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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 V



Character(s): Khyrisse, Rani, and the Rat Pack
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Khyrisse Takes a Little of Flicker's Advice

Khyrisse placed a gentle hand against Ebreth’s shoulderblade, trying not to shake. Anger and grief tightened into a knot below her collarbone and, for a moment, made it impossible for her to speak. It was probably just as well.
Okay, okay, okay, she doesn’t know, I didn’t think I’d need to tell her. Okay. I’ll warn her. Okay.

***


Rani rested her gloved hand against the trapdoor for a moment, the irritated look fading from her face. Then she nodded and gave it a slight push. The trapdoor noiselessly swung upward, and Rani followed it. She gestured impatiently for the others to follow.
Flicker felt a hand on his arm and turned. Khyrisse smiled wanly up at him, her eyes glinting greenish-hazel in the dancing light of the torch.
“Can I go first?” There was a faintly pleading note in her voice. Flicker paused, looking at her thoughtfully, then nodded.
Khyrisse tilted her head, studying the wall for a moment. She then climbed it, slowly, carefully... a little like she was doing it in her sleep. She pulled herself up through the trapdoor and disappeared.

***


Khyrisse leaned against the wall up top, feeling a little as if she were dizzy. Off-balance. Close enough.
From what she could see in the dim light, they were in some kind of bathing chamber. As her normal vision returned, the far corners of the room emerged from the deeper shadows, misted over with dust and cobwebs.
Vas floated up through the trapdoor, carrying Mina, who was holding the torch. Khyrisse nodded to them as he set the younger sorceress on her feet. Mina stood near the trapdoor so the others still below could see, and glanced around the room.
Khyrisse took Rani aside for a moment, while the rest of the Rat Pack climbed up to join them.
“What is it?” Rani whispered.
“I thought I’d explain something,” Khyrisse whispered back, “since you weren't with us at the time and you don’t know what happened. That back there with Ebreth? He has flashbacks, and there's no predicting when they’ll hit-- I don’t think he even knows. So when they happen, I’d like you to do what the rest of us do, and ignore it. All right?"
Rani looked at her oddly. “You're travelling with a guy who randomly throws torches at you, and you all just ignore it?”
Khyrisse sighed, very softly, and bit her tongue on the first remark that leaped to mind. “I forgot to warn you; I’m sorry. He hasn’t had one since before you joined us. If you have problems with it, just... don’t rely on him for anything. Grendel knows there are enough people with us at the moment-- you shouldn’t have to."
“Okay, but you know, he could have seriously hurt me back there. If he's really that fucked up, have you considered leaving him someplace safe where he can't do any damage?”
Rani’s tone of voice was serious rather than scathing, for which Khyrisse could only be grateful. I’d have blown up for sure, pacifism or no... Khyrisse smiled faintly at Rani. “I thought about it. But he wouldn’t have stayed behind; and frankly I don’t think it would have done him-- or us--much good if he had.”
“Rani,” called Val, very softly, but with a note of urgency. She was next to the nearest door, her sword shedding a soft light as she peered cautiously through the narrow opening. “Is there any way you could find out where we are in relation to Chu-I Po? Would the building itself know, perhaps?”
Rani went to talk to Val, with a last, unreadable glance at Khyrisse. Khyrisse closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. ...You’re an interesting experience, Briet.
You just need to relax. Be less combative towards everything in the universe, and things will work out better. Khyrisse had the fleeting impression of a wheedling grin. I think you should try that glider thing.
Khyrisse smothered a puff of laughter. Shoo. I’m going to be killing evil undead things and I want to be able to enjoy my violence in peace.

Character(s): Rani, phenomenon magnet
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: What 'Flashback' Means To A Rimbor City PI

It was not, of course, the first time she'd worked with someone who'd done a little too much acid in his day.
Rani didn't like the idea of having to rely on him in combat situations, though.
She pushed it aside. "I'd say... that way," she said, waving her arm ahead through the door and to the left, massaging Syzygy's ear with one gloved thumb. "Nine'll get you ten he knows right where we are too, though, by now. Luckily we didn't waste too much magic on his decoy attack, even if we did use up a lot of our poison."
Valende tucked a piece of her short, dark hair behind her pointed ear, nodding. "Let us know right away if we're dealing with more illusions."
"I'd have to touch them," she said. "There's not much to contact in an undead mind anyway." They turned back to the others. "Is everyone up?" said Rani. "We've got a bead on Po."
Behind the two women, with a hissing sound so subtle and insidious it ticked the radar on the sharp hearing of neither, something slowly dripped from the doorframe and coalesced.

