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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 V

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Ariath
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Human Targets

"My question is," said Jack, kneeling by Val's side, "who keeps sending this stuff after us?"
"You call that a sweet nothing?" Val asked, smiling.
"Too bad Flicker isn't here," Ariath said. "We could use some demon lore."
"Flicker?" Hronmir/Grimthane said. "About yea tall, Riklandic elf?"
"That's the one," said Khyrisse. "Why?"
"Because Norna's got him."

Character(s):: Cori Yashida, Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: How I Learned To Hate The Demon

"The demonsteel destroys their mortal form, and banishes them to their home plane," Cori offered. "It doesn't kill them, alas."
"How long a banishment?" Ariath asked.
"From thirty to ninety days, usually." Cori admitted.
"Damn, making them say their name backwards gets you ninety minimum."
Jack was peering carefully at Valende. There was something... off. From what he could tell, her experience was with undead and demons. It seemed strange that she would be having such panicked reactions to her chosen enemies.
Jack wished he was psionically extant so he could check things from the inside. Still, there might be something he could do. As he tended to Val, he carefully measured her skin tension. He hoped that she wouldn't think he was taking liberties, but if what he suspected was true...
There it was.
Embedded in the back of her shoulder was a small sliver of black metal. Fearstone. "Hey, Cori, remember that time when Reena went nuts?" he asked, massaging Val's shoulder with his finger.
"Yeah, the bracelet of fearstone you got her. Great gift, Paris. Reversed her natural fear reactions to animals."
"Well, look at this..." He yanked the splinter free.
"OW!" Val yelled, turning to glare angrily at Jack.
"Fearstone," Jack said. "Someone must have stuck you with it... that's why you had such a problem facing the Collector... and the demon now. Someone's been sabotaging you."
Suddenly the room was awash with people scratching themselves.

Character(s):: Ariath, Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: The Tao That Causes Stress Is Not The True Tao

"Why aren't you checking yourself for fearstone, Ebreth?" said Ariath, suspiciously.
"I've been a coward longer than I've known any of you," he asserted, with a straight face.

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: Born Without Fear

"Don't look at me," Jack said defensively.
"He's immune to fearstone," Cori added.
"Born without fear," Jack said, grinning.

Character(s):: Valende, Vas, Khyrisse, Skitch
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Probably not the same thing...

Valende stared at the splinter of black stone.
"But no one's been close enough to me to-- ah, I mean..." Vas managed to suppress most of his shout of laughter, as Valende looked at Jack and blushed faintly. "Never mind," she said with a little smile. "Thank you, Jack. Thank you, Cori."
"I don't suppose," Khyrisse said, shaking her tunic while wriggling around in it, "that paranoia counts?"
"Not if you're always like that!" Skitch chortled. Khyrisse took time out to whap him one upside the head.

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

Float, float, float.
God, space was boring.
Float, float, float.

"We can't let him know," Orion said. "Despite his protestations of loyalty to the treaty, that hostage was all that was keeping him from escape."
"We did do some scans on his companion," Dominator offered. "You're not going to believe what we found." She handed the conqueror a electropad with the diagnostic results of the Jack Paris analysis on it.
"I've never seen anything like this," Orion said. "Send out a C.A.T. back to treaty space to try to locate him. Meanwhile, get me Doctor Lovecraft. I'm going to need a mystic if I hope to... replace him."

Float, float, float...

Warp sat next to Pyre and Splinter. The two alien supervillains sneered at him.
"So, you've finally joined us, Warpie," Pyre said.
"About time," Splinter agreed.
"Look," Warp said. "We've fought for enough years that I can be candid with you two, right?"
"Sure."
"Right."
"Well, the truth is, you're both complete putzes. Hell, Mech is a better villain than you, and he's a good guy half the time. I can't imagine why Orion puts up with you."
There was a moment of silence before twin attacks fired at Warp.
Then warped through him, coming out the other side.
In a moment, both Splinter and Pyre were unconscious.
Warp smiled. The trip to Coriolis 4 suddenly seemed a lot more promising.

Float, float, float.
Jack started to hum to himself.
Float, float, float. Of course, in space, no one can hear you hum, either.
Float, float. Float.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch, Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is the Traitor

"Where does fearstone come from, anyway?" Khyrisse said suddenly, reaching out with her gloved hand and taking the splinter of metal. She held it up to one eye and squinted at it. "Is it enchanted? Naturally magical, like elfsteel? Can you buy this stuff anywhere?"
"Yeah, that might tell us who did it!" Skitch said, standing on a chair behind her and looking at it over her shoulder. "If you can only get it from a particular place, or it's really expensive or magical, then..."
"I'd say that you've had that since we entered the sewers of Rumi," Vas said quietly to Valende, "at the latest. But at the earliest, since the Mithril Dagger."


