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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: June, Part 3




Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra, Chloe
Title of Post: NOT Mel's Diner
Sent: 9.31 am - 6/6

Melissandra knew better than to gawp and this listing of societies greatest heroes as relatives and friends. She also knew that to fit into this social elite would require incredible effort on her part. She just had nothing to contribute; no names of import, no deeds to her own name. Jimmy D couldn't keep the surprise of his face, and her only way out was to dab at the mud on her face.

"Perhaps, if we manage to capture the assassin and bring him to justice, you all would introduce those of us from...uh...more rural settings to the Mithril Dagger Heroes? Only if we do ourselves honor, of course!" Melissandra's eyes glazed over and her voice trailed off: "I'll have to get my dress cleaned, and my nails reotonted...*sigh* look at them. Chipped."

Her eyes suddenly snapped back into focus, and the most astonishing color change crept up her neck and onto her face. The normal pink of a blush combined with her particular grey-green, generated a surprisingly human color, albeit with olive overtones. The slightly shamed smile she gave everyone almost made her look like the girl she really was.

She quickly redirected attention to the problem at hand. "Might I see the piece of paper?"

Chloe pulled out the parchment, but hesitated looking at Melissandra's hands and her 10 inch claws. "Um...please be...gentle"

Melissandra delicately took the page from Chloe, and unrolled it. She stared at the scratches in one direction, then turned the page upside down with clearly no idea what it meant. She stared for a bit longer, then she squinted at it. As the coach pulled up, she held the parchment up towards the sun.

Everyone began piling into the coach. Chloe said "Mel, we have to get in...the coach needs to leave".

Melissandra instantly stopped what she was doing, and stared at Chloe. Chloe heard the barest hint of a rumble, like thunder or a very deep growl. "Young ladies of any station at all do not allow themselves to be called men's names, but only their proper name. Please call me Melissandra."

"Sure. Sorry. Melissandra." Chloe backed up a step or two, covering it up as her entering the carriage. This cross between woman and child, troll and human, debutante and animal could be invaluable, but very dangerous. Chloe would have to work with her a little to level her out.

Melissandra looked at the scroll held up the light one more time, and then climbed into the coach.


Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami and the Silver Bullets
Title of Post: There's always a first time...
Sent: 10.50 am - 6/6

Silence had fallen in the coach to Edimon.

It was a redeye flight, and the Silver Bullets were tired from the evening's excitement. At Thalia's urging they'd gone through a couple rounds of getting-to-know-you games--Alderon, they found, was the oldest (27), Alexke the youngest (14), Chloe was best-traveled (11 countries), and three of their number, Rissa, Jimmy, and Sashami, had been born in the same country (Cynystra). Girly nicknames, like 'Melly' or 'Sandi', met with somewhat less angry rejection by the trollish debutante, but rejection it was nonetheless, so everyone resigned themselves to four syllables for their foreseeable future with her. Sashami and Jason were asleep against the walls of the carriage now, Berryn and Chloe meditating over their spells. Rissa was looking at the piece of parchment again. "The thing I don't get," she said aloud, "is where this script comes from. There are dozens of languages on Ataniel, including some I'm sure I've never heard of, but it's pretty well-established that there have only been seven writing systems... I mean, for example, Cynystran uses a modified Dalen alphabet. So though I probably wouldn't be able to read any text we found, I really ought to be able to recognize it at least. This is just like nothing I've ever even heard of before."

"Maybe it's a code," said Thalia.

"A code? Who would write a holy writ in code?"

"Scientologists?" suggested Alderon.

Rissa gave him a weird look. "Maybe it's not from Ataniel," said Alexke. "Maybe it's extraplanar writing."

"Maybe." Rissa looked at her unusual medallion. "This doesn't really look extraplanar to me... does it to you?"

Alexke shrugged. Just then, the carriage shuddered and jerked to a halt. Jason fell into Melissandra's lap, and Sashami's head banged into the wall. "Ow!" she shouted.

