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The Rat King Archives
Enemies Within, Part II
Pieret, Vas and Valende
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: You Snooze, You Lose
Vas looked at the Trade Sigil in surprise.
He arched an eyebrow at his sister, who shrugged her shoulders in graceful
bewilderment. "Don't you think we
should accompa..." Vas said, and trailed off as Khyrisse whisked out the
door. "Apparently not."
"I don't think it's wise for her to
go off alone like that," Valende said, staring pensively at the doorway.
Pieret got up, a strange look shadowing
his face. "Not in Cynystra, it isn't," he murmured angrily.
"Militaristic control freak. Old habits die hard."
Valende shook her head, Pieret's comments
making no sense to her whatsoever. "Jack, do you think the rat's business
here can wait? I don't like--"
"Where's Skitch?" Vas
Ariath, Ebreth Tor
of Post:: A first-level mage to the rescue
Ariath slipped out of the shadows in front
of Skitch. He stared at her. How did you get by those traps? She put her fingers
quickly to Khyrisse's throat and then lifted her around the torso. "Help
me," she ordered. Ariath was about Skitch's height, he noticed. He limped
painfully over and hoisted his mistress' fanny. "Step where I step.
Val and Tarrin both leapt up as Ariath and
a hobbling Skitch dragged Khyrisse's bloody body into the hotel lobby, but Val
body-slammed him out of the way and was crouched down to heal her first. Tarrin
decided it must be an honor issue, and attended to the ankle of the helpful boy
instead. "Hey," called the guy behind the front desk. "Dry
cleaning's extra. You bleed on it, you bought it."
"Holy shit," said Ebreth Tor.
From the topology of the wound, Jack
guessed she had been backstabbed.
Pieret was looking at Ariath with a very
strange expression indeed.
A Little Help From My Friends
of Post:: The Fall of the Silver Crane
The clash of steel presented a pleasant
distraction from the flames engulfing the ancestral citadel of the Silver Crane
family. Cori Yashida swung her katana with true samurai grace as she strode
through the honorless ronin thrown against her by the Black Serpent. The body
of her husband, Haroshi Indo, lay behind her. She did not look back. Her gaze
was set on the black-garbed elementalist hiding behind the Black Serpent
army. Chu-I Po, the Venomous Fang. All
she had won, all she had gained, in the years since the Clan Wars was lost to
her now. She was going to take that anger out on someone, and Po's army seemed
like a convenient appetizer to the slow death of the Fang himself.
Cori had killed a hundred and one men when
they came from the trees. Tengu. A
skittering, chittering mass of dark tricksters. Cori paused. Her blade was death
to mortal flesh, but to creatures from the otherworld? Cori wasn't ready to
face this. One or the other, perhaps, but being caught between a mortal army
and a tide of tengu? Even Crandall would have known better. Her chance for Po
would come another day. Focusing her chi, she called forth the spirit of her
patron ancestor, the beautiful and deadly Oshi Yashida. Oshi had led two lives
during the First Kyoko-Ra war; one was the Emperor's Fist, a gleaming samurai
hero, the other as the Emperor's Palm, a ninja spy. It was Oshi's sword that
Cori carried, and Oshi whose portrait hung in her shrine. From deep within her,
Cori felt Oshi's spirit awaken.
"For the second time you call upon me, great granddaughter."
"I need your skill, great
grandmother. I need the Emperor's Palm."
"You have honored me with prayer and
valor, Cori Yashida. What you ask, I shall give."
To the ronin surrounding her, it was as if
the shadows swallowed up Cori Yashida.
"Find the woman!" Chu-I Po
cried. "The last of the Silver Cranes must die this day!"
From her shadowy hiding place, Cori
watched Po. The dark wizard's robe covered all but his face, contorted with
rage. Then Cori noticed what none had ever learned and lived. Chu-I Po ended
with the robe. He had no feet. "Penagglion," she whispered to
herself. The Demon with No Body. Cori cursed silently. She was going to need
help. Her family was dead, however. Crandall as well. Reena was back in
Salagia, still transformed. There was only one other she knew to turn to.