Character(s):: Mad Doctor Swank, Berryn
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Send In The Clones
Title of Post:: Dali, you said?

Berryn was getting pretty severely knocked around by this stupid blind clone. Suddenly, behind them, the double doors swung open. "Behold," shrieked the Mad Doctor Swank, "the future of mankind!"
For a moment, Berryn was just sure he was dreaming.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Cori Yashida
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: I Will Show You Fear In A Handful Of Stone...

"Well, uh, I'm not really a geologist, but the experience we had with it..."
"Jack bought Reena a bracelet made of the stuff."
"A shopkeeper in Carabas sold it to me," Jack said. "He said it was forged in the bowels of the Tecti Rift."
"That's in Diaria!" Tarrin said, finally having something to contribute. "I've been there! It's... way bitching!"
"Does that count as an induction?" Ariath asked no one in particular.
"But who would have had a chance to stick it to you?" Jack asked.
Vas and Ariath both busted up laughing.
"What? What did I say?"
"Jack," Cori said, "you haven't changed a bit."
It was placed on her sometime between her appearance at the Dagger and their expedition to the Rumi sewers. That left Kevin, Kayla, Khyrisse, Vas, Skitch, Ariath, Ebreth, Pieret and Jack himself as suspects. Jack eliminated himself. Cori wasn't around at the time. Neither was Tarrin. Still, Jack felt that he was somehow missing something.
It couldn't be the Rat, could it?
Jack determined to spend the next sleep period replaying the appropriate memories. One of the nice things about being what Jack was was the eidetic memory.
"So, uh, what now? Are we giving this guy a ride to Edimon?"

Character(s):: Shalak, Marzoom, Dransaerin
Author:: Jeff Hersh, Evan Haag, and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Interlude
Title of Post:: Lich Lords! Lich Lords! Party time! Excellent!!

