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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
The Abyss Looks Also Into You, Part IV



Character(s): Skitch, Tarrin, what remains of Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Gazes Back
Title of Post: Stillness
"Tarrin?" Skitch tugged on his sleeve. "You're a psychologist, a doofus, right? Can you help Mo--Khyrisse's boyfriend? I think something's wrong with his brain."
"Of course, little Skitch. I will try." The Diari healer put his fingers on the side of Ebreth's head. He didn't react to the touch in any way. "Hmm. Yes. His brain is okey-dokey. Is only that his heart is broken. Do you say heart? Spirit?" Tarrin took his fingers back. "So the brain she is sleeping. No pain. I am not sure I can help. Psychology is a new art in the Diaria. The Shattering--what do you call that, Madness?--is the first time we see these things in many people."
"Diaria must be a really nice place," said Skitch.
"One day I will take you there." He shrugged a little helplessly over the boy's head at Khyrisse. "I am sorry, Khyri. Mabye you need a better doofus than me. I'm really a healer. If he gets the mental pain and fear, I can help about that."

Character(s): Tarrin, Skitch, Khyrisse, and Ebreth
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Laura Redish
Storyline: The Road To Ataniel
Title of Post: Privacy At Last... Now That It's Too Late
Khyrisse looked at Ebreth sadly. "Can he hear us?"
"Oh yes yes. No brain damage."
"Will he remember what we say to him later? If-- if he wakes up?"
"Yes yes," said Tarrin, patiently. "The mind she is okey-dokey. No trouble to hear, only to listen. No trouble to remember, only to speak. The heart she is broken."
"Will-- he ever get better?" whispered Khyrisse.
"I don't know," said Tarrin, sadly. "Mabye never the same. I am sorry, Khyri."
Khyrisse sighed and bent her head, resting it against Ebreth's unmoving arm.
"Thank you, Tarrin," she said, without lifting her head. "If you'll excuse me, I-- I need to talk to him. I've been putting this off for too long as it is."

***


Khyrisse went into one of Helena's private rooms, a bottle of brandy and a glass in one hand. Her other hand held onto Ebreth’s, gently but firmly, leading him along behind her. Khyrisse took Ebreth’s hands in her own and had him sit on the couch. She pushed a chair over next to it so she could sit facing him.
A painful knot clenched beneath Khyrisse’s collarbone as she looked at Ebreth. Impulsively, she leaned forwards and kissed him, her eyes very sad. “I hope you’ll forgive me for one drink,” she told Ebreth, sitting back and pouring herself some brandy, “because what I want to say is going to be a little difficult for me, and it's been... a really long day.” She put the bottle on the table and cradled the glass in her hands, sipping at it. Grendel, where do I begin...
“Ebreth, I’m going to believe that you can hear me, even if you can’t understand or deal with what I have to say right away,” she began, softly but clearly. She made sure that he could see her face, even if he wasn’t exactly paying attention. “Ebreth, you’re free from Hell, forever. They can’t touch you. You never, ever, have to go back, unless you repeat the mistakes of the first Ebreth Tor. That’s the first thing. I have the contract; Asinus and I both went over it, and neither of us can find any loopholes. I’ll keep it safe for you, until you’re ready to keep it yourself.”
She sighed, and looked entreatingly into the empty blue eyes across from her. “The second thing is that there are people here who miss you, and care about you, and hope that you’ll come back to us-- however long it takes. I think it’s safe to say that I’m at the top of that list." Khyrisse's voice had dropped to a whisper, and she shook her head at herself. That won't help Ebreth any, you dope. He needs to hear this. He needs to know anything I can give him that might make him want to live again. She took a deep breath and continued in a stronger voice. "I miss you, Ebreth. I miss you so much that I can't believe you've only been gone for a few days. I miss the way you used to laugh at things, as if nothing were so bad that you couldn’t find something amusing about it. I miss the way you’d tell me to my face when I was being an idiot. I miss the fact that I could tell you anything... even if I didn’t take advantage of it very often. Nothing I told you seemed to faze you at all. I miss the way you flirted with me,” she admitted, smiling a little, cheeks flushed, “among... other things. I haven’t felt the way you made me feel in a very, very long time. I miss your gentleness, and the way you used to try to take care of me when I wouldn’t take care of myself. I miss a thousand little things about you, and if you never come back, I’m going to be very, very unhappy,” she finished in a whisper. She looked down, blinking rapidly and swallowing the lump in her throat until she could talk again. “If I hadn’t been so afraid of being hurt, I would have told you all of this. I was badly scarred by my first--” Khyrisse paused, blinked once again in surprise, and continued, “my first relationship. He did some terrible things to me, things worthy of Hell, and I never was able to understand why he did them. I still don’t know. My judgment about people is occasionally pretty rotten. Anyway, this isn’t about me; I just thought that if you didn’t know why I hadn’t said any of this before, you might not believe any of it now.”
She leaned forward, placing her hands on his arms, praying that he could hear her. “Third-- Ebreth, what you did was one of the bravest, most generous things I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you did it just for me, or for other reasons too-- it doesn’t really matter. I still have a hard time believing that you went back to Hell even partially to save my life. I know a little about how terrified you were of going back there, and now that I’ve been there myself, I-- I can’t blame you a bit.” She shook her head wildly for a moment, trying to drive some of her own experiences in Hell from her thoughts. “Anyway. Ebreth... I’m more sorry than I can ever say that I trusted her and let this happen to you. I’ll do anything I can to help you, if you’ll only try to recover from this.” She reached out, helplessly, and traced her fingers along the side of his face-- a curve from the corner of his eye to the line of his jaw, the echo of a gesture she’d made... what seemed like a long time ago. Tears spilled past her lashes, in spite of her determination not to cry in front of him. He reminded her so terrifyingly of the woman they'd found in Trill's coffin. “S’parde-vois blessé,” she whispered painfully. “My wounded panther.”

