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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Shikinti Blue, Part IV

Character(s): Amatsu, Hou-Hsieh
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blues
Title of Post: Parting Advice

"... would not have thought fitting in would be so difficult. My only exposure to easterners was Lord Praxis and Lady Inez. The Rat Pack are quite different."
"I'm sure you're doing fine," Hou-Hsieh replied. "You've been with them but a short time. Fetch me a flask," she told her familiar, which scurried away. "Besides, I've heard you were quite taken with a striking young woman in their midst."
"I was not," he answered, a little too quickly. "She is a skilled comrade, we merely worked well together."
"Of course. No, the erlenmyer flask." The tawny mustelid hopped off once again. "It is not your fault, Amatsu-san. Cori Yashida's death, that is."
"It was my responsibility to protect her."
"There was nothing you could have done differently, and from what you have told me, it was a choice she herself made. No samurai, no matter how loyal, can keep alive someone who wants to die. Todd agrees, by the way."
"I know you are right, but..." His voice trailed off.
"I understand. Good boy, Snuggles." She fed the ferret a raisin.
"And remarkably, the Rat Pack seems far less affected by Lady Yashida's death than by far more trivial things. The fact that Caimen Paris is merely curt and somewhat discouteous throws them into a rage, even though his actions may well have been at the behest of Jack Paris. One of them, that is."
"Speaking of unusual!"
"A mercenary asks too high a price, and Lady Starshadow acts as though her family's honor were impugned, but the death of a comrade evokes little reaction."
"That doesn't mean it isn't there. You desire my advice? Simply be yourself, Amatsu-san. The others will be themselves. Tell me, what is it you seek? I mean, what is it you desire from life?"
He considered. "I had always intended to settle down one day, start a family. That we would be the new beginning of the Red Crab Clan. And I hope to balance things, to make up for some things I once did as the Rainmaker."
"Then do so, with or without help from this woman you 'work well with.' And I believe that you may do a great deal of good by destroying Chu-i po. If nothing else, it will reunite poor Hari with his beloved in the place of the ancestors." Amatsu nodded. "Please, look out for him."
"I shall." The two friends bowed to each other, and Amatsu prepared to depart.

Character(s): Vickie, Marty, Rani
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti, Not Stirred
Title of Post: The Road To Black Dragon

"So, how are we supposed to find where Po's staked out?" Vickie Dare asked.
"Rani can tell us!" Marty said.
"Huh. Well, actually, I can," Rani sighed.
Marty beamed.
"Someone buy that guy a clue," Vickie said.

Character(s): Rauvin, Lora, Lady Margo
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Enter The Lady

The gateway flashed, and three figures fell forward, onto the stone patio in front of the Passage Gate. "You didn't tell me that there was some sort of war going on," Lora snapped at Lady Margo.
The tall woman with the regal bearing got to her feet and sheathed her long silver broadsword. Her hair was dark and long, and held back in an ornate silver hairband. "An empire is encroaching on our lands. It has nothing to do with our arrangement, so I didn't feel it your business. You didn't tell me that you were bringing another member of your house with you."
"Caimen was occupied. He's trying to find the assassin that killed your ex-husband."
Lady Margo frowned. "Killed only if we don't get to him in time. How did you preserve the body?"
"Magically. I did it," Rauvin said.
"Where I come from, we have perfected the arts of necrotic preservation. Get me to the body and I can begin that."
"The ship is waiting," Lora said, starting down the path to the lagoon. "We have to be careful, the Remant is abroad, and we don't want their sort of welcome."
Margo laughed.
"Remind me to tell you about the welcome we got the first time I visited Ataniel," she said, smiling.
As she reminisced, something akin to softness was in her face for the first time Rauvin had ever seen. It was a far cry from the grimness that their news about Asinus had brought her.
Still, Rauvin wasn't going to worry too much.
Lady Margo wouldn't be an issue for much longer. Now that Rauvin had the information ∆lwyn needed, the endgame was about to begin.

