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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Ties That Bind, Part III



Character(s): Amatsu, Cori, Crandall
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Rainmaker/We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Kunoichi

The Road to Agone. Even though there was no road.
Cori and Crandall sat side by side, relaxed. Like people who had saved each other's lives, seen each other go through romantic trials and tribulations, shared good times and bad. Old friends. Amatsu sat near them, unnoticed and unimportant. What he was good at.
"--I'm not trying to be the jerk here, Cori. I know the Parises have this big fetish with secrecy. It just kinda pisses me off to see them acting that way to Jack. At least I'd be pissed if I were him."
"You're right Crandall, it troubles me, too. After all, Jack's the one who brought an archmage and a party of adventurers to help save them from the Remnant."
"No shit."
Amatsu was thinking back to a time a few years ago...

They stood, outside the meeting chamber of the Red Crab's leaders, awaiting the decision of the elders. One of them would be sent on a mission to kill or be killed.
"It is an honor to be considered for this task along with you, Amatsu-san," Kei said. "I have heard much of your work."
"And I yours," he said, returning the bow. Kei was Kunoichi, a ninja with special skills. Without magic, without poisons, without weapons or psios, she could bring an enemy low. Her mind was a razor-sharp tanto, the smile on her lips more toxic than any herb. Her body the lethal spell that summoned the mighty demons of love and desire and brought men low before her. She had brought disaster and dishonor to enemies of the Red Crab clan who had seemed like pillars of iron.
"I have heard," she ventured, "that one of us will be called upon to represent to the leader of the Sawega family."
"It is probably best not to speculate on such matters," he replied.
In the end, the clan leader chose Amatsu Mikaboshi. The methods of Kunoichi, while devastating, required time, and of late the leader had not been noted for the virtue of patience.
Three days later, the leader of the Sawega family lay dead, leaving behind a wife and five children. Once again, tears flowed like Rain.

Amatsu looked at Crandall. Kunoichi, he mused.

From the roof of the carriage, Khyrisse called out. "I think we found the Remnant!"

Character(s): Jack and the Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Hey, Aren't Paladins Immune to Fear?

The Trade Carriage slowed to a halt.
"Holy shit," Cori Yashida muttered upon looking at the Remnant blockade around the isle of Agone. "I had no idea the Remnant was so... big."
Jack frowned. "The Parises have had an awful lot of time to make enemies," he sighed. "Heck, since the Mithril Dagger, I've probably added three or four people there myself."
Khyrisse turned and glared at hearing that. "Don't you even tell me that the flarking Collector or that stupid oozy Diarian thing is going to be there," she warned.
"Well, I won't tell you..."
"Whoa," Marty called from the roof of the Carriage. "Like, I detect evil! I think it might be those boats over there!"
"There's got to be some way to get past them," Jack said. "Some way to find out what they're up to?"
"Where are all the party's thieves when you need them?" Khyrisse grumbled, thinking more of Ebreth Tor than of Kit.
"If I may be so bold," Amatsu said, "the arts of the ninja are those of stealth."
"I don't know that splitting up is a good idea," Jack said.
"Who asked you, Asinus," Rani said to Jack.
"Jack is our team leader," Valende said to the Diarian elf with a glare.
"Don't remind me," Jack muttered. "Every time someone reminds me, we lose someone."
Cori cleared her throat. "You know, there are more ways to be stealthy than just sneaking. Anyone in the mood to create a diversion?"

Character(s): The Rat Pack vs. The Remnant, round 2
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: All Ashore That's Going Ashore

"Perhaps," Amatsu said, "some kind of combination of tactics? Sun Tzu did say that the best deception is one that the enemy is expecting."
"Just what did you have in mind?" Cori asked.
"Perhaps there is a way that will stealthily get us ashore, cover our movements and with any luck, keep the Remnant's attention focussed elsewhere." He took a small glass sphere out of his pouch. Smoke twirled within and the glass was inscribed with Shikinti glyphs. Khyrisse recognised them as the symbol of Chonin-Ta, one of the late gods of that country. The Sea Dragon.

***


"Sir, we may have a problem," the mate said. "One of our lifeboats appears to be missing. The ropes attaching it to our starboard bow were cut."
"I always thought it was stupid for us to have lifeboats-- we're undead!" the captain grumbled.
"That's not all. You'd better have a look topside." The two Remnants walked up to the deck of their ship and saw... not much more than two feet in front of them.
"Well, well," the captain said. "I'll suck Caimen Paris' dick if this fog is natural! All hands, red alert! Get me that boy who said he knew from magic, now!"
"Is this some kind of attack by the Parises?"
"Has to be." Shortly, a ghoul appeared before the Captain. "So, son, you were a student of this sorcery stuff, eh?"
"Yes, sir, before Asin--"
"No matter. You're going to help us find our missing lifeboat, or whatever vessel they're using to attack." The young remnant cast detect magic and scanned the sea.

"Tough to see, sir. Definitely magical fog... Is that a boat?" A moderate sized ship was moving towards them at a cautious pace. "Magic around this boat, too, sir."
"Call it a ship, boy. All hands to battle stations! Prepare a boarding party to attack..."
"...appears to be abandoned, sir."
"They may be laying in wait below deck. Search every corner of this ship thoroughly."
"Sir? What if it's some kind of tr--" The entire lifeboat-- and everyone on it-- was destroyed by the blast. Quickly, the remains sank below the waves and the fog.

***


"Well, I guess they'll be back," Mina Paris said, "what with my role in that. Still, it got us onto Agone island."
"Good old hallucinatory terrain plus delayed blast fireball-- it's a classic."
"Hopefully that will keep our foes busy searching out for an attack from the sea," Amatsu said. "Probably searching with caution."
"Of course, we can't see anything either," Skitch mumbled after stumbling over something. "Stupid fog."
"I can tell where I'm going just fine," Rani said derisively.
"As can I," Amatsu said.
"Still, we had best proceed with caution as well," Cori added. "Sun Tzu had a name for where we are now, also..."

Character(s): Skeiners
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: I&B
Title of Post: Pack Hunting

"Come on, we’d better not let her get too far ahead," said Hronmir.
The party of travelers took off after their insane compatriot.
Further in the woods Shilree could think of nothing but the impending kill. She relished the thought of torturing this world's Luthien. Seeing the look in his eyes as she ripped his intestines from his body. Watching death overcome him as she tore the still beating heart from his chest. At least it would be partial payback for what her world's Luthien did to her. Fixating on such thoughts also kept her from coming to terms with the true pain of her nature. The trap was while she knew she was crazy she also remembered what she was like before. The pain of those memories was the engine that kept driving her deeper into madness. That and the effects of the Red Gem of Souls that was rooted in her eye and brain.
Shilree sniffed the air once like an animal. The gem in her eye socket showed her the way. She invoked some arcane worlds and shifted form to something that was part lupine, part feline and all nightmare. The Shilree-beast lopped off towards the tower.
Minutes later the rest of the party reached the area where Shilree changed.
"Something is wrong," said Hronmir looking at the ground. "Her tracks are gone."
"What do you mean, Silent-Voice," said Norna.
Hronmir pointed to the ground. Shilree's tracks did disappear.
"Let me see," said Luthien.
Luthien gazed at the ground like he was trying to look below it.
"She is using polymorph," said Luthien breaking his concentration. "It is a very sloppy version of the spell. She is trailing droplets of magic. We can track her much easier now."
"Then let's get on with it," huffed Norna marching after the Diari.

***


Inside the tower this world's Luthien was preparing. His wards had detected the Skeiners’ arrival in
his woods. He was going to make sure that none of them ever left his lands alive.

Character(s): The Skeiners!
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: I&B
Title of Post: Carnage in the Valley of Death

"Well at least she leaves an easy physical trail," said Luthien stepping over yet another razed undead creature.
"Hronmir, how far ahead do you think she is?" asked Flicker.
"Maybe twenty or so yards. She seems to be taking her time."
"Who cares as long as it gets us to the necromancer," said Norna in her usual pissy tone. "Let's move."
Norna followed the trail of carnage with the rest of the Skeiners not far behind.

***


Shilree was still in her beast form. So far the undead this world's Luthien had sent after her had been easy. She could have killed them easily even without the polymorph spell. Still, this was so much more fun. Every zombie, skeleton, or wight she envisioned as Luthien. Luthien who cursed her to immortality. Luthien who slaughtered everyone she had any feeling for. Luthien the Dead.
Shilree stopped her advance after shredding a small force of zombies and sniffed the air. She was getting close to her quarry. She let loose an unearthly howl and ran towards the necromancer's tower.
Shilree's cry passed over the Skeiners. They paused for a moment trying to get the bearings of the howl.
"Shilree." said Flicker matter-of-factly.
"Come on, this way. She is close," said Hronmir.

***


Shilree reached the gates to Luthien's fortress. Ugly and squat gargoyles peered at her though stone eyes. The Diari magician smiled internally and smashed open the gates with her front claws.
Halt interloper! You are in my domain. Leave now and live. Any closer and I will strike you dead, said the ethereal voice of Luthien.
Shilree shifted back into her normal form and defiantly stepped into the courtyard. A blue nimbus erupted from the ground and swarmed over the Diari. Shilree bit her lip with the pain as the spell tried to drain the life from her. She got to the main door then her legs gave out and she collapsed. The blue nimbus turned red and Shilree's life started to drain away.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: The innocent and the beautiful
Title of Post: Death and the Maiden

Flicker reached the courtyard first. Shilree was crumpled on the stoop of the tower, her life visibly draining from her. As the Riklander started automatically forward Luthien's arm checked him across his body, gloved hand clamped around his upper arm without looking at him. "That mist is necromantic," he said. "As powerful an energy drain as I've ever seen. You'd be dead by the time you reached her."
"Stay here," Norna commanded the group, and strode out into the courtyard, red Negative Material wisps curling about her ankles.
Shilree shuddered and inched slowly, incredibly, up the stairs, a fire of vengeance burning in her one good eye. "Must--kill--Luthien," she slurred.
"You can't," said Norna, succinctly. "You are not immune to his magics, Diari, and I am. This fight is mine."
"Must--avenge--currrrrse--"
"Vengeance comes in many forms," said Norna, with a surprising lack of nastiness, and stepped over Shilree and into the tower.
It was between four and five minutes, by Flicker's count, until her shuddering body was finally still.
When Norna emerged, at last, from the tower, she was carrying Luthien's head. She spared Shilree's body a glance and then picked it up by the belt of the ill-fitting pirate garb the Diari was still wearing. "It is not your time yet," she said, offhandedly.
As the Valkyrie strode from the courtyard, the evil mist swirling shut behind her, she tossed Shilree to the ground, handing the severed and dripping head of his alternate self to Luthien. "See that that does not become a lich lord," she ordered brusquely.
Luthien looked at it contemplatively. Shilree was twitching back to life already, her eye gem glaring. She made a gasping noise, and Flicker touched her face gently. "Well, we can bring it with us," Luthien said. "Ordinarily that would do it; there's a goddess involved, and she can almost certainly restore him to life somehow if she puts her mind to it. This is probably the best we can do, though."
"No change," moaned Shilree, in a strangely tinny voice, and clicked her eye gem with her fingernails. "No change. No change."
"We have disposed of all five Luthiens," disagreed Norna. "That should be enough. Let us return to Ataniel now."
"Something is wrong," moaned Shilree. "My future has not receded."
"It will. It must. Our time is almost up."

Character(s): Khyrisse and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Ghost Town

Khyrisse, lingering on the shore to change the Carriage into its Sigil, was briefly tempted to dip into her memories from Trade of Julin-sha and figure out what in Grendel’s name Cori and Amatsu were talking about. With a sigh, she shoved the idea away and fell back on her own readings of The Art of War. The Nine Terrains? She discarded five of them, dithered over the four remaining, and finally gave it up as a bad job. Part of an earlier chapter floated to the surface of her mind, instead. “Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.”
Khyrisse looked over her shoulder at the current Rat Pack-- most of them strangers to her; and then back out to sea, her mouth twisting wryly. Why couldn’t Sun-tzu have said something about knowing your enemy and not knowing yourself...? she thought, looking down at the water as it foamed up the beach to touch her feet. She replayed Ebreth’s last sending in her head, and sighed again. He’s like I was in Hell. She brushed her fingers over the dusting of snow-white hair at one temple. Her relationship with Grendel since her return to mortal life had more of allegience to it than worship... but she was discovering that if she couldn’t exactly pray on her own behalf anymore, she could come damn close on someone else’s. He’s in your hands now, she thought at the closest thing she had to a deity. Keep him focused. Let him accomplish what he has to, and let him get out of that in one piece, dammit.

***


The town was deserted.
Valende leaned over the edge of the fountain in the square and cupped some of the water in her hand. The buildings around them were barely visible through the fog, eeriely silent except for the echoes of the Rat Pack’s presence. The slightly off-beat tapping of Khyrisse’s heels arrived long before she did. The archmage joined the group at the fountain, coiling the Carriage’s whip at her belt.
“There’s nothing wrong with the water,” Val said quietly to Jack. “And it’s still fresh. The fountain can’t have been off for more than a day or two.”
“Why would there be no one here?”
“Maybe the Remnant has already been through here,” offered Skitch.
“There’d be damage to the town, kiddo, even if all of the people were part of the Remnant now,” Khyrisse said, sitting down and rubbing irritably at her ankle through the burgundy leather. “Bloodstains, broken doors, knocked-over furniture, something.”
“I’ve seen animals, too... a few cats, some birds, a rat,” Val offered. “The Remnant kills everything they come across now, don’t they?”
“Maybe everyone ran away,” Marty said. “That is, like, some bad karma out there.”
“That’s possible, I guess,” Jack said. “There were a lot of ships still in the harbor for that, though.”
“They wouldn’t have had much warning,” Cori pointed out. “I don’t think they would have made it past the Remnant.”
“Well,” Khyrisse sighed, “we should probably search the town, unless we want to wait until the Remnant shows up and watch to see where they go.” Her expression said without words what she thought of that idea.
“What is it, exactly, that we’re looking for?”
“I don’t know. Neither do the Parises, really, that’s the problem. I don’t think it’s a person, at least, because all of the Passage circle is on Paris Island now. I think it might be information; lost notes, design specs, mabye a map. Why the Remnant sent everything they had here to get it is beyond me, though.” She looked around at what she could see of the town and shook her head. “I don’t see how these people stood that much of a chance against them.”