Character(s): First Intendant Lilith
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Lilith Quests: Battle Of The Mighty Pre-Patriarchal Bitches From Hell
Title of Post: Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead
Lilith strode smartly into the Central Command of Hell, feeling pretty blessed good about herself. It had turned out to be uncannily easy to acquire Trillarillia's soul. In fact, her soul had been right in a vessel in the Lower Planes, of all places, with some Diari mortal who had readily traded it to her for transport to Ataniel. Which served Lilith twice. She couldn't stand having Diarians around down here. And now she had destroyed the soul of the bitch responsible for Lucifer's death and the infuriating chaos in Hell. Today, she decided happily, was a good day. Maybe she would leave Mephisto in command, take the remainder of the day off, and spend some time torturing some souls or something. Certainly she'd earned a little break.
Geryon came running across to her. "Intendant! Oh, man, am I glad to see you."
Lilith sighed. "This is going to ruin my good day, isn't it?"

Character(s): Skitch the untraumatized
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Road To Ataniel
Title of Post: More Skitch Therapy (or: the benefits of having children)
Khyrisse stumbled out of the private room where she had left her ravaged lover, one shaking hand over her mouth. Skitch was sitting close to Tarrin, happily stuffing popcorn in his mouth. "So then we killed the devil bully, and Ixhriy got promoted. And then we saved Ebreth from Hell, 'cause you shouldn't have to go to Hell for helping somebody. And a big devil came after us, but Asinus kicked his butt, and then Kit robbed him."
"It was nothing," lied Kit.
"So we all escaped! Ha ha! It was great!"
"I am glad you had fun in the kiljhac fear plane, little Skitch."
"No, don't say kiljhac," instructed Skitch. "Khyrisse says it's a bad word. Say 'booger' instead."
"Thank you, Skitch. You're a real wiener."
"This guy is great," commented Kit, eating some popcorn.
"The Abyss was even better than Hell," said Skitch. "Cause there weren't, like, tortured people. There were just a lot of silly demons who like to spank each other." Skitch shrugged. "And wear really stupid underwear. You don't know why they do that, do you, Tarrin?"
"Boogers are often beyond my comprehension, little Skitch."
"Anyway, we rescued you and we rescued Cori, and now we got Alphred back, so everybody's okay now." Skitch smiled, his faith in the universe partially restored. "Except for evil people, because they have to stay in Hell."
"I am not sure I like this religion of morality through threat of torture," frowned Tarrin.
"It was pretty gross," agreed Skitch, "but we rescued the person who didn't belong there, so everything's okay again. I like being an adventurer, because you can fix things when they're wrong."
"I like being an adventurer because you get lots of neat stuff," said Kit, looking at the Stone of Command.
"You're a booger," said Skitch, poking him in the ribs.
"You're a booger too," laughed Kit.
"You are both boogers," said Tarrin, beatifically, "but you are very nice boogers."
Khyrisse looked at Skitch's fresh, beaming face and felt an immeasurable weight lifting from her heart.

