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The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: August

Name: Lora Redish
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Michael and the shopping Bullets
Title of Post: Love Is Worse Than Demons, But Not Much

"What? Me?" Michael was shaken. "I didn't do anything to her... did I?" Destruction? Have I fallen for some kind of weird seer chick? My father would be laughing in his grave... "No, I just wanted to know if I could help, and..."

Friends of the Messenger. Michael turned his head. A gargoyle had come loose from the facade of the bank behind them. You will not live to assist her further along this path.

"What path?" said Sashami.

"What are you people involved in?" said Michael.

Then the other gargoyle joined it in the attack.



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Michael and the shop..er...FIGHTING Bullets
Title of Post: Girl fight tonight (boys too)

Melissandra hesitated for a moment. It seemed clear to her that this Michael person had cast some kind of 'charm' spell or bewitched Thalia. This made him an enemy. However, he seemed genuinely surprised when accused of harming Thalia. As Melissandra was debating what to do about this, the gargoyles began to move.

"Friends of the Messenger. You will not live to assist her further along this path."

Two huge stone gargoyles pulled themselves free of the building facade, and lumbered toward the group. Melissandra decided that these were obviously a greater threat than Michael at the moment. She stepped up beside Sashami, blocking access to the rest of the party. Michael stepped in front of Thalia, who was still staring at him in a preoccupied way. Berryn began casting something.

The first gargoyle strode to Melissandra, and backhanded her. Hard. She flew backwards, landing with a thud and an "Ooofff!" Sashami stepped in to slice at the other gargoyle. At the last moment it flapped it's enourmous, stone wings hopped over Sashami, and landed just behind Berryn. Berryn was able to duck the huge stone fist swinging at him, but lost his spell. Michael adjusted his location to stay between Thalia and the gargoyle. Thalia, trembling just a little, turned her back to Michael to face the other gargoyle lest it come from behind.

Sashami slashed at the first gargoyle from the side, chinking some stone dust from its wings, but not stopping its forward charge. Berryn decided to dodge as the huge stone fist came swinging again. Michael took the opportunity to drive his dagger at the things back. He managed to crack free one wing, and part of the back, but it did not fall. Rather, it turned to face him.

Melissandra stood up and stared. These thing were stone. She could be stone hard too if she wanted. She usually didn't want to; she wanted to be a normal woman, not a Troll. But the situation didn't look good. She thought about her father, her uncle, their tribes. She thought about blood oozing between her toes, gore dangling from her claws, yes, CLAWS. She thought about destroying her enemy and protecting her own. Then she charged. She screamed a wordless cry of rage and slammed into the gargoyle that had hit her. She drove it to the ground, pinning its arms and wings. She head butted it, cracking its head far worse than her own.

Sashami didn't lose a moment. She turned to the gargoyle now menacing Michael, and swung. She fractured its arm at the shoulder as it began it's swing at Michael; the arm fell to the ground, its momentum carrying it into Thalia's ankle. She cried out, and stumbled back. Michael twisted around and caught her before she fell. Berryn drew its attention by shouting and waving; with its limited awareness turned, Sashami landed a final blow rendering the gargoyle into dust.

Melissandra was pummeling her gargoyle with punishing blows, slowly powdering its chest. Its wings had cracked due to the downward pressure, but it was still struggling. Sashami stepped over "Melissandra. Lean back." Melissandra looked up at her with nearly glowing red eyes. A bit of sanity crept back in, and she leaned out of the way, so that Sashami could decapitate it.

After being sure that there was no more danger, Sashami looked around. Melissandra was staring down at her hands, nails stripped of polish and chipped. "I... I... I have to go!" She looked at them, with big fat tears rolling down from her blue eyes. She turned and ran off, before any of them could stop her.

Berryn was looking at Thalia's ankle, with Michael still holding her up. "Well, it is sprained. I healed what I could but you will still be limping for a few hours." "Only a few?" she asked, sounding disappointed. "I mean, great! Only a few." trying to cover. Michael's mouth twitched into the slightest of smiles "I could help you get back to your hotel." "Would you?! Thanks!" Berryn chuckled to himself and began following them.

Sashami looked around again, not sure of all that occurred. Were these gargoyles a distraction so that they would quickly accept this Michael character? Was what they said about 'friends of the messenger' just more smoke and mirrors, or real and important? She sighed and shook her head. The more immediate question was did she try to go find Melissandra, or did she follow this potential enemy shepherding her friend back to the hotel...