Character(s): Rani, Val
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: WAHP: She Wore Shikinti Blue Velvet
Title of Post: Surprise!

Blood and viscera slowly oozed up behind Rani and Val and coalesced into something that looked like a mutant turned inside out. With surprising speed the thing jumped onto Rani from behind and pinned her to the ground.

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: This Is Always Happening To Me...

Rani's eyes flew impossibly wide as a hand looking a little like ground hamburger meat clamped over her mouth from behind. "Mmmmmmphhh!" Its weight bore her to the ground, and she could feel its fingers leaching the color from her face, feel, also, her face bonding to its fingers. Rani ran hot and cold. She dragged uselessly at its bloody arm with her right hand, and then she thrust Syzygy's dead head at it with her left. It wasn't much of a weapon, but the creature's hand did loosen across her jaw as the decapitated Rider sank its teeth into the ropy, inside-out wrist. "A little help?" she gasped at Val, the smears of the creature's blood across her face only partially obscuring the white blotches where it had been draining her own.

Character(s): Marty, Mina
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Chu-I Goodness
Title of Post: Is That A Cue?

"Ooh! Ooh! Let me! Let me!" Marty pushed Mina to the side in his rush to go rescue Rani. The Sword of Light was out of its scabbard and hissing through the dead thing's arm, which, severed, hung limply from Rani's cheek.
Marty turned to the armless creature, and jumping up and down, hacked and hacked at it.
"Take that, evil, uh, thing!" he called. "None may dare to, uh, goop up the lovely Rani while Marty Hu is on watch! Avast! Banzai!"
Mina looked at Ebreth and shrugged. "He's your apprentice." She murmured a few words, and flames enveloped the dead meat body.
"Hey," Marty moped. "I wasn't done rescuing her."
Rani peeled the arm off of her, and held it up next to her head. "Huh. Soon I'll have a full set."
"You're welcome," Marty beamed.

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Chu-I Goodness
Title of Post: Send In The Clowns

A shaft of unnatural light cast a thin beam across the sewer passage.
Khyrisse looked up at the source, a small crack in the pagoda floor, covered by a loose straw mat.
"Rani, can you get a look at what's up there?" she asked.
"If someone I can trust can give me a leg up," the Diarian muttered.
"I--" Marty began.
"And not him!"
"It would be my pleasure," Vas said, cupping his hands and kneeling before Rani. She put one foot in his hands, and kept balance as he raised her to the ceiling of the passage.
"From the vector of that light," Jack said, "I can at least tell you that it's likely to be a planar light source as opposed to a single point. That's common in magical lighting."
"Thank you, Mr. Wizard," Rani muttered, peering through the crack. "It's some sort of large empty room. There are some wooden structures, looks to be exercise equipment. The light's coming from a large luminescent circle in the ceiling."
"See?" Jack said quietly to no one in particular.
"That would be the dojo," Amatsu said. "Training is an important part of service to one's clan. Despite their perfidy, it is likely that the Black Serpent continues their training in the service of Chu-I Po. Even more likely if they have, as we suspect, recently undergone such changes as undeath."
"But it's empty now?" Khyrisse asked. "Thank you, Rani."
Rani blinked. "Whatever. Sure. No problem."
"Val, Amatsu, can you two be ready to take point? Marty, if you and Flicker could cut through the mats..."
"Actually, ma'am," Mina said, "I've got an unravel spell ready. That might be quicker and more quiet."
Khyrisse looked as if she was about to ask why in Grendel's name Mina had fortuitously learned a generally pointless spell like unravel but decided not to push the issue. They were about due for a lucky break. "Okay. That works."
Marty's sword inaudibly sighed. It had hoped to get a chance to face the evil blade again.
Vas and Marty pryed away some of the floorboards while Mina began her incantation. A moment later, the straw mat parted like liquid, its strands hanging into the sewer.
"Now!" Khyrisse whispered.
Val and Amatsu quickly raised themselves into the empty dojo, circling around the hole quickly.
There was no sign of Po's minions.
"We're clear," Val whispered down to Khyrisse. She extended her hand to help bring the others up. Jack was the first one to take it. Their eyes met, briefly, and then both looked away, confused and torn.
It took only moments for the Rat Pack--all of it--to take position in the empty dojo.
"I wish we had some sort of map to the place," Khyrisse said. "Ebreth, Rani, could you guys do some recon?"
"That may not be necessary," Hari said. "I am familiar with the architect of this pagoda. Kuro Hidoshi designed the five original clan strongholds, as his duty to the shogunate many years ago. They were each designed to match the character of the clan daimyo, but also contained a common design to indicate their position of fealty to the shogun."
"So which way to Po, then?" Valende asked.
Hari opened his mouth to answer, but one of the screen walls suddenly slid aside.
The beings behind it were certainly dead, but white makeup covered their faces, and strange patterns in red and black and other colors exaggerated their features. Their hair was huge, and extravagant, and seemed more built than grown. They began to move toward the party, their bodies moving with an eerily hypnotic dancing.
"Kabuki," Amatsu whispered. "They play the parts of the great ancients of this land."
"Aaaaugh! Clowns!" Marty cried, and dove into the hole in the floor.
The foremost kabuki let out a strange, atonal screamsong, and the others, with inhuman grace and unnatural choreography, began to dance foward, blood in their eyes.
"I have to admit," Mina said, "I don't blame Marty for this one. Those things are pretty flarking creepy."

