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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: June, Part 5

Name: Lora "One Last Post" Redish
Plotline: At The Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Flicker and the last of the Ohio Clan
Title of Post: The summer I heard the drumming
Sent: 3.44 pm - 6/9

Flicker blinked a couple of times. "No, we still have to pay for our food," he finally told the goblin, "but in this case, if you're a warrior from King Cincinnati's clan, the meal's on me. How did you avoid destruction during the Madness? We looked for survivors, but Evil Phillip seemed to have been rather... thorough."


Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Rhynwa, Flicker, Akron
Title of Post: A piece of humble pie with that chicken?
Sent: 8.10 am - 6/11

Rhynwa listened to the clattering, banging and yelling flowing through the kitchen door. There was definitely not enough upset or declaiming to warrant a real threat. Certainly nothing Flicker couldn't handle, let alone Kayla in her own kitchen, but Rhynwa decided to go see.

She stood slowly, still cradling the snoozing aurumvorax in the crook of one arm. With her free hand she unslung her flail, and walked to the kitchen, peering around the half-opened door.

"Flicker, what is *that*?"

"Well 'that' is a goblin."

"I promise, I know that it is a goblin, but you have neither killed it nor have you thrown it out. And Kayla hasn't beaten it senseless for stealing a chicken..."

"Well this goblin is one of King Cincinatti's. His name is Akron."

The goblin piped up "Hiya, Toots! Nice flail ya got dere. Got a name?"

"Toots? TOOTS?!?! I am going to..." Just as Rhynwa started to wind up to put the goblin in his place, the aurumvorax started snuffling, and tried to roll over in her arm. She immediately stopped her tirade to be sure the baby settled down. She looked back up at Akron, and glared. She opened her mouth to speak again, but paused. A grin spread across her face.

"I don't think anyone else one this plane or any other has ever called me 'Toots'. I think I am complimented. Not a lot, mind you, but a little. My actual name is Rhynwa. Now Akron, what can we do for you?"

"Ya gots it all wrong, Rinnie. What can *I* do for *you*? I'm a hero after all."

Rhynwa found herself staring at the goblin again. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. She looked at the goblin, and realized she needed another deep breath. After a few more, dizzy from the hyperventilation, she felt that she was ready for her next comment.

"Well, Akron, would like to join the rest of us as we save the world?"

"Sure! Whatcha got?"

"Oh, I don't know yet. But give it some time--it will happen."


Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): The Silver Bullets, Blackbird, Michael Dean
Title of Post: Tangents in the Big City
Sent: 9.32 pm - 6/11

The Fine Brothers looked at each other nervously. "So, uh, Mr. Blackbird. What we need is... uh, nothing personal, but could you come out where we could see you better?"

"Nothing personal. No." The Blackbird wore a blood red cloak that covered his face, and he stood in the shadows.

"Right. OK. Anyhow, this guy, Zachary Gold, runs the GR3 hotel over on 7th Avenue. See, we need him out of the way because the old mule just won't sell, and we need the property for ---"

"I don't care. You needn't justify yourselves to me. You have the money?"

"Yeah. I'll just, uh, put it down here. You can count it if you want."

"No need. Mr. Gold will be dead soon. And if you shorted me on the payment, you will also soon be dead. Good day." They were all too happy to depart. If Blackbird had decided to take on this contract himself, Gold would have been dead inside of 2 hours. But no, this contract looked like it would be excellent practice for some of his students.

* * *

Edimon, once the capital of the world's largest empire, was one of the five largest cities in Ataniel, a fact not lost on Jimmy DiLaurentis as the Trade Carriage pulled into town. He awoke from a brief bit of shut-eye in time to get a good view of the cityscape. Raised in rural Zulya, he had thought that the city of Saginou was a huge metropolis when he'd first arrived. It was clearly nothing compared to Edimon. The walled keep of the upper city, turrets of a castle visible inside, was huge in and of itself. Towers and monuments punctuated the landscape that seemed to roll on forever. If Chloe Paris was indeed in Edimon, it was going to be difficult to find her.

