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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 VI



Character(s): Otter and Marty
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: Much Less Adept Than The Diarshi Nomads

"Oh no! Your, like, skin is cracking!"
"I noticed," rasped Otter.
"Oh man. Is this like a disease? 'Cause I can cure disease."
"I'm dehydrating, Marty. There's a reason I live on the Archipelago."
"You're turning into a hydra?" The young paladin was alarmed. Hydras looked way too much like snakes.
"I'm drying out," she said, her voice rattling but not impatient. "I'm a water nymph. I can't survive long like this."
"Really?" said Marty, surprised. "I thought water nymphs had, like, really big--"
"In sailor stories," said Otter, "everyone does."
"Oh. Well anyway, if you're drying up you should drink some of our water."
She shook her head. "I need to keep my skin more damp than this. We need to get out of this desert."
"You could pour the water on your skin!" said Marty, pleased with himself for thinking of it.
Otter's feet were starting to drag a little in the sand. "Then we would have nothing to drink," she said levelly, "and we would die."
"Oh." Marty looked down, and then looked up. "You could break the little egg dude," he said, his voice wobbling. "Eggs are pretty, like, gooey inside."
"Thank you, Marty," she said, gently, "but there's really not much inside an egg."
"Then we'd better find a mirage," decided Marty.
"Don't you mean an oasis?"
"Oh, yeah. Whatever. Don't worry."

Character(s): Khyrisse and Mina
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: Magical Theory 201

Khyrisse glanced a bit wildly around the shadowy ruins of the Plateau, looking for the subtle tell-tales of illusion; finding none, she tilted her head up at the sky. She flinched a little as her gaze skittered past the gray pallor of Bane, but she studied the night sky carefully, verifying that it was still early winter... and not late spring. Muttering something in Impish that sounded more relieved than anything else, she dropped her eyes. “Who did this city belong to?” the younger mage whispered, looking around at the shattered building they’d taken cover in.
“I don’t really know,” Khyrisse admitted in an absentminded way, thinking hard. “We were only here once, after it was--” She stopped suddenly, and her hands shot out to gently tap both of Mina’s temples. A nimbus of faint light surrounded the girl’s head for a brief moment, steel-blue, as she started away from Khyrisse.
“What did you just cast on me?” Mina demanded.
“Mind blank,” the archmage whispered, mouth quirking with a rueful smile. “Sorry. I probably should have explained first... but the last time I was up here, the Plateau was occupied by Shadow. They always seemed to know where we were. Considering that they’re immune to magic and we needed a psionicist to get off the Plateau alive, I think we’re going to need all the advantage we can get. I’d prefer to keep them out of your head.”
Mina nodded slowly, relaxing a little. “What about you?”
“I always have mind blank up.”
The younger mage blinked at her in surprise. “That seems a little...”
“Paranoid?” Khyrisse supplied, with a rueful grin.
“I was going to say excessive,” Mina murmured diplomatically. “Shadow can’t still be here, though, can it...?”
“I don’t know,” Khyrisse sighed. “I don’t think this is precisely real.” She looked out into the darkness for a long moment, face set. “Have you ever heard of the ninth-circle spell called weird?”
“It’s the final spell on the Path of Illusion, I believe. But doesn’t mind blank protect you from enchantments affecting the mind?”
“It’s supposed to. But I don’t believe that we were magically transported to the top of the Plateau, either. I think this is a phantasm drawn from my memories. In a weird spell, the victim is forced into combat with their most feared enemy, by exactly those means... and until the spell ends, that enemy is very real. If the victim loses that fight, they actually die.”
Mina grew a little pale and peered out at the shadows of the street. The area was very dark, but there were lights in the distance. Whoever they might belong to, the mages were clearly not alone on the Plateau. “A weird spell... Will we have to fight forces of Shadow, then?”
Khyrisse shook her head slowly. “I... don’t think so. I didn’t mean to imply that this was a weird spell-- I think it’s only something similar. A phantasm, created from our memories in order to test us.”
“Are you certain?”
The older woman got to her feet with a twisted little smile, nodding.
“How can you be sure?” Mina persisted, a bit puzzled by that expression.
“Because,” Khyrisse explained dryly, “this is obviously being drawn from my memories-- and we’re not in Cynystra.”

Character(s): Otter, Marty Hu
Author: Jonah Cohen (w. co-blame to Evan)
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Now here's a REAL test!

