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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Go Down Swinging, Part III

Character(s): Mina, Khyrisse
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris If We Ever Get Going
Title of Post: Loose Lips Sink Ships

Waterloo waved from the dock as the Trade Carriage shot out over the ocean. Alderon kept looking back.
"Grow up," Rani muttered.
Mina sat with Khyrisse, on the other side from Ebreth Tor.
"So, what's this Annwych place?" she asked the archmage.
"It's the center of the worship of Arawn, the god of death."
"Is it a secular center or a monastic priesthood?"
"Um, some of both, I suppose. They share ideas, commune with Arawn and offer guidance to people who come to them."
"Kind of like the Freemasons," Mina said, and winked at Khyrisse.
"I don't know. I'm not a Freemason."
"Right. Me neither."
Khyrisse frowned at Mina.
"Jeez, kidding!"
"We're a suspicious crew," Ebreth joked.
"Need more fiber," Mina agreed, smiling.
Is it much farther? Khyrisse asked silently, before realizing that she was the driver, so complaining wouldn't get her there any faster.

Character(s): Garal and Rani
Author: Laura Redish and Eric Gasior
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: In The Carriage, The Crowded Carriage...
Title of Post: Garal, Cultural Relativist

"Hey, shorty, move the hell over. Valende's not going to bite you, and we're not exactly long on room in here."
Garal flushed and scooted infinitesmally closer to the gorgeous brunette, taking great care not to actually touch her leg with his. He was very nervous being squashed in between all these women. "Lay off," he mumbled at Rani. "I don't call you pointy-ears."
"Who's stopping you?" she wanted to know.
It made him blink. Garal was well-travelled enough to know that conversational styles considered impolite in one culture weren't always considered impolite in another. Maybe this was just Rani's way of interfacing with the world. "Well, tell Crandall to move over, then," he retorted, as boldly as he could.
"Dude, I'll switch places with you," said Marty hopefully, from the other side of Crandall.
"Oh, God," muttered Rani, under her breath, and rolled her eyes upward.

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: In The Carriage, The Crowded Carriage...
Title of Post: Garal, rational thinker

After a minute's thought, Garal realized there were worse things in the world than being squashed against a beautiful woman who had no designs on him. He slid over.

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: In The Carriage, The Crowded Carriage
Title of Post: Psychometrists In Tight Spaces

"Thank you!" Rani rearranged herself so she wasn't touching Garal or Crandall, with a small, barely audible sigh of relief, and put one of her hands on top of the other on her denim-clad knee.
"Do you wear gloves so you don't contaminate normal people?" Skitch wanted to know.
"I wear gloves so I don't notice you any more than I have to, elf brat."
"Hey!" said Skitch, clamping his hands over his hair-covered ears.
"Believe me, if I had a clothespin it'd be on my nose right now, too. Does that window open, Val?"

Character(s): Garal and Skitch
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: WAHP: In The Carriage, The Crowded Carriage
Title of Post: The Kids These Days

Garal stared at Skitch as if he had grown a third eye. As uncomfortable as he was speaking his mind in front of unfamilar people, he had to say something. "What are you talking about?"
"She's a half-breed. Tarrin says she's an abomination. He offered to put her out of her misery."
For the first time, Garal noticed Rani's sixth finger. Until then he had thought she was an exotic looking elf. He didn't even know Diari could have children with elves. He took a moment to compose his thoughts.
"Skitch, judging people because of their race is wrong. It's like judging me badly just because I'm shorter than humans and elves or Asinus because he's a donkey. It's a kind of ignorance that can lead to evil."
"Tarrin isn't evil! Don't say bad things about him."
Garal didn't know what to say. He looked around the carriage hoping someone else could help.

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: In The Carriage, The Crowded Carriage
Title of Post: Name-Calling

"Don't even waste your breath," Rani muttered.
"Tarrin is my friend." Skitch folded his arms angrily. "And he's much smarter than you are. If he says she's a bo--abomination, that's what she is."
"'Abomination' isn't a very nice word," said Garal, a little lamely, and looked around for support.
"It's nicer than 'freak'," Skitch pointed out.
"Hello!" said Rani. "Can we get back to 'bitch', please? 'Bitch' works for me."
"Khyrisse won't let me say that word," admitted Skitch.
"I doubt she wants you calling people freaks, either," murmured Valende, reluctantly rising above her own dislike of the acerbic half-breed.
"Mom!" yelled Skitch, out the window of the carriage. "Which word is worse, 'bitch' or 'freak'?"
"Get your head back in there!" Khyrisse's slim hand swatted down at him.