Chloe pulled the curtain on the coach door aside. Through the window and the light rain, she could see several dark figures surrounding the carriage, arguing with the driver. "...hand over the mail," one of them said threateningly. "And your purse, too."

"You scum, you will regret interfering with the New Trade stagecoach!"

"You don't know the half of it!" Sashami stormed out of the cabin with her poleaxe out. "Prepare for battle, miscreants. We are no ordinary passengers!"

"Sashami," groaned Chloe, watching the possibility for a non-violent resolution dissolve in the wake of the young ranger's rudely-awakened indignation.

"That's okay," said one of the shadowy figures, and spread raven-like wings. "We're no ordinary highwaymen."

"Here we go again," Alderon sighed to Jimmy, and pulled out his shortsword with a quick ring of metal on metal.


Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Jimmy D
Title of Post: Down and Dirty
Sent: 6.25 pm - 6/6

"We're no ordinary highwaymen" said the winged thug. No kidding! Jimmy thought as he emerged from the Trade Carriage with the rest of the Silver Bullets. His first real brawl with new partners.

He tried to scope out a place where he was needed, thinking he was glad that he was on Sashami's side in this fight. Then, even through the increasing rain, he heard something moving on top of the coach.

Even drenched, the carriage was easy for Jimmy to scale quickly and quietly. The driver had descended from his seat (hope he knows what he's doing, Jimmy thought)but one of the highwaymen was now standing atop it. This one lacked wings, but had the head of an eagle. His back was to Jimmy, and he was armed with a longbow. Sniper support for his buddies.

He and his childhood friends had done this plenty of times with young longhorns. His dad had always said that Jimmy was pathetically bad at it, but then, he couldn't recall any instance of the old man telling him he was good at something, so no big.

He quietly removed the length of rope from his bag and knotted the lasso. The highwayman notched an arrow, its tip turning into a raptor's talonned foot as he did so, and fired. The lasso was an awkward weapon, and Jimmy couldn't really nab anything further than 10 feet away, but he intended to get much closer now. Eagle-boy notched another arrow and carefully aimed. Geez, strike a pose! This guy's just begging to get kacked from behind.

Before he could fire a second shot, Jimmy had looped the rope around his torso and yanked. The sniper was surprised and tried to look around as staggered backwards a step, but he was a lot bigger than Jimmy, and he managed to keep his footing. He dropped the bow, at least, but was hardly immobilized, even with his arms largely pinned to his sides.

He grabbed a short billy club from a hip-holster, and Jimmy carefully stayed out of its range. But then, as he swung it, the club extended with a soft "click" and the bandit nailed him right in the side of his head.

Caught by surprise, Jimmy did lose his footing on the wet roof. Reflexively grabbing at the rope, he tumbled backwards off the roof.

Falling was a lot like dreaming, he later decided. Like the dream where you have somewhere important to be, but can never seem to make any progress towards reaching it, or where there's a beautriful woman but you just can't manage to get any clothes off. Falling was like that. Jimmy was clutching the rope, flailing, all to no effect. Roll when you hit, roll when you hit, lessen the--

thud!

--impact. Keep rolling so he--

THUD!

--doesn't land on you. Jimmy rolled, and the bandit fell to one side of him, his telescoping billy club on the other. It had been a fall of about 10 feet, but the muddy ground was soft. Not too much bruising would result from that one. The bandit didn't appear to have rolled, and he was still caught in the rope. He was also looking pissed off.

Less than three feet apart, the eagle-head squealed and tried to bite him. Reaching with both hands, Jimmy picked up two loads of mud, smushing one right into the highwayman's eyes, the other at his beak. That slowed him down, and Jimmy wasted no time in refinding the loose end of the rope.

He tried wrapping another loop around the bandits legs and got kicked in the side, hard. One loop over. Another kick, a litle less direct, right in the ribs. Got the rope up through the one around the torso...

