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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 IV



Character(s): Princess Kristin and Tarrin
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also (But Does It Have Clairsentience?): Shirts
Title of Post: I'm Not A Kiljhac... I Just Play One On TV
Princess Kristin's eyes opened an immeasurable amount of time later. Her gaze lighted on her hand, clasped with Tarrin's, palm-to-palm and resting on the table between them.
That's so funny, my fingers lace into his, she thought, smiling softly, studying the six fingers clasped around her five. She drifted mentally for a long moment, trying to remember what she had been doing, before--
With a sharp and sudden gasp, her gaze flew to Tarrin's face. Tarrin was staring back, looking as confused as she felt.
"Coyri...!" she whispered, as a much-too-vivid mental image of Tarrin's wife surfaced in her mind. She barely registered the fact that Tarrin had whispered the name simultaneously, as she rode out a sudden wave of guilt and regret. The princess couldn't have said if the emotions were coming from herself, or the priest across from her.
"Oh, Tarrin, I'm sorry..." the princess said sadly.
In flawless Diari.
I don't speak Diari...!
There was a brief, tumultuous storm around the female psionicist as her telekinesis exerted itself on her environment. The papers next to her spiraled into the air; long golden hair flew in the agitated cyclone surrounding her.
Tarrin felt the contact between them break, and Princess Kristin fled the room in what-- to Tarrin-- was painfully tangible shock and dismay.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Shirts
Title of Post: Damage Control (Courtesy of the NMSC)
Some time later, the wavering outline of Sennett's figure appeared in the arboretum, looking around purposefully.
"Loves me... loves me not... loves me... loves me not.." Kit looked up in surprise from the rapidly defoliating flower in his hands. Snapping a white silk napkin open, Sennett picked up the oyster totem and wrapped it in the insulating fabric. The faint, lingering glow vanished, and Sennett's form solidified. Kit blinked, the last bits of that weird dizziness clearing from his head.
"I think," Sennett sighed, "that you had best come with me to the kitchen, young master. You should stay out of sight of the adults for the time being."

***


Khyrisse held out a slightly shaky hand and took the white package from Sennett, other hand holding Schneider's grey tunic closed at her throat. The mansion was uncomfortably quiet; Khyrisse could just make out the muffled sounds of Asinus cursing. Thank god I improved the soundproofing, after the incident with Vas and Ariath... "Kit?"
"Our young thief is helping me in the kitchen," Sennett said, with a little smile. "He sends his apologies for causing the... disturbance." Khyrisse sighed a little, and ducked her head, hiding her rueful smile against the back of the hand holding the wrapped-up totem. "Tell Kit he's not in trouble, but we're going to have to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. Anything I need to know about?"
"The elder Mr. Paris--"
Khyrisse winced and started to cover her ears, then sighed. "All right, go ahead."
"--is somewhat the worse for wear. Miss Valende is seeing to his injuries."
Khyrisse's eyes flew wide open. She mouthed the word injuries... then shook her head, eyes shut. "I don't want to know. Ever."
The major domo's mouth quirked a little, and for a brief second, looked very... Abyssal. "That seems wise, milady."
"Keep Kit out of trouble as best you can," she instructed Sennett. "As for the rest of us..." she sighed, a worried frown faintly creasing her forehead. "I don't think anyone's going to be thinking clearly for a bit." She looked at Sennett, hoping he would be able to tell her otherwise. Even under the influence of the oyster totem, part of her had been worried about Skitch and Ebreth, still lost somewhere in the Abyss (and the rest of the Rat Pack too, of course; but they could take care of themselves a lot better).
Sennett dashed her hopes by shaking his head.
"Bad?"
"It varies, milady. Everyone other than Kit was caught in the presence of someone, however."
"Grendel." Khyrisse sighed. "All right. Let's hope a few hours of sleep will restore our collective composure-- and perspective."

