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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Dangerous Liaisons, Part III

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Novoa
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Intangible's Playing It a Little TOO Hard to Get...

Khyrisse noted Ebreth trying to comfort her, and had to stomp hard on the urge to laugh. If she started laughing now, she'd go into hysterics. Well, what do you know. Wraithform has a down side. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself and shoved everything else out of her head. Forget about Cynystra. Stick to the goddamn plan.
Keeping her head down, Khyrisse cast her first sending spell and contacted Harry Novoa. Possible connection between Barry Spivot and Lucas St. Augustine. May be connected to Beliath, leader of Dead College. Warning: dangerous undead involved. Pursuing Augustine's capture.
A long few moments later, the irritated voice of Harry Novoa replied, obviously unused to using this kind of communication. Graves escaped. Vigilante "Octavian" (still at large) "rescued" kid to question about companions and release. Says bomber/traitor among your companions, probably plotting with Tor.
Khyrisse didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Good thing her stash of alcohol was INSIDE the Carriage.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, the Rat Pack
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Blissfully Unaware Khyrisse Is Singing To The Nice Policeman

It was very late by the time they pulled into Sturtevant. They stopped a short way outside of a smallish town so that Khyrisse could put her carriage away without attracting too much attention from anti-magic zealots, but as it turned out there was no one on the streets anyway, and it took some doing to get the innkeeper to open up and let them in. The town didn't look like it was under major demonic assault or anything, but it had a certain beleaguered appearance to it. Ebreth let the guy overcharge him for the suite, and Khyrisse was looking too preoccupied to interfere.
"Goodnight, Jack," said Cori.
Ebreth Tor had been right again. As usual.

Character(s):: Doctor Anomaly
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: One of These Things Is Not Like the Other...

If he had been human, he would've been in trouble.
Fortunately, Doctor Anomaly was far from human.
He looked at the mark that the collector had left on the inside of the large hole in his torso, then peeled it off like a Colorform.
He licked his lips, feeling the maggots still crawling around. Now that the artificial fear was over, the kiss didn't seem quite so bad.
"You don't belong here, little friend," he said to the sigil hanging in his hand. "Find the person to whom you truly belong."
Doctor Anomaly cast the Mark of the Collector to the wind, where it flew off north, towards Sturtevant.

Character(s):: Robinson Paris, Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Skeins of Fate, Rat Kings and Dead Villains
Title of Post:: The Truth About Jack

Robinson whispered to Flicker. He didn't wish the Valkyrie or the Necromancer to know too much about the closest thing he had to a son. "Jack is... special," Robinson said. "He's not human."
"What is he?" Flicker asked.

Jack watched Val and Vas bring their baggage up to the room. Something had changed in the elf's demeanor, but Jack couldn't for the life of him figure it out.
Maybe she had found out.
Lord knows there had been enough clues... and now he was being treated like he wasn't even there. It followed mathematically. Cause and effect. Jack wished Robinson or Lita were there. He really needed someone who understood.
It wasn't easy not being real.

"I... didn't know such a thing was possible," Flicker said. "And I've got a pretty wide range of belief."
"It took forty years of calculation to make certain that everything was covered. Only problem is, everything wasn't. I never considered that Jack might leave this plane. It's not like he could die naturally."
"But what might happen if he does?"
"I couldn't hope to imagine, unless I knew all the environmental constants of the plane. He could dissolve, he could degrade... there are billions of possible effects."
"So keep him out of Hell," Flicker said. "Good advice for us all."

