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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 III



Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish (with one line swiped from Lt. Uhura)
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Look Away
Night fell quickly in Salagia. "We probably ought to set up camp," said Jack.
"That's a good idea," Ember said to Alphred. Jack had noticed that the young time-traveler took any excuse not to look at him. He sighed internally. She must know I'm not human. She isn't even registering that I'm here. Jack was feeling very sorry for himself, but at that moment Valende came up behind him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He just didn't appreciate her enough, thought Jack, warmly.

***


Khyrisse was realizing, to her discomfort, that there were no arches in the jungle. That meant no mansion. "We'll have to sleep out tonight," she sighed. "We can take watches."
"Jack and I can take the first watch," said Val, squeezing his hand. He looked a little down for some reason. "Cori, would you take the second watch with Vas?"
Cori didn't answer.
"Cori," supplied Kit, "Val is talking to you."
Cori turned her back to the elven woman. "Nice weather we're having," she said loudly to Ebreth and Marty, on the other side of Jack. Neither answered her.
Khyrisse sighed again. "Cori, would you take the second watch with Vas, please?"
"I would be honored," said Cori, looking at Khyrisse.

***


Ember stolled up to Vas as he started the campfire. "Hey," she said. "Could you look at me for a second?" He did, startled. "You know, you haven't met my eyes all day. I haven't got the plague."
Vas was aghast. "I am terribly sorry, fair maiden--"
She chuckled, low and melodic. "Rais sepour," she said, winked at him, and moved back across to Khyrisse.
I'm neither.
Vas shook his head, his teeth too tight together. This was not boding well. Val gave him a stern look, and he turned his back on her, tapping nervous energy out through one of his boot toes.

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: X Chromosomes Of The World, Unite!
Khyrisse was suppressing giggles poorly on the other side of the fire. "That wasn't very nice," she reproached the time-traveler. "He's trying to keep celibate."
"That's fine with me. I just don't want him flirting with everyone but me. A girl's got her pride, you know."
"Do I ever!" laughed Khyrisse. "I can't stand to be ignored."
"Well, I'm just seeing to it that I won't be." The two elven women laughed together briefly, and then Khyrisse, abruptly remembering Ariath, jumped up jerkily and crossed the campsite to see what Jack was reading Ebreth.
"These people are so messed up," Ember sighed to Garal, and poured herself a drink. "Brandy?"

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: More Fun Than A Barrel Of Raptors
"I'd be delighted," Garal replied, trying not to stare at her for too long. "And yes, they are. It makes them very hard to talk to."

Character(s): Marzoom, Cloak, Luthien-2
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: The Lich Lords Return: Marzoom
Title of Post: A Gathering Darkness
Marzoom sat on his ivory throne, waiting. He was finally back at his old levels of power, but it wasn't enough. He had been cut off from the world too long. His agents were long destroyed, except for the few which had fled deeper into the catacombs. Only a small handful of them were strong enough to withstand the centuries. He had to rebuild his cadre.
His withered hands moved swiftly through the old rituals, sending a call out to all those who were bound to him. He wasn't even sure if they still held power, or if they had proven weaker than he had planned. He knew that they lived, though, and that was enough. They would come to him, no matter what. All those that bore the mark would have no choice.

***


The stranger sat silently in the traveler's inn, listening to the hushed conversations around him. Much of the talk was of the great storm which had struck the region a few weeks ago. Apparently, the damage was so extensive in this region, they were still recovering.
No one spoke to him, except when he wished it. His power was too great for them to resist. Gods, what bumpkins. I had a harder time influencing gutter drunks back in Tobrinel.
He had come to this region on a whim, but lately he had been questioning his decision. What had really made him come to this provincial setting? There was no noble to court here, no merchant captain who he could profit from. For all he knew, his own court could be in shambles back in Tobrinel. For all his competence as an assassin, Blackblade could be a slipshod leader.
Cloak cast those thoughts aside as the sigil on his palm throbbed again. There is something here for me, and for me alone. I just know it. Strengthened by that thought, he resolved that tomorrow night he would find the source of this beckoning and end it, peacefully or otherwise.

***


The visiting Luthien nearly dropped the cookpot as his palm began to throb. Placing it carefully down on the table, he took off the heavy glove which concealed the mark of his curse. It was almost luminescent, and Luthien could feel something trying to draw him to it. No, I can't afford to. I would be endangering two worlds if I go.
He put the glove back on, but it did nothing to silence the constant, insistent urge from the sigil on his palm.

