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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Hell and Back Archives
Fatal Attractions, Part III

Character(s): Skitch and Kit
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Morning Over Hell
Title of Post: One Method Of Stress Management
Strangely enough, it was raining in Hell. It did seem to be raining blood, which kept it from looking too un-hellish, but the temperature was considerably cooler. The rocky arroyos that had been dry as old bones yesterday were rushing madly today. There was something somehow beautiful about it, which was very disturbing. Alphred was finishing his communion with the totem of the bat.
"To Palace That Fell From Hell!" shrieked Ixhriy, clinging against Khyrisse. Skitch, still morose after the news about Tarrin, did not seem thrilled about either Ixhriy or Asinus constantly taking excuses to grab at the only mother he really had, but he was tensely polite.
Then Kit gave him a wedgie.
"You son of a--"

Character(s): The Brat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Tucson To Pay
Title of Post: Rhyme, Rhyme, Who's Got a Rhyme...
"SKITCH!" Khyrisse shouted warningly, cutting him off.
Kit dissolved into laughter.
Skitch tackled him. Khyrisse covered her eyes and shook her head as the boys tumbled around, getting muddy.
"Oh, we're real subtle," she sighed. "I should be carrying a sign. 'Former Deity and Leader of Mortal Extraction Force-- Shoot Me Now, Please?'."
"Aw, man, my tunic!" Skitch said, completely filthy but looking less stressed, oddly enough.
"That's what you get for messing with the Greatest Thief on Ataniel," said Kit, grinning.

Character(s): Vas
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Morning Over Hell
Title of Post: The Running Gag That Would Not Die
"We're coming up on a building," said Vas. "Could that be the Palace That Fell To Hell!"
"No, dummy!" shrilled Ixhriy. "Palace That Fell To Hell on Island Of No Return! That way!"
"Then what is this place?" asked Vas. "It looks like a diner."
"That 100% Human Hair," said Ixhriy. "Ixhriy not like eat there. Serve only hair. Mostly dead evil souls eat there."


"This is so gross," said Doug.
"I wonder if this hair comes from Diaria," said Laura.

Character(s): Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Hell to Pay, Special Surprise Storyline
Title of Post: Been In Hell Too Long
Cresting the hill, Khyrisse, in the lead, came to an abrupt halt. The rest of the Rat Pack clambered up behind her. All were awe-struck with the sight stretching out below them. A valley... really, more a canyon... stretched out in a panorama of reds and oranges.
"Not like it here," Ixhriy said. "Hill forbidden. Must go quickly."
Mist rose in strange yet beautiful twisting wisps. The flashing lightning danced between stone spires and filled the air with an iridescent glow. "It's... beautiful..." Khyrisse said.
"I didn't think Hell could look so... striking..." Val said.
"Gorgeous," Vic said, "this is nothing next to you, baby."
Val didn't glare. She couldn't take her eyes away from the view.
"We must go! Forbidden hill!" Ixhriy cried.
"I can imagine that it's forbidden," Khyrisse said. "It's too beautiful for damnation."
"No! Evil witch live here!"
"Evil witch?" Khyrisse demanded, images of Trillarillia Carraria flashing to her mind and slowing her heart.
"Evil witch come to Hell but not dead... devils tried to take her but she kick their asses."
"Please," Asinus said. "We prefer the term 'donkey'."
"Must leave!" Ixhriy cried.
"You know," Vic said. "If she's mortal, she might be able to give us some advice about getting Ebreth and Cori out of here."
"Where is this witch, Ixhriy?" Khyrisse demanded, swallowing her fear. If Trillarillia wasn't dead...
"Right here," came a young woman's voice from behind the party.
A doorway had opened in the side of one of the stony spires, and the evil witch was standing in it. She was young, at least in appearance, with pale blonde hair and glasses. There was a strange triangular ornament resting upon her brow, and she was dressed in a leather archer's outfit that had seen better days.
"I am the archmage Khyrisse," Khyri said, trying to recall what the other two Weird Sisters looked like. "We mean you no harm."
"I mean you no harm either," the woman said. "Unless your pet devil's going to try to drag me off."
"Ixhriy is good devil. Retty's friend," he said, hiding behind Khyrisse.
"Hey there, beautiful," Vic said, pulling out a business card. "Vic Paris, professional mathematician and adventurer."
"Who are you, and how did you come to Hell?" Khyrisse demanded.
"I am the Princess Kristin," the woman said. "And as to how I got here... well, it's a long story."
"Care to give us the brief version?" Khyrisse asked, looking oddly at the woman, like she was somehow familiar.
"Sure," Princess Kristin sighed. "Once upon a time..."

