Table of Contents
The Rat King Archives
Enemies Within, Part I
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: Okay, Who Gave Luthien My Cell-Phone Number...?
Khyrisse lashed herself to the roof by one
ankle and opened her spellbook. The Carriage picked up speed and lifted off the
ground at the end of the street. She suppressed a giggle as Ebreth yelled
gleefully. She felt the same way when she flew on this contraption. She grinned
at what she could see of his face from the roof.
Study! she told herself sternly. There's got to be a way in here
to imprison Goatboy, even if he's from Hell. She flipped through the pages of
her spellbook, holding them flat in spite of the wind.
She started violently as Luthien's calm,
deep voice suddenly filled her head.
"Just spotted 'Janther' in Dagger. Am following to discern
situation, will defuse if necessary. Keep an eye out for other
Tourists/Swayers. Might be phonies."
Bloody HELL. She felt the Sending spell's
energies spinning out behind her as the Carriage flew, the spell link waiting
for a reply, if there were to be one.
"Flicker kidnapped by Norn and Of-No-Matter," she sent back.
"Rumor of twelve souls escaping Hell, walking Ataniel. Have three
suspects..." here she sighed, "morality questionable. Heading to
Rimbor, will 'send' tomorrow."
She sighed again and closed her book.
There was no chance she'd absorb anything after that news. She faced into the
wind, determined to enjoy the rest of the ride. She wasn't likely to enjoy
anything once they got to Rimbor City.
Khyrisse hopped down from the Carriage,
hand pressing lightly on Ebreth's arm before she landed. (Barely a hundred
pounds, and that while wearing leather armor.) "Actually, I can think of
some worse places than Rimbor City, short of Hell." She paused for a
moment. "In a few instances, we may hit Hell first." Norn wasn't the
only person with music in her head. *insert Pimpf/Depeche Mode here* "So
why has the rat brought us here, Jack? You said something was increasing.
What's increasing? Does it know?" she asked as Jack disembarked.
of Post:: Waiting for the Rat
"Rimbor City is the epitome of rule
by the masses," Pieret disagreed. "Where there are no laws, there is
perfect democracy. Institutions are destroyed here if and only if enough of the
people get fed up with them. Rimbor City is a gedanken experiment in motion,
and it's a crying shame Cynystra's trying to rein it in."
"Cynystra," said Ebreth, and
waved his hand. "Given how little they say things have changed here since
Javert took over from Lucas, I'd say the chance of Cynystra effecting real
changes is pretty small."
Tarrin gasped as Khyrisse collapsed the
carriage again, as suddenly as she had unfolded it. "I smell like a monkey!"
he exclaimed, amazed.
Ebreth daydreamed idly about unwrapping
Khyrisse and waited for Jack to tell them the will of the Rat.
Jack Paris and Company
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Rimbor To Be Wild
Jack looked into his satchel.
"Uh, the rat seems to be, ah...
asleep." Jack paused. "He does that a lot, I think."
"Way to carry your weight,"
Daquatson, or "Dac" to his
friends, watched as the Trade Carriage pulled up and the motley crew clambered
out. Damn, thought Dac, those are some bitching wheels. What a joyride that'd
make. Dac grinned, ran a comb through his hair, and ambled forward. "Hey
there, welcome to Rimbor City! Daquatson, guide for hire, at your
Beliath had finally been able to find the
flaw in Lilith's bindings. The Intendant had been expecting a dead soul in
mortal flesh. Not a living soul. It had taken the near-destruction of the
Grayson Mer seeming, but Beliath was free.
And in Hell.
It wasn't one of Beliath's better days.
"Have you seen any, um, large
gatherings of rats around?" Jack asked Dac.
Ebreth Tor, tourist
of Post:: Custodians of the Rat
"Uh, sure!" lied Dac. "On
Hepburn Street, the rats gather in the moonlight every night and dance a
strange, uh, primordial rat dance, and--"
Ebreth sighed. Street kids. "How
about a good clean inn," he said, and tossed the kid a coin. It had
disappeared almost before it hit his palm. "One without undead things in
"No undead things. Right! You want
air conditioning or no air conditioning?"
Paris was giving the kid one of his cards.
That wasn't a bad idea, actually. If some drug kingpin needed his taxes faked
or something, the card would be sure to find its way there. "Base of
operations?" Ebreth suggested to Khyrisse. "Then when the rat wakes
up and takes us somewhere terrible, we'll have a place to return to."
