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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 V

Character(s): Asinus Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Thinking of You
"Pour me another one, V. C.," Asinus grumbled.
"You been hittin' de spirits pretty hard, mon," Voodoo Child said, holding Asinus' cup but not removing it.
"We've got the flarkin' Remnant riding up our--pardon my Tobrinese--asses, and my nephew's out puttering around in some jungle somewhere."
"Dat is not all of it, certainly?"
"I just got back from Hell. It sort of changes the way you look at stuff, that's all."
"You have de look of a donkey wit a lot of changes in yo mind."
"Maybe," growled Asinus. "Maybe I do. You know, Lora's so happy with Caimen... It makes you think about all the things you miss being a donkey."
"Surely de 'terror of de island women' is na thinkin' of de family life?"
"I mean, how many chances for love does a donkey come upon?" Asinus asked rhetorically. "Three, four hundred?"
"De last you tole me, it was tree-ninety-two."
"It's six now. And what has it gotten me? A couple of decent memories and a nasty case of the mange, that one time. I don't know, V.C.... there's something I'm missing."
"It sound like dere is some one you be missin'."
"Yeah," grumbled Asinus, "you may just be right."
"Yo girl got a name?"
"Khyrisse flarkin' Starshadow," Asinus grumbled. "Don't that beat all."
"Yo certainly a donkey wit ambition, my frien'."
"And I'm scared that's all it's going to be, V.C. Of all the hearts in all the donkeys in all the world, she had to walk into mine."

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes To Ashes
Title of Post: The Last Mithril Dagger Heroes
"He's taken over the Time Dome," said Kyria Vesper.
Stalker clenched his gloved hand, his shoulder shaking.
"Then this is it," said Kitreyla. "We've got to take this back and we've got to do it now."
"You're ready?" said Ember. "Could you have told me this LAST week, when the Timelord could have sent me?"
"I'm not ready." The Greatest Thief On Ataniel shrugged. "Sometimes we have to improvise."
"Tim--" said Ember, "Kyria, whoever you are, can you--"
The tall priestess shook her head. "I can plot your temporal mechanics for you," she said. "I have no powers over space and time. If we only had a way to contact Warp--"
"The beacon is gone," said Stalker. "You're the only Mithril Dagger Hero left, Sunfighter."
"We are the only Mithril Dagger Heroes left," corrected Ember. "And we're going to have to carry this ourselves. Now Kit's got the device, I've got the Bracelet of the Path, and Timrin can lay me in a course. We just need to find a way of actually sending me."
"And as it just so happens," said a low, steady voice from behind them, "I've only used two wish spells." Ember whirled around. Eric Tremontagne stood shadowed in the entrance to the Dagger's private room. "Now would seem to be a very opportune time to spend the third."
Ember put her hand on her hip and regarded the older illusionist for a few moments, and then she smiled. "Well," she said, and held out her hand. Kit put the artifact she had stolen there and closed her friend's fingers around it, as if willing it to work despite the hasty job of setting it she'd had to do. "Let's rock and roll."
"Good luck," said Kyria.
"I hate to put it this way," said Kitreyla, "but may we be the last Mithril Dagger Heroes this world ever sees."
"Give him hell," said Stalker, and gripped her forearm.
"Give him hell," said Eric, quietly.
"Ember?" The time-traveler looked up from her thoughts quickly as Khyrisse came downstairs looking sheepish. "Look, I'm sorry for flying off the handle... I'm having a hard time trusting the people I know right now, and well... you can't tell us anything about yourself because of the temporal paradox it would cause. I'm having a hard time dealing."
"I noticed." Ember smiled at Khyrisse and squeezed her hand a little harder than the sorceress had been expecting. "Don't worry about it. Let's go get ourselves something to eat."

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Jungleland/Ashes to Ashes/who can tell
Title of Post: It Looks Easy in the Movies
Garal drew Khyrisse aside as she took a bottle of wine out of the wine cellar for dinner. "Khyrisse, I really like Ember, but I just don't know what to do. How do you flirt with a woman so that she knows you're interested but, you know, enjoys the attention?"

