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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Dangerous Liaisons, Part I

Character(s):: Luthien, Berryn, and the whole Swanky Crew
Author:: Evan
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: The Swank Stops Here

Lissa had gotten pretty fed up with the whole situation, and decided that it was time to end this farce. Summoning up powerful energy from within, she glared at Rhynwa's clone and shouted a power word. Struck by its force, she toppled over backwards, stunned. Oethnar cried out, "Forsooth!" and rushed over to her, a ridiculous look of concern on his wooden face.
While all this was happening, Berryn had managed to get free from Alain MaClone's grasp. The blind simulacrum was swinging around blindly for him, and Berryn got in a lucky shot and tripped him. He wasn't quite sure what to do next, so he took a step back to heal his throat, hoping that 'Lissa' would give him some help. He noticed as he healed himself that the entity called 'Maxie' was walking out the door, holding the twins on either side of him, while the Mad Doctor Swank continued to shriek.
Lissa, meanwhile, turned her attention to Palmer Khlone. As he came towards her mechanically, she cast shocking grasp and waited for the obvious strike. It came moments later, as Palmer drew his sword and tried to stick it into his helpless opponent. What he got instead was several thousand volts of magical energy transmitted straight through his not-quite-so-perfect body. The results were far more impressive than Lissa had hoped for, as Palmer's entire nervous system short-circuited, leaving him a lifeless and slightly smoking husk on the floor.
The Mad Doctor Swank stopped shrieking when he saw his creation fall. He started up again right away though, this time directing it at Oethnar. "KILL THEM, MY MINION! I have given you your silly first love back, didn't I?!? You still work for me! KILL THEM!" He was hopping up and down on his chair furiously, and Berryn couldn't help but think that he looked like a ridiculous cartoon frog.
Lissa shifted back to his normal form, and Swank grew slightly pale as he stopped shrieking. Luthien could hear Berryn sigh in relief behind him, just before he tripped Alain MaClone again. He turned his attention back to Swank. "Your little scheme is over, Swank. You didn't keep track of your notes and your samples, and now your creation is off getting laid instead of doing your bidding. You are a fool, and now you're coming with me." With that, he cast a polymorph spell, and soon the only thing left of the Mad Doctor was a tiny caterpillar wriggling furiously on the chair.
Berryn had managed to tie Alain up, and was going to untie Robinson. The tree-man was cradling the Rhynwa clone in his arms, and was gently caressing her face. She was alive, but it looked to Luthien like the stun had really knocked her for a loop. Luthien came over cautiously, stopping when Oethnar spoke.
"Alas, I hast now tasted the bitter pill of psychodrama. Verily, I shouldst never have lefteth my woods on this mad pursuit. Doeth what thee will, necromancer. I shall not stoppeth thee."
Luthien just shook his head, having finally figured out what must have happened to him. "I'm not going to do anything, Oethnar, except ask that you don't pursue this kind of mad dream in the future. I know you and Rhynwa were close for a time, but she's my wife now, and that's the way it is. You'll have to accept that."
"Verily, I had, good Luthien. I kneweth truly that she and thee were wed, and that she had sprouted."
Luthien tried to repress a laugh at the idea of Rhynwa "sprouting". She still had a hard time accepting the idea that she had once been pollinated.
"Now, I shall dismantleth this wicked place. It is most unnatural, and I do not wish to see it any longer." He started to move towards the console, growing as he did so.
"Wait!" shouted Luthien, rushing past him to grab the still-furious caterpillar and the stack of notes. He put the former scientist in a jar, and then helped Berryn get the prisoner out of the way. "Now you can dismantle it."
As the three of them made their way to the hole they fell through, they could hear the tree-man's demolition behind them. It gave Luthien sort of a warm feeling, because it reminded him of the demolition of the Rimbor arena. As he flew the three of them up to ground level, Robinson introduced himself.
"Did you say your name was Paris?" asked Luthien as they got outside.
"Yes, Robinson Paris. I, uh, I came to Lianth looking for a relative of mine, named..."
Luthien finished his sentence for him. "Jack."
Robinson looked relieved to hear someone say that name. "Thank goodness someone around here has seen him. Do you know where he went? Did he say when he'd be back?"
Luthien shook his head. "Actually, neither of us have seen him. He left the Mithril Dagger some time ago with some friends of mine. I was going to wait for them to return, back at the Dagger. Would you care to join us, Robinson?"
Seeing no other prospects in sight, Robinson shrugged and sighed. "Might as well. Say, you wouldn't be in need of a mathematician, would you...."

