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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Priorities, Part II



Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Reclamation/Shilree B
Title of Post: Just What Shilree Wanted To Hear

"Oh, Eren, I almost forgot. A Diari courier left something here for you a while back. Kevin, what did we do with that envelope?"
"A Diari courier?"
"Yeah," said Kevin, looking under the bar. "He was emitting a regal air."
"Ew," said Alderon.
Kevin handed Flicker a cloth envelope. He opened it and a rose quartz crystal dropped into his palm.
Alderon was looking over his shoulder. "What's that?"
"A Diari thought crystal," said the Norse elf, frowning at it. He touched it to his left temple, but it seemed to be locked. "An encrypted one."
"He specifically said it was for you," said Kayla.
"I think it is. I'm not easy to encode." He held it with all five fingertips and put his other thumb to its end, to get the best reception he could, and concentrated. The thought crystal sparked into garbled and staticky Diari in his mind. "shaila," it crackled, "acha... se laijhas..." The voice was so distorted and indistinct as to be unrecognizable. Not that Flicker needed to recognize it. There was only one person who called him Shaila. "Sunny," he translated through the white noise. "have done... thank you..." There was a brackish noise. "Gift... means more to me... keep... Diaria... invitation to visit... passport into Diar--m--" The crystal made an ugly stutter. "Western... Eastern... my friend." The message dissolved into static. Flicker sighed and took the crystal from his temple, some Threnodyesque part of his brain cursing the Diari for using the same roots for most of their place names. Was she in Diarmn--Eastern Diaria? Dyaromn, the Western capitol? Diaromyn, the port? Somewhere along the Diarmn Bay? It sounded like she was in Diaria, at any rate, and in a position to be extending invitations to kiljhac, which could only be good. Flicker was sorry to have to complicate her life when things seemed to going well, but he was going to have to tell her this eventually, and he didn't know if there had been important information in the crystal that he'd been unable to access.
-Praxis? Do you have a minute?-
There was the usual brief pause. -I always have time for you.-
Flicker didn't ask which you. -Could you contact Shilree for me? She sent me a thought crystal and she, ah, the encryption isn't doing a very good job parsing us, I think.-
-I'd imagine not. It's hard enough getting the settings on your psyche right for those of us who do have the Gift.-
-It's... probably better if you don't put it that way. Can you tell her that I got the message but can't read all of it; that it sounds like she's somewhere in Diaria and I'm glad she's regained her citizenship; and that there's an insane undead alternate-future version of herself running around Ataniel somewhere who set off a nuclear bomb in the last Diaria she visited and that she should probably meet me in the Mithril Dagger as soon as is possible so I can explain?-

***


"Why does everything always happen at once," muttered Shilree, cramming Magnate's letter into her belt pouch.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Mina Paris
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (with Evan cracking the whip!)
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Final Exams
Title of Post: All Right, I'm Going...!

Khyrisse closed her eyes and relaxed-- letting her head fall gently until her chin nearly touched her collarbone, hands at rest on her knees as she sat cross-legged in the dirt. Her breathing smoothed out into a slow, steady whisper.
Entering reverie always reminded Khyrisse of the first time she’d used a water breathing spell, so much so that it was often the first memory she relived. Drifting slowly backwards, down into the darkness of an element so different from the one she normally inhabited... exhaling the last of the air in her lungs, and watching the bubbles rise to the surface as she floated away in the river’s cold embrace.
Khyrisse almost hoped that her idea didn’t work, in spite of how much depended on passing this stupid test. The things I’m willing to do for my friends. I must be crazy. I wish Vas were here. She sighed internally, and summoned up the most vivid image she had of the woman whose memories she needed-- a half-elven woman sitting on a rooftop in Trade with a spyglass dangling forgotten in her hand. A thin white scar stuttered along her arm, from the back of her wrist to her elbow, disappearing under the rolled-up sleeve of her summer tunic. Wisps of scarlet hair curled around the heart-shaped face staring dreamily into the sunset. Bridgette Macaulay-- known in Trade as Briet, free-lance security consultant.
Mina turned to look at Khyrisse as she got to her feet. The archmage swayed from side to side for a moment, one hand to her temples. A puzzled frown was flitting over her face. “Are you all right?” Mina whispered. There was something subtly off-kilter about the older woman, but she couldn’t figure out what it was. “I’m fine,” she whispered back, with a little chuckle. She had the odd sensation that she was looking at the world through a tinted pane of glass. Briet-colored spectacles!
You know, it’s going to be a little difficult to sneak around while wearing these ankle-breakers...
Oh, hush, Khyrisse replied to the tart little mental voice, and began wriggling out of her spike-heeled boots. She suppressed the urge to laugh, not wanting to have to explain.
How do you walk in these things?!
Grendel, I get backtalk from everybody. Sennett was bad enough!