Name: Lora Redish
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Michael, Sashami
Title of Post: Two Attempts

Michael was cursing at himself internally for his sorry-assed performance during that fight. Balking at using his planar powers or high-level assassin skills in front of people who would probably want him dead if they knew who he was, he was reduced to a low-level, and less than competent, fighter. Now he'd let her get injured. It just looked like a sprained ankle, true, but thinking about her being hurt at all made him ache inside. He wished it had happened to one of the others.

She was kind of smiling at him, though, in a dazed kind of way. He wanted to ask her what she meant by this 'destruction' business. There weren't too many people out there Michael Dean would really have minded destroying, but she was one. The Paris girl's boyfriend was hovering over them, though, so he had to watch himself especially closely. "Are you all right?" he said instead. It sounded unbelievably lame.

Then the troll tore off like a bat out of hell, making a sound almost like a sobbing child.

***

"Melissandra!" Sashami hesitated a moment, and then shook her head and ran off after the distraught debutante. This 'Mike' character was probably just being your typical horny male, and even if he wasn't, the others could handle it. She didn't think any of them had a chance of keeping pace with Melissandra.

Sashami gritted her teeth and ducked her head, measuring her breathing to give herself the best possible sprinting power. The troll had left her in the dust once before, but she was a ranger of the Tharric tribes, by training if not by birth, and she hadn't gotten as slow a start this time. "Melissandra!" she shouted, skidding a bit around the corner. The troll seemed to pause for an instant at her name, and that gave Sashami the chance she needed to catch up. "Melissandra, wait!"

She was crying hard now, and half-collapsed against the wall of the alley to weep. Sashami didn't get it. She'd seen Melissandra kill before, so it couldn't be that she--as Sashami suspected Rissa was--was shaken by it. It had just been a gargoyle anyway. "There's no reason to be upset," she tried, wheezing a bit herself from the exertion of following. "You fought most honorably."

"You just don't understand," sobbed Melissandra, disheveled.

"No," Sashami admitted. "I don't. Where I come from, battle prowess is a source of much pride. You single-handedly defeated that monster and successfully protected your friends from harm. Why do you act as if you did something shameful? Everything I know says you should be proud of yourself... but it doesn't seem that you are."



Name: Alyssa Gulledge
City Shape of Things
Character(s): Team Vorax
Title of Post: The golden fleece, er, pelt.

Rhynwa sighed. "I still think that the best bet is to go to the original site, and try to find this space creature. I hope we can find answers there." Airhglen waddled over to her, and snuffled her robe, hoping to get picked up. Rhynwa absent-mindedly scooped him up into her arms, and began petting him.

Joe Fish, looking less human than he did 2 days ago, spoke up. "If we go up along this stream for 1 day more, we will get to the spot where it jumped in the river."

Carter, looked up from his arms. "Well, I would like a little bit of time to get control of my new 'power'. I think that my arms got stretchy because of the need to help Rhynwa, not because of the water. Speaking of which, why isn't Rhynwa turning gold?"

Everyone turned towards Rhynwa, as she looked down on the aurumvorax nestled in her arms.

"Interesting," said Heart. "The aurumvorax isn't changing, is he? Well, it could be that gold is a defense, but that wouldn't account for Rhynwa not turning gold. It could be that the transformation can only be into something that is living..."

"But what abouts da chairs and mugs and clothes and tings at da bar?" asked Akron

Rhynwa said "They were all wood or cotton and linen, so maybe once living counts?"

Carter replied "What about the girl and the cauldron and the stone fire place? She turned into rock did she?"

Heart thought for a moment. "I'm not sure. I will have to work on it."

"Nonetheless, I and a whole host of people and animals are turning into different things right now. Why don't we take our thoughts and walk upstream with them. Carter?"

Carter was frowning in concentration, as his arms slowly retracted. He looked up, his arms still a little too long "Yeah. This will do for now. Are we going to go all the way there, or until it gets dark?"

"Let's go as far as we can before stopping. I am not enjoying being a walking piece of black sackcloth."

"But Rinnie! It suits ya ta be yer own suit! D'ya get it?"

Akron was never sure as he ran, whether the rising growl came from Airhglen or Rhynwa.



Name: Alyssa Gulledge and Laura Redish
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra and Sashami
Title of Post: The Lady and the Tiger

Melissandra sniffled. She took a deep breath and sighed. "It's a troll thing. Trolls have the strength of the earth, and the needs of a wild animal. And more. They are cruel and bloodthirsty. This is not a cultural thing either. It comes with the blood." She stopped, and sniffled again. "The blood that I have in me."