Character(s): First Intendant Lilith
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Elsewhere In The Lower Planes
Title of Post: Mephisto Challenges Beliath for the Title of Most Hapless Bad-Ass
"HE LOST LUCIFER'S STONE OF COMMAND!?!?!?" screamed Lilith, so loud the foundations of Hell shook.

Character(s): Khyrisse and her kids
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Road to Ataniel: Pit Stop
Title of Post: The Benefits Of Having Children
Khyrisse swooped up behind Skitch and hugged him hard. "Thank you," she said into his hair, smiling a little. "I forget that sometimes. That's exactly what adventurers are for." Then she lifted her head and winked at Kit. "Of course, the neat stuff is pretty cool, too. It's just a matter of taking it from the proper people. Right, Kit?"
Kit grinned back. "Absolutely."
"So, kiddo. What color do you want your new tunic in?"
"Can I have that cool dark blue Diari material?"
"You're going to cost me more in clothing than six boys. You're lucky I'm rich."
"I know!" Skitch laughed.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Ebreth Tor
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Road To Ataniel: Pit Stop
Title of Post: Still Reading...
Jack closed the cover of Eco's The Name of the Rose. He hoped that he wasn't getting too highbrow for Ebreth. The two had never really gotten to talk literature during the time they had been... well, distrusting each other, Jack guessed. "Well, I hope you had an okay talk with Khyrisse earlier. I know she can be grumpy and, um, avoid the subject and stuff... but she's been working hard to keep this together. She could probably use your support. No guilt or pressure... you know, when you're ready."
Val poked her head in the door. "Is... this going to be your room too, Jack?" she asked.
"Um, I hadn't really thought about it. I just wanted to finish reading to Ebreth. Keeps his mind occupied."
"Well, why don't you leave that to someone else for the rest of the night. We have to talk."
Jack winced. Nothing good ever came from those words. "My room or yours?" Jack asked.
"Ours," she said, taking his hand.
Then again, thought Jack, maybe this would be an exception...

Character(s): Valende and Jackie Paris
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Douglass Barre
Storyline: Ditty Bout Jackie And Valende
Title of Post: Unavoidably Delayed
Valende closed the door behind her and looked at Jack soberly.
"Jack, you may have noticed that Cori seems a little... jumpy. Nervous.” Val paused. “Upset."
"I, uh, figured she was a little weirded out by me... maybe I should talk to her."
"I don't think that would be a good idea, darling. Wait until you're male again."
"Cori and I've been through a lot... if we could deal with what happened to Reena, we can deal with this. It's only temporary, really."
"Oh... No, that's not quite what I meant," Valende sighed. "She's feeling awkward around women in general right now. I'm afraid that's my fault."
"Why your fault? You're very easy to get along with!" Jack grinned.
Val laughed a little, blushing. "I'm glad you think so... Cori thought so too, for a little while. Perhaps ‘fault’ is the wrong word-- but it definitely has to do with me."
Jack pondered hard. "She isn't jealous, is she?"
Val looked at Jack fondly and sighed again. "Yes, darling, I think she might be. But that's not what I'm talking about."
"Shall I keep guessing? I'm really not very good at this..."
"No, don't.” Valende racked her brain for a subtle way to say this that wouldn’t also go right over Jack’s head. “Jack, do you remember what didn't happen between Khyrisse and Ariath when they were in the bathtub together-- but everyone thought for a while that it had?"
"Wait... It didn't? I thought it did."
Val looked at the ceiling consideringly. "This just gets increasingly complicated..." she murmured, clearly to someone other than Jack.
"No, no... I get it. Khyrisse is upset with Cori betraying Ailonwy."
Val opened her mouth to say "No"-- then closed it again and thought about it. "I don't know, actually. That's not what I'm talking about either, though." She sighed again and tossed tact out the window. "Jack, after we found Cori and Tarrin, the oyster totem was set off. Accidentally, I assure you."
"Cori slept with Tarrin?"
"No, Cori slept with me, Jack." Val covered her face with one hand and took a deep breath, bracing herself for Jack's expression.
Jack looked confused. Then she looked astonished. Momentarily, she looked really interested, but wiped that from her face. Then she looked astonished some more. "But... you're both... ah. Oyster totem."
Val peeked at Jack from behind her hand, with an amused little smile. "In Cori's case-- judging from her reaction after the fact-- yes, certainly."
"Oh. Right. She's, uh... well, probably really squicked by it. I mean, it's only been a few weeks since she lost Haroshi... she probably feels like she betrayed his memory or something."
"Possibly... At any rate, I'm sorry I upset her, and I'm sorry about..." She made a slightly helpless gesture, indicating 'the whole sorry mess'.
Jack put her hand comfortingly on Val's. "It wasn't your fault, dear. I've seen that totem work. I'm just glad you're okay. I can talk to Cori if you want?"
"All right." Val clasped Jack's hand in hers and smiled, relieved. "I'm mostly sorry that it upset her so badly. Cori wouldn't stay in the same room with me, afterwards; and with the way she's been feeling about you and I..." She sighed.
"Hey, Cori's tough. She and I've been through a lot... if she could handle what happened with Gabriella, this is a walk in the park. She pretends she's not as strong as she really is."
"Good. I'm glad that I don't have to worry about upsetting her permanently. At least not that way." Val smiled impishly at Jack. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Oh, was that the bad part?" Jack looked relieved.
Valende burst out laughing.
"I just... I mean... there are, uh, other problems..."
"I thought you should know, darling, that’s all. Particularly since Cori is a friend of yours, and you might want to help her over her upset." Val leaned forward and kissed Jack-- then leaned back, arms around Jack’s neck, and blinked at her. "Other problems? Do you have something you need to tell me?"
“Um, well, just that... you know, I’m... uh...”
“A girl? I noticed.”
“But, uh, so are you...”
Valende grinned impishly. “Yes, I know. Cori might see a problem with that-- but I don’t.”