***


Mina and Khyrisse peered at the tower from the edge of the brightly lit area around it. Mina sighed at the number of guards patrolling the grounds. “How many people did he bring up here, anyway?”
“Mmm, I’d guess about half a dozen,” Khyrisse murmured, studying the tower itself. “That’s the most I could defend myself against at his power level if they decided to turn on me, but enough to protect me if we ran into trouble.”
“Do you think you can get us to the door?”
Khyrisse tilted her head at the building with a little moue. “Interesting chi. Julin-sha would have loved to see this architectural style.” Finally, she shook her head. “Nope. Not without sending Roland a calling card saying ‘Here we are!’, anyway. We’ll have to do it the other way.”
Khyrisse dashed across the gap between guards and reached the tower. Two circuits of the guards went past before Mina saw her hand waving from the shadow of the building. Mina ran over to join Khyrisse as carefully as she could, and pressed herself back against the cold stone wall. She divided her attention between getting her breath back without panting, and watching the guards walk obliviously past their hiding place.
“Try not to make any noise,” Khyrisse whispered. “They’re pretty good, but they can’t see you while you’re invisible. I think only Roland, and mabye that bodyguard of his--”
“Drake,” Mina supplied, very quietly. “He’s Roland’s cousin.”
“Poor guy! Anyway, I think they were the only two who saw both of us in the tent.”
Mina nodded. “Drake has a ring that lets him see the invisible.”
“Let’s hope he’s up there, then.” Khyrisse waited until Mina finished casting the spell on her, then smiled a little. “Sometime you’re going to have to tell me who these guys are and why this test pulled them out of your head.”
Mina’s cheeks flushed, and she was briefly glad that Khyrisse couldn't see her, either. “Sometime.”
Khyrisse whisked up the wall with the aid of Mina’s spider climb and, after a moment, disappeared inside one of the windows on the top floor. Mina counted silently, waiting out the duration of the spider climb, and cast feather fall on herself.
Khyrisse peeked through the window on the top floor of the tower, and almost lost her grip on Briet’s memories, not to mention the wall. The room was dark and unoccupied, the door to the hallway was closed. It was also, unfortunately, the cell they’d been holding Paninaro and her father in. Terrific, just what I wanted to see. She crawled silently through the opening and looked around. It almost seemed as if no one had been in it since they’d left. The desk was completely empty, however, and the dust on it had been recently disturbed.
Khyrisse’s steps slowed as she approached the far wall. She reached out to touch one of the apparently rusty manacles hanging from the wall, her hand trembling. The ring of metal pulled away from the wall for a moment, stuck to her hand. The manacle then fell back against the stones with a muted clank.
Khyrisse cradled her hand as if the touch had burned her. Eyes wide, she stared at the flakes of blood stuck to her fingertips. She drew a shaky breath and fled back to the window.
After what seemed like much too long a wait, something fell from the dark window above her, almost invisible against the white marble wall. Mina reached out and took the knotted circle, slipping it over her head and down to her hips. Swinging in the light breeze, she was pulled up the side of the tower, suspended in a loop of white embroidery thread. Mina closed her eyes. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but she knew all too well what happened to people who fell from a great height onto a solid surface from her childhood at sea. Her hands closed tighter around the flimsy silk thread. Please let me get up there before this spell runs out.
Khyrisse helped her through the window, and Mina stepped out of her makeshift swing, trying to hide the fact that she was shaking a little. “I never want to have to do that again,” she whispered to Khyrisse, with a rueful little laugh.
“I know the feeling,” Khyrisse murmured sympathetically. She coiled up the thread, her face unnecessarily tilted down to look at her work.

