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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Rat King Archives
Dangerous Liaisons, Part IV

Character(s):: Jack Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings et al
Title of Post:: Rat Talk

Jack had run out of space on the table, so he had pushed it up against the wall and used that as well. The perpendicular planes were more appropriate for the Thermier Grid he was using, anyway. Besides, the charcoal would wash off eventually.
The notation the Rat had given him was an entry for a T-Grid sequence. From it, he could extrapolate the remainder of the grid. That, in turn, would posit some sort of relational matrix... strangely enough, from the results Jack had been getting so far, it seemed to be indicating some sort of human analogs.
"Jack?" came Pieret's voice from behind him.
"Don't you knock, Pieret?" Jack asked a bit testily.
"Yes, but not when people leave their doors open."
"Oh."
"I just came to let you know that Vas was possessed by the Duke St. Augustine, he broke Ariath's neck, Ebreth trapped his spirit, Val healed Ari, and everything's okay now."
"Oh." Jack wondered why he always seemed to miss the exciting stuff. "I guess I, uh, wasn't much needed, then."
"Nope. Just keeping you up to date. See you in the morning."
Pieret was gone as quietly as he had appeared.
"Glad to know I'm so useful," Jack sighed.
He looked at the T-Grid. It was obviously an analog for the Rat Pack traveling party. The parallels that the rat had designed to indicate each member were ingenious. The message indicated by the grid was, as well.
The Rat was telling Jack that he liked him.
Jack smiled. "Thanks, pal."

Character(s):: ????
Author:: Jeff Hersh
Storyline:: Mind Games
Title of Post:: Ground control to Major Tom

Tumbling end-over-misshapen-end, the asteroid passed the outermost planet world that was contained in Ataniel's sphere. Deep inside, among six-fingered mummified corpses, a blackness shuddered and groaned. It could feel the convergence approaching. It wouldn't be for a while, but it had time to wait. After all, it had waited since the beginning of time to manifest itself. It could wait a few more weeks.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, Ariath, the Rat Pack
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Girls Of St. Augustine
Title of Post:: What Goes Around, Comes Around

Ebreth put his arm around her shoulders and blew. "I hope we didn't just make a big mistake, Khyrisse. Lucas was trying to thwart that undead thing. We may have just taken out our only ally." He paused deeply. "He would have killed them. We couldn't risk it."
"Can you move your legs?" said Val, anxiously.
Ariath tried. "Ow, fuck!"
"That's good," said Val, in an encouraging voice. "If it hurts you're probably not paralyzed."
"I bet no one was expecting you to betray me," sighed Ariath.
"I'm sorry!" Vas looked distraught.
"That reminds me," said Ebreth, "if we don't want any more uninvited guests, maybe we ought to camp in the same room and post watch. There are demons here, after all."
"Maybe that's a good idea," said Val, and took her brother's hand.
"Only," said Ebreth, "I'm not at all sure I'm going to be able to stand up."

Character(s):: a sleepy Khyrisse; Vastarin and Ariath
Author:: Evan Haag and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline:: Girls of St. Augustine/The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post:: Making Up Is Hard To Do, Part One

Khyrisse sighed, no more than half awake. Probably much less. Too many eighth-circle spells, no sleep for almost forty-eight hours, and a sociopathic career politician trapped in the silk-wrapped diamond down her cleavage can wear a girl out. "Augustine's way we'd be dead, the other we're not sure about," she murmured. "Let's worry about it tomorrow."
And fell asleep, curled up against Ebreth's chest. When Valende insisted, she sleep-walked up the stairs and fell into a small unconscious pile on the nearest level space that didn't outright hurt.

***
Vas, on the other hand, had scooped Ariath gently up into his arms, clearly guilt-stricken, and carried her up the inn's stairs to the biggest bedroom as if she were made of crystal. Vas laid her down on the nearest bed, and promptly absconded with every pillow in the room to cushion her back and head. He snatched up a blanket and tucked her in so carefully that she hardly noticed it. He scowled ferociously at anyone that got in his way or made noise.
Ariath was feeling better by the second.
Vas then stood there staring at the floor, hand running through the manga-hair in distress. His normal eloquence seemed to have completely deserted him. "Ariath, I'm... I'm so sorry. I had no idea... I..." He made a wild gesture with both hands and sank down into the chair beside the bed. "You could be dead. I'm so sorry." He looked at his hands briefly, as if he'd like to chop them off at the wrists. Then he buried them in his hair with a frustrated groan.
Ariath reached out and tugged at the nearest wrist. "What a mess... stop that." Vas just looked at her. "Hey, it wasn't you, gorgeous. Possessions are like that. I understand. I'm not terrifically happy about it, but I understand." She grinned at him. "You can make it up to me when I'm feeling better."
A shadow of his normal puckish smile appeared on his face, but it was genuine. Ariath seemed content with that.