Otter was having difficulty getting her legs to move in sync. Her gums positively throbbed and her teeth seemed to want to chatter, even though she felt frightfully hot. She wasn't sweating any longer, and static flooded her field of vision.
Marty squinted towards the horizon. "Hey, I think that might be one of those sciroccos! No, wait, that's not the word... Mirages! No, wait, you said it was called an, er, oa---"
*thunk*
"Otter!" He ran over to where she had fallen over in the sand. "Otter, c'mon! We're almost there!" He shook her but she did not stir. "Oh, god," the paladin whispered. He placed his hands on her and tried to focus with all his might, but her eyes remained closed.
"Water!" He emptied the entire sack over her body, and her breathing deepened a bit, but still the nymph did not stir. "C'mon, we're almost there. I can carry you the rest of ---oomph! Er, maybe not. Uh, okay, you, like stay here and rest. I'll go get more water!" He started to leave, then turned around.
He paused for a moment, then said "Watch out for her, li'l dude," placing the egg in her hands.
The oasis was much farther away than it had looked, and Marty was sweating buckets by the time he arrived. But the land was, amazingly enough, verdant and lush. A large pool of crystal-blue water awaited him in the clearing's center, and he took out his water sack when---
"Oh my god! There's fish in there!!!"

Character(s): Rani and Val, Marty, Crandall and Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: Tested

Rani's face was scrunched up tight with concentration, but in the end she broke out of it, breathing heavily. "It's no good," she gasped, withdrawing her hand from the tropical hardwood as if pulling it out of some viscous fluid. "This space is completely magical. If it was a physical construct of magic, like that hand, I'd have a chance. I can't control this place at all."
"It was worth a try," sighed Valende.
"I think they're pulling this out of your mind. How did you escape last time?"
"From the jungle? We weren't really trapped last time."
"Well, was there anything special you had to face to succeed there? If you can pull some goal out of the same part of your brain this is coming from, maybe it would register as winning. How did you get unstuck?"
"A grease spell," sighed Valende.
"Can't help you there."

***


"Please stay away from me, little fishy dudes," Marty implored, trying to get some fishless water into his sack with shaking hands.

***


"Wow, this test is a cinch!" said Skitch. "Look, I can see the temple. All we have to do is swim across this big pool!"
"Fuck," muttered Crandall, looking at the shimmering lake of holy water.

Character(s): Jack, Cori
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Testing
Title of Post: Back

Jack watched as Cori embraced her dead husband. After a long time, the two separated and Hari turned to Jack.
"This is our test, right?" Jack asked.
Hari grinned and shrugged. "I'm her test. You've got something else."
"Are you real?" Cori asked. "Or is this just an illusion?"
"The spirits of the Ghede Cinqjours have great powers, especially among the recently dead," Hari said, not answering the question.
"I don't really care," Cori said. "It's just so good to see you again."
"Um, Cori?" Jack asked. "I think we need to focus on our tests here."
"Right, right!" Hari said, digging around in his hurashu satchel. "I hope you brought a number two pencil," he chuckled.
Jack flipped one out of his pack. The rat wasn't inside, he noted. "I always carry a number two pencil."
"Here," Hari said, handing Jack a sheaf of papers.
"I get a written test?" Jack asked incredulously. "This is going to be easy!"
"It's an SAT," Hari said.
"Hey! Multiple choice!"
"It's the verbal section."
"Oh, flark," sighed Jack. "It isn't timed, is it?"
"You have forty-five minutes for the first section," Hari said. "Come on, Cori... we have a lot to catch up on while he's busy."
Jack looked up at Cori, holding Hari's hand. "Wait... we shouldn't separate..."
"Be sure to fill in the circles completely, Jack," Hari said, and led Cori off.
"I've got a bad feeling about this," Jack sighed.

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: To The Death
Title of Post: Choices

"I'm still not happy with trusting a vampire," said Luthien.
"I'm not real happy about having a marker out to one," said Garal. "Some things are important enough for us to do things we're not comfortable with."
"Besides," Berryn reminded him, "I had detect lie up. He was telling the truth."
"I know how well demons cooperate with each other," said Flicker, smiling a little. "Maybe undead aren't any better."
"Are you all talking in Gaelic?" Norna yelled, and thwacked Flicker on the back of the head with her right hand, Garal on the back of the head with her left. Garal moved to the other side of Luthien, out of her way. "Is she always like this?"
"Don't even ask," muttered Luthien.

