Tales From Asheville Vol. 1 - Camille & Hershey
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Hershey sighed as he tripped over another charred skeleton. This one wasn't any different than the others he and Camille passed as they explored this reality, but the novelty wore off once he saw a version of himself eviscerated by six-legged dog creatures. The beasts weren't interested in him though, at least that's what he kept telling himself, and so he kept his concerns to himself for the most part.

Once Camille spotted an old building surrounded by a chain-link fence however, Hershey couldn't stop himself from saying something.

"Camille, don't," Hershey pleaded, "Come on."

Camille, the short, dark-haired woman with a fire in her eyes that could melt steel, shrugged. She fed Hershey a soft "Make me" smile, and scrambled her way up and over the fence.

Hershey, trying his best to not let her step on his last nerve, sighed. He was a hefty man, built like a freight train with a lumberjack's beard and well-kept hair. Jumping the fence after her was more an inconvenience than an actual chore.

"I don't like this," Hershey stated.

The long dilapidated buildings of the town named Asheville stared at them. There was mold and mildew settling on the exterior of those buildings, giving them a distinctly green hue. If you looked long enough at that mold from the right angle, one could see the faces the souls forever confined to shitty, run-down, and abandoned infrastructure.

Or maybe Hershey's imagination was getting the better of him.

"You don't like anything," Camille teased. She was faster than him and well more than a few meters in front of him. She had turned on her heels at some point and was now walking backward.

Hershey straightened himself, "I like things."

"Yeah, boring things."

"I like safety," He said, "And comfort. And warmth. And-"

Camille formed a mouth with her hands, "Blah blah blah. If we did everything you wanted to do, we'd never do anything."

"Is that really a bad thing?" He said, gesturing at the vines on the ground that were grabbing at his ankles.

"I dunno," She shrugged, "Probably."

"What are we doing here anyway, Camille?"

Camille frowned, "Do I ever complain this much when it's your turn for an adventure?"

Hershey thought for a moment. Paused. Then folded his arms and spoke again, "Yes."

"That's because your adventures are boring. Mine is actually important," She spun on her heels again and walked into one of the old buildings.

The building Camille entered looked foreboding. They all did, in truth, but Hershey found a small sense of wonder at the rest of the ruins. Like walking through history and trying not to disturb the ghosts that dwell in their graves.

The building, labeled "Laundry Town" in rusted letters on the door, was cracked to high hell and back. A sizeable portion of the back wall was missing. Skeletons holding melted plastic baskets with moldy, rotten and singed clothes were all that greeted Hershey when he stepped inside.

The tiles shattered beneath his weight, echoing loudly in the silence of the laundromat.

"Shhh!" Camille barked as she brought a finger to her lips. She whispered, "There might be critters afoot."

Hershey shook his head and whispered back, "You're such an asshole."

"I'm serious, Hersh, look." She pointed at a smouldered skeleton.

Hershey frowned, "That's not funny."

Camille shook her head, nearly hitting the bottom of Hershey's chin. It was at that moment that he realized he was standing far too close and took a step back.

"Not the bones you big lug," Camille pointed at the skeleton's chest.

A faintly glowing red mark sat tattooed on the burnt bones of its owner. It was a rugged diamond shape, with loose tentacles stemming from the bottom point like roots. There was a black dot in the center of the diamond with five points around it.

"We haven't been here before," Hershey half-said, half-asked.

Camille jumped and turned around. She put her hands on her hips and a smug smile formed on her face.

"I know, isn't that exciting!"


Before he could finish there was a tremor. Then that tremor turned into a rumble, which then became a small quake.

Hershey glanced up at the ceiling as a small piece of debris hit his face. His heart fell into his stomach as he realized what was happening. Camille had noticed the ceiling coming apart too and asked Hershey something he couldn't hear. The giant man grabbed her by the wrist and pulled Camille into his arms before biting into his lip and spitting blood onto the Sigil tattooed on his hand.

In an instant the world was white. A fiery sensation that would have overwhelmed less experienced Travellers washed over Hershey and Camille. He looked at her. She looked at him. Their bodies crumbled apart, individuals molecules splitting apart from one another and drifting toward the entrance.

Then their minds melted into conceptual components. Memories, both remembered and forgotten, zipped through the fiery white void. Various points in history crashed into one another like bumper cars. The memory of Hershey's first kiss collided with the first time Camille failed a math exam. Camille's earliest memory from when she was four years old and saw her grandfather die knocked into the memory of Hershey breaking a few rules in an alternate reality.

