There is a bar, which is almost certainly familiar to the reader.
In the bar is a person, also likely familiar, albeit surprising in this context.
There is a bar, which is almost certainly familiar to the reader.
In the bar is a person, also likely familiar, albeit surprising in this context.
And into the bar walks a character that has seen many different people and places, but has no memory of this fact. She's surprised and excited that her room has been replaced with a bar, and scoots over to the counter, looking around curiously, all in perfectly human speeds of course.
"H'lo, Sadde," the person grins.
Blink. "Um. Do I know you? And more importantly, have we met more than three years ago, because if so, it's very possible I've forgotten who you are, sorry."
More grin, apparently they find this situation amusing. "Nope. I know you, but that doesn't go both ways. It's a bit of an unusual situation, here."
"...mind explaining it, then? I'm pretty smart, I think I can handle it."
They suppress a chuckle. "It's less 'complicated' and more 'implausible', at least from your perspective: I'm an author. I'm not your author, but, yeah."
A kobold appears in her lap in a brief burst of brownish sparkles. "This is Lurker, one of mine. You might get to meet her-" this elicits a glare "- sorry, them, in more regular circumstances sometime, for example."
Sadde is, in fact, pretty smart. "Uh, I think you'll need more than making a magic bar appear in my room or making a kobold appear in your lap to convince me of what you're implying, there. Not that the magic bar isn't impressive, mind you, but."
"I did say it was implausible. But, hmm..." they tap their finger on the bar. "I'm not your author but I can talk to him, would having him instantiate a different version of you help? Or I do know some things about your past and your powers, but if you're a standard background vampire Sadde before you've gotten into any particular plot, I don't actually know much that couldn't be found out some other way."
"Different version of me. Different version how? What does standard background mean? Plot?"
"Different like from a different world - so far you've always gotten magic and shapeshifting, but different worlds have different ways of doing that, you're not always a witch and a vampire. Standard background is..." they consider for a moment. "I'm going to gesture vaguely in the direction of your family situation and leave most of it at that, I know that's an unpleasant subject even if you are pretty resilient about it, but, yeah, some variant of that is shared between all of you. And then for a standard vampire background, you met Addy as a kid and she taught you to use your powers and then when you were an adult she turned you, and then the government changed, and it's pretty vague after that but you usually find a magic key that opens portals to other worlds and use it to go on an interesting adventure - your author is actually pretty nice to you about that, you generally get to meet interesting and sexy people and sometimes get extra magic from them."
"...okay, I'm gonna take you up on that, make other versions of me appear. Or, ask my author to do it, or something."
"Well, version, just because you're characters doesn't mean you don't have any free will, and I'd like this to not go completely off the rails. But, yeah. Pedro?" they address the ceiling. "I'm thinking the Glam instance with the Bell, maybe? An up to date version, give this one an idea of what being partway through a plot is like."
And the door opens, and in walks yet another character. He looks around, and his gaze stops on Sadde. He blinks. "Um," he says.
The author ducks their head to hide a chuckle. "Hello, other Sadde. Come, sit, tell this one about your Endbringer-killing plans if you'd like."
"Um," he repeats eloquently, and the door closes behind him and disappears. "UM."
"I'm inclined to agree," she murmurs. "Why'd they call you 'the Glam instance with the Bell'?"
"UMMMMMMMMMMMM." He walks toward the other two, looking between them, and also at the kobold, but then at the other Sadde.
"I can explain that if you'd like?" they direct at Glam. "Or I can explain what's going on here."
"They," she gestures at Adelene, "say we're fictional, different versions of the same characters from different worlds. They're apparently an author, but not our author, except they can contact him and offered the ability to produce an alternate version of me as evidence to their claim," she explains before Adelene can. "And then you appeared when they said they wanted 'the Glam instance with the Bell.'"
He looks at Adelene. "Is that so. I would like to know just where this is and why it's replacing the hallway out of my room." And he looks at Sadde. "And why do you have a British accent?"
That gets her to crack a small smile. "Of all the things to focus on here, that was what you chose? I'm British, I was born in Knutsford and raised in London for most of my life."
"And this is Milliways, it's a convenient interdimensional location for this kind of meeting. Much nicer than a blank room or something - the bar is usually a person and offers free drinks, except I don't really like instantiating other peoples' characters. And I can instantiate drinks and things myself, if you'd like - blood alternatives included, though as I understand it they're not as nice as what you already have available."
"Right, I'm a vampire."
"So," she turns to Adelene to ask, "what's your name, and if what you're saying is true, can you kindly ask our author to bring my mother back? And maybe bring everyone who's ever died in my world back, too, and get rid of malaria, and make everyone immortal - are you human-looking out of convenience? Are you author-types actually five-dimensional superbeings or something?"
His brain catches up to him. "There's an author. My world is horrible because someone's writing fiction. That explains so, so much."