Character(s):: Norna, Rudest of the Valkyrie
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Bull In A China Shop

Flicker walked into the Mithril Dagger and almost straight into the newly docile clone of Janther Moria. He went back about five feet into Norna, who shouted and smacked him in the back of the head. "It's a clone, you retarded demon!"
"My master is a worm, Kayla," said the clone, sounding somewhat depressed.
"I'm Kevin," said the bartender.
"What is going on here?" Flicker said to Luthien.
"We were having a little trouble with the Mad Doctor Swank. It's handled." The necromancer took a pull on his Guinness. He was really getting to like this stuff. "But I didn't really know what to do with this. Do you have any ideas?"
"Could you start with polymorphing it?" Flicker clapped himself on the chest a few times, trying to get his heart rate back down. "Luthien, we need to talk."
"Are you OK?" Kayla came in from the back room, looking concerned. "Your head is bleeding."
"I'm fine," he said. "I got into a fight with Malcar--"
"Malcar?" shouted Norna. "Why didn't you tell me this?"
"You mean the last time you let me get a word in edgewise?"
Norna gritted her teeth. "You hold the key I need, Luthien."
Luthien looked at her. "Norn, right?"
"That's right," she said. "And if you ever want to see your son again, you had better cooperate."
"What?" said Luthien, angrily.
"Norna, shut up!" shouted Flicker. She was so startled at the amount of noise he had made that she forgot to hit him. "I need your help," he told Luthien. "We've got a code green."
"Evil alternate future?"
"Seriously."
"Man, I hate those."
Kayla put some ice on the side of Flicker's head. He touched her fingers and blinked at the old scientist. "Robinson? Is that you?"
"Who are--"
"I'm a, a friend of Shalini's."
"That's enough socializing, Messala," snapped Norna. "You and Luthien come with me."
"Actually," said Flicker, "Robinson might be able to help us. He's a mathematician too." The connection had only just occurred to him; they looked nothing alike. "Is Jack your son?"
"You know Jack too? I need--"
"Can you do search algorithms?" demanded Norna. "I need to trace a timeline backwards. Luthien the Lich Lord has returned from the future."
Flicker struck his forehead. I had better social skills in the Abyss.

Character(s):: Harry Novoa and Octavian
Author:: Evan Haag and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I./Octavian/"To An Inconstant Mistress"
Title of Post:: Crossroads