***


"You have exactly one more hour," growled Norna.
"She's important, Norn."
"Not now that I don't need her time travel device anymore she's not."
"Yes, she is. She's immortal. She could be very useful in this fight."
"I agree," said Garal.
"So what?"
Garal looked more offended than cowed. "Look, it's foolish to leave powerful allies behind."
"Well, we're running out of time to waste. Ragnarokkr, I want you to tie her wrist to yours or something when we find her this time."
"Be patient," said Flicker. "I've got her trail."
"What the hell is that?" Luthien blinked and looked ahead. "Flicker, we've got a necromantic reading up ahead, class wraith."
"A what?" Flicker picked up the pace.
Shilree was kneeling in the gutter beside a largely desiccated body, her gem eye glowing a very sickly red-black and her other eye turned almost all the way back in her head. "Flicker, stay back from her," said Luthien. "She's draining its life. How the hell--I thought she was an illusionist!"
Flicker shook her by the shoulder anyway, and she looked up at him dizzily, the husk of the body falling from her hand like dead leaves. "Sunny?" she said, in a strange voice.
"We're almost there," said Flicker. "Hold on just a little longer, Shil."
She looked down at the shriveled corpse, her good eye brimming. "Feed my hunger," she said. "Feed my hunger." She whirled her head around at Luthien then suddenly with an unbounded hatred. "See what you have done to me!" she screamed at him, and collapsed like a rag doll.
Luthien looked at Flicker. Flicker looked at Luthien. "Lich lord," he guessed. And Hronmir, silently, picked Shilree's still form from the dirty snow.

***


The sun was starting to peek over the broken hills of what had once been the Princedom of Dascold. The state had completely fragmented after the Madness into entrenched and uncooperative enclaves of Fossic tribes, kept from open warfare with one another primarily by virtue of having lost one-fifth of their population and having no warriors to expend. For all this, the clear and scattered light across the snow was still quite beautiful. Flicker sighed. "Norn," he said, in Riklandic, "it's time to call it a day."
"Shut up, Messala," she barked at him. "You don't make those decisions here."
"Norn," he said, "everyone else needs to sleep."
"Everyone else can suck it up. I have a lich lord to kill, and two days left."
"You have a lich lord to kill and only ten people to do it with. They are mortal and they need to sleep." Alderon was stumbling on like a zombie by now; even Luthien had those little lines at the corners of his eyes that betrayed his exhaustion. "Besides," he said, "Luthien wanted to restore Berryn."
"That is the most dishonorable plan I have ever heard in my life, Messala," she said, with great contempt. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
He did not bow his head. "He isn't one of us and his customs are different. He serves Arawn. Being Chosen is not honorable to him. It is dishonorable." He paused just a moment. "You should not have taken him."
She hit him harder than usual across the mouth. "Don't tell me my business, thief."
"He is a priest of Arawn," said Flicker. "His powers over the undead will serve us well. And he will return to life with your True Death anyway."
"Stop yammering at me and pitch us a camp."
"Yes ma'am." Flicker wiped the blood from his mouth, smiling a still little smile to himself.

Character(s): Otter and Marty
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: First Out

Otter's skin was cracked and swollen, and her hair was starting to come out in patches, but she was still breathing. Marty unloaded the waterskin over her head and torso and screamed like a girl as an errant minnow flopped out of it, dropping the sack like a hot potato. Otter shuddered a little and pushed up to one forearm, her head still lolling slightly. "There's water right over that dune thingy," said Marty, trying to keep his voice from wavering too much. "Come on, you can lean on--"
The desert fluttered and melted away beneath them. Marty blinked. Otter blinked back. They were on the courtyard outside the ruined temple, the ribs of the leviathan arching gracefully overhead. "Whoa," said Marty, "what--happened?"
Otter put her hand slowly to her face. It was smooth and unblemished, as if nothing had happened. "I think you passed," she said. "Thank you."
"I did?" Marty looked around cluelessly, and then retrieved his egg mascot from where it had fallen. "Where's, like, the mean sorceress and everybody?"
"I don't know." Otter sat down solidly in the underground courtyard and buried her left hand in the mud, a twitchy gesture she didn't seem to notice herself doing. "Maybe they'll be back soon."
"Then I can work on my satori while we're waiting," decided Marty, and got into a lotus position. "Hellllllllp... helllllllp..." he intoned.
Otter half-unconsciously rubbed mud into her forearm, her heart rate starting to normalize, and watched the skittish young paladin going about his strange routines with somewhat more respect than she had before.

