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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
With A Little Help From Our Friends, Part V



Character(s): Garal, Khyrisse, Nora
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Latecomers
Title of Post: Nora Ino A Drop To Drink

Khyrisse put down the load she was carrying.
"You're going to leave us?" she asked.
"I just think that I'd be of more use... elsewhere," Garal said. "They're involved in a dimensional conundrum... that's my specialty. I don't think Jack's family needs planeblazing."
"Well, from what Flicker told me, they were looking for an artifact called the Myriad. You might start there."
"The Myriad?" Nora asked, perking her head up from her cup of coffee. "It's in Riklandir. Philip ran across someone who said they knew where it was when we were looking for the Staff of the Walker. Before... the Madness."
"Could... could you show me?" Garal asked. "If we can find it, I'm sure I can use it to open the right paths."
'Sure," sighed Nora. "I need a vacation right now. Get out of the castle for a bit."
Garal smiled. "Riklandir it is." And maybe there I can get Ember out of my mind, he added silently.

Character(s): Nora Ino
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Latecomers
Title of Post: Dear Philip

Dear Philip,
It's been a week since we last talked. Despite the circumstances of our parting, I do miss you. As I suspected, this party yielded an opportunity for adventure (as is the case when too many adventurers gather under one roof!) and I believe that I will be taking it up. This may mean that it will be some days before I return home. I think that may be for the best. We both have much to work out, and a vacation apart might help us do that. Still, never doubt that I still love you, and am committed to our getting through this.
If you find that you need to contact me, I will be travelling in Riklandir, following up on that lead to the Myriad you discovered. I hear that the nighttime snow is lovely there this time of year. Mayhaps after this all, we can meet there.
Hope all is well with you, my love. My prayers go with you on your own quest.
We will be together soon, I feel it.
Love,
Nora

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish (question by Kris)
Storyline: Retracing A Road To Ruin
Title of Post: More Than You Needed To Know

"Hey Ebreth?" asked Khyrisse, almost timidly. "Would it, be all right if I asked you something about the slave trade?"
"Yeah," he said, tired. "My information's going to be a little out of date, you understand."
"Not for what I want to know." She twisted one of her hands in the other. "This was twenty-five years ago."
"That was before Ebreth Tor was guildmaster," he said, "but I'll try."
"My--" Khyrisse took a breath. "My mother disappeared. She was wandering the coast of Nylevia. I have a friend who was a pirate. He said it's a long shot but it could have been slavers."
"It's a long shot all right," said Ebreth. "Slaver captains are pretty autonomous, so anything's possible, I guess, but there's no one I know of who would have stopped to abduct a woman on the beach. Profit-risk ratio too low. It's more likely some local criminals killed her. I mean--" He looked at her. "I'm sorry," he said.
"It's okay," she said, "but if, just if. If it was slavers. Could you-- find her?"
"Khyrisse," he said gently, "if it was she's long dead. Elves don't do well in captivity. I've never seen a fullblood last longer than a month or two." She stared at him with uncontained horror, and he put his head in his hands. "You asked!"
"I did. I did. I'm sorry."

Character(s): Khyrisse, one shocked rhopalocerienne
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Retracing a Road to Ruin
Title of Post: I Don't Think She'll Mention That To Derek...

Khyrisse stared into space, wide-eyed. Mechanically, absentmindedly, her right hand rose to rub at her left wrist through the sleeve. The brand on it was still faintly visible when her stoneskin was removed, symbols marching across her skin in alabaster tracery, "3716E/F".
"I'm suddenly even more glad the Arena is a cratered pile of rubble," she murmured. "Remind me to tell Luthien that when he isn't a lich lord anymore."

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Latecomers
Title of Post: A Question For Khyrisse

Garal said goodbye to the Rat Pack in small groups. He saved the last one for the Goddess of Trade.
"And I do intend to rejoin you." He hesitated. He had a risky plan in mind, but didn't want to worry his friend. "Jack told me I can find the Rat Pack through his family."
Khyrisse knew he wasn't saying something, but chose not to press. "Be careful. We'd miss you if you didn't come back."
Garal grimaced. "One last thing, can you or someone else here teleport Nora and me to Riklandir? I could get us there myself, but with the current state the interplanar regions are in it would take at least three days."

