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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Passage, Part IV



Character(s): Rani, Valende
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Prelude To A Finale
Title of Post: You Thought She Was Lying, Didn't You?

Valende tapped hesitantly on Rani's door. "Rani?"
"Yeah?"
"Can I come in?" The detective grunted assent, and Val swung the door open. "We never got to have our Elvish lesson last night," she said, omitting the detail that when she had followed Rani upstairs after the Jhaeran incident the half-Diari woman had not answered the door.
"Huh." Rani looked up from the beat-up black journal she'd been jotting in, shutting it with her other hand. "You're right. I kinda missed it."
Val was a little too exhausted by everything to be cheered up, exactly, but it was unexpected and made her feel a bit better. "Me too," she said. "Rani... Praxis has been looking for you."
"Great," she sighed. "Invisibility isn't a priest spell, is it?"
"You--don't like Praxis?" Valende was hard-pressed to think of anyone less offensive.
"He's fine." Rani flopped back on the bed, expelling air in a puff. "When we were fighting Po, I got a faceful of some magical fear or something, and I contacted him crying for help. It was pretty bad. I'd rather not face him again."
"It wasn't your fault," Val reassured. "You saw his head separate. You had no chance to resist that. The same thing happened to Vas."
"No offense, but..." She laughed. It wasn't a mean laugh, and Valende joined in at her brother's expense after a moment. "Nah," said Rani, waving her hand, "I just don't like being a damsel in distress, that's all. It's bad enough I can't kick ass myself. If I have to be reduced to begging for help, I'd rather do it with some modicum of dignity."
"I can understand that," Val said softly. "I think it was Jhaeran he wanted to talk to you about anyway."
"Oh, that," said Rani, looking away. "Well, I was the one giving him the cocktease in the first place, so I can't really complain. I keep forgetting how fucked up Diarians are."
"I'm sorry," said Valende, her maternal instincts going off like Shikinti rockets, and sat next to the younger woman on the bed, putting her hand on her six-fingered hand. "There's nothing wrong with who you are, Rani. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
Rani looked sideways at the elf for a long moment, her lavender-grey eyes softening a bit. "Thanks," she said, quietly, "I appreciate that," and turned to kiss Valende on the lips.

Character(s): Val and Rani
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Prelude to a Finally, Indeed
Title of Post: Ditty Bout Rani and Valende

Valende’s eyes widened, as if she hadn’t been expecting Rani to do that at all. After that single startled moment, however, she returned Rani’s kiss. Her hands lifted as if she intended to touch Rani’s face, but she stopped herself, remembering Rani’s psionics.
Val smiled at her when they parted. “I-- hadn’t been expecting that,” she confessed.
“You don’t seem too unhappy about it, though.”
“Rani, this isn’t a... momentary impulse on your part, is it?” No more incidents like Cori, thank you very much. I’ve just started to get Rani out of the hedgehog armor she wears everywhere. I don’t need to ruin that.
Rani just laughed, surprisingly relaxed about it. “No more than these things usually are...”
Val laughed also. “Fair enough. ...I probably should tell you that I don't do this sort of thing casually." At least, not anymore! "I am the last person to put ties on anyone-- but neither am I fond of ephemeral encounters." She took Rani’s gloved hands in her own and said, very softly, "Is that a problem for you?"
More soft laughter from Rani. “Sounds good to me!”
“One last hurdle, and we’ll see if it feels good, too,” Val said, winking mischievously at her. “You know that I’m in a serious relationship with Jack... I do love him, even if I’d like to shake him silly at the moment.”
“He’s a man.” Rani shrugged, obviously completely unperturbed. “That’s different.”
Val smiled a little. “Yes... I have to confess, it is.”
Rani took her hands from Valende's and began peeling off the crimson gloves, smiling warmly at her. You know, that's probably the least cynical expression I've ever seen on her face? Val marveled, amused.
The priestess drew a fingertip lightly down the curve of Rani’s ear, beginning at the delicate point that Jhaeran had found so improbably offensive. “You know,” she murmured, laughter dancing in her eyes, “this will certainly make teaching you certain elven words much easier.”

Character(s): Nasty
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Donkey Love
Title of Post: She's Gotta Have It

"What do you mean he's not here anymore?" Nasty screamed at the two scary-looking little angels with the uncannily large eyes. "I want my donkey!"