Character(s):: Ebreth Tor, talking in his sleep
Author:: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post:: Replaying Memories

Ebreth Tor slept fitfully, his limbs twitching like a sleeping cat's. "Lita!" he suddenly cried out, and sat bolt upright.
Jack, who had not been sleeping, whirled on him. "What?"
He shook his head, breathing funny. "Just. Just a dream."
Jack Paris stood up.

Character(s):: Jack Paris, Lita Paris
Author:: Douglass Barre
Storyline:: Rat Kings et al
Title of Post:: The Wrong Outburst At The Wrong Time

The Past:

Jack and Lita were playing with thirty-one toads.
The toads were actually the property of Darion Paris, Lita's father. They were the kind of toads that Montasi druids used for fortune-telling. Neither the nineteen-year-old girl or the three-year-old mathematical equation were druids, but Lita had a powerful intuition and Jack could do the math. Jack had painted a thirty-one point star, and Lita had just finished naming each of the toads for one of the Montasi Saints. "So what're you going to ask?" Jack asked his best friend.
"I'm going to ask about my True Love," Lita said. "The person whose soul is like to mine, and whom I will give my heart forever."
"Wow," Jack said. "That's a lot better than my question."
"Why? What's your question?"
"I wanted to find out if I'd ever be allowed to leave the Paris Estate."
"You silly! I know you will. Robinson's just careful. It's 'cause we care so much about you, Jack."
"Okay, how about if I ask what the farthest I'll ever travel is?"
"Much better!"
Lita kissed each toad as she set them on the points of Jack's thirty-one pointed star. They stayed where they were put, as if silently asked by the beautiful red-haired girl. Jack set the water clock to sound off thirty-one beats. As soon as he started it, the toads began to move. Lita and Jack watched their movements, and when the clock sounded thirty-one, Jack noted their locations and started to do the math. "So?" Lita demanded. "Tell me all about what they tell!"
"Okay," he said, frowning. "according to the toads, you will only have one love, and it will be short and end tragically."
Lita's smile vanished.
"Oh, Lita... I shouldn't have said, should I? I'm such an idiot! I never know what to say and I keep making people upset and stupid things just keepcomingoutofmymouthandI'msosorryIshouldhavethought..."
Lita put a finger to Jack's lips. "Hush. You told me what I needed to know, Jack."
The two sat for a moment in silence.
"What did it say for you? What is the farthest you'll ever travel?"
"Saturn."
"Never heard of it," Lita said.
"I'm probably just wrong," Jack said. Jack hoped.

The Present:

"You lied," Jack whispered inaudibly, looking with fiercest hatred at the sleeping form of Ebreth Tor. "You lied. Again. And I believed you."
Jack's demeanor showed nothing. But the seed of vengeance was being planted in his mind...

The Future:

"Nice planet," Jack said to himself, though the words were lost in the vacuum of space. "Love the rings."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, Eren Messala
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Girls of St. Augustine/Skeins of Fate
Title of Post: Past Lives

Ebreth finally woke with a burst of adrenaline and a muted gasp. The sun was streaming through the window. He had sweated through his shirt. Abject terror gave way to tremendous relief, and then to exhaustion. He would have given anything for a dream about flying. Ebreth sat up. Almost anything. Khyrisse was still asleep; the others were scattered around the room doing morning things, Vas waiting on Ariath, Skitch and Tarrin practicing their letters. Jack was looking at him. "Good morning, Jack."
"Good morning," said Jack.
As he finished separating his life from his dark tangle of memories, Ebreth Tor came to the unpleasant realization that he actually had just betrayed Lucas St. Augustine.
It could, he sighed, be worse.
.
***
"What will I do now?" Flicker twitched involuntarily at his voice, the barest of reactions. "Will you be my new master, Kayla?"
"My name is KEVIN."
"Maybe he could wash the dishes or something," suggested Kayla.
Flicker touched the bridge of his nose. "What do we need to do in Sturtevant?" said Luthien. "Is the Lich Lord there?"
"You're on a need-to-know basis, death mage," Norna said coldly.
"How are we supposed to help you if we don't know anything?"
"Do what I tell you," said Norna, without discernible irony.
"And what are you telling us to do?" Flicker said quietly.
"Travel to Sturtevant with me and await further orders. We're looking for a demon named Kalxanti."
"Flicker?" said Luthien.
He shook his head a bit. "There are six hundred and sixty-six planes of the Abyss," he said. "Do you have any idea how many demons there are down there?"

