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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 V



Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Valende Gets Inducted In Low Diari

There was a tinkling as of very distant wind chimes, and then the eerie harmonic buzz in the group's ears degaussed into something voicelike. "Who enters the sacred ground of the Ghede Cinqjours?"
"Hey, out of the brain!" yelled Rani, pulling her hand up in front of her face at a stylized diagonal slant.
The buzz deepened. "Who dares attack the guardian spirits of the Ghede Cinqjours?"
"You idiot!" Valende hissed at her, as the ground shook slightly.
"Look, savri, no one gets in the brain, I don't care what the hell they're guarding."
"Venerable guardian ancestor spirits of Ghede Cinqjours!" cried Amatsu, in his most obsequious voice. "This one humbly apologizes! We are here only to oppose the honorless undead that have driven the people from this town to flight."
"That may be, mortal," buzzed the voice. "But those who have something to hide from the guardian spirits are not trustworthy. If you wish to enter this temple, you must first be tested."
"Thanks, now you got us tested," muttered Skitch.
"Excuse the hell out of me."

Character(s): The Rat Pack (who you just know didn't study)
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Rat Tests and Stranger Things

"I hate tests," Skitch mumbled. "That's why I never went to school."
"It shows," Rani said. Val, none too subtly, said something in Elvish. Rani replied in Low Diari.
"Geez," Crandall said, "doesn't anyone just talk Dalen anymo-- whoah!"
Then, the Rat Pack was engulfed by souls as vast as the sea, by the blue of oblivion.

***


Where am I? Cori Yashida thought. The guardian spirits had taken her somewhere (had they?) We must be tested, she remembered.
The samurai was kneeling in the middle of a dirt road. Outdoors. By the smell of things, she was nowhere near the ocean, but on a path through a verdant boreal wood. She stood and was relieved to see Jack Paris, looking as confused as she imagined she herself did. At least she wasn't alone; the two of them would go through this test together, as they had so many struggles.
Her senses alerted her to someone behind her. She turned and gasped when she saw the man stading ten feet away. "Hari?"

***


It was a dark, dank passage, almost certainly underground. Stone walls of no particular color, packed earth below, littered with large puddles. Amatsu Mikaboshi looked one way, then the other. He listened carefully. He examined the ground for tracks, the walls for signs of a hidden entryway.
Nothing.
It is like one of the taoist riddles, he thought. A test to find meaning in nothingness. He sat down in the lotus position and began to regulate his breath, focusing on the tantyen, clearing his mind of distracting thoughts.
He heard a noise. Something quietly moving, to his right. Smoothly and silently he flowed into a crouch, hand at his tanto and gazed intently into the dimness.
It was a rat. (Jack Paris' rat?) Whiskers twitching, eyes red and aglow.
He heard another sound, from the left this time, and turned to see a crab scurrying along the wall.

Character(s): The Rest Of The Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Pair Up And Be Tested
Title of Post: Just Be Glad The Oyster Totem Wasn't Activated

Mina looked around with wide eyes. "Where on Ataniel...?"
"The Plateau," whispered Khyrisse, numbly. "Oh my God. We're on top of the Plateau."
"M...aybe you should handle this, ma'am," said Mina.

***


Skitch's compass wouldn't stop spinning. He was starting to get a really bad feeling about this. "Well, it could be worse," he said, trying to make his thin voice sound confident and brave as he looked around the vast cavern, its walls pulsing with faint heat. "The Remnant could be here with us."
"Yeah, that would suck," said Crandall, deadpan.

***


"Oh no!" wailed Marty. "I hate the desert! You know what lives in the desert? Cactus!"
"Really," said Otter, evenly.
"Oh, yeah. I saw some once, and it really gave me the wig."
"You don't say," she said. The sun beat down on her brown hair. Otter wondered how long she was going to survive out here.
"Totally. It was like, a porcupine or something, but it was green."
Otter looked out across the endless horizon, low dunes of sand the only thing in sight. "Well," she said, "there's certainly nothing green around here."
"Whew, that's a relief!"

***


"Huh," said Rani, looking around the junglescape with a critical eye. "The good news is, I'm pretty sure this place is just a mental projection, probably being pulled out of our own psyches. Especially yours, since it's less well protected. The bad news is, it looks like I'm stuck to you somehow."
Valende was pretty sure that whatever this test was, she was just about to flunk it.

Character(s): The Skeiners, Marzoom, 'Darr'
Author: Evan Haag
Storyline: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: On the Trail of Death

Marzoom turned from his scrying cauldron to see Cloak leaning nonchalantly in the doorway, waiting patiently. It always disturbed Marzoom that his most powerful servant was still so damn lifelike. It was, in his opinion, a sign of weakness.
“I have a mission for you, Darkling. You are to go to the mainland on the northern edge of the sea. There you will wait in the village of Brillton. A group should be coming through there very soon. You must give them this message....

