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The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: July

Name: Jonah Cohen & Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke, Jimmy D
Title of Post: In Plane Sight

Jimmy and Alexke passed Mr. Gold's son as they entered the lobby of the GR3 Inn. "He's a good boy," Zachary Gold told the young adventurers as they entered the lobby. "Always been slow, but a good heart. What can I do for you?"

"We need to find a good map of the city."

Mr. Gold gave them perfect directions to a store where Jimmy bought a detailed street map of Edimon. They sat in the small park nearby as he looked it over. "How big an area can you scan for those, uh, planar traces that Mitch Ewens left?"

"Not very big," Alexke said. "I'd have to be close. Maybe within a block."

"Gotcha. Edimon is way too large to do a systematic, street by street search, so I guess we'll have to do it at random. We'll need to wander around a fair bit to draw a bead on whoever gave Ewens that fake passport. It's early in the day, the real action in the biz won't start til nightfall, but we can narrow our search in the meantime. Sound good to you?"

"Sounds good." She paused. "So, how long have you been a thief, Jimmy?"

"Hmm, bout three, four years now, I guess. You?"

"About the same." Geez, Jimmy thought, and she's gotta be five or six years younger than me. "I have to admit, I'm not really a thief like you. I mainly used my planar abilities to make minor alterations, things that helped me with breaking and entering. Mostly for getting information."

"B and E's legit work. And info is certainly what we need now."

"What kind of stuff did you do?"

"Oh, the standard jobs. Removing cash and/or goods. Me and my old crew would pull any job that would make a decent profit. I was mainly the second story man. You know, climbing up to hard to reach places." He was getting wistful as he related this. How were the others doing back home? "Well, uh, I guess we may as well start heading east," he said, pointing to the map.

East turned out to be what Alexke could tell was the poor part of town. Jimmy guided them along byways where they attracted as little attention as possible. A couple times Alexke scanned for planar disturbances, but she found nothing. She informed Jimmy, and he later marked off this sites on the map with a zero. When they had exited the bad part of town, he drew a dotted line and labeled the area "the hood" on the map. "Not what we're looking for," he told her.

"No thieves there?"

"Tons of thieves there. If you're looking to fence stolen goods or get an illegal weapon or gambling or drugs or hookers, that's where to head. But I promise you, there's no market for forgery there, let alone passports."

As they were passing through a warehouse district, Alexke detected a ripple in the planar fabric. It was centered in an alley off of Webster Street. "It would seem to have originated from one of the inner planes."

"Are any of these inner planes really, really hot?"

"Yes. How did you know?" He pointed to scorch marks along the alley wall. "Of course. I would guess that a mage Gated in a fire elemental. Doesn't look like Ewens." Jimmy made a flame symbol on the map.

The West side was closer to the upper keep of Edimon, and was quite the opposite of the eastern section. Wealthy people and many whom Jimmy pronounced as tourists. Normally, he would have liberated a few wallets, but he had been well trained that when on a job, you stick to the job and don't get distracted by side work.

They stopped at a tavern for lunch. The tight-assed owner hadn't wanted to let Alexke in - "What are you, twelve?!" - but Jimmy convinced the man that they were just there to get food, not booze. Then when the man's back was turned, Jimmy flipped him off.

As they sat eating their cheeseburgers, he marked off a few more spots where nothing was out of the planar ordinary. No one in this part of town had any need for illegal documentation, he explained. He noted no others thieves hailing his presence, and taught Alexke the signal for "please distract this guy". Then he asked her what he'd been wondering: "So, how exactly do you do that planar stuff?"

"It's a natural ability, basically. The planes are layered upon each other. Interplanar travel leaves a readable trace pattern on the quantum level where a traveler breaks through. It's a distrurbance in the surface level, like a footprint, I guess. Some are very distinct. Some require interpretation."

"I see," said Jimmy, not seeing even a little.

"I'm not all that powerful, but I'm hoping to become a full-fledged planeblazer some day."

"Is that tough to do?"

"It takes a lot of practice."

When they headed to the South Side, she asked him "Do you think the others are having any luck decoding that scroll?"

