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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Enemies Within, Part VII

Character(s):: Harry Novoa
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Book 'Em, Dano

"All right, everyone just stay where you are," the voice from the tunnel shouted. A short man in a oily overcoat and a surly Rimbor grimace stepped into the light. His hair was black, short, and slicked back. His face was acne-scarred but alert. In one hand, he had a nasty looking magical wand. In the other, he had a silver badge. "Rimbor City Police," he said. His eyes passed appraisingly over the Rat Pack, finally coming to rest on Graves' unconscious form.
"What happened to him?" the man barked.
"He was like that when we got here," Vas smiled innocently.
"Right," said the policeman, completely dubious. "I'm going to need all your names."
"Like hell you are," Khyrisse said, half-whispering, half wanting to be overheard.
"We came down here to find a friend, officer...?" Val prompted.
"Novoa. Detective Harry Novoa."
"I'm Valende. As I was saying, we came here to find a friend, and we came upon this... massacre."
"So none of you saw what went on here? Did you see where the attackers went?"
"Magic, I'd bet," Khyrisse said.
"How about 'Octavian'? That mean anything to you?"
Vas started to say something, but a glare from Khyrisse silenced him.
"Look," sighed Novoa. "I could arrest all of you now for assaulting an officer..." He pointed at Graves. "But I'd much rather find out what was really going down here. You can help me, or you can spend a night in the Rimbor City prison."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Khyrisse grumbled.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Three Villains and a Mathematician

"Gee. I don't even need to be a statistician to know that there aren't many of us left," Jack said to Ariath.
"Can you ever talk normally?" she asked.
"Nope," Jack grinned.
"So it's got me, the Rat, Pieret, and Val," Tor said. "That leaves Ari, Khyrisse, Vas and you, Jack."
"You're so comforting, Tor," Jack sighed. "Still, it seemed to know what we were planning before it even got here... it was ready for Pieret, and knew not to mess with Ariath."
"Always a good lesson," Ariath smiled.
"It also knew to attack us when Khyrisse, the most powerful one, was away."
"What are you getting at, Paris?" Pieret said, pulling himself to his feet.
"He's saying that one of us is a traitor, right, Paris?"
"I'm saying that the possibility is statistically probable."
"Well it can't be him," Ariath said. "Even if he did narc on us, they'd never understand what he's saying."

***
Cori Yashida looked up at the Augustine Arms. Now that she had finally found Jack, she was a little nervous about seeing him again. He had been so distant at her wedding, the last time she had seen him. Still, he was her only hope against Chu-I Po, and if what the guide had told her before she cut his hand off for trying to steal her family seal, he was with a reasonably large party of adventurers. Maybe he had new allies who would be willing to help her. (maybe he had found someone.) Maybe Cori was just being silly. She pushed open the doors of the Augustine Arms and walked up to the desk. "Jack Paris' room, please," she said, placing a small emerald on the counter. The desk clerk slid her a key. "Fourth floor," he said, smiling.

***
"I'll have you know that I highly resent this accusation," Pieret said, getting in Jack's face. "Just because someone--"
"--Looks like a criminal?" Tor said, grinning.
"Yes! I've had my character attacked since I met up with you all in Rumi, and I'm getting sick of it. You should be too, Tor. Even Ariath's been, shall we say, pre-judged."
Ariath tried to look innocent.
"We've had enough of this shit, Paris! I demand an apology!"
"What? I was just saying..."
"You've been on Tor's back, Khyrisse watches Ariath and I with half an eye every minute, even Goat-Boy tried to impugn us by implying we were from hell. Well, I haven't heard anyone speak for you, Paris!"
Jack looked hurt.
Pieret continued his attack. "From what I hear, the only reason you're here is that you pretend to tell us what a rat wants of us. Give me one good reason I should listen to you!"
The door to the room opened, and an Oriental woman in full samurai warrior garb, a gleaming silver katana in one hand was there, standing in the hall. "Jack!" she cried happily, raced inside the room, and embraced the mathematician.
"Cori?" Jack asked.
"Of course, silly!"
Ariath looked at Pieret and shrugged.
"There's one vote for Paris," Tor grinned.
Pieret looked at the silver blade and the woman who wielded it even when embracing Jack Paris.
"I withdraw my objection."