Character(s): Tarrin
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Abyss etc.
Title of Post: Dealing with Connections
Tarrin removed his hand from Kristin's with a start. He didn't understand what happened. No, he did understand. In a fit of intimacy he initiated a joining of his and Kristin's mind.
Kristin got up and rapidly left the room. Tarrin was very confused. He didn't mean to do that, but it seemed like the right thing. Still what would he tell his wife?
Tarrin thought long and hard then came up with the best solution. It would be better if he forgot this ever happened. By invoking the Gift of Pysiri that is what he did.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes at the Shirts lying on the floor
Title of Post: A good night's rest... for some
With a sigh, Khyrisse Starshadow returned to her room. It was late. She was quite tired, in body and soul. She was wondering a lot of things:
Have I just made things a LOT more difficult... again?
Are Ebreth and Skitch and Jack and the others ok?
Did Asinus and our group come through this mess without too many hang-ups to deal with tomorrow?
And should I get back into bed with him?
For the first time in months, Schneider was sleeping peacefully.

Character(s): Beliath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Lord of the Vampires
Beliath came to in a dark room. His head hurt, and he was desperately thirsty.
Then he remembered the Vampire.
"I'm glad to see you've come to," said a voice. Beliath recognized it as the vampire who called himself Blackblade.
"Where am I?" Beliath said, trying to sound lost and disoriented.
"You're in the Vampire Nation now, Prothero," Blackblade smiled. Beliath noticed that his night vision was a lot better than it was before.
"You can't keep me here," Beliath said.
"Can't I? I made you, vampire... you're blood bound to me. Forever. With Cloak out of the city, I am master here."
Beliath stood and faced Blackblade. "That's all I really needed to hear," he smiled. With a quick motion, he tore the face of Harlan Prothero from his body.
"Who are you?" Blackblade cried, pulling his sword.
"I'm Blackblade, Lord of the Vampires," Beliath grinned.
He lunged forward, the magical knife in his hand. In moments, the identity of Blackblade hung limply in his hand.
"This should make things a lot more fun around here," Beliath grinned as he put the magical flesh up to his face.

Character(s): Omeria, Ariath, Silverblade
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Nominations Time
The nomination was in. Omeria was running.
Festival and Election time in Tobrinel was a free-for-all, allowing anyone to register to run for position. Still, it worked as an effective form of government because only those with both the skill and drive were able to garner enough popular support and appropriate recommendations from existing ministers. Through enchantment and bribery, Omeria already had four of the nine cabinet ministers on her side. If Ariath came through, well... then everything she had promised her allies would be secure.

***


"So, you know, my cousin... the one who introduced us? She's thinking of running for something."
Deveaux smiled at the blonde mage. "An excellent idea. There aren't enough women who run during Election time. Maybe I'll offer her my support."
"Would you do that?" Ari asked innocently.
"Certainly... I always want to help young up-and-coming politicians... new blood in government, properly educated, can do a lot of positive change."
"I can't wait to tell her!" Ari grinned.

***


Omeria glanced up at the vampire in the door.
"What news?" she asked, knowing that no vampire would be stupid enough to actually come to attack the archmagess.
"I bring you a message from Lord Blackblade."
Omeria recognized the name... he was the second in command for Cloak, the Vampire King of Tobrinel. Apparently Beliath had brought Cloak her offer. "Out with it."
"Lord Blackblade, Vampire Regent of Tobrinel and Lord of the Dead College offers his support and allegiance."
Omeria smiled. Damn me, but Beliath actually did something right! "Tell the Lord, ah, Blackblade... that I appreciate his support. He will be well thought of in my regime."
"Thank you, lady," the vampire bowed.

***


Silverblade frowned. He recognized Omeria from his time with Quattro. Pluvious had told him all about Bloodscar, and Silverblade knew enough to understand that being considered dead was hardly a barrier to villains of her ilk.
Still... running for office? Maybe it was time for Ian Jardin to start using some of the political weight he had.
Two figures were approaching. Silverblade drew his weapon. Cloak had been quiet for too long a time. This attack was overdue. "Okay, vampires, come on out. Let's get this over with," Silverblade grinned.
"You hear that, Marhault?" the larger of the two figures said. "He called us vampires."
"I'm offended, Bloodscar," the tall gaunt one said. "We'll have to punish him for that."
The last thing Silverblade thought, unfortunately cliched, was How can someone that big move that fast?

