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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
From The Churches To The Jails, Part II



Character(s): A spy
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: Little Bird, Little Bird
Indeed, the Rat Pack's progress did not pass unnoticed. A set of sharp eyes watched them enter the jungle lands from high up the in the trees.
The brightly colored bird watched them climb over the wall and start to hack their way through the underbrush. The bird called out to his brethren. A moment later a nearly identical bird landined on the branch next to him. The first bird took off to inform his master. The Jungle Lord had arrived.

Character(s): Alphred
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: Don't mess with a man in his element
A sharp bird cry echoed through the forest and Alphred stopped suddenly. Jack, looking more at the ground than ahead, bumped into the Jungle Lord.
"Whoa! Watch it, Alphred! Don't stop so suddenly."
The Jungle Lord just stood there and listened.
"I didn't expect this so soon," he said. "We are being watched."
Jack and the rest of the Rat Pack looked around, trying to see the spy.
"Where?" Khyrisse finally asked.
Alphred pointed up to the jungle canopy.
"It is no good trying to hide. Malat'k has spies everywhere. Still, it changes nothing."
"So, which way, Jungle Boy?" asked Vas.
Alphred quickly climbed up a tree and grabbed hold of a vine. "To the Temple of Tiki-too! Follow me," he said, as he launched himself off the tree, swinging on the vine.
"Why do I have a feeling he has been dying to do that?" remarked Val.

Character(s): Shilree B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: It is a Wonderful Life (JRAI!)
Title of Post: Shadows of Non-existence
Shilree reappeared in a small alley in the city of Tesin, not very far from where she grew up. The city was almost exactly as she remembered it. Narrow cobbled streets, the smell of the sea, and the sounds of the merchants, all brought back memories of a simpler time.
Shilree walked out of the alley, trying to look as presentable as she could. Large crowds filled the streets. Sidewalk vendors were peddling their wares. Shilree's biggest surprise was the unusual number of kiljhac that were around.
"This is not right," she said to herself, as she watched a gaudily-dressed human saunter by. "Even in ancient times, foreigners never wandered the streets this openly away from the docks."
Shilree wandered up to a familiar-looking fruit cart. When she was a child, a burly merchant named Sanar owned it. She and her siblings used to drive the man crazy with their thieving. Sure enough, Sanar was still there, selling fruit. Shilree bought a honey apple and walked down the street.
She stood outside a nondescript house. This was the place she was born. This was where she grew up. Shilree waited across the street, keeping an eye on the house. Eventually a middle-aged Diarian woman came out. Shilree gave her a good look and slumped her shoulders. It wasnít her mother. Shilree turned back up the street without looking back. Her answers were not here.
Her next stop was the Tesin branch of the Great Library. This version of the library was more impressive than the one from her timeline. The architecture was more impressive and the statues seemed more real.
"Just another thing this world has over mine," she mumbled as she entered the library.
The Hall of Records was in the place she expected. She spent hours there, going over city records and family histories. She found her answer at last. She knew why she didnít exist in this world. It gave her a small bit of comfort to find out that she wasn't the only one who didnít exist here. Her entire family, the entire line of Vestrin didn't exist. She searched back for close to five thousand years and there were no records of her family.
"So that is it," she said to herself. "Too bad, there is nothing I can do, then."
She cursed her luck. If it had turned out that she just had never been born, or that she was killed at a very young age, she might have been able to apply that knowledge in another time line. But this, the fact that her entire family line didnít exist, was useless. Her time here was just a waste. Shilree hated wasting her time. It put her in a bad mood.
She left the library early that morning, hatching a wonderful plan to make her feel better. Maybe she had never existed on this world before, but she did now. It was about time the world got to know who she really was.

Character(s): Alphred and the Rat Pack
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Would you like to swing on a star?
Alphred swung with grace from tree to tree. He made sure to time his pace so the Rat Pack could keep up from him. There were at the borders of the Sulfur Swamps, the land of the earth goblins aka the Mud people. The swamps were a large area of geothermal activity planing in the middle of the jungle. Geysers erupted with great frequency, mud pots bubbled, and toxic lakes were everywhere.
Alphred settled on a branch of a tree that bordered the open area.
"Strange," he thought. "There should have been a sentry here. That is not like King Quoag at all."
"Alphred!" yelled an out-of-breath person from below.
"Yes, Spirit Maiden?" he said.
"Slow down, dammit! We can hardly keep up!"
Alphred jumped down and landed next to Khyrisse.
"This is not good," he said, pointing to the land of geysers and mud. "I think this is an..."
Hundreds of piles of mud shaped somewhat like men surrounded the Rat Pack.
"...ambush." Alphred finished.

