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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Out Of The Frying Pan

“Are you ready to try again?” Mina asked.

“I think so.” Rani sighed, and braced herself on the velvet wall. “All right, this time I’m really pussy-whipped, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, and I incorrectly think macho violence will make me look less weak than admitting it when I’m hurt.”

“Do I want to know what she said about me?” Asinus asked of no one in particular.

“No,” Mina murmured.

The room stretched and yawed, and Rani’s face strained. Then they were back in the ballroom, on the mezzanine this time. “No good,” she said, panting a bit. “Can’t reach him.”

“Would it be easier if you had a slightly less, ah... superficial understanding of the people you’re looking for?” Mina asked diplomatically. “Because I could help you with that one.”

“Nah, I do already. Overexertion just makes me snarky. I only have a six constitution.” She pushed a few strands of her silvery hair back out of her face, breathing irregularly. “I’ll try harder to keep it to myself. Goddammit, if we ever find these boys, I am going to kick their asses for dragging me to this psionic hell-hole.”

“I don’t really see what you’re complaining about,” Mina said contemplatively. “It sounds as if you have a tremendous amount of power in here.”

“Yeah, well. Whatever confrontation-with-your-dark-side BS Newell has planned for me, it probably does not have to do with succumbing to a lust for power.” The psionicist rubbed her temples with the first two fingers of each hand. “I was voted ‘least likely to become a lich’ back in Rimbor.”

“Yeah,” Marty piped up. “I totally don’t get why everyone else in the team is always saying you’re such a lich. Cause you’re not even dead or anything.”

There were a few moments of complete silence. “We, uh, mean that in the most affectionate way possible, of course,” Asinus offered with a broad, weak smile.

“Oh, bite me,” Rani said crossly, and folded her arms. “Hold on, I think I’ve got something.”


“For the last time, you are not my avatar,” Valende snapped, her long store of patience starting to near its end. “I am a priestess of Corellon and I can tell the difference, thank you!”

“Then do you want to fuck?” Kerouac said hopefully.

“FOR THE LAST TIME, I DO NOT WANT TO--” The jungle rippled, and then Rani, Mina and Marty stepped through a dangling curtain of vines. Val let out a big sigh of relief as the elven berserker faded from view. “Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “I was starting to think I’d never get away from that idiot.”

“I’m an idiot,” Marty offered, perking up at the idea of being useful.

“Yes, but you’re our idiot, dear,” Val smiled, and patted him on the arm. “Where are the others?”

“Don’t know yet,” muttered Rani, leaning on the nearest tree. Valende blinked; the psionicist wasn’t wearing her gloves. Val had only seen her the once without them, really. “You four are all I’ve been able to find so far.”

“We--four?” Valende looked for the Rat in somebody’s pocket.

“Yeah, four. You, Mina, Hu, and--” Rani jerked her head back and forth. “Asinus?”


“Well, flark me,” sighed Asinus, looking at the naked natives dancing around the soup cauldron he was tied up in. “This wasn’t the best place to finally piss that girl off once too often, now, was it?”

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