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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Passage, Part II



Character(s): Ebreth and Khyrisse
Author: Laura Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: Prelude To A Finale
Title of Post: Priorities

"Khyrisse," said Ebreth, "he doesn't know anything else. Not unless he's much better at lying than our Jack."
"If he's not lying," she said, through her teeth, "then Asinus was when he told me Jack's information would let us face Ćlwyn from a position of power. Do you see a position of power here? I see at best more manipulation, and at worst an outright trap."
"Asinus couldn't possibly have known Ćlwyn had the Passage prototype," he disagreed.
"Why are you defending Asinus?"
"I'm defending Jack," he shot right back. "Come on, Khyrisse, it's not his fault what Caimen and Asinus do. That's no reason to leave him with Ćlwyn. You don't know what that man's capable of. If I have to go to the center of the earth I'm going." He paused. "You don't have to come with me."
She turned her shoulder to him, folding her arms agitatedly. "I want to go with you. I want to help Jack. But I don't want--I'm very torn right now, Ebreth, and I need some time to think about it. I don't trust these people, and I don't trust their Passage. They're a bunch of cold-blooded, two-faced, selfish, manipulative bastards, they use people to accomplish their goals, and they'd sacrifice us all for things I don't even think are important without blinking. Even Asinus was lying to me to get me to come here. How much further is this going to go?"
Ebreth sighed and leaned on the windowsill. "Khyrisse," he said, "I don't give a damn about Paris family secrets. I just want to kill this guy before he hurts Jack. He's already killed Asinus. He's playing for keeps here." He tapped his fingers against the sill. "You don't have to come with me. I went after Ćlwyn myself once already. I can do it again. This isn't the first fight I've been in alone. I'll be all right."
"You shouldn't have to be in them alone any more, Ebreth," she said, twisting one hand in the other. She sounded like she was almost about to cry.
"It's all right," he said again, looking out the window.
"Ebreth," she said, in a pleading voice, "I need to think about this. Just give me a half an hour to go over my options here, okay?"
He nodded. "Think about it... as long as you need. You don't have to decide until tomorrow. You don't have to go at all." He looked at his hand. "Do you--want to go over your options with me, or by yourself?"
"I... don't know if I can talk about some of the reasons I might not be able to go, Ebreth," she sighed. "I don't know if I'm strong enough for that, yet." She gave him a wan smile in his peripheral vision. "Can I think about it first and talk it over with you afterwards?"
"Sure," he said, "sure. I'll--be down in the courtyard. If you need me."
His footfalls made no sound on the spiral stair.

Character(s): Amatsu, Vickie, Praxis, Garal, Crandall, Otter
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Prelude to the Grand Finally
Title of Post: The Hired Help Voice Their Opinions

He'd have to talk to Rani -- again. Jhaeran was, in his own special way, incredibly naive and dogmatic, and he had the manner of one who was (to Praxis) quite clearly tortured by indecent desires. Talitha would have gotten a good laugh out of him.
"So," Praxis said, nodding after hearing Amatsu relate the details of the latest battle, "Chu-I Po is destroyed and Hari is freed. Excellent. Thank you."
"No sweat, Big Daddy P," Vickie answered cheerfully.
"It would seem the Rat Pack now faces a dilemna about our next actions. Lady Starshadow is loathe to utilize the Passage without more information," Amatsu said.
"Hmm, that does sound sensible."
"Still, Jack's an old friend, I'm with him," Crandall said.
Otter shrugged. "I go with the Parises."
Praxis rubbed his chin in thought. "And Jack Paris could only say that this thing goes down? The lower planes, perhaps? I suppose infernal powers might have an appeal for a sorceror such as Ćlwyn... Perhaps you ought to accompany those who do decide to travel through the Passage, Mr. Garal, in case they need help getting back." The halfling considered this as the psionicist continued:
"Although... Down, eh? Possibly... Ansalia?"
"Where?"
Ataniel's world is shaped like a large disc. On the other side there's another entire world, it's called Ansalia."
"Sounds like faerie tales."
"It's true," Praxis assured, "one of my friends has been there." He searched his memory of Max's stories for what this other side might have to appeal to Ćlwyn.
"Lost worlds? Majorly spiff-o!!!"
"Are you sure you work for Pluvious Sturoster?"