Character(s): Khyrisse and Garal
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland/Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Right Player... Wrong Elven Character
Khyrisse blinked at Garal in surprise, and leaned against the door to the cellar. Flirting. I've been specializing in avoiding people trying to flirt with me, for the past two decades. Grendel, will I have to go far back for this answer...
"Um," she said, stalling for time. "Are you sure you shouldn't be asking a guy this?"
Garal hesitated. The people who might have an answer and are able to talk wouldn't understand the question. He finally said, "They're all busy." He looked distinctly uncomfortable as he added, "Anyway, I thought that a woman would know more about it."
Khyrisse decided to have mercy and not tease him about it, although she couldn't suppress her smile entirely. "Well," she said, "I can tell you one thing. You're too serious, Garal. Flirting should almost never be serious. It should be light-hearted, and amusing, and any more serious sentiment--" she paused, her eyes far away. Her empty hand lifted and made an odd gesture, as if she were resting an invisible fan against her smiling lips. "--if there is one, should be carefully hidden beneath the facade. Flirting is a lot like teasing your friends was in childhood, just... more adult, and less combative." She looked back at Garal's face, registering the confusion of his expression. "Have fun, Garal," she explained. "Relax. Flatter her. Find opportunities to laugh together. Let her know you admire her, but leave her a graceful out." She shrugged a bit, helplessly. "That's about all I know, Garal. You should probably ask Vas." She smiled sympathetically and nudged him in the direction of the dining room. "Come on, dinner's getting cold."

Character(s): Kit, Skitch, Schneider
Author: Jungle Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Jungle Boogie
Title of Post: The Kids are All Right
"I just love Salagia, don't you?"
"Yeah, it's great," Skitch lied, for in fact he didn't think Salagia was 'great' at all. 'Groty' was a little more like it.
"So, how're ya doing, kids?"
Both pre-teens jumped when the voice suddenly came from the room they thought they had occupied alone. Kit stared at the rather large jaw that had appeared on the wall. "Mr. Schneider?"
"Right the first time."
"I thought you left," Skitch said.
"I did, but I decided to leave a little spell behind, in case the Pack needed any help or something. And they're gonna need it especially from you two."
"Of course! I'm the greatest thief in Ataniel, you know."
"Do tell. Tell me something then. Who's the smartest member in this little ratnick group of yours?"
"Khyrisse!" Skitch replied.
"And Mr. Paris. He's a real braniac."
"Yeah. And his uncle knew a lot about law stuff."
"Right. And the Princess was too. You must have to be smart to use psionics."
"Uh huh. Plus there's---"
"Wrong!" the mouth thundered. "It's you two!"
"It is?"
"Well, after Khyrisse. You see, those other people know stuff, but they're kinda book smart. You guys are the ones with the street smarts-- knowing when it's time for the other experts to use their specialty, stuff like that."
"Cool!" they said, high-fiving each other.
"Now don't get cocky; part of being smart means knowing when to back off."
"You mean, like when we ran away from all those fighting demons?"
"Exactly. So listen to what Khyri says, and try to keep the rest of this crew out of trouble for me, ok?"
"Good. Oh, and I'd avoid pissing off Miss Yashida, too. Anyhow, I left a little something to help you out if things maybe get hairy. Just check right under the rug, right over there...."

Character(s): Kit, Skitch
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Under the Rug
"I still think Mr. Paris is the smartest," Kit said.
"Ah, you're just saying that because the same guy writes you both," Skitch scoffed.
Kit pulled the box out from the small niche under the rug. It was wrapped in red and green paper, like a Christmas present. The bow was made from some strange multicolored ribbon. Skitch ripped it open. "Eww," Kit said, looking into the box.
"Are these... real?" Skitch asked.
Kit tenderly took the set of teeth out of the box. They chattered contentedly. "I don't think so," Kit said.
"Oh, these are going to be real useful," Skitch said, watching the teeth bob open and shut.
"Everything is all right!" the teeth said. "Nothing is wrong!"
The two kids looked at the talking teeth.
"You know, I bet Khyrisse would like them," Kit said. "They're..."
"Oddly comforting," Skitch agreed.
"Don't forget to watch tonight's new episode of South Park on Comedy Central!" the teeth said.
"Or maybe not..."