Sashami looked at her. "I am not sure that I understand. You have utilized the warrior spirit you inherited, and you did so in a honorable and skillful way. Why are you grieved by this?"

Melissandra looked down at her hands, a tear beginning to trickle down one cheek as another one welled in her eye. "I had to become a troll. I had to let the earth, and the rage, and the cruelty take over. I had to shed all hints of propriety, of civilization, of humanity. I had to forget friendships, and loyalty and honor. I had to become a mindless monster." Her tears started flowing freely now as she looked Sashami in the eyes, and her voice cracked as she continued. "Everyday, I have to remember that I am a proper young lady in the human world. I go to great lengths to show it, live it and BE it. It comes naturally to Rissa and Thalia, and yourself--"

"Me?" Sashami made a startled laugh, shaken out of her intent listening. "No... no, I'm not really the same social class, Melissandra. I truly am trying to understand, though."

"I spent all week," Melissandra whispered through her tears, "the whole time I have been here in the city, fighting to prove that I was NOT a monster. I have spent my whole life fighting to prove that I could be and AM a lady. And just now, I lost that fight. I have proven all those awful city folk to be right, and even Uncle ThrAAAggghhrrrr'ck when he said that I was just a troll in a slightly human skin. Well, not in words exactly but that is what his screams and growls meant." Melissandra buried her face in her clawed hands, shaking as she wept. "I tried so hard to be a lady. But I failed. I'm nothing but a troll."

Sashami thought about that for a little while, her brow furrowed. "These breakdowns you speak of," she said, "they're an internal thing? You feel a monstrous rage, but it doesn't cause you to do anything reprehensible--slay innocents, betray your friends, or the like?" Melissandra shook her head, shuddering. "Then it's a lapse of emotional control, but not of your behavior? Because I don't know about noblewomen, exactly, but that's not all that uncommon among humans either. Particularly not for younger warriors such as we are. Of course it is better to stay calm and focused even in the heat of battle... but that ideal is one few live up to without years of effort and training."

"It's more than that," said Melissandra, sniffling. "I... summoned it. I embraced it."

"You didn't become a bad person," Sashami pointed out. "You didn't sacrifice onlookers to your goals. You didn't abandon your friends. If your blood makes that more of a struggle for you... then you're that much more to be commended for keeping to the honorable path. I don't think it's anyone else's business if you think like a monster sometimes. If you don't act like one, then you deserve our respect."

Melissandra finally met Sashami's eyes. She let out a soul-weary sigh. "I guess so. It goes against everything my mother taught me, but it goes with my blood. If you say that it is ok to BE a troll sometimes, I believe you. Just so long as I don't ACT like a troll, right?"

"Yes," Sashami said firmly. "If you act with honor, then the source of your strength is not to be shunned."

Melissandra stood up, and brushed off her dress. She ran her fingers through her hair, straightening her disarrayed plaits. She took a deep breath, adjusted her posture and smiled towards the rest of the city. "It might be ok to be a troll sometimes, but that will not stop me from always being a lady." She gave a nervous sideways glance to Sashami "Right?"

Sashami held her smile back, "Always a lady, Melissandra." As Melissandra regained her smile, and began to walk back to their hotel, Sashami did smile, "Always an unusual lady..."



Name: Alyssa Gullege
City Shape of Things
Character(s): Joe, Rhynwa and the Vax Pack
Title of Post: God, it's me Rhynwa

Joe Fish woke up to find himself transformed into a giant cockroach. Well not so giant. But he knew he shouldn't be a bug. He should be a man. He tried looking down, and failed until he realized he needed to swivel hi eye stalks. "Nope. Don't like it. Not one bit," he thought to himself. He saw a cockroach crawling on his lower limb, not sure if it was a limb he started with or not. Joe managed to shiver and twitch enough that the bug fell off. The next thing Joe knew, he was now a nice little hummock of grass. "Well, Gosh-DANG-it!"

Rhynwa turned from where she was sitting watch, sure she heard a rustling in the grass. Her skin had turned black and linen-like; she looked like a doll made from scraps. She got up slowly, so she wouldn't sound like someone throwing old clothes out the window. She walked over to the rustling hummock of grass. Looking around she realized that this must be Joe. Right where he had gone to sleep, resting his head on a hummock of grass, was a second clump of grass. Rustling angrily. At her. "Joe, I don't know. We will try having Heart touch you or something. If you had eyes, I'd be able to show you that I am actually turning into a giant mound of fabric. We will keep going and hope we find the problem. On the other hand, being a hummock of grass might be a nice way to spend some time..."