Character(s): Rani and the Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Down The Rabbit Hole

"Huh," said Rani, emerging from one of the empty dwellings holding a pot. "Well, this place has been evacuated all right. The firepit hasn't been used in at least two days, and I'm guessing longer. More interesting, if there's anything left with strong psychic impressions in that building, I'm not finding it. I'm guessing these people left and took everything important with them."
"How could they possibly have had that much warning?" Khyrisse wanted to know.
"That's a question all right. Maybe they knew their island was likely to be a target before the Remnant did." Rani frowned at her gloved hand on the lip of the fountain, beside Valende's, and then climbed into it.
"What are you doing?" said Skitch.
"Following a hunch." She leaned over until the entire right half of her face was submerged in the water and rapped at the bottom of the fountain. "Hollow," she said. "There's a tunnel under there."
"Under the fountain?"
"Isn't that what I just said?" She emerged from the fountain, her denim pants stiff and heavy with water, and inspected the low wall around the fountain pool, her fingers running along it.
"Are you, like, looking for secret doors?" said Marty.
"Like, yes." She slipped two fingers between two of the white bricks and pulled. With a grating groan, the entire fountain swivelled clockwise. Jack and Valende jumped back out of the way. "Wow. I, like, found one."
"Wow," sighed Marty.
Rani rolled her eyes and looked down into the shaft the fountain had been covering. "Well, whatever the Remnant is coming for, I'd put good odds on it being down there." She squinted down into the darkness. "I can't see anything from here. It's pretty deep. Does anyone have a rope? We could lower someone down to have a look around, maybe one of the prickears."
"Excuse me?" said Khyrisse.
"Someone who can see in the dark?" said Rani. "Preferably someone with combat skills, as in not me?"
Khyrisse shelved the rude ethnic term for later. "If we're going down we should all go down. There could be danger down there, and one person is much more likely to be killed. This is why adventurers travel in groups."
"Then let's send Jack," suggested Rani. "No matter what's down there, it won't be able to hurt Asinus."
"Did--that make sense?" Mina asked Khyrisse.
"Jack can't see in the dark and he doesn't have combat skills," disagreed Valende. "That's a terrible idea."
"He's also not real, so it doesn't matter," said Rani. Valende looked about ready to punch out. Jack just hung his head. "This one offers to endanger his body for the group," Amatsu said to Khyrisse.
"We should stick together," said Khyrisse, firmly. "Rani, we're the Rat Pack, and we've been in dungeons before." Sort of, but there was no reason to get into detail. "If you want to stay up here and wait for us, you can."
"That'll be fun if the Remnant get back before you do." She tossed her head, sending her wet ponytail flipping back over her shoulder. "All right, but you'd better be as good at this as you say you are."
"I'll protect you!" said Marty. Just then, he fumbled his egg down the shaft. "Oh, no!"
"Well, that decides it," sighed Cori. "After the egg."
"Thank you!" said the rat.

Character(s): Flicker, Alderon
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Coming Together
Title of Post: Back To The Real World

Norna let out a surprised shout as she, Flicker, Luthien, Hronmir (carrying the still-regenerating Shilree), Berryn, and the alternate Ralchar emerged from the Myriad. A confused-looking halfling was holding the Myriad, and beside him was Nora Ino, and beside her was...
"Alderon," said Flicker, staring.
"Do you sense a disturbance in the Force?" asked Luthien.
"You!" shouted Norna. "Where did you get that?"
"This?" stammered the halfling. "Well, this mysterious traveler with his face in shadow and a raven on his shoulder gave it to--"
Norna had gone very pale. "Was the bird on his left shoulder or his right?" she said, very rapidly, seizing the halfling by the upper arms. "The left shoulder or the right? Speak!"
"I--I don't--"
"Norn, it wasn't the Allfather," said Flicker. The slender, dark-skinned elven man moved a little closer. Flicker looked at him and waited. "Are you Flicker?" he said, a little awkwardly. "I, I'm looking for my cousin."
"The Captain is dead," said Flicker, softly, in the old pirate cant. "Long live the Captain."
Alderon flung both arms around him.

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