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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Priorities, Part III



Character(s): Flicker and Shilree
Author: Laura Redish and Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Reclamation/Puppets/Warnings For Shilree
Title of Post: Things To File Away For Later

Shilree led Flicker back to the table in the corner, near the fireplace, and chose the seat against the wall, more out of habit than anything. "So," she said, "Praxis told me you had trouble with my message."
"It's--probably better if you don't try to code things for my mind only, Shil. I've got a complicated mind. I think I caught that you're back in Diaria, though. Is that true?"
"Yeah, I did a job for the Emperor. No doubt you already knew that from your cousin. In return for the job I got my citizenship back, as well as some other things."
Flicker touched her gently at the base of her neck, where her gills were, with one of his fingers. Shilree had forgotten how perceptive he'd gotten in later incarnations. "Other things?"
"Well, the job called for me to do a lot of deep sea swimming," she shrugged. "The Emperor adapted my body for the job. The gills were not the only thing he gave me." She spread her fingers to show off the retractable webbing there, and fluttered her eye membranes at him. "I guess I could get rid of them, but I kind of like the ability to swim with them."
Flicker nodded. "Well, personally, I can't believe you hadn't already gotten your citizenship back for stopping Bane from crashing into Diaria and destroying the entire civilization. But however it happened, it's good news. Listen, Shilree, it's always good to see you, but the reason I called is there's an insane alternate-future version of you loose on Ataniel, and in an alternate timeline she detonated a nuclear bomb in the Barrier, so I'm afraid we're going to have to consider her armed and dangerous. I don't want you taking the blame for anything she might do."
"You're kidding?" Shilree shook her head. "Great, just great. That is all I need right now. Well what can you tell me about her?"
"She's undead and completely insane. She feeds necromantically on people's life force and she has a gem in one eye that keeps her from being killed by normal means. She's not evil, just--unhinged. She's trying to find a way to destroy herself now, and given her past behavior she may not care very much about who or what she takes down with her. We were tracking down an alternate-future lich lord version of Luthien who was trying to take over our timeline, and she kind of came with the future." He paused. "There's, ah, also an alternate timeline Ralchar around, so don't have a heart attack if you run into him. He's not a doppelganger or anything."
Shilree blanched at this news and sighed. "Well just add it to the list of things that are making my life hellish."
"They were some pretty ugly timelines. In one of them I was sleeping with Signet."
Shilree laughed despite herself. "Sunny, I appreciate you telling me this. There is more I want to tell you. First of all, keep that crystal. I know you couldn't read the message, but it contains an open invitation for you to visit me in Diaria. I have, well, I have been appointed Western Regent."
Flicker's eyebrow raised. "Congratulations" was all he said, though.
"Well, I didn't go searching for the job. It just kind of fell in my lap. Anyway, the crystal will allow you to come and go past the Diari patrols with relative ease. Please don't abuse it, however."
He nodded. "Thank you."
"Also, I would like you to carry a message to Luthien for me. I doubt he is in the mood to talk to me. Tell him that he must pick up the crystal I sent him which is waiting here. I ran into someone he would be most interested in learning is still around. The first Lich Lord."
"Luthien's feeling a little more charitable towards you since you destroyed Trillarillia, I think. I'll bring him the message, though." Flicker drummed his fingers on the table. When you say "still around", do you mean "still around" as in not destroyed, or "still around" as in roaming Ataniel?"
"He wasn't on Ataniel per se."
"Well, praise Balder for small favors."
"Who?"
"Don't worry about it. Go on."
