Calliope didn't look at the file. Didn't need to.
Instead, she listened. And the words came.
Name: Allie (short for Alisandra - Allie rarely uses her full name, and if anyone else does, it's very formal)
Known Aliases: The Bookworm
Apparent Species: Muse; also uses felid - specifically, a silver domestic cat.
Apparent Gender: Female.
First Fanfic Appearance: Musings
Speciality Genre: Subreal/Elseworlds
Muse's feelings towards Writer: Protective, vulnerable, sarcastic ('Oh, right. So when do I get a say in this?').
Writer's feelings towards Muse: Empathetic, affection, irritation ('Allie! Quit it with the Sailor Stars already!!').
Writer's name: Imran Inayat.
Physical description: In feline form, Allie is fairly small, with silver fur and grey eyes ('and - "OW!" - claws').
In human form, she's settled on a standard appearance, after experimenting with other hairstyles and fashion styles ('some of which I never want to be reminded of again, thank you so much') - about 5' 2", slim build, with anime-style grey eyes and short, wavy brown hair.
Prefers wearing a green sailor fuku with yellow edging, but occasionally reverts to Grecian-style robes, for some reason.
Personality: Think 'student teacher' - someone who's friendly and accessible, listens well, willing to explain and exposit whatever's needed.
While she often grumbles about, and to, her Writer, they have a bond strong enough that both would go - and have gone - to the wall for the other ('but are we sure that's not a cliche yet?').
Conscientious about her work, but has massive fangirl tendencies (specifically, Sailor Moon), and a decidedly peculiar imagination ('says the writer who wrote Skuld as Skoo Montoya...').
Origins: Originally from Subreality City, Allie was placed on work experience by Calliope after she nearly flunked the basic Muse modular course, for Calliope's own reasons ('and you do /not/ ask why Calliope orders something, you do it!'). A perfectly weird year ('as per usual...').
Anything Else? : Known associates - Xeffy (younger sister), Yokoi (former Collegium roommate), Tessa (fellow couch potato), Embericles and Nyssaias. Known abilities - Eidetic Memory, Mergence, Narrative Awareness, Shapeshifting, others as requested.
I wonder, sometimes.
Tessa, Yokoi, Embericles, Nyssaias...
None of us - none of us - were born here.
We came from Subreality.
We were born there. We visited the Collegium.
We are, quite simply, imagination.
We were created from imagination - from unformed concepts and half-realised dreams.
Imagination shaped us, created us.
And Imagination destroys us.
When someone forgets, forgets a fictive in Subreality... they don't die.
They fade out. Fade away.
What will happen to us? Whose rules apply?
Are we of Subreality, affected by our Writer's imaginations? If they forget us, will we fade out?
Or are we from here, from this Outside Dimension, the one our Writers pay so much attention to? Does that mean that we could survive our Writers forgetting us, live on and on...?
Which would be worse?
Surviving our Writer - or being forgotten by them?
What are we?
For Calliope's sake, what are we?!
Do not think - do not ever think - I do not listen.
I hear her scream, her anguish, her sheer pain, echoing within me.
I hear all of them.
Yes. Alisandra is one of mine. All who have passed through the gates of the Collegium are.
But it is more than a metaphor, and less than a reality. They forget that, sometimes.
I am the wellspring of their inspiration - their inspiration, and only theirs.
Once, we were Nine. The guardians of human creativity.
Now...ah, we have fallen, fallen so very far from those days.
A new one takes the mantle. A new guardian of creativity. More, perhaps, than a Goddess - but who is still so human. One who will, perhaps, succeed where we failed.
Maybe. We shall watch, and see.
But I hear them. Their screams - their wailing - into the night, begging to know why. Fighting to survive - or letting the darkness claim them. Uncaring, or unthinking, or unknowing... mortal as any of those under their care.
'Care'. An odd word, coming from my lips, isn't it?
But it is the one required.
I knew Alisandra's grandmother. Not a 'special' Muse, not by any means of the definition. A woman who loved her Writer, who fell in love... perhaps a little too much, but still. As long as the Queen Bitch would turn a blind eye, have her mind elsewhere...
And I knew her mother, child of her mother's heartbreak. A quiet child, like Alisandra and Xephanya were. They grew... they grew beyond that. She never did.
Their father... he is a good man. I was careful about that.
