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The Book of Ataniel

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



Character(s): The Rat Pack and the Chain Gang
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Evan Haag
Storyline: WAHP: The Island of the Dead
Title of Post: Keep Your Shirt On, Dougmaster-- Real Life Happens!

Luthien looked up from his notes and plans in surprise. He hadn’t expected to receive a sending spell from Vas.

Hello, Luthien. We are heading to Annwych for advice about an undead. Will be there fairly soon. Save me a slice of cake.
Will be prepared, but have little time for niceties. We are in a state of conflict here. Accomodations are limited, so tell the others. Cake?

He shook his head and cleared his thoughts. Ever since he had returned, he had taken over the role of strategist and quartermaster for the remaining true believers. Rhynwa had taken a more direct role in the fight, and was even now down in the catacombs, hunting for heretics. She had even left charge of Gordon to Luthien, saying, “It’s your turn, dammit.” Well, turnabout is fair play, thought Luthien.
He called to Berryn, who poked his head into the main temple. “Yeah, boss? You bellowed?”
“Find Jandar and Tze Lin and have them meet you down by the docks. The Trade Carriage is coming, and I want you there to greet them.”
“Okay. You want I should get Skort, too? You know how he can get without a chaperone.”
Luthien rubbed his temples, then sighed and said, “Yes, Skort too, I suppose. I guess Khyrisse can deal with him. She was related to Kerouac, after all.”

***


Khyrisse got gradually quieter as they approached Annwych. The Carriage’s whip lay coiled in her lap-- mostly because Vas was “riding” one of the team. “Message away,” he called from-- Khyrisse took a good look at the spectral horse in question-- Spring’s back. “The good necromancer is as dour as ever, of course.”
“Hmm,” Khyrisse replied noncommittally.
“Is something wrong?”
Khyrisse sighed. “No. Not really.” Just the fact that Tarrin has poisoned my son’s mind. Nothing to worry about. “I just want to get there, and get this done.”
“I’m supposed to warn you-- Luthien said something about their being in a state of conflict.”
“What, did Rhynwa kick his butt over disappearing for six months? I don’t blame her.”
“I think it’s a little more serious than that,” Vas chuckled.
“You’ve obviously never seen Rhynwa genuinely pissed off...”

***


Berryn’s eyes kept sweeping the horizon, looking for his first sign of the Trade Carriage. It wasn’t easy keeping his mind on the subject, however. Between the minor chit-chat between the Chain Gang members behind him, and his memories of the dream he had last night. I still can’t figure out why that deaf-mute ballerina was inscribing information about the distilling of Talarian Violet dye on the side of that obelisk. Maybe I could have figured it out if I hadn’t been distracted by that giant inflatable... His thoughts broke off abruptly as he spied a moving object in the distance. It came into clearer focus very quickly, resolving itself into a charcoal black and silver carriage, pulled by four jet-black horses with burgundy tack. Sitting atop the carriage were three individuals, and another was riding one of the horse team. Berryn could also make out several other people through the carriage windows. It looked really crowded in there. The Carriage came hissing across the water like a comet, an eerie patch of silence with a tail of flying spray. The central figure on the driver’s board stood and yanked the reins back over one shoulder, and the horses reared in their traces, curving up from the surface of the water to meet Berryn. They came to a dancing halt on the pier.
The figure on the back of one of the horses flew off and over the team’s heads, apparently dislodged by the sudden stop-- and landed with a flourishing bow and a cocky grin in front of the waiting Chain Gang.
Skort rolled his eyes and snorted, “Ah, shit. It’s the faggot.”