Character(s):: Hronmir Silent-Voice/"Grimthane Darkcloak"
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Aesir Said Than Done

Hronmir Silent-Voice awoke deep in the forest. The battle had been hard, but Hronmir had been able to escape just as Flicker was knocked unconscious. Next time, Hronmir vowed, he would be ready. In the meantime, since Norna probably had Flicker well out of Hronmir's reach, it would be up to him to head on to Dalencia alone. More and more, Hronmir was learning about his Aesir nature. Focusing his will, he began to levitate. The wound in his side would have made walking hard, but his new-found power of flight would get him to Dalencia in no time.
As he wavered uncertainly through the air, Hronmir could see Rumi to the south. The town appeared to be in flames. However, from this vantage, his new senses could detect a strange trail of energy moving up from the town and curving to the north. A similar stream ran from that northern origin point over the ocean, in the direction of Rimbor City. Other streams were very faintly visible farther to the north. Perhaps this is somehow connected to Norna's Valkyrie problem, Hronmir thought. Or perhaps it is something more. Hronmir hovered, looking south. In the end, however, he took his letter in hand and resumed the trip north to Dalencia.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Warp
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Orion's Belt
Title of Post:: Jack Paris, Spaaaaace Waaaaaarrior!

The figure that appeared on the viewscreen was a dark olive color, with a black ridge going along his scalp, and had the nastiest looking smile Warp had ever seen. "Orion," Warp said, suppressing a sneer.
"Hello there, Enigman," the alien conqueror said. "I assume you know why I'm here."
"You've got no business here. The O.A.F. was destroyed in an illegal raid against the Infinity II. The Titan Treaty stands."
"I'm glad to hear you say that."
"You shouldn't be. You're in Titan space now... you're in violation."
"Not... any... longer." Orion savored the words.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you yourself violated the treaty. I'm here on an enforcement mission."
"Bullshit," Warp said.
"Section Twelve, Pact Seven. No unauthorized alien incursions in Titan Space without Treaty Council approval. I hear tell that you yourself brought an alien through your ridiculous portal just yesterday. Less than a week since signing. You disappoint me, Enigman."
Warp looked over his shoulder at Jack Paris, who was busy playing Wing Commander IV on the computer. Warp wondered whether he should be more annoyed at the mathematician for causing him to inadvertently violate the treaty or for beating Warp's high score.
"How...?" Warp asked.
"The Orion Empirate has friends everywhere," Orion leered.
"And if I return him?" Warp asked.
"A second violation," Orion smiled. "No, you and your alien are to be put in the custody of a Titan Treaty Trustee. You'll never guess who the committee appointed."
Warp's mind boggled at how much Orion must have spent bribing officials to get his hands on this one.
"Of course, if you'd like to run for it, we could just let the treaty collapse. I'd be happy to resume my plans for Queen Trudith's planet."
"We'll be over in a shuttle in an hour," Warp sighed. He was already going through the treaty in his mind, looking for a loophole. Still, Warp was a superhero, not a lawyer. He needed Koal, or maybe Justicar. Too bad that contacting Enigma or the Templars would be in violation of the non-interference Pact. Warp slammed the comlink off.
Jack Paris looked up at him.
"Got a problem, Paris," Warp said. "We've got a little detour to make before I can get you home to Ataniel."
"But what about Val? Cori? The Rat? They're in danger! The King of the Kings is..."
"Chill your butt," Warp said. "I'm a demigod there. I'll see what I can do to pull some strings for you. Right now, however, I'm just a superhero, and we're in deep shit."
Jack sighed. What else was new?

Character(s):: Pieret and Ariath
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Jack Throws Cori's Weight Around

Pieret turned away from the inevitable reunion chatter, and took himself and his bottle of Cynystran brandy towards a corner of the room to combine the one with the other.
"You people," he muttered, "are enough to drive a stronger man than I to drink."
"Problem, Kardia?" Ariath inquired sweetly as he stalked past her. She jumped back when Pieret suddenly turned on her. Face close to hers, his expression took on an ominous cast, his complexion darkening. His hazel eyes seemed backlit by dancing flames. "The next person who calls me a priest of Lucifer," he whispered, "will be very sorry they did. Don't dredge up any more unpleasant memories, Ariath."
He didn't wait for a reply. Turning away, he continued on towards the corner seat. Something about his unconcern in turning his back to her suggested to Ariath that now might not be a good time to annoy him further.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: The Smile of Ebreth Tor

