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The Book of Ataniel

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



Character(s): Norna And The People Who Hate Her, next on Geraldo
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Different Past, Same Tensions

The six time travelers materialized in a Lianth alley. There was a cold and wet wind, disorientingly unseasonable. Norna released Shilree and Flicker caught her. "Are you all right?" he said in her ear. "Please, virjhac, I need one of you to be big enough to ignore the other, and I can barely trust Norn to put her boots on in a reasonable way."

Character(s): Shilree Mark B
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Feeling Borders

Shilree turned and faced Flicker. The facets of her eye gem not only held the image of Flicker but of Janther, Threnody, Sunny and two other people. Flicker, disturbed, looked away.
"What is that gem?" he asked.
"There are some things that you are better off not knowing, Flicker. Let me just say the gem is a gift. A gift that I am going to have to pay back eventually."
Shilree sighed. "As for the Valkyrie, I wanted to see how much of a fuse she has. She has a much shorter one than I thought. Still, that could be used."
"Was it worth you almost getting killed?"
"Sunfighter," Shilree laughed. "Death does not scare me. I have died so many times in the last year that doing so again does not bother me. In fact, I would welcome it if it was to come."
Flicker looked up into Shilree's face again and his blood turned cold. There was no trace of sanity in the Diarian's face.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Ravages of Time

Flicker looked steadily at the remains of one of his oldest friends, and wondered what she saw in the reflection of his eyes. "A very short fuse," was all he said, though, quietly. He patted her hand. "Two people with no fear of death should never travel together."

Character(s): Ixhriy
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: The Attentions Of An Imp

"Ixhriy," said Khyrisse, "some friends of mine are trapped in Hell, and they really don't belong here. If I did something for you, would you help me find them?"
Ixhriy perked up. "Retty could marry Ixhriy!"
"Ixhriy!" said Khyrisse, through her teeth.
"Khyrisse can't marry you!" exclaimed Skitch. "You're an imp, and she's a lady!"
"And she's tight-assed about things like that," added Asinus.
"Retty could polymorph Ixhriy!" The imp scooted up her side like a monkey and flung his scaly little arms around her neck. "Ixhriy could be a better husband than Eric!"
"Yes, I believe that," said Khyrisse. "Is there anything else I could do for you, Ixhriy?"
He looked a little disappointed. "Will Retty kill a big devil that picks on poor Ixhriy?"
"That's sounding more like it." Khyrisse tried to disentangle the imp from her hair. "Will you bind yourself to that? I help you kill this devil, you help me find my friends?"
"You don't trust Ixhriy?" he shrilled.

Character(s): Ixhriy and Khyrisse, together again...
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Merry Hell (or is that "Marry"?)
Title of Post: Garal Is Christened

Khyrisse reached up and pulled the high collar of her tunic aside, revealing the triangular scar at the base of her throat. "Do I trust you? No, dummy," she said, pointing at it. Ixhriy peered at it, and his face grew sad. His long purple tongue flicked out and licked messily at the spot on her neck. Khyrisse groaned wordlessly.
"Ixhriy is sorry... Ixhriy had to!" He turned big glowing blue puppy-dog eyes up at Khyrisse, then snuggled closer with a wide, sharp-toothed grin. "Retty can't die, though! Ixhriy knew the whole time!"
Skitch was staring in horrified fascination at the little red-scaled creature wrapped around his guardian. Khyrisse rolled her eyes. "We'll talk about that later. What devil is this that you want me to kill?"
"Mean devil-- devil is always kicking Ixhriy around. Ixhriy never gets promoted, and Ixhriy works hard!"
"I'll just bet."
"Remember that there's a very strict chain of command here," Garal said to Khyrisse. "Whoever this is, their boss is sure to notice that they've been murdered."
Ixhriy raspberried the halfling. "Happens all the time, Law'nord! Mean people watch their backs here, or they get hurt! Nobody weeps for dead mean people!"
"Amen," Vas murmured wryly.

