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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Dangerous Liaisons, Part II

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

Khyrisse looked up from her studying, suddenly conscious of the lateness of the hour.
"Are you done with that, kiddo?"
"I am if you've got something else for me to do!"
Khyrisse sighed and rolled her eyes. "All right, put your stuff away and go see if everyone's back yet. Take someone with you if you have to leave the hotel; Vas or Val, preferably." Skitch bolted out of the room.
Before Khyrisse was finished putting her things away, Skitch was back. "Val and Vas are out in the hallway," he said, ticking off on his fingers, "Jack is out by the Carriage with Ariath and Grimthane, Ebreth is in his room, and nobody knows where Cori, Pieret, or Tarrin are. The rat's asleep in the satchel."
"Great," Khyrisse said, holding her forehead. I am so glad Eric and I never had children. And this time, it's not for the obvious reason of not wanting him to breed.
Skitch was dancing in place, trying to get her attention. "Um, Khyri?"
"Hmm?"
"You oughtta know-- there's a whole bunch of Cynystran guards and a diplomat here to visit the Queen. I saw some of them."
Every muscle in Khyrisse's body went taut. All the blood drained out of her face and hands, and she turned to stare at him.
"We should beat it," Skitch said, observing this not unexpected reaction, "yes?"
Khyrisse lifted her head slowly and stared at-- or maybe through-- the ceiling. "Why are you doing this to me?" she asked quietly.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Girls of St. Augustine
Title of Post:: Dangerous Liaisons

Ebreth Tor sprawled across the driver's board of the Trade Carriage and watched Ariath playing with Vas' hair. He couldn't believe he was getting involved with these people. Ebreth Tor had a lot on his mind tonight, but the current front-runner was wishing he'd given Khyrisse a better kiss before, so he didn't go out of his way to try and mask his thoughts.

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

Jack watched Ebreth Tor. However, this time, he wasn't looking for a hint of the old Tor, nor was he watching the man's hands. Jack knew deep introspection well enough to notice the slight furrowing of Tor's brow and his occasional involuntary swallowing. "What's up?" Jack asked, strolling over to where Ebreth was laying. "You look like I usually do."
Ebreth almost seemed surprised. "Nothing. Just... taking inventory."
"Look," Jack sighed, "I know you and I didn't get off on the right foot for all this, but, uh... I just wanted to let you know, um... well, if you need to talk..."
"I'm fine, Jack. Just a lot to process."
"Well, I don't seem to be making much headway with anyone but the Rat, then..." Jack sighed and headed off to see if Khyrisse was ready to leave.
"Jack?" Ebreth said after a moment.
"Mm?"
"Thanks."
Jack smiled as he headed up into the chambers of Edimon.

Cori was the only one standing between three Cynystran warriors and their apparent target, Pieret Laird-Clowes. "Just let us have the criminal, woman," their leader said.
"Over my dead body," Cori grinned, and tasted the welling taste of blood flowing from her lip.
"This is all a misunderstanding," Pieret tried to interject.
"Like hell, Minarye," the captain of the guard said. "Eric briefed us all on your nature... creature."
"I don't know what the h--uh, heck--you're talking about," Pieret said.
Cori watched the guard. All she needed was one threatening twitch.
The captain touched his sword.
It was enough. Oshi's blade came to life, and Cori was confident in her actions for the first time in weeks.

