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Travel notes from a wandering mind

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Children of the Grave - Part 3
Gee is plotting


My Chemical Romance was feeling good. They and the accompanying Ironheade contingent was taking a rest on their way to Death’s Clutch, where apparently there was a stage waiting for them. They were camping at the dry sandy fields of Battersmith located right outside Lionwhyte’s former palace. The enormous anvil of the gods with glowing red eyes watched sullenly over the gate to the Cleave. Practice had gone well, and it was always amazingly cool to see the effects their songs left on the world around them.

Music as spells, it wasn't that farfetched, Gerard mused. In stories words were often used to create magical effects. Magic usually had some sort of rhythm or pattern to its channeling, and music was certainly a pattern. Add words to it, and there you go. Music was the most powerful kind of magic of all. Enough that even in the normal world, it had clear physical and mental effects. He’d seen that, felt it, too many times not to know.

Gerard looked at the shimmering fence in front of them. It formed a semicircle, meeting the rocky wall behind their practice area. It was elaborate wrought iron, a lot like the cemeteries he'd sometimes haunted as a kid (there was a joke hiding in that thought somewhere), though it was translucent and shone faintly blue.

The alarm rang out as the bars faded away.

"Demons coming in from the desert!"

They saw Brian running with the rest of Ironheade, but he swerved and ran over to the band instead.

"Hey Gee," he greeted with a sharp grin. "Think you can play ‘Venom’ for me?"

"Uh sure?"

"Need any more guys on the field?" Frank asked, perching on the side of the speaker stack. For someone afraid of spiders, he sure liked hanging around like one whenever possible.

"Nah, there aren't many, we can handle ‘em, easy," Brian replied. "I just always wanted to have a fight with my own soundtrack!" he yelled back to them as he ran off.

His motorcycle was left standing listlessly on the other side of the field from the battle.

Brian laughed gleefully as the flames engulfed the spindly nuns like so many scarecrows made of sticks. (“It ain't the mark or the scar that makes you one,” he heard in the background). Okay, so it was kinda personal. No one on their side was complaining. He punched and dove and used just about every dirty fighting trick he knew (certainly not EVERY single one, because some would just be gross to use on the demons).

He was monetarily distracted by the sight of a stray Skull Raker that had managed to get a lucky shot with its flail-shaped head to the rock wall behind his band. Loose rock went everywhere, but Ray’s ability to create force-fields kept them safe and they hardly missed a beat. The large demon was soon taken down by a squad of Razor Girls and the spiky head rolled away from the body, the malevolent glow in its eyes extinguished.

Seeing they had the situation in hand, Brian snatched one of the Dominatrix’s spears, ignited it, and threw it back at their burly Pinboy slave. He cackled as the burly demon exploded messily. Oh, that was a good one.

He'd killed demons before of course, but it was just so much more FUN with his band playing... “And say, what I wanna say, tell me I'm an angel,” oh it was House of Wolves now, awesome. Perfect. He let out a howl. He was the baddest motherfucker of all! For a second he considered dancing (well, stomping triumphantly) on the demon corpses, but dismissed the idea almost instantly. He liked these boots. He flicked demon gore off his vest and idly watched the bits of flesh char and smoke.

Lita was staring at him. Well, so were the guys, but she was closer.


“You’re not usually so…flame-y?” she said somewhat hesitantly. He’d taken out nearly a dozen of the demons all by himself. It had been pretty terrifying to see.

Brian looked at the yellow-white fire that was burning merrily along his arms. Most times, it was limited to around his hands. He took several deep breaths to calm himself. He focused, and the flames went out.

He couldn’t help grinning at her. “I was feeling inspired.”

“Well,” she said grudgingly. “These demons seemed especially easy to beat. I think the music helped.”

“Those boys do great work,” Brian said proudly.

“Wow, did ya see that Gee, Brian was awesome!” Mikey crowed as he tried to climb his brother like a tree. As Gerard made for a rather wobbly tree, he tried clambering on Ray and met with more success.

“He was on firrrrrree! Literally!” He giggled into Ray’s hair.

Frank stared at the oddly energetic bassist. “Mikeyway, what are you on? Shit, it’s not some more crazy guitar magic, is it?”

“Nooo, we practiced those songs earlier, right? It was only just now I got this rush of energy, starting during the demon attack.”

