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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 IV



Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Point the Way Outta Here

Amatsu checked the ground. "In all likelihood, no one has passed through here in a very long time." Unless they were very skilled ninja, he thought.
"He's right," Rani said, squinting. "There's not much of an impression of anything here. It's been deserted for a long time, like something someone wanted to tuck away and forget."
"It stinks here."
"Don't worry, kiddo." Khyrisse cantripped the smell away from her apprentice. "He's right," Val said. "I've certainly encountered worse, but this whole place smells like... decaying wood. Who builds an underground structure out of wood? And look at the way the walls are curved. Like, like--"
"Like a ship," Otter announced. "The way these corridors are built, it's exactly like a large ocean-going vessel."
"How would a ship get under ground?"
"I don't know," Jack said, "but look at this! There's something wrong here."
"You can say that again, Asinus."
"It's a compass," Otter said, ignoring the acerbic Diarian.
"Right," Jack said, "but compasses are supposed to point north. North is that way. This is pointing west."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Happy, Uh, Valentine's Day

The undead seamen were pulling her about already. The flagship rose and fell in the swell of the Deepsea, a tall schooner with black sails, and he didn't have to be a mage to know it was a magic craft. Ebreth Tor had seen a lot of ships. The Sallyann inched closer to the Remnant flagship, and Ebreth could see the uniformed navy on her deck now, swinging docking beams out to the smaller ship. The admiral waited with undead patience at the Sallyann's gate. Back in the crowd of crewmembers, Kynvelyn and Fleegle were waiting. And Ebreth Tor waited too, watching the dark and foamy water drawing slowly thinner between the two ships, and his meeting inexorably nearer. And if he was right, and then-- Ebreth shook his head and watched the waves until the intense focus hurt his eyes, willing himself to keep it together, to think about that bridge when he reached it. He owed this to Jack, he reminded himself. But as he bowed his head into the spray, the thought that slipped away from him was not, this time, one of the ones he had been expecting, one of the familiar demons of doubt and fear he was growing used to on his back. This time he found himself suddenly and powerfully unhappy with the prospect of dying without seeing her again.
Ebreth Tor sighed and closed his hand around the rail of the Sallyann.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Whee! I Found A Practical Use For That God Lore Skill!

“Let me see, Jack?” Khyrisse said. Jack handed her the compass, and she looked down at it, luminescent wings shimmering briefly around her eyes as she activated her True Seeing. “It’s magical, all right. Pretty strongly so. But now it’s pointing south-east.” She held it in her gloved left hand, studying the simple design and the faded, once-bright paint. It looked a lot like something a child would have made. She hesitated for a moment, then handed it to Rani.
“Why enchant a compass to point the wrong way?” Valende asked.
“Got me,” Khyrisse replied, “I’m not the detective.” The archmage sat down on the floor, legs crossed. She drummed her fingernails on the side of her boot with a pensive frown.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, really,” Khyrisse murmured. “I’m trying to remember something. Ghede Cinqjours...”
“It’s not pointing the wrong direction,” Rani said suddenly from her trance over the item. “It’s made to point towards holy ground.”
“Then the holy ground’s got legs and is wandering around,” Valende replied tartly. “It can’t be west of Jack and south-east of Khyrisse.”
“It won’t work for her-- it has to be used by a child.”
“Good thing we’ve got a child with us, then,” Crandall said with a smile.
Khyrisse blinked, then snapped her fingers. “That was it. Children.”
“What?”
“I remembered the name, from some of my lessons back in Trade. The ghedes were something sort of between demi-gods and clergy, intermediary spirits between mortals and the Primal Forces. Ghede Cinqjours was a sort of healer deity... and the particular patron of children.” She grinned briefly at Valende. “You’d have liked him, Val. He was a bit like Vas, as I remember, very roguish-- and he hated the undead.”
“So this town was named for an ancestor spirit?” Amatsu inquired.
“Yes... you could call the ghedes that, although they protected their areas of influence rather than a particular family line. There must have been a temple here at one point. Probably an orphanage or a children’s hospital.”
“A long damn time ago,” Rani agreed, opening her eyes.
“Hey Mom, I found a way out,” Skitch called from off in the darkness. “The ship’s all busted up over here, I think they crashed. It looks like there’s ruined buildings under here and stuff!”
“Skitch, get back here, the gods only know what could be walking around down here,” Valende scolded.

