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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Skeins of Fate, Part V

Character(s):: Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: The Sounds of Silence

"She was certain you would have the answer," Hronmir said, his voice low as always.
"She's not certain of much anymore," Flicker said.
Hronmir nodded. "I'm still trapped, then."
"We all are," Flicker said, "by one thing or another."

Norna watched as the crystal tear soaked into her porcelain skin. Messala didn't understand, at least, not the importance of all this. His were mortal concerns. At least, as mortal as a Deathless could be. Still, despite the Sunfighter curse, Messala himself was still mortal. A slow smile came to Norn's lips, banishing the despairing frown that had been there. Striding purposefully, she went to the weaving room, locating the skein she needed.
She began with Messala's birth.


Character(s):: Ariath
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Why We Really Love The Storyboard

Ariath's eyes perked up watching Vas and Ebreth clunk their way around the room. Khyri, in her bedsheet, had already hooked Ebreth. The pirate (if that's what he was) was thoroughly enchanted, even though it looked like he thought he knew what he was doing.
"So, Vas, are you still mad at me?" Ariath looked forlornly at the elf.
"As mad as anyone can be at a beautiful woman wearing only a bathtub."
"Which is to say?"
"Not at all, of course."
If Ariath had been any less perceptive, she might not have noticed the dove slowly pushing its way in through the slightly-ajar hotel door. If she had been any more drunk, she might not have noticed the drop-of-blood eyes. If she hadn't been nibbling on Vas' neck, she might not have been in position to see the dove fly at Khyrisse's bare back, its feet like talons, beginning to glow. "Shit!" she shouted, and two small bullets of light flew from her hands, weaving around Ebreth and the chandelier to strike the dove instants before it could touch Khyrisse.
"Fire in the hole!" Ebreth cried, shielding Khyrisse with his body.
The magic missiles hit the dove, igniting its body with a strange mystical fire. It turned to Ariath with its blood-drop eyes, and a voice like the underworld spoke to her. "You shall be next, woman."
The dove crashed through the window and into the night.
"Oh, fuck," Ariath said. "And we were trying to feed it."
"Are you all right?" Ebreth asked Khyrisse.
Khyrisse was looking half-drunkenly, half-thankfully at Ariath. "You really are a mage, aren't you?"

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: The Morning After
Title of Post:: Of all the rotten luck

Well, that had certainly killed the mood.
Ebreth had never liked birds.

***
Khyrisse staggered downstairs, pretty well hung over. Ariath, Vas, and Ebreth were already down, drinking coffee; Val and Jack, she noticed, were not. The guy with goat's feet was tied up in the chair next to Ariath. Pieret was chatting with the Diarian, and Skitch was slumped across one of the tables. Behind him, the wall of the inn was scrawled with four-letter words. "Skitch!"
"Please don't shout," he begged.
She stared at him. "Have you been drinking?"
"Uh," he said, "well, you were..."
"And writing on the wall of the--" Khyrisse tried to give the very thin-lipped innkeeper some money. He shook his head shortly. "It's no problem," he said, through his teeth.
"I didn't do it," said Skitch. "He did it."
"The Skitch teaches me to write his language," said Tarrin, proudly, and then, worry flashing quickly over his face, "kiljhac way, of course, not from his mind. How do you say? I won't make the same mistake twice."
"And why should you," said Ebreth, "when there's so many new ones to make?" His blue eyes twinkled, and he offered Khyrisse some coffee. "Good morning, Khyrisse. What are we going to do today? So far our enemies list has got Of-No-Matter, an undead thing, an unknown bomber, some assassins trying to kill Mr. Graffiti, the Valkyrie, and the psycho dove. And Goatboy here, but he hasn't been opening up to Ariath all that much. Unfortunately, everyone else on the list is either really powerful, unknown, or both. So we've kind of been wondering where to start. Any ideas?"


Character(s):: Norna
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Norna needs a search algorithm

Norna had already found Eren Messala's death, and she was not too preoccupied to smile. Serves the bastard right. She didn't know why she was continuing to look; idleness, procrastination probably, a few moments away from her problems, the reassuring mastery of her art. She had followed the link across skeins without thinking about it, more because she could than for any other reason, and this other chap seemed to have a long and primarily boring life ahead of him, so Norna was steeling herself to log off and get some real work done when she happened to notice the death of Timrin Dalliar.
Norna took a very deep breath and put her finger on the knot. The hell with Ragnarokkr. This was even better.
Needle in a haystack, indeed. Norna considered giving Messala to that Of-No-Matter jerk but decided against it. A prophecy was a prophecy, after all.
She had a starting point. Unfortunately, it was twenty-five years after the divergence it had contributed to. The number of skeins that could have connected to it in that amount of time were more than the Valkyrie could search by hand in three years, much less three weeks. Finding the right one would be a miracle. And Norna was not follower of fates only to believe, like a foolish child, that a second chance implied a third.
If Messala's knot was less far in the future, she might have a better chance at tracing that. It could still be worth it to try and find it. She buried her fingers in her sheafs of blond hair to try to stop the obsessive music from breaking through. Norna didn't really believe it would make a difference. If she could only find a way to trace the Lich Lord back to the skein she needed.
"You're going to help me, Eren Messala," she said, "one way or another."