***


Cloak flew quickly over the Vadril Ocean, heading straight towards the ancient ruin on the island. He took care to be wary of the everpresent storm clouds overhead. According to the barmaid he spoke with last night, this is where the big storm had originated. He also learned that this island had always been regarded as cursed and evil. That was good enough for him.
Landing on one of the crumbling parapets, he quickly shifted to his normal form. He peered down into the courtyard, and was surprised to find that the darkness was impenetrable, even by his heightened senses.
Looks like I'll have to do this the hard way. That's fine. Whatever is down there can face the consequences.
He let his form fade into mist, then drifted slowly down through the broken gates. As he came into the main hall, a raspy voice called out to him.
"Your vaporous form is...unsuitable for conversation. You will abandon it. Now."
Cloak found himself falling to the floor against his will. He scrambled to his feet, trying to regain a sense of composure. Impossible! No one can force me to change forms like that! I'll have his life's blood for this!!
A bony figure, with sunken eyes and shrunken skin, emerged from the shadows near the back of the room. His robes were ornately decorated with runes and sigils. Cloak recognized some of them as necromantic symbols, and some of them were religious symbols of some sort, but those weren't what concerned him. What caught his eye was the large pendant hanging from around the lich's neck. It bore the image of a skull, with a thirteen-pointed lightning bolt bisecting it. It throbbed in time with the throbbing of his palm, and matched the sigil exactly.
The bony figure spoke again, this time piercing Cloak to his core. "My name is Marzoom, and you and all of your blood are mine to command."

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: More Jungle Stereotypes, Coming Up
Title of Post: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
It was the third watch. Garal sat up with Tarrin, watching Ember sleep in the firelight. He couldn't recall ever having seen a woman who was quite so attractive. She was stretched gracefully along the ground, her head inclined into the curve of her bare arm and her long, soft hair trailing along the embroidered edge of her cloak. There was a very soft sigh from Tarrin, as if the Diari was shifting position. Garal watched Ember breathe. He felt a sharp sting on his neck, and swatted at it reflexively. And then Garal felt nothing.

***


Alphred was restless without the totem of the sloth. So restless that he did not wake until the second body hit the jungle floor. But not restless enough that he wasn't on his feet by the second soft thud. "Awaken!" he cried. "We are under attack!"
"Lemme alone," muttered Skitch, and pulled his blanket over his head further.
Khyrisse sat straight up. Tarrin and Garal lay sprawled under a tree, darts protruding from their throats. Two furry, halfling-sized creatures in simple leather clothing were already attacking Alphred with spears, and she could see the shadows of more melting into their campsite to attack her sleeping comrades. A dart whistled by her left ear and buried itself in a tree branch as she rolled. "E'woks!" shouted Alphred, needlessly.
"Oh, BOY!" yelled Kerouac, springing out of his bedroll in his underwear. "A fight! Kerouac LOVES a fight!"

Character(s): Jack and the Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Like Red In Front Of A Bull, or, Shooting Ewoks in a Barrel
Jack pulled a dart from his neck.
"Hey, these things must be drugged," he said, before taking his best dart throwing stance and tossing it right between the eyes of an E'wok.
"Um, dear," Val said, maneuvering around him, "you might want to, you know... dodge a little? At least stop looking like you're in a pub?"
Jack pulled a dart out of his ass with a tiny wince.
"I need the stance to get a good foundation for the arc," Jack mumbled, tossing another dart.
The fray continued around him.
"You know," he muttered to no one in particular, "I'm really going to be happy when one of our combats includes shuffleboard."