"Val?" Jack asked.
Valende looked at Jack with a combination of confusion and fear. It was almost as if she were afraid of what he was going to say.
"We need to talk," Jack said.
"I thought the woman was the one who usually said that one," Val quipped, trying to cover up her discomfort.
"I know you've figured it out," Jack said, looking at his feet.
"Please, Jack... you don't have to..."
"I do. I have to tell you what I feel... you have to know the truth."
"Don't, Jack."
"Please, Val... just hear me out."
"You don't know everything about me, Jack," Val said, holding back tears. "If you don't ask, this can be really easy."
"Val--"
"Jack--"

"Well, if you don't make it, Robinson," Flicker said, glancing annoyedly at Norna, "I promise. I'll tell Jack."
"Thank you... friend." Robinson was looking at Eren like he used to look at Shalini.
"Fair seas," Flicker responded in the old pirate cant.

"--I can't marry you."
"--I'm a mathematical equation."
"What!?"
"What?!"
"I wasn't going--"
"You're a what?"
The two stopped, both reeling.
"You, uh, first," Jack said.
"It's... not important right now. I... misthought. What do you mean that you're a mathematical equation?"
Jack sat down in the hallway. "I'm not real. I'm the result of a mathematical equation that Robinson Paris designed."
"But you're a person!"
"No, I'm the three dimensional representation of a person. It's all determined by the results of environmental constants and neural net mathematics. Cut me, I don't bleed. I don't breathe. I'm not human."
"I've met inhuman, Jack," Val said. "You're as human as they come."
"I'm all numbers. A dispel magic and you'd see... no more Jack Paris, except as a string of values. Look, I'm sorry to have deceived you. I could see that you were figuring it out, and I thought I'd better come clean." Jack stood, and started down the corridor. "At least you can get on with your life," Jack said. "I'd better get back to the Rat."
Jack's form faded and disappeared.
Ariath poked her head into the corridor. "Coming to bed, Val? Cori's already snoring."

Jack reintegrated in his hotel room. He had hoped that telling Val would make him feel better. It hadn't. He felt miserable. Even the few minutes in pure mathematical form hadn't relaxed him.
The Rat looked at him as he seemed to materialize.
"Just me, Rat... just us nobodys."

Character(s):: Khyrisse and Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Girls of St. Augustine
Title of Post:: Sweet Little Chirping Birdie

Khyrisse spent a while in her room (after Skitch fell asleep on her bed with his notebook), alternately pacing and studying. Valende, for some reason, had gone to bed looking very confused. Probably something with Jack; but it meant that Vas was on watch tonight. Khyrisse clutched her head, mussing her hair again. She had a screaming headache; brought on, she suspected, by too much spellcasting and way too much worrying.
Ebreth would surely have read the note by now.
She gave up and went to the door. I can't think anyway, and everything's already done. There's no point in sitting here wondering about whether or not this is a good idea. I'm too tired and upset to figure anything out.
Yeah, right, Khyri. What was your excuse for not figuring out Eric?
Too young.
She shook her head violently, took a deep breath, and pulled open the door to peek out.
Vas was sitting in a chair in the hallway, sharpening his sword. He looked up, smiled, and came towards the door. Khyrisse would have found this comforting, two days ago. Now she had a hard time keeping her eyes off the naked sword in his hand, wondering if he was going to use it. She kept her eyes flickering around his face, aware of the fact that a direct stare would hardly be appropriate either, and held the neck of her robe tightly closed. "Yes, milady?" he whispered to her, smiling a little.
"I can't sleep," she explained, not quite meeting his eyes. "I was thinking..."
"Yes?" Vas prompted, his smile widening to a grin as her voice trailed away.
Khyrisse deliberately summoned the memory of those few moments before the goons had broken into her hotel room in Rimbor. Her face went bright red. "I thought I might go talk to Ebreth."
"I imagine that would help one sleep," Vas whispered, after a pause. His shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter. "But why tell me?"
"I suppose you won't let me go by myself?"
Vas thought about this for a moment, looking hesitant. "Milady," he finally said, taking her other hand in his, "I am very discreet. No one will find out where you went from me, I assure you. Not even your knight-errant will know I am there. Surely, you would prefer to remain uninterrupted this time?" This last was said with a smile that was more than a bit amused.
Khyrisse was scarlet. She swallowed hard and snatched her hand away. "I'm going to get you for enjoying this, Vas," she whispered fiercely at him, stamping her bare foot on his booted toe. She didn't look particularly angry, though.
Vas' shoulders started shaking again as Khyrisse swept past him, head high. She went down the hall on silent feet, blue silk half-robe fluttering behind her, and knocked ever so quietly on Ebreth's door. Vas leaned against the wall, admiring the view of her legs until she disappeared into Ebreth's room. He then picked up a chair and placed it very near the merchant's door. Amused, he turned an ear to the discussion ensuing inside.
I wonder what Milady will think of to say to Lord Tor, when she blushed so brightly explaining herself to me... he mused, examining the edge of his blade.

