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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: The Shape of Things

Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: At The Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Heart
Title of Post: Welcome To The Mithril Dagger, Y'all (Remix)

The sign outside the tavern read "The Mithril Dagger."

Suitably mythic, Heart thought. She was a believer in the importance of names, and didn't much care for spending time in establishments called ridiculous things like "Drinks-R-Us" or "The Lusty Nymph." The oaken door creaked in an interesting way as she pushed it open, revealing the simple design of a Lianthi barroom.

It was pretty much empty, which Heart was expecting at two in the afternoon. She wanted to be sure she got here before any groups of potential adventurers started congregating. The only people in the tavern at the moment were the waitress, who was standing on the bar looking up into the rafters with a frown on her face, and a blond man in chain mail balanced on one of the rafters, poking at the eave with the hilt end of his sword. Heart stood there for a little while, using the bar mirror to tuck a few pieces of her thick brown hair back into the intricate braids they had strayed from, but still neither noticed her presence. "Hello," she finally announced herself.

"Oh!" The waitress wiped her hands on her apron apologetically. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in... we're having a little trouble with a, uh, aurumvorax, actually."

There was a high-pitched snarl from the eave. "Have you tried luring it down with some gold coins?" Heart suggested.

"It ate them and broke the trap." A plain-looking man emerged from the cellar door with a long-handled broom. "If Flicker can't get it down, I think we're going to have to call an exterminator. I'm Kevin the bartender, and this is my sister Kayla. What can I get for you?"

"Just a birch beer, please," she said. He passed the broom to his sister, who passed it up to the man on the rafter. "I hear acid works pretty well on them."

"We're trying not to kill it," Flicker explained, as Kevin went behind the bar for her drink.

"It's kind of cute," Kayla admitted. "I think it's a baby one."

"I found something you might be able to tangle it up in, too." Kevin tossed his sister an old cloth banner with the faded words Welcome Storyboarders printed on it. Heart shrugged; she wasn't much for either animals or metafiction. "So what brings you to the Dagger?" the bartender asked, putting her mug on the counter for her. "No offense, but you don't look Lianthi."

"None taken," Heart said. The high foreheads and narrow features of the flatlanders looked as strange to her as her heavy brow and cheekbones must to them. "I'm looking for a magic-user."

"A specific magic-user, or is there something you need cast for you?"

"Neither, really. I was hoping to tag along with a magic-using adventuring group for a while."

"Well, you've come to the right place," Kayla said. "Though things don't usually pick up around here for a few hours."

"That's okay," said Heart, and cracked a smile for the first time that day. "I've got time."

Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: At the Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Introducing: Carter Edison
Title of Post: Dial M for Mithril Dagger!

Carter Edison walked dejectedly through the streets of New Lianth, a city that looked like it had been constructed by a few dozen architects. Fitting, in a way. He wandered aimlessly, until he found himself standing before a tavern plainly labeled "The Mithril Dagger". Wouldn't you know it, he thought, and walked inside.

The bar was mostly empty. All of the people were looking up at the rafters, and a blonde elf was poking around the beams with a broomstick. Reflexively, Carter looked up as well. After a moment of spotting nothing, he said "What are we looking at?"

Everyone was startled, as though they'd been caught googing off at work. "Oh, hi. I'm Kevin," said the man wearing the Mage t-shirt who stood behind the bar. "Welcome to the Mithril Dagger. We're trying to get this baby Aurumvorax out of the rafters, but he's pretty stubborn."

"Did you try using Monster Summoning?" Carter asked.

Kevin, the blonde elf and the cute waitress looked at each other. Then, in an exagerated voice, the waitress called out "Gosh, I hope there are no monsters around!"

"Yes!" Kevin said. "I fear I am down to just 1 hit point!"

"And, uh, I'm very tired from carrying all this treasure!" the elf added. Everyone looked up again. The Aurumvorax wasn't taking the bait.

"Well, it was a good idea, Mr...?"

"Just call me Carter," he said, taking a seat next to the heavy-browed woman. "Aquavit, please."

Kevin produced the drink with more efficacy than Carter had ever seen in a bartender. "So, what brings you to the Dagger, Carter?"

He stared into his drink, and in the same tone of voice with which one would announce testicular cancer, said "I'm a hero."

Name: Alyssa Gulledge
Plotline: The Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Rhynwa!, Flicker, Kevin, Kayla, other people
Title of Post: It's just a Baby!

Rhynwa stood outside of the Mithril Dagger and smiled. All of the good times, and most of the bad ones, started here. After 7 years of child rearing and high priestess-ing, it was nice just to see this place. But now, to summon danger and trouble ? open the door and step in.

"Hullo? Guys? Kevin! Kayla! Flicker! And you other people I don't know! Hi! And now the big question... what the Hell are you all doing?"