"I'm sure it's no big thing. Rissa and Thalia strike me as big brainiac types. They've probably cracked it already." Jimmy soon found an area that he proclaimed to be more what they were looking for. It struck Alexke as a well off neighborhood starting to go to seed. At the first bar they entered, no one carded her. Jimmy immediately got attention from another thief, but the guy was looking to unload some hot gems, and had no interest in the two Silver Bullets when he found they couldn't help him.

The next contact proved more fruitful. "You're new in town," the well dressed man said, taking a seat at the bar next to Jimmy. "Moving in or passing through?"

"Passing through. I was wondering if you could help us." The man gestured in a way that Alexke corrrectly took to mean "How?"

"We need some papers for going across some borders. Know where we could acquire any?" Jimmy pulled back his hand casually and Alexke saw that he had placed some gold on the bar. She hadn't seen him do it.

The other thief gently pushed it away. "It's ok, kid. I'm a sucker for charity cases. The man you want is Brubeck. He's the best. For enough cash, he can get you documents swearing before Tal and man that you two are Diarian diplomats. He usually hangs at the Take 5 club. Three blocks east of here on Ravenhill Boulevard. Gets in around eight or nine. Tell him Satch sent you."

"Thanks, Satch." After Jimmy finished his beer, they left, Satch telling them to keep their heads down. Jimmy marked his map. "Well, looks like we've got a lead. It'll be a few hours before we can follow up, so maybe we should report back to the others, then keep checking for---"

"I think I've got something." Alexke looked around. "Yes, definitely similar to the planar pattern Ewens left. I can't be 100 percent certain, but this could be where he came to." Jimmy marked the intersection with a star, then said:

"Just one thing I don't get. Take a look at this neighborhood. It's all shops. Busy commercial section. If I had superpowers like teleportation, I'd wanna have a home base. Some safe place I could blip to where no one would notice. Where the heck would that be here?" The two thieves looked one way then the other, forward then back, but saw nothing that resembled such an out of the way safehouse or secluded spot. "Well, shows what I know about planeblazing," Jimmy shrugged. "Looks like we've got two leads."

He didn't realize that they had failed to look in the right direction.



Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami (NOT Sashimi, please!)
Title of Post: Where's the LSRIA when we need it?

"Well, Alexke here thinks Ewens is some sort of planeblazer," Jimmy explained over kung pao. "She followed the portal he opened to an intersection downtown, but we don't know where he went from there. As for the passport, I've got a contact tonight I'm hoping will be able to help us."

"When you go," said Alderon, "see what you can find out about an assassins' guild called the Underground."

"That's a pretty pretentious name for a guild," Jimmy said.

Alderon shrugged. "I asked some girls where I could find a merc to do a planar job for me, and that's what they suggested."

"And Jason and I spent four excruciatingly boring hours waiting around cathouses being propositioned by lowlives while he gabbled with them, so it had damn well better be useful information," Sashami muttered.

Alexke was watching her carefully, like she was sizing the older girl up. "You don't like that part of town?" she said.

Sashami sighed. She really shouldn't be so irritated, and she knew it. Alderon had turned out to be much more competent than she expected at coaxing information out of off-duty whores, who apparently liked a little bit of sociable talk as much as anybody else in a dead-end job. And there were worse things in the world than being leered at. "I don't really approve of prostitution," Sashami admitted. "I suppose it's a fair transaction, and there's no harm being done per se... but I could well have fallen into such a life myself if not for Ahvo, and I doubt many of these women are more empowered by it than I would have been. It's an ugly side of the city, that's all."

"They were kind of being marketed like... well, pieces of meat or something," Jason agreed. "I've seen enough of that attitude to last me a lifetime, already."

"It's just a job like any other job," Alderon shrugged. "Don't be so judgmental. We all have to make a living somehow."

Just then Rissa and Thalia came into the Shikinti restaurant, a woefully bedraggled Melissandra in tow. It was hard to tell with her lumpy green skin, but it looked like she'd been crying, and her dress was a mess. All three of the girls looked a little the worse for wear, with visible scratches on their faces. "What happened to you?" Sashami exclaimed.

The waitstaff were giving Melissandra some very wary looks, but being Shikinti, refrained from actually commenting. "We got in a fight with a, uh, weird book golem in the pre-Celtic stacks," Rissa said apologetically.