With a loud grunt, Jimmy pulled with all his might, and the bandit's legs were yanked up to the small of his back. Jimmy picked up the billy club and clocked the guy. Hit in the cranium, hog-tied and face down in the mud, the highwayman was still moving a little, but the fight had clearly left him.

Dripping, totally covered in mud, his side starting to ache, Jimmy stood up, planted the club in the soft ground beside him, wiped away some of the blood that was trickling from his head-wound, then took out his crossbow. Time to provide a little missile-fire support for the good guys.


Name: Rebecca
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Jason
Title of Post: Stuck in the middle again....
Sent: 9.28 pm - 6/6

There was nothing like having a quiet contemplation with one's self interrupted by a swordfight. Especially when the swordfight was more soothing. Jason realized that he might be cut out for this life after all. At least, a little carnage seemed a welcome relief after trying out several ways in his head of asking Thalia if she might be willing to accompnay him to the new gay bar it was rumored would be opening in New Trade shortly (because, Tal knew, he'd rather die than gow by himself). He found he rather liked the princess; maybe the shared bond of an aversion to forced royal engagements would overwhelm any inhibitions with being seen in such a place. From the way she had talked about her experiences at straight clubs, it couldn't be any worse.

The good news was, the swordsmanship lessons with Flicker seem to have stuck -- or at least Jason finally accepting that the lighter saber worked better for him than his late love's broadsword ever would. He managed a nasty slash into a bandit who was trying to get the drop on him. If only I'd managed a defense like this with the jackasses from Sturtevant...


Name: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke
Title of Post: First Steps
Sent: 10.55 pm - 6/6

"We're no ordinary highwaymen!"

Alexke froze.

She wasn't used to direct fights. Her usual companions were much stronger than her and usually suggested that she take indirect action. This group would let her get out and do something.

She was last out of the carriage and had to dodge Jimmy and an eagle-headed brigand as they fell. Alexke took a moment to survey the scene. Alderon had a two headed dog on the defensive. She couldn't see the driver or most of the others.

Berryn and Chloe seemed to be outmatched. A wolf headed brigand shrugged off their spells and closed on them and Alexke doubted her dagger would stop it. She looked for planar cracks, but since she found none she tried to pull on the local fabric.

It didn't move right. Alexke was worried that she'd trip her companions if she pushed too hard and nothing happpened when she tried to open a small hole in front of the attacker. She grabbed a rock and charged.

With a yell she lept between the wolf-man and the priests. It didn't seem like much, but one trick worked. Doubling gravity on her downswing, she caught the brigand in the gut. It bent over in pain. Chloe joined the melee and Berryn said something about salted peanuts.


Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Melissandra, highwaymen/animals
Title of Post: Momma would be proud.
Sent: 8.05 am - 6/7

Melissandra got out of the carriage amidst flying mud and animals snarls. There were animal/human hybrids all around, attacking her friends. She didn't want to seem unladylike by rushing into bloodthirsty battle, and she didn't want to impinge on the fun of anyone else. She decided to keep her sword sheathed, but look for anyone who might need assistance.

A pair of the brigands, one winged with talons for hands and one with some obvious weasel lineage approached.

The weasel spoke "Ay, she's a big 'un! Good for both of us, eh? She's dressed for it, ain't she?"

The eagle just looked at him in disgust "Actually by how she is dressed she should have a lot of money. I want the money, you can have the rest." The both began advancing on her, Eagle holding a sword, and Weasel holding two long daggers.

Melissandra considered the best way to deal with this. She started with a classic. "Oh No! My virtue is being threatened!" She put one huge hand to her forehead, allowing her a moment to look around for other attackers. She flung her other hand out to the right catching the eagle in his beak with a crack.

"What shall I do?" She switched hand positions with a quick maneuver, smacking the weasel in his snout. By this time the eagle was shaking of his daze, but standing a little shaky.

Next was the takeout move on Weasel. She dropped to one knee, and quickly raised her folded hands in supplication, right into his chin. "Oh Sir! Have mercy!" The weasel's head flung back with an audible crack, and he slowly toppled over backwards.