Character(s): The Terrible Triplets
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Skins
Title of Post: Bitter Is Even The Sweetest Woman
Glasya stepped out the door of the jail, terrible in her beauty, and cleaned off her nailfile with a flick of her fingers. In another moment, she'd damped back down to her customary appearance.
"Eww," Belfry said, emerging last from the building with a fastidious pout on her face. "What a mess."
"Never send a geek to do a woman's job. As if my only option was seducing him," Glasya said, with a deceptively sweet smile. "Extradition, my lily white ass."
"Cool," Nasty said, grinning. "Now let's go find mine."
"Lily white, Asinus isn't." Glasya leaned down to greet K'nar. He licked the blood from her fingertips and bumped his head into her ankle. "He barely makes grey, and that only because he didn't graduate."
"Are you sure you were ten points bitchier?" Belfry asked her redheaded sister.
"There's a fine line between bitchiness and plain old violence!"
"You call that plain?"

Character(s): Dominatrix Jack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back: Skins
Title of Post: Jack Wants Hanes For Her
Jack gritted her teeth and moved through Ailonwy's forces, trying to ignore her uncomfortable underwear. If this was the only way to find Val again and rescue Cori, she supposed she could put up with it. And Fred's plan did seem to be working: none of the demons had made the least attempt to stop them. Jack's mission was a simple one: find the real Ailonwy, take her mortals, and get, as Fred put it, the Ataniel out of here with them. Jack guessed Cori was the mortal who had been making mincemeat of Fred's army. It certainly fit her modus operandi, and the devils had seen her in the demon queen's company. Jack wondered if Cori had to wear an outfit like this too. Stupid demons. She pulled reflexively at her thong. It still didn't help. Well, whatever Cori was doing, it had to be less embarrassing than this.

Character(s): Cori, Asinus, Kit
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Ignores Also
Title of Post: Cori Denies It All
"When are we getting moving?" Cori demanded of Khyrisse. "I think we should bring this conflict to an end."
"Cori, I just woke up," Khyrisse moaned.
"According to Ailonwy's scouts, her army has suddenly started losing ground. She wants to head back. I do too. Let's get going."
"Aren't you in a bit of a hurry at..." Khyrisse looked at the magical sphere on the bedside table. "three-forty-five in the morning?"
Val poked her head in the door.
"Everything all right in here, Khyrisse?"
"I'm going to go, uh, sharpen my sword," Cori said, racing out of the room.
"What got into her?" Khyrisse asked.
Val just blushed.

***


Asinus lay in the stable, wrapped with bandages.
That may have been the best sex he had ever had.
And if he ever had it again, it'd be far too soon.

***


Kit fretted, hiding in the small nook above the fireplace. It was his fault that everyone was upset. Stupid artifact. He solemnly vowed never to steal from Khyrisse ever again. Unless it was really important, of course. Or the opportunity was really really good. Or he needed to distract people sometime.
Down below, Cori Yashida raced across the room, muttering under her breath something about "ruining chances" and "going to hell". Kit hoped not. He hadn't liked Hell that much the first time.
Ailonwy stepped into the room silently and caught Cori. "What did she say?" Ailonwy asked.
"She said that she was still sleeping."
Ailonwy sighed and puffed her hair. "Mortals!" she cried. "We're suddenly losing this battle and they want to sleep!"
"Maybe we should, ah, go on ahead," Cori offered.
"No," Ailonwy said. "The archmage will be a great help reclaiming our realm."
"Your realm," Cori said. "I just want to go home."
"I'll get you home, Cori," Ailonwy said. "I promise." She put her hand on Cori's shoulder, but the samurai pulled away.
"Soon, I hope," Cori said, shuffling away.
Kit watched her go. Boy, everyone was really touchy lately.
Ailonwy looked directly up at Kit.
"Go to sleep, little one," she said. "Some things are not for your eyes to see."
Kit's eyes dropped closed and he fell into a deep sleep.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Is Asking For A Black Eye: Shirts
Title of Post: A Busy Morning In The Abyss
Khyrisse groaned and rolled over onto her other side, away from the door and the annoying voices, pulling the satin coverlet over her head. She shut her tired eyes tightly... and went back to sleep. Well, that had been the plan, anyway.
Damn. It. Anyway. She had to wake me up and get me thinking, didn't she? With an exasperated puff of air, Khyrisse sat up and threw the covers every which way.

