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The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
Fatal Attractions, Part VII



Character(s): Khyrisse, Schneider, Princess Kristin
Author: Jonah Cohen and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay: Time Out
Title of Post: Flashback: In the Arms of an Angel
When Khyrisse opened the box, late that afternoon, music was playing. A woman's voice, the most beautiful she'd ever heard.
And we carry the weight and die for a cause...
Is misery made beautiful right before our eyes?
Let mercy be revealed or blind us where we stand...
Will we burn in heaven, like we do down here?
Will a change come while we’re waiting?
Everyone is waiting...
Khyrisse sighed, and smiled, and drifted into sleep...

***


It could be part of some big scheme of his. But did Goddamn Ebreth Tor have that kind of shiftiness? From what Schneider had heard, the man's usual idea of subtlety was blindfolding a victim before strapping them to the rack.
He sat alone in the mansion's kitchen, with nothing to look forward to but a long evening alone with dilemmas. This must have been what it was like for poor Janther.
"Are you still awake? I thought someone had gotten you a room..." He turned around.
"Didn't feel much like sleeping, Princess."
"You should. We're all going to need it."
"Would still be a bad idea."
"Why?"
"Look, I get really bad dreams even on normal nights. I don't want to think about what it'll be like here."
"Follow me," she commanded him calmly, serene grey eyes meeting his.
Schneider got up with a sigh.
Princess Kristin led him down a long hallway to a room, then said, "Lie down here."
"Whoah! Look, Princess, I don't think we should be, y'know--"
"Quiet, fool," she said, with a little smile. She took out a gold coin and levitated it in front of him. It swayed back and forth, glinting in the dim light. "Relax, and look at the image on this coin. Good, you're feeling very sleepy..." The image, a romantic, stylized city with a castle’s towers rising above it, blurred as his eyes closed... He was walking through the streets of Lianth. The city was repaired from the damage of the Madness. In fact, it had never looked better.
"Hiya, Schneid."
Duke Faraker was perched on a wall, idly trying to balance the blade of blazing badness on a finger.
"Boss! What were you--"
"You know what I thought was the most interesting part? You made her laugh. You made her smile. Didn't think you still had it in you, huh?”
Schneider bristled like an agitated bird, then admitted, "No. But that's not the point. Her life wasn't in danger. No, it was. But she didn't need me. Val and that Paris guy saved them all. All I did was up the angst factor dangerously high, and who knows how high I might have to push it if she's wrong about Tor."
"No, I think the point is that you took someone who's life's been chock full of misery lately, and you made her laugh and smile and feel happy for awhile. Even in the pits of Hell. That's what you're supposed to be about, right? Shit, I said I thought it would be beneficial for you to see her again. I never said beneficial for whom."
"And to think I doubted it might really be you, Boss."
The Duke merely smiled in response.

