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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel


Ebreth eyed Coyote Jay warily. “All right,” he said to Brett, “so if you’re my destiny and the Hotel is our mythology, then who the hell is this guy?”

“Coyote Jay, pet. He’s one of the Aspects of the Sidhe. Your desires have summoned him to us. There, wasn’t that nicer than hack-and-slashing your way through the Monster Manual?”

“I can’t keep any of this straight,” Ebreth muttered, holding his head. “Aspect of the Sidhe?”

“Redemption, to oversimplify matters,” the red-haired man said laconically. Here, in the dim light of the stars, his face finally seemed large enough for his overlong features, his jaundiced eyes glittered golden. Ebreth suddenly had the unpleasant feeling he was standing before a god. “I told you you were one of mine. Now let’s see if I’ve chosen well. Does this look familiar to you?”

Ebreth’s attention was arrested by the fist-sized sphere the being held out. He’d never seen it before, he was sure of that; but it was hard to take his eyes off it, some kind of pulsing black stone inlaid heavily with gold. “I’m--not sure,” he said, staring at it. “What is it?”

“That would be your soul, Mr. Tor. You see, you’ve still got the same one you had in your previous existence as a slave lord. You may have figured that out from your little run-in with Hell?”

“I’m not going back there,” Ebreth said hoarsely, his hand going for his empty scabbard in a reflexive panic.

“No,” said Coyote Jay. “No, you’re not. The question is where you are going with it.” He skimmed his long hand over the sphere. “This is how your soul looked when you returned to Ataniel a year and a half ago.” Ebreth looked into it unwillingly, half-mesmerized by the slow and fluid motion somewhere beneath its onyx surface. “No different than it had been during your last life. But then things began to... change.” The delicate threads of gold inlaying the black stone began to thicken and shift, becoming irregular, lumpier, growing together in places. Ebreth’s skin crawled. Even he could tell he was witnessing some primordial dance mortal men were never meant to see. Khyrisse would probably have found this all fascinating; Ebreth wanted nothing more than to create a diversion and run like hell. “And now you have reached a crossroads,” said Coyote Jay, the soul in his hand half grown over with misshapen lava flows of gold. “Do you intend to go forwards--” he moved his hand left to right, revealing a golden sphere set with sparkling onyx stones-- “or back?” He moved his hand right to left again, revealing the onyx sphere with its delicate inlay pattern of gold. “Because right now--” He flicked it lightly with his fingers, returning it to its lumpy, asymmetrical middle form. “No offense, but your soul’s what a layman might call a bastard child.”

“None... taken...”

“Good.” Coyote Jay closed his hand around the sphere. “Because you can’t have your cake and eat it too, as the little saying goes. You only get one soul. We can’t have you gallivanting around Ataniel rejecting the negative aspects of the one you started with yet still making free use of the positives. If you want to turn yourself into someone else you are going to need to make a clean break with your past, to kill, if you’ll pardon the crude language, the man you used to be. So the heart of the matter is this: leaving Hell out of the picture for once, because frankly that’s not going to be an issue for you either way at this point; with no threat of infernal damnation hanging over your head at all, is this still a change you want to make, and are you willing to leave your old self behind forever in order to make it?”

Ebreth looked at Coyote Jay for two beats. “What is this, some kind of trick question? Hell yes. Sharing a soul with that guy scares the fuck out of me. You want it, it’s all yours. I never want to be that person again.”

“Easy choices mean very little,” sighed Coyote Jay, “in this profession, I’m afraid.”

“Then what do you want from me?” said Ebreth, exasperated.

“A decision you’ve given more than thirty seconds of thought to, Mr. Tor. For instance, are you aware Jack Paris is lost in this Hotel?”

“Jack’s here?” Ebreth frowned. “What could you possibly want with him?”

“This is the Hotel, Tor,” sighed Coyote Jay. “Not everyone comes here for the same reason. Not everyone enters the same way, and--this is key--not everyone can leave the same way they came in.”

“And?” said Ebreth, uneasily.

“And what if Ebreth Tor is the only one who can let him out?”

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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