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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: December 2003

Name: Lora Redish
City Coming of Age
Character(s): The Silver Bullets and their unlikely guardian angel
Title of Post: Deja Vu All Over Again


"Well?" Melissandra whispered to Rissa as she dismounted.

"I--I'm not sure." Rissa looked after Tyler, confusion in her large brown eyes. "I think he may be running from something... but I don't know what."

***

"Excuse me," said Wenro, bowing a bit stiffly. "Would you be the honorable Silver Bullets?"

"Y-es," said one of the DiLaurentis youth's friends, a suspicious frown on his face. "Why?"

"This one has been sent to request your presence at the pagoda of Lord Ekrit. He has received your name through the Order of Redemption in Shanghai."

They all met that statement with so-what faces except for the blond boy, who perked up as Lord Ekrit had predicted. "That's Praxis' order!" he said. "Flicker must have told him I was coming here." Chest all puffed up with the pride of knowing important people. The mistrust on the others' faces quickly giving way in the face of a plausible and flattering lie. It had been a long time since Wenro was young. "Do--do you need our help with something?"

"This one is afraid we may," Wenro said solemnly. "Would you do us the favor of an audience?"

The young heroes glanced at one another. "Well, there's no coach to Bisak till Wednesday anyway," the dark-haired woman pointed out.

Wenro bowed again, and turned to lead the way.

***

Sashami woke up sluggishly, her cheek cold where it pressed against the stone of the dungeon floor.

Then she realized she was lying on a dungeon floor, and sat straight upright. She surveyed her circumstances in a jumble; Melissandra was awake already and wringing her hands in distress, the other Silver Bullets passed out on the floor or shaking off their lethargy as she was. There was a solidly locked door and a table with food and water laid out on it. Sashami didn't seem to be bodily injured. Where the hell were they, and how had they gotten here?

She dimly remembered following that Wenro character into the pagoda. There had been an odd smell, but Wenro didn't seem to notice it, so Sashami had assumed it was a cultural thing: incense, or something. Apparently it had been something more sinister. Sashami was outraged. Of all the dishonorable tricks... and none of them had seen it coming.

"Where... where are we?" mumbled Rissa, shaking her head trying to clear it.

"We seem to be imprisoned," Melissandra said worriedly. "Thank goodness you're all okay... I woke up some time ago, but wasn't able to wake the rest of you at all. And Jimmy seems to be missing."

Sashami looked back and forth. Indeed, the young thief was gone. He... couldn't have betrayed them, could he? Sashami pushed that idea forcefully out of her mind. "And the door?" she said.

"Locked and barred, I'm afraid," Melissandra said. Sashami could see the dents where the half-troll had tried to break it down. If she hadn't succeeded, small point in Sashami even trying. "And our rude captors seem to have taken all our equipment, too."

Sashami noticed her missing gear for the first time. "My axe!"

"Oh, crap," sighed Alderon, rummaging through the food table. "Well, there's some bread knives here. Can you knife-fight?"

"I have a proficiency in weaponless combat. That's not the point." Sashami buried her hands in her hair. "I am so dead..."

"The book!" Rissa gasped, suddenly reminded, just as Tyler blurted out "My notebook!"

"I think we have more important things to be worrying about than our stuff here, guys," sighed Berryn.

"That axe was Ahvo's father's. The council would never accept me as a War Woman if I lost it."

"My book is... also a family heirloom," Rissa said obscurely.

Tyler didn't elaborate.

"Look, I'm sure they didn't throw them away," said Alderon, trying to shake Alexke awake. The shortest and by far lightest of the Silver Bullets, Alexke had apparently been the hardest-hit by the gas. "We'll find them around here someplace."

"Yes." Sashami concentrated on her breathing, trying to keep herself calm in the face of adversity as she had been taught. "There would be no honor in panic... nor in excessive revenge. We will recover Jimmy and our stolen items, discover what is behind this plot against us, and defuse it."

"You, uh," Berryn said to Rissa. "You don't think Jimmy and Wenro are in, uh, cahoots or anything, do you? What with Wenro knowing all that stuff about us, I mean, and Jimmy being the only one who's not in the slammer right now..."

"Oh, he wouldn't," said Rissa, unhappily.

