The Hell and Back Archives
As We Take Our Stand, Part I
Character(s): The two Luthiens, Shilree, Flicker
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Lost at Sea
Title of Post: Subtle Differences, Big Effects
Luthien the Slaver Lord stood over the slowly reforming Shilree as she cackled. He sneered at her, then picked up her misshapen form and threw it over the side with one swift motion. As he turned back to face his double, he muttered, "Let's see how you enjoy eternal life in the belly of a shark, bitch."
Luthien watched his counterpart carefully during this exchange. He could tell that his evil duplicate was stronger than him, and a better fighter, but he had some weaknesses. One, he wasn't as powerful a mage. Two, he didn't have the hidden advantage that had kept Luthien going for more years than he could count. He didn't have a ring of vampiric regeneration.
The Slaver King then turned his attention to Flicker, who was in the process of nocking another arrow. Before it could be loosed, he spat out a harsh syllable, and a crackling bolt of lightning erupted from his eyes and destroyed Flicker's perch. The elf nimbly flipped in an effort to land on the deck below him, but was unable to evade the second fork of the bolt as it destroyed his landing spot. He went down into the hole, and disappeared into the unnatural blackness.
The Slaver Lord turned back on his counterpart then, ripping the arrow out of his hand. Luthien tensed his grip, then set himself into position, ready for anything. They faced each other for a moment, until the pirate spoke. "I don't know what you and your pathetic allies are doing here, but you've picked a prime place to die. Perhaps, if you're very lucky, I'll allow you to serve me after it's all over." He glanced slightly towards the hole behind him, and smiled.
Flicker landed solidly on the deck below, quickly skipping aside to avoid any waiting pirates. It was dark here, but his elven eyes could handle that easily. Or, at least, they should have. It was too dark, and Flicker found himself wishing he still had the Feystone Goggles.
Suddenly, a movement to his right alerted him. Pivoting back on his left foot, he found himself facing a rotting corpse, who was dressed in the uniform of the Lianthi Coastal Patrol. He was armed with a boathook, and moved surprisingly fast. Flicker barely got his arm out of the way of the rusty implement.
It was just then that Flicker noticed more shapes moving in the shadows, and he knew that he had to get out of there fast.
Luthien snarled a bit under his breath, and waited for the best opportunity to cast his next spell. It came soon enough. The Slaver Lord sprang towards him, trident poised to impale him, and Luthien made his move. Crouching low to make himself seem a smaller target, he suddenly thrust upwards as the Slaver came close enough, and flipped neatly over and behind his foe, his spell already starting.
The second Luthien turned around quickly, trident raised in defense. It did him no good, however, as his opponent's next spell went off. Instantly, a small version of Luthien appeared on his head, and it whistled out another spell. The Slaver Lord watched with some amazement as his opponent was suddenly limned with greenish-yellow lightning trails.
The Slaver Lord's own hands started going through the motions of a spell, but he was too slow for the homonculous. As finished his enervation spell, he watched the violet beam fly towards his opponent, only to strike an invisible barrier, and come streaking right back at him. He snarled in anger as he felt its effects, but was cut off as Luthien the Greyspear rammed into him, forcing the two of them to crash through the captain's cabin door.
Luthien felt the jolt of several warding spells as he forced his evil counterpart through the doorway, but his new protections kept him (and his homonculous) safe. He tried to knock the trident out of his opponent's hand, but got a knee to the groin for his troubles. Luckily, the pirate felt just as much pain, thanks to the lightning shield.
Both of them scrambled to their feet, ready to finish the fight. Luthien could tell, though, that his opponent was getting winded (much like he was), and that the reflected evervation had delivered a telling blow. He muttered the words to another spell, and a wall of force sealed the room off, just barely preventing Palmer Khan from trying to aid his captain.
The pirate Luthien smiled predatorily. "You must be very brave to seal off your only escape. You are in my sanctum now."
Luthien just stood, calmly, and said, "No. I have sealed off your escape. I have come here to kill you, and to end your terror. I don't break my promises." His homonculous, oblivious to the conversation, continued to merrily cast protective spells. Confident in his protection, Luthien continued, "You have corrupted your gift, and you have joined Hagvar's armies. Now, I will send you to accept your commision... in person."
The Slaver Lord lunged forward then, eager to stop his opponent before he could complete another spell, but Luthien dodged to the side at the last minute, ready for such a tactic. He then muttered his final spell, and let the Tenser's Transformation take control of him.