Character(s): The Rat Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Ditty Bout Jack and Valende
Title of Post: Romantic Advice

"Hey, Val." Ebreth drew the shapely elf aside. "Listen, I don't mean to be prying here, but I've seen you looking at him all morning. Now he's not rejecting that, right? He's just too dumb to notice."
"It's not just that," said Val, soulfully, blinking her large green eyes.
"Clueless and a bad self-esteem," said Ebreth, "did I miss something?"
"He--told me something about himself. Something I--can't share with you, but it--hurts him."
"Is he a violent underworld crime lord who built an empire out of human suffering?"
"N-o," said Val.
"Then it could be worse. Tell him that."

***
"Listen," said Jack, "whatever you do, don't fall in love with him."
"What!" said Khyrisse. The stoneskin kept her from coloring too much. "Why not? And, and I'm not. And, and it's none of your business, Jack!"
"He's a liar," said Jack, in a low voice, "and he doesn't treat women well. Don't fall in love with him, Khyrisse, it'll be the last mistake you make."

***
"I understand! I understand!"
Cori looked at the rat. "What are you trying to tell me?"

Character(s): Khyrisse, Vas, and Valende
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen and Evan Haag
Storyline: Girls of St. Augustine/Ditty Bout Jack and Valende
Title of Post: Making Up Is Hard To Do, Part Two

"Khyrisse?"
Khyrisse's head snapped around, startled from staring out the window. "Huh? Oh, Vas. Yes?"
"Time for breakfast, milady. Are you coming downstairs?" he inquired. She stared blankly through him, clearly miles away. She hadn't even gotten dressed yet. "Are you all right?"
"I had some bad dreams last night, I think," she explained, rubbing the heel of her hand on the side of her head. She glanced angrily down at herself for a moment. Vas' mouth quirked; he didn't see what she had to be angry about, other than minor damage from sitting on the ground last night. She was still wearing the blue half-robe, the top of a blue-embroidered chemise peeking out its neckline, legs bare. "Someone was shouting at me, but they were too far away for me to hear most of what they were saying... I'll come to breakfast in a minute."
Vas nodded with a twinkle in his eye, wisely refrained from saying anything he was thinking, and went down to breakfast.
Khyrisse took a silk-wrapped item out of her cleavage and shook it. "If I'm interpreting what I did hear correctly, Augustine, you have a mind like the sewer beneath a low-class cathouse." She stuffed it in her pack next to the Trade Sigil. "Nobody wants me to trust Ebreth Tor. Not Jack, not Harry Novoa, not Lucas St. Augustine. What a beautiful morning this is turning out to be."

***
Valende reached out and touched Jack's elbow as he was leaving for breakfast. "Jack?" she asked him, hesitantly. "Jack, can I talk to you for a minute? In private?"
Jack sighed. He wasn't looking forward to what she was going to tell him, but it looked like she needed to say it. "Sure."
They eventually wound up sitting at the end of the hallway, near the window. She waited until everyone had gone downstairs before speaking. "Jack... I don't think I care."
Jack nodded miserably. That's what he figured. She couldn't care about someone who--
"No, no, Jack, listen to me!" she interrupted, watching his face closely. "Don't say anything, don't think about what I'm saying just yet. Please. Just listen." She looked down at her hands for a moment and took a deep breath. "Jack, I've been thinking about what you said all night, and it occurred to me that everyone's the product of an equation, in a way. We're all the sum of our experiences. You said that if someone cast a dispel magic on you, you'd disappear; but if someone cast forget on me, I'd disappear, too. There'd be a body here, but no personality inside it, no ability to make good decisions." Jack shook his head stubbornly at her, and she persisted. "You're not really different, Jack. You were planned with a little more care than the rest of us, that's all. I wasn't planned at all, and there are a few problems in my makeup, whatever you might think. I think whoever designed you did a wonderful job. I-- I'm not sure I understand how he designed you, or how you might be different from the ordinary run of mortals because of it... But I like the end result a great deal." Jack seemed stunned. She smiled, with a little more confidence this time. "You're the sweetest, most dependable person I've ever met, Jack Paris. I don't care how you got here." She exhaled with a sigh, her posture finally relaxing a little. "There. That's what I wanted to say."