Character(s): Kit, Greatest Thief on Ataniel, and Skitch, Student of the Abyss
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Road To Ataniel: Pit Stop
Title of Post: Centers of Gravity
Skitch snuck up on the last place he’d seen Kit. Or at least, he tried to. Skitch wasn’t any good at hiding in shadow-- Kit knew why, too. “Boo!” Kit said from behind Skitch.
“Kit, you booger!”
“You’ve really gotten better at the sneaking, I hardly heard you. But you still suck at hiding.”
“I can’t see anywhere to hide!” Skitch hissed irritably.
Kit looked at the dimly lit hallway and shook his head. “That must be weird.”
“...Show me where to hide, huh?”
Kit nodded cheerfully and slipped off down the hallway, stopping to signal Skitch every so often. Skitch watched Kit intently, eyes gleaming oddly in the shadowed hall. He headed down the hallway after Kit after a few moments.
“That’s not right!”
Skitch waved the issue away. “Um, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Shoot.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a girl?” Skitch’s whisper sounded puzzled more than anything else.
“Do I ask you why you’re a boy?” Kit returned.
She didn’t sound alarmed at all, which reassured Skitch a bit. Not a big secret, then. Whew! “No, dope! Why, when I called you HE six bazillion times, didn’t you correct me? I would’ve if you’d called me SHE, ‘cause I’m not a she! Basic Dalen!!” Skitch said impatiently, louder.
“I’m self-taught.” Kit grinned at him. “And I’m much more secure in my self-identity, I guess!”
Skitch scoffed at this, grinning back. “Or a lot more confused about your gender!”
"I don't know... it certainly took you a while to figure it out. Besides, this way I don't have to worry about the glass ceiling."
"Boy, I feel like a total idiot..." Skitch muttered; and blinked as Kit’s last words sank in. "Glass ceiling??"
"It's some sort of enchantment that keeps women from getting as rich as men."
"Oh,” he said, and thought about it. “You're right, that would really suck! Well, I'll never tell, so ignore it all you want."
"Thanks. I, you know, wouldn't want to have to kill you." Kit wore a grin that stopped just short of busting out laughing.
Skitch grinned back, cheerfully fierce. "You could try. My mom would kick your ass."
"Yeah, well, my... um. Only if she found me first! I hid from her all day the other day... she had to ask the house where I was!"
"Don't you think it's scary that she could ask the house where you were, and it actually told her? Huh?"
"No, duh... it's a magic house!"
"Well, I can't make a magic house. I think it's cool."
"Hey, I'm a year older than you. I'm jaded and worldly."
Skitch pinched his nose scornfully, and spoke in the voice of Darric Traci, the ponse who used to chase them off the steps of the Trade Council building for “loitering”. It was an eerily accurate rendition. "Oh, of course-- How stupid of me to forget. But then, I'm not the most observant person in the world, as we've been reminded this very evening..."
Kit giggled. "Well you just remember that, young man. You want to go see if Val's still going to sleep with Jack?"
"You bet! Vas'll owe me money, if they don't!"
"See! Only someone as unobservant as you would have made that bet!" Kit grinned and grabbed Skitch’s hand, and they ran off down the hallway together.