"From what I understand, he wasn't destroyed all those millenia ago as history says. He is trapped in a void between the worlds. I found him by accident after I... I fell into the Doom Fissure." Shilree looked away with obvious discomfort, some haunted look that was unpleasantly reminiscent of her mad counterpart in her eyes.
Flicker took her hand. "What happened?" he said gently.
"At the completion of my job for the Emperor I was back at Southern Diaria." She paused, and looked around quickly. "Flicker, I am only telling you this because I trust you. Do not tell anyone I was back down there."
"Of course not."
Shilree switched to Diari. "At least not right now. Anyway, I received a telepathic message from Bane. Sunny, I think Lotus is still up there. Up there and in excruciating pain. I went to rescue her, but I crashed." Shilree looked like she was trying to formulate the thoughts but having great difficulty at it. "I... I was captured and... and tortured by Gila. They--did something terrible to me, Sunny." She let him put his arms around her, trying not to shake too much. "After they abandoned me in the Doomlands the next thing I remember is being a guest of Shalak. He, he filled me in on how I came there."
"I'm sorry," he said into her hair, also in Diari.
Shilree composed herself and continued as best she could. "Sunny, Shalak is not exactly what the stories say. Yes he is a lich, a very powerful one, but he was kind to me." Flicker's lips compressed, and she quickly said "Don't get me wrong, I do not trust him, but it made me think. However, to make a long story short, after weeks at Shalak's fortress I found a way out of the void, but not before losing Tiall. I think she is in the possession of the Lich Lord."
Flicker sighed. "Well, it wasn't like we were going to be seeing the last of her anyway."
"After I escaped, I ended up in Hell. Fitting, huh? Well I met the plane's current leader, a devil named Lilith. Do you know her?"
"Not personally. A competent, dangerous woman."
"Well, it was she who destoyed Trill utterly. Believe me that was a pleasure to watch. From there I ended up back home, where I have been for the past four months." She paused, licking her lips. "Flicker, I cannot explain. It is not that I don't want to, but I physically cannot. Gila is dangerous. More so than any of us suspected. Sometime soon I am going to have to go back there and deal with them."
Flicker nodded. "I understand," he said, low. "If you need help." There was something in his voice, and it occurred to Shilree that the Sunfighter did not have reason to like Gila either. He paused a moment. "If Lotus is still up there..." he said, thoughtfully. "Is there any way for us to be sure of that? It could have been a trap from Gila."
Shilree thought for a second. "It could be. They said they had been tracking me for a while. The problem is, I cannot be sure."
"If it is her, there must be some way to... I don't like them, Shilree, but I do owe them that."
"I do not like Lotus either. But nobody, not even one of the Blasphemous, deserves what I saw." Shilree sighed. "I just have no way of knowing, Sunny."
Flicker considered. "Well," he said, slowly, "I'll keep this in mind. Thank you for sharing it with me. I know it must be difficult." She nodded a little, looking down. "I don't have any answers yet, but I'll come to them in their own time. I promise."
Shilree felt relieved by that, somehow. "Well first I have work at home to deal with. Do not be surprised, my friend, if you see more and more of my people about. The Emperor and I are planning to slowly open up Diaria to trade."
"I think it will be good for the Empire," he said, seriously. "Have you talked to Khyrisse? She's working on founding a new city to replace some of Trade's functions."
"I figured she would do something like that. That is why I have extended a formal invite to her as well. While I am here I am going to meet with some of the local merchants and put the ink on some contracts. Then I have to go back to Diaria. There is something brewing in the Shadowlands, and Diaria is involved somehow."
"Great," sighed Flicker. "Just what the world needs right now: more of Shadow."
"I know. Believe me, I know." Shilree wiped her eyes on her sleeve as surreptitiously as possible, and Flicker did an excellent job of pretending not to notice. He was a true friend, Shilree thought gratefully. "Well, enough of my problems. What have you been doing that sent you to, as you put it, alternate worlds?"
"Do you want the long version or the short version?"

