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The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Skeins of Fate, Part VI

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, skeptic
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Hell in a handbasket

Ebreth Tor looked entirely unconvinced. "Yeah?" he said. "So why Rumi, and why him? Why would some Diari guy leaving Rumi destroy Hell? This sounds like a load of crap. Now the rat seems to want this guy to come with us, and if I have to choose, I think I'd rather listen to a rat than some devil with no feet. You're going to have to do a little better than that. Even the Valkyrie gave us more good information than that."

Character(s):: Khyrisse
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Yeah, What He Said

"And she didn't even pay me," Khyrisse murmured, mouth twisting in an ironic fashion. Keeping her eyes off both Ariath and Pieret-- no sense giving "Goatboy" any information he didn't already have-- she added her own two cents to the questioning. "And why didn't you go looking for these lost souls, instead of trying get a town like Rumi to lynch an innocent Diari priest? This all seems a little unorganized for Lucifer's bunch. Even if," she added, with an innocent smile for their hooved captive, "He's no longer running things."

Character(s):: Flicker, Norna
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Never argue with a Valkyrie when you're tired

"I have located one of the factors that leads to the split I have spoken of," said Norna. She paused for a long dramatic moment. "The Lich Lord Luthien has come back from the future."
It got much more of a reaction than she would ever have expected. "Oh, dear God."
"Well," she said, "I see you finally are starting to realize this needs attention."
Flicker shook his head. "He's a friend."
"Great company you keep." She paused and frowned. "A friend. Do you know anything from his past that would have started him on that path?"
"No," said Flicker. "Everything I know would have predicted against it."
"Too much to hope for. Your usefulness is overrated, Ragnarokkr." She put her mighty fingers against each other. "I cannot follow skeins backward, and I do not have the command of temporal metaphysics that would let me make meaningful searches. I will spend two more days trying to find what we need to do, but then we are leaving with or without that information. You will help me, Eren Messala." Norna paused, trying to decide whether to threaten him first or offer him his True Death.
"Okay," said Flicker.
"Because if you don't," she said, "I will kill Jason."
"Norn," said Flicker, gently. "I said okay."
She blinked. "So you did. See that you don't forget that."
"What about Silent-Voice?"
"I still need him." She stood up and took him by the back of his shirt. "When I need you, I will let you know."

"Norn."
"What?"
"What if someone could help you make a meaningful search?"
"I have already considered kidnapping Hunter. It isn't feasible."
"Why do all your plans involve kidnapping people, Norn?"
She backhanded him into the wall. He was very light. "When I want your opinion I will ask you for it."
He put his hand over his bleeding mouth. "By the time people want advice," he said, "it's usually too late."

Character(s):: Berryn, CandiandBambi, & 'Lissa'
Author:: Evan Haag
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: Gee, It's Drafty In Here...

