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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: Coming of Age

Name: Lora Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Plotline: Coming Of Age
Character(s): Rissa Minarye, the Silver Bullets, and special guest star Khyrisse Starshadow (RPC)
Title of Post: Passing the Torch

"Rissa?" Khyrisse greeted her niece with an incredulous hug. "Grendel, you're taller than I am! When did that happen...?"

"This year, I guess." The teenager grinned sheepishly. "I look kind of different, huh?"

"Just... older. You look terrific, really. I should have looked so good at your age." Khyrisse looked distant for a moment, even sad, but shook it off quickly. "What brings you to New Trade? Is your father in town?"

"No... I came to see you, actually." Rissa drew a bronze medallion out of her blouse. "I found this on a dig with Dr. Hayak, at an old Celtic site near Najika."

"And you came to me?" The sorceress touched its heavy face. "I hate to admit this, but you probably know more about archaeology than I do..."

"From one summer internship?" Rissa waved her aunt's flattery off with a smile. "No, I was looking for some help tracking down its origins, actually. It's not Celtic in design. Dr. Hayak says he's never seen anything like it, and he thinks the pattern on it may be some kind of coded map. There could be treasure, or a hidden civilization or something!" She was having a hard time containing her excitement. "So instead of doing another internship, we thought maybe I could go find out. And I remembered you and Uncle Ebreth had an adventuring group, so--"

"Rissa," Khyrisse interrupted, tapping her fingers on her hip. "Does your father know you're here?"

"Uh, well, yes, actually," the girl said meekly. "It was kind of his idea,in fact... the other alternative is looking more and more like getting married. I mean, I am fifteen now, and Grandpa's been putting pressure on him--"

"Say no more," sighed Khyrisse. "Look, I'm always glad to help stave off the patriarchy for you, kiddo, but it's really not feasible for us to go scarpering off on an archaeological expedition right now."

"I'm sure Father and Mother would look after Lissa for you while we were gone."

"Assuming I wanted her growing up in flarking Cynystra," Khyrisse muttered.

Rissa looked a little hurt. "I grew up in Cynystra."

"Sorry." The archmage raked her fingers through her hair. "That's not the point anyway. Rissa, I don't want to leave my two-year-old daughter with a sitter for what could turn into months. Not unless someone's in danger or something. I don't want to leave my citystate with a regent, either. And the Rat Pack hasn't been an active membership in years... we're as scattered as the Dagger Heroes by now. It would take something really important to get us reunited at this point, not just an idea for a neat summer vacation."

"Oh," Rissa said, twisting one hand disappointedly in the other.

"But I'll tell you what I will do. I have a few adventuring accessories I can do without, that I'd be happy to lend you... and I also happen to know a group of young explorers in town who've been looking for work. And a mysterious amulet might turn out to be right up their alley."

***

"Can I take a look?" asked Chloe, intrigued.

"You can, but it doesn't come off my neck anymore once I put it on... that's the other reason Dr. Hayak let me take it with me."

The priestess moved closer to the younger girl to examine the bronze medallion in the flickering firelight of the Silverhammer Bar and Grill. The pattern was too neatly aligned to be random scratches, too asymmetrical for simple decoration. "Maybe it's writing," she suggested.

"Or a map," Berryn offered over her shoulder.

"I always did want to see more of the world," mused Princess Thalia. "Though if I did go, it wouldn't mean anyone else had to, of course... I mean, I'm not trying to speak for anyone but me."

"I think it sounds fun," said Jason.

"And I might earn my name and fortune, if the fates are kind," Sashami agreed.

There was a brief pause, and everyone looked at Alderon. Berryn finally gave his friend a surreptitious kick under the table. "Huh?" said the swashbuckler. "I mean, uh, hi, I'm Alderon."

"Do you have to do this every time a new female arrives on the scene?" sighed Sashami, rolling her eyes.

Rissa turned pink, gave her collar a little self-conscious adjustment and tried changing the subject. "So what does your group, uh, call itself?"