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: WAHP: Prelude To A Finale
Title of Post: Just Because He Doesn't Hear The Gossip Doesn't Mean He Doesn't Know Anything

Garal was late getting to breakfast. He had woken up early, well rested after the fight, and gotten some calculations done. He tried to figure out where they would be going. With the relatively new map he had gotten from Kenny and Jack II's coordinate, he found the answer to be as much of an enigma as the existence of two Jacks. He assembled his notes and his map, and got up to find Khyrisse.
He saw Rani's door was open, so he decided to stop and say good morning. Despite her ascerbicness, he found himself beginning to like her. And not be stressed by her being attractive. Having Waterloo on his mind was good for him. If this kept up, he might even be able to have a conversation with Val without tripping over his tongue.
He reached her door and turned to look inside the room. His mouth opened to say hello just before he saw Val and Rani affectionately disrobing each other. He caught his greeting before he voiced it. He closed his mouth as he very quietly shut the door. Sometimes being small, quiet and discreet had advantages. He assumed they'd prefer privacy.
He continued down the hall and downstairs, seemingly lost in thought. His mind jumped back on track when he reached Khyrisse and Ebreth eating spring rolls. "Good morning."
"Morning, Garal," they replied.
"I uncovered some information this morning you should know. About the Passage. The coordinates Jack gave us seem to lead to a stable region in the planes. When I account for other factors, like the Driftwinds, we end up in a pretty difficult area. No one has been able to chart it because of weird forces acting there."

Character(s): {{Jack}}, Garal, Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Let's Make This As Tragic As Possible, Hm?
Title of Post: Passages

Jack and Garal sat facing each other, Indian-style. Between the two they had built a large stone archway, held together by tack and balance.
"So, you say that this will have the requisite amount of energy to propel the Carriage through at the right work/energy rate?"
Garal nodded.
"Man, I'm really impressed... spacial mechanics like this take huge amounts of calculation to make even slightly viable guesses about the outcome... you seem to just pull them out of the air."
Garal shrugged. "When you planeblaze enough, you just get a feel for it, I guess."
"Well, without your abilities to open the dimensional subspace, this would've taken me at least two days to get figured out."
"Thanks," Garal said.
Marty wandered into the room. "Hey, dudes," he said. "Anyone see Rani around? I wrote her a poem."
Jack opened his mouth.
"I wouldn't," warned Garal, bemused.
"How does it go?" Jack asked.
"I'll go tell Khyrisse we've got the structure ready," Garal offered.
"Rani, Rani, young and sweet," Marty started. "Your little toes and little feet."
"I think I'll go with you," Jack nodded.
"Hey! Guys! We haven't gotten to the best part... do either of you know a word that rhymes with breast?"

Character(s): Vickie, Amatsu, Mina, Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Slouching Towards Finally
Title of Post: Morning Routine

Thirty-eight, thirty-nine... forty!
Vickie bent forward as far as she could and grabbed onto one of the rafters. She swung her left leg off the hanging bar, and replaced it with her right. She knew she was going easy on herself, only doing forty verticals on each, but after yesterday, she could use the break.
One, two... three, four... she began counting as she touched each elbow in turn to her bent knee.
There was a knock at her door.
"'S'open!" she called.
Amatsu opened the door, but did not step in.
"Hey, Matsie!" she called. "C'mon in. I'm decent."
"I see that you exercise in the morning as well. Perhaps we could train together one of these days, if you wish."
"If you can keep up with me," Vickie grinned. With one quick motion, she straightened her supporting leg, pushed off the rafter with the other one, and somersaulted from the ceiling to land on her feet.
"Your form is excellent," Amastu offered.
"I bet you say that to all the girls," Vickie smiled. "But that's not why you came here, is it?"
"I merely wished to see if you would be coming down to breakfast."
"Sure. Let me towel off." Vickie crossed the room and pulled a wet towel from a basin and began daubing herself. "Hey, I wanted to ask you something?"
"Yes?"
"You've been with these guys for a while, right?"
"I joined the Rat Pack a few weeks ago to safeguard Lady Yashida."
"Right. So do you get the feeling that you're cut out of the loop?"
"I am not certain I understand."
"Just something I've noticed. The vets seem to ignore us newbies a lot. I noticed it about Marty, but that's no surprise... they seem to group up amongst themselves."
"That is often the way among old friends. We must accept that we are unknown factors to them, and not always here at their wish."
"Yeah, I guess. Still, it seems weird that the only decisions get made upper eschelon. 'We'll go', 'we won't go'... command staff decisions never seem to include anyone who isn't an elf or sleeping with one. I just wonder if they ever ask anyone what they think."
"I cannot say," Amatsu frowned. "For myself, my service is one of honor."
"Matsie," Vickie sighed, "remind me never to ask you to do my laundry."
"I do not understand."
Vickie took Amatsu's arm and started them off down the corridor. "Starch, Matsie. Too much starch."

