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The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
Down In Jungleland, Part V



Character(s): Marty and Ebreth
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Year Of The Rat
"I'm the worst student in the world," moaned Marty, and struck himself in the head. "I am such a failure."
"Aaah, kid, you're doing fine. Don't worry about it. We'll get unlost. Eventually. Hey, didn't we just pass that tree?"
"Ebreth!" shouted Khyrisse, breaking through the bramble. "Are you okay?"
"She found us!" gasped Marty. "Whoa, I guess you were right about your destiny!"
"That, and I'm a cleric-ranger," Val pointed out.
Khyrisse, reminded of Marty's existence, ran over to strangle him. "What--were--you--doing!"
"Hey," said Ebreth, getting between them. "Hey, none of that. I don't beat up your apprentice, do I?"
"He's not your apprentice, he's a fucking idiot!" she hollered.
"Naaah, we've just got to find him a spirit guide, right, Marty? Straighten him right out."
"I don't like animals very much," said Marty, nervously.
"If you ever try anything like--"
"I think Marty's learned his lesson about trying to take the tao into his own hands, haven't you, kid?"
"Yes, master," said Marty, hanging his head.
"Well, he'd damn well better have--" Khyrisse stopped. "Wait a minute, what about your destiny?"
"It has to do with a rat," Marty supplied.

Character(s): Rat Pack, etc.
Author Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: The Alphred is Not What He Seems
Alphred stood there, his face burning from the slap. The tension was thick in the air. Then Alphred did the most unexpected thing. He laughed.
Alphred watched the Rat Pack leave. Once they were gone he raised his hands and the Plateau started to shake.

***


Down in the jungle Khyrisse had just put Marty in his place. Val pointed up the cliff face.
"What is Alphred doing?" she asked.
"Who cares," Khyrisse huffed. "Let's get out of here."
Marty kicked a stone and it went flying off into the underbrush. It landed with a thunk. Not the thunk of a stone hitting earth, but of a stone hitting flesh. Curious Marty looked for the stone. What he found was a body. Alphred's body. In his hand sat a blue ruby.
"What the..." he whispered just as the Plateau started to quake.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland: Team Meeting
Title of Post: When In Doubt, Make Jack Decide
"Okay," said Jack, trying to sound confident, or at least not like he was about to pull most of his own hair out. "Kerouac and Alphred are dead now. The elementals are free, and there's an evil spirit that looks like Alphred performing some cataclysmic ritual on the Plateau. He's probably summoning Ta'al. Should we try to stop him?"
"I want to go find Kit!" said Skitch.
"I said that two days ago!" said Jack. "None of you wanted to go!"
"That's cause she mind-controlled us into leaving her alone, dummy!"
Jack held his head. "We have no idea where she is," he said. "She has a two-day lead time on us. Doesn't it make more sense to use a message spell tomorrow to contact Vas, and maybe Kit, and find out where they are and whether Vas has things under control?"
"Oh," said Skitch.
"That is kind of sensible," sighed Khyrisse.
"We should probably do something about the creature that killed Alphred and Kerouac," said Val. "What do you suggest we do, Jack."
Jack looked down. "Well," he said, "assuming any of you still think following me isn't a really crappy idea, you mean?"
"Can't speak for anyone but me," said Ebreth Tor, quietly, and put his hands in his pockets. "But I'd follow you anywhere, Jack."
"Just give us the word!" said Cori.


Character(s): Alphred the Great Spirit
Author Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout
Title of Post: Obi Wan?
The rumbling spread from the Plateau and into the jungle. Trees shattered like matchsticks. Rocks crumbled. Animals screamed with terror.
"Ok," said Jack. "Let's get him."
The Rat Pack started to move when a ghostly form appeared in front of them. It was Alphred. He held up his hand signaling the party to halt.
"Great, three of them," said Skitch.
Alphred's spirit pointed back to his body. The Rat, who because of all the commotion had decide to see what was going on, saw Alphred's ghost and understood.
The rodent lept off Jack's shoulder, ran across Marty's feet and grabbed the blue ruby in his mouth. He then ran back across Marty's feet and up Jack's leg. Once on his shoulder he nudged the gem into Jack's hand.
"What are we supposed to do with this?" Jack asked.
Alphred pointed to Jack, Tarrin, Khyrisse, and then the Rat. He then pointed to his double and to the gem. He then closed his hands around the gem as if to trap it.
"I hear him" said Tarrin. "He is weak. He says that the one on the Plateau is, no was, 'The Trickster.' He is something else now. He must be trapped by using the gem."

