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The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Part V



Character(s): Jack, the Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay
Title of Post: How To Survive Hell on $30 a Day

"So what you're saying is that we should have a lawyer?" Jack asked at breakfast.
"It would certainly help," Khyrisse said. "Apparently there's a lot of negotiating down there. Too bad Jan--Flicker... isn't here."
"I don't know any lawyers," Jack said.
"I know an agent," Vas said. "Does that count?"
"I know some thieves, but no lawyers," Kit sighed.
"I know some snakes," Alphred offered. "In the jungle... we have no lawyers. We dropped rocks on them."
"I bet Ari knew some lawyers," Khyrisse muttered. "Bitch."
Asinus didn't say anything.
"Uncle Asinus?" Val finally asked.
"Okay, fine. I went to law school. But I didn't graduate! I swear!"

Character(s): Skitch and Kit
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Varying Degrees Of Grown-Up

"Go to hell!"
"No, you go to hell!"
"We're both going to hell!"
"Well, the hell with you!"
"Ha ha ha!"
Khyrisse watched Skitch and Kit tumble across the floor through stark, bleary eyes. She wished she could let her stress fall away as easily as her young apprentice. She wished, actually, that she had a friend like Kit. When did we all grow up and get so serious? she thought, looking at the grim-faced Vas.
"Morning, legs. You look horny."
Well, thought Khyrisse. Some of us.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Eric Gasior (with kibbitzing by Kris)
Storyline: Like a Bat Out of Hell
Title of Post: Helena Handbasket, Part I

Garal finished his bath and changed into the fresh clothes provided for him. He met the others in the dining room still combing tangles out of his long, brown hair.
"I'm assuming that you all want to go to Hell. It's not what you are expecting, the fire pits and tormented souls are mostly there for PR. On top of the lawyers are mountains of bureaucrats, chains of commands, and rules." He said the last part directly to Skitch and Kit. "We can avoid most of them since we don't belong there, but we still have to be careful. I'll fill you in as we go along."
Khyrisse just looked at the planewalker. "Garal," she said, oh so quietly. "One of the people we're after is a previously escaped damned soul, sent there by another escaped damned soul. I don't think they're there for publicity reasons."
Skitch scooted back from the table, looking surreptitiously for a place to hide. He yanked on Kit's sleeve. "Imminent hissy fit, take cover," he whispered.
"Whoa."
"That complicates things," Garal replied, frowning. "That one will probably have a tortured body, perhaps on full public display."
Khyrisse closed her eyes in pain and trembled for a moment. "Yes, probably," she whispered. She cleared her throat and continued in a steadier voice. "It's been pointed out to me that we'll have to recover the other two first-- Cori and Tarrin are there by accident."
"I wouldn't be surprised. There are many rules that I haven't heard."
"Since Cori and Tarrin aren't evil, Hell can't keep them. Hell has a non-interference pact with Annwyn. Ebreth--- Ebreth isn't evil, but he... his situation is rather unique, and wasn't covered. There may be no rules that apply to him, if we can just get him out of there. That's why we'll have to find him last."
"I don't know if any rules apply, but ignorance of the law is not a defense in Hell. Whatever we do we have to do quickly and get ourselves out of their jurisdiction."
Khyrisse just kind of pinched the bridge of her nose and concentrated on her breathing, eyes closed.
In the lull, Garal opened his sight to planar anomalies. The mansion itself was comforting. He looked from person to person, and discovered Jack was "flat"-- not completely there. "There is a problem here. Jack, you can't leave this plane like this. You could cease to exist."

Character(s): Khyrisse, forgetful and sleepy workaholic
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: A Snowball's Chance In Hell
Title of Post: Khyrisse Finally Remembers

Khyrisse covered her mouth, eyes wide. "Grendel, you're right. Flicker reminded me of that, and I forgot. Jack, your father said that you probably shouldn't leave this plane of existence. He wasn't sure what would happen, but it would probably be bad."
She looked like she wanted to say more, but held her peace, knowing that Jack hadn't told everyone. I think I know why, too, after looking at the Rat's notes. I think Jack's father made him one of the existing conditions of the plane, like gravity. Each plane's environmental constants are unique, and they all act upon each other. Jack could probably be affected in hundreds of ways, depending on which plane we took him to!

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay
Title of Post: Give 'Em Hell, Jack

Jack nodded slowly, thinking, and frowning, looked straight at Khyrisse. For the first time, the archmage noticed that Jack very rarely looked directly at her. "I'm going," he said. "I've got two reasons. One's already there. The other's about to go. I can handle whatever happens."
"I hope I can," Val whispered to herself.