"Jack Paris," she said.
"I'm going to need Jack."
Khyrisse, Valende, Skitch, Pieret, Ariath
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: Prioritizing
Khyrisse's face scrunched up irritably as
Val shoved Skitch out of the way. "Ow! Knock it off." Valende turned
her over gently, blinked momentarily in surprise at the wound, and got to work.
Seconds later Khyrisse sat up with a furious expression, and then hissed in
pain. She decided not to start shouting. Valende pushed her back down
again. Khyrisse looked around the room
and sighed. "Not a single person here who would know what the hell I was
talking about, either... Barry Spivot? What the hell?" she muttered. Her
gaze fixed on Skitch. She raised her eyebrow at him. He pointed promptly at
Ariath. Khyrisse grinned faintly.
Pieret continued to look at Ariath, eyes
"Ebreth, Jack, refresh my
memory..." Khyrisse sighed, frowning, as Valende finally helped her to her
feet. "What were we supposed to be doing in Rimbor City? Other than my
getting backstabbed by a formerly geeky widower; I can deal with that later.
Where's the rat?"
of Post:: Rimbor City Strikes Quickly
Ebreth paid the guy behind the desk.
"Are you OK?" he said. "What happened to you?"
"Never mind that right now,"
said Khyrisse. "What about the rat?"
Jack was feeding him pieces of a doughnut
he had taken from the breakfast buffet. "Tanned, rested, and ready,"
"Ariath?" said Pieret.
"What are you looking at me
"Never mind who's trying to kill
you?" said Ebreth. "Khyrisse, this is a dangerous city. People don't
survive here on their own. You're lucky to be alive. You should have asked us
to come with you."
"You need to trust us," said
Ariath, in a hurt little voice.
"There's a bright idea,"
What the Rat Saw
of Post:: Awake at last
The rat woke to the smells of a
city. From even inside the satchel the rat could tell they were in a large
human area. Stretching, the rat poked his head out of Jack's pack, looked
around and sniffed once. Everyone was looking at him. The rat didn't like all
this attention. Usually when humans paid this much attention to a rodent
something bad was going to happen to the rodent.
Then, an acrid smell passed the rat's
nose. He knew that smell and didn't like it. Then, in the distance, he saw a
fetid mist gathering. At the same time a soft blue glow started to emanate from
his chest. The rat, instincts screaming at him, dove back into the satchel to
Khyrisse, Skitch, Valende, Vas
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Khyrisse sighed. "The person who
tried to kill me shouldn't have been able to," she said, pulling the note
from her belt.
Valende looked Khyrisse in the eye.
"Next time," she suggested gently, "why not let your bodyguards
do their job?"
Khyrisse looked extremely sheepish.
"Sorry. I've never had any before," she mumbled.
"Aww, man..." Skitch said,
getting up. He looked down at his ankle, restored to working order by Tarrin.
"My new boots."
"Well, that's what you get when I
tell you to stay here."
The rat, stuffing itself in a rather
twitchy fashion on donuts via Jack, suddenly dashed back into the satchel.
"Rat? What's wrong?"
Khyrisse looked in the direction the rat
had last faced. A faint, glowing mist was beginning to curl through the door.
"Val, it's the undead thing! Behind you!"
Brother and sister turned immediately
towards the door. Valende drew her longsword in a single smooth stroke, golden
light shimmering around the edges of the blade.
Khyrisse began rattling off her area-effect protection from evil
and choked in mid-word, as that terrible smell filled the room. Vas cursed,
unable to release the arrow he had nocked, as the Collector solidified in front
of his sister.
