to Rhia, and turning the volume up on BBC HD, in time to hear the pleasant female voice happily announce that Doctor Who was about to start and that everyone should hide behind the sofa for it.
"What did I miss?" Emily scurried through the door, kicked it shut behind her, and plopped down on the floor next to Dave.
"Not a thing," Dave assured her. "How's your arm?"
Emily shot Harriet a filthy look over her shoulder. "Painful."
The leader shrugged. "You'll thank me when we have a mumps epidemic."
After the scare Lily had given the entire Society, Harriet had immediately begun panicking about Emily's state of health. It had needed Valerie to calmly point out that Emily was not a full Mary-Sue yet, and after three colds, two flus, and a bad case of food poisoning, had shown that unlike Lily, she had a normal immune system. Unfortunately for Emily, Harriet correctly assumed that she had never had any vaccinations either, and so Emily had been strapped to the bed, while Valerie and Phoenixia had brought her up to date with tetanus, diphtheria, MMR, polio and meningitis.
The main problem with this had been that Emily was terrified of needles.
"Poor girl..." Rhia patted her on the head, and Emily munched on popcorn.
"Ugh...sugar cube didn't do anything. I can still taste the polio drops..."
"Shh!" Aimee hissed. "You're drowning the Doctor out!"
They had about three minutes of peace, but as the show's theme began to play, it was interrupted by a beep from Tash's communicator.
"I thought we said no mobile phones, communicators, laptops or pagers in the reading room during this most sacred time?" Jess placed her hands on her hips and frowned. Leonard, seeing Tash pull out her communicator, became very excited, believing that they were ordering pizza, and bounced around on Jess's lap, looking disturbingly like a deformed monkey. He received a pillow to the face for his efforts.
The leader paid little attention to the annoyed looks of her fellow fangirls. Rather, her entire face morphed into an annoyed groan, and she got to her feet.
"Come on Harriet. Its Lisa again."
"Whaaa...?" Harriet looked distraught, and began waving her arms at the giant TV. "But, but, but..."
"I know, I don't want to go either," Tash informed her. "But its the Earth's Children fandom, and I want another leader with me."
She dragged her friend by the back of her dress to the door. Harriet had just enough time to grab her favourite blue handbag as she was pulled from the television.
"What's Earth's Children?" Alice enquired curiously.
"Its one of Tash's favourite book series," Emily explained, scooping up Tash's forgotten handbag and gadgets. "Its also highly dangerous, purely because most of the canon characters are Mary-Sues themselves. And there are so many random background characters that its easy for runaway Mary-Sues to blend in."
"It sounds like Twilight..." Michael muttered, ignoring the annoyed look from Louise, who was a closeted Twilight fan.
"It is like Twilight," Emily confirmed, before reluctantly tearing herself away from the television, and legging it after the leaders. "Just with no sparkly vampires, and an actual plot."
The fire had almost burned down, but no one in the donier's dwelling had made any attempt to reach for the firestone and relight it. All eyes were focused on the beautiful stranger, who wore a confused, and frightened expression, which gave her elegant face a humbled look.
"You have...no memory?" Joharran was struggling to wrap his head around this aspect of the mysterious stranger's story. "How is that possible?"
"It isn't unheard of," Zelandoni interjected. "Sometimes memories, particularly if they are painful, are blocked off by the spirit. Or an accident can cause enough trauma to the body that can cause it to forget entirely..."
Ayla had heard of similar stories in her life, but did not trust the stranger. Her innate knowledge of unconscious body language, developed by years of living with the Clan and communicating through a language spoken in silence, told her one thing for absolute certain – the woman was lying. She was obviously not proficient at telling untruths, as she made very little effort to hide her nervousness. Ayla had learned quickly when she had begun living with her own kind, that when people told more lies, they got better at concealing their body language from other people – though never well enough to escape her notice.
This woman did not tell lies very often, as far as Ayla could deduce, and she was poor at concealing herself. She was sure Zelandoni must have noticed too and wished the Ninth Cave's spiritual leader could speak Clan – it would be so much easier to communicate what she had noticed if she could say it without speaking.
"Well..."Joharran was watching the young woman closely, trying to get a good read of her and any kind of danger she may pose. Blonde hair scattered over her shoulder, falling artfully in front of her face, and her deep, blue eyes fell pleadingly on the Ninth Cave's leader, silently begging him to allow her to stay. For where else could she go? She remembered nothing of her past, and knew not the reason her memory was apparently blank...
