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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 IV

Character(s):: Skitch, Vas, Valende
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Musical Escorts

Skitch poked his head in the front door. "Vas?"
Vas, who had finished his breakfast and wandered over to flirt with Ariath, looked up. "Ah, Skitch. News from our employer?"
"Yeah, she wants me to send you over while I get a list of stuff that people need. She's really going at it. There's this fat slob of a guy over there and he sneered at us first thing and got her back up." Skitch plunked down next to Valende and pilfered a muffin from the serving plate. Vas bade a teasing farewell to Ariath. "Stay behind the yellow line!" Skitch called as Vas left the inn. He stuffed half of the muffin in his mouth and pulled out his notebook.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, Skitch dear," Valende instructed absently. Most of her attention was still on Jack, but her words had an effect nevertheless. Skitch got himself a mug of cider and skritched with his charcoal on the blank page, looking embarrassed, until he'd finished his breakfast.
"Okay, what does everybody need?" he finally said. "Khyrisse says she knows Pieret can use a sword, but she doesn't know about anybody else."

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, pacifist
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Weapons

"Ebreth, you could use a sword, too," said Pieret.
"I think that's not such a good idea," he said.
"I think when there's a demon trying to chew your face off, you might have a different opinion."
"I'll take my chances."
"He's a lover, not a fighter," said Jack, with a straight face.
"Damn straight!" Ebreth grinned at him and poured himself another cup of coffee.
"Are you just going to hide behind Khyrisse for the rest of the mission?"
"Jack will protect me. Won't you, Jack?"
"You're a good fighter," said Pieret. "We may need your help."
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Why not?"
"Because I know what happened to the last Ebreth Tor!" he said. "Now I already slit some guy's throat in a sewer. That's enough."
"Ebreth," said Ariath, nicely. "There's a difference between working children to death in a salt mine and killing somebody who's trying to beat you up with a chain."
"You think so, I think so, I don't know who else thinks so. I'm not taking any chances."
"How about you, Jack?" said Skitch.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Shy and Quiet Type

"Huh?" Jack asked, looking up. "I'm sorry... I was woolgathering."
"Weapons, Jack," Valende said patiently. "Are you any good?"
Cori stifled a chortle.
"Um, well, I can throw a mean dart, and I'm okay with a bow... I'm more a vector guy than a reflex one."
"You mean you win a lot?" Ariath asked.
"Vector, actually, not victor," Jack clarified. "Like projectile trajectories and object physics..."
"You really have to learn to stop asking him stuff," Pieret whispered to Ariath.
"Tell me about it. He's quiet for days, and then you get him started..."
"I'm a master swordsman," Cori offered, "trained in the arts of warfare and espionage. I once held off a platoon of Kyoko-Ryan weaponmasters."
"She did, actually," Jack confirmed. "I was there. She was amazing."
"Thank you, Jack," Cori cooed sweetly.
Jack noticed a bristling in Val. She seemed upset about something. He hoped it wasn't him... after seeing her so beautiful in the flowers he had left, he thought things were going well, despite being mortally embarrassed by Vas and Ebreth. He knew that something was up, and he was determined to let her take things at her own pace. Still, maybe there was something he was missing... Jack wished he had Ebreth's way with women.
Still, a problem for another day.
A figure had entered the dining room. He looked tired, perhaps a bit haunted. He had a strong, lithe Norse look, much like Flicker had. He wore Riklandir clothes and a black cloak. He wandered over to the bar and asked the bartender for some dwarvish ale. Something about him tickled Jack's memories, but he couldn't place the face for the life of him. "I need passage to Dalencia," he said to the bartender. "Fast passage. I'm willing to pay, but it's a matter of great importance." The bartender made a few suggestions that the man seemed to find unacceptable, then indicated the Rat Pack with his finger. The norseman walked over to Ebreth. "Sir, have I the pleasure of speaking to the leader of your band? I'm told you have fast transport, and I am in great need. My name is... Grimthane Darkcloak."
Ebreth could tell that the name was a new one.

