Stark vs. Premonition Aftermath: To the Winner Goes the Spoils

“…so Ms. Gray, you understand our predicament.” The government agent sat at a gray desk in a gray room, his face gray with anxiety. Persephone Gray leaned back in her chair, putting her boots up on the desk.

“Let me see…basically what you’re saying is that my cloned half-sister thing threw the President of the United States into the Painted World before she was murdered by a former cabinet member leaving the President stranded, and I’m the only person on Earth who can get him out?” Persephone smiled brightly.

The agent (one Will Keller) sighed. “Yes, that about sums it up.”

An evil glint appeared in Persephone’s eye. “So what’s in it for me?”

“Pardon?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Knowledge of a job well done?” Agent Keller looked frightened. It was pretty clear that he was about to lose an arm and a leg to the avaricious artist.

“No, no, no, no…you don’t seem to understand. I am literally the only person on the planet who can help you. And if I decided maybe I want a DIFFERENT president, or want to go home to have a several hour teatime, or anything else really, you couldn’t do a single thing about it. So let me repeat: What’s in it for me?” Persephone smugly crossed her arms.

“A medal for exceptional service to the United States,” conceded Agent Keller.

Persephone pretended to think about this offer, reveling in Keller’s agonized expression.

“Mm…no.” Persephone said.

“What??” Agent Keller’s mask broke, and his face flushed. “What do you mean ‘no’?”

“Exactly that. No.” Persephone got up as if to leave.

“You’re NOT the only one who can do this you know” Keller was standing up now, and Persephone knew he planned to block the door. Amateur.

“Oh?” Persephone leaned an arm against the wall.

“We have more clones! We just have to deploy them and you’re obsolete.”

“I call your bluff and raise you a Go Fish” Persephone yawned, then reached an arm into the painting in front of her hand. She rummaged around in the Painted World, quickly finding the alien presence there. Someone grasped at her hand, but she swatted them away. When she withdrew her hand, she was holding a pair of chipped sunglasses. “Ooh, these are cool. I bet they’ll be worth a ton now that the President has disappeared and all.” Persephone put them on. “Now move, I have an important nap to take.” She began to walk towards Keller, who was still in front of the door.

“NO, NO, WAIT, PLEASE!” Will pleaded. “Okay, okay, we need you, we need you. Please, what do you want?”

Persephone smiled. That was more like it. “First, I want to paint Ziev’s presidential portrait.”

Will nodded, relieved. Gray was a famous artist, as far as demands go that was pretty reasonable.

“Second, I want my own reality TV show” Persephone counted off her demands on her fingers. Again, that was doable…Keller nodded slightly.

“Third, I want my criminal record scrubbed squeaky clean worldwide. I want to be able to go flick a police officer’s nose in France and not get in trouble.”

Ah…there was the kicker. “Er…I’m not sure that’s possible. We don’t have that kind of authority over foreign govern—WAIT! We’ll make it happen, we’ll make it happen.” Persephone stopped pushing Will away from the door. “Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Also, I want fifty million dollars.”

“Our tax payers are NOT going to like that” Will moaned. Persephone shrugged. “I’m not American, I really don’t care. Am I gonna get the moolah or no? No means ‘no more president’ by the way.”

“Yes…of course. Can…can we have the President back now?” Will was going to lose his job. He just knew it.

“I need an official contract first. THEN you get the President back.” She didn’t want them just backing out as soon as they had the head honcho back.

The contract was written up. It’s not like anyone had much choice in the matter.

Persephone stepped into the Painted World. She could sense the President over in some of the more gristly Goya stuff. Yikes. She wouldn’t tell the agents about that; she doubted that the cause of death ‘Eaten by Saturn’ would go over well.

Persephone helped the President up, slinging his arm over her shoulder. Then she stepped out of the Painted World.

The President promptly collapsed, coughing up paint. The Painted World had a great life support system, but it was still a little difficult to adjust back to the real world. He’d be okay though. Persephone waved at the government agents, who glared at her, rushing to help the President. She pocketed the sunglasses she had taken as a trophy, then vanished.

She couldn’t wait for her reality show.

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The Return of Dorian Gray: Act I, Part VI

What came before

Act I, Part VI: In which war is declared

And now…

Art books gather dust in the dappled light from the window.

A colorful costume lies crumpled on the floor.

The paintings that once adorned the room are turned towards the wall.

Original Portrait paintings still sell for millions…but her new work is fit only for drab motels, or kindling. The figures no longer dance, the scenery no longer moves with imagined weather. It is, after all, only paint on canvas.