Character(s): The House of Khyrisse and the Evil Ewoks
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Unsuspected Talents And Suspect Relatives
"Hey, leggo!" The shout was accompanied by the sound of something being dragged over the ground.
Skitch woke up with a start, Kit's voice practically in his ear. He heard Khyrisse casting a spell on his other side--a really complicated one, from the sound of it. She was going a mile a minute under her breath, a long chain of twisty Elven syllables that made no sense whatsoever. He struggled around with his blanket for a second before he could get it off and look around. There were a bunch of furry critters throwing darts and grabbing people, all over the camp! Khyrisse yanked her sword out with one fluid motion and vaulted over the log behind them, tossing the scabbard to the ground as she went. Skitch caught a glimpse of her face, and she looked really mad.
Mom's okay where's Kit Kit yelled--
There was a struggling muddle off on his other side, in the foreground of which was Kit, kicking a fuzzball in what was probably the knees. It let go of her, howling and hopping around in pain. Kit grinned.
Kit saw a shadowy motion over where Skitch was and felt something whisk past her head. Something way too close behind her made a really gross sort of gurgling noise and thumped to the ground.
"Get down, they can see you against the fire!" Skitch called. Kit dropped onto all fours and scrambled nimbly back into camp. The dim firelight didn't let her see much, only Skitch's pale face and hands. Something glinted in one of his hands as he swept it in an arc over her head, and there was another shriek of pain from the undergrowth.
Kit landed next to him, behind the log. "Hey, we found something that your screwy eyesight is actually good for!"
"Yeah, watching your back, you booger!" Skitch grinned.
"Well, it was about time you returned the favor," she retorted, grinning back.

***


Vas, hovering in the air above the camp, saw a flash of silver beneath him as he nocked an arrow and spared a moment to look.
Skitch, clearly visible in Vas' infravision, had his set of throwing daggers laid out on the ground beside him. As he watched, Skitch's hand snapped out with surprising accuracy and buried one of the flat little silver blades in an E'wok's eyesocket. The creature screamed, briefly, and fell back into the undergrowth.
Vas drew and aimed at another furball, one throwing darts at the Rat Pack from a "safe" distance. Skitch, when this fight is over, I'm checking under that light-brown, artfully-arranged tangle of yours for pointed ears, Vas thought, grinning. If Khyrisse lets me, that is. I wonder if your haircolor and build are not as much of a coincidence as I thought...

***


Khyrisse dashed through the plantlife that seemed to be everywhere in this country, arms crossed before her to protect her face. She felt one or two darts bounce off her stoneskin, felt a weapon of some kind do the same as she shoved aside one of the attackers.
Once she was far enough out, she stopped and turned around. Several of the furry little not-halflings were coming after her, probably thinking she was trying to escape.
Nope, she thought, grinning as she finished her spell. I just wanted to pull some of you away from Ebreth and the kids. I finally get to kick the crap out of something, and with perfectly good reason, too.

***


Vas caught a flash of blood-red about a dozen feet into the jungle as he nocked his fourth arrow. The sound of a high-pitched snarl--mirrored, creepily, by a hissing noise from somewhere at the other end of camp--reached his ears before total mayhem broke out in both locations. He could see Khyrisse whirling like a miniature tornado beneath the trees, slashing, turning, ducking aside... Vas watched her longsword slice through spear, then shield, then the arm behind it, in one fluid stroke. The archmage was gone again, before the E'wok who had attacked her even had time to bleed.
The furry critters on that side of the camp screamed in rage and swarmed her. Khyrisse didn't seem particularly worried. She didn't even seem slowed down.
I would not have wanted to be your ex-husband, milady, Vas thought in amusement, and glanced swiftly around the camp below him, seeking another target.

Character(s): Alphred
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout/Jungleland etc.
Title of Post: Imagine him in a Bar Fight
Alphred, even after taking hits from three darts, was fighting well. He just punched out one of the E'woks and smashed two of their skulls together.
Alphred turned around just in time to see a half dozen or so of the fuzzy creatures swamp Khyrisse. Alphred grabbed the first one and jumped up into the trees. His furry passenger was screaming and kicking. Alphred hauled the E'wok over his head and threw him down onto the mass of creatures surrounding the tree.
That is when the drug took effect.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Kerouac, "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Violence and Shadow Magic
Alphred fell like a ton of bricks right onto Khyrisse. She felt her arm snap as his weight, more than twice her own, crashed into her from twenty feet above, but in the berserk rage bestowed upon her by her transformation she didn't care much. Screaming a war cry in Elvish, Khyrisse scrambled from under the unconscious body of the jungle lord with her sword in both hands, almost on her knees, one of the bones of her forearm jutting sickly from her no-longer-alabaster skin. Stoneskin gone. Khyrisse Starshadow didn't care.
"Kerouac likes Kerouac's cousin!" shouted the berserker, chopping a furry little head off with his giant axe.
Ember whipped her embroidered cloak around, reflecting an E'wok's dart off it, and twisted her left hand, whispering the words to a spell. Khyrisse's heightened senses picked up the incantation, and her nostrils curled with angry recognition. Four dark pythons shot out from the shadows towards the furry jungle creatures, who screamed in terror and stumbled over each other trying to flee. "Khyrisse hates illusionists!" screamed the sorceress, blood running down her face.
"Kerouac hates illusionists too!" shouted the ugly elf, joyfully.
"Oh, don't even start," muttered Ember.