Character(s):: The Rat, Jack
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: What the Rat Saw
Title of Post:: Comfort by a rat

The rat was busy cleaning himself when Jack reappeared in the room. The rat gave Jack a curious look then went back to cleaning himself. Jack sat down on the bed and looked depressed. Human emotions confused the rat. They were so complex. Not knowing what else to do the rat pulled a piece of paper and a bit of charcoal out of the pack. With his nose he nudged them towards Jack.

Character(s):: The Sigil
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Rat Kings and other such stuff
Title of Post:: @$#% Dr. Anomaly

The sigil drifted in the ether like wind towards Sturtevant. It didn't know confusion. It didn't know surprise. All it knew was its purpose. Somehow it got separated from where it was placed and now it had to find a new host.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, Lucas St. Augustine, the Rat Pack
Author:: Laura Redish (& Kristin L.K. Andersen)
Storyline:: Girls of St. Augustine
Title of Post:: Betrayals

Ebreth turned, holding Khyrisse against him, and flicked her second note open between their bodies. His eyes passed over the words as briefly as a candle before he tucked it back into her fingers. She twisted them and it turned to dust. "What?" he said, aloud, and then softer, "Khyrisse, Novoa's jumping at ghosts. Augustine's been dead for years." Her eyes went rather wide, but he touched her lips with his finger. "It's not something you have to worry about. Trust me."
"But he said--" said Khyrisse, and then leaned into Ebreth's neck to whisper into his ear. She could almost sense Vas outside straining to make sense of what she was saying. She whispered it in High Diari, just to spite them both. "I no like spy games," she hissed, bollixing up all her vowels and not caring. "That silk twenty-six memories a bolt. Your sweat smell good."
"It's nothing," said Ebreth. "Khyrisse, Octavian is a street gang or something. Novoa doesn't know what he's talking about. He just doesn't trust me. You trust me, don't you?"
"I, yes," said Khyrisse. She wasn't sure if she was acting or not.
"Then forget about Novoa and come with me to the Islands." He held out his hand. She put the vial with the trigger item into it and he slipped it into his cloak. "Are you with me?"
"I'm--with you."
"I knew I could count on you, Khyrisse." He pulled away from her. "There are some things I need to arrange first. Meet me here in the morning."
"I'll--be waiting," she said.
"Hold that thought." He kissed her hand and turned to go, his shoulders straightening a little. Morituri te salutant, he thought, and shut the door behind him. "Vas," he said, in undertone, "would you mind taking a little walk with me? I wanted to talk to you about your mistress."
"Why," said Vastarin, very softly, "certainly."