***


Mina sat watching Skitch play with his food.
"It's just eggs, Skitch."
"Then how come there are little things in them?"
"Shikinti cooking, I guess. Look, I'm eating them."
"Good. I'll wait and see how you feel later."
"You've been hanging out with paranoids too much," Mina grinned.
"Hey guys!" Marty said, wandering up.
"Hi, Marty," Mina said. "What's up?"
Marty looked at her oddly, like he wasn't sure if he was supposed to answer the question.
"I'm going to go see if they have any bacon," Skitch said, getting up and scrambling in the direction of the kitchen.
"Later, little dude!" Marty called after him.
"No eggs?" Mina asked, nodding at the toast on Marty's plate.
"Like, eggs are my totem... I don't think I'm allowed to eat them."
"They've got 'little things' in them," Mina giggled.
Marty frowned. "Like bugs?"
"I don't think so. More like... noodles, I think."
"Oh. I don't like noodles. One once bit me."
Mina laughed. "Marty, you crack me up, buddy."
Marty smiled. "Cool. I don't think other people like it, though."
"What do you mean?" Mina asked.
"Like, I was just talking to Garal and Jack, and they left, so I went to talk to Rani, but she was having some sort of stomach cramp or something, so I came down here and then Skitch ran off. Do I scare people?"
Mina bit her lip. "Scare people?"
"You know... like I was porcelain or something."
"Porcelain scares people?"
"Gives me the wig, totally."
Mina tried not to laugh. "No, Marty, I just think people don't quite know how to talk to you."
"Oh. Like, what language to use?"
"No, I just don't think that they see the good person for all the..." How to put this nicely? "All the transcendent ideas you have."
"Oh."
Mina could tell that Marty didn't know the word transcendent.
"Plus, you have to remember... you know how you're scared of stuff?"
Marty nodded.
"Well, everyone else is scared of stuff too. And sometimes, they're so busy being scared, they don't have time to look around and smell the roses."
"Dude, that can be dangerous. A rose bit me once."
"Bad example. All I'm saying, Marty, is that if people don't listen to you, to who you are, it's not always your fault."
"Whoa. That's, like, really wise. Did Master Ebreth teach you that?"
"Yes. Yes he did." Mina smiled faintly realizing that in a roundabout way, it was true.
"Yeah, he's, like, totally wise." Marty smiled and Mina could practically see the fleeting concern wift out of his mind. "Hey, I wrote this poem for Rani, you want to hear it?"
"Lay it on me, man," Mina smiled.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Ditty Bout Rani And Valende (Fickleness, Thy Name Is Woman)
Title of Post: Jack's Dead... Rani's Alive! Jack's Dead... Rani's Alive!

Ebreth Tor sat at the table with Marty, Amatsu, and Vickie, primarily so as to get a better view on Valende and Rani, who were sitting together by the courtyard wall. Given Val's physical friendliness, the light massaging of the detective's neck she was doing might not have caught his eye if it hadn't been for Rani's often-stated resistance to being touched.
This vantage was confirming rather than refuting his instincts.
"Have I displeased you, Master?" Marty said sorrowfully.
"What?" Ebreth blinked and looked at the younger man. "No. No, Marty, I was thinking about something else. You're doing great. Kicked some serious ass at Po's."
"Oh, thank you, Master," said Marty, "but the tao that kicks ass is not the true tao."
"R--ight," said Ebreth. "But sometimes ass needs to be kicked, and it's better to do it well than badly." Rani laughed her loud, sharp Rimbor laugh, and pushed Val's shoulder with obvious affection. Val glanced over at him then, suddenly, as if she had sensed him looking at her. Ebreth frowned at her; she gave him a very sharp look and jerked her chin to one side, and he raised his hands in surrender.
"Rani doesn't like you either, does she, Master Ebreth?"
Rani hadn't been the one engaging in nonverbal conversation with him, but Ebreth didn't bother correcting him. "No," he said, "no, she doesn't."
The solidarity of it only reassured Marty for a few seconds, and then his face fell. "Does that mean she secretly likes you too?"
"Marty," said Ebreth, "I can tell you with great certainty that Rani does not secretly like me."
Marty sighed happily. "Do you think she noticed me protecting her from the gum guy last night?"
"I wouldn't mention it," he said. "I think having to be protected from things pisses her off."
"She's so brave," smiled Marty.
"That's one word for it."
"I wish she would, like, talk to me."
"I don't think Rani likes men, Marty." He watched Valende playing with a piece of her hair. "Why don't you ask Otter out? Or--maybe Mina." Mina was a long shot, Ebreth knew, but at least she seemed to enjoy Marty's company, which was a start. "Mina's even prettier than Rani."
"Oh, no, Master Ebreth, no one's prettier than Rani," Marty said loyally.
Ebreth shrugged. Everyone needed a lost cause or two. Vas had gone over to harass Rani and Valende a little, and Val was giving Rani a half-defiant little kiss on the side of the head, which did it for Ebreth. "I've got to go talk to Khyrisse," he said, pushing his chair back. "You take care of things here, okay?"
"Okay," beamed Marty.
Ebreth Tor knew damn well this was none of his business, but somehow it didn't feel that way.