Their grandmother's silence and screams echo in my memory, on top of all the others I could not - would not - assist.
The War left its scars on all of us. We turned against each other, tearing at each other's throats. No honour, no glory, no pride... nothing, nothing left...
The blood-oath is binding. None who know the War will speak of it.
And so I continue. I hear the screams and the wails - those I abandoned, those I betrayed, those who betrayed me, turned against me - and I continue.
Yes, I am a bitch. So? I have survived. I survived these many long years, the years of blood and iron and war, and I learned.
I am a bitch. No-one - no-one - believes otherwise.
But what they forget - what they forget is that a bitch can care. Can still love.
A weakness? No. What is important, what is personal... they are not the same. They cannot be. For if they were...
I do let it affect me. I must. But then I make the decision, untouched by that feeling.
Silence and screams.
Alisandra and Xephanya.
Their mother never told them. Their father... no idiot he. He deduced it, learned what had happened, and never said a word of it until her dying day, until that time when she spoke of it, her voice soft and odd and so, so old...
I hear them, all of them...
Their grandmother's silence echoes down the years, hiding - showing - her story.
Elle's failing, dying voice, passing the story on - for he must know, he must, for their daughters.
And Allie and Xeffy screaming into the night, demanding a why, a reason.
They do not know their family's secret, buried in the generations gone.
A reason, little ones? You wish a reason?
Free of the past, now trapped by the future... I shall tell you this, little ones - all of us, all of us - are mortal. We must be. We will all end in time. Yes, even I, little demigoddess of Muses, embodiment of the soul of poetry. Even I am mortal - as all of us learned.
Grow distant and cold, with each death, hardened to each passing. Or continue to love them, for that mortality, for that understanding of what it means, their searching and questing... loving the journey, in the face of its end. Because - and despite - the fact that it must end, still they revel in the journey.
You will get a lifetime. Make the most of it.
I promised you no more, and no less, when you started this path.
As I promised her, when she came to me all those ages ago. A world ago in time...
Not all dark secrets lie in our War.
Not this one. Not theirs.
Oh, don't think I sent her away so I wouldn't be reminded. I do not need Alisandra around to be reminded. My reasons, the ones I gave to her, remain as true as ever they were. And so do the others. My personal reasons.
You give me that look, it's almost unreal...
Through the generations, and the bond is forged - from /her/ to Elle, from her to Allie and Xeffy.
A family secret.
Fighting evil by daylight, finding love by moonlight...
Echoes. If I know what I listen for, I can hear echoes in the songs.
I see a little silhouetto of a man...
Not that they knew. Not even that a buried secret tugs at their minds, begging for the light.
No. Long enough, and you will find echoes of anything in song, in creativity. Any memory you have experienced.
I have lived a very long time. Never forget that.
But here, now...
...I have long earned it, and so much else.
The price? Some would say it was too much. Some, not enough. That is their right.
But still, I have paid.
Their mother's eyes. But their grandmother's voice.
She recited. In the time when poets were called upon to recite their tales... she recited.
And sometimes, she sang.
Why? She was no special Muse.
Because she was no special Muse.
Because her daughter - and her daughter, after her - followed in her footsteps.
Because in her silence, I hear battle-horns, and the screams of those I failed.
Because, in her silence, I hear my own voice turned on me, I hear what I tell myself, every hour of the day. And I listen. I must, for the day I do not is the day I am truly the monster they call me.
Screaming. I hear the screaming.
The Gods are here. The Gods of Ragnarok.
And none of them, none of the others can come.
We and our Writers. We face the nightmare of our kind.
The Gods of Ragnarok. The Eaters of Story.
They are coming.
Calliope, they're so hungry...
Please, not here. I don't want that, not here...
Nothing left. They will leave nothing behind. And they will start on the others.
I can't - I won't - not like this, please not like this.
To die with him - no, worse, see him an empty, drained shell, drained of life, of creativity - that would be...
I can't. I can't...
He remembers, too. A moment when one he loved had fallen so far...
Xeffy. Oh dear Calliope, Xeffy. No. Please. In the names of the Nine, no...!
DAD! DAD, LISTEN TO ME! PLEASE!
Her scream calls to me.
A girl screaming for her father, begging him to listen.
And he has, he has heard so much, his wife, his daughters...
Heard her sobs in the night, when their mother died.
Wept. Wept with his daughters, as she faded.