Character(s): Jackie, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Ditty About Jack and Valende
Title of Post: Lesbian Anime Storyboard
"Oh, yeah, that's beautiful," Val cooed at Jackie.
Jackie slid one hand up her leg, watching the silk of the stockings stroke the skin.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Jackie asked as she tied the scarf around Val's head.
"Aren't you enjoying it, dear?" Val asked, stroking her finger along the leather before tossing it to Jackie.
"I never expected it would feel this good," Jackie squeaked. She pursed her lips in a pout as Val stroked them.
"I couldn't pass up this chance," Val said, running her hands through Jackie's hair. "Some things are better between two girls."
Jackie stroked Val's cheek tenderly, and helped her with the chain around her wrist.
Meanwhile, Val slowly fidgeted with the buttons on the back of Jackie's dress.
Jackie gently buckled the straps around Val's ankles. "Are you sure that these aren't too tight?"
"Just right, dear."
Val lay back, the chain resting on the satin sheets. Jackie stood above her, her breasts pressed together tight in the black leather.
"So what do you think?" Jackie asked.
Val giggled.
"You know, I've never played dress-up with a boyfriend before. This is really fun!" She ran her finger under the gold chain bracelet.
"I don't know how you walk in these things," Jackie said, looking down over the leather dress to the high heels. Are you sure I didn't put yours on too tight?"
"They're perfect, dear," Val grinned. "So do you want to try the blue dress on next? I've got some eye shadow that will look perfect on you!"

Character(s): The Duke of Tobrinel, Others
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Voting Time, Part III
Ballots were cast on small parchments, made specially for Election Time. Everyone attending Festival could write three names upon their ballot. Those votes were then counted by the clerics of Iurus, a special sect that lived atop the monastery's tower and never interacted with anyone outside those walls.
Balloting took a week.
It was traditionally a week of meditation and prayer, though because of the Madness, it became more a week of shame and isolation. Omeria watched as a people that had indulged their every whim and desire in joy became moribund. The death of Deveaux hadn't helped.
Omeria watched as Praxis and Inez tracked down Silverblade, to Beliath's immense discontent.
Omeria watched as Ariath slept, but no dreams were forthcoming. Ari was pleased, thinking that perhaps Khyrisse had forgiven her, but Omeria knew that an archmage's vengeance was not to be taken so lightly.
Omeria watched as the stars indicated great upheaval in the planes below. And, in the end, Omeria watched as the messenger came to her hotel suite with the results.
"Omeria of Gothspadin, Lady of the Winter Wood, I come as a representative of the Tobrinel Ruling Council, under behest of their last directive." Omeria smiled, and tried not to hide her anticipation. She knew the protocol. She would wait to hear the last directive of the outgoing Council to the prospective new one. "The Ruling Council thanks all those who have expressed interest in the welfare of the Tobrinese people. Civic duty during time of Election is one of our proudest traditions, and we are honored by your service."
Ariath poked her head into the room. Omeria waved her in. "Is this it, Merry?" she asked.
"We'll soon know, little blade... why don't you get the others."
Ariath ran off.
"Should... I wait?" the messenger asked.
"By no means," Omeria said. I expect that by the time you get to the payoff, they'll all be here, she thought.
She wasn't far off. When the One True Bloodscar loped into the room, nursing his broken arm, the messenger had just begun the names of the chancellors.
Omeria wasn't on the list of chancellors.
"The nine ministers of Tobrinel are as follows... Avi Goodfried... Kelvin Carmichael... Ian Jardin, uh, though he usually renounces and one of the chancellors is promoted... Carolyrrya Hawkwing... Charles Van de Lay... Courtney Elspeth Pyxie... Reginald Groom... Theodore Knight... and Jeffery Buckley."
"You... you didn't make it, Merry!" Ariath cried in surprise.
"We also welcome the new Duke of Tobrinel for the next three years... Omeria of Gothspadin, Lady of the Winter Wood."
A huge cheer went up among the members of Bloodscar. Omeria simply sat silent. When she was certain that the messenger was finished, she bowed to him. "I thank you for your tidings, good sir. Rest assured that the new regime in Tobrinel will remember your service." Omeria placed five platinum coins in the man's hand as she escorted him to the door.
As soon as he was gone, she turned to Bloodscar.
"This is only part one," she said. "We are now responsible for this city... it's not a playground. Yes, we will be rich beyond your wildest dreams... but not at the expense of Tobrinel. Ariath, you'll need to make a speech praising the people's choice in the name of Deveaux. We can't lose momentum now. Marhault... go to Beliath and tell him that we're going with the plan. I want all vampires off the street tonight. One attack, and he'll be in trouble. Bloodscar, I want you to head east. Try to bring that damn psionicist with you. Spur, K'Mar... I want you on the street twenty-four-seven, find out the five greatest worries of the people of this city. Political... personal... I don't care."
Omeria grinned widely.
"We're in, people. And nothing is going to be the same again!"

