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The Book of Ataniel

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Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose, Part IV



Character(s): Khyrisse, who is not willing to be reasonable about this at all, Doug
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes/The Scenic Tor
Title of Post: The Female Of The Species
Khyrisse smiled at Jack over her coffee cup. “No problem,” she replied softly. She rested her elbows on the bar, sitting boyishly on her stool, and thought.
First Salagia and this lich lord business, then whatever’s going on with the Paris family... The archmage/former goddess began listing off just how many loose ends there were, and winced. And none of this is getting my city rebuilt. I’m months behind. Her mouth twisted a little, wryly, as she repeated Ember's words to herself. I’m a hero. Sucks to be me.
Khyrisse looked at the strange woman, then over at Valende. She glanced briefly back to Ember, and raised an eyebrow at the female contingent of her bodyguard. Val nodded twice, with a reassuring smile. Well, not evil, and not lying. That’s good to know.
“Looks like there’s no problem with you joining us,” she said to Ember, with a smile. “I’m sorry about your timeline... That’s got to be a terrible sacrifice to make.” Khyri sighed a little. I know how that is. I wonder where their timeline diverges... Probably better not to ask. “We have a... well, an injured member of our group right now that we need to make some decisions about,” Khyrisse said after a moment, glancing at Jack. “We can’t take him to Salagia, and I certainly don’t want him involved in a fight with Luthien the Lich Lord.” I don’t want the kids anywhere near Luthien as a lich lord, either! “I think some of us may have plans of their own, too. We haven’t really had time to discuss it yet. Tarrin, Alphred, Jack, the Rat and I have to go to Salagia, but the rest of the Rat Pack isn’t obliged to go.”
“I will be going with you,” Vas informed Khyrisse softly.
“Yes, grandpa,” she replied, with a little smirk.
“Talricce.”
“S’kandou.”
“I think,” Princess Kristin said hesitantly, from her seat in the corner, “that I’ll have to stay behind. I have some urgent family business to attend to. If that works out, I may catch up with you, but...”
“There’s been a lot of that lately, to tell the truth,” Khyrisse murmured. “I should probably visit my family...”
"KHYRISSSSSE!!!"
Khyrisse paled shockingly, and knocked over her stool as she leapt for the stairs.

***


Khyrisse burst into Ebreth’s room to find Skitch, knife in hand, arguing at some strange teenager sitting on Ebreth’s bed. Arguing at, not with... because the kid was sitting there, face blank, not responding at all. There was a sword lying next to him on the coverlet.
Khyrisse bolted around the bed and grabbed the kid by the shirt, yanking him bodily off the mattress. With herself between the stranger and Ebreth, she shook him hard enough to rattle what little brains he possessed. “Who are you? How did you get in here?!”
“He climbed in the window!” Skitch cried. “He’s a total loony, he doesn’t make any sense!”
“Well, you’d better make sense now, or you’re going right back out the window! Talk!!”

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Don't Stand So, Don't Stand So...
The donkey cantered out. "I’m sorry about your timeline," said Khyrisse, with a sigh. "That's got to be a terrible sacrifice to make..."
"It gets easier when you've seen my timeline," she said, with an elegant shrug.
"KHYRISSSSSE!!!" shouted a young boy's voice.
The sorceress jumped a foot and a half off her stool, spilling her drink down her tunic front and knocking the stool to the floor, and went charging up the stairs two at a time, white as a piece of paper.
Ember watched her quizzically. "Is she always like this?" she asked Vas.
"Usually," said Vas, smiling too tightly. Please don't stand so close to me.

Character(s): Marty Hu
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Zen And The Art Of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: Looking For Peace In All The Wrong Places
"Whoa!" cried the teenager, his hair flopping as Khyrisse shook him. "Hey, no violence, violent woman, the Master doesn't like that!"
"What are you talking about?"
"I told you he was weird," commented Skitch.
"Who... are... you?" Khyrisse held the kid by his throat. "And what... are you... doing here?"
"Marty Hu, disciple of Master Ebreth," he said. "And I'm looking for inner peace, so could you, like, get out of my light?"