Character(s): Khyrisse, short one blue stone
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: Skeins of Fate: Latecomers
Title of Post: Sorry, Try the Next Window-- What? It's Closed?

Khyrisse blinked at Garal for a second, and then she laughed, briefly but hard. It wasn't laughter aimed at Garal-- it was more like he'd triggered an inside joke without knowing about it. "Ahem. Sorry, long story... I have the spell of teleportation, but it's impossible to use. You're talking to the wrong deity, I'm afraid. You need Warp to teleport. Trade Gates were a way around that, but they attract the wrong kind of people to the neighborhood," she explained, her mouth twisting a bit on this last. "That's why I created the Trade Carriage in the first place. I can cast a phantom coach for you, though-- a sort of spell version of the Trade Carriage. It'll disappear in eighteen hours, and it's not as fast, but it'll get you to anywhere in Riklandir."

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Prologue
Title of Post: Arrival

The Trade Carriage zipped along the water, speeding past an ironside frigate and veering just south of Port Royal. Jack sat atop with Khyrisse, directing her flawlessly towards Paris Island, ancestral home of the Paris Family.
"Two-point-seven-nine degrees more south," Jack said.
Khyrisse just veered.
Finally, off in the distance, a lush forested island appeared. Jack grinned.
"Land ho!" he cried.
"I'm sitting right next to you, Jack," Khyrisse said smiling.
Skitch stuck his head out of the side window. "Hey, are we almost there? Marty just threw up in here."
Khyrisse winced and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Almost there, my little Skitch," she said.
"I'm... uh... sure one of the maids can clean that up," Jack offered.
"The carriage resets when it disappears. Don't worry about it."
"Oh. Okay."
The carriage approached Paris Island, slowing down as it approached. The island wasn't very large, perhaps only three or four acres, but the beach was inviting, the water was clear, and the white stone mansion was incredibly beautiful, almost like a cathedral. Jutting out from the beach was a long pier, at the end of which stood a short figure with a wisp of smoke trailing from its mouth.
"There... pull up there!" Jack cried.
Khyrisse brought the carriage around and it skidded to a halt inches from the side of the pier, the door at just the height of the wooden planks.
Jack jumped off the driver's board and snapped off a quick salute to the donkey who stood on the pier.
"We're here, Uncle Asinus!"
"Took ya long enough," the donkey puffed.
"We're early!" Jack said, looking hurt.
"By my watch," Asinus said, tilting one of his front hooves at a strange angle, "you're a week and a half late."
Marty had rushed out of the carriage and was vomiting over the edge of the pier.
"He's seasick," Ebreth said, following him out.
"Tor. See you're doing better," Asinus growled.
"I guess," Ebreth said.
"Asinus," Khyrisse nodded politely.
"Hey, sweetcakes," Asinus grinned. "Couldn't do without donkey love a minute longer? Lemme show you my room."
"Why don't you just show us to the patio," Jack said. "Everyone needs to meet Uncle Caimen and Aunt Lora." Jack helped Valende out of the carriage. He smiled when he saw how beautiful she looked in the long cream-colored dress with the feathery green embroidery. Jack knew she had dressed up for his family, but he couldn't help being breathless himself.
Asinus huffed and started down the pier. "Walk this way," he said, and began to canter strangely.
Jack shrugged at Khyrisse and followed.