***


Two cups of coffee and a bath later, she pushed her bedroom door shut behind her with her hips, hands holding coffee cup and spellbook. There. I feel better. Not rested, but better, anyway; and I've got my spells. Her mouth twitched. I didn't exactly get the chance to study before I went to bed last night. Combing out her wet hair, she put together the most bitchy outfit possible, given her current wardrobe. She had a feeling that war in the Abyss had a lot of inherent attitude. She grinned a little, flicking a finger at the silver-coated spiked heels of her just-repaired boots. Looking in the mirror as she braided her hair, she noted that her face was thinner than it had been a week ago. The shadows under her eyes made them look black instead of violet. Khyrisse left her room with a pervasive sense of deja vu.

***


"Hsst! Kit!"
Kit woke up with a start, and looked down to find Khyrisse looking up at him in amused puzzlement. He was a little stiff from sleeping in such a weird position, but otherwise he seemed okay.
"I had to use my link to the mansion to find you," the former goddess said, laughing a little. "You were too well hidden. Come with me to the kitchen, would you, Kit? I need to talk to you about something."

***


Khyrisse sneaked a waffle off of the plate while Sennett's back was turned, grinning. She broke it in two and handed half to Kit, apple-scented steam rising from the break. "Mmm, apple bits... I love this spell," she told Kit with her mouth full, looking three decades too young. "Sennett knows how to cook anything I can remember clearly enough. My father used to make these."
"Skitch says your dad is Derek the Deranged!" Kit said cheerfully around his own mouthful of waffle.
Khyrisse sighed and rolled her eyes, mouth curving in a little smile. "Yes. You might get to meet him soon, actually. We'll have to see. Anyway," she said, brushing off her hands. "I wanted to tell you that what happened last night was my fault, really. I understand that the Greatest Thief on Ataniel needs to keep... his hand in, and I shouldn't have been carrying something like that in my pocket. So you're off the hook," she added with a grin. Kit exhaled in relief.
"But," Khyrisse continued, lowering her voice to include just the two of them. "I wanted to warn you now... I sometimes have things in my custody that are unbelievably dangerous. Destructive things, things that might hurt a lot of people if they got loose. I can't stress this enough, Kit-- things like the Madness could potentially happen."
Kit's eyes widened.
"I'm not going to tell you where I keep things like this," Khyrisse continued. "Not because I don't trust you, of course; but because there are too many ways for someone to overhear me telling you. Skitch doesn't know either; no one does. But if you're ever looking around, and you find a place among my things that makes you feel very frightened, and you don't know why... leave it alone. Look elsewhere. Okay?"

***


A soft tapping sound woke Schneider from a dreamless sleep. Khyrisse was standing in his doorway, in form-fitting black leather from jawline to heels. A triangle of alabaster skin dropped from the open collar at her throat to the dark red lace of her chemise, before the leather laced shut over her midriff. She looked harsh, sharply edged, her curves more like those of a blade than a woman... but the smile she tossed him was soft and mischievous.
"Wake up, sleepyhead. Want some breakfast?"

Character(s): Sex maniacs of the Rat Pack --- unite!
Author: Jonah "The S in S-Guy is not for Schneider..." Cohen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes A bit More
Title of Post: Good morning, Mr. Schneider!
Leaning against the wall and wincing so hard that her eye sockets positively ached had proven ineffective in altering reality. My God, I really did that-- with a married man. Ohboyohboyohboy...
Princess Kristin took a deep breath, trying to center herself, and braced for facing the music. And facing the Diarian.

***


"Good morning, everyone. Well, are we ready to get going and hurry out of this wretched plane?"
"I believe so," Val said. "Uh, why are you limping like that, Asinus?"