Character(s): Khyrisse, worshipper of Grendel
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Zen And The Art Of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: I Feel Like Darth Vader...
Khyrisse blinked violently in disbelief for a moment. She didn't let the kid go. His mouth is moving, but nothing that makes any sense is coming out of it...
"Well, I have several spiritual truths to pass on to you," she hissed. "First, Ebreth doesn't have an apprentice. Second, I am one of the guardians of Master Ebreth, and I like violence. I do not like armed strangers who sneak into Master Ebreth's room. And third, death provides one with a great deal of inner peace. Don't tempt me."

Character(s): Marty Hu
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Zen And The Art Of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: He’s caused a lot less damage than that jester of yours, anyway
"He does now!" The kid struggled. "Hey, get off my case, violent woman. I've had, like, a rough life. My parents killed each other in the Madness and stuff. Master Ebreth has found satori, and I, like, want to find it too. So go enjoy violence someplace else, okay? I'm going to-- ow!--passively--ow!--resist you now. Ow! Ow!"

Character(s): Khyrisse, Vas, Skitch, and Marty
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Zen And The Art Of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: Mama Yatima ("Mother of Orphans")
Valende looked dubiously over at her brother from the foot of the stairs. "I don't hear violence, exactly, but there's definitely an argument going on up there..."
Vas leaped out of his chair. "I'll go." It'll get me away from Ember before my former bad habits get the better of me... he thought, with a rueful smile.
Khyrisse began to get a glimmer of what the kid was talking about... Or at least why he was interested in Ebreth. Her anger suddenly disappeared, like water running out of a badly repaired vase. She set him down again with a faint sigh.
Beaming, the kid immediately sat down on the end of the bed. After a moment, he was blankly staring into space again.
When Vas appeared in the doorway, he found Ebreth staring blankly from the head of the bed, some strange kid staring blankly from the foot of the bed, Khyrisse staring incredulously at the strange kid, and Skitch staring incredulously at Khyrisse.
"What's going on up here?"
"What in Grendel's name is 'satori'?" she demanded plaintively of her bodyguard.
"I don't think Grendel has anything to do with sitting around staring into space all day!" Skitch yelled.
Vas blinked at Skitch in mild confusion, then at her. Khyrisse had to suppress a rather hysterical giggle. There's a lot of staring going on in here. Must be catching. "I have no idea," he eventually replied. "Why?"
"Because this kid just apprenticed himself to Ebreth to learn how to do it."
Vas blinked at her again. He shook his head a little. "You mean to tell me that this boy wants to learn how to not respond to anything?"
"Apparently so. He seems to be doing a pretty good job, too..." she said with a bemused look at the kid. "I think maybe we'd better bring him downstairs and have Valende look at him." She tilted her head. "And Tarrin, too, come to think of it..."
"Ohhhh! He's crazy!" Skitch said, light dawning. "How are you going to get him to go, though?"
Khyrisse pointed a finger at Marty, and levitated him into the air. "See? No active response required," she murmured, and towed him firmly out the door. "You stay here, Skitch. If anyone else comes in that window, knock them down and ask questions later. I've got no nerves left."

Character(s): Ember, Marty, Valende
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Zen And The Art Of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: Staring Contests
Ember watched, deep eyes twinkling, as Vas escaped. She slid coolly into the chair opposite the halfling, stirring her mint juleps idly with one of her fingertips. "I couldn't help but notice you staring at me," she said. Garal choked. "Are you with Khyrisse's people?"

***


Marty's eyes went opened wide as he started levitating through the air. He abandoned satori for a few minutes, struggling to get his legs into a lotus position. This was entirely too cool.

***


Valende looked up in surprise as Khyrisse came down the stairs leading a cross-legged young human with his fingertips together, floating through the air and chanting "Om! Om!"
"Looks like she's found another one," she sighed to Jack.