Character(s): Asinus, Lora, Rauvin, Tora, Dar, the Rat
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: The Truth About Paris
Title of Post: Meanwhile, Back on Paris Island

Asinus leaned back in the giant jacuzzi and sipped at his margarita.
One of the nice things about heaven, he mused, was that it let you catch a breath before something else awful happened to you.
That was when the next awful thing happened.

Tora met Rauvin, Lora and Lady Margo at the door.
"We need a family meeting," she said sharply.
"What's wrong?" Lora asked. "Did they find the assassin?"
"Yes... and no." Tora looked down. "There's... there's bad news," she whispered.
"We're too late," Lora said.
"No... no. It's... it's Caimen."
Lora went white as a ghoul.
"Dar found him at the bottom of the chasm. Apparently he and the assassin... they fought..."
"Caimen," Lora whispered.
"We didn't have a cleric here because Rauvin had gone with you. We couldn't save him."
"Oh, Lora," Rauvin said, putting his arm around his cousin. "I'm so sorry."
"I... I'll deal with this later," Lora said. "Right now..."
"Right now, Lora, you need to rest," Rauvin offered.
"Actually, there's something more important right now," Tora said. "Caimen's death isn't the reason for the meeting."
"What could be more important than the death of the head of the family?" Rauvin demanded.
"One of us is a traitor."

***


Lady Margo stood over the body of her ex-husband.
"Oh, Asinus, you stupid ass," she sighed. "It's a good thing you entrusted me with this, The One knows why."
The silver sword in her hand shimmered, and disappeared, and suddenly the Bright Lady was surrounded with gleaming silver armor of a strange design.
She reached into a hidden pocket inside the armor, and pulled out a small, blue egg.
"Next time," she sighed, "you find some other floozie to guard this."
She cracked the egg on Asinus' donkey pate, and a glowing yellow mist flew out of it, circled around Asinus' head, and shot into his open but lifeless eyes.
Asinus' body shuddered, as if electricity pulsed through it. From his mouth, an inhuman--even indonkey--scream pealed forth. The stasis field around him flickered and began to shred.
Seconds later, the crackling magicks were gone, and Asinus Paris stood there, coughing but alive.
"I knew... there was a reason... I didn't want to die," Asinus muttered. "Margo."
"Asinus," she sighed. "You haven't changed."
"Give me a cigar... my lungs feel like they've been scrubbed."
Margo crossed the room to where Asinus' personal possessions had been left and retrieved him a cigar. The donkey took it in his mouth.
"A light?" he asked.
"Don't push it, donkey boy."
"Fine, fine. How long have I been dead?"
"About a day, your time."
"What did you tell them?" he asked.
"I told them that I knew arcane arts of necrology that could help. I didn't tell them about your little trick."
"Good thing, too," Asinus grumbled. "Because my sources up above tell me that there's a Paris or two that I apparently can't trust."