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

Jack paced back and forth in the small prison cell. He knew what was going on. He was a hostage. It was common in the Archipelago to use hostages as a bartering point, to insure allegiance and compliance to various treaties and alliances. Still, he had been fortunate enough in his years working with Robinson to have been kept safe from such things. Still, Jack wasn't about to be left in this position. He had to get back to Ataniel. The King of the Kings was about to... Jack felt goosebumps as he thought about the implications of the King's actions. And Val was still there... that was reason enough. Warp seemed to be the most likely route back, but Warp was busy in his indentured servitude to Orion the Conqueror. And Jack was being used to keep him that way.
No longer, Jack thought to himself. Jack refused to be an excuse. It was time for escape.
Fortunately, the lock was mathematically based... one of these "computers" that Warp had introduced him to. The implications of such machines were staggering... Jack wished he had more time here to see if his theories about such things were correct. As the lock slipped open, he realized that he wasn't likely to. Jack took off down the hallway.
It was only a few minutes before footsteps started echoing from behind him.
He was noticed. On the run.
Orion's internal security force was less threatening than his assault forces, but they were efficient nonetheless. After running through a series of evasion sequences, Jack realized that in a few minutes he would be cornered. He needed a way out.
Then he noticed the door.
The hatch had a circular locking mechanism which opened easily. Jack stepped into the room, apparently a small closet. Fortunately, someone had anticipated Jack's need to secure himself in the closet, and placed a large red button labeled "Cycle Lock" next to the door. Jack hit it. Air rushed from the closet, as a door behind Jack opened into empty space.
The vacuum sucked Jack out with it.
This really wasn't what I had in mind for an escape, Jack thought as the starship receded...

Warp looked at the new costume Orion's people had supplied. It was olive green and yellow.
"Man," he muttered, "you people never let a guy forget his first costume mistakes, do you."

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Take Me To Your Leader

"Well, actually, the leader of our band is sleeping in there," said Ebreth, and indicated Jack's satchel, "but Khyrisse should be back soon, and she's more of a conversationalist than he is, so that's who I'd wait for. She's also the owner of the fast transport in question." Which seemed to be getting more full every time Ebreth turned around, but it wasn't looking like people would be too averse to sitting on laps.
Ebreth Tor wondered what the heck kind of guy drank ale for breakfast.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch, Vas, Valende, Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Happy Birthday

Skitch vanished out the door with his list, when it seemed that no one else wanted to add to it. A few minutes later, Khyrisse appeared, alabaster skin flushed, arms full of parcels. "That guy is a nightmare!" she exclaimed. "You wouldn't believe what I had to agree to in order to knock his price down." The carefully-wrapped packages dropped onto the table with a muted clatter.
Skitch wandered in with a happy grin, followed by Vastarin. "Show Valende your new trick, Skitch," Vas suggested, seeing the disturbed look on his sister's face. Skitch and Vas went over and formed a little huddle around Valende, blocking the view of the rest of the Rat Pack. Skitch did something. Bright metal winked briefly and vanished again. Valende gasped, laughed and applauded, and Skitch made her a slightly wobbly bow, clearly modeled after Vastarin's. Vas chuckled and fiendishly mussed Skitch's hair as he passed him on his way to Ariath.
Khyrisse handed a smaller parcel to Jack. "Skitch mentioned something about darts, and these looked as if they might suit you." Jack opened the parcel. Five wicked-looking darts, at least twice the size of normal gaming darts, gleamed up at him. The "points" were long, sharp, very narrow blades; the grip and "feathers" were inlaid wood of many different kinds. The patterns were pleasantly symmetrical, each dart with its own design.
"He assures me," Khyrisse added, pulling off the wrapping on another parcel, "that not even you will find anything wrong with their balance." She turned away with a sword and its scabbard in her hand, holding it at its center like a spear. "Oh, Uncle Pieret..." she called sweetly. Pieret looked up, startled. "Catch." The sword sailed directly towards Pieret, coming loose from the scabbard. Blade first, more or less. Pieret stood with rapid fluidity. He leaned gracefully around the blade, caught the hilt and snapped the sword into better alignment with his person. His other hand then darted out and caught the flat of the tumbling scabbard between two fingers.
Khyrisse leaned against the table, arms folded. The corner of her mouth turned up in what was not quite a smile. "Reflexes?" she said.
Pieret sheathed the long, narrow, slightly curved sword carefully, looking at Khyrisse. She'd made her new tunic in a style he remembered from her marriage, high collar open in front, wide belt pulled tight around her waist, a flared "skirt" that covered her hips in front, but dropped nearly to her knees in back. The color accented the gold flecks in her eyes and the highlights in her hair. Pieret bowed to her, the same formal gesture he'd made during their private discussion, upon his arrival in Rumi. "Some things are difficult to forget."
Khyrisse inclined her head in agreement, eyes on his. After a moment, she smiled cheerfully and turned to the rest of the Rat Pack. "I picked up a few other things that looked useful. If we need anything else, it should probably wait until we get to our destination. I'll be broke before sundown otherwise. Gods, I'm starving. Did I miss breakfast?"