From out of the tremendous house, three figures came walking to meet them on the long wooden patio that overlooked the beach. The leader was a woman who appeared to be in her early forties, dressed in a simple blue dress that offset her eyes. Next to her walked a tall man, grey only beginning to spot his dark red hair and beard. He grinned as the Rat Pack approached. The third man was also thin, but in a much less healthy looking way. His skin was slightly grey, and his hair was shocking white. His expression was inviting, though he seemed somehow sad. "Jack!" the woman cried, and ran forward to embrace him.
"Aunt Lora!" Jack said. "I'm so glad to be back!"
"You'd better be," Caimen smiled. "It's certainly been long enough. Last time you were here you were getting ready to overthrow Shikintu or something... that was when?"
"Three years ago, Mr. Paris," Cori offered.
"Cori, good to see you again," Lora smiled. Her eyes then fell upon the elven woman next to Jack.
"Oh, my... you must be Valende!"
Valende knelt and curtsied. "Missus Paris," she said.
"Oh, please!" Lora cried. "Call me Lora, dear... I've heard so much about you, but none of it did you justice. We're so glad to have you here." Lora hugged Valende, who was taken aback only for a moment before returning the embrace.
"This is Khyrisse Starshadow," Asinus continued. "She's the leader who doesn't lose half the team."
"A pleasure," Caimen said, shaking her hand firmly. "Are you the same Starshadow who ran the Palabra route in the Nylevian Sea?"
Khyrisse smiled. "I am."
"Caimen Paris," Caimen introduced. "And my wife Lora. She's been dying to meet you. Something about too many men in the house who didn't know a gold crown from a cheesy poof."
"Ey, you!" Lora said, elbowing Caimen. "We've got to talk, dear... I've got all sorts of ideas."
"Ideas?" Khyrisse asked, but Lora had already moved on to hugging Cori.
"Rauvin Paris," Rauvin said, introducing himself to Valende. "One of Jack's uncles."
"I didn't expect you here, Uncle Rauvin," Jack said.
"Neither did I... but I was able to escape from the Remnant, and..."
"No business until lunch tomorrow!" Lora scolded Rauvin. These people need to rest and recuperate!"
"Um, and this is my friend, Ebreth Tor," Jack said, trying his best to sound confident and assured.
"We heard," Caimen said, frowning.
"He's not the same person, Uncle Caimen. He..."
"Don't, Jack," Ebreth said.
"He's my friend and my guest," Jack said. "He's here to help."
"Then welcome," Lora said, but made no motion towards him.
"Whoa," Marty said, finally catching up. "There are big fish in that ocean!"
"Ebreth's apprentice, Marty," Khyrisse offered.
"Apprentice in what?" Caimen growled.
"Satori, actually. He mistook a coma for inner peace."
"And who is this?" Lora asked, kneeling down to Skitch's level.
"This is Skitch," Skitch said. "I'm her apprentice!"
"We need all the help we can get," Caimen said, slapping Skitch on the back. "Good to have you, sir."
Skitch beamed.
"Well, I expected more, so I hope you're all hungry!" Lora said. "Dinner will be ready in two hours, and I've got rooms all ready for you if you want to get off your feet or have a hot bath first."
"That sounds blissful," Khyrisse said.
"What's for dinner?" Jack asked.
"Broasted capon au Rauvin, Montasi rice, scallopped potatoes, a wonderful new walnut cheese dip--"
"Okay! Okay! Silly of me to ask!" Jack grinned.
Marty just drooled. "Real... food..."
"Well, let's come inside," Lora said. "It's getting dark out. We've planned a lunch for tomorrow to talk business, so take tonight to come down from all the stress."
"You can't know how wonderful that sounds," Khyrisse said.
"Well, your rooms are in the west wing... I didn't want to be presumptuous, so you each have one for yourselves, but feel free to move around if it makes you more comfortable."
"Thank you, Lora," Val smiled and kissed their hostess on the cheek.
"Can we jump on the beds?" Skitch asked.
"Skitch, shh!" Khyrisse said.
"I went into market for a strong mattress," Caimen said. "You'd damn well better jump on it."
"This is the nicest place in the world," Skitch said.
"I certainly think so," Jack smiled.
The Rat Pack entered the Paris estate.