"Please let me stay?" she whispered, her voice edged with fear for her own survival. "I don't remember anything. Not who I am, or how to look after myself. I won't survive on my own..."
"You can stay until we find out more," Joharran finally said, and the young woman seemed to relax. "You certainly can't go anywhere until your memory returns."
The young woman blushed hard, and Ayla silently agreed with the sibling of her mate. Without any basic knowledge of how to survive on her own, the woman would not survive. She was so weak and frail looking, with no muscle on her at all. She was not strong enough to hunt, or forage on her own. Indeed she looked so delicate, that the mere exposure outdoors for too long would kill her. The Medicine Woman was overcome with the sudden strong urge to protect her, and she promised herself that while she was under her care, this young woman with the strange name would not perish.
"Lisa?" Ayla tried out the unfamiliar name, which came off her tongue with her Clan accent. "You must be hungry. If you are able to stand, would you like to join Jondalar and I for the midday meal?"
And just like that, Lisa fell into the structure of the Ninth Cave, and across the globe, hundreds of fanfiction readers turned away from the fandom in disgust.
"There she is!" Valerie pointed at the monitor screen. "Lisa's got most of the Ninth Cave eating out of the palm of her hand."
According to the readout, it had been three weeks in the fandom since Lisa had shown up, and already everyone loved her. They had all been seized by the same urge to protect the vulnerable looking woman, and she had a harem of single men lusting after her, and praying for a chance to lure her into their furs.
"How has her scarring gone?" Emily demanded, flabbergasted by the image of the perfect young woman on screen. "I hit her with half a bottle of fangirl strength disinfectant! And most of it was in her face!"
"She's a Mary-Sue," Harriet shrugged. "She got better."
She stretched, and cast a hasty look at her watch. "So Tash, what's this fandom about anyway?"
The Librarian shrugged. "Its a five book series, with the sixth one due out in a few years – the author likes detailed description, so each book is the size of the average brick and takes about seven years for the author to finish writing. Its an alternate historical fiction, set around Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal man."
"The Mary-Sue readings for this fandom are worse than Twilight," Valerie stated, watching a particular monitor screen flash pink and green.
"The fandom is worse than Twilight," Tash admitted. "The main characters, particularly Ayla, are all canon Mary-Sues. And there's so many background characters, that its easy for Mary-Sues to hide here. It's also where the Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society have taken to dumping the Mary-Sues under their protection. We'd never had enough time to root them all out."
As they watched the screen, Jondalar appeared from the storage room at the back of the cave, carrying a basket of vegetables, presumably for Ayla to cook that night. As he moved, the basket slipped from his grasp, and the food scattered across the floor. Seemingly from nowhere, Lisa appeared and began helping him gather them back into the basket. As they worked, they exchanged shy smiles, and Tash went nuclear.
"Oooh that does it! She's ruining one of my favourite fandoms! Jondalar isn't supposed to be attracted to any woman except Ayla and Zelandoni!"
She seized her gadgets from Emily, and began generating the plothole, muttering angrily under her breath about the wrongness of it all.
"She just helped him pick up a bunch of vegetables," Harriet sighed. "How can you find romantic connotations in that?"
"I'm a fangirl! I can find romantic connotations in anything!"
Squeezing her thighs gently against the body of the mare beneath her, Ayla slowed Whinney into a trot, her grey/blue eyes scanning the area around her. Spring mean the herds were moving out again, and the Ninth Cave would start resupplying after the long winter, and in preparation for the Zelandonii Summer Meeting. In addition to this good news, the cave was in good spirits after Zelandoni and Joharran had announced that they would be holding a Festival to Honour the Mother. In the preparations that had followed, for the evening which was now upon them, Ayla had had very little time to herself, and so had decided a good long ride with Whinney was just what they both needed. She had left Jonayla with Marthona for the afternoon, and set off on her own.
Her thoughts strayed, as they usually did as of late, to the stranger – Lisa. It was hard to think of her as the stranger any longer. The woman had blended in almost as if she had always been a part of the Ninth Cave. Though Joharran had not specifically said anything, Ayla got the impression that the festival tonight was partially to honour her arrival. Quite ironic when one considered that Lisa had spent the announcement looking confused, and as soon as it was over, she had quietly asked Ayla what a Mothers Festival entailed. Ayla was not surprised – after all, Lisa claimed to have lost her memories – but her reaction had not been what the Medicine Woman had expected.