"We started out as the Silver Bullets," said Thalia.

"Which is a pretty stupid name, if you ask me," Chloe added. "But no one could think of anything better that didn't have the word 'inflatable' in it. And it does start with 'S', so I guess it's not a bad default name. What do you do, anyway?"

"Well, I haven't really made up my mind," Rissa admitted, slipping the amulet back into her blouse. "I was planning to be a priest, but after the gods all died, well... lately I've been thinking about going in for a bard."

"My mother was a bard," said Sashami. "It is an honorable profession."

"Though we still need a thief," said Thalia, practically.

Sashami sniffed her disagreement. "Well, I'm sure the party isn't finished forming yet," Chloe said with a smile, and motioned for the waitress. "Let's have one more round together, and see if anyone else shows up. The night is still young."

"I'll drink to that!" said Alderon, and helped himself to a tankard.



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra
Title of Post: Trials of a Young Lady

As Melissandra Clarabella Annisetta strode through the streets of New Trade, she tried to ignore the queer stares she received from all of the inhabitants. She knew she looked a little travel worn (her hair had some mud in it). She knew that it was not often that a proper young lady walked the streets of a city without her escort (her escort died during that little brush up with the thieves). And she knew that even though Saliphon was slightly out of the limelight, her dress couldn?t have been more than 5 years out of date. But her mother said that in a city like New Trade, they would accept her for the beautiful young lady she was.

Melissandra's mother, Estellina Anabella Donetta, had told her that it was time for Coming Out Into Society, as she had just turned 16, but that a tiny farm in the mountains of a backwater country like Saliphon was NOT the place to do it. Estellina went to the old seer in the mountains, and came back with instructions.

"Melissandra, you are to go to New Trade and join a young group of debutantes calling themselves the Argent Sling Stones, or something like that. Your future destiny is with them. Use your best manners as I taught you, but remember that as city people, they will always know the most correct social response for a situation. Follow their lead, and you will become as worldly as I wish I could have been.

"You have grown into a beautiful young woman, and the green tones in your skin are lovely, no matter what anyone else says. Your father would have been so proud, if he hadn't stayed up so late and turned to stone when the sun rose. Go kiss his statue on the way to Oranda, and put some flowers in his hand."

She packed her nicest dress, her embroidery, her finest hat with the beautiful feather, her book of poetry, her claymore, her plate armor and her hair ribbons. Her mother summoned her cousin Bob from two farms down to be her escort and body guard, since a lady needed her honor protected. That night, after tearful, but ladylike words of parting, she set forth through the mountains to Oranda, and eventually to New Trade.

While in Oranda she and Bob were beset by a band of brigands and thugs. There were only 28 of them but since they all seemed intent on besmirching the honor of her cousin with rude comments, she did not regret dispatching them all. They kept saying things like "What kind of person would be seen with THAT?" or "Oh. My. God. It's. Hideous." Now Bob may not have been ideal to look upon with his potato shaped nose, and his red rimmed eyes, but he was still not a bad fellow to be seen with! Bob however went down after the first two hits, so she daintily cleaned up the thieves, worrying about breaking her 10 inch nails or tearing her dress. She wailed and wept for her dead cousin as was seemly for a young lady and proceeded to the city alone.

And now, Melissandra Clarabella Annisetta, ingenue debutante (and occasionally warrior) was looking for these Hoar-frosted Pellets, or somesuch.



Name: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke
Title of Post: A Grand Day Out

"MOTHER!" the fourteen year old screamed before realizing she was alone.

Alexke needed to get out for some fresh air. Maybe if I retrieve a pit fiend she'll take me seriously.

She left a note. That bothered her but it was practical. The last time she ran out her mom sent a search party. Having them bust in while she was kissing a boy killed that mood.

