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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: November II

Author: Alyssa Gulledge City The Space of Things
Character(s): The Vax Scene
Title of Post: Run to the Hills, Run for your Life Rhynwa turned to her group. �OK. Seeing as there is no shelter or hiding places, and I am relatively sure that that was a dragon, why don�t we pick up the pace a bit?�

�Sure, sure, Rinnie, but pick up the pace to *where*?�

�Well, those mountains on the left, look more promising that the huge wide open plain everywhere else. 8T, do you have any idea where this �sumcirc� thing is?�

A shadow slightly higher up in the sky drifted overhead. �No, and anywhere but here sounds nice to me as well.�

Carter looked up at the receding shadow. �Maybe I can make us invisible until we get to shelter.�

Heart raised an eyebrow �I thought your abilities were limited to yourself.�

�They are, but if I can generate an invisibility shield over our heads, then we will all be safe from being seen and eaten.� A sharp cry rang out from over head. Aihrglen whimpered and burrowed deeper into Rhynwa�s arms. �Safer anyway.� Carter closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt something in him shift, and knew that the shield was up.

Akron staring up into the sky said �Hey Sad-sack. I don�t see nuttin.�

Carter opened his eyes so that he could give Akron a glare. �It�s supposed to be invisible, �Short-and-green�.� Carter got a strange look on his face. �It�s down. I can feel that the shield went down.� He closed his eyes to concentrate, and instantly felt the shield go back up. �Oh, no.� He opened his eyes, the shield went down. He closed them, it went back up.

Carter sighed heavily. �Well it will work, but I have to keep my eyes closed.�

Rhynwa shook her head. This was going be a tough trip. �Heart if you and Akron will each take one side of Carter, and 8T, if you will be so kind as to watch our backs, I will take point. We will go as swiftly as we can. Speak up if you need a break.�

�Rhynwa, would it not be better if I were to watch behind us, as opposed to the backs of our group?�

Yes, a tough trip.


After half a day of stumbling runs, tripping and frayed nerves, they came to a river. They ate lunch from their packs, and filled their canteens. Rhynwa gathered up the canteens before letting anyone drink. She purified water to be sure that no one would get sick. Heart finally managed to witness a spell from beginning to end. It wasn�t quite what she thought it would be, as Rhynwa just seemed to pray to her God, and wave her hands a bit. Heart recorded the whole thing anyway. At least she had a starting point for questions.

�We should get to the hills by nightfall if we don�t kill ourselves� said Rhynwa

�Or each other� growled Akron, who had been stepped on so many times, his shoes were tearing.


The light was starting to fade as they finally arrived at the foothills. There were some small trees, and thick brush growing in the area. With a little searching they found a small dell with overhanging trees, which they hoped would provide adequate cover for the night. Everyone was exhausted, so Rhynwa took first watch. Heart decided to also take first watch, so that she could ask some questions about the magic�

Author: Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Rissa
Title of Post: Constructs... Why Does It Have to Be Constructs?

Rissa nodded hurriedly but gratefully to Margot. "Thank you. Excuse us," she said quickly, and spun on her heel without waiting to see what Tyler (whom she still wasn't sure about-- who was he, anyway? And why did he want to go to out into the wilderness with a bunch of adventurers he didn't even know? Did they look that unthreatening? Or, horrors, that naive?) was planning on doing. She didn't even know what he COULD do.

She caught up the hem of her split skirt and sprinted back down the spiral stairs, which gave her the rather dizzying illusion of being a falling maple seed. She stopped on the threshold of the lounge and stared wide-eyed at the carnage.

Sashami was just turning away from a collapsed pile of bones that looked like it might once have been a horse� except for the fact that there were too many bones. The pile was far too jumbled to tell why that might be. Berryn and two strangers were being attacked by-- Rissa blinked-- an angry swarm of trilobites. Berryn didn't seem all that concerned. Dangerously amused, perhaps. Marlukin help me, that must be the weirdest thing I've ever seen. Jimmy and Alderon were trying to pry a giant skull open that looked like it belonged to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which almost certainly meant that there was someone trapped inside it.

Decision easily made, Rissa bolted straight for Alderon and Jimmy, ignoring the tiny but growing constriction beneath her collarbone. Who is in that thi-- Rissa did the mental math, aided by the fact that the most noticeable member of the party was missing. --Melissandra. "Is she hurt?" she gasped, coming to a controlled if abrupt stop next to Alderon.