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: And The Children Shall Lead
Title of Post: Another One For The Rock Collection

The news of Cori's death had sobered everyone. "Ghede Cinqjours?" yelled Marty. "We, like, passed the tests! Can we have the artifact and go, please? There are centipedes down here!"
Khyrisse just could have sworn she heard a fleeting giggle.
"You may pass!" boomed the voice.
"Oof!" Khyrisse was arrested on her way into the temple as if she had smashed face-first into an invisible wall. "Ow, merde!"
"The children!" specified the voice.
"Now you tell me!" Khyrisse rubbed her nose.
Skitch beamed as he bounded through the door of the temple. He felt bad about Cori, of course, but he had never been so continuously useful in his life. This was the second time the Rat Pack had needed him to get anywhere, and he had rescued Crandall in between. On the altar of the ruined temple was sitting a smallish grey stone shot through with red. "A rock," muttered Skitch. "It's a stupid rock. Kit should have stuck with us. She likes rocks." He picked the stone up. It was strangely smooth to the touch, and very heavy for its size. He stuck it in his pocket and headed back for the door to the courtyard.
He was so busy being pleased with himself that he did not hear the ominous whispering sounds until it was too late...

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen (EEEEVIL!)
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: And The Children Shall Lead
Title of Post: Now It's Personal

The whispering noise grew rapidly and became the distant voice of a woman, singing. The voice rose and fell in a hypnotic croon. Skitch blinked and looked over his shoulder.
Two shadowy figures were standing in the opposite doorway. A tall, gaunt man in a tattered captain’s coat, and a spectral woman with scars across one side of her face. The woman was singing to Skitch, her hands held out towards him. Skitch stared at the banshee for a moment, then turned and started walking towards her.
“Skitch!”
“What the--”
“The unliving may not be able to cross the barrier,” Moneague remarked, with a little smile, “but magic seems to work just fine.”
“Merde!” Khyrisse pointed at the Remnant captain and cast lightning bolt.
Nothing happened. She could sense magic around her again, her contingencies were still up-- but it was like she’d never learned lightning bolt.
Khyrisse hammered furiously on the invisible wall that kept her out of the temple. “Mina, I can’t cast!”
“I used up all of my combat spells on Roland!” Mina wailed.
Val gave Khyrisse a startled glance, and threw a hold person at Skitch. Skitch stopped, not twenty feet from the other doorway. “Your magic isn’t working?”
“It’s a long story,” Khyrisse replied distractedly. “Dammit, I should have put a mind blank on him! Skitch!”
“We seem to be at an impasse,” Moneague remarked. “Mikaela...”
The woman’s voice dropped to a hum. Khyrisse grabbed Val’s arm. Val shook her head. “If we let him go, the banshee will just hypnotize him again.”
“Sooner or later your spell will run out,” the captain remarked.
“I imagine we’ll have found your entrance by then,” Val replied serenely. Khyrisse glanced quickly behind her. Amatsu was missing. So was Marty. Yes! Go, kill the bastards, hurry!
“Hmm.” The captain looked across at Val with cold eyes, contemplating this. “Probably true.” He sighed faintly. Mikaela fell silent and closed her eyes, wincing. Moneague pointed a finger at Skitch. “Die.”
Skitch fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.
There was a moment of horrified silence. Khyrisse made a strangled sound of pain and covered her mouth with her hands, fingers pressing hard into her skin.
Sparks began flying from the tiles beneath Skitch’s body, and smoke curled around him in a thickening cloud. Val pounded on the wall this time. “No!” she shouted at Moneague.
“Why tell me no?” Moneague said. “I did nothing. He died in the service of a Paris-- he’s part of the Remnant now.”
Val drew her sword in a flash of angry golden light, and vanished in the direction Amatsu and Marty had gone. Khyrisse stood at the wall and dug her nails into it, watching helplessly as Skitch got slowly back to his feet, whimpering in pain. There was an audible sizzling sound now. Blue flames began licking out from everywhere Skitch touched the floor of the temple. “The guardians of the temple won’t tolerate an undead on their holy ground,” she spat at the Remnant captain.
“He’s also a child, which lends him slightly more immunity than I would have.” Moneague smiled slightly. Mikaela turned her face away. “I imagine that he might reach me with the Artifact before the temple kills him again.”

Character(s): Skitch
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: And The Children Shall Lead
Title of Post: Ghede Cinqjours

"Come to me, little one," crooned Moneague, crooking his undead finger at the zombie boy.
The air was faintly buzzing. Skitch staggered uneasily forward.
"Come to me."
Skitch could hazily see, in the air around the captain in his tattered greatcoat, something moving.
"Bring me the stone, little one."
"Ring around a rosy," whispered the wind. The air swirled. The opaque woman with the burned face backed away.
"Bring me the stone!"
Skitch was trying, though he didn't really want to. His eyes were burning.
"A pocket full of posies." Skitch saw sparks in the air around the Remnant captain. The captain was ignoring it, beckoning fiercely at him. "You can make it, child, you can make it! Hurry!"
"Ashes. Ashes."
The banshee fled. Skitch slipped to one knee.
"Damn it child, hurr--"
"We all... fall..."
Skitch saw small ethereal hands tearing into the flesh of the captain's face. He heard a horrible scream. He heard children's laughter. He saw the Captain rent into some other plane unknown to mortalkind.
And freed of his obligation, Skitch laid down and died.