Character(s): Marty, Amatsu
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Laura’s Second-Most-Obscure Bad Pun Of The Subplot

"Oh, no!" wailed Marty.
"Actually, these are kabuki," corrected Amatsu. "But you are very close, Mr. Hu."

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Counting Coup

Marty cowered in the hole as the kabuki closed on the rest of the Rat Pack. Rani's face was still stained in a bloodless white rosette of fingerprints where the undead thing had drained her, though color was starting to seep back into them about the edges. There was bloody residue on her blouse and black denims, but she didn't seem especially fazed by it. She slid closer to one of the kabuki, ducked under its stylized, whirling blow as it cackled unnatural laughter, and tapped it, quick as a cat, on the upper leg. It sent her crashing back into Amatsu with a roundhouse kick. "Unh!" she said. Its boot had been carved out of bone.
"Are you all right, Miss Rani?"
"Yeah," she said. "These guys are for real. Go get 'em."

Character(s): Amatsu, TKTBCL
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Where's Grendel When We Really Need Her?

Amatsu palmed a throwing star and a gold ring on his hand emitted a faint, brief glow. He threw the shuriken, and each of the five Kabuki were struck. "No stoneskin," he said, "hopefully the poison will weaken them." He drew his ninja-to.
The kabuki were synchronizing their strange dance. "Pardon," one of them said. "Was it implied that we were undead?" Then he coughed, sparkles filling the air before him as he did so. A bolt of electricity struck Amatsu.
"This is strangely familiar," Flicker said, as the lightning arced to Ebreth.

Character(s): Black Kabuki, Yellow Kabuki, Blue Kabuki, Green Kabuki, and Red Kabuki (this is Japan, after all!)
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: All The World Loves A Clown

Otter parried the razor-sharp arms of the yellow kabuki with quick breaths. Amatsu, Tor, and Captain Kyber had taken the brunt of the chain lightning the black kabuki had breathed at them; it was unusually fortuitous for the higher-level fighters to have been first in line, but even so Otter wasn't feeling at her most optimistic right now. If it wasn't for Valende at the animated clown's other side, forcing it to divide its attention, Otter was pretty sure it would already have taken her down. Its speed was unnatural. She could see Shalini, or whoever she was now, battling the blue one, alone; Shalini had been twice the warrior Otter was, and the blue kabuki did not seem to be in much trouble, though Flicker--that was his name--was succeeding in keeping it back from the boy, who was pitching little blades at the clowns.
Otter felt outmatched, and that was before the yellow kabuki opened its black-lipsticked mouth and breathed fire all over her.
The flames licked around her and dissipated, and Otter looked at the glowing ring on her right hand and across at Vastarin, fighting, with Orlen, the green kabuki; wielding his sword one-handed, his left hand cocked rakishly on his hip like a fencer. Huh, she thought. Thank you.

***


"Uh, ma'am?" called Mina, backing up nervously as the red kabuki advanced on her. The crackle of a lightning bolt from the other side of the room told her the archmage was otherwise occupied. Marty had disappeared down the hole, and everyone else seemed pretty busy. Mina cast cone of cold at the clown, but couldn't really tell if it had had an effect. "Um--" She pulled out a dagger as it sprang at her, faster than it had any right to, and its arm sliced painfully into her shoulder, and then, before she even got another initiative, its heavy foot struck her in the chest. Mina's head hit the ground hard.
And pushing some uncomfortable sense of deja vu to one side, Ebreth Tor stepped over her fallen body and caught on his sword with both hands the blow aimed at severing her head, with a force that actually knocked the kabuki back half a foot. The last wisps of electricity crackled off his hard dark forearms like mist.
He did not say anything at all.