Character(s): Skitch, Kit, Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: This Title Could Have Been A Really Bad Pun-- Be Glad I Didn't Go There
"Oh, there's something underneath!" Skitch pried up the envelope taped to the bottom of the box and opened it with one of his daggers. Two Tarot-sized cards tumbled out, along with a folded piece of paper and a smaller envelope, with a butterfly drawn on it in crayon. Skitch opened the note while Kit looked at the cards. "'These are for you guys'," Skitch read. " 'The cards'll create an illusion of the critters on them, if you get in trouble-- don't worry about using 'em up, they recharge. Give the envelope to Khyri. Later!' ...Cool! Lemme see!" Skitch said, peering over Kit's shoulder.
"These are pretty neat...! Which one do you want?"


After dinner, Skitch followed Khyrisse to her study and crept up behind her. He reached out and tugged on her sleeve, grinning a bit when she jumped. "Mom?"
Khyrisse fell into her chair, puffing out air. "Dratted thieves," she complained amiably. "What's up, kiddo?"
"Schneider left you a letter," he said, handing over the envelope. "He gave Kit and I magic cards."
"Oh, I remember those..." Khyrisse said, opening the envelope with a smile. She pulled out the letter and scanned it. Skitch blinked at her in surprise when the smile vanished from her face. She paled a bit and looked up at Skitch, pinning him in place. "When did you talk to him last?"
Skitch stared into Khyrisse's eyes, transfixed. He would have sworn that swirls of mist were beginning to surface in the violet-and gold. "Um, right before dinner. He left a spell behind in our room that talked to us."
For a brief, terrifying, exhilarating moment, Skitch was sure that he was having that dream again. The sensation of falling into the empty space behind Khyrisse's eyes was very strong, before she closed them and bent her head. Her face was pale as alabaster, and the lamplight caught in her hair like gold, with a glint of white at either temple. Skitch sat down hard, staring wide-eyed at his adoptive mother.


Oh man oh spit oh my flarking Grendel...! Please don't tell me he did something... badly unwrapped. Please. Khyrisse concentrated on the weave of the mental construct around her, the magical fabric of the mansion. The threads danced through her head, some of them gleaming in brighter colors as members of the Rat Pack passed over them or through them, moved them around, rested on them. She ran the threads through her mental fingers, searching frantically. Where did he put them? Can you program them to say certain things? Only to certain people? Oh, I'll kill him...
No. Nothing in Ebreth's room, nor any of the bedrooms except the kids'. Nothing in the hallways, or the bathroom, or the library dowstairs. Khyrisse slumped back into her chair for a moment, relieved of her most pressing worry. All right, I know where they're not... if this were something like the other day, they'd have been one in Ebreth's room. There's one in the kids' room, but he would never hurt the kids. Where are the rest of them?
She was unsurprised to find one in her study. He had ample opportunity to set that one... There was one in the kitchen. And one in the arboretum. Everywhere else was untouched. What a weird sensation this is, she thought, calmer now. He cast spells on the magical construct of my home. There are spells in my head that I didn't cast, and wouldn't know how to. Sighing, Khyrisse opened her eyes again and looked at the instructions Schneider had left. Against her will, she started giggling at some of the elaborate, ludicrous "triggers" he'd designed for them. She relaxed a bit further. All right, this looks like what he says it is, and they can't possibly go off on their own. It's probably got nothing to do with Ebreth. He might have pulled something like this in the Tour days, and driven Luthien crazy with it. She grinned briefly at the mental image, but it faded. Khyrisse settled into her chair, chewing at her bottom lip, frowning worriedly. "I'm going to make sure Ebreth's never left alone in one of those rooms," she murmured absently.
"Is it all okay?" Skitch asked, very quietly. Khyrisse looked up, surprised, to find her adoptive aon sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her chair. He looked a bit shocky. She pulled him up to his feet, and gave him a quick hug. "Yes, sorry. I-- there was someth-- it could have been dangerous. But it's okay." She released him and nudged him towards the door. "You go finish your lesson, and practice some with Kit. I'll read you guys a story tonight."
"Cool!" Skitch was out the door before she could blink.
Well, good. He was depending on me a bit too much. And I know exactly nothing about thief skills, other than how to prevent them from working on my things. "Sennett," she said, once she was sure Skitch was gone. Sennett materialized next to her chair.
"Yes, milady?"
"There are spells set in these locations in the Mansion." A mental twist placed the information in Sennett's knowledge patterns. "If any of them activate, notify me immediately. Even if I have asked not to be disturbed. No matter what." Sennett bowed and vanished.
Khyrisse sighed heavily and fretted at a pen on her desktop. Dammit... Trillarilla got off too easy. I'm having to worry about one of my closest friends and his possible homicidal intentions towards my catatonic lover. Or worse. She folded her arms on the desk and dropped her forehead onto them. Schneider, did you learn so little from my life that you didn't know that it's worse to leave them alive and thinking about it... or was that what you intended all along?