After explaining that the Festival was a celebration in which there would be feasting and dancing, and (as was the whole point) sharing of Pleasures to honour the Mother, Ayla had (non too delicately) had to explain to a confused Lisa what she meant when she said "the Mother's Gift of Pleasure". As the explanation had continued, Lisa's face had turned steadily more and more white, until Ayla was concerned that the young woman would faint. The stranger had quickly excused herself, got up and left the cave, presumably to clear her head.
Initially it had made very little sense to Ayla, why the young woman should react so badly to the idea of sharing Pleasures with someone. But then she had thought about it, and remembered her own past experiences. There could be many reasons why Lisa did not like the idea. She was definitely old enough to have had her First Rites (that is – she reminded herself – providing the people she came from had them), however with no memory of it, it was no surprise that she should feel apprehensive about the prospect. Most girls were nervous before their first time, and since Lisa didn't remember anything, this would be like her first time all over again.
And even if that were not the case, she could be anxious for other reasons. Even if she did not remember, she might subconsciously retain the feelings and memories of any previous sexual experiences she may have had, and they might not necessarily have been good ones. She could have suffered a similar experience to Madenia of the Losadunai, or maybe even worse. Ayla remembered all too well her own experiences with Broud, and was quite sure that had she not met Jondalar and learned differently, had she been in Lisa's position, she too would have felt quite anxious...maybe even upset? No, she wouldn't have been upset, Ayla reasoned. Before she met Jondalar, she was still Clan, and would have accepted it, just as any Clan woman would have. She may not have liked it, but she wouldn't have resisted.
Lisa had returned later in the day, and Ayla had not mentioned the subject again, but she had been careful to observe the young woman's behaviour as she continued to live at their hearth. She was definitely more tense, and this was not helped by the young men who stared, and sometimes even followed her whenever she left the cave to sit with the other Cave members while they worked on their craft. Oh Lisa had noticed the young men, who were completely enamoured with her, but since the conversation with Ayla, she seemed to have become more aware of them, and something had changed in the way she viewed their presence. Gone was the almost unnoticeable look of pleasure she had when she realised she was being watched or admired. Now it was replaced by something that was almost fearful, as though she had realised for the first time just what they wanted from her.
Ayla shook her head, and Whinney, sensing her confusion and restlessness, whickered softly in anxiety. Ayla bent down slightly to soothe the horse, slowing her to a stop, and sliding off the mare's back.
There were a lot of unanswered questions about Lisa that had been puzzling Ayla, but which she knew the young woman would be unable to answer due to her amnesia. Zelandoni had the same problem, and in her capacity of spiritual leader, the wellbeing of everyone in the cave was her responsibility. Thus Zelandoni had spent much time in meditation, trying to recall anything that could help the mysterious young woman, and hoping that in her focus, the Great Earth Mother would provide her with some answers. Following her lead, Ayla had been doing the same, determined to assist her mentor (as was her duty as acolyte), but more importantly, to help the young woman whom she had sworn to protect from the moment she had entered the Ninth Cave. But so far, nothing had turned up.
Ayla had only been on the ground for a moment, when Whinney became spooked, and began rearing her head with exaggerated cries of fright. Ayla patted and stroked the horse, and only her love and trust for the woman kept the horse from bolting. Ayla herself felt a shiver of fear, and what felt like the touch of the spirit world, as what seemed to be a gaping hole split into existence in front of her. She swallowed the fear and nausea that welled up in her throat, and held her ground. This was what she was trained for, and she would not run away from any spirit...if indeed that was what was coming for her.
What tumbled out of the hole was certainly not what Ayla had expected however.
The first woman (or were they spirits, Ayla wondered) was tall, though not as tall as Ayla herself, with chin length brown hair, and the most bizarre clothing the young Medicine Woman had ever seen. The material was certainly not of this world, and seemed to have been tailored to flatter the young woman's curves (of which she had plenty). The second woman was dressed similarly, though she had no curves to flatter. She was blonde, and the first to realise that Ayla was standing there, which prompted her to elbow her companion hastily in the side. As the two scrambled to their feet, the hole to nothingness closed up behind them.
Ayla's unconscious study of them puzzled her immensely. They were ordinary looking women, except for their clothes. They walked (or at this stage, stood) the same way, gave off the same body language (which to Ayla's trained eyes indicated their unease and alertness to danger) and perhaps most importantly, she could sense very little in the way of presence and power from them. Over the course of her life, she had met people, like Creb, Mamut, and Zelandoni, who had a strong presence, that made people sit up and take notice, without them even doing anything. They were strong people, and it showed in every move they made. She sensed nothing from these two. They seemed ordinary. None the less, she was on guard.