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch, and Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Old Age and Skill Can Always Overcome Youth and Treachery

Khyrisse sighed blissfully and leaned into Ebreth's soothing hands. "A relaxed mind. I can only imagine," she murmured, laughing a little. Her eyes opened lazily; for a moment, it seemed as if there were an aching, empty distance behind the violet of her gaze, before her lashes drifted back downward.

***
She momentarily shelved the matter of Skitch and his tendencies toward vandalism. Her head was still pounding, but she wasn't sure if it was a hangover or the remnants of the Diarian's mental invasion. Ugh. Next time I'm sticking with hard liquor, if this ISN'T his doing-- and I don't think it is. I'd forgotten how much wine hangovers SUCK. Khyrisse accepted coffee gratefully. "Good morning, Ebreth," she said with a smile. Dumping a scandalous amount of sugar into her drink, she gulped it down, perusing the wall behind Skitch and Skitch's guilty face over the rim of her mug. Finally she set the mug on the table, gasping slightly for air. She felt better already. "Excuse me a moment," she said, and pounced on Skitch, mussing his hair, knuckling his head mercilessly. Skitch yelped, laughed and fell over, taking Khyrisse with him. "AUGH! No! No noogies!! AAUUUGH!" Once he was howling with laughter from a mixture of thumps on the head and tickling, she let him go and got up, rumpled and grinning. "Remind me to sell you to the gypsies. Little brat. Grendel only knows what you told him." Khyri poured herself more coffee and sat next to Ebreth. "I think," she said calmly, with only the twinkle in her eye and her mussed hair to say that she had just been wrestling on the floor with her apprentice, "I'd like to talk to a native of Rumi today. It can't possibly be a coincidence that undead things, bombs, assassins, and supposed priests of Lucifer are swarming the place. Not to mention the little mob problem they seem to have." She paused for a moment, looking at the sullen, nervous face of the innkeeper. "You know, if this was a normal town before we got here, I'm going to feel terrible."
"Wouldn't be the first time you've done it, either," Pieret said into his coffee cup, grinning.
"What?! Shut up, Pieret!" Khyrisse threw a breakfast roll at his head.


Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, massage therapist
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Isn't it ironic

Khyrisse sat next to him rather casually. Ebreth Tor found himself in the very strange situation of being easily practiced enough to tell when a woman was attracted to him despite herself and at the same time naive enough to think it was really cool. He felt like an idiot, but luckily all his grins looked the same. "They weren't really priests of Lucifer," he said. "Or if they were, it's pretty ironic. I made that up to try and scatter the crowd. They were just some guys who wanted to kill our hapless Diari friend. Hoofer here claims he never met them before."

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Some of Us Take Our Time

Jack opened his eyes from his evening meditation. He didn't sleep unless he really needed to. He preferred to keep things contiguous. The chaos upstairs had forced him to postpone his dinner with Valende to the next evening. The two of them had been mopping up, binding their prisoner, and otherwise taking care of the business that the inebriated sex maniacs had been avoiding the night before. A quick walk under the stars of Rumi had been all they had time for. Jack smiled. Somehow, despite the speed of the others, that was enough. He sat up and pulled his tunic on. It was fresh and clean. He peeked in his satchel. The rat was still asleep. "You and me, buddy," he said to the rat.
Downstairs, there were a lot of bleary eyes and a heck of a lot of graffiti. Jack figured it was better not to ask. The prisoner was still tied to the chair. Valende seemed to be pretty good with knots. "So," he said, faking a morning yawn, "what's on the agenda today? Interrogation, maybe a few more mobs? I think I figured out what the rat wanted."
"He probably wanted to sleep some more," Khyrisse grumbled.
"Huh? No, I meant with the math stuff."
Val shot Vas a look that Jack was finding familiar, but still hadn't quite translated.
"Tell us the Rat Gospel, Paris," Ebreth Tor said, looking better for the wear.
"Things are building. Exponentially. There's a, uh, force... or a convergence of some sort. It's coming up. I think it has to do with that undead thingie that hit Val with the fear spell and marked some of the rest of you."
"Duh," Tor muttered.
"And," Jack said, ignoring him. "It's no longer in Rumi. We're on a path. It's synchronistic. It started at Lianth, hit again in Rumi. I took some time last night and figured out where we need to go next."
"Where?" Val asked.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Khyrisse muttered.
Jack waited a moment for full effect. "We need to take the Rat to Rimbor City."
"Oh, this just gets better and better, doesn't it?"

