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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
Putting the Chaos Back Into Chaotic Evil, Part I

NEW CHAPTER: CHAOS

Character(s): Khyrisse (who was obviously not thinking clearly)
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Laura Redish
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Oh Bloody Hell
Khyrisse paled, and glanced at Pieret with one last venomous look. I hope Ixhriy comes to spit on your entrails and laugh at you every day for the rest of eternity. And I'm really glad I didn't make him come inside now. "I wouldn't dream of taking Pieret," she said, smiling, trying to keep her voice steady. "But I think there's been a mistake with this one. I know for a fact that he's not evil... and Hell's prerogative is evil and nothing but."
"No can do, senorita. He's already been damned. So put him back where you found him and move along, please."
Merde. She waved at Vas and Val to stay behind her. Mephisto didn't even glance at the others. "Would it be possible to buy the soul in question? I understand that arrangements are sometimes made in cases like this. He certainly can't be much fun for anyone right now, you'd hardly miss him..."
"The traditional arrangement," Mephisto said, "is a soul for a soul."
Khyrisse swallowed hard. Pain. I can deal with pain. Ixhriy might get me transferred, it wouldn't be as bad as what they've done to Ebreth... and I did this. He didn't have to come back, this is my fault. "What about mine?"
"NO!" Skitch shouted. Khyrisse grabbed him and held him still.
"You know, just on a hunch, Khyrisse, I really don't think Lucifer would like me accepting the souls of other gods. If you give me two of these other mortals, I'll give you that one." He gestured to the Rat Pack.
Khyrisse shook her head and thought for a moment, soothing Skitch as best she could. "It's my fault, you know, kiddo-- and you could always have gone and gotten Ariath and traded her for me, after all," she whispered to him. Skitch buried his face in her shoulder and choked out a bitter sort of laugh.
Sigh. He belongs here anyway. If I can leave Pieret here, I can certainly leave him. Valende's going to have some words for me when we're out of here, though...
Khyrisse reached into her shirt and pulled out the Trade Sigil. She concentrated, and pulled the slowly coalescing form of a large diamond from the magical pattern of the Carriage. I wouldn't have been able to do that, on the Prime Material, but physics are a lot more mutable here... She held up the diamond, ignoring the mental cursing coming from it, now that it was out of the shielded compartment. "What about the soul of Lucas St. Augustine?"

Character(s): Mephisto
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: While Lilith's Away
"Uh," said Mephisto, confused, "sure, that sounds good, I guess." He wished Lilith had left more explicit instructions about these particular souls, but he didn't see any way one of them could be more valuable than the Duke St. Augustine. He gestured with his hand and came up with a paper burning at its edges. "I'll just use the standard deity transfer papers. I realize that's not entirely accurate anymore, but these are strange times. Now if you could just sign there, in blood?"
"Hold it," snapped Asinus. "Let me see that. Where does it say on this that you aren't going to come and take this one back?"
Mephisto paused. "Well, it doesn't," he said. "I would be willing to add a codicil stipulating that."
"You'd better be, you flarking snake-oil salesman! What kind of fools do you take us for?" The donkey snorted contemptuously. "You can't just transfer custody to her without changing his 'damned' status. This thing isn't worth the paper it's printed on!"
"Mortal lawyers are such jackasses," sighed Mephisto.

Character(s): Asinus and Vic
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: Asinus For The Defense
"Okay, I'll be willing to cede you the revised alignment option on Tor if you'll throw in an honorary ranking of 'pit fiend' in the army of Hell."
"What?" Mephisto cried. "I can't just give those things away!"
"Fine, fine," Asinus said, drawing on the cigar Mephisto had given him. "As long as you don't mind ol' Tor here going scot free if he changes back and murders a town or something."
"All right. Fine. Honorary ranking. But I want free temptation rights."
"I'll give you five years."
"Ten."
"Seven, and no succubi. Only male devils."
"Eight. No succubi."
"You're fleecing me, Mephy, but what can I do?" Asinus said innocently.