Character(s): Skitch and Kit
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Collectable Card Guardians
"I'll trade you my rookie Signet card for your magic Tarot," Kit wheedled.
"Your rookie Signet and your 803 Significants team card."
"No way!" Kit cried. "I had to give my whole run of Mithril Dagger Heroes cards to get that!"
"Then you can't have my magic Tarot," Skitch huffed.
"But you got the cool one... I don't think Schneider meant to leave me with the 'Inflatable Succubus' card."
"Yeah," Skitch empathized. "What the heck would you do with a card like that anyway?"
"My Signet rookie and this rock I stole from Mephisto."
"Who wants a stupid rock? I like my magic Tarot."
"Do you think he meant to give you the Red Dragon card?" Kit asked. "It seems kinda dangerous..."
"I'm sure Schneider knew what he was doing."


Meanwhile, thousands of miles away...
"Hey, where's that 'inflatable succubus' card?" Schneider muttered, flipping through his deck. "I know it was here three nights ago... schwing!" Schneider frowned, and started going through the deck of many things carefully. "Let's see... minotaur, eagle, chef, mecha, Corwin, Benedict, Dworkin, vampire, mummy, creature from the Black Lagoon... hey, wait a minute... didn't I give minotaur and eagle to the kids? Oh, bugger..."

Character(s): Asinus, Caimen
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Homecoming
It was an incongruous sight to find a donkey walking along the moonlit beach, but the families who worked on the Paris estate were used to it. At least, as used as one can get to Asinus Paris. The smoke from the donkey's cigar made strange patterns in the night air. Asinus frowned. He was no tobbacomancer, but even he knew that sometimes a cigar wasn't just a cigar.
Then he noticed the boat.
Far off, farther than human eyes would be able to see ("thanks a flarking lot, Arturian,") was a small skiff, bobbing in the rough ocean.
It bore a Paris crest.
Spitting the stogie into the sand, Asinus galloped off to get Caimen. He had yet to find a boat that donkey hooves could pilot, flark it all.
Moments later, the two men (okay, one man, one donkey) were cutting through the unusually disturbed sea.
"Do you think it could be Jack?" Caimen asked.
"Last I know, he was travelling by Trade Carriage," Asinus said. "Oddly roomy and comfortable, actually."
"I won't even ask how you fit in one."
"The lady who makes them is a... special friend," Asinus insinuated.
"Well, it could be Lavin and Pruze... they haven't reported in from St. Xavier's... Word says that Remnant ships were seen there."
"Two more who know about the Passage lost? This isn't a campaign, this is a debacle!"
"If all you've told me about Ebreth Tor is correct, Asinus, then our doomed position is only temporary."
Caimen pulled their ship around next to the seemingly-abandonded skiff. Asinus jumped out and landed on all fours in the mystery boat. "Yo!" he shouted. "Who's aboard?" Taking the bowrope in his teeth, he tossed it to Caimen, who started to tie the two ships together. Then his donkey ears picked up the moaning over the roar of the sea. "We've got a live one, whoever it is," Asinus brayed to Caimen. The donkey carefully clambered down into the skiff.
There, bloodied, beaten and emaciated, curled up in the corner of the stateroom, was Rauvin Paris.
"Flarking hell!" Asinus spat. "Rauvin, what the flark happened to you? We thought you were dead!"
"Remnant..." Rauvin whispered, a hint of madness to his voice. "Remnant and... another."
Then the one-time cleric passed out.
"Where's flarkin' Alphred of the Jungle when ya need him?" Asinus grumbled as he took Rauvin's shirt in his teeth and started to drag him deckside.
Caimen's face took on a mask of astonishment when he saw who Asinus had rescued.
"You know," Caimen said, "we may just lick this Remnant thing yet..."
"Rever ray rick ro a rye rith a relve-rinch rongue," Asinus said.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, Malat'k the Very Small But Mighty Velociraptor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Fault Lines
"You dealt that from the bottom of the deck!"
"I did not!"
"I saw you!" Skitch and Kit wrestled briefly over the trick. Kit got most of it. "You rotten jerk. I-- Ebreth, you saw her cheat, didn't you?"
"Maybe you should ask someone who's not a vegetable," suggested Kit.
"No one else will play with us. We need to learn some grown-up games." Skitch rearranged his shirt. "From the top of your pile this time, you weenie. War."
Ebreth turned over his card. It was the jack of spades.
"Jack is higher than eight or three," said Skitch, patiently. "You win this round. Take the cards."
Ebreth's hand began, imperceptibly at first, to shake.