***
"We've got a problem."
"Who's we?"
"I don't know who this Octavian is, but he knows us. He found a piece of the bomb in Rimbor and told Novoa St. Augustine had set it. And Novoa told Khyrisse."
Vas turned then, as if at a sudden noise, plunged into the shadow of a nearby awning and came out with Ariath's arm. The rest of Ariath followed it, smiling ingratiatingly. Ebreth hadn't even heard her. "Hello, Vas. I saw you leaving the inn and I thought you might like some company. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"A beautiful woman is always a welcome interruption." Vas kissed her lightly on the temple and broke her neck in his hands. She made only the slightest of sounds. He dropped her to the ground. "You were saying?"
Ebreth didn't blink. "Octavian. He doesn't know you're here now but he has linked you with me." He moved his thumb at Ariath. "What about her?"
"She was disposable," said Vas. "You remember the type."
"I certainly do. They make a lot more noise coming down the street."
He paused. "You don't think--"
"I think it's too late NOW," said Ebreth, "but yes, I think when there's a powerful force that you're in the process of betraying and some unknown entity who's trying to destroy you, the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality leaves a little to be desired. I would have liked to have known who she was with." He leaned against the low wall. "Listen. Octavian has got to be someone we know. If he can recognize your bombs he must have had a lot of experience with them. Could that be someone in your organization?"
"The Dead College?" said Vas. "There--I don't know anyone like that there, but--" He thought about it. "No one in the Dead College would be working through Rimbor City police. She might be Dead College." He kicked Ariath, who made a low, dying-sounding moan. "He wouldn't be. He must just be an old enemy. Azarat?"
"Needle in a haystack, Lucas!" Ebreth took a glass vial out from under his cloak. "There's more. Look what I found in Khyrisse's things."
The green elven eyes went wide as the spider in amber clattered out onto the wall. "That's not a bug? You turned it off, didn't you?" He grabbed for it in something of a panic; as he swept it up he jolted, and Ebreth caught the amber perfectly in the vial as it fell from his fingers. Vas blinked at him rather stupidly. "I," he said, and shook his head, "I'm sorry, Ebreth, my mind must have been wandering. What were you saying?"
"Funny," said Ebreth, "I don't remember either."
Vas noticed the body at his feet then. "Aaaaaaahhh!" he screamed, and pulled out his sword. "What did you do to her? VALENDE!"
Ebreth Tor just had no idea how to even go about answering that.
Vas swung his head back and forth between the pirate and the broken mage, and finally dropped to his knees and tried to give her some first aid. Ebreth was pretty sure her spinal cord had been torn. He'd seen Lucas kill men before. Khyrisse got there before Val did, and Ebreth handed her the vial. "In case of serious Cynystran mismanagement in Rimbor," he said, only a little shakily, "break glass."
Khyrisse pointed at Ariath. Ebreth moved his head a little bit towards Vas and a little bit towards her. Khyrisse put both her hands over her mouth. Valende came hurrying over and crouched beside her brother. "Get him," shouted Vas, "he must have stunned me, he--"
"Vas," said Khyrisse, uneasily, "Ebreth--Ebreth didn't do that, Vas." She cast true seeing. The Duke's soul was, in fact, contained. Khyrisse exhaled very hard.
"She's alive," said Val, "she's badly hurt. Her, her neck is broken. I'm going to try a heal spell."
"What is going on here?" said Vas.
Khyrisse was looking at Ebreth. There were a thousand things she had wanted to ask him, now that she could safely talk to him again, but damned if she could remember any of them, or at least how she'd been planning on phrasing them. "Why," she finally said, "why did you do this?"
"Well," he said, wearily, "I figured fucking with Duke St. Augustine and letting him murder you all had about the same chance of landing me in Hell, and Lucas was the first Ebreth Tor's friend and you're mine, so I went with you. If you don't mind, I'm going to sit down now." He did, right on the cobbles.
"Is someone going to explain this to me?" said Vas.

Character(s):: King of Kings
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Rat Kings etc.
Title of Post:: Rogue Magic

The King of Kings watched the events with Dr. Anomaly in his crystal ball. He knew the chances of marking the wild mage were slim, but it was worth the shot. However, the effect was something he totally didn't expect. He thought at worst the Collector wouldn't have been able to mark him. The Doctor tossing the sigil away like garbage was not at all what he had in mind. This made things a little more complex.
The sigil was moving with the wind towards Sturtevant, which was the one place he didn't want the rogue magic going. The King of Kings tried invoking the sigil, to call it to him, but it still moved away in the direction opposite to him, towards the other side of Ataniel. This was not good. He needed to recover that sigil before it marked someone who shouldn't be marked. The King of Kings thought for a moment, and then knew of the perfect person to retrieve the rogue magic. He smiled as he readied the spell. It was time to call in his marker with a particularly vile demon.