***


Luthien suddenly sat up straighter, a vaguely glassy look in his eyes. He stared coldly at nothing for a few seconds, then started gathering his things about him, as though he were preparing to leave.
Flicker sat forward and asked, “Is something wrong, Luth? You look a little...panicky.”
“I am, Flicker.” Luthien paused for a second, then continued. “We need to head south, towards the Vadril Sea. Don’t ask me why. I... can’t tell you why. I just feel that we need to head south.” He finished gathering his gear, and headed with purpose towards the door.
Norna grabbed him by the shoulder, and spun him around. “We don’t have any time for any of your personal quests, necromancer! We have to find the Lich Lord, before...”
“I know, Norna,” he responded coldly. “That’s why we need to head south. Just trust me on this one, if that’s within your mental capabilities.” He started to head out the door, then turned back to her and said, “Oh, and when we get where we’re going, before we face Luthien the Dead, I am going to bring Berryn back to life. He will be far more useful alive than dead. Don’t try to stop me.”
Before she could start screaming at him, Luthien turned and strode out of the bar. The rest of the group got their things together, and joined him on his way out of town.

***


The Skeiners appeared just outside of a little town on the edge of the Vadril Sea. According to a signpost by the local inn, this was Brillton. Garal looked around and said, “This place isn’t as busy as it used to be.”
“Oh, you’ve been here before?” asked Berryn, trying to keep the conversation away from his imminent resurrection.
“A long time ago, when I was still learning my craft. It used to be a decent fishing port.”
Norna whacked Berryn on the back of the head and said, “Who cares? Go get us a room for the day so we have some place to plan. I want to get out of this town and back on the Lichlord’s trail as soon as possible.”
“Righty-O, boss-lady!” The death priest quickly hurried over to the inn, with the rest of the group right behind him. As the group entered the simple building, they noticed that Berryn was being directed to a well-dressed man sitting in the corner. As the Skeiners turned to face him, he rose from his chair, and offered them all seats.
As they sat down, Flicker noticed Luthien was staring at the stranger with a degree of distrust, bordering on paranoia. He chose not to ask about it right away, however, as their host began to speak.
“My apologies for being abrupt, my friends, but I hear that you are pressed for time. My name is Darr, and I been made aware that you are hunting a dangerous foe.”
Norna glared at the gentleman, saying, “What do you know of our quest, stranger?”
He smiled at her, saying, “Let’s just say I have very reliable sources. I can give you a direction in which to travel to find your foe, for a small price.”
“What price, may I ask?” said Luthien. “We aren’t in the habit of paying your kind for anything.” Flicker couldn’t help but notice that he placed a particularly venomous emphasis on the words ‘your kind’; he wondered what Luthien knew about this man.
Darr looked at Luthien for a second, as if trying to solve a puzzle, then continued, “Nothing more than a favor, my friends. In fact, you need not pay it now, nor anytime soon. But someday, when it is necessary, I’ll call in the marker. Simple as that, and you needn’t even pay as a group. Any one of you that pays the marker is fine.”
Garal looked around the table at everyone’s faces, then said, “That sounds equitable. I’d be happy to take that debt on myself, in fact. It’s sort of my standard of currency.”
Norna turned her icy glare to Garal, who met her gaze fearlessly. Hoping to prevent yet another useless argument, Flicker said, “Well, it looks like your half of the deal is settled. What about our half? Where can we find our enemy?”
Darr smiled yet again and said, “Head into the Seven Princehoods, to the Mountain Fortress of Denilak, an ancient priesthood. You’ll find what you need there.” Without saying another word, he got up from the table, picking up an ornate Tobrinese walking stick. Bowing slightly to Norna, he strode confidently out the door.
Luthien glared at his back as he left, then said, “Berryn, get that room that Norna asked for. We need to talk.”
Norna turned on the necromancer. “What?! We know which way to go now, we aren’t going to wait around in this mud pit! We’re leaving, now!”
Flicker put his hand gently on Norna’s arm, and said softly, “I think it would be a good idea to hear Luthien out. I’m sure it won’t take long, and I think he know something about our mysterious benefactor that we need to be aware of. Am I right, Luth?”
“Yes. The man we were just talking to is a vampire.”

***


While everyone was talking to Darr, Shilree slipped out the back of the inn. She looked more haggard than usual. Lines creased her face, her hair was more silver than usual and her gait had the characteristic slowness of age. The life draining trap she stumbled into on the last world had indeed drained her. Only the Gem of Dimensions, once known as the Gem of Souls, in combination with Luthien the Dead's curse was keeping her alive.
Shilree, not conscious of what she was doing, wandered the streets looking for prey.