***
Marzoom felt it too.
The wave of necromantic power washing over Ataniel passed through his citadel.
"It is happening... again..." he whispered.
There were no longer any gods to refute him.


Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, prophet
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Take Me Down to Rimbor City

"Rimbor City." Ebreth Tor sighed. "Well, I can't say I'll be sorry to leave this stupid town or anything in it behind. I've never seen so many assassins per square yard. But then I've, uh, never been to Rimbor City." He rubbed his neck. "I have a feeling, though," he said, "that we won't be chased by any mobs there, anyway."

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Where You Get Sent When You've Been Bad In Hell

Khyrisse buried her head in her folded arms. Her forehead hit the tabletop with a muted thump. "I should have stayed in the tub. I played Existential Yo-Yo five times in that damned city. I hate Rimbor." Her shoulders shook with a deep sigh.
"It's also occupied by Cynystra," Pieret said, face twisted in a wry smile. "You and I might see that mob, after all."
Khyrisse snorted in disgust. "Great. What next, Duke St. Augustine?"
Pieret paused for a moment. Ariath narrowed her eyes and glared suspiciously at him. "Let's hope not, shall we?" he finally said, and finished his coffee.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Ariath
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Oh, You Got Trouble, Right Here In Rimbor City

Jack turned to the man with the illusionary hooves, tied to the chair. "So, friend, what can we expect waiting for us in Rimbor City?"
The man frowned. "I don't know what yer talkin' about, buddy," he said.
"Let's look at the facts, 'buddy'," Jack said, starting to pace. "You show up in Rumi with a stupid Luciferian disguise. You incite a crowd to riot, trying to kill this Diarian chap. You're psionically inaccessible, your rope was unaffected by Diari magicks, and last night, you exerted five hundred and fifty-two pounds of pressure per square inch on your ropes, if I can judge accurately by the marks on the chair and the ground. I'd say you know what I'm talking about."
"Damn," muttered Valende, "good thing I used his ropes to tie him up."
The man with the hooves grinned a malevolent grin. "I came to kill the Diarian. If he leaves this town, then..."
"The world will end?" Khyrisse asked, fearing the answer.
"No, mortal. But Hell will."
"I hate prophecy."
"But I can't just stay here," the Diarian said. "I have a mission!"
"Don't worry, sir, we'll get you out of here perfectly safely," Jack said reassuringly.
"Thank you," the Diarian said, relaxing. "You're a real wiener, Jack."
"I'll, uh, take that in the spirit in which I'm sure you intend it."
Valende could barely contain her laughter.
"Hell, huh?" Ariath asked. "Tell me more, goat boy."


Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Bear with me, I've never saved the world before

"Gee," said Ebreth. "We'd nuke Hell? What a shame." He looked at Khyrisse. "Why, exactly, is this a problem?"

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Ariath
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Just For The Hell Of It

The hooved figure smiled a horrible ripped-slit of a smile. "Because then there would be a lot more than twelve damned souls walking the world, mortal."
"Wait a second," Jack said, shaking his head confusedly, "did you say twelve damned souls were walking the world?"
Pieret, Ariath and Ebreth looked from one to another.
"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe," Khyrisse said. "This is going to be fun."

Character(s):: Candi, Bambi
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: A Spoonful of Sugar Helps The Medicine Go Down

"Okay, so we missed the Rumi Morale Convention," Bambi said, looking at the map loaned to them by Kevin. "At least we'll be in ample time for the Miss Dalencia competition!"
"But I got this swimsuit just for Rumi," Candi pouted.
"Well, wear it in Dalencia!"
"Wow! What a great idea! You are sooo smart, Bambi."
There was a knock on the Mithril Dagger door.
"C'mon in, we're open!" Kevin shouted.
Janther Moria walked into the bar.
"I need to borrow a cup of sugar," he said, melodiously yet emotionlessly.
"Uh..." Kevin started.
"Hi, Janther!" Candi beamed.
"Hi, Janther!" Bambi grinned.
"I need to borrow a cup of sugar," Janther repeated.
"Aren't you dead?" Kevin asked. "Twice, I recall."
"Oh, gawd, Kevin, how rude!"
"Yeah! People come back from the dead all the time! You don't have to be mean about it!"
"I need to borrow a cup of sugar," Janther said.
"Give him some sugar, Kevin!"
"Pleeeease, Kevin?"
Kevin, his eyes never leaving Janther, got a cup of sugar from under the bar.
"Thank you very much, Kayla," Janther said.
"Kevin," Kevin corrected.
Janther smiled vacuously and walked out of the bar.
"So, did we pretend good, Kevin?"
"What?" the bartender asked.
"We pretended to be stupid so that Janther wouldn't think we were on to him!" Candi grinned.
"Yeah! And you almost gave us away!"
"Now we can go and follow him!"
"See who he really is!"
"See if he's seen Max lately!"
"Candi! We promised!"
"Sorry, Bambi. No Max until we're both great heroes."
"Well, we're off to adventure, Kevvie!"
"See ya!"
Candi and Bambi bounded out of the door.
Kevin turned to the figure sitting at the corner table, who had watched the whole thing.
"Hey, can you do me a favor and watch those two? I've got a bad feeling about this."