Character(s): Nasty and Her Toy
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: Heaven's Ass
Title of Post: Not so Easy Rider

"Nasty, think about what you are doing!"
"I have made up my mind, Glasya. I am going to get my donkey!"
Nasty stepped hard on the throttle and the Harley came to life with a roar. Nasty gunned the engine and took off towards the upper planes.
"I should have never gotten her that bike."

Character(s): Rani, Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikiniti Blue
Title of Post: The Things We Think About

"Left," said Rani.
Khyrisse pulled in the rein.
"No, hard left."
She frowned. "You know, Rani, a compass direction would be really useful here."
"Yeah, well I'm a city girl. Just go left for a while."
Skitch, on the other side of Khyrisse, prudently said nothing.


"Jack?" Ebreth finally said, in the cabin.
"What?" said Jack.
"The other Jack, our Jack. How much do you know about him? Can you tell where he is?"
"Well," said Jack, frowning, "if he's in close enough proximity, I could probably detect the effects of the environmental constants that--" He stopped, awkwardly. "I can't lead us to him, if that's what you're asking."
"How about his senses? Do you have access to what he's seeing, what he's hearing at all? Anything that might help us?"
"Uh," said Jack, "no."
Ebreth sighed. "Well, would you know it if something happened to him."
"He doesn't even know I exist," admitted Jack. "If he was going to get a message to somebody, it would probably--" He sneaked a look at Valende. "Be you guys."
"I mean," said Ebreth quietly, and looked out the window. "Do you know if he's still alive."
The carriage hung a right.

Character(s): {{Jack Paris}}, Ebreth Tor
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Jacks or Better to Open
Title of Post: Jack Explains It All (Reprise)

"Well," Jack said pensively, "alive isn't really a word that applies."
"What do you mean?" Ebreth asked.
"Oh," Jack said, realizing that he had said too much.
"Look, Jack," Ebreth said, like he was speaking to an old friend, "I don't care about your secrets. I just care about finding my... teammate."
"Well," Jack started, his voice lowering, "I guess it won't matter much if we don't get through this all. You see, Tor, I'm--we're--not human. We're math equations."
"What does that mean?" Ebreth asked, his brow furrowed.
"It means that we're not alive. We're just a mathematic construct, given magical form."
"No, you're real. I've talked to you... I'm relating to you right now."
"It's kind of complicated," Jack sighed. "But that's what we are. I don't have any illusions about it."
His tone suggested otherwise, Ebreth noted.
"Anyway," Jack continued, "I'm a subset of his number sequence. If I were to connect again to the math we're a part of, I'd just be subsumed into my Other again. I can only exist as long as this particular form is viable, and I can't switch into pure math without being destroyed."
"Wouldn't Jack, uh, our Jack, I mean, just have your memories?"
"And are memories the only thing that makes a person?" Jack asked. Ebreth knew what he meant.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, pragmatist
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Identities
Title of Post: More Cut And Paste From Early Rat Pack Posts

Ebreth Tor tried to get his mind around it for about three minutes, which was about two and a half minutes too long, and then just did what he always did when people started saying things he wasn't smart enough to understand: he ignored it.
"Okay," he said, "so the gist of this is, no, you wouldn't know if he, if ∆lwyn killed him... right?"
"R-ight," said Jack. "Except ∆lwyn can't really kill him, exactly, because of what I just told you about us."
"Well," said Tor, "I certainly hope you're right."
"I'm working on a new pronoun system," offered Flicker, from the other side of Jack, "if you two are interested."

Character(s): Chu-I Po, the Rat Pack
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: The Shikinti Blue of My Oblivion
Title of Post: Countdown to Extreme Violence (tm)

Most of his minions in the Black Serpent Clan had been converted -- undead now, as befitted members of the Remnant, servants of Lord ∆lwyn. But of course, diversification was always a good idea.
They were about to arrive, and Chu-I Po was pleased. Death was succulent, and the end of an entire line was even moreso. He had feasted on the end of the Silver Crane Clan, now the last of the Red Crab was about to fall as well. And unless he was greatly mistaken, his escaped captive would be with this Clan of the Rat.