With her funds running low, Portrait has fallen back on simple pick pocketing. It has no glamour, but it does make ends meet. It could be worse.

It can always be worse.

The canvas begins to ripple, the Eiffel Tower swaying in the power of a fearsome dark storm that races over the painted horizon.

Persephone….” A voice drifts out, the sound distorted by high winds. The paintbrush drops from Portrait’s hand. A small, windblown figure appears by the foot of the thrashing tower. “I’m back Persephone,” Dorian Gray says, looking out at her through the canvas (and by his feet a scuttling Ghoul peered out as well, its hackles rising in the static haze). “Lovey, we need to talk. Meet me back where it all began, and I swear to you I will make these past centuries of despair right. You’ve suffered so much, sweetheart, it’s time to become a family again.” And with that he vanished, the storm cleared, and once more the Eiffel Tower stood in mediocrity on the canvas. Its respite was brief. Portrait slammed her fist through the canvas, flakes of paint rising into the air like dust. “Oh no you don’t you b@stard…we’re not playing this game again.” She kicked over her easel. People began to murmur and stare at the artist. “I don’t care if you’re a phantasm, a demi-god, or my father…this ends NOW.” Unable to make a dramatic exit due to an unfortunate lack of un-punched paintings in the vicinity, she sprinted off toward home, her beret fluttering in her wake.

And now the art books are slid into magic belt.

A colorful costume is donned, and shimmers in the light.

The paintings that adorn the wall cheer.

A new painting is to be begun.

The fall of Dorian Gray is near.

Like the fall of the House of Usher, the Gray family’s demise is near…

End of Act I

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The Return of Dorian Gray (Act I, Part V)

What came before

Act I, Part V: In which we visit another member of the Gray family

With a puff of feathers, a pigeon alighted upon the crisp canvas of a painter’s easel. It cooed softly, attracting the attention of its numerous brethren that hopped among the cobblestones or perched upon ancient bronze statues. Paris may well be called the City of Love, the City of Lights…or the City of Pigeons. Well, among the feathered multitude stood a young woman wearing a beret and paint-spattered clothing…in her hand she clutched a palette (with Rembrandt’s palette, that being, in order, white, yellow, light red, dark red, brown, blue, green, and light blue, though I’m sure the technical terms are much more fancy…I’m not the artist here, but moving on), and in the other a slim paintbrush. With deft strokes she mixed the paint upon the palette, cleaned her brush in Liquin, and lovingly applied the paint to the canvas, carefully avoiding the feet of the verminous fowl perched thereon.

Now, of course, looks can be deceiving; this young woman is well over 200 years old. The paint is not oil, but rather a cheap knockoff (most likely made entirely of canola). The painting is trash, one of those generic views of the Eiffel Tower that tourists fall over each other for, but promptly throw away upon their return to the States, or Sweden, et cetera. She has painted over one hundred of these in the past year, a pale shade of one hundred Notre Dames. This is Portrait. This is Persephone Gray. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

“THAT’S NOT HER!,” screamed Howard. “Portrait is cool! She’s always suave, an’ has witty things to say, an’ always finds a way to beat the bad guy! You’re LYING!” The storyteller stared at Howard, something nasty glittering in his eyes. “What have I told you about interrupting me? Are you f@cking RETARDED? What’s WRONG with you? Can you not be quiet for TEN MINUTES!?” Howard’s eyes teared up, dripping cubes of blue and green. He began to howl, the piercing noise making Ashley cry as well. “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” screamed the storyteller. Coraline and Veronica rushed to comfort Ashley, while Iris and Rachel did the same for Howard. The others kept to their posts, staring at the storyteller judgmentally. At this moment, the door swung open. Alistair and Ray entered. “What’s going on?” Ray asked. “John, what did you do?” John, the storyteller, crossed his arms. “Howard kept interrupting, it was just the final straw. I can barely get a word in edgewise, and I’M the one trying to give a family history here.” Alistair shook his head slowly. “This is important, John. We don’t have time for this. Finish up, or I’ll have to take over.” John glowered at him. “Just make Howard shut up and I’ll continue. Deal?” Alistair turned to Howard. “Howie, John’s sorry”. ‘I’m not’ mouthed John. “How about you stop talking while he’s trying to talk? I know you’re excited, but this is critical. Why don’t you take off your mouth for a little while?” Howie nodded grudgingly. “Okay…but on one condition. Tell me what you and Ray were doing?” Ray pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “We were travelling back to Y2K to post potentially incriminating evidence on a very important personage that will turn the tides in several probable future timelines.” A very confused Howard took off his mouth and put it into his pocket.