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Fodor's Rimbor
"Well," Dac said, winding his
way coolly through the busy streets, "the nicest place you'll find around
here is the Augustine Arms, and it just happens that I know the owner. I'm sure
that he'll knock a few gold off the price, if you're up for it..."
Jack had enough experience with his family
to know a grifter when he saw him. Dac was planning on taking them for
something. His suggestion of the Arms was probably meant to sound suspicious
enough to resist, allowing the party to feel safe with Dac's second
suggestion... the one that Dac wanted for them.
"The Augustine Arms sounds great," Jack said.
"No it doesn't," Khyrisse
Ebreth Tor, sightseer
Rat Kings/Send In The Clones
of Post:: Things Noticed
Khyrisse hated to admit it, but Rimbor
City was turning out to be much more polite than Rumi. The people seemed almost
to melt away from them on the street; one man did bump into her once, but he
apologized, and when he moved hastily away nothing of hers seemed to be
Khyrisse was too busy worrying about the
possible Cynystran implications of this to pay it too much mind, but Jack, who
paid everything too much mind, couldn't help but notice that the man's
trajectory bent directly away from Ebreth Tor.
"And here on your left you see the
lovely naiad fountain," blathered Dac. He was obviously taking them the
long way round. Jack decided he was 23% likely to be trying to lead them into
trouble and 76% likely to be trying to coax Khyrisse into a tip. If there was
one thing Jack had learned being a Paris it was that there was always 1% you
couldn't account for.
"Look, Bambi, there's writing
on the building!"
"You're right, Candi! It says
"SWANK RECORPORATIONS". What's a recorporation?"
"I don't know, Bambi, but there must
be some pretty swank ones in there!"
"Wow! I sure wish I'd brought some
Jack Paris, Ariath
Rat Kings and Dead Villains
of Post:: Jack Tastes His Toes
When they finally arrived at the Augustine
Arms (after an unfortunate encounter with a crossing guard that was much too
banal to include in even the most anal retentive of memoirs), Jack took an
opportunity to maneuver Khyrisse aside while Tor and Dac made arrangements to
rent a suite of rooms. "You've had a slight list to the left for the last
forty minutes," Jack said. "Not to be, uh, too personal, but that
would indicate a likely chafing in your belt."
"Excuse me?" Khyrisse said,
"No, no, no..." Jack
backpedaled. "I think that it's a reaction to something having been
slipped into your belt. You might not have noticed yourself, but your left, uh,
hip was dipping to avoid it."
"I'm going to tell Val that you've
been looking at my hips, Jack."
Khyrisse took pity on the poor boy, and
looked in her belt. There was a folded piece of paper, just where Jack had
guessed it would be. Khyrisse opened it
and read. Jack peered over her shoulder. "If you want to know the truth
about your traveling companion, meet me in the place Patty died." The note
"Who's Patty?" Jack asked.
"None of your business,"
Khyrisse said gently.
"Well, if you, uh, want an
escort..." Jack said defensively. The last thing Jack wanted was someone
finding out the truth about him. If someone was going to blow the whistle on
his nature, he wanted to be there to do damage control.
"Jack, are you hitting on me?"
"NO!" Jack shouted, a little too
emphatically. Tor looked askance at him, and Khyrisse looked insulted.
Why couldn't this trip to Rimbor be like my
time here with my last team? Jack mused.
"Then don't even think of following
me," Khyrisse hissed in warning.
"I wasn't..." Jack stammered.
Yes, thought Ariath. But I was.
Flicker, Norna, Ebreth Tor
Skeins of Fate/Rat Kings
of Post:: Jack Misses Out On A Job Opportunity
The innkeeper turned from the wall he had
been cleaning to face the three Riklanders, very pale. "They've
left," he told Norna. "You--you didn't tell me to detain them--"
Norna turned furiously on Flicker. He
spread his hands. "Norn," he said, "if you had just discussed
this with us, we--"
"Just because it would be a waste of
my time to kill you," she said, through her teeth, "don't assume I
won't break every bone in your body if you play games with me."
"It was just a suggestion," he
said. "Look, I'm not a prophet. I'm not a temporal mechanic. Right now,
I'm a skier. I thought his skills might be more topical. You need a search
algorithm; he's looking for work. That's all there was to it, Norn. It was just
She looked at him. Her eyes were clear as
ice. "Let's hope your next idea is less unproductive," she said, low.
Ebreth returned jauntily from the ticket
counter. "Fourth floor," he said, and flipped Khyrisse a key.