Berryn dashed out of the Mithril Dagger, turning his head frantically in an attempt to spot the two girls Luthien mentioned. He noticed them about a block away, apparently whispering to each other. Composing himself, he jogged over to them while putting together a reasonable story in his head. It wasn't easy, because the dream he had only just woken from was still fighting to be remembered. I still can't believe what the sturgeon wanted me to do with that inflatable...
As he got closer, he noticed that the pair was following a tall muscular gentleman, who was walking stiffly down the street. They were making a rather ridiculous attempt at shadowing him, which involved ducking behind walls and streetposts while whispering covertly to each other. At least, Berryn imagined it was supposed to be whispering; it was actually quite loud.
"Do you think he saw us?"
"'Course not, silly. We're sneaking up on him. How could he see us?"
"Sorry. I forgot. He seems awful...nice. Do you think maybe we should go talk to him? Then maybe we won't have to keep sneaking like this. I mean, it doesn't seem very heroic."
"Yeah, I know. I wonder if Maxikins ever snuck around in alleys like this. I just can't imagine him being so...well, so sneaky."
Maxikins? Arawn above, protect me from this fate. Berryn moved forward quickly, before the two girls could actually make a conscious decision to approach their quarry. As he neared, he could see that the two were now looking around with a confused look and a bit of a pout on their faces. Obviously, their brief distraction was more than enough to cause them to lose sight of the man they were following.
Berryn cleared his throat. "Excuse me, ladies. I was just in the Mithril Dagger, and I couldn't help but overhear you telling Kevin that you are adventurers. Am I correct?"
Candi and Bambi both jumped slightly when he spoke, a faint squeak of surprise coming from each of their mouths in unison. They looked at each other briefly, then turned back to him with identical vacuous grins. Candi spoke first, although Berryn couldn't tell them apart if he had a genetic map.
"Yeah, we are. I mean, sort of."
"Aw, c'mon Candi, we are. I mean, Max showed us all kinds of cool moves, and..."
"Yeah, that's true! And we know all kinds of adventurer stuff, like..."
"Like how to tie really good knots! Max said that was really useful, sometimes!"
"And we're really good with horses! So, like, who are you?"
Berryn looked at the two of them the whole time with a fake "wow-real-adventurers-that's- so-cool" smile on his face. As he opened his mouth to answer Candi's question, the other one cut him off.
"Ohmigod, we forgot to introduce ourselves! I am sooooo embarrassed! I'm like, Bambi, and this is my sister, Candi. With an I." She held her hand out in an exaggerated display of femininity, and her sister quickly followed suit.
Berryn paused for a few moments before regaining his mental composure. Getting his mind back into gear (images of black-tentacled lounge singers kept popping in for no reason), he replied. "You're Candi and Bambi? Wow, I've always wanted to meet you! Actually, I know a guy who knew Max a few years ago, and he's mentioned your names. This is so cool!" He bent forward and kissed each of their hands, causing each of them to giggle and
slightly blush. "The reason I was asking, actually, is that my sister and I have been looking for some people to adventure with, and you two looked like you would be really fun. I used to be a priest, and my sister knows a little about magic. We both figured a couple of ladies like yourselves could use some backup, so I ran out to try to catch you. Guess I got lucky." He grinned bashfully, trying to show the ladies that his unintended double-entendre was unintentional, even though it wasn't.
The girls both giggled at the entendre, not even noticing the grin. "Gee, I wouldn't say you 'got lucky'; I mean, you haven't bought us drinks or anything," Candi quipped, and then both of the girls started giggling all over again. After a few seconds, they calmed down enough to talk. "That's really cool. Asking to join us, I mean." Bambi said, trying to look professional and failing. "Actually, we're on a mission right now. We were following this guy..."
"Because he's dead." Candi added.
"Yah, because he's dead, so he shouldn't have been walking into Kevin's place. But he did, and so we're following him to see what's up. 'Cause he might be possessed or undead or something icky like that."
Berryn looked incredulous. "Possessed? Really? You gotta be joking!" Inwardly, he tried to calculate just how long he could act so stupidly. He hoped that Luthien would get there soon; he had a lot more experience with this sort of thing.
"No, really! We've seen it happen! Well, we've heard of it, anyway," Bambi replied.
"We got it from really good sources, though," Candi pointed out emphatically.
As they stood on the side of the street, Lissa came up towards them from the Dagger. She made sure she was ready, then spoke to Berryn as she got close enough. "Hey, bro, you caught them. That's great. Maybe now we won't have to advertise." She then turned to the twins, and said, "Hi, my name's Lissa, and this is my brother Berryn. We, ah, we heard you saying you were adventurers, and were wondering if you needed any help."
Candi nodded, "Yeah, your brother already told us."
Lissa waited for a few seconds for the rest of the reply. She realized after a while that neither of the girls realized that there was a question implied in her last statement, and she kicked herself mentally for using words with more than two syllables. "So, do you, like, need any help?"
Bambi caught on first. "Oh yeah, that would be really keen! 'Cause we don't know anything about magic or stuff like that, and he said that you were a mage or something. Can you really cast spells and stuff?"
Lissa cast a slightly peeved glance at Berryn, who shrugged defensively. "Yeah, I know a couple of spells. I don't know many that are that powerful though, so if you need someone like Luthien or Maxwell Silverhammer, you're out of luck."
Candi and Bambi both giggled at the mention of Max's name. Lissa just rolled her eyes, and hoped that she would be able to get the two of them out of this alive. Berryn decided to get things moving again, and spoke up. "Say, didn't you say you were following somebody? Maybe we can help you find him. I think I saw the guy you're talking about, heading around the corner over there." He gestured in the direction he had last seen the muscular gentleman. The girls both turned to look, and smiled at him again.
"Gee, thanks! Boy, maybe we should team up together!" Candi exclaimed.
"Yeah!" Bambi said, bouncing slightly. "I bet we could clean up Lianth in time for the next Miss Neporris festival!"
The four adventurers then headed off as a group, with the twins in back whispering excitedly about their shopping plans for various beauty contests. Lissa and Berryn stayed in front of them, and managed to spy 'Janther' just as he entered an abandoned building a block away.