"Oh, sorry. Adelene, and this is Lurker, and my characters in general are brown moiety - your author is Pedro and your moiety is salmon; Bells' is Alicorn and green, but Alicorn isn't here right now. Bringing your moms back... yeah, I suppose we can probably do that, though in that case I'm going to skip ahead a bit while you do the reunion thing. Malaria and immortality, less so, we're not actually instantiating any malaria-infected people in the first place, and most people are NPCs and not really alive to us in such a way that saying they're immortal would really be meaningful - I mean, we could say that anyway, but then the wold gets a lot less interesting to write in, and I'm not entirely sure you still exist if nobody is writing you or reading about you - that's Lurker's take, anyway. And we're just human, that's why you're basically human - you actually get niftier powers than we do, vampires and parahumans don't actually exist for us at all."
"Just what is a moiety? And what do you mean by skip ahead?"
"I'm pretty certain as far as powers go instantiating worlds and people breaks everything. By the way, me, you haven't told me what 'Glam with a Bell' means, and you apparently know."
"Oh, uh, right. In my world some people have superpowers and go around in costume to fight supervillains and I'm one of those and my cape name is Glam. And my girlfriend is called Bella so I assume that's what Adelene is talking about?"
"We can instantiate worlds but we can't actually visit them; you can write stories, too, it works the same way for you as it does for us. Moieties are how we talk about which characters belong to which authors - Addy was also a green, 'the Glam with the Bell' was to differentiate from the Glam with the Miles who is a purple, Echo and Rewind are also salmon, that kind of thing. And, yeah, Bella is the Bell I meant - you always have the same name; she doesn't, but her name always has 'bell' in it someplace. And by 'skip ahead' I mostly mean I'd take Lurker and go sit over there and come back when you were done - time doesn't work the same way for me as it does for you, here; so long as me and my characters are out of the scene you can take as long as you like and it won't necessarily take any time for me at all."
"...will we actually exist while that happens? Why won't time pass for you? Is the author just gonna say that we discussed these things and then you'll come back and we'll have all the memories of having discussed these things?"
"The author's writing our words right now, isn't he. We don't need to ask you to tell him anything, we can just- tell him. And he knows what we'll tell him, and how we'll react to all of it, and he's still not actually doing anything other than just have us here."
Ceiling examination occurs.
"He says, and I quote, 'tell them I said I don't have nearly as much control over all of this as they may think I do and they have very often surprised me by coming up with ideas I hadn't anticipated or acting in ways I didn't expect, and tell Glam the Siberian was entirely his idea, I didn't see it coming at all.' I did mention you do have a degree of free will? You might not have a meta instance yet, though, if you can pull that off it might help - that's the version of you that lives in your author's head rather than living in any particular world, and knows everything he knows and can talk to him more directly about things." (The kobold grins slightly and nods at this last bit.)
"Um. I'm not sure if the Siberian idea being mine is reassuring or not. Was it even mine? I don't remember if Lorica- Bella or I came up with it. Anwyay, did I derail the plot? Am I actually going to be able to kill Endbringers with it? Shit if I'm fictional I bet that'll fail in some really horrible way."
"How are we supposed to pull off a meta instance? And his question was interesting, do we still exist while we're not talking to you?"
"Siberian might not've been your idea in-world, but there's a sense in which it was your idea that it was a thing you could do? Like, you could have had the idea and then not been able to, if it was something that didn't fit with who you are, but it did fit with who you are and that's not actually something we can just arbitrarily decide. But, no, you didn't derail the plot - things like that happen all the time, we leave things loose enough to accommodate it. As to the Endbringers, I'm not sure if you... no, what am I thinking, of course you want spoilers. The Endbringers aren't your biggest problem and if your authors are sticking to the original details of that setting killing one will actually make things worse, it gets replaced by a worse one. What you actually need to worry about is Scion, he's some kind of freaky alien and in... well, actually the timeline's probably different, but at some point probably within your lifetime, he's going to flip his shit and try to kill everyone."
Sparkles gets a 'wait' gesture, this is presumably going to take a minute.
"Yeah. The endbringer thing might not be the case in your particular world - the setting is taken from another author again, who isn't actually someone we write with; your author is much nicer and that's not really Alicorn's style - but the Scion part basically has to be, the only question is whether you're going to be involved with it. It could just be that you get to successfully take out an Endbringer or three and leave the omnicidal near-deity for someone else."
Sadde rests his head on his hands, propping it up on the counter.
She pats him on the back.
"And of course there's no way to convince him to maybe not have Scion go rogue? Author, you're writing these words somewhere, can you make that not be a thing?"
"However sentient we may be, I'm pretty sure a fiction author isn't going to convince themself to stop writing by having a character they created ask them to via whatever medium they're using to actually instantiate that character."
The kobold goes to hug a Sadde.
"That, and a world where that wasn't already set up to happen wouldn't look like yours. It's definitely winnable, though, the original story had a basically-happy ending and I fully expect yours to have a better one if it goes that far."
"Thanks. I'm so reassured," he mumbles dryly, and accepts the kobold's hug.
Think think think. "I mean, there's also the part where you've got a Bell - this won't be the first deity-grade entity they've taken down, by a long shot. It's kind of a thing, with them, that and overthrowing governments that don't meet their standards."
"It occurs to me the Empress Regnant is called Isabella."
"...not Swan by any chance?"