The Silver Bullets stretched as they exited the carriage. The driver was hailing a couple of city guardsmen. The last to exit was Thalia. "OK, I'm done memorizing the spells," she said. Then, with a dramatic gesture and some words Jimmy didn't understand, the mud that had settled on him like too-tight armor was washed away.

""Sweet!" he said, as Thalia applied the cantrip to a most grateful Melissandra.

"Here he is, officers!" the driver said, opening the trunk, where the bird-headed bandit was tied up.

"Well, well," the first cop said, "if it isn't Ad Hawk of the Beasty Boys. We've been looking forward to having a little chat with you."

"D'oh!" replied the bandit.

"That's what they all say," the second cop explained. "They all say 'D'oh'. So, one of you is responsible for bringing bird brain here in?" Alderon pointed his thumb at an embarassed Jimmy. "Well, there is a reward out on these highwaymen." Ka-ching!

After collecting a modest sum, Jimmy insisted on paying for a 'base of operations' for the party, which turned out to be an Inn called the GR3. A shingle helpfully explained that this stood for "Good rooms, reasonable rates."

* * *

Michael Dean (aka Mitchel Ewens, at least for a time)returned to the underground headquarters of his new guild and set about to thoroughly searching the captured prisoner. The potion that the Alchemist had provided had been difficult to inject, but once he had, it had put the girl out like a light.

Some of his fellow trainees filed in for the briefing with the leader. "Whassup?" a large apprentice said to him.

"Chuck. Nice to see you in men's clothing again," Michael replied. The verbal scuffle was stopped immediately when the boss, known only as Blackbird, entered.

"Well, well," he said, looking at the hostage his favorite trainee had brought. "This should be an interesting report, Michael."

"Yessir. I can report success. I eliminated the target before he could contact the elf, as the contractor specified. I did have a scuffle with some random adventurers; rather strange ones. I think one of them was a troll. Anyway, during the scuffle, one of them grabbed my satchel. There was little important in it... except for my ring."

This cause some guffaws at Michael's expense. Scowling, he went on. "However, I was able to track her, and as luck would have it, the Beasty Boys tried to jack the Trade Carriage she was on, which provided the perfect cover for me to subdue her and recover the ring."

"Why didn't you just kill her, flarkface?" Chuck said.

"Because she may be more valuable alive," Blackbird said. "Tell me, Michael, did you eliminate the target outside a bar?"

"Y-yes. How did you know?"

"Never a good place to carry out a job. Bars are congregating places for adventurers and such ilk. They take a death in their presence as an invitation to action. Even total strangers will band together at the promise of exploring a mystery. Do you know anything about the girl?"

"I removed all her possessions and anything that could be used as a weapon or spell object. It seems shes's a cleric of Arawn. According to a tag in one of her books her name is Chloe Paris."

"Paris? I see. She could prove valuable indeed. Either as a hostage should her companions somehow manage to locate her, or as a token of good faith to her family. Live and learn, Chuck."

Chuck suddenly found his shoes very interesting. Michael sneered.

"A good job, Michael," Blackbird continued. "But some mistakes were made. We shall evaluate your performance in detail later. I have a new assignment that I think I will make a multiple-person job. But first, take Miss Paris and put her in one of the mage-cells. And anyone who thinks of taking any liberties with her will answer to me."

* * *

The rooms at the GR3 lived up to the name, but were small, so Jimmy had to book 2 pairs of them. The innkeeper, a kindly old man named Zachary Gold, insisted on having his son help the Silver Bullets to their rooms. Jimmy could tell at once that Gold's son was slow in the head. One of his friends in Zulya had a brother who was sort of like that. Jimmy and Alderon ended up sharing a room.

Crowded and cosmopolitan, Edimon seemed to have everything one could want. There was a bakery right across the street from the GR3. Money burning a hole in his pocket, Jimmy bought a dozen bagels and a large urn of coffee and one of OJ to bring back. A few people had washed up or changed clothes by the time he got back.

Over the most important meal of the day, they worked on planning. He tried, not entirely successfully, not to tell himself to think as Mary would have.

Berryn cast comprehend languages on the torn book page, scrunched up his forehead and said "Nothing!"