Character(s): Marhault
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Vendetta, Defense Side
Title of Post: Mind, Your Own Business

Marhault staggered into the inn that Bloodscar had taken over for use as a headquarters. He wasn't wounded, but his face had a pained look, like he was in turmoil.
"Get... her... out..." he spat at Omeria, as he fell to the lobby floor. Omeria looked down at one of her oldest friends.
"Bloodscar, carry him upstairs to his room," she ordered. As the giant warrior lifted the tall, even gaunter man, Omeria stroked Marhault's hair fondly. "You've done well, Marhault. Very well indeed, old friend."
Ariath poked her head in from the dining room. "Is he back?" she beseeched.
"He's back," Omeria said tersely.
"Oh, thank you, Merry!" Ariath screamed, running and embracing the sorceress.
"Don't thank me yet, Ariath," Omeria said. "It could be that the hardest part is yet to come."
"I can handle Siann," Ariath said with false bravado.
"We'll handle it together, little blade," Omeria said.
Hotspur stepped into the room. "Omeria? Your three o'clock appointment is here."
"Go on upstairs and help Bloodscar with Marhault," Omeria said to Ariath. "I need you to remain a... surprise."
"Gotcha," Ariath said, giving Omeria a peck on the cheek on the way out.
Hotspur watched as Ari bounded up the inn's stairs. "One of these days, Omeria," he said.
"Not likely, Hotspur. And you wouldn't like it if you got it. Send in the minister."
Hotspur stepped back into the hallway and gestured. A tall, well-dressed gentleman in lace and satin stepped inside. His demeanor seemed out of place in the homey roadside inn. "Miss Omeria, I presume?" he asked.
"Indeed," Omeria said, sitting back and putting her fingertips together. "And you must be Jale Harcourt."
"The honor is mine. My people tell me much about you. I must say, your offer was quite... intriguing."
"It's about to get a lot more so," Omeria smiled. "Sit down, and listen carefully..."
Upstairs, Ariath sat next to Marhault's bed. The warrior stared at the ceiling, tired, but afraid to sleep. "Thank you," she said.
"Anything for you, honey," Marhault croaked. "We've got to take care of our own, right?"
"That was above and beyond, and you know it."
"You'd do the same for me."
Ariath bit her lip, then smiled. "Yes," she said. "yes, I suppose I would."

Character(s): Skitch and Kit
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Waiting For Garal

"Send Kit to Hell first," said Skitch.
"No, send Skitch to Hell first!"
"Kit's a thief. Thieves have to go to Hell anyway, don't they, Khyrisse?"
The image of Tila wailing I brought us to HELL! sprang unbidden to Khyrisse's mind. "Only if they're stupid," she said. "Or evil," she added.
"Skitch is a booger," said Kit. "I think boogers have to go to Hell."
"I am not a booger! Hey, don't mess up my shirt!"
The short attention spans of the two boys petered out. "Are we going to Hell, or not?" demanded Kit.

Character(s): Norn and Shilree, those big skeevers
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: More Private Conversations In Plain Sight

"And that's why we're traveling with her," Flicker finished in Diari, "even though getting her to give us actual information, rather than orders and assurances that all will be clear in time, is like getting mussels off a rock." He didn't say it was like getting actual information out of Shilree. He liked Shilree. "She may hit you. Try and be patient."
"Our first stop is an alternate past," announced Norna. "Try not to have too many psychodramas there, will you, mortals?"

Character(s): Jack Paris and the Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: The Hell, You Say?

"So there's a weak point in the dimensional fabric to Hell here?"
"I warned you that the trip might be dangerous," Garal said.
"I'm scared, Khyrisse," Skitch said.
"I understand, Skitch. There is much to fear here."
"I don't get it," Jack said, gesturing to the entrance of the Golem's Dungeon. "It's only a weapon shop."