"No, Rissa, I am well. Just� rather inconveniently confined," Melissandra called from inside the skull. She was obviously uncomfortable but far too polite to complain.

"Oh dear," Rissa said, biting her lip as she studied the skull. Now that she was up close, she could see bits of Melissandra through the ear, nose, and eye holes. Clearly, however, none of them were large enough to provide an exit for the trollish young warrior-lady. Jimmy and Alderon struggled with the thing, trying to pry the mouth open� but Rissa could see that the jaw hinge had been damaged. Probably when it hit the ground. And me with no tools. I didn't even bring my sword. I am an IDIOT.

There was a sudden clattering noise behind them, followed by something between a hiss and a growl. Rissa turned, looked, and froze in her tracks. A skeleton of the largest cat she'd ever seen was glaring at her, the inside of its skull lit with an eerie glow. "The Messenger--" it began in a threatening rumble, leaping onto the front desk.

Whatever it might have said after that was interrupted as the overdressed fop BEHIND the desk shrieked in terror, jerking away from the claws gouging into his mahogany countertop. The cat hissed and whirled towards the sudden movement, displaying teeth the length of Rissa's hand plus a set of four fangs longer than her forearm. It swiped at the elf as he ducked under the counter.

Rissa whipped back around to face the skull. "Melissandra, cover your eyes please!" she called. Hoping Melissandra would comply, the Cynystran bard took the deepest breath she could manage and closed her eyes.

A rising hum filled the air, finally resonating in the bones of everyone near Rissa. She opened her mouth, and a high, clear, penetrating note rang out. Cracking her eyes open, keeping her sight screened by her eyelashes, she reached out with the first two fingers of her right hand and rapped hard on the narrowest point of the T. Rex's nose.

Most of the T. Rex's former face exploded into powder, freeing Melissandra.

Rissa chopped off the note with an indrawn, desperate breath and ran around behind the skull. The yowling at the front desk was very loud, interspersed with shrill and panicked wailing from the elven concierge. And once again, we are fighting constructs that are neither charmable nor capable of normal sensory perception. Wonderful. You are SLEEPING with that sword on in the future, Rissa Minarye. "Can someone with weapons do something about that?" she yelled hopefully, peering out at the skeletal tiger. It was batting at the opening beneath the desktop, looking for all the world like a cat frustrated by a mouse too clever to come out of its hole. "I'll have to concentrate to cast that again, and I don't think Kitty is going to let me pet it!"

Author: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami
Title of Post: Wasn't this what happened to Siegfried and Roy?

Rissa's voice seemed to wake the sabertooth from its distractedness with the wussy concierge. It turned with a rumble and sprang off the desk a good seven feet towards her. "Kill the Messenger!" it roared. Rissa scrambled desperately behind a nearby chair, and the vicious slash of the tiger's claws ripped open the overstuffed leather, not the bard. It didn't block the big cat for long, though, and when it launched itself over the back of the ruined chair at her, she realized she was out of hiding places. Merde! I'm sorry, Father...

Jason managed to get between the monster and the semi-prone bard before it could strike, and its would-be killing blow glanced off his chain-clad shoulder. "Run for cover!" he shouted, swinging his sword at its leg. It would have been a good solid blow if the tiger had been flesh-and-blood, but wasn't powerful enough to shatter the bone. Then the tiger sank its dagger-like teeth into Jason's arm right through the chainmail. He couldn't help screaming; it hurt like hell.

Sashami caught up then and started battering at the beast with the butt of her greataxe, hoping to jar loose another large bone she could abscond with. Melissandra and Alderon were occupied with a new threat: projectile shark teeth. This wasn't nearly as deadly as an animate dinosaur head, but it was much harder to overcome with brute strength, and their faces were both bleeding from multiple tiny wounds they weren't having much luck deflecting. The tiger flung the wounded Jason a good three feet aside and pounced on Sashami. Its fossilized bones weighed far more than she'd been expecting and bore her to the ground, not a good position for defending oneself with a polearm. It tried to seize her by the neck but she twisted out of the way and it got a mouthful of her ponytail, instead. Then it tried to eviscerate her with a rake of its hind claws, but her armor held and she only took partial damage. Still, beneath a saber-tooth tiger was clearly not the safest place to be. Sashami was not looking forward to the next combat round. Maybe Jimmy and Tyler could pull this thing off her before it mauled her again.

Someone had sure better.