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

Ebreth flipped Khyrisse a bagel. "This guy would like a lift," he added. "Hey, Viking Boy, our humanoid leader's back, if you wanted to talk to her."

Character(s):: Xilpitl the not so friendly demon
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Its good to be a Demon
Title of Post:: She seemed so nice...

Xilpitl was still getting used to his new host. He stretched out his arms and looked at his hands. Yes, it was a good fit. The woman didn't even scream when he jumped her in the ally and broke her neck. Now it was time to do some real mischief.
The demon, wearing the woman's body, walked down the road and saw the tavern. This was as good a place to start as any. Plus, there seemed to be a lot of activity in there. Just the sort of place with "heroes" who would help a maiden in distress.

Character(s):: Tarrin
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Mind Games
Title of Post:: Don't you hate it when he is right

Tarrin sat alone in the corner sipping a glass of water. He didn't like this place. He wanted to be home with his family. However, somehow he had a feeling he wouldn't be home again for a long time. He hoped he was wrong.
As he sat in deep and depressing thought, a wave of nausea came over him. Something was approaching. Something dangerous. Something important. Tarrin fell off his chair with a loud thump.
Everyone in the inn looked over at Tarrin.
"Are you ok, Tarrin?" asked Khyrisse.
Tarrin looked up at her with coppery eyes. Actually, he wasn't looking at her. He was looking behind her, towards the door. To the waifish woman who had just walked through it, all bloody and battered.
"Please, someone help me," she gasped.
Tarrin had a very bad feeling about this.

Character(s):: The Rat
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post:: Meanwhile, in rodent land

The Rat woke from his nap and crawled out of Jack's satchel.
"Look, he is awake," said Ariath, pointing at the rat.
Jack gently grabbed the rat. "Good morning, friend. Do you want to attack the Neodyniom Algorithm today?"
The Rat sniffed the air, then walked up Jack's arm. He stopped at Jack's shoulder and remained perched there, sniffing at Jack's neck. It was almost as if it was waiting for something to happen.

Character(s):: Khyrisse and the Wonder Twins
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: What? Someone Behind Me?

Khyrisse caught the bagel, surprised. She looked at the Riklandic stranger, then at Ebreth.
"Humanoid?" she repeated, with a wry smile.
"Well, as opposed to the rat," explained Ebreth.
Valende gasped as the woman staggered through the door. She leaped up and rushed forward to catch her. Vas followed on his sister's heels. He was surprised when Valende snatched her hands away from the woman. She whispered something in elven, sounding equally startled, and looked harder at the supposed damsel in distress.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Catchin' a Waif

Man, this place is getting crowded, Jack thought.
"Milady," the Riklandir warrior said, bowing on one knee to Khyrisse. "I am a traveler in need of rapid transport to Edimon. I was told that you were headed in that direction, and I wondered if I could pay you for transport."
"We're not really a taxi," Khyrisse said.
"My mission is of great import," 'Grimthane' said. "I must deliver a letter to Edimon, then head home to Riklandir before Norna does."
"Norna?" Khyrisse asked. "As in Norn?"
"Do we know who that is?" Jack asked Val.
"You were in the bath at the time, dear," she replied.
Cori, meanwhile was watching the waifish woman who had entered looking for help. Oshi's sword was humming in the scabbard, indicating that there was more to her than met the eye.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Orion's Belt
Title of Post:: Not the Green Lantern Exploding Boy Cover