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Skitch's Least Favorite Bad Guys
"Now you tell us," muttered Ember, alighting gracefully to one foot on the forest floor.
"Spirit maiden!" cried Alphred, as hundreds of mud people surrounded them. "Give me back the last of my totems!"
"N O no," snapped Khyrisse. I'd rather be captured by mud men."
"Foolish blood creatures," chortled one of the blobs, in a muddy voice. "We serve Malat'k the Very Small But Mighty Velociraptor now. Drown them in the bog of death!"
Muddy hands grabbed at them. "Let go of me," wailed Skitch. "Look what you're doing to my clothes!"
"Spirit maiden! You must hurry! It is my only chance to defeat the mud people, and though I can swim through the dire bog of death, surely some of our companions are not so strong!"
Khyrisse glared at him. "Okay, you promise that you'll use it only at them?"
"I swear by my great ancestors of Tika-too!" cried the jungle man.
"And if any of us are affected by it I'm going to KILL you and let Malat'k have Salagia, you got that?"
"Yes, spirit maiden."
"All right, fine. Here."
Alphred caught the oyster shell in one of his mighty hands and held it aloft. Slowly, the mud creatures released the humanoids and backed away, their forms coalescing into one another with strange schlorping sounds. Ember crinkled her small nose in disgust as the melding globs of mud moaned, and put her hands over Skitch's eyes. He pushed her away. "I'm all muddy!" he complained.
"Let us escape quickly!" cried Alphred, and swung up on another vine.
Ember shrugged and leapt lightly back up into the air, her hair swirling around her in soft waves. "Don't lead us into any more ambushes, okay, Tarzan?"
"I won't," called the jungle lord. "Who is this T'arzan?"
"If this was all a ploy to get his oyster totem back," Khyrisse said to Vas, "I'm going to kill him anyway."
Vas was too busy watching the flying time-traveler to respond.

***


"Incompetent fools," Malat'k spat at Kong, who was lying lazily on the floor of the evil temple eating bananas. "You said you had robbed the Jungle Lord of all his totems!"
"So?" said Kong. "We did."
"One of his companions still had one stashed away, you simian idiot!"
"Is that my problem?" Kong peeled a banana. "We're just minions, buddy. We do exactly what we're told. Nothing more, nothing less. That's why the boss likes us. You've got a problem, talk to him."
"Yes," hissed the little velociraptor, unpleasantly. "I think I may have to do that. This complicates matters."

Character(s): More Luthiens Than You Can Shake A Stick At
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins Of Fate
Title of Post: A Reunion And A Bit Of Good News
"Luthien, you bitch!" Rhynwa brained him with a sofa cushion and then hugged him fiercely. "It's been six months, where the hell have you been?"
"Six months?" said Luthien.
"You have five minutes," snapped Norna. "We didn't come here for your stupid mortal lovelife, death mage."
Luthien ignored her. "Rhynwa," he said, "honey, I'm sorry. We're trying to save Ataniel--"
"I've got a great idea, Luthien. Why don't you stay home and take care of the kid for once and I'll go save Ataniel. Give me that spear."
"Rhynwa--"
"I'm sick of you running off to--"
"TO SAVE ATANIEL FROM LUTHIEN THE LICH LORD."
That got her attention. "Luthien the who?"
"Three minutes," said Norna.
"A lich lord version of me from an evil future is threatening our timestream. I'm sorry, Rhynwa. I have to take care of this. Listen, this is, uh, an alternate Luthien--"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "The Lich Lord?"
"No, another one. It's a long story, but I needed to bring him here to get him out of his timeline for a little while. I want you to take care of each other while I'm gone. Okay?"
She considered that, looking at the alternate Luthien. "So he's you, right?"
"Yes, he--"
"So it's okay if I sleep with him, right?"
"NO!"
"It's been six months, Luthien."
"I'll hurry!"
"You'd better."
"One minute."
Luthien kissed his wife.
"Time's up."
"Oh, honey," called Rhynwa, as Norna and her teammates began dematerializing. "I almost forgot to tell you! That bitch Trill has been destroyed forever!"
"What???"
"Yeah, can you believe it? Shilree did something right!"
Rhynwa and her house faded from around them, and Flicker and Luthien found themselves standing on the deck of Ralchar's ship again. They looked at each other, looked at Norna, looked at each other again, and then leapt in the air in an exultant high-five that was uncharacteristic of either. "WHOO-HOOOOOO!"
"Stupid mortals," muttered Norna.

***


And back in the true past, Luthien the Dead looked up at the pale gibbous Bane. "Ah," he said. "My destiny has arrived."