Character(s): Marty and Ebreth
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: The Prophetic Rat
"Whoa," said Marty, staring. "Well, we'd better do that. It must be our destiny. Right, Master Ebreth?"
"I make it a policy never to argue with the Rat."

Character(s): NGFNFYR
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Title of Post: Conflicts Of Interest
"Shilree is stirring up revolutions among the enslaved Diari again," sighed Max. "Can you get Rhynwa to go talk to her? She just doesn't take me seriously."
"Flark," said Jack, crossly. Between Janther and Shilree, his party loyalties were really being stressed to the limit. "Never mind her. After tomorrow it won't matter."
"Why not?" said Max, innocently.
"Paris family business. Don't worry about it. Did you get to the time-travelers?"
"Yeah. I couldn't talk them out of killing Councilman Luthien. They insist he's going to become a lich lord."
Jack had never accorded that possibility a high enough statistical likelihood to guard against, but it wouldn't come as a complete surprise. "Stall them," he said. "They can kill him tomorrow if they want. I can't afford to have turmoil in the council today. Tell them-- tell them they can accompany me and Khyrisse to the Trade Council Building tomorrow."
"You're going to the Trade Council Building tomorrow?"
"The Trade Wars are ending tomorrow," said Jack. "And after that, they can have Mageson if they can take him. It's not like he was a Sewer Tourist or anything."
"No, I guess not," agreed Max, reluctantly. "I hope you know what you're doing, Jack."
"As much as we ever do," grinned the mathematician.

Character(s): Shilree B and the Skieners
Author Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Title of Post: Hopscotch
Shilree, gleefully chanting a sing song tune, jumped from stone to stone in the room.
"Could you stop that!" spit Norna. "It is giving me a headache."
Shilree ignored her.
"That's it," said Norna grabbing her sword. "I am going to kill her this time."
Norna stood up, a rivulet of fresh blood oozed from her blinded eye socket. Hronmir put his hand on the valkyrie's shoulder. "Let her be. You need to rest." Norna gave the viking a venomous look but Hronmir stood his ground.
"I have not choice but to obey," he said. "But what good will my obedience be if you die before the Lich Lord is dead?"
Norna looked as if she was going to take a swing at Hronmir. Instead she sat back down in a huff.
"Someone is coming," said Noyarc who was standing by the door. "Smells like Max."
A moment later the door open and indeed Maxwell Silverhammer was standing there.
"Jack wants you to go with him to Trade. Please don't put up a fuss guys."
Shilree in the middle of a verse stopped on one foot and turned to the door. Her smile was like that of a predator.
"Perfect." she purred.