Character(s): Caimen and Lora Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: The Remnant

Caimen stood on the bow of his ship, the Bonny Reed, and watched the fleet of the Remnant sailing towards Boche Island. Fortunately, he had been able to get all of his people out of the smuggler's port city, but the destruction of Port Boche would severely restrict Paris communications in the archipelago. Lora walked up behind him and put her hand on Caimen's shoulder. "It's going to get worse before it gets better, isn't it?" she asked.
"Yes. Yes it is," Caimen frowned. "Any word from your brother yet?"
"None. Though we did get a sighting of him and Jack at Tharrfest a few weeks ago."
"Any idea where they were heading?"
"Out," Lora sighed. "But if we can find them, we may be luckier than we thought."
"Why?" Caimen asked.
"You'll never believe who they were traveling with. Someone who could help us more against the Remnant than any man living."
"Short of the return of Ebreth fucking Tor, I can't imagine."
"Right the first time."
"Crathi's Trident, the world is inside out and upside down."
"I don't know what Asinus is doing with him, but if it really is the same Ebreth Tor..."
"...then we've still got a chance," Caimen said. "God save our souls."

Character(s): Ixhriy
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out OF Hell
Title of Post: The Truth About Eric's Vendetta

"Ixhriy loves Retty," sighed the imp, snuggling into her neck as they traveled.
"Uh-huh," said Khyrisse. "That's why you helped Eric pursue his sick vendetta against me."
"No!" protested Ixhriy. "Poor Ixhriy had to obey his master! But if Retty had been in real danger, Ixhriy would even have defied him." The imp puffed out his little chest, comically.
"I can't believe you two knew I wouldn't be killed," muttered Khyrisse. "That just makes this whole thing even sicker. He must just have wanted to hurt me."
"Oh no! Eric wanted to prepare Retty for godhood!"
She turned her head and frowned at the imp on her shoulder. "What?"
"Retty had to use big, god powers to heal herself so she could ascend!" Ixhriy scrabbled up her head and looked down into her eyes, upside down. "Ixhriy is so glad Retty didn't die with the other gods!"
"Wait a minute. You mean--you mean for fifteen years--you mean Eric followed me, attacked me, had me betrayed, beaten, killed, poisoned--"
"Ixhriy is sorry! Eric made him do it!"
The last vestiges of the idea that Khyrisse's ex-husband might ever have had anything but indifference for her fell away. He hadn't even been pursuing her from anger.
"Eric never loved Retty," announced the imp, as if reading her mind. He gave her a messy kiss on the ear. "Ixhriy loved Retty."

Character(s): "Vic" Paris, Kit Branagh
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Bully For Us

Vic petted the imp on the head. "Hey, little guy," he said, "aren't there any cute little devils you can waste your time on?"
Ixhriy glared at Vic. "Retty, can Ixhriy bite funny man's hand off?"
"Uh, no," Khyrisse said.
"Pooh," Ixhriy pouted.
"Well, if the little guy needs our help against some schoolyard bully, I say we go for it," Vic grinned. "You up for it, baby?" he asked Val.
"I'd rather you not call me that, Jack," she said.
"Vic, hon. Call me Vic."
"Hey, if this demon's being oppressed, it's up to us to rescue it!" Kit offered.
"It's a devil," Skitch corrected. "Jeez, don't you know anything?"
"I know you've got a booger hanging from your nose."
"What?" Skitch cried, checking.
Kit giggled.
"So, li'l buddy," Vic said, petting Ixhriy, "why don't you take us to your little friend."
"Ixhriy not like him," the imp told Khyrisse.
"He's usually better mannered," Khyrisse admitted.
"Hey, guys!" Asinus called from the hill. "Anyone order a gaggle of lost souls? We've got incoming."
"This is gonna be cool," Kit said, as he slipped into the shadows of Hell.

Character(s): The Practical Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: A Good Question

"Hey, Garal?" said Skitch. "Do you have a quick way to get us out of Hell once we rescue Tarrin and everybody?"

