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The Book of Ataniel

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The Abyss Looks Also Into You, Part II



Character(s): The Prax Pack, Bloodscar, Beliath, Silverblade
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Knowledge is Power
Todd McGee knew that his brother-in-law had recently disappeared in Tobrinel. He was reasonably certain that the nation's vampire population was involved; he also knew that the vampires' former leader, Bloody Mary was dead. He did not know who their new master was.
Omeria was aware of Praxis' presence in Tobrinel, as well as his wife's. Defensive magic kept her from monitoring his exact activities, but she was quite aware when they approached her person. She was reasonably certain that he had some allies, as yet unknown. Her knowledge of psionics was limited, but she was cautious with him in the country. The man had, according to legend, defeated Bane, after all. She was however, perfectly aware of his immediate goals. She had the perfect minion to keep him occupied-- powerful but bumbling, and entirely expendable.
Praxis was wholly unaware of Omeria's presence-- or even the fact that she was alive-- let alone her true plans. He was also unaware of her minions, but on that count he was about to learn more than he really wanted to know.

***


"Damn punk took my purse, my wedding ring, everything, stinky little bastard!"
The homely-looking woman was complaining in a voice that few of the cafe's patrons wanted to hear. It was festival time. Why have one's spirits dampened by a not-very-pleasant housewife's minor tragedy? "Little shit oughta be flogged in public, that's what I say! No discipline, these kids today. That's yer problem!"
Most of the patrons were ignoring her. No one noticed the one person in the corner who wasn't. "And where's Mr. Bigshot Silverblade when you need him? Nowhere! Overrated, limp young fop!" Maligning the local hero was not improving her image. The figure in the corner was amused.
Still complaining, she sauntered out of the cafe, and towards a home, moving through lesser-used streets, places where, even in as civilized a place as Tobrinel, a woman really shouldn't be alone at night. As her pursuer was quite aware.
"You should not malign Silverblade," the voice from the shadows said. "You might be needing his help. There are worse things in the night than mere footpads."
"Get away from me, you filthy urchin! Already had my money taken!"
"Ah, but it is not your money I desire, ma'am. It's your blood."
"You shall be disappointed." Shaolin dropped the illusion spell Hou-Hsieh had cast over him and drew a pair of wakizashi. The vampire hissed as its body tensed up in pain. What kind of swords are those?!? The struggle was over quickly.
Shaolin purified the area, then cast a spell over the undead thing's quickly rotting corpse. The first clue to finding his lady's family....

***


"Good evening, Mr. Jardin. We slept well, I trust?"
"Go to hell, Blackblade."
"My my, so irritable tonight. Perhaps this is an unaccustomed position for you, eh, Silverblade?" Jardin merely glared at him. "Fear not, soon you will accept existence as my thrall. And when you learn of the power in serving me, you will see what benefits there are in having such a powerful master." Beliath smiled under his mask. The fool hadn't a clue as to the true scope of things. How lucky he was to work for Omeria!
Silverblade's mind was working, trying to find a way out of this. He was in a bad situation, all right. But there was one thing that this undead scumbag didn't know. And that was going to be this bloodsucker's death. He swore it.

***


His supply of the small rods wasn't limitless, of course, but it was worth it to use a teleport for purposes of drama. Especially when it meant the death of members of the thrice-accursed Sway...
She moved through the crowd anonymously. Some of the people might have recognized her as a Jardin, had she not been in disguise.
There was a loud pop that her mind quickly identified as a teleport, and she quickly whirled towards the sound of people screaming. Her stomach nearly rose into her throat.
Bloodscar! there could be only one like him - his power, his evil, so palpable.
People were running for their lives, as well they should be.
"Greetings, Inez Jardin," his deep voice said. "Goodbye."
She took her hand off the katana under her cloak and touched the amulet of the Dragon.
Her body swelled and deformed and changed. She was as large as he now, and people were running in fear from her as well. Fire spouted from her snout and the warrior king made no attempt to dodge it.
"Compared to the flames I have known of late, you are nothing, woman!" His sword slashed across her scales. He was every bit as strong as she remembered him.
Even as the dragon I'm no match for him Praxis! Will we have to flee?
Maybe. I've got one shot... Only one thought, one hope was going through his mind: You don't have one of the Weird Sisters protecting that sick mind of yours now...
He stabbed Inez again. The Dragon was bleeding heavily. Then, his scowl of malice twisted into a mask of fright. "No!" he shouted. A small rod was hurled to the ground, and he was gone.
"Are you alright?" Praxis called out aloud.
"Ouch. I'll live."
Boss, I think things are a lot worse here than you imagined... Mind said.