***


"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
Tora, Rauvin, Lora and Dar sat around the now-too-large council table.
"This... rodent... brought this document to me," Tora said. "It's necromancy, of the sort that the Remnant uses."
"Where was it found?" Lora demanded.
Dar and Tora looked at Rauvin.
"What?" Rauvin asked incredulously. "It's not mine!"
"Then why was it in your room?" Tora demanded.
"Someone must have placed it there! This is a frame!" Rauvin insisted. "I can't believe you're doubting my loyalty! Hell, I'm the one who was captured..." Rauvin trailed off. "That's it, isn't it... you think that when I was in the hands of the Remnant that I sold you out!"
"There are ways of determining if the document is yours, Rauvin," Lora said coldly. "I can contact the Rat and his sense of smell will be able to discern who it is who has touched this fell scroll."
"Don't you think that if I was going to betray us all that I'd be more careful than leave my mark upon the instruments of such a betrayal?" Rauvin insisted in his most innocent and indignant voice. "This is absurd."
"If you were innocent, Rauvin," Dar frowned, "you wouldn't object."
"Do it then," Rauvin snapped. "Do it and get it over with."
Lora reached across the table and touched the Rat. Her talent of animal empathy wasn't strong, hardly a talent at all, but it would be enough for this. "Go, little one," she said. "Find this thing's owner."
"Thank you!" the Rat cried, and crawled across to the necromantic parchement.
"He smells himself..." Lora said, automatically speaking the Rat's feelings. "Himself... nice lady he brought it to... and evil. Dark, fell evil. Like the King's servant, he says--whatever that means--and one other."
Beneath the table, Rauvin pulled out the fingerbone that Ćlwyn had given him for such an eventuality.
"One other... here... male being..."
The Rat looked up at Rauvin.
"You!" Lora cried. "Bad man!"
"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
Rauvin smiled. "No, thank you," he said, and with a deft motion reached out and grabbed the Rat.
"You bastard!" Lora cried, lunging for Rauvin, the man in league with those who killed her husband.
"I wish I could explain, Lora," Rauvin said, and with his free hand, snapped the fingerbone in two.
There was a puff of dark, acrid smoke, and then Rauvin was gone.
"Flark it all!" Lora screamed.
"At least we've eliminated the traitor, Lora," her twin sister comforted her.
"One of them," Asinus growled from the doorway.
"Asinus? You're alive!" Lora cried. She had lost control over her emotions, and her normally calm demeanor was impossible to regain.
"Yup," he said, puffing at his cigar. "Can't keep a good donkey down."
"What do you mean, 'one of them'?" Tora asked.
"We've still got to deal with Jack," Asinus growled.
"Jack?" Dar and Lora said, almost simultaneously.
"Jack," Asinus said. "He's led Ćlwyn--who's back, by the way... you learn a lot in heaven--through the Passage."
"But he doesn't have the coordinates..." Lora said. "Caimen and Rauvin made sure... oh."
"Look, someone get me a flarkin' message spell and I'll see if we can start fixing some of the far-too-many mistakes we've made."

***


Somewhere far, far away, Rauvin appeared with the Rat.
"You've caused a lot of trouble, my little friend," Rauvin said to the rodent. "Because of you, my plans were almost ruined."
"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
"Fortunately," Rauvin continued, a smile creeping across his lips, "you can also be the means of my final victory. I know that you're the leader of your strange little band, and now you're going to do exactly what I tell you..."

Character(s): Amatsu, Hou-Hsieh
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Cornered Rats
Title of Post: The Demon Haunted Pack

Amatsu Mikaboshi and Hou-Hsieh Haito sat under the twilight in the courtyard. Amatsu had been trying to think of tactics, of what he himself thought was the best plan. Everyone else in the Rat Pack, as usual, seemed quite certain of their opinions, and had wasted little time in reaching them.
He remained uncertain. He agreed with Khyrisse Starshadow that more knowledge would be helpful, perhaps vital. Still, any good ninja knew that all eventualities could not be planned for, and that sometimes one simply had to be ready to improvise when the time came. He respected the desire of Mina Paris and others to rescue their friend/relative. Still, he disaproved of the nigh mutiny Ebreth Tor had tried to instigate by publicly denouncing Lady Starshadow's wishes. Tor should have found a more discreet forum to air his views.
Flicker Sunfighter and Orlen had been talking for awhile, across the garden, the elf playing a sweet yet sorrowful melody on his flute. Shortly after they'd departed, Rani stomped through the pathways, followed, as ever, by Marty Hu.
"You want me to beat him up or something Rani? I will."
"Go away!"
"Want me to TP his room?"
Then Ebreth Tor had come out into the night, looking less than happy. Hou Hsieh took off her shoes and placed her feet on the low table. "I think your plan for fufilling honor is a good one. I hope you are successful." She looked over at Tor. "Is there anyone in this Pack who is free from emotional unbalance?"
Amatsu considered. "The Rat, but he has been absent for some time."
"Did I mention that Shaolin asked me to attend a concert with him?"
"I am not surprised. He is in love with you, after all."
She giggled. "He is not... You really think so?"
Amatsu sighed. Then he thought of Victoria Dare, and realized that he himself was no more wise in the ways of the opposite sex than Hou-Hsieh. Love - the most fearsome of demons. Unpredictable and nigh untamable.
"Good night," Lady Inez said from behind them as she and Lord Praxis walked by. Hou-Hsieh and Amatsu remained, looking at the stars.