Alexke found herself in a forest clearing. She didn't normally go in this far but she wanted to be lost. The light filtered through the blue leaves calmed her a bit. While she ate the lunch she packed, an overgrown path caught her attention. It might lead somewhere interesting off plane.

***

Alexke found herself on the edge of a park. The road and buildings looked new, surprising her more than the carriage passing overhead. The people here seemed to be mostly human or elven, but appearances could be deceiving.

She wandered for a while. The locals called the place New Trade. Most of them spoke in a language she recognized. Her Dalen was rusty but people understood her.

An elderly woman gave her some local money for taking groceries into a house. Alexka had just wanted to see the inside of one. Now she could shop.

Or try a restaurant.

***

The sign said Silverhammer Bar and Grill. The teenager remembered how places like this worked from when she was little. Sit down, look at the menu, order something on it, eat and pay. She also remembered to be nice to the waitress. Her first mother said if you're not they might spit in your food.

Just after ordering a cheeseburger, her first in years, a woman at the next table asked for a thief.

She leaned over and said in a heavy accent, "excuse me but I couldn't help overhearing." Politeness was appropriate. "If you are interviewing I would like to be your thief."



Name: Jonah
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Jimmy DiLaurentis, the quickly growing Silver Bullets
Title of Post: You Can't Go Wrong with the Classics!

New Trade was a nice town. He'd initially chosen it because it was the easiest place to get to that was very far from his previous locale. And then, he was astounded to run into him of all people. It made things feel like Fate had brought him here.

So tonight, he was chilling in the Silverhammer Bar & Grill, a quiet, cozy little place. It was mostly empty. The owner had offered to go a round at the dartboard with Jimmy, and Jimmy had won the cricket game handily.

The only other people in the place were a posse, people who looked about his age, who screamed adventurers. While refilling his pint at the bar, he heard the pretty blonde say that the group needed a thief. This got his attention.

Almost immediately, someone at the next table spoke up. "If you are interviewing, I would like to be your thief." That was quick. Still, Jimmy wasn't worried. Surely, every group of adventurers needed two thieves, at least. Heck, his last crew had four, counting himself. He couldn't see the person (a woman?) who had spoken, but the accent was like none he'd ever heard. Not that I'm a world traveler or anything, he thought.

Two of the young adventurers came up to the bar. "I wasn't staring, Chloe," the Montassi man insisted.

"Howdy," Jimmy said, throwing caution to the wind. "I don't mean to be a buttinski or anything, but I couldn't help but hearing that your crew seems to be gearing up for some kind of adventure. If you've got any room on the roster, I'm up for it."

"Possibly so," the Montassi said. "But we ought to know what to call you."

"Oh, right. Jimmy DiLaurentis. Jimmy D's what everyone calls me."

"Captain Alderon," the Montassi said. Jimmy shook hands with him, then with the womnan, Chloe. "I'm trying to place the accent, I think I might have sailed somewhere near your homeland?"

"Uh, probably not. Saginou is in the ass-end of Cynystra, and it's a long way from anywhere you can get to by boat."

They chatted for a little while, the others talking with the other thief-volunteer. Jimmy took note of an older man who had entered the bar, trembling and sweating.

"Amulet," he whispered. Then, louder, "Amulet!" His eyes darted about, nervously. He had gotten the attention of the rest of the adventurers, back at their table. "It... must..." Something behind him, in the street.

"Down!" Jimmy shouted, hitting the floor and knocking Alderon down with him. A split second later, a bolt of lightning exploded into the room, passing by the spot where Jimmy and Alderon had been moments before. Chloe ducked as glass from the bar's shattered mirror flew everywhere.

There was a sudden cacophany of exclaimations, chairs overturning, weapons being drawn. Jimmy came up into a crouch, stiletto in one hand, pointing with the other. "There," he said, "there was a guy out there! I think it was a guy, at least. He had a hooded cloak, was pointing a wand." A few people rushed to the door. Berryn, however, knelt by the old man, who had taken the full brunt of the lightning bolt. "He's dead."

