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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Enemies Within, Part VI

Character(s):: Bill Endicott
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Endicott and the Dead College
Title of Post:: The Stakes Are Raised: The Dead College


Endicott slid silently into the office with all the stealth of his ninja training. The room was black, but he could tell by the sound within that he was alone. Pulling out the pouch of dust Pluvious had given him, he took a pinch and tossed it into the room. Two chests began to glow with a dull purple light.
Those would be the warded ones. He focused his energy like Garth had taught him and coughed up a bit of tulpa into his hands. He didn't have much of the ectoplasm to work with, and he'd need some of it to pull off Iellan Tach, but he had expected to use a little to circumvent wards. Rubbing the tulpa over the locks, he watched the glow fade. Two minutes and an inexpert lockpick later, the first of the chests opened. Inside was a stack of scrolls, each labeled.
Endicott reached for one labeled "King of the Kings". The Dead College was supposed to be involved with some major players, and this sounded like a likely candidate for that category.
He unrolled the scroll. On it was a map of Ataniel, with about thirty points marked with ten pointed stars. Below the map was a list of names: "Raimonde. Laird-Clowes. Delphine. Perot. Spivot. Novoa. Tor. Williamseyn. Paris."
And then, below the list, was a scrawled note. "No Lich Lords. Very Important."
"Shit," murmured Endicott. "What the hell are these people involved in?"
Someone was coming. Endicott dropped the scroll in the chest and lowered the lid. He clambered up onto a bookshelf and watched as the door opened. It was Greymalkin. "Damn Beliath anyway," Greymalkin muttered under his breath. "Ever since he got involved in this mess, things have been falling apart. Now Mayor Perot claims that he never showed up in Rumi. Where the hell could he have gone to?"
Greymalkin made a few mystical passes over the other chest, opened it, and pulled out a small, grey metal armband and a matching helmet. "Hard times call for hard measures," he said. He strolled out of the room, locking it behind him.
Endicott let out his breath. The stakes had just been raised. The Dead College apparently controlled two of the Septum Potentis.

Character(s):: Warp
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Foreshadowing
Title of Post:: Foreshadowing: Blue Stone? Did Someone Say Blue Stone?

The view from the spaceport was stunning. Tally would have loved it. The debris from the destruction of the Infinity II sparkled through the streams of sentient light in the Dogen Nebula.
"Earther," came a warbling voice from behind him. Warp turned, and looked into the eyestalks of Argos' greatest superhero, Vvert'x.
"Vert, you bastard! What've you been up to?"
"Profound sorrows to you, Wrr'p. Destruction of Infinity II sadness much is."
"Hey, she's just a ship. At least Trude got out okay before Orion's people trashed the thing."
"Vengeance to take, Vvert'x is. Command to give, you just have."
"No plans right now. I don't want to screw up the Titan treaty over a individual vendetta. Darkstar'd kill me if I tried," Warp grinned.
"Plans now what are?"
"I've got a buyer for a load of Warpite... with the credits, I'm thinking of buying the I-1 from the U.S. government and refitting it. Maybe taking it to the Void. I keep meaning to explore that dimension, but I always had too much to do. Now that Trudy's got her kingdom and the O.A.F.'s off my back, maybe it's time."
"Responsibilities many too, wish though accompany you Vvert'x could."
"Hey, we had some great times. Maybe once you guys find that homeland."
"Thousands of years search has been. Thousands more expected."
Warp grinned. "I'm not dying anytime soon."
A tall, green humanoid approached the pair.
"Which one of you is Warp of Earth?" he asked, his voice low and melodic.
"Warp he is," Vvert'x said.
"Are you Calitrod?" Warp asked.
"I am. We had discussed a... transaction?"
"That we had. Do you have the credits?"
"They're ready to be transferred to your account upon receipt," Calitrod said.
"Then one flork of Warpite, coming up." Warp creased his brow in concentration, and a familiar blue glow manifested between his hands. Slowly, a small part of the light began to condense in the middle. "Ngh..." Warp grunted. "Been years since... I last tried... this..." The strain showed on his face.
Suddenly sound came from the blue stone.
"And now," a dark voice intoned, "the Rat Kings have opened the way!"
"Vas, look out!" a woman's voice came.
"Shit! It's the thing that killed Pieret!" A man this time.
"What is this?" demanded Calitrod.
"Dalen?" Warp said, confused.
"Oh God!" came another voice. "That face... the King of the Kings... it's impossible..."
"Jack, you're our only..."
There was a strange flash from the Warpite and the stone clattered to the ground, the contact broken. Calitrod picked it up and barked an order into a comlink.
"M-money's been transferred, Earthling," he said, running off in panic.
"Shit," Warp muttered. "I've never had something like that happen..."
"Excuse me?" a voice asked in Dalen. Warp looked up into the face of a thin young man dressed in Ataniel garb. The man's hair hung into his face. "Where... am I?"
"You're on Transit Station D36," Warp said in Dalen. "A long way... a long time... from Ataniel," he added.
"This just hasn't been my day," sighed Jack Paris.