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

Skitch ran out the door that Jack had just entered, and scrambled for the roof of the waiting Carriage. "Khyri's freaking, we gotta go now," he called to Vas as he leaped onto the driver's step, bags in hand.
"What?" Vas asked curiously, and turned to look at the building.
Khyrisse came out the door like a tornado full of snow, nearly bowling Jack over on the doorstep. She looked unbelievably agitated, alabaster-pale with a splash of crimson burning high on each cheekbone, every muscle tensed and vibrating. Her hand hovered a little too close to her longsword. "Is everyone here?" she demanded of Vas, in a voice made quiet by sheer willpower. "Are we ready to leave?"
Skitch scrambled past Ebreth on the driver's seat to the roof. Ebreth felt a tiny square of folded paper stuffed into his belt as the kid whisked past him, under cover of all the baggage he was carrying.
"No, milady," Vas said, staring at Khyrisse in alarm, "Tarrin, Jack's friend Cori, and your uncle have still not returned." Khyrisse's fists went into her flying hair. "What's wrong?"
"Cynystra's here," she said. A slightly wild look appeared in her eyes. "There's a diplomat, with a detail of Eric's guard, here in the castle. It would be... awkward if they ran into me or Pieret. Really awkward if they ran into me and Pieret. Did he tell anyone where he was going?" she asked of the group around the Carriage. "What about Tarrin and Cori?"
Valende appeared beside Jack in the doorway. "Cori and Pieret went looking for Shikinti takeout, I believe," she volunteered, looking worriedly at Khyrisse. "Down that way."

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

"Cori and Pieret, huh?" Jack said to Val. "I sort of thought it was a little soon after Haroshi's death, but I guess she knows how fast life can be."
"Fast. Right," Val said, looking Jack over appraisingly.
"Carpe diem," Jack said, sounding pleased with himself. "Seize the..."
"Jack?" Ebreth whispered in his ear. "Shut up before you do any more damage."

"Six," Pieret counted. "You took out six Cynystran warriors without breaking a sweat."
"Seven," Cori corrected.
"My mistake." Pieret hadn't even seen a seventh. As long as the samurai was around, perhaps he would be safe.
"yOu ArE oUt Of PlAcE, hErE, cOrI yAsHiDa," a strange voice said.
"Oh, fuck," Pieret muttered, beginning an invocation he feared would be too little too late.
"Who... what... are you?" Cori said, watching the strange, three-eyed blue figure with the large hole in his torso float towards her.
"Wild Pack," Pieret whispered. The rumors were false. The Wild Pack wasn't demolished in the Madness.
"I aM dOcToR aNoMaLy," the absurd being said. "AnD yOuR fRiEnD hErE iS vErY, vErY, vErY oUt Of PlAcE hErE."
"Not for much longer, Anomaly," Pieret said.
Cori looked back. Pieret was glowing with Hellfire.

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

"Bill Gates."
"John Constantine."
"Hulk Hogan."
"Nicholson Baker."
"Drag Swift Twimpitlophron."
"Amy Nellan."
"Scott Borst."
"Clark Kent."
"Maxwell Silverhammer."
There was an uncomfortable pause.
"Sorry. I did it again, didn't I?"
The Perfect Being sighed. "Like, this isn't getting us anywhere, you know?"
"Maybe we're not the right people to name you," Candi said.
"Maybe you need to find a professional namer."
"Or a mathematician," Candi said.
"Why do you say that?" Bambi asked.
"It just seems that since the Madness, everyone's needed a mathematician," Candi admitted.
"Like, you two are, y'know, way cool?" the Perfect Being said. "But I've gotta, like, find my own way. Hit the road. Go looking for the real Ataniel."
"Ataniel isn't real?" Bambi asked.
"Don't be silly," Candi scolded. "Ataniel's the most real thing there is!"
"Anyway," the Perfect Being said, "I'm going to go, like, on a vision quest. Alone, you know?"
"Ditched by another Max," Candi sighed.
"Or whatever he's called," Bambi added.
"I'll be here for you if you ever, like, really need me, you know? But until then, like, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do."
The Perfect Being tapped into his innate control over space and time and vanished.
"That was kinda rude," Bambi grumbled. "Just taking off like that."
"I don't think it was his fault," Candi comforted her twin. "I think he got proscribed."

Character(s):: Tarrin
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Mind Games
Title of Post:: Left. No! Right.