Character(s): Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Still In The Carriage, Waiting To Get To Annwych...
Title of Post: Another Fine Marty Hu Solution

"Whoa, little dude," Marty said. "Just because someone is something, like, it's sometimes not cool to call them that. Like, when I was a kid, everyone called me 'microencephalic'--which I think means really really pale... 'cause I have pale skin, you know --"
"Are you going somewhere with this, Marty?" Skitch asked dubiously.
"Even us freaks know the answer to that," Rani said with ambiguous bile.
"Well, uh," Marty said, struggling to hold on to the elusive train of thought, "what I found made it easier was to make a new name for it, that didn't mean, like, really pale."
"Oh, please tell us what name you made up," Rani said.
"I told them to call me 'Sphinctor', like, named after that riddle animal? Like Reptor or Destructor, you know?"
"Much better," agreed Rani.
Skitch turned to Garal. "Isn't a sphinctor--?"
Garal nodded.
"So, like, instead of using words that people don't like, like, come up with ones they don't mind."
"Call me sphinctor and die, kid."
"How about I call you... uh..." Skitch frowned at Rani.
"Whoa! How about 'Babealicious'?" Marty suggested, coyly winking at Rani with one hand.
"Let me put him out of my misery."

Character(s): Amatsu n' pals
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: The Short & The Dead

"Your words show wisdom, Mr. Garal," Amatsu said quietly.
"Oh, thank you," the halfling replied, a bit surprised - he had forgotten Amatsu's presence until he'd spoken.
"And your suggestion, Mr. Hu is, as always...."
"Imbecilic?" Rani suggested.
"Wow, thanks dude!"
The child's mother should apply more discipline to the boy, Raiden Mikaboshi said in Amatsu's mind. He should be more respectful of his elders by this age.
Perhaps so, but it seems that much of the Rat Pack is as singular in their ways as Marty Hu... well, almost.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: The Fugitive
Title of Post: Omens, Part I

Jack could hear the ninja of the Black Dragon clan, even though they were masters of stealth. Sound was, after all, merely a vibration, and Jack had attuned all his senses to the air around him.
He had been hiding in the ruined castle of the ancient Shoni family for the last two days. Unfortunately, it seemed that one of Chu-I Po's minions had noticed the small fire he had lit. I don't need heat, I don't need to cook food, Jack thought. Why the flark did I start a fire?
Jack knew the answer. Anything to try to be human.
Now four ninja had approached the tower from the south and east. Jack quickly reviewed the topography of the ruins. Three of the four exits were now blocked to him. That left only one. There was an outcropping of stone that used to be part of a raised garden pathway that was accessible from the fourth floor tower window. If Jack could get down that far without catching their attention, he could get out along that path while the ninja were busy ascending the tower.
Jack really wished that he had Crandall's winged boots at this point.
Slowly, Jack slipped out the window and began to lower himself down the ivy.
He could sense the vibrations of the stone that indicated that the ninja had moved inside. His plan was working, he was almost home.
Then the ivy tore in his hand.
Jack fell two floors to land on the mossy stone of the raised pathway. The noise was more than enough to alert the Black Dragons.
Jack scrambled to his feet and started running as fast as he could.
The ninja were behind him as Jack jumped off of the ruined walkway at the edge of the Gennosuke Forest. He could tell from the sound vectors that they were getting closer, too.
Jack attempted to compensate by adopting a reverse-ray pattern for his path of escape. It should throw them off his trail once or twice by the simple fact of its nonintuitive nature.
It might have worked, too, if Jack hadn't stumbled across the wagon.
It looked like a gypsy wagon more than an Oriental one. It was garishly painted, and a sign hanging from its roof read, "Lady Caithne, Futures Read, Omens Told." Jack was about to resume his flight when he discovered himself stepping into the wagon. The inside seemed larger than the outside, and Jack's visual measurements confirmed that. It had to be magic.
"Good evening, Mister Paris," a young woman's voice came lilting across the posh interior of the wagon.
"You know me?" Jack asked, kicking himself for asking the stupid, obvious question.
A figure sitting in a strange chair shaped like an egg turned to Jack. Jack blinked. The girl couldn't be any more than fourteen. She was petite, and dressed in a strange white robe like no material Jack had ever seen.
"I know many things," she said, her voice high and fluty. "I know you flee from the Second Rider of the Remnant. I know that you seek Cori Yashida. And I know your future."
"And, obviously, you're here to tell it to me?"
"You are about to encounter the clan of the Absent Rat. It will be up to you to relate to them what I tell you today."
"Who? Why me?"
"Because you are the only one who can see."
"See what?"
"The year of living dangerously..."

Character(s): Mina, Khyrisse, Ebreth
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris At This Rate
Title of Post: Are We There Yet, Papa Smurf?