The Trade Carriage had pulled to a halt on the small islet. Vickie dare examined the shimmering coating on her bolts. "Lemme make sure I've got this right, Matsie. This stuff'll kack any juju's?"
"It will cause injury and disruption of their magically based nervous system, resulting death for the weak, hapered coordination and senses for any survivors."
"Hurt, maybe kill. Gotcha."
"This river runs most of the length of the island," Vas said, moving in from his aerial recon. "It ends at a... I'm not certain what that structure would be called."
"A Pagoda," Hari Yashida offered.
"It was at least designed by one with a horrendous affection for undead stylings."
"You're sure this is where we'll find Chu-I Po?"
"Yes," Rani, Jack and Hari all murmured simultaneously.
Without so much as a ripple of warning, a tremendous naga broke the surface of the water, its teeth as large as Garal's entire body.
"It had to be snakes!" Marty cried despondently. It was then that Amatsu noticed several humans, some clearly undead, closing in, all wearing the garb of the Black Serpent Clan.

Character(s): Otter
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Thanks, Jonah!

"Excuse me," said Otter, and slid into the Deepsea, leaving barely a mark on the surface where she had entered.
The naga twisted beneath the waves and was lost to sight as the Rat Pack turned to face the undead hordes.

Character(s): Valende, Ebreth
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Stress Management

"This is just what I needed," sighed Valende happily, knocking a zombie back into two others with one mighty stroke of her undead-slaying sword.
"Tell me about it," said Ebreth Tor, relieving another of its head.

Character(s): Vickie, Amatsu, Crandall, Jack (2)
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Danger, Victoria Dare!

Vickie Dare stood on the roof of the Trade Carriage and fired her crossbow. It struck a wight in the thigh, who staggered, then fell flat on its back, trembling. "Hey, this stuff really works!" she exclaimed, pulling out her dagger. "Shagariffic!"
"Crud," Jack said, "judging by the patterns of their attacks, there must be at least--YIKES!"
A zombie of a creature that reminded Flicker of one of the trollborn swung at Jack with a huge club, missing by inches. Then the seven foot tall monster was knocked backwards, dripping an inky substitute for blood. "Just like old times, eh, Jack?" Crandall said, smashing the remnant in the head with a mace. "Watch out, wouldn't do to have you get killed." Yet.
Vickie gave a triumphant shout, lassoing a distant tree branch, and swung across the river, somersaulting to the ground and driving her dagger into a remnant's abdomen. "Make my day, undeads!" She didn't see the zombie behind her until it was almost upon her.
She slid out of the way as it... slowly... fell over, a big gash across its throat. "Thanks, Matsie! Knew I should leave some for you."
"Of course," Amatsu sighed.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Skitch, Vas
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blue (except for Khyrisse who gets peppermint tea, dammit)
Title of Post: Art Appreciation Day

Khyrisse blinked at the sight of Ebreth carving his way with graceful nonchalance through Chu-I Po's undead minions. Okay, I guessed he could do that, she thought, a faint, wide-eyed smile flickering over her face, but I don't think I've ever actually seen it...!
Skitch's sudden movement towards the battlefield snapped her out of it. She grabbed his arm. "Hold it, kiddo! Where do you think you're going?"
"Aw, come on, I want to help!"
"You stay up top and use those throwing daggers I bought you!" Khyrisse said, casting a quick strength spell on top of his stoneskin. "There, that should get you some extra effect with them."
"Woo-hoo!" Skitch scrambled onto the roof of the Carriage and looked for a target.
Vas pulled the Coach up sharply next to the Carriage, over the river. Dropping the reins, he leapt into the air above Mina and flashed Skitch a grin. "I have this side, young milord," he said, nocking an arrow. "You look to that side."
"Cool," Skitch beamed, and snapped a throwing knife at an approaching undead. Its head wobbled drunkenly as the blade sliced through half of its neck.
Khyrisse finished her spectral hand spell and shot it towards Ebreth. He whirled and sliced fluidly through empty air at the faint touch on the back of his neck. Light shimmered briefly over his skin and disappeared.
Khyrisse touched a finger to her mouth and pointed it at him, her lips moving. Sorry, lover, she whispered to him, readying one of her combat spells in case anything nastier than zombies showed up. The naga had not reappeared. That was me-- it's just a stoneskin. Her eyes sparkled impishly at him. Just in case any of the undead today find you as appetizing as I do. Damn, you're pretty in a fight.