Tarrin wished he had a better sense of direction. He had spent the last few hours trying to find his way back to the rest of the Rat Pack. Unfortunately, he was lost for most of those.
Tarrin rounded a corner, and ran smack into a contingent of Cynystran guards.
"Well, look what I see," said one of the more burly soldiers.
"Who would have thought it? A six-fingered freak, here in Dalencia."
Tarrin really wished he had a better sense of direction.

Character(s):: Patches, more dumb Cynystrans, and one Diarian
Author:: Evan
Storyline:: Cat and Mouse
Title of Post:: Patches to the Rescue

Patches padded down the hallway, lazily wondering who he could get to give him more food. That was the best part about castles; everyone thought that cats were there to chase away rats, so they gave them a lot of food. He had spent most of his morning catching up on his sleep after the previous night's fun, and was ready for action.
Some noise up ahead made his ears perk up. He sniffed the air, sensed hostility, and moved forward to check it out. As he poked his nose around the corner, he saw six of his "playmates" from last night harassing another human-type person.
"Looks like you've got no place to run, freak," said one of them, as he advanced on his prey. Patches assessed him quickly. No balance, no poise, can't stalk for crap. These guys are pathetic. Then again, they're also tired. Heh.
Deciding that anyone these guys didn't like had to have something good going for him, the wiry calico touched each of their minds, and started to play upon their innate suspicions and fears. As he toyed with them, they started to look nervous.
"Hey, wait a minute. Why's he alone? That isn't normal."
"Yeah, you're right. Be careful, he might have something hidden."
Yeah, like...oh shit. Everybody be real careful. He might be one of their psi-commandos."
"Can't be; he doesn't look like...oh, I see what you mean. Um, I don't know if this is such a good..."
"Hey, quit jabbering! You guys are giving me the creeps. He can't be that tough...can he?"
"Maybe, maybe. I think maybe we should get back to the barracks; we, um, we don't want to get caught fighting."
"Yeah, he's right! I mean, we're envoys, right? We could get the ambassador in trouble or something."
"Good point. Alright, freak. You got off easy this time, but don't let us see you around here again, or you'll get yours, that's for sure."
The six soldiers, trying to keep a brave face, backed up to the nearby stairwell, then turned and scrambled up it double-time. The tone of fear in the last statement was so obvious, it was almost laughable. Patches congratulated himself on a job well done, then noticed a bit of sticky stuff on his paw that he hadn't seen before. Hmm. Gotta get that off before I try for some food. Wouldn't do to not look my best.
Tarrin hadn't even gotten the chance to contact one of them.

Character(s):: Luthien, Berryn, Flicker, and the Valkyrie Bitch
Author:: Evan
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Blood is thicker than Tact

Luthien asked Kayla to go get Berryn, and got his gear together silently. He had just finished checking his spell components when the sleepy apprentice stumbled down the stairs.
"What now?" he asked, yawning. "I was just about to find out why the clover-princess was conspiring with the king of all cheeses to drive up the market price of inflatable..."
"Please, Berryn, not now. Get your things together." Berryn held up his pack and weapons belt. "Good. We have to go to Sturtevant to stop a dangerous entity. I'll tell you more about it on the way. This is Flicker, who I've mentioned before."
Berryn waved lazily at Flicker. "Hi, howzit goin'?"
Luthien continued. "And this is Norna, our...guide. She is a Valkyrie, even though she has the scruples of a Rimbor City arena boss. Which reminds me..." He turned to Norna then, a steady, almost murderous look in his eyes. Norna's hand went towards her sword, but Flicker kept her from going any farther. "Tomorrow morning, as soon as I have the spell available, I am contacting Rhynwa and finding out whether or not our son is safe and happy. If he is, then I will take your previous comment as nothing more than a scare tactic to get me to cooperate, and leave it at that. If he isn't..." Luthien leaned closer to her then, to make sure she got the message. "If he isn't, you had better pray that you die fighting the Lich Lord, because you certainly won't want to be around for Rhynwa or myself to do the job. Do we have an understanding?"