Character(s): Flicker, Alderon
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Coming Together
Title of Post: Conversations

"My name is Garal. There is something I must tell you, about the lich lord you are seeking."
"Then tell me already, dwarfling!"

***


"Diar Island?" said Flicker. "Was this another bet?"
"Um," he said, "indirectly. The Diari caught us and sent us there."
Flicker blinked. "Those guys get harsher every time I hear from them."
"Well," he amended, "they sent us by there, and we wrecked. They had me escorting a friend of yours, a Diari chick. Shilree."
Flicker's heart skipped. He had patient friends; Shilree wasn't one of them. She could have killed him without blinking. "She's all right?"
"Looked all right to me." He grinned.
Flicker touched his forehead. "And you lived to tell about this."
"I used a mi charm on her," he said, carelessly. Flicker could just imagine Shilree's reaction to the charm of a cocky kiljhac kid who'd been arrested by the Diari authorities. "Then we, uh, killed a big psionic monster together, and I escaped in a mummy's ship. And then I pretended to be a mute idiot and I found this friend of Shilree's who was a priestess and she smuggled me over the border. Mak a di big adventure."
There were two reasons Shilree could have done that. "Does she need help?"
"Nah, she said she had something she had to do alone."
Flicker breathed. "How--did Shalini come up?"
"What?" he said. "I, I don't know, small talk. Should I--should I not have told her?"
Flicker looked at him. Alderon had always reminded him of a fox, his big eyes and his pointed chin, his sharp bronzed face with dark red curls encroaching onto it. "I am so very glad you told her," he said, low and sincere.

***


"--he's already instantiated--"
"WHAT????"

***


"Hey, there's Shilree now! Hi, Shilree! What did you do to your hair?"
"No change! No change!"
"That's not exactly Shilree," said Flicker, a little uneasily. "She's, ah, an alternate-future version of Shilree who was driven mad by a curse the Lich Lord laid on her."
"He has a curse of bad hair?"

***


"...and then the Lich Lord instantiated into the body of the Luthien who'd been staying with Rhynwa," finished Garal, "and now we suspect he is gathering strength. Three months have passed here since he arrived. It's November now."
"Augh!" screamed Norna. "You cloud-headed, bleeding-heart bastard!" Flicker just barely ducked, and her right hook glanced off the side of his head with a violent ringing in his ear. That was no warning shot. "Send him back to Ataniel, you said! That'll solve the problem without killing him, you said! Are you happy, you son of a bitch?"
"I'm sorry," said Flicker. "It's too late to change that now. We'll have to defeat him here."
"We turned him into a lich lord?" whispered Luthien. "I was trying to save his life. I turned him into a lich lord."
"I don't understand," whimpered Shilree, clicking her gem eye with her fingernail. "The lich lord is free, but my future still is less likely than it was when we started. What has happened? What has happened?"
"We'll have to defeat him here." Norna shook her head dizzily. "It's our only hope."

Character(s): Rhynwa, Corinna
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Death Be Not Proud
Title of Post: Schism

The fighting had begun again.
It had all started with the opening of the Underworld Necropolis, Rhynwa mused. For years, in fact, for as many years as Rhynwa had been at Annwych, the Necropolis had remained sealed, the passages to the Underworld locked.
Then the Madness had come, and the Perfection of Arawn... and things had begun to fragment.
Corinna, Priestess of the Necropolis, had been the first to broach the idea of taking the worship in her "New Direction."
"The people are lost, without Death," she said. "The Passing of Arawn"--she used the heretical semantic--"has shown us that the world is to be purged. To bring back our lord requires a sacrifice... it requires Death to walk again amongst the people! We must open the Necropolis, and let Arawn's minions upon the world once more!"
Rhnywa had been repulsed. The worship of Arawn was one of acceptance, not of evangelism. Still, after the priests had been touched by Bane, something had awakened in many of them... a drive, whether for redemption or for indulgence, Rhynwa could not tell. This drive to action made them susceptible to Corinna's demagoguery.
The next few months after Corinna's proposal had been spent politicking. The vote would come on the eve of the new year, and Rhynwa was determined to do everything she could to oppose the rival priestess. She had called in every favor she could, pleaded, bullied, cajoled, bribed... anything to remind the priests of the true Arawn. She prayed that Luthien would get back in time to help sway some of his followers that had gone over to Corinna, but he hadn't been heard from for months. He wasn't dead--she would know if he was--but he also wasn't on Ataniel. Still, it was a matter to deal with after the vote. Hopefully, she had garnered enough support to put down the opening of the Necropolis.
It hadn't been enough. The vote to open had passed.
That night, Rhynwa had snuck down to the Seal to attempt to take matters into her own hands.
Corrina was already there, and the Necropolis was open.
"I expected this, Rhynwa," the rival priestess had said. "You're enough of a maverick to go against the rule of the Council. I can't let you. The Voice requires freedom. The Underworld must be opened."
"You're nuts," Rhynwa said. "You're totally cracker."
"And your time to become perfect has come."
If Rhynwa had been allowed to fight Corinna then, things might have been different. Unfortunately, at that moment, the Seal to the Underworld Necropolis shattered as dark beings from beneath Ataniel swarmed into the catacombs of Annwych.
Rhynwa and Corinna were separated in the onslaught, and Rhnywa was able to make her way up through hidden passages to the chambers of her followers. She told them of the beings below, and they had sworn then and there to stand as the last line of protection between the Underworld and Ataniel.
Corinna had not been seen since. That was two and a half months ago. Many of her followers had ventured down into the Necropolis, their fate also unknown. Rhynwa's forces had been ravaged, and only a few priests remained. And now the fighting had started again.
However, today, when she had awakened, she had felt a familiar and loving presence, for the first time in months.
Luthien was back.
There might still be hope after all, she thought. Thank you, Arawn.

Character(s): The Norn and Nora Show
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: The Search For Luthien
Title of Post: The Hunt Is On

"I don't understand," moaned Shilree.
"Three months," said Norna. "He has surely become a full-fledged lich lord by now. Three months. Two days. Our time is almost up."
"Hey, give that back!" protested Garal. "The implications of that artifact are--"
"--too dangerous for mortal hands," finished Norna.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to side with Norn on this," said Flicker, apologetically.
"But the things that could be learned by studying--"
"Do you want to study it, dwarfling, or do you want to defeat the lich lord?" demanded Norna, snapping the Myriad shut and holding it in one hand. "Because if I am still to have any chance at defeating him and restoring the Valkyrie now--" Flicker barely ducked out of the way of her backhand. "--I will need it."
"Defeat the lich lord," said Garal reluctantly, thinking of Ember.
"Good. The question is now how to find him."
"Not to mention how to defeat him," Luthien pointed out. "He's a lich lord. We can't just go in there and whack him with a bastard sword till he falls down. Lich lords are practically divine lifeforces."
"All things divine are mortal," said Norna.
"Damn," sighed Flicker, "that's the second time I've agreed with her."
"Besides," said Shilree, shaking her head as if to clear it, "he is still young for a lich lord. He cannot be nearly as powerful now as he will become in my future. We must destroy him now. Vengeance. Vengeance."
Garal cleared his throat. "I--believe I may be able to use a connection in the Negative Material plane to sever his undead link to that plane," he said, "temporarily."
Luthien smacked his forehead. "Like a psionic wrench. That's a very good start."
"And from there?" said Nora.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Norna, grimly.
"Don't worry," grinned Ralchar, "things always work out okay when I'm around."

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Go West, Young Man

"West," announced Skitch. "It says west for me, too. Same as Jack."
Rani laughed. "Guess it works fine for people with the maturity level of a ten-year-old too, huh, Asinus?"
"I'm not Asinus," mumbled Jack, looking flushed and miserable.
Valende took his hand. "More valuable than any other is the man who can keep the heart of a child," she quoted from the elven philosopher Liaranil, looking daggers at the Diari detective.
"Uh-huh," said Rani. "So what's your new toy say, boys, do we follow it down west, and go digging around in the old city, or up west, and get the hell out of here before the Remnant catch us?"

Character(s): The Rat Pack, Getting Jack In Further Trouble...
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Psychodrama Is A Worthy Cause

Khyrisse smothered her laughter. Oh, poor Jack. Somehow I suspect that that compass detects innocence and virginity as being "childlike"!
"It probably picks a direction at random for any adult that picks it up," Khyrisse said, smiling at the mathematician. "If it picked any direction but the correct one, you could find it by the process of elimination, after all. Jack just had the luck of the draw."
"Jack does that," Cori agreed, also smiling.
Jack flashed Khyrisse a grateful look.
"So what does it say, kiddo?"
Skitch tilted it up and down, facing west. "It looks like down to me."
"Down it is."

***


Mikaela's misty form coalesced out of the fog, slightly luminescent in the dim light, and drifted across the beach to meet her Captain as he came ashore.
"Mikaela," Moneague greeted her, that oddly reminiscent smile haunting his gaunt face. "Did you find anything?"
The banshee hesitated for a moment. "The Parises and their group are no longer in the village," she sighed. "But there are signs that they were there, and I didn't see them leave."
"They're here," Moneague said quietly, studying the sand as his men walked out of the water behind him. The sound of salt-caked leather and rusted mail was an irritating and constant whisper. "Did you find anything else?"
"No. The village has been long abandoned."
The captain's mouth twitched. "Wise of them."
"We won't be able to get into the temple..." she pointed out, very quietly.
"We won't have to."

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Varying Degrees Of Faith

"I really think we need a better plan than this," disagreed Garal over lunch. "Won't Luthien the Dead know we're coming?"
"We can hardly prevent that, dwarfling."
"But if he knows we're coming and he's not at full strength yet, wouldn't he either evade us or throw undead armies at us? Why do you think he'd face us himself?"
"Luthien's always been kind of arrogant." Flicker poured himself some more coffee. "No offense."
"Liches are all overconfident," said Luthien, poking him. "It's sort of inherent to the job description."
"I think we need to wait and plan this out better. Maybe assemble a more complete team, lay a trap for him--"
"You have two days until my True Death now," said Norna. Luthien and Flicker refrained from cheering with some effort. "If we are going to strike we are going to have to do it now."
"You haven't seen this creature in action. I have. He, he cast a spell that ripped someone's viscera out."
"Khyrisse," moaned Shilree, and jabbed her dagger into her thigh.
"He is very, very powerful. What makes you think we can take him on and succeed?"
"So it is foretold in the skeins of fate," said Norna.
"Why not?" said Alderon. "Life is long and strange, my mother used to say. Anything's possible."
"Because I am the Angel of Death," said Shilree, low.
"We do have a quorum of Mithril Dagger Heroes now." Nora smiled at Luthien and Flicker. "That never hurts."
"And the Ragnarokkr is with us," whispered Hronmir.
"If the boss says we can do it," said Berryn, firmly, "we can do it."
"Sometimes one needs to be a little arrogant," said Luthien.
"We have to try," said Flicker.
"Besides," grinned Ralchar, "I'm feeling lucky."

Character(s): The Rat Pack and the souls of those who sleep in the deep
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Deja Vu in Davy Jones' Locker

"I've seen this before," Khyrisse said, examining the smashed bits of stone and glass. "In the Mithril Dagger. This was a beacon of some sort."
"Yes," Jack said, examining one of the pieces of glass. "The concentric rings here, if held up to a light source, should refract the light, leading to an increase in brightness of several orders of magnitude, depending, of course, on the original source's luminosity and the distance from---"
"It makes stuff bright, we get the point," Rani broke him off irritably.
"We could use some light in here, now that you mention it," Mina added, looking around.
"No problem," Val said. She took out a scroll case with a notch cut in one end. Inside was the old adventurer staple, a coin with continual light cast on it. Luthien had issued them as standard gear for the Chain Gang. He'd been considering marketing them as "flashlights" but Vas had said it was a stupid name that would never catch on.
"It's still pointing this way!" Skitch announced, checking the compass. He was quite pleased with his new device. This was much neater than Kit's dumb old rock.
The Rat Pack followed the cold, musty passage that smelled of rot and brine. Stepping over some chalked rubble, they came upon a large chamber, a series of majestic white arches -- one after the other -- marking the way.
"I know what this is," Otter said, looking about with some measure of surprise. "It's a skeleton."
"A skeleton?!? Of what, an ancient dragon?"
"No. A Leviathan."
Spirits are present, Amatsu heard Raiden-san's voice in his head. Guardians, perhaps. This one is... not certain. They are rather strange. The ninja looked about but saw nothing save the enormous ribcage. But his instincts were crackling and his ancestor was seldom mistaken. "Miss Valende," he said quietly, "I believe your skill in--managing the undead may become necessary."
Then the temperature seemed to drop, and everyone's ears rung. There was no change, really, in the surroundings, but the air seemed thick and almost visibly blue. And there was the eerie noise.
I've heard something a little like this, too, Khyrisse thought. Zzenith. The sounds he made when he said he was... singing.

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

"Come in, come in," said the man, in a soft, very dry voice. "I have been expecting you."
"Lord Ælwyn, I presume." Ebreth Tor drew himself to his full height and smiled. "Nice change of scenery we've been having these days, isn't it?"

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