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Silent Fears
Ember's reaction surprised Garal. Don't say anything stupid. Don't start with "Uh." And dammit, BLINK!
Garal blinked. "Yes. Hi." Don't say "Uh." "I am with Khyrisse." Introduce yourself "I'm Garal." Don't say anything that sounds made up. And don't tell her that she's beautiful. "I couldn't take my eyes off you." Why did I say that?
Garal stopped speaking for his own safety and prepared for embarrassment.

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Dust to Dust
"Why, thank you," said Ember, with great poise. Her facial expression was cool and somehow unfathomable, and her eyes twinkled in a way that was impossible to interpret. "I'm afraid I'm in the process of eliminating myself from your timestream forever, though. Tragic how these things work out, isn't it?" She looked up as Khyrisse and Vas came back down with the hovering, chanting teenager. "Is he one of yours, too?"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Mama Yatima Wishes She Had Run Off To The Montas Archipelago With Ebreth
Khyrisse slanted a look at the chanting teenager and sighed. "I have no idea. He broke into Ebreth's room and now he says he wants to be his apprentice. Valende, would you check him out for me?"
Valende gave Khyrisse an astonished look. Khyrisse shrugged wildly and rotated a finger next to her temple, on the side away from the kid. "Oh dear."
Khyrisse looked over at Ember, smiling wanly. "So can you tell us anything about your timeline, or will it muck things up? I have to confess to being a bit curious."

Character(s): Marty Hu, Jack and Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Zen and the Art of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: Stop Calling Me Kid
"Okay. What year is it?"
"Eight thirteen."
"How many fingers do you have?"
"Ten."
"Who is the Duke of Lianth?"
"Damned if I know."
Valende shrugged at Jack. "Well, he answered all of my questions correctly. You're the one who's spent the most time with Ebreth. Maybe you can figure him out."
Jack switched places with Valende and sat facing Marty. "So, uh... how are you?" Jack asked.
"Miserable," Marty said almost cheerfully. "My parents died, my fiancee ran off with another woman, my sister is an evil sorceress... should I go on? I've got more."
"Um." Jack said. "So where did you meet Ebreth?"
"Signetland," Marty said. "They kept calling it the moralest place on earth, so I went for some guidance. That's where I met Master Ebreth, and he showed me the way."
"The way?"
"Peace through complete suppression of the self."
"Um, I don't know how to break it to you, Marty, but Ebreth is catatonic. He's in a coma."
"And he's way good at it, too," Marty agreed.
Valende shrugged. "He comes off as lawful good. Fairly strongly, even."
"Whoa, of course, ma'am. Like, evil is really bad for your karma."
"How old are you, anyway?" Val asked.
"Twenty-three," Marty said.
"Then for God's sake, don't call me ma'am."
Jack and Valende retreated to the corner of the room.
"I like him," Jack said.
"Me too," Valende sighed. "Khyrisse is going to kill me."

Character(s): Norna, Hronmir, et al.
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: YAFYR
"I don't like it here," Norna grumbled.
"Of course not," Flicker sighed. "It's much too nice."
"At least this Lord Kyber is nice and taking us to Luthien," Hronmir noted.
"Don't call her Lord Kyber. Call her Threnody," Flicker corrected.
Threnody poked her head into the tavern's common room. "Hey everyone, the ship captain I was waiting for is here. He'll take you the rest of the way to Annwych."
"You're not coming?" Flicker asked.
"No," Threnody said. "I've got to meet Alain for the SFYR."
A handsome yet roguish figure followed Threnody into the room. Shilree's mouth dropped open. "Everyone," Threnody continued, "I'd like you to meet--"
"--Ralchar," Shilree finished. "Doppelganger!" she cried, and lunged at him.
"You know," Hronmir noted as he pulled the Diarian off of the ship captain, "I don't think you've gotten the hang of this dimension yet. Whatever divergence it had, it means that everyone is nice and things all worked out."
"I hate this," Shilree muttered.
"What's with her? Who is she?" Ralchar asked.
"I'm your worst nightmare," Shilree spat.
"Apparently," Luthien muttered to himself, "you fit that bill for the whole timeline."