***


After the usual pleasantries had been exchanged, Berryn led the majority of the Rat Pack up the hill towards the main Temple. Crandall had decided to stay behind on the pier, claiming to be ‘carriage-sick’; the Chain Gang’s psionicist, Tze-Lin, had graciously volunteered to stay behind with him. Khyrisse was a bit surprised to see so few people around. While she had come to understand that Annwych was a peaceful place, meant more for contemplation than activity, she remembered it as being more active than this. “This place is deader than usual, Berryn. What happened to all the people?”
Berryn just shrugged and said, “Well, a lot of who was left here got seduced by Corinna’s arguments, and they went with her down into the Necropolis. That’s where High Priestess Rhynwa is now; she’s looking for Corinna so she can show her the true perfection of Arawn.”
He drew his finger across his throat with a “kkkrrccch” noise. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her this angry before.”
“Damn, I missed it again! It’s been years since I’ve seen her like that.” Behind her, she could hear Vas and Val relating some of their Rat Pack experiences to their former teammates. “Apparently a lot has been going on in my absence. What a surprise.” She sighed. “I’ll try not to take up a lot of Luthien’s time. Where is he?”
“He’s just ahead, in the main Temple. We’re sort of using that as a War Room.” Berryn grinned. “At least, Luthien is. I think he’s just really worried about his wife, so he’s throwing himself into his work again. You know how he is. At least he’s been taking some time off to take care of Gordon. That kid’s a handful and a half.”
They were up to the Temple area now, and Khyrisse could see Luthien in the central chamber, with charts and spellbooks all around him. On the floor at his side, Gordon was playing with a small hand-carved Javinese drum, happily playing out a beat while singing an old mourning song. As the group came in, Luthien looked up and waved to the group. Berryn said, “I have to go. I’ve got some other duties, and then I’ve gotta get some sleep. See you later, okay?”
“No problem. Thanks, Berryn,” Khyrisse said, making a beeline for the table. She crouched in the dirt in front of Gordon with a bounce and a wink. “Hello, Gordon. Keeping the faith?”
“Yes, ma’am. Father says I’ve been a big help, too. Are you going to be staying for a while again?” He looked at her without blinking, just like his father.
“Hmm, probably not,” Khyrisse said regretfully. “We’ve got some undead to fight today.”
“Cool!” he said. “Will you come back and tell me about it, so I can try writing a song about it?”
“Sure!” she said, as she stood up. “Hi, Luthien. I hate to bother you when you’re busy... What’s happened?”
“Some heretical priests have become convinced that the whole world must know Arawn’s perfection. As soon as possible.” Khyrisse cringed a bit at the notion. “Rhynwa is down in the catacombs with the remaining faithful priests trying to...talk them out of it.”
“I can hear the whistle from here.” Khyrisse grinned at Luthien, and they simultaneously pantomimed a scythe swinging at someone’s head.

Character(s): Flicker; Rani; Ebreth; the Third Rider
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: And The Wind Began To Howl

"It's a good thing we got back when we did, then," Flicker said to Luthien.
"It's just one damn thing after the other, isn't it?"
"Sucks to be a hero," said Khyrisse, a little wanly, but smiling.
"Luthien Mageson?" said Rani crisply, stepping forward. He made a reflexive frown, and Flicker remembered that it had been Wyvern who had given him that name. The extent to which it had stuck was uncanny. "Greyspear," Khyrisse said reflexively, slanting Rani a look. Gordon looked up at Khyrisse and smiled, then went back to his drumming.
"Close enough for folk music. Rani. Rimbor City forensics." She shook his hand briefly and firmly. "I've got a brain from an undead cadaver on ice I'd like you to take a look at. Seems like a unique undead, and legend has it there's three of them. We could use anything you could tell me about it. We're especially interested in tracking down the other two."

***


"Eye dilation?"
"Barely any," said Rani. "Maybe a thirty-second of an inch."
"That's not good. Let's have a look at the brain." Luthien jotted something down. "Give me four and a quarter inch. Are you from Diaria?"
"I spent about twenty-four hours there, and it was enough for a lifetime," Rani said, working. "Rimbor's a nicer place. Ever been to Rimbor?"
"Briefly," said the necromancer, his voice flat.
"Then you know how much that says for Diaria. Pass me the scalpel."