Character(s): Princess Kristin and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay: OUAT 813
Title of Post: Are You a Bad Witch, or a Good Psionic?
Ixhriy interrupted the woman. "Not listen to evil witch!" he implored Khyrisse. "Evil witch will hurt Ixhriy!"
Princess Kristin sighed patiently. �There's been a mistake, I'm not the evil one. I only want the devils to stop bothering me. As long as you don't try to drag me off to be tortured, you're perfectly safe," she reassured him.
Ixhriy subsided. The woman turned her attention back to Khyrisse and the others. "Where was I?" she asked with a slightly shy smile.
"At the beginning, I believe," Vas supplied, with a familiar and charming grin. Valende raised her eyes to the heavens. "You were explaining how you got here."
"Right. Well, to make a long story short, I was sent here by... someone very close to me, as part of a plot to usurp the throne." She blinked a little. "I imagine they've succeeded by now," she said, sadly.
"How long have you been here?" Khyrisse asked.
"You know... I don't remember?" Princess Kristin laughed briefly, silently. She glanced down at her bedraggled clothing. "A long time."
"Evil witch has been here as long as Ixhriy can remember," the imp said from behind Khyrisse. "Many many years!"
Princess Kristin sighed again, less patiently this time. "I'm not the evil witch, Pandemonium was the evil witch, I'm not a witch at all!"
"Things fly around and biff devils in the head whenever devils come here! Devils get scared to death and jump off cliff!!"
"That's psionics, Ixhriy," she said, clearly. "Not magic. The evil witch left with... with someone, shortly after I arrived."
"Pandemonium?" Valende asked. "What an awful name."
"It's probably the way I'm saying it, really..."
"Who is she?"
"She's me." Princess Kristin raised her head, to look calmly and directly at Valende. "She's my evil half... made tangible, made into her own person. I know that sounds kind of crazy--"
"The Schism Tine. Dammit, when will that thing stop messing people up!?" Khyrisse demanded angrily, of no one in particular.
Princess Kristin looked at Khyrisse, puzzled. She, too, had a look of recognition in her eyes for a moment. She shook her head, dismissing the matter. "We'd killed Pandemonium a long time ago; we thought that her ally, the Evil Wizard, had been killed as well... but he�d escaped. During an... absence,� Princess Kristin looked down again, as if speaking of something too personal to share with strangers, �of the Hero of the Realm, the Evil Wizard sent me here, still alive, and then convinced the Hero of the Realm when he returned that I had died. He came looking for me--"
�And rescued your evil half,� Valende whispered.
Princess Kristin nodded woefully. �I can�t imagine what she�s done to him. I�m sure the kingdom is in ruins by now. But this close to the Island of No Return, I can�t get out on my own.� Vas gave the area a dubious look. Princess Kristin flashed him a crooked smile and beckoned him to the edge of the canyon. Vas followed her and looked down into it. The Princess pointed to a small patch of darkness at the base of the canyon, where a wide, misty river ran. The water was grey before it touched the shadowy island, but turned black as the waters parted around it. �You�re looking at where the River Styx becomes the River Lethe. Not even memories leave the Island of No Return-- it�s where Lethe acquires its powers of forgetfulness. I�m really sorry to say so, but you folks might be trapped here as well.�
Khyrisse tugged on Valende�s sleeve. �Val, is she safe? Can we ask her along?�
�Milady,� Valende said, looking at the Princess, �I can barely find any evil in her.�
�I�ve got plenty, I�m afraid,� the Princess said, with a rueful smile. �It�s just... not here right now.�

Character(s): Alphred
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Through Hell
Title of Post: In The Jungle, We Have No Evil Twins
"The totem of the bat will protect us from being trapped," Alphred announced, with simple faith.

