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The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: August

Name: Lora Redish, back from Berkeley
City The Shape Of Things
Character(s): Heart, Rhynwa, and a river alligator
Title of Post: Getting Rhynwa Wet

Heart rode upriver in silence, trying to hide her disappointment. Her conversations with Rhynwa and Carter had been interesting, but she hadn't come all the way to Nylevia to conduct interviews. As far as she could tell there was only one spellcaster in the group, and the priestess hadn't used so much as a healing spell since they set off. This thing with the shapeshifters wasn't really up her alley either. Heart still thought there was something to the fact that only beings with conscious minds were being affected by whatever was in the water--surely their own minds must be contributing to their susceptibility somehow, if not psychologically than physiologically. It was hardly thesis material, though. This was not turning out to be as productive a trip as Heart had envisioned.

Then a tuft of river reeds lunged up from the bank with a suspiciously reptilian movement, grabbed Rhynwa by the leg, and dragged her under the surface of the water, where she presumably couldn't cast any spells if she wanted to anyway.

"The minute you think a project can't look any worse," Heart sighed in her native Keltur, and pulled out her spear.



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
City Shape of Things
Character(s): Rhynwa, Carter, Akron and Heart
Title of Post: The shape of things to come

Rhynwa lashed out, trying not to gasp in a lungful of water. The alligator-reed-thing was tangling her in its roots. She was struggling to get free, but only enmeshing herself further. Her weapons were no good underwater, even if she could reach them. Every time the gator rolled over and she came close to the surface she thought she could hear people coming for her.

A particularly tight squeeze and she lost her last bit of air. "Arawn. I think my time has come. I will be glad to see you and Jenny. I am sorry to have failed to help these people."

Rhynwa heard the faintest whisper "not yet". As her vision was fading, she though to herself "The problem with following a god of the dead is that when you die, you still aren't done".

Suddenly she felt the bands around her loosening. There was still a lot of swirling, churning water, and it felt as if a current was trying to keep her down. She rallied her strength and realized it wouldn't be enough. She was going to die, despite Arawn. Funny. She wasn't all that eager to prove him wrong, and she didn't mind being imperfect for a little longer.

That's when she felt hands on her pulling her up.

"We have to get the water out of her lungs." Carter retracted his extremely stretchy arms, pulling Rhynwa to shore.

"C'mon, Rinnie! You still wit us?" Small hands pounding on her side finally made her release the water choking her up. "Oh Great. I saves yer life and you up chuck on my nice armor. I can't even clean it off with dat ting in da water."

A mewling, snuffling noise made her open her waterlogged eyes. Her aurumvorax was gently nosing her. "Bet he just wants dinner," she thought to herself.

Rhynwa raised herself onto her elbow to see Heart knee deep in the river, fighting to hold onto her spear. At the end of it was a watery, reedy thing. Apparently the gator had lost some of its reed qualities when it left the band, and had begun to turn into water. Heart finally flipped it onto shore, and stabbed her spear through it, pinning it to the ground. The thing made a few pathetic attempts to get away, it's body beginning to go reedy again. Then it laid still, half-gelatinous water, half river rushes sort of gator shaped. Heart stared at it waiting for it to turn back. When it didn't, she made some careful notes in her journal.

"Well, Rinnie.." she looked at Akron "I tink it's like dis. One. You's about to go all funny shaped. I recommend stickin' wit da black satin. Da goth-thing works fer ya. Da scythe look won't be good for ya; yer stick thin anyways. Two. Carter seems ta be havin some difficulty wit da stretchy thing. His arms snapped back to like 2 inches, and den dey started draggin on da ground. Ugly. And who knows if its his powers or da water. Tree. Heart is standing in it, and now she's pokin at dat water-ting. All in all, it gonna get weider before it gets better. Fortunately, I'm still fine. Looks like I will get ta be da hero in this little adventure. Oh, by da way, yer hat is gone."

"Well, at least in this one small thing I do actually know what to do," she thought. She looked at Akron and said "Who has the hat?" He gave her a weird look and just as he drew breath to answer her, she blurted out "I have the hat!" As it reappeared on her head, Akron's eyes got wide and round.

"COOL!"