Character(s): A Boy And His Rat
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: Alphred's Instructions Work
Jack climbed back up onto the ridge. There was no sign of the Alphred-shaped creature they had seen before. Different form. That's what Tarrin said the ghost said, anyway. "If he has a different form," he reasoned aloud, "how will I know which form is his?"
"Thank you," said the rat, tugged on Jack's sleeve with his teeth, and arched his back, chittering.
"Concave?" The rat shook his head. "Convex?" The rat pumped his head enthusiastically. "A lens? You want me to use a--" Jack looked at the sapphire, looked at the rat, and then lifted the gem to his eye and surveyed the landscape.
The trickster was curled into the shape of one of the dead dinosaurs, on the other side of the ledge.
Jack putted the gem in a perfect parabolic trajectory. There was a *tink* as the gem knocked into the corpse. The corpse disappeared. The gem rolled and was still. "That couldn't possibly be all," said Jack.
The Plateau stopped shaking.
"That was all?"
"Not everything needs to be difficult, dear," said Val, climbing up beside him. "Sometimes things actually work."
"Besides," added Tarrin, joining them on the ridge, "the bad-ass spirits they now are wreaking the havoc. We still must to stop them."
"Oh, flark," said Jack. "How are we supposed to do that?"
"You're the leader," said Khyrisse, sweetly.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Khyrisse, Tarrin and the Rat Pack
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: Jungleland: Coda
Title of Post: Those Who Don't Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It
"You know, the way we keep going through these stones of imprisonment, we probably ought to buy stock," Jack quipped.
"Do you think we can trap the elementals in one?" Marty asked.
"No," Jack said. "I mean, this one's full... we need something that can contain elemental energy."
"Malat'k did," Val offered. "Maybe we can imprison them in him again."
"Malat'k's dead," Jack sighed. "And I don't think we want him wandering around again."
"Maybe we could lure them into the Valley of Bones!" Skitch cried. "Suck them in!"
"The rift in the valley is closed," Khyrisse said with relief.
"I remember the chord," Jack offered. "I could--"
"NO!" just about everyone yelled.
"Wasn't Kerouac some sort of elemental avatar once?" Cori asked. "If I remember my Significant history correctly."
"Kerouac's body is destroyed," Jack said. "His spirit might be able to hold the forces, but without a physical form..."
"Leave that to me," Khyrisse said.
"It's not too much...?" Jack asked.
"Jack," Khyrisse sighed. "I'm on vacation, not made of crystal."
No one deigned to comment.
"I can reincarnate a form for him, if someone can find some way to bring the elementals with him."
"I can attempt to contact his spirit," Tarrin offered. "I still sense great rage."
"Um, are we sure we want Kerouac wandering around with four world-destroying elementals in him?" Jack asked.
"Better there than ruling Salagia," Val offered.
"You could put them in me," Marty offered. "I've failed... I should bear the burden."
"No offense, Marty," Khyrisse said. "But I think I'd rather have Kerouac holding them off." To herself, she added, "he's smarter."
"Perhaps we can use one of these?" Skitch said, holding up the amulet bag of Alphred's totems.
"Why do all the kids get the best artifacts?" Cori asked Ebreth.
"There's a sponge in here... we could use that!"
"That is to absorb evil," Alphred's spirit said. "It could work, but it needs a powerful spirit behind it... I am too weak to face them myself, I can only advise."
"I say we glue it to him," Val offered.
"Khyrisse, can you cast the reincarnation spell around the totem?"
"Of course, Jack," she said.
"And Tarrin... can you explain our plan to Kerouac's restless spirit?"
"He is here already," Tarrin said. "He is licking Valende's arm."
"Ewww!" Val cried, jumping to the left.
"He... understands," Tarrin said, uncertain of the Dalen word he really wanted to use.
"Okay, team," Jack said. "Let's, uh... do it."
Skitch put the sponge totem on the dirt in the middle of the clearing. Khyrisse knelt and focused her mind. Words of power began to bubble forth from her throat.
Tarrin squinted with pain, trying to control the wild spirit of the berserker elf. Slowly, a glow manifested around the totem. It widened, and began to take human form.
"Wow..." Jack said, watching the high magicks fill the air. Far in the distance, Val, Cori, Ebreth and Marty could see the giant elementals drawing nearer.
"They're coming!" Cori yelled.
"Almost... there..." Khyrisse muttered.
"H... hh... hsss..." the materializing body started to hiss.
"Now!" Cori shouted.
Tarrin reached out with his mind and helped the spirit of Kerouac enter the totem. The elementals started to fade as their power was sucked into the new body.
And then everything went silent.
"That's... it." Khyrisse said, slumping to the ground. Jack caught her, and lowered her gently.
"Kerouac has a headache," came a strange voice.
"Oh..." Jack started.
"...my," Val finished his thought.
"Why is everyone looking at Kerouac funny?" Kerouac asked. He followed everyone's gaze lower on his body.
"Hey!" Kerouac bellowed. "Why does Kerouac have breasts?"
"Whoa," Marty cooed approvingly.
Khyrisse turned her eyes from the beautiful swanmay. "Oh, merde!"

Character(s): Flicker
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Title of Post: Coup
The Trade Council leapt to its collective feet. "What are you doing here, Paris?" shouted Knighthawke, furiously. "Wyvern will--"
"Wyvern is indisposed," came a chillingly familiar voice from the other side of the council chambers. Flicker felt his blood run cold as he turned slowly to face Lord Forix. "This city is under new management."
"You sold them out to SHADOW?" Luthien yelled at Jack.
"Will you mortal idiots get it through your heads that these worlds don’t matter!" screamed Norna.
"Here we go round the mulberry bush," sang Shilree, and shot Councilman Luthien in the face.
Flicker remembered how much he wanted a vacation.

Character(s): Flicker
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Title of Post: The Death of Jack Paris
Knighthawke thrust his hand up and the Mindsword sang into it, but as he charged the Shadowlord Khyrisse's elbow materialized into his face, blocking him back a couple of feet. The rest of the goddess followed it. "We've got to stop them!" said Luthien, urgently, in Gaelic. Flicker nodded, stepped out behind the young mathematician and clocked him in the back of the head with the hilt of his sword. As he did lines of blacklight shot through his thin frame from the point of impact; his head threw back reflexively and a terrible scream wrenched out of him. There was a spray of black sparks and a flare of ultraviolet and the body of Jack Paris was ripped fiber from fiber into nothingness. Flicker stared at the sword in his hand, an uncharacteristic lack of opacity in his face. "Holy shit."
"Jack!" screamed Khyrisse Paris.
"What the fuck kind of sword is this, Norn?" he shouted at the Valkyrie, his voice cracking.
"A better one than you are a swordsman, apparently."
"You killed Jack!" screamed Khyrisse, flinging herself at him.
"I'm sorry. I--I didn't--"
"You idiots!" shouted Luthien. "How can you waste your time infighting? Shadow is upon you! Don't you understand? We're from the future. Shadow will destroy everything. You have to work together!"
"Except for Luthien," Shilree reminded him, giggling. "He has to die."
"Oh, shut up!" he barked at her.