"You did?" Sashami blinked. "You're telling me we spent the afternoon in the red-light district, and Jimmy and Alexke spent it in the thieves' quarters, and you're the ones who got into combat... in the library?"

"I've never been attacked by a book before either," Thalia confessed.

"People said I was a monster," Melissandra sniffled mutedly. "They threw garbage at me. My dress is... it's ruined..."

Rissa patted her kindly on the arm. Sashami wasn't that surprised that people might react to Melissandra that way--in Tharr, at least, trolls were known to eat human children on occasion, not behavior that tended to endear them to the locals--but it seemed preposterous to her that anyone would provoke one by pelting her with something as irritating and non-lethal as garbage. "Well, I hope you taught them a lesson," she said.

"Actually, we kind of ran," said Thalia. "I think we're going to have to be a little more... discreet... moving around the city, from now on."

"Gotcha," said Jimmy. "So what about the necklace, learn anything about that?"

"Not really," Rissa said. "The book that was trying to, uh, assassinate us was about tribal people of the Hanchu peninsula... that was part of why I wanted to come to Little Shikintu, I thought maybe someone here might know more about it."

"Hanchu?"

"Gesundheit," said Berryn.

Rissa sighed. "It's a large wilderness area that lies across a narrow isthmus just north of Shikintu... they claim it as part of their territory, but actually it's peopled by monsters and primitive humanoid tribes."

"Then maybe that's where the amulet came from," said Jason. "Let's go there and see if the tribesmen can shed any light on this all."

"I don't think that's a good idea," said Rissa. "You have to cross the Cheong-La mountains to get there, and it's said to be a dangerous land. If we go there at all we're probably going to need a guide, and it could take weeks, and we don't even know that it's the right place to look. I think we need to rescue Chloe first."

The other Silver Bullets nodded their agreement with that. "Well," said Jimmy, "I have a contact to meet tonight, and maybe he can give us a lead on Ewens. If we find him, we'll probably find Chloe... and who knows, he may even be connected to this amulet business somehow."

"We have a dress to fix up," Thalia said, nodding at Melissandra. From the looks of things they had a self-esteem to fix up as well, but Sashami didn't think she'd be much help with either. "Rissa and I know some cantrips, and I have a sewing kit in my purse... maybe we can get it into a more flattering shape."

"Sounds like a plan," said Rissa, squeezing the trollish debutante's shoulder comfortingly. "Come on... let's get back to the hotel. And this time, let's stick to the main streets. People are less likely to try picking fights with us right in front of the police and everyone."

Sashami wasn't completely sure that was true, though it would have been, she dimly remembered, back in Cynystra. Still, Edimon was the seat of the old Dalencian Empire, and she was a little surprised to find so much bigotry and lawlessness in its public places.

She kept her greataxe at the ready as they left the restaurant, just in case.



Name: Lora "Missing the other half of the sharebrain" Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Jimmy, Michael, Alexke, Thalia, Rissa, and a couple of gratuitous foreshadowers
Title of Post: Complications For All, And To All A Good Night

"So what can I do ya for?" said Brubeck, a jolly-looking fellow whose pudginess couldn't quite conceal that this was not a man to fuck with.

Jimmy didn't fuck with him. "Satch said you do papers?"

"Sure do," Brubeck said cheerily. "Travel papers, wills and testaments, divorce settlements, you name it, I can forge it. Whattaya need, kid, new ID?"

"Well, actually," said Jimmy, "some information." He put the purse down on the bar first, and then the passport. "I was wondering what you can tell me about this."

Brubeck opened it, and looked at it for what felt like a very long time. "Mitchel Ewens," he finally said, quietly. "Well, I'll tell you what, friend, if you're looking for him I could help you find him all right, and I wouldn't care what you did with him once you found him, either." He put the purse back into Jimmy's hand, his eyes locked on the younger thief's. "I don't need your money," he said. "But I will need you to do a little... something... for me first."

***

Michael Dean slipped quietly through the hallways of the fairly generic GR3 Hotel.

Actually, that wasn't his name either, but it was the first human one he'd taken, and he had a certain sentiment for it. He was usually Mitchel here in Dalencia, Mikal in Cynystra, and Mick out in the Princedoms--good, non-descript local names designed to catch the attention of no one--but to friends and allies he was always Michael. His real name was long and he'd forgotten how to pronounce it years ago. Michael Dean was a cambion, son of a human woman and a rambling incubus, and he was a planeblazer. He was also an assassin, and tonight he was out on business.