Character(s): Sunfighter
Author: Laura Redish, free at last
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: ties that bind
Title of Post: Showdown
Lord Kyber ducked around the throne dais, dragging Flicker by the hand. Her leather-sleeved right forearm was limned in green flame, held out before them as if to block a blow. Norna was advancing on her, but she barely spared the Valkyrie a glance. "Wyvern," she said past her. "What is your game here?"
"Shield-maiden," said Wyvern, "your services, please?"
"Norna, stand down," said Flicker, sharply.
Norna charged the demon lord with her two-handed sword back like a battleax. Shalini blasted her with demonfire but it cleaved to either side of her gleaming breastplate, barely slowing her down. "I am Norna of the Skeins," she said, through her teeth, "last of the Valkyrie, and I will not be denied."
"Bite me."
"Norna," said Flicker, "stand down."
"I don't take orders from you, Messala!" She swung the mighty sword. Shalini ducked out of its way like a cat, pulling her demonic kris. Flicker caught the blade of the Norse greatsword in his bare hand. "Yes, you do," he roared. "Because you will have to kill me first. And you still need me, so you're not going to do it. Stand down!"
Norna wobbled. Are never straight are
"Sunfighter," said Shilree, softly, "please get out of the way. I would rather not do this through you."
"Are you all insane?" demanded Lord Kyber.
"Well, she's got a dissociative disorder," said Wyvern. "The Valkyrie's borderline personality, I think. But you digress."
"Allfather?" whispered Norna.
"You want him to take over?"
"We want our freedom," cried Spiffy Garbonzo.
"Good luck!" She tossed her kris aside, her eyes locked on Wyvern's, and pushed through the uneasy rebels with her hands. "He's more dangerous than I am, and less concerned with you. This ends here, babe." Flicker caught her shoulder with his bloodied hand. "This isn't your fight, Eren. Get back."
"There doesn't need to be a fight."
"How sensible of you," said Wyvern, drily, his form beginning to shift and blur. The rebels backed away from them, awkwardly. "Help him!" said Ulmo. "No," said Spiffy, blocking him. "Let them fight. We must defeat them both if we mean to succeed."
By the door, Lotus had already made her decision.
Wyvern breathed a golden-black air at the demon lord, but she raised both her forearms over her head and it dissipated from them as she walked, her eyes blazing from between them. He lunged for her and she thrust her hand into him, burning with demonfire. Shilree fumbled in her pouch for one of her deadly spell spheres. "No!" shouted Flicker. "Silent-Voice!"
The big warrior had seen it too, and he caught Shilree's arms, glad Norna was still too confused to command him. "There are too many who would suffer for that action," he whispered. She struggled, but his was the strength of the Aesir.
Wyvern's tail lashed around at Lord Kyber then with impossible speed, and she stumbled. It was over as quickly as it had begun. "Ah, fuck," she said, and spat blood. "You never told me that thing was prehensile."
"I never told you it wasn't," he pointed out, and gathered back into human form, doing his best not to seem out of breath. Damn her but she couldn't help liking the guy. He had a blade pressed under her chin from behind. "Shall we discuss the terms of this coup?"
Lord Kyber leaned her head back, giving the space dragon a crooked grin over her shoulder. "Coups don't have terms. Are you holding me hostage, Wyvern? That's so--well, uncharacteristically romantic of you."
"It might be of--interest--to you that a psionicist with the resistance is temporarily disabling your--power--over me, Shalini."
"I know." She crinkled her eyes at him. "I already tried it. That's no reason not to be amused."
"I suppose not," said Wyvern. "Then you'll be doubly amused by this next part. I have a--proposition for you, Messala." Flicker nocked his bow behind his back. He could get one shot off before Wyvern cut her throat, if he was quick enough on the turn. It would have to be the back of the hand. If the shot was true Wyvern's fingers would release. "We now have a--common interest--where our charming overlord is concerned. I take it from your entertaining displays of aggressive anxiety that you would rather Lord Kyber survived this little--transfer of power, is that accurate?" She raised her eyebrow at him over her shoulder. "As it so happens, I have, plans, for this sphere that would proceed more smoothly if she didn't destroy it. Removing her to your dimension would serve both of us better than killing her, don't you think?"
"Is that the only reason?" Shalini said.
"I hope your ego won't be too bruised if I say the other is of much less concern to me."
"I was more thinking of my coming back in another body and kicking your scaly butt."
"So was I." Wyvern smiled at her thinly.
Flicker did not unnock his bow.
"Taking her with you will remove her from this reality as effectively as destroying her, pleasing your fearless leader." Norna shook her head dizzily. No. No, it was only Ragnarokkr. "She'll be alive, Lianth will be free of her regime, and I won't get blood on my jacket. Everyone's happy."
"Oh, like your regime's going to be a big improvement," said Shalini.
"Flicker, the timestream can't support two of you," said Luthien, low. "Remember Janther and Sunny."
Flicker did not take his eyes from Shalini. "I can't do that," he said, softly. "It will awaken our curse on my sphere."
"Oh, you can," said Wyvern, pleasantly, "and I don't doubt that you will. You're such a resourceful creature, after all. If you countered this curse once, surely you can find a way to do it again."
"And leave this world to you?" demanded Shalini.
"This world doesn't matter," said Shilree.
Shalini sighed. "I ballsed this up pretty bad, didn't I," she said to Flicker, and moved her right arm to link her hook through the chain of her left sleeve, behind Wyvern, a barely perceptible motion. Flicker saw it. "Shalini, no!" he shouted, bringing his bow about. Before he had finished the motion she had exploded in a white heat. There was the illuminated flash of Wyvern curling back from her at uncanny speed, her form, linked around his, being dragged with him; his outline twisting like black smoke, three desperate claws, hers bursting into a magnesium light. When it cleared what remained was ashes. Flicker released the tension in the bow, slowly. The resistance began, awkwardly at first, to cheer. Flicker put the arrow back into his quiver without looking at it.
Norna forced the music out of her head with a gasp. She crossed shakily to Flicker and seized him by the back of the neck. "Don't you ever talk that way to me ag--"
Shilree took out her pistol and shot the Valkyrie in the face. Norna staggered back. "Get your hand off him," spat the crazed Diari. Now that Norna knew nothing would come of it, she did not check her swing. Shilree's head was almost entirely severed. "ENOUGH," said Luthien. Shilree's blood-flecked lips started a rattling laugh, and she pushed her terrible, delicate head back into position. "You are a fool," she said tinnily, clicking her nails on her eye gem. "You are a fool. My world has not changed. That woman couldn't have been the nexus. You are a fool."
Norna's eyes flashed. "He lied."
"Actually," said Berryn, helpfully, "he just said you had to eliminate the nexus point to weaken the evil future. He never really said Lord Kyber was that nexus point. He just kind of implied it."
"Then who is!" shouted Norna, furiously.
"That would be me," came a cold voice, from the other end of the hall.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Into the Ar'xhay
Khyrisse and Vas were both in the foyer, looking tense, when the rest of the Rat Pack assembled. Vas was examining his arrows, with exaggerated care. Sennett stood in the doorway of the dining room, looking much put upon and magicking the hall carpet in Khyrisse's wake. "Why is Sennett doing that?" Kit wanted to know.
"He says I'm pacing a hole in it," Khyrisse explained, without stopping. She slanted a glare at her major-domo as she passed him. Sennett raised an eyebrow at her and went back to polishing the silver... for the moment.
Ixhriy perched on the banister, blinking wildly every time Khyrisse got too close. He looked hypnotized. "Retty..." he breathed.
"What's with Ixhriy?" Skitch whispered, reaching out for Khyrisse's hand.
She stopped and gave it to him, with a reassuring squeeze. "I have a lot of spells on me, right now. Ixhriy can see magic," she explained quietly. "All the time, without trying, although otherwise it's a lot like using wizard sight. It's why his eyes glow blue-- the same thing happens to me when I use that spell." She glanced briefly at the imp, a worried frown flitting across her face. "I keep wondering what he's seeing, though..." she whispered. "The last time he was this bad, I had wild magic on me."