The Slaver Lord gritted his teeth, ready to die on his feet. If he was going to die, then he would take this thrice-damned foe with him.
Character(s): Kerouac, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle
Title of Post: Kerouac: A Mind That Only Holds One Idea
Kerouac returned from his reconnaissance.
"There are villains ahead," he said. "Kerouac wants to go blow them away."
"I'm amazed you didn't," Khyrisse said. "Thanks for returning with the reconnaissance information."
"Kerouac didn't want to go into battle wounded." He indicated his arm, which was soaked in blood. "Kerouac needs the cleric babe to heal his arm."
Valende sighed and cast a cure light wounds. "Wait a minute...." she said, realizing too late what had happened. "This isn't blood! This is glue mixed with tree sap! You bastard!"
"Kerouac knows a good idea when he sees it," Kerouac said. "You can't get an idea out of my head with a six-foot plunger!"
"Apparently you can't get one in, either," Vas chuckled.
"How many of those grease spells did you memorize?" Val asked imploringly.
"Only one," Khyrisse sighed.
"Can we go kick ass yet?" Kerouac asked,
"Oh, god, don't tempt me," Val muttered.
Character(s): Khyrisse, Vas, Jack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Bungle in the Jungle: Leading Sucks
Title of Post: More Trouble For Jack
Khyrisse spoke to Jack in an urgent whisper, standing at the opposite end of camp from Kerouac and Valende. Vas stood behind Khyrisse, arms folded. His sky-blue eyes were glittering with carefully restrained anger.
“No, Jack, we’re not going any further today, and you had better make Alphred understand that,”
Khyrisse said urgently. “Until one of us can memorize another grease spell, or that sap wears off enough, the party stays here. Unless you want us to murder Kerouac in cold blood.”
“Please, let me,” Vas murmured.
“But Alphred says that the longer we stay here, the more likely it is that Malat’k will find the obelisk before we do!” Jack protested.
“Well look!” Khyrisse said, turning to point at the glued-together elves. “Both of her hands are stuck! She can’t even defend herself like that. She can’t fight at all-- and trust me, she can’t cast without her hands, not without extreme difficulty.”
“Could you-- could we set up your mansion and leave them behind?” Jack said desperately. Why did I ever agree to being in charge?
“Can you see Kerouac willingly staying behind while the rest of us go to a fight?”
“Neither can I.”
“Can’t you... I don’t know, um, put him to sleep? Get him drunk?”
“Sleep spells don’t work on those of elven blood.”
“And while I have a shitload of alcohol, Jack, I don’t think I have enough to get Kerouac to pass out for an extended period of time.”
“Valende is glued to a berserker,” her brother added in a cold voice. “Kerouac will head directly for the greatest amount of trouble, even if he has to drag her with him. He’d never even notice he was doing so. I can’t even protect her in circumstances like that. If you want a dead girlfriend, Jack, there are easier ways to accomplish it.”
“I don’t want a dead girlfriend!” Jack shouted plaintively. “I never said--”
“Valende has said that she won’t heal him ever again, either,” Khyrisse added. “If he gets in trouble, he’s on his own, even if it means she’s glued to a dead body. I can’t really disagree with her. Kerouac has gone way beyond asking for it.”
“I-- uh...” Jack tried to think of some way to get out of this, and couldn’t. Flark it all. “I guess I’d better go talk to Alphred,” he sighed.
Author: Laura Redish
Title of Post: Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Who agreed to let this bozo in the party, anyway?" complained Skitch.
Character(s): Kerouac and Valende
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: I'm Rubber And You're Glue
Title of Post: Kerouac Learns His Lesson (or: no more bonk-bonk)
"But Kerouac wants to go fight the arch-villains!" whined the berserker.
"Then Kerouac should stop STICKING HIMSELF TO ME WITH TREE SAP!"
"But Kerouac likes being stuck!"
"Well, does Kerouac like being stuck more, or fighting arch-villains more?"
Kerouac really had to think about that one. "Fighting arch-villains," he finally said, reluctantly.
"Then no more glue!"
"Kerouac will try to remember. Hey, while we're stuck, though, wanna play Twister?"
Character(s): Shilree B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Under da Sea
Title of Post: You Can't Keep the Insane Down
Shilree finished coalescing just as she hit the water. The shock of the cold water brought her mind into focus. The gill flaps on her neck opened and closed as they sifted oxygen out of the water. She was glad she had decided to keep the augmentations the Emperor had given her, all those decades ago.