Character(s):: Valkyrie Bitch
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: When You Can See The Future, You're Hard To Threaten

The corners of Norna's mouth perked in a slight smile. She twisted Flicker's wrist in her hand until it opened involuntarily and pushed him aside without looking at him. "It is neither a bluff nor a threat," she said. "Take it as a prophecy. Luthien. The Dead." She looked intently at the necromancer, and then drained her mug in one long pull. "Uh!" she said, wiping her mouth with a disgusted look that rather ruined the ominous effect she had cultivated. "This beer is stale!"
Kayla went into the back room, whistling to herself.


Character(s):: Flicker, Robinson
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate
Title of Post:: Mak A Di Long Story

"Are you sure you want to come with us?" Flicker said quietly to Robinson. "We may not even see Jack there. We're going to the Demontide. I don't know what Jack's doing in Sturtevant, but I doubt it involves demons."
"It's better than traveling through Sturtevant alone," said Robinson.
Flicker nodded softly. He had always liked Robinson. It bothered him thinking the old mathematician would die soon. "Robinson. What you need to tell Jack. Perhaps--you'd better share it with me." Robinson looked at him. "Just--in case, Robinson. Norn may be telling the truth."
"You wouldn't understand," said Robinson, shaking his head.
"No, probably not," said Flicker, "but I have a good memory."
Robinson frowned. "Say, what happened to Shalini, anyway?"
"You wouldn't understand," said Flicker, and sighed.

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

Khyrisse ran down the street, Valende on her heels. It sounded like the others might be going to follow, but Khyrisse didn't stop to check. Dammit, I wish I remembered this city better. Where would they have gone to--
A bright flash from an intersection ahead answered her question. Red light danced over the faces of the buildings opposite. Oh no. Pieret. Oh Grendel. She scurried up to the crossroads and peeked quickly around the corner. Two distant figures were silhouetted against a wall of flame. As she watched, however, the wall began falling apart in the center, little bits of it fluttering away on the breeze like burning autumn leaves. A very odd figure became visible on the other side of the widening hole. Khyrisse said something incredulous-sounding in a weird, guttural, hissing sort of language. Valende winced, and leaned forward to peer around the corner. "What is it?"
"The Wild Pack. At least my father's not running them anymore..."
"Is that... is that Pieret?"
Khyrisse didn't answer. She stared down the street, thinking furiously.
"Aren't we going to rescue them?" Valende whispered urgently.
"Yes, but we don't want to fight that thing!"
"Why not?"
"We'll lose, that's why not!" Khyrisse suddenly snapped her fingers. "I know! Get Vas and the Carriage, and meet us all at the end of this street! Hurry!"
Khyrisse wraithformed and disappeared down the nearest storm drain.

***
Khyrisse took a deep breath, and begged a capricious primal force that her estimate was correct. Floating up to the ceiling of the sewer tunnel, she placed a misty hand on the stone and cast her passwall spell. The street disappeared under Cori and Pieret's feet and they fell into the sewer beneath-- in Pieret's case, right through Khyrisse, his body still outlined in a darkly luminous sort of flame. An echoing, eerie shriek of pain filled the sewers, punctuated by two splashes. The passwall above them winked out of existence. Spluttering, Pieret and Cori crawled out of the slowly-moving stream of sewage onto the walkway. Both looked somewhat damaged, and Cori looked singed, disoriented, and furious on top of it. Pieret looked up at Khyrisse; he was soaked and looked completely normal again... as long as one didn't look too closely at his eyes, anyway. "Khyri! Are you all right?"
Khyrisse drifted down from the ceiling, slowly uncurling from an agonized ball of mist, gasping for breath. "No, you idiot. Go, that way, quick!"