"Baby aurumvorax in the rafters."

"Um...poking it with a stick will NOT get it down. Kevin, would you get me a bowl of milk please? And Kayla, I need a mortar and pestle from the kitchen. And Flicker, get off the chair. Trust a mother to figure this one out."

Kevin and Kayla gave he a quick hug as they went past to the kitchen. As Flicker dismounted his chair, she asked "So are you and Kayla a thing yet?"

Flicker smirked and said "I don't paticipate in 'things' but if you mean 'are you dating' then the answer is yes."

Rhynwa chuckled. She walked over and gave him a hug, and said "All these years, and at least 4 bodies, but I still can't help but to think of you as Sunny. On the other hand, I ALWAYS think of you as my friend."

Just then Kevin returned with the milk, and Kayla with the mortar and pestle. Rhynwa took a gold coin from her pouch and dropped in into the mortar. She ground it into a fine powder, and sprinkled the gold dust into the pan of milk. She walked over to the chair Flicker had been on, set the pan of milk on the floor and propped the broom up on the chair to the rafters. She smiled at everyone in the room watching her. "You will now NEVER admit to hearing what happens next. Not anyone in this room. Agreed?"

The two newcomers and the three old timers looked at each other and nodded or mumbled consent, not sure what was to happen. Rhynwa sat down next to the pan and began singing. Singing a lullaby. Her voice was a little rough, and her tone was hardly perfect, but it was a distinct and proper lullaby. Flicker grinned, as did Kayla, and they quietly lent their voices to the ancient bedtime tune.

After a few minutes, the aurumvorax, calmed by the quiet melody, cautiously began descending the broom handle to the chair. It sat and stared at the people in the room, snarled a bit at Flicker, but descended to the pan of milk and gold. As it began lapping at the milk, Rhynwa slowly reached out her hand, still crooning to it, and lightly stroked it's back. It paused in it's meal, but sensing no danger went back to eating.

"It is very young to be without it's mother. It was hungry and scared and there was this big, blond thing poking it with a stick ? of COURSE it wasn't coming out of the rafters, guys!"

Kevin, as well as Kayla and Flicker, looked a bit sheepish. "Um...want a beer, Rhyn?"

"Yes, very badly. So Kevin, when are the rest of the heroes getting here?"

Name: Lora Redish
Plotline: At The Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Heart
Title of Post: Just can't help the meta-comment, dammit

Heart watched the black-garbed woman carefully as she lured the aurumvorax down from the rafters. She had the look of a shamaness about her, but Heart couldn't tell if she was trying to cast a spell with all the milk and chanting or just using her maternal instinct.

"So, Kevin," the woman said, "when are the rest of the heroes getting here?"

Kevin looked a little confused. "Was someone supposed to meet you tonight?"

"The reunion was postponed," Flicker said apologetically, hopping down from the rafter. "I'm not really available for adventuring just now, either--"

"We got engaged this week," Kayla explained.

"Oh, that's wonderful!" Rhynwa scritched the little aurumvorax on the tummy and it purred contentedly. "Personally, though, I'm ready for a little action. Luth's been saving the world from lich lords or whatever these past five years, and it's his turn to watch Gordon for a while. Is anything cooking?"

"I'm a hero," sighed Carter, in a highly depressed voice.

"So am I. One more in the same bar at the same time and something's bound to happen."

Everyone looked at Heart. "I'm more of a writer," she apologized. "I'm doing a study on magic use... I was hoping to tag along with a couple of magic-users for a while. I can handle myself in a fight, if that helps."

"Well, the dinner hour's only just starting," Kevin pointed out. "Plenty of time for new arrivals. You know how the Dagger works."

"We know," nodded everyone in the room but Heart, and settled in to wait.

Name: Jonah Cohen
Plotline: At the Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Carter, Ubert, and Super-Duper Special Guest Stars - Enigma!
Title of Post: Secret Origin (part 1 of 2)

"Edison! Have you finished cleaning out those old rooms in the basement yet?"

"Not yet, Mr. Slate, sir."

"What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Get to it!"

"Yes, sir." Carter Edison, assistant manager at the Motel 3, trudged to the basement, the latest boring, meaningless task in his boring, meaningless life, working at a boring, meaningless inn located in a boring, meaning---

Enough moping! he told himself. Time to just get on with cleaning out the basement. The closets and former rooms down there looked like they hadn't been touched since time immemorial. He had to pry the first door open with a crowbar.

Carter coughed as he entered. The place was buried under dust and cobwebs. Cleaning this one out was a sure road to suffocation. Carter sighed. Then he noticed something.

Cautiously pushing away the layers of dust, the crumbling remains of a now-illegible parchment, he picked up a softly glowing green sphere, a little smaller than a billiard ball. "What the heck is this?" he said. Then, the earth shook.