Character(s): the rodent, the mustelid, the crab and a guy scared of animals
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Two down...

"Helllllp..... Hellllp.... Helll - AAAAHHH!"
Marty Hu shrieked in terror as someone emerged, seemingly from nowhere, behind him. "My apologies, young one," Amatsu said.
"Did you, uh, end up in some strange place that wasn't real?"
"In a way, it was quite real, Miss Otter."
"Geez you scared me! Man, that kung-fu fighting stealth stuff is mighty ginchy!"
"Uh, I suppose so," Amatsu replied, not certain how to explain that he'd had no idea that he was about to re-enter the temple entrance, and had merely been following another. "I see that the others are... still missing."
Simians. It figures! thought the Rat.

Character(s): Crandall and Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Tests
Title of Post: I'm, Uh, Allergic To Holy Water

"Okay," sighed Crandall, "Skitch, look, can you keep a secret?" Skitch looked questioningly up at him. "This is a really, really deep secret of mine, Skitch. Even Jack and Cori don't know it."
"Really?" said Skitch. "Well, maybe the test is you have to trust me with it."
"Yes, probably it is," said Crandall. "But Skitch, you really have to promise not to tell anyone about this. Not even your mother. That's probably part of the test too."

Skitch hesitated. "It's not something bad, is it?"
"No. No, it's not something bad, it's just--different." Crandall looked away, an expression on his tattooed face like he was trying to think quickly. He's probably trying to decide whether to trust me or not, Skitch realized. He thought about Jack's secret. Skitch still didn't know what it was, and he was a kid who kept his eyes and ears open pretty well. He'd trusted Khyri and Val, and they were honoring that trust by not telling him about it. The time traveler woman had told Khyrisse a secret, too, he could tell, but she hadn't told it to Skitch. Sometimes keeping something to yourself was part of being a good friend, Skitch decided. "You can trust me," he said. "I won't tell anyone about your secret. I promise."
"Thanks," said Crandall, relief evident in his voice. "Well, what it is is I'm really from, I'm really not human. I'm from another, plane of existence."
"Hell?" guessed Skitch.
"What? No. No, I've never been to Hell."
"I've been to Hell," said Skitch, with careless pride.
"Well, not me. I'm from the, elemental plane of fire. And I can't immerse myself in water because it would destroy me."
"Ohhhhhhh," said Skitch. "So this is a dangerous test after all."
"It's a dangerous test for me. Do you know levitate?"
"No, I just know stupid cantrips. I know, I'll swim across and get Khyrisse and bring her back."
"No!" said Crandall, hurriedly. "I don't want more people knowing my secret. Besides, if you go out into the temple, how do we know you'd be able to get back in? The others haven't come in looking for us or anything."
"Oh," said Skitch. "I guess you're right. Well, we'll just have to find another way. What do you do when it rains?"
"What?"
"If water hurts you, what do you do when it rains?"
"R-ain only hurts me a little bit. It's really immersing myself completely that could kill me."
"Okay." Skitch's brow furrowed in thought. "Don't worry. We'll find some other way out, and I won't tell."

Character(s): The Quiet Group
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: To The Death
Title of Post: T Minus One

Peteser was warmer than Dascold. The snow had given way to a cold, light rain, and Flicker and Norna had had to put their skis away as the ground became slushier and, eventually, bare. "Denilak is to the northeast," said Garal, confidently. Shilree had regained consciousness and seemed not to remember the life-draining incident in Brillton at all. Ralchar was trying to flirt with her without much success. Berryn was very quiet, probably trying to come to terms with his recent death, undeath, and return to life; everyone else just looked grim. The mood was decidedly somber, and Flicker kind of wished Nora had brought Waterloo with her. "One more day," whispered Norna. "This is my last chance."
"I'll get this done, Norn," said Flicker, quietly. "One way or the other this will get done. If I have to take care of it myself I will. You have my word."
She shook her yellow head. "There is more at stake than this. The prophecy must be fulfilled. It is my last chance. One last day."
Silence fell like the rain as the mountain fortress of Denilak began to be seen in the distance.

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