Jack Paris, Ebreth Tor
of Post:: Undead Can Dance
This time as the mist shot out it brushed
past Jack, on its way to Val, and as its cool moisture slid by his skin he
could feel its constants compensating, changing. Jack put out his hand and the
mist split around it into two mists, joined on the other side, very slowly, as
if it had lost its temporal integrity. Then it was whole again and bowled over
Val so quickly he hadn't seen it move. "You will be next," it said at
Ariath, its voice almost gasping for breath.
And then it was gone.
"Val?" said Jack, and shook her,
awkwardly. She had fainted. "I will heal the big-bosomed lady,"
announced Tarrin, earnestly.
"Nice try, Jack," said Vas. Jack
couldn't tell if he was being serious or not.
Ebreth sighed. "I shouldn't have
gotten my hopes up that that thing might stay in Rumi, should I?"
"Undead things cost extra," said
the guy at the front desk, boredly, and flipped the page of his magazine.
Valende and Khyrisse
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
of Post:: ...Goddamned Thing BIT Me!
Valende stirred and opened her eyes,
blinking in a charmingly groggy fashion up at Jack.
"Have I missed something, Jack dear?" she murmured,
essaying a flirtatious smile. "Not that I mind waking up in your arms, of
course." She lifted her hands
dizzily to her head, and abruptly hissed in pain. She clutched her right wrist.
There didn't seem to be anything wrong with it.
Khyrisse came over and knelt beside her.
"Val, let me see?" Valende
held out her right hand, that forearm shaking slightly with pain. There was a
brief impression of a glowing butterfly superimposed over Khyrisse's face, her
eyes forming the markings on each wing, as she briefly used her persistent true
seeing spell. The sigil leaped out at her, glowing a faint sickly blue from
Valende's wrist. "Skitch? Come here, kiddo." He came over, and
Khyrisse pulled down the collar of his tunic. The same sigil glowed on his
shoulder. "Same one," she sighed, releasing Val's hand. "He got
you, all right. Let's get you upstairs."
Ebreth Tor, Jack Paris
of Post:: Kiss the Girl!
"May I finish healing you?"
asked Tarrin, timidly.
Khyrisse sighed. "It's OK to heal
people," she said. "You don't have to ask permission to heal
Val relaxed as the Diari healer touched
her forearm. Paris just kind of sat there blinking stupidly at her. "That
thing just moves so fast," said Ebreth. "If Valende could only get to
it before it got to us... It seemed to slow down for a second there."
"Did you think so?" said Paris,
nervously. Ebreth couldn't tell if it
was his statement or just trying to decide whether to kiss the girl that was
making him nervous. He just shrugged. It didn't really matter.
"Barry Spivot?" he repeated.
"Never heard of him. Is it just me or are there a lot of new assassins on
the scene these days?"
Luthien, Berryn, The Twins, and an Old Friend
The Unbearable Swankness of Being
of Post:: The Bald and the Beautiful
Lissa looked at the twins with a vaguely
exasperated expression. She decided it would be best if she didn't start in on
them; after all, it really wasn't their fault they had the collective IQ of a
butter churn. It was just that they had no idea what they might be dealing
with, and she did. She was definitely going to have to keep them from getting
themselves killed. She gritted her teeth, and then addressed them.
"I think that 'recorporations' means
something like bringing the dead back to life, or something like that. I
remember something about that in one of my old magic books. Wish I still had
it; then I could check for sure." She put on a vaguely disappointed look,
meanwhile casting a sidelong glance at Berryn. He nodded, understanding the
dangers in that sort of activity.
Candi got a little excited over this.
"You mean, like, this Mr. Swank might be, like, trying to help all those
people who got, you know, killed last month. That's really keen!"
Bambi nodded in agreement. "Yeah! And
since he knows Janther, or at least the dead Janther, he might be able to help
us!" She raised her hand to knock on the door, but was stopped by Lissa.
"Hold on a second. You know, I heard
that people who go messing about with bringing the dead back to life are kinda
bad news. I mean, who knows what kind of weird stuff he has to do to, you know,
make them get up. It could be really disgusting." Lissa's brain almost
turned on itself for speaking in so childish a fashion. Oh, if only Max were
here. Then HE could talk to them, or at least keep them entertained.