From somewhere outdoors, he heard a cacophonous roar, the sounds of screaming, and something that sounded like thunder. Absentmindedly dropping the sphere into his pocket, he rushed up the stairs and out into the street. He could hardly believe what he saw.

There was pandemonium in the streets. Many people were fleeing in terror, but many, including Carter were unable to look away. Amidst the wreckage of several buildings, the smoking ruins of the town square, stood almost a dozen extremely unusual individuals.

"You will never stop us, Enigma!" shouted one of them, a red-headed man with a bad bowl-cut. He wore a blue jump-suit, with a devilish-looking symbol on it (as did several of the other strange people). "The mighty magical treasures of the era will be ours! Ours to rule a world! We will leave your charred remains amidst the charred remains of this city as we---"

"Turn the record over, Sunspot," replied another of the strangers. He wore a dark jacket with a large W on the back, a scruffy beard and enormous sunglasses. And he was flying.

Carter was distracted from this incredible sight by shrieks from closer to him. A human-sized bug creature, acid dripping from its fangs, had grabbed an old man and looked --- like it was going to bite his head off!

At the last second, the creature was struck in the back by a quarterstaff. It released the old man, hissed loudly and turned to face its attacker, a woman dressed like a gladiator. "No meals for you today, Pupator," she said. The creature charged her, but she was too fast for it. Carter had never seen anyone who could fight like that. She was incredible. And cute, too.

He was distracted from ogling the gladiator woman when a large tree near him was struck by lightning and all but vaporized. Two other women were fighting nearby. The one who had destroyed the tree - apparently one of the bad guys - wore... well, Carter wasn't certain if those were clothes, or just paint on her body. She had a rack you could have served coffee on and was cackling maniacally, as purplish energy enveloped her hands. "Taste the wrath of Zzzapina!" she shouted. Writhing tendrils of the violet lighting streaked out from her hands and struck a masked, copper haired woman. After seeing what had happened to the tree, Carter expected the poor woman to be eradicated as well. But instead, she just stood there, taking the full brunt of the attack, and glowing brighter by the moment.

"Thanks for the att boost," she said, and with a burst of speed, charged the lightning-bitch and KO'ed her with two punches.

A crumpling sound from behind him got Carter's attention, but too late. Apparently acid from the bug creature had eroded a support column on the building behind him, and he was about to be crushed to death. Then he was tumbling out of the way. Someone had grabbed him and pulled him aside at the last second. "Better get clear, sir," said the dark-haired man.

Carter nodded and tried to find a place away from the chaos. But as he ran down the street, he saw a horrifying sight. Half a dozen children were trapped inside a burning building. He clapped his hand over his mouth - what could he do? What could anyone do?

A hole opened up in the ground inside the building and, gopher-like, a young boy dressed in red and blue poked his head out. "This way, kids! I've dug an escape route. No pushing, please."

The ground rippled like a water bed. Looking up the street, Carter saw a giant - twenty feet tall if he was an inch - with unreal musculature. "Big Bopper crush you!" it said. "Crush all!" To emphasize his point, the giant pounded the roof of a building and the entire thing was pulverized into dust. Surely, not even these strange heroes could stop such a behemoth.

"High-low?" a voice said. Lowering his gaze, Carter saw to other men, surprised he'd missed them, as both of them stood around seven feet tall themselves. The one who had spoken had the head of a goat, the other wore heavy black armor and a faceless mask. The goat man charged down the street (how could someone so big possibly move so fast?) leapt up and head-butted the giant in the stomach. At the same time, the armored man's boots flared, and he flew straight at the giant, smashing him in the jaw. The giant fell over backwards, hitting the ground with a brobdignagean thud.

"You may have bested my minions, but you will never stop the universe-melting powers of Sunspot!" bowl-cut screamed. He held up his hand and fired an orange beam at the flying man. Even from quite a distance away, Carter could feel the heat. But before it could strike the flier, the beam disappeared. And simultaneously reappeared, right behind Sunspot, like it had... warped there, or something. It struck the solar madman in the legs, burning away both of his feet and calves.

"Geez, the pain!" Sunspot screamed. "My legs! Curse you, Enigma-members!"

"I wouldn't try anything else, Sunspot," the flying man said. "I've enveloped your hand in a dimensional sub-pocket of a highly energy-reflective plane. So unless you want to lose an arm, too... Now, where's their last member?"

"Over there," the gladiatoress said, dragging the unconscious insect into the town square. It was then that Carter noticed a tentacled man, who had somehow managed to get trapped in a bear hug by a statue. He lay pinned under its immobile form, and croaked out "I surrender! Please get this this guy off of me. I can't breathe."

Suddenly, the statue turned into a normal (if caped and masked) man with a rather large ass, who stood up and declared "Such are the wages of villainy, no-good-doer!"

The gopher boy popped out of the ground in time to say "Yeah!"

The oddly-garbed heroes dragged the defeated villains into the town square. "Time for us to return them to their dimensio-prison," said the W one. "Marc?" He and the black-haired man who had saved Carter's life held out their hands, and the villains disappeared in a flash of blue light.

A huge cheer went up from the people of Neporris. The heroes waved. "All in a day's work for a super-hero," W said.

One of the town's leading business owners charged out towards the. "Zeut alors! U have zaved Ubert's reztaurante! Ubert iz zo happy! 'e will make you u un tres bien feazt!"

* * * * *

Later that night, Carter saw the heroes walking down the street. "Those were really tasty," the armored man said. "He gave me a great omelet recipe."

"Too bad Kyria couldn't come along."

"She was worried about some paradox issues."

"I think she just wanted to make sure she was there when Penelope has her puppies."

"Look, there it is!"

They walked up to a obelisk that bore an engraving of the town savior. The inscription beneath it read:

The town, Neporris, the town was ailin'
He saved it for us, his name's Kynvalen

"Kyria really wrote that?"

"Well, one of her earlier iterations."

The man with the big S on his cape took out a small yellow box. "OK, get in everybody." The other all crowded around the monument, struck a pose (the armored guy gave W the bunny ears)and smiled. The yellow box flashed. "Good one!"

Carter walked away. Man, those super-heroes were cool. They could fly, and had incredible strength and could do all kinds of great stuff. They saved people and could actually afford to eat at Ubert's. What a great life they must lead.

"I wish I was a super-hero," he said.

As he walked dejectedly back to the Motel 3, he failed to notice that the green sphere in his pocket had glowed all the brighter, then disappeared.

Name: Evan
Plotline: At the Mithril Dagger
Character(s): Akron the Goblin, Flicker, Kayla
Title of Post: This is a hero...?

Kevin and Kayla left Heart to discuss matters of adventure with Rhynwa, and went to finish getting the place ready for the dinner crowd. Kevin was setting out a line of mugs to grab once the drinkers came in, and Kayla went into the back to get a fresh stack of trays. She was only back there for a few moments when the people in the bar heard a scream and curse from the storeroom. "Godammit! Get out of there, you grubby little sneak!"

Flicker looked at Kevin, who was still cleaning the glasses. Kevin just cocked his head over his shoulder, indicating that the Riklandic hero should check it out. Taking his mead back with him, Flicker pushed aside the curtain to the back room, ready for anything. What he saw was almost unusual. Kayla had grabbed a small frying pan, and was brandishing it expertly at a small goblin who was simultaneously scrambling backwards over some boxes of bar nuts while reaching for a saucepan and chewing on a half-cooked chicken. It was wearing what looked to be a battered spittoon on its head, and had a scarred and rusty breastplate. As he moved around the kitchen to cut of its escape, Flicker thought he could make out some mumbling through the chicken carcass.

"Mrg g hrgof! Mg hrfr grhiddng!" the goblin spat out, small bits of gristle hitting the floor as he chewed on the chicken. While Kayla was obviously too upset to appreciate this, Flicker couldn't help but marvel at the goblin's ability to move, defend himself, and eat all at the same time.

"Flicker, get that pan away from him! We need that later for broth! And help me get him out of here!"

Flicker took a quick look at the goblin's stance and decided that Kayla was overreacting just a bit. The goblin wasn't going for his long dagger, and wasn't trying to run away like a thief, so he had to be here for some other reason. No better time like the present to find out what.

"Hon, maybe if you put the frying pan down, he'll put the pan down, and we can hear what he's trying to say." Kayla blinked a couple of times, not having realized that the goblin was trying to talk, and backed up a couple of steps. She didn't drop the frying pan, but she wasn't within arm's reach anymore. The goblin waited a few moments, then decided that the waitress wasn't going to bash his skull in, and put the pan down. Kayla and Flicker then waited for him to take a couple more swallows of chicken before he actually talked to them.

"Tanks dere, buddy. Yer okay by me, although dat dame's a little batty," drawled the goblin, taking two skittish steps back as he said. Kayla gripped the pan tighter and glared. "Yeah, well, you're in my kitchen, eating food you didn't pay for, and ruining food meant for other people!" she yelled, gesturing at the other eight chickens he had let fall on the floor when he grabbed the one in his hands.

The goblin blinked stupidly, "Ya mean I had ta pay for this? I thought food was free for heroes."

Kayla and Flicker looked at each other, then back at the goblin. "What do you mean, 'free for heroes'? Are you saying you're�?"

The goblin grinned a huge, snaggle-fanged, greasy grin, saying, "A hero! Name's Akron, gladtameetcha."

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

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?

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."

Go on to the Shape of Things Archives, Part 2

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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