Character(s): The House of Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: So, We're a Little Insular... I Write Who I Know. :)

Khyrisse was sitting in a sunny corner of the courtyard with a book on extraplanar magics in her lap, drinking more tea and trying to wake up properly without any caffeine.
Ebreth walked over and sat down next to her with his cup of coffee. He murmured something quietly to her.
Khyrisse choked on her tea. She turned to look at Ebreth with wide, incredulous eyes.
He shrugged slightly. Khyrisse turned to look across the courtyard at Rani and Val and Vas.
Vas had seated himself on the ground in front of Rani and Val, looking much less annoyed than he had when Ebreth had first seen him there. He was obviously giving Val the teasing of her life. Val rolled her eyes, amused, and said something quietly to the psychometrist. Rani promptly said something sharp to Vas and flipped her gloved hand at him in dismissal. Vas threw up his hands and flinched back from her in a gesture of comically exaggerated capitulation. Rani laughed.
“Grendel on a pogo stick,” Khyrisse murmured.
“That about sums it up,” Ebreth said into his coffee.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, handing Ebreth her book.

***


“Want me to give him a kick while he’s down here?” Khyrisse said from behind Vas.
“Attacked on all sides,” mourned Vas. “What have I done to deserve this treatment, I ask you?”
“Would you like a list?” Val said sweetly.
Vas just laughed at his sister.
Khyrisse rolled her eyes. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you last night--” Vas grinned puckishly up at her and winked. Khyrisse went pink and did kick him, a little shove in the shoulder with the ball of her foot. “--Quiet, you flutterhead-- but I’ve decided I’m going to have to go after Jack with Ebreth.”
Valende sighed in obvious relief and squeezed Rani’s hand.
“And our young master Skitch?” Vas inquired, smiling.
“Skitch insists on coming with me,” Khyrisse sighed.
“I am unsurprised.”
“So how do you all feel about it? Do you want to go on through the Passage?” she said, trying not to look exclusively at Val. “This isn’t a boot camp; I’ll be asking everyone this.”
Rani said, very coolly, “I don’t leave cases.”
“Of course I still want to go,” Val said quietly. “I’m glad you decided not to stay behind, Khyrisse... it would have presented me with a difficult choice.”
Khyrisse smiled slightly and looked down at Vas.
“You can’t get rid of me that easily, my lady.” Vas grinned up at her. “I thought we went through this already.”
Khyrisse stuck her tongue out at him briefly. “Good. I’ll have people I can rely on there, then.” She looked around the courtyard and into the breakfast room beyond it with an expression of mild dismay. “I don’t even know half of these people. How did the Rat Pack get this goddamned big?”
“So, we’re popular. Are you surprised?” Vas said, leaning back on his elbows with a lazy smile. “Look around you. The Rat Pack must have the highest concentration of beautiful women on Ataniel at the moment. Including,” he grinned, with a little nod of his head to her, “the world’s only surviving goddess.”
Rani rolled her eyes. Khyrisse made a little puff of air at him, scoffing, and went back to Ebreth.

***


“Ebreth, I have no idea,” she said. She tucked her feet under her and studied the trio from a distance again. “I’ll have to get Val in private at some point and ask her, but she’s obviously still very serious about rescuing Jack. And Rani seems to know about it.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t thinking Val would have given up on rescuing him,” Ebreth said.
Khyrisse looked down at her tea and sighed. “I don’t know,” she repeated, a little bewildered. “I can’t imagine Val actually trying to hurt him. I know that she’s been confused about how to behave towards this version of Jack-- mabye this is an attempt to avoid the issue.”

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