Throughout all of it, the outside of the laundromat remained a clear anchor for Hershey to displace to. Their collected thoughts were pulled in that direction.

This continued for ages, although to the outside observer, the displacement ended just as quickly as it began. Hershey let Camille down on the ground and quickly scanned through his memories, making sure that all the important ones were still intact.

"You okay?" Camille asked him. From the wide-eyed expression she wore, Hershey could tell that she was thinking the same thing that he was.

He frowned, "I told you I didn't like this."

"What the hell was that?"

The laundromat was a pile of rubble now. Dust and debris floated lazily in the air and settled on their clothes.

As the pair were dusting themselves off, something underneath the pile of bricks that was once the entrance started to move. The hairs on the back of Hershey's neck stood up. Camille stood in front of him and withdrew a nine-millimeter pistol from her waist. Hershey took an instinctive step back.

"You brought a fucking gun?"

Camille shrugged, "In case of emergencies."

"A fucking gun?"

"Hersh, I swear-"

The thing beneath the bricks emerged. It was a vulture, or at least it loosely resembled one. The vulture-thing stood taller than Camille, which wasn't that surprising. But as it stepped toward them its true height became more apparent, and even Hershey had to look up to make eye contact with it. The thing had a pointed beak that had red splatter coating it and a fleshy pink organ hanging out of it. As the creature made eye contact with Hershey, it slurped up that organ like spaghetti and coughed.

"Greetings." The vulture said, its voice sending a chill through the air.

Camille aimed her pistol at the creature's face and closed one eye.

"Are you an Agent of Terror?"

The creature cocked its head to the side and squawked, "Agent of Terror?"

Hershey and Camille let out a collective sigh.

"The Five Terrors? Multiversal cosmic abominations that can fuck up your day in a heartbeat?
I uh, broke a few rules not that long ago. The Third Terror is still… angry," Hershey explained, not closing the distance between the creature and the gun that kept it at bay.

The creature flapped its wings a few times, kicking up dust again and scattering debris on Hershey. He sighed.

"I serve none other than the Wandsmen," The vulture said, a hint of annoyance peppering its voice.

Camille lowered her gun, "There's still Wandsmen in this reality?"

The Wandsman cawed, "Only the ones without a Map or a Way back. But there's quite a few in fact. And I was under the impression that all of your kind died in the… event."

"We aren't natives," Camille said, touching the Sigil on her forearm.

The Wandsman leaned in close. Its breath reeked of rotten meat and orange soda. A pair of beady eyes stared at the Sigil, then at Camille.

"I see… tell me, what do you know of the Convergence?"

Camille looked over her shoulder and Hershey, who shrugged.

"We were just looking for ourselves before we lost something important," Camille explained.

Hershey punched her shoulder.

"Ow, shit. What?"

"We can't trust it," Hershey warned, "Stop giving it personal details."

"She hasn't given me anything I can work with."

"See, I haven't given it anything it can work with."

"I am the Twelfth Wandsman of Reedsing. Do not refer to me as "it" if you value your lives."

The Wandsman flapped its wings. Its eyes transitioned from black to a dark red, then to a bright shade of green. Camille raised the gun slightly and backed away with Hershey.

"Alright," She said, "Twelfth Wandsman of Reedsing, what the hell is this Convergence?"

The Wandsman turned away from them and stared into the sky, "After the one known as Caesar Winters escaped custody he continued to erect the kahlechsk, eventually drawing Her attention."

Camille and Hershey looked at each other.

"That's a lot of emphasis in a lot of places, Reedsing." Camille said.

"Camille," Hershy chimed in, "It's Her."

"Yeah but it's not Her, Her," She turned to the Wandsman, who was now clutching a skull in his feather-covered hands, "Right? The Fourth Terror?"

At the mention of the Fourth Terror, Reedsing turned his head. The skull was in its beak now. Half of it was, anyway. The Wandsman's tongue was circling the remaining eyehole as it nodded.

"Ah, is that what you call them? Those horrid, multi-dimensional abominations?"

"Hey!" Hershey exclaimed, "They'll hear you!"

"I do not fear the Sevatch as you do," Reedsing claimed, planting his feather-hands squarely on where Hershey assumed his hips were.

There was an uncomfortable silence after that. Hershey glanced upward toward the stars that had now blanketed the sky.

Reedsing broke the silence, "Why have you come here?"

Camille and Hershey exchanged a look before Hershey answered, "We're looking for treasure. Collectibles and shit, you know."

Reedsing crunched half a skull in his beak. He let out a long, satisfied "mmmm" and walked up to Hershey. They stood face to feathered-chest, close enough that Hershey could hear the Wandsman's heart thumping rhythmically in his chest.