Character(s): Otter, Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: Difficult Terrain

"Whoa. I wish I had the Navigation skill."
"I have the Navigation skill," said Otter. "It doesn't help unless we know which direction we want to go."
"Oh. Then I wish I had the little dude's compass."
"It only works for children, Marty."
"Oh." Marty kicked the sand. "Then I wish I had some sunscreen. UV light, man. It's no good for you."
"Really," said Otter.

***


"Don't look at me. It's your fault we're being tested."
"Yeah? Well, it's your fault we're stuck together. No way that crawled out of my psyche."
"Bitch."
"Moron."

***


Otter caught the young paladin's arm. "We should conserve water," she said, her voice rattling strangely.
"Whoa," he said, and took his hand slowly from his waterskin. "Maybe we better find a mirage."

***


Rani's eyes were half-closed, and her gloved hand slid part-way into the mahogany tree. "Well," she said, without opening her eyes, "I'm right, this place is a mental construct."
"And?" said Valende, impatiently. "How can we get out of it?"
"Like there's an exit sign lying around."
"In other words," said Val, "you don't know."
"Do you have any bright ideas, savri?"
"Yes," said Valende, in Elvish. "You can shut up, follow me, and do what I tell you, and if you give me any more grief I am going to leave you here, you flippant little bitch."
"Speaky Dalen?" said Rani.
The priestess blinked. "You--don't know Elvish?"
"Well, I got the 'bitch' part," she said. "I did grow up in Rimbor City. But if there was content in there--"
"Not really," sighed Valende. She really hated being this cranky. "If this is a test, I'm sure what we're meant to do will become apparent shortly. Follow me."

***


"There's something--you should know," rasped Otter.
"What's that?" said Marty, nervously.
"I don't--deal well with low humidity." A large piece of Otter's skin flaked off.

Character(s): a ninja, a rodent and a crustacean
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: The Rainmaker/We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: The Fall of the Red Crab Clan

Amatsu looked to one side, at the Rat. Then to the other, at the red crab. He looked again. He remembered...

Conflict with the Jade Beetle clan had been on and off for generations. At the Leader's behest, it had been more on than off in recent times. The Jade daimyo was one of their clan's most beloved leaders. Betrothed to be married within a month, into an alliance that would strengthen that clan's position. And yet, Amatsu thought, watching the daimyo from the shadows, he's just a boy. Intelligent, but young -- helpless against a harsh world.
Amatsu silently stepped out of the shadows and silently put the blade of his ninja-to between the boy's shoulders. The poison began to pump through the young lord's veins as he gasped. It was over quickly. The Rainmaker departed, fully aware that there was no turning back from this. Behind him, in the house of the Jade Beetle clan, the rain of tears had begun.

***


"My lord," Kei said, sitting up, clad -- barely -- in nothing but a silk sheet. The enemy lord kept his eyes focused on hers. It was not easy for them to avoid the rest of her. His most trusted samurai was with him.
"What is the matter?" she said. "Has your wife..."
"No," he said. "But I have. Kunoichi." He never quite figured out where she'd managed to hide the tanto. She sprung at him like a cat and slashed the side of his face. He kept the scar.
With a shout, the samurai was at her, and soon, Kei was dead.

***


"You have been busy, my Rainmaker," the leader said. This was true. The leader had not only engaged the Red Crab Clan in a full-scale war with the Jade Beetle clan, he had instigated smaller strikes against other potential rivals. The clan had suffered heavy casualties, and its members kept busy at a feverish pace. Amatsu had killed 12 men and 2 women in the past month. Once he had been very lucky to escape with his own life.
"I have a new mission for you. The merchant family we discussed."
Amatsu chose his words carefully, and bowed low. "Master, is this a prudent time for this mission? Would not my efforts be better able to help the clan in our war with the Beetle?" He was thinking, but of course did not say, that the leader was stretching the clan's forces too thin.
"You are too cautious, Amatsu-san. Victory goes to the bold! By weakening others, we shall gain advantage with Lord Haito," he answered, speaking of the daimyo of the city of Shanghai, a mighty lord indeed, "which will give us the advantage in our war."
It took Amatsu a week to complete his mission. It was the last one he was to perform for the leader. The Red Crab clan continued to suffer losses in its bloody war. Then, the Madness of Bane came, and when it had stopped, Amatsu Mikaboshi was the only member of the Red Crab left alive.