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric
Storyline: Hell and Back
Title of Post: A Good Answer

"Yes," Garal assured the boy.
He didn't worry the group by telling them where the fast way out led.

Character(s): Beliath
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Dead College
Title of Post: A Business Lunch

Beliath had taken the form of Harlan Prothero, a cleric who once had been an up-and-comer in the priesthood of Morvon, before the Zerthimaniac schism. No one in Tobrinel would recognize Prothero, Beliath was certain. Even if they did, the man had no enemies. This wouldn't be a repeat of the Grayson Mer debacle.
Beliath strode into the Tobrinel Regency, to the table that was reserved for him. Iellan had checked the area out, and guaranteed that he would be secure. Beliath sat down, his back to the wall. He wasn't taking any chances.
"Wine, sir?" the waiter asked.
Beliath nodded, but didn't touch the drink after it was poured. He muttered the words to detect poison under his breath. The wine didn't change color. Beliath breathed a sigh of relief.
"Beliath, I presume?"
The question came from a beautiful raven-haired woman, one whom Beliath had dreamed of bringing into the Dead College for years. "My, you look lovely today," Beliath offered.
"You look like an idiot," the woman smiled. "What is that face? Javinese?" She sat down at the table across from Beliath.
"I'm trying to blend in."
"Oh, that's really going to do it for you."
"You know, I didn't invite you here to discuss my personae," Beliath said. "Rumor has it that you're setting up business in the area."
"Indeed I am," the woman said. "I've got some plans for Tobrinel."
"I may be able to be of some assistance to you, then."
"Do tell. Last I heard, you were nearly destroyed by some archmage's clone."
"I see you haven't lost your ability to stay up to date."
"My new magics allow me a great deal of advantage. Get to the point, Beliath."
"I'm in possession of two pieces of the Septum Potentis," Beliath offered.
"Octem Potentis," she whispered.
"What?" Beliath asked.
"Nothing," she grinned. "Forget you heard that."
"Heard what?" Beliath asked, confused by the strange smell of brimstone.
"Which pieces?" the woman asked.
"Deal first," Beliath insisted. "I offer you the services of the Dead College in your gambit here in Tobrinel and in return, you side with the college when the Time of Reckoning comes."
"All of us?"
"All of you."
"Done. You must be getting desperate."
"The College just lost half of its power base," Beliath sighed. "And the Time is coming up soon. A year, eighteen months, max."
"When I control Tobrinel, you'll have a lot of power base to call upon," she smiled. "In the meantime, I'll need your help with tomorrow's sanction. Who have you got in the city?"
"Myself, Iellan Tach and Silverlace."
"Well, that should really be interesting," the woman said, her expression hiding much surprise. "Okay, here's what's going down..."
Beliath listened, and his smile grew as Omeria related her plan. By the time the sorceress left, Beliath knew that his luck was already starting to change.
"Your bill, sir," the waiter said.
Beliath suddenly remembered Harlan Prothero's vow of poverty.

Character(s): Sunfighters; our least favorite ally
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Ask A Stupid Question...