Aihrglen came over, and snuffled the Joe-grass. It began waving fronds frantically, so Rhynwa scooped up the aurumvorax. "It is not nice to water friends." She walked back to the embers of last nights fire, set down the aurumvorax, and rebuilt the fire until flames were merrily licking up the branches. The rest of the team awoke slowly.

Akron squinted at Rhynwa "Rinnie... uh... you don't look so good. Maybe we need ta find some help?"

"Akron, we ARE the help."

"Oh. Den we might be in some trouble, cuz even though I'm s'posed ta be green, I ain't supposed to be leafy."

Rhynwa looked at him, and indeed, his skin looked like it was starting to separate into grass fronds. Carter had apparently been sleeping amongst some tree roots, because his skin was brown and bark-like. Heart looked like Heart, which is to say strange but not different than usual.

"Heart? Would you be so kind as to touch that clump of grass? No, the other one. Yeah."

As Heart reach her hand down into the grass, it turned pink, and slowly shifted forms. It took about 10 minutes, but finally Joe was restored to a somewhat human form. "Thanks, Miss Heart. I was not enjoying being that much a part of nature."

"Well, I think it is past time we continued upstream. After yesterday, we should get to the town about noon." Rhynwa stood up, and shouldered her bag. She opened it to Aihrglen, who reluctantly crawled in. She would have let him walk, be she was hoping to move a little faster today. She didn't think she had much time left before she was incapable of helping. Joe kept wavering, so Heart put her hand on his arm to keep him stabilized. Carter's stretching power was having some kind of reaction with the shape changing, and his body kept trying to stretch itself into a tree. Akron was getting paranoid as well as grassy, twitching at every sound and whirling around as if someone were following him.

Rhynwa, suddenly overwhelmed, dropped to her knees. She closed her eyes and mentally shouted "Oh Arrawn! I wish You were there to hear me! I am forever in Your service, doing my best. For those not yet ready for Your perfection, I help them live. For those who are ready, I help them die. But now, I am going to be trapped, unable to do Your work, and unable to help these people. I will not even be able to help myself. And now I may not even come to Your side, for how does a piece of cloth die?! " She sagged forward. "I know You are dead, and surely You deserve perfection Yourself, but I miss You."

The rest of the group had moved on to leave Rhynwa to her prayers. The only one left behind to see her begin to glow with a strange black light was Aihrglen. He didn't care.

When Rhynwa caught up with the group, she looked a little more human, and had a less pained look on her face. "Let's get to the village. Either we will be the help they need, or will become part of the helpless. In any case, we will give them our all."



Name: Lora Redish
City The Shape of Things
Character(s): Heart
Title of Post: The traveling psychologist

Rhynwa's prayer had apparently helped some. Heart wondered if the effect was any different than it would have been back when Arawn was alive, but she wasn't sure that was a polite question to ask.

She walked with Joe Fish, keeping herself in contact with him. It was kind of interesting the way he kept shifting to resemble her. He didn't have to see her to do it, either; she'd surreptitiously tested it by touching him from behind. Chameleons, she supposed, did as much. "So," she finally broke the silence, looking over at the brown and knubbly Carter. "Your superpowers--do you feel... guilty about them, somehow?"

"I beg your pardon?" said Carter, in a raspy voice.

"Don't mind me if I'm being too intrusive or anything... but it seems like you're manifesting these things practically at will. You think 'I need to be stronger' and you are, think 'I need to have longer arms' and you do. That's incredibly powerful, more so than even the strongest mage I've read about. And yet you cripple yourself with undesirable personal drawbacks of each power you manifest. If the positives are being selected and granted by your own mind, the negatives must be too. And so I couldn't help wondering what it was about the idea of superpowers that made you want to punish yourself for having them."

"I, uh--never thought about it that way."

"Maybe you should," Heart suggested. "If you could work through it, you'd be more powerful than most of the old gods. Just think of all the good you could do."

"Gods, schmods," muttered Akron. "Fat lotta good they did us all during the Madness. I say good riddance to 'em!"

Rhynwa smacked him in the back of the head, leaving a Rhynwa-colored stain in his matted hair.

"This is--was--my village," whispered Joe Fish, pointing up ahead with an indistinct hand. Buildings and crops still stood, but it wasn't readily apparent which of them, if any, had once been people. "Follow me and I'll--show you--where I first saw that critter."

History

Go on to August Archive part 3

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