Killing the old man had been easy. He made little noise, and his son sleeping in the next room hadn't even awakened. Michael left the boy alone. You didn't kill anyone you weren't signed up for in this business: extra enemies, no extra pay. With his planar skills, Michael was a master at minimizing collateral damage. Even if the kid had awakened, he could have been on the elemental plane of Earth before an alarm was raised. Tonight, though, he had other plans.

The adventurers upstairs were too young and inexperienced to be keeping a watch on in a place as seemingly safe as a hotel room. Michael returned Alexke's kris knife silently to its sheath at her bedside, the innkeeper's blood still smearing its blade. With luck, this would keep the younger planeblazer out of his business for a while. He was wearing gloves himself, and he'd come in through the door rather than a portal, so though she might suspect his involvement, she'd never be able to prove it. Her teammates might give her the benefit of the doubt or they might not. The authorities certainly wouldn't. If she was smart, she'd get out of town for a while. If not, well, it wasn't Michael's problem.

As he crept back down the hallway, though, he was arrested by a slight sound. From the room next door came another of the adventurers, a young blonde in a nightgown and robe, carrying a candle. Michael stood very still in the shadows, waiting. Had she heard him? No; she walked right past his hiding spot, to the kitchen for a drink of water, and then back to her hotel room again. There was no one between Michael and the front door now. The job had gone perfectly. He was home free, he told himself.

Except for one thing.

Michael Dean had never really given much thought to the concept of love at first sight, much less to the idea of having One True Love out there somewhere. But as he watched the blonde glide back into her bedroom, he knew with the sinking certainty of all his extraplanar senses that this girl was the one.

Michael fled the GR3 Hotel, his heart pounding half in excitement and half in despair.

***

Rissa slept fitfully.

For the past week now, she'd been having strange dreams: murky figures calling to her in unearthly voices she couldn't quite make out. Tonight she was just dreaming about racing horses with her brother back in Najika, but she could still hear the voices fluttering at the edges of the dream, unnervingly. And then suddenly the dream ripped, like a rent veil, and a tall figure in a grey cowled robe stepped through.

Your message has been received, it said in a voice like several voices speaking simultaneously. Reinforcements are on their way.

"Reinforcements?" said Rissa, in her dream. "What are you talking about?"

We will be there soon, said the creature, rippled sharply, and was gone. "Rissa!" yelled her younger brother, looking teasingly back at her across the grassy Cynystran lea. "What are you waiting for, Yuletide?"

"Reinforcements?" Rissa reined in her horse, and looked around the dreamscape in confusion. "Reinforcements for what?"

***

"Damn it," muttered Arturian, his eyes the pearl-grey of foreseeing. "We are not ready."

"If you were," said the Stone Head of Prophecy, "it wouldn't be happening now, would it?"

"Be quiet, Head."

"I live to serve."



Name: Sylvia A. Rudy
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Thalia, a seamstress
Title of Post: Earlier that evening...



The sign on the door said "Leeandra and Daughter - Fine Tailoring and Seamstresses". It would do. Thalia stepped inside and found a young woman hemming a golden silk gown. The workmanship was good, and the design looked like it would be flattering.

"Hi. Are you 'and Daughter'?"

The woman jumped, but only a little. "Oh, hi! Yes, I am Leesa. Can I help you?"

"How would you like a Royal commission?" Thalia flashed a few Talarian coins with her picture on them. Well, technically they were pictures of Telerie, but after the minting process a portrait of one princess pretty much looks like another.

"I'd like it better if there wasn't a catch."

"What makes you think there's a catch?"

"Because you didn't ask to talk to my mom. What's the catch?"

"I need a dress for a... rather... large young lady."

The woman looked relieved. "Oh, that's all right then. There are tricks with the bodice... I'll have to charge extra for yardage of course..."

"...and green skin."

"Um, green?"

"She's... half-troll."

Leesa made a low choking noise.

"You'd be able to tell everyone you worked on a Royal Commission for a Talarian Princess," Thalia pointed out. "It would be a challenge." She bit back, and we're desperate.