"I have been waiting for you," a dry voice announced from behind them. Norna turned quickly; Flicker and Luthien turned slowly. The colorless man smiled a thin smile at them. "I have a--proposition."
Luthien didn't say anything. He waited to see if the man was Wyvern or his father.
"What need have we of your proposition?" demanded Norna.
"Has it ever--occurred--to you that if you had a little more control over your desperate need to do things on your own, Norn, you might not have gotten the Valkyrie into such a state to begin with? How did you lose the Myriad?"
Norna put her hand on the wall. "Mimir?" she whispered dizzily.
That answers that question. "What kind of proposition," said Luthien, low.
"Practical boy. If there's anyone with a vested interest in your timeline, it ought to be you. Alternate chronologies seem to have a way of--revealing--how easily you are led astray." He showed the necromancer the tips of his teeth in a smile. "We have a common--impediment, Luthien, in the Overlord of Lianth."
Berryn looked from his shaken mistress to his grim-faced teacher. "Overlord of Lianth?"
"I'm afraid your heroic but, shall we say, less than wise Duke Faraker has been supplanted by the, pardon the phrasing, draconian regime of an authoritarian dictator who is not very much concerned with the comfort of your alternate compatriots."
"He sounds like your kind of guy," Luthien said, deadpan.
Wyvern inclined his head and looked down, smiling a little. "The Overlord's charms have not been entirely--wasted--upon me, but she is putting a serious... crimp in my plans for this sphere. As she is also the cornerstone separating my timeline from yours, it might behoove us to cooperate. Ask your friend with the borderline personality disorder."
No. No, it was only Wyvern. "We must find the divergence of this timeline and alter it," said Norna. "That will remove it from contention."
"Wait a minute," said Luthien, suspiciously. "If you're telling us the truth, why haven't you taken care of this overlord yourself? Why do you need us to do it for you?"
Wyvern looked at his fingers. "Let us say the Overlord has had certain-- opportunities--to limit my options for direct action against her. Now you have the chance to benefit from an alliance with someone who can bring you close to the Overlord you need to eliminate, and I have the chance to benefit from an alliance with those who are not--compromised--as I am, and have no ties to her." He looked directly at Flicker, and smiled. "Most of you, at any rate."
The elf's face betrayed nothing. "I am not going to kill her."
"How nice that you come in the company of those with more--willingness--to do what is needed, then." Wyvern inclined his head graciously at Luthien, Norna, and Shilree.
"You are not telling us the whole story, are you?" said Shilree.
"There is an old saying," said Wyvern, "you reap what you sow. You probably haven't heard of it. It's not Diarian."

Character(s): Khyrisse, Ixhriy, Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Because This Is Hell, And Life Sucks Here
Title of Post: The Voice of Caution

“Not little ‘friend’,” Ixhriy spat at Vic. “Ixhriy not have to listen to little devils. BIG devil!”
Khyrisse ran up the hill and peeked over the top at the approaching group. “Grendel. Are they looking for us? We can’t get involved in a fight now; we’ll never get anywhere near Ebreth if they send out an alert...”
“They’re looking for something, chickie-- that’s pretty damned obvious,” Asinus told her. “I thought you said we were invisible?”
“We are, but I don’t know that it means much here. Ixhriy found us easily enough. We’d better get out of here,” she said, and ran back down the hill.
“Ixhriy has a good place to hide,” Ixhriy said, reattaching himself to Khyrisse. “Ixhriy hide Retty.”
“And Retty’s friends,” Khyrisse said. Ixhriy pouted. Khyrisse glared warningly.
“And Retty’s friends,” Ixhriy said, giving in. He gave her a hurt look. “Retty acts more like Eric now.”
Khyrisse sighed and scritched his head apologetically. “It’s been a rough twenty years, Ixhriy.”