***


The Ar'xhay at night was silent, but not quite as dark as Khyrisse had expected. A dim greyish light filtered down through the clouds, glimmering in the distance on what might be silvery banks of mist. Cold drizzle rained down on the Rat Pack's heads, chilling them to the bone within moments. Khyrisse felt herself listening hard, for something other than the faint noise of water falling from the dark green-grey foliage. No crickets, no birds, not even the high-pitched shrills and squeaks of bats that humans could never hear.
Khyrisse tried to quiet her breathing. There was just enough light to see things, but not enough to tell what they were. She was suddenly reminded of lying in bed as a child, wondering in frozen terror if that shadow near her closet had moved or not...
"Retty..." Ixhriy was pulling on her arm. "Retty...! This way! Follow Ixhriy, stay very quiet!"
The trip seemed to take forever. They crept along in almost total darkness, and were glad they hadn't provided a light for themselves when they approached the first building. Light blazed from one or two oddly shaped windows high in the dark, looming structure, and the light seemed to travel everywhere. You could see it for miles. A moving light would have attracted unbelievable amounts of attention.
Sometimes Ixhriy led them around less-quiet areas, spots where they came across a roadway of a hard, ringing, black substance that wasn't quite stone. The murmur of voices came from a black shadow farther down these roads, invariably. Ixhriy would lead them away from the noise, pushing through thorny, rank-smelling foliage, taking to streambeds to avoid walking on the road itself.
There was a very bad moment when Khyrisse walked right into a spiderweb in the darkness. She coughed and gagged, scraping it frantically away and receiving a stinging bite from the occupant for her pains. The Rat Pack was suddenly surrounded by a flurry of noise, as previously unsensed creatures crashed away through the darkness. Ixhriy crouched in a ball on the ground, shaking; the Rat Pack froze. There was nothing nearby to be seen but the settling leaves and branches. After a long moment, the silence returned, but it seemed to have weight to it now; as if the darkness were watching the area, waiting for any further disturbance.
Ixhriy finally led them towards one of the buildings, instead of away. "Retty's friend in there," he whispered in the quietest voice he could manage. He pressed up against Khyrisse, trembling, and hid his face in her soaked hair. Khyrisse patted him soothingly with a shaking hand of her own.

