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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Through A Glass Darkly, Part V



Character(s): The Skeiners, the Joker
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: The Innocent and the Beautiful
Title of Post: Old Friends Turn Up In The Darndest Places

Luthien turned from his window seat as Flicker entered the room, and motioned him over. As the Nordic elf sat down, Luthien said, "I've been thinking about what we can do while we're here, and I just remembered something. I'm actually surprised I didn't think about it when we first got here, but then again, I was kind of depressed."
"What did you remember? Something about Rimbor?"
"Yes. Specifically, about me and Rimbor. Since we're looking for my analog here, it stands to reason that he would have been brought here just as I was." Flicker nodded, seeing the logic. "We should be looking around the dungeons of the Arena for information."
Flicker considered this for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't think that's going to work. First of all, nobody who remembers you is likely to tell us anything. Most of your fellow gladiators would be either dead or in the Duke's pocket."
Luthien grinned. "I already thought of that. Fortunately, my collar has been enchanted so that I can speak with the dead at will. We don't need to talk to a single living soul."
"Okay, that's one hurdle. How do you propose we get in?"
"Through the secret entrance the Sewer Tour was told about when we went after Duke St. Augustine. I know it connects to his dungeons, and that his dungeons connect to the Arena. We just have to be quiet about it." He paused for a second. "Do you think Shilree is in a state of mind to be quiet right now?"
"I think so." Flicker looked a bit sad. "She's just kind of staring into space, muttering in Diari. Granted, I'm not entirely sure how she's going to react, but I think she's in a vaguely lucid frame of mind right now."
Luthien sighed, then got up and said, "Well, let's rally the troops then. No sense putting this off.

***


The adventurers paused before a large, barely concealed wooden doorway. They had spent the last hour or so making their way through Duke St. Augustines dungeon network, and they had yet to meet any real resistance. Granted, there was the basilisk, and the two animated statues, and the two patrols of guards, but they had fallen so quickly that Luthien had hardly registered them as threats. He said as much to Flicker as Hronmir checked out the door.
Flicker smiled. Yeah, well, you have to remember that we were all a lot less experienced in those days. As I recall, you couldnt even cast things like Wall of Fire or Cone of Cold.
Luthien paused to reflect on this, then smiled also. You know, youre right. Hard to believe, isnt it?
Flicker was about to respond when Hronmir waved an all-clear sign. The group got quiet again, as the Aesir pushed the door open. Beyond, noises of torture and misery could be heard, and Luthien had to remind himself that they had a specific purpose in mind here. He couldnt afford any sort of vendettas.
As they moved forward, Flicker pointed out quietly that many of the rooms seemed to be occupied, and that it looked like theyd have to break up a torture session or two. No one seemed to have a problem with this, so they entered the first room with weapons drawn.
Hey, what are you doing... was all the torturer was able to get out before Norna closed the distance between them and drove her sword deep into his chest. The two guards in the room had even less to say, as they fell silently to Shilree and Noyarcs backstabs. Flicker moved to the center of the room and immediately went to work freeing the victim on the rack.
Luthien paid them no mind as he went straight to the bodies displayed on the wall. As he remembered, the Dukes torturers left their former victims around for others to see; it provided incentive to cooperate. He reached out to touch the first one, and invoked his collars magic.
The rest of the group kept watch as Luthien made his inquiries. Berryn stayed close to him, trying to observe his conversational techniques, until Norna ordered him to watch the door. After speaking with several corpses, Luthien turned to the rest of the party and said, None of these can help us. If you could, Berryn, please give them last rites before...
Norna cut him off. No last rites, necromancer. We have little time, and you have more bodies to talk to. Move it!
Luthien calmly continued his sentence, as though never interrupted. ...I speak to any more victims. I want to make sure they get some comfort before I move on. He then turned to Norna, saying, I wont speak to any victims until these have been prayed for. Got it? Or would you prefer to try to talk to them?
Norna glared and gritted her teeth, wishing she could just gut him. Unfortunately, she was true to her oath, so she just smacked Hronmir and said, Well, make it quick, dammit!
Berryn couldnt restrain himself from grinning as he went through a very fast funeral blessing. Within minutes, he was finished, and the group found themselves moving on to the next torture chamber.
The second chamber was much like the first, as was the third. None of the victims knew anything about this worlds Luthien, and none of them could provide any clues as to where to start looking. The fourth chamber provided something different, however, as Flicker brought Luthiens attention to one particular corpse.
Is there something familiar about this corpse, Luthien? I dont know, theres just something nagging at me...
Luthien looked closely at the rotting skull. It had been dead for close to four years, and it looked as though a branding iron had been applied to the face. Something about the scars, though...
Berryn, come here. The young priest came over before Norna could protest. How old would you say those scars were?
The scars, or the skull? The skulls been rotting for about three, maybe four years, but those scars are way older. Id say at least a decade, maybe two. See how the charred bits of skin around them dont show the same age as the brands down here on the thighs? Whoever had these scars had them for a while.
Flicker gently ran his hand over the scars with his eyes closed, then opened them abruptly. Its Schneider!
Luthien blinked in disbelief, then took a second look. By Arawn, youre right. Gritting his teeth, he put his fingers on the dead mans forehead and drew forth his spirit.