"Perhaps he just managed to escape from Wenro's trap," Sashami suggested. "He could be searching for us right now." Rissa looked relieved at that idea.

"Well, it looks like Alexke's starting to come around," Alderon said, with his usual optimism. "Maybe she can planeblaze us through that door and we can start getting to the bottom of this."

***

Michael cursed silently as he scrambled up the hill to the sorcerer's compound. He had taken the scenic route through a plane of the Abyss he was especially fond of, keeping an eye on Thalia's group as he went, but by the time he had been able to find a weakpoint into Hanaman she had already gone off with a skin walker, a quasi-demonic spirit evil Shikinti mages used for familiars now and then. Willingly. She was so sweet and trusting. This bodyguarding detail was going to be one pain in the ass after another, Michael was realizing.

He tailed the group at a distance, and slipped into the ether once he got close. High-level mages were bad news. What this one wanted with the kids Michael didn't know, nor did he particularly care. He just had to make sure they made it out of this alive. The yappy street thief had gotten separated from the others. He was probably the most at risk, but he was also in the immediate custody of the skin walker, who was more likely than the mage to notice a cambion eavesdropping. Besides, Rissa was with Thalia. It was better if none of them died here, seeing as how they were going to be providing what passed for protection for the rest of the journey, but in the final count those two were the only ones whose lives mattered, and not in that order.

Michael hovered in the greyspace, waiting for his moment to secretly interfere.

***

"You have done well, Wenro." Ekrit put his fingers together ominously. "Bring the young DiLaurentis before me."



Name: Jonah Cohen
City Coming of Age
Character(s): Jimmy, Ekrit, Wenro, and some folks in a little flashback...
Title of Post: Capricornia


Several years ago, Cynystra

"What'll you have?" "Pabst Blue Ribbon!" Corrado said, as though the waitress were an idiot for not knowing this. He then smacked her ass as she departed to get the drinks. "I tell you, not my favorite town," he said to Gunsel, his associate. "Still, anything that keeps me away from the ole hag and the worthless brat." Corrado, Gunsel knew all too well, could never refer to his wife and child by any other name. Still, the man who made him more nervous was joining them at the table now. Alexander Raymond. Smaller - much smaller - than Corrado, better groomed and more congenial. Yet capable, Gunsel knew equally well, of exploding into violence with shocking speed and shockingly effective brutality. He remembered one time when they'd had to beat down a loser who was very overdue with his payments. Corrado had just been pissed off about the money. Alexander though... he'd enjoyed things. "We've got a bit of a problem," Alexander said. "What? Ekrit's pulling out?!" Corrado asked, outraged. "No, everything is copacetic with our mage friend. But our buyer for the herd has unfortunately backed out on account of having a stroke two days ago." Corrado cursed, paused, then cursed again. "How the hell are we supposed to unload 600 head in this berg? And taking them back to Zulya? Shit! We're gonna be hemmoraging money on this trip." He cursed his dead customer a third time. "Another buyer will come in time." "And in the meantime us paying retail on feeding the longhorns? Shit. More gold down the toilet." "There might be a way to trim expenses a little bit," Gunsel suggested slowly. "Dunno if we'll be able to make much of a profit, but Lord Ekrit's our main business here. This might cut our losses on the herd." He outlined a plan. "I dunno," Corrado said. "That might work if it were hogs. But cattle?" "It's worth a shot." * * * * * Shikintu! Never in his wildest dreams did Jimmy ever expect to travel here. The orient - home of mystery and... and other cool stuff, no doubt. He looked around the carriage station as the Silver Bullets disembarked. He hoped they'd have a chance to scope the place out before departing. Looked like any other bustling city at first. But different. The people looked a little different, of course, the buildings looked a little different. Also different was --- "Hey," he said, "does anyone speak the local lingo?" He was a little surprised when Jason volunteered that he did. And even more surprised when an old acquaintenance of Jason's stepped up, speaking the ole Dalen, to invite them to visit some local bigwig. Keen! * * * * * Adventurers, Ekrit thought, summing up his young captives by a quick perusal of their belongings. Useful insurance to be kept alive, but kept under wraps lest they mount some dumbass heroic rescue attempt on the boy. Not much of interest in their gear... except for a tome that the elf girl had brought. She was the one whose magic amulet wouldn't come off. He could worry about examining both of those items later. Now, he had business that had been a very long time coming. * * * * * Groggy and cotton-mouthed, Jimmy struggled to open his eyes. Where was he? Why was he having a hard time remembering that? Squinting, he saw the man who had greeted them at the station and - holy crud, it had been a trap! Jimmy reached for his dagger --- "Don't even-" the man said. Not there, all his gear gone. He sprang and took a swing at the guy, who did some kung-fu move to block it, smoothly tossing Jimmy back to the floor in the process. "-think about it." Unarmed and hung over from whatever he'd been drugged with, maybe no match for this asshole anyway. Jimmy desperately scanned the room for an exit. No windows, one door with his captor standing calmly in front of it. And where were the others? Terrible thoughts flooded his mind. "Are you working with Ewens? What have you done with my friends?!" "I have no idea whom Ewens is," said a new voice. A man had stepped out of the roaring hearth through a puff of green smoke. Reflexively, Jimmy gasped and scurried back a bit. The man was tall, white haired and with a stony, lined face. A very old-looking book was in his hands. His face and accent were Cynystran. "Who are you?" "Lord Ekrit. And I wouldn't be necessarily counting on your 'friends'. What do you think they're saying to each other now, in my dungeon? Having found themselves tricked, drugged, captured, and one of their own mysteriously absent?" Jimmy shook his head, but he was desperately trying to fight down panic by now. "The Codex of Jason Burr," Ekrit said, patting the book gently. "This is the reason you're here." "Look, I have no idea who you are, or who this Burr guy is, but I think you've made a mistake. You must be looking for someone else to---" "You," Ekrit said, his features growing more menacing "are the son of Corrado Dilaurentis." Jimmy's jaw dropped. Well shit, dad. Separated by three years and thousands of miles, and you're still finding ways to screw up my life.