***


"Well, I'm sorry to have to say this, Khyrisse," said Luthien, "but these are more lichlings."
"Merde," said Khyrisse, crossly.
"This one went down a lot easier than that Collector," said Valende.
"The specifics of each lichling are different. The constants are that they're created by a very powerful wizard but have an unusual level of independence from that wizard, and that they're free of a lot of the basic undead weaknesses as a result. I don't like the idea of Odn producing so many of these."
"I don't think Odn's involved this time," said Khyrisse.
"Well, someone who was an archmage hundreds of years ago is," said Luthien. "I don't know about the other two, or the Collector, but this head's been undead for at least two hundred years."
"Longer," supplied Rani.
"Ælwyn," said Ebreth, wondering how he kept getting involved with ancient archmages and their powerful undead things.
"The other two," continued Luthien, "are also active, and because of the unusually strong negative material connections between them I've been able to trace them. One is a sort of variant on a death stalker, which is in Cynystra somewhere. The other is a penagglion and it's in Shikintu."
"Chu-I Po!" cried Amatsu, fitting the pieces together.
"Unfortunately," said Luthien, "also because of the unusually strong negative material connections between them, killing this one has made the other two stronger."
"I knew it couldn't have been that easy," muttered Valende.
Rani took the head back from the necromancer. "Maybe I can find a way to use this connection against them."
"Mabye," said Khyrisse, and sighed. "Luthien? Could I--have a word with you, in private?"
He looked at her a little oddly, the wizard sight still blue in his eyes. "Of course," he said.

***


"That was strange," said Llyrin, coming into the main room of the inn. "Serat, you and Derek just shuddered at exactly the same time."
"If you were seeing to the soup instead of worrying about nonsensical coincidences, you superstitious featherhead, we'd be eating by now!"
The shadow of the Third Rider passed across the roof of the Maplemead and silently along the
Cynystran road that led from it.
Nynia Paris was not here. Not any more.
But she would find her.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Luthien, and the Rat Packers
Author: Evan Haag and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP/TM&aB
Title of Post: One Down, Six To Go...

Luthien gestured towards the grand staircase. “We’ll use my study. That should ensure our privacy.” As he said this, the semi-transparent maid that had previously barred Norna came into focus. She remained in place as the two arch-mages went upstairs, continuing her duty as a sentry.
As the door to the study closed behind them, Luthien said, “So, what seems to be the problem?”
“I hate to bother you with it, given what’s going on here, but I seem to be having trouble with my magic.”
“Trouble. Is this ‘causing-wild-surges’ kind of trouble, ‘racking-pains-when-I-cast’ kind of trouble, ‘evil-spirits-plaguing-me’ kind of trouble, what?” Luthien settled comfortably into his role as Magic Doctor as he awaited her answer.
“No, this is more like ‘not-able-to-cast’ kind of trouble.”
Luthien leaned forward. “Do you mean that you can’t cast anything? Like your father?”
“Sort of, yeah.” Khyrisse then proceeded to tell Luthien of the Test of the Ghede-Cinqjours, where she had her magic sucked into a little glass sphere. “When we got back out, all of my contingent magics were still up, but my memorized spells were just gone. Like someone had wiped them out of my mind.”
“Have you tried memorizing any spells since then?”
“Yes. I tried studying mind blank last night, and I couldn’t even get past the first few words of the incantation. It’s like it’s all gibberish, as far as my mind is concerned.” Khyrisse got more animated at this point, clearly exasperated. “I can still read scrolls, though. If I wanted to lose my copy of the spell, I could read it right out of the book.”

Luthien thought for a moment. “Did you try memorizing something a little more basic, like read magic?”
Khyrisse refrained from rolling her eyes with difficulty. I knew that spell when I was six. “No, I picked the one that was most important to me at the time, actually.”
Luthien shook his head. “Bad idea. You need to treat this as if it were an injury. When recovering from a broken arm, you don’t immediately try to hoist barrels full of ale over your shoulder as soon as the cast is off. You definitely don’t try it when you’re still wearing the cast. You need to start with the basics.”
Khyrisse got up and started pacing. “I don’t have time for that! Jack’s gone, the Remnant--”
“You also don’t have your magic.”
“How can it have done that? It was a weird spell! Well, something like a weird spell, anyway...”
“As I understand it, the weird spell creates an alternate reality inside a person’s own mind, correct?”
“Sort of. It’s real for the duration of the spell, but it’s also completely mental.”
“Sort of like a phantasmal killer, which is also real for the duration of the spell.”
Khyrisse decided not to go into the finer details of the Illusion/Phantasm school with Luthien, at this point. “More or less, yeah.”
“And that also has effects which last long after the spell’s duration is over. To my understanding, the phantasmal killer convinces a person that they are dead.”
“Ye-eess, sorf of.” Khyrisse sighed. “So I’ve convinced myself that my magic is broken. That’s just precious.”
“I don’t quite think so. I think you just need to retrain your subconscious into believing that your magical ability is intact. Your conscious mind obviously thinks that you can cast spells, otherwise you would be unable to comprehend your spellbooks enough to read them like scrolls.” He pulled an emerald out of his pocket. “I’m going to use another wizard sight to confirm my suspicions about your magical ability, so stop pacing.”
Khyrisse stood still while Luthien scanned her. “You’re probably right. I mean, I can still sense magic out there, like I could before. It’s not like I’m blind to it.” She paused and looked at Luthien, who was casting another spell. He had a perplexed and slightly... amused look on his face. She just shrugged and said, “Well, anything?”
He cleared his throat before speaking. “Yes. A few things, actually. First of all, your raw magical ability seems intact. You look no different, potentially, than you did the last time you were here.”
Khyrisse let out a sigh of relief. “Well, that’s good news.”
“That’s not the only good news.”