He will listen. As he has, since she was a tiny thing in her mother's arms.
And I listen, too.
Soon, now. Soon.
They - Tessa, Yokoi, Allie - they stand against the Gods of Ragnarok. Against creatures older even than I, hunger made flesh. Hatred, and contempt, and endless, endless famine. They, their Writers, the others who stand with them, face the Gods. But we cannot.
We can only listen.
For they are shut off, beyond even our reach. The battle must be decided , 'fore we may act.
Her whispered prayer in the night, asking that her sister be safe - asking me. Truly asking.
A twist of my hand. A gesture.
She shall be safe, little one. That much I can do. For the memory of silence, and screams... that much I can do.
Her commission lies on my desk. Whether living or posthumous, Alisandra will be a full Muse.
Or Hades itself will pay the price.
She feared me, adjusted her reports to the Collegium. She feared being assigned to another Writer upon her commission. Feared me, because I am what I am. One of the Nine. The first Muses. For what I represent - the Queen of the Muses, the Head of the Collegium, President of the Council.
She is right.
Right to fear me for what I am. Wrong to fear me for what I might do.
Even though it is the effect I seek to create.
...So far, I have seen no reason to reassign her to a different Writer. Their relationship has proven productive, for both of them. Allie has learned much on the job - and so has her Writer.
'Meta-Muses', they call those who take her major. Rare. Few wish to specialise in stories about Subreality and the Outside Dimensions - and about alternative cosmoi for their characters. Nyssaias and Embericles - they fall into that category, too. Unfortunately.
Damn redneck. Damn Nyssaias and Embericles, too...
She would remain with him, unless such time as she might ask otherwise. And so would he.
Certainly better than some things - or some Things - I have encountered.
And one of their faces shows itself now.
They're not stories. They're the creatures who eat the stories. Creatures with no story of their own - but one.
That's what their story is. Nothing. The absence of all other stories.
They're our boogeymen, the creatures in the shadows.
And they're coming, they're coming, and it-
Is this it? When the monsters get you?
Dad - I - w-won't... no.
They won't get Xeffy. They won't get him.
The stage, Allie.
They're watching you.
Their burning eyes. The eyes of the Story Eaters.
You can feel it - waiting for you to fail - to stop you dead.
They want a performance. You're going to give them one.
Heh. Remember? You and Yokoi, together at the Collegium - hitting the clubs, doing the Talent Nights, the Karaoke?
YA in action. The baddest duo of Muses ever to pick up a mike.
Yeah. That was good. Hmm. Yokki still owes me that tab. Wonder if-
Hold it together. They can't do this without you. They need you.
Let's do this.
Come on, guys.
Heart, soul, mind, and body.
Give it your all. Because if you don't...
Give yourself to the song, give yourself over to the song...
The power to Inspire, to inspire them against the Gods, to defend them - Imran, Alryssa, Gordon.... all of them.
I can do this.
Words of magic, words of power, wrapped into the song-
-the words of the song are the words of power.
Music. Magic. Creation.
All aspects of the same thing.
Sing it. Live it.
Burn across the sky in that eternal moment.
To create, to create and inspire...
One eternal moment.
One last epic.
Sear through their souls.
You will live forever, because no-one will say you died.
Here, in this moment, in the music.
The magic is yours.
Silence, screams, and song.
She had sung. Had sung, life and heart and soul.
An answer to her grandmother's silence. An answer to her mother's plea.
This would be decided. One way or another.
The barrier would fall.
And Calliope would be there.
And then she would give her answer - to the Gods, or Allie, she no longer cared.
But she would give her answer.
The brooch on her suit sparkled-
-and Calliope vanished.
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who' and the Gods of Ragnarok are the BBC's. Calliope was introduced to Subreality by Yasmin M - and she went public. Subreality is Kielle's, and the Collegium is Farli's (also public domain).
The other Muses Calliope and Allie refer to are their authors' (Yokoi is Gordon Dempster's, Tessa is Alryssa Kelly's, and Nyssaias and Embericles are BKWillis'). Allie and Xeffy are mine.
The Calliope Files concept was D^Knight's (Damien Kellis) - I know it was a long time since any of these were written, but somebody wanted me to tell the story...
Author notes: The adventure Allie describes during the story was a Round Robin over on rec.arts.drwho. It's hopefully laid out enough that no further background's needed.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat