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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Part I

Character(s): The Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Hell in an Handbasket
Title of Post: R.O. Dent, Supergenius

The Rat missed Jack. He was the only one, other than other rats, that he was able to communicate with. Plus, he liked playing equations with him.
Still, at least Jack's satchel was still around.
The Rat rummaged around the satchel. He seemed to remember something in here that struck him as interesting. There, hidden among the remnants of a ripped up napkin, a piece of vellum with scribblings on it. The Rat dragged the parchment out of the satchel and into the light. This was good news. It was exactly what he was looking for.
The Rat ran over to the fireplace and coated his paw in charcoal. Then he went back to the parchment. It would be hard to recreate what was hinted about on the vellum, but he would try. He owed Jack that.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Alphred
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Jeffy Hersh
Storyline: Like a Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Khyrisse poked her head into the arboretum, looking for Alphred. It took her a few moments, but she found him sleeping in the limbs of a tall tropical tree that she didn't recognize.
She walked over and looked up at it, puzzled. "Now where did this come from?" she murmured to herself.
Alphred, who even in his sleep sensed the approach of the elf, woke with a start. In a complex and fluid move, he jumped down from the tree and landed directly behind Khyrisse, startling her.
Khyrisse whirled around instantly with a cry, hands lifting to blast the hell out of him. She stopped when she saw that Alphred was merely standing there, looking puzzled. She pressed the palm of her hand over her heart, gasping.
"Alphred," she sighed, scrabbling mentally after her lost calm, "you scared the hell out of me. Don't get behind me, okay? I might make a mistake."
"Sorry, spirit elf," he said. "But one should not sneak up on me when I am sleeping. I take it you want to talk to me?"
Khyrisse, both delaying the inevitable and a little curious, asked, "Why do you call me 'spirit elf' or 'spirit maiden', Alphred? It's not that I don't like it, but what does it mean?"
Alphred looked at Khyrisse like she suddenly grew an extra head and three new limbs. "Because you are? Why would I call you something you are not?"
Khyrisse smiled a little, bemusedly. "Hmm. I can think of a reason that you might call me that, and it has to do with what I need to tell you." She sat down on the bench and sighed. "Can you tell me once more what the prophecy you received was? The three entities you're looking for?"
"The Great Spirits of my Ancestors at the Oracle of Tiki-too told me to find three things: the sage from the east who holds the answers, the woman who has fallen who holds the solution, and the rodent without a tail who understands. I have found the rodent, so I am sure that by following the rodent, I will find the others."
Khyrisse grinned a little at him. "The woman was said to have fallen from the divine? 'She who lives between the earth and the sky', I think you said?"
Alphred nodded. "That is she."
Khyrisse lifted her left hand and waved her fingers at him, a little whimsically. The Godmaker ring-- or what was left of it-- flashed silvery light at him. "I don't know if I'm who you're looking for; but guilty on all counts, I'm afraid."
Alphred looked at the ring, back at Khyrisse and then to the ring again. "Then the Great Spirits of my Ancestors are with us. I am correct that this group of people you lead are the ones I seek. I am sure the Great Spirits of my Ancestors will soon reveal the third one I seek."
"Um." Khyrisse bit her lip. "I think I know who the third one is. Mabye that was what was meant by 'she who holds the solution'. The third one was one of our companions, one who we lost before you joined us. Tarrin, who was a priest from Diaria."
Alphred grinned like the proverbial cat who ate the canary. He turned towards the tree and clapped his hands twice. The tree shrunk down so that it was small enough to fit in his hand. Alphred picked up the tree, put it in his amulet bag, and turned back to Khyrisse.
"The Spirits of my Ancestors are at work here, honored spirit maiden. We will find this Tar-yn, if he is indeed the third one I am to find. Until that point, and the four of us stop the pestilence that is spreading across Salagia, I shall follow you and the rat. Lead on, friend and honored guide!"
"Tarrin was lost in an accident involving an interplanar rift," Khyrisse warned him, trying to suppress a smile. Ye gods, another person who wants to follow me. "We're going to have to go to Hell, next-- we think it's the only place Tarrin could be, if he's still alive."
Alphred's face had the look of someone with no worries. "If you must go to this land of Hell, then I will follow. However, it is a strange place you speak of. I have never heard of this land called Hell. Is it far from here?"
Khyrisse gave him a rather complicated smile, sad and reminiscent and amused all at the same time. "Very."

Character(s): Khyrisse, Vas, and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Evan Haag
Storyline: Like a Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: Where Jack, in Valende's Pocket, Learns About Another Old Elven Custom

In the darkest hour of the night, Vastarin strode down the stairs and into the dimly lit entry hall, heading for the front door of the Mansion. "Vas,� a quiet voice said, from one side of the hall. Vas looked towards the library door. Khyrisse stood in the open doorway, freckles standing out on her pale skin, eyes a little red. She was in the first actual dress Vas had ever seen her wear, a floating spidersilk gown of several translucent layers, arms and shoulders bare. The icy, pale green fabric almost glowed against the shadows of the room behind her. A gracefully shaped bottle was her hand, made of dark red glass. It looked like a splash of blood against the side of the flowing skirt, balanced on the other by the silver dagger hanging from her belt.
"Milady.� Vas bowed to her a little and waited with an air of polite impatience.
Khyrisse sighed a little, and deliberately caught his eye. "You�re up early.�
"I have business to attend to.�
"At this hour?�
"It�s...� Vas paused for a moment, and folded his arms. Not exactly belligerent, but certainly stubborn. "...a religious matter.�
Khyrisse�s lips curved sadly, but it wasn�t really a smile. She nodded and saluted him with the bottle. "Me too.�
Vas arched an eyebrow at her, momentarily intrigued. He tilted his head at the bottle in her hand.
"I didn�t know you were a follower of Paninaro,� he said, with a tiny smile.
Khyrisse laughed a little. "It�s the best way to find a good party on Friday night, following Paninaro. No... it�s absinthe.� She shrugged a little, a graceful roll of her lightly freckled shoulders that reminded Vas of Ebreth. "It�s a Dyved custom.�
Khyrisse shook her head impatiently. "No, Vas. It�s for a blood oath.�
"Wormwood is poisonous!�
"Absinthe is only poisonous when made improperly,� Valende said from the stairs behind him. Both Vas and Khyrisse started in surprise. Valende came down to stand beside her brother. "Absinthe is extremely intoxicating, can induce hallucinations, and can cause death when taken in enough quantity; even when properly made, it�s very bitter.�
"As if made for the declaration of vendetta,� Khyrisse murmured. She spoke the next words as if reciting them from an old, old text... which she probably was. " �Foolish as youth, blind as love, strong as death, bitter as hatred�.� Vas looked a little surprised. Khyrisse waved the bottle at him again, and sighed. "Go on, the hour is passing. I�ll be in the arboretum when you get back.�
Vas bowed to Khyrisse, his expression a little softer and slightly bemused, and headed out the door. Valende stayed behind.
"Not going with?�
Valende shook her head. "He�ll be flying.�
"In that??!�
"He has a spell that protects him from lightning. He�ll be all right... if he doesn�t break his fool neck,� she added with a sigh.
Khyrisse stared at the front door with a rueful twist to her mouth. "You know, I must be crazy. That almost sounds... well, not fun... Exhilarating.�
Valende�s mouth curved in a funny little smile. "Vastarin is...� her mouth twitched, amused, "well acquainted with storms.� She looked at Khyrisse�s face carefully. "Are you sure you know what you�re getting into?� she asked, very seriously.
Khyrisse smiled a little. "I think Vas� blood oath is a little more severe than mine, actually. Judging from his expression, anyway. I don�t intend to kill her.�
"That�s... commendable,� Val said wryly. "Vendetta can take a lot out of you, though. Are you sure about this?�
Khyrisse looked over her shoulder into the darkened library for a moment. She turned slowly back to Valende. "Oh yes,� she said softly. "I�m sure.�

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: A Child At Heart

As Khyrisse returned to her bedroom, spent and shaking, she felt a little hand slip into hers. "Khyrisse?" whispered Skitch, hoarsely. "Can I sleep in the bed with you? I don't mind if you kick me."

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Valkyrie Needs Food

"You're all right?" said Flicker, in undertone.
"I'm okay."
"That's not a natural storm."
"You noticed?"
"Luthien." The necromancer looked at him. "How--would I know if someone turned you into a lich lord?"
"Primarily by the fact that you were exploding."
"Mmmmm," said Flicker.
"Liches are very undead-looking," he added, more helpfully. "Sunken, glowing eyes. Dire, skeletal form. You couldn't miss one."
"Then what did happen to you back there?"
"Is dinner ready yet?" shouted Norna.

Character(s): Luthien and Flicker (and the bitchy Valkyrie)
Author: Evan Haag and Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: It Just Got Worse

Luthien led Flicker to an upstairs study and locked the door behind them. Flicker noticed that the upstairs rooms seemed to be a lot more comfortable than the ones downstairs. There was even a pleasant fire in the fireplace. Luthien offered Flicker a chair, then said, "When the lightning hit me, I was apparently the grounding point for something rather unnatural. I felt I was having my soul ripped to shreds and reformed by the lightning bolt."
"Do you think this could be the beginning of Norn's... prophecy about you?" The two of them could hear Norn in the background, calling from downstairs. "Hey, where the hell did you mortals go? I said I was hungry!"
"I don't know. What I do know is that that storm is absolutely deadly. It is brimming with necromantic energy; even the wind sounds like the howling of tortured souls."
Flicker looked carefully at Luthien. "Do you know if it's possible to turn someone into a lich without their consent? I don't like the way this storm focused on you."
Luthien dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand. "Impossible. I know for a fact it can't be done to an unwilling target. The act itself is largely a function of willpower; you have to really want to be a lich to survive the transformation. Trust me, if I become a lich, it won't be after a few minutes of a lightning storm. The funny thing is, I don't think I was really damaged at all by the lightning. I mean, I got hit, certainly. Twice: once on the ground, and once in the air. The second time even knocked me for a loop and destroyed my flight spell, but I didn't take any actual damage. I knew that as I hit the ground. My stoneskin spell doesn't have any effect on forces like fire, lightning, or cold."
Downstairs, another spectral servant, this one resembling a demure Dalencian maid, barred Norna's path to the upstairs, politely reminding her that dinner was in two hours, and that the master requested that she stay downstairs. Norna wasn�t having any, and proceeded to rail at the conjured creature. In the background, the two of them could hear Norna saying "Fine, then can you take a message to Mr. Mageson? Tell him if he doesn't get down here in two minutes flat I am going to kick his apprentice's ass."
"The master is not taking messages," said the housemaid, pleasantly but firmly.
Flicker sighed at the sounds from downstairs, embarrassed to have Norna around.
"Ignore her. She can't do any lasting damage to the mansion, and she can't kill the servants or leave without my permission." He turned to yet another spectral servant appearing from the bookshelf. "Tell the disrespectful woman downstairs that I am in my private study, and that if she raises a hand in violence against any person while in my home, I will hold her in violation of every law of hospitality I can think of." Turning to Flicker, he added, "Your people do place a high value on laws of hospitality, don't they? I seem to recall something about that."
Flicker put his hand on his forehead. "Most Riklanders are not like this."
"I'm sure."
"Unfortunately we need her help. She's the only one who knows what this alternate-future lich lord is up to. He's apparently disabled Rip Hunter and returned from the future to do something. Norna won't tell me what." He paused, not sure how to break the next bit of news to Luth. "You're not going to like this, but Odn paid us a little visit while you were sleeping, and she gave him Swank."
"SHE DID WHAT?!?!" Luthien looked positively livid as he lurched forward in his chair. "Odn is the one who's been harassing Khyrisse and sending that undead monster after her and your friends!"
"I know," he sighed. "If it wasn't for you and Rip, and Sigrid, I would be so out of here.� He paused again a moment. "Do you know where these necromantic energies are coming from? Could Odn be involved?"
Luthien paused for a second to think. "I don't know if Odn is involved or not. I have a nasty suspicion who might be, but I don't want to leap to conclusions without a little more information. Personally, I don't think Odn is capable of a storm this powerful. It's...not his style, nor his preferred method."
"And whose is it?" said Flicker. "Just as a matter of speculation."
Luthien looked Flicker dead in the face, with an almost fearful expression. "I think one of the original Lich Lords is back."
Flicker's face betrayed nothing, but he took the decanter of brandy from the table and poured himself a very strong one.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch, with their favorite book
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Like a Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: You And Me Against The World

Khyrisse lay back against the headboard, Skitch's head in her lap. One hand propped up a large book on the side away from Skitch, the other ran fingers soothingly through the hair so like her own. The book she read from was well-worn, the green leather cover battered at the corners and stained with the marks of old raindrops. Khyrisse's voice took on an especially rueful tone as she spoke the words of Schmendrick the Magician: " 'When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time.' As if I didn't have enough troubles."
"Skip ahead to the skull part. That's one of my favorites," Skitch said sleepily.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Vas, and Ariath
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Vendetta
Title of Post: "Vengeance Is Mine; I Will Repay"

Ariath laughed and splashed water at Vas. Vas grinned evilly, and dove under the water, yanking her below the surface. She came up sputtering a few moments later, intent on a unique form of revenge, but by then he and Omeria were lounging at the other end of the pool, talking shop about elemental spells and their uses on the lower planes. Yawn. Ariath leaned on the rim of the pool and waited for them to finish. Given a choice between talking to Omeria and looking at me in a bikini, Vas won�t be long at this, she thought, grinning.
Ariath blinked and looked through the open doorway at the end of the room. Khyrisse was standing next to the jacuzzi, in the little connecting room between the pool and the arboretum. "Hey, Khyri! Come for a swim?�
Khyrisse smiled sadly and walked into the pool room. "No.�
She wasn�t dressed for one, actually. She was wearing a long spidersilk dress with no sleeves, the icy green color of absinthe. The light fabric was drifting around her as if she were standing in an erratic breeze. Vas would just love that effect-- maybe she should get one like it... Ariath blinked, taking a closer look at Khyrisse. There was a bloodied bandage on her left forearm. "How did you get hurt? Where�s Valen--� Ariath suddenly remembered the last time Khyrisse had been hurt, and her eyes widened.
Khyrisse nodded briefly. "You�re dreaming, Ariath. So am I.�
"What are you doing in my dream, then?!�
"I wanted to talk to you.�
"Um. Look, I--�
Khyrisse made an impatient gesture. "I don�t want to hear it right now, okay?� she said, annoyed. "I know you probably had what seemed like a good reason. I�d probably be glad to hear it; but later, when I�m not quite so pissed. I just want to tell you two things.�
Ariath eyed her warily. "Which are?�
"First-- if you had told me the truth, I would have helped you.�
Ariath scoffed. Khyrisse glared at her, and the golden sparks in her eyes flashed in a way that gave Ariath the creeps. "I would have helped you. I would have tried, anyway; and if I couldn�t, well, you still could have done what you did today. I�ve been half-expecting something like this for days, and it didn�t keep you from doing it. My knowing about your little deal with Hell probably wouldn�t have either. You could have left Ebreth�s name out of your story, and gotten him just the same in the end.�
Ariath bit her lip. This was feeling way too real. She reminded herself that this was a dream.
Khyrisse grinned hard, briefly. "Oh, it�s a dream, all right. But it�s also real, in a very uncomfortable way. See,� Khyri continued, softly, "there is nowhere in this world, no plane you can go to, that I cannot find you in your dreams. I know you now, I know you fairly well-- and that�s all I need. The only way you could possibly protect yourself from this is a clerical ability, one way too powerful for a world without gods. And I don�t think your little mental disciplines will help much, either. You�ll be able to change what you�re dreaming about, but you�ll dream. You might even be able to make yourself stop dreaming entirely... if you wanted to drive yourself mad. Or you could just stop sleeping. But I wouldn�t recommend any of these.� Khyrisse walked over to the pool and bent to face her directly. Her skin was glowing with this eerie gold-and-white light, light that flickered weirdly. Ariath realized suddenly that it was because Khyrisse was shaking with suppressed rage. Her eyes had tears in them, blurring the purple and gold with a glimmer of reflected pale green from the water behind her. "I curse you, Ariath,� she whispered, very gently. "For every nightmare I-- and eventually, Ebreth-- suffer due to your betrayal of us, you�ll have one too, until the day you die... Or the day I forgive you.�
Ariath gaped at her. She wanted to say something, she wanted to leap out of the pool and get the hell out of here-- but she couldn�t move. With a sinking feeling, she recognized the peculiar, frantic helplessness that everyone experiences in their worst childhood nightmares. Khyrisse turned and walked away, back towards the arboretum, and the compulsion gradually faded enough for Ariath to say something, at least. "I saved your life,� Ari whispered at Khyri�s back. "Twice.�
Khyrisse turned to look at her, standing in the archway with trees and flowers as a backdrop. With a shock, Ariath noticed that Vas was standing in the arboretum as well, wearing the dark greys of a thundercloud, and she shivered unpleasantly over the way he was looking at her. He, too, had a bloodied bandage. "I know. Thank you, Ari,� she replied, very softly, very sincere. "I�ll try to keep Vas from taking yours. If you try to kill him to prevent it, though, all bets are off.�
"Why are you doing this to me?� Ariath wailed, as the room darkened. The water stirred behind her, and voices began whispering, moving towards her through it, all familiar, all wrong.
"I�d tell you it was for revenge, but it�s not really the truth, in spite of the fact that I�m fucking furious... It�s more like retribution. I intend,� Khyrisse said, with a little smile, "to make you sorry. I intend to prick your conscience into a screaming fit, so it�ll never sleep again. You�re going to repent of your actions today if I have to drive you mad first, and I don�t care if it takes me the rest of my life to do it.�
Khyrisse half-turned to leave again, and stopped briefly. Spectral wings flared behind her, patterned in faint metal and gem-tones. Vas could be seen right through them, arms folded, hair tossing as if he were surrounded by a hurricane. Over her shoulder, Khyrisse said in a sarcastic tone, "Say hello to the new and improved Bloodscar for me. I really don�t know where any of you think you�re going when you die. I�d be willing to bet it�ll look...� Khyrisse paused, and smirked maliciously. "Familiar.�
The water grew cold and slimy against Ariath�s legs, and Khyrisse and Vastarin disappeared.