Character(s):: Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: An Escape, A Death, A Promise and A Name

This wasn't working the way he had hoped. He wanted to give Norn enough of a distraction for the two to get away. He didn't want the townspeople killed, mad as they were. Nor did he want Norna dead. Od only knew what that would do to him. Hronmir opened his mouth to say something, but the grim look on Ragnarokkr's face silenced him. This was now his fault.
After Rumi was left behind, the two stopped and leaned up against a tree.
"I..." Hronmir started.
Flicker cut him off. "Whatever you're about to apologize for, hold it. There are more important things."
Hronmir didn't even bother to ask how he knew. He nodded. "So we head back to Riklandir?" Hronmir asked.
"I've got a friend who's also a Valkyrie. She might be able to help."
Or she might betray us to Norna, Hronmir thought but did not say. Hronmir knew the Doom foretold to him by Norna. The Valkyrie would be there at his death again, she had told him. The Valkyrie would watch as Hronmir was silenced forever. Still, he was a man of honor, and he owed a debt to Ragnarokkr.
Then they heard a noise from ahead, deep in the forest.
The two approached cautiously. An old man, weak and broken, wrapped in torn leather armor and a dull black cloak lay dying. "How may we help you, grandfather?" Hronmir asked in his low tone.
"Deliver the letter--*koff*--in my stead..."
"Letter? To whom?" Hronmir whispered.
The man was suddenly seized with coughing. Blood ran down his lips. His eyes widened with fear as death came nearer to him.
"M... ma..." the man coughed.
Flicker was looking to his wounds. The skier looked up at Hronmir and shook his head.
"Be... wa... maaaahlck--"
The old man choked on the blood in his throat and expired.
Hronmir looked at his companion, then reached into the old man's pouch. It was empty except for a sealed letter and some identification papers. The old man was apparently a bonded courier known as Grimthane Darkcloak. The letter was addressed to Queen Elena Raimonde of Dalencia.
"Dalencia is on the way," Ragnarokkr suggested.
"And as another man, perhaps my Doom might be avoided," Hronmir agreed, taking the pouch and cloak and donning them. "Call me Grimthane Darkcloak," he said, his voice louder than before.

Character(s):: Harry Novoa
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Search For Skitch: Those Who Watch

Everyone hated Harry Novoa.
It was bad enough being a cop in Rimbor City. It was worse being an honest cop in Rimbor City. It was the pits to be the Cynystran appointee to Internal Affairs. Not only didn't the other cops like him, but they tried on a regular basis to whack him.
The last attempt had come two weeks ago, and Harry felt that the next was overdue. That was why he took to the streets of Rimbor to do some undercover work. Lance Graves was a Rimbor City police detective, the one in charge of handling spillover cases from the Duke St. Augustine regime. When Javert had been in charge, most of the Duke's "loose ends" had gotten taken care of, so Graves primarily used his position to strongarm local merchants and youth gangs.
Recently, however, Graves had started acting strange... like he suddenly knew what he was doing or something. Graves had taken to meeting with a man named Spivot. They would meet at Spivot's house, occasionally wandering down to the old arena tunnels. Novoa just watched. Graves would screw up sometime, and Novoa wanted this collar.
It was late when the young boy broke into Spivot's house. Novoa considered going after him, but thought that if the kid was after something, Novoa'd be better off nailing the kid after he got whatever he wanted. What the kid didn't see, however, was Lance Graves. Novoa moved closer to Spivot's house. Through the window, he saw the kid's discovery of a trap door. Then Graves grabbed the kid. If the damn kid hadn't been breaking the law himself, Novoa would've been able to nail Graves there. As it was, the situation had potential but hadn't quite realized it yet.
Graves opened the trap door and dragged the kid down into it. Novoa would've liked to call for backup, but there wasn't a cop on the force who would've spit on Harry if he was on fire.
Drawing his wand, Harry Novoa decided to go in.
Then he saw four other people with the same idea approach the house.
"What the hell is this?" Novoa asked no one in particular.
The leader of the new group, a blonde haired sorceress, magicked the door open and headed in.
Harry waited until they were all inside, and then he followed. Someone was going down today.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Vas, Valende, Tarrin
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Let's Get Some Confusion Into This Chaos