***


Havent you bastards finished with me yet?
My apologies, Schneider. It is Schneider, isnt it?
Luthien felt an uncomfortable pause in the conversation, then the spirit spoke again. Who wants to know?
Im a friend; at least, I hope I am. My name is Luthien.
And that means what to me?
Ah, I see you dont know me then. Suffice to say that I am an archmage who is attempting to stop a very powerful evil. I was hoping you could help me find a clue or two. Im looking for another man who calls himself Luthien. He used to be a gladiator in this arena. Have you heard of him?
Nope. I didnt really have time to make friends while I was here.
How did you come to be here?
Tor and his butchers finally got me again. Seems I had become too much of a problem to ignore. Heh, heh.
And they brought you here, rather than killing you quickly? That isnt quite Tors style.
He was showing off for some bitch named Omeria; I think he thought torture got her hot or something. Actually, I think it worked.
Did he mention why he was showing off for her? That might give me some help with my own search.
Yeah, it seemed like they were doing some sort of deal with the Duke. Something long-term, I think. They probably brought me here so that all three of them could have a crack at the Joker. Hah! I showed em. I died before St. Augustine got his chance.
Did any of them say anything that might help us or others stop them? Anything at all?
Not that I can remem...wait a sec. Omeria did say something, just before I croaked. She said After all, not even the gods will interfere with me. Then she ripped my ear off. I dont remember much after that.
I...think thats all I need to ask you. Unless theres anything youd like me to do...?
Ive got a question for you, actually. You're like a kick-ass sorcerer, huh?
You could say that.
Tell me, is there really a Hell?
Yes.
And evil people go there when they die?
Yes.
Good.

Character(s): Khyrisse, mightily disturbed rhopalocerienne
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Be Thankful You Don't Have My Imagination, Folks Other Than Laura

Khyrisse drifted sluggishly up out of sleep and blinked for a moment at the unfamiliar surroundings. Her skin felt chilled, in spite of the cocoon of blankets tucked around her.
Skitch must have tucked them back in when he got up this morning, she thought slowly, watching water-reflected sunlight dance on the ceiling. Theres no way I didnt mess up the covers last night.
She then remembered why she had surely been sleeping restlessly last night, and every muscle in her body tensed. Her eyelids winced tightly shut, burning tears forming in the red-tinted darkness behind them. She shook her head briefly in vehement denial, as if she were trying to dislodge the images from Ebreths nightmare. Black, red and white... Well, now I have a slightly less personal reason to dislike those colors. As if I needed one. Her breath caught, and she opened her eyes again. She clapped a hand over her mouth, sickened by the parallel that her stunned mind was making.
Khyrisse tumbled hastily out of her cot, head spinning, and was very, very ill. The fact that her stomach was nearly empty didnt seem to matter much, either.
Finally she rested her head on her folded arms and sat there, trembling. Get a grip, stupid. Ebreth would probably be horribly upset by you acting like this. She sighed; took a deep breath, sighed again. He said that knowing you were there helped him. You pulled yourself together. And you stopped-- She shuddered again and shook her head furiously, hair flying, tears smearing over her face --that from continuing, which is a blessing no matter how you look at it. Mabye its better that this first experiment was when he couldnt see your reaction afterwards, hmm? ...And you found out what you needed to know. It was important. Splash some cold water on your face, get something to settle your stomach, and go tell Jack, dammit.
...I have to face this every day of my life.
Khyrisse put her head back down and cried.