Name: Jonah Cohen
City The Shape of Things to Come
Character(s): Carter, Rhynwa, Akron, Heart - and a cute li'l Aurumvorax who needs a name
Title of Post: Aqua Regia

When the alligator, uh, reed-gator, uh... that thing had dragged Rhynwa into the water, Carter Edison had reacted largely by instinct. Heart had grabbed her spear and waded in to shish-kabob the creature that had snared their leader. Akron had peered into the water, searching for her. "I tink I sees her - down dere!"

"If only I could reach her," Carter said, and then his arms started stretching. After they had pulled Rhynwa to safety, he worked on trying to get the hang of his new super-elasticity. Rhynwa was trying hard not to think of all the things Tila would say to a man with stretching powers.

"Dat's pretty weird, Kurt."

"It does take some getting used to," Carter admitted. Lightning fast, he stretched out both arms and grabbed a tree branch, yanking easily out of the trunk. "Neat." But when he tried to retract his arms, the right one returned immediately, but the left had to be reeled in slowly. It felt a lot like winding thread around a spool.

"Still, I've had worse. Hey, this might be useful for getting a look around!" He concentrated and his neck began to elongate. But at about seven feet long it became too skinny to support his head, toppling over until it hit the ground. "Ouch," Carter said.

"That battle staff of yours disappeared after the last fight," Heart said. "How long will this power last?"

"It varies," he replied, trying to shove his extra neckage back down into his torso. "It almost seems like some cruel omnipotent being controls the universe, and makes me keep a certain power only as long as it suits his purposes and amusement."

"I assure you," Rhynwa opined, "that's not how things work."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Anyway, sometimes my powers are over fast, sometimes they last a few days."

"I see. Can you do more than one at once?" Heart asked.

"I don't think so, no."

"Can you use the same power again at some later date?"

"I'm not really sure."

"Hang on a second," Rhynwa said. She cast detect magic. "Nothing," the cleric continued. "However you do that, it's not magical."

"I'm a superhero. Hey - should the little guy be doing that?"

"Call me dat again an I'll---!"

"Not you, Akron. Him." Carter pointed towards the stream, where the baby Aurumvorax was contentedly taking a drink.

"No!" Rhywa shouted. "Stop, Airhglen!"

The baby finished drinking and walked back towards the group. Everyone winced, but the creature did not turn to turf as it walked across the grass. It rubbed up against Rhynwa's leg affectionately, but did not turn to cloth. Everyone watched... but no transformations came.

"Well this is a mystery!" Carter said.

"Why is your nose twitching like that?"

"You wants to talk mystery? What the heck is da deal with dat tunnel in da ground over dere?"



Name: Lora Redish
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami and the Silver Bullets; Blackbird, Michael, and a mysterious visitor
Title of Post: In Deeper

"This is pointless," Sashami muttered dejectedly, looking around the intersection Jimmy had indicated on her map. He and Rissa had gone to deliver the letter, Alderon and Alexke to investigate Paramon Development; the rest of the team, out of leads and out of sneaky members, had gone back to look around the area the assassin had fled to. It looked like any other intersection in a big city. "If Alexke's planar senses were unable to trace him further than this, there's no way my outdoor tracking can."

"He must have picked this spot for a reason, though," said Thalia. "Maybe he has his hideout in one of these buildings."

"Kind of a nice part of town for an assassins' guild, don't you think?" said Berryn, peering through the window of a posh boutique.

"Well, it's got to be a pretty high-paying job."

***

Alexke watched Alderon rifle through the file cabinet in the back room of Paramon Development. She'd wanted to go with Jimmy again, but Sashami had pointed out that the developers could be more dangerous than they seemed on the surface, and the young planeblazer was the most reliable escape route. She had an exit from the office building prepared and ready to go, but she hoped they wouldn't have to use it. Alexke wasn't sure how welcome Alderon would be on the Fifth Plane of Pain. "Hey, check this out!" he said, pulling a form from a file labeled Tax Records, June 817. "A payment for 450 gold to a Mr. Blackbird for 'services rendered'."

"So?" said Alexke.

"So, 'Blackbird' is the guy from the Underground Dolly told me to see if I was looking for a planar mercenary, that's what. Wonder if he's our Mitchel Ewens... or at least connected to him."

Just then the door opened.

***

"So what do we do now?" Melissandra inquired. "Start asking around at some of these shops, perhaps?"