On the other side of the jungle, the tropical birds darted like brightly colored needles around the plumes of steam breaking from the earth, keening in high-pitched cacophany. The plateau rumbled and moved like a sleeping monster, the groaning of the rock wiping out Hot's posh villainous cackling. The earth tore open and spit out its burning blood. And the jungle screamed in terror.
"Is this really necessary?" said Malat'k, crossly.


"Oh, crap!" said Kit, jumping up as Ebreth fell to his forearm on the table. "What did I do?" said Skitch, terrified. Ebreth's head was bowed, his body wracked with tremors. "I've got to get Khyr--"
"No!" Kit grabbed his arm. "We'll get in trouble! Throw--throw some water on him. That's what they do when people get in withdrawal."
"I don't have any water!" said Skitch, high-pitched. "Calm down, Ebreth. We, we're not going to hurt you. Please calm down!"
"Is there water in this?" Kit grabbed a vase of daffodils.
As suddenly as it had started, Ebreth's spasm stopped. His shaking fists unclenched into hands and he sagged into the table without tension. Skitch exhaled. "Phew!"
"I'll say!" Kit turned the vase upside down. The daffodils fell out but no water.
"Did you see that? I told him to calm down and he did. I'm psychic."
"You're not psychic, you booger."
"I am! When I grow up I want to be a psionicist."
"When you grow up you're going to be a booger." Kit cleaned up Ebreth's stack and put the last trick on the bottom of it. Kit didn't palm any of the cards. She didn't want to set the guy off again. "War."
Skitch had a ten. Kit had a nine. Ebreth didn't move. "Turn over your card," said Skitch, uneasily. He just sat, glossy with sweat, his clear eyes as vacant and unfocused as when they had first found him. "I don't think he wants to play anymore," said Kit.
Skitch was shaken, but pretended he wasn't. "War takes forever with two players."
"Not when one of them's the Greatest Thief On Ataniel. Give me half of his cards and watch me kick your butt."

Character(s): Skitch, Tarrin, Khyrisse, Jack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (second-language psycho-babble by Laura Redish)
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Conflicting Loyalties
Skitch kicked along the upstairs hallway, hands in his pockets, frowning thoughtfully at the floor. I can�t tell Khyrisse what happened, because I�ll get Kit in trouble... but I can�t not tell, because Ebreth could be really worse or something... I wish I knew what happened, �cause then I�d know whether or not to tell, but he can�t talk yet so I can�t ask him an--. Skitch�s face brightened with a sudden idea, and he raced down the hallway.


�Um, so anyway, I was kind of bored, so I was playing cards with Ebreth, and we were playing War and he turned over his card and he won,� Skitch babbled, sitting on Tarrin�s bed with the Diarian priest listening carefully. �And then all of a sudden he got really upset, and he started shaking and stuff, and-- and I was going to throw some water on him, but I didn�t have any, so I told him that he was okay and nobody was going to hurt him, and he just-- just collapsed. And now he doesn�t do anything at all. I mean, really nothing, like when we found him. I�m scared, Tarrin. Did we mess him up? Mom�s going to be really upset.�
�No, I think this is the good thing, Skitch,� Tarrin reassured him solemnly.
�Good?� Skitch repeated, doubtfully. Tarrin nodded firmly.
�Something about the card game reminds him of something else, something that makes him frightened or unhappy. The heart she awaken. Only it is painful.�
�Oh,� said Skitch, dubiously.
"The doofery is sometimes counter-intuitive, little Skitch."
"I wish I were as smart as you, Tarrin."
�You may wish to be brave instead,� Tarrin said, with a smile. �Because Jack and Khyri must be told what has happened.�
Skitch swallowed. �Um, do you think you could do that? You�ll explain it better.�


Khyrisse clenched her hands together tightly, but she nodded. �All right,� she whispered. �I... think I understand what happened. This is going to happen again then, isn�t it?�
Tarrin nodded. �Ebreth must face the memories of what hurt him, and the heart she is already broken. It will be very hard, very unhappy. But Skitch did not mean harm by what he did.�
�No, of course not,� she said. Her hand shook as she pushed her hair away from her face. �I�m not mad, I just wish people would tell me these things... Thank you, Tarrin.�


Khyrisse closed Ebreth�s door gently behind her and leaned back against it. She covered her mouth with her hands, eyes filling, now that she was where Ebreth couldn�t see her.
�Um... Khyrisse?�
She opened her eyes and saw Jack standing in front of her, looking puzzled.
�Is Ebreth all right?�
Khyrisse nodded. �He�s had a bit of a relapse, but Tarrin says that it�s part of his recovery. He was actually upset by something, which is a good sign, but...� She shrugged a bit as her throat tightened, tears spilling down onto her fingers as she covered her mouth again.
�Oh... okay. I guess that makes sense.� Jack looked at her doubtfully. �Um, are you okay?�
Khyrisse shook her head, and kept crying, very quietly.
Jack patted her shoulder awkwardly. �Sorry,� he said lamely. �Dumb question, huh?�

Character(s): "Ember", Vas, Garal
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Driven To Distraction
Ember came down the stairs, holding her robe tentatively closed at her throat. Vas looked up reflexively and wished he hadn't. He could see the side of her body silhouetted through the silk from the light behind her. "Hi," she said, low and melodious.
"Hi," said Garal, trying very hard not to say any of the more clumsy things that came to his mind.
"I--thought you were going to turn in early tonight," said Vas, trying very hard not to say any of the less clumsy things that came to his mind.
"I can not sleep." She sighed softly and ran her left hand through her long dark hair, curling her legs to her right side as she sat on the sofa. The silk spilled back from them at just the right place. "Khyrisse is crying in the hall. I can hear her and Jack talking through the wall. How can you concentrate on dangerous missions with such distractions?"
"It's not easy," said Garal, carefully.
"Not easy at all," sighed Vas.

Character(s): Dr. Swank + Crew
Author: Jungle Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Down in Jungleland
Title of Post: Good Omens
"Boss! Boss! Look! We found Kong!"
Bud and Slug dragged the unmoving body of what was mostly recognizable as a gorilla in a tie into Dr. Swank's lab.
"Oh, good gravy. What now?"
"Well, I'd say he fell from a height of, oh, about 25 full sized palm trees."
The doctor didn't argue. Judging height (in terms of trees) was the one mental skill Bud had mastered. "Back into the CCB bio-restorative proto-energentic generation tank for him. Though I must say, he's looking better than I'd expect, given a fall from that far up..."
"He landed on a group of eco-tourists," Slug offered.
"Really? Well, that's hopeful! It's always a good sign when you can gratuitously kill some enviro-liberal weenies!"