"Hey," Jimmy said, "what's that in his hand?" The dead man was clutching a small scroll.



Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami
Title of Post: Don't you hate mysterious old men who drop dead in the middle of bars?

"Shit!" shouted Sashami, jumping over the old man's corpse with her greataxe out. A hooded figure disappeared around the corner of Rosewood and Vine. "Stop that assassin!"

Unfortunately, her pursuit was curtailed as she slammed full force into a much larger woman just turning down the walkway to the bar. "Oof!" said the woman, as Sashami caromed off her and back on her ass onto the cobbles. "I mean, oh my!"

Sashami wasn't a tank, exactly, but she was wearing Tharrian scale, and it was definitely the first time she'd been flattened by a collision with a woman in a ballgown. Of course, she'd never exactly seen a ballgown in those dimensions, either. This girl had more than her share of ogre or something in her blood. "Who are you?" she demanded. "Are you in league with that assassin?"

"Assassin? Where?!?"

Alderon came rushing out the door, followed swiftly by the rest of the young adventurers. "He went that way," Sashami proclaimed, pointing. "But... I doubt my tracking skills will be of much use in this city environment."

"Oh, hell," sighed Alderon. "It sure didn't take long for things to start blowing up, did it?"

"That's the way of these things," said Chloe, who was a Paris and should know. "Is everyone all right?"

"Looks like chicken scratches," said Jimmy, turning the scroll he'd filched off the dead guy upside down and right-side up again.

"It looks like the marks on Rissa's pendant!" said Chloe.

"Which explains the melodramatic yet useless gasping about an amulet, I take it?"

Chloe shrugged.

"Hey!" shouted the proprietor of the Silverhammer, shaking his fist from the door. "Who's gonna pay for this mess, huh?"



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra, Sashami
Title of Post: Further trials of a Young Lady

Melissandra mustered up her best curtsey, and said to the woman in the scale mail "I humbly apologize for blocking your way. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"

The woman looked up at her and frowned. "Well, who are you and are you in league with the assasin?"

"Um...I am Melissandra Clarabella Annisetta, and no I would NEVER be in league with someone as impolite as an assassin. If I go get him, will this make it up to you? Would you then be inclined to help me? I am not from a city and I am feeling quite lost."

Sashami looked up at this huge woman, dressed totally out of place, and said "Sure?"

Melissandra dropped her enormous bag in the doorway, reached in and grabbed her sword. She looked at Sashami, with a hopeful gaze then turned around and began running. Her long legs and extreme need drove her forward much faster than anyone would have guessed. All of the denizens of the city got out of her way ? even the people on the opposite side of the street felt the urge to flee.

She saw the flapping of the assassins cloak towards the end of the street make a quick shift to the left. She sped up and followed. Just as she entered the alley, he was stepping into a glowing hole in space, likely a portal of some type. She made a frantic lunge for the assassin, grabbing his cloak as he was stepping through. She yanked as hard as she could, pulling him back though. Unfortunately the sudden lack of resistance snapped her back onto her rear-end and knocked the wind out of her. The assassin fell back, smacking the pavement as well, but was able to crawl back through the portal before Melissandra could recover. As his cloak passed through, the portal dissipated, leaving Melissandra sitting in the mud and filth, with nothing to show for her attempt.

She slowly stood up, holding back her tears. She was in a city where no one would give her the time of day, and her last chance at help had disappeared. She sniffled, not caring how unladylike it was, and kicked at the trash in the alley. A strange noise made her look, and she realized that the assassin had dropped a pouch. She opened it and found the wand that he had been holding, some papers and an odd silver ring.

She went back to the Silverhammer, and found the woman in the nice armor. "Miss? I am afraid the villain got away from me through some portal, but I was able to recover this bag of his. Is this enough? Would you help me anyway? Please?" And despite her best efforts one gigantic tear rolled down Melissandra's face.