***


"Hey there, Ebreth. You're going to be cool now, pal. Vic's got you."
Vic sat Ebreth down across the room from where Asinus was negotiating with Mephisto. "Come on, man, you don't want to stay in there forever. You've got a beautiful babe out here, and she's been nuts for you since you left. And you need to meet Kit. She's a thief. And, uh... did I mention the babe?"
Ebreth stared blankly.
"Well, maybe for once I'll win some of our arguments, gee."

***


"What?" Mephisto demanded. "An armed escort? You've got to be kidding!"
"Tell you what, we'll even throw in the gem of imprisonment we've got Lucky in."
"What kind of gem?"
"Diamond."
"Mmm. Would a cadre of imps do?"
"I want officers. No rank and file."
"Diamond, you say..."
"Two or three well-traveled devils ought to be enough for us."
"Fine, bless you. Deal."

Character(s): Kit Branagh
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: Nobody Likes Pieret
"So you're Pieret, huh?" Kit asked.
"Yes... and I'll promise you anything if you free me," Pieret begged.
"Skitch says you're a real booger."
"Do you eat with that mouth?" Pieret grinned through his pain.
Kit kicked him in the shin.
"The Greatest Thief in Ataniel's already got his prize," Kit grinned.

Character(s): Mephisto
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell To Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: The Greatest Thief in Ataniel
Mephisto watched from the top of his tower. Thank Lucifer, he thought. Much more talking to the donkey and he'd be giving up his stone of command to the ass!
Mephisto laughed to himself. The three-week-and-three-day headstart he had offered wasn't to protect the mortals from Mephisto, but to protect Mephisto from the mortals. The devil would be happy if he never saw those mortals again.
He picked up the jewel of imprisonment and looked into it. Lucas St. Augustine sat, railing, inside. Mephisto jammed the jewel into his pocket. The pocket where Mephisto kept his stone of command.
The pocket where the stone no longer was.
"Aaaaaugh!" Mephisto screamed. Suddenly three weeks and three days seemed like an awful long time indeed.

***


Kit rolled the stone back and forth across his knuckles. He didn't know what it was, but the devil had been so engrossed talking to Asinus that the pocket had been irresistible.
"What's that?" Skitch asked.
"It's proof," Kit grinned.
"You're weird," Skitch grinned back.

Character(s): Couldn't You Guess?
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: Hell's Escort Service
Three winged figures appeared in a puff of perfumed smoke, as the Rat Pack left the building.
"Did someone here get assigned three well-traveled devils as an armed escort?" Glasya said, smiling sweetly at Khyrisse.
Khyrisse sighed back. "Do you have to look so much like me?" she demanded.
"Does it bother you?" the succubus asked, not mentioning that Khyrisse had never looked so good. It hardly needed mentioning.
"I haven't decided."
"Then yes," Glasya said, smile widening to a grin.
Skitch scowled at her.
"You're not armed!" he said. "Not even a nail file!"
The brunette mussed his hair. "Trust me, sweetheart, we're armed."
"I don't see where," Skitch groused, fastening himself to Khyrisse and scrubbing at where she'd contaminated his hair. "You can't possibly be hiding anything in that outfit."
"Hiya, cutie," Nasty said to Asinus. She was floating in midair in front of him, bent over at the waist to look him in the face... and give him a good view down the front of her flame-colored silk minidress. "I hear you're quite a lawyer. Sure you don't want to stay?"

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Skitch Is Ten Years Old
Skitch's face was tense and drawn and his hand shook as he waited on top of the Trade Carriage for Khyrisse to drive them out of Hell for once and for all. "Skitch?" said Khyrisse, gently. "Are you all right?"
"No!" he shouted at her. "You tried to sell your soul to the devil!"
"Skitch, you don't--"
"You promised you wouldn't abandon me! You promised me!"
"Skitch!"
"You said I could trust you." He wiped his nose furiously on his sleeve, wanting to break into sobs even less than he wanted to mess up his tunic. "You promised."

Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: Khyri Feels Like She's Ten Years Old, Sometimes
"Oh man." Khyrisse bit her lip. "Skitch, I didn't say I would sell him my soul for Ebreth's. I just-- I needed to know what he'd say. And nobody else's was mine to sell!"
Skitch sniffed furiously and glared at his feet, refusing to look at her. "Well what if he said 'Sure, hand it over!', huh? Then what?" he demanded.
"I--would have tried to find some other way to free Ebreth. But if that was what he was angling for, I needed to know it. You can't bargain with someone when you don't know what they want! What, you think I want to stay here?" she said, voice rising despite her best efforts.
Skitch hiccuped. "No," he admitted grudgingly.
"Well, it wouldn't be so bad, I suppose," she said, leaning down to look into his face. She had an amused grin on her own, inviting him to share the joke. "Ixhriy'd probably get me transferred. No torture for me, I'll bet-- just a lot of wearing skimpy clothes and skritching Ixhriy's wings after a long day of torturing souls who were mean to Retty..."
Skitch made a grossed-out face and sputtered a laugh. "Sounds like torture to me!"
"Drawing unflattering graffiti pictures of Shaizephon and Eric Stupidhead and Pieret on all the walls of Hell..."
"Okay, that doesn't sound bad," Skitch said, essaying a grin of his own. It was pretty wobbly, but he was trying. Khyrisse looked at him for a moment, a little sadly.
"I've really got to stop doing this adventuring shit for a while," she whispered, and ran her fingers through the hair that fell into his face, pushing it back. "I'm sorry, Skitch. I would have come back, even if I'd been stuck here. I'm not very good at being responsible for anyone but myself, yet, I'm afraid..."
Skitch scrubbed at his face again, trying to get himself back under control. Kit was around here somewhere-- he probably thought Skitch was being a sissy. "You do okay."
Khyrisse cantripped his face and tunic clean, cooling off his eyes and face as she did, so it was hardly noticeable that he'd been crying. She knew about preserving that kind of rep. "Hmm. I wonder about that, kiddo," she said softly, thinking of the mess she'd landed the Rat Pack in. Most people's errors in judgment don't require a trip to Hell to repair... if they can be repaired at all. "I wonder."

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay: The Fine Print
Title of Post: Unspoken Message To No One
Khyrisse sat on top of the Carriage, arms wrapped around Skitch, chin resting on top of his head. She was looking at the Facility For Traitors To Hell, eyes steady, while the rest of them sorted out who went where. There was no question of walking, not anymore. Nor any need to, really. I couldn't have let him out of Hell. I couldn't. He would have gone off and joined Bloodscar, or done something else equally despicable. It would have been my fault, just like Ariath... and I'd have to find him and send him back here, sooner or later.
He never really was the person I thought he was. That person could never have done the things he did. "Pieret Minarye" probably never existed at all-- he was probably nothing more than a mask of Kardia Blackfeather's. He might even be partially responsible for the ruin of my marriage. Khyrisse closed her eyes. It doesn't help any. None of it makes any difference... Pieret, I'm sorry. If I told you to your face, you'd use it against me... and not being able to say it is killing me. I'm so sorry. Silent tears trickled down into Skitch's hair.

Character(s): Ixhriy
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Hell: The Last Word
Title of Post: At Least Somebody Really Enjoyed This Adventure
Commander Ixhriy sat under a large cactus, still grinning at himself like a fool and touching the top of his head where Khyrisse had kissed him. "Ixhriy never wash head again."

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Paying Hell on the Convenient Installment Plan
Garal climbed to the top of the Carriage next to Skitch and Khyrisse. He hated disturbing her, but the Rat Pack still had things to do and people to save.
"Both Ixhriy and the cat said that Cori was led to the Abyss on a road that's known to lead to plane 213." Khyrisse didn't look up. "I know the road, I can get us there. I don't know if our escort will be welcome in the Abyss. Sometimes the residents are civil towards succubi, sometimes they want to annihilate them for a perceived insult, and sometimes they want to drag them off for wild parties that I don't want to think about."
Garal knew he should say something comforting. Nothing he could think of seemed sufficient, so he gave the ex-goddess of Trade a brief hug and went to examine the horses.
Hell has tortures for good souls as well as evil.