Character(s): Skeins of Fate: Trade Wars
Author Douglass Barre
Storyline: Flicker, Norna, the Skeiners
Title of Post: Balances Disrupted
"You idiot!" the goddess Khyrisse screamed, a bolt of divine energy blasting from her fingertips and striking the contrite Flicker. "Jack knew what he was doing! He had a plan!"
"I've got a plan," grinned Shilree madly. Leaping forward, she tackled Luthien and pinned him to the wall. Her eye flashed.
"Kill him so we can get out of here!" Norna cried. "There's only one skein left in the Myriad and we still haven't stopped the future!"
"There is no future," Forix said, and grasped Norna by the throat. Smoke hissed from where his skin touched her. Norna screamed. There was a loud snapping as the Lord of Shadow twisted his wrist and her neck broke.
"Oh, fuck!" the real Luthien muttered. "That can't be good."
Knighthawke had engaged Hronmir, and was easily beating him back.
Wyvern, however, remained passive. Something had caught his eye.
Flicker followed Wyvern's gaze, to the black charred place where Jack Paris had once stood. There was something there. Something... green.
Wyvern's eyes met Flicker's and the two both suddenly leapt into action.
"No!" cried Khyrisse, launching herself at Wyvern, deific power flickering around her.
"Father!" Luthien of the Trade Council cried. "Look out!"
"This is so fucked," the real Luthien said.
Khyrisse and Wyvern collided, and the two were thrown apart as if by magnetic repulsion. That bought Flicker the moment he needed. He reached down and picked up the Claw of Margonal.
"He had a plan," Khyrisse had told him. It would have been just like a mathematician to make sure that both sides of the equation were equally balanced. Flicker didn't know how to use the Claw, but artifacts usually begged to be used. This one was no different.
"Who summons the Parliament of Celestial Dragons?" a voice boomed.
"Not me!" Shilree said as her fist reached deep into Luthien's skull, pulling the eye out with a snap.
Forix turned and dropped Norna. Strangely, unbelievably, the Valkyrie slowly dragged herself to her feet. Her neck hung at a horrible angle and the flesh of her face and neck was charred. "Not... yet... my... time..." she said. "I can't... die yet. I haven't... saved... the Valkyrie."
Luthien of the Trade Council fell to the ground, his face ripped from his skull. He was dead. Shilree licked her fingers and pocketed the eyes.
"Let's go! Now!" the true Luthien cried.
Shilree pulled the device from her belt and walked over to where Noyarc lay, putting one foot on him. "Everyone touch!" she said, reaching one bloody hand out. Norna took it.
"Shadow is not Invited Here." the dragon voice boomed. "This World must be Cleansed."
"Over my dead body," Forix said calmly.
"I want to go back to the second world," muttered Luthien.
With that, they were gone. Flying through the Skeins of the Myriad to the last step on their journey of assassination. The final world before their return.

Character(s): Rat Pack
Author Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Walkabout: Finale
Title of Post: Wrapping things up
"Could someone explain what happened here?" asked Cori.
Alphred's spirit floated next to Tarrin who spoke for the ghost.
"Alphred says that Nick, that was the shape changer, was a renegade spirit. He had been traveling with us since we were in the Abyss."
"What?" exclaimed Khyrisse.
"Alphred thought he had contained the doppelganger but when Malak't stole his totem he took Nick as well," Tarrin contnued.
"Oh great," said Khyrisse "I hate shape shifters."
"Here is where Alphred is not very sure what was going on. There were other forces, no factors, coming into play. The elementals were the guardians of Ta'al. They both served him and kept him in check."
"So what happened now?" asked Val.
"He is not sure. He feels the Spirits of the Ancestors calling him and he wants to join them. He says
Kerouac must stay in Salagia as the new guardian of Ta'al."