***

The Rat Pack holed up in a dismal, charred ruin nearby, waiting for the search party to give up. “All right, Ixhriy. Who is this devil that you want me to kill?”
“Ixhriy told you!”
Khyrisse sighed. Valende exchanged a look with her brother and went over to Khyrisse and Ixhriy. “You called it a big devil,” Valende interjected. “How big?”
“Ixhriy, this is Valende. She tries to keep me out of trouble,” she added, with a wry little smile for Valende. Ixhriy peered at the elven undead slayer, blue eyes bright and glowing in the dimness of the ruins. He winced after a moment.
“Hurts Ixhriy’s head,” he muttered.
“I thought I might,” Valende murmured back, and turned to Khyrisse. “You are aware that Ixhriy is...”
“Evil?” Khyrisse asked, arching an eyebrow. “Yes.” Ixhriy made a shocked noise. “Quiet, Ixhriy. Val, surely you’ve noticed that he... has a crush on me?”
“To put it mildly... But will it stop him from harming us?”
Ixhriy scowled resentfully at Valende. “Ixhriy listens to Retty!”
“Then tell ‘Retty’ who the devil is!”
Ixhriy sighed, and pressed himself closely against Khyrisse to talk in her ear. “Devil is called Shaizephon,” he hissed urgently, “but Retty shouldn’t say out loud. Attracts attention.”
Khyrisse thought about this. She’d never heard the name, but then she wouldn’t have. She beckoned Valende closer and relayed the name in a whisper. “Ring any bells?”
Valende thought about it for a long time, and eventually sighed in defeat. “No. I’ve never heard it before.”
“That means it’s not one of the really big players around here, at least... doesn’t it?”
“Most likely. I can’t be certain, though. The undead is really more my forte.”
Ixhriy perked up. “Nosti’ne likes killing undead? Mean devil is very like an undead!”
“Nosti’ne?” Valende repeated in confusion, and looked at Khyrisse. Khyrisse grinned a little. “You’ve been given a name. Ixhriy doesn’t use people’s real names. Yours is related to the infernal word for ‘caution’. He must have seen something alarming in your aura.”
Valende smiled a little. “I’m immune to poison,” she said softly, looking right at Ixhriy. “I imagine that might be it.” Ixhriy sulked. “This devil is like an undead how, Ixhriy?”
“Big,” he said, in a surly voice. “Very big. Creepy and rotting.”
“Creepy.” Khyrisse thought about this, and snapped her fingers. “It causes fear?”
“Many of the undead do,” Valende said. “If it’s a function of its semi-undead state, I have a certain amount of resistance to that. Anything else?”
“Can sting,” the imp said in a very quiet voice.
“Poison,” Valende surmised, mostly from Ixhriy’s downcast eyes. “Like a ghoul’s? Does it paralyze?”
Ixhriy refused to answer. He buried his face in Khyrisse’s hair and sniffed angrily. Khyrisse exchanged a look with Valende and sighed. “I don’t think he likes me,” Valende offered with a smile. Khyrisse rolled her eyes and gave in to the inevitable. “Please, Ixhriy?” Khyrisse coaxed, scratching him between his wings. “I’ll be safer if you tell me...”
Ixhriy sniffed again, offended.
“I stand a better chance of getting rid of it, too,” she added, applying to his self-interest.
“Devil’s poison makes people weak,” Ixhriy said finally. “Too tired to fight, can’t lift weapons. Humans, elves... maybe not Nosti’ne... devils too. Everybody. Devil shows up, beats Ixhriy for no reason. Then devil picks Ixhriy up and tosses Ixhriy in the Pit of Flame for days and days.” Khyrisse looked at the relatively harmless little creature on her shoulder in astonishment. After a moment, she shuddered. “I won’t ask,” she promised Ixhriy.
“Thank you!” he shrieked angrily into her curls. “Ixhriy is very grateful not to be asked about Pit of Flame, certainly! Ixhriy would be even more grateful not to have to go anymore!”
“I understand,” Khyrisse said softly, patting him gently and thinking of Ebreth. “Trust me, I understand.”

Character(s): An alternate Wyvern
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: the ties that bind
Title of Post: A Simple Plan

"Simple plans are usually the most elegant," said Wyvern. "I will obtain an audience with the Overlord, and you will leap out and kill her. I trust you are equal to that task?"
"Such is my nature, dragon," said Norna.
"Let me seek an audience with her first," said Flicker. "We may not have to kill her."
Norna hit him in the back of the head. "You come with us," she said. "If you go alone she may kill you, and I still need you."
"It could be worse," Wyvern consoled him, drily. "You could have made the insane Diarian your leader."
"She won't kill me."
"Allow me to give you a bit of free--advice, Eren Messala. If you're going to be traveling through alternate timelines, you may want to disabuse yourself of the--romantic--notions you may have of the individuals there. They are not necessarily as you remember them." Wyvern pulled up his sleeve to reveal, of all things, the Traveller. "This charming artifact will allow me to transport you to the Overlord's audience. You can transfer your physical forms and the--ruins--of your various psyches into--"
"We're familiar with it," interrupted Shilree, impatiently.
"Really," said Wyvern. "That is most unfortunate. I had rather intended to tell you you couldn't leave the artifact without my mental command." He smiled much too pleasantly at them. "Small matter. Please bear in mind that giving away our little surprise by leaping forth and trying to play Janther Moria is most likely to result in all of your deaths, as well as great inconvenience for me."
"Do you think we care if we inconvenience you?" demanded Norna.
For the first time, Luthien found himself pleased the Valkyrie had said something.