Melissandra hurled herself at the ankles of Eagle "I beg of you, Sir". A sharp snap was heard at the same time the eagle shrieked "AAAAHHHH! My legs!" and crumpled to the ground sobbing.

Melissandra stood up, and brushed off her dress. She looked around, pleased with having both conducted herself like a lady and removed two bandits. Perhaps not dainty, but propriety was maintained.

Everyone else seemed to have mostly resolved their battles, so she remained near the carriage. She did permit herself the unladylike indulgence of a smile as the peeps and whimpered cries came out of the eagle "My shattered legs..."


Name: Evan
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Berryn and Chloe
Title of Post: Death-twin powers, activate!
Sent: 1.07 pm - 6/8

Berryn was just not having a good day. First, he didn't have a useful spell to get a head start on this whole weird amulet-language-problem-thingy, and now he and the rest of the Silver Bullets are facing down a whole gaggle of mismatched bandits with bad breath. He was about to stop playing nice when one of the two thieves, Alexke, took out the wolf-man he was facing with a rock. As the beastie doubled over in pain, Berryn decided to go after something a little more his speed. He tapped Chloe on the shoulder and pointed at the two raven-winged leaders, the ones that had challenged them in the first place. "Lookit, Chloe, carrion birds! Shall I introduce myself?"

The sweet, eager smile she gave him (just before she went back to hacking at the wolf-man with her silver sickle) was all the encouragement he needed, and he approached the bandits and assumed a ready stance, his walking stick at chest level, parallel to the ground. "Say, do you fellows wanna sit and just discuss this, rather than getting butchered? It's all the same to us really, and it would do wonders for your group's morale."

The raven-beaked bandit's reply came as a loud squawk, and his partner fired a crossbow at the young death priest. Berryn grunted as the bolt thudded into his left arm, and then he shrugged, saying, "Okay, it's your funeral. Or cremation. Or whatever. Reaper." As he said the command word, a huge scythe blade sprang from the walking stick, which itself lengthened to provide a proper balance for the weapon. As the two bandits gaped in momentary surprise, he took advantage, and brought the scythe to bear in an upward-sweeping arc that caught one of the leader's wings. A second later, and the wing fell to the ground, its former owner screeching in pain, blood spraying from the stump. The other bandit dropped his crossbow and readied a nasty-looking homemade morningstar, as Berryn finished the leader off with a nasty slash across the stomach.

"You know, I could leave you out in the open air to be picked at by carrion birds," he quipped as he turned to the second bandit. "You know, so that the whole family could come to the funeral." He looked quizzically at the raven-winged creature, and decided on an alternative punishment. "Then again, I guess professional courtesy means I should probably not kill you out of hand. We'll just give a little reminder of who you're dealing with." He made a slight motion with his head to Chloe, who had finished off the wolf-man and was coming to help. Chloe took the hint and glared at the raven-bandit, letting the horrific features of the Death Mask replace her own cute freckles and big green eyes. The bandit shrieked in terror, and immediately took to the skies in an effort to get away.

Chloe let the Death Mask fade before she turned back to the rest of the party. Berryn just grinned his same old stupid grin, snickering at the bandit as he flew away. "I wonder if he'd fly as fast if he knew you have a soft spot for kittens and puppies."


Name: Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Rissa Minarye
Title of Post: Aw darn, I was hoping they were tengu!
Sent: 1.18 pm - 6/8

Rissa sat very still as most of the party boiled out of the Carriage, intent on beating up brigands. She glanced quickly out either door, scanning what she could see of the developing melee. The carriage rocked as the coachman abandoned his seat, and she could hear a scrabbling on the roof that did not quite sound like boots.

Nerves fluttering in her stomach, she folded the old parchment carefully away into her satchel. Picking the side of the coach with the least number of friendly witnesses, she leapt down from the folding step.