"I guess if it were that easy, someone could have cast that on my amulet," Rissa said.

"I was so certain it said something," Berryn said.

"Maybe it's part of a map?" Alderon offered.

"Or you have to overlay it with something else," Jason suggested.

"Or it's in code," Thalia said.

"With all those angular kind of lines, I thought it might be some kind of pigpen code," Jimmy said, "but that doesn't work out. I can't help but think it's right in front of us, but somehow we just can't see it."

"Alright then," Sashami said, "we're beaten on that for now. Our current priority isn't figuring out the significance of the amulet, it's recovering Chloe. If she is in Edimon, it won't be easy to track her. Does anyone have a spell that could locate her?"

"Magic mirror would," Thalia said. "But, uh, it's a little bit above me."

"You said you could trace the fake passport that 'Mitchel Ewens' used?" Sashami said to Jimmy.

"Uh, yeah. Yeah, I think I can. A burg this big it'll take some time, but I think I can." Making a secret thieves hand signal that he was pretty sure no one else noticed, or understood, he 'said' to Alexke Wanna come with? "Still, forging passports is a really specific niche market. There's probably a zillion fences in this town, but there can't be many people in the traveling papers biz." I hope.

"OK. Any other ideas on how we can locate Chloe?"

* * *

Blackbird's plans were in month six of a plan that he estimated would take 5 years. Once, the Edimon Assasins Guild had been a mighty presence, thanks largely to the support of the Last Emperor and his cabal. Now, Blackbird was going to rebuild it from the ground up. He was starting with raw talent who he could train from the start. (More experienced outsiders could be brought into the fold, but his plans didn't call for such actions until year four.) Several of his students, notably Michael Dean, showed promise. Others were too dumb or too hot-headed to truly serve as a core of assasins, but could still make themselves useful as generalized thugs. He kept them happy by letting them, and them alone, imbibe one of the Alchemist's better potions.

Speaking of which... Blackbird went to see his most specialized assistant. "Your tranquilizer compounnd proved effective," he said.

"Damn well ought to be, for how much it cost," the Alchemist replied testily. Most people took a nearly instant dislike to the man, but for his part, Blackbird didn't care.

"Some of the boys will be requiring more of their strength potion soon."

"Always with the strength. None of 'em ever wants a potion that increases intelligence. Tal knows some of them could use one."

"I'll be testing a few of the boys with an upcoming assignment."

"Yeah, yeah. Look, Blackbird, I don't care what the details are. I trust that you know what you're doing putting this little bunch together. All I care about is that sooner or later, you bring this city to its damn knees. And that I'm there to kick it when it's down." Renault Raimonde, the Alchemist, went back to work on his potions.

* * *

Chloe Paris awoke with a headache. She tried to remember what had happened to her. The battle with the weird highwayman, the cloaked assassin grabbing her, getting a good sucker shot... Crud, I went and got captured.

She was in a dank, barred cell. She tried to cast a spell, but no words came out of her mouth. She kicked the ground in disgust, also producing no sound.

Silently, she uttered a prayer. To get out of this jam, it looked like she'd need help from Arawn, and the Silver Bullets. Maybe not in that order.


Name: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke
Title of Post: Small Steps
Sent: 9.41 pm - 6/13

"OK. Any other ideas on how we can locate Chloe?"

Alexke knew Jimmy was signalling something, but she couldn't tell what. It was different from the secret language she knew. He couldn't expect her to know a family code. Maybe it was a thief thing. She liked that he felt comfortable enough to use it with her. She would have to ask him for lessons later, when the others couldn't hear.

She hoped she guessed his message correctly. "I can search for the other end of the portal around the city and I can help Jimmy at the same time."

First Rissa asks her to share a room, then Jimmy signals her. Alexke liked these people's openness and the idea of having them as friends.


Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami and the Silver Bullets
Title of Post: We're splitting up? Well, all right...
Sent: 12.47 pm - 6/19

"I don't know if this is such a good idea," said Thalia, hesitantly. "Whenever the Rat Pack would split up, there'd be total bedlam."

"Well, it kind of puts a damper on undercover work to bring a big group along," Jimmy said apologetically. "I think me and Alexke could trace this passport best by ourselves, that's all."