Shalak hovered over his scrying pool. He had to make sure that the events of late were not caused by the other two Lich Lords, Marzoom the Necromancer and Dransaerin the Seer. It had been ages since the three of them had talked. Well, that was not surprising; the three of them never got along very well. After all, it was Shalak who had discovered the secret of Lichdom all those millennia ago. The others were just pretenders.
"Spirits of death, of decay," Shalak said in Ancient Diarian, "open this vision pool. I wish to converse with Marzoom and Dransaerin, wherever they may be in the multiverse."
The pool bubbled and smoke poured forth. In the center, a still patch of water, smooth as a mirror, grew wider and wider. Then the patch split in two. He made contact.
"Marzoom. Dransaerin. My fellow Lich Lords. We have a problem."
The left side of the clear patch of water wavered, and a crystalline, pale grey light poured from it. It cleared again, other than the occasional ripple below the surface of the water, and Dransaerin appeared, turning from a bookshelf to stare at his... compatriot. He approached the interface, his mouth stretching in a chilling smile.
"Shalak. How pleased I am to hear from you, after all these years," he said, in a more modern Diari dialect. "Still studying extraplanar matters?"
"It is not that I have much of a choice, Dransaerin. But you know that," Shalak harumphed. Shalak examined the countenance of the weakest of the Lich Lords. Dransaerin, like Marzoom and himself, was a creature who used arcane magics and willpower to hold himself together. Still, Dransaerin, being the youngest of the three, still had some meat on his bones. There was a strange hue to his skin, however, that Shalak could not explain. "How do your spying ways go, young upstart? Still living through other people's lives? Honestly, I could never understand your fascination with seeing, but to each his own."
Dransaerin inclined his head gently to the first of the Lich Lords. "Knowledge is power, Shalak... but to each his own." Marzoom's visage appeared moments later, heralded by the distant echo of thunder. As the first Lich Lord watched, he could see that the kiljhac Mage had... changed over the centuries. Whereas before he was as drawn and haggard as Shalak had unfortunately become, now he was physically quite fearsome. He had adopted a suit of deadly looking black plate armor, and had a new fire in his remaining eye. Dransaerin took a step back from his scrying point when Marzoom appeared. Shalak could see a look of wariness come across his face, but it was quickly replaced by the youngest's usual detached air.
"Why do you call on me, eldest of us all?" rasped Marzoom. That, at least, had not changed. His voice was still as dry as ever. "Perhaps you feel the blessed wash of death across the land as well?"
"I take it you mean the wave of proto-necromantic energies? Yes, that is why I have called you. Someone is tinkering with things they do not understand," Shalak said, matter-of-factly.
He waited for one of the others to speak, but only silence answered him.
"I take it both of you know what this implies? What it would mean to all three of us if these energies became manifest?"
Dransaerin finally spoke, his glowing, tarnished eyes half-closed, to better conceal his thoughts. "If... someone... is tampering with powers they do not understand, I fail to see that it will mean anything at all to us. As when any child is allowed to play with matches--one brief moment of noise and dancing flames, and all will be quiet."
A raspy, dusty laugh came from Marzoom's dry throat. "And you have little to fear from matches these days, do you, Dransaerin? Should one of these... children find ample kindling, then a great inferno could engulf us still." His expression changed then, from its usual vicious grin to one of almost exultation. "And should we find our way to the eye of that storm, let the mortal cattle beware."
Shalak was quiet for a moment, then decided to explicitly spell out his concerns. "It is not as simple as that, Marzoom. Let me show both of you something." Shalak invoked arcane power with a single word, and a multi-colored and ever shifting image appeared above the pool.
"Look at the dimensional substructure of this Sphere. It is out of balance. Normally the Sphere can handle dimensional tampering. However, between the falling of the Warp wall, the appearance of the T'kallians, and Shadow's futile invasion, the substructure has weakened considerably." Shalak paused, letting his words sink into the rotting skulls of the other Lich Lords. "Already portals to the nether-regions have opened across the Sphere. In fact, all signs point to some kind of convergence. Between that, and the blasts of necromantic energies, I fear the total collapse of our Sphere's dimensional substructure. That, or at the very least, it weakening enough to let things into our world which should not be here. Things that I have studied throughout my existence. Things beyond even our ability to control."
Dransaerin studied the image with curiosity, but no surprise. "I was aware of most of this," he finally admitted, tilting his head in a curiously fluid and serpentine gesture for a better view of Shalak's conjured display. "I have been contemplating intervention of some sort, but there are... difficulties... with intervention, when done by my hand."
"I, too, have felt the underlying shift in the dimensional balance," Marzoom rasped. "I wonder, though, if there is not some benefit we could reap from it. While some of these...'tremors' have weakened me temporarily, or at least thrown me off balance, some of them have had the opposite effect." He turned to "face" Dransaerin. "The last time such energies washed over me, you became our third. These, however, are stronger, and my own scrying shows me that no new Liches have been created on Ataniel."
Dransaerin's glowing eyes, a metallic green like tarnished copper, shot to Marzoom, widening. It was the first open look of surprise his compatriots had ever seen on his face. "Is that what those energies feel like? I wondered, at the time of my rebirth..." He trailed off, staring into space for a moment. "I have means of scrying unavailable to either of you; superior means, if you will forgive my bluntness. I will endeavor to find out what Lich-energies without a Lich Lord may mean." With an intricate gesture and a nod of polite dismissal, Dransaerin severed the connection. Half of Shalak's scrying pool went blank, reflecting a featureless and shifting grey.
Shalak was surprised. Dransaerin should not have been able to sever the connection without Shalak's permission. He would have to watch the youngest of the Lich Lords very closely. "Marzoom, I suggest you monitor the death energies. It wouldn't be prudent for us to move at this time. You are right, though; perhaps there is a way to take advantage of this. Perhaps... but I must do some research on the subject. I will contact you again soon."
Shalak bowed with one fist in an open palm, an ancient Diari leaving sign. He then turned away, and the pool turned dark. "Maybe, just maybe," Shalak said to himself, as the oldest of the Lich Lords walked away down the corridor. He had a lot to think about, and even more to plan. It had been a long time since Ataniel felt the presence and power of a Lich Lord. That was about to change.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Valende, Vas, Ariath
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Sardines, Anyone?

Khyrisse gave one last yank to the hem of her tunic. "Yes, we're taking him to Edimon," she said firmly. "Skitch and I can sit on the roof. Vas can drive. If two other people are willing to sit up on the driver's seat, it won't even be uncomfortable for anybody."
"One of us should stay inside, I think," Valende said to her brother, who nodded in sober agreement. The teasing twinkle in his eye rather ruined the effect, though.
"I'll sit up top," Ariath volunteered cheerfully.
"Ah, how sweet of you to offer to keep me company," Vas said. With an impish smile, he bowed over her hand and kissed it, thumb caressing her fingers. His other hand reached up and nonchalantly caught the whip Khyrisse threw at his head.
"Gods, Vas, you're as bad as Kieran," Khyrisse said, laughing. "Anyone else?" She tried very hard not to single out Ebreth as she glanced around the room.