Character(s): Kerouac, Vastarin
Author: Jungle Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Jungle Boogie
Title of Post: Flattery will get you everywhere
Khyrisse was a vision of Grendel.
So was Kerouac, but with all of the nasty little teddybears dead or fled, he came down off of it. He walked back into camp, a bloody battleaxe in one hand, a dead E'wok in the other, clad only in his boxer shorts. They had a pair of orange semi-circles on them, surrounding red writing which read: Home of the Whopper
Cheerfully, he tossed the creature over his shoulder, hit himself in the chest and shouted "Ignoramus!"
"Kerouac... did you just use a four syllable word?"
"Yes. It is an ancient word which means 'great and mighty warrior.' "
"It is, eh?"
"Yes. Kerouac knows this because people always call him one."
"In that case," Vas said, "let me say that you are the greatest ignoramus I have ever met."
"Why, thank you!"

Character(s): Khyrisse, worshipper of Grendel
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Beserker Elves Are The Same All Over
Khyrisse gritted her teeth and willed the red haze to clear away. Ember is not an enemy. Just because I hate illusionists and I hate shadow-magic doesn't mean that she's a manipulative selfish cold-hearted liar. It really really doesn't. Not necessarily, anyway. Table it. The enemy is all dead. Chill.
She could tell the spell had worn off when the pain hit. The world went from a red misty haze to a red sparkly haze. She sucked air in through her tightly closed teeth and sat down carefully, dropping her sword. Once she was sure she wasn't going to scream if she opened her mouth, she yelled, "Val? Can you heal this? Are other people hurt? I can cast a spell if I've got to!"
"We're okay!" Kit called from near the fire.
"Ebreth's okay too!" Skitch added.
Thank you, Grendel. I'm so glad I put another stoneskin spell on him. Vas landed next to her and grimaced in sympathy at her arm. "It seems as if you are our only injury, other than those hit by darts."
"Well, that's typical..." Khyrisse muttered crankily. She raised her voice so she could be heard by the fire. "Val, concentrate on unpoisoning people first, we don't know what that stuff does. Come to think of it, cure Alphred first-- he might have injuries, too-- and have him tell you."
"You stay there," Valende said sternly. "I carry potions with me for curing poison, this won't take long. Vas, don't let her do anything foolish like get up."
"Trust me, I'm not going anywhere!" Khyrisse snapped, cradling her broken forearm carefully in her other hand.
"Pain doesn't appear to improve your temperament, milady," Vas teased quietly, scanning the area around them for further movement.
"Boy are you slow," Khyrisse flung back cryptically. "I want a drink."
"You are a lot like your cousin."
"Well, other than the fact that I'm not exactly dog-faced and I have a few brain cells to rub together to keep my skull warm-- yes, I am!"
"Which of your types runs in the family?"
"Depends on who you ask. We're all a bit chaotic." Khyrisse craned her neck around and shouted, "Hey, Kerouac! Vas wants to know if brains are supposed to run in our family or not... what say we drink for it? First one to pass out or throw up is the mutant!"
"Kerouac is the mutant! Kerouac can remember that much!" the berserker elf shouted back amiably. "But Kerouac will still happily drink you under the table, cousin!"
"That'll take you a lot longer than you think!"
"You're all crazy," Vas murmured, grinning.
Khyrisse grinned back. "Luthien gave me his trollish fortitude spell."
Valende knelt in front of her. "Can you stay still?"
"Yes..."
Before Khyrisse knew what she was doing, Valende straightened her arm, popping the bone back under the skin with one swift, careful motion.
"YeeeeaaaAARRRRGH!!!"
"You really should warn people, sister."
"Anticipating it is worse," Valende said apologetically.
"I'm getting that drink, now, thank you," Khyrisse gasped, and crawled back into camp on her healed forearm.

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