"Who are you?"
She had been about to ask, "what are you?", but if they were spirits, she did not want to offend them. Rather than answer, the two women just exchanged confused looks, and Ayla could tell from their expressions that they had not understood her. She hastily repeated her question in Losudunai, and when that failed, she tentatively tried Sharamudoi.
Just as she was about to doubtfully try Mamutoi, the blonde girl planted her head into her hand, and gabbled something to the brunette, who's eyes widened in understanding. Ayla was glad one of them understood something, because she was completely lost, and beyond startled. Though she had only heard a brief line, the language they had used was nothing like any of the languages she had learned over the course of her long Journey. But there was little time to try and make sense of it, as the two women pulled tiny blue round substances from their pockets, and swallowed them whole (their faces twisting in obvious discomfort as they did).
Ayla didn't know how – possibly it was the extensive years of medical and magical training, as well as her own unique insight – but she knew that they had taken some form of medication.
"That's better!" the blonde woman exclaimed in fluent Zelandoni. "Sorry Harriet! I forgot since languages are a plot point in this fandom we wouldn't be able to understand!"
Her companion (Harriet apparently, though the name was distinctly foreign to Ayla), grumbled something under her breath about her forgetful friend, but the blonde was no longer listening. She was smiling widely at their present company, and trying to adopt a friendly expression.
"Hello Ayla. Sorry if we startled you."
"Who are you?" despite how afraid she was now, Ayla's voice came out strong. "How do you know my name?"
"Oh we hear things," Harriet's tone was bright, but impatient. "We hear you have a newcomer at the Ninth Cave?"
Ayla's hopes soaring, were coincided with a dramatic increase in suspicion. If they were spirits, they should have already known this.
"We think she may be one of our...party," the brunette continued. "We're quite anxious to see that she is safe, and to get her back home where she belongs."
Any positive feeling or hope evaporated in that instant for Ayla. This woman was lying. It was evident in every tiny hint of her body language. Invisible to most people, but plain as day to Ayla thanks to her years of speaking in sign language. If they were spirits, they were malicious ones, seeking to bring harm to the young woman who had made her home in the Ninth Cave.
Subtly, so as not to draw attention to it, Ayla began to slip closer to Whinney, while at the same time, reaching for the folded leather in her belt that was her sling.
"Can you help us?" the blonde beseeched. "Please? We are so worried about her."
"I'm sorry," the canon character shook her head. "I don't help spirits who lie."
And with a swift leap, she jumped onto Whinney's back, and fled for the Cave at a fast gallop, that did not entirely match the thundering of her own heart.
Harriet was not happy. And when Harriet was not happy, threats were made, cricketer's were insulted, and budgets were blown in superfluous ways. Right now, so unhappy was Harriet that she was making various plans to turn rooms of the Library into an indoor swimming pool. Screw the books. Harriet wanted somewhere to dunk people who annoyed her. Like Matt Prior, or the people who said that walking was a fun means of exercise. She certainly didn't feel fun filled now, being forced to trek all the way to the Ninth Cave, when they had only the rough sketch of the area that was drawn in the front of her friend's copy of Shelters of Stone.
Tash however, was mentally kicking herself. She considered herself a fan of the series, waiting on the edge of her seat for the next book to come out. So how could she have forgotten Ayla's ability to detect a lie? It was one of her most commonly mentioned traits. No wonder she hadn't fell for their story. It had larger holes in it than some anime characters in an M rated fanfic. The leader felt like punching herself. She really was stupid.
Fortunately for both girls, the Ninth Cave was the easiest one to spot – by the time they arrived, it was starting to get dark, and the cave was lit by the multitude of fires that had sprung up. They could hear on their approach, the sounds of drinking, dancing and partying. Frowning, Tash skimmed her book.
"There's no feasts due soon...they should be leaving for the Summer Festival too..." she bit her lip, before groaning. "Must be a Festival to Honour the Mother..."
"Which is?" Harriet prompted.
"Basically a party where everyone gets drunk and has a lot of sex, with whoever they feel like," Tash replied, thinking hard. "And if Lisa has shown up here maybe they're taking the opportunity to throw a festival for her." She rolled her eyes. "And being a Mary-Sue, we'll probably find her in a main character's furs."
Her imagination working much harder than she wanted it to, Harriet pulled a face. "Lovely...guess we'd better get this over with."