Character(s): Jale Harcourt
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Rally Time
Jale Harcourt knocked on the office door of the Duke of Tobrinel.
"Enter!" Duke Deveaux called.
Jale poked his head in. "It's almost time for the rally, sir."
"Damned, but I hate these things," Duke Deveaux grumbled, pulling his girth out of the chair and parting the curtain to look down at the Festival throng.
"You know that if you don't make a good showing, sir, they won't renew you at election time."
"Elections and Festivals make ill companions, if you ask me," the Duke sighed.
"Ah, but it's tradition in Tobrinel, sir."
"Are you running this year, Harcourt?"
"No, sir... I'm with you, of course."
"You're a terrible asskisser, Jale, but at least I know where you stand, I guess..."
"I hear tell that Jardin is thinking about running this year," Jale mentioned.
"I hear that every year," Deveaux sighed. "If Jardin ever ran, I'd throw my own support behind him."
"Well, I guess we'll see at the Nominations tomorrow," Jale said, looking at his feet. "Shall we go?"
"Might as well," Deveaux said, straightening his ascot.


The Rally Square was full when the Duke arrived.
"Dev-EAUX! Dev-EAUX!" came the shouts of the people as he approached the podium. The Duke smiled. He was well loved in Tobrinel. Even if Jardin did run, it would be a close race. Deveaux spoke for forty minutes, the crowd hanging on his words. Even though sometimes from the offices above he doubted his calling, his ability to care for Tobrinel... when he was here, with the people... he knew. This was where he belonged.
Flushed and grinning, Duke Deveaux finally climbed down from the podium.
Harcourt was applauding him all the way.
"Excellent speech, sir... you have them all, guaranteed."
"It's just a matter of taking care of the people, Jale," Deveaux said.
"There's someone here who wanted to meet with you, sir... she's my niece, just come to Tobrinel."
Duke Deveaux looked into the blue eyes of the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen.
"Very pleased to meet you, Lord Deveaux," the woman curtsied.
"Please," Deveaux said, unable to take his eyes from her. "Call me Rand."
The young woman blushed.
"I don't think I caught your name, though," Deveaux continued.
"My name is Ariath, sir," the lady said meekly.
Jale Harcourt smiled a long, long grin.

Character(s): Ixhriy, Vic, and the kids
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Ixhriy the Temp Worker
Rickety bridges of bone seemed to extend out to the island from all directions. "Island Of No Return," explained Ixhriy.
"Hey, little guy," crooned Vic, "if this is the Island Of No Return, and the math does back you up on that, how do you get in and out of here to play with your little devil friend?"
"Big devil!" shrieked Ixhriy. "Not Ixhriy friend! Big devil kicks Ixhriy and throws him in the pit!" The imp looked balefully at the lounge lizard equation. "Funny man have strange ideas about friendship."
"My question stands, little fella. How do you usually get back off this paradoxical little island of yours?"
"Leave with work detail," said Ixhriy, "or get thrown into Pit of Flames. Ixhriy prefer to leave with work detail."
"You work here?" said Kit.
"Ixhriy work many places. Ixhriy never gets a promotion. Not fair." Ixhriy sulked.
"Does the big mean devil work here too?" Skitch asked.
"Big mean devil lives in Palace That Fell To Hell. Ixhriy hate working on Island Of No Return because big mean devil always interrupts his work and throws him in the Pit of Flames. Then Ixhriy's boss yell at him for not finishing his work. Everybody mean to Ixhriy." He snuggled into Khyrisse. "Except Retty."
"What--kind of work do you do there?" asked Kit, fascinated.
"Bad, stupid, boring work. Ixhriy never get a promotion." The imp pouted. "Clean up. Transfer damned souls. Fix machines. Sometimes help with torture. Ixhriy am a temp worker."
"That sucks," agreed Skitch.
"At least you're getting a lot of experience," offered Kit.
"And where is the Palace That Fell To Hell?" said Khyrisse, trying very hard to remain patient.
"On island," said Ixhriy. "Upside-down castle. Retty can not miss it."

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: The Island of No Return
Khyrisse made her way carefully over the bone bridge furthest upstream, grateful for the added dexterity of her cat's grace spell. She eyed the water rushing beneath the walkway warily, the grey river darkening as she neared the Island.
She paused near the other side and looked back. The mist rising from the river obscured the bank, although the Island had been perfectly visible from there. She shivered and looked down at the water through the interwoven bones. There were quite a lot of things and people she wished she could forget. There were a few things worth remembering, though. Khyrisse sighed and crossed to the Island of No Return, a rueful smile tugging at her lips. Pity it�s not selective.
As she stepped onto the Island itself, a dizzying sensation swept over her; and for a moment, she couldn�t tell up from down. The points of the compass rearranged themselves.
Khyrisse blinked. She couldn�t tell for the life of her which bridge she�d taken to get here.