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: On Adversity
Skitch crunched sourly through the undergrowth. Khyrisse had cantripped him clean after their encounter with the mudmen, but the brambles were tearing his tunic and messing up his hair, and the damp jungle floor was wrecking his new shoes. "I hate the jungle," he said. "I want to go back to the Abyss."
"Hush, dear," said Val. "Adversity builds character."
"Which, together with two copper pieces, will get you a cup of coffee," muttered Khyrisse.

Character(s): The Rat Pack, and introducing...
Author: Jungle Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Jungleland/Notorious
Title of Post: Nature Abhors an Intelligent Adventuring Party
"I really hate jungles. Let's go to a desert or something."
"Sand is messy, too," Val told Skitch.
"Something is coming," Alphred said, tensing.
"I don't hear anyth-- hey, you're right!" Everyone turned to the direction Alphred was facing, and a moment later, a figure cut its way through the brush.
It was a very large elf, dressed in Salvation Army style clothes and armor, hair so messy that Vas winced, and of all things, a wolfskin cloak. "Damnit! There's gotta be a place to get a Mai-Tai around here somewhere. Hey! Are you guys the local safari tour group?"
Khyrisse's eyes narrowed. "Kerouac!"
"Yes! Pleased to meet you pale but strangely sexy babe!" Val and Vas both had hands on their weapons and were standing front of Skitch and Kit.
"Who?" Jack whispered to Val.
"Traitor of the Significants," she replied softly. "A notorious murderer. And he's supposedly dead."
"Oh, no."
"How are you even alive?" Khyrisse said.
"Well, some time back, Kerouac's dad decided to slip Kerouac's mom the ole tickle pickle, and a little--"
"You were dead, you clod!"
"Really?"
"Yes. You were killed after betraying the Significants and killing the Sunfighter."
"That's a filthy lie, pretty boy! Sunny is a great woman. Good fighter, great drinker. Besides, we were spit brothers."
"What?"
"It's a, uh, little custom," Val muttered, "among elves who are, well... primitive."
"Prime rib for dinner sounds good, babe! But anyhow, you must be mixed up. Kerouac does sometimes forget stuff, like what day it is? Where he is? What he's doing here? Did he remember to put on pants? Did--"
"Yes," Cori said, "I think we've got the idea."
"Where he left his keys? Whether the treasure is on the left or the right? Which fork is for dinner and which is for dessert? What his name is? How to tie his shoelaces?"
"Wow," Skitch said to Kit, "he's pretty dumb!"
"--whether to demand answers and then kill the prisoners, or vice versa? Which end of a longbow you hold? How many roads a man must walk down? Whether it's 1 part rum, 3 parts coke, or 3 parts rum and 1 part vodka?"
"Yes, yes! We get it! You're an idiot!"
"But anyway, Kerouac's point was that while he sometimes forgets things, he's usually good at remembering when it comes to killing people. And he sure didn't kill Sunny. Why on earth would Kerouac do something like that?"
"I believe you went crazy after you got turned into a woman."
He laughed heartily. "Yeah, right! Let me tell you something! They'll take Kerouac's penis away when they pry it from his cold dead hands!!!.... That didn't come out quite right..."
"Tarrin," Khyrisse said through gritted teeth, "check him out."
"Yes, leader. Mr. Kerouac, I am going to investigate your mind. Relax your body and thoughts. Focus on a faraway point. Picture yourself walking down a staircase to a door. You open it and enter a very comfortable room."
"What was the part after 'Mr. Kerouac?' "
Tarrin swore in Diarian. "Just try to think of nothing!"
"Well why didn't you say so, 12-toes? Kerouac is real good at thinking of nothing." He slouched into a position eerily reminiscent of Ebreth and Marty. Except that his eyes were emptier and his jaw slacker.
After some time Tarrin said: "First, you should know that this man is, how you say? A big dope. He does not seem to remember the killing you spoke of. Or of being in Hell."
"He's plenty chaotic," Val said. "But so far as I can tell no evil, no lies. No brain, either."
"Kerouac!" Jack shouted. "Stop thinking of nothing! You're drooling all over the place."
"Sorry. It's surprisingly relaxing. So, you're the leader, eh ghosty? Got any adventures pending that will involve lots of pointless violence?"