Name: Kristin L'Kar Andersen City Coming of Age Character(s): Rissa, Sashami, Alderon Title of Post: Ties That Bind Sent: 4.45 pm - 12/3 Rissa clasped her hands together, aware of the fact that they were beginning to shake. She gripped her fingers so hard that her kid gloves creaked faintly in protest. Stone walls. No window. No equipment. Only one exit, a door-- a solid panel of wood that was obviously going nowhere, judging from the damage it had endured at Melissandra's hands. There couldn't have been BARS instead? Why did we have to be captured by competent people? Where is Jimmy, anyway? I refuse to believe he was in on this. I'm not so much of a fool that I can't read someone's basic nature, and this is just not like him at all... He's being held separately for some reason. He's probably wherever the book is. Oh, Fenmarel, the BOOK! Rissa's hands lifted of their own volition, trying to bury themselves in her hair. She jerked them back down to waist level and folded them tightly again. She began pacing restlessly along one wall, her steps echoed by the faint noises of her complaining gloves, waiting for Alexke to wake up. Soon she noticed out of the corner of one eye that Sashami was also pacing, as if someone else's inability to stay still had triggered her own. "I am so dead," she heard Sashami mutter as they passed each other. "Oh, lord, am I dead." Oh, boy, do I ever hear THAT. The pacing helped cleanse Rissa's blood of the remnants of the drug. Head clearing, she spun and marched over to the door. A faint hum filled the cell, followed by the high note of the Shatter spell she'd used in the Society of Science. Rissa struck the wooden planks of the door with two fingers, hard. The door did nothing. It didn't even creak. A swirling blue mist, however, suddenly hissed through the cracks in the door, coiling itself clammily around Rissa's hand and throat. She cut off the note with a panicked squeak. The mist promptly dissipated. "All right, that wasn't my best idea ever," she said, eyes huge. "Um, in case anyone wondered, the door's magically locked, too." Restraining the urge to kick it, she went back to pacing the length of the wall. "Oh gods..." she murmured, trying to stay calm and failing spectacularly. "My father's going to kill me... he's going to kill me and possibly the surrounding county..." "Maybe things aren't so different in Tharr and Cynystra after all," Sashami muttered, pacing her own tight little circle as she waited for release, like a caged animal. The Prayer was pounding in Rissa's head like her own heartbeat. She could see her own hands folded carefully in front of her, the long fingers still chubby with baby fat, blood dripping slowly from the incision on each palm. "Never in anger, never in fear," Rissa whispered to herself in Elven, "never where strangers may spy or steal..." Alderon looked up from Alexke, who seemed even more disinclined to wake up than she had in the Society of Science. "Come again?" Rissa mentally kicked herself. You're not in Cynystra any more, thousands of people know Elven out here, probably half the party speaks it... "Nothing. I just... I have to get my book. I have to," she said desperately. "Is Alexke waking up yet? If she can get us out of here, I can point the way to our things." "Slowly but surely," Alderon said, watching the bard pace in some surprise. "Hey, Rissa, come on... it's just a book." "It's not just a book!" Rissa wailed, yanking at her hair as if she'd like to pull it out. Or, at least, as if she'd like to pull SOMEONE's out. Silky brown tendrils of hair fell loose around her face when she let go, giving her a somewhat disturbed look. Lowering her voice, she said with as much calm as she could muster, "It's ancient, it's the last one of its kind, and it's my responsibility. It's not meant to be in the hands of... anyone but me," she finished lamely. "I have to get it back." No matter what happens to me, I have to get it back. And if someone's actually managed to read it... "Everyone wants their stuff back. We'll get it all back when we break out of here, no problem," the elf reassured her-- optimistically, almost soothingly, as if he were speaking to an overwrought child. All things considered, he could be forgiven for that. But in some ways, Rissa hadn't been a child for years and years. Weary sorrow filled her eyes, and she turned away before Alderon could see it.