***


Flicker and Ebreth were in one of the downstairs parlors with Val, Vas and the Chain Gang, who were busy playing catch-up. Skitch had gone off to play with Gordon in the atrium.
The animated discussion was interrupted abruptly by the sound of shouting, coming from upstairs. Val turned around to look at the door, emerald eyes wide.
“Khyrisse shouting comes as no surprise to anyone, I’m sure,” Vas murmured, eyebrow arced, “but I didn’t know Luthien knew how to shout.”
“Vas.” Val said reproachfully, but with a slight grin on her face as well.
“It always seemed a little too animated for him,” Vas said with an unrepentant grin.
Flicker looked at the door with a rather puzzled expression. Ebreth frowned at it.
“Isn’t sound not supposed to carry in these mansions, if the caster doesn’t want it to...?” Vas mused. “Luthien likes his home mausoleum quiet.”
“That’s what Khyrisse told me,” Valende admitted, with a worried look.
“I’m impressed, then.”
That was enough. Ebreth got up and headed towards the noise-- only to be blocked by the spectral maid at the foot of the staircase. The argument raged on in the study upstairs, something about Luthien not wanting Khyrisse to go tearing off and Khyrisse, apparently, telling him where to shove it. The words “irresponsible” and “stubborn” were getting a lot of use.
“Is everything all right up there?” Ebreth shouted up the stairs.
There was a sudden silence, mercifully brief. Then the door upstairs opened.
“Yes,” Khyrisse called down. She sounded aggravated, and somewhat embarrassed. “I’ll be right down, and then we’ll be leaving.”
“I don’t recommend it,” Luthien said sternly from somewhere behind her, just audible to Ebreth’s trained hearing. “Not at a time like this. Your magic is malfunctioning, you won’t be able to protect yourse--”
“I’m not helpless, you know!” she snapped over her shoulder, clearly at Luthien. Then she sighed, rather raggedly. “I’ll be down in a second, Ebreth. I’m not sure when we’ll be leaving. But I’m fine, I promise.”
Ebreth eyed the spectre in front of him. “All right,” he sighed.

***


Luthien and Khyrisse came down the stairs a few moments later. Khyrisse had both hands at her temples and looked rather bewildered. Luthien looked a bit exasperated.
“I don’t believe it,” she muttered resentfully, like it was Luthien’s fault.
“Believe it. And deal with it.”
“Oh, sure, your way!”
“Whatever way you have to!”
Khyrisse shaded her eyes with both hands. “Sorry. I’m a little shocked. I know you’re trying to help.” She exhaled noisily.
“You’re a lot shocked, obviously. Which is why I think you should stay overnight, at least,” Luthien said. Ebreth was at the bottom of the stairs, leaning against the wall, arms folded. He pushed himself upright as they approached. “You need the rest, obviously. And it’ll give you a chance,” he added, with a sideways glance at Ebreth, “to talk to people.”