***

The stench was the first thing that Kit noticed.
Skitch was too busy watching the strange misshapen flying things in the distance to concur.
Asinus snorted and started to climb a small hill to get bearings.
"This is Hell," Khyrisse said, with no doubt in her voice.
"Jack?" Val was asking. "Jack, are you okay?"
Jack Paris had collapsed upon appearing in the nether realm. His body was shaking, and he was uttering strange, low moans.
"Something's wrong with Jack!" Val shouted, grabbing Khyrisse's arm. "Help him!"
"I warned that this might happen," Garal said.
The two women were kneeling over the mathematician. "Jack," Khyrisse was saying, evenly. "Jack, can you hear me?"
Jack suddenly stopped shaking, and he looked up at the elven archmage. "Hey, beautiful, I'm feeling like a million. Thanks for caring." He grinned a strange grin, pointed at Khyri, and make a clicking noise with his tongue. "Don't ever change."
"Jack?" Val asked. "Jack, are you all right?"
"Never better, ma cherie," Jack smiled unusually widely. "You're really cute when you look all concerned, baby."
"...," Khyrisse didn't say, as Jack took her hand and Val's and kissed them both.
"Jack?" Val asked, confused.
"Jack's such a plain name, darlin'. How does 'Vic' strike you?" Jack pulled a comb from his back pocket and ran it through his hair, slicking it back.
"Vic?" Val asked, still confused.
"Vic Paris. Man, that's got zing!" Jack (or Vic) cried. "I like it!"
"I liked Jack," Valende whispered to herself.
"So, lovely ladies," Jack/Vic said, putting his arms around Khyri and Valende, "what say we get this show on the road?"

Character(s): Shilree
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Pecking Order

The gem in Shilree's right eye socket reflected the surrounding light. The small and silvery temporal device hummed in Shilree's hand. In the facets of the gem eye the time device reflected over and over again. Each facet contained the image of a slightly different version of the small, dull sphere. It was as if its image contained all possibilities.
"Give me the device," Norna said. "It is time we got going."
"No," said Shilree.
"What?" Norna said in disbelief.
"You heard me Valkyrie. I said no. The shifter does not leave my possession."
Shilree stared straight into Norna's eyes. The tension between the two grew exponentially. Then Norna looked down.
"Very well. Hold on to the thing. But just answer me this. How am I supposed to guide you when I cannot use the thing?"
Shilree smiled a knowing smile. Both Flicker and Luthien knew that grin. The Shilree they knew only smiled that way when she was about to make someone feel like an idiot. "Why, it is simple, Valkyrie. Each one of us grabs hold of me and I activate the shifter. Your mind should do the rest. At least if it can handle the strain and not break from the stress."
Shilree moved her fingers rapidly along the surface of the shifter. A halo of light scintillated around the Diarian.
"Shall we be off?" Shilree asked with a wicked smile. "We have a future to prevent."

Character(s): Norna
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Don't Fuck With Norna
Title of Post: Norna Does What Shilree Tells Her

Norna smiled demurely and nodded. "Very well. We'll all make sure to be in physical contact with you, Diarian."
Norna grabbed Shilree by the throat and lifted her into the air. "Hate me all you like, mortal, but don't think of standing in my way in this matter."
Hronmir put his hand to Shilree's back, making contact and trying to support the new group member.
"Now. Press. The. Button." Norna spat, venom glistening in her eyes.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins Of Fate
Title of Post: Rough Waters

"Norna, please!" Flicker grabbed her forearm and pulled at it hard as the Diari woman struggled for air. "This accomplishes nothing. We have to work together!"
She looked down her arm at him. "The fact that you are right does not excuse your presumption," she told him, and smashed him in the face with her elbow. She put Shilree down but did not release her throat. "Touch this foolish woman somewhere and let us be on our way."
Flicker muttered something to himself in a language none of them understood, wiping his mouth.
"You know, Shilree," said Luthien, "it really should have been a clue to you that I wasn't trying things like that. Did you really think Flicker and I were just being pansies here?" He glared at Norna. "She's extremely powerful. She just also has no social skills."
"Shut up and do what I tell you, death mage."
"You know something, Norn? I'd rather do it for Shilree's sake."
"All right," said Flicker, "cool it, everyone. Let's go."

Character(s): Ian Jardin (Silverblade version), Endicott
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Dead College
Title of Post: Festival Time