Once they were on the Island, Ixhriy huddled on Khyrisse�s shoulder and said as little as possible. The whole place was quiet, without quite being silent. There were odd whispering noises at the edge of hearing that could have been the distant sounds of the river... or something else entirely. The temperature took a decided plunge.
Running her hands up and down her bare arms, Princess Kristin glanced at Ixhriy and Khyrisse, then at Valende. -Valende? Don�t be alarmed, it�s only me,- said a gentle voice in Valende�s mind. -Since your guide can understand any language, like most devils, I thought I should ask my question this way. Exactly which devil is it that you�ve promised to kill?-
Valende blinked a little, and thought carefully to her, -Its name is Shaizephon. Ixhriy has described it as �big, creepy, and rotting�, and �very like an undead�. That�s all we could get out of him, really. -
-Like an undead?- the Princess repeated in alarm. -Oh dear.- The young woman unslung her bow and settled her battered quiver more comfortably on her back. -I think I�ve run into one of those; only the once, thank goodness. If Shaizephon is one of the same kind that I encountered, we�re all in a lot of trouble.-
�Ixhriy,� Khyrisse whispered from the front of the group. �Is that the Palace?�
�Yes,� Ixhriy hissed back, hiding in her hair.
�It looks... familiar.� The archmage sounded both puzzled and vaguely horrified. �But I can�t figure out why.�

Character(s): Ariath, Omeria, Beliath, Silverblade
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Omeria Agenda
Title of Post: Clearing the Field
"Wow, you're really the Duke? That must be a lot of work!"
"I have my share of responsibilities," Deveaux said.
"I'm soo impressed," Ariath grinned.


Beliath wandered the Tobrinel night. Somewhere out there was someone he could give his message to. Iellan and Silverlace weren't appropriate for this. Besides, they were busy enough taking care of Harcourt. No, the message to Cloak would have to be delivered by Harlan Prothero.


Omeria looked at the pieces laid out on the draughts board before her. The knight for Marhault. The rogue for Ariath. The castle for Beliath. And the pawn, about to be taken, for Jale Harcourt. On the other side of the board, the King, Duke Deveaux, sat, unprepared, waiting for the checkmate.


"Lovely party, Jardin," Martin Stromgald said, lifting a glass of wine in mock toast.
"Festival time should be enjoyed by everyone, Martin," Ian smiled. "I'm glad you were able to make it. Your contribution to the foundation will help a lot of Tobrinel's homeless to get adequate food."
"Always glad to be a help, Ian," Martin smiled. "I'm going to be out of town for a while on business, so I wanted to get my new year's good deed in early."
"It's people like you that make this town the place it is, Martin," Ian Jardin smiled.


Beliath/Prothero wandered down a bleak alley. Somewhere in this end of town there would have to be vampires.
"Dee-da-dee," Beliath murmured, feigning drunkenness. "I'm a helpless bystander... not a weapon to my name..."
The shadows got darker. Beliath smiled.
Before Harlan Prothero's eyes, a figure coalesced out of the mist.
"That is a shame, stranger..." the vampire hissed.
"I have a message for your master," Beliath said, all hesitancy leaving his voice.
"And I care not... you will be mine, fool!"
Beliath/Harlan pulled a holy icon of Tal from his robe.
"Hold your place, dead one. I am a holy priest of Tal, and you have no power over me."
Unfortunately, Beliath had missed the second vampire behind him.
"Good thing I'm an atheist," Blackblade smiled.
"Shit," sighed Beliath as he felt the fangs enter his neck.


"Want a backrub?" Ariath asked.
"That would be heaven," Deveaux smiled.