Character(s): Ixhriy
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Ixhriy Begs Off
"Ixhriy not dare to go into Facility For Traitors To Hell after hours," whispered the imp, shaking a little. "Ixhriy can get into big trouble. Nice Retty release Ixhriy's geas for showing her the building? Please please?"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ixhriy
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Nice Retty Gives In
Khyrisse looked closely at the imp, then at the building.
She weighed her options carefully. He could be lying about this being the building. He could be too scared to go further, or he could have led us far enough in that we couldn't get out again without being caught.
"Is Ixhriy sure this is the building?" she whispered sternly. Ixhriy crouched under her glare.
"Yes! Yes! Ixhriy got a pass to see Pieret, and saw Ebreth Tor-- both in this building! Ixhriy promises!"
Pieret?!
Khyrisse stared at the building for a moment. She finally sighed. "All right, Ixhriy. On the condition that you don't tell anyone where we are or who we're looking for, you're free to go." She kissed him quickly on the top of his head. "Don't get caught, bratling."
Ixhriy hesitated for a moment, clearly torn between his Retty and his fear of the building. He lunged at Khyrisse then, squeezed the breath out of her in a fierce hug, and disappeared.
"Are you sure that was a good idea?" Valende whispered from behind her.
"I know his Name. I can summon him back if he lied-- provided we get away-- and he knows it. And Ixhriy," Khyrisse added with a small, rueful smile, "is well acquainted with my temper."

Character(s): Ebreth and Pieret
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Reaping What Is Sown
Pieret was hanging from the wall by his wrists; Ebreth sat very still against the wall on his other side. It was Pieret who reacted. "Khyri!" he said, indistinctly, as if his mouth was full of marbles. "I knew you wouldn't leave me here!..."
Khyrisse didn't look at him as she pushed by. If she looked at him right now she was going to lose it, after the way he'd betrayed them.
"Khyrisse? Hello?" Pieret screwed his face up and spat something out. It looked like a big maggot, and Skitch jumped back from it. "Ew, what is that?" said Kit.
"Regenerative," he said, a little more clearly. "I've been having some dental work done. Hey Khyri, you are going to let me down, aren't you?"
"After what you did to Cori!" said Vic.
"That was an--accident--"
"You big liar!" said Skitch. "I saw you!"
Ebreth was curled against the wall but without tension, almost calm, his naked body shining and his head resting placidly on his knees. He did not look away but he didn't seem to notice she was there. He looked through her, and his eyes were frighteningly empty. "I don't know what the matter with him is," said Pieret. "He just blew out like a bad axle. He's not responding to much of anything. Khyri, please take me with you."
"I think you belong here!" said Skitch. "You died and went to Hell. Why should we let you go?"
"No one deserves this. Khyri, please."

Character(s): Khyrisse, former deity
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Burning Bridges
Khyrisse turned her head to look at Pieret. Her eyes were blazing, but her face was still.
"No one gets sent here by accident, Pieret. I can't believe you think that I don't know it. Ebreth came back of his own free will; he's not even the same man he was when he left-- you, on the other hand, dropped dead right in front of me, and here you are. You let Bloodscar out, and you sent Cori to Hell to do it. Stay here and suffer-- you did this to yourself." She turned away, ignoring Pieret's very existence. It wasn't all that hard, with Ebreth sitting there... but there were tears in her eyes, and they weren't all for Ebreth, either.
She laid a gentle hand on his arm, carefully, not knowing what kind of reaction being touched might cause. "Ebreth?" she whispered. "Ebreth, it's Khyrisse."
Ebreth didn't react at all.
"Oh gods." I left him here for three days. Three days. She cast every spell she knew that might tell her if this were really Ebreth or not-- locate person, know alignment, several others... and finally buried her face in her hands.
Valende rested a hand on her shoulder. "It's him, isn't it?"
"Yes," Khyrisse whispered into her hands. "Yes, it's him."
"All we can do for him right now is get him out of here," she pointed out gently. Khyrisse scrubbed at her face and got up, shakily.
"I know." She gulped air, trying to choke down the fit of hysterics she really wanted to indulge in. "Vas? Can-- can you carry him out? Once we're outside, we can put him in the Carriage and get out of here. Skitch, come away from there-- you can't do anything worse to him than Hell will," she added, very quietly, pulling her angry apprentice away from Pieret's corner of the cell.

Character(s): Pieret
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Pieret Narcs
Pieret winced and turned his face away. "Mephisto tikleth hra!" he shouted, like it was being torn out of him. There was a burst of fire and brimstone. Khyrisse stared at him, her mouth falling open. "I'm sorry," he said, painfully. "You don't know what would happen to me if I let you escape."
The smoke coalesced into a huge figure with a sharp beard. "This had better be--" he started ominously, and then saw the mortals. "Khyrisse Starshadow?" said Mephisto. "Of Trade? You weren't thinking of absconding with our damned souls in violation of the Pact, were you?"

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