Character(s): The Skeiners
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: The Innocent and the Beautiful
Title of Post: Old Friends, Part Two

Luthien withdrew from the conversation visibly shaken. Flicker studied him for a second, then said, Well, did you learn anything? Was it Schneider?
Yeah, it was Schneider. He was tortured by Tor, St. Augustine, and Omeria. Apparently, theyve entered into some sort of alliance.
Norna hissed at them, It doesnt matter! Did he tell you where the necromancer is?
No. I dont think anyone in these dungeons knows, after all. What he did tell me might be just as important, though. He said that Omeria claimed that not even the gods would interfere with her plans. That sounds really, really bad to me.
Noyarc spoke up from his post by the door. Ive got an idea. Why dont we check that to see if she told your friend the truth?
How?
You said your friend Khyrisse was a goddess where you came from, and she certainly was one in that last world we went through. What are the odds that shes a goddess here, too?
Flicker nodded, smiling slightly. Thats right, she is. Kayla told me as much. And she has her own country, right on the border of Cynystra. Odds are, if anyone had the resources to help us, it would be her.
Well, then. Lets go.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Innocent and the beautiful
Title of Post: Not That Strong A Stomach

Flicker was pretty green at the gills as he took his hand gently from the decaying face of his friend, but neither Arawnite, accustomed as they were to the dead and undead, seemed to notice. There was something nagging at his mind about Noyarc's plan, but he didn't know exactly what, and Norna was distracting him by smacking him in frustration while Luthien gave Schneider the closest thing to a decent burial one could get in a Rimbor City Arena prison facility, so Flicker put it out of his mind and concentrated on not throwing up on Norna. Threnody would have done it in two seconds, but Flicker had already lost enough face on this mission to last all year. "All right," he said quietly, "maybe Khyrisse can help us."

Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, Valende, Amatsu
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: This Is Proactive!

Khyrisse arrived late for breakfast. She was in a loose ash-violet tunic with her hair still flying every which way, and she looked a little pale. Val looked at her closely as the archmage poured herself some coffee, dumping even more cream than usual into it. From the shadows under her eyes, either Khyrisse hadnt slept well or shed been crying. Possibly both. Val sighed faintly, but didnt say anything.
Hi, Mom, Skitch said as she sat down next to him. I let you sleep in... is that okay? You-- He closed his mouth on were tossing and turning all night at the last minute, and finished with --um, you looked sort of tired still.
Thats fine, kiddo, she murmured, smiling. Thank you.
Wow, you should really braid your hair today, he added, brushing a strand back from her face. You look like Grandpa Derek-- hey, your hairs coming in white! he exclaimed, staring at her temple.
Valende laughed under her breath. Khyrisse grinned faintly. Thanks ever so much for reminding me, Skitch.
Sorry, Skitch mumbled sheepishly.
Its okay. I just turned forty-- its not all that surprising.
Valende rolled her eyes and sighed. Skitch fiddled with his breakfast. Khyrisse stared into her coffee cup.
Amatsu, sitting on the other side of Skitch, looked thoughtfully at the three more-or-less-depressed people at the end of the table. After a moment, he spoke. You were born in 773, Lady Starshadow?
Yes... in November, Khyrisse replied, with a faint smile.
That is very appropriate, for the leader of the Rat Pack, he said. In Shikinti tradition, you were born under the sign of the Rat.
Khyrisse blinked, then laughed. Really? Like an astrological sign? What are Rats like?
Rat is aggressive, quick-witted, charming, and loyal. He is a hard worker, often very talented, and is very self-contained. Amatsu paused, then added hesitantly, However, Rat can be stubborn and suspicious... restless and over-protective. He often demands perfection from himself and those around him.
Wow. Skitch said, impressed.
That does sound a bit like me, doesnt it? Khyrisse admitted with a wry grin. She paused for a moment, then asked, what if you were born in, ah... 768?
That is the year of the Dragon. Dragon is also aggressive and charismatic. He is powerful and lucky, self-confident and generous, talented, successful. He is often admired by the opposite sex.
Khyrisses mouth quirked. And the down side?
Dragon can be arrogant, quick to decide, convinced that he is right. He can be tyrannical towards those around him, and too impressed by wealth or power.
It sounds like Rat and Dragon wouldnt get along very well, Khyrisse murmured sadly.
Actually, Dragon and Rat people are one of the two most favorable matches in Shikinti astrology. Most of the great historical romances in my country's literature have been between Dragons and Rats.
Valende laughed. Skitch hooted gleefully. Oh, man, if you only knew!
Oh, no, you dont, Val said, and shoved the plate of bagels at him. Eat your breakfast and keep quiet about other peoples lives. Thats a good rule for a doofus to remember.
Khyrisses just stared at Amatsu, obviously startled. After a moment, the wide violet eyes lit up, and she slid down a little into her chair, smiling into her coffee cup.
Here, you eat some of these, Mom!
Okay, Khyrisse said happily.

Character(s): Otter and the Honorable Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Shikinti Astrology (Or: Val Robs The Cradle)

"Ha ha ha," gasped Skitch. "Expensive rat! Flying fox!" Khyrisse snatched at him, a glint in her eye, but he ducked away before she could get him. "I'm ten," he supplied to Amatsu, grinning. "What does that make me?"
"Insufferable!" said Khyrisse, but decided against pursuing and tickling him.
"You were born under the sign of the Dog," said Amatsu. "That makes you loyal, trustworthy, and sincere. But you worry too much, and you have to be careful not to get too defensive or take things too seriously. And you'll have a lot of trouble in your lovelife. Sorry."
"Oh, I don't care about girls," dismissed Skitch. "Will I be rich?"
"That depends on you." Amatsu inclined his head politely.
"How old are you?" Skitch asked Otter.
"That really isn't the most polite question to go around asking women, Skitch," murmured Val.
"Maybe that's why he's going to have trouble in his lovelife," suggested Crandall.
"I'm thirty," said Otter.
"Then you are a Monkey," explained Amatsu. "That means you are emotional, passionate, optimistic, and flighty."
Otter raised one eyebrow.
"Burning cauldron of love, Ott," said one of the other sailors. "There's no sense hiding it any longer."
"This isn't doing much to mitigate how little I believe in these things," said Otter.
"Dog is better than Monkey," decided Skitch. "How old are you, Jack?"
Jack balked. "Uhhhh..."
"Jack was born in the Year of the Pig," Cori bailed him out.
"Ah," said Amatsu, smiling. "You are twenty-six. The same age as the honorable Cori Yashida."
"Umm," ummed Jack.
"Unless you are thirty-eight," continued Amatsu. "The Shikinti calendar runs in cycles of twelve years."

"Jack is twenty-six," Cori lied loyally. "Just like me. We're both Pigs."
"I'm a Horse," added Crandall, helping her to change the subject. Jack was grateful to have friends like them; he was such a bad liar, and he didn't know how he'd go about explaining the fact that he was fourteen years old to everyone. The tattoo art on Crandall's tanned face crinkled as he grinned. "Isn't Reena something stupid like a Sheep?"
"A Goat," said Cori.
"Marty is twenty-three," announced Skitch.
"Then he is a Rabbit," said Amatsu.
"You don't know the half of it," said Khyrisse.
"Oh no!" wailed Marty. "I hate rabbits! They give me the wig. Those big ears, man. They're just not normal-looking."
"What about me?" said Mina. "I'm nineteen."
Twelve years younger than Lita. Of course. Jack sighed inwardly.
"Then you are a Snake," Amatsu said. Mina looked crestfallen. "It's not as bad as it sounds, honorable miss. It means you are pretty and charming and everyone likes you."
"As well they should," said Crandall.
"Val?" said Khyrisse.
"I was born a long time ago," murmured the elven priestess.
"Good thing we have a mathematician, then," grinned Khyrisse.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Unseen

Ebreth Tor pressed into the shadows of the eaves, watching the destruction of Cape Duran unfolding inexorably around him. There was nothing he could have done; at least with Khyrisse's talisman he didn't have to participate. Ebreth was frightened he wouldn't be able to do it and even more frightened he would. He stood at the fringes of the battle, unknowable: invisible to the Remnant, the barest of shadows to their victims, an untraceable blip to anyone scrying, a heartbeat without any answers to himself. He didn't like this, he assured himself, watching the sack of Cape Duran. He did like the sea. And naval battle, gods help him. He didn't like politics. Power was so-so. Swashbuckling he liked; strategic command he didn't. He'd be happier with less at risk. Some things the same, in other words; some things different. He'd probably never do better than that, but on the other hand, here he was and he wasn't doing worse. Ebreth Tor put his hand to the side of his face, utterly unseen, and watched with a horror slowly more sure of itself as the Remnant took Cape Duran.