Jack watched as the ship floated away. More accurately, Jack thought, he was floating away from the ship. In the absence of a large gravitational pull and with no air in space to slow his passage, he was trapped moving in the vector he had started out in.
Asphyxiation wasn't going to be a problem, Jack knew that. Heck, he would have been safe drowned in that fecal tidal wave beneath Rumi. Neither was explosive decompression a problem. However, floating in space in the far future for all eternity wasn't Jack's idea of a good time. As much as Jack was sometimes uncomfortable with people, he also craved their company. He would miss his friends, Khyrisse, the Rat, Cori. And Val. Especially Val. He hoped the words that had passed between them the night before the assault on the King of the Kings wouldn't be the last things they ever said to each other. That would have been much too cruel a twist of fate for even Newell.
As he moved farther away from Orion's flagship, he could see other, smaller ships floating around. It seemed to be a caravan, perhaps even an armada. And then the ships turned, all as one, and in a streak of rainbow light, disappeared.
"This just gets better and better," Jack thought to himself, because in space, no one can hear you bemoan.

Character(s):: Vas, Valende, Khyrisse
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Chivalry Is About To Be Dead

Vas, done in by his chivalrous instinct, moved past his obviously distressed sister and gently helped the strange girl to the nearest chair. Valende looked swiftly at Khyrisse and shook her head. Her hand went to the pommel of her sword and loosened it in its sheath. Vas knelt next to the girl and took her hand in a comforting clasp. "Calm yourself, my dear, you are safe here. My sister will heal your hurts, and then you shall tell us who did this to you, hmm?" Khyrisse, mildly puzzled by the look on Valende's face and the faint humming coming from Cori's blade, activated her true seeing. The faint image of glittering butterfly wings appeared over her upper face as she looked at the girl. Superimposed over the stranger's petite form was the ghostly image of a larger, demonic one. Oh damn, she's possessed. "Vas? When you have a moment..." Khyrisse said, with a smile that was only slightly strained by her desire to get Vas the hell out of the way.
Valende edged carefully in front of Jack. Part of her mind, detached from the proceedings, was ruefully amused to observe that she'd left room for Cori to do so, as well. Jack's going to be the safest, most envied man on Ataniel, at this rate...

Character(s):: Sara
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Its good to be a demon
Title of Post:: Just when you think you know someone

"Thank you," the woman whispered to Vas, "My name is Sara. I had come a long way for help when I was attacked." The woman coughed heavily. Blood flaked across her lips. Vas looked over to Val for help. As he did Sara sat up and placed her arm around Vas's neck.
"Sturtevant is in trouble. They need help."
Sara then collapsed into unconsciousness.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Valende
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Are you a Good Demon or a Bad Demon?

"Sister?" Vas inquired, holding the girl.
Valende looked at him, then at Khyrisse. "She's... something about her is evil, milady. Shall I heal her? What do you see?"
"She's possessed," Khyrisse said, looking carefully at Sara, "but I think we'll have to heal her anyway. I wish I knew more about this stuff. I've only ever encountered this once, and I don't think he counts." Khyrisse turned back to the Riklandic man in need of a ride. "If Norna is the person I believe she is, I'd give a great deal to know where she is and who she has with her. That certainly includes a ride to Edimon. We'd be glad to help you."
Valende sighed. Kneeling next to her brother, she laid healing hands on Sara's damaged body.

Character(s):: Sara(Xilpitl)
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Its good to be a demon
Title of Post:: Yum! Yum!

Xilpitl soaked up the healing energies from Val. He was drinking them with relish.
"Something is wrong," Val said, with a waver in her voice. "I shouldn't be using so much energy to heal such minor wounds."
"Stop it! Let go of her!" Vas screamed at his sister.
"I am trying, but I cannot let go! Help me, it is sucking the energy out of me!" Val said between gasps of breath. Her color was turning very pale.
The energy, glowing coolly, continued to flow out of Val and into Sara with a high pitched whine.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Don't You Wish Flicker Was Here?

"What's wrong?" said Ebreth, cluelessly.

Character(s):: Cori Yashida
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Demon Extermination Her Specialty

Cori had seen enough of demon feeding to recognize it, even in these Eastern lands.
Without a thought, the sword of Oshi Yashida, blade of demonbane steel, swung at Sara's neck.
"You owe me one," she said a moment later to Val.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Cori Gets Inducted

"Aaaaaaah!" shouted Ebreth. "You bitch! You killed that poor woman!"
The body exploded in a burst of flame.
"Uh," said Ebreth, "I mean, my hero, you have slain the horrible demon thing."

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