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

Ebreth was so caught up in thinking about something else that it actually took him a minute to notice the intentional carelessness of Khyrisse's gaze. "Ah yes," he said, "I volunteer, of course," and vaulted himself up to the driver's board with an effortless grace somehow reminiscent of Patches'.

Character(s):: Candi, Bambi
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: The Perfect Being

The being that stepped out of Mad Doctor Swank's machine was positively glowing with power. The combination of a variety of human DNA and deific power had melded into the perfect being, just as Swank had thought it would.
There was just one little surprise...
"Maxie!" Candi and Bambi yelled in unison.
"Vhat?!" Swank cried. "I had no Silverhammer DNA! This should have come out as ze perfect human beink!"
"Oh, it did!" Candi beamed.
"Maxie is really perfect, isn't he?" Bambi agreed.
"Whoa," the Max-being said. "Like, where am I? Who am I, even?"
"You are my perfect beink!" Swank cried. "You are like unto a god!"
"Bitchin'," the Perfect Being said.
"I'm going to have a lot of explaining to do on this one," Lissa sighed to Berryn.
"So, like, anyone got any munchies?" the Perfect Being asked.


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

Jack found himself wedged in between Val and Cori.
There was something uncomfortable about that particular seating position, but Jack couldn't quite put his finger on it.

"Ay-n-ay, mon," Sir (Prince) Tomas sighed. "Dis time dey be way out o' line, Nikki! Dem Cynystrans don' know who dey be messin' wit'."
"It's just a diplomatic entourage, Tomas," Nikita said. "They're supposed to be rude."
"Den why fo' dey send in all de police?"
"Something about a criminal they want extradition for."
"Dey tell you who?"
"Not yet."
"But yo got yo un-princessly way of findin' dese t'ings out?" Tomas grinned.
"I was a thief for longer than I was a princess, dear."

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: All Aboard For Edimon

Khyrisse rolled her eyes briefly and smiled. Very subtle, Khyri. Ebreth didn't notice a thing. I'm sure nobody noticed anything. RIGHT.
"This is getting more interesting by the moment," Vas murmured in her ear.
She turned to look up at him, then back again to see what he was grinning at.
Jack had gotten in the carriage, and had been promptly bracketed by Cori and Valende. Jack remained oblivious despite this. Pieret got in as she watched, seated himself across from Cori, and bowed slightly to her. He said something very formal in what Khyrisse thought was Shikinti. Cori looked surprised. Khyrisse could sympathize. "Do you know what he said?" she asked Vas quietly.
"No, milady, I do not," Vas replied. "But I'd be willing to wager that it was a compliment..."
Khyrisse looked at Cori. She certainly didn't seem to be offended. Pleased, more than anything else. She grinned. "No takers."
Khyrisse paused next to the Riklandic stranger, on her way to her spot on the roof. Skitch was already there, trying to suppress laughter as he watched everybody get in. I can't WAIT till you hit puberty, kiddo. Then I'm going to laugh MY butt off while YOU act like an idiot. "You know, I missed getting your name because of... all that." She waved a hand at the scorched mark on the floor of the inn. "I hope you'll have time to tell us about Flicker once we get to Edimon. He's a good friend. I've been concerned about him."

Character(s):: Hronmir Silent-Voice
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains/Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: The Fate of Flicker

"You can call me Grimthane Darkcloak," Hronmir said quietly to Khyrisse.
"It's not your real name?"
"My real name is something... from a past life," Hronmir replied.
"So what happened to Flicker?"
"I first... encountered him... in a prison cell where I was the... guest... of Norna of the Valkyrie. He had been teleported there by a man known as Charles Of-No-Matter."
"Charlie," Khyrisse corrected under her breath.
"Norna had brought him there to force him to help her... as she had forced me... to avert a prophecy threatening the Valkyrie."
"Weren't the Valkyrie killed during Ragnarok?"
"No. But their end may be soon."
"So why do you need to go to Edimon? Is that where they're going?"
"They head to Riklandir. As do I. Edimon is a... necessary stop."
"Why?"
"I have a letter for Elena Raimonde that must be delivered."
Grimthane didn't continue.

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