"You'll pay for design, labor, and yardage?"

"Yes."

"All right. Let me grab some swatches..."



Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): The Alchemist, Jimmy D, Michael Dean
Title of Post: Three to Get Ready "You know jazz, kid?" Brubeck said.

"I know swing," Jimmy replied.

"Eh. Not bad for party music, I guess. But lacking subtlety and art. Listen. Now this is music. Pure poetry."

Jimmy sat and listened. A sultry blonde with long legs and a husky voice took the stage, starting with a number called "The Night We Called It a Day". He and Brubeck listened through a few numbers. Then, when the lull seemed right, Jimmy said: "I don't do wetwork."

"I can dig that. This job I require of you will be completely dry."

"What do I need to steal?"

"Nothing. I don't need you to take anything, just leave something." He took out a slender envelope, sealed with an elaborate wax mark. Jimmy instinctively checked, but found that it bore no resemblance to Rissa's amulet.

"All you have to do is enter a location, and leave behind that envelope somewhere where it will be found. The kitchen table will do."

"Is this thing gonna explode or curse me or something?"

Brubeck laughed merrily. "Nothing of the sort, my young friend. Just see to it that the seal stays unbroken, or... let's just say, don't break the seal, eh? And I'd advise against being noticed by the resident."

"Defenses on the target?"

"Some, to be sure. Nothing an experienced burglar like yourself should have trouble with, especially since they center of the house's valuables, which you can simply leave be. Drop the note and you'll have your good Mr. Ewens. Are you the cat who can help me?"

Jimmy looked at the envelope for a long time, then took it.

Later that night...

Michael knew he was supposed to report back immediately after completing an assignment, but now he had one quick stop to make.

Maybe he had imagined it. Yeah, some weird quirk, some small charm the girl had. Now that he was out of her presence, it would be gone. He'd never again think of her sleepy eyes, the way they sat like jewels in the porcelain sculpture of an angel---

Stop! One sure way to get a woman out of his mind.

"Heya, mister. Lookin' for a good time?"

"Not you." He looked around, then pointed at a blonde one. "You. Let's go," he said, passing her the cash.

"Mmm-hmmm!" she said happily, noting that he'd inadvertantly forked over a lot of gold. "So you'll be wanting the deluxe---"

"Right here's fine," he said, pushing her against the wall of an alley. About halfway through the act, he made the mistake of looking into the whore's face, and she was nothing - nothing, that is, compared to the girl at the GR3.

"Ah, forget it!" he muttered, zipping up and making a hasty retreat into the shadows.

"Looks like someone's having trouble leaving his closet," the hooker told her companions.

Still later...

Jimmy sat and listened to the torch singer, and thought.

He was quickly approaching out of his depth levels. He had been looking to join up with a group like the Silver Bullets because... well, because he needed to belong. And after a good samaritan had saved his life, he'd felt a strange attraction to this "adventuring" lifestyle, a desire to pay it forward. He wasn't sure if this errand was a good step towards helping anyone, maybe quite the opposite.

It could help Chloe Paris, he reminded himself. And how sinister could the envelope possibly be. Most likely he was signing on as a low profile courier for some guild business. Yeah, a new-in-town guy would be perfect for that. Just case the address Brubeck had given him, slip the note inside and then bring on Mitch Ewens.

Simple, right?

He wished desperately, and not for the first time, that Cuz or Avery or... yes, or Mary was there. They'd help him figure out what to do.

Could he tell the others what he was going to do to find Ewens? Did they really need to know? Could he count on them for advice? Would Berryn cuss him out for wasting time - go find the bastard who took his girlfriend? Would Sashami literally remove his head for being dishonorable?

He'd known the Silver Bullets what - 36 hours? And here he was already dealing with planeblazers - whatever they were - and lost civilizations and disappearing corpses and every time he stopped to think about it he was nervously hoping that a woman he barely knew was alive and alright. And it mattered to him what they thought of him.

"So, what do you do now, farm boy?" he muttered.

"Pardon?" said the man next to him at the bar.

"Uh, nothing." And I'm starting to talk to myself. He headed back to the GR3 to catch some sleep. Things would be clearer come morning.

He hoped.



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