Character(s): Khyrisse and Skitch (Master of Simplification)
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: Why To Have Children, The Continuing Story

Khyrisse put both hands in her hair and yanked, hard enough to bring tears to her eyes. Idiot!
The Mansion’s doorway came to life in the window, and she turned around and ran through it. She kept going until she got to her study, and threw herself into the chair behind the desk. Breathe, okay? Breathe.
“Milady?” Sennett said, appearing next to her.
“Bring me a bottle of the Dyved.”
The spectral servant winked out, and reappeared with a decanter.
She eyed the decanter suspiciously. That’s supposed to be a bottle. Damn Luthien and his warnings, anyway. She sighed. “Thank you, Sibley.”
Sennett’s mouth curved into a slight but unmistakable smile, while Khyrisse stared at him in consternation. ...I don’t want to know where that came from. “Sennett,” she corrected herself. “You can let the normal people in the mansion if any of them show up, but don’t let them disturb me.”
“As you wish, Milady.” He bowed and vanished.
Khyrisse poured herself a glass of wine and stared morosely down at her desk, one temple resting on the heel of her hand. I don’t believe I vented all that at Ebreth. I’m not even sure about any of it. She resisted the urge to bang her head on the desk and took a drink instead. ...Yep, I was right, he watered it.
Irrationally (given that she was really yelling at her own memories, sculpted into a magical construct), Khyrisse sat up and shouted at the top of her lungs, “I do not need anyone cossetting me, Sennett!”
...She could feel the smirk from here. Merde. When I go home for Yule, I’m going to check and see if Sibley died or something when I wasn’t looking.
Khyrisse grabbed her fountain pen and a piece of parchment. She scrawled “FOR” and “AGAINST” across the top of the page. And then sat there and glared at them. How do I put this into words, anyway? ‘I’m pissed off at the Parises, so why should I run around killing their enemies for them?’ That sounds childish...
How about ‘They never tell you a damn thing about what you’re getting into, and then treat you like some sort of servant that they caught stealing the silver... and still expect you to run around killing their enemies for them?’
She sighed. This time she did thump her head on the desk. This is lacerated pride talking. None of this changes the fact that Jack still needs rescuing, and part of the reason he was upset enough to pull this stunt is because you dumped the leadership of the Rat Pack on him.
Or the fact that Ebreth is still going to rescue him... by himself, if need be.
This has got to be the jerkiest thing you’ve done in a long time, Khyrisse. This is up there with the Love Tesseract.
Khyrisse sat up, downed the rest of her glass of wine, and grabbed the pen again. Under “FOR” she scribbled “Jack”, “Ebreth”, and-- after a moment’s thought-- “Val” and “Luthien”. Luthien will have a conniption fit if I just let a bunch of undead things run around killing people. And Luthien has enough to worry about.
Under “AGAINST” she wrote “Skitch”. The Remnant’s already killed him once. I can’t leave him behind, either; he’d never forgive me. She wrote “Pregnancy” under that. I don’t know what might happen going through this stupid Passage thing, and nobody will tell me enough to let me guess! After a brief hesitation, she added “Pride”. If you’re going to hold a grudge over it, there’s no point in pretending that it’s not a reason, Khyrisse.
She hesitated for a long moment, and then wrote “Trade”. She set the pen down and poured herself another glass of wine, but she didn’t drink it. She just sat, staring into the distance, her hand clenched tightly around the stem.
While I live, Trade lives. She had said that in June, as part of a rather impassioned speech she’d made on Annwych-- with her mind still feeling scorched from her first Wish, her limbs still trembling from the shock of aging fifty years in an instant. Khyrisse reached out and carefully touched the rolled blueprints on her desk. But the reverse is true, too. If I die... Trade dies.
She’d once half-wanted to die; had railed at Grendel in fury every time she was brought to the brink of death-- and then cheated out of peace. Physical pain had ceased to matter much. The idea of oblivion had no longer frightened her.
“...And now I am afraid,” she confessed in a whisper. A burning hand seemed to close itself tightly around her throat. “Afraid to die with the ghosts of Trade in my head, unatoned for.” She pressed her fingertips hard into the hollows of her eyes, trying to get a grip on herself. Trying to shove the impossibly heavy weight of her grief and guilt back into its strongbox. No. No. You don’t have time for this. She laughed suddenly, bitterly, and smeared unfallen tears down across her cheekbones. “And Ebreth thinks he’s a coward.”
“Mom...?”
Khyrisse was too tired to startle. She looked up and saw Skitch peeking at her around the edge of the door.
“Hi, kiddo.” She smiled faintly. “How did you get past Sennett?”
Skitch shoved the little scribbled chant up his sleeve again, out of her line of sight. “Oh, I just sort of sneaked, you know. ...Are you okay?”
“Not really,” she said quietly, and held out her arms. Skitch ran into them.
The only one to ever see me, she thought, her face pressed against his hair, eyes closed. Probably the only one who ever will have. And miracle of miracles, he got out of Trade alive.
“Because Ebreth’s going after the Remnant again?” Skitch said hesitantly.
Khyrisse leaned back with a sigh. “Sort of. I’ve been trying to figure out what I should do.”
Skitch craned his neck around and looked at the paper, frowning pensively. “I think you should go with the one that’s all people,” he said. “Ideas are a lot easier to fix.”
Khyrisse blinked at him, then down at the list. Jack, Ebreth, Val, Luthien. “They are, huh?”
“Sure. You just need to figure out the right things to write on the walls.” Skitch looked suddenly sad, and much older than his ten years. “It’s not so easy to fix broken people.”
Khyrisse just stared at him. “...No, it’s not,” she whispered. She got up, crumpling the list in one hand. “Kiddo, you’re going to make a pretty good doofus someday, you know that?”