"What's next, boss?"
Skeins of Fate
of Post:: Speak Softly and Carry A Big Lie
Hronmir stood silently behind Norn and
Flicker as they debated with the innkeeper. There was something wrong about
Rumi. Something... familiar?
He strode outside the inn, and saw a mob
hanging around outside, looking bored.
"There ain't anything to do, now that the damn foreigners are gone,
Wayne," one of the townsfolk said.
"Yep," replied his friend.
"Something ought to be done."
Hronmir had seen angry mobs before, but
never a bored one.
"Pardon me," he said to a young
boy at the edge of the mob. "What is this gathering?"
"This is the welcoming
committee," the boy said. "We're here to, uh..." he pulled on an
adult's sleeve. "Daddy, what are we here for again?"
"To kill the evil ones," his
father said. "To purify Rumi."
"Yeah. To putrefy Rumi," the boy
"Who told you this?" Hronmir
asked the father.
"The mayor... at the town meeting, a
week ago? Weren't you there?"
"I was... indisposed," Hronmir
avoided the question.
"The evil ones are coming to Rumi.
Rumi doesn't stand a chance unless we weed them out!"
Hronmir thought silently for a
moment. "There's a strange woman
come to town," he said. "I think she's harassing the innkeeper and a
townsperson named Messala. I think she's something..."
Hronmir spat the last word out.
That should give him and Flicker a chance
to do this mission right.
Skeins of Fate
of Post:: Fatal Flaw
Flicker's frustration with the Valkyrie
was starting to show in his voice. Let
me help you, damn it! He could tell how much of a toll this was taking on her,
but her approach to teamwork seemed to end with dragging people down whatever
course she had already decided to crash along, and Flicker had seen more
efficient management in the Abyss. No wonder the other Valkyrie couldn't work
with her. If you'd been in the Mithril Dagger with us my next host would be a
Shadowlord. "Norn," he said, patiently. "We won't get anywhere
"Are you threatening me," she
said, very softly.
"I'm prophesying." She hit him.
"You think I'm joking?"
"You," she said,
"will do exactly what I tell you to, Eren Messala."
The townsfolk came surging into the inn
then. "Demon!" yelled one of them. Flicker vaulted quickly over the
bar and sprang to the windowsill, throwing the shutters open; they didn't pursue
him, but swarmed around Norna. "Something ought to be done!" a man
shouted. "Demon woman!" screamed another. Norna, who had had the look
on her face that she was just dying to beat the crap out of someone all day,
turned slowly to face them. Somebody threw a rock at her and she drew her
two-handed sword in a deliberate, slow streak of steel. "Norn!"
shouted Flicker, from the window. "Let's go, they don't matter!"
Her blade bit through the first man like a
hot knife through butter. The innkeeper slammed the cellar door and Flicker
could hear him throw the bolt from here. "Norn!" he shouted. She
ignored him. Then someone grabbed him from behind and pulled him through the
window. It was Silent-Voice. "We must hurry," he said, like the wind
"She'll kill them," said
Flicker. "I can't just let her kill them." He started back for the
window and hesitated, looking at the broken Aesir. "You go," he said.
"I'll cover you. Go find help. I'm not bound to her.
I'll be all right." He stood between
the shutters. She was going to follow him. "NORNA FRIGGSDATTER!" he
shouted, as loud as he could. "We have work to do!" She was a white
fury, fluid death, and she did not answer him. Flicker took a very deep breath
and put an arrow in her back.
Norna seized up violently.
"Hodur!" she screamed, wood between her shoulder blades. The room
tilted dizzily, repeating. No. The swirling coalesced. She turned on him,
standing backlit in the window. No, it was Eren Messala.
Flicker started backing away, almost
tripping over the uneven cobbles. He slung his bow over his shoulder and then,
for the first time since he was a teenager, Flicker ran like his life depended
Khyrisse, Skitch, and a Surprise Guest
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I./To An Inconstant Mistress
of Post:: Any Sufficiently Complicated Plot Is Indistinguishable From Bad Karma
Khyrisse caught the keys absentmindedly,
thinking hard. She folded the paper and tucked it back into her belt.
I can only think of a couple of people who
would know about Patty, and all of them bad news. I wish I knew WHICH companion
they were talking about. I'd know who I
could safely take with me. "I have
a private errand to run," she said quietly. "Why don't you guys get
settled in... mabye Jack can talk to the rat, find out what's going on here. I
should be back in time for lunch." She handed the keys to Vas, then pulled
out the Trade Sigil and hesitated, staring at it. Finally, she handed the embroidered
square of fabric to him as well. "Here, guard that and the whip until I
get back. Valende, keep an eye on Skitch for me, would you?"