Character(s): Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Every Old Sock Meets An Old Shoe

Hronmir followed the Pale Man in silence. Ragnarokkr seemed to know him, and the reaction was not favorable.
"Who is this man, to command such as the Valkyrie?" Hronmir asked quietly.
"It's evil incarnate," Luthien whispered back. "A star dragon who calls himself Wyvern. Don't listen to him, or he'll steal your soul."
"His magic must be great."
"Actually, it's his mind that's the worst."
"Are you coming, necromancer?" Norna demanded.
"This is such a bad idea," Luthien grumbled.
Hronmir put his hand on the necromancer's shoulder and nodded. "Our cause is pure. We will overcome what we need to."
"Why does that not comfort me?"

Character(s): Skitch and Kit (should we really have brought these kids to Hell?)
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Babes In Hell

"How will we find the big devil?" asked Alphred.
"Maybe we could yell its name lots of times," suggested Skitch. "That always makes devils come in fairy tales."
"Maybe we could go to the place where the devil always tries to beat up Ixhriy," suggested Kit, "and when he tries to beat up Ixhriy we can beat up him. That's what my friend did when a bully was picking on m--I mean, that's what I did when a bully was picking on my friend."

Character(s): Vic Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay
Title of Post: Vic, On Devil Psychology

"You know, little guy," Vic said, rubbing the imp's head. "what seems like a big devil to you, probably isn't to us. You just leave it in our hands, and me and the ladies will take care of things."
"What you know, silly man?" Ixhriy griped. "Devil big, I tell you!"
"Devils just like to think big," Vic grinned.
"Oh, that helps a whole lot," Kit smirked.
"I like Kit's plan, to find the place this devil hangs out," Val offered.
"Brilliant idea, baby," Vic said. "You know, you're almost as smart as you are beautiful." He pointed at her and clicked his tongue.
"So, Ixhriy, where did you last see this devil?" Khyrisse asked.
"Him live in Palace that Fall to Hell."
"Where's that?"
"It on Island of No Return."
"Sounds cheery," Asinus grumbled. "Why couldn't it've been on the Island of Naked Girls?"
"That am in third level of Hell," Ixhriy offered.
"Unc, sounds like a date," Vic grinned.

Character(s): Wyvern, Lord Kyber
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: ties that bind
Title of Post: Fatal Attraction

"Wyvern." She stretched back in her chair and hooked one of her black boots on the rim of the table between them. "What a nice surprise. Have you missed our little alliance?"
She was wearing a black leather bodysuit with a high Shikinti collar and a demonic copper necklace. Her hair fell as soft as the ocean and dark as wine, uncontained. "Alliance?" hissed Berryn. "Shhhh!" said Luthien, and looked at Flicker. Flicker didn't look back.
"Our--alliance--was not so good for Lianth, Shalini."
"You don't think so?" She rocked lazily forward and onto the table with cat-like grace, one knee and two hands. The light reflected sharply from her eyes. "Maybe not. It was certainly good for us."
"Horndog mortals," muttered Norna, as Shalini Kyber grabbed the back of Wyvern's head in her left hand and kissed him like there was no tomorrow. Luthien's jaw dropped open. "Hello!" yelled Norna, and banged the wall of the Traveller. "We're still in here! Hello! Get a grip on yourself!"
Wyvern ignored her. When Shalini came up for air she put her arm behind his back and her lips against his ear and whispered "I do hope you weren't planning on having those people in your armband kill me." The form of Wyvern's arm started to shift and blur, but as it did some bright light seemed to burst somewhere in his head, and her crooked, cocky smile was the last thing his passengers saw as the viewscreens faded to black.

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