Character(s): Mosasaurus Retidiiae
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: And The Children Shall Lead
Title of Post: Rani Takes The Kid Gloves Off

"Skitch!" screamed Khyrisse, and tried to run around the side of the temple to get to the undead captain. She was blocked off by undead, teeming into the courtyard. "Skitch!"
"Oh, fuck!" Rani jerked her head back and forth as they closed on her. As if 'Jack' is going to help me. Or Amatsu. It had been pretty clear last fight exactly where her personal safety stood as a priority with these people; she couldn't really resent it from anyone but Asinus, but the fact remained that she was down in the single-digit hit points after getting smashed through the deck of the Dead Can Dance like that and taking the cone of cold, and if any of this lot had any healing they certainly hadn't chosen to waste any of it on the likes of her. One more good hit and well, Rani was going to have a monumental fight with her own pissiness on her hands just to stay out of the Remnant. And Rani didn't like those odds. She looked back and forth again, backing towards the rib, and then she pulled her left glove off with her teeth and seized the bone in her bare hand.

***


Otter's two blades whizzed into extension, her mouth setting and her hard arms tensing as the Remnant closed in, and to her surprise she felt, just a bit after the fact, her legs shifting, as if compensating for the pitch of the sea, and then again, and then the earth shook enough that she noticed it before she had the chance to automatically adjust to it, and then the thirty-foot skull of the buried Leviathan burst from the earth of the courtyard and snapped into at least six of the zombies with a deafening crack of lithified bone. The great skeleton shook itself free from the courtyard with slow violence, its skull lunging forward to crash shut on some more undead.
Rani was clinging to one of its pale stone ribs.

***


"Skitch!" Khyrisse screamed again, as he collapsed, lifeless, on the tile of the temple. "We've got to get him out of there!"
"We can't get in!" Val shouted back, pounding against the invisible barrier. "Only children can get in there!"
"Think of something else, Valende, we don't have any more children!" Khyrisse screamed through the whipping wind.

***


Through the Mesozoic shadows.
In seas that had always been seas.
She was cleaving the light from the darkness.
Rani, serpent, blood, and bone.
In seas where there once were meadows.
In seas that had always been seas.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Isle of Lost Children
Title of Post: No Kidding Around

Jack couldn't even react to Skitch's death.
Things had never been supposed to get like this. He could have been the one in the temple--he was far less at risk than Skitch had been--and Cori's death should have warned him that they weren't playing around.
Jack set his jaw, and ignoring everything around him but the ringing in his ears and the red wash in his peripheral vision, walked purposefully into the temple.
He ignored the burning corpses of friends and foes alike. He ignored the screaming battle outside the temple. He walked up to the pile of ash that had once been the boy who had laughed in the face of the ruler of Hell. He reached down and picked up the stone. It pulsed in his hand like a pale shadow of the material it was meant to replicate.
It wasn't worth it.
He turned around slowly, as if loath to look at his friends outside. The sounds of battle had died down, or so it seemed. Jack wasn't certain how long it had taken him to traverse the length of the temple. He didn't care. With the same cold self-loathing that had driven him to carelessly toss aside one more illusion of humanity he had tried to hold, he paced out of the temple.
Rani was hurt, and Otter and Marty seemed to be winded. Valende was tending to the half-Diarian, but raced over to Jack when he emerged. "I probably shouldn't even ask how," she half-grinned. Jack didn't smile back.
"Jack?" Mina looked at her cousin across the room.
"You got it," Khyrisse said, looking at her son's last legacy in Jack's hands.
"Khyrisse," Jack said, looking past Val, "you're in charge again."
"Jack," Val said, "maybe I could... Khyri's just lost Skitch."
"I don't care," Jack said. "Because the Rat Pack is off the Paris payroll. As leader, my last action is to order you all to drop the Remnant problem for good."
"Jack, we're not going to do that," Valende said.
"Yeah, man," Marty said. "We're with you all the way."
"No," Jack said. "No, you're not."
With that, Jack Paris and the stone he carried dissolved into complex mathematics.
And Jack was gone.