Character(s): Mikaela
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Unquiet

The banshee hovered offshore in the mist of her own calling, nearly invisible in the weak morning light. Screams drifted to her on the breeze. They were a disquieting reminder of what her voice must now sound like to others.
Acrid smoke began mingling with the fog, and Mikaela bowed her head, wishing in vain for the lost blessing of tears.

Character(s): Mikaela, Nynia Paris
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Flashback: How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Part I) May 25, 813:

A cloud of dust signaled someone approaching on the road through southern Cynystra, tinged with the last of the light of sunset and the looming shadow of Bane. It looked like a cloud of smoke streaked with blood.
The horse was brutally yanked to a stop in front of the Maplemead. More grateful than anything else, it stood with its head down, foam-flecked sides heaving as the rider leaped off of its back.
With a curse, she beat it with the flat of her sword and chased it into the pasture. Screaming with renewed fear, her mount fled to the far side of the field and hid behind the other animals. The person that stood in the road, glaring over her left shoulder at the horses, didn’t seem like she was normally much to inspire fear. She was a woman of average height and build, with straight, mousy brown hair and eyes of an indeterminate color. Her skin was slightly tanned by too much time spent outdoors. She had no particular claim to beauty, nor any particular feature that barred her from it.
She stood at the gate for a moment, chest heaving, arms limp at her sides. In one hand she held a wicked-looking short sword, blood to the hilt-- some of it days old; in the other, a pack embroidered in wildly colored swirls, the splash of color sharply at odds with her dusty russet leathers.
She started suddenly. Both possessions were dropped negligently into the dust of the road, and she clapped her hands over her mouth. “Oh, Kalith! The trough’s empty!” she said regretfully. “I’ll get you some water. Poor things.”
The woman turned and strode towards the inn... and the left side of her face came into view. Swirls of shimmering colors in every shade of the rainbow were tattooed over that half of her face, from above her eyebrow down to the hollow of her cheek. Each narrow line of color began at the eye and curled in a random shape outwards. The only rule seemed to be that one line could never cross another, although some joined together. The overall effect was arresting; the design was positively hypnotic. A man only a little the worse for drink would swear that it glowed in the dark.
It almost distracted you from noticing that the expression in the pale, colorless eyes was anything but sane. The smears of blood and ash on the other cheek helped remind you, though.
“Kalith’s ass, he’d better be here, I’ve been halfway across the continent in the past three days...” she hissed in a return of bad temper, picking up the oversized lamp next to the door. She held it over her head, looking around for the water pump, or even a bucket. The creak of the door opening made her turn around, lamp still held high. A young woman in a festival gown came through the door, one trembling hand pulling it closed behind her.
The other hand held a bloodied kitchen knife. Her dark hair, once carefully braided around her head, was hanging in snarled curls around her bruised face, and the hem of the gown trailed in muddy strips over the wide stone doorstep. “Nynia,” she whispered, sounding surprised. “Nynia.”
The plain woman stared as if confronted by a ghost. “Mikki? What the hell are you doing here?”
The question sent the once elegant woman into hysterical spasms of laughter. “Guess!” she choked, wobbling towards Nynia. Her hand clenched tighter around the wooden handle of the knife.
Nynia raised a hand to fend her off. “No, Mikaela-- wait, listen-- something’s happening, you probably feel crazy and furious,” she babbled at the advancing woman. “I do too, now, most of the time, but--”
“Shhhh...” Mikaela crooned, reaching long fingers covered in ash towards the wide, swirl-surrounded eye of her friend. “Shhh, time to sleep...”
With a sudden scream of mingled fear and rage, Nynia gripped the lamp in both hands and threw it at Mikaela’s head.

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