Character(s): Lord G'har'ii, the Fungus People
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: The Fungus People
Lord G'har'ii of the Fungus People was displeased.
Four of his mightiest fungal warriors had been defeated by the newcomer. G'har'ii was already regretting the day that his people had unearthed the Second Obelisk, awakening the stone figure of Ta'al.
In the time since then, Ta'al had demanded many sacrifices. Lord G'har'ii had been happy to offer them for Ta'al's favor, until the Unbeing One had insisted on G'har'ii's eldest daughter. That was too much to be countenanced. G'har'ii had declared war on Ta'al. Each day he had sent his bravest warrior to face the Unbeing One in single combat. Each day, Ta'al had been victorious.
This day, however, would be different.
Instead of sending his (fifth) greatest warrior to fight Ta'al, he had sent him instead to take the Forbidden Journey to the Lost Valley. There, the other Great Fiends dwelt. When they learned that Ta'al was free, hopefully they would come to reclaim their own.
Or else that would be the end of the Fungus People.
Ed'gris'brohs be with you, Portobello, he prayed.

Character(s): Shilree B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: The Land of Psychodramas for Shilree
Shilree hated this time line. It was practically the opposite of the one she was from. Everything had worked out for the better. Everyone was happy. There was just one problem: she didn't exist in this time line. It wasn't that she minded not existing; that was a state she had longed for since soon after the curse was cast on her. The thing that really bothered her was that everything was nice and good without her existence. If she hadn't been already, it would have been enough to drive her to a state of insanity.
They walked to Ralchar's boat. From what she gathered, this Ralchar was the real thing. Not some doppelganger of her dead lover, but the real living Ralchar.
"Welcome aboard," Ralchar said as they boarded.
"Nice boat," said Luthien.
"Yeah, I won it in a poker game."
Well, at least his personality was consistent with the Ralchar she knew.
"How long until we reach Annwych?" asked Norna.
"It is about a three day sail from here. Since SPECTRAL started giving way these magical sails, travel time across Ataniel has gotten much quicker."
Shilree stood at the rail of the ship, her hands squeezing the wood so hard that it made popping sounds. No, she definitely didn't like this time line.
She wondered what had happened to her. Did her parents never meet? Was she never exiled from Diaria? Was she killed? She had to know.
"You ok?" said Flicker's voice from behind her.
Shilree tensed, then relaxed. Not even turning around, she answered. "What do you think, Sunfighter? We find a world where everything has worked out. No psychodramas, no evil plots, no world-shattering revelations... and I do not exist."
"Ataniel is a big place, maybe your counterpart is still in Diaria."
"No, I would know. In the last world, I knew I existed there even though I was dead. It is one of the 'benefits' of my piece of eyewear. It lets me see alternate versions of people, even myself. I just do not exist here."
Flicker was silent.
"It is not often I can cause you to shut up, my friend," Shilree said, half laughing.
Shilree continued to stare out to sea. The question about her existence was really starting to bother her. It was turning into an obsession. She had to find out why she wasn't in this world. "Flicker, I need to do something."
"What are you talking about?"
Shilree turned around to face the Riklander. Her good eye was wet with tears. "There is something I need to know. I will meet you all on Annwych in two days."
"Wait a moment!"
Shilree reached into her pouch and pulled out a small blue pebble. "I was saving this for a special occasion. It is the last one in my world. Don't try to stop me, Flicker. Two days. I will be there."
Shilree then disappeared with a slight "pop." Flicker didn't relish telling Norna about this.

Character(s): Malat'k
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: It begins
Malat'k clicked his claws in rapture. The great demon Ta'al's promises had all come true. His people had spread out from the Lost Valley to the surrounding lands. The Mud People of the Sulfur Swamps, the Tiki Bird Folk of the Mile High Forest, and the Slug People of the Dismal Swamp were just some of those he had conquered.
"Malat'k!" said a hissing voice from the jungle.
"Yes T'aal, I hear. What is your wish?"
"You have done well. Once you have found the third obelisk, I will be close to being free."
"Thank you. Serving you gives me great pleasure."
I know, I can feel it. There is just one problem."
"What is it mighty one?"
"The Jungle Lord is returning. He brings those who have been foretold. You must stop them, Malat'k!"