Vas glanced over to check on Skitch's progress, and was briefly distracted by the sight of his sister-- dancing furiously along the riverbank, slicing through the ranks of undead. Her blade floated through the air like the silk scarf of a dancer.
Vas made a rueful moue, touched by a moment of sympathy. Poor Valende. And poor Jack the second, if he's watching that.

Character(s): Laura's Characters
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Po' Folks
Title of Post: Varying Degrees Of Distractedness

It wasn't that Ebreth Tor minded women whispering seductive comments at him, via magic or otherwise.
It was a little distracting in combat.
Luckily, he was just fighting a bunch of zombies anyway.


Otter emerged splashlessly from the calm ocean, her brown braid dripping. "My lady," said Vas gravely, bowing from the top of the Carriage as he speared another undead warrior through the throat with a poisoned arrow.
"Um," said Otter, a little at a loss. "Hi." Her blades whizzed to length in her hands, but she stood where she was, looking across at the battle. There were really very many undead. "This looks a little out of my league," she admitted.
There was no sign of the naga.


Garal frowned at Flicker, around the Carriage together behind the front line Valende, Ebreth, Vickie, Amatsu, and Marty had formed. "Why are you stopping?" he asked, as the Norse elf unnocked his bow and slid the arrow back into his quiver, unused.
"It's not a good idea to use up all our undead-poisoned weapons against these waves of zombies," said Flicker, drawing the black blade Norna had given him.
"You're more right than you know," commented Rani, strolling across to them with a hand severed at the wrist in one glove, her favorite head still tucked under her other arm. She flipped the hand at Flicker. He caught it. "These undead aren't real. This is a decoy."
"He's an illusionist vampire?" said Khyrisse, with, strangely enough, more surprise than vitriol.
"I found a drainage grate over by the battlements that looks like it might lead inside the fortress, where we can fight with the real undead armies. If you can convince some of our stupider companions--" Rani looked drily at Marty, who kept looking back at her to see if his swordsmanship was impressing her. "--to join us, that might be a more productive path to take. Unless, that is, you're enjoying the view too much." Rani smirked at the sorceress.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blue (despite Laura's spectacularly bad pun, Khyri insists on her meta-alcohol)
Title of Post: Remind Me to Renew Khyrisse's Boy Scout Membership...

Khyrisse just laughed, although her color did redden a little. "I expect to have further opportunities to admire that particular view-- so I guess I'll live," she replied, grinning at Rani. "...Another sewer. I should have seen that one coming."
"I just got clean again!" complained Skitch.
"Sorry, kiddo." Khyrisse rumpled his hair absentmindedly, the ghostly wings of her true sight hovering over her eyes as she scanned the riverbank. She nodded. "They are illusionary. I never would have guessed. He's good."
"Man, I hate the undead," Skitch groused, summoning his magical throwing knives. Three silver blades detached themselves and flew back towards the roof of the Carriage. "We always wind up fighting them in the grossest places."
"Well, let's see what we can do with simple information, and save the dispel war for later," Khyrisse sighed. "Vas, will you tell your sister?"
"She'll be so disappointed..." Vas said, then chuckled as Khyrisse rolled her eyes at him. "Oh, very well!" He darted off towards Val.
Khyrisse cast a message spell and pointed again at the former pirate. Ebreth, the undead are illusions. Grab Marty, please, and get back to the Carriage. We think Rani's found a better way into the fortress.
She sent another one to Amatsu, instructing him to do the likewise with Vickie.
"Skitch, make sure everyone here knows!"