***
Khyrisse stared for a moment, then whisked quietly across the hallway and down the stairs. She intended on delaying the group downstairs by discussing plans for the day as long as Valende needed her to. Grendel knew this ragtag group could use explanations and planning, she could use a decent breakfast for once-- and it'd be nice if someone around here had a happy love life.

Character(s): Ebreth, Khyrisse, Pieret
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline:: Rat Kings
Title of Post: Hell Hath No Fury

"Did you notice the undead thing hasn't attacked us in a while?" said Ebreth.
"I thought pirates were superstitious," said Pieret, his eye twinkling.
"So are most honest merchants. I'm one of a kind." Ebreth poured himself some orange juice. His smile was jaunty but his eyes were somewhat haggard. "How long do you figure you can hold Lucas, Khyrisse?"
"I don't know," she said. "Not indefinitely, even with the trigger item. Hopefully long enough for us to get rid of Laran in some more productive way than dying."
"That would be nice," he said, and sighed. "When we let him out I'm a dead man."
"You and me both."
"Oh, I'll take the fall," he said. "Trust me, Lucas will blame me entirely. He has a very bad habit of underestimating women. It would have gotten him killed years ago if he wasn't in tight with--" Ebreth blinked. "Wait a minute. Lucifer is dead, isn't he?"
"As far as I know." Khyrisse still didn't like thinking about what had happened to the gods, even the gods she had never liked.

"And--and who's in charge of Hell now?"
"Are you asking me?" said Pieret, a little sharply.
Ebreth sat back. "I don't get it," said Khyrisse.
"It just occurred to me that Lucas is probably going to get himself into some serious trouble sooner or later," he said. "Never mind."

Character(s): Khyrisse, Pieret, Ariath
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: The Rats of R.U.M.I.
Title of Post: Sociopathic Career Politicians

Something suddenly occurred to Khyrisse, and a genuinely impish smile lit up her face. The expression was a bit on the cynical side, though. "Lucas is going to blame you, huh?" she mused, tilting her head at Ebreth. "What an idiot. Even Eric respected me enough to only underestimate me once. That'll be three times for Lucas, if he tries to whack you first."
Pieret raised an eyebrow at her, amused. He snapped his fingers, and a tiny ball of flame appeared briefly above them. "Boom?" he murmured. Khyrisse hid a rather feline and unrepentant (and possibly anticipatory) grin in her coffee cup.
Ariath looked at Pieret with a frown. "Obviously some people aren't having any trouble, no matter who's in charge down there."
"Oh, I've never had problems with the female gender," Pieret said blandly. "But my luck is another matter entirely," he added, his eyes flicking to Cori. Cori was watching the staircase; it hadn't escaped her that neither Jack nor Valende had come down yet, obviously. Pieret sighed, almost silently, and went back to his breakfast.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: Ditty Bout Jack And Valende
Title of Post: Fun and Games

"There, Val. Put it there."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. I've done this lots."
"Really, Jack Paris? I'm sure you say that to all the ladies you talk into this."
"Never underestimate a mathematician," Jack grinned.
"Okay. Like this?" Val took another piece off.
"Just right, Val. Of course, now that you've removed that particular piece, you leave me open to jump you."
"Naughty!" Val shrieked with glee.
"Of course, I'm in perfect position for you to take me, if you'd rather."
"More wine, Jack?"
"No, please... this'll last longer if I'm sober."
"That's a pleasant change to hear."
"Okay. I'm as exposed as I'm going to get."
"Good!" Val cried, as she brought her hand down on his open chest.
There was a knock on the door. Without waiting, Skitch stuck his head in. "Are you guys going to stay up here all day?" he asked.
Jack and Val exchanged knowing glances. Their hands touched over the Draughts board, where Val's Queen had just captured Jack's Chest.
"One more game?"
"One more game."
"Grownups," sighed Skitch, who headed off, disappointed.

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