"You'd best not start lying to me now." Reedsing said, his eyes carefully scanning Hershey up and down.

Hershey did his best to hide the fact that he swallowed his spit.

"There was a thing lost in our reality that we couldn't get back. A treasure, like he said," Camille interjected. "I didn't want to kill myself," She said, "So I came to a place where I already died and, well, started looking."

The Wandsman's attention turned toward Camille; Its massive head and lethal beak centered on her eyes. Reedsing was searching for something, the truth, Camille thought.

She mentally shouted at Hershey for coming up with the most transparent lie in the omniverse.

"Why don't I believe you?" Reedsing cawed, leaning in so close that his beak was right in front of Camille's eye.

"We haven't found it yet," Hershey said.

Reedsing snapped his head in Hershey's direction.

"What exactly are you looking for?"

"The Crown of Apollyon," Hershey explained. A half-truth.

"And you thought it would be in a laundromat?" Reedsing laughed.

The giant vulture threw its head back and howled with thunderous laughter. Hershey and Camille took another step back. Hershey bit his lip, drawing blood. He wiped his mouth.

Just as soon as it began, the laughter stopped.

"By the gods above," Reedsing said once his laughter subsided, "I've almost forgotten how funny your kind can be."

The tattoo on the back of Hershey's hand began to heat up as the blood collected in his palm. Camille shot him a look out the corner of her eye, trying to see what he was planning without letting her guard down. Hershey gripped her free hand with his and sighed.

"Do not even think about leaving me here," Reedsing commanded.

"Wouldn't dream of it, Big Bird," Camille said. The molecules on her hand were already beginning to come apart. Soon she would be nothing but her memories drifing through realities once again.

It was hard on the stomach, but at least the vulture wouldn't be there.

Reedsing took a tentative step toward the pair, carefully examining Camille's arm. Her hand had been reduced to dust particles that floated in a direction that she couldn't visibly percieve. Hershey was nearly completely transparent, his memories already starting to find their way back to their naitive reality.

Then, before they could react, the Wandsman leaped and grabbed onto Camille's shoulder.

As the three displaced to another reality Hershey felt his mind experience things that he couldn't have possibly known about. He saw dimensions where space-time functioned differently, planets filled with Wandsmen, floating eyeballs in space. If his consciousness could form coherent thoughts without his body, Hershey would have asked what was going on.

An eternity later Hershey, Camille, and Reedsing reformed. The world was green, void of hostile plant life and dilapidated infrastructure. They were still in Asheville, at least according to a posted sign reading "Keep Asheville Weird", but it wasn't the one Hershey envisioned when he tried to displace.

Reedsing rose to his talons, brushing dust off his feathered body. He looked around, taking in the surroundings. Either no one had noticed the seven foot tall vulture standing in the middle of the road or no one cared.

"That's weird," Hershey observed.

Soldiers clad in high grade military equipment patrolled the streets. One of them looked in their direction and tapped on another's shoulder. The second soldier looked at Hershey, then Camille, then finally at Reedsing. The soldier's shoulders dropped like he let out a long sigh after a really long day, shook his head, and kept walking.

"Well," Reedsing said, standing taller, "It seems that the Foundation is a tad pre-occupied."

Hershey let out a soft chuckle, "Yeah."

Reedsing turned to face Hershey, "I've got to contact the local Cartographer. Stay out of trouble until I return. We will discuss your quest for that dreaded Crown later."

With that the vulture spread his wings and took off. Camille and Hershey shared a look. She laughed. He sighed.

"You're not allowed to pick adventures anymore."

Camille punched Hershey's shoulder, "At least we're home now."

"I guess," Hershey said, his gaze on the sky. Reedsing was now just a small blip in the air, barely distinguishable from a speck of debris.

There was silence for a moment before a loud BANG erupted from outside of the town. Reedsing fell out of the sky, crashing in front of Hershey and Camille in a bloody spectacle of viscera and gore. The vulture groaned.

"H-help…" He croaked as he reached a feathered talon to Hershey.

Hershey stood with his mouth open. Camille acted first, taking a step toward the grievously injured creature. Thunderous footsteps rounded a corner and the owner held a rifle to Camille's face. She froze.

"Don't," The soldier said. Then he spoke into the radio on his chest, "There's been a breach."

The soldier fired three shots into Reedsing's head, ending the vulture's suffering. Hershey's heart dropped into his stomach as blood and meat chunks landed on him.

"Sorry about the mess," The soldier said, turning to walk in the other direction, "Welcome to Asheville."

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