The Jungle Lord! It had been a long time since Malat'k had fought with him. He was looking forward to a rematch. This time, he wouldn't underestimate him. "I have an idea, great one. The Jungle Lord will be useless without his totems... and I know where the totem's powers come from."

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes:
Title of Post: No Time Like the Present
Khyrisse left to join Val in the back room and Ember turned back to Garal. "Ah. Well..." Garal hesitated. For Vas, flirting was second nature. For Garal it was synthetic. "You're here now. There is no guarantee that I'll survive the next journey. You've got a drink or I'd offer you one. Have you eaten?"
Garal knew that if all went well otherwise Ember would cease to exist. He decided to live in the present-- after losing almost everyone he had known, it was a way to stay sane. Garal relaxed visibly.
"What's it like traveling into the past?"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Zen and the Art of Catatonic Stupor
Title of Post: All Right, Not Crazy, Just In Complete Philosophical Opposition
“Lawful good??” Khyrisse buried her face in her hands. “And supposedly sane, too... Why couldn’t he have found Signet instead?”
“That’s where he said he met Ebreth,” Valende told her, gently. “At Signetland. He seems to think that Ebreth has achieved peace by complete suppression of the self, and he wants to emulate him.”
Khyrisse made a wild gesture towards Ebreth’s room upstairs, through the private room’s ceiling. “Well he has! But we kind of want Ebreth to stop doing that, don’t we?!”
“That was the idea... But really, Khyrisse, Marty’s completely harmless.”
Khyrisse subsided, glaring at the floor.
This has got to be the biggest line of bullshit I’ve ever heard in my life. As if Ebreth would have done this to himself deliberately. Someone with that philosophy really just wants to die and doesn’t have the courage to admit it, to themselves or anyone else. And while they’re refusing to interact in a meaningful fashion with the world around them, they’re using up food and air and space, and making other people worry about them and take care of them. No!!
When she looked back up at Valende again, her eyes had a cold gleam to them. “All right. Fine. If Marty wants to stay, I can’t very well stop him.” Valende smiled a little, and Khyrisse raised a hand. “But he takes care of himself. I’m not going to feed him, or provide for him in any other way, or get him out of trouble if he’s sitting like that,” she pointed to the other side of the room, where Marty was propped up against the wall, still in lotus, face blank, “in the path of something. I refuse to participate in turning a healthy human being into a piece of furniture. I want nothing to do with this.”
Khyrisse turned and walked out into the common room, tossing back over her shoulder, “I don’t think he’s going to do Ebreth any good, either. Marty kind of has a vested interest in keeping him in his current condition. You might want to remind Jack of that.”
Valende sighed and looked pensively at Marty. More inter-party bickering. Just what we all needed.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: It's a wonderful life
Title of Post: Gone Before We Could Say A Word
"Two days!" Norna threw Flicker into the rail in fury. almost up our time is almost "I can't wait two days!"
"You could leave her here," suggested Ralchar. "She's kind of cute."
"I can't do that. She has the time-traveling device. Go get her, Ragnarokkr!"
"I don't know where she went." That was a lie, really, but for Norna's purposes it was true. Flicker had no way of finding her. "We'll just have to wait for her. I'm sorry, Norn."
"Damn Diarians," spat the Valkyrie. "You would think she of all people would have an interest in eliminating her timeline as quickly as possible."
"What's she up to?" said Luthien, in Gaelic.
"I don't know," said Flicker. That was a lie too, but for Luthien's purposes it was true. Flicker looked out across the ocean and thought of better things he could have said: this is just one possibility, maybe. In our timeline your loss could be crippling. This is one possibility among many. Flicker didn't know what she was doing, but he knew why. Get a grip on yourself already. Our timeline's a good one too, and you're there, right? He shook his head. Please don't go back and destroy my friend. Too many things to say, too many ways to say them, and Flicker had wound up, somehow, saying nothing. He rubbed the back of his neck and watched the waters curling in the ship's wake. I'll do better next time, he promised himself, and that one, at least, made it through.

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