Character(s): Asinus, Kit, Skitch
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Road To Ataniel: Pit Stop
Title of Post: The Problem With Zerthimon
"No. I absolutely refuse," Asinus said. "That's it. Go to bed, you little monsters."
"Come on, Mr. Paris! Do it again!" Kit cried.
"Fine," Asinus grumbled, "one more time."
The form of Asinus quavered, and shifted into that of a giant, glowing man. "I am Zerthimon, angel of the Dead God Morvon! Please state the nature of your theological emergency!"
"Cool!" Skitch said.
"Are you a real angel?" Kit asked.
"Where are your wings?" Skitch asked.
"Do you get a halo?"
"Is it true that whenever a bell rings--"
"Look, young small mortals, is there call for the law-giving powers of Zerthimon here, or is this another false alarm?"
"False alarm," Kit and Skitch said, mumbling.
"I'm sending the donkey back, then," Zerthimon said, frowning.
Suddenly Asinus was back.
"I got it! I got it!" he brayed to no one in the room. "Sheesh. Lousy angel of Moron..."
Asinus winced.
"He heard that," he grumbled.
"Do it again! Do it again!" Skitch cried.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Val, Schneider, Ebreth
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Post-Pit pit stop
Title of Post: Pleased to Meet You, Hope you Guessed my Name
"Khyrisse?"
"Yes?"
"It's late," Val said. "You really get some sleep." The concern was very apparent in her voice.
"I guess you're right," Khyrisse sighed. "Good night, Ebreth," she said, planting a kiss on Ebreth's cheek before leaving. She suddenly felt quite tired, and sleep came the second her head hit the pillow.

***


When the two elven women had retired to their rooms, a figure silently stepped out of the shadows and entered silently.
"Greetings, Mr. Tor," Schneider said. "Things have been a little hectic of late..." he rubbed his still sore jaw, "so we haven't really had a chance to talk. We've never met in person before, but I did some business with some of your underlings once. I was playing the role of merchandise."
Ebreth Tor was silent and motionless.
"So anyway, I know that running a huge slave empire and all must have taken a lot of brains. I guess you're a real mental heavyweight, huh? That's cool. Cause I've got this real boss riddle I wanted to bounce of you, get some feedback and all. Ready?"
Schneider slid a dagger out of his boot-sheath. "Give me one good reason I shouldn't kill you right here and now."

Character(s): Schneider, Ebreth
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Counting to 56
Title of Post: Riddle Me This, Ebreth Tor
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't kill you here and now."
One member of the Rat Pack had seen Schneider enter the room, and felt a stab of warning. This might be trouble...