Character(s): Dexy LaRue
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: The Cheated
Title of Post: Looking For An Honest Gambler

Dexy LaRue sighed and bit into the apple. The skin broke with a pleasant snap and the juice hit his tongue. Still, it tasted like ashes.
Wicken wasn't the one, and certainly, neither was Pencleus. It was a gambler Dexy needed, not a prestidigitator or a cheat.
The dream had been what had roused him from his thousands-year sleep. A dream of adventurers, following a petroglyph through worlds upon worlds in search of the Cheated. Dexy himself had been in the dream.
But this was reality. The Cheated really were returning, and Dexy's trickery wouldn't fool them again.
He needed a real gambler.
Tossing a few gold coins on the table, he stood and wandered out of the tavern.
The search continued.

Character(s): Ralchar
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: The Cheated
Title of Post: The Luckiest Man In The West

Ralchar strolled into the casino by the harbor. "Hi," he said. "I'm looking for a cute Diari woman with cropped red hair and a pulging org in one eye. Seen anyone like that?"
"No," said the dealer. "Why don't you ask Kevin over at Mithril Dagger? That's really the place to go for plot device stuff."
"Yeah, but I felt kind of drawn here." He took a toothpick and sat on one of the barstools.
"This wouldn't be an undead woman who sucks people's life force, would it?" asked the fat guy playing blackjack.
"Yeah, that's the one."
"Oh, well my sister just escaped from her last night. Said she was in some kind of bizarre trance state and kept singing to herself about going to visit a lich lord."
"Well, that narrows it down to three," said Ralchar, cheerily. "Hey, barman, get my friend here a drink on me."
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a thin one-eyed man watching him with a strange intentness. "That'll only be three," the barman said, pushing two of Ralchar's coins back. "It's happy hour."
"Really," said Ralchar, and grinned. "How lucky."

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