"Oh dear. You're dating another version of the Empress?!"
Chuckle. "A younger and differently superpowered version, yes. She's one of the longest-running character templates."
"...what's she like?"
"I can totally see her as empress of the world, that's what she's like. She's great and fantastic and amazing and..." He sighs.
"You sound like a mated vampire, and you somehow managed to not give me any information."
"Well, you see how he wasn't surprised about her being empress. I expect he also won't be surprised that she's making a decent attempt at solving death - really in general she's intensely practical and hubristic like that - not driven exactly, but it's pretty hard to have big problems and a Bell in the same world for a long period of time. Goes after the malaria eradication and the mass resurrection, too, when she can, or other problems of that nature. I wouldn't say she's very social exactly but she's good with people, too - one of her themes is that most of the time she personally doesn't have the power that's being used to stop the big bad, but she's leading or supported by the person who does - not always, there are some significant exceptions, but it's a pattern. Smart, too; no-nonsense, strategic... tenacious; there are a couple other characters who are more tenacious than she is but she still is."
"Yeah I can totally see how another me would fall for that."
He just grins. ...then stops. "Okay but that doesn't actually solve our problems, even if it does turn out that she's gonna eradicate death and we're gonna kill Scion - Jesus Christ did I just say that? - there are people dying right now of- you think they're not people. Just NPCs, right? Ugh. Okay, so why are we here?"
"Actually... one of the other authors pointed out that there is a fairly straightforward solution to that; we haven't used it in a while, so I'd forgotten. Kappa?"
A woman wearing a simple dark blue dress and sitting in a very comfortable armchair appears without fanfare nearby.
"What is the nature of the problem?" she inquires.
"Saddes, meet the Keeper. She has, in this case, an empty afterlife that can have arbitrary worlds attached to it."
"I dislike impermanence," says the keeper.
"I believe my friend here would like to make use of your world, if possible. I would, too, if there's not a limit on worlds or people or whatever, but his is very much the priority problem, from what I gather."
"I am not limited in this way." She pauses. "I have now connected both of your worlds to my afterlife. Their histories are fully available to me."
they say in unison.
"Yes," says the keeper. "I will always be able to recreate anything that has ever existed in any world I have connected to in this way. However, I am currently unpracticed with this ability, and am mostly only able to make air and rock."
"You wanted a Lurker to help with figuring out how to get things set up, I understand?" and the kobold shimmers and splits into two, one of which is a weathered but well-maintained golem-like creature made of metal and stone and wood. "An older warforged version will work better without a tribe and have enough background knowledge; I'll work out the backstory later."
"Thank you," says the keeper.
"This does mean what I think it means, right? Everyone who's ever died will be there?"
"Can we bring people back? Out of that world? Man if we could get Hero back..."
And of course there's one other selfish desire...
Sadde knows that look. "Did your mum die, too?"
"...yeah. Endbringer attack- uh, Endbringers are huge evil monsters that attack periodically. When I was seven."
"Oh my god, you poor baby! ...who raised you?"
"Tobias," he spits.
"Oh my god that's terrible," she says, and-
-is a bit less pale and a bit squishier now, enough to give her other self a hug.
The kobold goes to solicit a hug from her author, emitting some quiet grumpy growls as she does. "Yeah, I know, I'll pull for you to get a shot at him if you're ever in a world where it makes sense," the human reassures.
"Does that mean we can bring people back to our respective worlds, though?" she asks the Keeper, still hugging Glam. "I would very much like to apologise to Mum and he has a host of other problems to deal with."
"I am not currently able to instantiate aware beings in a way that satisfies my standards. Biology is complicated and annoying."
"Oh. Then- no offense, but what's the point, here?"
"She'll figure it out eventually, and then subjectively there's no gap between dying and waking up in the afterlife, and everyone else will be there too - that part might have a gap, but with Lurker on the job I'm sure it'll be minimized, and you'll all be properly immortal once you're there. The immortality is the part she's working on, I think, right now."
"Yes," says the keeper.
"Oh. That's pretty good, actually, yes, I approve. Any idea on the ETA? Especially if we're going to be fighting Scion? I did mean it when I said having Hero back would be wonderful, plus a bunch of other heroes." Boots, too.
"It should not take me more than a few thousand years to finalize the design."
She looks at Adelene: "Can you make time pass in that weird way so that what she really means is a couple of minutes?"
"Not for him, no. Sorry."
"Not for whom?"
"Not for Glam. I don't have any say in that world as far as the plot goes - we can hook it up to the Keeper's afterlife, but only because that doesn't appear to affect anything from the reader's perspective."
"...having our lives dictated by plot is very frustrating. Can we exploit it, somehow?"
"If everyone who's ever died is gonna be brought back eventually, though, I guess it doesn't really matter much if it's now or in thousands of years. As long as the Earth isn't completely obliterated."
"If your entire universe and every other universe in its sheaf were all completely obliterated, I could restore them," the keeper mentions. "Eventually."
"And if it's just putting them back the way they were that can be a much shorter 'eventually' than deciding on new physics."
"Can you restore them without evil world-destroying aliens?"