Ebreth grinned for many reasons: humor, fear, pleasure, wishing someone was dead, and, currently, damage control. Being blessed with a smile that looked very similar when he was about to embrace someone and when he was about to rip the guy's trachea out did help with the last. "Paris," he said, and his voice was only slightly shaky. "You're the last guy I would have expected to get caught in a love triangle."
"What?" Jack disentangled himself awkwardly from Cori. "No, no, she's just a friend."
"Were you born this clueless," said Ebreth, "or do you practice?"
"She's a married woman," snapped Jack, "and if you make insinuations about her honor, Tor, I'm not responsible for what she--"
"Haroshi is dead," she whispered.
Jack gaped. "Oh, Cori, I'm sorry!"
"Worse than I thought," Ebreth said to Pieret. "Rebound."
"Aren't you going to introduce us?" said the still insubstantial Ariath, sweetly.
"Oh," said Jack. "Right. These are, uh, Ariath, Ebreth, and Pieret. But none of them are the same ones. Not that you'd know any of them."
Cori shook her head, misty-eyed, and bowed at them formally. "Cori Yashida. I'm the same one, just about always."
"And this is my rat," said Jack. "He can talk and derive equations, but most of the time, he just lies in there and sleeps, like he's doing now."
"Same old Jack," she said, tenderly.
"By the way," said Ariath, "who was trying to kill you guys, anyway?"
"Just some marks," said Ebreth, flatly. "Small-time criminals sometimes bribe corrupt hotels to give them extra keys to the rooms. Then they prey on tourists. How'd you get a key, miss?"
"Uh..." said Cori.
"This inn isn't as nice as you'd guess from what they charged me." Ebreth smiled, but he had made up his mind, and he just felt he should wait to explain things to Khyrisse before he left.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Valende, Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: A First Time for Everything

Khyrisse had a flash of sudden longing for her lost massage, strong enough to surprise herself. Okay, I could definitely be doing better things-- well, dithering over doing better things, which has its own charms-- at the moment than this, she thought with an internal sigh. GodDAMNit. "Look, all I know is that this... person," she nudged the unconscious Graves with the toe of her boot, resisting the urge to kick him in the head, "carried off my apprentice. I saw it happen via a Magic Mirror spell, after I noticed my apprentice was missing from the hotel. You say he's a police officer?"
"Carried him off from where?" Novoa inquired, ignoring her last comment. The arch-mage and the detective glared at each other for a moment. Khyrisse, realizing that Skitch must have broken into the house right before she broke into the house, didn't dig herself any deeper. She didn't know if her near-assassination by the owner of the house would mitigate the illegality of breaking in or not.
"Right." Novoa turned to Vas. "You want to tell me what you know about this 'Octavian'?" Khyrisse looked at Vas, and the detective gestured briefly at her with the magic wand before returning it to Vas. "No, don't bother telling him to shut up. Well?"
Vas looked at Valende, who looked at Khyrisse. Khyrisse threw up her hands in aggravation. The paintbrush went flying and clattered back down into the sewer water.
"We've seen this mark before, officer, but I assure you that we're not involved with the makers of it," Vas finally said.
"Where did you see it?"
"The Rimbor City Arena," Vas answered agreeably. Valende closed her eyes.
"Really. When?"
Silence.
Novoa sighed. "I can see that this is getting nowhere. Your names?"
Terrific. I'm going to a Cynystran-held Rimbor jail. I've never been arrested in a country I once helped run. Eric's going to laugh his butt off... I wonder if he'll send my father to bail me out. Or mabye Shannon. She'd enjoy that. "These are my bodyguards, Valende and Vastarin. Tarrin," she said, gesturing to the Diarian, "is an acquaintance who came along to help me track my apprentice. My name is Khyrisse Starshadow." She turned and pointed furiously down at Graves, not waiting for any reply. "Right before we got here, we overheard part of a conversation between this guy and someone we never saw, who apparently then beat him up. This police officer seemed to know something about this 'Octavian' crap, and now my ten-year-old apprentice is missing. So I want him questioned when he wakes up!"

Character(s):: Harry Novoa
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Tick Tick Tick

Novoa grinned. "Oh, don't you worry. Graves'll have a lot to answer for. But he's a known commodity. You all aren't."
"So you're going to toss us in jail for being in the sewers."
"Not if you're being honest with me. I've heard of Khyrisse Starshadow... a compatriot of our old Captain, Javert. Do you have any identification?"
"I have a Cynystran death certificate recall in my pouch." Khyrisse reached for it.
"Hold still. I'll get them," Novoa said. "Don't move."
Khyrisse glared at him as Novoa reached into her satchel. The glare was replaced by a look of abject confusion when she saw what he pulled out. "Do you always carry bombs with lit secured fuses in your purse, ma'am?" he asked.
At that moment, the fuse glow disappeared as the spark activated the bomb.
The explosion could be heard from the city above.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Cori Yashida
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Rat Signal

"How did Hari die?" Jack asked.
"A wizard of the Black Serpent Clan... who's also a demon... rallied an army of ronin and ninja against the Crane. I... I'm the only one left."
"Oh, Cori, I'm so sorry... after all the work we did to get your honor back..."
"Yeah," Cori said detatchedly. "But I can't concern myself with what's gone. I need to move forward. I need your help to gain vengeance."
Jack decided not to point out the logical flaw in Cori's reasoning.
"My kinda woman," Ariath said.
Just then, the sound of an explosion from across town reached the hotel. "Man, am I glad I wasn't in whatever sewer that went off in," Jack joked.
Ebreth looked to him. Jack's face fell as he realized what Tor just had. "Oh, shit..."
Cori stood as the four Rat Packers raced for the door.
"Come on, Cori, I'll explain on the way."
"You haven't changed a bit, Jack Paris," Cori whispered.

