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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
In The City We Have Plenty Of Psychodramas, Part III

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Here's a Little Ditty, About Jack and Valende...

It took Jack a long time to find a garden of adequate foliage that wasn't private property. Finally, growing along the side of an ancient burial cairn, he found what he was looking for. A rosebush. Looking at the stems, he mathematically extrapolated which ones fit his criteria of having seven perfect petals. Seven was a romantic number, at least, that's what Reena had always said. With a small knife, he cut off seven roses, each stem seven inches long. He cropped and cross-slit each stump so that they would grow threefold where he had cut the roses off. He wrapped them in a black ribbon, and after much thought and many wasted cards, wrote the simple message: "I haven't forgotten dinner, nor stopped thinking of you." He signed it with a flourishing "Jack."
Jack smiled. A little mushy, but that's what he got from hanging out with Lita and Raye so much when Jack was young. If he thought about it too long, he'd lose nerve and never do it.
When he got back, everyone was asleep. He left the roses outside of Valende's room and went to bed. Eight hours awake ought to be more than enough time to convince himself he wasn't acting like a complete tool.

At four-fifteen that morning, the innkeep crept down the hallway from a randy guest's room. His wife would kill him if she found out. He needed an excuse.
The roses sat outside of one of the freeloader's rooms.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
The innkeeper turned around to look directly into... no eyes. No face. Just a shiny black head with no features.
"What... are you...?" the innkeeper stammered.
"I am removing the air from your lungs," Janus said. "What you plan to do is evil. It will not be countenanced."
The innkeeper gasped and nodded his understanding.
"You will cease any actions, present or future, against those staying here."
The innkeeper was turning red.
"And if you don't, I come get medieval on your ass," Janus' voice resonated.
Suddenly the innkeeper could breathe.
"Tell Jack Paris what I did for him this night."
With that, Janus slipped into the void that was the fifth element and was gone.

Character(s):: Warp, Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Orion's Belt
Title of Post:: An Offer You Can't Refuse

"Look, it was just a big accident," Jack tried to explain. "We were fighting the King of the Kings and the blue stone somehow got activated..."
Orion smiled. "Centurion, throw him to the floor."
An olive skinned alien soldier tossed Jack Paris violently to the floor of the Imperial Chamber on board Orion's ship, the Starcrusher.
Warp sighed. He knew Orion well enough to not even bother to try to reason with him. Orion had the Treaty on his side, and he wasn't about to give a damn about extenuating circumstances. "Look, we know you're a badass, Orion. Why don't you just get to the point? What do you want?"
Orion looked like a kid on Christmas morning. A particularly homicidal and evil kid. "Why, in this particular case, I just want to torture you until you beg for death. Your damned treaty keeps me from being able to exact vengeance upon Enigma or the Templars, but as you are currently a free agent and in violation of treaty, well..."
"I get the picture."
"However, I might be willing to forego vengeance in return for your service to me. While you have been a thorn in my side for many years, Warp, I am not without respect for you."
"And what about Jack here?" Warp asked.
"We'll take good care of him. I'm sure there's work for a barbarian with delusions of intellect."
"And if I don't work for you, you throw him out an airlock."
"Precisely."
"So I can either be tortured to death or I work for you as a goon in your new O.A.F.?"
"That is the meat of the deal."
"Can we call the team something else? Orion's Assault Force acronyms really badly in English..."

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Valende, and Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Paved With Good Intentions

Several hours later, Valende was woken up by quiet, morning-type noises from Khyrisse's room next door. Yawning sleepily, basking in the sunlight streaming through the window, she listened carefully and detected the cheerful complaints of Skitch being put through his paces. She smiled.
"Now I know why you got named Skitch! I've never seen handwriting like it in my life!"
"What? It's readable!"
"Sure, if you're a drunk kobold!"
"Does anybody else read graffiti?"
"Well, I could always polymorph you into a drunk kobold whenever you want to read your spellbook..."
There were muffled thumping noises, indicating that another wrestling match was occurring. Valende laughed and bounced out of bed. Somehow she felt much better this morning.
She realized why she felt better when she opened her door. She stared for a moment, then picked up the roses and read the card. A soft, sentimental little smile swept over her face.