Shilree swam under the keel of the ship to gather herself. Other than herself, only Rip's time travel device and the battered Trade pouch had survived. Most of her weapons were gone, but all her magic items (as well as a few surprises) were safe.
Shilree examined the barnacle covered hull of the ship. She then got a wonderfully wicked idea. Shilree, who still had an army of spells buried in her head, called forth a nasty spell of her own creation. The sickly green energy thrust forth from her entire body and fastened itself to the ship. Once contact was made, it slowly crept along the hull, destroying all it touched. Hole after hole appeared in the hull. It wouldn't be long now before the ship would start to sink.
Character(s): Skitch, forever wary of cute strangers
Author: Laura Redish
Title of Post: Seeds Of Dissension
"Pssst! Khyrisse!" Skitch drew his adoptive mother aside as Jack went to talk with Alphred. The boy looked furtively around. "You're being careful with Ember, right? I mean, you remember what happened with Ariath, right?"
Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Ashes to Ashes
Title of Post: Keeping One's Mouth Shut
Khyrisse looked at Skitch, surprised for a moment. Oh, Grendel! What do I tell him? "Oh. Yes, I'm being very careful... but I think--" She paused for a moment, caught between telling him not enough and having him upset Ember, and telling him too much and having him figure everything out. As it was, she was trying to keep him from noticing any resemblance between her and Ember; keeping her hair braided, wearing burgundy to tilt her eyecolor away from the blue end of violet... Not that it's likely anyone would notice anyway, she thought, and had to suppress a grin. Drop-dead gorgeous I am not. "Um. Sit down for a second, Skitch... I need to talk to you about this." She sat crosslegged on the ground facing him and looked very seriously into his face. "I'm not saying that you shouldn't be careful, mind you," she said slowly, "but there's a very important difference between Ariath's behavior and Ember's behavior, and I think it might help you in the future."
"Like what?" Skitch said, looking at her narrowly.
"Ariath always put herself and her own interests first, at the exclusion of anyone else's," Khyrisse pointed out. "Ember, on the other hand, put herself in danger to rescue you... and she's done the same for other people. She's gotten herself hurt, moreover. I don't think anyone evil would do that."
"Well, m--abye she's a smarter Ariath," Skitch said hesitantly, still looking wary.
Khyrisse laughed a bit and rumpled his hair. Skitch grinned and didn't protest. I have license to do that, Khyrisse thought, grinning back. "Well, look. Cautious is a good thing to be, gods know. Just don't be rude to her or anything. It's not necessary. Trust me, after Ariath, we checked Ember out very thoroughly indeed."
"Do I have do the same for Kerouac?"
Khyrisse, who had started to get up, crouched back down again in a hurry. She lowered her voice. "No, that wouldn't be smart. Even if he's not bad, he's dumb, and he might get you into trouble. But don't be rude to him either. You don't want to make a berserker mad at you. Particularly," she said, grinning a bit in spite of herself, "when he's still stuck to Valende."
Character(s): "Ember", singing like a canary
Author: Laura Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Storyline: Ashes To Ashes
Title of Post: Kills The Cat
"There is still so much I wish I could ask you," said Khyrisse, wistfully, "about yourself, about your future..."
"Well, why don't--you ask me what you want to know, and I'll tell you if I can answer."
Khyrisse leaned forward, her heart pounding. "Is Ebreth your father?" she whispered, intensely.
"Mom..." Ember stood up and turned around, wringing one of her slender hands in the other. "I can't tell you things like that. Things that might affect the timeline. Or--me. I haven't even been born yet, and I--haven't completely given up on it, you know."
"If it might even remotely change the fact of your being born, Ember," the sorceress said, seriously, "don't tell me. I'll suffer."
She nodded, still facing away.
"How old are you? Can I ask you that?"
"Twenty-six!" Khyrisse wasn't sure if she had thought the time-traveler was older than that or younger. No sense asking when you were born, I guess. "Well, what, what about Skitch? Was he around when you were growing up?"
"Of course," she said, a little surprised by the question.
"Did you know Dad?"
"Grandpa?" she said. "Of course."
"Then we, we had a normal family life?"
"Uh, more or less," she whispered. "As normal as anyone else we knew, I guess."
Khyrisse looked at her. "How old were you," she said, "when your father died."
Ember winced and turned back away. "Fourteen," she said softly.
"Are we all dead?"