Bob looked thoughtful. “That’s it then. You know how the spells are a little different with enemies nearby? And the battle was over real quick, even with all the demons there, like they were weaker. I think that’s his thing,” he said, wiggling his fingers to indicate mystical powers.

“Oooo,” Gerard exclaimed, “like, he restores energy when he heals, but can also take energy from opponents!”

“Brian!” Mikey exclaimed enthusiastically when he saw him nearing their spot by the rock wall. He was off like a shot, tackling him gleefully.

“Ow!” said Brian. Mixed with the dull thud of landing on the hard stony ground was a sharper sensation, like a static shock or pins and needles. He blinked up at a smiling Mikeyway. Well, at least those teeth were more pleasant than a Battle Nun’s. Still slightly frightening though. Those Ways were adorable, but when grinning like that…

“Jesus Christ, Mikey, did you switch brains with Frank or something?”

“Nope! It’s magic!” he wiggled his fingers at their fire-starting manager. Then he climbed off Brian’s chest and helped him up.

Brian brushed off the dust and realized he felt…better. He always felt a little achy generating and using that much fire, but now he felt pretty rejuvenated. He raised his eyebrow at the bassist.

“That’s you then?”

The rest of the band had reached them.

“Yep,” Gerard said proudly. “He’s got some distance life force leeching thing going on.”

“That's cool for us and everything, but how do we get rid of that extra energy? Hyper Mikey is kind of terrifying

At some point during their conversation, Mikey had apparently decided that climbing the cliffs was a great idea.

“How the hell did you get up there?” Ray called up to the bassist, sounding astounded at the feat.

“No idea!” Mikey said cheerfully from the top of the nearly sheer cliff. Like a cat, he’d managed to climb up, but now he couldn’t get down. It wasn’t too high, as far as cliffs went, but high enough that they wouldn’t want to risk him jumping down.

Brian just shook his head. Great, now the bassist was stuck like a cat up a tree. He stood a little further back from the rest of the guys, who were anxiously waiting at the bottom of the outcropping. He watched Gerard for a few moments, marveling at how he always managed to find the tightest jeans.

“Frank!” he heard Ray exclaim, and turned to find the guitarist climbing up the side of the cliff to try and rescue his friend.

Brian rubbed his face in exasperation. When he dared to look again, he saw Frank was somehow clinging to the nearly sheer side of the cliff.

“Great, now we’ve got a Spider-Frank,” he heard Bob mutter. “My drums will never be safe from him again.”

Soon enough, Frank had scrambled up and was squeezing Mikey tight in a hug.

“Okay, now what, you geniuses?” Brian yelled up at them.

Frank grinned and shoved Mikey off the edge.

Gerard shrieked. Ray yelped and a shimmering net of force caught him mere feet from the ground.

Mikey beamed and climbed on Ray again. “I knew you could do it!” He crowed.

Well, they were almost to Death’s Clutch. Surely he’d be back to normal after a real show.

"So you're the leader, are ya?" said a gravelly voice. Most members of Ironheade tended to let them be, though a few did venture to talk to them, mostly about music.

Gerard looked up from the paper, surprised and a little terrified to see the Baron on their side of the camp. He snapped the sketchbook shut, fervently hoping the other man hadn’t seen the drawing of Brian he’d been working on. It was a rather ferocious (and shirtless) rendition of the man clad in leather and flames and standing on a bed of spiky demon skulls.

Glimpses from across the camp and Brian’s stories couldn’t quite prepare you for a personal encounter with the leader of the Fire Barons. He cut an intimidating figure in that black leather ensemble. He was shirtless under the open silver-studded vest, multiple chains hanging off his belt. Gerard was rather jealous of his spiked fingerless gauntlets.

“Um, well, not really. I just sing,” he stammered out.

"You don't look like much."

Gerard just shrugged. Not like that was a lie.

"Obviously you gotta be a whole lotta something. Never seen Brian so...settled,” he went on. He took a seat.

“We’ve known him for years. He’s done a lot for us,” was all Gerard said.

“Ya know, there were a bunch of times before you came along when he’d take off on his own. Seemed like he was looking for something. Then you lot came along, and it seems like he’s found it. I really hope you can hold on to it.” He leaned in. “He’s a great kisser, ya know,” he whispered, and laughed at Gerard’s scandalized look. “Doubt he’d punch you in the kidneys afterward, though. Maybe I’d have done better if I’d given him a nice portrait,” he said with a grin, tapping the sketchbook. “That’s exactly how he looks when he’s in the middle of one of his infernos. He’s not the only one getting hot, eh?”