"The rest of us could hit up the local dives and look for leads," Alderon suggested cheerfully.

Melissandra looked horrified. "A proper lady would never frequent a place of ill repute, if that's what you're suggesting!"

"Well, but assassins do," said Alderon. "So someone there might know him."

"Maybe Melissandra could come with Rissa and me to the library instead," Thalia interposed herself diplomatically. "I'd still like to see if there's any information there about her amulet or the mysterious book page."

"Right, so the thieves to the Thieves Guild or whatever," said Alderon, "the girls to the library, and the boys to the local action?"

Sashami frowned. She didn't like the gender roles Alderon was glibly assigning, and she wasn't interested in any of the paths being suggested. Still, they were a low-level party, and starting at Castle Edimon wasn't exactly feasible. "My skills are of little use in a library," she said. "I'll protect the thieves in their mission if that would be valuable, or else I suppose I'll try to keep Alderon from getting lost in whatever cathouse he's on about."

"Hey," whined Alderon.

"After you," said Jason, his lips quirked in a private smile.


Name: Evan Haag
Plotline: At The Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Akron, Flicker, Kevin, and Rhynwa
Title of Post: So, What Brings You Around Here, Stranger?
Sent: 9.11 am - 6/22

Kevin watched with mild interest as Akron was escorted from the back room by Flicker. Rhynwa and Kayla came out a minute later, Kayla visibly less angry than she had sounded. The death priestess was chatting amiably with her, telling an anecdote about Luthien's kitchen habits, so Kevin figured that whatever happened in back wasn't business-threatening after all. With that reassurance, he turned to the newcomer, who had scrambled up onto a barstool, chicken still hanging from his mouth.

"So," said Kevin, in his practiced bartender voice, "what'll you have? First one's free, you know."

At the mention of the word 'free' the goblin's face broke out in a crooked grin, and the chicken fell into his hand as he spoke. "Now dat's more like it! Boyoboy, I been waitin' for my foist free drink as a hero. It's sorta, whatayacallit, a rite o'passage or somethin', idnit?" He started to climb onto the bar, intent on picking out his free drink, when Flicker calmly pulled him back onto his stool.

"Why don't you let Kevin get that for you?"

"Huh? Oh, sure, sorry 'bout dat. It's just dat dis bird is kinda tough; I need somethin' to wash that down." He looked at Kevin, waiting for a drink to magically appear. Kevin in turn scrutinized his customer, shrugged, and reached behind the bar for one of Jork's bottles. It wasn't the good stuff, and he wouldn't call it the bad stuff, but it was alcohol, and the goblin would probably appreciate it just as well as anything else. "Here you go, pal."

The goblin stared at the bottle, then looked around at the other (few) patrons. "Hey! Ain't I good enough for a glass, buddy? I'm a hero, too; I got rights and stuff!"

Kevin calmly put a small mug down in front of him, without a trace of surprise or annoyance. "Sorry about that, just had to grab a goblin mug, that's all." A quick glance at the faces of the other heroes in the bar showed a normal degree of curiousity, so he continued. "So, how'd you become a hero?"

The goblin finished chugging his Jork-rot special, and wiped his chin with the chicken. "Well, dat's easy. I didn't get burnt to a Goblin McNugget when dat psycho hit us during the Wackiness. I figure dat puts me solidly in the hero category; ya know, last survivor of my clan, doomed to never have a fambly, stuff like dat."

Flicker arched his eyebrow. "That's impressive. My friends and I tried to stop him, but we didn't get there in time. All we found were your tribesmen, dead. How did you survive when they didn't?"

The goblin considered him for a minute. "Dunno. I mean, I got hit wit' two or three of dem fireballs; kinda hurt a little, now dat you mention it. But all I lost was a coupla eyebrow hairs, my rat pie, and my entire frickin' tribe!!!" These last words were spoken standing on the stool, glaring at the elf-warrior in defiance, tiny purple veins standing up on Akron's forehead. "What, just because I got some magic armor, dat makes me a coward or somethin'? Ain't my fault I can't be burnt or froze or nothin'!"