Name: Lora Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen City Coming of Age: Sins of the Fathers Character(s): Alderon Title of Post: Berryn's soundtrack song is definitely something by Lou Reed or Laurie Anderson Sent: 8.17 pm - 12/3 Alderon looked curiously at the younger elf. Never in anger, never in fear... "That sounded like an elven ritual, but it's not one I recognize... are you guys Liratyni or something?" Rissa's teary look changed to one of wide-eyed surprise. "We--we're from Dyved actually, but the ritual... well, yes, actually. It's very old." "What's it for, can I ask?" " It's... um." She hesitated, apparently severely embarrassed. "It's sort of a prayer for assistance against the enemies of the People." "Wow." Alderon was impressed by that idea. "Do you have one of those after you? I think the most badass thing I ever had on my tail was some stupid Diarian monster." "No... I'm not that important." She managed a rueful laugh, her fingers still twitching obsessively. "I didn't have any enemies anywhere, before this started... Well, unless you count Professor Zachariaz. And I don't think his wanting to see me flunk my entrance exams is really pertinent." Alderon blinked, the connection suddenly occurring to him. "Hey... that couldn't have anything to do with these creepy animated things attacking us, could it?" "I--I don't think so... It doesn't match anything that's in the book." Rissa bit her lip, thinking hard. "But there... are starting to be some creepy similarities, given the "forbidden knowledge" aspect and the sort of people we keep running afoul of," she murmured, more to herself than to Alderon, and plunked herself down onto the nearest surface with a rather outraged groan. "Oh, tell me I didn't attract this thing to me somehow. No, no, NO." She shook the amulet impatiently. Alderon cleared his throat a little awkwardly. "So by, uh, forbidden knowledge, am I to take it that you don't really want to talk about this book in any more detail?" "I wish I could," Rissa said unhappily. "But I can't. We just have to get it back before anyone else can read it or... very bad things could happen. Very very bad things could happen. Oh, father, you just had to put the bloody thing in my bookbag, didn't you..." "Well," Alderon said, with a pause and a grin, "if there are any ancient elven enemies after you, we're all with you on that one, too." "Aye," Sashami said quietly, continuing to pace. Being cooped up clearly did not agree with her. "Count me in," said Berryn. "Hey, pass me one of those forks." "You're not going really to eat the food our evil enemies left for us, are you?" Alderon said incredulously. "Oh, hell no. But the knives are all gone, and I figure it'd make a better weapon than nothing." He jabbed the air a few times with it experimentally. "Especially with shocking grasp on. Stick a fork in his ass and turn him over, he's done!" "You are so fucking weird, dude."

Go on to December Archive part 2

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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