Khyrisse glanced around Spivot's study, shaking her head. "Look at this mess," she whispered. She picked up a stack of papers and flipped through them agitatedly. "They're all about Palmer..."
Vas bent down to open the trapdoor.
"Wait!" Khyrisse hissed at him, and activated her true seeing again. No glyphs, but there was a weird, lingering glow of magic leaking through the door. "Okay... but be careful, there's something strange down there. Tarrin?"
Tarrin came over and nodded to her, as Valende dropped through the open trapdoor. "There is... an old bitterness in this room," he whispered. "An... obsession?"
"I'm not surprised." She bent down to call through the opening in the floor. "Okay?"
"I think so," Valende replied hesitantly. "You should come down, milady."
Khyrisse exchanged a look of puzzlement with Vas. She shrugged and dropped into the secret room. "Oh my God."
Valende nodded in wordless agreement. "A summoner's laboratory, was it not?"
"I think so..." Khyrisse replied, slightly pale. "But what the hell happened here?"
The room was small, so small that the bookshelf, lab table, and desk probably had left only enough space to get around the chamber. The table had the remains of a summoning circle inscribed on it, but the outline was scorched and covered with dried blood. Several books had been ripped from the shelf and thrown around the room; the desk was overturned. There were scorchmarks and the reddish-brown splashes of old blood everywhere. Tarrin arrived, followed by Vas, who closed the trapdoor behind him.
"Where is the Skitch?" Tarrin asked, looking around the room with a mildly horrified gaze.
"Not here, and I can only be glad, from the looks of things," Khyrisse mumbled, rummaging around the overturned desk. She stood up with a large journal in her hands, its cover charred and torn. "This looks like it was closest to whatever happened. Probably his private journal or spellbook. We'll take it with us."
"Over here," called Valende. She pushed the bookshelf aside and peered cautiously around the edge of the ragged opening behind it. "It looks new. It seems to lead back into the sewers."
Khyrisse hurried out of the tunnel into an intersection, and stopped short. The tunnels branched out in several different directions. "Oh, no..."
Tarrin reached a comforting hand out to pat her arm, but obviously thought better of it before he touched her and withdrew it. "I can find the Skitch," he reassured her. "He cannot be very far from here."
Vas edged around the intersection wall to another tunnel opening and listened. "Shh!" he whispered, and gestured for them to follow him as he disappeared into it.