Character(s): Vic Paris, Kit Branagh
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay
Title of Post: Goin' Down
Garal stood above the labyrinth of roads that met at the great cynosure. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get us here," he said. "Some of the paths I usually take were temporarily disconnected."
"Just as long as you get us out of here," Khyrisse sighed.
"It'll take me a little while to track which road the entrance has moved to, so you might want to camp for a few hours. I doubt it'll be longer than that."
"Well, it doesn't sound like it's worth the trouble of casting the mansion, so I guess we'll just pull up some rocks to sit on."
Vic, who had been leading Ebreth, helped the ex-slaver sit down. "Well, it looks like we've got a little time to kill, pal. Shall I pick up where we left off last night, amigo?"
Ebreth didn't say anything, or even register Vic's presence. Vic took that to mean yes.
"Okay," Vic crooned, and rummaged in his satchel, finally pulling out a dog-eared copy of The Sun Also Rises. "When we last left Nick, he had just confessed his love to Jake, but she thought he was drunk. Now, as we rejoin them, Percy and Nick have gone to the bullfight..."
"Vic?" Val asked from behind him.
"Hang on, kemosabe," Vic said to Ebreth, putting the book on his lap. "What is it, beautiful? Realized you can't do without ol' Vic's company?"
"Um, can we talk?"
Vic winked and pointed at her. "You got it, baby."
Vic grabbed a passing Kit and shoved the book into the thief's hands. "Can you read, kiddo?"
"Um, yeah," Kit said. "Why?"
"Would you read this to Tor while I'm talking to Val?"
"I guess. Is it any good?"
"It's a classic."
Vic trotted off after Valende. Kit frowned, squinting at the book.
"Mister Tor, do you know what 'impotent' means?"

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Gazing Into The Abyss
Title of Post: Graffiti Artist-- Rude Words a Specialty
Skitch plunked down next to Kit and Ebreth, and began practicing disconsolately with his new weapons. A little snap of his wrist brought a silver throwing dagger down into his hand; a complicated motion of his fingers threw it back into its hidden sheath. He was getting a lot better at this, although not nearly as much as he was at throwing them. "Impotent means that you can't have sex," he offered, watching the triangular silver blade appear and disappear. "As in not able to, not that you're not allowed or something. Usually it's about men, women have a different word, and it doesn't mean the same thing for some dumb reason. It can also mean weak or powerless. People get really steamed over it, so I think it's a minorly rude word."