Khyrisse was braiding her hair near the window while Skitch grumbled over his penmanship. "Tell me, milady, what will you do when Skitch is grown enough to beat you at wrestling?" Valende inquired from the open door.
"Beat him with magic," Khyrisse replied equably. "He'll never catch up there."
"Cheater," murmured Skitch.
"Don't start, I've just finished braiding my hair. No point getting it untidy again." Khyrisse turned around and spied the roses. Her eyes widened. "From Jack?"
"Yes," Valende smiled. Skitch hooted gleefully.
"Who would have figured on him thinking of roses?" Khyrisse said, with a lopsided grin. "Seven of them, too. I wonder who told him that?"
"Do you have a book I could press four of them in, perhaps? It's traditional, after all."
"I do! I do!!" yelled Skitch, waving his project in the air.
Khyrisse whapped him lightly in the back of the head. "Oh, and get ink on them, I suppose. No, I've got a book of poetry you can use," Khyrisse offered. "I'll even help you put the other three in your hair. If," she added, raising an amused eyebrow at Valende, "you're planning on encouraging him."
Valende smiled mysteriously and said not a word.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Morning Admissions

Ebreth Tor woke from unknowable dreams.
The morning sun streaming in his window gave him something to focus on. "You've gotten yourself together, Ebreth," he muttered to himself. "Let's keep it that way."
After a moment's practice, the rakish grin was back.


***
Jack wasn't asleep, but he brought his consciousness back to the three-dimensional world around him when he heard the knock on the door. Jack walked over to the door and opened it. The red-faced innkeeper was standing nervously at the door.
"Can I help you?" Jack asked politely.
"Beggin' yer pardon, sir, but I've come 'ere to 'elp you... Last night, er, I was passin' by the rooms an' I saw yer roses in the hall... Ah, thinkin' they were left, uh, accidentally, I was going to pick them up and see who they belonged to..."
Jack raised one eyebrow.
"All right!" the innkeeper cried. "You seen through me! I was going to steal 'em, I was... but this..." The innkeeper's voice hushed to a whisper. "...this thing came along and stopped me, it did... took the breath outta me lungs!"
"It stopped you from stealing Val's flowers?" Jack asked, confused.
"Yes, sir... and it told me to tell ye what I'd done... it had a voice like the grave, I tell ya, and no face at all! Like a statue it was!"
"Sounds like Janus," came Vastarin's voice from behind the innkeeper.
"The guy who saved you in the sewers?"
"Yes. Claimed to be an elementalist, but it was no kind of magic I've ever seen," Vas said.
"Well, I done told ya," the innkeep said. "Now I want nothin' more to do with the lot o' ye!" He rushed off down the hallway.
"Want to discuss it over breakfast?" Jack asked Vas.
"You sure you want to discuss Janus?" Vas asked, grinning slightly.
"Well, I'm a man of many conversations," Jack said.

Character(s):: Fat Tom
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Golem's Dungeon

Fat Tom swung the sign in his shop window from "CLOSED" to "OPEN". It was time for another day selling quality armaments to intellectual buffoons. The Golem's Dungeon was a quality establishment. His first customer was obviously a farmer.
"I was lookin' to buy a sword," the farmer said.
"And would you care to be any more specific than that?" Fat Tom asked. "Or would you just like me to delve randomly into my bag of collectable blades and wait to see which one lops my hand off?"
"Uh..." the farmer stammered.
"If you are not going to be buying something, please step back behind the yellow line. When you are ready to make a selection, please indicate by saying something filled with local color indicating your yokel status."
The farmer stepped back.
There was a child over by the glass counter, looking longingly at a 682 Regent's War cavalry mace. Fat Tom waddled over quickly.
"How much for the hittin' stick?"
"That, my little poster child for meritocracy, is an extremely valuable mace designed by Rod MacFeldleif and costs more than your entire family. Now move behind the yellow line. You are fogging the glass."
Fat Tom sighed. Why he picked this town in the middle of Dalencia for his weapons shop he couldn't imagine. If not for the great burritos from the Trade-N-Post next door, he'd have left long ago.
"Can I use your outhouse?" an uncomfortable looking man asked.
"Only purchasing customers may use the facilities."


Character(s):: Khyrisse and Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Oooh, a Challenge...

Khyrisse, who had taken Skitch outside to safely demonstrate a magic missile, was pleased to note a weapons shop so close to the hotel. Skitch nagged so hard that she decided to take a quick look. She stepped through the door in a blaze of shimmering amber silk, with her expensively dressed little shadow behind her. Both looked around the shop, mildly surprised. Fat Tom bustled over, and Khyrisse smiled at him. A competitive gleam lit up the gold sparks in her violet eyes. "Good morning. I'm looking to purchase several blades for my apprentice, here. Double-edged, straight-edged, balanced for throwing, easy to conceal, and small-- no longer than his forearm, no shorter than the length of his hand. Something similar in function and design to what Chaton used during the elven Separation. I don't suppose you have anything from Kyoko-Ra, but any properly tempered steel will do for the moment."