Berryn put his hand on Bambi's shoulder,
and spoke up. "I think she's right. We should probably keep an eye on this
place for a little bit, so we can see what's going on here. Then maybe we'll be
able to do something about it. Is that okay with you guys?" The last
question was directed at the twins. Lissa noticed that Berryn had laced it with
a small amount of deference, and she smiled at his craftiness. Keep them
thinking they're in charge, and they're less likely to storm off because they
think we're belittling them. Good thinking; I'll have to try a little harder at
The twins looked at each other, and both
of the Arawnites could tell that their collective brain was trying to
communicate with itself. Finally, Bambi brightened up, and nodded vigorously.
"Yeah, I think that would be a rilly good idea. Um, where do you think we
should, you know, hide?"
Lissa pointed at an abandoned building
across the street. "That looks pretty safe, if you want to go in there.
Look, it's got boards across the front; nobody will be able to spot us while
Candi nodded and bounced enthusiastically,
causing Berryn's gaze to momentarily drop down about a foot. "Ooh, it's
great! This is gonna be soooo cool! Wait till Maxie hears about this!" She
scurried across the street and knocked on the boarded up front door.
"Hello! Is anybody living here? Can we come in? Hellooo!"
There was no answer, predictably, and she
turned back to the group with a pout as they crossed the street. "No one
answers! How are we gonna get in now?" Berryn could hardly contain a
smirk, and Lissa just stared at her, unable to comprehend her level of
simplicity. Steeling herself, she moved past the twins, who were both pouting a
bit now, and checked out the door with Wizard Sight. Not noticing any magical
signs, she began to push a bit at the boards, finally getting one loose enough
to kick in. She was about to, when she realized something terribly out of
"Berryn, did you ever hear of someone
boarding up a house from the inside before?"
"No, not that I know of."
"Me neither. This place may be
a little less perfect than we first thought.
You two might want to get your weapons or whatever out; we might have to
It was only then that Lissa noticed that
Candi and Bambi were unarmed. As she looked from their shapely, unbelted waists
to their gentle, unarmed hands, to their pretty, disarming faces, a look of
gradual resignation came across her own face. They are totally, ridiculously
helpless. This is going to be lot harder than I thought. Sighing, she started
to grab a dagger from her belt, when Bambi spoke up.
"Oh, weapons, right! I almost forgot
about that! Lemme look in my purse for them..." She started digging
through her custom leather Gucci purse, pushing what sounded like a change
purse, a couple of hairbrushes, a gross of perfume bottles, and several dozen
various applicators out of the way. Finally, she said "Gotcha!" and
pulled a handful of wands out of the bag. "Here they are!" she
chirped cheerfully, and handed two of them to Candi.
Lissa and Berryn just stood gaping at
them. After a long pause, Berryn was the first to speak. "Um, what are
those? I mean, do we have to worry about anything? 'Cause they are, you know,
magical wands, right?"
Candi nodded vigorously, causing another
drop in Berryn's gaze. "Yeah, they were the prize in the Annual Barbarian
Bathing Beauty Competition in Sturtevant. They were, like, taken from some dead
mages or something."
Bambi joined in. "Yeah, this one
makes people cough and choke and stuff, kinda like mace. And this one, um, this
one makes people stand really still. I think."
Candi continued, pointing to her own
wands. "This one is rilly cool. It makes, like, swords and shields and
stuff. And this one can heal people. At least I think it's this one; we can't find
the little tags anymore."
Lissa and Berryn looked at each other, and
sighed together. At least the girls had some kind of protection. Faced with few
alternatives at the moment, they turned back to the 'abandoned' house. Lissa
kicked in a few of the boards, enough for everyone to get through, and entered
the building. Berryn followed right after, and was in turn followed by Candi
and Bambi. Berryn thought it might have been Bambi then Candi, but he was
getting to be able to tell them apart, and he was sure Candi came first.