Some time ago, Persephone Gray was imprisoned within a Klein bottle in the fourth dimension. As the passage of time is meaningless there, it is unknown what her relative timeline was…though it is believed to have been at least a decade, quite likely more, even though only a few months passed in the 3 dimension. In any case, Persephone turned to self-reflection. What she found was a weakness in her own spirit…a tendency to allow herself to be manipulated and controlled to her own detriment by anyone who played the correct cards. And upon being released, she fell once more into this cycle. Well…having had enough, and taking her first true step towards freedom…she quit.

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The Return of Dorian Gray (Act I, Part IV)

What came before

Act I, Part IV: In which the players assemble

Oh Howie, you know I can’t tell you right now. It would take so very very long (for time moves so differently in the dreamlands) and our time is short. No Ash, please don’t cry…we need to move on now. You heard what Alistair said. Speaking of whom, has he come back yet? He and Ray were working on something, weren’t they? Oh, but I’m getting sidetracked. Let me continue then…

The scene is set: A lone man lies on a bed in the midst of a cube of pure color. He is a sickly pale, and shakes as if with cold. The walls drip and swirl around him…

The place had at one time been a Motel 7. Until the strange man stumbled in, asking for a room. The manager almost called the hospital, but then again…they had stranger types in here on a regular basis. So a few crumpled bills were exchanged for a cold brass key, and the stranger limped down the worn down faux-velvet carpet to his chambers. Drips of paint leak between his fingers, clutched to his side.

He does not know how he got here. One minute he was dead, his essence sucked away and his mortal form left a statue. And the next he was here, still wounded by a fight against an enemy he never got to know. He doesn't know how much more he can take…he had been in death’s clutches thrice, been revived thrice, and each time he just became so much more tired. His bones should still be lying under the barricade, but where was he now? What was Gavroche Gray now, but a lonely phantom wrapped in painted flesh?

His eyes rolled up into his head, and he collapsed onto the bed into a fevered sleep. His blood dripped onto the floor and began to run up the walls…as the hours ticked by, the motel was consumed by the ravenous abstract.

Gavroche Gray was tossed upon the waves of Outer Dreaming, restless, wakeful, yet unconscious. Two figures swam in his vision, cold hands reaching out of the mirrored liquid. (Or perhaps it was he who was drowning, and they reached to rescue him). And finally, when Gavroche was about to give up and sink forever, something gripped his wrist with a steely grasp, and he woke up. Dorian Gray stood over him. “Hello son. We have so much to discuss.”

And it was at this point that young Howard interjected, loudly yelling ‘Oh SNAP!’ in the midst of the poor teller-of-tales’ story. Ambrose and Amber shake their heads sadly at his inexcusable manners.

Howard…I appreciate your enthusiasm, but please remain quiet. There is a thing called ‘narrative flow’, and you are utterly ruining it. Well, I guess we’ll leave Gavroche and Dorian for the time being, that seems like a good stopping point for now. We HAVE been neglecting the good Persephone Gray, shall we see what she’s been up to?

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The Return of Dorian Gray (Act I, Part III)

What came before

Act I, Part III: In which an unlikely ally is found

Something grabbed him, and he stopped with a jolt that cracked his teeth together. He looked up expecting to gaze into the hollow eyes of the Byakhee, but he was still deep below the earth. He could see the faint gleam of teeth, but nothing else. Then he was being pulled through tunnels of soft earth, and complete darkness surrounded him.

Time passed. There was nothing but darkness, and the sound of Dorian’s captor/savior snuffling. He did not struggle…for no matter what the creature had in mind, Dorian knew that wandering the pitch tunnels would be an equally gruesome fate. Foul earth (the last remains of those who wandered this land long ago, when the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred was still chronicling the dark corners of the worlds in his curséd tome) chittered.

After a day, a minute, an hour, an eternity, the pitch parted, and tendrils of light became visible. The being holding him scrabbled on loose dirt, the floor gave way, and they fell down a waterfall of bones into a vast pit of osseous residue. There were tooth-marks on each one…Dorian tried to scrabble to his feet, but the slick bones shifted and sent him tumbling down again. A doglike snout pushed into his face, its breath heavy with the charnel reek of the graveyard. It snuffled at him, and then grabbed his shoulder and began pulling him toward the sheer stone wall above the pit. Despite the precarious terrain, the beast walked steadily, and scaled the ichor-slick stone rapidly.