"I thought this thing was supposed to be fast," Mina commented.
"It's faster than ships move," Ebreth attested.
"It's an eighth level spell, Mina," Khyrisse said proudly. "I designed it myself. Nothing moves as fast."
"Then how come we haven't made it to Annwych yet? It's been days since we left Lianth."
"Mina," Ebreth said, the look of semi-delusional uncertainty returning to his face, "we only left about five minutes ago."
"I wouldn't say it was that short," Khyrisse frowned. "I think it's been three hours." She looked up at the sun and fell silent.
"I've... never seen that before..." she finally said.
The sun above them wasn't a sphere, like they were used to. Instead, it was a long streak in the sky, like it existed simultaneously at all points in its orbit.
"What is that?" Mina asked.
Khyrisse pursed her lips. "It looks to me like temporal flux," she said.
Ebreth and Mina looked at her blankly. "You pick up talk like that as a goddess," she sighed. "It means that something has been tweaking with the timeline, and we're caught in the backlash."
"No wonder it feels like it's taken us forever to get to Annwych," Mina said.
"So how do we stop it?" Ebreth asked pragmatically.
"Damn it," Khyrisse muttered, "if Jack were here, he'd say something like 'oh, because time and velocity are related through the nature of relativity, reducing our speed should allow us to escape the temporal vector' or something."
Mina shrugged. "Sounds good."
"Try it," Ebreth agreed.
Khyrisse pulled the carriage to a halt.
The suns collapsed into a single ball, low on the eastern horizon.
"I wish I knew how I did that," Khyrisse said.
"I wish I knew what time it was," Ebreth said.
Mina made a few gestures and muttered something. "We've lost three days," she said. "I wonder what it was that snagged us."
"I'm really going to have to talk to Rip," Khyrisse sighed.
"Can we just get to Annwych now?" Ebreth asked. "Please?"

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: En Route To Annwych
Title of Post: Patience, Grasshopper

"Excuse me!" yelled Rani, sticking her glittering head out the window. "Did this carriage just hit a time distortion, or not?"
"Uh." Khyrisse blinked. "Well, yes, actually--"
"Pay up," the detective retorted into the cabin, withdrawing her head.
"These three days," said Ebreth quietly, "did everyone lose them, or just us? Have three days passed for the Parises?"
"I wouldn't know," said Khyrisse, something a little bitter in her voice. "None of them are speaking to me."
He gave her a reassuring squeeze with his left arm, wrapped around her shoulders, and she did smile down at the reins a bit, softly, but Ebreth Tor's mind was elsewhere. Three days. A lot could happen in three days. He sighed and looked past Khyrisse and past Mina at the sudden sunrise. I promise you, Jack, whether you want me to or not right now, I will stop ∆lwyn from destroying your family for you. I promise you that.
The spectral team's hooves made no noise on the water.

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: The Fugitive, The Year of Living Dangerously
Title of Post: Omens, Part II

"I will tell you seven things," the seeress Caithne said to Jack. "Each shall happen in the year to come."
"Why are you telling me this?" Jack asked, frowning. He distrusted prophecy, preferring a open-set temporal system. Robinson's theories of future-telling notwithstanding, omens restricted time uncomfortably for Jack.
"If these things come to be--which they will--return here in one year's time with those touched by my words. You shall repay me then."
"What if I don't want--" Jack started.
"One shall find love with their greatest enemy," the prophetess said.
Jack shut up and listened.
"One shall turn from all they believe and embrace all you stand against. Another has already done this.
"One shall be transformed in the fires of heaven."
"These are all people from this, uh, Rat Clan?"
"A constituency in which you are included as well, Jack Paris."
The seeress resumed her prophecy.
"One shall return to the fold only to watch as that which they came for is destroyed.
"One shall leave Ataniel forever.
"One shall build a legacy to last a hundred years, but lose the thing most dear to them."
"These are not happy prophecies," Jack muttered.
"And finally, one shall end the year with new life within them. When this is learned, return to me."
"Those, uh, those are the seven things?"
"I will not be wrong," the oracle said. "I know this to be true."
"Look, if I do encounter this Rat Band, I'll tell them what I know, but I'm involved in something important right now... I--"
"The ninja will not find you," Caithne said. "You will leave my tent and be returned to the temple of the Forgotten Daimyo. The next people you will see there will be those of whom I have spoken."
"Who are you, anyway?" Jack asked.
"I am a friend of an absent god," she said. "I will tell you more in one year's time. Now you must leave."
Jack turned back to the curtained doorway. It opened on the familiar landscape of the temple where he had stayed for the past three years.
He took one last look at Caithne, and stepped back into the world he knew.
Caithne watched until the curtain closed behind him.
"Computer," she said, "lose the holo-decor."
The ornate gypsy interior vanished, to be replaced by gleaming silver metal and glass machine banks.
Caithne pressed a button on a handheld device, and one of the screens lit up.
"Dan?" she said to the man on the screen. "C.J. here. I gave the mathematician the seven prophecies."
"Awesome, C.J.," Dan said. "Look, I'm almost done here in the Warrior Kings era. Do you think the Sphere is up to one more jaunt?"
"I'm not sure. I think this trip left some temporal ripples coming in... we might not want to chance it."
"Okay. I'll wait here, then." Dan smiled wanly. "Look, C.J., the plan's going to work. We'll find Rip from whatever timeline he got lost in, he'll fix the Sphere, restore you to your proper age, and we'll get back to business. The Rat Pack circa December 14 has everything we need... and now we'll have their cooperation."
"If they don't come back to kill the messenger," C.J. sighed. "They don't have a good year ahead of them."

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