Character(s): "Vic" and Valende
Author: Douglass Barre and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Gazing Into The Abyss
Title of Post: Noise on the Line
Valende stopped while they were still within sight of the rest of the Rat Pack and turned to face Jack/Vic. Her expression was both serious and slightly puzzled, as if she weren’t sure she should be upset with him. This was obviously not going to be romantic quality time. “Vic,” she said, still having trouble saying the name, “are you aware of the fact that you've... changed... since we arrived on this plane?"
“Nope... checked it out, baby... I'm fully functional. This new bod's working perfectly.”
"I know the body's fully functional, Vic. That's not what I mean."
“I checked the equation, baby. I'm all there. Trust me, gorgeous, I'm a mathematician.” Vic grinned and clicked his tongue. Valende sighed a little and pressed her fingers to her temple.
"Ja-- Vic. Leave the equation out of it, for the moment. Look at your behavior now, and compare it to your behavior before we left the Prime Material. You used to like the name Jack. You never used to call me 'baby' or 'doll' or 'gorgeous'. You most likely," she said, smiling a little, "would have died of a heart-attack from all the blood rushing to your face, at the mere mention of Khyrisse rolling around naked on silk sheets--and now it's the sort of thing you recommend. Does this kind of behavior seem normal to you now?"
“Hmm. Aren't they terms of endearment? I think so, and as someone I care about, terms of endearment demonstrate that. Where's the snafu? And actually, sometimes there is nothing like rolling alone, your bare skin on satin sheets... I was just mentioning that physical comfort seemed preferable to discomfort. You really ought to try them yourself, maybe that's the part you don't get... they're really soft, baby!”
Valende blinked in surprise, then smiled again, a little more genuinely. "I have. It's very nice. And I don't mind 'beautiful' or 'gorgeous' much, I have to admit... But Vic, can you see a difference in the way you've been behaving, since you got here?"
“Um.” Vic paused, and looked as if he were trying to figure out the right answer to this. “No?”
Valende covered her eyes and laughed a little. "Oh, dear."
“Yes, baby?”
Valende lowered her hand and looked at Vic over it. “Darling, I'm probably six times your age. 'Baby'?"
“It's a term of... wait, we already did that part, right? How about gorgeous? You can't dispute that, hmm?” Vic grinned.
Val grinned back. "I'm in trouble no matter what I answer to that question."
“Not with me, darlin'.”
Valende looked at him for a long moment, as if she were trying to peel away layers to get to the real Jack. Her eyes widened, and she shook her head, slowly. "It's like a confuse languages spell. You're saying the same sort of thing you always were, but we're hearing it differently..." she murmured. "Oh, how I suddenly wish I knew more about math," she added, sighing.
Vic looked a little surprised. “Hmm. An interface problem. I could get behind that. Pops did warn me that bad joss could happen if I traveled through planes. So, like, am I being really obnoxious or something, baby?” Valende raised an eyebrow at him. “Um, gorgeous.”
"Um... I'm afraid so, darling,” she said ruefully. “It's not so bad, you're not Asinus or Ixhriy..." She gave him a quick kiss, looking very relieved. "I can hear you now, though."
“So, what, like I've talked too quietly?” Vic shouted. Everyone in the Rat Pack turned to stare at him for a moment. “Oops. Metaphor. Gotcha, gorgeous. Don't sweat it too much, though, as we'll be outta Hell in just a bit.” Vic pointed at her and clicked again. “I'll be back to normal then.”
Valende looked at Vic’s cool grin and sighed. "We're going to the Abyss next, darling," she reminded him.
“Oh. Right.” Vic smiled, trying to bolster her spirits. “Well, it's gotta be an improvement, right?”
Valende rolled her eyes with a little smile, and refrained from comment.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Even deeper into Hell
Title of Post: No laughing matter
"I daresay," Vas was telling Asinus, "just when you think it can't get any worse, you find a part of Hell that's even uglier than the last."
"You should see where some of my, er, associates from the bar association ended up," Asinus brayed in response.
"Hey, that reminds me of a joke!" the Princess said. "Oh! It's a lawyer joke..." She looked at Asinus apologetically.
"Let's hear it,' the donkey replied.
"OK. What's black and brown and looks really good on a lawyer?"
Schneider knew the answer to that one, but he heard the others talking only dimly. He was standing to the side, looking at Kit and Skitch sitting close to Ebreth Tor.
It made his blood run colder than anything he had yet seen in Hell.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay: Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: Free At Last, Free At Last
"I've found it," Garal said.
The looks of relief that flashed across the faces of the Rat Pack were intense. None of them had had an easy time here. Even the Abyss couldn't be as bad.
"It's a treacherous course," Garal said. "We'll need to walk it. Stay close."
The halfling started out onto the labyrinth of paths, and one by one, the Rat Packers followed suit. After twenty minutes of twisting and turning worthy of an Amberite claiming his heritage, Garal stopped. "This is it," he said. "The barriers are weakest here, and it'll take us through a slidestream that will circumvent the other lower planes altogether." The halfling focused and the air of Hell almost seemed to clear momentarily.
Then the ground dropped off beneath them.
The Abyss is composed of the purest chaos.
The slidestream was almost as bad.

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