***


Worst of all, Praxis had no idea that the now Octem Potentis were involved in Omeria's agenda. For her part, she didn't know that one of those artifacts was in his possession, still inactive... at least for now.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Perceives Also
Title of Post: Last-Minute Complications
Khyrisse struggled to think, fending off a cold, weary fog of depression and shattered nerves. She stared at the pool table absently, brain whirling.
Jack's winning, she thought, observing the anger lurking in Ailonwy's eyes. And she's way too pissed for us to reason with her. Jack may have cost her the war, and now she's losing face on top of it. Even if he wins, we lose.
Khyrisse prepared a message spell and tossed it towards Princess Kristin. The blonde psionic blinked and slanted a quick look at the archmage. Can you contact me? This situation is starting to look really bad; I need to coordinate what we're going to do, and I don't have enough message spells to do that.
The princess nodded, a bare movement of her head. Returning her outward attention to the game, she turned her inward thoughts towards Khyrisse. Her initial attempt at contact struck a barrier and fizzled. Puzzled, Kristinís mental self circled Khyrisse, examining the blank spot that obscured the archmageís thoughts. After a few moments of fierce concentration, she caught a faint trace of a personality with Khyrisse's overtones, and followed it to a tiny weak spot in the archmage's mental armor. Kristin pushed her way through. The psionic swayed a little, looking dizzy. The thoughts in Khyrisse's head were echoing in a very odd fashion. It almost seemed like there was the sound of a distant crowd behind her voice... hundreds of people speaking at once, very far away... but as the strain of contacting Khyrisse through the barrier faded, so did the background murmur. I'm hearing things, the psionic surmised with a sigh. I'll have to spend some time doing mental housecleaning, once I get home...
-There you are,- Khyrisse thought to her, regretfully. -I'm sorry... I forgot about the mind blank.-
-That's all right. It's pretty effective, in case you ever wondered,- Princess Kristin replied, shaking off her disorientation. -What's the plan?-
-It's not a great one,- Khyrisse sighed, -but it has the twin virtues of being simple, and being already prepared for. We'd thought that we might have to literally escape from Hell, back at the beginning of this. Garal said that he could blaze us a path back to the Prime Material. Once that was accomplished, it was simply a matter of running like crazy.-
-Thereís still the minor matter of pursuit, though... Are you certain that Ailonwy can't catch us?-
There was a long pause. Khyrisse's mouth quirked in a fond and rueful grin. Warp, you lunatic... you're a bad influence, she thought, mostly to herself. Not many of us demi-deities left, huh? This is just the sort of stunt you'd pull. Have pulled, come to think of it. A memory of the blinding blue flash that had effectively ended the first Shadowwars flickered through her head. -No,- Khyrisse finally replied, -but I think I can make certain that Ailonwy can't catch you.-
-What are you talking about?- the princess demanded.
-I think I'm the only one of us that stands a chance of delaying Ailonwy and her goons, long enough for Garal to get the Rat Pack out of here,- Khyrisse replied reasonably. Never mind that she might not survive the experience... She activated her True Sight, assessing the strength of the demonic forces around her. Looking at the pool table told her absolutely nothing-- for all her magic told her about Ailonwy or Jack, there might as well have been nobody playing pool. -The Carriage is faster than anything mortal... and Iíll be distracting the immortal. Iím the only one of us that Ailonwy canít eat alive on toast that also might be able to get back alone. Itís all I can think of,- Khyrisse admitted, sounding very tired suddenly. -Will you ask Garal?-
There was a long sigh from the princess. -All right.- The immediacy of her mental presence faded for a moment. Khyrisse looked around at the Rat Pack while she was ďgoneĒ-- and her feverishly plotting brain froze. -Garal says he can get the Rat Pack out, aand muddy our trail in the Astral so that Ailonwy canít follow, but he wants to know wh...- The princess trailed off when Khyrisse didnít react to her voice. -What is it?- Kristin asked, alerted to the shock and alarm pervading the archmageís mind.
Khyrisse came back to life with a vengeance. -Well that settles it. Tell Valende and Vas to get everyone except ďAlphredĒ out of here, with Garalís help, if Ailonwy decides to renege; Iíll stay behind and keep her busy. And I want everyone out of here if that happens, because Iím going to have my hands full protecting myself. Iíll send a message later, from somewhere else in the Abyss, and Garal and Vas can come pick me up.-
-What?!-
-Thatís not Alphred,- Khyrisse snapped, and relayed an image of the Alphred doppelganger, its dual nature clearly perceivable by her True Sight. -Weíre still missing someone!-