"I don't know what we'd even ask," sighed Sashami. "We don't even know what the assassin we're searching for looks like."

"We could always just pop the manhole cover and check out the sewer," Jason offered. "Flicker said the Dalencian sewers are where everything important happens in Edimon."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

***

"Hey boss," said Louie, leaning into Blackbird's office in the sewers. "I got a buyer for the Paris girl on line eight."

The assassin frowned. "I wasn't looking for one."

"Yeah, I know. He just sorta showed up."

Blackbird sighed and motioned his henchman to let him in. When he did his appearance gave even the hardened guildmaster pause; the man had to be seven feet tall, thin, his face lost in a long grey monk's hood, but his spidery fingers more unnerving somehow than his eyes could have been. "The girl will come with me," he said, in a soft, dry voice that was not a question. "Her companions will follow. All will be as foretold before the Silencing."

"Hey, buddy, keep the plot information to yourself, all right?" Blackbird opened his desk drawer, fidgeting warily with the booby-trap controls within it. "Because if this is about the destruction of the world or something, I don't want to know, see? You pay me, I do a job. The consequences are for heroes or someone to sort out."

"I will pay you." The disquieting hand dropped a purple pouch onto the desk. Several gems spilled out. "You will turn the girl over to me and provide me with two of your men to escort her."

"Escort her where?" said Blackbird, though the pouch looked full enough to make 'Hell' an acceptable answer.

"The Hanchu peninsula."

"Never heard of it."

"That is of no matter. I know the way."

Blackbird fingered the gems. He'd been wanting to unload Ms. Paris before her relatives caught wind of her location anyway; there was nothing like getting an organized crime family pissed off for dampening the prospects of a young guild. "You've got yourself a deal," he said.

Now he just needed to decide who he could trust to escort them.

***

Michael Dean watched the young adventurers from inside the boutique.

He couldn't believe he was actually about to do this. Practically the Prime Directive of life as an assassin was keeping a low profile, and interacting with friends of a hit without a disguise was about as stupid as stupid got in his line of work. But the one time they'd encountered each other he'd been wearing the Cloak of Shadows, so there was no way any of them would recognize him now. And there was something about the idea of... her... seeing him hiding behind anything other than his real face that he just rebelled against.

It was stupid, and he knew that it was stupid. The old gypsy woman had warned him about this. There wasn't anything he could do about it, though. He was going to die if he didn't talk to her.

***

"Hi," said a voice behind Thalia. She turned her head to see a young man with curly hair and laughing green eyes, smiling at her and extending his hand to be shaken. Their eyes met for what felt like a very long moment. "My name's Mike. You look lost--is there something I could help you with?"



Name: Sylvia Rudy
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Thalia, Michael, and the shopping Bullets
Title of Post: Destiny is a Bitch

Thalia turned her head to see a young man with curly hair and laughing green eyes. She stared into them, as something jogged in her memory. He said something... his name... something...

A girl could drown in those eyes, feeling safe and protected. There was something so very familiar about him... The object of your desires shall become the object of your... "... destruction ..."

Melissandra turned. "Destruction? What about des-" She saw Thalia's dazed expression as she stared at some young man she'd never seen before. "Hey! What are you doing to my friend?"



Name: Lora Redish
City The Shape Of Things
Character(s): Heart
Title of Post: Karma Chameleon

"I notice the shape-changing doesn't go away with the victim's death," Heart commented, poking the alligator-sized pile of reeds with her spear.

Akron squinted at her. "What's dat mean?"

"Could mean a lot of things." Heart wasn't a detective, nor a pharmacologist. "But it does suggest the condition's permanent once you succumb to it. It's probably not going to just wear off like a virus or something."

"Great," sighed Rhynwa, whose pale skin was already starting to darken to the color of her robes.

"Maybe we can find a cure once we find the cause of the illness," offered Carter.

"*Burp*," burped the aurumvorax.

"Hey! Dem was my gold pieces, ya little rotter!"

"And why isn't the aurumvorax affected?" Carter mused, trying to rein in his own floppy arms. "Or Heart, for that matter?"

"I'm immune to shapeshifting," said Heart.

There was a long pause. "So what do we do now?"



History

Go on to August Archive part 2

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