Of course, when they reached the top, Dorian intended to push the THING right back in. He’d let it take him this far, but he had come much to far to become some graveyard dog’s meal. But as they ascended the lip of the cliff, Dorian saw something else…(never mind the segmented back of something below in the bones….the rumbling that shook all) the shattered bodies of more of the doglike beings, dropped from some great height. And here, the carrion-eater mourned, and Dorian recalled the old tales…

Of the Ghouls, led by one Richard Upton Pickman, and their attempt to help the wandering dreamer Randolph Carter…but at the last stage of their journey, in the final moments, the dread Old One Nyarlathotep struck them down from the air with little more than a gesture. And since then, there are no more ghouls in the cold wastes. Though it seems there may, in fact, be one…

And it is this last ghoul who saved Mr. Dorian Gray, though its motives may only be guessed at…perhaps it was a form of vengeance against Gray’s captors, the Great Old Ones. Perhaps it was lonely. And perhaps the poor thing was starving and thought a dreamer (for that is not dead which can eternal lie…) would be able to take it to the bursting burial grounds of another world.

And perhaps Dorian wanted someone who knew the ins and outs of the dream world…or a bodyguard. Perhaps he had a premonition of the ghastly role the ghoul would play in later events. Whatever the case…

“I thought ghouls could speak? What happened to you?” Dorian asked the demon, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt (not that there was much point…being dragged through the dirt doesn’t do much for fashion). The ghoul cocked his head and whined softly, whistling through four-inch needle teeth. “Well, no matter. Seems you’re not all you once were, eh?” he chuckled. “I’ll call you Algernon. If that doesn’t suit you, just say so. Come along then.”

And with that they set off towards the stairway that leads to the land of shallow sleep and awakening…they of course had many adventures, but those are tales for another time.

The storyteller stops talking…the dreamlands fade away like mist, forgotten like a nightmare upon waking. They are left alone in the crowded room once more. No one moves to turn back on the light.

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The Return of Dorian Gray Masterpost

Dorian Gray's back, and nothing will ever be the same! Read up on the story as it unfolds (or face the wrath of Portrait moping at you until you comment). Here's a collection of all the chapters, as well as the previous events referred to in the tale.

Reference Materials

The Daughter of Dorian Gray

Paint is Thicker than Water

KOV: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Portrait...Tour Guide? [One of the main characters deleted their posts.... :( ]

The Return of Dorian Gray

Act I, Part I

Act I, Part II

Act I, Part III

Act I, Part IV

Act I, Part V

Act I, Part VI

Start the Conversation

The Return of Dorian Gray (Act I, Part II)

What came before

Act I, Part II: In which a dream becomes a nightmare

The room was a great vault that stretched up and up without end into darkness… if Dorian looked up, he thought that he could see the cold stars that perpetually encircled the wastes of Kadath. Or perhaps they were merely the Mi-Go, circling the heavens in search of something lodged in their ancestral memory, but which they were unable to name. A cold wind blew, scented with obsidian dust, motes of which glimmered darkly in the moonlight. The moon. The bloated fungoid moon, leering down from the sky in cruel mockery of the harmonious moon goddesses of times gone by. Even the frosty huntress Artemis showed more mercy, more compassion, more joy. The moon was his eternal watchman, for it was always night here…in the far lands of dreams, the Cold Wastes of Kadath, there was nothing but crystallized malice and the leering moon.

Dorian Gray, bound in ropes of shoggoth skin, tied to a chair of polished bone. For years. And years. And years. For no real reason at all, other than to make him suffer. But even that had fallen by the wayside as other matters of higher importance had reared their heads….and so Dorian Gray was left alone, in a fortress on the highest mountain in the Cold Wastes of Kadath, where even ghouls feared to tread.

And now Dorian Gray was going to break free. He had finally found the trick to splitting shoggoth skin ropes…they reform quickly, you see, so as soon as you split one, the fibers have already drawn back into place, tighter than before.

In one fluid motion, Dorian Gray shed the shoggoth skins, raking his nails along the tar-like surface quickly enough to part them, pushing the writhing tendrils away in the same gesture. The doors still stood open, for who would want to enter this beleaguered place? And with the horrors that lurked outside…who would want to leave?

As Dorian ran, the moon began to howl.

As he hurtled past immense pits (the quarries where the obsidian was mined, shafts so deep not even echoes were able to escape) the moon went out. The sound of rotting feathers filled the air. The byakhees were here.

Horrid, rancid, their own flesh sloughing from them with each oiled wing beat, the byakhees flew in the spaces between the very stars. They fed upon death. Not carrion…for death has left those sorry corpses…but upon death itself. The moment when the soul leaves the body, the byakhee will tear it to shreds. And then it is said, it will take on the deceased’s face, until that too crumbles away….