"Better find some clothes first," Tash chewed her lip, glancing between herself and her friend. "We didn't exactly think before jumping into this fandom..."
Ayla decided to forgo Laramar's barma tonight, and even Marthona's wine when it was offered around. After her encounter earlier, she wanted to keep her wits about her. She had no doubt that those lying spirits were still around, and she wanted to be sure she was alert if something happened. She had told Zelandoni the whole story of course, and the donier had suggested that they both keep an eye on Lisa tonight, and make sure she was not alone at any time. Ayla had agreed, and was making sure to keep the young woman in her line of sight at all times. She hoped Lisa would find a young man to share Pleasures with later – she and Jondalar had their own honouring to do, and if Lisa was in someone else's furs, they were guaranteed some privacy.
She seemed to have loosened up a little bit after a few cups of wine and barma, and was dancing spiritedly with Brukeval, who was looking utterly thrilled to have a beautiful woman fawning over him. Lisa did not seem to care about his appearance or heritage, and since he was so shy around beautiful women, she did not seem to feel as nervous or threatened by him as she had been with other men ever since Ayla had explained the nature of the festival to her. It was good for the pair of them, Ayla thought, glad to have Brukeval's attention diverted from her for once. The man with Clan in his blood made her nervous ever since their last proper conversation (which had dissolved into a screaming match), and she had been steering clear of him ever since.
Ayla felt Jondalar sit beside her, before she turned to look at him. Her mate's eyes had darkened to a violet shade in the firelight, and she felt the same rush of desire that she always had for him. Jondalar's attention was fixed on Lisa however, watching her carefully and cautiously. Ayla's passion seemed to dim slightly. It looked like Jondalar wasn't ready to leave and begin their own honouring yet.
"Do you think she's alright with him?" her mate asked. Ayla turned her head back to the dancers and pondered her answer for a moment.
"I don't know," she answered truthfully. "She's so hesitant about this festival, I don't think she'll do anything...but then again, she might feel safe with Brukeval..."
It was clear from the expression on Jondalar's face that he was not convinced. Ayla scanned the crowd again, and to her surprise, Lisa was gone. Brukeval had gone to get more barma, yet the young woman had completely vanished. Hastily examining the faces of every person in the vicinity, Ayla dread rise up like a cold chill. Something was happening. She just knew it.
Swiftly, she got to her feet, vowing to find the strange woman.
"Stupid festival..." Tash muttered in irritation. She and Harriet had bypassed the dancing, drinking crowd outside completely, opting instead to check on the dwellings in the cave for any signs of Lisa. So far she had not seen perfectly rounded hide or shimmering hair of the young woman, however she had seen plenty of stuff she really wished she hadn't. Some people were already intoxicated enough to begin their own private honouring of the Great Earth Mother.
She pushed open another dwelling drape, and was assaulted by the scent of herbs and medicine. This must be Zelandoni's dwelling, she realised, and sure enough, it was the largest in the cave. Positive that the donier would not be here, Tash decided to take a look around, just in case Lisa was lurking in here. Visitors to the cave generally did stay with the One Who Serves Mother, so it was a good bet that Lisa may have been sleeping here. Though given the nature of the fandom, Tash wouldn't have been surprised to find Lisa in Ayla and Jondalar's dwelling. They were the main characters after all, and Lisa like many Mary-Sues, liked attaching herself to the main characters, particularly if they had gifts she could take advantage of. And the characters in this fandom had no shortage of gifts.
That was something that had been puzzling the Librarian for a long time – in the last two fandoms Lisa had shown up in, she had been looking for someone, and attempting to utilise the canon characters abilities or technology to help her. No one could figure out who she had been looking for, and any attempts to investigate were short – Lisa covered her tracks very well. If they could just get some kind of clue as to her motives, that might be all they needed...
The drape rustled, and Tash spun around just in time to feel something small and hard smash painfully into the side of her skull, spreading blackness across her vision. Just before she blacked out entirely, she saw the tall, blonde figure of Lisa in the doorway, a rock clutched tightly in her white fist.
"Harriet will be mad..." was her last disjointed thought.
Another embarrassed scream informed the leader that she had the wrong dwelling again.
"Sorry!" Harriet was past blushing at this point. Every time she walked in to find a random canon pairing otherwise occupied on the furs, she just apologised and left quickly.
Growing impatient, the leader yanked out her communicator, and hit the second button. The device rang, and rang, and rang some more.