***


Blearily, he began opening his eyes, vaguely aware that he had maybe done something that might be possibly considered by some to have been less than the wisest move in the history of the world.
Then he saw the woman standing over his bed, and it came to him.
Ah yes. That was it! Things was about to get complicated again, he realized, and briefly wondered if this were a bad idea. He looked at her again. Yowza!
In the several months since the Madness, his existence had been, to put it mildly, rather Spartan, and that had been quite a way to get back into the... nicer things in life.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," Khyrisse said. "Breakfast?"
"Mgrmnf!"
"That's what I thought. Here." She sat down on the side of the bed. After letting him down a few bites, she cut to the chase. "So, any regrets?"
"You?"
She sighed heavily. "Well, in case you didn't know, it was that Oyster thingee of Alphred's that--" Schneider supposed that having an artifact turn you into a nymphomaniac was a step up from being turned into a spree killer. "--and when you really think about it--"
"Me neither."
"So what now?"
"Well, if you mean right now... I can think of a few things. First, we get ready to find a way out of this damn plane. Second, this is one great waffle."
"Thanks. It's dad's old apple-waffle recipe."
"I see. Then just two more things. One-- damnit, you look great in that outfit." Khyrisse allowed herself a broad grin at that. "Second... er, much as I truly hate to say this... where are my pants?"

Character(s): Alphred
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: Crystal City
The city was much larger and more surreal than Alphred first thought. From a distance it looked like any other large white urban structure. Up close, however, he could see the city was in fact made entirely out of alabaster colored crystals. Furthermore, it appeared to be completely abandoned. Still, Alphred felt drawn to this place. Something or someone was calling him here.
He had been wandering the crystalline corridors of the city for hours before he came upon the shock of his life. In what could only be the center of the city was an exact replica of the Temple of Tiki-too, the spiritual home of his ancestors.
-About time you got here.- said a voice in his head.
"Who's there?" answered Alphred trying not to sound stupid.
-Who do you think boy?-
Alphred opened his mouth to say something then closed it with understanding. This place was not the land of H'ell or even the Ab-sis that the Spirit Maiden talked about. This was the Nameless Land, the land of the honored dead. It was the home realm of the spirits of his ancestors.
-Very good,- said a different voice, -I knew it wouldn't take long for you to figure out.-
-Took him long enough- said the first voice. And to think all the trouble we went to call him here. -
"Call me here?" Alphred asked meekly.
-Yes Jungle Lord,- said a third voice. -We called you here to tell you something. Something that seemed to have slipped your mind.-
"What is it honored ancestor?"
-I don't think we have to tell you,- said the first voice. -In fact I believe you already know.-
Alphred stood quietly and thought. Then it struck him. The threat to Salagia. He totally forgot about it.
-Very good Jungle Lord,- said the second voice.
-Very good indeed,- huffed the first voice.- Salagia is turmoil and where is its protector? Off gallivanting in the Far Realms! I always knew this one would be a disappointment.-
-Now now, have patience. There is still time before the apposition of the three moons. If he can stop Malat'k before then, why then everything will be okay.-
-Okay indeed. Why let me tell you something...-
Alphred felt dizzy and sleepy. The sky seemed to roll around him. Before he could regain his composure Alphred was falling into blackness.





* * *
Alphred awoke at night in a rain drenched forest. He knew the others would be arriving soon at this place. He would wait for them and when they returned he the Spirit Maiden and the Eastern Priest would head to his homeland. He just hoped it would be in time.

Character(s): Ailonwy Paris and the Skins
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Snickers Also
Title of Post: Jackie Paris, Lord of the Abyss
"Mistress, punish us!"
"We've been bad, Mistress Ailonwy!"
"I have failed you, Mistress! I deserve punishment!"
Jack was getting tired of pretending to be Ailonwy.
He wasn't about to start whipping the behinds of demon lieutenants, so he told them that he was just going to ignore them as their punishment. It seemed to be working.
So far, Jack's leadership had caused the hordes of Ailonwy to lose three major hardpoints on this plane. He was getting a bit worried, though, as sooner or later Ailonwy herself would show up to see what was wrong. Then Jack figured he'd see what punishment really was.

Character(s): The Order of Redemption
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Another Country Heard From
For many months after the Madness, she had had nightmares. Sleep was just another horrible part of life to be endured.
Then, she and her husband had managed to reconcile, and things got much better.
But on this night, the terrors were back in her dreams... terrors of a different kind, of a different but familiar land. She awoke in a cold sweat; it was already morning and her husband was already gone.
My brother! Something awful has happened!