With a warning look for Skitch, Khyrisse
hurried out of the inn.
She edged carefully into the lab, glancing
around. The place had clearly been abandoned for several years. Dust coated
everything, drifted lazily through the air, making her want to sneeze. On the
other side of a heavy lab table (she wondered if it still had gum stuck on the
underside), there was a hole in the floor, weirdly ragged around the edges, as
if rats had been nibbling at the stone itself. The faint smell of rancid butter
came to her as she edged around the pit.
Khyrisse hesitated at the doorway at the top of the flight of stairs,
and looked down. At the foot of the stairs, the dust had been swept clear from
a patch of floor. She could see from here the faint white remains of a chalk
Sighing, she turned back into the room.
Well, someone's obviously been here. I'll wait for them here; there's only so
many directions they can attack me from.
Khyrisse put one hand on the table, bending down to look under it.
Yep. Gum. Gods, didn't scientists know
how to use trashcans?
"Your gladiator friend, Luthien...
did he ever get that out of his hair?" a voice said behind her in
sarcastic tones. Khyrisse whirled around, startled. She hadn't heard a damned
Barry Spivot stood just inside the doorway
at the top of the stairs, arms folded, glaring at her.
Khyrisse gaped stupidly at him for a
moment. Of all the people that knew about the Sewer Tour's history in Rimbor,
this one had never occurred to her. "Mr. Spivot," she finally said.
"This is a surprise."
"I imagine. To be frank, I'm
surprised you remembered my wife's name!"
"Did you send me the note?" she
asked dubiously. He nodded. "You know something about my traveling
companions?" Khyrisse tried hard to keep the emphasis off the word
His mouth twisted mockingly. "You
have no idea of the kind of person you're traveling with, just like the last
time you were here. Not many of them are strangers to Rimbor." He stomped
around the pit towards her. As he got within ten feet, Khyrisse raised her
sword slightly. Barry stopped.
"That's far enough. I can hear you
just fine. Why don't you tell me whatever 'truth' you came to impart, and we
can both leave what must be a painful location for you."
Barry looked at her with a strange
expression in his eyes. Khyrisse blinked. For a instant, she felt a strange
fluttering sensation at the edges of her mind, like the beating of wings
against a windowpane. "Pity," he murmured after a moment. "She
would have trusted you."
Khyrisse's eyes widened in alarm. She had
no idea what he was talking about, but she didn't like it.
"Mr. Spivot," Khyrisse said,
pointing the tip of the longsword at his throat, "I think you'd better
tell me what you think you know. Now."
Astonishingly, he laughed. "You don't
even know which of your companions I'm talking about, do you? This habit you
have of trusting scoundrels is going to get you killed."
This guy was acting nothing like Barry
Spivot anymore. Khyrisse pulled back her arm to strike, waiting to see what his
reaction would be.
There was a soft clatter behind her.
"Merde!" she hissed, spinning
around, setting off a shield spell between herself and Barry Spivot. Skitch sat
on the floor in the hallway to the lab, one hand clutching his ankle, the other
clapped in dismay over his mouth. Blood oozed slowly out between the fingers
clamped around his boot. "It was trapped," he said weakly, holding up
a thin wire. His eyes widened then, staring over her shoulder. Khyrisse spun
back. "Barry Spivot" was nowhere to be seen.
With a growl of aggravation, she ran for the
stairwell. Skitch lunged up onto his
feet, limping after her. "Wait!"
"You stay there!" Khyrisse
snapped back at him, back against the wall next to the door to the stairs. She
glanced down them quickly. Nothing. She heard running footsteps echoing from
the hallway at the base of the stairs, back towards the Village, as she
recalled. There's no way out of the
Village except this stairway. GOOD. As
Khyrisse went through the door, there was a bright flash, sigils lighting up
around the edge of the doorway. The alabaster glow of Khyrisse's stoneskin
vanished, and a weirdly compact form fell from the ceiling above her. A blade
flashed briefly before the figure landed on Khyrisse's shoulders, hammering her
to the floor. Skitch screamed angrily, throwing a beaker from the lab table at the
head of Barry Spivot, who laughed and vanished down the stairs.
Khyrisse lay in a crumpled heap, blood
scattered in a scarlet fan from between her shoulder blades.
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