Character(s): Khyrisse and Ebreth
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP/Two Men and a Baby
Title of Post: The Other Shoe Drops, Just For Laura

Thanks a lot, Luthien... Khyrisse thought, suppressing a groan. She smiled at Ebreth, knowing damn well he'd be able to tell that something was wrong.
"Feel free to find somewhere more private, Khyrisse," Luthien remarked, and went into the sitting room where she'd left Val and Vas.
Terrific. Khyrisse looked at Ebreth. "I think I want some fresh air," she said with false brightness. "Would you come walk with me, Ebreth?"
"Sure," he said, gently. Trying not to upset me any more, probably. Khyrisse sighed.
Khyrisse dragged Ebreth over to one of the memorial gardens that dotted the island. Some of the statuary had been knocked over in the recent fighting, but otherwise it was very peaceful. Khyrisse paced up and down on the path between the rosemary bushes. Ebreth sat on the bench at the end of the aisle and watched her for a bit.
"Khyrisse, do you want to talk about what's bothering you?" he finally said, slowly. "If not, that's okay, but I'm here if you do."
"It's not anything bad," she said, twisting her hands together. Her voice had an odd, wavering undertone. What do I say? It's just horribly inconvenient? I'm finding it a bizarre and wholly unexpected side-effect of being mortal? I'm going to go murder two herbalists and a priest? That'd go over well! "I'm-- I'm just sort of shocked."
"By...?"
Khyrisse stopped and looked down at the shrubbery next to her. Rosemary for remembrance... she sighed mentally, one hand around her now-bare wrist, feeling the phantom touch of Ember's bracelet there. How ironic that would be-- she might actually have been looped back on herself, and I never knew.
She dragged her eyes up to meet Ebreth's worried ones, and smiled at him. A bit ruefully, it must be confessed.
"I'm pregnant," she said.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, failing another saving throw
Author: Laura Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Storyline: Two Men And A Baby
Title of Post: And Wait Till She Tells Schneider

"You're-- That's--" He cycled his hand like he was trying to get his language faculties back into gear. "You are? That's not--a problem, is it?"
"No," she said, "no, it's not a problem, but I don't, I mean, uh, it would have been, you know, two months ago, and I don't, I don't really know--" Please don't make me say this.
He didn't. "Well," he said, "Khyrisse, I--you know, I've got biological children out there I haven't done a damn thing for, really, it wouldn't kill me to raise another man's. If--you want me to, I mean."
Khyrisse blinked several times. "I... hadn't thought of that. I guess you would have," she whispered, looking more startled than upset by the notion. She shook the idea away. "No, I want you to, that's not it at all. If it really wouldn't bother you." She smiled crookedly at him. "It isn't exactly like helping raise Skitch, is it?"
"Damned if I know," he said. "I've never raised anyone. I've got no memories of raising anyone, I don't even have any memories of seeing anyone get raised. That last Ebreth Tor was on his own by the time he was six. I don't know a damn thing about children." He put his arm around her, gently. "I'm willing to try, is that good enough?"
"Yes," she whispered, and pressed the side of her face into his chest. "Yes, it is."
Ebreth paused. "Well, listen," he said, "if you want to go back to the Northlands and work on New Trade while--"
"Don't you even start, Ebreth!" She pulled away from him ferociously.
"I'm just trying to--"
"I already got this from Luthien. I don't need it again. I am two months pregnant. Out of twelve. Elves have a longer gestation period than humans. You would never even have noticed if I hadn't told you, don't give me this 'go home and rest' kind of--"
"I was just offering--"
"--paternalistic--"
"Khyrisse, breathe!"
She did, startled. "Okay," she said, a little shakily, "look, I'm fine, all right? I am absolutely not going to sit in the cellar for the next year. Rhynwa was kicking ass into her third trimester. I've got six months coming to me before I get helpless."
"Okay," he said, "take it easy, Khyrisse, it's all right."
She let him put his arms around her. "Besides," she said, in a smaller voice, as he stroked her hair, "worrying about you all day is worse for my health than undead things. I do that, you know, when you're not around."
"You're taking this scarab of protection from undead attacks back, though, okay."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura's Virtual Y-Chromosome
Storyline: Two Men And A Baby
Title of Post: A Loaded Question

Ebreth stroked her hair. "Schneider can have the paternity," he said into her ear. "Tell me I was a better lover."
If Khyrisse answered that, there was no one from the Rat Pack around to overhear it.

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