"For Gods sake Tash," Harriet groaned. "Of all times to ignore me..." She hung up and redialled, this time praying that someone in the Library would pick up instead...
"BUGGERATION AND BOLLOCKRY!"
Jess threw herself around the corner of the Library corridor, Leonard hanging off her neck like a baby chimp, turning to hiss occasionally at their pursuers. He gave a screech as a wall two corridors down was blown to pieces.
"HONESTLY EMILY!" Marcus had split himself in panic, and his Emotion half was showing no signs of shutting up, as the Society agents fled as far away from the explosions as they could. "WHO KEEPS A PLOT DEVICE IN THEIR FRONT POCKET?"
"I didn't mean to trip, Marcus!" Emily snapped, still clutching the broken gadget in her hands. "And I certainly didn't mean to open a Plothole to the Doctor Who fandom with it!"
"BOTH OF YOU SHUT UP!" Michael roared, doing a quick headcount, as they ran. "Just think of a plan!"
"Life forms detected," came a synthesised electronic voice that had become one of the cornerstones of British television.
"And think fast!" Michael added.
There was something warm and sticky on the side of her face. Tash wondered what it was, and whether it was connected to the pounding headache that she seemed to have. That would make sense. Maybe the stickiness was blood. Whatever it was, it was strange, and she raised a hand to touch it...
Or at least, she tried to. Her hands had been bound with a length of sinew. A quick scramble told her that her ankles were in a similar state.
And then she saw Lisa, seated at the table where Zelandoni prepared her medicines and herbs, and everything rushed back to her, causing her headache to triple in intensity. The Librarian groaned, wondering if she could burn her way through her bindings. She dismissed that idea quickly. With a headache like this, she would probably set the entire dwelling on fire.
Lisa spared her a glance over her shoulder, but seemed satisfied that she could not move, and continued with her work. "You should have stayed unconscious..."
"You should have stayed in Sarah-Jane Adventures," Tash managed to force the retort out from her mouth when all she wanted to do was curl up and will this stupid headache away. "How has your scarring gone, by the way?"
"I'm a Mary-Sue," Lisa flipped her flowing blonde hair, which tonight had strings of beads and shells woven into it for added beauty. "I got better!"
"Huh...you didn't get smarter," Tash muttered. "You still hunting for this mysterious friend of yours? Or has it occurred to you that maybe they don't want you to find them. Maybe they've got normal people to hang around with -"
She shut her mouth as Lisa swung around and landed a kick to the other side of Tash's head. The Librarian wondered if this was what it felt like to have a fractured skull...certainly it was painful enough. It felt like her head was breaking apart like an eggshell.
"Don't play coy with me, Librarian," the Mary-Sue's usually beautiful face was twisted into insane anger. "I have searched the multiverse for him, and only after I met the Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society did I learn the truth!"
"The Pro-Cliche Society?" Tash thought. "Crap...they must be using this fandom as a dumping ground for Sues. That's why Lisa is here..."
"The reason I can't find him," Lisa continued. "Is because your Society have already killed him!"
She paused, to allow the statement to sink in. Unfortunately, the Librarian was a very bad prisoner, and burst into hysterics instead.
"You think we've killed your boyfriend?" She snorted. "Oh please! You and the Pro-Cliche Idiots are all grossly misinformed. We've barely captured a handful of Gary-Stus since the war, and none of them to date have been killed."
"You're lying!" Lisa screeched. "Its because of you I cannot find him!" she drew a deep breath and seemed to compose herself somewhat. "Enough. I grow tired of your lies. Retsa shall be here soon...she can deal with you."
She turned to the table, picking up the object of her previous attention – a small wooded medicine bowl.
"What you going to do?" Tash asked, worried now. "Poison me?"
"No!" Lisa sounded horrified by the mere thought. "I am a civilised woman! A woman of virtue and purity of soul! I would never kill anyone! This is datura. It'll knock you out until the Pro-Cliche Society arrive."
Tash paled, her headache fading to nothing as adrenalin flooded her system. Datura was used frequently in this fandom as a pain reliever, anaesthetic, and more specifically in certain preparations, as a hallucinogenic. Employing the strength she gained from her fear, she pulled hard at the sinew. It held fast, and a choked gasp of fear escaped her as Lisa knelt beside her, and pulled her head back by her hair, forcing her mouth open and pouring the milky white liquid past her lips.
"It was divine providence that I met you Librarian," Lisa whispered, tossing the empty cup to one side and pushing Tash's jaw closed. With her other hand, she pinched her nose, forcing the leader to swallow or choke. "And divine providence that lead you here to me. Just as it shall be divine providence that leads me back to my beloved Count."