Character(s): The Monster Society of Evil
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Crisis in Salagia
"So you say that you're the Mad Doctor Swank?" Thaddeus Bodog Swank asked of the worm.
"Yes!" the worm cried, "I am the keenest mind on this planet!"
"Look, Mister 'Mind'," T.B. said, "I'm a much eviller Swank than you."
"Are not
!" the worm cried.
"You want I should squish him, boss?" Kong asked.
The imperturbium Mister Adam stepped in front of the gorilla.
"Curses!" cursed T.B. Swank. "It's a draw!"
"I came to propose an alliance, you second rate hack!" the worm cried. "Not to pick a playground brawl!"
"An alliance? With a worm?" Swank scoffed. "Why should I?"
"Because only I have the power of the unfettered mind!"
Swank raised one eyebrow.
"And a giant imperturbium-based self-actualized intelligence at my command."
"Fine," Swank sighed. "You're in. Perhaps it is time for you to meet Malat'k." The scientist led the worm and the imperturbium golem into the next room. "As you can see," he said, "I've solved the problem our de facto leader had with size."
The Mad Worm Swank gaped in awe at the giant mechanical body with the alligator-like raptor head perched atop it.
"This is perfect, Swank," Malat'k said. "Six feet tall is all I ever imagined it would be."
"I have brought us a new ally," T.B. Swank said. "One who comes with his own imperturbium-based self-actualized intelligent being."
"Excellent," Malat'k said from his new height. "And with the Jungle Lord moving right into our trap, nothing will stop our Monster Society of Evil!"
There was more evil laughter in that one room than Salagia had seen in years.

Character(s): Jack, Kit, Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Bedtime
Jack closed Khyrisse's door behind him. At least she was sharing again. Her bottling-up technique worried Jack. Maybe he should talk to Skitch about keeping an eye on her. Walking along the hallway, he looked down and noticed Ember talking to Garal and Vas. There was something about the time traveller that looked somehow familiar, but Jack just couldn't put his finger on it. Maybe it was the robe... it reminded him of that night over the Dark Islands, back when Crandall and Cori had defeated the beholder-hatchling and they had all opened up that bottle of Shikinti blue to celebrate. Jack wasn't quite sure why his mind had been going back to Gabriella again and again, lately. Maybe as close as he was getting with Val was stirring up some old memories. Maybe there was more regret there than he had thought. Jack shook his head and chuckled silently. And maybe I should talk to Tarrin about all this... jah, right...
He knocked tentatively on Val's door.
It opened slightly, and the smell of incense wafted out. Jack poked his head in. "Am I disturbing anything?"
"Only if you don't lie down and take your shirt off," Val smiled, rubbing oil into her hands. "After taking care of everyone else, I thought you might need a bit of tending yourself."
Jack shrugged. "I'm not helping much," he said. "Just making sure that no one's carrying too much of a burden by themselves."
"Shut the door."
Jack did.


Kit was starting to worry, herself.
Too many strange things are going on around here, she thought. I might have been safer back in the ruins of Trade.
Between the time traveller's using her full name and the weird behaviors of the adults around her, Kit wondered if she wasn't overstaying her welcome. Skitch had promised that Khyrisse wouldn't try to send her back, but Kit knew better than to trust an adult any farther than she could throw them. Curled up on top of the gargoyle over the fireplace, Kit fell asleep.


Marty sat in silence, facing Master Ebreth. There had been some sort of scare earlier, but apparently the big E had jumped right back up on the satori horse.
Tomorrow, Marty had promised Jack that he'd help Ebreth get some exercise. He figured that they could do a whole "satori tour" of the mansion. Peace in every room. Clean out some of the bad vibes.
He was still meditating when he noticed the rat.
It had crawled into the room quietly and approached Master Ebreth. Marty froze.
The rat didn't seem to notice the zen apprentice. Marty thanked nirvana for small favors. Marty was terrified of rats.
He felt the relaxation leave his body as his muscles tightened with fear.
The math guy had told him that the group was called the Rat Pack, but he assumed that they were named after Sammy Davis.
The rat started to crawl up Master Ebreth.
Marty's mind filled with panic and anxiety. Maybe this was someone's pet... but what if it bit Master Ebreth? He was supposed to protect the master... but could he deal with touching a rat?
"I understand," the rat said to Master Ebreth. Then it skittered down and out of the room.
Marty realized that he had stopped breathing. He resumed, albeit tentatively. This must be the mysterious party leader people had referred to, he realized.
Man, Marty thought, I'm going to need to get some satori pretty damn quick.
Needless to say, he didn't sleep a wink.

Character(s): Vas, failing his "Resist Flirting" roll...
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: There Are Virtues Here... They're Just Well-Hidden
"Fortunately for Ataniel," Vas said, trying not to give her legs an appreciative glance, "we can concentrate on other things when we need to. It's only when we have time on our hands that things get... stressful."
Vas smiled ruefully, meeting Ember's eyes on that last word. Stressful is a word for it, yes... "I could explain that we have had a recent series of upsetting setbacks, but I wouldn't know where to begin." He tilted his head and raised an amused eyebrow at the beautiful woman across from him. "Unless you'd care to tell me where to begin, mademoiselle."