Author: Evan Haag
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Berryn and Sylvan
Title of Post: Trilobyte Wars "�but now, Master Luthien decided to blow a limited wish to raise me, so things have been pretty normal since that. How about you?" Berryn was finishing his 'how-my-life's-been-since-we-drifted-apart' update for Sylvan, trying not to mention the whole 'missing-girlfriend-and-framed-by-an-assassin's-guild' parts of the last few days.

"Well, you know, doing the grad student thing. I've been doing some TA work for the University, so I don't lose the college ID. I tried going civilian for, like, a week, and I couldn't believe how much more I was paying for stuff like theater tickets and Trade carriages. Actually, that's why I'm here now. I've gotta pick up a couple of�" At that moment Sylvan was cut off by a raspy voice from the other end of the large hall. "No Messenger!"

Berryn, Sylvan, and the others turned to see the skeletal displays come to life and attack the other SB's. As Berryn took a quick assessment of the probable strengths of the undead attackers, he was distracted by a sudden movement across his face, accompanied by a loud buzz-clack that broke his concentration. Sylvan yelped next to him, having been hit by another of the flying attackers. Berryn noted that there was almost a swarm of the little (undead?) critters buzzing around their heads, making spell-casting nearly impossible. He crouched low with Sylvan and his friends, and shouted, "What the hell are these little bug-things?! I can hardly hear myself cast!"

Sylvan shouted back, barely audible for the swarm's close-proximity clacking. "They're trilobyte fossils, I think! They're SUPPOSED to be fossil displays, not an intruder-defense system! Damn, I wish I had learned Silent Spell!" A trilobyte landed on his shoulder, clacking loudly right into his ear, forcing Sylvan to swat at it to get it to fly away, making even more noise as it took off.

Berryn grimaced, saying (shouting, really), "Well, can't do anything about that, but I can give us some peace and quiet!" With that, he grabbed his holy symbol and shouted a quick prayer, barely missing getting smacked in the face by an apparently angry trilobyte that didn't like being ignored. As he finished the prayer, everything around them went absolutely silent. The trilobytes, while still flying around at dangerous speeds and harassing everyone in sight, were no longer audible. Of course, the same held true for Berryn, Sylvan, and everyone else within fifteen feet, but it was better than having their ears start to bleed.

Sylvan gave Berryn a look of 'Thanks, I think' and pulled a magical shortsword from its scabbard, while Berryn just raised his staff and started swatting the pesky fossils. He was barely able to note that Sashami and Jimmy were quite handily fighting the centaur skeleton, and that Melissandra was wrestling(?) with a disembodied T-Rex skull, when he noted something else. The trilobytes were no longer as agile as they had been before the silence spell went up; in fact, they were now smacking into the table, various bookshelves, the wall, and, unfortunately, Berryn and Sylvan. Berryn nudged Sylvan and then pointed at some large serving trays that were on the table behind them. Sylvan grinned, getting the message, and grabbed one of the trays, while Berryn grabbed the other. The two of them then started frantically whacking the trilobytes, hoping to stun them into some sort of submission.

Within a few moments, the two former apprentices had succeeded in knocking to the ground most of the animate fossils, mostly by breaking them. Cracked bits of trilobyte were littering the carpet, and Berryn couldn't help but wonder, Am I gonna have to pay for these? His thoughts were broken, however, by the silence spell's cessation as its duration expired. Dammit. I had hoped it would last longer. Man, I wish Chloe were here. As his hearing became fully functional again, Sylvan swatted the last trilobyte, which caromed into a bookshelf headfirst, getting stuck in the spine of an almanac.

Author: Eric Gasior
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Alexke and Sashami
Title of Post: If Only Roy Could Do This

Alexke reached the great room in time to see Sashami beat off the first trilobyte and Rissa free Melissandra. Sashami, as usual, looked fine and ready for battle, but Rissa looked spent from her spell. And then Sashami was down.

As good a fighter she was, Sashami was no match for a tiger skeleton while prone and underneath it. Without help she wouldn't last long and everyone with a weapon was busy.

"Trilobytes to the right of me, dinosaurs to the left of me. Into the Valley of Death..." the planeblazer muttered while she prepared for something she didn't know if she could do.

Taking three running steps, she threw herself to the wood floor and slid towards the tiger. She had to reach Sashami, touch her, and still have enough momentum to mover her in her armor. An inch would do if she timed it right, and was lucky.

As Alexke neared the cat it raised a paw from the other girl to strike. Good, she thought, less resistance moving her. Unless this doesn't work and that thing comes down on me. She reached Sashami, arms extended but ready to push, as the tiger began to strike. Closing her eyes she concentrated very hard on the closest plane - the closest soft point wasn't even in this building.