And with that, he left, jauntily spinning a pair of handcuffs on an index finger. Gerard was left gaping at his retreating back.

Eddie showed up not long after the demons had come by. He’d seen them heading towards Battersmith, but with the help of My Chemical Romance, Ironheade had defeated them easily.

Eddie stood for a moment, observing. They were handling things pretty damn well without him. As they should. He saw Brian smoldering slightly off to the site, looking smugly at the burned carcasses of the demons. Honestly, the guy scared him a little. The Baron was intimidating, sure, but Brian was something else.

He shifted his gaze to the band. Ophelia had filled him in on the new arrivals. He'd been very wary at first, but she and Lita had reassured him that they were on the level.

He heard a soft growl as he walked up.

"God damnit, this has to be the fucking hundredth time I've had to tune or re-string this thing!" the shorter musician grumbled.

The other guitarist didn't look happy either. "Happens after every single time we play, even my first guitar wasn't this shitty," complained the taller, curly-haired one.

"Really?" Eddie said. "Never had any major issues with mine. Can I take a look?"

"You must be Eddie. We heard all about you from Lita," said the shorter man. "Be my guest."

"I'm Ray," the other man introduced himself. "This little shit is Frank."

Eddie nodded in acknowledgement, and looked over their guitars.

"Well, I don't see anything up, and I’m one of the best guitar techs around. I know a guy that can help, if you don't mind taking a trip."

They all watched in trepidation as the steel door opened, letting vapors roll out and revealing a hellish orange glow from within the large shed adorned with a winged chrome skull and an oversized engine on top. They’d seen it in the distance when they were at Battersmith and wondered at its purpose. Well, now they’d find out.

"Eddie," Ray asked flatly. "What the fuck is that, and why are we going inside it?"

The roadie gave them a grin. "That's a Motor Forge. Marks the path to the Guardian of Metal. It's such a trip, it’s awesome, I promise."

Frank gave him a sideways look.

It was a roller-coaster ride down. The tunnel sloped sharply, strange runic etchings on the walls glowing yellow-orange to illuminate the path.

"Oh FUCK are we heading for the center of the earth?!" Frank screamed as the car roared downward.

Then finally they screeched out into a huge open chamber lit by a yellow-orange glow. The car squealed to a stop by a cliff, but with plenty of room to spare.

The band members were all breathing hard. "Holy shit, and I thought it was a bad idea letting Gee drive the van. Oh my god, that was like, ten times worse," Frank moaned, clinging to Ray.

They cautiously got out of the car and looked around. The air was very warm, just on the edge of too hot.

"Wow." They were at the center of the earth, or a reasonable approximation. The light came from the magma a couple hundred feet below. Huge shadowy figures could be vaguely seen in the distance, standing in the middle of the lava and hammering away at....whatever inner-earth dwelling giants made on giant anvils.

A joyful laugh echoed around them.

A thick splashing sound came from closer to the edge of the cliff. They turned just in time to see a column of magma solidify into dark rock, then split apart to reveal...

Frank made a noise. "Um, is that...?" he whispered to Ray.

"I don't think so, last I checked he wasn't living miles beneath the planet's surface," Ray told him snarkily.

"Heh, I was wondering when you'd be showing up," said the Guardian. “Don’t really look like much, though,” he said thoughtfully, examining them as he walked a half-circle around them.

“Err, well, we left our jackets upstairs,” Ray stammered.

"Mmm, not bad," suddenly came from behind Frank and he startled, clutching at his guitar. The Guardian was quicker though, and had snatched it from his hands, leaving Frank’s fingers to clench on empty air.

He looked at it critically. “Could be better, though,” he said, and tossed the two guitars over the edge…wait, TWO?! When had he gotten Ray’s!? He jerked in surprise and frantically felt for his instrument, but it also had been grabbed by the odd being.

“What the hell?” was all he could say, still somewhat stunned by the Guardian’s (Ozzy’s?! what no it isn’t his mind reminded him) speed and by the loss of his guitar.

Even Eddie was stumped. “Okay, he never did that with me,” he said, looking puzzled.