"By now?" She sighed. "Almost everyone is dead, evil, evil and then dead, or dead and then evil. It's almost all lich lord related, so I doubt it would screw much up, but I'd rather not get into details. It's not pleasant."
Khyrisse shuddered, and then she got up and put her arms around Ember from behind. Ember put her hands on her mother's forearms. "We don't have to talk about that. What about Trade, did I rebuild Trade?"
"I can't tell you that."
Did that mean she had? "Did I have any other children?"
"I can't tell you that!"
"Well, was I a good mother?"
The two women hugged each other in silence for a moment. Khyrisse realized her daughter was taller than she was. "What--what about Ebreth, Ember?" The time-traveler started to pull away. "No, I don't-- I just want to know does he survive this, Ember, it doesn't matter if he's your father or not. Will he ever recover from this? Do you know?"
"Mom, you know I can't--" She looked at her then, velvet eyes into velvet eyes. She hesitated a very long moment. "Yes."
Khyrisse exhaled with an unsteady might. Oh, Grendel, don't let her just be saying that. "Thank you," she whispered. "What--what else can you tell me?"
"Well, uh," she said, "my favorite story is The Last Unicorn."
"I--could read that, to you and Skitch tonight."
"I think I'd like that." She smiled, softly, and then stopped. "There's--one thing I do have to tell you, Mom. I shouldn't, but I-- owe it to him."
"Ixhriy," she said, slowly. "Don't trust him, Mom."
"Ixhriy? But, but that's--" She stared at her future child. "Ixhriy wouldn't--"
Ember slowly took a dully glowing blue eye out of the inside pocket of her cloak. Khyrisse jerked back with a gasp. Ember shook her dark curls. "No, you misunderstand," she whispered. "He gave this to me. He's sorry. Don't let him do it. I shouldn't be telling you this, but he wants to be redeemed so bad. I can't deny him that." She sighed and put the eye away. "I can't deny us that. It's a risk I just have to take."
"What--what did he do?" whispered Khyrisse, numbly.
"Lich lord related. It doesn't matter. Just keep your eye on him. The things he does may seem harmlessly spiteful. He has a dark heart under them. It's going to ruin his life. If there's no lich lord it'll find another way to break out. And you have to stop him."
"I think I'd like that story now," whispered Ember.
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: I'm Rubber And You're Glue/Jungleland
Title of Post: Thank God For Kit
"Finally," sighed Ember, as Kerouac and Valende slid apart. "Didn't you two sleep at all last night?"
"The cleric babe kept stealing all the covers."
"You think I can sleep while an insane berserker is glued to me?"
Ember was way too polite to say so, but she mentally bumped Val up into the category of Rat Packers who clearly didn't deal with adversity as well as they could.
"Let us go!" shouted Alphred. "To the invisible totem the god Nur'ur has divined with his mighty numbers!"
Character(s): The Emperor, Sheik Al'Vazran
Author: Jeff Hersh
Title of Post: The First Step
Sheik Al'Vazran sat on top of his desert tiger, waiting for the promised arrival. The hot wind of the Cebes Desert whipped about him, striking him with sand.
"This had better be worth it," said the Diari nomad to his mount.
-It is,- said a voice in his head.
Al'Vazran looked up into the face of the Emperor of Diaria. The Sheik had heard many stories about the Emperor, none of which had come close to describing him.
"You summoned me," stated the nomad, not showing any expression. The Diarshi Nomads were a proud people. They never bowed to anyone.
-Yes Al'Vazran al Haran,- said the Emperor, using the Shiek's full name. -I take it you have read my proposal.-
"Yes, it is a dangerous but interesting plan. Are you sure it will work?"
-Nothing is certain, Al'Vazran al Haran. However, the odds are in our favor.-
"You really think so? Not one expedition has returned from the Blighted Lands in one piece since they appeared. I do not see what has changed."
The Emperor simply looked up. Sheik Al'Vazran followed the Emperor's gaze. He was looking at the new moon. His people had refused to give it a name. Outsiders had named it Bane. The Diari named it Dragstrisi, the Invader.
"I understand. I still think this is foolish, but you are the Emperor. I will call a meeting of the twelve Shiekdoms. You will have your answer by the end of the month."
-Very well,- said the Emperor as the wind picked up. -I will prepare the supporting forces you will need. We have long overlooked our purpose in this world. That is going to be corrected.-
The Emperor disappeared on the wind. Sheik Al'Vazran huffed and petted the side of his feline mount.