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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Just Around The Corner To The Light Of Day

“So what was that all about?” Jack asked, scrambling over the rubble after Ebreth the pig.

“Got me,” Ebreth said. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Maybe he was pissed off that she blamed him for the imagining her with her clothes off thing.” Ebreth allowed as how that could have been his fault too.

“That--doesn’t sound like Asinus somehow,” said Jack, squinting a little with the effort of memory.

“Well, who knows what kind of bullshit they’ve been putting him through in here. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose nerves are frayed.” Ebreth turned around as Jack slowed down. “You getting something?”

“I--I’m not sure.” The carpenter moved towards the crumbling wall and moved aside the kudzu vines. There was a faded blue door there, patently ordinary-looking. “This couldn’t be it--could it?”

“I was half-asleep when I came in,” Ebreth admitted. “And it was raining like hell. I wouldn’t recognize the door I came in by if it hit me in the ass. Does it look right to you?”

“It’s giving me deja vu. Does that count?” Jack exerted a jiggling clockwise vector sequence on the brass doorknob, trying to get it to catch. “You’re human again,” he commented as an aside.

“Really.” Ebreth looked at his hands. “I--you know, what does that tell you about this place, that I didn’t notice this right away?” He shook his head and joined his friend in front of the door. “You know, it--doesn’t look like there’s a locking mechanism on this.” Jack moved out of the way, and Ebreth, after a moment’s pause, willed a steelwire into his hand. Nothing attacked them. “Could be barred or something,” Ebreth said, and ran the wire carefully down the doorjamb. It didn’t catch on anything. Ebreth could see daylight through the crack. He tried the lower half of the door. Still nothing. “Not good,” he said. “It must be magically sealed, or maybe even psionically.”

“But you can still pick it, right?” Jack said hopefully.

“Keep smiling, Paris,” said Ebreth. “If it was a magical lock, maybe; but there’s probably five thieves in the world who could spring a forcefield, and I’m not one of them. Khyrisse has a dispel magic. If we’re sure this is the way out, we could always come back here with her.”

“She wouldn’t be able to help anyway,” Brett said.

The casual way in which people appeared and disappeared around here was really starting to wear at Ebreth’s cognitive skills. The impossible way some of these rooms and caverns interconnected had already destroyed his direction sense beyond any usability. “Hello, Brett,” he sighed, trying to keep up the pretense that she’d entered at some point just for his own sanity’s sake.

“If it isn’t just like a man to try and circumvent his destiny with a piece of metal. Honestly, Tor.” She tossed her head, but her smile was warm. “You can’t leave here until you’ve made your choice, you know.”

“If someone would put it to me in straight Dalen, maybe I would,” he growled.

“Brett,” Jack suddenly recognized her. “Brett... Astra?”

“That’s right, pet. I’m not really supposed to be talking to you, but as long as I’ve been summoned here anyway.” She held her hand out for him to kiss. He looked very dizzy. “Dear Jack. You don’t really belong here, you know.”

“I’m--not sure I really belong anywhere.”

“He belongs with us,” Ebreth said. “Tell me how to get him out, Brett. Coyote Jay said I could get him out.”

“Follow your heart, Tor. That’s all I’m allowed to tell you.”

And then she was gone again. Ebreth looked at the door, dawn creeping around its edges and across the broken rock in two lengthening slivers of gold.

He kicked it, hard. Heartfelt though that was, the door remained stolidly shut.

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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