"...the boy down..." an indistinct voice said. It was calm and unthreatening, but it was obviously an order.
A laugh echoed down the tunnel towards them. "...must be joking."
Silence. The scurrying sounds of movement from far ahead, as the group of four approached. When the voices spoke again, they were clearer. "Graves, surely you can see that you and your friends are surrounded. Utilize what little brainpower you have and be sensible about this."
"You'll be dead! You and your entire scheming pack of gutter trash!"
"I am less affected by that threat than you intended, you realize."
Something about the first voice, the one that spoke to "Graves", made Khyrisse shiver. It sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it. She blinked suddenly, realizing that it reminded her of Bill Endicott's voice, on his travels through Trade with Sway.
"Why couldn't you have done this the normal way, damn you!" The voice of "Graves" was balanced somewhere between abject fear and acid hatred.
"Graves," the first voice sighed. "You are a parasite and a butcher. In other circumstances, I might indeed have killed you for overstepping the boundaries of your position, as you so obviously fear."
"I know what you are! I've worked in this town for years!"
"You know nothing. Nothing pertinent, at least." The voice turned away to speak to others. "Take them. Don't damage them unnecessarily, and don't harm the hostage."
Khyrisse gave up any pretense of sneaking and bolted down the tunnel towards the distant sounds of a scuffle, the others following.
By the time they arrived in the intersection at the end of the pipe, it was over. The man she'd seen in the mirror-- Graves?-- lay unconscious against the wall of the sewer. Several other men were scattered around the intersection, clearly beaten senseless, but still alive. Skitch, however, was nowhere to be seen.
"What the hell!??" Khyrisse shrieked.
"Khyrisee," Tarrin called. Khyrisse blinked at the mispronunciation distractedly. Oh, right. That stupid Diarian female-name suffix. She looked around to find him pointing at the wall above Graves' head. Scrawled hurriedly across the stone was the word "Octavian" in gleaming white paint. She came over and stared at it in confusion.
"Pieret saw the same word on the wall of the arena earlier today, milady," Vas offered from behind her.
"But nobody knows what it means. Terrific." Khyrisse bent down and picked up the abandoned paintbrush, still dripping watery white paint off of the bristles. She stared at it bemusedly, wondering where to go from here. She nearly dropped it in startlement at the sound of another voice, coming from the tunnel they'd just exited.

Character(s):: The Collector, etc.
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Marked Cards
Title of Post:: Another one for the collection

Fear filled the room, flowing like cold tar from the Collector. Ebreth and Pieret were stunned by the force of the emotion. The Collector turned to the intruders and smiled.
"At last you are here," said the thing in its bubbling voice.
The thing moved away from Jack and Ariath and rushed with surprising speed for Pieret. Before anyone could do anything it was upon him. Its fetid hand stuck him across the cheek, flesh dissolving at the touch. Pieret screamed.
Ebreth, fighting against the fear, moved to help Pieret. The Collector, seeing Ebreth's motions, started to laugh.
"Nice try, marked one," it said, "however, you are mine!"
The Collector spit forth a word with too many consonants and the blue sigil on Ebreth started to glow. Ebreth tried to move but he was wracked with pain. All he could do was fall to the floor and scream. Jack and Ariath tried to close in to help, but the Collector uttered another word and a invisible barrier came up between them and the Collector.
"But you said you were going to come for me," said Ariath, half confused.
The Collector smiled. "I lied," he said, as he finished his grisly task on Pieret. The wound quickly healed as the Collector moved his hand over it. It looked like nothing had ever happened to the priest.
"Who's next?" Jack asked.
The Collector smiled at Jack as it started to turn to mist.
Then the Collector was gone.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: And this is STILL not the worst day of my life

Ebreth just didn't even bother getting up.

Character(s):: Flicker, Norna
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: More Than We Could Chew

Flicker opened his eyes woozily. The world was spinning somewhat. Two Nornas converged into one Norna, at his side. "Are you going to blow up?" she said.
"No." He cursed himself for provoking a confrontation he'd known he could never win, but he'd had to try, for Silent-Voice's sake.
"Are you in pain?"
"Good." She dropped his head onto a rock. He winced a bit. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"That following a rat makes more progress than following you," he said, and sat up, feeling his ribs. "That if you're right and I need to avert this future I have to get into a position to do something. You can't keep me in your pocket and hope you stumble on an answer, Norn. I'm not a rune."
"Shut up." Norna pressed her temples. "Where is Hronmir?"
"I don't know."
The Valkyrie gritted her teeth, reached behind herself, and ripped the arrow from her back.
"You didn't need to do that," said Flicker. "I could have taken care of that."
She broke it in her hands. "I will do what needs to be done," she said, through her teeth. "If that means sacrificing you. If that means sacrificing your friends. Don't think I won't do it."
"What if it means trusting me, Norna?"
She looked at him narrowly. "It has not come to that yet."
Flicker sighed and stood up slowly. "Then you have already lost."
"Don't try to pull this ominous shit on me."

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