She released Tash, leaving the Librarian to cough and pull air gratefully into her lungs. Lisa rose gracefully to her feet, and wiped her medicine stained hands off on her tunic.
"I'll leave the drape open," she said casually, reaching for the tie as she did. "Let some fresh air in for you. I just hope for your sake, no drunk men wander in here by mistake." She gave a wicked smirk. "Wouldn't want you to get taken advantage of again, would we?"
She departed, leaving the Librarian to struggle weakly on the floor. Tash had already felt that her pockets were empty of her gadgets, and her handbag was out of reach. Her pendant was still around her neck though, so maybe...
The muscles in her arms were seized by pins and needles, and then rested against the floor, completely numb. The sensation was spreading now from her toes, slowly up her legs. The headache from earlier had faded away, replaced instead with a dull throbbing sensation, that seemed to pump blackness into her vision the longer she tried to fight it.
In her panic induced mind, mixing quickly with the drug, Tash thought she could hear someone screaming her name, before her thoughts tipped away from reality and into a living nightmare.
"If I see one more bloody couple shagging..." Harriet let the threat trail off, her right hand twitching around the handle of her cricket bat. She had searched nearly half the cave, and had lost count of the number of couples she had walked in on. She wished Tash had dragged Phoenixia along instead. This was just the kind of fandom for the sex starved ex-hologram.
She was startled out of her irritation, when a plothole materialised just across the communal area from where she was standing. Harriet gave an undignified shriek, and ducked behind a drape, just in time to see several unwelcome and familiar figures appear.
"Retsa?" Harriet was stunned. "Ssej and Relyt? What are the Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society doing here? Are they using this fandom as a place to hide Sues?"
Then Lisa appeared, in her usual beautiful glide, her hair flying out behind her. Harriet felt a wave of jealousy for the young woman with perfect curves and perfect blue eyes...she slapped herself. She was as bad as the canon characters!
"They must have hid Lisa here, given that she doesn't look surprised to see them," Harriet surmised to herself. "Wonder if I can get a little closer..."
"You have her, then?" Retsa's voice was no nonsense, and she was making no effort to hide her annoyance. She was not happy at all about being called out to an obscure fandom by a Mary-Sue who owed their Society a great deal.
And the woman had some supernatural kind of audacity – no doubt brought about by her age. She was standing there smiling at them all like she was the one with all the power. It irked the Pro-Cliche Society leader.
"She's drugged and tied up in the dwelling over there," Lisa swept to the leader's side. Retsa snapped her fingers, and her two companions strode into the dwelling, Relyt had a strange kind of hunger on his face, as he barged through the entrance eagerly, and Ssej followed calmly, humming what sounded like country music under her breath.
"Any sign of anyone else?" Retsa inquired.
"No one," Lisa replied, sighing heavily from her ample chest. "This is such an obscure fandom, they probably only sent the Librarian."
"Good," Retsa tapped her foot impatiently against the stone floor. "I dislike interruptions."
Lisa made a noncommittal noise, before speaking again. "I have now cleared my debt to you, for saving my life, I assume?"
"Yes, yes, all cleared," Retsa waved a hand dismissively. "Providing we retrieve the Librarian as you promised we could, and there are no interruptions."
"You doubt me?" Lisa gave a sigh so sad that it caused Retsa to get an uncomfortable feeling she had never experienced before – guilt. "Did I not prove my trustworthiness by telling you my whole story? My true name?"
The guilt evaporated, and the Pro-Cliche leader sneered at her. "Yes, your whole tragic obscure story, which has been lying forgotten for centuries, until you gained enough power to break fr –"
The sound of wood against bone sent Lisa leaping backwards in alarm, as Retsa flopped to the ground like a ragdoll. Harriet, a murderous expression on her face, swung her bat menacingly.
"I want my agent back, you bitch," she hissed.
As if waiting for their cue, Ssej and Relyt appeared, supporting the drugged Tash between them. Both stopped dead upon seeing their leader crumpled on the floor, and the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society founder facing down the Mary-Sue. Relyt was fastest, flinging an energy blast so hard across the cave that it ripped a gash in the stone beneath them. Acting completely on instinct, Harriet brought her cricket bat up in front of her face, and to her amazement, the energy bounced off, and impacted heavily on the cave ceiling, sending chips of stone raining down upon them.