"What?" said Keroauc who had been trying to figure out his new body. "Keroauc goes where he pleases."
"Alphred says no," said Tarrin. "You have the essences of the four guardians inside you. If you were
to leave the jungle they would consume you."
"So Kerouac is stuck here."
"Alphred says yes."
"Alphred is there anything we can do for him?" asked Khyrisse.
Tarrin listened to Alphred for a moment. "He says he doesn't think so. However, if Kerouac wishes to travel with him to the Temple of Tika-too where the Great Spirits reside they might have a solution."
"So can we go now?" asked Skitch.
"I guess so," said Khyrisse. "Since we are up on this cliff there is plenty of room for the carriage."
"Khyrissee," said Tarrin meekly. "Could you drop me off at the borders of Diaria. This has been an interesting experience but I miss my family. I want to go home."
Skitch looked like someone had just kicked his favorite pet. "You can't go," he said.
"Little Skitch," Tarrin said, "I have a family that needs me. You are always welcome to visit. Just send a courier to me in Irla and we cna make arrangements. Just don't come to the city itself. Outsiders are not welcome in the holy city. Even those that are friends to those who live there."
Khyrisse summoned the carriage. "All aboard who’re coming," she said.
All but Alphred's spirit and Kerouac got on board. Khyrisse took the reins and snapped them once. The carriage took off like a rocket.
"So which way to this Tikki place?" asked Kerouac the swanmay.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Jungleland
Title of Post: A Little Help From My Friends
The exhausted spectral team touched down at the base of the Plateau, and Khyrisse flopped off the drivers' board. "This adventure sucked," said Skitch. "What are we doing next, Khyrisse?"
"Going to sleep," she said.
"No, I mean what adventure are we doing next?"
"I don't know. Ask Jack."
"Well," said Jack, "I, I think Khyrisse should call Vas in the morning and make sure he and Kit are okay. And if they are, I was, uh, I have to go back to the Islands to help my family," he said, a little timidly. "An undead army is trying to destroy them. I understand that you all have other things to do but I was hoping you could at least give me a ride there? I know I haven't--"
"Jack," sighed Khyrisse, "of course we'll help you protect your family from the undead army. Good grief."
"We came to stupid Salagia!" said Skitch. "Jack's house has got to be better than the stupid jungle!"
"Where you go," murmured Val, "I go." She touched Jack's fingers, and after a moment added "Besides, I kick undead butt."
"The House of the Silver Crane will always be the ally of the House of Paris."
"Remnant, huh," said Ebreth. "I'll do what I can, Jack."
"I must to return to my childrens," said Tarrin, apologetically, "but I will stay in mental contact with the little Skitch, if that is okey-dokey. If you need the psionic help, or the advice, you can always ask me, my booger friends."
"We can drop you off on our way to the Archipelago," offered Khyrisse.
"Thank you," murmured Jack, a little overwhelmed.
"I'll call Asinus in the morning, too, and let him know we're on our way."

***


"Ssssst! What are we doing here?"
"I must join the other Great Spirits." Alphred floated over to the fringe of the rollicking party, where
the ghosts of two old men and a wizened muppet were hovering.
Kerouac shrugged and started dancing with some E'woks.

Character(s): Cori and Ebreth
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: The Rat Pack Book Club
Title of Post: Issoshiro
"In the early morning/the young frogs/make love," read Cori.
"I don't get it," said Ebreth.

Character(s): Skitch and Tarrin
Author Laura Redish
Storyline: Calm After The Storm
Title of Post: Farewell To A Father-Figure
"Oh, Tarrin, I'm going to miss you so much!" Tears filled Skitch's eyes.
"My childrens have not seen me in months, little Skitch." The Diari priest ruffled the boy's hair gently. "I must go to them, and your mother needs you here."
"I never really thought about it." Skitch looked miserable. "I guess I thought maybe I could stay with both of you. Why do things have to be so complicated? Why can't all the people who like each other just stay together and not have to die or run away or live in different countries?"
"I do not know, little booger. Sometimes the world is not fair. But I will not be far. If you do not mind, I can establish the mental link with you. Then you can talk to me whenever you have the trouble."
"Wow! We can use our psionic powers to talk to each other?"
"Uh... yes," said Tarrin, declining to point out that Tarrin was the one with psionic powers. "But only if you are sure you do not mind. I do not want to be a butthead."

"Oh, Tarrin, you're not a butthead! You're the best Diarian in the whole world. I'd really like a mental link with you. You're... sure it won't bother you or anything?"
"You are never a bother, my little Skitch."
"Thank you so much, Tarrin." He hugged the psychologist tight. "This is our last night together, isn't it? Do you want to play?"
"I would love to play."
"We can play in the pool. Khyrisse and Ebreth taught me a new game a--" Skitch blinked. "Wow, a long time ago. But it's fun. Come on, follow me." He put his small hand around one of Tarrin's long fingers and led him off down the hall.

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