***


"I don't know how long we'll be gone," he said. "We don't know the exact nature of the problem yet, so I think we may stay incognito, at least for a time."
"I understand, my lord," Xiang said, bowing, "the Order shall continue in your absence. May your ancestors look kindly upon you both."
"I would like to accompany you, my lady," Shaolin said to her. "I am sworn to guard your life."
"I, too, wish to join you. If you will allow me."
She looked at Hou-Hsieh, then at Shaolin, and smiled. Sometimes she wondered what she had done to deserve such loyalty. "You honor us," she said quietly. Ready, love?
"We're on our way," Praxis said.
Four people disappeared from Shikintu.

Character(s): Omeria, Hotspur
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: The Art of Distraction
"Omeria?" the dwarf asked, poking his head into the rented room. "You wanted me to tell you if there was any change in surveillance."
"What is it, Hotspur?" the archmage asked.
"Two members of Sway have arrived in Tobrinel. One of them is Inez Jardin."
Omeria looked at her calendar. "Looking for her brother, no doubt."
"Her husband, the psionicist is with her."
"Well, we'll just have to keep them busy, won't we?"
"What would you like me to do?"
"Call Beliath. Let him know where Silverblade is. Tell him we need them busy searching for him for the next two days."
"Are you sure you want to trust Beliath with this?"
"Of course," Omeria smiled. "It should take them at least three to capture him and rescue Ian Jardin."
Hotspur grinned. "I'm glad I'm family," he said.

Character(s): The Prax Pack
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Lessons I've learned
"This ground is sanctified and protected, my lord," Shaolin said.
"I've got the spells you asked about ready, Todd," Hou-Hsieh added, "and I've already cast the non-detection abjurations. No one should be able to tell we're here or scry on us." Shaolin was less surprised by the girl's confidence in her magic than with her forwardness in actually calling Lord Praxis 'Todd.' She may have been Lord Haito's daughter, but really!
"Good work, both of you. Hou-Hsieh, you remember the man I've told you about? The one called Dancer?"
"Yes."
"There was one thing he taught me that you'd do well to remember: No defense is foolproof, and no information is ungainable. I can't make mental contact with Inez' brother, so I think it's a safe bet that we're dealing with someone with powerful defenses. Between Psios and magic and spying and just dumb luck, I can think of a dozen ways someone might know we're here."
"Yes, sir."
"My point," he said, more gently, "is that we can't afford to be overconfident."
"I'm ready," Inez said. Do you really think Ian is alive? she asked her husband through their Mindlink.
If the Shadow War taught me anything, it's that you can never give up hope.

Character(s): Dominatrixes and Children
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Leers Back
Title of Post: Everybody's Doing It!
"Good morning, Khyrisse!" said Ailonwy. "Oh, I love your boots."
"Good morning," said Khyrisse.
"How come you aren't wearing tight leather?" Kit asked Cori.
"Excuse me!" Cori hurried from the room, radiating nervous energy.

***


It was funny enough that Jack was a girl now. The get-up he was wearing was just too much. Skitch couldn't wait to tell Kit about this. He hoped Kit and Khyrisse were okay. Princess Kristin and Schneider had seemed nice, but so had Ariath. Skitch tried not to think about that. At least this was better than Hell. Devils want to steal your soul and torture it, Skitch summarized what he'd learned. Demons just want a spanking.

Character(s): Rust and Redemption
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Yom Kippur
Title of Post: Laura Forgives It All
Across the battlefields of the Abyss, their edges curled with blackened kudzu, Ebreth Tor followed Jack Paris like a broken slave, his eyes as clear and empty as the sky over the Nylevian plains.
Somewhere in an alternate timestream, Eren Messala put his steady hand to the bridge of his nose, his still Nordic face betraying nothing, and watched the swirling ashes of the woman he kept destroying.
In Khyrisse's study, Schneider opened his eyes from a peaceful dream, the sun falling across his face, and remembered his victims once again.
And in Tucson, Arizona, Larry Nagel climbed into his rented Buick and drove into the desert.
Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, shehekhiyanu viki'imanu uv'higyanu lazman hazeh.

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