Fifteen minutes later, Ariath finally lost her battle with her subconscious; she woke up with a strangled, whimpering scream, gasping for air. Her body was coated in cold sweat, and she had a pounding headache that would linger for most of the day. Omeria looked up from her studies, lounging across from her with a book propped casually in her lap. She smiled maliciously at Ariath�s obvious distress. Ariath remembered Khyrisse�s parting expression and shuddered. "Guilty conscience?� Omeria asked sweetly.

Character(s): What Remains Of The Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Things Always Look Better In The Morning

The Rat Pack chattered noisily around the table while the spectral butler served breakfast. "Good luck, Fred," said Skitch. He looked a damnsight better after a night's sleep: not like he'd forgotten that Ariath had backstabbed Khyrisse, but at least like Sennett was going to have to go back for more pancakes. "Thank you, Wilbur," said Fred. "Have fun in Hell."
Val laughed softly into her hand. "Jack, darling," she said, sotto voce. "Alphred is drinking out of the syrup pitcher."
"Hey, hot lips, you gettin' lonely yet?"
"Don't tell me you want your life destroyed too."
"Are you worth it?" demanded the donkey.
Khyrisse laughed him off, only a little brittly. Val beamed into the headset, as if Jack had just said the cleverest thing in the world. "Are you coming with us?" Skitch asked Alphred. "I am," said the jungle man, solemnly. "Cool," said Skitch, and stuffed a whole pancake in his mouth. "Khyrisse, where are we going?"

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Like a Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: Solving a Riddle

Khyrisse yawned and poured herself some more coffee. Too little sleep, what with one thing and another. "We're going to Riklandir," she said. "I got a clue from Flicker..." Khyrisse paused for a moment. Yesterday? Can't have been yesterday. Too much has happened. "...I think it was two days ago, about how to get to Hell to rescue Cori and Tarrin, but it didn't make much sense. Mabye he can explain it to me."
Valende raised an eyebrow at Khyrisse. "Isn't Flicker with Norna?" she asked dubiously.
"Yes, I believe so," Khyrisse replied, completely unperturbed. "I don't believe that I care, though."
Vas smiled a little, and his eyes met Khyrisse's for a moment. He nodded and went back to his breakfast. His hair was still wet. Ariath would have wanted to play with it something awful, it was all over his forehead. Valende sighed. "Do they at least know we're coming?"
"Yes, I sent a message to Luthien early this morning. It won't take us long to get there, fortunately. I don't doubt that Norna would pack up and leave, rather than wait."

Character(s): Omeria, Ariath
Author: Douglass Barre (sneaking in on a break)
Storyline: Vendetta
Title of Post: Escalation

"I told you that you were in deep shit," Omeria sighed. "When are you going to learn to pick your enemies more carefully?"
"Says the woman who invited Trillarillia Carraria into Bloodscar?" Ariath said, wiping sweat from her brow.
"A mistake that has been rectified at long last."
"She came to me, Merry. She came to me in my dreams."
"Interesting. And your will couldn't keep her out?"
Ariath looked at her painted toes. "No."
"You must have really hurt her," Omeria said. "Wasting a perfectly good high-level spell slot on tormenting you."
"She and Tor were lovers."
Omeria laughed. "That is too classic. I wish I had been around to see the look on her face."
"What can I do? Is there a way to stop this?"
"Not as such. The Silver Key of Dreams could help, but that's been lost for years. There are also some psionics who could booby-trap your mind, but I don't know any who would help us right now."
"So I'm just screwed."
"Actually..." Omeria paused for a minute, lost in thought. She got up and opened the door. "Marhault?" she called.
"What, Omeria?" the tall gaunt guy asked.
"I need you to go to the Seventh Temple."
"But--" Marhault said. "That's where..."
"I know." Omeria grinned her tight evil grin. "I want you to get me Siann."

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