Character(s):: Ariath, Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Dances With Goats

"I really don't know what a... what was the word... Diarian Doofus like me would have to do with kiljhac sin-gods." Tarrin asked.
"New prophecies," the goat-legged-man said. "Since the... Shattering... there has been a rush below to discern new prophecies to relate the new future of Ataniel. One of these centers around the Unhung Man and the Fall of Hell. You, obviously, are the Unhung Man."
"Well, we haven't examined Jack yet," Ariath tittered.
"Oh, yok it up," Jack came back lamely.
"It is a domino effect. Something that the Unhung Man will do after leaving The City of Mobs will cause the destruction of Hell and the freeing of the ten thousand most evil souls. This has been foretold in the blood of the Devil's Son."
"Flicker's probably better off not knowing all this," Khyrisse said.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: A burst of salience

Ebreth Tor bitch-slapped the hooved man in the back of the head. "You idiot!" he yelled. "You couldn't have been trying to kill him because he was the Unhung Man! He wasn't Unhung until you tried to kill him!"

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Jack Explains It All

"What we've got here," Jack said, shifting into a pedantic tone, "is what we call a prophetic tautology. Logically, in linear time, effect follows cause. However, with the advent of prophecy, we encounter paradox. Like in Macbeth."
"Urk!" Pieret gulped.
"Sorry... 'The Scottish Play'," Jack corrected, missing the point entirely. "Anyway," he continued, "a prophetic tautology occurs when a prophecy is self-fulfilling. Cause follows effect follows cause. My great uncle Shodoka Paris was a prophet, and he actually came up with the three laws of prophetic tautology."
"Which are?" Ebreth Tor asked.
"Too complicated to go into right now. Suffice it to say that whomever goatboy tried to hang would have turned out to be the Unhung Man."
"But why me?" Tarrin asked plaintively. "I did no wrong!"
"Lousy breath," Goat-boy said. "I asked you for directions and you had lousy breath."
"Regardless of preordination, however," Jack concluded, "it looks like Tarrin is it for now. The question is whether we heed the prophecy. I'm somewhat practiced on temporal metaphysics after my, uh, internship, and I'd be willing to bet that what we've got here is a protoprophecy, an extraplanar attempt at a future timeline that hinges on certain key temporal hardpoints. If we chronoestablish those, then the prophecy self-realizes and causes a temporal lock."
"What?" just about everyone asked.
"If we do the wrong things, then this future comes true."
"What else is new?" Khyrisse asked.
"Yeah," Ebreth Tor interjected. "That sounds like everyday life. Do the right thing or shit happens."
"Except in this case," Jack said, "that alternate future will be working to come true. Time will go that way by default. We will do the wrong things, because it's foreordained."
"My head hurts," Ariath muttered.
"So we're back where we started. Tarrin can't leave Rumi."
"Well, yes and no," Jack said.
"Jack, dear, can you just tell us what we need to do to stop this?" Valende asked.
"Oh, that's easy. We need to get a new prophecy."
"And where might we do that?"
Jack looked at the Rat. "My guess would be Rimbor City."
"There now, was that so hard?"


Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, pragmatist
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: The shortest distance between two points usually involves Khyrisse

Ebreth Tor did what he always did when people started saying things he wasn't smart enough to understand: he ignored it. "Rimbor City," he repeated, and grinned. "So how do we get there? Should we go down to the wharf and try to hitch a ride?"
"What about him?" said Tarrin, pointing at the man who had tried to hang him.
"Goatboy comes with us," said Tor, some hint of fear beneath the firmness of his statement.

Character(s):: Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: There Are Now...

Hronmir Silent-Voice looked out his prison windows on the fjords of Riklandir's eastern coast. Norna had taken Flicker some time ago, and Hronmir was again alone. Low and deep, he began to sing one of the battlesongs his father had taught him as a child. He found it comforting to remember his life, now that it was gone, replaced by a terrible servitude to a mad Valkyrie. All his fellow Aesir were gone now, killed in the battle that he was destined to fight, but missed. Even the rewards of Valhalla were denied him now; that hall lay empty in the Land of Balder. He paced the cell, continuing his song. Outside, he could almost hear his waraxe, Armbiter, resonate with the desire for battle. Hronmir paused. Perhaps there was still a way out. He had been thinking like a Viking warrior, but though he was still that, he was also now Aesir. Norna had imprisoned him, and committed him to her service, but she had not
expressly forbidden him to escape. Could he use his new abilities as an Aesir to do so?
The first thing he tried was strength. Alas, though Hronmir had been mighty as a man, as an Aesir, he was no stronger than before. Next, he tried to change his shape, like the berserkers of old. It was to no avail. Then he remembered the axe, singing along with him. He resumed the battlesong, putting all his warrior's heart into it. He could almost hear Armbiter singing along with him. "To me, my arm!" he cried, and the axe shot through the air, into Hronmir's hand.
From there, it was child's play to cleave the bars.
Hronmir looked down the hallway. He had nothing like Kja's sense for magic, but even Hronmir could perceive the wards that Norna had put upon the door leading out. Hronmir silently strode towards them. "I am Aesir," he whispered, "and none shall bar my way." With that, he took Armbiter and sliced through the invisible cords of magic. With a strong kick, the wooden door shattered, revealing a staircase going up. Hronmir climbed the stairs and walked into a kitchen. The smell of cooking meat was strong, and gourds of various sorts hung from the walls. Hronmir ignored the servants and strode to the window. Outside was clear white snow. Escape.
But Ragnarokkr is still here, a voice, as silent as his, reminded him. The voice was right, Hronmir could not desert such a hero. The cords of respect and honor bound him as much as any Valkyrie geas. He turned and strode out of the kitchen into the longhall.
There, his hopes were dashed. Norna was there.
Messala was there as well, engaged in some sort of argument with the Valkyrie. Hronmir envied him his freedom to resist. They both turned as Hronmir entered. "Ragnarokkr and I shall be leaving now, Norna," he said, barely audibly. He knew he had no hope against her power, but he had to try. He was Hronmir Silent-Voice, descended from the ancient overlords, Last of the Aesir.
He could do no less.


Character(s):: Bambi and Candi, master trackers
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Send in the Clones
Title of Post:: Too bad Kitty couldn't stick around

"Wow, Lissa, you've got, like, really pretty hair," said Candi.
"Yah, totally," said Bambi.
"Shouldn't we keep quiet if we're trying to, like, track someone?" said Lissa, and blinked as wiftily as possible.
"Waow, Lissa! You're so good at this!"
"How should we get that door open, Bambi?"
"I know! Let's knock and ask for a cup of sugar!"