Just me and Sashami. The cat must stay behind. Separating the two of them was going to hurt. She touched Sashami as the paw started coming down, she pushed as the claw raked her back. Trying to ignore the pain she continued pushing, but with her momentum gone she worried about having the strength to make this work. She couldn't ask Sashami to help. Speaking would take the last of her concentration.

Suddenly they were in Gray Space. It was the easiest to get to, but it was also easy to get lost. Alexke caught her breath and looked at the warrior. "Can you get up?"

"Yes." Sashami replied as Alexke took her hand and said, "Follow me."

Taking several steps towards where she remembered the concierge desk, the barrier would give them time to regroup, the planeblazer used the last of her strength to take them back to Ataniel. Then, with a burst of color, they were behind the desk.

And Alexke collapsed.

Author: Evan Haag
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Berryn and Rissa (with some timely help from Melissandra)
Title of Post: Chopin and Haydn

Ah, skeletons, Berryn thought. NOW, I can do something.

"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," he said playfully to the sabretooth. "Frisky-time!" With that he raised his holy symbol again, shouted a prayer to Lord Arawn, and felt the divine power flow through him. Unfortunately, the sabretooth did not. It turned from the shrieking concierge and faced Berryn, now comprehending that there was something it COULD get to nearby. Berryn blinked, shook his holy symbol at the beast, and said feebly, "Uh, nice kitty?" He was just about to panic (which, despite Master Luthien's admonitions, is a perfectly acceptable battlefield option), when he heard�music. Rissa was singing.

It sounded like mirrored pairs of couplets-- a long phrase followed by a short, paired with its reflection of a short phrase followed by a long. The long phrases were consistently a higher tone than the short, making the stanzas seem to rise and fall like waves. The high notes were clear and sweet, but as she dropped through her range the warm colors of her voice darkened and chilled. If Berryn had any musical knowledge whatsoever, the spectrum of Rissa's range would have been a startling thing, descending gradually from innocent merriment to disillusioned grief. It was almost as if there were two different women singing, like a duet of soprano and alto so perfect that the listener could not tell where one stopped and the other began.

She was telling what sounded like a fairy tale. It was about someone named Alexi who had lost his bride Mirya on their wedding day, and instead of accepting his fate had entered the service of the sorceress Kostinaya of the Tower of Bones, planning to trick her undead minions and steal the Water of Life and Death. It was a cool story, and Berryn's nerve came back with a vengeance. Hey, if this Alexi guy can trick a whole castle full of undead, then I can certainly take out one pissed-off tabby.

As the sabretooth paced back and forth, Berryn began casting what seemed to be a defensive spell. Sensing an opening, the sabretooth sprang at the young necromancer, growling as he leapt. "The Messenger shall not�grooarr!!" The defensive spell was up a split-second before the skeleton connected, and the life shield spell that Master Luthien had taught him gave the tiger the spiritual equivalent of third-degree burns as pure positive energy wrought havoc with the spells binding the skeleton together. As the tiger recoiled, Berryn advanced on him with the staff, mocking him as he did so. "Who's been a naughty kitty? You keep this up and you're going back in the box, you know that, right?" The cat snarled and made as if to pounce again, when a magic missile from Sylvan scorched it along its hindquarters.

The cat turned to kill this new threat, only to have a shadow fall over it. Before it could turn around to defend itself, Melissandra's broadsword came down hard on the beast's back, cracking it into multiple pieces. It came down again on the cat's head, knocking one of the fangs and many of the other teeth out. The skeleton shuddered, and then collapsed. Melissandra daintily stepped over the fossil, and said to Berryn. "I do apologize for intruding upon your fight, but that horrible creature�oh dear, Berryn. Are you feeling quite well?" Her heavy brow knitted up in motherly concern as she looked at the necromancer.

Berryn, for his part, was looking up at her slightly beatifically. "Y'know, Melissandra, you're really quite radiant. From the inside, y'know. It's kinda groovy. It's really�" At this point Berryn stopped, his eyes glazed over. His arms dropped to his sides limply, causing his quarterstaff to clatter among the bones on the floor. His head twitched oddly to the side, causing his shoulders to follow suit. Without a warning, he fell onto the floor, causing an ugly crunch as his face connected solidly with the crushed ribcage of the sabretooth skeleton.

Author: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Everybody
Title of Post: Anyone got a peanut?