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Much More Fun Than Psychodramas
"Why don't you begin with you?" she said, smiling at the elf with her exotic indigo eyes.

Character(s): Vas, whom Val is going to kill
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Isn't Everything...?
"Oh, now that hardly seems fair," Vas protested, a long-absent sparkle reappearing in his own eyes. "Not only would you be terribly bored, you can't reciprocate."

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Reciprocation
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," she said softly, tilting her head a little bit. Her robe slid down her shoulder an immeasurable centimeter.
"Vastarin!" shouted Val, from the stairwell. "Can I speak to you for a minute?"
"Why don't you go upstairs and give our good Jack another massage, sister mine?" called Vas, with spirit.

Character(s): Vas and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: The Dulcet Tones Of Duty
Vas sighed. "Valende, we're fine down here. All three of us are fine. Don't you have a mathematician to pay attention to...?"
"Jack," Valende replied sweetly, "is reading to Ebreth. I would like to discuss your spiritual well-being with you before I retire-- when it will be your shift. So if you would care to come upstairs..."
Vas sighed. Bowing gracefully to Ember, he said, "I hope you'll pardon me, mademoiselle, if we don't carry this," his eyes lingered on her shoulder, and he smiled a bit, "fascinating conversation any further for the moment. I'm afraid that duty calls with a piercing voice indeed, this evening."

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Carpe Diem
"Duty is a powerful thing, monsieur," said Ember, demurely. "Don't let me hold you up. Excuse me." She leaned across the coffee table and retrieved her wine glass, looking at him over her shoulder; she gave him an enigmatic little smile, and poured herself some more wine. "It is just that my world is so much worse than yours," she explained to Garal, still looking sidelong at Vas from the corner of her eye. "I can't understand why you don't make more of the opportunities you have here, or at least try to enjoy them a little more, since you have the luxury of time that I do not."
"Me neither," said Garal.
Vas gritted his teeth and went upstairs. Valende was going to pay for this.

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Hit Me With A Clue By Four
Garal's heart raced and his mind locked up for a moment. If the mansion collapsed around him he would only notice Ember. Having moved past "not stupid" he thought of trying "productive". Then he remembered Khyrisse's advice: not serious. Garal relaxed. He poured himself some wine and allowed himself an appreciative look at the beautiful woman's legs. "You have excellent taste in wine," he said as he met her eyes. "What else can you reveal about yourself?"

Character(s): "Ember"
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Goodnight Moons
Ember made a petit soupir. "Sometimes it is better to leave the past behind us," Ember said, "and make the most of what we have. Wouldn't you agree?" Her eyes twinkled a little smile at him, and then she looked into her glass. "Never ask me about my past, Garal," she said, soft and serious. "With any luck, it will never happen. And if these are my last days, I'd rather spend them thinking about--pleasant things. I'm sorry if that means I must remain a mystery to you." She paused a moment, lost in thought, and then touched her fingers to her lips and blew him a little kiss as she stood, her half-filled glass in her other hand. "Good night, Garal. Try to keep this poor crew sane, won't you? Things could be so very much worse."
Ember went up the stairs, past Val and Vas arguing sotto voce. "Sweet dreams," she said, in Elvish.
She walked past Kitreyla, sleeping unhappily behind a gargoyle. "Good night, Kit," she stopped and whispered into her ear. "I won't let you down, I promise."
She walked past the door through which Jack's thin voice could be heard: "'God save the king!' said I, waving my cap; 'and there's an end to Captain Silver!'" There was no response. "Good night," said Ember, through the door. "Night!" said Jack.
She walked past the door Skitch was curled up against, miserably. Khyrisse was still crying, very softly, on the other side. "Good night, Skitch," said Ember, touching his tousled brown hair. He pushed her hand away, trying to pretend he wasn't worried.
She walked through the door to the guest room Khyrisse had given her and let her robe fall open, stood in her nightdress in the light of the moons and picked up Kitreyla's device. "Good night, Luthien," she said. "Wherever you are."

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