***


"Well, know the answer, Ebreth? What... It would be wrong? Something not right 'bout opening a helpless man's jugular? Please! I expected more creativity out of you than that. I mean jeez, give yourself credit.
"Think about it. Trill and most of the dorks who mess up lots of people do it by turning on evil artifacts or something. But you-- you had that more personal touch. How many people did you kill, how many did you help condemn to lives of huge suffering? Thousands? If you really want, I could list several dozen of them by name. So try again, and think harder."
The silence was lethal.
"Khyrisse would be crushed? OK-- that's better-- but not good enough. In case you'd forgotten, she once took the big vows with a guy whose name makes her throw a hissy fit nowadays. So try again."
Ebreth Tor seemed to be trying to hide his dark body in the darkness of the room.
"Ah-- you sacrificed yourself to Hell to keep Khyri alive? I thought about that. And you know what I decided? Maybe you were just playing an angle. Maybe you were just scared and thought that was your best bet for avoiding the ole fiery region, in the long run. The old noble sacrifice routine. Seen it. But it doesn't count when you're doing it cause the alternative seems worse. And in your case, I think the alternative was proving to everyone that your whole 'new self' was a scam and eventually heading back down below anyway. I don't suppose you ever realized that you were in hell because you deserved it, huh?
"That's three strikes." Schneider placed the dagger closer to Ebreth's head than Cori Yashida had held her katana to his.
Stillness.
"What's that? I didn't hear you?" Schneider kept the blade against the slave-lord's neck.
"I'm afraid I didn't hear you, so I'm gonna have to conjecture on what you just said.
"I think what you said was that I don't want to. That after a certain point, numbers matter less after you've killed enough people.
"Not all that much difference between 56 and a few thousand, eh? I'll hand it to ya. Interesting theory."
Schneider leaned forward until they could each feel the other's breath. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I don't have much choice but to believe that anyone can turn things around and make up for what they've done. Maybe so.
"You're pretty good at this riddle game... Ebreth Tor." For a moment, he pressed the weapon all the more, but then pulled back. "But I don't like the sound of that name, so I hope you won't mind if I just think of you as... eight."

***


She sat-- back to the wall-- telling herself to breathe. Schneider came out of the room quietly, and jumped when she said: "I knew you wouldn't do it."
He stared down at her, needing a few seconds to collect himself. "Did you now. Used some kind of psionic hoohah, eh?"
"No," Princess Kristin said, her voice heavy and sad as she stared at her own lap. "I'm just a good judge of character."

Character(s): Flicker, even quieter than usual
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins Of Fate: It's a wonderful life
Title of Post: A World Without Shilree
The second alternate world seemed, on the surface at least, to be a much less stressful place than the last one. According to the patrons at the Mithril Dagger, Lianth was at peace and times had never been so good. Better still, it was two years in the future, and the Madness had never happened. "I don't know if I want to destroy this timeline," said Luthien. "I think it's nicer than ours."
"We don't have to destroy it," said Norna. "We just have to find and kill you."
The pageboy bounded back into the Mithril Dagger with Faraker and Threnody. "Lord Silverhammer wasn't in," he explained, "so Lady Silverhammer fetched the Duke."
"Hi," Faraker said to Luthien. "How's that pretty wife of yours?"
Luthien cleared his throat. "I'm from an alternate timeline."
"Really. How confusing. What are you doing here?"
"We're having some trouble with a lich lord."
Faraker sighed. "Let me tell you how much I wish I could go with you to take care of that. Unfortunately I have too many responsibilities here. But there's no shortage of heroes in Lianth."
"Max and I could go," offered Threnody. "It's been pretty slow around here since we killed Malcar."
"And I think Zzenith's in town," said Faraker. "And my court jester might be able to get you an audience with the patron goddess of Lianth. They're dating."
"Actually, we really just need to find your Luthien," said the necromancer.
"Oh, that's easy. He lives in Annwych." Threnody shook her hair out. "Alternate incarnation?"
"Yes," said Flicker.
"Pleased to meet you." She shook left hands.
"If anyone knows about lich lords he will," agreed Faraker. "You might also try the Great Library of Diaria. Now that MacLir's negotiated peace between Cynystra and Unified Diaria--"
"Unified Diaria?" exclaimed Shilree.
"MacLir," said Flicker.
"Peace?" said Luthien.
"This timeline is great," said Shilree, dazed.
"I certainly think so," said Faraker, looking quizzically at the Diarian. "But if you don't mind my asking... who are you?"

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Abyss Looks Also Into You
Title of Post: Goodnight Moon
Ebreth Tor sat placidly in the darkness, nothing in his still blue eyes, nothing in the ruins of his heart. Through the window, Bane shone silently. One curtain blew like a woman's hair. And Ebreth Tor sat alone.

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