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Circular Logic Is Self-Validating... Therefore, It Is Correct

Khyrisse frowned absently all through Jack's discussion of prophecy and paradox. Trying to think through a fading hangover was a real bitch. Temporal Metaphysics wasn't even her field. Wasn't the Art of the Deal bad enough? We get away from it and the first thing everyone does is start mucking about with prophecies and timestreams, dammit! She sighed and pushed herself upright, hands flat on the table as if she were tired. She stared down at her empty coffee cup, riding out a sudden wave of deja vu, and did not look up for several moments. The table would be surrounded by strangers; Schneider was miles away and in no state to discuss time paradoxes. No. Ebreth's voice brought her back to the present. "We do have to take Goatboy," Khyrisse said, getting a grip on herself. "We can't leave him here, and we can't kill him. Either way, he'd go back to Hell with too much information about us. I'll see what I can do about a containment spell, but for now we can keep him trussed up." She grinned mischievously at Ebreth. "As far as going down to the wharf goes, though, you're better off hitching a ride right here." She looked around, counting people. "Goatboy can be strapped to the roof. If he gets loose, I don't want him in the passenger compartment. I think we can fit everyone, though. Vas?"
Vas looked up. "Yes, Milady?" His eyes gleamed hopefully as she took the burgundy coachman's whip from her belt. She tossed it to him. "You get to drive the Carriage, Vas. Be careful, all right? I'll be sitting on the roof as well."
Vas bowed deeply. "I am far too overwhelmed by the honor to even contemplate any aerial antics, I assure you." A twinkle appeared in his eye, and he added, "This time."
Khyrisse smiled slightly. "Watch it." She glanced around again. "Everyone have their stuff? If I have to go to Rimbor City, I want to get it over with as soon as possible."
Vas extended his arm to Ariath. "Would you care to join me on the driver's seat, my naiad?"
Khyrisse rolled her eyes, with a faint blush and a wry smile. I wonder if there's an equally flattering term for "drunken elven mage in a bedsheet"...?

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: On the rocky road to Rimbor, one two three four five
Title of Post:: Hyperdrive

"Yee-hah!" yelled Ebreth, and held on for dear life.


Character(s):: Flicker, Norna, Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate/Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Memories

Norna screamed. Fenris. The music broke out like a calliope, mounting, and she clutched at her head. Ragnarokkr caught her. "Norn!" She breathed. No. No, it was only Hronmir. She took Messala by his throat and moved him to arm's length. "Don't you ever touch me again." She looked at Hronmir,
escaped and returning to what bound him. She fumbled for the music box and got it open. "You're right, Hronmir," she said. "You are both leaving. And I am going with you." The music box tinkled, steadily, and Norna's vision cleared. "I don't know how yet. But we are going to do what must be done. You missed the last call, my Chosen one." Her composure was back, and her voice as strong as steel. "Let us not miss this one."
"I serve," whispered Hronmir, heavily.
Ragnarokkr was looking at her very strangely. "Norn?"
"It is not your CONCERN, mortal."
"None of us are mortal," said Hronmir, hushed, with sorrow.
"We are all mortal," said Ragnarokkr.
"Neither of you matters," said Norna. She shut the music box.

***
Ebreth swung off the driver's board straight down to the ground, ignoring the step. He landed with careless grace and extended his arm up to Khyrisse. The wind had made a marvelous chaos of her hair. She looked somehow like Lita. The kid who had been trying to get one of the hubcaps off took one look at him and took off running. "Welcome to Rimbor City," he said, "scum center of Ataniel. I hope this rat isn't taking us to exponentially worse places, because after this we'd be going straight to Hell."
"I thought you'd never been here," said Ariath.
"Everyone's heard of Rimbor City."

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