Character(s):: Khyrisse, Skitch, Vas
Author:: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Girls of St. Augustine
Title of Post:: Afterglow This Isn't... But It'll Do

Skitch came tumbling down the stairs and bolted out the front door. "I missed it, didn't I? Aw, dammit, I did. You got him, didn't you? Oh, jeez--" he said, finally seeing Valende hard at work over Ari, whose neck was obviously broken in several places. "Oh, man. I'll get Tarrin!" He bolted back inside.
Khyrisse took pity on Vas and grabbed his shoulder. "Vas. Vas! If Valende can't heal her properly, I can reincarnate her. I... I think it should work, no matter who she really is or where she came from. Besides, look, it's working."
"All right," Vas said, taking a shaky breath and stepping back from Ariath. "Okay. Will someone explain to me who did do that if my lord Tor did not?"
"Um... you did, Vas. Not really you. I'm sorry. You were possessed." Khyrisse handed him the glass vial. "It's safe now, Ebreth. He's not really in there anyway." Vas looked about ready to tear his hair out in confusion. Khyrisse put one hand to her forehead and moaned a little under her breath. "You were possessed by the spirit of Duke St. Augustine, former lord of Rimbor. The other Ebreth used to know him. So did I. He was trying to kill us all for reasons too complicated to explain right now. Augustine thought it was the original Ebreth Tor, so Ebreth played stalking horse for me and tricked him into accepting a trigger item that I enchanted which sucked his soul into a gem that I'm not telling anyone where it is, but it's not here."
Khyrisse finished blurting all this out as the pounding in her head grew deafening. She leaned against the wall and slid down it to sit next to Ebreth, not caring that her legs were showing and her new robe was getting muddy. "Is this seat taken?" she murmured to Ebreth, eyes closed. "No? Good. Wake me up if I need to reincarnate Ariath." Her head tilted down onto Ebreth's shoulder.

Character(s):: Ariath
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings et al
Title of Post:: Fever Dream

Ariath had been here before.
She had been dead, or almost dead, at that time too.
"Ariath," came the familiar voice.
"My favorite guide," Ariath muttered.
"Don't bitch at me, you bitch," Rhynwa answered. "I'm here because you called me here. It's your fucking subconscious."
"Then why isn't Oethnar in a loincloth guiding me to the other side?"
"...because he's a tree," the two women said in unison, busting out laughing.
After a moment, Ariath sobered up.
"So I'm dead, huh?"
"Not yet, unfortunately," the dream-Rhynwa said. "They're trying to heal you now, the feebs."
"So were we right?" Ariath asked.
"I don't know," Rhynwa admitted. "It was Duke St. Augustine who killed you. Not... you-know-who."
"Too many villains," Ariath sighed. "Present company still up for grabs, of course."
"Of course."
"So if I'm not dead yet, why am I here again?"
"Because there was new information you needed to know."
"About...?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Spill it, stick-woman."
Rhynwa flipped Ariath off. "He's closer than we thought. The Lich Lords are all moving, now. You're going to need to take care of him soon."
"And then it's over?"
"And then it's over. You get what you asked for."
"About fucking time," Ariath said.
"One other thing," Rhynwa said. "About Janus..."
"Who?" Ariath asked.
"Don't believe..."

"...think that it's going to..."

"...he's not..."

"Ariath? Are you all right?"

"...really gone."

"Ariath?"
The young blonde mage gasped for breath.
"Ariath, you're going to be okay..."
Pain washed her body.
"You... couldn't have waited another minute?" she asked, half-joking.

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