Flicker raised his hands to calm the angry goblin. "Sorry, not what I meant to imply. I was just curious as to how you survived that attack." Rhynwa cleared her throat, diverting Akron's attention. "Whadda you want, top hat?" Rhynwa decided to ignore the goblin's anger, and said calmly, "You have magic armor? That's pretty cool. I'd love to hear how you got it."

Akron started to yell at her, too, but blinked a couple times as he realized that she wasn't insulting him. "Uh, you would? Sure, I suppose I could tell ya. It ain't nothin' spec'taclar like kickin' Wyvern's butt or savin' Neporris or anything like dat. I just traded a magic pencil for it at the Temple of the Holy Magic Item."


Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: At the Mithril Dagger - but maybe not for long
Character(s): as long as we don't call 'em "The 'Vorax Pack"
Title of Post: Critical Hero Mass Reached... Commencing Crisis
Sent: 8.24 am - 6/23

"I'm sorry about your clan."

Akron turned around to see the tall, quiet man with the hangdog look sitting down the bar a ways. "A lot of my friends got killed in the riots in Neporris, too."

"Yeah, dat Madness sure was the suckfest. But thanks, mac. What's yer name?"

"Carter Edison. Howdy. So, your clan lived underground?"

"Dat's right." Carter nodded as though this made perfect sense. Which, of course, it did. Enigma had a short hero who lived underground, too. Akron the goblin looked a little odd (and what an accent!), but when glancing at the pictures hanging on the walls of the Mithril Dagger, he had noticed that some heroes were strange birds indeed.

It was at that moment that a new man entered the bar. He wore boots, overalls and a troubled expression. "Uh, excuse me? Am I in the right place? I think I need, uh, some heroes."

"You're in the right place indeed," Kayla said.

"Thank goodness," the man replied, wiping his brow. "I'm Joe, Joe Fish. I came down here from Netown looking for some help."

"Netown? Farming town about a day northeast of here?" Rhynwa asked.

"That's it, ma'am. Things are usually quiet back home, just the way we like it. But now, now there's trouble, and I don't rightly know what's going on or what we can do, but I think it might be really bad. So I came here to Lianth, thinking maybe somebody would know what to do, but when I asked a few folks, they... Well, they gave me this awful weird speech about how they'd only be hurting me if they helped. One varmit even called me an 'income-taker', whatever that means. Anyway, this Mr. Delaney fella suggested I come here."

"What exactly is your town's problem?" Heart asked.

"Well, it all started last week when that big flaming rock fell out of the sky and landed in Jeb's field...."


Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: Things That Fall From The Sky And Go Thud
Character(s): Flicker, Heart
Title of Post: And so it begins...
Sent: 8.29 pm - 6/23

"There's no shame in survival," Flicker said mildly, neither retreating from the goblin's anger nor returning any. "I'm glad to know someone made it out. By the time we got there, there wasn't much we could do."

"So a mage was throwing fireballs at you," said Heart, suddenly interested, "but because you were wearing magical armor, you weren't harmed?"

"Dat's what I just said, ain't it, Forehead?"

Heart jotted some notes, pleased with the implications of that, and then a local farmer burst into the bar begging for protection from some meteor that had flattened another farmer's cornfield. Heart was uninterested in that per se; geology was not her thing, and neither were Nylevian superstitions about celestial bodies. Still, to her disappointment, no great mages had taken it upon themselves to show up in the Mithril Dagger tonight, and Rhynwa the cleric might be her best chance at observing a high-level magic-user in action right now, confounding effects of the loss of her god or no. "I'll do what I can," she offered, looking to the priestess for confirmation. Heart wasn't all that familiar with agriculture, to be honest, but she had a good strong back and she figured she could always help the guy re-sow his corn, if that was what it came down to.

"I'm afraid I've got obligations here," said Flicker, "but I've yet to see the quest Rhynwa couldn't kick in the ass, really."

"I'm going to have to be party leader again, aren't I?" sighed Rhynwa, scritching her new aurumvorax behind the ears.

"The more things change," smiled Kayla, "the more they stay the same..."



Back to the June Archives, Part 6

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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