The front room was a mess, and looked as
if it had been that way since the Madness. The furniture was slashed up, and
nothing of value remained anywhere. According to a few papers on the floor, the
place had been a jeweler's home. The only thing in the room that wasn't
destroyed was a stout door on the opposite wall. No magic radiated from it,
according to Lissa's sight, so she approached it. She could hear Berryn
muttering a few protective spells under his breath, and Candi and Bambi had
pulled a Zippo out of Bambi's (Candi's?) purse for some light. Lissa turned to
them and whispered, "Get ready."
As they got into ready positions, Lissa
turned the knob on the door. Instantly, the four of them felt the floor drop
out from beneath them, as it plummeted through the foundation. Reacting
quickly, Lissa cast feather fall on one of the girls, since they were both
clutching each other and screaming ridiculously. She then shifted her
polymorphed form, and two wings sprouted from her back. She dove for Berryn,
and caught him just before the floor crashed into the earth.
As she and Berryn touched down, the girls
floated gently to the floor, still screaming. Berryn walked over to them, and
lightly touched their shoulders. "It's okay, girls, you're alright!"
They opened their eyes then, just a fraction of a second too late to see
Lissa's wings disappear. They blinked vacuously, looked around, and then hugged
Lissa was about to comment, when a
movement behind the three of them caught her eye. "Look out!" She
yelled a second too late, as a lasso dropped over Berryn's neck and pulled
taut. Berryn barely had time to let out an "Urk" when he lost
consciousness. Stepping from the shadows came a tall, broad, extremely well
muscled bald man, who stared vacantly at the three women. He was followed by a
shorter man, whose blond hair was offset by the odd brown texture of his skin.
As the girls blinked again, Lissa crouched
down into a fighting stance. "Get those wands ready, girls! This guy's out
for blood!" As she said that, one thought went through her mind: Cloning
Palmer I can understand, but what would Swank want with a clone of Oethnar?
She barely had time to finish the thought
when she felt the sharp clang of a knife hit her stoneskin between her shoulder
Jack Paris, paranoid
of Post:: Rimbor City Acts Deferential
The rat seemed to have recovered from his
primal fear of the evil mist, and scampered merrily through the streets of
Rimbor. He had plenty of room to scamper, for the passersby were still hurrying
to get out of their way. It made Jack feel like an even more marginal part of
society than usual. Last time he was here he had been bumped and jostled down
the street like a stray electron, and some guy had even pinched Reena. Now it
was like no one wanted to get within ten feet of him. He wondered if they had
told Khyrisse about him. If they had she wasn't letting on.
"Help yourself," said a
middle-aged baker as they passed her stall, proffering cream puffs nervously.
"Thanks," said Skitch, and took
"Skitch!" hissed Khyrisse.
"Don't eat those!"
"They're good!" she cried.
"Very good. Only the best, sir. Please." She smiled tightly at
Ebreth. Her heart rate was a little high, Jack decided.
"Uh, thanks," said Ebreth, and
fished for a coin.
"No, no, sir, please. A gift. Help
yourselves. A gift from Margot. Anything you want, you just ask your friend
Margot. I always do like to be friendly, sir."
It must be a pass, Jack decided. That fit
Ebreth Tor, connoisseur
of Post:: Leaps of Faith
The rat disappeared down the gutter.
"Do you think there's a significance to these sewers," said Pieret,
"or is this just a rat's idea of how to get from point A to point B?"
"Stand back," said Vas, and
gripped the grate.
Khyrisse coughed. "Vas." He
turned around, and she lifted the manhole cover.
"Oh." Vas looked disappointed.
"You know," said Ebreth,
"rat-following really fills a certain need in the post-god world. I
haven't taken so many blind leaps of faith since I was a boy." He hopped
through the manhole. "Hey, this is much nicer than the one in Rumi."
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