Harry Novoa had had a crappy couple of days. It was bad enough that he couldn't keep Ms. Starshadow and her cohorts from leaving, but then he'd lost Graves as well. The worst part of that was, he had already collared Graves. He still wasn't sure how the dirty creep had just disappeared from his bonds. To top it all off, some street kid had thrown a horse-apple at him on his way to the station today. It was definitely one of those weekends.
As he opened the door to his office, his survival instinct kicked in. He entered cautiously, hoping that his 'coworkers' hadn't left some nasty surprise for him. He didn't notice anything immediately out of place, which made him even more nervous. He closed the door behind himself carefully, drawing his wand. As he turned the key, a light came on behind him. He whirled, and found himself face to face with a man in a heavily cowled grey cloak.
The man's hands immediately shot up over his head, flipping the edges of the cloak to either side of his body. He said quickly, "Please don't fire, Officer Novoa. I am unarmed and unhostile."
"Everybody's hostile in Rimbor, buddy. Just sit down on that chair over there and tell me what the hell you're doing in my office." He waved the stranger to the guest chair, while he himself went behind his desk.
"Actually, officer, I've been meaning to make your acquaintance ever since my return to Rimbor. I've been following your career, and I like what I've seen." He smiled slightly as he settled into the chair. "You and I have a lot in common."
"Like what? Breaking and entering? Possibly the unlawful examination of police files? You had better start explaining yourself, before I just arrest you on those two counts."
The strange man shook his head. "That wouldn't help your struggle in the least. In fact, all it would do is make your fellow... 'officers' very happy." Harry noticed a definite tone of disgust when he said the word 'officers'. "After all, it wouldn't hurt them in the least to have the notorious Octavian under lock and key."
Harry was floored by this. Octavian? Here? Jesus, this is not how I expected to spend my evening. "So what do you want with me? From what I hear, police officers are not high on your list of favorite people."
"Only the wrong sort of police officers. You, on the other hand, are honest and efficient, and you actually give a damn about the people on the street. It's just that your hands are tied by the current system." Harry nodded absently, having felt restrained ever since he got to Rimbor. "I'm a lot like you in these respects, really. I'm just not quite so... restricted."
Harry just looked at 'Octavian'. He wasn't at all what he expected him to be. For one thing, he was short. The guy was barely five-five, if that, although he looked to be pretty healthy. For another thing, he wasn't much to look at, although he couldn't see much of his face. Harry still had the vague romantic idea that heroic types should at least look the part. "Fine. If you're Octavian, then you can start answering questions. What do you know about the abduction of a small boy yesterday at approximately one in the morning?"
"Quite a bit. I was there." Harry was surprised to hear so bald-faced a confession. "Before you assume the worst, hear me out. I saw Officer Graves follow the lad inside Mr. Spivot's residence, and I acted quickly to get the boy out of his hands. Fortunately, I had prior knowledge of the tunnels and entrances to the house, so I was able to cut him off. After that, well, Officer Graves has never had the most skilled... accomplices."
"And what were you doing watching Mr. Spivot's residence?"
"Mr. Spivot has been acting... odd, since the Madness. He has acquired some unsavory acquaintances of late, including Officer Graves and some of his... street-level contacts."
"Yeah, I know all about them. That doesn't explain why you were watching Barry Spivot."
"From what I understand, in the past year Mr. Spivot has displayed an unhealthy interest in magical experimentation. In particular, the summoner's arts. And recently, I've noted a drastic change in personality. I fear that he is involved with something that might... cause a lot of damage."
"You're right about damage, anyway; he tried to whack Ms. Starshadow at the Rimbor Arena, just before it blew. Okay, so what happened to the kid?"
"I tried to question the boy about some of his traveling companions, before returning him to his mistress. Unfortunately, we were interrupted by an explosion. I left to investigate, and by the time I could return, someone else had kidnapped him."
"Yeah, I heard. A gentleman going by the name of Ebreth Tor brought him back." Octavian sat up a little straighter at the mention of this name. Harry made a note of that. "From what I understand, he used some... unsavory contacts to get him back. He refused to make a statement, though, so I don't know anything else. Perhaps you could fill in the blanks?"
Octavian shook his head. "Not those blanks, officer, but a few others are being filled in, apparently. I am more afraid than ever for those people, now. Did they mention where they were going?"
"Yeah, Sturtevant. Another question: what made you investigate the explosion? Most people tend to stay away from loud noises in Rimbor; it's healthier."
"I'm not most people, officer. Anything that happens in Rimbor is my business... but particularly if people are being hurt. When I got there, though, there was no sign of any wounded or dead, other than Graves' men. I did find something, though: a piece of the bomb wedged into the wall. It's there on your desk."
Harry had noticed the charred piece of metal when he sat down, but he had chosen to ignore it in favor of questioning Octavian. "Yeah, I noticed. What about it?"
Octavian leaned forward and sighed. "I have reason to believe that someone in their group set that bomb. The hand that created it is... familiar to me. This person might be in league with the man called Ebreth Tor; if what you say about his contacts is true, I can only assume the worst. If there is any way you can contact Ms. Starshadow, I urge you to warn her-- there is a traitor amongst those she has reason to trust... and quite possibly more than one."

Character(s):: Robinson Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Time, Look What's Become of Me

"I'll make you a deal," Robinson said. "I'll track your temporal skein if you help me find Jack."
"Deal?" Norna said. "You expect me to..."
"Do it, Norna," Flicker said.
Norna was silent for a moment. "Very well, Mathematician. I accept your terms."
"See, was that so hard?" Flicker asked.
"It matters little," Norna said. "He won't live long enough to see his son again."
"Norn!" Flicker cried.
"There is such a thing as too much information," Robinson Paris sighed.
"Don't worry," Luthien said. "Death is a matter with which I have an acquaintance. Things aren't always as clear as that."
"And that's part of your problem, necromancer," Norna spat.

Character(s):: Candi, Bambi
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: The Unbearable Swankness of Being
Title of Post:: Throw Another Max On The Bambi

"So we were really tricky!" Bambi said. "I bet Luthien didn't even know we knew it was him!"
"We didn't," Candi replied.
"Yeah, but don't tell Max that!"
"Whoa. You chicks are way cool."
"You know, Candi, we can't keep calling him Max."
"But he looks like Max," Candi insisted.
"But I look like you, and people don't call me Bambi."
"Yes they do. You are Bambi. I'm Candi."
"Are you sure?"
"I think so..."
The girls looked at each other confused for a minute, before forgetting what the problem was.
"So what do we call him?"
"What do you want to be called?" Bambi asked the Perfect Being.
"Um, what's a cool name?"
"Devon!" Candi yelled.
"Derek!" Bambi yelled.
"Brad Pitt!"
"Tom Cruise!"
"Max!"
"Uh, Bambi, wasn't that what we were trying to avoid?"
"Oopsie! You're right! Well, let's try again next post."
"Sounds good to me!"