But it was the Abyss that truly hungered. Staring at the byakhees, Dorian failed to notice the gaping maw of the quarry directly before him…one step was on chittering stone, the next…nothing. He closed his eyes and prepared for the endless fall…never growing old, it would truly be for the rest of eternity.

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The Return of Dorian Gray (Act I, Part I)

This being the first part in the final saga of the Gray family.

Act I, Part I: In which a tale is begun, and history is recounted.

To understand the present, we must look at what has come before. Don’t fidget now, I promise I’ll make it interesting for you. This is your legacy after all…now then, where was I? Yes, yes of course: I was going to tell you the tale of the return of Dorian Gray. It started slowly, but quickly spiraled out of control, like a snowball rolled down a hill by a small child. We twelve…we are only one of the results, and…Cory, will you please turn off that light? It’s ruining the ambiance. I’ll just light this gas lamp and…there, that’s better. Let us begin.

Anyone who’s anyone knows the tale of Dorian Gray: The man who sold his soul for eternal youth…but who fell into corruption and madness. No surprise that this vile man had bastard offspring. The first to emerge into the public eye was Persephone Gray, Portrait. She was controlled by the Great Old Ones, demon-gods from another world, perhaps another universe. They wanted to sink their rot into the Earth, and the Gray family was engineered to be their agents. The Old Ones didn’t count on Persephone’s strong will though. When she broke free of their control and struck out on her own, they concocted a diabolical scheme to get her back. One of the verminous children of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young, posed as a third Gray child…yes, I said third, I’ll get to that shortly. Well, this faux-Gray was stuck in infancy, and Persephone believed that she had been that way for hundreds of years. When she turned to her gods and got no response, there was only one solution…to free her pseudo-sister, Persephone plunged a knife into the infant’s soul-painting, ending her life. Then, disillusioned by the cruelness of life, she gave in and returned to the Great Old Ones. Shortly after this, the second of the true children of Dorian Gray surfaced…Gavroche Gray, Counterfeit. Gavroche wanted to take the full power of the Gray family for himself. He attempted to consume both his sister and the Great Old Ones themselves…which proved a mistake. Weakened by Persephone, Gavroche could not keep the Old Ones in check. They broke away, and killed Gavroche, bringing him back as a mindless shell with the kiss of Bug-Shash. So Gavroche is out of the picture for now. Oh, I just realized I forgot something, very, very important; the child of Shub-Niggurath was phase two of the plan to get Persephone back. The first step actually involved impersonating Dorian Gray in Hell. Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, took Dorian’s soul, and locked it away in Kadath. It then pretended to be Dorian, playing on all of Portrait’s fears, ripping away the foundation she had built her life upon. It was only after that that he revealed the secret about the ‘third Gray child’, and I’ve already told the rest of that.

Yes, I know, you want me to get to the REAL story. The one I promised you. Please be patient, I’m almost there. I swear. We’re talking about the history of a family that crosses hundreds of years. This is as condensed a version as I can put together for you. Here, I’ll skip the KOV and when Persephone became a tour guide for the Painted World. You wanted to hear that Howie? Well, too bad, you should have been paying attention earlier. No, don’t pout, I’ll write it down for you later. May I continue? Yes? Okay:

So while all that fascinating stuff I skipped was going on, Gavroche was discovered by Pan, god of madness. His mind was returned to him, though Gavroche was more dangerously unbalanced than ever. Then he just…vanished. And NOW our story begins in earnest…so let’s turn back to Dorian Gray, trapped in the dreamland of Kadath…

As the storyteller found his rhythm, his powers kicked in and the listeners could swear they were present at the events he told. The glow of the gas lamp faded away, replaced by walls of smooth obsidian, bent at angles inconceivable to the human eye. Shadows broke free and danced at the corners of vision, faceless terrors…

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Characters…Scott Pilgrimized!

So I was fooling around with the Scott Pilgrim Avatar Creator, and decided to make some of my characters.  Enjoy, leave a comment, and post your own Scott Pilgramized characters here. I'll probably update this with more characters at some point.
 

Portrait


IcarusMach9


Fractal


Mortality


Premonition


Io


Erica Zann


Midnight Orchid


Solenoid Spin


King Mab


The Silent Secret Keeper

Curbstomp


Fugu


Fever Dream

Herbert West

Starheart


Matrushka


Wyvern


Draconian


Rubix


Josh Mardon


Salamander


Klein

Solar Orchid

Counterfeit
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