He looked at the crab, and said quietly: "Your path leads to the past. I cannot walk that way again. But perhaps..." He picked the creature up and dropped it into a pouch, "perhaps I can take you forward with me." Raiden would have appreciated that, he was sure.
A little amazed at what he was doing, he turned to the Rat and said "Where do we go now?"
The Seeker of Places twitched his whiskers and scurried down the hall, the ninja following. Took him long enough. Humans!

Character(s): Rani and Val
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: Cooperation and Girl Talk

"Hold up," said Rani, "hold up!" She rebounded rather comically into the priestess as she did so, her arm bending with the glue, and uttered a few sharp words in a language Valende didn't recognize. "Damn this. Let me catch my breath a minute."
This was obviously not a woman who knew her way around the jungle, Valende surmised idly, as the slighter elf leaned panting into a nearby tree. It could be worse, though. At least she wasn't using Val as a weapon.
Rani looked at the awkward grip her left hand had on Val's left arm. "You know, this would probably work better if--" She raised their arms and circled around Valende, ducking under her arm so that they stood hip to hip like a pair of sashaying Nylevian square dancers, glued together on Valende's other side. "We'll be able to stay in step a lot better," the detective explained, close against the older elf. "Don't get any weird ideas here or anything. This is purely practical." Valende didn't even dignify that with an answer. Rani grinned anyway. "Besides, Asinus would kill me."
"Will you stop calling Jack Asinus?"
Rani was quiet a moment, and a serious look fluttered across her grey eyes. "Look," she said, "Asinus is my friend, but it just blows to take advantage of someone like this. 'Jack' is an illusion. He's not real."
"He's real enough for me," said Valende, with quiet ferocity.
"I think Asinus is taking you for a ride, honey."
"I think you ought to give yout elders a little more credit, honey. I know he's a, a magical construct. But it's got nothing to do with Asinus, all right? I know the whole story, and you don't have to."
"Okay. Okay." She raised her free hand. "Look, it doesn't matter to me. I was just trying to keep you from getting totally bitch-slapped by this. Forget it."
Valende paused. "Well, thank you," she said. "But Jack and Asinus are two completely different people. Jack has--another story. But he's told it to me."
"One thing I've learned," said Rani, "is men never tell you the whole story."
"Jack's different."
"Right," said Rani. "When it happens, think of me."
Valende started walking again abruptly, annoyed by the detective's cynical attitude, and then stopped, blinking. "Rani, have you ever reveried in your life?"
Rani gave her a funny look. "What the hell is that?" she said. "Is this some kind of a pass?"
Valende shelved it for later. "No. Don't worry about it. Left feet."
"Left." Rani kicked her stride into cadence. "Left. Do you left, right, left." She had been right, actually; it was easier to keep pace side by side this way. "I don't know but I been told," sang Rani softly. "Streets in heaven paved in gold. Left, left, do you left right left."

Character(s): Sheik al Haran, Majji
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Reclamation
Title of Post: Midnight in the Wasteland

The wind whipped out from the center of the blasted plain of the Shadowlands. Majji held her robes against herself, but the wind seemed to blow right through any garments.
"Beautiful day," said Sheik Al'vazran al Haran with obvious sarcasm.
"What did you expect?" said Majji. "The gardens of the Tecti rifts?"
The Sheik didn't answer. Both of them sat there facing into the wind. The battle cats they were on humphed with displeasure.
"How much longer do we wait?" asked the Sheik, breaking the silence.
"Until they return. The Reclamation must be done correctly."
Once again only the sound of the wind flowed between them.
They two of them stayed there in silence for hours. Then a faint cry got their attention. It was carried on the wind like a leaf. Both Majji and Sheik al Haran tried to locate its source.
"There!" said al Haran pointing to the horizon.
Majji squinted in the direction he was pointing. On the horizon was a shape, a black dot which was coming closer.
"I will get the General," said Majji as she turned her battle cat around and headed back to camp. Sheik al Haran stayed where he was watching the figure grow.
Minutes later Majji returned with General Talran.
"What is it?" asked Talran.
Sheik al Haran was silent for the briefest moment then spoke. "It's Ahmed. It's Ahmed!" he yelled and bolted forward on his battle cat.
Sheik al Haran quickly reached his tribesman. Ahmed looked tired but otherwise unhurt. The two greeted each other and Sheik al Haran lead him back to Majji and Talran.
"It is done," said Ahmed to Majji. "I did as you asked."
"Was there any resistance?" asked Talran.
"None that I could see."
The General nodded and with a motion of his head told Ahmed to return to camp. He did so eagerly.
"You ready?" Talran asked Majji.
"No. But one is never ready for something like this."
Majji kicked the sides of her battle cat and they took off into the wind ravaged plains of the Shadowlands.

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