She was yanking the strap of the satchel tight around her waist when she heard the fwhip of an arrow, loosed from somewhere behind her right shoulder. Rissa flung herself hard to the left, feeling the arrow rip down through her skirt. She slapped the ground to reduce the impact and rolled in a whirl of embroidered gray wool; left forearm to shoulder, spine to right hip, right knee to standing again. Rissa winced as the satchel left a bruise across her lower back.

Unfortunately, she found herself nearly face-to-face with another half-animal bandit. This one had the head and legs of a fox. Black lips curled back in a snarl as it padded towards her, raising its blade.

Rissa's hands lifted of their own volition. She forced them to relax, shaping them into graceful arcs and dancing them through the air. She hummed softly as the fox-man approached, the tune of an old lullaby that her mother used to sing to her. Her voice rose and fell soothingly in a minor key.

The vulpine snarl slowly faded, and the bandit stopped. His small black eyes glazed, fixed on the dove-grey "birds" gliding on the air around her torso.

"I really wouldn't be concerned about one skinny scholar girl," she suggested, keeping her voice to a quiet musical hum. "You can always grab her on your way out-- she might be good as a hostage. I'd be much more worried about that dangerous dark-haired boy behind me, wouldn't you? Thieves are such a bad thing to have at your back."

Of course, Jimmy was plenty busy on his own. She'd just seen him over the fox's armored shoulder, falling from the top of the Carriage with the archer. Rissa watched her opponent carefully, holding her breath.

The suggestion took, and the feral eyes snapped wide open. The fox-man spun towards Jimmy with a renewed growl.

The back of the fox-brigand's skull suddenly exploded in sharp, bright stars of numbing pain. The rain-soaked ground rushed towards his face, misting into featureless black.


Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami and the Silver Bullets
Title of Post: You win some, you lose some
Sent: 9.06 pm - 6/8

Sashami battled the lion-headed highwayman, her longer weapon helping to counter his lightning speed somewhat. They could have been doing better, the Silver Bullets, but they could have been doing a lot worse, too, and it gave the young warrior a chance to appraise the new arrivals. They seemed fairly solid. Melissandra, as Sashami had guessed, was more than competent in a fight, the only one of the young adventurers to dispatch two of the bandits. And in a full-length ball gown, no less. Give her style points for that. Rissa had held her own, using a magic trick to distract a bandit and dispatch him from behind. Resourceful if not precisely honorable. Low-level magic-users were at a disadvantage in a fight, so Sashami cut them some slack; perhaps she or Alderon could team with the girl to provide her with some frontal cover while she cast or used her items, as Jason generally did for Princess Thalia. Jimmy, unexpectedly, took a bowman down in a fair fight. The other thief, Alexke, was the only disappointment, resorting to banging on a bandit with a rock. Berryn had needed to bail her out. Still, Sashami reminded herself, she was only fourteen. For that age, even keeping her cool in a fight was quite promising.

The tide of the battle had already turned when Chloe death masked the raven-headed bandit, and that put it away for keeps. Apparently deciding to cut their losses, the coterie of highwaymen melted back into the stormy night after their leader, taking their wounded but leaving the two dead and the one Jimmy had hogtied. A good effort, against miscreants who thoroughly deserved a smacking. Sashami was pleased.

"Hey!" Jimmy said, after a few moments of lying stunned in the mud. "We did it! We beat 'em!"

"Damn bastards got one of the mail bags," growled the stagecoach driver, shouldering his big-ass crossbow. "Oh, well, at least we saved the rest. That was some fine work there, kids. I'll put a word in for ya with my boss."

"Chloe?" said Alexke.

"What?" Berryn turned, blinking, and his jaw dropped. The priestess, who had been standing beside him a few moments before, was gone.

"Well, I'll be damned," said the driver, scratching his head. "That weren't one of them bandits."

In the air hung the faint remnants of a dimensional portal, much like the one Mitchel Ewens (or whatever his name really was) had disappeared through in New Trade.





Back to the June Archives, Part 4

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

Creek Indian homes * Deerskin jacket * Native American basket * Nanticoke Indian pow wow * Calusa pine

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