Character(s): Rani, Val
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We May Not Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Nerves Must Be Frayed

Rani blinked and looked at the cleric who had just dropped her wounded leg like a hot potato at the sign of Asinus coming out of the temple. "Gee, I guess Asinus' spell duration wore off," she smirked, wandering up to the slack-jawed party.
Valende whirled on her. "Does your leg still hurt?" the cleric asked.
"Yes, in fact it does," Rani said.
Valende whirled back and slammed Rani with a roundhouse punch to the jaw.
"That should take your mind off it," the cleric said.

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: And The Children Shall Lead
Title of Post: When There Is No Leader, A Detective Will Have To Suffice

"Great crisis management techniques, lady," muttered Rani, rubbing her jaw. She squinted into the temple at Skitch's burned and twisted corpse. "Look, can we get the body out of there? He's not far from the entrance on the other side, and it's probably worth seeing what I can learn from him." Valende cocked her arm again. "I might find something that can help," she said with exaggerated enunciation.
"Except that Jack's the only one who seems to be immune to the protection around this temple," said Khyrisse, through gritted teeth, "and Jack seems to have abandoned us here."
"Right," sighed Rani, "I'll contact Asinus." She glared right back at Valende. "Well, I can't very well contact Jack. Whatever he is, he hasn't got a brain."
Valende reluctantly had to admit to herself that the detective was not only correct, but being practical. "Can you send Jack a message?" she asked Khyrisse, low.
"I'm out of spells," Khyrisse reminded her.
"I have sending, ma'am. What's the message?"
"That we need his help if we're going to save Skitch and that he owes us that much?" snapped Khyrisse.
"What's 41A67868767B2327 mean?"
"Fuck."
-Asinus-, sent Rani. -You may or may not already know this, but the Remnant killed the child and 'Jack' bugged out on us. Now I don't know who or what your Jack boy is, but he's the only one who can get into the temple and we need him to retrieve the body for us, so we need him back here ASAP. The elf chicks are going fuckin' ballistic.-
-Oh, flarkin' hell. All right, keep your pants on, I'll find him.-
-I want an explanation when this is over.-
-You won't get one. Kiss off.-
Rani mentally flipped the donkey off and severed the connection. "Asinus doesn't know where he is," she summarized. "He'll try to regain control, but I strongly suggest we explore some alternatives in the mean time. Spells work through the barrier; maybe we can levitate the body out. Or toss something in. Anybody have a grappling hook?"
Khyrisse just gave up and burst into tears.
"Or, uh, maybe you could talk to the guardian spirits about this. They seem kind of child-friendly; maybe they'd help."

Character(s): Asinus Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Never Send A Math Equation To Do A Donkey's Job

Asinus stomped through the estate. This was not going very well. Not only had Caimen and he been stymied at every turn trying to arrange a run to X Isle without the Remnant following, but now something was going wrong with the Rat Pack. And Khyrisse couldn't be bothered to contact him herself, they had let Rani do it.
And then Skitch... Poor kid, Asinus thought. He had moxie. For Asinus Paris, there was no greater compliment.
Asinus bowed his head and rammed Caimen and Lora's bedroom door open.
Unfortunately, he didn't catch them in the middle of anything.
"Jack's missing," he said. "Something's wrong with the Rat Pack."
"Don't you ever knock?" Lora asked, exasperated.
"With what flarking hands?" Asinus dismissed the complaint. "Look, we need to..."
"We don't need to do anything," Caimen said. "Jack must have stopped here. He left this."
Caimen held forth a note. "I think this explains things," Caimen said.
Asinus read the letter, written in Jack's chicken scratch handwriting.

"Caimen," it read, "Rat Pack not to be trusted. Do not allow any further involvement with Remnant problem. Prototype received from Agone. I'm taking care of this myself." It was signed "Jack Paris."
"Flark this," Asinus huffed. "This is the biggest load of donkey shit I've ever seen. And I've seen..."
"Asinus," Caimen said. "Just because you're in lo--"
"Don't flarking say it, Caimen," Asinus said. "I don't need to hear your patronizing simplifications. They're good people. I'd trust my life to them."
"Well, apparently they fooled you as well as Jack," Caimen said. "And even if Jack's wrong, we can't trust something like the Passage... not if there's any doubt."
"This bites," Asinus said. "I'll be in the observatory if anyone needs me." He lowered his voice to a growl. "Don't need me."

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