Character(s): Skitch and Crandall
Author: Laura Redish, finally remembering
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Finals
Title of Post: Secrets Kept

Skitch suddenly made a high-pitch yelp. "Oh, duh! I am so stupid! Crandall, I totally forgot about this." He dug around in his pocket and came out with a playing card, fraying at the edge. "Look, it's a dragon! Dragons can fly! It can carry us over the pool!"
"You have a card of a red dragon?" said Crandall, incredulously. "Isn't that dangerous? Where did you get that?"
"This insane jester gave it to me. My friend Kit got an inflatable succubus."
"Does your mother know about this?"
"Uh, well, not exactly. But don't tell her. I don't want to make her upset."
"Isn't she going to notice when we come flying into the courtyard on the back of a red dragon?"

***


"Incoming!" yelled Otter, twin blades materializing in her hard hands.
"Hi," said Crandall, hopping down from the red dragon's shoulder blade. "Boy, was that a hard test. I had to, ah, call in my only favor with Mumra the Death Slaad to get us out of there. Okay, dragon. Shoo. Back to Mumra with you." He whacked it on the hindquarters, and it dissipated.
Skitch shot the big rogue a conspiratorial grin, and then looked around. "Hey, where's Mom?"
"And where's Cori?"
"Ohhhh," moaned Marty. "That thing had a tail!"

Character(s): Flicker
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Waiting For Shilree
Title of Post: Downtime

Flicker had been wanting to spend a few days in Lianth anyway. The boggling lack of psychodrama resulting from his having dropped completely out of Kayla's life for six months was unspeakably refreshing. You had to figure any other woman on Ataniel would have been possessed by an evil spirit by now, or gotten married to an archvillain, or at least decided she didn't want to see him anymore. Flicker didn't even want to contemplate what Shannon would have done. Kay was a ray of sanity in a particularly strange world, and Flicker was grateful just for the chance to spend a little time with her.
It was good catching up with Alderon, too. The young pirate was having some trouble adjusting to the the Sunfighter that had once been his flamboyent cousin, but once they'd gotten past interface awkwardnesses they had quite a bit to talk about. And it was nice just to put his feet up. Flicker had always been a bit of a homebody. It wasn't that he minded trouble, or complained when it found him, but in his heart of hearts he really preferred a quiet evening in. They used to call him a coal-chewer as a boy. Now they called him Ragnarokkr. Life was so full of extremes.
Flicker poured himself some more wine and resumed telling the attentive Alderon about the Temple of the Weird Sisters.

Character(s): Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Foreshadowing: AS1/2YR
Title of Post: Exit of the Last Aesir

Hronmir continued his trek across the mountains. It would be a long trip back to Riklandir, but he felt a need to return to the world that he was no longer a part of before he could truly come to terms with being the Last Aesir.
With the Valkyrie returned, Hronmir had found himself hearing their voices at night. Different voices, all calling for different things from him. It seemed that the Valkyrie didn't know what they were doing now that Ragnarok had come and gone and they had 't died. Should they still gather the dead? No reason to, anymore.
Hronmir had chosen to ignore the voices... the only one he was compelled to obey was Norna's and she was gone. He felt an odd sense of loss at that.
Then, from out of the thin air, a tall man materialized before Hronmir. "Hronmir of the Silent Voice?" the man asked. His beard was white, and his long fingers were thin and gangly. He was dressed in a cloak so black that it seemed to absorb light from the air around it.
"Who asks?"
"My name is..."--the man paused, as if trying to think of another way to say it--"...unimportant. I'm a visitor to your land, recently arrived."
"And how do you know who I am?"
"You are the last Aesir. You have a touch of the power within you, and it shines like a beacon."
The strange man spoke stiltedly, like he was carefully watching his words.
"And why have you sought me out?" Hronmir whispered.
"Because I have need of you," the stranger said. "They are coming, you see, and I need to prepare you."
"Prepare me?" Hronmir asked. "For what?"
"For your destiny," the man said, and his hands emitted a great burst of light.
When the air cleared, both stranger and Aesir were gone.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Mina Paris
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Final Exams
Title of Post: Walking On Broken Glass