Character(s): Khyrisse, Kristin, Vas; Ailonwy Paris and the Greatest Thief On Ataniel
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back: Will The Real Ailonwy Please Stand Up
Title of Post: He said she said
-What?- responded Vas, indignantly.
-Lady Starshadow wants you to get the Rat Pack out of here while she keeps Ailonwy occupied if this starts to turn ugly-, repeated Princess Kristin.
-Can you remind Lady Starshadow that Val and I are her bodyguards, not her children?-
-Skitch and Kit are her children-, Princess Kristin reminded him gently.
-Then tell Garal to take them out. I'm staying right here until it's safe for all of us.-
-She says to tell you she's the only one who stands a chance against Ailonwy and that the rest of us should get out while we still can.-
-Well, tell her she's not a goddess anymore.- Vas paused. -And tell her I think Cori's demon-slaying sword might be vaguely useful. Not to mention two high-level spellcasters and two high-level psionics.-
-She says to tell you that's not the point.-
-Well, tell her I'm old enough to be her father and I'm not going to leave her to be skewered by a demon horde while I run away with the little boys!-
-She says to tell you you're a stubborn s'kandou, whatever that is.-
-Tell her she's an arrogant talricce!-
Princess Kristin sighed. -She says to tell you that Jack just sank the eight ball.-
-Tell her that if she's planning on getting into a topless whip fight with Ailonwy,- thought Vas, putting his hand on the pommel of his sword, -I wouldn't miss it for the world.-

***


Ailonwy's sharp red nails flashed out and caught Jack by the chain link cross-straps of her halter top. "You cheated!" she screamed, violent flames at both of her pupils.
"I did not!" protested Jack. "You just misgauged the angle on that six ball by a degree or two. It could happen to any--"
"Do you think you can make a fool of me, mortal? Minions! Take them!"
"Wait!" yelled Jack. "I am the, uh, True Ailonwy! You must obey me!"
"She sounds less like Ailonwy," pointed out one demon.
"She did win the pool match, though," said another.
"Catch this impostor and, uh, throw her in the dungeon!"
Ailonwy's demon hordes looked back and forth, uncomfortably. "Do-- you really think we should do that?" hedged one.
"I don't like this," said another.
"You heard her!" yelled Kit. "Throw her in the dungeon!"
There was chaos then worthy of the Abyss.

Character(s): Shilree B, Luthien
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: An aside
Title of Post: Schick!
- Schick! -
Shilree liked that sound. It was one of the few things that soothed her.
- Schick! -
What was the best about it was how she made it.
- Schick! -
"Would you stop that?" said Luthien.
Shilree looked up innocently and pulled the dagger that was imbedded in her leg out. The wound healed quickly without leaving any mark.
- Schick! -
"I thought you out of everyone wouldnít mind this?" she commented innocently.
"Normally, yes. But I have a lot on my mind Shilree. You aren't helping matters any with you making yourself into a pincushion,"
"It doesn't hurt," she said plunging the dagger into her other leg. "It helps me calm down."
Luthien was about to argue then thought the better of it. He turned his back and walked away frustrated. The sound of Shilree plunging the dagger into her body and removing it over and over again echoing in his mind.

Character(s): Luthien, Shilree B
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (hoping Evan won't kill me)
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: an aside
Title of Post: From One Violent, Stressed, Non-Good Person To Another
Luthien thought about walking away frustrated, on the other hand, and definitely thought better of that.
Calmly, he turned back around and walked back to Shilree still playing her childish game of self-mutilation-- in an effort, apparently, to gross everyone out.
She can't be killed? Good. Khyrisse won't have anything to complain about.
Shilree looked up at Luthien, yanking the little blade out of her leg again. A small, cold smile chased over his face as he snapped his magical trident to its normal size. "Let me help you with that."
Shilree was going to be calm for a long while, judging from the sudden storm of senseless violence afflicting her person...

Character(s): Eren Messala, out of patience at last
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: nexus
Title of Post: Enough is Enough
"Stop it, both of you!" snapped Flicker, the strain of this alternate timeline showing at the sides of his mouth for the first time as he pulled Luthien off the mangled and laughing Shilree. "Luthien, you're sane; you have no excuse for acting like this. Shilree, for gods' sake, I'm not going to die either, and I don't spray blood at people. Norna, put that back in your scabbard and take us out of here, we haven't got the time."
"Our time is almost up," said Norna, swaying. "Our time is almost up."
"Good luck," sighed Lian, holding her head in both hands.
"I'm sorry," said Flicker, something uncharacteristically taut in his voice.
She waved her hand. "Shit happens. It's not your fault. Go."

Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, Vas
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Also: Fuck This Noise
Title of Post: I've Got One Nerve Left, And The Abyss Is Getting On It...
Khyrisse yanked out the Trade Sigil, with a glare for Vas that could have melted glass, and slammed the square of fabric down in the nearest space that didn't have any of the Rat Pack in it.
I don't care how many demons I kill, she thought furiously. For two coppers I'd stay and help out the dominatrix bitch! The screaming and stomping sounds of the Carriage's team were drowned out by the cacophony issuing from Ailonwy's vicinity.
Khyrisse grabbed Skitch and dragged him up onto the Carriage with her. "That's it, everybody get in, we're leaving right now," she shouted over the din. "Garal, give us a path out, please?!"
"Aw, come on! I wanna see the fight!"
"No." Khyrisse snapped her whip viciously across the face of a demon that was attacking her team. Vas appeared next to the driver's step, half-carrying Ebreth.
"The Queen of the Abyss may be staying here, but the Queen of Hissy Fits will always be with us," Vas observed in a mocking tone, flying up to the roof of the Carriage. "And she's got a whip, too."
"Shut up and strap yourself in, Grandpa," Khyrisse said. "And hold onto Ebreth. I'm driving."
"Gods help us all."
"Hoo boy, this is going to be a quick trip!" Skitch shouted gleefully. "Kit! Come sit on the roof! This is gonna be great!!"

Character(s): Jack and the Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Abyss Cheats Also
Title of Post: Jackie Paris, Queen of the Abyss
"But I won!" Jack was whining. "I get to be the one true Ailonwy!"
"Jackie, dear," Val said, dragging her along, "do you really want to be Ailonwy?"
"Well, uh, no..."
"Then shut up and get in the Carriage."

***


"Why have you betrayed me, Yashida! I trusted you!" Ailonwy cried.
"My friends needed me!" Cori shouted over the sounds of combat.
"I needed you!"
"Jack needed me more! I had to choose, or we'd never be free of this place!"
"Couldn't we have worked it out?" Ailonwy called plaintively.
Cori bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Ailonwy... it's not personal..."
"Bullshit, you bitch!" Ailonwy cried and lunged at the samurai, her talons bared.
"Next stop, Prime Material," Asinus said, as he suddenly slid up under Cori, galloping quickly towards the Carriage.
"I'll get you!" Ailonwy cried. "I'll get you all for this!"

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Vendetta
Title of Post: Mirrors
Khyrisse froze, staring at Ailonwy and Cori. Her face drained of the angry color it had flamed with moments before, and she swayed on her feet. Her breathing grew rapid and audible, as if she were about to give in to hysterics.
"Khyrisse," she heard dimly; Vas' voice. "Khyrisse!"
Khyrisse clenched her jaw, and tightened her fingers around the whip until they turned white and purple, and tried to think about anything but Ariath. Mentally, she shoved all of those she labeled "friends" away from her one more step. Never. Never never never again, go away, shut up, never talking to anyone, never again, NEVER!!
"Is that everyone?" she asked calmly.

Character(s): Ariath, Deveaux
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: The Vote, Part I
"Quickly," Deveaux barked orders to the coachman. "Get us over to the Rue de ---..."
"Why are they swarming us?" Ariath asked, a quaver of fear placed in her voice.
"Damn paparazzi," Deveaux spat. "They come out the night before Election to try to catch the candidates and get them drunk... but I've never seen them this bad!"
The carriage listed to the left.
"Head for the Tunnel!" Deveaux cried to the driver. "We'll lose them in there..."
"I don't understand!" Ariath cried. "Can't they just leave us alone? I'm scared!"
"It's okay, dear," Deveaux said reassuringly. "We'll be--"
A scream from outside the carriage cut the Duke of Tobrinel off.
"Out of ze way!" the driver shouted.
The carriage turned sharply up on two wheels.
The sounds of the crowd from behind grew louder.
"No!" the driver cried.
The carriage swerved and fell to one side.
Ariath fell, landing next to Deveaux. She looked up just in time to see the large chest filled with lead coins slide off the carrying shelf above Deveaux's seat.
The noise it made when it landed on his head was unpleasant. Ariath preferred a knife to the back. Silent, quick, painless.
Ariath bit her lip and concentrated. Tears welled in her eyes. Bolstering herself, she climbed up to the carriage door, now on the ceiling. Pushing it open, she saw a large crowd gathered around the fallen cab. "He's dead!" she cried, her voice projecting with the skill of an actress. "You've killed him! You bastards! You killed Duke Deveaux!"

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back: Coda
Title of Post: What Little Boys Are Good For
Khyrisse jumped stiffly off the carriage as they pulled in to Helena's Interplanar Inn, her face a tight mask of pain and anger. Suddenly little arms flung themselves around her from behind. "Thank you for saving Tarrin for me!" cried Skitch, emotionally. "You're the best goddess in the whole world!"

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