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

Jack poked his head into Khyrisse's room. "Khyrisse?" he asked tentatively. The ex-goddess merely stared into space. "Hello? Khyrisse?"
"Oh, Jack... what's going on?"
Jack bit his lower lip. "Not much, actually. We're still waiting for Ariath, and now Val and Cori have wandered off somewhere. I was just wondering if you had seen them?"
"No," Khyrisse said absently. "No, I haven't."
"Well," Jack said, putting on a cheery face, "it's a big castle. Fortunately we can all be trusted to look out for each other. Someone's probably seen them."
Jack popped out of the room.
Khyrisse wanted to sob.

"Okay, buddy. I've just saved your ass, so you're in my debt."
Hronmir Silent-Voice (not Grimthane Darkcloak) looked up at the young blonde woman who had snuck him out of the Edimon dungeons. "That... creature..." he said. "It..."
"Controlled you. I know."
"Who... are you?"
"I'm Ariath. I'm a, uh, friend of Flicker's."
"You saved me," Hronmir said. "I am at your service." There was a sad resignation in Hronmir's voice as he admitted that.
"Damn straight you are. And the first thing you're going to do is to keep your yap shut about Malcar and the Queen."
"But we should--"
"Do. Nothing." Ariath insisted. "If it's learned that we know, we're both dead. I know how that thing works."
"Silence is not an unfamiliar path," Hronmir whispered.
"Good. We're going to get back to the Rat Pack, and you're going to explain that after delivering your letter you took me on a tour of the keep. I'll apologize for being late, then you'll keep a low profile with the 'Pack until I tell you not to."
"As you command," Hronmir sighed.

Jack was lounging on the roof of the Trade Carriage, optimistically ready for travel, counting the stars in the night sky. He had hoped to have dinner with Val tonight, but she was as elusive as Ariath. And Grimthane. And Skitch. Boy, adventurers sure like to go off by themselves a lot, he mused. Must make a lot of work for whatever gods look after them. "Jack?" came a familiar voice. It was Ariath, followed by Grimthane. "There you guys are!" Jack said, leaping down from the coach. "We've been waiting for you."
"I took her on a tour," Grimthane said.
"Whatever. Let me go tell Khyrisse, and maybe we can finally get going to Sturtevant."

Character(s):: Norna, Flicker
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Convergence

"Sturtevant?" Ariath batted her lashes and pouted. "They frown on magic use, don't they? I'll be helpless."
"Vas is in there," said Jack helpfully, pointing towards the inn.

***
"Sturtevant." The music box tinkled its obsessive refrain. Norna's mighty hand shook on the skein. "That's it. I've found it. We have to go to Sturtevant."
"And Jack?" said Robinson.
"Sturtevant," she said. "He's in Sturtevant."
"Are you just saying that?"
"No," she said. "Fate is full of coincidences. We may need to kill him."
"We will find a way that does not involve killing him." Flicker helped the old mathematician up.
"Flicker?" said Luthien, in undertone.
"I don't know," said Flicker, in Gaelic. "She thinks it's not a true future. Maybe we can avert that and the destruction of the Valkyrie at the same time."
"Are you talking about me?" said Norna, dangerously.
"No," he said, in Dalen, "I'm talking about Sigrid. I'm getting more and more inclined to let you fend for yourself."