***
"I think you're going to get to show off in front of Ariath again, brother dear," Valende murmured, as the Carriage screeched to a halt at the end of the main thoroughfare, a few hundred feet past the intersection. She pointed to the sewer grate with a wry look. Khyrisse misted through the bars and also pointed at it, a little more urgently. Vas hopped down with an impish smile.
"Next time I don't care where anyone says we're going, and that they hate magic there; I'm learning some big flashy combat spells," Khyrisse said crankily, getting out of his way.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, keeping score
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: More People Trying To Kill Us

Khyrisse looked battered for a mist creature. Ebreth had given up trying to keep all their enemies straight. He just added "Cynystra" to the bottom of the list. Country of jerk-offs. It would serve them right if Lucas took Rimbor away from them. No, it would serve them right trying to administer Rimbor. Vas ripped the sewer grate out of the ground. Either way, decided Ebreth. Whatever happened here, Cynystra was going to live to regret it.
So was Ebreth Tor, of course, but that didn't stop him from smiling.

Character(s):: Dr. Anomaly, The Collector
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Interlude
Title of Post:: Sometimes you got to feel sorry for the NPCs

Dr. Anomaly looked down at the ground where Cori and Pieret fell through. He would pursue, but he had his orders. Then he noticed the temperature drop a few degrees. Dr. Anomaly's instincts told him trouble was coming. That was about the time every muscle in his body froze.
He saw the thing walking towards him from across the street. It was taking its own sweet time. Nobody on the road seemed to notice it or him. It was as if the two of them didn't exist to the rest of the world. The Doctor tried to break whatever enchantment held him but it was no use. The hot needles of fear filled his mind, preventing him from focusing.
The Collector walked face to face with Dr. Anomaly and stared at him. Then the Collector did the thing the Doctor least expected. It kissed him. Acid burned his lips and vile worm things crawled upon his flesh. The thing backed away and smiled, then laughed a choking laugh. The Doctor was terrified. It was playing with him.
The Collector's visage then grew grim. It passed its hand slowly over Dr. Anomaly's body and quickly struck forward. Its hand sank wrist deep in the center of the Doctor's chest. Dr. Anomaly wished he could scream.

Character(s):: Skitch to the rescue
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Skitch's Sense Of Direction

"There you are!" Skitch found the Diari dork on the second floor. He would have found him sooner but he'd been checking the secret passages. He hadn't believed anyone could get lost in the main hallways of a palace. "What are you doing? You didn't put your tag on the walls like I told you to, did you?"
"In the castle, little Skitch? Isn't that disrespectful?"
"Oh no. It's cool." Skitch hopped from one foot to the other, and reluctantly let the immediacy of the situation overcome the coolness factor of vandalizing the Dalencian castle. "Never mind. We've got to get out of here. Some Cynystran soldiers are bothering us."
"I saw them, they are very nervous peoples." Maybe they had run away from Tarrin because of what happened to the Cynystran soldiers in Diaria during the Shattering.
"Follow me." Skitch scampered ahead.
Patches watched it all from the highest shelf.

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Pieret
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Old Friends

Khyrisse had Vas park the Carriage on the other side of the castle and sent Skitch to look for Tarrin. After he left, she sat on the roof with her knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She buried her face in her arms.
Pieret, also on the roof, looked hesitantly at her. "Khyrisse?"
"What?" she said, muffled.
"Thank you."
Khyrisse raised her head and looked at him. "I might very well have rescued Monas Lucifer himself from Eric's idea of extradition," she said. The venom in that single word burned the ear and made the skin crawl, as if she'd spoken a truly vile curse. "And I'm sure you know that perfectly well. ...But you're welcome."
Skitch came out the side door with a very bewildered-looking Tarrin in tow. "All set!"
"Good!" She cantripped Pieret and Cori clean so they could get inside. Skitch pushed Tarrin into the Carriage and climbed up onto the roof. "Can we go now?" she begged the world at large. Vas cracked the whip in reply, and Edimon whizzed by in a blur of color, eventually dwindling behind them. In the distance, off to the north and east, something white gleamed in the sunlight as they passed it. Khyrisse bit her lip and buried her head again.

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

Kneeling backwards on the driver's board, Ebreth tried to put a comforting hand on Khyrisse's shoulder as she struggled not to cry.
Unfortunately, she was still wraithformed.
Lousy magic.

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