Ian Jardin hated Festival Time.
Silverblade crouched on one of the gargoyles decorating the Magna Tal Cathedral in downtown Tobrinel.
Down below, the crowd went about its business, as busy at this time of night as during the merchant's time in the day. Festival brought out the best and the worst of people. It was up to Silverblade to make sure that the two didn't mix.
"Silverblade," came a familiar voice from behind him.
"Endicott," Silverblade responded without turning. "How's things on your end?"
"You wouldn't believe. Beliath's been purging the Dead College since the King of Kings fell. Greymalkin is dead."
"Again."
"Again," Endicott continued. "And I've been working with a woman who may be on our side. Does the name Silverlace ring a bell?"
"Yes," Jardin said. "Yes it does. I'm surprised she hasn't resurfaced. It's festival time."
"What can you tell me about her background?"
"Well, she was quite the popular courtesan in her day... rumors of great wealth, of course... and someone once told me she was a succubus, but I don't know that I'd trust them."
"Hmm," said Endicott.
"And there have been some people looking for her," Silverblade remembered. "Very quiet, but I hear a lot."
"Who for?" Endicott asked.
"I don't know. Whoever it is, they're good at hiding their tracks."
"Interesting. Well, I'd best get back to Beliath. He trusts me since I sided with him during the rebellion."
"Beliath is here? In Tobrinel?"
"Yes. He's meeting someone here... something about bringing the Dead College up to the next level."
"Interesting. Could it be Cloak?" Silverblade asked.
"No. It's a day meeting. A woman."
Silverblade frowned. "The last thing I need is someone new trying to take control of Tobrinel. I've got enough problems."
"Well, I'll keep you up to date," Endicott said. He made the sign of the four. "Quattro."
Silverblade did the same. "Quattro."
Ian Jardin looked down once more at Tobrinel. He watched the patterns of the people, moving about. He watched the Minister's people putting together the podium for tomorrow's speech. He watched the guard patrols circle around the Golden Statue, set to be unveiled. He watched the alleys, the dark places. Cloak was still out there. Now the Dead College was returning. Ian could almost sense change in the air. Something bad was coming.
Silverblade hated Festival Time.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell to Pay
Title of Post: Hell of a Way to Run a Railroad

Khyrisse wriggled away from Jack and stared at him like he'd turned into his uncle. She and Valende looked at each other, looked warily at Jack, then back at each other. Valende put her arm around "Vic's" waist with a little wince. Khyrisse nodded a little, sympathetically. Khyri put a hand over the Trade Sigil while she thought, the heavy square of fabric tucked under her leather armor. It seemed to be okay. Considering the several dangerous objects hidden inside the Trade Carriage, it had better be.
"Let's hope my spells work properly here," she murmured, "or this is going to be a really permanent visit."
She cast a sending spell and sent it out looking for Cori. Cori, we're looking for you; we have a way out. The spell will return a message as long as this one-- describe where you are. She sent a similar one to Tarrin, not really sure if it would arrive, or bounce, or what. She didn't know much about psionics. Not to mention that Tarrin even being alive is a long shot. Best not to mention that to Skitch, actually.
"All I can do now is wait for a reply. Should we start poking around, or should we hide until we know where they are? If they're anywhere on this plane at all, I should know something soon."
"What about Ebreth?" Vas asked her quietly, keeping a wary eye on his sister and "Vic". "How are we planning to find him?"
Khyrisse's mouth twisted in a rueful smile. "I think I might be able to find us a guide. Or rather, I think a guide might find us, if I decide to let him."
Vas stared blankly at her, having no idea what she was talking about. Skitch just stared. "Eeew," Skitch said. "No way."
"Yes way."
"What? What??" Kit demanded in a whisper, poking Skitch in the ribs.
"Ixhriy," he said, making a face. "First Eric Stupidhead, and now his dumb old familiar. Why doesn't anyone cool know something we need, for a change?"
"I vote for looking while we wait!" Valende said, suddenly and a little too loudly, ducking out from under Jack's-- Vic's-- arm.

***

"Anything yet?"
Khyrisse clambered up a steep, rocky hill and perched on the top, scanning the area and catching her breath. The air here hurt her lungs. "No," she confessed, looking down at her stinging hands. "That could mean that they got the message and couldn't reply... or that they aren't here anymore... or that they're shielded from it. I don't know. All I know is that the spell's trying, so it works... and that they haven't died here. You can't contact someone who's dead that way-- the spell would refuse to work at all."

Character(s): The Khyrisse Admiration Society
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Hell, Hell, Hell, see what's become of me
Title of Post: Everybody Wants Khyrisse

"Don't be that way, cheries," said Vic, draping his arms over the two elven women's shoulders.
"Hey, keep your hands to yourself," complained Asinus. "You can't have both of them. That one's mine."
"I don't even know where to start with that," muttered Khyrisse, pushing Vic away.
"His, uh, personality has been affected by the transit to Hell," said Val, a little lamely. "Hopefully he'll go back to normal when we return to Ataniel."
"At least he wasn't destroyed," Vas took a timeout from his grim demeanor to comfort his sister. "And he didn't turn evil."
Val realized sadly that Jack was much less attractive as a lounge lizard.
"RETTY!" screeched a little voice, as the third of Khyrisse's sending spells apparently bore fruit. An imp whizzed over and attached itself to her leg, almost knocking her over. "Ixhriy is so glad to see Retty again! Is Retty glad to see Ixhriy?"
"Hey, hands off!" complained Asinus.

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