Character(s): Marty Hu, Vickie Dare
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Chu-I Goodness
Title of Post: The Merits of a Three

"Marty, stop fighting... they're just illusions."
"I know," Marty said.
"What? You know?" Ebreth asked.
"Sure. Like, all life is an illusion, you know?"
"No, these are really illusions."
"That's okay. They're more fun to fight."
"Look, we've got to go now."
"Can't I just finish this batch?"
Ebreth sighed. "Fine, but once I've rallied everyone else, then you've got to go then, okay?"
"Yes, Master Ebreth."


"Is everyone here? Sewers can be dangerous if we don't stick close," Khyrisse said.
"Where is Miss Dare?" Amatsu asked.
"I saw her running off to the pagoda," Jack offered.
"Merde!" Khyrisse spat. "I'm going to kill her! She'd better be up to her eyeballs in trouble when we get in there."
"I do not understand," Amatsu said. "Should we not go after her?"
"Mavericks make me tetchy," Khyrisse said. "And don't even get me started on betrayers."


Vickie Dare stepped from the foliage.
She had been watching the guards and their march patterns, and there would be about fifteen seconds before one of their sightlines crossed her path. She crouched and raced across the open lawn to the wall of the pagoda.
"Three, two, one," she whispered, and at "one", a shadow passed in front of the window. As soon as it was gone, Vickie reached in her pack for her tools.
The Rat Pack was big and loud enough to make one great diversion. Smart money put their next move in the sewer, trying for a backdoor entry. That should keep Po's minions distracted for a good twenty minutes looking for them.
Vickie knew she would catch hell for this, but flexibility was her watchword, and the thing that made her the second best secret agent on Ataniel. Play to your strengths, Pluvious had told her. So Vickie did.
With one hand, she pressed a bit of clay to the glass pane and with the other cut around it in a silent circle. Reaching inside the hole, she was able to unlatch the frame and pull herself in. She quickly climbed the wall and crouched in the long wood rafters.
Below her, the shadows began to gather. Chu-I Po was awake.
"No sound, no breath," she thought to herself. "You're on the clock now."

Character(s): Rani and Ebreth
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: En Route To Kicking Some Real Undead Ass
Title of Post: Detect Secret Doors, Psychodrama Set To High

"This smells pretty good for a sewer," announced Skitch. "Do undead crap, Mom? I bet they don't."
"Quiet, you little scamp."
"Master," said Marty, "are you sure all those undead illusion dudes aren't going to follow us down here?"
"Uh, yeah," said Ebreth, rubbing his neck with a certain amount of embarrassment. He and Val had been in such a mood to kick the shit out of something, they hadn't really been paying enough attention. She looked embarrassed, too, but that was primarily because her brother kept teasing her about it.
Rani shook her head, examining the stone-bricked wall. "There's a trap door up there somewhere. I can sense it from here." She ran her hand up the tunnel wall, squinting. "Damn elfsight. I can't see a--" She pulled a torch out of her leather mailbag, shook it without looking at it, and it ignited. "Hold this," she said, and thrust it at Ebreth. She grabbed a protruding rock with one glove and hoisted herself partway up the wall.
The firebrand crackled and spat in Ebreth's hand. His arm jerked violently and sent it flying into Rani, who screamed. "Oh, fucking--" She managed, somehow, to seize the torch in midair before it set anything of hers on fire, and, narrowly, without falling from the wall. "Are you trying to kill me?" she screamed.
"I'm sorry," whispered Ebreth, holding his forearm against his chest in a futile attempt to keep it from shaking.
"It's a fucking torch," she yelled down at him, shaking it in his face. "Every first-level fighter on Ataniel manages to deal with these. What is your problem?" He hung his head, a dark ashen color in the torchlight, trying to breathe regularly. The detective turned from him impatiently. "Hu, are you frightened of fire?"
"Do you want me to be?" said the paladin, eagerly.
"I shouldn't have asked. Look, is there anyone competent in this party, or do I have to climb this wall holding my own goddam torch?"
"Give it to me," said Flicker, quietly.
"I'd been hoping for someone taller," she groused at him, but did.

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