Name: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke
Title of Post: A Minute Late

Alexke had planned on providing backup to Sashami. The women had still been talking to her about being a thief when the old man entered. Alexke hadn't done much lock picking, but she knew how to backstab.

She turned left at the door when Sashami turned right and didn't see the crash. When Alexke turned onto vine from the other end of the block, she expected to see the warrior engaged in a fight. Instead she saw a large woman and a disapppearing portal.

Following the woman back to the bar, she heard the recent arrival ask for help. Alexke wasn't good at sympathy but she put a hand on the woman's arm. "He left through a portal. It looked extradimensional. I couldn't follow. What does the scroll say?"



Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami and Chloe
Title of Post: Sashami's vote

Sashami's jaw dropped open as the hulking woman in the evening dress chased after the fleeing assassin with superhuman speed. She too had disappeared around the corner before the young ranger--no slowpoke herself--had any chance to catch up. She only had a few minutes to stand around the intersection in helpless frustration, however, as the hulking woman swiftly returned with a bag and a piece of a ripped cloak, apologizing tearfully for allowing the assassin to escape.

Sashami wasn't sure whether to be more impressed with the woman's evident prowess in chasing the man down from behind, or the honor that must be underlying her shame in failing. Either way, this was a worthy companion in her book. She wasn't happy with this new influx of thieves Thalia seemed to be trying to recruit. "You made a heroic attempt," she said, trying not to stare at the woman's misshapen grey-green features. "My name is Sashami, and we are the Silver Bullets... I for one would be glad of your company."

"Aw, dammit, he got away?" Alderon looked dejected, and kicked the nearest lamppost. "Hey, Berryn, do you know Speak With Dead? Maybe we could get that old guy to speak in a complete sentence."

"Unfortunately," sighed Chloe, coming back out of the disheveled Silverhammer, "his body seems to have disappeared."

"It's going to be one of those days, isn't it?"

"Is everyone all right?" Chloe's eyes skimmed the group of young adventurers like she was taking roll: she and Berryn, Thalia, Alderon, Jason, Sashami, Rissa, the two new thieves, and the overdressed troll. At least, she thought, they hadn't lost anyone. Yet. "We have some clues about the assassin now, if not his target... should we try to figure out what his deal is, or concentrate on these weird markings on the amulet and the scroll?"



Name: Kristin L'Kar Andersen and Evan Haag
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Rissa and Berryn
Title of Post: Mmm... Scroll...

Rissa stood carefully from behind her chair and brushed mirror fragments off her skirt. Knowing full well that she'd never catch anyone in a chase afoot, she lingered behind the other Bullets for long enough to grab her satchel. There was flash of light at the corner of her eye. She snapped her head around, just in time to see the old man's body disappear.

Her face tingled as if frostbit. The skin between her shoulder blades crawled.

…Rissa cut her brain off in mid-prayer and mentally kicked herself. Hard.

***

Rissa blinked once as she scanned the party outside, gathered around a… formidable young lady in a rather battered ball gown. What a fascinating bone structure... Part troll? That can't be right, can it? The female thief was speaking comfortingly to her, as was Sashami; so Rissa contented herself with a friendly smile and a wave for the apparent newest member of the Silver Bullets, and headed for the male thief.

"Hi," she said shyly to Jimmy. "My name is Rissa. I'm the bard, more or less. Do you think I might look at that scroll?" She stood on tiptoe and peered at it over his arm as he turned it upside down, then right side up.

"Um…" Being forced to voice a bare-faced contradiction, she prudently selected one of the people she'd known for more than half an hour. "Berryn? I… don't think this is an actual scroll."

"Well, does it taste like a scroll?" asked the slightly-smirking priest. Chloe immediately whapped him across the shoulder in what looked like a reflex-response. "Sorry, hon, my bad. Why do you say that, anyway?"