Character(s):: Luthien and Co.
Author:: Evan Haag
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: Death Becomes Him

Luthien looked up from the dark corner of the Dagger as the figure of Janther Moria walked in. He blinked once, not believing his eyes, and stayed silent. He had been trying to avoid the attentions of Candi and Bambi, and was succeeding quite nicely. He hoped that 'Janther' would be as easily avoided.
As 'Janther' talked to Kevin and the girls, Luthien watched carefully. He noticed immediately that the figure's motions and mannerisms were stiff and uncomfortable, and that the telltale personal magnetism that had made him so likable before was gone. The figure was physically identical to the late Janther Moria, but was empty inside. Luthien ground his teeth together in rage, as the possible implications of this deception started forming in his mind.
'Janther' left after only a few moments, leaving Candi and Bambi at the bar babbling about their part in the conversation and their little quest to become heroes "for Max". They left soon after, as well, and Kevin turned to him, asking, "Hey, can you do me a favor and watch those two? I've got a bad feeling about this."
Luthien got up and went to the bar. "You've got a bad feeling about this?! Janther was one of my best friends. If someone is trying to use his reputation, or even worse, his spirit or body, for something, I'm going to put an end to it." He shook his head slowly, with an annoyed and intense look on his face. "You say that I only missed Khyrisse by a few hours?"
Kevin nodded, adding, "Yeah, she and Flicker and that Paris guy went out of here chasing after that rat. Gotta tell ya, I've seen some weird stuff here at the Dagger, but the whole rat thing really takes the cake. It took me a half an hour to calm Ubert down enough for him to start cooking again. Oh, and Val and Vas left with her, too. I think you should know that Val was kind of shaky when she came in. I think you might want to talk to her sometime soon."
Luthien nodded, knowing full well what had happened. "I will, when she's ready. For now, I think I'd better pay more attention to the problem with Janther and the twins."
At that point, a young man came down the stairs, yawning. He was dressed in the grey traveling garb of a priest of Arawn, and had a curious medallion around his neck. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes, and went over to Luthien and Kevin. "Good morning everyone, I hope I haven't been keeping you waiting. I just couldn't pull myself out of that dream; it was too fascinating. I was standing on a beach with a dead sturgeon, a blind prostitute, and a large inflatable..."
Luthien cut him off, silently wondering about his new apprentice's strange dreams. He has way too many of these weird dreams. It must be his diet. "We don't have time for a description, Berryn. I need you to go follow two girls who just left the bar; you can't miss them. Tell them that you overheard their quest to become heroes, and that you and your sister would like to join them, if you may. I'll follow in a few minutes as your 'sister'. You shouldn't have too much trouble distracting them; they have the collective attention span of a Rimbor City trash collector."
The young priest left as soon as Luthien stopped talking, and quickly turned in the direction the girls had been heading. Luthien turned back to Kevin, and said, "If anyone asks, I headed for the Trade Ruins without Khyrisse. I'll contact her myself and give her a quick rundown on what's happening here. If you see any other Sewer Tourists or Sway members, don't tell them anything unless you are damn sure that they are the real McCoys. That includes myself."
With a quick tug from his ring, Luthien's gear floated over to him from the corner. As it came over, Luth's hands flew through the somatic gestures of a polymorph, and he instantly turned into a lithe and slightly sleazy-looking half-elven woman. "If I come back to the bar..."

"Your name is Lissa, I got it." Kevin paused for a second, then continued. "Look, Lissa, I know you know what you're doing, but watch your ass. If someone is using Janther for something, there's probably little to stop them from using other heroes, like you or Praxis. It might even be a demon thing; Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time in this town."
'Lissa' grinned at Kevin. "Thanks for the warning, Kevin. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the girls, and keep them out of harm. After all, Max would never forgive me if I let them get hurt."

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