Khyrisse put her eye up to the crack in the doorway directly across the hall and nodded. She tapped her lips for silence and, ever so slowly, eased the door open. Mina held her breath as light streamed out into the hallway. It glinted redly on Khyrisse’s hair as she crawled silently inside. Mina peeked around the edge of the door.
Roland was sitting at a desk on the other side of the room, facing the doorway. The desktop was covered with his purloined notes... and sparkling in the center of the desk was a crystal sphere, filled with swirling violet and gold.
Get your butt down! This guy is naturally suspicious, how blind do you think he is?
How do you crawl when you’re lying flat on the floor?!
Khyrisse crept slowly across the floor, hugging the carpet, her eyes fixed on the twinkling object. Roland was staring into it as if hypnotized. So, we torch all Roland’s sociopathic scribblings, get out of this test, have Skitch get the Passage Artifact... and then we’ll all probably go fight the Remnant some more. Sounds like loads of fun! I’m there!
There was a muffled exclamation from the hallway, and the door flew open as Mina darted inside. Drake was outside in the hallway. “I thought I heard someone else up here.”
Roland looked up, startled. His eyes met the hazel-green ones of the elven sorceress kneeling on the carpet not a foot from his desk. He immediately began casting, fingers pointed at Khyrisse.
Well, there’s one clever plan shot to hell! Khyrisse jumped up and pulled Mina the rest of the way into the room. “Looks like he’s all yours, Mina!”
“Good!” Mina ducked between Khyrisse and Roland, casting shield. Roland’s magic missiles went careening off it every which way, accompanied by a deluge of sizzling and crashing noises as they smashed half of his lab equipment.
Drake was entering the room, sword drawn. Khyrisse ran at the door and leaped onto the back of it, betting that the lab coat hanging there was suspended from something. Her hands closed around a metal hook. A hundred and twenty pounds of elf-laden door smashed into Drake’s arm at high speed. There was a satisfying crunch, a grunt of pain, and Khyrisse went tumbling to the floor, arms full of white cotton, broken metal coat hook still in her hands. She scrambled to her feet and tossed the mess at his head.
Drake ducked, then kicked the door aside, his right elbow cradled in his left hand. “Cute.”
Khyrisse shrugged and flashed him an endearingly flirty grin, trying to ignore the sounds of a magical duel happening behind her. “Sorry. Just trying to even up the odds.”
“Really?” The bodyguard switched the sword from his right hand to his left.
“Oh, Brigid.” She hesitated for a long moment, backing up, before drawing her own sword.
The hiss of steel was echoed by a sound almost like shattering glass somewhere behind Khyrisse’s eyes. The shaky template of Bridgette Macaulay she’d assembled fell apart into its individual memories.
Briet was a pacifist, Khyrisse remembered, wincing. Merde. Rest in peace, little flame.
Khyrisse batted Drake’s blade aside angrily, tears standing in her eyes. Grendel, that was a little too real for comfort... “You’d have been better off leaving things alone,” she snapped at Drake. “I am emphatically not a pacifist.”

***


“Look, drop the sword and I’ll see to it that no one gets hurt,” Drake said reasonably. “Trust me, I’ve got no interest whatsoever in hurting your partner. Last chance.” The elven woman sent him a hateful violet spike of a glance and stayed where she was, in spite of several shallow cuts along both arms. She had yet to cause him any damage, but she was doing a pretty good job of staying between him and the mage-fight. A lightning bolt sizzled across the room, grounding itself in the door across the hallway. Drake sighed and shrugged. A single sharp blow sent Khyrisse stumbling backwards into the lab table. She shrieked as she stepped into the litter of broken glass and metal around it. Khyrisse dropped her sword and grabbed onto the bench as pain lanced up both legs, rather than fall into the ugly mess she was ankle-deep in. Scrambling backwards onto the top of the table, she picked up the nearest object, threw it at Drake, and ducked aside. The descending sword arced to one side, clearly intending to bat the interference out of the way. Several bits of the apparatus shattered on impact, spraying liquid everywhere.
Cursing, Drake dropped his blackening sword and tugged frantically at the fastenings of his now-hissing armor. It was turning an ugly, luminous green in dripping streaks across the front. What the fuck, I’ve already stepped in acid and broken glass, how much more can it hurt...? Khyrisse held onto the edge of the bench and kicked with both feet, bare heels planted squarely in the center of the bodyguard’s chest. Drake oblingingly fell backwards. Stifling a scream behind clenched teeth, she jumped down after him, snatched up her sword, and hacked viciously at his head.
The bodyguard rolled away, flashing her the alarmed look of utter disbelief one reserves for seriously crazy people. He glanced at his sword.
Khyrisse grinned. “Sure, you could try that. Think it would take more than twenty seconds to kill me? Because it looks like that’s all you’ve got,” she added sweetly, nodding at his sizzling breastplate.
Drake cursed and rolled the other way, out the door. Khyrisse slammed it shut, throwing the bolt home. She then sat with her back to it and devoted her attention to pulling shards of glass out of the soles of her feet, trying not to whimper too loudly. I can’t help with a magical fight in this condition. Looks to me like she’s winning anyway. Mina can handle this jumped-up Eric wannabe.