"Look, one edge of the paper is ragged. Someone ripped this out of a book." She edged it away from the male thief with an apologetic smile, and played gently with a corner of the page. Pale smudges of dust came away on the fingertips of her gloves, but the silky paper remained intact. "A very old and expensive book. The writing looks similar to the amulet, but…" She blinked down at the paper. "There's a word or a name occurring several times, and it's oddly emphasized. Do you… think this might be from a holy text of some kind?"

Berryn gently took the expensive parchment scrap from her, and looked at it thoughtfully. "Well, in addition to being a professional consoler of the bereaved, I also happen to be the apprentice of Luthien Greyspear, and as such have spent way too much time staring at old books reading stories about dead people and dead cultures. I have to say I agree with your theory that this might be a holy text; there's definitely some sort of excessive emphasis on this one string of symbols here. It's definitely not Bryttani or Dalen, or Cynystran for that matter. It doesn't resemble Riklandik runes either. Hell, for all I know it's Goblin, and this whole page is a recipe for sewer rat stew. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to decipher any weird menus; I don't have a Comprehend Languages spell memorized."



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra
Title of Post: Where are my manners?

"Silver Bullets? Hey! Silver Bullets!"

Melissandra's face split into a surprisingly joyful grin, her incongruous blue eyes lighting up. "You are who I have been looking for! A kindly seer in the mountains outside my home told my mother that I should seek out the Chromed Projectiles, but I guess that meant Silver Bullets. She said that my destiny lay with you. I had lost all hope of finding you, and in fact my request for your help was to find...um...you."

Melissandra tried to look demure, which was odd on her huge unnatural features. "I am very pleased to have you ask me to join your group. I would be my humble pleasure to assist you in any way I can. I am sorry to have failed my first test, but I will be much better in the future. Thank you." She dropped another curtsey, once again surprising everyone in the room. Typically trolls don't curtsey, especially not in a befouled blue taffeta ball gown.

"Um, if it isn't too rude, might I ask the rest of you your names? I missed them while I was chasing that awful assassin. Oh, dear! Now that WAS rude! May I FIRST ask, who is the deceased and to who, er, whom do I offer condolences? Then I would like to know the names of the bold and brave heroes of the Silver Bullets, if I may."



Name: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke
Title of Post: Getting to Know You

"He didn't say. He just ran in, said amulet and got blasted." Alexke ignored the proprietor.

Melissandra's appearance didn't bother her. She liked the way the half troll's skin worked with her hair even though Alexke had been uneasy lately about her own blond hair. What she didn't know how to react to was Melissandra's ettiquitte. However the debutante was growing on her.

"I'm Alexke," she said clipping the final vowel. "I've just met the Silver Bullets and I am applying for membership, too."



Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami, woman of action
Title of Post: A time to muse, and a time to move

"Yeah, he just kind of wandered into the bar," Chloe agreed with Alexke. "We don't even really know that he was the good guy. For all we know he came to murder Rissa here and the hooded guy saved her." Rissa shuddered involuntarily. "His body seems to have mysteriously disappeared, so we're kind of at a dead end where that's concerned. What was in the killer's bag?"

"His papers," said Sashami, "Dalencian, though they're probably a forgery. How many assassins travel around with valid passports issued in their real names? It says Mitchel Ewens, though, if that's worth anything. And his wand. Thalia, you should probably take that. You never know when a lightning bolt will come in handy."

"And then this parchment the dead man was carrying," Chloe said, frowning at it. "A page from a holy text, huh? I still think this part of it might be a map." She indicated a stylized criss-crossing of lines. "But the rest could be writing, though it's certainly no language I've ever seen before. Why don't we take it to the New Trade Library?"

"The library won't open till morning," said Sashami. "By then Berryn could have his language spell memorized anyway. I say we catch a coach to Dalencia and see if we can find this 'Mitchel Ewens'. We can introduce ourselves on the way. My father always used to say there's a time for idle musing and it's not when there's an assassin at large. He may not be the wisest man in the world, but there's a certain amount of sense in that."

History

Onward to Coming of Age Part 2!

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