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Ebreth de Bergerac

"Excuse me, but despite the popular mythology, it was not Chaton, but his brother Brewick who commissioned those blades, and as they were made of elfsteel, fatal to mortal flesh, they would be quite inappropriate for a child. Please have him step behind the yellow line. The Golem's Dungeon is a collectable arms emporium for adults."
Skitch wanted to kick the guy in the knees, but he couldn't find them under the leg fat.

"So..." Jack said.
"So?" Vas asked. "What's on your mind?"
"He wants to go to bed with your sister," Ebreth chimed in from the next table. Ariath, sitting across from him, giggled.
Jack blushed. "I do not!"
"You don't?" Vas asked.
"No, I mean... yes, but... oh, fratz."
"He means to ask you if she likes him," Ebreth offered.
"Why don't you ask her?" Vas said, pointing to the stairway.
Jack choked on his milk.

Character(s):: Luthien, the Twins, Berryn, and Oethnar
Author:: Evan Haag
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: Swanking My Chain

Lissa whipped around sharply to see who had just tried to knife her. She recognized her foe immediately, and regretted it at once. Of all the clones to attack me, why did it have to be Schneider's? Unable to attack him, she decided to just get him out of the way, and muttered a quick spell. Instantly, a knot of iron bands enveloped the bouncing simulacrum, and she turned back to Swank and the girls.
It seemed to Lissa that the girls were actually doing a credible job of distracting the mad scientist. He seemed to be alternating between drooling over Bambi and cruelly insulting Candi, and was paying no mind to anything else. His clones had backed off, and were standing stock still behind him, although they were still armed. Belatedly, Lissa realized that not all of his clones were still. The Oethnar-clone was kneeling over Berryn, taking the rope from around his neck.
Lissa quickly activated her link to Praxis on the Mind Net. -Praxis? Are you available for a quick conversation?-
-Just barely, Luth. Having some small problems up here at home. Go ahead, though.-
-I'm currently facing the Mad Doctor Swank and several clones. They all seem to be clones of Sewer Tourists: Janther, Schneider, Palmer. I've also got a clone of Oethnar, I think, except that he isn't acting as stiffly as the rest of them. Can you check to see if he might be the real Oethnar?-
-Hmm. Might be tough; after all, he is a plant-form. I'll give it a try, though..... You were right. It is the real Oethnar. Man, he even thinks in that "verily" dialect! I figured you didn't want him knowing that you were Luthien, since you're in disguise right now.-
-You figured right. Wait a minute, how did you know I was in disguise?! I didn't send that to you!-
-No, but all of your thought-speech is in a female voice. I figured that it had to be that sporty little brunette number you were wearing back in the Temple of the Weird Sisters; you would have been way too upset if someone else had turned you into a woman.-
-I...I didn't realize that my thought-speech had changed. I'll have to watch out for that. Thanks for the warning.-
-No prob. I'll say hi to Inez for you, if I get the chance. Signing off.-
Lissa looked at Oethnar, and could see now that he was helping Berryn to stand steadily, saying, "Verily, thou hast had quite a shock. I hope you are feeling better."
Berryn blinked a couple of times, and looked at Oethnar. "Oh man, this is the wrong time for this." He closed his eyes tight, shook his head, and then opened them again. "Okay, please tell me that I'm actually talking to a man that looks like a tree."
"Sadly, thou art not. This is not so."
"Great. What, sorry, who am I talking to?"
"Verily, I am Oethnar of the Forest. I am a tree that looks like a man."
"Ah. That explains everything." He turned then to Lissa, held up his hand, and said, "Check, please."
Lissa shook her head and started paying more attention to Swank. He was the menace here, and someone had to put a stop to his mad scheme. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward.
"Hey, baldy! Are you just gonna gawk at the girls there, or are you gonna tell us what the hell is going on? I'd kinda like to know, seeing as you just attacked my little brother there." She put her hands on her hips in that "I'm-not-taking-any-lame-ass-excuse-either" pose, waiting for his reply.
Swank wrenched his eyes away from Bambi, and he said, "That's simple, my dear. I am using my scientific genius to create the next stage in human evolution. I shall create the ultimate being, a creature who is as close to the divine as any creature can be! And you and your little group are about to have the honor of being a part of it all! Especially this radiant creature here..." He turned back to Bambi, a small maniacal glint in his eye.
Lissa blinked a couple of times as her brain was whirring. Oh Arawn, he's finally taken the final corner on the Happy Highway. He has totally lost it. "Uh-huh. Whatever. Look, I don't know anything about divine beings, or radiant whoozits, or any of that crap. All I know is that my brother and I came to this town looking for some work. If you want..." Lissa gritted her teeth, hating to say this but realizing the necessity, "we'll work for you."
Berryn looked at Lissa with a horrified look on his face, but she gave him a glance that quickly stifled it. Swank turned to her, with a thoughtful and almost sane look on his face. He seemed to actually be considering the possibility. Slowly, the sanity vanished, to be replaced with his previous manic state. "Yes! I will hire you, lowly unwashed one! Even though you are no doubt too simple to be of use in my laboratory work, I may have a mission you can perform. Stay right there; I shall write it down for you, so that there can be no misconstruance of my orders." He turned quickly, hopping gleefully into the room behind him. The Janther and Palmer clones slowly turned to follow him, at which point she nodded to Berryn.
Unsure of what to do, he decided the best option would be to keep the two of them from being able to fight effectively, so he ripped his hood off and brought it down tight over Alain MacLone's head. Unfortunately, this had absolutely no effect whatsoever on the blind clone. He spun about with a powerful smash to the side of Berryn's face, causing him to lose his grip and fall back to the floor. The girls were a little more effective, to Lissa's surprise. Candi, while shrieking in surprise, tripped over some of the rubble on the floor, and fell into Palmer Khlone. While he was off balance, Bambi rushed over to see if Candi had broken any nails and pushed him further off balance.
What a perfect set-up, thought Lissa, as she leapt from her spot to connect soundly with Palmer Khlone's head. He fell to the floor as expected, and then started to get right back up again without so much as a grunt. Lissa started some chanting behind her, and cursed when she realized she had forgotten about Oethnar.


Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch, Valende, Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Morningful Was Never Like This

Khyrisse actually smiled impishly, not intimidated in the least. Someone who knows what he's talking about. Good. "Stay behind the yellow line, dear," she said, placing a hand on Skitch's shoulder. "I think that Brewick's daggers would suit him better when he is older, certainly, and they are far better known. The blades I meant were the (not to mince words) assassin's blades Chaton designed for his personal use, long before his twin was given command of the eastern scouts. These too were elfsteel, but such metals-- I wholly agree with you-- are inappropriate for my apprentice."
Skitch rolled his eyes and smirked a little. This was going to take a while.

***
Valende came gracefully down the stairs. Her face seemed a little rosier than usual. Three pale pink flowers glowed in the swept-back waves of her hair like jewels on black velvet. She sat down at the table with her brother and gave Jack a happy, slightly shy smile. "Ask me what?" she inquired innocently. Pieret, just sitting down at Ebreth's table, made a strangled sort of noise and buried his face in his coffee cup.

Character(s):: Oethnar
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Send In The Clones
Title of Post:: Clone Sweethearts

The flaming sphere rolled over Lissa from behind and caught her shirt on fire. Unencumbered by feminine embarrassment, Lissa ripped it off and threw it on the floor. The smell of burnt silk was worse than the smell of her own burnt flesh. He's Rhynwa's ex, he's a tree, and he's casting second-level spells at me. The burning ball bounced past him and onto Berryn. "Ow!" yelled Berryn. Lissa was just getting ready to cast something restraining but non-lethal at Oethnar when Rhynwa shuffled out and hit her in the face with the wrong end of her scythe.
Now Lissa was pissed.

Character(s):: Oethnar, Mad Doctor Swank, Bambi and Candi
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Send In The Clones
Title of Post:: Good Help Is Hard To Find

"Forsooth," announced Oethnar, "thine new assistants areth betraying us already, Mr. Swank."
"What the hell is he saying," shouted Swank.
"We are under attack, Master," said the clone of Janther Moria.
"Lousy temp workers!" yelled the mad scientist. "Dispose of them, my minions! I am busy with my baby!"
"Ohhhhhh, you have a baby?" said Candi.
"Ohhhhhhh!" cooed Bambi. "Can we see the baby?"
"Soon the whole world will see my baby!" The Mad Doctor Swank cackled evilly.
"Like, every new father is like that," said Candi.
"Totally," agreed Bambi.


Character(s):: The Rat Pack
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Merchants

Pieret looked impatiently at his timepiece while Jack and Valende lingered sappily over breakfast. "Where is Khyrisse?"
"I think she went next door to do some haggling," said Ebreth.
"Oh, great."
"Well, that shouldn't take very long," said Ariath.
"Depends how good she is," said Ebreth, and grinned.

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