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The Rat King Archives
Dangerous Liaisons, Part IV
Rat Kings et al
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
"Don't you knock, Pieret?" Jack
asked a bit testily.
"Yes, but not when people leave their
"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
"Nope. Just keeping you up to date.
See you in the morning."
Pieret was gone as quietly as he had
"Glad to know I'm so useful,"
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
Jack smiled. "Thanks, pal."
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.
Ebreth Tor, Ariath, the Rat Pack
Girls Of St. Augustine
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
"Can you move your legs?" said
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
"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."
a sleepy Khyrisse; Vastarin and Ariath
Evan Haag and Kristin L.K. Andersen
Girls of St. Augustine/The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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
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
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.
Ebreth Tor, talking in his sleep
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.
Jack Paris, Lita Paris
Rat Kings et al
of Post:: The Wrong Outburst At The Wrong Time
Jack and Lita were playing with thirty-one
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?"
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
"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
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?"
"Never heard of it," Lita said.
"I'm probably just wrong," Jack
said. Jack hoped.
"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...
"Nice planet," Jack said to
himself, though the words were lost in the vacuum of space. "Love the
Ebreth Tor, Eren Messala
Girls of St. Augustine/Skeins of Fate
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?"
The Rat Pack
Ditty Bout Jack and Valende
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
"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?"
Khyrisse, Vas, and Valende
Kristin L.K. Andersen and Evan Haag
Girls of St. Augustine/Ditty Bout Jack and Valende
of Post: Making Up Is Hard To Do, Part Two
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
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.
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.
Ebreth, Khyrisse, Pieret
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,
"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
"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."
Khyrisse, Pieret, Ariath
Kristin L.K. Andersen
The Rats of R.U.M.I.
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.
Jack Paris, Valende
Ditty Bout Jack And Valende
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
"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
"That's a pleasant change to
"Okay. I'm as exposed as I'm going to
"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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