Character(s):: Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: The Fear of Death is the Beginning of Slavery

Skitch's head felt like someone had used it for bowling in a sewer-- all bruised and sticky. For all he knew, someone had. He opened his eyes, and didn't see anything. He felt what seemed to be a bed beneath him; blanket, pillows, slightly bouncy mattress. He listened hard for a minute, then cautiously moved his arms and legs. He wasn't tied up or anything...
Skitch was about to get the hell out of wherever he was when a voice froze him solid.
"Must you rush off so soon?" a voice asked wryly, from somewhere in the darkness at the foot of the bed. "You only just arrived."
Skitch, not liking the tone of voice, sat down again, back against the headboard. He rummaged around for one of his knives.
"No, I have your weapons. You won't need them. I wanted to ask you for some information, and then you'll be returned to your mistress."
"Yeah, right!"
"Truly. I am not the man who kidnapped you from Barry Spivot's house."
"Then how do you know I was in Barry Spivot's house?" Skitch flashed back.
His unseen host chuckled. "You don't miss much, do you?"
Skitch shook his head.
"A few questions, and you can have your freedom. Not so much to ask."
"Depends on the answers you want!"
There was a silent pause that made Skitch squirm.
"I'm not telling you anything about Khyrisse!" he shouted into the darkness.
"I didn't ask you to. What I want to know concerns one of the people you're traveling with."
The sound of a muffled, distant explosion filtered into the room. Skitch heard the man curse suddenly, and someone clapped something over his mouth.
He fell into that nauseated, whirling, pitchblack dream again.

Character(s):: Janus, Harry
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Day-oh! Day-ay-ay-oh! Day-us ex Machina, and me wanna to go home.

Khyrisse slowly opened her eyes. Her ears still rang from the explosion. There was tremendous rubble still settling in the passage they had come from. However, strangely enough, where Khyrisse was standing, next to Novoa, was undisturbed. The far end of the sewer was similarly pristine. "What the hell happened?" she asked.
"I happened," said a strange twisted voice.
Khyrisse turned to look at the newcomer.
The man, if man he was, had no face. His entire head, actually, was blank, and looked to be made of polished black marble. On his brow was a strange band of metal, intricate and asymmetrical. He wore a black cloak covering his entire body made from some fabric alien to Khyrisse. "Who are you?" Vas demanded, stepping between the stranger and Khyrisse.
"I am..." The figure paused, then cocked his head. "I am Janus. A master of the Five Elements. My control over Flame was able to save you from the explosion."
"Seems a little deus ex machina to me," Val said. "How did you know we would be in danger?"
"It has been charged to me to protect you on this path, Valende," the strange voice from the faceless mage said. "I can say no more. We will meet again."
"I hate these kinds of guys," Khyrisse grumbled. "All mystery and no follow through."
"You've got dust in your hair, kid," Janus' voice warbled, and a stream of water flew from a white-gloved hand beneath the cloak and soaked Khyrisse's hair.
"Watch each other," Janus said. "There is a traitor in your midst."
With that pronouncement, his head bobbed into the cloak, which folded up into itself.
"Hang on," sighed Vastarin. "I'm jotting him down on my chart. I'm going to need a new scroll soon."
Harry Novoa coughed for attention. "Now I really want to hear what's going down here. Someone give me the scoop in twenty-five words or less?"


Character(s):: The Rat Pack, Octavian
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Here, There, and Everywhere

"We'd better get back to the others," said Val. "We can fill in Officer Novoa along the way." She smiled beguilingly at him.

***
"Hurry!" shouted Pieret. "We've got to find the others!"

***
By the time he reached the point of the explosion, whoever had set it was long gone. Worse, the pipes had broken; the place was a morass of filth. Worse still, the three men Octavian had left behind unconscious were dead. There was no sign of Graves himself.
In fact, Octavian was having such a frustrating day that when he got back to the room in which he had left the unconscious boy, he was not even terribly surprised to find him gone.

***
"They're not here?" said Khyrisse, her voice rising. "Well, where the hell are they?"
"I dunno," said the guy behind the desk, and smiled at her a little.

***
"The fault lines in the stone here do seem to indicate that this was the epicenter of the explosion," shouted Paris.
"Well, where the hell are they?" snapped Ariath.

***
Skitch came to woozily. "Where--where the hell am I?"

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