Character(s): Ebreth and Khyrisse
Author: Laura Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Sturm Und Strang

"How could it not be tense," sighed Ebreth. "He killed their child, Khyrisse. People don't forget that. It doesn't help that he was, ah, kind of a devious man. How far would you trust Tremontagne if he showed up claiming to be someone else?"
She winced. "Um. I probably wouldn't even do as well as the Parises. I--had to trust his word on something, recently, and it was the second-hardest thing I've ever done."

"I'm not expecting them to like me here. Cool professionalism suits me fine." He paused. "What was the hardest thing?"
"I, had to destroy Trade," she mumbled, "because it was attracting Shadow to Ataniel."
"Tough few months, huh," said Ebreth softly, and touched her cheek.
She leaned into his touch like she'd been starving for it, her eyes half-closed. "Most people don't have a phantom limb the size of a city," she said, with a puff of a sigh, "but it's been a difficult time for us all, I think."
"Getting better," said Ebreth. Her smile was such a welcome sight he declined to tell her things could hardly be getting much worse.

Character(s): Rat Pack
Author: Douglass Barre and Laura Redish
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris
Title of Post: Rooms

Jack stood outside the wooden door for a moment, just taking in the familiar feeling of entrance. Then, smiling, he pushed it open to the room he grew up in.
"Well, uh, this is it," Jack said to Val, stepping aside to let her enter.
The room was cozy and the walls were covered with bookshelves. A wide range of books covered them, ranging from archaic tracts on higher mathematics to a small stash of paperback romances hidden poorly behind a Winnie the Pooh bookend. A desk took up the window side of the room, and it was covered with an anomalously messy stack of papers, notes and cocktail napkins, all with mathematical scrawlings on them.
"Is this your desk?" Val asked. "I figured it'd be... neater."
"Um, well," Jack said, scuffing his feet, "that's kind of the way Robinson taught me to think math. It's a spread-out kind of thing."
"What's this?" Val asked, holding up a plush ball with three strange appendages sticking off of it.
Jack thought a minute of how to describe it without totally embarrassing himself, but finding no way, finally admitted, "That's Woobie."
"Woobie?" Val asked in disbelief.
"It's a stuffed model of a carbon molecule," Jack admitted. "Lora made it for me when I was a kid. I called it Woobie."
"Woobie," Val tried to say without busting out laughing.
"I was two months old! How would I know?" Jack demanded.
"Woobie," Val said, trying to picture Jack snuggled in bed with the dreadful thing.
"Can we move on here?" Jack asked.

***


Ebreth paused a moment outside his room as well, but from trepidation rather than embarrassment. Finally steeling himself, he pushed the door open. Nothing jumped out. Good so far.
He looked around slowly, but the room seemed to be simply nondescript and utilitarian. Bed, table, lamp, basin. No extraneous decor of any kind. "No horse's head," he said, patting the bed. "Good enough."

***


Skitch's room was next to Khyrisse's, with a door between the two that locked from either side. The bed was, as promised, bouncably taut. He pushed open the closet door curiously. He was amazed to see the variety of tunics, shirts, trousers and shoes laid out, all apparently his size.
These people must have money to burn, he thought.
It was the book sitting on the bedside table that really excited him the most. "A Primer of Basic Human Behavior," the title read.
"How do they know all this stuff?" Skitch asked himself.
"We listen to what people say," Asinus said from the door. He puffed his cigar and continued on down the hallway.
"Sweet," sighed Skitch, jumping up onto the bed to try it out.

***


Cori blew slowly into the shakahachi and listened to the resonant tones. The instrument hadn't been broken in, but it was technically flawless. She thought back to the duets that Caimen and she had played late into the night during her last visit. Happier times.
The Shikinti screens that lined the walls reflected the light of the shadow lamp to fill the room with a low light to match the mournful tones of her song. Bonsai trees were planted in small pots on simple pedestals that separated the sleeping mats from the patio zen garden that the Parises had installed last time.
One of the moons shone in from the window, the first sign of the coming night.
"This is getting really depressing," Cori said. "I wonder what Ebreth is doing before dinner."
She grabbed a bottle of Shikinti blue and wandered off to find out, leaving the memories in their shrine.

***


As she wandered down the hallway, looking around, she found Marty struggling with the handle to his room.
"I'm, uh, locked out," he said.
"Turn. Don't lift." Cori reached over and opened the door.
"Whoa. Are you, like, a thief?"
"No, I'm a samurai, with ancestral ninja skills."
"So... you're a thief?"
"Yes. Yes, I am," Cori said.
As she wandered away, Marty turned to his room.
The door had shut again.
"Serenity now," he muttered to himself as he resumed trying to open the strange handles that simply had to be some sort of test.

***


The wooden box was huge, but lined with warm, furry carpeting. There was a small glass ball in the middle that seemed to give off some heat, too. The rat pulled a tuft of straw from the small bale in the corner and started a nest next to it.
That was when he smelled the cheeses.
A world of cheeses, deliciously made for him. One entire wall, cool in the way that the glass was warm, was covered with small little shelves of different cheeses... more kinds than the rat had ever smelt in its entire ratty life.
So much cheese, so little time.

***


"Woobie?" Val asked.
"Next," Jack said.

***


And Khyrisse, when she opened her door, had her breath taken away...

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