***


Mina coughed as a cloud of acrid smoke wafted past the desk from the ruined lab. “What the hell were you experimenting with up here, anyway?” she demanded angrily of Roland, blinking the tears out of her eyes... and stopped, staring.
Roland was holding the sphere in front of him. It sparkled against his badly scorched tunic like a diamond on black velvet.
Mina glared indignantly at him and began casting anyway.
“If you cast that at me, and you’ll destroy her magic,” Roland coolly informed her, as Mina’s linked hands began crackling around the edges with flame, pointed right at him. “Is killing me really worth sentencing your friend to a life without it?”
“I was never interested in you,” Mina said with exquisite scorn. “I just figured that eventually you’d be dumb enough to try this.” She tilted her hands sharply down at the wrist and fired. The desk between them went up in a crackling roar, obliterating everything on it.
Roland screamed in anger and threw the sphere at Mina. Mina ducked.
“Thank you,” Khyrisse said to Mina, with a smirk for Roland, and stretched out her bloodstained hand. The sphere touched her fingertips and popped like a soap bubble.

***


Khyrisse and Mina faded into view at the western end of the cavern. Skitch whooped and ran over to them.
“Nice exit line, by the way,” Khyrisse was saying, hands clamped around her little jar of healing salve while Mina cantripped the acid off of her. Khyrisse's knuckles were as white as the jar, giving the lie to her blase tone of voice. “Did you really?”
Mina grinned. “No. Did you see the look on his face, though?”
Khyrisse laughed.

Character(s): Flicker, Alderon
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Warnings For Shilree
Title of Post: The Love Between Friends

Flicker stood up as she came in from the rain, pulling the hood of her embroidered Diari cloak back from her reddish-silver hair with a catlike disdain for its wetness. "Lousy kiljhac weather," she groused, the twinkle in her eyes belying her cranky voice.
"Hi Shilree," said Alderon, very carelessly.
"Hot chocolate," said Kevin, "coming up."
Flicker gripped her by the arm as she crossed to him and looked at her for a long moment. "Ne acha har forjin," he said very softly, you've done honorably by me; less formally, I owe you one.
She grinned at him. "Hey, kid," she said to Alderon. "I see you made it back in one piece."
"My mute Diari idiot impression is pretty good, apparently. And Anjra was really nice. She even took me sightseeing and some stuff. Are you guys lesbians?"
Flicker choked and slapped him in the back of the head. "S'pense raisan, Rondi, that is none of your--"
"The kiljhac obsession with--"
"Hey, I've got an open mind," protested Alderon. Actually, he really kind of liked picturing them together.
"Just because you people rut anything that moves--"
"Excuse me?" said Kayla.
"Anjra is my oldest and dearest friend." She folded her arms and turned her back. "That is a better reason for attraction than you seem to have most of the time. Diari do not share the kiljhac hang-up about gender."
Flicker was looking strangely at her back. "You mean you didn't know," he said, half to himself.
"Know what?" she said crossly.
"Never mind." He drained his drink. "Guess she was 0-for-2."
Alderon accepted another drink happily. Flicker didn't really make any more sense than Shalini had, which he liked.

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