Character(s): Marty Hu
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: What Had To Be Said
"You like violence too?" said Marty. "Hey, are you two related or something?"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Kerouac
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland/Notorious
Title of Post: Never, Never, Never Ask Khyrisse About Her Family
"So, you're the leader, eh ghosty? Got any adventures pending that will involve lots of pointless violence?"
"It's Khyrisse, not ghosty," she told Kerouac. "And I certainly hope there's going to be violence. I've been wanting to cast this Tenser's Transformation since the Abyss."
"You like violence too?" said Marty to Kerouac. "Hey, are you two related or something?"
Khyrisse sighed. "Yes, he's my cousin."
"He's your cousin?" Valende said in horror.
"Kerouac is related to you?" Kerouac said.
Khyrisse held her forehead like she was in pain. "Yes, okay? My mom and Kerouac's dad had the same mother. He's my half-first-cousin, if you want to be technical about it."
"Kerouac doesn't." he assured her. "He wants a drink or a fight. Or to get laid."
"Well, we're heading for a fight, and I can get you plenty of drinks when we stop for the night."
"What about getting laid?" Kerouac asked, grinning.
"We're too closely related." Khyrisse pointed out, grinning back. "But two out of three isn't bad."

Character(s): Shilree B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Serpent in the Garden
Shilree wandered the Barrier, avoiding the death traps with ease. Not that she feared death, but being constantly hampered by pits and the like really got annoying fast.
After defeating a particularly nasty trap, Shilree reached her goal. The anti-magic generator for the city of the Barrier. Shilree marvelled at the artifact which emanated an anti-magic field covering well over ten miles past the city limits. Shilree walked up to the generator and placed her ear on its surface.
"I heard you," she said in a sing-song manner.
The generator throbbed quietly.
Shilree then removed an innocent looking bauble that swirled with chaotic patterns from her pouch, and fastened it to the generator's surface. She then took a pot full of smelly salve and wiped it all over the generator's surface. Once that was done Shilree unholstered her pistol, took aim and fired.
The mushroom cloud could be seen for tens of miles. It turned the horizon a dim red. After the glow faded, the real havoc began. Tendrils of wild magic ran amuck across the land. Animals mutated into horrible monsters, people twisted and deformed into monstrous shapes, the land itself cracked and changed. Still the wave of chaos spread, and at ground zero, sitting in the crater, Shilree laughed.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: It's a wonderful life
Title of Post: Pika-doun
There was a flurry of anxious activity at the Diari port as Ralchar's ship laid in. "What's going on?" he asked the dockmaster, cheerfully.
"It is unbelievable," said the dockmaster breathlessly, in Dalen. "Someone has detonated a bomb by the Barrier. The entire city has been laid waste. Those treacherous Cynystrans!"
"No, I think it must have been the evil Talakan, trying to conquer Diaria again," said the captain of a graceful-sailed Diari skimmer.
"Maybe it's another demon incursion causing trouble again," suggested Ralchar.
"I take it that's where we're going?" Norna asked Flicker.
Flicker touched his temples.

***


Shilree stood in a crater of twisted metal and melted glass, laughing as if she were crying, her gem eye sparking. "I am become death, destroyer of worlds," she said rapidly. "I am become death, destroyer of worlds. I am--"
"Can't we leave you alone for five minutes!" shouted Norna.
"BECOME DEATH!" Shilree waved her pistol wildly in the wreckage.
Flicker gritted his teeth and grabbed Shilree by the wrist, wrenching her around. This is becoming a motif, thought some Threnodyesque part of his brain, as his insane ally's weapon discharged into his left cheekbone. He kept his grip on her, pushing her to the blackened earth. "You are worth more than this," he shouted at her in Diari. "Pull yourself together, god damn it, you are worth more than this." She laughed hysterically, and he slapped her as hard as he could. Her head reeled. "We have work to do. We have a mission. You are worth more than this. We are going to the last timelines. We are completing our mission. We are destroying the lich lord and we are eliminating your timeline. I am damned if I am letting this happen to you." He shook her, blood spilling from his cheek. "Get up," he said, in Dalen this time. "I have done enough for this sphere. I have sacrificed enough for this sphere. Get up. We are destroying your timeline and we are destroying you, but we are not destroying her. Get up. You are worth more than this." She flung her arms around him suddenly, choking tinny sobs. Flicker's arm shook. "Get us out of here," he said, half-supporting her. "These people will rebuild this."
"Who cares what they do?" retorted Norna. "This timestream is irrelevant. Tell your fucked-up girl friend that if she runs off like that one more time I will find a way to make her regret it."
"Just do it!" shouted Flicker.
"I am become death," whispered the mad Shilree, her face wet with tears and her only friend's blood.
"Not for long," he said.
"So you're trying to destroy this psycho woman and a lich lord before they kack your timeline," Ralchar guessed.
"Bingo," said Flicker, grimly.
"I think I'll come with you," said Ralchar. "You look like you could use all the help you can get."

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