“Oh quit yer whining,” said the supernatural keeper of ancient secrets. “Here you are, better than new,” he declared, pulling out an electric guitar from behind his back and depositing it in Ray’s arms.

The tall guitarist blinked. It looked pretty much the same, but it felt a little different. It was oddly warm, gleaming in the dim volcanic light. He played a few notes. They rang out clear and strong, creating bluish sparks that hung briefly in the hot thick air like fireflies.

“Finally got it to keep the tuning,” Ray murmured. The instrument felt comfortable in a way that it hadn’t before.

Frank was making soft happy noises over his own bone-white guitar.

“You boys needed something with more punch than those old things you came in with,” the Guardian informed them.

The three of them looked up, startled. “Do you know why we’re here? Can we get back home?” Frank asked.

“Pfft, naah! I ain’t psychic. Keeper of timeless secrets, remember, not keeper of the bloody future. Your band has been causing quite a stir though, I must say.”

Frank tried to hide his disappointment. Would’ve been nice to know what their epic quest was supposed to be.

“Aww, cheer up now! All of you boys are doing quite well!” he commended the guitarists, materializing in-between Frank and Ray and clapping a hand on their backs. “Honestly, you’re already better at it than that big lug over there,” he told them in a stage whisper, jerking his head towards Eddie.

They couldn’t help smiling a little at that.

“Just make good use of those guitars. Follow the music, and you’ll be alright,” advised the Guardian of Metal, waving away their shy thanks. “Oh! I almost forgot,” he exclaimed just as they were about to climb back into the car, and tossed a small, dark object in their direction. Frank caught it and found it to be a pocket watch in elegant shiny black enamel with a silver chain.

“Give that to yer drummer. He’ll find it useful.”

Bob wasn’t hiding. He was taking some well-deserved time for himself, and it just happened to be in this nice little grove of trees. Their lead singer could grow wings, they were being followed (but not attacked, which was worse) by zombies…anyone would be a bit stressed out. Playing helped, but when the audience at the first stage show (which was in the middle of the fucking mountains, what the hell) was made up of the aforementioned revenants…well.

Bob lit a cigarette and inhaled. And he’d thought being on tour back home was crazy. The healer had given them the all-clear, they weren't any kind of malevolent secret demons or whatever. Their music was exactly the opposite of evil. It was inspiring and beautiful and he knew, just after seeing the first few concerts they'd done back home with the new songs, that people would go out and create, go and do their damnedest to live their life to the fullest.

But…some of the looks he was getting. That they all were, even Brian now and then, just for being associated with them. Or maybe that was because Brian was pretty freaky in his own right; apparently he was getting a lot more flashy with throwing around the fire since the band had arrived.

The members of Ironheade were pretty good about hiding it, but Bob still managed to catch the suspicious glances, the occasional twitches of fear when they were practicing. (Hey, being stuck in another world was no excuse to get rusty). His irritation was ameliorated somewhat by the Guardian of Metal’s gift. He’d left the thing on his kit after practice one day, and had come back to find that the entire set up had vanished. After some fiddling, he’d discovered that the pocket-watch became a perfectly set up drum kit when opened and dropped to the ground.

He heard a rustle as a small group drifted nearby, not even registering his presence.

“I know the Kill Master knows his shit, but those guys still gimme the creeps."

"Yeah. That pale one with the white hair, look at him, he even has wings, just like Drowned Ophelia."

"Hey, I kinda really like their music, actually.”

“I actually talked to him, ya know,” one of the girls spoke up. “He’s not so bad. Asked me what things were like, fighting the Doom and the demons.” She went on more boldly. “They say the Drowning Doom were like, ghosts, zombies, whatever. But he asked me, wasn’t it was all our parents fighting in that first rebellion? And he’s right, isn’t he?"

This uncomfortable truth made the rest of them go silent.

Bob had had enough. If they were so preoccupied with talking shit about his band that they couldn't even see him, that was their problem. He should tell the guys.

"Guys, you oughta hear what people are saying about us."

The rest of the band looked around the clearing.


"I'm right here."

"Come on, did you suddenly learn how to throw your voice or something?"

"No," said the drummer irritably.

Moments later the entire band startled as Bob appeared out of thin air in front of them.

"Bob," said Frank observantly.

"You were invisible," Mikey marveled.

Part 4


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