Character(s): Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Chu-I Goodness
Title of Post: Pagliacciphobia

"Are the clowns gone yet?" Marty whimpered from his hole.
"Yeaaaargh!" came a shout from above.
"I'll, uh, take that as a no," Marty cowered.

Character(s): Amatsu, Crandall, Kabuki Black (TKTBCL!)
Author: Jonah "The Kabuki Confetti Cannon" Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: The Shikinti Dance Party!
Title of Post: It Had to be Said

Kabuki Black seemed to be turning its attention towards Garal when Amatsu stabbed it in the back. Then, the creature turned to face him. He was rather scorched by what the unholy dancer's breath had done, and he was uncertain if he could win this fight.
Then there were a pair of crashes as something struck Kabuki Black's ceramic armor with great force. It reeled and stepped back.
"You know," Crandall said, "I really hate mimes."

Character(s): Skitch and Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Skitch Makes His Observation Roll

Skitch stepped back and looked around. These guys were too tough for his throwing knives to do much damage against, and Khyrisse would kill him if he got involved in an up-close fight. Where is Mom, anyway? There's Val, nope... there's Vas, nope... there's Ebreth, nope--
Ebreth blocked another attack from the Red Kabuki, turning it aside and down--and then cracked him sharply in the jaw with a backswing of his elbow.
Coooool! I've got to remember that one, Skitch thought, as the Red Kabuki's head snapped around, blood spraying from his mouth.
The boy stopped, staring at the wall next to them. The drops of the weird clown's blood, instead of running down the stone, had disappeared into it. A wisp of smoke curled up from the spot.
Skitch remembered the black clown breathing lightning at everyone, and his eyes widened.
Khyrisse, waiting impatiently for a clear shot at the one Orlen and Vas were playing with, heard Skitch's voice from clear across the room.
"Mom!" There he was, jumping up and down behind Flicker. He pointed at the Red Kabuki fighting with Ebreth. "ACID!"
Skitch made a rather wild two-handed gesture, almost like he was blowing a kiss at her. She blinked at him. What on Ataniel is he talki...? Oh, merde! They all have breath weapons!
Khyrisse ducked and dodged and, briefly, tumbled across the room when she was knocked down. One stoneskin layer gone... Better me than whoever that was aimed at. She slammed into the back of the Red Kabuki with both glowing hands out in front of her.
The Red Kabuki disintegrated into a dancing cloud of dust motes. Khyrisse smiled ruefully at Ebreth and Mina, gasping a bit. "Hi. Sorry about that."

Character(s): Ebreth, Flicker, Otter, Valende
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Shikinti Blue
Title of Post: Cleric!

Then there was nothing but ash, floating with improbable gentleness to the bloody floor. Ebreth averted his swing very abruptly as Khyrisse was, very suddenly, where Kabuki Red had been but a moment before. Damn, he thought, looking at the dust particles. That was certainly the end of that. He crouched awkwardly by Lita--Mina--but realized he didn't know a thing about first aid. "I'll go get a cleric," he said, gave Khyrisse a quick peck on the forehead in passing, turned his sword and melted into the shadows.

***


Kabuki Blue spewed frost all over Flicker.
This was starting to remind him of that battle with the trilobytes, actually.
The Viking put his head down and fought on, teeth gritted against the pain, black sparks flying each time his sword found its mark.

***


Kabuki Yellow whirled with strange and stylized grace and slashed Otter's stomach entirely open right through her leather jerkin. Valende sent a chunk of ceramic and bone flying from its shoulder as it did, though, and it turned to face her, leaving the nymph bleeding on the ground. Valende parried one sharp arm and dodged the kick. She was starting to get a feel for the ritualistic attack pattern of these Shikinti clowns, and she snuck a shot at the ribs in as the kabuki turned about again. Then its painted face shattered as a sword drove through it from behind. Kabuki Yellow slipped to one knee but staggered back up again turning its arm, a strange, semi-headless apparition, like some kind of weird crane. "I've got this one," said Ebreth. "See to Mina and Otter, Val."

Character(s): Marty Hu
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Chu-I Goodness
Title of Post: Still Waiting...

"Are they gone yet?" Marty moaned from below.
"Mom! Acid!"
"I'll check again later, okay?"

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