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

Khyrisse stared into space for a long time, while her brain spun its mental wheels. A cantrip had reduced Ebreth's note to colored powder, which she had then rather mechanically dumped into her glass of wine. The wine sat untouched on the table next to her as she stared into space. The Dead College? Beliath? I've never even HEARD of these people! And what the hell is Duke St. Augustine doing in Vas?! He's supposed to be dead! A knock on her door made her jump. She snapped herself out of her stupor and reached for the glass of wine. Thank god it was Jack last time. I doubt he noticed anything wrong with me. "Come in," she said, before placing the glass to her lips.
The door opened to reveal Skitch, carrying his book. Vas smiled at her a little over the boy's head. She crinkled her eyes at Vas over the rim of her glass, as if she'd smiled back, and finished off the wine. Vas went back to his reading.
"You said you wanted to check my stuff tonight," Skitch reminded her. He sauntered in without asking and thumped the door shut behind him with a yawn.
"Right, sorry. It's been a long day."
"Well maybe if you slept, it wouldn't be so bad!" he said, grinning up at her. Khyrisse sat down next to him at the table and picked up his notebook. She flipped slowly through the pages, thinking furiously, discarding most of the spells she had access to as being useless. She couldn't exorcise him-- she wasn't a priestess. She didn't dare ask anyone for help, which left out asking Tarrin or Valende. She didn't even know if St. Augustine was a dead spirit or just incorporeal; with the few options available to her, it was certainly going to make a difference. Nor did she know how complete or constant his control of Vas was; Vas seemed to be perfectly normal most of the time. That made a difference, too. She absently scribbled some corrections on one of Skitch's pages. I don't have time to enchant a gem to use for Trap the Soul. I could GET a suitable one, but I can't cast the spell and have it work reliably with only a day to prepare the damn thing... She was distracted from her thoughts by a soft, repetitive sound. She looked up, frowning. Skitch was playing with her brand-new deck of cards, shuffling and reshuffling them. He piled them all together, fanned them out, and extended them to her, face down. "Pick a card," he invited cheerfully.
Khyrisse's face altered strangely as an idea finally hit her whirling brain. For a moment, her eyes blazed with an almost mischievous, wholly dangerous light. She looked startlingly like Derek the Deranged for that instant.
"What?" Skitch said curiously.

***
Valende dropped into the chair next to her brother's and stared out the window. Vas blinked at her. "Something wrong, Val?"
"Hmm."
"I suppose that is a yes..." he said, looking contemplatively down at his book. He turned his attention from the spelling lesson in Khyrisse's room and grinned at his sister. "Allow me to hazard a guess. Our Shikinti warrior maiden has accused you of poaching."
"Marriage," Valende murmured, in a tone that wavered between confusion and alarm. Vas' eyes widened.
"That seems a little fast, for the Jack I know!"
"No no no..." Valende sat up and began explaining.

***
Skitch crawled invisibly back in through the window, package gripped tightly in his teeth. He grinned momentarily at the illusion of himself, scribbling away at Khyrisse's table, before placing the parcel carefully in Khyrisse's lap. He sat down, pulled out his pen, and meshed his movements with those of his double. Khyrisse, without looking up from her spellbook, removed the improved invisibility spell from her apprentice and the illusion spells from the room, and kept studying. A little smile flickered across her face and disappeared.

Character(s):: Alphred of the Jungle
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Mind Games
Title of Post:: Watch out for that tree

Alphred didn't like the signs. The thunder lizards of the Dismal Swamp had fled to the highlands. The elephant and piranha totems all pointed to famine and strife. On top of all of that, his bunions were killing him. Things definitely did not look good in Salagia.
The self-appointed "Lord of the Jungle" swung from one vine to another. He needed to get to the Great Obelisk of Tiki-too. There the spirits of his ancestors would tell him what he needed to do.
Alphred landed on the upper branch of a large gwino tree. From here he could spy for miles around. He wasn't far from the large black obelisk. In fact, it would be easier to walk from here on. He didn't feel like dealing with the great feathered Awk Raptor that lived in the tree tops surrounding the obelisk. Grabbing a vine, he shimmied down to the jungle floor.
Alphred arrived at the ruin a few short hours later. He hadn't been here for a long time. At least twelve rains had passed since he battled with the demon lizard that guarded the mysterious oracle. Alphred walked up to the obelisk, sensing the spirits of all the totems around him. The ancient carved letters on the pillar of stone twinkled with a dewy light.
"By the covenant with the Flanzra people of the great waterfall, I, Alphred of the Jungle, ask the spirits of the holy obelisk of Tiki-too for their wisdom," the jungle lord screamed out into the air.
"Jungle lord," the spirits whispered on the wind, "pay your fee and ask us your question."
Alphred tore free the amulet bag that hung around his neck by a leather thong. He opened the pouch and tossed its contents at the base of the obelisk.
"As you demand. The knuckle bones of a shimmer cat killed under a berri tree. A stone from the river that runs up the mountain. A feather from the nest of the swark eagle that nests on the western edge of the plateau. I have brought all these as payment. Now will you answer my question?"
"Ask," the spirits whispered.
"All the signs point to a great pestilence approaching the land. How might I stop it?"
"The pestilence is already here, jungle lord. You cannot stop it. But you can heal it. Seek the sage from the east. He holds the answers. Seek the one who has fallen. She holds the solution. Seek the rodent without a tail. It understands."
"I do not understand, great ones, but I will do as you instruct. Where shall I start?"
"Go towards the rising sun until the jungle lands are no more. There in a land of terror you will find those you seek."
Alphred nodded and walked away from the oracle. He had a long trip ahead of him.

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