Character(s): The Rat Pack In Hell
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Like A Bat Out Of Hell
Title of Post: Palace That Fell To Hell
Khyrisse put her finger on what made the inverted castle look so familiar. It looked exactly like the surreal buildings the Sewer Tour had seen when they were on Gila's homeworld. As they drew closer, Khyrisse put her finger on the other thing that seemed familiar: there were people crucified along its outer walls. Khyrisse tried not to think about Trade. Flicker had tried to reassure her that she would not have been of any help if she had gone with him and Signet, but she still wished she had, or at least that she hadn't opposed the idea so much. Khyrisse sighed and moved on. Skitch tugged at her tunic and pointed. "Hey, what about--aren't we going to help those people?"
"Those are damned souls, Skitch," said Khyrisse, with more confidence than she felt. "Remember when you said bad things always seem to happen to nice people? Well, this is what happens to bad people. Tarrin is, uh, wherever good Diarians go, and it's probably a lot nicer than this."
"Oh," said Skitch. He still looked kind of confused. This greater cosmology stuff didn't make an awful lot of sense to him.
"Retty kill big mean devil now." The imp unfurled his wings and flapped towards the inverted illithid palace. "Follow Ixhriy."

Character(s): Garal Tinderhook, innocent halfling
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Hell To Pay
Title of Post: Truth Hits Everybody
A shiver ran down Garal's spine when he saw the tortured souls. He had been a guide for a diplomatic mission the other time he was here, and crucified souls had not been on display. The damned cleaned bathrooms and other demeaning things, he was told, not tortured. Torture was for PR... to keep the living in line.
Garal sighed-- disillusioned. He had thought a government as organized as the one here would be truthful, even if the individual devils were not trustworthy.
A little more innocence was lost from the world.

Character(s): Three
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: ties that bind
Title of Post: Missing Pieces
Lian froze up at the click of heeled boots on the hallway outside. She put her hand over Ulmo's mouth, her heart pounding almost out of her chest. Lord Kyber would kill her here, she knew, but she had no choice. If she had to die for love she would. That much Lian knew.
She exhaled as the boots ticked swiftly by.


Shalini shut the door to her private chamber and sealed it. She wanted her guards and concubines to overhear her conversation less than she felt she needed protection. "All right," she said, "shoot."
"I am Tjekanefir Lord Vestaya," said the man, in the Central Eleven. "I come from the future and I know what I--didn't know then. What you don't know." He took a breath. "We need mantava."
"ManTAVa?" She turned on him, frowning. "Are you from Draize?"
"Do you really think I'm going to absorb your memories? I wasn't born yesterday." She laughed aloud at it; it hadn't been that long ago, actually. "I don't appreciate being taken for a fool," she said, and took her silver blade out of the desk drawer. "Who are you, and what do you want here?"
"I am Tjekanefir Lord Vestaya," he said, louder, his voice gaining momentum, "and I am here because I love you, Shalini."
She sat on the arm of the sofa, her elbow on its back, and leaned her face into the back of the hand that held the sword, her left eye and her crooked mouth crinkling into a grin.
He had five minutes to live. Starting now.


Flicker held his ground. "You are one incarnation," he said. "I am four. I know the things you missed. What I needed to know. Let me show you."
"Sure," she said. "In fact, why don't I mantava with every demon who asks me. Especially if he's got a great story like yours. I was getting bored of being alive anyway."
"You don't believe me."
"What was your first clue?"
"But you will. Shalini, you are going to destroy this world."
"You are so melodramatic." Shalini rolled her eyes and flopped across the sofa, her legs up over the arm. "I don't want to destroy these people, I want to rule them. This is my realm."
"It doesn't matter what you want," said Flicker. "You will destroy it. Brionwy is using you."
She swung up and slapped him across the face, dropping the sword. "Don't talk about my mother," she roared.
He slapped her right back. "Don't deny my parentage!"
She stopped and looked at him. Shalini's face was not one that hid the movement of her emotions well. She looked away, her face evolving. "She wouldn't do that."
"You're not that stupid," he barked, "I know how it was with us but you have common sense now, Shalini, use it!" She didn't answer. "We accelerate the aging rate of our hosts. It is increasing each time. Maka has set us to destroy everything. You will destroy this woman, you will destroy this world. She doesn't care about your empire. I need to explain to you, let me explain." She put her hand on the back of the sofa and looked at it, a stillness in her compressed lips. Flicker watched her think. "What are you afraid of?"
She tilted her head up at him from the sofa, one eye narrower than the other. She looked him in the eye for a long, a very long moment, and then she reached out her hand and put her first two fingers to his right temple and her thumb to the bridge of his nose, still looking at him. "Kaitpax mantava karasjir," she said, "mitvanx mantava alxhainja."
"Mitvankhu mantava karasjir," he said, "kaitpakhu mantava retisval."

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