"How did you do that?" Relyt demanded, completely stunned. Harriet got over her surprise quickly, and swung her bat up to her side.
"Made in Britain!" she announced proudly, her stance shifting to a batting one, as another burst of magical energy was thrown toward her. Swinging her bat behind her, she slammed it against the ball, and sent it soaring back the way it had come. Her aim was spot on, impacting straight into Relyt's chest and sending him flying backward into Zelandoni's dwelling.
"SIX!" Harriet's cry was triumphant, lifting both her arms into the air in as her score had dictated. Elated, she turned on a trembling Ssej. "Fancy being substitute bowler?"
The agent shook her head, dropping the prisoner and fleeing (humming what sounded like panicky getaway music as she went).
"Get back here!" Harriet's rage was primal. "I'm not done with you yet!"
It was in the midst of this fury, that Lisa, who was stood to one side, observing the fight, had an epiphany. She understood why Harriet was the leader of the Society. The founder may keep to the shadows and rarely take missions anymore, but there was one characteristic which was all she needed to be a good leader. When someone hurt her agents, there was not a force in the multiverse that could stop Harriet from getting even.
The double stone sling signalled the arrival of the two canon protagonists, and Ssej's form collapsing to the ground from the two sling wounds indicated that Ayla's aim had been true as it always was. The Medicine Woman and her mate had arrived just in time to see the attack take place, and Ayla's instinct had been to reach for her favourite weapon.
Seeing that her quarry was down and out, Harriet whirled, spotting Lisa trying to edge out of sight. She lifted her cricket bat again, eager to do some damage as she advanced on the trapped Mary-Sue.
"You're under arrest Lisa. I'm taking you straight to a holding cell."
"You shall never capture me!" Lisa cried, her voice full of beautiful belief. "Divine Providence shall aid me in my quest!"
Those two words stopped Harriet dead in her tracks, at the same time a plothole opened from nowhere above Lisa's head, and a flamethrower miraculously dropped into the Mary-Sue's hands.
The founder of the Society could not even begin to grasp the situation, her thoughts scattered and pulled to pieces by what she had just heard.
"It can't be..." she finally managed to string together a single thought. "There's no way..."
Yet there was no one else this woman could be.
Ayla had no clue what was happening, but she knew two things instantly. Whatever Lisa was holding was a weapon. And the brunette was in shock, and would not be able to dodge in time, unless she snapped out of it.
"Move!" she screamed.
Harriet's legs obeyed her enough to prevent her from getting a face full of flames. The ends of her shirt caught fire though, and the leader screamed, ripping off her top and stamping it against the cold stone floor. There was a clatter as Lisa turned, shouldered her newly acquired weapon, and leaped through a plothole.
Harriet gave a scream of rage, storming toward where the plothole had vanished...only to trip over Retsa's prone form, and bang her head against the floor. Cursing, she sat up, rubbing her skull.
"Screw the drowning pool," she muttered. "When I get back, I'm turning the Library into a giant cricket pitch..."
In her usual dismissive fashion, Harriet had brushed aside all the questions from the canon characters, knowing that any answers she gave would be wiped from their memories as soon as she left anyway. Once she had regained enough of her wits to think straight, she had pulled out her Plothole Generator, and opened a door to the Twilight fandom (she was feeling understandably vindictive at this stage), and thrown all three Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society agents straight into it, not caring where in the fandom they ended up. She had then located her friend's handbag in the donier's dwelling, hoisted Tash over her shoulder, opened up a Plothole back to the Library, and stumbled wearily back home.
The monitor room was strangely deserted when she arrived with her load.
"Doctor Who should have finished by now," the leader tutted, marching out of the monitor room in the direction of the medical wing. "They probably got sucked into watching Over the Rainbow. Well I won't let this tardiness go unpunished! I'm going to get Tashy to the hospital wing, and then I'm going to -"
A section of wall down the corridor fell away, smothering Harriet in dust. Though her vision was obscured, she could hear perfectly well.
"RUN DAMN IT! RUN!"
"We are running!"
"How many freaking villains did I let in?"
The last voice was cold and robotic, and Harriet turned red with anger and disbelief.
"You have got to be kidding me!" she growled, stomping off to find her wayward agents.
A/N: ...yeah, I don't know what came over me either. If anyone wants to have a random DW villain crop up in the Library in the next month or so, feel free (but I call the Weeping Angels!).
My next fic will lead on directly after this one – i.e. You'll find out what Harriet has discovered...after the Society escape a horde of Daleks that is.