Melissandra took a moment to look around. Berryn was down, Alexke was down, Rissa was exhausted, and Jason was hurt. The clerk was cowering beneath his table. Ty was standing in the doorway, looking under his cloak at his arm. Sashami, Alderon, Jimmy, the mage Sylvian and herself were the only ones left standing. Of the enemy, there were flying sharks teeth, a few bat skeletons had pulled off the wall, and then the rumbling started.

From the large alcove at the back of the room came a trio of trumpeting voices "The messenger shall not reach Hanchu!" And then the Mastodon herd arrived. Three enormous skeletons and two smaller ones began to charge the group. Sashami scooped up Alexke and shouted "Stampede!"

Everyone grabbed the downed or injured person nearest to them. Melissandra headed towards the stairs "This may give us some protection and slow them down!" Berryn mumbled something about Daleks and stairs, but it made no sense. Alderon brought Rissa up, Sashami has Alexke, Jimmy was helping Jason and Sylvian was helping the clerk. Ty had out his sword and was brining up the rear. Everyone was crowded onto the first flight as the charging mastodons made their first pass.

The sharks' teeth and bats had redirected their assault to the people on the stairs, making it nearly impossible to climb up any farther. The mastodons were making the final turn to swing back towards the group. "The messenger shall not reach Hanchu!"

Rissa looked over the rail. "Oh no! They have weapons in their trunks!"

"That's rude! That's unfair! THAT'S CHEATING!" roared Melissandra

"That's gonna HURT!" yelped Jimmy

Author: Lora Redish
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Sashami
Title of Post: Your day can always get worse...

Sashami had never actually been on another plane before.

The effect was mildly nauseating, particularly as she was already moderately wounded. She didn't have long to ponder it, though, or to worry about her comrades left behind, before Alexke seized her hand and pulled her back into the Society of Science, right in front of the useless elf still cowering under his desk. Then Alexke fainted, and Sashami barely caught her before she hit the floor. Her planar magics must exhaust her energies. Sashami would defend her until...

...well, except there was nothing to defend her from, anymore. Sashami watched as Berryn and Melissandra made easy work of the saber-tooth tiger that had nearly killed Jason and herself. Her face burned with shame.

And then the elephants came...

Author: Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Plotline: Coming of Age
Character(s): Rissa
Title of Post: Fiddling While Rome Burns

Rissa crawled out from under the table, coughing, waving a hand in front of her face like a fan. Bone dust was hanging in the air like fog. She staggered upright with an uncomfortable amount of effort and stood there surveying the battlefield, weaving a bit.

She'd seen what happened to Berryn from her hiding spot. She was surprised... but it occurred to her that Berryn might not have mentioned it to anyone for many of the same reasons that she hadn't mentioned her OWN problems. She wanted to get to him before he hurt himself, although mercifully the seizure didn't seem to be a grand mal.

...And then the stampede crashed into the room.

Well, at least I don't have to tell anyone what happened to Berryn...! She glanced quickly away from the charging mastodons and tried to find another hiding place that she could reach in time. Will a Shatter spell work well enough on those if I use the area effect version? she wondered frantically, trying to get enough of a breath in the powder-clogged air to cast it again.

Alderon took one look at the stampede and, obviously assuming that either she or her spells were exhausted, scooped her up and ran for the stairs. While she certainly had spells left, Rissa was too lightheaded at that moment for her to even react in time, much less resist.

Oh. My. God. Rissa felt her face burn so hotly that it was painful, and promptly wriggled around in Alderon's arms to look over the rail at the herd of long-dead elephants-- not in an effort to keep observing so much as an effort to distract herself from the embarrassment. She didn't know what was worse: not being able to fight these things properly, or being picked up and carried like an infant. By a BOY.

An oddity managed to make it through the haze of chagrin. "They have weapons in their trunks!" she observed, in total bewilderment. How can they be using weapons?

The staircase shook violently. All of a sudden, Rissa didn't really WANT to be put down. It didn't look any more stable down there than it did here, and they were so crowded on the stairs that there really wasn't anywhere TO put her. "You know, I'm just about out of ideas," she murmured in rather fey amusement, settled herself where she was until Alderon could to put her down, and picked up singing her story where she had left off. Just in case someone else COULD do something about this, she was going to help in the only way she could. You know, if I'm the Messenger these things keep yelling about, I'm going to be really embarrassed about getting us all killed for nothing... given that I don't even know what the message IS.

Go on to the November Archives, Part 3

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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